Whatever works

So Portland lost in the second round. It was an anxiety-ridden affair. Washington did what they had to do to advance. It’s fine when I don’t think about it, but real misery when I do. The Pilots haven’t reached the Final Four since 2005. There were some amazing seniors on the team. Losing on PKs at home is bunk. It feels cruel, awful, and strangely so familiar.

Keelin Winters, Sophie Schmidt, Jessica Tsao

I’ve been watching a lot more boxing and MMA lately. I grew up watching boxing with my stepfather and practicing martial arts as a hobby. For combat sports, they are very different. This is something very obvious to anyone who’s followed either, but allow me to explain a little bit about the differences to those of you who might not be familiar.

Boxing might be considered the more pure of the two. There are basically two ways to win a fight: knockout or decision. (Yes, this is oversimplification. Indulge me.) Knockout is pretty self-explanitory: clean the other guy’s clock. He can’t stand up or defend himself? Fight over.

Decision is a little harder. You have to go the distance and you have to win enough rounds. To win a round, you have to punch clean, move around the ring well, be aggressive and still keep up your defense.

Plenty of title fights go the distance without a fighter attempting to really earn the belt away from the holder. Anyone who saw Manny Pacquiao’s fights against Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margartio knows what this looks like. You can’t luck your way into winning a fight by decision. You have to work, and if the guy you’re fighting has the belt you want, you have to take it from him. (The issue of taking a title is one we will have to revisit with the USWNT, but another time.)

Diaz vs Noons II

MMA fights can be won and lost like this. Nick Diaz is the current welterweight champion for Srikeforce. He recently defended his title against KJ Noons (who is WAY too pretty for a white boxer, but that’s neither here nor there). Diaz took what Noons could dish out. Noons managed to land punches, stay out of Diaz’ grasp and go the distance, but the question was: did he take the title from Diaz? It was obvious he did not.

While a mixed martial arts fight can be won in the same way as a boxing match, but it also introduced a new element: submission. Getting a fighter to submit involves putting them in a position (usually through grappling) where they cannot see an out; staying in the position would be costly. This is entirely unique to fighting: it means that one fighter can dominate for potentially a majority of rounds, but if they are caught in a split second, in any round, by a skilled grappler… game over. The fight can be lost in a single moment.

On the same night as the Diaz/Noons fight, one of my favorite upcoming MMA fighers, Sarah Kaufman, recently lost her title in a fight where she had to submit. She’s an amazing striker, and is usually crafty (or lucky) enough to work her way out of whatever trouble her opponents can get her in. However, in her last fight, against Marloes Coenen, she ignored the instruction of her trainers and found herself in an armbar. Moments before, she had Coenen on the ground, receiving her fists at a furious pace. Kaufman seemed primed for yet another knockout, but within a few seconds, she had to submit.

Kaufman in the armbar

As a fan of Kaufman, it momentarily felt unfair. As a fan of MMA, that it took so few seconds between Coenen receiving hard punches to the face and dishing out swift punishment of her own was stunning.

Soccer feels like it should be pure, that outcomes should be clear, but it is far more like MMA than perhaps any other sport. The game is not necessarily won by the best team, just as an MMA bout may not be won by the best fighter.  Soccer is described as the beautiful game, not necessarily the fair one. Great teams can be consistently dominant over a season. Smart teams do whatever works for them on the day. Washington did it. Teams will do it against North Carolina year after year.

A game can be stolen away so easily in the sport of soccer. It is incredibly hard to accept as a fan, but without defeat feeling this cruel, I wonder if victory can ever feel sublime.

NCAA Tournament Webcasts

The tournament is upon us! Technically, it started yesterday at UCLA, but the bulk of first round action happens today. First up will be Penn State vs Penn in West Virginia at 3:30 ET. You know I am invested in that one. Although, my biggest concern today is that Notre Dame learned from the past month and put a hurting on New Mexico instead of the Irish fans.

Here is the bracket, and here are the webcasts, all in one tidy (free!) bundle. The Portland Pilots have their games here. You know you want to watch the Purple.

Interview: Kelsey Davis

I don’t think it’s a big secret that Ruth and I really like Kelsey Davis.  We’ve mentioned it before on the blog and possibly in every episode of our podcast.  When the opportunity to talk to Kelsey came up, we jumped on it, and I worked through the night to make the episode available for you today

Kelsey Davis (Photo by ohhh_yeah80)

Kelsey had a lot to say about the 2006 US team that competed in the U-20 Women’s World Cup in Russia, which is a particular topic of interest to Ruth and I, and what she said about that team and the coach surprised me.

In a Bleacher Report interview, Kelsey discusses some of her charitable work with the Ronald McDonald House, and we talked with her about that as well. Since the end of the season, she’s worked with teammate Natalie Spilger’s GreenLaces.

Kelsey was a Theology major at Portland, and she explained her interest in the topic quite passionately and eloquently.  Speaking personally, I think I could have asked her to keep talking about religious writers for a good hour.

It’s rare to have an engaging conversation about so many interesting topics with someone you admire. Talking with Kelsey was a real honor and a pleasure and I hope we get to do it again.

Kelsey on Twitter.

Writers mentioned in the interview:
Thomas Merton
Wendell Berry
Brennan Manning
Anne Lamott
Henri Nouwen
Jay Bakker
C.S. Lewis
St. Augustine
Julian of Norwich
(my small plug for David Dark)


The University of Portland Pilots won their final home game of the regular season yesterday. 2-0 over University of San Francisco. It was Senior Day, and all seniors were honored with the exception of Sophie Schmidt, who is in Cancun with Canada.

I remember their freshman year, they stepped up when both Rapinoes went down with ACL tears and many others struggled through injury. I remember Sara Jackman’s game winning goal at Rutgers. I remember Jessica Tsao’s dominating performance last week at San Diego and Santa Clara, and every week of her career. Every Pilot we talked to for the rivalry project extolled the greatness of this senior class, but I’m pretty sure the fans don’t need to be reminded.

[*Yes, Kendra Chandhoke is a red shirt senior and has been at Portland since 2006.]

Episode 17 – Rival Schools United By Podcasts

Kendall Johnson and Maxine Goynes

New Episode! Recorded October 27,2010 and it is alive with lengthiness! This is our first proper episode since the UP-SCU project. We had a lot to say about the game this year and the coverage from ESPNU.

(About the title: If you don’t know what Rival Schools means you should be ashamed to not know and spend time around pimply Best Buy employees who can tell you all about it.)

Full show notes after the jump: Read more of this post

The Biggest Game of the Year, Part 3: What was THAT?

It’s been a few days. I enjoyed the win, really I did. Both Ruth and I will have things to say about it in later posts and the podcast. (As far as the result, I feel as though it could be summed up this way: Portland’s best scoring chance was decided by no one but themselves and, unfortunately, Santa Clara let theirs be decided by the referee.)

But there was this nagging thought: 695? Seriously, Santa Clara supporters, What Was That? What was THAT?

In high school debate, we used a lot of words to describe the “status quo,” or the situation that our resolutions were proposing to eliminate. Two of those words come to mind when thinking about that attendance number: travesty and unacceptable.

I don’t think at any point we (read: I) were exaggerating when we made the claim that the Santa Clara-Portland rivalry was the greatest, most intense rivalry in women’s soccer. I don’t know that last Sunday was its best showing. It was a good game, honestly. Not the best in the rivalry that I’ve seen, but certainly the best combined field performance by both teams since 2006. It’s hard to get an away win and Portland certainly earned it, but I can’t help thinking that, well… it could have been harder.

Oh, Bronco supporters. It’s said the crowd can be the 12th player. After fighting through years of injuries and three years of losses to Portland, that team needed you. Those girls deserve better. Your team deserves better.

Pilots-Broncos Rivalry – Meagan McCray Interview

Meagan McCray

Although the Portland-Santa Clara game for 2010 has been played, we have a few more player responses to share.

This time through, we have Meagan McCray, Julie Juarez’s successor. Meagan was with the Broncos from 2005 through 2008 and clocked significant minutes even before claiming the starting spot. In 2009, she spent the WPS season with FC Gold Pride, and in 2010, she was with the Washington Freedom.

Here is her take on the Portland-Santa Clara rivalry, written prior to the game…

Read more of this post