Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Urban Meyer Doesn't Understand College Football

When Urban Meyer was a commentator for ESPN he always talked about how difficult it was to combat the outside forces surrounding college football.   Whether it was players breaking curfew to hang out with friends, agents giving players improper benefits, or boosters and alumni having too much influence over personnel decisions the game has become impossible to control.  He resigned as head coach of the University of Florida in 2010 to spend more time with his family and deal some health issues (supposedly), but most people believe he was just tired of being held accountable for an environment he didn't create.   Countless arrests, accusations, and admissions of wrong doing took their toll on him.

When The Ohio State University came calling in 2011 Meyer was eager to take on the challenge of resurrecting the program.  He wanted to implement a system that had severe consequences for team violations sending a clear message to present and future players.  He would not allow the same lawless behavior that took place in Gainsville to rear its ugly head in Columbus.

The first example of his zero tolerance policy is the case of Carlos Hyde.  Hyde was the Buckeyes 2nd leading rusher last season, but got himself into some off the field trouble this summer.   Although the charges were dropped and the case dismissed Hyde will face a 3 game suspension to start the season.

Some people will applaud Meyer's efforts to maintain discipline within the program, but college football is a dirty business.  At that level there is no such thing as a"clean" program.   Meyer is fighting a battle he can't win.  Perhaps he feels guilty about the Aaron Hernandez debacle or wants to atone for past indiscretions that occurred at Florida, but punishing a young man for 3 games is a little extreme.  The punishment doesn't fit the infraction.  If Meyer continues on this foolish crusade he will find himself back in Bristol with Chris Fowler and Lee Corso sooner than later.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Is Aquaman Ready To Get Back In The Water?

Anyone that reads comic books or watches cartoons knows Aquaman is not that much of a factor outside of the water.   He has decent strength, good reflexes, and great stamina, but his powers are limited.   As soon as he returns to the water however all that changes.  His powers are infinite, no one can stop him, and the world bows in his presence anticipating the next heroic performance.  Slowly but surely the man we affectionately refer to as Aquaman is starting to figure that out.

After the 2012 Olympic games Michael Phelps was adamant about retiring from competition.  The time, training, and dedication the sport demands had become too much of a burden.  He wanted to live a normal life that didn't revolve around swimming and pursue other interests he would find challenging and rewarding.  The most decorated Olympic athlete in the history of the world was willing to walk away from the sport that made him a legend and never come back.

A year later reports have surfaced Michael Phelps is having second thoughts about his decision.  My guess is reality is starting to set in.  There's no other activity Phelps can participate in that will give him the same satisfaction as competing for a gold medal.  Top athletes in every sport will tell you the hardest thing about retirement is finding an outlet for their competitive drive.  When they come to the realization nothing will replace that they find themselves lost and lacking a sense of purpose.

Michael Phelps experienced that feeling this year.  Just like Clark Kent found out in Superman II being a regular guy is not as cool as being a superhero.  You get your ass kicked and nearly faint at the sight of your own blood.  It's time for Phelps to return to the pool to see if he can add to his TWENTY medal collection.  As I've said many times before an athlete should compete for as long as they can because when it's over, it's over and you don't want to have any regrets.   See you in 2016 Big Mike!  Glad you're starting to come to your senses.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Weekend Observations

Because I'm drunk off the Pete Carroll Kool-Aid and predicted the Seattle Seahawks will win Super Bowl XLVIII I thought it was a good idea to see the team up close and personal.  I was fortunate enough on Sunday to go down and see the Hawks practice.  The first thing that jumped out at me was how comfortable Russell Wilson looked running the offense.  He was in total control on every snap and the players responded to his leadership and poise.  Marshawn Lynch was in "Beastmode", but Texas A&M rookie Christine Michael wasn't too far behind.  If Robert Turbin doesn't get healthy soon his spot might not be there when he returns.  The Legion of Boom was in Pro Bowl form and the offensive line looked mean and nasty.

The only negative I took away from the practice was the impact of Bruce Irvin.  He didn't look comfortable in his new position as if he was thinking too much instead of reacting to the plays.  The transition to linebacker might take longer than originally anticipated.  All in all the practice confirmed my beliefs.  The Seahawks will be Super Bowl champs this year.  Big thanks to Alan Artis Sr. for hooking me up with the passes.  Here are some observations over the weekend.

It's only been 3 days and 3 critical starters are done for the season.  Philadelphia Eagles receiver Jeremy Macklin and Denver Broncos center Dan Koppen both suffered torn ACL's and Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta suffered a hip injury.  I hope this trend doesn't continue, but unfortunately this is football and there's a good chance we'll hear stories like this again during training camp.

The Tampa Bay Rays will will the American League East because of their stellar pitching.  Matt Moore, David Price, Chris Archer, and Jeremy Hellickson have put on a clinic this month and trail the Boston Red Sox by a mere 1/2 game.  If the foursome continues to pitch at a high level people will start to make comparisons to the Atlanta Braves staff of the mid 90's.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have won 9 of their last 10 games without Matt Kemp or Carl Crawford making major contributions.  Imagine what they could do when those two return to the line up.   To make matters worse for the NL West there are rumors LA is interested in acquiring Cliff Lee from the Phillies for the home stretch.  Maybe money can buy a championship after all.

Johnny Football got kicked out of a frat party at the University of Texas.  Not sure what's more amusing, him getting more negative publicity or him being so arrogant he thought he could walk up on the Longhorns campus uninvited.  Johnny Football better win ALOT of games this year to offset the downward spiral or he will no longer be worth all the trouble.  My guess is he won't win enough.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fantasy Football Wild Card #2: Jamaal Charles

Andy Reid's version of the West Coast offense is at its best when he has a dynamic running back that can catch passes out of the back field and stretch the edges of the defense.   In years past he's had success with players like Dorsey Levins, Bryant Westbrook, and Shady McCoy.  Reid's taken his offensive philosophy to Kansas City and will try to replicate the formula.   Enter Jamaal Charles.

Last year Charles had a decent year recovering from major reconstructive surgery on his knee.  He showed flashes of the sprinter speed he possessed at Texas and made the most out of a difficult season.   Although the Chiefs were competitive and played a lot of close games they ended up with the worst record in football.   If the organization is going to improve Charles will be a big part of the reclamation process.

The Chiefs acquired Alex Smith from the San Francisco 49ers in the off season as well which should give them stability at the quarterback position.   Although Smith played admirably last year his skill set is that of a game manager.  If he doesn't have a sound running game and a strong defense to rely on he tends to force throws and make mistakes.  If he's forced to make big plays the Chiefs will struggle.

If Jamaal Charles is as his best he's one of the top five running backs in the league.   He should be able to catch 80-90 passes and rush for 1400-1500 yards.  If he has trouble picking up Andy Reid's offense and struggles with his pass blocking his numbers will look very average.   He'll certainly get plenty of opportunities so we'll see if he makes the most of it.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Football Season Is Back!!

It feels like it's been forever, but football season is finally back!  Training camp is upon us and it's time to see what teams are made of.  From Seattle to Miami, San Francisco to New England, Washington to Oakland, and San Diego to Tampa Bay everyone is optimistic.  Right now football fans all across the country think their team has a chance to win the Super Bowl and they're right.  Just ask the 99' St Louis Rams, the 03' Carolina Panthers, or the 07' Arizona Cardinals.  It doesn't matter what Vegas says, Peter King thinks, or how Warren Sapp interprets things, everyone has a shot at the title for the moment.

I usually try to curb my enthusiasm until after the first pre-season game.  That gives me enough time to get organized and establish the trends I'm going to follow throughout the pre-season.  Contract disputes, position battles, and unfortunate injuries typically come to light in the first 2-3 weeks.  Before I put all my eggs in one basket and fire up the crystal ball I like to make sure I've identified the major pitfalls and obstacles to focus on.

Then there's the fantasy football angle.  During that same period I attempt to gather information that will give me an unfair advantage over my opponents.  I talk more trash than the law allows so I have to be as prepared as possible.  This is the time where I research the sure handed no-name receivers and the punishing running backs with Stonehenge size chips on their shoulders.  I'm obsessed with winning the championship this year so the fantasy football gods will require a substantial sacrifice as well.  Right now I'm looking at throwing my signed Matt Hasselbeck football in the middle of Lake Washington to stay in their good graces.

As everyone knows I've predicted the Seattle Seahawks will win the Super Bowl this year.  If the Hawks remain relatively healthy at the key positions there's no reason they won't hoist the Lombardi Trophy in New York.  That being said all the other story lines and subplots of the season are far less significant than the Seahawks bringing a championship back to the 206.  The next seven months should be a lot of fun.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Confessions Of A Hometown Non-Believer

As you might recall I blogged on Monday about the Seattle Mariners having the longest winning streak in baseball.  Since then the Mariners have won their first two games against the Cleveland Indians and are inching closer to the .500 mark for the season.  Although I'm happy for the hometown team I must admit this recent turn of events has caught me by surprise.

To start the season I never really had any faith in the Mariners.  Other than Felix Hernandez the team didn't have any players I thought could make an impact or consistently put up big numbers.  I considered the team a collection of players that were too good for AAA, but not quite good enough for the majors.  When the season began it looked like my theory was spot on.  Then came the youth movement.

The Mariner front office decided to roll the dice with Brad Miller and Mike Zunino and the team has responded.  The chemistry is better, the roles are more defined, and the team has gained more confidence in itself.  With two all star pitchers and a decent closer it looks like the Mariners may have a solid foundation to build on after all.

Instead of jumping on the Mariners bandwagon I will applaud their efforts from a distance.  I was one of the skeptics from the beginning so I don't feel it's right jump in their corner now that they're starting to prove everyone wrong.  Even though I'm a Seattle native it would be hypocritical to start sporting a bunch of Mariner gear and showing up at games as a staunch supporter.  I'll let them have their time and regret the fact I didn't support the hometown team the way I should have.  Of course all bets are off if they make the playoffs.  The bandwagon adds a few more seats in the post season!  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Baseball Will Never Be Clean

"I am very pleased and relieved by today's decision.  It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation.  We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side."

Ryan Braun's comments after winning the appeal of his suspension February 24, 2012.

"I have acknowledged in the past I am not perfect.  I realize I have made some mistakes.  I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.  I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed."

Ryan Braun's comments after negotiating a 65 game suspension in a plea bargain July 22, 2013

MLB has gone to great lengths to protect the integrity of the game and keep the sport clean.  It has put in place an elaborate system of checks and balances to catch cheaters and keep baseball drug free.  Unfortunately all of their efforts are in vain.  Ryan Braun's confession proves that without a shadow of a doubt.

Even after getting off on a technicality the 2012 NL MVP continued to use performance enhancing drugs.  The thought of being exposed as a fraud and completely tarnishing his image and legacy wasn't enough of a deterrent to stay clean.  Taking the drugs made him a better player which led to video game like stats which led to a $105,000,000 guaranteed contract.  The cause and effect is easy to follow. 

Performance enhancing drugs turn average players into good players (Brett Boone), good players into great players (Rafael Palmeiro), and great players into baseball gods (Roger Clemens).  With that kind of incentive baseball will never be 100% drug free.  The drug dealers will continue to find ways to make their product better and so long as 9 figure contracts hang in the balance the market isn't going anywhere.

Ryan Braun is not a villain, just an opportunist.  There are countless examples in society where cheaters prosper.  Is he any different than Bernie Madoff, Enron, or Fannie Mae?  You can limit the number of incidents with stricter laws, better testing and changing the mind set of the participants, but the results of using PED's are too dramatic to ignore.  Hopefully this story didn't come as a surprise to anyone and you realize this is only the tip of the iceberg.  At least this time baseball doesn't have its eyes wide shut.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Weekend Observations

It's fair to say that over the last decade Phil Michelson has had more than his fair share of near victories at major tournaments.  He always plays good enough to keep himself in contention, but not good enough to hoist the big shiny trophy at the end.  On Sunday Phil came from 5 strokes backs going into the final round to win the British Open and capture his 5th major title.  It was unexpected, yet the perfect example of what the game of golf is all about.  If you trust your swing, get lucky bounces, and putt with precision and confidence good things can happen.  Congrats to Phil.

On the flip side it appears Tiger Woods has come down from Mt. Olympus to join the rest of us mortals.  He is no longer the dominant player he once was and the field is no longer afraid of his shadow.  I'd like to see him break the record for most majors, but that seems unlikely the way he's playing right now.  His shaky play down the stretch is more mental than physical if you ask me and until he regains his confidence we will see the same results.  Stay tuned.  Here are some observations over the weekend.

Florida Gator middle linebacker Antonio Morrison was arrested over the weekend for barking at a police dog.  His defense was the dog barked at him first.  If it's only July and we're already hearing stories this bizarre the Florida schools could provide us unlimited amounts of entertainment this college football season.

Eric Bedard threw a no hitter for 6 2/3 innings Saturday, but left the game in the 7th with a 2-2 tie.  Usually pitchers in a zone want to take a shot at history, but Bedard reached his maximum pitch count and opted to leave the game.  The decision wasn't popular at the time, but it probably saved Bedard's arm in the long run.  If he pitches 2-3 more seasons it also probably netted him an extra 3 to 5 million dollars. 

Miguel Cabrera currently leads the American league in batting average and RBI's and trails Chris Davis by 6 in home run standings.  It's almost statistically impossible for Cabrera to win the triple crown two years in a row, but for some reason I think he's going to do it.

Do you know who currently has the longest winning streak in baseball right now?  After smashing the Houston Astros 12-5 on Sunday the Seattle Mariners have won 6 straight and are inching closer to .500 ball for the season.  I'm not ready to jump on their bandwagon, but I am impressed with the way they've been able to turn things around recently.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fantasy Football Wildcard #1: Shady McCoy

Because of my impending fantasy football drafts I have to be careful what I say.  I can't divulge too much information with regards to strategy or players I have my eye on, but with training camp opening next week I'm starting to get the buzz.  I'm starting to formulate my plan for destruction, terror, and mayhem.  While I'm in the process of analyzing potential picks I've noticed there's a few wild cards out there that could propel my team to victory or ruin my entire season.  One of those players is Shady McCoy.

I've had Shady on my team in the past and he's been money.  He runs hard and catches out of the backfield.  That was in the Andy Reid system however and now he has the challenge of excelling in Chip Kelly's offense.  Kelly had success in college, but there's no guarantee that offense will work in the NFL.  Kelly can no longer recruit the best players and the speed of the game will be an adjustment for him.  Whenever Oregon played more physical teams the timing always seemed to be interrupted and points came at a premium.

Perhaps I'm being too hard on the guy.  That was then and this is now.  Perhaps Chip Kelly is an innovator like Bill Walsh or Mike Martz and his up tempo offense will take the league by storm.  If so Shady McCoy is the perfect back to execute the plan.  On the flip side the Eagles play in the NFC East with Dallas, Washington, and New York.  Those teams have very unforgiving defenses and time of possession is more critical in the pros than in college.  I haven't decided which way I'm leaning, but my philosophy is always take the talent over the scheme.  Shady has the talent, lets hope the scheme doesn't let him down.     

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Quarterbacks Are Different

In 2012 Johnny Manziel became the first freshmen to win the Heisman Trophy and was given the cool nickname "Johnny Football" for his dramatic play on the field.  With impressive wins over Alabama and Oklahoma Manziel evolved into a cult hero capturing the attention of millions of fans and the admiration of college football enthusiasts over the country.  Did all of the success go to his head?

OF COURSE IT DID!  HE'S A QUARTERBACK AND HE'S ONLY 20 YEARS OLD!  To expect anything less would be extremely naïve.  The media is expecting a level of maturity that simply doesn't exist at that age for most people.

On the flip side Johnny Football is going down a dangerous path.  With the amount of scrutiny athletes face today every mistake is magnified.  If he continues on his present course everything he's worked for and accomplished will vanish in an instant.

After NFL teams have experienced diminishing returns from the likes of Matt Leinart, Vince Young, and JeMarcus Russell work ethic and accountability are considered extremely important attributes for a field general.  If there are any concerns teams will proceed with caution and most likely draft the player in question several rounds lower than their talent reflects.

Anyone that's ever been around a star quarterback knows the attention and accolades fuel their ego.  I've known a few quarterbacks (Jason Stiles, Joel Deis, Billy Joe Hobert) and they can be a handful.  Even the ones that don't win national championships or major awards (Joel Deis) can be difficult and arrogant at times.  The good news is there's still plenty of time for Johnny Football to turn things around and fall back into everyone's good graces.  His past issues are minimal at best and nothing of a criminal nature.  Immaturity doesn't make you a bad person.  Remember winning has a way of changing perspective very quickly.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Why MLB Needs To Change The All Star Game

When Bud Selig first announced the All Star game would determine home field advantage in the World Series I thought it was a good idea.  I thought it would bring more intensity and a sense of purpose to the game and the players would be forced to take it seriously.  After all, home field can be critical to winning a seven game series and if one league is more dominant than another the results would keep things honest.  Several years later I've had a change of heart.

The All Star game shouldn't determine who has home field advantage in the World Series.  The game is an exhibition that rewards stellar play for the first half of the season.  It is not an accurate barometer of who the best team is.  The team with the best record should have the opportunity to host a game seven if necessary.  It is unfair to project what league has the better team based on a group that the fans vote for and the manager is not 100% familiar with.

In addition, the desired result hasn't been met.  The players don't take the game anymore seriously than before.  Players that become All Stars, but don't play for a team in playoff contention don't have the same motivation as players from say Baltimore, Detroit, San Francisco, or Cincinnati.  Plus the manager is compelled to make sure everyone gets playing time while being cognizant of injuries and undue wear and tear on the participants.  Both teams are stacked with immense talent, but the big names usually aren't in the line up when the game is decided.

I do think the All Star game needs some additional skills events however.  I'd like to see something that shows off the strength and accuracy of an outfielder's arm.  I'd like to see something that displays the range of the league's premiere infielders.  I'd like to see if hitters can swing at only odd numbered baseballs like Barry Bonds used to do in his off season training regiment (He actually swung at odd numbered golf balls if you can believe that).

  In the end the experiment was cute for a minute, but over time we see the flaws in the system and going forward MLB should change the rule and go back to the way things used to be.  Most Players will only go all out for the team that's paying their salary and for teammates that have their back 162 games a year.  A one game exhibition is not enough motivation for that.  The All Star game should be a reward for the popular players that keep the game relevant to the fans, not home field advantage in the World Series.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Weekend Observations

I blogged a few weeks ago that Tim Lincecum hasn't been the same pitcher since he cut his hair.  He must have heard me talking about him because he came out on Saturday and threw the first no hitter of his career.  Going into the game Timmy was a modest 4-9 with a 4.26 ERA, but this performance could turn things around.  There had been rumors the Giants were considering moving Lincecum to the bullpen to yield better results and now he's one of their aces again.  Giants fans however might want to be concerned about Timmy's arm going down the stretch.  Although the no hitter was a historic feat it took 148 pitches to get there.  I'm no doctor, but that seems like an awful lot of stress on an elbow and Tim's not a very big guy.  We'll see if his body can hold.  Congrats to the UW alumni.  Here are some observations over the weekend.

American 100 meter sprinter Tyson Gay and former 100 meter record holder Asaafa Powell both tested positive for banned substances.  I'm not sure this comes as a surprise to anyone.  As with cycling I'm more shocked when the best performers aren't using PED's than when they get caught.

That kid in Baltimore with the Will Clark swing is on quite a tear.  Chris Davis hit his 37th home run yesterday joining Mark McGwire and Reggie Jackson as the only players to hit 37 before the all star break.  He must really be seeing the ball well.  Right?

Cleveland Indians fan Greg Van Niel caught 4 foul balls in the same game on Sunday.  Statistically the odds of accomplishing that feat are one in a trillion. 

Jordan Speith became the first teenager to win on the PGA tour since 1931.  Should we recommend that he go back to school and get his education or is it ok for him to continue to playing professionally? 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ilya Kovalchuk Is Not A Capitalist

First off, let me say I'm all about family.  Family first, family always.  If it wasn't for my family and friends I wouldn't be the person I am today or have the strength and confidence to pursue my goals in life. I'm born and raised in Seattle (3rd generation) so I completely understand how someone could get homesick living away from their hometown, but the actions of Ilya Kovalchuk are baffling to me.

Ilya Kovalchuk, a superstar winger for the New Jersey Devils retired from the NHL with 12 years and $77,000,000 left on his contract.  The explanation given for his sudden departure was during the lock out he realized how much he missed his family and wanted to be home on a permanent basis.  Certainly there are cultural differences between Russia and the United States and New Jersey has its issues, but C'MON MAN! Is it worth turning your back on 77 mil?  Is the situation really that bad?

From a capitalists perspective it's completely irresponsible to leave that much money on the table.  There will come a time in your life where you wish you had the financial resources to take care of a problem or take advantage of a tremendous opportunity.  Trust me, I'm speaking from experience.  In addition, wouldn't his family want him to be the most successful person he could be?  How does turning down a lifetime of money help with that?

We all hypothesize on what we would do if we were in a certain situation. This is one of the reasons sports is so compelling to us.  We put ourselves in the shoes of multi millionaires and super human athletes and judge them based on our limited exposure and abilities.  That being said I don't think there's a single person reading this blog that would make the same decision Kovalchuk made. Ask yourself, would you spend the next 12 years in Siberia for $77,000,000?  My answer is, I'd find a way to make the best out of it and return home with enough money to live comfortably for the rest of my life.  People have done a lot worse for a lot less. Your thoughts?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pandora, Hip-Hop, and Old Age

Have any of you guys ever heard of Pandora?  For those of you that don't know (I'm being facetious here) Pandora is a website that provides user specific music play lists based on personal preferences.  Because I'm a Hip-Hop snob I never really believed the site could randomly select songs that would satisfy my listening needs.  I'm complex and overly critical when it comes to lyrics and beats.  To my surprise Pandora is much more intuitive than I anticipated.

That being said Pandora has confirmed my belief that Hip-Hop has evolved into something I don't particularly care for.  I don't say this because I don't respect the artists of today or appreciate and understand what they are trying to accomplish, I say this because I'm old.  Hip-Hop has always catered to the youth and now that it is mainstream the target market is even less reflective of my listening preference.  If I had a choice between listening to songs from the golden age of Hip-Hop or present day I'll take the golden age.

Pandora helps me cut out all of the riff raff, the rapping Dalmatians of the world.  I can listen exclusively to legends and MC's with lyrics that are thought provoking.  In addition I find myself liking songs I previously found boring or corny.  My wisdom, experiences, and reflection make it easier to relate to the content.  If I can find new songs from the past it creates an infinite catalog of music to sample.

Because my generation is the first to grow up with Hip-Hop everything that happens is trial and error.  There's no frame of reference with regards to this demographic on this subject.  Some of us will sound like grumpy old men sporting sweat suits and Versace shirts while others might be sitting front row at a Two Chainz concert.  In the end it's good to have the option to stay in my lane.  Thank you Pandora.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

5 Reasons Kevin Durant Will Be The Next Great Laker

After rolling out the red carpet, posting massive billboards all over town, and having present and future Hall of Famers cater to his ego the Lakers came up short in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes.  On the surface it seems like a horrible mistake and a void that won't easily be filled, but take it easy Laker Nation.  All is not lost. 

Now that the Dwightmare is over it's time to focus on the future.  The next two years will be painful and embarrassing, but there's light at the end of the tunnel. A REAL superstar will make his way to town and become the face of the franchise.  When the Lakers need a game changer they always seem to get one and the next in line will be arriving via Oklahoma City.  Here are 5 reasons Kevin Durant will be the next great Laker.

1.  Kevin Durant Wants To Play In A Big Market

You can only be a big fish in a small pond for so long.  Eventually superstars need to test uncharted waters to find out what their true potential is from a popularity and financial perspective.  Kevin Durant eluded to this when he announced he would be switching agents when his current contract expires.

2.  Jay-Z

Jay-Z isn't going to let one of his biggest clients continue to play in a city that can't offer huge off the court endorsements and considerations.  If the goal is to push the Kevin Duran brand to an iconic figure status Oklahoma City simply isn't the place for him.

3.  Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook has never fully embraced the role of being the 2nd option.  Although both of them claim there is no issue with regards to this it's going to become a problem down the road.  To make matters worse Durant couldn't get the Thunder out of the 2nd round of the playoffs this year which only gives more credence to Westbrook's position.

4.  The Window Is Closed

No one could have expected the loss of James Harden to impact the Western Conference to this degree, but it has.  The Thunder no longer have a 3rd scoring option and after losing Kevin Martin to free agency their depth is becoming a concern.  OKC is not a big destination for free agents so they are more reliant on draft selections than most teams.  They are no longer the best team in the West.

5.  Tradition

It's hard to say no to the NBA logo, the greatest scorer in the history of the NBA, the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jack Nicholson, and your childhood idol who was also your teammate on the last two Olympic teams.  The pressure to become a Laker will be intense and the rewards far outweigh any second guessing or feelings of loyalty he may have about his decision.  The opportunity to join Magic, Kobe, Kareem, Wilt, Shaq, Worthy, West, and Baylor as one of the great Lakers of all time is simply too much to pass up.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Weekend Observations

After Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer lost in the early rounds of Wimbledon this year I fully expected Novak Djokovic to pick up another Grand Slam title.  Little did I know Andy Murray would find a way to control his emotions and play some of the best tennis of his career.  Murray became the first Englishmen since Fred Perry in 1936 to win Wimbledon by dismantling Djokovic in straight sets 6-4,7-5,6-4.  Most of the experts (including myself) have overlooked Murray when projecting who will be the sports next dominant player, but he has beaten Djokovic in two consecutive Grand Slam finals and is the defending champion going into the 2013 US Open.  Now that he's been able to win the big one on his native soil his game could soar to higher heights.  I still got Nadal as the player to beat when he's healthy, but Murray's definitely in the conversation.  Congrats to Andy.  Here are some observations over the weekend.

I never thought I would say this, but Anderson "Spiderman" Silva got the snot piss kicked out of him on Saturday.  I didn't think he was capable of losing a fight let alone getting knocked the fu*k out like D-Bo in Friday.  I still think he's the best fighter in his division though.  Am I in denial?

Yasiel Puig deserves to be an all star.  Not because of the numbers he puts up, but because of the excitement he brings to the game.  MLB desperately needs players that draw attention to the sport so letting Puig in the all star game was a wise decision.

Max Scherzer is 13-0 with a 3.09 ERA and he's not even the Tigers best pitcher (That's still Justin Verlander).  With the reigning AL MVP in Miguel Cabrera and starting pitching that rivals anyone in baseball I'm starting to think the Tigers will be back in the World Series this year.  

Dwight Howard's departure to Houston will hurt the Los Angeles Lakers short term, but in the long run they will be better off.  In three years time when a REAL superstar comes to town Laker Nation will forget all about this temporary setback.  More on this tomorrow.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Was The Brian Runge Firing A Wake Up Call For Professional Sports?

The job of an umpire or referee in professional sports is to maintain the integrity of the game.  It is their responsibility to make sure no team has an unfair advantage and everyone is playing by the same set of rules.  Although sports fans don't always agree with every call umps and refs make there is an assumption they are judging the games with a sound mind and free of personal bias.  It appears as sports fans we have been somewhat naïve.

Longtime MLB umpire Brian Runge was fired recently for failing a drug test.  It wasn't released what the drug was, but what if it was some mind altering hallucinogen?  Since Runge has called 3 no hitters in his career and Philip Humber's perfect game last year should we question their legitimacy?  Was the strike zone expanded during those games?  Did the batters have a fair chance?  Should we assume all of the bad call he's made over the years are a result of drug use?

Personally, I don't care if the guy was taking steroids to help with a nagging knee injury or using deer antler spray for a sore elbow, but if it was shrooms, crystal meth, or Oxycontin I'm a little concerned.  Runge is a 3rd generation umpire so I'm almost willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Besides, Vegas hasn't hit the panic button just yet and they are the ultimate barometer of these things.  With billions of dollars exchanging hands they can't afford to have any funny business going on with the umps and refs. 

It's probably asking too much, but baseball should break its privacy rule and tell the public what Runge tested positive for.  With a job description predicated on split second decisions it's better to know if someone's personal habits are affecting the outcome of games and changing the course of history.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The 206 Is Always The Bridesmaid

It seems like the new trend in professional sports is to use Seattle as the ultimate leveraging point.  Teams use the threat of relocating to the 206 as a tool to get what they want.  The city of Glendale recently agreed to terms on a 15 year lease that will keep the NHL Coyotes in Phoenix and Sacramento severely overpaid to keep the Kings in town spoiling Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer's plan to bring back the Sonics.  Why is this tactic so effective?

It's the money and the market.  Seattle has several fortune 500 companies that generate large amounts of revenue and insulate the economy.  Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Starbucks, Costco, and Nordstrom are all headquartered in the Emerald city and they are loyal to the community (except Howard Schultz).  Finding someone with the resources to purchase a franchise is no problem. 

Secondly, Seattle is the 12th largest media market.  Leagues that don't have a presence here are looking at ways to take advantage of that.  Unfortunately other cities realize this and end up doing whatever it takes to keep their teams from moving to the greener grass.

Right now Seattle is feeling like a jilted stripper or a mistress whose heard too many empty promises from a cheating husband.  We're the exotic flavor of the month or the new hot spot everyone talks about, but never the city that ends up with the goods.  I don't know what it's going to take for a team to commit to the area, but I can tell you the process has been emotionally draining for Seattle sports fans.  The 11th hour is not just a phrase around these parts, it's a recurring nightmare.  Hopefully this trend is over soon because it's starting to take a toll on my psyche.  Good thing football is around the corner.  Go Hawks!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Is The NHL Ready For A Little Color?

The NHL is the last major North American sport not to have a significant minority presence, but this year's draft could change that.  With the 4th pick the Nashville Predators selected Seth Jones and with the 7th pick the Edmonton Oilers selected Darnell Nurse.  Both Jones and Nurse are African American.  Hockey has a handful of minority players at present, but no one that really impacts the game on a nightly basis.  Is the NHL ready to embrace a superstar of color?

As much as I want to say yes, I have my doubts.  At a time when the country has become more progressive and sensitive with regards to racial issues hockey has had some problems.  There was a banana throwing incident in Toronto a few years back and Washington Capitals player Joel Ward received death threats after scoring the winning goal in a playoff game last year.  I don't think two players can change the mindset of fans overnight.

That being said I also understand winning cures all things.  If Jones and Nurse lead their teams to Stanley Cup contention it is unlikely they will be the target of ignorant comments, gestures, and slurs.  Like with anything it could be a few bad apples spoiling it for everyone else and giving the impression negative attitudes are much more prevalent than they really are.  I like hockey so I'm hoping Nurse and Jones have a smooth transition into the NHL spotlight.  Your thoughts?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Weekend Observations

NBA free agency is officially upon us and the main topic of discussion is where Dwight Howard will end up.  Although Howard had a sub par season last year Houston, Dallas, Golden St., Atlanta, and Los Angeles are all on bended knee begging for the opportunity to retain his services.  The NBA is severely lacking quality big men and most of the "franchise" caliber players are spoken for, but does Dwight Howard deserve this much attention?  Wasn't last season a total disaster?  Wasn't he exposed as a player that's mentally weak and physically questionable?  At his best Dwight Howard can be a dominant figure that gets you 20 and 12 every night.  At his worst he's a moody goofball that becomes a distraction and a malcontent.  If I had to handicap where Dwight will end up I'd say he'll end up in the ATL.  They can give him big money, there's little or no pressure to perform at a championship level, and he'll be the biggest star on the team.  A perfect environment for Dwight to excel in.  Here are some observations over the weekend.

Two African Americans were taken in the top 10 of the 2013 NHL draft.  Cedric the Entertainer's skit from the Kings of Comedy is coming to life.  I wonder if this will be a turning point for the sport.  More on this tomorrow.

Chris Davis is going ballistic in Baltimore.  At present he is batting .332 with 31 home runs and 80 RBI's before the all star break.  If he keep this pace up he could put up numbers we haven't seen since Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa.  Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

The Pittsburgh Pirates are the first team in the majors to reach 50 wins.  Although they have great pitching and plenty of talented players I can't help but think they're going to choke down the stretch.  They have been in this position for the last few years, but they never get over the hump.