Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Great Red Sox Jab

In this week's "That's Debatable" chat on ESPN with Jerry Crasnick, people were debating who is the most disappointing team in MLB so far this year. Teams up for consideration were Seattle, Cleveland, Detroit, Colorado, NY Mets, and San Diego. A few people chirped in about the Yankees and then came this gem:

Click to enlarge.

Chris from Edwardsville, Illinois...I applaud you!

Love/Hate: Sports Personalities

Apologies for the extended absence. As E mentioned in an earlier post, I was in Disney World for a week and then getting caught up with work and other things the last week. The long Memorial Day weekend didn't help matters. But I am back.

Do you find yourself hating on a lot of sports personalities? I know I do. The hatred usually stems from two things...

  1. the commentator/analyst/expert/personality in question works for or is completely biased (in your eyes) to a rivals team
  2. the commentator/analyst/expert/personality is completely aloof and you feel that you know more on the subject they are preaching about
There is a third reason but one in which no individual usually admits: jealousy. You may yearn to be in this certain person's position with the team or within the sport. He/she is famous for doing something you wish you could do. The reasons for hatred are not exclusive; you can be a hater for just one, two, three, or a mixture of them.

I have been paying attention to sports for as long as I can remember. Over the years I have developed a strong love, hate, and love/hate relationship with many sports personalities (excluding players). Below is my list. Obviously opinions will vary.

Let's first start of nice. I don't want to focus just on the people I despise. There are plenty of people in the wide world of sports that I respect and admire, for many reasons. Here is a short list of my favorites (in no particular order).
  • Chris Berman - I know that there are many people out there that dislike him and much of what ESPN does and is about. Whatever. I love Berman. He is witty, funny, and it can be argued that he is the reason why ESPN has succeeded. Pop culture was influenced by this mans sports quotes on the air.
  • Al Michaels - Does anyone have a beef with him? He has won 5 Emmy's as an Outstanding Sports Personality (Play-by-Play host). His voice is well recognized and the way he handles himself in the booth is top notch. He rarely makes a mistake and has never shown any bias towards a team.
  • Bob Costas - A very decorated sports broadcaster. He controls NBC sports. Costas is usually thrust into the spotlight during an Olympics and does a great job. And it's hard not to like someone who is compared to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
  • Brent Musberger - Possibly the best college football play-by-play man ever. His voice is almost calming. The way he welcomes the audience to a game is great time and time again. He has done many different sports but his work with college football is his best.
  • Lauren Hart - A lot of people may not know who she is. Lauren is the daughter of legendary Philadelphia Flyers announcer Gene Hart and is currently the anthem singer for the Flyers. She is an amazing voice talent and does a lot of charity work in the Philadelphia area. Lauren has taken over for Kate Smith in the eyes of Flyers fans. She is a cancer survivor.
  • Peter Gammons - One of the best baseball analysts around. He is well respected as a journalist and reporter, as demonstrated by his numerous interviews with superstars as well as his famous connections around the MLB. Gammons returned to his role with ESPN three months after suffering a brain aneurysm.
  • Dan Patrick - He, along with Keith Olbermann, brought about the ESPN renaissance and ushered the network into the spotlight faster than Chris Berman could have hoped. He picks his moments well and knows when to be sarcastic or serious. He is well versed about many sports. His 'Just My Type' column in Sports Illustrated is one of the best parts of the magazine.
  • Jon Miller - Quite possibly the best baseball announcer not named Joe Buck (I kid, I kid). A great imitator of announcing legends, Miller has great pronunciation and annunciation. He is anything but dry and keeps the audience entertained during boring stretches of the game.
  • Harry Kalas - Impeccable play-by-play announcer of the Philadelphia Phillies. You can also hear his voice during NFL games on the radio station Westwood One and during presentations by NFL Films. He is loved by people in Philadelphia, mostly because he is loves the city and is very open to the fans. He has a deep voice and is known for his excitement during a Phillies home run, in which he'll state ...a long drive, watch this baby, and that ball's outta here! Home run (player's name)...
  • Joe Paterno - Yeah, sorry, a little biased here. I know people who don't like him. But I like him. Not just because of his success on the football filed but because of his HUGE donations to Penn State. The University has given him a lot but he has given A LOT back. Most people that hate on him talk about his age and his inability to speak coherently to the media. Not many people know how much he has done for the University.
  • Woody Paige - There are teams that Woody bugs me but nearly enough to drop him out of this category. He is one of my favorite writers and brings a sense of humor to ESPNs Around the Horn. He was brilliant on Cold Pizza, too.
  • Michael Wilbon & Tony Kornheiser - I like them both for their work on Pardon the Interruprion. Both confront their biases and stories head on. They argue in a way that makes you like each of them. Tony may be hard to take at times on Monday Night Football, but he more than makes up for it in his syndicated columns and on PTI. I enjoy Wilbon for his takes on racism in sports (a topic that unfortunately comes up often).
It's important to note that I am only focusing on people that I have witnessed in my life. While I'm sure Howard Cosell, Harry Caray, and Jim McKay (among others) were great, I have no recollection of them. Sorry. We are working in the time period of approximately 1995 to now. If I don't remember anything about someone they don't make the list.

This set of personalities can drive me insane or make me very happy. These people walk the love/hate line with every word they speak or every column they write.
  • Barry Melrose - ESPNs hockey analyst has his moments, both good and bad. He has a passion for the game, which I respect. But some of his comments scream of homerism and his bias towards Canadian teams is blatant. As is his disdain for the Flyers. However his hair suits him well.
  • Mel Kiper, Jr. - The 'Draft Guru'. This is an example of the jealousy I mentioned earlier. But I have reasons to both like and despise Mel. He has keen eye for some NFL talent but too often he takes teams passing on "his" guy personally. He needs to relax. Also, as the draft nears some of his projections become more and more bold. I believe he is trying to find the next hidden gem and say "I told you so" more than actually evaluate the talent in front of him. Like Melrose the hair looks good.
  • Bill Simmons - Pretty much a typical Boston/New England fan. He was thrust into popularity in 2004 during the Red Sox run (ya know, before parts north and east of New York became unbearable). Simmons is excellent at satire and his recollections of sports past is top notch. But he is extremely homeristic and his piece on the Patriots last fall is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read about sports.
  • Jerry Jones - A Cowboys and football legend. He is brash and resilient; a real go-getter. He has a sharp eye for business and has been with the Cowboys since 1989 and built 'America's Team' in the early 1990s. He is very involved with his team, which can be good and bad. He has forced out coaches (Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson) and hired ones not right for the job (Chan Gailey, Dave Campo). He is cocky and opinionated.
  • Mark Cuban - Brings some much needed excitement and passion to the NBA. I would really like to see him own the Chicago Cubs. His is very involved with the Mavericks. His excitement and involvement can, at times, be too much.
  • John Madden - An expert coach and football mind that will forever be pasted into American football culture. He isn't the best commentator, usually due to the fact he speaks incoherently and points out the obvious. He also has a huge man-crush on Brett Favre (not a good thing).
  • Roger Goodell - He didn't waste any time taking over for Paul Tagliabue. He has instilled a stronger sense of discipline in the NFL and has made some key decisions elsewhere. However, his handling of Spygate has been abysmal at best. Also looming is the potential for a work stoppage. A new CBA must be agreed upon by March 2009 for there not to be an uncapped year in 2010. His legacy may be determined within the first three years of his term. So far it has been up and down.
  • Bill Parcells - The Tuna is a great football mind as he has shown the ability to turn around awful or medicore teams into playoff caliber ones. However he is extremely arrogant and can be a lot to handle. He is overrated in terms of his draft evaluations. If he can return Miami to respectability he may bump into the LOVE category ;-)
  • Lou Holtz - The old timer is a bit annoying as a commentator but not nearly as annoying as he was when he was the coach of the Irish. Still, he can be funny and I don't despise him nearly as much as his partner on ESPN (see the HATE section). Holtz's pep talks are hilarious.
  • Jim Rome - Extremely opinionated, which is why I can't LOVE him. I, too, am extremely opinionated when it comes to sports. Jim and I usually only agree 50% of the time leaving 50% for me to hate his guts. Some of the stuff he says should be heard by the masses. Some of the other things he spew should be intended only for Satan's minions.
  • Bobby Clarke - A Philadelphia hero in the 1970's but now finds himself a bit of a rogue to the City of Brotherly Love. Clarke made some big mistakes as the Flyers GM and never brought another Cup to Philadelphia. The recent success of Paul Holmgren as GM doesn't help him. Still, the things he did for the city over 30 years ago can not be ignored (even though I wasn't around to see him do it).
  • Casual sports fans - These people run the sports world. These are the folks advertisers, owners, and the league executives need around to thrive. Unfortunately as a die-hard sports fan they drive me insane. They seem to only go to games for the purpose of going and saying they went. They don't care about the outcome and they don't care about the experience for everyone else. However, they are needed for the sports leagues to exist so I can't hate them, can I? However if they turn into something evil things change (see the last item of the HATE section).
  • Bill Belichick - Surprise, surprise. This is public enemy number one, and for good reason. He is arrogant, ignorant, a cheater, and above all else, a huge ass. He MAY be one of the smartest football minds ever, but who knows now? His shortcomings far outweigh any good he has ever done, if there even is any. Until he is removed, I will hate the Patriots. Belichick must go.
  • Mark May - One of the most ridiculous people at ESPN. He is paired with Lou Holtz and makes Holtz look good. May is the definition of a homer (he went to Pitt) and is completely biased against Penn State. This leads him to state verbal vomit in the form of predicting Akron (or other inferior teams) will beat Penn State. Shut up Mark May! This comes from my bias for Penn State.
  • Jay Mariotti - Ridiculous. Just plain ridiculous. He is hated by his own city (Chicago). The stuff he says on Around the Horn is unbelievable at times. He trashes the city's players and doesn't deserve any awards or recognition.
  • Skip Bayless - Much like Mariotti, Bayless is a buffoon. He is the most opinionated person on this list (more so than Jim Rome). When he is proven wrong he makes lame excuses. He is said to hate LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and doesn't like Allen Iverson either. He makes outrageous claims. He thinks the NBA regular season is more exciting than March Madness and that Tiger Woods is not the greatest golfer of all-time. Skip actually thinks kicking should be removed from football. Seriously.
  • Stephen A. Smith - Just writing some of these names down gets me angry. Smith is, simply put, awful. He is a terrible journalist and an idiot on the air. He speaks as if he is an expert on all sports when he only knows basketball. He always makes controversies into something involving race and racism. And why all the yelling? We can hear you, Stephen A.
  • Colin Cowherd - Another person that makes the list for his constant blasting of Penn State. He takes pride in hating the Nittany Lions. He was called "appalling" and "indecent" after saying that Sean Taylor's death was caused by his gang-related past catching up to him. He is extremely biased towards the SEC.
  • Steve Young - Not the QB but rather the talking head on ESPN. They are not the same person. The analyst Steve Young has a hidden agenda to convince the world he was the greatest QB ever. He is always relating his QB life to those of people that, frankly, have nothing in common with him. He has gotten worse as the years have passed.
  • The Steinbrenner's - George, Hank, and Hal. All equally ridiculous. They are great baseball minds but they don't know when to stop their mouths. Hank and Hal have visibly taken over the Yankees this past year and have said numerous boneheaded things. They continue to yearn to be the best, which is fine. However they rarely go about it the right way.
  • New England/Boston fans - They have gotten completely unreasonable and ridiculous since 2004. I was rooting for the Red Sox that fall and was ecstatic when they toppled the Yankees in that historic comeback. But ever since that region has become unbearable. They believe it is their right to win everything and be the face of sports. When they aren't in the news they bitch and moan. They defend Belichick which I can't even comprehend. They are suddenly basketball fans this year which leads me to...
  • Fake fans/Bandwagon jumpers - These are the people that I HATE the most. If you like a team show it AT ALL TIMES. I don't care if they have won only one game this season or haven't won a championship in your lifetime. Show loyalty and dedication because it will make the good times even better. Perhaps the best example of bandwagon jumpers is with New England/Boston "fans". A lot of them will tell you that they have been a Patriots fan since 2001, a Red Sox fan since 2004, or a Celtics fan since 2007. Mighty convenient, don't ya think? "Red Sox Nation" has grown exponentially in the last four years. It is maddening. The Red Sox also have a huge casual fan base which can transition into fake fans. These are the fans that know absolutely nothing about a team but preach and talk as though they've been a fan for ages. They will buy a hat or a shirt of the team and wear it in public settings. If you actually hold a conversation with a fake fan you'll know because they really know nothing about the team at all. The Red Sox and Yankees may have the largest fake fan base. Other teams with a lot of fake fans include the New York Mets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Los Angeles Lakers.
Unfortunately for Steely McDonati his Penguins have seen a renaissance of fake fans and bandwagon jumpers this year. The success of the Penguins is no surprise, I actually predicted them to be the East representative in the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the season and before the playoffs started. I guess I should have realized with that I'd be anointed with annoying fans who were nowhere to be found just 2 years ago. Couple that with the fact that it seemed like the Penguins were leaving Pittsburgh just a few years ago and you get a fan base that is full of fakes. Thankfully Steely McDonati is a die-hard by all means. He bleeds for Pittsburgh and for that I thank him. And I thank all of you out there that do the same for their teams.

Anyway back to the topic at hand. There is a small list of the sports personalities that I love/hate and why. I encourage you to submit your own list in the comments section and suggest any I may have forgotten.

I'm sure I am missing a few people. If I think of them I will add them.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

'94 Devils = '08 Hornets (?)

Nothing sucks more than seeing your team get dumped after having a commanding playoff series lead. After this happened to my Hornets, I sat back and thought about how oddly similar this whole situation is to what my New Jersey Devils went through 14 years ago. Yes, I agree with you, this is an interesting attempt at correlation here. Two different sports, 14 years apart. Despite that, I feel that there are some interesting similarities. They're not exact, but there are some things that just make you think. Let's start with the Devils.

Heading into the '93-'94 season, the Devils really had not done anything of note. Since the franchise's inception back in 1974 as the Kansas City Scouts, they had only made it past the first round of the playoffs once (losing to Boston in the conference finals 4-3 in 1988). While they routinely made it to the playoffs, it was just barely as they were typically the #4 seed in the Patrick Division (equivalent of a 7/8 seed today). After cycling through 7+ coaches in 7 years (the late Herb Brooks being the most recent), the Devils decided to give a shot to Jacques Lemaire. At the time of his hire, he was the assistant GM (and former coach) of the Montreal Canadiens. He was also a winner of 8 Stanley Cups during his time playing in Montreal. This was a move the Devils would not come to regret.

Lemaire inherited a relatively young team. He had a nice nucleus with Claude Lemieux, Scott Stevens, and John MacLean as well as a nice batch of young talent in the form of a 22-year old Bobby Holik, 22-year old Bill Guerin, 20-year old Scott Niedermayer, and 21-year old Martin Brodeur. Brodeur had been drafted 4 years earlier in the 1st round with hopes that he could he the cornerstone goalie the team had lacked for many years. Lemaire also installed the trap defense, which immediately worked wonders in New Jersey. With the core being in place for some time already, he quickly put everything together and in his first year as coach, the Devils experienced their best regular season in franchise history. The upstart Devils then eeked out of the first couple rounds of the playoffs before meeting up with the #1 seed Rangers. While they weren't the defending champs, they easily had the best record in the NHL (Devils having the second best) and blitzed through their first two series (though they were against the #8 and #7 seeds).

This was an epic matchup between two bitter rivals. Through 5 games, the Devils held a commanding 3-2 series lead. At that point, Mark Messier guaranteed victory in Game 6, held up that guarantee, and iced up a 4-2 victory with a hat trick. The Devils totally choked in that game as they led following two periods. Unfortunately, my 8-year old self was there to witness this all unfold. Game 7 was a close one, but a heartbreaker in the end. Valeri Zelepukin of the Devils tied up the game with less than a minute to go in regulation but they fell in double overtime to a wraparound goal by Stephane Matteau. I'll never be able to erase the memory of that goal. I can still play the video of it in my head. Not only that, but I remember the audio as well: "MATTEAU, MATTEAU, STEPHANE MATTEAU!!!" That was not a fun night. As you can see, it still scars me to this day.

However, much to my delight, that was likely the turning point for the franchise. Those Devils knew what it felt like to experience a crushing defeat. One person that I'm sure felt the pain was rookie of the year Martin Brodeur. He was only 22 years old at the time and got so close before falling in the end. In all, it was a great season with a disappointing ending.

Now, let's check out the Hornets. In Charlotte, they had some good teams with Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson but never really panned out. They made it to the playoffs but could never get over that 2nd round hump. After many seasons of disappointment and distrust between the ownership and fans, the Hornets moved to New Orleans. After they moved to New Orleans, they did decent when they were still in the Eastern Conference, making the playoffs in their first two seasons. However, they were knocked out of the playoffs in the 1st round each time and subsequently fired head coach Tim Floyd after the ’03-’04 season.

After canning their second coach in as many years, the Hornets struck gold with Byron Scott. Scott, a 3-time NBA Champ as a player, had been fired in the middle of the previous season, despite the New Jersey Nets being in first place (something the New Jersey Devils seem to do often as well). Byron had led the Nets to 2 NBA Finals yet got booted because Jason Kidd is a little baby…but that’s neither here nor there. The first year for Scott ('04-‘05) was pretty rough as New Orleans started 2-29 and only won 18 games, a franchise record for inferiority. Not only that, but that season saw them deal away their franchise point guard in Baron Davis as well as mainstay Jamal Mashburn. To add insult to injury, they fell out of a lottery pick, grabbing the #4 slot. Lucky for them, Chris Paul was available there. The Hornets grabbed out him of Wake Forest with hopes that he would be that big-time franchise point guard the team desperately needed.

As we all know, Hurricane Katrina tore through the city of New Orleans a couple of months before the ’05-’06 NBA Season, causing the Hornets to relocate to Oklahoma City. Even though they effectively played their entire season on the road, the Hornets made a 20 game improvement, led by their Rookie of the Year, Chris Paul. After that season, the Hornets made 2 huge, key deals in acquiring Tyson Chandler for the disgruntled J.R. Smith (and P.J. Brown) as well as signing sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic. Unfortunately, they didn’t see many results the following season, finishing only one game better than the season prior. Much of that was due to the fact that Peja, David West, and Chris Paul all missed significant amounts of time due to injury.

The next year, those injuries fortunately did not occur. With a healthy team led by a young core of Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler and David West, they finished with the best record in Hornets history. Heading into the playoffs, many teams didn’t give them a chance due to lack of experience, but that didn’t stop them from blitzing through the first round and taking the first 2 against the defending champion Spurs. Unfortunately, we all know how that story ends, with the Spurs defeating the Hornets in 7 games after the Hornets held a 3-2 series lead. Now, that is where the story currently sits with the Hornets. Let us now pick up where we left off with the Devils.

Despite failing to reach the finals in a devastating manner, they bounced back for the '94-'95 strike shortened season. While their regular season wasn't terribly impressive, they made it to the playoffs as a #5 seed, and then flipped a switch. They easily dispatched the Bruins and Penguins in the first two rounds (respectively) 4-1. This set up an Eastern Conference final against the Flyers who they too defeated fairly easily, winning that series 4-2. In the Finals, the Devils were going up against the big, bad Detroit Red Wings. The Wings sailed to the best record in the NHL and went 12-2 in the Western Conference Playoffs. Nobody gave the Devils a chance. They were too young and too inexperienced. Well, the critics should have given them a chance. New Jersey stunned the world by blowing out Detroit, sweeping the Wings and outscoring them 16-7 in the series.

Does this mean that the Hornets are destined to win the NBA Championship next year? One cannot say for sure but I definitely hope so. Let us recap and look into the similarities a bit more.

  • Both franchises were mediocre, at best, heading into their seasons where they made their first big push. Neither team had accomplished much of anything.
  • In their breakout seasons, the Hornets and Devils both recorded their best regular season records in franchise history while both head coaches won their respective Coach of the Year Awards.
  • Byron Scott and Jacques Lemaire both won multiple championships as players.
  • Both teams had the 2nd best record in their respective conference during their breakout seasons.
  • The Devils and Hornets, while getting eliminated in different rounds, were both up with a commanding 3-2 lead over a heavily favored opponent.
  • While many acknowledged both teams were good, many did not give them a chance to due youth and inexperience.
  • Both teams were anchored by a young, franchise player. Martin Brodeur for the Devils and Chris Paul for the Hornets.
  • Both of those players won Rookie of the Year accolades.
  • The two teams had solid, young cores.
  • Martin Brodeur was 22 when the Devils were eliminated by the Rangers while Chris Paul was 23 when eliminated by the Spurs…and they share the same birthday, May 6th.

Now I don’t know about you, but that kinda creeped me out. Martin Brodeur has and always will be my favorite hockey player ever. I definitely credit him with building my interest in hockey, particularly in 1994. I was always a Hornets fan, but never have followed the NBA like I do now. Chris Paul is easily my favorite player in the game and I credit him for building my interest in the NBA here in 2008. The fact that they share the same birthday is pretty weird.

Say what you will about my comparison, but there are certainly some similarities between the two teams. If there is one thing you must admit, it is that the Hornets are a team on the rise and will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. I can only hope that they have a run of success similar to what the Devils experienced for a decade.

Now wouldn't that be somethin'?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Quick post here. Yeah, I'm depressed as hell that Hornets couldn't close the deal tonight but I was just wondering...this team bears striking resemblance to my '94 Devils. That can only be good. I'll investigate and try to post on this in more elaboration later but it's something worth noting. And for the record, I don't give two s**** about the NBA Playoffs anymore. If I had to pick 4 teams in the NBA that I hate, they would probably be the Spurs, Lakers, Celtics, and Pistons. No joke. Joy.

...and too bad the Stars didn't win. I was hoping I could go to the bars in my Stars jersey and mess with the Penguins fans. Crappy sports night indeed.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sports Rant

Ok, we've all been on hiatus for a while. I know J Mays is down in Florida while TAS is all the way in Iceland (as in the country). Also, Steely has been bouncing around between State College and Pittsburgh. I've been occupied with senior week festivities here at PSU despite the fact that I didn't graduate today with all my peers (stupid integrated graduate programs..). Anyway, the sports world has been happenin' lately and we haven't been chiming in. I'll try to change that.

Hornets! What a series they have been having with the Spurs. Frankly, it doesn't make any sense. After 6 games, the home team has won by an average of 18.2 points. That's ridiculous. Despite that, I'm a little bit nervous after David West went down in a heap after a cheap foul from Robert Horry. While his hard pick on West wouldn't have done much to anybody else, Horry knew that West has been bothered by a bad back and really nailed him there, sending him to the ground in a ton of pain. Lucky for New Orleans, they get 3 off days before game 7 on Monday. As Chris Paul said after the game 6 defeat, "Thank God we get to go back to New Orleans for game 7." They've been unstoppable throughout the playoffs at home and I can only hope that trend continues.

Hockey! Yeah, I'm a Devils fan but I'm watching this Pens/Flyers series with great interest. If I've learned anything, it's that Philadelphia fans are still obnoxious (no offense Mays). After the Flyers won, if you took a walk into a bar/down the streets in State College, you would honestly think the Flyers just won the Stanley Cup. It was really sad. I also witnessed a hilarious confrontation between a Pens and Flyers fan in which the Pens fan totally owned the Philly fan (and I can say that with no bias as I'm trained to dislike both fans). When it comes right down to it, the Pens are too good and the Flyers have no chance unless Biron continues to overachieve in net like he did in game 4.

Spygate! Is it over? I guess. I hope not. I enjoy seeing the Patriots have to deal with this crap. If you do too, you're welcome. Remember it was the Jets that ratted them out with all of this. Maybe Belichick should learn not to burn bridges. The fact of the matter is, they cheated. You can play the 'well everybody does it' card but you know what, you can't say that for certain without any advice. Innocent until proven guilty anyone? Belichick is also saying how Matt Walsh is full of crap for saying that they worked closely in this whole cheating ring. Wait...didn't Belichick also said he only taped division rivals before tapes of the Steelers and Browns came out? This is also the same guy who was Jets coach for 1 DAY before bailing on the team he agreed to take over. Belichick honestly just needs to shut up and stop talking. Nobody outside of New England has or ever will have respect for him anymore. Just shut it Bill. You're seriously lucky to still be in the situation you're in.

Marvin Harrison! Wtf??? Though I assume one can't be terribly surprised considering he owns multiple businesses in North Philadelphia.

Baseball! What is up with my Yanks? Well, A-Rod, Posada, and Hughes on the DL isn't helping. Ian Kennedy owns AAA but can't cut it in the Bigs. Robinson Cano has been doing terrible and I still don't understand how Jason Giambi still has a job. Yeah, Giambi has 7 HRs but a .181 BA/.343 OBP? Ouch. If anything, the Yankees should be glad that they're only 5 games out of first at this point while the Rays continue to roll. I'm not sure why people are really surprised. These guys have one heck of a good, young team. They'll be a force to be reckoned with all year. The only unfortunate thing about their emergence is that it will be unlikely that the AL East will get the Wild Card bid because everybody is just going to beat up on each other in the division.

Track and Field! I know, I'm surprised too. I'm just really irked at this story that double leg amputee Oscar Pistorius was granted permission to race against able-bodied runners. I don't mean to sound like a bad person but I really think that's garbage. While nothing is totally conclusive, there is research out there supporting that his prosthetic legs can give him an advantage. I'm no biology person (and correct me if I'm wrong) but wouldn't the fact that his heart doesn't have to worry about pumping blood through his legs help him out? I just feel that by allowing him to race just opens up a whole can of worms. If you let one in, then you gotta let them all in. My heart goes out to the guy and I truly feel bad, but this is a bad day for sport. The fact of the matter is, if you're using an unnatural part of your body that is crucial to your competition/sport, you should not be allowed to complete against the able bodied.

Well, that does it for my late-night rant. Look forward to some of these in the future....or at least regular columns.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I Told You It Was Ordered

Though I don't think I am supposed to have this yet, here it is...

Click to enlarge.

Technically they aren't supposed to produce player jerseys until the player has signed an NFL contract and signed on with the NFL Players Association. Chad has done neither. And yet I still have a jersey. I won't say where I got it from to keep any company from legal action. And here is more proof that it is indeed in my possession...

If you're wondering why I have a quasi-beard, go here. You should be able to figure it out!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Deja Vu? Nope, Champs*2!!!

No you are not seeing things. The Penn State men's volleyball team defeated Pepperdine three games to one to claim the 2008 National Championship. If you recall this article the Penn State women's team did the same in December. This is the first time since 1997 that a university had each team win the national championship (UCLA).

It is safe to say the the Penn State volleyball program is looking good. Maybe not California good. But good for a school basically located in the middle of nowhere...with no beaches in sight!

Women's Results (last 10 years)
1998: 35-1
1999: 36-1*
2000: 30-6
2001: 22-8
2002: 25-8
2003: 31-5
2004: 29-3
2005: 31-3
2006: 32-3
2007: 34-2*
10 Year Total: 305-40 (88.4% of matches won)

Men's Results (last 7 years)
2002: 25-4
2003: 28-5
2004: 23-8
2005: 31-4
2006: 22-8**
2007: 22-8
2008: 30-1*
7 Year Total: 181-38 (82.7% of matches won)

**National Runner-Up
*National Champions

2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs - Conference Finals Schedule

Click to enlarge.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Back to the Finals

It will (more than likely) be a Pennsylvania showdown in the Eastern Conference finals. The Flyers vanquished the Canadiens in 5 games, culminating with a 6-4 victory tonight. The Pittsburgh Penguins will look to eliminate the New York Rangers tomorrow. The Flyers are back in the conference finals for the first time since 2004 when they lost in 7 games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

This picture was taken from CBS SportsLine and the caption is false. Very false. The Flyers actually were in the Eastern Conference finals in 2000 and 2004 (as noted above). The last time the Flyers were in the Stanley Cup finals was 1997. A good job from a major sports provider. I do not speak much about the 2000 finals. Damn you, E!*

Continuing the trend of bad captions, here is the shot of the NHL front page on ESPN. Um, guys? The final was 6-4. At least the rest is true.

*The Flyers led the Devils 3-1. Obviously the Flyers lost the next 3 games. Game 7 was in Philadelphia. I was there. Flyers lost 2-1. It sucked.

Dolphins' Henne In Action (photo)

The Dolphins first rookie mini-camp started Friday, May 2nd. The camp continues with two practices today and concludes with one practice tomorrow. Here are three pictures of rookie QB Chad Henne.

Hopefully he'll wear these colors for years to come (click to enlarge).

Friday, May 2, 2008

Henne Already Turning Heads

It was the first day of his career as a Miami Dolphin and Chad is already being noticed. This is an excerpt from South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly:

New Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne is loud. Ultra loud!

His voice can he heard all over the Dolphins practice field. It carries, and that's a good thing. Let's just put it this way. I heard every word he said behind center and never heard anything from the other quarterback in this camp.

I've heard rave reviews about Henne's leadership ability, and if his command of the huddle is a sampling of that, Henne shouldn't have a problem gaining his teammates attention. He throws a quick out pass, and seemed to be fairly accurate on day one, but his receivers didn't catch many of what appeared to be "ouch" passes.

Coach Tony Sparano said he was "pleasantly surprised" by Henne, and reiterated Henne, Josh McCown and John Beck will have a "quarterback competition" when training camp opens. Whoever gets it done will be the starter. So basically, there are no favorites.

"At the end of this we're going to find out who the best quarterback is," Sparano said.

Move the offense and score and you'll be a favorite until you stop doing it. Then they'll likely say, "Next" and move on to the next in line.

But here is a hint of what they are looking for.

"With a quarterback it's all about what he does in the huddle. It's how he takes control," Sparano said. "I've been in some situations where we've gone out there and the quarterback quite honestly couldn't get the play out of his mouth on day one. Chad was very good that way today. He took control of the huddle and managed the team fine at the line of scrimmage."

Don't worry. This is already ordered.
Loud. Taking control. Leadership. HARD passes (more on that in a bit). "Pleasantly surprised". I am going out on a limb right now. Mark it down that on May 2nd, 2008, I, Joey Mays, said that former Wilson superstar Chad Henne would be the Dolphins starter come opening day of the 2008 NFL season. Sure I am biased. But I know Chad even more so than these writers. He will compete and learn fast and the fan base and coaches will realize he give the Dolphins the best chance to win. Chad will start versus the Jets on September 7th. Write it down.

OK and now back to the hard throws. Or more specifically his "ouch" passes. This is a true story from my senior year at Wilson (Chad was a junior).

It was early in the season (I can't remember if it was still three-a-days or the first week or two of the season). I had been injured during practice earlier and wasn't participating. I was limping around helping the coaches clean up a few practice areas. There was a commotion down on the main practice field. I ignored it and kept cleaning up. When I walked down to the main practice field I heard a story that would disgust a lot of people.

The athletic trainers told me that one of Chad's passes had broken a kids finger off. Seriously. Clean break of the finger, dangling underneath his hand. I didn't believe it. Then a coach told me the same story. And this was the coach that came to the kids aid right after it had happened. SO it was true. Disgustingly true. The coach said when the kid walked over to him and he looked at his hand he started to look around the field for the finger. He couldn't see it. The kid actually had it tucked behind his hand while he was holding it. CLEAR OFF HIS HAND. A small amount of skin was just holding it there. That is one hard throw! Obviously the ball had to hit him at the right point on his finger but still. Chad freakin' broke a kids finger off (basically). I never envied any of the Wilson receivers or Braylon Edwards, Jason Avant, Marion Manningham, or Adrian Arrington. Playing catch with Chad was enough. No thank you.

Yeah I'd call his throws "ouch" passes.

2008 NFL Draft Recap and Grades - AFC North

Now that I have had enough time to digest last weekend's draft I'd like to give everyone my thoughts and draft grades. What teams helped themselves and which teams flat out FAILED to improve? My opinion is below, referenced with Mel Kiper's grade. How do we match up?

Baltimore Ravens - Yuck. That pretty much sums up my feelings on the Joe Flacco pick. They did a great thing by trading down from 8 to 26 but everything was lost when they traded up to 18 to take the Delaware product. Who would have taken him before 26? Nobody. The Ravens panicked. That will hurt their grade for sure. I like Ray Rice and think he was a nice pick in round two but why Baltimore? They had more glaring weaknesses like CB and WR to take Rice at 55. Patrick Lee , Terrell Thomas, Charles Godfrey, and Chevis Jackson were still available. Landing Tavares Gooden at 71 was good and gave them so depth at LB. Zbikowski suits their defense well but will he end up pushing Dawan Landry or Ed Reed for a starting spot? Zbikowski's stay may only be for the length of his rookie contract. Oniel Cousins at 99 was a great value pick and adds another body to the o-line.

Bottom Line: They dropped the ball on the Flacco pick but got good value in Ray Rice, Tavares Gooden, Tom Zbikowski, and Oniel Cousins. Passing on a young player at CB and depth along the d-line will haunt them.

My Grade: C+

Kiper: B

Cincinnati Bengals - Unlucky. That is one way to describe their first round. They really need some help along the d-line but their three main targets (Glenn Dorsey, Sedrick Ellis, Derrick Harvey) were all snatched up. Keith Rivers was the best pure LB available so I can't fault them in taking him. Perhaps they should have tried to move up with Kansas City or New England? Jerome Simpson was certainly a reach at 46. At that point, DeSean Jackson, Malcolm Kelly, and Limas Sweed were all available. Simpson was a late 2nd rounder at best. Pat Sims was a great value pick at 77. Earlier in the year he was a fringe 1st rounder but his stock dropped throughout the draft evaluation period. Sims could be a real steal. AT 97 the Bengals took another WR. Not a bad idea with Ocho Cinco and Houshmandzadeh unhappy (plus the release of Chris Henry). Simpson was a stretch but Andre Caldwell was value at its finest. As was Anthony Collins at pick 112. He was seen by most as a late 2nd/early 3rd round pick. I don't have much else to say about the late round picks except that Corey Lynch was a good risk at 177 and Mario Urrutia could end up being the best WR the Bengals took.

Bottom Line: They filled all their needs but not with premiere talent. TE and S weren't drafted until the late rounds and DE was completely overlooked. They had one big reach in Simpson but the rest was pretty good. They obviously feel WR was a weakness and I tend to agree.

My Grade: B

Kiper: C+

Cleveland Browns - Well this evaluation will be short. However, I will take into account what the Browns used their draft picks to get. They traded their 1st round pick to Dallas during last years draft to select Brady Quinn. Their 2nd round selection went to Green Bay for Corey Williams. Their 3rd round pick (an Leigh Bodden) went to Detroit for Shaun Rogers. The jury is still out on the Quinn trade. On paper, the Williams and Rogers trades look good. Rogers will be the 3-4 NT and Williams a 3-4 DE that can play the nose. Picks well spent. The Browns addressed a LB need by taking Beau Bell at 104 and Alex Hall at 231. Bell will be tutored by Andra Davis while Hall will work under Willie McGinest. Taking Martin Rucker at 111 was an odd move since they have the young and spectacular Kellen Winslow on the roster. He adds a degree of insurance though. Ahtyba Rubin at 190 was a good value selection; Rubin was rated as a third round prospect. He adds more depth at NT and DE but is raw and needs development. I like Paul Hubbard but Cleveland had needs at CB and RB which weren't addressed. At 191 the Browns could have gone after CBs DeJuan Tribble or Wilrey Fontenot or RBs Lex Hillard or Chauncey Washington.

Bottom Line: When considering what the Browns got for their first three selections - Quinn, Williams, and Rogers - their grade is much higher. Without them they'd be looking at a C. It is a little worrisome that they left the CB position empty.

My Grade: B

Kiper: B+

Pittsburgh Steelers - This is a team that knows how to draft and that couldn't be more evident than their first 2 selections. Rashard Mendenhall (23) and Limas Sweed (53) were amazing value picks. Though RB wasn't a huge need, how could they pass up a guy some people felt was one of the 10 best players available? And it isn't like Willie Parker is a beast. That was a good pick. They may have outdone themselves with Sweed though. Big Ben Roethlisberger wanted and pleaded for a big WR. Is 6'4" 212 big enough? And at pick 53!!! Wow. They went with value over need, need being o-line. That was addressed at pick 130 with Tony Hills, who is versatile enough to play OG or OT. I would have liked to see them at another body along the line. Bruce Davis (88) and Mike Humpal (188) add depth at outside and inside LB, something Pittsburgh is always looking for. Dennis Dixon will be the new Antwaan Randle-El/Kordell Stewart when healthy. That pick doesn't surprise me at all. Ryan Mundy at 194 adds some depth and competition at S.

Bottom Line: Despite not addressing the o-line early and adding only one player there I still like this draft. I would have liked a body along the d-line too but they can get by for another year. Mendenhall and Sweed were great picks.

My Grade: B+

Kiper: B

UP NEXT: AFC South on Monday, May 5th.