Saturday, February 28, 2009

OMG! I Get It!!! The Redskins Have a Bad History With Free Agents!

So, I go to work today feeling pretty good about the Redskins reeling in Albert Haynesworth from the free agent pool. I had my Redskins hat and jacket on (it was kinda cool today in the 'Nati area) and ready for the "ooohs" and "aaahhhs" that may come my way.

Remember, I just said I live in the Cincinnati area. These people root for a team where their next big free agent signing will be their first. Last season, they signed Haynesworth's former teammate Antwan Odom to the biggest free agent deal in franchise history. Their team is sitting back and watching Stacy Andrews leave for Philly and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Cedric Benson courting other teams.

Those Bengal fans were all over my Redskins.

"They are just trying to buy a championship!" one said. Um, yeah. "Haynesworth ain't worth $100 million" another said. I can get with that but I also understand that it will probably be a cold day in hell before Haynesworth actually sees all of that $100 million. The way NFL contracts work (which no one fully understands; but many are clueless) the Redskins and Haynesworth may rework this deal or trash it all together before the contract ends in 2015. And if Haynesworth does make it those seven years and get all that $100 - $115 million? Well, I guess he played up to it.

Then I heard the same thing that I read on blogs and message boards: "Here comes another Redskins bust." That is unfair and untrue.

Unfair because many, many teams have overspent on guys. Sure, my Redskins have done it more than most. But to pin it all on Washington isn't right. I watched as people reeled off names like Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Jeremiah Trotter, Adam Archuleta and Dana Stubblefield. No one mentions London Fletcher, Shawn Springs (who was cut earlier today), Andre Carter or that trade/signing of Clinton Portis. Again, you can say that is picking nits but to say that every single free agent signing has been perceived as a bust is unjust.

Untrue because none of that has anything to do with what happened today. What do those failures have to do with Haynesworth? Most of those busts were past their primes; Haynesworth is climbing up his. He drew strong support to be the defensive player of the year last season (some were putting him in MVP categories) and turns 28 in June. He has many, many great games in front of him.

Like someone wrote today, if the Redskins hadn't signed him, someone else would have broken the bank for him.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Albert Haynesworth is a Redskin!

I'm fairly excited today. The Washington Redskins have made the first big free agent splash by signing DT Albert Haynesworth to a 7-year, $100 million contract.

Of course, the Redskins haven't had the greatest history with "big time" free agent acquisitions during the Daniel Snyder era. The only one that comes to mind that worked out fantastically was bringing in London Fletcher a couple of years ago. We do overspend on guys (like the huge deal we gave D'Angelo Hall earlier) and this could start a domino effect of cuts or restructured deals (word is that the Skins have already released Shawn Springs). Remember there is another huge name that will be playing down the line in Jason Taylor.

But I love this move! Yes, the Redskins already had one of the better defenses in the NFL ... but they did so without making too many big plays. They rarely intercept any passes, they rarely sack the quarterback and they rarely get any pressure on the QB. With Haynesworth (and, maybe, a healthy Taylor) that can happen.

Now, if we can figure out how to bring in a couple offensive lineman that can keep guys off Campbell and ... maybe ... a possession receiver and we could have something here!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sportz' Bubble Watch - Feb 25

With Providence's huge win, Penn State's tough loss and some other bubble teams playing already, here is a quite update of my SPORTZ' BUBBLE WATCH!!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

NBA All Star Preview ... 1986 Style

It isn't perfect, but it is damn nice! Check out this 2009 NBA All Star Game preview ... 1986 Style!!!

Hat tip: Alana G

Duke's Elliott Williams Does the Moon Walk; Doesn't Get Called

When you watch a Duke game, you will see assistants Steve Wojo-something and Chris Collins jump up with a traveling signal for the opposition about ... oh ... 16 times a game. I wonder what they think about Elliot Williams' move above?

Bubble Watch: February 23rd

SPORTZ' BUBBLE WATCH: I'm not a bracketologist by any means. But I do like to dabble with who I think has a shot at getting one of the 65 bids to the NCAA Tournament.

Below is my most recent outlook. I have locks in green (teams who I think are in no matter what), "looking good" in blue (teams who I think would have to tank it to miss the tournament) and "needs work" in red (the true bubble teams).

LOCKS: North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Wake Forest
LOOKING GOOD: Florida State, Boston College
NEED A LITTLE MORE: Virginia Tech, Miami-FL, Maryland
OUTLOOK: Maryland is back up off the mat with their huge win over UNC. Va-Tech may have seen their hopes dashed with a bad loss to Virginia. BC still has those wins over UNC and Duke to brag about.

LOCKS: UConn, Pitt, Villanova, Louisville, Marquette
LOOKING GOOD: Syracuse, West Virginia
NEED A LITTLE MORE: Notre Dame, Georgetown, Cincinnati, Providence
OUTLOOK: Syracuse, to me, is a lock barring a meltdown. Still, I don't have them there yet. Georgetown really needs a win over L'ville tonight. Cincinnati is in a weird place since they have no really sexy wins ... since those wins over the Hoyas don't look as good now.

LOCKS: Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue
LOOKING GOOD: Ohio State, Wisconsin
NEED A LITTLE MORE: Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State
OUTLOOK: Minnesota has fallen down to NALM status by losing six of nine. Wisconsin and Ohio State don't have sparkling records, but they have high RPIs and great SOS. Both Michigan and Penn State have really nice wins on their resume, but is it enough to unseat a couple ACC or Big East teams?

LOCKS: Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri
NEED A LITTLE MORE: Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Kansas State
OUTLOOK: Texas got a huge win against the Sooners this weekend. Okie State has lofty numbers but, as I've said before, losing to great teams doesn't make you great.

LOCKS: Washington, UCLA, Arizona State
LOOKING GOOD: Arizona, California
OUTLOOK: The Trojans are hanging on by a thread. Not only is their record not glamourous, people really aren't respecting the Pac-10 as a great conference this year. The fact that the top of the league isn't as strong will hurt Southern Cal.

LOOKING GOOD: Florida, Kentucky
NEED A LITTLE MORE: Tennessee, South Carolina
OUTLOOK: The Vols lost badly at Kentucky which really damages their postseason chances. Florida's conference record should be good enough to get them in. Same thing with Kentucky. Both already have 8-4 records and should realistically hang ten wins.


Below are teams that I deem as locks and looking goods in the next tier of conferences.

ATLANTIC 10: Xavier, Dayton
MOUNTAIN WEST: Utah, BYU, UNLV, San Diego State
Utah State


Here are 19 conferences that should just get the one automatic bid in:

America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Ivy, MAC, MAAC, MEAC, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, SWAC, Summitt, Sun Belt

Tar Heels Choke Away Shot at No. 1 Ranking

I am angry that my beloved Tar Heels decided it was time to choke away a 16-point lead, ending their 10-game winning streak and forking over a shot at the No. 1 ranking.

But, whatever. It happens. Am I bent? Sure. But we lost to a rabid Maryland team that was led by the brilliant Greivis Vasquez.

This does take a lot of the shine off the Heels this season, but it doesn't make me think that this team cannot win the NCAA Tournament. I remember the 2005 team lost to Santa Clara and a loss to Georgia Tech team in the ACC Tournament. They also choked away a game at Duke, midseason. That team, like this team, lost at Wake Forest. That team also won a championship.

Same sort of thing in 1993. The Heels again lost to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the ACC Tournament (that was in the title game, which was in Charlotte). That Heels team lost at Wake Forest (they were destroyed, 88-62) and at Duke (by 14) in back-to-back games. That Heels team would go on to win a championship.

In 1982, the Heels only lost twice. Once at powerful Virginia. The other was ... you guessed it ... to Wake Forest. They won a title.

The 1957 team didn't lose a game all season long.

Am I rationalizing? You betcha! But sometimes you have to get a little perspective of what you've seen.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sports Gravitation Towards Corporate Dollars Are Biting Them Now

Everyone knows that we are all in a financial crisis. Too much credit given has contributed to this and, apparently, the lack of credit will make it tougher to get out of it.

The sports world has pretty much been tied with this thinking. Over the last decade or so, franchises have abandoned their fan bases and courted corporate dollars. They longed for it so much that teams demanded newer stadiums and arenas that were chock full of luxury suites that they can sell to big businesses. Tickets close to the field of play were being bought up by people with business interests.

Because of the fact that companies were willing to throw a little more cash out there, the prices went up. Soon, the regular joes were priced into the not-so-cheap seats or out of the stadium altogether.

It wasn't just tickets. Teams craved that money to name their stadium. No more Salt Palace ... we need the Delta Center (which is now renamed after a waste disposal company). No more Shea Stadium ... we get Citi Field. Ya know, one of those banks that needed our tax dollars to bail them out. Who cares? Remember that Minute Maid Park was once Enron Field.

Now the economy is bad and companies are tightening up their expenses. One of the first things to go are these sports deals. Endorsement deals aren't as exorbitant; luxury boxes aren't being renewed; sponsors are really gripping about every dollar they spend.

So teams and players who were counting on the money just to keep getting bigger year after year are now scared about what the future will bring. Just look at the NBA trade deadline that ended yesterday. There were more trades made for financial reasons than ever. Teams wanted to get under that dreaded luxury tax line as well as trying to get cap-friendly as the salary cap will most likely shrink in the next two years.

It isn't just the NBA. NFL and MLB teams are offering up shorter deals. They might be alright now, but those contracts that balloon down the road could really damage some franchises.

And, of course, we fans get screwed here as well. Many of our teams will be willing to give up on high achievements if they can find a way to weather the storm. I mean, if you see that your franchise may need to go into a rebuilding stage, wouldn't this be the best time to do it? So fans of various teams will watch their stars dealt elsewhere.

Fans have looked past lots of this stuff to stick with their team. We go to FedEx Field and get bombarded with advertisements from Pepsi to credit card companies to insurance. Or where I should go for my banking needs ... which when I get there, they will deny my loan app. I just wanted to see a game, not decide which brand of car I will buy next.

The ugly truth is that no sports team should actually struggle financially ... in theory. While there is a lot of money involved in the logistics or running a franchise, it is the labor costs that has the most impact. You think that if every player took a 20% decrease in their salaries that it would make for and easier transition until, hopefully, the economy rights itself? It worked a bit in the NHL when most players took a paycut just to keep the league alive.

Yeah. Don't hold your breath.

Let's Move the Blazers to the Pacific Division

Just a thought.

I think the NBA should look at some realignment. With the Seattle SuperSonics now residing in Oklahoma City as the Thunder, I think the NBA can do a little switcheroo.

Why not move the Portland Trail Blazers to the Pacific Division and move the Phoenix Suns to a "Midwest" Division?

Portland was a Pacific Division staple until the NBA went to a six-division format a few years ago. The Blazers, along with nearby Seattle, were placed in the new Northwest Division with Denver, Minnesota and Utah. It seemed like a good fit at the time.

But with Seattle out of the picture, shouldn't we put Portland ... which lies on the Pacific coast ... in the Pacific Division? Put them with the Lakers, Clippers, Warriors and Kings.

To make room, move the Suns to a revamped Midwest Division. It's stupid to have a Northwest Division when Oklahoma City is one of the occupants. So call it the Midwest and have Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Utah, Denver and Minnesota involved.

Look, this is really all window dressing. The division format is nothing more than a show to have six teams feeling as if they won something. In reality, the NBA basically is made up of two conferences. Teams within the division play each other nearly the same amount of times so moving teams really won't affect travel or, like the Dallas Stars of the NHL, won't create bad television times.

Still, it would make a bit more sense.

SOUTHWEST: Dallas, Houston, Memphis, New Orleans, San Antonio
MIDWEST: Denver, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Utah
PACIFIC: Golden State, LA Clippers, LA Lakers, Portland, Sacramento

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Texas Tech vs Mike Leach

If you haven't heard, Texas Tech may fire head football coach Mike Leach by the end of the week. Yes, the same Mike Leach that vaulted his Red Raider program to near the top of the rankings this season.

The issue is that Leach hasn't signed an extension beyond his next two contracted seasons. They agree on the money and years, but don't agree on various stipulations in the offered deals. So, according to Leach, he was just going to continue in his current deal.

I side with Leach for most of this. If he doesn't like the extended contract, why should he have to sign it to keep his current job/contract? I mean, he still has two years left and either T-Tech wants him there for several years or none.

Leach has turned Texas Tech into an emerging football power. Now the school wants that to go away.

I will say that I understand the school's position that Leach was openly courting other jobs ... most notably the Washington Huskies gig. Tech has to have that feeling that Leach is only around until the bigger better deal arrives. They can't have that for a variety of reasons and I get the fact that they want the same commitment from Leach that he wants from the university.

Still, Tech is willing to fire a coach that will enter the fall as one of the top free agent head coaches out there. He, along with Jon Gruden, will see his name associated with every open (or soon to be open) job out there. What, you don't think Notre Dame will give Leach a look?

I hope it doesn't come to this.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Shaq and Kobe Have Played Their Last Game Together

This was a one-time deal, folks. No reunion tour. No new studio album.

Despite all of the sugar-coated love displayed this weekend, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant are done as teammates.

The Lakers aren't going to deal for him. As a Laker fan, it did cross my mind about bringing Shaq back. Let's be honest: Los Angeles could use him right now. Andrew Bynum is out until just before the playoffs and Shaq could fill the 15 or so minutes asked of him a night. That would work if the Suns bought Shaq's contract out and let him walk to the Lakers for a much, much, much smaller salary.

None of that is going to happen. The only way the Lakers could deal for Shaq is if they parted with Lamar Odom ... who has been a monster of late and even more valuable now that Bynum is out. Phoenix isn't going to buy out Shaq and let him walk to a division rival. Not just that, but Shaq becomes a huge trading chip in 2009-2010 because of his expiring contract.

Let's put all that to bed. The logistics just don't work.

The final word on this is Kobe. Do you really think Kobe wants Shaq around as he goes for another title? If there is one thing the ultra-competitive Bryant wants to accomplish is winning a ring without the Big Fella. This is Kobe's team now and Shaq would come in and undermine that a bit.

Not sabotage, but ... well just watch the All Star festivities. Shaq decided to dance with the JabberWokkeeZ (it was funny, but it was all about him). Shaq decided to wax poetic about Kobe and their past. And, for some reason, Shaq even stole half of the MVP trophy away from Kobe as they were co-winners.

Kobe did all the right things this weekend. He played along with Shaq's jokes and playfulness. He did everything to show the world that their hatchet has been buried. Most of it felt somewhat genuine but somewhat a little fake.

Look, Shaq and Kobe will never be best buddies. They may never be good friends. But I honestly think they get along and both do value those years they spent together. There aren't too many combos that can celebrate a three-peat. Both know that their careers have been and will be defined by those title teams ... whether they like it or not.

But both are different cats right now. Kobe has taken his place as the NBA's best player. Shaq is now a broken down superstar who, though playing pretty well, is near the end of his career. We didn't really see Shaq and Kobe together again on Sunday. I mean, it was them, but they look so much different. Shaq now looks aged; his voice more gruff. Kobe has done the Jordan-esque change from a pogo stick with doubters to the best all around game in the league and he knows he is the best player out there.

The thing is that Kobe really doesn't need Shaq right now. Really, Shaq doesn't need Kobe. Kobe helms a team that entered this weekend with the league's best record and season sweeps over the Celtics and Cavaliers. Shaq has four championships and will go down as one of the NBA's greatest players.

This was fun for a night, but let's not get carried away.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Phoenix Suns Were Wrong to Hire Terry Porter; Even More Wrong to Fire Him

The Phoenix Suns may or may not have fired head coach Terry Porter. Because the NBA doesn't want anyone dumping on the All Star Game, league business tends to take the weekend off.

So, tomorrow, Porter will be fired by the Suns. Thanks for that! The Suns have absolutely no stones. None.

Don't get me wrong: Porter isn't a great head coach. He's a good guy who does a good job and all, but he just doesn't enough produce wins. I'm not saying this now that he's gone ... I was saying that when he was hired.

Porter never should have been head coach of the Suns. But GM Steve Kerr was busy running Mike D'Antoni out of town and into a gazillion dollar offer from the Knicks. He wanted a defensive minded guy, so hiring Porter seemed like a good idea.

The problem is that Porter wasn't inheriting a defensive minded team. Phoenix has long been a run-and-gun team that hid their bad defense by outscoring opponents. That usually isn't a trademark of championship teams, but Porter was supposed to add that defensive dimension to go with that potent offense.

Problem was two things: The potent offense left with D'Antoni and Kerr deals away Porter's only stallions. And by stallions, I mean he traded away the two guys Porter had to have to push his defensive stance: Raja Bell and Boris Diaw. Those were the Suns two best defensive and most versatile players. Kerr dealt them to Charlotte for Jason Richardson ... who would have thrived in that run-and-gun style of D'Antoni's.

That doesn't even mention the square peg of Shaq anchoring the rounded Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire.

Porter inherited all of this and was asked to create ... what? What was the goal? What was the standard? Yes, being the 9th place team in the Western Conference is a problem, but what did you expect when you didn't let the man coach his team. Even if he was going to stink at it, let him do his job.

If not, then why did you hire him in the first place?

Porter will probably never be a head coach again unless he takes an interim role when a coach he is assisting is fired (like Alvin Gentry, who will be replacing Porter in Phoenix).

Meanwhile, Kerr marches on to make more bad decisions.

NBA All-Star Weekend Kicks Off With Less Than a Bang

I used to love the NBA's All Star Weekend. Oh, it still is a good show and a better party, but it just doesn't pop like it once did. I really don't know why.

Yes I do. Star power. The lack of star power.

Oh, there are stars sprinkled out there in a few events. We did have Dwight Howard defending his slam dunk championship (more on that later) and Tony Parker was in the Skills competition. And soon-to-be-superstars Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant were extremely impressive in everything they did this weekend. But it lacks that magic of having guys that transcend the sport participating in these events.

The Skills Competition is a neat idea, but it looks too much like practice drills. That, or a dog's obstacle course. However, it is the truest event that is held during the day.

The three point contest used to be that ... but it favors rhythm shooters who have outstanding mechanics and not those catch and shoot cats. You also need a hot hand to win that thing, which is why Jason Kapono's off night killed his chances.

As for the dunk contest, I will say that this was one of the more entertaining events in a while. I pretty much liked all the dunks. I also think Dwight Howard was robbed. He won that thing, but since he was born with height, he couldn't win.

And let me weigh in about LeBron James. He mentioned DURING THE DUNK CONTEST that he is thinking about getting back in next year. How big of you, Mr. King. One, can't you keep that under your hat until after the dunk contest is long over? You just overshadowed the guys who actually showed up to the event. Not just that, you underminded the winner's victory by basically saying, "yeah, well that's because I wasn't there."

Don't get me wrong; I hope LBJ comes through on his little idea. We need more dunk contests with the NBA's top dunkers. Maybe a guy like Vince Carter could come back? Or Andre Iguodala?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sportz 'This Week In the ACC'

Alright, it is time for the nitty gritty. The ACC is reaching its second half and there is a lot on the line. North Carolina fights to get back atop the polls; Duke and Wake are trying to stop their reeling; Florida State and Virginia Tech are coming up; and Clemson is starting to look scary.

So let's take our weekly look at the ACC.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: NORTH CAROLINA. The Tar Heels have now won eight in a row after losing their first two conference games. Right now, they are in first place in the standings and are coming off a huge win at Duke.

DISAPPOINTING TEAM OF THE WEEK: WAKE FOREST. The Deacons are sliding a bit after their huge win over North Carolina. Losses to Georgia Tech and NC State are ridiculous for a team that was once No. 1.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: TY LAWSON, UNC. It was Lawson's effort that brought a win over Duke back to Chapel Hill. He could not be stopped by the ACC's best defensive team.

UPCOMING GAMES THIS WEEKEND: NC State at Georgia Tech, Florida State at Wake Forest, Virginia Tech at Maryland, Clemson at Virginia, Duke at Boston College, North Carolina at Miami.

Some huge games coming up. Florida State can really make a statement if they can go into Winston-Salem and beat a reeling Wake Forest team. Same idea can go to Wake, as a win over the Noles would bring back some of their swagger.

Duke has lost 3 of 5 and now heads up to Boston College to face a rabid Eagles squad (that has already beaten UNC). This is the kind of game that should show Duke's mental state. If they come out flat, then this will probably be just another season that fades away.

The game of the weekend is in Coral Gables as the Heels and Canes renew acquaintances. Miami gave Carolina all it could handle in Chapel Hill before Wayne Ellington started nailing threes.

Clemson and Virginia Tech are facing trap games on the road.

NEXT WEEK: Maryland at Clemson, Miami at Florida State, Georgia Tech at Wake Forest, NC State at North Carolina, Virginia Tech at Virginia, Duke at St John's.

Three in-state matchups, Duke heading to their home away from home, and Wake Forest trying to avenge a bad loss.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bud Selig Takes Head Out Of Sand to Say That He Wants To Start Changing Records

Bud Selig seems like a nice guy. When he talks, I can see why people like him. I don't. So of course I think Selig is way off base when he says he is thinking about amending Alex Rodriguez's statistics now that he's (been) an admitted PED user.

I mean, Selig spent much of the 1990s and 2000s looking the other way while freaks of nature ... or a science lab ... where spanking home runs at record numbers. No one questioned how Barry Bonds could hit his mid-30s and start hitting 70+ home runs. No one questioned how a skinny Mark McGwire's career had hit the skids ... then a bulky Big Mac started chasing Roger Maris.

He's sat in Congressional hearings and poo-pooed the amount of steroid and PED activity in his sport. He said he knew it was there but it was just a small amount of people. Now we have had Bonds looking at a perjury case, Miguel Tejada got whacked, McGwire can't sniff the Hall of Fame, Roger Clemens is suing everyone and A-Rod saying he's a doper.

This has been a major topic for three years and now it seems Selig wants it to go away.

Nope. Sorry. This is your bed, Bud. You lie in it.

You can't start screwing with the records, Bud. There is virtually no possible way to know who was using what and when. And how can you take home runs away from A-Rod when you won't give home runs to players who were facing a roided up Clemens? Will you forfeit games that A-Rod played in while on PEDs?

Face it: baseball sold its soul in order to build its fan base back. After Selig's crew cancelled the 1994 World Series, they were desperate to have people look at the sport in a positive light. So when a bulky McGwire and Sammy Sosa start smacking home runs at an alarming rate, no one questioned it. No one has ever hit more than 61 HRs since 1961 ... yet two guys did it in 1998. Just a couple of years later, Bonds topped McGwire's 70. Fans loved it and baseball was back on top.

Now their chickens are coming home to roost. The bar is calling for you to pay the tab. That doesn't mean reconstructing numbers.

Records are found in the history books. When people look back on the numbers that occurred between 1997-2004, they will already think "well, that's the Steroid Era". Just like I can look back on those ungodly numbers that guys like Cy Young put up because that was when pitchers just pitched every game. Just like I can look at any number before 1947 and know that it wasn't against black or Latin players. Or the 1960s pitching stats when the mound was higher.

Those are mental asterisks. I don't need a little symbol to remind me of what I know. I don't need an asterisk to know that Bonds' home run record was aided by steroids just like I don't need an asterisk to tell me that Babe Ruth hit all his HRs in a whites-only league. Part of baseball is the passing of the history from generation to generation and the Steroid Era will be the legacy that we will bring to our children.

The numbers alone will be their own asterisks. So we don't need you changing the numbers, Bud, and telling us that you are peeved about what was happening while your head was in the sand.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

UNC-Duke: I Hate to Say 'I Told You So' ... But I Did

Last night, I wrote this about the UNC-Duke game:
They rank No. 3 and No. 4 (or No. 5 in the coaches poll) which means you have two elite teams with National Championships dancing in their heads. However, these two couldn't be any different. Duke can't guard Tyler Hansbrough or Ty Lawson. UNC can't guard Kyle Singler or Gerald Henderson. The Heels should dominate on the glass while Duke will hit more than its fair share of threes.

What games like this come down to is poise. Over time, the loser of this game tends to lose poise during a stretch in the game. Last year in Chapel Hill, Carolina lost poise when Duke was hitting everything they threw up. In Durham, Duke lost poise at the end of the game when the outcome was on the line. It happens when the bright lights are shining on 18 to 23 year olds.
Amazing that it did come out that way. Duke couldn't guard Tyler Hansbrough or Ty Lawson and Carolina couldn't guard Singler or Henderson. Lawson, Singler and Henderson were able to go where they want and get the shots they wanted. Well, for at least a half.

Singler and especially Henderson were on fire in the first half but non-factors in the second. Lawson was no where in the first half but dumped 21 points in the second half.

As for poise ... it was very evident. North Carolina went on a 43-19 run in the second half. During that run, Duke panicked. They took bad shots (Henderson's baseline fade away comes to mind), failed to run their offense and turned the ball over. They also allowed Lawson to keep getting to the rack. This will be my lasting memory of this game. The fact that UNC punched Duke in the mouth (29-18 opening run), Duke responded (32-12 run) and then the Heels dominated (46-21). Duke just couldn't respond; they couldn't punch back.

That's basketball ... or sports, really.

So congrats to the Heels and their amazing senior class. Danny Green and Tyler Hansbrough have both won in all four visits to Cameron Indoor Stadium (fellow senior Bobby Frasor didn't play in last year's game).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hey Phoenix: I Hope Shaq Was Worth It

Just because something is better than expected, that doesn't make it valuable. That point has never been more evident than what the Phoenix Suns have been going through over the past year.

One year ago, Steve Kerr and the Suns dealt away Shawn Marion for Shaquille O'Neal. And aging Shaq who was sitting due to injury.

The Suns were a team that was winning Pacific Division championships and were one of the elite teams in the NBA. No, that didn't equate to Finals appearances, but this was far from a team that needed to be imploded.

Shaq has surprised many people by having an All-Star season. The last time he looked anything like this, the Miami Heat were winning their championship. It would seem that slowing the Suns down and actually having a half court game would put them over the top.

The problem is that the Suns aren't championship caliber anymore. Odd when you think that Shaq is playing at such a high level on a team that was one of the NBA's elite. And it isn't as if Marion is doing anything of importance in Miami.

Since the deal was made, Mike D'Antoni flew the coup to New York (the Suns weren't very angry about that). Phoenix's lack of offense led to them dealing Raja Bell and Boris Diaw ... two of their best defenders ... to Charlotte for Jason Richardson. Steve Nash has gone from MVP to non-All Star. Amare Stoudemire wants out. Fans wish head coach Terry Porter would follow him.

And now the Suns want to deal Shaq.

There are two parts to this story: what has happened and what could have been. What has happened is the Suns are fighting just to get into the playoffs and get run out of the first round by the Lakers or Spurs. They are trying to deal Amare Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal in order to salvage some payroll and some prospects. The problem is that Amare can be a free agent in 2010 and Shaq holds a $20M price tag next season. Tough sells.

What could have been is up for debate since we really can never tell. If the Suns stayed pat and never made this deal, they would probably still be trailing the Lakers in the Pacific and most likely a No. 5 to 7 seed in the playoffs. However, it would be easier for them to make a move now. Marion has an expiring contract which would be worth something ... or just let him walk and his contract is off the books. Guys like Nash and Stoudemire are more attractive bargaining chips if you wanted to deal them as well.

Instead, the team is actively trying to deal the one player (Amare) they shouldn't be shopping. They probably can't deal Shaq right now unless Cleveland gets desperate. They aren't dealing Nash. However, neither Nash nor Shaq will be in the Suns long-term plans. If you are going to implode the team, it would make more sense to build the new Suns around Amare.

Shaq has been a force this year and an All Star. Not a bad catch considering you dealt away that isn't an All Star this year. But the biggest measure is sports are wins and losses and that is where the Suns have suffered the most.

Oh Yeah, UNC-Duke Is Tonight

As a diehard Carolina fan, today is like a National holiday to me. I even have the day off of work. When people say "circle this date on your calendar" -- I do!

What is funny is that I live in Kentucky now and know only one Duke fan. Far from the thousands of Dookies I knew or ran into when I lived in Charlotte. So I love it when people ask me about how the game will turn out.

You can't answer that.

Part of a great rivalry is that whole "throw the records out the window" stuff. I think that is a bunch of crap because when UNC stunk and Duke was elite, the Blue Devils dominated the Heels. The same thing happened in the early 1980s when Coach K was building back up Duke's program and guys like James Worthy and Michael Jordan were dominating the Devils.

Aside from those moments, however, it is amazing how many of these games are so evenly matched ... even if they really aren't.

They rank No. 3 and No. 4 (or No. 5 in the coaches poll) which means you have two elite teams with National Championships dancing in their heads. However, these two couldn't be any different. Duke can't guard Tyler Hansbrough or Ty Lawson. UNC can't guard Kyle Singler or Gerald Henderson. The Heels should dominate on the glass while Duke will hit more than its fair share of threes.

What games like this come down to is poise. Over time, the loser of this game tends to lose poise during a stretch in the game. Last year in Chapel Hill, Carolina lost poise when Duke was hitting everything they threw up. In Durham, Duke lost poise at the end of the game when the outcome was on the line. It happens when the bright lights are shining on 18 to 23 year olds.

Regardless, it should be a great game. Two Hall of Fame coaches bringing their elite programs into one of the greatest venues to watch a sporting event with a lot riding on the outcome.

That makes a great rivalry.

IF I WERE COMMISH: Changing the NBA All Star Game

For years, I've taken some time to just throw out ideas of various changes in sports if I was the Ultimate Commissioner Of All Sport!

Today, I'm looking at the NBA All Star Game.

When I was a kid, I loved all the All Star games. I loved seeing Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Larry Bird on the same squad. I loved the pick-up style the game took. I even loved the Slam Dunk contest and all those festivities.

Now it is more about the party than the game. That's fine and all, but I want my game back!

MAKE IT A PICK-UP GAME: I am cool with having the two best players in the league (that decision is made by David Stern) standing at half court with the next 22 best players waiting to see who gets picked. Then watch, say, Kobe and LeBron take turns picking players for their team.

Let the fans vote for six guys ... regardless of conference ... that they definitely want in the game. Then have the coaches vote for the other 16 players.

I can see it now. Kobe uses his first pick on D-Wade. Then LeBron takes Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. Kobe then takes Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki. And so on.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

State Of the ACC Address (Midseason Edition)

The greatest rivalry in college basketball ... and maybe all of sports ... resumes tomorrow. The UNC-Duke game ceremoniously marks the midseason for the ACC season. Everyone has played at least eight games and the standings seem to be settling.

TEAM TO BEAT: NORTH CAROLINA. The Tar Heels have won 7 straight after spotting the rest of the league their 0-2 start. Their offense has been clicking again while their defense has gotten just a little bit better. Still, there is some gleam gone from their pre-conference swagger as injuries have left the team a bit exposed.

IF NOT THEM, THEN: DUKE. Believe it or not, but the Blue Devils are actually deeper than the Tar Heels. Their defense is still dominating ... at times. The key will be their ability to defend and score in the paint. They can get away with this against some ACC teams, but Clemson and Wake Forest exposed this, just as UNC may do tomorrow.

TEAM WHO COULD RISE: Virginia Tech. Va Tech is laying in the weeds at 5-3. They have Georgia Tech, at Maryland, at Virginia and Florida State coming up. Very winnable games. They will need to win most if not all of those to get to 9-3 or 8-4. Their closing schedule? At Clemson, UNC, Duke and at Florida State. Yikes!

TEAM WHO COULD FALL: FLORIDA STATE. The Noles have finally appeared in the rankings, but will it last? They did win at Clemson but don't really have any other impressive conference wins. Coming up, they will have a stretch at Wake Forest, Miami, at Virginia Tech, at Boston College, Clemson, at Duke and Virginia Tech.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: TYLER HANSBROUGH. This is a tough one. Hansbrough is just doing what he always does. He has a sizeable lead in the scoring race and will be chasing down J.J. Redick's ACC scoring mark in a month. Wake's Jeff Teague has a good shot at taking the award away from Psycho T, but it may come down to whose team wins the regular season title.

COACH OF THE YEAR: AL SKINNER. There are a lot of great candidates for this. Roy Williams has had to deal with injuries and expectations at North Carolina; Dino Guadio has taken a young Deacons team to a No. 1 ranking; Leonard Hamilton has his Noles ranked; Oliver Purnell lost some key guys off of last year's team but has Clemson still in the thick of things. But Al Skinner has taken a Boston College team that was picked to finish dead last in the ACC and turned them into a possible NCAA Tournament team. I think that he may need to get them in to secure this award, but what he has done already is amazing. They won at North Carolina and have beaten Va Tech. They will get some publicized run soon as they will face Clemson, Duke and Miami in the next 11 days.

Santonio Holmes' Super Bowl TD ... Tecmo Bowl Style!

I ripped this off of my good friend Alana G's blog. It is a Tecmo Super Bowl version of Santonio Holmes game-winning TD grab in Super Bowl XLIII.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A-Rod Speaks Out ... But Does He Say Anything?

Okay, we have now seen Alex Rodriguez come out and admit that he used performance enhancing drugs while a member of the Texas Rangers from 2001-2003. He went on ESPN and talked very candidly about his use of PEDs to Peter Gammons (UNC grad).

Now we all get to digest this and spit out what we believe it to mean.

I don't see this as all the truth or all a lie. There is a nice mixture instead. As Gammons said in a later interview, he was surprised by how much A-Rod admitted in the interview. He voluntarily gave the timeline of 2001-2003 and seemed sincerly sorry that this happened. Also, I liked the fact that he came out and admitted to this instead of doing the ol' "I didn't know that was wrong" or the Roger Clemens "you're a liar" tact.

Of course as Jim Rome asked, is he sorry he did this or sorry that he was caught? Obviously it is the latter. If A-Rod was truly sorry for using PEDs, why would he wait until a day or two after he was exposed to pubically be sorry? Why would you go on CBS 14 months ago and tell (err ... lie to) Katie Couric that you've never used PEDs?

All that lends to the fact that you cannot possibly believe everything he said in his interview with Gammons. How can you? He has lied before when his back wasn't against the wall. It wasn't as bad as Rafael Palmerio's statement in a Congressional hearing, but it looks pretty bad. Due to this, most of us will assume that he was using PEDs outside of his 2001-2003 timeline, despite what he may say.

Of course, the real damage will be done to baseball. Sort of.

The games will still march on, A-Rod will be eventually welcomed back to his role as a Yankee slugger, and attendance will still be rolling. There will be a cloud hanging over A-Rod but he really won't have to deal with it while he is still playing (other than some opposing fans giving him some lip ... but it isn't like he hasn't been dealing with that already).

A-Rod will have to answer this as he approaches Barry Bonds home run record. He will have to answer this when he retires and the Baseball Writers debate about his Hall Of Fame status. This also puts a huge bucket of sludge on top of the mess that Bonds, Clemens, Palmerio and Mark McGwire have already made. It makes the Steroid Era that much more significant and places more doubt in minds of the fans. If A-Rod was doing it, then who else?

Will those fans leave? No. They haven't yet. The game has been threw betting scandals, drug scandals and a cancelled World Series. Steroids won't bring the game down. They will just put some rust on top of that sludge.

Lakers End Cavaliers Home Winning Streak; Display Their Dominance

The Lakers just ended their eastern road trip with a very impressive 6-0 mark. Winning on the road in the NBA is far from easy, no matter how talented a team you are.

What made this trip all the more stunning was the final two games. The Lakers went into Boston and ended their 12 game winning streak on Thursday night ... then went into Cleveland and beat the Cavaliers. That loss was the first the Cavs has suffered at home all year (23-1).

That's amazing. The West's best went into the East's beasts and came away winners.

Now to add some more toppings: Kobe Bryant was far from his best in either game. Against Boston, Kobe was just 10-of-29 shooting and didn't hit a shot in the overtime. LA still came away with the win. Against Cleveland, Kobe had flu-like symptoms and wasn't himself. He did score 19 points (11 came in the first quarter) with his only 4th quarter points coming off a rainbow fadeaway over LeBron James.

Bryant's teammates were instrumental in the win. The same teammates that Phil Jackson left on the court for nearly the entire first half of the 4th quarter without Kobe (by the way, Odom was sitting too). That's the kind of trust Phil has in his bench guys.

Oh ... some more toppin's. Remember that this road trip started with Andrew Bynum tearing up his knee again against Memphis (second game of the trip) and finding out that he'd be out for the next two-or-three months.

Six games; six wins. Wins over Boston and Cleveland. Kobe's 61 point outburst at Madison Square Garden. Not a bad trip at all!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Duke's Greg Paulus Gets Dunked On YET AGAIN!!!!

Three days ago, I wrote about how Duke's Greg Paulus got dunked on by Clemson's Jerai Grant.

Today against Miami, he was dunked on yet again.

It wasn't as bad as some of the others (his didn't have his chin wiped by someone's junk this time). No, but Miami's Dwayne Collins still punched it on Paulus. Again, Paulus thought it was smart to challenge a dunker directly under the basket.

Add this to his greatest hits:

UNC's Danny Green dunks on Paulus
Va Tech's Deron Washington hurdles over Paulus
Paulus flops against VCUTea Bag Paulus

Friday, February 6, 2009

UNC Suspends Will Graves

Here is something interesting that I just heard about: North Carolina head coach Roy Williams suspended Will Graves for the season.

No one really knows why, though Ol' Roy did say this:
He will remain a part of our program and participate in practice and all other team activities. His status for 2009-2010 will be determined prior to next season.

So wha' happened? The reason given is that Graves didn't "maintain the standards [coaches] expect of a Carolina basketball player." Does that mean he had a run-in with the law? Probably not since we would have heard something by now. Does it mean he is acting up about losing some of his playing time? Maybe, but that usually doesn't work out very well. I'm also ruling out that he is in some sort of academic jam.

That story may unfold at a later time, but this is a blow to the Tar Heels. What was once a talented and deep team has now turned into just a talented team. One of Carolina's perceived strengths was that their six through ten guys were better than anyone else's. Now that isn't the case. Graves is suspended for the season; Marcus Ginyard has now been ruled out for the remainder of the season and will redshirt onto next year's team; and Tyler Zeller suffered that broken wrist at the beginning of the season and is done.

Losing Graves doesn't register as big as Ginyard or Zeller. Ginyard was a defensive leader for this team and a guy that was so versitile and filled the hustle stat sheet. Zeller, though only playing a few games, was turning into one of the top team scorers and rebounders and added height off the bench. Graves' importance was raised with the losses of the other two. He was another body out there but brought nothing more than a three-point gunner. And even then, he wasn't doing too well (10-of-36).

Unlike the pros where you can make a trade or two to recoup some of the losses, Carolina has to keep trucking on with what they have.

Lakers Beat Celtics ... And NO It Isn't Revenge

What a big win! Odd since this was a game that I was fully expecting the Lakers to fall just because it was the 3rd road game in 4 days and I felt Kobe would a bit worn out.

A couple of things amazed me about this game:

-LA didn't play very well at all, yet went into the home of the NBA's best team (record-wise heading into the game) and defending champ and won. Without Bynum, there was a built in excuse if the Lakers lost this game. Yet LA did a masterful job matching Boston's intensity.

-Why did the Celtics go with that lineup once Garnett fouled out? The Lakers were going small so it wouldn't be a bad idea to stick Eddie House out there. He was on fire all game long yet couldn't get on the floor down the stretch.

-I was a bit surprised that Boston was the team that was affected by the physical nature of the game. The Lakers are (allegedly) the "soft" team who buckled last year and the C's are (allegedly) that tough hard-nosed bunch who are the 21st Century version of the Bad Boys. Yet Garnett and Rondo got caught up in the moment and hurt their teams.

-We need to hire Karma Lone to talk smack about LO and light a fire underneath him. Odom was possessed in the 2nd half.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Duke's Greg Paulus Gets Dunked On Again

Here is yet another video of Duke's Greg Paulus getting dunked on. This happened last night as Clemson's Jarai Grant punches it on Paulus (who smartly tries to take a charge while standing under the basket).

This goes near the top of Paulus' greatest hits.

Here are my favorites:
UNC's Danny Green dunks on Paulus
Va Tech's Deron Washington hurdles over Paulus
Paulus flops against VCU
Tea Bag Paulus

Rushing the Court Is Played Out ... But I Don't Want to Stop It

Let me start off by saying that I hate it when college fans storm the court/field after a win. I'm willing to bet that 75% of times fans rush the field of play is unnecessary. However, there is that 25% that I can get with.

Both sides of the argument, to me, happened last night in the ACC.

After Miami beat Wake Forest by 27, it pained me to see the Hurricanes' fans storming the court. After all, Miami brings back nearly all of their NCAA Tournament team from last year while Wake Forest hasn't sniffed the tournament since Chris Paul left four years ago. Yes, they are ranked No. 6 and they had just occupied the top spot in the rankings last month (Miami is currently unranked).

To me, it was unnecessary. The Canes are good enough to expect a win like this.

Now let me talk out of both sides of my mouth. I have no problem with Clemson storming the court after their 27-point win over Duke. Yeah, Clemson is No. 10 and theoretically should expect to beat anyone in the nation in Littlejohn Coliseum. Even No. 3 Duke.

However, Duke had won the last 20 regular season games against Clemson. Clemson hadn't beaten Duke at home since 1997. Remember that this is a Tigers program that has only recently come out of the shadows to matter again (last year was their first tournament appearance in nearly a decade). These same Tigers have spent that time getting kicked in the shin by the top teams in the ACC. They've struggled against the UNCs, Dukes and lost a big home game to Wake Forest earlier this year.

Clemson's history dictates that they don't win games like this.

If anything, their fans were celebrating their arrival. This team has been pretty good over the past four or five years but have seen their team tank once February rolls around. This win proves that they are legit contenders for the ACC crown.

So, I excuse Clemson fans but condemn Miami fans.

I will say this. Back in 1994, UNC-Charlotte (where I was attending) toppled Louisville at the decrepit Old Charlotte Coliseum/Independence Arena/Cricket Arena/Bojangles Arena. Fans stormed the court after that game. A game I missed because I had tickets to a Hornets game (I believe). That was one of my few regrets in my sporting life.

Far be it for me to smack down today's students for having their moment.

The ACC Looks Pretty Fun, Doesn't It?

Two weeks ago, Wake Forest and Duke were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Last night, both lost by 27 points to unranked teams.

Yeah, the ACC is good.

Wake went down to Miami and were blown out, 79-52. Duke traveled down to Clemson and got spanked, 74-47. And with that, the Atlantic Coast Conference is up for grabs.

North Carolina spotted everyone a two game lead ... but now is tied for the lead. They are 6-2 with Virginia coming into Chapel Hill this weekend. That should set up a showdown for first place next Wednesday at Duke.

Clemson's win keeps them with just two losses (like Duke and Carolina). Oh, and Boston College (who beat UNC) is sitting at 6-3 right now. After that is gridlock between Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Miami.

The ACC could send 8 teams to the NCAA Tournament. North Carolina, Duke, Clemson and Wake Forest seem like locks. Boston College is looking good. Florida State, Virginia Tech and Miami could sneak in right now.

There is still a lot left to play for and not everyone gets to play all their games against Virginia, NC State, Maryland and Georgia Tech.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Recapping the "43 Stops To Super Bowl XLIII"

After posting the "43 Stops To Super Bowl XLIII", I always like to go back and see how some of those stats and tidbits held up in the actual Super Bowl.

#42-Steelers did indeed get their sixth title, setting a Super Bowl record.

#38-The Steelers scored first and won the game. That means the team that scored first is now 28-15 in the Super Bowl. They scored the first TD, making those teams 31-12. Teams leading at the half (which Pittsburgh did) are now 33-8.

#37-Steelers improve to 3-0 against NFC West teams in the Super Bowl. They have beaten the Rams, Seahawks and Cardinals.

#36-The AFC is now 6-1 in Super Bowls held in February.

#34-The Cardinals were down 13 points at one time in the game. Teams trailing by at double digits at any time of the game are now 1-38. That also means that 38 of the 43 Super Bowls have seen at least one team up by double digits (both the Redskins and Broncos had double digit leads in Super Bowl XXII).

#33-There has now been a successful field goal in 41 of 43 Super Bowls.

#18-The Cardinals will join the list of franchises to have appeared but not won in a Super Bowl.

#11-Arizona won the coin toss but lost the game. That makes the 10th time in the last 13 Super Bowls that the coin toss winner becomes the big game loser.

#4-Arizona becomes the lastest Super Bowl newbie to lose. Over the past 11 Super Bowls, the team making their first appearance has gone 2-5.

#1-Yeah, I suck!

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Fallout of Michael Phelps' Bong Pic

So apparently the picture of Michael Phelps toking on a bong is real. So what does that mean?

Well, the IOC and his sponsors aren't backing down. They are sticking with the Olympian despite a big P.R. hit. His image in tarnished a bit but this isn't the worst thing ever.

Now, I've never smoked the pot nor do I condone doing it. I do subscribe to the fact that alcohol and cigarettes are legal so weed should be too (or criminalize the other two). It is 2009 and Phelps doesn't seem to be in any gruling training program right now, so let him blow off steam and enjoy the fruits of being a superstar athlete.

Think about the sacrifices he made to get to his level. The things he couldn't eat. The places he couldn't go. The things he couldn't do. The hippie lettuce he couldn't smoke.

It may have given him a bit of street cred as well. I mean, we all know that Phelps 15-minutes have been up for a while and he doesn't hold the kind of carte blanche that Lance Armstrong has (the other mega star from a sport that America rarely follows). While it may make some of the mainstream shy away from him, he may have picked up a few points from the underground.

I hope, though, that Phelps doesn't see this as him being bullet-proof. His body is his temple and moneymaker and I feel he will remember that soon. In this country, there is fine line between being a celebrity for your talents and being a celebrity because you are a train wreck.

Pro Football Hall Of Fame Hasn't Gotten It Right

First off, all the people that made it into the Hall Of Fame deserve to be there. Somehow, two others missed the cut again.

Rod Woodson, Bruce Smith, Randall McDaniel and Derrick Thomas were the best at their positions during the last 1980s and 1990s. Smith and Woodson were no-brainers for the Hall while McDaniel and the late Thomas finally got in.

Bob Hayes also finally got in after years of just missing out. Ralph Wilson Jr has been of of the NFL's best contributors and was one of the best owners.

But how is Chris Carter and Shannon Sharpe not in?

I can get Sharpe a bit. It is rare that tight ends get that kind of love right off the bat. I'm sure there were several voters that didn't want to make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

But I still don't get why Carter isn't in. Eight Pro Bowls, two first team All Pro selections and NFL's All Decade team for 1990. Jerry Rice was the only man to catch more passes than Carter (Marvin Harrison passed him this year). Carter also trails only Rice for receiving TDs.

I'm sure he will get in, but why will it take so long?

Not-So-Final Observations Of Super Bowl XLIII

First off, it was a great game. I had no dog in the fight but I found myself rooting for Arizona. I typically hate the Cardinals (that's my Redskins fandom remembering those old NFC East days).

Here are some other thoughts about the game.

-Kurt Warner is is awsome. Yeah, his team lost but he now owns the three best passing days in Super Bowl history. That is unreal no matter who you are.

-Santonio Holmes has become a star. I must admit that I haven't thought too highly of him as a great receiver. But Holmes came up big all game and especially that final drive. Ya know, the drive that ended on his amazing TD grab.

-The officiating was suspect. I'm normally not a guy that bangs on the refs. That is a bitch of a job. Still, there are a few calls I didn't understand. The roughing the passer call, a couple of the holds and the fact they didn't at least look at Kurt Warner's fumble. I can get the call on that one, but how in the heck did they not take a look at it.

-Arizona had this game. It's one thing to lose a game of this magnitude. It's quite another when you let it slip from your hands. Forget the fact that the Cards held a 23-20 lead with just over 2 minutes left. They could have had a 23-13 then if they had not let James Harrison return that pick for a TD. They could have had a 30-13 or 26-13 lead if they had coverted on some points on that drive.

-Bruce Springsteen is still The Boss. I'm not a huge Springsteen fan though I do have several favorite songs. But this was the first time in a long time that I actually watched the halftime show.

-The commercials weren't that funny. There were some good ones, but you can see the effect of the economy on our comedy.

-My Super Bowl feast was perfect. I don't do Super Bowl parties anymore because I want to watch the game. So my wife and I just create a small feast of grub for the two of us (and anyone that stops by). I had the bacon cheddar fries, buffalo wings, garlic wings, mozzerella sticks, chips and dip and my Pepsi (McGruber). We didn't even get to cook up the onion rings, spinach bites or pizza bites.

-Big Ben was indeed "big". I know Holmes was huge in that final drive, but Ben Roethlisberger deserved the MVP. He made some outstanding throws on that drive and spent the entire game buying time and making something out of nothing. He just eliminated all that talk about how bad he was in Super Bowl XL.

-Was this the chippiest Super Bowl? There were more personal fouls in this Super Bowl than any one I can remember. The pushing, shoving and fighting going on made this game look like it was between division rivals that are sick of each other. Oh, and how Harrison wasn't thrown out after decking the Cardinals' tackle is beyond me.

-Steelers Dynasty? I don't think it is, but what Pittsburgh has just done cannot be dismissed. With the youth of the team and the coaching staff (save Dick LeBeau), they can keep this up for a while. Pittsburgh has placed themselves up with the Dallas Cowboys as the ultimate Super Bowl franchise. The Steelers now have a record six titles and has now done it in two different eras. The Cowboys did something similar in the 1970s and early 1990s.

Like It Or Not, Kurt Warner Is a Hall Of Famer

There has been alot of debate about whether Kurt Warner is a Hall Of Famer. I must admit that I've been on the fence about this.

On one hand, his career isn't very lengthy and featured a gaping hole in the middle of it. Aside from his bursting on the scene in St. Louis and his resurrection in Arizona this year, he could be considered a journeyman.

Still, he has two MVP awards, a Super Bowl title, three Super Bowl appearances and now owns the three highest passing totals in Super Bowl history. Not just the No. 1 spot ... the top three spots.

Don't we always lean on a guy's postseason accomplishments as a mark of how great they are? Dude has brought it in all three times in the big game. Remember his bomb to Issac Bruce that won Super Bowl XXXIV? Yeah, he lost Super Bowls XXXVI and XLIII, but he led his teams to magical comebacks to put them in position to lose at the buzzer.

To me, that's Hall Of Fame worthy.

If the Rams had found a way to beat the Patriots or the Cardinals defense had any ability to slow down the Steelers' final drive, Warner would be sitting on two or three rings. That is in that Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Troy Aikman and Terry Bradshaw range.

Yeah, reality is that he only has one ring and that puts him in the Mark Rypien, Trent Dilfer, Jeff Hostetler, Brad Johnson range. But it is also the same number that Joe Namath, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning have won ... and more than Frank Tarkenton, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly or Dan Fouts won.

It isn't just the Super Bowl efforts. He is 3rd all-time in QB rating and 2nd all-time in completion percentage. He also has the highest average of passing yards per game in NFL history (minimum 100 games).

So, let's see: Not only has he done great things in the regular season (the stats and two MVPs prove that) but has also come up better than anyone when it counts.

How is that not Hall of Fame worthy?

Are We In a Golden Age Of Super Bowls? Steelers Win Wild Super Bowl XLIII, 27-23

I am 33 years old. I'm only telling you that so you can understand my reference points for this story.

When I was a kid through my teenage years and into my 20s, the Super Bowl was usually one of the biggest letdowns in sports. From 1984 (when Bruce Springsteen's Born In the USA came out) to 1999, most Super Bowls ended up as blowouts. Only the Niners-Bengals, Giants-Bills and Broncos-Packers matchups had me glued to my seat for most, if not all of the game.

So how lucky has this decade been? We had that amazing stop on the 1-yard line in the Rams-Titans game, the improbable upset in the Patriots-Rams tilt, a wild finish to the Patriots-Panthers and a close Patriots-Eagles game. Take a second look at the Colts-Bears Super Bowl and it was closer than you think. The last two Super Bowls (Giants-Patriots, Steelers-Cardinals) have featured two amazing finishes that saw the lead change a few times in the closing moments. The game has been living up to the hype.

Aside from the Ravens-Giants (blowout), Buccaneers-Raiders (blowout) and Steelers-Seahawks (boring and mistake filled), we have been treated to some of the greatest Super Bowls over the past ten years. I mean, remember when it used to be the big joke that the Super Bowl was sports biggest dog? We were seeing scores like 55-10, 52-17, 42-10, 38-16, 46-10 and 49-26. Sure, the final scores for the Redskins-Bills and Broncos-Falcons aren't that bad, but those games weren't in doubt either.

We've had six Super Bowls decided by 7-points or less this decade. In the prior 33 Super Bowls, only eight of them were decided by 7-points or less.

So this has to be the golden age of Super Bowls, right? I'd be willing to bet that the Rams-Titans, Patriots-Rams, Patriots-Panthers, Giants-Patriots and Steelers-Cardinals are at or near the very top of the list of great Super Bowls. Over the last 10 years, six of the games have been decided by a TD or less; five have been decided by four points or less; five saw the winning team score the go-ahead points with under three minutes remaining; and three with less than 40 seconds left.

Forget the stats. The last decade has given us "The Tackle", Adam Vinateri's two game winning FGs in the closing seconds, David Tyree's catch and now San-Toes-Nio Holmes grab.