Thursday, February 25, 2010

It's Not Urban Meyer's Job to Get Tim Tebow NFL-Ready

There has been a lot of stink going around about how Tim Tebow is tweaking his quarterback motions in preparation for the NFL's scouting combine. The blame has been thrown at the feet of University of Florida head football coach Urban Meyer and his coaching staff. People want to know why they didn't get Tebow NFL-ready.

Why? It's not his job.

First off, the NFL doesn't pay Meyer. Will he get a cut of Tebow's contract when it is signed? No. No college coach owes anything to the NFL.

The university (ahem, the taxpayers) pay him. He owes his job to them and they want a winner. Do you think Gator Nation would rather win a couple of National Championships ... or have Tim Tebow ready for the NFL? It's quite obvious.

I'm sure Meyer goes into recruits' homes and tells them that going to Florida is a pipeline to the NFL. They all say that. Ever talk to a military recruiter before? They'll tell you all about the training, skills and opportunities available if you enlist ... but that doesn't mean every one will have a cushy job waiting for them when they are discharged and it certainly glosses over what you'd have to do to get there. Do you think a drill instructor is going to make sure you are ready for battle in the armed forces or that he rather make sure you were a pretty good engineer when you get out?

Maybe that's apples to oranges, but it does show my point. Meyer is hired by the university to win games. Despite what people really believe, college football isn't the NFL's minor leagues. In the minors, teams can create workouts and training that can further develop players. That isn't the case with college sports.

Sure, if you were a high school quarterback you'd have to weigh in the fact that Florida really doesn't develop NFL quarterbacks. Aside from Miami in the 1980s and maybe USC of the 2000s, who really has a great stretch of putting out NFL star QBs? Was Peyton Manning's success in the NFL due to what he learned at Tennessee? No.

In college basketball, I can see the argument a bit better. In college basketball, top recruits want a showcase for NBA scouts. They want to go to North Carolina or Kentucky so they can play at a high level and on national television a ton of times. Exposure. And while John Calipari may work with John Wall to make him a better player, he isn't going to revamp the kid's game in order to make him more NBA ready. Let Wall be Wall and guide him. Star recruits see that and are willing to come to his school which creates more wins.

College football is much more of a team game where a college star rarely steps right in and can dominate. And it is difficult to pull one guy to the side and make him NFL ready in spite of the team. I always think of former NC State head coach Chuck D'Amato. He helped get Mario Williams NFL-ready and the top pick in the draft ... then was fired for not winning enough.

So where should these coaches' loyalties lie?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sportz Bubble Watch - February 24

Okay. I've been doing my whole Sportz' Bubble Watch for a few years now and I think it is time to start back up. With only a few weeks left in the season before conference tournaments, let's see how the bubble looks.

So, here are my locks ... yes, by conference. The ones in green are spot on, no doubt locks. The ones in blue are pretty much in, too, though they can't afford to go in a tailspin. The ones in red are smack dab on the bubble. Every team bold-faced is among my picks for the tournament.

I figure there are 20 conferences who are one-bid leagues and 11 conferences that are worth multiple bids. So who should be going?

ATLANTIC COAST: Duke, Wake Forest, Maryland, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State,Virginia Tech.
Duke is the class of the league right now. Wake Forest and Maryland are in that rung beneath them, but both look worthy of a spot. Clemson is looking good, though they can't afford a slide. Same goes to Ga Tech, FSU and Va Tech. I like the Hokies a lot, but they don't really have any big wins to point to.

BIG EAST: Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, Pitt, Georgetown, Louisville, UConn, Marquette, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Notre Dame, South Florida
This is an interesting league. The top five teams are locks with the rest being squarely on the bubble. Louisville and UConn have been streaking towards a berth while the rest have been sliding backwards. I think this is an eight-bid league so there will be some wars over the next couple of weeks.

BIG TEN: Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern
This is a pretty open and shut case. Four teams are locks while Illinois and Minnesota attempt to get an at-large bid. Illinois got some huge wins that were nearly negated by two tough losses. They don't have the RPI to toy around with these kind of losses. And Northwestern again fails to get to its first NCAA Tournament.

BIG XII: Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Texas, Baylor, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State
This is quite the league. Baylor and TxA&M are right at the door to being locks. Oklahoma State's RPI should get them in.

PAC-10: California, Arizona State, Washington
This is looking like a one-bid league. Amazing. Cal is the one team that wouldn't have to win the Pac-10 tournament in order to get into the dance. Their RPI and SOS are great.

SEC: Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi State, Ole Miss
The SEC East has three locks already ... which could help Florida get in. The two Mississippi schools have an opportunity to do some damage before the season ends.

San Diego State, UNLV
Has the balance of power in the west changed? The MWC gets four teams in while the Pac-10 gets just one? New Mexico and BYU are easily in while San Diego State and UNLV have the numbers to join them.

A-10: Temple, Richmond, Xavier, Rhode Island, Dayton, Charlotte, St. Louis
This should be the scariest conference to big conference at-large hopefuls. This race is so bunched up and tough to shake out that it's difficult to say who all has an upper hand.

C-USA: UTEP, UAB, Memphis, Marshall
MVC: Northern Iowa, Wichita State, Illinois State
WCC: Gonzaga, St. Mary's

ONE BID LEAGUES (20): America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, SWAC, Summit, Sun Belt and WAC. As for the Horizon, Butler is a lock for the tournament and the only way anyone else can get in is by an upset in the conference tournament.

There are still some landmines out there. Old Dominion (Colonial) and Utah State (WAC) could nab at-large berths if they happen to fall in their conference tournaments.

Why Don't We Move Some of the Summer Games Events to the Winter?

The Winter Olympics are always fun to watch, but unless you actually do these events they can seem a bit off-standish. Aside from hockey (and even that isn't a given) and figure skating, most Americans really don't know the point of the events until they start watching and trying to figure it out. Even something as simple as speed skating requires me to ask questions.

Sure, the Summer Games have their own events like that (fencing, handball, water polo, etc), but there are many events that we all can dive right into (like swimming, track, basketball, etc).

The big difference between the two is that those niche Summer Olympic sports get lost behind to big guns. The Winter Olympics don't have anywhere near the same amount of events ... and more of them niche ... that you can feel a bit left out.

So why not do us both a favor and start moving some Summer Olympic sports to the Winter Olympics?

Sure, you'll have to only bring the indoor sports because of the weather. Also, the Summer Games isn't giving up basketball (nor would the NBA have an Olympic break like the NHL) ... and gymnastics are to Summer what figure skating is to Winter.

But how about volleyball? It is played indoors so the weather isn't an issue. Also, since beach volleyball has emerged as the go-to event in this sport, it has left the indoor tournament a bit under appreciated. So leave the beach to the Summer and bring up the indoor volleyball to the Winter.

How about wrestling? It is a somewhat popular event that would get a lot more exposure if it were part of the Winter Olympics. Same thing with weightlifting. You could even move boxing if you wanted. While more people view the Summer Games, boxing doesn't get the pub it should. And the sport would benefit greatly if they got more exposure during the Winter Games and develop some stars.

There are other sports that fit the mold. Badminton, judo, table tennis and taekwondo make sense. Remember that golf will soon be an Olympic sport and that could take even more time away from these highlighted events.

I know there's the little problem of having venues to house all these extra events. The Winter Games are typically in midsized cities or resort towns that don't have the money nor the space to build new venues ... whereas the Summer Games are typically in huge metropolises who already have a few smaller places that would work.

But, hey, you figure that out. I did the first part.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Placing Bets on Tiger's Cliches

With Tiger Woods upcoming statement, a sports book is offering betting odds on which cliches he'll use.

7/2 I regret the hurt I've caused
5/1 Thank my family
5/1 I'm sorry
6/1 Time to reflect
10/1 Return to golf
12/1 Appeal for privacy
12/1 Getting back on the course
12/1 Thank God
14/1 Thanks to my sponsors who have stuck by me
14/1 The Masters
16/1 Doing what I do best
16/1 Look to my family and God for forgiveness
20/1 Thank IMG for all their support
20/1 I am now just looking to the future
20/1 Time for change

There are also some other classics (66/1 odds for "sex addiction") ... please check out the site.

Tiger Woods Statement Better Be Good ... But It Probably Won't

Tiger Woods will speak publically for the first time since his life started unraveling Thanksgiving weekend. It's finally happening, though it seems like a rather long time to wait. For all of the PR savvy Tiger has, he failed to get ahead of this story and it has totally gotten away from him.

While I'm interested in what he has to say, I'm not expecting much. Tiger has rarely showed humility or remorse for anything. The only time we've seen him show any emotion (other than intensity or when he loses his temper on the course) was when he father died. I'm expecting that this statement he'll make will have every single word crafted and rehearsed.

We've been through this before. With all the steroids issues going on in baseball, we've seen athletes go in front of cameras to apologize and ask for forgiveness. Usually, they offer limited or no new information about what they are being sorry for. We spend the next 24 hours disecting the entire statement or interview to try to figure out anything of value.

The one difference here is that we know what he's done (maybe not to the extent) and we really don't need to know the entire backstory. Marriage, no matter how tattered, is a bit more sacred than some drug abuse. He'll admit that he has been unfaithful, made some mistakes and now he wants to make up for them. That'll pretty much be it.

But will we buy it? Will it be enough? Probably not ... but it will help all this move on. He can't really say too much without riling up his "wife" and all those alleged "mistresses". He is best served to just apologize for his transgressions and lay out a bit what he's been doing to change his ways.

And honestly, this is just the start of it all. He'll play golf again and have to have cameras shoved in his face. Now instead of ESPN and Golf Channel, he'll have Inside Edition and TMZ.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Can Slam Dunk Contest Be Saved?

In a word ... no.

The problem is tough to totally put your finger on. Some thing it is the lack of superstar power. I disagree. A ton of people watched the dunk contest Saturday night despite that only one of those guys has ever been an All-Star (and that was Gerald Wallace, who made his first appearance on Sunday). Sure, having LeBron or Kobe or Vince in there would boost it up, but that isn't the reason the contest was so bad.

The dunks were bad. The four guys who competed are all good dunkers but the lack of creativity really showed. Are there more creative dunkers out there? Yes.

So how can it be fixed? These are just some lame-brained ideas I have:

ADD NON-NBA PLAYERS: If you watched the amateur dunk contest, that was much more fun to see. Have a couple of those guys that are playground legends compete with the big boys. We'll probably see some better dunking and there will be some buzz to go with it.

HAVE A DUNK SKILLS TRIATHALON: Have some set obstacles for the dunkers. We already have the "involve-a-teammate" dunk. Let's also have the "long dunk" to bring back the Jordan, Erving and ... Brent Barry ... days. Maybe add ...

...DUNK OVER SOMEBODY: What is the best dunk nowadays? The one that gets on SportsCenter? Yes, the Poster. Dunking all over someone and putting them flat on their back is where it's at. So have these dunkers go up against the Samuel Dalemberts, Marcus Cambys and Dwight Howards of the NBA (maybe not use those guys, but some other shot blockers). Think about how great that would be. The so-called "simple dunks" look a heck of a lot better and it would be awesome to even see a few of them blocked.

ADD MORE PLAYERS: Why just four guys? Why not six? Or eight? Yeah, it may take a bit longer ... but hopefully you'll get some better dunks.

TRAMPOLINES: Give the NBA players the same thing that all those acrobats and mascots have: a trampoline.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Adam 'PacMan' Jones Works Out for Bengals

I'm not getting into it right now, but I've had a stressful and sad week. So seeing this bit of news brought some laughter to my face.

The Bengals worked out Pacman Jones. Noooooo. Get outta here! Really???

Just last week, I joked with some Bengals fans that the Bengals were going to sign Jones. That was after my jokes of Donte Stallworth becoming a Bengal and a possible trade for Michael Vick. I joked that they'd go after Jones ... and it was so off the wall that even Cincinnati fans laughed.

Well ...

Why not? The Bengals obviously do not care about bad character guys. With the sad death of Chris Henry, I guess they felt they had an opening for a troubled player from West Virginia University. I'm honestly starting to think that the Bengals are the newest version of the renegade Raiders. They want guys with an edge and a chip on their shoulder and they don't care what you or I think about that. If they win that way, the fans won't care either.

And this comes after the news that the Bengals were indeed interested in Stallworth and troubled former Jags receiver Matt Jones. Let's see: a guy that went to jail for killing someone and another who was arrested for a controlled substance and probation violation. C'mon in!

At least Plaxico Burress knows he can have a job once he gets out of the pokey.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What a Wild Super Bowl Decade

Since the Saints victory over the Colts last night culminates the 2009 season, it's time to go back and look at how wild of a Super Bowl decade it was.

One of the things that people are pointing out is that they "can't believe they are saying the New Orleans Saints (XLIV) are Super Bowl champions!" I say the same thing about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (XXXVII). Seriously, the Buccaneers as champs!?!?! These are two of the biggest sad-sacked franchises in league history and they both now have championships.

It isn't all about the sad-sacks who won. The Arizona Cardinals got there. So did the Carolina Panthers. In all, six franchises made their Super Bowl debut this past decade.

Add to it that Indiana got their first taste of the Super Bowl when the Indianapolis Colts (XLI) won a ring. The Colts won their previous title when they were in Baltimore. Speaking of B-more, the Baltimore Ravens (XXXV) took the relocated Cleveland Browns and brought a title back to Maryland.

(If you want to add Super Bowl XXXIV to the mix since the game was played in 2000 ... it is amazing that the crappy St. Louis Rams and relocated Tennessee Titans played for it all in a great Super Bowl).

Of course, it wasn't just newbies winning titles. The New England Patriots won three rings (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX) ... though they hadn't won one before this decade. The Pittsburgh Steelers (XL, XLIII) won two more titles to set a record for Super Bowl victories. Even the New York Giants (XLII) snuck it to win their third championship.

Aside from WHO was in the Super Bowl ... but the games themselves. The Patriots shocked the world by beating the Rams in the first post-9/11 Super Bowl. The Patriots would win two more Super Bowls by three points ... including a second Adam Vinatieri buzzer beater over the Panthers. The Pats were stoned of a fourth ring and a 19-0 season by losing an epic battle with the Giants. That David Tyree catch is one of the classic moments in Super Bowl history. Last years Steelers-Cardinals game was great as well.

Sure, there were some dogs. The Ravens blew through the Giants; Tampa spanked Oakland; the Steelers-Seahawks Super Bowl was absolutely horrible; and that Colts-Bears game was a mucky mess and was the first Super Bowl that was played in poor weather.

Also weird: Was there a Super Bowl MVP that really transcended the actual game?? I don't think so. Tom Brady won his first MVP award after passing for a measly 145 yards and a TD? Yep, his second MVP award came after a 354-yard game and 3 passing TDs.

Even Peyton Manning's MVP came off a so-so game (247 yds, TD). Drew Brees did close out the MVP winning on a high note.

Dexter Jackson winning an MVP award? Has he done anything since? Deion Branch did catch 11 passes for 133 yards when he won his MVP award ... but does anyone remember? Same thing with Hines Ward (5 catches, 123 yds, TD).

Anyway, this was a great Super Bowl decade. From 1982-1998, 14 of the 17 Super Bowls were decided by double-digits. Eight of those were decided by at least 19 points. In this past decade, four games were won by at least 10 points and only two by at least 19.

The 2010's (or the Teens or whatever) could be a bit bumpier due to labor strife. Still, we are trending toward some great games.

Peyton Manning Lost a Super Bowl ... So He Must Really Suck

Across the internet, talk shows and sportscasts last night and into the morning today, there is the chatter about Peyton Manning getting knocked down a peg or two. Lose a Super Bowl and I guess you suck.

I disagree.

Tom Brady lost a Super Bowl. So did Dan Marino and Brett Favre. Kurt Warner and Roger Staubach lost two. John Elway and Fran Tarkenton lost three Super Bowls. Jim Kelly lost four. They all are or will be in the Hall of Fame.

In Super Bowl XXIV, Elway completed just 10 of 26 passes for 108 yards, no TDs and two interceptions. That came two years after Elway threw three interceptions in Super Bowl XXII against the Redskins (he was just 14-of-38 on that day). Several years later, Elway leads the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowls and he's regarded as one of the best ever.

A Super Bowl loss does take Manning out of the conversation of quarterbacks who started multiple Super Bowls and never lost. Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, Bart Starr, Ben Roethlisberger and Jim Plunkett all did that. Quite an impressive list, but not being on it doesn't make you a subpar star.

Manning completed 31-of-45 passes for 333 yards, a TD and an interception. In the Super Bowl he was the MVP of, he completed 25-of-38 passes for 247 yards, a TD and an interception. In one game, he's the MVP. In the other, he's not that great.

Manning's book is still be written so there could be another Super Bowl appearance or two in his future. He may never win another one. That's okay. He's still one of the greatest.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Trends That Continued Or Rejected During Super Bowl XLIV

Alright, the Saints beat the Colts, 31-17, in an exciting Super Bowl. So all those little factoids and trends ... did they work out?

-The NFC team won the coin flip for the 13th consecutive year.

-The team wearing their white jerseys have won the last six Super Bowls (Saints, Steelers, Giants, Colts, Steelers, Patriots).

-A team scoring at least 30 points is now 22-1

-The NFC is now 23-21 in the Super Bowl.

-There was a successful field goal in 42 of 44 Super Bowls.

-The team that scores first has lost six of the last nine Super Bowls.

Ones that didn't ...

-New Orleans became the first team that lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the regular season that would go on to win the Super Bowl.

-The team that leads after the first quarter (the Colts in this one) is now 22-11.

-The team holding the halftime lead (Colts) is now 33-9

-The Colts became the 7th team to lose a Super Bowl that they were leading after three quarters (36-7)

-The Saints became just the second team to win after trailing by at least 10 points (Redskins topped Broncos after falling behind 10-0). Just like that Redskins game, Super Bowl XLIV featured both teams with a double digit lead at some point in the game.

-New Orleans became just the fourth team in the last 14 seasons to win a Super Bowl after winning the coin toss.

-Teams that scored the first TD is now 31-13.

-The NFC won just their second Super Bowl in February in eight tries.

YES! Russ Grimm Is In!!!

One of things that bothers me is how disrespected the Washington Redskins are. No, the current Redskins are ripe to be disrespected. However, those Joe Gibbs Redskins teams of the 1980s and early 1990s just don't get any love.

Russ Grimm was just voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It's about time! Grimm will be the sole member of "The Hogs" to be in the Hall. "The Hogs" are probably the most storied offensive lines in NFL history. Congrats, Russ!

So that makes just the third Redskin from those Gibbs Era teams to get enshrined. Grimm joins Darrell Green and Art Monk (who both were inducted a couple of years ago) as well as Gibbs, himself.

For those who think that Grimm doesn't belong ... remember this: he was the best known "Hog". That offensive line blocked for three Super Bowl champions. Yeah, there have been other franchises that won three titles in a decade ... but none of them did so with THREE DIFFERENT quarterbacks and THREE DIFFERENT running backs. None. None. No one. Zilch.

From 1982-1991, the Redskins won Super Bowls XVII, XXII and XXVI. They won with Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien as the QBs. No Tom Brady, Terry Bradshaw or Joe Montana (yeah, the Giants won with three different QBs, but that spanned 22 years). They won with John Riggins, Timmy Smith and Earnest Byner as the running backs. Not as epic (the Patriots have had several different backs) but still remarkable that both positions were in such change.

Congrats Russ! Despite any hate, you deserve it!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Each President's Best Super Bowl

In a meaningless exercise, let's go back and check each President's best Super Bowl.

BARACK OBAMA: Steelers-Cardinals. Sure that's the only one during his administration, but what a heck of a game to have!

GEORGE W. BUSH: Giants-Patriots. There were some good ones during his administration, but the epic game between New York and New England takes the top spot. Seeing the 18-0 Pats go down in flames just got to me.

BILL CLINTON: Rams-Titans. This may be the best Super Bowl of all-time and it was the last of the Clinton era. Good thing, since blowouts were the name of the game.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Giants-Bills. Bush only presided over four Super Bowls, but two of them were great (the other was 49ers-Bengals).

RONALD REAGAN: 49ers-Bengals. The Gipper's administration saw a lot of Super Bowl blowouts (just like his blowout of Walter Mondale in 1984). The best game was the one that started the Niners' dynasty.

JIMMY CARTER: Steelers-Cowboys. The 35-31 game. It's the only time a team scored at least 30 points and lost a Super Bowl.

GERALD FORD: Steelers-Cowboys. The 21-17 game. Not much to chose from, but it beats the heck out of Pittsburgh's 16-6 win over Minnesota.

RICHARD NIXON: Dolphins-Redskins. There really wasn't a good Super Bowl during Nixon's reign (the thrilling ending to the Colts-Cowboys game doesn't dismiss the Blunder Bowl stigma). At least Miami hit the 17-0 record.

LYNDON JOHNSON: Jets-Colts. LBJ only got to see the first three Super Bowls, but No. 3 was one of the biggest upsets in football history.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Super Bowl Trends to Watch For

The eerie thing about Super Bowls is that they are kind of predictable ... once you read the signs. When certain things happen in a game, it usually foretells what the outcome will be.

First off, a team scoring at least 30 points is 21-1. That is quite interesting since we will be watching a Super Bowl with two high-octane offenses.

The team leading after the first quarter is 22-10 (11 Super Bowls were tied after one).

The team that is leading at halftime is 33-8 (two Super Bowls were tied at the half).

The team that is leading heading into the fourth quarter is 36-6 (only one Super Bowl was tied after three quarters).

What all that means is that there is rarely a comeback victory in the Super Bowl. The largest deficit a team has come back and won from was just 10 points (Redskins over Broncos). Remember that game featured a 35-point explosion fron Washington. It just doesn't happen.

If fact, 39 Super Bowls have featured one of the teams holding at least a 10-point lead. That's 39 out of 43. Amazing that only four Super Bowls have stayed tight the whole way through. Since I told you that only one team has come back from a double-digit deficit, that means 38 times a team opened up that kind of lead and went on to win the game.

And here is another one: No team that has lost to Tampa Bay has gone on to win a Super Bowl. No one.

The Saints lost to the Buccaneers in Week 16.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tiger Woods May Return in Two Weeks

Rumors are swirling that Tiger Woods will come out of hiding and play in the Accenture Match Play Championship on February 17th-21st. And. Here. We. Go.

Why the Accenture? Well, it's a match play tournament where Tiger made his return to golf last year after sitting for eight months due to knee surgery. It is something that helps a guy with a rusty swing since a bad hole just affects that hole and doesn't kill your chances at advancing.

But who cares about that? Tiger's appearance in Tucson will be a circus. Since Tiger hasn't been seen since his car accident and sex scandal broke around Thanksgiving, reporters and fans from everywhere will be on hand to take pictures, shout questions and lob insults. If Tiger thought he hated the chatter before, he ain't seen nothin' yet!

It won't (probably) get to be Happy Gilmore-esque but it could get pretty bad. Again, I'm one of those people who believe that Woods would've been better off if he came out and addressed all this stuff, answered all the questions and then end it there. Despite the crap that came out of Alex Rodriguez's mouth, it worked for him. He came out (twice) to answer questions, take his hits, fake humility and shed a tear or two and he was basically left alone about it the rest of the season. Tiger should lob him a phone call and learn to do the same thing.

Think. If Tiger had a news conference or a face-to-face with Andy North or someone, his return to golf would still be highly scrutinized but at least he won't get the amount of it since he addressed it. Heck, you learn that as a kid: admit it, take your punishment and move on. Holding on for so long doesn't help anything and makes the "moving on" take longer.

An interesting side effect will be the attention given to whomever his opponent is. That opponent will have virtually no pressure since everyone just wants to see and hear from Tiger. At the same token, a relaxed opponent will have the world's stage watching him perform ... so a great round or even a win will vault that player into the limelight.

Either way, I'm sure the folks in Tucson are quite jazzed about the publicity they are set to receive.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kobe Is NOT the Greatest Laker of All-Time

I am a Laker fan from back in the mid-1980s ... so it's not like I'm some Laker-hater on here slamming Kobe. I'm not. I'm just saying that Kobe Bryant is not the greatest Laker of all-time. That statement doesn't belittle Kobe as much as points to the fact that this franchise has had some of the true greats of the game.

1-MAGIC JOHNSON: To me, he's the greatest Laker. I'm a little biased since he was and always will be my favorite NBA player of all time. But what he did during his career is just amazing. In his 12 seasons before retiring due to contracting HIV, the Lakers won five NBA championships and went to nine NBA Finals. In those Finals, they took down the mighty Sixers twice, the mighty Celtics twice and the mighty Bad Boy Pistons once. Those were three great teams that those Laker teams disposed of (in fact, all three of those teams ... along with Michael Jordan's Bulls ... topped the Lakers in the Finals). Anyone who watched Magic play will always be in awe of what he accomplished.

2-KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR: To me, the most underrated player in NBA history. This man won six NBA MVP awards and still is the all-time leading scorer in league history. Because he was more reserved, private and not as outgoing as Magic, Kareem gets lost in the shuffle a bit. But every Laker fan knows what he meant to this organization.

3-SHAQUILLE O'NEAL: Here is where it gets dicey for me since I could go with a number of guys here. The reason I pick Shaq is that he took this franchise from the 1990s lull that the Celtics struggled to get out of and carried the Lakers back into the promised land. Forget all the B.S., Shaq was freakin' dominant as a Laker. His performances in the NBA Finals were unreal. Yeah, Kobe was on those teams too but he wasn't The Black Mamba yet.

4-KOBE BRYANT: I have Mamba just slightly behind Shaq for the reasons mentioned above. The difference is that Kobe's book is still being written and it wouldn't take much more for him to pass Shaq. Kobe, like Shaq, carried this team from the depths (2004-2005) back to the top of the mountain and he did so without another Hall of Famer. That 81-point game still amazes me. He's right there.

5-JERRY WEST: Maybe I'm devaluing The Logo because I never watched him play. To me, West will always be the guy who built all those NBA Championship teams. The stats don't lie. Only Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor averaged more points per game for their career. Only Jordan averaged more points in the playoffs. He won a championship on that legendary 1972 team. In all, he went to nine NBA Finals and was the Finals MVP in 1969 ... as a member of the losing team.

There are other greats, like Wilt Chamberlain (who I think is the greatest player of all-time ... just that his time with the Lakers wasn't better than what I have listed), Elgin Baylor, James Worthy, George Mikan and Devean George (just seeing if you are paying attention). But the five above truly are the best of the best.

What Does This Poor North Carolina Season Really Mean?

If you know me, you know that I'm a huuuuuuuge UNC Tar Heels fan. Always have been and always will be. So to say this next thing out loud is quite stunning:

I'm not that worried about Carolina getting into the NCAA Tournament.

I'm not worried because it ain't happening. I told you before that Carolina won't make the NCAAs. They've dug themselves too big of a hole to get out of and the remaining schedule is filled with landmines. So for me to be on edge about us not getting into the Big Dance is just loco. I guess you can be accepting of things when you are coming off a National Championship and next year will be welcoming in the top prospect of the class in Harrison Barnes.

But what does this disastrous season really mean? Is it cause for concern? I don't think so.

Look, we live in a day and age where schools lose some of their dominance and fall faster than ever before. With all the talent out there, it's tough to have a mediocre season and make it into the tournament. Duke missed the tournament in the mid-1990s ... just a few years removed from back-to-back titles. Florida followed up their consecutive titles with consecutive exclusions from the dance. UConn missed the tournament a few years back. Arizona will see its streak end this year. Kentucky missed out last year. And my beloved North Carolina missed the dance two years last decade -- just two years before winning it all in 2005.

I'm not that concerned with it, to be honest. Next year, the Heels should welcome back pretty much everyone that is on this team aside from Deon Thompson and Marcus Ginyard (hopefully Ed Davis will come back). They'll bring in the aforementioned Barnes as well as the sweet shooting Reggie Bullock and exciting point guard Kendall Marshall.

If you've followed the Heels this season, you'd know that the things that Barnes, Bullock and Marshall bring are exactly what Carolina is lacking this year. Marshall is the steady and smart point guard. I like Larry Drew, but not as the starter. He has more of a Quentin Thomas feel to him where he's better coming off the bench. Bullock brings some much needed perimeter shooting. The only Tar Heel that is "consistent" from deep is Will Graves (more on him later). Bullock will be a Wayne Ellington type who could come in and start right away. And Barnes brings that aggressive talent that this team lacks.

Barnes almost assuredly will be the starting small or power forward. Again, hopefully Davis will be back to place alongside him. Graves has really developed into UNC's go-to guy and could have a huge senior season next year. I think current freshman Dexter Strickland will improve greatly and be a fixture at the two-spot. And I think that Marshall will have every opportunity to supplant Drew as the starting point guard.

So, the starting lineup is Davis, Barnes, Graves, Strickland and Marshall. You have Drew backing up the point, Bullock backing up the shooting guard, John Henson backing up Graves, David and Travis Wear backing up Barnes and Tyler Zeller backing up Davis. I haven't even included Leslie McDonald or Justin Watts. Not too shabby. The only problem is that the team still won't have too much experience.

Of that roster, only Davis had any real experience on the 2009 championship team (Drew and Watts also saw some time). The starting lineup would feature two freshmen and a sophomore. Roles will have to be clearly defined (something Roy Williams has struggled with this year) with Barnes as the centerpiece. Enjoy him for the one year he's here.

What I'm getting at is that we aren't going back to the Coach D'oh years just yet. Sure, missing the tournament is embarrassing and tough to swallow right after a title season. It also pinches us back to reality. We get to remember that it is hard to win championships. We've only won five of them ... and two came in the last five years. We just don't pluck another Tyler Hansbrough from a tree and then wait a couple years for another one.

It is harder than we've been led to believe. But that doesn't mean it is out of our reach.

Enjoy the "44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV"!!!!

44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV: No. 1-5

The "44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV" is a series that will feature stories, stats and interesting trivia that you can use to act smart as you prepare for Super Bowl XLIV. I've done this on SPORTZASSASSIN.COM for Super Bowls XL, XLI, XLIII and for AOL's FanHouse for Super Bowl XLII.

#1-WHO WILL WIN: Hey, there's actually a game to play. Now I'm not one of those people who think the Saints have no shot to win this game. New Orleans has a great shot ... however things need to fall in their place. They must create pressure on Manning and hopefully get some turnovers. I know you can say that about any game, but that's really true here. New Orleans loves creating turnovers and will need to get a couple if they think they will win in Miami.

Doing so will be difficult. You are giving Peyton Manning two weeks to prepare for a defense that gives up a lot of yards and a lot of points. New Orleans enters the game with the 26th-ranked defense.

This game will be a shootout. The two QBs led the league in passing touchdowns, both team are explosive offensively and neither is that stout on defense. I do think that the Colts speedy defense can hang with the Saints speedy receivers and backs.

I have the Colts winning 34-24.

#2-SUPER BOWL ADS: I know that ... aside from the game ... the big calling card to the Super Bowl is the commercials. We all love watching the funny ones, the poignant ones and the wastefully stupid ones. Go back in time to watch some classic Super Bowl ads.

#3-SAINTS AND COLTS HISTORY: The Saints and Colts have only met 10 previous times with each team winning five. The Baltimore Colts won the first three meetings (1967, 1969, 1973). It would be 13 years before they would meet again, a Saints 17-14 victory in Indianapolis. That would be the first of five straight wins over the Colts ... with the last two games against Indy while Peyton Manning was the quarterback. In 2003 and 2007, the Colts blew out the Saints 55-10 and 41-10, respectively. .

#4-CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS: The New Orleans Saints became the first home team to win a conference championship in overtime. If NFC Championship history, there have been three OT games ... and all involved the Vikings, Brett Favre or both. In 1999, the Atlanta Falcons beat the Vikings in Minnesota, 30-27. In 2008, the New York Giants beat Favre's Packers in Green Bay, 23-20. There has been just one overtime game in AFC Championship history, a 23-20 Denver Broncos victory in Cleveland in 1987.

No Super Bowl has ever gone to overtime.

The NFC has a slim 22-21 lead over the AFC in Super Bowl History.


National Anthem: Carrie Underwood. Third straight year an American Idol contestant will sing the Star Spangled Banner (Jordin Sparks, Jennifer Hudson did it the last two years).

Halftime perfomer: The Who. Rumor is that The Who will follow in the recent tradition of established acts performing their classic hits. "Pinball Wizard", "Who Are You" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" should be on the setlist.

Broadcasters: CBS's Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. Simms was the MVP of Super Bowl XXI.

Monday, February 1, 2010

44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV: No. 6-10

The "44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV" is a series that will feature stories, stats and interesting trivia that you can use to act smart as you prepare for Super Bowl XLIV. I've done this on SPORTZASSASSIN.COM for Super Bowls XL, XLI, XLIII and for AOL's FanHouse for Super Bowl XLII.

#6-SIX BEST SUPER BOWLS: Here are what I believe are the five best Super Bowls, ever. You can debate this all you want (which is fine), but these five were all great games with exciting finishes and are memorable in one way or another.

1-Super Bowl XXV: This was a great matchup in every way. With a backdrop of war, this game had all kinds of emotion as the game began (thanks, Whitney). That vaunted Bills offense against the stuffy Giants defense. The lead changed times on four occassions. In the end, an old guy like Ottis Anderson ate up the clock and Scott Norwood missed the only time the winner of the Super Bowl came down to the final play (even if Vinatieri missed those Pats FGs, the games would've went into overtime). Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick's defensive gameplan for this game in enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

2-Super Bowl XLII: Yes, the Giants take the top two spots. Their amazing run just to get to the Super Bowl and matching the undefeated Patriots blow-for-blow. Eli Manning's escape and David Tyree's catch has become one of the top plays in Super Bowl history. Second biggest upset ever.

3-Super Bowl XXXIV: Not only was this a surreal matchup (remember that St. Louis and Tennessee weren't NFL cities six years earlier), but some cat named Kurt Warner was shredding up this game. The Titans staged one heck of a comeback (they were down 16-0) to have it ripped away from them on a bomb to Issac Bruce. Also, it had one of the greatest endings any football game could ever have.

4-Super Bowl XXIII: There were so many game changing moments in this one. Remember that the only times the 49ers led this game was at 3-0 ... and after Joe Montana's pass to John Taylor at the end of the game. Cincinnati had this one, but Super Joe took it away.

5-Super Bowl XXXVIII: The problem with this Super Bowl is that the 1st and 3rd quarters sucked. However, the 2nd and 4th were just outstanding! In the fourth quarter alone, there were 37 points scored ... which is a Super Bowl record for points scored in a quarter. It was just the second to have five TDs scored (the Redskins did that by themselves 16 years earlier). And it ended with an Adam Vinatieri field goal with :04 left. Oh, and we got a little nipple action at halftime.

6-Super Bowl XLIII: What a game this was. You had the ultimate game changer with the interception and 99-yard return for a TD at the end of the first half. You had Arizona's miraculous comeback to take a lead late in the game. Then you had Pittsburgh's Big Ben Roethlisberger finding Santonio Holmes for a wonderful game winning score.

#7-SUPER BOWL UNDEFEATEDS: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens each won their only trip to the Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers have won all five of their Super Bowl appearances.

#8-STILL HAVEN'T WON ONE: With the Saints now getting to Miami, there are now four franchises that have never appeared in a Super Bowl (Lions, Browns, Jaguars and Texans). But there are ten others that have never won the Super Bowl in any of their appearances. They are the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals. The Bills and Vikings have lost four games apiece; the Bengals and Eagles have each lost two. The rest lost on their only trip.

#9-SUPER BOWL UNDEFEATEDS: On the flip side, if New Orleans wins then they will join a list of four other franchises to be undefeated in Super Bowl play. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens each won their only trip to the Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers have won all five of their Super Bowl appearances.

#10-SUPER BOWL DATES: Here are just a few dumb notes about Super Bowl dates. Super Bowl XXIX was and will always be the only Super Bowl that was played on the same day (29) as the Roman numeral of the game. January 26th is the most popular date for a Super Bowl as a record four games have been played on that date. And, if you go in order from the earliest date (January 9th) to the latest (February 6th), the only days to not have held the Super Bowl are January 10, 19, 23 and February 2.

This will be the first Super Bowl held on February 7th and the latest date a Super Bowl has ever been held.

Jan 9-XI
Jan 11-IV
Jan 12-III, IX
Jan 13-VIII
Jan 14-II, VII
Jan 15-I, XII
Jan 16-VI
Jan 17-V
Jan 18-X
Jan 20-XIV, XIX
Jan 21-XIII
Jan 24-XVI
Jan 27-XXV
Jan 29-XXIX
Feb 4-XLI
Feb 5-XL, XLVI
Feb 7-XLIV