Sports Opinion & Analysis

Archive for March, 2013|Monthly archive page

The Penguins Are Trolling the NHL

In Media, NHL on March 29, 2013 at 6:15 am

by Chris Carosi

Last night I was at the bar, enjoying myself, trying not to be awkward, talking about Doctor Who or something when I looked up at the television above the bar and saw that the Penguins had traded for Calgary forward Jarome Iginla. I convened with my one friend in the Bay Area that loves hockey and he said, being more informed than I, “I just read Boston got him.”

After a few hasty iPhone searches, we saw the truth. No, the Penguins swept him, seemingly at the last possible second.

I went home and checked it out. The entire Internet was trolled by the Penguins. Everyone including reputable sources like TSN (that’s Canadian ESPN) were saying the Boston Bruins had landed Iginla. This was going until an enormous sigh swept over the Internet, like a long breeze sweeping the Cheetos crumbs from underneath the servers around the globe: “Oh shit. Sorry everyone. Iginla is going to Pittsburgh.”

TSN’s venerable Bob McKenzie apologizing to the Internet

What’s even stranger (or awesome depending on your POV) is that the reason why Iginla came to Pittsburgh is that he chose to. He has a no trade clause which means he can waive it to play for a contending team. That’s why he didn’t go to Boston. He didn’t want to. And the Pens only gave up two mediocre prospects and a first-round pick for him.

Add to that the Penguins addition of the other big name grizzled veteran on the market (Brenden Morrow from Dallas) and the best big defenseman on the board (Douglas Murray from San jose) and you have an ungodly stacked roster of dudes that want to win a cup. The current NHL leading scorer Sidney Crosby is playing spectacularly and the team is in the midst of a 13-game winning streak (longer than the Blackhawks 11-game winning streak this season–their 25-game streak was a points streak, not wins). And, oh yeah, the reigning league MVP Evgeni Malkin hasn’t played since March 9th. The Pens haven’t lost in March yet.

Douglas Murray: Swedish Troll.

The Pens have trolled the entire league before the league can blink an eye. They have usurped control of the Eastern conference with skill, front office suave, and haven’t even spent any money or traded anybody.

Iginla has a huge cap hit so he will be gone after the offseason probably. This is what a team who wants a Cup looks like. They are determined to put fixes in place to win now. The trolls can have class.

Advertisements

Is It Competitive, Or Is It Just Bad?

In College on March 27, 2013 at 8:03 pm

By Jonathan Danielson

It was said going into the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament that this year might be the most unpredictable tournament in recent history. After only a few rounds, I think it’s safe to say that the general opinion was not only correct with their modest predictions, but that this year might actually be the craziest tournament ever.

Eliminated early were teams that were supposed to be the closest things to sure bets; Georgetown, Kansas State, Gonzaga, even Belmont.

"The entire country is going to hate us for busting their bracket..."

Question: How much does the entire country hate Georgetown for busting their bracket? Answer: A lot.

Advancing were schools almost no one ever heard of: Lasalle and Florida Gulf Coast University.

How obscure is Florida Gulf Coast University? Here’s the opening paragraph to their Wikipedia article: Florida Gulf Coast University, also known as FGCU, is a coeducational public research university located just south of the Southwest Florida International Airport in the South Fort Myers region of unincorporated Lee County,Florida, United States.

Apparently, the only people who look up FGCU are people driving to FGCU, and they’ve driven past it so many times they need to pull over and Google which side of the airport it’s on.

"Why were we going here again?"

“Why were we going here again?”

If you’ve been able to slack off at work long enough to watch a game or two, you would have quickly realized that the reason this year’s tournament is so crazy, so unpredictable, is obvious. Simply put, college basketball just isn’t that good. In fact, it sort of sucks.

Take the Cal/Syracuse game on Saturday for an example: Cal was down by eight in the final seconds but were making a valiant, albeit unlikely comeback. The Bears were able to score, play solid defense as Syracuse tried to inbound, then got possession back underneath their own hoop. What happened next should have been a relatively easy play ; the inbounding Cal player only had to throw the ball to his teammate out by the three-point line. Instead, the ball was thrown way over said teammate’s head, and went right out of bounds.

Syracuse for the win!

Take the Kansas/North Carolina game for another example. In the first four minutes, Kansas was 1-of-5 shooting, and North Carolina was 1-of-9, and during that run, each team consecutively missed two completely wide open layups. These are layups, the basic fundamental play were you’re so close, you just bounce the ball off the backboard or drop it through the hoop.

Oh, and Kansas was the top ranked team in that division. North Carolina number nine.

"And I thought watching the Bobcats was bad..."

“I should’ve just stayed and watched the Bobcats.”

Yeah, these are only tiny insights of an entire game, an entire tournament, but still, such are the metaphors for college basketball.

Maybe that’s a bit harsh. There have been some great moments of course, and exciting plays. Take Ohio State’s three pointer to win over Iowa State with .5 seconds left. Take any game FGCU has played in. Or Wichita State.  The only problem is, just because those games were close/exciting/competitive, doesn’t mean the actual game  was any good. While this may be some of the most exciting and unpredictable tournament play in recent history, it’s also some of the worst actually played.

And that’ because One-and-Done is killing college hoops.

"Man, I'm happy this tournament is over. My old knees couldn't take much more."

“Man, I’m glad this thing’s over. My old knees couldn’t take much more.”

In case you’re unfamiliar with the One-and-Done, it’s when a college player plays one year at the collegiate level and then bolts to the NBA once the season’s over. It’s a byproduct of the NBA rule that states a player must be at least 19-years-old, and one year removed from high school, before they can declare for the draft.

The rule was meant to protect the integrity of the NBA, and encourage players to look at college before a professional basketball career. Instead, it’s made a joke out of college hoops. It’s robbed college basketball of its best and brightest stars.

"I would tell them to stay in college as long as they can. Oh, and to grow a mustach."

“I would tell them to stay in college as long as they can. As loooooooooooooong as they can. Oh, and to grow a mustache.”

You might argue that One-and-Done has finally leveled the playing field. That it’s opened up large, historically dominant programs to their shortcomings. That the little guy can finally compete.

And I would say, sure, you’re right, but also think about this: There was a reason those programs have been as historically good as they have. There was a reason the best of the best went to those schools. It’s because those schools played to win championships.

If you ask any coach, that’s technically still the case, but for the player it’s now because that program has the best chance of getting that player into the big leagues after a quick vacation for a year at “Animal House.” And while the big programs continually have roll out new talent, and have to compete each year with a new batch of 18-year-olds, smaller programs like the FGCU can allow their players to mature a few years, and take on the youngsters. Does that mean the players from the smaller schools are better than the big-name teenagers on the premier rosters? No, it just means they’re older.

And if you don’t think that argument doesn’t carry any weight, go ask OJ Mayo and Yi Jianlian what it was like finally playing against the big boys after playing babies their entire lives. Don’t worry, Shabazz Muhammed will find out soon enough.

"Alright, I'm old!"

“I get it, I’m old!”

One-and-Done has got to go. Personally, I favor an NFL-like system that requires players to spend at least three years playing at the collegiate level. It gives them more time to mature themselves, and mature their game before hitting the big time. It will make the NBA better, and for the Month of March, it will give the Big Dance a much better product on the court.

But until then, enjoy the rest of the tournament. It might not be the best basketball to watch, but at least it’s making for great soon-to-be-televisised-underdog-movies.

Kings Of Karma

In NBA on March 26, 2013 at 6:35 am

By Kevin Wolfman 

There are many words and phrases to describe the feeling of being unfairly treated by somebody in a position of power.

Used. Manipulated. Strung along. Jerked around. Messed with. Put upon. Screwed.

The ongoing saga of the Sacramento Kings, and their possible definite possible definite possible relocation to Seattle has given birth to a new one: Maloofed.

Maloofed: 1. (verb) Completely and unashamedly lied to and deceived by the most worthless owners in sports over a period of months and/or years. 2. (verb) Screwed by the shenanigans of the Maloofs.

For years, the Maloof brothers have presided over the Kings organization about as well as anyone with an ounce of common sense could have expected a family of business-illiterate trust fund party boys to—which is to say, terribly. After a brief period of competence in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a period which gave rise to what Sports Illustrated called the “Greatest Show on Court” and a throwback brand of frenetic hard-court showmanship that almost single-handedly pulled the NBA out of its post-Jordan doldrums, the Maloofs suddenly remembered they were Maloofs, and got right back to the more familiar business of losing or ruining everything they put their soft, caviar-smeared hands on—first a beer distributorship, then a Las Vegas casino, and finally Sacramento’s beloved Kings.

There’s no need to reproduce here an exhaustive list of all the idiotic, short-sighted, and/or callous decisions that have defined the majority of the last decade at ARCO Arena Power Balance Pavilion Sleep Train Arena (although the decision to name the arena after a company that makes bogus magic bracelets is certainly one of them). It will suffice to say, for our purposes, that Forbes gave them this unholy distinction for a reason. And it’s not like the Maloofs are the first terrible owners to come along. Clippers fans have been putting up with their slumlord owner for decades. Raider Nation endured a generation of Al Davis mistaking fast 40 times for actual football talent.

So the Maloofs have no monopoly on incompetence.

"I'm still telling you, Jamarcus Russell's going to be a star!"

“I’m still telling you, Jamarcus Russell’s going to be a star!”

But what sets the Maloofs apart from your garden-variety billionaire doofus or dick is their long-standing and unrepentant embrace of dishonesty and deceit. They haven’t just run the Kings worse than 99% of pimply teenagers with an Xbox and a copy of NBA 2k13 could–they’ve done it while literally lying through their teeth about their intentions every step of the way.

For years, the Maloofs insisted—at times outrageously, flaming with righteous indignation—that the Sacramento Kings were absolutely staying in Sacramento.

Then they tried to move the team to Anaheim—Anaheim!—in 2011. That gambit failed at the last second, thanks to the efforts of Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson and the first-grade-level knowledge, shared by every powerful NBA affiliate with a functioning brain stem, that Anaheim is a terrible NBA market.

Following that embarrassing episode, the Maloofs still brazenly insisted, despite all obvious evidence to the contrary, that keeping the Kings in Sacramento was still their most heartfelt desire. They kept up the charade for a little bit longer, actually “agreeing” to terms with the city of Sacramento on a new arena construction deal in early 2012, an “agreement” made possible by an ungodly amount of cajoling and persuading from commissioner David Stern himself. The deal was approved by the city council in March, and the Maloofs soaked in the resulting thunderous applause and appreciation of a fan base ecstatic for the arrival, finally, of some basic stability.

And then the Maloofs reneged on the “agreement” only a month later, claiming that they were forced into it, and it was a bad deal for them, and mayor Johnson and the folks of Sacramento were big meanie-heads who hurt their feelings and didn’t share enough toys.

Speed kills common sense.

Speed kills common sense.

This was a lie, of course. The 2012 deal was ridiculously generous to the Maloofs, who had long been unmasked as an entitled gaggle of of deluded wannabes who had no business owning a Subway, much less an NBA franchise.

But even this quintessential “dick move” paled in comparison to the lie the Maloofs spouted repeatedly for years–before, during, and after the Anaheim debacle of 2011 and the arena sabotage of 2012. Through all of the bungling and stumbling that defined the 21st century in Maloof-Ville, there was always one fundamental constant: The Kings were NOT for sale.

Until, of course, they were. Until it turned out they actually were for sale the whole damn time—just not to anyone interested in keeping them in Sacramento.

Well, shoot.

Well, shoot.

Kings fandom erupted in January 2013, when reports came from practically out of thin air that the Maloofs had reached an agreement to sell the Kings to an ownership group from Seattle. After years of denials, years of righteous indignation, the truth finally came out. The Maloofs showed their true colors once and for all, which turned out to be “Anything but purple and black.” They negotiated with the Seattle group incognito, never telling anyone connected to Sacramento that the team was up for grabs. Never giving anyone with Sacramento ties a fair chance to purchase the team. This was by design. The Maloofs may or may not hate the Kings’ fans, but they certainly do disdain mayor Johnson and the city of Sacramento itself. So they decided to sell the team out of the blue, to an outside group, and screw Sacramento in the process out of pure spite.

Really? Seriously?

Really? Seriously?

And this is where karma comes in.

The NBA Board of Governors meets in mid-April, at which time it votes to approve or deny any sales of teams. By reaching an agreement with the Seattle group in January, the Maloofs gave mayor Johnson and the rest of Sacramento’s vaunted “Here We Stay” movement a full three months to line up its own roster of billionaires and put a counter-offer on the table for the Board of Governors to consider. Yes, the Maloofs, who spent years mastering the fine art of screwing Sacramento and its loyal fan base six ways to Sunday, couldn’t even do that right this time, the one time it would hurt the most. The Maloofs had Maloofed themselves.

In response, mayor Johnson worked some magic and lined up a blue-chip ownership group, headlined by 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and grocery billionaire Ron Burkle, in a matter of weeks. He announced the completion and filing of Sacramento’s counter-offer before the end of February, at his State of the City address. In the meantime, Kings fans rallied like no NBA fans had ever rallied before to keep their team. Millions of dollars were pledged from prospective season-ticket holders. Millions more were pledged from local corporate sponsors. A minority ownership group surfaced, headlined by none other than Kings legend Mitch Richmond. Sacramento’s city council voted 7-2 to basically get out of mayor Johnson’s way and do whatever it would take to keep the Kings in town. And oh-so-slowly, the whole “Kings-to-Seattle” narrative began shifting. “Definitely moving” became “well, maybe.” And while it happened, the whole country started learning the full extent of the Maloofs’ chronic and unforgivable Maloofery. (Yes, that is now a word, too.)

David Stern learned, too—in fact, he’d probably known all along. So when word first surfaced that the Sacramento group’s initial counter-offer was too low, he personally met with Mark Mastrov to break the news. Days later, Sacramento just happened to add Silicon Valley billionaire Vivek Ranadive to its blue-chip lineup. While Stern was one of the few people with detailed knowledge of the Seattle group’s offer, he was also under zero obligation to let Sacramento know how its own initial offer measured up But he did—and that speaks volumes. By doing so, he basically saved the Kings’ chances of staying in Sacramento. (He also took the opportunity to throw the Maloofs under the proverbial bus.)

The driver is now his personal chauffeur.

The driver is now his personal chauffeur.

The Maloofs don’t just want to sell the Kings—they want to rip the city of Sacramento’s heart out. Their final inglorious act as NBA owners will be to take the Kings away from California’s humble capital city, in one of the most lucrative, and disgusting, temper tantrums in sports history.

If they get their way. And lately, it’s been looking more and more like they very well might not.  The NBA can’t force the Maloofs to sell to the Mastrov/Burkle/Ranadive Sacramento group, but it can prevent them from selling to the Seattle group–or any other group–if it believes keeping the Kings in Sacramento is in the best interests of the league and its owners. At the mid-April Board of Governors meeting, there is now a very good chance that that’s exactly what will happen. The Maloofs may well be told, in so many words, that only a sale to the Sacramento group is acceptable. Not Seattle. Not Anaheim. Not Virginia freaking Beach. Not one of the other hundreds of other cities across the United States the Maloofs don’t have some inexplicable, visceral loathing for. Only Sacramento. Beautiful.

Here’s to karma coming through on this one.

Rickie Fowler’s Quadruple Bogey Inspires David vs. Goliath Inspection

In Golf on March 25, 2013 at 5:37 pm

By Jeff Gibson

I woke up late Monday, amazed that Rickie Fowler was keeping pace with Tiger Woods during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. I’d called out Fowler a week earlier for the flat-billed Puma costumes he dons, instead of keeping his head inside the game I know he can dominate.

No. 24 ranked golfer Rickie Fowler. Photo courtesy his sponsor, Puma. In case you couldn’t figure that out.

Well, here was the 24-year old, still down two strokes and tied for second behind Woods, teeing off on the 16th, a perfect drive down the center of the fairway, making my Monday off a little intriguing from the get go. Then Tiger Woods found the right bunker.

Now, I don’t normally root for Woods, just good golf. But I was still surprised when I didn’t grimace at Tiger’s errant shot. I paused. Was I rooting for Fowler to prove my opinion wrong, that he could step up his game without ditching the neon wardrobe? Was I delusional, hoping my insignificant message somehow made it through the ether to Fowler’s brain, shaking him, telling him: “You can’t be consistent if every time you look at the ball your pants are there you screaming at you!”.

Fowler didn’t get my message. He had on neon-orange pants and a flat-billed black hat, Puma insignia as always. But here I was despite this, actually wanting him to beat Tiger. Call it rooting for the underdog. Although it was more like Temecula’d-out David versus once-troubled adulterer/now guilt-free Goliath. Or like rooting for Florida Gulf Coast this past weekend, even though they’d be knocking off Georgetown, ruining my bracket. Thing was, it ruined everyone’s bracket. Yet we all still rooted for the Eagles anyway.

But on Monday, at Bay Hill’s 16th, there weren’t any winged birds for Fowler to find. His iron attempt from the middle of the fairway fell short of the green and rolled back into the water hazard. And this right after I thought I saw Tiger look over from inside the trap and seem to wish he was the one in the middle of the fairway, rocking neon pants and poking-out Bieber hair, sans Puma hat (no offense Nike). Does Tiger think in parentheses?

Fowler Fowlering?

Anyway, Tiger nailed the green on his next shot — out of the bunker, and over the water trap Fowler couldn’t even avoid from a perfect lie. Did Fowler ever have a chance? A slim one, I thought, until he lost another ball to the water on the following 80-yard chip shot. He finished with an eight, +4 on the par four, knocking him back into a tie for 3rd. Tiger parred, en route to another victory this year and a reclamation of the No.1 throne atop the golf world.

courtesy businessinsider.com

Watching Tiger cruise through the last insignificant holes made me wonder: Why is it that we fans root for the underdog? Are we holding out hope that we will triumph over a similar, all-odds-against-us situation in the future? Do we feel sorry for the lesser opponent? Jealous of the player(s) that the pundits and public dub superior? Do we just want to stir up the pot and be entertained?

I’m not sure of any of those. I find myself rooting for the Miami Heat (not an underdog) in their attempt at 34 wins in a row. But maybe, once again, that’s me rooting against the Lakers (see: 1970s Goliath, plus short-shorts). I also find myself feeling happy for Tiger Woods and his number-one world ranking (It could be I just don’t think Rory McIlroy deserves to be there). Woods has done some stupid stuff, but so have I. And I didn’t have a million plus people peeling back those scabs every minute of my life. Nor did I have to deal with the ramifications of coming off of steroids (just an unfounded hunch), nor the injuries that pop up once you’re off them. But there it is again, Tiger still isn’t the Goliath he used to be. He went all David on us (who knew a raised golf club could take him off his game for that long?). And there it is: I’m back to rooting for David.

It’s as if I try to find the facets of every player or team’s game that make them underdogs so I can justify rooting for them. Maybe it’s how I was raised. Or where I was raised. Growing up watching the crappy 1990s SF Giants, Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s, the Golden State Warriors, the Oakland Raiders (good riddance Tuck Rule), Cal at virtually anything except water polo, rugby, and research.

Maybe I’ve been programmed to spot the inferior, unfortunate, misunderstood, and/or ignored aspects of the game and enjoy seeing dedication to the underrated facets of any game prevail.

Like hearing my high school’s boys basketball team just made an incredible run to the state championship, ultimately losing in the final game to a taller Redondo Union squad. See, I remember my high school days, where my buddies had to stare up at the rafters inside their own gym and see a handful of cross country state titles smacking them in the face every practice, these buddies winning one game all season, albeit against a local team that only lost once all season, to us of all schools. How more Cinderella can you get?

I said the same thing out loud driving home the other day, turning on the radio and hearing the voice of my Korean-born buddy Arthur Ballesteros on 95.7 The Game’s Lucky Break contest, going from unknown underground rapper and stand up comedian to an on-point on-air bay area sports radio commentator right before my ears.

In case you didn’t know, my area bleeds this anti-Goliath mentality. And maybe it’s bigger than the East Bay, or the San Francisco Bay Area, or California, or the West Coast. And while the East Coast bias filtering through every major American news outlet inspires most of us, I think it also bonds us.

But what do I know about bonding? I didn’t read 50 Shades of Grey. I go with local writers instead, like author Joshua Mohr. Although if I called him a Cinderella he might try to get me in the ring and go a round with him.

Back in November, I remember telling Mohr over coffee in the Mission District that the SF Giants were going to sweep the Tigers to win it all. I figured Verlander couldn’t keep getting strikes called a foot off the plate. But really what I was hoping for was a quicker end to the whole thing. The SF Giants were David by default, but by the time they won their second championship in two years, the bandwagoners busting up MUNI buses threw David out the emergency window, if there was still any doubt. Hate to say I called it. But I did. Not the outcome of the World Series. The aftermath.

San Francisco city officials and public wondered why citizens would flock to the streets and vandalize property to celebrate a victory. But they weren’t celebrating (in no way am I condoning this selfish, juvenile behavior). The Giants were no longer the underdogs. Because once you win, you’re not the underdog anymore. You’ve become Goliath.

And what is there to do when David becomes Goliath?

This guy ever going to get prosecuted? Photo courtesy rsvlts.com.

Find another Goliath to fight. Whether or not one even exists.

So, who’s your Goliath?

BRACKETOLOGY!

In College on March 21, 2013 at 6:42 am

By HTLF Staff

Like the rest of the nation trying to get out of work at their day job, we at Hittoleftfield thought it would be fun to fill out our own NCAA Tournament Brackets, and then share and compare and explain our choices. Oh, and thanks to this bracket website that we pulled our brackets from.

Here goes.

Jonathan’s Picks:

There are two things in life I suck at doing, and filling out NCAA Tournament Brackets is one of them.

Screen shot 2013-03-20 at 5.52.13 PM (2)

The other? Thinking about filling out NCAA Tournament Brackets.

Let’s be serious, it’s tough enough trying to predict the outcome of one game at a give time, but predicting 64 games is damn near impossible. Especially if you only pretend to have a passing interest in college basketball, because it seems like you should, since you run a fledgling to mildly successful lower tier sports blog, know what I saying?

(Not pointing any fingers here!)

Either way, I chose Louisville to go all the way, because everyone chose Louisville to go all the way. I picked them beating Miami, because the Canes are the most sure thing at a long shot. If I’m correct about them, picking them will make me look really smart, and there is nothing more I like than to look really smart (I mean, who picked Baltimore over San Francisco in the Super Bowl before the NFL season started? And who then changed that pick before the start of the playoffs?).

Everything else is really inconsequential. I picked Belmont to upset Arizona because Arizona is probably the best worst team (or worst best team, although that phrasing is a bit too generous) in the whole tournament. I picked UCLA to go down, because of the big injury their facing, and I picked Iona to upset Ohio St.

Why did I pick Iona to upset Ohio State? Because I told you already, I suck at these things.

Jeff W’s Picks:

What I know about college basketball is almost entirely conceptual, theoretical, and general. I know that falling down occurs with such regularity that everyday fans don’t seem to mind. I know that defense equals ZONE and offense equals HOT POTATO. And I know that it’s a common joke to say that March Madness involves many of the world’s future insurance salesmen. All of this is to say that I watch very few games from year to year at the college level, most of which take place during March Madness, that weird stretch of time where national productivity decreases dramatically and millions of people sign up for free ESPN brackets and inevitably lose to some homeless guy in Florida who made his picks based on how many people used the corner ATM last Saturday.

So I figured that instead of losing to that homeless man, I’d play a different game, one at which I’m likely to win. Instead of seeing how many games I can get right, I’m going to see how many games I can get wrong!

Screen shot 2013-03-20 at 7.55.33 PM (2)

Now, the real key to “winning” this challenge is to dominate the first round because, obviously, if you whiff every game in the first round, you’ve whiffed the tournament, game, set, and match. But since it’s so easy to pick a low seed to advance in every round, the best scores in this March Madness format are necessarily going to be incredibly low on the win count. I’m thinking that an above average score would be to only allow your bracket to yield, say, less than ten winners. There are 66 games (including the play-ins) so getting about 90% of them wrong (considering you can just pick all the play-in teams to make the Final Four and probably destroy 60% of your bracket) seems a good benchmark.

Hopefully I do as poorly as possible!

Chris’s Picks:

I’m not a college sports guy. Just don’t have the gene. I went to Pitt and I never came close to going to a conference game. Why? Well, they sell out in seven seconds and I just… meh… it’s just not in my bones.

Screen shot 2013-03-20 at 8.39.26 PM (2)

But my affinity and devotion to the Big East remains. Especially in its final year as a competitive conference (hell, a conference at all), they need to go out with a bang. That shows in my bracket which I’m calling “Trying really hard to call the upsets”. It’s kind of pointless but fun all the same.

I have Duke and Syracuse playing for it all in the championship. For that to happen, a LOT of upsets have to go down in the South and East brackets. Yeah. I’m willing San Diego St., Butler, and New Mexico to make it happen.

It’s fun to pick the upsets. I’ve picked 18. That’s pretty ridiculous but if goes down, I will be laughing. That’s how I roll: death or joy.

And finally, the one person here you should probably listen to:

Jeff G’s Picks:

All season I’ve watched top dogs get knocked off, so I’m anticipating a wild tournament

Screen shot 2013-03-20 at 8.49.58 PM (2)

Let’s start with the West. Gonzaga has beaten one ranked opponent all season. Can you can tell I’m not buying the hype? My brother’s been waiting all season for a big man to come along and take out Kelly Kapowski Olynyk, but Pitsburgh’s center Talib Zanna is not gonna be that big man. The game to watch will be Wisconsin vs. Gonzaga. Badgers forward/center Jared Berggren has the versatility to posterize Olynyk, in what’s going to be the long-hair’s first true test against another legitimate big man all season. In the end, Ohio State is too hot right now for me to get in their way. The Buckeyes get past Wisconsin for a final four appearance.

An early matchup in the East I’m studying is a rematch between Marquette and Butler in the Sweet Sixteen. I’m giving Marquette the payback victory, settling the score from an early season one-point loss. I see Indiana having a really tough time getting past Syracuse and then Miami, even a Marquette team if the Golden Eagles play to their capabilities. I just don’t see Miami sustaining a five game winning streak, nor more magic from Syracuse. Indiana sneaks past them all, albeit an overtime victory, or two.

The South. I’ve waited for Georgetown to get a break in the seeding department for years and here it is. Kansas, Michigan, Florida aren’t contenders in this division. Georgetown will have to actually perform in the tournament though, something they haven’t proven to be capable of under head coach John Thompson III. They’ll finally get a taste of the Final Four, but that’s the most I’m willing to gamble on them. As it is, I could see Minnesota topping them in the Elite 8, once they get past Florida for an upset not many are calling. Obama overlooked the Golden Gophers, so I like my odds.

In the Midwest I’m most worried about Duke. Which team is going to come out and play? This is the biggest mystery of the tournament for me. But the road looks easy for the Blue Devils early. Also, I’m high on either Oregon or OK State coming out and beating St Louis. I’m going to give the edge to OK State’s 3-pt barrage led by junior guard Markel Brown. But none of this is going to matter when Louisville stands atop the pile. Their road is easier than the other contenders and they’re outstanding on both sides of the ball — what they’ll need to get by Ohio St. and eventually Indiana. I’ve been waiting for Head Coach Rick Pitino to prove his press isn’t a gimmick. This year he’ll be cutting down the nets because of it.

Fantasy Football Angst Flattens Treasurer’s Bill

In NFL on March 20, 2013 at 6:19 pm

By Jeff Gibson

It’s envelopes like this one — those that taste bitter when you lick them even though the reason has nothing to do with toxic glue or the bleached paper — that make you consider how much time you’ve wasted into the whole fantasy football crapshoot. (Note: my girlfriend is somewhere nodding her head.)

It’s envelopes like this one — a champion’s check neatly tucked inside — that make you consider what could have been a great season. If it wasn’t for Scam Newton’s slow start. Or your overestimation of any Cardinals’ quarterback to get Larry Fitzgerald the ball, even occasionally. Maybe then you’d have at least broken even.

But you didn’t break even. Perdiste todo. Your team stunk and you know it. That’s what you get for naming it “Twinning!”.

Tom Brady and Justin Bieber’s hair #thingsbetterthanyourfantasyteam

It over-performed and made you think for a few weeks you had a decent shot at a playoff push. If it wasn’t for those damn replacement refs giving the game to Hawks, then your Green Bay defense would have given you enough points to push you past your division rival, giving you the division you rightfully deserve.

This doesn’t get old.

That game was six months ago.

And you’re still holding on to it.

Just like the pot.

Not that pot. The league purse. The booty. You’re the dude who agreed to collect everyone’s money. The guy they all trusted wouldn’t blow it in Vegas. The sucker.

Admit it. You know nothing about football. You can’t fathom how a call on the field can’t be overturned when there were in fact two calls on the field so therefore no call on the field. You don’t grasp why garbage time scoring plays aren’t given as much attention in the review booth as when it “matters”. At least baseball umps can’t completely control the outcome of a game.

Hey. Forget the refs. That’s not really what bothers you. What bothers you is that these envelopes should have been given out weeks, even months ago.

It’s that time of the year when you should be getting your bracket together or your celebrity league big board organized, but instead you’re licking stamps. You’re hoping Venmo.com is going to help next year. Then those certain league mates won’t have an excuse not to pay up before the draft. It’s an easy fix. How did you not think of that years ago? But that’s not what bothers you either.

It’s that you had to flatten the bill of your Red’s hat and be a dick about it.

“Hey, what’d you call me? Oh, well, that’s fair.”

You didn’t want to have to be a dick about it. But what bothers you is that they made you be a dick about it. How many texts does it take to get friends to pay you back? How many hints/nudges/reminders? Maybe you should write an article about it. Maybe that would help.

Yeah, but then you’ll get everyone who owes you coming out of the woodwork. Your buddy in Portland who never paid years ago because he started a super sweet rock band. Your commissioner’s buddy, his buy-in you’ve just considered a wedding present at this point. No, no way he even remembers that he owes. It’s a foreign concept to you. It’s like a plague or something with your generation. Like flaking. Monetarily flaking.

Maybe it’s too little for them to care. How much is too little to care about though? Five bucks? Sure, it’s like a favor. Twenty bucks? Mehhhh. Okay, twenty and over is a reasonable some to pay back promptly. But this is you we’re talking about here.

Are you the only one who pays your debts? Our country doesn’t set a very good example.

Hell, you could go back to flattening your bill. Just all the time. It’s in fashion these days. Maybe you’ll fit in. Remember to act all tough though. No one will know the truth.

Like how you spend more time on your outfit than you do your game.

Wes Welker And The New Pope: A Plot Uncovered

In NFL on March 17, 2013 at 7:14 am

By Jeff Weyant

Is there a connection? *cue lightning strike and thunder clap*

“Wes Welker,” for many New Englanders, is no longer a proper noun denoting a specific human being. It’s a curse word that may or may not refer to the person who may or may not have left the Patriots organization and then may or may not have joined the team that may or may not be quarterbacked by Peyton Manning who may or may not be known as The Person Who’s Delaying Tom Brady’s Universal Acknowledgement As Man’s Greatest Achievement. To put it another way, most Patriots fans are wondering just how in the hell this happened.

Luckily, I have a perfectly reasonable and obviously incontrovertible explanation that will withstand whatever perspicacious force one might bring against it.

To begin, did anyone notice that the announcement of Welker’s organizational shift (naturally by Adam Schefter) came just minutes before white smoke appeared atop the Vatican, signalling that the conclave of Cardinals had elected a new pontiff? I did. And that’s when the wheels started turning.

Remembering everything I’d learned from Dan Brown’s masterpiece The Da Vinci Code, I rushed around Paris and London with an attractive French woman, scouring the catacombs of churches and the mansions of elderly weirdos in an effort to uncover the origin of such an amazing confluence of events.

The first clue was the one already mentioned above, that the two events were reported on Twitter, humanity’s bastion of truth and wonder, at nearly the same time. And it’s relevant that Welker’s deal was reported before the election of a new pontiff, because if Jose Mario Bergoglio was declared pope and then Welker left New England for Denver, people would have caught on too quickly. The Vatican is run by highly intelligent individuals who understand the complex rules of cat-and-mouse, cloak-and-dagger politics and so they ordered the information in such a way as to throw off the scent of amateur gumshoes. Fortunately I’m a professional, having schooled myself early on in life with the legends and myths of Philip Marlowe and Harry Potter, two of the greatest sleuths of the last one hundred years.

One used wands and magic, the other cigarettes and women. They’re basically the same person.

My mind racing, it occurred to me that Tom Brady, Welker’s former best friend quarterback, was raised as a Roman Catholic and that he and his current wife, Gisele Bündchen, were married in a ceremony that was, according to the tireless journalists at E! and People, “intimate” and “private” and “Catholic.” It then occurred to me that Tom Brady, eighteen months earlier, had a child out of wedlock with Bridget Moynahan, a practice frowned upon by the Catholic Church. Furthermore, the new pope is the first ever Jesuit. Tom Brady is not a Jesuit. The Church, it seemed to me, was moving in a new direction, and perhaps Brady was going to be left behind?

Now came a flood of revelations, bombarding my faculties like a squadron of eagles hell-bent on tearing apart my brain: (1) Brady leans Republican in his political affiliations but refuses to admit this publicly, much to the chagrin of the conservative hierarchy, of which the Catholic hierarchy are life-long council members. And as everyone knows, if you can’t affirm something publicly, private affirmation is useless (I believe credit for this belief is owed to Plato or maybe Bart Simpson). (2) Brady dances like this, which is quite obviously an affront to Catholic honor and nobility. It’s an action which aims to single-handedly overturn everything St. Peter worked for when the founded the Church some two thousand years ago. A grievous slight indeed. And (3) Denver has a larger population of Hispanic Catholics than Boston, and since the election of an Argentine bishop is clearly an affirmation that Hispanic Catholicism is the future of global Catholicism, it only makes sense to empower Denver and weaken Boston, right?

With all this clear in my mind, still something was missing, some variable in the equation that was unknown. I tried and re-tried the calculus over and over again and still something was wrong. Sure, Brady angered the Vatican on multiple occasions. Sure, Denver seems like a fitting place to assign allegiance if you’re the Pope. But that wasn’t enough to satisfy my analytical faculties. I felt like I was overlooking some important aspect of the situation. What could it be?

PEYTON MANNING PLAYS FOR THE DENVER BRONCOS.

And suddenly all was revealed.

If you’re the Vatican and you want to stick it to one of your high-profile members, what better foil to Tom Brady than Peyton Manning? Aside from on-the-field associations, Manning has every trump card over Brady: Manning has a stable family, a wife and two kids, no out-of-wedlock children, and the sort of comedic, southern drawl that puts people at ease and gives everybody the impression of a devout and faithful father. To that end, he prays a lot (you might even say religiously), before games, after games, during games, and he’s the kind of Christian who tries hard to not display his devotion, avoiding the public eye when he affirms his faith. In addition, Manning has donated thousands of dollars to Republican campaigns over the years, including those of John McCain and George W. Bush, and is not shy about admitting his political affiliations. And, finally, Manning is rumored by many to be God Himself.

And so it all makes sense. The Catholic Church wants to move in a new direction, tired of European Popes and their Eurocentric outlook. So they look to South America and grant the papacy to a famous Argentine, a Jesuit no less. And from there a chain reaction occurs: Tom Brady’s transgressions are no longer overlooked because of his athletic prowess and the New England Patriots and their quarterback lose favor with the Vatican as a deal is worked out behind closed doors – by the same Cardinals who elected Pope Francis – to send Wes Welker from the Patriots to the Broncos where Peyton Manning, The Chosen One, commands a Christian army baptized originally by Tim Tebow, a clear signal as to the future of Catholicism on planet Earth.

My mystery solved, my work done, I lay down in the nearest bed with a cold sweat. A fever raged as the last 22.5 minutes of effort took its toll on the physical cage we call a body. Thankfully, after five minutes of deserved relaxation, the worst was over and I arose from my humble pallet to dictate the revelations contained herein. Because the truth couldn’t wait – I had to tell the world what I knew!

But what the world does with that truth? It’s out of my hands.

I Thought This Was Supposed To Be An “American” Pastime?

In MLB, WBC on March 16, 2013 at 12:07 pm

By Jonathan Danielson

For the third straight World Baseball Classic, Team USA has failed to make it to the championship round. In 2006, they were eliminated in the second round by Mexico. In 2009, they lost in the semis to eventual champion, Japan. This year, they lost to Puerto Rico, which is ironic, since the unincorporated territory voted last November to become the US’s 51st state.

If you chanted "USA! USA!" for either team, you technically would be right.

If you chanted “USA!” for either team, you technically were right.

The next time Team USA has a chance to redeem itself won’t be for another four years, but something has to change with the way the team is structured before 2017 rolls around. The US National Team has to do something to become more competitive on the international stage. This is supposed to be our pastime after all. This is supposed to be our nation showcasing our country’s best players.

But to do that, that means the country’s best players actually need to be on the team.

Without disparaging the time, effort, or commitment of the players on the 2013 roster, I think it’s safe to say that Team USA, while having a considerable amount of talent, did not have the greatest talent nation has to offer.

Yes, R.A. Dickey is the reigning CY Young winner, and David Wright is Captain America, and Jimmy Rollins is Jimmy Rollins, but then you have players like Ryan Vogelsong on the roster. Vogelsong is a great pitcher, no question, but Vongelsong isn’t even the best pitcher on his own MLB team. That would be Matt Cain, but Cain was nowhere to be found. Where was he? Where was Justin Verlander, or Evan Longoria, or a load of other players who are our nation’s best and brightest?

"Dude, I don't want to get up either."

“Dude, I don’t want to get up either.”

Instead, when Wright was injured and couldn’t play, the team had Willie Bloomquist to fall back on. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bloomquist. He’s scrappy, driven, and he’s always there when you need him, but Bloomquist isn’t even a starter on his own team. He’s a utility man, and he only comes in when needed, which is fine when the MLB plays 162 games a year, but this is the national team with only a two week commitment. You mean to tell me there was no better option at third or shortstop then Bloomquist? If the team made it to the next round, Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres was supposedly going to join the roster, but why wasn’t he already on the team? Why wasn’t he Wright’s backup, or vice versa, or they were split-time starters together?

Joe Mauer is an excellent catcher, and Shane Victorino an excellent (albeit aging) outfielder, but where was Buster Posey or Josh Hamilton? Where was Prince Fielder or Matt Kemp? And yeah, they’re young, and yeah, maybe it was too late to get them on the team at that point, but where was Mike Trout or Bryce Harper (who, if they keep playing the way they have, better be on the 2017 team)?

"Do you know how long it takes to get my hair to look this way?"

“Do you know how long it takes to get my hair to look this way?”

Team USA needs to make sure they have the best talent available on their roster, but in reality, that’s only one battle in the greater war. Another battle is againstall of the rules which MLB teams enforce on the players’ participation. There is a fine line between looking out for a financial investment and being obstructionists, and major league teams have reportedly crossed that line. Rumors allege that players dropped out of their commitment due to pressure from their organizations. Due to negotiations with their contracts. That’s why their, reportedly, was no Verlander. No Kemp. No Cain.

The World Baseball Classic is supposed to be the Olympics of baseball (since the Olympics cut the sport after 2008). If that’s the case, it needs to be treated that way, and MLB teams need bite the bullet and understand. Yeah, it sucks if your best players are getting a little more wear-and-tear than they would if they sat out the tournament, but this is a two-week commitment that happens every three or four years. Big league teams need to suck it up, and if their players want to play for their country, whether its Team USA or any other nation, they should not only openly allow it, they should encourage it. They should almost make it mandatory.

"Line up you pansies, we need a first basemen!"

“Line up you pansies, we need a first basemen!”

And after that’s fixed, there needs to be a fundamental change in how the games are broadcasted. This means the games should not solely air on MLB TV. They should not just be an event for one station (which also happens to be the company that owns the tournament). The WBC should be made openly available, and the games should air on Fox and ESPN as well. They should be played on stations that cover baseball during the regular season. It should be an event, like the Olympics are, and not just another game in March. It should not just be a glorified Spring Training game, because if it is, it doesn’t matter who plays on Team USA, or any other nation’s team. Because if it is, why should anyone really even care?

NHL Mid-Season Report

In NHL on March 11, 2013 at 8:54 am

by Chris Carosi

With a shortened season due to the lockout, the NHL has already arrived at its mid-season. The good news is that this quickened season has meant fantastic hockey and close races (especially in the Northeast, but we’ll get to that later) because every game really matters. It also means a very, very interesting trade deadline date looming in April, which might provide some teams with the added juice to get to the Cup.

Calgary forward Jarome Iginla is just one of many high-profile players in demand at the deadline this year.

Fewer games means that each point is more important and the teams vying for those last few spots are battling like never before. Seriously it’s great. Makes the NBA look like a kitten fight. Let’s take a look at the each of the six divisions, who will win and who is the dark horse in the Stanley Cup playoff race.

Atlantic Division

Current leader: Pittsburgh Penguins (18-8-0, 36 points)

Who will win the division: Pittsburgh

The dark horse: New York Islanders

Even though Pittsburgh has been solid for years now, they’ve only won the Atlantic once since Sidney Crosby was drafted in 2005. They are heavy favorites because they are just a beast on offense with no sign of stopping. They look to lead the league in goals for the second straight year. In fact, in their last 5 games, they’ve allowed 18 goals. They are 5-0 in those games. But if they want to get back to the Finals, the defense has to be solved. Age and a significant failure to keep opponents out of the crease has led to too many goals allowed. Their goaltenders haven’t been able to save games in that span either.

The Islanders have the young talent and speed to score a lot of goals too. Their weakness has also been on defense, where they allow well over 3 and a quarter goals per game. They have plenty of young leadership with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo among others, so they’ll end up leaning on those skaters to keep scoring. The shortened season favors them to climb the standings over the old and injured New Jersey Devils and the nose-diving Flyers. They play better on the road, which is typical of a young squad, and would help them in the playoffs. Now if they can just get rid of that atrocious alternate black jersey. Side note: they’re playing in Brooklyn starting next year. Hova!

“Nice work, boys. Oh no, look at us in the jumbo-tron. Jesus.”

Northeast Division

Current leader: Montreal Canadiens (17-5-4, 38 points)

Who will win the division: Boston Bruins

The dark horse: Toronto Maple Leafs

The Northeast is very, very competitive this year, which came as a surprise. They could easily qualify four out of the five teams into the playoffs if things stay as they are right now and right now things are cray-cray. With the exception of Buffalo, who are just awful before and after firing longtime Coach Lindy Ruff, the rest of the Northeast continues to play exciting hockey.

“I know I look like an inflated Rutger Hauer. Doesn’t win hockey games.”

Bruins/Canadiens battling it out for the division title is good for the game, but I think the Bruins’ superior defense and experience will give them the edge by the end of the year. They’re just a little better than the Habs, and that’s saying a lot. Michel Therrien has turned the Habs into a balanced, tough, and tenacious group overnight, and they will certainly make life miserable for whomever they face in the playoffs. Boston has only lost 3 games in regulation so far this year, and they are as solid as they’ve ever been.

Toronto are the new kids on the block, and after so many years of re-building, seem to be clicking as a group. They have a great group of fast forwards with the likes of Mikhail Grabovski, Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, and Nazem Kadri. Goaltending has been okay, and will have to be better to advance in the playoffs. If they can steal some games on the road in the first round, they might get lucky and draw a team with a weak defense like Pittsburgh in the second round. You never know.

Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf and his strange combo of mean face + dweeb hair.

Southeast Division

Current leader: Carolina Hurricanes (14-9-1, 29 points)

Who will win the division: Carolina Hurricanes

The dark horse: Winnipeg Jets

The Southeast is as flimsy as its ever been in this abbreviated year, with the strong possibility of only qualifying one team into the playoffs, their division winner. Carolina is not a very good team, especially when compared to their peers in the Eastern Conference, but their history is based on either raising or lowering expectations in an extreme way, and then performing in a manner opposite those expectations. This year, they brought in Alex Semin and Jordan Staal to bolster their offense and power play unit, which dwindles at the bottom of the league. The Canes are leaning on their goaltender, Cam Ward, more than ever.

Winnipeg has put together a nice little spurt these last few weeks, winning 8 of their last 11 games. The Jets have had great production from their top forwards like Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, and especially Evander Kane, who has emerged as a quality scorer. Besides that, there isn’t much to look at. But the Jets have the advantage in their last year in this weak division. If they can beat up on teams like Tampa Bay, Washington, and Florida, they could steal their way up the standings and get a playoff spot.

In keeping with our theme: I present Evander Kane’s hair. It stands for, “Young Money Cash Money Billionaires”. Not joking.

Central Division

Current leader: Chicago Blackhawks (21-2-3, 45 points)

Who will win the division: Chicago

The dark horse: St. Louis Blues

This year is all about Chicago’s ridiculous run of 25 games without losing in regulation. That’s an insane accomplishment, and even rarer when you think about how much more defensive the game has become since the old days. While the Blackhawks have the number one seed locked up yesterday, the rest of the division is kind of the same story as its been for a while. The Red Wings are solid as ever and the Blues, in spite of themselves, are an explosive team on paper.

Why does Patrick Kane look like this when he skates? He is drunk all the time.

The Blues need to get their shit together. Their defense has been very poor this year. This is especially frustrating given their awesome one-two punch of goaltending in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Both have been injured and/or awful. The good news is that they have a lot of variety at forward with eleven players in double-digit points. Injuries have not been kind to the Blues either with key man games missed in goal and forward, including rookie Vladimir Tarasenko. The future is always bright in St. Louis. They need to make believers out of themselves.

Northwest Division

Current leader: Minnesota Wild (13-9-2, 28 points)

Who will win the division: Vancouver Canucks

The dark horse: Colorado Avalanche

A very strange lackluster year so far for teams in the Northwest, as Vancouver has proven to be mortal and everyone else either too crappy or just too wet behind the ears. Although experience down the stretch will give the Canucks the edge, a team like Minnesota, all bound up with energy from their new leadership in Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, as well as rabid fans can get them what they very well deserve: their first playoff round win since 2003. The pressure is on.

There’s an outside chance that a team like Colorado could sneak in as they get healthier but yeah, I don’t know. The Northwest is a wasteland of hope and Roberto Luongo. It’s hard to imagine any other team but Vancouver doing anything extraordinary in the playoffs, but there’s a lot of hockey left. Colorado (the snappers of the Blackhawks aforementioned streak) has some jump very recently. We’ll see if they flake out.

There is no reason for why I dislike Roberto Luongo. It’s just fun I guess.

Pacific Division

Current leader: Anaheim Ducks (18-3-3, 39 points)

Who will win the division: Anaheim

The dark horse: San Jose Sharks

The other great team in the Western Conference are the Ducks, who have been destroying teams all year long. They have the league’s best power play unit (popping at over 25%), one of the most prolific scoring offenses, and a quality young goaltender in Viktor Fasth. They are vulnerable killing penalties, where they are at the bottom of the league, but these Ducks know how to win in their division and are really the sexy pick to advance far into the playoffs given the hype now surrounding Chicago.

Thing you know but always forget: Teemu Selanne is 42 and faster than you will ever be.

Don’t know much about the Sharks, which is weird because I live in the Bay Area and actually saw them skate at the HP Pavillion once. Anyway, here’s a picture of the Cow Palace where they used to play in the 90’s. Here’s to another awesome battle to the end!

Dude. Best hockey venue of all time.

%d bloggers like this: