Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Surprise Teams of 2004

I am going on vacation and won’t be back until the new year. Happy Holidays to all!! Have a safe one everyone.

Because of that….this will be my last journal entry for 7-10 days [I may be able to sneak on a computer and throw one up here sometime]. I’ve worked over the last 2 days to put some stuff on here to read.

Here is a look back at the surprising and disappointing teams in sports for 2004. And NO…I am not going to put the Boston Red Sox in there. Before the season…they were one of the favorites to win the World Series. All of this things surrounding their championship season made it so special.



DETROIT PISTONS. This team canned it’s coach and made a pretty risky mid-season deal to get, at times, volatile Rasheed Wallace. They didn’t win their division…but went into Indiana and stole the East from them. Of course, that was just to be the West’s red-headed stepchild. Well, Detroit thoroughly spanked the Lakers. Spanked them in LA [though the Lakers did fight back to win one] and really spanked them in Detroit. Where did they come from?? They snatched the trophy away from the West for the first time since Jordan sank that shot at the FT line in 1998.


TEXAS RANGERS. This was a team that lost Alex Rodriguez…yet won 89 games [18 more than last season] and were in the playoff hunt up until the final week.


UTAH UTES FOOTBALL. I know, they play in the Mountain West. So what. They blew out virtually everyone they played…including some BCS conference teams. They became the first non-BCS school to get into a BCS game. Their coach will be in Florida next year….but the program could still thrive.


XAVIER MUSKETEERS. They lost A-10 player of the year David West to the NBA. Yet, they surprised everyone by getting to the Elite 8 and nearly popping Duke for a shot at the Final Four.


TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING. Yeah…the Tampa Bay Lightning are Stanley Cup Champions. A hockey team in Tampa. A hockey team that sucked so bad for most of it’s existence. And they beat fellow surprise team Cal-gary to do it.


SAN DIEGO CHARGERS. How is this team the AFC West champ?? They drafted a QB that didn’t want to sign. But the guy that he was meant to replace is an All Pro. Their best receiver is a basketball player. And name a guy on defense….and one of them!


MIAMI HEAT. The pre-Shaq Heat. The team has been in shambles since Alonzo Mourning’s kidney problems started. He left for New Jersey and the Heat drafted Dwayne Wade. Suddenly the Heat were the #4 seed in the East….behind the Pistons. Pacers and Nets.



CHICAGO CUBS. They weren’t terrible disappointments…I mean, they did finish 89-73. However, they were supposed to be at least in the playoffs, right? Instead, you had Sammy sulking….players vs. announcers…and even Dusty Baker frustrated. Not to mention that they’ve inherited the Red Sox badge of total suffering franchise alone.


SEATTLE MARINERS. How did this team get this bad?? I know they had no pitching…but didn’t Seattle have enough mashers out there?? Ichiro broke a 80+ year record for hits and they still couldn’t score enough.


MIAMI DOLPHINS. Blame it on Ricky Williams. I do.


MIAMI HURRICANES. This was a team that was in two of the last three National Championship games. They were a top 5 pre-season pick. Yet, they lost to North Carolina…then Clemson, at home, the very next weekend. Yet, they still had a shot to win the ACC…but were knocked off, at home again, by Virginia Tech. Add to the fact that both Florida State and Louisville should have beaten them [both in Miami] and this could….could….be a 6-5 team.


DETROIT RED WINGS. The team won the President’s trophy for best regular season record. But, again, they came up short…getting smacked by Calgary. They did make a big trade for Robert Lang…Hasek’s return didn’t go smoothly as he and Cujo kept fighting [Legace turned out to be their top goalie]….Hull is now gone…and Stevie Y is hurt.


STANFORD CARDINAL HOOPS. They went thru the regular season with 1 loss….then lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament to Alabama. Great season cut short.


PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS AND UTAH JAZZ. Well, you can’t call them total disappointments. In fact, both teams made surprising runs for the playoffs. What was disappointing was to see their long playoff streaks come to an end. The Jazz missed the playoffs for the first time since 1983. The Blazers haven’t missed them since 1981. The longest current streak belongs, shakily, to the Lakers [10].

My NBA All Star Ballot



CENTER: Shaquille O’Neal [Heat]


He is the best center in the NBA. You could probably add up all of the other centers and they still wouldn’t equal one Shaq. And this is his worst season statistically. Yet he slimmed down and is deferring to Wade to benefit the team. Wait…he couldn’t do that with….oh never mind. The next guy….Ben Wallace.

FORWARDS: Grant Hill [Magic] and Emeka Okafor [Bobcats]


You say ‘what‘?? Yep…that’s my picks. Just look at the ballot and you’ll understand. Grant Hill is having an amazing comeback season…amazing enough that I’d vote for a Dookie and not a Carolina guy [Vince]. I picked Emeka Okafor because I don’t believe in Vince, Jermaine O’Neal has missed most of the season and there is no one else I feel comfortable voting for. Okafor is the leader for ROY and is playing his best ball for the expansion Bobcats. He is 3rd in boards…behind the two guys I picked for the West forwards…and he‘s the top dog in offensive boards. He’s had a double-double in each of his last 12 games. The next guy….Richard Jefferson.

GUARDS: Dwayne Wade [Heat] and LeBron James [Cavaliers]


Wade is 5th in the East in assists….LeBron James is 8th in the East. Both are having excellent sophomore seasons and both are legit MVP candidates. The next guy….Allen Iverson.


CENTER: Yao Ming [Rockets]


I looked for every reason not to pick Yao….but I couldn’t find one. Sure, Yao is soft and is inconsistent. But he’s the only Western center that could put up 30 points on you in a given night. I can’t see anyone else doing that. The next guy…Brad Miller.

FORWARDS: Kevin Garnett [Wolves] and Tim Duncan [Spurs]


Exact opposite of the East. You could select Dirk Nowitzki or Amare Stoudamire and you’d get no argument from me. But these two guys bring everything to the table. Defense, offense, rebounding and nice passers. They also win. And despite the great seasons by others, these guys are still doing their thing. The next guy….Dirk Nowitzki.

GUARDS: Kobe Bryant [Lakers] and Steve Nash [Suns]


Steve Nash leads the NBA in assists. Kobe is 2nd among Western players in assists….not to mention 2nd in the NBA in points per game. Nash is averaging 15.7 ppg and is the leader of a team that holds the top record in the NBA. Kobe is struggling to find a way to lift his team up.…but he’d doing fine with his game. The next guy….Ray Allen.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

People We Lost In 2004

While you are celebrating the holidays in the coming days….take time out to remember those lost. Some of us lost people in our lives…others know people with loved ones gone. Here are a few sports personalities that have passed in 2004.

PAT TILLMAN [ex-Arizona Cardinals DB]. Killed in combat on April 22. He left the Cardinals for US Army’s Ranger Regiment. He became the first NFL player killed in combat since Bob Kalsu in 1970. He was 27.

KEN CAMINITI [former NL MVP]. Played for the Astros, Padres, Rangers and Braves. Won the 1996 NL MVP. Admitted he used steroids…and lit the fire to the current steroid hunt. He did of an apparent drug overdose. He was 41.

COTTON FITZSIMMONS [NBA executive, coach and TV guy]. He’s won 832 games in his career…and was one of the most colorful guys in the NBA. He died of lung cancer at the age of 72.

OTTO GRAHAM [quarterback] One of the most successful QB in history. He led the Cleveland Browns to the Championship Game in each of his 10 seasons…winning 7. He has a career record of 105-17-4 and he never missed a game. He died of a heart condition at the age of 82.

TUG MCGRAW [pitcher]. Known to the younger generation as Tim McGraw’s dad. He was a pitcher on the 1969 Mets World Series champ team and the 1980 Phillies championship team. His strikeout of Willie Wilson clinched that 1980 title. He died of brain cancer. He was 59.

RALPH WILEY [author]. One of my favorite sportswriters. Always elegant…always thought provoking. He recently wrote for Sports Illustrated and worked on ESPN. He died of heart failure at the age of 52.

RAY BOONE [former major leaguer] Played for the Indians, Tigers, White Sox, A’s, Braves and Red Sox in his career. Father of Bob Boone and grandfather of Aaron and Brett Boone. He was 81.

BOB MURPHY [announcer]. Hall Of Famer broadcasted Mets games since the team’s birth in 1962. Died of lung cancer at the age of 79 a year after his retirement.

BRUCE EDWARDS [caddy]. Not just any caddy…he was Tom Watson’s caddy for 30 years. He suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, yet continued to caddy for Watson. In the 2003 US Open, Watson shot a 65 which brought one of the tear-jerking moments in sports. Edwards passed of ALS. He was 49.

JOHNNY KELLEY [runner]. Ran the Boston Marathon 61 times!!! He won it twice and had 7 second place finishes. He ran his final Boston Marathon in 1992 at the age of 84. He passed of natural causes. He was 97.

MARGE SCHOTT [owner]. Owner of the Reds from 1984-1999. She was the owner for Pete Rose’s 4192 hit, the 1990 World Series Championship and the team was pretty much competitive every year of Schott’s reign. Of course, her insensitive remarks got her suspended and her eccentric ways often got her in trouble in the “old boys network”. She was 75.

RUDY LARUSSO [Laker]. Five time All Star who helped lead the Lakers to the Finals three times [all losses to the Celtics]. He averaged 15.6 pts and 9.4 rbs for his career. He died at the age of 66 to Parkinson’s disease.

YINKA DARE [NBA Bust]. Dare was the Nets first round pick in 1994. Played just 4 seasons and recorded just 4 assists. He died of a heart condition on January 9. He was 32.

MARCO PANTANI [cyclist]. The last guy to win the Tour De France not named Lance Armstrong. He died of a cocaine overdose. He was 34.

DAVID RICKMAN [boxer]. He was knocked out in a March 27 fight in Savannah, GA. He had been a fighter for less than a year and was supposed to earn a mere $800 for the fight. He died two days after the fight, in which he was knocked unconscious in the ring. He was 29.

RICHARD JONES [Canisius hoops player] Collapsed and died during a workout with his team. He was 21.

DERNELL STENSON [outfielder]. Reds prospect was found murdered in Chandler, AZ where he was playing in the Arizona Fall League. He was shot and ran over in a carjacking. He was 25.

JOE GOLD [bodybuilder]. Founder of Gold’s Gym. He died at the age of 82.



Shaq called out Kobe on the halftime interview on Monday Night Football.  He called Kobe a "corvette" and himself a "brick wall" and used those analogies to describe what will happen if Kobe tries to rise on Shaq. 

Boom....Shaq Sumter.  The first shot has been fired...and as it has been all season long, Shaq fired it.  Kobe hasn't said anything yet...but the media is ready to dump on him.  ABC and the NBA have been waiting for this game all season well as Laker fans.  This is a "Laker Game"....and the Miami Heat just happen to be the team Shaq plays for.  It is all about Lakers, performed by Lakers and written from the Laker Soap Opera.  Everyone in LA will spend their Christmas afternoon glued to the TV to see if Kobe can beat Shaq's team.  Everyone else will watch to see if they get in a fight.

And, remember, Phil Jackson will be on the ABC telecast of this game...imparting his "wisdom" of how great these two guys are, how great His Lakers were and how he doesn't understand why Kobe doesn't like he and Shaq.  Why not bring in Rick Fox as sideline reporter and Derrick Fisher to get the locker room buzz??  The announcers will go on about the incidents of their we are all oblivious to them....and we will get to see images of Kobe and Shaq as Lakers and their successes and failures together.

As we watch these two go at each other...make faces when they score...flex when they get fouled....guys like Dwyane Wade and Lamar Odom will be determining who wins the game.  Odom will have a favorable matchup of Haslem and Allen to go against instead of those PFs the West throws at him.  Wade will be going against Atkins who hasn't shown an ability to stop anyone.  Eddie Jones will be busy fouling Kobe....and Mihm, Divac, Slava, etc will be fouling Shaq.  Someone without a "Bryant" or "O'Neal" on the back of their jersey will make this the time to make a name for themselves among people that aren't NBA die-hards.  But, who's is Shaq v Kobe. 

                                   2005 Chevrolet CorvettePrivate Residence

The winner will be the one that was right.  With a Miami is "see, you shouldn't have traded me!"  A Laker win brings "I don't need you anymore."  Of course, to us Laker fans...this is THE game for us in the season.  Shaq is back in the house he says he "built".  We want to see the shot of Shaq during a timeout, on the bench sweating...looking up at the scoreboard...mouth wide open panting for air....while the Lakers are high fiving on the sideline, crowd is rocking to some music and cheerleaders, in their Santa hats, dancing and smiling away. 

Merry Freaking Christmas to Us!!!!

FROM JOHNNYSEEThe Lakers, for perhaps one of the few times this season, are in the drivers' seat when it comes to the importance of this game, which is only as important as the Lakers want it to be.  It's one of the few luxuries being the underdog guarantees.  You can't really wring all that much suspense from a game nobody expects you to win, and certainly nobody - with the possible (although hardly probable) exception of Kobe Bryant - expects the Lakers to beat the Heat on Christmas Day.

Shaq can say whatever he wants, it's no more important to the Heat than the game before it or the one that follows.  Neither, in any realistic sense, is it any more important than any other game for the Lakers.  And it's nowhere near the importance the media is trying to place on it.

But... if the Lakers win... well, then, the game's importance - realistically or not - skyrockets and we'll all be hearing words like "building block" and "turning point" and "statement" and "revenge" and even (abeit somewhat absurdly) "rivalry." 

It's all up to the Lakers.


‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house
Pacer fans planned their beverages for Pistons they’d douse
The league, with its ruler, the Emperor Stern
Was holding its breath, in the hopes players learn
From the year-long suspension and the revenue lost
No feel-good endorsements might soon be the cost
While over in Staples, a quieter place
The jumbotron waited to feature Shaq’s face
Would they cheer him or boo him when tomorrow he entered
Now as Miami's center (some would call him self-centered)
The fans were home waiting for tomorrow’s great thrill
Of watching young Kobe throw one down in Shaq’s grill
Did you see that takeoff?  Did you see that lift?
Oh thank you, Saint Bryant, for the great Christmas gift
And say thanks for the Lakers, when you sit down to eat
Your fine Christmas dinner, after they beat the Heat.


From KtmDog:  At the risk of sounding like Spaceman Bill Walton, the game will have little to do with X's and O's and everything to do with will, determination, committment to dominate. In effect the game will suggest a moral stance and standing. I look for Kobe and the Lakers to dominate.


From ENDORA:  That's it. This isn't just one game of 82; this one has a point to be made. Were the Lakers right to trade Shaq out and put Kobe in charge or was Shaq right to leave when he saw the Keys being handed to Kobe? The Heat are doing well enough; Kobe and the Lakers will comeout and play this one hard. I think that determination will carry them to win.


From KEYGRIP:  I have no predictions at all. The Lakers are too jeckle and hyde to know. But I do know for a fact I'll hate the way the media covers the whole thing.


From RICHCBT:  I agree with Johnny that Kobe's going to set the nets on fire on Saturday, more than likely.  It's just the way he's wired.  Shaq will come charging out of the gate, and if I'm Rudy I pull Mihm after ONE foul, not two.  Let Shaq wear himself out in the first half scoring on Brian Grant, and keep Mihm fresh to outhustle Shaq up and down the court in the second.  I see Kobe shooting lots of treys in the first three quarters, and not forcing too much into the middle unless they are silly enough not to run another man at him when he's isolated.  Shaq obviously can't come out on Kobe, or else he gets called for stupid reach in fouls.  In the second half, Kobe starts to take over, penetrating and, at first, dishing to Mihm.  He waits for his opening, but it's probably going to come late.  That's when Shaq picks up his flagrant, and after that Kobe gets his cherished stuff, suitable for poster-size framing, over the Big Bicoastal. The Lakers win by outscoring the Heat 32-19 in the 4th, 14 of them by Kobe.



The old saying goes….there are 32 NFL teams, and 28 of them have QB controversies.

Not quite precise…but not that far off the mark. There will be a ton of teams that need to assess their QB situations in the off season. And some will be in the playoffs.


PEYTON MANNING. About the best job security in the NFL is in Indy.

DAUNTE CULPEPPER. If it wasn’t for Peyton, we’d all be up Vikes QB Daunte’s butt.

TOM BRADY. Heck, this guy has won 2 Super Bowl MVPs for New England.

DONOVAN MCNABB. Well, he’s going to have to play great to get the Eagles into the Super Bowl. No Owens anymore.

BEN ROETHLESBERGER. The guy isn’t perfect, nor is he the most talented QB. But, he refused to let the Steelers lose…and rarely puts them in a situation to. Sounds like the guy I just named.

MIKE VICK. He’s still not the most talented QB as far as passing. He has only 13 TD passes and 12 picks. But, he is the most exciting player in the NFL and sells tickets, shoes and whatever else. He is Mr. Falcon.

JAKE DELHOMME. He led the Panthers to an improbable Super Bowl appearance and has his team in the playoff race when you took away his top WR and top two RB this year. He has a never was as the back [Goines] and a rookie [Colbert] and Muhammad as his targets. Brilliant!

BYRON LEFTWICH. Did you watch that Jags game against the Packers?? Wow. What heart!

ELI MANNING. Yeah, he hasn’t played very well…but that isn’t all his fault. He’ll be fine and has no worries about losing his job. Not at least for a while. Of course, what to they do with Warner??

TRENT GREEN. Despite the Chiefs poor season…it isn’t all Green’s fault. With less-than-stellar receivers….he still gets the job done. With all the QB issues in the NFL, the Chiefs need to stay put. He trails only Manning and Brees in the AFC for QB rating.


MATT HASSELBECK. He’s playing very well. It isn’t his fault the receivers can’t catch, Alexander can’t hold on to the ball and the defense sucks. But, he is a Holmgren guy….and if Holmgren gets canned, Hasselback could be elsewhere as well.

MARC BULGER. He’s in the same position as Hasselbeck. He runs the Rams offense better than anyone else right now. But, if Martz gets hacked….he may be hacked as well.

CHAD PENNINGTON. He’s their man…but seems to have a ton of injury issues. Also, the team needs to look at an adequate back-up for him.

CARSON PALMER. He’s the guy…Kitna is gone. In what was a controversial move, the Bengals decided to start Palmer from Day 1. That isn’t a bad thing…since they’ve stuck with him the whole season. He’s made some great improvements….and made some major errors. But, the only way to correct those errors is to work them out. Looks to be a solid top pick.

DAVID CARR. He has only 14 TD for the Texans….and 12 picks.

KYLE BOLLER. He’s more Dilfer than Manning. With a sub-par Jamal Lewis this year….he has the Ravens in pretty much the same spot as last year. And Billick seems to like him.


STEVE MCNAIR/BILLY VOLEK. Not that McNair is in trouble of keeping his job….but he isn’t sure that the injuries are worth staying in the game. He has bounced in and out of the lineup all year…and has permanently been on the “questionable list”. Billy Volek has looked pretty good…and the Titans have planned for this scenario. Still, they’d be losing the co-MVP of two years ago.

BRETT FAVRE. No he isn’t going anywhere else…but he is a year-to-year proposition for the Packers now. And they have nothing in the tank behind him.

AARON BROOKS. Who else do the Saints have? He is 7th in the NFL in passing yards.

JAKE PLUMMER. What is this guy?? He can single-handedly bring the Broncos from behind to win….or from ahead to lose. For every nice play he makes…he pulls off a dumb one. NINETEEN picks! Coaching ain’t as easy without a John Elway.

DREW BREES. This is the most interesting problem to have. Drew Brees is a candidate for MVP also-ran behind Manning. But, he is a free agent and the Chargers “drafted” Philip Rivers to be their guy. They have publicly said they want Brees back…but will he re-sign when he knows he will have to look over his shoulder? And will Rivers whine because he’s not getting his shot?

JOEY HARRINGTON. There were talks of benching him.…then he throws 361 yards and gave the Lions a shot at winning the game. He has all the tools…but something is holding him back. It doesn’t help that everyone around him is injured. He may have to fight for his job in training camp.

DREW BLEDSOE/JP LOSMAN. What if Losman was healthy?? Where would the Bills be now? Who knows…but Bledsoe does have them in contention, even if it is in spite of him. Losman is their future…but when does Buffalo decide when the future starts?

KERRY COLLINS. I can’t see Rich Gannon being able to play again….but if he does, it may be to backup Collins. Collins is a Norv Turner type QB who can sling it. However, it can also drop it hold it to long, side-arm it and throw it to the other team. But, he’s probably going to be the starter next season as well.


JOSH MCCOWN. He had Arizona winning when he was benched. Replacements King and Navarre lost their games. McCown comes back, and they win again. Denny Green…take a hint!!!

TIM RATTAY. Rattay can fling it. But, he is injury prone and is giving Ken Dorsey a chance to steal his job. And Erickson may not be around to make that decision.

JEFF GARCIA. Who knew that the San Francisco breakup of Garcia and Owens would result in Garcia being the bad teammate? In a season that started so promising at 3-3, they’ve lost 8 straight and no one seems to have a guaranteed job next year. Kelly Holcomb?? No. Luke McCown?? Not right now. Paging Tim Couch.

PATRICK RAMSEY. Decisions. Obviously Mark Brunell can’t bring it anymore. The Skins gave him WAY more time [and $$$] than they should have to prove it. Ramsey, who was killed last year is Spurrier’s system, can make plays and the offense actually moves. However, he has made plays that have absolutely killed the Skins chances to win. Just look at the Eagle game.

BRIAN GREISE. Who knows what Tampa will do. They’ve peeved Johnson off so much that I doubt he’d play for them again. Chris Simms is the future…but he’s start lasted about a quarter. Griese has played well since inserted as the starter [#3 in the NFC in QB rating]…but this was a guy the Dolphins let walk.

JAY FIEDLER/AJ FEELY. What to do here?? It is tough to know what they have…since the offensive line didn’t give them a chance to perform and the defense knows that Ricky Williams isn’t back their running. Feely will most likely stick, especially with this win against the Patriots on Monday Night.

DA BEARS. One would think that Rex Grossman would still be their top guy. He did have the team play well and win some surprising games during his time. His injury showed that Chicago isn’t much without him.

DALLAS COWBOYS. I’m expecting Troy Aikman to come down from the booth to take snaps. The QB situation is a huge issue…something Boys fans aren’t used to. Vinny’s best days were 7 years ago. Drew Henson’s better days were fielding grounders. So that leaves Tony Romo. Yeah. They’ll be going after Drew Brees pretty hard, I think.


KURT WARNER. The Giants began the Eli Era so Warner, who played well, is on his way out. He threw for over 2000 yards and 6 TD [Barber was hot then]….with only 4 picks. His QB rating is better than Leftwich. He may be a guy that Dallas may look at acquiring.

JOHN KITNA. As 2003 proved…Kitna can lead a team. The Bengals were nothing….and Kitna did all of the right things to get them to 8-8. He is an excellent teammate and never toots his own horn. And if he was the starter this year, the Bengals may be 8-6 instead of 6-8.


MATT LEINART [USC]. He could be the top QB taken in the draft. And with a team like Miami, Cleveland, Washington and Dallas picking high…the Heisman winner could be headed there.

AARON RODGERS [Cal]. He will be #2.…or #1...of the QB’s taken. Solid guy with solid arm. I can see him in burgundy and gold.

ANDREW WALTER [Arizona State], KYLE ORTON [Purdue], CHARLIE FRYE [Akron] and JASON CAMPBELL [Auburn] all could be first or second rounders. And you never know…one of these guys could be the next Big Ben.


All of these guys below started at QB for NFL teams this past week.  Can you name them?? [Answers below]






Chad Hutchinson...Bears
Chris Chandler...Rams
Ken Dorsey...Niners
Jon Kitna...Bengals
Kyle Boller...Ravens
AJ Feeley...Dolphins
Billy Volek...Ttians
Luke McCown...Browns