Monday, October 31, 2011

Weekend Observations

It's ironic that on Halloween my fantasy dreams have turned into a nightmare. Michael Vick single handedly ruined me in three different leagues. Not only did he forget to throw the ball to the most explosive receiver in football (Desean Jackson) he decided to fall in love with his tight end Brent Celek last night who ended up scoring a whopping 23 points. I think the two of them are dating now. It was also my first week playing without MVP Aaron Rodgers. I felt like Linus without his security blanket. 0-3 is not a flattering look for the self proclaimed expert on all things sports related, but anything can happen once I make the playoffs. Here are some observations over the weekend.

A Stanford vs. Boise St. national championship game is a real possibility. The three teams in front of them (Alabama, LSU, and Oklahoma St.) will certainly lose at least one game this season while the Cardinal and the Cowboys will likely run the table. Stay tuned.

Wisconsin fans have my sympathy. After another heart breaking last second loss I find it hard to believe the can pick themselves up off the canvas and get back to their dominant ways. What could have been.

Sometimes a no name is better than a hall of famer. 5 years from now no one will remember who David Freese is, but for now he's the king of St. Louis. He out shined pitching ace Chris Carpenter and Phat Albert Pujols to earn the World Series MVP. Disney has already contacted him for the movie rights.

As if I didn't have enough disdain for place kickers Olindo Mare goes out and misses a game tying 28 yard field goal for the Carolina Panthers yesterday. Cam Newton and Steve Smith probably had to be restrained from beating the snot piss out of that guy. Kickers suck!!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The NCAA Made A Mistake

The NCAA has decided to pay scholarship athletes. In a landmark decision the NCAA will allow conferences to give athletes an additional $2,000 for incidental expenses. The ruling is seen by many as long overdue and a step in the right direction. I wholeheartedly disagree.

Make no mistake about it, athletes are getting paid right now as we speak. Don't think for one second these kids aren't mysteriously receiving envelopes full of cash. If you make paying players legal I guarantee there will be some "creative " accounting going on at some of these universities.

The spirit of the rule is to cut down on petty, minor infractions and allow student athletes the opportunity to engage in simple recreational activities. The $2,000 is looked upon as spending money to go on a date or purchase an ipod or a goose down comforter for the cold winter months. Instead the "loophole" will serve as a portal for unscrupulous agents, slimy boosters, and greedy alumni associations to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to star players.

I realize the glamour sports (college football and basketball) generate billions of dollars in revenue without sharing a single penny with the athletes that do all the work. The system is fatally flawed and takes advantage of young impressionable men and women.

The answer is not to pay the players however. The answer is to set aside some of that money to create a slush fund that can be divided equally amongst the schools. With the new revisions small schools and schools that don't play in a "power" conference don't stand a chance. If anything the NCAA should invoke a don't ask don't tell policy. That way no one gets hurt and everybody wins.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Were's Michael jordan?

Has anyone noticed the conspicuous absence of Michael Jordan during the NBA lockout negotiations? The league was the most prosperous in the Jordan years and hasn't been able to duplicate that success since his departure. It would seem that someone who's been on both sides of the bargaining table would have a unique perspective and possibly a solution to these labor negotiations. So where's he at?

To be fair, Michael Jordan is a business mogul outside of basketball and probably has responsibilities and commitments all over the world. His time is limited and he can't be everywhere at once. Perhaps he just can't find a free moment.

A more likely scenario is the conflict of interest his presence might create. Several of the top flight NBA players endorse the Jordan brand and some players (Marcin Gortat) even have the Jordan logo tattooed on their body. In addition he's played with or against several guys that he now sits across from at the bargaining table. It's probably difficult to engage in conversation without sounding like a two faced sell out. We've all had co-workers that get promoted to management and suddenly they sound just like the people they used to talk about on a daily basis. That 180 degree change in opinion can rub people the wrong way.

The NBA has provided Michael Jordan a life of luxury, fame, and fortune. He spent over a decade as the most recognizable athlete on planet Earth. His influence on the game of basketball and pop culture is unparalleled and most players consider him a basketball god. For that reason Michael Jordan should be doing all he can to preserve the game that's given him so much. He's the only one that truly knows how both sides are feeling, yet he's reluctant to share his insight. I'm not saying that if Michael Jordan was more active in the negotiations there would be a resolution, but with games canceled and the season in jeopardy isn't it worth a shot? I think it's time for Big Mike to say a few words. Your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

HTB Statements (Birthday Edition)

Birthdays are generally a day of reflection so I'll take this moment to share with you some things I remember growing up watching sports. In comparison to the sports world today these statements are truly hard to believe.

1. When I started watching basketball there was no 3 point line.

2. I used to have to stay up late with my dad to watch the NBA finals because it was tape delayed on the West coast.

3. I'm going to watch Austin Rivers play at Duke this year. I used to watch his father (Doc Rivers) play at Marquette.

4. I remember when the Kansas City Royals were dominant.

5. I remember watching Sugar Ray Leonard win the welterweight title in the fifteenth round.

6. I remember when Doug Williams was the only black quarterback in the NFL.

7. I remember thinking wood tennis rackets were just as good as aluminum or graphite.

8. I remember when the Los Angeles Rams paid their coach (John Robinson) more money than they paid their star running back Eric Dickerson.

9. Wade Boggs used to take his mistress on road trips and no one ever said anything to the media.

10. I remember during NFL training camps you weren't allowed to drink water.

11. I remember watching Deion Sanders play in a football game and an MLB playoff game in the same day.

Clearly I'm starting to feel more "mature" these days. The sports world has a way of putting it all in perspective. The sports time line is a unique barometer for measuring your age.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

College Hoop Season Preview

With no end in sight to the current NBA lockout I've been forced to shift my focus to the college kids for my basketball fix. It's a shame rookies like Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, Kemba Walker, and Isaiah Thomas (all underclassmen when they declared for the draft) have nothing constructive to do with their time. I hope their agents have deep pockets to support them during this labor strife.

College hoops hasn't been real exciting in over a decade, but there's no alternative at present. I'll have to take what I can get. There are a few players however that I have a special interest in. These 5 guys will definitely be in the league next year (if there is one) and I'm curious to see what they can do. Here's my top 5 players to watch in college basketball this season.

5. Austin Rivers, Duke. The son of coach Doc Rivers has tremendous ball handling skills and a knack for getting to the hole. Without Kyrie Irving running the point coach K will have to rely on him heavily.

4. Harrison Barnes, North Carolina. They threw a party at Chapel Hill when Barnes announced he was coming back to school and now we get to see if he's worth all the attention. I expect nothing less than an ACC player of the year award.

3. Jared Sullinger, Ohio St. Sullinger was a man among boys last year so with a summer to work on his game we should see a giant amongst midgets this year. If he's not an All American I'll buy each and every one of you a happy meal at McDonalds.

2. Terrence Jones, Kentucky. Jones showed flashes of brilliance last year, but lacked the consistency to be considered one of college basketball's elite. Let's see if he can put it all together this year.

1. Tony Wroten Jr., Washington. This is a homer pick. The 6'6 point guard was shunned by Kentucky and feels he has something to prove. All the experts say the kid is special and is most likely a one and done player. His court vision is compared to Magic Johnson and Kenny Anderson. Pretty high praise. We'll see if he can live up to it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Weekend Observations

It was a tough sports weekend in the 206 to say the least. The Huskies and the Seahawks lost. That's all I have to say about those two games because if I go into further detail I may vomit all over myself like Brian on Family Guy. My fantasy football fate is still up in the air depending on the outcome of tonight's game between Jacksonville and Baltimore. It doesn't look good in any of my leagues, but I'll fill you in on the gruesome details tomorrow. Enough about me, here's a few observations over the weekend.

I was right about the Kansas City Chiefs. I succumbed to peer pressure and the badgering of my friends when I jumped off the Chiefs bandwagon earlier this year. Kansas City is just one game out of first place after demolishing Oakland and Phillip Rivers is playing like a little girl for the Chargers so far this season. The division title is well within reach.

Close losses hurt more than blowouts. Wisconsin watched their national championship title hopes go down the drain on a last second flukish play. Judging from the expressions on the faces of Wisconsin fans it will take a while to get over the loss. Some of them may need therapy.

The Detroit Lions may not be who we thought they were. With two straight losses to marginal playoff teams panic is beginning to start in Mowtown. I have Megatron, Suh, Hanson, and Stafford in my leagues so I don't have time for all this. Detroit WILL turn this around and battle the Packers for home field advantage. That last part was a joke, but I do need them to play better.

Phat Albert should wear pinstripes. Albert Pujols blasted 3 homers in Saturday's rout over the Rangers. The only other players to accomplish that feat in World Series play are Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson. Are you sensing a common theme? Teixeira for Pujols? Maybe it's not as crazy as it sounds.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Washington Huskies Will Beat Stanford

Make no mistake about it, I'm completely biased when it comes to the UW/Stanford game tomorrow. The Huskies are going to piss all over those stupid trees in Palo Alto. I don't care if it's Stanford's homecoming. I don't care if Andrew Luck is the second coming of Joe Montana. I don't care if the Husky defense can't stop a nosebleed. I got a hunch!

Usually my hunches are backed up with scientific, empirical, factual, and historical evidence but this time it's all emotion. The Huskies are a feel good story this season (especially for alumni) and with Keith Price at the helm anything is possible. The offense is as explosive as there is in college football and with Stanford missing two of their starters on defense it's only going to be easier to score.

Never mind the fact the Huskies haven't really played anybody. Never mind their most impressive wins have been at home. Never mind Vegas has them as 21 point underdogs. It all means nothing if the Huskies can maintain time of possession and keep Andrew Luck on the sideline. This is where Chris Polk needs to step up and show he's one of the top running backs in the country.

If you can't stop the Huskies from running or passing it's gonna be a long day for the Cardinal. They are completely undeserving of the #5 ranking (what a joke) and they're going to get themselves embarrassed on national television. Mark my words the story following the game will be how Keith Price outplayed Andrew Luck and took his spot as the Pac 12's best quarterback. Washington 38 Stanford 34.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bryant Gumbel Was Right

When I first read the headline Bryant Gumbel rips David Stern I paid it little attention, but after I heard the backlash associated with his comments I felt compelled to listen. In the closing monologue of Real Sports Gumbel said "David Stern has always seemed eager to be viewed as some modern day plantation owner that keeps his hired hands in their places."

Perhaps I'm just being naive or perhaps my perspective lends itself to a more liberal interpretation of things, but I agree with Bryant's opinion and here's why. Over the years David Stern has gone out of his way to establish his presence of authority and control over NBA players. Dress codes have been changed, fines for improper conduct have increased, and suspensions are longer. Although NBA players make millions of dollars (hence the term modern plantation owner) 90% of the league is black and all of the owners (less Michael Jordan) are white. Is the analogy really that far off?

Without question David Stern has one of the hardest jobs in America. Merging the inner city with the corporate world and Wall Street is a difficult endeavor. The socio-economic barriers and racial undertones are not easy to overcome and bridging the two distinctly different demographics has it issues.

The 800 pound elephant in the room is race relations. This country is extremely sensitive (and divided) on this subject. I don't think David Stern is by any means a racist, he's simply a necessary evil. There has to be structure and order to maintain a viable product and someone has to be responsible for that task. People don't always agree with the methods and the parties in disagreement often times don't share the same skin color. In the end it's not about white or black, only green. On the other hand would we be having this conversation if David Stern was white?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Will Carson Palmer Succeed In Oakland?

With the passing of Al Davis many of us thought the Raiders organization would become more conservative with their player personnel moves. Nothing could be further from the truth. In a surprise move the Raiders traded two first round picks to the Cincinnati Bengals for disgruntled quarterback Carson Palmer. The trade comes as a shock to most observers since Bengals owner Mike Brown vowed to let Carson Palmer rot in a vat of his own fecal material rather than grant his trade request. I guess two first round picks was an offer he couldn't refuse. Did the Raiders make a wise decision?

Absolutely not. Everyone knows Carson Palmer is damaged goods and has been a shell of his former self since suffering a serious knee injury a few years back. Surrounded by talent like Terrell Owens, Chad Ocho Cinco, and Cedric Benson Palmer had one of the worst quarterback ratings in the league last year. It is unrealistic to expect Palmer to return to his former greatness.

The Raiders are known for taking risks on players that have a shaky past but that technique hasn't worked in quite some time. To be fair coach Hue Jackson recruited Palmer to USC and coached him at Cincinnati so the relationship between the two of them is solid. That doesn't mean he is the answer to the Raiders playoff hopes however.

I'm pulling for the guy, but history has shown us you can't turn water into wine in the NFL. Once the skills are gone they're gone forever. Perhaps a change of scenery will do Carson Palmer some good, but my guess is he will flop miserably. Good luck Carson.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Texas Rangers Win The World Series

I wish I had something innovative, original, or ground breaking to say with regards to the World Series this year, but I like to keep it real. The Texas Rangers will win the World Series in 6 games.

The 2011 fall classic should be more exciting than in years past (for baseball purists) because there is no dominant team. The St. Louis Cardinals are opportunists who take advantage of mistakes and bad pitching (something the Rangers have) while the Texas Rangers are a hitting machine that can hit the ball out of the park against virtually anyone. The St. Louis Cardinals have a silver lining however. If they can take advantage of the three X factors they have a slight chance to win it all.

1. Chris Carpenter. The Cardinals ace has been nothing short of spectacular in recent weeks pitching 2 complete game shutouts. If they can get the series to a game 7 ( his scheduled 3rd start) and he's got his best stuff working that night they could pull off the upset. Getting to game 7 will be difficult though.

2. Home field advantage. The all star game victory for the National league is suddenly a big deal. If the Cardinals can feed of the energy of the home crowd and ride the wave of momentum they may squeak out a game or two they would normally lose.

3. Texas bats might go cold. The law of averages says the Texas Rangers can't continue to hit at the pace they're on. Eventually their bats will cool down and when they do the Rangers are left with sub par pitching and an average defense. When Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre don't pull their weight the rest of the team seems to slump with them. If Phat Albert Pujols can make them pay who knows what could happen.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Weekend Observations

My skills as a GM apparently leave something to be desired. In my trash talking league I traded Michael Vick for Jason Witten and Vincent Jackson. The results were so bad (I'm currently 0-6) that my opponents 10 year old son started talking smack to me and I can't even respond to him. In my hurt your feelings league I traded Tony Romo for Peyton Hillis ( 14 yards and a hamstring injury), Julio Jones (hamstring injury), and Jason Campbell (broken collarbone and out for the season). Can you say sucker? Fortunately my team is bulletproof in that league and I still won by 11 points. The championship is mine to lose. Here are some weekend observations.

Nelson Cruz (A relative nobody) is playing out of his mind and carrying the Texas Rangers on his back like a camel in the desert. He may very well lead them to a World Series title. Who says you need a $20,000,000 superstar to win it all?

Pete Carroll is always paying attention. In a crafty move the Seahawks acquired former USC standout Allen Bradford to help the running game. Strategic brilliance on his part.

The San Francisco 49ers are the first team to clinch a playoff berth. Not really, but realistically there's no other team in the NFC West that will challenge them from here on out.

The UW/Stanford game will feature not one, but two top level quarterbacks. Keith Price has been every bit as good as Andrew Luck this season and if the Cardinal look past the Huskies they might see their undefeated season come to an end.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Which State Turns Out The Most Talent In College Football?

So where do they play the best brand of football anyways? There's 50 states in the country, but if you really want to get technical about it there's only three states to consider. The SEC (5 straight national champions), the Pac 12, the Big 10, and the Big 12 all have schools that would be considered a football factory. The distinction comes when you narrow down that talent to specific geographic locations. Here's how it shakes out.

Honorable mention: Louisiana. Louisiana turns out more pros (in every sport) per capita than any other state in the union. The problem is the state isn't very big population wise. Still, they shouldn't be overlooked in the conversation.

3. Texas. If you look at the AP poll the nation's biggest state has 4 of the top 25 schools. They take their football very seriously down there (Anyone seen Friday Night Lights) and they play at a high level. They would be higher if not for the fact the enthusiasm doesn't always translate to star performance on the field.

2. Florida. Although they play football twice a year (fall and spring in high school) and some of the state's prominent schools (Florida, Florida St., and Miami) have turned out pro bowl player after pro bowl player in the past their current representation within the top 25 leaves a little to be desired.

1. California. California doesn't just produce talent for the schools in state, they produce talent for the entire West coast. The schools in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado would be nothing if it wasn't for the golden state. More teams, more players. and more impact. California wins. Any questions?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How The MLB Playoffs Has Cost Albert Pujols Millions

Without question Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball. His career numbers are so gaudy I won't even bore you with the details. Lets just say the first 10 season of his career are statistically unmatched by anyone who's ever played the game. He single handedly destroyed the Brewers in game 2 of the NLCS crushing home runs and doubles like he was taking batting practice. All of this productivity should result in a hefty new contract right?

Wrong. Certainly Albert Pujols will be rewarded handsomely for his services and past success, but he'll only get half of what he thinks he should. The 2011 MLB playoffs have exposed the fatal flaw with baseball contracts. It's difficult to project how long a player will be at the top of their game and one miscalculation can cost a team hundreds of millions of dollars.

Alex Rodriguez had a dreadful playoff series and is beginning to show serious decline in his production. The Yankees however are on the hook for 6 more years at 27.5 million dollars a season (guaranteed no less). He's untradable and not worth the money. Ryan Howard has also seen his production decline in recent years and ruptured his Achilles tendon in the final at bat of the Phillies playoff series. There is a good chance he will miss a considerable amount of the 2012 season, but the Phillies are still on the hook for 100 million dollars over the next 4 years.

This is bad news for Albert Pujols. Teams are no longer willing to sign their star players to long term contracts based on their past performances. The risk is even greater after a player turns 30. Albert is in a no win scenario. His career numbers suggest he should be the highest paid player in baseball for years to come, but his age (31) and the sudden decline of Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Howard won't allow that to happen. Too bad Albert. You deserve better.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fantasy Football Blues

As we speak I sit alone in last place with an 0-5 record in my trash talking league and the vultures are starting to swirl. I'm starting to get harassed, called names, and bullied by my opponents. This is a very unfamiliar position to be in.

I'm used to doing the talking, not getting talked about. My ego can't handle this kind of failure. I don't take ass kickings, I give em out! Humble pie is nasty. It leaves a bitter after taste in your mouth and it's hard to swallow. I won't give my opponents the satisfaction of watching me fold up like a lawn chair however.

They can rub it in all they want, but I will stay defiant to the end. I can't say as I blame them though. I would probably do the same thing if I was in their position. There's nothing more gratifying than silencing a loud mouth.

I want to keep talking, but when you have nothing to back it up with the words are hollow and have absolutely no impact. I pride myself on meaningful, eloquent expression so for now I will remain mute. This sucks!! Damn you Ryan Grant, Michael Vick, Mark Ingram, and Vincent Jackson! You've ruined me! You've embarrassed me! First the Miami Hurricanes, now Cleavie Wonder. What is the world coming to?

At least I'll win my hurt your feelings league. Thank goodness for the Aaron Rodgers/Wes Welker duo. I have to take my frustrations out on someone so those guys will get more than an earful as I cruise to the championship. I may need to hire a bodyguard befeore this season is over. My words sometimes rain down like razor sharp confetti and the casualties pile up. It's not always easy being Cleavie Wonder!

A Few Words About Al Davis

There's a whole generation of people that view the passing of Al Davis as the crotchety old man who mismanaged the Oakland Raiders and lost touch with reality. Some of his recent draft choices (Jamarcus Russell, Darius Heyward-Bey, Robert Gallery, and Michael Huff) don't exactly bode well for a counter argument, but lets look at the football career of AL Davis as a whole and put things in a proper perspective.

Al Davis lived a football life that will be difficult (if not impossible) to replicate. He was a coach, a general manager, a commissioner, and an owner. The modern day NFL is a testament to his commitment to excellence and his unwillingness to conform to the status quo.

Unfazed by the notion AFL teams were inferior to NFL teams Davis campaigned against the power structure of football and eventually helped broker a deal that merged the two leagues. His beliefs were validated when Joe Namath led the New York Jets to victory in Super Bowl III.

Al Davis was also innovative in the vertical passing game. Before the Raiders started throwing the ball down the field most teams were satisfied with 3 yards and a cloud of dust. His aggressive offensive strategy changed the game as we know it.

Let us not forget Al Davis was a pioneer in the hiring of minority coaches. The Oakland Raiders were the first team to hire a Latino coach and an African American coach. Thanks in large part to the efforts of Davis 25% of NFL teams are led by men of color.

The NFL doesn't exist in its current state without the contributions of Al Davis. The Oakland Raiders (although they've struggled in recent years) are a symbol of achievement and carry a mystique like few other sports franchises. In hindsight Al Davis is probably the most important person in the history of football. Rest in peace Al. Your contributions will not be forgotten.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Weekend Observations

The Detroit Lions better be who I think they are. In two of my fantasy leagues I'm heavily dependent on them to help me pull out a victory. Matt Stafford, Megatron, Jason Hanson, and the Lions defense need to play like Super Bowl champs tonight. They're capable, but as we all know anything can happen on Monday night football. At least I'm up by 73 points in my hurt your feelings league. I don't anticipate Matt Forte scoring 7 touchdowns so I'm going to chalk that one up as a win. Here are some weekend observations.

The Seattle Seahawks won't get lucky this year. With a gutsy win in New York the Seahawks have all but eliminated themselves from the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. Looks like Robert Griffin III will be the future signal caller.

The Tim Tebow era has begun in Denver. Kyle Orton hasn't played well enough to secure his job and the Denver fans will be even more adamant for Tebow to start after his performance on Sunday. It's a mistake, but one the Broncos will have to live with.

The Philadelphia Eagles may not make the playoffs. One of the biggest story lines of the off season might not have a happy ending. After a 1-4 start to the season the Eagles would realistically have to win 9 of their remaining 11 games to make the post season. Difficult, but not impossible.

Maya Moore is a basketball goddess. In her rookie season Maya led a bunch of scrubs to the WNBA title and established herself as one of the best (if not the best) female basketball players on the planet. I think this will help the recruiting process at Connecticut.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Young Sam Rothstein's Corner

Hello again my friends. We didn't break the bank last time, but we didn't lose our shirts either. The first quarter of the NFL season is in the books and we're starting to see some trends develop. Minnesota and Indianapolis are really, really bad while Green Bay and New England are really, really good. This has very little effect on the sportsbook however. Just because you win doesn't mean you cover. Fortunately for us I have insider information that will help us become independently wealthy be season's end. My finger is squarely on the pulse of the NFL and if you take my advice you'll reap the financial benefits. Here are my picks for the weekend.

New York Jets +9 over New England. Rex Ryan doesn't like to get embarrassed and after the beating the Baltimore Ravens put on his team last Sunday the Jets are committed to running the ball again. This means less opportunities for Tom Brady and Wes Welker to do their thing. The Patriots might win, but not by more than a touchdown.

Atlanta +6 over Green Bay. The Packers look unstoppable and the last time these 2 teams played they didn't even have to punt. That's the problem. Whenever something seems too obvious it's usually a set up. Vegas knows what they're doing and I'm not going to fall into their point spread trap. Atlanta at home should be able to keep it close.

New York Giants -9 1/2 over Seattle. Whenever the Seahawks travel across the country bad things happen. Osi Umeniora is back and Tavaris Jackson may need a stretcher before this game is over. Giants in a rout.

San Diego over Denver. Traditionally Phillip Rivers lights these guys up like a Christmas tree. The Broncos have little resistance and the Chargers need to keep pace with the Oakland Raiders in the AFC West. Phillip Rivers will have his breakout game and San Diego will win by double digits.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why The Yankees Need To Win Game 5

The New York Yankees face an elimination game tonight and with the whole world watching they need to come through against the Detroit Tigers. They don't need to come through for themselves, the Steinbrenners, or the citizens of New York, they need to come through for baseball itself.

Baseball is at a crossroads. It is in the process of replacing marquee players without the benefit of performance enhancing drugs. The result is a boring game with modest accomplishments. Josh Hamilton, Justin Verlander, and Robinson Cano are not household names like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, or Roger Clemens. They also don't put up EA sports type numbers to excite the crowd. Without that crutch baseball only has on thing to lean on, the Yankees.

The Yankees invoke emotion one way or the other. You either love them or you hate them. People tune in to see them continue their dominance or pray they fall flat on their face and get what's coming to them. There's no middle ground with the Bronx bombers and people seem to genuinely care if they win or lose.

Personally I love what the Yankees represent. It is an example of capitalism at its finest. If the game is stacked in your favor why would you ever play fair? Buy what you want and give yourself a distinct advantage if the rules allow it. With money out of the equation it's up to the players to perform at their full capability and deliver on the investment.

This is the great thing about sports. It is the ultimate reality show. The drama and intrigue associated with game 5 tonight is immense and things may not go as scripted. Without New York (or Boston) in the playoff landscape the interest level falls off dramatically and baseball suffers. The purists will say may the best team win regardless of the implications. The realists will say the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and a Yankees win is in the best interest of everyone. Which side are you on?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tampa Bay Is Not A Sports City

The improbable run of the Tampa Bay Rays is over. After clawing their way into the post season (Thanks to a colossal collapse by the Boston Red Sox) the Rays were eliminated by the Texas Rangers. Owner Stuart Sternberg was disappointed by the lack of fan support the Rays received in their finale and publicly questioned why more people didn't turn out for the games. Does he have a legitimate gripe?

To be fair Tampa Bay is not a sports town. It's a place people go to enjoy sunny days, nice beaches, and warm water. Sports will ever be the focal point of that community. The Florida Marlins are in a similar situation in Miami. They've won 2 World Series titles and still have to use quirky gimmicks to get fans in the seats. The only difference is they have a larger population to draw from (There are 2.5 million people in Dade county) and the city has a longer tradition with their sports teams.

It is the curse of the small market. No matter how successful your team is (in any sport) certain cities just don't have the demographic to support a high level of fan participation. Everyone knows football trumps all other sporting events and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the biggest thing going down there. Even if the Rays won the World Series they would not get as much support as the Bucs.

In a perfect world winning equals more fans which leads to more money to keep a viable product on the field. In the real world fans are fickle and success doesn't always equate to fan support. No matter what the Tampa Bay Rays do there's a limit and a threshold as to how many people will have a vested interest. The sun always wins in Tampa and there's nothing you can do about it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How Do Star Athletes Choose A School?

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine the other day about where he would send his son to school if he were a star athlete. After much deliberation he decided he would send his son to the school with the best overall academic rating. "There's no guarantee he would go pro and he needs a good education to fall back on." While the argument makes perfect sense for athletes in general it flawed logic for star athletes.

Star athletes should make their decision based on an entirely different set of circumstances. NO star athlete attends a university because of the academic curriculum. It is with the intent to maximize their abilities, perfect their skill set, and increase their earning potential. It's naive to think that education is an integral part of the equation. Here's a list of the 5 things a star athlete should look for when picking a school.

1. The system. If you're a sure handed wide receiver you don't want to go to a school where they run the power eye or the wishbone offense. If you're 6'9 with exceptional post moves you don't want to go to a school that's all about jacking up 3's 40 times a game. The system matters.

2. The coaches. Some coaches sell you dreams like a used car salesman. Some coaches run their program like the sergeant in Full Metal Jacket. Some coaches have you pick out your favorite cheerleader before the season even starts. You have to find a coach that meshes with your personality and will bring out the best in you.

3. Exposure. Star athletes want to be on TV as much as possible to showcase their talents in front of millions of people and gain name recognition.

4. Geography. Kids that have strong family ties typically choose a school in close proximity to their loved ones so they can be close to home and their family can attend most of their games.

5. Opportunity. Do you want to sit behind Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart? Do you want to wait your turn behind Damon Stoudamire and Mike Bibby? Are you in the plans or are you an insurance policy? If you don't have a realistic chance to play it's probably not the best environment for you.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Weekend Observations

This fantasy football thing can drive a person to drink. I don't know what to do in my trash talking league. After benching Michael Vick on Sunday for his inconsistent play he decided to come out and perform like, well Michael Vick. His incredible day sent my team to its 3rd consecutive loss. I'm tired of pulling my hair out over this guy. Trade anyone?

In my JV league Megatron is the only one on my team that's worth a damn. He's easily the 3rd best wide receiver in football behind Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. On a side note has anyone seen Phillip Rivers lately because I'm looking for him. One touchdown in 2 games just isn't doing it for me. We need to have a little chat.

At least I'm still a force in my hurt your feelings league. Aaron Rodgers, World Wide Wes Welker, and the Ravens defense outscored my opponent by themselves. The trophy company already has instructions to start engraving my name on the championship plaque. If I don't make someone cry before season's end I haven't done my job. Here are some weekend observations.

The winner of the SEC (LSU or Alabama) could probably hold their own in the NFC West. The SEC is that good ant the NFC West is that bad. Don't be surprised if the BCS title game looks a lot like the SEC championship game.

Just because you talk about your problems doesn't mean they will get resolved. The NBAPA and the NBA owners could talk for 7,000 hours straight and still not come up with an agreement. I don't expect to see NBA basketball until January.

The Pac 12 has more quarterback prospects than any other conference in college football. Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Nick Foles, and Keith Price will all be signal callers in the NFL someday. What other conference can say that?

Reggie Bush should start taking acting lessons and investing in real estate because his NFL football career is in jeopardy. If an 0-4 team won't involve you in their offense who will? Let this be a lesson to everyone, the skills you possess in college don't always translate at the next level.