Friday, July 30, 2004

Child Of The 80s

This past Monday, I turned the ripe ol’ age of 29. And it is funny that people ask me if I feel old. Well, no. Turning 29 doesn’t make me feel old. Balding makes me feel old. And the hair that does grow seems to be turning a lot lighter than it used to be. The fact that I can’t play sports anymore because the aches and pains don’t go away for a loooooong time makes me feel old.

But 29 isn’t old to me. My wife is almost exactly 6 months younger than me….so we pretty much have the same timeline of past experiences. Most of my friends are in their mid-30s. People I talk to on the computer are mainly 10-20 years older than me. So, I still feel sprite, thank you very much!!

So, being 29.…then I am a child of the 80s. And my sports heroes were players of the 80s. Magic Johnson. James Worthy. Eric Davis. Art Monk. Laugh all you want…but I had a Dexter Manley poster in my bedroom. And, no, I doubt he could have read his name on there.

When I learned how to play basketball….I copied Magic Johnson. I loved making those sweet passes. In football, I wanted to be John Riggins on offense and Darrell Green on defense. My batting stance in baseball was patterned after Dale Murphy on the right side and Will Clark on the left.

When I grew up…I assumed there were no gray road baseball uniforms. They were powder blue. I mean…why was that?? Why gray from 1900-1980.…then blue in the 80s…and then gray ever since? The Phillies, Cardinals, Jays, Expos, Braves, Brewers, Royals and Mariners all sported that look. The cookie cutter stadiums. Atlanta, Cincinnati and Houston in the NL West….and St. Louis and Chicago in the NL East.

The NHL was merely 21 teams…and only FIVE didn’t make the playoffs. And those Stanley Cup playoff had division foes battle the first two rounds. I still don’t understand why they were the Smythe, Patrick, Adams and Norris divisions.

There were teams called the Bullets, Oilers, Whalers, Nordiques, Jets and North Stars. There were California Angels, Baltimore Colts, LA Rams, LA Raiders, St. Louis Cardinals football, St. John’s Redmen and Oakland A’s.

I remembered that the Yankees used to suck. The Celtics used to be great. I remember the Bluebonnet and All American Bowls. NBA players wore those tiny shorts….and MJ wore necklaces. Final Fours used to be held in arenas….not solely in domes. I remember that the Cubs, Red Sox and Tigers didn’t have player names on the uniforms. Boxing used to be on ABC…not PPV. The Orange Bowl was actually played in the Orange Bowl. I watched the Baseball Bunch with Johnny Bench and the San Diego Chicken every Saturday. This Week In Baseball [with Mel Allen] was THE show.

I remember when NFL and MLB teams shared stadiums…and NFL teams had to play in dirt in September. Fulton County, Jack Murphy, Riverfront, The Vet, Astrodome, Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, Three Rivers, Anaheim and the Kingdome. Arizona was a sports wasteland. Florida State, Miami and Penn State were all football independents.

Yet, I still feel young. I don’t really remember a world without ESPN. I never knew the Brooklyn Dodgers or New York Giants. I never saw Hank Aaron play. As far as I know….he’s always had the home run record. There never was an AFL or ABA to me. I first knew Joe Namath, OJ Simpson and Bill Russell as sportscasters. I never saw a Vikings home game played outdoors. The Jets and Giants have pretty much always shared a stadium together. The “New Orleans Jazz” sounds funnier to me than the “Utah Jazz”. There has always been the DH and playoffs in baseball. I never really knew an NBA without the 3-point arc. The NIT has NEVER meant anything to me. There was a Pac-8 conference???

Cutting Down The Nets

A buddy of mine, YCSJ, and I have been discussing this over the summer….and now seems to be a great time to discuss it publicly. What in the world are the New Jersey Nets doing??

I don’t understand it one bit.

Since the team merged into the NBA in 1976, they’ve pretty much been 2nd [or 3rd] class citizens. You could count on them for some ugly uniforms, half-empty arena, and a playoff berth every now and then. They have one of the dumbest nicknames in sports history….and it rhymes with the Jets and Mets!!!! They had never won a playoff series……and were known more for having tie-dye uniforms than for anyone wearing them. Oh yeah, they also drafted Yinka Dare.

Well, Jason Kidd’s arrival a few years back made this Jersey team into something. Eastern Conference Champions to be exact. Twice. In a row. Think about it. The 2003 Nets almost took the Spurs to a Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Now they are a broken franchise once again with little hope of getting back out of it.

They took a gamble and signed Alonzo Mourning. The gamble didn’t pay off at all….as Zo’s kidneys became a problem again. To make room for Zo, they waived Dikembe Mutombo….but that doesn’t mean they still don’t have to pay him. Then, a dangerous precedent was set when the Nets fired head coach Byron Scott mid season. Upon the promotion of Lawrence Frank to the head job…a quote was uttered “this is a guy we can play hard for”. So….you weren’t for Scott??

Also, the franchise will soon be in new hands….Brett Ratner. Ratner wants out of the swamp and in Brooklyn….which isn’t a bad idea. But he also wants to cut down payroll. Ugh….never a popular comment.

So, this off season has been horrid. They basically let Kenyon Martin…an All Star….go for basically peanuts. That set off a firestorm of people that were peeved…including Jason Kidd. All summer long we’ve heard about a deal that sends Kerry Kittles and his fat, final year, contract to Portland for Shareef Abdur-Rahim and his fat, final year, contract. I guess Ratner nixed that…and decided to sent Kittles to the Clipps for a future 2nd round pick. A SECOND ROUND PICK!?!?!? Soon, Richard Jefferson will need to get paid….and signs point to these moves are to free up money for that. But, do you really think that (a) Jefferson will even want to be there or (b) they’d pay him huge cheese and not Martin??

The sad thing is that the NBA is designed so this kind of stuff doesn’t happen. You have a luxury tax, salary cap and salary floor. It is designed to let teams now keep their young rising stars….or at least get something of value if they go elsewhere. Well…the Nets struck out on both accounts. Not only that…but now no one has any belief in the Nets or their new ownership.

The one positive for them is that they play in a division of broken franchises. Are the Celtics completely cursed?? Well, as long as Danny Ainge is calling the shots…..yes. The Raptors will be in St. Louis in a few years….and are rumored to be shipping Vince-anity to the Hornets for native son Jamaal Magliore. The Knicks are working day and night to get Jamaal Crawford for crying out loud. And no one wants to play with Iverson and the Sixers. So the Nets still run that division….for now.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Sportz' NFL Preview

AFC EAST CHAMP: New England. They are the defending champs and look much stronger than last year with a better-than-average RB in Corey Dillon. Everyone else in the division has too many question marks, especially the team that would have been the Pats’ biggest challenger….Miami.  The Jets and Bills have question marks.

AFC NORTH CHAMP: Baltimore. The Ravens could win the division with a 9-7 record. There is no “great’ team in this division. Cincy may again give the Ravens the toughest push….but they’re counting on basically a rookie to do that.  Watch out for Pittsburgh! 

AFC SOUTH CHAMP: Indianapolis. The Colts are just a little bit better than the Titans in my book. Their defense needs to tighten up for them to be Super Bowl bound, however.  Jacksonville has got some talent on offense and have worked on getting their defense better.  Houston should take another step up.

AFC WEST CHAMP: This is tough…but I’ll stay with KC. Denver’s defense is much improved, but their receiving corp isn’t a good as it was a year ago…..and Portis isn’t there anymore either. At least KC has enough on offense to slug it out with teams to make up for their iffy defense.   Ya never know about Da Raidahs. 

NFC EAST CHAMP: Philly. The Eagles are just on a different level than everyone else. They have good coaching [which every team in the division does], experience, and now a playmaker at receiver. If McNabb can avoid a slump…they should win this division fairly easily. Everyone else has too many questions…especially at the QB spot.  The Skins most likely are the biggest hurdle....but that team may need a year to get Gibbs offensive system down.  The Giants will be starting Eli and Dallas may end up giving Henson the nod.

NFC NORTH CHAMP: Minnesota. Yet, you can’t discount Green Bay. But, if Minny can figure out how to not cave in after Halloween…they’ll be alright. Remember, it did take a miracle play to keep them out of the playoffs to begin with. They have Culpepper and Moss to go with a nice stable of backs.  The Pack do have Favre and Green.....and the Lions are many people's sleeper pick.  The Bears could surprise as well.

NFC SOUTH CHAMP: So tough. I’ll pick Carolina. Why? Well, Atlanta’s defense is horrible…but they do have Vick. T-Bay is turning into Oakland…and they lost Sapp and Lynch. N’Awlins should be there…but lack leadership. Carolina is mentally tough, experienced, and still hail the best defense in the NFC.  Carolina pretty much kept their entire NFC Championship team intact.  And now John Fox has confidence in Delhomme's passing ability that he may elect to open it up a little to take the burden off of Davis...who wore down as the season went along. 

NFC WEST CHAMP: Seattle. That offense has weapons….and their defense is just good enough to keep the Rams at bay. Hasselbeck, Robinson, Jackson and Alexander are scary together.  They should only need to worry about the Rams....but we obviously saw how much faith Martz has in Marc Bulger by not letting him pass in the playoffs.  There should be no worry about the Cards and Niners.

AFC SURPRISE TEAM: Jacksonville. If Fred Taylor can stay healthy and Byron Leftwich can build on last year’s lessons as quietly having one of the best rookie QB seasons ever….this team has talent all over the field to get the job done. They do have a rather tough schedule though. 

NFC SURPRISE TEAM: New Orleans. If Aaron Brooks can cut down on the fumbles…they could win the division and go far in the playoffs. McAllister is a stud! If Joe Horn keeps his mind on making the plays and not the celebrations afterwards….this season could be a treat for the Bayou Boys.

AFC DISAPPOINTMENT: Cincinnati. I’m not sold on Rudi Johnson as their #1 back. And the decision to start Carson Palmer this year reeks of upper management.   Also, people downplay how well the Steelers could play with a healthy [and trying to keep his job] Maddox and Duce Staley as the featured back.  Cincy does have weapons....but their offensive core hasn't played together yet. 

NFC DISAPPOINTMENT: Tampa Bay. With Sapp gone…so are the single blocking schemes for McFarland. And with Lynch gone….so is the fear of receivers going over the middle. Brad Johnson has shown the ability to get himself removed from places after having great seasons. Griese and Simms are sitting there waiting for a shot to take his job. McCardell is holding out….and Galloway is the new Keyshawn.

AFC’S WORST TEAM: San Diego. I wanna say Miami with the Ricky Williams retirement…but their defense is still solid. San Diego isn’t. Their receivers are horrible and they will most likely start either a rookie or a 46 yr old at QB. At least they have Tomlinson who may be the best back in the league.  

NFC’S WORST TEAM: San Francisco. And why did they fire Mariucci?? This mighty franchise has now fired a great coach, cut their Pro Bowl QB [Garcia] and dealt their All Pro wide out [Owens]. Salary cap problems have bitten them on the backside…and they are one of those franchises that NO ONE will take mercy on when playing them.  They were a 7-9 team that lost a bunch of guys...and only got 3 guys in return.  They have young QBs and younger WRs.  And, yes...Arizona will be better than them. 

FIRST COACH FIRED: Dave Wannestadt. He held onto his job by a thread in the off season…and with Ricky Williams quitting….he seems to have had the tread already cut. The franchise under minded him by hiring Dan Marino as the main guy…then him quitting due to the flack everyone was getting for the hiring. Dave was relieved of his office duties to concentrate on coaching….so he has no excuses. Also, keep an eye in N’Awlins for Jim Haslett’s noose.

WHO WILL BE IN JACKSONVILLE IN FEBRUARY: New England v Philly. Philly couldn’t possibly lose 4 NFC Title games in a row…..could they? The Pats are just too strong and smart to get past a game Colts team.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The Bar Room Games

*It is a month away from the Athens Games…and after taking a look at our USA Basketball squad, I’m not impressed. Well, I should say…I’m not interested. I’ll be watching water polo and Greco-Roman wrestling than this team made up of some great players and many very good players.

*Speaking of the “Dream Team’….if the NBA guys don’t want to go….here is my brilliant idea of who should go: Those Street ballers!!! Why the heck not??? Who wouldn’t want to see Bone Collector breaking some Serb’s ankles?? These teams pretty much just barnstorm all year long until The Rucker’s Entertainers Classic starts up in the summer. So why not pick a team and have them play a year…enter them into the Rucker as a team….and then send them to the Olympics??

*Congrats to Lance Armstrong! That is one heck of a feat….6 consecutive Tour de France’s.

*Which brings me to this….with all of the steroid rumors flying about….why does the public give Lance Armstrong to benefit of the doubt, but not Barry Bonds, Marion Jones or Tim Montgomery??

*Speaking of Bonds….the fact that he is just 73 HR away from breaking Hank Aaron’s record is mind boggling to me.

*Is Florida the sports Mecca now?? The Florida Marlins beat the Mighty Yankees in the World Series; the Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup; Shaq leaves LA to join the Miami Heat; and now all of the Ricky Williams debates.

*Is it me…or do the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds play each other every day??

*I heard on the radio that there is some sort of online petition that would pressure the American Gaming Sports Blah Blah Blah something into making Poker a “sport”. What? Apparently, checkers, chess and backgammon are all already recognized.

*So, if that passes…will that be the new trend in sports?? We have the Olympics. We have the Winter Olympics. We have the X Games. We have the Great Outdoor Games. Will we soon have the Parlor and Bar Room Games!?!?! Not totally a bad idea. You can have billiards, ping pong, darts, poker, chess, checkers, that mini shuffleboard game with the salt on the table, air hockey, dominoes, craps and keno.

*Then what is next?? The Great Backyard Games like dodge ball, stickball, bike races, Smear The Queer, Pickle and Frisbee??

Is Ricky Williams Selfish??

Was Ricky Williams’ retirement a selfish act? In my mind, no.

Was his retirement inconsiderate? Oh definitely!

Look, I know Ricky Williams is a weird guy. The man held news conferences while wearing his Saints helmet. His is in the realm of Dennis Rodman, Bison Dele or Mark Fidrych in that he does not fit the norm as far as athletes go. And he has every right to retire for whatever reasons he wishes.

But to “retire” the weekend before training camps start is just inconsiderate to the Miami Dolphins organization, the players, the ticket holders and the fans. Ricky Williams retiring from Miami is like if Peyton Manning retired from the Colts tomorrow. Or if Tim Duncan retired from the Spurs.

And for what? He hated football?? Well, wouldn’t you have hated it more….I dunno….when the season ended!?!? Why in July do you decide you hate football? Maybe he hated “drug tests”?

He screwed over the Dolphins nicely. Not only did it jolt the team before training camp….but there really isn’t much they can do about it now. Had Ricky made his feeling known earlier…Miami could have planned for it. Maybe if he retired before the draft….Miami could have selected one of the plethora of backs available. If he retired sometime in the spring…maybe Miami could have been the one to pry Corey Dillion out of Cincinnati instead of their rival Patriots. Heck, if he retired last week, they might have been about to land Eddie George. Now they have Travis Minor and front office guys glued to the waiver wire. Oh yeah…and if Wannestadt’s job wasn’t being held onto by a thread already…….

And in all of that, he screwed over his teammates. I mean, Ricky Williams WAS the Miami offense. Everything was built on that. Well, throw that plan out. So, Williams pretty much just wasted these people’s year. This was a team that was playoff-caliber and possibly AFC East championship caliber. They aren’t anymore. And, like I said, the Phins can’t do anything about it. So his team will go undermanned. He quit on them.

Worst of all, he screwed over the fans. Open up anything media related about the Miami Dolphins…and Ricky Williams was the guy pictured. He was the guy on the media guides…the ticket forms…and his jersey is the one Dolphin jersey you could find anywhere in the USA. He was the star. And fans bought tickets to see (a) Ricky Williams play and (b) to see the Dolphins be successful. Well, (a) won’t happen and (b) may get thrown out the window with it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah….there have been others to retire early. NFL running greats Barry Sanders and Jim Brown are two glaring examples. As are Sandy Kofax and Rocky Maricano. But all of them had achieved greatness in their careers before retiring. Williams has not. It is similar to when former Viking Robert Smith retired from the NFL. But Smith retired in the spring and as a free agent. So Minnesota wasn’t left totally off guard.

But Miami is….and that is a hard pill to swallow.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

The NFL's Young Arms Race

At least one will become great. At least one will bomb.

So it goes for the young QB class of the 2004 season.

This season could mark the changing of the guard at the quarterback position. You have the #1 overall pick, Eli Manning, possibly starting over former MVP Kurt Warner for the New York Football Giants. Last year’s #1 overall pick, Carson Palmer, will be starting for the Cincinnati Bengals despite not taking a snap last year. Phillip Rivers should take away Drew Brees job in San Diego. Ben Rothlesberger is waiting in Tommy Maddox’s shadow. If Bledsoe has a bad start….Losman could get a shot. Quincy Carter is a few bad decisions away from backing up Drew Henson in Dallas. AJ Feeley, who’s only started in a few games 2 years ago….is the starter in Miami. Rex Grossman played well in the final 3 games of last season….so he’ll get to start in his second season in Chicago.

Not to mention youngsters Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich, David Carr, Kyle Boller, Chad Pennington, Michael Vick, Kyle Boller, Patrick Ramsey and Tim Rattay. Heck, Jake Delhomme went from NFLEurope to the Panthers bench to almost Super Bowl MVP.

Really, there isn’t too many senior citizens heading up NFL clubs this year. I mentioned Bledsoe earlier. You got Brett Favre in Green Bay….but who knows how long he’ll stick around. Brad Johnson may be on his last starting shot in Tampa with Brian Greise as his backup and Ryan Simms as the future.

There are still some excellent quarterbacks in their prime. Peyton Manning, Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper and Tom Brady to name some.

Just take a gander of the QB’s taken in the 1st round since 1998. Peyton Manning, Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb have panned out greatly. There are failures with Tim Couch, Cade McNown, Akili Smith and, of course, Ryan Leaf. The jury is still out on Chad Pennington, Byron Leftwich, Carson Palmer, Joey Harrington, David Carr, Rex Grossman, Quincy Carter and Patrick Ramsey.

Yeah…it is a crap shoot. But what makes it even more of a tough gig is the fact that coaches are under so much fire to (a) develop these young, expensive, talents and (b) win while doing that. These owners have seen NFLEurope guys like Brad Johnson, Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme get to the Super Bowl 4 times and grab 2 rings.. They’ve seen a 6th round pick, Tom Brady, win two Super Bowls. So leashes become shorter and hooks come quicker. Just look in Cincinnati where John Kitna got the Bengals sooo close to winning their division…..yet gets benched so their #1 overall pick gets to play. I mean, what coach has outstanding job security?? Billichek…yes. Parcells…well, Jones did fire Jimmy Johnson after winning two Super Bowls. Possibly Gibbs and Vermeil for their past deeds and popularity among their fanbases. John Fox has bought himself a few more years in Charlotte. Aside from that…everyone’s head is on the block. So they will do anything to get their team that spark to win. Including throwing a rookie into the fire.

Welcome to the NFL, guys….now get in there and get us to the Super Bowl.


Barry Larkin....Hall Of Fame?

Is Barry Larkin a Hall Of Famer.


Well….he has a National League MVP award, 11 All Star appearances [with his latest one at the age of 40], 3 gold gloves [which should have been more] and a World Series ring. He is the best and most loved Cincinnati Red over the past 25 years. He has been the leader of a franchise thru some of it’s most trying times.

But, numbers wise, he is just shy of 200 home runs, 1000 RBI, 400 stolen bases and is just short of a .300 lifetime batting average. He played his entire career in a small market. Also, in his entire time in Cincinnati….he only went to 2 postseasons and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting twice.

And though he is well loved in Cincinnati….he never really has been the “Face Of The Franchise” outside of Cincy. It has been Eric Davis…..or Chris Sabo….or Jose Rijo….or Ken Griffey, Jr. There have been huge coaching names like Lou Pinella, Davey Johnson, Tony Perez, Ray Knight and Bob Boone. Not to mention the huge clouds of Pete Rose and Marge Schott lurking overhead.

And the biggest obstacle is the fact that he was a hybrid of the generations he linked. He was an excellent defensive shortstop….but not as good as the names he came in with: Ozzie Smith, Gary Templeton, Shawn Dunston and Tony Fernandez. He was a very good hitting shortstop….but not as good as the names of today: Nomar, Jeter and A-Rod. Actually, you could compare Larkin’s numbers to Rich Aurilia and they’d look pretty much the same. And Aurilia isn’t a HOFer. Cal Ripken, Jr. was the same type of player as Larkin…..but Larkin doesn’t have “The Streak” to put him into Cooperstown.

Look at the names of the living shortstops in the Hall Of Fame. Luis Apricio, Ernie Banks, Phil Rizzuto, Ozzie Smith and Robin Yount. I’m sure many voters couldn’t really see Barry Larkin’s name alongside those greats. Just look at guys like Alan Trammel not getting over the hump.

The sad reality is that Larkin won’t make it to the Hall Of Fame….and that is a shame. For a period in the early to mid-90s….he was the best shortstop in the National League.  And he has been my favorite baseball player of my lifetime. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

I Like This Laker Roster

First....let's just take the "keeping Shaq" is out of this discussion.

But I like this roster the Lakers have assembled. 

No.  They don't scare as much as the Shaq/Kobe combo did.  Nor is this team proven yet.  Think about it....the only [contributing] Lakers left from those championship years are Kobe, George and Fox....and who knows how long Fox will be around.  So this, to state the obvious, is a completely new era in Laker Land. 

But look at the differences in this team.  The Shaq-led Lakers was primarily an inside-out team that asked for shooters around Shaq to make shots.  With the state of the team's was hard to find guys who could do that.  Fish didn't have his greatest year....and Rush and George were too erratic to stay on the floor to help.  Horry was gone...and Payton was never known as being a great shooter.  So you relied on Shaq dominating....which he didn't as easily....and Kobe creating.  Creating.  Another sore spot.  If things got one but Kobe and GP could create their own shot. 

So look at this squad.  Again, not as scary...not as dominant.  But they are sort of deep and flexible.  If Karl Malone have Odom, Malone, Divac, Grant, Cook and possibly Slava as your bigs.  Yeah...there is some age in there...but if they can get Slava to shore up what he is doing....they have a pretty good rotation to bang with if needed.  No...there isn't much scoring there outside of Odom...but those guys all can get and make shots [read: jumpers] which could open up the floor for the slashers. 

The slashers.  The perception is that with Shaq gone...Kobe will see nothing but double-teams.  That is true in a sense....but he was seeing that anyways.  Opponents basically sagged of the other players to try to keep Kobe from getting to the rack.  They weren't concerned with anyone else.  At least with, possibly, a rejuvenated athletic Butler and the multi-dimentional Odom out will be hard for double teams to come and defensive rotations could break down.  Meaning.....all an opposing small forward had to do is just keep an eye on George or Fox but basically guard Kobe from afar.  Now....if that SF keeps his eye on Kobe too much....Butler or Odom can attack that.  It is something we haven't had here in a while......speed.  So, if needed, this team can be a running team and get back into games that way.

And, I know....Johnny [for Board Members] is right.  Adding Vlade does slow the team down some.  But, it retrospect....that is okay.  It won't stop the team from fast-breaking.....Vlade is excellent at rebounding and getting the outlet pass out there and the break started.   That gets GP excited and at his strength.  It gets Kobe, Caron and Lamar out there.  And, it also keeps this team from OVERRUNNING....[read: the Mavs].  If running all of time worked....then where are Cuban's rings?? 

And, aside from Malone....I still think that the team is still looking to add one more [albeit minor] piece.  I'm thinking a veteran point guard since Fisher left.  Possibly Fox retiring or an outright buyout and spot on the coaching staff or office.  And it remains to be seen how strong this team can be......

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

AFC West Preview

The AFC West has 2 legit Super Bowl contenders who also could fail this year. But with a bad Charger team and an old Raider squad…the Broncos and Chiefs should be the only ones fighting for the division crown. You have two of the best RB in the NFL in this division….as well as some gun slinging quarterbacks. So this, again, should be an exciting season for this division.

There is no way in hell that Priest Holmes will have the season he did last year. 27 TDS!!! Absurd.  But getting 20 isn't all that bad either.  However, all of the pieces are in place for this team to repeat as AFC West Champions. But, to go any further, they need to get their defense shored up. It is abysmal. They lack depth and size. So you are sure to see more 40-34 games. Their offense is still solid. Trent Green is durable; Morton, Kennison and Hall are good receivers; and Gonzalez roams the middle and is the best TE in the game. They just better pray that opposing defenses can’t shut them down….or they could be in for an Oakland-type collapse.

I’d rate them a tad bit higher…but the loss of Clinton Portis will be big. Sure, the defense becomes much better…but the running attack, a staple for Shanahan, won’t be as easy to come by. But, you know Denver, someone will emerge. And that someone could be rookie Tatum Bell. They better get the running game going….so Plummer doesn’t have a chance to get knocked out of games. Their backup situation is iffy. And his targets are limited. Shannon Sharpe and Ed McCaffrey have retired and Rod Smith is 34. Ashley Lelie was a disappointment when he got the shot at starting last year. And this year will be even tougher. And all that lends to Plummer making mistakes. And the Broncos can’t have that if they want to make the playoffs.

This team has young talent and old stalwarts. However, this was a mutinous team last year that basically quit on its coach. The age comes in the offense…where Gannon will try to get his 2002 form back. But he may not get the opportunity if Kerry Collins takes his job in camp. Tim Brown and Jerry Rice are two of the greatest receivers ever…but last year they looked slow. It didn’t help that Jerry Porter, the future of the franchise, was injured. They will use a running back by committee to replace Garner who is now in Tampa with Gruden. Their defense is typical Raider defense. They should improve….but not enough to matter.

The sad thing about this franchise is what it could have been. Tomlinson is one the best, if not THE best, back in the NFL. The problem is that have no idea who they want to hand him the ball. Doug Flutie is NOT the future…so he shouldn’t get a look. Drew Brees may get one last shot at getting the starting job. If he fails…Schottie will bring out the hook and bring in stud QB Phillip Rivers….and he has pretty much no WR to throw it to. And, once you do that…then teams will pretty much be geared to stop LT. Their defense isn’t cohesive and their special teams specialist are unproven. So, LT will get his big yardage and the team may win 4 games.

Bobcats: It's Hot In Herre!!!

What is it with Charlotte and rappers?

Back in 1998, Percy Miller....better known to the masses as Master P.....joined the Charlotte Hornets summer leagues and got an invite to camp. 

Now it is 2004 and Master P is all but gone.  But, Nelly is here.  Nelly is now part owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.

That brings the ownership group to quite an eclectic mix.  The majority owner is Robert Johnson [the "Bob" in "Bobcats"] who made his money in media enterprises...maily BET.   Former Bank Of America CEO, and Mr. Charlotte, Hugh McColl is an owner.  Former Celtic ML Carr is an owner.  Felix Sabates of NASCAR fame is an owner.  Now, so is Nelly.

This ownership is huge in sports circles.  It is the first minority owned franchise in sports.  And having someone like Nelly as an owner....that should help to grab the younger demographic.  Ya know....selling merchandise.  He has also vowed to get involved in the Charlotte community.

But with the good....brings the bad.  Nelly has been the target of women's groups who feel his lyrics and videos degrade women.  And in the current NBA climate [read: Kobe's trial], that is something the league wants to stay away from. 

But if that gets smoothed out....then this should be a winning situation for everyone involved.  The Bobcats get another minority owner in the fold.  They will definitely get the opportunity to appeal to the younger masses [remember, P. Diddy was interested in buying the Knicks and Jay-Z was interesting in buying the Nets] and that is HUGE when trying to get respect and...pardon the old team's pun....the buzz to wear Bobcat gear.


Monday, July 19, 2004


The AFC North is a division of change. Every team could be starting new QB’s….and two of them have never played in the NFL. Carson Palmer gets the reigns in Cincy and, if Maddox fails, Ben Rothlesberger will get the nod in the Steel City. B-more’s defense still will make the Ravens fly high…but look out for the Bengals and Steelers, who for different reasons think they can supplant the champ.

The Ravens should win the division on defense alone. While their defense isn’t as dominant as it once was…it still is better than anything else in the division. And when you have QB issues on every team in the division, that makes your defense all the more stronger. The Ravens aren’t out of the woods when it comes to the QB either. Kyle Boller still hasn’t shown himself to be able to handle being the guy…but he is. Expect, again, a heavy dose of Jamal Lewis. He won’t gain 2,000 yards as he did last year…but he should still get over 1,500. That is if he isn’t strung up by his drug trafficking charges. If that does happen, this team could be doomed.

I think people are sleeping on this team. They aren’t elite…but they do have some nice parts. If Tommy Maddox can regain his 2002 form, he should keep his job for the year and keep Rothlesberger with a clipboard. He has Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress to throw to and new RB Duce Staley to run it. The O-Line is iffy and the defense has some holes. But if they get big years from those guys, they have the talent and the coaching to get them close to a division title.

Here, sadly, is the trendy pick. I still think they are at least one more year away. Remember, Carson Palmer didn’t take a snap all of last year…and he is the starter. But, if the season suddenly goes sour…expect Kitna to get his job back. There are weapons with a receiving corp of Chad Johnson, Peter Warrick and Kelly Washington. They moved locker room cancer Corey Dillion and made Rudi Johnson the featured back. If Johnson can duplicate and expand upon last year’s production….that would make Palmer’s job that much easier. Most QB’s struggle in the first year as starter, and that is why I’m placing them 3rd.

Their defense isn’t that good…and that is sad since they’ve used 2 of their 5 1st round picks for the line alone. Garcia at least gives the Browns a consistent QB who can scramble when the line breaks down….something Couch and Holcomb couldn’t do. Aside from that…this should be a transition year for Cleveland. Look for the movement of Suggs as the featured RB, Winslow to get involved in more of the offense and Quincy Morgan to supplant Dennis Northcutt for the #2 receiver spot when the season starts to get away from them. But, Garcia’s experience alone should keep that from happening until late in the season. Remember, he is by far the best QB in this division.

Athletes are NOT Overpaid

Are athletes overpaid??


Sure, getting paid $10M a year to play basketball hardly seems fair. I mean, after all, it isn’t as important as being a teacher, doctor, police officer, fireman, etc. But, to let you in on a little secret…..this is a free enterprise system we live in. Meaning, you are worth what people are willing to pay you. If someone was willing to give you a 7-year $130M contract to do what you are currently doing right now….would you take it?? Thought so.

In the sports world….it is all about money. Big money. And it is there. So why shouldn’t the players, who are the reasons people watch pro sports, get their share of that pie?? Should the team owners just pocket it and live even more lavishly. Like Chris Rock said….Shaq is rich, it is the guy who signs his check that is wealthy.

You can say that the rise in ticket prices are the reason the money is there. Well, yeah. And as long as people are buying those tickets….the prices will continue to rise. Again, in this free enterprise system…that is “supply and demand”. If you don’t like it….don’t go to the games. Don‘t buy merchandise. Then they won’t get your precious money. And if you get millions of other people to band along with you…..then maybe you’ll make a dent. We are the ones who spend $40 per ticket to go to a sporting event. Imagine if we paid $40 to ride in a cop car for 3 hours. Or if we paid $40 to sit in on a 7th grade Algebra class. Imagine the kind of money they’d be making if we all started doing that!! That won’t happen….because we rather pay that money to watch Kobe hit jumpers than Mrs. Ross teach the times tables.

And, if you dare bring up this argument….then go after all forms of entertainment. Does Tom Cruise deserve to make $25M per film?? I mean, for the most part, that isn’t as physically demanding as an athlete. And if Cruise screws up….he gets another take. If Barry Bonds strikes out, he doesn’t get a mulligan. But, yeah, pay the man his money. In theory….the guy in the “Don’t Drink And Drive” educational video should be the one making the $25M. After all, he’s the one trying to help save our lives. But we pay the $9 to go see Jim Carrey movies….or the $20 to buy the DVD. We pay the $15 for Brittany Spears’ CD so she can go marry who some dude in some alley in Vegas. “InThe Zone” can’t be noted as being one of mankind’s saviors either…but millions of preteens pay $50 a pop to watch her lip-sync live. You’ll go buy a “Friends” coffee mug for $20.…but won’t answer the phone when they are calling for donations to the policeman’s ball.

And after all of that….look at yourself. What do you do and what do you make? I’d be willing to be that your job isn’t as important as helping at a battered woman’s shelter or working at a nursing home. I’d also be willing to bet you make just as good, if not better, money than they do.

So…yes. When you buy that new Terrell Owens Philadelphia Eagle jersey….you pretty much just contributing to the “Owens’ 4th Escalade fund”. If that makes you feel bent…then go to the fire station and donate that money to them.

Friday, July 16, 2004


Let me start off by saying that this is a sad day for me.  I hated to see Shaquille O'Neal leave the Los Angeles Lakers.  He was my favorite Laker since James Worthy retired.  The Lakers were a decent team when he arrived.  But once he got to LA....he energized a franchise that was stuck in neutral.  And I'll never forget that.

A month ago....I pretty much thought that Rudy T would be the new coach once Phil was gone.  Shaq would be traded to Orlando.  Kobe would test the market and stay with the Lakers.  Payton would pick up his option.  I did think Karl would stay and Fisher wouldn't leave....but those moves are minor compared to "the big 3". 

No matter what.....the Lakers couldn't get equal value for Shaq.  Okay....maybe if they traded for Tim Duncan and Tony Parker....but really that isn't even the same.  There is only one Shaq.  They did get back, I guess, the best they could while still sending him out East.  Odom could develop into an All Star.  Grant will give you 8 and 6 a night.  Butler will most likely be dealt again. 

The whole shame in this is the fact that it came down to people not getting along.  Namely Shaq and Dr. Jerry Buss.  Where this stems from....I don't know?  But I do know that Shaq is also The Big Drama Queen.....and he has thin skin.  It happened in Orlando when Penny started getting a lot of the buzz.  It just happened in LA when the Lakers let it be known that they want Kobe to lead the team's next chapter of life.  And judging by his interview with ESPN....he did seem bitter and snappy.  Please, Shaq....if you think Kobe drove you out....just say it.

Yeah....maybe Kobe was the reason Shaq is gone too.  Maybe, just maybe, Kobe really didn't ever tell the Lakers that once Shaq goes he'll stay.  But the whole timing of everything suggests otherwise.  Shaq dealt one day....Kobe re-signs the next.  Brilliant.  That doesn't look like the ol' "ducks in a row" scenerio, does it? 

Alright.  So now it is a new day.  It looks like the lineup will be Payton, Kobe, Odom, Butler and Grant.  Possibly Vlade will be coming back to help out up front.  The bench still has Rush, Walton, Cook, George, Vujavic and Fox.  Not great....but okay. 

The Lakers, as it stands, will not be elite.  They will have to fight to make the playoffs.  And if they do....they shouldn't last too long.


SHAQ DEAL PART 2: The Eastern Conference

Does the balance of power switch back to the East??  No.

But there is now a new Sheriff in town.

The addition of Shaq to the Heat does add more pressure to  teams like the Pacers and Nets.  Not only do you need to dethrone the Pistons....but now you gotta get past Shaq to do it.  And just because Shaq is in the East doesn't make the East better....just one team.  Remember, during Jordan's last 3-peat...the East really wasn't that great either.  However, now Miami [who last year was a #4 seed] is easily a top 3 team in the East.  And they'll have the Big Mismatch.

And that leads to the fact that teams can actually structure themselves in a different way.  Do you know why that Ben Wallace is the All Star Starter in the East and that Jermaine O'Neal plays most of his time a the 5-spot???  Because they don't have to worry about having to lean of Shaquille for 40 minutes.  Now guys like Andrew DeClerq, Brendan Haywood, Jeff Foster, Joel Pryzbilla, Chris Mihm and the rest get a raise in their game action because they'll be called on the mangle with the beast.  And this will loom LARGE in the playoffs.  You gotta at least body up Shaq.  And guys who weren't used to getting primetime minutes will all of the sudden get them.  I mean, if you are Pacer-fan....would you like the fact that someone will lose minutes from your rotation because Jeff Foster's gotta be out there guarding Shaq a lot? 

This also puts life into the new Southeast Division.  That division looked bad.  The Wizards have talent and added Antawn Jamison.  But DC still has some big holes and question marks.  The Magic dealt T-Mac away for the 2001 Rockets.  You have the expansion Bobcats and, pretty much the expansion, Hawks.  Miami should run away with that division....and may lead to a #1 seed.  Or maybe not.  Remember, Shaq will have guys like Udonis Haslem and Rasual Butler sharing the frontcourt with him.  Not exactly Grant and Scott.  Heck, not even George and Medvedenko. 

SHAQ DEAL PT 3: The Western Conference

The Shaq deal will have a lasting effect on the entire Western Conference landscape as well.

First off, the playoff will be more interesting to watch in the the Hack-A-Shaq jobs will soon relocate to the East.  Guys like Ervin Johnson, Oliver Miller, Kelvin Cato [who is already over there], Dale Davis, etc all won't need to be here anymore.  Gone are the "well we have 18 fouls to use on him" comments during the Western playoffs [please, stop the "Lakers won't be there anyway" rants]. 

And that leads to the fact that teams can actually structure themselves in a different way. Now the West can have guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Zach Randolph, Amare Stoudamire, Tim Duncan, Paul Gasol and Elton Brand play center and not have to worry about sticking these foul machines out there every few weeks or so.  They just need to worry about Yao Ming......and that's a jump shooter.  The way teams are constructed will change.  Just look at the Sacramento Kings.  They are now going to let Vlade Divac....who did play pretty well against Shaq....walk away, possibly back to the Lakers.  Think about the huge load off of the Spurs shoulders it is that they won't have to deal with Shaq until possibly the Finals. 

Not to mention that this greatly hurts the Los Angeles Lakers.  Sure, Kobe is there with some new parts.....but without Shaq they are a completely different team.  They may/could/should still make the playoffs and make a run.  But no Shaq means less worries for these teams.

As Kings owner Sigfried Maloof put it: "I'm happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy!!!"

Sunday, July 11, 2004


It really isn't that difficult to make changes to the way the MLB All Star Game is selected.  It is just reorganizing what is taking place already.

First....what is the "All Star Game"??  Is it a game where the fans hook up their dream matchups?  I mean, what is better than having an outfield with Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr and Sammy Sosa???  Three guys who've hit over 500 HR in their career.  If it was based soley on first half merit....Sosa wouldn't be there.  If the All Star Game is for the fans....then let the fans have their say.  I mean, the only league where the fans have less of a say is in the NFL [where fans used to have NO say].  But that is called an "All Pro Game".  What a "pro" and a "star" are are too different things.  In tennis, Lindsay Davenport is a pro.  Anna Pornakova is a star.

But, there has always been fan travesties in the voting.  I will never deny that.  Was Cal Ripken Jr the best shortstop all those years in the 90s??  Probably not.  Or even Roberto Alomar?  Ozzie Smith??  All of that is up for debate.  Remember, Nomar Garciaparra led the voting for AL shortstop most of the spring and he hadn't played a game yet.  And add to that the Yankee connection.  Since the Yankees are the biggest thing going....of course their players will get more votes.  New York is by far the nations largest city.  If every citizen in the New York area voted for Jason Giambi as 1st baseman ONCE....then every citizen in Kansas City would have to vote Mike Sweeny 20 times to even equal that total.  And no one outside of KC would even think of voting for Sweeney.

So...let's do this instead.  Have the managers and players vote on who they think should represent the respective leagues in the All Star Game.  Then let the fans pick the starters.  Cool??

Pick a day for the players to vote on the best of the best.  On that day, each player will get their ONE ballot and whom they think is their starting 8 on each a few starting pitchers, long relief and closer.  From those ballots...comprise the 30 guys for each league's All Star roster.  If there needs to be the ol' "one guy from every team" rule....then do that.  There is your All Star team.  Have that ready in late June.  Then, let the fans vote from those players who starts that game.  Get rid of the "punch ballots" that are sooooo 1970s and 1980s.  With the internet around [which is how most of the fan voting takes place] it would be easier to compile the fans vote.  And for the fan that goes to the games....set up internet voting booths or kiosks around the ballpark. 

If you wanted to....put on that fan ballot the final 5-8 guys from each league that just missed the cut.....and let the fans vote 2 from each league to make the squad. 

That way....there shouldn't be 7 of the 32 players on the AL team be Yankees.  Think about it...7 are Yankees and you must allow 13 other players as the one allotted per team on the roster...and that left just 12 for doubles for other franchises.  This way...guys who deserve to be there will still be there...and fans get to vote who they want to see start. 

Sure.  That would probably keep Sammy Sosa out of Tuesday's game.  But, would also keep Jason Giambi out of it too. 

Don't Pencil Miami For NBA Finals

Yes....the Miami Heat were 4th in the Eastern Conference last season.  And, yes....adding Shaq to that mix would make them one of the elite teams in the NBA next season.

But don't go buying your Miami Heat 2005 NBA Finals tix yet.

Sure, Shaq can team up with Dwayne Wade and form the next "Dynamic Duo".  He had Penny in Orlando and Kobe in Los Angeles.  That added up to 5 NBA Finals appearances and 3 NBA Titles.  Of course, both ended very sour and led to Shaq's departure.

And those teams also had guys like Dennis Scott, Nick Anderson, Horace Grant, Derek Fisher and Robert Horry helping out.  As it stands, Miami has only Eddie Jones [who is know for disappearing in the playoffs], Udonis Haslem and Malik Allen as vets on this team.  Remember, they'll have to send Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and Caron Butler to the Lakers to get Shaq.  They also drafted Dorrell Wright, a high school kid, in the recent NBA Draft. 

Raefer "Skip To My Lou" Alston recently agreed to sign with the Toronto Raptors.  Alston was the Miami Heat's leading assist man last year.  So, as it stands, the 2004-5 Miami Heat starting lineup should be Shaq, Wade, Jones, Rasual Butler and Udonis Haslem.  It is unlikely that the Heat can add much more to that mix.  Eddie Jones makes more than Kobe Bryant did [that will change soon].  His $13M salary is unattractive for anyone else to take off Miami's hands.  And with Shaq already due to make $28M this year and $30M next will be hard to find any cap room at all.  Plus, the entire reason Shaq wanted out of LA was because they didn't want to pay him that kind of cheese in an extention....something Miami is probably agreeing to do.  And that is why the Lakers had to field an old, shallow team like they did last year.   No money to spend.   They'll have to build thru the draft....but they are sending a future 1st rounder to the Lakers as part of this deal.  And with Shaq in the East.....they won't be looking at too many high picks soon either.

Also remember that the Detroit Pistons MANHANDLED a Laker team that had both Shaq AND Kobe and better role players than the Miami Heat do now in the NBA Finals.  Also, the Indiana Pacers had the best record in the NBA last year.  Who knows what is in store for the New Jersey Nets?  Orlando now has Steve Francis and the #1 overall pick.  Don't get me wrong.  Miami will end up with one of the top 3 seeds in the East next year.  Hell, they may end up #1 overall.  I mean, they'll play in a division with the Orlando Magic [who just dealt away T-Mac], Atlanta Hawks [if they don't land K-Mart...they are screwed], Washington Wizards [who have talent], and the expansion Charlotte Bobcats.  Shaq will DOMINATE that division.  The other starting centers are Kelvin Cato, Brendan Haywood and Jahidi White. 

But, as was obvious in the NBA takes more than 35 pts and 20 rbs from Shaq to get past the best in the East.  And it will be hard for Miami to make improvements.  And that [get it folks!] is why this whole thing of Shaq leaving the Lakers came about.

Good luck Miami.

Lakers Finally Land Coach

Back from vacation. 

And maybe the 2004-2005 Lakers are finally taking shape. 

A big piece was FINALLY placed when the Lakers FINALLY officially named Rudy T as the new head coach.  This was the man that was first rumored to get the job when Phil Jackson left.  This was the man that was all but signed, sealed and delivered all week.  Here are a few of my takes over what the Lakers have been up to [or rumored to be up to] over the past week:

COACH K STAYING AT DOOK.  Fine with me.  As a UNC fan, I'd love to see a possible Dook crumbling with K's departure....but it is just as well to me if Roy Williams can ascend past Dook on Coach K's watch.  As a possible Laker me, it was VERY risky to have him as our coach.  He is unproven as a pro coach....and that means something with the lack of success that recent NCAA coaches have had making the leap.  The only thing that fit here was the greatness of the name on the marquee....but not much else.  Stay at Dook, Coach K.....just as Dean Smith stayed at Carolina.

SHAQ TO MIAMI.  I don't know about this deal.  Yes, it isn't a bad deal all things considered.  Shaq goes 3000 miles away to the Eastern Conference.  He goes to a team that has Eddie Jones and Dwayne Wade....but not much else.  We'd get Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and possibly a 1st rounder.  Well, Odom is a 15-10 guy who can handle the rock.  He'd be a nice player to have at the power forward spot.  Butler is a quick, athletic and tough guy who can come in at the SF.  Grant would "replace" Shaq at the center.  But, 10 days ago, we were all banking on a Shaq-for-Dirk, Nash and Walker deal.  None of the guys we are getting are in that class.  But, they all have bright futures and Odom is well on his way.  Another aspect that seems to be looming is the fact that this whole "trade" is going to go pretty slowly.  Possibly in an effort to give Cuban one last chance to throw up a real trade proposal.

THE 2004-2005 LAKER TEAM??  So, looking at the'd have Payton, Bryant, Grant, Odom and Butler as your starters and [maybe] Malone, Fisher, Rush and George as the main reserves.  I think they'd let Slava walk and develop Cook and Walton to get more minutes.  Vujavic [sp] may get some run....especially if some kind of deal sends Payton out of town.  Fox may retire due to a logjam for minutes at his position.  But, this team looks to be the exact opposite of the past few seasons of Laker hoops.  A more of a running team.  Not so much like Dallas or Sacto...but maybe like Memphis. 

RUDY T AS THE NEW COACH.  A great hire.  I'm not going to go into how great of a coach he know that.  But, from this personnel standpoint...he will let these Lakers get out more on the break.  He will let Kobe do much of what he wants.  Without a low-post presence, he won't demand, too much, of getting the ball inside....though Odom is capable of posting someone up.  I think Luke Walton could thrive.  Look what Matt Bullard did for those Rocket teams....and he's not half as basketball smart as Luke.  If Cook can block shots....he'll get lots of time.  If you prove you can contribure...he'll play you.  It will be a pleasant change from Phil Jackson...who didn't seem to know what his players were capable of during the playoffs.  But, realize that as much as Rudy tries to move around parts....he pretty much has a pretty short and set rotation when the playoffs roll around. 

Saturday, July 3, 2004


Tomorrow, I'll be on hiatus for a bi-annual vacation.  Last year at this time, on vacation, is when the news of Kobe Bryant's arrest broke out.  With all of this going on in LaLa Land.....forgive me for being a little apprehensive about current events. 

So I just wanted to wish everyone a safe and happy Independence Day.  Apparantly, I've left with two topics that are currently on the "hot list" [so to speak] on the AOL Sports Talk Home feel free to discuss.  I'll get back to them in a week.....and I'm sure to have more takes for you.


Friday, July 2, 2004

Coach K In Hollywood??

Oh God.

This is one of the worst feelings I have ever felt in my life.  The coach of the team I hate more than any team that has ever played organized sports may leave to coach the pro hoops team I love more than any other.   Coach K to the Lakers.  God.

So, I'll look at this from two sides.  Purple for my Laker for my Carolina side.

IF...and that is a big if....Coack K can command the respect from Shaq and the blessing from Kobe, who is to say that we don't all go back to normal?  Well, Laker normal.  I mean....we all know that with a coach Shaq loved and Kobe hated....we got 3 NBA Championships and 4 Finals appearances since 2000.   So what would happen if BOTH guys liked the coach!?!?!  But, that aside, college coaches don't fair too well in the NBA.   And Larry Brown doesn't count.  He was a pro coach that went into college.  But coaches who had equal success in the NCAA.......guys like Jerry Tarkanian and Rick Pitino.......failed.   But, one thing Coach K does teach very, very well is something the Lakers seem to lack greatly:  Teamwork and effort.  As much as I hate Dook....they are always prepared, team-oriented, hustling and constantly playing defense.  None of those items could be used for the recent Laker teams.

From a Tar Heel perspective......SEE YA!!!  Good bye!!  This would be a huge blow to our bitter rivals.  Yeah, they'll still be a top-flight program.....but without K, they may suffer some down time.  Remember the 1995 season, Dookies??   And who of his former players.....errrr....assistant coaches will take the reigns??  Amaker??  Maybe.  Snyder.  Uh, no way in hell.  Wojo, Collins or Capel??  Eh.  Any way they will be as big as the hit made when Coach Smith retired in Chapel Hill.  Yeah, Coach Gut had some success.....but with Coach Smith's leftovers.  Gut left a fussy Forte and not much else.  Doherty left with a footprint on his backside.  And Dook doesn't have the coaching pedigree that Carolina does [Moe, Karl, Brown, Williams, Fogler, Peterson].  I hope this hissy-fit he threw over guys leaving early pushes him over the edge.  After all....WE'VE BEEN DEALING WITH IT FOR 20 YEARS!!!!!  And we lost this one guy early.....uh....who was was.....MICHAEL JORDAN!!!  Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Antawn Jamison, Jeff McInnis and Vince Carter all left early off of pretty solid Heels teams. 

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Welcome, Miami and Virginia Tech!!!

Today is July 1st, 2004......and is officially the day the first domino falls.  Today, Miami-FL and Virginia Tech officially become members of the Atlantic Coast Conference.  On this day next year, Boston College will join them as the 12th member of this esteemed conference.

It is fitting that football season comes before hoops....since the reason these schools are here is due to their pigskin prowess.  Miami is a perennial power....while Tech brings a pretty good pedigree itself.  That, alone, may give the ACC a second program in the BCS....and more money to line those pockets.  And in 2005, we will see the inaguaral ACC Football Championship Game in either Charlotte or' money, mo' money, mo' money!!! 

Of course, when basketball season comes along....this love affair may sour a bit.  Miami has had its good years....but they aren't ACC ready.  Virginia Tech has been a doormat for the Big East in recent years....and weren't exactly lighting up the Metro or Atlantic-10 conferences before that.  Last year, the ACC was THE dominant conference...and looks to be the same this year.  Dook is Dook.  Carolina returns everyone and gets a 2nd year under Coach Roy.  Wake is always solid.  So is G-Tech, State, Maryland and even Virginia.  This could be a long year for the Hokies and Canes.

But, I remember Florida State's first ACC hoops game over 10 years ago.  At the Dean Dome.  The Noles won with Sam Cassell grinning ear-to-ear.  And that Carolina team was a championship team. 

But the real crying will be from ACC purists....which I have some ties here.  Gone are the days of playing everyone twice and having a "true" conference champion.  Now, certain teams you will only get to battle once a year.  Under the new plan, you will get to play 3 schools twice every year.....with the other 8 schools in a "2-game....1-game" rotation.  You'll play 4 schools once this year.....and 4 schools twice.  Then those schools rotate the next year.  Of course, this could get thrown out the window if the demand is the stick with the 16-game season. 

Anyway....the New ACC opens with a BANG on Labor Day.  Florida State at Miami.  We get this matchup every year.....but this time it is a conference game and a leg up on the National Championship picture.

Good luck to the Miami Hurricanes and Virginia Tech Hokies!!  And, again.....welcome.


If I were the "Ultimate Commissioner" and could do whatever I wanted to do in the world of sports....I'd leave my imprint on certain things.  Some things are just the "final solution" to age old nonsense.  Some are completely revamping of historical aspects of the sports. it goes.

*NCAA FOOTBALL PLAYOFF.  There.  It shall be done.  Why in the heck don't they have the playoff [and gimme an answer besides "bowl money" or "students"]?  Every other division does....and their kids have less of a chance to get into the NFL.  Here ya go:  Invite the champs of the ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, SEC and Pac-10 into the playoff.  Then, have 7 "at large teams" with at least 3 of them from conferences OTHER than the 5 previously mentioned.  12 teams.  4 weeks.  National Champion.

*JUST OPEN THE WHOLE NCAA TOURNAMENT UP.  Go back to the olden days.  I know....we all like the NCAA Tourny like it is.  Well, it is RIDICULOUS that a 7-9 team in the ACC can go to the dance when a team that had some fluke loss in their conference tournament gets denied [Utah State].  Just include all 320+ teams to the dance.  "Thats crazy!!" you say.  But, ahhhh....they technically DO have such a system by holding these conference tournys an allowing only the champion to advance to the Big Dance. 

*MAKE ALL NHL ICE SURFACES BIGGER.  Yeah, you'll lose some seats.  But, Mr. NHL're not filling up the seats at the top of the arena anyways!!  In all of sports, the athletes have become bigger, stronger and faster.  Yet, the playing surfaces stay the same.  In hockey, this really clogs up any kind of offensive manuvering and makes for a boring game.  Open it up and use the olympic sized rinks.

*CHANGE THE FOUL RULES IN HOOPS.  If you screw up in is an error.  In football, you get penalized and your mistake is broadcasted by the ref thru the loudspeaker.  In hockey you sit in the penalty box and your team is short a man.  Yet, in saves your butt from getting embarrased.  Fouling is a good thing.  If your man is going for a layup.....foul him so he has to shoot TWO SHOTS from 10 feet further out.  What inthe hell is that?!??!?  Do either one of these things:  (A) wherever you were get a free unobstructed shot from that spot or take the normal FT.  Or (B) give an extra FT.  If you were fouled on a dunk.....then let him shoot 3 FTs.  If he is fouled on a 3-pt shot.....he gets 4 FTs.  Why?  Then many of these punk fouls and Hack-A-Shaqs will stop.  The game has become a series of FTs that is broken up by turnovers and 3-pt shots.  This will free it up.  If someone is getting a layup....then a player is more apt to let him go than give up a possible 3 points. 

*ELIMINATE TIES IN EVERY SPORT.  Here is looking at you hockey with your "win-loss-tie-overtime loss" standings sheet!!!

*CHARGE PER ROUND IN BOXING.  Here is a novel idea.  Instead of charging me $55 to watch [first] two chicks fight, [then] two dudes fight that I've never heard of only to see a title fight that goes 2 rounds....just charge me for the rounds of boxing I DID SEE!  Also, how about letting the winner of the fight get the larger purse??  Do a 66%-33% split. 

Jack "Goosed" Givens

Jack Givens is one of my favorite NBA commentator.  When I purchased the NBA League Pass pacakage....I got to see Givens work the Orlando Magic games [as well as his work on TNT].  To me, he is one of the most informative, yet non-condesending announcers in hoops today.  He explains the action.....sets up what is happening...and gives you first-rate analysis to why certain things are going on. 

Then I read this from the Orlando Sentinel:

Popular Orlando Magic television commentator Jack "Goose" Givens was arrested late Monday on charges of sexual battery and lewd molestation of a 14-year-old girl, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said.

Givens, 47, was arrested about 11:30 p.m. Monday, said Cpl. Carlos Torres, a sheriff's spokesman. Givens is expected to go before a judge this morning for his first court appearance. He was being held on $25,000 bail.

The Sheriff's Office released few details about the incident late Monday but has scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. today.

Torres said Orange County sheriff's sex-crimes investigators went to Givens' home in Windermere on Monday with a search warrant and seized his computer.

Joel Glass, director of media relations for the Magic, would not comment on the arrest.

"We reserve comment until we know more specific details," he said.

Neither representatives from the Sunshine Network, which broadcasts Magic games, nor anyone in Givens' home could be reached for comment late Monday.

Torres said the girl reported that Givens assaulted her several times June 18 at her home. She contacted the Sheriff's Office on June 23 to report the incident.

"Givens came to the victim's home to assist her with her basketball game. The alleged assault(s) occurred after the basketball lesson," Torres said in a written statement.

Givens has been associated with the Magic since 1989. He previously was a celebrated University of Kentucky basketball player, once scoring 41 points versus Duke in the 1978 NCAA Tournament.

In 1978, Givens was the first-round draft choice of the Atlanta Hawks.

He has been an analyst for several television networks including Turner Sports, NBC and ESPN.

If all of this is is very disturbing.