Friday, November 30, 2007

Sports is not math

The whole premise of sports media is to let you know what's going to happen before it does. This, of course, is impossible. That's one of the reasons I stopped making predictions; we all pretty much get the same amount of information. So, when it comes down to crunch time, just about every fan will try to find something to hang their hat on. Usually, they revert to comparing common opponents.

I can't tell you if Missouri will beat Oklahoma or if the Seahawks will beat the Eagles, though I have some pretty good estimations. As always, these estimations are based on the same information that you get, only we just reach different conclusions. But instead of doing the necessary homework to try to figure out what the outcome of the future will be (which is a time-wasting exercise), Sports Fan USA will take the lazy route; finding common opponents, comparing the outcomes and making a prediction. This is a dumb, not to mention wholly inefficient way to discuss sports.

The math goes like this: if A-C is more than B-C, than A is better. In actual mathematics, this works. In sports, not so much. That would mean since Seattle beat Chicago 30-23 and Philadelphia lost to Chicago 16-19, Seattle is 20 points better than Philadelphia. That would also mean Seattle is 17 points better than New England, who only beat the Eagles by three. Obviously, this is incorrect. So why is comparing common opponents such a popular way to determine who is better?

Laziness, probably. We have half a week to react to a certain sporting event, and the other half to predict the next slate of games, so at about noon on Wednesday, we are ready for the upcoming weekend. Breaking down matchups and watching past games not only requires you to know what you're looking for, but it is tedious work. I don't enjoy watching Knicks games. Doing a simple math problem is easy enough for any casual fan to come up with an outcome, though it has no bearing on reality.

But what confuses me is that people have two and a half days to study a game, but still seem to revert to inane concepts. Going through actual information would actually kill time. Thing is, fans would rather talk for an hour with five minutes of research than research for an hour with five minutes of talking. And I don't blame them.

Then again, don't we all come to relatively the same conclusions (around 50-60% correct predictions) anyways? Ahhh, now I get it.

Bill Simmons and the NFL Network

Bill Simmons (aka, The Sports Guy) is one of the few successful "fan writers" in the sports media, and is somebody who I generally like. While anybody's opinion on the actual sports can't really ever be described as right or wrong, it's his social commentary that seems to be what got him to where he is. The ESPN writer is usually somebody who connects with his readers, but in his latest article, he has done everything but.

Let me preface this with saying that I don't like to slam other writers. Not only is it pointless, but as a writer, it could only come back to haunt me. But this article, I cannot let go. While most of it is a mock letter to his 1982 self, it's the part about the NFL Network, more specifically last night's Packers/Cowboys game, that bothers me.

Did the "older you" complain about this particular slight? Actually, no. You happened to be working in New York City that day; once you discovered that your hotel room didn't offer the NFL Network, you got off your ass, met up with some friends and watched the game in a crowded sports bar that was screaming on every big play. Ironically, it turned out to be a more entertaining night than just sitting at home (or in this case, a hotel room) and watching the NFL Network. Is it a bad thing to get off your ass every once in awhile? Probably not. Everyone's incessant whining about "missing" NFL Network games made you realize that too much time was spent complaining about stupid stuff and far too little time appreciating everything that's happened for sports fans over the past 25 years. If traveling 5-10 minutes to a sports bar or a neighbor's house to watch the Packers-Cowboys game is our biggest dilemma of the sports week, then we must be in pretty good shape in 2007, right?

As with most holier-than-thou pieces, it completely misses the point of what everyone is complaining about. What most writers end up doing is that they try too hard to find the simplest, and mostly dumbest, reasoning behind popular thinking. Simmons concludes that the reason people are up in arms about the NFL Network is that they're lazy. Which is, itself, lazy.

Let's assume for a minute that most football fans are not rich sports writers who live in Los Angeles or in New York on business (which is probably a safe assumption). Then who are the fans? Most probably earn a modest income. A large amount probably have families. Let's say that 70-75% of real NFL fans fall into one of those two categories.

With the modest income group, there is one problem with going out to the bar with a bunch of friends: money. Five friends could easily only spend around $30 for their football party, assuming more than one of these people is are not alcoholics. At a bar, it could roughly be around $30 per person. Even one night a season to enjoy a game might be too much for these people (which includes college students, by the way).

The more problematic group are the ones with families. You could say that the modest income people could just go over to a friend's house, even though the reason they probably don't get the dish is because it's not available in their area. But some people simply cannot leave the house. They have kids to watch, wives to pretend to pay attention to. How many of these people could talk their wives into going to the bar to watch football on a Thursday night, let alone every Thursday night. It is, to say the least, an inconvenient circumstance.

But isn't Simmons' whole argument the amount of importance we put on inconvenience, you say? Perhaps, though I'm not sure Simmons, or anybody else for that matter, is qualified to make that statement. So, if you still side with the Sports Guy, I'd like to offer you another argument.

The politics of the NFL/Time Warner battle is what bothers me the most. Is short, The NFL took games away from the networks, then tried to sell them back to cable at a higher price than CNN, and then went on a public relations campaign about how Time Warner won't allow you to see their games. I'm guessing most of the PR people for the league have worked in Washington D.C. for some part of their lives. But with all politics, what is happening is that two companies - who make billions of dollars - are fighting over a figure that is minuscule compared to their overall income. Remember the movie "Trading Places", where the two old rich guys bet $1 to see if they could destroy/improve somebody's life? That's what's going on here. It's not about money - it's about power.

The great thing about sports, and entertainment in general, is that it's a break away from all of the corporate greed and politics of the world. Now, it determines which entertainment we get to watch. It would be one thing if we never had access to games before, like Simmons' 1982 self, and now get most of the games. But we used to get all of the good games, only to have them held hostage by the NFL for nothing more than a power struggle with another corporation. This is where the anger and confusion comes from. When things we like and pay good money for are taken away for big-money interests, people start to complain.

So maybe a simple trip to the bar or a friends house is the quick cure for our football blues. But as all quick cures do, it will only lead to a more devastating disease. After all, this is what the NFL wanted; a big-time game nobody could see, leading to the inevitable surrender of "we shouldn't be complaining". Unlike Simmons, I will not fall into this trap. To understand why you can't see the games is more important than how it affects you personally, which is itself more trite and ridiculous than not wanting to pay $4.00 for a PBR.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

And you thought you hated Boston...

Everybody nowadays is hatin' on Boston. The Patriots are undefeated and running up the score, the Red Sox won the World Series, the Celtics got Garnett and Allen, hell, even Boston College was a top-5 school at one point. And now the Sox are in talks with the Twins about a possible trade for Johan Santana. You think that makes you mad? Imagine how people in Minnesota feel.

First, you had David Ortiz. After he was released from the Twins, Boston picked up Ortiz as a free agent. He has since become one of the most feared clutch hitters of all time, leading the Red Sox to two championships. Twins fans must have felt sick after seeing one of their own sign on another team and have so much success.

Then you have Randy Moss. Unhappy playing for the Vikings, Moss was sent to Oakland, where he redefined what being unhappy really meant. He sulked on the bench, barely did anything on the field, and forced the Raiders to ship him to the Patriots for a measly fourth round pick. So what did Moss do while in New England? he has 71 catches for 1,095 yards and 16 touchdowns. Ouch.

At least there was one superstar who seemed intent on staying in the Twin Cities. Kevin Garnett, no matter how bad the team was, seemed like a Timberwolve at heart. Then the 2007 offseason came, where once again Boston snagged a Minnesota star. The Celtics are now 11-2, with Garnett becoming the anchor and is seemingly rejuvenated.

Which brings us to this report, stating the Sox and Twins are discussing a four player trade for Johan Santana, which includes Coco Crisp, Jon Lester and minor-leaguer Jed Lowrie. I can't even fathom how fans in Minnesota feel right now. If Boston was to once again rob them of their riches, the fans up north should think about just becoming Sox/Patriots/Celtics fans and save themselves the trouble. After all, once Adrian Peterson gets the call from Bill Belichick, there won't be anyone else to root for.

The BCS is here to stay

Everyone is getting a little tired of explaining why there needs to be a playoff in college football, and that might be what the BCS mob wanted all along. In a report from the Sporting News, BCS coordinator Mike Slive is still convinced that a playoff isn't the cure. Here are his reasonings:

"One is protect the regular season. It might be trite to say there's a playoff every weekend, but there is. Secondly, we value the Bowl system. It gives a lot of student athletes an opportunity to compete for additional championships. And thirdly, there's an academic component. I know there are cynics about that, but there's an academic component, and we are going to keep football as a one-semester sport."

Let's take this piece by piece.

1. Protecting the regular season
There is not a playoff every weekend. Want proof? Hop on a plane or boat down to Hawaii, and ask Colt Brennan and the gang if they feel they are playing in a playoff. The reality is that no matter what, the Warriors will never have a chance to play for a national title. And don't whine about their schedule; they tried to get Michigan to play them, who instead opted to play Appalachian State. Great decision.

2. Keeping the bowl tradition
Last I checked, there are too many bowls to begin with. Ranging from the Bowl to the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (those are real, by the way), are they really that important? And considering that most playoff scenarios only have eight teams, that's only four bowls that are missing out. Not to mention that either: a.) you can add more bowls, or b.) make the playoff rounds bowls.

3. Academics
The worst reason of all. Do the Division II or III schools suffer from their playoffs? Do they not go to class? Why does it work for them but not for the Buckeyes and Gators? Take away the conference championships (which needs to be done anyways), and the month long layoff, and you could get the playoffs done by the first week of January. Remember: under an eight team playoff, only two teams would play three rounds.

So, in conclusion, this guy is full of crap. But we knew that already. Everyone who is not Slive or Kirk Herbstreit agrees on this. Somehow, we are still not closer to any real solution. I can't wait until March.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Jimmy V Week

Please donate to the Jimmy V Foundation. Visit, or call 1-800-4JIMMYV.

Why Les Miles should go to Michigan

Normally I'm opposed to coaches abandoning their schools for old dream jobs. I prefer that these men carve out their own niches and create their own legends with whatever school was kind enough to give them the opportunity. The only time I can remember thinking a leaving coach had made the right decision is when Bob Huggins went to West Virginia. If he was still with Cincinnati, then that would not be the case, but he was only at Kansas State for one year. With that being said, I think it's time for Les Miles to pack it up and leave the bayou.

Playing in the SEC is basically being matched up with a ranked opponent every single week. This makes it very hard to get to the national title game under the current BCS system. So why wouldn't you want to coach in the Big Ten, where you have only one important game a year, the Ohio State game.

Speaking of OSU, they have an opportunity to reach the title game after facing an incredibly weak non-conference schedule, and losing to an unranked opponent at home. Pretty sweet deal, right? Now, imagine that you can have that and coach at your alma mater, a perennial power house.

Coaching at LSU is like dating a porn star. You can never live up to what you think you need to do, and her past relationship is on public display. Yes, he could be "the guy" at LSU, but at what cost? I can't imagine anybody who would want any part of that. For most coaches, it will be the best job they could ever get in college football. But for Les Miles, there's Michigan. If he doesn't take it now, then he should forget about it. We don't need another Roy Williams fiasco. Because as Williams showed, no matter how hard you want to stay, your heart will always tell you to go.

Monday, November 26, 2007

You don't know how to beat the Patriots

Most coaching decisions can be made by Ed at the end of the bar. My mother wouldn't kick to Devin Hester. My sister can manage the clock better than Herm Edwards. This might be the reason why everybody is coming out of the woodwork to proclaim that they have the formula that can beat the New England Patriots. All I have to say about that is, "No, you don't."

Yes, the Patriots' quest for an undefeated season was in jeopardy during Sunday night's 31-28 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Fact is, they still won. But that won't stop the presses from explaining to you that the Eagles laid the blueprint to beating the Pats. Actually, if you had a dollar for every time the word "blueprint" was used in sports articles today, you could buy your own NFL team and make yourself the coach and use these ideas yourself. And you would lose.

The article that stood out to me was from John Czarnecki of FOX Sports, which is titled "Here's how you beat the Patriots". That's right, he learned how to beat what is possible the greatest team in the history of the NFL by watching one game. Here is what he learned:

1. Teams must be physical with Randy Moss and the other New England receivers.
2. You must vary your blitzes on Tom Brady.
3. You must gamble and go deeper with your passing game.
4. You must be able to pass block on the edges.
5. You need a versatile running back.

So, to sum up all 1,080 of Czarnecki's words, you need to be physical, pressure the quarterback, make big plays, pass block and have a good running game. Very insightful. The Pats weren't going to blow out every single team, that we knew. So why is everybody convinced that last night's game is a sign of the Patriot's perfect season is almost over. Last time I checked, they're still undefeated. This is a good reminder that unless you're one of the 32 special few, you are not an NFL coach, no matter how hard you try. And you're definitely not Bill Belichick.

Chad Johnson has his own Camera-Gate

It would be nice to act like Chad Johnson is just a fun guy. After all, he has received nothing but praise while fellow troublemakers Terrell Owens and Randy Moss have been hounded by the media, who have tried to destroy the two receivers' reputations over the years. Johnson played class clown to Owens' problem child. Tony Kornheiser gets excited to see his new celebrations. He does his best Peyton Manning impression by during various advertisements. He will challenge you to a game of Madden. He is also one of the most selfish professional athletes I have ever seen.

I hate the rules barring players from celebrating touchdowns. While I understand that the NFL doesn't want Riverdance-esque choreography like the kind imagined in the opening credits of Baseketball, the fines and penalties the league has put in place over the last few years is nothing but an overreaction. With that being said, let me remind you: it is against the rules.

Owens, the Elvis of excessive celebration, is the cause for most of this. But when he was doing it, it was new. You didn't know how the NFL would react. We know now that not only will you be fined, but your team will suffer as well. This is why celebrations are selfish; you're willing to cost your team a penalty so you can have fun. And don't tell me that Johnson is pulling a Guy Fawkes and trying to send a message to the league. The fans pay too much money and the stakes are high enough where these kind of actions have no place.

Yes, it is sad that the No Fun League robs us of post-scoring theatrics. But as of now, it is against the rules. It is no coincidence that in the year where Owens and Moss have cleaned up their act, the national media is starting to condemn Johnson. As they should, because stupid rules and unnecessary enforcement is one thing, but selfishness is another.

Friday, November 23, 2007

LSU's Loss Makes Hawaii Look Good

Arkansas' win over LSU on Friday night was huge, but make no mistake, a lot of people saw it coming. With the regular season winding down, some fans were still convinced that elite teams and conferences existed. They don't. What separates LSU from Hawaii and Ohio State from Kansas is a very thin line. Any team can lose on any given week, whether it's Oklahoma losing to Colorado or Michigan losing to Appalachian State. Get it in your head now: Nobody is safe.

The talent pool is now flooded in college football. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a bad loss, since there are quality players up and down on every roster in Division 1. What this means is that whoever wins it all this year has much more to brag about. This is a year where consistency wins out. It is the year of the coaches, where every Saturday comes down not to who has the best players, but what coaches can get their teams ready.

This, above all, is the reason I believe Hawaii should be considered for the BCS title game. Just about every other team has shown that they don't want it. LSU couldn't handle it, neither could Arizona State or Ohio State. We'll see if the Big 12 champion can handle it. But when Big Ten schools can lose to Division II schools, it makes Hawaii's run so much better. Yes, they have the weakest schedule, but is there such thing as a weak schedule anymore? No game is a gimme, no team can ever look ahead.

Santa, please bring me a playoff.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dogging the Bounty Hunters

So, the Packers give incentives to their defensive players based on in-game performance. This, I don't have a problem with, and considering the lack of anger from fans of the other 31 teams in the NFL, nobody else does either. Even Jon Kitna has said, "I don't know if it is against the rules; if it is, it shouldn't be". So what makes this a story? This is yet another example of the NFL having way too many rules.

I have expressed my irritation with the NFL when it comes to leading with the helmet, protecting the quarterback and taking away celebrations. In my opinion, these are either rules which at times are impossible not to break, or take away from the overall enjoyment of a football game. At least they can be defended, though. You could make the argument that leading with the helmet can kill someone, or that quarterbacks should be given special treatment or that end zone celebrations are nothing but flashy displays of taunting. But why, exactly, is there a rule against bounty hunting?

First, let's not use the term "bounty hunting" anymore. All this does is bring up imagery of mullets, shotguns, shirtless convicts and, as of now, racism. So let's use the term "in-game incentives", shall we? Now that we got that straightened out, let's see what this means. Simplified, it comes down to a coach saying, "Go get (insert player), and I'll pay you". This doesn't mean that you're supposed to injure said player, but if you did, I believe that would qualify as shutting him down. So, in theory, you could get payed to injure another player. Still, I have no problem with that. But the NFL does.

See, it is considered a loophole around the salary cap, a big no-no in this league. It's not about the welfare of the players or anything like that; it's about money, plain and simple. Why the NFL, a billion dollar operation, has a problem with millionaires receiving $500 for good play is beyond me. But they care, and technically, it's against the rules. But as Kitna says, it shouldn't be. This is football, and putting a price on another player's head is what this sport is all about. This wild west attitude cannot be extracted from the NFL, and when you make any hit deemed malicious illegal, then this is the proper evolution. Football breeds a bounty hunter way of thinking, and it will always be that way. So is the problem with the players and coaches, or does it come from higher up? One thing is for sure: once you take away the venom from the players, then there will no longer be any bite.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Nick Saban Is A Moron

No, not because he took the Miami job, though that was technically moronic. Nick Saban is a moron on the level that not many reach. He resides on a plateau of ignorance usually reserved for the likes of lawyers, congressman and Boston fans. Slightly above the Three Stooges and below your crazy uncle, Saban simply lacks the judgement that most of us have. Don't believe me? Then check out this quote:

"Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event. It may be 9-11, which sort of changed the spirit of America relative to catastrophic events. Pearl Harbor kind of got us ready for World War II, or whatever, and that was a catastrophic event."

Forget, if you can, that he said 9-11 "sort of" changed things and that Pearl Harbor "kind of got us ready for World War II, or whatever", and focus on the fact this he is talking about last Saturday's loss to Louisiana-Monroe. I'm surprised he didn't use the analogy of a loss to a team from Louisiana to Katrina. In the words of Garth Algar, "Are you mental?"

Losing tough games is, well, tough. Suffering the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history and a war that killed over 70 million people, however, is a little different. It's obvious that Saban has no idea how to get his team pumped, but comparing a football game to these catastrophes is a little out of line. The reason I have a problem with all of the "Never Forget" bumper stickers and politicians using 9-11 as a talking point during debates is the same reason I have a problem with what Saban said: when you bring these things up, you're reopening deep wounds.

We don't need this kind of crap in sports. Nick Saban is so far removed from reality right now that one would think he directs Chevy commercials. Of course, he will apologize soon, and everybody will forget. He might even get his team to win some games in the next few seasons, at which point everybody will be writing about how good of a coach he is. But when it comes to Saban, let me tell you, I will never forget.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Barry Bonds Indicted, A Look Back

With news of Barry Bonds being indicted on Thursday, we tend to forget about how we really feel in these situations. Plus, we don't really know anything at this time, so specualtion is all we can go on. For that reason, here is my article on Bonds that I wrote on August 26.

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.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What Is A Good Loss? The Ultimate Guide

Following Wednesday night's thrilling game between #1 North Carolina and Davidson, most college basketball experts were quick to point out how the almost-upset was good for the Tarheels. The first thing that popped in my mind was: WHAT? Which got me to thinking that there needs to be a guide to what is a good loss, a bad loss, a good win and a bad win. Well here it is:

#1-10 team vs an unranked-unknown

Good Loss: The only way, and I stress only way, a top ten team can lose against an unranked-unknown (UU) opponent is if the loss is on the road, and the opponent shoots an unprecedented percentage of shots made, especially from 3-point range. I can't even find an example, since most top ten teams don't go on the road to UU schools.

Bad Loss: Just about any other situation, especially if the game is a defensive struggle. Any top ten team should be better at defense than a UU. Example.

Good Win: Any win where the UU was never in contention. Example.

Bad Win: Any win where a top ten team struggles to win against a UU and the UU didn't shoot amazingly well. Any close game at home. Example.

#11-25 team vs UU

Good Loss: Any loss where the UU rains threes, but it has to be on the road. The non-top ten teams have to prove themselves, and securing their home court is a part of that. Example.

Bad Loss: Any home game, or any game where the UU didn't shoot especially well. Plus, any loss that's more than ten points. Example.

Good Win: Any win over 10 points, or any win where the UU shot over 50%. Example.

Bad Win: Any win under 10 points where the UU shot under 50%. Example.

Unranked vs UU

Good Loss: Only against a UU that rained threes, and it must be within 10 points. These teams have no room to lose games. Example.

Bad Loss: Any game where the UU didn't shoot extremely well, or any home game. Example.

Good Win: Any win over 10 points, or any win where the UU shot over 50%. Example.

Bad Win: Any win within 10 points where the UU shot under 50%. Example.

#1-10 vs Unranked

Good Loss: Only if on the road, in conference or in a tournament, within 10 points, where the opponent shot over 50%. Example.

Bad Loss: Any loss at home, or any loss of more than 10 points. Example.

Good Win: Any win of more than 10 points, or any road win where the unranked opponent shot over 50%. Example.

Bad Win: Any win under 10 points where the unranked opponent shot under 50%, or any win under 10 points at home. Example.

#11-25 vs unranked

Good Loss: Any road game where the unranked opponent would become ranked after the win, within 10 points, or the opponent shot over 50%. Example.

Bad Loss: Any home game, any blowout, even if the opponent would end up becoming ranked. Example.

Good Win: Any road win if the opponent would have become ranked, any win of more than 10 points, or any win where the opponent shot over 50%. Example.

Bad Win: Any win within 10 points where the opponent did not shoot over 50%, any overtime win at home. Example.

Unranked vs #1-25

Good Loss: Only if loss was close, unless the unranked team blew a big lead. Example.

Bad Loss: Any blowout. Example.

Good Win: Any win. Example.

Bad Win: None.

* A 10 point win means that it was always a 10 point game, not a close game that ended up a 10 point win because of desperation fouls.

A-Rod Is Letting Us Down

Let's get this on the table first: Alex Rodriguez wants to be a Yankee, and the Yankees want Alex Rodriguez. Usually, it's good when you get a match like that in sports. So what makes this one different? When Rodriguez decided to opt out and become a free agent, it gave us non-Yankee fans a reason to be excited. We actually cared about where A-Rod went, we cared that it wasn't in New York, and (most importantly) we cared about off all this in November. But now it seems like nothing new is on the horizon, which means that baseball will have to go into hibernation.

Rodriguez is one of the greatest baseball players ever, and unlike Barry Bonds, he has nothing hanging over him (except for a postseason curse, which most teams don't care about). What was going to keep baseball relevant throughout the winter was the A-Rod tracker, which would have had a graphic on ESPN much like the Santa tracker on your local news. With the craziness of college football and basketball, the juggernaut that is the NFL, and the drama that is the NBA, can we really be expected to care about what's going on with Mike Lowell and Pedro Feliz?

What Rodriguez did when he opted out, was give us hope that in the very near future a mega-deal would have been done and a new A-Rod era would begin. Everyone was making their predictions, weighing the odds. Rodriguez got our hopes up, and now he is slamming that door of possibilities right back in our faces.

So, just like every other year, nothing exciting is going to happen this offseason. The pieces will fall in their mundane places, and fans across the country won't even notice. Baseball needed A-Rod to go somewhere else. Fans wanted him to go somewhere else. So now, I guess we'll pay attention to something else.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Phil Jackson's "Brokeback Mountain" comments getting too much attention

In case you haven't heard, Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson is getting the hammer laid down on him (no pun intended) for his comments after Tuesday night's loss to San Antonio. During the postgame conference, Jackson said, "We call this a 'Brokeback Mountain' game, because there's so much penetration and kickouts". This, in a word, is hilarious. It's funny, it makes sense, and it is something that obviously was being saved for the right game. Which means that Jackson thought of the comment, put it in his back pocket (no pun intended), and save it for a rainy day. And, oh, are people angry.

Take ESPN's "1st and 10", a show where they run down the day's headlines in a morning extension of "Around the Horn" or "Pardon the Interruption". ESPN Page 2 columnist Jemelle Hill and NFL "expert" Sean Salisbury were the commentators, and this is what they had to say:

Hill: "I can't believe someone as media-savvy as Phil Jackson would try out such a horrible example."

Salisbury: "For a guy so calculating, and as methodical as he is, I think it's pathetic."

Salisbury also mentioned that he's never seen the movie, which is necessary if he wants to show his face around the ESPN gym room any time soon. Of course, any personality whether it be on television, radio or newspapers has to express their anger. After all, Jackson made an analogy to a movie. Maybe if he said, "We call this a 'Brokeback Mountain' game, because everybody involved should go to Hell," then I could see the outrage. But in a society where we preach tolerance, we somehow also tend to punish those who seem to have accepted the ways of others.

This was not a story after the game. Actually, it wasn't until the NBA came down on Jackson that anybody knew about it. Listening to the audio, just about every press member started laughing afterwards, which tells us two things: that people are generally comfortable with it, and that publicly they have to act like their not. Hell, even the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation thought it was in poor taste.

So, everybody around the water cooler will be talking about Phil Jackson's poor judgement and that he should be fined, but if you listen to it by yourself or with some friends, more than likely you will find yourself laughing. It's not a gay thing or a straight thing, it's a comedy thing. Just don't get all angry because Jackson has a better sense of humor than you.

Four Down, One To Go

First time head coaches, even if they're winless, are just as smart (or dumb) as veteran coaches. Not at 0-7, not at 0-8, but it is at 0-9 that Cam Cameron decided to turn over the reigns to rookie John Beck. It is the right move. There is actually a reason for Dolphin fans to turn on the television come Sunday, much like me and my fellow Chiefs fans do. I pointed out five teams that needed to turn to their young guns on Monday, and after only two days, four of them have. The Bears are going with Rex Grossman and the Ravens are going with Kyle Boller. So, who's the odd man out? Oakland, of course.

The Raiders seem to be a long way from promoting first overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell to the starting quarterback. This is the team that is responsible for Grossman getting the starting job back, so that goes to show how bad they really are. They are done this season, which is pretty sad considering the state of the AFC West.

I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Oakland play the whole year without Russell getting a minute of playing time, which is just another inept move by this organization. I am one of the few people who think Russell shouldn't have been the #1 pick, so for me to think putting him out there is a good idea says a lot about how the Raiders conduct business. If you remember, Russell was barely a first day pick until he shined during his bowl game, which was against Notre Dame, by the way.

But at least the city of Oakland still has the A's....err....the Warriors....err....the 49ers....err....nevermind.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cy Young, MVP Awards Are Hurting The Game

With the announcement that C.C. Sabathia won the AL Cy Young Award over Josh Beckett, we are reminded that when it comes to the era of free agency and fantasy, the regular season is what matters the most. Sabathia was unquestionably the best pitcher in the American League this year, when it comes to the regular season. But Beckett was the greatest pitcher in the game; a 20-win guy who pitches like a man possessed when it matters the most. Beckett clearly out dueled Sabathia during the ALCS, where the Indians' pitching broke down faster than Britney Spears during a trip to Laurel Canyon.

This spring, Dirk Nowitzki was the MVP in the NBA. Nowitzki had an incredible regular season, and then completely disappeared during the Maverick's historical loss to 8-seed Golden State. Instead of carrying on the tradition of presenting the MVP with his award during the conference semifinals, David Stern was forced to hold a banquet to give the Dallas star his trophy. Needless to say, it was uncomfortable even for those of us outside the banquet halls. And that feeling stems from one universal emotion: shame.

It is a shame that the award is voted on before the postseason begins. It is a shame that the NBA, MLB and NFL (who started Pro Bowl voting weeks ago) can't simply honor their best players at a later date.

It is a shame that Alex Rodriguez will be this year's AL MVP. Of course, he had a magical regular season. But fans and players around the world will feel the same uneasiness they felt during Nowitzki's makeshift celebration. These leagues are collectively saying that the postseason doesn't matter, an idea usually relegated to fantasy commissioners. And the sad part is, they are probably right.

Monday, November 12, 2007

For The Chiefs, Bears And Others, The Future Is Now

I've taken a lot of shots at Eric Mangini this season, but I will give credit when credit is due. When it was obvious that the Jets' season was done for, Mangini made the proper call of putting in Kellen Clemens over Chad Pennington, getting a jump start on the young quarterback's future. Other head coaches around the league have got to start considering this move. What halts most of these decisions is that the coach believes his team still has a chance to compete, and he doesn't want to be seen as "throwing in the towel". Of course, that is completely valid. If you look at last year's Broncos, Mike Shanahan clearly conceded the season when he replaced Jake Plummer with Jay Cutler. The Broncos had a legitimate chance of making a playoff run, but Shanahan opted to start the future early instead of giving his team the best chance to win.

However, for a handful of teams, it is time to make the change. First off, let's look at Kansas City. Franchise hopeful Brodie Croyle came into the game late on Sunday against the Broncos, but it was only because starter Damon Huard was knocked out of the game. Watch SportsCenter, and you will hear about how the Chiefs' fans were booing Huard. In reality, they were booing Herm Edwards' decision not to throw in Croyle for a struggling Huard. Croyle came in, and he didn't look all that bad. He was much better than Huard was during the game, and for much of the season. Even though the AFC West is anybody's for the taking, the Chiefs have no shot at winning in the playoffs, and now is the perfect time to get Croyle started.

The Bears are a different story. After replacing Rex Grossman earlier in the season, Brian Griese was knocked out of Sunday's game against the Raiders. Grossman came in, threw a perfect 59-yard bomb, and led the Bears to victory. I know Grossman is Jekyll and Hyde, but Chicago needs to know before the end of the season if they need to get a new quarterback, and starting Griese solves nothing. Perhaps Grossman losing the starting job is the push he needed to get back on track. Personally, I do not believe that is the case, but what other options do the Bears have at this point? They are not a good football team, so letting Grossman have one more crack at being the starter couldn't hurt.

Miami's position is perplexing. Even though they are on the road to a winless season, Cam Cameron still refuses to start rookie John Beck over the lifeless Cleo Lemon. The only reason for this has to be that Beck hasn't shown that he is ready to be a starter, but you know, so what? Neither was Ben Roethlisberger, but he figured it out real quick when the team needed him. What better way to get the kid on the right path then letting him play the second half of the season? Nobody is worse than the Dolphins right now, and Lemon has proved game after game that he is not the guy. Take advantage of the losing season, Miami.

A few more quick hits.

For Baltimore, Steve McNair is done. Kyle Boller is the same age as Tony Romo, so let him have his chance of reviving this dead offense. Putting McNair out there makes no sense whatsoever. Nevermore.

I'm curious to find out how far along JaMarcus Russell is, because the Raiders are going nowhere in a hurry. As with Miami, they need to get their guy out there as soon as possible.

Friday, November 9, 2007

They Might Be Giants

It looks like the Three 6 Mafia aren't the only ones sippin' on the syrup. The New York Giants are making all of the headlines in the NFL this week, with expert after expert proclaiming their greatness. I know the Patriots are on a bye, but is this the only story in the NFL? You can go here, here, or anywhere else where highly paid football prognosticators can be found to read articles that are so far in front of the bandwagon that eventually they will be run over. You will not, however, find it here. I have seen this all before. As Dr. Frank-N-Furter would want, let's do the time warp again.

2006: After starting 6-2, the Giants lost their next four games, finishing the season 8-8 and losing in the first round of the playoffs.
2005: After starting 6-2, The Giants finish 11-5, losing 23-0 in the first round of the playoffs.
2004: After starting 6-2, The Giants lose their next eight games, finishing the season 6-10, missing the playoffs.

The Giants are 6-2. Their six game winning streak has been against Washington, Philly, NY Jets, Atlanta, San Francisco and Miami. Those teams are a whopping 11-36. Don't listen to me, THIS IS THE YEAR! Oh, I'm sure it is. The only good teams the Giants have faced this year are Dallas and Green Bay, their only two losses, in which they lost by a combined score of 48-80. Don't listen to me, THIS IS THE YEAR!

I don't know why everybody is so high on Tom Coughlin's squad, a team that starts off on fire every single year and always fizzles down the stretch. That is what this team does. So what is making everybody guzzle down the love potion and causing all the monkeys to go bananas? Boredom, more than likely. The 2007 season is lamer than Barry Manilow right now, so why not make up a non-story about how the Giants are going to be different this year and how Manning #2 is finally becoming the leader we thought he was coming out of college (which is 1/10 the leader his brother is)?

Sorry, I'm not buying it. If the Giants somehow figure out how to play a sixteen game schedule, more power to them, but I'm not guaranteeing anything until they show me otherwise. If they walk like Giants, talk like Giants and look like Giants, then hey, they just might be Giants after all.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Whitlock on Reid

Kansas City Star and Fox Sports writer Jason Whitlock is known for sticking race into every argument. It's his ugliest trait, as well as the only reason he has a job. I have always his disliked him, mostly because I don't think he believes half the shit he says, but does it for the money. Which is probably true. However, in his newest race-fueled piece, I happen to agree with every word he says. You know the old saying: even a broken clock is right twice a day.

The article, which you can find here, makes some very good points, which are almost in direct contrast with my article Leave Andy Reid Alone. Whitlock points out that if Andy Reid was black or poor or both, the media would have handled his situation differently. Now, for a second, imagine if Andy Reid was black, and you learned that his sons had just been arrested for dealing drugs in the hood. Needless to say, the same old media song and dance would have gone on, and probably would still be doing so. If you deny that, then you are stupid or racist or both. Let me highlight a few key points:

If this was a ghetto tale, police would look at Tammy Reid the same as Brianna Barksdale, as a silent co-conspirator or possible user. Garrett Reid would have to squeal on his suppliers or participate in a sting. He certainly wouldn't be viewed as salvageable. He'd be seen as a tool to make a bigger case.
Garrett Reid's admittance that he's a drug dealer and the fact that large quantities of drugs and weapons were found at the Reid home would make their house subject to seizure by the state. The Reids would be targets, not victims.

Whitlock then goes on to say that Reid is a coward.

America's morally bankrupt war on drugs, a cause that has killed and destroyed more lives than Vietnam and Iraq combined, has finally put Andy Reid's kids on the front lines (incarceration), and Andy Reid doesn't have a damn meaningful thing to say about it.
That's unacceptable. It's cowardly.
Andy Reid knows my pain, and he's too worried about a freaking football game to verbalize it. He could make Middle America and the power structure understand the helplessness and the pain you feel when people you love get caught up in America's political ploy called a "war on drugs."

All of this I agree with. In my original article, I pleaded for people to leave him alone and that Reid could get things figured out in his own time. Which would be true if it weren't for the problems that Whitlock brings to light; the Reid household, in rich white suburbia, is affected by the same things as households in South Central. Which is true. The glorification of the illegal hip-hop culture reaches past the white fences, and that's why you have kids like the Reid boys saying things like, "I could go anywhere in the 'hood. They all knew who I was. I enjoyed it. I liked being a drug dealer."

The message here is that while black people are expected to make some kind of social commentary in these situations, Andy Reid gets away from it all by not addressing it. Part of it is people such as myself telling everybody to leave him alone, failing to see the social ramifications this was suppose to expose. White people see things differently than blacks or Hispanics, but trust me, most of us don't want to. Whitlock shows us that what happens to minorities within the war on drugs is tragic, though it isn't seen that way until it happens to somebody like Reid. Perhaps this is a radical view, as you have to believe that the war on drugs does more harm than good, a debate not really suited for this site.

I admit when I'm wrong, and I was wrong regarding this issue. It goes beyond the NFL, dripping in a hypocrisy that has had a stranglehold on our society for a long time. This story illustrates why there isn't change in this country, and how much race is still an issue in 2007. I don't think racism is as big as Whitlock would have you believe, but it does resonate here. It's just sad that nobody will care by the time Sunday rolls around.

November Madness

Forget football and the NBA, college basketball is here. And in case you're one of those people who believes that the college basketball season starts in February, how about this for some drama: Grand Valley State 85, Michigan State 82; Findlay 70, Ohio State 68; Gardner-Webb 84, Kentucky 68.

Parody isn't a strong enough word to describe what has already gone down in the NCAAs this year. In football, you have Michigan losing to Appalachian State and Kansas ranked #4, and now basketball is getting into the mix. Nobody is safe. What this means in the long run is two things: good teams start the season thinking they can beat anybody, and you shouldn't put money on your tournament bracket. Actually, the latter is always true. But this year seems to be different as far as the level of talent is concerned. Fact is, football and basketball are huge sports, and the talent pool breaks the confines of the traditional schools.

This is how you know that everything is upside down: as a Kansas fan, I am confident of the football team and sketchy about the basketball team. Even if I was 100 years old, that feeling would still be new. It all comes down to one thing, which is having a go-to guy that can rise above an upset. Kansas has that in football (Reesing on offense and Talib on defense), but not so much in basketball (Chalmers? Rush? Robinson? Collins?). That's why so many people are picking Memphis as NCAA basketball champions; they have a legitimate go-to guy in Derrick Rose, even if he is a Freshman. Same thing goes with North Carolina and Tyler Hansbrough.

Teams might get you upsets, but superstars are going to win you championships. Unfortunately, this goes against everything we've ever believed in. But with Grade-A players expanding all the way to Division II, it's reality. What this could mean is that players going from high school to the NBA might actually be a good thing, since it would rob schools of getting that superstar and completely open up the chances for any school to win it all. Good God.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Chris Henry and Pacman Jones Walk Into A Bar... DUCK!

Right when we learn that Pacman Jones won't have his year-long suspension shortened, news comes that Chris Henry isn't as eager to get back onto the gridiron. Henry, who was to return to game play this week after serving his 8-game suspension, is alleged to been involved in an altercation with a parking attendant Tuesday night. The report is that he parked his SUV without paying, and then screamed "Don't you know who I am?". Though no charges have been filed, this does not reflect very well on him.

I don't know what it is with these guys, but as the old saying goes, if you give them an inch they will take a mile. Henry had been reinstated for only two days before his next altercation surfaced. Do players like him and Jones even care about their careers at this point? Henry said in a press conference, "I've been sitting back and going through this little stuff, my little suspension or whatever, and I've had a lot of time to sit down and think about everything. I'll be back out here giving it my all." Well done, sir.

Commissioner Roger Goodell should just give him the Pacman treatment and say, "See ya next year!", hoping that the extended layoff would hurt their game enough that when they do come back (that is, if they don't get in trouble again, which is highly unlikely), they won't stick around very long due to their poor play. These people make me sick, seeing as how they're given every opportunity in the world, a pipe dream for the rest of us, and still find a way to screw it up. See you in the CFL in a few years.

Some Future For Our Pastime

Surprisingly, the emotions that came with the news that the MLB might be using instant replay for home runs were not at all mixed. Most people seem to agree that using replay in baseball is a good thing. Bud Selig is not one of those people, but he might not have a choice in the matter. In his attempts to globalize and expand the sport, this is the next step in bringing baseball into the 21st century. This is not something to be celebrated, but it is inevitable.

Part of the charm of baseball, which fueled it for the past century, was that is was "America's pastime". You simply hit a ball and catch it on a primitive field. That is where its popularity stems from; the nature of its fluidity. This is the main reason Selig has been an opponent of using replay. But he knows that there is little he can do about it, because the reality is that baseball is a major sport which rakes in a lot of cash, and its importance cannot be overlooked. With so much at stake in every game, instant replay is just part of the process of baseball's evolution.

But unlike other sports, there was no change in baseball until the last couple of decades, where its evolution went from 0 to 60 before anybody could realize it. For 90% of its existence, baseball remained unstirred, only to see a major transformation at an unprecedented speed. As a product of that, baseball's overwhelming fan base has diminished during those times of change. Obviously, people had no problem with the game, but pressure from media pundits who act as if they are the real voice of America has convinced owners and general managers that baseball needs to step into the now, even though its roots in the past is the reason it is a major sport in the first place.

Bud Selig does not want to be in charge when baseball makes this leap, but he cannot stop it. And truth be told, he shouldn't even try. This is the world we live in, where the phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" has escaped from the modern lexicon. The simplicity of baseball is at the heart of its charm, and unfortunately, it's in need of a transplant, and will never be the same.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Grumpy Old Men

The Miami Dolphins have not had much to celebrate lately. The 1972 Dolphins, however, celebrate their undefeated season every year once the last undefeated team goes down. But as the New England Patriots march on towards their own perfect season, the old champions are shaking it their boots. None more so then their leader and coach, Don Shula.

Shula, in an interview with the New York Daily News, has said that, "The Spygate thing has diminished what they've accomplished." He also went on to say, "I guess you got the same thing as putting an asterisk by Barry Bonds' home run record."

Looking at the big picture here, this doesn't really mean a thing. That's because, if the Patriots would go on to a perfect season, nothing would loom over them. Nobody will remember "Spygate", and the Pats would be remembered as one the greatest teams of all time. This, of course, is unacceptable to the '72 crew. Their perfect season is really all they have left. The party they hold every year to celebrate themselves is already sad, if not totally embarrassing. This just adds to the awkwardness we have to feel when watching these crusty old geezers pat themselves on the back.

The '72 Dolphins will do anything to keep another team from breaking their record. It would not shock me to hear that they kidnapped Tom Brady right before Week 17 to remain the only perfect team in NFL history. The scene from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective with former Dolphin Dan Marino comes to mind. By publicly calling out the Patriots and trying to get everybody to join in their conspiracy, Don Shula and the gang have sunk as far as they could go. I am now rooting for New England to go undefeated this year, and knock these cocky grandpas of their pedestal.

Monday, November 5, 2007

How Good Is Kansas?

That's been the topic of debate in college football; is Kansas the real deal? Most of the hollering around the message boards go something like this:

"I'm still skeptical about Kansas. They haven't played any hard teams and I GUARANTEE they watched the Mizzou/Nebraska footage to find out how Mizzou was able to take it to them. If you know where the holes are its easy to score. "

"and by the way...Kansas' opponents' record is an astounding 35-51"

"it is a joke that KU is ahead of Oklahoma on the ratings"

Well, you get the idea. It's no surprise that 99% of these comments are made by people with names such as Gators82 and OSUgurl and a whole slew of other fans of powerhouse schools. The biggest argument against the Jayhawks seems to be strength of schedule. Though, it's a little sketchy when you look at Ohio State's SOS, which is only one spot higher than KU's. That by itself is enough to kill the argument, but let's take it a step further.

How can you fault a team for winning every game on its schedule? To say LSU, Oregon, Oklahoma or whoever else is better is complete speculation. There is no way to know if KU would be undefeated if they played an SEC or Pac 10 schedule, so going on what we know, Kansas is at least the fourth best team in the country. Actually, not having them ranked second is a testament of speculation. It is saying that LSU and Oregon are, without any doubt, better than KU. Anyone with half a brain realizes that nobody can make this assumption. That is why in sports like the NFL, they go by your record, not by how good they really think you are. College football is the only sport with this asinine system, and with teams like Kansas and Hawaii (who is getting snubbed more than anyone), it could really end up hurting.

Fact is, Kansas has beaten everyone on their plate, a feat only two other teams share. Traditional football schools need to get over themselves. As of now, the rankings don't matter at all to them, since they control their own destiny. As does Kansas, because if they were to win out through the Big 12 championship, they would undoubtedly play in the national title game. All these rankings mean right now is that Kansas, a football laughing stock relegated to celebrating only in March, is the hot topic right now. Ranked fourth in both basketball and football, the national exposure they are getting is doing nothing in the grand scheme of things other than helping their program reach out beyond the confines of Kansas and targeting blue chippers all over the country. I guess it's no wonder why the SEC, Pac 10 and Big 10 schools don't like it. If Kansas can do this with players that the big schools didn't even want, then imagine what they can do with top-tier talent.

Adrian Peterson: The Next Big Thing?

Sometime during his record breaking demolition of the Sand Diego defense, Adrian Peterson had to know that he was doing something special. If he did, you wouldn't know it, because this guy is simply a class act. Peterson is modest and soft-spoken, but it's his confidence that sets him apart from most running backs in the NFL. He expects to get nearly 300 yards a game, but doesn't boast when he achieves it. He compliments his offensive line, a savvy move for any young running back. He is the anti-Larry Johnson, the anti-Tiki Barber and even the anti-LaDainian Tomlinson. Right now, he is the best football player in the league.

It was obvious from the start that Peterson, nicknamed A.D. for "all day", was a step above the rest. Setting the NCAA freshman rushing record with 1,925 yards, he would've come straight out of his sophomore year if it weren't for one thing: injury. But he made it to the pros, where he's lighting up defenses in a way most current players have never seen. With Minnesota's horrid passing offense, Peterson is doing all of this with 8 or 9 defenders in the box. Everybody knows he is getting the ball, and there is nothing they can do about it.

I was a little skeptical of Peterson at first, having read articles early in the season that he was showing up to watch game film with hangovers. He seemed like just another young superstar who would flame out due to his own celebrity. But man, he has really come on. And it is obvious to me that his early season woes straightened him out. He's wearing suits during post game press conferences. He acts as if rushing for 300 yards is simply his job. The Oklahoma in him is definitely showing.

The more accomplished and celebrated backs in this league need to take a hint from Adrian Peterson. He plays ball, shuts his mouth and goes home. That's the way it's supposed be. No holding out for a bigger contract (Johnson), no throwing your team under the bus (Barber) and no whining (Tomlinson). This 22 year old kid is more mature and has more class in his little finger than most of the star running backs in the NFL combined. Plus, he has more talent. When those other three players have bad games, they question the play calling. When Peterson has a bad game, he rushes for 296 yards. That's how it's done, folks. Let's just hope that Peterson doesn't get bit by the injury bug, or whatever plague of attitude that has washed over the league.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bill Callahan, You're Fired!

Tradition is the strongest word associated with college football. It is what separates the NCAA from the NFL; the lack of parody and expectations that grow from year to year. Some schools simply succeed, and some simply don't. When it comes to football, Kansas was one of those teams who didn't, while Nebraska was rich in winning tradition. But Saturday erased all of that. Saturday killed tradition.

76 points is what the Cornhuskers' defense allowed. 11 touchdowns. Not only was Nebraska knee deep in high expectations, but they buttered their bread with defense. Not only does this once prominent school has no defense, but the coach can no longer defend himself. Bill Callahan: resign, or be gone and never show your face again.

I realize that every school has its ups and downs, even traditional powerhouses like Nebraska. But never (ever, ever, ever, ever) has this school allowed another school to score 76 points. It's an embarrassment. Granted, it was against a Jayhawk squad who is currently undefeated, and who might be top-5 ranked in a few hours, but still. As a KU fan myself, I actually felt sorry for the Huskers, a feeling I have never had in all my life. That's when you know things are bad.

If Nebraska University ever wants to get back to even semi-respectable stature, then they need to fire Callahan right now. Not at the end of the year, not at the end of the week, not tomorrow, not in five minutes, but right the hell now. He is a horrible coach. And in case the jury is still out, I'll give you 76 reasons why he should be coaching the offensive line at San Jose St. by January.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Garden Party

With 19 first half points, Paul Pierce was done giving his interview and headed to the locker room to join his teammates. Right before he entered, Pierce raised his fist to the crowd, and the Garden erupted into cheers. This is the new Celtics. Boston beat the Washington Wizards 103-83 last night, sparked by Pierce's 28 points. Newcomers Kevin Garnett (22 pts, 20 rebounds) and Ray Allen (17 pts) were also as good as advertised. The surprise? Just about everything else.

The Celtics completely shut down the Wizard's Gilbert Arenas, holding him to just 21 points on 5-20 shooting. Washington was one of the best scoring teams last season, but it seemed as if they couldn't buy a shot against Boston. The Celtics also held them to 0-16 from 3-point range, the most any NBA team has ever shot without making a single one.

The other pleasant surprise for Boston was second year point guard Rajon Rondo, who amassed 15 points and had complete control over the game at all times. Rondo was the big question mark for the Celtics this year, and if he can play as well this season as he did Friday night, then consider Boston the Big 4. ESPN broadcasters were calling Rondo a backup point guard before the game, but maybe Jeff Van Gundy and the crew might want to rethink their position.

I know, I'm a little tired of Boston sports myself. But you can't ignore what's going on with this Celtics team, and how exciting they are. It is looking like a perfect mix of chemistry, talent and determination. The East better watch out.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Leave Andy Reid Alone

Andy Reid is having a bad autumn. The Eagles are under .500, he got nothing but gum when he went trick-or-treating, and now his kids have made the spotlight by going John Frusciante on him. The big headlines came from judge Steven O'Neill, who has called the Reid household a "drug emporium" and has said that their "family is in crisis". I've got one question: who cares?

There seems to be a mindset in this country that children are a reflection of their parents. This is why we have soccer moms and crazy dads who stab opposing little leaguers. People are people, and the Reid boys are both over 21 years old. And if you are that age, or remember when you were, then you know that a big percentage of young adults use drugs. It's part of reality. If actions within his household were overlooked, then it is unfortunate, yes, but he can fix it. Parents often see what they want to see with their children, looking past obvious warning signs as a type of denial. It's human nature, and even though Reid lives in Philly, he is indeed a human being.

All of the "experts" that are calling for Reid to step down need to take a chill pill (only if prescribed, of course). If anybody else had this happen within their family, they wouldn't be asked to quit their job to deal with it. There is plenty of time for him to get everything sorted out, so let Reid deal with his own problems. After all, your kids might be doing drugs while you're sitting around screaming about Andy Reid's kids.

David Stern Is Smarter Than You

Well, more than likely. That's the thing about lawyers, which David Stern once was; we always forget how educated they are. People like Stern see more angles when making a decision than most of us realize, and it is perceived that his prolonged decision making is either procrastination or arrogance. The players are harder to relate to, the game has changed in the wrong direction, and the whole league is seems like an expanded Cincinnati Bengals team. These are bad things, indeed. But the bigger picture elements of the game aren't the issue for NBA fans. What seems to irk everybody are what is regarded as quick-fix problems that are still broken, things like the leaving the bench rule, the new ball fiasco and the playoff system. Changing the ball was a bad decision which has been fixed, but it still looms in the minds of pundits and fans alike as a testament to the idiocy of the commissioner. As far as the other problems, well let me tell you: David Stern is on it.
First off, let's look at the rule of being suspended for leaving the bench. Suns fans remember all too vividly Amare Stoudemire's suspension during last year's playoffs, which probably sealed Phoenix's fate. It was an untimely circumstance. But does the rule need to be nixed? When you look at it, this was the only time where a player leaving the bench did not have intentions of malice, and it only made headlines because of the importance of the game. If Stern was to make an exception to the rule for that game, then it makes the rule, not to mention Stern himself, seem trivial. And you simply can't have that if you are the commissioner; the perception of authority, regardless of the realities, is extremely important. Without it, big picture problems like league image and player conduct would suffer. If anything, applaud Robert Horry for sacrificing himself and getting the expected reaction, which was known as being against the rules.

Changing the ball wasn't stupid. Not testing the ball was. The reasons for the change (better grip and consistency) were good intentions, but the unexpected changes (bouncing reactions) killed the dream. It happened, Stern fixed it. Why is that a bad thing?

There's one thing you have to realize when asking for a different playoff system: it takes time. You simply can't say over the summer, "Alright let's do it". As unfortunate as it is, money plays a large part in these things, and concerns of advertising and the like has to be considered. Meetings have to be set up, owners have their say, and basically the type of business is done as it is in the real world. Then you have to take into account what the absolute best system is, because you can't be changing it every five years. The NBA isn't nearly as bad as the BCS, but these things take valuable time and clever persuasion.

With all of the scandals going on right now, David Stern is busier than ever. He quite possibly may be making the biggest decisions of his life, and it will determine the future of the NBA. Give him a little breathing room, please. If you are one who believes that Stern is an idiot who should be replaced, do you really want him making rash decisions? Let him take his time, even if a few minor rules get in the way. Trust me, it's for the greater good, and David Stern knows this.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

NFL Week 9 Lines: Tricked Out

Before I get to the lines this week, I will go on my promised rant about Halloween. Let me just say that this year was the first time in I don't know how long where it actually felt like Halloween. I actually saw kids trick-or-treating, various channels changed their format for the day, and Wesport (party-central for the Kansas City area) was bumping with devils, vampires and the skimpiest outfits you have ever seen. With that being said, the holiday still hasn't fully recovered from the war that has been waged on it for the past decade or so. City officials in San Francisco cancelled their Halloween street party this year, citing safety reasons. The Iowa Department of Revenue has decided to tax pumpkins that are being used for jack-o-lanterns. Many schools around the country, like this one in Denver, aren't allowing kids to wear costumes and are celebrating "fall parties" instead of Halloween. The reasoning behind this seems to be that principals and members of the school board are afraid of singling out kids who either don't celebrate the holiday or are too poor to buy costumes. What's hypocritical about it all is that most schools celebrate Christmas much more than Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, and nearly all schools have some sort of Easter celebration, most of the time with assemblies and concerts. And there has been a much reported "War on Christmas", but that seems to be shot down faster and with more ammunition than anything that's being done to Halloween. .

What doesn't make sense is these nice Midwestern suburbs being overly protective of their children. When I was young, I would wander down to the bad parts of town with a few friends to go score some chocolate loot. No parents, just us kids. Throughout my childhood, not once was a kidnapped, raped or murdered. Hell, I don't even remember having candy stolen. The U.S. crime rate has dropped dramatically since then, though reporting of crime has skyrocketed. Even though it's actually safer to walk the streets now then it was when they were kids, the now grown up Gen-Xers live in constant fear. They made a pact to be different from their Baby Boomer parents, and believe me, they have come through on that. All of the great things they were able to enjoy when they were young isn't accessible to their kids. But for them? Adult Halloween parties, mostly comprised of the same age group as Gen-Xers, have replaced traditional kid-oriented activities. There might be a resurgence for Halloween, but it will have to fight.

Sorry, I lied. Only about 420 words. Now, to the lines...

Washington at NY Jets (Washington, -3.5)
It's kind of sad seeing Chad Pennington having to sit this season out, because I do believe he is capable of being a starter. It's just that the Jets are so incredibly bad, that there's no reason not to go to the young guy. The Redskins should be nice and rested after sitting out the entire second half (and possibly the entire game) last week at New England. Mangini's decision to go with Kellen Clemens is basically waving the white flag on the season. Washington 23, NY 7

Green Bay at Kansas City (Kansas City, -2)
These is a really interesting game. Most people are on the fence about both teams, so now we really get to see how good they are. Unfortunately for Green Bay, I smell a letdown game. They just came of a huge overtime win at Denver, and when you add back-to-back road games at Invesco and Arrowhead, I would be extremely impressed if the Packers came out with another W. Kansas City 17, Green Bay 14

Arizona at Tampa Bay (Tampa Bay, -3.5)
We forget, but the Cardinals were looking impressive before Anquan Boldin, Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner went down. With Boldin and Warner back, they should be impressive again. They are also coming off of a bye week, while the Bucs are coming off an always physical game with Jacksonville. If Tampa can't beat a Jaguars team lead by Quinn Gray, why should I think they can beat a Cardinals team with Warner, Boldin, Fitzgerald and James? Arizona 16, Tampa Bay 13

Carolina at Tennessee (Tennessee, -4)
When it comes to fantasy football, I never want to start Vince Young. Real football is a different story. Then you have David Carr, a career loser with the most God-awful fashion sense I have ever seen. Seriously, look at his gloves. Shiny white hand accessories aside, I don't think I can ever bet on Carr on the road, especially against this Titans defense, who is ranked fifth overall. Steve Smith can't score if he can't get the ball. Tennessee 20, Carolina 13

San Francisco at Atlanta (Atlanta, -3)
Seriously, who cares? Coaches Mike Nolan and Bobby Petrino might want to consider tanking this game for a higher draft pick, a tactic expected of Petrino to get his love child quarterback form Louisville, Brian Brohm. Though, considering that Brohm's stock has dropped this season, it would be a little odd if Atlanta picked him first. I guess that means the Falcons might actually try to win this one. Atlanta 30, San Francisco 20.

Jacksonville at New Orleans (New Orleans, -3)
Quinn Gray or Drew Brees? Alright, it doesn't just come down to those two, but am I to believe that Gray can win back-to-back road games in this league? The Saints are starting to to regain form, but they are facing the stingy Jaguars defense. This is going to be a real test for Sean Payton to see if he can score without the weapons he was given last year. But you have to score the most points to win (at least, that's what Tim McCarver tells me), and I just don't trust Gray to do that. New Orleans 21, Jacksonville 14.

Denver at Detroit (Detroit, -3)
That's three straight home teams as three point favorites, which is given for home field advantage, by the way. Needless to say, this is yet another matchup that will give us a ton of information on both teams. I still believe I have the right information; Denver is worst than advertised and Detroit is better. Oh, and if you remember Detroit defensive line coach Joe Cullen's naked Wendy's incident, check out what Jon Kitna wore to a Halloween party. I'm so glad this guy is on my fantasy team. Detroit 27, Denver 19

Cincinnati at Buffalo (Cincinnati, -1)
Why are people still favoring the Bengals?!? They have the worst chemistry of any team in recent memory, their defense stinks, and they can't coach their way out of a paper bag. Meanwhile, Buffalo is showing signs of life with back-to-back wins over the Ravens and Jets. Everybody needs to stop drinking the Kool Aid, especially if you're at a party with Chris Henry. Buffalo 24, Cincinnati 23

San Diego at Minnesota (San Diego, -7)
LaDainian Tomlinson had no touchdowns and was held under 100 yards last week against Houston. Minnesota is only giving up 74.4 yards rushing a game. I think teams are starting to figure out that all you need to do against the Chargers is pile defenders in the box, forcing Phillip Rivers to make decisions, which usually leads to interceptions. However, San Diego's run defense is good as well, so the Vikings must find ways to get Adrian Peterson the ball, whether it's through screens are sending him out in the flat. San Diego 17, Minnesota 14

Seattle at Cleveland (Cleveland, -1.5)
If Shaun Alexander can't hit the century mark in this game, then forget it, he is done. Cleveland is ranked 29th in rushing defense, but the Seahawks are ranked 22nd in rushing offense, so something's gotta give. I'm expecting this game to be the one where Derek Anderson finally unravels. I mean, he has to sometime, doesn't he? It's Derek Anderson. Seattle 34, Cleveland 30

Houston at Oakland (Oakland, -3)
Another "who knows?" game. Josh McCown has replaced Daunte Culpepper as the starting quarterback, a move that is best defined as curious. Does McCown really give you the best chance to win? My feeling is that Lane Kiffin wants Culpepper on the sidelines helping out future field general JeMarcus Russell. And no, I will not suggest starting Sage Rosenfels two weeks in a row. Oakland 17, Houston 14 .

Dallas at Philadelphia (Dallas, -3)
The only thing that Philly has going for them is the emergence of Reggie Brown, who had 105 yards receiving last week. The last time Tony Romo faced the Eagles he threw for only 142 yards and two interceptions. But Philly was actually good last year, and not so much this time around. A judge ordered Andy Reid's son to jail today, saying of the Reid household, "this is a family in crisis". Not good at all. Dallas 31, Philadelphia 17 .

Baltimore at Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, -9)
I think a lot of people were under the impression that this would be a good game, but Vegas and I agree that it will not. After a while, Brian Billick's job had to be reevaluated, doesn't it? This team has supremely underachieved this season. On the other side, Pittsburgh is showing everybody that last year was just a fluke, mostly a ramification of Ben Roethlisberger's off-season woes and Bill Cowher's loss of appetite. Pittsburgh 21, Baltimore 7 .

New England at Indianapolis (New England, -5.5)
I refuse to discuss this game. That's what ESPN, MSNBC, CNN, Fox, Today Show, Daily Show, Good Morning America, that guy down the street, The View and everything is for. Just play the damn thing already. New England 35, Indianapolis 30
J Fish Sports © 2008. Design by :Yanku Templates Sponsored by: Tutorial87 Commentcute