Saturday, April 30, 2011

Roger McDowell Should Watch More TV

More people in America have a television in their house than have running water so it's safe to say that someone who's made millions of dollars in their life probably has a TV. Apparently Roger McDowell didn't turn his on. Two weeks ago Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 and forced to give an apology to the gay and lesbian community for using a homophobic slur during a game. The public back lash was severe and his public image took a major blow The story was broadcast on every major affiliate across the country. Anyone with half a brain should be able to learn from this experience and try their best not to make the same mistake. Roger McDowell didn't learn the lesson because he made homophobic comments and crude gestures towards fans at a game in San Francisco just last weekend.

Roger McDowell is old school and doesn't fully grasp the ideology of the world he lives in. Roger played for the New York Mets when they were bigger than life and stars like Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, and Keith Hernandez were getting away with murder. In the past he's probably heard worse or said worse things to people without any acknowledgement whatsoever. In is mind players and coaches are above the fans and should be able to say whatever they want without any repercussions.

That attitude simply doesn't fly in today's world. The public is far more sensitive and reactionary. Homophobic slurs won't be tolerated. Roger McDowell knew the rules and chose to ignore them. He will find out the hard way how serious this matter is when he's unemployed. Do you think we'll hear a similar story in the future? It's only as matter of when, not if.

Friday, April 29, 2011

2011 Draft Day Observations

The first round of the 2011 NFL draft is over and it's time for the second guessing to begin. This draft lacked the enthusiasm of years past because of the labor strife between the owners and the players, but there was still quite a bit of intrigue. There were some great picks, statement picks, and players left on the board who had 1st round potential. Here are my draft day observations.

Great Picks:

Marcell Dareus - Buffalo. The Buffalo Bills had the worst run defense in the league last year and drafted the best defensive tackle available. He will fit into their system and start to pay dividends immediately. Marcell is a can't miss prospect.

Blaine Gabbert - Jacksonville. Blaine has the luxury of coming into a situation where he is not expected to start right away. David Garrard is the incumbent, but he doesn't have a lot of margin for error. If the Jaguars get off to a good start Blaine will most likely sit his rookie season. If they struggle look for him to make his debut in week 9 or 10.

Nick Fairley - Detroit. At one time Nick Fairley was projected to go as high as #1, but now he gets to play with Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch. Detroit's defensive line reminds me of the Philadelphia Eagles back in the day with Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, and Jerome Brown. If Matt Stafford can stay healthy, the Lions will make the playoffs.

Statement picks:

AJ Green - Cincinnati. Might this pick signal the end of the Chad Johnson's Bengal career? The Bengals generally don't trade disgruntled players, but word on the street is they are tired of Chad's antics and are ready to cut their losses. This pick echoes that sentiment.

Julio Jones - Atlanta. Atlanta moved up 21 spots to get this guy. Obviously the front office decided the Falcons need more explosive play makers on offense and Julio Jones fits the bill. I guess Roddy White isn't quite on that level.

Mark Ingram - New Orleans. This pick officially ends the Reggie Bush era for the Saints. Although Reggie Bush is a dynamic player with great versatility, his career has been plagued by injuries and questions about his ability to run inside. Not to worry, his former USC coach will be giving him a call.

Best Players still available:

Akeem Ayers - UCLA. Since I'm a Husky alum I got a chance to see Akeem play quite a bit. He has uncanny football instincts and great athleticism. He could excel in a 3-4 defense for sure.

Andy Dalton - TCU. Andy Dalton is an accurate passer that would be perfect to run the west coast offense. His draft stock has fallen out of the first round because of questions about his size. I'd be surprised if he lasted 10 more picks though.

DaQuan Bowers - Clemson. DaQuan was originally projected to be a top 5 pick before questions about his knee began to surface. The NFL guys do a lot of evaluation prior to the draft so they may know something I don't, but if his knee isn't as bad as they think someone will be getting a steal in the next 2 rounds.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Please Don't Pick Jake! Why The Seahawks Should Pass On Jake Locker

There has been speculation for months that if he is still available at the 25th pick the Seattle Seahawks will select Jake Locker in the NFL draft. If the rumors are true it will be a mistake the Seahawks will regret for years to come. On the surface it looks like a perfect match with a fairy tale ending. The Seahawks are in desperate need of a quarterback as Matt Hasselbeck remains unsigned with questions about his effectiveness going forward. Jake Locker is the hometown hero that single handedly resurrected the Washington Husky football program. He is a unique physical specimen with exceptional leadership skills and a winning attitude. If Jake could couple those intangibles with the skill set NFL teams look for he could have a promising career.

There in lies the problem. I think Jake Locker will struggle with the speed of the game and the precision necessary to be a good quarterback. NFL defenses are complex and you can't depend on sheer athleticism and raw talent to get you by. I've watched every collegiate game Jake Locker has ever played in and he's always had troubles with his accuracy. Instead he's relied on his ability to improvise and keep plays alive. Those things are important in the NFL, but not as important as reading defenses and putting the ball where it needs to be when it needs to be there.

Given the right set of circumstances Jake Locker could be a productive player in the NFL, but the Seahawks are not a good fit. Their running game is below average, the offensive line is suspect, and Jake would be pressed into action before he was ready. The best situation for Jake is a team where he can sit behind a veteran quarterback and learn the game for a few years. In Seattle the fans would be calling for Jake after every Hasselbeck incomplete pass (or whoever is starting at quarterback). He would be rushed into service and the results would be disasterous. The last thing you want to see is the hometown hero fail in his hometown. The Seahawks should avoid temptation and address other deficiencies the team has. It's the best decision for both sides.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Don't Call Me Junior! The 5 Greatest Athletes Of Former Players

As I was watching the Lakers game last night Patrick Ewing Jr. entered the contest in th 4th quarter. His contribution wasn't spectacular, but it immediately triggered two distinct thoughts. The first thought was I'm getting old before my very eyes because I remember Patrick Ewing's freshman year at Georgetown like it was yesterday (in reality it was 30 years ago). My second thought was the trend of athletes following in their father's footsteps is going to be the next phenomenon in professional sports. It's only natural to make the transition into the "family business" especially when the business can provide you with celebrity status and financial wealth for the rest of your life. Why not benefit from the genes and the experience passed down from the previous generation? Although this trend will gain popularity in the next 10 to 15 years it is far from original. Here is a list of the five greatest athletes of former players.

5. Peyton Manning. He is the consummate professional, a role model, and the prototype of what a quarterback should be. Before his career is over Peyton will re-write the record books for passing and win at least two Super Bowls. Without question he is the face of the NFL.

4. Floyd Mayweather Jr. If you listen to him he's the greatest fighter of all time. That's a bit of a stretch, but Floyd Mayweather Jr. is undoubtedly the best pound for pound boxer in the world today and arguably the best fighter of the last 25 years. Of course one more fight would quiet all the skeptics and end the speculation.

3. Ken Griffey Jr. The Kid won 10 straight gold gloves, appeared in 13 all star games, won the AL MVP in 1997, and was voted to baseball's all century team. Safeco Field is affectionately referred to as the house that Griffey built because of his immense popularity as a Seattle Mariner.

2. Barry Bonds. I won't bore you with unbelievable stats, accomplishments, and accolades, but it's safe to say Barry Bonds is one of the greatest baseball players that ever lived. Even if you think his baseball legacy is tainted with allegations of steroid use you have to admit Barry Bonds was special on the field.

1. Kobe Bryant. The Lord of the Rings is in pursuit of his sixth championship and his second threepeat. After this season Michael Jordan will have to move over to make room on the platform of the greatest player ever. Jordan fans don't like to hear it, but the torch has been passed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

HTB Statements

It's time for another installment of HTB statements. For those of you not familiar with what HTB means HTB refers to statements that are hard to believe. Here's a few for your reading pleasure.
1. Jim Tressel may actually lose his job at Ohio St. for lying to the NCAA.
2. The Seattle Mariners are just as pathetic as they were last year.
3. Tim Duncan only scored 6 points in a playoff game.
4. 50 year old John McEnroe is as feisty (and talented) as he ever was on the court.
5. Floyd Mayweather Jr. still refuses to fight Manny Pacquiao.
6. Nick Collison will make $13,270,000 this year.
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn't won a race in 3 years yet remains the highest paid driver in NASCAR
8. The Kentucky basketball program made it a whole year without getting on probation.
9. 60% of all NBA players are bankrupt 5 years out of the league.
10. Kobe Bryant is refusing to take an MRI on his injured ankle and the Lakers are allowing it.
11. The Alabama Crimson Tide had 93,000 people in attendance FOR THE SPRING GAME!
12. 7 of the 32 starting NFL quarterbacks were the #1 overall pick in the draft.
It's time for another installment of HTB statements. For those of you not familiar with what HTB means HTB refers to statements that are hard to believe. Here's a few for your reading pleasure.
1. Jim Tressel may actually lose his job at Ohio St. for lying to the NCAA.
2. The Seattle Mariners are just as pathetic as they were last year.
3. Tim Duncan only scored 6 points in a playoff game.
4. 50 year old John McEnroe is as feisty (and talented) on the tennis court as he ever was.
5. Floyd Mayweather Jr. still refuses to fight Manny Pacquiao.
6. Nick Collison will make $13,270,000 this year.
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn't won a race in 3 years yet remains the highest paid driver in NASCAR
8. The Kentucky basketball program made it a whole year without getting on probation.
9. 60% of NBA players are bankrupt 5 years out of the league.
10. Kobe Bryant is refusing to have an MRI on his ankle and the Lakers are allowing it.
11. The Alabama Crimson Tide had 93,000 people in attendance FOR THE SPRING GAME!
12. 7 of the 32 starting NFL quarterbacks were the #1 overall pick in the draft.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Brandon Marshall Will Ruin The Miami Dolphins

Just when you think NFL owners are greedy, pompous, self righteous, and arrogant Brandon Marshall reminds us of the financial risk they take and the unstable environment players often create for themselves and their organization. Brandon was acquired by the Miami Dolphins last year and signed a 4 year deal worth 47.5 million dollars (24 million guaranteed). Despite a long list of off the field problems including domestic violence, disorderly conduct, and drunken driving the Dolphins took a chance on Brandon in hopes that a change of scenery and an obscene amount of money would change his behavior. The gamble paid dividends last year as Brandon became Miami's biggest offensive threat and the team's best receiver. Now the investment seems to be turning sour.
Brandon Marshall was hospitalized Friday for injuries sustained during a domestic violence dispute. Like so many NFL players Brandon's greatest strengths are also his greatest weaknesses. The passion, intensity, and aggression that yield results on the field are the same attributes that get him into trouble off the field. Although the money was supposed to change his demeanor and personality that is clearly not the case. Brandon continues to be a distraction and a liability for the Dolphins. His abilities are not enough to off set the drama and excess baggage that surrounds him. It is only a matter of time before something happens that puts the organization in an uncompromising position.
The Miami Dolphins should cut their losses with Brandon Marshall while there's still time. There is a pattern in his behavior that suggests these off the field issues will persist and there's no solution in sight. For every first down reception or touchdown there will be an outburst and an incident with the authorities. Brandon is who he is and there is no changing that. You wish there was an alternate ending to this soap opera, but there's not. Brandon has had multiple chances to prove he is capable of delivering in the field without becoming a malcontent off of it. The experiment hasn't worked. On to the next one.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Novak Djokovic Deserves Respect

Over the years tennis has become a sport featuring compelling rivalries. We've seen Borg vs. McEnroe, Navratilova vs. Everet, Williams vs. Williams, and Agassi vs. Sampras. The latest installment is Roger Federer vs. Raphael Nadal. As Roger made his ascent to power and claim on the title "Best tennis player ever" Nadal has always been the fly in the ointment. Nadal is Federer krytonite. When no one else seemed capable of beating Federer, Nadal repeatedly won grand slams (Especially the french Open) and served as a legitimate threat to the Federer legacy. The melodrama has made for exciting tennis. In the 2011 season a new twist has been added to the mix. There is a 3rd arch nemesis whose results have far exceeded expectation. He's kicked down the door of men's tennis and is officially in the conversation of the world's top player. Novak Djokovic has decided to crash the party.

Novak has won 24 straight matches this year and has beaten both Federer and Nadal. It could be argued that he is playing the best tennis out of the three. The schedule is turning in Nadal's favor however as we enter the clay court season. Nadal has already won his 7th consecutive Monte Carlo title and will be going for his 6th French Open title tying the great Bjorn Borg. Now that he has two menacing foes to conquer the feat may not be so easy to pull off.

It's still all about Federer and Nadal in the tennis world, but Djokovic is going to make this season interesting. The world's number two player will come up with some upsets along the way. Don't be surprised when they call his name to hoist one of those big shiny gold trophies this summer.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why Do Athletes Need To See A Shrink?

When I attended the University of Washington I wanted to be a sports psychologist. I wanted to help hitters concentrate on the curveball, golfers with their putting, and kickers with their confidence. In short, I wanted to help the players with their problems. If I had it to do all over again I'd still want to be a sports psychologist, but my focus would be different. Instead of focusing on the mechanics I'd focus on the lifestyle aspect of athletics and the challenges that come with it. How you handle exorbitant amounts of money, loose women, unrealistic expectations, disappointment, and media scrutiny are just as important as the fundamentals of the game these days.
The world has become more interactive and privacy no longer exists. The actions of a person can become public knowledge for the entire world in a matter of seconds. Athletes today need someone they can turn to that has no agenda, a person that is bound by law to keep their conversations private and confidential. A psychologist's office can serve as an outlet and a sanctuary, a place where athletes can be themselves and speak freely without the whole world judging them. They can speak about turning into a villain overnight because they want to play with their friends or closer to home (Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony). They can speak about the pressures of living a double life and losing hundreds of millions of dollars in endorsement money (Tiger Woods). they can speak about the dark cloud hovering over them since their admission of drug use (Alex Rodriguez). They can speak about infidelity and the public back lash(tony Parker).
Athletes have too much to lose by being honest with people. Half of the things that go on in their lives could ruin them if anybody found out. With so many opportunists and people looking to leverage their relationship it's good to have someone around that's paid to listen without prejudice. You'd be surprised how refreshing and uplifting it is to get things off your chest. I doubt these guys will take my advice, but if they did they would feel better about themselves. It never hurts to talk to someone that won't betray your trust.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Is Brandon Roy Being Disrespected?

As everyone knows I predicted Portland in their playoff match up against Dallas. Even though they trail 2-0 I'm still confident they can win two games at home and tie the series up. I have even more motivation to root for the Trailblazers since the Brandon Roy saga began. After the game two loss Brandon commented on the disappointment he felt in his lack of playing time. As the face of the franchise Brandon thought he should have been in the game contributing to the success or failure of his team. Does he have a point?

From coach Nate McMillan's perspective he put the players on the court he thought gave his team the best chance to win. Since coming back from knee surgery Brandon has struggled with his consistency and his confidence. Truth be told he looked a bit shaky out there in game one. As a coach it is Nate's job to make tough decisions that may not be popular and may hurt some feelings. In his estimation Brandon wasn't able to compete at the level the Blazers needed to win.

From Brandon's perspective it's the playoffs and he wants to leave it all on the court. He's carried the Portland franchise for years and even though he's lost a step or two he can still contribute in a positive manner. There's no way to tell if he's going to be a "liability" if he doesn't get the chance and opportunity to prove himself. It's inexcusable to have an all star capable of scoring 30 points in a game sitting on the bench for fear he may not be able to perform. In Brandon's mind he's earned the benefit of the doubt.

I'm pulling for Brandon. As a Seattle native I root for all the 206 guys, but especially Brandon. He's taken the leadership role to heart and wants to win more than anything. My guess is coach McMillan will increase his minutes in game three. Let's hope Brandon seizes the time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rich King: NBA Bust Or Success Story?

As I walked into Uptown Espresso the other day to get my usual white chocolate mocha I noticed a giant in the line in front of me. When I say giant, I mean giant! This guy looked like he was easily 7 feet tall with hands the size of oven mitts. As the Barista gave him his coffee and said "thanks Rich" it dawned on me that it was Rich King. Rich King is a former first round pick of the Seattle Supersonics back in 1991. The 7'2 center from Nebraska had an injury plagued career that only lasted 4 years. If it was hard for me to remember who Rich King was (I am the self-proclaimed expert on all things sports related) I seriously doubt anyone else recognized him. What must that be like?
20 years ago everybody wanted an autograph and wondered would this skilled big man be the next Jack Sikma. The Sonics organization had high hopes for Rich and the future seemed bright. As the injuries took their toll it became evident that Rich was not going to be the answer to the Sonics problems in the middle and his career came to a screeching halt. No more autographs and no more interviews, just everyday life in complete anonymity. People stop and stare because he's 7'2, not because he's Rich King of the Seattle Supersonics. That has to cause a dramatic change in your mindset and probably creates an identity crisis of sorts.
Before you start feeling sorry for Rich King I'm happy to inform you he's doing just fine. He started an investment company with former NBA star Detlef Schrempf and is a licensed financial analyst. He parlayed his NBA salary and contacts into a comfortable lifestyle. He may not be pitching mouth wash or body spray, but he's not selling hot dogs on the corner either. Rich King is an example of an athlete who found a way to flourish in the real world after all the cheering stopped and everybody didn't know his name. In the grand scheme of things Rich King is a success story, not a failure.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Do Athletes Deserve Forgiveness?

I believe in second chances. I believe that young men and women often make mistakes they regret and are truly sorry for. There's a lesson to be learned with every experience and so long as the person accepts responsibility for their actions they should be allowed to atone for their bad judgement. Circumstances often dictate what a person is capable of doing in a given situation. Sometimes desperation, poverty, and peer pressure make people do things they shouldn't. It is how they respond to the adversity that makes them a better person. That being said there's no substitute for common sense and some decisions are so ridiculous they defy explanation.

Such was the case a few weeks back when Deion Bonner walked onto the University of Georgia campus and stole i pads and i phones from the lockers of several Georgia football players. Deion is considered one of Georgia's top 10 football recruits. He was a virtual lock to be rewarded with a scholarship to a division I school and an opportunity to fulfill his dream of playing pro football. How about now? Would you give someone a second chance that doesn't have enough common sense to stay out of trouble when everyone is watching? Does he deserve the benefit of the doubt? Could he possibly give an explanation that explains his actions?

In the end Deion Bonner's talent level will determine whether someone will take the chance on him or not. Cam Newton, Randy Moss, and Scott Skiles were all kicked out of school for similar infractions yet were able to turn their lives around. Let's hope for Deion sake his lack of common sense hasn't ruined his football career before it ever started. I'm pulling for the kid, but it doesn't look good

Monday, April 18, 2011

The NHL vs. The NBA

This time of year gives sports fans the unique opportunity of following two major sports at the same time during their championship run. The NHL makes its quest for Lord Stanley's Cup while the NBA embarks on its journey for the Larry O'Brien trophy. In cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia the teams have to battle for the interest of fans and marketers alike, but in cities like Oklahoma City, San Jose, and Vancouver, the teams have the city's undivided attention. I was asked by a friend of mine which sport I thought had the better fans. My answer may surprise you.
Overall the NBA has a bigger fan base than the NHL. The NBA draws better attendance for home games, generates more revenue, and resonates with the casual sports fan more than hockey. Your average person may not be able to tell you who Alexander Ovechkin, Daniel Sedin, or Patrick Kane are, but they certainly could identify Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, or Shaquille O' Neal. Basketball players are more visible and more marketable in the United States. Hockey's fan base is primarily in Canada where 30% of the country's population resides in three cities (Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto). It's impossible for hockey to compete if you were to use the actual number of fans as the barometer. That being said I think the NHL has a more loyal and rabid fan base. Because there are fewer teams in the NHL and more cities where hockey is the only game in town fans tend to support those teams with more passion and enthusiasm. Wins and losses are much more critical.
The game is more important in hockey where as the event itself is the main attraction for the NBA. Courtside seats, HD Lounges, and after parties can be just as entertaining as the outcome of the game for NBA fans. NHL fans would prefer to watch a good old fashioned slug fest with a hot dog and a beer. The fans in Vancouver for game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals are more excited than the fans in LA for game 7 of the NBA championship, there's just less of them.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Free Ichiro

When Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik asked the Seattle fans to be patient with the rebuilding process I decided to comply with his request. I vowed to sit back and wait to see if the Mariners showed any progress with hopes that things would be different this season. When Seattle started out 2-0 I was optimistic the ball club was on the right path. Since then the Mariners are 2-10 and still can't score any runs. Same old story. The one player I fell sorry for in this whole situation is Ichiro Suzuki. He deserves a better fate.

It's an unwritten rule in professional sport that you don't let superstars rot on the vine. You don't let them waste their talents in no win scenarios toiling away in anonymity. In short, you send them to a playoff contender so they can show the world what they are capable of and give them a chance to win a championship. The Mariners aren't going to get better any time soon and by the time the team is respectable Ichiro will be old and his skill will have diminished.

From a selfish perspective I don't want Ichiro to leave, but as a true fan it pains me to see this great player playing for a garbage team. 10 straight gold gloves, 10 straight all star appearances, and 10 straight 200+ hit seasons are accomplishments that shouldn't be wasted on a team that loses 100 games a season. The honorable thing to do is trade Ichiro at the trade deadline for players that will become stars in a few years. If the plan is to build for the future what better way to do it than trade your hall of fame right fielder while he still has tremendous trade value? That's what I would do. Let's see what Jack's plans are.

Friday, April 15, 2011

2011 NBA Playoff Preview

The 2011 NBA playoffs begins with a much different landscape than in years past. The subplots are much more compelling. The MoHeatos begin their quest to prove the world wrong and live up to unrealistic expectation. The Spurs and Celtics are trying to prove they still got it. The Oklahoma City Thunder are hoping to give their best Muhammad Ali impersonation (We shook up the world!). Superman is trying to fix the hole in his cape and the "Melo" drama begins in the Garden. Joe Johnson may come to the realization he is nothing more than Rashard Lewis 2.0. You would think with so many intriguing subplots the first round would be suspenseful. On the contrary the first round offers only one upset (I'll give you a hint: It's a team from Texas). Here are the first round winners.

Eastern Conference

Chicago over Charlotte. The Bobcats earned the opportunity to host two more home games this season and that's something to build on for the future. The Chicago Bulls are on a mission however and the future is now. Chicago 4-0.

Miami over Philadelphia. Although Miami has a tendency to play down to its competition the Heat have too much talent and playoff experience to lose this series. Philly might squeak out one, but that's it. Miami 4-1.

Boston over New York. Even if Carmelo Anthony does his best Bernard King impersonation the Celtics have too much experience and too much riding on this playoffs. The wild card is Chauncey "Mr Big Shot" Billups. If he can light up Rajon Rondo the Knicks could make it interesting. That's all though. Boston 4-2.

Orlando over Atlanta. As I mentioned previously, Joe Johnson has yet to prove he's worthy of superstar status and the Hawks have been a dysfunctional team all year. Orlando 4-0

Western Conference

San Antonio over Memphis. This cast of wily veterans knows the window of opportunity is closing rapidly and the key to success is health and rest. They will waste no time with Memphis. San Antonio 4-0.

Los Angeles over New Orleans. Not only do the players have a significant advantage in playoff experience, head coach Monty Williams is entering his first playoff game while Phil Jackson is entering his 10,596th (not really, but he's coached a lot more than Monty). Lakers in a smack down. Los Angeles 4-1

Portland over Dallas. The upset of the playoffs! Although the Mavericks will have the best player on the court in Dirk Nowitzki the Blazer front line of Camby, Aldridge, and Wallace will give Dallas fits. Since 2006 the Mavs haven't shown the ability to respond to adversity or pressure. Mark Cuban is already beginning to panic. Portland 4-2.

Oklahoma City over Denver. By the time this series is over George Karl will be eating his words about how much better the Nugget's are without Carmelo Anthony. It would be nice to have someone at least pretend they could match Kevin Durant's 30 points a game on a consistent basis. In addition, George Karl doesn't make the proper adjustments in the playoffs when the situation calls for it. Oklahoma City 4-1.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lebron Beats Kobe

I thought Lebron James was mean and insensitive? I thought the whole world hated him for the classless manner in which he announced he was taking his talents down to South Beach? I thought no one would ever forgive him for cutting out the heart of Cleveland fans and throwing it into Lake Erie? I thought everyone considered him a punk for leaving his team to go play with his friends? As it turns out none of that is the case because the so called villain of the NBA had the top selling jersey this year surpassing Kobe Bryant. The hooper you love to hate has suddenly become America's most wanted. It is clear from the jersey sales that a lot of the media backlash over "the decision" was not indicative of how the fans really felt. Truth be told the media frenzy Lebron had to endure probably generated some fans he didn't have before. Lebron James is out of the dog house (for now), but the same can not be said for the Black Mamba.

in the heat of the moment during Tuesday's win over the Spurs Kobe Bryant was caught on camera uttering a homophobic slur towards referee Bernie Adams. He was fined $100,000 by the NBA and for now the gay and lesbian community has labeled him public enemy #1. I don't condone the language Kobe used, but I do think it was taken out of context. I doubt Kobe Bryant hates all gay and lesbian people. The punishment was justified however and the NBA acted quickly and properly concerning this issue. My guess is that's the last we'll hear about this. Stay tuned.

As for Lebron beating Kobe, that scenario will only happen off the court. There is little chance the MoHeatos will get to the NBA finals and if they do the Black Mamba will be waiting. There is no derailing the train to immortality for the Lakers and Kobe Bryant is the conductor. After this season Michael Jordan will have to scoot over to make room on the greatest ever platform. NOBODY is getting in the way of that. Playoff preview tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sacramento Needs To Move On

Barring a last second miracle the Sacramento Kings will play their last game tonight at Arco Arena against the Los Angeles Lakers. It will be an emotional game with playoff implications and an opportunity for the fans to say one last goodbye after a marvelous 26 seasons. Over the years the Sacramento fans have stuck by the Kings through the good times and the bad. Of all the issues surrounding the imminent move no one can say the team is relocating because they lack fan support. The Kings fans turn out whether the team wins 25 or 52 games. Their love for the team is unconditional. Still, in this new economic climate of professional sports fan participation is not the ultimate factor in determining if a team stays or goes.
It all comes down to income streams provided by state of the art arenas. No longer is the product on the court the most important thing. An owner nowadays would rather have a losing team in a brand spanking new facility than an NBA champion in some run down coliseum. Luxury suites, naming rights, and advertisement potential are all that matters. The fans are simply a pawn in a chess game played by billionaires. They move the pieces around indiscriminately with no regard for the emotional and psychological impact it may have on the city as a whole.
With the exception of the Green Bay Packers no team in professional sports is exempt from the possibility of relocation. Money wins over tradition every time. It is a reality sports fans will have to come to grips with sooner than later. The emotional investment into a city's team could very well have diminishing returns in the future. As ludicrous as it sounds you could wake up one day to find your favorite team playing in Anaheim, Kansas City, Charlotte, or Oklahoma City. There is no guarantee the love you show for a team will be reciprocated. Unless you supply a team with monetary compensation the door is always open to leave. Attention all city officials, when the owner comes to you and says build me a new arena just do it or suffer the consequences. If you don't believe me ask the fans in Seattle and Sac Town.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Legacy Of Manny Ramirez

When you think of great players riding off into the sunset you typically envision some sort of retirement ceremony celebrating a storied career in front of cheering fans. In the case of Manny Ramirez he just called in like he was using a sick day and told major league baseball he was through with the game. If it were anyone else you might be surprised by the abrupt ending to a hall of fame career, but not Manny. Throughout his playing days Manny became an enigma for his aloof, quirky, strange personality. Whether you loved him, hated him, or just plain didn't understand him Manny Ramirez was one of the most colorful (and talented) baseball players of the last 50 years.
Since his days in Cleveland Manny has been one of my favorite players. I was heart broken when he signed with the Boston Red Sox because I knew I couldn't root for his team to do well. Boston (unless you're from there) is one of those teams you grow up hating and wish bad things upon. Somehow Manny made the Red Sox tolerable and I was genuinely happy for him (not the Sox) when he won his 2 world series titles there. With Manny there was never a dull moment and you learned to expect the unexpected. It wouldn't surprise you if he pulled out a cell phone in the middle of an at bat and roped a single up the middle. It wouldn't surprise you if he started eating a cheeseburger while catching a routine fly ball in left field. It wouldn't surprise you if he swung at a pitch over his head. Teams let him do whatever he wanted because they knew what he was capable of producing on the field.
From Cleveland to Boston to Los Angeles to Tampa Manny was consistent in his inconsistency. His talents could carry a team for months and his attitude in the club house could tear a team apart. If he wasn't such a great player there's no way in hell any organization would have put up with his antics. As we close the book on "Big Flossy" I wonder how he will be remembered. Will he be remembered as a steroid abuser? An unruly head case? A home run hitting RBI machine? However you remember him I guarantee Manny Ramirez is not a player you will soon forget.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tiger Is Not Out Of The Woods

Tiger Woods was so close to redemption on Sunday he could almost hear the silence of his critics. He possessed a share of the lead on several different occasions and put together a final round reminiscent of the pre-crash dominator. With a win at The Masters Tiger would have exorcised a lot of demons and proved he's still a force to be reckoned with. Instead he came up just a bit short and will have to settle for a moral victory. Will the new Tiger Woods ever play like the old Tiger Woods?

If I had to put my last $100 on it I would have to say no. The media scrutiny that took place last year had more of a cumulative affect than most people think. Once Tiger had the curtain pulled back with all his indiscretions exposed he could no longer focus solely on golf. He had to concentrate on his image while living a straight and narrow life predicated on balance and humility. With that lifestyle comes a compromise that has permanently altered his game. When he was only focused on being the best golfer in the world it showed. Now that he wants to be a better person it also shows. He's winning in his personal life, but his golf game has suffered as a result.

The public wants to see Tiger Woods regain his past form, but on their terms. They want him to say his prayers, eat his vitamins, and live a humble existence. That is not the formula that made him the athlete of the decade and the greatest golfer the world has ever seen. Without his vices and secret lifestyle Tiger is a shell of his former self. Wasn't the golf world a better place before everyone found out Tiger Woods was a scoundrel? Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Workout Cycle Part II

As I get ready for bed I have the workout routine all planned out in my head. I'll get up at 5:00, grab a protein bar, hit the pool for some serious laps, come back home, take a shower, and get ready for work. Simple. I go to sleep with visions of Michael Phelps in my head. Then 5:00 rolls around. The alarm clock goes off and it sounds like an air raid siren. I compose myself enough to jump out of bed and hit the snooze alarm. 5:09 rolls around and the same thing happens. When 5:18 rolls around I have to make a decision. Do I get up and get into the routine I promised myself I would, or do I lay in bed and get additional rest for my incredibly long, tedious work day. The 72 degree room, the comfy pillows, and the goose down comforter make a compelling argument. The desire to get back in shape and walk around South Beach with my shirt off also makes a compelling argument. In the end the pillows win and I go back to sleep for 90 minutes, but I vow to work out first thing after work. Again. This vicious cycle may sound familiar to some of you. The difficulty comes in putting enough importance on working out as opposed to the comforts of home. I wouldn't label myself as narcissistic, but I an somewhat vein. The thought of putting on 25 pounds and looking like Bill Cosby is a concern, but fortunately I've been able to maintain a fairly respectable stature. This is no excuse however and I know in my heart I have to start getting my lazy ass up and do something. Commit to working out either in the morning or at night. It all sounds good so long as I fight off the complacency demon that seems to take over whenever a choice has to be made. I have confidence I can win this fight, but everyday is a struggle. Hopefully writing this blog will illustrate to myself how much the benefits of working out outweigh the benefits of TV and Heineken. I'll let you guys know how it works out.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Workout Cycle Part I

Working out is essential to maintaining a healthy body and staying in good shape. My friend Paul Butler and his wife have dedicated an entire blog (The Butler Way) to the benefits of running and the results attributed to a healthy diet and a solid regiment. They are living proof the program works. I myself am a bit lazy. I used to be the guy that played pick up basketball with his friends and tennis on the weekends, but after rupturing two Achilles tendons (one during basketball and one during tennis) anxiety and fear keeps me off the courts. The gym is the only solution to getting in a good workout.

I start my morning by making plans to go to the gym after I get off of work. I get pumped up to get in the pool and do some serious laps. As I start my work day I watch people jogging on Lake Union and it motivates me. I can't wait until the work day is over so I can stay healthy like them. The work day runs its course, I do my after work errands, I battle the long commute, and get home around 7. It's generally a long day and by 7:15 my motivation begins to wane. Instead of putting on my swim trunks and heading to the gym I turn on the TV and watch ESPN. Most of the time the have a good sporting event on so I sit down and watch. I know if I grab a beer and sit too long I probably won't make it to the gym. I grab one anyway, then another, and before you know it it's 9:00 and my motivation is completely shot. I feel guilty for not executing the plan and following up on my goals, but I have an easy fix to the problem. I'll work out in the morning!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dennis Rodman Is Not A Hall Of Famer

My initial reaction when I heard Dennis Rodman had been inducted into the basketball hall of fame was that his 5 championship rings gave him a lot of credibility. He was an integral part of the Bad Boys in the late 80's and the 2nd Chicago Bulls three peat in the mid 90's. His defensive and rebounding prowess made him a unique talent, however I still questioned whether he was worthy of the hall of fame or not. If you look at the numbers it's not even close.
For an entire career Dennis Rodman averaged 7.3 points and 13 rebounds per game. He never averaged more than 3 assists and didn't block any shots. If you don't factor in the intangibles there's no way to make a compelling argument. Dennis Rodman had the ability to guard 4 different positions on the court and his tenacious defense, intensity, and energy helped his teams win at a high level. David Robinson and Michael Jordan both won league MVP awards while Dennis was a team mate and his ability to shut down the opposing team's best player shouldn't go unnoticed. Does that make him a hall of famer though?
I've always been able to look past Dennis Rodman's colorful personality and assess him solely on his basketball skills. Never mind the tattoos, piercings, hair color, wedding dresses, and kisses with RuPaul. He was a hell of a basketball player that won defensive player of the year 2 twice, first team all defense 7 times and the rebounding title 7 times. He routinely shut down the leagues most prolific scorers and frustrated big men to no end. I will look back on the career of Dennis Rodman with fond memories and acknowledgement of his impact on the game. When I look at his entire body of work however (as hard as I try) I don't see a hall of fame basketball player. Your thoughts.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

When Fans Attack

It's hard to imagine that rivalries in sports can invoke enough emotion and anger to beat someone senseless into a coma. Such was the case last week at Dodger Stadium when Bryan Stow was brutally attacked for wearing a San Francisco Giants Jersey. There is no way to predict how ignorant fans will respond in a hostile environment so what's the solution for these random acts of violence? Do we tell fans they can't wear jerseys of the opposing team at home games? Do we add security to sporting venues? Do we tell patrons they can only root for one team?
As a trash talking sports fan I've been on both ends of the spectrum. I've been the guy in the sports bar rooting for the Lakers when everyone else was rooting for the Celtics. I've been the guy heckling Steeler fans after Super Bowl XL. I've been the guy throwing eggs at WSU students during Apple Cup weekend. Too often sports fans project themselves into the role of team protector. They feel the need to defend their squad against anyone who doesn't share their opinion and opposes their views. Fans poison trees in Alabama. Fans fire employees for wearing a tie with the opponents emblem on it. Michigan Wolverine fans refuse to do business with anyone associated with The Ohio St. University. Sports fans can be irrational to say the least, but you should never have to fear for your safety because of the team you cheer for. The same things that make sports so popular are the same things that make sports so ugly. I seriously doubt the fans that attacked Bryan Stow meant to cause permanent brain damage. I think they wanted to protect their turf and let outsiders know they weren't appreciated. THey took their make believe role too seriously. This unfortunate incident is an example of what can happen when fans don't keep things in perspective. Hopefully it will serve as a reminder to unruly fans that they are not the ones participating in the sport and physical violence predicated on the outcome of a game is grossly inappropriate.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

UConn Wins, I Guess

I sat through the game, but it was absolute torture. My dad called me at halftime to ask me what the score was and when I told him 22-19 he said, "how much time is left in the first half?" Realizing how ridiculous the score sounded I knew it would take some convincing. "It's halftime." "Of the national championship game I mean." "Yeah, it's 22-19." "Clea, these chumps have only scored 19 points in a half of basketball?" "Yep." "College basketball ain't sh*t no more is it?" "Nope." Being the sports fan that I am I can watch anyone play hoop. I can watch the Lakeside 5th grade girls game and still find a silver lining. Last night's championship game had no silver linings. I had to watch the game to the end just for the suspense factor, but I got no enjoyment out of it. The McDonald's All American team could have blown out either one of those guys last night. If UConn and Butler were the 2 best teams in the country what does that say about college basketball as a whole? The system is broken and if they don't fix it soon college basketball will lose even die hard fans like myself(not really, but can I see some real hoop please?). The good news is Jim Calhoun gets to go out a winner before the NCAA wolves come huffing and puffing and blowing his house down about recruiting violations. Coach Calhoun is guilty as sin, but who wants to prosecute a 69 year old coaching legend? This way he gets to ride off into the sunset as 1 of only 5 coaches to win 3 or more national championships. That's an impressive feat irregardless of how ugly the game was.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Jimmy Johnson: The Modern Day John Madden

When I think of Jimmy Johnson I think of the charismatic, egotistical coach led the Miami Hurricanes to a national championship and the Dallas Cowboys to back to back Super Bowls in the early 90's. In recent years Jimmy Johnson has re-invented himself into the 2011 version of John Madden. Jimmy pitches everything from natural male enhancements to dandruff shampoos to appearances on the reality show Survivor. What's behind the transformation? Just like Madden before him Jimmy Johnson has mastered the art of parlaying Super Bowl rings into endorsement riches. No longer is the hall of fame coach viewed as an X's and O's guy, but rather a personality the public feels comfortable with. Companies pushing their product understand the importance of branding and the association with a persona synonymous with winning. That is a perception Jimmy Johnson embodies and corporate America is reaping the benefits. Football is a business and if you're lucky you can continue to be viable and profitable long after your playing and coaching days are over. Typically sports fans relate to the athletes more than coaches, but there are rare exceptions. Jimmy Johnson has the unique ability to attract a wide ranging demographic that transcends the game of football. Before long there will be a generation of consumers that won't remember Jimmy Johnson as the architect of talented, arrogant, dominant football teams just the guy with the honest face that tells it like it is. It's been over 15 years since he parted ways with the Dallas Cowboys and Jimmy Johnson has evolved into a persuasive and effective spokesman. The Super Bowl rings give him credibility and his personality gives him a marketing presence. Pretty soon we'll be asking ourselves who has the skills to be the next Jimmy Johnson. His name is Jon Gruden by the way.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

VCU And UConn In The Title Game

Much like the regular season the Final Four has no clear cut favorite. In fact the Final Four only has one All American and two legitimate pro prospects for the 2011 NBA draft. Although you can't equate the excitement of the games to how the players will perform on the next level, it is indicative of what college basketball has become. We don't watch the games to see future all stars, we watch the the games in anticipation of the unknown. Truth be told this tournament has been so wacky that no one can say with absolute certainty or conviction who will win. From Young Sam Rothstein's perspective however it's a whole different story.

The Vegas Gods have given me the crease I so desperately needed to get back on even ground. VCU is getting 3 points and so far they have covered the spread in every single game of the tourney. The feel good story, the little engine that could, the Mighty Ducks, or whatever you want to call them VCU seems to be a team of destiny. I'm gonna ride this pony off into the sunset with a satchel full of cash. My other money team is UConn +2 over Kentucky. UConn is the DJ Khaled of the tournament (all they do is win) and Kentucky is a little green. Jim Calhoun has a personal grudge against John Calipari that dates back to his days at UMass and he would relish the opportunity to show who's the better coach.

I must admit part of my decision making has to do with my dislike for the Kentucky program, but I'm getting points in a game where no one has a decided advantage. Butler has more experience yet Shaka Smart has the ability to make his team believe in themselves when no one else does. 3 points is safe. Good luck everyone. The next time I contact you it will be from a suite at the Aria. I'm already spending my winnings.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Should Isaiah Thomas Go Pro?

University of Washington point guard Isaiah Thomas has declared himself eligible for the 2011 NBA draft. He has not signed with an agent so if he doesn't like his draft status he can come back to the UW for his senior season. Is that a wise decision? Let's examine it from both sides.

If you ask yourself the question is Isaiah Thomas ready to play in the NBA today the answer is no. At 5'8 Isaiah will have a difficult time guarding taller point guards and his quickness would be considered average for his size. There is no distinct advantage he has on the next level. In addition, there is no collective bargaining agreement in place which means there's no guarantee of when and if the NBA season will start. From that perspective he should stay in school.

If you ask yourself the question does Isaiah Thomas have anything left to prove at the collegiate level the answer again is no. Isaiah has shown he can make the transition to the point guard position and few people in the country can match his toughness and shot making ability. It would be nice to get to the Final Four, but not necessary to validate his skills. Without signing with an agent the draft is an opportunity to see where he stands presently and if he doesn't like the results he can always come back. From that perspective he should test the market.

At present Isaiah Thomas is projected at the top of the 2nd round in the draft. That could all change depending on what other underclassmen decide about their eligibility and what scouts think after his NCAA tournament performance. If he came back for his senior season chances are he would be at least a 1st round pick, but there are no guarantees in this world and it never hurts to check your current status. My guess is he'll be back and I wish him luck either way it goes.