Thursday, December 31, 2009

Remembering Those We Lost in 2009

Happy New Year everybody! I'm going to take one final look back at 2009 (I say that, but it may not be true). Of course, 2009 was a tough year for celebrities passing away. It also was a tough year for many athletes who left us.

The most troubling may have been Steve McNair. McNair was in that slot of very, very good but not great quarterback ... but he gave us lots of memories on the field. His death was quite tragic and left all us wondering who he really was.

Vernon Forrest was also gunned down as he was trying to stop someone from robbing him. Fellow former fighters Alexis Arguello and Arturo Gatti both committed suicide.

Just a few weeks ago, we lost Chris Henry when he was thrown from the back of a pickup truck. He was just 26. Jasper Howard, a 20-year old UConn cornerback, was stabbed to death trying to break up a fight.

It was a tough year for baseball when the Angels 22-year old pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed in a car accident just hours after pitching. Mark "The Bird" Fidrych was one of baseball's most interesting characters and quickest shining lights. Dom DiMaggio may have been most remembered for who his brother was, but he was a heck of a ballplayer himself. Harry Kalas' voice was silenced and Phillies games and NFL highlights haven't been the same.

Twins owner Carl Pohlad also passed away. So did Wizards and Capitals owner Abe Pollin and Pistons owner Bill Davidson. NC State women's basketball coach Kay Yow lost her battle with cancer in 2009. Miles Brand, who was president of the NCAA and the man who fired Bobby Knight at Indiana, died of pancreatic cancer.

February 26 was a tough day for Chicago Bulls fans as legendary broadcaster and coach Johnny "Red" Kerr and legendary player Norm Van Lear passed away on that day. The NBA also lost one of the nicest and most classy men when Wayman Tisdale died.

We also lost Jack Kemp, who trancended sports and became a politician and a vice presidential candidate.

We'll All Die If the NFL Doesn't Play in 2011

Enjoy this final week of the 2009 season because the NFL you knew and loved will never be the same.

Unless the league and players come to an agreement (which doesn't seem likely right now), the NFL will go back to an uncapped system. While no one is exactly sure how this will play out, it could ruin the league. Over the past two decades, the salary cap has kept every city's hopes alive that their team can win it all. You sucked this year? You could win the Super Bowl the next year. It shortened dynasties as well as created unlikely champions.

The NFL could look a lot like baseball soon. Rich teams like the Cowboys, Redskins, Texans, Patriots, Giants, Jets and Eagles could just buy up all the talent and dominate postseason berths (just like the Red Sox, Yankees, Angels and Phillies do in baseball) and lock the Bengals, Chiefs, Bills, Jaguars and Rams out of the playoffs. This could turn into a slippery slope.

But the real kicker could come in 2011 when the current deal expires. This could mean a lockout happens and the NFL will have it's first work stoppage since 1987. That would be horrible in a lot of ways:

-NO FOOTBALL SUCKS: The NFL has become a 12 month entity. After the Super Bowl comes the combines, then free agency, then the draft, then mini camps, then OTAs, then training camp, then the preseason, then the regular season starts. Football lives all year long. Back in 1987, there was no internet that we all followed every moment of our team. Having that out of our lives would sting ... especially if games were cancelled.

-FANTASY FOOTBALL HALTS: Back in 1987, only the nerdiest of people played fantasy football. Now it seems that everyone has at least one team ... usually more ... in some fantasy league somewhere. Imagine the impact on fantasy football if we weren't sure a season would be starting? When do you draft? Who knows since free agency could be delayed. How do you construct a season? We have to decide when they start playing again. Fantasy football has become a huge part of so many people's lives that I cannot even imagine not having it for a full season.

-A NEW NFL MAY NOT BE A BETTER NFL: The NFL of today seems unstoppable. Over the last three decades, it has emerged as America's Game. Yeah, baseball die-hards still think that their game is still the pasttime ... but no one brings in the passion like the NFL. Rich or poor root for their teams. Men or women live and die with their favorite teams. The league is the most diverse league that it fits everyone. A new NFL will most likely price out the poor folk (it's been doing that already), gouge the networks and may not guarantee equality among franchises. It also may not be a luxurious as before for players. Contracts could be made shorter, monies made smaller and the popular idea that an uncapped season equals the Cowboys acting like the Yankees and buying up everyone will fool everyone. Truth is that along with the uncapped season come a bunch of rules limiting a free for all on free agents. I'm telling you that these new rules that will come into effect with an uncapped season are quite daunting.

For one, unrestricted free agency will only be for guys with at least six years of NFL experience ... not the current four. That means guys like Brandon Marshall and Miles Austin won't be the free agents they thought they were going to be. Also, playoff teams will be limited to when they can start signing free agents. Add into the fact that an uncapped season would also mean a no minimum cap and teams could start tanking their payroll to embarrassing depths.

Then realize that the richest teams can easily withstand a work stoppage while the smaller market teams will beg to get back to games. Because of that, the big market teams can out-bluff the smaller guys and get what they want in the CBA ... which could cripple the smaller teams.

The thing is that we have no idea how this will play out and the nice, neat NFL we now know could all be gone in a short amount of time. I'm a Redskins fan and I know that all of this is actually good for my team. I just don't think it's good for the league.

Monday, December 28, 2009

My Meineke Car Care Bowl Experience

On Saturday, my wife and I attended the Meineke Car Care Bowl in my hometown of Charlotte, NC. My mom bought us the tickets for Christmas and we had a blast going.

Of course, I'm a huge UNC Tar Heels fan and was excited to see them play in person for the first time since the mid-1990s. That game was against NC State at Carter Finley Stadium. This one was against the tough Pittsburgh Panthers.

Getting to the game was fun. Instead of driving downtown, I used the newish LYNX system. It's a train that, as of now, services west Charlotte and takes you uptown. Since I've never really had a reason to ride it before, this was a nice opportunity to check it out. Both of us were really impressed and got to the stadium quickly and cheaply.

I've been to Bank Of America Stadium once before (Panthers-Bills game in 1998); this was my wife's first trip. The stadium was about 3/4 full with most of those in attendance being Tar Heel fans (though I was impressed with how many Pitt fans actually made it in). We got there really early because we didn't know what to expect with the transit system and the fact that I love being early to sporting events.

I won't go into the actual game since you can find that anywhere, but the viewing experience was unique. Unlike many sports fans, I'm not one who hoots and hollers all game long. I'm not big on getting to caught up into games early on. I love sports but I'm not built that way. I like sitting there and taking in what's actually going on. What trends are forming? Where seems to be the mismatches? It's because of this that I don't attend any Super Bowl parties. I want to sit there and watch the game.

Sitting next to my wife was an older gentleman that she described as "figgity". He just didn't seem able to get comfortable and the cool late afternoon air seemed to bother him. Next to me was a row of people from New Jersey. The loudest one just happened to sit next to me: a middle-aged woman who loved football. She knew a lot but that didn't stop her from saying stupid stuff all game long.

We had fun even though the Heels lost on a last minute field goal. It was fun being in the home crowd for the first time in a looooong time (well, I've been to plenty of Reds games in Cincinnati). Usually I'm rooting for the road team. I've seen tons of Lakers games but they were in either Charlotte or Atlanta. The Redskins games I've seen have been outside of the Washington area. Even the other Heels football game I watched over a decade ago was in the hated rival's stadium.

I had a great time. My wife had a great time. Spending time with her (even though she hates football) always makes for a perfect day.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A BCS Solution For the MWC and WAC Conferences

In the new year, we will get to see the undefeated TCU Horned Frogs take on the undefeated Boise State Broncos. With Texas, Alabama and Cincinnati also undefeated, there was no real way for either TCU or Boise State to get to the National Championship game.

That sucks!

I think that both the Mountain West Conference (which TCU is a member of) and the Western Athletic Conference (where Boise resides) have shown that they can produce conference champions capable of doing damage in the BCS. Of the "BCS Busters", the MWC has seen Utah win twice and Hawaii get blown off the field ... while the WAC has seen Boise beat Oklahoma in one of the most thrilling bowl games you'll ever see. These guys deserve a chance.

With conference championship games being the rage, why not stage a game between the champs of these two conferences? Why not have TCU battle Boise State for the right to get into a BCS bowl? Yeah, both are in the BCS this year but the fact that they haven't beaten anyone of note in months keeps them out of the national title picture.

We would all love to see TCU and Boise battle to see who the best in the west is and we know the winner will remain unbeaten. But how can these BCS busters prove their worth as a legit contender if you don't allow them to face the best of the best of the BCS conferences?

Why isn't TCU playing Florida? Why isn't Boise State playing Ohio State, Oregon or Cincinnati? Instead, the BCS people thumb their noses down at these two schools by forcing them to play each other. The winner of the game will get a BCS win ... but it will come with the comment that they did it against another non-BCS school. Unfair.

Imagine if Boise State and TCU faced off a couple of weeks ago in the "MWC-WAC Challenge" game. The loser may not have gotten into the BCS but the winner would have quite the resume to be taken seriously for a title berth. I mean, after TCU just bowled through the Mountain West and made them look bad, a win over Boise State would look really good to the bowl people.

I love the idea. Call it the "MWC-WAC Challenge" and hold the game in Las Vegas. That is pretty even for all members of both conferences (unless UNLV makes it there which would be a miracle) and exciting enough for fans of both schools to take a trip there. Plus there is history. Remember that the Mountain West Conference was formed when eight schools from the WAC left. From 1996 to 1998, the WAC held a conference title tilt ... and all three of those games were played in Vegas.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Looking Ahead to 2010 ...

With the end of 2009 just a week away, it's time to find out what to look forward to in the 2010 sports world. It will be an action packed year with a lot of big events happening.

-SUPER BOWL XLIV: The Super Bowl is the big moment of the sporting calendar. As of right now, we have no idea who will be in the game. However, it should have some doozy storylines. You could have the undefeated Colts in the game ... or the high octane Saints ... or the Brett Farve led Vikings ... or the piping hot Chargers ... or another trip for the Patriots ... or the Cardinals making it back (but not the Steelers) ... or the surprising Cincinnati Bengals ... or a number of other teams. Unlike previous years, this game should be seen as a great matchup going into the game (in past years, there seems to be an overwhelming favorite).

-WORLD CUP: The world's biggest sporting event comes next summer. The World Cup heads to South Africa which is historic and a reminder of the world we live in. The mere fact that South Africa is hosting this event after being ostracized for so many years is amazing. We will be reminded of the racist society that existed during Apartheid. We'll also be reminded the fragility of the world we currently live in. On the lighter side, the USA enters this tournament in their best position in quite some time. With a relatively tame grouping, there is a lot of hope that the Americans can do some damage in this dance.

-WINTER OLYMPICS: Don't look now, but the Winter Olympics are nearly here. The second half of February will bring us back to the world of skiing, figure skating, luge, snowboarding, speed skating and the NHL stars in a great hockey tournament. Not to mention that the games will be held in one of North America's most beautiful cities in Vancouver.

-LEBRON JAMES SWEEPSTAKES: It's unfair to label it the LeBron Sweepstakes since there are several big-time stars that will be available on the free agent market. But the winds of the NBA will flow from Cleveland where James will have to make a decision on his future. Does he stick it out in Cleveland, a place where he's gotten to the Finals once and gotten close again? Does he bolt for New York for all the fabulous bells and whistles he'll get ... even if the franchise is a bit down? Does he try to lure another superstar with him to another place or even Cleveland? I'm one of these people that think this could be much ado about nothing (most of the high-profile stars will stay put). This could turn into the Chris Bosh Sweepstakes.

-UNCAPPED NFL: This is one of those developments that could drastically change the biggest sports league in the United States. If the NFL and the NFLPA cannot come to a new collective bargaining agreement, then 2010 will be an uncapped season. That means that teams could be free to spend whatever they want and some guys who thought they were free agents turn out to be restricted in their choices. It also could make the NFL's richest teams ... the Cowboys, Redskins, Patriots, Texans, Giants, Jets and Eagles ... powerful very quickly. It could turn the NFL into the same financial sourpuss that the MLB finds itself in. Small market teams can still compete, but the big market teams will buy their way into the postseason more times than not. If you don't believe me, just look back at the pre-salary cap years when the Niners, Redskins, Giants, Bills and Broncos dominated.

-TARGET FIELD OPENS: For most of us who don't remember, we will be seeing the Minnesota Twins hosting outdoor baseball for the first time in decades. The Twins are moving into Target Field, and open air stadium in Minneapolis. This will be very interesting to see how this works out. The Twins already struggle to bring in free agents -- how hard will it be when these guys know they'll be playing in freezing weather in April and October?

-NHL'S WINTER CLASSIC: Speaking of freezing, the NHL's Winter Classic is one of the most exciting events the league has ever held. Even non-hockey die-hards check in to see how various baseball or football stadiums are configured to hold an outdoor hockey rink. This year, it will be held at Boston's Fenway Park -- a place known for great baseball tradition that will add a regular season NHL game to it. Sorry, but this is a really neat event.

-TEXAS SIZED ALL STAR GAME: The NBA All Star Weekend has become a huge event for athletes, musicians and actors to get up together and party. Well, this year the game will be held in always-lively Dallas/Ft Worth area ... in the spacious Cowboys Stadium. If you caught the setup for the UNC-Texas game last week, you already understand how massive this may be.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Redskins Have Given Up ... and I Don't Blame Them

Those good feelings that Redskins fans like me had after a month of coulda-beatens against the Cowboys, Eagles and Saints and a route of the Raiders just went away. Last night Washington stunk up FedEx Field in front of a national audience against a division rival that was reeling.

They gave up. I've been the first to say all season long that we aren't a good team, but we aren't as bad as these bottom feeders. Look back at the Redskins season and it isn't like we were blown out in any game. We were miraculously showing a lot of fight despite nothing really to play for. That all stopped last night.

Normally that would bother me. I'd scream "they have given up on the coach" or "he's lost the team." Well, in this case that isn't accurate. The Redskins all but fired Jim Zorn without actually firing him. Not only is there a new GM in town who will most likely bring in a new coach, there have been rumors abound that the Redskins have all but hired Mike Shanahan to replace him (even more odd is the fact that the Redskins have claimed they've already interviewed two minority candidates ... at least one of them Zorn's assistants). You can't expect a team with a lameduck coach to give their best effort.

And Zorn, bless him, sees the writing on the wall as well. It seems as if Zorn is cashing in all those tricks from his playbook. That fake field goal turned horrible pass was just unreal. You only do that if you just don't care anymore. And why should Zorn care? There is no way he gets another head coaching job anyways and, at worst, he can go back to being a quarterbacks coach somewhere (I think Holmgren may tab him in Cleveland). Zorn is a likable guy, even if you hate him as a coach. He deserves better.

Hopefully the new regime gets us on the right track. Allen is a contract guru and we could be entering into an uncapped season. Hopefully this time we're getting it right.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Should the ACC Be Proactive in Realignment?

With all the talk about the Big Ten looking to add a 12th team and the ripple effect it could cause, it makes me think about the ACC. Could the ACC be affected by this ripple?

Maybe. Some think that if Missouri leaves for the Big Ten, the Big XII will go after Arkansas. Then the SEC may go after one of the ACC schools ... namely Clemson or Florida State. A move like that would really wound the ACC and will put them in a scramble to find a new partner.

That's where things get dicey. The ACC would have to look at raiding the Big East for a replacement ... which will open up new wounds. The ACC could look at adding Syracuse, Rutgers or UConn (imagine a hoops conference with North Carolina, Duke and either UConn or Syracuse!) to bunk up with Boston College. They could look closer to the geographic center of the league and seek out West Virginia, East Carolina, Navy or Marshall.

I'm not liking that.

I think the ACC may be wise to get a little proactive in this process. There is no way that the ACC can compete with the SEC football-wise. The SEC is the best football conference that has a tremendous reach nationally. I doubt that Clemson (an original ACC school) or Florida State is clamoring to leave the ACC, but it would be enticing.

One thing the ACC should look at beforehand is tightening up the conference. It wouldn't hurt me for the ACC to make a trade of sorts with the Big East. Boston College sticks out like a sore thumb in a lot of ways. They are no where close to the rest of the conference geographically and adding the northeastern school hasn't helped the ACC's presence in the region. BC has done just fine as both a football program and a basketball program, but no one in the ACC likes having that long trip up to Boston.

Give Boston College back to the Big East where they really belong. Back with UConn, Providence, Syracuse and the like. Let the ACC take West Virginia in return. West Virginia has both the basketball pedigree and tradition to stick with the rest of the league and the football program to enhance the league. Plus, West Virginia travels well and is attractive to bowl sites. Those are good things.

Again, I doubt if any of this occurs. I don't think Arkansas is dumb enough to leave the SEC for the Big XII (I think TCU is a better choice for the Big XII). The SEC wouldn't poach the ACC for sport, just out of necessity.

Let's make sure we have a plan in place.

Like the Rest of the Decade, 2009 Was a Very Good Sports Year For Me

In just under two weeks, 2009 will end. With it ends the decade that we still don't know what to call (the "aughts"?).

Both have been kind to the ol' Sportz Assassin in a variety of ways.

NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS: The Heels won their fifth NCAA hoops championship this year and their second of the decade. The Aughts were an interesting time in Chapel Hill. It started with an improbable run to the Final Four in 2000 and ended with a title. In between were the highly volatile Matt Doherty years ... which included an 8-20 mark. Along comes Roy Williams and he puts UNC back at the top of the heap. Two titles, four Final Fours. Player of the Year winner in Tyler Hansbrough as well as All Americans in Joseph Forte, Brandan Haywood, Sean May, Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS: Obviously, 2009 and the Aughts were great to the Lakers. The decade began with a three-peat and ended with a fourth title. In between was two MVP winners (Shaq and Kobe), six Finals appearances, Kobe's 81 point game and some outstanding postseason finishes. It also housed one non-playoff season, the Kobe-Shaq rift, Kobe's sexual assault trial and Kwame Brown. On a personal note, I saw the Lakers play in three different arenas against three different franchises this decade: Hornets at the Charlotte Coliseum, Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena and the Hawks at Phillips Arena.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Well, I can't have everything. Not a great year, nor a great decade for the burgundy and gold. Just two playoff appearances and a slew of bad press. Remember Steve Spurrier? All those bad free agent pickups? The lack of draft picks? Amazing that it has been 20 years since the Skins have done anything. Of course the worst moment of the decade was Sean Taylor's murder. It still stings to this day.

Tiger's Problems Aren't Our Business ... But It Is the Sponsors'

I heard this comment earlier today: "You know, it's nobody's business what Tiger Woods does in his personal lives. Not ours and not his sponsors." I've heard this a few times in the last couple of weeks.

True, this isn't our business. The fact that Tiger Woods is revealed to be a serial adulterer is meaningless to the average joe ... except those who are trying to keep their wives and girlfriends away from him. This doesn't change the fact that he has been the most dominant golfer over the past decade and the guy I put atop my list of greatest champions of the decade.

However, I strongly disagree with saying that this isn't the sponsors' business. Of course it is! When sponsors endorse athletes, musicians, actors or whomever ... they are buying the total package. The on the field guy and the off the field guy. Advertising is all about image and when your image has been tarnished, it affects business.

Did you understand when advertisers dropped Michael Vick? I know, I know, Vick was convicted of a heinous crime and Tiger is just a plain ol' cheater ... but using your reasoning, Vick's dogfighting ring is none of our business since it happened off the field. You and I know that's ridiculous.

Now, would Tiger's indiscretions keep me from buying a Tag Heuer watch? Nope, but I couldn't afford one anyways. Does it mean I'll stay away from Nike equipment? Nope. I don't blame people who will stay away from Tiger-endorsed products, but it doesn't sway me. However, it is those people who are turned off by Tiger's issues that concern sponsors.

It is their business.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Big Ten Could Set Off Another Chain Reaction of Defections

The Big Ten is looking at a 12th team to add to their conference (good idea, by the way). There has been much speculation ... including on this blog ... to who that team would be.

The leader right now is Missouri. I don't think Mizzou would bolt the Big XII for the Big Ten. While the TV revenue would increase, their travel budget would suffer. Right now, they are dead smack in the middle of Big XII country and have a relatively easier time on the road. In the Big Ten, they'd be the team furthest south and furthest west.

However, I hope it is Missouri. They just seem to fit in the Big Ten better than the Big XII (just my opinion). I also hope it starts a chain reaction similar to what shook the college landscape in 1990 and 2003.

If Missouri goes to the Big Ten, you can have this:
EAST: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue
WEST: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Northwestern, Wisconsin

With an open spot in the Big XII now, the choice is obvious -- TCU. TCU was a part of the old Southwestern Conference that broke up in 1995 to help form the Big XII (TCU was left in the cold on that). TCU is perfect for the Big XII, which already has four Texas schools. That also gives the league a base in the Dallas-Ft Worth area. TCU would jump at the opportunity.

It also makes the divisional format better. Send Oklahoma to the North. Sure, it breaks up Oklahoma and Oklahoma State ... but ensure that they are playing each year in a rivalry game (similar to how the ACC and SEC operate) and that should go away. It would also wake up the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry, since they'll be in the same division. And while Texas and Oklahoma already play once a year, setting up that matchup in the Big XII title game is tantalizing.

Here is your new BIG XII:
NORTH: Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Oklahoma
SOUTH: Baylor, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

So, that's settled ... but you know that the Pac-10 want in on this. With all of the other BCS conferences playing title games (aside from the Big East), the Pac-12 should emerge. The candidates there are easy -- Utah and BYU.

Both are huge schools and both add the same duo that permeates throughout the league. That's perfect. They edge out Boise State because they've been consistently doing this for a while. Both Utah and BYU would love this because the Pac-10, while expansive, has one of the better travel schedules in basketball.

A new PAC-12 could look like this:
NORTH: BYU, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, Washington, Washington State
SOUTH: Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Stanford, UCLA, USC

I love that. Of course, the Mountain West would hate all of this since they'll lose their top three programs (TCU, Utah, BYU). The MWC will have to replenish the conference with at least two teams ... probably three ... and better yet six! Yes, the MWC should gobble up a lot of the WAC (or remerge a bit with them) and have a two division conference.

The first two candidates would be Boise State and Nevada. They are in the current MWC geographic area and are good programs too add to the mix. The third school should be Utah State just so they can keep a foot in the Beehive State. If they wanted to go for the throat, add in Fresno State, San Jose State and either Hawaii or New Mexico State.

NORTH: Air Force, Boise State Colorado State, Nevada, Utah State, Wyoming
SOUTH: Fresno State, New Mexico, New Mexico State, San Diego State, San Jose State, UNLV

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It's Hard to Defend Roy Williams On This One ...

Obviously I like Roy Williams. He has quickly turned North Carolina back into a power school and added two National Championship banners to the rafters.

I get it when opposing fans don't buy Roy Williams "aw shucks" charm. Even though I'm as big of a Carolina fan as you will see, I don't think the Roy Williams we see in interviews and press clippings is an accurate portrayal of who he really is. That's not to say he is fake or a bad guy, but he's not as goody two-shoes as he'd like us to believe.

It's hard to defend Ol' Roy on his recent tirade. On Saturday against Presbyterian, Williams ejected a fan after he shouted "miss it" to Deon Thompson as he was shooting free throws. This was such a crime that Roy pointed out the fan to security and had him escorted out of the arena. After the game, Roy said that no one will heckle his players in his gym.

Yeah, I can't back you up on this one. I'll ride with ya on most occasions, but I can't help you here. Presbyterian is a little private school near Clemson, South Carolina. The school only has about 1,300 students -- UNC has nearly 20 times that. That little school was no match for the Tar Heels ... just as that "heckle" was no match for Thompson. There is nothing wrong with "miss it!" No profanity, no drunken stupor.

It just feels like the big kid picking on the little kid. It's embarrassing.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Could Zorn, Campbell Be Saving Their Jobs

I'm about to say something that I didn't think would come out of my mouth a month ago: Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell could both be back with the Redskins next season.

I know, I know, Washington is still 4-9 and there have been some tough moments. But since the much publicized and criticized decision Daniel Snyder made of ripping play-calling duties from Jim Zorn and handing them to recently hired consultant Sherman Lewis the Skins have really improved.

Look at this season. Despite losing nine games already, we lost only one game by more than 10 points (31-17 in Atlanta). Since that game with the Falcons, the Redskins handled the Broncos, lost a heartbreaking 7-6 game in Dallas, lost in overtime at Philadelphia, had the undefeated Saints on the ropes and would have won if not for a missed chip-shot field goal and then blew out the Raiders in Oakland (a Raiders team that have beaten the Bengals, Steelers and Eagles this year).

Not just that, but the Skins have scored at least 24 points in four of the past five games ... including over 30 points in their last two. Campbell has had QB ratings of over 100 three times during that stretch.

Now, does this mean the Redskins are turning the corner and are right for a run next year? Nope. But it does show that Campbell can work as the quarterback and that using their high draft pick on an offensive lineman or receiver would be a better selection. It also shows that the unorthodox chain of command in the offense can work.

We've also seen TE Fred Davis start to become a force. Get him out there alongside Chris Cooley and you've got two pretty good tight ends. Receiver Devin Thomas is starting to emerge as the big receiver the Redskins craved. Just imagine if the offensive linemen weren't made up of guys who weren't even in the league when the season began and the top THREE running backs weren't injured.

It does show some promise ... but is it false promise? When there is no pressure on you, it can be easier to perform. If we left Zorn and Campbell in there, would the continuity and steady improvement matter in a new 2010 season? Hard to say.

I don't think Zorn will be back. I don't think Snyder is in love with Campbell and may look to replace him. But, for the first time in a while, I can see both of them being back.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Panthers Claim Randy Moss Quit On Patriots

In another amazingly bizarre twist, several Carolina Panthers claimed that Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss quit on New England. By the way, the Pats won the game, 20-10.

Still, the Patriots offense looked horrible early on. Tom Brady threw a couple of picks and Moss, who already is in the doghouse after being late earlier in the week, apparently "shut it down."
"We knew he was going to shut it down," cornerback Chris Gamble told Breer. "That's what we wanted to do to him. That's what we did. He'd just give up a lot. Slow down, he's not going deep, not trying to run a route. You can tell, his body language. . . . "

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Worst Sports Moments of the Decade

With the decade just weeks away from ending, let's take a look back at the sports incidents that the leagues rather us not dwell on. What are the ten worst moments in sports over the past decade?

Now, forgive me if I missed a thing or two. Also, this list isn't ranked in order of which was the worst action but by the impact that it had on sports as we enjoy them today. Obviously, someone losing their life is much more heartbreaking than any scandal but, again, it is the impact that these events made that define the list.


10-"WARDROBE MALFUNCTION": While this is mild compared to the rest of this list, it still has had sweeping ramifications in both sports coverage or any live event. When Justin Timberlake peeled back the pasty and revealed Janet Jackson's breast, it set off a chain reaction that led to hefty fines and a crackdown on anything that was deemed obsene on television. Most networks that broadcast live events ... either on TV or radio ... use a several second delay to cover up anything that may slip onto the microphones. Yes, it was grossly overblown but you know as well as I that live TV has never been the same.

9-NHL CANCELS SEASON: While many people may not have cared that the NHL suspended the 2004-2005 before it began due to a lockout, it had quite the effect on the hockey world. Everything from the salary structure to eliminating ties to rule changes came in to play due to the league's attempts to keep several franchises afloat. It's worked, basically. But canceling an entire season just doesn't happen -- especially not now.

8-TIM DONAGHY: This is still an ongoing story, but former NBA referee Donaghy was linked to fixing NBA games for gamblers. While a lot of the information is still somewhat sketchy (who do you believe?), the PR hit the NBA took was quite stiff. The League already was under fire by conspiracy theorists that are convinced that the NBA favors certain teams and players and that the League office actually orchestrates outcomes of games and playoff series. When news of this broke, it put all refs under a microscope and the league in a horrible position of defending it authenticity.

7-SEAN TAYLOR'S MURDER: Players have lost their lives before, but this one was particularly troubling. Taylor was asleep with his wife and kids in their family home in Miami when intruders broke into the house (thinking the Taylors weren't there) to burglarize the residence. When they came upon Taylor ready to defend his home, an intruder shot and killed him. Four teenagers and a 20-year old man were charged with involvement in the murder. This incident set up mass paranoia in the athlete community as they came to the realization that no one is safe anywhere.

6-MALICE IN THE PALACE: Any sports worst nightmare came to pass in a seemingly innocent night in Detroit. Ben Wallace took exception to a hard foul by Ron Artest and then one of the worst brawls in American sports took place. The Malice put everyone on notice that fans shouldn't be part of the action on the floor and that athletes cannot go into the stands to settle problems. It was a horrible problem for the image conscious NBA. Nine players were suspended while five players and five fans were charged with assault. The fan who threw a cup of soda at Ron Artest has been banned from Pistons home games. While it isn't the first or last example of player-fan altercations, it may be the most memorable.

5-MICHAEL VICK: If you thought the Brawl was savagery at its worst, along comes Michael Vick. Because of Vick, we are all enlightened about the underground world of dog fighting. Vick was found guilty of financing the dog fighting business and ended up in prison. When all this broke, there were steady updates about the cruelty Vick and his friends were capable of. I don't mind Vick being in the NFL, but forgive me if I can still get sick looking at him because of what he did to those dogs.

4-DALE EARNHARDT DIES: I remember where I was when I heard the news. My wife and I were driving back home from a visit to Charlotte when she called her brother up and he told her what happened. I couldn't believe it. I'm not a NASCAR guy by any means, but when you grow up in Charlotte, Earnhardt is a legend. He was everything that a driver should be. To imagine that a man so skilled, so legendary, so intimidating would die in what looked like nothing more than a fender bender is unfathomable. But it did happen and racing is still looking for that bad boy renegade to dominate the sports like only car No. 3 could.

3-TODD BERTUZZI SUCKER PUNCH: Back in 2004, Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi punched Avalanche center Steve Moore from behind and then drove his head -- face first -- into the ice. This nearly instigated a brawl between the teams and coaches. Moore suffered three fracture vertabrae in his neck, a concussion and ligament damage near his spine. Moore has never suited up for another NHL game. Bertuzzi was suspended for 20 games, lost about half a million dollars in pay, lost numerous endorsement deals and was charged with assault. To this day, there are still several lawsuits pending between Moore, Bertuzzi, Canucks coach Marc Crawford and the Vancouver organization. This may be the nastiest athlete-on-athlete altercation of the decade.

2-DAVE BLISS SCANDAL: This is one of the most disturbing events of the last decade. Back in 2003, Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss attempted to cover up the murder of one of his players, Patrick Dennehy, by former player Carlton Dotson. Bliss tried to frame Dennehy posthumously as a drug dealer in order to provide cover for himself. Once all this broke, numerous other violations made by Bliss and his staff surfaced and he was forced to resign. The NCAA has all but banned him from coaching for ten years. The fact that a man that was trusted to take care of these young men could extort, tamper and obstruct justice like this is quite alarming.

This was the day where baseball changed. Several current and former baseball players went before Congress to discuss the use of steroids in the sport. Mark McGwire disappointed many by refusing to talk about his past (where there were rumblings that he roided up) and all but admitting that he took that stuff. Sammy Sosa suddenly forgot how to speak English. And Raphael Palmeiro looked into the faces of the committee, pointed his finger and lie about not using steroids. Also remember that the Congressional hearing was done during the first day of the NCAA Tournament.

The aftermath was messy. Fans as well as baseball itself finally came to the realization that steroids and PEDs were much more commonplace in MLB and that many of the statistics from that time are tainted.

Big Ten May Be Looking to Add 12th Team ... Again

Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez told his school's athletic board that the Big Ten has already begun looking into adding a 12th member. The conference has been attempting to add a 12th team by extending an invitation to Notre Dame (the school got close once, but declined).

Essentially the conference has been holding a spot for Notre Dame and haven't seriously considered adding another school. Their last expansion was adding Penn State back in 1993. A 12th member would allow the conference to split into two divisions and hold a football championship game.

So who should the Big Ten add?

NOTRE DAME: Of course they'll ask Notre Dame again but it isn't likely to accept. The Irish value their independant status and aren't real keen on the whole conference schedule thing.

RUTGERS: I know it sounds weird, but Rutgers would give the Big East a hand in the largest television market in the nation. The Scarlet Knights have become a decent program of late and could fit right in.

PITTSBURGH: The Panthers are already in Big Ten country and are in a relatively major market. The football team plays in Heinz Field, home of the Steelers. Penn State and Ohio State fans already have a built-in hate for the city of Pittsburgh, so that's cool.

SYRACUSE: If I had to put money on any of these, I'd bet on Syracuse. The Orange have great history and facilities. Also, the football team is having some tough times and the Big Ten schools wouldn't mind the extra win. The basketball program would fit right in immediately. Syracuse would form a nice rivalry with Penn State and adds New York into the mix.

MISSOURI: Mizzou makes for an interesting fit as well. They are also in Big Ten country and have a rivalry with Illinois. Missouri may consider the move over from the Big XII because it would be easier for the school to reach BCS successes without Oklahoma and Texas blocking the progress. The Big XII shouldn't care that much since they can quickly add TCU to the league.

BOSTON COLLEGE: This would start a very interesting domino effect. BC left the Big East for the riches of the ACC earlier this decade. However, they are a bit out of place geographically in that conference. The same thing would be true in the Big Ten and its doubtful that BC sees an easier road to BCS money by switching conferences.

MEMPHIS: Doubtful, but it the Big Ten wants to think outside the box then they may opt for a southern school.

CENTRAL or SOUTH FLORIDA: Another outside the box candidate. South Florida and Central Florida would give the Big Ten an arm in the fertile Florida recruiting garden.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cincinnatians Turn On Brian Kelly

A little over a decade ago, my North Carolina Tar Heels football team were doing things that hadn't been done in half a century. The Heels were consistently ranked, were fighting for ACC championships and were in the national championship picture. The 1997 Heels finished fourth in the polls.

The successes there peaked the interest of a big time college football school. The University of Texas came over and took Mack Brown from us. To this day, I can't stand Brown for leaving Chapel Hill and I seem to always root against Texas.

So I know exactly what Cincinnati Bearcat fans are going through right now. It's tough to watch the coach that led you to your program's best days is leaving for the bigger, better payday. It's tough to then watch that coach go on to win a BCS title at the new school while your program is wallowing in lower tiered bowls.

The real reason I was mad was because I was shown that I wasn't special. No one wants to realize that they aren't as special as someone else. Obviously Tar Heel fans feel a bit privileged due to their successes on the basketball courts, soccer fields and various other sports. But in the world of high stakes college football, Carolina is a stepping stone for a bigger gig. For Mack Brown, that was Texas. And if Butch Davis has any sort of great success at UNC, then big time programs will come after him, too.

Cincinnati is feeling that right now. Bearcat fans haven't seen their football team having this kind of success ... ever. This is a city that never really cared too deeply about Cincy football, but once Brian Kelly flew in and made two BCS bowl appearances and two Big East crowns, Cincinnatians starting believing that this could be the beginning of something special.

Then Notre Dame swoops in and takes Kelly. Now the Bearcats are left feeling un-special.

Fans in the area are irate. They cannot believe that Kelly would leave their program for Notre Dame. He's a traitor! He's classless (more on that later)! Yeah, Kelly sucks for taking a job with more prestige, more money, better facilities and a much, much, much more passionate fan base than Cincinnati could ever have. Remember that Charlie Weis, like Kelly, went to two BCS games. Next thing you know, he's fired.

Cincinnati has a 35,000 seat stadium that was built in the 1920s. Notre Dame has an 80,000 seat shrine to college football that they play in. Cincinnati has its games on ESPN+. Notre Dame is almost always on national television. Cincinnati's biggest non-conference game was at Oregon State. Notre Dame gets to play USC and Michigan every year as well as a few other big dogs during the season.

The opportunity is too great to pass up for Kelly and you cannot blame him for jumping all over it. While he's beloved around Cincinnati for the great things he's done here, he'd be legendary if he pulled that off in South Bend, Indiana.

That isn't to say that Kelly's departure doesn't leave a sour taste in everyone's mouths. The ultra-secretive meetings between Kelly and Notre Dame rubbed the players the wrong way. Kelly apparently told his players that he'd be there for the long term ... only the jump ship. He didn't even meet with the players to tell them in person that he was accepting the Notre Dame job. Instead, he used their football banquet dinner the quickly make his announcement before being whisked out of the place.

That's not cool. Leaving is fine, but the players shouldn't be the last to know.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Calm Down! Tiger Woods Ain't Going Anywhere

With all this stuff going on about Tiger Woods, you now have talking heads discussing what the damage is to his career. They say he'll never be the Tiger Woods of old and we may start to see his career decline a bit.

I'm not so sure about that.

Yes, he's going to take a hit. He wants to be a private guy and now all his business is out there on Front Street. His first tournament he plays in will be a media circus with not only ESPN and The Golf Channel trailing him, but all those entertainment shows will be there too. He'll be watched like a hawk and every movement will be scrutinized.

That is pressure that no one wants to deal with, it's embarrassing and the shine on his legacy has been tarnished. He won't be the cozy Tiger that could sell us razors, cars, Nike or whatever anymore. He'll lay low on that front ... as will his sponsors. Those endorsement deals? Well they won't be as lucrative. At least for a while.

It will all come back to him eventually.

The two examples that spring to mind make me believe so. The last elite athlete to have something like this happen to him was one Kobe Bryant. The difference there is that Kobe was also being charged with sexual assault and there are still people who believes he got away with it. He admitted his transgressions in front of the world and his wife was there at his side. Needless to say this humbled him like he had never been humbled before.

He did what Tiger will do. He will submerse himself in his sport that the focus and drive will guide him back. The two places where he can be left alone are holed up in his home and out of the golf course. Yeah, there will be some drama on the links, but it isn't like his home is any quieter.

Kobe dealt with boos everywhere he went. He heard the "rapist" chants and every city he and the Lakers went to, that was the big story. He took it and just went out there to be the best player he can be. Less than a decade later, Kobe Bryant is a champion again and regarded as one of the best players to ever play.

The other example ... which isn't really the same ... is Andre Agassi. Now, we didn't know that Agassi was doing meth in the late 1990s and that's what led him to his rapid decline (we all blamed Brooke Shields), but the man -- in an individual sports -- quit his addiction and worked his way back to championship status. Now Agassi had none of the media or fan scrutiny that Kobe faced or that Tiger will. But Agassi is an example of what focus and determination will do for someone.

That's how I feel Tiger's career will go on. His smile won't adorn many posters or magazine ads for a while. The pressure might get to him at the start. But eventually this will all die down and Tiger will work his way back to the top of the sport and back to the top of the sports world. I mean, it's not like he wasn't the top winner last year or anything. This shouldn't take too long.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Which Was a Tougher Loss For Me? Redskins or Tar Heels?

Last weekend was kind of rough on me. On Saturday, my 10th-ranked Tar Heels went into Lexington and lost to Kentucky by two points. On Sunday, my amoebic Redskins lost to the unbeaten Saints in overtime by three. Which one was tougher?

Well, the Tar Heel game got out of hand early. Kentucky used a 26-2 run to take command of the game and Carolina spent the rest of the game fighting back. They had a chance to take the lead late in the game and couldn't convert. Also, the game was in Lexington (our first true road game) against a team ranked No. 4. Plus, we are a team that's so young and inexperienced that this year has none of the pressure of the previous two seasons -- so losses aren't as grating.

Actually, I was quite bit pleased when the game was over. No, there is no such thing as moral victories, but I like the fact that we were punched in the face that hard and still had the fight to come back and make it a game. There was a lot of growing in that game.

However, I moved from Charlotte to the Kentucky side of Cincinnati over a decade ago and anytime their Wildcats get the best of my Tar Heels, I hear about it. That sucks.

The Redskins game was way worse. The Skins led pretty much the entire ballgame. We had a 10-point lead in the 4th quarter against N'Awlins -- a team that just slammed the Patriots last Monday night. We had a 7-point lead late and were lining up for a chip shot field goal attempt. And then it all came falling apart.

First that field goal was missed. Then the Saints ran down the field and used LaRon Landry's over-aggressive style to tie the game up quickly. Then with us with plenty of time to get down the field for a FG attempt, Jason Campbell gets picked off. Luckily, the field goal attempt that the Saints got was further than their kicker could get it. On to overtime.

The Skins won the coin flip and then fumbled the ball away to the Saints (the last of three turnovers). We looked beaten as the Saints rumbled their way down the field and hit their chip shot field goal attempt.

That loss sticks with me much worse that the Tar Heels loss ... and not because it was the most recent. It isn't that I love the Redskins more than the Tar Heels (I love those kids equally). It is just that it would have been nice in a 3-9 season that Washington could have something to hold onto. If we finished that game, that means we toppled a team that many felt would finish the season undefeated. It gives us something. My Carolina side can still flash the "defending champion" tag for the rest of the year and point to a growing team adding an outstanding class for next year's squad.

The Redskins are just stuck in the mud and no one knows what the future holds. So it would be nice to have something to hold to now.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sportz Assassin's College Football Bowl Matchups

Okay, if my Sportz Assassin Playoff doesn't move you, then maybe you'll like my other idea. Why does the BCS use their rankings to seed just the BCS title game? Why don't they use it all the way down the line for all the bowls?

The funny thing is that three of the five BCS games are actually the same as they'd be using the rankings.

Because of that, here would be my bowl matchups according to the final BCS rankings:

BCS Championship: No. 1 Alabama vs No. 2 Texas
Fiesta Bowl: No. 3 Cincinnati vs No. 4 TCU
Sugar Bowl: No. 5 Florida vs No. 6 Boise State
Rose Bowl: No. 7 Oregon vs No. 8 Ohio State
Orange Bowl: No. 9 Georgia Tech vs No. 10 Iowa
Cotton Bowl: No. 11 Virginia Tech vs No. 12 LSU
Capital One Bowl: No. 13 Penn State vs No. 14 BYU
Gator Bowl: No. 15 Miami vs No. 16 West Virginia
Outback Bowl: No. 17 Pittsburgh vs No. 18 Oregon State
Alamo Bowl: No. 19 Oklahoma State vs No. 20 Arizona
Holiday Bowl: No. 21 Stanford vs No. 22 Nebraska
Insight Bowl: No. 23 Utah vs No. 24 USC

Extend the rankings out so we can seed the other bowls.

Sportz Assassin's College Football Playoff Bracket

Here we go. We're at the end of the regular season and all that's left is the playoffs! Yes, in my weird little mind, I still hold out hope that someday we will actually have a playoff system in college football.

My mind concocted this playoff format: 12 teams with the top four teams receiving first round byes. Playoff teams will include the six champions of the BCS conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-10 and SEC), the top ranked non-BCS conference champion and then the five top ranked at large teams. We will use the BCS standings to seed the teams as well as selecting the at large teams.

No. 1-Alabama (SEC Champ)
No. 2-Texas (Big XII Champ)
No. 3-Cincinnati (Big East Champ)
No. 4-TCU (top non-BCS Champ)
No. 5-Florida
No. 6-Boise State
No. 7-Oregon (Pac-10 Champ)
No. 8-Ohio State (Big Ten Champ)
No. 9-Georgia Tech (ACC Champ)
No. 10-Iowa
No. 11-Virginia Tech
No. 12-LSU

FIRST ROUND (December 19th)
12p-Georgia Tech at Ohio State
3:30p-Iowa at Oregon
3:30p-Virginia Tech at Boise State
8p-LSU at Florida

SECOND ROUND (December 26th)
12p-Boise State/Va Tech at Cincinnati
3:30p-Florida/LSU at TCU
3:30p-Oregon/Iowa at Texas
8p-Ohio State/Ga Tech at Alabama


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Greatest 'Organizations' of the Last Decade

Below is my list of the top organizations of the last decade. By "organizations", I mean the best pro sports teams (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL), college teams (hoops and football) and the individual sports (NASCAR, golf, tennis). These are the people who dominated the decade and won a title or two.

Why rank from 1 to 17? Because I want to, that's why!

17-NEW JERSEY DEVILS. The Devils won two Stanley Cups and went to another Finals. They've been a model of consistency with five Atlantic Division titles and at least 99 points in all but one season.

16-NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS (basketball). The Heels hoops team won two National Championships and went to four Final Fours. The Matt Doherty era knocks them down the list a bit, but Roy Williams has turned the program back into the premier organization in college hoops. Their 2009 title was one of the most dominant ever while their 2000 Final Four run was the most improbable.

15-FLORIDA GATORS (football). Like the Tar Heels, the Gators have taken a tough patch and turned it into the model program at the end of the decade. Florida won two of the last three BCS Championships and had five seasons with at least 10 wins. The Ron Zook era kept the program afloat but the mediocrity pulls them down a bit.

14-PITTSBURGH STEELERS. The Steel Curtain reinforced their will during the second half of the decade. The Steelers won two Super Bowls and had just one losing season. They became the first franchise with six Super Bowl titles and first franchise to win four playoff games away from home in the same postseason.

13-USC TROJANS (football). USC won two championships, one split, and seven Pac-10 titles. From 2002 to 2008, the Trojans went 82-9. The had three Heisman Trophy winners (Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush) and stocked the NFL with many players. Yes, they fell off a bit this year and the beginning of the decade was horrendous, but no other college team was this dominant.

12-DETROIT RED WINGS. It feels like the Wings should have won more than the two Stanley Cups they did win during the decade, but that just shows their dominance. Detroit won their division in eight of the nine seasons played during the decade (the 2004-2005 season was cancelled due to a lockout). The won four Presidents Trophies for the best regular season mark and recorded at least 108 points in every season. Their postseason failures push them down on the list.

11-SAN ANTONIO SPURS. The Spurs won three titles in a five year stretch, won at least 53 games in each season and won at least one playoff series in all but one year. Of the seven years they didn't win the title they were eliminated by the NBA's top team of the decade, the LA Lakers.

10-BOSTON RED SOX. The Red Sox ended their 86-year drought and finally won a World Series. They liked it so much, they waited just three seasons before doing it again. They went to the playoffs six times and became the first MLB team to come back from an 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.

9-JIMMIE JOHNSON. Johnson, as you may have heard, has won four consecutive NASCAR championships. In his nine years in the Sprint Cup series, Johnson has four titles, two second place finishes and two fifth place finishes. He won 47 races and had 180 top ten finishes.

8-NEW YORK YANKEES. The Bronx Bombers bookended the decade with World Series titles. They won eight of the 10 AL East titles during the decade (the same division that houses Boston), went to four Fall Classics and missed the playoffs just once. They won at least 100 games in four seasons. The Yanks worst record was 87-74 ... their championship season of 2000.

7-ROGER FEDERER. Federer won 15 Grand Slam titles during the decade, including five consecutive Wimbledon titles and five consecutive US Open titles. Three times he won three of the four Slam events and this year's French Open victory recorded the career Slam.

6-LOS ANGELES LAKERS. The Lakers won four NBA Championship this decade, including the lone consecutive streak of the 00's (their threepeat from 2000-2002) and went to another two Finals. Despite breaking up the franchise after their disappointing 2004 Finals appearance, the Lakers got back to the top of the mountain at the end of the decade. They are also the only franchise to have two different MVPs during the 2000s.

5-MICHAEL PHELPS. Phelps has a record 14 Olympic gold medals won and 16 total medals in just two Summer games. He currently owns six world records (he set records 37 times) and may be the biggest freak of nature in the human race.

4-NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS. Ten years ago, you would have never saw this coming. Three Super Bowl championships in four years. A fourth Super Bowl appearance and the only 16-0 regular season in history. The Pats were 109-36 during the past decade ... and that includes a 5-11 mark to begin it all.

3-LANCE ARMSTRONG. He won the first six Tours de France during the decade. The fact that he took three years off and then finished third in the 2009 Tour was nearly as amazing. The top item on Armstrong's resume is his foundation that supports people who are affected by cancer.

2-UCONN HUSKIES (women's basketball). What a decade. Five NCAA championships and two undefeated seasons. Check this out: the Huskies were 339-28 during the decade. Wow! They went to the Elite Eight nine times and the Final Four seven times.

1-TIGER WOODS. Okay, the very last part of this decade hasn't gone smoothly for Mr. Woods, but no one dominated their sport like Tiger. He won 12 majors during the decade, won Player of the Year award in eight years and was the top winner nine times (including when he missed half the season). Oh, he also won 56 events and became a gazillionaire.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I Disagree With Notre Dame's Bowl Refusal

I get that Notre Dame is reeling right now. I get that going to the GMAC Bowl or something like that seems a bit degrading to a program with such high expectations at Notre Dame. I get that they just fired Charlie Weis and are searching for the new direction of the program.

I also get that the school just screwed over their kids.

The University of Notre Dame decided against accepting any bowl invitations. The Irish most likely would have received a lower tier bowl bid once all the 7-win teams were placed. So the kids that committed to the program aren't being treated the same.

So what if you don't have a coach? So what if your team is down right now? It is about the kids. The kids that gave everything for your school and your program. Some of these guys won't have an opportunity to play one final game in the gold helmets. The school just jipped their student-athletes.

I understand that boosters and fans think this is all beneath them. It's like a perennial NCAA Tournament team getting a NIT bid. It's hard to get excited about that. But any time you can give your kids the opportunity to play another game, you take it. I don't care if it is the Orange Bowl or the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl. Let these guys have that one final moment together.

They've got the rest of their lives to be proud. And to remember their final collegiate game with one of the most prestiguous institutions in our nation.

Who Wins an ACC Alumni Game?

The Raleigh News & Observer had a nice post about former ACC players who are currently in the NBA. The ACC has more players in the NBA than any other conference ... with Duke having more players in The League than any other school.

So who would win in an ACC alumni game? Instead of having a huge bench for the teams that are blessed, I'll put no more than four guys on the bench. Only four ACC teams can field a full roster (Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest) so the fifth team will be made up of all the other players in the league.

G-Chris Paul
G-Jeff Teague
F-Josh Howard
F-James Johnson
C-Tim Duncan
BENCH-Darius Songala

The Deacons have a bonafide Hall of Famer in Duncan and one of the current best players in the League in Paul. That will help offset the youth and inexperience of Teague and Johnson.

G-Chris Duhon
G-Corey Maggette
F-Shane Battier
F-Carlos Boozer
C-Elton Brand
BENCH-Grant Hill, Mike Dunleavy, Luol Deng, J.J. Redick

Duke's front line is impressive, even though there aren't any true centers on it. This is a very good defensive team and has the ACC's longest tenured NBA player, Grant Hill, to lean on.

G-Raymond Felton
G-Vince Carter
F-Marvin Williams
F-Antawn Jamison
C-Rasheed Wallace
BENCH-Brandan Haywood, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Tyler Hansbrough

The Heels have an interesting makeup. They have guys that go back to the Dean Smith era and fresh faces that just stepped into the league. Sheed, Vince and Jamison have reached a higher altitude of individual success than anyone on Duke, but only Wallace has a title to show for it.

G-Will Bynum
G-Jarrett Jack
F-Thad Young
F-Matt Harpring
C-Chris Bosh
BENCH-Javaris Crittenden, Anthony Morrow

Kind of a smaller unit with Bosh taking over the center spot. They are a bit light up front (that will change soon) and Harpring's career may be over. Everyone but Bosh is a role player ... if that.

G-Steve Blake (Maryland)
G-Roger Mason (Virginia)
F-Al Thornton (FSU)
F-Chris Wilcox (Maryland)
C-Sean Williams (Boston College)
BENCH-Joe Smith (Maryland), J.J. Hickson (NC State), Craig Smith (Boston College), Josh Powell (NC State)

I was actually shocked to see the relative weakness of the rest of the league. Joe Smith is easily the longest tenured player with most of the others being role guys. Neither Clemson nor Virginia Tech have a player on a current NBA roster (Miami has two, but they were from the Canes pre-ACC days). As an added extra, only the Bucks, Grizzlies and Thunder don't have an ACC player on their roster.

The one good thing is that the ACC is ready to throw more guys into the NBA. Ed Davis, John Henson and Derrick Favors are already high on GM's wish lists. Kyle Singler, Al-Farouq Aminu, Sylven Landesberg and Greivis Vasquez could/should find a place on somebody's roster. And future ACC players Harrison Barnes, Kyle Irving and Reggie Bullock should also be in the NBA someday.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Worst NBA Draft Picks of the Last Decade

In honor of the 14-pick draft lottery, I've assembled the 14 lottery picks made over the past decade that are deemed as busts in some shape or matter. I'm sure there will be a few more busts added to this list in a few years once the last couple of classes get their careers moving along, but this is the best list I could come up with at the moment.

14-Ricky Rubio (No. 5 pick, Minnesota Timberwolves, 2009): Yeah, he has yet to play one second in the NBA, but the Spanish sensation has already made the Wolves look like fools. And that's something for this franchise. The Wolves drafted four point guards on that night with the one they coveted, Rubio, decided to stay in Spain (they may have traded away the best one of the bunch when they sent Ty Lawson to Denver). Who knows? Rubio could come into the league in a couple of years and set the league on fire. Right now, his only value is trade bait.

13-Stromile Swift (No. 2 pick, Vancouver Grizzlies, 2000): For a No. 2 pick in the first draft this decade, you need to have more than 97 starts in your career. Swift has only shown a few moments of promise and has been relegated to a journeyman who can't get on the court in the last few years.

12-Yaroslav Korolev (No. 12 pick, LA Clippers, 2005): Korolev played in a grand total of 34 games, averaging 1.1 pts and 0.5 rbs.

11-Rafael Araujo (No. 8 pick, Toronto Raptors, 2003): Just 139 games in three seasons, averaging 2.8 pts and 2.8 rbs. He's the worst player in a string of bad draft decisions by the Raptors.

10-Fran Vasquez (No. 11 pick, Orlando Magic, 2005): Let's see if this sounds familiar. Draft pick made by an team that entered the league in 1989 decides to stay in the Spanish leagues instead of going to his NBA team. Rubio fans, meet Vasquez who has yet to suit up for the Magic.

9-Rodney White (No. 9 pick, Detroit Pistons, 2001): Just 21 career starts and an average of 7.1 ppg. He's been out of the league since 2005.

8-Brandon Wright (No. 8 pick, Charlotte Bobcats, 2007): Charlotte drafted Wright, but immediately dealt him to Golden State for Jason Richardson. Yeah, G-State got hosed on that one. He is trending upward, but was he worth it?

7-Marcus Fizer (No. 4 pick, Chicago Bulls, 2000): Just six years in the league, 35 starts and a respectable 9.6 ppg average. However, he was drafted on a Bulls team that had ample opportunity to get points and he just couldn't do it.

6-Darius Miles (No. 3 pick, LA Clippers, 2000): The next great high school prospect flamed out pretty quickly. Miles is best known for the knucklehead celebration and screwing over the Blazers with his injuries just as he was starting to figure it out. Then, despite the Blazers getting cap relief due to Miles' career ending injury ... Miles comes back and triggers a huge cap hit on the team.

5-Jay Williams (No. 2 pick, Chicago Bulls, 2002): I've gotten into this debate plenty of times. Is Williams a bust because he suffered a career-ending injury? I think yes since the injury wasn't on the floor. He decided to do the dumb thing and wrap his motorcycle around a tree and nearly losing his life. I'm glad he's okay, but the Bulls just got one year out of the 2nd pick in the 2002 draft. Yeah, bust.

4-Adam Morrison (No. 3 pick, Charlotte Bobcats, 2006): Just another Michael Jordan draft pick that lives in Bust City. Morrison was taken ahead of Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay, Tyrus Thomas and Randy Foye. He was dumped off to the Lakers last year and sits on the end of the bench.

3-Nikoloz Tskitishvili (No. 5, Denver Nuggets, 2002): Just 16 starts and a 2.9 ppg average?? He played more than half a season just once in his four year career.

2-Kwame Brown (No. 1 pick, Washington Wizards, 2001): Kwame is the worst top pick this decade and is in the discussion for worst top pick ever. He also facilitated the current rule which keeps high schoolers out of the NBA draft. Yeah, despite all the good that LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and Kevin Garnett did ... Kwame wrecked all of that.

1-Darko Milicic (No. 2 pick, Detroit Pistons, 2003): Darko beats Kwame due to two reasons. One, Kwame is a better player than Darko and, two, the next three people picked after Darko were Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Oh, and only LeBron James was selected before him. On those five guys, four are perennial All-Stars and three are on track to be Hall of Fame players. Darko not only is the odd man out, but it's not even close.

Saints Pummel Patriots ... and ESPN Hype

If the Patriots-Saints game on Monday night was supposed to be Super Bowl XLIII 1/2 ... then we really don't have to play Super Bowl XLIV, do we?

New Orleans destroyed New England last night and showed everyone that this indeed is a championship caliber team. The offense is as lethal as advertised and that defense held down Tom Brady and Randy Moss. This is a great team.

A great team that could go undefeated this year. They play at Washington next week then at Atlanta (who is missing Matt Ryan and maybe Michael Turner). Then they get a mammoth Saturday night game at home against the Dallas Cowboys. They'll host Tampa Bay before finishing out the season in Carolina.

Really, only the Dallas game looks like it could be lose-able.

That would mean that the Saints would be the second team to have a 16-0 regular season. They'd also get to host their two playoff games ... and they've been unreal at the Superdome. That could mean that N'Awlins will have a chance to make history in Miami next February. Hopefully an undefeated Colts team will be there to take them on.

Monday night also showed us that if the Saints did get to the Super Bowl, they can win it. This was probably the biggest stage that many of the Saints players have ever been in and they passed with flying colors. Despite ESPN's diehard attempts to pimp out this game (I'll admit that I was amped for this game despite not caring about either team), it was just a dud.

Well, unless you're a Saints fan.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Big Ten Should Finally Win the ACC-Big Ten Challenge

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge begins tonight with a yawner of a game between Virginia and Penn State.

This series has been played every year since 1999. The ACC has won the Challenge in all ten seasons. Duke is a perfect 10-0 in the Challenge. Wake Forest is 8-1. Clemson is 8-2. Michigan State is lone Big Ten school with a winning record in this event (5-4).

The ACC is 62-35 in the Challenge. This year could be different. This year should be different.

The Big Ten is regarded as the top conference this year. The ACC saw a lot of talent head off to the NBA draft (nine players) or graduation. Big Ten only saw two of their guys drafted (B.J. Mullens and Goran Suton) and didn't lose as much to graduation. That allows the Big Ten to be a bit more experienced and cohesive at this time. Both conferences boast three ranked teams (Duke, North Carolina and Clemson in the ACC; Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State in the Big Ten).

There are a few more reasons why I think the Big Ten will break the streak and win their first Challenge:

-Georgia Tech won't participate. The Yellow Jackets were one of the worst teams in the ACC last year, but have improved with Derrick Favors roaming the paint. They are better than Virginia, NC State, Miami and a few other ACC schools that will be playing.

-Michigan State is better; UNC lost a lot. The jewel matchup during this week is Michigan State at North Carolina. You probably remember that the Heels blew out Michigan State by 35 in the Challenge last year. They returned to Ford Field in April and blew out the Spartans again in the National Championship game. This really isn't a rematch since most of the star-power of the Tar Heels is currently playing in the NBA. Michigan State lost Suton and some other parts, but most of the team that lost in that title game is back.

-Weird matchups: Why is Maryland playing Indiana and not NC State? I feel that NC State could beat Indiana in a battle of the two worst teams in these conferences. Instead, the Wolfpack plays Northwestern, who look to go to their first NCAA tournament in school history. Maryland can win that game and should be playing them instead. And why is Ohio State hosting Florida State and not Clemson???

This isn't to say that the ACC doesn't have a chance to continue their dominance. There are several games that could go either way. So here is my prediction:

Penn State at Virginia. Virginia wins (ACC 1-0)
Maryland at Indiana. Maryland wins (ACC 2-0)
Michigan State at North Carolina. Michigan State wins (ACC 2-1)
Northwestern at NC State. Northwestern wins (tied 2-2)
Virginia Tech at Iowa. Va Tech wins (ACC 3-2)
Wake Forest at Purdue. Purdue wins (tied 3-3)
Boston College at Michigan. Michigan wins (Big Ten 4-3)
Duke at Wisconsin. Duke wins (tied 4-4)
Florida State at Ohio State. Ohio State wins (Big Ten 5-4)
Illinois at Clemson. Clemson wins (tied 5-5)
Minnesota at Miami. Miami wins (ACC 6-5)

Wait. Did I just give the ACC another win? Hmmm. Maybe the streak will continue. But even if I'm wrong, there are plenty of swing games and I have five road teams winning ... which goes against the grain. During the Challenge, the home team has won 67 of the 97 games.

GO ACC!!!!!

Frank & Weis: When Being Fired Is Fair or Not

Lawrence Frank and Charlie Weis spent all last week knowing that they wouldn't be holding onto their jobs for very much longer. Both Frank, the head coach of the New Jersey Nets, and Weis, the head coach at Notre Dame, were on borrowed time and were looking straight at that shiny guillotine.

Both were fired in successive days this week. Frank, who was reported to be fired all weekend, finally was shown the door before the Nets 17th straight loss to open the current season. Notre Dame waited until today to officially fire Weis, who says he already has had phone calls about offensive coordinator positions in the NFL.

Weis deserved to get fired. He had five years to mold the Fighting Irish into his kind of program. The offense, at times, looked powerful but the defense was lacking. Also, some decision-making just didn't make sense. He could recruit very well considering Notre Dame's strict requirements, but he just couldn't max all that talent.

While 35-27 doesn't seem to be a horrible five-year record, it doesn't sit well at Notre Dame. This is a program that hasn't won a National Championship in 21 years. That was also their last Heisman Trophy winner. They've been walking around the last two decades like a celebreality star: famous for what they used to be.

Weis was given every opportunity to pull this thing around and he just couldn't do it. Losing at home to Navy ... twice ... can do that to you.

Over in New Jersey, Frank was fired because ... well ... uh ... well they had to do something! The Nets are one loss away from setting the NBA record for most consecutive losses to start a season. Apparently, that's Frank's fault. He was 225-241 in his six-plus seasons with the Nets. He won two Atlantic Division titles and finished second once during that time. But the Nets have become one of those teams who decided to enter the Free Agent Sweepstakes of 2010. They gave away all their best players in salary dumps and are relying on young guys and role players to keep the ship afloat.

Their best player, point guard Devin Harris, missed the first ten games of the season. Courtney Lee, Yi Jianlian, Jarvis Hayes and Keyon Dooling have all missed time. And, again, the Nets dealt away Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter over the past two seasons. That must be Frank's fault, too.

Such is the life of a coach. Both Notre Dame and the Nets are very attractive jobs. Notre Dame still has the name recognition and that sweet television deal with NBC. They have resources that most other programs envy. The Nets have some nice young talent with Devin Harris, Lee, Yi and Brook Lopez. They also have a bunch of cap room to try to nab one of those max guys next summer. Add to that the fact that the Nets could be owned by the richest man in Russia and the team still plans on moving to Brooklyn means that the job could be in high demand.

Is Tiger-Gate Fair Or Out of Bounds?

Since Black Friday, the biggest sports story has been Tiger Woods smashing up his car at 3am. With all the wild rumors flying and the fact Tiger is seemingly hiding from both the media and police officials, this story won't be going away any time soon.

But is this coverage down the fairway? Or is it out-of-bounds?

Let me just say that this has brought about ... yet again ... that whole MSM vs Blog argument. MSM is angry that blogs are starting or chasing these rumors and that it's tough to convey the actual facts of the incident. Blogs are just saying that the MSM is mad that they're being scooped. That whole MSM vs Blog thing has been hashed out before and has grown tired, so I won't go back to it here.

You can go to friend and colleague Alana G and read her take on this issue. I agree with much of what she said. I'm one of those guys who cannot stand the the "reality TV world" we currently live in. I don't need to see people who used to famous ... or ones dying to become famous ... and their daily lives or over-dramatized problems. I'm not a big fan of blogs who skirt the stars day jobs in an effort to find seedy details. I don't care for it and I don't look at it very often.

But, like my television, I can change the channel. I don't need to watch "Cheaters" because there are 300 other channels with stuff on. I don't need to go to or because I can read other blogs (like YARDBARKER!!!). I really don't care if Tiger was cheating on his wife and she caught him in the act or whatever.

That doesn't mean that those sensational-driven shows or websites have no place in the world. There are plenty of people interested in them so they deserve to be there. Like I've said before, if no one wanted it, it wouldn't be there. And if enough people are craving more information on this Tiger Woods story, then there will be shows and websites ready to find it for them.

Which is what makes me laugh about the MSM. Be high and mighty all you want, but every news organization has someone down in Orlando trying to dig and scoop for the latest tidbit of this story.

As for the original question, I don't think this is totally out of bounds. It is a bit overkill that I have to hear little rumors or people reading into Tiger's web post on an hourly basis. How many people know someone who cheated on their spouse? How many know about when the spouse gets angry when confronting their adulterous partner? How many fender-benders and all that have you seen? But Tiger is learning what any superstar has learned at some time or another: the bigger you are the harder you fall. What is insignificant about most people is vital info when it's about you. It doesn't matter who you are ... even if you're the President of the United States. Tiger should understand this and come out publicly with some insight on what's going on.

After all, if the rumors are true, then Tiger made the bed he's sleeping in.

Back From Thanksgiving

Sorry to stray away from the sports stuff, but I gotta get personal here. I went back home (Charlotte) for Thanksgiving and decided not to blog while I was on vacation.

I'll get back in the swing of things soon.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Allen Iverson Retired

I wrote this on November 9th and just wanted to repeat it again:

Allen Iverson Should Just Go Ahead and Retire
Who knew that the marriage between Allen Iverson and Memphis Grizzlies wouldn't work out? Oh, yeah -- everyone. Hard to believe that little song and dance that the two sides did when he signed during the offseason would end badly.

Iverson has played a total of three games ... all off the bench ... before taking a leave of absence from the team. Now the word is that he's contemplating retirement. The Answer is correct. Quit.

Iverson should hang them up. It's obvious that (a) the only role for him in today's NBA is as a bench contributor and (b) he doesn't want to do that. It's obvious that winning isn't the most important thing to him or else he wouldn't have signed with the lowly Grizzlies in the first place (would taking a lot less money and a bench gig with the Cavaliers or Heat be a bad thing?). Before Iverson decides to leave the NBA for whatever else he may want to do, he should consider one thing:

Did the NBA kick him out first and make the decision for him?

Despite how you may feel about Iverson, he is a Hall of Fame player. No one with his smallish build has ever done the things he did. And though he never won a championship, he almost single handily took the Sixers to the 2001 NBA Finals. He was a great player and hopefully will be remembered as such.

The key word is "was". He still is a good player who still can score in bunches. The problem is that teams don't need a guy with his skills of today starting and disrupting the team's flow. Look what happened in Denver once he left. He could cut a nice extended career out of being an offensive spark-plug coming off the bench but that's not his style. Again, the NBA has made the decision for you.

It's a shame that it had to end like this. Iverson in a Memphis uniform will be a sad chapter to a great career ... one that could have been better. To most fans, his "practice" rant will be the thing most people remember him for. That, and for being a gunner. And for unofficially ushering in the hip hop culture into the NBA. He also was a great scorer or something.

So say good-bye to the "bad guy". We probably won't see Iverson's mug much longer since he really doesn't seem like the guy to stick around the league in any other capacity. As you know, he's either the star or nothing at all.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What Happened to My College Football?

When I was growing up, Notre Dame mattered. It really doesn't anymore. Their last championship team was back in 1988. That team beat then-No. 1 Miami, won at then-No. 2 USC and beat then-No. 3 West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl for the National Championship.

That was 21 years ago. None of the high school kids that the Irish are recruiting remember that. They were babies when the remember the Irish's last elite season (a 12-1 campaign in 1993).

During those years, Miami had one of the greatest runs in college football history. From 1983 to 1991, the Canes won four National Championships. During that time frame, the Canes rolled up a 96-13 record. Now, Miami had a nice run earlier this decade, but this isn't the same feared program it once was.

Their main rival, the Florida State Seminoles, were also among the elite. FSU won at least 10 games every year from 1987-2000. Since then, the Noles haven't looked the same. After dominating the ACC during it's first nine seasons in the league (and 11 of their first 12), Florida State looks more like just another run-of-the-mill team. Since that streak ended, they've hit double digits in wins just once.

Add to that the fact that once mighty Nebraska is an afterthought, Oklahoma and USC has fallen on mildly tough times this year while Michigan will miss the bowl season yet again.

That doesn't mean that those great programs are all down. Alabama, Ohio State and Texas will be playing in BCS bowls. And new titans like Florida are flexing their muscle.

Still, it doesn't seem the same. Look at the rankings right now. Boise State? TCU? Cincinnati? Those are three of the top six ranked teams in the country. This could be the weirdest bowl season we've ever seen. Our BCS bowls (aside from a Florida/Alabama vs Texas title tilt) won't have that traditional flavor. How does a Florida/Alabama vs Cincinnati Sugar Bowl sound? Or Boise State vs Iowa in the Fiesta? TCU vs Georgia Tech in the Orange? Makes that Oregon-Ohio State Rose Bowl zing, doesn't it.

That isn't to belittle those newbies to the party. Boise State has become a force, nationally. Cincinnati and TCU have been pretty good for a while now and have finally broken through to elite status. The fans of those programs should be excited and they deserve everything they get.

Still, the BCS doesn't want this. They don't want Cincy, Boise and the Frogs in their huge games. Their sponsors, who are already in a financial bind, don't need to see ratings fall off because the glamor teams are gone.

What's funny is that all those bowl games people make fun of because ... well, what's the point? ... will be the ones that will interest the most people. The Holiday Bowl might do well with an USC-Nebraska matchup. Ole Miss vs Penn State would be a great Capital One Bowl. Either Virginia Tech or Miami vs Pittsburgh in the Gator Bowl would be nice. Z

Me? I'm looking forward to a West Virginia-North Carolina rematch in the Meineke Bowl.