Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sporting Events Are Not For Fans

Yesterday I went to an afternoon game to watch Felix Hernandez pitch against the Atlanta Braves with a couple of my good friends. The reigning AL Cy Young winner had control issues from the start. Felix gave up 5 runs over 7 innings and the Seattle Mariners ended up losing 5-3, but a good time was had by all.

My friends and I had a few post game cocktails and sparked up an interesting conversation about the economics of sports. The pervasive opinion at the table was that greed is ruining sports and until the average fan can afford to go and watch a game the world of sports is in jeopardy. The opinion is half true.

Greed plays a prominent role in the cost of sporting events, but the game hasn't been about the average fan for quite some time. Corporate entities are what drives sports leagues and contribute to the bulk of the revenues owners receive. Luxury suites, advertising, and concessions have become essential to sporting events and arguably more important than the game itself.

For a die hard sports fan like me going to a game is all about the experience of watching your team win or lose in person, but for the owners it's all about the money. They don't care if you've been a fan for 5 decades or 5 minutes so long as you can afford the $50 seats, the $25 parking space, the $9 beers, and the $7 hot dogs.

Sports is entertainment and if you want to see the stars perform on the big stage you have to pay the price. For everyone else there's TV.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is Terrell Owens Finished?

Terrell Owens had surgery to replace his torn ACL and at age 37 his football career is over. If T.O. were a likable guy that team mates rallied around and quarterbacks respected I think some organization would give him one more chance, but given his track record of burning bridges and causing drama the outlook is bleak.

Over the years Terrell Owens has become an acquired taste few teams have the palate to stomach. After his debacle in Dallas he played a lack luster season in Buffalo followed by a season in Cincinnati that did more for his reality show than the Bengal passing offense. In short T.O.'s production has fallen off dramatically and teams are unwilling to put up with the circus that surrounds him.

If you go by the numbers Terrell Owens is the greatest receiver not named Jerry Rice. He is in the top 3 in almost every statistical category despite playing for 5 teams and routinely throwing star quarterbacks under the bus. He is a first ballot hall of famer and the quintessential #1 "diva" receiver. That being said teams won't touch him with a 10 foot pole.

Football players age in dog years and although Terrell Owens is a physical freak the body just doesn't bounce back at his age. There is too much risk and very little reward associated with T.O. at this point in his career so it's time for him to gracefully bow out of the NFL. Fortunately for Terrell he's become a personality and whether you love him or hate him he's a popular figure with a promising future. Just not in football. Maybe Evelyn Lozada can hook him up with one of her homegirls and double date with Ocho Cinco. You'd watch wouldn't you?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cleavie's 5 Most Disappointing Athletes

As I was channel surfing last night I came across the show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. I try and stay away from reality shows as much as possible, but this season has Doc Gooden as one of the patients struggling with sobriety. Doc and Darryl Strawberry were two of my favorite baseball players growing up and I'll always remember how disappointed I was when they both pissed their careers away abusing alcohol and drugs. I can deal with steroids, infidelity, and an overindulgent sense of entitlement, but the one thing that really bothers me is unfulfilled promise. Whenever I see an example of this I always feel like I've been cheated out of witnessing greatness. Over the years there have been countless athletes that fall into this category, but there are 5 that really bother me. Here is the list of my 5 most disappointing athletes.

5. Adam Morrison. I should have known something was up when I saw him crying like a little girl after losing a college game. Michael Jordan still picked him with the #3 pick in the 2006 NBA draft and he folded like a house of cards under the pressure of becoming an NBA star. The last time I saw him was on a milk carton at Safeway.

4. Kenny Anderson. I blogged about this guy a few months back. Kenny Anderson is perhaps the most talented point guard to ever come out of New York City, but he never took the game seriously enough to get the most out of it. Nowadays he's the poster child for what not to do if you're an NBA player.

3. Sammy Sosa. This example actually has nothing to do with Sammy's performance on the field. Sure he took PED's during his career and hit an obscene amount of home runs because of it, but my disappointment comes from the fact he bleached his skin and changed his eye color. It's hard to imagine that someone who made over $100,000,000 in his lifetime is still insecure about who he is.

2. Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. After the Sports Illustrated article depicting the rise and fall of these two great athletes they will forever be linked in my mind. These two should have gone down as the greatest pitcher and home run hitter of their generation.

1. Derrick Coleman Derrick was my favorite player during his days at Syracuse and I would have wagered my first born child he was going to be a first ballot hall of famer when his career was over. Instead a bad attitude, a terrible work ethic, and a total disrespect for the game turned him into a punchline. For the record he had more talent than Tim Duncan or Karl Malone. Too bad talent alone will not make you great.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rafael Nadal WIll Not Win Wimbledon

It wasn't long ago the big question in the world of tennis was if Roger Federer was the greatest player of all time. He was racking up grand slam titles at a record pace and no one seemed able to defeat him. Then along came Federer kryptonite in the form of Rafael Nadal. Nadal has dominated their head to head match ups as of late and is on a grand slam binge of his own.

After winning the French Open a few weeks ago Nadal looks unstoppable. He has yet to lose a set at this year's Wimbledon and in fact hasn't lost a match at the All England Club since the finals in 2007. With Nadal playing at the top of his game it seems like a foregone conclusion he will cruise to his fourth consecutive Wimbledon victory.

That's the problem. It all looks and feels too perfect. Whenever something seems to good to be true it generally is. Just like the Patriots in 2008, the USC Trojans in 2006, or the UNLV Runnin Rebels in 1991 Nadal appears unbeatable, but I think he'll come up just a bit short.

It has nothing to do with Nadal's game and everything to do with fate. On paper no one has an advantage over Nadal, but I can't help but get the feeling that something unforeseen is going to play a big part in the outcome of the Wimbledon finals. It's usually a lucky or unfortunate bounce that turns the tide in these situations.

I'm probably a fool for betting against Nadal and I don't have any one particular player in mind that I think will beat him (I'll take the field), but experience has taught me things don't always happen the way you think they will. If my intuition is correct Rafael Nadal will lose an epic 5 set match in the finals. If I'm wrong Nadal will add more hardware to his impressive collection and become the modern day Bjorn Borg. Your thoughts?

Friday, June 24, 2011

NBA Draft Day Observations

I watched the 2011 NBA draft yesterday and for the first hour I felt like I needed a translator. 4 of the top 7 picks were from overseas and barely spoke English. I have no problem with that if they can hoop, but I have to admit it did catch me a little off guard. This draft lacked the depth of years past as well as impact players who can come in and contribute right away. After Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams went 1 and 2 respectively it was more of a crap shoot than anything else. Nevertheless some teams did better than others so here's my list of winners and losers.

The Winners:

Golden State Warriors. Golden St. picked up a lights out shooter in Klay Thompson, a crafty point guard from Queens in Charles Jenkins, and a diamond in the rough with Jeremy Tyler. At 6-11 he could be the steal of the draft.

Washington Wizards. The Wizards added more athletic size up front with 6-11 Jan Vesely, a defensive stopper in Chris Singleton, and a proven point guard in Shelvin Mack.

Utah Jazz. Enes Kanter gets a chance to mentor under fellow countryman Mehmet Okur. Don't underestimate how important that is for his development.

The Losers:

Los Angeles Lakers. Darius Morris has an outside shot at making the team, but Chukwudiebere Maduabum, Andrew Goudelock, and Ater Tojar have no chance.

New York Knicks. The Knicks reached out on a limb and took point guard Iman Shumpert. Was Donnie Walsh sand bagging on his way out?

Philadelphia 76ers. Sure Nikola Vucevic is 7'0 tall, but he was nothing special at USC and they passed on much better talent to get him.

Thursday, June 23, 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. Rafael Nadal hasn't lost a match at Wimbledon since 2007.
2. In a weeks time both the NFL and the NBA will have locked out their players.
3. Seattle Mariners pitcher Michael Pineda makes $414,000.
4. Bud Selig has the power to nullify a divorce settlement and a TV contract at his discretion.
5. 5 NFL players have come in first or second on Dancing with the Stars.
6. Drew Rosenhaus represents Terrell Owens, Plaxico Burress, and Terrelle Pryor.
7. Every NBA team in the state of Texas has won an NBA championship.
8. Every Canadian team in the NHL sells out at least 99% of their games.
9. Darrell Green (former Washington Redskins cornerback) ran a 4.5 40 at age 50.
10. Ozzie Guillen is still the manager of the Chicago White Sox.
11. Tiger Woods is still the highest paid athlete without winning a tournament since 2009.
12. The New York Yankees have 27 world series titles. The next closest team (the St. Louis Cardinals) has 10.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Top 5 Sports Cities Of The Last 20 Years

One of the main reasons I ventured up to Vancouver last week (subjecting myself riots and tear gas) was to experience the thrill of victory in a city that just won a major sports championship. The last time Seattle had a championship parade I was 6 years old and those memories are a little foggy. There are several cities where a ticker tape celebration is a routine occurrence however. Here is a list of the top 5 cities in professional sports over the last 20 years.

1. Boston

World Series: 2 (2004, 2007)
Super Bowls: 3 (2002, 2005, 2005)
Stanley Cups: 1 (2011)
NBA titles: 1 (2008)

Total: 7

Boston is the only city to win a championship in every major sport in the last 20 years. Impressive.

2. New York

World Series: 5 (1996, 1998-2000, 2009)
Super Bowls: 2 (1991, 2008)
Stanley Cups: 1 (1994)
NBA titles: 0

Total: 8

New York has more titles than Boston, but the Knicks blew their chance in 94' so New York doesn't cover every sport. Fortunately the Yankees keep the streets full of confetti.

3. Chicago

World Series: 1 (2005)
Super Bowls: 0
Stanley Cups: 1 (2010)
NBA titles: 6 (1991-93, 1996-98)

Total: 8

Without question the windy city is top heavy with the Larry O' Brien trophies. Had it not been for Michael Jordan they would not have made the cut.

4. Dallas

World Series: 0
Super Bowls: 3 (1993, 1994, 1996)
Stanley Cups: 1 (1999)
NBA titles: 1 (2011)

Total: 5

Dallas is America's team when it comes to football, but after the Mavericks surprise win over the Miami Heat every team in Dallas has at least 1 championship.

5. Pittsburgh

World Series: 0
Super Bowls: 2 (2006, 2009)
Stanley Cups: 3 (1991, 1992, 2009)
NBA titles: 0

Total: 5

Pittsburgh only has championships in 2 categories, but the Penguins and the Steelers are dominant in their respective sports. This helps make up for the the Pittsburgh Pirates who haven't had a winning season since Barry Bonds left town in 1992.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is Jack McKeon Worth The Risk?

In 2003 Jack McKeon stepped in as the interim manager for the Florida Marlins and led the team to an improbable World Series victory over the New York Yankees. It was considered somewhat of an anomaly that Jack was able to communicate with the younger players on the ball club and get everyone to buy into his philosophy. Last week Edwin Rodriguez resigned as the Florida manager after a 1-18 start to the month of June and once again the Marlins have turned to Jack McKeon as their interim manager. This time Jack is 80 years old. How can this possibly work?

I have a great deal of respect for Jack McKeon and I understand he's probably forgotten more about baseball than most people know, but 80 is old. Jack was old in 2003 and that was before facebook, twitter and i phones. The skipper might have great grandchildren older than some of his players.

Baseball purists will argue age is just a number and that the game always comes down to executing the fundamentals. No one know the nuances of baseball better than Jack and he'll be able to put his players in a position to succeed.

The realists will argue that an 80 year old manager is a liability. Not only will he have a difficult time communicating with the younger players, the rigors of traveling and day after night games (as well as doubleheaders) will take a toll on him physically. The body just doesn't bounce back at that age the way it used to.

The Marlins need to fill seats and ramp up enthusiasm for their new stadium and Jack McKeon is a familiar face. It's a feel good story and everyone is pulling for him to do well. In the end I think father time will catch up with him and he doesn't have far to go. 80 is too old to manage a professional baseball team.

Monday, June 20, 2011

From Point Guard To Pimp: The Venoy Overton Story

The University of Washington is world renowned for its academic excellence. The university prides itself on developing future leaders and The Foster School of Business is one of the top 5 business schools in America. Too bad for Venoy Overton pimpology 101 is not one of the courses offered in the curriculum.

Just months after being charged with providing alcohol to minors and consensual sex with a 16 year old point guard Venoy Overton was charged last week with promoting prostitution. It wasn't that long ago we heard a humble and contrite Overton tell the media how the experience had changed him as a person and how he would learn from his mistakes going forward. He promised to be a better person and a role model for kids.

To a kid looking up to Venoy life ain't nothing but bitches and money. It's comical to think that someone in his position couldn't find a better way to make a buck. It's sad to think that after being exposed to infinite opportunities his ambition couldn't take him further than the street corner. Instead of leveraging his contacts form the university to his advantage he'd rather act like DJay from Hustle and Flow.

Street life is typically reserved to those who can't do anything else. It's not for people with college degrees and athletic ability. For Venoy Overton there were other options yet he chose a path that is illegal and immoral by most standards. Did the UW fail him or did he fail the UW?

For the coach that stood by him when everyone wanted him kicked off the team, for the community that supported him in his time of need, and for his family that has to live with the embarrassment, Venoy owes them an apology. Going from college graduate to pimping your girlfriend is not a cool transition and reflects badly upon everyone that had a hand in his development. I hope he feels appropriately guilty.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Vancouver Trip Part II

In a span of 5 minutes the police went from politely dispersing the crowd to rifling canisters of tear gas down the street. I sat in a sports bar with my friends and watched a riot break out on the street at the same time I was watching it happen on TV. The whole thing was surreal. We were on lock down for several hours and when they finally let us out (through the back alley) it looked like the Decepticons had torn through the city. There were cars flipped over, dumpsters on fire, and businesses with their windows broken out. Insane.

The bigger question is why did the riot happen in the first place? Some friends have suggested that a riot was inevitable whether the Canucks won or lost the game and in retrospect they may be right. I think it boils down to a few people who used the event as an opportunity to wreak havoc and stir up chaos. The very nature of a riot promotes anonymity which brings out a behavior most people wouldn't normally engage in if they were by themselves. It's a power kick perpetuated by a safety in numbers.

In the end I feel sorry for the people of Vancouver. Not only do they have to suffer through the 3 month hangover associated with losing the Finals there is the bad press from the riot that portrays the city in an unflattering light. The folks I spoke to used the words embarrassed and humiliated.

Somewhere lost in all this drama is the fact the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks played one hell of a series and if TV ratings are any indication hockey is gaining popularity. At least there is something positive to take away from the experience.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Vancouver Trip Part I

First off, I'd like to thank all of my family, friends and followers for showing concern about my safety over the past 2 days. I appreciate your e-mails, phone calls, texts, tweets, and facebook posts. What started out as a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness a historic event turned into a spectacle of epic proportions.

In the beginning everything was beautiful. My friends and I were fortunate enough to find a parking space in downtown Vancouver and eager to watch the Canucks win their first Stanley Cup. The plan was to bask in the moment of celebration and euphoria that comes when a city wins a major championship. With game 7 in Rogers Arena we had no reason to believe our plan wouldn't come to fruition.

The streets looked like a sea of blue and green and everywhere you you turned someone was wearing a jersey that said Luongo, Sedin, or Kessler. There was unbelievable optimism in the air, but once the puck dropped that all changed.

Before the first period was over the Canucks were already down 1-0. The team that scored the first goal had won every game in the series so the crowd was holding its collective breath. After Roberto Luongo gave up a 2nd and a 3rd goal you could hear a pin drop in the crowded restaurant we were in. It was funeral quiet and by midway through the 3rd period we realized our plan was not going to materialize the way we anticipated.

The game mercifully ended and the Boston Bruins walked away with their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. With no contingency plan in place for if the Canucks lost the game my friends and I took to wandering the streets. We ended up posting up at a bar and began to people watch. The sea of blue and green had a somber, depressing, heart broken feel to it. Thousands of people were sad and angry all at the same time. The riot police were in place to keep things civil and for the first 2 hours they were tolerant and patient, but in the blink of an eye things turned very ugly.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The US Open Without Tiger Woods

The US Open starts tomorrow and the #1 golfer in the world is poised to win his first major. Can anyone tell me who that is? The PGA tour is filled with new up and coming talent ready to make their mark on the golfing world. Does anybody care? There are lots of storylines this weekend, but the biggest storyline of the tournament will be the absence of Tiger Woods.

For all intents and purposes golf really doesn't have a pulse unless Tiger Woods is playing. Phil Michelson is a feel good story and a sentimental favorite, but the rest of the field is made up of virtual unknowns. Most people wouldn't know Rory McIlroy or Lee Westwood if they came up and slapped them in the face. The tournament is up for grabs and the lack of a clear cut favorite should make this weekend's play that much more exciting. The sad truth is most people will find out who won the US Open championship watching Sportscenter highlights as opposed to the 18th hole on Sunday.

Golf is a sport in transition trying to find an identity and a reason for viewers to tune in. Over the last 15 years the sport has experienced unprecedented growth, but without the golden goose/child prodigy/athlete of the decade fan interest is almost non existent. Until someone bursts on the scene with charm, charisma, and dominant play golf will continue to suffer.

Golf was here before Tiger Woods and will remain long after he is gone, but it's not compelling in his absence. Tiger leaves a void the entire leader board can't fill. Hurry up and get healthy Tiger. Golf desperately needs you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Is The WNBA Still Relevant?

Fifteen years ago the NBA put together a plan to help the game of basketball reach a broader market. Commissioner Stern saw the potential of having a league that catered to the female demographic while at the same time putting a quality product on the floor. To the chagrin of skeptics and chauvinists Stern launched a professional women's basketball league, the WNBA.

It was a rough start in the beginning. The league had difficulty getting sponsorships and there were questions about the competitive balance. There wasn't a lot of talent to go around and one team (The Houston Comets) claimed the first four WNBA titles. Although the league was subsidized by the NBA it was far from profitable. Some franchises folded and others had to relocate to more favorable cities. Still and yet the commish never lost sight of his vision and stayed the course. Fifteen years later the WNBA is still going strong, but has it served its purpose?

If its purpose was to rival the NBA in popularity and have Sue Bird, Candace Parker, and Maya Moore become household names like Kobe, Lebron, and Jordan the answer is no. If its purpose was to set an example for young women and show them it's ok to dream big and succeed at a high level the answer is yes.

The impact of the WNBA can't be quantified by dollars and cents or TV ratings. You have to consider the effects on our society as a whole. If young women grow up feeling more confident, capable, and competitive the league is doing its job. So long as the target market is satisfied you have to call it a success. I would like to see a little more trash talking though.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lebron Saves The NBA Part II

The modern day mega sports star must be more than just athletically gifted. They must be a lightning rod for controversy and a magnet for melodrama on and off the court. Lebron James fits that criteria.

The big story of the 2011 NBA finals is not Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd finally winning a championship, it's Lebron and D Wade losing a championship. Some skeptics will wonder if Lebron is mentally tough enough to win it all while other skeptics will ponder if rumors surrounding his girlfriend's infidelity played a part in the fiasco. Either way it's all about Lebron.

The NBA needs this, a pseudo villain people love or hate for superficial reason. Lebron's critics have never been happy with the notion that he could leave Cleveland, go play with his friends in Miami, and win a championship. If he was able to get his way the precedence being set would be too dangerous.

Lebron supporters would argue that free agency is free agency and there's no reason a player shouldn't be allowed to go wherever they want. If a player is willing to sacrifice individual accolades and monetary compensation for team accomplishments then so be it. What's the harm in that?

Lebron followers just want a taste of the juicy gossip that seems to follow him wherever he goes. From wild parties in Vegas to consensual relations between his mother and a teammate to stories of betrayal by one of his fellow NBA brethren (Rashard Lewis) with his girlfriend the life of Lebron has a little something for everyone.

Lebron James is too good and too young not to be relevant for the next 10 years. He will win championships and the whole world will watch not just for the results, but the process it takes to get there. There is never a dull moment with Lebron and the NBA is eternally grateful. Now how about a new CBA before the June 30th deadline huh?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Lebron Saves The NBA Part I

Phil Knight never makes mistakes so when Nike gave $90,000,000 to a kid straight out of high school we all figured he must be the next big thing. From the very beginning Lebron James was anointed the "Chosen One" and given the title of basketball savior.

His potential was limitless and with the right set of circumstances Lebron could be bigger than Michael Jordan. Commissioner David Stern signed off on the Lebron project with no hesitation. He was desperate to replicate the Jordan formula for success and get back to generating large amounts of revenue. A marketable kid with a lot of talent can go a long way.

The investment started to pay dividends right away. The Cleveland Cavaliers sold out arenas in every city and Lebron displayed the skills of a future NBA legend. Within his first four seasons Lebron would go from rookie of the year to NBA finalist.

In 2007 the media was drawn to the story of a young man that could bring the championship back to his hometown. Cleveland had experienced so much disappointment and heartache over the years the Cavs became the sentimental favorite everyone was pulling for. There would be no fairy tale ending however as the San Antonio Spurs mauled the Cavs 4-0. Although Lebron had achieved many accolades in a short amount of time the expectation after that series was to win a championship. The Lebron James mystique needed hardware to authenticate its power.

The next 3 years Lebron earned 2 MVP awards, but failed to carry his team out of the Eastern conference finals. The pressure was beginning to mount. Championships validate greatness and without one Lebron was nothing more than unfulfilled promise. The Jordan formula only works if you accomplish greatness.

As any smart businessman would do Lebron took matters into his own hands. Rather than sit around waiting for the Cavaliers organization to assemble talent around him he took his talents down to South Beach and teamed up with 2 other super powers in D Wade and Chris Bosh.

The decision was an unpopular one, but here we stand 2 games away from validation. Whether you love him or hate him Lebron is a figure the sports world has a vested interest in. We all want to see if Lebron has what it takes to get his team over the hump. If he wins the title or comes up miserably short games 6 and 7 are must see TV. Sports is the ultimate reality show and the results can't be scripted. For that reason the NBA can thank Lebron for the monster ratings over the course of the playoffs. If we weren't watching Lebron what would we have to watch for?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Terrelle Pryor's Fall From Grace

One day you're the starting quarterback for one of the top 5 college programs in America and the next you might be playing football in Saskatchewan. Such is the case for Terrelle Pryor, a one time Heisman hopeful now mired in a scandal of corruption and bribery.

To be clear college athletes taking money is nothing new. SMU in the early 80's literally had a payroll for its players. In the 90's Billy Joe Hobert accepted a loan for $50,000 payable whenever. 7 years ago Reggie Bush had his parents living in a mini mansion rent free. This year Cam Newton........ The tradition of receiving improper benefits was here long before us and will continue long after we're gone. The question is why do theses players get caught?

The simple truth is their arrogance and naivety catches up with them. We must remember that these players are 18-22 years old and not very sophisticated. Criminal mastermind is not one of the skills listed on their resume. They get bad advice and fail to execute their money laundering schemes effectively. They convince themselves they are above the law and no one is watching so they don't cover their tracks very well. If they get caught they forget the paper trail leads right back to them. Can you believe there's anyone stupid enough to receive illegal payments by check in 2011? Terrelle Pryor is inexcusably in that category.

Terrelle Pryor ruined a college football program, but there's hope he may have an NFL career someday. His physical attributes are exceptional and you can't teach size or speed. It's unlikely he will play quarterback given his bad judgement and willingness to jeopardize an organization for his own personal gain. Tight end or wide receiver is where he'll end up. Terrelle Pryor is 21 with his whole life ahead of him, but at this point he's got more baggage than Paris Hilton on a summer retreat. Someone will take a chance on the kid though. Let's see what he does with it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Floyd Mayweather's Plan

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is scheduled to fight Victor Ortiz for the WBC welterweight title on September 17th in Las Vegas. The fight will be an opportunity for Floyd to display his boxing dominance and add more hardware to his collection. The obvious question is why not fight Manny Pacquiao instead of this guy? Is there a method to his madness?

The plan is simple yet brilliant. By fighting an opponent no ones ever heard of boxing fans will become even more frustrated that the super fight hasn't taken place yet. Floyd will insist that he has been willing to fight Pacquiao for years, but Manny will not agree to random drug testing leading up to the showdown. The Pacquiao camp will be on the defensive and forced to come up with an answer that satisfies both his fans and his critics. The question is will Manny give in to Floyd's request?

The real victims in this whole charade are the boxing fans. They've been held hostage for almost two years waiting for a fight that may never take place. Without question this is the fight everyone wants to see, but politics and gamesmanship have stood in the way. In the minds of many Floyd is ducking the big fight because he's afraid he will lose. The reality is Floyd is an egomaniac who just wants the fight on his own terms. There is no fear factor.

The anticipation is growing for a super fight and my guess is it will happen next spring. Floyd can use the fight against Ortiz as a tune up for the main event. If Manny wants to solidify his legacy as one of the greatest champions of all time he will have to take the fight with Mayweather even if it means giving in to Floyd's demands. It's a small price to pay for immortality. Let's hope Manny does the right thing.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Will Plaxico Burress Play In The NFL Again?

Plaxico Burress was released form prison a few days ago for shooting himself in the leg in a New York nightclub. Actually he was sentenced for brandishing a firearm in a public place, but the shooting himself in the leg part (the real life Cheddar Bob) is still kind of comical to me. Now that Plaxico is free from incarceration what does the future hold for his NFL career?

I'm sure Plaxico has been working out in the yard, running basic routes, and catching passes while behind bars, but there's no way to simulate the speed or the physical nature of the NFL. Two years is an eternity for a professional athlete to be out of competition and there's no doubt in my mind Plaxico Burress has lost a step or two. You can't just pick up where you left off before going to jail and expect to have the same level of productivity.

That being said Michael Vick was able to resurrect his career after going through a similar situation and now performs at an all pro level. Michael is definitely the expception to the rule, but if you're going to use his experience as an example Plaxico should use his first season back as a transitional period to get his body and mind back in football shape. It would be unrealistic to expect more than 25-30 receptions.

The most important issue Plaxico has to deal with is convincing an organization that he's a changed man. He will have to spend some time with Tony Dungy and get him to sign off on whether her deserves a second chance. If and when he clears that hurdle someone will have to take the gamble that his off the field problems are a thing of the past. The odds are against him, but if Plaxico can stay healthy and find the right system we might see him turn his life around. My guess is some team will give him a shot, but he'll have a VERY short leash and probably won't get enough opportunities to prove what he can do leading to his ultimate release. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Isiah Thomas Part II?

Just because you were a great player doesn't mean you'll do great running a professional sports franchise. Wayne Gretzky ruined the Phoenix Coyotes. Michael Jordan drafted Kwame Brown with the #1 pick in the draft. Matt Millen drafted a wide receiver with a top 10 pick 4 times. The skills these former all stars displayed in their playing days didn't translate to upper management whatsoever. Now the rumors are beginning to circulate that Isiah Thomas is a candidate for the New York Knicks GM position.

It wasn't so long ago Isiah was deemed one of the worst (if not the worst) GM in basketball. The hall of fame point guard put together a team with Jerome James and Eddy Curry while trading a draft pick that ended up being the MVP of the league in Derrick Rose. It's obvious to anyone with half a brain that personnel decisions are not his strong suit. The winner of ESPN's fantasy basketball has a better chance of putting together a respectable roster. It is my belief that New York Knicks owner James Dolan doesn't see the big picture. He remembers Isiah as the leader of the 2 time NBA champion Detroit Pistons as opposed to the inept decision maker that saw the Knicks miss the playoffs every single year he was involved with the organization.

If the rumors are true and James Dolan brings Isiah back for a second your of duty the New York Knick fans may revolt. It would almost be worth it to see how much more damage he can do in a short period of time. If you include Eddy Curry's contract, the Larry Brown buyout, and the sexual harassment settlement Thomas has cost the Knicks over $140,000,000. It's safe to say that his judgement has not been stellar and there's no indication that his decision making skills are any better than when he was fired a few years ago. Whether it's because of loyalty, stubbornness, or stupidity the choice to bring back Isiah Thomas would be a grave error. New York City us holding their collective breaths right now. Can't wait to see what happens.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Live From Canucks Central

I'm up here in Vancouver for game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals and the natives are getting restless eh? It's a sweltering 31 degrees out here and I'm sweating like a sow. Everyone is chomping at the bit and biding their time for the game to start. There is no other topic of discussion or subject of interest around these parts. Canucks fever is in full effect. Everywhere you look you see flags, t-shirts, towels, and banners. After Vancouver won game 1 in dramatic fashion Canuck fans are anticipating an epic battle in game 2 as well.

It's amazing that sports can have this kind of impact on a city as a whole. Everyone is on the same page, everyone loves each other (if you're a Canucks fan), and everyone has the common goal of winning the Stanley Cup. It's the ideology and solidarity politicians dream of. It's a oneness religious leaders strive for. It's a focus social leaders envision as a best case scenario. Winning galvanizes people and brings them together like few other things. You can feel it calling in the air. You can hear it in people's voices. The whole town is friendly, upbeat, and will fight for one another. I pity the fool that walks down Robson Street with a Boston Bruins jersey on.

Ironically, the one thought that isn't permeating the psyche of Canucks fans is the agony of defeat. It's only positive vibes being generated around here. You need that to carry a team to a championship. The thought of losing can never enter your mind. It's that unwavering belief that makes losing at this level so painful.

Vancouver is the place to be right now. The synergy going on at this place is ridiculous. Whether the Canucks win the Stanley Cup and Vancouver throws a summer long party or they lose and everyone suffers through 2 months of depression the city is better off for the experience. Moments like this are rare. Enjoy it while you can.

Friday, June 3, 2011

USC Has Loose Morals

After being suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team Stephen Garcia has been allowed to participate in summer workouts for the South Carolina Gamecocks. If you look at his production on the field his reinstatement is not surprising. Garcia led the Gamecocks to the SEC East championship and has consistently been USC's best player. If you look at his problems off the field the decision is troubling.

Stephen Garcia has been suspended or kicked off the team 5 times for off the field incidents, one of them as recently as 2 months ago. You would think that with a multitude of infractions and violations committed against the university and the state of South Carolina Garcia would never see the field again. Why the sudden change of heart?

SEC FOOTBALL IS SERIOUS! The South Carolina alumni wouldn't stand back and watch their team lose because a few rules were broken by their star quarterback. Winning is everything in the SEC and unless Garcia did irreparable damage to a person, place, or thing there's no reason (in the minds of the fans) to keep the Gamecocks best player in street clothes. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and back up Conner Shaw looked shaky at best in his previous performances.

The message being sent by South Carolina is a dangerous one. I'm all about superstar preferential treatment, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. If the rules can be bent or twisted to accommodate the star players why have them at all? Why not tell the entire team that punishments being handed down are subject to your performance? This is how programs get themselves into trouble by facilitating an environment where certain players are above the law. It is inevitable that players will push the envelope until the boundaries of right and wrong no longer exist. The SEC has always played by their own rules. Stephen Garcia is just the latest example of that.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shaq: The Last Of A Dying Breed

In the early 90's the NBA landscape was controlled by big men. Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, and Patrick Ewing were coming into their prime while Kareem and Robert Parrish were making their graceful exits. It was the perfect time for Shaquille O'Neal to enter the league and change it forever.

At 7'1 330 pounds Shaq had a combination of size and athleticism no one had ever seen before. His strength was unmatched and he was deceptively quick. Within 3 years no one could guard him. In addition to his basketball ability Shaq had a charm and charisma that made him extremely marketable. His playful personality and quirky humor made him into an endorsement magnet. LA was the ideal place for Shaq to cash in on both of his talents.

The LA experience was fittingly dramatic. Shaq emerged as the dominant player in the NBA, but was forced to share the spotlight with a young and arrogant Kobe Bryant. Thew two bumped heads in an epic power struggle. Although the dynamic duo won 3 championships together management ultimately sided with Kobe and Shaq was forced to take his talents to South Beach (sound familiar?). He teamed up with D Wade and won another championship solidifying his place in history as one of the greatest big men to ever play the game.

Shortly after the 2006 season Shaq's skills started to diminish and he bounced around the league from Miami to Phoenix to Cleveland to Boston. Due to injury his career came to an end yesterday. Shaq will undoubtedly be remembered for his feud with Kobe, but let's not forget about his legacy on the court. Shaq dominated his era like no other player and his 4 championships are a testament to his greatness.

Big men once roamed the NBA in abundance and now they are practically extinct. Aside from Dwight Howard no one else even commands a double team. Shaq will go down in history as the last great big man. Before him there were many, but after him there will be none. Shaq was the last of a dying breed. Sorry to see you go.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Jose Bautista Is On Steroids

Jose Bautista is on steroids. There's no other explanation for his dramatic increase in home runs over the past two seasons. The Toronto Blue Jay slugger is taking some new exotic drug that would make Victor Conte proud. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

It's unfortunate that in 2011 a lot of people feel the same way I do. Jose is guilty until proven innocent because of the past indiscretions of former players. Sports fans have become cynical with regards to athletes denying drug use. We've heard it too many times from too many different players.

It could very well be that Jose has switched up his training regiment, fixed his swing, changed his diet, or started saying his prayers and eating his vitamins more often to increase production. There's no rule against using those methods to improve one's statistical output, but it's not as tried and true as the clear or the cream.

In recent years Major league baseball has done a fantastic job of testing and monitoring players for performance enhancing drugs. For that reason we should be able to give Jose the benefit of the doubt. The drug culture has been eliminated, but the negative effects still remain. No one believes a player can put up HUGE numbers without taking something illegal.

Jose Bautista will play his entire career under a cloud of suspicion and there's nothing he can do about it. Until sports fans see a few examples of "clean" superstars in baseball the jury is still out. Please don't get caught Jose.