Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Did Jim Tressel Do The Right Thing?

Jim Tressel would like us to believe that he stepped down as the coach of Ohio St. for noble reasons. He'd like us to think he only did wrong to protect the university and its players from unwanted publicity and punishment. The reality is much different.

Jim Tressel RAN OUT on Ohio St. University because he knows what's about to happen. As hard as Jim Tressel and the athletic director tried to sweep the Ohio St. scandal under the rug the truth is starting to emerge. Improper benefits and the selling of bowl game memorabilia is just the tip of the iceberg.

Soon they will find out Terrelle Pryor received cars and his family received money. Soon they will find out other players were involved in money laundering schemes. Soon the will find out Jim Tressel knew all along and his squeaky clean professor like persona was nothing more than a charade.

We've seen this before when Tressel ran out on Youngtown St. before the school was sanctioned for NCAA violations. We saw this a few years back when Maurice Clarett spilled his guts about the gifts and special perks he received while playing at Ohio St. In each of those instances coach Tressel escaped by the skin of his teeth. This time the evidence is mounting like an avalanche and there's no way to avoid the embarrassment and humiliation on the horizon.

Jim Tressel reminds me of those slick talking preachers you see on TV. Every Sunday they're telling you how righteous they are and how you should avoid sin, but later you find out they have 3 children out of wedlock and run an online porn site. Jim Tressel has always pretended to be something he's not and when the truth is revealed he'll be exposed for the phony he is. There's no more fooling us with the sweater vests and khaki pants. Time to face the music coach.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Seattle Mariners Are For Real

As most of you know I hate to be wrong about my predictions and prognostications. Typically when this happens it's not that I was wrong, but rather someone wasn't doing what they were capable of (Kobe Bryant). Occasionally my predictions come up short because I don't give enough credit to a team and underestimate their abilities.

Such is the case with the Seattle Mariners. Last month I blogged that the Mariners were YEARS away from making a return to the playoffs and that management should trade Ichiro to a title contender. I was wrong. After beating the New York Yankees last night the Seattle Mariners are 25-25 a third of the way through the season and only 1/2 a game out of first place. How did I misread this situation?

I never expected the Mariners would get any production out of Erik Bedard. Ever since the team traded Adam Jones for the Orioles ace Bedard has been a disappointment. In his last 3 starts however Bedard has been virtually unhittable. In addition the Mariners welcomed back gold glove winner Franklin Gutierrez and parted ways with the cancerous Milton Bradley. Those two moves have done wonders for team chemistry and has the Mariners poised to make a run for the AL West title.

The San Francisco Giants provided the blueprint for success last year in the postseason. Great starting pitching and defense, timely hitting, and a solid bullpen can carry you a long way. The top of the Mariners rotation is stacked with Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, and Erik Bedard. If the team can continue to get quality starts out of Jason Vargas and Doug Fister combined with Brandon League to close out games on the back end there's no telling where the Mariners might end up. This time I'm glad I was wrong. Go Mariners!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Kim Kardashian Effect

Kris Humphries averaged 10 points a game for the woeful New Jersey Nets and he's on the cover of People magazine. Reggie Bush went from Heisman trophy winner to media sensation. Miles Austin started out a part time receiver and ended up being the biggest star in Texas. Lamar Odom went from Kobe's sidekick to Khloe's sweetheart. What do these 4 athletes have in common? The Kim Kardashian effect.

Kim Kardashian can make you famous. Whether you're the #2 pick in the NFL draft or a scrub reserve on a bad basketball team having Kim Kardashian on your arm puts you in the spotlight. The glamour queen has such an influence on pop culture her siblings even reap the benefits. Without the buzz surrounding Kim I seriously doubt the exploits of Khloe would warrant her having her own TV show. According to the Nielsen ratings more people watch shows about the Kardashians than watch the nightly news.

Kim Kardashian's impact on the sports world is superficial, but undeniable. Sketchers has her endorsing the same shoe as Joe Montana, Karl Malone, and Wayne Gretzky. ESPN goes out of their way to catch a glimpse of her at sporting events. Beat writers ask ridiculous questions about Kim instead of the team's performance. The trophy girl persona coupled with the superstar status is enough to turn a bench player into a household name. Kris Humphries will never make an all star team, but he might turn out to be just as popular as Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, or Lebron James. If you stand next to Kim good things can happen to you. What does that say about our society as a whole?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rumor Central: Kobe Smashed Pau's Girl

Laker Nation may be in trouble. According to my sources (a well known hair stylist in LA) the feud between Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol runs much deeper than we were led to believe. Word on the street is Kobe Bryant pulled a Tony Parker and slept with Pau Gasol's fiancee'. When Kobe's wife found out about it she confronted Silvia Lopez Castro and Castro admitted the truth. The betrayal led to bad chemistry in the locker room impacting not only the play of Gasol and Brynat, but also Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum. Apparently the "trust" issues Bynum was referring to during a post game interview had nothing to do with help defense.

To make matters worse Jim Buss went out and hired Mike Brown to replace Phil Jackson as coach of the Lakers. If Brown had difficulty controlling Lebron James and his entourage in Cleveland how can we expect him to handle this situation? Even if the rumors are exaggerated (my sources tell me different) Kobe is a handful on his best day and LA is a town that will swallow you whole if you're not careful. The Cavs were happy just to be relevant, but the Lakers expect nothing less than a championship every year. Any other outcome is unacceptable. The former Lebron James yes man is in way over his head.

If the rumors are true either Kobe or Pau must go and it won't be Kobe. Gasol will be the piece going to Orlando for Dwight Howard and not Andrew Bynum. This makes perfect sense because Jim Buss has gone on record saying Bynum is untradeable. Should the Lakers decide to stay pat with their current roster they run the risk of having these chemistry problems destroy the team from the inside out. Stay tuned.

Why Does Everyone Guarantee Victory?

It was cool when Joe Namath did it before Super Bowl III. It was cool when Pat Riley did it at the parade after the 87' championship. It was classic when Jimmy Johnson did it before the NFC championship game against San Francisco. The guarantee of victory has been exciting over the years as fans wait to see if the predictions come true. If the teams don't win the person making the prediction looks like a fool or a liar. If the teams win the person looks like a heroic genius. The anticipation leading up to the moment of truth is why these story lines played out in such dramatic fashion.

Nowadays the guarantee of victory has become watered down. Everybody does it. You see it happen during regular season games, you see it happen when a team is on a long losing streak, and you even see it happen when a coach is on the hot seat. The guarantee of victory is used as a motivational tool or a way to get attention more so than a personal belief. Players and coaches use the guarantee to establish a mindset for their team and their city because to expectation of winning is so critical to success. Some fans argue that the guarantee of victory puts too much pressure on players, but we hear them so often we don't take them seriously anymore. It's just talk.

There is no more "wow" factor associated with the guarantee of victory. It doesn't mean anything when everybody does it and no one feels disappointed if the guarantee doesn't happen. If you want to impress me with a guarantee of victory put something on it. Tell us you'll cut off all your hair or give away your Bentley if you lose. Tell us you'll clean the opposing teams locker room with your tooth brush. Without consequence the guarantee of victory is nothing more than an educated guess. It's time to put up or shut up.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rich Cho Got A Raw Deal

I'm not just saying this because I know the guy or because I'm good friends with his brother Andrew, I'm saying it because it's the truth. Rich Cho got a raw deal from the Portland Trailblazers. Less than a year into his tenure as general manager Rich Cho was let go by the Blazers organization for his inability to get along with upper management. According to several sources the personalities just didn't mesh.

This may be one of the lamest excuses of all time. Rich is an easy going, mild mannered man that can get along with virtually anyone. The Blazers have had 4 different general managers in the past 8 years so clearly the chemistry issues come from the top. Paul Allen is an extremely difficult person to work with and even more difficult to figure out what he wants.

The Blazers had a good season by most people's standards. They won 48 games despite a rash of injuries to Greg Oden, Marcus Camby and the face of the franchise Brandon Roy. The players have great fan support, no one got arrested, and LaMarcus Aldridge made 3rd team all NBA. At present the Blazers are still the only team to beat Dallas more than once in the playoffs. They did this without a single all star on their roster so we can safely say they overachieved this year.

You can't blame Rich Cho for taking Greg Oden over Kevin Durant. You can't blame Rich Cho for playing Brandon Roy less than a week after having knee surgery. You have to give Rich credit for adding size and athleticism in the form of Gerald Wallace. Truth be told Rich didn't even have a chance to conduct a draft for the Blazers before he was fired so we'll never know what he's truly capable of. What we do know is Paul Allen is impatient and impossible to communicate with and for that reason a good man lost his job. Sorry Rich, you deserved better.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ray Lewis Was Right

"Do this research. If we don't have a season - watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up, if you take away our game."

Ray Lewis comments on the impending lockout.

On the surface the comments made by Ray Lewis sound like the delusional rantings of an old man that takes himself and his profession too seriously. The world will not come to an end if there's no football. Football fans don't make up the majority of the population in this country. It is naive to think the American public won't find something constructive to do with their time on Sundays in the fall instead of posting up on the couch in front of the TV. Is there any validity to Ray Lewis statements whatsoever?

Actually there is. Crime will increase if there's no NFL football this season. Not in the dramatic fashion Ray predicted, but crime will increase. Football is an outlet for millions of people. Fans live vicariously through the players and support their favorite team more than their own families sometimes. I guarantee without football domestic violence and aggravated assaults will increase around the country. Home Depot, Ikea, and Costco are not substitutes for watching the New England Patriots against the New York Jets. Without football the guy that usually paints his face yellow and green and tailgates for 4 hours will be reduced to picking out paint samples and smelly candles. How long can they do that before they snap?

In the Philippines you can hear a pin drop in the streets when Manny Pacquiao is fighting. No one gets their purse snatched while the World Cup is on in England. Sports has a way of occupying our time and attention and without football there's no telling what might happen. There won't be anarchy, but trust me we'll hear some strange bizarre stories of crime and mischief if there's no football games. There will be disputes over the remote that end in violence. There will be touch football games that turn into brawls. There will be players with too much time and money on their hands fighting at strip clubs and getting pulled over for DUI's. It won't be like the LA riots, but crime will increase without football. Ray was right.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Is Derrick Rose The Next Jordan?

Derrick Rose is the youngest player in the history of the NBA to win an MVP trophy and has single handedly carried the Bulls on his back all season. The Chicago native is a pillar in the community and an example of what can happen when preparation meets opportunity. In a short time Derrick Rose has elevated his skills from a decent point guard with athleticism to a dominant player that can take over a game at any given moment. The more I watch the playoffs the more Derick Rose reminds me of Michael Jordan.

Before you critics and cynics get carried away with yourselves the resemblance is not on the court. I don't mean their games are similar or that Derrick Rose is capable of winning 6 championships. The resemblance comes during the time outs. Derrick Rose is in every other commercial. Just like Jordan he has become the straw that stirs the drink. He's a trailblazer that follows the beat of a different drummer. He does his own thing as opposed to following in the footsteps of others.

Instead of drinking Gatorade he drinks Powerade. Instead of wearing Nike he wears Adidas. When everyone else is pitching Big Macs for McDonald's you might see Derrick with a $5 foot long or a whopper with cheese. The President of the United States even considers him a personal friend. Just like Michael Jordan Derrick Rose isn't a businessman, he's a business, man! The endorsements keep rolling in because he has become synonymous with winning and greatness. It's obvious corporate America sees him as the future of the NBA.

Derrick is a humble, soft spoken, likeable superstar. His persona off the court is a stark contrast to his competitive nature on the hardwood. If he continues to play great basketball and contends for championships every year there's no reason to believe Derrick Rose won't become a global icon. Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Macho Man Tribute

It always started out with Mean Gene Okerlund asking him a bunch of asinine questions about his upcoming opponent. Mean Gene was an instigator by nature and liked to rattle the cage of the champ before a match. With all the swagger and bravado one can muster Macho Man Randy Savage would answer Gene's condescending questions in emphatic and dramatic fashion. Just as the interview was ending Randy would turn to his manager and say..... Elizabeth, down that aisle!

The ceremonial theme song Pomp and Circumstance would play as Randy entered the ring and you knew before long someone was going to get a flying elbow leading to an eventual three count. That was the Macho Man Randy Savage way.

I remember staying up late watching Saturday Night's Main Event hoping to see Savage annihilate his adversaries. There were epic battles with the Heenan Family, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, The Hart Foundation, and the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase. Macho Man talked a lot of trash (most wrestlers do), but he always backed it up.

Whether it was a cage match, a battle royal, or Wrestlemania Randy gave it 100%. When Hulk Hogan betrayed him by making inappropriate advance towards Miss Elizabeth, Savage challenged him to a duel in Wrestlemania V. Savage clearly had the match won, but the refs cheated and gave the victory to Hogan. Go figure.

I don't typically think of wrestlers as "sports icons", but Macho Man Randy Savage is one of my favorite athletes of all time. I even have his action figure on my desk at work for inspiration. Whenever someone is getting out line or testing my patience I imagine Savage coming off the top rope and smashing that person in the face. I live vicariously through his persona.

Before The Rock, John Cena, Stone Cold Steve Austin, or The Undertaker there was Savage. He was never as big as Hulkamania, but that's ok. True wrestling fans know who the better wrestler was. I'm not 13 anymore, but when I think of the Macho Man it takes me back to that carefree period in my life. A time when I might argue if wrestling was real or fake. A time when I thought a pile driver wouldn't cause permanent paralysis. In short, the legend of Randy Savage is a fond memory from my childhood. Macho Man's legacy will live on forever. The elbow will never be forgotten. Rest in peace big guy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Why Miami Beats Dallas In The NBA Finals

The 2011 NBA Playoffs have been all about spring cleaning. Out with the old and in with the new. The Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and the Boston Celtics have all gone fishing earlier than expected. The three franchises responsible for 10 of the last 12 championships began to show their age.

Kobe Bryant (14 years), Tim Duncan (13 years), Ray Allen (14 years) and Kevin Garnett (15 years) couldn't rekindle the magic of playoffs past when they needed it the most. The years of championship basketball, international play and injuries have taken their toll.

Father Time catches up with everyone eventually and these four future Hall of Famers have nothing to be ashamed of. Their accomplishments speak for themselves (11 rings between them) and we'll think of them fondly as the playoffs progress.

The early departure of these three great teams has cleared the path for the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks to meet in the Finals. Here are five reasons Miami will walk away victorious.

1. Miami eliminated Boston.

The Miami Heat cleared the biggest obstacle on their way to the championship by beating their arch nemesis the Boston Celtics in the second round. It was a major psychological hurdle to overcome and the Chicago Bulls will seem like child's play in comparison.

Derrick Rose will give the Heat fits, but the Bulls lack a dominant post presence and that's Miami's biggest weakness.

2. D Wade and Lebron are playing well together. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade learned how to play together and put the problems of the regular season behind them. Each player takes the game over in spurts as opposed to stepping on each other's toes. They both seem relieved they don't have to take all the shots for their team to win.

3. Mark Cuban. As a passionate fan and owner Mark Cuban, has the tendency to say or do the wrong thing at the wrong time. Whether it's criticizing the refs, fighting with David Stern or calling out the opposing team's best player, rest assured Mark Cuban will do something to cost his team a critical game.

4. Home court in the finals. There's nothing like the piece of mind that comes with playing a Game 7 at home in front of a roaring crowd. The Heat players feed off the energy and the fans give them confidence. With the 2-3-2 format of the Finals, the Heat understand that once they weather the storm in Dallas, victory is theirs.

5. Dirk Nowitzki. Like the Miami Heat, the Dallas Mavericks also took care of their arch nemesis by eliminating the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round. It was a major accomplishment, but winning the NBA Finals is a different story. I don't think Dirk Nowitzki has ever fully recovered emotionally or psychologically from the 2006 meltdown. When the bright, bright lights come on Dirk, will succumb to the pressure of the moment and come up short.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How The Los Angeles Dodgers WIll Change Sports Forever

Breaking up is hard to do. It's even harder when you have to decide how to divide a $700,000,000 asset. Frank and Jamie McCourt are in the middle of a divorce that is so nasty Major League Baseball has taken over operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although Frank McCourt called the move "Un American" baseball has to protect its interest and the integrity of the game. Dodger fans are upset and the players are nervous. Will there be an end to this dilemma in the near future?

The answer is no. The McCourts are in total disagreement about who is the rightful owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jamie McCourt has even gone so far as to demand the sale of the Dodgers suggesting that her husband's outbursts to the media have devalued the team. In addition, Frank McCourt had to take out an emergency loan with FOX network to make payroll last month because his assets are frozen. The divorce proceedings have made it impossible for the Dodgers to make personnel decisions and the franchise is in limbo. It may take years to sort out all the legal mumbo jumbo.

On the surface the McCourt divorce just seems like a marriage gone bad, but the precedence being established is very dangerous. Should sports fans have to worry about the financial solvency and marital relationship of their favorite team's owner? Should they have to check the NYSE or the NASDAQ everyday to make sure the owner's investments are yielding a positive return? Should a bitter divorce tied up in the courts for years determine whether a team wins a championship or not? We don't know how this whole thing will play out, but the rules for ownership will change based on the outcome of this case. Professional sports can't afford to let personal issues affect the stability of an entire league. Something will be done so we don't have this problem again. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

NBA Lottery Winners And Losers

The good news is the Cleveland Cavaliers came away with the 1st and 4th picks in the 2011 NBA draft. The bad news is they can't pick someone named Lebron James with either of the selections. After all the heartache and fall out from "The Decision" last summer Cleveland is in a position to turn their team around rather quickly. It's unfortunate there are only a few marquee players in this draft after Jared Sullinger, Terrence Jones, and Harrison Barnes all decided to return to school. The draft pool is thin and if I was the Cavs GM I would trade the #1 and #4 picks to get quality players that can help immediately. Although the draft lottery technically has 14 teams participate only 7 have a legitimate chance of landing an impact player. Here's how the top of the NBA draft should look come June.

1. Cleveland - Kyrie Irving. It the Cavs don't take my advice and trade the pick Kyrie Irving is the best player available. The 6-2 point guard can do it all. He has great handles, good range on his jumper, and tremendous athleticism.

2. Minnesota - Derrick Williams. The Pac-10 player of the year will make a smooth transition to the pros and the Timberwolves need to find help up front for Kevin Love. Wesley Johnson (the #4 pick in last year's draft) is still a work in progress so they can use Derrick right away.

3. Utah - Enes Kanter. the 6-10 Turkish star can play along side Al Jefferson and give the Jazz a formidable front court. Before his suspension last year Enes was projected to be one of the nation's top players. He has an excellent all around game for a big man.

4. Cleveland - Jonas Valanciunas. If the Cavs don't trade the pick they might as well go for size. The other top players available (Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight) are both point guards and if they take Kyrie Irving with the #1 pick they'll have no use for those guys. Of course if they trade the #1 pick (as I suggested) Brandon Knight is a good fit at #4.

5. Toronto - Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors are looking to Jerryd Bayless as the point guard of the future and need help at the small forward position. Leonard can provide the size and athleticism the Raptors are lacking.

6. Washington - Alec Burks. The 6-6 shooting guard can pair up with John Wall to establish a nice back court for the Wizards. Once again, it makes no sense to draft Walker or Knight after drafting John Wall #1 last year.

7. Sacramento - Chris Singleton. The Kings are in desperate need of a small forward and Chris Singleton is the best one available. He's a big time scorer that can take some of the pressure off of Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Albet Pujols Got Robbed

In the mind of Albert Pujols the formula is simple. If you put up huge video game like numbers, become the best player in baseball, carry yourself with honor and dignity, and remain relatively healthy while still in your prime you will be rewarded with a 10 year contract. The logic is not flawed. This is the same formula that was used when Alex Rodriguez signed his 10 year 275 million dollar contract. With the precedence already established Albert Pujols went into negotiations this winter with a clear conscience and and expectation of his value. Albert anticipated the security of a 10 year deal in line with the top salaries in baseball (roughly 30 million). Instead the St. Louis Cardinals offered 5 years and a little less money (22-25 million per season). Where did things go wrong?

The market has changed. In the past owners jumped at the chance to lock up the best player in baseball for an extended period of time, but the Alex Rodriguez experiment has exposed the risks involved with such a lengthy guaranteed contract. Over the past two seasons Alex's production has tapered off dramatically, he's become more susceptible to injury at his age (36 in July), and his salary makes it impossible to trade him. Even if the Yankees wanted to move him there's no other team that can afford to pay him 32 million dollars a season. The St. Louis Cardinals watched the Rodriguez saga unfold and decided a 10 year contract put their team in jeopardy for the future. If things didn't go exactly as planned the Cardinals would find themselves in a hole they couldn't dig themselves out of. The St. Louis market doesn't have enough revenue streams to off set a contract that large.

Albert Pujols may get his 10 year deal when it's all said and done, but it won't be in St. Louis. If he doesn't come down on his demands slightly he is destined to become a Chicago Cub next year. It's not his fault the economics of baseball have changed significantly over the last 5 years, but he will suffer the consequences. It no longer makes financial sense to commit that much time and money to one player. If you want to blame someone for the new economic climate blame Alex Rodriguez. He's shown us that father time catches up with everyone and when he does you don't want to be stuck owing 150 million dollars for an asset with diminishing returns. Too bad Albert, you were so close to breaking the bank.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Will The New York Yankees Make The Playoffs?

It's all doom and gloom for the Yankees right now. They just lost 3 straight games at home to the dreaded Boston Red Sox, I hear CC Sabathia wants MORE money or he's opting for free agency next year, Derek Jeter is barely hitting above .200, and Alex Rodriguez is in and out of the line up. The A.J. Burnett experiment has been a total failure and we didn't get Cliff Lee or Zack Greinke in free agency. To make matters worse our glue guy is coming undone. Joe Girardi totally disrespected Jorge Posada by asking him to bat 9th and Jorge got all pissed and pulled himself out of the line up. Now they're saying if he doesn't do something big in the next few days the Yankees are going to ship him out of town. This is not the Yankees team I expected to see. This is not the Yankees team I was promised. How do they expect us to pay $1,500 a ticket when they put that garbage on the field? How can they justify that? All I know is if they don't turn it around by the end of the month heads will roll and it's not going to be pretty I promise you that. Hal won't stand for it. Just like his old man he'll fix this no matter what the cost.

Thoughts from a frustrated Yankee fan.

As usual everyone in New York panics at the first sign of trouble with their beloved Yankees, but this time there's legitimate cause for concern. Although the Yankees are only 2 games out of first place and we're not even a 1/4 of the way into the season, the team is in disarray. Derek Jeter (36 years old) hasn't emotionally recovered from his contract dispute in the offseason, Alex Rodriguez (35 years old) is tying up $32,000,000 in salary while batting .250 with 6 home runs, and Jorge Posada (39 years old) is batting a miserable .165 in the last year of his 4 year $52,000,000 contract. The Yankees are stuck with these aging veterans because their contracts are too large for anyone else to take on. In hindsight ownership expected much greater production from these 3 players and now they have to play the hand they're dealt. If they don't throw good money after bad before the trade deadline and acquire some younger talent the Yankees may not even make the playoffs with a payroll over $200,000,000.

Maybe these 3 perennial all all stars turn it around and save the Yankee season, but history shows us that probably won't happen. It's time for a changing of the guard in the Bronx. Jeter is still the unquestioned leader, but the focal point of the team has to be Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano going forward. The team can't rely on A-Rod putting up video game numbers anymore and once Jesus Montero is ready to play catcher ever day the Yankees will have no more use for a 39 year old DH who can't hit is weight in average. The Yankees made the mistake of projecting too far into the future based on the past performance of their core players. Look for them to atone for their error by adding a dynamic right or left fielder. If they don't what will they tell their fans?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Is Michael Phelps Finished?

Michael Phelps finished a disappointing 6th in the 200 freestyle yesterday in Charlotte. This is coming off a loss in his signature event, the 200 butterfly last month in Michigan. By his own admission Phelps hasn't dedicated himself to training recently and his results are clearly an indication he's nowhere near top form. Has Michael Phelps lost his touch?

To be fair, swimming is a sport that's only relevant once every four years. The Olympic results are all that really matter. Michael Phelps can struggle all he wants so long as he turns on the jets in London a year from now. Until then he will be reaping the benefits of his superstar status. Not only is he cashing in on his record setting 14 gold medals, new endorsements are flooding in for the build up to the 2012 games. Michael Phelps is far and away the most decorated Olympic athlete of our time. There's nothing wrong with taking a moment to enjoy the fruits of his labor. After the 2012 Summer Olympics Michael Phelps' career is essentially over. He might as well take advantage of his accomplishments while there's still time.

When it comes time to compete for the gold medals Aquaman will be just fine. Michael Phelps is one of those rare athletes that stands head and shoulders above his competition. The only man that can beat Michael Phelps in the pool is Michael Phelps. There's still plenty of time for him to get back to a disciplined training regiment. His ability to focus and train hard is not what separates him from the other swimmers anyway. It's his god given talent and his ability to deliver peak performances when it matters the most. Those things haven't changed so don't worry about Michael Phelps too much. Iron lungs will bring back 6 gold medals next year and retire with an even 20. Unreal.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bernard Hopkins Shows His Ignorance

"Why do you think McNabb felt betrayed? Because McNabb is the guy in the house while everybody else is in the field. He's the one who got the extra coat. The extra servings. You're our boy. He thought he was one of them."

Bernard Hopkins' comments on Donovan McNabb.

Bernard Hopkins derogatory comments about Donovan McNabb are thoughts many African Americans living in the inner city share. There is a belief that if you didn't grow up on welfare, live in a crack infested neighborhood, join a gang, or hear gun shots outside your window every night, you're an Uncle Tom or a sell out. There is animosity towards Black people that didn't come from the projects and could afford nice things for themselves growing up. Is it jealousy or ignorance that fuels this mind set?

In my opinion it is a combination of the two. Whenever someone is in an adverse situation it is only natural to envy people that have more than you do. Psychologically it's hard to rationalize why they deserve to have thew finer things in life while you struggle for basic necessities. That dynamic makes it difficult to acknowledge and accept the accomplishments of others without hate in your heart. In addition, there is a pre-conceived notion that all Black people that don't sing and dance, make movies, or play sports should live in the ghetto forever.

The reality is not every Black person in America comes from an impoverished, broken home. Believe it or not some Black people actually grow up in a household with their mother and father and get an allowance every week for doing chores around the house. Some Black families go to Disneyland on spring break. Some Black parents live in the suburbs and send their kids to college. It truly is possible to have those things without being an Uncle Tom or losing your sense of self, but if you've never had exposure to that demographic how would you know?

Jalen Rose made similar comments to the ones Bernard Hopkins made in his documentary on the Fab 5. He characterized Grant Hill in the same way Bernard Hopkins characterized Donovan McNabb. The difference is Jalen Rose sees things differently now. As a grown man who's made in excess of $75,000,000 in his life and has children of his own he doesn't feel the same way anymore. His life experiences have changed his opinion. Bernard Hopkins is 46 years old and still thinks all articulate, educated, successful Black people that come from a middle class environment (or better) are sell outs.

I wonder what Bernard Hopkins wants for his own kids. Does he make them eat government cheese and read by candlelight just to keep it real? Does he make them skip school so they won't become educated and earn better wages in life? Will he teach them how to cook cocaine so they can make a few extra dollars? Unlikely. As a multi millionaire I'm sure he buys his children new shoes, i phones, and video games with a college fund set aside. If you listen to Bernard's words he's raising a bunch of Uncle Tom's. If you don't listen to Bernard's words he's living the American dream. Your choice to listen or not.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lockout Day 56

I never thought for one second the NFL owners and players would let their labor dispute interrupt the 2011 football season, but on day 56 of the lockout I'm beginning to have my doubts. The judicial process is taking much longer than expected and every one's timetable is out of whack. Players can't talk to coaches, teams can't make trades or sign free agents, rookies can't get play books, and no one is working out together. Mini camps have been cancelled and before you know it (10 weeks from now) teams will start to miss preseason games. The end of the lockout is nowhere in sight and both sides are still miles apart. Is there anything for football fans to feel optimistic about?

Let's look on the bright side. The NFL is still a $9,000,000,000 entity and both the owners and players have a vested interest on resolving their differences. Both sides understand the fans have become disenchanted with the labor dispute and the economic ramifications could be drastic. If money is the bottom line (and it appears that is the case) any sort of prolonged work stoppage will result in financial loss and a decrease in fan enthusiasm and participation. Neither the owners or the players can afford to let that happen.

At some point this year there will be NFL football, but certain aspects of the process will be abbreviated. We won't see as much player movement or free agent signings because the time allotted to evaluate those players has been reduced significantly. Most teams won't look much different than a year ago. We will see a rash of injuries because the players aren't conditioning themselves the way they are accustomed to. It will all be thrown together at the last second and the quality of the game will suffer. Too much time has elapsed to have a normal season, but a patchwork season is better than no season at all. Keep your fingers crossed sports fans.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

American Tennis Needs More Minority Players

On my blog last September I commented on how poorly the US was performing on the men's tennis circuit. It appears the problem with US tennis no longer applies to just men. For the first time in the history of the rankings system there are no American men or women in the top ten. To make matters worse there is no one on the horizon poised to take the next step. The Williams sisters are battling injuries, Andy Roddick's game is a train wreck, John Isner and Sam Querry are looking for that extra gear, and James Blake and Mardy Fish have taken their game as far as it can go. In a short span American tennis has gone from dominant to dormant. What is the solution to the problem?

In the past the US has always turned to tennis academies to replenish the talent pool. I think the current state of affairs calls for more drastic measures. It's time to bring the game to the inner city. No more using tennis courts as a skate park, a dodge ball arena, or a canvass for graffiti art, it's time to use those courts as an escape route from violence and crime. With the proper coaching, access to equipment, and exposure to the game the inner city could become the next hot bed for talent.

The country club model is broken. It's outdated, divisive, and hasn't produced top quality players in quite a while. There's no reason the top tennis players in this country can't be Asian, Hispanic, or African American. Why not extend the opportunity to everyone? The socioeconomic barriers have to be broken in order for the game to progress. If the game can break down those barriers and stereotypes everybody wins. The sport will reach a larger demographic, more people will participate, and we'll see Americans among the world's elite once again. Isn't the alternative plan worth a try?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Kobe Bryant Is Not Michael Jordan

I know some of you have been waiting for me to say this for almost a decade so here it goes. It is with heavy heart and much regret that I announce today Kobe Bryant will not go down in history as the greatest basketball player of all time. That distinction belongs to Michael Jordan and Michael Jordan alone. After the Los Angeles Lakers were swept out of the playoffs in embarrassing fashion Kobe Bryant is no longer a candidate for that position. As many of you know I have proclaimed 2011 would end Michael Jordan's reign atop the basketball world. It was my belief Kobe Bryant would capture his 6th title and 2nd three peat of his career equaling Michael Jordan's totals. That accomplishment would have opened the door for frank and earnest discussion on the subject. Instead the conversation is frowned upon and viewed as vicious rumor and speculation carried on by a handful of lunatics with delusions of grandeur. How did we get to this point?

It wasn't that long ago Lakers GM Jerry West brought Kobe Bryant in for a routine workout. In that performance Jerry instantly knew he was dealing with something special. Kobe's battles with the guards was magnificent and his skills were extra ordinary. It wouldn't take long before the Lakers asked him to join them. Young Kobe's apprenticeship got off to a rocky start though. He was head strong and ambitious. He wanted to run a marathon before he knew how to crawl. He had no discipline, or purpose. Although everyone could see the potential he lacked focus, intensity and preparation. He would need more training.

As fate would have it the Jordan era was coming to an end in Chicago. After years of infighting the Bulls dynasty finally crumbled with the firing of Phil Jackson and the retirement of Michael Jordan. Jerry West called on the services of Jackson to teach his young prodigy how to be a champion and Phil graciously accepted.

Right away Young Kobe took to the teachings of the Zen master. The triangle system became second nature and before long Kobe's game looked Jordanesque. His mannerisms, his moves on the court, and even his interviews after games reminded us of Michael Jordan. In addition Phil taught Kobe how to use all of the weapons at his disposal. Shaquille O'Neal provided the inside presence that allowed Young Kobe to flourish and develop into a star. As the dynamic duo learned how to play together the Lakers rattled off 3 straight championships.

Shortly thereafter we began to see a conflict within Kobe Bryant. He grew disenchanted with his teacher and his big brother. He wanted the stage all to himself and didn't care how his feelings impacted the rest of the Lakers organization. Kobe's immaturity and selfishness led to the trading of Shaq and the resignation of Phil Jackson.

Along the way he also ran into trouble off the court amid allegations of rape and sexual misconduct. A career that started so bright appeared dark and dim. Then a funny thing happened. Kobe did some soul searching. He realized the error in his ways and made amends with his mentor. He honed his skills and made another run at the Jordan legacy.

With the Zen master back at the helm the Lakers won 2 more championships. In Phil Jackson's last season and a team stacked with talented big men it seemed inevitable the Lakers would complete the 2nd three peat of Kobe's career. The dream quickly turned into a nightmare however when the Lakers were destroyed by a red hot Dallas Mavericks in the 2nd round of the playoffs.

I've been there through it all. The good times, the wired times, and the bad times. My association with Laker Nation is legendary. As a sports fan with my temperament and personality what more could you ask for? I talked the talk and the Lakers walked the walk. Since the miraculous comeback against Portland in game 7 of the 200o Western conference finals it's been impossible to shut me up. I've taken down entire sports bars by myself. I've instigated fights. I have friends in Philly that won't talk to me anymore after I gloated for weeks about the 01' championship. I have friends that are so tired of hearing me talk about the Lakers the first words out of their mouth when they see me is "Kobe sucks!" I've endured late night phone calls, inappropriate text messages, and lewd postings on my Facebook wall. I've enjoyed every minute of it.

My belief in Kobe was unwavering. I thought Kobe was the one, the one that could establish new world order and knock Jordan off his pedestal. Who is Michael Jordan anyway? I view him as a great basketball player, but not the Demi god everyone else makes him out to be. As a basketball purist I thought it was conceivable that someone could eventually tie or break his records and accomplishments. In my mind no one person is bigger than the game no matter how much money they make or their influence on pop culture and the world. Kobe was the last great chance to prove my point.

Coming into this season I was supremely confident. Kobe looked poised to take his rightful place next to Jordan atop Mt. Olympus. There was no way Kobe would come this close to immortality and let it slip away. Even as the Lakers went through the season as if they were sleep walking I felt they could flip the switch any time they wanted. Once again I would rub Kobe's greatness in the face of my peers and it would be wonderful.

I honestly didn't believe Dallas had a chance. There was too much at stake and the Mavericks were heartless. Game 1 went by and I wasn't fazed. Game 2 went by and I wasn't fazed. Game three went by and I got a little concerned. If I was in my right mind the second loss in Los Angeles would have been a red flag, but I couldn't see it. My loyalty and passion defied reason and logic. To make matters worse Kobe had the same mind set.

"I might be sick in the head because I still think we can win this series. I might be nuts."

Kobe's comments after the Game 3 loss.

Like a Jim Jones disciple I drank the kool aid and echoed Kobe's sentiments. The impossible was still possible. Down 22 at halftime of Game 4 I still thought it was possible. After Ron Artest missed a break away lay up I still.......... Eventually reality set in and I came to the sobering conclusion Kobe Bryant is no Michael Jordan and there will never be another Michael Jordan. Kobe was the last hope.

They don't make them like him anymore. Players don't have the drive, the competitive will, the work ethic, or the desire to be great that Kobe has. The world is different now. There are no more franchise players. The old model is broken. Players collaborate and team up with other talented players to win championships so on one will ever have the claim Jordan had of carrying a team on his back. The prophecy will go unfulfilled.

I must admit I feel a little like Morpheus right now when he found out Neo was not who he thought he was. Kobe is just one of countless others that have tried to climb the mountain top and failed in the process. Before him there were many, after him there will be none. It was a fun ride, but it's come to an end. The discussion is over. Jordan wins and you'll never hear me address the subject again. The silence must be deafening already.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Kentucky Derby Belongs To Calvin Borel

You might expect a sportsbook aficionado like Young Sam Rothstein to get excited about the 137th running of the Kentcky Derby, but you'd be wrong. Young Sam doesn't put down money when it comes to the sport of kings. There are too many variables to consider and I don't trust four legged creatures with my money. Certainly thoroughbreds can make people rich and if you follow the pedigree and the results over time you can get a clear picture of what the horse is capable of. If you factor in great trainers with gobs of cash at their disposal (Bob Baffert, Nick Zito, D Wayne Lukas) the equation gets even simpler. Still I don't trust my four legged friends. My conscience won't allow me to lose money on a sport where the participants can't speak so I stick to sports where human performance determines the outcome. That being said I do know who is going to win the Kentucky Derby this year, Twice The Appeal ridden by Calvin Borel.

Calvin Borel is the Phil Jackson of horse racing. He's rode 3 of the last 4 Kentucky Derby winners and in 2009 switched over to Rachel Alexandra and won the Preakness as well. He has a reputation for getting the most out of his horses and playing to their strengths. He knows if the horse he's riding likes to run from the front, on the rail, from the back, or in the middle of the pack. Calvin's instincts about a horse carry him to the winners circle quite often and he knows the Churchill Downs race track as well as anyone. He's a tough guy to bet against (If I was betting of course).

20-1 for Twice the Appeal is not great odds and the betting public has already established Dialed In as the favorite after Uncle Moe was scratched. The public is underestimating the importance of a good jockey with tons of experience. In the end Calvin Borel will ride away victorious and accept another bouquet of roses. Mark my words.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Shane Mosley Should Stay Home

Sugar Shane Mosley is saying all the right things. He's in the best shape of his life, he had a great training camp, he's been watching film, he's got a surprise for Manny Pacquiao, etc. It all sounds good until you realize Shane Mosley is 39 years old and way past his prime. Manny Pacquiao has the world in the palm of his hand right now and he's taking the fight seriously enough to inflict some real damage on the older Mosley. The battle between the old king and the new king is going to end badly. I hope for Shane's sake they won't need a stretcher to carry him out of the ring. Why did it have to come to this?

It happens to all great fighters. You have to beat the champion out of them. Oscar De La Hoya, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roy Jones Jr, and Muhammad Ali all suffered lopsided defeats in their last fight. After hundreds of rounds and decades of taking punishment you lose a step or two. The body will no longer do what the mind tells it to. They see the openings, but the punches come a half second too slow. They see the punches coming, but they react a half second too late in getting out of the way. That half second is the difference between world champion and punching bag. Once the reflexes go there's no getting them back.

Shane reflexes are gone. We witnessed this in the Floyd Mayweather fight last year. He was a day late and a dollar short in every exchange. Manny Pacquiao is desperate to keep his legacy intact and has no time to play around with this guy. The great thing about boxing is anything can happen. A big right hand is always the great equalizer. The bad thing about boxing is the spirit, passion, and heart of a champion will ultimately betray them. It will get them into fights they can't win. Sugar Shane Mosley was a great champion, but his time has past. It would be more humane if Manny had enough power to knock him out, but he doesn't. Shane will have to suffer for 12 rounds. Too bad, the former champ deserves better.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Alexander Ovechkin, You Disappoint Me

After another dismal performance in the playoffs it is clear that Alexander Ovechkin is not the NHL's signature player. The Washington Capitals were swept out of the playoffs like leaves on a city sidewalk following a 5-3 beat down by the Tampa Bay Lightning last night. The Capitals have been the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference the last four years yet have failed to make the Stanley Cup finals in any of those years. Who's to blame for these epic failures?

To be fair the Tampa Bay Lightning played a hell of a series. Martin St. Louis had some timely goals and Steven Stamkos picked up right where he left off in the regular season scoring points in bunches. The Capitals defense allowed too many power play goals and Michal Neuvirth was lit up like a Christmas tree in this series. You almost had to wonder if those mitts had holes in them. When the Caps lost the first two games at home there was reason for concern, but most Caps fans assumed Washington would come out fighting and salvage at least a split in Tampa. Instead they rolled over showing no heart, no pride, and no sense of urgency. None of the players seemed to care whether they won or lost the series.

Whenever that happens it's almost a guarantee the coach will get fired. I'd bet my last 20 pesos Bruce Boudreau will not return as head coach next season. With such talented players as Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom it's inexcusable to go down in flames for a 4th consecutive year. Bruce Boudreau has failed to motivate the players and create a winning environment. That simply can't be tolerated and he should take responsibility for the teams lack of intensity. As for Alexander Ovechkin? He falls further down the depth chart and maybe even out of the conversation of who is the NHL's best player. He doesn't produce when it counts and his presence isn't felt in big games. That's what superstars do. Until Alexander Ovechkin plays for a Stanley Cup he is officially on the "pay him no mind" list and his jersey goes into storage. Number 8 is behind the 8 ball.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Is A Quarterback The Most Important Position In All Of Sports?

"You're a goddamn quarterback! You know what that means? It's the top spot, kid. It's the guy who takes the fall. It's the guy everybody's looking at first - the leader of a team - who will support you when they understand you. Who will break their ribs and their noses and their necks for you, because they believe. 'Cause you make them believe. That's a quarterback!"

Tony D'Amato - On Any Given Sunday

No truer words have ever been spoken. The quarterback position in the NFL is by far the most important position in team sports. He's the guy that gets all the credit when things go right and takes all the blame when teams don't win. He is the catalyst, the leader, and the focal point of any successful NFL franchise. He's the guy that answers all the hard questions and carries the burden of expectation on his back. That's not to say you have to have a hall of fame quarterback to win the Super Bowl. Trent Dilfer, Jim McMahon, and Jeff Hostettler all have Super Bowl rings, but they also played on teams that had superior defenses. For the most part the signal caller needs to have an impressive pedigree to take a team to the promised land. Lets check out the numbers.

Since 1980 a quarterback has been selected with the first pick in the draft 16 times and a quarterback selected #1 accounts for 14 Super Bowl titles. The quarterback is the face of the franchise and the most important piece in building a strong foundation for an organization. The quarterback is considered the savior in a lot of instances (that's why bad teams consistently draft this position first) and some teams gamble on players they hope can fit the job description. For every Peyton Manning, John Elway, and Troy Aikman there is a Tim Couch, David Carr, and of course Ryan Leaf. Not only is the quarterback position the most important it is also the position with the highest failure rate.

Other sports have positions with a similar responsibility and you know what they refer to those positions as? The quarterback. A point guard in basketball is considered the quarterback because they get everyone involved and run the team. A center in volleyball is considered the quarterback because they make all the formation calls and set up defenses. A catcher in baseball is referred to as the signal caller because they select pitches and instruct infielders on where they need to be.

The quarterback position is the straw that stirs the drink. It demands narcissism, thick skin, respect, and leadership. History has taught us that everything falls into place with a good one and everything falls apart with a bad one. It's not all about the rocket arm, the nimble feet, or the fast legs, it's about the entire package. The physical, the mental, and the spiritual all have to come together. To whom much is given, much is expected. The quarterback position embodies that sentiment. Your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cleveland's Never Ending Heartbreak

The Cleveland Indians currently have the best record in baseball and sit atop the American league central by 4 1/2 games over the Kansas City Royals. They have taken advantage of a slow start by the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins and the younger players are starting to produce. That should be cause for excitement and optimism for a city that clearly deserves it, but history has shown us that their success will be short lived.

Cleveland went through this exact same scenario in the mid 90's when they developed superstar players like Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle, and Jim Thome. I still remember being in Cleveland on my birthday in 1997 all set to storm the downtown area after game 7 of the World Series. Unfortunately Jose Mesa blew the save in the 9th inning and the Indians World Series dreams were shattered. Shortly thereafter the organization started to dismantle the team and Cleveland fans were forced to suffer through another decade of mediocre baseball. It wasn't a lack of desire that led to the dismantling of a championship caliber team, it was the economics of baseball.

Once you reach a certain level of success it becomes too expensive for most teams to keep productive players. Eventually the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Mets, and Cubs will raid your team for its free agent talent and you'll be forced to start from scratch. It's only a matter of time before the big boys come calling for Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, and Austin Kearns. We've already seen what happened with Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia.

If Cleveland was a big market city capable of carrying a 100 million dollar payroll the Indians would be World Series contenders every year. Instead they have to resign themselves to the fact that The Indians are nothing more than a glorified farm system for the elite teams. Since baseball has no profit sharing or salary cap the teams with the deep pockets will always have the advantage. Hopefully the Indians do something special before it all comes to a grinding halt. Good luck Cleveland.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sonics And Thunder Are Not The Same!

For most people time heals all things. Bad deeds and injustices can be forgiven and eventually people can embrace those that have wronged them. Then there are those people (mostly Scorpio's) that have a difficult time letting past indiscretions go. It is the principle of the matter that fuels them and the injustice in their minds will never deserve complete forgiveness. They remain stubborn and angry until the bitter end. Guess which side of the ledger I'm on?

Over the weekend I went to the Bleacher Report website to post one of my blogs when I came across a very interesting story. The article listed the best player in each NBA franchise's history. When I got to the Oklahoma City Thunder the author had Gary Payton listed as the franchise's best player. I was incensed! how could someone possibly associate Gary Payton with the Oklahoma City Thunder? I immediately posted a comment suggesting that Gary Payton and the Oklahoma City Thunder should never be mentioned in the same breath. I have to admit that after my strong words I felt vindicated.

To my surprise the comments from around the country were not favorable towards my position. People told me to get a life. People told me the Seattle Supersonics were no different than any other team that has relocated. People told me to stop blaming the players and Oklahoma City for the relocation because it wasn't their fault. People said Gary Payton was just as much a Thunder as he was a Sonic because the franchise is the same.

Perhaps it's just me being a homer, but my conscience won't allow me to associate Gary Payton with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In my mind Clay Bennett took the team and started a new history in Oklahoma City completely separate from the one he left in Seattle. Let Kevin Durant be the best player the Thunder franchise has ever had and when Seattle gets an expansion team the Sonic history starts all over again. Am I being a little bitter? Did I take the comments too personal? Should I just let it go and move on? Your thoughts.