Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 at a glance.

As the year comes to an end I thought it wold be worth making a list of things that stood out to me in the past year. I came up with this list without the help of the internet to jog my memory, I simply just sat down and tried to think of the things I will remember, for better or worse.


The Giants win the World Series!
As someone who spent the ages of 6-10 living in the Bay Area going to Giants games, this was a great moment. The Giants pitching staff proved that pitching does indeed win championships. Players like Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria came up huge. The Giants are the anti-Red Sox/Yankees (yes they belong in the same breath after the Sox spending spree this offseason). The Giants are primed for another run in the playoffs next year, especially considering how weak the rest of the NL West is.

Brian Wilson: The Real World Kenny Powers?


The run that Butler made last March might only be outmatched by NC State in 1983. Gordon Haywood's shot almost put them over the top.

The Decision:
This hour of TV changed the face of the NBA. The NBA has a villain, and the Heat are settling into their role quite comfortably in the last few weeks: running off a long win streak and also making the Lakers look like an old tired team on Christmas. Frankly, this Heat team scares me. Once they find a point guard who can actually run a half court offense in the playoffs the Heat could be unbeatable.

Lakers Repeat:
Even though this was at the expense of a tired, injured, and worn-out Celtics team (no bitterness, I swear), it was a very impressive run. Trailing by 13 points in the second half of Game 7, the Lakers came back to destroy the Celtics and the city of Boston.

UCONN women's streak:
Awesome. Simply Awesome. The streak is at 90 and counting. The last time they lost George Bush was still president! I hope this team can make it to 100 and just make it an untouchable record.


Brett Favre:
This guy has ruled the airwaves for the past year, and my god is it nauseating. His teammates flew down to get him to play this season, he texted his "Hogan" to Jenn Sterger (you are are welcome again... heck its the holidays, it is better to give...) and he pretty much phoned in the season: throwing interceptions and generally sucking while throwing his coach under the bus.

The NFL's new stance on concussions is that they are bad. Good call... Defenders are getting fined for dangerous hits and QBs are throwing the ball to receivers across the middle and nearly getting them killed.

The next step for the NFL is to give health coverage for its players after they leave the league. One has to wonder how much of this effort to protect players is actually really an effort to protect the league. Personally, I think there is a big gap between what the NFL is doing regarding concussions and how serious concussions are. I hope the players are able to get some help in the CBA with regards to healthcare and lets hope an 18 game season never happens.

Mike Vick:
Redemption stories are the best aren't they!?? Mike Vick is back. It's a good thing that Tucker Carlson isn't the NFL Commissioner. The Eagles proved that they will not go too far in the playoffs after their lackluster performance against the Vikings. Just think how good Vick would be with a competent offensive line? It would be scary. The bright side to the Eagles chances of making the Super Bowl is that they can get there with a home game and a possible dome game against the Falcons. However a trip to Chicago could be in the cards too... I guess we will have to see...

The New York Jets:
This team is ridiculous. Between Rex Ryan's foot fetish, Hardknocks, Braylon Edwards, Mark Sanchez, and tripgate, the swagger has slowly been chipped away. I am frankly looking forward to the implosion that will no doubt happen in January.

Rex's inner monologue: "Feet, Feet, Feet, Football, Feet, hoagies..."

The New Orleans Saints brought a Super Bowl to New Orleans. I could write a lot about this, but I will let this commercial do the talking.


USA Soccer:
The World Cup this summer left a lot to be desired. The US team however delivered some of the best moments of the tournament. Landon Donovan's goal against Algeria was probably the highlight of the entire tournament, the game against Ghana was another great game.
While soccer is still a popular sport in the US, one is left to wonder if the nation will ever win a World Cup. Things were laid out for them very nicely this past summer and they blew it. Enjoy some videos from the Landon Donovan goal...

The Goal

The World Reacts

Tiger Woods returns:
This story straddled 2009 and 2010 (pun intended). Tiger's return to golf was somewhat disappointing, he did not win a tournament. He finished in the top 5 in the Masters and US Open, however he really was not in the hunt in either of those tournaments. Before that fateful night in November 2009 this season was supposed to be a huge one for Tiger. The Majors were being played at courses he had dominated at before. The US Open was at Pebble Beach, where Tiger had won the last two Opens, the same goes for St. Andrews. However, he never got his game on track until December, losing to Graeme McDowell in a playoff. It was the first time he had gone a calendar year without a win in his career.

Tiger now has a new coach and a new putter. Tiger turns 35 today (December 30). Many had said that golfers peak in their 30's. Tiger has nearly missed his 30's. Between injury and his personal life he has not had a full season of focused golf since 2007. Will Tiger's late 30's be better to him, I think they will.

2011 predictions:

1) Brett Favre will return to football next season.
I have no doubt about this. While he is old and broken down, Favre keeps proving to us that he wants to leave under his own rules. Right now he is leaving as a concussed sexter. His pride will not let that be the final act of his career. Let's look at the teams that would like a veteran quarterback that could potentially put them over the top (or at least help them improve):

Arizona Cardinals: Kurt Warner did it. It is warm, they play indoors and the NFC West is a joke. Favre could easily end up here.

San Francisco 49ers: See above regarding weather and NFC West.

Miami Dolphins: Chad Henne is on his last chance I think. The Dolphins are in a tough conference though. Maybe some time in Miami with LeBron, Wade, and Bosh would help Favre feel younger...

Dallas Cowboys: Hehe...

2) Tiger Woods will win 2 majors.
Looking at the sites for this year's Majors makes me think that this may be a good bet. The Masters has proven more difficult to win for Tiger (how come Augusta has never been called out for "Tigerproofing" their golf course. Is there no racism in that act? They never "Nicklausproofed" or "Palmerproofed" it...) Marion is the US Open site. A course with rich history, meaning Tiger will know the course through studying. This is the site of a few Bobby Jones triumphs. We will see a lot of old Bobby that week I guarentee.

The Bristish Open is at a course Tiger should have won at in 2003, but Ben Curtis came out of obscurity to win.

The PGA is in Atlanta Athletic Club, the hometown of Bobby Jones. (Bobby Jones started the Masters, clinched his Grandslam at Merion, and grew up in Atlanta playing Atlanta Athletic Club's East Lake course...).

This will happen me...

3) The Red Sox will win the World Series... And Big Papi will have a monster year.
Jinx? Possibly. This team is so good on paper, injuries could hurt them. Papi will be hitting 6th in the lineup, he will be up will men on-base constantly. I cannot wait to watch this team. And Red Sox fans are not allowed to hate the Yankees for spending money anymore, it is not allowed.

Well there you have it. The year in review and three things I think will happen in 2011. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Redemption Song

Flashback to December 2009.

Tiger Woods was the talk of the world, he had just crashed his car, unleashing the life of lies he was living since getting married.

Mike Vick was in jail, paying the penalty for abusing and killing dogs.

Now imagine you and I were chatting at a holiday party and I said, “I bet a year from now Tiger and Mike Vick will be on the cover of ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated respectively, and both covers will put them in a positive light.”

What would you have said to me? Would you have slapped me? Kicked me? Spread an evil rumor about me?

Clearly it would have been a ridiculous statement. However, here we are and Mike Vick is on the cover of SI and Tiger is on ESPN.

Vick's headline states, “What Michael Vick tells us about ourselves.” To be honest, I didn’t read the article, didn’t feel like it.

Tiger’s ESPN cover is about perfection in sports. The magazine picks the brain of some athletes about what perfection is, however Tiger was chosen for the cover. Ironic? I think so.

What do these covers tell us about our society? I think it tells us that if you do something really really well, we can forgive you. If you do something really really well that can earn people money and entertain them, then you are in great shape.

I wonder if as a society we want people to fail, because it makes us feel good to forgive. To err is human, to forgive divine. I guess that makes all of us divine.

What have Vick and Tiger done to really earn our forgiveness and adulation? I honestly can’t say. Vick has played well, earning him interviews and chances to show his new PR savvy.

Tiger has looked human, sometimes pathetically so, his awful speech in February and his atrocious play this summer completed his fall from grace.

The “redemption story” seems to be the buzz phrase surrounding Vick. He has redeemed himself and his image. Now the media has turned him into someone we can learn from? Oh right, I forgot I shouldn’t beat dogs to the point of death.

Tiger cheated on her...hundreds of joke..

I am lead to wonder what happens to someone in a different profession who treats women like Tiger did, or who treats dogs like Vick did? Do they get a redemption story? Do they get a second chance? Are athletes given more slack because we do not expect as much from them morally? I don’t think so, or we wouldn’t have such an outcry when they do make mistake.

As a teacher if I were to do what Vick did, I would be fired, and I would have to explain what happened to any possible future employer for the rest of my life. I would not have the opportunity to go on TV and show how I have changed, I would have to prove it in an interview.

As I look out into the sports landscape on December 5, 2010 I wonder who might be this year’s redemption story? Here are a few nominees:

LeBron James:

The guy sucks. He sucks in every possible way off a basketball court. He is a selfish teammate who has no one around him to make him shut his mouth or simply say the correct thing. He has the built-in excuse that his friends are his managers, so if he fires them he can become beloved by the country again (except Cleveland). Winning would also help. People hate when athletes make selfish choices, they love when those choices blow up in an athlete’s face. A 9-8 start is a good example.

Brett Favre:

My buddy Coyle and I reveled in Brett Favre’s pain after getting knocked out of the Sunday’s game against the Bills. It became even better when Tavaris Jackson tore it up afterward, leading the Vikings to a huge Bills win. Redemption for Favre could be a possibility, but I think people might actually be too sick of him…


After leaving the Suns and Cavs with a bad reputation, Shaq is crushing it in Boston right now. He is doing everything right. If you have not watched “The Association: Boston Celtics” yet, you should (the whole first episode is on Youtube). Shaq compares his younger days to being a CEO, the leader…. However he now thinks of himself as a member of the board, taking a back seat and letting others lead. If the Celts pull out a title win, he could be a redemption story.

I guess we will have to wait and see….

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Retro-Fit Pats team and some Favre thoughts...

Quick, name the wide receivers for the Patriots during there three Super Bowl wins. Here is what I could come up internet help...

Troy Brown
David Patten
Deion Branch
Jermaine Wiggins (Tight End)
David Givens

Here is who I missed...
Bethel Johnson
Dedric Ward
Charles Johnson
Jimmy Farris
Kevin Kasper
Daniel Graham

Yep, that's it. Those are the guys that Brady had out wide to catch the ball. And you know what? They did a pretty damn good job.

With the Pats reacquiring Deion Branch on Monday, one is left to wonder. Are the Pats doing a "retro-fit?" Are they trying to re-create the recipe that worked early this decade, winning 3 Super Bowls. I would like to think so.

Anyone else excited for this again?

With all the talents of Randy Moss, how many times do loud mouth wide receivers actually help a team when the going gets tough? The Pats struggled on the road last year, winning one true road game. They played, and beat, the Bucs in London. I don't count that as a road win. Moss' stats in the second half of all those games was awful. He didn't have more than 2 catches in any of the losses. Let's be honest, when the going got tough, Moss shrank a bit. Please do not confuse this with an attack on Moss' talents, the guy is uber talented and was a delight to watch. But how many BIG catches did he make late in a game? I cannot think of one time when Moss used his incredible talent to simply take over a late close game.

The Pats are now more similar to the older Pats teams. They do not have a Moss to "spread the field" the only thing I am more sick of hearing about? Brett Favre's penis (more on that later). Do I think the Moss trade was the right thing. Yes. Was I upset that he is no longer a Patriot, absolutely. However, where is this Pats team going this year? With 7 picks in the first 4 rounds the Pats have an opportunity to load up on young defensive players in their front 7. That is the next phase of the "retro-fit." The Pats tried the bad guy thing, it did not fit, they did not win. Now they are going back to positioning themselves as the underdogs again. People are counting them out. Brady has some new weapons, Hernandez, Tate, Gronkowski, Woodhead, and now Branch. The old friend who is back for more.

Hernandez is going to have to step up.

The offense will be fine, people act like the offense will only be playing with 10 players now that Moss is gone. The Pats could move the ball before Moss and they will be able to move the ball after Moss. They will have to change their method, become more of a ball control offense. Which may also keep that young defense off the field.

One last note on Moss and professional athletes in general. Imagine you were able to be a complete jerk at work. Abuse co-workers, treat new hires like crap, and then when your boss has had enough of you he calls you into his office and says, "we are trading you to another office for a secretary and a few new conference tables."

Professional athletes are allowed to treat people terribly, act selfishly, and then they are handed off to the next team, FOR THE SAME PRICE!

Which leads me to Brett Favre... channeling my John Gruden... This guy is a complete jerk. Watch this guy, right here. He is gonna take pictures of his wang, and then he is gonna have the balls to send it to a female. This girl isn't even his wife. I don't get it, I just don't get it (pursing my lips and shaking my head.).

So young and innocent...

During Monday Night Football, Brett Favre was honored for everything: for having fun on the football field, for being a great teammate, for being a fearless gunslinger (no pun intended). Is ESPN owned by Favre? It is pathetic the slack that this guy gets for both his behavior and for his play on the field. Part of me wonders if the people at ESPN were disappointed that they weren't the recipients of the wang message.

For the record, I decided to call Favre the Wangler. Choose comfort, choose the Wangler...

Take a look at some of Brett's late game "greatness."

NFC Championship vs Saints....outstanding fan reactions. Best part is announcers, they are shocked..

Brett's last passes as a Packer, Jet, and Viking (before he returned....). SPOILER ALERT: THEY ARE ALL INTERCEPTIONS IN BIG GAMES!!!

Even Hitler is pissed off...

One last video, probably my favorite of the year to this point. Brian Wilson on Jim Rome....

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Figuring out where everyone stands...

As we look forward to Week 4 in the NFL, we are left looking back at a September that had some surprises. The Chiefs are 3-0. The Cowboys avoided a terrible start by winning in Week 3.

After Week 3 most teams have at least realized what they are destined for. Only 3 teams have ever won a Super Bowl after starting 0-2: The 1993 Cowboys, the 2001 Pats, and the 2007 Giants. Therefore a good start is paramount. Here is a look at what teams at each record might be thinking as they head into Week 4.

Holy S%$t we are 3-0!!
Chicago, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh.
These were not teams that anyone would have picked to be at the top of the heap after 3 games. The Steelers are no doubt the best team out of these 3, getting Ben back after this week could be a huge boost. Or will it fall into the category of the anti-Ewing Theory?

The Chiefs have some solid coaches who have won before. Charlie Weis and Romeo Crenel are leading the offense and defense. I hope to god they both realize they are not meant to be head coaches at any level. I think that Coach Taylor might be more suited to run a college or professional program. In the AFC West, they could stick around and make some noice. Doesn't seem like anyone else is going to.

I would trust my team with Coach Taylor...

The Bears look very good. They have a strange collection of players that they are depending on though. Urlacher is good for one injury a year. Jay Cutler is a headcase, and if teams stop kicking to Devin Hester then he is neutralized. WHY DO YOU EVER KICK TO THAT GUY?? It makes no sense. A punter is paid to make sure the opponent has bad field position. Kicking to him means your punter is doing a bad job, kick it out of bounds!

Holy S&^t we are 2-1!
Seattle, Tampa Bay, Philly, Cincy, and Arizona.
These are the teams that probably should not be 2-1, but they are doing something right. These teams are teetering on the edge, winning some games in spite of certain players (coughCarsonPalmercough). What are they doing right? Funny you should ask...

Seattle: They are playing in Seattle. 2 home wins already, one loss on the road to Denver. PLaying in Seattle should be a guarenteed 6 wins. That place is tough to play. Any half decent team wins 6 games in Seattle. Pete Carroll is pumped and jacked.

Tampa Bay: The record of their Week 1 and 2 opponents? 0-6. Then they met the Steelers and got smoked. The only thing they are doing right is beating bad teams. A battle with Cincy this week could seal their fate as a weak 2-1 team headed for a 3-5 record (Cincy, New Orleans, St. Louis, and Arizona in the next 4 weeks).

Philly: The thing they are doing right? Sticking with a red hot Michael Vick. Run with it Andy Reid, run with it. My brother in law is from Philly. I told him before the season started that Philly was a good pick to win the NFC East. They look good so far.

Madden Curse be damned... Vick is back!!

Cincy: I watched the Pats destroy this team. Then they managed a win against a pretty normal looking Ravens team and a terrible Panthers team. Carson Palmer has thrown 3 picks and it seems like every highlight I see of the Bengals their opponent is dropping an interception. This team is trending down for me. A late October stretch of Miami, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Indy, Buffalo (only easy one), NY Jets, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh will doom this team.

Arizona: How are they 2-1? Wins over St. Louis and Oakland is how. And they beat those two terrible teams by a combined 5 points. Then they travelled to Atlanta and were beat 41-7. Yikes. These guys are not good. And they could still make the playoffs out of the NFC West.

Coming next time... the remaining 2-1 teams, the 1-2 teams, and the 0-3 (read: dead) teams.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Another lesson learned through sport...

In 1925 Bobby Jones assessed himself a one stroke penalty in the first round of the U.S. Open for making a ball move when he addressed it. This ended up costing Bobby Jones the victory when he lost in a 36 hole playoff at Worcester Country Club. It is one of the most storied sportsmanship moments in sports. Jones was lauded for his decision; no one else saw it happen, and his playing partner Walter Hagen tried to talk him out of the penalty for the last 7 holes, as the penalty wouldn't be official until the scorecard was signed.

"You might as well praise me for not robbing a bank. There is only one way to play the game," Jones said after the round was played.

Today, Dustin Johnson, the man who shot 82 at Pebble Beach this June, bounced back and shot a dazzling 3 under par on the back nine to earn a playoff spot with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson. However, on the last hole of the tournament Johnson hit his tee shot into a bunker, a bunker that fans were standing in. A bunker that the rules said was a bunker. A bunker that common sense would tell you was not a bunker.

Martin Kaymer with the Wanamaker Trophy after winning in a playoff in the PGA Championship golf tournament on Sunday in Haven. Photo: AP
Martin Kaymer: The Champ. He showed up on this blog in my Masters post... I jinxed him. It was the only non-top five finish in a major for him...

That bunker was not like any other groomed bunker on the course, which when you touch your club to that sand it costs you two strokes. It costed Dustin Johnson a whole lot more. It cost him a chance to play in a playoff. This bunker was missing a lot of things that make a bunker a bunker to every weekend hacker. There was no rake, no lip, and there was no respect for the sand trap. The fans were crowded around Johnson as he measured his shot. The local rules stated that anything that looks like a bunker falls under the rules of a bunker. Even if people could stand in it.

Now that may sound simple, but a lot of courses also have waste areas. They look like bunkers, but you are allowed to ground your club before making your swing to hit the ball. This is what Johnson thought he was in, or he thought he was in a "manger" as Daid Ferherty called it.

You could feel the air come out of the entire tournament once Johnson was assessed his two stroke penalty. The clip of him erasing his "5" on his card and writing a "7" will go down in history. Johnson carried himself so wonderfully, he could have blamed a lot of things. He blamed no one. He could have disappeared after the decision was handed down. He didn't. He was a class act. he gave an interview, he shook his opponents hands and he will be back.

Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce... forever tied in history...

This past spring Armando Galarraga was robbed of a perfect game. Jim Joyce missed a call and it cost Galarrage a chance at history. Let's be honest, he robbed him of history. Galarraga laughed, went back to the mound and finished the game. He did not lash out after the game. He was a class act too. I showed my 4th grade students a clip of Galarraga's reaction, I asked them to tell me what they saw. They saw a man who was laughing, a man who took the decision in stride. They were shocked. I made sure they understood how great this was, and also that they needed to realize they needed to keep this in mind when playing games themselves.

Dustin Johnson has put himself firmly into the hearts of a lot of golf fans. His disastrous finish at Pebble Beach and now this, and he has carried himself most impressively. In this day and age of Tiger, Favre, and LeBron and all the egocentric sports idols the media has forced upon us, remember that if you look in the right places there are still athletes who are classy, who honor the game, who honor the rules, and who are going to put their head down and continue to work hard.

They say what goes around comes around; Tiger is feeling it, maybe LeBron will, and I hope that Dustin Johnson does too.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hi, excuse me, could you help me up? Give me a hand? My foot is firmly on the wheel I just need one last pull onto the US Soccer bandwagon.

I wrote and have told many people how much I dislike US Soccer. I grew up loving the Irish Team, the team whose players I loved, like Roy Keane. The US Soccer team was the opposite. Kobe Jones, Alexi Lalas, and John Harkes. Yuck. I hated how great they thought they were. I hated how they played, frantic and undisciplined.
Just look at that uniform...

I once brought an Irish cousin of mine to an MLS game. We went to see the Revolution, it was embarrassing. I found myself trying to explain why the standard was so poor.

On the day of maybe the biggest match in US Soccer history (until the next game in this tournament if they pull out a win) I find myself excited. I find myself watching the clock, wanting it to be 2:30 so I can watch the game. So I can watch US Soccer.

This is the biggest game in the history of US Soccer for this reason. They have the country by the balls right now. They won an incredible game against Algeria. Numerous Youtube clips have been flying around of bars bemoning Dempsey's miss then exploding at Donovan's finish (every single youth soccer player should watch Donovan throughout the whole sequence. Outstanding. He finished his run and was rewarded with a goal). The entire country is behind this team. Will this make soccer mainstream? No. Will it improve the popularity? Yes. Will it attract European clubs teams to some new US players? Probably. Will all those things raise the level os US Soccer. Absolutely.
Was anyone else shocked they didnt call Dempsey offside when Donovan scored?
He was in the net...

As you watch the game today, remember what Ghana did to the US 4 years ago. They knocked them out of the round robin stage on two very weak goals to beat the US 2-1. The revenge factor will be high. The US has 7 starters from that game on this squad. Ghana has 9 of their own returning for the rematch.

But what will happen today? The US will win 2-1. I cannot see the US shuting out Ghana. Their defense is a bit weak, which I had talked about in my last post. With Oguchi Onyewu out of the Algeria game the US earned their first clean sheet. I dont think that was a coincidence.

Don't underestimate the fact that Ghana is the only African country remaining. The US will not have most of the crowd on their side, I don't think. Could have a big effect on the game.

Some thoughts about the last past two weeks of the World Cup and the knockout stage too..

FIFA needs to do something about the ball. Introducing a new piece of equipment to the best players in the world four weeks before the sport's showcase event is silly. What is wrong with the balls they use the other four years? It creates controversy immediately. There will never be a ball the players like. Keep the players happy, use a familiar ball. FIFA is finally realizing this...

What is up with the goalies? These are the 32 top teams in the world and they cannot find decent goalies. My God. I just watched the South Korean goalie misplay a ball that Uruguay turned into a goal.

I LOVE that Italy and the French are at home watching teams like Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, United States, and South Korea. Teams that don't use hand balls to score or flop around like fish after being looked at by a defender are still playing. Karma is a bitch...

The South American teams in the First Round were 10-1-6. That is unreal, it goes along with the Hemisphere fact that only Brazil has won outside of their Hemisphere. Which also makes the departure of France and Italy and the struggle of England more palatable for the fans of those countries.
He went scoreless in Euro 2008, until he scored the winner in the final...Just sayin'.

Looking at the bracket one side is LOADED. Portugal, Spain, Germany, England, and Argentina are all on one side. Meaning we wont see any of those teams playing each other in the final. On the other side is the US. A win against Ghana will put them up against South Korea or Uruguay. A run to the semi finals could pit the US against the Netherlands or Brazil. No game is easy in the World Cup, however, this path to the Semis is the easiest compared to the other teams in other sections of the bracket.

Here are my picks for the round of 16:

South Korea-Uruguay... Watching it right now. Wouldn't be right to predict...

US-Ghana: US wins 2-1

Germany-England: A rematch of 1966 Final. Germany wins 2-1. Game will be tied 1-1 after 90 mins. Either a goal or PKs will settle this one...

Argentina-Mexico: Argentina is on a roll. Argentina wins 3-1. Messi dominates yet again and manages this time to score a goal.

Netherlands-Slovakia: When the World Cup was in the US I went to see Germany play Bulgaria. It seemed like a sure thing that Germany would win and advance. It was not. Bulgaria won, and went to the Semi-Finals that year. Netherlands have been disappointing when they are challenged. They possess the ball very well, will the final ball be good enough to score though? The return of Robben could bolster the attack. Netherlands win 1-0. However, this could be a place for a shocking upset...

Brazil-Chile: A South American team will have to lose. Brazil defends and counters. Chile simply attacks relentlessly. This could be a wide open game. Brazil wins 3-1 as their class outshines the pesky Chilians.

Paraguay-Japan: Can an Asian Country win a knockout stage game away from the Asian continent. Not this year. Paraguay has proven their ability to defend and attack. I do like this Japanese team. They are fiesty and play a good brand of soccer. But, I am going with the Hemisphere rule. Paraguay wins 2-0.

Spain-Portugal: The dessert to this Second Round slate. The Iberian Rivalry will prove to be the best game of this round. The Spanish need a good game, Fernando Torres, who shrinks from the lime-light will need to be more productive than he was in the First Round. He impresses with Liverpool, but in the Spanish Red he is soft and goes down easy. David Silva, stole the show against Chile, scoring a great goal. The Spanish will possess the ball, frustrating Ronaldo, whose touches will be few and fa between, making him chase the game. Taking him out of position to be effective. Spain wins 3-2 in overtime. Can't wait for this one...

Is this video supposed to be funny? German language makes it hard to know for sure. Worth a watch...

Crazy Maradona...

It's always better in Spanish...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The World Cup! It's Here!

The World Cup starts soon, and I cannot wait. This is my favorite tournament/sporting event in the world. The Ryder Cup is a close second, but the fact that it is only every four years makes it fantastic.

Here are some things to groups of threes...

Things that will not step on the field and still have a massive effect on the tournament...

1) Maradona
This guy is absolutely crazy. Most people know Maradona as the soccer star of the 1980's, leading Argentina with his Hand of God play to a World Cup Championship in 1986. Since then he has been in trouble for tax evasion, had a heart attack, and has also battled a cocaine addiction. This would be the equivalent of Darryl Strawberry and Corey Feldman teaming up to manage the New York Mets. He is blessed with the best player in the world in Lionel Messi. The key is will Maradona utilize Messi the right way. Messi typically plays better for his club team Baralona because his talents fit their system better. This could be the biggest story of the World Cup. Will Messi finally play well for Argentina...
This man is in charge of Argentina...Yikes...

2) The English Media
This group of "people" have already deemed the US irrelevent, and they have set themselves up, as usual, for major disappointment. England has won one World Cup, and that was in 1966. This might be the most talented English team ever. However, the media pressure, even once they escape to South Africa will be suffocating. One slip and the fatalistic media wil jump down their throat and create more pressure for this English team.

3) The Climate
It may be summer in the US. But in South Africa it is winter, and this means it will open up play. The heat will not slow the play, teams that play fast paced soccer might go deeper. A team like Italy that plays a "rope-a-dope" type system where they sit back and let teams run at them might be surprised. Scores could be higher and faster paced, making for a very exciting World Cup...

Three teams to watch that you might not otherwise...

This team could sneak up and surprise a lot of people. They are tough and qualified by beating Russia in a two game playoff. This team could get through Group C, which also has the US and England.

2) Chile
The Chile soccer team is in a group with the Swiss, Spain, and Honduras. This bodes well for them. Their Argentinian manager has sparked a winning attitude, and I look for them to get through to the second round after the group stage.

3) Greece
A potentially great story with the disaster that is going on in the Greek economy right now. Greece won the 2004 European Championship, a complete shock. They play tough soccer and are in a group with Argentina, South Korea, and Nigeria.
The Greeks. A potentially very cool story...

Bonus Team:
This team plays awesome defense. Vidic in the back is a tested player with Manchester United. There are strong and methodical.

Three unknown players you should make sure you watch...

1) Miroslav Klose
This guy has been outstanding in the last two World Cups. Scoring five goals in each tournament. He is great in the air and simply has a nose for the net. The Germans are young, and his experience will be very important.
Klose has his eyes on Ronaldo's WC scoring record...

2) Yoann Gourcuff
A young star in the making. This guy was terrible against Ireland in the playoff for the last World Cup place (yes I am still bitter...). However, his talent is outstanding. The 23 year old will play a big part if France pushes past the group stage.

3) Yaya Toure
As soon as Didier Drogba's arm broke, a nation's eyes turned to this man. An outstanding midfielder who plays for Barcalona, his talent will have to drive the Ivory Coast to the heights the country is hoping for. This may be the most talented African team to ever go to a World Cup.

Three teams that could win it.

1) Brazil
This team is hated by their country, well by a lot of their country. They do not play "the beautiful game." They play tough minded defense and then counter-attack. Their manager was the defensive midfielder of the 1994 team that had a similar relationship with the country. They were not popular but they won, beating Italy after Roberto Baggio missed his penalty kick.

2) Spain
For me, I am not crazy but the Spanish. They play "the beautiful game." Moving the ball around the field on the groud, not kicking and chasing it. They are the defending European Champions from 2008. This team is reknowned for choking on the national stage, most recently against the US last summer in the Confederations Cup. It will take a great performance to pull of the victory.
The most talented team. Will they be holding another trophy up on July 11?

3) England
This team is loaded. Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney are all outstanding players. Missing Rio Ferdinand could be a huge loss, and Ledley King will have to step in and have a great tournament. England always manages to disappoint. But this team may change that thought.

Three interesting facts I learned this month about the World Cup...

Only one team has ever won a World Cup outside of their own Hemisphere (North or South). That team is Brazil, who has won in Sweden in 1958 and in the USA in 1994. People believe this is because of the travel and the grass. Yes the grass. The grass in the Southern Hemisphere is usually thicker and longer. Slowing the game down. The grass in the Northern Hemisphere is usually shorter and thinner, lending itself to a fast game. The grass in South Africa is being grown and treated like Northern Hemisphere.

2) 11 of the last 13 World Cup Finals have had either Germany of Brazil in them. Pretty amazing...

Enjoy the games and enjoy the atmosphere. Find a good bar to watch a few games. And if you are in Boston, go to the North End for one Italian game...

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Quick(ish) Hits:

Nomar Day?
So I heard this for the first time on Monday while driving in my car. Lou Merloni (a renowned Nomar Butt-Boy) said jokingly, "I am just looking forward to Nomar Day."
I laughed at that quote. You know why? Because it seemed absolutely ridiculous.
Why did the Sox do this? Does Nomar have pictures of John Henry or Theo that they do not want anyone to see? Does Nomar have a Big Papi Voo-doo doll that we do not know about? This feels so contrived and fake to me. The Sox are tip-toeing a line that the Pats have been tip-toeing for the past few years. They think whatever they do will turn to gold, and the team is losing steam because of it. "In Theo and Bill we trust," is dying, people are questioning the men who only a few years ago could do no wrong.
Nomar Day is ridiculous, the best quote from the live blog from Fenway? "Nixon got a bigger cheer than Nomar did." Outstanding.

Photos: Red Sox pay tribute to Nomar
Not quite a Gehrig moment...

Hockey, great for 2 months a year!
Do me a favor. Imagine a restaurant that is open all year. 12 months of the year. Of those 12 months they make half decent food for 10 of those months. There are other places that do better business in town, maybe 3 or 4 of them.
Now imagine that for 2 months of the year something happens. The restaurant transforms. The waiters are nicer, the service is faster, the food is way better. For 2 months of the year the line for a table goes out the door. The regulars cannot get a table as quickly, they feel like they are missing out. Businessmen and clients are clogging up the tables. People who do not suffer through the mediocre meals for 10 months are loathed by the regulars. Then in 2 months, things are back to normal. Things settle down, the food kind of sucks again, the waiters are a little crankier.
This is what the NHL has done to itself. It is a mediocre product every month except April and May. For those 2 months hockey fans come out of the woodwork saying, "see it is the best sport in the world. Playoff hockey is like no other sport on the planet!" The problem is playoff hockey has become a sport in itself. Regular season hockey is an absolute joke, I can prove it. The top 3 seeds in the Eastern Conference lost in the first round. The 4 and 6 seeds have home ice advantage round 2. You can glide through the regular season and then pick it up for the playoffs. This is a bad recipe.
As a soccer fan I know the same types of fans will come out of the woodwork during the World Cup saying things like,"this is the world's game!" "There are no commercials for 45 minutes straight!" "These are the best athletes in the world."
In truth I know that soccer will never truly catch on because the MLS is a crappy restaurant, and the World Cup only comes around every four years. I am not going to preach about why people should like soccer.
Playoff Hockey is great, I understand that. But I think it is pathetic that for 10 months of the year they play a different sport.

Quick(er) Hits:
The Sox just swept the Angels...say what you want about the crappy lineup and Ortiz's struggles. They are winning close games. Too bad they are in a division with the two best teams in baseball...

My adopted team the Rangers are currently 2 games ahead of the Angels....

LeBron can do no wrong in the eyes of everyone. I was so annoyed that Reggie Miller and others gave the C's NO credit for LeBron's struggles in game 2. His elbow was the real problem...what a joke.

Does anyone else think that the Cavs-Celts series was scheduled to get LeBron as much rest as possible... I do...

Got this from a buddy... Patriots stand up middle school awards winners...

Tebow in and Big Ben out as popular QBs...

Los Suns jerseys...interesting timing...

More Tiger stuff....drug and sex rehab??

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Masters, Tiger, and me.

The Tiger phenomena has taken on a new level this past week. Tiger has re-entered the public eye, and most would argue that the public eye is even bigger than it used to be.
It leads me to ask a few questions about this new public Tiger...

1) Will people stop caring about Tiger's personal life now that Tiger is back playing golf?
As the spring fades into the summer the Tiger haters will find someone else to hate. Jesse James or the next ass who thinks he can treat his wife like trash. The world of golf will forgive Tiger, in many circles in golf he has already been forgiven.
So yes, people will stop caring about Tiger. They will realize that rooting against Tiger means they have to watch golf, which means they will realize why they did not watch golf in the first place. They think it is boring.

Woods fans
Tiger signing autographs...whoa...

2) How long will this comfy, cozy, smiley Tiger last?
Tiger is different. Let me rephrase that. Tiger is acting different: not as guarded, not playing 7am practice rounds, and he is even signing autographs! He seems more relaxed and willing to let us in, or make us FEEL like he is letting us in. In truth, he isn't. The probing questions from the media will fade with time. Tiger's behavior this week is not what people should be focused on. It's his behavior in August, when he is not the main story, when the tabloids do not care quite as much as they do now.

Rory McIlroy Hits a Shot
Thie Irish are coming...

3) Will you root for Tiger or won't you?
Isn't this the biggest question? Do you feel like you will be judged if you say openly, "I am rooting for Tiger." Well let me lead the way, I am rooting for Tiger at the Masters. There I said it. Man that feels better.
Does rooting for Tiger mean I condone his actions? I dont think so. I have idolized Tiger as a golfer, AS A GOLFER, for 13 years. He is everyone's benchmark in the game. I was amazed at his ability to push everything aside and focus on golf (now it is actually more impressive).
Clearly people will tune in for the NASCAR effect. The desire to see a crash, to see something bad happen. Foolishly these people think they will see something crazy happen. Foolishly these people will tune in and make The Masters one of the most watched TV events of all time. Foolishly, these people we find that the only thing on the TV is golf. Golf without the TMZ twist. So if you want to root for Tiger, go for it. I will be. If you don't want Tiger to win. Do yourself a favor, don't tune in. Don't feed the monster. Rating don't care about who you are rooting for.

4) What is going to happen to Tiger this week?
I think Tiger is going to have the type of week he always has when he loses a major. He will do something very well (Drive, manage the course well, putt). But something will happen and we will say well if Tiger had (driven the ball better, putted better, or not made one bonehead mistake) he would have won. He will be just close enough on the weekend to have everyone playing scenarios in their head that make him win, but none of them will come through. Tiger's best round will be on Sunday.

Martin Kaymer
Martin Kaymer it bad that I know exactly where he is on the course?

5) Who is going to win the Masters?
Well the Masters has a strange tradition, and in the past 10 years there have been 2 types or winners. The guy you expect to win and the guy who you didn't expect. Here are the winner from last decade:

2009 - Angel Cabrera
2008 - Trevor Immelman
2007 - Zach Johnson
2006 - Phil Mickelson
2005 - Tiger Woods
2004 - Phil Mickelson
2003 - Mike Weir
2002 - Tiger Woods
2001 - Tiger Woods
2000 - Vijay Singh

Singh, Woods, and Mickelson were not a surprise, but the others were. I think this year will be a year where the old guard dominates. Els, Tiger, Phil, and even Vijay Singh could pull it out.

Here is my short list:
Padraig Harrington
Ernie Els
Phil Mickelson

Guys I want to see in contention:
Anthony Kim
Sean O'Hair
Martin Kaymer (German 25 year old. Ranked #8 in the world. I have never heard from him until an SI article on him last week).
David Duval

Dark horse (kind of):
Ben Curtis
Oliver Wilson

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Red Sox and the Slap Bet...

Tonight the Red Sox open their season against the Yankees, the defending champs and our hated rivals. Here are some thoughts on the Sox season and also a little story about my adopted team for this season, the Texas Rangers.

The player I am most interested in this season:
Adrian Beltre.
A lot of people are high on this guy. His 2004 season was a aberration. Those 48 homers are a little fishy, however his production in the following years were not terrible. He hit 95 homers from 2005-2008. That is almost 24 homers a year. In that same span he had 87,89,99, and 77 RBI. All of these numbers were in a park that favored pitchers, a lot. His OPB has been above .303 since 2004 also.
Take a look at Beltre's stats from last year

Games: 111
HR: 8
Avg: .265
OBP: .304
Slg: .379

Now take a look at Lowell's stats from his last year at Florida before he was traded to the Sox as a "throw-in."

Games: 150
HR: 8
RBI: 58
Avg: .236
OBP: .298
Slg: .360

Beltre and Lowell had very similar years, however Beltre played in 39 less games.
Defensive star...

Defensively Beltre is special. All those sabermetric stats love Beltre, and so does the eye-ball test. The one thing that scares me is he does not wear a cup while playing the hot corner...

Beltre's will pepper the Green Monster this year. I am looking forward to him having a great year both at the plate and at third base.

Player I am most worried about this year:
John Papelbon.
Last year's performance was concerning. He blew the last game of the year. Do I think he is going to have a terrible year? No. But I am worried because he is not the 3 out closer he was in earlier seasons. He lets guys get on base, he had one out pitch last year. Just like a quarterback controversy, the Sox could have a closer controversy if he has a tough start.
Daniel Bard is in the shadows waiting for his chance. Hopefully he won't get it because Papelbon will be back to his lights out status. A few blown-saves could start the calls for Bard. Could be an interesting season in the bullpen.

Most important player for Sox this season:
Victor Martinez.
VMart is an outstanding clubhouse guy. He has handshakes for everyone and is always smiling. His job this year is two-fold, he has to manage the pitching staff (the most fragile and fickle athletes in sports) and he also has to be the backbone of a line-up that has been revamped for the sake of good defense.
Those two jobs are very difficult in this town, especially when he is replacing Varitek and in some ways he is replacing Jason Bay (who replaced Jason Bay).
I think Martinez is up for the task. He is in a contract year and will need to prove himself. His summer in Boston last year prepared him well for the tough long season ahead. He will have Varitek there to help with pitching calls and learning all he can learn as a catcher.

What is going to happen to the Sox this season?
I think the Sox are going to have a tough season because their offense could go through tough stretches. The rotation is very very solid, but as we have seen, stress on a pitching staff in the summer catches up with you in the fall.
Can this staff handle it? Maybe. Beckett is due for a huge year. Lester is coming into his own. Lackey is a very solid third starter. That leaves us with Wakefield (43 years old), Bucholtz (still waiting for him to break out) and Daisuke (growing into a big baby who does what he wants, not what the Sox want). Can one of these guys come through and can they all stay healthy? That could be a big key to any success this team has.
The Yankees will win the division (kills me to say). Down the stretch the Sox and Rays will be battling for the wildcard with a few other teams.

This Sox team is built for the playoffs, pitching and defense. However, they will need some luck and some career years from some players to get to the playoffs.

Sox win wildcard over Rays and Angels.

The Texas Rangers experiment...
Last year the Texas Rangers were a viable player in the wildcard race up until the last few weeks of the season. With another year under their belts and some new faces I am predicting that they will win the AL West.
Are you ready for this guy? Pedro Martinez comparisons are already being made.

Last week while watching College Hoops with my friend Pat, a die-hard Angels fan from Buffalo, he began bitching that ESPN Magazine simulated the 2010 season 100 times and on average his Angels finished in dead last. He was livid, I was afraid he might break something in the room. I said to him (after a few too many lemonades), "I think the Rangers are going to be really good this year. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if they finish above the Angels."
The wrath of Pat turned toward me, a wager was on.
What did the five fingers say to the face?

For those of you who don't know what a slap bet is, I will enlighten you now. A slap bet is a bet made not with money, but with the right to slap the looser of the bet across the face with an open hand.
Pat and I agreed to a slap bet. If the Rangers finish above the Angels, I slap Pat. If the Angels beat the Rangers, Pat slaps me.
My reasoning for the Angels being weak this season is two-fold, free agency and a stronger division. The Angels lost a great leadoff hitter Chone "I spell my name wrong" Figgins to a divison rival, the Mariners. They lost ace John Lackey to the Red Sox, and they lost Vlad "the corpse" Guerrero.

The AL West is also stronger as a whole. The Oakland A's are the only very weak team. The Rangers added Vlad "the corpse" to the middle of their line-up. Put him with Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, and Nelson Cruz and you have a pretty solid group of hitters.
Need a whole lot of this in 2010...

The Mariners added Cliff Lee (who is looking a bit like a lemon..) and Chone Figgins. Seattle has built a team like the Sox. Good pitching and solid defense.

The Angels will not have a lot of easy wins in their division like they did last year. They will have to work for wins. The Rangers will have a hard time in the heat of the summer. The heat makes it tough for the Rangers to finish strong.

I look forward to rooting for the Rangers this season. Of course the Sox come first, but the Rangers will be like my Fantasy team this year. However, if the Rangers lose I will be met with the nightmare of Pat's massive right hand flying toward my defensless face.

Brian Kelly's reign at Notre Dame starts off on a bad note...

A really good podcast. Sports Guy interviewing Phoenix Sun Jared Dudley. He was very funny and well=spoken. I recommend this podcast in general to any sports fan.

Duke haters will love this one...

Vainty Fair Tiger Woods teaser... mag is on stands now...

Masters this week... wanna watch at work... go here...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Winter Olympics

So, we have reached the "dead-zone" of athletics. The Super Bowl is over, and many look fondly towards early August when they can waste another day drafting a fantasy team.

Others are waiting for those great long weekends in March when the King of College Hoops will be crowned.

Some have spent the down time during the sports calendar watching the Olympics. I have decided to review some things I have noticed, both good and bad in my four days of watching the Olympics.

Let's start with the things I have not liked about the Olympics:

1) Too many recorded events.
As someone who spends a lot (read: too much) time on my computer, it is nearly impossible to avoid results all day. I have enough things to worry about during my day, I don't need to consciously avoid the news also. This past weekend I was fortunate enough to avoid results and I really enjoyed watching a lot of the events I was able to see (more on that later).

2) Judges
I just do not get it. Simply put. Think of all the "experts" we watch dissect some of our favorite sports. They constantly have differing views, whether the debate is about a call a coach makes, the way a player handles him/herself under pressure, or even who the best player is. They argue and debate, and no one really has a sure-fire answer.
Yet, here we are watching some sports that have people handing out numbers to determine who the best is. Figure Skating and Gymnastics are the headliners in this. Skating got so bad they had to re-do the scoring system because one judge had screwed a Canadian couple out of a gold medal. What happened? The Figure Skating couple received a gold after someone else went back and judged what the first (cough, French, cough) judge had mis-judged. Take a moment and read that again, maybe even copy and paste it so it can stand alone and you can totally let it settle in.
The judges liked Alexandre Bilodeau more than the others...

On the moguls this weekend judges were asked to rank the air and the trick that a person does as they fly down the hill.
Some of these events seem more like performances than competition. Athletes trying to impress another person rather than just beating a fellow competitor.

3) Exclusivity
My world was rocked on Friday night while watching the Opening Ceremonies. I do not think I realized how truly small the Winter Olympics are. 84 nations are competing. Take a moment and guess how many of the 84 countries have ever won a medal, just won medal, any color. Ready for the answer? Here it is... 46. Meaning 38 countries have never won a medal. That's astounding. I believe 14 countries have one athlete competing. The Summer Olympics had 204 countries competing in the 2008 games.
I understand that a lot of the sports played in the winter games are very exclusive. There are something like 4 luge tracks in North America, and I believe one just closed in Lake Placid. The feel of the Winter Olympics is different. I am not as crazy about that feel. I am still waiting for that moment when someone really unexpected wins a medal. Not someone from Sweden who is okay at their sport, but someone who is truly an outcast in the Winter Games. Maybe another Jamaican Bobsled team? That would be nice.

Alright, here are the good things so far about the Olympics:
1) Nationalism
There is nothing better than rooting for your country, or rooting against another country. Is there anything else I need to say? The best sporting events in the world are based on nationalism: World Cup, Olympics, and The Ryder Cup come to mind. Some things that don't come to mind: Davis Cup and America's Cup.
Within our country professional sports are trying to play off the whole nationalism theme. Red Sox Nation comes to mind. It creates a feeling of belonging and ownership. Nationalism is the best part of the Olympics.
Nothing like having a nation cheer you on...

2) Dick Button
The two-time Figure Skating Gold Medalist (1948 and 1952) is commentating. He is hilarious. Watch him and more importantly, watch his shoes.
3) Timing
It is nice to have something to bridge the gap between the Super Bowl and March Madness. When you boil it down, most of it is exciting.
4) They do things I cannot imagine doing.
I can go to a track and run a mile. I cannot do it that fast but I can do it. I can jump into a pit of sand. I can hit a jump shot with someone guarding me. I can sprint 100 meters. I can flail around in a pool for 100 meters.
However, as friends can attest, I cannot make it down a hill on skiis. I cannot strap on a pair of skates and jump up and not fall on my ass. I can barely cross-country ski, any little hill and my knees are shaking. I have no desire to try snowboarding. These things are foriegn to me. And I am pretty amazed at how good these people are at them. Watching the downhill event on Monday night was shocking. They go SO fast, and seem on the brink of losing control, yet they never do. It is pretty awe-inspiring.
Whoa, Whoa, Whoa.... slow down!

All-in-all, the Winter Olympics are very entertaining. I know I will find myself watching something every night. Learning about some random person I have never heard of before. I will laugh at Dick Button and I will cringe when they play some uber-sappy feature about an athlete. But for every cringe there will be 2-3 moments that make me extremely impressed and inspired. It does not mean my knees still won't shake when I strap on skiis, it will just mean I will know that others can do it, so I might as well give it a try to.

And ultimately, isn't that what sports is about? Inspiring us to try things and driving us to be better than we were the day before. I would say in some way the Winter Olympics manage to do that for me. Even if they aren't always live....


It seems a bit ridiculous for Hockey Team to be running the score up like this doesn't it?
Canada and US Women's teams rout opponesnts...

Apparently John Wall of Kentucky Basketball has created a dance that is sweeping the nation...then check this ESPN feature on it.

Heartbreak kid Lindsey Jacobellis leaves without a medal...

Jim Leyland will have to kick his smoking habit if he wants to manage in Detriot...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Super Sadness.

This past Sunday watching the Super Bowl made me sad. It was a feeling I have not had as a sports fan in a long time, if ever. Sure I have been mad, frustrated, upset, angry, happy, euphoric, elated, and ecstatic. But I don't think I have ever felt sad.
I remember feeling this...

Where did this sadness come from? After thinking about it I think it came from a place in me that is realizing that last decade is over and a new decade is beginning. A part of me that realized that a place like New Orleans, a place that needed a good story got one. People in Boston do not need good stories anymore, and frankly, we have not had a good story in a while. Now I know that there are people possibly reading this who are thinking, "what an ass. He has all these teams to root for and he is complaining." I am NOT complaining, I am not complaining at all. I am just sad, and here is why:

The city of Boston is on a downturn.
The Celts are old and falling apart. They cannot hold a lead against any decent teams.
The Patriots are getting older and really have not changed much since their run of good fortune. They have been static, change is needed and it does not seem likely.
The Bruins are still only playing hockey...
The Red Sox are in a weird period right now. I have no idea what to expect from them. They could win 83 games and only score 100 runs. Defensively they are outstanding, but it does not seem like they will be true contenders.
I just love this picture..

Last decade was a blessing as a Boston sports fan. This next decade started with me feeling sad, I felt sad because I watched New Orleans and for the first time as a sports fan I longed for what they had. I longed for a parade, I longed for championship game. I longed to root for the underdog. I longed for those things because only recently I had them, and now looking into the future, for the first time in a while, I am not feeling so confident that anything will be coming my way.

Here's hoping I am totally wrong in feeling sad...

Skiing Babe Lindsey Vonn might not compete in Olympics...yikes.

Strong words about Rasheed Wallace and his ineffective play on C's...

Nothing like a good soccer sex scandal inside the English National Team...

Henry handball ref going to World Cup while Ireland watches... Is FIFA just making a point by sending this guy? A sick part of me hopes a big team gets screwed in this tournament so things will actually be re-evaluated...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Where do we go from here?

I have no idea what happened. Did it really happen? Did the Pats really look like any other team in the playoffs? Are people really saying the dynasty is done? Yes, yes, and (gulp) yes.

As I was sitting and watching the game with some friends I fell into the most painful and aggravating system of sports spectating. This is when you are simply creating scenarios in your head that put your team back into contention. When you say, "alright if they can get a touchdown here and make a quick stop and then a quick score, then this is a game again." Sometimes this happens (See: Lakers v. Celts game 4 2008; Sox v. Rays game 5 ALCS 2008; and Pats v. Raiders Division Champ. game 2002). Those were all games where you told yourself something great could happen and it did.
Have you seen this man? Oh yeah, he had 13 tackles on Sunday...

This time it was not to be. The Pats had nothing yesterday, they had no grasp on the past, they had no grasp on what it takes to win a playoff game. Unfortunately the Ravens did. They had a fantastic start then simply ran the ball 52 times and only threw it 10 times. 10 times!! That is absurd. The Raven start allowed them to hide their weaknesses: a weak passing game and unbalanced offense. Whereas the Pats slow start made it so that their weaknesses were exposed: a bad O-line that couldn't block a defense with their ears pinned back, a depleted core of skill position players, and a front seven that is mediocre at best.

The Pats are now left with a lot of questions, and more important they have lost many disciples. "In Bill we trust" is dying with every shaky draft pick and ornery press conference (Did anyone else Bill was a little touchy after the game?) The famous "5 year grace period" after a Championship is long gone. We are in year 6 since their last Super Bowl win. Which is quite shocking, I remember being somewhat uninspired by the last Super Bowl win. We were spoiled and we thought it would last forever. Sunday was the kick in the private parts that a lot of people needed. It is not going to last forever. Just ask 49er fans. Even Cowboy fans did have a playoff win in 12 years until this past weekend.

The Patriots are in a tight spot and in my mind I do not see them getting much better. I definitely do not see them getting enough talent to make another Super Bowl bid. The holes they have to fill are big and there are a lot of them. In my mind I would put them in this order:

1) Defense backfield- Cornerbacks got fried this year. They are old and have trouble covering. Even though they are old, they have no leadership back there. That is a bad combination.

2) Pass rush/ front 7- This might go hand in hand with #1. If the front 7 can create pressure then it makes the coverage in the secondary easier. If the secondary covers better it create more time to pressure the QB. Either way, these are things that need to be improved.

3) Offensive Line help- Brady was only sacked 16 times this year. However, he was also probably hit harder on numerous occasions than I can remember. Between his knee and the target on his back Brady had moments where he looked very different. The offensive line could see 4 new players next year. Sebastian Volmer seems to be a bright spot, and next year he could be the only returner. Lets hope the Pats do not go "bargain basement" to solve this issue.

4) Get your coordinators in order- The delegation of jobs needs to be clarified. Questions like, "who is calling the plays" and "who is the offensive coordinator" are not ones that get asked of Super Bowl Champs.
Steve Breaston. He would look good with a flying Elvis on his hat...

5) Receivers - Moss is getting older and seems to break down in the playoffs. 2007 and this season are evidence of that. We have no idea what Welker will be like, and he might not be back until mid-season next year. Ben Watson does not seem to be improving. Sam Aiken is a special teams player. Where does that leave us? The Pats have no sure things next year at receiver. What a difference a few years makes. Here is a list of Wide Receiver free agents, some are restricted:

Brandon Marshall- Not a guy you bring on while you try to figure things out. Too much of a headcase. But man he can play when he is happy (remind you of anyone?).

Vincent Jackson- Not a bad #2.

Miles Austin - Can't see Jerry Jones letting this one get away. Especially with Roy Williams sucking as much as he does.

Steve Breaston - A #3 in Arizona, could be ready to move up the ladder in New England.

6) A running game - This might go a long with getting a coordinator. Balance is key. Sure it is a passing league, but the lack of a run game made it hard for the Pats to hold a lead on the road. Back in the good old days of the aughts Antoine Smith could get you 4 yards in the fourth quarter and rack up some first downs to kill the game. They did not have that this year, and it cost them in Miami and Houston and Indianapolis. You do not need to go spend a ton of money on a guy, you just need to buy into running the ball a little bit.

Clearly the Pats have a lot to do. Let's hope they are ready to move forward and make changes. I sure hope they can