Monday, January 30, 2012

On to Wembley

I thought this article about Craig Bellamy getting a goal against his former club, Manchester City, to propel his current club and the one he dreamed of playing for as a boy, Liverpool, into the Carling Cup final at Wembley Stadium against his hometown team, Cardiff City, was a nice segue for this neophyte English Premier League fan to talk for just a moment about soccer -- gulp!
I've never been much of a soccer fan (I find the game dull and can't stand the flopping and diving) but have to admit that watching the high level of play of the EPL has changed that a little.  When the same ownership group that owns the Boston Red Sox bought Liverpool, I became curious as to what all the fuss was about.  When I read about the fact that the team they bought was the most storied, and infamous (read about Hillsborough and Heysel), in English pro soccer history, I became interested to learn what the league was all about.

So I've adopted Liverpool as my favorite team, even though I watch very few games (I'm not that big a fan) but what fascinates me much more than the game play is the history and, for lack of a better word, format of European soccer.  I'm going to attempt to explain, with a small base of knowledge, how this works and why I find it fascinating.  Hopefully the other EPL fans here will bail me out.  Every European league has a tiered system where the best teams play in the top tier, the next best in the second tier and so on.  In the English League that amounts to four tiers with around 20 teams per tier.  Every year, amidst the regular EPL season, there is an elimination tournament played amongst all the teams of the four tiers, 92 teams, that is the Carling Cup or League Cup.  The championship game will be played at Wembley Stadium between Liverpool and Cardiff City, a "second tier" team that came all the way through.  Liverpool has won this tournament a record seven times.

Liverpool defeated Manchester United (har har, Rick!) this weekend to advance to the quarter finals of an even bigger English soccer tournament, the FA Cup, where they'll take on Brighton.  Aside from winning the League Cup, which is won solely by accumulating the most points during the season, the FA Cup or Football Association Challenge Cup is the most prestigious in the EPL.  From The Wiki:
The FA Cup was first held in 1871–72. Entry is open to all teams who compete in the Premier League, the Football League and in steps one to five of the FA National League System, as well as selected teams in step 6.[3] This means that clubs of all standards compete, from the largest clubs in England and Wales down to amateur village teams. The tournament has become known for the possibility for "minnows" from the lower divisions to become "giant-killers" by eliminating top clubs from the tournament and even theoretically win the Cup, although lower division teams rarely progress beyond the early stages. The qualification rounds and a system of byes mean that the very smallest and very biggest teams almost never meet.
Obviously what makes it fun as a fan is that your lower tier teams get to take a shot at the big boys and sometimes even knock them off.  Imagine a semi-pro baseball team that has played in your neck of the woods for a hundred years getting to play in a big tournament every year with the likes of the Yankees.  As a sports history buff, it is this kind of thing that makes European soccer interesting to me.  Manchester United has won the most of these cups.
But wait, there's more -- one more that I'll describe but there's even more than that.  What's notable is the UEFA Champions League, which is another tournament that runs during the regular seasons of all of the major European soccer leagues that pits the top teams (1 to 5 teams depending upon the strength of the league) from each league in a battle to determine the champion of all champions.  There's nothing else like this in any other sport.  The championship game of this tournament is the largest viewed annual sporting event in the world, even bigger than the Super Bowl.  It would be like a dozen countries each having a Super Bowl and then a tournament ensued after that pitting all the Super Bowl champions.  It's like the World Cup, except it's played every year and pits professional teams against each other rather than country all star teams.  Real Madrid has won this tournament the most times, 9, with Liverpool having won it 5, the most of any EPL team.
Liverpool is obviously favored to win its 8th Carling Cup and is in good position in the FA Cup tourney, although there are still many good teams remaining at this point.  Since Liverpool did not finish high enough in the EPL last year to qualify to play in the UEFA Champions League this year and are not going to win the EPL league title this year, winning the Carling and possibly the FA would be a very big deal for this storied club.
I'm also writing this post as my punishment for not having the guts to blog challenge Rick regarding this weekend's match between Liverpool and Manchester United...missed opportunity.  I won't hesitate if that opportunity presents itself deeper in the tourney, RJ.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ranking the Super Bowls

This should be an interesting exercise, even though I don't intend to rank all 45 games; but Peter Schrager at does just that today in this great slideshow.  I wish there was a way to share the slideshow within this blog but alas...
I'll just make a few comments and observations about his rankings and the games, then endeavor to list my top 5.  I would encourage you all to list your top 5 as well.
I was surprised to see the Patriots' thrashing at the hands of the Bears not be closer to the bottom of this list but Schrager's rankings use an historical factor.  So in his opinion, given the greatness of the Bears defense, he ranks that game near the bottom of the middle pack of games, 28th overall, whereas to most of us it is one of the least competitive games of all time, though it is special to me as a Patriot fan being that it's their first trip to the Super Bowl, that I saw them win a playoff game in LA on the way and because it's the only one where we'll ever see the true Patriot uniform.  If you go through the slideshow, on the right of each picture of each game you can see his reasoning and point system.
He ranks Super Bow XLII as the #1 game, which I would disagree with and not because the Patriots lost.  It was a great game and historic from the standpoint of the Patriots being undefeated going into that game but there are a few more games I found more exciting and competitive.  I see the value of his including a compelling or historical factor, which is why SBs III and VII are so high; but I won't be trying to do that.  I agree with much of his bottom third, which is littered with all those blowouts from the 1980s and early '90s.
My list will not be exactly a top 5.  I'll just take a handful of what I think are the best games and rank just the top one.
  • Super Bowl XXXVIII, Patriots over Panthers, he has 13th.  This is one of the most exciting games ever and nearly goes into overtime.  Maybe because it was a defensive stalemate early on is why he has it ranked this low but the back-and-forth fireworks of the second half make this one very memorable.
  • Super Bowl XIII, Steelers over Cowboys was a great, great game of the titans of the time.  I'm old enough to remember watching this game, which was littered with all-time-great players, ditto Super Bowl X with the same teams and many of the same players.  I think XIII was the better game.
  • Super Bowl XXIII, 49ers over Bengals.  While their first Super Bowl matchup (the Kenny Anderson Bengals) was a very good game, this "rematch" with the Boomer Esiason Bengals was taut and thrilling all the way to the end.  Were you too rooting for the Bengals in this one?
  • Super Bowl XXXIV, Rams over Titans.  The underdog Titans played their butts off and contained the Greatest Show on Turf for most of this game.  This is the first one that I really thought was headed to overtime, just a couple of yards and/or a few seconds from it.  Great game.
  • My #1, Super Bowl XXXVI, Patriots over Rams.  Yes, I may be a bit biased but Schrager has it at #2.  Regardless of the fact that the Pats lost XLII, I still think this is the better game.  You've got a team called the Patriots, underdogs, playing the Super Bowl of the 9/11 season, coming out of the tunnel announced just as a team, no individual players, who proceed to stifle the heavily-favored Rams, coming up with big plays.  This game is close the whole way and the level of disbelief that this huge underdog just might pull this off was thrilling, coming right down to a last second field goal.  And remember, that field goal is only possible because the Pats shockingly decided to try to drive the ball deep from their end instead of running out the clock and going to overtime.  Adam Vinatieri strikes again!
  • Honorable mentions:  The aforementioned XLII -- yes, a great game and a big upset and I'm still very much upset about it, regardless of what happens this year.  To me it's a great game if the Pats go undefeated.  Super III, I was six or seven years old and I don't remember it.  Super Bowl XXV, wide right.  Not as well played as people remember.  I still feel bad for the Bills, since they lost 3 more in a row after this one.  XLIII, Steelers over Cardinals -- this one would stand out even more if it had happened amongst a bunch of '80s blowouts instead of happening around a string of the greatest Super Bowls of all time.  Super Bowl VII, the undefeated season for the Dolphins culminates here.  I guess I should include an honorable mention to Super Bowl XXXII, the John Elway determination bowl.  Aren't I right in remembering this is the first really close Super Bowl since the '70s?
I'm proud to be a Patriot fan, where whether they win or lose, like the Red Sox they almost always play in memorable championship games.  Go Patriots!  Here's hoping that Super Bowl XLVI is a leisurely Patriot blowout, though that would be as big a surprise as any.  Please click the link and watch the slideshow to refresh your memory and to have reason to agree or disagree with the author and or yours truly, then put your top 5ish in the comments.

    It’s Almost That Time Of Year Again

    Patrick DempseyDid you know the Rolex 24 at Daytona is almost here? The Grand-Am series will begin a new season this weekend and Speed HD will be carrying approximately 13 hours of live racing coverage starting at 11:30am PST on Saturday morning. The network will carry the race up until 7pm PST and then resume at 6am PST on Sunday morning until the race concludes.

    I’ll be rooting for McDreamy (aka Patrick Dempsey) and his Dempsey Racing team as they defend their Rolex 24 at Daytona championship in the hotly contested GT division in their Mazda RX-8. This year there’s 45 other GT entries so McDreamy and his crew will have their work cut out for them this time.

    NASCAR drivers competing in this year’s event include Juan Pablo Montoya, Christian Fittipaldi, Michael McDowell, Max Papis, A.J. Allmendinger, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Travis Pastrama, Michael Waltrip and Boris Said.

    A contingent from Corvette Racing that includes Antonio Garcia, Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen will drive the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette in the DP (Daytona Prototype) division. And let’s not forget AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson, who will be one of four drivers in the #50 BMW/Riley prototype.

    It should be a fun weekend of racing and I can’t wait!

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012


    In response to my sharing a link on Facebook regarding tom-brady-bill-belichick-survive-stupidest-decision-of-all-time-and-other-leftover-patriots-thoughts and sharing this comment ("There are a lot of good insights here regarding the game, though this one is the most "shocking" to me: The rushing touchdown was also just the third postseason rushing touchdown of Brady's career, and his first since the '04 playoffs. Impossibly, those three rushing touchdowns rank third in Patriots history, behind only Curtis Martin (5) and Corey Dillon (4).") one of our authors, who has yet to make a post of her own on this blog, left an excellent comment that I tried to encourage her to use as the basis for a blog post, to no avail.  She's shy and needs some encouragement, even though I've told her she has excellent insights.

    So I'm doing the next best thing by taking her comment and pasting it in as a guest blog by ocbananagirl:
    I really like this article, or I really like this article after the initial criticism about the pass and the call to pass at that moment of time in the game. I just want to concentrate on all the good and I am not going to worry about that erroneous decision. Honestly I am surprised that the Pats are in the Super Bowl. I mean let's be honest, did we really think this could happen this year? I thought that this year was going to be a rebuilding year. I did not think the defense could do it looking back on this whole season. The defense though was the shining star in this last game, and even though Flacco had the Game of his life (believe me it was the game of his life, he was my fantasy QB for 2 years) the defense was able to contain Ray Rice, who for most of this season was unstoppable. That in itself was unbelievable and I didn't realize that they had it in them, or really I thought they were working up to this level but I didn't think we would see it this season, I shouldn't have had any doubt though with Mr Hoodie crafting this up like some wizard putting together potions.. Yeah, Yeah I know Brady looked bad but not as bad as the last game with the Jets last year, and then we found out that he was injured and I have a feeling that this may also come to be also. Now Brady has two weeks rest and two weeks to think about the Giants, and luckily for Patriots Nation we have never ever seen him have two bad games in a row. So I am feeling more confident with the next game than the game before, although I really don't want to think about it - something along the lines of " better to have gone to the Super Bowl and lost than to have never gone to the Super Bowl." For me it's not the Super Bowl; it is putting big blew blue in their place, I want a smack down! So Bill, please leave your pensive thoughts alone, I need you to get your hoodie on and do your wizardry for one more game and please, please be that jerk who smacks down the Giants, do it for Patriots Nation!
     Rereading this makes me think we need to encourage her to write a weekly fantasy blog next season.  Wouldn't you agree?  She's also an excellent cook/chef who owns a seasonal cafe on the Jersey coast, and I've tried to encourage her to post a pub food recipe for us.  So let's give her the encouragement she deserves.  This place could use a woman's perspective.

    He Facebooked It

    "I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People. This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government. Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL." – Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, on his Facebook page, January 23, 2012.

    Tim ThomasAnd as an individual exercising my rights as a free citizen I believe noted Glenn Beck devotee Tim Thomas and his Gadsden flag hockey mask are full of it.

    Where was all this indignation from Thomas when things in this country were more screwed up two years ago? He would have made a more credible partisan, anti-government statement if he had sat out the 2010 Winter Olympics instead of skipping out on the Bruins’ celebration at the White House. With the exception of a few petulant Pittsburgh Steelers a few seasons ago, athletes always attend events at the White House honoring them regardless if they agreed with the President’s politics or not. Even Scott Niedermayer, who from all accounts is on the other side of the world in political ideology from Thomas, attended the White House ceremony when President George W. Bush honored the Anaheim Ducks.

    Today’s actions weren’t about Tim Thomas, the free citizen. They were about Tim Thomas putting himself above the team, disrespecting the current President of the United States in a way only petty, spoiled athletes in other sports do and embarrassing the NHL.

    I’m highly disappointed in Tim Thomas. I would have had a lot more respect for him if he had said he couldn’t make it to today’s event at the White House because Peggy from USA Prime Credit didn’t pay his cab fare rather than this passive-aggressive excuse of a (non) political statement on his Facebook page.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    A Vancouver Fan's Angry Retort To Bruins Fans

    It is a good touch using clips from the Daily Show.  And if this means that I am a Bruins hater for liking this, then I guess that is what I am.  It does bring into question though, does each fan base for their respective sports teams practice hypocrisy? 

    Happy Non-Anniversary

    Ten years ago today, the Oakland Raiders were screwed by the NFL and the New England Patriots went on to win a Super Bowl they did not deserve to be in.

    Anyone who lives outside of New England knows the “tuck rule” was an obscure (censored) call the refs pulled out of their (censored) just to screw the Raiders out of getting their fourth Lombardi Trophy. Tom Brady fumbled. I will maintain that view until the day I die.

    The above is video of the game with audio from the Raiders broadcast team of Greg Papa and Tom Flores. Now you’ll have to excuse me while I go pelt my buddy Zebster with a  snow ball.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Stay Classy, Crimson Tide Fans!

    Alabama might be winners on the field, but their fan base leaves something to be desired.
    Alabama walked away from the BCS championship game last week with a 21-0 victory over LSU, but the joy of their second BCS title in three years has been dampened by a viral video showing an Alabama fan sexually assaulting an unconscious LSU fan.
    Some background: the video taken from a cell phone first appeared on the YouTube channel for “BamaSportsForum” (which has since been deleted) and was picked up by two days ago. The incident took place at a Krystal restaurant on Bourbon Street the night of the BCS championship game.
    The video, about five minutes long, features several Alabama fans hazing, poking and taking pictures of the unconscious man. Then, one individual exposes himself and places his genitals on the unconscious fan before a restaurant employee steps in to disperse the crowd.
    Stupidity by fans is becoming more and more common, both in the professional ranks as well as the amateur ranks.  This is one of the downsides of sports.  Fans become brainwashed into thinking that harrassing, fighting, and humiliating fans of the other team somehow makes them a real fan of their team.  Most of it comes from getting blitzed by the alcohol that the stadiums sell and by the booze that is smuggled into the venue.

    But here it seems that an LSU fan drank himself to unconsciousness because his team had an offense that looked like a grade school quarterback was running it.  Anyways, instead of anybody there that saw the man passed out and decided to call the cops or get management from the restaurant out there, Tide fans decided to humiliate this guy.  He deserves to be humiliated because I am almost certain that the guy was trying to get to his car and drive away plowed.  But not to be humiliated by Crimson Tide fans by poking him, hazing him, and then one of the idiots deciding that the guy would look good as a ball sac resting place.

    This thought process that we have to denigrate and humiliate our opponents and their fans needs to stop.  In hockey, it has happened to fans of the visiting team in news reports in Montreal, Boston, New York, Philly, Chicago, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Vancouver.  I am sure that it has happened in the other cities as well, but hasn't made the national news.  In football, fans have been attacked in Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, New York, Kansas City, Baltimore, Minnesota, Chicago, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Houston.  Those are ones that I can remember off the top of my head.  And it happens in the college ranks, as noted above, and high school ranks as well.  The sports that America has are not supposed to be bloodsport.  And usually it isn't on the field.  Off the field, that is now debatable.

    The Beauty of Pro Football

    I'm probably going to take some heat from the fellas after this post, but I need to lead in with an anecdote first.

    About 5 years ago, I used to work in the corporate offices of a Fortune 500 IT-based company.  I was told that one of the employees was a Washington Redskins cheerleader.  I didn't know her and never met her, and honestly never thought about trying to meet her.  A year later, I lucked up on a 40-yard line, Section 141, Row 5 ticket--damn near on the Redskins sideline.  Throughout the game, the "Redskinettes" divided themselves into fourths--with a quarter of the squad stationed in quadrants:  between the endzones and the 35 yard line, on both sides of the field.  At each quarter, they'd rotate quadrants.  Throughout the game, I was treated to some pretteh...pretteh...pretteh...pretteh...pretteh good looking ladies.  No--hell no, they were damn, outstandingly HOT ladies!!!  In the 2nd quarter, my eye caught one particularly vulcanic blonde.

    You know the routine, they jumped and bounced and bent over doing their cheerleader thing...(Lord help me!).  I remembered this particular blonde because I couldn't get her "bend over" routine out of my mind!  Anyway, two days later (Tuesday), I found myself in a meeting in the corporate conference room about to be briefed on our project by an engineer.  To my surprise, in walked that blonde--the Redskin cheerleader everyone was talking about!  It turns out she was the HEAD cheerleader (and I know why!)  But peep this:  She was the engineer giving the brief!  Brothers, let me tell you--I had no idea what she was saying because for 15 minutes my mind was consumed with the picture of the previous Sunday's "bend over" and I was secretly trying to Googling her picture on my BB.  Yep, it was her!

    Now, why did I tell you that story?  ( comes the part where I'll probably lose my "man card"...)  Brothers, for the life of me, I can't figure out WHY there are cheerleaders of any kind in pro sports, especially football!  I mean, think about it:  Most folks in the stadium are actually watching the game (I know I am--about 80% of the time; the other 20% is spent standing in line for that $6 hotdog or looking around for the $9 beer man.)  But I always ask myself:  Why are these gals here?  And I don't mind calling them "gals" when every Sunday, nothing but a 3-inch swath of cloth separates my eyes from "Ms. Hoo-Ha!"  Whom are they here for?  The majority of the fans at FedEx field (those of us in the upper deck) can't even see these girls.  Those in the lower deck can't see them unless you're sittig in Row 5.  You could say on any day, half of the fans in the stadium are women--so are the sexy cheerleaders being sexy for the women, too?  Somehow, I doubt it.  An easy third of the fans are kids--certainly the "bend over" isn't for little Joey (I hope not....not yet!), and half of the kids are girls (probably dreaming about growing up to be a cheerleader!)  You can't hear them do any cheers--for the most part, they don't say anything, they just bounce, and giggle, and bend over.   And if you could hear them, I've never seen 90,000 fans react to the cheers of the Redskins cheerleaders!  ("Sis-boom-bee!  Kick 'em in the knee!  Sis-boom-bass!  Kick 'em in the other knee!")

    So, what is the pay off for NFL cheerleaders?  What's their purpose?  What does the team get out of their presence?  Other than TV exposure and a trip to the Pro Bowl, what do they get out of it?  And do we as fans really care??  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm as red-blooded as the next guy, but I just don't understand the purpose of the cheerleader!  And to be honest about it (and maybe I'm being a little prudish), I have a big problem with the blatant objectification and exploitation of women, and I get a little dismayed when I see them exploit themselves (then I get pissed when those same women try to get self-righteous at me for buying what they're selling:  "Hey!  What are you looking at, old fart pervert?!")  (sheesh!  I didn't tatoo words across your clevage or give you the BCT (butt-crack tattoo), then make you wear a low cut blouse and low-rise jeans!) 

    I found myself very troubled by that cheerleader project engineer.  I mean, how could I take her seriously when once a week she's mooning me with her bouncing the jublies--cajoling and begging me to look at her butt.  One day she's giving me and 90,000 of my best friends the public soft porn act, and the next day, she's talking to me about algebraic topology of locally Euclidean metrization of infinitely differentiable Riemannian manifold!  I don't get it!!!  Oh, and have you noticed, except for the usual pom-pom shaking, the networks don't show ANY cheerleader routines on TV-broadcasted games, you have to be at the stadium (in Row 5) to see that show.

    The NBA has cheerleaders....and now the NHL has them....why?!?  Thank God baseball has remained unspoiled to the evil influence of curvaceous, brainac, super model wannabes!  I wouldn't be able to take much more of it!  ;-)

    Respect for the Competition

    If you always respect your competition, you always have a chance.  Ray Lewis may have a man crush on Tom Brady but it's out of respect.  But it's mutual too and there's no fiercer competitors than those two guys.  It should be an interesting game this weekend, a battle of wills between Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on one side versus Tom Brady and his weapons on the other.  Don't get me wrong, the opposite sides matter too; but if the Ravens can't contain the Pats offense, I don't think it matters how well the Ravens' offense plays or how bad the Patriots' defense plays.  If the Ravens do a decent job of containing the Patriot offense, then the game could then be decided on the legs of Ray Rice but probably more so on the arm of Joe Flacco.  Put another way, the game in my opinion will be decided by the Patriot offensive line, which is very good but is it good enough to keep a determined Raven defense off Tom Brady's back.  I think so but we'll see.
    If you've never seen the clip below of Ray Lewis and Darrelle Revis waxing poetic on Tom Brady, it's pretty cool.  Couldn't you listen to Ray Lewis read the phone book?

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    NFL Gut Check

    Okay, let me pull up my favorite Laz-E-Boy....(..screeech...) to get a cold brew....(slamming the fridge...)....and to warm up the microphone, 'cause I'm about to pontificate.  This is not going to be a rant about the Packers or any particular NFL team, I'm just taking a moment in the Tavern to vent.

    Before I get started, let me say, for the record, that I HATE the New Jerk G'ain'ts!  Thanks Green Bay, for that 15-1 record, you really put it where it counted yesterday.

    I know for some fans, this was a particularly sweet couple of NFL weekends, for many others (Saints, Texans, Pittsburg (no "h"), and particularly Packers fans...and the millions who took the Vegas line for them), this was the sorriest couple of weekends in their lives.  For me, however, it just proved a point I've kept to my inner self for a long time:  The NFL (and by extension, their "minor league," the NCAA) continue to play the fans as chumps!  Except this weekend, one team--the Packers--simply played themselves!

    During the Berry Bonds drug thing, my consistent opinion about him and professional athletes taking performance enhancing drugs, has been:  So what!  They're pros--they give nothing back and take all they can.  We PAY to see baseballs hit into the bay.  Secretly, we want to see broken bones on evey play.  We don't like cheaters, but we obviously don't mind "beaters" (the wife or dog kind--ya hear me, Lawrence and Michael?).  I don't care what the pros do, because they're pros!  If they want to get drunk all night, I say let 'em!  If they want to smoke pot during the game--go for it, as long as you get the job done.  Many will say this sets a bad example for the college kiddies.  Ah, yeah, I'm sure the big time NCAA players (those schools jumping over themselves like crabs in a barrell for the big corporate sponsorship contracts and the lucrative ($$$) conferences where the roads traveled by NFL scouts are paved with asphalt) pay no attention to the cameras, tattoos, sex-pot cheerleaders, and fat cat boosters. 

    We could arguably say that half the NFL simply did not get their jobs done this weekend.  Let's take the Pack, for example, arguably the best team in the NFL (I'm sure the Boston Patriots will challenge me on that).  What do they do to prepare for their FIRST playoff game this year?  They let their players "rest" during the last 2-3 weeks of the season.  And what was the payoff?  388 total yards, 4 sacks, 3 fumbles, 1 interception, and 20 points.  Nice prep work, Gang Green!

    Sitting through an excruciatingly painful Washington Redskins season, I thought I'd put my foot through my 60" LCD every time I saw a Skins player play to the field camera everytime he caught the ball, or spin the ball like a top in triumph because they made a first down (after starting from the 8 yard line), or bump chests and/or helmets because they made a tackle (despite a 1st half 25 point deficit on the scoreboard). 

    Watching the BCS championship---uh, in the middle of the middle of the NFL playoffs---tells me that none of this is really did ABC put it decades ago:  "...the human drama of athletic competition," nah, this is now all about the thrill of profits and the agony of the deficit.  It's not about athleticism for its own sake, but athletics for profit and politics.

    I ranted recently about those bonehead Marines caught on YouTube peeing on dead Taliban; to me, it was a pure matter of professional soldiers who lost their bearing--they lost self-discipline and self-control.  In sports today--professional and collegiate, this egotistic mentality that demands that "it" be all about ME, is pervasive and sickens me.  I long for the day when the professional footballer plays EVERY game, and if selected for the Pro Bowl, he PLAYS that game, too.  I pine for the day when both the pro and the college athlete would just make the tackle, then rush back to the huddle to get the next play.  But as it is, the fans--in a desperate attempt to get their own 15-minutes of fame, pander to both the pro and collegiate athlete like they were true Adonises.  And they pander back to us, soaking up all the adoration (and revenue) they can get. 

    Charles Barkley was right, and sports (particularly collegiate sports) is purely a business!  Except for those cheese-head, pig-nosed, dress-wearing, zero degrees bare-chested crazies in the endzones, does anyone in the OTHER seats really think the pro (or collegiate) athlete cares about the "fans?"  They care more about the cameras.  Hey Joe, you want my Coke?

    Alright Green Bay, lose the arm-length tattoos, the end-zone leaps, get some hair cuts, and a 10:00 bed check.  You just let a 9-7, wild-card, clown car team, into the "Stupor" Bowl, a team primed for the golf course in December after getting its ass kicked (twice) by the sorrier than sorry Washington Redskins.  But now, thanks to the "double check," they're headed to Indianapolis.  Thanks, Green Bay! 

    Oh, and by the way--who tries an on-side kick in the 2nd quarter?  Seriously?!?  (SMH!)

    Saturday, January 14, 2012

    Rockin' The Red

    Thanks to my lovely wife for her thoughful Christmas gift!  In addition to an authentic "home" Washington Redskins jersey, she also bought me this 80's era throwback of the Washington Capitals.  What makes it so great is she actually knew that Rod Langway is my favorite Cap!  She rocks!  Maybe I'll treat her to a game next week!

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    The True Undisputed Division I Football National Champion

    Now I know that according to the national media and most college fans, that the Crimson Tide from Alabama are the National Champions in college football.  And I will concur with that.  However, take another look at the title of this post.  I used the word undisputed.  There is dispute in the Division I FBS ranks about whether Alabama deserved to be in the National Championship game and there is still dispute about whether or not they are the best team.  After all, there were people that gave first place votes to Oklahoma State and LSU after all the bowl games were played.  Well, in the Division I FCS ranks, there are no disputes about which team is the best in the land.  That distinction goes to the North Dakota State Bison.  Pronounced Bizon.  After a Championship game victory in Frisco, TX 17-6 over the previously unbeaten and #1 Ranked Sam Houston State Bearkats.

    The Bison have been in the FCS ranks of Division I since 2004.  The first 4 seasons, the Bison were not eligable for postseason play.  For the past 2, the Bison have been in the playoffs.  In 2010, the bison and their fans were not happy about the way that their season ended.  Around these parts, it is known as being jobbed in Washington, amongst other names.  We believed that the officials caused the Bison to lose their Quarterfinal game against Eastern Washington.  And for the 2011 season, the Bison had the focus to right what they believe was the wrong perpetrated on them the year before.

    In the first half of the title game, the Bison offense was sputtering against the Bearkats defense.  It looked like the offense we had against Youngstown State, which was the Bison's only loss of the season.  However, the defense was playing the best game of the season for them.  The Bearkats which were averaging over 500 yards per game for the season had only 52 yards of total offense in the first quarter.  The Breakats had 210 total yards this game.  Sam Houston State averaged 39 points per game.  In the first half, they were held to 6 points.  The Bison fumbled the ball once and also had an interception the first half.  Down 6-3 at half, the Bison needed a spark and would get it from the Running Back turned punter.

    Early in the third quarter, the Bison offense went 3 and out yet again.  However the Bison coaching staff had seen something earlier on a partially blocked punt.  The Bearkats weren't protecting the outside of the punt formation.  So the Bison called a fake punt for Matt Voigtlander to run around the left side of the formation.  He carried the ball 27 yards for a first down.  With a new set of downs, the Bison called a middle screen pass on the next play to D.J. McNorton from the Bearkats 39.  It was a beautiful call.  McNorton got into the endzone for a 10-6 lead and the defense continued to play their best game of the year.  Voighlander was a big difference in this game.  He punted 10 times and had a net average of 44.2 yards.  He pinned the Bearkats inside their 20 yard line 4 times.

    In the middle of the 4th quarter, the game was still 10-6 until the Bison defense rose up one more time this season and freshman linebacker Travis Beck dropped back into coverage, intercepted a pass and ran 63 yards to the Sam Houston State 1 yard line.  Beck won MVP for the game.  Brock Jensen, ND State QB, ran the ball in for a 1 yard touchdown and gave the Bison a 17-6 lead.  The Bison defense came up with another interception and ended the dreams of the Bearkats ending up National Champions in their backyard. 

    The title game was a defensive struggle, which Sam Houston State was not used to this year.  The Bison were 1 of 13 on third down.  The Bearkats weren't much better going 4 for 18 on third down.  Sam Houston State was 1 of 4 on fourth down.  The Bison who averaged 177 yards rushing and 176 yards passing this year per game ended the game with balance as well.  115 yards rushing and 120 yards passing.

    This is North Dakota State's 9th National Championship in Football.  The previous 8 have been in Division II or below.  Here is the understatement of the year from coach Craig Bohl:  “We had a couple of tough years there, and our guys wanted to make sure they returned Bison football back to national prominence. It’s not easy to do.”  Coach Bohl, it might not be an easy thing to do, but you have done it.  Bison football is back to national prominence.

    The 5 Things That I Am Following This Weekend (Plus One)

    1)  The NFL Playoffs.  Does Tebow Time continue or do the Patriots end the magical ride?  The Texans and Ravens are the same type of team.  In the NFC, do the defenses of New York and San Francisco defeat the offenses of Green Bay and New Orleans respectively?  And will an offficial's call decide victory for one team or another?

    2)  NASCAR speed trials at Daytona.  The average speed for the cars is over 205 MPH and can reach over 210 MPH.  While safety technology has continued to improve, the increasing of speeds that NASCAR is reporting is starting to become very serious.  They cannot just continue to mess with the restrictor plates and hope for the best on the super speedways.  The sanctioning body is going to have to do something drastic over the next couple of years.

    3)  North Dakota vs. Minnesota in WCHA hockey.  This is the last weekend that the Gophers and the team formerly known as the Fighting Sioux will meet as conference opponents.  Yes, I know that this is a homer pick, but guess what?  It is something that I am following very closely.  North Dakota is in 7th place of the WCHA and the Gophers are in 1st.  However, the Sreen and White are looking better than they did at the start of the season and they are known for playing real good hockey in the 2nd half of the season.

    4)  UFC 142.  I am not a big mixed martial arts fan.  Let me revise that.  I used to be a big mixed martial arts fan back when they called UFC a renegade and outlaw sport.  Back when the sport wasn't so technical and you saw two warriors get into the octagon and they fought for everything and there weren't weight divisions.  The reason that I am interested right now is that UFC has a network deal, but it seems now more than ever, that the talent has been diluted.  Brock Lesnar used to be the big draw for a couple of years, but now he has retired with his heart not into the sport anymore.  Maybe the achieving of mainstream acceptance is going to be the beginning of the end for the UFC as a big deal.

    5)  From the files of a specific thing, the evolution of Les Miles from LSU.  After reading the article on Yahoo Sports! called Les Miles: Heart and Heartbreak, I would submit that he is the ultimate college football head coach.  The story shows the compromises that he makes and also how he is comfortable in his own skin.  I give a salute to Les Miles for what he does, not just because his LSU teams are a perennial power in the SEC and the nation, but about how he conducts himself and isn't a power hungry individual like other coaches are around the nation.

    6)  Here is a tale of the Clark family of Chicago.  It is sad and inspiring all at once.  R.I.P. Rocky.   God Bless Your Soul.

    Another Win for the Rats of the NHL

    Luckily, though, the Bruins won the game.  Here's the situation:
    In tonight's Bruins/Canadiens game PK Subban charges and targets David Krejci's head with an elbow.  Andy Ference immediately comes to Krejci's aide and tries to engage Subban.  At least two problems here:  One, Subban turtles instead of fighting back; two, Subban is only called for an elbow on a hit that you could see live on TV from across the ice was a hit to the head; three, Ference is given a double minor for sticking up for his teammate.  So what results is a Canadien power play and a resulting Canadien power play goal.  Another win for the rats.  Montreal and Vancouver thrive on power plays and one of their best tactics is to have certain guys deliver a "minor" dirty hit, knowing it's the type of hit that will draw immediate retribution; and if they don't engage in the resultant fight, they're going to get a power play.
    As of right now there's no video clip of Subban's hit.  I'm counting on Brendan Shanahan to levee at least some punishment on Subban for a hit that was obviously intentional; and while not particularly vicious, is the type that has caused several concussions.  Plus, I need his explanation video for this blog.
    Let me interject a quick tale of the tape here.  David Krejci 6 feet, 188 pounds; Andy Ference 5' 11", 189 pounds; PK Subban aka The Turtle 6 feet, 206 pounds.  While I thought Subban was bigger than that, he's still bigger than either Krejci or Ference.
    This is exactly what Robbie's talking about when he raves about getting rid of the third-man-in penalty, and it's exactly why the Bruins are an admired team amongst NHL fans and the Canadiens and Canucks are not.
    Speaking of the Canadiens, they had a player who spoke out publicly about his team's lousy play.  What did the Canadiens do?  They traded said Michael Cammalleri to the Calgary Flames, which is their right if they don't want that kind of truth telling in their organization; but I find it very telling about their principles when you find out who they traded Cammy for.  Yes, that Rene Bourque.

    Just a quick aside:  How can one of the very best two-way players in the league with the best plus/minus rating (except for the two wingers on his line that he feeds) get snubbed for the All Star team?  Patrice Bergeron is the Rodney Dangerfield of the NHL.

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Not Exhibit A For Great Basketball

    Last night's matchup between the defending NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks and my Boston Celtics, two of the best/better teams in the league, was not particularly good hoops to watch but I had to since Brent took me up on my ill-advised blog challenge.  The Celtics were unable to score any points at all in the first 3 1/2 minutes of the game -- missing layups and open short jumpers galore -- although the Mavs apparently felt bad for the Celtics and only scored four points themselves over that time frame.
    Both teams looked rusty and/or tired or worse, especially early on.  The Celtics hadn't played in four days and the Mavs were playing the second game of back-to-back road games.  So because of the lockout, which created almost no preseason for these teams, who both overhauled their rosters, there is still very little chemistry.  It was not pretty to watch.
    Dirk Nowitski had an off night, though he did score and got fouled on a drive to the bucket with five seconds remaining in a tie game to give the Mavs a three-point lead and ultimate victory over the Celtics, who had fought back from a couple of double-digit leads to tie it late on a Paul Pierce three-pointer.  Pierce, who had a foot injury and missed the tiny preseason and the first three games of the regular season, still looked rusty and was not much of a factor in the game.  Were it not for the steals and drives to the hoop of Rajon Rondo, the Celts would have never been in this game.
    It was good to see former Celtic Delonte West have a home and play well.  Say what you will about him, he's a team guy who plays hard and has a good basketball IQ.  Shawn Marion was the difference in this game in my opinion and Rick Carlisle's ejection early in the second half seemed to give the Mavs a spark that ultimately gave them a two-digit lead.  Carlisle had had enough of Kevin Garnett mugging Dirk on the defensive end.  Garnett has not played all that well so far this season, even on defense, his calling card.
    I like the Celtics' offseason acquisitions for their bench but the team will only go so far (barely above .500 in my opinion) if Rondo is the only one of their four stars to play well every night.  Right now they are looking over the hill.
    These two teams play each other once more this season.  Hopefully the Celtics can at least even it up.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    In Support of Enforcers in the NHL

    This post is not going to be an essay regarding fighting in the NHL.  You're either for it or against it but it's here to stay in my opinion.  I do feel enforcers need an official NHL end-of-season award that, if done correctly, can be an example for the value of the position and possibly even help weed out some of the worst aspects that come with enforcers and fighting.  Plus, those of us who feel strongly about their value in the game feel they should be awarded for doing it the right way.
    So I'm just going to lay out a point system that I would weigh very heavily in deciding the Enforcer of the Year Award, understanding that all of the NHL awards are voted on but the voters do use statistics.  The intangibles would be things like do they fight clean (no biting, etc), do they continue to punch when the fight is over, are they really trying to hurt someone or are just fighting because that's the job, do they turn down fights against nonenforcers, things like that.  Anything you'd like to add regarding intangibles, i.e. the code?  Obviously there needs to be a threshold of fighting penalty minutes to even be considered eligible.
    • One of the jobs of the enforcer is to rally the troops.  So I propose that if a goal is scored within five minutes, unless the period ends, of a fight that the enforcer be given two points.
    • Five points awarded for each five-minute fighting major.
    • One point deducted for each nonfighting penalty minute served, except for third man in, since I consider that part of his job.
    • Two points deducted per each minute served for nonfighting major penalties, to obviously try to weed out the real dangerous goonery.
    • Since enforcers aren't really paid to score goals but are more valuable when they can do both, I propose two points for each goal scored, one for each assist.
    • I would use the end of season plus/minus.  So add or subtract one point per.
    • Since the NHL keeps track of blocked shots, award one point for each.
    • Have I left anything out?

    I'm looking for suggestions for the name of the award, since all NHL awards are named after people.  For now the name will be The Shawn Thornton Enforcer of the Year Award.

    Monday, January 09, 2012

    Where Is The Accountability In Columbus?

    The firing of Scott Arniel was inevitable in Columbus.  The Blue Jackets have the worst record in the league.  At 11-25-5 and 27 points, the Blue Jackets are behind teams that have already changed their coaches like the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and St. Louis Blues.  They are 20 points behind the 8th Place Dallas Stars.  So, the possibility of making the playoffs is slim and none.  But I believe that he isn't the only person that should have been fired.  How Scott Howson, the teams GM still has a job is beside me.  His lackluster performance in his duties have caused this problem.

    His signing of Jeff Carter hasn't paid dividends.  He has missed 10 games with a broken foot and is now out with a separated shoulder.  In 30 games that Carter has played, he has 10 goals and 7 assists.  The chemistry with Rick Nash is slow to develop, if it ever does.  Carter is -8 for his plus/minus rating. 

    The Steve Mason run in Columbus should have been done a long time ago.  He was pulled for the fourth time this season in a 7-4 loss to the 2nd to last place Anaheim Ducks.  Mason parlayed his real good looking rookie season into a contract which the Blue Jackets for some strange reason continue to try to make Mason earn with his play.  Trade him for a sewing repair kit for any holes that the netting behind the net might have. 

    Steve Wisnewski, also a big signing this past offseason for the Blue Jackets hasn't panned out either.  He has played 29 games.  He is out for 6 weeks with a broken ankle.  He has 2 goals and 15 assists for 17 points this year.  The defenseman has a -18 rating.  And as bad as hit +\- rating is, it isn't the worst on the team.  That goes to perennial All-Star, Rick Nash.  At a -20, he is the player on the Blue Jackets that is the worst in the category.

    Now comes word that the Blue Jackets are ready to deal some players away.  Vinny Prospal who leads the team with 30 points is trade bait because of his impending Unrestricted Free Agent status after this year.  Samuel Pahlsson is an expiring contract who will get some attention from playoff teams, especially since he is in positive territory from the +\- rating.  There are others that the Blue Jackets would be willing to trade away and their long term contracts, but there isn't lots of return from those players.

    Columbus has a decision to make this year and need to make it soon.  Do they decide to keep the Big 3 of Nash, Carter and Wisnewski or do they decide to trade those players with an eye towards gaining yet more prospects that over the years haven't panned out for them?  And no matter what the brain trust decides, Scott Howson shouldn't be part of making that decision.  He should be out on the street right along side Scott Arniel today.  Because if he is the best person that they can find for the GM post, then the Blue Jackets deserve to languish as the worst team in the league.

    Game 9 to the Nucks, ring still with the Bruins

    I've titled this post that way just in case the Canucks think they somehow got even this weekend. The Bruins won 5 of the 8 games played last year and the Canucks won this one. All they proved is they have a dangerous power play and on this one day successfully baited the Bruins into giving them 11 of them, which they took advantage of four times. It was still obvious who the better team was and who controlled the game.
    Below I'm copying a couple of comments I've made in the midst of a discussion with a friend that turned out so lengthy on my part it might as well be a blog post.

    As a Bruin fan who truly believes his team plays tough the right way, I'm pissed at Marchand for taking the focus off that and potentially tainting it. He's becoming a dirty player. I think one more even mildly dirty play will brand him going forward as a dirty player. He's proven he has skills that don't require the dirty stuff to succeed. The play in game 9 was a dirty play and it hurt the Bruins. They win this game otherwise.  As of this writing, his punishment hasn't been handed down yet.  I won't be disagreeing with whatever it is.
    Where I have a problem with Vigneault and Gillis is the hypocrisy, as stated in this piece on I don't think Marchand had the thought that "I'm going to hurt this guy." But he did need to have the thought that "What I'm about to do is illegal and it's illegal because it can really hurt someone." Not that it matters but I have a hard time imagining he knew who it was that was coming at him. The only point there is that Vigneault is trying to make it sound like Marchand did it to pay back Salo because he thinks Salo's a dirty player. It happened so fast I can't imagine he knew who it was that was coming. But that's pretty much irrelevant. He absolutely shouldn't have done it.
    It's a regular season game and so losing it to them doesn't really matter, though I wish they hadn't been sucked into that Montreal style baiting. They've done a great job not doing it but this game they didn't.
    Everyone knows that the two chippiest teams in the league are Montreal and Vancouver, defined as constant spearing, slashing, biting when the refs aren't looking; and the Bruins have the rep as being the biggest, toughest and least tolerant team regarding that stuff. I do worry about the Bruins losing that high ground.
    Another thing: Shawn Thornton is the most respected enforcer in the league. When a fourth liner like Weise tries to hurt a first liner like Horton and engages in a fight, which Horton didn't back down from, Weise better expect to hear from Thornton. The ref is on record as saying that he understood Thornton and Weise were gonna go and told them to wait for the whistle, which is why when that pussy backed off, he went to the box anyway. Today Weise is trying to say he was jawing with and was planning on going with McQuaid. Bwahahaha You had a death wish, so you'd rather fight McQuaid than Thornton? BS Thornton would pound you and that would be it...McQuaid's on a whole other level.
    There is a reason that a poll taken during the Cup Finals last year showed that the vast majority of Canadian hockey fans who were not fans of the Nucks were rooting for the Bruins to win.  That tells you a lot about how much most hockey fans hate that arrogant bunch of whiners and floppers and cheap shot artists; that a country that loves its hockey and hasn't had a Canadian team win in almost 20 years would root against one of their own.
    As for the big brawl that got Lucic a game misconduct:  Where we see it starting is with Thornton "slashing" or jabbing at Burrows' skates (and since this is happening as shifts are coming off the ice for both teams, my assumption is that Thornton does this in response to something that happened on the ice but maybe not), whereupon Burrows attempts to jab at Thornton.  I don't consider those two things equal but it's fine if you do.  Thornton then goes after Burrows, which results in five Canucks coming to Burrows' defense and Lucic, one skate on the bench, one out, decides to join in.  Then, of course, the rest of the Bruins on the ice jump in as well but that only happens after it's six Canucks against Thornton (and that's if you don't count the guys on the Canuck bench giving him nuggies.)  Somehow out of that Thornton gets a penalty for roughing or instigating and Lucic gets a five-minute game misconduct for coming off the bench, which was later rescinded by the league but the Bruins did unfairly as a result go two men down and lose Lucic for the rest of the game.  Where was a six men on the ice penalty for Vancouver or a penalty for third man in, which they had three culprits?  The refs saw things differently than I did and I can live with that.  I just want to attempt to paint what I think is a fair picture.
    The Canucks are a team of instigating rats who run and hide behind the refs when it's time to pay, and the Bruins always make you pay.  In so doing, they can appear to be a dirty or overly physical team.  If that makes some folks dislike the Bruins, I think they can live with that.  I know I can.

    PS  If you get a chance to listen to Don Cherry's comments about this game, he'll crack you up or piss you off but worth it either way.  He's obviously no fan of the Canucks.  And I am done now on this topic.  I have it off my chest.  So feel free, everyone, to comment however you like, agree or disagree.  I'll let you have the last word

    UPDATE:  The punishment for Brad Marchand is now in and I've included Brendan Shanahan's explanation video below.  I do have to say that the angles of that incident shown in the below video are different than what I saw watching the game on NESN.  The camera angle below which is directly behind Marchand as he approaches Salo sheds a new light on the incident for me.  It looks much worse and premeditated than it does from the angles of the NESN cameras.  He deserved the maximum of five games.

    Friday, January 06, 2012

    5 Things That I'm Following This Weekend

    1.  NHL Realignment.  The NHLPA did not give their blessing to realignment, so the proposed 4 conferences and playoffs within each conference is now put on hold.  Watch for this "issue" which the CBA says that the NHLPA has no imput on to become a bargaining chip in the upcoming CBA negotiations.  Donald Fehr caused problems with MLB, I fear that he is starting with the NHL.

    2.  The Division I-AA Championship Game between Sam Houston State and North Dakota State in Frisco, TX.  The stadium holds 20,500 people.  Both schools were asking for thousands of more tickets.  The #1 and #2 seeds in the playoffs made it to the championship.  It should be good.

    3.  The NFL Playoffs.  The game that I want to see is Detroit-New Orleans.  I have picked the Saints to win, but the more I look at the game, the more I am thinking that the Lions could pull off the upset.  Also, I want to see the Steelers and all of their injuries go play the Broncos who are physical and just might be able to out muscle the walking injured.

    4.  The Canucks-Bruins hockey game Saturday.  I am real interested in how the game is called more than anything.  You know that there is still real bad blood there, mostly from the Canucks side about the perceived lack of calls on Boston during the finals.  It will also be interesting to see how far the Bruins try to get under the Canuck's skin.

    5.  The Penn State reported hiring of Bill O'Brien.  According to sources, he will be formally introduced on Saturday.  I want to see if there are more former players that go off the reservation like Lavar Arrington and others.  The administration is correct in what they are doing by hiring a head coach that has no ties what so ever to Penn State.  That way, the clouds over the university, while not gone, do become less because there is no hint of having somebody that might have known the dark secrets that have come out lately being the head coach and keeping any of the other deep dark secrets out of the spotlight.

    Tuesday, January 03, 2012

    Patriots and playoff format rant

    First, the Patriots:  Look at this list of the top winning teams in the last four NFL seasons -- New England, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Atlanta, New Orleans -- and tell me which one of those teams do the Patriots most resemble.  Answer coming up shortly.  You want to say they're most like Pittsburgh, etc, because of the relatively recent Super Bowl success and all the regular season wins but the Patriots are most like the Falcons because over the last four years neither of them has a playoff win.  All of the other teams in that list have won playoff games over that span.  So until the Patriots start turning the best regular season win totals in the league into playoff success, you should view them the same way you view the Falcons -- gee, that's nice but not good enough after awhile.  The Falcons have won just 5 less regular season games over the last 4 years than the Patriots.
    When you add that bit of information to the way the Patriots have played over the last few regular season games this year -- getting way behind because the defense couldn't stop a Pop Warner team and then the offense wakes up and they win big -- is a potential recipe for another early playoff exit, especially if what I'm going to rant about in a minute comes to fruition.  Letting teams march down the field against you unabated for the first 3 or 4 series of a game at the same time the offense is taking a nap is a recipe for getting your ass kicked in the playoffs against teams that have the defensive and offensive might and balance to keep you down enough so that you can't quite catch up.  Yes, the defense rises up situationally and does enough to halt the onslaught while the Patriot offense overwhelms bad teams into playing a way they're not comfortable, creating turnovers and quick outs and field position.  Will that work against the likes of the Steelers and Ravens?  Probably not.  I don't even like the odds of it working against the Bengals or Texans.
    We'll see for this year but the front office and player development and scouting departments need to start doing a whole lot better job in the draft when selecting defensive players, and the team needs to decide that great defensive players like Richard Seymour, Asante Samuel, et al, are worth their weight in Super Bowl glory and pay them to stay. 
    So while I would rather be a Patriot fan than a Bills fan, winning a lot of regular season games is unsatisfying.  And let me ask you a question about the Super Bowl.  As a Patriots fan, would you rather make it to the Super Bowl and lose or not make it at all?

    Now, on to a quick rant about the playoff format.  What is the point of being the #1 seed if you could end up playing the third best team (arguably the best team) in the second round?  Because the NFL seeds division winners with bad records higher than wild card teams with great records AND then doesn't reseed them after the first round, you're better off being the #2 seeded Ravens than you are the #1 seeded Patriots, unless the Bengals beat the Texans.  The Steelers won one less game than the Patriots and are arguably the best team in the AFC but are the 5th seed.  If the Steelers beat the Broncos (yeah right, if) and the Texans beat the Bengals, then in the second round you'll have the 12-3 Patriots, the #1 seed, playing the 11-4 Steelers, the #5 seed, while the 11-4 Ravens, the #2 seed, play the 10-6 Texans, the #3 seed.
    I understand and can live with giving the division winners the higher seed in the first round and hosting a playoff game but then everyone should have to reseed after that first round based on record.  This has been a repeated issue since the NFL went to four divisions.  Every year you have a bad team winning a bad division hosting a playoff game against a much better team, which is kinda unfair to the better team, but it makes a mockery of the seedings and gives unfair advantages to lower seeded teams over higher seeded teams.  Yup, I am afraid of the Steelers but fair is fair, we shouldn't be seeing them in the second round.  If I had my way, there'd be two conferences and six teams make the playoffs from each conference based solely on record and seeded accordingly.  I'd even rather have 8 teams with the traditional 1 versus 8 and so on matchups without a bye week than what we have now.

    Monday, January 02, 2012

    Another Season of Redskin Mediocrity

    Well, another 5-11 Redskins season under the belt!  Mission Accomplished!  136-184 over the last 20 years.

    Washington, DC, is not "sports" town as can be defined by cities like Chicago, Boston, or New York, but the locals certainly love sports as well as anyone, and locally, the area enjoys a fair share of winners, from high schools to the collegiate athletics.  Professionally, Washington doesn't have a lot to brag about:  the Bullets (Wizards) have made it to the NBA's big dance four times, winning one; the original Senators went to the World Series three times (losing all three times) in the 1920s/30s, but never in the modern era; the Washington Capitals went to the Stanley Cup once and was swept by the Red Wings (we've had our way with the Wings ever since).  The DC United has the greatest success record, having gone to the championship game five times, winning four!

    However, the Washington Redskins are probably the most beloved team in the DC area, and we can brag about having fans up and down the Eastern seaboard.  Our glory days were the 80s under demi-God, Joe Saint Gibbs.  But that was then....this is now.

    It hurts to be a Washington fan--of any of our teams.  Because Washington, DC, is a transitory city, it's not surprising to find our stadiums and arenas half full of the opposing team on any given day.   But it hurts especially bad when you're a losing team and half of the 90,000 fans at FedEx stadium are wearing someone else's colors.  I don't think any other American sports town goes through that.  It makes for a particularly long Metro ride (or Beltway slog) home.

    In addition to having a particularly sorry team, Washington Redskins fans also have to deal with a particularly sorry owner!  I've been to many pro sports venues across the country, and win or lose, I always feel like I'm a part of the team--a part of the town's sports culture because everywhere you go in the stadium, you're bombarded by the teams logo, colors, etc.  Take a casual walk around the oval at FedEx Field and all you see is the purple/green/orange colors of FedEx; the stadium employees wear FedEx clothes--until you're in the stands looking at the field, you don't feel like you're at a Redskins game when they're losing, you feel like you're in a FedEx warehouse with a bunch of Eagles customers.

    Since the 1991 Super Bowl, the Redskins have seen the playoffs a total of four (4) times in 20 years!  That's beyond pitiful.  Sometimes, I think Danny Snyder is treating the Skins like the owner of the Cleveland Indians in the movie "Major League," encouraging the team to lose so he can relocate them!  And the team seems to be accommodating him!

    I'm going to spare you about any rants about Shanahan, Snyder, or the players.  It's impossible to put a finger on any one thing that is the problem in Washington.  It seems like our 20-year rebuilding plan will have to go into its 21st year!  I will give you this one rant:  Until the Skins start winning, I truly wish they'd quit the chest thumping, profiling and celebrating on the field when they actually make a tackle, or catch the ball.  For the Redskins, we have been "there" before, I wish now we'd just play with dignity.  Scrimmage line chest-bumping and low-fiving isn't putting points on the board, or fans in the seats.  Clearly, it's putting money in someone's pockets!

    Hail to the Redskins....(I guess)....

    Plundering The Pirate Ship

    Well, the 2011 season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't end like I thought it would.  At the beginning of the season, I had hopes for a wild card birth in the NFC playoffs and possibly making it to the divisional round.  And at 4-2, I could see that the season was going well.  After all, we had beaten the Falcons and Saints, the two major rivals in the NFC South.  Then we let the game against the Bears slip away and all of our flaws were exposed.  We had 9 consecutive losses after the Bears loss.  The team didn't show up for the last four games of the season, ending against Atlanta where we fell behind 42-0 in the first half.

    The team has fired head coach, Raheem Morris today, after 3 years on the job.  It was time.  And now the Buccaneers will come in and hire an experienced coach, trying to reverse the situation that Coach Morris found himself in.

    RANT I:  Um, there is such a thing as skill in the skill positions.  If you aren't a fan of the Buccaneers, you probably don't know the Wide Receivers that the Buccaneers have.  There is a reason for that.  The skill level of that position isn't what you would call All-Pro.  In fact, after Williams and Benn, there isn't lots of production.  A third or fourth receiver that you might of actually heard of would be nice.  And can we figure out how to get a backup for LaGarrette Blount that has basically the same running style?  I think that the QB position is taken care of with Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson as the backup.  Kellen Winslow Jr. hasn't been bad, but hasn't been the player that most of us fans thought that he would be.

    RANT II:  With a new staff coming into One Buccaneers Place, maybe we can have an offensive coordinator that can figure out that we are not a 50 pass per game team.  We run the ball.  There were games where we would run the ball 10 to 15 times.  That is not the way that we can win.  Grind out the ball because the defenses are becoming more and more designed to stop the pass.  Make them react to what you do on offense, not allowing them to play their defenses that they love.

    RANT III:  The GM, Mark Dominic, needs to hit more on those high round draft picks.  He has some decent drafts but not one that makes you think that this is the draft that will be one of the all time greats.  The past 3 years has netted 6 picks in the top 2 rounds.  2009:  Josh Freeman.  2010:  Gerald McCoy, Brian Price, and Arrelious Benn.  2011:  Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers.  He also needs to identify the free agents that the Bucs should try to retain and ones that might make a difference for the team.  Letting Barrett Ruud go was a mistake in many people minds and allowed the linebacking corps to take a step back this past season.

    RANT IV:  This one is about the ownership.  Figure out what you want.  If you want to be a high and mighty owner for Manchester United, then be the owners of Man U.  If you want to be the owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then be the owners of the Bucs.  But stop trying to do both.  The division of attention isn't doing either team any favors.  Oh and since you are rich and stuff, let's figure out how to start paying for talent on the American Football Field.  We weren't even close to the Salary Cap.  Spending that additional $10 Million per year might bring in some better talented players which in turn might bring more wins and in turn might start getting the fans back to the stadium.  And if you are still having financial difficulties, then sell the team to a person that will make the Buccaneers the priority.

    RANT V:  For the past 3 years, I have heard from the talking heads of the organization that we will be committed to stopping the run.  The last time I checked, the defense is still like a sieve when it comes to run defense, and it is mostly the defensive line that takes the brunt of this.  Gerald McCoy hasn't been able to stay healthy for his career so far.  Brian Price looks like he might turn into a bust after two unproductive seasons.  Da'Quan Bowers coming off microfracture surgery didn't look so good this year.  The first round draft choice of Adrian Clayborn is looking good though.  8 sacks in his rookie year and 3 forced fumbles.  It got so bad this past year, that we actually had Albert Haynesworth starting for us.  The new Defensive Coordinator better figure out how to get these high draft choices on the defensive line to become a force to be reckoned with.

    RANT VI:  In the first game against the Falcons, the Buccaneers fought (literally) for the win.  The team was hungry and played like it.  The last part of the season, they acted like dogs and played half-assed.  Whoever is on the coaching staff needs to tighten up the ship and have these guys play with passion.  I wouldn't care if the team went 1-15, if they were out there each and every game fighting until the final seconds trying to win the game.  Real Bucs fans are used to losing seasons, what we cannot stand however is the lackadaisical play that we saw this year.  For us, those players that just came in for the paycheck and didn't care about the losing need to be shipped out immediately.  We want heart and drive in our players.  We didn't see enough of that this year.

    Still Searching For Success

    The pain endures, and this time it’s going to hurt all winter and spring. The Raiders should be in the playoffs, but when you lose three of your final four games you don’t deserve to be there.

    Even though the Denver Broncos did everything they could to hand the AFC West division crown to the Oakland Raiders, my team couldn’t stop the San Diego Chargers offense even if they had put a wall of Plexiglas at the goal line from one end zone pylon to the other. As a result, the Raiders’ streak of nine straight seasons without a playoff appearance continues.

    And the Denver Broncos, despite a JaMarcus Russell-like performance from Tim Tebow, will move on to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs as the AFC West champion – and without a winning record.

    RANT, PART I: Raiders defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan should be fired on Black Monday. Why did he allow a down lineman or a linebacker with a leg injury cover the other team’s best receiver on a deep pattern? Is he nuts? Or just stupid? That brilliant move cost us the game against the Lions two weeks ago and hurt us again in today’s game against the Chargers. I’m tired of seeing a talented team get steam rolled by opponents because they’re playing a defensive scheme that does not play to their strengths.

    RANT, PART II: I like Carson Palmer a lot but he has to do a much better job with clock management in the future. His mistakes at the end of the first half cost us three points and could have swung the momentum of the game in the Raiders favor. Hopefully a full offseason with the Raiders will solve that problem. Otherwise I think he’s the quarterback that’s going to lead us back to the Super Bowl one day.

    RANT, PART III: I really like coach Hue Jackson. I’m glad he’s pissed off at today’s performance. I had a huge smile on my face when I watched his expletive-laden postgame press conference. He will take a harder approach with the Raiders next season. However, it all comes down to “Just win, baby!” The team has to win, regardless of the methods he will use to get it done.

    RANT, PART IV: The Raiders are once again the NFL record holders for the most penalties in a season. They MUST cut down on those stupid mistakes that allow their opponents to keep offensive drives alive or else they will never attain a winning record. Don’t grab a face mask unless you’re going to wrench someone’s head off. Don’t hit someone above the shoulder unless you’re going to knock them into next Tuesday. Personal foul penalties only hurt the Raiders unless the other team gets injured because of them, like in the old days when John Madden was the head coach.