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Monday, January 31, 2011

Bracket Busters: Why St. John's Could Burst The NCAA Tournament Bubble of Several Smaller Schools

Last night's 93-78 blowout win over Duke was huge for St. John's University.  Huge, not just because they beat the number 2 team in the college basketball.  Huge, not just because of the margin of victory(15points).  But huge because with that victory, St. John's took one step forward in trying to punch its ticket to the NCAA tournament. Which is not to say if the season ended today they would be in the tournament.  Because at 12-8 overall (including 4-5 in their own conference), their resume is not that impressive.

But they do own two victories over the nationally ranked Blue Devils, Georgetown, and Notre Dame, as well as a season opening victory over #24 St. Mary's College.   Factor into that equation they still have to play UConn, Pitt and Villanova(all ranked).  If they can win at least one, if not two, of those three games while finishing around .500 in the Big East, it may make it tough for the selection committee to keep them out.  Then think about what a victory in the Big East Tournament would do for their resume.

So the Red Storm seem to control their own destiny when it comes to the NCAA Tournament this March, but at the expense of what other smaller schools?

Well, one school in particular that might suffer from this is the College of Charleston. The Cougars do own a win over Tennessee and UNCCharlotte, but squandered opportunities to enhance their resume by not beating either Maryland, North Carolina, or Rhode Island.  The Cougars are currently a half a game behind Wofford in the South Division of the Southern Conference.  It's looking more and more like Charleston will have to win the Southern in order to make it to the tourney.

Another team that saw its chances dwindle when the Red Storm beat the Blue Devils is last year's national runner up, Butler.  The Bulldogs do own victories over Florida State, Stanford and Utah, but ended up losing by 12 to the Blue Devils at home and do not own a victory over a top 25 team.  It looks like they might have to win the Horizon in order to have a chance to make it back to the final four.

Now, after its all said and done, St John's may not get in, and these two schools might just get in.  But if it comes down to it, and all three of these schools have similar records, my money is on St. John's.  The Red Storm not only have the impressive victory over Duke, but they also play in the Big East.  Add on top of that they play near media mecca New York City, and they would be almost a lock.  Which would be a shame, because at least two of these schools should play for the chance to get in rather than the play-in game we have now that 98% of fans could care less about.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Larry Bird, the NBA of today vs. the Past, steroid use?

There is much debate about who is the greatest player in the NBA today.  There are those who say that Jordan is hands down.  Others will debate that Kobe is, or is on his heels at the very least.  Then, Cleveland fans notwithstanding, there are those who argue as the day is long that neither of the two aforementioned could hold a candle to LeBron, and that despite not having any titles currently, when he finishes his career he will have enough.  But, in the final analysis, the best player ever in the NBA just might be....Larry Bird?  The arguments against Bird are many: he was slow, he couldn't jump, his three titles are two fewer than Kobe and three less than Jordan.  Yet those also could be arguments for Bird being the best ever.  He's the best because because he won three titles, scored, rebounded, passed the ball,  AND in the process made his teammates better despite lacking these attributes.  Bird may have fewer titles than Jordan and Kobe because his he had a rivalry with the Johnson's Lakers that neither of the other two had during their time.  Sure Jordan had the pistons, but once he beat them they sort of faded into the background.  Jordan would face a different opponent in the finals each time he made it.  Kobe has more of a case with his battles with the Celtics, yet it was apparent last season that age had been catching up with the big three of the C's, hurting his case...

I always marvel at people who say that so and so would dominate if he played back in the NBA in the 60s and 70s. Really? And just how do you know this?  It might be safe to say players today are quicker, bigger and stronger than they were 30 to forty years ago, but I just don't know about a blanket statement like that.  Who's to say that a player like Dwight Howard, as strong and quick as he is today, would be that strong if he played in the same era as Bill Russell?  And people love to compare LeBron James' game to Oscar Robertson.  Who would win in a one on one competition of these two in their primes?  The answer is I don't really know, and any statement to the contrary is just plain dumb.  Which might invalidate my above premise that Bird is the best ever, cause maybe there is no such thing....

Ever wonder about steroids in the NBA?  I know what you're thinking, steroids hinder growth, and how could anyone be over 6 feet and take steroids.  But hear me out.  What if they took steroids after they reached their maximum height? Have you taken a look at Dwight Howard recently?  It seems even his shoulders look like solid muscle.  And who's to stop them? I don't know what David Stern has in place regarding steroid testing in the Association, but to my knowledge there is none.  But hey, Stern is a busy guy, he's got to get the global audience since it seems his domestic one is dwindling, right?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

No Football League? Ten Reasons Why Players and Owners must strike a New Collective Barganing Agreement

As labor talks in the National Football League continue to stall, the possibility of a work stoppage in professional football becomes oh so close to reality.  So close, in fact, that, should a new collective barganing agreement(CBA) not be reached, the NFL will be known as the 'No Football League' in 2011.  And, while college football will continue to provide must see TV on Saturdays in the fall,  the reality of a ' No Football League' just doesn't sit well with me.  So, without further ado, here are my top ten reasons for why the NFL must avoid a lockout in 2011(in the style of David Letterman):

10. The Cleveland Browns will have to wait until next year, AGAIN (sigh).

9. Chad Ochocinco (or Johnson, or Whatever he's calling himself these days) and Terrell Owens, bored out of their minds, come up with a new reality show called 'The Crying Game', airing on VH1, and it becomes the Wost Televison Show.  Ever

8. Roger Goodell, sick of trying to live off the one dollar salary he self imposed on himself because a new cba couldn't be reached, goes on a nationwide tour aimed at fundraising for NFL owners.  Fundraisers are open to the public, but things get out of hand when Goodell fines 'Joe the Plumber' for excessive celebration.

7. Drew Rosenhaus' wife gets tired of hearing "Next Question, Please" every time she asks her husband how his day was.

6.  Mel Kiper will have to get a real job for the first time since 1982.

5. Ray Lewis will blame the lockout on the refs.  He will also be linked to a murder in the greater Baltimore area, but the charges will be dropped because witnesses refuse to testify.  Lewis will bame the refs for getting him into that mess, too.

4.  People still get tired of hearing that Tom Brady is the best quarterback to ever play the game, and also that Bill Belichick is the best coach in the game.

3. Coors Light runs football themed commercials during reruns of CSI on Sundays in the fall.  No one watches the commercials.

2. Jay Cutler will not only miss all of the 2011 season due to injury, but when play does resume in 2012, he will sit out the first few games as well, citing same injury.  After much debate it will be agreed that Cutler is a wuss.

And....the number one reason the NFL must avoid  a lockout in 2011:

No football means more baseball (ugh!)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Life's good for Buckeye fans these days.

Nowadays it seems fans of the Ohio State Buckeyes are so spoiled.  They have been treated to a football team that has won at least a share of six straight Big Ten titles, and seven consecutive victories over its rival from up north(although lately its not really been a rivalry, if ya know what I mean).  The men's basketball team is currently undefeated and ranked number one in the nation, only one season removed from a Big Ten Championship and sweet sixteen berth.  Many people are starting to believe the Bucks are odds on favorite to win the whole thing in basketball.  Buckeye basketball dominance may not be limited to this season, as Ohio State boasts a recruiting class that has four players ranked among the top 50 prospects in the nation.  Oh, and not to be outdone, the football team has just won its second consecutive BCS game, and finished the season 12-1, its best record since the 2002 season(where they went 14-0 and won the national championship).  To think that there are people out there who believe Terrelle Pryor has not lived up to the hype.  Well that may be true, but since he has come to Ohio State Buckeyes have finished 10-3, 11-2, and now 12-1, with BCS games in each season, victories in the last two(Rose and Sugar Bowls).  And even with inkgate limiting Pryor to only 7 regular season games next fall, he has a chance to become the winningest quarterback in OSU history.

So if you are a Buckeye fan, life is indeed good today.  If you're not, well I am sorry for your loss.  And if you happen to be a Michigan fan, well, I am not really sorry for your losses.  Cause they're going to continue to mount, especially in the next few years to the Buckeyes.  Chant Brady Hoke all you want, hell chant Bob Hope for all that matters it's not really gonna make a difference in the near future, lol.  I think its funny how whenever I run into Michigan fans nowadays they are always thumping their chests saying 'we've got the winningest football program in college football history.'  Yeah, what have you won in the last ten years? Maybe a couple of Big Ten titles?  Since 2000, Ohio State has won at least a share of seven Big Ten Titles and five BCS bowl games (including a national championship in the Fiesta Bowl in 2003).  I don't know if Michigan has ever won a BCS Bowl game, and they haven't won a bowl game at all since Lloyd Carr left.

But I digress.  Enjoy it while you can, Ohio State fans, cause it won't last forever.  Soak it up.  And when someone disses your team, remind them what is what.  Certainly don't let SEC fans get under your craw, remind them about OSU's five BCS wins.  Maybe you could throw in the fact that Ohio State has produced more first round NFL draft picks than any school in their beloved conference as well.  But mostly, point to the fact that in the past three meetings between Ohio State and schools from the Southeastern Conference, the team in Scarlet and Gray has come out on top each time (OSU beat Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl this year, and the men's basketball team beat both Florida and South Carolina.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ochocinco, Johnson...Does it even matter at this point?

The Cincinnati Bengals have had one helluva a season.  And I don't mean that in a good way.  They started 2010 fresh off a AFC North championship.  Owner Mike Brown, feeling frisky, would then throw almost 30 million at Antonio Bryant in the hopes of giving Cincy a legitimate deep threat to mesh with possession receiver Chad Ochocinco. (I say he must have been feeling frisky cause Bengals fans know all to well the son of the legendary Paul Brown never dishes out the money to make his team better).  Then, luck falls on the Bengals as they sign free agent Terrell Owens in the offseason to a one year contract.  With a healthy defense to start the season, many predict the Bengals to repeat as AFC North Champs.  The Bengals win 2 of their first three, lose to the Browns, then totally collapse on their way to losing 10 of their next 12 games.  It is so bad that many believe Marvin Lewis, longest tenured Bengals head coach since Sam Wyche, will finally get the axe.  But in a move that baffled many, including diehard Bengals fans, Mike Brown decides to retain Marvin Lewis.  The move is not met without controversy, as star quarterback Carson Palmer has demanded a trade or else he is retiring....And now Ochocinco, formerly Chad Johnson, wants to change his name back to Johnson.  Like that is really going to make a difference.  Or is it?  I guess desperate times require desperate measures, and if you can't play better, it must be because you don't have the right name, right?   Well, crazy as it sounds, the Bengals have had an even crazier season.   Maybe that is just the tonic the Cincinnati Bengals needed.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Australian Open: Can Pro Tennis Survive without Americans?

Yawn. That is the best phrase I could come up with to describe the 2011 Australian Open tennis tournament.  ESPN has no doubt done a wonderful job covering the tournament, although I wouldn't really know it.  I did tune in for about 30 seconds the other day, I think.  And I have noticed SportsCenter updates on the Open during my scheduled breaks at work from time to time.  Yet all I really know about the Open is that the last remaining American on either the men's or women's bracket, Andy Roddick, was eliminated last weekend.  And there is still a lot more tennis to be played before they get to the semifinals. My interest in tennis has progressively faded over the past few years, in part because there is no one personality as dynamic as a John McEnroe or an Andre Agassi, but also because the Americans seemingly exit early more often.  That brings me to the question: can the ATP survive without a successful American?  Has tennis become global enough that the US will latch on to someone outside their own country?  Does tennis even need the support of its American fanbase? As for the first question, I cannot answer that.  Soccer has proven that you do not need the US in order to be a successful global sport.  Whether tennis can transcend the northamerican continent without its support remains to be seen.  As to the second question, I know I myself really could care less about how many titles Nadal and Federer win, but maybe there are Americans out there who do care.  Finally, if my time in Spain is any indication (I spent five months there in the winter-spring of '99, during which the Spaniard Carlos Moya won the French Open) Europe's interest in the sport will ebb and flow based on the nationality of the winner.  And that might (yawn) be all (yawn) it needs to (yawn) sustain itself.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

With a couple of wins, Roethlisberger can establish himself as one of the all-time greats

Montana. Aikman. Brady.  Bradshaw

When the question arises to the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, these four names seemingly always top the list.  They have thrown for hundreds of thousands of yards, have more than a dozen Super Bowl rings between them and some of them have won multiple MVP awards. However, there are many in Pittsburgh who believe that another name should be on that list: Ben Roethlisberger.  They may have a case.  Personal feelings aside, you cannot deny what Roethlisberger has accomplished on the field.  In fact, being a Browns fan, I probably dislike Roethlisberger more than the average fan, and his off-the-field dalliances have not helped his case, in my opinion.  Yet even I can't deny that Roethlisberger is a great quarterback.  The guy has been in the league a mere seven seasons, and already has two Super Bowl rings, more than guys like Dan Marino, Brett Favre, and Peyton Manning. Should he go on to win his next two games, he will surpass another great, John Elway, who has two, and will be tied with Brady.  People have said that he is arrogant, and not a team player.  Heck, when news broke of his scandal in Georgia there were several media outlets  that speculated he would not even be back with the Steelers.  Yet it appears Roethlisberger and the Steelers have put the past in the past, and are on the brink of accomplishing something that only the Patriots have done since 2000: win two Super Bowls in three years.  And, if they do that, it might be time to add another name to the all-time great qb list, if he isn't there already.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Aaron Craft and Jared Sullinger- Thad Matta's aces in the hole

As the Ohio State men's basketball team gets set to take on Illinois tomorrow afternoon, their first road game of the season since being voted number one in both the coaches and associated press polls, speculation has run rampant as to how good this squad can really be.  There are those that wonder not if, but when, Ohio State will fall from the number 1 spot.  Then there are others that wonder if this team could become the first since Bob Knight's Indiana Hoosiers in 1976 to finish undefeated.   Thad Matta has once again put the basketball Buckeyes in the midst of the national title discussion, and for two very good reasons: freshmen sensations Aaron Craft and Jared Sullinger.

It is no small coincidence that any discussion involving the Ohio State men's basketball program would start and end with their freshman center, Jared Sullinger.  The team's second leading scorer and its leading rebounder, Sullinger gives the Buckeyes a post presence not seen since another frosh sensation, Greg Oden.  And, even though at 6-9 he is technically a little small to be playing center, most people would agree that he has played the position better than Oden ever did.  Sullinger's ability to back his opponent into the low post, combined with his soft touch at the free throw line, make him very hard to defend.  His durability gives him a third advantage over his predecessor Oden.  If there is one major weakness in his game, it is that he has a tendency to get into foul trouble.  That is something that also plagued Oden, especially during tournament time.  How deep the Buckeyes go into march this season might be contingent on how long 'Sully' can go before picking up his third foul in any given game.

On the other hand, if there is an 'x' factor that the Buckeyes have this season that suggests they will indeed go farther than last season's sweet sixteen loss to Tennessee, it has to be freshman point guard Aaron Craft.  I must admit, when I first saw Craft play this season, I wondered why he wasn't starting.  After watching a few more games, I think this may turn out to be the finest coaching decisions Matta has ever made.  The Buckeyes have been able to start strong without starting Craft, and, when Matta deems the time is right, he inserts his secret weapon into the game.  Craft not only doesn't turn the ball over that much, a definite plus, he also plays with such an aggressive nature for a point guard that it makes him even harder to defend.  Only the more reason to fear Ohio State come tournament time.

At the end of the day, how far the 2010-011 Buckeye's men's basketball program goes will inevitably depend on a variety of factors.  If freshmen Aaron Craft and Jared Sullinger have any thing to say about it, they just might be cutting down the nets in Houston

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why the NFL should do away with the 'Rooney Rule'

As we approach the anniversary of the birthday of famed civil rights leader Martin Luther King, many people, including those in the sports world, are compelled to look at the progress of minorities in the world.  Certainly they have come along way, even if you just look at the last fifty years.

One particular area that minorities have begun to break into, especially on the professional level, is head coach of a major football program. Now more than any time in history, there are more African Americans that are head coaches in the NFL. And there are probably many reasons for that.  Increased opportunity, continued success at the coaching level, etc, are only a few of the reasons minorities occupy more head coaching positions in the NFL.  Some would even say that this is due to the "Rooney Rule" named after Steelers owner Dan Rooney, which states that every NFL front office must interview at least one minority candidate when conducting a head coach search.  I would argue that it has little impact, if any.  In fact, I would go on to argue that if the NFL wants to see more minorities in the NFL, the Rooney Rule should be done away with altogether.

Why abandon the Rooney Rule? Simple. There is no concrete evidence to support that it will lead to more minority head coaches in the first place.  More importantly, however, is that it gives teams the opportunity to bring in a token candidate, whom they have no intention of hiring, for an interview just to fulfill the requirement.  Not only does this give the potential candidate the false hope he has a chance for the job, it also pointlessly wastes a franchise's time and money in the process.  And, at the end of the day, we are no nearer to have more minorities in head coaching positions than when we started.

So, you're probably asking now, if  the Rooney Rule is abolished, what is my solution?  The short answer is, I don't have one.  Hire the best candidate for the job, and if he happens to be a minority, so be it.  Detractors say this unfairly targets minorities, whom may not be considered for such positions without the rule.  But what about non-minority candidates who get passed over because of the Rooney rule? The NFL is a business, and, as such, must hire the most qualified individual for the job.  And therein lies the utlimate fallacy of the "Rooney Rule."

Friday, January 14, 2011

College Basketball: Is Duke really better than Ohio State?

They began play in 2010-2011 as the preseason's no. 1 and no. 2. The general consensus is that these two teams are on a collision course Houston in April. Each team boasts its own superstar, the one being a fourth year senior, while the other is true freshman.  They have started out the season blazing hot,  a combined 32-1.  So the question then becomes, who is the better team?  Head to head, does the defending champion Duke Blue Devils own the advantage over the Ohio State Buckeyes?

Taking a look at each team's respective schedules, one would probably conclude that Duke has the advantage. Duke has defeated two nonconference opponents ranked in the top 25 whereas only one team that Ohio State has defeated was ranked in the top 25.  In addition, Duke has beaten schools such as Butler, Oregon,  and Marquette.  What is interesting though, is that it appears Duke has done most of its damage at home, Ohio State has been equally impressive on the road.  Ohio State owns road wins against Iowa Michigan, Florida, and a Florida State team that handed the Blued Devils its first loss of the season.  So, maybe the schedule isn't the best way to determine which team is better.

Taking a look at each teams respective rosters,  it appears that the Blue Devils are a bit deeper than Ohio State, going probably eight or nine guys to Ohio State's six or seven.  What is worse for Ohio State, however, in terms of depth, is that Dallas Lauderdale, one of its starters, doesn't appear to contribute much more than a body at times.  The Buckeyes are at a slight disadvantage to the Blue Devils when it comes to height, and, despite the fact that freshman sensation Jared Sullinger plays bigger than his 6-9 frame suggests, he can't do it alone.  And while the backcourt tandem of Diebler, Buford, and Craft could probably hold their own to Kyle Irving and company, guarding the Plumlee brothers could get troublesome for the Buckeyes.

If , however, there is one x factor for these two teams, it  would probably be free throw shooting. Coach Mike Krzyzewski's team are typically good at the charity stripe, and this year's team, at 74.7%, is no exception.  On the other hand, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta cannot be pleased with his team's 68% clip, and has to be thanking his lucky stars his guys were able to drain them when it mattered most last Wednesday against Michigan.

So, when it comes down to it, who exactly is the better team?  Right now I'd have to say Duke, even though I'd love to see OSU beat them.  The teams matchup fairly well, but Duke's size, depth, and ability to make their free throws give them the slight edge.  Although you never know in college basketball, which is why tourney time is appropriately deemed 'March Madness.'

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

London Summer Games 2012: Are the Olympics safe from attack?

Even though the 2012 Summer Olympic Games are more than 18th months away, its a good bet that London has begun at the very least the initial preparations required of the host nation.  After all, it is one of the 10 largest cities in the world, and probably  one of the most industrialized major cities as well.

However, having said that, there is one issue regarding the 2012 Olympics that still bugs me.  Will London be safe from terrorists attacks once the games are in full swing less than 2 years from now?  And what measures will be taken to prevent possible attacks that might take place outside the designated sporting venues?

Now, I know what you are probably going to say: the 2012 Olympic planning committee has already considered these(and other scenarios), and they are hard at work developing security measures to prevent this exact thing from happening.  While that may be true, there are a couple of things to consider that make London different than many of the other Olympic host cities.

The first is the diverse ethnic makeup of the city itself.  Having been to London myself, for my cousin's wedding in the summer of 2006, I went the majority of people there to be native English.  That couldn't be any farther from the truth, as the city is a mixture of people from Europe and Asia.  On the surface one would think that this rich diversity would make London the utlimate destination for the Olympics.  However, the other thing I found when I was in London was that many of the foreigners now living in the city have assimilated English customs with their own culture, and, in a sense have developed a sort of arrogance to anyone who the deem to be an outsider.  This to me does not bode well for the games.

The other factor that makes hosting the games in London so unpredictable is that while terrorism is rampant around the world, London seems to be more susceptible to it than a lot of other major cities.  Since 9/11/2001, it seems no other major city has had more threats/attacks/attempted attacks than London.  Of course that may be just me.  But I would like to point out that, in 2006 as my aunt and uncle were about to head back to the US, there had just been a thwarted terrorist attack in the US.  The response in London was swift, as the airports at Heathrow and Gatwick shutdown all flights for a couple of hours.  And while that may speak to the security at those airports I believe it also speaks to the paranoia that is in the city as well.

I bring the issue of possible terrorist attacks up not only for the sake of the athletes participating in the 2012 games, but also for the many spectators that will no doubt jump at the chance to witness the games firsthand.  No doubt, if I had the means to do so, and with a little luck in obtaining tickets to the games, I would love to go back to London as it is a beautiful city.  But even though I say that I still wonder how secure the events, and the lodging and shops that surround them, will be.

At the end of the day, there may not really be anything to worry about, as London officials will  more than likely have protocols in place to prevent anything disastrous from happening.  Which would jolly good by me.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Little Sisters of the Poor? Why TCU wouldn't be able to hang in Big Ten despite Rose Bowl Victory

As you have probably heard by now, signs are popping up all over Columbus congratulating TCU on their victory over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. What is more, these billboards are signed "Little Sisters of the Poor" an intentional dig at The Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee, who, more than a month ago stated publicly he believed teams like TCU and Boise State couldn't hang with the Big Ten because they played the 'Little Sisters of the Poor.' Well, you know what? He wasn't wrong.  Sure, this season the Horned Frogs might have done better than ok, but they would not have gone undefeated in the Big Ten, and they most certainly would not have been playing in a BCS bowl.  And I believe this to be true despite the respective records of the Big Ten(3-5) and the MWC (4-1) in bowl play.  Why is that, you say? Easy.  First off, despite the final score, it was evident that TCU had trouble handling the size that Wisconsin presented. TCU would be at a size disadvantage in almost certainly every game they played in the Big Ten and probably the SEC too, for that matter.  Then there is inclement weather, which I am sure TCU is not accustomed to playing in, and will be in for a rude awakening upon joining the Big East. This is important because I think TCU would encounter serious problems trying to run their fast break offense against Wisconsin on a snowy, windy field, but in the sunny bliss that is Pasadena on New Year's day they had no problem.  Then there is the issue of travel.  TCU was well represented on New Year's day, but I wonder how well they would travel to places that aren't tourist traps, such as Iowa City or State West Lafayette, Indiana?  It seemed to me that the crowd was equal 12th man for both TCU and Wisky, but I doubt that would be the case if TCU was part of the Big Ten. On the other hand, I could see many Ohio State, Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan fans eager to make the trip to Fort Worth, so much so that if TCU's football field wasn't large enough they might have to relocate the game to Dallas Cowboy stadium.  At the end of the day, however, this point may be moot, as the Horned Frogs will join the Big East next season.  Yet that may not end the debate as to whether TCU is fit to play in the BCS, especially given the Big East's (or Least as it is being known these days in football) poor performance as of late.

Is Peyton Manning merely human? That's unthinkable!

Last night as I was watching the New York Jets play the Indianapolis Colts in the second of two wild card games to be played, I couldn't help but see how Manning was struggling mightily against the Jets' defense.  And, this after hearing all week from analyst after analyst that while the Jets had more talent on both sides of the ball than the Colts, the one equalizer that the Colts had was Peyton Manning.  He had been thrown this praise even after the Colts had endured a season where in week 13, with their record being 6-6, there were many people who doubted the Colts would even make the playoffs.  New York head coach Rex Ryan only added fuel to the fire saying that beating Manning and the Colts was now "personal."  I'm sorry, Rex, but what did Peyton ever do to you to make last night's game "personal?" So taking all of this into perspective watching the events of the game unfold, I couldn't help but make two observations: 1. the Jets came out yesterday ready to play, whether Ryan's "it' personal now" strategy worked or not, and 2. Peyton Manning is only human, and as a human is prone to mistakes.  Of course that is not based on any one bad pass he threw last night, or an interception he might have thrown(to my knowledge he hadn't thrown any) but more as to how he reacted when faced with 3rd and short on multiple occasions in the first quarter.  Not only did he throw the ball incomplete on those occasions, that he threw the ball at the receivers feet almost each time and at the exact same spot in the field led me to believe that the designed play was a short pass over the middle.  Which is fine if you complete it.  But Manning's insistence on throwing it when he could have call an audible for a downfield play might show a weakness in the man we all thought to be football immortality.  And that's alright, cause Manning is just human after all, right?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

How I would hate being one of Michael Jordan's sons

I feel bad for Marcus and Jeffrey Jordan, sons of former basketball great Michael Jordan, who starred for the University of North Carolina before going on to the NBA to win six titles with the Chicago Bulls. Well, let's be honest, I don't feel as bad for Jeffrey as I do for Marcus, whose almost 17 points per game leads the undefeated and 19th ranked University of Central Florida Knights, and has many comparing the younger Jordan's game to his pop. Of course, Jeffrey, a senior at UCF, is also on the squad, but I am assuming that he must not get much playing time(having not seen a UCF game myself yet this season) cause I couldn't find any stats for him.  So maybe he's on the team more because of his last name? If that's the case, then I take back that remark that I don't feel as bad for him as I do his younger brother.  That the Knights are undefeated and ranked 19th has many in the media wanting to compare this team to the great UNC teams that Michael played on.  Marcus, only a sophomore, is only a year older than Michael was when his UNC team won it all.  But even though these two kids have the pedigree, is it fair to compare them to one of the greatest basketball legends there ever was and will ever be? I'd take bets that Marcus can't tie his sneakers around a pick-up court without someone challenging him to a game of one on one, savoring the chance to posterizing the son of "Air Jordan."  The reality of the situation is, unfortunately, that no matter how much we want either Jeffrey or his brother to be the next version of their father, they will ultimately fall short in some compacity.  Which is only natural, because, after all, Marcus and Jeffrey aren't clones or carbon copies of their dad anyway.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pro football labor Talks: longer season does not always mean better

With the NFL's current labor agreement about to run out, the league is scraping for ideas to help its 32 franchises, many of whom lost money in 2010, pull in more revenue in 2011.  And while adding two more games to the schedule may sound like a no brainer, at least on paper, its probably not going to give teams that much more money.  For starters, many teams are already finding that in today's economy it's hard enough to sell out all 16 games.  Expanding to 18 games means teams like the Bills, Browns, and Panthers will have to find even more creative ways to sell out the last two games(sorry fellow Browns fans, had to take that shot, cause I don't think it was a coincidence that when I went to Cleveland stadium October 10 of this past year that Browns management was trying to entice families to come to the game vs. Carolina by offering family packages consisting of 4 tickets, 4 soft drinks, and 4 hotdogs for under $130).  And then there are the concerns voiced by the players that adding two more games will only add up to more injuries.  This argument is not without merit, as it seems every year the number of players who are put on injured reserve before the final three or four games only increases.  What if the Indianapolis Colts, for example, having clinched a playoff birth, and homefield advantage throughout in week 15 of a 19 week season, decide to rest Peyton Manning for the final four games, rather than risk the chance of having to put him on injured reserve?  The only valid argument for adding two more games as I see it would be that the regular season would start earlier, and, perhaps cut into Major League Baseball's viewership.  Cause I have thought for years that 162 games is way too long a season for any sport, let alone one whose playoffs now extend well into the meat of the NFL schedule.  Yet that is a debate for another time.  So, Roger Goodell, if you want to be known as the man that saved pro football, expanding the schedule from 16 to 18 games might not be the first place to start.

Good Luck!-He's still a Cardinal

As you have probably heard by now, Stanford Cardinal starting quarterback Andrew Luck is foregoing the NFL draft to complete his senior class year and obtain his degree.  You read that right,  Luck is foregoing the NFL draft to return to Stanford.  How often do you ever hear that happening these days, especially from a quarterback who is a lock to make millions as the number one pick in the NFL draft?  I can't say I'm really surprised, as I even speculated to my co-workers he might return to one of the pre-eminent universities in the nation to obtain his diploma. No, really, I did, even though I don't have the conversation recorded as proof.  And while many of my co-workers and friends will say he's an idiot for passing up millions, his chances at a national title are slim with all the departing senior at Stanford this year, etc., I actually applaud Luck for his decision.  Because in this day and age of college athletics, it seems that the student part of student-athlete is almost forgotten when in comes to the football or basketball player.  This is despite the fact that all of these athletes are getting their respective education(s) paid for in its entirety by accepting a scholarship to play ball at their given university.  I actually mentioned to some friends of mine that if Pryor, Posey, and Company wanted to really show their teammates and fans they cared about Ohio State, not only would they return next season to serve their five game suspensions, but they would also work toward getting their degrees at The Ohio State University before leaving for the NFL.  My buddies, of course told me to stop being stupid, that no one before them who entered the NFL draft got their degree beforehand either.  But as I reminded them, the others before Pryor, Posey, etc. didn't sell treasured memorabilia either.  But I digress.  The reason I bring up Pryor is to illustrate just how screwed up society's opinion of college athletics is today.  As far as they're concerned, Luck should have left to go to the NFL,  opting to leave his degree on the table rather than guaranteed millions on the table.  And in the case of Pryor, well, he should go too, not necessarily because he will succeed at the next level, but due to a belief that he wasn't really all that committed to Ohio State in the first place.  But I say good luck, Mr. Luck, I hope you obtain your degree, and to Terrelle Pryor, I say, see you next year, perhaps?  Maybe you can earn one of those diplomas, too, before you leave?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Buckeye fans need to just enjoy Sugar Bowl win

Last night's Sugar Bowl was a great game, even if you were a fan of the Arkansas Razorbacks.  If you were an Ohio State fan, maybe you breathed a sigh of relief after the game.  Or you could have been critical of Tressel's game management down the stretch, or outraged that the five players involved in "Tattoogate" as its being called were on the field last night.  But I would like to give all Ohio State fans out there a simple word of advice regarding last night's game: just enjoy the fact your team won the game.  Your team finally got the proverbial "can't beat the SEC in a bowl game" monkey off its back, what more could you ask for? And we could argue all day whether the five players facing suspension in the fall deserved to be on the field last night, but I say let's let their actions in the coming weeks and months determine their fate.  You want OSU to play a perfect game? There is no such thing as a perfect game, I tell you.  You think the win was tainted by players who don't deserve to be there?  The NCAA says they do, and that's good enough for me, and it should be good enough for you, too.  So be happy, Buckeye fans.  Ohio State finished the season 12-1, defeated a quality opponent, and won their second straight BCS bowl game.  I don't know about you, but aside from winning the National Championship I'll take that any day.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

File this under "We didn't know we were live!"

So, as you may or may not have heard, yesterday Eric Mangini was fired as head coach of the Cleveland Browns by team president Mike Holmgren.  And, it appears that ESPN analysts Hannah Storm and Adam Schefter couldn't be happier about.  Or it least appears that way. I'll let you watch the video and decide for yourself: .  As you can see from the video, the two share a jovial moment, ending with a high five before quickly reminding viewers "that someone lost his job" and "families are affected."  I am wondering if there wasn't an office pool going on how long it would be before Mangini actually got fired.  I mean, to be honest, I am a Browns fan who was actually calling for Mangini to be fired for weeks.  So I have no problem with him being fired.  And I have read comments from other people who believe that ESPN "is biased against the Browns", and I would respectfully disagree on that point.  But the video does seem to call into question both Storm and Schefter's professionalism, don't you think?  Would they react the same way if the VP of Disney, ESPN's parent company and therefore their boss, was fired? On air?  Now that may be an extreme example, but I thought it was the media's job to report the news without bias or judgment, save opinion pieces.  So  what opinion are Schefter and Storm trying to convey there?  They didn't think Mangini was head coaching material in the first place? I don't think so, but this seems to me one of those "oops, we didn't know we were live" blunders that I thought ESPN was above.

Orange Bowl Postgame Press Conference Reveals Alarming Trend in College Football

There was something about last night's Orange Bowl that really bothered me.  No it wasn't that the Orange Bowl has switched sponsors from FedEx to Discover, although that switch does reveal how shameless the business side of college athletics has become.  Nor was it the performance of Virginia Tech, who, despite being the sentimental favorite of media pundits looked like they belonged in the BCS just as much as the University of Connecticut did in the Fiesta Bowl.  It didn't even bother me that Stanford's 40-12 win might be the last time we see either head coach Jim Harbaugh or starting quarterback Andrew Luck in Cardinal red.  No, what really bothered me was the line of questioning that was aimed at Luck, and then Harbaugh, in the Stanford press conference immediate following the game.  You all know what I am talking about, that the media (and ESPN shares a lot of the blame here) could not help but ask Luck and Harbaugh if this was their last game with the University of Stanford.

Hey I understand that the media gets paid to attract more viewers to its network, and if ESPN can break the story that either Andrew Luck declares for the draft or Jim Harbaugh becomes the next coach of Michigan before anyone else does that means higher ratings for them.  But just like the final year that Lloyd Carr spent in Michigan, speculation has been rampant that Harbaugh wants to return to Michigan, just like Les Miles supposedly did that year.  And heaven forbid Andrew Luck should want to return to one of the preeminent universities in the nation to finish his degree at Stanford when he could make millions in the NFL draft by declaring tomorrow morning.  Nevermind the fact that if there might not even be a season next fall the the players association and the owners can't work out a new labor agreement.  But it almost seems unfathomable to the media that either the coach or the player would want to return to Stanford.

However, can't Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck take a moment to bask in the glory of one of the greatest seasons in Stanford football history before they are asked 'what's next, gentleman?'  Kudos to Luck for refusing to answer the question regarding his draft status at all, instead saying he wanted to enjoy the moment. And a double kudos goes to Harbaugh for refusing to answer the one question that has been on the media's(read: ESPN) mind for several weeks now.  Certainly last night will not be the last time these two are asked those questions this year, but at the very least they should not have to answer those types of questions for at least another week.

You know, there used to be a day when news was just that, news.  Nowadays, especially in the information age, hardly anything we read comes as a surprise.  I mean, if and when it is announced that Jim Harbaugh has left Stanford to join another team, will anyone outside of the Cardinal Nation care?  More shocking would be to hear that both Harbaugh and Luck return to Stanford for another season.  Of course ESPN is working on that angle, too.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Why the Big Ten gets the bad rap

It seems all the talk in college football these days surrounds the Big Ten's apparent free fall.  Ohio State appears on the verge of getting its breakthrough win versus a team from the SEC, then a scandal hits the program and appears to threaten the availability of several of its star players, including its starting quarterback (Terrelle Pryor) and leading running back (Daniel Herron).  Due to a loophole in NCAA rules, the pair is allowed to play in tomorrow night's game, along with DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, and Solomon Thomas, also found guilty of selling memorabilia and accepting discounts on tattoos.  While this ensures that the Arkansas Razorbacks will face an Ohio State team at full strength, many contend that both the NCAA and the OSU have placed a higher emphasis on the almighty dollar than the integrity of the Sugar Bowl.

Then, to make matters worse, over the past weekend the Big Ten's shoddy performance in Bowl games has many people revisiting OSU president Gordon Gee's "Little Sister's of the Poor" comment.  For those of you that don't know, more than a month ago Gee basically put his foot in his mouth when he said " teams such as  TCU and Boise State could not hang with the Big Ten,  because it's murderer's row every week in that conference, while teams such as TCU and Boise play 'the little sisters of the poor.'  The past two weeks have not been kind to the Big Ten in bowl games.  Iowa and Illinois are the only teams with victories in bowl games thus far, and the state of Michigan was outscored by almost 100 points.  Add to that losses by Northwestern, Penn State, and Wisconsin, and the Big Ten is now 2-5 in bowl games this season.  Making matters worse is that Wisconsin lost to one of Gee's aforementioned 'Little Sisters of the Poor', TCU, 21-19 in the Rose Bowl.

On the flip side, the SEC has come out smelling like Roses.  Urban Meyer resigns as head coach of the University of Florida Gators, citing declining health, and no one bats an eye.  Nevermind that at 7-5 Meyer had the worst team he's ever coached.  Now his health may be an issue but don't be surprised if you see him coaching somewhere else in the near future.  Just look at Mark Dantonio, head coach of Michigan State.  He had a heart attack during the middle of the season, sat out for a couple of games, and I have yet to hear that he is not coming back for next season.

Then there is the Cam Newton scandal/saga.  It has been widely reported that Newton's father, Cecil, shopped the services of the Auburn starting quarterback to the highest bidder.  The NCAA and Auburn did what they concluded to be a thorough investigation on the matter and concluded that while the elder Newton was in the wrong, Cam Newton was absolved of any wrongdoing.  These findings were independent of an ongoing FBI investigation into claims that the Newton's tried to extort money from any university.  I must admit that I have not read up on all of the NCAA bylaws, but it seems even to me to say that Cam Newton did not know his father was shopping him around to different universities is just plain ludicrous.

By this time you're probably wondering: what's my point? I am glad you asked.  Because it seems that in mainstream media today, the SEC can do no wrong, and the Big Ten can't even tie its collective shoes without doing something wrong.  And this has become a disturbing trend.  And I think I have figured out why.  One reason is the unaminous hatred for anything Ohio State.  Mainstream media cannot stand that Ohio State is consistently in the discussion of the nation's elite teams.  They will try to use every different angle they can to tear down the Buckeye program.  To be fair, Ohio State may not be the number six program in the country, as some would say they lost to their only quality opponent, but if you look at the programs below them you could make an argument that not one of them has a win that puts them decidely(sp) above the Buckeyes.

And the next reason the media has it in for the Big Ten follows from the first, with the recent decline of the University of Michigan football program, there has not been a consistent challenger to Ohio State in the conference.  Many will argue that with the addition of Nebraska University next season that will change.  While that may be true it doesn't change the current reality  Wisconsin knocked Ohio State from its perch this year, yet some people still wonder had Ohio State been able to cover the opening kickoff if the outcome would have been the same.  The media argues that the SEC is the tougher conference because no one really knows from year to year who will take the crown.  Sure Florida has taken two of the last four BCS titles.  But sandwiched in between are also titles by LSU and Alabama, and, potentially, a third title from Auburn.  But in the Big Ten there has only been one team to consistently make it to the BCS: Ohio State.  Ohio State's struggles in recent BCS contest(s) (they have lost three of their last four games, two to teams from the SEC) only further the media's opinion that the Big Ten is watered down.

So maybe Big Ten expansion isn't such a bad thing after all.  Because maybe it will restore some parity to the conference,  and bit by bit repair its image in the eyes of mainstream media.