Monday, February 28, 2011

Mountain Climbing: Is The Risk Worth The Reward?

I've always thought it would be cool to climb Mt. Rainier. As a Seattle native the mountain to the South is one of the areas most distinguished icons and a monument millions of people think of when they think of the city. I picture myself getting into incredible shape, going to REI to pick up my equipment, outfitting myself in the latest Helly Hansen gear, and climbing to the top. I imagine myself at the top of the 14,110 foot mountain looking down on the world from God's view and patting myself on the back for achieving such a great accomplishment. Then I remember the risks involved in embarking on such an ambitious endeavor.

Even for the most accomplished of mountain climbers getting to the top of such a colossal structure is no easy task. Unlike other sports (or recreational activities) there is no help if you find yourself in an adverse situation. If you break a bone half way up the mountain there is no immediate response. If your partner begins to suffer from hypothermia there is no easy way to turn back. If a climber gets lost or incapacitated it takes rescue teams by helicopter DAYS ON END to find the stranded climber. I'm a thrill seeker, but only to a point. In the grand scheme of things I don't see where the reward outweighs the risk. It would be nice to say I did it, but I don't want to risk my life doing it.

Truth be told, I'm kind of spoiled. I'd prefer room service, Vegas lights, chauffeurs, and manicures over a 60 mile hike and bonding with nature. I understand why people climb mountains and I don't shun them for their ambition. Mountain climbing is an activity that gives you a tremendous adrenaline rush and a life changing experience (so I've heard). Maybe someday I'll change my mind , but for now the risk of injury (or worse) and the physical/psychological demand on your body is too much for me. I'm not saying you shouldn't do it, I'm just saying I wouldn't do it. Your thoughts.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Trevor Bayne: The Re-incarnation Of Ricky Bobby

Trevor Bayne just wanted to drive fast. At the tender age of 20 Trevor shocked the NASCAR world by winning the historic Daytona 500 in dramatic fashion. The young kid was so green he didn't even know where victory lane was. It's impossible to act like you've been there when you've never been there before. Trevor Bayne proved you don't need expensive sponsorship or years of experience to win NASCAR's biggest race, just nerves of steel and the will to win. The real question is what does this surprise victory say about the sport as a whole?

Some people will argue that the win validates the claim that race car driving isn't really a sport. How could someone that's had their drivers license less than 4 years and can't even order a drink at a bar get on the race track with the big boys and beat them at their own game? How much skill does it really take to drive around in a circle for a couple of hours? I for one won't discredit the sport as a whole, but it makes you wonder what the criteria for becoming a champion is. If nothing else Trevor Bayne's win at Daytona dispels the myth that it takes more than desire and determination to get it done. Of course it takes a certain amount of luck and the crashes didn't hurt his chances either.

It's too early in the NASCAR season to tell if Trevor Bayne is a once in a lifetime feel good story or a force to be reckoned with for years to come. It's not often that a young upstart shocks the sports world with a surprise victory. Now that Trevor's in the spotlight we'll see how he handles the scrutiny and the expectation of a champion. Facebook, twitter, and you tube should be interesting in the next few months. Good luck Trevor, stay out of trouble!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Confessions Of Young Sam Rothstein

Sometimes you lose your way. Sometimes you lose your nerve. Sometimes you second guess yourself. Sometimes you predict things will happen in a certain way because you want or need them to happen that way. This is the landscape I have painted for myself. Instead of following the gambler's code and the rules I've established over the last two decades (my sportsbook betting manual is coming out this summer) I started throwing good money after bad and dug a hole for myself. It wouldn't be the first time and fortunately I know where the shovels are kept.

The key is to be patient. There will be plenty of opportunities coming up in the next few weeks with college basketball conference tournaments and the big dance. I will have to exercise some discipline by staying away from the NBA completely (there are always exceptions of course). After yesterday's whirlwind of trades it will take at least a month before teams get settled and learn to play with one another. It will be difficult to fight the temptation to bet on Carmelo Anthony at the garden though. He's already feeding off the New York crowd like Bill Compton feeds off Sookie Stackhouse on True Blood. No spread is safe in my opinion, but I won't risk it (probably). I must stay focused and wager on sure things.

It's time to go into sniper mode. I'll pick off a few games here and there if I catch a blip on the radar. If the spread is lees than 10 points on Sunday I'll take the Huskies over WSU. Cleveland at New York next Friday and Sacramento at San Antonio may tempt me, but other than that I'm banking on the college kids and the magic that is the tourney. The pressure is on. I got a couple past due bills (I won't get specific), but the March Madness will set everything straight. The sportsbook is the ultimate reality show. Watch me get rich or die trying.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Does Football Make You Suicidal?

The 2010 NFL season is the first time the NFL really emphasized the dangers and long term effects of multiple blows to the head. The league went out of its way in taking precautionary measures to ensure player safety and monitor the progress of those players who suffered a concussion. Although I applaud the efforts of the NFL going forward the outlook for former players who have suffered multiple concussions looks down right frightening.

Recently former NFL player Dave Duerson took his own life at the age of 50. Experts have speculated he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition brought on by multiple blows to the head. CTE can lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicidal tendencies. The list of former players that suffer from CTE is unknown, but it's safe to say that the diagnosis of this condition wasn't a priority 20 years ago. There are probably thousands of former players that have the same symptoms Duerson had, but will go untreated because of a lack of medical benefits or knowledge of the problem. Couple that with addiction to painkillers, injuries that will never heal, and adjusting to life without football, former NFL players a multitude of issues to deal with when their playing days are over.

The information concerning the long term effects of playing football is inconclusive. Until the NFL has the ability to track and monitor former players for a long period of time we won't have a definitive answer. This does not provide resolution for the current pool of former NFL players that may need treatment. Hopefully future players that suffer from CTE won't go undetected and end up like Dave Duerson, but don't be surprised if you hear this tragic set of circumstances again.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Matt Millen The Dumb Ass

Matt Millen was a hell of a linebacker in his day. His instinctive play helped the Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, and Washington Redskins all win Super Bowls. When the Detroit Lions hired him in 2001 to be the president and CEO of the franchise the theory was those football instincts would translate into personnel moves that would help turn their fortunes around. Instead he used his instincts to draft four wide receivers in the top 10 and quarterback Joey Harrington. After 8 long seasons of losing the Lions finally parted ways with the former linebacker.

At first I felt sorry for Matt. I thought the underachieving players were to blame for the Lions lack of success. Why not have 3 pro bowl wide receivers and a strong armed quarterback to get them the ball? Why not have the league's most explosive offense? Never mind neglecting every other position on the field if a wide receiver is the best player on the draft board when you make your selection. The wide open offense could have worked if the players were capable of executing the plan.

I thought all of this until I listened to Matt Millen talk about the NFL combine last night. When asked about the importance of the combine Matt's response was,"The combine is just to validate what you already know about a player. The real analysis comes from watching film and the interview process." FALSE! TOTALLY FALSE! The NFL combine was established so that presidents and GM's could expose the strengths and weaknesses of potential NFL players. Watching film doesn't tell you how strong a player is or how fast they run. Watching film only tells you how a player performs when their the best player on the field. No wonder Matt Millen drafted all those receivers. He probably didn't take the time to realize they looked good on film because the corners they were playing against were small and slow. The combine reveals those types of things and good presidents and GM's use that information in their selection process.

As a fantasy football participant I am convinced that I could have done a better job of running the Detroit Lions than Matt Millen did. The Ford family should be ashamed of themselves for allowing an incompetent fool to run their organization for 8 years. It is clear that his storied playing career had no influence an his talent assessment abilities. After watching Matt Millen talk about how unimportant the NFL combine is I completely disregard anything he has to say. ESPN and the NFL Network need to let that guy go. Hopefully other NFL teams have learned their lesson about the Millen "philosophy" and we won't have to go through the Detroit experience again. That guy is no Pete Carroll!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Carmelo In The Garden

He won't wear his famed #15 ( that number is retired for Earl "The Pearl" Monroe), but Carmelo Anthony is officially a New York Knick! This comes as no surprise considering Carmelo has been campaigning to play in NYC since the summer, but the deal took longer to materialize than expected. After the dust settled everyone got what they wanted (even Denver) and now it's time to look towards the future.

Make no mistake about it, Carmelo Anthony doesn't make the New York Knicks a championship contender. Miami, Boston, Orlando, and Chicago all have better teams and play as a cohesive unit. The Knicks have 28 games left to mesh and get to know one another. That's not enough time to come together and make a serious playoff run. If you were expecting Carmelo to turn the Knicks around this year or next year you were sadly mistaken. The good news is Carmelo will be revitalized and hungry and the New York fans will give him energy and encouragement. The bad news is the Knicks had to gut their team to acquire him and the rebuilding process will take a year or two.

This is the biggest homecoming since Isaiah brought Stephon Marbury back to the Garden. The NBA is breathing a sigh of relief because the #1 media market is relevant again. The level of expectation is through the roof now, but I feel Carmelo is up to the challenge. Like Spike Lee, Derek Jeter, Patrick Ewing, Jadakiss, and Jay-Z Carmelo is ready to put New York on his back and see how how far he can carry them. The future of the NBA is looking brighter every day so lets hurry up and get that collective bargaining agreement hammered out. This is no time for a work stoppage. Good luck Carmelo, you got your wish!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Do Lefties Have An Advantage?

In some countries the word left means wrong or stupid. Students are discouraged from using their left hand whenever possible and left handers are frowned upon in society. In the sports world lefties are considered a much more interesting commodity. Only 10% of the US population is left handed and that percentage drops even further for athletics. Do lefties have an advantage over their right handed counterparts?

It depends on the sport. I grew up playing tennis and basketball (yes I'm left handed) and there was a distinct advantage to being left handed. For one the spin of the ball is different and secondly your opponents forget which side is your strong side. Competitors get used to playing a certain way and it is difficult for them to adjust to a different style. Baseball is by far the most in depth sport when it comes to right handed vs left handed players. Pitching substitutions, pinch hitters, and fielders are all determined based on match ups and scenarios. We always hear about bringing in this guy to face the lefty or pinch hitting this guy because he hits righties well. It's obvious the right hand/left hand dynamic plays a major role in the strategy of the game. On the other hand there is no advantage to being left handed in swimming, track and field, rowing, cycling, hockey, or soccer. Those are sports that require a total body effort as opposed to mostly arms and hands.

I wouldn't go so far as to say left handed people are better athletes than right handed people, but the unorthodox style and the infrequency with which you compete against left handers makes it a challenge to adjust. Even left handed athletes don't want to compete against other left handers. It's confusing when one of your strengths is used against you and becomes a disadvantage. The pendulum swings both ways. Ultimately talent prevails, but being left handed gives you a split second advantage by being different from the norm.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Jim Gray Is Lucky To Be Alive

Over the past two decades Jim Gray has been the most annoying, intrusive, arrogant reporters in sports. His brash demeanor and forceful approach to asking questions has caused countless incidents with prominent sports figures. Jim Gray is the one who harassed Pete Rose during the all century team ceremony, a move that got him banned from the Yankees locker room. Jim Gray is the one that tried to get tough with Mike Tyson minutes after Mike had bitten another man's ear off. Halfway through the interview he started shivering like a little bitch, but the damage was already done. Jim Gray is the one who recently called out Dustin Johnson's caddie for causing him to miss his tee time. After a profanity laced tirade from the caddie Jim has been barred from the tournament.

I take offense to reporters that don't understand that sporting events aren't about them. Their role in the grand scheme of things is minimal. Some of these reporters (especially Jim Gray) are too self important and feel that athletes owe them an explanation about things they may not feel like discussing. One of these days Jim Gray is going to find himself interrogating the wrong person at the wrong time and end up on his back with a broken nose. Jim needs to realize he's messing around with super athletes, most of which aren't really that emotionally stable to begin with. His smug attitude just might push one of those guys over the edge. The Mean Gene Okerlund approach to interviewing only works with wrestling. Jim Gray has let his tenacity get the better of him. If he doesn't change his style up soon he'll find himself in Albuquerque doing the weather on the channel 4 local news. Even then I bet he 'd find a way to get under some one's skin. Jim Gray is an ass, bottom line.

Friday, February 18, 2011

NBA Halftime Report

As we enter the NBA all star weekend this is a perfect time to reflect on the 10 biggest stories of the first half of the season.

1. Blake "The Barbarian" Griffin.

2. The Moheatos. The big three in Miami took a few weeks to gel, but since their 9-8 start the heat are 33-7. They will finish with the best record in the Eastern conference and barring injury Lebron, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh will contend for a spot in the NBA championship.

3. Laker Nation. The Lakers have battled adversity and apathy all season long, yet they are still in a position to end up with the #3 seed out West. As a veteran team the Lakers know how to pace themselves for the long grueling post season. No need to panic, the Lakers will return to the championship so long as Kobe Bryant doesn't experience any baby mama drama down the stretch. That's a big if.

4. Philly is good. As is stands right now the Philadelphia 76ers are the 7th seed in the Eastern conference. Jrue Holiday is coming into his own and Elton Brand is playing inspired ball. Kudos to Doug Collins on doing a magnificent coaching job. No one saw this coming.

5. Tony Parker and the Spurs. The San Antonio Spurs have the best record in the NBA thanks to Tony Parker. He's been able to block out all the off the court distractions to lead the Spurs to a 46-10 record. If the Lakers slip look for "Mr. steal your girl" to pick up his 4th ring.

6. The Cavs prove Lebron's worth. It's not often you see the absence of one player so dramatically change the fortunes of one team. Without Lebron the Cavs have been historically bad and currently have a .179 winning percentage. By taking his talents down to South Beach Lebron effectively ruined the Cave for the next decade. Contrary to what Dan Gilbert says Miami will win a championship before Cleveland does.

7. Jerry Sloan loses power struggle. I don't think Deron Williams gave Utah an ultimatum, but the writing was clearly on the wall. The player and the coach couldn't co-exist so the coach had to go. There are lots of fond memories for Jerry Sloan in Utah and he will truly be missed.

8. The Rooks. There are only 3 to talk about. John Wall has battled injuries, but you see the potential. It will get worse before it gets better and if John Wall can endure the hard times he will become the Wizards franchise player. DeMarcus Cousins is who we thought he was, a supremely talented immature headcase. At 20 years old there's too much upside to walk away, however Zach Randolph Jr. will be more trouble than he's worth at times. Eventually you'll get your 20 and 10 if you have the patience. And what about the 3rd rook? That would be Blake "The Barbarian" Griffin.

9. The 5 players to watch. On September 22nd I told you guys the players to watch this season were Rudy Gay, Brandon Jennings, Brook Lopez, Russell Westbrook, and Blake "The Barbarian" Griffin. Brandon and Brook have some work to do.

10. LeMarcus Aldridge. Since his all star snub LeMarcus has been averaging 30 points a game. It seems the lack of respect has fueled his game and created a monster. If Brandon Roy can stay healthy and Portland gets a few of their big men back the Trailblazers could be a dangerous team come playoff time.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kobe Bryant Has Done It Again

You didn't hear it from me because I'm not one to gossip, but word on the street is Kobe Bryant was served with paternity papers before the game against Orlando. Rumor has it he had his baby's mama stashed in Italy for the last few months. Apparently she got bored over there in the Tuscan sun and decided to come to the states and wreak havoc. Ordinarily I would dismiss this story as hearsay and nonsense, but back to back losses to Charlotte and CLEVELAND has me worried. If the rumors are true the timing couldn't be worse. As we approach all star weekend Kobe Bryant received the most all star votes, his jersey sales are #1, and he is the first athlete to receive a star on Hollywood's walk of fame. This news would be a major blow to the rebuilt image.

As past president of Laker Nation I'm not concerned with Kobe Bryant the man, husband, and father. He's a grown man and he'll deal with it in his own way. I'm concerned with how this bombshell will affect Kobe Bryant's legacy as a player and Laker Nation as a whole. We've seen Kobe overcome rape allegations in Colorado and power struggles with Shaq, but this is much more damaging. It's clear from their play on the court (THEY LOST TO CLEVELAND!) that this situation has already become a distraction and it isn't even a full blown story yet. The Lakers have no shot of winning the NBA championship if Kobe is not his usual focused and determined self.

It's all or nothing in 2011. If Kobe doesn't get his 6th ring and 2nd three peat this year the comparisons to Jordan will cease and desist. He will no longer be in the conversation. The Lakers will cut their losses and start fresh in 2013 with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul (did I just leak that 2 years early?) and the Kobe Bryant legacy will be put on the back burner. The current roster isn't good enough to fight off distractions of this magnitude and the rest of the league will show no mercy. The Lakers put all their eggs in the Kobe basket and now those eggs are starting to rot. For the sake of Laker Nation and the Kobe Bryant legacy I hope the rumors aren't true, but my heart tells me different. In the back of my mind I know once this story drops the Lakers will fall and some undeserving team will walk away with the Larry O'Brien trophy. What a shame, they were so close to immortality.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Greg Anderson: The Ultimate Friend

As much as people would like to think their best friends would do anything for them it's not a theory you want to test on a regular basis. Truth be told most people are selfish and put their own best interests ahead of others. When faced with the possibility of disciplinary action or even jail time a friend will say whatever they must to save their own ass. Greg Anderson is cut from a different cloth.

For years the personal trainer for Barry Bonds has refused to testify before a grand jury in the government's case against the hall of fame slugger. Without his testimony it is difficult, if not impossible for the government to prove Barry Bonds knowingly used performance enhancing drugs. Like Al Capone said in The Untouchables, "Without the book keeper you got nothing."

If you believe that Barry Bonds is guilty of using performance enhancing drugs during his career (as most people do) then you should also believe that Greg Anderson is the most loyal of friends. His wife, his sister, and even his mother in law have all been threatened with prosecution over this case yet Greg has remained defiant. He has served over a year in jail for his unwillingness to cooperate with the investigation. What more can a friend do for you?

The perjury trial for Barry Bonds is set to begin March 21st and once again Greg Anderson will be absent from the proceedings. Something tells me Barry has a generous "slush fund" waiting for his childhood friend when this whole thing is over. Win or lose Greg Anderson did his part and no one can say different.

I don't condone the obstruction of justice in a federal investigation, but I admire Greg Anderson for his code of silence. It would be so much easier for him to tell the government what they want to hear and make his problems go away. Instead he's sticking by his boy and letting the chips fall where they may. Greg Anderson definitely gets some street cred for his no snitching policy. Riley and Carmelo Anthony would be proud.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Roger Goodell Is The Wrong Man At The Wrong TIme

Since Roger Goodell took over as commissioner of the NFL he has promised to restore the integrity of the game, demonstrate his appreciation for the fans, and hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement to prevent any work stoppages in the future. It appears his third promise was hollow. With 16 days left before the collective bargaining agreement expires and the two sides oceans apart it is a foregone conclusion that a deal will not get done in that time frame. NFL teams continue to place franchise tags on players and prepare for the draft, but these moves are irrelevant considering the current state of affairs. What went wrong?

Roger Goodell has been naive in his approach to the situation. He assumed that with a superior product at the apex of its popularity and $9,000,000,000 of revenue to share there would be reasonable and rational conversation about the future of the game. Instead he finds himself in the middle of a power struggle he can't control. The owners want wholesale changes to the current system including a rookie wage scale, an 18 game regular season, and $1,000,000,000 in revenue back. The owners claim that some franchises lose money and the player's share of revenue is too high. The players would like for the current agreement to stay in place (they have a sweet deal) but understand that change is necessary. In order to analyze the economic woes some of the teams are facing the players association has asked to take a look at their finances. Show me the car fax in other words. The owners have balked at the request and the two sides are at an impasse.

To make matters worse the two factions have different leadership than during collective bargaining negotiations of the past. Paul Tagliabue and Gene Upshaw were friends and understood they were both representing unrealistic egomaniacs, but compromise was in the best interest of both sides and avoiding a work stoppage was the most important thing. Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith are new guys trying to please their constituents at all costs. The two have no relationship to lean on and no experience in negotiations of this magnitude.

At this point the two sides are drifting further apart and don't trust each other as far as they can spit. Roger Goodell has found out the hard way that billionaires don't like to be told what to do and players no longer underestimate their importance in the NFL equation. This problem has no easy solution and in my opinion the commissioner lacks the experience, trust, and respect it will take to get a deal done anytime soon. This thing is going to get ugly and I doubt we will see NFL football in September this year. As a die hard fan I hope I'm wrong.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love And Basketball

On this day dedicated to love and lovers all over the world I feel it only appropriate to mention one of the greatest love stories of our time, Spike Lee's joint Love and Basketball. The movie chronicles two up and coming basketball players played by Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan. The two are cast as high school sweethearts that fall in and out of love while trying to fulfill their dreams of playing pro basketball.

As the movie unfolds the two characters come to a crossroads in their relationship when Omar Epps reaches out to Sanaa about his parents impending divorce. Rather than break a team mandated curfew to console her boyfriend Sanaa's character instead hopes the subject can be addressed at a later time. When Omar takes offense the two separate and their love is lost. Years later realizing that Omar is the only person she's ever loved Sanaa's character challenges Omar to a game of one on one for his love. The game is gut wrenching to watch as Sanaa pours out her heart and soul to win him back. Ultimately she is defeated, but Omar is receptive to her efforts and takes her back. The movie has a fairy tale ending with the two of them getting married and having kids while Sanaa stars in the WNBA.

I typically don't like a bunch of sap in my sports movies, but Spike Lee blends the concepts of loving a sport and romantic love perfectly. It is compelling to watch how dreams and ambition sometimes comes with a heavy price and that cost is more than a person in love is willing to sacrifice at times. As the story unfolds you realize that sacrifice can be forgoing your own agenda and initiative for the sake of others. Not to get all mushy on you, but I hope everyone has a great Valentines Day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Are Native Americans Athletic?

Sports have long been considered a way to escape the socioeconomic barriers that face the underprivileged in America. We've seen countless African Americans and Latinos take advantage of the opportunity, but where are the Native Americans?

There are almost 2,000,000 Native Americans in the US mostly living in poverty on reservations yet I've never heard of a dominant Native American athlete (except Jim Thorpe) in any sport. Not boxing, hockey, lacrosse, archery, tennis, soccer, cross country running, or even ping pong. Is it because Natives have no desire to compete in sports on a high level? Is it because no one reports on their successes? Is it because they have no desire to become independently wealthy for the rest of their lives?

I think the problem is much more deep rooted than that. I think the problem is the lack of access to programs. The Native population is so isolated and remote that it's difficult to get proper training and exposure to them. The athletes that show promise and the ability to excel in sports simply fall through the cracks. If you couple that with self esteem issues and an apathetic American society you have a recipe for disaster.

It's quite obvious that in all walks of life the Native American has become an afterthought and the world of sports is no different. Without the resources and facilities necessary to develop athletic skills it will probably take some sort of outreach program to get Native youths involved in sports. Sports can be such a positive, fulfilling, rewarding experience that it would be a shame to let an entire race of people miss out on the benefits. Lets get to the reservation and see what we can do.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Don't Blame Deron, Blame Utah!

On the surface Jerry Sloan's sudden resignation as the head coach of the Utah Jazz seems like a power struggle gone bad. Reports have surfaced that star point guard Deron Williams and coach Sloan never got along and the situation came to a head 2 days ago. Coach Sloan called a play and Deron chose to run something different. When coach Sloan went to management asking for disciplinary action they sided with the player. In an instant 23 years of coaching and 2 NBA finals appearances had no bearing on the situation. What happened?

The simple answer is the Utah Jazz chose one of the top 3 point guards in the NBA over a crotchedy old man on his last legs. The real answer is geography dictated the decision. The Utah Jazz were fortunate Deron Williams fell to them in the 2005 NBA draft because Utah is not a place that free agents flock to. Lebron's not taking his talents to Salt Lake if you know what I'm saying. Subsequently the Jazz organization has to go above and beyond the call of duty to retain the players it already has. There's no guarantee Deron Williams will re-sign with Utah when he becomes a free agent, but if Jerry Sloan was going to be the reason he left Utah had to be proactive. This is not like the old days when Stockton and Malone ruled the Salt Palace for 16 years straight. The players that come to Utah via trade or the draft typically leave when their contract expires.

I do think coach Sloan deserved better, but I also think the Utah Jazz made the right decision. Always keep the talent over the coach. You'd like to think money and professionalism is enough incentive to get along, but that's not always the case. Personalities clash and sometimes there's casualties in the fallout. We'll see if Utah is better for it in the long run.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


It's time for a new segment on the Cleavie Wonder blog. I call it T.I.L.T.S. which stands for Things I Like To See. The sports world is so competitive and filled with negativity that it's refreshing to see certain things go in a positive manner or things that are just down right entertaining. Here are a few examples. Let me know your thoughts.

1. Bernie Bickerstaff is on Nate McMillan's coaching staff in Portland. Bernie drafted Nate when he was the head coach of the Sonics 25 years ago and now Nate's returning the favor.

2. Tate Forcier decided to go to Miami instead of the UW. Tate showed flashes of brilliance at Michigan, but never any consistency. He is basically the equivalent of Jake Locker, just smaller and not as athletic.

3. Kevin Durant is leading the NBA in scoring proving last season and the World Games performance wasn't a fluke. the more scoring titles he racks up the more he gets involved in the conversation of the league's best player.

4. Anderson Silva kicking another grown man in his face. If you haven't seen Anderson Silva knock out Vitor Belfort at UFC 126 with a kick to the face it's worth going to you tube and checking it out.

5. Deion Sanders elected to the pro football hall of fame on the first ballot. A lot of times the voters like to punish athletes for off the field indiscretions by denying them the hall on the first try (Michael Irvin for example). I'm glad to see they were able to put the pettiness aside and do the right thing.

6. Aaron Rodgers putting Brett Favre in his rear view mirror. Aaron Rodgers will never erase the memory of the golden Brett, but at least now he can stand on equal ground and lead the Packers franchise without having to answer the question of can he win the big one.

7. The Arizona Cardinals asking Larry Fitzgerald for input on what quarterback they should pursue. It only makes sense to ask the team's best player who he would like to catch passes from. That's not to say his opinion will be the ultimate determining factor, but at least he gets to put his two cents in.

8. Steven Stamkos emerging as a star in the NHL. For years the debate has been between Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, but now there's a new kid in town scoring goals at an alarming rate. If those two aren't careful they will have company in the discussion.

9. Ray Lewis III and Barry Sanders Jr. following in their father footsteps. We know they have the genes and the opportunity to benefit from all of their father's experiences, but if they can put those two things together we could be witnessing some freakish athletic accomplishments in the years to come.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Young Sam Is In A Bind

It's official, Young Sam is on the run. I could see the writing on the wall when shankapotimus missed that 50 yard field goal WIDE left in the Super Bowl. I don't know if that guy was kicking with his eyes closed or what. The kid has no accuracy whatsoever. Big Ben let me down and Rashard Mendenhall is forever in my doghouse. Serves me right for gambling on a tailback from Illinois. What the hell was I thinking? Congrats to Aaron Rodgers for earning the belt, but now I have much bigger issues. The bosses have given me 14 days to come up with their money or they're going to bury me next to Jimmy Hoffa. I've heard that rhetoric before, but this time I think they're serious. Nothing left to do but make some major moves. Where do I turn?

It's time to turn to the college kids. I usually like to wait until mid March to wager on the adolescents, but time is of the essence. I have to accelerate my game plan. The Big East looks strong so I'll start there. It appears the competition is fierce and no one is dominant. In an environment like that take the points and bet on the home team. Texas is also getting a lot of attention these days and that's a good thing. They have a solid team and with their new found respect the spreads will go up in my favor. You have to seize the opportunity when it presents itself. Lastly, I'll head out West and bank on the Huskies. They're a good team at home and if they don't turn it around quickly their bubble is going to burst. They have the talent though and I always like to bet on talent. As you might have guessed the prodigies have turned on me and won't wager another penny until I get back to my winning ways so I'm on my own. Here's the picks to jump start my career.

Notre Dame -4 over Louisville
Syracuse -4 1/2 over Georgetown
Oklahoma +11 1/2 over Texas

All I need is a spark and I'm back in the game. Watch and learn.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ownership Needs To Be Conservative

There has been rumor and speculation recently about some high profile figures becoming owners of professional sports teams. John Bon Jovi is considering a stake in the Atlanta Falcons, Martin Luther King III is interested in the New York Mets, and Magic Johnson is part of an investment group trying to bring football back to LA. All of these men have achieved major accomplishments in other facets of their life, but how does that translate into a profitable, well run sports franchise?

Other celebrities have taken their turn at ownership with mediocre results. The Williams sisters, Gloria Estefan, and J Lo own a small percentage of the Miami Dolphins (missed the playoffs), Jay-Z owns a piece of the New Jersey Nets (terrible), and Usher owns a portion of the Cleveland Cavaliers (historically bad). Even the great Michael Jordan owns the Charlotte Bobcats and his team probably won't make the playoffs. If it was all about name recognition and influence Mr. Jordan's team would come in first every year. It appears there's more to running a successful sports franchise than having a popular athlete or entertainer at the helm.

Truth be told the best possible ownership group is one with lots of money and an unintrusive demeanor. As you look out at the ownership landscape you see companies like Microsoft, Nintendo, Amway, Quicken Loans, Comcast, Ford Motors, and Johnson & Johnson. These are heavy hitters that have the time and the means to build a solid organization from top to bottom regardless of the cost. In the end a popular name will only get you so far. After that it takes resources and commitment to yield results. Slippery When Wet sold a lot of copies, but I don't necessarily want John Bon Jovi having a say about who's going to be the starting quarterback next year. In my opinion celebrity and sports owner don't mix well.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Aaron Rodgers Gets His Revenge

I just received a text from Aaron Rodgers and he said Cleavie The Greek Can kiss his ass. He also said he hopes Young Sam Rothstein ends up in a ditch somewhere for picking against his beloved Packers. I can't blame the guy, all he did was prove he belongs in the discussion of elite quarterbacks bringing the Lombardi trophy back home and established his legacy in Cheese head country forever. In 45 years only three quarterbacks have pulled off this feat and the last one to do it was 15 years ago. The real question is where does this Super Bowl victory put Aaron Rodgers from a historical perspective.

Aaron Rodgers is in a unique position because this is the last time the current system will be in place. The new collective bargaining agreement will undoubtedly have a rookie wage scale and quite possibly an 18 game season. No one knows how these changes will affect the game. As it stands Aaron Rodgers will be the last winner of a Super Bowl following a "conventional" season. In my estimation this probably adds to the significance of beating Big Ben and the mighty Steelers on a neutral site.

I've heard countless people make up excuses for why the Packers won. I've heard if it wasn't for the turnovers the Steelers would have been victorious. I've heard the Packers were the recipient of some questionable calls in their favor. In the end it doesn't matter because the Packers overcame adversity losing their defensive captain and still prevailed. If some of the Packers receivers held onto the ball the outcome may have been worse. I don't say it often, but I was wrong about Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. He deserves the belt and I deserve the criticism. Don't get used to it though.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lorenzo Romar Is On My Radar

It wasn't so long ago I was asking myself if the Washington Huskies deserved a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Now the Huskies are 15-6 and I wonder if they can even win the Pac 10 tournament. Their record is not indicative of a team that considers itself a threat to win the national championship and I for one am disappointed. It's time for the finger pointing to begin an in customary fashion let's start at the top with the head coach.

Let me go on record as saying I'm a fan of coach Romar. He took the job at the UW when no one else wanted it and he is the person most responsible for the program's resurrection. That being said the Huskies have been mired in mediocrity lately and unable to take the next step towards becoming an elite program. The Huskies recruit well, but they lose a lot of blue chip athletes to the state of Kentucky. Whether it's the Wildcats or the Cardinal Calipari and Pitino prove to be more charming than Loernzo. Even without Terrence Jones or Peyton Siva, the talent is there, but it just hasn't come together the way everyone anticipated.

I'm not ready to throw the guy out, but he's got my attention. If I don't see a vast improvement in the next few weeks and a long run in the tournament this year it may be time to put coach Romar on the clock. If he doesn't have the voice that gets the players to respond then you have to start looking elsewhere. I believe coach Romar has the ability to motivate his players and take the program to the next level, but that belief has to get backed up with evidence on the court. Coach Romar is a nice guy and sometimes nice guys finish last. Let's hope this nice guy has a mean streak.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cleavie The Greek Predicts: Steelers Win The Super Bowl

It would be nice to see Aaron Rodgers step out of the ominous shadow cast by Bret Favre and validate the Packers decision to go in a different direction. It would be nice to see Aaron Rodgers equal Bret Favre's Super Bowl total even though he will never throw for 70,000 yards and 300 touchdowns. It would be nice for the Green Bay Packers to be able to say they can win it all without that hick from Mississippi.

Unfortunately that isn't the case. The Pittsburgh Steelers have too much Super Bowl experience and a system that's proven to win championships. On offense they will pound the ball with Rashard Mendenhall up the middle (even against BJ Raji and Clay Mathews), control the down and distance, and wait for Mike Wallace to make a big play. Paul Bunyan will stand back in the pocket and do just enough to keep the chains moving and bleed the clock. On defense they will dial up timely blitzes, stop the run, and let defensive player of the year Troy Polamalu patrol the secondary like an angry vulture.

I'm not predicting a blow out, but I am predicting a comfortable margin of victory. 30-20 sounds about right. Young Sam Rothstein is taking the 3 points and will pay off all his debts Sunday night around 9:00. The last thing we need is the Russians coming after him like Alonzo (Denzel Washington's character) in Training Day. I wish I had better news, but begrudgingly I tell you the Piuttsburgh Steelers will win their 7th Lombardi trophy on Sunday. Gotta call em like I see em.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Are The Lakers Really In Trouble?

First there was the beat down on Christmas day by the Miami Heat. Then there was the 4 game losing streak. Then there were the embarrassing losses to the Memphis Grizzlies and the LOWLY Sacramento Kings followed by a Sunday loss to hated rival Boston. As we approach the all star break people within the organization have started to question whether this Laker team is ready to three peat. Jerry West (Mr. Logo) has gone on record as saying the Lakers are getting a little long in the tooth to play great defense. Mitch Kupchak has said a trade to shake things up is not out of the question. Critics have pointed out the fact that the Lakers are 9-9 against the elite teams in the league. What does all this mean?

Absolutely nothing. The Lakers are a veteran team that knows how to conserve energy and keep their bodies fresh for the long playoff run ahead. The Celtics went into the playoffs last year as the #4 seed and look how that turned out for them. Quiet as kept the Lakers have the 5th best record in the NBA and aside from the San Antonio Spurs no one in the Western Conference is a threat to their crown. The OKC Thunder are young and talented, but they're not ready to take down the 2 time defending NBA champs just yet. The biggest opponent the Lakers have are themselves and there's 4 months left to get it in gear.

I'm not just saying this because I'm a past president of Laker Nation, but the Los Angeles Lakers will win the 2011 NBA title and Kobe Bryant will tie Michael Jordan's total of 6 championships and 2 three peats. It's all about Kobe Bryant. You think a guy like that comes this close to realizing all his hope and dreams just to let it slip away at the last second? Think again. Kobe Bryant is Michael Jordan's equal. What would Mike do?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

National Signing Day Is Not That Serious

National signing day for high school football players has gotten way out of control. The hype and hysteria surrounding college recruits is completely unwarranted. At this point it almost rivals the NFL draft in its media coverage, but the impact is far less significant. It is hard for anyone to project what an 18 year old will ultimately become and in a lot of cases the predictions are wrong.

How many times have we seen a top 10 recruit never live up to the expectations bestowed upon them? Ronald Curry, Lorenzo Booker, Paul Arnold, and countless others have been labeled a "top recruit" only to struggle for playing time and recognition. Let us not forget that most of these high schoolers end up going to a school where the incumbent at their position is no slouch either. The competition is fierce, the coaches play favorites, and the skills a player has in high school don't always translate to big time college football. I understand the top schools need to be proactive to stay on top and the recruitment of blue chip prospects is the only way to keep the machine running, but can't the hype wait until at least spring football? Does the process have to become a 3 ring circus? Can you imagine if Marcus Dupree or Eric Dickerson were getting recruited in 2011? This process makes the movie Johnny Be Good look like a reality TV show.

A lot of these players will become good college players, some of them will play pro football, and some of them will even become NFL hall of famers. The percentage is very low however and just because scouts and recruiters identify talent at a young age doesn't mean the talent will develop according to projection. These are still young kids with their whole life ahead of them. The pressure of national signing day is too great and the expectation is unrealistic. We all need to exercise patience and wait to see who pans out and who doesn't. So much for that idea huh?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Track And Field Is Dead In The United States

I was having a couple of drinks with a few friends on Friday when I glanced up at the TV and saw a track and field meet. I was so stunned I had to ask myself, "When is the last time I saw a track meet on television?" I watched a few events, but I became disinterested fairly quickly. There weren't any house hold names in any of the events and none of the competitors were a threat to a world record. If track and field can't hold the attention of a die hard sports fan like myself I think there's little hope for its success.

Gone are the days of Marion Jones, Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson, Ben Johnson, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. The sport reached its apex in 1996 when the summer Olympic games were held in Atlanta. Since then the sport has failed to replenish itself with charismatic superstars and captivating story lines. In addition, the sport has been tainted with the allegations of PED's and the scandal that follows. In short I don't think the American public really trusts the sport and there's no one to rally around. With the exception of Usain Bolt your average person can't even name a track and field athlete.

I want to go on record as saying I like track and field. I miss watching Michael Johnson breaking world records in his gold shoes or Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson staring each other down before a 100 meter showdown. I miss watching Marion Jones shift into that extra gear and blow away the competition. I need a reason to watch though and until the sport cleans itself up and the athletes get better I have none. Jesse Owens is rolling over in his grave right now.