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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cooking with Banshee: Sloppy Swiss Burgers

The Summer Olympics are underway in London.  To celebrate the event, Wild Banshee will be posting a few recipes with some international flair.  I'll be honest, the only thing international about this recipe is the name.  This is my own creation, and it's named for the cheese ... not really the nation.

This recipe makes 4 burgers.

1.5 lbs ground beef (I recommend 80-20% or 85-15% fat content)
1 Tbs Dale's Sauce
1 tsp dried, minced onions
1 tsp garlic powder
Burger grill seasoning (McCormick's, Weber's, or your own favorite)
8 slices Swiss cheese
Triple Threat Topping

Gently spread out the ground beef on a large plate.  Add the Dale's Sauce, minced onions and garlic powder.  Gently form into four patties.  I keep saying "gently" because the burgers will get tough if you work with the meat too much.

Cook the burgers on the grill to the desired doneness.  Sprinkle each side of the burgers with grill seasoning as you cook them.  Top each burger with 2 slices of Swiss cheese and leave on the grill till it's melted.  Finally, top each burger with the Triple Threat Topping.


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Friday, July 27, 2012

This Week in Sports: July 27, 2012

The sports drought has ended.  We are headed into a stretch where you can find an interesting sport to watch at any time of the day or night.

The Week that Was:  

The Open Championship:  The Open Championship ... aka The British Open ... was played last weekend at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.  The biggest stories of the tournament were the weather and the long putter.

Normally, competitors have to deal with chilly temperatures, rain and strong winds.  This causes the players to play a distinctive links style of golf that requires low, knock-down shots and runners that are far less picturesque that what we normally see on the PGA tour.  But, this year's Open was played under very mild conditions.  That led to some very low scores being posted throughout the week.  

The other story was the length of the putters that were used by the players who were contending for the championship down the stretch on Sunday afternoon.  As Adam Scott got started on his back nine, it appeared that he was going to run away with the championship.  It would have been his first major championship.  It would also have been the first major to be won by a player using a long, anchored putter.  Scott was using a putter that he rested and anchored against his breastbone.  

In the end, it was that long putter that tripped Scott up.  Scott missed a putt on the 18th that would have forced a playoff.  The missed putt completed Scott's brutal collapse on the final four holes of the championship and gave Ernie Els the coveted Claret Jug.

The Week Ahead:  The greatest spectacle in all of sports begins this week.  That will dwarf all other sports stories for the next couple of weeks, but there will be some other events taking place, too.

MLB:  Baseball's most storied rivalry gets revived this weekend as the Boston Red Sox head to the Bronx to take on the New York Yankees.  This time around, the 3-game set is much more important for the visiting Sox than it is for the Yanks.  The Yankees are cruising towards a division championship. But, the Sox are fighting to remain alive in the wildcard race.  The Red Sox can ill-afford a drubbing in New York as the calendar turns the page towards August.

NASCAR:  After taking a week off, NASCAR heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  The history of the Brickyard makes this a special race for the drivers and the fans.  The layout of the track makes it a unique race on the circuit.  Instead of being an oval or a tri-oval, Indy is more like a rectangle.  Instead of sweeping, banked turns, four relatively sharp corners divide two long straightaways from the two shorter straightaways.  Track position and fuel economy typically play a large role in deciding who gets to kiss the bricks at the end of the race.

Summer Olympics:  Obviously, the biggest event of the week, and the whole summer, is the 2012 Summer Olympics.  The Games of the XXX Olympiad will get underway in London on Friday, July 27.  They will continue through August 12.  The Olympics include a wide variety of events ... everything from familiar sports like basketball and swimming through obscure games like fencing and trampoline.  The games will be shown on the NBC family of networks.  London is five hours ahead of New York time, so that presents some scheduling conundrums for the NBC execs.  The premier events will take place in real time while most Americans are still at work.  Fans in the United States who want to watch the taped-delayed events in primetime will have a difficult task trying to avoid news of the results on the Internet and social media.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thoughts on PSU Fans (Guest Post by Mimi)

As many readers know, Wild Banshee is one of the biggest Penn State fans you will ever meet.  My opinion on the recent scandal and the NCAA sanctions have been asked many times, but I have refrained from commenting on the story.  I feel too hurt, angry, disappointed, confused and in some ways embarrassed to open myself up to public criticism of my opinion.  I know that anything I have to say that is short of calling for the school to be burned down and my father's diploma stripped from his wall would be shouted down as support for child rapists and sycophantic hero worship.  Besides, there has been plenty of debate and discussion about every aspect of what Jerry Sandusky did, who covered it up and what price Penn State as a university should pay.  This blog has nothing to add to that conversation.  But, there has been very little discussion about the how the honorable Penn State fans and alumni all over the nation should feel on fall Saturdays from this day forward.  What I've posted below was emailed to me in the days following the Freeh report and the NCAA sanctions.

Penn State football from the outside looking in …

I certainly am not a person who is knowledgeable enough about football to comment on the severity and future consequences of the recent NCAA penalties leveled against Penn State.  I am also not a big enough fan to be able to truly understand the sadness and even pain that the public attacks are causing.  I have however lived among these people.

The Penn State fans I know truly embrace the “Success with Honor” motto, not only in sports but in their personal and professional lives.  It is their goal.  It is their challenge to themselves and others.  It is something that bonds them together.  And the way the public is reacting feels like an attack on, and a mockery of, their common goal. 

Whenever any person or organization has high standards and goals their failures are especially painful to themselves and especially salacious to others.   Whether you are a politician, a pastor, a parent, or a Penn State fan you are faced with the fact that when your standards are high, your failures will be all the more difficult to come to terms with.  Penn State fans must know that the severity of their penalties is actually a reflection of their own high standards no matter if an outside body imposed them.

From the outside looking in, I wonder what the NCAA hoped to accomplish with its sanctions.   I wonder why the public is so obsessed with this story.   And I wonder what will become of the motto, “Success with Honor.”  Perhaps what fans should expect to see in the next few years is a Penn State football program that enjoys “Success and Adversity with Honor.”  That is a goal to be truly proud of.

~ Mimi

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dream is Better than Reality

The 2012 Summer Olympics will begin next week in London.  Wild Banshee has been conducting a poll to see which sport readers are looking forward to the most.  At the moment, basketball is running away with the vote.  I imagine this is partially due to the amount of attention that Team USA has been getting from talking heads on TV and radio.  Much of the conversation has been focused on the debate of whether this year's version of Team USA would beat the fabled Dream Team from 1992.

Before I get into the analysis, it's time for a little history lesson.  Prior to 1992, the United States had always sent college players to the Olympics.  Back in those days, there were not a lot of foreign players in the NBA.  Other countries, particularly those in the Communist Bloc, sent players to the Olympics who would be NBA players now days.  For a long time, that was no problem.  The United States managed to win the gold medal every year until 1988 (yeah, I consider the USA the real gold medal winners in 1972).  At the games in Seoul, South Korea, the unthinkable happened.  The college all-stars from the United States lost to the Soviet Union in the semi-finals and came home with the bronze medal.  And this time, there was no shady officiating.  This loss was an outrage that had to be corrected.  Everyone knew that the United States had the best basketball players in the world.  After all, basketball was invented in America.  Thus, the Dream Team was born.  In 1992, the United States sent a team of NBA greats to the Barcelona games to give the rest of the world a proper beat down at Dr. Naismith's game.  And, boy did they deliver!  America's basketball honor was avenged.

The Dream Team has been considered by many to be the greatest team ever assembled in any sport.  Kobe Bryant, however, disagrees.  Bryant, a member of this year's Olympic team, mentioned that he thought Team USA 2012 could beat the Dream Team.  When I first heard this, I laughed out loud.  Then I thought about it a little more, and started to think that Kobe might not be crazy after all.  In the days that followed, I've heard a lot of people voicing opinions on this matter, but I did not like the method of analysis that those folks were using.  So, I figured it was time for Wild Banshee to invest some time and do some serious analysis.

Ground Rules:

1.  This is not a lifetime achievement analysis.  The fact that the 1992 players won numerous NBA championships and set many records during the course of their entire careers is not a valid factor for this analysis.  That sort of comparison needs to wait for 20 years until all of the 2012 players have finished their careers, too.

2.  The players must be analyzed and compared in the form they actually existed when the teams were formed.  So, for the 2012 team, we are talking about the current version of Kobe Bryant and the immature and unproven version of Anthony Davis.  For the 1992 team, we are looking at an aged and injured Larry Bird and a pseudo retired Magic Johnson.

3.  Basketball is a game of match-ups.  And it is a team game.  The proper question is not, "Is Player A better than Player B."  The proper question is, "How would that matchup play out in the context of a 5-on-5 game on the floor?"


Dream Team                                                                  Team USA 2012

PG    Magic Johnson, 6'9", 220 lbs, 32 yrs                     PG   Chris Paul, 6'0", 183 lbs, 27 yrs
PG    John Stockton, 6'1", 175 lbs, 30 yrs                     PG   Russell Westbrook, 6'3", 187 lbs, 23 yrs
SG    Michael Jordan, 6'6", 200 lbs, 29 yrs                    PG   Deron Williams, 6'3", 209 lbs, 28 yrs
SG    Clyde Drexler, 6'7", 220 lbs, 30 yrs                      SG   James Harden, 6'5", 220 lbs, 22 yrs
SF     Chris Mullen, 6'7", 215 lbs, 30 yrs                        SG   Kobe Bryant, 6'6", 205 lbs, 33 yrs
SF     Scottie Pippen, 6'7", 210 lbs, 26 yrs                     SG   Andre Iguodala, 6'6", 207 lbs, 28 yrs
SF     Larry Bird, 6'9", 220 lbs, 35 yrs                           SF   Carmelo Anthony, 6'8", 230 lbs, 28 yrs
PF     Charles Barkley, 6'6", 250 lbs, 29 yrs                   SF   Kevin Durant, 6'9", 235 lbs, 23 yrs
PF     Karl Malone, 6'9", 255 lbs, 29 yrs                         SF   LeBron James, 6'8", 250 lbs, 28 yrs
PF     Christian Laettner, 6'11", 235 lbs, 22 yrs              PF   Kevin Love, 6'10", 260, 23 yrs
C       Patrick Ewing, 7'0", 240 lbs, 29 yrs                      PF   Anthony Davis, 6'10", 220, 19 yrs
C       David Robinson, 7'1", 235, 26 yrs                         C   Tyson Chandler, 7'1" 240 lbs, 29 yrs


Regardless of which point guard starts for either team, the 2012 team dominates this matchup.  Magic in his prime is the best player in this group.  But, Magic was already semi-retired in 1992.  He had one comeback year left in him before he was done for good became coach of the Lakers.  The gist of it is that Magic, at this stage of his career, and Stockton, at any stage in his career could not guard any of the 2012 point guards.

The shooting guards and both forward positions should be analyzed as one big group.  If this game were to actually take place, the 2012 team would probably start Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant.  As I said before, basketball is a team game based on match-ups.  Therefore, the Dream Team would probably counter by starting Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler and Scottie Pippen.  I realize that in this scenario, the Dream Team has Barkley and Malone on the bench to start the game.  But, this is where Rules 2 and 3 comes into play.  Barkley and Malone are both better players than Drexler or Pippen, but they do not match up well defensively against the the projected starters from the 2012 team.

This G/F position is tough to analyze.  All of these players from both squads are prolific offensive players.  The real question is whether any of these guys is a good enough defender or enough of a defensive liability to swing the balance one direction or another.  There would likely be some mix and match with the defensive assignments.

If I was coaching both teams, here is what I would do.  Pippen would guard LeBron.  MJ would guard Kobe.  That leaves Drexler guarding Durant.  Drexler is a solid defender but Durant's size would present a problem for Clyde the Glide.  On the flip side, LeBron would guard MJ.  Kobe would guard Pippen.  That would leave Durant guarding Clyde.  Durant still has a lot to learn about defense and Drexler would have an advantage out on the perimeter.  But Durant's size would likely make up for his foot speed disadvantage.  It's hard to say which team has the advantage in this set of match-ups.  After all, the two greatest players who ever lived are on opposing teams.  One thing that is clear is that a lot of points would be scored from these positions.

When it comes to the center position, the Dream Team dominates.  I don't know who the Dream Team would start between Patrick Ewing and David Robinson.  It really wouldn't matter.  Ewing and Robinson were both in their absolute primes in 1992.  Both players were polished offensive players and both players played good defense.  Tyson Chandler is a good player, but he's at best a distant third in terms of current centers in the NBA.  And, when Chandler inevitably gets in foul trouble trying to guard two of the all-time greatest big men, there is no one else on the 2012 roster that has even a prayer of guarding Ewing or Robinson.


In basketball, maybe more than in any other sport, anything can happen on a given night.  That's why March Madness is so exhilarating.  So, if the question is whether Team USA 2012 could beat the Dream Team, the answer is certainly "yes."  The Dream Team actually lost a scrimmage to a college all-star team when they were preparing for the '92 Olympics.  But, if this was a best-of-seven series like in the NBA playoffs, the Dream Team would be an overwhelming favorite.

If you look at the discussion above, you may wonder why I would make that statement.  After all, I gave the 2012 team a big advantage at the point guard position.  I gave the 2012 team a fighting a chance at the three-person guard/forward match-ups.  So, even though I gave the Dream Team a big advantage at center, the overall analysis would at first glance appear to be a wash.

Before we move on, please refer to Rule 3 above.  These match-ups would not be played out in a vaccum.  The big man advantage for the Dream Team is so tremendous that it decides the whole contest.  Magic and Stockton could not stop any of the 2012 point guards from penetrating.  But, the Dream Team would not have to worry about guarding Tyson Chandler.  Robinson and Ewing would be free to roam and defend the rim.  And if Tyson Chandler ever came out of the game, who from the 2012 team would even pretend to defend Robinson or Ewing or Barkley or Malone down in the post?  Even if Malone or Barkley struggled to guard their opponent on the perimeter, there is no scenario where Ewing or Robinson would not be in the game to erase those liabilities in the paint.

If all the players from the Dream Team were in their prime, this debate would not even be worth a blog post.  But, even with Bird and Magic being a shell of their former selves, the Dream Team would defeat Team USA 2012.

If you have a different take on this debate or think that the analysis should be done a different way, please leave a comment.  And check out Banshee Sports on FB.  "Like" it if you like it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

This Week in Sports: July 17, 2012

It's been ten days since my last post.  And it's been eleven days since my last "weekly" update.  I know that's weak.  But, when I said that the sports landscape is sparse at this time of year, I wasn't kidding. There are plenty of free agency stories and contract discussions and arrest reports to talk about, but that's not the focus of this column.  We're coming up on the frenzy of the Olympics, so I figured I better get something published ... even if it isn't on the usual update day of the week.

The Weeks That Were:  I was right to recommend watching the Wimbledon finals.  The ladies' final was on July 7, 2012.  The gentlemen's final was played the next day.  I was wrong to recommend the NASCAR race on July 7, 2012.  And, I admit that I didn't even watch the MLB All Star game on July 9, 2012.

Wimbledon:  The ladies final at Wimbledon was a wonderfully entertaining match.  Serena Williams was clearly physically superior to the higher-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska.  And yet, Radwanska fought and clawed to make this a dramatic 3-set match.  Williams prevailed, due in large part to her over-powering serve.  After the match, Serena was gracious and charming and funny in her post-match, on-court interviews.  Serena is 30 years old, but she still has the exuberance of youth when she wins.

The gentleman's final was highly anticipated.  Roger Federer was matched up against Andy Murray.  Roger Federer is possibly the greatest player in tennis history.  But, there is no doubt that he is headed towards the downside of his amazing career.  Andy Murray had the weight of the entire nation on his back because he was the first British subject to play in the finals at the All England Club since 1938.  Federer won the first set.  Murray won the second set.  Then the London rains came.  This caused a delay while the roof was closed at Center Court.  Federer took control after the delay and won the match in 4 sets.  Murray gave an emotional and tearful on-court interview after the match.  Frankly, I failed to grasp that level of emotion in a loss for a guy with such a bright future ahead.  Federer, as always, was the picture of class.

Daytona Night Race:  The July night race held under the lights in Daytona is the race that I look forward to most all year.  But, I'll be honest.  Those who complain that NASCAR is just a bunch of guys driving in a circle for three hours, had plenty to complain about in this uneventful race.  And, those who complain that NASCAR has arbitrary endings that don't accurately reflect the way teams performed in the race had a valid gripe at the end of this race.  Tony Stewart won, and he was a deserving winner.  But, a big wreck on the final lap erased strong runs from ten or twelve cars.

Mid Summer Classic:  I admit, I was watching something else when the game started.  By the time I checked in, the rout was already on.  The National League scored five runs off the American League starter, Justin Verlander.  By the time it was all said and done, the National League won 8-0.  That means that the NL winner will have the home field advantage in the World Series.  Playing in front of the home fans may not be a huge deal, but this means that four out of the seven World Series games will be played by NL rules ... without a DH.

The Week Ahead:  Golf takes center stage this week.  Actually, it takes the whole stage.

The Open Championship:  For those of us who do not live in the British Isles, this tournament is better known as the British Open.  But, since the Brits invented golf, they do not feel the need to designate their national championship in that way.  The Open Championship was first played in 1860.  It was played continuously until 1870.  There was no Open in 1871.  It has been played every year since then except for the disruptions caused by two world wars.  This year's Open Championship will be played in England at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.  That is one course with two names.  This tournament is the most unique event on the PGA calendar.  This tournament features links style golf and usually involves nasty weather.  The seers in the desert have installed Tiger Woods as the favorite to win the event, but there are a whole slew of great players from the UK right now.  Darren Clarke, the defending champion of the event, hails from Northern Ireland.  Clarke finished in a tie for third the last time that the Open Championship was played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 2001.  Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jiminez were part of that 6-way tie.

The tournament begins on Thursday morning.  Over the four days of the event, there will be 36 hours of television coverage on ESPN and ABC.  Coverage begins Thursday morning on ESPN at 5:00 a.m. EST.  The coverage schedule is the same for Friday.  Saturday coverage begins at 7:30 a.m.  Final round coverage begins at 8:00 a.m.  ABC will replay a condensed version of the final round at 3:00 p.m. EST on Sunday afternoon.

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cooking with Banshee: Cherry Beer Margaritas

The oppressive heat wave continues to hang over much of the country.  Perhaps there is no better drink on a hot day than a margarita.  This recipe was sent to me by my culinary hero Molly Mayhoff.  For you purists out there, I admit that this does not taste like a traditional margarita.  But it is tasty.  It is salty sweet.   And it goes nicely with a variety of foods and snacks.  This recipe makes a small pitcher.

Cherry Beer Margaritas.

12 oz frozen, condensed limeade
12 oz Diet Cherry 7-Up
12 oz Corona Light (or beer of your choice)
12 oz gold tequila

Let the limeade thaw a bit.  Empty the limeade into the pitcher and stir it until there aren't any big, frozen clumps.  Add the soda, the beer and the tequila.  Stir enough to combine, but try not to ruin all the fizz.  Fill salt-rimmed glasses with ice.  Pour and enjoy!

For a more traditional margarita recipe and tips on how to make a salt-rimmed glass, check out Wild Banshee's Gold Margaritas.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

This Week in Sports: July 6, 2012

The Week That Was ... did not include any power in the Banshee Lair.  The only good part about the timing of all this was that I officially decreed in last week's column, that there weren't any sports on the schedule that were appointment television.  Despite the power outage, I did my best to get a few posts on the blog and Facebook.  Unfortunately, many of the regular Banshee Blog followers were also without power and probably missed those posts.  So, instead of rehashing the sporting events that I did not get to watch, I'll just include the links to the posts you might have missed.

Cooking With Banshee:  Southern Belle  A refreshing vodka drink for hot July days.

July Banshee Rant:  Stephen Strasburg and Innings Limits  Due to the power outage and 4th of July vacations, a lot of people missed the Rant when it was posted this week.  But, this edition got encouraging reviews from those who did have enough electricity to listen to it.

The Week Ahead:

Wimbledon:  We are nearing the end of the fortnight at the All England Club.  The finals will be played this weekend.  On the ladies side, Serena Williams will try to capture her 14th Grand Slam championship when she plays Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.  Williams has been playing extremely well throughout the tournament, but Radwanska is actually the higher seeded player.  That match can be seen live on ESPN at 9:00 a.m. EST on Saturday morning.

Serena Williams always brings attention with her when she plays in a Grand Slam final, but it's the men's side of the draw that has the tennis world all abuzz.  In the first of today's semi-finals, the all-time great Roger Federer defeated Novak Djokovic, the current #1 player in the world.  This will be the eighth time that Federer has played in the finals at Wimbledon.  His opponent, Andy Murray, will be making his first appearance in a Wimbledon final.  in fact, this will be the first time that the British fans will have one of their own to root for on the final Sunday at the All England Club since 1938.  At least, that is how the story is being sold.  Murray is actually Scottish, so I'm not sure how William Wallace would feel about all this British love.  Nonetheless, it should be a well-played and emotional match.  This final will be shown live on ESPN at 9:00 a.m. EST on Sunday morning.

NASCAR:  NASCAR is headed back to its birthplace this weekend.  That's right ... Daytona ... under the lights.  The July night race is Wild Banshee's favorite race of the year.  Visually, it is stunning because the cars look amazing under the lights.  This race is only 400 miles long.  And, every car that is still running with 10 laps to go has a realistic chance to win the race.  Some racing purists do not love the races at Daytona and Talladega because random wrecks often take out several legitimate contenders in one fell swoop.  But, that randomness also leads to amazing finishes.  This race will be broadcast on TNT at 7:30 EST on Saturday night.  If you are going to watch one NASCAR race this season, make it this one.

MLB All Star Game:  The Midsummer Classic is the only all star game worth watching.  There are two reasons for this.  First, baseball is the only sport you can actually play without risking a career ending injury.  Second, there is actually something on the line in this game.  When the National League takes on the American League in Kansas City, home field advantage in the World Series is at stake.  I actually think the home field advantage is an arbitrary and ridiculous prize for an event like this, but it does give East Coast fans a reason to stay up for the end of the game.  The All Star game will be played  will be shown on FOX at 7:30 pm EST on Tuesday, July 10.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Banshee Rant: July Edition

This month's edition of the Banshee Rant was delayed a few days by the power outage that is still crippling much of Virginia.  But, better late than never, right?  This month Wild Banshee rants about the Washington Nationals and the innings limits they have placed on Stephen Strasburg.  Scroll down to the bottom of the post to get a peak behind the curtains at the candle light recording session.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Delay and Apology

On Friday night, I sat down to work on the July Banshee Rant.  And then a damaging wind storm swept through the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Over 2 million Virginians lost power ... and that included Wild Banshee.  Rumor has it that it might be a full week before power is restored to the Banshee Lair.  I will try to continue posting despite the inconvenience, but the Rant may have to wait until things are back to normal.  Thank you for your patience.