Mar. 11, 2012: Manning, Madness, and Mississippi

It’s been awhile since we’ve really talked sports on this blog, so let’s start with that. It’s the perfect time, really, since today brings one of the biggest sports moments of the year, Selection Sunday. Syracuse may have damaged its position with a shameful loss to Cincinnati in the Big East semifinal on Friday, 71-68 — the final score was much closer than the contest as a whole — but while the defeat revealed some weaknesses in the powerhouse Orange, they’re almost certain to be granted one of the four top seeds anyway. Those readers cheering for Purdue should be happy to see the Boilermakers virtually guaranteed a spot in the dance, especially after their first-round win in the Big Ten tournament. Truly devoted fans are following bracket projections like Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology to find their team’s likely place — right now, Purdue’s men’s team looks to be an 8 or 9 seed, which, as Daniel Thompson of The Exponent pointed out on Wednesday, might be the worst possible position for the guys from West Lafayette. The women are in much better shape, taking home the Big Ten title with a thrilling double-overtime win over Nebraska and earning a likely 4 seed. That might be a huge advantage: Charlie Creme’s Bracketology for the women’s tournament currently has them playing their first two games right here in West Lafayette. (If you don’t have tickets yet, now might be a good time to buy them.) Both Purdue teams are looking to improve on last year’s tourney performance: the women were shelled 64-40 by top-seeded Connecticut in the second round, while the men were stunned by 11-seed Virginia Commonwealth, 94-76. It should be noted that both teams to eliminate Purdue eventually made the Final Four, but neither Boilermaker lineup wanted to miss the Sweet 16, to be sure.

Even as we approach the NCAA tournament, though, all is not right with the college basketball world. Auburn’s basketball program is embroiled in a point-shaving scandal, with the FBI investigating point guard Varez Ward for his suspect role in several games earlier this year. Ward was suspended from the team on Feb. 25 for what coach Tony Barbee called a violation of team rules. The NCAA says it is “very concerned” about the allegations, but it appears that both Auburn and the NCAA will wait for the FBI to finish its investigation before taking any further action.

Of course, to those of us reading from Indiana, the biggest sports news may be the departure of our state’s most iconic sports figure, longtime Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning missed all of last season after a spine surgery designed to fix a bulging disk, and since a number of spinal risks still remain and Indianapolis is pushing it’s salary cap, the Colts released the face of the franchise on Wednesday to avoid paying a $28 million bonus he was due on Thursday. This set off the “Manning sweepstakes” of interested teams looking for a superstar signal-caller, and with Manning hoping to pick a team within a week, expect a whirlwind of action in a hurry. At least a dozen teams are interested in signing him, including the Philadelphia Eagles, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Denver Broncos, with whom Manning began his tour of suitors on Friday. We’ll soon know where Manning will play next season — assuming, of course, that he ever takes the field again.

In election news, Mitt Romney was the big winner of Super Tuesday, at least based on the numbers. Romney won six of the ten states up for grabs, leaving three for Rick Santorum and only Georgia for Newt Gingrich; Romney also took an estimated 212 delegates on Tuesday, more than half of those available. But it was hardly a knockout punch — Romney’s biggest win came in Virginia, solely because Santorum was ineligible — so while Romney has a huge advantage in the race to the Republican nomination, his rivals will likely stick around for quite some time. The real question is whether Romney can keep the momentum going. Most of his wins have been on the coasts, while Santorum is taking most states in the heartland — a concerning trend for the Republican base, if Romney needs to energize core right-wing voters in November. Worse yet for Romney, we’re approaching what may be an “away game” for him in Alabama’s and Mississippi’s Tuesday primaries. Both Santorum and Romney have been fighting to claim these two states, with Romney trying to hold off his closest competitor while Santorum struggles to close the gap. Ron Paul has largely been cast aside, while Gingrich is on the verge of irrelevance: if he doesn’t score impressive wins this week, many in his party will likely push for him to drop out so that one candidate receives enough delegates to win before the Republican National Convention in August.

President Barack Obama is also putting his campaign in motion, releasing a cinematic trailer of the 17-minute film Road We’ve Traveled on Thursday. Oscar-winning director Davis Guggenheim, who won an Academy Award for directing An Inconvenient Truth, directed the feature, while Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks provided narration. The full movie will be released in campaign offices around the country on Thursday, and it is expected to “depict a determined chief executive handling big problems during difficult times.” As for why Obama released this picture now, well, maybe he figured he needed to start campaigning after the Democratic primary in Oklahoma. Pro-life activist Randall Terry, “in it purely to fight against abortion,” kept Obama from sweeping the state. Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, took 18% of Democratic votes in Oklahoma and beat Obama outright in 12 counties; three other counties went to candidates who didn’t even mount campaigns. Terry said before the primary that he wanted to “show the Democratic National Committee I can cause defections based solely on dead babies and Obama’s tyranny,” and by taking over 15% of the votes in Oklahoma, it appears that he will siphon at least one delegate from Obama’s primary bid. It won’t be enough to deny the incumbent Obama the nomination, but Terry tried to at least claim a moral victory: “There are still Democrats who love innocent babies more than they love the party.

Let’s close this week with a big social media headline. Have you heard about “KONY 2012“? You should have. As of Friday, the 30-minute YouTube video about African rebel leader Joseph Kony, designed “to stop an obscure Ugandan crazyman with a penchant for murdering children” had garnered nearly 60 million views and almost a half-million comments, as well as over two million Facebook likes since its Monday release. It took command of the New York Times home page, got Soulja Boy to release a “Stop Kony” video of his own, and even prompted President Obama to release a statement on it. “Uganda” was still trending on Twitter as of this writing — and when is Uganda ever a Twitter trend?

The video, produced by California-based advocacy group Invisible Children, was a surprise viral sensation, although its release was certainly strategic enough to make it worth studying — particularly if you’re trying to wrap your head about the viral video phenomenon. The International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Kony’s arrest in 2005 “for crimes against humanity and war crimes including murder, sexual slavery and using children as combatants—sometimes forcing them to kill their own parents—in Uganda and its environs for more than 20 years,” and representatives for Invisible Children say they hope their video will “make Kony famous,” helping authorities to find Kony and bring him to justice. But some are concerned that the effort wrongly suggests that capturing Kony will end Uganda’s problems; they argue that “The war is much more complex than just one man named Joseph Kony.” Others are suspicious of Invisible Children condoning military action during a period of relative peace in Uganda, particularly since no one is entirely certain that Kony is still in Uganda. Filmmaker Jason Russell, who created the video, claims that the oversimplification was intentional, designed to raise initial awareness of the complicated issue. Even if it doesn’t capture the full scope of the conflict, the video definitely made Kony the most wanted man in the world.

Other articles of interest:
Bounty scandal has Saints in disarray
College basketball faces questions as attendance tumbles
Who fares better at next stop, Pujols or Manning?
Some newspapers refuse to run ‘Doonesbury’ comics on abortion, Texas ultrasound law
Confessions of a ‘Bad’ Teacher
Officials: Judge stabbed, officer shot in Washington state
Senate blocks bid to accelerate Keystone XL pipeline
Senate rejects GOP environment, energy proposals
South Carolina Lt. Governor Resigns Amid Criminal Investigation
Netanyahu: No Israeli Strike on Iran in ‘Days or Weeks’
Annan to meet with Syrian president Saturday
Ex-UN Chief to Meet With Syria’s Assad
Syrian rebels reject Annan’s call for dialogue
US gives up control of jail where Quran was burned
U.S. agrees to transfer control of detainees in Afghanistan
U.S. to sue Apple, 5 e-book publishers in collusion case
DOJ Warning Means One Thing: E-Book Prices Are Coming Down
PC sales forecast to grow despite iPad competition
Google+ Executive to Critic: ‘Make Sure You’re Using It Correctly’
Scientists unveil complete map of the Titanic wreckage
IKEA Launches Fully-Furnished, Pre-Fab Homes
Solar Bursts Spray Earth, With More to Come
Moving Target: Why a Cancer ‘Cure’ Is So Elusive
Fla. doctor suspended, accused of illegal stem cell therapy
Study suggests breakthrough in organ transplants
First combined organ transplant of its kind saves 6-year-old’s life
Cancer scare: Coke, Pepsi alter cola recipes
‘Pink slime’: Revolting beef additive or absolutely edible?
Online Push to Ban ‘Pink Slime’ in School Lunches Gains Momentum

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2 responses to “Mar. 11, 2012: Manning, Madness, and Mississippi”

  1. klingermajoshua says :

    It’s too bad that Peyton Manning is leaving the Indianapolis Colts. He will definitely shake the emotions of every Colts fans, and I also believe that the Colts in general will never be the same. Peyton Manning practically made the Colts and I believe that when he leaves that it will show the true colors of our Indianapolis Colts fans-do they actually like the colts team or did they just like Manning?

  2. brianbritt says :

    Hmm, that’s a good point, Josh. It’s hard to say how people will react in the coming season, now that Manning is a Bronco. After how poorly last season went, I wonder how many fans are expecting the post-Manning era to be a time of rebuilding rather than success.

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