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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.