F.Y.E., NOT JUST AN OVERPRICED RECORD STORE

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I’ve been busy laying the groundwork for this NCAA commemorative edition of the Ram Report, a process which requires a number of interviews. As a result, I really haven’t done much blogging or feature writing lately. But I want to let my tens of fans know that I haven’t forgotten about them. So, for your entertainment, her are a number of videos I’ve enjoyed this week.

HIGH POINT VS. RADFORD JOUSTING

TAJ GIBSON OBLITERATES THE MIAMI HEAT

FINNISH COACH FACEPLANTS INTO TROPHY

SHOCKING THAT SOMETHING SO SMART WOULD END BADLY

IS THIS IN-AND-OUT BURGER OPEN ONLY ONE DAY A YEAR?

THE GRASS ISN’T GREENER

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I’ve decided to proclaim today, May 12, 2011, as VCU’s official “Mid-Major Emancipation Day”. Years ago, I read that Xavier had turned down a weekly mid-major award from some website because the Musketeers, as an institution, refuse to acquaint themselves with the term “mid-major”. Xavier’s position was, essentially, we’re major, “we’re not mid-major, sub-major, minor or anything else. We’ll play and beat anybody. We’re on their level.”

At the time, I recognized the validity of the position, but also sort of scoffed at it. I looked at the term mid-major as sort of like a club. I graduated from Ohio University and during my four-plus years as a Bobcat, I probably said, “I go to Ohio University, not to be confused with Ohio State,” 1,714 times. From there, I worked at Monmouth University in New Jersey before trekking down I-95 to VCU. Those three schools didn’t exactly register on a national scale, at least until this March. I enjoyed having some distance between the Davids and the Goliaths.

Some people choose to embrace it. Heck, Kyle Whelliston at MidMajority.com has made a career out of it. I did as well, but as the years went on, I started to see the term as something else, an artificial designation of second tier. It raises the question, if you start referring to yourself as second-best, aren’t you resigning yourself to that very fate?

VCU’s Final Four run should signal an end of the days that we refer to ourselves as “mid-major”. Sure, it won’t stop the media from using it, but that’s okay.

Shaka Smart is featured on the front page of USA Today Thursday (VCU coach Shaka Smart still riding wave from Final Four run). A topic central to the feature and accompanying video is Smart’s decision to stay with VCU despite overtures from N.C. State and potentially others.

There’s been this unspoken understanding in college basketball for some time that coaches at non-BCS schools (artists formerly known as mid-majors), once they achieve a level of success, MUST immediately pull up the tent stakes and grab a job at some job in the Big 12, SEC, ACC or wherever. Although fans often believe otherwise, the reasons are rarely prestige-driven. Normally, it’s about dollars and cents. More money for the coach and more resources with which to attain success.

But VCU’s Final Four appearance, as well as Smart’s subsequent contract extension, should dispel any notion of VCU as a mid-major. We’re not anybody’s caddie. We’re no red-headed stepchild of Virginia Polytechnic or Wahoo? U. We’re major. We’re here to stay. Start saying it. Starting thinking it. Start believing it.

CAPEL TO DUKE

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In case you hadn’t seen, former Rams’ Men’s Basketball Coach Jeff Capel has accepted a position on Coach K’s (don’t feel like spell-checking his whole name) staff at Duke. Capel was a four-year starter for the Blue Devils as a player. Capel was named VCU’s Head Coach in 2002 when he was just 27 years old and helped launch a new era of prominence for the program. He took the Rams to the NCAA Tournament in 2004 before leaving to take the Oklahoma job in 2006.

This is a good move for Capel if he wants to land another head coaching position soon. Basically, Duke is set up to be a national championship contender again next year. When schools achieve success, it’s natural for other schools to look to those staffs to try to capture lightning in a bottle. I have a feeling Capel will be a head coach again within two years. Just my opinion.

SHAKA THROWS A STRIKE

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Shaka Smart threw out the first pitch and sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” yesterday at Wrigley Field. Smart appropriately fired a four-seam fastball to VCU’s own Sean Marshall for the first pitch. Despite the fact that he probably hasn’t thrown a baseball in a while, I’d say, nice job. Definitely a strike – and not even an Eric Gregg (R.I.P.) or Lt. Frank Drebin strike.

Personally, I would’ve gone for the overhand curveball, ala Kevin Kline in “Dave”. You’ve got one shot to impress, why leave a bullet in the chamber? Let it rip. Sure, you may shred your rotator cuff in the process, and you may fire one to the backstop, but that’s a risk worth taking, in my opinion. Side note: I tried for 15 minutes to find that clip from Dave where he throws the first pitch, but no luck.

Meanwhile, back at the Hall of Justice:

Joey Rodriguez scored six points Friday night in Puerto Rican pro action. San German lost to Guayanabo, 86-81. Former Ram Jesse Pellot-Rosa also had 16 points for San German in the game. Joey was back in Richmond by Saturday afternoon. Like a G6.

I was originally planning on giving a glowing update on Cody Eppley, who had thrown 6 2/3 solid innings in relief for the Rangers. However, Cody was absolutely lit up by the Yankees last night. Final line, 0.1 IP, 5 hits, 6 earned runs. Ouchie. That was Eppley’s first bad outing, however.

Here’s a few quick updates on other former Rams: Scott Sizemore; Brandon Inge and Sean Marshall, who has been light’s out.

BUSH LEAGUE PLAY OF THE DAY
Kids, this is what you call a sore loser. Say it with me. The Lakers are sore losers. Good. By the way, that is former Northeastern star and CAA Player of the Year Jose Juan Berea getting demolished by that Andrew Bynum forearm shiver.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

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It’s a day old now, but I don’t want to head out for the weekend without addressing some interesting CAA hoops news. It appears that George Mason’s Luke Hancock is exploring a transfer. Rashad Whack, who didn’t play much anyway, announced he was transferring before Head Coach Jim Larranaga  left for Miami. The Patriots, considered the CAA preseason favorite, could be on shaky ground if Hancock does depart.

Mason is losing leading scorer Cam Long and dependable reserve Isaiah Tate to graduation. Without Hancock, the Patriot will suddenly be looking to replace half of their top six scorers. When you factor in a potential transition period for new Coach Paul Hewitt, Mason fans are looking ahead to some Pepto Bismol moments.

I DON’T WANT TO SAY I TOLD YOU SO…BUT I WILL ANYWAY

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So, for a couple of weeks I bit my tongue on on the Detroit Tigers’ decision to leave former Ram Scott Sizemore at AAA Toledo while starting light-hitting infielder (and William & Mary product) Will Rhymes struggled. Around the office, Scott Day had to put up with my line of rhetorical questioning.

“What is Jim Leyland doing?” I would pout, channeling the voice of my former New Jersey sports editor, known for his incredulous protests. “He’s really jamming Sizemore up!”

Admittedly, I’m often critical of Major League managers, who are often set in their ways and/or adhere to inflexible game plans. What’s that? It’s the ninth inning? Gotta use the “closer”. Case in point. Last night, Fausto Carmona was absolutely cruising for the Cleveland Indians, allowing one run in eight innings. Carmona had thrown just 96 pitches and in the top of the ninth, the Indians took a 4-1 lead. Naturally, manager Manny Acta decides to burn closer Chris Perez for a nonsensical three-out save. It’s happens all the time and drives me insane.

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CATCH ME IF YOU CAN

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Joey Rodriguez has averaged 8.0 points in three BSN contests.

Don’t let anybody tell you that Joey Rodriguez can’t multitask.

Just to give you a taste, here’s how Rodriguez’s week looks, from Sunday, May 1 through this Saturday, May 7:

Sunday, May 1: One night after scoring nine points in a win for San German of the Puerto Rican professional basketball league, the BSN, Rodriguez flew back to Richmond, Va. and continued to prepare for final exams.

Monday, May 2: Rodriguez estimates he spent about six hours in tutoring sessions and working on final projects. Rodriguez is scheduled to graduate at the end of May with a degree in criminal justice.

Tuesday, May 3: Class, plus interview with some hack blogger.

Wednesday, May 4: Class and VCU Senior Awards Banquet.

Thursday, May 5: His girlfriend, Ciera, is 21 weeks pregnant. On Thursday morning, they will find out the sex of the baby. At 5 p.m. that evening, Rodriguez will be a guest at the White House for a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Friday, May 6: Joey has a 7 a.m. flight to Puerto Rico and will play in a game later that evening. On Saturday, he will fly back to Richmond.

Got all that? That’s a tad different from your average college senior’s schedule. My senior year consisted of waking up at noon, locating lunch and then happy hour. Senioritis was in full effect by spring. I sprinkled in some class here and there.

“It’s been fun. It’s tiring,” Rodriguez says, matter-of-factly. “I’ve got a pregnant girlfriend I’m trying to take care of. I’m trying to make her and then deal with school and then play in Puerto Rico.”

Rodriguez has been going like this for weeks. Just three days after the NCAA Tournament ended for VCU, Rodriguez was in Los Angeles as a guest on Lopez Tonight, George Lopez’s late night talk show.

When San German drafted Rodriguez in April, he told the team that he’d have to finish up school first. But the team told him they could fly him down on the weekends for games. So far, the nutty schedule means that Rodriguez has played in more games (three) than practices (two). In those three games, Rodriguez has averaged 8.0 points and 1.7 assists in 12.3 minutes per game.

San German is located in southwestern Puerto Rico, about an hour and a half from San Juan. The BSN season runs from March through July, so Rodriguez also hopes to play in Europe in August.

“It’s a good league. It’s not easy,” Rodriguez said. “It’s more Americanized basketball…so it’s up and down, which fits me perfect. It’s going to help me get ready for Europe too because you’re playing against grown men.”

Rodriguez is also a teammate of former Ram Jesse Pellot-Rosa. Although they never played on the same team – Pellot-Rosa’s final season was 2006-07, a year before Rodriguez’s arrival – they know each other well. Pellot-Rosa frequently works out at VCU in the offseason. In Puerto Rico, Rodriguez has been living across the street from Pellot-Rosa, and the two former Rams have been hanging out together.

“It’s the best thing that could’ve happened to me,” Rodriguez said. “He’s over there and we hang out every day.”

Meanwhile, graduation is set for May 21. Rodriguez says he will be there.

DIAMOND DAYS

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Yesterday I wrote on the Around The Horns Facebook page about how former Ram Scott Sizemore was tearing up AAA Toledo. Well, it looks like I’m clairvoyant. Sizemore has been recalled and will be the Detroit Tigers starting second baseman. You’re welcome.

In addition, the VCU Baseball team will be hosting Virginia tonight at The Diamond. The Cavaliers are ranked No. 1 in the country and are 42-5. Sorry, that needs more emphasis. Virginia is 42-5!! There are little league teams that don’t win 42 of 47 games (they probably don’t play that many games, but you get the idea). Anyway, hot dogs are a buck and there will be cold beverages too. Also, Shaka Smart will be throwing out the first pitch. The game starts at 7 p.m.

IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS

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I guess you can have your ice cream and cake and eat it too.

I had Joey Rodriguez and Ed Nixon stop by the office today for a couple of projects I’m working on right now. This story came up, but it’s not necessarily something I’m going to use elsewhere.

When VCU went to Norfolk to play Old Dominion during the 2009-10 season, the Monarchs pulled away late for the win. Many believe it’s no coincidence that ODU’s “Ice Cream and Cake” song plays during the under four minute media timeout of the second half and that the Monarchs often close well at home. ODU certainly did that day, turning a 68-66 VCU lead into a 73-70 Monarch victory in the final 3:08.

Strength and Conditioning Coach Daniel Roose noticed the correlation. Last summer, he had the Rams lifting weights to “Ice Cream and Cake”. When the Rams faced ODU in Norfolk on Feb. 12, they were ready. VCU was holding a 52-50 lead when the final media timeout came with 3:11 left. Cue “Ice Cream and Cake”, which normally sends the home crowd into a frenzy (although nobody really can understand why). This time, the Rams were unfazed.

“We were dancing in the huddle,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t think Coach Smart even said anything.”

“When they played it, I think that it helped us more than it helped them,” Nixon said.

Nixon’s argument appears to hold water. The Rams outscored ODU 7-0 the rest of the way in a 59-50 victory.

“EVERYBODY GOT THEIR CUPS OUT, BUT THEY AIN’T PITCHED IN…”

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Nothing to see here. Just VCU continuing to dominate. Snoop Dogg repping the VCU First Four to Final Four shirt. No biggie. It’s not like it’s Leonardo DiCaprio in a VCU hat or Drake in a VCU t-shirt or some crazy stuff like that. Oh wait, we’ve had both of those too.

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