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Mailbag 5/20

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We talk burgers and sides!

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Cheeseburger Photo by Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images

Does anyone find UNC’s recruiting proficiency this year suspicious? Yes, they have Mack Brown, but they were mediocre at best last year with solid talent. I personally find it interesting that they are firmly in the top 5 and currently ahead of Clemson.

Ben: Is it suspicious? Yeah, probably. Is the NCAA going to do anything about it? Doubt it.

Jake: They did get barked at a while back, if I recall correctly. If they’re doing it on the up-and-up, should make for some interesting football.

Jake P.: Honestly, not really. North Carolina has a lot of talent, and currently UNC’s recruiting class of 14 has 13 from the state. If all of their recruits were from, say Florida, yeah it would be suspicious. I’m just chalking it up to recruits wanting to stay home due to COVID and for state pride purposes. People love to tweet #GDTBATH here.

Drew: Mid-season recruiting rankings don’t mean much because of the massive disparity in number of recruits. Their class is good, but once things are all said and done, it won’t be top-5 good.

Levi: Mack Brown is probably doing it right. Not saying it’s squeaky clean but I think he’s just good at painting a picture for these kids. UNC does have a good track record of getting mediocre players drafted.

Jeff: It does appear off at first, but then I see Alabama is 41st with only 4 commits and Tennessee is sitting at the 2 spot. Mack Brown is sure to make them more attractive plus players aren't being evaluated or visiting schools. I'll call it a outlier.

Akshay: Like they say, it’s an ongoing investigation recruiting season.

Don’t you think people from other schools might be saying the same about us?

Ben: Unless Georgia Tech starts putting up Ole Miss-like recruiting success, yeah probably. But just moving up to Top 25 with a brand new head coach and a new offense after switching from the option? Nah, nothing suspicious there.

Jake: Nah, all this regime change has done is emphasize recruiting and brand. That’s gonna turn recruits heads, or at least, if it works, that’ll happen.

Jake P.: If we give RELENTLESS EFFORT in recruiting, why should rules matter?

Levi: I just had the same thought. I wonder out loud if we have basically caught up to the times to make GT more attractive. In general though, we’re doing it right. Branding does go a long way with croots. Plus the ability to learn how to craft your brand is priceless.

Jeff: The day Collins steals a 5-star from from Fauxlanta is the day I worry about new NCAA sanctions.

There probably have been others, but reading today that Furman (my parents’ alma mater) is dropping baseball and men’s lacrosse kind of shocked me. Is this just the beginning of carnage in college low or no revenue sports?

Ben: I really hope not. These non-revenue sports may not bring in the most money, but they provide incredible opportunities for these student-athletes.

Jake: To build off of what Ben said, they also, at the high level view, don’t really lose much (at all) for the school. For the athletic department, sure, but a bunch of usually out-of-state kids paying tuition bucks that otherwise likely wouldn’t be there is a significant amount of money. Bowling Green dropped their historic baseball program, and Akron canned three sports, too. It’s not a pretty time, but the devil’s in the details. In the economic downturn following the 1929 Stock Market Crash, Tech’s non-revenue sports all took it in the teeth, with swimming, golf, boxing, lacrosse, rifle, tennis, and baseball teams (via Engineering the New South, which cited several Technique editions, but this is the link to the only one of the like eight that were cited that is in the library archives) all getting the axe, while football was limited to 50 scholarships and track and basketball combined for about forty, leaving Tech with just three varsity sports. It goes without saying which ones never came back - though the “what if lacrosse, Athletic Director J.B. Crenshaw’s pet project, came back” is a compelling thought exercise - but let me circle back to that list. There was a time when Georgia Tech cut not only baseball, but also golf less than ten years after the greatest amateur to ever play the game was on the team, and had just retired despite massive fame while not yet being 30. A lot of those sports came back because of student and team initiatives (fundraising, support via student government, ANAK) which could be a sign of differing priorities today. Though nowadays cross country, tennis, and track, say, usually get spared from these cuts, in favor of stuff like men’s and women’s swimming, women’s gymnastics, or men’s wrestling, baseball, and, heaven forbid, football, depending on the school, it’s really rare to see a sport that’s generally seen as on-the-rise like lacrosse get the axe. Allowing this ramble to continue, this could be bad news for, say, Tech Men’s Lacrosse at the club level if those guys stick around Furman, because all of a sudden, you have a D1 level team tearing through the club ranks. Happened to club swimming when Colorado-Boulder’s team went kaput, but not when Clemson’s varsity teams bit the dust. I talked about lacrosse way too much there, but the point is the same. Without the view of the longterm, we really don’t know exactly how all of this is going to play out. Some teams, students, and schools might fundraise, or find ways to reverse engineer this. Others might not. Finances might change in the future. But, things like this have always been true in lean times, and, unfortunately, it’s probably coming back. A historical note: Tech also sponsored wrestling for give-or-take two decades, into the leaner years of the late 1980s.

Drew: This is gonna hit some D1 non-revenue sports pretty hard, but the real damage is going to be at the D2/D3 level and lower. I bet we will see a ton of schools drop sports altogether. I wouldn’t expect many D1 schools to do that though.

Levi: I don’t know if you have ever been to a small school but their non-rev sports are especially troublesome. I won’t just point out that they’re a financial burden that pulls a few fans and some parents. But sports like that at a small school act like a bad frat. It must be frustrating for administrators to look out their window, curmudgeonly wringing their hands over the antics of players. Those are two sports I’d point out as dude-bro breeding grounds.

Jake (the big one, again): It’s not just small schools that do that...I’ll leave it at that.

Jeff: Having a mostly intact football season will keep carnage to minimum at the D1 level. If the unthinkable happens and we lose a season then you'll see a very small pool for non rev sports.

Akshay: To put the devastation without a football season in perspective, let’s look at an example. Here’s LSU’s net income from each of its sports programs (data is from 2016/17):

Football is the only reason that LSU, a university located in one of the most football-crazed parts of the nation, turns an overall profit on athletics. Take away that $56M*, and some of those other sports go bye-bye.

* Two points of note here: 1) this figure would be higher now, given three years of inflation and LSU winning SEC and national titles; 2) this figure is obviously a worst-case scenario where TV networks refuse to pay the conferences without games to broadcast or worse, but it still makes the point that a number of programs would be in dire straits if football didn’t happen in 2020.

What’s on your current stay at home playlist?

Jake P.: Some of my friends and I are ranking the top-50 songs of all time. After two weeks battling over the number one spot, a compromise was reached with Africa by Toto being crowned. Going from there, number two is Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin, three is Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears, four is Imagine by John Lennon, and five is Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival. We’ve got 45 to go, so if y’all have recommendations drop them in the comments.

Levi: I have a great NASCAR playlist that I listen to on shuffle. I also have a great “rain” playlist I like featuring songs about rain: Africa, Rain is a Good Thing, Every Storm Runs Out of Rain, Etc. The former Madden playlists are pretty fun too. How insane am I that this year’s Madden playlist got old so I turned off the music and played previous Madden playlists.

Jake: Monday, I went to work in the office again. That was weird.

Jeff: I have a two year old...Baby shark Doo Doo Doo Doo.

Build your best burger please!

Ben: I know everybody else is probably going to go with a more standard hamburger, so I’m going to change it up a little bit. I’m not a vegetarian, but I really love veggie burgers, especially black bean burgers. Here’s how I’ll build it: bottom bun (toasted with butter), a little bit of guacamole, black bean burger, either spinach or arugula (completely up to you), slice red onion, top bun (with a little bit of mayo on it after toasted with butter). If veggie burgers aren’t your preference, I would recommend checking out the recipe for an Umami-centric burger from Binging with Babish in the video below (start around 2:00 mark):

Jake P.: From the top, a grilled brioche bun, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, a leaf of lettuce, onion, provolone cheese, the beef burger, a slice of tomato, and the other (grilled) half of the brioche bun.

Drew: I love all sorts of burgers. I’d probably go with blue cheese and pickled red onions.

Levi: I swear by my burgers, get the 93% lean beef, sirloin if they got it, season with Dale’s Sauce, hint of mustard, garlic powder, salt. Hand roll and flatten patties with a slight dip in the middle. I cook mine medium and the real ones know it’s flip, flip, cheese. I build my burger with mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, and onion.

Jake: Much respect to the Pickleback at Cypress, the best burger on the planet can be found at Kuma’s Corner at Francisco and Belmont in the beeeeeeautiful city of Chicago. While they have many great options, the old faithful option is the Kuma Burger, conveniently the one not named after a heavy metal band, with bacon, cheddar, a fried egg, lettuce, onion, and tomato on a regular bun with a medium rare patty. If you’re in Indianapolis, Schaumburg (Chicago’s Avalon/Alpharetta) or Vernon Hills (Chicago’s...to be honest, it probably isn’t even relevant enough to deserve a comparison) don’t bother. Stick to the real ones in the city.

Jeff: Uh oh, Levi and I have a philosophical difference in meat. My burgers need to have a little extra fat to bind together and stay juicy. Now I like the ground sirloin, but I help it out by blending in a bit of mild sausage. I season with salt, pepper, onion powder, and smoked paprika. Smoke them on the Green Egg and assemble from bottom toasted bun, mayo, crisp lettuce, burger, brown mustard, tomato, grilled onion, toasted bun. Keep the dirty ketchup off my burgers.

Akshay: As FTRS’ resident vegetarian, I second Ben’s recommendation of a veggie patty as your burger base. Black bean burgers are an old classic, but I’ve also had chickpea-based burgers that have been pretty good and some of the entries in the plant-based meat department are also nice (albeit a bit too dry for my liking). The keys here are toasted buns (slathered with mayo or butter — doesn’t matter as long as you develop a nice crust), a firmer patty (don’t want one that crumbles as you eat it), and a cheese with its own flavor profile (sharp cheddar and muenster have worked for me). There’s enough veggies in the patty that you don’t need those as toppings, but to maintain American burger tradition, go with the classic lettuce (Ben’s suggestions of spinach and arugula also work), pickles, and sliced onions (caramelized are also acceptable). Make sure you get a nice sear on your burger (yes, you can brown and sear a veggie patty) using your cooking appliance of choice, melt the cheese on top of the patty, then assemble to your liking. Suggested condiments here: ketchup (again, tradition — but I recommend finding something a little more flavorful than Heinz), guacamole (which not-a-sponsor-but-local-restaurant-you-should-support Cypress Pint and Plate uses on their black bean burger), and spicy mustard. Mix and match the above to tinker with the various flavor profiles and come up with something you enjoy — personally, I find that I jive with most combinations of these base ingredients.

What side do you go with?

Ben: To go with my veggie burger, I’ll do a side salad made with greens of your choice, feta crumbles. grape tomatoes, and something to give it a nice crunch. If you want something sweet, you can put some toasted pecans in there, or go with a traditional crouton. Top with your dressing of choice or olive oil. For a starchy side, you can use fried yuca, which is similar to fries except they’re a little better for you (if you’re comparing similar amounts).

Jake P.: Fries or some sort of salad. Ben’s salad sounds delicious.

Levi: Lay’s Barbecue Chips.

Jake: Some kind of fried potato.

Jeff: Well I'm not wasting my lump charcoal I got burning so throw on some sliced zucchini or other thick veggies. Sweet potato fries are also fair game.

Akshay: The choice of a veggie burger is too healthy and must be appropriately counterbalanced, and the Pub Fries offered at not-a-sponsor-but-local-restaurant-you-should-support Cypress Pint and Plate work best here. Bushels of small french fries doused in garlic and parmesan and served with a side of sriracha mayo — what’s not to love?

Any new (or new ish) comedies to stream?

Ben: It isn’t new, but it’s new to Netflix! Check out Community. It’s one of my favorite shows. Another show I’ve watched recently is a show called Barry. It’s on HBO and Hulu.

Levi: If you love stand-up, Tom Segura’s new special, Ball Hog, is epic, Bert and Seinfeld’s are okay, Chappelle’s last 3-4 specials are on Netflix and all are amazing. If you have a crooked sense of humor, I cannot recommend enough Oh, Hello On Broadway. It’s weird but I think its the best off the beaten path content on Netflix. A couple good movies too, The Invention of Lying, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, The Other Guys, and Ace Ventura are all on Netflix right now.

Jake: Probably new to most of the commentariat, I like John Mulaney. I relate to that guy on a spiritual level. Otherwise, like most things, I tend to watch the same comedies I already like over and over. Oh well.