Thursday, March 31, 2011

Video Games Are Not Real Sports

I was talking to my cousin the other day and he was telling me how much his son enjoyed playing golf these days. He gushed about how his swing had improved as well as his understanding of the game. I asked my little cousin if he wanted to go to Jefferson golf course and play nine holes over the weekend. He looked at me puzzled and said, "I've never been to a real golf course, I only play on the wii." Has the world passed me by or is there something terribly wrong with this statement?

Video games are a staple in our society and a cultural phenomenon, but have video games come so far that they replace real athletic activity? I understand the graphics are extraordinary and the systems themselves are more interactive than ever, but I never thought I'd see the day when fantasy would replace reality in terms of participation. At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man, things aren't what they used to be. Our society has become fat and lazy and video games are one of the main culprits. The escapism has become a crutch that kids rely on to mask the fear of failure and inadequacy.

Video games give kids a false sense of security and accomplishment. When you lose you push the reset button. When you win you think you're ready to take on Tiger Woods. Sports builds character, physical endurance, and an understanding of the game. Video games can't replace that.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

MLB Managers Should Speak Spanish

1 in 4 major league baseball players are of Latin descent. It's a trend that continues to gain momentum and I suspect that in the next 5 years that percentage will be a third. These players often have a difficult time making the transition to playing baseball in America because of cultural differences and the language barrier. There's not a lot that can be done about the cultural aspect, but wouldn't it make the transition smoother if communication wasn't such an obstacle? Most Americans believe that if you live in this country you should speak English. Period. I agree that should be the ultimate goal, but becoming fluent in a second language takes time. What are these players supposed to do in the interim? Rather than embarrass themselves or give interviews where they sound unintelligent, a lot of Latino players simply shy away from media attention and public appearances. MLB managers should take the initiative to make these players feel more comfortable in their surroundings. Spanish is fairly easy to learn and the benefits are enormous. Not only will the players respect the effort, it will help make the club house a better environment when everyone is on the same page. I'm not suggesting that MLB managers become "Telemundo" proficient overnight, but there are times when a translator may not be readily available or appropriate. Some conversations need to be private and one on one communication beats third party interpretation every time. The talent dictates what ancillary tools are needed to be successful. For that reason don't be surprised when we see 1 in 4 managers of Latino descent.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dez "Bling" Bryant

"But I ain't even gon act holier than thau cause fu*k it, I went to Jacob with 25 thou. Before I had a house and I'd do it again cause I wanna be on 106 and Park pushing a Benz. I wanna act ballerific like it's all terrific, I gotta couple past due bills, I won't get specific. I got a problem with spending before I get it. We all self conscious, I'm just the first to admit it. Kanye West - All Falls Down Apparently my man Dez Bryant took the words of that song too literally. In the past 48 hours the Cowboys receiver has been sued for over $850,000 in unpaid jewelry expenses. This is after being kicked out of a mall for criminal trespassing and having hall of fame cornerback Deion Sanders disown him and label him a cancer. This story is sad on so many levels. Once again Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has made the mistake of overcompensating for his mistakes. He still regrets not drafting Randy Moss in the 1998 draft and has tried to rectify the situation ever since. He traded a 1st, a 3rd, and a 6th round pick to acquire Roy Williams from the Detroit Lions only to find out Roy is an average receiver at best. Instead of cutting his losses Jerry Jones rolled the dice one more time and drafted Dez Bryant in 2010. So far the gamble has not paid off. From the beginning Dez Bryant has been a distraction. There were issues with the interviewing process before he ever got signed (one of the team executives asked him if his mom was a prostitute) and after he joined the Cowboys he took offense to rookie hazing by refusing to carry the shoulder pads of a veteran receiver. He has alienated himself from his team mates and the off the field incidents only compound the problem. I could delve into the societal issue of inner city youth wasting their money on material items, but why bother? The affinity for jewelry only masks deep rooted problems that have complex origins and solutions. The vicious cycle continues to repeat itself and primadonna athletes will be primadonna athletes. There is no end in sight so lets focus on the latest example of bad judgement. Dez Bryant is at a crossroads. Whenever Deion Sanders tells you the guy needs help and wants nothing to do with him, you know the problem is severe. Deion played with Michael "The Playmaker" Irvin, a man who got caught in a hotel room with strippers and crack and had a policeman put a contract out on his life. Deion has experienced some pretty dramatic cases so we have to take him at his word if he says this situation is serious. My guess is this story will end badly. Dez Bryant will continue to defy authority, refuse to own up to his responsibilities, and will be mired in debt before his career is over. Jerry Jones will give him plenty of chances to make good on this scenario because Jerry doesn't want to admit he was wrong AGAIN! Without structure and accountability Dez Bryant will never fulfill his potential and will become a tragic tale worthy of a 30 for 30 documentary. Watch for it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

VCU And Butler

I've been informed that after the results of this weekend in my bracketology license has been officially suspended. I have no teams in the Final Four and my so called championship game (Ohio St. vs Kansas) is nothing more than wishful thinking. True indeed my bracket looks like Stevie Wonder put it together and not Cleavie Wonder, but cut a guy some slack! I'm sorry I wasn't clairvoyant enough to pick VCU and Butler to battle for a spot in the national championship game. Forgive me for not being one of the two people on planet earth that picked that match up. I guess the last 25 years of flawless prognostication doesn't count for anything these days. Oh well, at least Young Sam Rothstein is back to his winning ways. Fridays 2 team parlay (Butler +5 and UNC -4 1/2) came off without a hitch. Final Four picks will be announced on Thursday. Here are some observations from the weekend. As if they needed anymore help recruiting McDonald's All Americans, Jay-Z went to the Kentucky locker room on Sunday to congratulate the Wildcats on their Final Four Appearance. No wonder the Huskies keep losing top recruits to these guys. Tiger Woods need his old life back. I'm not condoning the infidelity aspect of it, but clearly Tiger is not going to get back to his winning ways with this current lifestyle. On Sunday he finished 29th at a tournament he's won 6 times in the past. The Barry Bonds perjury trial is more about embarrassing the home run king than it is about justice. The prosecution is trying to make a compelling argument with no physical evidence and no credible witnesses. We'll see what the jury thinks. If Stanford and Tennessee win their games tonight the women's Final Four will be comprised of all #1 seeds. By all accounts UConn should win the national championship again, but Baylor's Brittney Griner is capable of putting up 40 and 10 if you're not careful. We'll see if she can stand in the way of history.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Is Fantasy Baseball Too Much WOrk?

When I was first invited to play fantasy football I was apprehensive. I didn't think I would like it and I thought it would detract from the enjoyment of watching the game. Now it's a year long obsession and I can't wait to take out TJ Mac, Mr. Majestic, Them Beasts, and Breez Nuuts next year. I'm already scheming, plotting, and planning. I then tried my hand at fantasy basketball. The first year I quickly found out how limited and one dimensional my favorite players were. I wasn't very good at making trades and injuries were hard to recover from. The second year I could never get my line up together well enough to be competitive. I scratched after a month. This year I've been invited to play fantasy baseball and once again I'm apprehensive.

With so many position players, relief pitchers, and double switches I can't see how this could possibly be fun. Not only do you have to keep track of your own team, you have to remember all the players and stats on your opponents team. This is no longer the steroid era of baseball and most of the stars are relative unknowns just making their way onto the MLB scene. It will take a few years before we determine what they are consistently capable of. In a nutshell we have a bunch of players who will put up modest numbers, but nothing like 73 homes and 155 RBI's. The only sure thing is Albert Pujols. Other than him how can you really tell who's going to produce? I think I'll draft a team and watch from the sidelines this year. Until I get the feel of how to field a competitive team and what tendencies to watch for I don't think fantasy baseball would be much fun. If you have experience in fantasy baseball or thought on why I should play (is it even fun?) let me know.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sports and Hip-Hop

You may know that Shaquille O'Neal is a 4 time NBA champion, a 3 time Finals MVP, and one of the 50 greatest players ever, but did you know he also had a platinum CD? Shaq Diesel, a collaboration with the defunct rap group Fu-Schnickens, sold over a million copies somehow. It opened the door for other athletes to display their skills on the mic as well. I use the word skills lightly because as a self proclaimed hip-hop snob I found the quality and content lacking. Here's a list of some of the athletes that have delved into the world of rap music:

Deon Sanders - Must be the money (Not good)
Gary Payton - Livin large and legal ( 1 listen will suffice)
Kobe Bryant - K.O.B.E. featuring Tyra Banks (.........)
Allen Iverson Reebok commercial - (Impressive, but only because of Jadakiss and Swizz Beats)
Dana Barros - Check it ( I almost had to kill this guy one night at a club so I'm a little biased)
NBA's best kept secret compilation (There's a reason you never heard of this)

I bring up these athletes not to discredit their efforts, but to point out the connection between sports and hip-hop. Athletes and MC's alike typically come from a disadvantaged backgrounds and have ties to the inner cities of America. Both have a profound impact on pop culture and share the same core audience of fans and followers. Whether its the Fab 5 with long shorts and black socks or Biggie Smalls rocking Coogi and Versace the influence is deep rooted. In addition, there is a mutual respect between athletes and MC's. Most rappers would love to have a killer crossover like Allen Iverson and most athletes would love to sell out the Garden like Jay-Z.

Right or wrong the youth of America follows the trends of athletes and entertainers and athletes and entertainers follow the trends of each other. MC's wear the hottest jerseys in their videos and players listen to the hottest songs on their i pods before games. The two worlds are forever intertwined and I'm sure we'll hear more "interesting" tracks in the future. I'd actually prefer that over rappers (Master P style) trying out for professional sports teams. That could get ugly.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Young Sam Rothstein Is Still Alive

It wasn't easy with all those upsets last week, but Young Sam Rothstein weathered the storm. I did just well enough to keep my head above water and make it to the sweet 16 with a punchers chance at breaking the bank. The brackets are reset and Vegas is up to its usual tricks. UConn is favored by 1 1/2 over San Diego St. and they should cover easily on paper until you realize the Big East only has 2 teams remaining in the tournament (they started with 11) and UConn has to travel all the way to Anaheim to play. It's a trap game. Just stay away all together. Duke is favored by 8 1/2 points over Arizona and with Kyrie Irving back in the line up they are clearly the superior team. That being said Duke also has to travel across the country and Arizona All American Derrick Williams is looking to impress the scouts at the next level with a big game against the Olympic coach and the defending national champions. It's a trap game. Duke is giving too many points. Instead of focusing on the sucker bets lets get down to brass taxes shall we? There are only 2 games I feel good about.

Butler +5 over Wisconsin. Butler took out the #1 seed in dramatic fashion and the experience from the championship game last year is starting to pay dividends. Wisconsin has scrapped along, but they struggle to score points and have no blow out capability. This game will be close regardless.

UNC -4 1/2 over Marquette. His Airness has promised to give the entire team a pair of his limited edition Jordan's if they get to the Final Four. Any time Jordan speaks to the Tar Heels it gives them extra motivation and incentive to win. In addition, Marquette was one of the last Big East teams to get into the tourney and as we have seen so far the Big East is an underachieving conference. UNC by 7 at least.

Sometimes less is more and in this case 2 games are better than 4. No need to go out on a limb, just concentrate on the things you know for sure will happen (that's a Confucius quote). Good luck everyone. Get money!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hines Ward On Dancing With The Stars

I'm pulling for Hines Ward to win dancing with the stars this year. I'm pulling for him because every time I see him on the football field I want to be able to point and laugh at him. Every time he drops a pass or gets cracked going across the middle I want to say "This ain't the ballroom Hines!" I hate Hines Ward. I hate everything he stands for. I hate his fake smile, I hate his cheap shot ways, and I especially hate the way he stands up for the refs in Superbowl XL. If he won dancing with the stars and I could ridicule him on a weekly basis it would make my season. The problem is some of my favorite athletes of all time have participated on this show including Sugar Ray Leonard this season. If the negative connotation applies to Hines, then it applies to all of them as well. Here is a list of my favorite athletes that have been on the show.

5. Jerry Rice. The NFL's all time leading receiver had a tough time making the transition into retirement and would have done anything to compete in front of a national audience.

4. Chad Johnson. A camera hog. Anything to be on television.

3. Emmitt Smith. The NFL's all time leading rusher wanted to show everyone he was more than just a powerful bruising running back.

2. Floyd Mayweather Jr. Just like Chad, anything to get attention.

1. Michael "The Playmaker" Irvin. Just wanted to dance around with a hot chick with his shirt unbuttoned.

I'm not knocking dancing. There's a ton of skill involved and athletic dexterity is important. It's just hard to see hall of fame athletes doing the fox trot, the cha cha, and the tango in shiny, flamboyant costumes. Most athletes like to be the center of attention however and dancing with the stars gives them that opportunity. All that being said, I'm still talking smack if Hines Ward wins the contest. Maybe I'm just too macho.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

NFL Lockout Victims

Everyone talks about the players and the owners when it comes to the NFL lockout, but there are numerous people that will be affected by a work stoppage. It is impossible to predict when this labor dispute will end and those who have jobs tied to the NFL are in limbo. What about the vendors that lease space in the stadiums? I doubt they have a clause in their lease that says they don't have to pay rent if there's no games. What about the guys that put down the stadium turf? I doubt they still get paid if there's no fields to transform. What about the referees? Most of them have second jobs and refs have a strong union, but the uncertainty of when and if the season is going to start must make it difficult to make any concrete scheduling plans.

The economic ramifications of an NFL work stoppage are far greater than how to split the $9,000,000,000 in revenue. There are other people involved who don't make millions (or billions) that just want to put food on their table. The hot dog guy, the t-shirt salesman, the parking lot attendants, and the sports bar owners will all suffer much greater financial loss than Paul Allen or Peyton Manning. Some of these individuals have kids in college, some of them are behind on their mortgage, but all of them depend on the NFL for their livelihood.

Do you think the owners and players take these guys into consideration when they're sitting at the bargaining table? Unlikely. The core issues of the disagreement don't change just because the trickle down effect is enormous. These guys are considered collateral damage in a war between two factions that don't like or trust each other. Things will get worse before they get better. I just hope the little guys can hold on that long.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The MLS Is Garbage

I was talking to a guy in a bar the other day and soccer was on TV. I asked him if he was a Seattle Sounders fan and his answer was quite surprising.

"The MLS is garbage. I'll go to a Sounders game if I want to entertain my 14 year old daughter, but to be honest with you, my over 40 team would destroy the Sounders. We're all a bunch of guys that played overseas and the Sounders would be no competition. Me watching an MLS game is like Michael Jordan watching a D League basketball game. The level of play is way below what the real stars are doing."

I understand the MLS doesn't have the world's best players, but I thought the league was gaining momentum. With the success of the US in the World Cup and a discernible effort by the USSA to promote the game it only makes sense that the caliber of players would get better. Using this logical train of thought I delved further into the subject.

"If the MLS is garbage will the US ever get good at soccer?"

"The US won't become relevant on the world stage until inner city kids start playing the game. In Europe Wayne Rooney comes from the slums. Soccer is their ticket out of the ghetto like basketball and football is here. When you start getting guys that would normally play cornerback, free safety, wide receiver, or point guard to play soccer then you have a chance. Until you start getting guys like Chad Johnson. Darelle Revis, Chris Paul, and Derrick Rose playing soccer full time and committing to it, the US will always lag behind Europe, South America, and Africa. It's just the way it is."

I honestly don't see that happening anytime soon. It will be generations (if ever) before soccer rivals the big 3 in this country. There is too much history, time, and money invested in baseball, football, and basketball to think that the premiere athletes will resort to soccer first. Although it is the world's most popular sport it has become apparent after my conversation with "Mr. Soccer" that the US will never be an elite team in the grand scheme of things. How does that make you feel?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Xavier Henry Should Be A Sophomore

It's hard to say a 20 year old making $2,000,000 a year should be doing something different with their life yet I can't help but think Xavier Henry should be playing for Kansas this season. Without question he would be the best player in the tournament and have a chance to showcase his talents in front of millions of people. Presently Xavier averages 4.3 points per game for the Memphis Grizzlies and doesn't see a lot of playing time. Would his career be better served if he had a chance to work on his game and excel at a program that gave him an opportunity to play?

The problem is college basketball is full of players that are too good for college, but not really good enough to play in the NBA and there's no established intermediate level for players to hone their skills. The money is always a motivating factor and that's why so many players make the jump to the NBA before they're truly ready to contribute. In addition, college is not an easy transition for everyone. It's easy for an outsider looking in to say stay in school and get your education, but calculus, biology, and organic chemistry isn't for everyone. I think some of these players leave early because the challenges of academia are more than they can handle.

Deciding to go pro is a lot like being a contestant on a game show. Do you take the money that's in front of you, or do you take the chance to better your position? Nothing is guaranteed so why take the gamble? On the other hand one extra year could increase your earning potential ten fold. Hindsight is 20/20 and knowing what we know now Xavier Henry would have been better served playing an extra year at Kansas. More playing time and individual coaching would have done wonders for his game. Then again he no longer has to eat top ramen and borrow his girlfriend's car to go to the store. Tough decision either way.

Friday, March 18, 2011

March Madness: Who's Bracket Needs Duct Tape?

The science of bracketology is all about who can predict upsets and weather the storm for the first two rounds. The Louisville loss has crippled quite a few participants, but since 97% of the public picked them to win against Morehead St. it only hurts those that had the Cardinals going deep into the tourney. Personally, I took a big hit with Clemson, Belmont (my upset special), and St. Johns bowing out in the first round. It's safe to say I need something close to perfection today to stay in contention in the various pools I entered.

On the sportsbook side Young Sam is 2 for 2 with Xavier coming up today. As the tournament wears on teams will begin to reveal themselves, the cream will rise to the top, and the spreads will get easier to pick. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to watch the guard play and the team's ability to shoot free throws. It is crucial to the success or failure of these kids.

When the dust settles I'm picking Ohio St. and Kansas to meet in the final game with the Buckeyes going home with the trophy. Kansas has size and experience, but I think the inside/outside game of Jared Sullinger and Jon Diebler will be too much. Kyrie Irving is back for Duke, but it will take too long for him to get his rhythm and he won't be a huge factor. Pitt has the easiest draw, but not enough talent to deal with the Jayhawks in the final four. My bracket is on life support and today will determine if I pull through or not. I imagine a lot of you are in the same position. Good luck.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March Madness: Young Sam Rothstein Style

March Madness is like an unofficial holiday for me. While everyone else is focused on bracketology and office pools I'm figuring out the angles to make a million. If the college kids do what they're supposed to I'll be able to pay off my debt to the Russians and the Colombians in no time plus have a little cash left over for myself. Geography, free throws, and senior leadership is paramount in this tournament as the college basketball landscape is presently void of superstar talent and elite teams. Here's what I've come up with so far. Pay attention.

Xavier -2 1/2 over Marquette. Xavier has size and an experienced back court while Marquette has benefited from an over hyped Big East media bias. D Wade isn't there to save them this time and Xavier will pull away down the stretch.

Richmond +3 over Vanderbilt. The Commodores have some quality wins this season (Kentucky, North Carolina), but as I stated in my segment yesterday Richmond is on of those teams to watch. They shoot a high percentage from the 3 point and free throw line and they should be able to control tempo throughout the game.

Butler -2 over Old Dominion. I'm not seeing the Cinderella story of 2010 for the Bulldogs, but they have enough to get past ODU. Butler is 31-1 over the past 2 seasons when holding opponents under 60 points and ODU only averages 65 per game. The team that played in the championship game last year will have enough poise to cover the 2 points.

Good luck everyone. Gamble wisely and prosper.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March Madness: The Upsets To Watch For

After a solid 48 hours of study and evaluation my bracket is starting to come together rather nicely. The Southeast is wide open, but the other regions will most likely send the top seeds to the Final Four (Ohio St, Duke, and Kansas). My best and final bracket probably won't come out until 2:00 am as I will tinker back and forth for several hours before making a final decision. The tourney always hinges on few key games and I don't want my bracket busted by noon on Thursday if you know what I'm saying. On the upset side of the ledger here are the games to watch for.

Belmont over Wisconsin. Wisconsin held their own in the Big 10, but they struggle to score points and Belmont has an up tempo offense. Belmont can shoot the 3 and keep the pressure on Wisconsin to play from behind. The game is in Denver so no geographical advantage for either team.

Richmond over Vanderbilt. Richmond has an inside/outside game and shoots a high percentage from the 3 point and free throw line. Vanderbilt will struggle once they get out of conference play and face opponents they are not overly familiar with.

Clemson over West Virginia. I know West Virginia made it to the Final Four last year, but I don't trust teams coached by Bob Huggins. Clemson had to participate in the play-in game so they've got a little chip on their shoulder. The game is being played in Tampa so no advantage for either team.

** Utah St. over Kansas St. I think this one is possible, but Utah St. burned me last year and I'm not sure I can whole heartedly endorse this upset. The 30-3 record is a little deceptive and Kansas St. will have the best player on the court (Jacob Pullen) by far. Go with this game if you're feeling adventurous.

Tomorrow Young Sam Rothstein will lay out the sportsbook picks. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March Madness: The 5 Teams To Watch

There is no dominant team in the NCAA tournament this year and parody reigns supreme. Everyone is beatable and everyone is susceptible to an upset, but the more I look at the draw the more I see distinct favorites coming out of each region. The top seeds in the East and the Southeast both get home games through the round of 16 and Notre Dame and North Carolina (#2 seeds) stay close to home as well. Geography will play a big part in determining the outcome of this tournament. Here are the 5 teams to watch in the quest for the national championship.

1. Duke. I'm not really going out on a limb here am I? The defending national champs return senior guard Nolan Smith and senior forward Kyle Singler. The duo will provide leadership and experience down the stretch. The Blue Devils play their first 2 games in Charlotte so the sweet 16 is a lock. San Diego St. is the #2 seed in their region and I doubt the Aztecs will be around when it comes time to cut down the nets.

2. Ohio St. The Buckeyes are probably the most complete team in the tournament. They have inside presence with Jared Sullinger and outside presence with Jon Diebler. Now that they are out of conference play facing teams that don't know their tendencies I predict Ohio St. will get even better as the tournament wears on. Like Duke, Ohio St. plays their first 2 games at home in Cleveland. Once again the sweet 16 is a lock.

3. Kansas. I like the way they man handled Texas in the Big 12 championship. They started talking trash in the hallway before the game and backed it up on the court. The size of the Morris twins and the athleticism of Josh Selby makes Kansas a dangerous team. Purdue will be their biggest obstacle on the way to the final four.

4. UConn. The Huskies rattled off 5 straight wins in 5 days to win the Big East title which is impressive because the Big East sent 11 teams to the tournament. Kemba Walker is a streaky shooter, but when he has it going he's one of the best players in the country. San Diego St. is on their side of the draw and as you can tell I don't think too highly of the Aztecs.

5. Xavier. Now I'm going out on a limb. The Musketeers have size across their front line and the A-10 conference player of the year in Tu Holloway (can you tell I've been doing my research). Like Ohio St Xavier plays their first 2 games in Cleveland which is not far from Cincinnati. The sweet 16 is a lock.

One of these teams will win the national championship guaranteed. Tomorrow is upset special day. I'll let you know where the surprises are in the draw. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Let The Madness Begin

As you might expect the Cleavie Wonder blog will dedicate the entire week to the NCAA tournament. The phenomena that is March Madness encompasses so many different story lines and ranges of emotion that one day simply isn't enough time to cover everything. Today we'll start with the 5 players to watch.

1. Jimmer Fredette BYU. Jimmer is averaging 27 points per game and is a finalist for the Naismith Award. He has range to Bermuda on his jumper and is capable of scoring 50+ in any game, but at 6'2 Jimmer may have difficulty getting his shot off in the tournament. Jimmer must have a dominant game against Wofford or the Cougars might be out in the 1st round.

2. Jared Sullinger Ohio St. Jared is quite possibly the best player in the tournament and a virtual lock to be a lottery pick in next year's draft. There is no doubt Ohio St. has enough talent to win the whole thing. If Jared stays out of foul trouble he could wind up as tournament MVP.

3. Harrison Barnes UNC. Harrison Barnes has come on like gang busters lately and carried UNC to a #2 seed. With a little help from the seeding committee North Carolina plays its first 2 games in Charlotte. To say they will have a home court advantage is like saying Oprah Winfrey has a little spending cash. Harrison will be around for a while.

4. Terrence Jones Kentucky. As much as it pains me to say this, Terrence Jones is a beast. His talent is unlimited and with an impressive SEC championship win the Wildcats have the momentum to go deep into the tournament.

5. Isaiah Thomas UW. Not sure there's anyone in the tournament with more heart that Zeke Jr. Of course I'm playing the homer role a little bit, but Isaiah played virtually every minute of the Pac 10 tournament and cashed the game winning shot on Saturday to win back to back titles. If he's at his best he's the best point guard in the tournament.

Stay tuned for more analysis. Tomorrow we'll cover the 5 teams with the best chance to win it all.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Mariners Don't Look Any Different

The AL Cy Young winner + Cliff Lee + 2 gold glove winners + the best hitter in baseball = 100 losses for the Seattle Mariners in 2010. The club was last in home runs and lost more one run games than anyone in baseball. The free agency market yielded no new talent and the youngsters in Tacoma don't look like they're ready to step up and meet the challenge. Will the Mariners have another 100 loss season?

If you look at it on paper the answer is yes. The Mariners haven't addressed any of their glaring needs offensively and the team still doesn't have an identity. With the exception of Chone Figgins and Ichiro no one on the squad has the ability to manufacture runs with their speed. In addition, when Chone and Ichiro get on base the Mariners don't advance the runners and leave a ton of men on base. The Mariners also have to deal with a change at the managerial position. It was clear that Don Wakamatsu lost the confidence of the players and control of the team last year and Eric Wedge is supposed to be the solution. It's still too early to tell if the new skipper will have a profound impact on the team's hitting and the overall moral.

Safeco Field is the greatest ball park in baseball when the Marines are winning, the sun is shining, and the fans come out to support. Seattle deserves that kind of atmosphere and there's no excuse for not putting a quality product on the field. In the end the Nintendo guys are going to have to open up their check books if they want to see results. So far the check book has been closed and it looks like this season will be a repeat of last season. Lets hope the 2011 Mariners prove me wrong.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Tiki Torch Method

Tiki Barber has come out of retirement and plans to play in the NFL next season. His arrogance betrays him. It was that same arrogance that made him walk away from the game in the first place. Tiki Barber thought he had a promising career in television and his charisma would make him a star outside of football. Four years later he sees the error in his ways. What would possess a man who is the New York Giants all time leading rusher to make a comeback after sitting out that long?

It's the money and the fame. Tiki recently went through a costly divorce and his new trophy wife has expensive taste. To add insult to injury his once promising TV career has been put on the shelf leaving him with few options to make money. Once you've achieved a certain amount of status it's hard to go back to being a normal guy. It's one of the hardest transitions for athletes to make. It seems simple enough to acclimate ones self back into mainstream society after your playing days are over, but few things (if any) can replace that void once the game is over. Isn't that why Bret Favre played into his 40's?

Comebacks have been attempted over the years and with the exception of Michael Vick (much younger than Tiki) and Mike Williams (much much younger than Tiki) none of them were successful. Four years is an eternity to step away from the game. The players get bigger, stronger, faster, and more determined. Antonio Pierce has publicly called out his former team mate for throwing Eli Manning under the bus, criticizing the coach, and exercising poor leadership qualities in the locker room. The New York Giants organization has gone on record as saying they want nothing to do with him. These are not exactly ringing endorsements for a triumphant comeback.

Desperation and greed are not good reasons to attempt a comeback. I see this experiment lasting half a training camp. At that point Tiki will realize his body can't stand up to the physical demands of football anymore and his heart and mind aren't in the right place to be successful. Hopefully for Tiki's sake he can stick around long enough to tape a few episodes of a reality show based on the experience. Isn't that how they do it nowadays?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cleavie Wonder Is 1 Year Old Today

Funny how time flies when you're having fun. A year ago today I started this blog with the idea of giving my family and friends a fresh provocative perspective on the sports world. I had no idea what to expect or how my opinions would be perceived. I have been pleasantly surprised over the response and the dialogue the blog has created. Initially I thought it would be difficult to come up with topics and give insight into sporting news on a daily basis, but again to my surprise it has been relatively easy. It is the platform and the interaction that makes it successful.

Getting an opportunity to give my opinion, talk trash (one of my favorite past times), and banter back and forth with you guys is a lot of fun. I'm glad I've had a chance to embark on this journey and I look forward to taking the blog to the next level in the future. You guys have listened to me rant and rave about various topics including fantasy football (ooooh I can't wait for next season), my sportsbook adventures (Young Sam Rothstein will be back), and my interpretation of good vs. evil in the sports world. It's always good to hear what you guys think.

I will continue to provide content that I think is thought provoking or that you guys you like to discuss. I do a pretty good job of guessing and I try to cover a wide array of topics, but I'm not a mind reader! If there's ever anything you want me to talk about just let me know and I'll address it. A special thanks to Lala, Big Poppa, Zach, Shark, Nance, Kirsten, D York, Moto, Paul, Keri, Chuck, Glove, Chris, Esteban, Javier, Curt, Sheila, Detry, Nick, Chairman Mao, MAD, Peller III, David, Rennil, Gotta, Big Shaun, Tommy De La, Timbaland, and Dex for letting me know someone is out there paying attention. It makes it easier to have a voice when you know someone is listening on the other end. More big things to come so stay tuned. Thanks again.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Ohio St. University Finally Gets Busted

The Jim Tressel innocent act is over. For years we've watched as player after player gets indicted for improper benefits without The Ohio St. University or coach Tressel ever being implicated in the scandal or punished for the findings. It is only right that after a decade of wrongdoing the powers that be are held accountable. The Ohio St. University has had numerous violations uncovered ( some of them serious), but the NCAA has been reluctant to enforce any sanctions against them. Who is to blame for this hypocrisy?

College athletics has become big time business and the bottom line is some programs are more profitable than others and some programs are more important in the grand scheme of things. There is a don't ask don't tell policy with some of the major universities (Notre Dame, Ohio St, Penn St., Texas) because of the financial implications involved and the fan base. It would cost the schools, the conferences, the television networks, and the merchandisers millions of dollars if those schools were banned from playing on TV or going to bowl games. In addition, these violations continue because the fan base is indifferent to them so long as the programs keep winning. It's a results oriented business and wins and losses affect accountability. In a system where the players don't get paid and fans have unrealistic expectations there is bound to be some shady activity.

In the end these programs have to do whatever it takes to remain on top. There are a handful of schools that the NCAA typically looks the other way when it comes to violations because there is too much at stake. In the modern era technology has become the great equalizer however and exposure to the media helps to level the playing field. We'll see how this affects the status quo going forward.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


It's time for another installment of 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 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. Kevin Love putting up monster numbers. No one thought he was capable of this kind of production. It is literally off the charts. I can't say he went too low in the 2008 NBA draft however. The players picked in front of him were Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley (Nance), OJ Mayo, and Russell Westbrook. Only Mayo and Beasley weren't all stars this year and their future potential makes it a wash.

2. Danica Patrick coming in 4th in a NASCAR race. Up until now Danica has been the equivalent of a Victoria Secret model driving around a track.

3. Rachel Alexandria and Curlin siring a thoroughbred offspring. I'm already saving my money for when this horse turns 3 years old.

4. The NFL and the NFLPA working overtime to hammer out a collective bargaining agreement. The exposing of the $4,000,000,000 war chest the owners have was critical. Public sentiment has definitely turned in favor of the players.

5. Bo Kimble coming to the aid of the Fenville high school basketball team. If anyone can help those young men cope with the sudden loss of a team mate and friend it's Bo Kimble.

6. Carmelo Anthony playing in the Garden. It was a long time coming, but he couldn't look more comfortable in a Knicks jersey. The swagger is kind of ridiculous.

7. WSU players getting into trouble. Just because you're in the middle of nowhere doesn't mean no one's watching you do bad things.

8. The Lakers winning 7 straight games after the all star break. Suddenly my phone doesn't ring 27 times a day with reports of the Lakers demise. Funny how winning changes everything.

9. A quiet spring training thus far. No major injuries and no contract disputes is a good thing.

10. Parody in the NCAA basketball tournament. With no clear cut favorite and no consensus as to who will be the #1 seeds it's time for Young Sam Rothstein to get back to his winning ways.

11. ESPN Films doing a special on the Fab 5. With the exception of Texas Western (The first traditional school to start 5 Black players), UNLV (1990-1991) and Georgetown (1982-1985) no other team has had more of an impact and influence on the college basketball landscape.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Moheato's Are Starting To Taste Sour

"This is painful for every one of us to go through this, there are a couple of guys crying in the locker room right now, it's not a matter of want."

Coach Eric Spoelstra's comments after the 87-86 loss to the Bulls on Sunday.

Honesty is not always the best policy. No one likes to be labeled as a cry baby and for a team like the Miami Heat perception is reality. After all the hoopla surrounding the summer free agency period the Heat lack confidence and are feeling the pressure of unfullfilled promise and expectation. To be fair, the expectation was probably a little unrealistic. It's difficult at best to throw an all star team together let alone put the weight of the world on their shoulders and expect them to go out and perform flawlessly. Every mistake is magnified and every failure scrutinized beyond belief. It is not in the Heat's DNA (They're emotionally and mentally soft) to deal with adversity and doubt. The question is where do they go from here?

I said months ago that coach Eric Spoelstra was in way over his head and that the Miami Heat needed a different coach to take them to the promised land. The problem was masked with an 18 game winning streak in December, but that was against mediocre teams. Their schedule has taken a turn recently and the Heat haven't responded favorably. They have blown HUGE leads at home, struggled against the elite teams, and Lebron James has missed a game tying or winning 3 pointer in 3 of the last 4 games. That tells me the Heat don't make adjustments very well and they have a tendency to choke down the stretch.

If they keep coach Spoelstra the Miami Heat will have to tone down their level of expectation and that is nearly impossible to do considering the talented players on their roster. Obviously we're too deep into this season to make a change now, but the Heat are built for immediate results. Maybe they will find their way and silence all the critics, but for now they just look like a bunch of spoiled brats who need a hug (Thanks to coach Spoelstra). They get past the 1st round in the playoffs, but that's it. Too bad, the Moheatos are entertaining.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Shaun Alexander: The Thinking Man's Running Back

I was watching the NFL combine last week and got a chance to see running back Mark Ingram go through his workout. The commentators eluded to the fact that he was a tough runner who had the ability to be the best running back to ever come out of the University of Alabama. Mark Ingram is good, but he's no Shaun Alexander.

People forget in 2005 Shaun Alexander was the MVP of the league and ran for 1880 yards and 28 touchdowns. That season Shaun Alexander running left (behind Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson) was the most devastating play in football. Shaun gets a bad rap because of his running style and that's unfortunate. He has been labeled as lazy and a coward (some people even call him a little bitch) for avoiding contact. I would argue that Shaun was a realist and understood the big picture better than most running backs. He was the master at preserving his body. Sure you want to see effort and of course you want your star running back to fight and scrap for every inch like their life depended on it, but let's be fair. Sometimes the play just doesn't develop the way it was drawn up on the chalkboard. As opposed to trying to run through Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis, and Ed Reed when a play breaks down isn't it wise to just run out of bounds? Isn't it better to huddle up and try again the next down instead of putting extra wear and tear on your body trying to run through a brick wall? Is it ok to admit the plan didn't come to fruition?

Shaun Alexander haters will tell you he never ran hard enough for them and the effort wasn't consistent. I say when Shaun was inside the opponents 30 yard line there was no better running back in the league. Work smart and hard. Shaun's running style preserved his body and actually benefited the Seahawks because he remained durable and available for more games. If the play's not there get what you can, huddle up, and try again. What's wrong with that?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Can Professional Athletes Afford To Get Sick?

My apologies to my family, friends, fans, and followers for missing this Wednesday's blog. I was in bed sicker than a dog contemplating whether setting myself on fire would get rid of my chills or not. In addition, I looked online for a flem extracting device, but came up empty. As I laid in bed wondering if I would ever take normal breaths out of my nostrils again I asked myself what do professional athletes go through when they're sick? Is it even a legitimate excuse to miss a game, a match, or a meet because you have the flu?

I remember years back Bruce Smith missed a playoff game for the Buffalo Bills because he had a temperature of 102 and couldn't get out of bed. The Buffalo fans called him coward, used racial slurs, and labeled him irresponsible for ALLOWING himself to get sick before a critical game. We're talking about a 6'4 280 pound man that is the NFL's all time sack leader. Track and Field athletes can forget it. When they become ill they can't even take cold medicine without arising the suspicion of the anti doping agency. Baseball players are the boys of summer so this issue hardly comes into question. Basketball players typically get a pass if they miss only one game.

No one ever WANTS to get sick and most people take reasonable precautions to stay healthy. That being said I do think professional athletes should take better care of themselves than most people. They have the access to nutritionists, doctors, medications, and remedies your average person doesn't have. In addition, their physical attributes make them unique and not easily replaced. I'm not saying professional athletes don't have the right to get sick or that they should be punished for catching a cold, but if Tom Brady starts to feel a tickle in his throat I want him hitting the Echinacea and flooding his system with vitamin C before the problem causes him to miss a game. A lot is expected of these guys and it's only prudent to be pre-emptive. Your thoughts?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

BYU: The No Smashing School

Call it a cultural connection, call it intuition, or call it common sense, but the moment I heard Brandon Davies was dismissed from the BYU basketball team for violating the school's honor code I knew what happened. BYU has 9 rules that all students (unless they're married) must adhere to at all times:

1. Be honest.
2. Obey the law and campus guidelines.
3. Use clean language.
4. Respect others.
5. Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and substance abuse.
6. Participate in regular church services.
7. Observe the dress code and grooming standards.
8. Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the honor code.

As I suspected Brandon Davies broke rule #9. On just about every college campus in America having sex with your girlfriend is not a punishable offense by the school. It is assumed that young adults (mostly between the ages of 18 and 22) will engage in sexual activities without their morals or ethics being questioned. Is BYU at fault for kicking Brandon Davies off the team or is Brandon Davies at fault for having premarital sex?

Without question Brandon Davies is at fault. BYU has been consistent over the years in enforcing the honor code rules. In the early 90's they dismissed an all American running back for the same offense. The running back claimed he wasn't the only player having sex and that he was being singled out because his girlfriend was white and he was black. I personally don't feel the honor code has a racial component to it, but the whistle blowers may have ulterior motives when turning in the violators of certain rules.

The bottom line is the rules for BYU and their level of expectation are crystal clear. There is no ambiguity in the guidelines and students understand the rules and the consequences of breaking those rules before they ever crack a book. I think it's unrealistic to expect a star athlete to go 4 years without having sex (especially if they weren't virgins before attending BYU), but student athletes sign a letter of intent and that's that. Isn't this one of the main reasons BYU doesn't recruit very many blue chip prospects in the first place? My advice is don't go to BYU if you want to have premarital sex and if you do be sure there's no snitches around and stay in a sound proof room. Brandon Davies is not a victim, he just chose the wrong school for his lifestyle.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ray Allen vs. Allen Iverson: Who's The Better Guard?

I got into a heated discussion about who has had the better career, Ray Allen or Allen Iverson. We agreed that both players were future hall of famers and their credentials were undeniably stellar. There is no right or wrong answer to this question (no pun intended), but lets take it the the court of public opinion.

In Allen Iverson's defense:

Allen Iverson is the greatest player 6'0 or under the NBA has ever seen. His toughness is unquestioned and his body of work speaks for itself. Since being drafted #1 by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996 Allen Iverson has been a 10 time all star, led the league in scoring four times, made the all NBA team seven times (first team three times), has the 2nd highest playoff scoring average in history behind Michael Jordan, and was the 2001 league MVP. With his killer crossover and urban swagger Allen Iverson revolutionized basketball as we know it. He has left an indelible impression on the NBA landscape.

In Ray Allen's Defense:

Ray Allen is undoubtedly the best shooter of his generation. He was the #5 pick in the 1996 draft (the same draft as Allen Iverson) and has been a model of consistency ever since. Jesus Shuttlesworth is the NBA's all time leading three point shooter and a member of the 2008 NBA champion Boston Celtics. Throughout his career Ray Allen has been the consummate professional and someone you can count on to make big shots in the clutch. Ray Allen is also a 10 time all star and averaged over 26 points per game four times in his career.

Ray Allen has had a consistently good career, but not as spectacular as Allen Iverson's best seasons. Allen Iverson has put up remarkable numbers (especially for his size), but has never hoisted the Larry O' Brien trophy. Allen Iverson is the superior one on one player, but has never made his team mates better. Ray Allen has never carried a franchise on his back the way Allen Iverson has, but he's also never been a malcontent and a problem for management. No one has ever accused him of missing practice if you know what I'm saying.

If you had to start a franchise with one of these players knowing what you know now who would you pick? My pick is Ray Allen. You lose something in overall ability, but you don't take on the excess baggage associated with Allen Iverson. In the end you get a more consistent player who provides leadership and durability over time. Ray Allen has led his team to a championship (albeit with two other future hall of famers) where Allen Iverson was unable to achieve that accomplishment. You can't go wrong with either player, but in my estimation Ray Allen would be less risk for virtually the same production level. Your thoughts.