Monday, July 30, 2012

Weekend Observations

I had the opportunity to attend Seahawks training camp over the weekend and I'm a little concerned. There's no real play makers on offense and none of the quarterbacks really established themselves as a front runner for the starting position. Our receivers looked average and Utah St. running back Robert Turbin fumbled the ball several times. With a schedule that includes New England, Green Bay, Chicago, and the New York Jets Pete Carroll better come up with some solutions and quickly. The defense looked pretty good however so hopefully they can help keep the games close. The secondary is without question the strength of the team and Bruce Irvin is a special player. I predict at least 10 sacks for the rookie this season. From what I saw the Hawks will be fortunate to go 9-7 this year. Here are some observations over the weekend.

Don't pick Maurice Jones-Drew or Mike Wallace for your fantasy football teams. Holdouts always get hurt and I don't anticipate either player coming to camp anytime soon. They will not repeat their performances from last year.

Aquaman now has a legitimate rival. If Michael Phelps doesn't get his head in the game fellow countrymen Ryan Lochte will steal the spotlight.

Don Levin is trying his level headed best to complicate plans for a new arena in the SODO. Bringing the NHL to Seattle is noble cause, but not at the risk of ruining the chances for an NBA franchise. His overzealous tactics could blow up the whole thing.

The Washington Huskies and the LSU Tigers have football commitments from kids that aren't even in high school yet. This is morally wrong and will result in an eventual rule change. Why would you allow a 14 year old to make a decision that important so early in their life?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Weekend Observations

Penn St. football didn't get the death penalty, but they will never recover from the sanctions levied against them. NCAA president Mark Emmert didn't just throw the book at the Nittany Lion program , he came off the top rope like Macho Man Randy Savage. No bowl games for 4 years, a $60,000,000 fine, the loss of 80 scholarships, and the forfeiting of 112 wins is an unprecedented level of punishment. There is no ambiguity as to how the governing body feels about the tragedies that occurred in Happy Valley.

To say that the Joe Paterno legacy is tarnished would be a complete understatement. There will be no statue to honor the 4 decades of football excellence. He has been dropped from 1st to 12th in all time wins. No one will remember Penn St. as linebacker U and his image invokes anger, embarrassment, and shame. The lies and deceit overshadow his accomplishments. On a campus where football had become larger than life and the moral compass had gone completely awry president Emmert made sure he put things back in their proper perspective. Here are some observations over the weekend.

Adam Scott collapsed at the British Open in a fashion that is usually reserved for NFL place kickers and hockey goalies. Shankapotimus ended his final round with 4 straight bogeys and lost the tournament by one stroke. I suggest he seeks therapy to recover from that colossal meltdown.

USA basketball barely held off Argentina in an exhibition game 86-80. The good news is we still have Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. The bad news is we are tremendously undersized up front and that may come back to haunt us in the Olympics. Stay tuned.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have won 5 straight games and trail the Cincinnati Reds by a 1/2 game in the NL Central. This is not a misprint.

Michael Vick has gone on record saying he thinks the Philadelphia Eagles could be the next great dynasty. If he stays healthy I would have to agree.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Do Athletes Drink Too Much?

Kenny Britt became the 3rd athlete THIS WEEK to get pulled over for a DUI. On the surface you have to wonder if these guys don't watch the news or if they think the laws that govern our nation don't pertain to them. It seems inconceivable for the same mistake to be made on 3 different occasions in such a small period of time. Everyone knows athletes like to have a good time and as high profile, wealthy individuals it's their right to do so. The problem occurs when their appetite for fun and excitement endangers the lives of innocent people. Is there a solution?

Several leagues (including the NFL) offer a ride service wherein someone will pick up an athlete, drive them to their destination, and return them to their car when they are sober enough to drive. This may have been a good idea 10 years ago, but in today's social media crazy world athletes are super protective of their privacy. The less people that know their whereabouts and the company they keep the better. As the rapper Treach once said, "They do their dirt all by their lonely."

Other have advocated a team mandated service that the organization pays for. Again, 10 years ago this may have been a good idea, but athletes are paranoid. Why would you give your employer that kind of leverage in negotiations and information about what you do in your personal time?

We all know that athletes aren't going to stop drinking and who they are makes them easy targets. A bored police officer's favorite past time is run the plates on the fancy car that just passed by. That's not to condone the behavior of these athletes, but riding around in a Benz on 20's at 3:00 in the morning is going to draw attention (unless you're in Vegas or Miami). The sad truth is there is no plausible solution for this epidemic and we will hear this story at least 20 more times before the year is over. I only hope no one is seriously injured or worse the next time we hear it. You got any bright ideas for a quick fix?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Linsanity Is Over

For someone who's Harvard educated Jeremy Lin made a very poor decision for himself. The overnight sensation signed an offer sheet worth $25,100,000 over the next 3 years to play for the Houston Rockets. The deal calls for Lin to make $14,800,000 in the 3rd year of his contract. People in the sports world refer to this as a "poison pill." If the New York Knicks were to match the offer it would cost them in excess of $30,000,000 in luxury tax money down the road.

Seattle fans are all too familiar with the "poison pill" scenario. The Minnesota Vikings signed Seahawks left guard Steve Hutchinson to an offer sheet. The offer sheet had a clause in the contract that guaranteed the entire deal if he wasn't the highest paid lineman. At the time the Seahawks had signed left tackle Walter Jones to a huge contract and couldn't match the parameters of the deal.

The difference in these two "poison pill" cases is Steve Hutchinson was an all pro. I can name 10 point guards off the top of my head (Derick Rose, CP3, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Steph Curry, Steve Nash) that are better than Jeremy Lin. The move was madr for PR amd marketing reasons as much as basketball ability. 25 games is not a very large body of work to guarantee that kind of financial compensation for one season.

Although $25,1000,000 sounds like a lot of money it's chump change from a sports economics perspective. New York is the media capital of the world and basically created Linsanity out of thin air. If Lin would have put up the same numbers in Utah, Sacramento, or Milwaukee he never would have graced the cover of Time magazine. His story took on a life of its won because he was a New York Knick. Lin has probably cost himself hundreds of millions of dollars in endorsement money because the interest level in Houston pales in comparison to the Big Apple. He'll be a story, but not as big as when he was playing in Madison Square Garden. The city embraced him and Jeremy became arrogant. In the long run he'll realize it was a mistake.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mt. Midoriyama Is Brutal!

For those of you that haven't been watching American Ninja Warrior is an awesome show. Competitors attempt to complete a series of physically demanding obstacle courses that require a unique combination of strength, endurance, timing, and coordination. The final obstacle is the dreaded Mt. Midoriyama and only 3 men have ever completed the course. Even the most gifted athletes fall victim to the challenge.

At first I was a skeptic. The contestants have strange athletic backgrounds (lots of rock climbers and acrobats) and range in age from 18 to 42. There is no particular skill set that gives the competitors a distinct advantage and the overall strategy is difficult to determine. So long as you complete the course it seems like anything goes. After watching a few episodes I started to get a feel for what the ideal contestant needs in order to be successful.

First off, anyone over 220 pounds shouldn't participate. The added bulk will slow you down and lifting that much body weight is an impediment to completing the courses. Secondly, long arms and legs are a plus. The obstacles themselves involve a lot of hanging, pulling, and bracing yourself against odd shaped objects. The more length you have the better off you'll be. Lastly, balance is a crucial part of the equation. I've seen numerous participants fail to get passed an obstacle because of poor timing, bad footing, or weight distribution. It's important to be in the proper position at all times.

The most fascinating aspect of the show is the unpredictable outcome. More likely than not no one will conquer Mt. Midoriyama all the way to the finish and subsequently there will be no winner. There will be no champion to celebrate and everyone will go back to the drawing board in preparation for their next opportunity. The competition isn't against an opponent, but rather the mountain itself. If you haven't already, give American Ninja Warrior a chance. I guarantee you'll get caught up watching it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Weekend Observations

I typically don't watch summer league basketball. It's like watching an uneventful JV game where the score doesn't matter and most of the good players go at half speed. It's a glorified training camp for rookies and guys on their last legs. This year however I've decided to take a different approach and watch a few games with an open mind. To my surprise the level of play is not that bad and you can learn a thing or two. Here's what I discovered.

Michael Jordan and Rich Cho got it right picking Michael Kidd-Gilchrist instead of Thomas Robinson. Kidd-Gilchrist looks like he belongs already while Robinson is struggling to find a position and an identity.

Klay Thompson will make Warriors fans forget all about Monta Ellis. His jumper is silky and with the addition of Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes Thompson will get plenty of opportunities to display his unlimited range. He's a star in the making.

Bradley Beal is a little overrated. If he's having trouble getting his shot now what happens when the starters are on the court? There's still time, but his game needs work.

Jimmer Fredette has lost a ton of confidence. It looks like he's still trying to recover from being overshadowed by Isaiah Thomas last year. It might be time for him to move on to a more experienced team with more structure and a defined role for his skill set.

Here are some other observations over the weekend.

The Breesy got paid down in New Orleans, but all is not well with Who Dat Nation. The Saints will still be without Jonathan Vilma and Sean Payton for a whole season and the interim coach will miss the first 8 games. There is too much chaos and not enough cohesion with this team. The Saints won't make the playoffs.

Amir Khan has gone from one of boxing's marquee fighters to a washed up scrub in 6 months. After a surprise loss to Lamont Peterson Khan was stunned again Saturday by Danny Garcia. Watch out for that left hook Amir.

The Seattle Mariners have been shut out twice in the three games since the all star break. Can someone tell me why the hitting coach still has his job?

Hope Solo is arrogant. Just days after getting a pass for failing a drug test Solo admitted to going on the Today show drunk after winning the gold medal in Beijing. She will pay for double crossing the media and putting herself in such a negative context.

Friday, July 13, 2012

NBA Free Agency Observations

Free agency has shown us that NBA players no longer want the burden of carrying an NBA franchise all by themselves. It's all about collaboration. I'm sure when the Celtics put together the original big 3 they didn't anticipate their blueprint would be duplicated so many times. Now everyone wants to join forces in a quest to win a title. Personally, I think the game is more exciting when the best players compete against each other to see who's really number one. On the other hand it's interesting to watch star players sacrifice individual accomplishments for the greater good. This is the trend so I guess I have to go with it. Here's a list of the biggest winners in free agency.

5. Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers re-signed veteran point guard Chauncey Billups and added former 6th man of the year Jamal Crawford. Chauncey's leadership was sorely missed down the stretch this year in the playoffs and Crawford provides instant offense off the bench. This move may get them past the 2nd round.

4. New York Knicks. The Knicks added Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby while matching Houston's offer sheet for Jeremy Lin. Kidd will be a calming influence on Linsanity and will show him how to get the most out of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. Having Camby to go along with Tyson Chandler gives the Knicks the best defensive front court in basketball.

3. Brooklyn Nets. They didn't get Superman yet, but keeping Deron Williams and adding Joe Johnson is a good start. Johnson has always struggled under the pressure of being the front guy, but now he doesn't have to be the only marquee player. Deron Williams will also benefit now that he doesn't have to carry the team offensively every night.

2. Los Angeles Lakers. No disrespect to Derek Fisher or Ramon Sessions, but Steve Nash gives the Lakers a significant upgrade at the point guard position. This move will make Andrew Bynum a better player (if they keep him) and gives Kobe a teammate that can hit clutch shots. Making the finals is now a realistic goal.

1. Miami Heat. The rich just keep getting richer. Adding Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to a team that already has LeBron James and D Wade almost seems unfair. The rest of the league is now playing for 2nd place. Signing those guys makes Miami a lock to win the championship

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dream Team Drama

I was going to blog about the NBA free agency frenzy today, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. instead I am going to weigh in on the Dream Team controversy. I've been inundated with texts, tweets, e-mails, and facebook postings asking me what Kobe Bryant was smoking when he said the 2012 Olympic team could beat the Dream Team. Let's dissect this argument shall we?

First and foremost you have to understand who the source is. Kobe Bryant is the most competitive athlete of his generation. It's not in his DNA to think anyone is better than him. The only athletes I've ever seen with as much fire and intensity are Michael Jordan and Michael Irvin.

Secondly, lets get past the notion the Dream Team was unbeatable. At the time they were assembled that was true, but the game has evolved and new stars have taken their place. You have to take into consideration the 2012 team is younger, stronger, and faster than the Dream Team. Execution and experience plays a large part in the equation, but superior athleticism can balance the scales. Here's how I see it.

Point guard: Magic and John Stockton are arguably the two best point guards that ever played the game. That being said neither one of them could keep Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, or Deron Williams in front of them. Magic at 6'9 would post those guys up like crazy, but he would also get dunked on repeatedly. Stockton was a master surgeon however and Magic the consummate floor general so I'll give a slight edge to the Dream Team.

Shooting guard: I've been waiting a long time to say this, KOBE BRYANT VS. MICHAEL JORDAN IS A WASH! They are mirror images of each other and his airness has no distinct advantage. Clyde Drexler on the other hand would eat Andre Iguodala and James Harden for lunch. The 2012 team is a little thin at this position. Advantage Dream Team.

Small forward: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant annihilate Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, and Larry Bird.

Power forward: Charles Barkley and Karl Malone man handle Blake Griffin and Kevin Love.

Center: David Robinson and Patrick Ewing take Tyson Chandler to school.

To be honest only 4 members of the 2012 team (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant) would have been selected for the Dream Team. If you want to evaluate the teams by the depth of their roster there's no comparison. The Dream Team wins in a landslide. If you compare the best five against each other the argument gets more interesting.

Dream Team:

Magic Johnson
Scottie Pippen
Charles Barkley
Michael Jordan
David Robinson

2012 team:

Chris Paul
Kobe Bryant
LeBron James
Kevin Durant
Tyson Chandler

If you put those two squads up against one another I'm not so sure the Dream Team wins. At the very least it's a close call. The Dream Team would have to be at their best to win. In short, the Dream Team probably wins, but just barely.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hope Solo Is Guilty

Hope Solo is the face of US Women's soccer. During the 2011 Word Cup the story of her overcoming personal and professional adversity made her a crowd favorite. US soccer fans around the world were pulling for her to write a fairy tale ending to her turbulent past.

Although the US team ended up losing to Japan in the final game Solo's popularity was on the rise. She appeared on numerous talk shows, endorsed various products (including Nike and Gatorade), was a semi-finalist on Dancing With The Stars, and posed nude in ESPN's 2011 edition of the body issue. There is no doubt she is a media darling and the public adores her. Is this why she gets a slap on the wrist for failing a drug test?

In a society where athletic governing bodies are hypersensitive and paranoid about the use of banned substances Hope Solo got away with a verbal warning. Marion Jones lost all her gold medals and went to prison for taking a banned substance. Diana Taurasi was suspended from her European hoop league for failing a drug test that ended up being a false positive. Two Minnesota Vikings defensive linemen got suspended for taking a substance that wasn't even listed on the label's ingredients. Why the double standard for Hope?

Sports loses credibility when governing bodies arbitrarily decide when and if they will enforce the rules. It is clear Hope Solo is getting preferential treatment for violating the USADA's drug policy. Whether or not she intentionally violated the policy is irrelevant. The consequences associated with a failed drug test should apply to everyone. I guess if you're pretty and charismatic you can get away with anything huh?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Weekend Observations

I usually don't like to be wrong, but in the case of Serena Williams I'm more than okay with it. A some of you might recall I blogged last year about why she wouldn't win another grand slam and Saturday she made me eat my words. Not only did she win the singles title she teamed up with her sister Venus to win the doubles title as well. I have some egg on my face, but it washes off with soap and water.

As for the Men's final Roger Federer proved he still has something left in the tank after beating Andy Murray in 4 sets. With his win at the All England Club Federer ties Pete Sampras for most Wimbledon titles (7) and most weeks ranked as the world's number one player (286). Andy Murray was the sentimental favorite, but it's difficult to win when you're standing in the path of greatness. He's got game, but he's not quite ready to join Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic as a member of the Fantastic Four. He'll have to wait a while to get his first grand slam title. Here are some observations over the weekend.

Anderson Silva has no equals in the octagon. After dismantling Chael Sonnen on Saturday there's really no question as to who the world's greatest fighter is. Hopefully GSP is next on the hit list.

The OKC Thunder have 3 players on the USA basketball team and if it weren't for injuries to D Wade and Chris Bosh the Miami Heat would have the same. Is it any wonder these two teams met in the finals?

R.A. Dickey will miss a chance to start in the 2012 all star game because manager Tony LaRussa has concerns about Buster Posey handling the knuckleball. The pith that has made him so successful is the same pitch that makes him a liability. How ironic.

Friday, July 6, 2012

UW Football Is On The Rise

When I attended the University of Washington the football team was dominant. Husky fans were spoiled by the success of the early 90's. Three straight Rose Bowls and a national championship is nothing to sneeze at. Two decades later the Husky program is in the midst of returning to dominance under coach Steve Sarkisian. Although the schedule is brutal this season (at LSU, at Oregon, Stanford, USC) the future looks promising. So far the recruiting class of 2013 is exceptional and loaded with blue chip prospects. What does this mean for Husky football going forward?

If I keep my homer/alumni cap on it means Husky fans can expect 8-10 wins a year and a top 10 ranking. If I assess the situation from an unbiased perspective the program is headed for probation and off the field issues. That's the price you pay for making the leap from mediocrity to championship contender. The pieces don't come without a little "extra incentive" to the players and a "liberal interpretation" of NCAA guidelines. You can't have one without the other.

I'm sure the casual or naive sports fan thinks I'm being pessimistic and overly cynical, but this is how big time college athletics(especially football) works. The more successful your program becomes the more corners you have to cut. By all accounts Steve Sarkisian and his coaching staff are a great bunch of guys, but they're not saints. If they want to maintain a competitive advantage in the Pac-12 they have to get their hands dirty. If you're a Husky fan you have to be ok with this. Good times are ahead for us, but so are negative headlines. Brace yourself Dawgs!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Robinson Cano: What's In A Name?

Jose Cano named his son Robinson in tribute to the man that broke baseball's color barrier in 1945. With that in his blood he was born to be different. Robinson Cano even wears the number 24 (42 in reverse) to pay homage to his namesake. A few years ago this was a feel good story, but now the Yankees 2nd baseman is more than just a novelty. He might be the best player in baseball.

On a team that has a higher payroll than the GDP of most 3rd world countries Cano has been somewhat under the radar. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and C.C. Sabathia all draw more attention and notoriety. In 2012 he's emerged from their enormous shadow and is by far the Yankees most productive player. On a team with so much talent that is an impressive accomplishment. The Yankees collect all stars and MVP caliber players like a vacuum collects dust and the pinstripe tradition dates back to the turn of the century.

So far the fans and media in New York have been kind to him. They have embraced his new found success and celebrity status with open arms. New York is always looking for fresh souls to entice with their conditional displays of affection. So long as Cano keeps smashing home runs the Bronx will feel like heaven. The moment he has a power outage it will feel like, well the Bronx.

Robinson Cano's meteoric rise to super stardom puts the Yankees in a curious position. It won't be long before the 2nd baseman is demanding $25,000,000 a year. The market for his services certainly warrants that level of compensation, but can the Yankees afford to pay him with their long list of bloated salaries? They better find a way because Robinson Cano is young up and comer they can't afford to lose. Jackie would be proud his name and number are still synonymous with greatness and a symbol of excellence. Way to go Robinson.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Weedend Observations

According to the Fex Ex Cup standings Tiger Woods is once again the best golfer in the world. With an impressive come from behind victory on Sunday Tiger won his 3rd tournament of the season and passed Jack Nicklaus to become 2nd all time in PGA tour wins. His 3 wins on tour this year are at Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer's tournament), The Memorial (Jack Nicklaus tournament), and the AT&T National (his own tournament). That's kinda gangster, but we all know Tiger's barometer for success is measured soley on winning majors. Until he wins one of those the journey back to the top isn't complete. When you're the athlete of the decade the level of expectation is enormous. We'll see if he gets one. Here are some observations over the weekend.

It looks like Lammy Kardashian will get his wish. The Los Angeles Clippers are interested in trading for the sensitive superstar retruning him to the city where he feels the most comfortable and plays his best ball. If the trade happens dare I say the Clippers might have more talent than the Lakers. What is the world coming to?

You may find this hard to believe, but there wasn't a single Seattle Mariner that made the all star team (extreme sarcasm). What's even harder to believe is baseball's highest paid player (Alex Rodriguez) didin't make the squad either. Think the Yankees are starting to feel like they overpaid for their 3rd basemen?

Jamaica's 100 meter team is real serious. When the world's fasest man comes in 2nd during Olympic qualifying you have to think a medal sweep in London is a definite possibility. The best the USA can hope for is a silver medal in the 4x100 meter relay. Yohan Blake, Usain Bolt, and Asafa Powell are too strong.

Without Chris Bosh, D Wade, Derrick Rose, and Dwight Howard USA Basketball is far from a lock to bring back the gold medal. Spain looks like the biggest challenge to upset the Red, White, and Blue with the Gasol brothers, Serge Ibaka, and Rudy Fernandez on their team. Team USA lacks the depth of years past, but CP3, Kobe, LeBron, KD, and Andrew Bynum should be able to hold down the fort. Stay tuned.

In 2014 the Seattle Seahawks will select running back Isaiah Crowell in the draft. How do I know this? Crowell was dismissed from the Georgia football team after being arrested on felony weapons charges. Crowell was slated to be one of the nation's leading rushers this season before his off the field issues. This guy has "Pete Carroll Special" written all over him. Pete will give him a second chance because of his talent and before you know it he'll be in the Pro Bowl. One team's loss is the Seahawks gain.