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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sport or Spectacle: Full Metal Jousting

Sport:  (n)  an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment (Oxford Dictionary).

Most of us have watched some form of jousting.  Either at a Renaissance festival or at a Medieval Times dinner theater or in the movie Knight's Tale.  This winter, the History Channel, presented jousting in a different format during the series Full Metal Jousting.  Under the leadership of  Shane Adamshost and arguable the founder of competitive jousting, the History Channel gathered sixteen men together to compete in a $100,000, single-elimination, jousting tournament.  The men came from a variety of backgrounds.  Several were theatrical jousters.  Some were Marines.  Others were horse trainers or rodeo competitors.  The men learned together, practiced together and lived together in a big house with a large common area and kitchen.  In a way, Full Metal Jousting was a cross between between Real World/Road Rules Challenge and The Contender ... except with horses and armor.

Under the format of this particular tournament, jousts consisted of ten passes.  Jousters were awarded point one point for striking their opponent on the grand guard of their armor.  Five points were awarded for a strike that resulted in a broken lance.  And ten points were awarded for an unhorsing.  No matter what happened to the opponent or the lance, a jouster could only get points if he struck the grand guard.  If a competitor was unable to get back on his horse within two minutes of being unhorsed, that person is eliminated.  Otherwise, the jouster with the most points at the end of ten passes wins and advances.

Throughout the series, Shane Adams repeatedly referred to jousting as an ancient sport.  Adams' background is in theatrical jousting, but he has previously arranged full contact jousting tournaments where prize money was awarded.  Whenever Adams was talking, it was obvious that he was hoping the exposure from the Full Metal Jousting series would be a spring board to launch jousting to greater prominence as a legitimate sport.

I enjoyed the series quite a bit.  But, as I watched the show and listened to Shane Adams, I kept thinking to myself, "Is this really a sport or a just spectacle?"  In the end, I decided that it really didn't really matter.  Full Metal Jousting was fun to watch.  And if History Channel airs a second season, I will watch it again.  That being said, it is hard for me to picture jousting ever showing up on SportsCenter.  Without the editing and the cut-away interviews, the actual competition became a bit repetitive.  However, watching cars turn left for four hours is undoubtedly repetitive, and many of us plan our weekends around watching that.  So, who knows what the future may hold?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

News and Announcements

Banshee Blog is a continual work in progress.  I've been a little light on new posts lately.  I do apologize for that, but I have a decent excuse.  I have been working on some changes, additions and new projects.  Here is what I've been up to.

New Digs.  Banshee Blog has taken up residence on Facebook.  Why is that necessary?  Well, it's not necessary.  But, here is the idea.  The normal Banshee Blog website will remain a home for exclusively original content.  The FB page will be a place to announce new posts on this blog.  It will also be a place to share links, photos and videos that followers of this blog will enjoy.  So, if you're reading this, then you'll want to check out Banshee Blog on FB.  If you like it, "like" it.  If you do, Wild Banshee posts will show up in your normal timeline.  What's in it for me?  I get to have a little more exposure and a little more fun.  What's in it for you?  Well, a couple times a week, you'll get an interesting link or picture in your newsfeed, and you'll never have to wonder again if there is a new post at this blog.

Polling.  The first poll question for the blog was really more of an experiment with the new gadget than an actual search for answers.  From now on, the questions will be more of an attempt to take the pulse of the sports world ... or at least the pulse of the folks who are kind enough to read this blog.  But, for those of you who were wondering, all voters thought that Banshee Blog looks better with it's new header and graphics.  Please check out the new poll question on the right and cast your vote.

Quote of the Week.  Way back in the old days when I was a student and not a working stiff, Banshee Blog used to publish a quote of the day.  Well, I'm not getting that carried away.  But, I am going to start publishing a quote of the week.  The quote of the week will be published on the Banshee Blog FB page.  Why?  Well, because Facebook is a better format for that sort of thing and also because it's another reason for you to "like" that page.  The quotes will all be sports related.  Some will be recent quotes from the week and others will be classic quotes that I have saved up in my collection.  Quotes will normally be posted on Monday mornings.  But, I went ahead and posted one today just to get the ball rolling.

Banshee Rant.  Okay, here comes the biggest announcement of this post.  I am very excited to announce a new monthly feature on this blog.  It will be called The Banshee Rant.  This will be a short audio post where ... you guessed it ... Wild Banshee will rant about a current sports topic.  The exact formatting details are still being worked out.  But, the Banshee Rant will be posted on this site on the first day of the month.  Be sure to check in on May 1 to catch the inaugural episode.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cooking with Banshee: Steak and Veggies

Spring has sprung,
The grass has ris;
Tell me where that charcoal is.

Okay, I actually do most of my cooking on a gas grill.  But either way, spring is well under way, so it's time to get grilling.  And in my book, that means steak.  Here are two additions that turn a regular old steak dinner into a wowzer.  The first recipe is a rub that will add wonderful flavor to your meat.  The second recipe is a side that perfectly compliments a juicy steak.

All-American Rub

Rub Ingredients:
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 Tbs dried minced onions
2 Tbs garlic powder
2 Tbs ground dried mustard
1 tsp cayenne chili powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Rub Directions:
This rub can be mixed up well ahead of time.  Make as much or as little as you want.  Just keep the proportions the same.  I usually make a big batch at the start of the summer and store it in a tightly sealed tupperware container.

Apply the rub liberally to all sides of the meat and rub it in.  Allow the meat to sit for 15 or 20 minutes until it comes up to room temperature before you start cooking grilling.

Mushrooms, Onions and Peppers

10 oz package of baby portobello mushrooms (or substitute your favorite mushroom)
2 red bell peppers
2 vidalia onions
4 Tbs butter
2 Tbs olive oil
Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp garlic salt

Cut the vegetables into a bite sized pieces.  Don't cut them too small because they will shrink down during cooking process.  Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the olive oil.  Bring up to medium heat.  Add the peppers to the pan.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the remaining vegetables.  Sauté for about 15 minutes.  Add the Worcestershire and garlic salt.  Sauté for an additional 5 minutes or until all the veggies are tender.  Serve alongside or on top of steak.

Don't forget to check out Banshee Blog and "like" it on Facebook.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Just Say No to Tebow

I haven't seen or heard a Tim Tebow story in about 37 minutes, so I figured I better do something about that.  Actually, this post is a reader request.  And, Wild Banshee aims to please.

Last year, Tebowmania was everywhere.  "Tebwowing" actually became an accepted word in the English language.  But, when Broncos GM John Elway signed Peyton Manning, Tebow Time ended in Denver.  Shortly thereafter, the New York Jets completed a trade to bring Tebow to the Big Apple.

This is not a move Wild Banshee would have made.

Lest there be any confusion, I am not a Tebow hater.  Quite the opposite really.  I enjoyed the Tebow phenomenon as much as anyone last year, and I rooted hard for the Broncos during their playoff run.

But, putting Tim Tebow on your team needs to be an all-or-nothing proposition.  The reason that things went so well in Denver after Tebow was installed as QB1 is that the Broncos completely ditched the conventional offense they had at the start of the year and switched to a shotgun spread option offense similar to what Tebow ran as a Florida Gator.  This offense is hugely popular in college football.  But, it requires the quarterback to do a lot of running and take a lot of punishment.  It also requires a receiving corps that accepts that they will be doing a lot of blocking and not a lot of pass catching.  So, if you are going to have Tim Tebow on your team, you need to commit to making him the starter and tailor your team accordingly.  Also, if you are going to go with Tebow behind center, the back-up quarterback needs to have a similar skill set so that you do not need to change your entire scheme if Tebow gets hurt.

Barry Gutierrez/AP/File
As far was we know, the Jets are not planning on a complete offensive overhaul.  The Jets have stated that Mark Sanchez will continue to be the starter and Tim Tebow will be the back-up.  But, the role of the back-up is to be ready to step in and replace the starter if he gets hurt.  Tim Tebow is not a suitable back-up for the Jets.  He does not have the skill set to step into an offense designed for Mark Sanchez.  Thus far in his career, Tebow has not shown any signs that he can succeed in a conventional NFL offense.  His ability to anticipate when and where a receiver will come open is downright poor, and his definition of "open" is far different than even middle-of-the-road starting QBs in the league.  So, instead of bringing in a solid back-up who can replace Sanchez in case of injury, the Jets have brought in the largest media personality in the league.  Mark Sanchez, a quarterback who already receives a lot of criticism, does not need to see Tebowmania every time he looks over his shoulder.

But, it's not the critic who counts.  I actually have some constructive suggestions for the Jets.  The first thing I would do is sign another, more traditional back-up QB.  Someone like Kyle Boller or A.J. Feeley.  Then I would tell Tim Tebow that he must learn play H-back.  I know that's not what Tebow really wants, but only 46 players can be active on Sundays.  Tebow would be a third quarterback, but it would not be a wasted roster spot.  And this is a way to get Tebow on the field more often.  Then I'd tell offensive coordinator Tony Sparano to go ahead and use Tebow in the wildcat package a few times a game just like he did so successfully in Miami with Ronnie Brown.  In this way, the Jets can take advantage of Tim Tebow's physical gifts without creating a crisis of confidence for Mark Sanchez.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

NHL Playoffs ... Time Well Spent

One of the primary purposes of this blog is to bring the joy of sports to folks who do not spend every waking moment watching SportsCenter and listening to the B.S. Report.  In other words, to the casual fan.  So, in many ways, I am my own target audience for this post.

I am, by no means, a die-hard hockey fan.  I am a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I cannot name a player from every playoff team.  In fact, I can really only name the biggest stars in the NHL.  That being said, I believe that the NHL playoffs are perhaps the best playoffs in all of sports.  Here are the three reasons.

1.  Upsets.  Everyone loves March Madness because of the upsets.  But, that's a one and done event.  Anything can happen on a given night.  Same thing with the NFL.  The NBA and the MLB both have long series in each round.  In baseball, until this season, only four teams make the playoffs in each league.  So, there really is no such thing as a major upset because only the top teams are in the playoffs at all.  And, the lengthy series in the early rounds of the NBA playoffs have largely eliminated big upsets.  Not so in the NHL.  Two years ago, the 7th seeded Flyers met the 8th seeded Canadiens in the Eastern Conference finals.  In 2006, the 8th seeded Oilers came within one win of the championship.  This year, the Vegas odds have the 4th seeded Penguins as the favorite to make it to the finals.  This makes the NHL playoffs different than any other sport.

2.  Sudden death overtime.  Because of the nature of the game, the NHL has a large number of their games going into overtime.  In the NHL, overtime is sudden death.  And, in the playoffs, you just keep playing until someone scores.  If you are a fan of the concept of "sport," this is mesmerizing format.  Some games end quickly on a breakaway goal.  Some games grind on until the wee hours of the morning before someone finally finds the back of the net.  Either way, the drama is incredible.

(Getty images)
3.  Lord Stanley's Cup.  At the end of the NHL playoff journey, the winner takes home Lord Stanley's Cup.  The Stanley Cup is without a doubt the most prestigious trophy in all of sports.  Even as a casual fan, that fact is obvious to me.  If you have ever seen a potentially clinching Stanley Cup finals game then you do not need to read any farther.  You already know what I mean.  Only people who have won the Cup are permitted to touch it.  Even the NHL officials who bring the Cup to the building on a night when it may be awarded wear gloves when they take it out of the case.  When players win the Cup, they touch and hold it with incredible reverence.  Burly, bearded men weep when they get their chance to finally hold the Cup.  Everyone who has ever won the Cup has their name engraved on it.  And everyone on the winning team gets to take it home for a day.  There are stories of the Cup being taken to Triple Crown races and of babies being baptized in the Cup.  If you do not watch any other event in sports this year, please watch the presentation of the Stanley Cup.  And, you will find this event far more meaningful if you invested some time in the quest for the Cup known as the NHL playoffs.

Conclusion.  I acknowledge that no one with a real life had time to watch every single NHL playoff game.  There are a lot of them.  And they are played on weeknights.  If you are going to tune into one series in the first round, I would recommend the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. the Philadelphia Flyers.  The Pens and Flyers had fearsome games throughout the regular season.  The final regular season game included a screaming match between the two coaching staffs.  Also, Pennsylvanians take their sports far more seriously and far more personally than rational people really should.  This is reflected in the way the games are played.  But, most importantly, the Penguins have two of the most exciting players in the game in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Because of this, many experts are favoring the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup.

(Credit to Patrick O'Brien for contributing to this post)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book Review: Bigger Than the Game

I'm going a little outside of my area of expertise with this post.  I am, by no means, a literary expert.  But, I found Bigger Than The Game by Michael Weinreb to be so fascinating that I just had to share it with Banshee Sports readers.  I first became aware of Michael Weinreb through his posts on  His bio on that site indicated that Weinreb is the author of two books.  I enjoyed his online columns so much that I purchased Bigger Than the Game.  

In the promotional materials, Bigger Than the Game is described as "a mesmerizing look at sports in the 1980s - when athletes became superstars, mavericks replaced heroes, and sports moved to the forefront of American culture."  My summary would be that the book is primarily a look at American culture in the 1980's as reflected in the sports world.  Weinreb focuses primarily on Brian Bosworth, Jim McMahon, Len Bias and Bo Jackson.  He deftly weaves his narrative about these athletes into the overall cultural tapestry the Reagan era.  When the book states that it is a "look" at the world, that is entirely accurate.  It is not a "commentary."  Weinreb recounts the events of the sporting world and places them into a historical context, but he does not comment on the morality or wisdom of the economic and social trends of the day.  This leaves the reader with much to think about and discuss.

The reason that I was particularly captivated by this book is that it takes place during my formative years as a sports fan and as a person.  I am not sure how meaningful this book would be to readers who are not old enough to remember the mid 80's.  But, if you do remember the "The Super Bowl Shuffle" and recognize the phrase "Bo knows," then you will find reading Bigger Than the Game to be time well-spent.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Banshee Bracket Bonanza: We Have a Winner

The NCAA Men's Championship tips off in about 3 hours.  Around midnight, we will know whether the Wildcats or the Jayhawks will be cutting down the nets in New Orleans.  But, we don't need to wait all night to declare a winner in the Banshee Bracket Bonanza.

After lurking in the weeds for most of the tournament, Christopher David Carlberg jumped to the top of the standings on Saturday night and claimed his rightful place as the Seer of Seers and Prognosticator of Prognosticators for 2012.  Our winner was all business from the start of the competition.  Instead of choosing a flashy name for his entry, he went with a straight forward approach, choosing simply "Carlberg" for his team name.  Chris correctly picked three of the Final Four teams.  And while 18 of our 22 competitors picked Kentucky to play in the final game, only Chris Carlberg correctly predicted that Kentucky would be playing Kansas tonight.

In case anyone thinks Carlberg's performance was a fluke, keep this in mind.  After six races, Carlberg is in the 91st percentile nationwide in ESPN's fantasy NASCAR competition.  If anyone wants Carlberg's expertise for their upcoming fantasy sports endeavors, rumor has it that he will provide a full prospectus for the modest fee of $50.  And, if anyone needs to borrow a cd with "Pump Up the Volume" by M/A/R/R/S, Chris has one of those available, too.  The coveted prize package of Jock Rock 1, Jock Rock 2 and Jock Jams is on the way to the Carlberg household.