Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hockey Night With Bro

Maine-1 Boston University-1.  I don't think I've ever seen a game that was so lopsided in shots on goal.  There was a point in the game where Maine was outshooting BU like 36 to 13 but many of Maine's shots were from the point.  Actually, I bet Maine had 80 shots in that game, 40 of them blocked by BU defensemen.  It felt to me like Maine was relying on its talent instead of doing the hard work to get better shots.  There was a disallowed goal by Maine that would have given them the victory, though I have no idea why it was disallowed.  Maybe someone who watched on TV can fill me in.
This was also one of the chippiest college hockey games I've seen...lots and lots of penalties, and even more pushing and shoving and cheap shots.  They obviously don't like each other.
Unfortunately for Maine, after losing yesterday to BU and the tie tonight, they drop to fifth in Hockey East behind Merrimack.  Does that sound like the same team that spanked your Sioux in two games earlier in the season, Brent?  They've been very streaky.
My brother is a Maine grad, Class of '90, and it had been many years since he'd been to a game at Alfond Arena.  He had a great time reminiscing and seeing how much and how little has changed.  And the first time I had seen a game there was while he was a student.  So it was a good time for the both of us going back to a game there together.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Heady Times At Montezuma Mesa

SDSU LogoI want to take a moment and give props to my alma mater for doing something I never imagined they would ever do when I attended San Diego State University what seems like a lifetime ago: the Aztecs men’s basketball team is now in the Top 5 in the national rankings.

Not only are the Aztecs one of two undefeated teams remaining (#1 Ohio State is the other) but with #2 Pittsburgh losing to #16 Notre Dame last night this would be the perfect opportunity for SDSU to climb further up the ladder if they can beat #9 BYU on the road tomorrow night. If the Aztecs defeat the Cougars, they also have a shot at running the table and finish the season undefeated at 31-0. That’s right. 31-0.

I’m stunned by this turn of events. When I attended SDSU the team not only couldn’t give away free tickets to basketball games at old Peterson Gymnasium but there was one season in which they won only two games. Those two wins were against non-conference opponents early in the year and the Aztecs lost twenty-one in a row to end the season.

Today, students are not only lining up on Monday mornings to get their tickets for the week’s home games but the Viejas Arena regularly sells out for men’s basketball. I never imagined this could happen in my wildest dreams and I’m bursting with pride. We finally have a winning team that can compete with the top basketball teams all across the country. Yes, even the top teams in the SEC and whatever alphabet conferences on the other side of the country that get all the love from the East Coast voters that don’t bother watching SDSU games except for SportsCenter highlights.

I’m telling you right now if the Aztecs win tomorrow night I may not sleep that evening. I’ll likely be busy burning off a lifetime of humiliation and disappointment that accompanies being a fan of Aztecs sports programs.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Bears Fan Just The Way I Like 'Em

Here's a picture of a Bears fan just the way I like 'em. This guy (who shall remain nameless) and I work together and he's from Chicago. Huge Bears, Cubs, Bulls, etc. fan. He and I usually wager a single George Washington on the outcome of Packers/Bears games; but this time, because it was the NFC Championship game, we upped the ante. If the Bears won, I'd have to wear his Urlacher jersey; if the Pack won, he'd have to wear my Packer jersey that my niece had made for me in Korea.

So this morning he comes to work and is so glum. He sees me and asks if I brought the jersey in, which, of course, I did. To see the look on his face you would have thought his dog died. But, being a good sport, he donned on the jersey, with my name on the back, and wore it the whole day. He didn't hide in his office either and walked around the building, gathering snickers along the way.

Oooo, how I'll rue the day if I ever have to put on that Urlacher jersey. Now, my next target, a die-hard Steelers fan who used to work for me. In all good nature, I'll keep you posted, win or lose.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Almost Ten Years Ago Today

Dale EarnhardtWith the 2011 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona almost here I couldn’t help but think of a racer who not only participated in the endurance race but lost his life at the legendary track on February 18, 2001. Can you believe it’s almost been ten years since we lost Dale Earnhardt?

After Ernie Irvan was forced into retirement during the 1999 Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) season I needed a new driver to follow and I wanted someone who was as aggressive as Irvan. Who else could I choose? Certainly not Jeff Gordon. He wins races but he won’t run over his mother for an extra five points in the standings. Tony Stewart? He was a rookie and hadn’t established himself as Dale’s heir apparent in ability and aggressiveness yet.

How did I end up picking “The Intimidator”? The week before Irvan suffered career-ending injuries in a practice accident in Michigan, Dale shoved Terry Labonte out of his way during the final lap of the appropriately named Goody’s Headache Powder 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway and cruised to victory. The stands were full of fans wearing black t-shirts and jackets and they cheered for Dale like a bunch of maniacs. It was so surreal watching everything on TV that for a moment I couldn’t tell the difference between the fans in the stands in Bristol that day and a brawling Raider Nation at the Los Angeles Coliseum earlier that decade.

After that race I found my new favorite driver.

Corvette C5-RWhat is Dale Sr.’s connection to the Rolex race? Two weeks before his death in the 2001 Daytona 500, both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and he drove the #3 Goodwrench Corvette C5-R race car along with Kelly Collins and Andy Pilgrim in that year’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. It was the only time race fans ever got to see Dale in a sports car and I’m certain he would have made more appearances if he were still alive. I remember the look on his face when he was in the garage in between driving stints that weekend. He looked like he was genuinely having fun racing that Corvette. That mischievous twinkle in his eye was there, and he performed quite admirably in a racing series he had no prior experience in.

It’s because of that race I got hooked on road racing and I watch the Grand-Am and the American Le Mans series whenever they’re on television.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Back to expecting the worst?

Many of us, including yours truly, who grew up in New England as sports fans developed a very negative, fatalistic perspective.  It's almost a mirror image of my personality -- the eternal optimist who doesn't expect positive results and sometimes expecting the worst in the midst of the best.  No idea what I'm talking about?  Research Red Sox and Bruins playoff history, particularly in their best years when things looked their brightest; when salvation was tantalizingly in reach, the Sword of Damocles would fall.
The point of this?  New England sports fans have had it great the last 10 years, in fact we've been spoiled -- three Patriot Super Bowl wins, two Red Sox World Series titles and one Celtic NBA title.  This served to wash away most of the fatalistic expectations of New England fans but not entirely.  I think that would be impossible.
But now in the last three plus years we have the Red Sox losing playoff series to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Celtics losing a game 7 of the NBA Finals to the Lakers (a game they had in hand and to a team they always owned in this situation) and now the Patriots, the team most responsible for our confidence, has lost three straight playoff games, two of them to New York teams where they were the overwhelming favorite.
Are you still as confident and comfortable watching your team when the season's on the line as you were a couple of years ago?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Great Moments In Sports Journalism

NYPost Cover 011611Actually this is the front page of today’s edition of The New York Post. Poor Rex Ryan can’t catch a break – and neither will his New York Jets when they play the New England Patriots this afternoon.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Another great DC roadtrip

Just a little background first:  This is now four years in a row that I've made a trip to DC to see friends and go to games.  The current streak started when I had to get to RFK and see the Nats play there before their move to the new stadium.  I'd always bemoaned the fact I hadn't gotten to RFK when I lived in DC in the early 1980s.  My defense?  You couldn't possibly get a ticket to a Redskins game there.  The hole in my defense?  The Washington Federals of the USFL.
The roadtrip thing has been going on for some time between my brother and I, although the above is the last one we've done together.  A lifelong friend of his and a good friend of mine (Tim) had season tickets to the Nats.  So we stayed with him and then the next day we went to a game at PNC in Pittsburgh.
The next year my roadie also included New Britain, CT, near where my brother was working and Norfolk, where another friend lives, and then on up to DC to see Rick and George and go to a game during the inaugural season of the Nats' new stadium.  This is the famous "fan of the game" game.
Lo and behold on the Nats' schedule the following year is the Red Sox, playing in DC for the first time in 40 years.  So down to DC I go again.  One other special thing about that game is not only did I go with George and Rick but Tim and AA were also in attendance.
Now on to this year's trip.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

"Redskins" Racist?

I'm not going to call him an "angry Black man," I think he's just plain angry at everything. Now he's mad at the Washington Redskins.

In his 4 July Article, Cortland Milloy, a Washington Post columnist, wrote an article entitled "It's Time Once Again to Tell Washington's Football Team to Ditch the 'Redskins' Racist Moniker."

A co-worker sent me the article today. I don't know if he sent it to me as a humorous gesture suggested by Milloy that perhaps changing the team's name might help them win...(hell, anything could help this sorry team!), or if he was pointing out the obvious: how poorly the Redskins name is perceived by the public.

I won't comment on the former because a name or uniform change, or more fireworks, won't make the Skins' 3-4 defense any less porous, changing the Indian Chief profile to a spearhead won't prevent McNabb's or Grossman's passes from hitting the ground 2 feet before hitting the receiver's fingertips, nor will it stop that eventual "holding" call on a punt return, just as Banks crosses the goal line.

I think he sent it to me because of the nickname controversy (didn't Snyder and the NFL win their recent court battle?).

Okay, I have another point of view.

Before I get started on my rant, let me say up front that I, too, am not totally happy with that choice of mascot name, but unlike others, I'm not foaming-at-the-mouth angry at Snyder or all fans of the Redskins team. Danny sucks as an owner, but I don't think he's a bigot (I don't know about that guy in Section 417, Row 9...)

I can view this topic from a more dispassionate perspective than Mr. Milloy (and I wonder where his article is about the racism in the it's-a-term-of-endearment "N-word" rant we hear from every rap record?) I can absolutely see how many people, especially Native Americans would be offended. Or, is "Americans" also racist since those native Indians never referred to themselves as "American" until they were "discovered" by the white man--or, being a Spaniard or Italian, maybe they were "tan" or "light brown?" There's no doubt that the word "redskin," whether taken in or out of context, can be considered pejorative, but what about "Red Man" chewing tobacco, is that racist? (...well, maybe...) Okay, how about the New York Giants--is that name meant to remind midgets or dwarfs of their stature? (...damn, did I really say "midget?") Wait--how about dem Cowboys? Weren't they the one who really showed the greatest animosity to the red--um, I mean Native Americans? Every western I've ever seen always shows the cowboys killing the poor indians! Ug!

How is using the word "red" in reference to skin color more derogatory than "black" when used by whites, or "whites" when used by Indians--during the same time period? If, in 1860, the term "redskin" was a racist term against Indians (and it probably was then when used by many whites), was the term "red man" also meant to be similarly pejorative? If so, was the term "white man," when used by Indians meant to be a term of endearment, or did they say it in the same context?

I think what's happening today with the use of the term "Redskins" in reference to the
Washington football Redskins, is that there is no intent for the word to be offensive,
and it could be successfully argued that it was never meant to be offensive. Well...maybe the original fight song was a little sketchy:

Hail to the Redskins!
Hail to victory!
Braves on the war path!
Fight for old Dixie!
Scalp 'em, Swamp 'em,
We will take 'em big score!
Read 'em, Weep 'em Touchdown,
We want heaps more!
Fight on... Fight On...
Til you have won,
Sons of Washington!

And it was said that George Preston Marshall was a really big bigot (bigger than our only klan member President, Woodrow Wilson). But why would someone name a professional sports team after a racial slur, then only hire white guys (presumably also racists) to wear a racist logo, so only more white people can pay to watch the game?


I found a lot of literature about the origin of the term "redskin." Much of it is very negative (natch!), but some of it is so archaic that no one would believe its roots. For example, there is a bit of scholarship that suggests the truly first usage of the word was created by Indians themselves--no, not meant as a negative thing, but merely as a descriptor--no different than saying "white man" to describe a Caucasian, or "black man" to describe a Negro (ooops, I meant African American). For example, in the Chickasaw language, there is a term: "Hattak Api' Homma" which means "Indian." It translates:

"hattak" (meaning "person") + "api" (meaning "stalk") + "homma" (meaning "red").

(no kidding, I'm not making that up!)

Or, in the Creek language, there is an expression "istichaáti" which is "person + red" to mean "Indian." In the same Creek language, they refer to blacks as: "isti-lásti" ("person" + "black"), or "isti-hátki" ("person" + "white") for "white person." It could be said that the first whites to encounter (discover) these Indians learned these words and as Indians learned English, they used their own words in English...."red man" or "red skin." And so it all became. It's possible!!!

Now, of course, those real assholes racist idiots took things to the extreme, and that's all we (and Courtland Milloy) can think of now whenever someone makes reference to the Washington Redskins. Perhaps that is as it should be--I mean, no matter how you paint it, "Dixie" and the Rebel flag will always be associated with bigotry, racism, and ignorance. But that doesn't necessarily make it so. Let me put it this way, if I take Mr. Milloy's argument to its logical conclusion, that the NFL Washington Redskins must always be considered racist because of its past history, then when can I stop thinking of the American flag (Old Glory) as also being an symbol of racism? Whoa! What? I mean, isn't that the same flag klansmen carried with equal zeal as they marched down Constitution Avenue in the 20's? Wasn't it flown side by side with that red cross-bars thing in the 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's....and 70's....and 80's....and....well, you get the point. Isn't that the same flag that flew over the slave ships that brought "istilasti" (that's Creek for "Leroy Johnson") to America? Wasn't that the same flag that flew over segregated communities in Michigan, Alabama, Nebraska....and....wait....Washington, DC, the seat of freedom and democracy, who only ended its federally governed racism in the 1950's? Yeah, you remember, prior to "home rule" in
the 1970's all aspects local government in Washington, DC, were controlled by the federal government--you know, Congress, to include public facilities, schools, and housing--all of which were segregated by law! All under the shadow of the Stars and Stripes. But who today (still) looks at the American Flag as a symbol of racism? I don't, and I don't see the Washington Redskins as a racist organization!

Alright, you've all probably stopped reading by now. My point is, I do not disagree that the team name "Washington Redskins" is very offensive to many people and they have a right to be offended--no argument from me. But there's a huge leap between the NCAA "threatening" a school by withholding scholarship money and sports revenue if they don't change their mascot names (except for the "Florida Seminoles" which seems to be okay by the Seminoles--I mean, the Native "Flowery Land" Istichaátis), to accusing Dan Snyder and Donavan McNabb of being outright racists!

Hail to the Redskins!
Learn to spell "Victory"
Braves on the warpath,
FIGHT mediocrity!

Friday, January 07, 2011

My 2010 NFL Post-Season Awards

MVP:  Tom Brady.  Is there any other candidate?  Michael Vick went down the tubes when a rookie named Joe Webb outplayed him on Tuesday Night Football. The other usual suspects didn't have great years.  Honorable Mention:  Michael Vick, Matt Ryan

Defensive Player Of The Year:  Clay Matthews.  With only 60 tackles, you wouldn't think that he would be a disruptive force.  but add the 14 sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles, 1 Interception, and the touchdown that he had and I believe that he was the best defender of the year.  Honorable mention:  Julius Peppers, Ed Reed

Coach Of The Year:  Raheem Morris.  Bringing up the Bucs from 3-13 to 10-6 ia an achievement and Morris didn't do it the easy way.  The first team since the merger to have 10 rookies starting and having a winning record.  9 Starters on the youngest team in the league went on IR.  And to have 25 players on the roster that were in their 1st year of the NFL, to win 10 games is amazing.  Add to that the fact that the Bucs had the rookie leaders in receiving and rushing and Coach Morris deserves this award.  Honorable Mention:  Bill Belichick, Todd Haley.

Offensive Rookie Of The Year:  Sam Bradford.  The Rams had a 6 game improvement over the 2009 season and the main reason was that the offense started to click.  And having Sam Bradford actually playing better than the Rams veteran QBs over the past 3 years was the catalyst for that.  The Rams developed a passing game again and had a non-descript receiving corps.  Honorable Mention:  LeGarrett Blount, Jahvid Best.

Defensive Rookie Of The Year:  Ndamukong Suh.  This guy is a man playing among boys.  The Lions got it right when they drafted him.  66 tackles, 10 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception.  He is a force that every offense must gameplan for.  Honorable mention:  Eric Berry, Joe Haden

Comeback Player Of The Year:  Mike Williams.  The Seahawks struck gold be bringing in Williams for a tryout.  He had gotten over the sense of entitlement that he had coming into the league and playing his way out of it.  Now the Seahawks have a go-to receiver at a very nice price.  Honorable Mention:  Jay Cutler, Ed Reed

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Commitment To Craziness

Cable DavisWhat the (censored) was Al Davis thinking? That question keeps popping up in my brain ever since Tom Cable was notified on Tuesday that his two-year option to coach the Oakland Raiders was not picked up.

I do not understand this move and I’m very upset by it. The players, win or lose, played hard for The Cable Guy. The offense moved the ball down the field on a consistent basis for the first time since Rich Gannon was the starting quarterback. The team was 6-0 against their AFC West division rivals this past season and posted their first non-losing season since their Super Bowl run in 2002.

And yet that wasn’t good enough for Al.

Cable was a well liked coach and respected by his players for his no-nonsense approach to the game. How much did they like him? They gave Cable the Muhammad Ali “Bumaye!” chant before one practice after he allegedly clocked then-assistant coach Randy Hanson during a coach’s meeting.

I’m not sold on Cable’s rumored replacement. Hue Jackson, the likely in-house candidate to replace Cable, is a very good offensive coordinator. But so was Norv Turner and look how well that hire worked out.

For the love of God I hope Jeff Fisher somehow gets released from his contract with the Tennessee Titans. He is one of the few coaches out there that would be an ideal replacement for Tom Cable.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Week 17 NFL Predictions and Week 16 Results

This season hasn't gone as well as I thought it would, but let's try and go out big.

Carolina at Atlanta (-14):  Carolina is playing for John Fox, Atlanta is playing for top seed in the NFC Playoffs.

Cincinnati at Baltimore (-9.5):  Baltimore still has a shot at the AFC North.  Cincinnati actually looks better without their 2 diva Wide Receivers.

Pittsburgh at Cleveland (+5):  I will take Colt McCoy.  I didn't believe in him before the season, but he converted me. 

Minnesota at Detroit (-3.5):  This game means way more to Detroit than Minnesota.  A 3rd place finish in the NFC North for Detroit will improve the morale even more.

Oakland (+3.5) at Kansas City:  If I am Todd Haley and the Chiefs, why am I even contemplating playing most of my starters in the 2nd half of this meaningless game?

Miami at New England (-5.5):  Just listen to Tom Brady over the past week and you will figure out why the Patriots are the way they are.  Expect the Pats to continue to roll into the playoffs.

Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-7):  The young Bucs will not be able to match the execution that the Saints will display.  But this might be closer than people think and be a preview of years to come.

Buffalo (+1) at NY Jets:  Again, why play your starters for the entire game in one that doesn't have playoff positioning hanging in the balance? 

Chicago (+9.5) at Green Bay:  Even though the Bears are guaranteed the #2 Seed in the NFC Playoffs, I don't think they will roll over for the Packers.

Jacksonville at Houston (-3):  Garrard and Jones-Drew are out for Jacksonville.  Give me the offense of the Texans.

Tennessee (+9.5) at Indianapolis:  Chris Johnson is an angry man.  I predict that he will take it out on the Colts and cause this game to be a very close one.

Dallas (+2.5) at Philadelphia:  Michael Vick isn't playing and that Eagles offense isn't as explosive with Kevin Kolb.  I think that Stephen McGee can lead the Cowboys to victory in this spot.

NY Giants (-4) at Washington:  Look for the Giants to steamroll over the Skins.  Both teams need to take a hard look at the people leading them.

San Diego at Denver (+3.5):  The Chargers defense quit in Cincinnati last week.  Tim Tebow has the Broncos faithful looking at him as the possible savior.  I'm not sold on him quite yet.

Arizona (+6) at San Francisco:  The ugliest game in Week 17.  Take the team that has the most stability and that is Arizona.

St. Louis (-3) at Seattle:  The Rams win this to win the NFC West.  The Seahawks played well at home the beginning of the season, but have tailed off.

Record For Week 16: 50.0% Winning Percentage

Overall: 8-8 Favorites: 7-6. Road Favorites: 3-3. Home Favorites: 4-3. Underdogs: 1-2. Road Underdogs: 1-2. Home Underdogs: 0-0.

Season:  55.8% Winning Percentage

Overall Record: 134-103-3. Favorites: 90-76-2. Road Favorites: 43-28-2. Home Favorites: 47-48. Underdogs: 44-27-1. Road Underdogs: 29-22-1. Home Underdogs: 16-5.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

My 2011 MLB Hall Of Fame Ballot

These men would be on my ballot for the 2011 MLB Hall Of Fame

1.  Bert Blyleven - 287 Wins, 60 Shutouts, 3701 Strikeouts and 3.31 ERA

2.  Jack Morris - 254 Wins, 5 time All-Star, Opening Day starter 14 times, AL leader in Wins, Complete Games, Innings, and starts ii the decade of the 80's.

3.  Edgar Martinez - .312 BA, 2 Time Batting champ, 7 time All-Star, over a 1 OPS 5 times, led AL in doubles twice, 2 time batting champ

4.  Jeff Bagwell - NL ROY, NL MVP, 202 SB, .297 BA, led NL in runs 3 times, missed over 20 games only 3 seasons out of 15.

5.  Alan Trammell - 6 time AL All-Star, 4 time gold glove, .285 BA, led AL twice in Sacrifice Flys, over 6100 assists, only 227 errors in 20 years.

6.  Tim Raines - 7 time NL All-Star, stole 70 bases 6 times, .294 BA, Batting champ in 1986,
808 SB, 2605 hits, 1571 runs

7.  John Franco - 4 time All-Star, Led AL once and NL twice in saves, ERA 2.89, All time leader in Saves for Lefty, played 1119 games, started 0.  22 HBP in 1245.2 IP.  424 saves.

8.  Lee Smith -  478 Saves, 3.03 ERA, 3rd in all time saves, led NL 3 times, AL once in saves.  hit 10 batters over 18 years.

People that didn't make my ballot:

Mark McGwire - He admitted that he did steroids.  And rule breakers cannot profit on that. 

Rafael Palmeiro - Lied to congress about using steroids.  Real selfish player according to the beat writers.

Roberto Alomar - If we use the standards of today on Alomar's career, he is a below average 2nd baseman in the field and the offensive numbers don't pull him through.

Barry Larkin - A player who's legend increases throughout the years.  Never thought he was Hall worthy.

Larry Walker - I don't care if he played for the Rockies and had good numbers there.  This isn't the Hall for the very good.  And that is what Walker was, very good.