Postseason Basketball Musings

http://slantblog.blogspot.com/2017/02/postseason-basketball-musings.html

In games played through Feb. 20 eight of Virginia's 14 Division I basketball programs have winning records. If they all finish that way any of them could participate in postseason tournaments. However, barring a total collapse, just three of those programs now appear to be heading to the preferred tournament -- the NCAA Championship with its chosen field of 68.

Then there's the NIT, CBI, CIT and the Vegas 16. I may have left one out, but it seems America's basketball fans like tournament-style hoops, no matter how far removed such games are from determining the national championship.

So here are those eight schools, listed according to their latest RPI as published by CBS Sports. After the name of the team you will see their overall records (D-I games only), records in conference games, their BPIs (ESPN rankings) and their records (in bold) in February.

No. 22: UVa.: 18-9, 8-7 in ACC; BPI #8; 2-5 in Feb.
No. 25: VCU: 22-5, 12-2 in A-10; BPI #34; 6-0 in Feb.
No. 36: Va. Tech: 18-8, 7-7 in ACC; BPI #51; 2-3 in Feb.
No. 99: Richmond: 15-11, 9-5 in A-10; BPI #113; 2-3 in Feb.
No. 109: W&M: 13-12, 9-7 in Colonial; BPI #107; 3-3 in Feb.
No. 116: Mason: 18-9, 8-6 in A-10; BPI #124; 4-2 in Feb.
No. 136: ODU: 16-10, 9-5 in C-USA; BPI #127; 3-2 in Feb.
No. 163: Liberty: 15-11, 13-3 in Big South; BPI #189; 4-1 in Feb.

Make what you will of this but, generally speaking, teams trending in the wrong direction are not viewed in a favorable light by the NCAA tournament's committee. What I see at this point is that after those top three, your guess is a s good as mine as for the destiny of the rest of them. Of course, invitations and rankings aside, any team that wins it conference tournament still qualifies for the Big Dance.

-- 30 --

Citizen Trump's slo-mo train-wreck

http://slantblog.blogspot.com/2017/02/citizen-trumps-slo-mo-train-wreck.html

Now we have Citizen Trump's slo-mo train-wreck presser on Feb. 16 for the record. One day that disturbing performance may have historians somewhat at a loss to explain to anyone who didn't live through this ongoing interregnum of presidential sanity.

Trump said he wasn't ranting, while he ranted about "fake news" during his disturbing assault on the press. (Click here for some fact-checking.)

Meanwhile, there's a telling aspect of President Trump's bullying that overlaps with his dishonesty -- cheating at golf.

Alice Cooper (in a 2012 interview): "The worst celebrity golf cheat? I wish I could tell you that. It would be a shocker. I played golf with Donald Trump one time. That's all I'm going to say."

Trump doesn't just want to cheat to win a hole. He'd rather cheat blatantly so you can see him doing it. Then he can savor how you are too reluctant to cause a scene, intimidated, or whatever, so you just don't call him on it.

It's a variation on his claim that he grabs crotches with impunity, because he's mighty Donald Trump and thus he's entitled to humiliate you. He doesn't cheat to enjoy his victory. He knows it's tainted. Trump cheats to deprive his opponent of victory and to prance ... he enjoys prancing.

The foreboding sense in the air that we're all hurtling toward a crisis is getting more pervasive every day. How that crisis will manifest itself remains to be seen. Still, being president all day long, every damn day, would be exhausting enough for any 70-year-old man. But we can only imagine how stressful it must be for one who's avoided scrutiny of his methods and associations in much of his life's doings. His so-called "deals."

Sheltered from push-back, in a world of artifice, Trump has been a little king. That changed on inauguration day. Less than a month into his presidency the pressure of having to answer for his blunders is obviously weighing on the president.

Forced to endure criticism, he has appeared to be semi-delusional at times. If nothing else, in the weeks to come we're going to see just how healthy Trump's septuagenarian ticker is.

The Republicans in Congress who can see what's going on are surely riding on the horns of a dilemma: Who wants to be remembered as being foolish enough to stick by Trump too long? How long can they wait to pull the plug?

-- Art and words by F.T. Rea

An Enhanced RPI

http://slantblog.blogspot.com/2017/02/an-enhanced-rpi.html

The RPI for college basketball depends heavily on strength of schedule. So once you factor in the reward the teams in power conferences have, for simply being in those leagues, some teams with 10 losses are ranked, RPI-wise, over teams with five losses. Still, in the Big Dance every March in the early rounds we see little known teams from conferences other than the five mega-conferences upsetting the so-called "favorites."

Those Cinderellas are sometimes teams that just know how to win, no matter who they're playing or where. So how much should that factor matter, when comparing teams that haven't played one another and have few common opponents? 

OK, for basketball junkies I've got a way to combine RPI with the notion that some teams are good at winning. Here are the 25 teams taken from today's top 50 of the RPI (CBS Sports) that have five losses or less (their wins and losses are in parenthesis). 

They are listed, 1-25, according to their RPI today. But please note that teams with a better RPI than some listed, which have sustained six or more losses, have been omitted. So this way of looking at rankings combines strength-of-schedule with an appreciation for the teams' wins and losses. 

The national champion should come from this field. Teams from power conferences with 10 or 12 losses might get hot and win it all, but no one should be surprised if Gonzaga wins the championship game because the still undefeated Zags know how to win. 

The Enhanced RPI Top 25 

1. Baylor (21-4)
2. Villanova (25-2)
3. Kansas (23-3)
4. Gonzaga (26-0)
5. Louisville (21-5)
6. Arizona (23-3)
7. Oregon (21-4)
8. UNC (21-5)
9. Florida (21-5)
10. Kentucky (21-5)
11. Florida St. (21-5)
12. Duke (21-5)
13. Cincinnati (23-3)
14. Creighton (20-5)
15. Maryland (21-4)
16. Purdue (21-5)
17. St. Mary's (22-3)
18. SMU (23-4)
19. UCLA (23-3)
20. Wisconsin (21-4)
21. VCU (21-5)
22. Dayton (19-5)
23. Illinois St. (21-5)
24. USC (21-5)
25. Akron (21-4)


-- Words and photo by F.T. Rea

Drake the Flake

http://slantblog.blogspot.com/2017/02/drake-flake.html

On Nov. 8, 1992, the revenge-driven crime spree ended as the man I remembered as Drake the Flake blew out his brains with a .32 caliber revolver. In the 11 hours before taking his own life Lynwood C. "Woody" Drake III had shot and killed six people, wounded a seventh and beaten a former landlady with a blackjack.

It had been over 20 years since I saw him last. It was in the lobby of the movie theater I then managed, the Biograph Theatre. Still, when I saw the AP photo of him in the Richmond Times-Dispatch 25 years ago, he was instantly recognizable.

More about Woody Drake later, but it should come as no surprise to most film buffs that sometimes there is a dark side to the business of doing business after the sun goes down. While some saw the Biograph (1972-87) as a beacon in the night, for others it was a place to hide from reality. So, like any business, sometimes unexpected things just went wrong. Of course, customers could be difficult every now and then, especially at midnight shows. But Drake was easily the worst of them.

*

There were crazy street people who would sometimes cause trouble. Although nearly everyone who worked at the Biograph during my almost-12-year-stint as its manager was on the up-and-up, there were a couple of rotten apples. As I hired both of them, I have to take the blame there. But those are stories for another time.

Then there were the customers. One man died in the Biograph. His last seconds spent among the living were spent watching "FIST" (1978), starring Sylvester Stallone, in am aisle seat in the small auditorium -- Theatre No. 2. Yes, the movie was bad, but who knew it was that bad?

At the time I was 30 years old, and as I remember it, he was a year or two older than I was. The dead man 's face was expressionless. He just expired. His eyes were open. As the rescue squad guys shot jolts of electricity into his heart, his body flopped around like a fish out of water on floor. Meanwhile, down in Theater No. 1 "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" was on the screen delighting its usual crowd of costumed screwballs.

Then there was the night someone fired five shots of high-powered ammo through one of the back door exits into Theatre No. 1. Five bullets came through the door's two quarter-inch steel plates to splinter seats. Amazingly, no one was hit.

This happened just as the crowd was exiting the auditorium, at about 11:30 p.m. It seemed no one even caught on to what was happening. Later the police were baffled, leaving us to speculate as to why it happened.

Another night, a rat died in the Coca-Cola drain and clogged it up. Not knowing about the rat, and thinking I knew what to do to clear the clogged drain, I poured a powerful drain-clearing liquid -- we called it Tampax Dynamite -- directly into the problem.

Soon a foul-smelling liquid started bubbling and backing up all over the lobby's carpet. A flooding mess ensued. It ran everybody out of there on a busy Saturday night. We had to replace the carpet.

*

In the early months of operation at 814 W. Grace St. a series of annoyances led up to Woody Drake being literally thrown out of the Biograph and "banned for life."

The news stories reported that Drake, who fancied himself as an actor, had compiled a long list of people he intended to pay back, someday. Drake wore theatrical grease paint on his face when he committed his murders. As the cops were closing in on him Drake punched his own ticket to hell.

From what I found out Drake's childhood was straight out of a horror movie. Apparently he was always a problem to those around him. The photo above -- it was a publicity shot he used to apply for work as an actor -- ran in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on November 16, 1992. What follows are excerpts of a piece I wrote for SLANT a couple of weeks later.
...The November 16th edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch carried Mark Holmberg's sad and sensational story of Woody Drake. As usual, Holmberg did a good job with a bizarre subject. In case you missed the news: Lynwood Drake, who grew up in Richmond, murdered six people in California on November 8. Then he turned the gun on himself. His tortured suicide note cited revenge as the motive.
An especially troubling aspect of Holmberg's account was that those Richmonders who remembered the 43 year old Drake weren't at all surprised at the startling news. Nor was I. My memory of the man goes back to the early days of the Biograph Theatre (1972). At the time I managed the West Grace Street cinema. So the unpleasant task of dealing with Drake fell to me.
Owing to his talent for nuisance, the staff dubbed him 'Drake the Flake.' Although he resembled many of the hippie-style hustlers of the times, it was his ineptness at putting over the scam that set him apart. Every time he darkened our door there was trouble. If he didn't try to beat us out of the price of admission or popcorn, there would be a problem in the auditorium. And without fail, his ruse would be transparent. Then, when confronted, he'd go into a fit of denial that implied a threat.

Eventually that led to the incident in Shafer Court (on VCU's campus) when he choked a female student [Susan Kuney] who worked at the Biograph.
That evening he showed up at the theater to see the movie, just like nothing had happened. Shoving his way past those in line, he demanded to be admitted next.
An argument ensued that became the last straw. Drake the Flake was physically removed from the building, tossed onto Grace Street, and banned from the Biograph for life.
The next day, Drake made his final appearance at the Biograph. He ran in through the lobby's exit doors and issued a finger-pointing death threat to your narrator. Although I tried to act unruffled by the incident, it made me more than a little uncomfortable. In spite of the anger of his words, there was an emptiness in his eyes. In that moment he had pulled me into his world. It was scary and memorable.
Using a fine turn of phrase, Holmberg suggested that, "Whatever poisoned the heart of Woody Drake happened in Richmond..."
If you want more evidence of the origins of the poisoning, take the time to look him up in his high school yearbooks (Thomas Jefferson 1967/68). Pay particular attention to the odd expression in his eyes. Looking at Drake’s old yearbook photos reminded me of a line in the movie 'Silence of the Lambs.' In reference to the serial-killer who was being sought by the FBI throughout the film, Dr. Lechter (a psychiatrist turned murderer himself) tells an investigator that such a man is not born; he is created.
There is no doubt in my mind. Someone close to Woody Drake, when he was a child, systematically destroyed his soul. So while we can avert our eyes from the painful truth, we basically know where the poison is administered to the Drake the Flakes of the world.
Yes, we do. The assembly line for such monsters runs through their homes. The story goes that Drake liked to beat up women. After I threw him out of the Biograph and he disappeared, several people told us stories about various females he had hurt. No doubt, there was a reason why he hated women.

Shortly before Drake ended his wretched life, he woke up a 60-year-old woman by smacking her in the head with a blackjack. She scrambled to hide under her bed and lived to tell the story.

-- 30 --

Discover the Fan: 1973

http://slantblog.blogspot.com/2017/02/discover-fan-1973.html

Forty-four years ago an ad hoc group of 21 merchants along the commercial strip just north of VCU's Fan District campus cooperated for a one-time-only promotion called Discover the Fan. It should be noted that none of the participating businesses are still there today.

Click on Rebus' nose to enlarge the art.

On April 14, 1973 a lingering cold spell left town and warm breezes brought in a bright spring day. For that Saturday afternoon the 800 and 900 blocks of West Grace Street, and environs, were packed with an unprecedented amount of foot traffic. Hundreds of helium-filled balloons and free prizes donated by the merchants were given away. The street was not closed and the vehicular traffic was slowed to a crawl all day. There was live music on-stage.

Motorists traveling toward the West End were treated to an unexpected scene, given the neighborhood's then-bohemian image. (Grace Street was a busy one-way street heading west in those days.) On that Saturday there were thousands of ordinary people milling about having a good time. Many of them acted like tourists on a lark. Kids with balloons were everywhere.

The illustration above is a scan of a handbill done by yours truly. With its list of participating businesses it provides a snapshot of the area in what was probably the zenith of the hippie age. Some of the characters who ran those businesses were rather interesting people. (H/T: One-on-One owner Fred Awad came up with the name for the event.)

At this time I had been the manager of the Biograph Theatre for a little over a year and the Discover the Fan promotion itself was my project. I convinced my fellow merchants to chip in and promote our oddball collection of businesses as if we were a hip shopping center to the metro area. Many people helped put it together and worked on aspects of it, but the happening couldn't have come about without the help of Dave DeWitt and Chuck Wrenn (the Biograph's assistant manager), which was significant.

Below is a piece about this event from that era. It was penned by the late Shelley Rolfe:
Shelley Rolfe’s
By the Way
Richmond Times-Dispatch (April, 16, 1973)

It was breakfast time and the high command for Discover the Fan Day had, with proper regard for the inner man, moved its final planning meeting from the Biograph Theater to Lum’s Restaurant. Breakfast tastes ran a gamut. Eggs with beer. Eggs with orange juice. H-hour -- the operations plan had set it for noon -- was less than three hours away. Neither beer nor orange juice was being gulped nervously.

Terry Rea, manager of the Biograph and the extravaganza’s impresario, was reciting a last-minute, mental things-to-do list. There was the vigilante committee, which would gather up the beer and soft drink cans and bottles that invariably infest the fronts of the shops in the 800 and 900 blocks of W. Grace St., focus area of the discovery.

The city police had promised a dragnet to sweep away the winos who also invariably litter the neighborhood. The day had bloomed crisp and sunny, the first dry Saturday since Groundhog Day. “I knew it wouldn’t rain,” Rea said with the brash confidence of the young. “Lots of young businessmen around here,” a beer drinker at another table said. The free enterprise system lives.

REA WAS assigning duties for the committee that would rope off two Virginia Commonwealth University parking lots that would serve as the setting for a fashion show and band concert. The committee to blow up balloons, with the aid of a cylinder of helium [sic]. One thousand balloons in a shrieking variety of colors. “If we only get 500 kids... two to a customer,” Rea said cheerfully.

“I need more people,” said the balloon task force leader.

Twenty-one businesses were involved in the project. Each of them had contributed prizes, and gift certificates had been put into plastic Easter eggs. An egg hunt would be part of the day, and Rea had a message for the committee that would be tucking the eggs away: “Don’t put them in obvious places, but don’t put them were people can get hurt looking for them.”

“We talked about doing this last summer but we never got it together,” Rea said. There had been fresh talk in late February, early March, and it had become airborne. The 21 businesses had anted up $1,500 for advertising, which was handled by Dave DeWitt, proprietor of a new just-out-of-the-Fan, small, idea-oriented agency.

“Demographically, we were aiming for people between 25 and 34,” Rea said. There had been newspaper advertising and spots on youth-oriented radio stations. “We had a surplus late in the week...” Rea said. The decision was made to have a Saturday morning splurge on radio station WRVA. “Hey,” said a late arrival, “I heard Alden Aaroe talking about it.”

“We wanted people to see what we have here,” Rea said. “People who probably close their windows and lock their doors when they drive on Grace Street and want to get through here a quickly as possible.”

Well, yes, there must be those who look upon the 800 and 900 blocks as symbolic of the counterculture, as territory alien to their visions of West End and suburban existence. Last November the precinct serving the 800 and 900 blocks went for George McGovern, by two votes. Not a landslide, but, perhaps, a trend.

NOON WAS approaching. Rea and DeWitt set out on an inspection tour. Parking lot ropes were being put into place. Rock music blared from exotically named shops. The balloon committee was still short on manpower. An agent trotted out of a shop to report, “They’ve got 200 customers ...” And how many would they normally have at this hour of a Saturday” “They wouldn’t be open,” Rea said.

Grace Street was becoming clogged with cars It would become more clogged. Don’t know how many drivers got out of their cars, but, for a while they were a captive audience making at least vicarious discovery.

Also much pedestrian and bicycle on the sidewalks. Merchants talked of espying strangers, of all ages. A white-haired woman held a prize egg in one hand, a balloon in the other. A middle-aged man had rakishly attached a balloon to the bill of his cap.

The fashion show went on to the accompaniment of semijazz music and popping balloons, most of them held by children. Fashions were subdued. A dress evocative of the 1840s. Long skirts. Loudest applause went to a man who paraded across the stage wearing a loud red backpack. Everybody’s urge to escape?

ON GRACE STREET a sword swallower and human pin cushion was on exhibition. No names please. “My mother ...” he said. He wished to be identified only as a member of “Bunkie Brothers Medicine Show.”

Discounted merchandise on sale included 20-yesr-old British Army greatcoats and a book fetchingly titled “Sensuous Massage.” Sales resistance remained firm.

On Harrison Street a sidewalk artist was creating. A wino, who had somehow escaped the dragnet, lurched across the sidewalk art muttering. “Free balloons ...” In a shop a man said, “I want the skimpiest halter you have ... for my wife.”

On an alley paralleling Grace Street, a man holding a hand camera and early on a VCU class assignment was directing actors. One stationed in a huge trash bin. “Waiting for Godot” revisited? The second, carrying a an umbrella in one hand, popcorn in another, approached the bin. A hand darted out for popcorn. “I ran out of film!” screamed the director.

Everything was being done again. The actor in the bin emerged, seized the umbrella and ran. “Chase him,” from the direct. Actor No. 2 did a Keystone Kop-style double take, jumped and ran. A small crowd that had gathered applauded.

LATE IN the day. Traffic still was at a saturation level. Early settlers said the territory hadn’t seen such congestion since the movie, “Deep Throat.” Rea spoke of objectives smashingly achieved. Euphoric talk from him on another day of discovery in September. City Hall would be petitioned to block off Grace Street.
The writer, Rolfe, lived only a few blocks away from the Biograph, so he was actually quite familiar with the cinema I ran and the surroundings he described. This was a day in which many things could have gone wrong, but didn't, so it was remembered fondly. Some of the merchants said they set new records for business in one day.