Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lebron's grand return to Cleveland

Everything was set to welcome the King back home. A sold out arena of over 20,000 fanatical fans, and legions more in the streets partying on.

Just before the game started, a TV commercial Lebron James had recently made showing him huddling up and pep-talking his new teammates was featured on the jumbotron in the arena. The fans went even wilder.

The Cavaliers had spiffy new uniforms and multi-colored shoes.

When James entered the arena, he was greeted with a thunderous standing ovation.

And the pre-game powder. Let's not forget the King clapping his usual liberal portion of Gold Bond, or whatever, in the air just before tip-off. The pretty girls swooned. Some ugly ones too.

Bieber, Spike Lee, and a handful of actors and rappers were on hand.

This was new Cleveland head coach David Blatt's debut. Blatt's had his travels. After going to Princeton, Blatt would wind up playing in Israel, then coaching several Israeli teams, including the Israeli national team. Along the way, he won the Israeli championship, the Israeli Cup, and was named Israeli coach of the year. Evidently a nomadic sort, Blatt went on to coaching stops in Russia, Turkey, and Greece. How all this qualifed him to be an NBA head coach is anybody's guess, but never underestimate the wisdom of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. Ahem. At any rate, making millions as an NBA head coach surely beats the heck out of going hand to hand with those pesky Hamas rascals.

And to top it all off, the Cavs were hosting the NY Knicks, who had been blistered at home just the night before by the Chicago Bulls. Throw in the newly acquired Kevin Love, a superstar in his own right, and this had all the makings of a rout. Cleveland was going to party -- dammit.

But it didn't turn out that way. Blatt's brats went splat. The supposed King would shoot 5-15 and commit 8 turnovers. In the end the Knicks -- the KNICKS -- would rain on Cleveland's parade as they unceremoniously dumped the Cavs 95-90.

In the usual post-game talkathon -- you know, where "experts" tell you again what you just watched -- the yappy little chihuahua (sometimes known as Stephen A. Smith) was once again barking away from on high, correction, make that down low, as he analyzed the game. This was important. That was important. Blah, blah, blah. But you know what? This was the first game out of 82 for the Cavs in the regular season. A week from now, much less a couple months, and nobody will remember it anyway. So they lost one. Did anybody really think they were going to go undefeated?

Which team the Bieb, glitterati and rappers were rooting for is uncertain, but a good guess would be they're trying to latch onto James' coattails in his highly ballyhooed return home for photo ops and the like. Why else would they be in Cleveland?

Spike Lee is a die-hard Knicks fan. Given their history (and Spike's films), it's somewhat of a minor miracle either or both didn't become mummified a long time ago.

So Lebron's triumphant return didn't turn out so well. It happens. But given the cast of characters that were associated with the game, methinks the TV people missed out on a golden opportunity for a mega-event.

I'm thinking a big pit of mud, or even cole slaw. With a cage around it, like the octagon in mixed martial arts. Throw in Bieber, Spike Lee, Stephen A. Smith, a couple smack-talking rappers, and let them slug it out until only one survives.

NBA basketball is okay, but THAT would attract a record audience indeed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Michigan State. A final four team?

After the first poll from the almighty committee that will eventually decide which four football teams qualify for the national championship playoff -- the Michigan State Spartans find themselves on the outside looking in.

Idle thought: Condoleezza Rice is a member of this supreme council. Didn't she botch enough things when she was W's right hand girl (see non-existent weapons of mass destruction and the resulting Iraq war)? And now she's supposedly an expert on college football? Says who?

At any rate, MSU is ranked #8 and needs some help to move up four spots in the remaining weeks. It's odd, because through the first seven games, the Spartans have only played two bad quarters of football. Early in the season, at Oregon, MSU was hanging with the Ducks, but fell apart in the fourth quarter to lose by 19 points. Fast forward a few weeks, and the Spartans were dominating Nebraska at home. Another fourth quarter let-down let the Cornhuskers back in the game, but the Spartans still held on to win 27-22. Other than that, they've pretty well blistered everybody they've played.

But maybe that's the thing. Strength of schedule matters to Condy and Company. While the Spartans mowed down early season non-conference patsies, then in-conference patsies like Indiana, Purdue, and Michigan, the only tough games they've played resulted in a loss on the road and a close one at home. Perhaps that's why they're rarely mentioned as being a potential Top Four team amongst all the talking heads.

Certainly, 2 out of the current top 4 belong there. Miss St., and defending champ Flor St. both remain undefeated having played some pretty tough competition. After that, there's a bevy of one loss teams, including Mich St.

Some of the usual suspects lurk, like Alabama, Auburn, Oregon, and Notre Dame (which came within a whisker of knocking off Flor St. on the road). Despite having one loss as well, many pollsters want to jump on the Ole Miss bandwagon, likely because they haven't been any good in decades. It's like if the Chicago Cubs suddenly roared to a division title in baseball.

Yet while they may well be a Top 4 team, Michigan State continues to get the Rodney Dangerfield treatment nationally.

In order for MSU to move up the 4 spots necessary to get into the Final Four, three things have to happen. Two of them the Spartans control, while the third will happen elsewhere.

#1. After their bye week, MSU hosts Ohio State, also a one-loss and ranked team. Just beating the Buckeyes isn't good enough. It has to be convincing.

#2. MSU won't get any brownie points from the committee even if they roll through the weak remainder of their Big 10 schedule. Knocking off Maryland on the road, Rutgers at home, and Penn State in Happy Valley isn't going to impress anybody. Therefore, they must also rack up a decisive victory in the Big 10 championship game against whichever opponent emerges.

#3. This is what could benefit the Spartans most. While Flor. St. and Oregon are likely on cruise control, some of the current teams ranked above them still have to face some mighty tough competition, especially in the SEC. Both Mississippi teams, Auburn, and Bama have a brutal schedule amongst themselves in the next few weeks. Somebody has to lose those games. Plus they have a conference championship game themselves. While the SEC champion will no doubt get an invite to the big dance, it could well turn out that many of them will have at least two losses.

If Michigan State remains impressive and unbeaten for the rest of the year -- with only one early loss --would the committee actually ignore them on their final ballot in favor of another team that had been beaten twice -- the last defeat being quite recent? That would be tough to justify, even for Condy.

But first things first. State has to roll at home over the Buckeyes, and that's no piece of cake. Even though OSU lost their star QB Braxton Miller for the season due to an injury, his replacement J.T. Barrrett has come on like gangbusters in his absence, running and throwing for ridiculous yardage.

Nov. 8 will feature the biggest Big 10 game of the year between MSU and OSU. Somebody's going to move up a spot or two in the polls, with an outside chance of going to the Big Dance. The other will go bowling for dollars elsewhere in January at a second tier affair.

Yep, it can fairly be said that in the next 6 weeks or so, we'll see a whole lot of poll shuffling going on. Which four teams will eventually be chosen by Condy's "coalition" for a chance at greatness is anybody's guess. Today's allegiances could be tomorrow's outcasts. Sound familiar? But you just know, no matter how it works out, there will be those left out that will claim they got screwed over by politics and what can be sold as popular to the American people.

Hmm. Looking at it that way, maybe Rice's "appointment" to such a committee begins to make a little sense.

Just a thought.....

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Who wins Game 7?

First things first. As yours truly was starting to look some of the following up, I stumbled upon an excellent article written by one Ronald Blum of the Associated Press. He'd already done all the heavy lifting. So -- with all due credit and apologies to Blum, I'm going to "borrow" some of his work.

As all baseball fans know, the KC Royals routed the SF Giants 10-0 in Game 6 of the World Series. They are now tied at 3 games apiece. Tomorrow night, the deciding Game 7 will be played in Kansas City. Which team will win is anybody's guess.

But Blum pointed out some staggering historical statistics of World Series' past.

Home teams have won 9 straight Game 7s.
The Giants have lost all 4 Game 7s they have ever participated in.
Teams with the home field advantage (KC) have won 23 of the last 28 titles -- including the last 5 in a row.
In the only other wild-card only World Series, back in 2002, the Giants won the opener, fell behind 2-1, took a 3-2 lead, and eventually lost the last two games. Through 6 games this year, this is EXACTLY how it has played out so far. Weird.
The last 8 teams to win Game 6 to even the Series went on to win Game 7.
And no road team has lost Game 6 and came back to win Game 7 since Cinci's Big Red Machine did it against the Bosox way back in 1975.

Well then. Given all the above stats Blum originally provided, it seems obvious who will be World Series champs by this time tomorrow night. Every possible trend leans heavily towards the Kansas City Royals, including the poll I mentioned in my previous post. And while the Bay area of San Fran has always been one of my favorite places to visit, I get this sense that most across the country are pulling for KC. It's understandable. After all, the Royals have only won one World Series, and that was way back in 1985 when a guy named George Brett was a young man. Their NFL football team, the Chiefs, haven't sniffed the Super Bowl since the late 60s. They don't even have an NBA or NHL team. It would mean SO much to the good people of Kansas City to win the World Series. It's difficult to find a reason to root against them.

Conversely, San Fran has enjoyed major success with their NFL 49ers over the years. Since 1982, five Super Bowl championsips and an appearance in a sixth just two years ago. Five rings and a runner-up? That's more glory than other cities featuring pro teams have enjoyed in their entire history.

And again, I love San Francisco. The exotic foods in Chinatown. The trolley cars. Going up to the very top of Lombard Street to navigate the super-sharp turns while looking down on the city. Wandering around Fisherman's Wharf on the piers taking in all the live street acts and never ceasing to be amazed at what some of them can do. Going across the Golden Gate bridge to enjoy nature at it's finest in Meir's Woods, and even taking the ferry over to Alcatraz (though my ex tried to leave me there one time, and I found that decidedly NOT funny). All in all, a fantastic place to visit.

But while Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, yours truly find himself pulling for the Royals. Consider their two most famous players from the past. George Brett versus Barry Bonds. Need I say more?

And after all, according to Blum, every stat in the book points towards KC winning Game 7 and becoming champions.

Except two. 2014 is an even-numbered year, and San Fran won the World Series in both 2012 and 2010, while being mediocre at best in the odd numbered years. Weird again.

And most important of all, yours truly is rooting for Kansas City. That means they're likely doomed, an unenviable trait I inherited from my late father when it comes predicting the outcomes of sporting contests. Our combined record could be compared to the Detroit Lions and the Super Bowl, or the Chicago Cubs and the World Series. Needless to say, we've never exactly been "on a roll".

San Fran wins. San Fran wins.

There. That ought to do it......

KC/SanFran and a weird poll

Normally, yours truly writes his nonsense in the spooky hours of the night. Always best to be inside with the lights on when the vampires are looking for their next victims, werewolves are running amok, and the politicians are on the campaign trail. In their scariest portrayals, the likes of Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi had nothing on the politicos in the weeks leading up to an election. And somehow I draw comfort in knowing that the howling at the moon heard far off in the distance might well be my ex. Off in the distance is a good thing sometimes.

Yet it was necessary to write this post at an earlier hour than usual. That's because Game 6 of the World Series hasn't started yet, hence I have no idea who's going to win it.

Let's look at what we already know about the 2014 Fall Classic. Obviously, San Fran leads KC 3 games to 2. Though some of the scores of previous games have been lopsided, both ways, it could fairly be said the two teams are pretty much equal. Either can win on any given night.

In the first two games, the teams split in KC. In SF, the Giants won 2 out of 3. Now game 6, and possibly game 7, will be played in KC. Back and forth they go.

Which brings me to the poll. The usual gang of geniuses on the 4-letter sports network took an on-line poll of all 50 states as to which team people thought would eventually become world champions.

Sure, the Giants only have to win one out of two, while the Royals have to win both. Advantage Giants. But KC is playing at home, so slight advantage Royals. Still, given the teams seem evenly matched, simple logic (and odds) would dictate San Fran has a much better shot of winning it all.

But amazingly, the poll came back 49 states to one. A landslide. In favor of KC. Only the folks in California, which I'm pretty sure is where San Fran is located, thought the Giants would prevail.

Here's hoping KC prevails tonight. Nothing like a Game 7 in the World Series for all the marbles. Given it's definitely the last one, that's the only game of the year where fans get to see all the usual rules of baseball thrown out the window. All hands on deck. Starting pitchers will be in the bullpen, and could be summoned for an inning of relief duty on "short rest". Who cares if their arms are sore the next day? They'll have all winter to rest up.

The poll aside, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Uh-oh, gotta go. Game 6 has started. No fair peeking only to write about it later.

Then again, I peeked outside. It's now dark with a clear sky, but not a full moon. Only a crescent.

Maybe there will be no howling heard off in the distance later. Bless her heart.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The real (Colt) McCoy

Every once in a while, there's a feel-good story in sports that has nothing to do with Derek Jeter. Enter Colt McCoy, currently the QB of the Washington Redskins.

Given McCoy's background, one would think the Skins would have been the last place he'd wind up.
Though actually born in New Mexico, McCoy was a big-time Dallas Cowboys fan before his baby teeth had even fallen out. He went to and played at a Texas high school not far from Big D. Then on to the University of Texas where he became quite the star -- a four year starter.

But the NFL draft being the strange creature it is -- McCoy wound up going to the Cleveland Browns as only a third round pick. There, he found himself a third string QB with no chance of playing -- until injuries hit the guys in front of him. Playing on a bad team, his success there was a mixed bag. Ironically, he found himself backing up QB Brandon Weedon in his last year in Cleveland. I'll get back to that.

Eventually, the Browns shipped McCoy to the San Fran 49ers, another team where he had little chance of any playing time. Then the Niners traded him to Washington for a couple low draft picks. In the NFL, this is hanging on by the skin of one's teeth. McCoy was basically a forgotten man in DC as well.

But then strange things started happening with the Redskins. Heisman winning and super-hyped QB Robert Griffin III out of Baylor didn't play particularly well and, most importantly, couldn't stay healthy. He's still recovering from his latest injury. The Skins looked to #2, Kirk Cousins out of Michigan State. After a decent start, Cousins quickly crashed and burned with godawful play. So he was benched. The only guy left was Colt McCoy.

Though having had precious few "reps" in practice, McCoy's first game starting for the Skins would be against the Dallas Cowboys, in Dallas, on Monday Night Football. Going in, Da Boys had the best record in all of the NFL, featured the league's best running back in Demarco Murray, and the Redskins were 9 1/2 point underdogs. Jerry Jones, the cheerleaders, and a throng of over 80,000 yee-hah folks were waiting. No pressure.

Yet McCoy not only kept his cool -- he played great. In a suite high above the playing field, his mom and dad, life-long Dallas yee-hahers themselves, had switched loyalties. Their boy was playing for the once-hated Skins, so they rooted for them. It seems awkward for a mom and pop to abandon a decades old allegiance cuz one of their kinfolk has taken up with the other side.(Would a McCoy have rooted for another McCoy, after he'd joined the Hatfields?). Unknown. But stranger things have happened. See politics leading up to an election.

Nevertheless, after shaking off some of the initial rust, Colt McCoy was quite impressive against the Cowboys. He completed 80% of his passes, scrambled when necessarily for crucial first downs, and led his team to a win in overtime. All the analysts, experts, and pundits had it wrong. The Redskins were in for a beat-down, they said.

What became ironic during the game was when Dallas QB Tony Romo went out with an injury on an innocent enough looking play. His back-up? One Brandon Weedon. The guy Colt McCoy used to back-up during their Cleveland days. Small world.

But on this night, the same guy that was a Cowboy fan at age 5, played prep and college ball in Texas, and whose dream job was likely being the Dallas QB himself -- found himself playing for their arch-rival -- and a heavy underdog at that.

Yet when it was all over, the Redskins had scalped the Cowboys. Jerry Jones is not happy. 80,000 yee-haws have to go home, sober up, and break out the cold cream to wash off their Cowboy faces. The cheerleaders? They're probably still shaking their pom-poms and dancing somewhere, because they don't know any better. Nice to look at, but dumber than bricks.

Regardless, hats off to the real McCoy. Colt finally got a chance to play where he always wanted to, and wound up hog tieing the Cowboys in front of a national TV audience.

To boot, he's an all-around good guy. Active in his church, helping old folks around their yards and visiting nursing homes in his spare time, involved with meals on wheels, and donates a bunch of time and money helping out youth programs.

How can you NOT root for a dude like Colt McCoy?

Move over, former #2 in the pinstripes. Though Colt McCoy likely won't wind up in the Hall of Fame, you're not the only feel good story in sports these days.......

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Detroit Lions. Bumble down, bumble up

In years past, few would doubt the Detroit Lions would find a way to bumble away a game they should have won. From coaching decisions, to offense, to defense, to special teams, if there was a way to screw up a game -- the Lions would find it. Turnovers, false starts, illegal procedures, stupid personal fouls, and mind-boggling coaching decisions all factored in. It was like the coaching staff was clueless and the players dumber yet. Even in recent seasons where they got off to a fairly good start -- the Lions were always a ticking time-bomb waiting to implode on themselves. November and December could, and has, gotten ugly. Whether or not the same fate awaits them this year remains to be seen.

But so far in 2014, the bumbling seems to have taken a very strange turn -- to the Lions advantage. Just last week, in a home game against the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees and company had them all but put away. Enter a couple of bizarre pass interference calls, and Brees himself uncharacteristically throwing a foolish interception late in the game and -- presto -- the Lions bumbled into a win.

Consider the recently concluded game in London against the Atlanta Falcons. After being down 21-0 at halftime, the Lions rallied in the second half. But they still should have lost the game. With the Falcons ahead by two points and just a few seconds left in the game, the Lions lined up for a winning field goal attempt. The snap is good,. The hold is good. The kick is away. It's wide right. Time has expired. The Lions lose.

But wait. The Lions themselves were called for delay of game before the previous play happened. A five yard penalty. Reset the clock to 4 seconds and try again. This time the kick was good. Lions win.

So even when they pulled another bone-head, they bumbled into a win. The coaching staff of the Falcons must have been pulling their hair out. How the hell could this happen?

Yet that's the way it seems to be going for the Lions in this magical year so far. Before, they could play well, but bumble their way into a loss. In 2014 they haven't played particularly well, but despite the miscues, are bumbling their way into wins.

Sure, their local media is making a big deal out of how they're winning games without the services of Calvin Johnson. But in previous years, QB Matthew Stafford and the Megatron put up outrageous passing yard statistics -- and the team couldn't win squat when it counted. Since 2009, together they've been to a grand total of one playoff game -- and were blown out.

Lions fans hear about Golden Tate. He's a decent receiver, but why in the hell would he leave a Super Bowl championship team in beautiful Seattle to go to the dregs of Detroit? Reggie Bush was a cast-off from another team, as were some other Lions' free agent signings. Tight end Joe Fauria went totally undrafted a couple years ago. No other NFL team thought he was worth taking. But Detroit signed him. Alas, Fauria has been on the disabled list for a month since tripping over his own puppy dog at home. This sort of thing could only be a part of Lions' lore.

Long-time center Dominic Raiola remains a spokeman for the team. Dom likes to talk, and talk, and talk. Since joining the Lions back in 2001, Raiola is the all-time NFL leader for having participated in the most losing games. One would think a player with such a horrific track record would shut up and show some humility. But not Dom. He continues to bumble on talking about how the Lombardi Trophy will be coming to Motown every year. Maybe he took too many helmet to helmet hits while at Nebraska. Poor devil. (BTW, Raiola joined the Cornhuskers right after they had won a national title -- and they immediately tanked thereafter).

Nonetheless, one way or the other, the Lions have always bumbled. Sometimes up, sometimes down.

After the "running amok" regime of former head coach Jim Schwartz, the Lions have a new head coach.

One Jim Caldwell whose name, if I have this right, roughly translates from the ancient Sanskrit as -- "Praise God for giving me another shot".

You see, Caldwell has done well in the past as a coordinator under other successful head coaches, but when given the reigns himself -- not so good.

Enter the bumblers that were more than willing to throw millions, likely 20+, for a 4 year deal, to a guy that has a history of failure as a head coach.

As they always say in Detroit, this could be the year. Just wait until Megatron gets back. We'll be unstoppable. Right. Seems to yours truly I've heard that before a time or 50 over the last few decades.

But ya never know. With a little luck, sometimes bumbling has a way of working out in the end.

Look at Joe Biden.......

Friday, October 24, 2014

People who need to shut up

Peyton Manning, QB of the Denver Broncos, needs to shut up. No, this has nothing to do with his making moronic commercials to pad his already super-stuffed bank account. The mute button on the remote solves that problem every time.

Old #18 is upset due to, of all things, the Denver scoreboard operator. During the recent game against the San Diego Chargers, the operator dared flash signs calling for the crowd to make some noise. Problem was, Peyton and his offense had the ball at the time. A home crowd is supposed to be quiet, QUIET, when their offense has the ball. Even the Almighty Peyton was flapping his arms -- nothing new there -- trying to get the fanatics in attendance to pipe down. The bigger problem? Denver was already comfortably ahead by two touchdowns and time was winding down in the game.

Yes, the elder Manning recently passed Brett Favre on the all-time passing touchdown list, to no one's great surprise. Play long enough, whether at Indy or Denver, behind offensive lines that gave him "all day" to throw, and complement that with a bevy of super-talented wide receivers to throw TO, and presto, a lot of passing touchdowns are going to happen. But all the accolades that came with Peyton ascending to #1 evidently weren't enough. He wanted more. And how dare a scoreboard operator not do things exactly according to the wishes of Peyton, the self-appointed God of all things football in Denver? Worse yet, the same scoreboard operator had the utter gall to show a picture of Chargers' QB Philip Rivers. Needless to say, Zeus Peyton was not happy with this.

Therefore, old chicken-neck has vowed to "have a word" with that scoreboard operator. And you know what? If I was that scoreboard operator -- here is what I would say...... 

Your point is noted Peyton, but running the scoreboard and all the other ever-changing lights, signs, and ads around the stadium is quite a handful. So why don't you stick to yelling "Omaha", doing your happy feet dance, and throwing the football? Lord knows, you could never run. I'll stick to putting what I think is pertinent up on the big screen, juggling the myriad of advertisers around the stadium, and trying to push the buttons fast enough to keep everybody happy. I have no place to run either. I'm stuck in a mini-studio with more screens and gadgets around me than you could ever imagine. I can't do your job and you can't do mine. So shut up.

On another note, it's getting absolutely stupid how much attention is being paid to a guy wearing a Marlin's jersey that has showed up sitting in the front row behind home plate both in KC and San Fran for World Series' games.

"Officials" in KC deemed it so "distracting" they even offered the guy a seat in the owners' suite. He declined, and why not? Sitting in the front row behind home plate is one of the best seats in the house. Going up to billionaire land might offer the lap of luxury (free beer, hot dogs, and ice cream?)  but it's also a lot further away from the actual action on the field. Besides, this dude paid big bucks for those seats.

A Marlin's jersey is distracting? Shut up. Last time I looked the Florida Marlins still played somewhere around Miami. How can this possibly be offensive to people in KC or San Fran?

For that matter, if he ponied up likely 5 figures worth of dough per game to get those seats -- he should be able to wear whatever he wants. Though some college and pro teams run promotions handing out free teeshirts so the crowd can be a solid mass of one color -- it's not like it's mandatory. One can wear an old rock concert souvenir, a Harley shirt, or even one featuring a pic of my boss, the sports editor, perhaps even Bieber -- though the latter two are definitely not recommended unless one is quite proficient in martial arts. It can be tough getting out of a stadium or arena wearing a shirt like that.

The guy at the World Series games doesn't have to wear home-town colors in either city That would only prove he's another in a long line of lemmings that have been cha-chinged. By wearing Marlins gear, he's showing he's an independent thinker. He should be applauded -- not ridiculed. Who are the fools indeed? These people need to seriously shut up.

Look at it this way. The man's obviously a baseball fan with the means to travel and purchase first-rate seats at prime games. If he wants to sit behind home plate where the TV cameras will show him in the background on every pitch -- then he has every right to do so.

And he can wear whatever he wishes. Personally, I wouldn't care if he was wearing the black of ISIS.

In the end, it's just a shirt, and who cares as long as the person wearing it follows fan protocol at games, which the Marlins Man has obviously done?

Too many yappy heads looking for something to complain about when the least little thing doesn't fit into their small worlds.

They need to shut up.