Saturday, July 30, 2011

Will The US Ever Have A Futbol Team?

I hate to keep bagging on US soccer, but they've made themselves such an easy target recently I can't resist. Earlier this week Bob Bradley was fired as coach of the US men's soccer team and replaced by Juergen Klinsmann. Although Klinsmann was a top player international player for the German team I suspect the results will be the same.

The Man U tour only helped to reinforce the notion that American soccer is bush league compared to the rest of the world. Manchester scored a touchdown and an extra point against the Seattle Sounders and beat the MLS all stars like a rented mule. Wayne Rooney looked like Diego Maradona and Pele all wrapped into one. The US resistance was dismal and embarrassing. Is there any chance US soccer will gain respectability in the near future?

Unlikely. US soccer is so far behind the rest of the world it will take at least a decade to catch up. The United States prides itself on being competitive in whatever sport we set out to master, but this time it's a losing proposition. America will just have to accept the fact soccer is not a sport the country excels at. There is nothing wrong with being less than average so long as you try your best and improve every day. That's all we can ask.

There is no quick fix to this problem. There is no one player or coach that's going to turn this thing around. In the mean time the United States will have to make a concerted effort to lure top athletes away from basketball and football while supporting the MLS and youth soccer programs. We've certainly got our work cut out for us.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Vince Young Is The Next Michael Vick

How many times have we heard this story? A talented athlete with maturity and leadership issues gets discarded from the team that drafted him only to resurrect his career with another team. The talented, but troubled Vince Young looks like he's about to add his name to the list of players that turn their lives around once they are down to their last strike. After being released by the Tennessee Titans Vince Young has found a home in Philadelphia signing a one year deal with the Eagles. Will he turn out to be the next Michael Vick?

Their stories are similar. Like Michael Vick Vince Young was a star in college that ended up as the #3 pick in the draft 5 years ago and like Michael Vick his leadership and work ethic have been questioned. He constantly bumped heads with then head coach Jeff Fisher and even went so far as to stay in Miami after a game with the Dolphins (to kick it on South Beach no less) rather than travel with the team. His act wore thin with Titans management and they showed him the door.

With no other suitors in free agency and no team willing to give him a starting job as quarterback Vince Young's only option was holding a clip board and signaling plays from the sideline. Once again Philadelphia has embarked on a project they hope will pay dividends. What better person to get advice from than Michael Vick? A man that had it all, lost everything, and is on the verge of having it all again. If he pays attention the lessons learned from Michael Vick could change his life.

The most important part of this equation is opportunity. With the style of football Michael Vick plays it's unlikely he will stay healthy for an entire season. His ribs and hamstrings won't allow it. Vince Young will have a chance to showcase his talent at least 3 or 4 times on a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

If he shows the ability to master the offense and lead his team to victories there's no reason some franchise won't give him a shot next year as a starter. Vince Young is in the perfect situation to put his career back on the right track. Let's see what he does with it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jalen Rose: The Victim Of Athlete Profiling?

Current ESPN basketball analyst and former Fab 5 member Jalen Rose was sentenced to 20 days in jail for a DUI conviction. He had no past criminal record and is viewed as a model citizen and a role model thats ponsors charter schools and donates his time and money to charitable causes. The mayor of Detroit even spoke on his behalf asking the court for leniency in this matter. I'm not condoning drunk driving, but to say the punishment didn't fit the crime would be an understatement.

Charles Barkley received 3 days in jail for the same infraction. Donte Stallworth killed a man while over the legal limit and barely spent a month behind bars. I find it difficult to believe the actions of Jalen Rose were any more severe than those two incidents. 20 days in jail far exceeds the sentencing recommendation for a DUI so why the harsh judgment?

In my estimation Jalen Rose is a victim of the media coverage that surrounds past and present athletes. The cumulative effect of hearing countless stories regarding DUI's and athletes influenced the judges decision. He saw it as an opportunity to make a statement about the preferential treatment he feels athletes receive. The length of the sentence had nothing to do with the crime, it was a vindictive way to send a message. The American judicial system is tired of hearing these cases.

Jalen Rose is not the last high profile athlete (past or present) that will have to deal with a DUI conviction. I wonder if future judges will feel compelled to follow suit given the precedence that is being established in Detroit. My guess is this isolated incident won't lead to sweeping changes in the sentencing guidelines.

Instead this case will be looked upon as Jalen Rose running into a conservative, idealistic judge that took his frustrations out on him. The best thing for Jalen to do is take his medicine and keep it moving. Easy for me to say, I'm not the one that has to do the 20.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Is Seattle The Worst Sports City In America?

I'm a patient man. I understand the big picture. Excellence is a process that takes time and doesn't happen overnight. This mindset is essential for Seattle sports fans right about now. The Seattle Mariners are currently on the longest losing streak in franchise history and the Seattle Seahawks are in DEEP rebuilding mode after the departure of starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Is there a silver lining?

The Mariners are a youthful bunch with a lot of potential. Second baseman Dustin Ackley has been better than expected and starting pitcher Michael Pineda is a star in the making. Several other minor league prospects have gained valuable experience this season and the future looks bright. Unfortunately I'll have to wait until 2013 before this team really comes into its own.

The Seahawks on the other hand will be victims of their own success. The team overachieved last year by winning their division and upsetting the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in the playoffs. Reality will set in this year however as the Seahawks have a brutal schedule. With games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Atlanta Falcons one would be hard pressed to expect more than 6 wins this season.

As strange as it sounds I still have confidence both teams are headed in the right direction. I think the Seahawks are in a better position to be a title contender in the near future (mostly because of Pete Carroll) but the Mariners have a nice nucleus to build around as well. The bad news is both teams will experience severe growing pains and embarrassing losses along the way. If you're going to bake a cake you're going to have to break a few eggs. 2011 clearly is not our year, but rest assured Seattle sports fans good things are on the horizon.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The NFL Is My Fantasy

NFL fans around the world can now rest easy, the lockout is over. After much debate and negotiation there will be football for the next decade. I can't predict who will win the super bowl just yet because free agency signings are critical, but the one thing I do know is my friends and adversaries are in big trouble.

With the collective bargaining agreement behind us fantasy football is right around the corner. I intend to annihilate the competition. It's time to crack open a can of whoop ass on anyone who dare oppose me. People spread gossip and believe what they must, but lets get one thing straight. I will walk away this season as Mr. Fantasia, the king of the fantasy football world.

In years past I've been stymied by under achieving players (Ryan Mathews), questionable personnel moves (starting Reggie Bush before he was healthy), and over analysis. This year my strategy is perfected and I've added a few wrinkles to my scouting method so winning is inevitable. It's time to rebuild the Death Star piece by piece if you know what I'm saying.

I'm not going to just beat my opponents, I'm going to embarrass them. I'm going to talk so much trash after my victories it will make Floyd Mayweather Jr. seem shy and introverted. I'm going to get on my opponents nerves so bad I may need a bodyguard for my own protection.

I'll send texts, tweets, e-mails, facebook postings, letters, telegrams, Morse code messages, whatever it takes to get my point across. I'm the LL Cool J of fantasy football and Jack the Ripper is back ready to inflict pain and emotional distress on my victims.

I pity the fools that jump in front of the Cleavie Wonder express this year. I'm taking no prisoners and the casualties that lay in my wake will be too numerous to count. For those of you that dare to enter the Cleavie zone it's the start of your ending.

If I don't win the championship this year I'll sell all my personal belongings and move to Nova Scotia. I'll live off the land eating wild berries and small animals I've never heard of. It's a bold statement, but I'll back up every word of it. Let the games begin!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Legend Of Brian Wilson

I don't typically care for athletes with a wacky demeanor, but I have to admit Brian Wilson is starting to grow on me. The San Francisco Giants closer has the ability to back up his quirkiness with a league leading 31 saves for a team with the best ERA in baseball. If he continues with his dominant ways the Giants have a great chance to repeat as World Series champs.

Brian Wilson is not only a character he's a team leader. The Giants rally around his persona and adopt his attitude and swagger. He gives them a nasty streak and a confidence that carries the team to the next level. Other than Brian Wilson the San Francisco Giants are a collection pf regular guys that go out and do their job without publicity. Aside from Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum the team doesn't possess a bona fide superstar fans outside of the bay area have ever heard of.

That's what makes Brian Wilson so unique. The media is starting to gravitate towards him because he's wild, zany, and unpredictable. As he racks up the saves his mystique only gains in popularity and the coverage of his weird antics and rituals increases.

He got my attention because I realize how important a reliable close is for post season success and Brian Wilson is the best in the business right now. He's forced me to look past the idiosychrasies of his personality and appreciate his impact on the game. When he's on his game he's virtually unhittable and strikes fear in his opponents.

From the ridiculous beard reminiscent of a young Santa Claus to the bizarre one liners in post game interviews to the graphic tattoos streaming across his neck Brian Wilson is an original. My hunch is he'll have his own reality show by years end (especially if the Giants win the World Series again). Stay tuned.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Is Tiger Woods The New Icecube?

You know your fame and influence are out of this world when you can't even fire your bag boy without starting controversy. Tiger Woods parted ways with his longtime caddie Steve Williams and the break up was bitter to say the least. Steve Williams has gone on record saying he wasted the last two years of his life and the decision caught him completely off guard. Is Tiger Woods a bad person for letting Steve Williams go?

Absolutely not. Tiger Woods made a decision that was in his best interest going forward. He didn't send Steve Williams a text message, post his firing on a website, or send him a tweet. Tiger fired him face to face and man to man. There is no nice way to inform someone their services will no longer be needed so what more can you ask for? The two had a lot of success together but does that mean Tiger Woods can't decide to go in a different direction?

To be fair Steve Williams had the opportunity of a lifetime as the caddie for Tiger Woods. He's made MILLIONS of dollars, traveled the world in first class, and got to be a part of history carrying golf clubs for the athlete of the decade. His life will be forever changed because of the experience. Shouldn't he be thanking Tiger Woods for time well spent instead of criticizing him in the media? I guarantee you won't hear his name nearly as often (if ever) now that he caddies for Adam Scott full time. If you don't know who Adam Scott is believe me you're not alone.

Winning cures all things so as soon as Tiger hoists a big shiny trophy over his head all will be forgiven. Everyone will stop with the second guessing and realize in some instances change is for the best. Until then Tiger Woods remains the athlete you love to hate living under a microscope. Let's hope he doesn't fire his chef or personal trainer. Things could get really ugly then.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Curse Of Chone Figgins

When the Seattle Mariners acquired Chone Figgins in free agency the thought was the Mariners would have a potent 1-2 punch at the top of their batting order. Chone was a good lead off hitter in his own right and pairing up with Ichiro (arguably the best lead off hitter in baseball) was supposed to help the team manufacture runs. As we approach the end of his 2nd year as a Mariner the Chone Figgins experiment clearly has been unsuccessful. What wet wrong?

In my opinion Chone has never been comfortable in his surroundings. Seattle is a city some players have a difficult time adapting to. It's isolated, rainy, and quite frankly doesn't have the same amenities a lot of other major metropolitan cities have. From a cultural standpoint Seattle lacks a strong ethnic population and the small minority communities are fragmented. I get the feeling Chone has never felt like he belonged here.

That being said there is a certain level of expectation that comes with 9 million dollars a season and Figgins has not lived up to that. His batting average has fluctuated between .190 and .200 and his fielding has been suspect. It's pretty clear the Seattle Mariners organization is going to have to admit they made a mistake and cut their losses.

With the trade deadline looming the Atlanta Braves have shown interest in trading for the utility infielder. Chone is from Georgia so the proposed trade could be a win win situation. Chone will get to play in a familiar environment with less pressure and distractions while Seattle gets to cut payroll. I wouldn't be surprised if his performance on the field was dramatically improved.

Unfortunately the Seattle Mariners won't get to reap the benefits of his talents, but at least they won't be stuck with a player who looks like a fish out of water. When it's all said and done Chone Figgins will look like a bad guy for not putting up bigger numbers with the Mariners, but nature vs. nurture is a complicated concept. I'll give him a pass.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Was USC too tough on Marc Tyler?

USC tailback Marc Tyler is in hot water. The son of former NFL great Wendell Tyler was caught on camera by TMZ in a drunken stupor ranting about how the university pays its players and how USC stands for the university of sexual ballers (somehow he got the B and the C mixed up). Marc Tyler has been suspended for the first game of the season and barred from all activities with the football team for the same duration of time. Does the punishment fit the crime?

Absolutely not. Marc Tyler is the victim of a society obsessed with drama and sensationalism. TMZ instigated the entire sequence of events by taking advantage of Tyler in a vulnerable state. TMZ knew he was drunk and would potentially say something that was incriminating or damaging to his image and reputation. To their credit he did not disappoint.

It could be argued that TMZ was just doing their job and that Marc Tyler is an idiot that should have never opened his mouth in the first place. I would argue that Marc Tyler is a 21 year old kid that was just having some fun with his friends and had no intentions of having his life turned upside down with an unexpected interview. Perhaps he should have known better, but how can you predict when a pack of gossip hungry reporters are going to shove a camera in your face and ask you a bunch of ridiculous questions?

In any event the penalty for bad judgement in this scenario is too severe. USC overreacted to the situation because they are sensitive to past indiscretions. Pat Haden and the athletic department are trying to send a strong message to present and future players, but the message is lost in translation. Since when do you get suspended without violating any team rules or government laws? Is it a crime to get drunk and say something stupid? This suspension sets a dangerous precedence and don't be surprised if it hurts USC's recruiting efforts. For now Marc Tyler will have to play the villain role and apologize for making inappropriate comments on television. We'll see how this affects his career in the long run. My guess is this will not be the last time TMZ causes trouble. Good luck everyone.

Tuesday, July 19, 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. The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cleveland Indians are in first place on July 19th.

2. The Seattle Mariners have scored 11 runs in their last 9 games.

3. 7 of the 10 WNBA all star starters went to college at Connecticut or Tennessee (including all of the Western conference starters).

4. David Stern has taken down the pictures of all current NBA players on the website.

5. The US women's World Cup soccer team had never missed 2 penalty kicks in a World Cup game until Sunday.

6. Nate Robinson bench presses more than twice his body weight.

7. The New York Yankees will pay more for their infield this year (79 million) than half the teams in baseball will pay for their entire roster.

8. Charles Woodson is the only Heisman trophy winner in the last 15 years to win a Super Bowl (Reggie Bush recently vacated his award).

9. The last 2 major golf championships have been won by players from Ireland.

10. From 1980 to 1989 the Los Angeles Lakers played for the championship 8 times (5-3).

Monday, July 18, 2011

The World Cup Final Proves Soccer Still Isn't Popular

On Saturday night I was having drinks with some friends and the subject of the World Cup final came up. When asked whether anyone was going to watch the game the consensus was we would all catch the highlights on Sportscenter.

As the game approached I changed my mind. It would be irresponsible and arrogant of me not to watch. How could I proclaim myself the expert on all things sports related and not watch the finals of the world's most popular sport? As a journalist and a sports blogger I owed it to my family, friends, fans, and followers to show some professionalism so I tuned in.

From the moment go the women's World Cup final had every element in a sporting event you could ask for. In terms of living up to the hype the final game far exceeded expectations. There was more drama and intrigue than the Maury Povich show. Even the President tweeted to say the World Cup final had his undivided attention.

As the game ebbed and flowed back and forth I always had the sneaking suspicion it would be decided on penalty kicks. Even when the US went up 2-1 during the extra session it only seemed right that the 2011 World Cup team would follow the same rite of passage as the 1999 team they are so often compared to.

The penalty kick segment was epic. The misses, the saves, and ultimately Japan's triumph captured the essence of sports. After the game was over I watched the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat and 3 minutes later I changed the channel and went on with the rest of my day as if nothing happened.

There in lies the problem. There was no lingering effect, no emotional exhaustion. When the Seattle Seahawks lost the Super Bowl I didn't sleep well for a month. When Kobe Bryant missed his chance to tie Michale Jordan's 6 championships my phone didn't stop ringing for a week. Soccer has made great strides in that last two decades, but it's still not in the hearts of American sports fans. Maybe in the future that will change. For now it's just an ancillary sport that casual fans tune in to every four years. If a World Cup final that exciting doesn't faze the public as a whole then the sport has a lot of work to do. Your thoughts?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Golden Tate Speaks The Truth

Golden Tate learned a valuable lesson yesterday. In today's society it's easy to offend people even if you're speaking the truth. Golden Tate was raked over the coals for remarks he made about the athleticism of NASCAR drivers and specifically Jimmie Johnson. Here are the tweets that got him into trouble:

Jimmie Johnson up for best athlete???? Um nooo.. Driving a car does not show athleticism. Who looks like a better athlete? Lebron making a sick play or Jimmie Johnson riding in circles. I'm not saying NASCAR isn't hard, I'm just saying you don't have to be athletic to do that.

From my perspective Golden Tate didn't say a single thing that wasn't true yet the backlash was enormous. The average sports fan can name 43 sports off the top of their head where it takes more athleticism than driving a car. If Jimmie Johnson came up to you in a dark alley demanding your wallet you'd kick his ass. He strikes no fear and you wouldn't think he was capable of overpowering you in any way. If you made a list of the 14,000 best athletes in America a race car driver is not making the cut. A NASCAR driver might have a tough time making your company's softball team.

In defense of Golden Tate I bet he thought his comments were so blatantly obvious they couldn't possibly be considered controversial. To his credit he did the politically correct thing and made some bullsh*t apology to appease the fans of NASCAR nation. Judging by their reaction you'd swear he called NASCAR drivers a bunch of girlie men. Golden Tate if you're reading remember this, just because something is the truth doesn't mean you have to say it out loud.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Has Nate Robinson Lost His Mind?

With the NBA lockout in full effect and no end in sight players clearly have too much time on their hands. It has been reported that Oklahoma City point guard Nate Robinson will attempt to make an NFL roster (once THAT lockout is over) as a corner back. Is this a wise decision?

Absolutely not. Nate Robinson hasn't played competitive football in almost 9 years and the chances of him making an NFL roster is slim to none. This is not an indictment on his ability or his determination. Anyone who has followed Nate Robinson's career knows he's a freakish athlete who can jump out of the gym and flip over a Volkswagen, but this is the NFL we're talking about. You don't just walk in off the street, grab a playbook, and go to work. The schemes are complex and the talent level is unbelievable.

The bigger question is why risk an injury? Football is 10,496 times more physical than basketball and at 5'9 180 pounds there's a good chance Nate could get hurt. Trying to tackle Brandon Jacobs in the open field running full speed is a lot different than help defense on Jason Terry. The players are too big and the sport is too violent not to expect something to go wrong.

I've always said if you have a choice between playing football and another sport professionally play the other sport. The careers are longer, there's less wear and tear on your body, and unless you're an NFL superstar the money is better. Nate Robinson would be better off playing basketball overseas than putting himself through the rigors of a training camp. His body and his pocket book would thank him in the long run.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

James Harrison: A Man Misunderstood

There has been a media uproar recently regarding comments made by James Harrison in an article for Men's Journal magazine. The Steelers linebacker made derogatory comments about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and running back Rashard Mendenhall. Not quite sure what all the fuss is about. By any one's standards James Harrison is a loose cannon so if you put a microphone in front of him you shouldn't be shocked if says something controversial.

If you went looking for a gas leak with a match and the building blew up would you be surprised? If you left an alcoholic in a bar with an open tab would you be stunned if they were drunk when you came back? James Harrison is a linebacker in the Steelers mold. His predecessors Joey Porter, Greg Lloyd, and Jack Lambert were no different. They're all outspoken, aggressive, hard nosed, sons of bitches that will take your head clean off if you give them a chance. The same mindset that makes them legendary on the field is the same mindset that gets them into trouble off the field.

Professional football players aren't wired the same way as average people and James Harrison is more volatile than most. He's an easy target that's vulnerable to criticism because he speaks his mind and gives you the unedited, unfiltered version of how he feels. Reporters and journalists exploit this characteristic and use it to their advantage.

It's unfortunate James Harrison's brash and abrasive words detract from the real message he's trying to convey. The real message is James Harrison is a football player who feels he's been unfairly labeled as a dirty player and punished unjustly for playing a violent sport in a violent manner. Personally I think there's a lot of truth to that. Your thoughts?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Is Baseball Ready For Some Brew?

It's not too often the Milwaukee Brewers do something newsworthy so I'll take this time to give them their moment in the spotlight. I would venture to guess quite a few of my readers don't even know who the Milwaukee Brewers are so I will give you a quick synopsis.

The Brewers are a small market team that hasn't been relevant on the baseball landscape in 30 years. The last time they reached the World Series was 1982. Yesterday the Brewers traded for Mets ace reliever Francisco Rodriguez in a move many consider makes them the favorite to win the NL Central. Will the trade pay dividends?

It all depends on how Rodriguez handles the transition from the Big Apple to the Bratwurst capital of the world. The environment and culture is vastly different in Milwaukee, but I think Francisco is up to the challenge. It may actually do him some good to step out of the media pressure cooker that is New York. Last year was a nightmare season for Rodriguez as he battled inconsistency in his pitching and off the field problems with his family. The change of scenery may be just what the doctor ordered.

The Milwaukee Brewers are currently tied for first place in the NL Central so adding one of the top closers in the game is significant. The other teams in contention for the division title are also small market teams (St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati) that may not be able to afford a talented impact player down the stretch. The Brewers know this and decided to go all in. We'll see if it gets them to the final table. It's not all about Francisco, but if he does his job Milwaukee should be in the playoffs.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

10 Questions About The CFL

With the NFL lockout going on its 2,417th day I've resorted to watching Canadian football. I must say it's an adequate substitute. The players perform at a fairly high level and the CFL even has players I remember from their college days. It takes a little time to adjust to 3 downs and 20 yard end zones, but overall the CFL is a pretty good product. If any of you are interested in what the league has to offer I'll answer 10 important questions for you about the CFL. Here it goes.

1. Which league has the best cheerleaders? Hands down the NFL. If the Miami Dolphins or Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders showed up for a Winnipeg game the fans would swear it was a Miss Universe pageant.

2. Do CFL players have groupies? Anywhere there's athletes making good money and appearing on television you will find groupies. The CFL is no different.

3. Can you name 5 CFL teams? BC Lions, Edmonton Eskimos, and the Toronto Argonauts. After that I draw a blank.

4. Could the Grey Cup champion beat the Super Bowl champion? Absolutely not. The Packers would crush any CFL team by at least 30 points no matter which style of football the teams played.

5. Could the Grey Cup champion beat the NCAA national champion? Of course. Just because it's the CFL doesn't mean they're not pros.

6. How would Peyton Manning do in the CFL? 67 touchdowns, 5 ints, 7,916 yards passing.

7. Could the CFL MVP play in the NFL? Warren Moon and Doug Flutie both has great NFL careers so it's entirely possible.

8. If there was a CFL game and an NFL game were on at the same time which one would you watch? The NFL game. Even if it was the Grey Cup I would still probably watch the NFL game.

9. Should the leagues consider an annual game? Absolutely. I'd love to see a team from the NFL and the CFL play each other with the rules alternating every year.

10. Would you watch an episode of CFL wives? HELL NO!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Shawn Kemp Jr: What's In A Name?

In Seattle the name Shawn Kemp brings up all kinds of emotions and positive thoughts of glory days long since past. Sonic fans remember all too well a skinny kid from Indiana that evolved into the Reign Man and brought the Supersonics within one game of an NBA championship. His dazzling display of dunks and alley oops from Gary "The Glove" Payton are etched into our hearts and minds. Last week the University of Washington announced that Shawn Kemp Jr. has decided to play basketball in the city his father became an iconic figure. What can we expect from his namesake?

To be fair, there's really no comparison between the two. They're both named Shawn Kemp and they're both 6'10, but that's where the similarities end. Shawn Kemp Jr. was not a top recruit out of high school and doesn't display the same explosive athleticism of the elder Kemp. His numbers were average against formidable competition and his footwork needs improvement. To make matters worse Shawn Kemp Jr. didn't even play basketball last year. The kid has physical tools (you can't teach height), but he will be a project with a capital P. Pac 12 basketball is no joke and I doubt he will get much playing time this upcoming year.

For fans to hold Shawn Kemp Jr. to the same standard they hold Shawn Kemp would be a mistake. It's an exercise in futility that can only end with disappointment. The best thing to do is let the kid develop on his own without the pressure of unrealistic expectation. The Huskies need size and someone they can mold for the future and from that perspective Shawn Kemp Jr. is in the right place. If the fans are looking for posterizing dunks from day one and criticizing the short comings in his game Seattle will be a nightmare. The name Shawn Kemp casts a big shadow. Let's hope Shawn Kemp Jr. steps out of it in his own way.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Should You Push Your Kids To Play Sports?

One of my friends has a beautiful daughter and at age 4 she's only a couple inches short of my arm pit. The doctors project her to be 6'5. Another close friend has a son that just finished his freshmen year in high school at 6'0 218 pounds. The doctors project him to be 6'4. Although it's too early to tell what their interests will be in life should these parents encourage their kids to excel in athletics?

Absolutely they should. These parents would be doing their children a disservice if they didn't push then towards athletics. There is no guarantee that these kids will excel at or even like sports, but their physical stature suggests they should at least give it a try. Sports would undoubtedly help these kids with their social development by providing an environment where they won't feel awkward. Their size will be looked upon as a benefit and an advantage as opposed to a physical oddity. Kids can be cruel and when there's something unique about you they tend to make life miserable. At least with sports there's an opportunity to accentuate the positives.

You can't always let kids just be what they want to be. If a child has a voice like an angel you should encourage that child to take vocal lessons. If a child has a vibrant outgoing personality you shouldn't encourage them to be an accountant. Parents should guide their children towards activities that give them the best chance to succeed in the future. What's the worst that could happen?

Friday, July 8, 2011

5 Cities You Don't Want To Play In

Athletes very rarely get to choose which city or team they play for. Although there is free agency in every sport (thanks to Curt Flood) the window of opportunity is very small and it doesn't factor in trade possibilities. Even if a player signs a free agent contract there's no guarantee that team won't trade that player at a later date. Some cities are easier to play in than others so with no further adieu here is my list of the 5 worst cities to play in.

1. New York. You either love it or you hate it, but the Big Apple is no place for the faint of heart. For every Derek Jeter, Walt Frazier, and Joe Namath there is a Randy Johnson and Bobby Bonilla. It takes a certain temperament to handle the criticism and scrutiny that comes with playing in the city that never sleeps.

2. Salt Lake City. With the exception of Karl Malone and John Stockton the Utah Jazz have not done well in keeping free agents. In addition few players consider Utah as a final destination for their career. There's not a lot to do there and the minority population is similar to Moscow.

3. Portland. Zach Randolph and Rasheed Wallace were both malcontents when they played in Rip City. After touching down in Memphis and Detroit respectively that all changed. Perhaps it's the isolation , the dreary weather, or the powerful green plants, but Portland tends to have a draining effect on players.

4. Oklahoma City. Just like Salt Lake City and Portland there's not a lot of recreational activities to participate in. The Thunder franchise is fairly new, but I suspect they will struggle to lure big name freed agents to Oklahoma. Let us not forget 70% of the state voted for John McCain in 2008. That speaks volumes about the mind set and culture over there.

5. New Orleans. The Big Easy makes the list because unlike OKC and Salt Lake there's trouble around every corner 24/7. New Orleans is known for its rich culture and never ending night life. For a player that has issues with self control and temptation New Orleans can be too much for them to handle.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Deron Williams: The Turkish Delight?

New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams has a deal to play basketball in Turkey if the NBA lockout continues. The most optimistic of NBA insiders predict the lockout will last at least until January if not the entire season. Deron Williams will have plenty of time to get acquainted with Istanbul. Is this a good decision?

Yes and no. From the standpoint of keeping the rust off your game it's a great idea. Why not keep your game sharp against formidable competition and get paid to do it. There are presently no other options that will pay him $5,000,000 to play the game he loves. He might even learn a thing or two that will make him a better point guard once the NBA resumes play.

From the standpoint of risk to reward his decision makes no sense whatsoever. Deron Williams is about to be one of the top free agents in 2012 and is looking to sign a lucrative long term contract. In addition, he already has guaranteed money on the table with the New Jersey Nets once the the lockout issue is resolved. If he tears an ACL or ruptures his Achilles tendon playing in some random world league he could cost himself hundreds of millions of dollars. I don't think the insurance policy he takes out will cover that.

Most players go overseas because they're past their and can't play anymore (Dominique Wilkens, Allen Iverson, Bob McAdoo) or they couldn't make it in the NBA to begin with. A player going overseas in their prime is unprecedented. The NBA has never had to worry about its best players venturing off to other leagues. Now that Deron Williams has started a new trend maybe other players will follow suit. I doubt the NBA wants to deal with that headache and the legal ramifications that come with it. The solution is simple, sign a new collective bargaining agreement to prevent this from happening. If only it were that easy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ultimate Frisbee Is Not A Sport

I was speaking with my mom yesterday and she told me one of her co-workers wanted to quit because the company wouldn't change his schedule to accommodate ultimate Frisbee practice. I started laughing uncontrollably for 4:19. After I finally calmed down and caught my breath I was able to process what I had just heard. There are people out there that take ultimate Frisbee so seriously that they would jeopardize the opportunity to stay game fully employed (in this economy) if it interfered with their ultimate Frisbee preparation time. Really?

In my estimation ultimate Frisbee isn't even a real sport. Sure there's a governing body and sanctioned events worldwide, but it's Frisbee for God's sake! Frisbee is more associated with picnic's at the beach and stupid pet tricks than athletic competition. Anytime an activity is more exciting when dogs participate there's a problem. If you have to share the spotlight with a Golden Retriever what does that say about the activity you're engaging in?

I'm all for people getting exercise and staying in shape. Most people (including myself) are fat, lazy, and overweight. It's great to see competition and team work carried out in a constructive manner, but ultimate Frisbee is a recreational hobby not a sport. Maybe if I lived in a warmer climate other than South Alaska I would feel differently about it. Maybe citizens of California, Arizona, and Florida completely disagree with my opinion. Maybe I'm just old school. Any ways it goes I can't take ultimate Frisbee seriously or move it to the sports side of the ledger. Sorry.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Can Tito Ortiz Save The UFC?

Tito Ortiz made his triumphant return to the octagon with an impressive victory over Ryan Bader at UFC 132. The Huntington Beach Bad Boy proved his critics wrong and defied the odds by re-establishing his relevance in the UFC. Was this an apparition or can we expect to see more great performances from Tito?

By all accounts Tito Ortiz is past his prime and may not be able to handle the top contenders in the sport, but that doesn't mean he's not important. Tito was the face of the UFC for many years and is still a fan favorite. MMA still struggles to achieve mainstream success and without big names for the public to follow the challenges will continue. Tito Ortiz provides that big name.

In addition, Tito has the kind of personality the sport needs. Whether you love him or hate him you have to admit Ortiz brings a level of interest few other fighter possess. Certainly there are other fighters with a large fan base and following, but that doesn't necessarily make them marketable. There are really only a handful of fighters (Anderson Silva, George St. Pierre, Rampage Jackson) that have crossover appeal.

Tito Ortiz may not win another UFC belt, but he will make his presence felt. Tito is an irritant that has a way of getting under people's skin and on their nerves. By the time the fight starts there will be bad blood and harsh words exchanged on both sides.

As the sport continues to evolve and eat away at boxing's market share Tito Ortiz give the UFC both credibility and excitement. At his age however let's hope Tito maintains his health and gets out before he embarrasses himself. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Jose Reyes And The Contract year

After being publicly ridiculed by his teams owner New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes is having a fantastic season. He leads the league in hitting and has a .397 on base percentage. Right now he's the best lead off hitter in the game and arguably the best shortstop so why would the owner have disparaging words about his star player? It's a contract year.

In the sports world there is a belief that athletes in the last year of a contract perform better. They run faster, jump higher, and play harder to insure they get the most lucrative contract possible. I understand the logic behind the theory, but I don't believe it to be true. It suggests that players don't play hard or give maximum effort once they feel financially secure. That may be the case for some guys, but typically great players are self motivated and play at a high level because they are driven not because of the monetary value of their talents.

Quite often the opposite is true. Players press and try harder after receiving a big contract to prove their worth and validate the investment. The pressure of expectation can lead to locker room issues, run-ins with fans and the media, or even the use of performance enhancing drugs a la Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez.

If players only tried hard during contract years why not just sign players to 1 year deals? Because owners don't want players having the option to leave every year. That's the hypocrisy of the argument. If Jose Reyes leaves in free agency the Mets organization will say he only gave maximum effort when it benefited him. If he re-signs with New York everyone will expect him to lead the league in hitting every season. It's all about projected production which isn't an exact science. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but don't blame it on the contract year.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Summertime Sports

This time of the year is what sports enthusiasts refer to as the dead zone. No football, basketball, or hockey just baseball and a bunch of ancillary sports that aren't very spectator friendly. I try to use this time to expand my sports knowledge and follow sports I wouldn't ordinarily pay attention to. Here's a few of the sports I've tried to get into.

1. Swimming. I tuned in to watch the US Grand Prix and it was the most boring 4:15 I spent the entire day. I'm not sure Michael Phelps could have made this interesting. Some guy from Brazil won, that's all I remember. On a scale of 1 to 10 for entertainment I give it a 4.

2. BMX Triple Finals. I fully understand there is an X Games generation that absolutely loves this stuff, but I can't get too excited about BMX bikes and skateboards. The ramps and the jumps are cool and all, but I can't give it more than 5 minutes. On a scale of 1 to 10 for entertainment I give it a 4 1/2.

3. Nathan's hot dog eating contest. This doesn't take place until the 4th of July, but Joey Chesnut vs. Kobayashi is shaping up to be one of the decades biggest rivalries. There's bad blood between these two and each contestant is a champion in their own right. I can't really watch the whole event because it grosses me out, but I'll definitely catch the Sportscenter highlights on Monday. On a scale of 1 to 10 for entertainment I give it a 5.

4. NASCAR. I Watched the end of the Sonoma race on Sunday in utter amazement. I couldn't believe hundreds of thousands of people pay to watch this kind of monotony. My guy Jeff Gordon came in 2nd so it was almost bearable, but there's no way I could sit through an entire race. On a scale of 1 to 10 for entertainment I give it a 5.

5. Women's World Cup. This is almost tolerable because there's a compelling storyline. Hope Solo is a feisty little thing that got kicked off the team 4 years ago for calling out the coach after he benched her. It's funny to see Brianna Scurry (the player Hope was benched in favor of) squirm awkwardly as she commentates about Hope's play as a goalie. Can't help but think there's still some animosity about the way things went down. On a scale of 1 to 10 for entertainment I give it a 6 1/2. If those two fight or have choice words for one another the entertainment value goes up dramatically.