Monday, March 12, 2012

week-and-a-half review

If you go to Peru for more than a couple days, and you don't visit Machu Picchu, you're doing it wrong.  It's like going to Egypt and not seeing the Pyramids.  You could do that, but why?
I'm baaaaaaaack!

Time to find out just what I missed.  And as a thank-you for sticking around, I'm peppering this week's posts with some of the better pictures from the trip.  Let's get into what I missed.  You saw it all, of course, while I was out gallivanting around Peru, but you don't know my opinion on it, and my opinion is what this place is for, so let's get started. We'll review both UVA's week - and mine.

The city of Lima was built by the Spanish on the Rimac River; “rimaq” is the Quechua word for “talking,” and so the river is called the Talking River. “Lima” is simply a corruption of “Rimac,” making Lima a “talking city” if you’re willing to stretch the etymology a little. This is highly appropriate: in modern times, Lima is the City of the Honking Horns. Drivers in Lima, of which there are millions at any given time, beep their horns for any and every reason, with little respite, leading to the placement of signs in some areas that say “Silencio” with a “No Horns” graphic.


-- Attrition. You know it's gonna happen, and last week it happened. Or at least, it was announced. Of the three that will leave (QB Ross Metheny, DE Thompson Brown, and WR Kevin Royal) the one that'll be most missed is Brown, but if things go downhill it'll be Metheny. Lemme explain: Brown got a lot of praise last year as a freshman and looked like a guy who, if everything panned out just right, could eventually live up to the #91 he was wearing. And pass-rushing could be a problem this year; Brown could've helped in that regard.

That said, we've got a lot of DEs, some of whom might just be even able to record a sack once in a while. Suddenly, though, we're thin at quarterback. There's Rocco, Watford, and two true freshmen. Metheny was a great insurance policy. I was telling people any chance I got that I didn't think Metheny would ever transfer, because he always came off as one of the truest-blue Hoos you'd ever find; oops. He'll play at South Alabama the next two years after getting his degree this spring in three. Not too shabby. You gotta tip your hat to that.

People who go to Machu Picchu or see its pictures often believe it is one of the highest points in Peru. It’s easy to believe. The valley is thousands upon thousands of feet below, and a bus takes you on a long ride up every one of them. Tall, steep, godlike mountains surround the site, towering thousands of feet above you. It feels like the roof of the Inca world. In truth, it isn’t. Crane your neck up to the highest mountain you can see; the city of Cuzco is a couple thousand feet above it yet. The route the Incas used to get from Cuzco (where Machu Picchu actually got most of its food) was a descent.

Royal was buried on the depth chart and didn't seem likely to emerge; a shame, I thought he had good potential as the kind of possession receiver that could give you the yards you needed plus three. But his UVA career never got off the ground.

That brings us to 85 exactly for next year, a number that we'll probably drop a little further beneath as time goes by this spring and summer. I've added Drequan Hoskey to the scholarship counters, since I've become almost positive he's getting a track scholarship and therefore counts.

-- Position switches. Going hand-in-hand with the attrition are the position changes laid out by Jeff White, as follows:

- SS Lovante' Battle to FB.
- OT Sean Cascarano to OG.
- C Cody Wallace to OG.
- OG Matt Mihalik to C.
- OG Jay Whitmire to OT.
- DE Marco Jones to DT.
- FS Darius Lee to OLB.
- LB Ausar Walcott to DE.

Whitmire and Jones come as no surprise; it's long been thought that their body types make them more natural for those new positions. But speaking of body types, Ausar Walcott was recruited as a bloody safety. Now he's moved all the way to DE, partly because he's grown and partly because of the shift in philosophy from the big NFL bodies Groh wanted to the speedsters favored by London. No longer do I think that "Walcott to DE" is a motivational tactic.

Algarrobina is the Peruvian velvet hammer. It’s a sweet cocktail. It’s cake in a glass. The finest, sweetest White Russian pales in comparison to a drink of algarrobina. There is also pisco. If wine were booze, it would be pisco. It’s used to make pisco sours, a gray appetizer cocktail and sort of the national drink of Peru. Want to irritate a patriotic Peruvian? Insinuate that pisco sours – or any of the local cuisine, really – were invented in Chile.

Battle essentially turns out to be the required fullback move. Someone had to do it; Zach Swanson was the only one on the roster. As for the OL shuffling, I think the main answer there is that Cody Wallace was getting beat out at center. Moving Mihalik there suggests that Wallace wasn't ready and Ross Burbank was eventually going to pass him, if he hadn't already. Mihalik will be the starting center in 2012, it appears.

Cascarano is probably the new starter at left guard in place of Austin Pasztor, but he'll sit the spring and give a couple others a chance to impress.

At the beginning of spring practice, which is next week (GET PUMPED) I'll post a revised depth chart that has all this crap on it, nice and updated and ready to go.

-- UNC. The saga concludes. They'll join Ohio State in postseason jail this year. This doesn't much affect UVA, really. My only take for now is that bowl bans really should wait a year, just to complicate recruiting a little bit. Did you see Ohio State suffer in the recruiting department? They did not.

-- Recruiting board update coming later this week. It gets its own separate post. I'm gonna wait because it looks like the first officially official commitment is on its way. (A handy tip for reading the free portion of pay articles: if a question is asked, like "Is Marshall ready to commit?" it's a hint. The answer is always yes.)

Before going to Machu Picchu, it’s advisable to take a couple of the other Inca site tours that are offered. You end up on top of other high peaks – the Incas were of the opinion that civilization needed to be as close to the celestial gods as possible – and you stare into the deep valleys and at the high peaks and wonder if the majesty and beauty of these places will detract from the sight of Machu Picchu, at the end of the journey. Don’t worry; it doesn’t.


Eh, I pretty much spoke my piece yesterday. Selection Sunday makes me forget about the ACC tournament. All I can say is I wish we weren't going into this Old West gunfight with three rounds in our six-shooter. What a number the basketball gods did on this team.

I will say that a season sweep over Maryland is a sweet and beautiful thing. It's nice to know that when a Maryland coach inevitably says "we don't lose to Virginia" you can chuckle and know it's the other way round. That said, I want to make some noise in the tournament so bad, because I hate that the legacy of the 2012 Virginia Cavaliers might be "lost every game against good competition through no fault of their own."

Even the writers are being twits. Tyler Zeller won ACC POY for wearing a UNC uniform. OK, OK.... Zeller is a legitimate winner. He's about as good as Mike Scott and dominated the two games against UVA, so it's easy to see why the writers chose him, even if we don't like it. (That said, Roy Williams freely admitted the game plan was to get Mike Scott in foul trouble. You start nothing but five-stars, we start nothing but three-stars, and even then you're scared you can't stop Mike Scott without pretending to be fouled? I think we know who Roy Williams thinks the POY is, even if he won't admit it.)

You can’t drink the water in Peru. The 24-hour Consequences await those who do. You’re forced to carry bottled water around, but it’s not all bad; it offers an excuse to sample some of the many exotic fruit juices that Peru has to offer, like lucuma and tuna. Tuna juice sounds like a really bad idea until you remember that the Spanish word for tuna is “atun.” Tuna’s just another fruit. Tuna juice, when served con leche (with milk), is bright neon green and tastes a little like the banana milkshakes my dad used to make for us growing up.

Scott did make all-ACC first team in the lock of the century; the only drama was whether he'd be unanimous, which he wasn't because Caulton Tudor and one other writer, probably also from the state of North Carolina, are trolling dillweeds. Tudor came in for a lot of flak from UVA fans for not voting Scott to the first team, but give him this; he had the sack to admit it. Whoever else is just a coward. That said, Tudor is part of the Old Media that thinks New Media - blogs and such - are "not up to journalistic standards" and therefore not worth anyone's time. Next time you see a print writer bagging on us Internet hobbyists, remind yourself: "Caulton Tudor voted Mike Scott to the second team literally because he doesn't wear a North Carolina jersey."

The dance show was going really well and everything was colorful, loud, and very impressive. Then these two came out and redefined the meaning of "take it to another level."


Last weekend was a really good time to be in Peru with the team going 1-3 against the kind of competition we should be sweeping. That led to a change in the rotation; you now have Whit Mayberry pitching on Fridays, Scott Silverstein on Saturday, and sophomore Artie Lewicki on Sundays. For now. I got a feeling more shuffling is coming down the road. Man, did we get spoiled with last year's rotation.

Machu Picchu looks small in pictures. It even looks small in person. It’s only when you actually walk the place – and climb it – do you become acutely aware of its size. But then, Machu Picchu isn’t even the actual name of the city. Nobody knows what the Incas called it. Machu Picchu means “old mountain” in Quechua, and since the place was entirely lost to history and posterity, when it was rediscovered, they decided to simply give it the same name as the mountain it was attached to.

I was going to say that that puts the two best pitchers - Branden Kline and Kyle Crockett - in the bullpen, but man, has Kline had an ugly year. He didn't take to the closer's role very well, totally blowing the Friday game against Virginia Tech. Something is wrong. Either physically that he's not telling the coaches, or he's getting one of those pitchers' mental blocks, because his stuff is too good for the 5.12 ERA and 12 walks he's currently sporting.

Besides, Silverstein looks really good. This is the Scott Silverstein we were hoping for when he was a freshman. And the hitting is doing its thing nicely, too. If and when the pitching settles in and catches up, this'll be a dangerous team once again. The future looks bright with these freshmen - guys like Nate Irving and Derek Fisher have not had much growing pains to go through - and it's possible we won't have to wait til next year for the future to get here. It's hopefully reminiscent of 2009 when the team finished 6th in the ACC, caught fire, and made Omaha.

Two bratty kids were on our tour bus. They were about seven. The boy was a little older than his sister. They spoke unaccented English to each other and unaccented Spanish to their frazzled and somewhat defeated parents. At a place with intricate carvings that still ran water, one of them exclaimed to the tour guide, “Es como un baño!” It’s a sacred Incan fountain inside what was once a temple. Un baño, indeed. The tour guide looked even more irritated than when the two gringoes on the bus were the only ones that raised their hand in response to the question about whether anyone needed the English translation of the spiel.

Better get our shit together soon, though, because national TV is coming next weekend; a fully-televised series against Florida State. The bats pulled off some beautiful comebacks against VT this weekend to maintain instate superiority - wonder if we'll get that chance against FSU? Still, if we're to be the Cardiac Cavs again this year, I can get onboard with that.



I did make it back in time to see the Cornell game. And I was impressed with the Cornell defense. They were fast and athletic and really gave our guys trouble in attacking the net. That may be the only team to hold us in the single digits all year. Because I'm really impressed with our offense. Other years, we've been loaded, but it hasn't felt right. This year, we're loaded and it looks and feels great. Sustainable. This team passes the ball very well and you can be doing everything right on defense and oh well we scored anyway. I'm not in favor of a shot clock at all, but if one were instituted this year we'd probably score 25 a game.

You have to also love the play of Rob Fortunato yesterday. "Only" a .529 save percentage, but some of those saves were impressive. Fortunato is .624 on the season and has long since answered any questions about his abilities. He's a guy we can win the title with. .624 isn't likely to last, because the stiff competition is ahead, but still; this is good stuff here, and for at least one more season there are no issues in net.

One of those things you don’t think about when you cross the equator, but seems obvious the moment you notice it: the moon is upside down.

I mean, we even seem to have fixed the faceoff issue. Ryan Benincasa killed it against Syracuse, winning 20 of 28, and then struggled against Cornell but whatever because Mick Parks came in and won 9-of-16 against a team that's winning 63% on the season. Parks is a freshman, which is awesome news; dare I even say that the future looks really bright on faceoffs? If so, look out world. Letting UVA be a make-it-take-it team is a thrilling and deadly idea.

While UVA was beating Cuse and the Rumbling Bears (a name for a band if there ever was one) the rest of the ACC was making the conference look really, really bad. UNC lost to Lehigh and a down-year Pennsylvania. Duke got smoked by Loyola. Maryland lost to UMBC. Seriously, you guys? Bracketology comes out next week and it'll be interesting to see if these guys make it. It's a lot of fun that we still have the team that the rest of the world sees at the top - again - and is probably getting sick of it.

The idea of an “Incan temple” sounds impressive, but in actuality they’re small and utilitarian, nothing like the soaring cathedrals of Christianity. For one thing, the masses weren’t allowed inside, and for another, they’re among the only buildings that actually employed the technique that the Incas are known for, of carving the stones so intricately they didn’t need mortar. That was a royal pain in the butt and couldn’t be done by the average Joe Inca, so they didn’t build massive edifices this way. More's the pity, really.

It's time now to settle into the every-Saturday-is-lacrosse-day routine, like a mini-football season. Pity those who don't get that kind of chance in the spring and are reduced to making RV trips to the spring game and sit in the upper deck to get their fix. Maybe we can convert a few of the masses to be Virginia lacrosse fans since their schools don't have it.

Two more games - Ohio State and Johns Hopkins - and then the ACC schedule begins. I wonder what the ACC will look like by then? Duke has tests against Harvard, Duke, Georgetown and Syracuse, and UNC must play Hopkins and Maryland and Duke, and Maryland has UNC and Villanova, all before their games with UVA. Tough matchups, and these teams have all had some flaws exposed. It could turn out that our game with Hopkins is the determinant of the #1 seed.

The next time I fly across country, coast to coast, I will give strong consideration to going via Panama City, even though it means going through international customs. Latin American airlines still serve inflight meals. Even the really cheap airlines. I’d never had an inflight meal. Almost all my airline experiences are post-9/11, when airlines tried like hell to contain exploding costs and did so by cutting all the perks. Not the ones way down south. Copa Airlines has something that puts excitement on the lips of every red-blooded, right-thinking male in the whole world and a lot of the ladies, too: Free Booze.

No comments: