NO RICE, NO DICE FOR RUTGERS FOOTBALL
by Zach Smart
A lot can go down between Thursday and Saturday. That’s both a truism and the mantra of the acclaimed, gut-busting funny 1995 comedy, Friday. The film, behind a first-class cast that featured humor merchant Chris Tucker, is in a league of its own. After Tucker left the cast in the ensuing sequels, Next Friday and The Friday After Next, the series lost much of its luster.
A lot can go down between 2006 and 2008. Such is the situation with the ailing Rutgers football program, which has dropped five of its first six games and rapidly faded into oblivion. Greg Schiano resurrected a struggling program in the 2006 season, as the Scarlet Knights quickly evolved into the nation’s media darlings. Under the jet-quick antics of feature back Ray Rice (who won state championships in football and basketball at New Rochelle High School, a perennial power in the New York City suburbs backdrop), the Knights ran off an 11-2 record that culminated with their first bowl game victory in program history. Rice, who now plays for the Baltimore Ravens (34 carries for 108 yards in the neophyte’s early NFL career), left a lasting legacy at the school, one that few can eclipse. Running parallel to the lingering effects that Tucker’s departure had on the Friday series, the Knights just haven’t been the same without Rice, making it difficult to Bet on Rutgers having another turnaround soon.
Matt “Beef” Whitfield chronicles the colossal loss, the Knights problems recovering from it, and Rutgers shortcomings this season in his recent blogpost, “RU Serious?” While Ice Cube and Tom “Tiny” Lister Jr. (who played “Debo,” the character from which former NBA player Rodney Rodgers earned his nickname) were both great in Next Friday. The problem was, they didn’t have the supporting cast to make up for Tucker’s eye-opening, stomach-slaying performance as “Smokey” in the original.
Fast forward this clip to 3:50 if you want to see Smokey at his finest. The scene is a testament to his comical genius. Now, the problem that Schiano and Rutgers face is similar to the one that materialized with Director Steve Carr and writers Ice Cube and DJ Pooh in 2000, when Next Friday hit the theaters. They are trying to stamp tickets and victories without the main cog, whose lightning-quick evolution allowed Rice to become the face of the program. With the absence of Rice, many opined that Rutgers would languish around the .500 mark. They’ve been a far cry from mediocre this year, failing to give an efficient account of themselves and their offensive weapons. The residual effects of Tucker’s—ooops—I meant Rice’s departure has hurt them. Last season, the only thing Rice was smoking was fat pounds of defensive backs. He blazed opponents to the tune of 2,069 yards and 5.3 yards-per-carry.
To paraphrase Walt “Clyde” Frazier, they have “been floundering” this season. The lack of team chemistry has led to the severe power outage. The characters that were supposed to pad the loss of Rice have been similar to the way Mike Epps was in Next Friday, when he was supposed to fill Smokey’s size 10 Nikes.
QB Mike Teel is more widely recognized for hitting his players physically than hitting them with TD bombs.
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HATE MAIL: Speaking of teams in the tri-state area that have floundered, what's to be said about the NY Mets? There was a college professor who taught MEP105, who certainly was not too fond of me. He didn't like my penchant for wearing Yankees attire to class and liked using me as a scapegoat for problems with the equipment (well, in my eyes he did. Then again, I did take the class three times until I finally passed it and graduated). The situation with me and this class was kind of like the situation with Tony and "tv class" in the movie Blue Chips, the one that starred Shaq and Penny.
Well anyway, after I finally passed his class, I began sending him e-mails as the Mets' post-season hopes began to quickly die out. So, here is a recent email I sent him. It is in a response to an email he sent me about how the Mets will be killing the playoff scene at this time "next year."
"Next year? C'mon, that's what you guys said after last year's freefall. Next year is no excuse for Team Titanic II, which fired Willie prematurely and gave the game ball to guys like Aaron "the automatic dinger button" Heilman in the always-reliable bullpen. We shit the bed too, but at least we have valid excuses---Our star hitter couldn't hit a t-ball into the Hudson River if he was standing on the big A-Rod yacht (its probably filled with more strippers than Eliot "client 9" Spitzer's dream) when something other than personal statistics were at stake, he scores more runs with the NYC strippers than he does when the game is on the line, our ace (Wang) and stallion young gun (Joba) suffered season-altering injuries and the New York Dead Bats Society got handcuffed every time we faced a legit pitcher.
Let's face it...We weren't the ones that gained sole possession of first place and then squandered it as soon as the 2007 flashbacks and pressure turned on. Granted, we ripped through more paychecks then John Lahey yet still managed to flounder. But the choking queens from, well...Queens continued to make their mark in the city where baseball is now an afterthought (GIANTS FOOTBALL 4-0 BABY). The bombers will just shell out another king's ransom on someone like Sabathia, Burnett, or Sheets to complement Wang as the best 1-2 punch in baseball next year. Plus, we'll pick up someone like Texiera to further eliminate any anxiety generated by Double PLayRODs post-season Houdini act. You guys are still just second-class citizens...you don't see people from all over the world wearing Mets Caps...This is New York and America's team. Not the queens choke artists or the Sawx nation. The best baseball in the world still lives in the Bronx. Yankees Universe."
Blowing off steam in this way is of course questionable, and speaks volumes about my own character (or lack of it).
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