Winning & Musing…Volume 1.21

Hey sports fans…we’re back. I’ve already been more prolific in January than I was all of last year, and it feels good. I didn’t like much of anything that happened in 2020, so it’s nice getting the new year started off in a better frame of mind. Anyway, let’s talk about balls. Well, you know what I mean 😉.

 

 

 

 

I’ll be honest…I dozed off & missed most of the CFP National Championship Game, and I’m okay with that. Ohio State should’ve never been there after playing only half of a season, and I’m beyond tired of Alabama. You’re mileage may vary & that’s okay.

 

 

A couple of weeks ago on Highly Questionable ESPN talking head Israel Gutierrez actually suggested that it would be “crazy powerful” for Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers to skip his team’s first playoff game in response to the unfortunate events that had taken place in Washington DC a couple of days before. Now I’ve heard some real head scratchers on that channel the past few years (a big reason sports fans like myself & many others have stopped watching as much as we once did), but that statement from Gutierrez might be one of the dumbest things uttered by anyone anywhere in my 40+ years on the planet. He should’ve been fired immediately and dragged out of the building in a straitjacket…it was that incomprehensibly stupid. To suggest that an MVP level quarterback whose team has a very real opportunity to win the Super Bowl should sit out to make a political statement is just…insane?? Ridiculous?? Pathetic?? All of the above?? You tell me.

 

Hot Stove Time…

My Pittsburgh Pirates were in the news recently after signing 16 year old outfield prospect Shalin Polanco from the Dominican Republic. One might assume something like that would elicit cheers from the Pirates’ faithful, but you’d be wrong. Understand, we’ve seen this movie before. One of two things will happen…a) the kid will be a total bust, or b) just as he’s entering his best years as a player Pittsburgh will trade him for a bunch of prospects and he’ll go to the World Series with his new team. Those of us that have been rooting for the Bucs for any length of time suffer from what I call Battered Fan Syndrome. We don’t believe anything great is on the horizon for them and if it is we’re pretty sure they’ll screw it up. You may call it cynical, but really it is just self-preservation. 

 

Y’all may want to record this for posterity because I’m about to say something nice about Tom Brady…

I never want to hear the phrase “Patriots Dynasty” ever again. If this football season has proven anything it’s that the New England Patriots needed Tom Brady a whole hell of a lot more than Brady needed the Patriots. New England went 7-9, while Brady has Tampa (who went 7-9 last season) in the NFC title game. I hope this doesn’t happen, but IF Brady wins the Super Bowl with another team everyone should start using the term “Brady Dynasty”.

 

I’m a sucker for a happy ending. Perhaps I’ve watched too many movies, but I like the idea of an elite player winning a championship then retiring…going out on top. I fancy the notion of a guy hitting a home run in his last at bat or making a buzzer beating three-pointer in his final game. But that’s not usually the way it goes, is it?? Professional athletes often have a hard time recognizing when their skills are diminishing. They want one more opportunity to get a ring, so they stick around for a season or two or three too long. Oftentimes they play those years with different teams than the one that made them a household name. They sacrifice their legacy chasing one last shot at glory. The good thing is eventually we are able to put aside that sad limp to the finish line and focus on the highlights, but how cool would it be if our sports heroes never had that heartbreaking end that we need to erase from our memory?? Unfortunately that’s not how it works.

The 30 Day Song Challenge – Part 2

“If I were not a physicist I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” ― Albert Einstein

 

 

Y’all may have noticed that I hadn’t written anything in this space for a few months until now. I don’t put a lot of my business out there to the masses for many reasons, not the least of which is I don’t expect pity from anyone. However, let me just say that I’m going thru a rough time at the moment and will be on the proverbial shelf until well into the autumn. I have no doubt that I will heal physically, despite many misgivings about my medical care and lack of trust in caregiving personnel. The bigger battle is mental & emotional. I must admit that my faith is shaken and I’ve been questioning many of my beliefs. Having said that, I am fortunate to have access to technology, so with the helpful distraction of movies, TV, books, & social media, life affirming therapy of music, and the catharsis of writing perhaps I can muddle thru without descending into madness. If you haven’t perused Part 1 of this list please do so now. We’ll leave the light on for you.

 

 

 

 

 

16     A song that’s a classic favorite…

The Sky is Crying (Stevie Ray Vaughan)

I have to tell y’all, I’ve had a really difficult time with this one. What is meant by classic?? Classic(al)?? Classic rock?? An old familiar standard?? I have no idea. So, when in doubt I make my own rules. In this case I’m going to interpret the instruction as anything older than 25 years, which still leaves a lot of grey area. I began to think of all my favorite performers and eliminating those who’ve already snagged a spot here, which narrows things down a bit. It occurs to me that my affection for jazz & blues is vastly underrepresented, and we can’t have that. Elmore James first recorded The Sky is Crying in 1959, and since then it has been covered by a plethora of legendary artists, including Eric Clapton, Albert King, & George Thorogood. However, my favorite version was recorded in 1984 by Stevie Ray Vaughan, and SRV’s untimely demise in 1990 at the age of 35 makes it even more poignant.

 

 

17     A song that you’d sing a duet with someone at karaoke…

Islands in the Stream (Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton)

There is a gal. It’s a total fantasy because she’s way out of my league, but I do know she can sing, so never say never. I don’t even know her all that well, but I do know she’s so much more than a pretty face…she’s smart, talented, passionate about her beliefs, dedicated to her family & her job, has been thru trials & pain only to retain the prettiest smile I’ve ever seen, and seeks to make the world a better place. How can one not be robustly impressed by all that?? At any rate, Kenny Rogers passed away not long ago and I began to revisit some of his stuff. I’d forgotten how good this song is and have been grooving to it occasionally. It was written by the Bee Gees for Marvin Gaye, but for some reason that didn’t work out, so Rogers & Parton recorded it and score a #1 hit in 1983. The title is borrowed from a 1970 Ernest Hemingway novel.

 

 

18     A song from the year you were born…

Peaceful Easy Feeling & Take It Easy (The Eagles)

I just can’t choose one over the other. Actually there are probably a dozen songs I could have picked…it was that great of a year (in music – not just because I was born), but The Eagles are one of my favorite groups of all time, and I really enjoy both tunes.

 

 

19     A song that makes you think about life…

Simple Man (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

I lost my Mom twenty years ago, so it touches my heart to hear a guy singing about advice his mother once gave him. It’s good counsel too: take your time, trouble will pass, God, the love of a good woman, live simply. It really is a brilliant song.

 

 

20     A song that has many meanings to you…

Born in the USA (Bruce Springsteen)

Springsteen is a died-in-the-wool leftist who I probably wouldn’t agree with on much, and he meant the song as an anti-war anthem. Much to his dismay (I assume) it has been hijacked as a patriotic call-to-arms. I was in college during The Gulf War, and I recall a bunch of commies holding a demonstration complete with fake blood (amateurs). I was young & enthusiastic and joined a group of patriotic counter-protesters shouting “USA!! USA!!”. Then my friend Doug showed up waving a huge American flag with…you guessed it…Born in the USA blaring out of his car stereo. I’m at the point in my life now where I have zero desire to protest anything, but damn that’s a great memory.

 

 

21     A song you like with a person’s name in the title…

My Cherie Amour (Stevie Wonder)

I’ve recently rediscovered Stevie Wonder and really appreciate his pipes. There are tons of songs with a person’s name in the title, but Cherie is a rather unique name and the song is fantastic.

 

 

22     A song that moves you forward…

Don’t Look Back (Boston)

Moving forward is a rather vague phrase, right?? On top of that, I have felt like I am treading water for more years than I care to admit, so I’ve chosen to look at the instruction almost literally, invoking its spirit even if I haven’t exactly followed thru in my own life. I had an opportunity to see Boston in concert right after I graduated from college, and it’s a memory I cherish.

 

 

23     A song you think everyone should listen to…

The Saga Begins (Weird Al Yankovic)

I’m a fan of parody songs and Weird Al is the master. The Star Wars prequel trilogy is something many movie fans would prefer to forget, but atleast it gave us this tune…one of Yankovic’s best in my opinion.

 

 

24     A song by a band you wish were still together…

When It’s Love (Van Halen)

I got to see Van Halen on their Balance tour in the mid-90’s, not too long before Sammy Hagar & the brothers Van Halen had a falling out. More than two decades later we’re still waiting for a reunion that seems more & more unlikely. There are atleast a dozen hits by the band that could go in this slot, but this is probably my favorite.

 

 

25     A song you like by an artist who is no longer living…

Ain’t That a Kick in the Head (Dean Martin)

I love The Rat Pack and would have enjoyed seeing them in The Copa Room at The Sands in Vegas back in the day. Perhaps I was just born in the wrong era. Anyway, I have to give some love to Dino and one of his more upbeat tunes.

 

 

26     A song that makes you want to fall in love…

Everything (Michael Buble)

I have to give a shout out to my former co-worker JZ for introducing me to…as I call him…Michael Bubbly many years ago. She knew of my fondness for Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., et al, and Buble first came to prominence by re-introducing the masses to that kind of music. Everything was a #1 adult contemporary hit in 2008. I hope to meet a woman that fits the song someday.

 

 

27     A song that breaks your heart…

Angel Flying to Close to the Ground (Willie Nelson)

My father used to listen to country music when I was a child, and it was vastly different than what is presented as country music today. I’m not a fan of either incarnation, and classic country is kind of what gave the genre it’s bad reputation for being all about things like death, divorce, & other depressing topics. But say what you want about songs by Merle Haggard, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, & Johnny Cash…atleast they had a soul and told stories, unlike today’s cookie cutter pretty boys who only know how to sing about drinking beer and chasing women. At any rate, I have to give credit to my old friend The Owl for introducing me to this song. He lived it and felt it in his bones. It’s a beautiful tune about a guy rescuing a damsel in distress only to have her leave him for someone else. It might be the most true-to-life song ever written.

 

 

28     A song by an artist whose voice you love…

Ask the Lonely (Journey)

Debates about the best voice in rock n’ roll are always delightful fun, and there really is no right answer. However, former Journey frontman Steve Perry has to be in the discussion. The band may have more well-known hits like Lovin’, Touchin’ Squeezin’ and the ubiquitous Don’t Stop Believin’, but let’s give some love to Ask the Lonely. You may be unfamiliar unless you’re one of the half dozen people who saw the 1983 John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John film Two of a Kind, on the soundtrack of which the song was released.

 

 

29     A song you remember from your childhood…

We Are Family (Sister Sledge)

I’m a huge sports nut, and in 1979 my Pittsburgh Pirates were actually a good baseball team. So good, in fact, that they won the World Series. The team’s theme song that year was this tune, and that’s how I’ll always remember it.

 

 

30     A song that comforts your soul…

It Is Well with My Soul (4Him)

I’m pretty old-fashioned when it comes to hymns. I usually prefer them just how they appear in the church hymnal and don’t particularly like modern interpretations by Christian rock groups. However, I’m also a sucker for powerful harmony, so I absolutely adore this version of the song.

Winning & Musing…Volume 4.19

Apologies non-sports fans!! As has become my custom I have attempted to minimize sports related content in the midst of autumn since we do our weekly football picks and that feels like enough. Having said that, there are occasions when it becomes necessary to break the rules and address some stories that need attention. Fear not…I have plans to introduce a couple of new projects in this space during the new year, and I suppose there’ll be some Christmas related content in the very near future in the course of the holiday season, so if you’re not into football, basketball , etc. just stick with me.  Thanks in advance.

 

 

 

 

 

I suppose congratulations are in order to the Washington Nationals for winning the World Series. To be honest I didn’t have a dog in the fight…I’m just glad it wasn’t a Yankees/Dodgers Series. At first I was cheering for the Nationals, but then President Trump showed up to a game and the crowd was…well, let’s just soft sell it and say they were quite disrespectful. In that moment I realized that the fanbase of the Nationals are what some of us refer to as The Swamp…out of touch government types that take a lot more from than they contribute to society. So then I decided to pull for the Astros, but it was too late. I’m not upset at all though. We got a really entertaining seven game series without the big market “usual suspects” involved, and that’s cool in my book. Yes yes yes…I’m aware that Houston, TX is the fourth largest city in the United States and the Astros have been rather successful lately, winning the World Series in 2017 and appearing in the last three ALCS. However, before that they’d only appeared in one Series, losing to the Chicago White Sox in 2005. During my youth in the 70’s & 80’s the Astros were a prosaic team with only an occasional above average season, so right now I’m not tired of their success just yet.

 

 

 

As a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan I feel obligated to weigh in on the recent Thursday Night Football kerfuffle with the Cleveland Browns, which was one of the more odious things I’ve seen in sports during my 47 years on the planet. A few thoughts:

  • Myles Garrett is a piece of garbage who should never play another down in the NFL. Right now his suspension is “indefinite”, and I’m guessing that means he won’t play again this season but will be allowed to return in 2020. I don’t think that’s enough, but I don’t make those decisions.
  • To all the people who are saying that Steelers’ QB Mason Rudolph should’ve been suspended a game or two because “he started it”…just shut your ignorant piehole. Your response is tone deaf and moronic. The NFL should fine Rudolph $1. That’s it. Nothing more, He was the victim!! The man almost had his head bashed in with his own helmet and people think HE should be suspended?!?!?? That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Anyone expressing that opinion not only should lose their jobs immediately, but they should also be sterilized because that kind of stupidity shouldn’t be passed on to a new generation.
  • Steelers’ center Maurkice Pouncey is appealing his three game suspension and I hope it atleast gets knocked down to one game. He does not deserve harsh punishment for his actions…he deserves a bonus & a damn medal. He was sticking up for his quarterback and very well may have saved his life. Pouncey is a hero in my book.
  • While Pouncey received a three game suspension Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi only got one game for blindsiding Rudolph in the midst of the fight. In my opinion those suspensions should be reversed. Referees don’t hesitate to call stupid penalties nowadays on “blindside blocks” & “defenseless players”, and Ogunjobi laying out Rudolph from behind seems like it fits the definition. Garrett won’t be around when the two teams meet again in a few weeks, but Ogunjobi will. Stay tuned…just sayin’. He might want to watch his back.
  • I hadn’t had much exposure to Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens before all of this, but my God…what a clueless redneck twatwaffle that guy is. Undisciplined teams are a direct reflection of a piss poor head coach. Browns’ ownership should fire Kitchens immediately. He was a terrible choice in the first place and has done nothing to change that perception.
  • I would be remiss not to acknowledge that the Browns did indeed win the game. Pittsburgh played terribly in all three phases and Rudolph didn’t exactly make Steeler Nation feel confident about Life After Ben. To be fair it must also be pointed out that injuries have hit the Steelers hard all season long and they were playing with a skeleton crew. No excuses though…they should have won the game.

 

 

 

I’m not a fan of style over substance. It may be unfair to chime in since I’ve never been there, but my perception is that Hollywood specifically and California in general is a lot like The Capitol in The Hunger Games…self-absorbed, hedonistic heathens whose wealth far outweighs their common sense. That’s why I chuckled a bit when it was announced that this year’s National League MVP was Los Angeles Dodgers’ outfielder Cody Bellinger and the American League MVP is California/L.A./Anaheim (I’ve lost track) Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout. The Dodgers did atleast make the playoffs before being ousted by the Nationals, while the Angels finished 35 games behind the Astros in their division. Individual honors are nice, especially for those players, but team sports are…well…about the team, and I am always amused when I see small market teams like the Minnesota Twins, Oakland A’s, Cleveland Indians, & Milwaukee Brewers achieve some level of success while teams like the Angels spend a ton of money and it does them absolutely no good. Even funnier is the case of Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper, who signed with Philly last winter for $330 million over 13 years. The Phillies finished with a .500 record in 2019, 16 games out of first place in their division. Harper’s former team?? The Washington Nationals. Sure, $330 million is nothing to sneeze at, but almost any professional sports player whose career lasts more than a few years is going to retire a very wealthy person these days, and I’m guessing most of them would trade half their money & individual accolades for a championship that many will never see.

 

 

 

In 1975 Boston Celtics’ center Bill Russell was voted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. However, at the time he was the first black player to receive the honor and refused to attend the ceremony. Russell didn’t feel right about being the first and thought others should be inducted before him. Recently Russell finally received his Hall of Fame ring in a private ceremony. Obviously there have been a lot of black NBA legends inducted into the Hall of Fame in the past four decades, but the mystery as to why it took so long for Russell to finally accept his ring can apparently be solved with one name: Chuck Cooper. Cooper was an All-American for Duquesne in the late 1940’s and was the 14th overall pick by the Boston Celtics in 1950. He didn’t have a statistically notable pro career, but was the first black player drafted into the NBA. Perhaps one could think of him as the Jackie Robinson of basketball. Cooper was finally inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame a few months ago (35 years after his death), which is what likely persuaded Russell to accept his honor. There’s a lot to unpack here. We’ve got virtue signaling all over the place, which y’all know drives me nuts. I suppose there’s no big issue with Cooper being inducted into the Hall of Fame, but on the other hand it’s worth pointing out that his numbers on the court didn’t seem to justify it for more than a half century. It wasn’t until the “woke” 21st century when simply being a certain race, religion, gender, orientation, etc. is deemed worthy of accolades that someone somewhere thought Cooper’s standing as an NBA trailblazer makes him a Hall-of-Famer. Jackie Robinson…besides being a more famous trailblazer himself…actually had a Hall of Fame career: Rookie of the Year, six time All Star, World Series champion, National League MVP, National League batting champion. Nevertheless, I suppose putting Cooper into the Hall of Fame is a nice thing to do. But Russell refusing his induction for 40+ years is just weird. I’m reminded of actor Marlon Brando refusing the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1973 for his role as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather because he was protesting Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans. What good does any of that do?? Bill Russell was one of the greatest basketball players of all time and he delayed his Hall of Fame induction for what?? Craziness!!

 

 

 

Well, they finally did it. The Pittsburgh Pirates cleaned house. They got rid of manager Clint Hurdle as well as pretty much the entire front office. Hurdle seems like a nice man, but in the past couple of years it felt as though he’d given up, knowing that he could never have a team that would flourish with the current Pirates ownership. He’s not wrong, but for the sake of the team I think it’s important to have a manager with enough idealism & passion to atleast believably feign faith in his club’s potential instead of a tired old man so worn down by life that his boredom is palpable. Energy & enthusiasm aren’t going to be enough to turn the tide in Pittsburgh, but it’s a good start. The new front office is taking shape and I expect Hurdle’s replacement to be named before Thanksgiving. Years…decades…of futility have taught me not to get excited at all about the Pirates, but after one of the most demoralizing seasons in team history it’s nice to know that steps are being taken and something new is being tried.

Winning & Musing…Volume 3.19

Wow…it’s been awhile citizens!! Several months since the last edition of W&M anyway. For some reason your Humble Potentate of Profundity just hasn’t been very productive for awhile. I was in the hospital for quite a few weeks in early summer, but if anything that provided me even more time to write than unusual…which didn’t happen. The malaise started before that all occurred anyway, and has continued since I got back home in July. However, football season has provided me a bit of an endorphin boost so perhaps we’ve turned a corner.

 

 

 

 

I’ll give credit where credit is due…the New England Patriots did the right thing by releasing receiver Antonio Brown less than two weeks after signing him. Admittedly I am among those who felt like Brown ending up with the Patriots was a fiendish plot cooked up by he & his slimeball agent Drew Rosenhaus. After  weaseling his way out of Pittsburgh Brown simply didn’t like that he ended up in Oakland where the Raiders aren’t going to be playoff contenders anytime soon, so he forced his way into “freedom” and the Patriots picked him up in a heartbeat. I assumed Brown would put the batshit crazy act to bed & conform quickly to “The Patriot Way”, but with sexual misconduct allegations swirling around the team quickly cut bait. The truth is they don’t need him and will likely do just fine in his absence. But y’all want to hear something funny?? If New England wins yet another Super Bowl (ugh) Antonio Brown would get a ring even though he only played in one game, and Dan Marino might be found curled up inthe fetal position somewhere weeping gently.  The NFL should seriously consider revising those rules.

 

 

If Pirates’ ownership doesn’t fire the manager, general manager, coaching staff, & anyone else they can get rid of as well as trade every player possible from their miserable team this offseason then the entire Pittsburgh fanbase should unite in filing a class action lawsuit for malfeasance.

 

 

 

 

One of the most unpredictable factors when prognosticating games or entire seasons is injuries, and there have been some doozies lately. It already looked like my Steelers were in for a rough year, but now it could get exponentially worse after a season ending elbow injury to QB Ben Roethlisberger. I like young Mason Rudolph well enough, but it would have been nice to see him get another year or two of experience before taking over the starting job. Guys like Rudolph are oftentimes referred to as “the quarterback of the future”; well, for Pittsburgh the future is now. Can they still be a playoff team?? I don’t know. I’m the sort of person who expects the worst case scenario and enjoys being pleasantly surprised, so we’ll see. The news isn’t quite as devastating in New Orleans, as QB Drew Brees will only miss about half the season with a thumb injury. That means that  Brees will be back for any kind of playoff push, but it’ll be interesting to see what position the team is in upon his return. Back in the pre-season I predicted great things for the Saints, but that idea is looking shaky at best right now. I didn’t have high expectations for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but losing QB Nick Foles to a broken collarbone for half the season limits the team’s potential even further, despite the early success of rookie signal caller Gardner Minshew. The Foles injury combined with Andrew Luck’s retirement seemingly makes the AFC South the Houston Texans’ for the taking if they perform up to their capabilities. Then there is Carolina Panthers’ QB Cam Newton, who is currently out with a foot injury. He may only miss one game, but I kind of get the feeling that he might be in & out of the lineup all season long, which would undoubtedly have a negative impact on the team’s playoff hopes.

 

 

Speaking of MLB…..

I honestly haven’t paid much attention all season, for various reasons, but the playoffs will begin soon so I suppose I’ll watch some of those games.  I have zero interest in a Yankees-Dodgers World Series, although I’m sure the TV folks and a large portion of baseball fans would love it. I could root for any AL contender except the Yankees, while the NL field is much less appetizing.  A Twins-Nationals or Indians-Brewers World Series would probably be considered disastrous for television ratings, but I think I’d actually prefer such an unexpected matchup.

Winning & Musing…Volume 4.17

I am well aware that some citizens of The Manoverse are not sports fans and skip right past posts like these. That’s okay, I understand, and stay tuned for other non-sports goodness coming your way. I also know that I just published the previous edition of W&M less than a week ago. But I’ve got more to say and I just can’t hold it in, so climb on, strap in, & ride the wave!!

 

 

 

 

In offering thoughts about the NFL Draft I neglected to address one significant topic of conversation…running back Joe Mixon. The Cincinnati Bengals chose Mixon in the second round, and the looks of disdain on the faces of the talking heads could not go unnoticed. In 2014…his freshman year at Oklahoma…Mixon pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for punching a woman in a restaurant during the summer before the school year began. The details of the incident aren’t important and I am NOT here to defend Mixon. His actions were appalling…few would dispute that fact. Having said that, I have two issues with how the situation has been handled & reported. First of all, I fervently disagree with anyone who equates Mixon’s circumstances with those of former Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice, who you’ll recall was suspended from the NFL in 2014 after punching his fiancée (now wife) in an Atlantic City elevator. Rice hasn’t played a down of football since and probably never will again. The huge difference to me is that Rice was a 27 year old professional who should’ve known better. I have no problem with the fact that he hasn’t gotten another opportunity to play in the NFL. It’s a privilege to do so, not a right. Conversely, Mixon was a barely 18 year old college freshman. He was suspended for a year from the Oklahoma football program and caused no further issues after his return. Yet there were reportedly NFL teams that didn’t have him on their draft boards at all, and after he was drafted guys like ESPN’s Adam Schefter (who I usually like a lot) looked like they might actually cry, vomit, or do both simultaneously. Where’s the mercy?? Holy cow…if we were all held perpetually accountable for the idiotic things we did in high school and/or college I know a plethora of successful people who never would have gotten a job interview. Granted, punching a woman in the face is much more serious than the stupidity that my friends & I engaged in during our youth, but the point still stands. Joe Mixon did something truly awful as an 18 year old kid. He shouldn’t have to pay for it for the rest of his life. Admittedly it was a bit tone deaf for the Bengals, who’ve had more than their fair share of lawbreaking miscreants don the orange & black in the past decade or two, to choose Mixon, but that’s on them. I assume the young man will be under a zero tolerance policy, and rightfully so. If he even so much as looks angrily at someone he should be waived and forced to get a 9 to 5 job like the rest of us working stiffs, but if he stays on the straight & narrow I think allowing him to pursue a professional football career is proper. The other issue I have with this whole thing is the relatively new idea that professional athletes need to be model citizens. I have opined multiple times over the years that just because an individual can run fast or has superior athletic skill doesn’t mean they are a good person, and it didn’t used to be a requirement. The history of sports is chockful of drunks, junkies, bullies, & criminals of all kinds, from baseball’s Babe Ruth & Ty Cobb to football’s Joe Namath & Lawrence Taylor to basketball’s Dennis Rodman & Allen Iverson and many many other examples from every level of athletics. Some people ultimately ruined their careers while others were just branded as “colorful”, but because they were supremely talented all were given an opportunity…oftentimes numerous opportunities…and no one seemed to mind. However, in the ultra-PC 21st century there are those eager to toss aside someone who made one big mistake when he was barely 18 years old?? Again I ask…where is the mercy??

 

 

Add NFL Hall-of-Famer and favorite Steeler Jerome Bettis to the list of those dismissed in the much discussed ESPN bloodbath. I’m a huge fan of The Bus, but I’m not shedding too many tears for him because I happen to know that he’s involved in various business pursuits and will land on his feet just fine. To be honest he didn’t add all that much to the already copious amount of NFL coverage on The Mothership and likely won’t be missed.

 

 

I wonder if journalist Brian Windhorst gets down on his knees every night and thanks the Good Lord above for Lebron James?? Windhorst has parlayed a local career in his hometown of Akron, OH during which he covered Lebron’s high school games into a gig with the Akron Beacon-Journal, then the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, & now ESPN. He has basically been Lebron’s personal reporter for almost two decades, and now he has written a book that I just finished reading called Return of the King, about Lebron’s homecoming to Cleveland a few years ago and the Cavaliers’ failure then success in pursuit of an NBA title. The book is pretty good if you’re into those kind of books, which I am. Good job Windy!!

 

 

 

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who gutted out a seven game series victory over the Washington Capitals to move on in the NHL playoffs. The Pens will have to take down the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Finals to earn a shot at defending their Stanley Cup championship.

 

 

 

Some ideas to “fix” the NBA:

*Expansion. It is necessary for my math to work. There are currently 30 teams in the league, but we need 32. Maybe you give Seattle a team back. Ditto for Vancouver. How about Vegas?? The NFL’s Raiders are moving there and the NHL is expanding there as well, so why not?? I’m a little partial to the idea of awarding a team to Pittsburgh. I don’t know…discuss amongst yourselves. All I know is that we need two additional teams.

*32 teams would allow us to reduce each team’s schedule from 82 games to 77. Not much of a decrease, but every little bit helps, right?? I’m tired of all the whining about resting players & such. The league would be split into an Eastern & Western Conference. Divide each conference into North & South divisions if you want…it doesn’t really matter. A team would play everyone else in their conference three times…45 games. They’d play each team in the other conference twice…32 games. 45+32=77.

*I’m not sure how you’d handle scheduling. My vote would be to play as many back-to-back games as possible to reduce travel just as they do in MLB, but basketball players seem to complain a lot about back-to-back games. I’ll leave it up to people smarter than me to figure out logistics.

*Even though we are expanding the league and reducing regular season games we’re still going to go ahead and trim the playoff field from 8 teams in each conference to 6. The top two teams in each conference (you could make these division champs) get a first round bye. Each first round series is just three games, as is each second round series. The conference finals are 5 game series, and the NBA Finals would be the only round with a 7 game series.

*Out of the 26 teams that don’t make the playoffs the BEST five go into the Draft Lottery to see who gets the #1 pick. Well…actually it’d decide the top five picks. If you still want to do the bouncy ball thing then each team’s number of balls would be equal to their number of wins. After that win/loss records would determine the draft order. So the worst team in the league would receive the 6th overall pick. This system would eliminate the ridiculous practice of tanking, which is a stain on the league. Not only would good teams be competing to make the playoffs in the waning days of the regular season, but not so good teams would be competing to get into the lottery rather than purposely losing. It would encourage competitive balance and wise management, because teams that just missed the playoffs are (theoretically) adding the best players, putting playoff teams on notice.

 

 

I said about a month ago that I would postpone offering an opinion on my Pittsburgh Pirates until a little further into the season. Well, we are more than 30 games in and the Pirates are dead last in their division and painful to watch. We Pirates fans endured two decades of losing until a few years ago, then had a couple of years when the team actually made the playoffs as a wildcard. But now it feels like we are right back to square one. I’ve never believed that pitcher Gerrit Cole is a true ace, but he’s the best they’ve got and there is chatter about him being traded. Outfielder Starling Marte screwed the pooch by getting suspended for most of the season for PED use, but I’m not sure his presence would make that much of a difference. There has been talk of trading all-star outfielder Andrew McCutchen as far back as last season, but even if they keep him it feels like his prime years are being wasted. I watch games and don’t even know who some of these guys are!! I am tempted to say that it’s time for manager Clint Hurdle to go, that he is too passive and the players aren’t listening to him anymore. That may be true, but I don’t think changing managers would help that much either. The problem with the Pirates is ownership. The business is profitable and fans continue to fill the ballpark because that’s just how dedicated & loyal Pittsburghers and fans from surrounding areas are. It’s in their DNA. Winning would be a nice bonus, but it doesn’t seem necessary to the powers-that-be. I don’t have any answers. I wish I did.

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 5.16

I’ve been trying to avoid making The Manofesto too sporty, but this time of year it is really difficult. For you sports fans out there this isn’t an issue, but I know not everyone falls into that category.

 

 

 

 

 

Pittsburgh_Pirates2The baseball season is winding to a conclusion and my Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t going to make it into the playoffs. The slight decline wasn’t completely unexpected, and after two decades of losing I can’t hardly complain about three straight playoff appearances followed by a season where the team isn’t mathematically eliminated until deep into September. Having said all that, I wouldn’t be opposed to some changes. I’m not sure that general manager Neil Huntington is the right man for the job at this point, and as great of a guy as he seems to be I think maybe manager Clint Hurdle needs to be politely shown the door. Kudos to those men for bringing back our Pirates from the abyss of interminable futility, but it seems as if they’ve taken the team as far as they can. Much like Moses observing the land of milk & honey from Mount Nebo I suspect that when the Pirates finally make it to the Promised Land of the World Series Hurdle & Huntington will be watching from afar.

 

 

As predicted FoxSports 1 has new acquisition Skip Bayless starring in a replica of First Take, his old ESPN show. I haven’t undactually watched a single episode and have no plans to do so, but I did check out a couple of clips online. The new program, called Undisputed, pairs Bayless with former NFL tight end Shannon Sharpe, which makes me laugh. Honestly, one really needs subtitles to make sense of anything Sharpe says. He is not a good fit for television. I am quite sure that Bayless & Sharpe try to top each other with outlandish & controversial opinions, and I suppose some people enjoy that shtick. I’m just not one of them. As maddeningly leftist as ESPN can oftentimes be it is clear that FS1 isn’t on the same level and will remain a second tier channel as long as they continue to make desperation moves such as hiring blowhards like Bayless and fellow Bristol refugee Colin Cowherd.

 

 

arnieA fat guy in a wheelchair would probably be considered by most to be an unlikely golf fan, but from a young age my father instilled in me an abiding fondness for the game. By the time I got into it though Arnold Palmer had long since moved onto the Senior Tour before retiring altogether a decade ago. However, way before the world got to know Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, & Jordan Spieth I was hearing stories and learning about Palmer. It helped that he became a pitchman for various products and an ambassador for the game, therefore never really disappearing from the pop culture consciousness. He, Jack Nicklaus, & Tom Watson were the first golfers that I became a fan of, even though I am too young to have seen many of their greatest moments. Most of the time death is a sad & tragic event, and fans of golf will undoubtedly miss ol’ Arnie, but in his 87 years on the planet the man certainly made an impact and created unforgettable memories, and we can’t be too sad about that.

 

 

Early thoughts on the NFL season:

  • Eagles’ rookie QB Carson Wentz looks like the real deal. I wish I would have drafted him in my fantasy dynasty league.
  • In my season preview I pondered whether or not RGIII would rejuvenate his career in Cleveland. Now I feel stupid for even asking the question.
  • Who will be the first coach to lose his job?? Rex Ryan (Buffalo)?? Gus Bradley (Jacksonville)?? Mike McCoy (San Diego)?? nfl-footballJay Gruden (Washington)??
  • I was way wrong about the Minnesota Vikings. The desperation trade for QB Sam Bradford after losing starter Teddy Bridgewater in the pre-season was a masterstroke. Even after noted child abuser Adrian Peterson went down with a knee injury the Vikings haven’t missed a beat. Their defense has been amazing. This team looks like a legit Super Bowl contender.
  • As much as I hate the New England Patriots I have to give credit where credit is due. It doesn’t seem to matter who plays quarterback…the team just keeps right on rolling. Belichick is an evil genius. Oftentimes I emphasize the evil part of that equation, but I’d be remiss not to give a respectful tip o’ the cap to the genius part.

 

 

marvI’ve expressed my opinion on the whole Colin Kaepernick anthem protest thing already, but let me just add a thought. What is more troubling than the hoopla itself is the fact that these types of demonstrations are spreading to college & pro football and other sports altogether. Suddenly it is cool & fashionable to disrespect our flag & the national anthem. It doesn’t help that the media has run the story into the ground and somehow made Kaepernick into a trailblazing hero. The whole thing makes me sad.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 5.15

We haven’t done W&M for a few months. I assume with the weekly football Picks of Profundity that The Manoverse has its fill of sports and would rather I focus on other matters. However, I have a few things I need to get off my chest and so I shall. Stay tuned though, as there are a few cool things on the horizon, including an ode to old friends Marty McFly & Doc Brown, a jumpstart to Literary Madness, the long awaited journey thru The Bible, ranking Batman, Sherlock Holmes, & Andy Griffith, and some Halloween & Christmas stuff. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 
ncaa-football-logoThe college football playoff committee will be announcing their initial rankings in a couple of weeks. They’ll announce a Top 25, which is stupid since only four teams make it into the playoff, and they’ll do this every week until the end of the season. This is also overkill. Do a Top 10 and announce it every other week. That’d be perfect. That’s how I’d do it anyway, but I’m not in charge. However, I am the Supreme Ruler of The Manoverse so here are my thoughts on the Top 4…who they are, potentially could be, & ultimately should be:

  • Ohio St./Michigan St. The two teams meet on November 21st in Columbus. I suppose it is entirely possible that both could sneak into the playoff…or neither. The winner of the head-to-head matchup will likely play Iowa or Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.
  • Alabama/LSU. Same deal. They play in Tuscaloosa on November 7th, with the winner probably meeting Florida or Georgia in the SEC title game.
  • Baylor/TCU. They will do battle on Black Friday (11/27) in Fort Worth. There is no Big 12 title game, so barring a huge upset in another game on their schedule the winner of this one looks like a lock for the playoff.
  • Clemson/Florida St. They’ll go head-to-head on November 7th. The winner will still have a few games remaining plus the ACC title game, but unless there’s an upset along the way this contest could potentially decide a playoff spot.
  • Ready to pounce – Utah, Notre Dame, Stanford, Florida. Utah & Stanford may very well meet in the Pac 12 title game. Notre Dame plays Stanford in a de facto elimination game on November 28th. Florida is looking like they could battle the ‘Bama/LSU winner in the SEC title game. Any unexpected stumbles by the top contenders would open the door for one or more of these four teams…assuming they don’t stumble themselves.

 

 

 

I haven’t been watching very much of the baseball playoffs. My heart just isn’t in it after another crushing wildcard defeat for my Pittsburgh Pirates. The fact is that 30 fanbases begin spring training with various levels of hope & expectation. Knowledgeable fans generally have an inkling as to whether or not their team may be a contender, but even then optimism reigns. At the All-Star Break atleast 1/3 of those teams have been left in the dust. By the time the summer winds are growing slightly cooler maybe 15 teams are realistic contenders. As September winds to a close only 10 teams make the playoffs. Only 4 survive into the league championship series. Two do battle in The World Series. One team is left standing as the champion. Ultimately 29 fanbases are ppiratesdealing with some level of disappointment depending on what the expectations were. Am I upset that the Pirates aren’t going to be World Champions?? Well…yes, but the truth is that I didn’t expect that to happen this year anyway. They just aren’t there yet no matter what anyone says. Their pitching rotation is mediocre outside of alleged ace Gerrit Cole, and I’m not at all sure he is among the Top 50 pitchers in the game at this point. Their batting order…atleast anyone not named McCutchen…doesn’t scare opponents. The potential is there, but they need to stop wasting time, energy, & money on pedestrian pitchers like Charlie Morton & Jeff Locke and second-rate hitters/fielders like Sean Rodriguez & Travis Snider. A youth movement seems to be working for the Cubs…maybe Pittsburgh should give it a whirl. Having said all that, I would have felt a lot better had they won the wildcard game, even if they’d lost the next series. To go thru an entire season and see your team have the second best record in baseball only to have it all rendered meaningless in a single game is a huge kick in the ‘nads.

 

 

 

nflWhat exactly is a catch in the NFL these days?? Does anyone actually know?? Do the referees and league officials know?? I’m not sure they do. It seems like they kind of make up the rules as they go along. It didn’t used to be so complicated and shouldn’t be now.

 

 

 

It is undeniable that now former South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier bailed on his team. Lots of talking heads want to spurriergive him a pass given his near legendary status, and I suppose that’s a fair inclination. However, a coach is supposed to be a mentor…a teacher…a leader. There is a right way and a wrong way to do things most of the time, and, no matter what kind of sugar coating some may want to put on it, quitting six games into the season isn’t right. Essentially Spurrier threw a tantrum because his team was 2-4. No intelligent person can argue the point with a straight face, and Spurrier himself looked silly trying to justify the move in his farewell press conference. I have no doubt that some other team will try to talk him out of “retirement” down the line, but that team would be foolish. Steve Spurrier is a quitter. When the going gets tough he gets going. That’s not the kind of man I can respect, and it’s certainly not a guy I want coaching my team.

 

 

 

loserWhen is ESPN going to fire idiotic NFL Hall-of-Famer Cris Carter?? First he tells a group of NFL rookies that they need to have a “fall guy” that’ll take the rap if/when they commit a crime. And now he has the nerve to say that kickers aren’t football players. Carter was part of a discussion on Mike & Mike about the dramatic ending to the Michigan-Michigan St. game in which the Wolverines’ punter fumbled a snap allowing the Spartans to snag victory from the jaws of defeat. I don’t have a dog in that particular fight, but I do feel bad for the young man. He is allegedly receiving some pretty harsh treatment from overzealous fans on social media. I won’t be too harsh on the fans because I’ve been there and understand how an emotional loss like that can evoke a negative reaction. However, Carter is mirroring his colleague Skip Bayless’ disdain for punters & kickers. They put on a uniform don’t they?? They’re on the sidelines and participate in team activities, right?? Well, then they are football players. Is Carter smoking crack again?? He’s known just as much for being a junkie as he is a wide receiver, yet he is arrogant enough to act superior?? Just shut up. Or in parlance you may be more familiar with…come on man!! My boys Greeny & Golic lower themselves and the quality of their show by allowing Carter to besmirch it with his presence.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 4.15

Greetings friends & fellow sports fans. I have a few things I have to get off my chest. You know how it is, right?? We just want to sit back, relax, & enjoy the games, but sometimes there are destructive forces that seem to prevent that from happening. It probably has a lot to do with too much media. There are too many opinionated talking heads with too many hours to fill, and a plethora of Internet sites that have to have more content than highlights & box scores. What we end up with is information & analysis overload that is kind of a buzzkill. At any rate, allow me to kvetch a bit and let’s get some feedback going. Your opinions matter too.

 

 

 

 
cowherdVictory!!!! I mentioned in the last edition of W&M that I had turned my back on ESPN’s Colin Cowherd after he’d gone too far with his insufferable assclown shtick and made some disparaging comments about pro wrestling fans. At the time I had somewhat jokingly initiated a #boycottCowherd movement on Twitter, which had prompted a surprisingly vociferous response on both sides of the issue. However, even in the midst of my anger & disdain I said that “I’m not crazy enough to think that one man can take down an entire TV show”. But now…just a few months later…Colin Cowherd is gone from ESPN!! To be fair he had already announced his impending departure from The Mothership in Bristol so he could move on to Fox Sports 1, but he didn’t even get to finish whatever time he had left before ESPN threw him off the air. The funny thing is, after seeing the clip, I almost kinda sorta understand what he was trying to say about Dominicans & baseball and found those remarks much less malicious than what he had said about wrestling fans. I’m no fan of ESPN’s social agenda and I despise political correctness & how so many people are perpetually offended, but I have to say that I am so happy that Cowherd was fired. Agenda issues aside, moving from ESPN to Fox Sports 1 is like trading in a Camaro for a minivan, and it couldn’t have happened to a more spiteful moron than Cowherd.

 

 

I’m not trying to be negative, but I also have to express disgust for NASCAR, something I really liked just a few nascarweeks ago. It was certainly below football, baseball, & basketball on my fandom scale, but it was above hockey and in a dead heat with golf. However, after both their “most popular driver” Dale Earnhardt Jr. (who is an insult to his father’s name) and the suit that runs the sport both came out against the Confederate battle flag, thus taking a dump all over the heritage of the very people on whose backs the sport had been built, I decided that I don’t need NASCAR in my life any longer and haven’t watched a race since. NASCAR has grown by leaps & bounds in the past two decades, evolving from a niche “southern” sport to running races in California, Michigan, Kansas, Las Vegas, & New Hampshire, among others. That’s fine. Kudos. But my father taught me to never forget where you come from, and the truth is that NASCAR owes everything to the American South…places like Atlanta, Bristol (TN), Richmond, Darlington (SC), The Carolinas, Talledega (AL), & Daytona. It all started there, and if it wasn’t for those loyal fans there’d be no big money TV contracts, no commercials & other outside opportunities for guys like Dale Jr., & nowhere near the revenue that the business now generates. Shame on you NASCAR!! Shame on you for turning your backs on the people that allowed you to become what you are. Shame on you for kneeling & bowing to political correctness. The funny thing is, the powers that be haven’t had the cahonas (thus far) to outright ban the flag, and from what I understand fans have continued to defiantly show up to the tracks flying it proudly. Good for them. As for anyone else who remains a fan, I won’t discourage your continued interest. It’s a free country (for now) and you have the right to spend your time & discretionary income any way you wish, but I’m out. I just can’t support blatant hypocrisy.

 

 

PNCI had an opportunity a few weeks ago to finally attend my first game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The circumstances weren’t ideal (it’s a long story) so I didn’t have time to explore like I wanted, but it is a beautiful stadium. The game I was at went 14 innings and the Pirates thankfully pulled off a dramatic victory, which was super cool. Anyone in that area who has even a mild interest in baseball or are just looking for a fun evening should check the place out. However, I must say that, for the most part, I think I am just as satisfied to stay home and watch games on TV. I’m a fervent homebody, and kind of like having commentary, replay, & my own (cheap) food to eat.

 

 

Even as an ardent Tom Brady/New England Patriots hater I am as sick as everyone else of hearing about bradyDeflateGate. For the first time EVER I have to give a tip of the ol’ cap to NFL Commissioner Fidel Goodell for upholding Brady’s original 4 game suspension. It says all one needs to know about Brady that, unlike every other NFL player that gets suspended then appeals that suspension before ultimately taking their punishment like a man, The Golden Boy is apparently going to take this thing to court like the entitled diva that he is. I must admit that the dark side of me (we all have one) wouldn’t mind seeing Brady get to play in the first game of the season against my Pittsburgh Steelers so their defense might have the opportunity to sideline his whiny ass for longer than four games.
Yeah…I just went there!!

 

 

I am fully aware that pro wrestling isn’t an actual sport (we’re not as dumb as Cowherd thinks we are), so this probably doesn’t quite fit here, but…..
As a fan of Hulk Hogan since childhood I was disappointed to hear his racist remarks that recently became fodder for public discourse. I’ve known for awhile that the character Hogan played while WWF champion in the 80’s wasn’t a true reflection of the real man, aka Terry Bollea. The fact that he’s kind of a jackwagon isn’t all that shocking. That being said, I disagree with WWE cleansing him from their history. As with the Confederate flag issue, I find it disturbing to just erase the past as if it never happened. WWE doesn’t want Hogan to appear hulkanymore on their TV shows?? Fine. That’s understandable and a wise business decision. Hogan can’t wrestle anymore anyway…he’s got more artificial parts than one of his action figures. Fans have moved on. But the fact is that Hulk Hogan is a huge reason why professional wrestling became so popular 30 years ago and retains atleast some of that popularity today. There are, of course, other legends that helped build the business. Bruno Sammartino & Andre the Giant preceded Hogan. Ric Flair was Hogan’s peer in the 1980’s. Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, & John Cena were successors to Hogan’s throne. However, it is Hulk Hogan that was & is the cornerstone of the industry. He obviously has no future with WWE or any other company, and that is his own fault. The past though should be left alone.

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.