Friday, August 31, 2007

TGIFS (Thank God It's Football Season)

American football, that is. Because the football of another name, soccer, is officially dead in this country. It seems the savior of US soccer, David Beckham, could miss the rest of the regular season with a knee injury. And not a tear was shed. Hey, at least he didn't electrocute any animals. This will be the end of "Beckham Watch" as we know it, and we all can spend our free time paying attention to the only kind of football that matters in this country. And since I've already spent more time writing about soccer than I ever wanted to, I'll end this story with that.

Bring Out The Broom!

I received an email notifying me that right after I wrote that the Yankees/Sox series didn't matter, the Bombers went on to sweep the series. Regardless, it still only matters to the Yankees. Still five games back, they will not catch Boston, making it only important to one team. Which brings me to this question: why is sweeping a series matter to so many people?

All over Sports Center and talk radio, you couldn't get any news about the series without hearing the word "sweep" around 12 times per minute. People use this phrase to make baseball games sound more relevant than they really are. Do you ever hear people get all up in arms when a team loses the back two games of a series, plus the first game of another? It's still the same 3 game skid, but it doesn't ever get the same amount of coverage. That's because there's no cute way to describe it. Experts like to use "sweep" and "bring out the broom" whenever they can. After the post-game of yesterday's Royals/Tigers series, one broadcaster said, "Well, the Royals weren't able complete the sweep", as if that mattered more to the players than the fact that they lost a game. It doesn't. Losing is losing, and winning is winning, and that's pretty much the only thing that matters. Nice little idioms don't give any extra significance. You know when getting swept matters? In October.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie! Boo, Boo, Boo!

I love Ozzie Guillen, but I believe that it is now time for him to go. And he knows it. After losing 5-4 at Texas light night, followed by shouting expletives that have come to define him, it is safe to say he has completely lost this team. If you remember, the White Sox won the World Series only two years ago. What the hell happened? They are basically playing with the exact same team PLUS Jim Thome. And now they are below the Royals in the AL Central. This is just a short goodbye to Ozzie, because if he's still coaching there next year, well, it's never too late to become a Cubs fan.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

While You're Watching the Yankees/Sox Series

There are some really good ballgames on this week, but everybody seems to be focused on the Yankees and Red Sox. Forget that. The Sox are good, and the Bombers have been bombing. It means relatively nothing to Boston, because there is no way they won't win the AL East. But here are some matchups that are actually important to both sides.

LA Angels (of Anaheim/Sacramento/Orange County/Santa Cruz/Des Moines/Juneau) vs. Seattle Mariners

The Angels are trying to keep their division lead, while Seattle is trying not only to get it, but to also keep the Yankees at length in the Wild Card race. How crazy has the Mariner's season been? They start going on a huge winning streak and gain momentum, only to see their manager quit mid season. You would think they would sink into oblivion by then, but lucky for them, Mike Mussina is still a Yankee.
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Diego Padres
Only one game between them, this should be an interesting matchup. Don't play the "drink every time your team gets a hit" game. You'll be as sober as the Pope.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays vs. Baltimore Orioles

For purely comical reasons. How bad are these guys? And I'm talking as a Royals fan.

LA Dodgers vs. San Diego Padres

Is anybody else excited to see David Wells pitch on Friday? I'm sure everyone in Hollywood will be sitting at home watching the game. Either that, or at some random club convincing girls named Jill that they are movie producers. It's kind of hard to tell.

Feel Better About Yourself?

Taking a break from sports for a minute, let's look at the #1 topic that's being talked about around every water cooler today: Miss Teen USA. More specifically, Miss South Carolina. Actually, it does relates to sports, since every sports radio talk show is spending half of their airtime discussing this (apparently) hilarious You Tube hit. So, an American teen tried to answer a simple question and ended up looking only a shade brighter than Forrest Gump? When does this get funny?

Now, I have as good of a sense of humor as the next guy, but I find this more worrisome than spectacular. If you have kids, realize that your children go to the same kind of schools that this girl attends. They receive the same education. I advise you to ask your kids the same question, and see how unintelligible their answers sound. If this was Miss Teen France then I would understand. But this girl will be voting, driving and more than likely breeding in the near future. This is something I don't find funny at all. People are getting dumber and dumber by the hour, and when something like this comes to light, it should be seen as a warning sign, not something to laugh about over lunch. Do you not see the irony that the question asked was itself about a bad American education system? Way to go America, you made the public stupidity of a fellow countrywoman an internet hit for all the world to see.

Where Art Thou Head, Romeo?

As in one of William Shakespeare's most famous plays, the Browns' Romeo Crennel will have a tragic ending to his NFL career if he does not get Brady Quinn on the gridiron as soon as humanly possible. After being passed up by twenty teams in this year's draft, it would seem as though benching Quinn would be the smart way to go. But with all the knocks the former Notre Dame quarterback has taken, everybody seems to agree on one thing: out of all the quarterbacks in this year's draft, Brady Quinn was the most NFL-ready. Exactly what is the point of being NFL-ready if your coach isn't ready to put you in the NFL? The Browns are going absolutely nowhere. In arguably the toughest division in the league, a five win season would be a shock to most football fans. What is he going to learn on the bench? If a tutorial on how to get beaten up and thrown around like a rag doll is Crennel's secret plan, than may I suggest a different route? You have absolutely nothing to lose.

Look, Brady Quinn is not going to be discouraged if he starts off 0-7. He went to Notre Dame. I'm sure he's smart enough to realize that he was drafted by one of the most inept franchises of the NFL. Let him take his chops. The sooner he is acquainted with running an NFL team, the sooner he can ask for a trade to the Lions. And then the Browns can use their draft picks on other NFL-ready players that they refuse to start.

Have A Drink On Me

There you go, Milwaukee. Whoa now, slow down with that. Easy....

It looks as though once again, the baseball fans of Wisconsin will be in full-mode Favre-watch by the middle of September, while the defending champions and the Bartman Bombers will be slugging it out for the NL Central crown. At the beginning of July, The Cubs and Cardinals were 6.5 and 9.5 games behind the Brewers in the Central. Oh how things have changed. Milwaukee currently resides at a gentleman's third, 2.5 games back, having just lost 5 in a row. I'm officially crossing off the Brewers from the postseason mix. You have to have momentum going into September, and the Brew Crew have about as much momentum as Ben Affleck's career. And while I never trust the Cubs to do anything right when it matters, I won't count out the Cardinals. Albert Pujols has been insane recently, and the team did win the Series last year. It will be a fun race to watch.... unless you're a Brewers fan, that is.
But don't fret, football season is upon us. And with Brett Favre in only year 32 of his NFL career and Wisconsin ranked #7 in both the AP and USA Today polls, you've probably already started skipping Brewer games to watch ESPN's fantasy football draft. Don't mix beer with cheese. Just abandon baseball for this year and get on track with football season. God knows the Brewers have.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No Fun

Today, U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl in New York upheld a ban on metal baseball bats for high school games. Here is a quote from the judge who is soon to be the best friend of bored housewives everywhere:

"While the record does not include clear empirical evidence showing that more serious injuries would occur without the ordinance, it is the city's legislative assessment that the risk is too great."

There seems to be a common idea that evidence has no place inside of the courtroom. Welcome to the 21st century, people. The continual sterilization of athletics, and society for that matter, is a growing concern of mine. What's next? Lowering the goal in little league basketball games? After all, the need to throw the ball higher could result in said ball to come down harder because of the necessary trajectory, which in turn could land on a kid's head and he might......cry. God forbid. We ban dodge ball in schools, won't allow metal bats, and make sure every kid has the same amount of playing time on the field. Do we need to coddle our kids any further? If your child is scared of playing baseball because of metal bats, let me tell you something: he is not going to be the next Derek Jeter. Pull him out, get him interested in music or math or whatever, because the "violence" associated with athletics is not going to go away. And it's your fault your child is a wuss, not Louisville Slugger's.

And on a side note, who is going to pay for all of these broken wooden bats? The schools? I'm pretty sure they're strapped for cash enough as it is. Wouldn't that money be better suited to go to the science or math departments? Oh, I forgot, there's no price tag for your child's safety, as long as somebody else is paying for it.

5 NFL Predictions

I hate predictions. Most writers understand two things about predictions in sports. First, any wrong prediction will be forgotten, unless it is something along the lines of "The Royals will win the World Series" or "Baylor will win the Big 12 South". Second, any right prediction can be repeated by the author around 1 billion times after his prophecy is fulfilled. It's really a win/win situation. Well, I'm not going to play that game. Telling you that I think the Patriots will win the Super Bowl, and having that prediction be correct, in no way shows you how intelligent I am when it comes to football. So now I will give you 5 predictions that I wish would be right. Not so I can brag, mind you. These are things that would make the 2007 NFL season the most entertaining in history, and at the same time, probably will never happen.

1. Giants win the Superbowl

How great would it be to have back-to-back Mannings win rings? From 2008 and beyond, the brothers Manning would have a captivating rivalry of who will win the most Super Bowls. I don't even have to mention the ratings that a Giants/Colts championship would provide. Good times had by all.

2. Chargers go 16-0, lose in second round of playoffs

A little more plausible. You could even play a drinking game the following week; one drink for every time you hear the name "Schottenheimer" on SportsCenter. Added bonus: commentary on a wasted season for LT, who racked up 50 touchdowns.

3. David Carr, version 2.0

After a 2-5 start, where Jake Delhomme struggles to consistently hit a wide open Steve Smith, Carr becomes the starting quarterback for the Panthers. They finish 10-6, while Matt Schaub is eating grass down in Houston. Texans fans decide to sport their old Oilers jerseys, and pretend that the Titans are still their team.

4. Vince Young injured in Week 2

Now, I don't usually wish for an injury of a player, but I will make an exception. If Young goes down, the mystique of the "Madden Curse" will forever haunt future star players. I couldn't imagine anybody accepting to be on the cover after that. Which leads us to Madden '09, which will have Vinny Testaverde on the cover.

5. Chiefs win the Superbowl

Ok, I am a Chiefs fan. However, this is not the reason for this hopeful prediction. With "Hard Knocks" on HBO this year, we get a rare look into the training camp of a pro football team. If the Chiefs become champions, we now have it documented how training camp looks before a golden season. Down side: every running back from now on will hold out until the final preseason game.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Extreme Olympics

When it comes to the magic of superior human athletic achievement, only one thing comes to mind: ping-pong. Well, according to the Olympic Committee. For some inexplicable reason, pseudo-sports such as table tennis, curling, and badminton are put at the same level as basketball, gymnastics, and the triathlon. There is something a little odd about watching Bob Costas commentate on slow motion replays of the curling finals while "One Shining Moment" is playing in the background. It is beyond me why hopscotch, kickball, and passing notes are not yet Olympic events. And while these games that are better suited for kids who still believe in cooties are given precious airtime and consideration, a whole field of real sports are continually denied; extreme sports.

Skateboarding, BMX, and Moto X are the bread and butter of the X-Games. And yet, these are not considered "sports" by the middle-aged and out of touch personalities that are at the same time promoting ping-pong to the 18-24 male genre. They might want to redefine their words. After all, snowboarding is an Olympic event. Now tell me, other than the surface of which the sport takes place, what is the difference between skateboarding and snowboarding? Wheels. And that's about it. So why come 2008 will I not see Danny Way holding up a gold medal while the camera spans little kids crying and you can hear Costas saying, "This, is very emotional"? There are a lot of things that do not make sense in this world, but I cannot fathom a reason why extreme sports are so shunned by the Olympic Committee. I will say this: when the ratings for the 2008 Olympics come in, and when behind closed doors old men and women are frantically trying to save face, I'll be in my living room watching clips from the old X-Games, noticing all of the young men in attendance: the demographic most coveted by the Olympics.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Back To The Present

In case you did not hear, Michael Vick is in a little trouble. Oh, you did hear? Good, that saves us some time. For a minute, forget about your feelings towards man's best friend and Vick's apparent lack of understanding of that phrase. Let's not get riled up on the morality of Vick's actions, for that is an issue better suited for "Good Morning America". There seems to be a common theme with the media's actions towards athletes that, as far as sports goes, is not very important. What is this theme? Making the decisions of tomorrow and completely forgetting about the decisions to be made today.

Look, I realize that when Vick gets out of jail, his career (or lack thereof) will be the top story of every writer, radio host, and television personality that is given the oxygen necessary to speak. But is there a reason that should be the top story today? We don't know what will happen. As I'm writing this, Vick is one day away from making his plea. Regardless, his uncertain future is spoken of in certain terms by everybody and anybody who gets a chance to talk. There seems to be this need to figure out what will happen in this case before all of the information is out, and for one, I have had enough. Why is valuable air time repeatedly dedicated to asking "experts" what teams would take Vick in 2009? Who has any idea what the quarterback landscape will look like in two years? As a matter of fact, aren't most of the sports media figures in this country completely unaware of the quarterback landscape of 2007? What is served by a mindless prediction of future events that couldn't possibly be understood by anyone not currently owning a Delorean that runs on plutonium? There are things in the present that do need attention.

On Sunday, September 9th, the Atlanta Falcons will open their season against the Minnesota Vikings. There will be one position on the field that will be watched the most; the quarterback. But the quarterback everyone will be thinking of will not be on the field. Rather, Joey Harrington will be suited up and asked to lead a team that seems as unlikely to make the playoffs as the Saints did just a year ago. Only, unlike the Saints, the football fans of America will not be rooting with all of their hearts for the Falcons to succeed. It won't be the first time either. You might recall week 3 of the 2006 season, where the Falcons traveled to New Orleans for the Saints' home opener. That night, perhaps much like this season, the Falcons didn't stand a chance. But where most see a tragedy, I see an opportunity. And that opportunity lies with Joey Harrington. This is his last chance. This will be his third strike in the NFL if not tapped of all its potential, as Harrington could not get it done with either the Lions or Dolphins. I have not yet given up hope for Harrington's future. I would not be surprised if the Falcons shocked the world by not picking up coach Bobby Petrino's former quarterback, Brian Brohm, with the #1 pick in next year's draft. I will not have to reread articles about a .500 Atlanta team with paragraphs about picking up #13 for your fantasy team. For the first time in his career, there is absolutely no pressure on Harrington to perform. This can only serve him well. And now that I think about it, the media heads can continue to ask questions about the future, while Joey Harrington answers my questions about his.

Barry, I Forgive You

I have hated Barry Bonds for a while now. Even before the steroid scandals, he just wasn't a player I could ever stand. So when he got closer and closer to Hank Aaron's home run record I joined the rest of sports nation and hated him even more. I prayed that he would twist his ankle while rounding second. I kept an eye on every report that came out about his alleged steroid use, hoping for something that could throw him out of baseball. I thought of him as what is exactly wrong with sports today. But I realize now that he is not the bad guy I have always thought him to be.

Is Bonds a likeable guy? Uh, not hardly. But alot of sports figures aren't likeable. Bobby Knight isn't likeable. Even Kobe Bryant isn't very well regarded. But even back in Bonds' days where the only knock on him was personality, he would've gotten nothing but cheers during his chase for the record. People tend to put personal feelings aside when they realize they are witnessing history. Steroids seems to be the issue for most baseball fans. "He's destroying the integrity of the game" and "Aaron would've hit 1000 homers on roids" are the common phrases thrown around while discussing Bonds. But of the sixteen players suspended for steroid use since the new policy has been in place, ten of those were pitchers. Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post once said that nobody can cheat during the Tour de France because everybody is on steriods. Well, if a juiced up batter hits a homerun off a juiced up pitcher, do they cancel each other out? And these juiced up pitchers actually inflate homerun numbers by themselves, since the faster the ball, the longer the hit. In the nineties, taking steroids wasn't getting a competitive advantage, it was simply a way to even out the playing field. If you want an asterisk next to Bonds' name, then you have to put one next to every player of the steroid era.

There's plenty of reasons to dislike Bonds. But if you watch baseball, even casually, then don't miss the opportunity that Bonds has presented this summer. It is very rare to be able to witness a feat like this. And I won't be watching with the bitter taste in my mouth the way I have thus far. I'll be watching with awe, excitement, and happiness. Happiness for Bonds, and happiness for myself, since I can finally say: Barry, I forgive you.

Toughness Over Talent

I live in Johnson County, Kansas. A big percentage of the county I live in is the Shawnee Mission district. This includes the high schools of Shawnee Mission East, North, South, West, and Northwest. The coach of Shawnee Mission Northwest, Ben Meseke, has recited in a recent interview that toughness is ranked higher than talent. There has been a long debate in the world of sports of the importance between mental and physical prowess on the field of professional sports. As far as professional sports goes, physicality is a given. You cannot reach a certain point in athletics without the God-given talents of physical achievement. The zenith of ones’ career, however, relies purely of his/her mental makeup. The most recent example is the story of Boise State football.

After one of the most captivating bowl games of modern college football history, the underdog school of Boise State University is taking a page from one of the most prolific franchises of the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs. The season opener after every championship, the Spurs’ home opener opens up like this: Ladies and Gentlemen, your San Antonio Spurs! For every other team, the words “defending champion” is included after the “your”. As the most consistent franchise in the NBA, they pride themselves on having acting like they’ve been there before. The last season is behind them, and they are defending nothing. The actions of this selfless team are a reason to fear the BSU football program for the years to come. After a captivating 13-0 season, the Broncos ended the year with one of the most dramatic endings the NCAA has ever seen. An underdog, with an almost sealed lost to a heavily favored Oklahoma Sooners squad; Boise State reenacted the Stanford/Cal return run, capped off with a “Statue of Liberty” play that sent the sports world in disarray. Oh, and the put the cherry on the top, star running back Ian Johnson proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend minutes after the win, to which she responded, “Yes”. Hollywood could not have scripted it better. After pulling the strings of the collective heart of the college football enthusiasts, you would think BSU coach Chris Petersen would ride the snake as far as it would take him. How easily we all are mislead.

During training camp this offseason, Petersen held a rally that shows what BSU football is all about. He had every player write a memory on a note card that they wish to leave behind them, and to throw it in a bonfire. After every player had burned away their regrets, the coach did something that may very well be the defining point of his legacy. Holding up a Fiesta Bowl t-shirt, the bowl where his Broncos upsetted the Sooners, he threw it into the fire. The most important season in Boise State’s history was over. This is a brand new season for the Broncos. With freshman who turned down the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, USC, Ohio State and Florida State now practicing on the blue turf, coach Petersen wants to leave last season behind. While the BCS may never respect BSU the way most college football fans do, there is one thing for certain: Toughness overcomes talent, every time.

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