Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bobby Valentine to Manage Reality Show on Yawkey Way

A few months after the knee-jerk dismissal of Terry Francona, the Red Sox' exhaustive search for a new manager has ended. Apparently the answer to the Sox' problems is the guy who managed the 2002 Mets. Bobby Valentine.

Fuck me.

Valentine brings a massive ego to the Red Sox clubhouse, which will certainly bring a change to the atmosphere. And I suppose any change in there has potential to be good change. But this is a guy that the Mets got rid of. What else can we salvage from the '02 Mets? Pedro Astacio? Edgardo Alfonzo? Jay Payton?

Valentine hasn't managed a Major League team in 9 years. He managed a few seasons in Japan, so maybe he can communicate with Daisuke about Tokyo's notoriously bad traffic jams.

Valentine enters a situation that does seem to require a headstrong personality. And he has that. He's an Alpha, at least in his own mind. But if the Sox' players tuned out a man with Francona's respectability and resume, will they take Valentine seriously? And won't guys like Josh Beckett know that Valentine's job security depends on Beckett's behavior? So has the power-dynamic in the clubhouse changed at all?

It doesn't look like it has.

Ultimately, I don't feel as though the manager has much of an impact on the W-L columns. If the Sox do well in 2012, it will be because they pitched well, hit well, and fielded well. Not because Valentine managed well.

I don't take Bobby Valentine seriously, though. He's a joke. The latest joke in what has become nothing but a reality TV show on Yawkey Way.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bruins Back Where They Belong

It took a little more than two weeks for the Bruins' to get back into the mix atop the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference standings. It took a stretch of extraordinary play in order to atone for the lackadaisical start to the season. The Bruins have won 11 of 12, and accumulated 23 points in that stretch. That was after earning only 6 points in their first 10 games. It's almost December, but it sort of feels as though the season is starting over. We're back to Square 1.

The three games over the holiday weekend exemplified some of the Bruins' best qualities, and why they've been able to go on such a run.

Wednesday night Buffalo wanted revenge, both physically and on the scoreboard. The Bruins beat them in both departments. Milan Lucic isn't much of a fighter anymore, but he can still throw down.

The B's fell behind but Seguin scored, then added an assist, then Chara scored on the Power Play. Thomas was unreal in the shootout and the Bruins outlasted the Sabres.

The winning streak came to an end Friday afternoon against Detroit. But it was hardly due to lack of effort. The B's dominated most of the game, Detroit scored a few breakaways, and the Bruins couldn't get any bounces near the net.

Saturday night the Bruins needed two Winnipeg goals and a timeout before waking up. Once they did, they won the battles on the boards, ground out their offense, and played excellent shutdown defense on Winnipeg's talented forwards. Rich Peverley's astute puck-carrying set up a pair of Chris Kelly goals (he has 9 already, his previous career high was 15). Tim Thomas did the rest.

Excellent goaltending, a stingy penalty kill (85% in November), a productive power play unit (22.8% in November), lots of scoring by Seguin (8 goals in November), some timely offensive contributions from Chara (14 points in November), and getting production from guys like Kelly.

That's how the Bruins have gone from the cellar of the Conference to contending for the top spot. They have a big home-and-home series against the Maple Leafs starting Wednesday night in Toronto. They've beaten Toronto twice by a combined score of 13-2, so let's hope that trend continues.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Goodnight, Dream Team

Tom Brady is now 4-0 in his career against the Eagles, and the Patriots improved to 8-3 on the season. It was a nice win, but not particularly impressive. Victory is only as impressive as the opponent. And Philadelphia without Vick isn't a very good team. So let's make fun of the self-anointed "Dream Team" and move on.

The big plays allowed by the Pats' secondary were worrisome. They've typically been able to prevent opponents from torching them so badly. Usually they surrender territory 8 to 15 yards at a time. And if Vince Young had been more consistent, then this game might have been a bit more interesting thanks to those big plays.

The Patriots offense is very good. That's not news. A few key players got back to being involved yesterday. BJG Ellis got the ball 14 times, and although he only got 44 yards, he scored twice, and he helped set-up play-action for Brady. The Patriots ran the ball 36 times

The wide receivers got involved too. Welker caught 8 passes for 115 and a pair of TDs. And Branch caught 6 for 125. The last time the Patriots' top two receiving leaders were actually wide receivers was week 5 against the Jets.

Defensively, it wasn't pretty, but it was effective. Vince Young had a lot to do with that. So did Andy Reid. 4th and 1 on the 3, you have a 6' 5" 235 pound QB and you don't sneak it? Instead you force your inconsistent QB to throw a pass that has little margin for error? Thank you, Andy.

We're not going to learn anything new about the Patriots in these next few weeks. They're up against some weak teams with mediocre to bad quarterbacks. This is time to pile up wins and get into the best playoff position as possible.

Patriots host the winless Colts next Sunday at 1.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gerard Phelan Day

27 years ago today, two monumental things happened: I was born, and Doug Flutie threw his legendary game-winning Hail Mary pass against Miami.

But how much do we remember the recipient of that pass? While Flutie heaved a ball blindly downfield, Gerard Phelan was the one who made the play on the ball, in traffic, and hauled it in to claim victory for Boston College. Yet there are no statues of Phelan, no remembrances whatsoever.

Sure, Flutie had one hell of a game. He threw for 472 yards and 4 TDs. And Miami's Bernie Kosar threw for 447 yards. It was a classic QB duel. But Phelan made the play.

Flutie won the Heisman that year, and went on to a memorable pro career. Phelan was drafted in the 4th round, but his career was cut short by injuries.

Doug Flutie is the hero from Natick who threw the pass, won the Heisman, and went on to the CFL and NFL. Phelan was from Pennsylvania, and was the receiver of the pass, and was unable to do anything in the pro ranks. But he made the play.

Doug Flutie is a household name. Gerard Phelan isn't. And I think that is kind of a shame. Because he caught the pass off-balance in traffic, while Flutie just tossed it up there. Everyone remembers what Flutie did on this day 27 years ago, yet somehow forget what Phelan did, even though it was the same play.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Perfect Weekend for Alabama

I thought it was impossible, but it looks like Alabama and LSU are bound for a rematch. Oklahoma State couldn't handle lowly Iowa State, then Oregon and Oklahoma lost their second games of the year, effectively eliminating them from title contention.

So if LSU takes care of business against Arkansas (then Georgia), and Alabama beats Auburn, it looks like we'll have a rematch between two SEC West opponents. Who else could it be?

Oklahoma State? Even if they beat Oklahoma, they don't have the quality wins. Beating OU doesn't have the same amount of weight as it would have.

Virginia Tech? Is winning the ACC that impressive? Besides, for VT to finish with one loss, they'd have to beat Clemson, which would be their biggest win. They also lost to Clemson. Not too impressive.

How about Stanford? Well they nearly lost to Cal, and their loss to Oregon looks worse after the Ducks lost to USC.

Boise State? Please.

Houston? They're undefeated. It sucks that in this system that they won't get a shot, but how would they do in the SEC West?

The reason Alabama deserves another shot is because they're the answer to a question. It's a question I've never asked when thinking about BCS title contenders until now. If LSU are the undisputed #1 team in the country, who has the best chance to beat them? It's not Stanford, not Houston, not Oklahoma State.

It's Alabama.

The Tide have the best chance among the one-loss teams to beat the Tigers. They should have beaten them if not for Nick Saban going with a weirdly timed wildcat trick play. They are the clear #2 team in the country, so long as LSU is #1.

Of course, things once again get messy if Arkansas beats LSU. Or if Auburn beats Bama.

Photo Credits:
AP Photo

What the Red Sox Forgot to Consider

When the Red Sox fired Francona, they forgot to do something. They forgot to take a pivotal step in the process. And now they're paying the price for it.

Whether you agreed with Francona's dismissal or not, or were like me and didn't like it but begrudgingly understood it, the Red Sox' Front Office didn't have a plan to replace him.

Epstein was replaced in a heartbeat. But Francona's replacement has been a bit more difficult to find. Maybe the Sox should have considered that when they decided not to keep Tito in town. Instead, they threw the Captain of the ship overboard without giving thought as to who would take the helm.

Now we're talking about Bobby Valentine? I've heard fans that want guys with no managerial experience. Because that will straighten out the Josh Becketts of the world, someone who is figuring out how to do their job, and is one phone call away from going back to being some team's 3rd base coach.

I guess the manager's identity doesn't matter. It's still very telling about how much of a mess 4 Yawkey Way is that they fired a manager well over a month ago, and are interviewing hack TV personalities like Bobby Valentine.

Why not Remy? Why not Cam Neely? How about Jason Varitek? Or Doug Mirabelli.

It's November 21st, do you know who the manager of your ballclub is?

The Worst Timeout Ever

Last week, Rex Ryan called the timeout Mark Sanchez took just before halftime "The stupidest play in football history." Bob Stoops rewrote those history books Saturday night, when he called timeout with 51 seconds left in a tied game while Baylor possessed the ball. The Bears were content to go into overtime, as they had no timeouts. I guess Stoops wanted to force a 3-and-out, get the ball back with 40 seconds, and try to win in regulation (with no timeouts left).

Two problems with that:
#1: The OU defense had only forced two 3-and-out drives (one was 4-and-out) all game.
#2: Robert Griffin III had been torching Oklahoma's defense all night.

Robert Griffin III proceeded to punish Stoops' greed and arrogance with a 5 play, 80 yard drive ending with a 34 yard TD pass.

Stoops could have gone into overtime. And if you believe your team is the best, why not do that? That way, even if RG3 beats you, there's a chance to respond. The Bears had the ball on the 20, and only needed 47 yards to reach their kicker's range of 50 to win the game. Baylor had already amassed 536 yards of offense.

Bob Stoops cost his team a spot in the National Championship Debate, which would have raged for weeks. Now they must run the table just to win the Big XII.

Eight Straight, Mate

How dominant have the Bruins been in this 8 game win streak? They've outscored their opponents by 28. They still only have the 13th best record in the NHL, but their goal differential is the highest in the NHL. They're +25. The second best differential is Philadelphia's +13.

Their 6-0 win against the Islanders was a product of solid defense preventing the Islanders from getting anything going. New York managed 2 shots on goal in the 1st. Just 2.

Then the Bruins scored opportunistically. Bergeron finished a Seguin and Marchand breakaway. Seguin is now a point shy of his TOTAL from last season. Horton put in a Power Play goal and Kelly was given an early Christmas present from Rick DiPietro.

After that, the Bruins didn't play with 110% intensity, but they didn't screw around either. And in the 3rd period, the floodgates opened again. Ference scored just after the end of a Power Play, Kelly scored an effort goal, and Chara had a rare (for him) breakaway goal.

The fact of the matter is, the Bruins are a good team that played like a good team and the Islanders are a bad team that played like a bad team.

Next on the schedule is a decent team. If the B's want to extend their winning streak, they'll need to play with a bit more fire. That shouldn't be a problem considering they'll be in Montreal. The Canadiens, by the way, were the last team to beat the Bruins. Twice. I'm sure the Bruins will want a measure of revenge.

Tonight, Bruins @ Canadiens.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, November 18, 2011

MLB To Add Wild Card Teams

As soon as next year, each league could be sending 5 teams to the playoffs instead of 4. This will be the first time MLB has expanded its playoff structure since 1995. This also means that the Red Sox would have made the playoffs the last two seasons.

I don't mind the expansion. MLB will be sending 10 teams to the playoffs. The NFL sends 12, the NBA and NHL send 16 each. Any complaints about losing late-season pennant race drama can be silenced by pointing out that in any given year the race for 5th can be just as tight as the race for 4th. In 2010 for instance, the Red Sox had 1 more win than the White Sox in what would have been an exciting race for 5th.

I'd actually prefer 12 teams in the playoffs, with the top two from each league receiving byes.

What I don't like is the way that the new "Wild Card Round" will probably be played: a one game winner-take-all playoff. So after 162 games, it will all come down to just one? That seems a bit unfair. Especially since you're only as good as your starting pitcher performs that day. One meltdown start could be the end of what could have been a very good season.

It's also unfair to Wild Card teams that have better records than divisional winners. In 2010 the Yankees won the AL Wild Card with the 2nd best record in the AL. Why should they have to risk their entire season in a one-game playoff while the AL West winners with a worse record get more margin for error.

I'd prefer a 12 team playoff, with a best-of-three game opening round. I don't know what the point of adding Wild Card teams to the playoffs is if they only get one game to advance any further.

This is great for the Red Sox, though. Even when this team disappoints, they still win at least 88 games, and that will probably be good enough to get the 5th playoff spot.

#7 For Bruins

This was a potential trap game. The Bruins had just won a hard fought battle with the Devils. They knew they'd be facing a weaker opponent. Columbus, on the other hand, would be desperate and hungry.

And that's how things went in the game too. The Bruins didn't make many glaring mistakes, but they weren't playing with the same ferocity and intensity as they did against New Jersey. Understandably so. But as the 3rd period clock ticked away, the Bruins' effort level surged. They applied all the pressure in the 3rd and OT.

Tuukka Rask played great. He made some huge stops and kept the B's in the game when they weren't playing at their absolute best. He was brilliant in the shootout. The one goal he allowed was a point-blank downward deflection that was almost impossible to stop.

He didn't score a goal, not even in the shootout, but Tyler Seguin's confidence levels are unreal. He ran the overtime Power Play. He's a completely different player from last season. I've said it before, I'll say it now, and I'm sure I'll say it again: Last year Seguin had to adjust to the League, this year the League has to adjust to him.

The Bruins have won 7 straight and all 5 in their homestand. They've climbed from last in the Eastern Conference to 9th. They're only 5 points behind the Flyers atop the Conference, and 2 behind Buffalo in the Division.

They travel to Long Island on Saturday before starting an important stretch of games next week (Montreal, Buffalo, and Detroit).

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bruins Vanquish Devils

It's fitting that the Bruins achieved win #6 of their streak against the Devils. 6 as in 666, as in the Devil (even though 666 actually refers to Nero Caesar, not the Devil. Yes, I am that much of a nerd that I know that). And unlike the other games, they didn't pour 6+ goals in order to win it. They grinded this win out, against a determined New Jersey team.

The Bruins got contributions from guys who aren't on the top two lines. Gregory Campbell showed up big time, with two goal-triggering passes. He's the reason why Chris Kelly and Shawn Thornton scored goals.

The Bruins earned this one. They started a bit slower than the Devils, who came out determined. They withstood the onslaught and kept themselves in the game. And in the 3rd period, they willed their way to win. Which was extra impressive because they've been cruising in the 3rd period lately. They reached down and found that little extra something and they've now won 6 straight.

Just a bit of a tangent here: How good is Zdeno Chara? He might be the most complete player in the NHL. Obviously he's a dominating defensive force. But he plays in every key situation. The Bruins tried (and succeeded with) that set-play off the faceoff with a winger fainting wide then cutting to the center of the ice. Who has been the defenseman who made the tape-to-tape pass before both goals? Chara.

He's +9 during this streak, +10 on the season, with a goal and 12 assists. There are a handful of defensemen who have more points than that, but none of them are anywhere near as defensively stifling as Chara.

Bruins host the Blue Jackets Thursday night. They're dead-last in the NHL with a 3-13-1 record and are 0-7 on the road. This is a great opportunity for win #7 so long as complacency doesn't set in.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


The Phillies have officially acquired Jonathan Papelbon after he passed his physical yesterday. The former Red Sox closer signed a deal worth $50 million over 4 years, or $12.5 per season. And in an offseason that Red Sox fans want to see their team dramatically improve, it looks like they've gotten significantly worse. At the moment, at least.

The Red Sox must fill this loss by acquiring someone else. Bard is simply not good enough, as demonstrated by his performance down the stretch. And Aceves is no guarantee to succeed in the role either. And why not keep him where he is right now?

Heath Bell is a candidate for the job. He's recorded 40+ saves in each of the last three seasons. However, he's 34 years old (Papelbon turns 31 next week), and has no post-season experience. He'll be coming from San Diego to Boston, which is a drastically different environment.

There's 36 year old Francisco Cordero, who has over 300 career Saves, but also has no playoff experience.

There's 31 year old Ryan Madson, who doesn't have much of a track record as a closer before last season.

There's Francisco Rodriguez, who turns 30 in January, has extensive playoff experience, but he hasn't had a 30+ save season since 2009.

So there are options out there, and none of the above closers would be that bad. But none are improvements over Papelbon.

I know $12.5 million is a lot for a relief pitcher, but how much do the Red Sox spend on designated hitters, and oft-injured right-fielders? How about extensions for inconsistent starting pitchers?

I guess my biggest problem is that Papelbon is one of the Red Sox players that was likable. He was actually trying, and seemed to hate losing. He wasn't an elite closer and he can be replaced, but it's just not a pleasant way to begin an offseason.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Monday, November 14, 2011

LSU vs. Oklahoma State... Unless...*

Stanford lost. Boise State lost. The only unbeatens left are LSU, Oklahoma State, and Houston. With Houston's schedule, they're not going to get a national title shot without lots of help. So the Championship game will be LSU's stifling defense (allowing 10.7 points per game), against Oklahoma State's relentless offense (scoring 51.7 per game). Unless either of them lose, of course.

And that's possible. LSU still has to play #6 Arkansas. Oklahoma State must face #5 Oklahoma. If either team fails to win these big games (or any other game), then the BCS becomes a mess. And based on the history of the BCS, I think we're destined for a mess.

If Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State, how do you shut them out of the title game? How about Oregon, who only lost to LSU? What about Alabama, who only lost to LSU? Then again, if your only loss is to LSU, doesn't that mean you had an opportunity to win a title shot and failed? Is it more damaging to lose to a contender than it is to lose to a random team like Texas Tech? Should it be more damaging?

If LSU and Oklahoma State run the table, then the BCS has done its job. If not, then a playoff would be the only answer to solve the National Championship puzzle.

Bruins Slice Sabres

The Bruins extended their winning streak to 5 and also ended Buffalo's at 4. I think it's safe to say that the Bruins turned a corner on November 1st against Ottawa. Since then, they've scored 30 goals, and allowed only 10.

One of the biggest reasons for the onslaught of goals is Tyler Seguin and the Seguin-Bergeron-Marchand line. They were +3 Saturday night and Seguin has already matched his 2010-11 total with 11 goals. He's on pace for 60. The only Bruin to ever score 60+ goals in a season was an Italian guy named Phil. He did it three times. The last Bruin to score 50+ was Cam Neely in 1993-94.

It's not just one line, though. While Seguin is scoring the pretty goals, Lucic and Horton are generating ugly ones. They've combined for 8 goals during this streak. Neither of these guys were producing at the start of the season and it was killing the team. But now they're both playing physical, and allowing the game to come to them.

Apart from Seguin, this team doesn't have a pure scorer. They rely on depth, and being able to grind their opponents down. Right now they have two lines playing very well, a third line that's producing (Chris Kelly had a goal and an assist) and the 4th line is doing what the 4th line is supposed to do. Not only that, the defensemen are contributing with timely pinches and breakout passes.

Everything is clicking right now for the Bruins. This level of play is difficult to maintain for very long, but the Bruins just need a few of these parts playing well at the same time in order to succeed. As opposed to back in October when it was just Thomas and Seguin playing well.

Bruins host the Devils Tuesday night.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Pats Soar Over Jets

A lot of people didn't give the Patriots a chance in this game. But I was cautiously optimistic. Why? Because I don't think the Jets are that good.

Sure, the Pats' defense was a slapped together hodgepodge of obscure practice squad players. During player introductions, I was surprised NBC had photos for all of them. And it's not like the Patriots' defense has been a dominating force before this latest rash of injuries. But Mark Sanchez and the Jets' offense are not well equipped to take advantage of these weaknesses.

This game featured a weak defense facing a weak offense, and a strong offense facing a strong defense. And it came down to which team made the most/biggest mistakes, and which team best took advantage of those mistakes.

The Jets made the biggest and the most mistakes. A muffed punt, a missed 24 yard field goal, they gave Brady the ball back with time before the end of the half, Greene couldn't catch a ball and that turned into a pick, and Sanchez threw an interception that was his own fault. The Jets also looked confused at all times. They were never entirely certain what they were doing, let alone had any idea what the Patriots were going to do.

The Pats took advantage of these mistakes. And they didn't make many of their own. There was a botched shotgun snap that Brady was able to recover. And the safety, of course. That was basically it. The Pats didn't turn the ball over, they didn't allow many big plays.

The Pats also improved as the game progressed. Especially Tom Brady. Up until that drive before halftime, he was 6/14 for 129 yards (76.2 rating). He finished the game 20/25 for 200 yards and 3 TDs (139.6 rating). He was two different quarterbacks. One was clumsy and random. The other was efficient and ruthless.

The Pats were still in the game despite the slow offensive start because of the defense. Andre Carter and Rob Ninkovich had career games. Carter was credited with 4.5 sacks, and Ninkovich intercepted two passes. It wasn't pretty, but the Red Zone defense was tight, they didn't allow big plays, and they occasionally got to Sanchez.

Rob Gronkowski had yet another monstrous performance. 8 catches for 113 yards and 2 TDs. Did you know that Belichick drafted him? That's right. The guy everyone has been critical of as a GM drafted Gronk in the 2nd round. He's already caught 18 TD passes in his just-starting career.

By the way, Wes Welker's 46 yards put him over 1,000 yards for the season. It's Week 10.

Chad Ochocinco made the most noise he's made all season. 2 catches for 65 yards, one of them was a huge 53 yarder. He's not going to get cut. He might not be a significant positive contributor, but unlike Haynesworth, he's not a negative.

So things weren't as bad as we thought they were. But this win isn't unbelievably impressive either. The Jets are a 5-4 team and they played like a 5-4 team. The Pats' schedule from here on out is very easy, and with 2 wins against the Jets in their pocket, and Buffalo struggling, there's no excuse to not win the AFC East.

Pats host Kansas City on Monday night.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's Called a Winning Streak

The Bruins won their 4th in a row last night, burning the Oilers for 6 goals. The B's improve to 7-7 and are .500 for the first time since starting the season 1-1. They've scored 24 goals in this win streak.

There was a nice mix of types of goals for the Bruins. Boychuk and Caron scored some hard-work, "blue collar" goals that were products of fighting for loose pucks and earning possession. They scored some speed goals, some snipes, and some Mark Recchi stype tip-ins from within the crease.

Tyler Seguin is too good. He scored his 9th. And even though it pinballed off three Oilers before going in, the goal was a product of his speed and his ability to take advantage of a bad change by the Oilers. He also got an assist because he moved the puck well on the Power Play. He also drew two penalties, and the B's scored on the ensuing Power Plays.

Joe Corvo is starting to show up on offense. I've been waiting to see that. He's scored 10+ goals three times in his career and 20+ assists five times. We hadn't seen much offense from him before the last two games. Last night he had 3 big assists, and was a big part of all 3 of those goals. They weren't just token assists. He's also getting more comfortable playing with the Bruins' defensive system.

The recent proliferation of offense has allowed the Bruins to play Rask for a few games. Thomas will have at least a week off between starts, and that's nice to be able to do.

Bruins host the Sabres Saturday night in an important divisional matchup.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thursday, November 10, 2011

If You're Pro-Paterno, I'm Anti-You

Joe Paterno has been fired by Penn State. And in the aftermath of it, thousands of PSU students took to the streets in support of the man who allowed more than a dozen children's lives to be ruined.

When I was 5, something happened to me that was not unlike what happened to the kids in Jerry Sandusky's "charitable" program. And if I knew that somebody had the opportunity to put a stop to what my attacker did, but instead only "informed his superiors," I'd hate that somebody almost as much as I hate the person who attacked me.

Joe Paterno did not commit a crime. He also did not stop a crime. He could have stopped it. I'm tired of hearing his defenders saying that he followed "proper procedure" by informing his superiors. You know what proper procedure is when you hear that a 55 year old guy is showering with and fondling an 11 year old boy? Call the police.

Anything short of that is not enough of an effort. Even Paterno admits he "could have done more."

But last night in College Station, PA, we saw thousands of students take to the streets in outrage. More people were more upset at the firing of an 84 year old man than they were at the molestation of over a dozen 7-12 year old boys. More people were more enraged at Paterno being forced out of Happy Valley, than they were over these defenseless boys being forced to participate in gruesome sexual acts.

They're rioting over a football coach being fired. Who rioted over the molestations? Where are our priorities?

We have one pervert who is unwilling/unable to control his disgusting urges. Then we have a few dozen people (including Paterno) who helped cover things up and placed the importance of Penn State Football above the well-being and safety of these boys. And now we have thousands of people taking to the streets in support of one of the most instrumental people in this cover-up. Why? Because he built a library on campus? Because he won 400+ games? Because he was the "father" of Penn State?

"We Are Penn State" is a motto of that school. It started as an anti-Segregation chant that originated when the school would play in the South. Now the chant has been used in defense of someone who placed Penn State Football ahead of the safety of young boys. That chant has been used in defense of a man who had the power to stop boys from being raped and all he did was "inform his superiors." "We Are Penn State" has become a slogan of people who support a football coach more than they support the well-being of young boys.

I'm glad the PSU trustees did the right thing and fired Paterno. And Paterno can ask for prayers for the victims, but one phone call to the police would have done so much more. Paterno could have been a guardian angel to those boys. Instead, he turned a blind eye. The sin is on his head. And the people defending him are defending a man who turned a blind eye to rape and molestation.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

World Series of Poker Championship Tonight

Tonight, the final 3 players left in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event will play each other live (well, 15 minutes delayed) on ESPN starting at 9 Eastern. I've thoroughly enjoyed the way ESPN is now covering poker with this unedited style. The tension is increased as we don't get to see the players' cards until the hand is over, and we get to see the smaller battles that set-up the huge, game-changing hands. As a poker fan, that's much more entertaining than just watching Ace-King go all-in against pocket 8s and seeing who wins a 50/50 hand.

Here are the three remaining players:

Pius Heinz (Germany):
Heinz has a commanding chip lead with over 52% of the chips in play. He nearly has twice as many chips as the other two players. He's aggressive, fearless, will raise with any two cards. His style, combined with such a chip lead make him very dangerous. He's very good at applying constant pressure on his opponents.

Ben Lamb (USA):
Lamb won a WSOP event in the summer, and is perhaps the best at reading people among the three finalists. However, he's only still alive due to some lucky breaks that saved him from his own bad decisions. He needs to either continue to get lucky, or use his reading ability to chop at Heinz's stack of chips.

He also looks like a young Tim Thomas.

Martin Staszko (Czech Republic):
Staszko is the oldest of the remaining three (Heinz is 22, Lamb is 26, Stazko is 35), yet ironically has the least amount of poker experience. He's a solid, level-headed type of player that understands game theory well (he's a world renowned chess player). He understands situations, but has occasionally struggled to understand the people he's playing against.

For Heinz to win, he needs to avoid disaster. He needs to prevent himself from being too aggressive and bluffing off his chips. It's a fine line, because he also needs to put the pressure on his opponents.

For Lamb to win, he needs to take his time and not let Heinz win all the small pots. Lamb needs to wait for an opportunity to take a big pot. He has plenty of time, so long as his chip stack isn't steadily decreasing. He needs to tread water and wait for the right time to strike. He needs to attack Stazsko in order to keep himself afloat.

For Staszko to win, he needs some cards. If he gets a few big hands, hits a few flops, he's skilled enough to extract maximum value from good fortune. But if he's not getting any cards, he'll see his chips slowly leave him. The other two players are more aggressive, and Stazsko might get run over if he doesn't either get cards or change his game.

I think Heinz will win. He has the chips and the proper set of skills to use them.

Missouri to SEC*

It's official, The Missouri Tigers will be joining the SEC, and will become part of the East Division. Even though there will only be two SEC teams west of Columbia, MO (Texas A&M and Arkansas). The SEC now has 14 teams, and we'll all see how well that works before leagues move toward 16 teams.

My big question is, when will conferences start dropping teams? That, from a legal perspective, is so much more difficult to do. But does Vanderbilt belong in the SEC? Does Iowa State deserve to be in the Big XII?

The musical chairs continue. The Big XII can afford to lose Missouri because they've added TCU and West Virginia. They'll still have ten teams, and could add the likes of Louisville. Or why not Houston?

So now the SEC's territory spreads from Gainesville, FL to College Station, TX. From Baton Rouge, LA to Columbia, MO. From Lexington, KY to Columbia, SC. And now in the SEC there are now three teams named "Tigers," two named "Bulldogs," and two playing in towns called Columbia.

Who's next for the SEC? If they decide to expand to 16, why not target Texas and Oklahoma? Or maybe Miami and Virginia Tech. In all the inter-conference maneuverings, the SEC has been the most desired conference to be in. Nobody has left the SEC, and their options for expansion are the most extensive.

Bruins Win Third Straight

After starting the season 3-7, the Bruins have won 3 straight. They pummeled the Islanders 6-2 thanks to some hot streaks that were extended.

Horton scored twice, Krejci and Lucic scored, and Seguin scored a goal. In his last 7 games, Lucic has scored 7 goals and 5 assists. Sometimes Lucic goes through frustrating slumps. But when he pushes himself, when he skates, the goals come in bunches. And he leaves an imprint on the game.

Did you know Tyler Seguin is 7th in the NHL in scoring? He's scored 8 now, and has 69 games to score 3 goals in order to match his total from last season.

The Seguin-Bergeron-Marchand line was fierce last night. They were a few inches from scoring 3 goals instead of just 1.

And last night, the Penalty Killing was tenacious. Speaking of the PK unit, Paille's face will be examined by a specialist after he took a slapshot from Steve Staios.

The B's beating the Islanders shouldn't be much of a surprise. The Islanders kind of suck.

The Bruins have a slightly tougher test on Thursday when they host the Oilers, who lead the Northwest Division.

Photo Credits:
AP Photo

Monday, November 07, 2011

BCS Standings

Alabama might be the 3rd best team in the country, maybe the 2nd best. I like Alabama. But they've had their shot. And they blew it. They missed field goals, ran a foolish trick play and couldn't score a touchdown in the biggest game of their season. Maybe they're better than Stanford, and certainly better than Boise State. But the Tide had a shot and lost. Other teams deserve a shot.

Here's the BCS rankings after this weekend's games:

1. LSU Tigers - Can't argue against this, but there's still one AP voter that selected Boise State as #1. What the fuck?

2. Oklahoma State Cowboys - 50.1 points per game, they still have to get through Iowa State, Texas Tech, and #6 Oklahoma.

3. Alabama Crimson Tide - They've beaten #8 Arkansas, #12 Penn State, but they have no offense apart from Richardson.

4. Stanford Cardinal - If they beat #7 Oregon this weekend, how can you argue against them rising to 3rd?

5. Boise State Broncos - As #15 Georgia rises in the rankings, Boise State starts looking legitimate.

6. Oklahoma Sooners - They can spoil Oklahoma State's title hopes but they lost Ryan Broyles, so that will be tough.

7. Oregon Ducks - They've only lost to the #1 team in the country.

8. Arkansas Razorbacks - They've only lost to the #3 team in the country. If they can beat LSU on 11/25, then the SEC West will have eliminated itself from the National Championship.

9. Clemson Tigers - Can clinch the ACC Atlantic with a win on Saturday.

10. Virginia Tech Hokies - Their only loss came to Clemson. Who says the ACC isn't that good?

Imagine this playoff:
#1 LSU vs. #8 Arkansas
#2 Oklahoma State vs. #7 Oregon Ducks
#3 Alabama vs. #6 Oklahoma
#4 Stanford vs. #5 Boise State

It's too bad we won't see that play out.

Bruins 4, Seguin 3, Maple Leafs 0

Thank you, Kessel.

The Bruins match up extremely well with the Maple Leaf's. Toronto's strength is offense, and the Bruins are the best team in the NHL at neutralizing a few key forwards. Just ask Stamkos and the Sedins from last year's playoffs. The B's have Chara, Seidenberg, and of course, Tim Thomas.

The Leafs also have questionable goaltending, and inept defensemen. The Bruins' forwards aren't amazingly talented (except for Seguin) but the Leafs' are so easily exploited that goals are inevitable.

Anyway, to Seguin. His first career hat-trick and he does it 25 miles from his hometown. His first goal was on the Power Play and was a great example of a scorer's ability to hide themselves in dangerous positions. It was also a prime example of Toronto's lousy defending, and the effectiveness of shifting the puck around with a man advantage.

His second goal was sheer skill and coordination.

It also came after he made a good defensive play in the neutral zone. Which is what the Bruins really like to see.

And his third goal, he just flat out beat Komisarek, then Scrivens.

Seguin had 11 goals and 11 assists last year. He's already at 7 and 7 this season. He's on pace for about 49 goals and 49 assists. He has arrived. Thank you, Kessel.

Other Bruins had great nights, of course. Lucic scored twice with an assist. He's red hot. Bergeron assisted all 3 of Seguin's goals, and I think the Bruins have solidified at least one line combo. And David Krejci actually did something, quadrupling his season point total with a goal and 2 assists. He came into this game with just 1 goal and 0 assists.

The Bruins have dominated Toronto twice this season. They match up perfectly against them, able to neutralize the Leafs' strengths and exploit their weaknesses.

They can continue to win tonight (it's so weird to have less than a week between games) as they host the very bad Islanders. They're averaging just over 2 goals per game. But they also don't allow many goals. Still, they have yet to win on the road.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Flashbacks of 2007

We all turned our clocks back an hour on Saturday night. The Giants turned theirs back 4 years on Sunday evening. The Giants shutdown the Pats offense, then won thanks to a flag route in the end zone. And even though the defense didn't allow a ton of points, they couldn't stop the big drive at the end of the game. They weren't clutch.

As bad as the defense looked on that final drive, where was the offense. I know people hate the fact that the offense seemingly needs 35 points in order to mask the defense's shortcomings. But turning the ball over 4 times isn't exactly helpful. There's no doubt that the Patriots' talent is heavily weighted on the offensive side of the ball, so when that unit foes 5/15 on 3rd downs and turns the ball over 4 times, I think they deserve some criticism.

Both of Brady's interceptions were simply bad passes. He's had a lot of those this year. He was nearly picked again. And again. He then fumbled, which wasn't so much his fault. My point is, the Giants scored 10 points off the second Brady pick, and that fumble.

Then Edelman dropped the ball on a punt return after a 3 and out.

Criticize the defense all you want, and they deserve it. It's not a well constructed unit. But can you honestly tell me that this offense has performed to the level it's capable of?

I don't think it has.

Pats are at the Jets Sunday night and that is a massively important game with the Pats, Jets, and Bills all tied at the top of the AFC East. The Patriots haven't won a big road game in a long time, and they don't get much bigger than this one.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Bruins End Ottawa's Streak, Perhaps Start Their Own

Was this the turning point to the Bruins season? It could be. They did some things that we hadn't seen, at least not for extended periods of time. They won battles. They supported the puck. They took care of the puck. They scored breakaway goals. They moved the puck and their bodies well on the Power Play. They did everything with a purpose and an intent.

They also did the good things that they've been doing all year. Great goaltending. Forwards helping the defensive layers. And excellent penalty killing, which was particularly important because Ottawa has been winning thanks to their Power Play's effectiveness.

Most of all, the B's were patient. Ottawa benefited from some weird bounces (a goal off McQuaid's chest, a goal assisted by a ricochet off Corvo's back), but the Bruins didn't get flustered and stuck with their gameplan. They responded well to Ottawa's goals, and responded well after scoring their own.

The Bruins' goals were products of patience. Chara was patient on Lucic's PP goal. He held on at the point, moved into a better shooting lane, then let it rip. Lucic was patient once the rebound found his stick. He knew he had time to settle it then shoot high. He didn't panic, didn't just smack at it.

Seguin was patient on Bergeron's goal. He had options, knew Bergeron was the best one, but he waited for Filip Kuba to shift his stick before passing tape-to-tape to Patrice.

Seguin led all forwards in Time On Ice, and you can easily understand why. Not only are his offensive skills and awareness improving with every game, he's become a smart defensive player, too. In his sophomore season, he's no longer adjusting to life in the NHL. He's forcing the NHL to adjust to life with Tyler Seguin.

Five different Bruins scored goals, 12 registered a point, All four lines looked good. Chris Kelly put himself in the right spot so many times. Peverley is skating well. Lucic is getting hot (4 goals, 3 assists in last 5 games). Marchand is doing more than just pestering opponents.

In order for this to be a turning point, though, the Bruins need to build on it. Unfortunately they once again have an expansive period between games and don't play again until Saturday night in Toronto.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo