Friday, January 31, 2014

Super Bowl security. Why so much?

Super Bowl 48 goes off on Sunday and no one seriously doubts security will be a big issue. Those guys and gals will be everywhere. There will be local cops, county cops, and state cops swarming around. This Sunday in East Rutherford will not be a good place to be driving around while smoking dope or having a few beers. Bad idea.

But there will be much more. Throw in the FBI, the Justice Department, Homeland Security, the Secret Service, and probably a few spooks from the CIA.

SWAT teams will be geared up and ready to storm whatever is necessary at a moment's notice. The closest Air Force base will no doubt have a squadron of fighter jets pre-scrambled, fully armed, and with Top Gun types already sitting in the cockpits. They'll be more than happy to seek out, locate, lock on, and destroy whatever target they are assigned.

The Coast Guard will be patrolling the East River, just in case those channel cats rise up out of the water and mount a surprise attack.

A Marine strike force will likely be nearby in full combat gear. You never know when the jarheads might come in handy to invade something again, so best to be prepared.

I wouldn't be a bit surprised if an aircraft carrier, replete with all support ships, and a Navy SEAL team on board that's been drilling for just such an occasion, hasn't quietly sidled up a hundred miles or so off the Atlantic coast. And where an aircraft carrier goes -- nuclear subs aren't far behind with all those pesky warheads.

So yes, one could fairly say the Super Bowl will be covered from a security standpoint. Anybody that gets out of line will be shocked and awed indeed.

Just one problem. This is New Jersey, not some country our genius politicians have deemed to be hostile on the other side of the world.

So that begs the question..... Why the massive show of force and ridiculous amount of security at the Super Bowl? After all, it's still just a football game -- right?

Sure, it's the climax of the NFL season and supposedly features the two best teams squaring off against each other. Also, millions of people will be tuned in to see it on TV. But just because it's a big game doesn't make it that different from a lot of other games. Most NFL stadiums are sold out every week for every game during the regular season -- let alone the playoffs. It's still the same amount of players and coaches at any given game. The only difference in the playoffs is the cha-ching. The prices go up.

Same goes for the Super Bowl. Besides another whopper cha-ching for the fans lucky enough to score tickets, it remains two teams playing a big game in a sold out stadium. So it's the Denver Broncos taking on the Seattle Seahawks. Do you think for one minute all the massive security procedures would be any less had New England and San Fran advanced to the Super Bowl instead? Of course not. Peyton Manning and Pete Carroll are no more important than Tom Brady and Jim Harbaugh in the eyes of those giving the orders to the countless thousands of those with uniforms, guns, badges, tasers, planes, missiles, torpedoes, nukes, and God knows what else at their disposal assigned to "keep order".

So why indeed does all the manpower and serious hardware they possess get put on high alert for the Super Bowl every year?

Because this game isn't about the true fans anymore. People that have held season tickets for decades find themselves in a lottery stacked against them to even be able to sit in their own seats if and when the Super Bowl comes to their stadium. Celebrities and politicians routinely displace them from their seats so they can get a few photo-ops. When the cameras turn away from them -- often before the game even starts -- they leave. Throw in the usual assortment of filthy rich executives, with an unlimited expense account, and they're going to buy their way into a bunch of seats and suites as well.

And that's why the security is so over the top for the Super Bowl. It's not about the teams and coaches. Nor is it about TV and their almighty ratings. And it certainly isn't about the fans. John and Jane Doe football fanatics ceased to be important a long time ago -- except for the money that could be squeezed out of them for $8 nasty hot dogs and $10 watered down beers.

But put a bunch of one-percenters, be they Hollywood glitterati, politicos, and/or other movers and shakers in the same place at the same time for something as simple as a football game -- and the powers that be will kick into full force with all their might to protect them.

If it wasn't so outrageous, it might even be funny.

But it's really not, because we common folks have to pay for all this over the top nonsense with our tax dollars.

And I don't find that the slightest bit amusing.....

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jay Leno and Detroit

As Jay Leno winds down his tenure on the Tonight Show, to be replaced with Jimmy Fallon (boo, hiss), he showed some highlights of his "Jaywalking" routine, where he goes out and asks fairly simple questions of the "average" person on the street.

Approaching some black dude, he inquired, "If your wife wanted to go to Bangkok for a while, where would she be?"

Straight face and all, the guy responded, "She better have her ass home with me".

Great stuff. Yep, I'm sure gonna miss Leno. But with all the millions of bucks he accumulated over the years, not to mention the two entire hangars required at a California airport to house all his fully restored, functional, and in mint condition classic cars and motorcycles, he's pretty well good to go.

Maybe not so much for Detroit sports. About the only thing they can really hang their hats on these days is the Detroit Tigers. And, at that, they haven't won a World Series since 1984. Losing in the semis or finals along the way doesn't count. Now they have a new rookie manager, one Brad Ausmus, and have supposedly upgraded their roster through various deals. But just last year, the Detroit faithful crowed about how they had the best starting pitching staff in baseball and a regular murderer's row line-up. They got spanked by the Red Sox in the playoffs. On the 30th anniversary of their last triumph, will the Tigers finally get over the hump this year -- rookie skipper and all? We'll see.

There will be no glory for the Detroit Pistons. The only reason they're remotely relevant is because they play in the woefully weak Eastern Conference of the NBA. And let's get real. There's only two good teams in that entire conference. Miami and Indiana. Even if the Pistons somehow miraculously slip into the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed, they'd only be cows headed to the slaughterhouse once the playoffs started.

The Red Wings aren't much better. Sure, they've made the playoffs 21 years in a row -- a record in all of professional sports. Very impressive. Yet this year, they're struggling mightily just to keep their heads above water. Like the Pistons, the Wings may or may not back into the playoffs due to the weak conference they currently find themselves in -- but no way are they serious contenders to go very far. Too many other teams are a lot better. Idle thought: How can a city that is bankrupt and wallowing in billions of dollars of debt, be seriously considering building a new arena for the Red Wings, when there's not a damn thing wrong with the old one?

And the Detroit Lions? Well, they're the Lions. To much fanfare, they've hired a new head coach, one Jim Caldwell. Problem is, Caldwell's had great success -- when he's riding on the coattails of another guy that's in charge (see Tony Dunge). When given the chance to be the boss himself, Caldwell's teams have slowly but surely taken a nosedive. Worse yet, Caldwell has retained many coaches of former Lions' field general Jim Schwartz -- merely the losingest coach in the entire NFL during his five year reign of ineptitude. On top of that, Caldwell has brought in a few guys that were riding HIS coattails during his losing seasons, or were his buddies from the good old days, and given THEM high profile jobs. So the Lions replaced a loser with another loser, who's dragging along even more losers. If this is a recipe for success, then obviously yours truly is missing something.

The Lions ever even sniffing the Super Bowl under this guy? Not a chance. In 4-5 years, he'll be gone too.

So it appears the Detroit Tigers are Motown's only hope for sports glory. Maybe they pull it off -- and maybe they don't. The Red Sox are still pretty good, not to mention whatever team comes out of that pesky National League for the Fall Classic.

But back to where I started. When chatting with some white girl, Leno asked, "What does BYOB mean when you're invited to a party?"

"I dunno".

Leno helped her out. "BYOB means bring your own ------"


Yep, I'm definitely going to miss that sort of stuff.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Adam Vinatieri and a helluvan idea

Place-kicker Adam Vinatieri has been around. After high school, and a quick stint at Army, he returned to his home of South Dakota (State) to finish his college career -- where he set the school scoring record. Ignored by the NFL at the time, on to the World Football League, which became NFL Europe, which ultimately went belly-up. Maybe not so impressive.

But then he finally caught on in the NFL. Between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, Vinatieri is now a 17 year veteran in the NFL. He's the only place kicker to sport 4 Super Bowl Rings -- three with the Pats and another while with the Colts. In all, he's been to 5 Super Bowls, and would have been to a sixth, had he not been injured at the time. Over the years, he also earned the nickname Mr. Clutch, because he made the big kicks when they counted the most.

Sure, many would claim he's only a place-kicker, and they're amongst the lowest paid guys on NFL rosters. They would be right. But take them away, and a whole lot of games over the years, including Super Bowls -- would have turned out differently. So when a guy like Vinatieri talks about possible rule changes -- methinks he's earned the right for us to at least hear him out.

There have been whispers the NFL is considering narrowing the width between the goal posts because it's become too easy for kickers. Also whispers of eliminating the "point after" a touchdown entirely, because it's so automatic. Good ideas? Maybe. After all, a lot of rule changes have happened that some once protested, but are taken for granted now. The goalposts used to be on the goal line. They were moved 10 yards back to the rear of the end zone. Colleges have long had the "2 point conversion" attempt after a touchdown as an option, but the NFL only adopted that fairly recently. More recently, even though kickers have stronger legs than ever, kickoffs have been moved up 5 yards, where just about any NFL kicker can boom a kickoff deep into the end zone, if not completely out of it. If the league wanted to cut down on the high speed collisions that happen when a kick is being returned -- they've been fairly successful.

Perhaps someday they'll do away with "punting" and just give the ball to the other team 40 yards downfield. But like Vinatieri pointed out, if they eliminate the kickers, then they'll have to change the name of the game. After all -- it is FOOTball, right?

Let's not pretend other sports haven't changed their rules as well. The designated hitter? Shoot-outs in hockey? But more to the point -- how about the 3 point line in basketball? From preps to pros, that's been around for a while, and everybody's OK with it. If a shooter makes a long shot, it now counts for 3 points instead of 2.

That's where Vinatieri had, in my opinion, one helluvan idea. Instead of the usual 3 points, any field goal kicked from over 50 yards would be worth 4 points. How can you argue that given the basketball analogy above?

And can you imagine how much that might change the strategy in many games? Instead of two field goals being a point short of a touchdown and regular point after, one routine field goal and a long one would be the equalizer. There could even be times when an offense would take a 5 yard delay of game penalty to get the kicker outside the 50 yard mark for the possibility of 4 points instead of 3. If they were already in position to attempt a 46 yard field goal, and had a kicker with a strong leg, why not move it back 5 yards and see what happens? Especially if that "extra" point might make the difference in who wins and who loses. Food for thought.

Me? I'm old school. Never did like the designated hitter thing, hockey teams getting a point for an overtime loss, and female reporters being allowed to interview naked male athletes in their locker rooms. If that's OK, then how come no male reporters are allowed the same privilege when it comes to female athletes?

Damn women. Their place is in the kitchen barefoot, while sweating over a hot stove cooking meals for their man. Next thing ya know, one of them will run for President or something.

But I still like Vinatieri's 4 point field goal idea.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Super Bowl media day. Surely they jest

Once upon a time, when yours truly was a bratty little boy (imagine that), I used to complain to my mom and dad about Mother's day and Father's day. "How come there's no Kids' day?", I would ask. The answer always came back the same. "EVERY day is kids' day", they would respond. Obviously, my parents were retarded back then. Yet as I grew older and had to deal with kids myself, I came to begrudgingly realize mom and dad may have had a point. Perhaps they weren't so dumb after all.

And that's why I find the so-called Super Bowl "Media day" laughable. Good grief, EVERY day is media day. Whether it's politics, celebrity gossip, crime -- pick a topic -- and they're swarming all over it -- EVERY day. Sports is no exception, particularly the days leading up to the Super Bowl. If the medical community had had as many people poking and prodding for information as the current news hounds are into the Super Bowl --  they likely would have cured cancer a long time ago. Or maybe even figured out the mood swing thing amongst the fairer sex -- but perhaps that's asking too much.

Nevertheless, to declare an official "media day" for the Super Bowl is still yuk-worthy. These folks have interviewed everybody from the head coach on down to the water boy, and will continue to do so until the game is played. And then there will be more post-game interviews, where we will all be treated to everything from triumphant rants while spraying champagne, to the losers' locker room solemnly packing their bags and hoping for another chance next year. One team has to win, and one team has to lose. Yet the media will be there to cover it all with their microphones, cameras, and (sometimes stupid) probing questions, whether the players like it or not.

Don't get me wrong. Objective journalists asking hard questions is a good thing. The public absolutely has a right to know what's going on with the movers and shakers that all too often control our lives. But sometimes they become so desperate for a story -- any story --  that it becomes absurd with its very triviality, not to mention nostalgia that is no longer relevant.

Consider the Indianapolis 500. No qualifying car has sported an actual carburetor since 1965. Fuel injection has ruled since shortly after the Beatles made their debut, but they still have a "carburetion day" leading up to the big race. How dumb is that? They also still call the garage areas Gasoline Alley, though methanol has been used for fuel since 1963. There hasn't been any gas on Gasoline Alley (other than farts from the pit crews) since shortly before John Kennedy met his demise in Dallas. That's all a very long time ago. So why not just say it like it is? Call it "check the fuel mileage day" and "methanol alley". In a way, still calling the Indianpolis Motor Speedway the "Brickyard" is appropriate -- because that's exactly what it still features. One yard of bricks at the start/finish line, while the other two and a half miles were repaved a long time ago as well. Nostalgia has its place, but c'mon.

At any rate, I still find the phrase "media day" humorous regarding the Super Bowl. That ranks right up there with cops more closely looking out for any driving irregularities and OMG, people not wearing seat belts on New Year's Eve or St. Patrick's day. Any reason, however fabricated, to pull them over and check them out.

The media is much the same way leading up to the Super Bowl. In the end, whether it's a ticket or ratings -- it's all about cha-chings.

But that doesn't make it right.

Super Bowl, Mother Nature, and dumb

I dare say everybody in the so-called civilized world, not counting those in comas, is aware Super Bowl XLVIII will be played this Sunday. Why the powers that be have always used Roman numerals when referring to this game is a good question. It's not like the Pope is going to sing the national anthem, though that would be interesting. Basically, it's Super Bowl 48, and it goes off on Feb.2, MMXIV. Sorry, but see how silly that is?

At any rate, it's going to be played in New Jersey. Bad Chris Christie and Jersey jokes in general aside -- how did this come to be? A couple reasons. Because some billionaires and their friends decided to build a luxurious new stadium right next door to the old one, even though the old one was still perfectly functional. And so what if a few hundred commoners had to be evicted and have their homes and businesses bulldozed to make room for it?  Luxury suites and a big fancy jumbotron are more important -- right?

And of course, there was the wink-wink promise from the NFL itself that if the tycoons could pull off building a new palace, the league would definitely consider them to host a future Super Bowl. It didn't take long. The stadium opened on April 10, 2010, and merely a month and a half later on May 25, 2010, the league gave them the 2014 Super Bowl.

In one respect, it's business as usual. Venues for Super Bowls are locked in 3-4 years into the future. Next year, it will be in Phoenix. In 2016, at Levi's Stadium in San Fran, which hasn't even been built yet (see above reference to build a new palace -- get a Super Bowl.)  2017 will be in Houston. The finalists for 2018 are New Orleans, Indy, or Minneapolis. That will be announced in May of this year.

But in another respect, shiny new billion dollar palace or not -- it makes no sense to put a Super Bowl into a northern venue of an undomed stadium in the dead of winter. Too many things can go wrong.

Sure, it might be a balmy 30 degrees with clear skies and no wind at East Rutherford this Sunday. But it could also be 10 below with a howling blizzard going on. It all depends on Mother Nature.

Yours truly would submit there is something very wrong with this picture. Let's ignore the breathless talking heads that are so worried about whether wind or cold might have an effect on Peyton Manning's passing game. Hey, both teams have to play in the same elements -- so they can shut up about that.

More important is the fans. The fortunate few that haven't been displaced by celebrities and politicians, and can actually score tickets for this game have a potential problem. Security procedures being over the top these days, any fan wishing to attend the game would likely have to show up 2-3 hours in advance of kickoff to get through all the checkpoints. Then roughly another 4 hours sitting in an open-air stadium during the game itself. If Mother Nature decided to put the big chill on the whole works -- we're talking about people being exposed to severe elements for a long time, with no place to get warm. It could happen, and that's not even taking into account a possible blizzard shutting down the airports for incoming travelers that have already ponied up big bucks in advance. Though it's not currently projected this Sunday, that was always a possibility for a New Jersey Super Bowl. Yet given the brutal winter that has encompassed most of the country so far this year -- the Super Bowl's still 5 days hence, and who knows what might happen?

Thing is, even the majority of fans that will be watching it on TV want to see both Denver and Seattle show off their talents. They don't want to see the Broncos and Seahawks slogging their way through snow, and QBs thwarted by 30 MPH winds, while fighting off hypothermia themselves. And this is precisely why a Super Bowl should never be played in a great white north venue.

Even the colleges have had this right for a long time. Look at where the major bowl games are played. New Orleans, Miami, Tempe, Pasadena, etc. Warm places, where the worst that can happen is rain. Rain doesn't shut down airports and close highways like blizzards, much less have fans wondering if the feeling in their fingers and toes will ever come back. To boot, even a little rain wouldn't have such a drastic effect on the game itself.

But I would propose that the Super Bowl is too big and too important to even be subjected to that possibility. In the future, it should be played in a southern climate, in a domed stadium, or at least a stadium that has a retractable dome. If it's nice outside -- open it up. If it's raining -- close it. We don't want Mother Nature handicapping the teams that have made it to the promised land. We want to see everything they have in their arsenals, and may the best team win.

Finally, a question. Between the Jets and Giants themselves, and who knows how many rich donors chipping in -- the cost of building what is now Met Life stadium was around $1.6 billion dollars, eclipsing that of even Jerry Jones' famed recently new palace down in Big D.

So for a few extra measly million bucks -- wouldn't it have made sense to put a retractable dome on it? The upcoming Super Bowl aside, one would think that might come in handy here and there for future games when Mother Nature was in a bad mood.

Just seems dumb to me not to, but what do I know?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

NFL Pro Bowl. A total farce

From what little I remember, historically the NFL Pro Bowl has featured the best of the AFC facing off against the best of the NFC. It's their version of an All-Star game.

So I tuned in to check it out, and what did I see? No AFC and NFC, but rather Team Rice versus Team Sanders. What, pray tell, is going on here, and who are these Rice and Sanders people in charge of the teams? Might it be Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders? Or was it Condoleezza Rice and Colonel Sanders? Rice-a-roni vs Barry Sanders? Turned out it was Jerry and Deion, but while they may have been great players back in the day, how in the hell did their names wind up taking the place of entire conferences?

But then it got worse. It wasn't the AFC against the NFC. It was a mixed grab bag of players competing on both sides. Kind of like dumping a big bag of M&Ms on the floor and pushing half to one side and half to the other without sorting them out. My genius mind quickly discerned something was amiss when I saw guys that play on the same team during the regular season competing against each other in the Pro Bowl. And how hard do you think a linebacker is going to hit a running back that might be his best friend and/or roommate on road trips? Who came up with this brilliant game plan? That sort of strategy ranks right up there with calling Doctor Howard, Doctor Fine, Doctor Howard for a medical emergency.

It certainly wasn't always this way. In years of yore, playing in this game meant something to the participants. It was an honor to be there and they would give their best effort not only representing their teams, but for their fans as well. (Though most have probably long forgotten -- there was a time many years ago when the newly crowned Super Bowl champions would take on a college All-Star squad. That was a bad idea, and didn't work out so well.  Men against boys, and the best team in the world taking on a hastily thrown together college squad. Guess who's going to win such a game every time? But it happened.)

To be fair, the All-Star games of other professional leagues have turned into shams themselves. In the NBA contest, playing any sort of defense is evidently verboten, so it turns into a slamma-jamma dunk-a-thon with ridiculous amounts of points scored.

In the NHL, the All-Star game is great for those that like to see a lot of goals scored. They don't check or play any defense either. Not so great for goalies that get lit up and embarrassed.

Major League Baseball recently tried to return some long lost relevance to their All-Star game by declaring the winning team would earn home-field advantage for either their American or National league representatives in the World Series that same year. Yet consider the scenario of a player elected to the All-Star team, but already has a guaranteed multi-year bazillion dollar contract, and also currently plays for a team that has no chance at making the playoffs. What's his motivation to even GO to the All-Star game, let alone play hard while he's there? It's only a few more bucks he doesn't need. And during the long grind of a MLB season, getting those 4-5 days off to kick back and relax probably starts to look pretty good. It happens.

Sure, many would say the players in the NFL Pro Bowl don't want to risk getting injured in a meaningless game. Further, their coaches and upper management back home probably fret about the same possibility themselves. These guys are getting paid mega-bucks, the franchises depend on them, and by God, if they're going to get jacked-up -- it's going to be on THEIR dime, dammit. I get that.

Yet that poses an enigma. Why even participate at all in such a game, if one isn't willing to play up to their capabilities?

Just last year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell witnessed the embarrassing spectacle of the Pro-Bowl. That game was phonier than pro wrestling or a politician's campaign promises. It was so sissified, they could have played it without helmets or pads. The Commish was not happy and vowed change.

So here we are again this year. Still no blitzes, zone coverage, or hard tackling allowed. Players yukking it up on the field throughout the game. Forget the pads and helmets. They might as well dress these guys up in tutus and ballerina slippers and let them play with a nerf ball. And now it's got so bad, nobody seems to know what side they're supposed to be on. Instead of AFC vs NFC, it's now Rice vs Sanders? Pa-leeze. This isn't pro football. It's a comedy act worthy of a short run on the Vegas strip. Maybe.

The politically correct thing to say would be, "The Honorable Commissioner of this league perhaps needs to revisit his original concerns about the Pro Bowl and consider some adjustments".

The real life way to put it is, "Roger needs to get his head out of his overpaid ass, see the Hawaii farce for what it is -- and is not -- and either demand it becomes a real game once again, or scrap it entirely".

Because right now -- this is a joke with no punch line.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

UM/MSU hoops and the "call"

It was going to make the difference. Somehow I just knew it. Midway through the second half of the Michigan-Michigan State basketball game a loose ball was recovered on the floor by a Michigan player.

He clearly had possession and was both frantically yelling and signalling for a time out. But somehow three referees, including one standing just a few feet away and looking right at it, went into Helen Keller mode and the time-out was not granted. A Spartan player had finally managed to basically bear hug the Wolverine, and the refs determined it a "held ball". The possession arrow pointed towards Michigan State. They got the ball out of bounds, and subsequently scored a basket. This was at least a two point swing and potentially four, as the result of an obviously terrible call.

So even though State appeared to have their hands full with those pesky Wolverines, I just KNEW MSU would ultimately prevail by a couple points -- and that blown call might well have made the difference.

But that didn't happen.

By most accounts, Michigan State was supposed to win this game. After all, they were #3 in the country, off to their best start ever in school history (18-1), and playing at home. Conversely, Michigan was a respectable, but not spectacular #21, and had already suffered 4 defeats.

Yes, UM made it all the way to the NCAA final game last season before bowing out, but they lost a couple star players to the NBA after that, and one of their key big men was already lost this season due to an injury. And besides, during the Tom Izzo era at Michigan State, closing in on 20 years, the Spartans have pretty well owned the Wolverines.

So no way should Michigan have come back to win this game -- but they did. Actually, in quite convincing fashion -- the last two minutes that turned into a half hour with all the time-outs and the ridiculous free-throw parade notwithstanding.

For now, Hail Hail to Michigan as they sit alone atop the Big 10, 12, 14, whatever it is these days Conference. After knocking off #3 State on the road, the Maize and Blue cagers will likely rise a few spots in the rankings. Not long ago, UM went into then #3 Wisconsin and convincingly beat the Badgers. Then #10 Iowa at home. They're definitely on a roll, and the win at MSU was a signature moment.

On the other hand, MSU will likely plummet in the polls after getting handled by their arch-rivals on national TV. Where these two teams will rank when the new polls come out on Monday will be interesting indeed. Of course, MSU gets another crack at UM in about a month, and yours truly wouldn't be a bit surprised to see the Spartans waltz into Ann Arbor and exact revenge.

Yet there's the rub. Just like the "the call" mentioned above didn't turn out to matter, who wins the rematch between UM and MSU likely doesn't matter either.

That's because both schools will obviously qualify for the NCAA tournament that will begin it's madness in a month and a half or so. And once that starts, will anybody really remember or care what a team's regular season record was? OK, Louisville beat Michigan for the national title last year. Quick, what were their regular season records? You don't know. Neither do I. Who cares? See what I mean?

After all, the road to being a national champion is straight forward. Not counting the cannon-fodder "play-in" games, a team needs only win six games in a row. Keep winning, keep moving on. Lose anywhere along the way, and get kicked to the curb. Pretty simple.

No doubt, much hype will be generated for the rematch between UM and MSU on Feb. 23 -- but other than temporary bragging rights in a couple towns  -- it really doesn't matter.

Yet I must admit watching such games is infinitely more fun than tuning into -- say -- the latest thrilling episodes of Judge Judy or Doctor Oz.

Hmmm. That gives me an idea. Perhaps they should play a home and home series. Judy could berate the Ozster in her courtroom on national TV and, a month later, the good Doctor could snap on the rubber gloves and give Her Honor a THOROUGH physical -- also on national TV.

Now THAT would be entertainment worth watching......

Friday, January 24, 2014

Saturday rants

Obviously, I've been too nice lately. Not only have a few, OMG, compliments come in from various sources, instead of the usual rip and tear stuff -- that dastardly editor I report to even offered me a free company shirt. And in my world, all this just won't do. Anything less than constant mayhem and strife, and yours truly doesn't know how to act. So it's time to get busy doing a little ripping and tearing again of my own.

Carmelo Anthony of the NY Knicks just scored 62 points in a game. A record at Madison Square Garden. Longtime court-side Knick fan Spike Lee was ranting and raving about Carmelo this, and Knicks that. Yeah? Well, I used to have a yappy little black chihuahua named Spike myself. Though he's been buried behind the shed for over 10 years now, I suspect even he can still sense the Knicks are terrible. That overpaid clown act is about as close to being contenders as my late little boy was to pulling the winning sled in the Iditerod. Methinks the two-legged Spike needs to shut up about NBA basketball and go back to making B movies about stuff in the 'hood.

Uh oh. Justin Bieber got busted. Drunk driving, drag racing, resisting arrest, admitted having smoked pot and taking prescription drugs. Yep, the Bieb's a regular gangsta now. Right. Or perhaps Jay Leno put it best another way -- the weenie in the Lamborghini.

Here we go again dept. The Farmers Insurance golf tourney got underway in California. See Tiger Woods a whopping 8 strokes back after the first round. See Tiger drop yet another stroke in the second round. See Tiger tied for 50th place and barely making the cut. Alas, guess who's name dominated the golf reporting? What is it with this guy and how bad does he have to play before the reporters will stop with their hero worship? 49 guys ahead of him and Eldrick is still the headliner, getting all the ink and sound bytes? Please.

Interesting to note the concerns over the possibility of "black widows" wreaking havoc at the winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia, which are due to start in under two weeks. Evidently, the powers that be are beating the bushes trying to locate these women if indeed they first exist, and are "in country", much less intent on mayhem. Nobody seems to know for sure. But all the intelligence services are looking in the wrong places. They need only get in contact with my ex. She could give them a world of information on profiling the black widow mind set, and what they're likely to do next. Seems simple enough and, come to think of it, nobody's seen her around for a while. Hmmm.

And on the eve of the Pro Bowl, Detroit Lions' defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has fired his agents. Speaking of clown acts -- but more on that next time.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

We're all doomed

Might as well get used to it because, despite the best intentions of some, it's not going away. In fact, the countdown to Armageddon continues to accelerate. One can't go anywhere or do anything without being caught on tape or eavesdropped upon. Besides phones, emails, etc, next time you're in your car and stop for a red light, look up at the poles and supporting structures and you'll see cameras checking you out.

What to do about this? I suppose one could throw themself in front of a speeding semi on the interstate or jump out of a tall building. But even though it only hurts for a little while -- that's a bit messy. To totally escape reality while remaining technically alive -- kind of like yours truly -- mind altering drugs are an option, though not recommended. Either that or read a few more of my blog posts. The results are pretty much the same, except one has a chance at regaining their sanity after the effects of the drugs wear off.

But this is supposed to be about sports. Right. Which brings me to....

Did you ever notice those concave dishes on the sidelines at major sporting contests? That's serious high-tech audio stuff, and they can zero in and pick up a hushed conversation from quite a distance. All of this is recorded, of course, but viewers of the "live" game are never privy to it with any sort of replay action. We get all kinds of video at the time, but not audio. If we get to hear it at all, most times it's several years later, when some TV station is running a documentary about the life and times of a former coach or player that has been long gone from the game for years. In other words, when it doesn't much matter anymore. Though sometimes entertaining and informative at a future date, how come such sound bytes take so long to become public? Wouldn't it be a lot more fun to hear them while they were still relevant?

Sure, some game-time conversations need to be kept confidential, lest the other team spy on them and be immediately privy to strategies. I get that. But keeping such conversations for years in a classified vault somewhere the CIA would be proud of hardly seems right either in this day and age. After all, it's hardly war but only a game, so why not make such things public immediately following the contest, or the next day at the latest? Fans would dearly love to hear this stuff, and they're the ones paying for it all.

But that seems to be where the plot thickens. The media, with the fans sucking it up, can run wild with speculation as to what MIGHT have been said. Scribes will furiously write their opinions. The talking heads will go into hyper-speak debating it. Stuff will pop up on the internet the world over. Tweets will fly back and forth and the social media will be abuzz. But in the end, none of them really know. They're just speculating. It's a story, gossip, what have you, but people will certainly get caught up in it.

The recent Richard Sherman debacle is a good example. The media was all over the Seattle cornerback for his post-game "rant" regarding San Fran receiver Michael Crabtree. This was a big story. Sherman had made a helluva play on the deciding play of the game, breaking up a pass intended for Crabtree, which was eventually caught for an interception by one of Sherman's teammates. The game was basically over. Seattle had prevailed.

Sherman approached Crabtree and said something. Crabtree responded by shoving Sherman away in the face. Surely, Sherman was rubbing it in -- right? Wrong. Turns out that big concave dish picked up the audio. After three hours of battle, Sherman actually said, "Helluva game. Helluva game", and even stuck out his hand for Crabtree to shake. From one warrior to another, that was a very respectful thing to do. Instead, Crabtree ignored the gesture and dissed Sherman on national TV with the hand to the face. So should it come as any big surprise that Sherman trash talked Crabtree a few minutes later when some bimbo reporter stuck a microphone in front of him? What goes around -- comes around.

Nevertheless, the point has been made. Instead of the usual years, this audio surfaced after only a few days, and seems to vindicate Sherman. Yet yours truly still maintains it should have been aired immediately following the game.

But alas, then there wouldn't have been such a big speculative story for the media to prey on.

And we couldn't have that -- right?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Detroit Red Wings. Playoff streak likely over

If the regular season ended today, the Wings would find themselves out of the playoffs for the first time since the 1989-1990 season. Including the 2004-2005 season, which was lost due to a league lockout, the Wings currently have the longest playoff streak in the history of pro sports. 21 years.

Yet it doesn't look like they're going to make it this year because -- in a few words -- they're not very good. Sure, the Wings have had a rash of injuries happen to them this year, losing well over 200 man-games to players that got dinged up one way or the other. But that's life in the NHL, and the Wings are hardly alone in that category. The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost even MORE man-games to injuries this year, but are leading the Eastern Conference while the Wings continue to flutter, at best.

Detroit head coach Mike Babcock recently pointed out something interesting. Babs said when the team was "old" a few years ago, they didn't get hurt much. Now that they're "young", guys are going down right and left.

On the surface, this would seem to be backwards. But is it really? Consider -- much like savvy boxers learn to slip a punch while only taking a glancing blow, perhaps NHL veterans have learned to sense when a hard check is coming, and avoid the brunt of the contact. Conversely, the youngsters are out there throwing their bodies around at high speeds with reckless abandon trying to make an impression on their coaches, so they might stick on the team. Should it really be that surprising when many wind up getting injured?

And there's some Detroit irony afoot as well. The Wings haven't missed the playoffs going on 22 years. The Detroit Lions haven't won a playoff game for -- you guessed it -- 22 years. The last being on Jan, 5 1992. Before that, the Lions hadn't won a playoff game in a whopping 35 years, dating all the way back to 1957, when a guy named Eisenhower was President. The next model year (1958) the first Ford Edsel rolled off the assembly line (an omen?) and this was a full 10 years before the Super Bowl even came into existence.

So if I have this right -- the Lions have a grand total of one playoff win in the last 57 years, and the Red Wings have won 4 Stanley Cup championships since Clinton was President.

Methinks even if the Wings don't make the playoffs this year -- which looks highly unlikely -- they've earned a pass. Streaks come, streaks go, nothing except Regis Philbin and William Shatner lasts forever, and the Red Wings should be commended for their standard of excellence over the last two decades.

And who knows? Speaking of streaks -- the Chicago Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. That's 105 years. Or approximately the same amount of time since yours truly got lucky.

Nevertheless, give the Lions another century or so, and they just might be able to break that record too. The north-siders from Chi-town are bound to win eventually -- right?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Richard Sherman's remarks. Way overblown

Seattle Seahawk cornerback Richard Sherman has been all over the news. Sports scribes and talking heads are lambasting him. Even some of the "mainstream" media has jumped in with their two cents worth to take a few shots. You know, those loveable TV anchors that say they don't have an agenda, but obviously do. The very same folks that constantly interrupt the answers to their own questions, and talk over their guests, when they don't like the responses they're hearing. Evidently, in between their coverage of the usual politics and the latest disaster -- they found a way to squeeze Richard Sherman into their broadcasts. Needless to say, they are looking down their uppity noses as well.

And you know what? These people don't have a clue. They're so worried about being politically correct, they either miss, or are afraid to say the obvious.

Consider what Sherman actually did (said): He called San Fran 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree both "sorry-ass" and "mediocre" He also called himself the best cornerback in the NFL. How good of a receiver Crabtree is certainly remains open to debate, but few with impartial objective minds would doubt Sherman is an elite cornerback, given his size, speed, cover ability, and physical play. Quick, name one team that WOULDN'T take Sherman as a starting corner in a heatbeat. He's that good.

This is not to defend Sherman. Yours truly has no loyalties to him, or the Seahawks for that matter. Rather, ir's about reality in the NFL.

Fans love seeing nothing better than their home-town heros go out and play a ferocious style of football, while manhandling the opposing team. That's exactly what the players themselves want to do. The more big hits -- the better -- as long as it's happening to the opposing team.

Understandably, the players get "jacked-up" for games. Big time adrenalin. They are fearless, and pretty much have to be as they're throwing their bodies around at high speeds into collisions with their opponents. Any given play, in any given game, might result in a broken bone, torn ligaments, head trauma, or even the end of a career. It happens.

So when a guy has been all jacked-up for three hours, emerged intact as a victor in yet another brutal contest, and some reporter immediately sticks a microphone into his face and starts asking questions while he's still in gladiator mode  -- what, pray tell, should they, or we expect of the man? A State of the Union speech?

Of course not. The dude's still in battle mode. Reporters don't seem to understand that. They want news NOW, with total disregard of how such a player conducts himself in real life. So the story comes out distorted like what a player does on the field reflects what sort of man he is.

Hey, trash talking happens all the time in any NFL game. And while out there in the heat of combat, the very nature of the game dictates players on both teams hit each other hard and often.

Besides talent -- without major pride and self-confidence -- chances are a player won't last long in the NFL. The competition is too fierce. Fans and the media are always quick to criticize when a player doesn't perform up to expectations. It's almost like the gladiator fights in ancient Rome. Not worthy? Thumbs down. Another will take his place.

But here's a novel idea. Before the media starts interviewing these guys and jumping to conclusions with the answers they get  -- how about they let them get out of their armor, take a shower, and let them return to their usual Doctor Jekyll, instead of the Mr. Hyde that is demanded of them on the field?

Bottom line? This whole Richard Sherman thing likely would have never happened if that reporter had given him a few minutes to chill before sticking a microphone in his face and asking stupid questions. And I don't care how many millions FOX paid for the exclusive broadcast rights to that game. If they've got that much money, they can well afford to further educate their on-air reporters into being objective journalists -- rather than prematurely turning them loose as attack dogs.

In my humble opinion, this entire issue was basically media created in the first place. And oh my, look how they continue to run with it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

NFL hanky panky coming up?

Thanks to my buddy Keno Rick for the following idea. The man's an absolute genius when it comes to playing that game. He's got all the odds, statistics, tendencies, probabilities, and angles covered -- except maybe for picking the right numbers at the right time. Just a minor detail.

But as he pointed out -- it will be interesting to see what, if any sort of trouble the players from the Seahawks and Broncos manage to get into during the next two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.

After all, for the most part -- we're talking about a bunch of twenty-somethings that are millionaires. Sure, depending on the position, all of them are either ridiculously big and strong, run fast, and/or can catch, throw, cover, tackle, kick, etc, with the best of them. Combined, these guys can play some serious football. Alas, many of them couldn't spell "cat" if you spotted them two consonants and a vowel. But dammit, they can hit.

So as Rick suggested -- besides the aforementioned money and lack of common sense -- throw in the added two weeks of the fame, hype, and adoration that comes with being Super Bowl bound. Stir in a a few nightclubs and season to taste with the ever-present assortment of bimbo condiments. Plop the whole thing down in New Jersey -- not exactly Amish country -- and somebody's bound to get in trouble.

Will another Ray Lewis emerge? You remember Ray. He retired a Super Bowl champion for the Baltimore Ravens after last year. What people tend to forget is Ray was once shoulder-pad deep in a double murder in the days surrounding a Super Bowl in Atlanta. He turned state's evidence on his two companions to get his own butt off the hook, and those two guys went to trial, but were acquitted. In the end, two men were stabbed to death but nobody was responsible. It's likely a lot of blood was splattered in the process, but the white suit Lewis was wearing that night was never found. Imagine that. Now Ray's a football commentator on a major network, and is likely counting down the days until he gets inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Something is wrong with that picture.

Of course, that's an extreme case.

But there are more subtle things at work. Consider the upcoming game between the Seahawks and Broncos. During the contest against New England, former Patriot/now Bronco wide receiver Wes Welker is facing scrutiny after his hit on Patriot defensive back Aqib Taliq sent him out of the game with a knee injury. This happened on a "pick" play. That's where two wide receivers criss-cross their patterns coming off the line of scrimmage and one of them obstructs/blocks/takes out the defensive back that was trying to cover the other wide receiver. The Broncos run it all the time. Technically, it's an illegal play, but most refs won't call it. Welker maintains Taliq getting injured was not intentional. Patriots' coach Bill Bellichick thinks quite the opposite. The only one that knows for sure is Welker, and I don't suspect we'll see him hooked up to a polygraph any time soon.

After the Seahawks -- 49ers match-up, Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman is also facing scrutiny over some of the verbal taunts directed towards San Fran receiver Michael Crabtree. First of all, Crabtree is hardly an angel himself. While a great player, he's also been known to talk a lot of smack and get in a few low blows himself.

Thing is, Sherman is different from most other defensive backs around the league. Rather than the usual 5-10, 5-11 variety, at 6-3, he can body-up with most opposing receivers. And he might well be the best "cover" cornerback in the entire league. Needless to say, millionaire receivers used to catching a bunch of balls for big yardage that find themselves shut down by Sherman probably don't like it much. So tempers are going to flare.

So are Welker and Sherman "cheap-shot" artists? I don't think so. But what's interesting is they will likely go head to head against each other a lot of times during the Super Bowl. Who will get the best of the other remains to be seen, but I suspect that match-up will be fun to watch.

And hey, it's the Seattle Seahawks against the Denver Broncos. Given the two weeks of party time leading up to the Super Bowl doesn't necessarily mean some of their players will get in trouble. These are civilized towns. Well, sort of.

If it was the Cincinnati Bengals set to face off against the Detroit Lions, this might take on a whole different look.

Had the Bengals remained true to form with their recent history, they might have to forfeit the Super Bowl because too many players were already in jail for one reason or another.

And if the Lions remained true to their own clueless history, instead of the team plane landing in New Jersey, it might wind up in New Guinea. Talk about a false start. Nevertheless, Dominic Raiola and Nate Burleson would find a way to mouth off while Ndamukong Suh was busy stomping a few natives just for kicks. Some of them would likely wander around wondering -- where the hell is the game?

Back in New Jersey, as the Super Bowl festivities got underway, they would want to know how come the Lions never showed up and what happened to them?

And THAT is exactly the same question Lions' fans have been asking themselves for over 50 years.

Seattle and Denver should make for a really good Super Bowl, though.

Let's hope they can stay out of trouble for the next two weeks.

We'll see.....

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Exposing the umps and refs

First of all, in the words of that immortal American icon -- "Let me be perfectly clear. I am not a crook". (Cue applause). However, to be totally honest -- when I was about 12 or 13 -- I must admit I got caught trying to swipe a Hershey bar from the local grocery store. When my dad got wind of it, my butt got blistered so bad I was afraid to even BUY a Hershey bar out of my paper route money for a few months. Forget that crook stuff -- it hurts too much. But I digress. Where was I? Oh, yeah.

I also want to be clear I had no dog in the hunt regarding the Seattle -- San Fran NFC championship game. As you know, the Seahawks won and are headed to the Super Bowl.

But during that game, there were a few strange calls -- and non-calls -- by the officials. And it seemed they all went Seattle's way. Sure, they were the home team and all, but the refs are supposed to be impartial. Which brings me to the point.....

Methinks it's long overdue the sporting public knew more about the zebras in sports. Not just the NFL, but the NBA, NHL, and the umps in MLB. For the sake of this argument -- let's use the NFL as an example.

As a typical game starts -- TV viewers are introduced to the starting line-ups -- on both sides of the ball -- of both teams. We see their mug shots, know their names, and even what colleges they played for.

But other than the league numbers on their backs, we never know anything about the on-field officials. It's a big secret. Thing is, these guys have to come from somewhere. Sure, different crews get rotated to different venues throughout the year, but it's entirely possible, even probable, there are times when a zebra or two is working a game not far from where he grew up.

We've all heard about many fans that had home-town loyalties to their teams but got transplanted elsewhere because of their jobs, etc, but still rooted for the teams they grew up with. It's just human nature. Is it that much of a stretch to assume some officials have the same lingering sentiments? Most of them are human too -- I think.

So why not out the officials? Put their mugs and hometowns on TV at various games as well. Just for kicks, yours truly picked a random number of an NFL zebra (106) and did a Google search. Turns out, that number belongs to a guy named Wayne Mackie, a third-year head linesman in the NFL. Mackie is from NY. Went to Colgate and Brooklyn Tech. Might he have been a Jets or Giants fan when he was growing up? Hey, if he grew up to be an NFL official, surely he was a sports fan as a kid -- right? He had to root for somebody. As a head lineman, on a close call between a false start or the defense jumping offside between his "old" team and another one -- which way to do think he'll likely point?

Again, it's just human nature, and such conflicts of interest are going to happen here and there. But that's still no reason not to identify these guys before the game starts. What's more, officials aren't allowed to give any post-game interviews to answer questions about controversial calls. Why should they be exempt from scrutiny? After all, they're the ones that made the calls in the first place. Coaches and players are held accountable. Why not the zebras?

Even worse is the "guys in the booth". You know, the replay officials behind the dark glass in a luxury suite that ultimately decide close plays that are "reviewed". These guys are more mysterious than your average CIA agent. In fact, we don't know if they're guys at all. Maybe it's gals sitting up there. For that matter, it might be the American Idol judges or the cast of The View making these crucial decisions.

Out with them. Let's see who they are. Names, faces, and hometowns all put up on the Jumbotrons. And for crying out loud -- get rid of that tinted glass. It's not like there's any snipers lurking about in the stadium, and it gives the impression they have something to hide.

Everybody keeps saying they want more transparency here, and more transparency there. Well, this is a good place to start.

If these guys, and maybe gals, are making fair and impartial calls -- they have nothing to worry about.

But until the veil of secrecy is lifted -- this whole thing doesn't quite pass the smell test sometimes....

Saturday, January 18, 2014

NFL playoffs, wise guys, and Serena

Something strange is going on regarding the NFL playoffs. The two conference championship games feature San Fran @ Seattle, and New England @ Denver.

In the NFC, the S&S squads out west split their two regular season games. At Seattle, the Seahawks thrashed the Niners 29-3. In the return match in SF, the 49ers barely escaped with a victory on a last second field goal. Given the combination of those two games -- one would think Seattle is the superior team.

Seattle is also well-known as having the loudest home fans in the entire NFL. They'll be absolutely bonkers for this game, jacking up their heroes. Further, the odds-makers have installed the Seahawks as a 3.5 point favorite -- though yours truly is surprised that point spread isn't a bit larger.

So why are most of the talking head experts picking San Fran to win this game? And it's not like these guys are yahoo wannabe sports reporters spouting off. Many of them are former players and coaches that have been there, done that, continue to study the game, and surely know more about it than the bookies in the back rooms of Vegas. Or do they?

Who will win indeed? We'll see. (I'm picking Seattle)

In the AFC, it's another showdown between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The Patriots came back from a huge deficit to defeat the Broncos at New England earlier in the year. But this game is in Denver. Those same odds-makers have the Broncos as a 5.5 point favorite. (Actually, it's impossible in either game to win by 3.5 or 5.5, but somehow those tricky wise guys use those half points to their advantage to sway potential bettors one way or the other.)

This might well be Peyton's last go-round at winning a second Super Bowl. He's enjoyed a record-setting season with passing yardage and TDs, has a great team around him and, at age 37, chances are Manning's not going to get many more chances to grab the ring.

Then again, Tom Brady has pretty well owned Manning in the past, sporting a 10-4 record in head-to-head match-ups. A lot of those same talking heads seem to think the Brady bunch will find a way yet again to thwart Manning.

So who will win? We'll see. (I'm picking Denver)

At the Australian Open, #1 seed Serena Williams just got knocked off by #14 seed Anna Ivanovic. Quite the upset.

To her credit, in a post-match interview, Serena didn't come out with her usual assortment of whines after she lost. No tummy ache, headache, back spasms, or sore toes. No allergies acting up, sunspots plotting against her, and nary a conspiracy in sight. Amazing. Maybe she's finally starting to mature and show a little good sportsmanship. Sometimes the opponent just plays better. It happens. She even gave Ivanovic a little bit, not much, but some credit for playing well. It's a start.

Thing is, Williams is 32 years old. Not exactly a geezer, but certainly in her "golden years" as a pro tennis player. The competition being what it is these days, a lot of players, both male and female, get kicked to the curb by the kids before they ever see 30.

Could Serena be on borrowed time, and might this be the beginning of the inevitable fall?

Maybe, maybe not. But if she doesn't retire, it's coming, and likely in the near future. One need only look at her sister. Venus is only a single year older than Serena, and was once a dominant tennis player herself, winning everything in sight. Then WHAM. Father Time conked her over the head. The last couple years Venus hasn't even been considered a serious contender in the world of lady's tennis -- at least in single's play. The kids have passed her by and left her in their dust.

Both the past and present legends came as kids themselves, rose to greatness knocking off the old guard, and won a slew of championships. But the wall awaited them all. And in the world of pro tennis it comes at a lot younger age than in most other sports. It's just the nature of the game.

But it's nice to see before she hit it -- Serena finally showed she could be a good sport -- sort of.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Another Friday

Well, let's see. Yours truly got new tires on the Blazer today. And the NY Times crossword was tough -- but I finally solved that sucker. These are good things. In other news....

Jay Leno's time on the Tonight Show is rapidly coming to an end. I will miss him. Jimmy Fallon as his replacement? Get outta here. Leno's only 64, in perfect health, and #1 in the ratings by a long shot. What the hell is NBC thinking?

California's on fire again. Yawn.

Some tycoon movie mogul named Harvey Weinstein plans on making a film starring Meryl Streep that will rid the USA of guns, and cripple the NRA. Really? Streep might have been out of Africa, but she's in America now. Good luck with that, Harv. Methinks you've been smoking too many matzo balls.

On the sports front....

The Lakers continue to get pummeled. They've gone from showtime to blowtime. And what were THEY thinking when they gave Kobe Bryant a new two-year $48.5 million contract? The dude's a shell of his former self, can't stay healthy, and the Lakers have painted themselves into a salary cap corner for a couple years. Crazy.

The Detroit Pistons have a head coach named Maurice (Mo) Cheeks. That name seems to be just about perfect. In a civilized society, one is taught to turn the other cheek when accosted. The way the Pistons are getting slapped around these days, this dude's gonna need a whole lot mo cheeks before the season is over.

But finally, a team came to town the Pistons should beat. The Utah Jazz, woeful cellar dwellers of the entire Western Conference. The Jazz thumped the Pistons by 21 points. Slap. One mo cheek just got lit up.

The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia draw near. Much has been made (in the US) over how gay/lesbian Olympians will be treated while over there. Sadly, the conversation seems to have turned away from the sporting competition itself into a debate over sexual orientation. Vladimir Putin, the Obama of Russia, has said everything's cool. We might not agree with certain lifestyles, he said, but come on over and compete anyway. Evidently, this isn't good enough for some people, particularly certain media rabble rousers. They want more "positive outreach". Well, guess what? It ain't gonna happen. Different countries have different cultures and ways of looking at things. We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. The very definition of the Olympics is bringing the world's finest athletes together every 4 years to compete in their various athletic events -- not to make statements about other walks of life. Besides, the eyes of the entire world will be upon them. The security measures will likely be the best they've ever been. Do you think for one minute Putin and/or his comrades would allow something bad to happen to a foreign athlete -- regardless of how they lived their lives in their own country? No way. So how about we just let them go compete and shut up about the rest while they're doing it? Is that too much to ask?

And don't look now, but the good ole boys, and a couple girls, are already down in Daytona running practice laps and checking out their gear. Seems there's a big race coming up next month.

For those that are into such things -- if you want a book that will keep you up late at night reading it -- I highly recommend Never Look Away, by Linwood Barclay. Though once a best-seller, it's now a few years old and available in paperback for a few bucks. Stephen King called it the best thriller he'd read in 5 years, and I dare say that's an impressive endorsement. Twists, turns, and just when you think you have it figured out -- you don't. No fair peeking at the end. It really is an amazing read for people that are into thrillers.

Finally, I guess it's OK that my beloved yorkies shredded that section of newspaper with the crossword puzzle into confetti when I left them unattended for a while. That's what puppy dogs do.

But if they start gnawing on those new tires, we're gonna have to have another talk.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Peyton Manning and Omaha

A lot of people wondered what Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning meant when he kept yelling "OMAHA" in his pre-snap cadence against the San Diego Chargers. In fact, he did it on a whopping 44 different plays.

Now, according to the Sporting News, that question has finally been answered by no other than Manning himself.

Old #18 said it means a running play. Or maybe a pass play. Or maybe a play-action pass. And it might depend on what quarter of the game it is, which way the wind is blowing, what color jerseys they're wearing that day, which way they're going on the field, and maybe some other stuff.

In other words -- MANY other words -- Manning flapped his gums a lot, but didn't say anything remotely relevant to the original question. True to form, some media folks ate this up like Moses had just come down from the mountain with the tablets again. In their never-ending quest for the almighty "scoop", especially involving one of their heros, they often don't even realize when they're getting played. They'll run with it anyway as if it's big news. What's truly sad is millions of idiots will nod their heads thinking they just learned something when they read the story. Manning could have said "Omaha" signified that any player that lives in a condo -- or house -- should run/block left -- or right -- depending on how many bowls of cereal Chris Christie had for breakfast that particular morning. And somebody somewhere would think this is a hot story. Extra. Extra. Read all about it.

But back to Peyton himself. Whether he wins his second Super Bowl this year remains to be seen, but few would doubt his career is quickly winding down. Another year or two maybe. He may be a lot of things, but the energizer bunny, or nuclear powered, he's not.

Yet when football is over, Manning has another ready-made career waiting for him. Would anyone doubt Peyton has always gravitated to a microphone to spout his platitudes like Rush Limbaugh? Or has a way of mugging up the TV cameras like Regis Philbin? And forget setting records for passing yards and touchdowns. Manning might well be the all-time world record holder for dumb commercials.  But when Peyton talks, fools not only pay attention, but evidently rush right out and go buy things. The man can definitely sell himself.

So the other career? The dude's a born politician. He plays the media to his advantage while never giving a straight answer to a question, is already filthy rich, and he's got built-in name recognition.

Don't be surprised if a Senator Manning gets elected in the next few years.

As for yelling out the word Omaha before so many plays?

He could have said Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Hong Kong, whatever. It's just the name of a town.

But Omaha's got something else going on. A certain very large meat packing company is headquartered there.

And hey. On top of all the other endorsements -- getting free steaks probably isn't such a bad idea either.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma

Understandably, most of the sports buzz these days is about the NFL as the Super Bowl draws nearer. Few have really started to pay attention to the NBA and NHL, though they're already half way through their seasons. And certainly nobody's talking about MLB. They haven't even reported to spring training yet.

Much the same could be said for college hoops, both men's and women's. They're roughly halfway through their seasons as well but, fair or not, the sports public (and media) don't really zero in on them until tournament time in March. It's just the way it is.

But while looking up something else, yours truly stumbled across a legendary name in lady's college hoops, which of course led to another name. The first was Pat Summitt.

Summitt was only 22 years old when she first got the head coaching job of the Tennessee Lady Vols way back in 1974. Good grief, four of her players were only a year younger than she was. Things were a lot different then. President Nixon was on his way out in the wake of Watergate, and the Viet Nam war wasn't quite over yet. Seems like a long time ago.

Also, at that time, lady's college hoops wasn't even an official NCAA sanctioned sport. Of the universities that even fielded a lady's basketball team, few took it seriously. Summitt would be instrumental in changing that, though it would take a while.

Even into the 1980's, lady's hoops basically only had 3 good teams. Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, and Old Dominion. The slugged it out for supremacy while most of the rest were just patsies. Nowadays, every school not only has a women's basketball team, but many devote considerable resources to it as well. Between paying coaches big money and all the recruiting that goes on to field a winning team -- times have changed indeed. Certainly the competition has heated up. When's the last time you heard of Louisiana Tech or Old Dominion even mentioned as being serious contenders? It's been a while, and countless others have passed them by.

But through it all, Pat Summitt retained her standard of excellence. Her Lady Vols would go on to win 8 national championships. Sadly, at the relatively young age of 59, Summitt was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, and had to step aside as head coach. During her long and illustrious career, she had accumulated 1098 victories, with an eye-popping winning percentage of 84.1. No other college hoops coach, men's or women's, has ever eclipsed the 1000 mark.

Had Summitt not been stricken, and continued to coach for maybe 10 more years, entirely possible, it's not much of a stretch to imagine her Lady Vols winning 30 games a year, and her win total might well have approached 1500 before she called it quits. But it was not to be. Though Tennessee conferred the honorary title of Coach Emeritus on Summitt, her win total will forever remain at 1098. Can that ever be overcome? Maybe -- which brings me to.....

Geno Auriemma, that pesky pisano of UConn. Geno's actually only a couple years younger than Pat, and didn't get his start as a head coach until he was 31. But oh my, what a program he has built with the Lady Huskies over the years. Auriemma has since won 8 national championships as well, and has had 4, count em, 4 undefeated seasons along the way. He also has college basketball's longest winning streak on his record. 90 games, which eclipsed that of John Wooden's UCLA Bruins of 88 games. That's very impressive stuff. Further, a couple years ago, Auriemma surpassed Summitt's winning percentage, is now around 86% himself, and climbing. Currently, Geno has 955 wins, still 143 short of Pat's record.

And don't look now, but the Lady Huskies are #1 in the country again. 16-0 at last count this season. While the Vols seem to have fallen back a tad in recent years, the Huskies just keep pouring it on. Sure, success breeds more success. Win a championship or 3, and a lot of blue chip prep players want to go to that school to get in on the action. Summitt certainly enjoyed that luxury in years past, and now perhaps it's Auriemma's turn.

Outside their own personal circles and fan bases, certainly Geno and Pat had their share of detractors. They were perceived in various negative ways, and perhaps they had that coming. They could/can be uppity and arrogant at times. In fact, they didn't even like each other. Or it could have just been the green-eyed jealously monster rearing its ugly head between the two of them, and all the others that couldn't compete with their programs. Food for thought.

Nevertheless, Auriemma and his Lady Huskies show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. He might win 3,4,5 more championships before he calls it quits. This year, they're clobbering everybody, including a 22 point beatdown of then #2 ranked Duke -- at Duke -- a month ago. That former 6' 8" freak Brittney Griner has gone on to the pros, so Baylor's not a problem anymore. Just a few days ago the Huskies went into Waco and beat them by 11.

Even if UConn doesn't win championships or go undefeated, and I wouldn't bet much against either right now, they'll certainly keep piling up 30+ win seasons in the near future under Auriemma.

So do the math. If nothing bad happens to Geno like it did to Pat, he only has to coach maybe another 5 years to easily pass her record of 1098 wins.

And like him or not -- opinions certainly vary -- you just know Geno would like nothing better than to make Pat #2.

Jim Caldwell. Typical Lions

Remember not long ago when so many NFL head coaches got fired on Black Monday, and a couple more followed in the ensuing weeks? Despite all the teams and all the potential candidates' names swirling about to fill all the vacancies --- the one name you never heard a peep about was Jim Schwartz. Like Heather Prynne was doomed to her scarlet red A, Schwartz is now branded forever with the Honolulu blue L. He was a head coach for the Lions. No head coach in their entire history has ever gone on to become an NFL head coach again. While Detroit might be where head coaches come to get rich -- it's also where they come to die. The record is indisputable and speaks for itself.

After Schwartz rightfully finally got shown the door in Detroit, many claimed the Lions were a prime destination, and others would be lining up for that job. Thing is, while the Lions "brain trust" was in their historic slow-motion mode, the other top candidates were being swept up by other teams. Ah, but the Lions had their eye on Ken Whisenhunt all along, some said, but he couldn't be hired until the San Diego Chargers were eliiminated this year. The Chargers were, and Whisenhunt went to the Tennessee Titans. It's really not that hard to understand. Whisenhunt's from Georgia, so he has no serious roots in Michigan or Tennessee. But ask yourself an honest question. Given a choice, for likely about the same money -- which town would you rather spend most of your time in for the next few years? A crime-ridden wasteland like Detroit that's gone bankrupt, or a vibrant city like Nashville with all kinds of good stuff going on? Is that even worthy of debate?

In the end, instead of people beating down their door, it appeared the Lions had to settle for whoever they could get as their next head coach. Enter Jim Caldwell. He's about to get his turn in the mysterious Ford kingdom, trying to make knights out of court jesters. Will he succeed? Hard to say, but nobody has before.

At that, a hard look at Caldwell's own record is somewhat revealing. Yes, like so many others, he bounced around a lot of minor colleges in his younger years as an assistant, before finally getting a shot at being a head coach at Wake Forest in 1993. He was there for 8 years. He went a horrible 26-63 and was fired.

Somehow a guy with that sort of baggage found his way into the NFL. He caught on with Tony Dunge during his Tampa Bay days, and followed him to Indy in 2002. Under the tutelage of Tony Dunge, the Colts would grow into a powerhouse about a decade ago. That team was loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. They would go on to win Super Bowl XLI in early 2007 over the Chicago Bears. Dunge would retire shortly thereafter, and Caldwell inherited the team as head coach. The talent was still there. Indeed, Caldwell would go 14-2 in his rookie season as the Colts' head coach before finally falling short of another Super Bowl victory as a head coach himself.

But during the next couple years with Caldwell at the helm, Indy started to go backwards. After Peyton Manning left, no small loss, Caldwell's Colts went 2-14, and he was fired again. On to the Baltimore Ravens as quarterbacks coach, then offensive coordinator. They won the Super Bowl last year, but John Harbaugh was the head coach, not Jim Caldwell.

It appears Caldwell is one of those guys that's a very good lieutenant, does his due diligence, and carries out his assignments well. But it seems obvious he was never cut out to be a general devising overall war plans. Few folks have the right stuff to be in charge -- while many more are better suited passing along orders that came from a superior that thinks on a higher plane. Caldwell's record would strongly suggest he falls into the latter category.

But since the Fords couldn't seem to get anybody else, Caldwell now finds himself the general of the Lions.

Hey, a likely $25-30 million guaranteed contract isn't exactly a bad job.

But I suspect in 4-5 years, Caldwell will join all his precessors in Lions history on the scrap heap with that same big L tattooed on his forehead.

The Lions and all their local kool-aided scribes can hype this hire all they want -- but this guy is not the answer to what has ailed them for so long. Read it here right now. The Lions will not -- repeat -- NOT be going to a Super Bowl with Caldwell in charge. Ain't gonna happen.

Caldwell might well be a great offensive coordinator, but as a head coach running the show with his own people, he's already proven himself to be a bust.

So the Lions hired him. Given their long sordid history, should that come as any great surprise?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Jersey Super Bowl

Well, OK. Everybody knows that between San Fran, Seattle, Denver, and New England -- two of them are going to meet in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2. But the thing is -- it will be played in New Jersey. It seems the NFL has this nasty habit in recent years of rewarding billionaire owners with a Super Bowl every time they manage to find a reason to blow up their old perfectly functional stadium, and replace it with a shiny new palace, usually at local taxpayers' expense. And along the way, a few hundred more people get booted out of their houses by that "eminent domain" thing, so they can have the pleasure of watching their former homes get bull-dozed while paying for it with their OWN tax dollars. Talk about adding insult to injury. Something is very wrong with this picture, but that's a story for another day.

At any rate, the Super Bowl is going to happen in the Meadowlands. That name itself is laughable. Jersey's got a few things going on, but the town of East Rutherford (where the stadium is) isn't exactly known for it's abundance of peaceful pastures with moo cows grazing about -- ya know? Who's kidding who here?

Regardless, one is left to wonder who the Jerseyites could possibly root for when the Big Dance descends on their town.

San Fran? Jersey doesn't give a rat's behind about Fisherman's wharf, Lombard street, or Alcatraz.

Nor would they give a hoot about Seattle. The home of Starbucks, Microsoft, and the Space Needle is not likely to impress anybody from Jersey.

Denver and some dude named Peyton with a chicken neck, that squawks and flaps his wings like one before every play? Get outta here. Ain't got time for none of that wimpy Coors beer either.

The Patriots are the only team that are within two time zones of New Jersey. But how much love do you think Jersey would have for pretty boy Tom Brady married to some supermodel? Chances are -- not much.

Nope, Jerseyites have more important things to concern themselves with. Like still hating on Archie Bunker when All In The Family reruns come on. Or worse yet, wondering how in the hell their beloved governor got caught up in such a mess over a stupid bridge -- that was named for a guy that's been dead for over 200 years. And besides, he (George Washington) had seriously weird hair, wooden teeth, and how did some dude from Virginia get his name on a bridge that connects New Jersey and New York in the first place?

These are genuine causes for concern. The Super Bowl's just another football game with a bunch of foreigners coming to town to party and tear more stuff up.

To Jerseyites, yeah, those foreigners will spend a lot of money while they're in town. That's a good thing. But a lot of their season ticket holders at the aformentioned Meadowlands will get booted out of their seats for the Super Bowl to make room for various celebrities and politicians that are only there for a few photo-ops. Once the cameras go away -- so will they. And the very same people that ponied up umpteen thousands of dollars to finally get such prime seats over the years will likely start to think just like the people who's houses got bull-dozed a few years before. What kind of system allows this to happen? That's a bad thing. And they will both have a very good point. What kind of system indeed?

Let's get real. Even setting aside the quid pro quo for some billionaire getting a Super Bowl for building a new stadium -- it's ludicrous to stage a mega-event such as the Super Bowl in a northern city, at the beginning of February, in an open venue (no dome). Sure, it might be a balmy 30 degrees with fair skies, and I hope it is.

But it might also be 10 below with high winds and a blizzard passing through dropping a couple feet of snow on the ground.

I dare say the two teams that finally make it to the ultimate game this year have gone through a lot to reach that point. I also dare say the millions of fans around the world want to see them display their talents, and may the best team win.

But that might not happen if Mother Nature is in a bad mood leading up to and including Feb. 2, and decides to dump on East Rutherford. It could happen.

And who knows? Maybe once upon a time Mother Nature couldn't catch her breath in Denver -- or got a bad cup of half-caf latte in Seattle -- or a slimy bowl of chowder in New England. Maybe she even had to do a stretch in Alcatraz under an alias back in the day.

Hmm. She has to be from somewhere. Might even be Jersey.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Geezer vs kid. Who wins?

Regardless of which teams win this year's NFL conference championship games -- barring a major injury -- one thing is certain. There will be a savvy veteran quarterback facing off against a youngster in the Super Bowl.

The AFC championship game features Tom Brady of the New England Patriots against Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos. Between them, they've already won 4 Super Bowls, have a closet full of MVP awards, have established themselves as two of the greatest all-time quarterbacks, and will both certainly be unanimous choices for the NFL Hall of Fame, as soon as they're eligible.

On the other hand, the NFC championship game will feature Colin Kaepernick of the San Fran 49ers against Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. Neither one has won a Super Bowl, and there's nary an MVP between them.

Yes, Kaepernick and the Niners got to the Big Dance last year, but they were defeated by the Baltimore Ravens. Runner-up doesn't count. Ask the people in Minnesota or Buffalo about that. They know a lot about such things from years past. Don't ask the people in Detroit. They're still oblivious. Like the old song goes -- the Lions continue to sleep tonight. Shhhh.

In a way, it seems a shame that Brady and Manning never could, and never will face off in the Super Bowl for all the marbles. That's because they've both always played in the same conference. The best they could ever do was/is meet in the semi-finals. But wouldn't that have been fun to watch?

Thing is, one of them is going to another Super Bowl, while the other slithers away into the off-season. Somebody's gotta lose.

Same thing with Kaepernick and Wilson. There can only be one winning QB when they meet next Sunday. After the game, one of them will be triumphantly giving interviews to the media, while the other hunkers down in the losing locker room. It's just the way it goes.

Which QBs will meet in the Super Bowl is anybody's guess (I think there's 4 different possible combinations). But regardless of how those lottery numbers pop out, it's going to be an old pro squaring off against a young upstart.

Both Kaepernick and Wilson are quite capable of turning a broken play into a big gainer with their feet. Between Manning and Brady -- they have the escapability and foot-speed of a convict running away from prison in double leg irons. Not exactly a threat to get far before they're caught.

But when it comes to the Big Dance, with all the hoopla and pressure that goes along with it -- I'm betting on whichever geezer makes it there to outfox the kid.

At least this year.

Then again, I thought the 49ers would easily defeat the Ravens last year, and we know how that worked out.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Anne Hathaway and the NFL

Though yours truly normally shuns any and all things glitterati, I woke up from a nap on the couch only to see and hear that --- OMG -- actress Anne Hathaway almost got swept out to sea by a rogue wave. It appeared that her husband, bless his courageous heart, was taking pictures from shore of his beloved as she bobbed up and down in the surf. And you know how evil those rogue waves can be. Sometimes they'll plot for months, years, just waiting for a chance to pounce on their chosen target. But fear not, her highness was rescued from it's dastardly clutches and brought to the beach. At that point, her husband again went above and beyond the call of nobility, and tended to her "massive" injuries by giving her --- a pedicure??  What a man. A hero if there ever was one. Yep, there's reasons I don't pay attention to any of the Hollywood nonsense. On to the playoffs.

Now we're getting down to the nitty-gritty. All the wannabes have been dispatched and only 4 teams remain. It could certainly be argued that between San Fran, Seattle, Denver, and New England -- the cream has indeed risen to the top. Though a blow-out is always theoretically possible -- yours truly suspects both conference championship games will be hard fought contests.

The Patriots @ Denver. Brady/Belichick and the no-names keep getting it done, but can they actually go into Peytonland and win? Probably not, but maybe. Tom Brady doesn't make a whole lot of mistakes and, against the Indy Colts, the Patriots trotted out a punishing running game that nobody knew they had. Can or will they do the same to the Broncos?

Denver's defeat of San Diego was food for thought. Yes, the Broncos steam-rolled the Chargers in the first half -- but in the second half SD came roaring back and Denver had to hang on for the win. Do they fade late in games against good competition? Let's not forget, a couple months ago, Denver played New England and were walloping them by over 20 points -- but the Patriots came back and won. Could it happen again? I think not. If Peyton's ever going to win a second Super Bowl, this is the year.

San Fran @ Seattle. As divisional opponents, when they played in Seattle, the Seahawks trounced the Niners. San Fran narrowly escaped with a win when they met again in Candlestick. Certainly the Seahawks will be favored at home with their rabid fans for the NFC championship. But this is an interesting match-up as well. Sure, the Wetbirds have a dominating defense. They're #1 in the league in a lot of categories. But of late, their offense seems to be sputtering some, with young QB Russell Wilson looking unsure of himself.

And the 49ers have a pretty ferocious defense themselves. Look for them to get after Wilson and hopefully force him to make bad decisions resulting in turnovers. Besides, the 49ers have definitely risen to the occasion as road warriors since the playoffs started. Going into Green Bay and winning? Then Carolina to dispatch the Panthers? These guys are on a roll.

Methinks this will be the most brutal game of the whole year. SF and Seattle both play smash-mouth football and hate each other to boot. I suspect a few guys will start the game -- and not finish it. The trainers will likely be busy tending to various injuries once the mayhem begins.

Kudos to San Fran head coach Jim Harbaugh for being the first ever to reach a conference championship game in each of his first 3 years at the helm. Though he's yet to win a Super Bowl -- that's pretty impressive stuff.

But yours truly further suspects Jimbo's gonna have to wait at least another year. Because like former player/coach and current commentator Herman Edwards said -- I don't know what they put in their coffee up there in Seattle on game day -- but whatever it is sure seems to work.

Personally, I'll be rooting for San Fran, cuz I hate how Seattle head coach Pete Carroll bailed on Southern Cal for greener pastures after major infractions happened on his watch. USC got slapped with sanctions while Pete moved north to accept millions. And I don't much like the way he'll gleefully run up the score against an inferior opponent, while clicking on his chewing gum like a used car saleman on steroids. Not cool.

But shaky sophomore QB or not, Seattle will likely prevail.

Hey, that's where Starbucks has its headquarters, right? Maybe Herman Edwards was on to something. Could they be brewing up a special concoction for the team and its fans on game day? Should somebody alert Commisioner Roger Goodell to the possibility that everybody in the whole stadium is on some sort of performance enhancing drugs that makes them crazy?

I dunno.

But I can't wait for next Sunday. This will be good stuff.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

DeSean Jackson and Wile E. Coyote

Now that was interesting. According to reports, Philadelphia Eagle wide receiver DeSean Jackson had his home burglarized while he was away. Well, OK. Stuff happens.

But this wasn't your ordinary burglary. It seem the robbers made off with $250,000 in cash, another $125,000 worth of jewelry, and a couple of semi-automatic handguns. Per the same report, this involved three safes that were in Jackson's house. One was stolen entirely, and the other two were broken into.

This raises a few common sense questions.

Again, it's understandable someone would have a couple guns in their house to protect themselves if need be, and a guy like Jackson having $125,000 worth of bling lying around isn't totally outrageous.

But what kind of fool keeps a quarter million dollars worth of cash in their house? How many pizzas and Girl Scout cookies did this guy plan on having delivered?

Ah, but let's remember the report says all this wasn't just lying around. It was kept in three safes. But if the thieves were able to steal one entire safe and break into the other two -- my question would be -- just exactly where did he buy these safes from? The same place Wile E. Coyote used to purchase his Acme kits in pursuit of the Roadrunner? How did all those work out?

Good grief. Jackson recently signed a 5-year deal with the Eagles for about $47 million. Fifteen million guaranteed and ten million up front. That's a whole lot of money.

One would think he'd have the common sense to spend a little more chump change to buy secure safes. Evidently not. And why 3 safes anyway? Further, how did the burglar(s) know where to find them all? Wouldn't it have made a lot more sense to invest a few thousand more measly bucks and get one big safe that couldn't be broken into, much less stolen? Such products are definitely available. One gets what they pay for.

So here's wishing DeSean Jackson all the best in his future with the Philadelphia Eagles. He's quite the amazing athlete. DJ have moves like wild rabbit. DJ run like cheetah. DJ catch passes like Hollywood starlet. DJ tough like editor.

Alas, when it comes to the simplest of things, evidently....

DJ think like brick.

Oceans, shoes, and the NFL playoffs

You've probably seen the commercial during a game here or there. "It's been said one has to cross an ocean to get a decent car", or something like that. I agree, if one happens to live in a place like Japan or South Korea. That's because their governments slap such high tariffs on imports, most of their citizens will never be able to experience the pleasure of owning an American made automobile.

Then again, in the States, it can also be fairly said one has to cross an ocean to find the 8-10 year olds slaving away for pennies in a sweatshop sewing together the $200-400 a pop fancy tennis shoes that have become all the rage in the US. True enough.

But enough of that. On to the playoffs.

So far, no huge surprises. Last week, in basically toss-up games, Nawleans beat Philly, San Fran knocked off the Cheesers, and Indy sent KC packing. Though San Diego going into Cinci and winning was a bit of an eyebrow raiser.

Earlier today, Indy's luck ran out against the Brady Bunch in New England. They got walloped by 21 points, and it likely could have been worse. The Colts are a young team still finding their way, and they'll probably continue to get better in the future. But hotshot QB Andrew Luck has to get a lot better himself when faced with the pressure of playoff games. So far, 3 games played, 6 touchdown passes, and 8 interceptions. That's not going to get it done. Conversely, Brady/Belichick and company are once again indeed getting it done with seemingly sheer will power, smoke, and mirrors. It seems like the Patriots keep plugging in different no-name guys all over the field year after year -- but somehow they still win. Definitely a tribute to their coaching staff.

Drew Brees and the Saints went down at the hands of the Seahawks up in the madhouse of the northwest. Did anyone really expect a different outcome?

Today, San Diego will face Denver. Yep, the Chargers went in there not long ago and pulled out a win. They've been on a roll. Can they do it again in the playoffs? Doubtful, but I'll guarantee you Tom Brady is hoping they do. If the Chargers pull off a big upset, they have to go to New England for the AFC championship game. If Peyton Manning and the Broncos prevail, New England has to travel to Denver.

In the NFC, San Fran will play at Carolina. Another toss-up game with two very good defenses. The winner has to go to Seattle for the NFC champ game. Thing is, Seattle already knows they can whip SF at home. But if Carolina were to prevail in this game -- that would present an interesting matchup next week. Sure, Seattle would no doubt be favored at home, but Carolina QB Cam Newton is a wild card. If he plays out of his mind -- anything can happen.

Yours truly thought when this season started Denver and Seattle would meet in the Super Bowl -- and still do -- but there's still a few more twists and turns yet to go.

And hey, it's the NFL. On any given Sunday -- ya never know.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Miami Heat and the dog days

Many are asking what's wrong with the Miami Heat? They just lost to the not-so-good Brooklyn Nets, and the night before were beaten by the NY Knicks. (Yes, the same Knicks that have a player named J.R. Smith, who seems to have fallen into the playful little habit of untying an opponent's shoelaces once in a while. This is a great gag -- if one is maybe a year or two out of kindergarten -- but the powers that be in the NBA aren't amused. His last little such stunt cost him $50 grand, and J.R. now finds himself being shopped around by the Knicks for whoever else will take him). But back to the Heat.

Actually, there's nothing wrong with them, other than going through the dog days of an NBA season. Let's discount the pre-season where NBA teams play 8 games. They're more like walk throughs, and hardly bitterly contested. But the regular season consists of 82 games, and that's a whole bunch. On top of that, good teams, like Miami, that go deep into the playoffs, might well wind up playing over 100 games before the season is over. And all those playoffs games will indeed be hard fought.

So it only makes sense for a team to pace itself somewhat while going through the regular season. Nobody's going to win them all, no matter how good they are. It would be foolish to go all-out during every regular season game, only to run out of gas when they needed it most -- running the gauntlet of the playoffs.

Right now, most NBA teams have played between 35-40 games. For the really good teams like Miami, they're probably bored. The know they're a lock to go to the playoffs, and there's still over 40 games remaining to sort out home court advantages. Barring a slew of injuries, would anyone seriously doubt the Heat will be no worse than the #2 seed in the East, perhaps behind only the Indiana Pacers?

At that, Miami has been resting superstar guard Dwyane Wade, who's been experiencing back spasms. Could he play if need be? Sure, and you can bet your kids' college fund he WOULD be on the court if this was playoff time. But it's not.

It's the dog days of the NBA, and they'll likely last another month or so, until the All-Star game is played on Feb. 16. After that break, look for teams to come out and start getting serious jockeying for playoff position. Right now the good teams are just going through the motions, and don't want to get anybody seriously hurt. Sure, there's some mediocre teams that have to play hard every night and hope they make it into the playoffs. And there's the bottom feeders that have no chance anyway. They just do the best they can.

So yeah, while some might wonder how mighty Miami, two-time defending World Champs, can lose to the likes of Brooklyn, the Knicks, and earlier in the season to Philly and Detroit, it's not exactly cause for alarm.

Hey, last time I looked the Heat were 27-10. Not too shabby. If they sleep-walked through a few games against teams they would normally be expected to rout -- while looking bored themselves -- it really should come as no great surprise.

It's a long season, and currently the Heat are just slogging through it. They know a different day, a different team in a different city, a different motel, and a whole lot of plane rides and air miles are in store before the lights finally go up for the playoffs.

Sure, overall, the NBA West is vastly superior to the East. But they can only send one team to the Finals.

But I wouldn't be betting those college funds against Miami waiting for them there yet again, going for a three-peat. And they might just well pull it off.

So yours truly would suggest that any who are wondering what is wrong with Miami right now -- will have that question answered in May and June.

Nothing's wrong with these guys. They're just biding their time.....