Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tiger Woods hits rock bottom

After the first round of the Phoenix Open, Tiger Woods had posted a score of 73. Two over par. Maybe not too shabby, but there was a problem. The par 71 course was being sliced and diced by most everybody else, so Eldrick found himself 9 shots back. That's a bunch after only one round.

But after all, he was still rounding back into "tournament shape", he said in a post-round press conference. OK.

On to the second round. Tiger would shoot an embarrassing 82. If he had driven a car like he did the golf ball, he would have been arrested for DUI. His chipping game looked like he was alternately playing with nerf clubs or sledge hammers. Putting? He found his stroke again, alright. Lots of them. Stroke, stroke, stroke. Bless her heart, it reminded yours truly of the last time I took my 80-some year old mother to a putt-putt course. You know how hard it is to intentionally lose such a contest? Tiger's putting was sort of like that. Not good.

So after the second round, Tiger then found himself a ridiculous 23 strokes back. In dead last place. Mercifully, he didn't make the cut. Had he been allowed to play on Saturday and Sunday, how out of hand might have this become? Would he have wound up 40 strokes behind? 60? 

But incredibly, Woods couldn't wait to talk to the reporters again. Has the man no shame in his entire being?

Consider a hockey team that just got beat by over 20 goals. A baseball team by 30 runs. A basketball or football team by 60 points. Total blowouts. Do you think any member of the losing team would want to give an interview? Of course not. They'd slink away to the locker room to lick their wounds. Not Woods. He says he's still grinding. Well golly gee whiz, that would appear to be rather obvious.

However, one never knows how Tiger might have fared if given the opportunity to play another round in Phoenix. He's been known to pull off a few miracles in the past. All he needed was a single round on Saturday like North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shot his first time out. Eight or nine holes-in-one, and an 18 hole score of, say, 45 . A record-shattering 26 under par for a single round and Tiger still wouldn't have taken the lead, but at least his total score would have become respectable. And who knows? If he went out on Sunday and followed up with yawnish 60, he might have even been "in the hunt".

But for now, Eldrick remains terrible. Rock bottom. Embarrassing. My mom and a couple of her blue-haired friends would have to spot him some strokes if he rounded out their foursome to even things up. Even up, the young lad wouldn't have a chance of winning against such competition.

Oh my, how far he has fallen. Then again, perhaps some good will come of this. If Tiger finally, mercifully admits he can no longer play with the "big boys" on Tour, maybe he can take my place with mom and her friends at the putt-putt joints.

And hey, it might not pay as well, but he'll learn a thing or two about gin rummy in the clubhouse after those hair-raising rounds on the "links" battling the windmills and evil clowns.

This whole shameless publicity thing with the press conferences would come to a screeching halt. I'm quite confident the ladies would quickly put that young whippersnapper in his place. And not even the most intrepid of reporters would rush in where angels fear to tread.

Been there, done that. Better him than me in the future.

Richard Sherman's next contract

This week's edition of Sports Illustrated featured an article written by Seattle Seahawks' cornerback Richard Sherman. In it, he spoke of a lot of things, but the first paragraph was an attention getter.

Addressing his up-coming contract situation, Sherman said Seattle GM John Schneider had posed an interesting question to him. "Who are you going to be when you get paid?"

To which Sherman replied, "I'm not playing football for the money....... I'll be the guy who has $50 million in the bank but plays like he has $5". Besides philosophizing on other matters, #25 made sure to mention several of his backfield teammates. There was the Lion, The Chill Guy, The Example, and even a dog. Taken out of context, this could sound like a side-show that P.T. Barnum would have been proud of.

Sherman failed to mention how the rest of his interview with Schneider went, so here's a make believe version that might have been appropriate.

Schneider. "OK then. I'll take you at your word about the money not being important".

Sherman. "Ummm...."

"As the GM, it's my job to keep track of player stats, and yours seem to have fallen off lately".

"Pardon me?"

"You only had 8 passes defended and 4 interceptions this year. In 2013 you had 16 and 8. The year before 24 and 8. It is what it is. Here's the stat sheet if you want to look at it".

"Yeah, but that's not fair. I'm the best cornerback in the league. Everybody except Darrelle Revis will tell you so. The reason my stats are down is because the other quarterbacks are afraid to throw in my direction".

"I'm not allowed to talk to opposing QBs to get their opinions on such things, but even assuming you're right, the fact remains your defensive teammates are making most of the plays while you're on cruise control".

"Something is seriously wrong with..."

"Hold up. You just told me it's not about the money, but in the same breath mentioned $50 million dollars. I'm not exactly sure what to make of that, but perhaps we can find some mutual ground".

"Such as?"

"If you'll play as hard as you said you would, then I'm prepared to offer you an incentive-laden contract. What could be fairer that that?"

"I don't think I like where this is going".

"Just listen, Richard. You're about to be a free agent, with or without another Super Bowl ring, depending on whether the Brady Bunch kicks your ass or the other way around. But I'm still the GM."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Remember what happened to Golden Tate after last year when he wouldn't listen to reason? He wound up with the Detroit Lions".

"OK, you have my attention".

"So here's the deal. I'll guarantee you the minimum salary, which will be around $500,000 next year".

"Hey, that's chump change".

"Hush. In your years here I see where you've been in on about 100 tackles a year. We'll pay you an additional $10,000 for every tackle the stat people credit you with being in on. Keep up the production and that's another million bucks right there".

"I'm not sure...."

"Hear me out. I'll throw in another $100,000 for every pass you break up and $250,000 for every interception. If you get your numbers back up, that could be another 2 or 3 million".

"But how can I do that if they don't throw my way?"

"We've been over that Richard. You're a smart guy, you'll figure it out. Further, I'll toss in another million if we get back to the Super Bowl any year you remain under contract to us in the future. If things work out, you could easily be making $5 million a year or more".

"I was thinking of a little more than that".

"Stop it. Did you take any math classes while you were at Stanford?"

"What's that got to do with anything?"

"If you had, you would realize that while a potential $5 million a year is only one tenth of the ridiculous $50 million figure you (LOL) mentioned, it is also one million times more than the five bucks you also mentioned in the same breath. And need I remind you millions of SI subscribers just read your own article where you said the money wasn't important?"

"I'll have to think about this".

"Please do so, but you might want to be quick about it. After the Super Bowl, the phones will start ringing around the league. It's always a hectic time of year for players, agents, and GMs trying to sort things out. And hey, given the fact you've been a west coast guy all your life, maybe a change of scenery would do you good. I hear the Lions are hard up for cornerbacks these days. You could reunite with your old buddy Golden and Detroit's such a lovely city".

"Whoa. I'm beginning to see the light".

"Thought you might and one more thing".

"What's that?"

"Get a haircut. Out of your entire 10 man group photo in SI, you're the only one with girly locks. Good grief Richard, if you want to say you've matured, then start looking like it".

"Damn, I knew it was a business, but this is rougher than I thought......"

Friday, January 30, 2015

Katy the Pooh and Tig(g)er too

Well then. In her never-ending, and sometimes shameless quest for pub(l)icity, the Poohster girl, AKA Katy Perry, has done it again. Somehow she wormed her way into the pre Super Bowl hype wearing a "football" shirt that looked like it could have been worn at Woodstock after taking one too many hits of acid. Or perhaps a nouveau riche, but deranged sports fashion show. I'm telling ya -- that woman was showing off some serious balls. Ahem.

Ms. P, who likely doesn't know the difference between a field goal and field corn, nevertheless tried to "frame" her 15 seconds into a recent controversy. There would be nothing "deflated" about her, she quipped. Very (gag) cute, and entirely believable, especially when it comes to her ego. How many PSI is THAT at these days?

On another front, there's the one and only Eldrick Tont Woods, AKA Tiger. Sound the trumpets and bring on the legions of groupies to once again pay homage. His Highness is back out on tour.

Remember a few days ago when Tiger got a tooth or two accidentally knocked out by a cameraman when he showed up to watch his significant other in a snow skiing contest?

Now harkon back to all his years on tour, when he and his caddy would become highly indignant -- even outraged -- if a fan dared get too close to the action, or impede their progress through the "gallery" in any way. "Clear a path, you lowly peons, and know your place. Can't you see we're working here?"

But at the base of the ski slope, Tiger did exactly the same thing. He had to get "inside the ropes", replete with police protection no less, the better to embrace his beloved after her descent down the mountain. And guess what? A cameraman was just trying to do HIS job. Tiger got in the way and wound up going to the dentist for some work.

You know what I call that? Justice.

Now Woods is playing at a tournament sponsored by Waste Management. That seems appropriate, given his performances, or lack thereof, in recent years.

After only one round, Tiger is a whopping 9 shots behind. Incredibly, he's still front and center on the TV highlight reels. Reporters continue to flock to him for interviews. What is the matter with these people and how bad does this guy have to get before the spell is finally broken?

He's not going to catch Jack and his major record. Forget that. It's over. While Woods can continue to wallow in his sizeable endorsements, his immediate concern would appear to be merely making the "cut" in a tournament, let alone winning it. His driving is still erratic, and his short game at times embarrassing. But every once in a while, he'll pull off a great shot.

Tiger chalked up his dismal opening performance at Phoenix Open by saying this was only his second tournament in the last six months. True enough. But what's also true is that golfers don't exactly have to round back into "game shape" like NFL or NHL players, which only comes after facing "live" competition for a while. Last time yours truly looked, there was very little high speed contact amongst participants on the PGA tour -- though that would indeed make the sport infinitely more entertaining to watch. Can you imagine? Bubba cracks Rory in the neck with a 7 iron. Tweet. Two stroke penalty for high-clubbing. Phil sticks his putter where Jason's sun doesn't shine. Tweet. Personal foul. A 15 yard penalty to be assessed on the following tee for Lefty. The possibilities are endless. But how much fun would THAT be to watch? And talk about TV ratings going through the roof......

But back to Tiger and his "only second tournament" alibi. Horsefeathers. Any pro golfer will tell you they don't play against the competition, but against the courses themselves. Besides God-given talent, what does a professional golfer, especially one with the experience of Woods, need to get his game to the elite level? A few things.

A set of golf clubs. Lots of balls, no offense Katy, a variety of courses to practice on, and some serious time practicing on the driving range, chipping and putting greens, sand trap shots, etc. Woods had all of this at this disposal. Tell me he can't show up at pretty much any golf course he wants and play free all day, and I'll tell you I don't believe it. Hell, they'd probably pay him to be there.

So when he comes back out on tour, his "rusty" alibi doesn't hold much water. Either he can still play at a high level, or he can't. And few would doubt Father Time isn't exactly working in his favor these days. The young guns keep coming and, in their minds, Tiger is no longer the fearsome presence he once was, but rather just another old famous dude they KNOW they can beat.

Now 39, Eldrick Tont Woods' crossroads will come at the Masters in a little over a month. This is the most prestigious tournament in the world, and there is ZERO doubt everything Tiger does from now until then will be geared toward him having his A-game in order for Augusta National.

If he wins it, Katy (there's that name again) bar the door. His legions will be delirious with excitement. Talking heads will spontaneously combust on the air. TIGER IS BACK!!!!. The replays will go on for weeks, months, years. The entire Middle East may well have long since settled their differences with everybody living in peace and harmony before the Tiger video clips stop. Let's just say it could be a while.

If he's competitive, but doesn't win, his fans will still hold out hope. Even making the cut, no given, could be considered a sign of progress. Perhaps better things await him in the future. Could be.

But if he totally crashes and burns on a course he is so familiar with and has spent weeks prepping for -- than that would present a whole different scenario, which could basically be summed up in five words.

Stick a fork in him.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Marshawn Lynch (non)interview

"I'm only here so I won't get fined". Over and over again, Seattle Seahawks' running back Marshawn Lynch said the same thing to a throng of reporters on "media day" leading up to the Super Bowl.

Was what he did OK or not? There's two different ways of looking at it. Let's consider them both.

1) Most of us can likely agree with Roger Goodell on at least one thing. Playing in the NFL is a privilege -- not a right. Regardless of how good he might be, when a player enters the league and starts collecting those hefty paychecks and enjoying the perks that come along with it -- he also agrees to play by NFL rules.
Like it or not, one of those long-standing rules has been players will make themselves available to the media on certain occasions. After all, the beat writers, columnists and talking heads are just trying to do their jobs. Interviewing players gives the media an in-depth look into the sport which they can then pass along to the public. And who would dispute that the media has been instrumental in the NFL becoming as wildly successful as it is? If nobody wrote about, broadcast it, and provided the hype over the years, it's a pretty safe bet the league wouldn't have grown into the all-consuming monster it has become.
Along that line of reason, it's likely also safe to say the prices wouldn't have spiralled into the world of the absurd. This includes tickets, parking, concessions, and especially player salaries.
Guys like Marshawn Lynch wouldn't be making anywhere near the preposterous sum of $8,000,000 a year to run with a football if it weren't for how the media has propelled them (and the game) into "stardom" over the years.
So in that sense, one would think the least Lynch could do was talk frankly to reporters for an hour or so here and there, especially on Super Bowl media day. Snubbing the same people came off as Lynch being an unappreciative ingrate. Dare I use the phrases ego maniac, self entitled, and all-around smug SOB?
People that share this opinion have a valid point.

2) However, there's a flip side to this coin. It could certainly be argued that the NFL's mandate itself has not only been wrong all along, but egregiously so. Name the profession and in no other walk of life can one be compelled to talk to reporters if one doesn't wish to.
Sure, reporters can and will pry with their cameras and microphones to get a story here and there, but any individual certainly has the right to decline an interview, regardless of how "hot" the issue may be and the public craving for the news. Forcing them to do so would seem tantamount to a sort of Inquisition and isn't America supposed to be above such tramplings of basic human rights?
If someone doesn't want to talk for whatever reasons, then so be it. Good grief, even those accused of the most heinous crimes are afforded their right to silence under the long-standing Miranda ruling.
Yet jocks like Lynch face a choice of either making an appearance to answer questions he clearly doesn't wish to, or getting zapped with a hefty fine if he refuses to show. This, while knowing full well every word he utters will be dissected and spun to whatever advantage some would make of it. One misstatement and the media vultures will eat him alive and broadcast it to millions -- repeatedly. Certainly he should have a right to decline such an interview, considering the potential risks involved.
People that share this opinion have an equally valid point.

So Marshawn Lynch split the difference. He showed up, but only offered the same response to the variety of questions -- as mentioned at the beginning of this article. Like him or not, it was actually quite a brilliant tactic. Technically, he abided by NFL rules, but didn't allow himself to get caught up in the barrage of withering questions and follow-ups the media was after. This is no more or less than your average politician does during a debate -- with one notable difference. They won't answer questions either -- but they've perfected a way of convincing the idiots they have. Lynch was just more blunt about it. Maybe there's a reason after all why his salary dwarfs those of governors, senators, and the Prez. Well played, Marshawn.

Ah hell, he's probably going to get fined anyway. Goodell and company will figure out a way. And I, for one, didn't much care for his holier-than-thou attitude, so I hope he does.

Further, as long as the the NFL is into stupid rules, maybe they should make a new one. No pimp shades allowed during press conferences.

Is that too much to ask?


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Bonehead Files. Detroit Lions' media and fans

Yours truly was a maniacal Detroit Lions fan for over 30 years. From a little kid until I was in my 40s. From Alex Karras and Tiger Stadium, to Barry Sanders' final game in the Silverdome. I really don't know how many games I attended and how much money I spent over that period in my loyalty to the Honolulu blue and silver, but it was a lot -- both ways.

But when Barry walked back in '98, I shared his epiphany. We paid our dues and tried as hard as we could, but enough of this nonsense. This clown franchise isn't going anywhere, so why bother? Turns out, the last 16 years have served as proof positive of that. Not a single playoff win, let alone getting anywhere near sniffing the Super Bowl. Sanders left untold millions on the table, and likely the all-time rushing record. Yours truly probably saved enough for a new car, or maybe beer money over those same16 years. Never did do the math on that and pretty sure I don't want to know anyway. And, of course, there's the matter of not having gotten my hopes up, only to be disappointed 16 more times. How much is that worth? So no, yours truly has never been to a game at Ford Field and has no desire whatsoever to do so, even though he's been offered free seats on occasion by season ticket holders that could't make it for one reason or another. Done is done.

Yet the madness goes on. In Detroit, every year is THE year as proclaimed by their media and gobbled up by the still gullible fans. Guess what? No, it's not. It never has been, wasn't last year, and a look around the league strongly suggests the Lions will remain mediocre in the foreseeable future.

As for who should be inducted into the Bonehead Files? Actually, there are several more worthy candidates.

It was breathlessly reported that Lions' QB Matthew Stafford threw for over 300 yards in the recent Pro-Bowl game. OMG, the second-most ever. Sounds great, until one considers the next to nothing defense in such contests. The D-line doesn't rush. They play patty-cake with their O-line counterparts. No blitzes allowed. The receivers can pretty much run wild in the secondary because nobody's going to hit them hard. Exalting Matthew Stafford for chalking up big passing yardage is like idolizing an NHL center/forward for scoring a hat-trick in their similar "no defense allowed" All-Star game (the last one had a score of 17-12). Welcome to the Bonehead Files.

The Super Bowl between Seattle and New England has yet to be played and the NFL draft is still months away. But already there are those in the Lions' camp offering projections. Who should they take with their first round pick, assuming he's still on the board when Detroit's turn comes?

The Lions have had mixed success over the years when it comes to the draft. They've grabbed some players that turned out well, but many others that were busts. The "Lions' brain-trust" could fairly be considered an oxymoron more years than not in their history. But never fear, there are also those in their media who will analyze things for the fans. One such story had a possible draft pick graded out as having "Pro-Bowl" potential. Nevermind this guy hasn't even been drafted yet, if the Lions even pick him, much less played a single down in the NFL. We're talking Pro-Bowl caliber in the future while the guy is still on a college campus? What's next? The Canton Hall of Fame possibilities of a kid on his JV high school team? Welcome aboard the good ship Bonehead.

All in all, oh my, the Koolaid season seems to have started earlier than usual this year in Detroit with their beloved puddy-tats. And if their fans, goaded on by the above-mentioned media, REALLY think next year is going to be the one -- well -- jump on in -- again.

The Bonehead Files await you. It takes a little getting used to admitting you were an idiot all along, but after a while the truth always has a way of setting you free.

Cheaper too.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Coach K, Pat, and Geno

First of all, congrats to Duke hoops coach Mike Krzyzewski on winning his 1000th game. Yet it has been mistakenly reported that Coach K is the winningest college basketball coach of all time. Not quite.

That honor still belongs to Pat Summitt, long known for the dynasty she built while with the Tennessee Lady Vols. Amazingly enough, Summitt became the head coach of the Lady Vols while still only 22 years old. She had several players merely one year her junior. After 38 years of wildly successful coaching, Ms. S would have to step down from her duties, while only at the relatively young age of 59, due to early-onset Alzheimers.

Yet she had compiled a whopping 1098 victories. Had illness not struck, no telling how many more she could have racked up. To this day, still only 62 years old, given her love for the game/job, Summitt may well have coached many more years. Over her career at UTenn, her teams averaged 28.9 wins per year, and had an overall winning percentage of 84.1.

On the other hand, Coach K is closing in on 68 years old, though he looks much younger. He's coached for 40 years (two more than Pat) and is still almost 100 victories shy of her record. To be fair, there is little question that men's college basketball has been, and remains more competitive than the lady's version. Typically, there are only 2-3 teams of gals that are considered "elite" every year, while the guys side is usually much more wide open. Put another way, top ladies' programs have a lot of "gimme" games against far inferior competition, while the boys have to pretty much "bring it" in most games or risk being defeated. In that respect, Summitt enjoyed a distinct advantage for many years. Her Vols played a lot of games against schools that didn't even take ladies' basketball seriously. No scholarships were offered and they were mostly whatever rag-tag team of walk-ons they could cobble together.

Then again, Coach K doesn't show any signs of slowing down any time soon and, given his Duke program, it's not much of a stretch to imagine them winning 25 games a year for the next 4 or 5 while he remains head coach to surpass Summitt. Time will tell if he decides to hang around that long. Given continued good health, this will totally be up to him. It's not like he's going to get fired or jump to the pros.

Yet another gorilla will be entering the room soon. One Geno Auriemma, head coach of the UConn Lady Huskies. The diminutive Italian stallion could wind up being the best of them all -- actually by a wide margin. Yes, he's just closing in on 900 career victories, still a hundred behind Coach K, and two hundred back of Coach Pat. That's a lot of games still to be won.

But he has several things working in his favor. Summit coached 38 years. Krzyzewski 40 and counting. Auriemma has coached but 30 and is only approaching his 61st birthday. He looks like he's 45, maybe 50, and clearly still loves what he does. His career winning rate to date is an astounding 87%. Better than Pat, and far better than Coach K. And don't look now, but his team is -- again and still -- elite. They're currently ranked #2 and it wouldn't surprise many if Geno and his Lady Huskies won yet another national title this year. Even if not, 30 win seasons are almost a given to that program in the near future, considering how cream of the crop preps have to get in line to go to UConn. Winning breeds more winning, and the beat goes on.

Do the math. Auriemma's 7 years younger than Coach K and only 100 victories behind him. Coach Pat will forever be stuck at 1098.

Health allowing and the fire remaining, if Geno decides to keep coaching for another 10 years or so -- and his teams continue at the blistering pace they appear on track to do -- he could set the all-time win bar so high nobody will ever get close again.

After all, Coach K, Pat, and Geno all got head coaching jobs when they were quite young. That doesn't happen much anymore, particularly at top programs. And when they started, there wasn't much money in it. They did it for the love of the game.

Nowadays, guys and gals serve many years as "assistants" learning their craft before getting a shot at a head coaching job.

And their salaries have gone through the roof once they get there. Even if they could, nobody's going to keep going through the rigors of coaching for 30-40 years when they have a bazillion dollars in the bank.

So Mike might pass Pat. And Geno might well pass them both before he's done.

And that will pretty much be that. Nobody else will get close again. Ever.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Maria Sharapova and the screaming

Maria Sharapova is a lot of things, not the least being the #2 ranked ladies' tennis player in the world. She seems bright, well-spoken, and humble enough. Also not too hard on the eyes, especially if one has a preference for tall, blond stick-girls with very large bank accounts.

But she's also a screamer and Sharapova is in full-howl mode at this year's Australian Open. Again. Every single time she strikes a tennis ball on the court -- she shrieks. Every serve, every fore and backhand -- it doesn't matter. At times when she hits a bad shot, she'll shriek when she first strikes it -- then again when it doesn't go where she wanted it to. A double scream in the course of less than half a second.

While yours truly definitely appreciates Ms. Sharapova's talents, it becomes extremely difficult to watch her play. I mean, what is a fan to do? We want to hear the sound of the rackets striking the tennis balls and the crowd reaction, etc., so the "mute" button isn't the best option. But who wants to be subjected to somebody shrieking every two seconds? This can get very old -- very fast.

Does Sharapova act the same way in real life? Without getting into the industrial strength ear protection that would likely be necessary in the boudoir for a male suitor, does she get that vocal when performing routine tasks? When driving a car, does she shriek every time she hits the brakes or signals a left/right turn?

Imagine her ordering breakfast at a restaurant. "I'd like a (SCREAM) glass of orange juice. One (SHRIEK) poached egg, a half order of (YOW) wheat toast, and a small side of (AIEEEE) hash browns." Chances are, the waitress would think she had a lunatic on her hands. "We have a problem. Security to Table 6."

But in the whole scheme of things it could be worse. Much worse, actually. What if, instead of shrieking, Sharapova had the same problem with flatulence? You know, farts.

Every time she struck the ball on the court, she ripped off a beauty. BRRRRRTZ. That would change everything. After a few hundred of those, forget the earplugs. They might have to evacuate the stadium and bring in a HazMat team to fumigate and decomtaminate it. This could definitely lead to longer matches. And who would want to pay big bucks to sit in the stands while having to wear a gas mask while some tennis player (and #2 would take on a whole different meaning) was soiling her nethergarments every 5 seconds or so?

It could even escalate. A squadron of fighter jets might scramble to check out the mysterious brown mushroom cloud rising above Melbourne. OMG, it's a terrorist attack. Fire at will. This could get out of control.

Yours truly once had a large outside dog. I built him a double-insulated two-room dog house, a regular canine palace to sleep in. I loved that boy, but he would bark -- all night long. The neighbors complained. Then I found a vet that did a "debarking" procedure. Quite painless, and it worked. My boy lived to be a ripe old age and enjoyed a lot of comforts and companionship along the way, but he had been muted. It was best for all.

It's probably not realistic to consider Maria Sharapova having the same procedure done because, after all, I'm pretty sure she would never settle for a two-room house, no matter how fancy it was.

But something really needs to be done about her incessant shrieking.

Are muzzles allowed on the pro tennis circuit while they're in action on the court? If not, they should be. In the case of some players -- mandatory.

With any luck John McEnroe would endorse them. Who better to be the poster child for such a product?

Just a thought.....

The amazing Atlanta Hawks

Many thought the Cleveland Cavaliers would zoom to the top of the NBA's Eastern Conference when Lebron James "went home". So far it hasn't happened. And the East isn't exactly stacked with great teams like the West. In fact, out of 15, only 5 are above .500 as this is written.

The Toronto Raptors have shown well, as have the Washington Wizards. The Bulls in Chitown remain an enigma. They have scads of "talent", but who knows how they'll play on any given night?

The rest of the conference -- all ten of them -- vary from mediocre to downright terrible.

Then there are the Atlanta Hawks. Who saw them coming? Currently, they far and away sport the best record in the East at 36-8, including having won their last 15 in a row and counting. And it's not like they're just beating up on weaklings. They have a 14-2 record against teams from the mighty West. Just last night they easily dispatched the Oklahoma Thunder who have been on a roll themselves since getting a couple of their superstars back from injury.

What's somewhat unusual is the Hawks don't have a single superstar on their entire roster. Out of the 15 members of the squad, the highest paid is making $12 million. Sure, that's a lot of money, but it pales in comparison to "superstar" contracts elsewhere. Kobe Bryant made twice that much this year and he's a shell of the player he used to be. Plus, he hasn't even been able to stay healthy in recent years. He's out again with another season-ending injury on a terrible team to begin with.

For that matter, fully 10 of Atlanta's 15 earn less than $5 million. So how can it be that the Hawks have the best record in the entire NBA, not counting the Golden State Warriors? (The GSW are also somewhat surprising, but not that much. While others have received most of the hype, they've quickly and quietly assembled a formidable squad themselves.)

Quick question: Who's the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks? The majority of people don't know. Turns out, it's a guy named Mike Budenholzer. Hardly a household name like many of his peers.

Budenholzer was a typical high school and small college jock. Very good, but not good enough to make it to the "big leagues". So after graduating, he played and even coached for a pro team in Denmark for a couple years. Then he made the best decision of his life. Somehow he got a job with the San Antonio Spurs as merely a video technician. A couple years later, he was promoted to assistant coach. And for the next 16 years, he would learn under the tutelage of Gregg Popovich. He was there when the Spurs won 4 World Championships. That was one helluva long apprenticeship, but few would doubt Coach Pop has proven himself a master of developing the ultimate in team play. Who better to learn from?

It appears to have rubbed off because the Hawks now play in much the same way. Unselfishly. Everybody knows their jobs and are expected to do them. While the Spurs had their fair share of "stars" over the years, none ever had an "I" problem. It was always about the team. It remains so to this day. That could squarely be attributed to Popovich. He would settle for nothing less and every player got treated the same.

Budenholzer has brought the same philosophy to the Atlanta Hawks, and look where they are now. The players have "bought in" and, so far, remain humble. Though they lack superstars, they have enough talent that, when playing hard as a cohesive unit, can get the job done -- against anybody. Winning 28 of their last 30 can hardly be chalked up to a lucky streak. Further, they seem to relish doing the "dirty work", sometimes known as playing hard-nosed defense. It takes a lot of energy and comes with few accolades, but any coach from preps to pros will tell you having a team willing to work as hard on the defensive end for stops as on the offensive one for stats, is a huge asset. It takes the right kind of coach to sell it, and the right kind of players to actually do it.

Perhaps the last team we've seen like this were the 2004 Detroit Pistons. Their motto was "going to work". And it paid off. They defeated the heavily favored Lakers 4-1 in the NBA Finals. The Lakers had "star" power, but for the most part the Pistons were a bunch of guys that were cobbled together after other teams failed to see their value as individual players and let them go for little in return. But given the right coach, one Larry Brown at the time, who could get them to come together with a collective "junk-yard dog" mentality and -- well -- the rest is history.

Since then, only 5 teams have won the NBA title. The above-mentioned Lakers (2) and Spurs (3). The Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics grabbed one apiece. And we all remember the Miami Heat's two-peat just a couple years ago. Actually they won another one back in 2006 before Lebron and Chris took their talents to South Beach for a total of three.

So can the Hawks win the title this year? It's possible, but not likely. Though it's a given they'll make the post-season, they also have little battle experience when things get down to the nitty-gritty dog-eat-dog world of the playoffs. Even if they make it out of the rather weak East, whoever emerges from the slaughterhouse of the superior West will be a formidable opponent indeed.

But here's rooting for them. After all, when's the last time Atlanta was able to celebrate a world championship in any sport? I don't remember either, but it's definitely been a while.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Inflated Football Story

We know a few things about the recent AFC Championship game. The Patriots defeated the Colts 45-7 in a blowout. That's a fact. It was raining in Foxborough during the game. Another fact. Saying the Patriots were clearly the better team throughout, on both sides of the ball, would seem to be indisputable.

Then it was discovered that 11 of the 12 "Patriot" footballs were under-inflated. Would this have given them an advantage in the rain? Sure. QB Tom Brady could grip the ball better, and hence make make more accurate short throws. And after all, in a downpour, you won't see too many QBs attempting to throw 50-60 bombs anyway.

Many are calling for the Patriots to be hammered because they cheated -- again. Remember Spygate and all that? That particular boondoggle cost them a first round draft pick, actually quite a hefty penalty.

But a lot of questions remain regarding the current dilemma. Who gave the order and/or was responsible for these balls being put into play? Belichick? Brady? Another coach or assistant? Should the New England equipment manager be hauled before Congress to testify? Nobody knows for sure, and we likely never will.

And what's really to be done about it at this point anyway? Would anyone suggest the Patriots should forfeit the Super Bowl? I can think of a few billion reasons why that's not going to happen, and they all have to do with money. TV contracts, various sponsors that have already ponied up tera-bucks for ad time, every tavern on the planet gearing up for their Super Bowl parties, and the bazillions of dollars that already have, or will be wagered on the game before it kicks off on Feb.1. A forfeit is simply not an option. Going back to negate the AFC Championship game and give the Colts a victory? Please. What's done is done and not even the bumbling Emperor Goodell would dare issue such an edict. Can you imagine what would happen if he tried? It would result in utter chaos. Too many people with too many dollars at stake would run totally amok. Sort of like Congress or the Pentagon, but I digress.

So I think we can fairly assume that despite whatever happens in the wake of Airgate -- the Pats and Seahawks will still be meeting in Super Bowl 49.

But how did this mini-travesty happen in the first place? Because the NFL got a little too cute and wound up tripping over it's own feet.

There's no reason -- NONE -- why either team should have their own "balls". They all come from the same place anyway. Let enough of them be stored -- say 30-40 -- in a room of the stadium that is monitored by an impartial NFL official for any given game. They should all be the same.

Sure, we've long known "kickers" get different balls that are overinflated. That enables them to boot them out of the end zone on kickoffs and makes 50 yard field goals almost routine. But it doesn't make it right. Place-kickers can tell the difference between a regular ball and kicking ball. Witness them squeezing it before they tee it up. It would take a strong leg indeed to kick a nerf ball 75 yards. Kickers demand the "juiced" balls.

For that matter, next time you watch an NFL game, pay particular attention to how often the ball is swapped out. It happens after virtually every play. Is a new one needed that often? Of course not. There's nothing wrong with that ball. In soccer, they play with the same ball for an entire half. If it's kicked into the stands it's thrown back and play goes on -- with the same ball. Of course, Major League Baseball is quite the opposite. It's OK to keep a ball in play after it's bounced off outfield walls or been beaten into the dirt and/or grass of an infield, but it's immediately rejected if it happens to touch the ground on any pitched ball. Go figure. Tennis doesn't have one ball for serving and another for volleying. Hockey players don't get special pucks when a power play is in progress. Hoopsters don't get an altered roundball to shoot free throws.

Yet if found guilty of such shenanigans, should the Patriots be punished? Sure. The question is -- how? Another first round pick? Fining Belichick a million bucks because he SHOULD have known? Maybe.

But consider who keeps flying under the radar in this whole fiasco. The on-field officials that were present. They've spent their whole lives handling footballs or they wouldn't have made it to the NFL. The linesmen handle the ball after every play. Even the referee and umpire have been known to swoop in and swap it out when both teams are already at the line of scrimmage and a play is imminent. Why would they do that? In short, these guys know balls, or at least they should. Lord knows they've handled enough of them over the years.

A "normal" NFL ball is inflated to 13 PSI. The kickers get the juiced version of roughly 15 PSI. This is business as usual.

But after the Pats/Colts game it was discovered that the Patriots' balls were only inflated to a nerfish 11 PSI? And the officials never noticed this? For the whole game?

No wonder they're such hard-asses. A remedial class called Mr. Whipple 101 would seem to be in order. Obviously, they never learned the finer techniques and benefits of squeezing the Charmin.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dominic Raiola. See ya

The long-time center of the Detroit Lions was finally, mercifully, put out to pasture. At the ripe old age of 36, with his last contract expired, Raiola was deemed expendable by the club. Translation? They don't want him back, even if he was willing to take a pay cut.

Raiola thought he had "one more year" left in him, but many aging jocks think that when their "time" comes. The painful reality that they have outlived their usefulness is a tough pill to swallow. But once upon a time, Dom took the job of another guy, and now it's his turn to suffer the same fate. Now a free agent, will another team sign Raiola? It's possible, but unlikely. A 36 year old center that just got kicked to the curb by his original club is hardly a hot commodity in the open market.

Some are singing the praises of Raiola. He was a 14 year veteran, a grinder, hard worker, even a team leader and spokesman, they say. Dom will be missed, they add. To all of which yours truly says -- balderdash.

Since Raiola joined the Lions back in 2001 (ironically enough, the same year the disaster of 9/11 happened) they have compiled a total record of 71-153 for a pitiful winning percentage of .331. During that time the Lions would only go to two playoff games and be defeated in both. Raiola might well be the losingest player in the history of the NFL, though yours truly tried in vain to confirm such a notorious stat.

Yet throughout Dom kept yapping. And yapping. And yapping some more. It's bad enough when winners flap their gums, but aren't losers supposed to be quiet and show a little humility? Not Dom. The man gravitated to reporters and microphones over the years like he was a rock star and throngs of groupies hung on his every word. Mostly, it was laughable. Has the man no shame or is he just that clueless?

Perhaps as a result of the frustration that came with all the losing, in recent years Raiola took on a new dimension. This is sometimes referred to as a "loose cannon" or "ticking time bomb".

Besides a couple stomps (which seem to be peculiar to the Lions only -- go figure), Raiola had taken to other cheap shots on the field in attempts to injure opponents.

He had even flipped off and cursed the Lions' own fans in their own stadium when they expressed their disapproval after yet another loss. Definitely low-class stuff. Decorum 101 of the professional athletes' rules of conduct clearly states thou shalt not negatively interact with the paying public in attendance "on the road", let alone at home.

Though not a Lions fan myself, I certainly know many who remain hard-cores, and more power to them. Thing is, while they continue to root for their team, many had come to despise Raiola for various reasons over the years, in no small part due to his continued big mouth. Lose, lose lose, and yap, yap, yap. Not cool.

So let others sing the praises of Raiola's 14 years of faithful service to the Detroit Lions, and may they some decade soon sniff the Lombardi Trophy -- or at least win another playoff game.

But when it comes to Raiola finally going bye-bye, there's another way of summing it all up quite succinctly in just two words a few different ways ----

Good riddance.
About time.
Later loser.
And most of all...
Finally, silence.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Max Scherzer's new contract

Max Scherzer leaving Detroit hardly came as a surprise. After all, he had turned down a whopping $140 million contract extension just a year ago. In laymen's terms, $140M roughly consists of enough $100 bills that, when laid end-to-end, would reach from Earth to Jupiter. Or if converted into twenties and made into a belt, maybe, BARELY, span Chris Christie's waistline. Let's just say it's a lot of money.

Not so mad Max has departed Detroit to play for the Washington Nationals. In a way, it's ironic. He left behind a town of low-class crooks that ran their city into bankruptcy, for the greener (pun intended) pastures of the nation's capital. And what will he find there? High-class crooks (sometimes called Congress) who have run up the biggest deficit in the history of mankind. Is America a great country or what?

Nevertheless, by turning down the Tigers' $140M offer last year, Scherzer was gambling on himself. If he had had a sub-par 2014 season, or suffered a serious injury along the way, he would have been out a serious pile of money. But it didn't happen that way. Scherzer had another stellar season and his bet paid off. Hence the huge contract he just inked with the Nationals. Let's look at it.....

Basically it's a seven year deal worth $210 million dollars. Yes, the mega-bean counters of the Nationals spread it out over 14 years for accounting purposes, but let's get real. Scherzer is now 30 years old. There's no way, NONE, he'll still be pitching at the ripe old age of 44.

In effect, the Nats are gambling Scherzer will remain a dominant pitcher until he's 37. That's a mighty big maybe. A few, like Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, etc., have pulled it off, but the odds are highly against it. As most pro athletes, definitely including starting pitchers, get further into their 30s, there will come a time when they "hit the wall". The fall is often swift. Former greatness can quickly become mediocrity and even bottom out entirely. How Scherzer will fare from now through 2021 is anybody's guess.

But consider the contract itself. $210M for 7 years, more or less. Times like this call for some Jethro Bodine ciphering. (I'll have you know yours truly is also a proud graduate of the 6th grade. Likewise, alas, I had to quit my former careers as a brain surgeon, international playboy and double-naught spy when duty, sometimes referred to as a significant other, called. That Peterson boy had nothing on Jethro (Granny) and me (my ex). We both were all too painfully aware of switches and the woodshed. Ahem.)

After shuffling a few naughts, I dare say Jethro would agree that dividing 210 by 7 comes out to pert-near 30. Is Max Scherzer worth $30 million a year? Evidently the Nats think so.

But look at it a different way. The Major League Baseball regular season is still 162 games long. Every team has a starting rotation of 5 pitchers. Given the occasional "spot starts" afforded during the year due to various circumstances, it can fairly be said most starting pitchers will only actually take the mound roughly 30 times a year.

For all of Scherzer's recent dominance, this means he'll be getting paid a million bucks for every day he works. It doesn't matter whether he wins the game or gets bombed off the mound before the first inning is over. He still collects $1,000,000.

To put that in perspective, consider an "average" American working stiff making 40 grand a year. He/she would have to work 25 years of daily 8 hour shifts to make the same amount of money Max Scherzer will be making in ONE DAY during the course of a two hour shift at best. And half the time of those two hours, he'll be "on break" sitting in the dugout.

This can be summed up in two words.

The first is "insanity" as to how sports salaries have become absurd.

The second is "hypocrisy". This involves the "average" John/Jane fan that screams bloody murder about how the 1-percenters have taken over the country and destroyed the middle class, but will still pony up big bucks to go see and root for their star pitcher and his multi-millionaire semi-literate teammates at their local stadium. Such jocks ARE the 1-percenters. Hello?

In the end, like the above-mentioned Congress, the masses can bitch all they want. But until they stop re-electing the same clowns and refuse to go to games until the prices (driven by ludicrous players salaries) are more in line with the real world -- then nothing's going to change. In fact, it will keep getting worse.

Hopefully, there will come a time when people finally wake up, draw the line, and say "enough".

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Bonehead Files. Golden Tate

The record will show that Golden Tate was born and raised in Davey Crockett land, sometimes known as Tennessee. Maybe he even killed a bawr when he was three. Could be. But enough with the not-so-good poetry.

No doubt, Tate was a great athlete during his formative years. Besides excelling at baseball (he was once drafted by the Ariz Diamondbacks and later by the SF Giants, but didn't sign with either), he ran track as well.

But sports fans came to know him when he arrived at Notre Dame and started playing some serious football for the Irish.

Fast forward a few years and he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2010. This was just about the same time Seattle first began showing some signs of being a future contender.

Back in 2010, Tate would sign a typical rookie contract with the Seahawks for someone at his position. Four years, at slightly less than a million a season.

Indeed, with a few key additions along the way, the Seahawks would become Super Bowl champions in the final year of Tate's contract. He had the good fortune to be drafted by the right team at the right time, and now he was a champion as well. Plus, Tate was in line for a serious raise with his NEXT contract. The dude was sitting on top of the football world.

So what did he do? He signed with the Detroit Lions. Tate left the beautiful thriving Emerald City of Seattle for the crime-ridden wasteland of Motown. He got his big contract alright, but he probably could have had that in Seattle as well.

And don't look now, but the Seahawks are headed back to the Super Bowl again. Meanwhile, the Lions still haven't won a playoff game since George Bush Sr. was President. They got bounced again in the first round and remain the only non-expansion team (there are only 4 in all) to have never even PLAYED in the Super Bowl, let alone win it. Further, it doesn't look like the Lions will be getting there any year soon.

So let's check the Tate resume.

An all-around stud in high school? Check.
A star at Notre Dame? Ditto.
A Super Bowl champ with Seattle? Yep.

Then with so many options open -- he bailed for Detroit. Bad move Golden. REALLY bad move.

So as an admitted lifelong knucklehead myself, it seems only fair I begin drafting a few thick-skulled folks into my newly created Bonehead Files.

Golden H. Tate III has the dubious honor of being the first. Leaving the Seahawks for the Lions definitely qualifies him for a charter membership.

No doubt, others will follow. Stay tuned......

The Green Bay meltdown

Yours truly has seen a lot of football games over the years. Some teams play to win and others not to lose. There's going for the gusto and keeping it close to the proverbial vest. But at least most teams have a plan. What I saw of the Packers in Seattle was a first. A team (and especially their coaching staff) that was so utterly clueless, they couldn't help but eventually lose. Consider some of things that transpired during the game.

In the first quarter alone, Green Bay twice had first and goal inside the Seattle 5-yard line. Once they made it down to the 2-inch line but declined to go for a touchdown, settling for field goals on both occasions.

Thought at the time: OK, 3 points is better than nothing, but this just might come back to bite them. Playing on the road, especially against the defending champions, for a berth in the Super Bowl, is no time to get conservative. Let it all hang out.

But it seemed like the Seahawks couldn't find their collective butts with both hands during the first half. It was one gaffe after another. The Packers would have a 16-0 lead at halftime, though it likely should have been much more.

Finally, the Seahawks broke through in the third quarter to score a touchdown, but only because the Packers went into brain freeze. Seattle had been stopped and was facing a medium range field goal attempt.

Thought at the time: OK, let them have 3 points and get the ball back. No big deal. But hey, they just sent in an offensive tackle that declared himself an eligible receiver and lined up as such. Earth to Packers: Somebody keep an eye on that guy. And it's not like offensive tackles are hard to cover as receivers. All they can do is lumber down the field.

But no, the Packers ignored him and, sure enough the field goal attempt was a fake. The behemoth was wide open to catch an easy touchdown pass. Duh.

On an ensuing kickoff -- while likely everyone on the planet suspected Seattle would go for an onside kick -- the Packers seemed to be caught off guard and couldn't handle it. Duh. Seattle gets the ball back, with momentum. Their infamous crowd roared back to life.

Thought at the time: Hey Packers. You better suck it up and make a few plays, or this thing just might get away from you.

Sure enough, Seattle would eventually take the lead after scoring another touchdown and making a 2-point conversion. It was then 22-19.

Thought at the time: Had Green Bay played to win back in the first quarter (see above) and either of those field goals they settled for was a touchdown instead, they would now be leading 23-22, instead of trailing by three points. Seattle was out of timeouts and under two minutes remained in the game. The Packers could have pretty much taken a knee at that point and ran out the clock.

To their credit, Aaron Rodgers and Co. got close enough in the waning seconds for their quite busy field goal kicker to tie the score at 22.

In the end, Seattle would prevail in overtime 28-22 and will head back to the Super Bowl.

And Green Bay? It's going to be a long flight back to Cheeserland. Perhaps once there, the entire lot of them should be made to dip their heads in hot cheddar. They had the game all but in the bag, but their own boneheaded plays and gutless strategies eventually led to their downfall. 

Final thought: I was rooting for the Packers, but they got exactly what they deserved. During the course of any given game, a lot of things can, and usually do happen. Good plays, bad plays, and who knows how the "breaks" will turn out? But as they say, there just ain't no fixing stupid.

Technically, Seattle won the game. But even more so, Green Bay lost it.

They should be ashamed of themselves.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Penn State redemption

It appears as if things have finally returned to normal at Penn State in the wake of that whole "sex scandal" mess a while back.

Back then, front and center, of course, was the lead villain, one Jerry Sandusky. Mr. Sandusky was alleged to have had, shall we say, "inappropriate contact" with several young boys, some on the grounds of Penn State itself. He would eventually be found guilty of such and sent off to prison, where he'll likely live out the remainder of his days.

The tip of the iceberg first broke the surface way back in 1998, when a mother filed a complaint that Sandusky had showered with her son. Not much became of it and business proceeded as usual. It wasn't until many years later that all hell broke loose. Sexual abuse accusations pointing at Sandusky came rapid-fire as victim after victim stepped forward to tell their stories. In short order, the nightmarish ball began rolling and it became a sordid scandal of epic proportions. Sandusky would finally be charged in 2011 and subsequently convicted, as mentioned above.

But many other questions remained. How could so many such instances have happened, involving so many boys, with nobody else being aware of it? So the hunt for the "conspirators" was on. Somebody must have known something and, if they turned a blind eye, they were guilty too.

Besides the football coaching staff at Penn State, this eventually reached the highest levels of their administration. The prevailing thought at the time was -- if they didn't know about it -- they SHOULD have. It happened on their watch and hence, they had to own it too. Fair enough.

So the hammers started coming down on Penn State. Long iconic coach Joe Paterno was forced out and scholarships slashed. A ban on post-season play and a hefty $60 million fine were imposed. And all wins, dating back to the original 1998 allegation, were vacated. They never happened, at least on paper. The Penn State administration was scrambling to save their own necks and was basically in a shambles.

It could certainly be argued that the actions, or nonactions of a few, resulted in a blanket punishment which swallowed up a vast majority of totally innocent people. After all, why should kids who had absolutely nothing to do with whatever happened have a hammer dropped on their heads as well? Consider the plight of a high-school football star who's lifelong dream had been to play for the Nittany Lions. Then his scholarship got revoked due to the actions of others before he even set foot on campus? Nevertheless, at the time, a lynch mob mentality prevailed and if rooting out the crooks meant "collateral damage" as well, then that's just the way it goes. But it didn't necessarily make it righteous.

Fast forward to the present. All the "perpetrators" and/or "bystanders" when this mess unfolded are either dead, in prison, been fired/resigned, or otherwise no longer at Penn State. Even the innocent football players on Joe Pa's teams at the time have moved on to their various walks of life. In other words, nobody is there now that was there when whatever happened -- happened.

Therefore, it only made sense for the "powers that be" to remove the sanctions that had been put in place. Continuing them would smack of nothing short of misguided vengeance visited upon totally innocent people.

And they just did. The post-season ban has been lifted. The scholarships restored. There still remains the matter of where that $60 million will wind up (it's been tied up in litigation). But hey, while $60M is a pretty fair amount of money, it's hardly a back-breaking sum for a major university like Penn State to cough up, and they already did. But throw that same chunk of change into the water and watch the lawyers and politicians swarm like a school of ravenous pirhannas. And they are. But that's their fight to fight. They deserve each other.

What's truly head-slapping is the whole business of "vacated wins". Before the Sandusky affair exploded, Joe Paterno was the winningest college football coach of all time. But as mentioned above, part of the Penn State punishment was taking away every win going back to 1998, 111 in all. That dropped him to fourth place.

But now all those wins have been restored. Joe Pa's back in 1st, by quite a wide margin.

That raises another interesting question. First they take wins away, only to give them back later? So what was the point? And it's not like they didn't happen on the gridiron, with or without the likes of Sandusky and Co. To alter such records in the first place due to the personal misbehavior of people that had NOTHING to do with how the teams fared on the field against their competition over the years was the epitome of folly. Only bureaucrats could come up with such nonsense.

Here's wishing the best to Penn State. Yes, they had a very dark chapter in their history, but so have various others, including entire countries who have perpetrated far worse atrocities. With few exceptions, eventually all was forgiven. Former enemies even became allies. So if they could do it --

It's time to move on regarding the whole Penn State snafu. It happened, people were held accountable, and it's been over for years. In fairness to the current innocents on campus, let us turn the page. It certainly wasn't their fault.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Cardale Jones and press conferences

This whole press conference thing is getting out of control. Just yesterday, Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones called a press conference to -- sound the trumpets -- announce whether or not he would declare for the NFL draft after leading Ohio State to the national championship.

ESPN hustled a camera crew to cover this "mega-event". Their talking heads back in the studio were meticulously dissecting and diagnosing every conceivable pro and con regarding Jones' decision.

[Idle thought: These guys missed their true calling. Had they been in the field of medical research, a cure for cancer might have been found long ago.]

The local town elders were on hand. Even a preacher was present to exhort the masses and whip them into a frenzy of soul-moving excitement. Glory hallelujah. Praise be to Cardale Jones.

And then Jones calmly stepped to the microphone and said he would be returning to Ohio State for at least one more year.

So what was all the hype about? And either way, turn pro or stay in skool, why is a press conference needed anyway? A text to a local sports columnist was all that was necessary. His/her media comrades would take care of the rest. In this day and age, word would spread faster than automotive recalls. Good grief, when then future Hall of Famer Barry Sanders suddenly decided to walk away from the Detroit Lions, leaving countless millions of dollars on the table -- and likely the all-time NFL rushing record -- he let it be known by way of a simple written statement. No choreographed press conference with family, friends, and the usual gang of suspects showing up for photo-ops. No camera crew, no preacher and no TV talking heads hyperventilating for hours agonizing over various possibilities. When he decided to call it quits, that was it. Done. Over. Quietly. And that was sure as hell bigger news than anything Cardale Jones has to say these days.

Granted, CJ isn't the brightest star in the universe, and even he seemed perplexed over the hoopla generated by others over his "decision". And as they say, any publicity is a good thing, right? Unless your name happens to be Aaron Hernandez, Ray Rice, Lance Armstrong, O.J. Simpson -- well -- you get the idea.

Yet just for kicks, let's consider what likely would have happened had Jones went the other way and declared himself eligible for the NFL draft. What would come next?

The above-mentioned talking heads and "experts", who fully expected him to "come out", weighed in on where he would be drafted. First round? Not a chance. Second round unlikely as well. Their collective wisdom had him going somewhere between the third and fifth rounds of the draft. Not exactly big guaranteed money territory. 

After all, while Jones was impressive in wins over Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon, starting a grand total of three college games does not a "good-to-go" NFL resume make. At best, he would be considered a "project", likely starting off his pro career as a third-string QB with a serious learning curve to face.

But as long as we're in the fantasy world, consider another possibility if Jones had gone pro. The New England Patriots. If Jones was still "on the board" come the fourth round or so, Bill Bellichick might have picked him. Insanity, you say? Not so fast. Over the years, the mad genius and his staff have been known to take other "less worthy" players and quickly mold them into starters. Would anybody seriously argue with their track record? And even if a fourth-rounder goes bust, it's not that big of a deal. It happens all the time around the league.

And here's the kicker. All-everything QB Tom Brady is now 37 years old. He might have a couple years left in his tank, but surely not much more. What better scenario could Cardale Jones have than learning under Tom Brady for the next couple years? Food for thought, if only imaginary.

But in the meantime, these overblown worthless press conferences really need to stop. I mean, what's next? Some sophomore point guard, with all his bros and kinfolk in tow, summoning a preacher, local politicos, and film crews to announce he just changed his university major from "Phys Ed" to "General Studies"? Could we then infer the exams were too hard for him in gym class?

Barry Sanders had it right, and did it with class. When it's time to make a big decison -- make it. But there's no need to turn it into a circus. A simple statement away from the cameras will do just fine.

The difference between Sanders and today's athletes? Barry was always comfortable with himself. Still is. He didn't need everybody else fawning all over him and telling him how great he was.

But times have changed. Now, even jocks making $10-20 million a year can't resist getting in front of the cameras for stupid commercial endorsements to get even MORE bucks they obviously don't need.

Progress is a good thing, but it has its drawbacks. Sometimes the old ways are still better......

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Marcus Mariota stuns the world

The sudden and startling development was huge, colossal, stupendous, even bigger than Chris Christie after multiple Thanksgiving dinners. Did Mariota find a way to get Democrats and Republicans to finally act like grown-ups? Not exactly. Devise a plan which ensures peace the world over? No. Single-handedly ward off a killer asteroid that threatened the very existence of Planet Earth? Not quite, though that would be a whole lot more impressive than the blistering he and his Oregon Ducks took in the national championship game at the hands of those dastardly Ohio State Buckeyes.

What could it possibly be? Brace yourself, sound the trumpets and imagine Tiger Woods just won the Masters again. Yeah, THAT big of sporting news, at least according to the hypsters.

Marcus Ardel Taulauniu Mariota just declared for the NFL draft. Well, no kidding. One would have to doubt his sanity if he didn't. Sure, he still had a year of eligibility left and could have returned to Oregon, but why, pray tell, would he consider such foolishness? Another shot at the college national title? Chances are he wouldn't win it anyway and, even if he did, how much would that pay? (To his credit, he's already received a Bachelor's degree in "General Sciences", whatever that is.) Yet that piece of paper and a couple bucks might get him a half-caf latte at a coffeeshop. Which is a far cry from....

Likely being the #1 overall NFL draft pick. Even thought the league came to its senses (sort of) a few years ago by putting a cap on rookie contracts, it's still likely Mariota will get drafted by the Tampa Bay Bucs and sign a 4 year deal worth upwards of $20 million. At that point, barring utter stupidity in his future, Mariota would be financially set for life. Maybe he turns out to be a big star in the NFL and maybe he's a bust. He could even suffer a career-ending injury during his first season. Nobody knows how it will turn out. But even in the worst case scenario, how can one go wrong with $20M, even after taxes?

On the other hand, if he was to return to Eugene to be the BMOC for another year, one never knows how that might turn out either. Every football player, particularly at the higher levels, is always potentially one play away from the same career-ending injury. If something like THAT were to happen, Mariota could kiss the mega-bucks goodbye.

The NFL is a lot of things, not the least being basically a high-priced meat market. If a player is good enough he can make big bucks. Obviously, he has to be healthy to do so. But if a college "superstar" prospect gets dinged up in a large way, the league is also ruthless. They don't care about coulda, woulda, shoulda beens. Even the players and their union have long acknowledged that reality. If you can't play, for whatever reason, what good are you? None. Worthless. Outta here. Next man up.

So while Mariota declaring for the NFL is supposedly bigger news to some than Hillary, Rush, and Anderson having a 3-way sex-a-thon on national television (scary thought) -- he would have had to be crazy NOT to. The risk/reward factor is a no-brainer.

Then again, he could always fall back on his General Sciences degree to make his fame and fortune in the world.

Good luck with THAT......

John Fox and the Detroit Lions

Somewhat surprisingly, Denver Bronco head coach John Fox is out of a job. Reports say this came by way of "mutual agreement" between him and management. (See John Elway, VP, GM, and all-around Mile High Grand Poobah).

Not so surprisingly, Fox's name quickly surfaced as a possibility to fill one of the other vacant NFL head-coaching jobs. In other words, though he'll turn 60 in a few weeks, it's not like he retired. In still other words, it appears that he was fired, though gracefully, from the Broncos.

Brer Fox has definitely been around the NFL for a very long time. He dates all the way back to being a young assistant on Chuck Noll's staff when the Steelers were so dominant back in the 70s. After the usual climbing through the ranks, he became head coach of the Carolina Panthers. He would have mixed success there. Inheriting a 1-15 team, he quickly whipped them into serious playoff contenders. Then they went down, back up, then back to mediocrity over the years. Final record -- 73-71. The Panthers were really good, really bad, and even average during his years at the helm.

But then brand new Denver front office honcho Elway saw something in him and wanted Fox as his coach. And so it came to pass.

His record during his 4 years leading the Broncos was quite impressive. 46-18 overall, four straight AFC West division titles and a Super Bowl appearance just last year. Yes, they were throttled in the Big Dance by the Seattle Seahawks, but just getting to the Super Bowl is something a lot of teams would consider an extremely successful season.

Yet evidently, this wasn't good enough for Elway. It's ironic when one considers Elway's own history as a Bronco player. In his first three trips to the Super Bowl, Elway and his team got beat, badly, each defeat being worse than the last.

Super Bowl XXI. 1987. New York Giants 39. Denver Broncos 20
Super Bowl XXII. 1988. Washington Redskins 42. Broncos 10.
Then a total beatdown two years later.
Super Bowl XXIV. 1990. San Fran 49ers 55. Broncos 10.

In three SB trips Elway and Co. were not only 0-3, but were outscored a whopping 136-40.

It would take Elway until 1998-99 to finally win back-to-back SBs. At which time he was roughly the same age as his quarterback, Peyton Manning, is right now. Then he promptly retired, going out -- finally -- on top.

But John Fox getting the Broncos to the Super Bowl in merely his third year, then falling short this past season, apparently didn't measure up to the standards Elway expects. He wants to win NOW, dammit.

Well, good luck with that considering how other younger teams around the league are on the rise and Woody is stuck with a geezerish QB that never could run, and now seems to have lost his arm strength as well. The former bullets have become wounded ducks.

Conversely, consider the Detroit Lions. Their new head coach, one Jim Caldwell, led the historic sad-sack franchise to an 11-5 record in his first year. This represents a winning percentage of roughly .685. Not too shabby. Whether they got "jobbed" or not in Dallas, the fact remains they lost and were unable to break through their 23 year streak of not winning a playoff game. Still, Caldwell is regarded as some sort of savior. Would the Lions consider firing him now? Not a chance. He's the best thing they've had since Wayne Fontes back in the 90s. At least for now. The next couple years could prove interesting -- either way.

But Fox, with his four division championships in 4 years, the Super Bowl appearance, and a winning percentage of .720 wasn't good enough for the Broncos.

Good grief, if he'd done that in Detroit coaching the Lions over the last four seasons, they would have build a statue of him outside Ford Field and likely named a street and a few buildings after him. Fox would have been celebrated as a conquering hero and achieved almost godlike status. Humbly kneel in reverence, yon Motown peasants, thy Honolulu blue and silver messiah hath finally arrived. Lift up thine eyes to behold in awe your redeemer. And BTW, pass the offering plate, aka known as keep buying those tickets and team paraphernalia.

Bottom line is Caldwell is a hero in Detroit after only one year. With a far better track record over four years, Fox got kicked to the curb in Denver.

The moral of the story?

To some franchises, being a little above average is reason enough to feel good. To others, anything less than flat-out excellence won't be tolerated for very long, and will result in a change.

Detroit and Denver. Opposites in more ways than one......

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A sporting, or not, invasion of privacy

What is it with some of these sites? When yours truly wants to read an on-line story covering a certain sports event, he clicks on it. Sounds simple enough.

But no, you can't just read the story, at least for a while. One has to wait until all the pix and typically a video download. Hey, I couldn't care less about isolated snapshots of any given play, and if I wanted to see videos, I'd tune into the 4-letter network's various channels in high def. I just want to read the story, dammit.

Adding insult to injury, one can't even cue up the videos right away. Oh no, one must first tap, tap, tap their fingers in frustration while being force-fed an advertisement. Typically, there's a timer counting down to remind you that the original video you weren't interested in in the first place will be available in 20, 15, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 seconds. They lie. A thousand one, a thousand five, a thousand ten, and the ad is still going. Grrr.

After one finally waits through all that, while beating down the pop-up ads like a game of Whack-A-Mole all along, one can finally read the story -- right? Sort of. One starts reading, scrolls down a bit to continue, and then wham, the site zooms back up to the top again. Start over. How hard is it supposed to be to just read a story? Know what's even worse?

Trying to comment on any particular story, sports-related or otherwise. Very few sites allow anonymous comments anymore. And even those that do require one to type in a visual "code" to prove one is not a "robot". Right. Like some evil droid is going to fire off a bazillion messages regarding Ndamukong Suh's contract status. Please. It's insulting.

Still others require one to "register", or basically sign up for their fan club before they will allow a comment to be posted by an interested reader that has finally overcome the above-mentioned obstacles and read the story. Hey, just because I picked up and briefly scanned a magazine at a kiosk doesn't mean I want to subscribe to it -- much less give them my personal information.

They want one to type in their email address. That way, they can send YOU a bazillion ads and further come-ons in the future. And who's kidding who? If you send an on-line message, chances are your email address is revealed to the receiver of such a comment anyway. Which brings me to the world of the absurd.

Accepting there is no such such thing as remaining truly "anonymous" anymore is one thing. But other sites go even further. They want to know your password. What manner of FOOL would voluntarily type in the password to their account and sent it off into cyberspace? By doing so one has just potentially granted total access to their PC or Mac. And who knows how that information might be used or abused? The very bad possibilities are endless. Someone thousands of miles away could not only erase your files, but plant viruses, access kiddie-porn, or even send terrorist threats via your computer, and you'd never know it until the authorities showed up and hauled you off in irons. That's not even to mention identity theft, which is quite prevalent these days.

The ultimate irony and/or hypocrisy? Some servers, including my own, have long since guaranteed they would never, repeat NEVER ask for your password under any circumstances. Beware of those who do, they say. Good advice.

So then what gives when an on-line story from my very own server requires me to give them my password before a comment is allowed? They already HAVE it. I had to provide them one to create an account in the first place and continue logging on ever since. Hello?

And this is what printed newspapers are gradually being phased out in favor of?

God help us, wait for your droid number to be assigned, and good luck doing the crossword puzzle.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ohio State. National champs

Sometimes you just have to give it up. Like them or not, there are irresistible forces in the universe that simply won't be denied. You know -- like Obamacare, Anderson Cooper's vacant stares, Judge Judy's shrewish tongue, that whole Jedi thing, or an adorable new puppy either peeing in or chewing up your shoes. It's going to happen, so one might as well learn to live with it.

Such would seem to be the case with the Ohio State football team. Like it or not, they're national champions and they most definitely earned it.

Though yours truly is no Buckeye fan, I have to give it up to Urban Meyer and his crew for what they accomplished -- especially in the end.

They not only defeated the favored Oregon Ducks, they beat them up. One could say they even humiliated them on national TV. The 42-20 final score was evidence enough of a good old-fashioned ass-whupping, but it could and likely should have been even worse.

Think back to all that OSU had to overcome to finally sit on the mountaintop. They lost their first and second string quarterbacks to injury. Early in the season, they got blistered by two touchdowns in their own house by lowly Virginia Tech.

It seemed like every scribe and talking head in the country (outside the Columbus area) screamed bloody murder when somehow the "Committee" (Condy Rice and Co.) leaped-frogged them over more "worthy" teams like Baylor and TCU into a berth in the Final Four. They weren't deserving, the masses clamored.

And then they knocked off #1 Alabama fair and square. That wasn't supposed to happen.

Oregon was a 6.5 point favorite in the national championship game. They had the reigning Heisman winner as their quarterback and speed galore all over the field. Surely they would finally slay the evil Buckeyes.

Further yet, OSU committed 4 turnovers during the course of the game. Normally, this is a recipe for disaster, especially against a high octane, point-scoring machine team like Oregon. You can't give them 4 extra possessions and possibly expect to win -- right?

But we know what happened and who won indeed. Actually in a blowout, that I dare say NOBODY saw coming. Not the bookies. Not the above-mentioned scribes, talking heads and other "experts". It's unlikely even the staunchest Scarlet and Gray fans in the heart of Buckeyeland would have thought such a lop-sided score possible. Yet as the game went on, particularly in the latter stages, instead of wilting the Buckshots looked be firing away with 12 gages, while the flightless Ducks were helplessly quacking and swimming around in circles on a pond. Usually in such situations the shotguns win.

So yeah, you have to give it up to the Buckeyes. They overcame a whole lot of stuff along the way to get where they are now.

In the end, there is no question they are worthy National Champions. Congratulations and may they enjoy their parade in Columbus in a few days. Some of us don't have to appreciate it any more than, say, a twelve hour mini-series on the life, times, and artistic brilliance of Lindsey Lohan, but irresistable forces can come in strange packages at times.

And as mentioned in my last post a few hours ago, there were those intrepid enough to place wagers on Ohio State way back when they were only 50:1 shots to win the championship.

Trophies, titles and parades are great, but THESE are the truest of happy campers right about now......

Ohio State arguments

The record will tell us some things are facts, but many others can certainly be argued when it comes to the Ohio State football team. For example, they're playing tonight against Oregon for the national championship. No sane person would argue otherwise. Also, at the beginning of the year, the Buckeyes were considered amongst the favorites to wind up where they are now.

But then a chain of events happened to that program over the season which raises some interesting points. In roughly chronological order, it could certainly be argued......

When then starting QB Braxton Miller went down before the season even started, most at the time wrote off the Buckeyes chances. They went from an 8 or 10 to one shot to a whopping 50:1. No doubt, a few bettors plopped down a C-note just for kicks at those odds, but pretty much kissed it good-bye. I'll get back to that.

Then second-stringer J.T. Barrett stepped up and it could be argued he was every bit as good, if not better, than Miller.

But when the Buckeyes got trounced at home by Virginia Tech, any national aspirations went poof. It was over.

Alas, Barrett himself would succumb to a season-ending injury. Next up, third-stringer Cardale Jones. It could be argued he was/is even better than Barrett and Miller. Making his first starts, he led the Buckeyes to a 59-0 thrashing of Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, and followed up by knocking off then #1 mighty Alabama 42-35 in Sugar Bowl national semi-finals. This was very impressive stuff. No argument about it.

Considering the above, it could be argued that OSU head coach Urban Meyer had his QB depth chart bass-ackwards all along.

Certainly there was a huge argument whether or not OSU should have leap-frogged other one-loss teams like Baylor and TCU at the last second to land in the Final Four. But that's history as well, It happened. Further, given the results of the Wisconsin and Bama games, would anyone now seriously argue OSU is "out of place" or "over their heads" playing for the championship? I think not. Whether they can knock off Oregon remains to be seen. Indeed, they're a 6.5 point underdog.

Urban Meyer and his Buckeyes certainly run the gamut of emotions when it comes to fans. Some people love them. Others, for various reasons, hate them with a passion. There's not a whole lot of middle ground when it comes to fandom regarding OSU football. Either your fer-em or agin-em.

Conversely, it could be argued that nobody totally despises Oregon. Yeah, there's jealousy, sour grapes, and even rivalries here and there, but c'mon, can anybody really hate a bunch of Road Runnerish Ducks?

What is fact is those people that plopped the C-notes down months ago at 50:1 on Ohio State are feeling pretty good right now. A $100 basically thrown to the wind a while back might just be worth 5 grand in a few hours.

Best case scenario for the bookies? Oregon wins, but doesn't cover the 6.5. Don't be surprised. They don't call them wise guys for nothing.

We'll see.

On to the game.

NFL refs and more dumb things

Many Detroit Lions' fans continue to whine about how their team got "jobbed" in Dallas last week. Given a few highly questionable calls (or non-calls), to say the least, maybe they did.

Yours truly was in a local watering hole earlier today while the Dallas/Green Bay game was showing on the Godzilla screen. As cosmic payback forces sometimes go, it appeared the Cowboys were on the short end of a bad call. Wide receiver Dez Bryant caught a pass, had both feet inbounds, and went to the ground less than a yard short of a touchdown. The ref on the spot ruled it a catch. But upon "further review" it was determined Bryant didn't maintain "full control" of the ball throughout. Therefore, it was an incomplete pass.

A hard-core Lions' fan -- hey, when someone is wearing a Lions' cap, Lions' jacket, and has his beer in a Lions' cup holder, it's not a stretch to make such an assumption -- jumped up, shook his fist, and screamed, "Damn right. That's what I'm talking about!!!!".

So after giving him a couple seconds to wipe away his Honolulu blue and silver drool on his Lions' terrible towel, I edged up and dared to ask the following question:

"No offense my man, but are you a Packers' fan too?"

"Hell no", he replied. "We got screwed last week by Dallas and I effing-A want to see THEM get screwed this week. They just did. Bartender, gimme another double shot of Blue Suh Maui.".

Well now. This was a serious, if misguided Lions' fan. Whether or not if the Bryant call or the ones the week before in Big D had gone the other way would have produced a different outcome in the final score is merely a matter of speculation. Maybe. Maybe not. We'll never know. But Detroit went down to Dallas, and Da Boys went down to Green Bay. That much we DO know. And I hope that dude found his way home safely in his blue and silver pick-up truck with Lions decals all over it. As he sped away, I noticed something unusual. Dual exhaust is cool, but yours truly had never seen one pipe painted blue and the other silver before. There's fans, and then there's ridiculous fans.

[Incredibly dumb commercial dept. What is it with those three bimbos and their "push it" ad? I'll get back to that.]

Nevertheless, such calls, or not, are what happens sometimes given the on-field officials, the rule book, and the "guys in the booth".

First of all, most NFL refs and other on-field officials aren't even full-time employees. There's a reason why the vast majority of them have other "regular" jobs through the week. Because while countless millions of dollars, the hopes of fans of the teams, and even championships may come into play by the calls they make -- the NFL doesn't pay them enough money to quit their "day jobs". In and of itself, this is preposterous. While many players on the fields are making over a million bucks a game, you're telling me the league and owners can't afford full-time officials at, say, a sliding scale ranging from $100,000 to maybe $250,000 for an entire season, depending on seniority and which on-field jobs they actually perform? I don't believe it. If you want really good officials, make it so they can devote their entire year studying their craft. In particular, this refers to ---

The NFL rule book. Once in a while, we'll hear some talking head or other geek actually quote a rule from this monstrosity. You know, Chapter 4, paragraph 7, subsection 3(b) or whatever. But the NFL rule book is much like the IRS tax code in a couple ways. For every rule in one section that says a certain action is legal -- there's another rule in a different clause that says it's not. Thousands of pages of conflicting gibberish and, in the end, nobody knows what the hell the rules actually are. It's all up to interpretation.

Look at it this way. If you were on trial in court for a serious crime, and were paying hot-shot lawyers (the players) $500 an hour to represent you, would you really want the jury box (the refs) to be full of a bunch of folks that were dragged away from their regular jobs and are making a paltry $20 bucks a day to sit there while worrying more about their regular lives than your case? Hmm. Come to think of it, that's pretty much how it works.

[Back to the bimbos and their pushing folly. Next time you see that ad, ask yourself a couple questions. Why would any office or business install exterior doors that push inwards from the outside, and also have large "PUSH" signs prominantly displayed -- have handles on the outside of the door? What are they good for? Cut to the next scene on an elevator. Ever hop into an elevator and have three stooges, one playing an electric piano of all things, simultaneously exhorting you to "push" the buttons? Ever seen an elevator with "pull" buttons? I don't know who's running the company responsible for such ads, but these are evidently very stupid people. It kind of ranks right up there with an old Gallagher joke referring to signs on the doors of businesses regarding blind people. "Only leader dogs allowed beyond this point". That's great but who, exactly, is reading such postings?]

Then there's the "guys in the booth", aka replay officials. Nobody's knows who these people are. Evidently, it's a matter of national security that their identities be kept secret. One never knows what band of (name the team) terrorists might spring up and wreak mass havoc if a call doesn't go their way.

For that matter, we don't know if they're guys at all let alone, what, if any, level of expertise they have in interpreting NFL rules. They might be teenaged girls that were plucked from the local mall. Or chimpanzees on loan from the local zoo. Give them a few bananas to eat, monitors to watch, buttons to push, and either would likely be happy. Let THEM make the final calls through their headsets. "Ooh, ooh, ooh" means the original call was confirmed. "Ack, ack, ack" means it's overturned. And hard telling what the monkeys might say, given the same chance. No wonder it takes the officials on the field so long to finally come to a decision. Ever tried to decipher grunting primates through headphones while 80,000 people were roaring all around you? Good luck getting it right.

So why not pay the NFL on-field officials a living wage so they can afford to study their craft full-time? The "expertise" of the guys, girls, or Cheetahs in the booth would no longer be necessary. You don't see NBA refs having to consult the "booth", nor Major League umpires. When a disputed call arises, they put their heads together, huddle up to watch all the angles and slo-mos of the particular play, and make a call. They KNOW the rules and don't need anonymous others interpreting them. Yes, despite the venue they might be at thousands of miles away, the NHL refs still defer to the gods, girls or silverbacks in Toronto on such matters. But, hey, Gary Bettman is still the Commissioner, so one can't expect a Judge Judy to morph into an Angelina Jolie overnight.

[And if those girls ever follow me around telling me to "push it" when I'm mowing the lawn, somebody's likely to wind up missing a few toes when I "pull" a quick U-turn. I don't need that aggravation. Let the replay officials sort it out. I will forever maintain it was "incidental contact".]

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Peyton Manning. Can he pull off another Super Bowl?

Odds are -- no, for a variety of reasons. Now 38, Archie's boy would be the oldest QB in NFL history to win a Super Bowl. This is not to say the "man of a billion stupid commercials" is a geezer and has no chance. Indeed, he remains highly effective on the field and has a great team around him -- on both sides of the ball.

But to win another Super Bowl (Manning has only done it once) first you have to get there. And that's where the hard part comes in. The playoffs are quite the gauntlet/minefield where one misstep can spell disaster. The also-rans and patsies have been sent packing and only the cream of the crop teams remain. Besides, it's the NFL, and you know what they say about "on any given Sunday". Upsets happen. Even in the playoffs and Super Bowl. Who would have thought Eli Manning and the barely playoff-worthy NY Giants had a chance a few years back against Tom Brady and the mighty Patriots who had gone undefeated all season? Yet the Giants not only ran the playoff gauntlet, but pulled off a huge upset in the Super Bowl. Stuff happens.

[Idle weird stat. By virtue of knocking off the Carolina Panthers, the Seattle Seahawks became the first defending Super Bowl champions to win a SINGLE playoff game the following year since the Patriots did it in 2005 -- as in nine years worth. This post-season business is no cakewalk, especially when one has a target on their back. Throw in star free agents having jumped ship for more money and the complacency thing and being defending champions doesn't guarantee squat the following year]

As this is written, Manning and the Denver Broncos have yet to play the Indy Colts in the playoffs. Denver is favored at home, no surprise, and will likely prevail. As mentioned in a previous post, Indy QB Andrew Luck is a phenomenal talent and his day might come -- but it ain't gonna be this year. The old man in mile high still finds time between all the moronic endorsements to play some pretty damn good football. So let's assume the Broncos move on. What happens next?

They travel to New England where the BB boys and company await. In head-to-head match-ups over the years, Tom Brady has pretty much owned Peyton Manning. Gisele's man is 11-5 over Papa John's pizza buddy. That includes 8-4 during Manning's heyday with the Colts, and 3-1 since he joined the Broncos. The Patriots would certainly be favored, but let's further hypothesize that somehow Peyton and his crew find a way to defeat them. Could happen. After all, 11-5 is far different than 16-0, and even if it was the latter -- stranger things have happen. See the above mentioned Giants/Pats Super Bowl game.

Yes, this is getting way ahead of things, and Dallas still has to play at Green Bay. Both are excellent teams. Yet regardless of who wins, they have to visit the house of the Legion of Boom in the northwest in the NFC finals. Given the roll the defending champs have been on of late, does anybody really think the Pack or Da Boys can actually win there with a Super Bowl berth at stake? Not me.

So if all the above fairy tale came true, the Broncos would be off to face, drum roll please, the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Again.

What was the score last year? 43-8? A total beatdown. Given the same two teams, could we expect an entirely different result? Not likely.

In other words, Peyton Manning has some serious mountains yet to climb this year if he wants another Super Bowl ring. Is it possible? Sure. Joe Namath and the upstart Jets knocked off the mighty Baltimore Colts. A bunch of college kids defeated the invincible Soviet Red Army Team a few decades ago in Olympic hockey. Remember the Miracle Mets of 1969? Not counting the Cubs winning the World Series or the Detroit Lions hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy, anything's theoretically possible. Even my ex someday returning my roto-tiller, which she took with her into a second story luxury apartment. Figure THAT one out.

But I wouldn't bet on it.

Nevertheless, here's wishing Peyton Manning all the best in his quest for a second ring. The dude's got money, Buicks and pizza coming out of his ears, and even Nationwide is on his side.

But the odds aren't, and his window of opportunity is rapidly closing. 38 is 38 and if he doesn't get it done this year things won't get easier in the future. That's assuming there IS a future beyond just hanging on in name value only to collect obscene paychecks. Perhaps a chat with Tiger Woods would prove enlightening. Just a thought.....