Friday, January 30, 2009

Sports Center is Terrible


ESPN's Sports Center has been easily the most viewed television show of my entire life. Ever since I was a little kid, I used to watch guys like Charlie Steiner, Dan Patrick and yes, even Jacky D report to me the latest news in sports, as well as recap the nights games. However, something has happened to those simpler times. Sports Center has taken a turn for the worse. Now, when I am trying to see if the Nuggets beat the Blazers, I get bombarded with a whole bunch of bullshit that I don't care about at all. Instead of sticking to sports, Sports Center has tried to become an "entertainment" show. The on air personalities have become pop culture diarrhea mouths and have nothing even remotely funny or intelligent to say. I for one, think it is time for sweeping changes at ESPN, and I nominate myself to become the new director of Sports Center.


When I was a kid, in the 90s, Sports Center used to be much more informative. Every game was broken down with full highlights and statistics. Nowadays, only the big games are re-capped, and you are lucky to catch the score of your favorite team as it goes whizzing by on the bottom line. They have stopped covering each game to make way for retarded specials that facilitate fan interaction or visit places around the world. Who can forget such inspirational pieces as "My Wish", "50 States in 50 Days", "Titletown", "The Ultimate Highlight", or my personal favorite "Who's Now?". Their newest special is the "Mount Rushmore of Sports", I shudder to think of what it entails. Nobody asked for this stupid shit and it takes away from what made ESPN and Sports Center so popular to begin with: round the clock sports coverage.

The other marked change in Sports Center that has made it become so stale is the personalities of the participants. Instead of making a few wise cracks during a highlight reel like Kenny Mayne or Dan Patrick used to do, Sports Center anchors now see their air time as a potential launch to their acting career and drown out the sports highlights with the most recent line by Ari Gold or a new rap lyric. It usually makes no sense within the context of the highlight, and the only anchor that I can stomach these days is Scott Van Pelt. He is a throwback to the earlier days.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention how many anchors on ESPN that I hate. Let's just go down the list. Going into detail on why I hate each one of them would take the remainder of this decade, so suffice it to say they just love hearing the sound of their own voice. here they are in no particular order:

Merril Hoge
Steve Young
Chris Berman
Stuart Scott
Joe Morgan
Mike Greenberg
Stan Verrett
Chris Connelly
Pedro Gomez
Marcellus Wiley


ESPN needs to return to simpler times. They need to put the "Sports" back in Sports Center. This entertainment tv with sports included is sappy and stupid. Also, the anchors need to shutup. That's all I have to say about that. And how come I can't get no tang 'round here?




SUPER BOWL PICK:
Cardinals 34- Steelers 24

Why:
My co-worker claims to be a die hard fan and wears a Steelers tie into work every Monday when the Steelers win (copying my Eagles tradition), yet he admitted that he didn't watch several of the playoff games and pronounces Troy Polamalu's name, Troy Po-LAHM-uh-LOO. Because of this alone, the Steelers deserve to lose. Sorry Big Ben

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Best Uniforms in Sports





A recent debate on "Pardon the Interruption" between Kornheiser and Wilbon about whether the Cardinals or Steelers had better uniforms has inspired me to look across all sports for the best uniforms. In my opinion when designers brainstorm ideas for a uniform they should live by the rule "When you get fancy, you get beat". The simpler a uniform looks, the better it is. Look at some of the uniforms that have withstood the test of time; Chicago Bears, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Celtics. They are some of the simplest designs, but also some of the best. It is when you try to get crazy like the Phoenix Coyotes or the Tampa Bay Rays that you get burned. Without further ado, here are my choices for the best, and worst jersey in sports.



NFL:
Best-
New Orleans Saints
Oakland Raiders
Old School Pick: 49ers

Worst-
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Seattle Seahawks
Old School Pick: Ravens


NBA:
Best-
Boston Celtics
Chicago Bulls
Old School Pick: Sixers

Worst-
Washington Wizards
Phoenix Suns
Old School Pick: Nuggets


MLB:
Best-
LA Dodgers
St. Louis Cardinals
Old School Pick: Royals

Worst-
Toronto Blue Jays
Houston Astros
Old School Pick: White Sox (worst ever)


NHL:
Best-
Chicago Blackhawks
Toronto Maple Leafs
Old School Pick: Whalers (bring them back)

Worst-
Atlanta Thrashers
Nashville Predators
Old School Pick: Coyotes


NCAA Pigskin:
Best-
Penn State Nittany Lions
Michigan Wolverines
Old School Pick: Alabama Crimson Tide (who cares if it is the same)

Worst-
Oregon Ducks
Clemson Tigers
Old School Pick: Florida Gators


NCAA Hoops:
Best-
UNC Tar Heels
UConn Huskies
Old School Pick: Indiana State Sycamores

Worst-
Oregon Ducks
Syracuse Orange
Old School Pick: Villanova Wildcats


That is my two cents on the best and worst jerseys in sports these days. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments section. Be sure to include links.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pencil Sharpener


After an impassioned letter from a devoted follower of the blog, I will be introducing a new feature to the blog today. Similar to Bill Simmons' Mail Bag, I will respond to reader e-mails in the "Pencil Sharpener". If you feel the need to sound off about something, send me an e-mail at billhayes7@gmail.com. The first e-mail ever in the pencil sharpener segment comes from a Mr. DBillz in PA:

"I wanted to comment on the current state of Notre Dame Men's Basketball. I am angered (and frankly, astonished) that this dismal team continues week in and week out to be ranked in the Top 25 of College Basketball. Granted, they have a quality win over Texas, and have beaten such perennial powerhouses as the pride of the Southern Conference Furman Paladins (alliteration aside) or the upstart South Dakota Coyotes, but this team cannot seem to beat a ranked team...ever. It used to be that they were unstoppable at Home, however that trend is now debunked. They have one of the best players in the country in "Big Country Jr." Luke Harangody, as well as a solid 1-2 punch with McAlarany, but they now find themselves at 12-8, ranked #22 in the country, with an excruciating schedule during the bottom 3rd of the season. This team can potentially finish the season 1 game above/below .500.
Obviously, I dislike Notre Dame to the point where I want to punch Charlie Weis in the FUPA, and being a die-hard PSU sports fan (Mens Basketball: 16-5, unranked) doesn't help matters. However, the national media needs to wake up and smell the coffee (or joe, as in paterno) because ND basketball is crumbling, yet they continue to put them in the spotlight because of who they are.
So, I'm no English major, nor me write good, but I just wanted to vent to someone who isn't biased (i hope) on the dogshit that is Notre Dame Basketball. "

Mr. DBillz, I couldn't agree with you more. Not only in basketball, but in every sport Notre Dame is over ranked and always gets more credit than they deserve. My aunt and uncle teach at Notre Dame so at an early age I "drank the kool aid" and became a big Notre Dame fan. Year after year they trotted out mediocre teams, especially in football, and were crushed by ranked competition whenever they played them. This was most apparent in their 9 game losing streak in bowls that finally ended this year because they played Hawaii. The final straw for me was when I toured Notre Dame and saw a big dude in a football jacket giving tours, so I thought I'd join his tour. He was a cheerleader. After that day, I decided not to apply to Notre Dame. Notre Dame has become "America's College Team" leading them to be overhyped in all sports. Their basketball program has a "role model" (white guy) in Harangody, and lets be clear that there is only one Big Country Reeves, and they are Notre Dame, so they are kept in the spotlight. It makes me sick, and the worst part about it is that the school with billions of dollars in endowment is making even more by playing in all these big games, taking away from schools that could probably use the money more. As you can see, you don't want to get me started on Notre Dame. Finally, Penn State seems to be sitting on a gold mine. They have never really competed in the Big Ten in basketball (correct me if im wrong), but it is a huge market. Seems to me they should be developing the hoops team more. Maybe this year is the start of something big. And isn't the basketball court right by the Nittany Lion statue? Sacred puma.

That's all for the first Pencil Sharpener installment ever. Hope you enjoyed it and feel free to send in more mail.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

NHL All Star Game Reactions


What a weekend for the NHL! We saw some great action in the super skills competition on Saturday including a new record speed for the slap shot, and a thrilling shoot out win for the Eastern Conference on Sunday. The weekend in Montreal certainly made hockey relevant again after years of irrelevance before and after their lockout season. This writer also made two very important observations about the state of the NHL, and the state of All-Star Games in general. The first is that Alexander Ovechkin is the man. He is the single best player in the NHL and needs to be taken out of Sidney Crosby's shadow and made the centerpiece of NHL marketing. My second observation is that fan voting needs to put to an end in ALL capacities. Just like in the final round of America's Funniest Home Videos, the fans always pick the wrong winners.

Alexander Ovechkin is definitely one ugly dude. His teeth make him look like the love child of Madonna and Michael Strahan, he is almost never clean shaven (not that there's anything wrong with that), his haircut pays homage to Julius Caesar and Lloyd Christmas, and his unibrow is a thing of legend. Despite these shortcomings however, Ovechkin needs to be the player that the NHL markets as their premier player. Unfortunately, the NHL has chosen Sidney Crosby as their most marketable player, mostly because he is from Canada and is less of an uggo. This is a very safe and boring choice for the NHL. Ovechkin plays with much more electricity, physicality than Crosby, and has much more fun doing it. Ovechkin is always showing off that "flosses with a rope" smile on the ice and looks like he enjoys the game much more than Crosby. His performance in the trick shot competition also shows that he has a great sense of humor and can really get the crowd going. Crosby is much quieter, often injured, and not quite as electric on the ice. In my opinion Alexander Ovechkin is much more fun to watch and should be the marketing centerpiece for the NHL. It showed this weekend as he won over the entire city of Montreal, and Crosby did not even take part in any of the weekend activities due to injury.

We shouldn't try to gather too much from fan opinion however, except for educated fans like me. Fan voting has been the bane of All-Star Games of all sports since its inception. It is the stupidest thing ever and leads to horrible All-Star selections and skills competition winners. Was anyone else pissed off lest year when Kosuke Fukudome was a starting outfielder for the National League in the All-Star Game? How about injured Alfonso Soriano? How about 4 Montreal Canadiens on the starting roster for the East this year? It seems that there are a few All-Star snubs every year who are robbed of going to the game because of other players being voted in by the fans. It doesn't end there however, fans also control who wins several of the All-Star weekend competition. Though Ovechkin is the man, there is no way he should have won the trick shot competition on Saturday night. It was entertaining, but Ryan Getzlaf's shot was amazing in terms of skill. Unfortunately it was up to the fans, and Ovechkin was declared the winner for skating down the ice with two sticks, putting a weak shot on goal, the stuffing in the rebound. And who can forget the "Celebrity Panel" that voted Nate Robinson's dunk over Spud Webb, a man the size of a desk chair, the winner over Andre Igoudala's amazing behind the backboard dunk a few years ago. These examples of fan stupidity are why All-Star rosters and competitions should be left to the professionals.

We learned a lot from this weekend's All-Star Game in Montreal; some good, some bad. Ovey is the man and needs to be to the NHL what MJ was to the NBA. That would go a long way in bringing fans back to what was for years a floundering league. Secondly, we need to abolish all types of fan voting in sports. In other words, as much as I like him, I don't ever want to see Ken Griffey Jr. starting another All-Star Game.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Are You Kidding Me?


In my world travels, I have spent a considerable amount of time in Dallas, Texas. Going into (my second year of) 7th grade, I spent my whole summer with my aunt and uncle in Dallas and had a wonderful time. I went to Six Flags over Texas, saw Orlando Pace's pro debut in a Cowboys/Rams pre-season game, and saw Ariana the Human Arrow at the Ringling Bros. (is that really their last name?) circus. The only negative experience I had in Dallas that summer was being bitten unmerciful by fire ants in the driveway once. Now a situation has arisen in Dallas that has become even more fiery than the ants that bear that name. Micah Grimes, coach of the Covenant School of Dallas Girls Varsity basketball team, the team that put the wood to Dallas Academy 100-0, has been fired. "It is shameful and an embarrassment that this happened. This clearly does not reflect a Christlike and honorable approach to competition," said a statement signed by the head of the school and the chairman of the board. As stated in my previous posting, this is exactly what is wrong with America these days. In my opinion, the firing of Micah Grimes aka "Grimey" is the only shameful and embarrassing action here. In fact, Infant baby Jesus would have been proud of Grimey.

Mike and Mike in the morning have gone as far as calling anyone "pathetic" who doesn't think that this game and the actions of the winning team are "despicable. I guess that makes me a pathetic person then. Greenberg went on to ask what the winning team learned from this victory. I don't think it is what they learned so much as what the other team learned. The losing team learned that nobody is going to give you any breaks. In the real world, if you are struggling to get by at work, or in some other capacity, nobody is just going to roll over and let you feel better about yourself. This in my opinion is despicable. Why would you give someone who is obviously terrible at something false hope? Isn't that only misguiding them? Leading them to believe that they are something that they clearly are not? If you were a salesman, would you give up a lead to somebody else who clearly had no skill in sales just because they were struggling? No. So why should these kids roll over and let a horrible basketball team score a few buckets on them, and stop running their offense? Isn't that dishonest and embarrassing for their players? Also, I think Dallas Academy would be able to tell if their opponent just stopped playing both defense and offense. Would that make them feel better to know that they were succeeding against a team of dummies? Would they learn anything doing that? Sooner or later these kids need to realize their limitations, and I for one place no fault on Grimey for making the limitations of the Dallas Academy team painfully obvious.

Friday, January 23, 2009

More Crying in Sports Please


Recently, this story was put on my desk by an assistant of mine: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,481854,00.html. It is the story of a Dallas area girls basketball team that throttled another team 100-0, but now is seeking to forfeit the game because they feel that they shouldn't have run up the score and that "victory without honor is a great loss". This is exactly why kids in America are becoming such pansies these days. The whole "feel good" movement with children, and making every child feel "special" is giving them false hope. If a kid sucks, he or she needs to know it. Parents need to stop sugar coating things for their kids and leading them on in areas where they are clearly not capable. Like George Carlin says about not wanting to see other people's pictures of their kids "Take a chance. Tell the truth."

How many times have you seen the kid with the obsessive parents who try to nurture every whim of their child's life? If he wants to play hockey, they go out and buy little Johnny the best equipment and go to all his games to see him rotting on the bench. If he goes into the game for 5 seconds and trips over the blue line, the parents tell him he had a great game afterwards. This shit makes me sick. I can see parents wanting to take an interest in their child, and wanting to give him every opportunity, but if a kid sucks at something let him know so he does not get his hopes up. How many times in little league did you lose a game because the coach had to let the kid with RecSpecs and hot dog fingers play at least one inning. It's things like these that hold the talented players back and are creating a nation of soft kids. These kids need to be told that they can't in fact do "anything they put their mind to". Do you think Ron Jeremy "put his mind to" being a porn star? No. He has a hammer. I strongly doubt that if he "put his mind to" becoming the next Tiger Woods it would have happened. Children do not have limitless possibilities and need to be reminded of that from time to time.

So please, basketball team from Dallas, be proud of your 100 point drubbing of that other school. Don't let them think that they played a good game, they were terrible. Losing is important for kids. We need more kids crying at the end of the game, realizing their own futility. It will toughen up the youth and help them come to terms with what they can and cannot do. If we could get the parents involved too, then we would really be on to something.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Where Have You Gone Jay Novacek?




Are NFL players any safer than they were 75 years ago? Hundreds of equipment changes have been made over the years in an attempt make the NFL "safer". The most obvious of these changes has been with the face mask. In my opinion, these equipment changes are not making the NFL any safer, because they are turning football players into weapons.

The single bar. The "crosshair". The plastic facemask. These are the NFL facemasks of my youth and are by far the best ones. They were very simple and did their job of protecting the players face. Now, we have facemasks like the one Ladainian Tomlinson sports that look completely ridiculous and don't appear to do much more than the old ones. Except for maybe block more bugs from flying into LT's mouth. In fact, they look like more fun to grab onto and yank, except you might get your finger caught and break it. While I am sure that there are some advances that the new facemasks have made, I disagree that the players are any safer out there. As with things like lighter shoulder pads, more concussion proof helmets, those ironing board things that protect players necks, etc., newer facemasks are giving players a false sense of security. With all this fancy new equipment, players think that they are indestructible and they run faster, hit harder, and take more risks. How many times have you seen a guy like Brian Dawkins or Troy Polamalu lead with his head down when making a tackle? Or a running back dive over the line on a goal line play with no clue who is on the other side? These type of plays end up injuring someone on the field, and would not happen if the players did not feel invincible in their armor-like equipment. If they had the old leather helmets and the heavy pads, they would not be making these kinds of plays, and I feel that there would be far less injuries. Maybe I am judging too much from my own experience, but I have never been injured playing a game of tackle football with no pads on. In my brief but illustrious football career in high school, I think I injured myself in some way every day. I don't know if there is a way to research it, but I would wager that the old school football players (or even rugby players) were injured less, and in less severe fashion, than current football players.

The NFL will never revert to older equipment. As the talent level keeps rising, researchers will find new breakthroughs to make the athlete lighter or faster so as not to hinder him(think about astroturf, how many injuries did that scientific breakthrough cause?). This will result in more severe injuries as the athletes fly around the field faster and faster. If you ask me, the NFL should bring back the plastic mask, the crosshair, the single bar or maybe even the no bar facemask. Maybe just eliminate pads altogether. That would make players responsible for their own actions out on the field and we would see less recklessness and stupid plays. Who's with me? McGahee? Everett? Anyone?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Jack Edwards: Saving the NHL One Fan at a Time


Hockey season is in full swing sports fans, and like Boston's other sports teams have the past few years, the Bruins are dominating the league. If you didn't know that, then you probably also didn't know that the Bruins announcer is none other than my main man "Jacky D" Jack Edwards. After watching a few games with Jacky D (this is what I call him) behind the microphone I instantly became hooked on his off the wall, blatantly homerish commentary. Allow me to guide you through the world of Jack Edwards and show you why he is the hardest working man in sports. You will soon appreciate why I have written to NESN asking for an autographed picture of Jack Edwards, and you just might learn a few things along the way.

You might remember Jacky D from his days on ESPN as a Sportscenter anchor. He can be seen in the memorable Sportscenter commercial in which they hire an anchor out of highschool with less than satisfactory results (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HxRkFtIIdA). Also seen in that commercial is my cousin Seth Hayes. Also in the Superbowl is my other cousin Gerald Hayes. But I digress. Jacky D's resume goes back quite a bit further than that however. Edwards, a New Hampshire native and UNH alum, started out as a play-by-play announcer for the UNH Wildcats hockey team and then worked his way through the local TV ranks until he got hired by ABC's Wide World of Sports. If you have ever seen this show, you know how "wide" the range of sports they had were. I think I recall seeing former Eagles LB Bill Bergey playing golf and former Royals infielder Freddie Patek swimming in one episode. Jacky D then went on to ESPN and covered a great number of sporting events for them as well. After ESPN, Edwards went on to cover soccer games for ABC. Finally, after 25 years in the business Jack Edwards got what I think is his dream job, announcing Bruins hockey. The man put in his time, being exiled to covered the oddest sports around and it finally paid off for him. His passion for hockey is evidenced in any game you hear him announce.

When I first saw Jacky D on NESN announcing Bruins games I thought "Why is this little pipsqueak announcing pro hockey games?" and "Why is he such a homer for the Bruins?" but after a few minutes of watching the game I realized why. He was a natural. Have you ever heard an amateur announce a hockey game? Have you ever tried to do play-by-play for a game on your own? Let me tell you it is damn near impossible. You have to think of creative things to say for each second of action on the ice and you have to know every single players name on the ice at all times and be able to summon that name in a split second if the puck is passed to him. I tried to announce ten seconds of a game once and I sounded like Brian Collins aka "Boom Goes the Dynamite"with all my stuttering and passes "to the man". Jacky D announces the game effortlessly, but with the emotions of a 10 year old. You can dismiss his homer-ism because he is passionate about the game, and for the fact that it is humorous. A little humor could be good for a sport that is disregarded by many still after its lockout season a few years back. Whenever there is a fight, no matter how badly the Bruins player gets his ass kicked, it is always a "Unanimous Decision" in his favor. For every big hit there is a "(insert name(usually Lucic)) levels him!" and for every stopped puck a "SAVE_BY_THOMAS!!!". Jacky D is bringing the excitement back to the game, and he can convince a Flyers fan to watch the Bruins, then he can probably convince anybody. If you have the Versus network, tune into a game next time the Bruins are playing. There is a chance that Jacky D might be announcing that game, and if he is, take notes. While he has to be less pro-Boston on Versus, you will still hear some classy Jacky D vocabulary, and I bet you will be hooked.

Jacky D's Vocab Book:

"Spoons it down the river"- to clear the puck from the defensive zone

"Setting up in Wayne Gretzky's office"(personal favorite)- To stand behind the goal with the puck in the offensive zone

"Bangs him" - a hard hit along the boards

"Knocks him onto queer street"- a big hit

"D to D"- pass from one defenseman to another

"tick, tack, goal"- pass, pass, goal

"Look what I found! A puck and an empty net!"- Goal, not necessarily empty net

"Puck goes over the net and into the restaurant. Waiter there's a puck in my soup!"- Puck out of play

"He's got a bee in his bonnet"- describes losing player in a fight

"Blows a tire"- skater loses an edge and falls over

"Einstein's Assistant"- David Krejci

"Forearm shiver"- a punch or shove

12 days of Christmas- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TD3DKRJG_48

Try to use one in a sentence today! borst likes LOST

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Ode to Scal


With football season over in my mind, and baseball season still off in the distance I find myself with little to write about these days. Therefore I will take a suggestion from a friend and talk about the rise of gingers in sports. If we look at some of the great moments in sports in the past few years, we will see that they have all revolved around Ginger athletes. The ring leader of these athletes is no doubt The Man, The Myth, The Living Legend: Scal.

Having witnessed first hand 3 Celtics Playoff games last year, I know how important Brian Scalabrine was to the Celtics title run. He did not play a minute of the playoffs, but he was there to keep the whole team loose with his antics, and his shiny red hair was a beacon of freedom that the Hawks, Cavs, Pistons and Lakers knew they could not hope to overcome. In the 2008-09 season, I have seen Scal play significant time in each game I have gone to. The Celtics season hit a crescendo when Scal swished a 3 pointer from the corner against the Wizards to put the Celts up big. In that same game though Scal went cold, clanging some wide open shots and air balling a 3 from the same spot he had previously swished from. After this (and the mean fans yelling at me and Tom Humplik) the Celtics themselves went cold and have not been the same team since then. The success of the Celtics ebbs and flows with the success of the Scal Man. That is the reason the Celtics pay him $3 million a year. In my opinion the offense should run around Scal, and maybe Doc Rivers. The Big 3 are overrated.

For your entertainment here is a list of other famous ginger athletes:

Kevin Boss- Mat Delano look alike helped lead Giants to 2008 Super Bowl Championship

Bill Walton- Possibly World's Tallest Ginger helped UCLA and Portland Blazers to win many titles

Matt Bonner- The "Red Rocket" guided the Spurs to the 2006-07 NBA Title

Andy Reid- World's Heaviest Ginger has guided the Eagles to 5 NFC Championships in 8 years. Not bad. Certainly not good.

Bobby Kielty- MVG of the World Series Champion Red Sox in 2007

Lou Collins - First Baseman and unquestioned leader of the 1994 AL Champion Minnesota Twins managed by wunderkind Billy Heywood.

Mat Delano- KA beirut tournament champion

Phillip Seymour Hoffman- Champion tornado chaser

Mark McGwire- 70 Home Run Ginger

The Undertaker- WWF Champion

Fat Bastard- Sumo wrestling champion

Judas Iscariot- Betrayed Jesus


As you can see, gingers are taking over the world. My guess is that whichever team has the most gingers will probably win the Super Bowl in a few weeks. Boy am I ready for baseball season. K, bye.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Championship Weekend Picks



Well sports fans, Bill Simmons decided to make Championship weekend picks today even after going 0 for 4 last week and whining like Roger Dorn after getting hit by the pitch in Major League II on his podcast on Monday morning. It got to the point where he was actually blaming the NFL playoff system for making his picks wrong. He argued that any team can go on a run and make the Super Bowl now. Yes Bill, any playoff team can go on a run and make the Super Bowl. That's how it has always been. This year is just more difficult to forecast because I would argue that there was no playoff favorite. Every team in the playoffs appeared beatable. It's called parity Simmons, you loser. Without any bitching and moaning, here are my picks to make it to Tampa. If I'm wrong, you won't see an article on Monday complaining about how I should have been right. Although I am upset the Lions hired a white coach.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh

I have been wracking my brain about this game for the whole week now. It is just so even of a matchup and reminds me exactly of last week's matchup of Ravens/ Titans. Two power defenses up against two power running games. The Ravens won the game against the Titans, but due in part to some very costly turnovers by the Titans in the red zone. Can we forecast that happening again? Or are the Steelers a more reliable team than the Titans? The Steelers are at home, but the Ravens have won two road games in a row. It really is a toss up here. However, I will pick the Steelers in a close game. I am picking the Steelers for a few reasons. The first being that Big Ben Roethlisberger is at the helm for Pittsburgh. All he ever does is win football games. He also has AFC Championship and Super Bowl experience, so the pressure of this game will not rattle him. Though Flacco is 2-0 in the playoffs, I feel that another away game, the pressure of the AFC Championship, and the Steelers defense will bring him back down to earth this weekend. Moreover, the Steelers offense is quite a bit better than the two offenses that the Ravens have faced so far. They have a vertical passing game with Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, and the thunderbolt that the Gods reached down and turned Ben Roethlisberger's right arm into when he was a baby. They also have a power running game with "Fast" Willie Parker, and a possession receiver in Heath Miller. I think this will be enough to put some points up on Baltimore with. I will be disappointed to see the end of Stupid Flacco Hair for the season, but I think this is the end of his playoff run.

Prediction:
Steelers 24, Ravens 14



Philadelphia at Arizona

A classic NFC East matchup right here sports fans! This hearkens back to the days when Rodney Peete and Ricky Watters used to patrol the sidelines for the Iggs and would square off against Kent Graham, Larry Centers (he always killed us) and the Cardinals in the battle for the NFC East cellar. This game is probably the unlikeliest NFC Championship game that there could have been; nobody predicted the Cardinals to even get by "Matty Ice" and the Falcons, and the Eagles needed all sorts of crazy luck to even make the playoffs (you kiddin' me?). But here we are somehow, a rematch of the Thanksgiving Day game in which the Eagles drubbed the Cards 48-20. This game will certainly be different, but not that much different.

A lot of people, including Bill Simmons, are very high on the Cardinals right now. I actually think this is a good thing. The Eagles are not being over-hyped, which is never good for a team (see Carolina Panthers), and the Cardinals are in fact the higher seed and the home team. If anything, I would say that the Cardinals receiving game is being over-hyped. Kurt Warner has been lofting up ducks to Larry Fitzgerald for the last two weeks, and he has somehow been coming down with them. You gotta think that the Eagles secondary, with former and current pro bowlers like Sheldon Brown, B-Dawk, Asante Samuel and Lito Sheppard, will be able to make better plays on those passes than the previous two teams. Also, the Eagles defense in general is on another level right now. They are just playing out of their minds. They are actually reminding me a lot of the Giants defense last year, and the parallels between the two teams are quite striking. I don't want to get ahead of myself though. The Cardinals defense has also been playing very well, which is bad news for a banged up Eagles offense. But it seems that the Eagles have been making just enough plays to win the game. Desean Jackson can stretch the field for guys like Jason Avant, Brent Celek (breakout candidate this week) and my man Kevin Curtis. Also, I think Westbrook and Buckhalter will be able to move the ball better than they have in the past two weeks. Finally lets notice a few trends that always seem to play into these games. What would this weekend be if at least one #6 seeded road team didn't win? Also, we have had the possibility of an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl for weeks now, let's keep that going. It will be the second coming of the Civil War; residents will be split into factions, families will be divided, relationships ended, blood shed, tears cried, poop excreted and so on. Not to mention that an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl would once again provide a rematch of a regular season game. It's all happening.

Prediction:
Philadelphia 28, Arizona 17


Thursday, January 15, 2009

The 2008 Pencil Awards


The time has come to hand out the first Annual Pencil Awards for the 2008 Year. Nominees from each category will be honored for their heroic and ignominious acts in the year that was 2008. Without further ado, here are this years Golden Pencil winners.

Terrell Owens Award for Biggest Distraction:
Nominees-
Sean Avery- Dallas Stars
Plaxico Burress- New York Giants
Stephon Marbury- New York Knicks
Manny Ramirez- Boston Red Sox/ LA Dodgers

The winner is: Stephon Marbury! Burress ruined the Giants season, but Starbury is the biggest distraction because the Knicks can do nothing with him. He just sits on the bench or in the stands each game with that stupid tattoo on his head and makes people mad. They can't play him or trade him because of his salary, and the team is horrible. Congratulations Stephon on the first ever Golden Pencil Award


Next up are the nominees for the Casey Dorne Award for biggest head:
Nominees-
Hideki Matsui- New York Yankees
Placido Polanco- Detroit Tigers
Antoine Walker- formerly of the Minnesota T'Wolves
Barry Bonds- UFA

And the winner is.....
Placido Polanco! Congratulations Placido, every time I see you on tv it is like an extra birthday present to see that giant dome of yours. Whenever Polanco is chewing gum, you can see his temples bulging and it just makes you wonder how much more of his head is hidden under that hat. He is possibly a distant relative of toadstool from Super Mario Brothers. Either that, or he's been drinking the same nerve tonic as Ken Griffey Jr. did in the Simpsons. Check it out:
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2295/2299173509_0e51b9ae6d_o.gif and http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3145/2456080406_2cbd62c501_o.jpg


The next award is the New Kids on the Block Award for the greatest comeback in 2008:
Nominees-
Josh Hamilton- Texas Rangers
Chad Pennington- Miami Dolphins
Ricky Williams- Miami Dolphins
Kurt Warner- Arizona Cardinals

Winner: Josh Hamilton. It's so hard to hit a baseball anyway, losing that skill for years because of drug abuse makes his story just seem that much more difficult. Hamilton fell so far and now has come back to the level where he was expected to be when he was drafted 10 years ago. Congrats to you Josh.


The Bash Brothers Award for Greatest Duo:
Nominees-
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol- LA Lakers
Chase Utley and Ryan Howard- Philadelphia Phillies
Evegeni Malkin and Sid the Kid- Pittsburgh Penguins
Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald- Arizona Cardinals

And the winners are: Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Much like Fulton Reed and Dean Portman, Howard and Utley combined to crush their opponents, amassing a total of 81 home runs and 250 RBIs in 2008. They also led the Phillies to their first World Series Championship since 1980. Look for Raul Ibanez to fill the part of Kenny Wu this year. Matt Stairs will return to play the part of Goldberg in D3. He made the one crucial shot at the end to win the game.


Next up is the Guy Fieri Award for the Douchiest Douchebag of 2008:
Nominees-
Eric Mangini- NY Jets
Roger Clemens- formerly the NY Yankees
Curt Schilling- Boston Red Sox
Steve Young- ESPN
Merril Hoge- ESPN
Joe Morgan- ESPN


And the winner is: Tie. They are all pretty douchey douchebags. I can't stand any of them. Just a group of 5 infuriating people. You all win. Or lose.



Next up is the soon to be fan favorite Tony Gwynn Lifetime Achievement Award for fattest athlete in 2008:
Nominees-
Miguel Cabrera- Detroit Tigers
C.C. Sabathia- Milwaukee Brewers
Prince Fielder- Milwaukee Brewers
John Daly- Golf

And the winner is: John Daly. Pictures of John slugging beers with Kid Rock and golfing with no shirt on sealed this victory for him. Sabathia and Fielder's exploits were well known, but they somehow managed to remain athletic despite their carriage. Look for Sabathia to take home this award in '09 as he will be making approx $8,000 a pitch. Dat's a lotta Sabretti's kid!


The final Golden Pencil award for 2008 is the Elton John "Profiles in Gayness" Award. Here are the nominees:
Jim Edmonds- Chicago Cubs
Alex Rodriguez- NY Yankees
Jeff Garcia- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Terrell Owens- Dallas Cowboys
Joe Buck- FOX


And the winner is: Jeff Garcia hands down. Even with a smokin hot "wife" nobody believes that this dude is not gay. He always is wearing weird bandages, or is bleeding somewhere too. That is pretty gay. Finally he has a really gay haircut. I wouldn't want to touch him, I bet his hands and body would be slippery. Jeff Garcia's Golden Pencil Award will be mailed. I can't imagine the things that will be done with it once he gets it.


I hope you enjoyed the first annual Golden Pencil Awards. Special shout out to my two newest followers DBillz and the Donk. Feel free to suggest any awards you would like to see in '09. Eddy Curry is sure to take home the Elton John award though.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Detroit Lions Bail Out Plan


What's our record? 0 and 16. 0 and 16!? How the hell did we win 0? It's a miracle. It's a miracle.

The Detroit Lions set a record in futility in 2008 going 0-16. However bleak things might appear in Detroit with the auto crisis, which all started with the discontinuation of the 2 door Ford Explorer in my opinion, the Lions, the Tigers fall from grace, and the city's unbelievable dismissal from the running for "Titletown USA" there is hope for these Lions yet. Here for my fans and loyal followers, Dumper and Ethan 128 (Ethan, if you are out there, and are reading this blog, please give me a sign), are my solutions for the Detroit Lions decades of futility.

First, the Detroit brass needs to win back the fan base. They took the first big step in doing so when they fired Matt Millen, who somehow immediately landed a job as an analyst with NBC. How did he manage to pull this off? What on his resume made NBC want to hire him? Why did NBC think that anything that he said on tv would sound intelligent after EVERYTHING he said and did in Detroit for 7 years was wrong? Regardless, the Fire Millen Movement in Detroit was satisfied and a large portion of the fan base ceased their moratorium on Lion's Football. Unfortunately, the rest of the season unfolded about the same way it would have if Millen was there and the Lions had no choice but to fire Rod Marinelli. The first solution for Detroit, in my opinion is to hire a black head coach.

Hiring a black head coach makes a lot of sense to me in Detroit. The city itself is 84% African-American, and those African-American residents are no doubt many of the Lions fans who have lost their faith in the team over the years. Hiring an African-American coach would give those fans someone that they could identify with and give the team a much needed shot in the arm in the eyes of the league. Moreover, there are a lot of African-American coaching candidates out there who many writers and analysts feel are underrated and are being passed over by other teams. Finally, and this might be my most opinion based point of this argument, hiring a black coach would take the heat off of the franchise for a little while. Because the Rooney Rule is still in its infancy, and because there are so few black head coaches in pro sports, I think it is probably still considered maybe not racist but certainly indefensible in a way to criticize a team for hiring a black head coach. This is just what the Detroit Lions need, the angry mob of fans and critics to shut up. Hiring an African-American head coach would help the Lions win back a good portion of their fan base and buy the organization time to re-build in my opinion. I hope my main man "Cool" Ethan agrees with me.

My second solution for Detroit: DO NOT DRAFT A WIDE RECEIVER IN THE FIRST ROUND. Four of the Lions last six first round picks have been wide receivers; Calvin Johnson, Mike Williams, Roy Williams and Charles Rogers. Only one remains with the team. Wide Receivers are high risk/high reward picks and ofter have egos as great as their skill set, which is not what the Lions need right now. They need a new face to the franchise. If I were in the Lions front office I (along with everybody else) would spend the first overall pick on a guy like Matthew Stafford, a character guy without the Heisman Curse who can carry this franchise back to glory. With the remaining first round pick from Dallas I would select a nice offensive tackle who can protect Stafford so that we don't see him running out of the end zone ala Dan Orlovsky (see picture). With their second round pick I would go after a guy like Donald Brown from UConn, and with the two 3rd rounders I would go for a cog in the defensive line and a cornerback. These positions are crucial to the Lions turn around, and character is important trait in all of them. If they all had the character of Ethan128, the Lions would be a superbowl shoe in in '09.

Finally, for the Lions I would tell them to be patient. They have been awful for so long, what's the harm in waiting a few more years for success? This turnaround is not going to happen overnight. Its a process, so don't going throwing big money at a free agents thinking that the playoffs are just around the corner. It could take a few years Grow your team organically and make wise decisions in free agency. Basically, just think about what Matt Millen would do, then do the opposite. Good luck to the Lions in the future and thanks again to my wonderful followers Dumper and Cool Ethan.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Did You Ever Know That You're My Hero?


The 2006 Rose Bowl was probably the best college football game that I have seen in my life. The underdog Texas Longhorns, with famous alums such as Laura Bush, Lady Bird Johnson and Alan Bean whom you of course know as the 4th man to walk on the moon, grappled with the indomitable USC Trojans who were no doubt being rooted on by alums Forest Whitaker, Norman Schwarzkopf and former first lady Pat Nixon. With the game in the balance, Texas quarterback Vince Young willed the Longhorns to victory, much to the chagrin of Trojan faithful like Jerry Buss. Since then, both quarterbacks have gone on to the pro ranks and have had varying success. Vince Young won AP Offensive Rookie of the Year and was named to a Pro Bowl, but since then has struggled. Matt Leinart has pretty much done nothing since he was drafted. Both players were benched in 2008 in favor of two geezers. Despite Young's early success, I would argue that Matt Leinart is better off. You see, Leinart stayed all 4 years in college while Young left Texas for the pros right after that Rose Bowl game. Players leaving college early makes no sense to me and if it were up to me, all players would have to go to college for 4 years in order to play pro sports.

Why do athletes leave college after their sophomore or junior years to jump to the pros? The short answer to this question is money. Players have people telling them that their "stock is at its highest" or they have family situations that necessitate money immediately. In my opinion, this is no reason to leave college early. If a player's "stock" is that high to begin with, what makes them think that it is going to drop significantly if they wait another year? If you look at Matt Leinart, he won the Heisman, the National Championship MVP, the Unitas Award and most importantly of course the National Championship in 2004. From a scouting standpoint, his stock was probably never higher. Yet he decided to stay, led his team to an undefeated regular season record again in 2005, but lost in the Rose Bowl to Vince Young's Longhorns. His stock plummeted all the way down to the 7th pick in the draft and a 6 year,$51 million deal. What an idiot! He could have been the 5th pick and gotten even more money than god!

The other monetary argument is that the athlete needs money immediately for his family. I will send this argument out just as quickly as it came in; selfishness on all sides. Maybe things are different for promising athletes, but I would imagine that it is just about every parents dream to see their child graduate from college. I don't think any parent out there says "My dream is for my son to go to college for two years, then break the bank as a pro and buy me a new house." If so, that child should be forfeited to social services. Moreover, if you are so sure that your child is going to be a pro athlete, why not take out a loan? Lebron's mother did this and I'm pretty sure she can pay it off now. Moreover, if you have been able to survive for 19 to 20 years in your family's current economic state, is 1 or 2 more years really going to be that difficult? I don't know, maybe I'm being shortsighted here but it seems to me that the money will be there. There is no need for these kids to jump out and get it early. Any reason they have for doing so is a cop out.

Another argument for leaving college early to go pro is that an athlete might get injured in his junior or senior year and wants to avoid that. That is about the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Who's to say you won't get injured your first day in NFL camp and get cut immediately? Then you have no pro prospects and no education. Players can not base their decisions on fear of injury. They gotta go full tilt, full time like Tedy Bruschi and Mat Delano.

My last argument for staying in college is this; what is so bad about college? College athletes are completely above the law. They can do whatever they want (within reason) and are pretty much protected by their coaches and the university. Have you seen the video of Tyler Hansbrough jumping off the frat house balcony into the pool? He is a legend. I bet Tim Tebow or Matt Leinart could hook up with any girl at Florida or USC if they wanted to. College is fun, especially when you are the big man on campus. I don't see any reason why these athletes would want to leave being a big fish in a small pond early to become just another cod in the pro ranks.

Leaving college early to go pro does not guarantee you anything, except the forfeiture of your education. I have only heard of a few instances of players going back to get their college degrees out of the rapidly increasing ranks of early defectors. If you check out a favorite site of mine nbadraft.net you will see that out of the top 14 guys projected to be drafted this year, not one is a senior in college. If you take a look down the whole list, you will see Darren Collison at #21 and Tyler Hansbrough at #24. These are the guys I will be rooting for next year. Do you think they have any regrets about staying in college? I don't think so. Kudos to guys like them. They, along with Ferris Bueller, are my heroes.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reflections From A Perfect Weekend

Contrary to popular belief, Donovan McNabb was not calling Mrs. McNabb to put on a pot of chunky soup when he picked up the phone on the Giants sideline this weekend. He was in fact calling me to congratulate me on going 3-0 on my picks thus far and to ask me who I liked in the last one. I told him I liked Pittsburgh, and sure enough, here I sit on Monday at a perfect 4-4 in my picks last weekend. The fact that the Sports Guy Bill Simmons got every pick wrong makes it that much sweeter. Perhaps I should change my blog name to "Athletics Man" or "Recreation Dude". Without any further ado, here are some of the observations I have from this weekends divisional matchups.

Turnovers dictated each game on Saturday. Tennessee would have beaten the Ravens if not for a series of turnovers in the red zone. Alge Crumpler's mid-air fumble job sealed the deal for the Ravens and was quite entertaining to watch. I think I remember someone saying that game would come down to a key turnover. In Carolina, somebody must have made up a voodoo doll for the Agin' Cajun Jake Delhomme as his meltdown of epic proportions put a huge smile on my face. I knew the Panthers were way too overhyped. Also, where was Edgerrin James the whole season? And what happened to his grill of all gold? Wasn't he also supposed to put out a rap cd too? The two Saturday games also produce three new classic looks: Kerry Collins Penis Face, Stupid Delhomme Face and my favorite, Stupid Flacco Hair. It looks like Flacco has a trainer pump up his helmet to the point where he almost passes out. Those South Jersey kids are always looking for the newest way to get high. I will put these in my memory bank for next season and mention them whenever fitting.

In the Sunday games we saw several interesting plays, the completion of my perfect weekend, and a WHOLE LOT of Stupid Manning Face. I still think the difference in the Eagles/Giants game was Plaxico Burress, but it looked like the Giants and the Eagles switched identities from the first game they played this season. Instead of the Eagles not being able to get the short first down runs and goal line touchdowns, it was the Giants who were repeatedly stopped on short yardage plays, most notable the two fourth downs. I also thought that Tommy Coughlin, whose "Frozen Face" routine I was disappointed not to see much of, had a very Andy Reid-esque stupid challenge call late in the game. In challenging the spot of the ball on 4th and 1 or whatever it was, he was not guaranteed a first down if he won, and lost his second time out of the half when the play was ruled as called on the field because it was a very accurate spot. I thought that the timeout was way too much to risk in that situation. Maybe his face was too warm and his vision was blurry on the play or something. I must say I was very impressed with how Eli Manning matured this season. He looked much more confident during the regular season and I was starting to worry that he was becoming a star. However, my fears were allayed when I was reunited with the best of the faces, Stupid Manning Face, this weekend. If you are not familiar with stupid Manning face, educate yourself: http://manningface.com/. When either Manning boy is struggling, you can tell by just looking at him. If only Reche Caldwell had been on the field or in the stands somewhere this weekend, we would have had all the crazy faces of the NFL over the past few years.

In Pittsburgh, my boy Ben Roethlisberger shined like the shining star that he is and Pittsburgh had the game pretty well decided by the end of 3. I must admit I didn't watch much of this game, but I was very impressed by what I heard on the radio. Denny "They are who we thought they were" Green's raspy voice was less than ideal for radio I thought as I was driving home on Sunday, but the man certainly knew his stuff. He knew that the muffed punt could not be advanced for a touchdown right away, and he astutely recognized that the Chargers one offensive play in the 3rd quarter must have been some kind of a record. Good job Denny, enjoy a few Coors Lights tonight. The part of this game I did watch looked like a replay of last year's Chargers playoff loss with LT sulking on the sidelines. He is the equivalent of the grim reaper over there for the Chargers. Championship weekend predictions coming on Friday.

Also of note:

Check out the song "Desperation Samba" by Jimmy Buffett. It will have you samba-ing uncontrollably and poking fake finger penises out of your fly at the bar. Trust me.

Check out the movie "Fear" with Marky Mark. It will have you chest punching yourself and photoshopping yourself into someone else's family photo as the dad in no time.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Fearless Playoff Predictions

This weekend's NFL Playoff matchups are all rematches of regular season games, giving idiots like Joe Buck and Bob Costas plenty to talk about on their respective sports networks. With little rhyme or reason to it, I present to you my predictions for this week's playoff action. Hold on to your hats folks, this is gonna be wild.

BALTIMORE AT TENNESSEE:

I think that this will certainly be the most entertaining game of the weekend. Two dominating defenses bringing everything they have against two offenses with, shall we say, "steady" quarterbacks. The Titans and Ravens are fairly even matched in all aspects of the field, Tennessee having a slight advantage on the ground, and Baltimore a small air advantage with Derrick Mason. I think this game will come down to special teams and turnovers. Therefore I am giving the nod to Baltimore. It seems that everytime I watch Baltimore, Ed Reed or Ray Lewis is making a huge play to seal the game for the Ravens. I also seem to remember Ray Lewis making a big interception in Tennessee in the playoffs years back that sealed the game for the Ravens, who eventually won the Superbowl that year.

Prediction: Ravens 21, Titans 13


SAN DIAGO AT BLITZBURGH:

I hope I am not the only person who has lost a lot of faith in the NFL playoff system. The fact that the Chargers are in the playoffs at all is laughable to me. A team starting out 4-8 should be banned from all playoff activity. The Denver Broncos, whose magic number for the playoffs has been once since about Thanksgiving should also be punished. We should all line up and kick Jay Cutler in the nuts or something. Regardless, the Chargers won last week and that can not be taken away from them. This game has a lot riding on it for me, personally and professionally. As a former Pennsylvanian (always at heart) I have a rooting interest in the Steelers. Moreover, Ben Roethlisberger is my twin brother even though we are not relation. When you combine those two immutable facts with the defensive player of the year James Harrison, I see no way out of Pittsburgh for the Chargers. The Steelers defense will be able to bottle up the mercurial Darren Sproles, who didn't produce on my fantasy team when it counted (another strike against San Diego) and Ben Roethlisberger will shake off the cobwebs, because he is a tough and ruggedly handsome man, to quash the Chargers playoff run. Pittsburgh in a bit of a run away here. I also hate Phil Rivers.

Prediction: Steelers 31, Chargers 17


ARIZONA AT CAROLINA

This game features two enigmas, the Cardinals and the Panthers. Despite my disrespect of the Chargers, I thought the Cardinals were easily the worst team in the playoffs. Much of this came from watching the Eagles dismantle them on Thanksgiving, and from witnessing first hand the Patriots annihilate them 47-7 in "Snow Bowl II". Needless to say I was surprised that they won last week. They could have a good thing going. I must say I know very little about the Panthers. I know that I hate Jake Delhomme because he is a douchebag, and I know that they have "Crash and Dash", or is it "Smash and Stash"? Whatever it is, they beat the Cardinals in their regular season showdown in Carolina 27-23. Despite this victory however, I am going to have to lean towards Arizona to pull an upset city and send the stupid Panthers home for the offseason. If Boldin and Fitzgerald can break through for a few big plays, the Cardinals have a pretty good chance I think. The Panthers are also favored by a hefty 10 points. Fuck it, they are going down. Cardinals in a wild one.

Prediction: Cardinals 41, Panthers 35


PHILADELPHIA AT NEW YORK


There are some fans (Mark Forwood) who would tell you that the Eagles are cursed because Desean Jackson was on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. However, that flies in the face of all the karma that has been building up in Philadelphia this year. With the Phils winning the World Series the pressure is off. Everything else is gravy. I will be accused of being biased for this prediction anyway, so why not go crazy with it and bring in things like karma and feelings. What would make a better story than the Eagles riding the wave of momentum created by the Phils breaking the Curse of William Penn and beating the G-Men who are still reeling from the Plaxico Burress controversy? This writer says nothing. And if those reasons don't grab you, here are some real ones that I feel will tip the scales in the Eagles' favor. The Giants have not played a meaningful game in over a month. While the game against the Panthers was important for ceding and bragging rights, it was not a "must win" for the Giants. They have essentially been on cruise control since early December and ended up losing 3 of their last 4 games. In that same time frame, the Eagles have been fighting tooth and nail for that final playoff spot, playing exceptionally well (game against Washington and Portis not withstanding) at the most important time. The Eagles have been getting up for the big games and I think that, combined with the fact that it is difficult to just "turn it on" again for New York will keep the Eagles going this week.

Injuries will also play a huge part in this game. One injury that hasn't been ballywhooed too much, that I think is very important is Sam Madison's broken ankle. This will give the Eagles passing game the edge that it usually needs to make some big plays. I also found it funny that ESPN "expert" Marcellus "Dat Dude" Wiley highlighted Madison as a reason why the Giants defense would be better than the Eagles in this weekend's matchup. He got into Columbia because of his grades. Moreover, I think that Justin Tuck's "If I have to play on one leg..." comments do not portend well for a pass rush that has yet to sack Donovan McNabb this season. On the Eagles side, you have Brian Westbrook. I would dismiss this casually by saying that he is always injured and knows how to play injured. If he is hurting more than usual though it could be bad news bears for the Birdies. The health of Brandon Jacobs is also questionable. He is the X-Factor in this game in my opinion. If he can run over the Eagles speed defense, the Giants have a great chance of winning the game. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the injury of Plaxico Burress. If he is in this game, the Giants win hands down. Giants fans will realize what a huge mistake that was by Plax this weekend. With the edge in special teams going to the Eagles and Desean Jackson, I say that all signs point to the Eagles this weekend in a nail biting, nerve-wracking matchup. After all, Winning is for the Birds.


Prediction: Eagles 27, Giants 24

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Breaking the Simmons Commandments




For many years I have been a follower of Bill Simmons, seen here partying on the Tampa Bay Rays Party Deck. I agree with many of his theories and I very much enjoy his lists such as the "Reggie Cleveland All Stars", "The Tyson Zone" and the "Diane Lane Hall of Fame". However, there is one "Simmons-ism" that I think needs serious re-consideration and revision. In his book "Now I Can Die in Peace", Simmons outlines that heinous crime of "sports bigamy" which is essentially rooting for more than one team per sport. "The teams you loved as a child are your teams for life" Simmons says. While inherently true in most cases, Simmons underestimates the effect that moving around during one's formative years could have on this sports tenet.

Bill Simmons calls it like he sees it, which is part of what makes him such a great writer, however his early life experience does not seem to be one of much diversity in geography. After reading his bio, it appears that Simmons grew up in the New England area (Connecticut and Massachusetts) , then went on to college at Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. After college he stayed in the Boston area and worked various writing jobs. Not until Simmons was 33 years old did he move away from New England to take a job in Los Angeles. For 33 years, Simmons lived in the area that his "childhood teams" were from. He didn't encounter any opposition to the teams he was rooting for, and was always in the majority of the fan base for his area. This does not sound like someone who is qualified to tell someone else that it is wrong to root for more than one team.

In my own experience, I lived in Philadelphia for my first 12 years and that is undoubtedly where my loyalties lie. However, when I moved to Boston at age 13 I found myself beginning to root for the Red Sox of baseball's American League. Was my "childhood" over at 13? Is it wrong to want to identify in some way with a city that you just moved to? I have found that it is impossible not to identify with a city that you live in. Pulling for the sports teams in that city is one of the most natural ways to create this identity. Maybe after 33 years of living in one place, it is a little easier not to be swayed.

When Simmons is spotting a trend or making a joke, he is spot on. His knowledge of pop culture is second to none. However, when it comes down to his so called rules for how fans should act, he needs to keep his mouth shut, or at least keep a loophole in his iron constitution. Simmons is basing his rules of sports fandom on his own life, which is a very shortsighted move on his part. Living the majority of his life in the same area has blinded him to the constant reality of change that occur in most other people's lives. Who knows, maybe in 20 years Simmons will become a big time L.A. Clippers fan.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bold Predictions for the New Year


A new year means a fresh start for every team. Hope springs eternal in 2009 for fans of even the most abysmal sports teams. By year's end we will have four franchises crowned as champions of the world. Instead of telling who those teams will be, I did a little research and I'm going to tell you who they will not be. Call me crazy sports fans, but the Yankees, Flyers, Knicks, and (I know I'm going out on an extreme limb here) Raiders will not be champions of their sport in '09.

You're probably saying to yourself, "Any idiot knows the Raiders aren't going to win the Superbowl. They didn't even make the playoffs." I know the Raiders did not make the playoffs, though I am extremely thankful for their huge win over the Bucs in week 17, but hear me out. My point is this. These 4 teams have the highest salaries in their respective sport this season. Having the highest salary in each sport almost never translates to winning a championship that year. Spend crazy owners just keep throwing money at players in hopes that amassing enough talent will win them a title. Not so. Here comes the evidence.

It is not a mystery that the Yankees have had the highest payroll in baseball for many years in a row. The last time they didn't was in 1998 when the Orioles took the cake. However, since then the Yankees payroll has begun to skyrocket. Now we all know that they had the highest payroll and won the World Series in '99 and 2000, but in those years they only paid on average about 5 million dollars more per year than any other team. Since the dawn of the new millenium the Yankees payroll has taken off, paying over 70 million dollars more than any other team in several years. Of course, since 2000 the Yankees fan have had no rings to gloat about.

In basketball, the hapless Knickerbockers have had the highest payroll 6 out of the last 8 years, and the only thing they have been remembered for in those years is chanting "Fire Isaiah" at the Garden. The other two high payrolls in the 00's in the NBA belonged to the 06-07 Suns and the 02-03 Blazers who both came close, but ultimately failed in their quest for a title.

The NFL has one of the few bright spots as the 2006 Colts were the NFL's highest paid team, and brought home the Super Bowl in January of '07. Other than that however, we see teams like the Redskins, Raiders and Cardinals that have not enjoyed much success at all in the new millenium.

Finally, in the NHL the 01-02 Red Wings took home the Stanley Cup, but besides them the 07-08 Avalanche, the 06-07 and 05-06 Devils, the 03-04 Red Wings, and the 02-03 and 00-01 Rangers failed to hoist Lord Stanley's cup.

In basketball, football and hockey there is much more equality in team salary than there is in baseball. But there is something to be said for the team with the highest payroll rarely winning a championship in each sport. Do the players feel the pressure of being on their respective sport's "highest paid team"? Does bringing in high priced talent create jealousy among younger and minimum salary players? Do higher paid players just not work as hard? Is there something to be said for sticking with a nucleus of players who have come up through the ranks together? Does chemistry really make a difference? When looking at the success of the teams with the highest salary over the last 8 years, I would answer yes to all of these questions. Good luck in 2009 to the Flyers, Yankees, Knicks and Raiders. You're gonna need it.