Category Archives: Sports

World Series Game 4 Staff Predictions

The World Series is back in Arlington tonight in a pivotal game 4 match up between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals. Texas tied up the series at 2-2 yesterday in a 4-0 shutout. Earlier today, I was sitting down with KACU’s Meagan Freeman and Blane Singletary discussing the game. The conversation led to predictions. Meagan, wearing her Texas Rangers ALCS championship t-shirt, quickly took out a piece of paper and jotted down our predictions. Then we got the idea to poll the entire KACU staff.

Here are some things to take into consideration for the game tonight. This is the last game that will be played in Arlington, the winner only needs to win one more to claim the title, and each team has great home run hitters. Taking that and more into consideration, here is what us at KACU think will happen tonight.

KACU World Series Predictions (those who replied to my texts…)

  • Blane Singletary, Announcer – St. Louis edges Texas in a close one, 3-2.
  • Meagan Freeman, Announcer – Rangers edge St. Louis in a close one, 3-2.
  • Zane Goggans, Announcer – “Everybody is picking 3-2… I change my guess…” Rangers win big 10-3.
  • Kholo Theledi, The New Girl – “What is a normal score for baseball?” Texas loses, 3-2.
  • Caleb Robinson, Announcer – Rangers lose this one 5-3 (but only so Texas can win “epically” in the next two games).
  • Alek White, Announcer – Alek: “We lost 16-7”, Me: “That was two games ago, I need your prediction for tonight…”, Alek: “I would guess a win [for Texas] then, 10-6.”
  • Julie Coppedge, Announcer – Via text message: “Ouuuu ummm Rangers win 7-4 :)”
  • Keyi Zhou, Announcer – Rangers win in another close one, 30-28 (Keyi admits to not watching much baseball).
  • Sandy Byers, Traffic Manager – Texas will fall to the Cardinals again, 4-2. “Maybe by picking the Cardinals we can jinx them.”
  • Justin Brown, Budget Manager – Texas takes it, 5-3.
  • Dave Smith, Director of Operations – “Show me who’s pitching…” “Are they in Texas?” “2-0, Rangers.”
  • John Best, General Manager – Rangers win 4-3. “It’s gonna be a nail bitter!”

KACU Picks…

Rangers: 7 picks to St. Louis: 4 picks

Rangers win tonight, what do YOU think?


Wall Street vs. The NBA

As it’s been reported for the past several weeks, people are pissed at Wall Street.  Or at least that’s the perception.  The claim is that the Wall St protestors are angry at the wealth injustice in America and how people in the financial sector continue to give themselves raises, increase profits and benefit from others’ hard work while at the same time cutting back their work-force, laying people off, or not hiring new employees even after their companies produce profits in the millions and billions.  There’s merit to that, no question.

One thing I have continued to ask myself and my circle of friends since earlier this year is, why do we point the finger in anger at only some people in American society who are wealthy and not the more prominent people?  I’m namely referring to politicians and professional athletes.  In the spring, the NFL went into a lockout where multi-millionaire owners and players argued over who would cash in on TV contracts worth $9 billion.  Yeah that’s a lot of money.  Did anyone offer to give that money away, contribute it to the unemployed, create jobs for the jobless, or any endeavor to better our damaged economy?  No, they argued over who deserved what, what richness could be added to the already rich.  Where was the upset there?  I (sort of) hate to pick on the Dallas Cowboys but Jerry Jones is one of the wealthiest men in America (a billionaire I believe).  While he may be a stock-holder who has some investment on Wall Street, he also has pretty deep pockets and makes tons more money than the average individual, employed or unemployed.  Who stood outside his corporate office this off-season and protested the incredible amount of money he and his company (team) has made in a down economy?  Not to mention a third string player on his team who makes more money in one month than most of us have made before taxes in the last 2-5 years.  Where’s the protest?

This August the NFL players and owners came to some sort of agreement and they started their season on time.  So maybe that’s why there weren’t protests.  We now have pro football every Sunday.  I do know that whole sha-bang upset a few sports fans who were on the fence about whether they’d tune in for games this season. But I still see sold out arenas, people spending $90 for a Romo jersey (and after last week, last season, the season before that…I have to ask “Why?”), and fantasy football being played all over the place.  The lockout didn’t lose the NFL fanbase.  It’s alive and strong.  And each of those guys we cheer for makes more money than most of the people on Wall Street who are being terrorized by protestors daily.  I don’t want to necessarily defend the Wall Street people.  There’s a lot of greed, selfish ambition, and bad ethics going on there worth talking about.  I do want a more just form of protest.  If we’re going to cry out for equal pay for people in the work world, what about returning professional athletes to a pay scale similar to the 1950s and 1960s, where players on teams made an average wage versus the GDP of most 3rd world countries?

And what about politicians?  The GOP wants to have a debate every 2 weeks so a group of 8-10 people can tell you why they deserve to be the President of the USA a whole 13 months or more before the election takes place.  Is that healthy for the economy?  These people aren’t currently working for anyone.  Unless you count their campaign contributors.  But where’s the cry out for justice there?  Sarah Palin, whatever job she might have, is basically a political Snooki or Kim Kardashian, with her road trip around the country in the name of conservative politics.  Is she doing a documentary on how the average American is trying to budget themselves through this economic turmoil?  Is she doing research from business owners on what actual businesses need now to survive instead of what our political leaders have instituted that’s hurt the economy?  I don’t think so.  Is Rick Perry the current governor of Texas?  Doesn’t Texas have a budget deficit that needs fixing, hence the cuts of $400,000 to arts funding in Tx schools?  Should he be working to fix the state’s current problems before he tries to be an expert at solving the nation’s issues?  And not to only pick on the Republican/Conservatives as being guilty of this.  Last time I checked Barack Obama is the current President.  So why does he need to campaign for a job he already has?  Shouldn’t he be working more on fixing the country’s problems and (trying to) work with Congress on solutions to our current issues.  I know that takes time, energy, and patience.  It doesn’t take campaigning.  These people live off of someone else’s money.  They supposedly represent us, the people.  When was the last 9-5 job they had?  Who was the last boss they had who put real job expectations on them that they had to meet or else face getting cut (like you and I have)?  Yet politicians are some of the wealthiest people in the world, let alone in the country.  Where’s the protest?

Let’s just be fair.  We as Americans are constantly crying out for fairness, even if fairness is a concept that can’t be made into a reality in all situations.  We still want it.  If we the people really want an equal playing field, then why aren’t we there people lined up in front of the enormous houses of NBA players like Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and Lebron James?  Why aren’t we constantly demanding owners of these teams to do more for communities and participate in the betterment of our country more than just being ridiculously wealthy?  And let’s still be upset at the NFL players and owners.  Just because they solved their $9 billion squabble doesn’t mean that they’re suddenly immune to public scrutiny, especially in the realm of fairness for pay.  If I had the chance to work for 8 months out of the year and have a 2 month off-season that included holidays, all for the guaranteed salary of over $1 million for 1 year, or a multi-year deal worth tens of millions, I think that’d be a pretty good deal.  However, I get about 2 weeks vacation with my job and roughly $30K/year.  I’m not complaining, I enjoy my job and the role I play in the community.  But the pay scale and the perks aren’t in different worlds compared to pro athletes and owners and politicians, they’re in different universes.  In the name of fairness, I’d like to see some of these Wall Street protestors walk to a different street and demand that maybe Lebron James and Michael Vick are incredible athletes, but they make too much money.  And let fairness speak to that real issue.

Favorable Underdogs

While favoring the big dog is often the most logical choice, favoring the underdog is often the most irresistible one.

The story of the underdog is a story that we can all relate to. I believe the reason why we want the little guy to take down the bigger guy is because we all feel like the small guy sometimes. When we watch the guy who isn’t expected to succeed do great things, it gives us the idea that we, too, can accomplish bigger things in our own lives. The triumph of the little guy gives us the “take on the world” attitude.

Sports are the easiest way that we convey our feelings about the little guy. Honestly, what sports movie is not about an underdog? From Seabiscuit to Cinderella Man to Rudy, it appears the underdog dominates the film industry, our hearts and imaginations.

Odds are, if you haven’t rooted for the little guy, you have bought your ticket to hop on some band wagon.

Some famous underdogs include Tom Brady, the 1968 New York Jets, the 1980 USA Hockey team, Rudy, Upset vs. Man O’War (100-1 0dds), Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson, Bob Knight vs. his temper, Tiger Woods vs. everyone, and Ricky Williams vs. weed.

Another prime example, and my personal favorite, is the 2005 NCAA National Championship football game. The USC Trojans, one of the most prestigious teams in all of football, were playing for their third straight title. On the other end of the field were the Texas Longhorns, who had not won a championship since 1970. All year, the Trojans were ranked number one, and Texas two. Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy and Vince Young came in with a second place finish.

The game was primarily back and forth until 2:09 left in the fourth quarter. USC was on its way to a victory, all they needed was two yards on fourth down to seal the deal. The Longhorn defense had other plans. Texas’ defense held USC to get the turnover on downs. The championship came down to fourth down and five from the USC eight yard line, Texas’ last chance at victory. With 19 seconds to play, quarterback Vince Young ran the ball into the corner of the end zone to put the Trojans in their place. Young finished with 200 rushing yards… Bush had an unimpressive 89.

The story of the underdog will always be one that I tell and retell the most. There truly is nothing better in sports than watching David kill Goliath.

The underdog will always be the favorite.

Predictions For NFL Season Pt 2

Funny how less than a week goes by and a slew of changes take place, and the NFL season hasn’t even started yet. But that’s the nature of this season, as I said before.

In the previous post I gave my take on the NFC for the 2011-12 season, who I think will do great, who could be sleeper picks for the playoffs, and also why I believe a few teams will do very poorly this year. In this post, I want to cover the AFC, give my predictions for who’s going all the way to the big game, playoff locks, sleepers for the postseason, and who is certainly not going to fair well.

First, I’ll start at the top. The Patriots have been one of the best teams in football for over a decade. This year marks the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 as well as the 10 year mark of one of their biggest Super Bowl wins. In the offseason (just after the lockout ended) they landed some controversial players, namely Albert Haynesworth. Haynesworth’s bad attitude during his tenure with the Redskins and disrespect of coaches made him a big enemy of most observant franchises, regardless of his talent level. The preseason seemed to indicate that the attitude was still there, that little had changed. This is something getting a little press here and there, on top of the signing of former Bengals receiver Ochocinco. You know, I don’t think either athlete is going to be the difference maker this season. I pick the Patriots to have a good year and go to the playoffs yet again, but only make it all the way to the Super Bowl if they can jive well on offense and get some better protection for Brady. And defensively they will have to play more like the Steelers to really have a chance.

James Harrison attacks offenses

Speaking of Pittsburgh, they’re another lock for the playoffs, barring an injury to Rothlesburger or something similar. They have had the components for championship runs for the past 5 years or more and I think they’ll continue to be a wrecking ball in the AFC. Plus, James Harrison has an even bigger chip on his shoulder than normal, with having to answer the constant questions of the media about his defense being “too old.” I think that label will make him a more ferocious player and probably lead to some other sanctions by the NFL for hard hits and maybe even some punches thrown during games. Harrison is a fairly dirty player anyway, so who knows.

The other AFC team who has been solid for the last decade is the Colts, led by one of the all-time greats Peyton Manning. This year, however, will be a very bad year for them. As ESPN’s Colin Cowherd said yesterday on his radio program, this is a poorly managed team built entirely around Manning. Without Manning they might win 4-5 games in a season. With him, they win 11-12. He’s the difference between a great season and a horrible one. They had 2 backups that coaches didn’t have any confidence in so they go out and hire a 16 year vet (Kerry Collins) with little understanding of their playbook and their offense. And he’ll start Sunday against Houston. I’m actually very glad they aren’t starting Manning this Sunday. Houston’s 3-4 attack with Mario Williams at LB would put Manning out for the rest of the year, leading to a 1-3 win season for the Colts. This way, Manning gets maybe 2 games to rest and recover and then come back week 4 at the latest and save the day. But still, they lack the offensive and defensive weapons to be true contenders in the postseason.

Manning and Joseph at their press conference after signing with the Texans

Houston will go to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history this year. There I said it. They should have gone last year but they couldn’t finish a game. They’d build a 2 score lead and blow it in the 4th quarter. Not this year. Again, that rebuilt defense will get better and better as the season goes on. Their D-line and LB core should be scary in weeks 1-4 and terrifying by week 5. JJ Watt, Demeco Ryans, Mario Williams, Brian Cushing, and the other guys in the box will wreck havoc on O-lines this season, starting with the Colts. The secondary is much improved from last season with the addition of Jonathan Joseph at CB and Danieal Manning at FS. I predict Manning will have a Pro-Bowl year. And let’s not forget the offense, led by Schaub, who has some excellent targets in TE Owen Danieals, Jacoby Jones and Andre Johnson, arguably THE best WR in the AFC. Oh yeah, and they have Arian Foster at RB. Their starting lineup is a fantasy football owner’s dream.

I’m reading online that the Jaguars cutting of David Gerrard guarantees a solid year for Houston. No, I don’t think so. An improved defense, and an offense that continues to put up points guarantees a good year for Houston. Cutting Gerrard only guarantees a rough 2-4 weeks for Jacksonville, a team that already didn’t have much going for it. Sure Gerrard is inconsistent, but in October and November he does well, he wins games, and that’s something the Jags should prize. I think they’ll have at best an 8-8 season. They just don’t have the personnel to do any better.

Another big item in the press is the Chris Johnson contract deal, which he finally got last week. Congrats. Now I hope he can manage to not get injured in the first 3 games and actually do something. The offense is on his shoulders anyways. They had one of the best WR in the history of football last season and didn’t utilize him. Yes, I’m talking about Randy Moss. Johnson will get 20-30 carries a game and if his body isn’t ready for that kind of work, watch out. That contract won’t be sweet for anyone in TN if he can’t stay healthy. I see the Titans at best winning 7-8 games, which could put them in the playoffs, but only if some other big AFC teams do really bad.

Like the Chiefs. Matt Cassel was great with the Patriots as the fill-in for an injured Brady, winning 10 games and making him a star. Last season with the Chiefs, not so much. He does have a great WR in Bowe, and an solid run game. Their defense could be great or mediocre. We’ll have to see. I’m thinking that they make the postseason only through the wild-card race and then bow out in the first week of the playoffs. But that’s if they play without drive and heart, which it seemed they did towards the end of last year. If they turn around and play with a fire in their chests, they could be a great team this year.

Oakland will be horrible again. You knew that whether you watched the preseason or not. Whoever thought Jason Campbell would ever be a game changer wasn’t watching real life football. He has a good game every once in a while. The rest are bad. Very bad. Their running game has to be the saving grace and that defense has to look like something more akin to the Steelers than what they have. I place them at the bottom of the AFC bin.

Colt McCoy

The Chargers, the Jets, and the Ravens will have good seasons, and be playoff contenders. That’s a given. What isn’t a given is the Browns. I pick these guys as sleepers. Colt McCoy is the real deal and he’s going to lead this team to great things. Plus, their other intangibles at RB and especially on defense make this team a solid choice this year.

However, on the other side of the state, the Bengals will continue to be bad……really bad. Another very poorly managed franchise as evidenced by the decision-making of the front office. We can start with Cedric Benson, who has the potential to be a great RB. But off the field he enjoys driving under the influence, repeatedly, and punching old roommates in the face. He also seems to enjoy doing this in the same place each time (in TX). The Bengals have depth at RB with Bernard Scott, who really should be given the starting job. With limited carries he’s done a considerably great job moving the ball. Plus Brian Leonard and Larry Johnson give them a consistent attack on the ground. But then there’s also the issue with not trading Carson Palmer. Trading him would have opened up the bank more to spend on areas of the team that need depth, like WR and TE, or on defense. But they didn’t. So instead they settled for a young QB with limited experience who looked very bad in the preseason. The Bengals will spend this season in the gutter unless their run game makes them shine, which is still a possibility. But on defense they won’t be able to hang with the power players of the league.

Lastly in the AFC east, the Bills and the Dolphins should go either .500 or worse. I say worse more for Miami than for Buffalo. Fitzpatrick and Jackson will lead the offense to some big wins. In Miami, the lack of a steady QB will limit them early. But if they can jell together by week 5, they could become a sleeper team by midseason. I just don’t think they have the intangibles to pull off a playoff birth. And Reggie Bush will be a bust wherever he is. He’ll have a good fantasy game here and there but he is NOT the playmaker he was billed as in the 06 draft.

Oh, and one note about my NFC predictions post, anyone catch the further developments in Chicago with Lance Briggs wanting out of Chicago, and Matt Forte not happy with his contract. Upset and angry players have a tough time producing on the field, especially when they’re your stars. Management should take note. And Seattle should great Gerrard while he’s available. They don’t have a better player at QB.

Predictions For The 2011-2012 NFL Season Pt. 1

It was probably the most unique off-season we’ve experienced in 20 years with the lockout. Teams and players didn’t start working out together, let alone figure out their free agency stuff until about a month ago. Usually everyone starts figuring free agency out in May, camps and OTAs start in late May or early June. The preseason is just a tune-up for starters (who are pretty much figured out by preseason game 2) and essentially auditions for rookies and walk-ons. This year, it’s preseason game 4 where starting positions are still up for grabs for a lot of teams. That’s uncommon and it’s going to produce some different football this year than we’ve had for a couple of decades.

On top of that, free agent signings have totally altered a lot of lineups for teams. Decent teams last year are really good (at least on paper) because of some big signings. A few teams that were playoff contenders last year could be Super Bowl contenders this year. One of them is the Eagles. Michael Vick at QB made these guys great last season. They kept Machlin and Jackson at WR, both playmakers and game changers. Vince Young’s the backup (I’m still not sold on this guy though) and their O line seems pretty solid. The defense got a big boost with CB Nnamdi Asomugha, arguably the best in the game last season. Add to that Asante Samuel on the other side of the field and you now have a defense that, if it can stop the run, should be a shut-down unit all around. That could be the make or break point for these guys to be in the big game at the end of the year. I predict that if they stay healthy, will be a force to be reckoned with in the NFC this season.

Speaking of free agency and team makeovers, what about the Vikings? These guys made one big change and that was at QB. Thank goodness that (at least with one game left in the preseason) Brett Favre is actually done. The Vikings recognized last season that Tavarus Jackson really isn’t an NFL quarterback. He can’t hack it. Mark my words, Seattle will have an abysmal year this season. So Minnesota picks up Donovan McNabb. Last year McNabb looked bad, most of that because the Redskins have a pretty awful management and administrative office. Their coaches don’t really have much cohesion. Remember last year when McNabb was promised to be the starter by coach Shanahan, only to be replaced the next day by Rex Grossman? That was a lot of confusion for an organization that was pretty chaotic to begin with. So you put McNabb in an organization with some solid receivers like Bernard Berian and Devin Arishamadou (both former Bears receivers), and you include Adrian Peterson in the backfield, that’s going to be one powerful offense in the NFC.

Green Bay didn’t change much in the free agency, but why would they? These guys didn’t lose really anyone to free agency and they were the best team in all of football last year. I expect them to be solid this season too. Detroit ended last year looking good after being pretty horrible the year before (the season they finished with zero wins). They have a QB that’s slowly becoming a solid starter in Matthew Stafford. Their RB Javid Best will have another solid fantasy season and hopefully be a cause of some wins. And their defense continues to improve. They could be a sleeper pick for the playoffs come December.

Which leaves the Chicago Bears in the NFC North. I’ve spent the past 5 seasons as fans of this franchise, and have a pretty deep knowledge of their rosters over the past few seasons. Though I started following the team after they drafted Danieal Manning in 2006, I have subsequently moved a lot of my loyalty to Houston following Manning’s signing with them this off-season. Call it fickle if you want, but Manning was the reason I liked the Bears in the first place. But they still have another ACU alumni Johnny Knox, so they still have some of my allegiance.

They don’t, however, have much of my faith in a good season this year. My prediction for the Bears in 2011-12 is bottom of the NFC North Division. Last season they excelled in offense when Matt Forte was given carries. The first several games when the the run/pass ratio favored the pass, the Bears couldn’t drive and couldn’t score. Their scoring drives ended in FGs due to great field position from the kick-off returns of Manning and Hester. Once they balanced the play calling, Forte and Taylor led them down the field along with some good passing attacks. But that came later in the year. The O-line was bad from the beginning. The only steady and consistent presence was veteran center Olin Kreutz. This off-season they refused to give him a solid deal so he left. He was the only bright spot on the O-line.

Last season I really questioned Jerry Angelo’s management and Lovie Smith’s coaching. This off-season proved to me (and to many others) that these guys may have been good a few years ago, but they really can’t make solid management decisions. Add to that the constant moving of Manning 2 years ago from FS to SS to nickel back. He didn’t get a chance to solidify his position, so his play suffered. Last season he had his best year at FS alongside Chris Harris. The defense last season was a shutdown lineup. This year I think they will have a hard time stopping the pass, mostly because Urlacher is not in the form he was a few years back and there’s no noticeable sign of cohesion in the secondary. Their D-line will be solid again, but the secondary makes or breaks your defense. Look for the Bears to hold most teams to under 21 points, but not have the offense to put up numbers to win games.

Caleb Hanie, Bears #2 QB

Here’s why: Jay Cutler is not a winner. Going back to the mention of poor management from the front office and coaches, these are the same guys who chose to start Rex Grossman after seeing what Kyle Orton could do. These are the guys who chose to trade Orton for Cutler, a QB who (while he was in Denver) didn’t have a lot of defensive challengers in pass defense and did pretty well. He also had Brandon Marshall. Then he comes to a team with no all-star receiver (until Johnny Knox of course) and a slew of defensive powerhouses all in the same division. Cutler plays like a young Favre, a gunslinger who will throw pick after pick and then josh about it on the sideline, and do so in a championship game. Caleb Hannie proved in the NFC title game last year that he not only has the skills, the knowledge of the playbook, but also the raw fire and leadership to be the starter. But all of us TV viewers must have been watching a different game than the coaches and management, because Cutler will start and lose games this year. Hester and Knox are the bright spots on the offense. Roy Williams will be just as bad as he was in Dallas and Sam Hurd will end up being a name like Juaquin Iglasius, a great player who everyone had high hopes for but just couldn’t hack it.

Without going into too much other detail, I also predict in the NFC that Carolina will have a decent year, going about 8-8. Cam Newton looks like the real deal, DeAngelo Williams is solid, and Greg Olsen will be another point to my contention that the Bears can’t see talent while it’s on their roster, so they have to see it when the talent goes elsewhere. He’ll have a breakout year. Tampa Bay will do the same. The Falcons and the Saints are playoff contenders, as are the Giants and the Cardinals. Kevin Kobb in Arizona with Larry Fitzgerald is a match made in heaven. It will look like Kurt Warner came back in a different body. Dallas will be at the bottom of the rung again, due like Chicago to poor management and lack of insight into talent. Romo might have a decent game here and there, but without adequate protection and against solid defenses, they won’t be able to hang. The Rams and the 49ers could go either way, good or really bad. Time will have to tell.

Pt. 2 is coming soon with my predictions for the AFC.

The Power Of TEAM

The day after the conclusion of the 2011 NBA Finals has people obsessing over two different things: 1). Lebron James not living up to his own high opinion of his skills and talents, and 2). Dirk and Dallas finally achieving a world championship. There are many points that can be and have been made on both of these aspects. I don’t want to reiterate those points, some things are said more than they necessarily need to be.

While I never bought into the “Lebron is the greatest player” hype, I did think that he had more class before the finals. He revealed something in his character that is really lacking, and that is class and maturity. I felt Scottie Pippen’s remarks a few weeks ago that he was better than Michael Jordan verged on blaspheme. I know I wasn’t alone. Many in and out of the sport got into the dialogue and spoke up that there is no comparison to MJ, at least not while a career is currently going. We can’t even say with full confidence that Kobe stands toe to toe with MJ. So how could Lebron possibly be better after 8 years in the pros and no championships?

On the flip side, more focus needs to be going to the Mavs. Not only are these guys full of class, maturity, heart, and perseverance, there are countless stories of inspiration within the overall story of their success that we could all spend the next month telling each other. There’s the amazing story behind Dirk who has played his entire career in Dallas, not leaving to go elsewhere to win a champ (a-la Lebron last year). There’s the facet about him staying at the arena and continuing to work on aspects of his game after he’s already played a full game (regular season, playoffs and finals) with his German basketball coach to improve on what he lacked during the game. Is there a player in basketball (or other sports for that matter) with that kind of dedication to excellence? There’s Jason Kidd who now has a championship after 17 years in the league. There’s Jason Terry who got a tattoo of the NBA championship trophy on his bicep and guaranteed a Finals championship well before he earned it. These are but the tip of the iceberg.

There are two underlying points I’d like to make briefly here concerning the Lebron side of the game, and the Mavs side of the game, and both have everything to do with you culture and lessons we can pass on to our children and young people. Let’s start with Lebron. Here’s a guy who excels at basketball so much that he gets drafted without ever having stepped on a court of higher pedigree than teenagers in a gymnasium. That by itself will jack up your ego. He leads a Cavalier team through 8 seasons almost single-handedly, once to the Finals. Knowing that the team’s success was largely due to his contributions, that also must have affected his ego. Then he makes a big deal about moving his place of work to a town with 2 other superstar players and guarantees endless championships will be the result. After a convincing win over Boston, then Chicago, the Mavs must have seemed to be another stop on the bus tour to victory. But it didn’t work out that way.

Ignore the whole thing with Dwayne Wade where the two of them mocked Dirk’s sickness on camera. Ignore the comment made post game last night that all his haters still had to wake up tomorrow and live their same old lives. Ignore that he bolted immediately after the game and didn’t stick around to congratulate the winning team (Wade did that to his credit). All of these things and the myriad of others I think have a lot more to do with the lack of leadership and guidance he’s had in life, which is more of a tragedy than and place of blame. His mother must have had a hard time raising a man-child on her own. Come on, the kid is 18 and 6 foot 5? That didn’t happen over night. I can only assume that trying to put restrictions or discipline in place during his teenage years must have been hellish to say the least. Who were his father figures? Who were the men that brought him direction, accountability, and taught him the realities of life? I’d argue that based on his behavior, they either didn’t have much of an impact on him or they didn’t exist.

This is why we’ll never really be able to compare Lebron to Jordan. Jordan’s father James Jordan was an integral part of MJ’s life, his success in sports, and the man he became. One can only assume that James taught Michael that if he wanted to win at the highest level, his dedication to being the best could only be met by him. That’s why when Michael talked about trying out for a team in college, he only refers to himself as the best competition for himself. Lebron might be convinced that he’s the greatest, but he hasn’t proved that because there isn’t a father in his life to really push him, one that he respects as a man and will not just massage his ego all the time. Want further proof? Who was Mike Tyson before Cuss D’Amato? He was a punk kid that was in and out of juvenile detention. After Cuss he was the youngest champion in boxing history. After Cuss he never could put the pieces together.

Instead of hating on Lebron, or criticizing him, which I admit to having both done a bit of and also find it easier to do, we should be hoping and praying that someone with the maturity and character to lead him to become the man and athlete he has the potential to be, will step forward into that place. Until then, the best Lebron will ever become is a talented child who doesn’t play well with champions.

The other side of the subject is what we can all gain from the Mavs, high school and younger sports coaches in particular. Rick Carlisle made key changes in his lineup to give his team the advantage against the Heat. The players went along with his starting lineup. This meant key guys who normally started didn’t. They were ok with it, because in the end the team was more important than the individual. On the other team, you couldn’t say the same thing. Any coach who has ever tried to convince a ragtag group of kids to play together instead of against each other, tried to get one player to share the ball or the responsibility, or tried to work on teamwork now has a poster-child for such an endeavor. Has there been in the last decade (with the possible exception of the Boston Celtics a few years ago) a better example of team work versus individuals with talent where team work won? It’s hard to do. But this is the real deal, and that’s the best story from last night’s win. Teams win championships, individuals go home.

Shaq and Real Legacies

I know there’s a ton of other news going on right now, but the retirement of one of the NBA’s best players this week is something that’s been on my mind.  In between analysis of tonight’s Game 2 Final matchup of the Heat and the Mavericks, sports talk has been limited to the legacy of Shaquille O’Neal and where he stands in terms of the best players of all-time.  Some say he’s one of the 5 best centers of all-time, others that he’s one of the 5 best PLAYERS of all-time.  I’m not a sports analyst but certainly a sports fan, so here’s my take on Shaq, his legacy, and the legacy of athletes at the top of their game. It might seem like I’m trying to besmerch the career of one of the best players in NBA history in the following comments.  That’s not the case.  Shaq is one of the best entertainers the game has experienced, both on and off the court.  He prowess was unmatched during the peak of his career and he was almost impossible to guard.  That’s a dominant player.  But I want to add to the conversation taking place now in the sports realm about what is greatness, and where the road to establishing your legacy can take you in the eyes of different people.

Shaq played with over 5 teams during his 16 year career.  Sixteen years is a long time to play professional sports, especially basketball.  It’s a long time to be one of the best in the game as well.  But we honestly can’t say that Shaq was one of the dominant centers in basketball for all 16 years can we?  Do many people even consider this past season a part of that greatness when he spent most of the season on the bench for the Celtics?  What about his brief stint before that in Cleveland?  I honestly had forgotten that he played along side Lebron James.  Most people have too, because his performance then wasn’t memorable, it wasn’t great.

But during the years of his greatness, obviously his time with the Lakers from 1996-2004, he won 4 championships and a number of MVP awards.  He also had Kobe Bryant, arguably one of the greatest players of all-time.  That’s part of the reason why some feel that he wouldn’t have been able to acquire those championship titles had the weight of winning been exclusively on his shoulders as a dominant player.  Even Jordan had Pippen, Kerr, BJ Armstrong, and others to help bring championships to Chicago.

There wasn’t a place or time in the career of O’Neal when it came down to Shaq alone for the NBA finals to be won.  Actually that’s not true, there was one point but it was early in his career, during his tenure with the Orlando Magic.  I remember this mainly because the team they faced were my beloved Houston Rockets.  Shaq was the main attraction, everyone had been talking him up on every sports outlet in the country.  The Rockets had played great ball, and their center Hakeem Olajuwon, had dominated everyone in the playoffs leading to a repeat shot in the finals.  What happened in that series?  The Rockets swept the Magic, Shaq learned quickly that power is good, but sweetness is better and there is no defense against the Dream Shake (anyone remember that other than me?).  Had O’Neal been older, had more reps and experience under his belt and been able to adjust quickly to what Houston threw at him, the outcome might have been different.  Perhaps Shaq wouldn’t have been swept in 4 games.  But I think ultimately the finals would have ended the same.  He was a dominant, powerful athlete on the court, one that was nearly impossible to guard or defend.  But look at the stats, the numbers, the team mates, and the other power players of his era and you’ll see what I see: a great player limited by his own concept of greatness.

He one of the NBA’s all-time scorers.  Leader in rebounds and blocks.  That’s great.  But as <a href=””>Doug Gottlieb</a> has said these past few days, he’s not a good as he could have been, and that’s tarnishes his legacy, at least in the eyes of some people.  Because he didn’t keep himself in shape, he rode the bench during most of the last years of his career due to injuries.  He was a nonfactor this year and last year.  Some sports fans thought he retired years ago.  That says something.

In my book, the all-time greatest centers are Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Shaquille O’Neal (top 5 if you will).  David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, George Mikan, Bill Walton and Robert Parish round out the top 10, but these guys had everything, especially when you break down the numbers.  Chamberlain, Russell, and Abdul-Jabbar need no explanation.  Olajuwon though is a player that doesn’t get the respect I feel he deserves in the memory of all-time greats.  Here’s why, he only had 2 championships.  Shaq had 5, one of them with the Heat.  Ultimately, it’s the number of rings you have that determines for most people what your legacy is as an athlete, and then that’s the measuring stick for where you stand on the all-time greatest list.  The Dream (Olajuwon’s nickname for those who didn’t know) played his entire career in Houston, where he won his championships and frustrated players and coaches with his smooth and graceful playing style and shooting ability, as well as his keen defensive instincts.  He was an amazing rebounder and shot blocker.  He’s on the all-time list in those two categories.  For those following stats, you would know his name, but those who only follow championship rings might not recognize him.  He also didn’t have an all-star cast around him during the championship years, not to say that Kenny Smith and Robert Horry were not integral parts of the team in ’94 for the championship.  But they hadn’t peaked in their careers yet.  Smith was certainly not Kobe Bryant in his prime, nor Dwayne Wade. Clyde Drexler was a big part of the following season’s championship, not to take anything away from him or Sam Cassel.  But much of the load for the title was on the Dream.

So had Olajuwon chased after championship rings to further establish his legacy as one of the greatest players, he probably would have signed in free agency with the Spurs and set up a center/power-forward tandem with Robinson similar to what the Pistons did years back with Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace.  But he wasn’t chasing championships, he wasn’t trying to prove to be one of the greatest players.  He was more interested in playing with his team, more interested in continuing to invest in the players and coaches he’d been with (though he did finish the last year of his career in Toronto which was more of the franchise screwing him than him wanting to leave), and the city that he called home (where he still lives I think).  For people who consider a great legacy to be something that deals more with your character than the number of championship rings you have, you won’t find as much stock in Shaq or Kobe as you might with Olajuwon.

Or maybe that’s just me. But probably not, since the greatest player of all-time Michael Jordan said in his mind, Olajuwon was the best center of all-time.

If you want to see for yourself, check this out

The Sport That Kind Of Is…

I absolutely love my own opinions. That’s why I come up with them. I feel that my opinions are absolutely perfect and anyone who has an opposing opinion is wrong. But come on, who doesn’t feel that way?
I have always been a sports nut, and I like to think that I am quite knowledgeable when it comes to most sports. In sports, opinions can be just as serious and controversial as any other topic. Sports should be taken seriously… or… should they?
When it comes to deciding what a sport is, I used to be kind of choosey. In my mind, there were just some things that should not be considered a sport. If you are an American, typically the things that pop into your mind when you think of the word “sports” are football, basketball and baseball. Hockey may come to some people’s minds, but I leave that sport to our friends who have leaves as national symbols.
I used to be very careful when calling something a sport. For example, I used to think that golf was just a hobby that you could get really good at. I didn’t consider golf to be a sport because, to me, a sport was a noun followed by the word “ball.” Ping Pong, Frisbee, gymnastics, cheerleading, cricket, and at one point, tennis were just activities that people did. They were not sports to me. It was only a few years ago that I grew up, looked at the definition of sport, and realized that there are actually many more sports than I thought.
The very first time that I played tennis was in Searcy, Arkansas. I was at church camp at Harding University and we had a lot of recreation time during the day. My friends, who played tennis, decided to hit up the courts. I followed suit thinking that it wouldn’t be that hard… Needless to say, I was demolished. For a lack of a better word, I sucked. I still may be choosy, but I decided then and there that tennis was indeed a sport. As the years have gone by, I have come to accept the other “hobbies” that I mentioned to be sports as well.
HOWEVER, there are still those “activities.” In my world, and I hope in yours as well, toe wrestling is not a sport. As gross as toe wrestling sounds, it has quite a following.
Toe wrestling is an activity that is actually growing in popularity in the United Kingdom. The rules are simple; pin the other person’s toes to the ground. The common courtesy in toe wrestling is to remove your opponent’s socks and shoes for them before the duel. This activity, which has been around since 1970, now has a world championship tournament. In fact, following his 1997 world championship, Alan ‘Nasty’ Nash appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. By definition, toe wrestling is a sport.
I am glad there are things like toe wrestling to ensure that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. To me, toe wrestling should not be considered a sport. But then again, I really love my own opinions.

What Makes a Leader

I love sports! I have participated in and watched competitive sports most of my life. Sports provide avenues to learn teamwork, establish friendships, and develop discipline. I am sure that these attributes have played a big role in how our society developed a huge infatuation with sports. But what really interests me is how, in the arena of professional sports, some players emerge with the reputation as leaders in the public eye while other players do not. Of course, there are some players that have earned a bad reputation and seem to revel in that. But a large majority of professional athletes have worked very hard to reach the top level of their sport. Along the way, most of these players have been leaders on their respective high school and college teams, yet now they are being either lifted up by the public or shot down. And this is done by a public that does not really know the person. We see the player on court and might hear of an off-court action, but other than that, we really have no idea of their leadership qualities.
So, the question seems to be what circumstances exist to steer the public to develop their opinions. Let’s look at the example of the Boston Celtics versus the Los Angeles Lakers. Both teams have their fan base, but it appears to me that the general public leans more towards favoring the Celtics. Did this perception begin in the 1980’s when the Lakers drafted Magic Johnson and the Celtics drafted Larry Bird? Did the nickname, Showtime, make those Laker teams seem almost too showy, while the Celtics had a harder nosed, blue collar reputation that appealed more to the public? Then again, it is certainly possible with the Lakers winning more championships that the public turned against their success and rooted more for the underdog. These reputations appear to follow these two teams even today. Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, one of the most prolific scorers to ever play the game, is not considered to be a great leader. He has multiple championship rings and seems to be the leader of his team, but the public does not view him highly. On the other side, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have gained the public’s adoration. They are viewed as great leaders to not only their teams, but also their communities. These two players continue the perception of hard work and physical play, and appear to benefit from that in the public eye.
Whatever the end result might be for who is determined a leader, it seems the public bases their opinions more on external circumstances and perceptions than on true leadership qualities.

Old Game Offers a New Perspective on “The Big Game”

B.J. Raji's Defensive Action!The minute after the two teams to play in the Super Bowl are selected, fans instantly begin speculating who will win, and by how much. Everyone has their own prediction. Some are saying the Packers will win with a huge margin. Others say the Steelers will just barely pull off the win. They cite stats and big plays to back up their assertions, but others like to use simulators, computer programs that literally play out the game to arrive at a certain score. EA Sports’ Madden engine correctly picked the winner in last year’s Super Bowl, the Saints over the Colts. But some retro fans use a different game to make their Super Bowl XLV predictions.

Tecmo Super Bowl was a video game released in 1991 on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was ground breaking for the fact that is was the first game to get a license from the NFL and the Players’ Association to use team logos and players’ names as well as attributes, making it a precursor to Madden. It was an instant classic, blending just enough realism as well as crazy action to keep players hooked.

Let’s fast forward to recent times. EA Sports now holds exclusive licenses on both the NFL and the Players’ Association. On April 30, 2010, the last active player featured in the original 1991 game, Jeff Feagles, hung up his jersey. Many media outlets called this the “end of the Tecmo Super Bowl era.” But if you peek into the world of console emulation, you can see that’s not the case. The game has maintained a cult following over the past two decades. People with the technical know-how have created “rom hacks,” or modifications of the original game’s code, to keep the game up-to-date, since Tecmo no longer can. This makes the game (as well as its next iteration on the Super Nintendo) one of the most modified games in video game history. It’s a cult following, yet prominent enough that TSB simulations have been featured this week on ESPN, Comedy Central’s tosh.0, and a host of other mainstream media outlets.

The primary selling point of the game from the beginning was playing as your favorite NFL team, but it also included a mode that let the computer play both sides. Thus, these Tecmo enthusiasts can run their own simulations using these updated rosters to see how virtually every game in the league will play out, especially the Super Bowl. I recently ran my own simulation using the updated Super Nintendo version of the game and it produced a score of Green Bay: 38/Pittsburgh: 14. One of the cool things with a Tecmo simulation (as well as the Madden simulations) is that you can see the full game, big plays included. Some big plays from my simulation included a fumble recovery by B.J. Raji which led to a touchdown, (pictured above) a 4th and 14 conversion nimbly pulled off by Ben Rothlesberger, and a 61-yard touchdown pass by Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings to seal the deal.

Of course, there’s no way of knowing if this is exactly how it’s going to go until Super Bowl XLV kicks off this Sunday. With limitless amounts of possible variables, any simulation is going to produce different results if executed a second, third, or 5,000th time. Also, if this postseason has taught us anything, it’s that stats don’t matter. The Seahawks, with a losing record in the regular season, beat the defending Super Bowl champion Saints this year. And while Big Ben has seen more Super Bowls than younger gun Aaron Rodgers, many believe this underdog will have his day. When you’ve got the two greatest teams of the season facing off, anything can happen. That’s what keeps people looking forward to this game, especially when they make predictions on how they think it’s all going to happen.

The Final Score, According To Tecmo