In retrospect we didn’t talk about sports as much last year as usual, which probably made a few folks happy. Of course I wasn’t as prolific overall in 2022, and it remains to be seen if that’ll change anytime soon. It’s been a rough few years in The Manoverse, and quite simply I’m not the same guy I used to be. That’s a whole can o’ worms we won’t open right now though. Instead let’s put a bow on the football season and perhaps address another topic or two.

Congratulations to the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. Did the Philadelphia Eagles get screwed by the stripes?? Yes & no. The controversial defensive holding penalty at the end of the game was legit, although I don’t think it’s a call that should be made in that moment. It was ticky-tacky…technically correct but still not a good look for the officiating crew. In general I thought it was a good game, although the fact that I didn’t have a dog in the fight on any level negatively affected my enjoyment of it. The anthem was alright, as was the halftime show, though neither were my cup o’ tea. It was generally an unremarkable event that I’ve already pretty much forgotten about.

You may recall that Zach & I went into the last week of the regular season tied in our Pigskin Picks of Profundity, and we picked all eight games the same in that final week, necessitating an unprecedented tiebreaker. We both went 3-5, finishing the season at 57-64. However, using the tiebreaker I was “closest to the hole” in 6 of the 8 games, giving me the season victory. I can’t wait to do it all again in a few months.

If I may go off the beaten path for a moment…

I watched with some level of befuddlement recently as Lebron James became the NBA’s all time leading scorer, eclipsing the record held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar since 1984. When James broke the record near the end of the third quarter they STOPPED THE GAME and had a whole ceremony on the damn court!! Then the Lakers lost the game!!!! First, I do not have an issue with the record being broken. It’s a record of longevity really, and both Abdul-Jabbar & James played in the NBA for over two decades, with the latter probably continuing on for another year or two. That is undeniably impressive. However, my perception of Lebron James is that he’s always been a Me First kind of guy, both on & off the court. Everywhere he has played the talking heads have whined about Lebron needing more help or Lebron not having enough talent around him to win a championship. That has resulted in him bouncing from Cleveland to Miami back to Cleveland and on to Los Angeles chasing titles. He’s played in ten NBA Finals but won only four championships, all the while blaming the losses on everyone else but the guy in the mirror. Conversely, Michael Jordan won six titles in eight years, and I have zero doubt it would’ve been eight titles had he not taken a soul searching sojourn into minor league baseball in the wake of his father’s murder. Not only did he not run away from Chicago complaining about the talent surrounding him not being good enough, but I cannot fathom any scenario in which Jordan would’ve allowed a game to be completely halted to celebrate an individual achievement. I know he wouldn’t have been okay with his team losing just because he set a record. James’ teammates will continue to say the right things, but I couldn’t help but wonder if they were seething that night, watching the masses fawn all over one guy while ignoring the team’s loss.

I suppose congratulations are also in order for college football’s back-to-back national champions, the Georgia Bulldogs. After a thrilling semifinal round that saw the Bulldogs defeat the Ohio St. Buckeyes with a last second field goal right at the stroke of midnight to welcome a new year, and the TCU Horned Frogs upset the Michigan Wolverines in the highest scoring game of the Fiesta Bowl’s 50+ year history, the title game was an epic disappointment in which Georgia beat TCU like Sonny Corleone battered Carlo Rizzi in The Godfather. I think I changed the channel in the first quarter.

Speaking of college football, Zach bested me in our Bowl-a-Palooza picks. He was 23-20, while I was a putrid 19-24. I’m sure he’d give up that victory in a millisecond though to change the outcome of the Fiesta Bowl and see his Wolverines get a shot at the title.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 5.11

“I don’t know anything that builds the will to win better than competitive sports.”

–         President Richard M. Nixon

I love how “journalists” are all about The First Amendment right of free speech…until someone says something with which they disagree. It was alarming how many talking heads on ESPN and sports writers were rabidly bandying about what the punishment should be for Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison after he made some very…candid…statements in a recent magazine article. The big one that everyone seemed to be kvetching about was a “homosexual slur”. Whatever happened to “Sticks & stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me”?? I am not defending Harrison and I do think maybe someone should to pull him aside and politely tell him that he needs to keep some of his opinions to himself, but I will staunchly defend his right to express himself if he so chooses. If you don’t like what he has to say don’t read the damn article. How difficult is that??

So can we cool it now with the whole “Rory Mclroy is the new Tiger Woods” thing??

I would rather sit in a dark room & stare blankly into space than watch soccer, but I am as patriotic as anyone so it was disappointing to hear that our USA women choked in the World Cup final. Guess it’s back to the kitchen girls – just kidding ;-).

As of this writing the long national nightmare that has been the NFL lockout is almost over. Thank God.

Fellow sports fans, if you don’t get up at 6am every weekday to watch ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning you are missing out. The show is a fantastic mix of entertainment & information. It’s a lot more interesting than anything else that’s on at that time of the day.

I am not sure of the status of Nascar’s current television contracts, but I hope whenever it is time to renegotiate all the races land on one network. Bouncing from Fox to TNT to ESPN throughout the season is annoying. Each outlet has its own production quirks, different announcers, and just brings a different vibe to the races they broadcast. It’s kind of disconcerting to the viewer.

NBA center Yao Ming has announced his retirement and the full court press…pun not intended…is on to make him out to be a much more important and better player than he actually was. He played 7 seasons and averaged 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots per game. Not bad, but hardly legendary. In comparison, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar averaged 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game over the course of 20 seasons with 6 championship teams, and David Robinson averaged 21 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game in 14 seasons winning 2 championships in the process. And I’m not even bothering to look up stats for guys like Bill Russell, Hakeem Olajuwon, Wilt Chamberlain, and a host of other big men who I know did it better and longer than Ming. Ming’s biggest accomplishment was being a hero in his native China and opening up doors there for the NBA, which I am sure made a lot of people a lot of money. If the talking heads want to give him the credit for that I have no issue, but let’s not even attempt to put him in the conversation amongst the best of all time.

I am still not convinced that the 1st place Pittsburgh Pirates can bring home a division title or even land a wildcard spot. But even if they falter down the stretch and finish 3rd in the division 5-10 games out of the top spot it will still have been a successful season. No one expected this to happen this year. They are a year or two ahead of schedule and have given fans, at long last, something to look forward to.