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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

J-Rod takes over Fantasy Football: The Cardinal Rules League

Hey everyone!!! I'm back with a new post!!! Did you miss me? You did??!!! Thanks to the both of you.

Before I go any further, I would like to put out a little disclaimer: this entry may use language and/or innuendo that many people will  find offensive. If you are easily offended by crude/suggestive language, I suggest you stop reading now.

Without further ado, it is on to the topic of my blog.

A few months ago(I would approximate around the end of May or the middle of June) I was approached about organizing a fantasy football league amongst my coworkers. Naturally I was excited about the opportunity to do this, and I did not hesitate to take the reins as commissioner of what is now The Cardinal Rules fantasy football league.

So I gathered nine other coworkers who shared near the passion I did for football, and the league was off and running. This was not an easy task, as sports fans know that fantasy football geeks like me are an odd bunch. I know, I know, spend way too much time analyzing football. I need to find another hobby. Or a girlfriend. Of course what would be even better is finding a girlfriend who doesn't mind my unhealthy obsession with football. Ha Ha

Anyway, back to the league. As I said before there are ten teams in The Cardinal Rules, with nine of them being owned by guys, and the other being owned by a girl. But more on that later.  We schedule a draft that is held at Buffalo Wild Wings, not close to where I live, but close to another league member.(At this point, you are probably wondering to yourself, it's already week three of the NFL season, why is he just now getting to his draft? Two reasons: a) I wanted to give you a taste of what my draft is like and b) having taken a job working for the Armchair Report( as a freelance writer, I have kind of been burnt out as of late, which is in part why it has taken me so long to write another blog entry.)

So the draft is not near my house, and the reasoning behind that is that everyone else is closer to the other location, and that one of the member's girlfriends works there--she would get us 25% off of food. Nevermind the real reason he wanted it there is he wanted to play kissy face with his girlfriend. Which is okay, but I am the commish. Next year we have the draft where I want it, or make sure your girlfriend has a single girlfriend for me. Or you can book Jillian Barberie to host our draft. If not, then we're having it where I say we are.

Jillian Barberie, weather correspondent for Fox NFL Sunday, can host my fantasy football draft anytime.

Before I go any further, I guess I should take a moment to name the teams in my league. By the way, I am not making this up, these are actually the team names (I'll let you figure out which one I am):

Suck My Vick!!!

Put me in the Game Coach!!!!




J-Rod Attack

ShortNorthwest Posse



Pecker of Pleasure

As luck would have it, I have the last spot in the draft, No. 10. Not only does that mean I pick last, but, since it is a snaking draft(meaning the order goes first to last, then last to first) I also have back to back picks. And as the league commissioner, I have to moderate the draft too. Another reason to book Jillian Barberie for next year, ha.

So we finish the draft, and among the highlights are me repeating to one of the members that 'yes that player has already been drafted' on more than one occasion, everyone giving me shit cause I opened by saying 'Welcome to fantasy football're all gonna finish in second place' and my personal favorite, upon Eli Manning getting drafted, I deadpan 'well someone's gotta draft him.'

Fast forward two weeks, and things are not looking good for the commish. The league is being dominated by team Suck My Vick!!!, and, what's worse, that is the lone team run by the girl in the league. I won't go over her whole team, just name a few players:

QB Tom Brady, NE  RB Ray Rice, Bal, RB Peyton Hillis, Cle, WR, Wes Welker, NE  WR Kenny Britt, Ten

When I say she is dominating the league, not only is she 2-0, she won her first game by 87 points while her team scored 178 points (most I have ever seen in a standard league). She followed it up in week 2 with another victory, this time scoring 145 points. And I have the fortune of playing her this week.

My lineup looks like this: QB Drew Brees WR Santonio Holmes, WR Dez Bryant RB Maurice Jones Drew RB Mike Tolbert.  I also have Steven Jackson who is a top three back every season until he gets hurt(which is a guarantee almost every season) and, wouldn't you believe it? He is hurt once again. Oh, and did I mention she also has the other TE for New England(not Hernandez)? With 10 starters in our league, we both have other players, but you get the idea...her team could defeat mine by 20 while she sits two of her starters, based on past performance. But you never know.

My only regret though is not drafting Hillis. Dude is a beast, and, at 6'1 250 pounds, not only is he bigger than most running backs, he actually dwarfs the fullback blocking for him. He was the MVP of a team I had last year that just missed the playoffs cause the only other player I had was Aaron Rodgers; this season I was poised to draft Hillis, and I thought no one would take him before the third round(I believed two things: a) many of the league members, new to fantasy football, would not be nearly as draft savvy as yours truly b) none of the members were Browns fans, which I have also come to learn is not entirely true either. That's the thing about ego. Analyze stats all you want, but let your ego enter the draft even the slightest bit and you end up paying). Technically, no one did take him before the third round, but, as I had the last pick of round number three(No. 30) luck would have it he went with pick No. 25.

It's still early though, and there is no reason for me to panic yet, even if I do get blown out on Sunday. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Why is Ohio State scandal such a big deal? Arrogance and Success Come to Mind

So Ohio State self imposed a penalty that required the football team to vacate all the wins they amassed during the 2010 season, including the Sugar Bowl. They must also forfeit their share of the 2010 Big Ten championship, and go on two years probation. Yet this still isn't enough in the court of public opinion, where even some Buckeye fans believe the university is trying to pull one over on the NCAA.

This is a big deal.  In fact, this might be the most talked about scandal in collegiate sports ever, bigger than the SMU ordeal, and certainly of a greater magnitude than the point shaving scandal in collegiate basketball.

The question then becomes, why does the penalty Ohio State receive for their transgressions matter so much to the general public? The answer is simple: arrogance and success.

Disclaimer: Buckeye fans(especially those sympathetic to Jim Tressel's plight), you might want to skip this next section, because I am going to be painfully blunt. I will, however, for your benefit, italicize this section so you know what not to read.

Ohio State has to be one of the more arrogant programs in the country. It all started with former head coach Jim Tressel. The man that Buckeye nation lovingly referred to as 'The Vest' has a dark side, and it is ugly. Problem is, he did a very good job of hiding it. As a matter of fact, his no-nonsense press conferences, behind the scenes work for charity, and undying love for all things scarlet and gray only furthered the perception in Columbus, Ohio that he was an all-around good guy. I must confess, that I, myself, was swept up in this glorification of Tressel, to the point I had defended him ad nauseum. Looking back, I can't say that Tressel's defiance extended all the way back to 2003, as Sports Illustrated claims. I do believe, however, that during the last two seasons of his career that winning took precedence over everything else.

But make no mistake, Jim Tressel did not just make 'an error in judgment' when he failed to report major violations to the NCAA in April of 2010. He intentionally lied to them on not one, but on four separate occasions because he wanted to win ball games. Apologists can argue all day that he was 'protecting the confidentiality of the correspondence', but, at the end of the day, if you believe something to be that sensitive in nature, you don't forward it to anyone, even if that someone does happen to be a close confidant of your star quarterback.

Ohio State's arrogance did not end there, however. Former and current OSU players, including but not limited to Terrelle Pryor and Ray Small, also exhibited a sense of entitlement as well.  Small pretty much admitted they knew what the rules were, but they didn't care. 

Then there is the arrogance of the OSU administration. That they threw Jim Tressel under the bus is not surprising nor, given what we currently know of the situation, wrong(I am assuming that the NCAA only has evidence on the players involved in the tattoo parlor scandal, and they also have nothing to suggest university officials had prior knowledge of said scandal). Yet Gee and Smith mishandled Tressel's dismissal from the university is a testament to their arrogance also. Gee's arrogance, when he foolishly stated 'I hope coach Tressel doesn't fire me' is nothing new, as he put his foot in his mouth in 2010 when he arrogantly stated TCU couldn't compete in the Big Ten.  TCU would not only finish the season undefeated(with a tougher strength of schedule than OSU, btw) but it also defeated Big Ten co-champion Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

Smith's arrogance is a little harder to decipher, but it is still there. When the news initially broke that Tressel had committed major violations, Smith publicly came to the support of Tressel, along with Gee. But, as public support for Tressel began to dwindle, Smith, like Gee, would withdraw his support for the embattled coach.  Several weeks before they called for Tressel's resignation, Smith would admonish the coach for not seeming contrite enough about the whole situation.  Most recently, Smith laid all the blame for OSU's trouble on the former head coach.  Even if that is true, Smith was Tressel's boss, and you would think that he would accept at least a little responsiblity for his employee's actions.

It is this arrogance that has many fans and members of the media across the nation calling for the NCAA to bring the hammer down on the Buckeyes. Of course, if you ask them why they believe Ohio State should be forced to give up scholarships, be banned from postseason play, etc., they will tell you that the program lacked institutional control. Nevermind that, as of right now, there is no concrete evidence to support a charge(There is an ongoing investigation that several current and former athletes received preferential treatment when purchasing cars, and that OSU compliance officials knew about such malfeasance but ignored it. To date none of the allegations have been proven true, and several current players have been cleared of any wrongdoing).  Which brings us back to the point that almost everyone hates how arrogant OSU is acting about this whole thing.

Then there is the success factor to consider. It doesn't matter what level it is, people love to see a sports dynasty fall. Especially if the team that is part of that dynasty is not their own. During the past 10 seasons Ohio State has won one national title, seven Big Ten Titles, and five BCS bowl games. It's not hard to see why other teams, especially rival schools such as Michigan and USC, would love to see the Buckeyes get hit hard by the NCAA.  Not to mention fans of these same schools, as well as media members who grow tired of seeing OSU in the top 5 teams in the nation on an annual basis.

At the end of the day, OSU fans shouldn't lose any sleep over what punishment the NCAA might hand out. So the NCAA hands out a two year postseason ban and the loss of a few scholarships(not a given, though). It is still a safe bet that OSU will be among the top teams in the Leaders Division of the new Big Ten, and, should the Buckeyes perform well this season, recruiting probably won't be hit as hard as everyone projects. To be honest, fans of OSU today are a little spoiled.  They think that anything less than a 10 win season is a failure. Well, I don't know about you, but I'd take a 9-3(or even 8-4) record accomplished the right way over a 10-2 or 11-1 season that is tainted any day.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New Weekly Column!! Coming Soon!!

As many of you may already know, J-Rod's Sportszone is not the only platform on which I publish articles. 

I have also written more than a dozen articles for Associated Content from Yahoo!(  Most of these articles deal with topics in professional and collegiate sports, but I have written a couple of political op-eds(both on the death of Osama Bin Laden) and some short stories as well.

The other major blog I write for is called the Bleacher Report, a website devoted to fans who wish to have their voice heard in the sports media world.  I originally stumbled onto this website( by accident, as I was writing another blog about the Cleveland Browns for at the time(I haven't contributed any new material to the blog in almost nine months, but if you would like to check it out, it was called Dawg Pound 34, and you can find it at (  I quickly applied to become a syndicated writer, and, since I began writing for them in September of 2010, I have now risen to the rank of correspondent.  I have written 63 articles for the Bleacher Report, most of them covering either professional or collegiate football, with a few articles about pro and college basketball sprinkled amongst them.  

This leads me to the main point of this post.   This summer I was approached by the college football editor of the Bleacher Report to write a weekly column for the Ohio State football Newsletter!  They liked the worked I had done on OSU football over the past year and wanted to see me contribute on a more regular basis. (To be honest, during the football season I had written quite a few articles, but, due to combination of writing on multiple platforms, and the sheer volume I had put out--over  200 total posts to date--I have been a little burnt out as of late.) 

So I accepted their offer, and I will now be writing anywhere from one to three articles per week on Buckeye football.  If you want to follow me, all you have to do is go to Bleacher Report (, for those of you who have already forgot) and navigate to the Ohio State football homepage, then follow the links to sign up for the college football newsletter.  I believe this is going to be a great opportunity for me, as I look to tackle some of the tougher issues, and hopefully secure some hard hitting interviews as well.  I have already begun working on my first article for the newsletter, and it should be published for viewing on Friday afternoon.

P.S.  If you would like to see more of the content I have already submitted to the Bleacher Report, you can do so by clicking on the following link:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Does Ohio State deserve a harsher penalty than USC or Tennessee? Depends on who you talk to.

Ohio State should receive the death penalty in college football for all of its recent rules violations.  Really.  Well, that is at least what many people believe should happen to the Buckeyes, with most of those people living outside of Columbus or even Ohio in general.

The above represents a rather extreme opinion, and, while there are quite a few people who believe the Buckeyes deserve that harsh of a punishment, they may still be in the minority.  The consensus is that Ohio State should receive a punishment somewhere between what Alabama received and USC received, and certainly it should be no more lenient than the penalty levied against the University of Tennessee men's basketball program.

Yet, are the crimes that Ohio State committed worse than what happened at USC?  Or Tennessee for that matter?  Well, let's look at what we know:

USC was investigated for two separate incidents, one being that Reggie Bush's parents were alleged to have a home worth at least six figures for Bush signing with an agent, all while Bush was an underclassmen at USC.  The other involved basketball standout OJ Mayo reportedly receiving thousands of dollars in cash while playing for the Trojans.  USC was ultimately found guilty of a lack of institutional control, and along with a two year postseason ban in football they had to give up 30 scholarships over a three year period.  And recently they have been forced to vacate the national title they won in '04, as well as Bush forfeited the heisman he won that year.

Tennesse has come under fire for Bruce Pearl's involvement with a recruit.  Pearl invited a  potential recruit to a barbecue at his house, when, under NCAA rules, he wasn't allowed to do so.  When Pearl was asked about the incident, he denied it ever happening. Furthermore, he has also been accused of having coached the potential recruit as to what to say if the NCAA were to question him.  The Southeastern Conference suspended Pearl for eight games.  I am not sure the NCAA has ruled on the matter yet, but Tennessee ended up firing Pearl anyway.

On to Ohio State.  Everyone by now knows about the 'tat five' as it were, and Jim Tressel's coverup of the scandal as well.  And, as we all came to find out this past memorial day, there might be even more wrongdoing.  Of course that is where I think the difference of opinion comes in.

Right now, the NCAA has not found any further wrong doing, including whether Terrelle Pryor received cash/gifts in exchange for his autograph, on the part of the Ohio State program.  At least that is what we, the general public, know for sure.  This is key because it will determine whether Ohio State is found guilty of lack of institutional control, which could mean they not only forfeit the 2010 season but also receive a postseason ban and loss of scholarships.

That is why I don't believe Ohio State will receive nearly as harsh a punishment as USC.  Without proof that coach Tressel forwarded the emails to university officials before the Buckeyes took the field against Arkansas, it will be hard to prove that they were not fostering an atmosphere of compliance.  As a matter of fact, while Jim Tressel has deceived Ohio State and the NCAA on multiple occasions, the Ohio State University officials(including Smith and Gee) have been more than accomodating in this whole process, providing the NCAA with everything requested.

Furthermore, when the Ohio State University and Jim Tressel face the committee on infractions next month, they will make a strong case that Tressel acted alone in the coverup of the allegations.  And while some may think that is a personal attack against a man who has done so much for the university, based on the facts we know, it may just be the truth.

So, at the end of the day, if the NCAA seems convinced Tressel acted alone?  I believe OSU gets a slap on the wrist, vacating 2010 season and probation ala Alabama.  Sure there will be a lot of angered fans out west, and maybe even in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but each case must be evaluated separately.  Because they are not the same violations at all.

Friday, June 10, 2011

LeBron better than Jordan? Hardly. Here's why King James will never be as great as "Air Jordan."

As the Dallas Mavericks put the finishing touches on last night's 112-103, taking a 3-2 lead in the best of seven series of the 2011 NBA Finals, a few things stood out to me.  First and foremost is that Dallas will not go away, and if they can keep up their hot shooting, there is a good possibility they can take at least one of the final two games in Miami, thus becoming NBA champions.  Then there was the play of Miami without Dwayne Wade, a team that at times looked worse than last year's LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics. 

The story of the night, however, is that LeBron James is no Michael Jordan.  In fact, LeBron is not even in Michael's area code when it comes to basketball, and, despite what happens in the future, King James will never be as good as the one they dubbed "Air Jordan."

All pregame talk centered on whether LeBron would be able to bounce back from what was the worst playoff perfomance in his career. To his credit, he did notch his first triple double of the series.  Yet he couldn't help lift his team to the victory, and now he and his Miami teammates head home on the brink of elimination.

Lebron apologists will point to the fact that Miami was without D-Wade for a majority of the game.  During Michael's prime, however, had Scottie Pippen been hurt Michael would not have made excuses, he would have found a way to win without Scottie.

In addition, Michael Jordan may have also been unofficially known as "Mr. Clutch",  because when it came to the fourth quarter, and the game was on the line, Michael took over.  LeBron's recent struggles in the fourth quarter of playoff games are well documented, with one fan even posting this on twitter:

" RT : If u ask for a dollar, he'll only give u 75 cents; he never gives you the fourth quarter."

There are other reasons, though, that James will never be in the same stratosphere as Jordan, even if the Heat end up winning this series(and possibly another four or five titles).  The first is that LeBron complains way too much.  It's become pretty pathetic, actually, to the point you almost expect him to cry 'foul' every time he misses a shot.  At least it seemed that way last Sunday while I was watching  game four at a friend's house.

Jordan never made excuses, he just won ball games.  And, if he ever talked any trash, he was always able to back it up.  Lebron hasn't even won one championship yet, and he's already looking ahead to the day when he has more titles than Michael.

And what if Lebron does bounce back and leads the Heat to the championship?  Or five? Or six? Or seven?  The answer is he'll still never be as good as Jordan, primarily because he thought it was too tough to win in Cleveland. So he decided to "take his talents to South Beach."   Why couldn't he persuade Wade and Bosh to join him in Cleveland? Oh, yeah, that's right, LeBron is much more marketable in Miami than he would have ever been in Cleveland.

Think Michael Jordan gave a rat's a-- about his marketability while he was on his way to winning six NBA Championships with the Bulls?

I rest my case.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why Corruption In College Athletics Isn't Going Away Anytime Soon

The recent scandal at Ohio State involving players selling memorabilia for discounts on tattoos(among other things) has brought to light the greater debate about corruption across all college athletics.  And while it is true that higher profile schools such as Ohio State are more susceptible to violating the rules, it does not mean the smaller schools are exempt, either.

In fact, in an article in ESPN The Magazine dated May 30th, 2011, the magazine called 2010 the most scandalous year in college sports.  It goes on to say that even schools such as Boise State are being investigated...for women's tennis.

A natural reaction is to point the finger at the head coaches of these programs, who are called upon to educate and enfore the regulations that the NCAA create.  However, the scandal at the Ohio State begs an even bigger question. 

And while I am not going to argue that Jim Tressel was made out to be a scapegoat, I think that Boomer Esiason, former quarterback for the University of Maryland, Cincinnati Bengals, and the New York Jets, makes some interesting points in this video I am reprinting from Sports Illustrated(ironic that it's from SI, the same SI I trashed yesterday, but remember these are the opinions of Esiason alone, and not necessarily the editorial staff at SI):

So maybe a change was necessary at the top of the Ohio State football program.  Does that mean the next coach will have better luck convincing his players to follow the rules?  Maybe.  Only time will tell.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ohio State mess: A diehard fan's perspective

This probably has to be one of the hardest entries I'll ever have to write.  And not just because it seems that the bottom has fallen out on what was once the pride of Columbus, Ohio-the Ohio State Buckeyes football team.  No, there is a lot I feel I have to say--and I sincerely hope that this turns out to be one of my better editorials.

Before I start I want to make something perfectly clear for those of you who are regular followers of my blog.  A few weeks ago I made light of what Jim Tressel might have said to Gordon Gee to save his job in light of the alleged coverup of inkgate.   But at that time(May 16th) I  had no reason to believe he would be forced to give up his job, and I also thought that his error in judgment, while unfortunate--was nothing that he, the Ohio State University, and the football team couldn't put behind them.

Fast forward to today, June 2, 2011, three days after The Ohio State University announced that one Jim Tressel would be stepping down as head coach of its football program.   Ray Small's admission that he received deals on cars, etc. and Sports Illustrated's article on Jim Tressel(more on that in a bit), have sent tOSU into a tailspin that it might take years to recover from.

Annoucement of resignation and Immediate Reaction

It was Monday morning, and I was kicking back at my apartment, enjoying Memorial Day as best I could.  I was watching a little tv(I can't remember what was on, but I think I was tuned to TBS), and surfing the Internet.  Actually I think while I was watching tv I logged on to Facebook to see if anyone had commented on my wall. There were no new comments on my wall.  I then believe I went to the homepage to  check the latest news in the sports world.

Along the side bar of ESPN's homepage, I see the headline that Jim Tressel is set to resign as head coach of Ohio State. I quickly turn the channel from whatever I was watching to ESPN, and follow whatever news they have to say about this turn of events.  I reluctantly text my dad that Jim Tressel had resigned, that he was right.  At the time, however, I remember wishing my dad had been wrong.

As the day went on, I would receive texts from my younger brother Rocky about my thoughts on Urban Meyer as the next head coach of Ohio State.  I said I thought he would be a good fit because he could bring the recruits in, did not micromanage the game, and had an Ohio State connection.  That his tenure at Florida was marred by scandals as well did not really cross my mind.

I think, however, my biggest reaction was disbelief.  How could someone like Jim Tressel get himself involved in something like this?  I felt disappointed in him but also furious at the NCAA.  This is directly from my twitter account on that day :  @jargobright: "Tressel's resignation sobering, but a wake up call? NCAA needs rule change. Athletes should be allowed to have a part time job."

Later I would find the article on the new NCAA investigation on Terrelle Pryor.   Upset at the flamboyance Pryor has seemed to exhibit throughout(notice I said seemed, that is my perception of him) I sent my buddies an email saying I hope Terrelle Pryor never plays another down of football for the Buckeyes(the email itself was a little harsher than that, but I have cleaned it up in case impressionable young minds should read my blog).

I would take the news about Pryor to break a story about a potential qb controversy at tOSU on the website (you can read that article here )  I thought for sure this story would be placed on the front page of the website, but it would get buried in favor of articles about Tressel.

Then I found the article about Tressel on Sports  After boasting that it was responsible for breaking the story that caused Tressel to resign(I'll have more on that in a bit) I went on to read the list of coverups the man they call "The Senator" was to have purported.  I was in absolute shock.  I could not believe that not only would Ohio State have to vacate their 2010 season, including a Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas, but they might also have to forfeit the 2009 season, which includes a Rose Bowl victory over Oregon.

Dealing with criticism both from both within and outside of Buckeye Nation

I hadn't even finished reading the word "resignation" and I already knew I was going to have defend my position on tOSU, right or wrong. It comes with the territory. Especially when you're as rabid a fan of the Buckeyes as I am. Who also happens to write several different blogs(including this one).

In the aftermath of Tressel's resignation, I had gone to facebook and twitter to show my support for the fallen coach.   Sure he had some serious lapses in judgment, and this ultimately led to his downfall, but I refuse to believe that he broke the rules due to arrogance.

Of course, some of the people closest to me would disagree with that last statement.  To protect the innocent, I will leave their names out of this discussion. They would argue Tressel knew full well what he was doing, and he had the audacity to think he could pull a fast one on the NCAA.  I'm not sure Tressel was that devious, and I don't know if I will ever believe that.

Needless to say, I wondered if their comments to me in the past days and months meant they were truly glad OSU had gotten rid of Tressel(whose coaching philosophy they may not have agreed with anyway), or they were just trying to get a rise out of me, or both.  If the latter was the case, they had succeeded in getting a rise out of me, as I would not let this die.

As for those outside of the Buckeye Nation, I am not sure why I listened to them at all.  I read a couple of articles written by Michigan fans, one of which jokingly suggested that we hire Rich Rodiguez as our next coach.  I should have resisted the urge to respond to this, but I couldn't help myself.  The following is an excerpt of my comment, and the response to my comment:

Jarrod Argobright commented on 5 Reasons the Buckeyes Need to Hire Rich Rod

i didn't even need to read this drivel to know you were a michigan fan. its all good though, we still have the better athletes to...

I knew Michigan fans were going to let us have it, but I could not resist.  I think part of it has to do with the fact there are Michigan fans who live in Columbus.   Not that they shouldn't be able to, but I really don't know any Buckeye fan who would willing move to Ann Arbor.  And still root for the Buckeyes while living up there.

In the end, however, I am glad that I haven't replaced my car stereo so I don't have to change the station to classic rock every time Mike and Mike in the morning want to talk about Tressel.

A Fallen Hero

My aunt Cheryl had said when the news first broke out about Tressel that she felt the worst for her nephew (also my cousin), Jonathan.  Jonathan had just learned that the man who was his hero, Jim Tressel, was not the man he thought he was.  And I think, I, too sort of looked up to coach Tressel as a role model.

To outsiders, Tressel was an easy man to hate.  He was the ultimate control freak, a man whose offense was as bland as the sweater vests he wore on the sidelines.  Critics argued he scheduled weak opponents, and that he could never beat any real competition (read: SEC).    They would further contend that his OSU squad would pad their win total over a "watered down" Big Ten Conference.  And, when the latest scandal broke, they would point to his book, "The Winners Manual", as more proof that not only was he a cheater but also a hypocrite.

But inside Columbus, Ohio, Tressel had been revered the way no one around these parts had since Woody Hayes.  Tressel apologists argued that he scheduled games against Ohio schools to give back to Ohio.  They also noted how much he gave back to the univeristy, and that he even taught a class at the university(one that I would have liked to attend had my work schedule permitted me).  They further went on to note everything he did for our fine men and women overseas.

All of that seems to have gone by the wayside with this latest scandal.  For many, they will only remember Tressel's tarnished legacy.  For myself, as well as others in Buckeye Nation, we will remember him as a good man who ultimately fell victim to a lapse in judgment.

Calling out Sports Illustrated

So if you haven't read it, Sports first broke the news of the complete history of Tressel's trangressions. (Click here to read the full article, also reprinted in the June 6 magazine edition).  The mag even went as far as to claim this story even led to Tressel's resignation.

But was Sports Illustrated's article motivated purely by a search for the truth? Or were they motivated by something else?  Surely they want to sell magazines, but is it possible they also reveled in seeing the Ohio State football program collapse?  And did Robert Rose and Thaddeus Gibson voluntarily offer that they traded memorabilia for benefits, or did the magazine receive an anonymous tip?  And if the former is true, did you(SI) ask either Rose or Gibson why they chose to sell out a coach who treated them as if they were his sons?

I am calling on Sports Illustrated to respond to my claim of journalistic integrity.  I would love to see someone respond to my claim.  Heck, I'll be honest, I wrote this piece in part to see if they would even reprint it.  They don't even have to pay me for it, as long as they credit me for the article.

I don't expect SI to even respond to my allegations, but I'd love to hear your thoughts, pro or con.  And not just on SI.  On the article in general.

    Sunday, May 29, 2011

    No Football League? No Problem

    It’s now going on 70 plus days since the NFL and its owners locked out the players.  Accusations have been tossed at each side, along with the occasional news that progress is being made, even if all that progress amounts to is the two sides sitting down across from each other at the negotiating table.  Both sides claim that they understand the fan’s concerns, and they are committed to getting back to the business of football.
    Well, to paraphrase a line from “Gone With the Wind” frankly, I don’t give a damn. 
    To be sure I am a fan of pro football, my favorite team being the Cleveland Browns.  My love of pro football goes even further than that, as I have a tremendous respect for the skills of such players as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Brian Urlacher, Adrian Peterson, Charles Woodson, and others bring to the game.  I have really enjoyed watching them entertain me.
    If the lockout drags on into the regular season, however, you won’t find me whining that there is no football on Sunday.  As a matter of fact, I think college football would do well to be proactive and start moving some games to Sunday this fall.  Bottom line is that, I along with many other of my fellow football fans, will find something else to do with their time Sunday if there is no football.
    I would hope that the players and the owners do not see this  as the rantings of a disgruntled fan.  Actually, I think the opposite is quite true.  I find this whole scenario to be quite hiarious, kind of like “The Longest Yard” meets “The Replacements.”   
    On the one hand you have Manning,  Tom Brady, and Brees acting like Paul Crewe in “The Longest Yard”, fighting what they believe is the good fight.  Roger Goodell is the prison warden who wants Crewe to suffer for the fun of it.  And the owners are his prison guards, making sure that the players don’t run the asylum.

    Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady all fashion themselves as a real life version of Paul Crewe in this lockout mess
    On the other hand, you have guys like Ray Lewis saying that if the lockout extends into the regular season players will start turning to a life of crime.  Really Ray?  I mean, how ironic is it that the one individual accused of murder but nonetheless acquitted would go public with a statement like that.  Kind of reminds me of that safety for the Washington Sentinels in “The Replacements.” 
    Of course, maybe this whole fiasco is more like the movie “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” than anything else.   A player like Lewis making such an absurd statement about his colleague’s turning to a life of crime seems like something Jack Nicholson’s character in “Nest” would say.  Players who cannot live on a salary of even half a million dollars a year should be ashamed of themselves.  No how long it would take the majority of us middle class citizens to even gross half a million? I am not sure but it would probably be in the ballpark of 10-20 years.

    This may be a little extreme, but wouldn't you agree that millionaires asking for more millions is kinda like this?

    Which brings me back to college football. Sure this has been the most scandalous year in not only college football, but also college athletics in general.  But give me the college game over the pros any day.  While these guys are chasing millions, and some of them will do anything to make a buck, they aren’t millionaires yet.  And that leads many of them to play with a passion that is not seen in the pros.
    So  this fall I will be glued to the edge of my seat awaiting college football on Saturdays.  And maybe Sundays I will get to see a little football as well.  Or maybe not.  Not that it’s a big deal.

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    LeBron has made it to the finals, and made a believer out of me.

    So an interesting thing happened last night during game 5 of the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals.
    And no it wasn't the fact that the Chicago Bulls blew a double digit lead on the way to be eliminated from the playoffs.  Although their late game meltdown was disappointing, even if you aren't a Chicago fan.

    Nor was it that the Miami Heat are headed back to the finals to play the team they beat to win their only championship, the Dallas Mavericks.  Dirk you'll get your chance in a few days, don't worry

    No, there was one thing that stood out more than the others for me about last night's game.  LeBron James was finally able to close out a quality opponent.  And in doing so he made a believer out of me.
    James saw that the Heat were in danger of losing  game 5 and heading back to Miami for game 6 and he stepped up in a big way.    His hitting two crucial jump shots, including the go ahead basket, plus his block of Derrick Rose's  three pointer with time expiring in regulation, show he has become a clutch player.

    Once again we are all witnesses to King James.

    Now this does not mean I have become a rabid Miami Heat fan.  But being a former Cleveland Cavaliers fan, I was a little bitter about the way James left the Cavs.   His play in this series against Chicago, especially his defense, has me convinced that he was sincere when he said he wanted to win championships.  He could have handled "The Decision" a little better, but I no longer hold that against him.

    Should the Heat go on to win the Championship, and LeBron wins Finals MVP, I don't think anyone will be able to question that he is indeed the leader of that team.  

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    Indianapolis 500: American Classic? Hardly. More Like American Bore.

    So the Indianapolis 500 is less than a week away.  And I could care less.  I mean, other than Danica Patrick, why would should I even want to watch this event on Sunday? It's not like I will even know which car Danica is driving anway, nor will I be able to see her pretty....face!

    Seriously though, Indy Car Racing is almost becoming obsolete.  NASCAR has become one of the fastest growing sports in America, even in spite of the fact that some of my friends refer to it as 'Trashcar(Vroom! Vroom! Vroom!).   I have no idea how many people will attend this Sunday's race, but I would be willing to wager that the TV ratings will for the Indy 500 will be signficantly lower than its stock car counterpart, the Daytona 500.  Heck, they might not be even as high as the most recent Nextel Cup race that was televised.

    But you don't really care about Indy Car, do you? Well, neither do I.  But in the interest of being fair to all sports(even the less interesting ones), I would like to offer a few tips on how Indy Car can rebuild its fan base:

    1.  Appeal to the common man:  NASCAR thrives in part because its leading drivers (Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt,) are portrayed the prototypical everymen.  Fans root for these guys because they can relate to them, and like to think that maybe they could even drive like these guys, even if for only a day.  And that is in large part due to two things: These guys make themselves accesible to the public, and the majority of them are American.  I hate to sound elitist, but just watch the film Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.   Even if "Frenchy"(my apologies to Sacha Baron Cohen, as I don't quite remember your character's name) is technically bettter than Ricky, the fans are clearly behind Ricky Bobby.  The point here is that with all the international names in Indy Car, such as Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchiti, this racing league seems more like a bunch of stuffed shirts. 

    I mean take a look at Ricky Bobby in this clip. How can you not root for him?!!!

    2. Add more drama:  A big reason that NASCAR is successful is that it entertains both on and off the track.  And as much as that has to do with wrecks during the race, it also is a result of the dynamic  personalities that make up NASCAR.  People either love or hate Kyle Busch. Same goes for Tony Stewart. And Kevin Harvick.  But for that same reason they will watch these guys every Sunday, even if they are rooting for them to fail.

    Not only that, but I think NASCAR has just begun to tap into something that has made Hockey popular for so long: fights.  Now don't get me wrong, I don't think NASCAR is openly promoting fighting in its league.  But they could crack down harder on fighting, I just think they don't because they understand drama sells.

    3.  More Danica Please:  You're promoting a male dominated sport.  That is watched by predominantly males.  And you have the only female driver in racing.  And she's hot.  Need I say more?  Ok, Ok, I guess I'll have to spell it out for you: put Danica Patrick in the winner's circle, will ya?   Even if she is fully clothed in a cramped car, I bet it would do wonders for the sport if she actually won.  And you might even try throwing enough money at her that she goes full time in Indy Car and wins the Indy Car Series.  If you do, and she does(win, that is), I'm guessing that male viewership demographic ages 18-45 goes up more than slightly, know whadda I mean?

    I don't know about you, but there's a couple of more reasons I'd consider being more than a casual IRL fan.
    4. Make it about the drivers, and not the cars: so much of the excitement surrounding NASCAR is that you never know who is going to win from week to week. Well, in Indy Car, you pretty much know that the two to three teams with the best engines are going to win the majority of the time. Boring.

    5.  Rename your league.  Really wanna know why stock car racing is more popular? Because NASCAR rolls off the tongue so easily.  Okay, so I'm joking about that last one.  But you ever hear about how NASCAR got its name?  One day Jed saw his brother Jeb working on a new car that Jeb had just bought. Jed turned to Jeb and said, " Nas car,  that's a real nas car you got there"

    So there you have it IRL folks.  Your welcome.  You can make all appreciation checks out to  J-Rod's Sportszone.

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    Sir Charles vs. King James: Who would win?

    So we have heard it all season, Charles Barkley has been critical of the way LeBron James and company have conducted themselves on and off the court.  And James himself has been rather defensive about the criticism he has received, to the point that it led Barkley to call him 'whiny' the other night.

    It appears to me that Barkley shows no signs of letting up on LeBron until he 'gets it'--that is, until LeBron starts to eat the humble pie that Charles has been trying to serve his way.

    For his part LeBron may never understand why Sir Charles contiunally calls him out.

    So given that these are two very outspoken individuals, and they have been at each other's proverbial throats the entire 2010-2011 season, who would win in a fight between King James and Sir Charles?

    If we take a look at their on the court reputations, this is a no brainer.  Charles Barkley was not afraid to mix it up during his hey day, taking on Bill Lambieer (sp), Dennis Rodman, and even Shaquille O'Neal.  So round one would have to go to the round mound of rebound.

    To make matters worse, it has often been said that LeBron is too 'nice'.  That is definitely something that would have Barkley licking his chops.

    Lebron would not be a pushover, however.  At 6-8 amd 270 pounds of solid muscle, James is among the few athletes who could have played and excelled at multiple sports.  And, as his guttural scream following the Heat's victory over the Celtics would suggest, he does have a mean streak.

    At the end of the day, though, I have to give the edge to Charles right now.  The former Sixer/Sun/Rocket turned TNT analyst has more experience as a brawler, and that in itself would be the difference maker.

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Overheard: Top Ten Excuses Jim Tressel gave To Gordon Gee about InkGate Coverup.

    Everyone knows by now that Jim Tressel, head coach of football for The Ohio State University, has been accused of lying to both the school and the NCAA regarding his knowledge of his players' involvement in selling memorabilia to tattoo parlor owner Eddie Rife. 

    We also know that Tressel's defense that he failed to forward this info to the proper authories because 'the emails were of a confidential nature' is flimsy at best, due to the fact that he sent them to another individual, namely, a close personal friend of Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State starting quarterback and one of the players involved in the inkgate scandal. 

    What we don't know is what exactly went on during the hour or so interview that Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee had with Coach Tressel after the news broke that the coach had prior knowledge of his players' transgressions.

    So, without further ado, in the style of the David Letterman show, here are my top ten excuses Jim Tressel gave to Gordon Gee concerning the inkgate coverup:

    10.  Let's be honest Gordon, I have to run one of the largest football programs in the nation 24/7, 365 days a year.  Do you really expect me to remember a couple of emails I get in the middle of Spring practices?

    9. You'll be able to read about it all in my next self-help book entitled "The Winners Manual, Part II: Win By Any Means Necessary"

    8. I didn't lie, I just said I couldn't remember specifics.  Technically speaking, there is a difference.

    7. Everyone else is doing it.  Look at Bruce Pearl and Pete Carroll.

    6. It depends on what the definition of the word 'violation' means, Gordon.

    5. I was hoping that after the federal investigation was over, I could keep my new arm tattoo that was a reward for my silence: 'The Vest'

    4.  Hey, I figured this federal investigation would drag on for a couple of years, and the media wouldn't get wind of it until it finally went to trial in 2013.  By that time Pryor, Posey, etc., would be in the NFL and all we would get is a slap on the wrist ala USC.

    3.  Hey I believe a player should take responsibility for their own actions.  I asked Terrelle and DeVier and the others to come forward voluntarily.  They declined.  That was good enough for me.

    2. How many tickets do you think we would have sold to the Sugar Bowl with Joe Bauserman at quarterback?  That's what I thought.

    And, the number one reason I didn't tell anybody about the emails is....

    I thought we had a team that could win the national championship, Gord! Hello???!!! Anyone there??!!!

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Is college football really more pure than its professional counterpart

    I have heard the argument time and again, mainly from Ohio State fans who have no allegiance to a team in the NFL.  They would rather watch football on the collegiate level, if only because they believe that players who are not paid compete for 'the love of the game.  They go on to say that this desire to play for love of the game makes college football a more pure sport.

    Recent trends in college football would beg to differ.  The latest episode in a sport rife with scandals in which athletes accept some sort of compensation to play football with a certain school has players accepting discounts on cars.  Of course, university officials and dealer reps claim these sales are all 'by the books'--that is according to NCAA Bylaws--but what else are they going to say? The university of course knows it could face sanctions from the  aforementioned athletic governing body, and the dealership is afraid of an IRS audit.

    This is nothing new, however. In the past five years, players have gotten into hot water for accepting a house from boosters(Reggie Bush), selling their services to the highest bidder (Cam Newton), and selling memorabilia to a tattoo parlor for discounts(Terrelle Pryor & Co.).  Additionally, coaches such as Jim Tressel have gotten their programs into even more trouble by hiding that they even knew of such violations.

    That this goes on should not surprise anyone who reads this blog.  Heck, this has been going on for decades, with the first really big scandal taking place at Southern Methodist University in the 1980s.   Most people take it for granted that this kind of behavior goes on somewhere,  just not in their own backyard.

    Yet with the explosion of the current media to include social networks such as facebook and twitter, universities no longer have anywhere to hide.  And this means that sooner or later, if your school is breaking the rules, the NCAA will find out.

    The irony here is that while fans of college football believe it to be more pure than the pros, it really isn't.  Sure, more than 80% of athletes who play Division I college ball will never make it to the pros.  But that doesn't mean they won't take advantage of the system if they can.  They understand they're BMOC's, and, without the ability to get even a part time job, they have to make ends meet.

    Even the NCAA has gone to great lengths to ensure fans understand the amateur game is pure, rolling out commericals that support their point.  But the bottom line is that many university athletic departments thrive on football programs much like USC and Ohio State, where the athletes are treated like rock stars.  If such a team gets into hot water with the NCAA, it is because these so-called 'celebrities' were just trying to make ends meet in lieu of a part-time job.

    So at the end of the day, on the surface, since universities are not technically allowed to pay these athletes, it may seem like this game is more 'pure.'  The reality is, however, until the NCAA develops a comprehensive compliance program that  not only every school understands but willingly follows, college football is no better than the NFL.

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Tourney Recap: UConn Wins, debate over number one team, and...ultimate bracket strategy revealed!

    So, this past Monday wrapped up the 2011 NCAA men's basketball championship.  The University of Connecticut won in what I guess was somewhat of a snoozer(I say I guess because I really didn't watch it, and even Charles Barkley's halftime assessment was downright boring, lol.) It appeared, however, at the end of the day the Huskies were more than just Kemba Walker.  And for the second consecutive season Butler had the glass slipper taken away from its cinderella season, only this time we didn't have to wait until the final shot rimmed out to find that out.

    UConn's triumph, however, did not end the debate as to who was the best team in the nation during the 2010-2011 college basketball season.  Indeed, there are more than a few people who still believe the Buckeyes were the number one team in the land, and they were just victims of unfortunate shooting night during the sweet sixteen. The largest field in tournament history had many claiming this was a watered down field, while others argue that there should be a regular season champion and a tournament champion.  Despite such a scenario favoring my Buckeyes this season, I am dead set against it.  History has shown that you will have an underdog champion from time to time (think Villanova or NC State), but most of the time the best school ends up winning the tournament as well.

    As most of you already know, I lost the Argobright family pool.  In the winner takes all format, my third place finish got me zilch. My sister-in-law, Rita, won, and she may have the best strategy to selecting winners thus far.  Seriously. Somebody call Jim Nantz and Clark Kellog.  I know your dying to know what her secret is.  It is simple really.  She chose her final four because those teams had pretty colors.  I think CBS, TNT, and TBS could have saved millions of dollars on their overpaid analysts (yes Charles, I am talking to you) by telling everyone that a team wearing blue and white was going to win it all.

    My hat goes off to Connecticut, however.  Let's hope the new recruiting allegations surrounding coach Calhoun doesn't cause the NCAA to vacate this team's championship.

    Monday, March 28, 2011

    Bracket Busters, Part II: Ohio State falls, My Bracket Goes Up In Smoke

    This past weekend proved to be the wildest yet of the 2010-2011 NCAA men's basketball season, with the remaining three number one seeds falling.

    Ohio State's loss was particularly painful to watch, if only from the standpoint that as poorly as they played(and their shooting 32% from the floor was their worst all season), they still had a chance to win it as time expired.  You can't fault William Buford, however, for the shot he took, as it was a clean look at the basket.  And I know he ended the game only 2 of 16 from the field, but that doesn't matter either.  But the fact of the matter is that they shouldn't have put themselves in that position in the first place.

    To add insult to injury(metaphorically speaking, of course), not only did the Buckeyes get eliminated in the round of 16, but with that loss ended my hopes of winning the Argobright Family pool as well.  In fact, when Kansas lost to VCU on Sunday, they assured that when the tournament ends next Monday, no one in my family will have correctly predicted the winner.

    That I will not win the pool does not come as a surprise, even though I only entered one pool this year.  I have repeatedly said that this was anyone's tournament to win, even as I proclaimed my bias was toward OSU.  At this point it doesn't really matter what happens next  Monday(or this Saturday for that matter), as eldest sister-in-law has already won the pool.  Heck, I won't even finish in the runner up spot, either.  That honor will go to my younger brother's girlfriend, who,despite not having picked one correct final four participant, will finish 10 points ahead of me in the standings.  To make matters worse, her pick to win it all was Notre Dame, and they didn't even make it out of the round of 32.  Ouch.

    So Saturday my sister-in-law, not necessarily the biggest sports fan herself, took the opportunity to gloat a little.  She sent me a text basically telling me not to cry cause she was in first.  I responded saying it's all luck anyway, that it really doesn't bother me.  What she doesn't know is that I picked my bracket in less than five minutes the Wednesday night before the first round started. That's right, CBS.  I said FIRST ROUNDDeal with it.

    So who will cut down the nets a week from now?  The odds favor Butler.  They have been on a roll as of late, and, they were a three pointer away from being defending national champs.  But I really haven't watched much of VCU, although coach Smart has earned that moniker(eh, that's his actual last name? If you say so.)  And as much I have taken shots at Kentucky, they keep finding a way to win.  I have to hand it to coach Calipari, he may not have the deepest team, but he has certainly found the perfect balance between the inside and outside game this season.  So, even though I think Cal is a crook, I predict the Wildcats will win their eighth(or ninth?) title in school history.

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Sweet Sixteen Madness: Duke gets thwarted (and I didn't even see it)

    As the first half of the round of 16(I simply refuse to call it the fourth round, and from here on out I am going to refer to each round by the number of teams left--the final round, of course, will be the championship round), there are a few observations I would like to make:

    Last night Duke proved that it was, indeed, the weakest of the number one seeds.  All apologies go out to Pitt fans, but I am not sure the Panthers deserved the number one seed anyway.  The Blue Devils have no one to blame but themselves.  And while I admit I surmised they might make a run at the title, by no means did I say they were a lock.  Even though I fell asleep, it seems their lack of a legitimate inside presence was Duke's ultimate downfall.  I have to laugh at people who say Mason Plumlee is NBA ready right now.  He is too soft.

    UConn proved they are more than just Kemba Walker.  The Huskies beat a San Diego State team that played just like that--a team.  It's nice to know that at least three of my final four teams are still remaining, even though BYU could have made it four(more on that in a bit.).

    Butler continues its cinderella season.  At the beginning of the tourney, everyone pointed to the showdown between the Buckeyes and the Jayhawks.  Yet if I were in OSU's shoes, I think I'd rather play Kansas. Butler was a rimmed out three pointer from being the defending national champs and seem really unflappable at this point.

    Jimmer Fredette finally showed a weakness is his game.  Or maybe its that I watched a full BYU game for the first time, but Jimmer did not really help his team last night.  In my opinion, Fredette's offense consisted of taking the open shot, or, if the open shot wasn't there, passing it to a teammate. Now, don't get me wrong, that is what your supposed to do.  I understand that.  Yet what I am saying is that if Fredette didn't have the shot it appeared that he passed to the nearest teammate, rather than the guy with the best shot. Plus his shot selection could have been better.  I mean, c'mon Jimmer, if you're going to shoot it from 25 feet out you best make it.

    Florida continues to surprise people.  It's interesting that I had a conversation the other day about OSU's particularly unimpressive nonconference schedule.  Yet that road win against the Gators is looking that much more impressive.  Could we see a reverse repeat of 2007(where OSU and UF played in the regular season and then again in the championship)? I am all for it, as long as the Buckeyes are the ones cutting down the nets this time.

    So, with all the craziness going on last night, who among the remaining four has the most to worry about?  Surprise, surprise, I am going to say Kansas.  On paper, the Jayhawks are supposed to have the easiest road.  Yet that's why the games are played on the hardcourt.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Is Butler this year's George Mason (or Butler for that Matter)?

    When we watch the NCAA basketball tournament, our eyes are squarely focused on a few things. First and foremost is how well the teams we have picked in our bracket do(and how many upsets we correctly pick).  Then, after a team like a Richmond or a Florida State blows up our bracket faster than an H-bomb, we tend to shift our focus on the one or two teams remaining that we feel have the best shot of cutting down the nets. Finally, while assessing who the favorites are, we come across that one team who could be this year's cinderella, i.e, George Mason a few years ago, or even Butler last year.

    And when it comes to sleepers picks, the 2010-2011 college basketball season is no different from any other year.  Some people might have even begun to conclude that George Mason had a legitimate shot until the Ohio State Buckeyes introduced them to how college bb is supposed to be played today.

    Having said that, who is this year's cinderella candidate to make it to the final four?  Richmond,? Florida State? Or perhaps Marquette? It seems unlikely the former two would be realistic candidates, only because their respective paths would have to go through Kansas.  Kansas has been upset before(look at last year), but something tells me this year's Jayhawk squad is a bit stronger.

    And then there is Marquette, who, if they get past North Carolina has to play the winner of Ohio State-Kentucky. Good Luck with that.

    No, could it be that this year's Butler is actually Butler?  Butler shocked the world when it made the final game last season, surely it couldn't do it again?

    Why not?

    Butler has already established itself as a giant killer, having upset number one seed Pitt .  The hardest remaining test it could face on the road to Houston is a Florida team that many believe to be the worst of the no. 2 seeds.

    Not only that, but Bulldogs head coach Brad Stevens is one guy who knows his x's and o's.  Or it at least seems that way.

    Finally, if the Bulldogs are indeed this year's cinderella, it will need more strong performances from its center, Matt Howard.  People like to talk about x-factors all day, yet he might be the biggest x-factor out there.

    So, will Butler repeat last year's magic?  Odds are against it.  Yet this is March Madness, so never say never.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Bracket Busters: Weekend Wildness

    So, the first weekend of the NCAA tournament has been over for a few days now.  There weren't any really big surprises, save for Butler advancing over Pitt, Florida State making the sweet sixteen, and Richmond winning two games despite playing in what is considered to be one of the weakest conferences in NCAA Division I college basketball. Yet, despite the fact that for the most part the higher seeds are still alive, there is still plenty of drama left as the next four rounds unfold.

    In the Argobright Family pool, I am currently tied for third place, with 410 of a possible 640 points, courtesy of me picking more upsets in the earlier rounds than most people.  I still have all of my final four teams alive; the downside to that is that they are also the lone four teams I can hope make it to the elite eight.  The leader, at 460 points, suffered a huge hit when her pick for national champion, Notre Dame, lost to Florida State on Sunday night. I think her best bet is for all the power teams to lose before the final four.  Yet, like I said before, this pool, like the tournament itself, is still up for grabs.

    And even though George Mason looked totally unprepared to handle Ohio State on Sunday afternoon, the way the Buckeyes played only reaffirms my belief that they will cut down the nets in Houston.  Many people would point to the fact that they have yet to play a close game in the tourney as a potential weakness; I don't think it hurts them at all.  They have already played enough close game during Big Ten play to be prepared for such situations; maybe that is why they have won their first two games with such ease.

    Kentucky should prove to be the best litmus test for the Buckeyes yet this season.  Buckeye fans certainly haven't forgotten last year's sweet sixteen loss to Tennessee.  But this year's matchup between the Big Ten Champ and SEC Champ should be different, if only for the fact that the Buckeyes have a bit more balance this season.  Nonetheless, the Wildcats will be out to prove they are this year's West Virginia(having already beat the Mountaineers certainly doesn't hurt).

    And for all this talk that Duke could be unstoppable with the return of guard Kyrie Irving, from what I heard they certainly didn't seem invincible Sunday.  I say what I heard, because, I have to rely on second hand accounts due to the fact I did not get to watch that game.  Maybe Duke had an off night.  I will definitely make sure to watch some of the game vs. Arizona though.

    Finally we get to Kansas.  They beat Illinois in convincing fashion, but does that mean they should be the favorite to win it all? The Buckeyes beat the Illini twice this season and barely broke a sweat.  Nonetheless, rock chalk still has the easiest road to Houston (not sure how that happened).  Should they get there they might have to face a tough Wisconsin team or last year's runner up, Butler, both of whom would provide for interesting storylines.

     Which brings me to my next point: can Butler repeat last year's magic? 

    Okay, so that is a lot of information to digest.  Hopefully this weekend will bring more surprises and excitement to the 2011 NCAA tournament.

    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    NCAA First Round( Or Second, Sorry Guys at CBS... Geez!) In the Books

    So, the first round of the NCAA tourney is officially in the books(yeah I still don't buy the play-in games as a round, its merely a way for the networks to fill slots so they don't have to air reruns), and a few observations can be made.

    First off, regarding my position in the Argobright Family tourney pool...I am in fourth place (out of four! ouch!! just kiddding, there are actually nine people in the pool), and I still have the most possible points remaining.  I only went 23-9 the first round(Penn State could have helped me, and I didn't see Michigan winning the way they did), but I have 15 of 16 teams still alive for the next round, including all final four participants. In regards to remaining points available, I am tied with my oldest brother, Vic, but he has decided OSU won't win it all, selecting Kansas instead(and his final four is slightly different than mine.)  But it is still anyone's pool, just as its anyone's tournament.

    As for an analysis of the games that were played, well, there was really any shockers on the first two big days of games(I hate CBS and all this second round bs, seriously! we're only in the second round today!).  Unless you count Morehead State's victory over Louisville, which was sort of surprising, yet I wasn't too sure about the Cardinals anyway.  Same goes for Georgetown, I commented to a friend that I didn't think they were that strong this year.

    The real story in the FIRST ROUND (CBS... Deal With It!) of the NCAA Tournament has to be Michigan Wolverines defeat of Tennessee by 30 points.  No one saw that coming.  And CBS is already making excuses for the lopsided defeat, saying that Tennessee quit because of the issues surrounding head coach Bruce Pearl. Heck, even a Volunteer player offered the same lame excuse.  Come on! It's the NCAA Tourney! If you guys in Knoxville can't get up to play in the first round, regardless of what may be happening to your coach, you don't have a pulse.  That being said, I am eager to see how the Second Round matchup between Duke and Michigan plays out.

    Finally, regarding the four number one seeds: all held up to form.  For a minute there, I was worried that Ohio State was going to struggle with Texas-San Antonio.  And they did.  For two or three minutes, If we are going to be technical about it.  And Kansas got a scare from Boston. For a half.  All joking aside, these two did nothing to dispel the notion they are on a collision course to meet in Houston.  Although Duke made a convicning case that the defending National Champs are not to be taken lightly either.

    So, its on to the second round of the first weekend of games... as an aside, if you don't want to hear Charles Barkley ramble on endlessly, they are showing the games on four networks this year (CBS, TBS, TruTV, TNT)

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Is Duke actually the worst Number 1 seed?

    There has been a lot of fuss surrounding the seeding of this years NCAA men's basketball tournament, and most of it has to do with who was left out, and who among the lower seeds received a higher seeding than they should have. Nonetheless, there is an argument to be made that even the NCAA got it slightly wrong with the number one seeds. This is not to say that the current number one seeds are not deserving, only the order of the four is somewhat incorrect.  The biggest contention here could be made by Puke, er, Duke, who might have the deepest team on the floor, not to mention one of the best coaches of all time.

    It is no secret that Duke is as hated in basketball as the Yankees are in baseball.  Heck, even I have jumped on the Puke dislike bandwagon(as an aside, I really don't dislike Duke, it is sort of a running joke, as they used to be my favorite team all throughout my high school and college days,  in part probably because the local teams I had to root for werent that great.)  However,  there is no denying that Duke is a talented squad, and rumor has it they are due to get back point guard sensation Kyrie Irving, who, before being injured, was considered to be a top 3 pick in this year's NCAA lottery.

    It also goes without saying that Mike Krzyzewski, head coach of the Duke Blue Devils, is one of the greatest in the game.  His resume is almost unparalleled, as he has led his team to 11 Final Fours in the past 20+ seasons, including four national championships. As far as that goes, no other active coach comes close to what he has accomplished.

    If those weren't enough, consider this: even if  Irving doesn't return, the Blue Devils also boast Nolan Smith, who is making a strong push to be considered as a Naismith finalist, and Kyle Singler, last season's most outstanding player in the tournament. 

    So why then is there all this disrespect for Duke all of a sudden?

    It seems Duke is in the tournament every year, and they are always seeded fairly high, for starters.  Eleven final fours in 20 years might sound impressive, but when you receive a top three seed annually, expectations begin to grow.  Duke has been known to collapse in given years.

    Then, despite being a hated team, there is the perception that Duke is too soft this season to do any damage, that the loss of center Brian Zoubek will hurt them in the paint.  It is true that Zoubek's defense and rebounding will be missed, but is not as if they don't have the bodies to replace them.  And if the Blue Devils can get to the foul line watch out.

    At the end of the day, it is anyone's tournament, and Duke, just like Kansas or Ohio State, has just as good of a chance to cut down the nets.  History says that when the Blue Devils are seeded number one, they do not disappoint.  And even though I am not big on historical trends myself, if I had to do it over again(and could put aside my Ohio State bias), I might be picking the Dukies to cut down the nets in Houston.  That's the great thing about college basketball, though.  In a one and done scenario anything can happen.

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    My Picks for 2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

    So. I've finally filled out my 2011 NCAA bracket, and after much deliberation, and, a flip of the coin, I predict the winner to be... the University of Maryland.  Gary Williams squad is just too deep, and Juan Dixon is unbelievable.  Yep, the Terrapins are going to win their first Tournament Trophy in school history.

    Wait, what's that you say? Maryland isn't even in the tournament? Really? Maryland has already won an NCAA title??? And Juan Dixon is in the NBA? Hmmm....

    Ok, so I was just seeing if you were paying attention, now its time to get to brass tax, and quickly.
    Without a detailed breakdown, here are my picks, from the elite eight beyond

    Elite Eight: Ohio State, Syracuse, Texas, UConn, Kansas, Notre Dame, Kansas St, and BYU.

    I think Texas and Jordan Hamilton will be too much for Duke even with a returning Kyrie Irving, and again, I am not superstitious so I don't buy that ACC Tourney Bull(for those of you who are don't know, Duke and UNC have met in the finals of the ACC Tournament five times previous to this season since 1991; each time the winner of that game has made it at least to the Final Four of the NCAAs).  Kemba Walker has the Huskies playing strong, and the Cougars show that BYU is more than Jimmer Fredette, even without senior Brandon Davies available.

    Final Four: Ohio State, UConn, Kansas, and BYU-Ohio State outlasts the 'Cuse zone in a physical game, and Fredette magic continues. Meanwhile UConn and the Jayhawks continue to roll

    Championship game: Ohio State vs. Kansas:  Buckeyes beat Huskies in a matchup of two of three finalists for Naismith award (Sullinger and Walker).  Rock Chalk Jaywhawk end Jimmer's magical season.

    NCAA Champion: Ohio State.  Like I was gonna pick anyone else? Hello??! Have you not been reading my blog?

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    March Madness Is Here!!!!

    So it's that time of year again...where everyone goes a little crazy.  Some might say that it will drive people mad.  Mad enough to even call off work, like more than a few people at my job are prepared to do tomorrow(not including myself)...but I digress.  Without further ado, I would like to welcome everyone to J-Rod Sportszone's March Madness Preview!

    The first four games of this year's tournament have proved to be... what 's the word for it?  Oh yeah, that's right, they are boring (big yawn). Even as I write this entry Virginia Commonwealth is playing USC, but I don't know who is winning.  Wait, let me check and I'll get back  to you. Or maybe I won't.  I think the most exciting play from these four games has to be UNC Asheville's three pointer to send the game into overtime versus the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, but you would hardly know it based on fan reaction (or lack thereof.)  It was a valiant effort by the NCAA to add a new wrinkle, I would just say keep trying.

    So, picking this year's winner should be a piece of cake, no? It's Ohio State all the way, right? Well, maybe.  I like their chances as much as anyone in the 2011 field.  There is no doubting this year's version of the Buckeyes are more talented than the 2009-2010 squad.  Gone is player of the year Evan Turnover, I mean Turner. Jared Sullinger is a forced to be recokned with inside, so much so that he was genuinely shocked he won Big Ten Freshman of the Year.  Or could it be that he was shocked that Big Ten Player of the Year went to JaJuan Johnson of Purdue instead of himself?  And David Lighty, Jon Diebler, and William Buford have all stepped up their respective games this season, no longer waiting for someone else to take charge first.  You definitely get the feeling this could be Thad Matta's best team yet.

    Nonetheless, there are a few things that have given reasons to doubt the Buckeyes will be cutting down the nets when it is all said and done in Houston in a couple of weeks. First and foremost is daunting bracket that includes perennial powers Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse.  Not to mention that if they get by those three they might have Puke (I mean Duke) awaiting them in the final four.  And I know I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I don't believe in superstitions in sports, but the fact that Sports Illustrated picked the Bucks to win it all has me worried.  The biggest question mark surrounding Ohio State has to be their lack of depth.  If Sullinger gets into foul trouble it will be interesting to see if Deshaun Thomas or Dallas Lauderdale can provide the necessary production so the team doesn't miss a beat.

    The biggest change to this year's tournament, however, is not that the field expanded from 65 teams to 68, but that I have decided to join the argobright family tourney pool.  The trash talk has already begun, and, even though I have yet to make my picks, I feel confident that I have just as good a shot of winning it all as Ohio State does in the actual tournament.  Plus I am waiting until almost the absolute last moment, so that's gotta help me, right?  I am worried about my nephew, though.  He shows no fear and probably won't second guess many picks, both of which work to his advantage.  We shall see though.

    So let the mayhem Randy Moss would say, 'it's gonna be a fun ride.' Number 84 jerseys not necessary, however.

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    The real story behind the Jim Tressel saga at Ohio State

    By now it is old news that Jim Tressel, head coach of football at Ohio State, is guilty of failing to report potential player misconduct to the university when he first learned it.  It is also old news that, in the wake of this scandal, Ohio State's road to winning a seventh straight Big Ten title(either shared or outright) becomes significantly harder.  Yet, at the end of the day, both of those facts seem insignificant to one other storyline: did Jim Tressel purposely withhold sensitive information from both the Ohio State University and the NCAA in order to preserve the playing status of a few of his star players?  The answer to this question is why the current Ohio State football scandal will not die anytime soon.

    Tressel's own admission was that he did not report the possible violations for two reasons: 1) he was concerned about the safety of his players, and he was told the information he received was of a confidential nature.  Given the nature and scope of the federal investigation, some of Tress's fears were probably warranted.  After all, he did not want to impede or obstruct the investigation, and to tip off the university, or the players, might have seemed that way to federal law enforcement officials.

    The correspondence, however, between Tressel and the Columbus, Ohio attorney, seemed to suggest that Jim Tressel understood the seriousness of the allegations presented to him and that he would look into the matter right away.  Yet he would sit on the information for more than nine months, and, in the end, allow the players involved in the tattoo parlor scandal fall on their own proverbial swords.  That doesn't sound like the actions of someone who has the team's best interests at heart.

    That these players sold memorabilia was should not have been the issue here, either.  For a man like Jim Tressel, who teaches all of his players about the importance of the history and tradition of OSU football from the time they first step foot on campus, these players were in a sense thumbing their noses at that very tradition. So, the question then becomes, did Jim Tressel ignore this very fact because he knew he had a very talented team, one that might lead him to his second national title in a decade?  Certainly the fact that these players sold Big Ten momentos had to bug the coach more than he let on, and it is anybody's guess as to why he did not confront the players before December 2010.

    And this scandal should serve as a lesson for Thad Matta, too.  Because should the OSU men's basketball team even make it to the Final Four, one can bet that people will be coming out of the woodwork trying to discredit that team as well.  Not that he should have anything to be worried about, only to say that it would behoove him to be upfront from the get go.

    In the end, it will be difficult to prove that Tressel did indeed deliberately deceive anyone.  Yet his omission will not sit well with the NCAA, who above all values timely reporting of all infractions, however minor.  Such a delay may lead to Ohio State vacating the 2010 season and the loss of scholarships, as well as an additional suspension for coach Tressel.  Which leads one to wonder if, in the final analysis, it was all worth it for Jimmy T to be silent for all this time.


    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    Why sports should not try to emulate someone who is purposely ruining his life.

    I just finished reading an article on the Baskerfield Condors--a minor league hockey team based in southern California--that plans to dedicate its game to be played on St. Patricks day to a certain individual who has been in the news recently.  And while I will not share the name of that individual, because I believe he has already received too much press as it is, I will say that I do not find this particular stunt funny at all.  Because this is a man who has made a name for himself abusing drugs, alcohol, and, on occasion, even women. I find it highly disturbing that anyone, let alone a professional hockey team, would try to suggest that this man his a role model.  I understand that hockey is a very violent sport, and that many of its players are by no means saints.  Yet it is a team sport, and I am not sure what kind of message it is sending to young kids by promoting an individual who cares about no one other than himself.  Sure it may be all in good fun, with it being St. Patty's day, but I think they still may have gone too far. Because no man who purposely sets out to ruin his life should be publicly celebrated.

    Saturday, February 26, 2011

    Debunking the myth of Free Agency and Fan Loyalty

    It seems a popular topic today in the sports world is how free agency has changed the landscape of professional sports.  Of course, the term free agent (in the most literal use of the word) almost seems oxymoronic, because the teams that ultimately land the services of these "free agents" often do so at a very hefty price, many times in the tens of millions of dollars.  That, however, is a topic for another discussion in itself.  The bigger question is whether any said free agent owes a loyalty to a particular franchise or city, and, if so, what reparations are owed that franchise should he decide to leave town.

    The idea that any professional athlete owes a particular team or city a degree of loyalty is something that has been brainwashed into the heads of many fans today.  Over the years fans have seen numerous athletes such as Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, Magic Johnson, Cal Ripken, and Barry Larkin play for one team their entire professional career(s).  And there are a select few athletes today, such as Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady, just to name a couple, who have spent their entire career with a single franchise.  These aforementioned athletes were not only good, but in most cases great, and along the way they helped bring one or more championship(s) to the franchises and cities they played for.

    The accolades that these individuals brought to their respective franchises(and by extension, the cities that hosted these franchises), however, were not the only reason fans bought into the concept of player loyalty.  The main reason that fans became so attached to these athletes was that each player at some point made it known, either directly or indirectly, that they could never see themselves playing for another team, in another city. Ever.  And thus the idea that a superstar athlete owed loyalty to a particular city or franchise was born.

    Many fans nowadays also want to buy into the idea that professional athletes care about winning championships for their city.  This, too, is a myth that has perpetuated professional sports for years.  Certainly there are those athletes that care about championship rings.  Some of them actually end up winning them. Some don't.  But for the majority of professional athletes, it is all about earning a paycheck.  This of course, seems unthinkable to the average fan, who believes that an athlete who does something he loves should want to be the best.  The reality of the situation is that athletes are just like everyone else, working a job that they happen to be good at, and trying to make a living.  So they perform well enough to continue to earn a paycheck, but they don't lose sleep if they never win it all.

    So, if athletes are just like the rest of us, going to work everyday to earn a paycheck, shouldn't they be allowed to choose where they want to work like the rest of us?  Many would argue that because they are being paid millions of dollars they owe their original franchise a degree of loyalty.  However, if someone who makes $25,000 dollars working for one corporation is suddenly offered double that to work for another, should he turn that offer down?  What if the employee had been working for the first corporation for more than 10 years?  The average fan sees the athlete who turns down 2 million dollars in order to make $5 million dollars a year as greedy.  But what the average fan does not comprehend is that with the higher salary comes a different lifestyle.  And the athlete must do whatever necessary to support that lifestyle, even if it means leaving a team every couple of years.

    In the end, a professional sports' team is just another business,  trying to make a profit like the myriad of other entrepreneurs and corporations out there.  And when the average fan finally realizes that, maybe then they will be easier to forgive athletes who leave their cities.