Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Boston Pro Sports Roundtable

Why are we having this discussion?  Well, Boston is the center of the pro sports universe, right?  Or, we're having this discussion because there are things to talk about with every New England team and I'd like to hear your thoughts on these topics.
First, of course, because they are first in our hearts, is the signing FINALLY of Bobby Valentine as the Red Sox new manager.  There should be no shortage of opinions regarding this signing.  Is he the right fit, just for a while or over the long haul?  I certainly have my concerns that he can still be a loose cannon and take things too far, thus upsetting too many fragile egos and not being able to bring chemistry to this team; BUT I feel a big personality, big energy guy is what's needed right now.  He is also a very bright baseball guy who knows his Xs and Os.  Will he handle Dice K, given that he speaks Japanese and managed in Japan, the way he should've been handled all along?  Now that he's signed, we can also get on with the job of putting the pieces together with this team.  Would you like to see David Ortiz stay?  For the right price and length of contract, yes; but I'm certainly concerned, given some of his childish antics last year, that he won't get along with Valentine.  Do you go out and make some splash in the free agent market or do you get some complimentary pieces and see what you really have in the farm system?  I know I'd like to get the focus more on the farm system than relying on building the team with free agents.  Are you concerned about having a young, first-time general manager between a forceful manager and team president?

Let's talk about the Celtics, now that apparently there will be an NBA this year.  The Celtics have an aging Big 3 plus Rondo and only a couple of other guys currently on the roster.  The big talk in the last day or two is that Danny Ainge might be actively trying to trade Rondo.  How do you feel about that?  Well, if it's Chris Paul we'd be getting, in my mind that's a no-brainer.  We do need to start looking beyond the Big 3 Era.  Do you let those guys' contracts run out, field a bad team and try to rebuild through the draft over a few years or do you trade the one tradeable guy you have, which, again if it's Paul you get in return, would give you another run at a title and he'd be the keystone piece to build around once at least Garnett and Allen's contracts expire.  Do you want to bring Big Baby Davis back?  Talk about the Celtics any way you'd like.

The Patriots are currently 8-3 and have a cupcake schedule the rest of the way.  The bad thing about that schedule is that it'll be very difficult to gauge whether this defense is truly improving and whether it'll be good enough to get us to the Super Bowl.  Personally, I have no interest going to the Super Bowl if it means losing.  If somehow the Packers get upset in the NFC playoffs, then it's wide open and I'll take my chances.  The patchwork secondary has improved but I'm concerned we've already hit the ceiling with that bunch.  I'm still not sure we have a consistent pass rush, which we will need to take the pressure off that secondary.  I'm concerned, as great as this offense is, that the offensive line has looked vulnerable and teams are only having to cover half the field because there's no real deep threat, which does make it possible for teams to contain this offense.

The Bruins are back to looking like the best team in the league.  They're not there alone, of course, but I like their chances.  (I used all 3 theres in one sentence)  Any concerns at all?  Maybe the fact that David Krejki is always going to be inconsistent.  His contract runs out at the end of this year.  I would like to have one more guy on this team who can consistently bury the puck, which is most helpful when the Bruins are outplaying their opponent but can't score.  Come playoff time, especially on special teams, that kind of guy can make all the difference in a tight series.  I will be at the Bruins' game against the Leafs this Saturday night.  So I won't say anything more here, plus I have covered the Bruins more than the other teams lately.
UPDATE 12/2/11:  The Bruins signed David Krejci to a three-year extension yesterday.  So that locks up another key piece of this deep, young team.  Although it'd be easier to trade him now that he's signed, I think the Bruins want to keep him.

College Football Predictions Results - Week 13

Rivalry week doesn't like me.  Only 4 wins this week and I am limping to the finish line with the Championship games coming up this week.  The Underdog picks killed me this week and the Road Underdog picks for the year fell under .500

LOSS  1)  #3 Arkansas (+14) at #1 LSU - Arkansas 17, LSU 41. This game showed that LSU is the best team in the country by far.  Next up for the Tigers, Georgia.  For the Razorbacks, they are hoping for some things to go right for them to achieve a BCS invite.

WIN  2)  #20 Penn State at #15 Wisconsin (-16) - Penn State 7, Wisconsin 45.  Wisconsin gets their rematch against Michigan State in the Big 10 Title game.  The Badgers are the better talented team, and look like they have hit their stride again.

LOSS  3)  #18 Clemson (+3) at #14 South Carolina - Clemson 13, South Carolina 34.  Clemson limps into the ACC title game rematch against Virginia Tech.  Watch for the Tigers to get blown out in that game.

LOSS  4)  Ohio State at #17 Michigan (-7.5) - Ohio State 34, Michigan 40.  Brady Hoke got Michigan a win vs. the Buckeyes for the 1st time in 8 years.  Now we will see what he can do with a famous coach patrolling the Buckeyes sideline in Urban Meyer.

WIN  5)  #22 Notre Dame at #4 Stanford (-6.5) - Notre Dame 14, Stanford 28.  Stanford is a good team, but could not become a team that even made their championship game.

LOSS  6)  #2 Alabama at Auburn (+21.5) - Alabama 42, Auburn 14.  Auburn has never been a favorite of mine.  The past two years have provided more ammunition for my deep dislike for the Tigers because almost each and every game that i pick with Auburn in it, I lose.  Of course the institution has the Tiger as a mascot and calls out WAR EAGLE!  No wonder I can't wrap my head around what they are.

WIN  7)  UCLA at #10 USC (-15.5) - UCLA 0, USC 50.  Well, Rick Neuheisel has been fired from UCLA.  Although the Bruins are in the PAC-12 title game, the true best team from the South Division are the Men from Troy.  Lane Kiffin has done a good job this year with the Trojans and I am waiting to see what he can do when the Trojans are off probation.

LOSS  8)  Texas at Texas A&M (-6.5) - Texas 27, Texas A&M 25.  This rivalry is on ice until at least 2019 with A&M going to the SEC.  The Aggies choked yet again this season.  Just wait until they start playing Alabama and LSU each and every year.  Please do not serve the Aggies anything that have bones.

LOSS  9)  #8 Houston at Tulsa (+3) - Houston 48, Tulsa 16.  Case Keenum and the Cougars have finally convinced me that they are a good team.  It looks like they will get a BCS bid, possibly along with TCU.

WIN  10)  Pittsburgh (+8) at West Virginia - Pittsburgh 21, West Virginia 22.  The Mountaineers are still in the running for the Big East title and the AQ for the Big East in the BCS.  That just shows you how bad the Big East has been this year. 

Additional Two

LOSS  11)  Iowa (+9.5) at Nebraska - Iowa 7, Nebraska 20.  Nebraska is being mentioned as a perennial power in the Big 12, Iowa is not.  Maybe Kirk Ferentz needs to shake things up in Iowa City.

LOSS  12)  East Carolina (+2.5) at Marshall - East Carolina 27, Marshall 34 (OT).   Marshall became bowl eligible with this win.  East Carolina did not.

Week 13 Results:  4-8 Record.  1-6 Picking Underdogs.  3-2 Picking Favorites.  1-4 Road Underdog.  0-2 Home Underdog.  0-0 Road Favorites.  3-2 Home Favorites.

Season Results:  92-62-3 Record.  59.6 Win Percentage.  22-25 Picking Underdogs. 70-37-3 Picking Favorites. 17-14 Road Underdog.  5-11 Home Underdog.  27-16-1 Road Favorites.  43-21-2 Home Favorites.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Way A Purge Should Be Done!

And in the second purging of a team that I like, the Houston Astros fired their President and GM after the fall from the top in 2005 to the absolute bottom in 2011.  And believe me, there is a Champagne bottle that is at least half empty in my house because of it.

Jim Crane should be nominated for Man of the Month for the purchase of the Houston Astros and then also deciding that the Phillies plant Ed Wade and Astros front office person Tal Smith for 35 years and no World Series titles that have came the 'Stros way needed to go and to start over with what he has purchased. 

The most reviled GM in Astros history, Ed Wade will be remembered in Houston as the guy who loved trading with the Philadelphia Phillies and most fans feel that he got ripped off each and every time he did a trade with the Phillies.  Hunter Pence and Roy Oswalt were the two big names traded to Philly, with 1/2 of Oswalt's salary being paid by the Astros.  I wish that the Astros would take a chance on a veteran starter and find somebody that would pay 1/2 of his salary.

Wade also traded away Lance Berkman to the St. Louis Cardinals.  I am surprised that we even got a bag of balls in that trade, seeing that Wade undervalued each and every piece he traded away.  Michael Bourne went over to Atlanta for a song and a promise.  The only person on the roster that anybody even has a passing interest in is Wandy Rodriguez and he will probably be traded because having a Left-handed Front Line pitcher is worth more in trade than with a team that has no talent.  And no, Carlos Lee isn't talented. 

Jim Crane had $70 Million chopped off the Purchase Price to agree to switch to the American League in 2013.  Nice Business savvy.  Now hopefully, he can bring in a baseball man for the GM and pair it with his Business acumen and start riding roughshod over the weak AL West around 2015.

One Half Of The Purge Is Done

He had to know that this was coming!
This season has been an embarrassment for us fans of the Carolina Hurricanes.  It started in the off-season when the team couldn't figure out what they wanted to do.  Joni Pitkanen was gone and then suddenly resigned to multiple years.  Erik Cole was a priority for the team to resign and then left for a good deal in Montreal.  Then the regular season started.  We did sign Tomas Kaberle and he has been a disappointment, with 5 assists and sitting at a -10.  Eric Staal has been stuck in neutral all year, the defense has been playing the 'Ole option all year long allowing shots to rain down on Cam Ward.  The Canes are converting on the power play at a 12.2% clip.  Good enough for 29th in the league.  The penalty killing unit is barely over 80%.  So something had to happen.  And it did Monday.

Paul Maurice was fired.  As the Head Coach, he is going to take the heat from the front office and he did.  However, he had proven in his head coaching career, that he wasn't the guy to get the most out of his team.  He didn't do it in his first stint with the Canes, finishing with a record under .500 and that is with a year that the team went to the Stanley Cup finals.  He definitely didn't do it with the Toronto Maple Leafs.  They didn't get into the playoffs during his stint there.  So after it was decided that Peter Laviolette was fired in December of 2008, that Paul Maurice would come back.  Cam Ward stood on his head that season and got the Canes back to the Eastern Conference finals that year after barely qualifying for the playoffs.  Then for the 2009-2010 season, with high expectations, the team crashed and burned and didn't come close to the playoffs.  For the 2010-2011 season, nothing special was expected for the team.  They went into the last game of the season needing a win to qualify for the playoffs.  They were blitzed by the Lightning 6-2 and finished 9th in the East.  This year, we have a losing season with 20 points accumulated.  We are the 14th out of the 15th best team in the East.  Only the Islanders have fewer points.  In fact, we are just 5 points ahead of Columbus.  The Blue Jackets are considered by almost everybody as the worst team in the league. The firing was justified and I am glad that it happened.

However, there needs to be another head to roll.  And that is the President/GM Jim Rutherford.  Look at the results of the Hurricanes since they won the Cup in 2006.  2007 - Missed Playoffs.  2008 - Qualified for the playoffs in 7th place.  2009 - Missed Playoffs.  2010 - Missed Playoffs.  2011 - Currently in 14th Place in the East.  Two coaching changes have taken place.  Look at the lines for the Hurricanes:

Top Line:  Skinner-Staal-Ruutu
2nd Line:  Ponikarovski-Jokinen-LaRose
3rd Line:  Tlusty-Brandon Sutter-Dwyer
4th Line:  Stewart-Brent-Brett Sutter





Now be honest here.  Is there more than 3 or 4 players listed here that you want on your team?  For myself, I like 3 of the Centers, 1 of the Left Wingers, 2 of the Defensemen, and the Starting Goalie.  That is 7 of the 20 players that I am happy to have on the team.  The other 13?  If they leave, I am like hopefully there is someone better coming in to play.  And while I do really appreciate the skill side of the game, the Hurricanes are like the Buffalo Sabres.  Soft.  Where in hell are the players that have some skill and are willing to goon it up with the teams like the Bruins, Rangers, and others when the situation requires it?  The makeup of this team is flawed and has been flawed for the past 5 years.  The defense is soft, there isn't enough high end talent on the team, there is no rough and physical presence, and the GM is always talking about how he can't compete in the finances.  I call BS.  It is time for Jim Rutherford to be "promoted" to full time President of Hockey Operations.  He is a minority owner in the hockey team, so let's boot his happy ass upstairs and bring in a GM that will start to figure out how to get this team back to a competitive status and start becoming the team that us fans know should be the top team in the Southeast.  Our franchise is better than the Panthers, Lightning, and Capitals.  Us fans know that in our hearts.  And it is time for the owner, Peter Karmanos, to get the organization back to becoming one of those franchises that prove that they should be taken seriously every year.  And the first step is to bring in a General Manager who is only the General Manager.

2011 Grey Cup

Travis Lulay
The following is a guest blog by DaSnake, who's been kind enough to let us in on what's going on north of the border.  Hopefully you will appreciate this guest blog on a topic that we wouldn't be talking about but are certainly interested in.  Thanks DaSnake.

The B.C. Lions won the 99th Grey Cup yesterday, 34-23, over Winnipeg. The last times they won the cup was 1994 against the Baltimore Stallions.  (also 2000 and 2006)  How did a U.S. team play in a Canadian final?  Well the CFL was hurting for money in the early 90's and allowed some American teams to play in the Canadian league.
The Lions QB Travis Lulay won the Canadian Most Valuable Player and tonight won the Grey Cup MVP. The game started out good for the Lions but seemed to slow going into the second half.  Whether it was jitters or just a need of coaching to come into the locker room and give a talk to the team, it seemed to work because the Lions came into the second half and never looked back.
It again got interesting in the fourth quarter with a dropped interception and then a dropped pass that was reviewed by the zebras.  With the Bruce pass being viewed as a reception, the nails in the coffin seemed in place.
This was a great game.  The fervor was not over rode by the Occupy Vancouver baloney; and the half billion dollar stadium rebuild took a backseat to the main show, the game.  The only so-called sensation was the scuffle between former QB Joe Kapp and former defensive player Angelo Mosca.  I don't have to mention this because if you go to Youtube, you can see for yourself.  Good game, good people and a great final. Congrats Lions.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Trivia: Redskins/Cowboys Rivalry

Here's an interesting bit of Redskins/Cowboys trivia.

I've been a Redskins fan all my life and I have to admit that I did not know
this piece of trivia: Here is the true origin of the Redskins/Cowboys
"rivalry." We all know the story of coach George Allen's motivating the
70's Redskins by conniving a media fight with then Cowboys coach Tom Landry,
and the rest, as they say, is history. But is it?

Well, it seems in the late 50's just before the original "Texans" (the AFL
"Dallas Texans") bolted for Kansas City (now the KC Chiefs), the Texas oil
millionaire Clint Murchison petitioned the NFL for a franchise, but they had
just one stick in the mud--Washington Redskins owner, George Preston
Marshall. Murchison signed a deal with Marshall to purchase the Redskins,
and everything was going smoothly, but Marshall suddenly changed the terms
of the agreement, and Murchison refused to sign and the deal fell through.
Jilted, Marshall refused to agree to allow Murchison to be granted an
expansion team--they needed a unanimous vote by all owners for a team to be
approved, and Marshall refused to vote yes. Now, it seems the marching band
leader for the Redskins, who wrote the Redskins fight song ("Hail To The
Redskins") ended up getting into a pissing contest with Marshall. The
bandleader owned the rights to the song (not Marshall) and being pissed with
Marshall, he approached Murchison in Dallas and sold him the song for
$2,500. This deal occurred right before the second owner's vote for the
Dallas franchise. Moments before the vote was to be taken, Murchison let it
out to Marshall that he owned the fight song and unless Marshall voted to
approve the Dallas franchise, he would sue Marshall every time the Redskins
band played the fight song--he threatened to refuse to let Marshall play it
during any of his games that year! Marshall eventually gave in and
Murchison turned over the rights, and Marshall gave his "yes" vote that
formed the 1960 Dallas Cowboys.

And so a rivalry was born!!!

Not only did I find that story interesting and ironic, but the irony of the
"cowboys and indians" history of the KC Chiefs is also an interesting

Friday, November 25, 2011

11 Straight (sorta)

The Bruins lost to the Detroit Red Wings today in the NHL's first-ever Thanksgiving Tradition something or other, which I love, especially when you pair the defending Cup Champs, who play 40 miles from the site of the first Thanksgiving, and the other team in the who's the best team in the league argument with the Penguins.  As a hockey fan, you couldn't have asked for a better game to watch; two Original Six teams playing at a high level, with plenty of stars on display.  Both teams showed up and played hard.  They both obviously wanted the W and it showed.  Excellent game.
It's no surprise the Red Wings won once it got beyond OT, the only time of the game where Detroit could dictate open ice.  Tuukka Rask was shown a lot of confidence getting to start this high profile matchup in net instead of Tim Thomas, and Tuukka acquitted himself well; but he was overmatched in the Shootout against the likes of Pavel Datsyuk (a player who should get much more mention in the league's best player debate) and the other Detroit snipers, including Todd Bertuzzi, who scored the game winner.
The difference in this game was UMaine alum Jimmy Howard in goal for Detroit.  The Bruins' depth and tenacity dominated large portions of this game but Howard kept the Bruins to only two goals.  The Bruins  forechecked Detroit to death. Seriously, how many teams can "get away" with that against Detroit with all their skilled offensive players?  The Bruins outshot Detroit 43-31, which is a stunning stat when you consider the styles of these two teams.
You have a hard time after watching this game coming away with any other conclusion than the Bruins along with Detroit and Pittsburgh are the best teams in the league.  What's odd about the Bruins though is this:  As I've said many times, I think the Bruins are the deepest team, the toughest team, the tightest team but certainly not the most skilled team, which shows when you get to a Shootout and think who's a real threat one-on-one against the goalie other than Tyler Sequin?  Which is why you saw Benoit Pouliot in the Shootout last game.
So the Bruins will take the point and head to Winnipeg to start a new streak tomorrow night.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Scotch and Jazz

I know neither scotch nor jazz fits the sports pub theme but it's the mood I'm in tonight and just wanted to throw a curveball.  So I'm sitting here sipping some Glenfiddich on the rocks and listening to some jazz.  I'll only share one but I'll tell you all the ones I went through tonight.

This song most definitely fits sipping scotch.  Can't you hear the ice cubes jangling in the glass?

I listened to these songs in this order as I was sipping my scotch:  "La Vie en Rose," Louis Armstrong; "Summertime," Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald; "Black Coffee," Ella Fitzgerald; "The Very Thought of You," Nat King Cole; "Unforgettable," Nat King Cole; then "Stormy Weather" by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and my favorite version, Etta James.
Hope you enjoyed my little interlude.  Back to our usual programming.

College Football Predicitions - Week 13

It's rivalry week and the games this year seem to have extra importance to them.  Be it the end of rivalries, division titles or possible national championship implications, these games seem to be vying for attention by the public.

1)  #3 Arkansas (+14) at #1 LSU - This is the big game of what they term rivalry week.  LSU is going to win but the Razorbacks keep it within a touchdown.

2)  #20 Penn State at #15 Wisconsin (-16) - Wisconsin has the chance to win the first Leaders division title at home.  Otherwise, it is Penn State with the title.  I expect the most talented team in the Big 10 to show up and destroy the Nittany Lions.

3)  #18 Clemson (+3) at #14 South Carolina - Another overrated SEC team is in this game.  Clemson isn't anything special from the ACC, but they should win this game against a wounded Soutch Carolina team.

4)  Ohio State at #17 Michigan (-7.5) - Would anyone be shocked if the Wolverines laid an egg in this game?  Me neither.  But I am expecting Brady Hoke to wake up the ghosts of Wolverines past and throttle the rudderless Buckeyes.

5)  #22 Notre Dame at #4 Stanford (-6.5) - Stanford needs to back up their crying about their BCS ranking being too low with a near perfect game against Notre Dame.  I think that they do.

6)  #2 Alabama at Auburn (+21.5) - Auburn isn't in the same class as Alabama this year.  However, I expect that Tiger pride to keep it within 3 Touchdowns.  I would love to see the upset in this game though.  WAR EAGLE!

7)  UCLA at #10 USC (-15.5) - Can somebody tell me how in the world UCLA is in the driver's seat to represent the PAC-12 South in the title game?  That is just embarrassing.  If UCLA does make it to the PAC-12 title game and loses, they will be 6-7 and not eligible to go bowling.  Lane kiffin and the Trojans end their year winning the Battle of LA.

8)  Texas at Texas A&M (-6.5) - This rivalry is on ice until at least 2019 with A&M going to the SEC.  The Aggies have many complaints against Texas on the football field and as an institution.  They better get all those frustrations out during this game.  Aggies big.

9)  #8 Houston at Tulsa (+3) - Tulsa has lost 3 games.  The teams that they have lost to?  Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Boise State.  Better than any of the teams that Houston has played.  Give me the Golden hurricane and the upset of one of the last 2 undefeated teams here.

10)  Pittsburgh (+8) at West Virginia - The game that might determine the Big East champion and these two teams can't wait to get out of the conference.  Given the way that the Big East has played out this year, I am taking the underdog to continue to cause havoc. 

Additional Two

11)  Iowa (+9.5) at Nebraska - I am showing my loyalty here.  The Huskers should win and win big, but something tells me that Ferentz has something up his sleeve to pull out a victory for the Hawkeyes here.

12)  East Carolina (+2.5) at Marshall - I picked this game just because.  Look for the Pirates to squeak out a victory here.

College Football Predictions Results - Week 12

A .500 record for last week is good seeing that I was counting on Oregon and Oklahoma to have big victories.  Even though I am going to finish the year over .500, I am disappointed over the past month in my picking games.

LOSS  1) No. 18 USC at No. 4 Oregon (-14.5) - USC 38, Oregon 35.  The Trojans showed up and physically beat the Ducks.  The Trojans aren't going to the PAC-12 Title game due to NCAA sanctions, but they are the best team in the PAC-12 South.  The Ducks will still play in the title game if they can continue to own Oregon State.  However, there place in the BCS Championship game went out the window.

LOSS   2) No. 5 Oklahoma (-13.5) at No. 25 Baylor - Oklahoma 38, Baylor 45.  Ugh.  Oklahoma based on their results this year, was overrated throughout this year.  Baylor is good, but not Top 25 good.  Especially beating Top 10 teams good.  The Sooners let their possibility at the BCS Title game slip through their fingers again.  A possible BCS birth for Oklahoma or a date in the Cotton Bowl.

WIN  3) No. 17 Nebraska at No. 20 Michigan (-2.5) - Nebraska 17, Michigan 45.  Michigan came out and got that ground game rolling.  Nebraska completed 9 passes the entire game.  That is not the recipe to win in the Big House.  Ever think that possibly the SEC and Big 12 are a little overrated?  Because there was talk that Nebraska could roll to an undefeated Big 10 title at the beginning of the season.  Well, where has that gotten them?  Multiple losses in the Big 10 and a couple of them not even close.  They might be second in their division, based upon the game vs. Iowa. 

WIN  4) No. 1 LSU (-28.5) at Mississippi - LSU 52, Mississippi 3.  Les miles is cruising towards an undefeated season.  Ole Miss is cruising towards a new start for the program.  And the new start isn't going to help them much unless they get somebody that relishes the thought of a 5 to 10 year rebuilding process.

LOSS  5) No. 21 Penn State at Ohio State (-7) - Penn State 20, Ohio State 14.  The Nittany Lions learn their fate in regards to the Big 10 title game next week when they play Wisconsin.  Ohio State, while they will be playing in a bowl game, will be under new management next year.  There are way too many reports of Urban Meyer coming to Columbus to discount it.  It will be interesting to see what he does there.

WIN  6) SMU at No. 11 Houston (-20) - SMU 7, Houston 37.  Houston is the team this year that gets the raw deal because of the polls early in the season.  If the polls started in Week 3 or 4, they might have more love.  They weren't taken seriously in the beginning, not being put in the Top 25.  And so while they have went undefeated, they might not be able to bust the BCS formula this year.  And if that is the case, then there are further tweaks to the BCS formula that need to happen.

LOSS  7) Kentucky at No. 13 Georgia (-27.5) - Kentucky 10, Georgia 19.  Mark Richt might have saved his job after an 0-2 start by getting to the SEC Title game, but the SEC East is by far the weaker division of the conference.  They do have the chance of upsetting the BCS by winning the SEC.  That would cause one of the SEC West teams of Arkansas, Alabama, or LSU to be ineligible for the BCS.  And I can hear the screaming all the way up here in North Dakota.

LOSS  8) Vanderbilt (-1.5) at Tennessee - Vanderbilt 21, Tennessee 27 (OT).  In the SEC, 2 wrongs make a right allowing the Vols to win without getting the ball in OT.  An official blew the Vol DB down by contact.  And then in an violation of replay protocol, the replay booth said that the runner wasn't down and the score is allowed to stand.  Both of these teams aren't good, but allowing the rules to be broken to decide the fates of these two teams in regard to post-season possibilities is wrong.

LOSS  9) California at No. 8 Stanford (-20) - California 28, Stanford 31.  Stanford is griping about the BCS standings that Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State are ranked above them.  Well, they had the chance to be #2 in the poll, but got destroyed by Oregon.  This game didn't convince anybody that they are one of the two best teams in the country. 

WIN  10) Harvard (-8) at Yale - Harvard 45, Yale 7.  Neither of these two teams matter in major college football.  While they have a storied rivalry, they perform way better in the classroom.

Additional Two

WIN  11) Mississippi State at No. 6 Arkansas (-12) - Mississippi State 17, Arkansas 44.  Arkansas has the chance to take LSU out this coming week.  Both teams have a shot at the BCS title game, and both teams have the possibility of not making it to the SEC title game.  Crazy, isn't it.  A season of expectations fell flat for the Bulldogs.  Time to regroup and try to close the gap between themselves and the cream of the SEC West.

WIN  12) No. 10 Boise State (-16) at San Diego State - Boise State 52, San Diego State 35.  Boise is relegated to a lower tier bowl due to a 1-point loss to TCU earlier this year.  And they are one of the top 10 teams in the country.  Another flaw in the BCS system.  However, the Broncos should be proud of the way they played this year and the amount of games that they called off the dogs against teams that weren't as good as they were.

Week 12 Results:  6-6 Record.  0-0 Picking Underdogs.  6-6 Picking Favorites.  0-0 Road Underdog.  0-0 Home Underdog.  3-3 Road Favorites.  3-3 Home Favorites.

Season Results:  88-54-3 Record.  61.7 Win Percentage.  21-19 Picking Underdogs. 67-35-3 Picking Favorites. 16-10 Road Underdog.  5-9 Home Underdog.  27-16-1 Road Favorites.  40-19-2 Home Favorites.

10 Straight!

Benoit Pouliot scores the only goal in the shootout, in the 5th round at that, to give the Bruins a 4-3 OT victory.  It looked like the goalies were not going to let in any goals during the shootout until Pouliot, oft in the doghouse but given a boost of confidence, slipped a wrister past Jhonas Enroth for the game winner to give the Boston Bruins their 10th straight win.  With this win the Bruins have basically gone from the cellar to the penthouse, playing like the team that plays as a team and won the Stanley Cup last year.  They are imposing their will on most teams and are playing like a team.
The Bruins were down 3-1 late in the second period but the second half of games is when the Bruins' superior depth, defense and goal tending wear teams down.  They are very arguably the best 5-on-5 team in the NHL and not arguably the deepest team.  Brad Marchand scored late in the second to make it 3-2 and then Captain Zdeno Chara scored the tieing goal in the third.  The Bruins had to defense short handed for the last minute of regulation and the first minute of OT to get to the shootout.

Other notes from the game:  Paul Gaustad bravely took on Milan Lucic the first time Lucic was on the ice.  Milan got the best of Gaustad but Bruin fans respect what he did, taking one for his team and standing up for his teammates...something they should've done the last time they met.
Thomas Vanek scores for the Sabres every time they play the Bruins and he did again tonight.

A big test comes next on Friday when the Bruins take on the Red Wings in Detroit .  I'd love to not be playing this game when the Bs are due for a loss.  Yes, that's a built-in excuse that I'm getting out there ahead of time.

I hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Obligatory Packers Post

On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers ran their record to 10-0 with a 35-26 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The outcome of that game is the reason that I am writing this post.  I was sure that Tampa Bay would win, so I made an agreement with another person on this blog to write the Green Bay post if Tampa lost.  So here I am.

Green Bay has a very nice offense going for it.  Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league, bar none, at the current time.  He spreads the ball around to about 10 different receivers every game.  The offensive line has looked good and James Starks does do some good things on the ground.  People are calling them unstoppable, but I think that is not correct.  You can hold Green Bay to under 28 points a game even with their offense.  But the secret to that is not to overlook their defense.

Many experts write off the defense of the Packers.  That is not the way to beat this team.  The way to beat the Packers is to overestimate the defense.  Make the offense that is going against them realize that the Green Bay defense is the key.  Almost every game, the Packers have multiple takeaways and almost every game they have a defensive score or a turnover caused in the red zone of the opponent.  I have seen enough Packer games to realize that the defense is looking for momentum shifting plays.  The big hit causing a fumble, an interception that leads to a return for touchdown.  So far, it has served them well.  But if you take a look at ESPN and Fox Sports, they both learned something from last Sunday's Battle of the Bays.  How to beat the Packers.

The first thing is a strong running game.  The Packers defense is not built to stay on the field for 12+ plays of a drive that chews up yards and time off the clock.  LeGarrett Blount and the Bucs proved it last week.  When Blount is averaging almost 9 yards a carry, the opponent should realize that the defense isn't primarily playing for the run.  But the thing here isn't lining up in a full house backfield and run up the gut.  It is spreading out the defense with 3 or 4 wide and then hitting a gap in the defense.  The Packers love playing 5 DB's against those formations and also play 4 LBs for most of that time.  That leaves 2 DL in the game.  If you watch Hawk and Matthews, they love speeding around the tackles for sacks.  Use that against them and run between the Guard and Tackle.  They aren't that speedy and there are lanes there which can be exploited.

The second thing is to use the short crossing passing game.  This is where the majority of your passes need to be with the Packers defense.  And I am not talking just one receiver.  I am talking 3 receivers.  You are able to pass with these routes because there are usually 3 blitzers coming out of the Packer defense.  A slight pick on the man to man coverages that the secondary plays could spring the receiver for big gains.  Running vertical with their secondary isn't the way to go.  They are too good.

The third thing is to control the Special Teams battle.  The Packers have good special teams but sometimes can be sloppy.  Get in their heads with good and disciplined coverage on kicks and you might get a turnover because of that sloppiness.

Finally, on defense don't give up the big play.  When playing the Packers, your defense has to play smart disciplined football.  And even though the Packers scored 35 points on Sunday, you could tell by the reactions of their offensive players on the sidelines, they were getting frustrated by the Buccaneers defense.  The Bucs played smart defense and did not let up most of the explosive plays that the Packers are used to.

Yes, the Packers were better than the Buccaneers on Sunday.  And yes, the Packers are going to the playoffs, while the Buccaneers will only play 16 games this season.  However, I will state right now that the first team that does beat the Packers this year, and yes there will be at least one, will do so utilizing some sort of plan based on the Buccaneers performance on Sunday against the Green and Gold.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Carl Edwards is a Champion too

I told you that that pass that Tony Stewart made on Jeff Burton (or Burton gave) would be the difference in the championship, although if that pass hadn't happened, then we'd be looking at a situation where Stewart lost the championship by one point despite winning five Chase races...not good either.
I know all kinds of people are tickled with this artificial form of determining a championship but I've been on the record since the Chase format came into being that I didn't like it; still don't like it. No championship ever in any sport should be decided on a tie breaker. That's what you get when you jerryrig a format.  I submit that Nascar should have been prepared for this possibility and decided if it came to pass that there was a tie, that there would be dual champions.  Think of the additional press that would garner, people arguing those merits and saying Tony was the more deserving, probably so.  But having the most points at the end of the season should make you the champion.  It shouldn't matter whether someone else has the same number of points as well.

Make no mistake, Tony went out and took it but he only had the chance because of a phony format. Previous year's Chase, Tony doesn't win it. Any season without the Chase, Tony doesn't win it. So I feel bad about a guy losing a championship because he was on the wrong side of the format.  Carl Edwards had the highest average finish in Chase history.  More importantly, he had the highest average finish in this Chase. And even though this is a number NASCAR doesn't publish on purpose, Edwards earned the most points this year. Wins is the best tie breaker if you're gonna have one but I'm vehemently against the idea. I don't care if you have to run another race.  But who really would be complaining if they gave out two trophies last night?
And I've said similar things about the other sports where you let in too many teams into the playoffs and one team just squeaks in, gets hot and wins a championship, ala the Cardinals this year, the Packers last year, etc. Don't like it and never will.  Let's use this extreme example to make the point that this new system vastly undervalues the regular season:  One driver has a miraculous first 26 races to the season, say winning 10 races.  Then let's say that that same driver wins 3 Chase races but is also wrecked out of 3 through no fault of his own and that another driver has a Chase like Edwards had this year, with a 4.5ish average finish and ends up with more points than the driver who won 13 races during the season.

So just because the guy who ended hot and with the most wins becomes champion isn't any more fair necessarily than a scenario where he doesn't.  That's what you can get with a phony system.
But my biggest issue with this by far is the fact that it ended with a tie.  If Tony had won by one point, I would feel Edwards kinda got screwed but the other guy earned more points than he did.  That's not what happened here.
Also, Carl Edwards is a champion because of the classy way he handled all this.  If he feels the way I do, he hasn't said it and I think that's the right thing to do as a driver.

Monday, November 21, 2011

American League MVP (open thread)

It was just announced that Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers is the 2011 AL MVP, over Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox who came in 2nd place.

So this opens up once again the old debate about whether a pitcher should even be considered for MVP, much less win the award.  I may surprise some of you, especially since a very deserving player from my beloved BoSox came in 2nd and would have won had pitchers not been eligible; but I submit that there is no single position on the baseball field more capable of dominating a game, winning a game SINGLE HANDEDLY than the pitcher, thus being the most valuable.  I do feel it should be the very rare instance where this happens because your position player is out there every day driving in runs and playing defense but during those 162 games how many times can you say that position player single handedly won the game?
So perhaps what we should have and had all along is three awards -- one for the best pitcher, one for the best position player and an MVP.  I feel that the voters would feel much less constrained if they didn't feel they were taking an award from an outstanding position player.
Your thoughts?

The Finale At Homestead For The 2011 Sprint Cup

The 2011 Finale of the Sprint Cup was held at Homestead earlier today.  The man pictured above, Tony Stewart, became the first driver-owner since 1992 when the late Alan Kulwicki  won the NASCAR Championship.  Stewart, whose nickname is Smoke, won his third championship, although if you saw his stats and the way he was racing coming into the Chase, he wouldn't have been a favorite.  He had no wins, was running in the mid-teens and was running races engaged in a feud with Brian Vickers which cost him more than a few dollars fixing his cars after the wrecks.  His crew chief, Darien Grubb, was told that he wasn't going to be back next year.  So what does the Office Depot team do?  They go out and win 5 races in the chase, and win the Tiebreaker with Carl Edwards about who won the most races during the season 5-1.

The start of the race didn't look like Stewart was going to have a shot.  Just 4 laps into the race Kurt Busch has his transmission go out and lots of debris came out of the 22 car.  One of the pieces went through the mesh on the front of Stewart's car.  Somehow, it didn't put a hole in the radiator.  (I would love to see the picture of the radiator taken out of the Homestead car.  I bet there was a dent at the very least).  Anyways, that was Lucky Break #1.  Lucky Break #2 for this race was the rain that came right after the hole was put into the mesh.  That allowed the #14 crew to have extra time to work on that and get the problem fixed.  Stewart restarted after the rain in 40th place.  It was the first of many times that he would start from the back of the field.

Stewart raced up to 23rd and another caution allowed his crew to work on the beaten up car already some more.  He restarted the race in 32nd.  Meanwhile, Edwards was driving up front and doing everything that he could do to ensure that there was no drama about the championship.  In fact, Edwards led this race over 115 laps.  Stewart knew that he had a strong car and was telling his crew about how the 99 team would be ashamed when he won the race after coming back from the back of the field twice.  It just went along with the rest of the chase where Stewart was flapping his gums and telling the world that he would finish with his third championship.  Every chance he got, he was telling Edwards that he was coming to win and there was nothing that the #99 team could do.  Well, he had the chance to prove it today.

During a second rain delay that lasted 75 minutes, Stewart was still bragging about what the end would bring.  He told ESPN, ''We are fixin' to keep delivering this whoopin'; we got more in mind for him the rest of the day.''  And I am almost certain that Edwards heard that quote.  And he had to be a bit worried.  Stewart was passing cars right and left going through the field.  In fact, at the end of the race, Stewart had passed 118 cars on the way to victory in the race and the season.  But the best driving that Smoke was to do hadn't been done yet.  And the crew chief that was told that he wasn't coming back next year made the call of the year to allow Stewart the chance at immortality.

After racing resumed, Stewart was a man possessed.  He was making three and four-wide passes to try and catch up to Edwards.  And then Darien Grubb made the decision of the season.  Stewart was out front after green flag pit stops and told Stewart to conserve fuel.  Even as people who had completed their pit stops were gaining anywhere from 1 to 2 seconds on Stewart.  He ran out of gas on his way into the pits.  And the car fired right up after the fuel stop.  He had outran Edwards on the tank of fuel by at least 10 laps.  And the lap after Stewart came out, a yellow flag was thrown for rain yet again.  At the final restart, he was fourth, not needing to pit again, while his competitors needed one more stop.  It was at that point that Smoke saw the light at the end of the tunnel and went for it.  He passed AJ Allmendinger, Brad Keselowski, and Kyle Busch to take the lead and not look back.  Edwards finished in 2nd, and the points were tied, but in the end, Stewart was correct in last week's statement.  All I have to do is win the race next week, and whatever Carl does does not matter.

In the big scheme of things, the Chase has done what it is designed to do.  It allowed for the last couple of races at the end of the season to mean something and the ability for NASCAR to hype it's product that used to get crushed by coverage of the NFL.  For those that don't like the Chase, I agree with you, but get over it.  NASCAR got tired of people winning the Championship by 400 points or something close to it.  So they decided to make it where racers that were having good seasons got a second bite at the apple by declaring there was a special format where only select individuals could win the championship.  It also made lots of sponsors happy.  If you are Carl's Jr. and you are on the 10th place car during the old format, you might get mentioned once or twice a race.  Now, you are mentioned for a good amount of time for at least one race and if the driver does well at the first stop of the Chase, then you get even more publicity.  Makes keeping those sponsors paying out major dollars easier.

As for Carl Edwards, I did gain back some respect for him.  He showed class in his losing the Championship that in all probabilities should have been his.  He did the interviews, went and shaked Stewart's hand and was friendly to all.  But you know that this has to tear him apart inside.  If only one point more had been scored by him or one point less scored by Stewart, he would be the champion.  I am sure that the Edwards fans out there are screaming that the pass of Jeff Burton by Tony Stewart at the end of the race of one of the Chase races was given to Stewart by Burton and that is what caused this fiasco.  Well, if that is the case, then let's call Roush on his team orders to help any of their teammates in the chase a fiasco as well.  And the one thing I do get a crack-up about is that the Ford Racing division has said that Roush is basically the factory team for Ford.  Stewart-Haas for Chevy?  Not so much. 

This year, just like every year had it's share of controversies, hard feelings, and good racing.  Next year will be the same.  And while the cast of characters fighting for the championship might be different, if NASCAR has it's way, there will be two drivers with a shot at winning the championship in Homestead driving their asses off in pursuit at immortality.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

For A King's Ransom

Much thanks to DaSnake for pointing out this story -- actually, the story at the site Throwback is two stories in one, the story of King Kelly and another regarding the rare autograph of his that was recently "discovered" and is going up for auction. 
The story is an excellent read, especially if you're unfamiliar with the character King Kelly, one of the early stars of baseball in the late 1800s, or if you're interested in sports memorabilia.
Kelly was a flamboyant man and baseball player for the Chicago White Stockings and Boston Beaneaters of the National League, a real self promoter.  Despite this fact, it is thought that less than 10 of his autograph are in existence today; and to find one in such great condition with such a great story behind its discovery, will likely result in this piece going at auction for a "King's ransom."
Here is a quote from another online article regarding this auction:  "What SCP Auctions calls the "greatest 19th Century baseball autograph find in hobby history" is making an impression on collectors of rare baseball memorabilia--and those fascinated by the pro game's early history."  If that's not a good enough teaser for you, well, I guess nothing would be.
The bidding was to have ended last night, though the only information I can find thus far is that the bidding had passed $100,000.  I will endeavor to report the final winning bid, unless someone beats me to it.  Thanks again, DaSnake, for pointing this out.  And to answer your question in the comments:  Unfortunately that is the only way to communicate on a blog but don't worry, leave a comment anywhere at anytime.

Friday, November 18, 2011

College Football Predictions - Week 12

Oh boy, this week might get bad for me.  Out of the 12 games that I am picking, not a single one am I going with the underdog.  The only two that I really considered was Nebraska and Penn State.  Let's go with the favorites and hopefully ride into a big week picking winners.

1) No. 18 USC at No. 4 Oregon (-14.5) - Well, this is the Trojans bowl game for this year.  Since they are banished from a bowl game, the PAC-12 bylaws also keep them out of the Championship game for the league.  I expect them to play hard, but ultimately not be able to keep up with the quack attack that took out Stanford last week.  LaMichael James is over his injuries and looks like he is one of the best backs in the nation.  Sorry, Lane Kiffin, but the Trojans are not talented enough at this point to keep the Ducks from winning this game.

2) No. 5 Oklahoma (-13.5) at No. 25 Baylor - Another Top 25 matchup, another Top 25 blowout according to yours truly.  Baylor isn't that talented.  RG III is a great college quarterback, but the Sooners defense should be up for the job.  Bob Stoops has the Sooners rolling into the Bedlam game.

3) No. 17 Nebraska at No. 20 Michigan (-2.5) - The reason that I took Michigan in this game is Denard Robinson and the lack of passing from Nebraska.  If either of those reasons are not there, I would take the Cornhuskers to romp easily.

4) No. 1 LSU (-28.5) at Mississippi - Ole Miss has a new Athletic Director and new Head Football Coach next year.  The only thing going for the Rebels is history.  Last year LSU struggled to beat them.  The previous two years, LSU lost.  I don't see history repeating itself.

5) No. 21 Penn State at Ohio State (-7) - I am sure that Bob Bradley has been on a rollercoaster ride over the past two weeks.  I am glad that I don't have his job of trying to keep the Nittany Lions together and focused on football.  Penn State is the better team, but going on the road and still dealing with the distractions is too much for Penn State.

6) SMU at No. 11 Houston (-20) - Case Keenum has monster numbers as the Cougars are lighting up scoreboards all over C-USA.  The thing is that the Houston defense sometimes takes games off.  I don't think that is the case this week with the Mustangs coming to town.  June Jones should be applauded for turning around the SMU program after 20 years of mediocrity at best.

7) Kentucky at No. 13 Georgia (-27.5) - The Bulldogs have rebounded from an 0-2 start for 8 straight wins.  I see #9 here as the Kentucky Wildcats are still a bottom feeding SEC team in football.  While Joker Philips seems like a good coach, he needs help in getting Wildcat football to the upper echelon of the SEC.

8) Vanderbilt (-1.5) at Tennessee - It is a sad day to be a Tennessee Volunteer and see that Vanderbilt is favored to win a football game against the Rocky Top Orange.  Vandy is looking good and has been fighting teams hard and making them earn wins.  I expect the Commodores to win by double digits.

9) California at No. 8 Stanford (-20) - With their BCS Championship Title Game hopes crushed by the Ducks last week, the Cardinal should be able to take out their anger on a Cal team that isn't up to their usual standards. 

10) Harvard (-8) at Yale - Harvard is a scoring machine in the Ivy League.  They have scored at least 35 points in their past 6 games.  Yale hasn't scored that many in any of their last 6.  The Yale QB should have went for the Rhodes Scholarship interview because the Bulldogs are going to get whipped.

Additional Two

11) Mississippi State at No. 6 Arkansas (-12) - Mississippi State has a good defense.  But the offense sputters along.  That is one thing that Arkansas doesn't have to worry about, the sputtering of the offense.  Arkansas is looking forward to LSU and should take this contest rather easily.

12) No. 10 Boise State (-16) at San Diego State - I do not envy the Aztecs.  The last time Boise lost, they came back and won their next game by 36.  Kellen Moore should have 5 or 6 TD passes and the Broncos bounce back from a bad performance vs. TCU.

College Football Prediction Results - Week 11

I am disappointed in this week.  Only 7 wins and losses by Boise State and LSU in the point spread hurt because they had been covering all year long.  

WIN  1) No. 6 Oregon (+3) at No. 3 Stanford - Oregon 53, Stanford 30.  Oregon is the big dog of the PAC-12 and proved it in this game.  LaMichael James scored 3 times and the Ducks rolled over the Cardinal easily in this game.  Andrew Luck might be the Heisman Trophy winner, and possible #1 overall pick in the NFL draft, but this game proves that the best team wins championships. 

WIN  2) No. 10 Virginia Tech (-1.5) at No. 20 Georgia Tech - Virginia Tech 37, Georgia Tech 26.  The Hokies might be the best team in the ACC again, with Clemson looking like they are going to falter yet again late in this season.  Beating Georgia Tech on the road goes a long way in establishing that fact.

WIN  3) No. 19 Nebraska (-2) at No. 12 Penn State - Nebraska 17, Penn State 14.  This game was emotionally filled with everything that had gone on in Happy Valley the preceding week.  The Huskers are the better team but the passing game needs to improve quickly. 

LOSS  4) TCU at No. 5 Boise State (-13) - TCU 36, Boise State 35.  If I am Chris Peterson, I am finding a kicking coach specifically for field goal attempts.  That and I am putting a TCU logo in the locker room to remind my players each and every day of the team that has taken us out of BCS Championship game consideration at least twice.    

WIN  5) No. 24 Auburn at No. 14 Georgia (-13) - Auburn 7, Georgia 45.  The Bulldogs are going to be the SEC East representative in Atlanta for the SEC Championship game.  They can throw a monkey wrench in the BCS by winning that game.  And while the SEC is the best conference in the land, it is in spite of the East which Georgia leads this year. 

WIN  6) Tennessee at No. 8 Arkansas (-13) - Tennessee 7, Arkansas 49.  The Hogs next game is against LSU.  The winner has the SEC West title and a date against Georgia in Atlanta.  The Vols are becoming the Vanderbilt Commodores Plus.  They can't hold up against the good teams and might pull out a victory here or there in SEC play. 

LOSS  7) Wake Forest at No. 9 Clemson (-15.5) - Wake Forest 28, Clemson 31.  This game shouldn't have been this close.  Clemson throughout the year has been the better team and with Wake faltering down the stretch, it looked like a easy Clemson victory.  Guess that's why they play the games.

TIE  8) No. 4 Alabama (-17) at Mississippi State - Alabama 24, Mississippi State 7.  Alabama came back from the loss against LSU, but not as strongly as I thought they would.  The Tide are still hoping for a BCS rematch against LSU.  That is the one game I don't want to see.

LOSS  9) No. 2 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech (+19.5) - Oklahoma State 66, Texas Tech 6.  The Cowboys scored early and often in this game.  They also showed the country why they should be favored in the Bedlam game.  It was also nice to see that the defense actually decided to stop an offense.

WIN  10) Miami (Fla.) (+9.5) at Florida State - Miami 19, Florida State 23.  Both coaches have their respective programs on the rebound and Jumbo Fisher has shown that the succession plan after Bobby Bowden was a good one.  This rivalry will become more heated in the next couple of years.

Additional Two

WIN  11) Washington at No. 18 USC (-13) - Washington 17, USC 40.  Lane Kiffin is showing that he can coach a major BCS Conference team.  The Volunteer year might have wised him up a bit about how to go about the college ranks as far as coaching.  Look for the Trojans to be a force in the BCS after probation is over.

LOSS  12) Western Kentucky at No. 1 LSU (-41.5) - Western Kentucky 9, LSU 42.  The Tigers offense looked disjointed in the first half.  The second, it looked like the offense righted itself.  They need to be clicking against Arkansas or otherwise they might find themselves with a loss and out of the BCS Ttile game.

Week 11 Results:  7-4-1 Record.  2-1 Picking Underdogs.  5-3-1 Picking Favorites.  2-0 Road Underdog.  0-1 Home Underdog.  2-0-1 Road Favorites.  3-3 Home Favorites.

Season Results:  82-48-3 Record.  62.8 Win Percentage.  21-19 Picking Underdogs. 61-29-3 Picking Favorites. 16-10 Road Underdog.  5-9 Home Underdog.  24-13-1 Road Favorites.  37-16-2 Home Favorites.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Cousin Lynnsey drinking my (3rd) Prelude
No, not Christmas...bah humbug.  It's the most wonderful time of the year because Shipyard Brewing's Prelude Special Ale is available again.  As many of you know, my go-to beer is Shipyard's excellent Export Ale but the Prelude I love even more.  It is not one of those fruity, pumpkiny, overly-spiced winter abominations; it is just what the title says, a nice heavy special ale with a rich nutty flavor.

Last evening was the official launch party date for Prelude, coinciding with Maine Beer Week, and was held at the four Portland Pie locations.  So yours truly and four other family members met at the Scarborough location to eat some very fine pizza, have fun together and, of course, partake in several Prelude Ales.

I'm not very good at describing flavors or discerning'll just have to go get your own.  I promise you will love this just as much as we do.  Rick and George, this is the very same present I brought you last winter.  Suffice to say we all had a very good time together and drank several glasses of this very fine ale (and kept an eye on the Bruin game too).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No Basketball for you

When asked, I proudly tell people I'm a Celtics fan.  I'm starting to wonder if I am being honest with them or myself. 

I certainly was a fan during the JoJo White/Dave Cowens days.  No doubt that continued during the Larry Bird era.  I've blocked out what Wikipedia refers to as "tragedy and decline '93-'98," and was excited when the "big three" joined the team for the 2007-2008.  I watched a few regular season games, followed the season in the newspaper and on the web and then thoroughly enjoyed the playoffs.  I watched fewer games last year, only glanced at the standings during the season and didn't cry when we were eliminated from the playoffs.

So, now basketball isn't happening - except our pickup games at the park - and I'm honestly not missing it.  Is it the players, the NBA or is it me? 

Maybe there's just too much stuff going on - the McRib is back, for example.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Welcome back to Victory Lane, Kasey Kahne

 I can't wait to make a post with that title regarding a win by the 43 car; it's been a long, long time.  But I'm happy my other favorite driver, Kasey Kahne, found his way back there this weekend.

Kasey has been one of my favorite drivers (along with whoever is driving for Richard Petty) since he broke in driving the #9 Dodge for Ray Evernham. He's a very talented driver who's been a winner at different types of tracks and is respected by his competitors. I wish he was still driving a Dodge and/or still driving for RPM but I'm still a fan and glad to see him get this monkey off his back, even if it was in a Toyota.
I can't seem to find a statistic that shows the points earned by EVERY driver since the Chase started but I contend my three favorite drivers (43, 4 & 9) are right at the top 5 since the Chase started, which makes me optimistic that Kasey will be in the Chase next year, his first driving the 5 car for Hendrick, and that for the first time since the Chase came into being we'll see a Richard Petty owned car in the Chase.
I like Elliott Sadler personally but that was a bonehead move in the Nationwide race on Saturday.  He put himself in a position to be a moving roadblock.  I don't blame anyone who ran into him.  If I'm driving behind him and he passes me, it's fair for me to assume he's faster than me, not suddenly pull a half a car length in front of me going considerably slower than me.  I don't think Leffler could have missed him if he wanted to, other than stopping on the track when he saw that fool move at the beginning.  I saw a lot of that during the Cup race, drivers diving down low to the flat spot and either losing ground to the cars they were trying to pass or coming up in front of those cars going way too slow to be there.
Now with Carl Edwards coming in to Phoenix with a 3 point lead, then finishing one position ahead of Tony Stewart but Stewart leading the most laps takes us to Homestead next weekend with Edwards still holding that 3 point lead. Who do you want to win the championship AND who do you think will? I'm rooting for Edwards but I can't help but wonder if that one point Stewart picked up at the end of the race yesterday passing Jeff Burton will be the difference. Edwards has traditionally been better than anyone at Homestead of late but this one's for all the marbles.
Anything else Nascar you'd like to talk about?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Big Bad Bruins are back

Thanks Brent, for the link and the blog idea.  The Bruins have scored 30 goals in the last 5 games and also still playing the kind of tough hockey with 4 lines that won them the Cup last year.
But let's talk about Milan Lucic's hit on Sabre goalie Ryan Miller last night.

Lucic could've been gentler but that was a dead heat race to the puck. By the time he realized (5 feet away?) that Miller was going to beat him to the puck and he's at full speed, how much time does he have to miss Miller? Lucic gets a charging call because he didn't try harder to miss Miller? Fair enough, if that's what the call is for. If the call is for hitting him, then I disagree because it was unavoidable. It's not even charging by definition but I don't think the Bruins mind. I know you all think I'm biased but what would be the basis for a suspension?
No one comes out of the crease more than Tim Thomas and no Bruin fan should have a problem if he gets run into. Other teams know that if they do run into Thomas, they're gonna get their asses kicked though. Obviously nobody worries about that with the Sabres. That intimidated them right out of what was a close game at the time. Do it again, Milan!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Real College Football

College football should be limited to Army/Navy, Harvard/Yale and Williams/Amherst, places where the rivalries are historically second to none and where football is not the reason for being a student at these institutions.  Go to a game where the players are not on scholarship and I dare you that you can't tell the difference in the desire level.  To hell with arguing about the bowl system versus a playoff; I say take all of Division I football, take it out of the colleges and make a professional minor league.
I know I won't be making any friends with this post but this is basically a New Englander's attitude regarding college football, especially in light of yet another scandal; this one probably the worst of them, particularly when you consider it's happening at a program considered historically clean.  I guess because I come from New England, where college football has always been a different thing than it's evolved into in other parts of the country is why I would much rather watch professional football or student athletes playing football at some small college.
I know none of this will ever happen given how popular college football is in this country and how much money it makes for all the schools involved but as long as an amateur sport is played for profit, bad people will take advantage and bad things will continue to happen.

UPDATE:  This fantastic (the correct words don't exist) guest editorial just showed up tonight on the Washington Post.  I strongly encourage everyone to read it.  It's one of the best/worst things I've read in quite sometime.  Here's the opening paragraph...that should be enough to grab you.
I’m 31, an Iraq war veteran, a Penn State graduate, a Catholic, a native of State College, acquaintance of Jerry Sandusky’s, and a product of his Second Mile foundation.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Just Win, Baby

Just Win BabyI had a good chuckle this morning when the San Diego CW6 News morning team of Marc Bailey and Heather Myers were forced to wear Raider colors during the broadcast. This is what happened after they bet weatherman C. S. Keys that their San Diego Chargers would beat his (my) Oakland Raiders last night.

Back in the day I used to do “jersey bets” all the time. I’d go head to head with someone in the office. Whoever lost had to not only wear the other team’s jersey for the whole day, but they got their picture taken and the photo was sent via email to the entire office. A number of coworkers had their picture taken with my Raiders jersey, and there may or may not be a pic of me wearing a Cleveland Browns jersey. I won’t admit to it.

QUESTION: Have you ever done a jersey bet or something similar? If so, how did it go?

The 1-3-1 trap explained

I'm sharing this video because my fellow authors here can never get enough Jack Edwards but you'll have to admit Jack brings a personality and passion to this that makes hockey great.

If you'd like to read the article that this video is from, you can read it here:  Jack Edwards and the Holy Grail

Didn't we go through this whole discussion 10 years ago or so, with the league finally instituting some rule changes because the trap was "killing the game?"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What We Should Be Focusing On In Happy Valley

Instead of focusing on the hypocrisy of the Leadership at Penn State and how those people could actually think that they were right, we are mostly forgetting what we should be focusing on.  The health and welfare of the boys that were (allegedly) abused.  My rants on this situation about Joe Paterno and the University of Penn State can wait for another day.  My thoughts and prayers are with the families and the people that were abused by a coach on the Penn State staff.  I hope that sometime in the very near future, they can find peace within themselves about what has happened.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

College Football Predictions - Week 11

This week, should be a good one.  However, the Penn State - Nebraska game has all of a sudden changed in stature and scrutiny.  Joe Paterno is out as coach and it is Senior Day on Saturday at the (Not So) Happy Valley.  Vegas has also fell in love with the number 13 this week.  4 out of the 12 games have a 13 point line.

1) No. 6 Oregon (+3) at No. 3 Stanford - The Big game of the week.  Ducks-Cardinal.  For what should be the PAC-12 representative in the BCS.  LaMichael James is back for the Ducks and that should be the difference for the Ducks.  I think that Andrew Luck will win the Heisman, but that doesn't do anything for this game.  I am going with the Ducks because of the speed and the accumulated Big Game experience they bring to the table.  Whichever team does win this game should be able to win the PAC-12 Championship Game over either Arizona State or UCLA. 

2) No. 10 Virginia Tech (-1.5) at No. 20 Georgia Tech - Frank Beamer has the Hokies back in the Top 10 and he will keep the Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech from upsetting the Hokies.

3) No. 19 Nebraska (-2) at No. 12 Penn State - This game is going to feel weird.  Joe Pa is no longer the coach at Penn State.  Nebraska is fighting to win their division in the Big 10.  And both teams are in the Top 20.  I will take the team that is not in turmoil, and it is possible that the psyche of the Nittany Lions might not be at full strength.

4) TCU at No. 5 Boise State (-13) - I will take Boise all day every day in this game.  I have a feeling that Caoch Peterson isn't having a hard time keeping the Broncos attention.  I am sure that there is revenge on their minds for past years.  Plus, the Broncos are on target for a perfect season and Winning the MWC in their first (and possibly only) season.  

5) No. 24 Auburn at No. 14 Georgia (-13) - The Bulldogs are the paradox for the SEC.  They are starting to be touted by SEC fans as a real good team, possibly the 3rd or 4th best in the conference.  They could wrap-up the East Division this weekend with help from Florida.  Auburn are not Road Warriors.  Look for the 'Dawgs to roll.

6) Tennessee at No. 8 Arkansas (-13) - The Hogs have a real chance to win the SEC still.  The Big game comes when they play LSU.  If they beat LSU, and win against Tennessee, they are the SEC West Champ.  And that beyond anything else is an upset of epic proportions.

7) Wake Forest at No. 9 Clemson (-15.5) - Clemson has had two weeks to stew about their first loss of the season.  Wake Forest is going the wrong way after beating Florida State.  those two things will cause a blowout win for Clemson.

8) No. 4 Alabama (-17) at Mississippi State - Do you think that Nick Saban has put a burr under the saddle of the Tide players collectively?  I do and the Bulldogs will feel the wrath of those players.

9) No. 2 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech (+19.5) - Tech will not win this game, but the Oklahoma State defense will allow the Red Raiders to score point for point with the Cowboys until the end of the game.

10) Miami (Fla.) (+9.5) at Florida State - I don't believe that there are 9 points separating the Canes and Noles.  Al Golden has done a wonderful job with Miami, as has Jumbo Fisher with Florida State.  I expect for both of these programs to rebound into national powers within the next 5 years.

Additional Two

11) Washington at No. 18 USC (-13) - Lane Kiffin has stabilized the Trojans after the Reggie Bush/Pete Carroll fiasco.  I believe that Tennessee would like to have him back.  The Trojans are playing well and should be able to handle the Huskies.

12) Western Kentucky at No. 1 LSU (-41.5) - The Hilltoppers aren't in the Tigers class.  Watch for LSU to try and prove that the Alabama game was a hiccup.

College Football Predictions Results - Week 10

Well, the foam helmet didn't work.  Maybe next week I will wear the Bison jacket.  You know the #1 team in the country in the Football Championship Subdivision.  A .500 record is not good enough.  However, i am doing better against the spread against College Football Talk.  Their record against the spread is 69-47-2.

WIN  1) No. 1 LSU (+6) at No. 2 Alabama - LSU 9, Alabama 6.  For the Game of the Century, it sucked golf balls.  All that was shown in this game is that both teams have very good defenses and the quarterbacks for each of these team are adequate at best.  As for those people out there that want a rematch in the BCS title game, watch this game again and tell me that you want this yet again.  I guarantee that a rematch would be the same way and both teams would look worse. 

WIN  2) No. 10 South Carolina at No. 8 Arkansas (-5) - South Carolina 28, Arkansas 44.  Arkansas still has their fate in their own hands as far as winning the SEC.  I don't think that they will, but they have been better than I thought they were.  As for South Carolina, Florida could knock them out of the SEC East race on Saturday.

LOSS  3) No. 17 Kansas State at No. 3 Oklahoma State (-21) - Kansas State 45, Oklahoma State 52.  While Oklahoma State stayed undefeated, you have to worry about their defense giving up all of those points.  Kansas State, while losing those games to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State has had a better season than anybody expected.

LOSS  4) Texas A&M (+13.5) at No. 7 Oklahoma - Texas A&M 25, Oklahoma 41.  Oklahoma still has a shot at the BCS championship game.  They need for about 4 teams to lose, but they are on the doorstep.  Beating Oklahoma State in the Bedlam game would really help that cause.

WIN  5) No. 6 Oregon (-15) at Washington - Oregon 34, Washington 17.  The Ducks are in the same boat as the Sooners.  They have a team ahead of them in the standings that they play and if they win, which would help their case of being a 1 loss team in the BCS title game.  Beating Stanford would also have Oregon in the PAC-12 title game against Arizona State or UCLA.  Oregon is better than those two teams any day of the week.  So the Stanford-Oregon game is basically for the PAC-12 BCS berth. 

WIN  6) No. 23 Cincinnati (-2.5) at Pittsburgh - Cincinnati 26, Pittsburgh 23.  The example of the weakness of the Big East is Cincinnati.  The Bearcats are undefeated in conference play.  If the Bearcats win the Big East, the Big East is really in need of better teams.

LOSS  7) Texas Tech (+10) at Texas - Texas Tech 20, Texas 52.  Maybe this will be the game that Texas decides to get up for each and every year since A&M won't be on the schedule anymore.  If that is the case, then the Red Raiders need to get the intensity up for the Longhorns, because it didn't show in this game.

LOSS  8) No. 4 Stanford at Oregon State (+20.5) - Stanford 38, Oregon State 13.  The game was close until the Beavers self-destructed in the second half.  The Cardinal have their biggest test this year on Saturday.  Playing the Ducks is never easy and both teams are looking for more than just the PAC-12 title.

LOSS  9) Notre Dame (-13.5) at Wake Forest - Notre Dame 24, Wake Forest 17.  I hate picking Notre Dame games and I don't like the Golden Domers personally.  How is it that they look like world beaters one week and play down to the competition the next?  This is the Dr. Jeckyl/Mr. Hyde team of college football.

LOSS  10) Army at Air Force (-15) - Army 14, Air Force 24.  It still pains me that the Golden Knights aren't as good as their service academy brethren.  The Falcons won the Commander's Cup with this win and my congratulations go out to them.  Enjoy it and rub Navy's face in it.

Additional Two

WIN  11) Louisville (+12.5) at No. 24 West Virginia - Louisville 38, West Virginia 35.  Bill Stewart was run out of West Virginia because his teams would lose 3 or 4 games a year.  Well, he is gone and the trend has continued, at least for this year.  And the hopes for the Mountaineers were large in the preseason.  The Big East championship and possibly running the table.  Expectations came up short.

WIN  12) Purdue at No. 19 Wisconsin (-26.5) - Purdue 17, Wisconsin 62.  The Badgers still have a chance to be in the Big 10 championship game.  Purdue not so much after this game.

Week 10 Results:  6-6 Record.  2-3 Picking Underdogs.  4-3 Picking Favorites.  2-2 Road Underdog.  0-1 Home Underdog.  2-1 Road Favorites.  2-2 Home Favorites.

Season Results:  75-44-2 Record.  62.8 Win Percentage.  19-18 Picking Underdogs. 56-26-2 Picking Favorites. 14-10 Road Underdog.  5-8 Home Underdog.  22-13 Road Favorites.  34-13-2 Home Favorites. 

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A Great Year For North Dakota Collegiate Football

Introducing the 3 Football teams in the State of North Dakota that are in the national football polls of their respective divisions.

This is the logo of the Valley City State Vikings.  Currently they are 9-1 in the NAIA.  They are ranked #12 in the nation.  The NAIA playoff pairings are announced on Sunday.  It looks like the Vikings will make the playoffs as an independent with the Dakota Athletic Conference not recognized as a conference since the conference went from 8 teams to 4 last year.

The current logo of the Fighting Sioux of the University of North Dakota.  They are ranked #22 in the current FCS polls that were released on Sunday.  They are 6-3 this year so far, but 2 out of the 3 losses came at the hands of Idaho and Fresno State who are BCS schools.  They still have their fate in their own hands about winning the Great West title.  Not bad for a school who is still transitioning into Division I.

Last, but definately not least, we have the North Dakota State Bison.  Currently they are 9-0 on the season.  They are also ranked #1 in the nation for the FCS division.  The Bison have gone on the road and rolled the Minnesota Golden Gophers and won a showdown with then #3 Northern Iowa 27-19.  The closest game that they have played was a 9-3 victory over Southern Illinois.  1 win out of their last 2 games will give them a share of the Missouri Valley Conference title, which the Bison haven't won before. 

We here in North Dakota are proud of what our local schools are accomplishing.  And yes, I should get to a game or three each year, but this year has been nuts for me.  If the Vikings do get a game at home, I will be there.  If the Bison get a home game, I will try to get tickets.  However, the Bison are selling out at over 20,000+ people attending each game.  And if I do go, I will post about it.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

He Said It (Via Open Letter)

Kyle BuschTo all,

I've had a lot of time today to sit and reflect, and try to put my thoughts into words as best I can.

I want to sincerely apologize for my actions during Friday night's Truck Series race at Texas.

I apologize to my fans, all my sponsors, everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports.

After talking with my team, it's great to have their support and encouragement to assure me that there are better days ahead. Even though this took place while driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, I am sorry for how difficult this has been for everyone associated with Joe Gibbs Racing's Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series teams.

I'd also like to apologize to Ron Hornaday Jr., and everyone associated with the No. 33 team in the Truck Series.

I understand why I was taken out of the car for the rest of the weekend. NASCAR officials had to act, and I accept their punishment and take full responsibility for my actions.

As a racecar driver, the hardest thing to do is to sit on the sidelines listening to cars on the track when you know you should be out there competing. For this, I have no one to blame but myself.

Through a lot of support from the people around me, I feel like I've made a lot of strides this year, but this was certainly a step backward. Moving forward, I will do everything I possibly can to represent everyone involved in a positive manner. However, I know my long-term actions will have more of a bearing than anything I say right now.


Kyle Busch

I’ve had a lot of time this weekend as well to reflect on what happened during Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch hooked Ron Hornaday Jr.’s rear bumper and put him into the Turn 3 wall on Lap 13 after both of them made contact with each other while lapping a slower truck as you’ll see below.

In the interview Busch gave after the incident, not only did he show no remorse for his actions but he blamed the other drivers for his wrecks during the last four races.

It’s always been about Kyle Busch and no one else ever since this man-child was wedged into the seat of the #5 by Rick Hendrick. Enough!

My thoughts are this: the old Kyle Busch would never have endangered another driver’s life and/or their championship hopes when he lost his temper. The “new” Kyle Busch crossed that line Friday night. Luckily, Hornaday Jr. was uninjured in the incident but he’ll have to wait another year to win another CWTS championship.

The reality is, an angry Kyle Busch is infinitely more dangerous to other drivers behind the wheel of a stock car than Jeremy Mayfield ever was on meth. Allegedly, of course.

I think we’ve had enough of these Busch league antics. It’s time for an intervention. While I agree with NASCAR parking Busch for the weekend, I want to see more done so this doesn’t happen again. Unfortunately we can’t get Jimmy Spencer to slug Kyle Busch like he did to his older brother Kurt, so instead I’d like to see him enrolled in an anger management program so this doesn’t ever happen again. Failing that, I’d love for his sponsors to leave him and/or for Busch to get kicked to the curb by Joe Gibbs Racing.

Losing the ability to do what he loves might be the only thing left that will get Kyle Busch’s attention that he, not the other drivers, have a problem.