BallHyped.

com presents …

The Best Sports Blogs of 2010
A compilation of the best sportswriting from the top bloggers contributing to the BallHyped.com community in 2010.

Edited by Brian Milne
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Copyright © 2011 by BallHyped.com BallHyped.com

The Best Sports Blogs of 2010
All entries are reprinted with permission from the respective author and may not be reused without the author‘s permission. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher. For more information, contact ballhyped@gmail.com or visit http:// ballhyped.com.

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Blogroll
From the Editor ........................................................................................................................4 Top 10 Sports Stories of 2010, as Told by BallHyped Bloggers .......................................5 BCS Fails Again: When Will We Get A Playoff? ...................................................................9 Roy Halladay’s Historic Season ...........................................................................................12 BG’s Fan Fiction: Art Imitating Life .....................................................................................14 Things in sports that annoy me: Walks in softball ............................................................20 The New Family Guy: Blake Griffin ......................................................................................21 An Interview With Jaguars' CB Derek Cox..........................................................................24 NFL Classifies Any Celebration By Buffalo Bills As Excessive .......................................27 Rocky Mountain Thunder Waiting To Be Heard .................................................................28 Salary Cap Pitch: Time to Level the Playing Field .............................................................18 Expansion madness: SEC should be American Idol, not The Celebrity Apprentice .....35 How I came to embrace the English Premier League ........................................................37 GM Meetings Open with Daniels Looking to Make a Deal ................................................40 35 Snarky Reasons To Watch Every Bowl Game ...............................................................42 Where is the Progress in Jacksonville?..............................................................................46 Saints Fan Diary Vol 10. - Super Saints ..............................................................................50 Halladay's No Hitter: A View from Section 303 ..................................................................55 Madden '11 Secrets Finally Revealed ..................................................................................57 Bruins Never Leave Home Without … .................................................................................60 Memo to Major League Baseball: Instant Replay is Not the Sign of the Apocalypse ...66 Mark, Jay and Dad .................................................................................................................68 Wizards Win NBA Draft Lottery and Some Media Lose Their Ever-Loving Minds ........70 The Disinherited Edwin Valero 1981-2010 ..........................................................................73 Strengths and Questions ......................................................................................................75 Super Bowl Bears? Don’t dream it, be it .............................................................................79 (Over) analyzing the Phil Kessel trade ................................................................................83 Jordan Eberle, or how I stopped worrying and became an internet sensation..............87 More publicity the Miami Heat don’t need, but they are in trouble .................................89 FH 201: First Quarter Turkeys ..............................................................................................92 Change is good, isn’t it? Urban Meyer leaves Florida… again ......................................101 A Cardinal Christmas Carol ................................................................................................103

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Are you happy to see me, or is that a gun in your pocket? ...........................................112 All-Female Celebrity Football Team ..................................................................................117 Cross Court: Weathering Through ....................................................................................119 Heisman Thoughts: Cam Newton and Cecil Newton ......................................................121 Maybe We Should, But Cleveland Will Never Forgive LeBron .......................................125 All In For The Celtics! Not Quite The Same Can Be Said For The Phillies ...................129 Letters From Jeff .................................................................................................................131 Magic trade with Suns and Wizards ..................................................................................135 Thinking Man's Take on the McNabb Contract ................................................................136 Memo To Rockets: Patience Is A Virtue ............................................................................139 Warrick Dunn Set To Make What’s Best for Falcons’ Future .........................................144 This Is Not The Mayan Apocalypse You Were Looking For ..........................................146 Baseball’s Dirty Mistress ....................................................................................................149 What I Want LeBron James To Be .....................................................................................151 Army-Navy: The experience of a lifetime ..........................................................................154 The Decision was 73 Minutes of Painful Television ........................................................156 Dropping the Gloves vs. a Basebrawl Game ....................................................................158 2011 Baseball Hall of Fame: The Case for Alomar...........................................................161 Red Sox Amending Bridge Period Via Draft .....................................................................163 NHL OnStar...........................................................................................................................167 Rangers Beat the Yankees! Biggest Accounting Upset in MLB History! ......................169 The Oregon Ducks’ New BCS Uniforms: Where’s the Mallard? .....................................172 Nets Nation Still Lost In Latest Trade ................................................................................174 Dwight Howard and the Alpha Dog Theory ......................................................................175 Sundiata Gaines: NBA Feelgood Story of the Regular Season......................................178 My Thoughts On Michael Vick ............................................................................................181 ESPN 30 for 30: Once Brothers ~ Politics, Friendship, and Basketball ........................183 The Milton Bradley Insanity Timeline ................................................................................185 A Sports Halloween .............................................................................................................189 The NFL, The NFLPA, Their CBA, and Their Fans ...........................................................191 Hockey Trivia: Misspelled Names on the Stanley Cup ....................................................202 BallHyped 2010 Sports Blogs of the Year .........................................................................203

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From the Editor
I have to say, 2010 was the best, craziest year of my life. My first son was born in January, and the next nine months of my life was a wacky whirlwind of dirty diapers, sports and web development. In Sept. 2010, after months of hard work both on the web development, design and content side of things, BallHyped.com was officially launched. The next four months were some of the most gratifying of my life, being able to interact and engage with some of the best sportswriters and fans in the sports blogosphere. And yes, I said sportswriters. I spent almost a decade as a ―professional‖ newspaper sportswriter and editor, and I am happy to say the contributions I‘ve seen Hyped on BallHyped.com over those four months in 2010 were as good if not better than a lot of the content that was created by the mainstream media. Sure, not all of these entries are perfect, or objective, or adhere to AP style, but they‘re printed as they were published in the blogosphere and capture what emerging independent sports media is all about. Sports. The games we play. In the unfiltered voice of the fans and die-hard bloggers who follow them. No gatekeepers. No punches pulled. Just the true voice of the fans. We try to capture that same voice on a daily basis on BallHyped.com, and, as editor of this book, I tried to take the best voices of BallHyped and publish them in a book so those posts wouldn‘t get buried in a blog archive or Google results page No. 32. Some of our best blog entries made the book, some did not. We reached out to most all of the bloggers on BallHyped.com for this edition and will continue to do so in coming years. So if you didn‘t have a blog featured in this year‘s book, please sign up for the BallHyped newsletter (accessible in your profile) and reach out to us for the 2011 edition and beyond. As always, I can be reached at ballhyped@gmail.com for more information on the book, the website and for anything blogging or sports related. Here‘s to another successful year in the ‘sphere. We look forward to Hyping your stuff! Brian Milne Founder, BallHyped.com

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Top 10 Sports Stories of 2010, as Told by BallHyped Bloggers
According to the Chinese calendar, 2010 was the “Year of the Tiger.” According to the bloggers on BallHyped.com, it was anything but.
In fact, 2010 was a rough year for a lot of athletes, not just Tiger Woods. Both Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Favre were involved in sexually-charged controversies of their own, and Favre followed up one of his most impressive seasons in 2009 with one of his worst in 2010 – likely his final NFL season. But 2010 might be remembered most for the players who overcame their demons. Eagles quarterback Michael Vick literally went from the doghouse to the penthouse in Philadelphia, rising from a backup to Donovan McNabb and then Kevin Kolb, to an MVP candidate. And then there‘s LeBron James, who was crucified in 2010 for his ―Decision‖ to go from Cleveland to Miami, but was putting together another MVP season of his own as this compilation of sports blogs was ―going to press.‖ Which player will wind up with the MVP and potentially capture their first ring remained to be seen in 2011, but they certainly headlined the list of top stories in 2010. Here‘s a quick look at the top stories of 2010, as told by the BallHyped.com community, followed by the best individual blog entries of 2010 as hand selected by the bloggers themselves. - B.Milne

1. LeBron James takes his talents to South Beach
The LeBron James hate parade has marched across the country since ‗The Decision‘ aired on ESPN in July. Clevelanders, NBA fans, and people who have never watched a basketball game in their lives united under one massive banner to smite down the man that has become a national symbol of narcissism. The viral vendetta against LeBron is unprecedented in scope and size for the sports world. Even the most hated professional athletes haven‘t felt the web‘s wrath like this 5

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fallen icon. The Tiger Woods sex scandal drew anger from fans, instantly sparked thousands of jokes and sent some of his sponsors sprinting away, but he wasn‘t demonized throughout online media. Michael Vick‘s dog-fighting ring set his image on fire, outraged fans and animal rights activists, and inspired countless Halloween costumes, but his recent comeback on the Philadelphia Eagles hasn‘t been marred by a nation-wide campaign against him. Sure, LeBron quit, and he left his city to rot. But others have done the same, and it didn‘t incite national hatred. - Kim Bhasin

2. Michael Vick goes from doghouse to the penthouse
It was basically a fact heading into Week 15 that the top two candidates for the National League Most Valuable Player are New England Patriots‘ quarterback Tom Brady and Philadelphia Eagles‘ quarterback Michael Vick. Almost everybody had Brady first and Vick second. (A few threw in guys like Philip Rivers or Matt Ryan.) And almost everybody agreed that Brady had the MVP race all but wrapped up. But hold on one minute. You know how one game can drastically change the MVP race? That‘s exactly what happened today. After an incredible series of events in the fourth quarter of today‘s Eagles-Giants game, we have had a drastic change in the MVP race. - eaglescentral

3. Tiger Woods’ fall from grace
What seemed unthinkable until El Tigre was a gray haired overweight golfer on the Senior Tour has happened 15 years too soon – he has lost his #1 World Ranking. The fall of Tiger Woods is complete. - MrYoder

4. New Orleans wins first Super Bowl, Moore of same this season
Last season, a dynamic offense and a bend but don‘t break defense led the New Orleans 6

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Saints to a Super Bowl championship, but this season a stingy defense is keeping the Saints in contention as the offense is struggling for an identity while missing their top two running threats in Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush. - tsbnonline

5. Lakers win 16th championship
It was ugly. But our boys did it! Champions should never, ever be counted out. Ever! But the Lakers didn‘t look good from the get-go. The offense was miserable almost the entire night, but enough guys stepped up to hit big shots after big shots. Who would‘ve thought that the Lakers would rely on the shooting of Ron Artest on a Game 7 to keep them in the game? Who would‘ve thought that Kobe Bryant would shoot just 25% on the biggest game of his entire career? Who would‘ve thought that Pau Gasol‘s toughness down the stretch would be a key cog in the Lakers‘ 16th championship banner? But above all, who would‘ve thought the Lakers‘ defense would be what saved them all? - purpleandgoldblog

6. Cam Newton overcomes controversy, wins Heisman
Cam Newton, the top offensive player in college football, not only gives opposing defensive coordinators a case of the willies, but also causes Heisman voters to shake in fear of placing his name on a ballot. But this has nothing to do with whether or not Auburn‘s phenom quarterback is worthy of the award based on his performance on the field. - cfbexaminer

7. San Francisco Giants win first World Series
Celebrating with Cody Ross near the on-deck circle as the ball curved over the wall, Andres Torres said to his fellow San Francisco Giant, ―He told me he was going to do it.‖ And it should come to no one‘s surprise that Edgar Renteria did. The 35-year old Columbian shortstop who won the World Series for the Florida Marlins thirteen years ago as a baby-faced 21-year old delivered again in what might have been the final at-bat of his career. - tsbnonline 7

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8. Roll Halladay tosses no-hitters, wins Cy Young
In July, you‘re probably going to read a stat-filled column by Philadelphian Jayson Stark with a title very similar to that one. … Time will tell. But you can expect national columns about ―Old Hoss Halladay‖ and the chase all summer long. Consider yourself warned. - wcbias

9. Brett Favre’s rollercoaster ride of a season
You may have noticed that we‘ve remained quiet on the whole Brett Favre streak-ending saga up until now. That wasn‘t unintentional. We figure you can find your fill of Favre news pretty much everywhere else on TV and the interwebs. But during the Vikings-Giants game, with the NFL‘s ironman watching from the sidelines in street clothes for the first time since the Clinton administration, we couldn‘t help but notice something. With all due respect for what he‘s accomplished over the course of his career, last night Brett just looked old. With his hand purpled and his face and body showing the wear and tear of 297 starts, for the first time ever, the guy actually looks his age. It‘s painfully clear – surprisingly, even to Favre himself – that it‘s time to hang ‗em up. - readandreact.net

10. Chicago Blackhawks remain centered, win Stanley Cup
Never has it been more apparent that strength up the middle is what wins you games, and it‘s what wins you championships. The last several Stanley Cup champions are pure examples of depth down the middle, as the Blackhawks featured Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Toews, along with former Selke trophy winner John Madden and Dave Bolland. The Pittsburgh Penguins boast one of the deepest center cores in the league, with all-stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin bolstered by Jordan Staal, a solid two-way player and former Selke trophy nominee. The Detroit Red Wings featured Pavel Datsyuk, Jiri Hudler and Kris Draper. - tsbnonline

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BCS Fails Again: When Will We Get A Playoff?
By Brian Milne http://ballhyped.com

Now that Auburn and Oregon have completed the regular season undefeated, it seems everyone is now on board with the Bowl Championship Series.
Even ESPN Outside the Lines host Bob Ley was sippin‘ the Kool-Aid on SportsCenter Sunday morning, agreeing that this year‘s BCS Championship will be the most clear cut since USC and Texas in 2005-06. Seriously? Is this the same Bob Ley who hosted the original NCAA Selection Show in 1980, and has been doing real sports journalism on TV (eight Sports Emmys) and hosting real playoff events and tournaments like the 2010 FIFA World Cup for more than three decades? ―Listen … no one is screaming about the BCS,‖ Ley concluded Sunday morning, just hours before the BCS bowl matchups were officially announced. Consider this Tweet a scream via text: ―The BCS stinks like the leftover Thanksgiving turkey in my fridge.‖ Am I high on 10-day old tryptophan, or is TCU still unbeaten and still the No. 3 team in the country? How is this clear cut? Try clearly butchered, again. The BCS Problem If anything, the BCS hasn‘t been clear cut since 2005-06 when Texas rolled into Pasadena and beat the hometown Trojans. Last year the snub went to undefeated Boise State, which, had it beaten Nevada in its second-to-last regular season game this year, would have won 26 straight and still missed the BCS Championship Game. In 2008-09, it was unbeaten Utah, preceded by Hawaii in 2007-08 and Boise State again in 2006-07.

The BCS stinks like the leftover Thanksgiving turkey in my fridge.

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So what the BCS, NCAA and sports media are telling us when they accept the current system is that they could care less about anyone outside the BCS six pack. It doesn‘t matter if you go unbeaten for one season, two straight seasons or even more. If you‘re not in the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big 10, Pac-10 or SEC conference, enjoy the Runner-up.com Bowl. Apparently there‘s no place for Cinderella in the Football Bowl Subdivision. In Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA), Division II, Division III, sure. But in the division most people care about, no. No Texas Western basketball in 1966. No Jim Valvano or North Carolina State in 1983, or George Mason in 2006. No Fresno State baseball in 2008. No RIT in the 2010 Frozen Four. As revered a sport as FCS football is in this country, it‘s still the only one that doesn‘t have a playoff system. And it‘s all because of money. The bowls are just too profitable for anyone who matters (the presidents) to scream. Only poor saps like myself who care enough to raise our voices, and those voices are drowned out by the dough every single year. The BCS Playoff Solution I find it hard to believe the leaders of our institutions of higher learning can‘t come up with a playoff solution that works within the confines of the existing BCS and bowl system. The examples are right under their noses, at the lower divisions. Even if it wasn‘t a full-blown 16-team playoff, which the FCS is playing as we speak, an eight-team playoff would be a nice start … without dragging out the season. Eight teams would make for seven must-watch bowl games over three weekends, which wouldn‘t extend the season any longer than it is now – even with a bye week, or two (one before the playoffs and one before the title game). This season‘s BCS Championship, for example, isn‘t scheduled until Jan. 11. The 11th! The argument that a playoff system would create too many games for the players would only apply to the four teams playing beyond the typical 14-game season most bowl teams play. And it's not like that Final Four would have any complaints about another week after that.

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If perennial powers are confident they can make a postseason run, nobody‘s forcing them to play a 13-game regular season (Oregon only played 12 this season). They‘d just have to be willing to put their money where their mouth is and eat the payday of that 13th regular-season game in preparation for a longer postseason. Instead of waiting until January for the legitimate bowl games, the BCS bowls would kick off the playoffs in mid-December: eight teams, playing the existing four BCS bowl games at neutral sites. The top eight teams from the BCS standings could earn a berth, or the six BCS conferences earn automatic bids with two at-large berths for the TCUs and Boise States of the world. The playoff field and seeding could be determined by, get this, a committee. I know, it‘s crazy talk, but in this playoff scenario the only addition would be the two semfinal games in the second week of the playoffs. The BCS Championship would remain in early January, the lesser bowl games (the NIT if you will) would continue as is and everyone gets their money – the NCAA, the TV networks, the schools and the bowls. And best of all, we get the playoff we‘ve been asking for since Boise State was in this same mess four years ago. All we need is for someone (who matters) to stand up and scream for once.
Brian Milne covered college football at the Division I-AA level, including its 16-team playoffs, for nearly a decade for McClatchy Newspapers and other publications before going the web route fulltime. He is the founder of BallHyped.com and can be followed on Twitter @BallHyped.

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Roy Halladay’s Historic Season
By Jacob Jackson wcbias.com
Editor’s note: This post was published back on April 17, 2010, when Halladay had thrown just 24 innings during the 2010 season.

In July, you’re probably going to read a stat-filled column by Philadelphian Jayson Stark with a title very similar to that one. I’m just going to plant the seed in your mind a little bit early.
3-0, 24 IP, 21 K‘s, 2 BB, 1:13 ERA, 0.96 WHIP. That‘s Halladay‘s season stat line after his latest brutally efficient outing in Friday night‘s win over the Marlins. As absurd as it sounds, people need to get used to this. If Halladay remains healthy all season – he‘s averaged slightly more than 230 innings pitched the last four years – he could join a very rare fraternity atop the single-season wins leaderboard. These are the seven pitchers who have won 24 or more games in the last 30 years:        Steve Carlton, 24 in ‘80 Dwight Gooden, 24 in ‘85 Roger Clemens, 24 in ‘86 Frank Viola, 24 wins in ‘88 John Smoltz, 24 in ‘96 Randy Johnson, 24 in ‘02 And … Bob Welch, with 27 wins in ‘90!

Welch‘s feat is remarkable in the modern day era of strict pitch counts, max effort pitches, ultra-patient hitters, five-man rotations and 35-start seasons for starting pitchers. (Slight tangent: If you ever get into a bar-stool argument about ―which sports record is the least likely to fall?‖ you can end the debate pretty quickly by bringing up pitching wins. No starter is going to match Old Hoss Radbourn‘s 59 wins in 1884 or Cy Young‘s 511 career wins anytime soon. You know why? Because pitchers today don‘t have badass names like ―Old Hoss Radbourn.‖ That name was probably worth half a dozen wins all by itself). Welch won his 27 games in only 35 starts, and we know Halladay will be working within the same constraints. Let‘s look at how their situations compare: 12

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Welch was great in 1990, but he also benefited from playing in front of one of the truly dominant teams of the last 30 years, the 1990 Oakland A‘s, who were upset by the Reds that season in their third consecutive World Series appearance. Halladay plays for, arguably, the only truly dominant team in the National League, and probably the best offensive club in the NL. With apologies to Tim Lincecum, he‘s probably the best pitcher in the game, which will become more apparent now that he‘s left the AL East meat grinder and switched to the lighter-hitting Senior Circuit.

Time will tell. But you can expect national columns about ‗Old Hoss Halladay‘ and the chase all summer long. Consider yourself warned.

Both Welch and Halladay also understand that strikeouts are Fascist. Welch earned a decision in an incredible 33 of his 35 starts in that 1990 season, which is only possible by consistently pitching deep into games. To consistently reach the 8th inning against patient, modern-era lineups requires an efficient use of pitches. Although Halladay has much better stuff than Welch did, he shares the same aversion to walks, and has never come close to striking out a batter per inning in his 11 previous big-league seasons in Toronto. That pitch-to-contact approach is part of what has enabled Halladay to rack up 25 complete games in the last three seasons. No middle relievers ever vulture away wins from Doc. Winning 20+ games requires a lot of luck, being a part of a great team, and obviously being a great pitcher. Winning 25 or more would require a tornado of positive factors all blowing in the right direction, and Roy Halladay seems to have that in 2010. Can Doc become only the second pitcher to 25 wins since the 1970′s? Can he match Welch‘s incredible 27-win season? Time will tell. But you can expect national columns about ―Old Hoss Halladay‖ and the chase all summer long. Consider yourself warned.
Jacob Jackson, also known as “notsellingjeans” in the blogosphere, brings some Bay Area balance to the Southern Cal-leaning WCBias.com. His greatest sports passions are MLB and the NBA, and he lives and dies with the A’s on TV each night.

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BG’s Fan Fiction: Art Imitating Life
By Brian Greenaway wcbias.com

Frank McCourt was busy sweeping the sand off the front porch of his beachfront condo in Malibu when the batteries went out on his radio. He heaved a weary sigh and propped the broom in the corner of his rented space and walked inside to look for an extension cord. He had been listening to the Dodger-Reds game on the radio because he’d sold the rights to his seat on the team plane to a kid from Hollywood High on Craig’s List for $85.99.
The kid‘s name was Zach Newby and he‘d talked McCourt down from the listed price of $80,000 after three minutes of hard negotiating. ―What can I do?‖ McCourt had muttered to himself, ―This kid‘s got me over a barrel here,‖ as he forked over his ID pass and plane ticket. As McCourt stumbled through the dark interior of the condo he kicked a few empty Rolling Rock bottles that had been left out on the floor by his roommate, Jason Repko. One of the empties skittered across the floor and exploded into little green bits against the far wall. The noise prompted a grunt from Repko, who was passed out on the couch. ―Whateryoudoin‘?‖ Repko slurred, propping himself up on one pillow. ―I‘m trying to clean up around here, something you wouldn‘t know anything about.‖ McCourt shot back. Ever since he and his wife had split up he‘d been insufferable to be around. He rarely ever left the condo unless he needed some tacos from the truck that parked itself on the PCH and played ―La Cucaracha‖ over and over again until all of the tamales were gone. He still went to most of the home games but he hated when people would boo him whenever he would get up from his box to use the restroom. He‘d tried purchasing a whizzinator off of the internet so he could go ―number one‖, as he liked to call it, without getting up and drawing attention to himself but his credit card had been declined. After sweeping up the glass and throwing it in the overflowing trash can, McCourt proceeded to the utility closet at the back of the condo and rummaged around for an extension cord so he could get back to the game-it was a big one, Chad Billingsley was on the mound and Frank had a good feeling about today. Today was the day that things were going to change, dammit, he thought to himself as he pulled all of Jason Repko‘s old baseball crap out of the closet before spotting the bright orange cord at the bottom. When he walked back through the living room Repko was watching cartoons and eating cereal. ―What‘s the score in our game?‖ He asked McCourt, spraying Cap‘n Crunch across the coffee table.

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Frank wanted to ignore him but then he remembered how fragile Repko‘s feelings were and even though he was a terrible roommate and never pitched in money for beer or food Frank desperately needed the $800 monthly rent check-this divorce was really a bitch. He didn‘t make eye contact with Repko as he strode past but did hiss, ―We had a great first inning and Casey (McCourt liked to call all the players by their first names) had a big hit with the bases loaded and we staked Chad to a three run lead. He‘s nails, he‘s going to lock this bitch down!‖ He hadn‘t meant to get carried away but he couldn‘t help it. The team was his family now and he silently fumed that young Zach got to make the trip to Cincinnati while he was stuck in this dump with a washed up AAAA outfielder. Repko burped and slid his cereal bowl onto the table, milk sloshing over the sides and ―Dude, you‘ve got to see this ruining the pages of the Maxim episode, it‘s the one where Ren and FHM magazines that they had stacked there. ―I don‘t and Stimpy get in a fight!‖ think so man. Have you seen the way he‘s been pitching lately? So flat, no movement, goes into a shell if somebody gets on base. It‘s tragic. If I could face him every time up I would be in the hall of fame, bro. Cooperstown, bro. Straight up.‖ He finished his monologue with a huge fart and then turned back to his cartoons. McCourt stepped back onto the patio, the sun glinting off of the slate gray waves in front of him and plugged the radio back in. Charlie Steiner‘s voice greeted him with the ominous phrase, ―…and Billingsley simply cannot stop the bleeding here in the second inning.‖ Immediately he flipped the radio back off, staring at it like it was his wife‘s divorce lawyer mixed with a paparazzi photog from TMZ. ―Bro, come in here and watch this episode,‖ Repko shouted from inside the dank living room. ―Dude, you‘ve got to see this episode, it‘s the one where Ren and Stimpy get in a fight!‖ McCourt ripped the radio out of the wall and hurled it towards the ocean off of his balcony. He watched it sail through the air with a certain satisfaction, feeling that all that was wrong with his life would be made right as soon as it was destroyed. The radio dropped down, down, down towards the cool ocean where it smashed into Pam Anderson‘s back as she ran past on her afternoon jog. ―You animal!‖ She screamed as she fell to the ground in pain. ―You are a maniac and a menace, McCourt! I will sue you! I will sue!‖ McCourt surveyed the damage he had done while he channeled a line from his favorite movie of all time, Rocky V. ―Sue me for what!???!!!?!??!‖ He shouted out into the deafening surf. ―Sue me for what??!?!?!‖ He then slammed the door and watched cartoons with Repko for the rest of the afternoon.
BG lives in Santa Barbara and spends most of the day trying not to throw up.

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My Link (Maybe) to Ernie Banks
By Pat Pemberton Sidetracked When I was around 11, my dad told me to come to the front porch because he had something for me.

Now this was big because my dad wasn’t the sort of guy who brought things home for his kids. So I went to the porch eager but skeptical.
Once there, he pulled out a folded piece of paper and handed it to me. As I unfolded it, I noticed the letterhead. It was from a place called the Oyster, which was some bar in Chicago. Below the letterhead I stared at a signature, written in ink. But I didn‘t say anything. ―It‘s from Ernie Banks,‖ my dad said, breaking the silence. ―I saw him at a bar, and I went up to him and said, ‗Would you sign an autograph for my son?‖ I looked at the paper again, now able to read the scrawl better: ―To Pat, w/Love — Ernie Banks.‖ Banks, the great Cubs shortstop, was a little before my time. But anyone who ever followed the Cubs knew who Ernie Banks was. Mr. Cub, they call him. So I welled up with pride. Because in my hand was an Ernie. Banks. Autograph. My dad wasn‘t the sort of guy who made me proud too often, so this was a great not just for the autograph but also for our relationship. Unfortunately, my sister would later deflate that moment, telling me the autograph was fake — that my dad had signed it himself. ―He told me he did it,‖ she said. At first I didn‘t believe her because, well, my sister said stuff like that. But then I thought: ―Would Ernie Banks write ‗love‘ on his autograph?‖ Love?

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I know what he would write. He‘d write, ―Let‘s play two!‖ because that‘s what Ernie said. All the time. In fact, you could hardly see or hear of Ernie Banks and not think: ―Let‘s play two!‖ I‘d never heard him say ―love.‖ As in I love you, Fan I‘ve Never Met. So then I felt like a sucker. Like in the cartoons, I could see my head turn into a donkey‘s as I brayed like a duped jackass. After all, I‘d bragged to my friends about this autograph. I even put it in a little frame and displayed it in my room. While I initially didn‘t believe my sister, doubt crept in quickly. It definitely didn‘t look like my dad‘s handwriting. But what were the odds that my dad just happened to see Ernie Banks at a bar? It wasn‘t a stretch for my dad to be there, but good ole wholesome Ernie Banks? And would my dad actually approach Ernie Banks for an autograph? That just wasn‘t like him. He wasn‘t that guy. Soon pride turned to resentment. Why would he try to trick me like that? He couldn‘t take me to Cubs games, but he could give me a bogus autograph that didn‘t even say, ―Let‘s play two!‖ The ―autograph‖ eventually went into a drawer somewhere, and I stopped bragging about it. As the years passed, I wanted to ask my dad or my sister about it again — to get to the bottom of it — but I never did. Years later, I looked up other Ernie autographs online and, well . . . the signatures do look like the one my dad brought home. At least my memory of it. Because while I never threw it away, I haven‘t seen that Oyster letterhead in years. So there‘s no comparing autographs. Still, I think I‘ll give my dad the benefit of the doubt on this one. Because sometimes — even if it‘s healthy to be skeptical — you just gotta have a little faith. But just in case — should you ever run into Ernie Banks, could you ask him if he‘s ever been to the Oyster on Dearborn?
Pat Pemberton's first Little League team -- the Mets -- lost its first 11 games, which was fitting for a Cubs fan. In subsequent years, he learned he wasn't good enough for the Major Leagues, then he didn't get into law school. So he wound up writing for newspapers and web sites. His work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Seattle Times, Detroit Free-Press, the Surfer's Journal, Indianapolis Monthly and AOL Music.

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Salary Cap Pitch: Time to Level the Playing Field
By Erick D. Smith BallHyped.com

By now it’s old news that the Boston Red Sox made a major power play at the Major League Baseball winter meetings.
Spoiler alert for those who missed the news: Days after trading with the San Diego Padres for slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and ―signing‖ him to a lucrative longterm an extension, Boston shelled out a similar deal for free-agent outfielder Carl Crawford. The Sox had to do something to show their rabid fan base, and the American League East, that missing the playoffs wasn‘t acceptable. Point taken. Full disclosure: I‘m a Padres fan and writing this has nothing to do with losing Adrian Gonzalez. We all knew he was as good as gone -- that‘s how the baseball world works. I call bullsh--. Baseball fans deserve better. It‘s time Major League Baseball catches up to its fellow pro sports leagues (the NBA, NHL, NFL, CFL, MLS and National Lacrosse league) and implements a salary cap and salary floor.

I call bullsh--. Baseball fans deserve better. It‘s time Major League Baseball catches up to its fellow pro sports leagues

A salary cap saved the NHL and it‘s because of the salary cap structure in the NFL that it‘s become the most popular sport in the U.S. A salary cap should be viewed by the league (I‘ll take a wild guess that the player‘s union is vehemently against it) as a way to regain the status as America‘s pastime, improve the overall product and put fans back into empty stadiums. There is an obvious problem when the Red Sox or Yankees pay two or three of their players the equivalent of some team‘s 25-man roster. This system isn‘t competitive, it‘s borderline criminal. The twist is, I blame the low-payroll teams. Baseball has tried to ―help‖ small-market teams by creating a revenue sharing program, where the top revenue-generating teams give to the guys at the bottom. Despite creating a system that on the surface looks promising, the shared funds are not required to be used on player salaries. 18

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News broke last summer about the Pirates ownership using revenue sharing as a way to limit spending, thus lowing the team‘s revenue. The Pirates ownership was accused of knowing it will receive money from the league and the more ―impoverished‖ the team remained the smaller the likelihood of paying into the revenue sharing program. I believe the Padres are operating in a similar manner. New owner Jeff Moorad appears to be using revenue sharing money as the means of paying player salaries, while using team profits to pay off the debt he owes after purchasing the team from John Moores. Or is he using revenue sharing to pay off the debt and team money on player salaries? Either way, you see the point that revenue sharing isn‘t being used appropriately. One last Padres example: Earlier this week the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on the Padres individual player salaries for 2011. The shocker was closer Heath Bell will make $6.5 million while a combined 16 Padres players will make $6.381 with the highest individual salary ($450,000) going to pitcher Clayton Richard. The Padres are not fooling anybody in San Diego and can‘t disguise that the team is being cheaply run (they might even find a way to outsource in Mexico; it wouldn‘t surprise me). When these types of salary figures are published it highlights the flaws with baseball‘s revenue sharing program and should cause more fans to call for a salary cap. As long as MLB continues to fund low-revenue teams without restructuring its spending rules, problems like these will continue to arise. Owners who don‘t care about championships and have no financial motivation to run a profitable franchises will keep taking advantage of baseball‘s welfare system. It is not this easy but blowing up the revenue sharing program and replacing it with a salary cap/floor would do wonders for the sport. Fans in San Diego, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Florida would finally know there is financial competitive balance and possibly a reason to expect something more than owning the title as baseball‘s cheapest teams. As a baseball fan all I‘m asking for is a level playing field. Last month I chronicled that spending didn‘t equate to a playoff berth but at least it gives fans hope and a reason to come to the ballpark.
Erick D. Smith in content director at BallHyped.com. Follow BH on Twitter @BallHyped.

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Things in sports that annoy me: Walks in softball
By Pembertonian WCBias.com

I’m not agro or anything, but whenever I see a guy looking for a walk in softball, there’s a small part of me that wants to pinch his head off.
Seriously. Is there anything more lame in life than a guy who wants to get a walk in softball? I mean, we‘re talking about slow pitch softball. One notch above tee ball. And let‘s not forget that most leagues only allow little more than an hour per game. So when a guy takes four pitches every time at bat, that sucks up about 10 of those precious minutes. But more importantly, I ask, why? Why, why, why? Okay, the rest of you softball players take a breath. Or, better yet, go to the batting cages and hit some balls. After all, you swingers deserve it. Besides, right now I need to talk directly to those esteem-deprived guys who seek walks: Hey, Walkers. What‘s up? So I‘m doing this blog entry, right? And it‘s not like I‘m judging you (so much). But, like, I guess I fundamentally don‘t get you. Because, presumably, you signed up for softball because you want to play softball. And standing at the plate, not swinging — well . . . that‘s not really playing softball. That‘s just sort of standing there. Like a model posing for a photo. Or a confused old person. And the thing is, you‘re missing something really special here. You see, hitting the ball is sorta fun. When you hit the ball, you get to run, which is also kinda fun. And your teammates clap and stuff. Walking to first base is sort of like — I don‘t know — taking out the trash, I guess. Or getting the mail. So, do me a favor: Next time you‘re in the batter‘s box, take a chance in life. Swing. I don‘t care if the pitch is a foot over your head. Swing at it. Hit it. And run, baby. Run like the wind. And if you strike out trying, well . . . burying your head in the sand is not a bad option. 20

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The New Family Guy: Blake Griffin
J.M. Poulard SBGorillas.com

After spending years of watching the entertaining but laughable Peter Griffin (Family Guy character) try to run his Clippers organization with the help of his overweight son Chris Griffin (played by Baron Davis), his awkward teenage daughter Meg Griffin (played by Chris Kaman) and his diabolical infant son Stewie Griffin (played by Clippers season ticket holder and ESPN writer Bill Simmons), the show decided it was time to add some new blood; and they did so by bringing in a stud named Blake Griffin. His role? Make the Clippers relevant.
And after watching Griffin perform last night at Oracle arena, I think he might just be able to pull it off. At 6‘11 and 250 lbs., Griffin is perhaps the most exciting rookie big man that NBA fans have wanted to see in the past 10 years, since Greg Oden and Kenyon Martin entered the league. And although we only have a sample of two games on the Clippers power forward, it seems fairly obvious that he is a keeper given his vast amount of talent and potential. Have a quick look at his averages after two games: 17 PPG, 12 RPG, 7.5 ORPG, 3.5 APG, 50% FG Now quickly glance at the list of players who averaged a double double last year (listed alphabetically):
           

Andrew Bogut Carlos Boozer Chris Bosh Tim Duncan Pau Gasol Dwight Howard David Lee Kevin Love Troy Murphy Joakim Noah Zach Randolph Gerald Wallace

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Let me once again remind you that Blake Griffin has only played two games so far this season; however if his current level of production holds up for the remainder of the season, it would be quite difficult not to award him the Rookie of the Year trophy. The list above clearly illustrates that averaging a double double is fairly difficult, so accomplishing such a feat as rookie would undoubtedly sway voters. But before we talk about the end of the season (which is kind of far), let‘s shift our focus to the here and now. Does Griffin have the tools to consistently put up numbers? The worst kept secret in the NBA right now is Blake Griffin‘s level of athleticism. Just in case you The worst kept secret in the NBA haven‘t had the chance to view his right now is Blake Griffin‘s level outrageous leaping ability, check of athleticism. out the video here. On second thought, even if you have seen Griffin play, it‘s still worth checking out the video. The former #1 overall pick is reckless in his forays to the basket. Indeed, the names of the players waiting for him at the rim are of little concern to him. He‘s quicker than your prototypical power forward and therefore can usually beat his man to a spot where he is able to take off and finish surprisingly well with either hand. One of the most impressive parts of his offensive game though is his footwork. Rarely does he get caught in awkward positions when facing double teams or single coverage because he never places his feet in a position where they could betray his balance. Indeed, Griffin is ahead of schedule (at least in my book) in terms of his use of his pivot and face up moves. Further complicating the matter for defenders, the Clippers forward always remains in triple threat position and is a willing passer for the most part, thus making it hard to anticipate his intentions. Combine his quickness with his strength and explosiveness and we have ourselves a terrifying offensive player. But wait, there‘s more. Blake Griffin has an outstanding handle on the ball for a power forward; I would not put him on equal footing with Lamar Odom, but he isn‘t that far off. I have seen him dribble the ball on the break a few times at full speed and look completely comfortable doing it. The Clippers obviously do not want him bringing up the ball, but it is a great pressure release against tough defenses and such a skill will help him beat defenders when he faces them up. His overall rebounding is fairly good but his offensive rebounding prowess is impressive. Griffin always finds his man and tries to keep contact with him in order to box him out and gain possession of the ball for a possible basket. His size, strength and athleticism make it tough for opponents to adequately keep him off the boards; consequently he should be able to get his points even on bad shooting nights. 22

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My one concern with Blake Griffin might not have anything to do with him but rather with his team. Allow me this analogy: remember in The Jungle Book (the 1967 Disney film) how Mowgli was essentially raised by wolves and thus saw himself as an animal? That‘s Blake Griffin in a nutshell. He clearly has the required tools to be a good or possibly great defender; and yet he does not seem to be all that interested in it. I put the blame here on his team because it does not seem as though they have made it a huge point of emphasis. Far too often I saw the former Oklahoma player jog back on defense or sleep walk while guarding his man. Also, he is not as dominant as a defensive rebounder because he does not put in the same type of effort there as he does on offense. He resembles Mowgli in that sense because the team seems to have allowed him to believe that such is the norm and therefore he might not be aware that bad habits are slowly kicking in given the fact that L.A.‘s other team has a losing culture attached to them. The Clippers need to bring in a veteran or two to hold players accountable much like Sam Cassell did when he came to Los Angeles in 2005. Otherwise, the young cornerstone might develop Zach Randolph syndrome. Seriously, Randolph is now in his 11th NBA season and has only played in eight playoff games. Conversely, during his time in Minnesota, Kevin Garnett was surrounded by veterans that held him accountable as young player, which resulted in 47 playoff games during his 12 seasons with the Timberwolves. Let‘s just hope the Clippers organization is paying attention. With that said though, Blake Griffin is a gifted athlete with a lot of upside (hell, I just compared him to Zach Randolph and Kevin Garnett who have combined for 14 NBA AllStar selections) that should provide us with a plenty of highlight type of plays this season. Hopefully he gets surrounded with the proper teammates for him to fully tap into his potential to become an elite NBA power forward. But one thing is for sure though, he is definitely must see television, and that makes Mr. Griffin our new family guy. Make sure you tune in.
J.M. Poulard also goes by the handle name ShyneIV and he writes on basketball blogs such as NBATipOff, ArgueAllDay, Stacheketball and Warriors World.

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An Interview With Jaguars' CB Derek Cox
Alex Heacock starbustfootballinc.com

I recently had the privilege of chatting with Jacksonville's second-year cornerback, Derek Cox. Being a young defensive back in the National Football League isn't easy, but Cox is more than holding his own as the Jags' starter at left CB.
After starting every game as a rookie, he is well on his way to putting together another solid season, as his team vies for an AFC playoff spot. Here are the highlights of our conversation: Q: Randy Moss is now a member of the Tennesee Titans, the AFC South – when you heard that they signed him, what was your reaction? A: Well I played against him last year…so I‘ve got some experience against him as a player. For me, it‘s just another good player that I‘ll get to go against each season. Hopefully things work out for him and he sticks with the team. Q: This is now your second year in the League, so you‘ve been around the block a little bit. Who is the best wide receiver you‘ve faced thus far in your career? A: I really think a wide receiver is, to be honest with you, made good by his quarterback. I don‘t care if he ran the best route in the world, if the quarterback overthrows him, he‘s not going to receive any credit or get any props. For me, I really feel like a receiver is complemented well by his quarterback, and there are definitely some combinations around the league that are pretty good. Right here in my division, there are some good ones with the Colts and Peyton Manning and his receiving corps. And you have the Texans where you‘ve got Matt Schaub and his receiving corps with #80 and #83 (Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter), so I really feel like it‘s more of a complementary thing that works hand-in-hand. Because of that, I can never really say that this guy is the guy. Q: Speaking of Peyton Manning, you played the Indianapolis Colts in your first NFL game last year. On the opening drive, maybe Reggie Wayne got a step on you and caught a ball or two, but what was it like to cap your first NFL series by picking off Peyton Manning in the end zone? A: It felt really good and it didn‘t surprise me at all. I wasn‘t too caught up in all the hoopla surrounding (playing against) Peyton Manning and his prowess on the field. When I did it (intercepting the pass), it was more about what I expected of myself, and to

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be honest with you, the first thought that came to my head was ‗that was easy…if the NFL is this easy then I’m really going to make a lot of money.' (laughs) Q: So you‘ve learned a little bit since then? A: Oh yeah, the game is certainly more complex and challenging than that one play. Q: You just played the Houston Texans and the game went down to the wire. Obviously Mike Thomas caught that amazing Hail Mary toss from David Garrard to win the game. Now you‘re a defensive back…as exciting as that game was for you and the Jags, do you feel for Glover Quin (Texans CB), a little bit, since he batted that ball right into Thomas‘ hands? A: I wouldn’t say that I feel for him…I’m happy we won the game (laughs). For him, I would just say that I understand what he was doing with his decision to knock the ball down. That‘s really what you‘re supposed to do. You don‘t try to go for the interception there because in doing that, you might tip it up and the other person will catch it. In this situation, he went to swat it down, and actually swatted it right to someone.

I wouldn‘t say that I feel for him … I‘m happy we won the game. For him, I would just say that I understand what he was doing with his decision to knock the ball down. That‘s really what you‘re supposed to do.

Q: You have been described by some TV commentators and journalists as having a ―nose for the football‖. Is that something that just comes naturally, or are there specific reasons that you have that nose for the ball? A: I wouldn‘t say that it‘s something that came naturally. Things like that are cultivated and acquired over time by being involved in many activities that deal with tracking balls and chasing balls. I played baseball and that really gave me a foundation for tracking passes and anticipating the bounce of things, and that has carried over into playing football. Just by playing long enough, you can anticipate and have a feel for certain situations where a tipped ball may occur, and how to get yourself in a position to make a play. Q: You are in somewhat of a similar situation, as a franchise, as you were last year (5-4 record after nine games). What‘s different about the 2010 Jags versus the 2009 Jaguars‘ team? Do you think you‘ll finish stronger than you did last season? 25

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A: I‘ve never been one to throw out prophecy and make it be something that we have to live up to, so I never really speak about the future. Our main focus week-to-week is game preparation, and knowing that games on Sundays are won by who executes the best. We‘re trying to pay as close attention to detail as possible on both sides of the ball, and practice properly and let that carry over on Sunday. Execution is going to be the key to beating any of your opponents because games in the NFL are hard to win. You have to look at every game like it‘s a playoff game because of the caliber of opponents and the intensity of each game during the season. Q: During the 2009 NFL Draft, Mel Kiper really questioned the Jaguars front office because they gave up a second round pick in the 2010 draft to move back into the third round to draft you. I don‘t think he really said anything nasty about you, but in questioning the organization, he certainly wasn‘t complimentary of you and your abilities. Since your ability to play at a high level was questioned from day one by Mel Kiper and other folks, is that something that motivates you each day and every week during the season and in the offseason? A: I really don‘t pay too much attention, or care about, what other people think about me. My main thing is this: Do I need motivation from other people? No. My motivation to be the best comes from my own desire and belief in myself. So what others say or think, I could care less.
Alex Heacock is the lone writer/editor of StarBust Football, Inc. He is a lifelong football diehard that has followed the game closely from a very young age. He received a bachelor's degree in Kinesiology from the College of William & Mary in May of 2009, where he competed as a javelin thrower on the track & field team. He was recently married and lives in the Chicago suburbs, with his wife, where he works at a nearby university as a track & field coach.

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NFL Classifies Any Celebration By Buffalo Bills As Excessive
Andy B. realfakesports.com

The NFL announced today any celebration by a member of the Buffalo Bills at any time during a game is to be considered needless and unnecessary, and will be swiftly met with a 15yard penalty and a possible fine by the league office.
"Players don't need to draw attention to themselves with crazy antics and shenanigans," said a league spokesman, "particularly if they play for the Buffalo Bills. It's not good for the image of the NFL." Players will have to avoid such over the top celebrations as leap frogging a teammate, simulating any type of swimming stroke as though in water, as well as choreographed dance routines, among other acts the league deems as predetermined or inappropriate. "High-fiving or chest bumping will not be permitted," the league spokesman continued. "Even if it is the season's best play resulting in a gain of six or seven yards, any public display of joy by the Buffalo Bills is taking things way too far." Upon hearing the announcement from the league, head coach Chan Gailey promised none of his players will ever celebrate excessively, as long as they play for the Buffalo Bills.

Upon hearing the announcement from the league, head coach Chan Gailey promised none of his players will ever celebrate excessively, as long as they play for the Buffalo Bills.

Andy is the creator and writer for the sports satire and parody blog Real Fake Sports, which he began in June of 2009. He also occasionally contributes to the Philadelphia sports satire site Philly Gameday. As many as three people that aren't related to him read his writing on a daily basis.

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Rocky Mountain Thunder Waiting To Be Heard
Kim Constantinesco predominantlyorange.com

There’s one smiling Broncos fan today and it’s this girl. Instead of witnessing a 43-13 loss suffered at the feathered claw of the Arizona Cardinals, I spent the afternoon shredding down the slopes of Keystone, Colorado.
Don‘t call me a fair weather fan. I‘m more of a winter weather girl with snow-filled pigtails and ice-laced goggles. Instead of pouring more salt into the wound, throwing additional sand into the eyes, and driving a nail through my toe, I opted for a Bronco Break. Don‘t get me wrong - I followed part of the game on the car ride home, but frankly the standstill traffic on I-70 was more encouraging than what the Broncos were putting out on the field. By the start of the fourth quarter, it was kicker Jay Feely – 22, Broncos – 3. The life and times of the post-Josh McDaniels‘ era never looked so bleak.

As I pondered the game playing out in front of my eyes on my phone, all I could do was think about my snow-packed day rather than the Broncos‘ turnoverpacked day. My day was like Baby Bear‘s porridge – just right. The Broncos‘ day was just the opposite. It was a day that broke the camel‘s Broncos‘ back.

Don‘t call me a fair weather fan. I‘m more of a winter weather girl with snow-filled pigtails and icelaced goggles. Instead of pouring more salt into the wound, throwing additional sand into the eyes, and driving a nail through my toe, I opted for a Bronco Break.

The Broncos‘ six turnovers (three by Kyle Orton) helped snap the Cardinals‘ seven game losing streak. Now, if someone, anyone, could help the Broncos snap their misfortunate streak of losing eight of the last nine. As I nurtured my relationship with one of the things that Colorado is all about (the mountains), I couldn‘t help but think about the other thing that helps define the state for so many people – the Denver Broncos. As hearts ache for the team and its prized history, my legs were in a similar state of anguish at 11,000 feet above sea level. The lactic acid 28

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was so hot that it felt like volcanic lava was spreading over the little town of my muscle fibers. Likewise, for Broncos‘ fans, it feels like a sea of predominantly orange lava has rushed over the fibers of a great football city. If you‘re familiar with the mountains, you know the space of time between one storm hitting and another one on its tail and gaining momentum. In that juncture, you literally feel the pause, like the mountains are between breaths. Before another inhale, you are in snow from the previous storm, and then lifted with the force of the exhale that dumps more snow. Depending on the size of the storms, this revelation can be peaceful, penetrating, or even perturbing. I think that‘s why the mountains can be so healing. It reminds you that life has rhythms. Well, so do professional sports‘ teams. The Broncos are currently in that lull between storms. We saw the Josh McDaniels‘ storm that was so forceful that the city could‘ve shut down, and now we‘re waiting for a more serene storm – the kind that brings light fluffy powder to soften any falls that are to come - to hit with the hiring of a new coach. With the snow patches dotting the cliffs, the trees standing solid and unwavering, and the air so silent, I found myself standing waist deep in solitary bliss. I was completely alone, save the animal paw prints that surrounded my snowboard. Sometimes it takes a bit of isolation to clear the head and continue on. Perhaps this off season, the Broncos need to go into the backwoods and fall into the concealment to find the conquer. Make it waist deep, please.

Kim Constantinesco is Denver resident and longtime Broncos fan who started at PO three and a half years ago. She is also involved in medical writing, but would love to cover the NFL on a fulltime basis one day. Aside from Broncos' football, she enjoys running, traveling, and sunny powder days 12,000 feet above sea level.

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Travis Pastrana's ride into NASCAR will have its speed bumps
By Kim Bhasin spizness.com

Freestyle motocross legend Travis Pastrana donned his usual flannel jacket, hopped on a dirt bike, and sped off a ramp, plunging himself into the Grand Canyon on his Nitro Circus MTV show.
He flipped one too many times and opened his chute feet from the canyon floor, saving his life but dragging him through a cactus patch. Minutes later he was having friends free the needles from his exposed rear end one by one. It looked like a scene plucked straight from an episode of Jackass – in fact Johnny Knoxville and pals produce Pastrana‘s show. Pastrana‘s made a living flipping things: a dirt bike, a pink tricycle, he even tried a monster truck. Hopefully he doesn‘t try a flip this time, because now he‘s headed to NASCAR‘s Nationwide series in 2011. But this will be the trickiest jump yet for Pastrana and his brand. A viral launch video released on PastranaWaltrip.com last month piled up over 100,000 views in its first week and announced the action sports star‘s partnership with Michael Waltrip Racing. The launch was the first step in integrating Pastrana‘s brand into a sport that his youthful action sports following clashes with. Not only will he have to leap into NASCAR culture, but victory on the track will be necessary to keep Pastrana on the leaderboard and sponsors pasted on his car. The video stars Pastrana trapped into a tarp-covered racecar. ―C‘mon man I know how to turn left, let me out!‖ he yells from the driver‘s seat, joking about NASCAR‘s circular speedways. His friend Hubert, decked out in overalls, twangs a confirmation and rips off the cover, revealing a bright yellow stock car decaled with cartoons of Pastrana‘s face and a thought-cloud reading, ―When do I get to back flip this thing?‖ Pastrana spins his tires and screeches away down pit lane, arm out the window, thumb hoisted high in the air. ―Well I guess we‘re goin‘ racing,‖ shrugs Hubert. ―Let that dog eat!‖ Red Bull and DC Shoe Co. logos pop up in the video, but Pastrana won‘t be taking his long-time sponsors with him. Instead the NASCAR newcomer will have to get fresh ones. Drew Brown, Director of Public Relations for Michael Waltrip Racing, classified Pastrana‘s ability to attract sponsors as ―to be determined,‖ with uncertainty about 30

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Pastrana‘s future performance weighing against the power of his current brand and size of his fan-base. ―He has such a huge fan following, and he‘s coming in with such a name,‖ said Brown. The launch tactic focused on his existing fan-base comprised mostly of the 18-24 year old male demographic, according to SportsBusinessDaily.com. NASCAR also boasts a mostly male audience, but only 12.5% of fans are in the 18-24 demographic, with over 20% falling in the 45-54 range. NASCAR fans also enjoy fishing, hunting, golf, and camping most in their spare time, a wide span from Pastrana‘s action sports culture, according to a 2008 study by Scarborough Research. Dr. James Santomier, a sports marketing professor at Sacred Heart University, cited ―developing awareness on the part of fans‖ as a key obstacle for Pastrana, with NASCAR fans being mostly unfamiliar with his brand. Pastrana will have to bridge this gap to attract sponsors and avoid the fate of other talented drivers who couldn‘t achieve success in one of the nation‘s most watched sports. But Pastrana will have NASCAR on his side. The sport‘s dipping popularity has NASCAR looking for new, younger audiences. Everyone would benefit if Pastrana can give stock car racing more exposure to the action sports audience. His value lies in his current fan-base, built over more than a decade of dirt bike riding and hazardous stunts.

Everyone would benefit if Pastrana can give stock car racing more exposure to the action sports audience. His value lies in his current fan-base, built over more than a decade of dirt bike riding and hazardous stunts.

A prodigy of freestyle motocross, a 14-time X Games medalist, and the first human to ever double back flip a motorcycle in competition, Pastrana is a poster-boy for action sports. On Nitro Circus, Pastrana and his daredevil friends attempt dangerous stunts ranging from dirt bike tricks to skydiving and base-jumping. The first 2 seasons showcased potentially deadly experiences for Pastrana, including that dirt bike jump into the Grand Canyon and a Point Break inspired parachute-less skydive that would‘ve made Keanu Reeves proud. ―I think everybody recognizes that this isn‘t your average NASCAR rookie,‖ said Brown.

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Many motorsports athletes change circuits and vehicles, such as from Formula-1 or Indycar to NASCAR, but few have drifted as wide as Pastrana. Indycar 2007 champ Dario Franchitti made the transition in 2008, but uninspiring Sprint Cup performances and lack of sponsorship deals forced co-owner Chip Ganassi to shut down Franchitti‘s #40 team, sending the immensely talented driver hobbling back to the Indycar circuit. Supercross icon Ricky Carmichael couldn‘t even climb past the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series when he made the switch and freestyle motocross pioneer Brian Deegan, who announced his move to NASCAR in June, will be starting in a driver development program. Pastrana‘s only professional experience behind a wheel is on the dirt. He entered rallying in 2004, and in 2006 was signed by Subaru for the debut of its Subaru Rally Team USA. Success came quickly for Pastrana, winning the gold medal in the inaugural rally car competition at the 2006 X Games. He set a new world record for a ramp-to-ramp car jump in Long Beach, Calif. when he launched his rally car 269 feet from Pine Street Pier to a floating barge in the harbor. Pastrana‘s success will lie in his ability to learn the sport, gain experience, and translate it into wins. Although NASCAR is built around teams of owners, drivers and crew members, fans connect with the drivers and their personal brands far more than the racing teams. Drivers need to garner individual success on the track and can‘t rely on a team‘s reputation to keep them afloat. ―NASCAR fans will give him a bit of a honeymoon, with high expectations,‖ said Santomier. ―It will be how well he performs in the races that ultimately will determine his endorsement viability and his impact on the Waltrip brand.‖ Brown knows the importance of performance for a driver‘s marketability. If you‘re not a winner on the track, you won‘t be a winner with the sponsors either – unless you‘re racing‘s diva Danica Patrick. ―The biggest obstacle is just getting him experience. This stuff isn‘t as easy as it looks on TV,‖ he said. Back in the car, Pastrana doesn‘t seem worried about that. He lifts his thumb back in the air and addresses the camera, ―Game on, see you soon.‖ He revs the engine one more time, ―Woo hoo! This is gonna be awesome!‖
Kim has an MBA from Pace University and is currently a graduate student at New York University in its Business and Economic Reporting program. He loves sports, and is especially interested in all the inner workings of sports business.

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Five Teams I Love To Hate
Frank Rekas therattrick.com

I would bet that everyone has a list like this. For one reason or another there’s always a few teams that just grind at you. Make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, and just all around piss you off. I know that hate is a really strong word, and Mrs. Rekas tried to tell me as a young boy to not use such a word. But this is hockey. Passion. Determination. Competition.
There‘s no way I can say that my first choice is a team that I don’t care for. Sorry mom, I hate them! Here‘s my list: 1) Pittsburgh Penguins: I didn‘t always hate the Pens, but There‘s no way I can say that my since June 8 1992 I do. I first choice is a team that I don‘t literally cannot stand them and care for. Sorry mom, I hate them! everything that they represent. They swept my beloved Chicago Blackhawks 4-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals. I was at the old Chicago Stadium for the final two games, and watched as Mario and Jagr carried the Cup around. Utterly disgusted with that, the hatred has only become worse. Crosbitch and his whining, Matt Cooke and his elbows flying, and all the others that are continually shoved down our throats by the media. I‘ve had enough of them and their fans, as the above picture shows. After watching two Stanley Cup Finals in a row with them in it, I am surprised I didn‘t slit my wrists. Some would say I got my redemption this year since the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. Sorry Charlie. If you‘ve read this site at least once, you know, a passionate hatred runs deep once I develop it. This one stands by itself! 2) Detroit Red Wings: Othwerwise known as Scum or the Dead Wings, this team is actually 1a on my list. Granted they have become a model franchise for drafting, acquiring free agents, and surviving the playoffs despite average goaltending, they still seem to make life miserable for the opposition. They have created the new style of offence called puck possesion, which actually is kinda cool. If you have the right players to play it. They always are a good matchup to watch. Except when they play the 33

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Penguins in the finals. That was agonizing. I‘ve seen many a battle through the years, and beating them brings almost as much pleasure as watching the Penguins lose. Or Cindy cry about a call he doesn‘t get. Almost. 3) Vancouver Canucks: I love the city of Vancouver. It‘s actually one of the most beautiful places in the world. Water, mountains, fantastic weather, and great people. Although I question some of the fans. Which leads us to their hockey team. I mean who the heck throws a parade after you win a first round series? Really? Get a hold of yourself. With the Sedin sisters, that loser goaltender you have, and the inability to hold your tempers in check, you‘ll go another 10 years without a Cup victory. Plus the green men aren‘t funny any more. 4) New York Rangers: Even though they are an original six team, I can‘t bring myself to like like or tolerate the Rangers. Glen Sather and his spendthrift ways haven‘t worked. How is it possible that he still has a job with them? High priced players, and poor production out of them would get most any general manager fired. One of the most overhyped organizations around, they continually fail to impress and deliver. Besides Marion Gaborik, they are a bore. Plus, they employ Sean Avery. 5) Carolina Hurricanes: Why are they on the list? Easy. Every time the Florida Panthers are close to getting into a playoff spot during the season, they end up playing and losing to the ‗Canes‘. EVERY time! The Cats just can‘t seem to get past these pests. A number of years ago, a loss to the Canes prompted then coach Mike Keenan to say in his post game presser that ―This team doesn‘t have the mental capacity to play playoff style hockey when it‘s needed‖. Truer words have never been spoken. On top of that didn‘t the Panthers trade down from number one to number three in the 2003 draft, allowing them to pass on Eric Staal and take Nathan Horton instead? See where that got us? Although I do like fellow countrymen Tom Kostopoulos known as ―Greek Lightning‖. Dishonorable mention: As much as I‘d like to add a team here, that would only dilute the five that I actually do hate. However, I will add that any team that employes Sean Avery would be in this category. Who‘s on your list?
Frank Rekas is lead writer for The Rat Trick covering The Florida Panthers for FanSided Sports network. A passionate hockey fan growing up in Chicago, and still a die hard Hawks fan, now living in South Florida. No pulling punches or will never be accused of being a "homer" Frank reports on the Panthers through his eyes, and his feelings.

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Expansion madness: The SEC should be American Idol, not The Celebrity Apprentice
By Wright Blan ShirtsWithRandomTriangles.blogspot.com

While Texas A&M's fellow Big 12 South schools are heading out west towards the Pac-10, the Aggies seem to be more interested looking eastward at the SEC. Although chances are that it will eventually end up dragging its tail behind Texas to the Pac-10 (as usual).
This does show the dilemma the SEC faces in which direction in this chaotic era of conference expansion and collapse. Expansion for the SEC would truly mean expansion for expansion's sake, and not for any pressing need to fill a glaring hole or two. It has a championship game and an automatic BCS berth, so there are no pressing needs other than for increasing revenue. The needs for the SEC to expand seem to fall on mere keeping up with the Joneses than it does with any particular fiscal or structural need. In the current twelve member configuration the SEC may be almost perfect. The SEC contains almost every significant historical college football program in the South, with maybe two or three exceptions (Georgia Tech, Clemson, and FSU, if they must be named). Baring those schools and few nouveau riché programs (Miami, Virginia Tech), there aren't any true major programs in the South who aren't already in the SEC. (Mention Virginia and Maryland and if you want to hear a chuckle.) Going after any one of those schools might be worth it for the SEC for the sake of appearances, but it doesn't do much for the conference in any reasonable fashion. With the possible exception of Virginia, none of those schools really expand the SEC anywhere that is not already in the conference's reach. Adding Miami or FSU could possibly hurt Florida in some areas when it comes to recruiting, in fact. The Aggies' desire for a spot in the SEC seems to come more from financial need and a desire for a more equitable system of revenue sharing than anything. The athletic program reportedly had to be bailed out by the school due to being $16 million in debt. (Compare this to Georgia, where the athletic department pledged the school $2 million from it's surplus this year to compensate for the school's financial issues.) Texas A&M

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joining the SEC would be less of a marriage of connivance, and more the government bailout of GM. Texas A&M would give the SEC a foothold in the Texas market, but not much of one. What's worse, Texas A&M might be closer to being the fourth-best team in Texas than even being the second-best, behind Texas Tech and TCU. (If you have to ask who's first, you should probably just quit reading right now.) With expansion, he SEC go into one of two directions. It could be like American Idol, going after a school with an up and coming football program, or it could be The Celebrity Apprentice, with it's batch of b-list has-beens. Texas A&M falls into the Celebrity Apprentice category. It's more Brett Michaels than Carrie Underwood.

What might be best for the SEC when it comes to expansion is to go after smaller, up and coming programs. It might be better for the SEC to go after programs that are young and hungry and wanting to prove its place in the world, as opposed to established and needy, like Texas A&M and the rest of the crumbs of the Big 12. There are a couple of schools like that which could fill the SEC's needs. In Texas, there's TCU. Like Texas, it went to the BCS last year. It's a rising star in the Lone Star State, and is on the move. So is SMU, which under June Jones may be on the way from finally getting under the shadow of getting the NCAA Death Penalty. Both are in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Area, which is a bigger market than College Station can give the SEC. Plus there's the always the chance of getting to use Jerry Jones' Heathen Temple to His Own Avarice Cowboys Stadium for when Florida or Alabama comes to town. To balance it out in the east, The SEC could go for East Carolina, which would be a foothold in the North Carolina market, and more plausible than trying to raid one of the ACC's Carolina schools. That or just raid Clemson (which honestly most SEC fans would prefer to just about anything) and let the ACC have the NC monopoly. Or, if its absolutely positively necessary to add another Florida school, the SEC should look at the University of South Florida. It's small enough that it wouldn't bite into Florida's recruiting, and it would give the SEC a foothold in South Florida. Miami might look enticing, but "The U" has the problem of tripping over itself. And if really hasn't helped the ACC any. Texas A&M may look good on the surface, but its pretty much a whitewashed tomb of a program. Most of the bigger established programs the SEC would have a decent chance of raiding are just like it. The SEC might just be better off getting a school with a smaller but growing football program it can help grow, instead of an older model with a habit of breaking down. 36

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How I came to embrace the English Premier League
John Markowski BreakingthePlain.blogspot.com

It’s coming out time for me (okay, that was awkward); I’m not going to deny it anymore, I’m into it. I, myself, only have a vague understanding of how this came to be – I mean I didn’t even ever play soccer.
There I was red-blooded American loving myself some hockey, football, and basketball (maybe I‘m Canadian or something), and over the last five years I‘ve actually found myself looking forward to Saturdays morning more than Sunday afternoons. I think I even went through my own grieving process 1. Anger – soccer? What the hell is this sh--? Why can‘t that fancy pants European stay on his feet 2. Denial – I‘m not really watching it, there‘s just nothing else on Saturday mornings 3. Bargaining – maybe I just check the scores, but I‘m not going to follow a whole game 4. Guilt – Am I cheating on real football? 5. Anger – I cannot believe I actually care who wins the FA Cup! 6. Depression – Holy crap - I‘m a frenchie. Somebody shoot me before I start wearing tight fitting clothing 7. Acceptance - Sweet. The Manchester Derby is tomorrow. I‘m psyched! I think it actually started back in 2002 when the US made that highly improbable run to the quarterfinals in the World Cup. I caught myself staying up till 3am to watch the US beat Mexico to face Germany in the quarterfinals. It was compelling stuff. And then the World Cup ended. But I realized when I was cheering for a team, I kind of found myself really getting into it. So I started to poke around following the Premier League. But it was confusing as crap. First – there are no playoffs. I mean what the hell? What kind of sport doesn‘t have a playoff? If there isn‘t a playoff to determine, I didn‘t think it should be considered a real sport (yes, I‘m looking at you BCS). Second, it seemed like there were five or six 37

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different championships a team could win. You don‘t just have one winner? Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup? Seriously, what is this kindergarten? We don‘t keep score, everybody‘s a winner, everybody gets a trophy – don‘t want to hurt the feelings of the teams that didn‘t win the league – so here you go. Can anyone win one? Hey, I want a trophy. I want to win one for the tallest and most awkward – can we set up a Tall Guy Trophy for me to win every year? That will really help my self esteem. Also, there were also no team names. You‘re just Fulham? Where‘s the mascot? It‘s not the Fulham Knights or Fulham Hawks (both pretty cool sounding) or something? And the last problem I had was this team Chelsea - and that just kept making me think of New York, They had a coach who‘s and we just can‘t have that. Anyway it didn‘t stick until just before the next World Cup rolled around. I started following the US team again, and the captain of the US team was playing for Manchester City - and his nickname on the team was Captain America. I mean how perfect is that? They had a coach who‘s nickname was Psycho, they were considered one of the more screwed up teams in the league, and their biggest rival was the soccer equivalent to the New York Yankees. Sold. I had found my team, now I just had to actually start to like the sport. Here‘s what soccer has going for it. 1. The British accents on the announcers make everything sound 15% cooler. 2. It‘s on a 10am on Saturdays, when nothing else is happening in the sports world 3. No commercials and the game is over in 2 hours. I blame it on Fox, but the length of football and baseball games is starting to kill me; I can barely get through them. By the end of the afternoon games on Sunday, I‘m tapped out on football - unless the Bears are playing I‘m barely tuning in (not to mention it conflicts with Boardwalk Empire and we cannot have that) 4. The fan support is awesome. Lots of sell outs, great crowds, who sing pretty much the whole time 5. Like in hockey, you can start to see plays develop. You can see a player as he takes off on a run looking for a ball; or watch how a defender closes someone down. On TV you can almost take in the whole game. 38

nickname was Psycho, they were considered one of the more screwed up teams in the league, and their biggest rival was the soccer equivalent to the New York Yankees. Sold.

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6. There‘s no salary cap, so teams can just spend silly money and establish dynasties, which makes beating one of the big teams that much better 7. Since soccer is sporting equivalent of football, baseball, and basketball rolled into one, and the loose standards of the British press (in my opinion); the coverage is phenomenal. Nothing is out of bounds. Personal life, finances, everything. Its like one giant soap opera wrapped it a sport. It‘s craptacularly fantastic. 8. The game is violent man. I mean these guys are kicking the crap out of each other. And in the Premier League, the refs are often like ‗you bleeding - no - then play on‘ 9. Turns out some of these teams are playing the equivalent of four different leagues. Once I figured it out, it‘s really cool. 10. And my favorite component. Promotion and Relegation. Every year the three worst teams in the league are sent down to the minor leagues, and the three best teams from the minor league are brought up to replace them. I cannot express enough how awesome this is. First, it keeps everything interesting for a ton of the teams even if they don‘t have a chance in hell of winning the league, they still have to fight stay in the league. I mean really, isn‘t it about time we booted the Pirates and the Royals (personally I‘d add the Cubs to that mix) down to Triple A where they belong? You know what, your team sucks. We‘re not going to reward you with the best player coming out of college. We‘re going to take away your TV money, make you ride a bus and play the likes of the Wilmington Blue Rocks until you figure out how to run a franchise. We need this It wasn‘t all perfect. I did have to come to grips with this diving crap. And that sh-happens a ton. Not as much in the English League as some of the other European leagues, but still. Here‘s what I came to though. Trying to induce the ref in soccer to make a call when you weren‘t fouled, is not actually all that different from not having a play and just chucking the ball down the field hoping for a pass interference. I actually think for about 30% of the NFL teams, their offense is so bad this actually is their strategy (I‘m looking at you Jay Cutler). The diving in soccer is brutal, but that kind of crap goes on in every sport. That‘s it. I‘m totally in with soccer. Let‘s go City!
Breaking the Plain is a blog produced by five friends/family members who all love sports and have a unique take on them. They all live in New Jersey but are fans of different teams and therefore hate each other quite often.

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GM Meetings Open with Daniels Looking to Make a Deal
By Bo Reed Let's Talk Rangers

Since the end of the World Series the Rangers have been linked to just about every free agent and trade opportunity available. If Babe Ruth was still alive the Rangers would be rumored to have millions of American Greenbacks to throw his way.
Yes the Rangers have money to spend for the first time since Tom Hicks became the laughingstock of baseball by giving A-Rod more than he paid for the team in the first place. With a payroll currently projected to sit at $60 million and a budget reportedly set north of $90 million, there isn‘t a free agent in the pool the Rangers can‘t afford, but that‘s not what this week is about. Sure, player agents will be in Orlando for the GM meetings this week hoping to get their player grotesquely overpaid in a face to face meeting with any gullible GM they can find. GM‘s however will be looking to see what‘s available on the trade market, a market that possibly begins with CY Young winner Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals. I have credible sources who say the Rangers are not just looking to make a splash in free agency by signing both Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez, but also plan on making a serious run at Greinke. When I first heard this rumor I was quick to say nonsense because the Rangers would have to deal Tanner Scheppers, Martin Perez and either Julio Borbon or Engel Beltre at a minimum; maybe even both outfielders. That‘s an awful lot of talent to send to the Royals for Greinke, but a trade the Rangers might be able to afford. They‘ve already proven the core of the major league squad is good enough to make it to the World Series; a core of talent that should be together for quite some time. Re-sign Lee and add Greinke to the rotation and all of a sudden CJ Wilson becomes the third starter and Colby Lewis the fourth; talk about depth in the starting rotation.

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Before we get too ahead of ourselves here a trade for Greinke still appears to be a long shot unless Daniels is prepared to give up the farm for him, but if the Royals are intent on moving the ace the Rangers might be their best match. The Rangers play in a relatively relaxed sports market, something that is vital for Greinke considering his past issues. Greinke reportedly has 15 teams on his no trade list, no word on whether the Rangers are one of them however. The Rangers have the upper level talent the Royals are looking for which at the moment includes at least two pitchers close to Greinke‘s talent level and some bats. One thing Daniels showed in his trade for Lee back in July is the ability to give the other team a package or prospects that satisfies their need for a blockbuster trade without gutting the Rangers farm system in the process. This of course all really depends on how serious the Royals are about moving Greinke. Considering their farm system is loaded but still a few years away from having a major impact at the big league level the Royals can maximize their return for Greinke by dealing him this winter or at the trade deadline in July. Either way expect the Rangers to be heavily involved whether they sign Lee or not. I‘ve always wondered what Daniels can do with a large budget to work with, especially considering what he did while the team was bankrupt going into the trade deadline. Apparently we‘re about to find out the answer to that question.
From the Author: I'm a simple fan who enjoys the little things in sports. An infield, freshly watered down in anticipation of nine innings of baseball. Rolling a ball down the line before the game has begun to see which way the dirt guides the ball, fair or foul. I love the simple fact that the foul poles and lines are called that, yet if the ball hits either one it is fair. I love walking into the ballpark and catching a glimpse of the fresh green grass mowed in harmony while becoming intoxicated by the various smells a ballpark brings. Grilled onions on my hot dog, an ice cold beer just in time for batting practice and peanuts in the fourth inning. I love that the traditional organ hasn't been replaced in most ballparks.

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35 Snarky Reasons To Watch Every Bowl Game
Bobby Roberts AmericasWhiteboy.blogspot.com

There are 35 college football bowl games this season and to be honest, not all of them are worth watching. I do my best, or worst, to try and convince everyone to tune into every bowl game this season.
I use cheerleader quality, famous alumni, Justin Bieber lookalikes, and Hawaiian shirts to coax you. Also, I added a picture of the USC song girls, just because you know you will miss them this bowl season. New Mexico Bowl: December 18th: BYU vs. UTEP - This game is hard to promote. Jenn Brown is the sideline reporter and it could be funny to hear her try to attempt to pronounce BYU's Kalama Kaluhiokalani. uDrove Humanitarian Bowl: December 18th: Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State NIU's head coach left to coach Minnesota and Fresno State was destroyed the last time they played on the blue turf. I suggest drinking until the blue turf starts to look like a lake and you think you're watching a water polo match. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: December 18th: Ohio vs. Troy - Justin Bieber plays wide receiver for Troy. Beef ‗O‘ Brady‘s St. Petersburg Bowl: December 21st: Southern Mississippi vs. Louisville - Man Law #345 - If a bowl game is sponsored by meat, you must watch. MAACO Las Vegas Bowl: December 22nd: Utah vs. Boise State - You may see a few Utah fans head explode just from being in Las Vegas. S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: December 23rd: Navy vs. San Diego State - Drink every time Craig James says something that makes you want to punch him...you'll be blacked-out by halftime. Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: December 24th: Hawaii vs. Tulsa - Although nothing will beat the year Notre Dame played in this bowl and Charle Weis sported an Hawaiian shirt, it's always funny to see head coaches look like extras from an episode of Magnum P.I. 42

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Little Caesars Bowl: December 26th: Florida International vs. Toledo - The legendary broadcast team of Dave Lamont, JC Pearson & Quint Kessenich will announce this game, enough said. AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl: December 27th: Air Force vs. Georgia Tech The triple-option versus the triple option...quarterbacks might just want to sit this game out. Champs Sports Bowl: December 28th: West Virginia vs. NC State - The over/under on the amount of WCW's NwO Wolfpac t-shirts in crowd will be at 30.5...and those will just be from West Virginia wrestling fans. Insight Bowl: December 28th: Missouri vs. Iowa - Okay, nothing to watch here, the country is still laughing that a team that lost to Minnesota made a bowl game. Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman: December 29th: East Carolina vs. Maryland - Ralph Friedgen will eat any ECU player that crosses his sideline. Texas Bowl: December 29th: Illinois vs. Baylor - Baylor fans have a short trip and their fans should outnumber Illinois fans, should feel like a home game for Ron Zook. Valero Alamo Bowl: December 29th: Oklahoma State vs. Arizona - I would just DVR this game and watch Mike Gundy's "I'm A Man, I'm 40" rant on YouTube for 3 hours...could be more entertaining. Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: December 30th: Army vs. SMU - June Jones takes his SMU team to play Army in the Armed Forces Bowl. What is Jones biggest regret? Leaving Hawaii or arguing with Jeff George? New Era Pinstripe Bowl: December 30th: Kansas St vs. Syracuse - The announcers will spend more time talking about the Yankees signing Derek Jeter than the actual game. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: December 30th: North Carolina vs. Tennessee - Butch Davis versus Derek Dooley: A chess match! Okay, maybe it will be more like checkers. Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl: December 30th: Nebraska vs. Washington The nation finally realizes that Jake Locker is over-rated while Mel Kiper stands on the sideline with a boner for him. 43

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Meineke Car Care Bowl: December 31st: South Florida vs. Clemson - Florida area & Southern belle cheerleaders...ESPN should just have a split-screen with the game and the sideline. Hyundai Sun Bowl: December 31st: Notre Dame vs. Miami - I can't wait for all the awesome highlights from Warren Sapp, Raghib Ismail, Tony Rice, Rick Mirer, Bernie Kosar, and Michael Irvin. This game should have an 80's night promotion. AutoZone Liberty: December 31st: Georgia vs. UCF - The eBay bidding for A.J. Green's jersey has no reserve and you can start your bidding now. Chick-fil-A Bowl: December 31st: South Carolina vs. Florida State - Jimbo Fisher should wear a Bobby Bowden mask on the sideline so Steve Spurrier will call bonehead plays and lose. TicketCity Bowl: January 1st: Northwestern vs. Texas Tech - Can we renamed this the "Hangover Bowl"? Northwestern's QB, Dan Persa, is out and the only shot the Wildcats have of beating the Red Raiders if an SAT test is the actual 4th quarter. Outback Bowl: January 1st: Florida vs. Penn State - Joe Paterno may actually think he's playing the game in the Outback. The Gators should use a kangaroo as their mascot to really throw him off. Capital One Bowl: January 1st: Alabama vs. Michigan State - The best two teams that aren't in a BCS bowl game. But we all know what usually happens when an SEC team plays against the Big Ten. Richardson and Ingram will score more times than co-eds on New Year's Eve. Gator Bowl: January 1st: Mississippi State vs. Michigan - Remember when pundits were giving Denard Robinson the Heisman trophy after three games? He may need another amazing game to save Rich Rodriguez's job. If Michigan is down at the half, RichRod could be watching from a sports bar. Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO: January 1st: Wisconsin vs. TCU Wisconsin's rushing attack versus TCU's stingy defense. TCU will be Little Mac and Wisconsin is King Hippo. The key here is to hit him in the stomach when Bret Bielema opens his mouth. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: January 1st: Connecticut vs. Oklahoma - There's really only 44

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one reason to watch this game, hoping that UConn grad Molly Qerim attends the game and Fox shows her in the stands. Discover Orange: January 3rd: Stanford vs. Virginia Tech - The last time Virginia Tech had this big of a game, they were beaten by Boise State. Andrew Luck is better than anyone on BSU, sorry Va Tech may have trouble in this one. Allstate Sugar Bowl: January 4th: Ohio State vs. Arkansas - Ohio State vs. Michigan rivalry will be storyline in this game. Ryan Mallett played his freshman year against the Buckeyes, completing one pass for eight yards. Call me crazy, but he will have better numbers in this game. GoDaddy.com Bowl: January 6th: Middle Tennessee vs. Miami (Ohio) - Tune in the game, watch for the commercials. AT&T Cotton Bowl: January 7th: LSU vs. Texas A&M - Barrett Bailey, Patrick Peterson, Jordan Jefferson, David Detz, Jarred Joseph, Terrence Toliver, and Lazarius Levingston. LSU's team is sponsored by alliteration. Sounds like characters in a Dr. Seuss book. BBVA Compass Bowl: January 8th: Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky - Dave Wannstedt was fired and Kentucky's head coach is named Joker. He may try the "pencil trick" to the new Pitt coach. Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: January 9th: Nevada vs. Boston College - Kyle Brontzman will not be attendance. Tostitos BCS National Championship Game: January 10th: Oregon vs. Auburn Cecil Newton has big money riding on this game, courtesy of the Auburn University football boosters. Also, at this point, Oregon could wear jerseys that resemble the World League's Orlando Thunder.
Sweetbob is a snarky whiteboy from the Midwest who brings his skewed view of sports & pop culture to the masses. Spending every minute of his life to prove that he is America's White Boy.

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Where is the Progress in Jacksonville?
Brian William Fullford Bigcatcountry.com

The sun has all but set on the 2007 playoff team yet that season still remains as the standard by which team progress is gauged, and rightly so. Overcoming a litany of injuries and a series of first round busts has not been easy, yet over the past three years the team has shown signs of improvement in multiple areas.
So how can one explain the third blow out loss of the 2010 season? One which has also had a last second win over the Colts along with an opening season win over the Broncos. For every indication that the team is moving forward, they manage to empty the glass to disclose that even greater problems need to be addressed. Back in 2007, the Jaguars were being led by a new starter in David Garrard, the winner of a bitter quarterback controversy. That season saw him put up a stellar quarterback rating while compiling a hall of fame touchdown to interception ratio. It was this promise of future greatness that prompted a new contract and the belief that the Jaguars would soon be Super Bowl contenders. It was also symbolic of a head coach who began to show his success in Carolina and Baltimore was something which would translate to the next level. Yet it was not to be and the history of 2008 is well known as injuries and disappointing play led to a season to forget. After an evaluation of front office and on the field talent there were sweeping changes which included, over the past two years, the loss of defensive tackles in Henderson and Stroud, a gutting of the wide receiver corps and the rebuilding of the offensive line. To date all that's left to add are young faces at the interior offensive line, defensive back and linebacker. The foundation at quarterback, however, has remained unchanged and relatively unchallenged. No worthy free agent or draft choice has walked EverBank to present himself as the next signal caller. The expectation is that if David was surrounded with better talent he would showcase his abilities and therefore the position was not an immediate need.

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A fair request? Absolutely. The pounding he took at the hands of his offensive line, along with arguably the worst receiving corps in NFL history gave many the belief that he was franchise quarterback that was merely surviving until weapons were replenished. However, entering the third year removed from that playoff run there are serious questions as to whether that fabled season was the exception and not the rule. But it isn't just David's name being tossed around. Del Rio is also being held up to scrutiny. With the faith that has been put in Gene Smith, the question as to whether the talent is being optimized must be asked. It may be the case that David, the man who made Reggie Williams and Matt Jones look at the very least serviceable, is handcuffed by a coach, and staff, which is not able to develop and game plan. The expectations for 2010 were low, but the team was at least expected to be competitive. Humiliating loses from the previous year would be forgotten through individual and team maturity along with another promising draft. Yet six games into the season a .500 record doesn't accurately tell the story of where this team is going.

With the faith that has been put in Gene Smith, the question as to whether the talent is being optimized must be asked. It may be the case that David … is handcuffed by a coach, and staff, which is not able to develop and game plan.

Defensive back was a known liability and in every game has been exploited. Yielding less than 26 points only once is not a recipe for success. The greater problem is an offense, which in three loses has scored a combined total of 19 points. It is here were the questions and concerns are squarely resting. If RB, OT and WR have improved, where is the problem? Save the Eagles game in which the team gave up seven sacks, the protection has improved. On defense the Jaguars are one of the better teams against the run, as shown by their ability to negate the impact of Chris Johnson, and have almost matched their sack total from last year. With visible and quantitative progress in some areas, the team must be critically evaluated to find the lingering malaise. When you consider San Diego, a team that throttled Jacksonville 38-13, has loses to Seattle (27-20), Oakland (35-27) and St. Louis (20-17), one has to wonder what is wrong.

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I think you can tell the team's progress by how they are losing. Looking at Detroit one can see a team that, even at 1-5, has a +6 point differential and has lost by an average of 6.4 points per game. Four of the losses were by a combined total of 18 points. Jacksonville, on the other hand, is showing a trend of blow out loses. 2008 – Decimated by line injuries, this team was shut out zero times and wasn‘t blown out until late in the season when depth began to show. Prior to week 12 the largest margin of loss was 10 points.      Week 11 – 10 point loss at home to Titans Week 12 – 18 point loss at home to Vikes Week 13 – 13 point loss at Hou Week 14 – 13 point loss at Chi Week 17 – 20 point loss at Bal (Was at that game…rough crowd)

Team loses 8 of last 10 2009 – Team is shut out for the first time since 2004 and looks bad in many games      Week 2 – 14 point loss at home to Arz Week 5 – Lose 41-0 at Sea Week 8 – 17 point loss at TN Week 12 – 17 point loss at SF Week 16 – 28 point loss at NE

Team loses 5 of last 6. 2010 – Nice start and nice win over Colts but loses are not competitive    Week 2 – 25 point loss at home to Phi Week 3 – 25 point loss at SD Week 6 – 27 point loss at home to TN

This obviously doesn't get into the specifics of the game but it discloses a team which, in spite of success, has a hard time being prepared from week to week. To a greater point. if Gene gets the credit for bringing in talent then who do we fault as it surely isn‘t just one person? Nothing, at this point, appears to be changing. We're still looking at a team that can pull the upset, then totally vanish as if forgetting their past accomplishments. What is needed is for that win over a team like the Colts to not be considered an upset, rather indicative of how the team regularly plays.

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I‘ve said it before, when Leftwich showed digression in GB during the 3rd preseason game of 2007 it was his final straw. Many of us called for Garrard to start, and upon getting our wish were rewarded with a memorable playoff run. Is the root cause collective: an inconsistent QB who can‘t elevate the play around him and a coach who can‘t manage the talent? There seems to be strong indications that it could be both. The problem is that firing Del Rio during the season would be conceding the season and Trent Edwards, though young and with some upside, doesn't know the offense and is still an unproven commodity. Are Wayne and Gene ready to make two drastic moves in an effort to finalize rebuilding? The good news is that in parts the arrow is pointing up. In Mike Thomas, Mike SimsWalker and Marcedes Lewis you have progress in the passing game. In Deji Karim and Rashad Jennings you have progress in running back depth. Offensive tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton have shown they can protect the quarterback and open lanes. Aaron Kampman, Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu have displayed the ability to stop the run and get to the quarterback. From Jack's record as coach to David's record as quarterback, however, the body of work says average and that is not a sign of progress. I can't stand it I can't stand it Wilco - Can't Stand It
Brian Fullford began writing about the Jaguars back in 2009 in a freelance role for Bleacher Report where he gained noteriety. Later that year he was asked to join Big Cat Country as one of their editors. Since then his entertaining perspective on Jaguars football, and sometimes the NFL as a whole, has been a staple for BCC readers. On multiple occasions he has been recognized by ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky in his AFC South blog. Brian lives in Jacksonville, FL with his wife, two kids and two dogs. When not writing he enjoys getting outdoors to mountain bike, kayak and hike.

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Saints Fan Diary Vol 10. - Super Saints
By Matt Yoder RandallSimonsSausages.com

Well, they did it. It's taken a few days for the reality to sink in that the team I've loved the most for the realized part of my existence won the world championship. Even typing the words now that the Saints have won the Super Bowl is a surreal experience.
Something I never thought would happen. But, it did happen. And, although the journey to Miami was the roller-coaster ride of a lifetime, there is no greater feeling as a sports fan than seeing the Saints lift the Lombardi Trophy. The Super Bowl was a completely different experience for Saints fans than the NFC Championship Game. As a game, the Vikings showdown was much more stressful and panic inducing because it was to get to the Super Bowl. That game, in New Orleans, symbolized the struggle of the entire Saints franchise to finally reach the big game. The NFC title game was a back and forth affair and the emotional swings were intense. Winning the NFC title in the Superdome was such a powerful and symbolic event for New Orleans and Saints fans everywhere that it was finally a joy just to make it to the Super Bowl.

But of course, you still want your team to win the title! Who knows, this may be the only chance that the Saints get (just ask Cubs fans) and you have to take advantage of it. All day, I just believed for whatever reason that the Saints could get it done. I don't know how or why, but I just kept telling myself "today will be a good day" about 300 times. Granted, down 10-0 at the end of the first quarter I wasn't exactly feeling so optimistic. Garret Hartley was in the zone. His performance was one of many that won the game in a total team effort for New Orleans. Don't underestimate his first FG to make it 10-3. Those first points in the Super Bowl are always the hardest to get and that drive helped get New Orleans into the flow of the game. In my mind, I knew that New Orleans had the power to come back, but did they have the defense to slow down the Colts? I don't think even the most biased Saints fan saw a 31-7 run in the last 3 quarters coming. The first turning point was Pierre Garcon's drop. This stop was absolutely huge because it allowed the Saints to limit Manning's possessions and control the 2nd quarter clock. Another good drive brought them to 1st and Goal inside the 5 in the closing minutes of 50

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the first half. When 4th down came, millions of Saints fans knew Sean Payton would go for it. While the running play was stuffed, his coaching in this stretch was phenomenal. He timed the sequence just right to get another Hartley FG while making sure Manning got no more points going into the break. Even though the 4th down stop happened, the momentum was in the corner of New Orleans. As a fan, I was some weird combination of skeptical and hopeful while just praying that they could come out of the halftime break with something special. Little did I know that the gutsiest call in Super Bowl history would come after The Who were wheeled off stage back to the nursing home. I had a sneaking suspicion Sean Payton might do something crazy in this game, and the onside kick coming out of the second half was the brilliant call that changed the game...

Little did I know that the gutsiest call in Super Bowl history would come after The Who were wheeled off stage back to the nursing home.

I was screaming at the TV just hoping the Saints had the ball after the longest and most dramatic unpiling in the history of Western Civilization... and I don't think that's an overexaggeration! Thankfully for my health, Chris Reis and Jonathan Casillas made sure the Saints had the ball. The night before the game, I watched highlights of every Saints game this season just to enjoy the memories of the 2009 season. It was a great reminder that win or lose, this season had been like no other and had provided so many great memories. Evidently, Sean Payton was thinking something similar. For this game, he didn't need Ronnie Lott or Bill Parcells to provide motivation, but to remind this team how great they are and the ride they took their fans on this season. From ESPN... The storyline was predictable: The scrappy Saints, the plucky overachievers, were facing the best player in the game, Peyton Manning. What was lost during the week, but was painfully obvious Sunday, is that the Saints weren't overachieving at all: They're actually really, really talented. That's why, on the morning of the game, coach Sean Payton didn't show his players a clip from "Rocky" to get them pumped up. No, he played a highlight reel from their season, reminding them of the greatness they already have achieved. The Super Bowl victory was technically an upset, but to the Saints, it was a natural progression." One thing I did notice during all those highlights was Pierre Thomas' brilliant screen passes. He's the best in the NFL at breaking through tackles and reading 51

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blocks on the screen and seeing a screen put the Saints in the lead was a fitting play. Thomas was another unsung hero for New Orleans - an undrafted free agent out of Illinois who earned his spot as the starting running back of a Super Bowl champ. The TD occurs at the :58 mark... And just like that, the Saints were in the lead in the Super Bowl. I had to ask my family if it was real! It was! The Saints were leading in the Super Bowl in the 2nd half! For the first time it really hit me that there was a chance that the Saints could actually become World Champions. The 2nd half was the most fun I have ever had watching any sporting event. The positive energy of this team is infectious, and to see America get behind them (highest rated TV event... ever!) makes it all the more special. After an exchange of an Indy TD and a NO FG, the score was 17-16 entering the 4th quarter. With Indy driving, the Saints were able to stop them on the edge of FG range. Luckily, Matt Stover missed from outside 50, giving the ball to New Orleans with great field position and an opportunity to take a 4th quarter lead. The Saints did not disappoint. Brees was a perfect 8/8 to 8 different receivers including a 2 point conversion, capped off by a redemption TD for Jeremy Shockey and an acrobatic catch by Lance Moore... OK, obviously at this point I'm beyond excited. Just over 5 minutes away from the impossible dream coming true. But, Peyton Manning, the Sheriff, was on the other sideline. Surely they couldn't do to Manning what they did to Warner and Favre. You heard all week that the Saints D wasn't up to the task and couldn't do the job against one of the all-time greats. Well, that was until Tracy Porter etched his name into the annals of history with what now has to be the most famous INT of all-time... The joy in that moment is unmatched. Our entire family was standing in our living room jumping up and down and screaming with joy. All I could do was just scream YEEESSSS over and over again at the top of my lungs. Even though I had to sweat out the last 3 minutes, that one play was what I have watched thousands and thousands of hours of sports for. We love sports because it's unscripted drama. We wait for that one play that we'll remember the rest of our lives. Tracy Porter's INT was that play. I grew up an NFL fan. I've seen the Super Bowl videos of John Riggins, Old Man Willie, and Joe Willie Namath. I never thought that my team would have one of those iconic moments that will live forever. A few minutes later Drew Brees took a knee and the Saints had won the Super Bowl. There were no tears of joy this time. This experience was unlike the NFC Championship now it was time to celebrate! I ran outside to do a quick snowangel in the yard (in shorts and a t-shirt btw) and tried to get back inside by the time the coaches shook hands. Judging by the scenes of Saints fans everywhere, winning the Super Bowl meant pure, unbridled joy. Yes, Who Dat Nation couldn't believe it, but finally our guys were the 52

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ones lifting the Lombardi Trophy. It would have been nice to go to the parade and join an estimated 800,000 Saints fans, but the snow and work and school obligations in C-Bus meant I had to be there in spirit. Oh, well... maybe I'll make it there for the 2010 Home opener. When I say it was the happiest day of my life, that may sound sad and When I say it was the happiest pathetic, and that I need to prioritize my life and get it in order, and all of day of my life, that may sound that nonsense... but, it's really true! sad and pathetic, and that I This is a team I've lived and died need to prioritize my life and with for 20 years, for all of my known existence. I can never get it in order, and all of that remember not being a Saints fan. nonsense... but, it's really true! And now, they can never take this season and this trophy away. When you follow a team so passionately for so long, this is the day you dream about coming true. The memories will last forever, and I won't come down from this high for quite some time. To see what this SB trophy has meant to Saints fans and the city of New Orleans is almost impossible to quantify with words. Just look at the pictures and the videos. Look at the joy, hope, and unity this team and this championship has brought to a city that was almost wiped off of the map. This championship may mean more to a city and a fanbase than any championship in sports history - and I firmly believe that. The 2009 New Orleans Saints were a team of destiny. Players who were undrafted, casted off, overrated, not good enough, players who conqured demons, a coach that was too bold, an owner that was too old, and a QB that was too short who went 29/32 in the final 3 quarters of the Super Bowl and won the MVP. Drew Brees spoke of his time in New Orleans as a divine calling and fans on the Gulf Coast have had their faith restored because of this team... heck the pope even allowed Saints flags to be flown in churches on Super Sunday! What other event in sports has ever done so much for its fans? Like my brother said, this trophy isn't going to rebuild homes or people's lives, but it has brought so much hope and happiness to people who deserve it. Ironically, I think it was CNN's David Gergen who said it best... New Orleans is not back yet, and the crown may not sit long on the temple of the Saints one can already see Peyton Manning plotting out next year. But isn‘t this a moment to savor? Isn‘t this a time to remind ourselves that if New Orleans and the Saints can rally together to get up off their backs and stand tall, so can America itself?

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If the Saints can be champions, then so can the great people of the city of New Orleans, and so can anyone else who has been told that they can't do it for any reason. In this case, this team and this year was about so much more than a game. For this sports fan, it was a season and a championship that will never be matched. It was about the redemptive story of a team, a city, and a nation of supporters that believed and finished strong as World Champions. We hope you've enjoyed our NFL coverage and our Saints fan diary. Thanks to everyone who has been along for the ride. Blogging will be a little lighter in the next couple weeks so I can recover, and because we will be broadcasting the NCAC Swimming Championships (featuring 30 time D3 champ Kenyon) this weekend from Canton. We have some other projects on the table as well, but we'll still check in on the Olympics, the hardwood, and everything else inbetween. Who dat! Bye for now...
Maybe some of you remember that infamous night in Milwaukee when our pal Randall Simon so hilariously dropped one of those giant foam hot dogs with one swing of his bat, but then again maybe you don't. If you do, you are probably a lot like us: insane sports fans who love the games on the field, and love to laugh at the blooper reel moments as well. If you don't, Youtube it! Here at RSS we will give our takes on sports across the country and the globe, share in some debates, and most of all, have some fun.

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Halladay's No Hitter: A View from Section 303
Erik Lambertsen pescblog.yardbarker.com

I rush out of work, light a cigarette and sling my black bag over my shoulder. The excitement has already been swirling around in my stomach for hours. I am going to the playoff opener for the two-time defending NL Champion Philadelphia Phillies.
In 60 minutes Roy Halladay is making the first playoff appearance of his career. I shuffle down Market St. and reach the Orange Line subway. Rushing down the stairs I watch the car pull away. Damn it. I want to see this game. Shortly after, another car pulls in and the massive wad of red and white forces its way to their destination. The anticipation is palpable but no one really has any idea of what is in store on this cool October evening. In what seems like hours of apprehension, the red and white wad exits the car to the sound of blaring horns and smooth woodwinds playing on the street above. As I rise from the subway terminal, the carnival-like atmosphere of Citizens Bank Park is evident. The glorious brick structure is surrounded by smiling faces and raucous supporters. I need to find my ticket. After a few garble phone conversations, I locate my friend and the ticket and make my way past security and the turnstiles. I'm handed a white towel, I must have 20 of these by now. I stuff it in my black bag and pull my ticket out. Where am I sitting? Section 303, Row 19, Seat 9. Climbing the rows, I find my seat in the corner, next to steel beam. The game begins. The announcer blurts to me on the PA to tell the fans to wave their towels because TBS is coming on the air. The sight of 46,000 white towels waving furiously lets you know its October in Philadelphia again. The first two innings were all about offense for the Phillies. When Chase Utley hits a sacrifice fly to score Victorino, I shout, "That's all Doc is gonna need." The second inning is a lot of fun. The Phillies tack on 3 more and you tell yourself and others around you that Edinson Volquez is not long for the game. I look up at the scoreboard and he's thrown 55 and has the bases loaded in the 2nd. The rain comes. Halladay ignores it. He saws through two more methodical innings. After the 5th, people start to look around. Hands are being made into the shapes of zeroes. Folks are laughing at the superstitions. 55

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"We've been talking about the no hitter all night," remarks on gentleman, "if he blows it in the 9th, who cares, it isn't us who are going to cause it". Once the 7th inning hits, nobody moves from their seats. If you leave to hit the restroom, you do it when the Phillies are hitting. This becomes increasingly uneventful. Other than against Volquez, the Phillies are ineffective. It seems that even they are distracted by the prospect of greatness. Another systematic inning and Roy Halladay is through the 7th, with still no hits. The 8th inning is more dominant than the one before. Hands signals are shown throughout the section, holding up fingers denoting the number of remaining outs. High fives are slapped to anyone in reach. Fingers are crossed. People are performing epic face palms. Fans are hopping up and down doing dances with each other as the 8th inning comes to a close. Another uneventful half inning for the offense and the stage is set. Again, it seems that they just want to get it over with and keep Roy going for the no-no. I felt a strange twinge of nervousness when Miguel Cairo was announced as a pinch hitter. A former Phillie, something just doesn't feel right. These feelings are misplaced as Cairo peacefully pops out. Then comes the most surreal moment I ever experienced in live sports. A Brandon Phillips dribbler bounces out in front of the plate, his bat a deadly obstruction to the final out, the crowd goes silent. 46,411 fans stand still. Carlos stumbles to his knees. No! Not like this! But then he regains the ball and Ryan Howard sticks his giant first base mitt as high as he can and Ruiz throws a high strike, over the veering Phillips who is attempting to get in the way of the throw. The stadium explodes. Dancing, towel-waving lunatics everywhere. The Phillies mob Roy Halladay after his second no-hitter of the season. Walking down the ramp and out of the stadium some guy told me I can't smoke inside the stadium. He isn't even an employee. I tell him it ss a bit of a free-for-all. He tells me I still am not allowed to smoke. I ignore him. Roy Halladay just threw a no-hitter in the playoffs. As people stream from the stadium with smiling faces, the horns and woodwinds are blasting a funky tune. Some guy with a tie on and a bag slung over his shoulder is dancing like an imbecile in front of the band by himself. That guy is me. Premium Educated Sports Commentary provides daily insight on the ever changing landscape of sports opinion. 56

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Madden '11 Secrets Finally Revealed
The Sports Hernia TheSportsHernia.typepad.com

We do this every year. We do it for the gamers. We do it because we care. It is time.
- When using the Cincinnati Bengals, press "Left, Right, Up, Up R2, D2" to turn T.O. and Ochocinco into Siegfried and Roy. Press L2 again if you want them to be attacked by an actual Bengal. - If you're using the Ravens, hold down every button on your controller to activate Donte Stallworth's car and just drive through the defense with reckless abandon. Special bonus level allows Rae Carruth to pop out of the trunk and puts Raw Lewis at the scene. - Bag your own groceries while speaking Dutch to unlock the all-new "Kurt Christ mode," where an image of a bearded Kurt Warner dressed in robes floats over Matt Leinart and shakes his head in disappointment. - Left, Right, Up, Down, Down, Down when using the Broncos makes Tim Tebow grow devil horns and a tail. - Playing with a woody forces Antonio Cromartie to go into Alimony Mode where he is forced to play in the UFL, CFL, Minor League Arena and the WWE. - Up, Up, L1+R2, Down - using Colts - unlocks Peyton Manning, the affable spokesman, instead of Peyton Manning, the boring QB. - Play with the Browns in "Franchise Legends" mode and Madden '11 immediately turns into Burger Time. - The Create-a-Player Mode feature now allows the user to choose from a vast array of unique character traits such as arrestability and rapeability. - New QB Training Mode literally sends a naked Jon Gruden to your house to go over game film. - Do nothing and you'll likely see a Nutrisystem commercial.

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- Unlocking "Die In a Fire" mode allows you to choose from a list of inept, slobbering announcers such as Bill Maas, Paul McGuire, Matt Millen and a bunch of other fat guys. - New wireless audio setup now makes talking to 12-year old virgins about your girlfriend in Canada even easier when playing online. - Wearing nothing but a pair of Crocs while playing with the Vikings automatically sends a cell phone pic of your wang to a brunette with a bulbous rack. - When playing against the Jets, activate the cast of Rampage with both 'L' buttons so you can wreck sh-- with Fireman Ed. - New ultra-realistic Coaching Mode lets you create your own playbook from scratch, hire assistant coaches, draft your own players, study countless hours of game-film, ignore your wife and children, gain an obscene amount of weight, and dress like a slob seven days a week. If you do all of this, you might very well finish 9-7.

… Coaching Mode lets you create your own playbook from scratch, hire assistant coaches, draft your own players, study countless hours of game-film, ignore your wife and children, gain an obscene amount of weight, and dress like a slob seven days a week.

- Big Ben Mode: Up, Down, Left, Right, L1 while using the Steelers unleashes Big Ben's little Ben, forcing him to play the remainder of the game with Mr. Gray sticking out of his uniform. Not recommended. - When using the Raiders, hold down all buttons during halftime to activate "Knife Fight In-the-Stands" mode. - Intense Competition! Get within one game of an undefeated season and Mercury Morris of the '72 Dolphins will come to your house and sh-- on your controller while you play. - Spill beer all over your game console to unlock Philadelphia's special drunk tank all-star team.

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- Link scores and highlights to your Facebook and Twitter accounts to show everyone just what a pathetic, lonely, assclown you are. - Play naked for a free Wendy's hamburger, delivered to you by former Lions assistant coach Joe Cullen. - Sit on your controller and your WR will date a Kardashian. - New age discrimination mode: When user's entered date of birth is over 40, system shuts down, transforms into a cannon, and immediately shoots said user into a forgotten sea. Helpful hints: - If you are upset your favorite player isn't on the cover of Madden, please rape yourself. - If you waited in line to buy Madden '11, please FedEx your balls to Guatemala.

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Bruins Never Leave Home Without …
By Patrice Purr-geron, Justin Aucoin, Jon Fucile DaysofYorr.com Editor’s Note: For the complete post with accompanying images, visit http://daysofyorr.com/2010-articles/may/bruins-never-leave-home-without.html

Yesterday, ESPN posted a story about what athletes bring when they go on the road. Some were humorous. Some were dumb. Mostly, they were dumb. But it got us thinking. What do the Bruins bring with them when they're on the road? Xbox? Big League Chew? Penicillin if they're going to Philly? Autographed copies of their ESPN nude spreads?
The Bruins have a lot of different personalities, players from different cultures. So we sent Patrice Purr-geron into the field to get the scoop on what some of your favorite Bruins just can't leave home without. Thanks guys. As I strolled the Bruins locker room on break-up day, I decided it was a bad idea to mention I've put out better efforts in my litter box than the Bruins did in periods 2 and 3 of Game 7. Instead, I decided to inquire about what they absolutely won't leave home without when they travel during the season. Some of their responses were interesting. Some of their responses were disturbing. But all of their tales were interesting. First, I spoke with Patrice Bergeron. "I never go on the road without my gold medal," Bergeron said. "On a team of super stars, I was still picked to kill penalties and take face-offs. But no one even remembers I was there. So I take my medal everywhere to remind them." To promote his gold medal, Bergeron has teamed up with Flava Flav for a new reality show where they try to find women who love large neck accessories.

Bergeron is gangsta.
Next we spoke with Steve Beijing Begin as he left GM Chiarelli's office with a one way ticket out of town and a poorly written thank you note.

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"I always bring my name tag," Begin told me. "No one ever pronounces my last name correctly. It sucks. So I just point to my name tag when they talk to me. I refuse to respond until they pronounce my name correctly!"

He's not a city in China.
Next up was famed Slovakian dancer, Miroslav Satan. "I never leave home with my Bible. I was unfortunately born with the devil in me. But I try to repent. I also hold regular church services with Chiarelli and the Jacobs family. Their sins against the Bruins are well documented. I'm just trying to save their souls," Satan explained.

He's a holy man.
After Satan, I talked to the devious ginger who calls himself Michael Ryder. What he told me made the season make so much more sense. "Let's just say I have.... compromising pictures of Coach Julien. How do you think I get so much playing time despite my diminishing talent and skills? Coach benches me, everyone finds out his dirty secrets!"

That bastard!
Terrible. Soon afterward Julien walked in with a butler outfit and handed Ryder a banana cream pie. It is true... gingers don't have souls. We thought that was awful. But then Andrew Ference decided he would show us what he brings on the road. Seeing him in tights was almost as awful as seeing him on the ice.

Captain Ference, he's a zero.....
"I love trees man. No really, I LOVE trees. That groin injury stuff? Bullsh--. My willy just gets chaffed, if you know what I'm saying," Ference unfortunately told me. Haunting. After vomiting and injecting cat nip to forget about what I just heard, I pressed on. I stumbled upon Tuukka Rask, who was reading "An Idiots Guide to Second Year Goaltending" by Andrew Raycroft. Rask was chucking as he read. "Ha man, Toronto took him for ME?! Good move Bruins," Rask said looking amused. I asked him what he likes to bring on the road, other than amusing How to Guides regarding being a goalie. "Milk crates. Lots of lots of milk crates," Rask said. "It is frowned upon to hit your team mates. And it is bad for unity and moral. So every time Hunwick or Wideman messes up in front of me, I like to throw some milk crates. I... go through a lot o them."

He's got anger issues.

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Rask's mentor Thomas was sitting a few stalls over, surrounded by bags of money. I tried to ask him what he likes to bring on the road, but he just pressed play on a recorder as a laugh track played and continued to stare at his money.

Money, money money! mooooooooooooney
Blake Wheeler was next on my hit list. Like Rask, he was engrossed in a book. He had an autograph of former Bruin Joe Thornton in his locker and was reading "How to Not Use your Size or Skills Effectively" by "Jumbo" Joe Thornton.

You're 6'5"... throw a freaking check! Go to the front of the net!
"I'm doing exactly what the book says," Wheeler exclaimed. You sure are Blake, you sure are. I felt bad for him. I called in some favors. We got him a Dream Card to Foxwoods so there would be at least one slot he could play.

Wheeler is almost useless.
I tried to interview Savard next. He refused to speak with Days of Y'Orr. He mumbled something about "too many men" and "shoving it up your ass."

The Bruins should be ashamed of themselves.
I found Vladimir Sobotka when I almost stepped on him. The fiesty youngster was nice enough to share a photo with me. "This is a picture of me and my friends back home. I take it everywhere. We've had so many great adventures together. I don't go anywhere without it," Sobotka told me. Touching.

Greetings from the Shire.
I found the legendary Shawn Thornton in the training room, brushing up on his fistic skills. I asked him what he doesn't leave home without. He raised his fists. "Jack Johnson and Tom O'Leary!," he exclaimed. "All I need is me and my fists. I'm that awesome." I couldn't disagree with him. It was an honor just to be in his presence.

He's got Jack Johnson and Tom O'Leary waiting right here for you.

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I then moved on to the injured David Krejci. His broken English was hard to understand, but his emotion was palpable. "Lately, I've been taking this card Bruins fans sent me," Krejci said as he teared up. "It meant a lot. I wish I could've helped my team, but knowing the fans still appreciate me feels good.

Series would've been won if we had Krejci.
Next I tracked down the ageless Mark Recchi. Like Sobotka, he too carried a picture that was near and dear to his heart. "I don't go anywhere without my picture of Rex and me playing! He was my first dog. I got him when I was a kid. He loved to be held. He passed away last year. I miss him everyday," said Recchi. He was nice enough to share the picture with me.

Just kidding Mr. Recchi. We love you.
Daniel Paille was unavailable to talk. He was busy watching highlights of breakaways with some friends in hopes that someday he would actually score on one.

Someday Paille, someday.
Next I came upon a downtrodden Johnny Boychuk. Boychuk was Boston's best defender in the playoffs. The way the playoffs ended was devastating for Boychuk. He thrives on winning. And destroying lives. "Well first, I never leave home without my jar of tears. I collect tears from each player I destroy on the ice," Boychuk gleefully declared. "Second, I carry a case of apology letters. I give these out to the widows of the players that don't survive after encountering me in the neutral zone. But that guy from Wedding Crashers was right... grieving women put out real quick like!" Boychuk then looked to the sky and began to day dream. I left him alone with his thoughts.

Poor Johnny. Let's give him a hug.
Next up was Milan Lucic. "This is self explanatory I guess," said Lucic, sporting mementos of his encounters with Mike Komisarek.

Lucic owns you.
"I keep his balls in a jar. I own him. He's my bitch. I can't even begin to explain how fun it is to punch him and watch him cry." I thanked him for his time and told him we never get tired of it either. Matt Hunwick showed us his inability to let go, when he showed us the t-shirt he wears under his jersey every game.

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No spleen here.
I wanted to talk to Mark Stuart, but I didn't want to get infected. I'm a germ freak. I know that's weird coming from a guy that sh--s in sand and buries it, but who cares. I called to him from across the room and asked him what he brings on the road. He simply replied "I bring the pain." He and Johnny Boychuk then did a fist bump.

He hurts thems good.
Next up was Dennis Seidenberg. He hasn't been with the Bruins long and may not be back, but we asked him anyway. "Well, since Ference got that contract he got, I carry around my 'Peter Chiarelli Overpayment Calculator' everywhere. Even on the ice. Every time I make a hit, take a shot, anything really... I add to it like Peter would, " Seidenberg explained. "Right now, I'm at about $17 million a year based on Peter's value scale. I'm about to gets paid, ho!"

We'll miss you.
Unfortunately I ran into Zdeno Chara next. I say unfortunately because I had finally removed the horrid image of his nude body out of my head. Then I made the mistake of asking him what he takes on the road.

We're still terrified.
"I take photo on road. My body is machine!," Chara told me. "Look at this perfection. I give out copies to fans in other cities. Everyone love nude Chara. Nude Chara for President!" Too bad you're from another country Mr. Chara. That is a dream that will never be realized. But you can be governor of California. I then came upon a sobbing Dennis Wideman. He had his nose in a book. It was clear what he brings on the road. "I read a lot of self help books," he told me with a sigh. "I just keep telling myself I'm worth, I'm worth it. Bruins fans are just so mean. So I sucked for 81 out of 82 games this year? Maybe I'm over paid. But so what? I'm still a person!"

His mom thinks he's cool.
I was tempted to slap him, but I walked away. Have to maintain journalistic integrity. That is how Eklund would want it! The last player left in the locker room was the injured Marco Sturm. He was upset that his season ended early, but I reminded him that he had basically been useless in the playoffs. He didn't find me amusing. I changed the subject to the topic of what he brings on the road. "Well dick, I don't really bring anything. I just request my hotel room has a large mirror. I like to practice the famous Sturm Face!," he politely replied.

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The Sturm Face
I tried to speak to Julien, but he said he "volunteered" to wash and wax Michael Ryder's car. He dropped a line-up for next season. Ryder was the first line wing. My heart sank. Damn you Ryder.

Get it together Julien.
For my last stop, I dropped by Chiarelli's office. As is custom with Peter Chiarelli this year when you point out team deficiencies, he was standoffish. "I can't believe Seidenberg told you about my calculator!!! Friggin' douche. But hey, let me get your opinion. I was thinking of giving Wheeler 6 years, $47 million! What do you think!"

Somebody stop him.
I was suddenly filled with rage. I struck him about the face and head. As I looked down about his unconscious body, I decided it was time to end my trip and go home.

Beat man Patrice Purr-geron.
So my trip ended. I learned a lot bout the players and their habits on the road, and have a warrant out for my arrest. Something about assault. I now need therapy. This is Patrice Purr-geron signing off from the Days of Y'Orr headquarters. Until next time.
Days of Y’Orr is a completely, 100% biased blog about the NHL and the Boston Bruins. We think Shawn Thornton is the third greatest NHL player of all time (behind Lemieux and Orr), sympathize with Joe Thornton and do Renee Rancourt fistpumps during even the most pedestrian of accomplishments. We are still bitter towards Ulf Samuellson and have shrines to Cam Neely. We love Ray Bourque, but refuse to support those half Bruins, half Avalanche jerseys people wear. In short: We <3 the Bruins.

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Memo to Major League Baseball: Instant Replay is Not the Sign of the Apocalypse
By Blythe Brumleve GuysGirl.com

Whether it is a referee in football, a linesman in hockey or an umpire in baseball, all sports have some sort of judge and jury. These individuals are in charge of making decisions that affect how the game is played out. The purpose of these "judges and juries" is to get the call right.
Get the call wrong and it could majorly affect who wins or even determine the outcome of the game. So why has baseball been so slow to adopt tools to help the umpires make the right call? Over years of debate and other major sports leagues adopting instant replay, baseball finally succumbed the pressure of the fans and media by allowing for instant replay on home run calls only. When the surprising change was announced, the media and fans were already shouting for more instant replay analysis than just home runs. And why the heck not? Baseball has been filled with these so called "traditionalists" for years that immediately try to squash any part of the game that present day fans would want to alter slightly. What the traditionalists have to understand is that no one is calling for a little red baseball challenge flag to thrown on the field or for a ruling to be handed over to a panel of judges holding white cards that say "fair or foul". Fans merely want baseball to take advantage of the multitude of views we have at home. Think about it, what would happen if instant replay in baseball was expanded to the following scenarios:     Fair or Foul Out or Safe Held on the ball or dropped it Hit batter?

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Would the world suddenly start raining fire balls and apocalypse start? Maybe not, but it certainly would cut down on the petty and meaningless "I'm going to talk slightly louder really close to your face so maybe you change your mind about the horrible call you just made.‖
"But wouldn't instant replay make the game even longer than what it is? "

A lot of the time these arguments last double, even triple the amount of time it would take to look a couple camera angles for 30 seconds. How much work does it take to place league official in a video booth who can quickly overrule an obvious mistake? It goes without saying that umpires are truly great at what they do. They can spot 98% of plays and call them correctly. With that being said, its not 100% and when you're a fan on the bad side of the call, it hurts. Especially when that call can decide how a game end or series plays out ala Don Denkinger.

Instead of treating replay as a "robot that will eventually take an umpire's jobs in baseball,‖ traditionalists and the media should treat replay as an aid.

Instead of treating replay as a "robot that will eventually take an umpire's jobs in baseball,‖ traditionalists and the media should treat replay as an aid. If a play occurs that is questionable, the coach should be able to go over to umpire and ask for a review at least once per nine innings and any questionable call in extra innings should automatically be reviewed. This would keep the traditional relationship with the umpire and coach respectable, with the ultimate goal of giving the umpires a chance to utilize the same technology we have at home. With HD TVs becoming the standard in American households, missed calls will only be magnified and the shouts for expanded replay will become louder. Most fans can agree that a loss based on play is easier to swallow than a loss based off a bad call. If utilized properly, instant replay in baseball should be implemented ASAP as an aid to the umpires to make sure every call, is the right call.
Blythe is the founder and lead writer for GuysGirl.com. In 2010 she won Bloguin's Blogger of the Year award, while also earning Best General Blog and runner up for Blog of the Year. GuysGirl.com features articles on Sports, Gaming, Geek Culture with a splash of girly. Her loves in life include the Jacksonville Jaguars, Boston Red Sox, a good RPG/FPS, family, friends, beach, traveling and most importantly, working on making GuysGirl.com a future media powerhouse.

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Mark, Jay and Dad
By Brian Walton TheCardinalNationBlog.com

Neither Jay McGwire nor his upcoming tell-all about his and his big brother Mark’s use of steroids, is news. Word of the book, “Mark and Me: Mark McGwire and the Truth Behind Baseball’s Worst-Kept Secret,” scheduled to arrive in bookstores on Monday, first came out last year when Jay was reportedly shopping the manuscript to publishers.
Not surprisingly, Jay asserts to ESPN that Mark did not tell the whole story – about what he used, how much he used or the perceived benefit – either to Bob Costas or in the subsequent carefully-scripted media tour that followed. Tell us something we don‘t already know, Jay. Timing is everything and your book is at least a year past its expiration date. Your profit window is literally shrinking by the hour. Normally, this wouldn‘t be enough for me to even notice here as I recognize that opinions regarding this issue have long been set. Further, among at least one camp, heavy McGwire fatigue has set in. I imagine that was part of the communications strategy carefully laid out in advance. Big Mac has been accepted back into baseball and is happily tutoring Cardinals hitters. His Hall of Fame chances rest with the writers with the next mandate still ten months away. These points seem set. Still, one nagging concern led me to this post. McGwire generally scored well in terms of sincerity points during his admission tour, even as his misinformed message that PEDs did not affect his performance was appropriately trashed and elements of the rollout itself were bungled. I have never felt totally comfortable with giving him a sincerity pass, feeling as if it was a professionally-driven attempt to dupe the public. The preparation behind the interviews, followed by a set series of talking points and canned phrases that Big Mac repeated over and over in his scheduled discussions, only added to my discomfort. One rub regarded McGwire‘s interaction with his father. During his tour stop at MLB Network, Big Mac noted that he struggled in breaking the word to both Tony La Russa and his family the day before, as if they would all be stunned by the ―news‖. ―I told my dad yesterday when I finally had to,‖ Big Mac tearfully admitted. 68

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I can see how perhaps it was difficult for Mark to own up to it directly, but how in the world could admission of steroid use in his family be a surprise to his dad? Jay McGwire first got into them as a professional bodybuilder two decades ago. If Mark‘s use was news to his father, the only conclusion I could draw from that is that papa must have had some serious issues with ability to deal with reality as well. Jay‘s book title says it all – the ―worst-kept secret‖. Nothing on the surface would seem unusual. John McGwire is a well-known member of his community, for years a prominent dentist in Pomona, California. He cranked out five big boys, among them Mark, one-time NFL quarterback Dan and Jay. Black sheep Jay apparently began using steroids in the early 1990‘s and stopped in 1996. In between, he was a professional bodybuilder with the typical cartoonish caricature that goes with the sport. He also admitted introducing his older brother to steroids around the time dad talked Mark out of quitting baseball. How could pop have not noticed his baseball-playing son subsequently getting bulked up? (Make sure you look at the various before and after photos of Jay in the ESPN article.) ―I remember calling him (his dad) in ‘96,‖ Mark told MLB Network. ―I was so frustrated with injuries I wanted to retire. He‘s the one that told me to stick it out.‖ Perhaps dad kept his eyes covered, later accepted his son‘s ―I did not use steroids‖ statement and further did not know that behind the embarrassing Congressional testimony from 2005 was Mark‘s desire to come clean. Fast forward to 2009. When news of Jay‘s book first came out, how do you suppose that was handled in the John McGwire household? Did family members tear those pages out of his newspaper? Apparently, the estranged siblings did not sit down for Thanksgiving dinner together with the rest of the clan. Like I have said numerous times, I accept Mark McGwire‘s ―apology‖ in terms of him being the new hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals. That doesn‘t mean I have to buy his entire story, hook, line and sinker, any more than I care about brother Jay‘s moneymaking spin on the sad escapade. Let‘s face it. At this point, anything that comes out about any members of this family should not be a surprise to anyone. ‗Move on, there‘s nothing to see here…‘
Brian Walton has written about the St. Louis Cardinals and their minor league system since 2003. He operates The Cardinal Nation and blogs daily at The Cardinal Nation Blog. Brian is a former columnist for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and his work appears regularly at FOXSportsMidwest.com.

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Wizards Win NBA Draft Lottery and Some in the Media Lose Their Ever-Loving Minds
By CJ Hempfield 202SportsBlog.com

A few years ago, one could argue that the Wizards became the darling of the NBA. Under Ernie Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan the Wizards made the playoffs four years in a row and, as many of us who live in the DMV have heard much too often, they even had the best record in the East – prior to the 06/07 All-Star break.
Hell, as recently as this season, the Wizards were a popular candidate to again compete with the best in the East. However, today most in the popular press want to lead off their Wizards draft lottery stories by focusing on the infamous gun issue and use it to describe what prevented the Wizards from recapturing the glories of its recent past. More insulting still, they want to use it as a means to describe the Wizards franchise as a fatally flawed organization that no one would want to play for. And while that incident clearly, was a significant contributing factor, there were many other issues that plagued the team. And all of those issues in total, ultimately wrecked the 2009/10 Wizards season. (I highly recommend reading Michael Lee of the Post, Truthaboutit.net and Bulletsforever.com to get a broader perspective on all of the issues that undermined the 09/10 Wizards season.) It is easier, however, to focus only on the more salacious and dysfunctional story of Gilbert and the guns. It is also easier to characterize the Wizards organization as the Raiders of the NBA or the Clippers of the East. And while the Wizards have not had the same level of success as it did in the 70s, it is not accurate to describe them in the same manner as the Clippers. It may shorten your copy to pretend as if the Wizards recent stretch of playoff appearances did not occur. Selectively focusing on a few facts tightens up the story, but it also serves to aggravate those of us who follow the team faithfully. This post isn‘t just about the way in which the franchise has been characterized. I also have issues with a number of story lines and/or recommendations that have been floated since the Wizards won the draft lottery. I have paraphrased and responded to some of my favorites: The Wizards may trade the pick:

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This thought is just insane and I will not waste any more keystrokes on this. Winning the lottery means that the Wizards will/should trade Arenas: There were multiple variations of this floated by many different journalists and ―experts.‖ I believe this is a ridiculous claim and I will pick this up later in this posting. However, those who floated the idea have clearly not listened to the things that Ted Leonsis has said publicly. I believe that Gilbert Arenas will be (and should be) a Wizard next season. Should the Wizards take Wall or Turner with the first pick?: Most have said that the Wizards should draft Wall – and I am of that camp. However a few, including Tim Legler on ESPN, floated the idea that they should take Turner – even though he contradicted himself by saying that Wall would be the first pick. There are plenty of places on the net in which you can find stats on both players until you are warm and fuzzy, but here are a couple thoughts that jumped out to me: Magic Johnson who I believe is the best PG ever immediately stated that the Wizards have to take Wall because he will be a special player. I am inclined to believe that Magic has forgotten more about the position of PG than the majority of us have ever known. So his recommendation carries more weight for me than nearly every other person who is not named Earvin ―Magic‖ Johnson. Sorry, Tim Legler that goes for you too. While Turner appears that he will be a very solid (if not special) pro, I give Wall credit for having to play the entire season with the label as ―the man.‖ Just as importantly he did not fold or disappoint, while carrying that label and he outplayed most on his more talent rich team. Many did not start talking about Turner until some of his more amazing performances in March. I will continue to lean towards a person who had more pressure and performed consistently at a high level for an entire season. And finally… Gilbert Arenas and John Wall can‘t play on the same team or in the same backcourt: I believe this opinion is based on feelings and not based in fact. Not only do I think that these two can and will play for the same team. I think that they will form an incredible backcourt. First, let me point out that I believe that Gilbert will grow following his recent selfinflicted wounds. He is no longer the youngest guy on the roster, this last issue almost sent him to jail and nearly ended his career. I believe that this served as the wakeup call that he needed. I also believe that he will come back more highly motivated than ever. 71

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Those who don‘t think Gil can play with Wall clearly forget that Gil truly enjoyed playing in a two guard system with Larry Hughes. More pressure was put on him to score when Larry left and then he had to share the backcourt with combinations that included Daniels, Butler, and Stevenson (during the 05/06 and 06/07 seasons) – none of which struck fear in the competition. Adding someone as dynamic as Wall will provide Arenas with his best backcourt mate since Larry Hughes, while reducing the need for him to constantly handle the ball and run the offense. Just as importantly, it puts pressure on the competition to decide how best to match up with the two of them. And for those that want to talk about Arenas‘ knee injury and whether he had fully recovered, it is true that early in the season he had struggled, but much of that was fitting into a new system with additional responsibilities. Prior to the suspension, Gilbert was having a comparable season, Per 36 minutes, to both the 05/06 & 06/07 campaigns. In December Gilbert appeared to be rounding back into form and while his scoring numbers were in his normal range, more impressive was that he had superior assist numbers. I don‘t believe that Gilbert is going to come back and be a problem. I believe that he will be highly focused and motivated, and when you combine that with his already high work ethic and the stage is set for an extremely productive season. Pairing him in the backcourt with a talent like John Wall could create a tandem that you cannot find in the NBA. One of the weaknesses that the Wizards have had is the lack of a true Point Guard. Well, with some poor play and a great deal of luck they have the opportunity to select a potential star at the position. I suggest they take the potential star and deal with any ―potential‖ issues as they develop. Unlike many in the popular press, I don‘t think there will be any issue between Arenas and Wall. Gilbert has proven that he is willing and able to adapt his play to fit with another talented guard.
CJ Hempfield has been writing about sports and the sports media since 2007. He is a regular contributor to BulletsForever.com, WizardsExtreme.com and CSNWashington.com. He is also the founder of 202SportsBlog. His work has also been syndicated on many popular national sports Web sites.

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The Disinherited Edwin Valero 1981-2010
By Carlos Acevedo TheCruelestSport.com

1. “Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs.” - Philip Larkin
2. In the ring, Edwin Valero was riveting, and the strange quality that defined his style–an uncommon cruelty–was couched strictly in boxing terms throughout his career. Now we can say it, though we may not want to believe it: Yes, his bloodlust appeared to be a natural extension of his fractured psyche. Over the years, several fighters with similarly destructive styles–among them Mike Tyson, Frank Fletcher, Tony Ayala, and James Kirkland–have found themselves unable to curb their hostility. 3. Make no mistake about it: for Valero, going for the KO in every fight was a conscious decision, a way to ensure his popularity in the ring. There is nothing fluky about his improbable 100 percent knockout ratio. ―The fans love a knockout,‖ he once told La Prensa. ―It is similar to when someone hits a homerun in baseball or scores a goal playing soccer. Knockouts are like that.‖ But his ferocity between the ropes was also a psychological correlative. 4. Like many boxers, what made Valero uniquely suited for boxing– impulsivity, aggression, a willing disregard for consequences, rage, the ability to momentarily suspend morality in pursuit of a knockout– made him unsuitable for life beyond the ring. 5. Now the requisite handwringing will begin. Scapegoats will be sought. More lurid details, highlighted by even more lurid prose, will soon emerge. His accomplishments in the ring will be parsed. Blame and moralizing will follow. No longer a figure whose exploits excite us, no longer someone we can live through vicariously, Valero, in death, is repellent, and his viciousness in the ring becomes chilling in retrospect, brief glimpses of a soul perpetually in extremis. Edwin Valero was a sick man. By all accounts an alcoholic and drug addict with an explosive temper, Valero pitilessly abused his wife, in what can be read as grotesque parodies of his feats in the ring, and terrorized those around him with his manic behavior. Finally, his rage escalated to the point where, in a drug and alcohol-fueled haze, he stabbed his wife to death. Jennifer Carolina Viera was only twenty-four years old. 6. Never mind who in the sordid prizefight industry failed him or aided him by turns– manager, trainer, promoter, cut man, etc. How is it that we expect to see fighters face death during the day in the ring and then expect them to Tweet cheerfully at night? 7. ―The merciful man doeth good to his own soul; but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.‖ PROVERBS 11:17 73

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8. In the end, boxing is irrelevant to the tragic case of Edwin Valero unless, of course, it is not. If the violence inherent in boxing did not aggravate his dark side, if blows to the head did not alter his personality for the worse (as trauma to the frontal lobe has been known to do on occasion), if being rewarded for what amounts to antisocial behavior in the ring did not skew an outlook on life no doubt already awry, then we must simply attribute his murderous rage to a personality disorder, to sheer barbarism, to drug and alcohol abuse, to being nothing more than a horribly flawed human being. Depressed, bitter, suicidal, beset by demons, he was, despite fame and a certain amount of material success, one of the disinherited. What matters, then, is that he was more like you and me than we would like to believe. 9. Edwin Valero is born in 1981 in Merida. He is raised during an era when poverty in Venezuela is estimated to have been anywhere from 35 to 65 percent. His parents split when he is young. As a child, Valero engages in frequent street fights. His mother sells fruit from a cart. Valero drops out of school early. By the age of 11 or 12 Valero is homeless and living on the streets of La Palmita. He gets a job in a bicycle shop. The owner is an ex-boxer and encourages him to take up the sport. In spite of the hardships of his life, or perhaps because of them, Valero excels. Although Valero is known as a hardpunching brawler throughout his professional career, he is a standout amateur as a teenager. In fact, he wins the Venezuela amateur championship three times. He also wins the Central & South American amateur championships in 2000. In Venezuela, a woman dies every two days as a result of domestic violence. 10. ―All your houses are haunted by the person you might have been.‖ Hilary Mantel 11. Above all, there is that poignant sense of loss, the end of all futures for Jennifer Carolina Viera, and, yes, for Valero as well. Then there are the dramatically altered–or disfigured–futures, those of the Valero children, as well as families and friends of both killer and victim. For Valero, who stated plainly that he wanted to be remembered as a legend, there will only be yesterdays. Tomorrow, he will amount to nothing more than a future nightmare, one best left forgotten. 12. El Universal: If you had the opportunity to ask God a question, what would it be? Edwin Valero: If it is true that heaven really exists, and, if we are up there, if we can see everyone who remains here below.
Carlos Acevedo’s work has appeared in Boxing Digest Magazine, Boxing World Magazine, The Queensberry Rules, and has been featured on Fox Sports. He is also a staff writer at The Boxing Bulletin and Boxing Insider and a contributor to New York Fight Hype. The Guardian UK included his article on the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito fight, "The Harrowing," on their "Our Favourite Things This Week" list in November. He lives in Brooklyn.

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Strengths and Questions
Bill Kovalsky SportsBlogNetwork.net

We’re nine games into the 2010 season and New York Jets stand at seven and two, tied for the best record in the NFL. The Jets lack glaring weaknesses but have a few question marks that will help determine the rest of the regular season. Before we get to the questions, let’s go over a few strengths.
The Offensive Line-The Jets have mostly been winning because of their strength up front. Damien Woody, Brandon Moore, Nick Mangold, Matt Slauson, and D‘Brickashaw Ferguson have been the primary reason why the Jets have a top five running game, and have been able to keep Mark Sanchez clean through the first nine games. Any potential opponent of the Jets knows that they have to have an outside chance of bringing pressure and controlling the ground game to have a chance to win. So far, few opponents have been able to win this matchup. Today against the Texans, I expect the ball to come out of Sanchez‘ hand quickly to limit his exposure to hits, especially considering the problems the Texans have had in coverage. Run Defense-The Jets adjusted well when Kris Jenkins went out in 2009 with seasonending knee surgery, and they were prepared for the same scenario this season. Just like 2009, Mike DeVito and Sione Pouha have stepped in and occupied offensive lineman to allow David Harris and Bart Scott to control the middle of the field. The Jets have yet to allow a hundred yard rusher this season, and the unsung play of the interior line is the primary reason. Last week against Cleveland, Peyton Hillis had a big first half, then was neutralized in the second half and overtime. Pass Defense Outside the Numbers-There was a feeling among the Jets fan base at the start of the season that Darrelle Revis‘ absence from camp and the uneven play of CB Dwight Lowery and perennial whipping boy CB Drew Coleman, as well as the inexperience of CB Kyle Wilson was going to cost the Jets‘ pass defense. By and large, the fan base was correct for the first few weeks of the season, as Revis struggled to overcome a nagging hamstring injury, and the weak links in coverage, primarily Wilson, were being exposed weekly by every QB the Jets faced. As the season has progressed, Revis has returned to the form that made him the most effective defensive player in the NFL in 2009, and Coleman, Lowery, and Wilson are all improving quickly and have made huge plays in victory. Somewhat lost in the shuffle has been the stellar play of Antonio Cromartie. The Jets threw Cromartie to the wolves early in the season, forcing him to handle Randy Moss by himself in the second half against New England, and for the entire Minnesota game. Cromartie responded tremendously well to the challenge, and he looks like a serious 75

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candidate to be offered a deal for 2011 and beyond, especially if he can continue to conduct himself professionally on and off the field. He has been a perfect fit for the bump and run scheme that Rex Ryan prefers. There have been several areas of the team that have been inconsistent, and how they play the rest of the second half can be the difference between seven and nine and fourteen and two, and all the records in between. Mark Sanchez-Through the first season and a half of Mark Sanchez‘ career, he has shown the normal growing pains of any young QB, especially one who started for only one full season at USC. Being a young quarterback is one of the toughest jobs in sports, as professional coaches and defenses expose your weaknesses every week, and your ability to adjust and learn, as well as the physical tools you bring to the table determine your success.

Last season, Sanchez through almost twice as many picks as TDs. This season, those numbers have been reversed. The jury must still be out on Sanchez until he shows he can be consistent, but anyone who doesn‘t notice the improvement isn‘t paying attention.

The best friend of a young QB is not just a solid running game, but a solid team in all phases, which the Jets are. What should make the Jets excited is Sanchez‘ composure and improvisation. Poise and pocket presence are hard to quantify, and are therefore often discounted by the myriad of analysts we‘re exposed to as fans. So far, even with his struggles to remain efficient, Sanchez passes the smell test. His teammates trust him as a leader. When he is forced to make plays with the game on the line, he does so. It‘s not always pretty, but Sanchez is excellent on the move, and is already adept at identifying where pressure is coming from, then moving in the pocket and delivering a catchable ball. Last season, Sanchez through almost twice as many picks as TDs. This season, those numbers have been reversed. The jury must still be out on Sanchez until he shows he can be consistent, but anyone who doesn‘t notice the improvement isn‘t paying attention. Pass Defense in the Middle of the Field-When the Patriots jettisoned Randy Moss early in the season, conventional wisdom was that the Patriots were hoping for addition by subtraction, but it was hard to imagine they would be more difficult to defend. Moss gave the Patriots an extra gear, a way to stretch the field against what most teams in today‘s game have difficulty with, which is a vertical threat that can find seams in a zone defense. The problem for Belichick and company was that the Jets were built to handle Moss. Belichick recognized that the 2010 Jets had not just one, but two corners they could use 76

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on Moss to neutralize him. Since Tom Brady excels at small ball (hitting receivers short and letting them run after the catch) and since the Pats have several options at receiver and tight end that allow them to play this way, Belichick sent Moss packing. After watching the Jets dominate the Pats play after play in Week 2, it‘s hard to argue with his theory. Belichick knew he couldn‘t beat New York with the 2010 Pats, so he‘s trying the 2001 Pats instead. I‘ll give it to Belichick, he‘s pretty crafty. The idea of trying to cover the Patriots‘ tight ends with Eric Smith, or Brodney Pool, or Jim Leonhard is a little scary. The Jets haven‘t been able to handle tight ends all season. The game in Foxborough in two weeks should be much tougher than the first one. The Running Game-The most important part of the 2009 Jets identity has been inconsistent of late. Using LaDainian Tomlinson like he‘s twenty-five instead of thirtyone with three thousand touches under his belt is starting to take a toll on his efficiency. LT hasn‘t been as effective over the last month, and Shonn Greene hasn‘t really been a factor until last week in Cleveland. When the Jets sent Alan Faneca packing last offseason, the effectiveness of the run game, especially to the weak side of the formation, took a hit. Matt Slauson has played fairly well as a replacement, and he‘s been pretty effective in pass protection, but he‘s not the run blocker Faneca was. Rex Ryan wants to pound the ball when the weather grows cold, and the running game‘s usage should increase as the regular season winds down. If the Jets can become more efficient in the run game, they will control the clock and the pace of the game. If the Jets want to win a title, the running game has to operate at a level approaching last season. The Pass Rush-The Jets array of blitz packages have been nowhere near as effective this season. It seems every team we face is more prepared to slide protection towards the overloaded side. Bringing five and six people on third and long has been the wrong strategy thus far. Full credit must go to Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine for adjusting on the fly and dropping seven and eight DBs in third and long out of necessity. The key to success in the NFL is recognizing when a philosophy doesn‘t fit your personnel, and making the necessary adjustments. It must burn Ryan to take a more passive approach, but, as he says, he‘s in the results business. Whatever works should be the plan. Mike Tannenbaum should be looking at pass rushing options for 2011, so Rex can go back to being Rex on third and long. Keeping the Receivers Happy-The Jets have more talent at the receiver position that they‘ve had in about twenty-five years. Not since the days of Al Toon and Wesley Walker have the Jets had an ability to win outside like they can with Holmes, Edwards, Cotchery, and Keller. The fact of the matter is that the Jets don‘t have enough footballs to keep everyone happy. The Jets want to run the ball and keep Sanchez around thirty attempts. The only way to keep all this talent happy is to win. The play that Jerricho Cotchery made in OT against Cleveland just may make him a legend for life with Jets fans. You can‘t ask for more as a fan that to see an obviously injured player sell out his body to make a play. If I tore my groin, I would most likely be in the fetal position, not laying out to convert a crucial third down. As important as Cotchery is in the Jets scheme, his injury may have come at the right time. The Jets 77

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passing game seemed more effective early in the season without Holmes. It isn‘t Holmes fault, of course, as he has been huge at the end of the last three victories. Sanchez is more effective when he isn‘t as concerned about spreading the football evenly. Having four main options (when you include LT as a receiver out of the backfield) has served better than having five options for Sanchez. Until Sanchez fully trusts that he doesn‘t have to ensure that everyone has enough footballs to play with, less may turn out to be more. It will be interesting to see how he responds Sunday against Houston without Cotchery. The Kicking Game-Nick Folk had been outstanding until last week. I would imagine if he struggles this week against the Texans, he may be competing for his job on Monday. The life of a kicker must be awfully tough. You‘re always a few misses from unemployment. I imagine there are antacids involved with your day to day life. Lots of them. That‘s enough for now. Let‘s hope we come to play at home today. The Texans will be ready.
Bill Kovalsky covers the New York Jets for the SportsBlogNetwork.net.

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Super Bowl Bears? Don’t dream it, be it
Jack Silverstein SportsBlogNetwork.net

The day I turned 29, my beloved Chicago Bears were 4-3, riding a two-game losing streak, and preparing for an out-of-country battle the following day with the winless Buffalo Bills.
If the outlook was brilliant for the Chicago 53 that day, it was only because the Bills were such proper doormats. After a shaky 3-0 start, Lovie‘s gang had dropped three of four and were looking positively Billish. Pounded for ten sacks at the Meadowlands. Upset at home by the ever-aging Seahawks. Embarrassed by DeAngelo Hall and the Washington Redskins. Along with the first three wins – none of which could be considered powerful – the team had won its fourth game by dispatching the winless Panthers in decidedly unimpressive fashion. Then came the back-to-back home losses, and then the off week, and now this: a ―showdown‖ with the 0-7 Bills. That was Sunday the 7th. The day before, I received a birthday message from my old Indiana University writing professor Tony Ardizzone, native-Chicagoan, dedicated Bears fan, and stone-cold sports realist. When he wasn‘t instructing me on the editing process or instilling the value of keeping a quote book, Tony was always good for some Bears banter, which, as a veteran Chicago sports fan in his early 50s, usually included sarcasm slathered in a humdrum misery, scars accrued over a lifetime of losing. I thanked him for his note, and then said: ―I would say that the Bears are on their way to an agonizing 7-9, but I‘ve seen so many 7-9 Bears teams that it‘s like saying the Cubs are on their way to an agonizing non-World Series winning season.‖ I figured this show of world-weary pessimism would satisfy Tony, would send him nodding his head at my growth and maturity, would show him that I‘ve finally learned not to hope for the best. The Bears were, after all, still over .500, and a half game out of the division lead. Winning only three more games would be rather heart-wrenching. Foolish boy. ―Keep writing,‖ Tony responded. ―Don‘t lose faith.‖ And then: ―As for the Bears, it‘s possible they lose out. I hope not, but I see seven wins as optimistic at this point.‖ 79

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Imagine that: A 3-6 finish. A torturous free fall. Complete disappointment. Optimistic. Can‘t say I wasn‘t warned. As it happened, the Bears snuck past Buffalo with a come-from-behind, three-point victory. Not resounding by any means, and surely nothing to sway a hardened Chicago man like Tony from his 7-9 best-case-scenario forecast. My own best-case of 9-7 wasn‘t much better; you can make the playoffs with nine wins, sure, but what then? We didn‘t have a Warner-Fitzgerald combo that could trump all other aspects and sail us into the Super Bowl. This felt like a lame-duck team in a cooked-goose season. Super Bowl contenders don‘t allow ten sacks, or choke away shoulda-beens against inferior clubs on the home field. They certainly don‘t need 4th quarter magic against an 0-7 team that can‘t even maintain popularity in its own country… But 5-3 is 5-3, and first place is first place, and nobody cares how fluky your wins are if you can put it together in the second half of the season and peak while the others are dying. And wouldn‘t you know it? That‘s what we‘ve got with these 2010 Chicago Bears. The Monsters of the Midway are 8-3, with four straight victories to their name and sole possession of the division‘s top slot. They gouged out their first signature win on November 14th with a rousing 27-13 defeat of the Vikings, went down to Miami four days later and blanked the Dolphins for signature win number two. And they bagged a third yesterday, a no-doubt-abouter over Mike Vick and the hot-to-trot Philadelphia Eagles. Of course, 8-3 does not a postseason make. In 2008, Favre‘s Jets were 8-3 before famously skidding to a 1-4 close and watching the playoffs from home, comforted not one bit by their nine season wins. To really feel good, the Bears need to win two of their next four and enter the Week 17 trip to Lambeau with ten wins already in their pocket. It‘s a tough road, but after starting the season as, in my eyes, ―the worst 5-3 football team the NFL has ever seen,‖ the 2010 Chicago Bears are carving out an Identity. A go-get-um D, led by a rag-tag, motorized line of forgotten men and overachievers: Idonije, Toeaina, Adams, Melton, and Tommie Harris, who, in the last few weeks, has performed not as a talented first round bust but as a last-legs veteran itching to prove himself. It was Harris who made the play of the game yesterday. With his team‘s lead shrinking and the Eagles destined to take control as they drove the field and marched inside the Chicago ten, ol‘ Number 91 shot his big paw into the air and tipped a would-be Vick 80

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touchdown. The ball fluttered meekly and was plucked by Chris Harris who returned the pick 39 yards. Cutler and co. took over from there, conducting their own drive with completions to Hester, Bennett, and Knox, ultimately scoring on a six-yard TD strike from Cutler to Bennett. It was their second touchdown hook up of the late afternoon, the first time in Bennett‘s three-year career that he scored twice in one game. Bennett‘s strong play was another success story for a Bears receiving corps that, along with tight end Greg Olsen, is maligned more than it is praised, despite the fact that all four men have made impact plays throughout the season. In fact, the Hester-Knox-BennettOlsen quartet of 2009-2010 has gained more yards and scored more points than any other foursome in any two-year stretch of the Lovie Smith era.

Much of that credit goes to Cutler, whose stats are even more impressive when you consider that in two seasons, Number 6 is on pace to be sacked 89 times, compared to 68 sacks allowed in the highlysuccessful passing seasons of 2006 and 2007.

Much of that credit goes to Cutler, whose stats are even more impressive when you consider that in two seasons, Number 6 is on pace to be sacked 89 times, compared to 68 sacks allowed in the highly-successful passing seasons of 2006 and 2007. Ah yes: the offensive line. If it weren‘t for that line, I would feel entirely confident in announcing the Bears as a true NFC contender. Watching this Bears offense is like watching Lance Armstrong compete in a Tour de France on a bike with no breaks. He might be faster than the competition, he might be a greatly skilled rider, but ye gods! That bike is out of control! The line had a few more brutal swings and misses against the Eagles, allowing Philly defenders to traipse upon gentle Jay for four more sacks. But for much of the game, Cutler was upright and throwing, capitalizing on his newfound verticality with four touchdowns and a career high quarterback rating of 146.2. All eyes were on Vick and the Eagles, and this screwy band of Bears whipped ‗em up and down the field for 31 points and their eighth win of the year.

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In the NFL, Super Bowls are won after Week 10. That‘s the thinking anyhow, and in the twenty seasons of wild card playoffs, only the 2006 Colts have finished under .500 from Week 11 to 17 and lived to hoist the trophy. That was a cockamamie bunch, allowing a league-worst 173 yards rushing per game in the regular season, and then storming its way to a championship with only 331 ground yards allowed. I‘m sure anyone who loved those Colts cared not one lick that their team went 3-4 after Week 10 or that a determined kitten could have racked up 100 yards rushing against their de-fense. All that mattered was their mark in the new year: 4-0, 82.8 rush yards allowed per game, one Lombardi Trophy added to the cupboard. And if the Bears keep up their winning ways, no soul on Earth who waves the navy and orange will care that Jay Cutler has been sacked 21 more times in 11 fewer games in Chicago than in Denver, or that we‘ve had a revolving door at offensive line, or that Julius Peppers earns approximately 12 million more dollars per season than Israel Idonije but has collected a half sack less. Should the Bears, the 2010 Chicago Bears, win Super Bowl XLV, the confusion and frustration of watching what was thought to be a 7-9 football team will fall away like so many autumn leaves. Yes, it is November 29th, 2010, and I am thinking Super Bowl. This team does not have the holy-cow-this-is-really-happening thrill of the 2005 team, or the big play dominance of 2006, or even the big play near-misses of 1999. Thus far, there‘s nothing here to fondly remember beyond the win column. The team‘s veterans have tasted Super Bowl defeats, and so have I. Now, with five games to go, it‘s championship or bust. That might sound cooky, but so what? Cookier things have happened. And so, to my friend and mentor Tony Ardizzone, a man with 61 Bears seasons under his sports fan belt, I say with great respect: Keep watching. Don‘t lose faith.
Jack Silverstein covers the Chicago Bulls for the SportsBlogNetwork.net.

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(Over) analyzing the Phil Kessel trade
TPiddy SportsBlogNetwork.net

With last night’s 2-0 loss to the Boston Bruins, a game in which Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin scored against the team that could have drafted him, Leafs fans and Leafs haters are in a furor, dissecting every possible angle of last year’s trade that saw Phil Kessel come to Toronto in exchange for two first round picks and a second round pick.
Many pundits agree that the price was too high. I am here to tell you that it was not too high. It was the price that had to be paid to get the Leafs out of their current mess. To those fans and haters questioning this move, I have a few questions for you. Were you willing to wait 5 years for a competitive team? Evidence speaks to the contrary. After a 3rd straight season (4 including the lockout) of no post-season play in Toronto, the fans were calling for people‘s heads. John Ferguson Jr., a relatively inexperienced GM at the helm had made a few bad moves as he was constantly under pressure to succeed and get the club back into the postseason. This resulted in two bad deals to acquire goaltending help in the form of Andrew Raycroft and Vesa Toskala. After several successful seasons under Pat Quinn and Cliff Fletcher, the club‘s fall to mediocrity was quickly brought on by the NHL rule changes post-lockout that enhanced the ability of the skill players. The Leafs were not a team built for the new NHL, with a lot of size and toughness, but very little actual skill. The pre-lockout Leafs remained competitive using their size advantage, and it was the removal of the two-line pass that made things the most difficult for the team‘s big, slow defense. In spite of still being profitable, MLSE knew that icing a competitive team is simply better for their bottom line, but were quite wary that a waning fan base brought on by years of losing and deteriorating affordability of seats would not be able to sustain a 4 or 5 year rebuild. Enter Brian Burke. Burke‘s turnaround of both Vancouver and Anaheim showed that he could get a team back to prominence in relative short order. The only problem is that Burke had more to work with in both of his prior stints as a GM. With Ferguson removed from his post, Cliff Fletcher stepped into an interim role as GM, making a few minor tweaks after being unable to move any of the 5 players with no trade clauses that would fetch Toronto any decent return.

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Fletcher knew he was just keeping the spot warm for Burke, but he did managed to draft Luke Schenn and move out some of the underperforming players. Burke‘s mandate was to get the team back into sustainable playoff contention within a 3 year window. Sitting on draft picks and waiting for them to develop into the top stars he needed was not going to cut it. So for those fans claiming that we should have built through the draft, the reality of it is that none of us wanted to go 6 or 7 years without a competitive team and make that necessary sacrifice. Still, we did manage to use two of our first round picks on Luke Schenn and Nazem Kadri. Who else was available? The departure of Sundin left the Leafs with a serious dearth in the scoring department. Alexei Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov were our defacto top forwards, and neither had ever eclipsed the 25 goal mark in a season. Burke identified front line scoring as an immediate need, and in today‘s NHL the price for such players is very high. Over the past few seasons we‘ve seen players like Rick Nash, Patrice Bergeron, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Bobby Ryan, Mike Richards, Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Henrik Zetterberg re-sign with their current clubs. We‘ve seen the efforts Chicago went to in order to keep Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in the fold. We‘ve seen the price teams like the Devils and Rangers have had to pay to sign players like Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Gaborik. When Phil Kessel was having contract issues with the cap pressured Bruins, it was a rare opportunity to get a proven goal scorer, as teams just don‘t give these players away. Does anyone really believe that any of the players I‘ve previously mentioned would be available for the same compensation that Burke gave to get Kessel? I‘m sure Chicago or San Jose fans would flip if that‘s all they got in return. Dany Heatley only netted Ottawa one first round pick and a second line winger, and Ottawa was forced to take on and eventually buy out Jonathan Cheechoo. It was a bad situation and Ottawa was left with the short end of the stick, but that sort of thing doesn‘t happen often. As for the draft route, the drafts from the 2003 to 2008 seasons have been among the best in recent memory. The Leafs were not a big part of these drafts and they all happened prior to Burke assuming the mantle. Many scouts and experts agree that the quality of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 drafts have paled in comparison to recent draft years. So, why not acquire a player that was drafted between 2003 to 2008 instead of using the picks on players who experts say will not be as good? What other options did Burke have? Burke inherited a team filled with role players and grinders, heavy contracts and no true stars. The cupboards were relatively bare, with only Schenn, Kulemin and Tlusty as notable picks, and with only Stalberg, Gunnarsson and DiDomenico as late round picks that panned out. Burke inherited a goaltending mess with Vesa Toskala, Andrew Raycroft, a few games of Martin Gerber and Justin Pogge. 84

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Outside of Luke Schenn, our top draft picks were probably the only thing that anybody would want. Burke knew that he would have to give these up and he went about restocking the cupboard, signing players like Christian Hanson, Tyler Bozak, Jonas Gustavsson, Jussi Rynnas, Ben Scrivens and Marcel Mueller while acquiring mid-round selections in exchange for cap space relief or supporting role players. This ultimately allowed Burke more freedom to move picks and players to acquire key stars. Are first round picks the be all and end all to building a championship? Yes, the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and LA Kings are now all competitive teams through the draft. As I had previously mentioned, the 2003 to 2008 drafts were loaded with talent, and these were the bottom teams in the league during that time period. They reaped the greatest reward from the draft. However, it doesn‘t always work out that way.

Ask Columbus, Atlanta or Florida how their cadre of top picks over the years has worked out for them. Columbus has drafted Rick Nash, Steve Mason, Nikita Filatov, Jakub Voracek, Derrick Brassard, Kris Russel and more, and yet they have one losing playoff series to show for it. Atlanta has been even worse, drafting Patrik Stefan, Ilya Kovalchuk, Dany Heatley, Ondrej Pavelec, Boris Valabik, Kari Lehtonen and more, yet still have just one playoff series under their belt. Florida‘s been out of the playoffs for ten years after drafting the likes of Jay Bouwmeester, Nathan Horton, Michal Frolik, Stephen Weiss and Rostislav Olesz. And yet, teams like San Jose, Detroit and New Jersey have sustained success year in, year out in spite of not having high draft picks. Some teams, like the Philadelphia Flyers, Anaheim Ducks and Tampa Bay Lightning, have remained competitive while having a down year every so often to restock with young talent, proving that the prolonged top draft pick style is not necessary and doesn‘t always work to ensure success. Has Burke really sacrificed this team‘s future? We‘ve all heard this one. Burke has doomed the club to many more years of failure simply by handing over a couple of picks to a divisional rival. In his two year tenure here, 85

…The Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and LA Kings are now all competitive teams through the draft. As I had previously mentioned, the 2003 to 2008 drafts were loaded with talent, and these were the bottom teams in the league during that time period.

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the oldest players Burke has acquired are JS Giguere at 32 years at the time of his acquisition, and Francois Beauchemin at 29 years at the time of his acquisition. A far cry from the team‘s previous format of trading their picks away for players with one foot in the retirement home, like Owen Nolan and Brian Leetch. Burke‘s other additions, like Mueller, Kessel, Phaneuf, Versteeg, Aulie, Gustavsson, Bozak, Hanson, Caputi, MacArthur, Brown and more, have all been 25 and under at the time of acquisition. The average age of this Leafs club is under 27 years old. Sacrificing the future? The future of the Leafs has not looked this good in a long time. If Burke‘s goal was to make the playoffs within 3 years, it seems he is right on track. So, as this issue goes away until the next time the Bruins and Maple Leafs meet up, let‘s just keep in mind one thing: From an analysis of pure talent and assets, the trade is in the favour of the Bruins. 3 players for 1 will often be in the favour of the team getting more players when looked at from a purely statistical perspective. But was the trade right for the Leafs? Absolutely. Could you do a better job than Brian Burke has so far? Absolutely not. TPiddy covers theToronto Maple Leafs for the SportsBlogNetwork.net.

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Jordan Eberle, or how I stopped worrying and became an internet sensation
By Chris Reed SportsBlogNetwork.net

Right now, Jordan Eberle is on top of the hockey world.
First came the season opener against the Calgary Flames. In what will probably be as big of a stage as this years Oilers are going to be on, Jordan Eberle showed off the skills that anyone that follows the World Juniors would already be familiar with. The kid seemed to be almost everywhere that night, literally landing an assist off of team captain Shawn Horcoff for the clubs fourth goal, getting four shots for the game, being a penalty away from landing a Gordie Howe hat trick in his first NHL game. Oh, and his first goal that lit up the highlight reels and social networks everywhere with the awesomeness of its execution; that was pretty impressive too. With over twenty thousand screaming fans at the Northlands, I mean, Rexdall Place, and many many more wondering just who is this speedy sniper from across the world, Oilers faithful were thinking that there was finally a light at the end of the tunnel, and that the soap-opera‘esque off-season headlines would be soon replaced with the headlines that every hockey fan wants to see for their team. Ones celebrating great goals, dominating fights, and of course, victory and after victory. And then the TSN interview showed up (link to video here). For those that have been in the bush for the last forty-eight hours, under a rock, or stuck in the Southern United States, TSN‘s reporter Ryan Rishaug interviewed some of Eberle‘s teammates, and they had some pretty damning things to say about their teammates performance that night. Quotes like the following: ―Guy [Eberle] gets a couple of lucky goals in the World Juniors a couple of years ago, and the first game he’s looking off our captain on a two -on-one. It’s uhh…pretty disappointing to see actually.‖ – Ryan Whitney ―I mean honestly, I was completely wide open. If you look at the replay I would have had a tap-in‖ – Shawm Horcoff Naturally, folks were amazed and angered by a players teammates throwing him under the bus after authoring such an amazing performance. Calls to have Horcoff‘s Captaincy stripped, having Eberle traded to a team that would actually value his scoring prowess, and releasing the ―spoiled brats‖, ―classless morons‖, and other adjectives not fit for print burned up blogs, facebook, twitter, and sport forums around the internet. Even this writer was working on a damning article about the whole fracas, wondering if the entire team had been replaced with an NBA squad or some other mental regression to make them all have such back-stabbing personas. 87

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Damn, wish I had thought of that one! Too bad it‘s not true. Yes that‘s right, the entire interview was worthy of being a Punk‘d season finale, and a lot of fans (myself included, I‘m embarrassed to say) were taken in hook, line and sinker. Heck some still are out there that still do, and for those that are reading this and are, check out the last three seconds of the interview where Eberle breaks down into a giggling fit before the video stops. It was a spoof that would not only own anything that Ashton Kutchers show will ever pump out, but it also gives up a glimpse into the state of the Oilers locker room. The doom and gloom of a team that hasn‘t seen the playoffs in years is not present, replaced with a team that seems to be pretty tight knit, getting along pretty well, and ―already their minds are becoming as one―. For a team that has had issues with players sticking around (or in Pronger‘s case, his wife), and success being few and far between, it‘s a refreshing change. Sure it‘s only one game into the season, but teams dont‘ have statement games like this every day. Especially not against their inprovince rivals. Even with the lockerroom implosion getting the Snopes treatment, there‘s some folks that weren‘t all that impressed with Mr. Eberle‘s first goal. Folks such as Ian White of the Calgary Flames for example, who got a front row seat of Eberle‘s first goal. ―Well, it was fluky. I got a poke-check on it and it bounces right over. I’m sure there’ll be nicer ones down the road, but good for him to get his first one like that. But it was lucky. I did get my stick on it.‖ – Ian White Well that‘s one way to convince yourself that you did all you could to prevent a goal, instead of acknowledging that you were deked out of position like a practice pylon sliding across the ice helplessly. I mean, if you got your stick on it, it must have had the force of a feather in the wind because it sure didn‘t stop him taking it to the net. In fact, getting your stick on it would have stopped it while Eberle skated past, or bumped behind Eberle and right into position for T.J. Brodie to pick it up and clear the zone. If your looking for fluky goals, Mr. White, the fourth one where Eberle banked it off of Harcoff and in would qualify. Eberle‘s one here wasn‘t fluky, it just made you look silly. This writer isn‘t going to predict that the Oilers are heading to the playoffs, or even the Stanley (yes, I‘ve seen that show up already.). They‘ve got some good scoring talent, The Boulin Wall looked good last night and their speed gives flashbacks to their last Cup Run, but giving up almost forty shots a night isn‘t going to put the fear into anyone. But that‘s not what this column was really about. More it was chronicling the effect one awesome goal can have on the fans, and the waves it causes. And from the excitement level that this has generated (it‘s currently still trending on twitter as this article went to print), I‘d say this will be a very exciting season for those that follow the Blue and Orange, and possibly for hockey fans everywhere as well.
Chris Reed runs the SportsBlogNetwork.net and writes about a variety of teams and topics.

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More publicity the Miami Heat don’t need, but they are in trouble
Nick Poust SportsBlogNetwork.net.

Every time LeBron James touched the ball against the Orlando Magic, the crowd booed.
These were Magic fans, not Cleveland Cavaliers fans. They were booing him because of what he had done to Cleveland, and how he had done it. This wasn‘t the first road arena James has been booed in, nor will it be the last. He and his disheveled Heat face the Cavaliers next week in Cleveland. Smartly, extra security will be on hand and ant-James clothing will be banned from the arena. Cleveland will react; it‘s just a matter of how they will. He will deserve what he gets, unless some crazies drink too many beers, resort to violence, and go after him. Violence would only make Cleveland look bad. Chanting ―Quitter‖ or ―Sidekick‖ would be punishment enough. That would be the reality check he needs. Only then will he understand that he won‘t be able to just go back to Akron and be treated as the hometown hero he once was. He will be treated as a traitor. The Magic fans know he is. They weren‘t booing Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh; just him. The boos shouldn‘t stop there. Heat fans have reason to boo their team–some of whom believed at season‘s start that the 70-win plateau could be reached. Their expectations were reminiscent to that hovering over the New York Yankees, and because of their offseason spending spree–which New York is altogether familiar with–they are hated like their baseball equivalent. As some casual baseball fans enjoy a Yankees loss as much as every Red Sox fan, it seems a majority of the basketball world was rooting for the Orlando Magic on this night, hoping the Heat would suffer yet another loss. A defeat would be their seventh of the season. Seventy wins won‘t be in the cards. Sixty is a longshot. Fifty may even be a bit of a reach. Expectations have been far too high. In my lifetime, no basketball team has been covered as the Heat have over the past few months. Life on the court hasn‘t been smooth sailing. Some may think, ―they have LeBron, Wade, and Chris Bosh, they will figure it out and dominate soon enough.‖ But, though the season, entering tonight‘s game against the Magic, is only 14 games old, there are many reasons to believe this belief is hard to believe. Their struggles will continue. The Boston Celtics built a winner with their own Big Three of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce. There is a big difference between this trio and Miami‘s. The Celtics‘ are complementary players. None of the three needs the ball. They are unselfish. They play off each other. Their egos don‘t leak into their individual games. They play within an offense designed by head coach Doc Rivers; they aren‘t the offense. The Heat have three 89

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of the top-ten players in the league. On paper many fans will look at that and think four or five titles are in their future. But, historically, having stars used to being The Man doesn‘t translate to rings. Michael Jordan won with Scottie Pippen and a flurry of quality role players. Pippen knew Jordan was Jordan, did what he did best, and let the best player in NBA history be who he was. The San Antonio Spurs won with Tim Duncan as the center-piece, David Robinson as his sidekick, budding stars, and able veterans. Teams just don‘t win with three players who want the ball as much as the Heat‘s trio are used to. Against Orlando, Miami‘s offense was like any other night. It was a ―You do something this trip, then I‘ll do something Teams just don‘t win with the next time down, ok?‖ kind of offense. There was no flow. And you can‘t blame three players who want the head coach Eric Spoelstra for this. How is ball as much as the Heat‘s he supposed to build a team full of chemistry with three egos and aged role trio are used to. players playing out of their comfort zone? Ball movement was lacking and the long jumper was the shot of choice. It was the three of them and others just trying to move around and get in their spot in case the ball came their way. Teams that are successful incorporate everyone. The Heat aren‘t running an offense; they are running a mess. And that falls on the shoulders of the players and on Pat Riley, who brought in Bosh and James and left little money for a supporting cast. How can they fix this problem, a problem that did in fact fuel a loss to the Magic? With the way their roster is made up I‘m not sure it can be fixed. Surrounding James, Bosh and Wade is James Jones, who is strictly a spot-up shooter, Eddie House, another onedimensional scorer, point guard Carlos Arroyo, who isn‘t much of a play-maker, and five big men–aged Juwan Howard, mediocre Jamaal Magloire, undersized Joel Anthony, newly signed Erick Dampier, and slow-footed Zydrunas Ilgauskas. None of those seven players strike fear into the hearts of opponents. Jones, House, and Arroyo are streaky shooters. Howard and Ilgauskas have dependable mid-range jumpers but they can‘t make the impact Miami needs them to make on a regular basis. The Big Three is nice and all, but the team isn‘t one that can raise a championship banner. A in-season overhaul would have to be made to win now–which I‘m sure owner Pat Riley expects to do. And none of these players, if traded, would bring upgrades in return. Two of James, Wade, and Bosh on the same team I could understand. Then there would be a chance they could turn into Jordan and Pippen or Kobe and Shaq. But all three doesn‘t scream ‗chemistry.‘ Individually they have had their solid games, but they aren‘t a trio who can mesh and compliment each other in a single game. At least not consistently. Again, it‘s a ―you wanna take it or should I?‖ type of offensive scheme.

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That, combined with their measly supporting cast, certainly doesn‘t bode well for a bright future. Tonight was a terrific example of how the Heat have been playing, and how they will undoubtedly continue to play. James led Miami, which lost its third straight, by scoring 25 points on 9-18 shooting. Bosh added 21 points on 7-13 from the field. But Wade made just six of 21 attempts for his 18 points, and the rest of the team combined to shoot 12-30, including 2-11 from three-point range. As a result, they are 8-7. Riley is hovering over Spoelstra as he did Stan Van Gundy. It isn‘t all peaches and cream in South Beach. And it won‘t be. Cleveland is 2 1/2 games behind the leader of the Central Division. Miami faces the same deficit in the Southeast Division, one led by the Magic. And, with the Heat in disarray, the Cavaliers may tote the superior record heading into their matchup–a game that, if won, could give James and Miami a harsh, deserving dose of reality.
Nick Poust writes about the Boston Red Sox for the SportsBlogNetwork.net.

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FH 201: First Quarter Turkeys
By Chris Wassel InsideHockey.com

The leaves or is that Leafs are falling very fast this time of year. We are nearing the time of turkey eating. After all why use crow when one can upgrade to turkey?
There is something to be said this fantasy season when 111 players are injured or out in some form (thanks TSN). Take a look at some of the stunning notables included on the list.
         

Zach Parise (Knee, out almost three more months) Vincent Lecavalier (Hand, out another four weeks) Sami Salo (Achilles you in 2011-12) T.J. Oshie (ankle surgery, will be out at least three months) Jordan Staal (assorted, will be back soon) Kyle Okposo (shoulder, out another 4-6 weeks) Andrei Markov (knee, out till next season?) Marc Savard (PCS, skating fully, soon to return) Ryan Miller (Groin, day to day) Peter Mueller (PCS, out till 2011)

Those are just to name a few and the more noteworthy injuries to fantasy hockey teams. This season has been like a series of land mines that just keep going off. Just when a GM thinks he has a handle on his roster, another injury occurs then another then another. There are times when the fantasy hockey player may even think of packing it in. Wait, here is more to chew on for the masses. The turkeys are always lurking Now that we‘re through with the first quarter of the season, it is time to take an unyielding look on what has transpired over the first quarter of the year. While there have been quite a few surprises, the turkeys have just been more ample and abundant than usual. What is the problem that arises when there are too many of these gobblers on one‘s squad? Your team winds up slowly fading to inevitable and catastrophic fate. Last year there was the plight of Sean Leahy‘s fantasy team which had no fewer than eight players hurt at one time. The problem is when four or five of these professional hockey players are on the injured list, it is almost impossible to rectify that via a waiver wire pickup or several. It is the same with having these bottom feeders on your fantasy hockey platoon. All it takes iThes several bad players to sink your team to the bottom of a league or worse, just miss out on the playoffs. 92

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The recipe for what dictates a one turkey baster from a five turkey baster player is quite complicated. For us to review, here is that simple criteria again:
    

1 Turkey Baster = Slightly Cooked Roster Killer 2 Turkey Basters = Medium Well Roaster Killer 3 Turkey Basters = Well Done Roaster Killer 4 Turkey Basters = Deep Fried Roaster Killer 5 Turkey Basters = Smoked Roaster Killer

So a deep roasted bird really can sink the fates of your fantasy team faster than a lead weight. What we have attempted to do is come up with a less complex way to let the fan know the degrees of how these ―duds‖ destroy not only rosters but wreak havoc on trade values, how a GM brings up prospects in dynasty leagues, etc. The voids created by having to replace one or more of these turkeys has far reaching effects and some of those cannot be anticipated right away. Then there are the surprise turkeys. These are players who never really have been on a list like this that suddenly find themselves on there. Unfortunately other classifications exist for our purposes here on ―First Quarter Turkeys‖. No it is not enough to list the obvious turkeys and then the surprise ones. After that, there is the turkey baster scale combined with our different turkey categories. Our very own Turkey Rambo will accompany us for the tougher decisions, such as how many basters to give certain players. Thanks to our many friends on Twitter, Facebook, Bloguin, and various other social media for their input. Without them, this would not even be a pipe dream to be honest. There was even talk that we would add a Free Agent Turkey category into the mix so yes we did. That will be our lead-off foray into this ambitious undertaking. TRADED TURKEYS Simon Gagne (LW) — Tampa Bay Lightning Can you really imagine a player going to a team with pretty solid offensive firepower in its Top six and doing less? This player has done NOTHING. That is right. Gagne has no points on a team that has stalwarts such as Steve Downie, Martin St. Louis, and oh yeah that 20 in 20 Stamkos character just to name a few.Then his neck started to hurt him and really at that point you almost got the feeling it was going to be an injury riddled season for the talented forward who rarely stays healthy. He is now back but this really is a lost cause of epic proportions in the first quarter for Mr. Gagne. Our verdict here was one of our easiest of all. Gagne not only gets five turkey basters but also receives our Alexei Kovalev Memorial Award for doing absolutely nothing this quarter. An ECHL player would have at least done something, injury or no injury.

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Patrick O‘Sullivan (LW) — Minnesota Wild Yes this is a very sad story so we will spare a ton of details but it seems O‘Sullivan cannot find a home or luck anywhere. Mentally he is definitely not all there and that is very sad to see but unfortunately in the NHL, there has to be a time to rise above that and honestly this player has not done so. He also gets our five turkey basters for a lack of service. Stay away at all costs and more than likely, another league may call for his services until the mental and physical aspects come together for this talented but enigmatic forward. Dan Hamhuis (D) — Vancouver Canucks So Hamhuis bounced to Philly, Pittsburgh and then Vancouver on his merry travels and then proceeded to be the overrated player everyone thought he was. Two goals and an assist in 12 games is not bad but the -2 and low hits and blocks is a bit of a concern. The 20 point pace really is about right but the lack of specialty points is a bit of a surprise considering Hamhuis has a pretty good shot. However, Hamhuis also has shown a propensity for not playing as well in his own end as some expected him to. Vancouver has not been quite the same this year and some are starting to grumble that replacing Willie Mitchell with Hamhuis was not the greatest of ideas. Hamhuis was expected to be as sound and do a little more offensively but the reality is this one has not gone according to plan. There was some debate as to how many basters to give him. In the end, we went with three basters. It would have been four but no one could find a deep fryer good enough to send into Canada. Jason Arnott (C) — New Jersey Devils Here turkey turkey turkey! Though his five goals so far in November are respectable. Arnott only has 12 points in 21 games with translated to .57 points per game. This is down from the .72 points per game last year and .87 points per game two seasons ago. It is just coincidental that the -.15 regression has occurred but Arnott at his age is declining some in skill at least defensively as his -7 will attest to. However he has a booming shot and if it is on target, it will go in. The eight goals is a plus which makes asserting a label on Arnott a bit harder than some would think. Where are we going to go here. This was fairly tough but Arnott has produced a little better this month. Given the expected dip, I would give him three turkey basters but just barely. The typical Devils homer would say one or two at the tops. I am not as merciful. Lars Eller (C) — Montreal Canadiens Some of us always go in with our heads held high and then come crashing back to Earth with a big, giant resounding thud. ONE POINT THIS YEAR? Are you kidding me? This was a supposed Top six forward that was almost can‘t miss. Therefore, he has missed and awfully. 94

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There are other players on Montreal who have been brutal but Eller was traded in the summer so as we note, he is a traded turkey of the worst kind since so many fantasy experts had him at a half point per game at least. It has been asked not how many basters should we give him but if we should pay for a one way ticket to Hamilton? Here is my answer. We give Lars Eller the five turkey basters, a one way ticket to Hamilton, and a bag of pucks with the Church‘s Fried Chicken as well. FREE AGENT FRENZIED TURKEYS Ilya Kovalchuk (LW) — New Jersey Devils Yes we knew the controversy would be intense but no one knew how bad this would become. If anyone expected Ilya Kovalchuk to have four goals at this juncture, considering he had 41 last year, raise your hand and call yourself a deity right now. The four goals and six assists just hurt badly for any fantasy owner. Even Brian Boyle has eight goals right now. Sean Avery has more votes for the All-Star game and to add further insult the immortal Andrew Ladd has more points than Kovalchuk at the moment. That is just the tip of the iceberg. While Kovalchuk cannot be blamed for the entire team‘s problems on just cause. There is a negative effect by him clutching the stick extra tight. Think of how many games the Devils have sagged because they did not score on one end and gave up a goal on the other. Even in Monday Night‘s 5-0 win, Kovalchuk had one shot late in the game and was almost invisible. Then he was seen joking around with Alex Ovechkin, who was almost as invisible. Something has to loosen him up a bit because nothing else is working. We talked to his agent Sunday Night and everything seems okay on the surface but one gets the feeling that the situation is eating at him. Based on expectations alone, Kovalchuk will be given our five turkey basters. Second round fantasy pick may want to WAKE UP! Marty Turco (G) — Chicago Blackhawks Hey a goalie made our list finally. That is a good thing to see. Aside from one brilliant year in Dallas, Turco was a man under siege who would crack as the postseason came. The Blackhawks were not expected to be as good this year as last year but there were some considerable pieces. However, nothing has looked consistent in Chicago and especially Marty Turco who has looked able at times and then worse than an ECHL goalie at others. The 2.83 GAA and .906 save percentage are pretty decent but not even at Turco levels on worse Dallas teams. Remember Turco is 35 and usually the skills start to erode in most netminders at this point and time. Chicago‘s schedule does get a little bit easier. As much as people would like to kill Turco in this spot, the turkeys and I are willing to give him somewhat the 95

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benefit of the doubt here. Here are three turkey basters to Mr. Turco and a hope that he lowers that GAA some. Ian White (D) — Carolina Hurricanes For whatever reason, Calgary was an unmitigated disaster for Ian White. Maybe there was something in the water but it was not just the six points this year in 16 games with the -10 for Calgary. At some point, it became all mental in the wrong direction. White and Brent Sutter and did not seem to see eye to eye at all and the reality became that White was the wrong fit all along compared to what Calgary really needed. So finally White was traded to Carolina where he can fit in with a more offensive type of play. If this all works out for Ian White, you will not see him anywhere near a list like this for the rest of the season. He is too good not to be on a 50 point pace or close to it. As it stands now, he is a three turkey baster mainly because he did not have a snowball‘s chance with that regime in Calgary. The change will do him good. Devin Setoguchi (RW) — San Jose Sharks There will be no Corsi regression coefficients here on FH 201 but definitely we will crunch some deep numbers. This is not the same player as last year and its not even close. The dropoff last year was precipitous but the slip even further back this year seems to say there is some deeper on or around the surface. The six points in 19 games only scratches the surface and pain of fantasy owners out there. Only one of Setoguchi‘s six points came during a win. The situational stats are just bizarre. Usually players excel when winning but in parts of the last two years, Swtoguchi likes to be down first. What do you do with a guy like this who clearly was once much better off that he is currently. A change of scenery clearly is the right way to go but the Sharks want are hesitant to just trade away the still talented forward. We are going to give Setoguchi four turkey basters and only spare him of the fifth because of his drop of production last year. Fantasy GM‘s should have been more aware. Antti Niemi (G) — San Jose Some will say its because of the new team and some will say its getting used to the new defense while others will say he was insulated in Chicago. This may be a rare case where it was a little of all three. The bottom line is Antti Niemi just has not played well in San Jose and has become the 1B to Antero Niitymaki‘s 1A. The 26-7-4 record with Chicago and magical Stanley Cup run is almost like a dream. Here is the nightmare. Niemi has a 2-4-1 record with a .878 save percentage and 3.91 GAA.

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The problem is San Jose‘s defense is just not Chicago‘s. Clearly signing in the first week of September did not help at all. This probably was not the greatest fit for Niemi. Maybe he should have taken a year in the KHL to refine his skills some before coming back to the NHL. What is clear is he deserves only four turkey basters as San Jose has played as awful in front of him as Niemi has behind them. THE OLD GUARD (The 35 and over turkeys?) Martin Brodeur (G) — New Jersey Devils Sometimes in this business, we have to be cold. A player who has won over 600 games (the most in NHL history) usually gets treated with kid gloves but not here. It is not a secret that Brodeur plays his way into shape unlike most goalies. That has come back to haunt him this year as his team has evaporated in front of him. The result is a very poor win loss record and a high GAA at 2.74 and a save percentage of .901. When you are 38, it may be time to beef up that offseason program. The rigors of an NHL season is infinitely tougher than some beer or even semi-pro league. It is a criticism that has been quietly echoed for several years in New Jersey and now it has bubbled up to the surface. The injuries have hurt some but one has to play a bit better to start the year off and clearly Brodeur was a step slow until the last few starts. However, now he is hurt again so that gives him a total of three turkey basters. Hope abounds in early December when Brodeur returns. Jamie Langenbrunner (RW) — New Jersey Devils It looks like we are zeroing in mostly on Devil players but the reality is to be that bed takes a team effort of epic proportions. The nine points in 16 games does not sound that bad on the surface but the attitude or lack thereof at times in the locker room is disconcerting. Either way, Mr. Grumpy is Mr. Power Outage as he has no man advantage goals at the moment. Now battling injury, Langenbrunner has a tough road to climb especially if New Jersey starts to climb out of this season long hole they are in. Langenbrunner needs a player of Parise‘s skill set to thrive given his age. He cannot quite create the offense needed to be a Top six forward in the NHL. Those days are slowly becoming numbered and at some point not even Parise will be able to save him from the fantasy chopping block. Doug Weight (C) — New York Islanders Again this was a very excruciating choice as he is near the AARP age. Well he is not honestly but it sounded good at the time.

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The nine points in 18 games on a bad team is not damaging exactly but its the fact that Weight has been constantly hurt over the last few years that if you took a flyer on him then shame on you. Now it is his back. Who knows when it will be his knees, or groin, or something else for that matter. Weight is at the sunset of his career. It was pretty damn good while it lasted but he should have probably retired after last year but the Isles had so much hope. In certain ways, Weight coming back made sense and then the season started. So we give him only one turkey baster as a sign of respect and last rites on his hockey career. Steve Sullivan (C) — Nashville Predators This is another borderline case as he does have a respectable 10 points in 19 games. However, some feel he has the talent to do a little more in Nashville this year than he has so far. That sounds a bit unfair on the surface to me at least. He is definitely a player to keep a look out come the second quarter of the season when he heats it up a bit. Right now, we only give him a half a turkey baster just to let people know that he may or may not be at the point of breaking down production wise again. Stay tuned. THE SURPRISE TURKEYS Travis Zajac (C) — New Jersey Devils Here is a player no one ever thought would slump this bad once he got his wheels motoring. Yet here we are with a guy who clearly misses his linemates like a homesick puppy dog. Now the nine points in twenty one games is appalling enough until you throw in one key, vital stat. Travis Zajac has no points on the man advantage at all. He had 21 last year and 15 the year before that. We are talking ZERO here during the first quarter. There are certain reasons why a team of turkeys is what we are calling the New Jersey Devils right now and this is one big one. Given the nature and the abhorrent drop of Zajac and the prospect of not seeing Parise or Langenbrunner for awhile, this point production could actually get worse which is why we are tossing out four turkey basters for Zajac. Does he turn it around at some point? That is a tough call given the climate at the current moment. Roberto Luongo (G) — Vancouver Canucks The 2.88 GAA and .907 save percentage spell out that Luongo is facing just over 30 shots a game but he was used to that in Florida. He is just having too many inconsistent efforts as well as the team. Clearly when Luongo is given the physical treatment, his other goalie senses crack faster than bad China glassware. Look at the games where he does not see that spy in front of him compared to one that he does. His rebound control has also been a bit lackluster at 98

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times and somewhat ugly at other times. The .500 record worries most GM‘s to death but that can turn around. Right now the key is the rest of the team in front of Luongo. Those scoring chances did not seem to occur last year. If the team gets it going, Luongo will gain his confidence back and things will roll from there. If not on the other hand, the Coach could be swinging from the noose anytime soon. Part of me also wonders if Luongo is battling the groin again. Stay tuned on that fantasy owners and keep an eye out for it. Mike Smith (G) — Tampa Bay Lightning There is just a level of ouch when it comes to goaltending in Tampa Bay. Between Dan Ellis and Mike Smith, Steve Yzerman must be thinking this is not how to do it these days but it looked really great on paper. The 7-3 record hides the fact that Smith gives up goals like he still had no idea where his head is attached to. When you give up three or more goals that many times, one has to wonder if he should be called Mike ―ThreeOrMore Smith‖. The 3.17 GAA and .887 save percentage is abysmal and disheartening given the alternative. Due to the persistent bad play of Smith, we are assigning the full five turkey basters on this one. Not only do the Bolts have goaltending issues but their defense is a bit leaky on the back end as well. That does not excuse the last line of defense and if Tampa intends on making the playoffs and advancing, they need to find a #1 and sooner rather than later. LOOKING AHEAD TO THE SECOND QUARTER There is a growing sense that some trends that have been established may actually reverse themselves a bit or relax some. Clearly other trends will continue or get more amplified as the schedule stretches out a hair or most teams. Think about the drop in shootouts compared to this time last year or the fact that shots on goal are up by over 10%. Definitely times are always changing. If the fantasy owner does not adapt, even a little bit, then they are just cooked like a turkey would be. Prevalent thought dictates that there are not just turkeys at the NHL level but turkeys at other levels as well. Every so often, we will poke a little turkey fun into the prospects. If the readers know any high profile prospects who are not performing up to expectations, we want to know about them. This is a time of year where we start peeking at the prospects to not only see who could crack a roster in the future but also potential draft picks for next season. The idea is to spread the word about prospects for dynasty leagues as well. People have to understand that yes the NHL players are our principal concern. Guys like Dan Boyle, even who knows Alex Ovechkin could be on the halfway version of this post. No one really knows.

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However I am here to tell you of a few players you may want to keep an eye on. First the good…….or the three to be. 1. Carey Price (do not think he is a fluke) 2. Jonas Gustavsson (Will make them say Giggy what…giggy who?) 3. Ilya Kovalchuk (Going out on a short limb here) Then there is the three to turkey. 1. JS Giguere (He will pout again…watch for it.) 2. Clarke MacArthur (Sell high and sell now!) 3. Andrew Ladd (Eventually he will tumble down to Earth) The last question becomes what is left? As much as we love fantasy hockey, there is an aspect we do not love. We are nuts and bolts numbers guys. No one sits there and goes over Corsi like regression theory to explain things here. That is not our job. We want to provide you with the turkeys for a reason because these are players that are impacting your team in a bad or ugly way. Also if we missed any turkeys at all, feel free to let us know. They will be put on our ―monitored list‖ for future editions of this upstanding column. The turkeys have also announced they may expand in the new year to twice a week to help our fantasy hockey brothers and sisters out there. We are here to help. So from all of us at the Fantasy Hockey Wing of Inside Hockey, we‘d like to wish all of you out there a Happy Thanksgiving. May the turkey be moist and may you enjoy your time on the couch afterwards recovering. The most important thing is to please stay safe.
Chris Wassel is a fantasy writer who tests the limits of fantasy hockey to bring readers and players a no holds barred look at fantasy hockey from a meat and potatoes perspective. No crazy formulas here, just insight and common sense. You can read his takes on insidehockey.com and thehockeyprogram.net

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Change is good, isn’t it? Urban Meyer leaves Florida… again
By Chris Humpherys http://sportschump.net

I’m not fond of change.
I‘ve stayed in relationships longer than I should have, jobs longer than I should have and cities longer than I should have, all because I found myself in a comfort zone. I was afraid of what lay waiting on the other side of change. Many of us become so accustomed to living in that comfort zone, we can‘t imagine life outside it. But like it or not, change comes. As a Florida alum, I‘ve been spoiled. I enrolled at the school when Emmitt Smith was running roughshod over the nation. Years later, a former Heisman winner returned to coach in the stadium he renamed the Swamp. He established the football program as a national powerhouse, winning title after conference title. Then one day, he was gone. Three unsuccessful years under Ron Zook confirmed every Gator fan‘s fear of change.

As a Florida alum, I‘ve been spoiled. I enrolled at the school when Emmitt Smith was running roughshod over the nation. Years later, a former Heisman winner returned to coach in the stadium he renamed the Swamp ... Then one day, he was gone.

Shortly thereafter, the sun shone in Gainesville once again as Urban Meyer, with Tim Tebow riding side-saddle, ushered in a new period of dominance. Paralleled by the success of its basketball program, the Florida Gators cast a shadow over college athletics, amassing four national championships and immeasurable smiles. Yet soon, a program once characterized by dominance became equally characterized for its change. Our basketball coach left for a day and returned. Our football coach left, then also came back. This Tuesday, Urban Meyer left for good. 101

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When I first heard the news of Meyer‘s latest retirement from the University of Florida, I was getting my haircut. I returned to my car to find three voice mails and several more text messages, most of them ending in question marks, a few in exclamation points. Gator fans never faced definitive change the first time around. Both departures were teasers. Meyer and Donovan both returned, with neither of them matching their previous success. Now Meyer leaves again to do who knows what. Only Meyer and his inner circle know where he‘ll end up. At only 46, with quite the impressive resume, it‘s hard to imagine him never coaching again. It‘s also hard to imagine how Florida fans will react if and when that happens. Will we see him as the coach who cried wolf? Have we been Sabanized? Will we feel better about ourselves if he never walks another sideline? An uncertain future leaves both Meyer and Florida fans uneasy. That‘s what change does. Wherever he ends up, somehow, some way, I get the feeling we‘ll all be just fine.
Chris Humphreys is the writer and creator of Sportschump.net

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A Cardinal Christmas Carol
By Daniel Shoptaw Cardinal70.com

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Mozeliak."
The general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, John Mozeliak, looked up from the paperwork on his desk. Running a baseball team might be enjoyable and have great perks, but it never stops. "Thank you, Molly. I hope you have a nice holiday as well. Are you visiting family?" Molly nodded. "My parents are in town and we are having a nice family gathering. How about you, sir?" "Well, tomorrow will be, but tonight the wife and kids are visiting her family while I work on this paperwork and make some calls." Molly frowned. "Christmas Eve, alone? That can't be fun." Mozeliak smiled. "True, but the job's the job, I'm afraid." As the day wore on, more and more people came by to extend season's greetings to their boss before they slipped out the door, off to whatever the evening held for them. One by one, the office lights were extinguished until it was just Mozeliak there, poring over paperwork and calculating numbers. Suddenly, the phone rang. Mozeliak glanced at the caller ID and, with a smile, picked up the phone. "Walt! Merry Christmas to you!" Walt Jocketty, currently Mozeliak's opposite number within the Cincinnati Reds organization, responded, "And to you as well, Mo. Knew I'd find you in the office. Don't know you know when to go home?" "When I figure out how to beat your team next year, I'll go home. Say, what's all that clanking in the background?" "Clanking?" Jocketty responded. "I don't know what.....oh, I see. The grandkids have bicycle chains they are putting on their new gifts. Anyway, Mo, I had another reason for 103

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calling you. Tonight, you will be visited by three spirits." "Um, Walt, you know I don't do much drinking, especially not spirits." "Yes, I know, which makes getting you a Christmas gift a lot harder. No, I mean spirits, apparitions, ghosts. You know what I mean." "Exactly what was in that egg nog you were drinking, Walt?" Jocketty sighed. "Can't blame you for not believing me, I guess. But thought it was only fair to let you know they were coming. Hope they are better for you than me. I had the ghost of Johnny Cueto visit me and I still have a headache from where he kicked me." Mozeliak, bewildered, thanked his mentor for the knowledge and hung up the phone. He quickly made a note on his organizer to check on Jocketty in about a week and, if he was still in such a state, see if he could swap Kyle Lohse for Edinson Volquez before whatever it was wore off. The GM then got back to his work, calculating just what he could get for Brendan Ryan, wondering how to convince Tony La Russa that Bryan Anderson was an acceptable backup catcher, putting a fine structure in place for pitchers that allowed fly balls to wherever Lance Berkman was playing. Time passed and Mozeliak was fully engrossed in his work when the silence was broken by an unmistakable voice. "Howdy, Mo Man. Reckon you've heard we were comin'" Mozeliak looked up. Before him stood the voice of the Cardinals, Mike Shannon. Shannon didn't look like what Mozeliak was used to, though. He was decked out in a Cardinal uniform and looked decades younger. "Mike? It's Christmas, not Halloween. What's with the getup? Though I've got to say it does work well for you." Shannon chuckled. "Heh, heh, heh. No, big boy, this ain't my current look. I'm the Ghost of Cardinal Past. You and I get to take a little trip." "A trip?" Mozeliak asked. "Mike...or whomever you are...I've still got work to do and I've got to be home for Christmas tomorrow." 104

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"Don't worry about that none, partner. Time doesn't have a whole lot of meanin' where we're going. Just grab on to this bat....that's it. Hang on, now." Mozeliak had, by this time, rounded his desk and, figuring he needed a break if he was seeing ghosts, held on to the bat in Shannon's hands. "All right. Get up baby, get up, here we go!" The next thing Mozeliak knew, it was a bright summer day. The sounds of the ballpark were overwhelming, as the vendors cried out, selling their hot dogs and cold beer. He and his otherwordly guide were sitting in seats right behind home plate. This wasn't the ballpark Mozeliak knew, though. It wasn't even the ballpark he used to know. "Spirit, where are we?" he asked. "Who you callin' spirit, man? I'm Mike. And we're still in St. Louis, still in Busch Stadium. Now, when, that's a different story." Mozeliak paused. "When? You mean, we've gone back in time?" Shannon roared. "I thought you were the smart one! What part of Cardinal Past didn't you get? I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't believed it." "OK, point. Give me a break, this whole thing is a little out of my comfort zone. So let me rephrase: when are we?" "May 1, 1954. Old, old Busch Stadium. Doubleheader between the Giants and the Cards. Bit before my time, but since I'm not constrained, I come here often." May 1, 1954. That stuck in Mozeliak's head for some reason. It was a big day in the history of the Cardinals, but he couldn't quite piece it together. Until he looked at who was coming up to bat. "Stan," he breathed. Mozeliak watched as Stan Musial strode to the plate and listened to the crowd going crazy for him. He kept his eyes trained on the Cardinal legend as Musial got into his famous stance. And he rose as everyone else did when Musial's swing rocketed the ball over the wall for a home run. 105

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"This is the double header where he hit five home runs, isn't it?" exclaimed Mozeliak, giddy with the moment. "Yep, sure is. That was number five on the day, though the Cards couldn't pull out the nightcap. Listen, though, to this crowd. They love him here in St. Louis!" Mozeliak tore his eyes away from Musial's home run trot to scan the stands. Every Cardinal fan was on their feet, clapping, swaying, cheering for their hero. "Stan! Stan! Stan!" they cheered and the name reverberated off the old ballpark's walls. The love for this icon was almost tangible. "Got another stop, Johnny boy. Best hang on now." Shannon's words broke through Mozeliak's thoughts. Unwilling to leave but realizing he had no choice, he reluctantly took hold of the magic bat. The scene shifted. It was still a warm summer's day, it was still a baseball field, but this time the confines were a little more familiar to Mozeliak. He recognized it as Busch Stadium II, the ballpark the Cardinals were using when he began to work for the organization. "When are we now, Mike?" "Catching on, are ya? Well, we're at a random game in 1983. Take a gander right over there in the middle of the infield, will ya?" Mozeliak looked where Shannon pointed and, sure enough, a young Ozzie Smith was stationed at shortstop. Mozeliak knew the current version of the Wizard, of course, but was brought back to his childhood by seeing the Hall of Famer without the grey highlighting his hair and the youthful expression on his face. "You know, I didn't get to see Ozzie much growing up in Colorado. The All-Star Game, of course, and maybe an occasional Game of the Week. I've always wished I could see him in action." The ghost grinned. "Well, if you've been a good little boy, maybe that wish can come true." The words were barely spoken when the batter hit a sharp liner between short and third. Ken Oberkfell went to his left, but had no chance. It looked like a clean single. 106

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Then, from nowhere, Smith ranged over, dove for the ball, scrambled to his feet and made the throw to first, stirring a great reaction from the crowd--and the out-of-time visitor as well. "That was amazing, Mike! And yet, I have this nagging feeling that it was a little familiar to me. Why is that?" Mozeliak asked. "Not in my department, my man. If I told you that, the next guy'd be madder than a pig caught under a barnyard gate. 'Sides, my time's up. And, in my book, this has been a big red W. See ya around, big guy!" Mozeliak blinked. He was in his office, exactly where he'd been. He heard vacuuming down the hall as the cleaning crew finished up for the evening. For all intents and purposes, his extraordinary experience had never happened. Before he could ponder what he had seen, though, another visitor materialized in front of the general manager. "Evening, Matthew. How did you get in here? I figured all the doors were locked since everyone had gone home. Do you need something for a story?" What appeared to be Matthew Leach, writer for MLB.com, shook his head. "No, Mo. Nothing like that. I think you've already had a visit from one of my associates?" Mozeliak snapped his fingers. "That's right, Jocketty said three spirits. So which one are you and when and where are we going?" "I'm the Ghost of Cardinal Present. We've got a bit of a trip this time, so please sit down at your computer." Puzzled, Mozeliak did as instructed. Leach then tapped a couple of keys. "Let's see. Ah, yes, this should do it." Mozeliak looked around. While he was still in front of a computer, he was no longer in his office in St. Louis. Instead, there was bright and warm sun coming through the windows. "The internet's a powerful thing, more so than people realize," Leach remarked as Mozeliak tried to process it all. "We're in Los Angeles, home of someone I believe you 107

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know." At that moment, a person walked into the room. Clad in a Cardinals workout shirt drenched in sweat, he had obviously just come from a strenuous workout. "Brendan! How are you?" Mozeliak called out to the shortstop. Brendan Ryan made no indication that he had heard. He moved through the room and out the side door. "Let me guess, he can't hear or see me, can he?" said Mozeliak. "That's an excellent guess, my friend. Come on, let's follow him." The two went outside, where they found Ryan in his personal batting cage. Ryan continued to refine his swing, trying to get comfortable. "He's been doing this a lot since the season ended, but especially since the end of last month," Leach reported in between cracks of the bat. "The Ryan Theriot trade. I figured he wouldn't take that very well. We had to improve our offense, though. That was the best move we could make." Leach sighed. "Was it? On a ground-ball pitching staff, you significantly weaken the glove at the most important infield position? Never mind, I didn't come here to argue with you. Just to show you." "Show me what?" Mozeliak asked, by now slightly annoyed. "Let's take a look around his house while he's taking BP," Leach replied. The two went inside and Mozeliak started to look around. Over here was a framed picture of Ryan with Albert Pujols. On the wall was a panoramic picture of Busch Stadium on Opening Day. A Cardinal pennant hung over the door. A recliner bearing the St. Louis logo sat in front of the large TV. Mozeliak started to get the idea. "He's very proud to be a Cardinal, isn't he?" Leach nodded. "I can show you the Cardinal sheets on his bed, if you want."

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Mozeliak put up his hands. "I'll trust you on that one. What would you have me do, though? Baseball is a business. It always has been. When you let emotion run the club, things get out of hand quickly." "I'm just a ghost," Leach responded. "What you do is up to you." WIth that, Mozeliak's office returned. The GM shook his head to regain his bearings. The vacuum was still going down the hall, indicating again that he had returned to the same time that he had left. Mozeliak walked over to his window, staring out into the cold St. Louis night. How did you balance the needs of the team versus the desires of the individual? Mozeliak had an offer sitting on his desk from the Pittsburgh Pirates, wanting to take Ryan for a couple of AA pitchers. He'd been on the verge of accepting it. Getting an up close and personal view had modified his feelings somewhat. Before he could come to any conclusions, though, a cold wind hit his back. Mozeliak turned and looked at a hooded figure standing silently in the middle of his office. "The Ghost of Cardinal Future, I presume." The hooded figure nodded his head. He then drew back the hood to reveal the familiar features of the star of the Cardinals, Albert Pujols. "Albert? You are the Ghost of Cardinal Yet To Come? That could be a good sign," Mozeliak joked. Pujols remained stone-faced, but finally spoke. "Mang, it's not about me. I'm not the one standing here. Albert is out celebrating the birth of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, mang. I'm the spectre of his contract." A chill of foreboding washed over Mozeliak. Of course, that's what happened every time someone mentioned Albert's upcoming contract, so that was pretty expected. Steadying himself, Mozeliak defiantly said, "OK, then, let's go." "Grab on to my sleeve, then, if you think you are ready." Mozeliak noticed that the closer he got to this spirit, the colder he got. Still, he grasped 109

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on to the robe and was quickly whisked away. They arrived at the same ballpark the Cardinals currently use. As had been his experiences with the Ghost of Cardinal Past, the sun was shining and the vendors were hawking their wares. But something was different. "When are we, spirit?" "June of 2013." "The crowd....it's so quiet. And so small. What has happened to this team?" Mozeliak cried. The spirit pointed his long finger straight at the first base bag. There, standing at first base, was a Cardinal. That Cardinal was not Albert Pujols. Mozeliak gasped. "But I thought....I thought it would all work out. We just had discussions about having discussions! There is no way that Pujols would walk!" "And yet he did," the spirit replied. "When you could not get a contract done by spring training, the negotiations stopped. You always thought they'd pick up, that they'd get done. However, eventually, he moved on. Now, behold, mang!" The spirit's figure again pointed, but this time away from the field, up into one of the luxury boxes. The box, in fact, reserved for the general manager. A figure sat there, overlooking the game and pondering moves. That figure was not John Mozeliak. "Answer me one question," Mozeliak cried. "Are these the shadows of things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be only?" The spirit started to fade away, leaving the question hanging in the half-full ballpark. Mozeliak sat up with a jolt. He was again behind his desk, in his office. He quickly searched the internet to find out that Albert Pujols was indeed still a member of the 110

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Cardinal organization. He then opened his phone and called the first baseman. "Albert, I know I'm interrupting your family gathering. Yes, I know it's Christmas Eve. Yes, I know what this day is about. I just wanted to invite you and your agent here to the office on Monday to finalize this contract issue. Albert, you are too important to this city to lose. I know what Stan meant to the fans of that time. Don't ask me how I know, it's a long story that you wouldn't believe anyway. The point is, you can be that guy now. You are that guy now. Let's not ruin it. "Great, see you Monday. Merry Christmas to you too, Albert!" Realizing that the cleaning crew was gone, Mozeliak decided that he probably should do the same. As he started packing up some papers, he came across the offer from the Pirates for Brendan Ryan. He stared at that paper for a while. Then, sighing, he picked up his phone again. "Brendan, it's John Mozeliak. Wait, wait, no crying. I just wanted to let you know that I don't plan to trade you this winter. That glove of yours is too valuable to this team. If you come to camp, you'll get a shot at the shortstop position. I make no promises. It's OK, Brendan. Brendan. Brendan, that's my ear you are screaming into. OK, merry Christmas to you too." With that taken care of, there was only one more thing to be done, one last call to make before he could head home to get ready for his family's return. "Jim Hendry, please. That you, Jim? John Mozeliak here. Just wanted to let you know you might be getting some visitors tonight...."
Daniel Shoptaw is a passionate Cardinals fan who has been blogging since the All-Star Break of 2007. Along with his own blog, he has also created the United Cardinal Bloggers, a community of St. Louis bloggers, and the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, a community that stretches across baseball to bring top bloggers together.

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Are you happy to see me, or is that a gun in your pocket?
By Don Landrigan With-Malice.com

I'm quite sure that neither Gilbert Arenas nor Javaris Crittenton fully understood the Pandora's box they were opening when they had their altercation. An altercation that in some way, shape or form included guns.
In all likelihood, they're beginning to get it now. But the real question is, are the rest of us aware of what this means... what this reflects? In discussing this with a friend, he pointed me to piece he'd read by columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. - titled Listen up, NBA players: Guns are not funny. One part of the piece really, really struck a chord with me.
"And yet...it is difficult to think of these two guys whipping out guns like something out of Dodge City and not see shadows of all the other men of the same heritage and age group who once were here but now are gone because they regarded guns in the same profoundly unserious manner. Because they saw them not as tools of hunting or self-defense but, rather, as toys -- as argument settlers and point makers, as extensions of their personal reproductive gear, as a means of demanding respect. We have paid the price for that idiotic mindset in funerals. Funerals, an endless string."

There are lots of arguments surrounding both sides of the debate. Within the HBO piece, Real Sports "Guns & The NFL" (aired on Jan 20th 2009), Adewale Ogunleye of the Chicago Bears stated that he believes Sean Taylor might be alive today if he had a gun, rather than just a machete. It's possible. The tragedy may have been averted, or at least have had a different outcome. It's also possible that if he'd had a gun, the situation may have escalated - and his girlfriend and daughter may have died as well. Former NFL player Jay Williams during HBO piece stated that he believes athletes carry a gun for self-defense.
"They are carrying guns to protect and defend themselves."

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He also states that he took his gun to practice every day, despite NFL rules prohibiting the presence of firearms any where near league facilities (Williams, now retired from the NFL, is the son of a police officer, and now works as a gun dealer. Many of his clientele are pro-athletes). Someone you'd probably think would be "pro-carry" would be Karl Malone. Malone, an avid hunter, and a spokesman for the NRA, has strong opinions on this... but probably not in the way you'd expect. In a 2006 piece for ESPN, Malone states his opinion:
"Everybody sticks their chest out now when they have a firearm on them," Malone said, mocking the thought process of the common athle te. "'I come up from the hard part of the streets, the mean streets, and I need my gun and all of that?' Come on, please, enough of that already. We're tired of that." Malone said he wants athletes to realize the dangerous nature of guns. "Now why do these guys carry guns? Is that the 'cool' thing to do? Well 'cool' gets you dead!" Malone said. For athletes who claim they need a gun for protection, Malone has a suggestion: stop hanging out in places of risk. "Three a.m.? My goodness gracious, what were you doing out at 3 o'clock in the morning? Who were you with? Where were you at? Do you need a gun to protect you or do you need a babysitter to get you where you need to be all the time so that you don't get in any trouble?" Malone said. Malone said he thinks the problems stem from the people athletes sometimes keep as company, and the places they spend their free time. "You can enjoy yourself in nice places, but we're talking about gun stuff," he said. "We need to talk more about where we are going, what we a re doing, and who we are hanging out with that lead up to these confrontations." (ESPN's 'Outside the Lines' piece, Athletes & Guns. Dec 15th 2006) Karl Malone has also made his thoughts visible on the subject of Gilbert Arenas, most notably in a piece penned for SI.com, and on this ESPN interview with Jim Rome.

Malone touches on an area that's not often explored within these debates. That at times, it's extremely questionable as to whether the pro athlete is the type of person that actually should be carrying guns. We all know the stories, the guys who shouldn't be carrying a sharp pencil, much less a loaded gun. Guys like Plaxico Burress (self-inflicted gunshot wound, now serving time in jail for weapons charges) , Sebastian Telfair (criminal possession of handgun, 3 years probation) , Delonte West (facing charges regarding carrying a 9mm pistol, .357 113

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Magnum, and a pump action shotgun - all in a guitar case) ,

Tank Johnson (served time for possessing illegal weapons, inclu ding assault rifles) , and of course Jayson Williams (who just the other day plead guilty to an aggravated assault... with a shotgun. That left Costas "Gus" Christofi dead ). Of course the opposite end of that scale is former NFL player, Marcellus Wiley, who tells his story in the same HBO Real Sports story as Jay Williams (Guns & the NFL). Wiley grew up in South Central LA, and never owned a gun. Immediately after being drafted for the NFL though, he purchased one. But after a while, ownership of a weapon weighed heavily. Perspectives changed, and Wiley began seeing threats everywhere. But then he began to ask questions of himself.
Would he be ready to pull a gun if confronted? Could he handle a potential attempted murder charge? Could he handle a murder charge? Even if he pulled the gun and didn't use it, could he handle the legal ramifications? Could he handle it if he pulled the gun on the streets, and the person he pointed the gun at, was coming back? So when he was with the Buffalo Bills, Wiley decided he no longer wanted to own a gun. As he was driving near Niagara Falls, he felt something bad was going to happen the longer he held possession of the weapon. He threw the gun into the falls and Wiley says he felt a weight lif t off his shoulders. (HBO Real Sports, Guns & the NFL)

In ESPN's 'Outside the Lines' piece, Athletes & Guns, Malone asserts that pulling a gun in a confrontation can often lead to a greater risk. Often, when someone pulls their gun, other guns appear. And that's where it all escalates. Karl Malone spoke of changing attitudes, of education. That's the problem: many people - and not just pro athletes - lack the proper attitude, and education, to be carrying a weapon. Guns and pro-sports almost seem synonymous now. There are no accurate numbers, but on HBO's Real Sports "Guns & The NFL", Jay Williams stated that he believes the number to be up around 85%, or possibly higher (Jabar Gaffney of the Denver Broncos places it at 90% - or higher). NY Daily News has Devin Harris placing the number in the NBA to be at 75%. Luke Scott of the Baltimore Orioles puts gun ownership within MLB at 50% or higher.

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These numbers have to be worrying for both the leagues that house these players, and the communities within which they play. The thing is... how different is this for the rest of society? The obvious answer to this is the wealth and visibility that these players have... but there are broader issues that should be explored - that need to be reviewed, such as attitudes, education, and even legislative reform. This is something that is a bigger concern than simply athletes, it goes further into society than that. Guns, and gun violence. And a society that's become largely enured to it. In all honesty, it's not guns per se. Guns aren't bad. They're not good either. They're inanimate. It's the user that puts their own inadequacies behind the gun that's the issue, and the ease with which he can do so within the United States. The reality is this: there are three ways to actively control guns. One is through education, Switzerland is a perfect example of this, or through legislation (Australia has some of the toughest gun laws in the world), or a change in attitude (Japanese laws are strict, but poorly enforced. The main reason guns aren't prevalent in Japan is a general abhorrence of firearms). Realistically, legislation is the US's most reasonable method. Or at least legislating to enforce better gun control. I'm not advocating taking away the right to bear arms - that's never going to happen in America - but amending the laws controlling gun ownership so that a greater degree of education on the subject is necessary before you can take ownership. Gun violence will only stop when people are educated, or attitudes change. It's unlikely that neither gun education nor attitudes towards guns will change in the US without legislation. Australia. On the 28th of April, 1996, Martin Bryant went into the Port Arthur tourist area, and killed 35 people and wounded 21 others in a shooting spree. It was an event that nigh on devastated the entire country, and shocked the nation into changing gun laws, enforcing education (for would-be owners) and really affected societal attitudes surrounding guns. I hope and pray that it doesn't take something of a similar magnitude as Port Arthur, and by 'similar magnitude' I mean of a significant enough scale that America expresses a desire to change prompted by a tragedy of a truly monumental scale. 115

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The question is can the US begin to recognise the problems that are inherent in the Second Amendment as it currently stands? The men who wrote it understood that it was legislation that was appropriate for the time, and that what was true of their times was not a universal truth. In discussion with a friend of mine, we agreed on the following: It is important to recognize that no changes to the Bill of Rights need to actually occur. What has to happen is: 1 - State Laws have to be passed restricting the sale of certain types of weapons, all guns not recognized by the Federal Game and Wildlife Commission as legal to use in hunting sports (this protects, most types of rifles and shotguns). 2 - Those laws must be challenged and carried all the way to the US Supreme Court where the 2nd Amendment is then interpreted historically instead of literally. The framers of the Constitution did not intend that Americans have the right to bear nuclear weapons as they serve no beneficial purpose in greater society. Likewise, the framers did not intend American citizens to be able to own assault rifles and/or handguns. The key here is interpretation of the law... it all hangs there. It isn't necessary to change the 2nd amendment itself, just change how it is interpreted. The 2nd Amendment asserts the right of the citizen to bear arms. But with every "right", there's an implied responsibility too. An incurable Lakers fan, Don Landrigan been living in Japan for over a decade.

It is important to recognize that no changes to the Bill of Rights need to actually occur.

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All-Female Celebrity Football Team
By Gregg Snyder Jr. DoubleGSports.com

I seem to be having a hard time getting into this year’s Super Bowl. Sure I could do write-ups about the game like everyone else around the world. I decided to try something fun, so I tried to put together a female celebrity football team.
I think I did a pretty good job of combining good looks with skills. Think you can put together a team to compete with mine? Let‘s here it. Here is the Double G Sports AllFemale Celebrity Football Team: QB – Jennie Finch. Because she is a softball pitcher, Finch has the arm strength. She is also one of the most athletic players on the team. A versatile QB, think Vick with better accuracy. She even looks the part of a star QB. At 6‘1 she will not have any problems seeing over the offensive line. RB – Alicia Sacramone. The gymnast is perfect for this spot due to her extremely strong legs and athleticism. She is a very flexible and shift back. WR1 – Erin Andrews – Very tall and knows the game. Good with her hands from holding a microphone for a living. Her height is a big advantage. WR2 – Heidi Klum – Another tall receiver. Due to modeling experience she will be a great route runner. Good body control and hip action. WR3 – Carrie Underwood – With her small size, she is perfect for the slot receiver position. Has dated football and hockey players so they can teach her to take a hit over the middle. TE – Jennifer Lopez – Has the size and athleticism to be a dominant force from the tight end spot. Big, tall safety target for Finch in the passing game. DE – Jessica Simpson and Mariah Carey – Both ends have the size to battle in the trenches. Carey is likely the better athlete and she seems to shine in any situation. Simpson needs to stay in shape and find motivation to work hard. DT – Missy Elliot – Size and strength to play DT in the 3-4 defense. She will be the run stuffer. Tough lady that will not take crap from anyone. OLB – Beyonce and Laura Vandervoort – Beyonce is the defensive captain and just dominant. She brings the game consistently. Power and speed is her game. Dominant 117

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pass rusher. Vandervoort on the other side is a very athletic linebacker that can run sideline to sideline. Has the ability to cover if needed. Very tough as she is a 2nd degree black belt. MLB – Britney Spears and Meghan Fox – Spears needs to stay motivated but is an athletic linebacker and can turn on a dime. Fox is a take no prisoners type. The duo is dangerous because they can play the run as well as drop back when needed. CB – Eva Longoria and Alicia Keys – Both corners have the skills to really cling on receivers. They bring style and flare to the defense. Keys loves the New York lifestyle, so playing here won‘t be an issue. Longoria loves to be in the spotlight. S – Heather Mitts and Gina Carano – Mitts is terrific in the open field due to her years as a soccer star. She has a knack for getting to the ball and the power to provide a hit. Carano is a beast and will punish the opposition if they try to come across the field. Opposing offenses will likely try to stay away from her. They are a terrific pair of safeties. K/P – Handling the kicking and punting duties is Hope Solo. The soccer star is a natural here and has the ability to control games with her legs. So, that is my team. Think you can beat us? Let‘s hear what team you can put together, but remember..its a combination of looks and skill that make us so dominant. All in the football spirit. Double G Sports Super Bowl predictions coming tomorrow.
Gregg Snyder Jr. is a big time NY/NJ sports fan. He started Double G Sports in 2009 as a way of letting his voice be heard. Since then, Double G Sports has grown and continues to grow with great new ideas on the horizon. Gregg's favorite teams are the Yankees, NY Giants, Knicks, and Rutgers.

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Cross Court: Weathering Through
By Ezra Padua PurpleAndGoldBlog.com

No, the Lakers aren't unbecoming. They're stumbling a bit, yes. But, two straight losses hardly qualify as signs of a dynasty crumbling.
But it's entertaining to see the people who think the Lakers' days as champions are numbered because two superstars and one highly underrated and overpaid power forward from Toronto got together are the very same people who can offer so many angles of why the Lakers are on a two-game losing streak but simply can't do the same as to why Miami are only two games above .500. This shouldn't be anything new to Laker fans. We've seen this many times before. The Lakers simply don't play the regular season the way they approach the post-season. Some say it's the work of their bad habit of sleeping through the season only to wake up in the playoffs while some argue that the Lakers are a great team but they are their own worst enemies. Same old clichés people use because quite frankly it's easier to comprehend the Lakers this way than actually trying to, well, figure them out. People like to talk about how ugly the Lakers have been losing, but neglect to see that they've been winning ugly since the start of the season. In fact, their victory over Portland last week was the first game they played as a whole so far in this young season. As good as the Lakers are they still need some room to stretch out and time to get everybody caught up on the same page. Remember, the Laker bench has three new faces; Phil Jackson is still tinkering with his rotations; Kobe Bryant is still not his usual self even if his knee has never felt better; and Andrew Bynum's absence is giving Pau Gasol extra time out of his position. Yes, as talented and as long as Pau is he is not a true center in this league. Don't get me wrong. He can play the position but in smaller doses. He just doesn't have the body and necessary strength to bang with the bulkier centers full-time an entire season and expect to maintain an All-Star level of production each quarter of every game. It won't happen. So what exactly is going on with the Lakers right now? Well, they lost two games. I hate to put it bluntly, but these things happen all the time in the NBA. No team, including the two-time defending champs, are immune to it. But it certainly make for some drama 119

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when certain members of the media try to sell the idea that there is something bigger in the works. The Lakers are the champs, but they're far from being perfect. What team is? The real issue here is if the Lakers will be able to do it all over again in June. No one, including the Lakers themselves, can answer that this early in the season, and I'm not about to speculate how many games they'll win this season or if they'll break that certain Bulls record set in 1996. That will just lead to unnecessary expectations and silly frustrations later down the road. The last two games certainly made it look like the team is having trouble keeping up with a smaller lineup. But if you really watch how the Lakers went about their defense in those two losses, you'll notice that they didn't communicate, didn't switch on screen-and-rolls, didn't protect the areas on the court they really need to; and didn't really pay attention to what the offense is doing until it was too late. But look who they lost to and what those team had to do to beat the Lakers. The Nuggets at the Pepsi Center had always been tough playing against in the regular season. Nothing new there. But, Denver needed their bench to pick them up. Ty Lawson and rookie Gary Forbes looked unstoppable because they're simply quicker on the open court than any Laker guard defending them. Add to the fact that the Laker interior defense was nowhere to be found in the 4th quarter, and any team probably would've done the same. And how about that Phoenix game? The Suns had to make 22 three-pointers to beat the Lakers but still couldn't guarantee a win because as good as they played on offense their lack of size against the Lakers never went away defensively. Hadn't the Lakers focused sooner or if Lamar Odom hadn't been called for that silly technical foul, maybe we'd be talking about something else right now. However, let's see how the Lakers prepare themselves in this short 3-game road trip through the east. Their mentality is usually sharper away from Staples Center because teams tend to play better against them in the comfort of their home. Let's look at the adjustments the players and Phil will make and how they'll apply those changes. Personally, I'm more curious what happens after the Lakers come home for two straight games against the Warriors and the Bulls. Will they take the season a little more serious or will they continue with their disappearing act a little longer? EzraPadua runs The Purple And Gold Blog (TPGBlog), which offers views of a die-hard Laker Fan. 120

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Heisman Thoughts: Cam Newton and Cecil Newton
By Michael Felder InTheBleachers.net

This entire saga really got rolling on Tuesday as Bruce Feldman among others reported that Cecil Newton was on the list of folks Auburn submitted as probable Heisman Trophy attendees. Then we saw columns like this one from Scarbinsky pop up as people took their stance against Cecil Newton.
It all came to a head Thursday before the Home Depot College Football Awards as ESPN released their Cam Newton interview and word leaked that Cecil Newton was not going to attend the Heisman presentation (here's Cecil's official release). So congrats folks. Pat yourselves on the back. Seriously. Good job. You won. You really did. You just won the small victory you were hoping for since you didn't get the "Cam is ineligible" Holy Grail you were dreaming about. I really hope you're happy, because you won. What'd you win? -You won in taking away a special moment from Cam Newton. -You won that sense of satisfaction I'm sure you're relishing in "punishing" Cecil Newton for his wrong doing. -You won the right to keep making your tired old "I guess $200,000 ..." jokes. Awesome. Cecil Newton looking for cash, for whatever reason it is, on the back of his son is not good parenting. In fact it is bad parenting. Real bad. Let's get that all out now because I don't think there's a soul out there who is going to disagree with that point. But folks this isn't about whether or not Cecil did something wrong. This isn't about how you feel towards the ruling. It isn't about if you hate the SEC or Auburn or Cam Newton. It isn't even about whether or not you think Cecil was wrong OR what "degree" of wrong you would place this at in the spectrum of wrong doing. It's not about any of the justifications that you can use to make your grandiose statements on decorum or "what you hope would have happened" or "what should have happened" in this situation. It's not about you. It's not about me. It's not even about Auburn or the SEC or college football in general. This is simple. This is about a boy and his dad. Cam Newton and 121

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Cecil Newton. A father and a son. More importantly it is a son that still very much loves his father. A son who trusted his dad so much that he let him make his college decision for him. A son that clearly still believes in his dad and most importantly is not ashamed or afraid to make it known publicly that he still "unconditionally" loves his father, Cecil Newton. Perhaps if it was Cecil Fielder who was attempting to force his way into his son's big moment I could understand wanting the father to stay away. However, that's not what we have here. We've got a dad who screwed up in a bad, bad way. We've got a son who has had this play out publicly but still loves his father. We've got the biggest award a young man in the world of college football can possibly receive. And we've got a dad that cannot attend. Not because the son doesn't want him there. Not because he doesn't want to be there. Not because of family issues or a time conflict with work or the inability to go financially. Nope. Cecil Newton isn't able to go because the heat is too hot. Because just his presence might draw attention away from Cam Newton's special moment. But how? He's just a dad who is going to sit there in the crowd the way every other dad of every other Heisman winner has sat there. Likely holding his wife's hand. Clapping at the right times. Standing at the right times. Seeing his son walk up on stage to lift that 25 lbs piece of hardware. Perhaps even tearing up should something touch his heart. No other dad has been "too much of a distraction" to attend the ceremony. The pops all do the mini-interview during the night and things run smoothly, so why is Cecil any different? Oh yeah, the controversy. The NCAA ruling. The amount of people who are so butthurt by it all that they have this burning desire to take a special moment for Cam, the uncontested Heisman Trophy favorite, and make it about their "quest for answers" instead of about the kid. Yes, I'm whining to a point. I find it to be pathetic that so many people place their own "we need to really push this" agenda ahead of enjoying watching a 21 year old young man enjoy his moment in the limelight. It isn't about you. This is about Cam and the rest of the Heisman finalists. This is for them and their families. We get to look into their night through the window of television but this isn't about us. If Cam loves his dad the way he says then this has got to hurt. Knowing the man who has been at all of your games, watched you tear up high school fields all over the Atlanta area, the man who sat in the stands knowing you weren't going to play meaningful minutes at Florida can't be there because of the public's agenda has to suck outloud. Perhaps you'll say "Cecil Newton brought it upon himself when he shopped his son 122

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around to Mississippi State." One the most basic level you're right. Cecil Newton's actions did create the controversy. However, I go back to who is actually affected. If Cam, the person who is the most affected by this entire ordeal, can love his father and wants him there shouldn't that be enough? How is it that people who are wholly unaffected by this are more adamant about Cecil not attending than folks at Auburn or the Newton family? Cecil Newton is a husband, a father but at his core he is a man. Man is fallible, Cecil Newton proves this through his actions. He made a terrible decision, a decision that could have stopped his son from reaching his goals, a decision that ultimately could have been a lot worse if the dominoes had fallen another way.

Now maybe your dad is perfect. Maybe you are the person with a dad who made all of the right moves. The dad who didn't work too much but still earned enough to give you all wanted and needed. Maybe you had the dad that didn't travel too much on business but still was great at his job. The dad who didn't drink, didn't smoke, didn't gamble, who wasn't a slave driver but who also wasn't too lenient. The dad who never made a mistake. The dad who never screwed up. I didn't have "that" dad. My dad wasn't perfect. Maybe that's why I can't identify with all of you who had the perfect father who never did anything wrong who feel like your opinion on Cecil Newton matters more than Cam's. I personally can't identify with making Cecil Newton a bigger story than Cam winning one of the most coveted awards in all of sports just because you think it should be. I can identify with Cam Newton though and not just because we're part of the little ear brotherhood. I can identify with being frustrated, angry, disappointed and perplexed by your father but in the end knowing that you love that man. Regardless of the mistakes and errors in judgement my dad has made I'm still proud to be Michael Felder Jr. I still love my father. Before you go into the "yeah but your dad never shopped you around for $200,000" let's be clear. Much like I don't know what your dad has done, you don't know what my father has. Some folks dad's have done less. Some folks dad's have done more. This isn't about 123

Cecil Newton is a husband, a father but at his core he is a man. Man is fallible, Cecil Newton proves this through his actions. He made a terrible decision, a decision that could have stopped his son from reaching his goals…

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putting a grade on what it is "okay" to forgive a father for. Everyone's threshold is different. My brother and I handled the same situation differently so how in the hell can you expect Richie from Portland or Karen from Dallas or Jim from Boston to handle the situation the same as Cam Newton from College Park? The point ultimately is, this is an award ceremony. That means it is about the participants not the audience. If Cam loves his father and wants him to be there that should be enough. I cannot imagine winning anything and my father not being there. He's the guy who drove around town to make sure I got signed up for football as an elementary school kid. He's the guy who drove across town to get me the Air Attack 2 bat that I wanted. He's the guy who sprinted through an airport to catch an earlier flight to make it home from a conference to tell me good luck before a regular season high school football game. He's the guy that still tears up thinking about hearing Woody Durham call my name out as a UNC freshman for "Meet the Heels Day." My dad has made his mistakes but he's still my dad. It doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks of him because quite frankly I don't give a damn. I love him, he's my dad. Cecil is Cam's father. It doesn't really matter what any of you all think because that's his dad. It doesn't matter what you feel about Cecil or how you would react to his actions if they happened to you because they didn't. They happened to Cam. If he loves his dad that's all that should matter. If he wants to enjoy his special moment with his father that's all that should matter. And if you don't think having your father there matters check this out: I'm 26 years old. I see my dad maybe once a month or so mainly because we live in the same city. That said, I still call or text my dad every single Friday at 4:10 before I do Fox Sports 730 so he'll listen. I still ask my dad what he thought about the articles I write. I still send my dad links to guest radio spots or appearances that I've done because even at 26, even after everything we've been through my dad is still my biggest fan and that matters to me. I think that matters to Cam Newton too. Michael Felder writes for the In The Bleachers College Football Blog. Follow In The Bleachers on Twitter @inthebleachers.

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Maybe We Should, But Cleveland Will Never Forgive LeBron
By Jason Marlo Sidepoints.com

I’m a Clevelander. I was born 28 years ago in Cleveland. For all but a handful of the days in these past 28 years, I have been a short twenty minute car ride from the city. I have also been a short twenty minute car ride from the city of Akron, home of LeBron James.
Cleveland is normally only mentioned as a desolate place where only the most hopeless would care to live and no one in their right mind would care to venture. Media one-liner by media one-liner, Cleveland takes a beating. The jokes are easy: ―Cleveland is so dirty the rivers catch on fire.‖ ―How do you keep a Cleveland Brown out of your yard? Paint an endzone on the lawn.‖ Even Clevelanders mock Cleveland as is the case in the admittedly hilarious ―Cleveland Tourism Videos‖ linked below. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysmLA5TqbIY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZzgAjjuqZM Cleveland is a proud town. Cleveland is also a struggling town. Faulty leadership has led this ones booming Midwest metropolis astray and anyone around during the downfall was caught in the crossfire. Businesses are rapidly moving outside city limits if not out of the area altogether. There are sections of town where even police officers are afraid to go. Most concerning is that young professionals are leaving the area at alarming rates. One such professional that left town is LeBron James. James, like so many other promising talents from the Cleveland area chose to hop on the first thing smoking out of here. In his case he ―took his talents to South Beach.‖ Sure, James has different talents than the up-and-coming marketing gurus, computer engineers or other rising star professionals that choose to flee the city, but it‘s the same situation. So why then, should Clevelanders be mad at him for moving on to supposedly greener pastures when those all around them are doing just that? The difference is that LeBron wasn‘t just fleeing a city in distress, he was the city, and he had a chance and the ability to singlehandedly make it great again.

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LeBron likes to pretend that he‘s just a little kid from Akron. On one hand, it‘s hard to argue that he isn‘t. It‘s been said that the age at which celebrities achieve fame is the mental age that they stay for the rest of their lives. In LeBron‘s case, he was gracing Cleveland newspaper covers before he could drive. Is LeBron really a 14 year old in a 25 year-old body chiseled out of granite? I can‘t make a definitive argument that he isn‘t. That said, would four generations of Clevelanders hold a 14 year-old accountable for the continued downfall of a city? Can we, as Clevelanders really be mad that a 14 year-old wants to go hang out on the beach with his buddies? If you answer no, you probably aren‘t from Cleveland, and more obviously don‘t understand the mind of a Cleveland fan. Boston fans caught the heart of the nation when they were ―struggling‖ through the Red Sox World Series drought. They spoke of Buckner and the curse as if the 17 Celtics Championships, 3 Patriots Super Bowls and 5 Bruins Stanley Cups never happened. Chicago gets the same media treatment with the Cubs. Reporters write heartwarming stories about how this year, whichever it may be, just may be the year. They speak of the heartbreaks, the pain, and the disappointment of the Chicago fan as if the Bulls 6 Titles, Blackhawks Stanley Cups, and the fact that they had one of the greatest football teams ever assembled in the ‘85 Bears slipped their mind. I understand that Cubs fans and White Sox fans get along about as well as Met fans and Yankee fans, but the Sox World Series win was still a win for the city. It‘s been 46 years since Cleveland has won any type of major sports championship. Cleveland has fumbled away chances, allowed 98 yard drives, watched Art Modell move their team out of the city and win a Super Bowl. Cleveland was a Jose Mesa blown save and Tony Fernandez error away from a World Series title. They suffered through ―The Shot,‖ sad idly by as Bill Belichick became one of the greatest coaches of all time, after leaving Cleveland of course.. On and on the disasters go…it has gotten to the point where even the most fervent of Cleveland sports fan just shake their head and let out a despondent ―OIC‖ whenever something truly Cleveland happens. OIC is the unofficial Cleveland sports motto, it means ―Only in Cleveland,‖ and if you think it‘s a tad overdramatic, you must be in the overwhelming majority who flips the channel when a Cleveland highlight comes on. Truth be told, I, like every sports fan, have teams that I pull for to succeed. They aren‘t all based in Cleveland; most are, but all aren‘t. I try to keep things in perspective and see things on the grand scheme rather than get sucked into the secular landscape. I don‘t think that ―God hates Cleveland‖ like so many of those in the area do, nor do I think that the city is cursed or doomed to an eternity of bad fortune. I think that you make your own fortune and create your own successes, but with the way things have gone for the last few generations, I can‘t fault anyone who believes otherwise.

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LeBron was supposed to be the savior of the city. He was glossed the ―Chosen One‖, well truthfully he glossed himself the ―Chosen One‖, tattooed it on his back and everyone else tagged along. It was apparent that he knew how much he meant to the city and repeatedly slapped the fans in the face on any public stage possible. During the Indians playoff run in 2007, he showed up to Progressive Field proudly displaying Yankees gear. When the Browns played the Cowboys he hung out on the Dallas sidelines in Cowboys garb and didn‘t bother to acknowledge the fact that the Browns were even on the field. He has even gone so far as to publically announce that as a kid he ―hated Cleveland‖ and there are ―a lot of people in Cleveland he still hates to this day.‖ His rationale that ―Clevelanders were bigger-city kids that looked down on (those in Akron)‖ is complete garbage. Clevelanders don‘t look down on Akron; Clevelanders don‘t look down on any city, well except maybe Detroit. Pittsburgh used to be in the conversation, but most Browns fans I know wish they were born in Pittsburgh instead of hard-luck Cleveland, that‘s how bad it has gotten. Clevelanders shouldn‘t be surprised that he left, but we are, I am. Even on the day that ―The Decision‖ was to be staged and reports were buzzing that LeBron to Miami was a ―done deal‖ we still didn‘t believe it. Then came the moment: we watched, we rewound, we re-watched, we sat staring blankly at the television screen, we looked up, looked back, and we just sat. All in one moment Cleveland was shattered, scorned, stabbed in the back, embarrassed, and any other adjective to describe the feeling of pain that comes from something out of your control. Cleveland was numb. In one sentence, generations of Cleveland fans were taken back to the great failures of the past. In LA or Boston or Chicago riots would‘ve gone on for days, but not in Cleveland. Cleveland was greeted again by that utter emptiness inside as if it were an old friend. We shouldn‘t be surprised because LeBron is, and always has been, a frontrunner. To see that clearly, all you have to do is take a quick look at his favorite teams during his youth in the 90‘s. The Cowboys, The Yankees, The Bulls: 12 titles between them. I don‘t know if LeBron likes hockey, but I‘m guessing that he doesn‘t; there were no dynasties during the 90s. He likes to tell everyone that he‘s a leader. There is one problem with that: if you have to tell everyone that you are a leader, you aren‘t. Leaders make everyone around them better. Jordan elevated the games of everyone around him. Go through the list: Kerr, Paxson, Grant, Pippen, Cartwright… Who did LeBron make better? Whose game did he elevate? Certainly not Boozer, Gooden, Hughes, Mo Williams, Varejao, Shaq or any of the countless others the Cavs put around him. Each of those players is much better with him not on the court. A team without him will probably win fewer games, but the players themselves will be better players without him. Imagine working with the CEO of your company watching you all day long. That‘s what it‘s like when LeBron is on the court. Leaders form bonds and inspire through those bonds. They create an environment where people want to succeed for you more than for themselves. They 127

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accept blame. When things go badly they don‘t single out everyone else‘s mistakes. Think about LeBron, his actions, his demeanor, his number changing, his comments, the writing was right there on the wall in plain sight. Clevelander‘s just didn‘t want to see it. He wasn‘t always this way though. I met him socially in his younger years on a couple occasions through a friend. He wouldn‘t know me more than he would know a stranger in a strange land, but one thing was apparent, the personality transformation that I witnessed was almost as instant as it was astonishing. Something happened from his sophomore to his junior year at St. Vincent-St.Mary that turned him from a regular, polite 16 year old to a 17 year old egomaniac. Maybe it was Sonny Vaccaro hanging around. Maybe it was ESPN showcasing him. Maybe it was the thousands of people telling him how great he was. Whatever it was, in his mind, he went from everybody‘s equal to their superior faster than you could say ―King James.‖ He went from laid-back with a mellow demeanor, to, in his own words ―a big-headed jerk‖ that walked into parties exclaiming: ―Who‘s going to f*** me tonight?‖ In LeBron fashion, he doesn‘t take responsibility for the transformation. Instead he pushes the blame on ―adults who treated him (like royalty) and then sat back and smugly watched the self-destruction.‖ That brings us to the present: December 2nd. LeBron James‘ first game back in the city that he once owned; the city that he turned his back on. The city and surrounding areas filled with millions of people united by a common bond: hatred of their one-time hero. I honestly don‘t know what is going to happen tonight, nobody does, and that‘s what makes it scary. It will be ugly, but exactly how ugly remains to be seen. In this case, as opposed to other sports riots, the majority of the sports-loving population will understand. They understand that the hometown kid not only spit in the face of his city, but he also kicked dirt on them after. His comments bleed arrogance and naivety. He thinks that a city with 46 years of pent up pain, anger, and disappointment can just ―get over it.‖ This game may be the most anticipated meaningless game in professional sports history, but in Cleveland it‘s far from meaningless. This is bigger than the game, this is about civic pride, years of unrequited love, and most of all, revenge. I would set the over/under for number of incident related game stoppages at 2 and take the over. If the game ended in a forfeit it wouldn‘t shock me, after all it wouldn‘t be the first time for Cleveland. LeBron James will be long gone from this Earth before Cleveland takes heed to his suggestion and ―gets over it.‖ Sometimes forgive and forget is the best way to handle a situation, but with the sports history of Cleveland, this town will never forgive nor forget.
Sidepoints.com is the brainchild of Jason Marlo with a lot of positive inspiration and feedback from family and friends. This is where I share many of my thoughts, analysis, and opinions about anything sports, and occasionally other topics that I find interesting.

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All In For The Celtics And I Love It! Not Quite The Same Can Be Said For The Phillies
By Jason Zenowich ZenosSportsbar.com

The Boston Celtics are tied right now 2-2 with the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals and you have to love the decisions that management has made over the course of the last few years.
First, the trade for a disgruntled Kevin Garnett for Al Jefferson (and the right to Theo Ratliff‘s expiring contract). Second, the trade for the underappreciated Ray Allen for the number 5 pick in the 2007 draft, which turned out to be Jeff Green. True, Al Jefferson will be a possible double-double guy every night out (even with his blown ACL) and Jeff Green is going to be great with the up and coming Thunder, but you have to love both of these trades. And so the Big 3 was formed. Add to this the intelligent Rondo extension, the re-signing of Big Baby, not trading Ray Allen, and the acquisition of Nate Robinson and the Celts are very much in the mix for a second title in 3 years. It could be argued that the Celtics organization would have been happy with just one championship in 2008. However, one has to think that things would have been very different in the Eastern Conference last year if the team would have stayed healthy all year long. Like Doc Rivers said, ―This starting five has never lost a series, ever!‖ Basketball is now relevant again in Boston. SportCenter commercials abound and people are now not only wearing Red Sox jerseys in Boston. The Celtics bet it all and no one can argue that it hasn‘t paid off big time. The Philadelphia Phillies, on the other hand, did exactly the opposite. After trading for Roy Halladay, the Phils immediately traded Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners for prospects. All it would have cost them to keep him in Philadelphia for the year would have been $9 million. I know they knew that Lee wanted to test the free agent market and that the team wanted to replenish its prospects, but this was a dumb move. I also know that the landscape of baseball is very different from that of basketball. In baseball, prospects are much more valuable. Regardless I would go with a 1-2-3 pitching combo of Halladay, Lee & Hamels in this years playoffs any day of the week.

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Let‘s say for fun that the Phillies do make it back to the World Series and have to face the Yankees again. Last year Cliff Lee made the Yankees look like a pee-wee team. It is almost impossible to think that Halladay would be able to do better than Lee in the WS. If a healthy Cliff Lee is on that Philly team with Halladay, I am putting all of my money on Philly to beat whoever comes out of the American League whether it be the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays or whoever. Two titles in three years makes you a mini-dynasty during this day and age. It would have been worth it to go for it this year. No matter what!
Jason Zenowich is a sports enthusiast who enjoys discussing and analyzing all sports.

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Letters From Jeff
By John Coppinger MetstradamusBlog.com

Well, it's Monday. And that probably means another e-mail from the Wilpons is on the horizon. The updates from Jeff promise to be boring and useless.
Or do they? This should hit your inbox sometime early Tuesday, October 26th ... Dear Mets Fans: Yesterday, the New York Mets brought back Josh Byrnes for his second interview with Fred, Saul, and me for the position of General Manager. We asked Josh some pressing questions regarding his vision for the New York Mets. As you can guess, Byrnes was extremely impressive. We love Byrnes' youth and energy. Fred and I broke the ice by talking about young people things like MTV and the latest Jackass 3D movie (stay tuned for a special promotion where the Mets will give away special glasses at the Citi Field gates so you can watch the Mets live in 3D). Saul tried to make him feel at home by calling him "dude". I'm not sure that Josh understood the effort that went into having a man named Saul say the word "dude" and not feel about 30 years older than he already is. Byrnes brought up the use of sabermetrics to help him effectively do his job. If Byrnes is hired, you can rest assure that the New York Mets organization will provide Byrnes with all the necessary tools to perform this advanced sabermetrics, starting with a compass and protractor. The Mets will even provide cases for each so Josh doesn't constantly stick holes in his leg. We will continue to provide updates on our search for a new GM in the coming days. Sincerely, Jeff Wilpon COO

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Wednesday, October 27th ... Dear Mets Fans: Today, the New York Mets brought back Sandy Alderson for his second interview with Fred, Saul, and me for the position of General Manager. We gave him a tour of Citi Field, which we felt was necessary with the lack of air time our palace has gotten on national television, for obvious reasons. We wanted to see how Mr. Alderson can navigate the area in right field in case he needs to escape the hoards of New York media who want to ask him about a completely hypothetical incident regarding the closer. Afterwards, we took Mr. Alderson to the Acela Club for pierogies and burgers. There was an awkward moment where the waitress presented us with the check and I looked to see whether Mr. Alderson would offer to pick it up. He looked at Fred and I with a steely resolve which said "If you think I'm going to just spend money for sake of spending money, you had better think again." I think I may be in love. We will continue to provide updates on our search for a new GM in the coming days. Sincerely, Jeff Wilpon

Thursday, October 28th ... Dear Mets Fans: The Mets are still deciding who will get the job as our next General Manager. Fred and Saul have informed me that a team called the Texas Rangers are currently playing in the World Series. The Mets wish them well, and you can take comfort in the fact that the club will, once a GM is named, do everything in its power to explore the rosters of quality teams like the Rangers to help the Mets in the near future. For example, this kid named Francoeur looks pretty good. And I'm told his smile can light up a room. We look forward to sharing more information with you soon, and continue to search high and low for players who smile. Sincerely, Jeff Wilpon

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Friday, October 29th ... Dear Mets Fans: The Mets search for a General Manager continues. Fred, Saul, and I are currently going back and forth between our final two candidates. My advisors have informed me that some of you Mets fans in the focus groups think it's disturbing that I refer to my father as "Fred". The organization will conduct a full investigation, and then investigate the investigation as to why I refer to my father by his first name. Then we will pick a General Manager. (Coincidentally, Sandy Alderson has asked for language in his contract that requires me to call him "my daddy". We will conduct an investigation into the feasibility of this concept.) We will continue to provide updates on our search for a new GM, and why I refer to my father by his given name, in the coming days. Sincerely, Jeff Wilpon

Monday, November 14th ... Dear Mets Fans: We're nearing a decision. Seriously, we are. And we thank all of you for showing patience and you will be rewarded with better seats, lower prices, and 20% more special sauce per Shake Shack burger. Our fans are our top priority. Really, you are. I wish that I could bring all of you to the Acela Club with me for pierogies and burgers at reduced prices. Make your reservations for the upcoming season today. We will continue to provide updates on our search for a new GM, and will decide on new ingredients for the pierogie sauce in the coming days. Sincerely, Jeff Wilpon

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Finally, on Sunday, December 12th ... Dear Mets Fans: Okay, so we can't decide. Fred, Saul and I have been sitting in a dark, cramped, four-star hotel uptown for the last month trying to make a decision, with only luxurious room service to provide sustenance. But we can't do it. Both candidates are just so extremely impressive and are full of awesomeness. But as we are solution oriented, we believe we've come up with the best way to settle this decision once and for all: The New York Mets are going to have Byrnes and Alderson fight to the death in a special match to take place in Citi Field on Christmas Eve. The winner of the duel will be the General Manager. The loser, depending on just how dead he is, will be my special assistant. Tickets go on sale to the general public tomorrow at 10AM. We're pleased to announce that Billy Joel will sing the national anthem, and DVD's of the performance will be on sale at the Alyssa Milano Touch Boutique on your way out. Also, the special guest referee will be Angel Hernandez. If all goes well, there will be a subsequent death match which will feature Oliver Perez and a grizzly bear on Valentine's Day, where the bear ... er, I mean the winner will be the Mets fifth starter and will attempt to void the remainder of Francisco Rodriguez's contract by using his large paws to scare the dickens out of Rodriguez. Of course, provided the bear wins. The Mets look forward to bringing you quality entertainment such as this starting on Christmas Eve, and continuing throughout the baseball season. Remember, better seats, lower prices, and death matches in 2011. Sincerely, Jeff Wilpon COO/Death Match Promoter
Mets fans blast John Coppinger for being too optimistic. Other Mets fans blast him for being too pessimistic. Yankee fans blast him for fun. As Coppinger puts it, “It’s tough to be a Met fan sometimes ...OK all the time.”

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Magic trade with Suns and Wizards
By John Whitaker YourDailySportsInfo.blogspot.com

The Magic traded for several new players to try and compete with the Celtics, the Heats and the Bulls in the East. The Magic traded forward Rashard Lewis to the Wizards in exchange for guard Gilbert Arenas.
They then traded Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, and a first round draft pick in the 2011 draft to the Suns for Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, and a young forward in Earl Clark. Here are the benefits for each team: Wizards: With the departure of Arenas from Washington the Wizards become John Wall's team. The Wizards are looking towards the future and they want their first overall pick to be the leader of the rebirth. Rashard Lewis is also a young player that can spread the ball around, open up space for Wall, he's tall and athletic so he can drive but he can also shoot the lights out from anywhere on the floor. Suns: The Sun's get a solid center in Marcin Gortat that they have been looking for since Shaq. Gortat is also mobile and can keep up with the Sun's fast break offense. Pietrus adds a great defensive presence for the Sun's and is also a guy that can make shots from the outside. Vince Carter is their big pickup. Carter is a player who is aging but can still drive and finish but also has a nice jump shot. He can elevate over almost anyone. Magic: The Magic get two premier scorers in Arenas and Richardson, a solid shooter who thrived in the Magic's offense and a young athletic forward. Arenas is a pure scorer who scores from just about anywhere but this season he has also turned into a solid passer. Jason Richardson is having one of his best season's with the departure of Amare Stoudemire. Richardson is averaging just under 20 points a game (19.3) and is shooting 47% from the field. Hedo Turkoglu flourished in the Magic's offense two years ago and especially in their playoff run but has since died off as a scorer. The Magic hope that Hedo will again flourish in their system. Earl Clark is a second year player out of Louisville who has gotten limited playing time but if he becomes more physical he can become a solid small forward. The Magic also got rid of the 2nd highest paid player in the NBA in Rashard Lewis. John Whitaker is an amateur sports blogger who is trying to fill you in with sports updates and insights on the sports world. Follow him at @dailysportsinfo. 135

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Thinking Man's Take on the McNabb Contract
Jon Kelman DCLandingstrip.blogspot.com

A loss like that almost makes you forget that the Skins made a franchise-altering decision by giving Donovan McNabb an extension. But really, this contract holds much greater importance for the franchise than Michael Vick looking like Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl.
Unfortunately for us long suffering fans, this decision is an absolutely awful one, and a reflection that past mistakes are continuing. The idiocy behind this decision goes way deeper than money. First, I want go back to this summer, when the Skins decided to drop Jason Campbell and trade for McNabb. The Skins stubborn refusal to rebuild seemed poised to change with a new GM and Coach, but as we all know, there is something in the water around Ashburn...and by something in the water I mean Dan Snyder's kool-aid. The Skins were 4-12, low on draft picks and in obvious of an absolute teardown. Instead? The team decided to trade a 2nd and what I believe will be a 4th round pick for a 33 yearold quarterback who ranked as very mediocre last year. By Football Outsiders metrics, in 2009, McNabb ranked 20th on a per play basis and 16th in total production. By the less telling quarterback rating, McNabb ranked 12th last year. You can sell the leadership angle all you want, but 33 years old and mediocre with declining production is not a good idea. There is no rejuvenation machine. Meanwhile, the Skins already had a mediocre guy in JC. A 28 year old who in 2009 was 25th on a per play basis, 20th in total production, and 15th in QB rating. Campbell's 2009 numbers are worse than McNabb's, but he was playing with one of the worst supporting casts in the NFL. If you want to bring up McNabb's leadership, then you have to be open to the counter that Campbell might have more growth left in him than the average 28 year old QB, as someone whose literally had to learn a different offense for every of his football life since his freshman year at Auburn. I could go into some guestimating that Campbell and McNabb's respective performances last year were not very different, while Campbell was/is cheaper and younger. Fortunately, Football Outsiders decided to tackle this very subject the day before the 136

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McNabb deal was signed. For those of you without Insider, FO uses 'similarity scores' to find comparable players, and Campbell's 2007-2009 stretch shows a lot of players, "on the verge of something great, or at least prepared for multiyear stretches with high levels of performance." Meanwhile, McNabb's 2007-2009 compares to a bunch of guys who, "were about to see serious downturns in starting time and overall production." These are not 100% predictive measures, but strong indicators. As FO states, "Is McNabb headed for a similar downturn? Prorated to a 16-game schedule, his 2010 stats certainly indicate it." Yeah, we noticed. But wait, there's more: "The Redskins may have wished for the McNabb who came of age a decade ago, but again, it could be argued that they already had that player and let him go. When running similarity scores for McNabb's three-year period from 2002 through 2004 -- you know, the one that included three conference championships and ended in a Super Bowl -- the comparisons are even more interesting. Behind the Steve McNair of 2001, the second-closest comparison sticks out like a sore thumb: Jason Campbell, 2009."

―The Redskins may have wished for the McNabb who came of age a decade ago, but again, it could be argued that they already had that player and let him go.‖

Wow. It would have been nice to bring this to our attention 8 months ago. You get the impression though that FO's article could have been planted on Snyder's desk this Spring and it wouldn't have made a smidgen of difference. This is a prime example of the biggest problem with the Redskins in the Snyder era, and that is a refusal to rebuild with youth. It doesn't get more clear cut than the veteran McNabb blocking a younger Campbell. So Campbell may have been slightly worse, but to give up 2 high draft picks and take a 33 year old over a 28 year old is outrageous for a 4-12 team. That is why this contract's atrocity goes beyond the money. Furthermore, the one thing the the Redskins have done well over the years is manage the salary cap. This team has never really been inhibited in the ability to sign someone to a contract, and continually throws money around. The problem with this team has never been the execution in signing these guys, but rather the plan in going after veterans at the expense of youth and rebuilding. The money the Skins gave McNabb is indeed outrageously high for a player of his caliber, but it doesn't matter. 137

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What does matter is that we are committing to McNabb. I know the Skins have an out after this season, but you are kidding yourself if you think McNabb isn't going to be the starting Redskin QB for at least next season. As FO concludes, "This situation may not affect the Redskins in the long term; McNabb is scheduled to be a free agent after the 2010 season is done, and he may take his talents elsewhere in the offseason. But if the Redskins actually do succeed in signing McNabb to a long-term deal, past and present trends indicate that it could be a dangerous risk ... and that Campbell may have been the smarter choice all along." Even worse than being saddled with a bad QB when we had a better and cheaper option in-house, is what this deal shows about the franchise direction: the Redskins are again refusing to admit a mistake and rebuild. We never should have expected otherwise, as Jamie Mottram of MisterIrrelevant.com and Jack Kogod pointed out, 'The McNabb contract was the inevitable conclusion of the McNabb trade.' Admitting a mistake is difficult, especially in an organization with a high turnover rate, but the trade is a sunk cost and this floundering team should cut its losses. Not only is the rebuild delayed (I know, any chance of a rebuild under Snyder, ever, is optimistic), but as long as McNabb is the QB of this team, we will not be good; the Monday night loss underscored the state of the franchise. What this contract really means is that the next few years will continue to be excruciating if we are not already numb. Jon Kelman was unfortunately born into the agony of supporting DC sports teams. He is the Marketing Director of a small business and takes out the years of sports pain as an Editor for DC Landing Strip and Bullets Forever.

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Memo To Rockets: Patience Is A Virtue
Jordan Schultz SportsFanLive.com/10feethigh

The Houston Rockets have shown the NBA a lot of pride this year. Their resolve is both admirable and impressive. No Yao Ming? No problem. No Tracy McGrady? No problem. Not resigning their best defender? No problem.
With the job he's done, Rick Adelman deserves at least a percentage of the votes for NBA Coach of the Year. You want to talk about maximizing talent and playing hard -- the Rockets are the epitome of such a sentiment. Common thought is that Houston will immediately return to the top half of the Western Conference next season when fully healthy. After all, the return of Yao Ming is worth at least another 10-12 wins, right? Maybe so, but when the trading deadline hit February 18, the Rockets got a little -- okay, a lot -- overzealous when they traded away the expiring contract of McGrady as well as Carl Landry for Kevin Martin and Jordan Hill. As a result, the likelihood that Houston will find itself back in the postseason next year may be in serious jeopardy. McGrady's days as a scoring champ and elite shooting guard in the NBA are long gone. That, we can all agree on. So ridding themselves of him was the right play ... it's just that it was about five months too soon. T-Mac's long-awaited contract expiration date is finally almost here. After this season, the seven-time All-Star will be off the books and into the open market, where he will never see max deal money again. So why, you have to ask, didn't Houston just hold on for his deal to pleasantly expire? The easy defense to such a question is saying that by doing so, Houston wouldn't get anything in return. In theory, that's true; not re-signing a player clearly means you go empty handed. But in this case, going empty handed is a good thing. Check that -- it's a great thing. The summer free agency class of 2010 has been well documented as the greatest batch of free-agents ever. Forget the obvious guys like LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh -- what about Joe Johnson, David Lee, Manu Ginobili and Carlos Boozer? And if you want to play the waiting game, there's quite a splash in 2011 with a list that features Al Horford, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Jeff Green and the two biggest prizes, Kevin Durant and 139

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Carmelo Anthony. The expiring cap space from McGrady's contract is something any GM would gush over. It's like walking around with a golden ticket, available to cash in on anyone, anywhere. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has done a fine job assembling his team. Aaron Brooks is one of the best young point guards in the league, lockdown defender Trevor Ariza has the potential to be an All-Star, Luis Scola is a wonderfully gifted power forward, and Yao Ming is well, Yao Ming. Despite low expectations, this team has overachieved in the west, a conference that resembles murderer's row with its brutal string of quality teams 1-8. The Rockets' 38-38 record speaks to the brilliant coaching job by Adelman, as well as a general cohesiveness not common for such an unproven and injury-riddled ballclub. All that said, trading McGrady means a variety of problems await this franchise. With the cap expected to decrease in 2010 to somewhere in between $51-55 million, Houston will once again be forced to pay the luxury tax. Martin's deal doesn't expire until after the 2012-13 season, by which time the Rockets will have dished out over $40 million to him. Houston will almost assuredly re-sign Scola, whose contract expires this summer, which is the right move. However, Scola has Bird Rights, meaning Morey can bring him back and go over the cap -- good for Scola, but not good for Houston's everexpanding payroll. The oddity from Houston's perspective was trading away Carl Landry, a young and versatile power forward who has proven himself as a starter in this league, despite being a second-round pick in 2008. Landry is a quality defender who can score (16.7 points) and has a tremendous grasp on the game for such an unseasoned player. He's better and younger than Scola, who himself is a fine player as well. Gaining rookie Jordan Hill from New York helps combat the loss, but doesn't make up for it entirely. Hill has underachieved as last June's No. 8 overall pick, part of which can be attributed to Mike D'Antoni, who inexplicably couldn't find a spot for him in the lineup despite the Knicks' well-chronicled struggles. Hill is immature but nonetheless immensely talented. At a chiseled 6-10, he is very skilled and strong, capable of moving bodies on the glass and clogging the paint. The jury is still out, but giving up a proven player in Landry was a high price to pay. The most vital element to this trade, though was Kevin Martin, the high-octane scorer from Sacramento who came over to fill McGrady's salary chip. At his best, Martin is a 140

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wiry slasher capable of getting hot from the outside and going for 35 points. However, the 6-7 wing is as fragile as they come, in and out of the line-up with injuries far too often to be relied upon. In the six seasons as a pro, Martin has never once played all 82 games, and only once has he missed fewer than 21 games. The production is there -- he hasn't averaged fewer than 19.8 since his second year in the league -- but then again, he's spent the bulk of his career playing for mediocre Kings teams bereft of any other go-to scoring options. Only once has he been to the playoffs, so you really don't know how he'll handle pressure situations. And you can't draw from college because he played at D-2 Western Carolina where he flat out dominated marginal competition. Since coming over, Martin has done what Martin does: score and miss games. In 18 games with the Rockets, he has averaged 21 points and converted from the line at his usually high 86 percent clip. That's the good with Martin. The bad? He has already missed five games due to a bum shoulder, and at some point you have to wonder at what costs does his scoring have? He doesn't pass the ball at all (under 2 assists for his career), is a below-average defender, and is shooting under 43 percent from the floor since his arrival. The Rockets are just 9-11 with him in the line-up and playing some of their worst basketball of the season. Despite his offensive prowess and obvious production (career average of 17.3 points on 11.6 FGA), it is Martin's individualistic brand of play that makes him the wrong choice in Houston. Often, his bundle of isolation plays and forced shots take Houston out of its offensive sets, which is especially important when you consider the precision that Adelman runs his offense with. For now, this may not seem like a big deal. The Rockets really don't have another true scorer on the wing (sorry Trevor Ariza), and certainly aren't making the playoffs. But when Yao does return, will Martin have the ability to alter his game enough to allow Houston the opportunity to go through it's center, as it has succesfully done for so long? Whether it's through the high post, on the block, or the pick-and-roll with Brooks, Yao is the focal point. For most of his career, Martin has been the No. 1 option on a bad team. He has had free reign of the offense, without the impediment of a better teammate or a balanced offense. And just as importantly, he has never had a top flight big man or an inside-out offense, as will be the case with Ming in Houston. McGrady's struggles with Yao were of the same element. He didn't know how to play second fiddle, and often looked lost or disappeared in the half court, deferring to Yao far too often and failing to understand how to use such a valuable weapon to his advantage.

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All of this means there is reason for pessimism in Houston right now. The Rockets have won just one playoff series in 13 years, which ironically (or perhaps not) came without McGrady. Taking on Jared Jeffries' contract may prove to be a colossal mistake, as well. New York wouldn't act unless they could dump Jeffries. That was a major priority for GM Donnie Walsh and understandably so. Jeffries will undoubtedly renew his player option next season, netting him another $6.8 million and leaving the Rockets front office with little-to-zero financial flexibility. This summer was supposed to be the time to go out and get better. Much speculation has been made about the condition of Yao's foot. With the beating his body has taken both from other players and from his sheer size, asking how much more he has left is a feasible question. Yao has a player option after this year, meaning he could terminate his deal and become an unrestricted freeagent. This is doubtful, though. Yao appears happy in Houston, with an offense run entirely through him. Even so, it's yet another worry for the Rockets front office.

With the beating his body has taken both from other players and from his sheer size, asking how much more (Yao) has left is a feasible question.

Whether Houston becomes a championship contender remains to be seen. The west is very good right now, and only getting better with the influx of the Oklahoma City Thunder and resurgence of Dallas. Morey was in a great spot to go out and get a premier talent this summer had he held off on the McGrady deal. Picking up a player like David Lee or a stopper like Matt Barnes would have served this team far better than Martin, who will be on the books through 2013. Signing Barnes to a likely one-year deal would provide Morey the financial flexibility to once again be aggressive in 2011, while the combination of Lee, Scola and Yao would be remarkable in the frontcourt, and provide an opportunity to get more value for Landry if a trade was necessary. Simply put, both Barnes and Lee are better fits than Martin. Barnes is a defensive wizard also capable of hitting the three. He is a tough player who could essentially replace the aging Shane Battier and help Trevor Ariza on the perimeter at both ends of the floor. While Martin is said to be a bit of a locker room issue, Barnes is the injection of grit Houston has lacked since Artest left. Most importantly, you could get Barnes for half the price. Lee is having his best season yet, averaging 20 and 12 in New York, proving to be a relentless rebounder and reliable passing threat with nearly four assists per game. That would compliment Yao very well, who is also a terrific passer out of both the double142

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team and the high post. The bottom line is that Kevin Martin is a nice piece to the puzzle when you already have most of the puzzle filled, but adding a fragile scorer as your No. 2 option is not the right move. If you couldn't win with McGrady during his prime (hands down better than a 27year-old Martin), than you won't win now. Morey should have spent his money the right way on the talent available this summer as the market embarks on the ultimate apex of free agency. As alluded to, the Rockets have a nice pod of players moving forward in Yao (assuming he stays), Brooks, Scola, Martin, Hill, and the two No. 1 draft picks (2011 and 2012) they got from New York in the three-team trade with the Kings. But when you're in a conference featuring Kobe and the Lakers, Melo and the Nuggets, Durant and the Thunder, along with Dirk and the Mavs, this is just not a team that scares anybody in the west. The old sayings that "patience is a virtue" and "good things come to those who wait" are both trite and repetitive, but I can't think of a better time than now to use them.
Jordan Schultz was born near the echoes of Husky Stadium, where he enjoyed late-night outdoor basketball in the vintage Seattle mist while providing his own Dick Vitale soundtrack, thus waking dismayed neighbors. He developed into a 2nd Team All-State selection in high school, but knew his NBA dream was finished during freshmen conditioning tests at Seattle U. when he recorded the lowest vertical leap in the history of the program. Follow him on Twitter @206child.

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Warrick Dunn Set To Make What’s Best for Falcons’ Future; My Interview With Him
By Josh Dhani NaptownsFinest.com

Many of us NFL fans remember the little Warrick Dunn as one of the best running backs to play the game of football. Probably one of the bests to ever strap on some cleats and step foot on turf.
Dunn was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the 1997 NFL Draft as the twelfth overall pick, coming off a great career from Florida State. The 5‘9″, 190-pounder played until 2001 before moving to Atlanta to play with the Falcons. He teamed up well with quarterback Michael Vick and played with Atlanta until the 2007 season when he returned to play with the Bucs in 2008, which would result in his final season. He is now 35 years old and hasn‘t stopped in his life with football. Dunn has had several accomplishments in his career, becoming a three-time Pro Bowler, became Offensive Rookie of the Year, also won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2004. He would finish with rushing for 10,600 yards along with 49 touchdowns. Dunn has had impact on many people‘s lives. He started a foundation called the Warrick Dunn foundation where he helps impacted people‘s lives. He has great things involved with it like Homes for the Holidays along with a yearly golf charity event. Dunn has made huge impact in charities, which earned himself as one of the recipient of the Heisman Humanitarian Award. Dunn was honored of this. ―I was surprised to be selected and honored with such a prestigious award. I‘m always willing to help my foundation and this award is sure to gain a lot of attention for our mission,‖ Dunn told me in an exclusive interview with him. Dunn has had several accomplishments with his foundation, which you can read about at wd-ff.org. Dunn‘s former teammate, Michael Vick, as we all know was arrested for dog fighting and animal cruelty. As he returned, signing the Philadelphia Eagles to a two-year contract, he didn‘t do much in his first season with the team. However, he has made some solid impact this year, becoming a starter and already one of the early candidates for the NFL Most Valuable Player award. Dunn is very happy for him. ―He‘s taking the steps to better his life on and off the field,‖ Dunn said. 144

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With a lot of impact on his former teams, I asked Dunn of what he feels towards his former teams. Dunn replied with a nice, quick, and short response, showing a lot of love for a certain team. ―It‘s all about the Falcons for me!‖ he replied.

I can see why, as Dunn was promoted as one of the limited partners and owners of the Atlanta Falcons, working with the head office and with several big names like Arthur Blank. Dunn is doing all he can to help the Falcons. He was very honored of being promoted by Atlanta, after doing so much for them in his playing career.

―He‘s taking the steps to better his life on and off the field,‖ Warrick Dunn says of former teammate Michael Vick.

―It‘s a tremendous opportunity and I‘m honored. I look forward to learning more about the business side of pro football,‖ he said. Dunn looks to do all he can to help the Falcons and his foundation to become a success. He already has some main goals in mind for both. ―Expand services/win a Super Bowl!‖ he said. I believe Dunn can do so. He‘s had a lot of success and is a role model for so many. I wish all the best to him and wish the best of luck forward to him with the Falcons and with the foundation. I appreciate his time in letting me do this interview him. It was a real honor to do an interview with Mr. Dunn!
Josh Dhani began blogging at 12 years of age in January 2009. Since then, he has owned popular websites such as footbasket.com, alwaysmillertime.com and hardcourtmayhem.com.

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This Is Not The Mayan Apocalypse You Were Looking For
By Joshua Vowles SubwayDomer.com

This week, or perhaps very shortly in the coming weeks, was supposed to be the beginning of an entirely new era in collegiate athletics, and college football in particular.
Depending on what kind of personality that you have, what school you root for, and your general perception of the NCAA- you were either extremely disappointed in the last few days or breathing the ultimate sigh of relief. For a week and and half, all of college football looked like it was going to make massive overhauls in its conference realignment. Reports started coming from all over the media about a rumor heard, plane tracking, and possible silent deals. In short, it looked a lot like those last few weeks of recruiting before signing day- the exciting and the ridiculous. What eventually happened was a whirlwind of moderate change, enforcement, and general speculation that kept fans on their toes and had their thumbs on their Twitter refresh button. It was less "Holy sh--! Mayan Apocalypse 2012," and more, "The Cold War is over- what in the f--- do we do with these Slavic countries?" Here are a few of my thoughts: The Big Ten ( or whatever you want to call them) deserves a "Well played," shout out. Jim Delany and the Big Ten are the absolute instigators in all of the madness that has happened. It was the Big Ten that really began this thing when they announced that they would begin to look into conference expansion. Once they got the ball rolling- everyone was in play. Speculation from the media, bloggers, and message board hounds instantly began their wet dreams and started mapping out what they thought would happen. Scenario after scenario was discussed, cussed, and called a must. On a podcast with In The Bleachers this winter, I brought up Nebraska to the Big Ten before just about anyone was really talking about it. ( Please commence with the back patting... now). As I discussed this with friends and colleagues, I was routinely told, "No f-ing way." My oh my, sometimes sh-- does stick to the wall, doesn't it? Obviously, The Big Ten could have gone apesh-- and grabbed 2 if not 3 Big East teams fairly easy. Rutgers, UConn, Syracuse, Pitt- basically whoever they wanted. It the end, most of the Big East "plays" were probably designed to put Notre Dame at the table and used as a scare tactic. The bluff didn't work. 146

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The same tactics were used to a bigger extent in the Big 12 with Texas and Texas A&M. Obviously, The Big Ten wanted Texas, but the flirtations with Missouri and Nebraska and the Pac-10 rumors for the Big 12 South started some events in motion that eventually lead Nebraska to defect from the Big 12 and become the 12th member of the Big Ten. Nebraska is not the Texas grab, but they are better then ANYTHING the Big East had to offer. If you put the TV demographics aside, Nebraska was about as good a move as the Big Ten could have made for football, outside of adding Notre Dame to the conference. The only other realistic move the Big Ten could have made to improve itself athletically, especially in football (I'm keeping the TV stuff out of this) would have been to add Missouri and Pittsburgh. The lone move with Nebraska is solid, and even though the Big Ten said it may look more into expansion later in the future- it will probably end right there. Well played- Clerks. The Pac-10 has got Big Balls!!! Buffalo balls that is. If most of the blame is directed at the Big Ten for starting all of this conference expansion stuff, then most of the blame for pretty much ending it should go to the Pac-10. Some of the biggest news was that the Pac-10 was shedding its conservative self, and would be making a play for Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Colorado. ( They wanted nothing to do with Baylor). Not only did this announcement help seal the deal for Nebraska to head to the Big Ten, but it was the big move we were all waiting to see. Would a mega-conference happen? Colorado jumped on board very quickly, and ended any talk about being snubbed for Baylor to help get the Texas schools. Reports are now surfacing, that the Pac-10 really wanted to sub Oklahoma State for Kansas- and that made Texas a little worried (per expansion GURU: Chip Brown). Add that to Texas A&M not playing the role of "loyal little brother," as they flirted with the SEC, and expansion basically stopped. Texas made a money move to stay in a reformed Big 12 minus two. However, the impact of the Pac-10 bold move is huge. It didn't really strengthen the Pac-10 all that much, but it opened the eyes of administrators everywhere that major changes mean MAJOR changes, and I'm not sure anyone was really ready for that just yet- if at all. Besides the "balls," the Pac-10 has got the "two Ute's," with the just recently reported news that Utah has accepted an invite to join the Pac-10. This was a much needed move by the Pac-10 with the addition of Colorado to help tie the conference together geographically. The Mountain West Conference has to feel like a cheap hooker about right now. If the Pac-10 would have gone 16 teams, the MWC could have made a big play in grabbing the rest of the Big 12 (minus a possible Big 10 bound Mizzou) and Boise State to create a 14 team conference that would have been very strong. They could have even gone

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another step and added a Nevada and a Fresno State to keep up with what would be a 16 team conference structure throughout the country. It didn't happen. The MWC added Boise State but just lost the Utah Utes to the Pac-10. That is a big wound to a conference that could have had an even better case against the Big East as an automatic qualifier. I still believe with the Boise / Utah swap- that the MWC is still a better football conference then the Big East from top to bottom. The Mountain West may start looking to the WAC, or even Conference USA for an addition to get back to a 10 team league- but the splash will be much, much smaller. Notre Dame was the undisputed winner after the dust settles. Notre Dame wanted to remain Independent, and nothing has happened to change that fact. The Big East is not in any position to make "All in, or out," ultimatums towards Notre Dame, and the Big 10 didn't grab any of the Big East schools along with Nebraska to start a chain reaction that would have had the SEC plucking ACC schools which in turn would have had the ACC plucking more Big East schools, which would have ended the Big East- and ND would have to find a home for the rest of its sports programs- and its football team. Also, this whole conference realignment discussion really had everyone talking about Notre Dame's football schedule iin the future. Indirectly, I believe this helped ND forget about the Army game in 2013 and continue the series against Boston College. And oh yeah... Notre Dame has games scheduled with Miami too. really, it has Jack Swarbrick making a better effort then what we have seen in the recent past from Notre Dame on scheduling better opponents- more interesting opponents. Say what you will about BC, but having them on the schedule is a good thing, and I don't hear a soul complaining about the Miami series which, by the way, ended like THIS and this: So in the end, cooler heads and greed saved college football. I honestly believe that college football would have been heading to the f-ing graveyard if four 16 team megatron conferences had been spawned. It just would not have been all that interesting to me. I truly believe that a few administrators and AD's also could see the future harm, and work the back channels for a true peace COUGH, Jack, Ahem, Swar-cough, SNIFF, brick. Texas really wants to launch their own network, and they still have some kind of pimp deal with the rest of the Big 12 minus 2. Texas could have f---ed us- but greed actually saved the day. You crazy sons of a bitches! The future is still very bright for college football, and Notre Dame football. The world is saved... for now. ( Hey Delany! Sit the f--- down!).
The Subway Domer is a blue-collar writer of Notre Dame football. One of the few, and most likely the best, Fighting Irish bloggers that holds nothing back as he spits vulgarity-fueled venom about the Notre Dame Football program, and at the same time provides a new definition of "Rational Fan-Boy."

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Baseball’s Dirty Mistress
Kate Conroy ladylovespinstripes.com

Steroids, the all too familiar word baseball fans have come terribly familiar with this past decade.
This week another player, excuse me super-star, coming clean for using performanceenhancing drugs. Mark McGwire took steroids to able his aging body to stay on pace with the length of the baseball season. McGwire seems to think his home-runs performance was organic and unrelated to the reason he could play each and every day. Anyone with a brain knows that makes no sense. After re-hearing McGwire‘s confession, his sincerity and honest discomfort makes it clear. It makes him weak and individual‘s make mistakes. This whole admission from players pre-2004 is getting on everyone‘s nerves. The guilty party in this whole ‗era‘ is trying to protect their own ass, instead of taking the blame for their omission. This is baseball, the corporation legitimately who is to blame.

After re-hearing McGwire‘s confession, his sincerity and honest discomfort makes it clear. It makes him weak and individual‘s make mistakes.

Bud Selig should be giving an interview about why no written protocol or concession on the subject was given before 2004. Why is there a list of names from a survey conducted in 2003 claiming to be anonymous? A United States Court sealed document is supposedly deemed confidential by the highest form of government. How the baseball list is, exposed like a slow drip makes it much more than a steroid concern. This certainly does not say much for sealing a document in our court system. As a fan, I do not want to hear from anymore players. I want to hear from Bud Selig, if from anyone at all.

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I need a reason to stop thinking baseball let PED‘s dangle in front of players. The profit gains seemed more beneficial for selfish reasons than the game itself. More athletic accomplishments would make any sport more popular, resulting in more money coming in the door. Sadly, MLB‗s biggest accomplishment this past decade is that they cheated us, the fans. The fans, who are the only person still pure left in sports. I am a fan and I want to go on now. See….Baseball belongs to me too and I want to love it unconditionally. Baseball needs to start following the rules of a rule, let the past stay history and work towards a cleaner future.
Kate Conroy is a lifelong Yankees and Giants fan. Kate was born in New York City and still resides there today. Her dreams of becoming a sports reporter, is how her blog Lady Loves Pinstripes was born. A reader of Lady Loves Pinstripes said the following:“She is what all Yankee fans should be, enthusiastic, bright, and loyal. She is a refreshing change from fair weather fan bloggers, a true fan that believes in and supports the Yankees through good and bad. She has shamed my cynical nature and forced me to remember when my sports heroes were unvarnished giants whose feats left the only lasting marks on my season’s calendar.”

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What I Want LeBron James To Be
By K. Mojo MojoHoops.blogspot.com

LeBron James asks a lot of questions in his latest Nike ad, "Rise". For a guy who recently made such a big decision, LeBron seems to have uncorked many more mysteries in the process. So I thought I'd offer answers and help him be a better NBA player.
LBJ: What should I do? Should I admit that I've made mistakes? Mojo: Yes. It worked for Alex Rodriguez. He admitted he took steroids and boom! He became a World Series champion who no longer struggled on playoff stages. A good start would be speaking truthfully about why the Cavs never won a championship in the LeBron James era. LBJ: Should I tell you how much fun we (the Cavs) had? Mojo: Yes, tell us how much fun Cleveland was. What was it like joking around in the locker room while the Spurs were sweeping you out of the Finals in '07? And what about posing for all those faux pix while Kobe & Kevin Garnett were doing work on the way to championships? That looked like fun too. And what really happened in that Boston hotel with Delonte last year? He always seems like he's having fun to me. LBJ: Should I really believe I ruined my legacy? Mojo: Hell no. Brett Favre is ruining his legacy. Roger Clemens ruined his legacy. How can a legacy be ruined just by decisively switching teams and playing at a high level within the rules? Did Shaq ruin his legacy by signing with the Lakers? Did Steve Nash ruin his by signing with the Suns? LBJ: Should I have my tattoo removed? Mojo: Definitely not. Chris Anderson keeps raising the tattoo stakes, so now is not the time to laser ink away. A better idea would be a giant cover up of that "Chosen 1" cheese. How about something wicked like a full back piece skull? Or what about fulfilling the prophesy in the Virgosis and getting a giant Darth Vader mask tat? LBJ: Wanna see my shiny new shoes?

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Mojo: No. The "LeBron 8" is just as ugly as the rest of the LeBron Nikes. Kobe might be approaching Jordan status on the court, but MJ still owns all in sneakers. LBJ: Should I tell you, "I am not a role model"? Mojo: Why would anyone follow in Charles Barkley's footsteps in any way? Why aspire to be like an underachieving bloated loser who caddies for people who abused him throughout his career? I bet jelly donuts taste better than that elbow sandwich Jordan served fat Chuck's grill. LBJ: Should I tell you I'm a championship chaser who did it for the money, ring? Mojo: Yes! Championship chasing in Miami is much better than losing on a historically bad franchise like the Cavs with their asinine owner Dan Gilbert. LBJ: Should I be who you want me to be? Mojo: Yes. Be a triple double averaging defensive beast who guards all 5 positions. A more athletic Magic Johnson meets a less suspended Dennis Rodman. LBJ: Should I accept my role as a villian? Mojo: Yes, but not a typical bad guy who dies in the end. We need a real villian that keeps coming back like Anton Chigurh, Jason and Freddy. Somebody whose methods tittilate some and terrify others. One thing though- real villians don't dance. So no more boogieing and rhyming during time outs. LBJ: Should I stop listening to my friends? Mojo: Definitely keep listening to Warren Buffett. And if Oprah is a friend, listen to her too. LBJ: Should I try acting? Mojo: Try? You mean that jheri curl, spandex & headband ain't acting? LBJ: Should I make you laugh?

Why would anyone follow in Charles Barkley's footsteps in any way? Why aspire to be like an underachieving bloated loser who caddies for people who abused him throughout his career?

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Mojo: Yes! Start by channeling Joakim Noah and saying, "What's so good about Cleveland?" every time you beat the Cavs in their gym. LBJ: Should I read you a soulful poem? Mojo: No. Florida already has enough bad NBA wordsmiths with the poetry of J.J. Redick. A Dwight Howard styled children's album could be cool though. LBJ: Should we just clear the decks and start over? Mojo: Well the Nets need a permanent home, a new arena and a fresh start but there doesn't seem to be a lot of interest in helping out Jay Z and Mike Prokhorov. Ruskies who "has opulence" can buy mini giraffes, but NBA talent is harder to come by. LBJ: What should I do? Should I be who you want me to be? Mojo: If that includes a triple double in every game on the way to an Eastern Conference Semifinal playoff exit, then yes! Start off with a 30 point, 15 rebound, 10 assist loss tonight.
Mojo is a basketball and funk fanatic, who writes on NBA and NCAA with extra bonus hard hits and hot picks.

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Army-Navy: The experience of a lifetime
By Kody Brannon KodysSportsKorner.com

First off before I begin, I just want to give a special thanks to Sarah and Doug for offering me the opportunity to attend this game.
The annual Army-Navy game was something that I have always dreamed about attending. And up until this year, I never had the chance to experience it. It was like any other football time I attended, until the pre-game festivities started. The Army-Navy marathon teams came running in with the game balls, then you had the annual ―hostage‖ exchange where a group of cadets and midshipmen attend the sister academy for the semester. This was all really cool, but the Navy leapfrogs and Army golden knights came parachuting in to the stadium. While that was really awesome, the absolute best thing in the pre-game had to the the flyovers. Then came the color guard and the Army glee club sang the national anthem, with the entire stadium singing in chorus. This gave me goose bumps and really made appreciate the whole thing even more. It was a great day to be American.

At this point the atmosphere in the stadium ratcheted up a notch and the crowd was ready for kickoff. Once the game got going, it was a little sloppy at the start, because neither team really wanted to control the ball and maintain possession. But Navy finally got settled down and struck first with a rare pass play. That just happened to open the gates for Navy to be able to mount a lead with a couple key turnovers. Army struggled to get momentum for most of the first half, but thanks to a Navy turnover inside their side of the field, it gave Army a chance to make it a game. Then the unthinkable happened, there was a takeaway at the 2154

One of the coolest experiences happened at half time when the Army glee club came out with a couple special guests and sang ―god bless America.‖ Which during the final part of the song, the entire stadium started to sing along. This was one of the many goosebump moments of the day.

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yard line and Navy ran it all the way back for a touchdown. This was probably the back breaker of the game. Because after that play Army couldn‘t get anything going to make the game closer. One of the coolest experiences happened at half time when the Army glee club came out with a couple special guests and sang ―god bless America.‖ Which during the final part of the song, the entire stadium started to sing along. This was one of the many goosebump moments of the day. The Second half was pretty much eventful, Army got a field goal in the third and a touchdown late. But Navy had already put away the game at half time. Overall it was an exciting day and one that I will never forget. The experience of watching a game that is truly ―America‘s game‖ in person is somthing I had always wanted to do, and now that I have, I can say that it was way more than I could have imagined. Trust me when I say that if you haven‘t done this yet, you need to.
Kody Brannon is an avid sports fan who has decided to take his obsession with sports and turn it into a blog. Where you will find honest and true opinions about a wide variety of sports. Kody’s sports korner is more than just a hobby, it is a passion to provide some insight and thought into all of the key issues in the sports world.

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The Decision was 73 Minutes of Painful Television
By Ken Fang FangsBites.com

It was supposed to run an hour. It went over by 13 minutes. Every single second of the 73 minutes was excruciating to watch.
I don't want to make this totally negative so let me at least start with a positive. The commercials were done well. But after that, Stuart Scott as host was practically genuflecting calling LeBron James, "The King" with every opportunity. Despite a promise that James would make his announcement in the first 15 minutes of the program, the interview did not start until 9:23 p.m. after two segments with Scott, Michael Wilbon, Chris Broussard and Jon Barry. Hand picked interviewer Jim Gray wiggled and waffled before finally asking the question that everyone wanted to hear, "Where are you going to play?" While James appeared nervous at the beginning of the show and during the interview, Gray was totally shaky asking questions about nailbiting, sleeping and how his mother felt before finally asking the big one.

Granted, Jim Gray had a conflict of interest, helping to broker the deal, asking the LeBron James camp for the first interview and then having his request granted. It was ironic to see Gray on the network that had let him go several years previous. From this performance, I don't see ESPN hiring him back. While many people still don't forgive Gray for his ambush interview of Pete Rose at the 1999 World Series, Gray showed that he's a lightweight. As for Stuart Scott, he's a lightweight and then some. He constantly referred to James as "The King". Even tried to show that he's buddy-buddy with James during a short segment and then tossed it so LeBron could announce that he was donating the proceeds from the commercial time from "The Decision" to the Boys and Girls Clubs. The atmosphere in the Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich, CT was very subdued. There was no cheering by the live audience when James announced that he was going to the Heat. 156

It was ironic to see Gray on the network that had let him go several years previous. From this performance, I don't see ESPN hiring him back.

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Michael Wilbon did get a longer interview and asked some harder questions. However, neither Gray, Wilbon nor Scott asked why James chose to do the interview from Greenwich nor did we receive an explanation. People can say ESPN's lost some integrity with "The Decision", but it's been losing it ever since it chose to put a game show on SportsCenter and give us sponsored segments like "Budweiser Hot Seat". Tonight, ESPN chose to give feed the ego of an athlete who's been nurtured on the Alleged Worldwide Leader throughout his life. Not only was the show a giant train wreck, but came off as if the network was catering to the whim of a spoiled athlete. The network can say it was a big news story and other TV entities would have jumped at the chance to carry it. Probably so, but with ESPN being the biggest sports television network, it not only allowed the James camp to set the rules, but it also set the bar for other athletes to make similar announcements. Can Brett Favre be far behind? Yes, we watched, but we also felt dirty.
Ken Fang of Fang's Bites is a former radio news reporter in Rhode Island and Connecticut who now keeps track of his first love, the sports media. Ken began his blog in 2007 and it has grown where it is read by all of the sports TV networks and media writers. The purpose of the blog is to be a one-stop destination for sports media story links from across the country as well as a clearinghouse for network press releases. Ken provides his opinions on the sports networks and the people who are not only in front of the camera, but also responsible for producing what we watch and listen.

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Dropping the Gloves vs. a Basebrawl Game
By Laura Astorian ThrashingTheBlues.com

By now, everyone's seen clips and photographs of the fight that broke out in the bottom of the first inning during Tuesday's Cards/Reds match-up. Watching it, well, it made me miss hockey season, but it also made me thankful that there's another sport with a code - namely, don't call our team "little bitches." These eloquent words from Brandon Phillips are what started the whole thing:
"I'd play against these guys with one leg," Phillips insisted before the game. "We have to beat these guys. ... All they do is bitch and moan about everything, all of them, they're little bitches, all of 'em.'' He also was quoted as saying, "I really hate the Cardinals. Compared to the Cardinals, I love the Chicago Cubs. Let me make this clear: I hate the Cardinals." Well, thanks. Your team gets all relevant for the first time since Marge Schott was dropping racial slurs, and Phillips thinks that he can add a little fuel to that match-up and battle for first in the Central. What he hoped to accomplish with that is beyond me trying to scare the Cards into submission? "Oooga booga, it's Brandon Phillips! Gee, I really hope that he doesn't have a huge series and go 2-for-14 or something like that!" Phillips didn't back his words up. In fact, he was the ground out specialist of the Reds. Even dumber than the original statement was him trying to go out and act buddy-buddy with Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina by tapping him on the shin-guards. Yadi kicked his bat away and told him to stop, Phillips kicked him again to piss him off, and Yadi stood up and told him "I'm not your bitch." In those four words, Molina showed more team-riling gumption than Philips' national television spew. Of course, a fifty person fight ensued, in which Phillips couldn't be found. Oh, and the highlight of which was Johnny Cueto, the night's starting pitcher, bicycle kick Jason LaRue in the head. Cueto got a seven game suspension out of that class move. Seven minutes later, the game resumed, and Phillips grounded out to end the inning. Molina was first to bat in the second, and he promptly jacked a home run, sucking any good vibes directly out of the Reds. It also showed them that if you have a problem with a team, you deal with it on the playing field where competition takes place, not in the clubhouse behind a microphone. The original words of this whole incident are what struck me as absurd. In a league that enjoys presenting itself as the class sport of the nation - "America's Game," if you will they allowed Phillips to call an entire team "little bitches" publicly and no repercussions 158

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were given. Dusty Baker made no statement trying to smooth the situation over, making him complicit in the trash talk. Penalties were given after the fight, sure, but that was because of the brawl itself. What if that fight hadn't happened? A situation like that in the NHL, such as Sean Avery's now infamous "sloppy seconds" comment, gets you an audience with the commish and a six-game suspension. It's all right, though, for someone to directly use profanity when describing an opponent in nationally broadcast comments? No statement from Bud Selig, no reprimand, no fine. It's not a leap to read that as MLB not caring a bit about the comments of its employees, and therefore the image of the game. Avery's suspension was absurd (Cueto got one more game than Avery did and Cueto could have blinded LaRue with a cleat) and reactionary. Selig's was apathetic if not oblivious, and his lack of response - as well as a lack of response by the Reds organization - allowed a fight to happen during a game that was, of course, picked up by national media. How ignorant does this make the Reds look? The League? The ignorance of not doing anything is just as off putting as the ignorance of overpunishment. Molina did the right thing, and what he did is completely expected in hockey. Someone trash talks your team, or takes runs at your guys, and someone does something about it if no one else will. Policing yourself is (was, you could argue) a major part of the game, but it kept larger problems like direct retribution hits at bay. St. Louis Blues enforcer Cam Janssen had this to say regarding the scuffle:

A situation like that in the NHL, such as Sean Avery's now infamous "sloppy seconds" comment, gets you an audience with the commish and a sixgame suspension. It's all right, though, for someone to directly use profanity when describing an opponent in nationally broadcast comments?

"That was great that Yadi did that," Janssen said. "He's not going to take that from him, and why would he? The Cardinals are a great organization. They've got a great team, and they're classy. If someone was calling the Blues that, there would be hell to pay when they got to Scottrade Center, I'll tell you that." But Janssen followed by saying, "In hockey, no one would do that because they know there's consequences on the ice. That's why hockey players have respect for one another.

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If you're going to run your mouth like that, then you're going to be called out on the ice. And I'll tell you what, there's nobody going to be breaking that up for a while." Cam hits on something important. Hockey players have respect for each other. There are guys that you absolutely can't stand on the ice, but you have a code and you follow it. You can dislike someone and still respect their abilities at your sport, or them as a person in general. Also, his comment regarding "consequences" is a telling one - if there were stronger consequences - the removal of the instigator penalty, perhaps? - maybe fewer injuries would occur. A happy medium needs to be found between the NHL and MLB's reaction to an incident of the same vein. Things can't be allowed to blow up like they did. But, most importantly, players need to have respect for each other. That's what Brandon Phillips was lacking. Nothing negative was said about the Reds after the game - Molina had this to say instead: "They've got a pretty good team. They were in first place, but we showed we've got good talent and we're going to compete. We took good at-bats. That's what we needed to do." That's how the game needs to be played. Maybe Phillips needs to lace up and learn that lesson himself.
A native of St. Louis, MO, Laura adopted the Atlanta Thrashers as her Eastern Conference team from their inception. In attendance since the very first game, Laura was won over by the Thrashers. This, coupled with her love of the Blues, drug her into blogging feet first. Laura can be found writing irreverent and occasionally insightful commentary on both the St. Louis Blues and Atlanta Thrashers on her own blog, Thrashing the Blues. She can also be found hammering away as the Thrashers editor at SB Nation Atlanta as well as SB Nation blogs Birdwatchers Anonymous and her home away from home, St. Louis Game Time. She offers up contributions to Chicks Who Give A Puck and NHL HotStove as well.

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2011 Baseball Hall of Fame: The Case for Alomar
By Lewie Pollis WahooBlues.com

On Wednesday, the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce its picks for the Hall of Fame Class of 2011. It’s sure to be an exciting day for baseball fans, as this year’s ballot is perhaps is the most interesting in recent memory. Bert Blyleven finished just five votes shy of induction last year. A member of both the 3,000 hit and 500 home run clubs, new candidate Rafael Palmeiro would be a shoo-in if not for his connections to PEDs. And first-time eligibles like Jeff Bagwell, Larry Walker, and John Olerud are intriguing possibilities for enshrinement.
But as a Cleveland Indians fan who grew up in the Glory Days, there‘s one player in particular who I want to see in Cooperstown. It‘s not Juan Gonzalez or Carlos Baerga, and it isn‘t Blyleven (though he‘d certainly have my vote). My guy is Roberto Alomar. After falling just eight votes shy of induction last year (his first time on the ballot) Alomar seems like a shoo-in to reach Cooperstown this time around—or at least, he ought to be. Let‘s take a look at his case for the Hall of Fame. We‘ll begin with his counting stats. Alomar totaled 2,724 hits in his 17 seasons, putting him 55th on the all-time list—ahead of legends like Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams. His 1,508 runs put him 66th in baseball history, while his 474 steals are good for 41st place. And while his 210 homers and 1,134 RBI might not be huge boons to his Cooperstown case, they‘re more than respectable and certainly not damning to a second baseman who made an offensive impact in other ways. And how ‘bout them rate statistics? A .300 career average is nothing to sneeze at. Neither are his .371 OBP, .443 SLG, .814 OPS, and .365 wOBA—from a second baseman, mind you. Don‘t chalk that up to playing in a strong offensive era; whether you prefer OPS+ (116) or wRC+ (125), he provided consistently above-average production for 17 years while playing a defense-first position. And speaking of defense, Alomar had a career .984 fielding percentage, topping .990 five times. Whether or not playing for teams that make the playoffs should be an important factor in the Cooperstown decisions, there‘s no denying that postseason accomplishments play a role in the voters‘ minds, and that certainly helps Alomar‘s case. He played in October 161

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seven times with three different teams and won two World Series. In 58 postseason games, he hit .313 with 33 RBI, 32 runs, and 20 steals. And, of course, he was the MVP of the 1993 ALCS. He‘s got awards in drawers and accolades in spades. From 1990-2001, Alomar made 12 consecutive All-Star games, including nine starts in one 10-year stretch, and was named All-Star MVP in 1998. Over that same span, he won 10 Gold Gloves—the most of any second baseman ever—and four Silver Sluggers. Plus, he finished in the Top 6 for MVP five times. How do those accomplishments compare with players who are already in Cooperstown? Alomar gets a 57 in Bill James‘ Hall of Fame Standards test, while the average inductee has 50 points. James‘ Hall of Fame Monitor is even more optimistic; on a scale where 100 indicates a ―Likely HOFer‖ and a 130 means a ―virtual cinch,‖ Alomar gets 194 points. Finally, we get to Wins Above Replacement. In a system where 60 WAR usually indicates a strong candidate for enshrinement, FanGraphs has Robbie at a staggering 68.2 wins for his career (11th among second basemen), while Baseball-Reference puts him at a still-outstanding 63.5 WAR (10th). There‘s reason to believe that these already-impressive numbers should be higher—both systems rate Alomar‘s defense at slightly below-average for his career, which doesn‘t mesh with the popular perception of his fielding or his large collection of Gold Gloves. If we replace his UZR/TZR figures with +5 fielding runs a season—a fairly modest mark for a reputed defensive wizard—his WAR shoots up to 72.3 on B-R and an eye-popping 78.2 on FanGraphs. (I‘m not saying we should give serious weight to the adjusted numbers, but it‘s food for thought) But no matter how you slice it, he comes out ahead of 2005 inductee Ryne Sandberg (62.6 on FanGraphs, 62.0 on B-R), who is considered the standard by which modern middle infielders are measured. If Alomar beat the best, what possible reason is there to keep him out of the Hall? Given the strength of his résumé and how close he came in 2010, there‘s a very good chance he‘ll make it in this time around. But then again, I thought he was a shoo-in firstballoters. Let‘s just hope justice is done this year.
An Indians and Red Sox fan from outside Cleveland, Ohio, Lewie has been obsessed with baseball and statistics since before he can remember. He got his first subscription to Baseball Weekly when he was four, and as early as his T-ball days he would calculate his teammates' batting averages between innings. Now, Lewie is a freshman at Brown University majoring in Political Science. He is the lead Indians blogger for WahooBlues.com. He also writes about baseball for several other websites and is on the editorial board of Green Pages, the national newsletter of the U.S. Green Party.

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Red Sox Amending Bridge Period Via Draft
Logan Lietz OverTheMonster.com

Take the best talent available, with heavy considerations for potential and not so much on organizational needs.
Thanks to the benefits of a deep and fruitful farm system in recent years, the Red Sox have been afforded the luxury of applying relatively simplistic draft strategies such as the one above. The Major League Baseball draft has always been considered a hit-but-moreoften-miss fiasco for most teams anyway -- so why complicate things, right? Suffice to say, like every other MLB organization, Boston is still in the process of perfecting the way they utilize the draft process in replenishing the system -- and in turn, the product featured at Fenway Park. 2010 cites a progressive step towards that ultimate goal of consistently positive draft production. A large portion of the farm system‘s current top prospects are still in a stage that demands further development; there are few true impact players that can potentially offer the type of contributions by way of someone like Jacoby Ellsbury [circa 2007] this year or the next. So yes, once again, the phrase "bridge period" surfaces in relation to the Red Sox‘s approach to the immediate future as the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft got underway this past Monday. With Amiel Sawdaye now taking over at the helm as Director of Amateur Scouting -replacing Jason McLeod, who last held the position in 2009 -- Boston has incorporated a "big picture" element within a strategy still heavily influenced by the best overall talent available at the time of selection, resulting in a highly-praised initial two days of drafting. Prior to this year, the last time that the Red Sox drafted a college-level player with their first draft selection was in 2005 when they chose Oregon State outfielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, with the 23rd overall pick (not counting 2007's supplimental first round pick, Nick Hagadone). At the time, Ellsbury was the last in a streak of three successive drafts in which Boston used their first pick on a collegiate player from 2003-2005. Before him, the Red Sox had selected Dustin Pedroia (2004, round 2) and David Murphy (2003, round 1). After taking Ellsbury in 2005, Boston followed up by selecting three more post-high school prospects -- (26th) Craig Hansen, (42nd) Clay Buchholz, (45th) Jed Lowrie -- before nabbing Michael Bowden out of Waubonsie Valley High School (47th). 163

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That year, recently departed Jason McLeod‘s first as Boston‘s Director of Amateur Scouting, has been arguably the most productive drafts in team history -- it also marked a turning point in the organization‘s reputation as a developmental powerhouse. The key to a successful draft overall is a team‘s ability to properly balance organizational needs with a still-prominent consideration for the number of MLB-ready players currently in the system -- then formulating the relative plan of attack based on that. You can stay within the confines of the American League East for both a positive and negative example of teams using the above idealology to this point in the 2010 draft. Similarly to Boston, the Tampa Bay Rays‘ draft to this point has been given a proverbial "thumbs up" around the league, despite using their first three picks on high school players. However, unlike the Red Sox -- who are in the midst of the oft-described "bridge period" -- Tampa Bay‘s farm system features a larger selection of prospects who are nearing MLB-ready status. The result is a less-glaring need for "safe" selections, which allows the team to focus on high-ceiling high school players as the organizational depth affords them more time to refine the talent. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the New York Yankees. Despite the current roster sporting an average age of 30.4 (5th oldest in MLB) -- and after having just recently shipped away a couple major league-ready talents this off-season -- New York decided to use their first two selections on high school players and have since been chastised almost league-wide for it. While a good deal of the eyebrow-raising is in regards the particular high school players chosen as opposed to their relative ages (taking outfielder and projected 3rd rounder, Cito Culver, with their first pick), one look at some of the highly-developed collegiate talent still available at the times of the respective picks is what conjures the resulting poor draft grades. With so many of the Red Sox‘s top impact-projected prospects still likely more than a couple seasons away from regular contributions, the club rightfully decided to focus their first four picks (just as they did in 2005) on college level players, before turning to four consecutive prep-level picks. Also similar to 2005, Boston‘s first two days of selections have been met with nothing but positive feedback. With their first pick in the 2010 draft (20th overall), Boston opted to take Ball State junior, Kolbrin Vitek. It‘s been said that Kolbrin has managed to hit everywhere he‘s gone, and his ability to play multiple positions may also represent a potential trend in early round Red Sox selections; last year Boston used their first pick on infielder/pitcher, Casey Kelly. Vitek played second base his junior season, but his size led Boston to list him as a third baseman on draft day (Vitek played third base his sophomore season). A fundamentally advanced hitter, it‘s Vitek‘s versatility that likely attracted Boston, as it

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affords them a little wiggle-room in terms of addressing organizational needs down the road. Next, with the 36th pick overall, Boston chose Middle Tennessee State junior outfielder, Bryce Brentz. It‘s safe to assume that this selection was more a result of luck rather than an attempt at filling an organizational hole. Brentz was considered one of the top college hitters available in the draft and was thought to be a sure-fire first-rounder. Instead, Bryce fell to the Red Sox due to some questions regarding a team‘s ability to sign him -something that has never been a problem for Boston in the past. Brentz‘s strong arm and plate-production should allow the Red Sox to try him at either corner outfield positions -marking another versatile early-rounder taken by Boston. It‘s no secret that the Red Sox lack a surplus of MLB-ready pitching prospects. Aside from Felix Doubront (23 years-old), Junichi Tazawa (24 years-old) and to a lesser-extent, Michael Bowden (23 year-old), the club doesn‘t feature a pitcher above the age of twenty in its top fifteen prospects [according to SoxProspects]. With that in mind, Boston used its subsequent two selections on college pitchers. Both initially considered potential first-rounders, the Red Sox grabbed Anthony Ranaudo (RHP, LSU) and Brandon Workman (RHP, UT) with the 39th and 57th picks. Ranaudo was a name linked to the Red Sox in mock drafts from day one, only in most instances regarding the team‘s first-round intentions. After entering the college season as one of the most highly-touted pitchers in the country, Ranaudo missed substantial time as a result of an elbow injury before returning to action later in the year, without the same success. His recent problems finding the strike zone -- combined with all that accompanies the name of his agent, Scott Boras -- is likely the reasoning behind his descent out of the first round. However, the Red Sox, who have always been very explorative regarding past injuries of prospective acquisitions, must have seen something comforting in the pitcher‘s reports that led them to take the large-in-stature right-hander. Ranaudo is widely considered one of the most refined arms available during the draft -some even predicting that he be taken off the board in the first ten picks -- and if he returns to form, could be at Fenway sooner rather than later. Originally drafted by the Phillies in 2007, Boston‘s 57th pick, Brandon Workman, was also considered one of the most developed arms going into the draft. Like Ranaudo before him, the big right-hander is a mechanically-sound and repertoire-refined college pitcher from a top-tier program. While his ceiling, and Ranaudo‘s for that matter, may not be as high as some of the more raw high school pitchers available, it‘s certainly much closer within their reaches. While there‘s no arguing that Boston‘s ability to sign draft picks commanding large sums of immediate monetary compensation upon signing is one reason behind its draft 165

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successes in recent years -- particularly with Brentz and Ranaudo in relation to this year - one can‘t ignore some recent mid to late round selections that are already paying dividends for the Red Sox. For instance, in 2006 the Red Sox drafted current top-rated prospects Josh Reddick and Lars Anderson in the 17th and 18th rounds, respectively. Successfully selecting high school players over college ones in the opening rounds of the draft isn‘t a completely foreign concept. Take 2002, when Boston passed on college stars and future MLB notables like Curtis Granderson, Fred Lewis and Lance Cormier (to name a few) and took high school hurler, Jon Lester, in just the second round. However, one of the least-refined aspects of amateur scouting remains the recognition, evaluation and discovery of prep-level talent. That being the case, and with so few impact players available via NCAA in this year‘s class, Boston‘s procurement of that relatively rare collegiate-level talent in the early rounds seems to have been driven by circumstance -- again, with considerations for the age and position allotment of current in-house prospects. Why elect to secure a raw high school player in the first few rounds when most project him to go much later, especially when there are likely still some viable, more developed, college prospects remaining at the same position? Not only do almost guarantee overpaying that particular draftee -- as most signing bonuses are loosely influenced on where that player was selected -- the likelihood that you do so for a player that will ultimately fail to realize their full potential is immensely increased. This is the reason so many teams nowadays opt to take more developed (or "safe") picks in the early goings; if you‘re going to allocate a lot of finances on an early-rounder, you may as well do it with a player who you feel is the closest to producing a return on that investment -- with the obvious exception being someone like Manny Machado, a high school shortstop and the third player chosen in this year‘s draft by the Baltimore Orioles. After all, if there is such thing as a can‘t miss prospect, it likely isn‘t age-restricted. Besides, in most cases those raw players that a team covets entering draft day will likely be there in the later rounds -- commanding substantially less money and representing a decrease in risk -- after the rest of the teams sift through the college ranks early on. That is, unless you were a club interested in Cito Culver as a potential second-day draft selection here in 2010; in that case, the Yankees definitely beat you to that finish line.
Logan Lietz is currently a journalism and communications student but aspires to eventually make a career out of covering baseball. While his favorite team and true passion is the Boston Red Sox -- which led him to begin contributing at Over the Monster -- it is the sport of baseball in general that he enjoys most.

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NHL OnStar
By Mary O'Malley FireThatCannon.com

Is there an NHL OnStar? Would every team and player have the OnStar option? Could every fan use it if they wanted to or felt they needed it? Because I was sure wishing I could push some blue button last night. I guess my button would be union blue:
“NHL OnStar, what’s your emergency?” ―Uh, my team is really struggling right now and I‘m sad.‖ “Oh, I’m sorry about that. What’s your team’s location?” ―They‘re out West now. At the moment, they‘re playing Edmonton.‖ “OK. So, your team is The Columbus Blue Jackets and the home-base is…Nationwide Arena.” ―Yes Ma‘am‖ “Gimme just one second and let me run some diagnostics here. Is the Team completely shut down or are they still functioning?” ―Still functioning. Weird sounds coming from the bench and net, though. Something‘s wrong.‖

―Still functioning. Weird sounds coming from the bench and net, though. Something‘s wrong.‖

“OK, the sounds you hear from the bench are just standard F-bombs from players and coaches. This happens. Totally normal. You could also be hearing major F-bombs dropping from some of the Blue Jacket fans who may be in the crowd.” ―OK…so what‘s that sound coming from the net?‖ ―This isn’t so good. Looks like a melt-down of sorts.” ―Can you fix this soon, please? We kinda need him, and now.‖ “He needs some work, ma’am. He’ll have to be pulled and rebooted. this may take a game or two.” 167

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―Oh My God!! I can‘t wait a game or two…what are we gonna do NOW?‖ “It’s OK. Garon will go in and stay in until Mason is rebooted. They’ll be fine.” ―Can you do anything about the Power-Play? It‘s kinda squeaking.‖ “Running diagnostics on Special teams…well I see Juice is back, that’s one good thing…this may just need time, ma’am.” ―What else can I do?‖ “Do you need medical attention?” ―Well, no but I am having a freak-out and I can‘t eat my pizza because I‘m all upset.‖ “Put the pizza down. Find your happy place. Deep yoga breaths.” ―OK…after that?‖ “If your team loses and badly, NHL OnStar suggests staying away from sharp objects and glass. Also, if profanity is used, make sure you are away from impressionable children and sensitive senior citizens.” ―Anything else?‖ “We’re always here when you need us. Have a better game next time and thank you for using NHL OnStar.”
Mary O’Malley is the lead blogger for Fire That Cannon, FanSided.com (Columbus Blue Jackets) and is a True Union-Blue fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets. She gives her readers a huge dose of nincompoopery and speculation, with a ribbon of truth.

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Rangers Beat the Yankees! Biggest Accounting Upset in MLB History!
By Michael Cardano ATHBaseball.com

The Texas Rangers have just completed the biggest accounting upset in Major League Baseball history. The Rangers behind an 8 inning, 3 hit gem by Colby Freakin' Lewis, beat the Yankees 4-2.
The Rangers at just over $55,000,000 have the 5th lowest payroll in all of baseball this year. The Yankees on the other hand have the games highest payroll at nearly $207,000,000! Those of you screaming for a salary cap / salary floor just took a shot to the body. If you have been with us for a while, you've have read our off-season debate series, The Great Bloguin Baseball Debate. There has been no more popular post on this site than MLB Salary Cap - Debating the Merits. If you haven't read it, you are doing yourself a disservice. The eight teams that made the playoffs in 2010 had the 1st, 4th, 9th, 13th, 15th, 19th, 21st, and 26th highest payrolls (out of 30 teams.) Just missing were the San Diego Padres who almost led wire to wire and would have been a wonderful story given that they had the second lowest payroll. Doing the math, the average ranking for a team that made the playoffs was 13.5 or the 45th percentile. Chalk one up for parody, at this point in the analysis; the landscape is almost as fair as can be. Advancing to out of the Division Championship Series round to the League Championship Series round were the the 1st, 4th, 9th and 26th teams. The Yankees, Phillies and Giants average out to being the top 16th percentile however when you add in the Texas Rangers, the remaining teams average out to being the top 1/3 percentile. Those of you screaming that there needs to be a salary cap / floor are now starting to gain some credibility. Of the teams that were left, entering the League Championship Series round, the San Francisco Giants were at a clear monetary disadvantage against both the Yankees and Phillies. Juxtaposing their payroll against the Yankees is a silly comparison. You could double every Giants team member salary and give the bat boy a salary of $9.5 million and they would still fall a few dollars short. 169

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Texas Rangers however, were at a clear monetary disadvantage against everyone; even the Giants. The San Francisco Giants payroll is 179% higher than that of the Texas Rangers; the Philadelphia Phillies payroll is 259% higher than the Texas Rangers; and The New York Yankees payroll is 375% higher than the payroll of the Texas Rangers! Can you imagine trying to keep up with your neighbor who makes 375% more than you! This 2010 ALCS between the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees was the largest disparity between two teams in the history of playoff baseball. The difference of more than $151.5 million between the two teams is not only more than the entire Philadelphia Phillies team salary, but it's $4.9 million more than the entire Chicago Cubs salary; and they have the 3rd highest salary! Kick in another $9.3 million and you could pay for the entire Boston Red Sox team salary! Consider the following additional numerical facts. For the price the Yankees pay A-Rod, the Rangers pay 22 players and still have $3 million left over. The difference between the two highest paid players on each team (Alex Rodriguez and Michael Young) is only $800,000 short of being able to pay the entire salary of Mark Teixeira.

For the price the Yankees pay A-Rod, the Rangers pay 22 players and still have $3 million left over.

The entire Texas Rangers starting playoff Rotation, Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter make less combined than the Yankees 15 loss - 5.26 ERA pitcher, A.J. Burnett, who didn't even get a start in the ALDS! Although the Texas Rangers winning this series was the biggest accounting upset in the history of baseball, it was not translated to how people wagered. The smart money was on the Rangers from the beginning. If you bet on the Yankees to win the ALCS you had to bet $180 to win $100. If you bet on the Rangers, you bet $100 to win $160. In the NLCS if you bet on the Phillies you had to bet $240 to win $100, if you bet on the Giants, you had to bet $100 to win $200. If you are one that believed that the disparities in MLB salaries made the playing field unfair, you had a virtual gift opportunity to bet on the Yankees as they just were favored that heavily. Conversely, if you were managing risk against the payrolls in the NLDS, you had to risk a ton to bet the Phillies while getting an opportunity for an extraordinary payout if you bet on the Giants. A bet that at the moment is looking pretty good. It's hard to believe that Yankees with the largest payroll advantage in the history of playoff baseball did not get respect at the betting window. Based on the team salaries, the 170

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most prudent way to wager on the two League Championship Series' would have been to bet on the Giants and Yankees. You would have lost your Yankee bet.... Your looking good at the moment with the Giants. Random Musings - By the Numbers Has there ever been a healthy player as highly paid as Javier Vasquez ($11.5 million) that was left off a MLB playoff roster? How in tarnation does Boone Logan make more than Neftali Feliz? Is there a more feared / less paid hitter in baseball that Nelson Cruz? Anyone who has seen Jeff Francoeur throw a ball from right field knows that he can throw the bejesus out of the ball. As the 7th highest paid player n the Rangers team, maybe they should try to get their monies worth and let him pitch in the World Series? The Yankees paid Phil Hughes $24,833 for each of his 18 regular season wins... They paid A.J. Burnett $1.65 million for each of his 10 wins. The Yankees paid Mariano Rivera $454,545 or each of his regular season 33 saves... The Rangers paid Neftali Feliz $10,050 for each of 40 saves. Josh Hamilton, the odds on favorite to win the AL MVP made $3.25 million, that's $2.25 million less than the Yankees 14th highest paid player, Curtis Granderson. Two of the Rangers most important players, Neftali Feliz and Nelson Cruz make less combined than Yankees role long man Sergio Mitre. - Mike Cardano
BallHyped.com Contributor of 2010 award winner Michael Cardano is owner of MC3 Sports Media, which owns both Around the Horn Baseball and Xtra Point Football on the Bloguin Network.

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The Oregon Ducks’ New BCS Uniforms: Where’s the Mallard?
By Megan Ann Wilson SheGotGame.wordpress.com

Another Bowl game brings another new look for the Oregon Ducks, who’ve worn a variation on the Nike Pro Combat 2010 Uniform every game this season.
Nike‘s American Football summit took place in Dallas yesterday and the company launched the updated Pro Combat System of Dress for the 2011 season and seemingly lucked out with the Ducks BCS Championship game against Heisman winner Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers. There is no grander stage for Nike to showcase their newest duds for next season and get jersey geeks salivating. The Ducks will wear the new advanced garments for the big game, along with the Florida Gators and the Boise State Broncos, respectively. The most surprising part about the Ducks‘ 2011 uniforms are not all the technological design updates like the further streamlining of the already fitted jerseys, the new Air Zoom Alpha Talon Cleat and the use of Nike‘s patent Flywire technology in a sports performance garment. But rather, compared to what Nike has produced for Oregon in the past, the BCS Championship uniform is rather underwhelming. From head to toe, the entire ensemble is a riff on what the Ducks have worn all season and sticks to the same colour palette. The jersey is mainly white with grey, black, neon and silver accents. The Duck wings are back again, this time in gun-metal grey on the shoulders. The thin Oregon font in grey on the chest and arm sleeves and is highlighted, naturally, in neon. The result is minimal, futuristic but also incredibly bright. Thank goodness Glendale is a closed dome stadium as natural light would make the game unwatchable – the Boise State Broncos in blue wearing on the smurf turf would be easier to watch. The biggest complaint from Oregon aficionados is that the Ducks stray too far from their traditional team colour palette of green and yellow. I believe that team colours must feature on the main body of the jersey and pants and the accessories should use the alternate colours to highlight the overall look. The accessories are by the far the best part of the kit and most interesting. The gloves use two shades of silver to form a diamond pattern while black duck wings and an Oregon O display when the wearer puts up their hands to form the ―O‖ and look very sleek. The carbon fibre helmet mimics the gloves with the diamond pattern and the ―O‖ is in the now trademark neon. It‘s a striking helmet, however I do miss the traditional mallard helmet that the Ducks wore earlier this season, 172

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which is a classic in sports design that fuses technology, design and references the duck perfectly. It‘s interesting that the Ducks are back in neon, using a yellow that could look much more green in certain lights and on television. Paired with white jerseys, black and grey elements, and bright shoes designed to blur when in motion, the uniform will likely look dizzying and incredibly bright in high-definition. However, perhaps it will give them a competitive advantage against the more basic, traditionally styled Auburn jerseys offered by Under Armour. The closest Oregon has come to wearing real school colours: November 26, 2010 against the Arizona Wildcats. Amazing mallard helmet though. Photo Credit: Getty Images While stylistically more advanced, it‘d be nice to see Nike push the creative envelope and take the uniform to the next level with the 2011 Pro Combat System of dress design, using the advanced technology and original Ducks colours. Will the jerseys be reimagined before the Ducks march on the field on Glendale? Don‘t be surprised if Nike and Phil Knight have something else up their fitted sleeves for BCS championship game on January 10th. Rumor has it that the alternate gun-metal grey (called anthracite in the Nike colour wheel) jerseys that are now available on GoDucks.com, will include pants and that the Ducks have an option to go with white jerseys and anthracite pants. Will the Ducks take in the Tigers in a two-tone, all white or completely different look? Without a doubt the Ducks stand out and literally wear their Nike Corporate link on their sleeves, but that doesn‘t mean they should eschew traditional completely. Can you go forward without looking back? Only time and Beaverton folks know for sure.
Megan Wilson, also known as @shegotgame, is the original aesthetics and athletics maven. She works as a freelance sports design writer as well as a fashion stylist, personal shopper and brand builder and designer specializing in athletes, sports media and menswear. She started a blog dedicated to the fusion of sports and style called SheGotGame in early 2010. She's also the NBA style blogger for The Basketball Jones on theScore. Her addictions include shoes, cheese, hip hop, varsity jackets and fashion magazines.

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Nets Nation Still Lost In Latest Trade
By Jason Whitney NetsPost.com

The title explains the dreary mood Nets nation is enduring. Seemingly content with Terrence Williams’ new found ways coming back from the D-League, Billy King made a trade that sent shock waves all over. Draft picks that could have been bought with Mikhail Prokhorov’s billions of dollars instead traded away for one of the best assets the Nets had.
Trade rumors swirled around like a tornado slashing its way through the Midwest last night, with the prospect of Carmelo Anthony agreeing to an extension sending him to the Nets that turned out to be a hoax like so many rumors before that. Channel 7 in Denver even reported that the Nuggets had agreed to a trade with the Nets late last night that would have sent Carmelo to the Nets. No such luck though, as the reports were bogus. I‘m still figuring out what‘s more comical, Billy King having a job or the Nets brass saying they‘re doing everything now to improve this team short term and long term. When pressured to explain this (by me) I think we know how they responded….They didn‘t Maybe this is part of the plan and the Nuggets wanted draft picks that were lottery protected and most likely be in the 20s. Maybe the Nuggets didn‘t want another knuckle head talented player in Terrence Williams and his modest two year 4 million dollar contract. Maybe. I hope I‘m eating crow on this and Billy Prince, oops I mean King, pulls a trade out of nowhere and brings in some player of considerable talent. With a bundle of draft picks the next few years the one thing I will say is the Nets do have some options to try and make some noise in the trade department. Remember though, this isn‘t football and draft late first round draft picks aren‘t that coveted. My hope and every other Nets fans hope is this: We trade some of our picks with a chance to move up in the later stages of the Lottery. If we can trade a couple of our picks and say move up to the 12th or 13th pick we may be able to acquire a good player. Nets Nation: Don‘t count on it.
Jason Whitney has extensive knowledge of the NBA, dating back to his college days where he played at Alfred State. During this time he would hit up NBA games while on road trips. He has been a devoted fan of the NBA for over 15 years. While blogging and writing in journals for the last decade, he has acquired an expansive amount of knowledge of all aspects of the game.

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Dwight Howard and the Alpha Dog Theory
By Philip Rossman-Reich OrlandoMagicDaily.com

If you watched Saturday's World Basketball Championship rout of Croatia by the United States, you might wonder: "Hmm, maybe Team USA did not need Dwight Howard." Rest assured though, even with Spain's loss in the team's first game to France, the American's roster deficiency will appear at some time.
It is not a deficiency of talent for sure. With Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose, there is plenty of talent to lead the team in scoring and employ the team's signature press defense. It is a deficiency of experience and quality big men. Lamar Odom and Tyson Chandler are the only players on the team with international experience at the national team level. And Tyson Chandler is the only pure center on the roster -- and Odom is starting in the middle. It is not like everyone did not know this problem was coming. David Lee got hurt in training camp and Amar'e Stoudemire could not get his contract insured in time to participate. That means there is only one person to blame for the National Team's lack of post presence and maybe the Achilles heel that keeps the country from winning its first World Championship since 1994. The national media's favorite whipping boy: Dwight Howard. Surely Dwight Howard, he of the two-time Defensive Player of the Year Awards, two conference finals appearances and one NBA Finals appearance, is the missing ingredient for Team USA. And surely Team USA, with whom Howard won a bronze at the 2006 World Championships, is exactly what Howard needed to reach that next step and become the league's most dominating force (not that he isn't already). To the chagrin of Magic fans, the national media does not yet seem to be on Howard's side. There is definitely a perception about Dwight Howard in the national media especially that will not seem to go away. the latest contention is that Howard needed the reps as the best player in big games with Team USA. So being the best player on the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals the last two years is not good enough? Ultimately the criticisms come down to Howard's demeanor on the court. A lot of national commentators complain about Howard's bubbly smile on the court and wish he 175

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had a Shaquille O'Neal-like glare as he dunked over you. It led to Sports Illustrated writing an article to preview the 2009 Playoffs with the headline: "Too Much Fun: Can the Magic's Dunk Machine Get Serious for a Moment?" This, you could argue, was the same complaint they had about the staid expression of Tim Duncan. He is only arguably the greatest power forward in NBA history. His titles have also quieted much of the criticism. So until Howard wins that first title, he will continue to face these criticisms. Howard gets admittedly frustrated by all the criticism thrown his way, especially since what he is good at goes largely unappreciated. But the one criticism that could wrankle Magic fans most is the argument that Howard is not an "Alpha Dog" and needed the reps as Team USA's best player to take back to the Magic. Fans have been divided on this issue throughout the summer.

It might be nice to have Howard be "the man" on Team USA until you remember he was not really much of a factor on offense during the 2008 Olympic run. Even when he got post up attempts, other teams were able to swarm him. And while he was still very effective on defense, it was limited because so many European big men are able to step out and hit from the international 3-point line. While Howard, Durant and Rose would make an unstoppable team, Team USA is not what Howard needs now. Playing for Team USA would not help Howard develop offensively. The rules in FIBA basketball are too different for big men and it is debatable by how much Howard needs to improve his post games. Most Magic fans, I think, would argue Howard is a much better offensive player than the national media give him credit for. Although Howard still has plenty of room for improvement -- especially at the free throw line. The Alpha Dog theory has gained momentum as everyone wonders who is "The Man" in Miami -- Dwyane Wade, by the way. The question for Howard is: Does he have the will to carry a team across the finish line? He has shown flashes of it. The impressive triple double he had in Oklahoma City two years ago and his constant presence defensively change games in a way no player can. His performance in Game Six 176

It might be nice to have Howard be "the man" on Team USA until you remember he was not really much of a factor on offense during the 2008 Olympic run.

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of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals where he out-LeBron'ed LeBron James and dominated the post like every Magic fan expected him too. It is there. But his performance in the 2009 NBA Finals, where the Lakers threw big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol at him to slow him down, and the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals, where Howard played well but obviously did not win. Howard simply does not have the demeanor of the typical Alpha Dog. He is not wildly pumping his fists like Kobe Bryant or methodically breaking down his opponents like Tim Duncan. Basketball is his passion, but for him it is fun. That is no knock on Howard. You cannot begrudge him simple joys and his way of expressing it. Some guys just don't have that killer instinct gene inside of them -- *cough* LeBron James. That does not make him any worse of a player and that does not preclude him from being in the top five best players in the league. What matters is what he does when the chips are down. And right now the results are mixed and he has not shown the ability to convert on free throws enough to carry his team across the finish line in close games. I think we all agree that is the only part the Magic really want to see change. What we all want to see Howard do is come into a big game and know he is going to have a huge game offensively and defensively. So far, we know he is going to be incredible on defense. It is half of the game, but does not generate the stats that casual fans like to see -- although Howard produces some staggering defensive numbers. Offensively, yes Howard has a ways to go to get to the 2025 point per game mark fans expect from their "Alpha Dogs" of the league. But that distance is cut in half if he can figure out how to shoot free throws consistently. Who needs a refined post game when still the only way to defend Howard is to foul him? So does Howard need to be playing with Team USA to get "Alpha Dog" reps? Absolutely not. He may not have the barking Alpha Dog mentality of a guy like Kobe Bryant, but he has his place on the team as the leader by example (it is Jameer Nelson who gets in everyone's ear and teammates listen to). And surely after last year's early playoff exit, he is preparing to step his game to an entirely different level.
Rossman-Reich has been a lifelong Magic fan, growing up in the glory days of Shaq and Penny, suffering through the mediocrity of the Tracy McGrady and the resurgence under Dwight Howard. Philip joined Orlando Magic Daily, then a member of the ESPN TrueHoop Network, in November of 2009. He attended Northwestern University, and is trying to figure out what to do with his journalism degree.

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Sundiata Gaines: NBA Feelgood Story of the Regular Season
Rey Moralde TheNoLookPass.com

I was talking with our good friend, Glenn Moore, from the Dugout Sports Show... and he took issue about what me and Doc Funk said about the NBA's best story of the regular season. Glenn mentioned that Zydrunas Ilgauskas coming back to the Q (Quicken Loans Arena) for the first time since he was dealt was more tear-inducing than what we mentioned.
I guess I can't blame him and I'm not going to take anything away from Z's moment because it WAS a very good moment for Cleveland Cavalier fans. Z has been in the organization since 1996... and he had been through a lot with that franchise. To culminate with a championship would indeed be a great story (although, yes, we KNEW he was going back to the Cavs after that deal). However... this story that I had been talking about is just... awesome to me. It had to do something with Glenn's Cleveland Cavaliers... but the Cavs ended up being on the wrong end of the stick at the end of this story. Yes, my friends. I'm talking about Sundiata Gaines' journey to the NBA. And it's about chasing your dreams. Glenn even scoffed that he may never be anything more than a guy that averages 3.3 points a game and that every player would say that being in the NBA IS a dream come true. You know what? Fine. That's not my point here. Sundiata was in the D-League. Teams deemed he wasn't good enough for whatever reason to be in the NBA. Or tall enough. Or fast enough or strong enough... whatever. There are only so many spots in the NBA. So he went to Italy and then to the D-League and worked his ass off so he can get a call-up by one of the franchises. Gaines averaged almost 24 points and 7 assists from the Idaho Stampede before he got called up by the Utah Jazz. And ya know, it's nice that someone from the D-League got a call-up. I'm always happy for someone who goes through the hard road of playing overseas and the D-League before making it to the NBA. 178

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Gaines gets signed on a 10-Day contract. He's just hoping he can stick in the NBA for the rest of the season. He just wanted a chance. In his fifth game for Utah (against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers), Deron Williams got hurt in the fourth quarter. Gaines entered the game, not having played in the game at all. He and Ronnie Price spearheaded a furious Jazz run that put Utah up by 12 in the middle of the fourth quarter. And then LeBron decided to take the game into his own hands. James blitzed the Jazz with 20 points (36 in the game) in the fourth quarter. But after Zydrunas Ilgauskas missed a freethrow (kinda ironic that it was him since I brought him up earlier), the Jazz were only down two, 96-94, with 5.6 seconds left and a chance to tie or win the game. Carlos Boozer had already fouled out so the two best players from Utah were out of this play. Jerry Sloan decided to leave Gaines in for the final play. And it was something like out of the movie.

Kids dream of making the game-winning shot. And Gaines was able to live that moment. How can you NOT feel happy for this guy (well, I guess unless you root for the Cavs)? It's funny because I was actually watching the game while we were doing our podcast. I was so stunned and happy that I interrupted the podcast because of this wonderful moment. All of us felt the same way that we decided for one day to rename our podcast to The Chronicles of Sundiata. The Inside The NBA crew on TNT could not help but feel elated for Gaines. Especially since Gaines went to the same high school as Kenny Smith. And the whole NBA Twitter/Blogosphere exploded. Even Sloan (who has coached the Jazz since the late 80's) mentioned that he couldn't remember the last time he was excited for a victory. Gaines signed his second 10-day contract the day after his now-signature game and was eventually signed for the rest of the season. Maybe he'll never be a regular rotation player for the NBA. Maybe he will. Maybe he'll even end up in a future Obscure NBA Players post here in TNLP. But to make that gamewinning shot against the best team in the league? In front of the home crowd? What an incredible moment. That is something that can't be taken away from Gaines and that's 179

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something he can tell his kids and his grandkids. And for the lot of us that saw this moment? I'm glad we saw it. A lot of us saw ourselves in Sundiata Gaines; a lot of us wanted to make a game-winning shot. So it was like we were living vicariously through Gaines and we were just so happy for him that he got that chance. It felt like WE won the game. And it's moments like this that make sports great. Sundiata Gaines has my vote for feelgood NBA story of the regular season.
Rey Moralde A.K.A. "Rey-Rey" is the mastermind behind the offbeat NBA website, The No-Look Pass. He freelances with other NBA sites here and there, including SLAM Online, and had his work featured on Yahoo Ball Don't Lie, ESPN Truehoop, ESPN L.A., and the L.A. Times. He also likes to sing bad pop songs in karaoke or on his Twitter feed @TheNoLookPass.

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My Thoughts On Michael Vick
By Robert C. Binyon LASportsMinute.blogspot.com

I sit here as Thanksgiving winds down, and I'm thinking about everything I have, and the mistakes I've made. Granted I'm only 20, well nearly, but I've still made my fair share of them. I've gained friends, I've lost friends, I've gained loved ones and I've lost them as well. But I've also had people there to stand by me at all stages, never has my world been turned upside down in a split second.
Michael Vick's has. He went from the most popular player in the NFL, the highest paid player in the NFL and most exciting player in the NFL, to convicted felon in federal prison. His "friends" took advantage of his graciousness and contributed to his eventual filing for bankruptcy. Before I go into how I feel about the situation of Vick's resurgence let me lay it out there...I love dogs. Absolutely love them. Some say that its not possible to like Vick and have any sort of feelings for man's best friend. I say BS. Remember, forgiving is not forgetting. I'm a big proponent of second chances, I've used plenty myself. Granted my second chances weren't the result of federal prison, but still..I've needed them. Around the same time Vick ran into trouble, so did Donte Stallworth, only what Stallworth did was different. He killed a man. Stallworth was found guilty of driving under the influence and involuntary manslaughter. He saw barely two months of jail time and the rest was probation. He wasn't suspended from the NFL, and went on about his life and career. Once again, I love dogs, but Vick went to prison for about ten times as long for killing dogs. Stallworth killed another human being while driving his automobile drunk. To me that is inexcusable. Killing another human being is more serious than killing dogs. The unfortunate truth however is that Vick was punished much more harshly for his crime. However, his life has changed for the better because of it. He has severely changed his outlook on life, and not only has his life taken a large step forward, but he has matured as a football player because of it as well. Before going to prison Vick was lazy, he didn't prepare for his games and he took everything in his life for granted. He even 181

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told coach Jim Mora, Jr. he regretted the way he acted in Atlanta and that he was sorry. You can tell now when you watch him play the quarterback position that he is now a true quarterback, as opposed to an athlete lined up behind center. He makes reads, he stands strong in the pocket and delivers the smart pass. Running is legitimately his last option, and he still tears people apart on the ground. The difference is, now teams have to plan for both, and truly do not know what he's going to do. Pass? Run? Who knows? Just look at that game he had against the Redskins. Vick has completely reinvented himself: he's a better player, a better person and he realizes his mistakes. The naysayers can say he's just talking the talk so he can walk the walk, but I truly believe him. He's completely disassociated himself from his old circle of friends, those who helped run his old life into the ground. He routinely makes speeches on behalf of PETA, and continues to be a huge advocate for the organization. One can even say, as backwards as it is, that this whole debacle did more good things for animal rights than bad. Sure many dogs died, and many more were harmed beyond repair, but look at the national coverage that the animal rights issue has gained since this incident. It is national news every week, and numerous laws have been enacted in the wake of this disaster. So sure, Vick screwed up big, but look at the effect he has had. Vick was my favorite player in the league, and because of that I was a Falcons fan. When he went to prison I was lost, trying to finding a favorite team but I couldn't really do it. I tried to like the Vikings because of AP but that didn't do it for me, I silently rooted for the 49ers and Raiders, but you can't like both teams...so I guess I don't like either team. So when Vick took over the job after Kevin Kolb went down I was stoked! My roommate and best friend is an Eagles fan, so it was perfect. Say what you want about Vick, but he's back and he's doing all the right things. He truly is sorry for what he's done, and can only do so much to prove it. I'm pulling for the Eagles, they're a Super Bowl quality team who has a legitimate chance at winning it all. Vick is putting up MVP caliber numbers for the first time in his career and has all the weapons he needs, and the best part is, he's acting like an MVP now too.
Robert C. Binyon is a student at UCLA, who loves sports and enjoys writing about them when he gets the time to fully articulate his thoughts.

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ESPN 30 for 30: Once Brothers ~ Politics, Friendship, and Basketball
Sarah Wirk TheWirk.com

Tonight I watched the ESPN 30 for 30 "Once Brothers" feature and I have so much on my mind that I fel the need to post. I saw Vlade Divac this summer in Las Vegas, when I was watching NBA Summer League. I never thought I'd think twice about Divac this year, much less remember Drazen Petrovic.
Drazen Petrovic and Vlade Divac were friends and former teammates for "unified" Yugoslavia, but civil war between the Serbians and the Croatians divided them. Other notables on that team are Dino Radja and Toni Kukoc. I wasn't familiar with the specifics of Divac and Petrovic's relationship, until I watched this show. I'm not Croatian nor Serbian, so I'm not very familiar with the history of the two countries. I wasn't familiar with the incident that occurred in 1990 World Championships in Argentina (i.e. Divac's reaction to a fan approaching with a Croatian flag) when Yugloslavia defeated Arvydas Sabonis and the Soviet Union for the gold. What I do remember are the Dayton Peace Acccords that happened in 1995. I remember the news that the Presidents were meeting in Dayton, because those talks occurred only minutes away from the houses where I grew up. I remember the Peace Accords put an "end " to the fighting between Croatia and Serbia. Aside from integrating the political angles, it was enlightening to see the human story behind Divac and Petrovic's relationahip. Divac was drafted into the NBA in 1989. According to Wikipedia, "The 1989 NBA Draft has been regarded as one of the worst drafts in NBA history... Though the draft produced talented players such as Shawn Kemp...eight of the top ten picks were considered busts, including the first two picks Pervis Ellison and Danny Ferry." **** HAHA. Thank you, Wikipedia. I don't remember Petrovic's entry into the league, but I do remember his premature exit from our lives. I remember learning that Drazen Petrovic died in a car accident in Germany. I saw it on the news. I remember his star shining while he played with the New Jersey Nets. He had so much promise and talent. I remember feeling the loss, even though I wasn't a Nets fan. In the ESPN feature they talk about Petrovic and how he had 183

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no problem going against Michael Jordan. Petrovic had a quick release and ice in his veins. Petrovic and Divac's performances on the world's basketball stage and successes in the NBA helped to pave the way for other Europeans (e.g. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Peja Stojakovic, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki) to enter the league. Human relationships are tough at times, but when you add politics, friendship can often be strained. They say never to talk about money, religion, or politics. Politics can enter our lives in the most subtle of ways, but even the keen eye of someone "in the know" can discern the Serbian three-finger salute for what it is, as opposed to "just" a cheer after a 3-pointer is drained... I remember watching a Sacramento Kings game in the late 1990s, where the salute was given after the shot. I was watching with someone from Europe who knows basketball. As soon as he saw it, he said "Whoa!". What I thought was a simple celebration for a 3-pointer or a clutch shot, meant much more. I had no idea what I saw meant more than it did, but he knew (i.e. that for some people) the message would be clear. Don't believe me? Seems as though he wasn't the only one who picked up on the messaging. Here's one article I found on the subject: http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/content?oid=14137. Nevertheless, I don't want to talk politics. I do want to let you know though, that if you haven't seen the ESPN 30 for 30, "Once Brothers", see it. In fact, if you aren't watching these shows, you really should catch up and maybe even pick up the gift set. Further, if you're a Drazen Petrovic fan, I just noticed that you can pick up his jersey.
From the Author: I'm happy. I only do things w/people that I truly care about. I think the best thing anyone can give anyone is time. I need lots of attention. I want, what I want, when I want it. I'm impatient. I'm a soccer-mom in training. Sports, music, and travel are my passions. I follow my passions and believe if you want something and put your heart and soul into it, you can achieve it. No one is going to give you everything ~ you have to earn it. Sometimes, we all need a little help from our friends... So, if I can motivate you to take a chance, follow your dreams, and/or at a minimum just laugh, then my writing will all be worth it!

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The Milton Bradley Insanity Timeline
By Suzanne Solheim BabesLoveBaseball.com

Milton Bradley is nuts. You know it, I know it. This insanity is clearly a large contributing factor to the reason he has gone through eight different teams over his 11 seasons in the big leagues. That, or he really likes to move around a lot.
When I saw his recent ESPN interview, I began to wonder when exactly it all went bad for him. This prompted me to assemble a timeline made up solely of the uncooperative, batsh-t crazy, flat-out stupid things the habitually-troubled outfielder has done. Keep in mind, the guy has talent in there somewhere. And aren‘t we all a little crazy? Anyway, I don‘t have all day, so we‘re only going back as far as 2003. June 2003: When Bradley was a young Indians outfielder, he got super pumped one time after he hit a home run. Opposing Dodgers catcher Paul Lo Duca was not impressed that he snapped the Velcro on his batting gloves after the bomb, and confronted him after the game. His response, like some sort of threatening nursery rhyme, was Classic Milton Bradley before Classic Milton Bradley even existed: I live by a simple creed. If you don‘t know me and I don‘t know you, don‘t approach me and I won‘t approach you. Don‘t insult me and I won‘t insult you. Because you don‘t know what I will or won‘t do. July 2003: In the eighth inning of a game against the Athletics, he let loose on home plate umpire Bruce Froemming, who wrung him up on a called third strike. Bradley had to be restrained and led back to the dugout by manager Eric Wedge before he tossed his helmet and bat toward home, resulting in an ejection. Right or wrong, there‘s nothing umps hate more than players who argue balls and strikes. And then throw things at them. February 2004: Just when we thought Bradley had finally grown up, he was pulled over for speeding in Cuyahoga, Ohio. He spent three days in the slammer for driving off before the cop even had a chance to write out the ticket. Seriously, do normal people have the balls to flee the police? April 2004: Just a few days prior to the Indians‘ season opener, Bradley again butted heads with Wedge, who was irritated he didn‘t run down a pop fly that fell in for a hit. The following day, he was barred from training camp and traded shortly-thereafter to the 185

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Dodgers.

June 2004: Bradley was ejected for arguing balls and strikes again, this time having to be held back by Dodgers manager Jim Tracy. He whipped off his batting gloves and dropped them near the plate, along with his helmet and bat, before heading to the dugout. There he threw an epic fit to rival even the naughtiest of toddlers, hurling a bag of balls onto the field and angrily throwing one toward the warning track. The game was delayed for several minutes while unruly Diamondbacks fans littered Bank One with garbage. He earned a four-game suspension with an undisclosed fine for that stunt. September 2004: While the Dodgers were visiting San Diego near the end of the season, a fan threw a plastic bottle in Bradley‘s direction, resulting in a full-on meltdown. He picked up the bottle, abandoned his spot in right field, and chucked it into the front row as hard as he could. As Bradley exited the field in a huff, he ripped off his hat and jersey, daring the Padres faithful to boo him some more. That was the last game he played that season. June – July 2005: This period may be the darkest and least-funny time in Bradley‘s career. Police were called to his home on three separate occasions in response to 911 calls from his pregnant wife, who he allegedly slapped around and choked. He was arrested, but no charges were filed. Bradley called 911 himself at least once, but officers left without incident once they spoke to both him and his wife. Oh yeah, did I mention she was pregnant? August 2005: The following month, Bradley accused Jeff Kent of being a crappy "team leader" because he didn‘t know how to "deal with black players." He then explained his position to reporters by speaking in the third person, which may or may not be a sign of being a total sociopath. Kent was pissed and called him pathetic. (I think there was a prop bet for this on a sports betting site too). Pretty sure they aren‘t friends anymore. Injury-plagued 2006: After sitting out near the end of the 2005 season with finger and knee injuries, Bradley inked a one-year contract with the A‘s. Then he hurt his knee on April 27. He came back June 6 and then hurt his shoulder on June 19. He managed to stay healthy from July 14 until the end of August, when he twisted his ankle. June 2007: Bradley was starting to get cranky regarding his lack of playing time, but seriously, he couldn‘t go longer than 5-6 games without pulling something. So it‘s June 20 and he‘s landed on the DL three times already. He‘s pissed that it‘s taken the club two extra days to activate him, so he sneers to the media, "I‘m healthy and I‘m on the bench." The A‘s rewarded Bradley by designating him for assignment, but since he had over three 186

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years service time, he politely refused to play in the minors and was promptly traded to San Diego, where things got really nuts. August 2007: At one point during his short and rocky stint with the Padres, Bradley busted a bat over his knee after striking out against reigning NL Cy Young award winner Brandon Webb… who fanned 193 other guys that season while tossing 42 straight scoreless innings. September 2007: Recovering from hamstring issues and a right oblique strain, Bradley was feeling feisty. During a heated confrontation with first base umpire Mike Winters, who was allegedly (and later suspended for) provoking him with profanity, he wriggled free of manager Bud Black‘s grasp and fell to the ground. Bradley tore his right ACL when he landed, which gave him one last thing to complain about before spending the rest of the season not arguing with umpires. June 2008: Bradley had been pretty wellbehaved up until that time he was listening to the game from the Rangers clubhouse and overheard Royals TV analyst Ryan Lefebvre compare some of his negative behavior to that of recovering drug addict Josh Hamilton‘s in the past. Of course, he stormed out of the clubhouse and climbed four flights of stairs to get at Lefebvre, but GM Jon Daniels and skipper Ron Washington cornered him just in time. Bradley returned to yell at his teammates, cry, and mumble something about being misunderstood. Not even kidding. He spent the rest of his one season with Texas suffering random injuries until he filed for free agency. June 2009: One time he tossed a fly ball into the stands as a souvenir when there were only two gone in the inning. That was hilarious, for everyone but Chicago Cubs fans, who pretty much hated him already for being such a sucky outfielder and an even bigger whiner.

Bradley had been pretty well-behaved up until that time he was listening to the game from the Rangers clubhouse and overheard Royals TV analyst Ryan Lefebvre compare some of his negative behavior to that of recovering drug addict Josh Hamilton‘s in the past.

August 2009: So here he was in yet another city, disliked and getting booed by fans of a team who don‘t really appreciate being blamed for their 100-year curse, like he did when he was quoted as saying ruthless crap like "you have to understand why the [Cubs] 187

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haven‘t won in 100 years here." I don't know, maybe if the outfielders knew how many outs there were per inning? That would be a good place to start. I‘m talking about hatred, period. I'm talking about when I go to eat at a restaurant. I‘ve got to listen to the waiters badmouthing me at another table, sitting in a restaurant. That's what I'm talking about. Everything. September 2009: The Cubs finally had enough of his constant shenanigans (the cruel and tragic kind… which make them not really shenanigans at all) and suspended him for the remainder of last season. Skipper Lou Piniella called him a "piece of [crap]" while GM Jim Hendry made it clear the two years and $20 million left on his contract was peanuts compared to the headache he was causing in the Windy City. Like most of Bradley‘s breakups, this was a messy one. March 2010: After joining the promising Seattle Mariners club this offseason, Bradley is a new man and ready to make a fresh start. Oh but not so fast, it looks like Hendry has already blown a gasket over some off-the-cuff remarks he made during the rather interesting interview which Bleacher Report has taken the courtesy of dissecting for us. So there you have it: the loony timeline of Milton Bradley‘s big league career, as far as I can recall. There was a lot of messed up stuff to cover, so hopefully I didn‘t omit anything major. Anyway, it probably won't take long for him to piss off Mariners fans and management... or vice versa. Update: Wow. Did he seriously go almost an entire year without getting into major sh-t? Color me shocked. January 2011: Bradley is arrested at his California home roughly an hour after a woman informed the police that he threatened her. Charged with posing a "criminal threat" he is released after posting $50,000 bail. What a douche. Allegedly.
The only things Sooze and Marea love more than baseball are shoes and beer.

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A Sports Halloween
By Steven Beck TriadSportsDaily.com

As Halloween approaches, it is not the only scary thing taking place in the world. There have been plenty of scary events in sports that would leave any sane, reasonable person trembling in their boots. Not scared yet? After you really think about it, I promise you will be!
Nude Photos of Brett Favre - Can you imagine the horror? I for one want no part in imagining what he put his Wrangler jeans through to send photos to former New York Jets reporter Jenn Sterger. I think Deanna Favre is right and we all need to handle this issue with ―faith‖ that Brett will never do it again! Panthers Trade 2nd Round Pick For Edwards - What gives a Carolina Panthers fan more horror than this? The fact that the Panthers would ever draft Edwards in the 3rd round in the first place, but to trade a 2nd round pick to the New England Patriots for Edwards is very frightening. We see how well Edwards is helping out this year. Yeah, standing on the sidelines in street clothes.

Eastern Washington Red Turf - My retina is burning! It is bad enough to have blue turf at Boise State, but red turf at Eastern Washington is even worse! I guess when you cannot draw enough attention to your program with the team itself, create a circus per a horrendously putrid red field.

Eastern Washington Red Turf - My retina is burning! It is bad enough to have blue turf at Boise State, but red turf at Eastern Washington is even worse!

ACC Football and Its Finest - UNC loses to LSU, VT loses to Boise State, Georgia Tech loses to Kansas, VT loses to James Madison (at home), and so on, and so on. What a way to start a new football season. The ACC is a powerful basketball league, but when it comes to football, there is plenty of room for improvement. At the ACC Operation Basketball Media Day a fellow member of the media was asked, ―Do you think Commissioner Swofford will talk about ACC football?‖ His response while dropping his head, ―That won‘t take very long.‖

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Former UNC Assistant John Blake - Oh no, not another story about John Blake! There are so many stories about various violations with John Blake that I am not going to take the time to recite them all. Just know that he is causing plenty of scare for the UNC faithful. I really could continue this column for days, but these are just a few of the most memorable ―scary‖ sports stories of recent memory. It is all in good fun, so if you want to continue the trend send us your ―scary‖ sports stories at triadsportsdaily@gmail.com. We would love to hear your thoughts! Happy Halloween!
Steven Beck is an entertaining and opinionated sports contributor in the Triad sports market. He adds entertainment value to the Triad Sports Daily show with passionate view points on sporting events, teams and players. Steven is the host of the Triad Sports Daily Show, and contributes written columns onwww.triadsportsdaily.com. Steven’s favorite sports are college football and college basketball, but overall enjoys every sport. He has been a North Carolina State fan all of his life, but never lets it get in the way. Steven is a voter in the College Football Researchers Association top 25 poll that is published every Monday during the college football season and is a member of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.

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The NFL, The NFLPA, Their CBA, and Their Fans
By Ty Schalter TheLionsInWinter.com

Since before I can remember, I’ve lived and died with the boys in Honolulu Blue. I’ve adorned myself with their colors, idolized the players, and directed electronic facsimiles of them to electronic facsimiles of Super Bowl championships. As a kid, I’d wake up at dawn on Sunday mornings to catch all of the gameday coverage, and I’d fall asleep in my bean bag chair trying to stay up until the end of Monday Night Football. I’d vigorously champion Barry Sanders case as the greatest running back in football, starting the moment he was drafted and never stopping. I was thrilled with the Lions’ rare successes, and I kept a stiff upper lip through the many failures.
In many ways, when I watch the Lions, I watch as that four-to-fourteen year old self: with unabashed, unreserved, unbridled adoration. Without great understanding of the game, without any care for the business side of things, wanting nothing but a Lions victory. It‘s that youthful, innocent passion that drives me to keep cheering, keep connecting with other fans, keep their spirits up, and yes—keep the blue fire burning. There‘s another part of me that watches the Lions, though, another set of eyes I look through: the eyes of a man approaching thirty. The eyes of a man with a wife, three children, a mortgage, and a minivan. The eyes of a man whose flaming passion for social justice became an ashen pile of expiring college credits. Yes, I see the Lions, and professional football, through the eyes of a man who votes, drinks beer, has bosses, and pays taxes. I remember a time before the NFL salary cap, before NFL free agency. I saw how talent, motivation, and organization in the front office became just as crucial to onfield success as talent, motivation, and organization on the sideline. I recall the 1991 playoffs, when the Lions earned their lone postseason win of the last fifty years. They beat the Dallas Cowboys 38-6, and in the aftermath one analyst (can‘t remember who) said, ―these two teams had the young talent to rule the NFC for the next decade.‖ That was true, but there was a significant difference: the Cowboys had a supremely motivated owner, and an ahead-of-his-time coach/franchise architect in charge. They‘d spend the rest of the nineties stockpiling both in-house and free agent talent, circumventing the cap whenever necessary, and beating everyone else‘s brains in.

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Meanwhile, the Lions had an owner, as Brian VanOchten once said, more concerned with hosting cocktail parties than winning—and a COO/capologist whose inability to keep top veterans around wasted that nucleus of talent. The annual exodus of veteran starters kept the Lions in stuck in almost-there mode, and ultimately inspired Barry Sanders to retire in frustration. So yes, mortgage-and-minivan me understands well that this is a business, and money talks just as loudly on the field as off. I watch football with both sets of eyes—as I do the rapidly developing labor situation. The NFL and NFLPA are deadlocked in a media arms race, aiming to conquer public heart- and mind-share. Both are trying to rally us, the football-addicted public, to their side. We‘re hearing stories of crippled and destitute retirees, and cautionary tales of players counting their millions from inside prison walls. We‘re being buried under layer upon layer of spin intended to ―frame the debate‖ in a way that reminds me, sickeningly, of election-cycle TV ads and their virulent soundbite lies. It‘s all wasted effort. The public, as a whole, will never accept either side as the villain, or either side as the hero. It‘s painfully obvious to even the most casual fan that player salaries—and, especially, rookie salaries—are escalating at enormous rates. It‘s further obvious that with skyrocketing franchise values, jawdropping TV contracts, and unprecedented attendance figures, both sides have raked in unprecedented stacks of chips over the past decade . . . but, Detroit Lions Pajamas Ty doesn‘t give one whit about what happens once the chips are raked. The millionaires and billionaires can divvy up the pot however they want; just give me my football! Of course, I-just-had-to-vote-to-raise-my-taxes-so-cops-can-afford-to-patrol-the-town me is inclined to look a little bit deeper . . . The seeds for the current situation were sown in 2006. With the old CBA, 2006 , there was to be an uncapped 2007, and then the CBA would expire—much as this season is uncapped, and this CBA is set to expire after the 2011 draft. After several last-second deadline extensions, coming about as close as possible to triggering the Last Capped Year without actually doing so, the NFL and NFLPA agreed on a CBA extension. Guaranteeing labor peace deep into the next decade, this negotiation and agreement was the ultimate achievement for both then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and the late NFLPA executive director, Gene Upshaw. But, just two years after the 2006 agreement, NFL owners voted unanimously to opt out of the current CBA. Why? In a letter to Upshaw, new NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell cited three reasons:
  

High labor costs Problems with the rookie pool Inability of teams to recoup bonus money paid to athletes who breach their contract or fail to perform

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Until the 2006 extension, the salary cap and salary floor were based on a percentage of shared revenue: TV contracts, ticket sales, etc. Every NFL team had to spend at least X (the salary floor) and Y (the salary cap) percentages of the same 1/32nd slice of the NFL‘s shared-revenue pie. However, the NFLPA wanted the salary cap to be based on what‘s now called total football revenue. Every team has ways of making money beyond the shared revenue: stadium naming rights, concession vendor arrangements, parking, etc. Players were getting frustrated that significant monies were going directly from our pockets into the owners‘. So, rather than fight for a bigger slice of the same old shared-revenue pie, players negotiated a smaller slice of a bigger pie: 59.6% of ―total‖ revenue instead of (in 2006) 64.5% of shared revenue. That smaller slice, bigger pie approach upped the total cash available to for player salaries by eight percent—great news for the players. Problem: the shared-revenue pie is contributed to equally. Leaguewide TV deals are split 32 ways, leaguewide apparel sales are split 32 ways, each game the home and away teams split ticket revenue 60/40, etc. But the total-revenue pie is not distributed equally—each team‘s locally-generated revenue varies wildly. This is why there was such a big push for luxury-box-laden stadiums in the mid-90s; teams don’t share luxury-box revenue. The Cowboys‘ new stadium, nicknamed ―Jerryworld,‖ is more like a Dallas Cowboy theme park than a stadium: you could have a great time (and spend a lot of money) at it for a few hours without seeing a minute of the game. Another bigrevenue team is the Redskins; they get $7.6M in free money every year just because their stadium is named ―FedEx Field.‖ Somehow, I don‘t think Curly Lambeau‘s estate can match that largesse. Besides the varied revenue, each team‘s costs vary wildly. The Bengals play in a stadium bought and paid for by the people of Hamilton County, and pay relatively little rent to do so. But Jerry Jones had to take out multiple nine-figure loans to birth his cash cow—and its feed bills (debt service) are huge. You can see where this is going: with the salary cap—and floor—derived from all the income generated by all the teams, pennypinchers like the Bengals, Bills, Jaguars, and Vikings had to keep up with the Joneses. The owners tried to ameliorate this by implementing a ―supplemental revenue sharing‖ system that works kind of like a luxury tax; the top earners kick some into a fund earmarked for the less aggressive. All the owners were almost immediately dissatisfied with this solution. The high roller teams wanted the penny-ante teams to ―earn‖ their supplemental cut by working harder to generate local revenue, but the small-market teams cited inherent market disparities; they couldn’t generate local revenue like the big boys! Just two years after the 2006 agreement, owners opted out of the CBA, making 2009 the Last Uncapped Year, 2010 completely uncapped, and 2011 a year without football. Here is where we enter the Spin Zone. Clearly, the owners see the ‗06-‗09 arrangement as untenable. Prior to 2006, NFL franchisees were guaranteed a healthy profit, whether they chose to run their businesses like Ebenezer Scrooge, or Howard Hughes. Now, though, crazy year-over-year increases 193

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in rookie salaries, and the inclusion of unequally earned revenues in the salary cap—and floor—created a bubble in individual player salaries, eating into the profits of the Scroogier teams. Of course, we should not cry for the billionaires that own these teams, and their not-asgreat-as-they-used-to-be profit-margins. But, the pre-2006 model essentially guaranteed profitability, which in turn made it easy for small market, non-competitive, or lessaggressively-run teams to stay put and make money. Even with no full-time GM, a skeletal scouting staff, and a longtime coach who‘s avoided the reaper partially because the owner won‘t pay his buyout, the Bengals were not only competitive in 2009, they won their division! But if individual salaries keep growing at their current rates, the Bengals will have to either spend more, or be less competitive. My inclination is to support a return to the old model, where the salary cap and floor are derived from ―designated gross revenue,‖ i.e. shared revenue. Let player costs be a fixed portion of the shared revenue, let the zillionaire-tycoon types seek their own fortune, and let family-owned teams in smaller cities turn a decent profit with a competitive product. However, the players won‘t want to give up their hard-won slice of bigger pie. In fact, they think the pie isn‘t big enough. Check out the NFLPA‘s ―Where Dat Billion At?‖ fact sheet: Q: In real dollars, as opposed to salary cap calculations, what percent of all revenues do players receive? A: 51% in 2008. Since 2001, players have never received more than 53% or less than 50%. Q: So why does the league say that the players get 60%? A: Once again, that is the maximum salary cap calculated AFTER deducting $1Billion in real dollars in 2008 that the league and teams received. Q: Where Dat $1Billion? A: Where do you think? The clear implication here is that every year, the owners pile that sneakily-hoarded billion dollars into a McDuckian money bin and have a good swim. The owners, of course, have a perfectly rational explanation: the billion dollars is for expenses. Building stadiums, marketing, paying for coaching staffs, executives, scouts, administrators, sales, etc.. Eight billion dollars in revenue is not eight billion dollars in their pocket; the players don‘t necessarily deserve a share of money that‘s definitely going right back out the door. In this fact sheet, we see the NFLPA ―framing the issue‖: this expense deduction was collectively bargained, not some sort of mysterious

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embezzlement! The owners aren‘t just ―arguing‖ that that money shouldn‘t count; the union explicitly agreed to that $1B expense deduction as part of the CBA. Of course, if Dat Billion covers the major expenses, why are the owners insisting the players can‘t have any more than a sixty percent of what‘s left? We know the revenues coming in the door—but what are the owners‘ expenses, and how big are these dwindling profits? That‘s exactly what the players would like to know. They‘ve been repeatedly asking the NFL to open their books, and show the world not just their revenues, but their expenditures and profit. Those of us who are hockey fans remember a similar demand from the NHLPA during their ‗04/‘05 lockout—terrifying, because that demand, and the owner‘s refusal to capitulate, was a major sticking point in the 310-day disaster. Ultimately, the NHL contracted former SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission, not South Eastern Conference) chairman Arthur Leavitt to conduct an independent financial review of the NHL‘s 30 teams. The conclusion was grim, indeed: "The results are as catastrophic as I've seen in any enterprise of this size," Levitt said. "They are on a treadmill to obscurity, that's the way the league is going. So, something's got to change . . . I would not underwrite as a banker any of these ventures, nor would I invest a dollar of my own personal money in what appears, to me, a business that's heading south," Levitt said." Of course, the players didn‘t buy this whole independent-analysis thing. In fact, the demand for open books was at least partially disingenuous; I remember several players saying that even if the books were ―opened,‖ the owners would just funnel cash into their other businesses to make it look bad. To me, though, the vanishing revenue streams were obvious: terrible ratings, loss of media coverage and national mindshare . . . the NHL simply wasn‘t pulling eyeballs, and player salaries were growing unabated. Even if the majority of teams had their heads above water, it was obvious that the NHL needed to structure itself in a way that guaranteed that growing costs wouldn‘t overwhelm shrinking revenues. NFL teams have a slightly tougher sell when they plead poverty. Cash has been pouring into the Money Bin at an accelerating rate, with income rocketing towards the NFL‘s staggering goal of $25 billion in annual revenue by 2027. Owners will be quick to tell you that it takes money to make money; business ventures like the NFL Network have required a ton of investment (risk!) to see a return—but dang. The ratings are insane, attendance has held steady at ―outstanding,‖ and every year sees the NFL garner more and more mindshare. Hence, players‘ demands that the owners open their books and prove the financial picture is somehow getting dimmer. 31 of 32 teams steadfastly refuse—but one, as a publicly traded company, is legally obligated: the Green Bay Packers.

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The Packers released their financial report for FY2010 (which ended March 31st), with a predictable headline: ―We Are Still A Profitable Non-Profit Organization, But No Longer Wildly So [not really the headline]‖. ―The organization is in good shape financially, and we remain fully able to support our football operations and provide all the resources needed to field a championship-caliber team,‖ Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said. ―But over the last few years we‘ve been concerned with the escalation of player costs relative to overall revenue and reduced incentives to ownership to grow the game. That‘s what we‘re looking to address in the CBA negotiations, because if the current trend continues, it‘s not good for the Packers or for the NFL.‖ Here‘s where we get to the meat of the matter. The NFLPA correctly notes that the salary cap and floor, are/were derived as a percentage of revenue, ergo it is impossible for player salaries to grow faster than revenues. This certainly makes sense—and yet, here‘s the Packers‘ official website, pinning their loss of profit directly on increases in salaries: But it‘s the 51 percent decrease in operating profit, from $20.1 million to $9.8 million, that‘s most notable, particularly when the team on the field went from 6-10 in 2008 to 115 and in the playoffs in 2010. This past year‘s $22.1 million increase in player costs was substantial, in part due to significant long-term contracts given to veteran players Ryan Pickett, Nick Collins and Chad Clifton. But the Packers‘ negotiating position with regard to those contracts was aided somewhat by the new free-agency rules in the final year of the current CBA, which kept players with four and five years of experience as restricted rather than unrestricted free agents. The Packers, a small market team that—despite being a non-profit organization—has been quite profitable, is seeing a chunk of those profits eaten up by the increases in individual player salaries. It‘s not that total, or average, or aggregate salaries are somehow rising faster than revenue—as the NFLPA points out, that‘s impossible. It‘s that the market rates for top rookies and veteran free agents are exploding, and teams that have previously minded their Ps and Qs are finding themselves forced by the market to pony up big-time guaranteed money. That the Packers' official release on this matter exquisitely reinforces the NFL's talking points is a little unsettling—and of course, just like in the NHL case, even with a partial examination of the books, there‘ll be suspicion that the owners aren‘t telling the whole truth. Nevertheless, the numbers that have been released do back up the owner‘s claims. The notion that market rates for top rookies and veterans have been exploding is undeniable. Ndamukong Suh‘s contract is worth at least $60 million over five years, with $40 million in guarantees—and that guaranteed figure is a 21% increase over 2009‘s #2 overall pick. According to Forbes.com, the contracts of the top three picks of the 2010 draft are all amongst the ten richest guarantee-laden deals in the NFL. Obviously, when 196

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rookies are getting vastly more guaranteed money than the overwhelming majority of proven veterans, something is wrong. The dispute between the owners and players on this isn‘t about whether the top salaries need to be capped, but what happens to all those millions of dollars. The NFLPA proposed a rookie cap that would siphon about $200 million away from the top rookies, and guarantee that it be spent on veterans instead. Further, their proposal would cap the length of rookie contracts at three years. The NFL, in their counterproposal, would rather take that money and use it as a nest egg for retired players‘ health care—simultaneously reducing current-player costs, while avoiding spending ―new‖ monies for old players. This is a matter of negotiation, and there are many bargaining chips to work with: amount of rookie money to be redistributed, length of rookie contracts (under the NFLPA‘s proposal, Matthew Stafford would have been due for UFA after next season!), where the money for retirees comes from. . . that will all get hammered out. So if the rookie pool is just a matter of "hammering it out," what about the NFL's other point, the recoverability of guaranteed/bonus money to players who flagrantly breach their contracts? Paying a hardworking superstar like Andre Johnson an astronomical salary is one thing; he earned his rookie deal, outperformed his second deal, and will likely be worth nearly whatever Houston can afford to pay him. But what about the player who went one spot before him in the draft, Charles Rogers? He received an even fatter rookie deal, and earned about four game checks‘ worth of it. The Lions needed five years in court to win back Charles Rogers‘ money, and to this day, seven years after he signed, I don‘t believe they‘ve seen a dime. I think the NFLPA recognizes this--and again, I'm sure they'd rather the Lions have given that nine million to a proven veteran on the team at the time, like . . . um, well, you take my point. The NFL and NFLPA have already agreed to improved standards for on-field disclipline—in terms of fine schedules, appeals processes, etc.—so I‘m optimistic that a reasonable set of rules, or standard contract language, can be developed to protect teams against the most egregious of ―busts.‖ What is much less likely to get hammered out anytime soon is this whole ―pie‖ thing. Remember Dat Billion, the ―expense credit‖ that the owners take off the top before the money‘s even divvied up? Well, the NFL wants it to be more like Dat Two Point Three Billion. In their proposal, the expense credit will swell to 18% of the full gross revenue. In a doozy of a letter to current NFLPA members by former New York Jet Pete Kendall, the NFL‘s proposal is thoroughly broken down from the players‘ perspective. His conclusion: You would have to turn back the clock to the early 1980‘s, in the days before free agency, to find a season in which the players‘ share of football revenue was as low as that being proposed by the NFL owners for 2010 and beyond. Thus, the only way to describe this proposal is that it is a dramatic reduction in player compensation, which is not justified given the NFL‘s unprecedented growth and their failure to provide meaningful financial data relating to their expenses. 197

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Despite the owners‘ failure to provide the financial data to support their assertion that expenses have escalated faster than revenues, the Players remain willing to create incentives for NFL owners to develop new revenue streams for their clubs. Our current proposal would specifically allow NFL clubs to obtain substantially increased deductions for costs incurred to generate new revenue streams. We have also proposed additional credits for stadium construction and/or renovation. But we should not and will not agree to pay for items such as expenses to operate practice facilities or for travel costs as the owners have included in this 18% proposal. The NFL‘s entire response to Pete Kendall‘s extremely well-informed, well-written, letter is as follows: ―The NFL owners are looking for a fair system that allows continued investment to grow the game. NFL player compensation has almost doubled in the last decade because of investments made by the clubs. If we continue to invest and grow, current players will have higher compensation, former players will have higher benefits, and fans will enjoy a better game. Expenses for NFL franchises have risen faster than revenue in the current agreement and the economics must be adjusted. But, as we have repeatedly emphasized, constructive and creative negotiations can lead to a balanced agreement that will not reduce current player salaries.‖ Now we need to step back to 2006. The NFL was racing against time to get a deal done with the NFLPA before the Last Capped Year—because the threat of totally uncapped salaries, and the destruction of financial parity, was just hours away, several times. The late NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw repeatedly said that if the cap ever went away, it would never come back. With their backs to the wall, the owners knew they couldn‘t let that happen. The union leveraged its . . . uh, leverage, and the owners did what they felt they had to do. After the initial round of celebration for Commissioner Tagliabue‘s great achievement, everybody read the fine print. According to ProFootballTalk, the league‘s reaction to the new CBA was swift and decisive: We've heard from several front-office types around the league who believe that the NFL Players Association "kicked our ass" in conjunction with the new CBA. "The union ate the league's lunch -- big time," said one league source. "The owners were so focused on their pockets and infighting, they never talked about the CBA," added the source. The thinking is that Commissioner Paul Tagliabue just wanted to get the CBA done, so that he could ride into the sunset as a hero. So clearly, the owners don‘t just want to make sure that the money they‘re sinking into expanding revenue via the NFLN, NFL.com, and overseas ventures doesn‘t count toward the cap. They‘re in it to make sure they get back some of what they gave away the last 198

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time around. In fact, Commissioner Goodell implicitly said so at the NFL‘s annual meeting back in April: ―We knew when we entered this CBA that the pendulum would swing the way of the players. We just didn‘t know how much how fast.‖ It's not just about adjusting the current cost/revenue structure to reflect the realities of the market; the NFL is actively trying to ―swing the pendulum‖ back their way, by dramatically shrinking the expanded-revenue pie, and making the player‘s slice smaller as well. The NFL notes that by going to an 18-game schedule, and by reinvesting Dat Two Point Three Billion in their revenue-expanding programs, the total revenue will grow to the point where the amount of actual dollars going to the players won‘t shrink. This is where the NFL's referenced "creative negotiations" come in. How can the owners pretend to be fair in this, when they‘re coming in to negotiations looking to both shrink the pie, and the players‘ slice of it—relying on projected future growth to offset the give-back? Well, If you don't believe that the players really did come out way ahead in the 2006 deal, just reference the NFLPA‘s ―First and Ten Questions NFL Players Want Answered:‖ 6. Why did the NFL and NFL team owners embrace an uncapped year and not preserve a salary cap system that gives every team a chance to win on any given Sunday? Wow. Two years ago, the NFLPA was resolute: if the salary cap that had been holding them back ever went away, it would never return. Now, they‘re challenging the league to explain its opting out of the salary cap, when the cap was so obviously awesome for everyone! What could have caused so radical a change? For starters, the uncapped year was hardly the cash bonanza players assumed it‘d be. All throughout the 90s, teams bumped hard up against the cap—and then creatively worked around it and spent over the cap. By the time the mid-aughts had rolled around, the concept of ―cash over cap‖ was a common occurrence; if you weren‘t spending all your available money, and then some, you were putting yourself at a disadvantage! I remember Eagles fans constantly freaking out that their big-market team always kept under the cap, for no discernable reason. Here‘s one page of Philly sports blog Philly2Hoboken‘s 2005 archives where they do just that, several times (text search ―under the cap‖). But, without a cap floor, teams can spend as little as they want, save for veteranminimum rules. Moreover, the incentive to spend up to the cap has disappeared; NFL teams are no longer spending just because they have the space to do it. They‘re looking at their budgets, looking at their profits, looking at the market, and if the player isn‘t worth the asking price, they‘re not spending. It‘s like boiling water with the lid closed: the water is noisily bubbling and rolling, the lid is rattling, steam is shooting out the cracks—but when you take the lid off, instead of water exploding all over the kitchen, everything equalizes, and the raging tempest becomes a gentle simmer. 199

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Okay, so. The NFL wants to get back what it gave away in 2006, when it allowed unshared revenue to count towards the players‘ total share of income. They don‘t want the greater expenses they‘ve sunk into growing the league as a whole to still count as part of the players‘ share. The owners want to be able to spend money to make money—but they also want to be able to be competitive on a shoestring budget. The players want to keep what they negotiated for in 2006, when they stopped the owners from generating sizeable streams of income that they‘d never get to see. They want to be able to share in the rewards of massively profitable enterprises like NFLN and NFL.com, even if that means sharing in the financial risk of launching and maintaining such enterprises. What can be done? There‘s no bad guy here, and no good guy either. The NFL gave up a lot in the last round, and they want the NFLPA to return the favor this time. Both sides are making boatloads of cash, and both sides are highly motivated to hunker down for the long haul, regardless of the feelings of the people they‘re all getting rich off of. Well, they say never to criticize without better ideas—so here are my ideas:

Some Sensible Suggested Solutions
Rookie cap. Yes. Rookie salaries are flatly out of control. The money saved should go to veterans, not just go in owners‘ pockets—but at least a portion going towards a retired players nest egg makes too much sense. Three-year contracts, and unrestricted free agency, for players who might not be any good for three years, would make no sense. Rather than place a hard cap on the number of years, I‘d prefer they re-work the way salaries count against the cap--so it‘s not always a big bonus check in front of massively backloaded base salary on a six- or seven-year deal that neither side intends to honor (see: Johnson, Andre and Revis, Darrelle). Regardless of contract length, though, rookies shouldn‘t be eligible for UFA until they have four years of service. Shorter, but more guaranteed, contracts. While we‘re at it, let‘s address that hugebonus, tiny-salary problem that seems to be the root of so much current unrest. Since the only real guaranteed money in the NFL is bonus money, players are heavily incentivized to sign long-term deals—the only kind that can bear the cap weight of big bonii. Yet, most players and franchises are loath to commit to each other like that. I‘d like to see a cap structure that incentivizes two- and three-year deals with low bonuses, but decentlysized, guaranteed salaries—so we avoid the ―What do you mean I‘m only due to make $583,000 this year‖ problem afflicting many young veterans. It would also cut down on the ―I spent my bonus money on a mansion and a Rolls and now I‘m broke‖ syndrome. Maybe guaranteed base salary should only count towards the cap at fifty cents on the dollar? Minimum salaries: triple them. If Ndamukong Suh can avoid dismemberment and Purple Drank for two years, he and his family, and his kids, and their kids, will be set for life. For the rest of the NFLPA‘s rank and file, though, the seven- and eight-digit paydays getting dumped on these rookies (and a few free agents) seem as unattainable as 200

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The Big Chair Behind the Mahogany Desk in The Corner Office does to most of us. Many NFL players will be in and out of the league in just a few years, after exposing themselves to all the same physical risks the stars do—but with a regular job is certainly their long-term future. Why build a kajillion-dollar warchest to take care of broke retirees, but not also care of them while they‘re playing? A little of that Big Suh money could go a long way towards securing his teammates‘ futures. Return to the DGR model. The only way to ensure that all 32 teams have guaranteed profitability—no matter their business philosophy—while ensuring competitive levels of talent on the field for all, is to make sure that the player cost is a portion of the shared revenue that all teams receive. However, I‘d re-size that slice to approximate the current total dollars going to the players. Stock options, and profit sharing. But wait, what about all the local revenue being generated—and what about the leaguewide enterprises? If we cut the players out of local revenue, again, owners will be able to hoard cash—and if we cut the players out of NFLN and NFL.com money, they‘ll miss out there, too. Well . . . make the players have to spend money to make money, too. Why not allow players to purchase stock in their clubs, or have an option to reduce their salary in return for percentage of the team‘s profit? This way, the players help reduce operating costs for the club, while also ensuring for themselves a piece of the windfall they‘re helping create. Further, players being minority owners will help both sides bridge the interest gap, and help turn ―NFL vs. NFLPA‖ into just ―NFL.‖ Of course, this is all just flowing from my rudimentary understanding of the issues at work—and my rudimentary understanding of business, for that matter! After all, Pushing Thirty Minivan Me is just that: pushing thirty with a minivan. I‘m not pushing fifty with a Harvard MBA, and I‘m not pushing twenty with a Rolls Royce Drophead Coupe. I‘m not in a position to bear investment risk, or rake in dividends off the profit. I‘m the schmuck in line at the gate, ready to part with fistfuls of hard-earned jack I should spend on more important things. I‘m the tool with a family of five, all dressed in jerseys on gameday. I‘m the fool at the bottom of the pyramid scheme, the rube all this is built upon, the mark they‘re all getting rich off of . . . . . . and I‘m the kid in front of the TV set, eyes as big as saucers, watching Barry run. Owners, players, coaches, front office, staff, agents, flaks, and all the rest: please. Remember me. Remember us. Remember who really bears the financial burden here— and ultimately, who really holds the cards. Baseball, 1994? Hockey, 2005? We are the golden goose, and you have your hands around our neck.
Ty Schalter is happily dedicated husband, hopelessly devoted to his three young kids. He loves food, beer, music, and toys that go 'beep'. He's a professional IT nerd, semi-pro musician, and wholly amateur Lions writer/blogger/fan/enthusiast. He does his best to keep the blue flame of Lions fandom burning, even in the midst of winter's snows.

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Hockey Trivia: Misspelled Names on the Stanley Cup
By Jeffrey Bausch HockeyChump.blogspot.com

I think the NHL might need to hire a new proofreader.
One of the reasons that the Stanley Cup is the most popular professional sports trophy among the four major sports is because of the sense of immortality that comes along with having a player's name forever engraved into the side of the trophy. But what do you do when your first name is misspelled? Or, for that matter, your last name? What about when the engravers misspell the NAME OF THE STANLEY CUP WINNING TEAM. Well, more often than not, the NHL doesn‘t do anything. But what does the NHL do when the first name of a player is misspelled? Or, for that matter, their last name? What about when the engravers misspell the NAME OF THE STANLEY CUP WINNING TEAM. Well, more often than not, the league doesn‘t do anything. That's right - there are STILL a handful of misspellings on the Stanley Cup to this very day? They include:
    

Bob Gainey was spelled "Gainy" when he was a player for Montreal in the 70s; Ted Kennedy was spelled "Kennedyy" in the 40s; New York Islanders was spelled "Ilanders" in 1980/81; the Toronto Maple Leafs was spelled "Leaes" in 1962/63; the Boston Bruins was spelled "Bqstqn" in 1972

Feel bad for those players and teams? Well how about poor old Jacques Plante? His name has been misspelled FIVE TIMES, including "Jocko", "Jack" and "Plant". Keep this info in your back pocket - could win you a future bar bet or two. In the meantime, I really think that the NHL should consider hiring a proofreader.
Jeffrey Bausch provides hockey every day for the everyday hockey fan.

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BallHyped 2010 Sports Blogs of the Year
To recap for those who weren't familiar with the voting/nomination process, nominations for BallHyped.com's Blogs of the Year Awards were accepted until Dec. 23 with final voting among the finalists running through the end of the year. Congratulations to all of our winners and nominees. Good luck in 2011 and beyond! - Brian Milne Founder, BallHyped.com

As reported just after midnight on New Years Day, the BallHyped community voted EaglesCentral.com winner of the BallHyped.com Readers‘ Choice Blogger of the Year award. Eagles Central, run by Bryn Swartz, held off an impressive list of bloggers that included 60 finalists from the BallHyped.com community. For the rest of the results, head over to the BallHyped Blogger of the Year poll page. A look at the rest of the BallHyped.com 2010 Sports Blogs awards: Nominations for the following awards were made by the BallHyped community

Readers’ Choice Blog of the Year
Winner: Eagles Central

BallHyped.com Contributor of the Year
Winner: MC3 Sports Media (Mike Cardano, xtrapointfootball.com) Honorable mentions: eaglescentral, ArtieFufkin, EyeAndEer

Best All-Around Sports Blog
Winner: Deadspin Honorable mentions: The Big Lead, Sports by Brooks, GuysGirl, Larry Brown Sports

Best Breaking News Coverage
Winner: Sports by Brooks Honorable mentions: The Big Lead, Larry Brown Sports, Deadspin

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Best Independent Sports Blogger
Winner: The Wirk

Funniest Blog
Winner: The Sports Hernia Blog Honorable mentions: Kissing Suzy Kolber, Real Fake Sports, Awful Announcing

Scoop of the Year
Winner: Deadspin, Favre-Sterger incident

Best Sports Media Coverage
Winner: Awful Announcing Honorable mentions: Fang's Bites

Best NFL Blog
Winner: Pro Football Talk Honorable mentions: Xtra Point Football, Read and React, RedZone Talk, Eagles Central, Shutdown Corner, Reservation for Six

Best MLB blog
Winner: MLB Trade Rumors Honorable mentions: Around The Horn Baseball, Babes Love Baseball, Big League Stew

Best NBA blog
Winner: The Basketball Jones Honorable mentions: Hoops Manifesto, Free Darko, A Stern Warning, Ball Don‘t Lie

Best NHL blog
Winner: The Pens Blog Honorable mentions: Days of Y'Orr, Avs Factor, Chicks that Give a Puck, Puck Daddy

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Best College Football blog
Winner: CFBExaminer Honorable mentions: Everyday Should be Saturday, Eye and Eer Blog, In the Bleachers, Dr. Saturday, Blatant Homerism

Best College Basketball blog
Winner: The Dagger Honorable mentions: Duke Basketball Report, The Tar Heel Nation

Best MMA, fight blog
Winner: Camel Clutch Blog Honorable mentions: MMA-Manifesto, Cagewriter

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