Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports

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Sunday at The Open

In the midst of exploring Scotland, I have a few minutes now in my hostel in Oban to write about my experience at St. Andrew’s. A friend and I got tickets for the final Sunday in late May, but due to the high winds of Saturday and the rain of Friday, the final Sunday turned out to only be the 3rd round. That would be the only disappointment of the day.

Before I get to the golf, it’s worth mentioning how terrific the public transportation was getting there. We were staying in Edinburgh – which isn’t all that close – but there were many comfortable trains to Leuchars Station, which is about 5 miles away from the Old Course. I was expecting to catch a local bus, but instead, when we arrived at the station, there was an army of close to 20 busses waiting for us. For only five pounds, we got a round-trip fare on these busses that not only were conveniently located and ran every couple minutes, but also had a police escort. Seeing the four policemen pull out in front of the bus on their motorcycle and lead us through the rain by beautiful Scottish scenery was the perfect prelude.

The course was so peaceful and quiet when we arrived that when we first followed signs for the 1st hole and crossed a fairway, I had no idea that the players on the green nearby were playing for real. I thought it had to be practice. However, moments later, Lee Westwood and his caddie walked right by me and suddenly I realized I had just crossed the famed 17th fairway and was right next to the 3rd. There was very little separation. Moments later, Ernie Els was teeing off right behind me. This was too cool.

After getting our bearings and checking out the 1st hole, we decided to follow Jim Furyk for a little while. Because it was early in the morning and the contenders weren’t starting for another five hours or so, we were able to follow Furyk’s every shot without having to fight any crowds. I was first struck by how difficult it was to keep track of what was going on, but once I got the hang of the course, it was quite fun. We left him at the 7th to watch Rickie Fowler, who drew a much bigger crowd. By this point, there were noticeably more people there, but it still was easy to get right next to him for each shot.

The course itself was stunningly beautiful. So green after a particularly wet season, the grass looked as pristine as The Emirate’s. And but for one mid-day shower, the weather held up. It was constantly changing from warm to windy to cold and back, but I had enough layers to always be comfortable.

Once the crowds arrived in full, we followed Phil Mickelson around for a while with all the Americans. The atmosphere was a lot more boisterous around Phil. But even for him, people stayed silent with no exceptions from the moment he took his club out of the bag to when his shot had landed. Much like at Wimbledon, the silence showed how invested the crowd was in watching the golf. Nobody shouted “get in the hole” or anything like that.

We left Phil for Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia, stopping to see a few of the players behind them on our way back up the course. By this time, the crowds were so thick that it was hard to get places, especially at the far end of the course where so many holes are close together. But by the time we found Spieth, the atmosphere was electric. We were able to get to good spots for many of his shots, and it was incredibly exciting. I loved the wait to see if the putt was going to drop.

At this point, watching the leaderboard became as much of the experience as watching the golf. The collective awe as players posted birdie after birdie enhanced the buzz and pressure everywhere. So eventually we went ahead of Spieth to get a spot on the 17th green, which ended up being the perfect place to end the day. There, we watched everybody come in – seeing their approaches and putts on 17 from barely 10 yards away, then seeing the tee-shots on 18.

We ended up seeing the final players a little further back up the course to allow us to beat the traffic, but we were able to see every player we wanted to see hit at least one shot. I felt myself rooting for everybody except Dustin Johnson. By the end of the day, I had spent 10 hours watching these guys. It was a full-day sporting experience like none other. I can’t say I predicted Zach Johnson’s victory the next day, but the way he and everyone else was playing, I would have been happy with anybody winning.

Now, I’ve never been to any professional golf events, so I’m not sure if what I liked about Royal St. Andrew’s was unique to the course or simply just watching golf. But I can’t imagine there’s a course that does it much better. It was beautiful, intense, and wonderfully old-school. Instead of big-screens everywhere were the old buildings that surround the course. But it was the silent intensity and the leaderboard watching I loved most. I left wanting more, hoping one day I could return to this course. At the very least, I now feel like a real golf fan.The Masters now sits atop my bucket list.


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The Magic and Allure of a Day at Wimbledon

Studying in Cambridge, England for the remainder of the summer as of a week ago, I am now devoid of the means to watch sports. I knew time zones would be an issue for watching baseball, and none of the legal streaming sites would work overseas, but I figured I’d be able to find Wimbledon and the World Cup on TV at pubs. Little did I know, the concept of a sports bar does not exist in Cambridge. I can follow free agency on Twitter to my heart’s content, but forget about trying to watch a baseball game.

However, this past Saturday, I made my first ever trip to Wimbledon. I got up at 6:30, put on by far the dressiest clothing I’ve worn to a sporting event, and headed for the train. Three hours later, and three highly functional and pleasant train rides away, I stepped off the train at Southfields Station to a find a sea of people eagerly heading for the grounds. I knew Wimbledon was not a large city, but the small-town feel as I walked along the sidewalk surprised me a little. I was expecting Foxborough, but it wasn’t even close.

Queuing is a concept I became quite familiar with at the London Olympics in 2012. The Brits love their queues. But “The Queue” at Wimbledon blew my mind. Imagine Krzyzewskiville times a hundred. The lines behind gates stretched what had to have been a half-mile. I was both impressed and dismayed by the magnitude of it. Americans wouldn’t dream of a set-up like this, because who has the patience to spend more than a day in lines for a ticket that doesn’t even guarantee you will get to see a match you’d like. As I walked on the other side of the gate, I felt particularly grateful to have a ticket waiting for me.

I had to pick my ticket up at The Wimbledon Experience tent, which turned out to be a tea room connected to The Gatsby Club. A particularly pompous looking group of people in their blazers and straw-hats queued outside it, waiting to be served their English breakfasts. I got inside the gates to the grounds maybe four minutes after they’d opened, but didn’t know that if I wanted to see any tennis on the side courts, I had to act fast. Within seconds, Court 2 was full. Then I went to 3 and that line was full. Even the courts without much seating were quartered in by spectators watching 10-year olds play. Resigned to defeat at my hopes for watching play for the hour before I went into Centre Court, I headed for the museum. Highlights there included a 3D video that sent chills through my body and a display that claimed lawn tennis was invented “to give young boys and girls the opportunity to meet and flirt.”

I expected Centre Court to feel a little bit like Fenway Park. An old building devoid of the modern innovations designed for comfort, but pleasantly intimate. But as I climbed the steps and went into a hallway devoid of concessions and bathrooms, I felt like I was in another age. The white walls and low ceilings led me to my section where I got my first glimpse of the grass. That feeling of first seeing the court and getting an indescribable rush is one only a most ardent sports fan could understand. A friendly Canadian couple wearing matching purple Roger Federer polo shirts and hats were in the seats next to me as I arrived, and they proceeded to talk to me nonstop up until the start of the first match. I was hoping to see some royals or celebrities in the Royal Box, but instead it was a day for famous British athletes. Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Graeme Le Saux were the ones I recognized.

Up first was Federer against the powerful Aussie Sam Groth. As the match began, I was struck immediately by the behavior of the crowd. Everybody was absolutely silent. And I mean everybody. The chair umpire did not have to say, “Thank you. The players are ready” even once. When Roger stepped up to serve, we watched. At the US Open, people shout out “Let’s Go Roger!” in the seconds leading up to the serve, but not here. It was only respect. That respect carried across all matches, male and female. I can count on my hands the number of times somebody yelled out in the middle of a game. Even change-overs were relatively quiet. One thing that surprised me was that apparently you aren’t supposed to cheer at all when somebody misses a shot. We were only supposed to cheer for winners.

One of my favorite things about the crowd was that it felt like we were in this together. All 15,000 of us. Everybody was on the edge of their seat for the points, even if the cheers weren’t especially loud. When the Australians began to sing a song for Groth during a change-over, there was a collective shushing from the crowd, not the ushers. And when there was cause to laugh, we all laughed. It was entirely unlike America. Perhaps it was because no music played or there was no big-screen to steal attention, or perhaps it was because everybody was really into the tennis, but I felt for the first time at a sporting event that the crowd was an entity rather than a group of individuals.

Despite dropping the third set to the dismay of the Canadians next to me, Federer impressed me. I’d seen him play once before, but that didn’t temper my excitement for watching the greatest Wimbledon champion ever play on his home court. He is the most graceful athlete I’ve seen. It’s all so clean and classy, yet powerful and overwhelming. As I watched him leave the court, I had the sudden realization that this was likely the last time I’d ever see him play. This was my goodbye to an athlete that might be the greatest to ever play the game I love.

Everyone cleared out for tea but I stayed in my seat for the Petra Kvitova match against Jelena Jankovic. I wasn’t too excited about this match comparatively, but it turned out to be a thriller. Down and out, Jankovic crawled back and ground her way into a third set, before breaking the spirit of Kvitova late on and taking her down. I was quite entertained by the way the man in front of me, dressed in coat and tie, kept referring to Kvitova as “our Wimbledon champion,” a title she’d earned last year.

Last but not least was British and Wimbledon hero Andy Murray taking the court against Andreas Seppi, a match I was looking forward to since I saw the draw and knew I might see. I wondered what seeing him in front of his adoring fans would be like. I expected roars for every winner, passionate standing ovations and general enthusiasm. And in the warm-up, I could feel the buzz crescendoing. Yet when the match started, the crowd went quiet. Everyone cheered for Murray, and the support was undying and boundless, but still, it never boiled over like it would have in America. Beyond hearing a “Let’s Go Andy!” from a little kid every few points, one wouldn’t have known he was the sporting hero of nearly everyone in attendance. They’d clap for a Seppi winner in fact. It was fascinating how they showed their support, even as he dominated and advanced.

As the sun set, and I left the grounds, I thought about how un-American my 4th of July had been. Nothing about Wimbledon reminded me of home. The charm was undeniable, and the experience of it all was a one-of-a-kind. I don’t think I could stand the queues, and I like moments at sports events where passion erupts in the stands. But I hope this place never changes. I want to bring my future kids there some day and hand our tickets to the active serviceman who act as ushers. I want them to see the grass and the whites for the first time. I want it all to stay the same.

Now my sports bucket list is one crucial item shorter, with another being crossed off in two weeks time when I will head to Scotland for the final Sunday at The Open at St. Andrew’s. I’ve heard I should expect a similar crowd there, so I am eager for another British sporting experience.

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Wild American Gooner’s 1st Birthday – Time For a Look Back

I wasn’t planning on writing anything today until I saw a notification from WordPress congratulating me on the blog’s anniversary. I had realized a few days ago the one year mark was approaching, but had completely forgotten. I certainly can’t let today go by without posting something.

I must say, when I started Wild American Gooner a year ago, I had no idea what it would become. I certainly didn’t think it would last a full year, or frankly even a month. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could develop any sort of readership. This was purely for me – a vehicle to improve my writing skills and allow me to watch every single World Cup match without feeling too guilty.

A year later, more than 200,000 words have been written for the blog. And while there have been many ups and downs in the number of hits the site has gotten on a day to day basis, I’ve totaled more than 14,000 visitors this year. But most astoundingly, they have come from all across the globe in around 120 different countries. To me, that is the most humbling and inspiring thing of all. That in that many countries, even one person has spent time reading what I have written keeps me going.

I owe a great deal of debt to my readers, particularly my frequent likers and commenters from Ecuador, Colombia and Trindad & Tobago. The positive feedback in the beginning was invaluable towards my wanting to return to the keyboard. And that goes to everyone I know personally too, especially to my family members and friends around the country who continue to read. Thanks for reading, thanks for being supportive, and thanks for bearing with me through countless Arsenal articles I know you couldn’t be bothered to care about.

Recent changes to WordPress have made keeping track of site stats harder on a grander level – that’s why I no longer know exactly how many countries are represented in my readers among other things. But I always find it interesting to see which articles get the most hits. Davidson basketball articles are generally well read – six of my top ten are Davidson related, with my recap on the scene in Seattle of the NCAA Tournament game being the most viewed. But those stats are largely boosted from the articles being posted on the Facebook page of The Davidsonian.

Of non-Davidson posts, the most viewed by far is my piece on the How I Met Your Mother finale. I spent more time on that than any other post, but I wasn’t expecting my first and, with the exception of one other, only non sports post to be so popular – the other being my other Himym post on the alternate ending, which also was well read. I need to thank Himym Creator Craig Thomas and lead actor Josh Radnor once again for giving me positive feedback on that piece. Their words and actions on Twitter meant more than they could ever know.

Of the rest of them, some of the most popular pieces were my post immediately after the trading deadline when I said goodbye to Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, my reaction to Arsenal’s new kits, and my Premier League predictions. And of course there was the day last June when I wrote four 1,000+ word posts. Thinking back to that day certainly helped me believe I could write a couple five-page papers right before exams last month.

If I could do it all over again, I might have chosen a different name for the site, but there isn’t a whole lot else I would have done differently. It was tricky figuring out how to find time to write at school, but I think I found a good balance. Somehow or other, this is post #173. So now, at the risk of boring you and driving you away, I’ll wrap this up.

Thanks to the athletes I’ve written about for giving me such great material. Thanks to my readers across every continent and at home for reading. And thanks to everyone for inspiring me to write. I’m excited for year two.

If you have any ideas for content or improvements that could be made to the site, please comment below or reach me on Twitter (@Klaus_Faust)

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Reflections on My Trip to Super Bowl XLIX

I could tell this weekend was going to be a different type of sports experience when my flight from Charlotte to Phoenix was full of Patriots fans chanting Go Patriots as we boarded (and one lone Seahawks fan). It’s fair to say I saw a few more Seahawks fans when I arrived in Phoenix, but I was not expecting so many fans to be coming from around the country. All weekend, my brothers, dad and I watched droves of neon-clad Seattle-folk proudly wearing #12 jerseys take over everywhere we went. They were out in force. And Patriots fans were not.

Saturday afternoon we went to the circus at the Phoenix Convention Center – or the NFL Experience, as it was officially called. Outside, there were 32 trucks with each NFL logo, there was a red carpet viewing area and there were puppies playing football. Line after line of thousands of jersey-wearing football fans from all over the country followed whatever the NFL produced. But despite the long waits, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, for there was a discernible excitement in the air. Everybody was just happy to be there, even those hapless souls in Jets jerseys.

After I showed off my arm in a deep route passing drill, besting my brothers in our competition, I was chirped by a Seahawks fan who proceeded to bring up the Giants, Spygate and Deflategate all within two sentences. How creative. It was all in good fun, but by Saturday night, the atmosphere was beginning to change.

Sunday morning, we began the long trek out to the desert that is Glendale via public transportation. It felt oddly like the public transportation within Disney World. On the bus – a ride in which the driver missed the stop and ended up taking us on a half-hour detour into the thick of the traffic – the Seahawks fans were much more tolerable than the man the night before. Everyone even united to cheer loudly as the bus finally let us off.

Security was surprisingly efficient and effective. Within the walls of ticketed company, it was a full-on party. We went inside to check out our seats roughly three hours before the game before heading back out to do more NFL-themed games. Waiting in line for another passing drill – this 3/3 outing in front of heckling Seahawk fans being my personal quarterbacking highlight – I was right in between two sets of Patriots and Seahawks fans. At this moment, things began to feel more like a game and less like a party. Conversation turned from Friday night Ludacris concerts to respective gameplans. After a free sampling of Tostitos’s new product and a sighting of Chris Pratt, we went back inside for warm-ups.

As we approached game time, there was some serious buzz in the stadium. All the energy that had been building over the weekend crescendoed as Idina Menzel nailed her final note. Suddenly, there was a game to be played. When Steven Hauschka kicked off, it was unbelievably loud. And for the Patriots first drive, it only got louder. At this point, I feared the alarming number of Seattle fans would make the difference. But enough of the spectacle, there was a game too. And a pretty great one at that.

I went into the game cautiously optimistic. And despite Tom Brady’s early red zone interception right in front of us, I stayed confident. The defense came out hot. The peak of my confidence came with Rob Gronkowski’s touchdown near the end of the first half. It was all just too easy. But then came the guillotine. The Seahawks thirty-second touchdown drive to close out the half swung the momentum entirely. I thought watching Katy Perry was going to be fun, but instead, I could only be nervous.

Those nerves reached a point I’d never felt as the third quarter bled into the fourth and the Patriots could neither convert a third down nor make a stop. With every failed LaGarrette Blount run, I sank further and further back into my seat, barely able to watch. When the Patriots punted on their opening drive of the fourth quarter down 10, I pretty much accepted defeat. I began dreading the plane ride home the next day, dreading turning on ESPN for the next seven months.

One stop later, the game was on the line as the Patriots drove the field down 10. It felt like Brady was walking across a tightrope with every throw he made between two or sometimes three defenders. Yet the receivers kept making plays. They kept moving the chains. This drive was about the will to win. It was about giving us fans near heart attacks. It was simply brilliant.

The first low point of the game came when Brady overthrew a wide-open Julian Edelman in the end zone. It was an open Wes Welker with the game on the line all over again. But fears were alleviated a play later when Brady found Danny Amendola. All I could do at this point was focus on taking deep breaths.

After another huge stop by this year’s much-improved defense, the next drive was pure gold. This was the drive people will remember forever as a crowning moment of Brady’s career. Gronk, Edelman and Shane Vereen at their absolute best. Even when things went awry on Amendola’s pass interference call, the Patriots answered the call on the very next play. There was never any doubt about this drive. The Seahawks were going to get the ball back down four. That the go-ahead touchdown came on the exact same throw to Edelman that Brady missed on the previous drive made it all the more redemptive. This was our game.

The emotions from this point are all a blur. As soon as Russell Wilson hit Marshawn Lynch on the wheel route, the dread came flooding back. Then the storm surge of dread hit in full force as the ghost of David Tyree returned to University of Phoenix Stadium in the form of Jermaine Kearse. It was all too real. This was the new low point. Suddenly, Lynch was down to the one.

The next play will be talked about forever. We all know it was a stupid play call – the explanations from the Seattle coaching staff about killing a play make absolutely no sense. If you want to kill clock, kneel the ball. But in the moment, it was a flurry of emotions unlike anything I’ve experienced. From our vantage point directly behind the throw, it was hard to tell what exactly happened. We saw the ball thrown in traffic, saw a Patriot go the ground and saw no reaction from the referees. I was the first to react in our group, noticing the Patriots sideline celebrating. I began jumping up and down screaming wildly as I comprehended what just happened. Seconds later, everyone around us was hugging one another. Jubilee. I wouldn’t stop smiling the rest of the night.

There are heroes in every Super Bowl. But few come from as far as Malcolm Butler did. He will be discussed alongside Adam Vinatieri, Mike Vrabel, Ty Law and other heroes of the Patriots Super Bowl years. Throwing context aside, that was one fantastic read he made. But add the stupidity of the call back in and you get one of the best game-sealing plays of all-time.

Butler’s contribution might help Patriots fans remember down the line that this team was about so much more than Brady. Sure, he might have won MVP – and appropriately so – but Belichick needed everyone to beat the Seahawks. Without Revis and Browner, without Hightower and Collins, without Ninkovich and Jones, without Stork and Fleming, without Vereen and Amendola, there would be no Lombardi trophy for the Patriots this year. Brady, Gronk and Edelman were this team’s shiny exterior. But that aforementioned core can’t be forgotten.

Just about any fan out there could have told you Bill Belichick was going to revolve the offense around unexpected players. But for Patriot fans, it was all too clear that Shane Vereen was going to have a big role. However, few could have predicted the magnitude of his role. With every shoe-string catch across the middle, he bailed his quarterback out. He fought for every yard and made some truly remarkable plays. He and Amendola, the other surprise, were excellent.

Everybody wants to talk about Tom Brady’s legacy right now, but I think we need to spend a little more time on the remarkable play of so many Patriots like Vereen and Amendola. Let’s not soon forget Edelman’s iron-man toughness as he fought for the extra yards despite what looked to be a clear concussion. Brady will have his time in the sun soon.

On my plane ride home, there was a large man three rows in front of me dressed in a black hoodie, a West Virginia hat and dark sunglasses. He sat quietly as Patriots fans walked by without looking twice. From my seat, I saw this man’s enormous hands. There was a black ring on his left hand. But there was a noticeable lack of a championship ring.

Upon landing in Charlotte, Randy Moss exited the plane quietly, head down and headphones on. One of the greatest receivers to ever live walked swiftly, not wanting to be recognized. And soon he was out of sight.

This Patriots team didn’t have a Randy Moss on offense. It had a collection of grinders, of fighters. Julian Edelman, the undersized seventh-round pick who arrived in the NFL without a position, is now what Moss and Welker will never be. A Super Bowl Champion. He and 51 others are not soon to be forgotten in New England. You can bet Patriot fans won’t be walking by players like Edelman anytime soon without giving him a nod, a high-five or a thank you.

What a game.

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Why Davidson Beat UNC & Duke This Week, Arsenal & Deflategate

Ever since Christmas break wrapped up shortly after New Year’s, life has been a whirlwind with travel, back-to-school meetings and school work. I’ve certainly made time for sports, but I haven’t had the extra hour post-game to write. So today, I want to offer my perspective on a few things I’ve missed relating to college basketball, Arsenal and of course, the Patriots and the increasingly frustrating Deflategate.

I’ll start with basketball. Over the long weekend, I had the opportunity to go to three big time games in the state of North Carolina on three straight nights. On Sunday, I was at UNC-Virginia Tech in Chapel Hill, experiencing the Dean Dome for the first time. Monday night, I joined my high school friend in the front row at Cameron Indoor for Duke-Pittsburgh. And Tuesday night, I put down the pen to revel in Davidson’s surge of school spirit in our upset win over no. 22 Dayton, taking in the game from the student section instead of my usual spot on press row.

Beyond the excitement I get from simply watching good basketball, I really enjoyed picking up on the differences between the three fan experiences. UNC felt like an NBA atmosphere – albeit without luxury boxes. Fans were excited, and granted, it wasn’t that close a game, but it didn’t have the small-town feel I associate with the college game. I loved all the history they played up. I also enjoyed all the smart, intellectual conversation being had about the game all around me. I sat pretty high up, but I felt like everyone around me knew what was going on and could appreciate the intricacies of the Roy Williams defense. I left impressed with their basketball culture and tradition, but underwhelmed by the atmosphere.

Being in the student section at Duke was the opposite. It was about the experience. At one point, I heard the guy behind me trying to explain what an air-ball was to the girl next to him. This is someone who waited in line all day for second-row tickets, and yet they didn’t know anything about the sport. That being said, the environment in Cameron is terrific. It was unbelievably loud and so much fun to be a part of. But it was hard to concentrate on the game. Everyone seemed more focused on getting on tv and taking pictures than actually watching the game. I certainly enjoyed watching Jahlil Okafor post-up, but I’m not sure the girl behind me even noticed the 6’10” superstar ten feet away.

Davidson-Dayton was an anomaly by Belk Arena standards. I’ll admit that Davidson games typically aren’t great basketball experiences. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this game was my favorite atmosphere of the three. More than half of Davidson’s student body showed up for this game. Where else does that happen? It was loud and engaging but at least I had a little space to move, unlike at Cameron where line-monitors literally push everyone as close together as possible. People got fired up with every made three, and the roof nearly came off when Davidson kept stretching their lead. And then there were the five swimmers, who stripped to speedos for free throws and danced – see photo (which I am in as well). I loved every second of it. This Davidson game had both the basketball experience and the game experience. For me, this game experience beat UNC’s and Duke’s – at least on this weekend.

From a basketball standpoint, I remain really impressed with UNC, having seem them play Davidson two months ago as well. Their length causes so many issues for opponents, and their offense looks even more balanced now than it did two months ago. With Marcus Paige picking up his play, I expect this Tar Heels squad to peak in March. Watch out. Duke looked good too, especially offensively. Watching Okafor in person gave me a new appreciation for how good he really is. Duke has the shooters to make him all the more effective against the inevitable double-teams too. What worries me about Duke though is their lack of depth and their defensive lapses. Justice Winslow also seems half a step slow to me. They’re good, but right now, I don’t see them as being National Champions-good.

Davidson is at an interesting point in their season. Overlooking the recent 30-point loss on the road at Richmond, this team has done everything right. But injuries are starting to take a toll as the grind of the A-10 begins. Road trips anywhere without Jack Gibbs ’17 at the point won’t be easy. Is this team good enough to make the tournament? Absolutely. But it’ll be a challenge to get there with a seven-man rotation that includes two foul-prone 6’7” freshmen forwards. I’m confident. But cautiously so. Follow me on Twitter (@Klaus_Faust) for continued A-10 coverage and thoughts. It’s going to be a fun couple months of college basketball.

Now to the Arsenal, where I’ve been way behind in my coverage. This weekend was the first time I’ve felt legitimately happy about Arsenal in a really long time. I’m tempted to say since the FA Cup Final, but that was more relief than happiness. The performance against Manchester City felt like a dream. Texts I sent to my friend included, “I can’t believe my eyes,” “What a day to be a Gooner” and “Coquelin is my hero.” If you told me a month ago that I’d say those last four words, I would have laughed.

But I have to keep reminding myself that it was only one performance. Three points are only three points until you win the next game. A shift in mentality is only a shift if it can be repeated. Much is still to be done. And lest we forget, Arsenal are currently outside the top 4. But there is now hope and hope is something I haven’t experienced as a Gooner in far too long. I’d almost forgotten it could be this way.

I’m excited to see Mesut Özil and Theo Walcott back for the FA Cup tie this weekend, but I think Arsene Wenger needs to be careful with rupturing the flow of this team by thrusting them back in the lineup long-term. I want to see them play, but not at the expense of removing Coquelin or putting Cazorla out wide. I also think David Ospina should continue to start in goal. Wojciech Szczesny made a mistake, and he needs to learn. Sit him for as long as Ospina plays better than Szczesny had been playing. If that’s through the end of the year, I’m perfectly fine with that.

Switching topics, Deflategate is one of the most overblown, poorly handled things I’ve seen in sports. As a Patriots fan, I realize nobody cares what I have to say on this subject and won’t take me seriously, but take a moment to step back and think about what is going on. It’s ridiculous that the NFL has let it get to this point.

If the Patriots doctored the balls after inspection, yes, that is bad. They should be punished. But what about the line judge and umpires who touched the balls on literally every single play in the first half? Why didn’t they notice? And if informed by the Colts staff, why didn’t they stop to check them during a break in action? If there wasn’t a noticeable difference – remember the two pounds is measured in PSI, not weight – then it can’t have that big an effect. The referee should have checked it on the field and replaced the ball. If deemed not important enough to check on until halftime, then who cares about it now? It wasn’t even flag-worthy when they found out they were deflated. They just switched them out. So why are we sitting here nine days before the Super Bowl wasting our time on this issue?

If the NFL wanted to punish the Patriots, it should have done so on Monday. Letting it drag out this long is a disservice to everyone, the NFL included. It takes away from what has happened on the field and what will happen on the field. Hate on Bill Belichick all you want. He doesn’t deserve the benefit on the doubt on this one – I get it. But comparing slightly deflated balls to bounty-hunting and to Spygate is an injustice to sports reporting.