Winning & Musing…Volume 3.20

We meet again…five months later. The good news is there have been sporting events that we can talk about. Having said that, 2020 has been an undeniably challenging time to be a fan. Will the new year see a return to normalcy?? Probably not, ateast at first. But we’ll watch anyway, and occasionally ponder related topics right here.

 

 

 

 

As happy as I am that the NFL & NCAA have given us a football season the fact is it just isn’t the same. It’s so strange to watch a game being played in an empty or nearly empty stadium. We didn’t do our normal preseason poll or NFL preview because I just didn’t know what to expect. My nephew & I haven’t done our weekly picks like in years past and we won’t be picking bowl games (several of which have been canceled anyway). There have been way too many games canceled and players who have missed time after testing positive for The Sickness or being in close proximity to others who have tested positive. Kudos to all involved for making the effort and taking the risk, but even though I have watched I am admittedly not as invested as usual.

 

 

I was dealing with my own (non-Covid) health issues this past summer, so I really didn’t pay all that much attention to the abbreviated baseball season or the bubble-wrapped NBA playoffs. The Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series and the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA title, so in a world turned upside down I suppose two big city franchises with enough money to buy their championship provided some semblance of status quo normalcy. Also, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup, but honestly I had to look that up because I paid even less attention to hockey this season than usual.

 

 

I appreciate the fact that the Indianapolis 500 and The Masters were both rescheduled instead of being outright cancelled, but as a fan it just didn’t work for me. I watched a little bit of The Masters, but was mostly focused on football that weekend, as I’m sure most fans were. I didn’t even know the Indy 500 was on until about an hour after it was over. I just completely forgot about it. Congrats to whoever won each event, but I don’t recall who that was and at the moment it’s not important enough to me to look it up.

 

 

Folks, we need to get something straight. Just because a fan is upset at their team losing and expresses some negativity does not mean they aren’t a “real” fan. I saw this kind of debate rear its ugly head after my Pittsburgh Steelers had their hot start come to a screeching halt and lost a couple of games. Fans were upset…mad at the NFL for bumbling the rescheduling of games and seeming to apply the rules differently to different teams, angry about wide receivers dropping way too many balls, frustrated by mounting injuries to the team, peeved at sports media types who were questioning the Steelers legitimacy even before they lost, disappointed by questionable coaching strategies, and of course debating dubious calls by referees. In my opinion this is normal fan behavior. However, there are those who say anyone who expresses any kind of doubts or frustration aren’t true fans. That’s poppycock. My perspective has always been the irritated passion a fan exhibits when things aren’t going well proves just how deep & fervent their fandom really is, contrary to the kind of blindly loyal fan who acts like Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House, shouting “All is well!! Remain calm!!”, even as chaos reigns down all around him.

 

 

It would be negligent for me not to address the latest in the PC Police’s War on Sports, and guess what…the fans are losing. In the midst of the uproar caused by the #BlackLivesMatter hoopla last summer the NFL’s Washington Redskins finally bowed to media created pressure and dropped the “offensive” nickname. They’ve played this entire season as the Washington Football Team, which is all kinds of stupid. And now the Cleveland Indians have announced plans to drop their century old moniker. I’ve just never understood how anyone could possibly be offended by a sports team honoring a group of people by naming their team after them. Have y’all ever  had a friend or family member name their baby or even a pet after you?? It’s meant as a compliment. Do you know how thrilled I’d be if West Virginia got an NFL/NBA/MLB/NHL franchise and called them the West Virginia Sams?? I’d be verklempt!! But that’s what liberals do in the name of “progress”. They suck all the joy out of the room, like sort of giant, evil vacuum. It is what it is, and it makes me sad.

 

 

I’m not sure what the answer is, but in no way do I feel like an Ohio State Buckeyes team that has only played six games should be in the College Football Playoff. In retrospect this would have been the perfect year to do a test run of an expanded playoff with 8 or even 16 teams. I won’t ride the powers-that-be too much for their lack of foresight because they, just like so many of us in all walks of life, have been making things up on the fly in the midst of all the craziness, but it would’ve been nice to see some fairness & common sense implemented instead of what it looks like is happening, which seems to be “let’s do whatever we can to get four traditional power programs in the playoff by any means necessary because it’ll be good for TV ratings”.

Winning & Musing…Volume 2.20

Greetings sports fans…what a strange year it has been, right?? No March Madness. The Masters, all three Triple Crown horse races, & the Indianapolis 500 postponed. And now, with COVID-19 spiking again, there are serious questions about whether we’re even going to have a football season. I hate all of it, but atleast the whole mess gives us a few things to discuss.

 

 

 

 

Kudos to NASCAR & the PGA for giving us a little bit of entertainment. To be honest I don’t even miss the live crowd when watching a car race, and golf is almost as entertaining without a gallery, except in those moments when someone makes a spectacular shot & there would normally be a roar from the crowd. NASCAR especially has stepped up, altering their schedule to have races on the occasional random weeknight. Perhaps that doesn’t mean anything to anyone else, and maybe a lot of people actually hate it, but in my particular circumstance at the moment I have really appreciated the distraction.

 

 

So I guess Major League Baseball will be playing a 60 game season beginning in a couple of weeks. That’s cool, and I’ll watch (especially if I can manage to find any Pirates games on where I am), but we’ll need to put an asterisk on the 2020 season. I don’t believe whichever teams make the playoffs and whoever ultimately wins The World Series can ever consider those to be legit accomplishments, but I’ll give them credit for doing something to provide us with some much needed entertainment.

 

 

The NBA & NHL had already played a majority of their season when everything shut down, but both leagues will be concluding their seasons with a few additional regular season games and then the playoffs. I’m not even going to dive into the details because I’m not necessarily sure I even understand all of it, but I will opine that the champions in both sports will aleast be more authentic than whatever goes on in baseball.

 

 

Speaking of NASCAR, I understand why they caved to the PC Police about the Confederate flag, and truly I’m kind of tired of all the arguing. I recognize where we are as a nation, and it’s just not a battle those of us opposed to such pandering & virtue signaling are going to win right now. However, I was disgusted with the whole Bubba Wallace/”noose” controversy. Even after the “noose” was discovered to have been a garage door pulley that had been there for years Wallace & the sports media refused to admit the mistake and doubled down on the whole victim angle, which is pathetic. I hope Wallace enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame, because now he’s back to being a mediocre driver who hasn’t actually won anything.

 

 

Strangely enough I don’t even get ESPN where I am right now, but I’m not sure I mind all that much. The last time I was able to tune in they’d essentially abandoned talking about sports and had gone all in on being “woke”, which isn’t why I watch their programs. And now I find out that The Flagship in Bristol is essentially tossing my man Mike Golic aside in favor of a more diverse morning show starring Keyshawn Johnson. Trust me folks…no one was jonesing for Keyshawn Johnson to get more airtime. It’s just another example of how out of touch ESPN has become. Y’all will recall my deep & abiding affection for Mike & Mike and how upset I was when that show ended, but atleast Golic & Wingo was a reasonably entertaining facsimile. Now there will be absolutely no reason to watch ESPN in the morning. Look, I don’t give a damn about a person’s race or ethnicity. If you’re intelligent, entertaining, & good at your job you have an opportunity to earn my fandom. Mike Golic had done that. Mike Greenberg had done that (although he’s far less tolerable without Golic). I’m not a supporter of change for the sake of change. If ESPN had an ounce of sense they’d reboot Mike & Mike, but sadly that doesn’t seem to be their plan.

Winning & Musing…Volume 3.18

October is often thought of as the best time of the annual sports calendar because the NFL, NBA, World Series, hockey, & college football are all available to us. However, late spring & early summer…with the NBA & NHL playoffs, a little golf, the Indy 500 & Coca-Cola 600 both on Memorial Day weekend, & baseball all happening…ain’t too shabby. Let’s discuss.

 

 

 

 

At the beginning of the NBA playoffs my only wish was that two of three teams not advance to The Finals. Things got off to a good start when the aging San Antonio Spurs were eliminated in the first round. Heading into the Memorial Day Weekend it seemed plausible that my hopes would be fulfilled and we’d get a fresh & interesting championship matchup. Sadly that dream died in two Game 7s, and now…for the fourth year in a row…we’re stuck with Golden State vs. Cleveland. I realize that many basketball fans are excited about this, but I am not your average NBA fan. For a variety of reasons I will not be watching one single second of the series. Maybe next season Philly, Boston, New Orleans, Houston, & Minnesota will figure some things out and break up the monotony.

 

 

I am surprisingly ambivalent about the NFL’s new anthem policy. I once called kneeling during the national anthem a “meaningless exhibition of symbolic rage” and stand by that opinion, but I also opined that it is within players’ Constitutional rights to do so. It isn’t something I would do, the original intent of the protest is foolish, & its stated purpose had been hijacked into a political game of chicken…but as disrespectful as I believe kneeling is I’m not sure the NFL has handled the situation all that well. They did nothing at the height of the controversy last season, and it felt like the whole circus had sort of diminished much like a hurricane eventually loses steam…until the NFL stirred things up again for no reason. Young parents are often taught the Ferber Method in which a crying infant is to be left alone and eventually they’ll quiet down. In the same way, I think if fans & the media would stop paying attention to anthem protests the players would get bored with it and move on…and even if they didn’t stop atleast they & their “cause” wouldn’t be receiving any validation. Unfortunately the NFL decided to poke the whiny, spoiled, & sanctimonious bear.

 

 

Y’all know that I’m a really lukewarm hockey fan, and whatever interest I did have in the NHL playoffs pretty much disappeared when the two time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated. That being said, I am rooting for Vegas to bring home The Cup in its inaugural season. Former Penguins’ goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury now plays for the Golden Knights, and I also think it’d be fun to see an expansion team win because it would tick off hockey “purists”. There’s also my longstanding love of Las Vegas, a city I hope to visit someday. I’m not actually going to watch any of the games, but for what it’s worth…Go Vegas!!

 

 

How insane is it that we went 37 years between the last two Triple Crown winners, but now we could see another one just three years later?? Of course it must be noted that between Affirmed’s achievement in 1978 and the 2015 trifecta of American Pharoah there were 13 horses that won the Kentucky Derby & Preakness Stakes only to fall short in the Belmont Stakes, so it’d be premature to assume that Justify will wear the proverbial crown. Not only is Belmont the longest of the three races (the Derby is 1.25 miles, the Preakness is 1& 3/16 miles, & the Belmont is 1.5 miles), but there are always fresh horses entered that didn’t run in the previous two races. As a matter of fact, it is fairly common for only a few horses to run all three Triple Crown races, with several in the Belmont field having skipped either the Derby, the Preakness, or both. For this reason the “smart money” might lean toward one of those horses instead of Justify.

 

 

Perhaps I am missing something, but I don’t understand all the hype and/or consternation about The Supreme Court’s recent decision against the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. That 1992 law “barred state-authorized sports gambling with some exceptions”, making Nevada the only state where it was legal to wager on games, but now all bets are off (pun intended) and it’s a free-for-all gambling frenzy. But wait!! Haven’t we had The Internet for the past quarter century?? I’m not a big gambler, but I have bet on the Triple Crown horse races online for several years, and could have bet on just about anything else if I’d chosen to do so…so what’s the big deal?? Are casinos suddenly going to pop up everywhere now?? I suppose that’s possible. Will all of those little “gambling cafes” that litter the landscape of my small hometown now offer sports betting in addition to slot machines?? That would actually make such establishments somewhat more interesting. I’m not completely obtuse here folks…I get it. But let’s not pretend that this new legality suddenly allows people to engage in some sort of forbidden activity that they’ve been dying to try but have been prohibited from doing. The truth is that gambling has been a huge business for decades, and not just in Vegas or Atlantic City. The Supreme Court has just brought it out of the shadows…probably so the government can get a piece of the action.

Winning & Musing…Volume 2.18

Finally…Spring has sprung here in The Mountain State!! It’s been 80+ degrees the past couple of days, with plentiful sunshine. However, as happy as that makes me I must temper my enthusiasm since preliminary indications are that next week will begin with a “wintry mix”. I am exercising similar caution with the sports calendar because, while some things are pointed in the right direction it is far too early for a victory lap. Let’s discuss.

 

 

 

As per usual I haven’t paid all that much attention to the NBA season. Actually I’ve probably been even less invested than usual (if that’s possible) for reasons I have covered previously. However, that all changes with the start of the playoffs, which look like this in the Eastern Conference:

Toronto Raptors                    vs.     Washington Wizards

Boston Celtics              vs.     Milwaukee Bucks

Philadelphia 76ers      vs.     Miami Heat

Cleveland Cavaliers    vs.     Indiana Pacers

Ideally we would see either the Celtics or 76ers emerge to represent their conference in the NBA Finals. All eyes will be on a Raptors-Cavs second round series if/when it happens, and I must admit that, as patriotic as I tend to be (USA!! USA!!) I am more than sick of Lebron James. He is NOT better than Michael Jordan, and some of the things he has said off the court have revealed the kind of person he really is, which isn’t positive. When one lives by the sword one dies by the sword, and since the NBA has spent decades marketing individual personalities over teams they shouldn’t be surprised that many fans react negatively when some personalities are pompous, self-righteous, & tediously egotistical. Which brings me to the Western Conference:

Houston Rockets                  vs.     Minnesota Timberwolves

Golden State Warriors         vs.     San Antonio Spurs

Portland Trail Blazers           vs.     New Orleans Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder       vs.     Utah Jazz

I am beyond thrilled that the Warriors & Spurs play each other in Round 1, because that means that one of the world’s biggest blowhard coaches will be eliminated quickly (hopefully either Portland or New Orleans will take out the remaining trash in the second round). I’d be fine with the Rockets making it to the NBA Finals, although I think the Pelicans could be a sleeper. A Philly-N’awleans Finals would be fresh & intriguing, wouldn’t it??

 

 

Congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats for winning their second National Championship in the past three seasons. The 2018 edition of March Madness will mostly be remembered for the impressive run to The Final Four of the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, with their Gryffindor scarves and elderly nun Sister Jean, and for the history making 16th seed UMBC Retrievers’ huge upset of #1 Virginia, something that had never happened before. However, though there had been numerous teams atop the polls throughout the season and no dominant force emerged as a clear favorite to cut down the nets, hindsight is 20/20 and Villanova was always lurking near the top and seemed to be the most consistent program thru the season.

 

 

Sunday at The Masters was delightful fun as usual. Though Tiger Woods & my man Phil Mickelson made the cut and played on the weekend they were never legit factors, but luckily for fans & the folks at CBS guys like Rory McIlroy & Rickie Fowler were entertaining, and Jordan Spieth’s -8 final round of 64 was fantastic even if it came up a bit short. Initially I had no issue with winner Patrick Reed, but post-victory stories have emerged that paint him in a rather negative light. Apparently he hasn’t spoken to his own family for several years because they disapproved of his marriage. I’m not married, but I cannot imagine ever choosing a woman over my parents or sibling. From what I’ve read the family seems conciliatory and willing to resume a relationship with Reed, but he (and his wife) aren’t interested. That’s pretty sad in my humble opinion.

 

 

The NHL Playoffs are underway, but y’all know my tepid feelings about hockey. If my Pittsburgh Penguins make it thru the first couple of rounds perhaps I’ll become interested. Somebody keep me posted.

 

 

 

I know I know…pro wrestling isn’t a “real” sport. I get it, but indulge me. My neighbor & I watched last weekend’s WrestleMania 34 event, and it was an enjoyable evening. The “mainstream” media was all over former MMA champion Ronda Rousey’s participation now that she has officially segued into a career in the WWE, and I’ll give credit where it is due…Rousey looked good in the ring. She still needs a lot of work doing promos, and the powers-that-be should keep her as far away from interviews with outlets like ESPN as they possibly can since they’ve proven to be bizarrely detrimental, but inside those ropes she acquitted herself nicely on absolutely the biggest stage she has ever been on in her entire career. People like to make fun of “wrasslin’”, but there were 78k in the Superdome, and millions watching on PPV or the WWE Network. As popular as MMA might be it can’t match those numbers. I was happy that Rousey’s mixed tag didn’t get a main event spot (Lawrence Taylor once main evented a WrestleMania, which was a slap in the face to full time wrestlers) and was instead on the mid-card where it deserved to be. Overall it was a well-constructed show and a great way to spend a Sunday evening.

 

 

I’m not emotionally invested in baseball quite yet, but I’ll get there. I think it’s hilarious that games have already been cancelled because of snow. Several years ago I proposed a plan for a shorter baseball season…maybe it’s time to take such suggestions seriously.

 

 

I’d been watching…off & on…ESPN’s Golic & Wingo on weekday mornings the past few months, but lately have given a fair opportunity to the brand new Get Up, starring Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle, & Jalen Rose, to wow me. Neither show is horrible. Golic & Wingo is predictably chill, while Get Up isn’t as obnoxious as it had the potential to be. Having said that, both are like buying overpriced but watered down drinks at a bar. Greeny & Golic specifically aren’t nearly as entertaining as they were while together on Mike & Mike. Neither mix is necessarily bad now, but the new shows are lacking…something. I stated awhile back that the late night shows no longer interest me and I am more likely to turn my television off at 11:30pm now than watch any of the garbage spewed forth by Kimmel, Colbert, et al. And now I no longer turn on my TV first thing in the morning to check out what Greeny or Golic have to say about sports. It wasn’t broke, but ESPN decided to “fix it” anyway. Way to go morons.

Winning & Musing…Volume 3.17

For the past few weeks I’d been feeling really upbeat & blessed. Springtime. Sunshine. Birds chirping. Occasional use of the AC. But at the moment it is raining here in Appalachia and has been for a few days. There’s a November-esque chill in the air. I’ve had to wear a coat again and get the comforter out of the closet. I’m sniffling, sneezing, & taking antibiotics. I hate feeling this way. I hate this weather, especially since IT’S MAY!!!! Thankfully the sports calendar remains robust, and those hours of relaxation & delight ease the burden. Let’s unwind and have some fun.

 

 

 

 

NBA Playoffs Drinking Game: Do a shot or chug a beer (drinker’s choice) every time one of the announcers says “pick & roll”. You might pass out by halftime or possibly need to go to the ER to have your stomach pumped. Either way you probably won’t be around for the end of the game.

 

 

 

A few thoughts about the recent NFL Draft:

*I’m a traditionalist, so I wasn’t too sure about the NFL’s decision to move the draft away from New York to an outdoor venue in Philadelphia, but WOW…what a great idea it turned out to be!! The passionate fans in Philly showed up in droves…about 100k each of the three days…and really infused a ton of energy into the event. Kudos to those fans, and a tip of the cap to whomever decided to try something new after the draft had essentially been in the same comfort zone for a couple of decades.

*Speaking of stepping outside one’s comfort zone, I finally transitioned to the NFL Network as the home base for my draft coverage instead of ESPN, and it was a great choice. I found the talking heads on NFL Network to be much more focused & knowledgeable than their counterparts. Mike Mayock especially is multiple levels above ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. Whoever is running the NFL Network obviously knows what butters their bread and understands the kind of reporting fans truly desire. Perhaps they should ponder creating an all-sports network that actually concentrates on sports. Wouldn’t that be a novel idea??

*I’d give my Steelers a B+ on their 2017 draft. I love the first round choice of linebacker TJ Watt. If he’s anywhere near as talented as his brother JJ he’ll be an all-pro for the next dozen years, which would be nice. The Steelers did address concerns about the secondary with 3rd & 5th round picks of guys I’ve never heard of. I’d like to have faith in the braintrust in Pittsburgh, but my preference would have been to prioritize the position with potential starters rather than players that’ll probably need a couple of years to develop. I know a lot of Steeler fans are excited about second round choice JuJu Smith-Schuster, a wide receiver from USC, but I have an irrational disdain for people with hyphenated surnames, so I can’t seem to get psyched about the pick. I’m not knowledgeable enough to expertly criticize the choice of a long snapper in the sixth round, but it seems like a wasted pick to me. I really like 3rd round running back James Conner (even though he played for Pitt) and 4th round quarterback Josh Dobbs out of Tennessee. Conner should become an immediate contributor as a backup to Leveon Bell, and Dobbs can learn for a year or two or three from Ben Roethlisberger. Whether Dobbs settles in as a career backup, becomes a worthy successor to Big Ben someday, or is a complete bust, the pick itself is solid and could end up being much more.

*I’m really surprised that the New England Patriots didn’t trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a QB needy team. If I were Garoppolo I’d want out not only for an opportunity to start somewhere, but because it’s a bad idea to be the guy who replaces The Guy. When Tom Brady FINALLY retires the person replacing him will be faced with two options. Failure would further inflate (ha!) perception of Brady as “the greatest quarterback EVER!!” and pretty much stop the replacement’s career in its tracks. Conversely, if the Patriot train keeps on rolling even after Brady leaves then it would diminish his legacy while inflating (I just can’t help myself) the status of head coach Bill Belichick. Either way it’s an odd position to be in for Garoppolo.

*In my mock draft I opined that none of the available quarterbacks were first round worthy, yet three of them were taken. The Chicago Bears traded away two 3rd round picks & a 4th rounder to move up ONE spot for North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky. Seems a bit much to me, especially for such an unproven player. Kansas City traded a 3rd round pick and next year’s 1st rounder to move up for Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes. I like Mahomes better than Trubisky, especially since he’ll be able to sit for a couple of years and learn from Alex Smith, but it still struck me as an expensive trade. The Houston Texans traded away next year’s first round choice to go up & grab Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, and I think it might actually be looked upon as a wise transaction in a few years. Watson will probably be the rookie quarterback pressed into starting the quickest, but he also has the best team surrounding him. If Watson fulfills the potential I think he has the Texans could win a Lombardi Trophy in the not too distant future.

 

 

A melancholy Happy Trails to The Sports Reporters, which has been cancelled by ESPN after almost three decades on the air. Admittedly I was not a faithful viewer of the show because it was usually on while I was on the way to church, and for some reason I never recorded it like I’ve done so much stuff since the DVR became a thing. However, I always enjoyed the program when circumstances allowed me to catch it. Debate shows about sports are a dime a dozen now, but I assume The Sports Reporters was one of the prototypes, if not the founding father of the format. Unlike many of the current shows on the air, Reporters was a more tranquil & erudite conversation. Though I am sure most of the “journalists” that appeared over the years were your typical leftists, sociopolitical issues or “progressive” bias never seemed to be a part of Reporters’ DNA. The focus…as it should be…was on sports. The discussions were thoughtful and intelligent, not reactionary. Perhaps the emphasis on sports and lack of brash & colorful personalities is what led to the cancellation, which makes it even sadder. Google “misplaced priorities” and you’ll probably get directions to Bristol, CT.

 

 

 

 

Unlike many folks I am not all that broken up about the impending retirement of Dale Earnhardt Jr. I wish him well in his new marriage and future endeavors, which I assume will eventually include being a NASCAR team owner. However, let’s be honest…Dale Jr.’s popularity has never been about Dale Jr. It’s about his name. It’s about his legacy. It’s about the tragic death of his father. Many cheered for the elder Earnhardt, so they transferred that loyalty to his son. But when Dale Jr. sold out that heritage to join a super stable at Hendrick Motorsports that included Jeff Gordon & Jimmy Johnson it felt…atleast to me…like Larry Bird leaving the Celtics to join Magic Johnson’s Lakers, or Peyton Manning spending his last few years in the NFL with the New England Patriots as Tom Brady’s backup. It left a proverbial bad taste in my mouth, and became the first of multiple factors that eventually led to me putting my NASCAR fandom on the backburner. Your mileage may vary, and that’s okay, but I’m just being honest.

 

 

Speaking of ESPN…..

Of all the talking heads that The Mothership recently canned, I must give a shout out to a special few. Baseball reporter Jayson Stark called in weekly to Mike & Mike, regularly stumping Greeny & Golic with difficult trivia questions. It was a fun & informative segment and I’ll miss it. Ed Werder added low-key gravitas to NFL coverage, while Andy Katz did the same for discussions about college basketball. I guess neither one is colorful or loud enough for ESPN now. NFL analyst Trent Dilfer & MLB analyst Doug Glanville are former players that got jobs in sports media, which of course isn’t unusual. Unfortunately it seems like they also were a little too cerebral in the eyes of whatever moron is making these decisions at ESPN. Anchors Jade McCarthy & Sara Walsh are both lovely ladies, but they’re both now unemployed. I first encountered Jay Crawford when he hosted Cold Pizza, which eventually morphed into First Take. He seems like a cool guy, but made the misstep of thinking that anchoring Sportscenter was the Holy Grail, which it no longer is. He should’ve stayed on First Take. Former Florida State quarterback & college football analyst Danny Kanell strikes me as kind of a tool, which makes his ouster rather odd since it seems like that’s what the network embraces now. Anchor John Buccigross had been around for a couple of decades and embodied the second generation of glib sarcasm popularized back in the Dan Patrick/Keith Olbermann days. Bucci seems like a good dude and I hope he lands a gig somewhere. The most popular target of fans upset by this bloodletting in Bristol has been Stephen A. Smith, as in “I can’t believe (insert fired person’s name here) is gone but Stephen A. still has a job!!”. That reaction was so vociferous & so ubiquitous that Smith actually felt compelled to speak up and defend his credentials. While he certainly isn’t my favorite personality I don’t necessarily take issue with Stephen A.’s continued employment. However, he does exemplify what ESPN is about now…ratings brought by outspoken personalities who aren’t afraid to let their sociopolitical agenda bleed into sports debate. It’s a bold strategy Cotton…let’s see if it pays off for them.

 

 

Winning & Musing…..Volume 2.17

We made it sports fans!! We survived the post-Super Bowl darkness and spring has arrived with a plethora of awesomeness being spoon fed to us as we slumber on our couches or other favorite furniture. It’s always great to be a fan, but these last couple of weeks have been…as always…a high point on the calendar. Let’s discuss.

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to the North Carolina Tar Heels, winners of their 7th national championship, three of those coming under the leadership of current head coach Roy Williams. I can’t honestly say I watched a lot of the title game. It was Monday night…the night after Wrestlemania…and wrestling is a priority at The Bachelor Palace. I checked out emotionally after my WV Mountaineers were defeated by Gonzaga, which is also the reason why, despite almost always being a guy who cheers on the underdog, I was pulling for UNC.

 

 

 

I didn’t get to watch as much of The Masters as I’d prefer because my work schedule pretty much wrecks every weekend, but congratulations to Sergio Garcia for finally fulfilling his potential. I would have much rather seen my man Phil Mickelson or even Jordan Spieth in contention on Sunday, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

 

 

 

So I guess the NHL playoffs have begun. I suppose they do those things. Someone call me if/when the Pittsburgh Penguins make it back to the Stanley Cup finals. Until then I’ll be reading a book or watching Big Bang Theory reruns.

 

 

 

A melancholy farewell to Steelers owner Dan Rooney. Everybody fondly recalls his father Art, aka The Chief, but the truth is that Dan had been a guiding force for the team as far back as the late 1960’s. I’m not sure what the future holds for my Steelers. The Rooney family only owns about 30% of the team, and a large part of the family has walked away from football, choosing to make money in horse racing & gambling instead. I hope we don’t see the day that the primary ownership is not in Rooney hands, but that may very well happen in the future.

 

 

 

Is there a bigger tool in the universe than this clown Lamar Ball?? He’s made himself the story, which is sad for his kids. Even other helicopter parents are ashamed. His oldest son will be leaving UCLA early (we’ll see how that works out), and if I’m Bruins’ head coach Steve Alford I might consider pulling the scholarship offers for the two younger brothers. No amount of talent is worth the embarrassment & aggravation that the father brings to the table.

 

 

 

The NBA playoffs are about to begin, so I suppose now I’ll start paying attention. For now though, allow me to opine that a favorite debate amongst the talking heads…the subject of NBA teams “resting” players…is asinine. Both sides have their salient points, but I don’t ever remember this even being a topic of discussion until the last few years, so I assume it is a fairly new strategy. Should a grown man…a professional athlete…be in good enough condition to play each & every game unless he is injured?? Theoretically…yes. However, I despise the argument that these players & teams somehow owe the paying fans the pleasure of seeing them play. First of all, it’s a team sport. You should being cheering for the Cleveland Cavaliers…not LeBron James. Or the Golden State Warriors…not Steph Curry. Now I’m not naïve…I know that, in reality, it doesn’t work that way. The NBA has spent decades marketing individual stars…Magic, Bird, Dr. J, Jordan, Barkley, Kobe, Shaq…over teams. I’ve never liked it, and now I think it’s funny that the strategery is biting them in the ass. Secondly, while I am well aware of the business aspects of the situation, the bottom line is that the goal is to win a championship. If a coach believes that sitting some of his superstars for a few meaningless regular season games so that they’ll be healthier for the playoffs is a good idea then that is his right to do so, and Joe Sixpack in Milwaukee or Sacramento or Philadelphia or Orlando has nothing to do with it…nor should he. One thing the NBA could do is restructure the season. While I think ideas being tossed around about cutting the number of games in half are stupid, I don’t think it’d be unreasonable to scale back to 75 regular season games (from 82) and schedule back-to-back or even three game series (like baseball already does) during the season to minimize travel. I’d also revamp the post-season. Six teams from each conference make the playoffs (down from the current eight). Perhaps a first round bye for a couple of teams, or maybe even a second round bye for whichever of three teams wins their first series the quickest. Make first round series three games, and the other rounds five games. Only the NBA Finals would be seven games. I know that’s all crazy talk. The owners aren’t going to sacrifice revenue. I’m just thinking out loud.

 

 

 

I’m getting jazzed for the upcoming NFL Draft. It’s a source of much amusement to watch the weeks leading up to the draft, when all the suits & the talking heads go into paralysis by analysis mode and overthink everything. None of the available quarterbacks are worth a first round pick, but you can be sure that a few of them will get chosen in the first round. A guy like Deshaun Watson, who won a national championship, is being downplayed, while freakin’ Mitch Trubisky, who led his team to a loss in the Sun Bowl, is apparently the next John Elway. Dalvin Cook…the best running back in the draft…is “free falling down draft boards”. Leonard Fournette is either the next Adrian Peterson or the next Ki-Jana Carter, depending on who you believe. It’s all quite silly, but I can’t wait until the actual event. I hate that they’ve stretched it out to three days now, but it is what it is.

 

 

 

As of this moment my Pittsburgh Pirates are 3-6 and at the bottom of their division. I’ll give the season another couple of dozen games before I start to panic. I must admit that I haven’t watched even one pitch of a Pirates game thus far. The past few weeks have been rather busy in The Manoverse and more urgent matters have taken up my time, but I foresee a lull in the chaos after Easter, so I’ll be sure to check out my Buccos…or do I want to subject myself to the frustration?? Ehhh…who am I kidding?? The Pirates have been a source of exasperation for atleast half of my life. I’m a glutton for punishment.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 4.16

Howdy. Holy cow have we had a lot going on in the sports world. It’s times like the last few weeks that I really feel bad for those who, for whatever reason, never became sports fans. They’re really missing out on so much fun. Of course they miss out on an abundance of frustration & heartbreak as well, so there is that. Anyway, let’s roll.

 

 

 

 

 

lebroncavsA year & a half ago I said that Lebron James would “have the Cavs in the playoffs this summer and in serious championship contention next year.” He exceeded my expectations by leading them to the NBA Finals in 2015 before ultimately losing to the Golden St. Warriors. And this year he finally took them all the way. In a series rematch from last season the Cleveland Cavaliers fell behind against the Warriors 3-1 before staging an epic comeback and winning a fantastic Game 7 to earn the trophy. I am sincerely happy for the fine folks in Cleveland, OH, although I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that between the Browns winning the NFL championship in 1964 and the Cavs winning the NBA title this year…a drought of 52 years and over 200 major professional sports seasons…the City of Champions Pittsburgh, PA won 13 championships among the Steelers, Pirates, & Penguins. Sorry…I couldn’t resist.

 

 

Speaking of the Penguins, kudos to them for winning their 4th Stanley Cup in the last quarter century. As predicted the series did Pittsburgh_Penguins7go seven games. I need to correct an error I made in the last edition of W&M. As it turns out the last several games of the finals were played on NBC proper, as it should be. I’m not sure what the deal was with those first couple of games being shown only on the NBC Sports Network.

 

 

skipFinally our long national nightmare that was the Skip Bayless era at ESPN is over. Bayless is taking his shtick to Fox Sports 1, where I am sure they’ll pair him up with some other obnoxious character and try to duplicate the First Take debate formula. Personally I won’t be watching. How Bayless has any credibility whatsoever remaining is a complete mystery since he has been demonstrably wrong the vast majority of the time in the past decade. I am quite sure that FS1 will see a spike in ratings upon his debut, but I’d be shocked if the honeymoon lasted more than a few months.

 

 

Now that the NBA Finals have concluded the chess match that is the offseason can begin, nbawith the first move being the NBA Draft in a couple of days. It isn’t nearly as entertaining as the NFL Draft, but I suppose I’ll watch. As for free agency, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Kevin Durant will leave Oklahoma City and end up with…the Los Angeles Lakers. You heard it here first.

 

 

usopenAdmittedly I lost a good bit of interest in the U.S. Open Golf Championship once my man Phil Mickelson missed the cut. This was supposed to be Lefty’s year to win the only major that has eluded him, the one in which he has finished second a record 6 times, but it just didn’t happen. That being said, I think the future of golf is going to be just fine. The final round of the U.S. Open was great theater, although it could’ve ended up being quite messy. Early on in his round leader Dustin Johnson had a situation where his ball appeared to move ever so slightly. A few holes later USGA officials informed Johnson that he may or may not incur a one shot penalty. He had to play the last several holes…of a major…not knowing exactly what his score may be. What?? Seriously?? How freakin’ stupid!! It’d be like telling an NFL team that a 2nd quarter touchdown may or may not count once a potential pass interference call is reviewed after the game, or an MLB team that a 4th inning grand slam may or may not have really been a foul ball and that a final decision would be made after the last out of the contest. Of course that would NEVER happen!!!!Decisions in most major sports might be endlessly analyzed & questioned after the fact, but atleast there is a damn djdecision. I know golf is a quirky game, where players are expected to self-report any rules violations and must accurately keep score themselves or else be disqualified, but the situation that occurred at the U.S. Open was shameful. Despite what purists may think there needs to be serious reflection about how to avoid such debacles in the future. Thankfully Johnson kept his cool and won by more than one stroke, leaving the outcome beyond doubt. Otherwise a great game could have suffered a terrible and 100% preventable stain on its legacy.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 3.15

Don’t you just love the ebb & flow of sports?? It’s almost magical how the baseball season opened on the same day that the championship game wrapped up college basketball. Or how Nascar pops back into our lives just as we are starting to miss football. The Nascar folks are even nice enough to take the day off when they know that between The Final Four and Easter Sunday our weekend is jam packed. Okay okay…I am smart enough to realize that there are people who make lots of money to carefully coordinate the well-timed ebb & flow, but in my heart I still believe in magic. Anyway, today we have a good mix of things to contemplate, so let’s do that.

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to the 2015 NCAA basketball national champion Duke Blue Devils. I Duke_Blue_Devilshave no issue with them winning even though they certainly aren’t the kind of underdog that I typically cheer for. I thought the game itself as well as the tournament in general was poorly officiated, but that can’t be held up as the single reason Duke prevailed. Coach K seems like a genuinely decent dude, although I can’t go so far as to say he has eclipsed legendary UCLA coach John Wooden.

 

 

 

Baseball season is underway and I am mildly excited about that. It’s a long season so ppiratesone has to modulate enthusiasm throughout the next few months so that interest doesn’t wane during the dog days of summer. I expect my Pittsburgh Pirates to be in the midst of the pennant race again, although I do have some misgivings about their bullpen and whether or not that weakness will cost them a division title.

 

 

 

There’s been a lot of discussion during March Madness about what’s wrong with college basketball and what should be done to fix it. Most agree that the tournament is just dandy, but it’s the 3 or 4 months that precede it that has issues. One thing that is constantly mentioned is the 35 second shot clock and how it should be lowered to 24 seconds “just like the NBA”. Decreasing the shot clock is a valid debate, but what is with this compulsion to copy the NBA?? College & pro basketball are two similar yet basketballdifferent games and I think I prefer it that way. Contrary to popular opinion I find the collegiate game much more entertaining. It’s raw. It’s genuine. And yes, it’s got lumps, just like tasty homemade gravy, which has so much more flavor than the mass produced stuff one finds in a jar at the grocery store. College athletes are extremely talented, but there’s a wide range of skill and, at the end of the day, they are still a bunch of somewhat capricious & undeveloped 18-22 year old youngsters. There are highs. There are lows. There are flashes of dramatic, heroic triumph, and moments of inexplicable disappointment. Yes the NBA has that stuff too because the players are still human beings, but the game is undeniably more refined, less dramatic, more predictable, and too often as bland as store bought gravy. So revise & improve college basketball. Go for it. Nothing is perfect and tinkering can be fun. But be innovative. Be practical. Don’t focus on replicating the NBA. It’s lazy, redundant, & lacks imagination.

 

 

 

$100 for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight?? I don’t think so. I’m not really a boxing fan and won’t be brokenhearted if I miss it altogether, although I may look around and see boxing_2_lgif I can catch it for free. There are ways. I’m a huge pro wrestling fan and haven’t paid for a PPV in a few years. Technology is a good thing…most of the time.

 

 

 

wrestling-clip-art-PSS0166Speaking of pro wrestling, it has caused a rift in my relationship with ESPN talking head Colin Cowherd. I had been a fan of Cowherd’s daily radio show that is simulcast on ESPNU…until a few weeks ago. Colin’s buddy and fellow ESPN personality Bill Simmons is a fellow wrestling fan and had appeared on WWE Raw. Cowherd was reviewing Simmons’ performance on the show and had some rather demeaning & unprofessional comments about wrestling fans, saying that we all live in our parents’ basements and everyone who had attended that particular event outside of Simmons had probably been driven there and dropped off by their mother. And his comments weren’t said in a good-natured, joking manner. He was intentionally being an insulting jackass. I happened to have some free time that day so I tweeted #boycottCowherd and got much more of a response than expected. It was the most interaction I’ve ever had on Twitter. Some folks were supportive while some tried to match their hero Colin in the abuse department. Cowherd himself replied to me stating that his show had the best ratings on ESPNU, as if that is a noteworthy accomplishment when the truth is that better & more popular shows like Mike & Mike, Pardon the Interruption, & First Take air on ESPN or ESPN2. My God, even Dan Lebatard & his Papi are shown on ESPN2. Cowherd apparently doesn’t understand that his show airing on ESPNU indicates just how insignificant it is in the eyes of his bosses. At any rate, I’m not crazy enough to think that one man can take down an entire TV show or colincowherdthat my feelings matter to a self-important blowhard like Colin Cowherd, but I’ll damn sure never watch him again. I realize that professional wrestling isn’t everyone’s cup o’ tea. That’s fine. But to those of us who enjoy that sort of thing it is as valid a form of entertainment as anything else. There are any number of television shows…Game of Thrones, Scandal, The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey…that the masses love but I’m not interested in, yet I don’t go around bullying & verbally assaulting fans of those shows. The idea that all wrestling fans are a bunch of toothless hillbillies or socially inept psychos who are unemployed and live with their parents is a tired cliché that is no longer funny. Wrestling fans are male & female, black, white, & Hispanic, affluent & poor, young & old, urban & rural…just like the fan bases of any other kind of entertainment. Does Cowherd really think the backward recluses he trumpets as the typical wrestling fan could even afford to go to the shows, purchase the merchandise, or buy the pay-per-views?? Maybe someone should call EMS to bring the jaws of life to ESPN and extricated Colin Cowherd’s pea brain from his anal cavity before he suffocates and becomes an even bigger moron than he has already proven himself to be.

 

 

 

It’s still a little bit surprising to me that the Kentucky Wildcats didn’t make it to the national title game. I know I’m not the only one who felt like them winning it all was a foregone conclusion. But it seems like in the process of obliterating my WV Kentucky-BasketballMountaineers in the Sweet 16 the ‘Cats fired all their bullets and didn’t have much left in the tank. They barely got by Notre Dame in the Elite 8, and then finally were beaten in the Final Four by Wisconsin. Now I will grant you that the Badgers are an extremely talented team and had the added revenge factor (after UK beat them in last year’s Final Four) as motivation, but I sincerely believe that Kentucky would defeat Wisconsin in 9 out of 10 games. In a single elimination tournament though anything can happen (and no…I don’t think that format should change…for now).

 

 

 

The argument over trying to get NCAA basketball to mirror the NBA made me think of baseball’s designated hitter rule. Upon further ponderation I think I like things the way they are, with the American League having the DH and the National League not utilizing it. It makes each league unique, which is something we’ve begun to lose in the United States. We’re all about homogenization. I’m not as well traveled as I’d prefer, baseball drawingbut I know that every city & town in this country has a lot of the same stuff. The same restaurants. The same retail outlets. The same radio & TV stations that play the same music & shows day after day, week after week, year after year. Every mall has the same stores. Every movie theater is essentially the same. Every automaker makes the same kinds of vehicles that aren’t nearly as singular & cool as cars back in the 40’s & 50’s. This uniformity is comforting on some level, but it is also bland & uninspiring. Just like college basketball shouldn’t try so hard to emulate the NBA I hope the American & National Leagues will always remain similar yet distinctive.

The Prodigal Player Brings His Talents Back to the Mistake By the Lake

The Bible tells a story about The Prodigal Son, a young man who decides to take his inheritance and leave home only to come crawling back when he has blown his fortune. Prodigal is word derived from the Latin term prodigus, meaning “to drive away or squander”. Instead of telling his offspring “I told you so” the boy’s father instead welcomes his child back into the family with open arms. It is a story of forgiveness. It is a story of redemption. It is a story of humility. It is a story of grace.

 

Few people outside of the city of Cleveland, OH have been as hard on NBA superstar LeBron James as myself. I am not nearly as passionate in my lb1fandom of professional basketball as I am when it comes to other sports and have never really had a favorite team. I preferred the Lakers over the Celtics in the 80’s (more about that some other time), loved Dr. J., and like most young men of my generation thought Michael Jordan was the greatest player to ever dribble & dunk (I still do). I am a sucker for the underdog, so when James was drafted #1 overall straight out of high school by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003 I thought it was a nice story. It helped that the hapless Cavs hadn’t been much more than mediocre for most of their three decades of existence before James’ arrival. Unlike so many “franchise saviors” whose hype far exceeds tangible results LeBron James was everything he was said to be and more, carrying the Cleveland Cavaliers almost singlehandedly on his back to 5 playoff runs in 7 years, including a trip to the Finals in 2007.

 

But then he tossed it all away in 2010. He “took his talents to South Beach”, forming a “Big Three” alongside Dwayne Wade & Chris Bosh for the Miami Heat. And I hated it. I hated the way players were now conspiring to form super teams instead of allowing coaches & general managers to build teams organically the old fashioned way. I hated the TV spectacle that was The Decision. I hated the pep rally in Miami where this new Big Three promised “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five…” NBA titles. I hated seeing a guy spit in the face of his home town in just about the most obnoxious way possible. I hated the fact that Cleveland was pretty much screwed because let’s face it…big time free agents, no matter what sport is involved, are almost always going to choose sexier destinations like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, & Dallas.

 

lb2Over the next four seasons I delighted not in cheering for any particular NBA team but in rooting against the evil Miami Heat. I was ecstatic in 2011 & 2014 when they lost the championship series (to the Dallas Mavericks & San Antonio Spurs respectively), and was bitterly disappointed in 2012 & 2013 when the Heat won back-to-back titles. Most people would probably be kind and say that The Big Three fulfilled their mission, but I gleefully opine that they missed the mark and severely underachieved. Yes four NBA Finals in four years and two championships in that time is impressive, but I would submit to you that it is the bare minimum of what was expected, potential that was elevated to a virtual fever pitch of entitled assumption by the PR machine and the powers-that-be in Miami.

 

In the course of those four years a few things have occurred. First, after nearly four decades of the NBA focusing its marketing on individual stars…Bird, Magic, Jordan, Shaq, Kobe, ‘Melo…there seems to have been an awakening that basketball is a team game and none of those players achieved success on an island. The San Antonio Spurs certainly have their stars, but they were able to win the title this year and damn near won it in 2013 because they had an overall better, deeper team than the Heat. An NBA roster has 13 players. Your top 2 or 3 guys might be better than mine, but if my bench is far superior than I’ve got a fighting chance. Secondly, there are some factors that cannot be defeated by any team no matter how talented they may be. No one has ever beaten Father Time (except maybe Tim Duncan). In sports players & teams can decline quickly…almost overnight…due to injury & age. Miami’s Big Three didn’t seem nearly as intimidating in 2014 as they did four years earlier. And LeBron James himself seems to have changed, which is really the crux of my whole point here today.

 

We see celebrities every day. We see them on TV & in movies, download their music, read about them on The Internet, and watch their games in the case of professional athletes. We like to think that we know them. We form opinions about whether someone is a nice guy, a vapid airhead, or a total jerk. In many cases we are likely on the right track, but sometimes we may misjudge.

 

I, along with many people, was disgusted with the way LeBron James handled his departure from Cleveland four years ago. What we didn’t realize lb3until now was that James himself at some point looked back in disgust as well. Like The Prodigal Son he has been humbled. No he isn’t crawling back to Cleveland broken & destitute. Far from it. But he seems to have realized that in the long run winning championships in Miami wasn’t all that much easier than attempting to do so in Cleveland. He seemingly understands that following the money to New York or Los Angeles or even adding another couple of rings in Miami wasn’t going to be nearly as satisfying as being able to put together a championship team in his home town. LeBron James has matured. He has gained perspective. He has grown in wisdom. Do I sound surprised?? Yes I suppose I do.

 

Rather than repeat The Decision James instead opted to announce his return to Cleveland via a rather classy & well-written essay on the Sports Illustrated website. He speaks wistfully about his childhood in Akron, OH, but what really caught my attention was what he says about Miami, and I feel stupid for never having considered the point before. You see, LeBron James was drafted into the NBA from high school, a practice that is now forbidden by league rules. LeBron went from high school in Akron to pro basketball in Cleveland…less than an hour away. He never went to college. Sure that was his choice and a smart move financially. However, for me college was the best four years of my life. I didn’t venture too far away from home (about 3 hours), but I got far enough away that I was able to do some stupid things, meet some awesome people, learn how to be independent, and figure out life from a slightly different angle. The four years LeBron James spent in Miami were his college years, the difference being that he didn’t have to take math classes he’ll never use, he probably never had to stand outside at 3am on a cold January night after some drunken jackass thought it’d be funny to pull the fire alarm in the dorm, and I am quite sure he has no student loan debt. He had his fun. He has two championship rings and probably had his share of good times in South Florida. But now he has graduated to the next phase just like the rest of us. For me that means drinking skim milk instead of Jagermeister and it means that if I am up past midnight I’m either reading a book or writing a piece for The Manofesto rather than hanging out at a bar playing darts and listening to Brown-Eyed Girl. For LeBron James it means that winning another ring for himself isn’t as meaningful as winning for his family, friends, and the place where he “walked, ran, cried, & bled” throughout his life.

 

lb4The story of The Prodigal Son has a few layers. There is the son who discovers that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and humbly comes home. There is the father who not only welcomes the son back but celebrates his return. And there is the older brother, a killjoy who is understandably a bit resentful. There will be those who will transfer their hatred of the Miami Heat to the Cleveland Cavaliers simply because they decided 4 years ago that LeBron James is a prick and they aren’t changing their mind. So be it. I can appreciate the sentiment. But I choose…for whatever little it is worth in the grand scheme of life…to be merciful & gracious. Plus I am just glad that imbecile Johnny Manziel has been knocked off the sports page headlines for atleast a few days.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 7.13

And we’re back!! After a brief summer “vacation” (during which I have traveled absolutely nowhere) the urge to write is back. There are a lot of things on the docket, but I’ll get back into the swing of things with some thoughts on sports that I have been pondering. In today’s exciting episode I begrudgingly say nice things about people I usually don’t say nice things about, put a bow on two major sports seasons, and pontificate about whatever else pops into my scattered brain. Join me…you know you want to.

 

 

 

Contrary to the mantra that ESPN likes to perpetuate I have not nor will I ever forget Lebron LeBron Heat 6James’ “Decision” debacle. He will always reside in my own personal pantheon of sports figures I love to hate, alongside guys like Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Tom Brady, Jeff Gordon, anyone associated with the New York Yankees, and pretty much the entire SEC. James sold out his own hometown in just about the worst way possible, all in the name of riches in the form of NBA titles. He’s got two of them now, but I still don’t know how he sleeps at night. Yeah yeah yeah…probably quite comfortably, possibly rolling around in a bed full of cash.

 

tebowpatsillusI sincerely don’t have any problem with the New England Patriots signing Tim Tebow. Neither party has anything to lose, and if there is any evil genius in the universe who can figure out a way to successfully utilize Tebow’s unique skill set in the NFL it’s Bill Belichick. However, I would be shocked if the role that Tebow fills is that of primary backup quarterback.

 

Kudos to the Boston Celtics for hiring the much heralded Brad Stevens as  celticstheir next head coach. There is a tremendous possibility that Stevens will fail spectacularly and end up back in college within a few years, but even then he’d likely end up at a big time school like Indiana, Duke (Coach K is 66 years old), or some other program much higher on the food chain than Butler. However, I think it is just as possible that Stevens will be a solid NBA head coach that leads the Celtics back to the top of the ladder someday. I happen to believe that they ended up with the better end of the bargain in the trade that sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, & Jason Terry (all 35 years of age or older) to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for three 1st round draft picks in the next five years. The Nets’ wacky Russian owner obviously wants to win right now, and that plan might work. But in 2 or 3 years it’ll be the Celtics who’ll be sitting pretty and building another great team ready to compete for championships for another decade. Will Brad Stevens be along for the ride when that happens?? I think he just might.

 

hockey_stick_and_a_puckCongratulations to the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. I actually watched a bit of the NHL playoffs and find myself not being as ambivalent toward hockey as I was not all that long ago. Maybe they’ll actually succeed in making me a fan…someday.

 

I actually watched some of the matches at Wimbledon too. Hockey Head-Scratcherand tennis?? What is happening to me?!?!??

 

My Pittsburgh Pirates will either be tied for first place or one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals at the All Star break, yet I am finding it difficult to really believe. After two decades of losing I suffer from a major case of battered fan syndrome. The past two seasons as a matter of fact have seen the Buccos looking good at the halfway point only to crash & burn in ppiratesthe second half of the season. A friend of mind asked me if I was jumping off the bandwagon after a recent 4 game swoon, but the truth is that I haven’t really been on any bandwagon. My heart has been broken too many times…often before summer has even officially begun. But the swan dive is even more painful when it comes later in the season. I am like a person who has been in a string of bad relationships and eventually closes themselves off to the possibility of love as a defense mechanism to prevent any further heartbreak. I want to love the Pirates again, but I am just so tired of being disappointed, and from an objective point of view they really do have some weaknesses. The pitching staff is solid, but they can’t win games when their own team doesn’t score. The Pirates are scoring 3.87 runs per game (25th in MLB) and have a team batting average of .243 (.230 with runners in scoring position). That isn’t going to cut it folks. Outside of Pedro Alvarez (.314 with 24 home runs) no one on the team seems to know how to manufacture runs. When that changes then I will start to believe.

 

I can’t believe I defended the evil New England Patriots even once, but now I’m going to do New_England_Patriots_Helmetit again. It is not the team’s fault that TE Aaron Hernandez turned out to be a wackjob (possibly even a serial killer). Yes there was ample evidence going clear back to his University of Florida days that he was a thug, but let’s be honest…that could be said about half of the NFL. The fact is that Hernandez is a freakishly talented athlete and he was a steal for the Patriots in the 4th round of the 2010 NFL Draft. And let’s give the suits in New England credit for cutting ties with Hernandez just minutes after he was arrested.

 

howardOh dear Lord am I ever sick & tired of hearing about Dwight Howard. To me he is an overgrown child who hasn’t and may never live up to his potential. That having been said, I think he made the right decision to shun the Los Angeles Lakers in favor of the Houston Rockets. The Lakers are too wrapped up in their history & their brand and seem oblivious to the fact that they aren’t the Showtime team of the 1980’s any longer. They are an old team that needs a major overhaul, with a coach who is too stubborn to change his system to fit the talent he’s got and an owner who seems to be in way over his head. Not only are the Lakers not anywhere near an elite NBA team at the moment, but they aren’t even the best team in Los Angeles. Conversely the Rockets are a team on the rise. I have my doubts as to whether Dwight Howard is the piece of the puzzle who will put them over the top, but on paper it is a marriage that makes a lot of sense right now.