Friday, December 28, 2007

Year in review, for the future

"History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon." - Napoleon Bonaparte

When we look back at the events that shaped the sports world in 2007, it is easy to assume that is was a very big year. Dogfights, gambling, spying, stealing, doping - you name it - it was a big black mark. But what will really be remembered after it is all said and done? There's no way to know exactly, of course, but if you really dig deep, you can get an idea. Here are the top stories of 2007, and what they will mean (maybe) in our near and distant future.

0-5 years

No surprise that most of the "big" stories in 2007 would hardly be remembered after their occurrence. The saddest one is Kevin Everett, who probably won't be mentioned in the seasons to come unless it's a book detailing the history of the Buffalo Bills.

Pacman Jones? Who was that again?

Kobe wants to be traded, then doesn't, then does again, and then - oops - turns out his team is actually good. This story will be buried in February, resurrected for the playoffs, and will die until his contract expires.

Don Imus's love for Rutgers got huge, national air time. Nobody cares anymore, already.

I don't even want to mention it, but the whole T.O./Jessica Simpson thing was a big story. Why, I don't know. But rest assured that it's already dead, which is why it shouldn't have been a story in the first place.

The college football upsets of 2007 were, well, awesome. But unless teams like Kansas, Missouri and Illinois actually become football powerhouses, I feel as though it will all be lost in the shuffle. Here's to hoping I am wrong, especially when it comes to Kansas.

And last, but not least, Michael Vick. Believe me, after he goes to prison, then comes back, I'll give it the whole six months it takes for him to realize he can't play again before nobody cares anymore. Plus, I just don't see this being relevant to historians. In hindsight, he was a mediocre player on a bad team who was into to murdering animals. I just get the feeling this will be omitted forty years from now. At least it should.

6-10 years

Congrats, NBA, you own this spot. Starting of is my boy Isiah Thomas. The only reason this goes past 5 minutes is because in a decade from now, when the Knicks are still horrible, we will be talking about everything that happened in the Thomas Era. And considering Isiah will probably still be coaching the team, I think it will be relevant.
The only other occupant here is referee Tim Donaghy, who fixed games (probably) for the mob. Well, 75% of the refs in this league have slicked back hair and look like extras in the Sopranos, so this wasn't a shock to anyone. But it will last, mostly due to the fact that when the federal investigation actually finishes (my guess: 6-10 years), we'll have to relive it. And if not, Suns fans will remind us.

11- 20 years

It's lonely at the top, which is why Spygate lands here all alone. For the next few decades, lazy sports writers will talk about how the lasting effect of the 2007 New England Patriots is that they were villainous cheats. But once that wears off, and we truly appreciate them for who they were, it will all change. See below.

20 years and beyond
The 2007 New England Patriots. Whether it be because they went 16-0, 19-0 or were the only team to get close to a perfect regular season, they will be remembered. Actually, all champions of 2007 will be remembered, because after all, that's what record books are for.

Then there is the Florida Gators, who won back-to-back basketball championships, with a football championship in between. They deserve special mention, because this might not ever happen again.

Barry Bonds breaking the home run record is definitely going to be remembered forever. Or at least until guys find better steroids and routinely hit 60-3,000 home runs per season. Which brings me to...

The infamous Mitchell Report. Every Hall of Fame vote, from here on, will be tainted by steroids. And this report will (hopefully) be remembered as the one that started it all, and lead to more investigations which busts guys all over again. Maybe this is just wishful thinking, but after this year, I don't blame myself.
Please bring me 2008.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Going Bowling

You'll just have to trust me, but I had picked Utah to win over Navy last night. Hard to bet on a team whose premier win was over Notre Dame. Well, here's the rest of my picks:

Boise State, South Florida, Alabama, Boston College, Brigham Young, Rutgers, Florida, LSU, Kentucky, USC, Cincinatti, Virginia, Oklahoma State, Auburn, Connecticut, UCF, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Tulsa, Kansas, Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Arizona State, Central Michigan, Tennessee, Oregon State, Cal, TCU, New Mexico, Florida Atlantic, Hawaii.

We'll see how I do.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

ESPN turning into TMZ

I can't live without ESPN. It's where I get my news, my insight and my stats. I enjoy the majority of their opinion pieces, whether I agree with them or not, and they are always on the ball. While they had the same rubbish as everyone else concerning the Vick, Donaghy and Clemens stories, there were plenty of good articles giving the opposing (and correct) views. Compared to news sources such as CNN and MSNBC, they cover their niche better than most. In my opinion, there is more sports information coming out of Bristol than anywhere, save for maybe the Sporting News. But I'm not sure this will last.

The continuing trend of covering tabloid-style non-stories is embarrassing. Like when Terrell Owens jokingly told Jessica Simpson to "stay away", making fun of the idea that she makes Tony Romo play bad. That's not sad by itself, but what came after was. Apparently, ESPN took this story seriously, since a front page headline on today was T.O. reportedly says Simpson remarks just a joke. Reportedly? Gee, you think? Did they actually think T.O. seriously believed Simpson needs to stay away from games? I'm amazed that they employ people to cover these stories, and then pass it off as quality journalism by using words like "reportedly" and writing straight pieces on a joke. A joke that everybody was on but them.

I have no problem with "The Worldwide Leader" having fun with these stories, making them filler conversations on programs such as "1st & 10" and "Around the Horn", but let's stop with this so-called investigative journalism. This is US Weekly, Tom and Katie bullshit. Making these joke stories into actual articles is not only a sign of ESPN selling out, but it also shows how incompetent some of these writers actually are. Seriously: someone thought that Owens really wants Jessica Simpson stop coming to games. This same person either is currently or some time in the future going to be relied upon to gain actual information about things we care about. This is not a good thing.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Mitchell Report Worked

It was a witch hunt. Too much hearsay. Nothing would change. Yep, the naysayers were on the front line when the Mitchell Report came out, quick to dismiss what it had to say and to blast Bud Selig. After all, it was pointless, right? It's starting to look like a success to me.

We have Andy Pettitte to thank for that. His admitting to using HGH changed everything. When he washed the blood from his hands, players starting to get in line behind him, wanting to not to clear their name but to save their dignity. Since most of these fellows took the drug while it was still legal, the only stigma around them now is the burden of bad choices. The only ones with anything to lose are the liars.

Roger Clemens, where art thou? Ah, the Rocket has more to lose than his pinstriped friend. He has the Hall to think about. He's already denied the report, and there's no turning back now.

But the some players aren't as selfish. Brian Roberts and Fernando Vina have come clean. The admit to what we all know happen over the past couple of decades. And strangely, a simple "I'm sorry" has resonated more than anyone ever thought. Of course they feel bad about it, but nobody blames them. Nobody ever did. We know it was hard to turn down the juice back then, we understand.

But the further you dig that hole, the harder it is to dig yourself out. Every denial adds layers of anger. Some players, such as Clemens, just don't get it: we know what you did. Other players, hell, even one of his best friends, are proving the truth of the report. It's not a guessing game anymore.

So, Rocket, come clean. It's the only way to save your career. If Barry Bonds has a chance to get into the Hall, so do you buddy, but not if you continue lying. Voters tend to take that into account. Show some dignity, show some pride. Even if you don't get in, at least you'll be left out knowing you were a better man for it. You know, if that sort of thing matters to you.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Better than 16-0

Now comes the question: do the Patriots play their starters and try for a perfect season? Usually, I would say yes. But with this team? I have something even better.

Belichick should sit his starters right now. And I mean everybody. Make it completely obvious that you don't care anymore. No linemen, no receivers, no safeties, no anybody. Any player that has played more than 30% of the snaps should sit out until the playoffs. Purposefully tank the next two games.

Why? Because then you can hold it over the '72 swine forever. Show how you were better and had more class. Let everyone speculate on what would've happened. Every year, during the Dolphins' celebration of the only undefeated season, they will be reminded of the '07 Pats. It will be bittersweet. The champagne will not go down smoothly.

Belichick, I know you have it in you. It is the ultimate end to what has been the perfect villainous season. Don't let Don Shula and company congratulate you on being in their special fraternity. Make them publicly pat each other on the back, while the rest of the world knows what would have truly happened. Every year would be an embarrassment for them.

Please make this happen.

Dolphins are no feel good story

Apparently sports has changed since I was a kid. I remember celebrating while being good, not when being bad. Yesterday, the Miami Dolphins were laughing, crying and high-fiving each other like they just won the Super Bowl. Why? They won their first game of the year - halfway through December.

What is it about the Dolphins that makes them so hateable? First, you have the crew of '72, whose arrogant champagne party celebrating their perfect season (which they've yet to have this year) makes them look like old buffoons. Then there's these guys. After beating one of the worst teams in the league, at home, needing overtime, to become 1-13 - you would have thought it was 1972 all over again. And they acted with the same amount of class.

I know it's a relief not to go down in history as the worst NFL in history, but c'mon, you're 1-13! I don't need to see the owner crying or the head coach pulling a Jimmy V on the sidelines. The whole scene made me sick. Act like you've been there before. And by "been there", I mean "won a game". After all, they opted out of starting their future QB (John Beck) for the best chance to win (Cleo Lemon). That's right, at a time when they are guaranteed to be the worst team, they rather win one meaningless game to save face then help their chances next year. Disgraceful. Any questions now why they went into this game winless?

Good for you, Miami. Soak it up, which you are, on all of the radio and television shows this morning. Have fun while it lasts. Because in a week, the New England Patriots are going to remind you of what you really are - the worst team in the NFL.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Explaining the Mitchell Report

There seems to be a lot of confusion about what is actually going on in baseball right now. Don't get me wrong, nobody is actually saying "I am confused". It's just that conflicting reports can give the wrong impression. So an explanation might be necessary.

1. George Mitchell

George J. Mitchell is not a Senator. He was, yes, but he no longer is. This is important because some people are under the impression that the U.S. government is heading this investigation. They are not.
Also, he is a director for the Boston Red Sox. Since the report named Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite, New Yorkers believe it's a conspiracy. This I cannot prove or disprove. Knowing politicians, he was probably elated to get a few big name Yankees, and more than likely tried to do so. But the reason for that is the net that was thrown to get these names happened to target that clubhouse. Whether that was on purpose or not doesn't really matter, since getting the users' names was the point anyway. I would suggest getting Rudy Giuliani to even things out, but he roots for whoever is leading the polls, so it's a moot point.

2. Legalities

Nobody is really in trouble. The report was done independently, with its focus directed on figuring what the hell went on and how to approach the future. Remember, the only reason Barry Bonds is being tried in court was because of perjury, not taking an illegal drug. None of these players would talk with Mitchell, so no perjury took place. Nothing extending to the courts should be done until Congress gets together in January to discuss the issue.

3. Consequences

The purpose of this whole report was to shed light. George Mitchell recommended that none of the players that were outed should be reprimanded, though it is likely Bud Selig will do a little house cleaning. What will happen now is unclear. MLB will likely implement a Department of Investigation, so the 90's will never happen again.

As far as the players go, nothing has been proven thus far. Just because the report says that players like Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite took steroids does not mean that it's proof. It was just an investigation, with the information mostly coming from a source the Players Union would call a disgruntled employee. But baseball, unlike other sports, encourages its people to look at reports like this when considering awards like being inducted into the Hall of Fame. There are no definitive lines; how this plays with the voters is completely subjective. However, I wouldn't expect Clemens to extend his career any longer.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Roger Clemens took it in the butt

Look what we've got here. Sitting on my bed, waiting for the Mitchell Report to come out, I found myself wondering why I cared so much. I would've put good money on the fact that no big name would've come out of it; I'm a fairly skeptical person. And then the names came out, none bigger than this one: Roger Clemens.

Oh, so that's how you are able to keep pitching when you're 45. According to the report, strength and conditioning coach Brian Mcnamee injected Clemens in the butt four times with Winstrol. The Cy Young winning pitcher also was in possession on Anadrol-50. And according to McNamee, Clemens "showed remarkable improvement" after taking the drugs.

So the question springs: should Roger Clemens be a Hall of Famer? I don't think he should. Critics, such as Mitchell himself, may argue that baseball is to blame, not the players. Let me give you an analogy. Were the 60s responsible for the deaths of Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix? Was the culture to blame for the independent choices of drug use that its members would partake? Of course not. When you make the conscious decision to stick a needle in your ass so you can gain a competitive advantage, guess what, you need to accept responsibility. Baseball didn't force you to do drugs.

Hey, we've already made our decision on Barry Bonds. He's not worthy. Following that line of reasoning, Clemens shouldn't even be considered for the HOF. We haven't been able to make an example out of Bonds, so let's make one out of a guy that everybody likes. Show kids that no matter how good you are, how popular you are or how much you've accomplished, taking steroids will only give you problems. Problems that Clemens now has to face.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Greedy as a Hog

I've never really had that big a problem with coaches bidding themselves off. I view the men and women of the sports world as I would if they were in business, even though they screw up constantly and actually have to struggle with employers to wear a suit and tie. Sports is, after all, a business. I assume that is a problem.

Bobby Petrino is just another coach leaving hardship for greener pastures, resigning from the hell hole that it the Atlanta Falcons to go lead the Arkansas Razorbacks. But that's what's troubling: he's just another coach doing what coaches do.

Now, I'm not going to fault Petrino for "lying" to everybody. With the way the media is now, people are forced to make decisions before they're ready, and usually choose the "I'm with my team" route. It's been an acceptable policy for coaches to leave on a whim, and the fault lies with the acceptance itself. Oh, people are lashing out now, but when the dust clears, Petrino will be a Razorback, and nobody will care any longer.

Football is no longer war. Generals are not rallying their troops to go into battle. Rather, hired hands are pitted up against one another, and the coach is little more than a micro-manager who tries to get his own players to care more than the other guys. They're seen as expendable by the league, and more importantly by the players. Loyalties are replaced by royalties, the heart with the brain. It's not Petrino's fault; he's just playing the game. Only, it's not a game anymore, it's a business.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Michigan has overestimated its influence

One of the more shocking moments lost in the heap of shocking moments from this year's college football season, was that Notre Dame proved to be one of the worst teams in the country. What wiped the surprise off of our faces were teams like Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Connecticut, who proved to us that Div. 1 football is anybody's game. So we got used to the fact that the schools who once reigned over the land were no longer in control. Notre Dame, Miami and Florida State have already shown us that. But remember who was the first dragon to be slain?

Nobody knew that Michigan's loss to Appalachian State would be a theme for the 2007 season. But what is more important is that it could turn out to be the theme for Michigan's future. They couldn't possibly fall into the depths of obscurity, could they?

Believe me, they're trying. The ASU loss put a black mark on the program, embarrassing them on national television for all recruits to see. Any to add to that embarrassment, now they are coming off like an obsessive ex-lover.

Reports are that, even after signing a contract extension, Michigan is still pleading for Les Miles to come back home. After all, they are running out of options. Rutgers coach Greg Schiano turned down the offer, even though his school is more famous for the hair styles of their women's basketball team than football.

Truth is, nobody wants the Michigan job. So now it has turned back to Les Miles, a coach who has already rejected the job once, and is expected to do the same again. The Wolverines are becoming a joke. When coaches rather stay in the SEC or East Rutherford than go to Ann Arbor, it's a sign that the times they are a changin'. And the recruits are watching.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Vick get 23 months, maybe

The saga is finally over: Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison on Monday. Most experts were looking at a 12-18 month sentence, but it looks as though the judge felt Vick's crimes needed more punishment. So, this means that the former Falcon will be gone for two years, right? Not so fast.

First off all, the sentence could be reduced by three months with good behavior. Which is fine by me. Hey, 20 months will probably send the same message, and prisoners should get a break if they're not running around in gangs and so forth.

But will Vick even get to 20 months? Maybe he needed to hire Paris Hilton or Nicole Richie as his lawyer, because they know how to get out of a sentence. The sobering reality is that celebrities rarely seem to serve a full sentence; they find some way to get out early.

So who's to say the same won't happen for Vick? I've already heard people saying, "It's not like he's going to serve the full sentence". That's right, we actually expect the famous not to be punished. This reflects rather poorly on our justice system, not to mention the message it sends to other young, rich celebrities.

But for now, we will wait. Maybe Vick will serve his sentence and be a changed man. But if history is any example, he'll be out on the streets within a year, at about which time everyone will have stopped caring (if they already haven't). For me, and for sports in general, we'll finally get to see if our justice system applies to men like Vick. My opinion: no, it doesn't.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Nuggets Are In Trouble

Waiting for the fourth quarter to start during last night's Lakers/Nuggets game, Allen Iverson had 49 points, and it looked as though L.A. had no answer for "The Answer". Furthermore, Kobe Bryant had only 13 points. The crowd was going nuts, AI was on fire, and everything seemed in place for a Nuggets win. But then, Kobe started going off, Iverson got cold, and the Lakers pulled out the W. So what happened?

The same thing as always. Denver started throwing up ill-advised jumpers, got away from Iverson, and failed to play any defense at all. There are two people to blame for all of this: George Karl and Carmelo Anthony.

A lot of credit is due to Phil Jackson and company, since they did a good job getting the ball out of Iverson's hands, who had only 2 points on 1-4 shooting in the fourth. But before the Lakers went on lock down mode, the Laker's best defense was Denver's offense. In the middle of AI's shooting spree, they went away from their star, settling for jump shots. Anthony did this the most, shooting fade aways and jumpers while double teamed, not even looking for Iverson. When a guy has 49 points through the first three quarters, you must attempt to look for him. The Nuggets did not.

George Karl didn't do much to help his team's cause, either. He obviously didn't do enough to make sure Iverson got looks, never reprimanded Melo for his selfish play, and as always, couldn't get his team to play a lick of defense. It's absurd how this team plays considering the talent that they have.

Unless they get things figured out, quickly, it will be another one-and-done come playoff time. Once the Laker's made a conscious effort to shut down Iverson, everybody else on the Nuggets seemed lost on what to do. So Anthony took horrible shots, and so did J.R. Smith. The Lakers basically played 3 on 4 defense and still shut Denver down.

With the lack of discipline and direction that is plaguing the Nuggets, one wonders what has to change. Either Karl or Anthony has to go. In Karl's defense, it's hard to have any chemistry when your franchise star is selfish. Anthony has to defense. He has a hard time sharing time with Iverson, even though the latter has changed his game to better the team. He has no concept of team play.

If the Nuggets want to make that leap towards the top, either Melo has to swallow his pride or the Nuggets need to deal him. But they won't let him go, so that leaves only one option. And since Karl can't seem to right the ship, Denver has to bring somebody in who can. Sad, yes. Fair, no. But it's the only way.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ravens need to shut their mouths

Before the start of Monday night's game, you wouldn't be able to convince anybody that the New England Patriots could end up as victims by the end of the year. They were supposed to be the villains; the ones who ran up the score and wanted to embarrass you. But if any of their remaining opponents act half as disgraceful as the Baltimore Ravens did, then it could very well happen.

Oh, where to start.

Let's work our way backwards. Check out these quotes from the Ravens' locker room after the game:

"Everybody is kind of cheering for them to go undefeated and break all
the records. They called them the greatest offense on earth. So who knows? ...
They made one more play than us and they got a little help."

"It looked like all 22 men on the field played as if no timeout was
called. But if it was called, it was called. I don't get into that part of the
game. I just do my job."

"It's kind of the feeling of the 2001 tuck rule. It kind of feels like
the tuck rule. That is the NFL for you, man. When they got a guy like that that
is selling a lot of tickets, you want to keep him selling

"I didn't hear a timeout. That was very convenient."
As Kid Rock would say, "Why don't you go to McDonald's and a get wah-burger and some french cries? How about a Whine-neken?" Ok, I'm done.

So, it's all a big conspiracy (again). The refs want the Patriots to win, so they robbed Baltimore of the game. Sigh.

How about this: do not throw an ill-advised interception at the end of the game. Do not call a timeout right before you stop the opposing team on fourth down. Do not hold in the end zone. Do not take the ref's flag and throw it into the stands. Do not get another personal foul on top of that. Do not jump offsides on the extra point. Do not let the opposing team kick off from your own 35 yard line.

I know that in the post-Tim Donaghy era, the idea of fixed officiating might not seem like a stretch anymore, but let's be real about this: there is no conspiracy to let the Patriots win all of their games.

The closer these games get and the more the losing team whines about their misfortunes, then you are going to see the Patriots go from the NFL's villain to simply what they are; one of the greatest teams ever to play the game. Nobody takes responsibility anymore. It's always somebody else's fault, whether it be the refs, coaches or whoever.

So Ravens, shut your whiny, adolescent mouths. Nobody cares what you have to say, unless it's "good game". Your season is done and the Pats are still going. After half of your defense is fined, your coach is fired and the talk starts to circle around next week, nobody will remember that you completely choked away this game. You make the Bengals look like Boy Scouts.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Coaches' votes revealed

Just hours ago, I wrote about how my anger over the BCS had turned to pure sadness. Well, that didn't last long. Check this out, it's the voting record for every coach who had the power to alter the national title game. Let's look at some highlights, shall we?
The coaches for LSU, Ohio State, and Oklahoma voted their team #1. How are they allowed to do this? They obviously are biased.

Georgia coach Mark Richt voted his team #2. Give him some dap for that one. Same with Illinois coach Ron Zook, who voted his team #9. Maybe that's a little higher, but at least he controlled himself.

Dennis Franchione, coach of Texas A&M, voted Hawaii #22! The Warriors are they only undefeated team. What the hell? He also voted Oklahoma as #6.

Bobby Bowden has Oklahoma #10.

Howard Schnellenberger, coach of Florida Atlantic University, has an amazing looking card. This includes Kansas #2, Hawaii #3, Missouri #4, Boise State #10, and USC #12.

Check out the rest of it yourself. But this tells us one thing: the national title game, in part, is a freaking popularity contest. I guess we all knew this, but when you actually look at the votes, it's simply amazing. Opinions of men who have biases and haven't seen half of the teams have a say in who is where. What a bunch of B(C)S.

There is no national champion this year

My birthday is on January 8. The day before, Ohio State and LSU will play in the BCS title game. But when I'm out with friends and family accepting presents, there will still be no national champion. Oh, the record books will tell you that somebody was. One group of fans will brag about how their team won. But they will be wrong. This is very depressing.

I'm no longer angry about the BCS. I am simply sad. When I watch the Buckeyes and Tigers square off, I will be merely watching another football game. I cannot force myself to care.

The system is a farce, we know. It's just another year where we get to watch big name programs play in college football's biggest game. The BCS is happy about this. They perceive this as a victory.

I'm off to watch basketball now. There are no feelings towards this 2007 season that I can express. Thank you, BCS. You have me not even caring about a sport I used to love. Even as a Jayhawk fan, who got lucky in their bowl selection, I'm done.

Call me when there's a playoff.
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