Monday, November 29, 2010

"Welcome to Miami" and the Heat's Struggles

The shot, the drive, the fumble, and now the bump. On Saturday night, the Miami Heat played the Dallas Mavericks and after the game was out of reach, Lebron walked off the court, lowering his shoulder and bumped into his coach Erik Spoelstra. Now in real time, the bump looks like an accident with a guy just not seeing his coach as he walks to the bench. Then you watch the bump on YouTube in slow motion it looks as deliberate as the tough dude nudging the guy at the bar who is a little too close to his girl. This happens all the time. Your at a bar with your baby-doll and another guy is creeping up a little too close to her. The testosterone gets the best of you and you walk over and you give a bump with the shoulder. Translation: Hey there "guy" this is a warning and next time won't be so harmless if you get my drift." The argument that Lebron didn't see his coach a few feet in front of him is ludacris. So your telling me that a professional athlete with one of the best court visions in the NBA didn't see his coach while walking a straight line to his bench. I know coach Spoelstra isn't the biggest guy, but don't tell me that King James is able to weave a ball through five guys of traffic and thread the needle on a nightly basis but can't see his own coach two feet in front of him. What's really going on here? The answer is one word: frustration.

A report surfaced today that some un-named heat players are "frustrated" with the coach. They are saying they aren't able to be themselves and the coach is too hard on them. "He's jumping on them," one source said. "If anything, he's been too tough on them."

He might be tough on them because a team that was projected by many to win 70 games, is currently a game over 500 losing four of their last five. Expectations are through the roof and players seem to be bailing on the third year coach. There have already been rumors of possible coaching changes in the near future and even current Heat GM Pat Riley's name has been mentioned. Now, I don't think Riley is the answer. There are many flaws with the Heat that have nothing to do with the coach. Spoelstra is a defensive minded guy but the Heat don't play disciplined team defense. And, because of the lack of defensive effort, fast break chances (they have the best two fast break players in the league) are few and far between. You beat the Heat by making them a half court team and then it's just back and forth with Lebron and Wade settling for jump shots. The easy scape goat here is the coach. I'm not saying spoelstra is an elite coach. The NBA doesn't have many elite coaches to begin with; Doc Rivers, Phil Jackson, Greg Pop, Jerry Sloane and that's about it.

But, before you call for this mans job, at least let's reach the All-Star break. The problems with this team are extremely deep, unlike their bench. Their best "big guy" at 6'8, and there only defensive presence down low Udanis Haslem (the same height as point guard Lebron) is out for the next few months, while their best shooter Mike Miller who because of his three point shooting ability will spread out the floor for Lebron and Wade hasn't even played a game yet. The biggest problem, however in my opinion is what some analysts have been saying before Lebron even brought his talents to South Beach: Lebron James and Dwayne Wade are essentially the same player  Both players need the ball to make things happen and when they don't have it, lethargy and stagnancy sets in. They've spent their whole careers with the ball in their hands the majority of the time. Individually, they are the best at what they do which is attack the paint and get to the line with the occasional 15 foot jump shot sprinkled in. Lebron and Wade aren't just physically gifted on the basketball court, but they both have very high basketball IQ's and they will adapt. But, it will take more than seventeen games to get it figured out. Changing coaches at this juncture doesn't solve this problem or the injuries or the lack of height on their front line. I'm not a doom and gloom guy. Remember Y2K guy who would walk around the office telling everyone the world was going to crash. I think everything turned out okay and I think the Heat will be okay in the long-run.

What the heat players need to realize is there's a reason why spoelstra is being hard on them. When you have "the decision", whether it was the right decision or not (most would say not), there are going to be unfair expectations. When $300 million dollars was cleared for three stars to play together expectations will be high. Then you have the U2 concert in July that I went to, oh wait that was the Miami Heat welcoming the super friends together with fireworks and a killer fog machine. That display would have made Lady Gaga proud. So, I'm sorry Heat players if practice gets a little intense but you did it to yourselves. Remember Lebron proclaiming winning not two not three not four not five not six not seven championships. You reap what you sew and right now the heat are slowing starting to unravel, one bump at a time.

Silver Lining: I've been pretty glum in this article about the future of the Miami Heat, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The Heat play in the eastern conference. This is the biggest reason why panic mode should not be setting in just yet. Besides Boston and Orlando in the east, there's not a legitimate team. Once Mike Miller and Haslem get back, the Heat can easily reel off a few wins in a row and be the third seed in the east. Now out west they would barely be knocking on the door of the playoffs right now. Luckily, the east is pretty terrible with Boston a legitimate contender and Orlando most likely having the #2 seed. I do believe that once Wade, Lebron and Bosh get a few more months under their belt of playing together they will learn how to play together. The three of them are just too good not to figure it out. They now have Erick Dampier to give them depth at the center position. Now do I think at that point they will be better than the Celtics and Lakers? No, but I do think they will be able to fight to be part of that elite club next year.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Do the Yankees really need Derek Jeter?

We're not even a month removed from the "misfit" San Fransisco Giants winning the World Series and the winter meetings have already become tense. There's plenty of big name players on the market from Texas Rangers ace Cliff Lee to Tampa Bay's Left fielder Carl Crawford. However, no free agent is getting more press right now than "Mr. Yankee" himself, shortstop Derek Jeter. On Sunday, Casey Close, Jeter's agent, told the New York Daily News that the Yankees' negotiating stance to this point has been "baffling."  Mr. Close, I know you  want a big fat commission check, but i think its your stance that is baffling.

The Bronx Bombers have offered Jeter, who will be 37 next season, a three year deal worth $45 million dollars. Not bad for being amidst the worst economy since the great depression and baseball ratings getting destroyed by Snooki and The Jersey Shore. I heard someone on a sports talk radio station the other day say, "Well he's been great for the Yankees for over a decade. He deserves a five year deal for $20 million per for his years of service". Has he not been compensated well for his service? Again, I'm a numbers guy. The numbers tell me Jeter has made $189 million dollars over the last ten years. If Jeter tests the waters of the open market, he will be lucky to get offered seven million a year from another club. I don't think Jeter wants to finish the career with the Baltimore Orioles. He wants to retire where he started, in those pinstripes.

I'm not a Jeter hater. Actually, he's been one of my favorites. Jeter's been a great player over a sustained period of time. He's been clutch in October, but you don't pay $20 million dollars for seven playoff games. His batting average this year was .270, the lowest since his rookie year in 1995. More importantly, his play in the field has gotten progressively worse. The shortstop position more than any other is about speed and agility. The older you get, the slower and less agile you become. Arguably the best four shortstops statically in the game right now are Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins, Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies, Jose Reyes, New York Mets, and Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox. Their average age is 27. While these players are stealing 30-40 bases, Jeter dropped this past season to 18. One of the dilemmas with Jeter is that he's not a power hitter. You can't move him to DH like you can with Alex Rodriguez when he's 40. Is Jeter willing to play outfield? Do you even want him there with athletic Curtis Granderson and young-with-tons of upside Brett Gardner out there?

I admire Derek Jeter for many reasons. Jeter has made monumental contributions to the Yankees organization with his play on the field and being a constant role model off. He's never been linked to steroids or performance enhancing drugs when many of our baseball hero's have fallen from grace. He doesn't get into trouble off the field and is gracious with the media. But, you can not pay someone retroactively for service he provided and was well compensated for in the past. Doing that just isn't good business. The Yankees might have deep pockets, but the idea of spending $22 million a year on a 37 year old shortstop who doesn't hit home runs is absurd. I've said this about other sports and baseball is no different. Baseball is a business and survives off of profit and smart decision making in the front offices. The argument is the Yankees are going to offer Cliff Lee a ridiculous amount of money. Yes, they are and it makes more sense. He's an ace pitcher in his prime who turns up the heat in the postseason.

 If you want to win in the post-season you need a stellar three man rotation. One ace and three other pedestrian pitchers, doesn't get it done. We just experienced "the year of the pitcher" and baseball proved that you need a solid three man rotation to win. Now that performance enhancing drugs aren't affecting the game, pitching is more vital to a teams success than ever in recent memory. It seemed like almost every night, pitchers were flame throwing perfect games or one hitters.

The Yankees don't know what's going to happen with ancient Andy Petite. He's 38 years old and mainly shuts down his arm until the playoffs. "But, what about Phil Hughes? Hughes won 18 games, he's a solid number two starter". I'm sorry, he's not. Put Hughes on any other team and he wins eight games. Pitching wins championships. We just saw it with the Giants a few weeks ago. They held the Phillies to .216 batting average in the NLCS. Then, they held the Rangers, who lived off their big bats and led the majors with a .276 average in the regular season to .190 average in the World Series. So, I don't buy the argument that the Yankees just throw money at players. They throw money at players they feel are the right ones to win. And, just because they overpaid for A.J. Burnett (who had a big part in their 2009 World Series win against the Phillies), does that mean they have to over pay for Jeter? The Yankee organization knows that Jeter won't get half of what he will if he stays with the them. The GM for the Yankees Brian Cashman said it best,

"There is nothing baffling about our position," Cashman told the New York Daily News ."We have been very honest and direct with them, not through the press. We feel our offer is appropriate and fair."

Again , I'm not knocking Derek Jeter. He's great in the locker room,a proven leader and winner. This is a what have you done for me lately world and his production is only going to deteriorate further next season.  He's been paid $189 million for his services and the Yankees offer of $15 million a year for 3 years is out of respect, not the value he brings to the field at this point in his career. I don't think Jeter wants to end his career off the grid. Players that are well-known with the Yankees and leave are forgotten. Hideki Matsui who won world series MVP and Johnny Damon were in the limelight playing for the Yankees and now have fallen off the map.  Derek needs the Yankees infinitely more than the Yankees need him. Fans won't stop coming to the game because Jeter isn't there. Fans would only stop coming if the Yankees lose and Jeter has no effect on that either way anymore. The Yankees can afford to bring one of rising star shortstops in and they would get more production out of the position and cost them less. I believe Jeter will be a Yankee, he just needs to sign on the dotted line.

It was announced yesterday that Joey Votto, first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds won the National League MVP award. At 26, he is one of the rising stars of the Majors and was a significant piece of making the Reds relevant for the first time in twenty years. Now, Joey made $500,000 this year. I know some lawyers and catering directors who make more than that. Derek Jeter with his $22 million dollar salary this past season made 45 times what Votto made and Jeter has never been a regular season MVP.

"We appreciate the contributions Derek has made to our organization and we have made it clear to them. Our primary focus is his on-the-field performance the last couple of years in conjunction with his age, and we have some concerns in that area that need to be addressed in a multi year deal going forward." This quote by the Yankee brass sums it all up. Remember, they still have to deal with the aging Posada, A-Rod, and Rivera.

We are in for some interesting off-seasons.

Monday, November 22, 2010

  The National Football League: Coaching is Key

There was a plethora of exciting NFL games over the weekend. We had the classic Brady vs. Manning matchup that lived up to the hype, big hits with the Eagles and Giants squaring off, and Brett Favre playing in his last meaningful game against his former Packers team. As great as these games were, no NFL game was more telling of the kind of league we have than the Raiders/Steelers game. I know, the game was a 35-3 domination where the Steelers were in control of every facet of the game. I realize that they rendered one of the leagues premier running attacks to non-existent. I understand that without all of the Steelers penalties the score would have been even more lopsided. On a scale of excitement, this game couldn't hold the attention of a hermit crab. However, this game optimizes the NFL in every way. I will explain.

The NFL, more than any other sports league is a coaching league and it was most evident with this Steelers/Raiders game. Let's rewind two weeks. The Raiders had just rallied to an overtime win against the division rival Kansas City Chiefs. At (5-4), the Raiders already had as many wins as they did all of last year. Everyone was proclaiming that the "Raider Mystic" was back. Then they have a bye week and get an extra week to prepare for the Steeler's. All the while, the Steelers come off a very emotionally draining loss on Sunday Night Football to the New England Patriots. Raiders Coach Tom Cable gets an extra week to prepare and not only does Coach Mike Tomlin's team win, but at no point during the 60 minutes was it even a game.

It all comes down to preparation. Mike Tomlin is 13-6 after a loss. He knows how to win after his team just suffered a defeat. Everyone was jumping on the Raiders band wagon last week. I didn't buy into the hype. Why? Because their front office isn't stable. You want to see a stable environment, look at the New England Patriots. Coach Belichick and owner Robert Craft have been as stable an organization as they come. Belichick is 15-4 after a bye week. Andy Reid is a perfect 12-0 after a bye week. Coincidence? The NFL is a coaching league.

Mike Tomlin is one of the top five coaches in the league because what defines you as a leader is how you respond in crisis. Tomlin responds after crisis with a 13-6 record. The numbers don't lie. Andy Reid and Bill Belichick are money when they get two weeks to prepare. Look at the two coaches that have been fired in recent weeks. First Cowboys coach Wade "made-of-cookie dough" Phillips. Today, Brad "can't control the locker-room" Childress was also sent packing. Phillips this season was (2-5) following a loss, while Childress was (1-3). The NFL has plenty of parody and adversity, its the nature of the game. The successful coaches are the ones who can go back to the drawing board and make the necessary adjustments to win the following week and after a bye. The NFL has 16 games, which means losing one game is always crisis mode. It's pivotal to respond positively the following week. This is why I'm not a buyer of the Raiders. I'm sorry Raider nation. You've won some games but the management from the owner down through the coach is unstable. You have the owner over paying for players and proclaiming JaMarcus Russell as the franchise's savior. He was released faster than you can say "Purple Drank".

Then there's Tom Cable's incident allegedly breaking the jaw of one of his coaches. Give me the management and coaches who are professional and handle adversity well. Look at the last decade of the NFL. The top franchises: Patriots, Steelers, Eagles, Colts. What do they have in common? The answer is strong leadership from the top to the bottom. The Patriots and the Eagles will get rid of a player when their 30. They want young, fresh players. They don't give 30 year old running backs five year deals. When production falls, the organization moves on. That's what a good business does and the NFL is a business after all. If a top salesperson at a company for ten years starts to have big drops consistently, a good company will get rid of him or her in for a newer model.

The Washington Redskins are a prime example of what not to do. The owner, Daniel Snyder spends $100 million on a fat, undisciplined defensive lineman who doesn't even want to play in their style of defense. The NFL is not a star league and its not a sexy league. You pay $100 million to Kobe Bryant because he brings championships and fans to the seats. It's a face league. One player can do that in the NBA, but the NFL is different. It takes everyone fulfilling their roles and great coaching to win consistently. So, I just don't buy the Raiders and Sunday against the Steelers just affirmed my feelings. It's not that the Raiders lost, but how they lost. They are known for their running attack and had two weeks to prepare. But when they faced an Elite coach in Mike Tomlin, they couldn't run the ball for their lives.

The NFL is a coaching league. Baseball and basketball is a players league. Joe Girardi takes over for Joe Torre and wins a title. He won because of the players they got in the off-season: C.C Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. Now he helped, but the players put the team over the hump. Skippers in baseball aren't as important as NFL coaches. You can win a world series title with great pitching and have an average manager, but try winning in the NFL with a great quarterback and an average head coach. It's being tried right now with the San Diego Chargers. You better be a smart and disciplined coach if you want to win in the NFL.

Friday, November 19, 2010



Is Greg Oden a bust?

We found out this week that Blazers center Greg Oden will undergo microfracture surgery on his left knee and miss the rest of the regular season. Since being the first pick of the 2007 draft ahead of one of the best players in the league, Kevin Durant, Oden has only played in a total of 82 games for his career, When he has been healthy very rarely, he's averaged 9.4 points and 7 rebounds per game. These are not number one pick numbers, but are they bust numbers for someone who played essentially a rookie season? I'm not sure. I do know that he will never be able to live up to being picked ahead of Durant who could win league's MVP this season. Perhaps getting away from the team that drafted him and taking a few years off to fully recover is what he needs. Oden can come back in two years, still young at 25 and have a solid eight year career. There's also the chance that his body will fail him again like it has three out of the last four seasons. Either way it's a sad tale. I know he has millions in the bank for riding the pine, but it's not his fault. Oden has never been questioned about his work ethic or not practicing hard. So calling him a bust seems a bit too soon. The word bust to me encompasses more than just someone who doesn't get to play because of injury. A bust is someone who doesn't care, doesn't practice, and doesn't get conditioned for his job. Oden did all of the right things, but his body failed him. Let's not cast him off as the latest Ryan Leaf or Sam Bowie. At least, not yet.

I'm a Gun Slinger, So?

Are the Chicago Bears for real?

I'm going to say it. The Chicago Bears are a fraud. I have nothing against the Bears. I love Chicago. The city is great. It's always an exciting place to visit. The Bears are 7-3 after last night's win against the Miami Dolphins. They shut out the Dolphins 16-0. Now the Dolphins have been on my list of borderline playoff teams all year. I thought they could go 10-6 this year. But, 10-6 with a first or second string quarterback. Last night, they played with Tyler Thigpen who hasn't thrown a pass since 2008. The Dolphins play-making receiver Brandon Marshall didn't play the second half. Are you really surprised they didn't put up any points yesterday? The Bears remaining schedule is brutal. They could easily lose the next three games. First they have to play the Eagles with the explosive Michael Vick and Desean Jackson combo, then to Detroit to face a strong defensive and Calvin Johnson, followed by Tom Brady and the Patriots. They could lose all three. This is one of those times when their record doesn't show who they really are. Their defense is playing very well, but is Cutler going to make mistakes that cost the game like he always does? Will running back Matt Forte be able to continue playing at a high level or fall off like he did last year? My prediction is 9-7. Maybe it will be enough for a wildcard slot, but let's not put them in the upper echelon of the NFC, please.

Now Eva really is a desperate housewife

Are celebrity and athletes relationship's doomed from the beginning?

This is my final thought of the week. First reported and then confirmed this week, the marriage of Eva Longoria of desperate housewives fame and San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker has ended. Longoria filled for divorce citing the traditional irreconcilable differences this week. We found out it's because for the second time in their marriage, Tony has been "sexting" women other than his wife. Eva let the first incident go in 2007, only a few months after their romantic marriage in Paris. It seems two strikes of "sexting" and your off of Wisteria Lane. Did I just use a desperate housewives reference? Anyway, it doesn't help that the "sexting" occured with Parker's former teammate Brent Barry's wife. Now, that must have been an interesting locker room when the two used to suit up for games. It's not just these two celeb and athlete combos that don't seem to last. Maybe it's the travel and long-distance. Or maybe in Jessica Simpson's case, when she was seen as bad luck when coming to watch Tony Romo and the Cowboys, they couldn't handle that kind of heat. Who knows. Below are some other celebrity and athlete casualties.

Enjoy the Football this weekend. See you all Monday.

1. Jessica Simpson and Tony Romo
2. Kim Kardashian and Reggie Bush
3. Kim Kardashian and Austin Miles
4. Madonna and Alex Rodriguez
5. Kate Hudson and Alex Rodriguez
6. Tyra Banks and Chris Webber
7. Cheryl Crow and Lance Armstrong
8. Brooke Shields and Andre Agassi
9. Bridget Moynahan and Tom Brady
10.Vanessa Williams and Rick Fox

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Michael Vick: A Story of Redemption

Clint Eastwood would be proud of the Hollywood script that reached its climax last night during Monday Night Football. This needs to become the next "The Blind Side" and let's get that guy Rob Brown from "The Express" to play Michael Vick and Coach Andy Reid to be played by Academy Award winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman. But, we need Hoffman to be the size he was in Along Came Polly for artistic integrity purposes.

I'm still amazed from last night, but I won't say I am shocked. I'm not shocked because Vick was drafted as the quarterback who was going to change the position as we knew it. It just took longer than we expected with major obstacles along the way. Here's a guy who was picked first overall from Virginia Tech and we all knew about his dynamic play-making ability with his legs. We knew he had a cannon even though he wasn't an accurate passer by NFL standards. In Atlanta, he was electrifying. I remember we had a Madden league in high school and students weren't allowed to draft him because it was considered an unfair advantage. Playing for the Falcons he made pro-bowls, was the highest paid player in the league, and graced the cover of Madden. But what did the critics always say? He's not accurate, he thinks to run before he thinks to pass. These were all fair and truthful assessments. Vick was always a dynamic player, but never an efficient quarterback. This is what is so mind-blowing now. Vick game has completely evolved since he was in Atlanta. He now looks to pass first, run second. Look at his eyes when he takes his three or five step drop. Vick's looking for his receivers and if there's nothing there, then he takes off.

His transformation is more remarkable when you look at what his life has been the last few years. Just 18 months ago, Vick was in federal prison for his involvement of the dog-fighting ring. Now what he did was indefensible and disgusting. As a dog owner and animal lover, I can't imagine how someone could hurt an animal. However, he paid his debt to society. He spent 23 months in jail, filing for bankruptcy in the process. All across this country, people get second chances. The crooks on wall street who destroyed families lives for generations get second chances. In some ways, that is what America is about. People get second chances and it's what they do with it that matters. No one will ever forget what Vick did and it will follow him forever.

That's why this is the ultimate redemption tale. Vick could have came back to the league angry and vengeful looking to prove he was the man from day one. That would have been the easy thing to do. Instead, he listened and learned. He learned the trade he thought he mastered in Atlanta. At 30 years old, this guy is maturing before our eyes both on the field and off.  Now he didn't get to this point by himself. It started with Tony Dungy, a superbowl winning coach, mentor, and spiritual guide for Vick. He put his reputation on the line visiting him in prison. Dungy helped shape the new Michael Vick and still talks with him on a weekly basis. And what about Coach Andy Reid.  You have to give Reid credit for risking his reputation and some of the Philadelphia fanbase who didn't want Vick to come to town. That gamble sure has paid off. Last, and most importantly is the former star quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles that Vick "Shellacked" last night. Donovan McNabb has known Michael Vick since he was a senior in high school. McNabb, like his coach, put his reputation at stake and embraced Vick, even pushing for him to be picked up.

Vick played mainly in wildcat formations a few snaps a game last season. He showed flashes of his old self, but not enough to think he could be playing like the MVP of the league as he is right now. And then his teammates last year vote for him to receive the Ed Block Award which is rewarded to role models of inspiration, sportsmanship, and courage. What a difference a strong organization and a strong leadership make.

The Eagles organization has been one of the best organizations of the decade. Stable owner and strong coaches is a big reason why Michael Vick has excelled beyond what we all thought was possible. Let's give credit to Coach Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg for teaching Vick the quarterback position. They taught it the right way and Vick has absorbed it beautifully. The Eagles offense isn't an easy one to master and Vick is owning it every week he steps onto the field.

Some sports talk show hosts are telling people to calm down. They are saying that it's only one game and to not get carried away. I'm sorry but it's hard not to get excited. What Vick is doing right now is re-defining the quarterback position. I watched the game last night and saw Redskins linebackers and defensive backs literally freeze when Vick dropped back. Is he going to run, pass, or scramble? They didn't know. You can't game plan against him. He's throwing the deep ball with efficiency, but is able to find the short pass and screen pass now as well. He finally trusts his arm along with those explosive feet.

Redzone Recap: Michael Vick drafted number one by Atlanta. He's dynamic, but not efficient as a passer. Dog-fighting ring and goes to jail for 23 months, losing all of his money in the process. He's rehabilitated with the help of mentor Coach Tony Dungy. Philadelphia gives him a chance when he's reinstated and he plays a few snaps, but nothing that impactful. He starts this year as the backup to the supposed future of the Eagles, Kevin Kolb. Kolb gets a concussion halfway through the first game of the season against the Packers after playing sub-par. Vick comes in and almost rallies the team to a comeback win. Vick is now the starter and plays brilliantly, but gets knocked out with a rib injury while rushing for a touchdown against the Redskins in week 4. Kolb comes back and is very solid in Vick's absence. Then, Vick comes back against the Colts and leads them to victory. Finally, last night. Arguably the best quarterback performance in a Monday Night game ever. He was 20/28 for 333 yards, throwing for four touchdowns. He ran for 80 more yards, rushing for two touchdowns. His passer rating was 150.7 and he leads the league with a passer rating of 115 for the season. His completion percentage is 63 percent compared to 54 percent for his career in Atlanta, and don't forget he hasn't thrown a pick yet.  The Eagles are 6-3, tied with the Giants for the NFC East lead and they are facing each other this weekend for sole possession of their division.

Wow. Let's get the popcorn ready.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Where's the Love? Boise State proves that Idaho is more than just Potatoes, but gets no respect

Located along the Boise River and nestled against foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Boise State University parallels many colleges in the Northwest. What seperates them apart in recent years besides their blue turf football field, is the team that stands on it. The Broncos haven't lost a game since 2008 and this year's team has brought back most of its starters from last year. The current BCS standings have Boise ranked #4 behind Oregon, Auburn, and TCU. Oregon and Auburn I get. In Auburn you have an SEC team and we all know the SEC is the best divison in college football with the hardest schedule. Oregon has been blowing out people all year and deserve the number one spot. TCU is where I have a problem. TCU has had a great year, an undefeated campaign up to this point, but they lost their top pass rusher from last year to NFL and their stregnth of schedule has to be questioned.

If Boise's schedule is suggested to be weaker than TCU, I would have to disagree. I would argue that Boise state's win over Virginia Tech was their biggest win of the year and Virginia Tech turned out to be a very solid team this season. I understand that TCU has beaten Utah who were ranked number 5 in the standings a few weeks back. Let's take the emotion out of it. That's what I am here to do each blog I post. I like to go with facts and truths. Emotions are for birthday parties and weddings. Sports is about what we see on the field and what the numbers say. The numbers tell me that Utah beat Pittsburgh at home by three points to open their season. Now, Pittsburgh came into the year ranked #15 in the country. Huge win right? Since that night, Pittsburgh has lost to Notre Dame, UConn, and a laugher to Miami. Pittsburgh is an average team this year in a very weak Big East conference. This past weekend, Utah lost 28-3 to a pedestrian 5-5 Notre Dame team.

Now TCU crushed Utah 47-7 and the sports world is proclaiming TCU as the third best team in the nation. Aren't we putting a little too much stock on what Utah has been all year. Utah has been a solid team, but never the 5th best team in the nation. TCU ran over them not due to their superiority, but Utah's lack of it. Boise's win over Virginia Tech is a bigger victory. After losing its first two games, one being to Boise, Virginia Tech has won eight in a row including against #23 NC state.

Now, I have a feeling that Auburn has a serious chance of being upset by Alabama this weekend on the road. There defense is suspect and Alabama, despite two losses always plays hard and will continue to do so under Coach Saban. If Auburn falls, the discussions will begin. TCU or Boise in the national championship? Both teams are great stories and both are not the typical college powerhouses that get to play for national championship glory. But, if this scenario happens and we are going off strength of schedule than its a clear choice to pick Boise State. Doing otherwise would just prove that the BCS is an absurd system run by computers instead of people.

That is a story for another day, Stay Tuned and thanks for reading....

Friday, May 7, 2010


Does Character matter? As long as their have been professional sports, there has been this question. Does an owner build a franchise with a player that has questionable character issues and tremendous natural ability or a player who is a role model for the community, but still needs to be groomed for the professional ranks. A pertinent example of this was a few weeks ago during the 2010 NFL Draft. Everybody knew the story about Tim Tebow; the national championships at Florida, the Heisman on his mantel. He’s done it all at the college level, but his mechanics and unorthodox style have always begged the question: Can Tim Tebow be a starting quarterback in the NFL. The coach of the Denver broncos Josh McDaniel’s thinks he can.
“With the 25th pick in the NFL draft, the Denver broncos select Tim Tebow, quarterback out of the university of Florida”. When Commissioner Roger Goodell said those words, the hundreds packed in at Madison square garden and the millions of viewers at home were stunned. More shocking than the Broncos picking Tim Tebow in the first round is that they already had Kyle Orten and newly acquired Brady Quinn from Cleveland. League sources said that Tebow was picked by the Broncos because of a fifteen minute meeting between McDaniel’s and the two-time national champion. What was said in McDaniel’s office we might never know, but what we do know is Tebow must have made one hell of an impression. An impression so mesmerizing that with two other quarterbacks already on his roster and defensive needs, the second year head coach went with a side-arm slingling, run-first, three to four year project. Coach McDaniel’s saw something you can’t teach; intangibles and character. Tebow possesses a willingness to do whatever it takes to get better.
Even with winning national championships and a Heisman trophy, Tebow is willing to admit he still has plenty of work to do to be a successful quarterback in the NFL. He’s humble and hungry to improve. Even when John Gruden grilled him on his playing style during a SportsCenter draft special, Tebow didn’t falter. He responded with yes sirs and did everything that was asked of him during Gruden’s drills. This display of respect alone showed how different a breed of football player this young man is and now people were starting to understand why McDaniel’s had to take Tebow. Today more than ever with twitter feeds and facebook, scandals of professional athletes no matter how small spread across the social media landscape like wildfire. Blemishes are almost expected for most athletes in the sports world. Blemishes don’t exist for Tebow. He hasn’t been corrupted by the money and fame that comes with the NFL job to this point and it doesn’t seem like that day will ever come to pass. He treats the NFL as an opportunity to give back.
Most avid sports fans watching the draft thought Jimmy Clausen’s name was going to be called on the first day of the draft and definitely ahead of Tim Tebow. As the first day of the draft came to an end, the quarterback from Florida went ahead of the one from Notre Dame. Clausen has plenty of talent, arguably a lot more than Tebow. He ran an offense at Notre Dame very similar to an NFL style. His numbers this past season, 28 touchdowns and 4 interceptions were unmatched in college football. So why did Clausen’s stock drop? Scouts said character issues. Clausen was projected by most to be a top ten pick in the draft. He went 48th.
On the field, Clausen didn’t always demonstrate leadership intangibles that a starting collegiate quarterback needs to possess and a few off the field incidents cost him. On June 23, 2007, Clausen was cited for illegal transportation of alcohol in South Bend, Indiana. He was driving someone who was of legal drinking age to a liquor store to buy alcohol. Then, on November 22, 2009, Clausen was involved in an altercation outside of a South Bend pub. It was reported that upon his departure, Clausen was punched in the face outside of the pub. A later report of this incident indicated that the other subject involved in this incident allegedly shoved Clausen's girlfriend. It was reported that Clausen then shoved the subject away prior to Clausen being punched. These altercations, seemingly small, cost Clausen life changing top ten pick money. He will have to start from the bottom up in the NFL, having to work everyday to improve his reputation and to become a leader in the eyes of the players and coaches in Carolina.
Character matters.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Kobe vs. Lebron: The Debate is Over

The debate is over. Well, at least for now. Kobe Bryant is the best basketball player in the world, Lebron is second. I have never seen an NBA season focused more on one player then it did this year. Lebron James was the talk of the season with his triple doubles, high scoring, and signature play: the chase-down block.

Lebron had a great year, an MVP year, leading his team to the best record in the NBA. However, Lebron’s season came to a screeching halt when the Boston Celtics came to town. The “old” Celtics who finished the season limping into the playoffs, beat the leagues best regular season team. Not only did Boston win the series, they won convincingly. James got his numbers, but make no mistake; the Celtics shut the superstar down. They caused the most physically gifted player in the world to loose his swagger.

Games 3 and 5 of the series, he looked lost. These pivotal series changing games, Lebron James seemed to mentally take the games off. His lackadaisical attitude trickled down to everyone else on the team. Lebron denied those allegations, but spectators in the stands and people watching at home could see it in his face. He seemed uncomfortable on a basketball court. Sure, the Celtics had resurgence and a deeper bench, but Lebron wasn't able to will his team to victory with a much younger and faster squad.

And then you have Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba. Lil Wayne made a rap song about him for a reason. Bryant’s hunger to win starts in training camp and isn't satisfied until he hoists the NBA trophy above his shoulders. I saw an interview recently of Kobe explaining how he got his different moves. He stole them. He’s taken the moves of Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, and many others making them his own. At 31, Kobe is still very much a student of basketball. No matter how many years he plays in the league, he is willing to learn.

Now here we are, June 8th. Bryant is again in the NBA finals, and again doing it without Shaq. Sure, Pau Gasol is a very solid player, but Kobe is the reason they are 3 games away from having their second consecutive parade in the downtown streets of sunny Los Angeles. Some criticized Kobe last year in the finals for being too nasty and gritting his teeth. It got the job done. It's passion and drive that makes him great. All NBA players have talent, but what elevates the select few to legend status is motivation.

Prominent sports writer Steven A. Smith said it best, “He’s the best player in the game, it’s just that simple. There’s nothing that Kobe can’t do. He will defend your best player, he will shoot from the perimeter. He will get all in your mug, he will do whatever it takes. He is the most complete basketball player in the game today, ball or not, and he has an assassin’s mentality.”

Tonight is game 3 in Boston. Some out there think since the Celtics won game 2 that they have momentum. I would feel that way too, if Kobe Bryant wasn’t going to be on the hardwood. He's fired-up. He's mad about his sub-stellar performance in game 2. He's mad that Lebron’s free-agency has overshadowed the finals. He's mad that people think he's lost a step. When Kobe is mad, he responds. Like Jordan, Kobe loves when the world doubts him. It becomes sweeter when he proves them wrong. And he will, starting with game 3 tonight.