Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lay Off Chad Ochocinco, Will Ya?

Let's be clear: I'm certainly not a Chad Johnson (err Ochocinco) fan nor am I a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals. I think Chad has been overrated as a receiver and a lot of his whining has been lame to say the least.

Now people are all over him for running around doing whatever this summer. He has ridden a bull. He tried out for an MLS team. Currently he's working on Jeff Burton's pit crew. So what?

Look, if we all had the opportunity to fulfill our bucket lists ... who can fault us for doing so? If I dreamed of those things, I wouldn't like it if people felt I shouldn't do them.

Yeah, I get the bull riding thing probably made the Bengals a bit nervous. But the owners locked the players out so they have no say in what these guys do during their time off. For an NFL player, this is like a vacation. Things they couldn't or weren't allowed to do are now happening. Want to act in a movie or TV show? Go for it. Want to ride in a race car? Do it. Want to sky dive? It's yours.

I can't fault Chad for taking advantage of his time off. People tend to say "yeah, but he has an offseason every year to do these things". Not true. Remember that an NFL offseason isn't as long as you think for the players. Also, a lot of these things they are contractually forbidden to do in order to keep their guys healthy. But with the players locked out and not getting paid, those forbidden fruits are ripe to be plucked.

I mean, isn't that the whole point to being rich and famous? To be able to do all the cool stuff you've always wanted to do? So why get on him about it?

Save your boos for the regular season when he lets you down in uniform.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Alright, I've Realigned EVERYTHING

I'm all excited about the NHL's willingness to overhaul their divisions. So if I was the CZAR OF SPORTS then I would turn the four major sports leagues into this:


EASTERN CONFERENCE: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indiana, Miami, Milwaukee, New Jersey, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Toronto, Washington

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

This is pretty much how the NBA standings are really run ... so why not just skip all the bull and make it official.


AFC EAST: Buffalo, Miami, New England, NY Jets
AFC SOUTH: Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee

AFC NORTH: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh

AFC WEST: Denver, Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego

NFC EAST: Dallas, NY Giants, Philadelphia, Washington

NFC SOUTH: Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Tampa Bay

NFC NORTH: Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota

NFC WEST: Arizona, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis

I like the NFL exactly the way it is.


NL EAST: Atlanta, Cincinnati, Florida, Milwaukee, NY Mets, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

NL WEST: Arizona, Chi Cubs, Colorado, Houston, LA Dodgers, San Francisco, San Diego, St Louis

AL EAST: Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, NY Yankees, Tampa Bay, Toronto

AL WEST: Chi White Sox, Kansas City, LA Angels, Minnesota, Oakland, Seattle, Texas

I think it works better with less divisions. I'm keeping the American and National Leagues in place and dividing them up. The AL was pretty easy. The NL did have some issues. After all, the Braves and Reds used to be in the old NL West while the Cubs and Cardinals were in the old NL East. For geographic purposes (aside from the Milwaukee-Chicago one), I kept it like this. I wanted Chicago and St Louis in the same division so they both went west.


ADAMS: Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, New Jersey, NY Isles, NY Rangers, Ottawa, Toronto

PATRICK: Carolina, Detroit, Florida, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington

NORRIS: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St Louis, Winnipeg

SMYTHE: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver

Monday, June 27, 2011

Who Has The Best Draft?

Draft season is nearly over. We had the NFL Draft a couple of months ago and the NBA and NHL Drafts last week. Coming soon is the MLB Draft.

So which pro sports league has the best draft? The answer may surprise you.

NO. 1 NHL DRAFT: Yeah, the NHL Draft tops my list. I couldn't tell you any of the players that will be drafted beforehand and, like baseball, there's a good shot we don't see many of these kids in the big league next season. But the draft itself is magical.

I love the fact that members of each organization stroll up to the podium with jersey in hand, chat for a second and then make their selection. When the drafted player makes it up there, it's a nice scene that he is officially welcomed into the league by the people that wanted him ... not just a photo op with the commish.

Also, the NHL Draft seems to have more of a sense of community to it. Many more prospects attend the draft (some not being drafted until the very late rounds). Plus, the NHL Draft still travels while the NBA and NFL Draft stay in the New York area.

NO. 2 NFL DRAFT: I'll have more on this at the end, but the NFL has been at the forefront at pimping its draft. Now it takes about a week (okay, weekend) to hold the draft. Round 1 takes place on Thursday night ... 2nd and 3rd on Friday night and the rest on Saturday. It is much harder to predict as there are so many positions and the depth of talent at those positions greatly impact each draft.

The NFL also has another huge advantage -- their "draft season" is so much longer. The college season ends after the beginning of the new year and the NFL season ends at the beginning of February. That gives everyone 2 to 3 months to break down everyone. The NBA and NHL drafts are held about a week after their champions are crowned.

NO. 3 NBA DRAFT: Personally, the NBA is my favorite draft. I'm more of a basketball junkie than anything so I'm more in tune of teams' needs as well as the pool of draft picks.

However, there are two major items weighing the NBA Draft down. One, there are no stars in the draft anymore. The one-and-done rule has watered down the draft because picks are made more on potential than anything. That's why there are people who were lottery picks that have barely played any high level of basketball.

Sure, John Wall, Blake Griffin and Greg Oden are name guys ... but their names weren't as big as the games of guys like Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan, Shaq, etc.

The other problem is the way they do trades. The NBA has a gag order on deals the day of the draft. That means that picks get dealt but ... techincally they don't. So it looks like the Kings draft a guy and he wonders around wearing a Kings hat but really he'll be a Bobcat. Look at last week's draft and you'll see a bunch of guys getting "traded" right then and there.

NO. 4 MLB DRAFT: Nothing against this draft but it just doesn't strike a chord. First off, it is in the middle of the baseball season so it isn't like the diehards are fiending for some action (unlike the NFL). Plus, there is, like 200 rounds it seems and many of these guys will never sniff the major leagues. Add in the fact that some of the best players that will enter the major leagues to make an impact are foreign and they don't have to enter a draft to do so.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

NHL Realignment: Just Cut Out Conferences

The buzz around the NHL is that they are looking at major realignment. The NHL has a lot of problems with their current alignment -- Dallas is in the Pacific, Winnipeg is in the Southeast, Columbus is in the Eastern Time Zone yet in the Western Conference, Detroit is in the opposite conference as Toronto.

The rumored route is that the NHL is going to shave down from six divisions to four. Two divisions will have 8 teams and two will have 7. The problem is that it is still so difficult to figure out where to make these divisional breaks in a four division system (it can be done, but it could look a bit ugly).

So here is my proposal: just kill off the conferences and just have FIVE divisions? We don't need conferences at all. We really don't. We can just have the top three teams in each of the five divisions in the playoffs as well as the fourth place team with the best record.

Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Detroit Red Wings
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Toronto Maple Leafs

New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Washington Capitals

Carolina Hurricanes
Chicago Blackhawks
Columbus Blue Jackets
Florida Panthers
Nashville Predators
Tampa Bay Lightning

Colorado Avalanche
Dallas Stars
Minnesota Wild
Phoenix Coyotes
St. Louis Blues
Winnipeg Jets

Anaheim Ducks
Calgary Flames
Edmonton Oilers
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks
Vancouver Canucks

I know that's completely hard for most people to comprehend. No conferences? But how do the playoffs work. Easily, just rank each team from No. 1 thru No. 16 and go at it. Sure, you may have a San Jose-Tampa Bay first round series ... but who cares? If need be, make those kind of cross-country series a 2-3-2 format or something.

If it is two wild for you, here ya go with what the NHL will probably do:

NORTH: Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, New Jersey, NY Isles, NY Rangers, Ottawa, Toronto
SOUTH: Carolina, Detroit, Florida, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington
MIDWEST: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St Louis, Winnipeg
PACIFIC: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver

Maybe the NHL will have one conference have 16 teams and the other have 14 (if so, expect Columbus to move to the South Division and Colorado moves to the Midwest). To me, I'd just eliminate the geographic names and go back to the Adams, Patrick, Norris and Smythe names of yesteryear.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Heat Join Other Losers Who Are Remembered More Than The Champions

The 2011 NBA Finals will be remembered more for the fact that the Miami Heat lost and not so much that the Mavericks won. Seriously, listen to talk radio today and it was all about what Miami didn't do instead of what Dallas did.

It happens like that sometimes. Sometimes we remember the loser more than the champion. Here are a few examples:

8-1993 WOLVERINES: This seems to be Carolina's lost championship as most people instead remember the Fab Five and Chris Webber's timeout to seal the deal for the Heels. Jalen Rose said it best: you can remember the starting lineup for Michigan with little effort but unless you were a diehard UNC fan, you couldn't name three of their starters.

7-2004 LAKERS: Shaq and Kobe were joined by Karl Malone and Gary Payton to make a team of four future Hall of Famers. But the team spectacularly fell apart in the Finals to Detroit ... a team with no future HOFers ... and lost in five games.

6-1986 RED SOX: This is a close one. People certainly remember the '86 Mets, but that Series is known for Boston's implosion in Game 6. A mere out away for their first title since 1918, Bill Buckner became the icon of how a team can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Again, those Mets had their own character but that Series will always be about how the Red Sox choked away a title.

5-1993 KINGS: Wayne Gretzky's LA Kings made it to the Stanley Cup Finals and truly made it a Hollywood affair. Yet, it was just another championship for the mighty Canadiens, who won the last of their 24 Cups. And I bet most puckheads know that Barry Melrose was the coach of that team.

4-2011 HEAT: LeBron James and Chris Bosh came to Miami to join Dwyane Wade and turn the Heat into an instant contender. People loved that this controversial team choked away a title. Years from now, this will still be remembered as the one LeBron/Wade/Bosh lost.

3-ROCKY BALBOA: Okay, okay it is a fictional character. But other than Muhammad Ali, is there a more famous boxer? People still forget that Rocky lost his bout with Apollo Creed in the first film.

2-2007 PATRIOTS: Hard to believe a New York championship team could be overshadowed, but Super Bowl XLII will be remembered for the fact that the undefeated Patriots lost their only game in THE game. It really is amazing.

1-1919 WHITE SOX: Quick ... who won the 1919 World Series? I know, but that's because I'm a Cincinnati Reds fan. Yeah, the Reds won this Series but no one remembers that. All they remember is Chicago throwing the series for gamblers. The "Black Sox" are probably the most notorious team in baseball history and their tanking the World Series has far overshadowed who won it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

How Should MLB Re-align?

Today it was revealed that the powers that be in MLB are thinking about realigning the entire league. Two scenarios were given: moving one National League team to the American league to make both 15-team leagues. The other goes a bit further by getting rid of the divisions altogether.

God please let this happen.

Over my nearly decade-long blogging life, I have been dead set against divisions in MLB, NBA and NHL (the NFL's division format actually works). Either cut down on the amount of divisions or just dump them all.

Baseball really doesn't need six divisions and it certainly doesn't need a National League with two more teams than the American League.

One thing I don't want is the Houston Astros moved to the AL. I don't think having both Texas teams in the same league is the smartest idea. I'd move the Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona doesn't have the history that the Astros have and the American League doesn't have a team in the Mountain Time Zone (the NL would still have the Colorado Rockies).

So here would be what MLB would look like:

AMERICAN LEAGUE: Baltimore, Boston, Chi White Sox, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, LA Angels, Minnesota, NY Yankees, Oakland, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Texas, Toronto

NATIONAL LEAGUE: Atlanta, Chi Cubs, Cincinnati, Colorado, Florida, Houston, LA Dodgers, Milwaukee, NY Mets, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco, St. Louis, Washington

What the league wants to do next is put the top five teams in the playoffs. The 4th and 5th place teams play a one or three game playoff to join the top three place teams in the postseason we all are currently familiar with. You can check here to see what the standings would look like if we had no divisions.

The advantage is for teams like the 3rd place AL East team who gets shut out of postseason play even if they have a better record than the AL Central and AL West champions. Right now, where you are geographically placed is just as important as how good a team you really are. It will may those playoff races a bit more racy as more teams should be in it longer than usual.

The disadvantage if there are two 15 team leagues is that there will be teams down the stretch in a pennant race that will be playing interleague games. See, if we get two 15 team leagues, that means we get interleague play pretty much every day. While I'm not against that, I can see why that would rub teams the wrong way.

But remember the 1980s. Then, the AL had two 7-team divisions. Six teams in the AL East played each other down the stretch while the other team was the "swing team" and played the AL West teams. So it isn't like this would be a completely odd scenario.

But if that is the sticking point, just leave the NL with 16 teams and the AL with 14. There, no worries about interleague games mucking up the pennant races. Whatever, just lop off these divisions!!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Don't Feel Sorry For USC, BCS Or The Players

In the record books, one of two things will be seen in the college football section under "champions". Either it will have USC's name next to the 2004 championship with an asterisk chillin' next to it ... or it will say "vacated".

The BCS officially took away USC's 2004 BCS championship (the Associated Press earlier had said they have no intention of taking away their AP titles). Since the BCS also stated that it will not award Oklahoma, who were creamed by USC in the title game, the de facto championship, it means there was no champion for that season.

That is fitting. In reality, college football has no champion. It used to be some writers and media types crowned a champion. Now a computer joins the voters in determining who plays in a "championship game". Either way, the champion isn't solely determined by competition but by fairy tales and magic carpets.

In a situation such as this, you can't feel sorry for anyone involved. None of them.

Reggie Bush? Yeah, his name has been muddied but he'll try to wipe his tears with the millions he has gotten and will continue to get in the NFL.

The USC players that now have worthless (in theory) title rings? To a man, they all believe they still are champions ... and they are right. They got to have all the trimmings of winning a title back in 2004 and no matter what any record book may say, they got all that championship swagger. I know rules were broken, but no one cheated. Cheated the system? Maybe. But that football team won the title.

How about Oklahoma? The lost to USC in the BCS title game yet still don't get to be called champions. They shouldn't be. Even if you take USC out of the picture, that means Auburn would've played Oklahoma for the title and who knows what happens? And if you start handing out make believe titles like it is a Miss America crown, it opens up a huge bucket of worms. I mean, since John Calipari's Final Four with Memphis was vacated does that mean Texas (who Memphis beat in the Elite Eight) can hang a Final Four banner in their rafters? Does that mean Mississippi State, who Memphis beat in the second round, consider themselves reaching the Sweet 16 that year? No. So why award Oklahoma a title?

This is a scummy business these people are participating in. They all bend the rules as much as they can and many break them. It's hard to feel sorry for anyone in the system. So don't bother.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

SEC Scraps Division Format

The SEC actually did something to benefit their basketball side of things. Last week, the conference decided to scrap the divisional format for basketball. Smart move.

I've said that on this blog for quite some time. Divisional formats hurt college basketball conferences. The ACC didn't bother with it when they became a 12-team league. The Big XII dumped the divisions after a while (though they did use it for scheduling). It doesn't work.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Too Bad Shaq Left Too Much On The Floor

Shaquille O'Neal announced that he's retiring from the NBA after a storied NBA career. He is indeed one of the greats of this league and will be a sure fire Hall Of Famer in five years. Over 28,000 points, four championships, three Finals MVPs and one NBA MVP award headline an outstanding resume.

Which makes it a shame that it coulda ... shoulda ... been much more.

Shaq had the potential to be the most physically dominant player this league has ever seen. He came into the league breaking backboards (and everything else), running the floor like a gazelle and introducing a brand new kind of swagger into a league that Michael Jordan ruled. To be that big, that fast and that quick was just unfair.

I don't think he maxed all of that talent. Sure, there was stretches of the brilliance that should have defined his career. From the moment he stepped into the NBA until his Laker career was coming to an end, Shaq was at or near the top of the league lead in scoring and shooting percentage. Yeah, a couple of guys named Jordan and Iverson had a lock on those scoring championships, but Shaq was always right there.

If there was anyone that could've challenged Jordan for one of those scoring titles, it would have been Shaq. Again, just look at the talent ... and the size.

However, Shaq didn't care as much about being dominant as he could have been -- he felt he was dominant enough. He famously said since he got hurt on company time, he will have surgery on company time. His conditioning left much to be desired. He would take it easy during the season to spend his energy for the playoffs. If he has spent a bit more time staying in shape, just think of the numbers he could have put up.

Instead he still sits behind a trio of centers that, I feel, had better careers. Wilt Chamberlain is still the greatest player to ever play in the NBA. People tend to forget how great Kareem Abdul Jabbar really was. Bill Russell? The greatest champion the NBA has ever seen.

I hope that Shaq will still hang around the NBA in some capacity. David Stern would be wise to make him some sort of ambassador to spread his infectious personality and sell the game. One of the truly greats of this game ... who could've been greater.