Friday, May 29, 2009

The Face Of A Mercenary?

I don't know why I dislike Marian Hossa so much. He's never forced a trade like Alexei Yashin, never scorched the earth with a former team on purpose like Eric Lindros, hasn't made a career out of cheap shots like Claude Lemeuix. Hossa even visited an opponent in the hospital after accidentally high sticking him and nearly blinding him in one eye.

He played with the Ottawa Senators through two contracts. After the NHL lockout which forced him to play in Europe, Hossa returned to the Senators and signed a new contract. Right after he signed it, the Senators traded him to Atlanta. So Hossa remained loyal to the team that drafted him only to have that team ship him off as soon as he resigned.

Hossa suffered through losing seasons in Atlanta before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins last year. He fit right in and helped the Penguins reach the Stanley Cup Finals.

And tha
t's when things get dicey.

Hossa was a great fit with the Penguins and the team was a huge success with him. Yet, Hossa turned down a multi-year contract offer from the Pens in order to sign a one year deal with the champion Red Wings. His obvious reasoning was that he wanted to win a championship.

What Hossa did was perfectly in his rights. He didn't manipulate anyone or stop down a team because of his demands.

But what make
s him so damn special? Every player in the league wants to win a Stanley Cup, but they don't all just high tail it to last year's champ in order to get it.

I'd understand Hossa's decision a lot more if he played in Atlanta still. Then you'd have a guy stuck on a losing team that he was traded to and he just wants a chance to play for a contender one more time.

But Hossa was traded to a contender already. He made the freaking Stanley Cup finals last year! Now instead of staying with that team and helping the get to the peak of the N
HL mountain, he jumps ship. He goes from hero acquisition to some sort of sybarite who just can't be bothered with the uncertainty that his team won't clearly win the title.

Maybe Hossa knows that the Red Wings really are in a different league than even the Penguins. Maybe this Stanley Cup final will be as boring as last years and Detroit will easily take the cup again. But his gamble hasn't put Hossa in a good position; if he wins the cup, big deal, the Wings did it without him. If he doesn't win, that means Pittsburgh will and you can bet fans will enjoy reminding Hossa of that little fact. Maybe he'll become the A-Rod of hockey: a great player who just can't play on a
championship team.

The Penguins were embarrassed last year and they've been looking for another shot at the hated Red Wings. Hossa may have provided the Penguins with an emotional catalyst to make this more of a series. The Pittsburgh fans will definitely be into the game.


On the surface, turning down money to play for a championship seems like a noble effort in sports. In Hossa's case, it makes him look like a front-runner to me. Which actually makes perfect sense to me since the Red Wings have more front runner fans than any team in hockey. I can't logically explain it, but to me a Penguins victory is a victory for sports fans everywhere. It proves you can't just choose when you want to win a championship.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

NCAA = No Cheating Actually Accountable

OOOOOOHHHH NO YOU DIDN'T!

The University of Memphis basketball team is under investigation for getting someone else to take current Chic
ago Bull Derrick Rose's SAT for him and for paying over $2000 to an associate of a Memphis player. An associate? Do college kids now have associates?

So Memphis is under investigation for "major" recruiting violations.

OHHHHHHHHHH! EWWWWWWW!

The NCAA is coming after you suckas! You wanted the top point guard in the country and you cheated to get him. So get ready because the NCAA is going to throw it's considerable avoirdupois around and.....take away your Final Four banner.

Say what?

Yep. Memphis gets it's tournament run officially stricken from the record. Meanwhile Derrick Rose is making millions in the NBA and will st
ill list Memphis as his college of one year.

Okay, but I'm sure the guy who was in charge while this was happening will get busted, right?

Not really. John Calipari is slicker than snot in these situations. Not because he's some mafia type who can get off of clear transgressions through a technicality, but because the NCAA doesn't do
much to him.

Years
ago Calipari led UMass to the Final Four. It was later found that star player Marcus Camby was given stuff and possibly even some things. UMass had it's 1996 Final Four appearance removed from the record.

Meanw
hile, Calipari and Camby were making millions in the NBA. That's a tough punishment to swallow.

Now Memphis is under "fire", if you can call it that, and Calipari has moved on to Kentucky, where he will cheat again.


And why wouldn't he? Here are his choices:

Play by the NCAA rules and lose some major players, lose more games, and possibly be fired if his team doesn't win enough games.

OR

Cheat, grab top end players who only stay for a year and then jump to NBA riches while taking his teams to the Final Four and being on the short list for coach of the year and earning a few extra million dollars in the process.

Sure, I consider Calipari a scumbag mercenary who doesn't hold a candle to the Coach K's and Jim Boeheim's of the world and doesn't teach college students, but runs a minor league basketball team. And he'll be very sad when he reads this as he lights another cigar with a $100 bill.

The NCAA could slam Calipari if it wanted to, but it doesn't. Calipari is a sweet talker and can bring in some real stars to his programs. This translates to ratings which translates to money that the NCAA gets to pocket. We now have a great SEC basketball power that's back on the scene and Kentucky fans and opponents will have a big interest in the team.

It works out well for everyone. You just won't see the banners hanging to commemorate it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Q Gets A Clue

Ornery Anquan stops heading towards the T.O. trap laid out for him by he whose haus is so very Rosen....
I'm not sure why, but I actually cheered when I found out that Anquan Boldin had fired his agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

I think it's because I like Anquan Boldin and I don't like the way he's acting right now during his attempt to get a bigger contract from the Cardinals. Boldin has proven to be a great team guy and should be above all of his fake injuries and constant whining because he's underpaid (which he is).

There are plenty of players that deserve more money than they get in the NFL. NFL owners are a very greedy lot and love getting a great player for a reduced cost. Then when that player wants to be compensated, the owners claim they're under contract and need to act professionally (unless the player gets old or injured, then the contract gets shredded and memories suddenly fail.)

But there are sagacious ways of getting a new contract and there are dumb ass ways of gett
ing new contracts. This is where an agent comes in with advice and Rosenhaus has always seemed to have the same advice: get as much money as fast as you can no matter what it takes.

One definition I found describes Rosenhaus as an "American football agent, quickly becoming notorious for signing high profile athletes and making high demands." This is true, but really annoys me about Rosenhaus is that he often makes these demands publicly.

That's when you get moments like this:


He hasn't met a camera he doesn't like. Rosenhaus will show up do a national interview when he doesn't have something to say. Drew loves him some him.

Rosenhaus is obviously a successful agent, you don't build a client base like he has without hard work and talent. But Rosenhaus is like the Star Wars dark jedi who wants too much power too quickly. He wants to be the number one guy right NOW!

That will have to wait because Anquan has left the Rosen-house. Rejoice.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fine! I'll Give Lacrosse Some Love!

It's true that I would have ZERO interest in this game if one of my Alma Maters wasn't playing in it. And I'm guessing that no one outside of New York state even blinked when they saw the "NCAA Lacrosse Championship" pop up on their television guide except if they took a second to offer a pejorative dismissal to the sport, or as George Carlin called it: a f*ggot college activity.

Still, it really was a pretty cool ending to the game. Even for those who don't understand the sport (nor do they care to.)

Ball goes into net=good for offense, bad for defense.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

It's All In A Song

I was watching the Chicago Blackhawks beat the hated Detroit Red Wings in overtime last night and really got into the atmosphere of the game. So I turned the television sound way up and lived in the moment. When Chicago scored the game winning goal, the whole place erupted and my girlfriend immediately walked into the other room and purchased 'Chelsea Dagger' by the Fratellis which is the song played whenever the home team Blackhawks score a goal.

I don't know if it was the celebratory mood or if she actually enjoyed the song, but she wanted to relive that moment over and over again. That got me thinking about sports songs and how they can shape our lives.

We all know the basic ones: the Queen double track of 'We Will Rock You' and 'We Are The Champions', '
Shout' by the Isley Brothers, and Rock and Roll Part II by Gary Glitter (also know as da da da duh, HEY!). But every team and stadium has it's own selection to get the crowed revved up.

If you're at a Red Sox game, you'll hear 'Sweet Caroline' played. The Packers play Todd Rundgren's 'Bang on the Drum All Day' after a touchdown.

It must be hard to pick a good original song to play at a sports stadium. You have to find one that both allows the players equanimity, but also gets the crowd involved.

Some songs are great at just that which is why they're played at every sporting event. Nothing gets me going before kickoff of a football game like 'Welcome to the Jungle'. Metalica's 'Enter Sandman' is made for a closer to enter a baseball game.

Others are tailor made for one player or team. Any time I hear that bell start ringing at the beginning of "Hell's Bells" by AC/DC, the only person that comes to mind is Trevor Hoffman as he comes out of the San Diego bullpen to finish the opponent off.

Goal, touchdown, home run songs....they vary from stadium to stadium. You might hear The Who one place, 'Song 2' by Blur in another. And if there's a kid at the stadium that day, it probably leaves an impression on them.

To this day I know that when I was a kid, I would hear 'Dirty Laundry' by Don Henley at Mavericks games and 'The Cotton-Eyed Joe' (the original, not the techno version) at Texas Rangers games.

As a watch the NBA Finals now, I see all of the pre-game introductions and it takes me back to whenever I watched the Chicago Bulls on television. They would be introduced with a song I didn't even know (Sirius by the Alan Parson's Project), but it made me a Bulls fan from my couch:






It's all about the music played at the stadium. Maybe someone should play the Carpenters just to screw with everyone, but I'm guessing we're more likely to hear some Van Halen. It's just what works. If you have any great memories of songs at sporting events, let me know.

Friday, May 22, 2009

You Want Him?

Get ready for the Vickmania. It's pretty quiet right now, but if Vick gets reinstated by the NFL anytime over the summer, just grab a mattress and hide in the bathtub.

No one will create a bigger argument between fans. Vick will make T.O. seem as controversial as Jay Leno. Hell, my household could be a verbal battleground with my girlfriend firmly entrenched in the "anyone who would do that doesn't deserve to ever see the light of day
again" camp.

I'm disgusted by Vick's actions, but I understand that Vick didn't grow up
in the greatest of environments and apparently bad decisions do run in his family. Still, I've never wanted Vick playing quarterback of any team I was rooting for.

I'm torn though because Tony Dungy, an NFL man whom I respect more than any other, recently spoke with Michael Vick and he honestly thinks Vick has been taught a lesson and deserves another chance. I've always admired Dungy for his quiet, classy, and truthful demeanor. He's the coach that most resembles my childhood favorite, the great Tom Landry.

He's asking us to let Vick have a second chance to see if he learned from his
momentous mistake. I'm curious now because what if Vick really has been humbled by his experience and has a new outlook on life? Maybe the younger, arrogant Vick who relied on his athletic ability and didn't seem to appreciate what he had has been replaced by an older man whose ego has been yoked and who will actually be thankful for a chance to play NFL football game.

Whether you're for or against Vick's return, the one thing no one can argue with are the X's and O's of football. Vick was never a cerebral quarterback and he's never been a fiery leader in th
e mold of a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. But Vick has won some playoff games and he did lead the Falcons to the first ever visitor's playoff victory at Lambeau Field. While no one expects fans to greet Vick with a buss, a winning quarterback would make them happy.

So which team might be interested in Vick? Well, the easiest way to start is to eliminate the teams with top quarterbacks already. New England, Indy, Dallas, Chicago, the Giants, Philly, Arizona, San Diego, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and even Cincy are all out. BARRING INJURY.

Any tea
m with a young QB who is apparently the future is out. So no home for Vick with the Jets, Chiefs, Bucs, Bills, Ravens, Texans, Lions, and Falcons are out.

So that leaves 12 teams to pick from. Well, no one from the Bill Parcells/ Bill Belich
ick coaching tree are likely to take a risk on Vick. So that eliminates the Broncos (much to my girlfriend's relief), Browns, and Dolphins.

Jeff Fisher is already dealing with Vince Young so the Titans are
out and Jack Del Rio will probably stick with David Garrard which eliminates the Jaguars.

The Rams had a chance to draft a a QB, but didn't, so that makes me think they'll stick with Bulger.

This leaves the final teams: the Seahawks, Panthers, 49ers, Redskins, and Raiders:

The Panthers just resigned Jake Delhomme, but does anyone trust him? The Seahawks have Matt Hasse
lbeck, but he's old and fragile. Plus, the Seahawks coach is Jim Mora Jr. who coached Vick in Atlanta. The Redskins just ran their young QB through the ringer, the 49ers have QB issues, the Vikings have been on a QB merry go round for years, and the Raiders are......whatever.

So place your bets and take a guess. Any team is a training camp injury away being interested in Vick. If it's your favorite team, just try to channel your inner Dungy and give Vick a chance to screw it up himself before you descend on him like an avalanche.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

RAW Nuggets. Mmmmm.

You'd think there would be an alternative plan in place for a sports arena. This can't be the first time anyone has wondered what happens when a scheduled event interferes with a professional team's playoff run. Yet, here we are reading about the giant Chinese fire drill happening at the Pepsi Center.

No one thought the Nuggets would be in the Western Conference finals at the beginning of this NBA season, so the Pepsi Center went ahead and scheduled Monday Night Raw. Then the Nuggets traded for Chauncey Billups, changed the culture of the team, and here we are today: a Nuggets home game scheduled for the same night as the already scheduled WWE.

Not surprisingly, the
Nuggets won the battle for the Pepsi Center (not just because it's an NBA team, but because the Nuggets are a permanent host and not just a one time event.) But the issue was not handled very well and has turned into a he said/he said issue between the WWE and the Pepsi Center. The WWE left for Los Angeles (hmmm the Denver Nugget opponent) and both sides blame the other for a lack of business ethics.

I have no idea why the Nug
gets couldn't just play a game on Sunday or Tuesday to make the situation better because I'm just a simple sports fan. I think the Pepsi Center should have embraced the WWE and it's Monday Night Raw ratings. In fact, they could just combine the WWE franchise with the Nuggets to make a cross-promotional firestorm.

The next time the Nuggets played the Lakers after WWE, the court could have been immured in a steel cage. The Nuggets could even compare some of their players to the WWE wrestlers in the team playoff program. It might get some extra wrestling fans interested in basketball and naturally, the Nuggets would be the team to root for.

I've even done some homework and have some ideas for which Nugget could be whi
ch wrestlers. Forgive me if I don't completely nail these comparisons, I only know WWE wrestlers through what I read on their bios, so if you have a better idea, please feel free to comment.

Chauncey Billups-- Triple H
Triple H is known as the Cerebral Assassin and The Game. That could be Billups, who has completely turned the Nuggets around after his mid-season arrival. Billups runs the offense perfectly and has the nickname "Big Shot" for his late game heroics. Both men are integral parts or their franchises.




Nene-- Big Show
Both guys are big (Big Show is 7 feet tall and over 400 pounds, Nene is 6-11 and 250, but he does play basketball which doesn't usually work if you're 400 pounds). Both guys also had to spend time away from the ring. Now that Nene is back from his bout with cancer, he gives the Nuggets a big man in the middle. Just not 400 pounds worth.


Chri
s "Birdman" Anderson-- Goldust
Both guys are visual marvels and show stoppers. Anderson comes in with his inked up arms and his hair done into a wild mohawk. His game is all about soaring through the air and blocking shots from all parts of the the basetball court. Goldust enters with a blonde wig and his face completely painted up in a black and gold explosion. For some reason people call him the "bizzare one." Hey, it gets ratings.

Anthony Carter-- Hornswaggle
Ca
rter isn't the midget that Hornswaggle is, but he is the smallest guy on the Nuggets roster. Of course, Carter is still 6'2" which just makes me sad.





Car
melo Anthony-- John Cena
Th
is is the face of the franchise comparison. The only person non-wrestling fans might know is John Cena due to his multiple commericals and guest appearences. I think he's also trying to be an action hero. Any non-NBA fans would probably only know Carmelo Anthony because of the hype he's gotten since he was the second pick of the draft several years ago.


J.R. S
mith-- Shawn Michaels
Okay, so I'm struggling now, I admit it. But Shawn Michael
s is known as a show stealer and J.R. Smith is capable of stealing a game when he heats up on offense.






Keny
on Martin-- Batista
Both guys had a troubled childhood. Both guys have volcanic tempers. And both guys hate to lose.





That's really all I ha
ve, but as a non-wrestling fan, I've already come up with a nicer ending to the great WWE/Nuggets Smackdown. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go blast my pecs and work on spitting as a growl into a microphone.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ruined?

As the NBA lottery concluded last night, one thought was reiterated across the NBA land:

It was nice knowing you Blake Griffin.

The consensus number one pick was sitting on a couch at the ESPN Zone in New York watching his fate played out in front of his eyes. Griffin didn't have much of a
reaction when the Los Angeles Clippers won the lottery and the right to draft him, but fans know that Griffin is going from the ESPN Zone to the NBA equivalent of the Phantom Zone.

So is Griffin's future already ruined? Ruined, of course, is a relative term for a guy in his
early 20's who is about to become a multi-millionaire because he's tall and can dunk a basketball, but if it's true that Griffin won't reach a state of NBA satiety until he holds a championship trophy, it could be a frustrating career for him.

Any other NBA team in the draft lottery top five had a tangible upside for Griffin. The Memphis Grizzlies are a bit of a disaster, but they have a backcourt in place with Mike Connely Jr. and O.J. Mayo, the Oklahoma City Thunder would have been the prime landing spot since it's Griffin's hometown and would allow him to form a top forward combo with superstar Kevin Durant, the Sacramento Kings have the crazy Maloof brothers who will do any thing to build the team back up, and the Washington Wizards are much better than their record indicated last year (injuries).


The Clippers? They have some good young players in Al Thornton and Eric Gordon, plus they have Baron Davis who can be a top flight player when he wants to be. But that's the problem: the Clippers always seem to have good young players. Because they always suck and they always draft high. As good as the Los Angeles Lakers have been over the years, that's how bad the Los Angeles Clippers have been.

-The C
lippers franchise has never won a division title whether it was in Buffalo, San Diego, or L.A. The team has made the playoffs four times in the past 30 years and three of those times were quick first round exits.

-The team has had a top three draft pick 11 times and have picked such gems as Michael Olowokandi and Danny Ferry (who refused to play for the Clippers).

-The best players in Clippers history, Bob Macadoo, Andrian Dantely, and Bill Walton aren't generally recognized as Clippers (Macadoo won with the L
akers, Dantely with the Pistons, and Walton with the Trailblazers and Celtics).

-Since moving to Los Angeles, the Clipper have had two winning seasons. TWO. And the franchise has never won more than 50 games.

You get the point. Blake Griffin may be a very talented and hard working player, but his early years in the NBA could be very rough as he deals with a franchise more synonymous with losing than any other in professional sports.

Maybe the talent will come together and the Clippers will become a dangerous young team. If not, the best Griffin can do is work hard and polish up his resume as he looks forward to his first day of freedom in free-agency. Until then, he can send us postcards from the netherworld.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ESPN Is Desperately Trying To Eat The Sports World

Remember that awful 90's movie Empire Records? I'll refresh your memory: a bunch of kids save an independent record store from being taken over by a giant chain. You can substitute your personal favorite movie about local heroes sticking it to corporate America if you want.

That's in the movies, of course. In reality the Wal-Marts and Barnes & Nobles of the world are generally successful in wiping out local competition and whenever one of those stores moves into town, the local establishments have a fey aura about them.

You can add ESPN to that list of pathological conquerors as well. The sports broadcasting corporation already spans multiple channels and is indeed the "worldwide leader in sports". But that's clearly not going to be enough because ESPN has set it sights on the up and coming NFL Network.

Smart-assed announcer Rich Eisen left ESPN to anchor the fledgling NFL Network. The result has been pretty outstanding if you ask me. NFL Network has managed to expand from the NFL to college football as well and has produced some excellent shows like America's Game (which is a MUST see for any NFL fan.) The network has put together a great team to work with Eisen including reporter Adam Schefter, Rod Woodson, Marshall Faulk, Warren Sapp, and a bevy of hot female counterparts.

One of the shining moments for the NFL Network came early this year when Mike Shanahan was fired by the Denver Broncos. Shortly after the firing, ESPN's Chris Mortensen, who apparently puts being first ahead of being correct, announced to the sports world that Shanahan was about to become the next coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. People spoke of how this hiring made sense and how Shanahan wanted to coach the Chiefs so he could get back at the division rival Broncos. It was a wonderful storyline full of juicy goodness.

Too bad it wasn't true. And the NFL Network quickly refuted the claim because Adam Schefter used to work for a newspaper in Denver and has multiple local contacts. Once the truth came out, ESPN looked like idiots and the NFL Network scored a big win for it's credibility.

I'm guessing that incident has stuck with ESPN because Schefter has suddenly disappeared from the NFL Network despite still being under contract. Rumors abound that he wants tons of money and since the NFL Network can't afford his asking price, he's headed to ESPN.

Obviously Schefter is as much to blame for this as ESPN, but something tells me that ESPN will offer a huge sum to Schefter based on that one incident with Mike Shanahan. It makes sense: if you can't beat them, hire them away for gobs of money. Call it the New York Yankees business model.

It doesn't stop with Schefter though. The past year, the NFL Network hired Jon Gruden to scowl and do all of his Chucky things. Gruden was a hit with his intense talking points and constant unprovoked scowl.

Guess where he's heading? And apparently Gruden's move came as an unpleasant surprise to NFL Network. I believe the word used is "spurn".

Again, I know it takes two to tango, but I'm getting tired of ESPN hiring every ex-coach or athlete out there and slowly straining out the good from the bad. Emmitt Smith? Disasterfied. Steve Young? You can stay.

But ESPN is still not content just battling the NFL Network. The station is looking to take out your local radio station no matter where you live. I'm sure you've run across these ESPN commercials at some point:



Yes, ESPN has infinite more technology at its disposal and can scour the east coast looking for the best announcers the network can mold into it's own set of radio stormtroopers, but not everyone in Denver wants to hear about the New York Yankees. And that's all you'll hear about. If you live in Kansas, do you want to hear a big discussion about what's going on in Connecticut?

So if you live west of the Mason Dixon line, be wary of the big dog moving into your local radio neighborhood. Because if you aren't careful, you're going know more about New England teams than you'll know about the teams in your own backyard.