Friday, September 28, 2012

Ignorant College Football Picks*

My picks were 6-6 last week, bringing my season record to 10-9. I'm actually slightly proud about that.

NC State +2.5 vs. Miami
I don't think the Hurricanes are very good.

West Virginia -11 vs. Baylor
Without RG3, Baylor is back to being Baylor.

Penn State even @ Illinois
I think PSU is done struggling this year, at least until they play really good teams.

Wake Forest -2 vs. Duke
Duke sucks at football.

Clemson -7 @ Boston College
A larger spread and I might pick BC, because they can randomly play great against quality opponents. Not this week, though.

Michigan State -3.5 vs. Ohio State
I hate OSU.

UMass +24.5 vs. Ohio
No idea why.

Cal +1 vs. Arizona State
Just because they're at home.

Texas -2.5 at Oklahoma State
The Longhorns might be for real. Stillwater is a good place to find out.

Ole Miss +30 at Alabama
Just because the spread is so big.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Extreme Sportsmanship

A ball bounced off Miroslav Klose's hand and into the net, apparently giving SS Lazio a 1-0 lead over Napoli. But Klose appealed to the officials, told them that he struck the ball with his hand, and the goal was disallowed. Napoli eventually won 3-0.

You won't often find greater shows of sportsmanship and integrity than this one.

That being said, I'm a fan of Germany. And if Miroslav Klose had done that in a big elimination match against the Spaniards or Dutch, I'd kill him.

Stupid All Fenway Team

The last home game of the 2012 season ended with the commemoration of the "All Fenway Team." In other words, the best Red Sox players since 1912. Cy Young need not apply.

But some of the results pissed me off, and sent me in a rage worthy of a 1934 style drinking binge.

But before that, let me express my appreciation for Jimmie Foxx being named the 1st team 1st baseman. Foxx is the best player in MLB history to not have his number retired, thanks to the Oakland Athletics' policy to not respect their history in Philadelphia or K.C.

Dustin Pedroia was the 1st team 2B. OVER a Hall of Famer named Bobby Doerr. Doerr owns one of those numbers immortalized on the right field facade. Doerr>Pedroia, by any measurement. Talk to me when Dustin's career is nearing an end.

Fred Lynn was the 1st team center-fielder. Over Tris Speaker. Tris Speaker is one of the best CFs in MLB history. Speaker has a career average of .345. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1937. He has the record for most outfield assists. As an outfielder he was a part of 139 double plays in his career, the most all-time.

But Fred Lynn is ahead of Speaker on this list.

And Dwight Evans was the #1 right-fielder. Then Trot Nixon the #2 at that spot. George Herman "Babe" Ruth was the reserve choice. Are you kidding me?

Babe Ruth is the best baseball player of all-time. As a pitcher, he was 3-0 in World Series games with an ERA of 0.87. And as a hitter, we all know what he did. 714 homeruns, 2nd best OBP of all-time (.474), best SLG (.690) ever.

And yet Dwight Evans, then Trot Nixon are ahead of him?

One thing fans got right was Pedro Nartinez as SP and Terry Francona as Manager.

And you know what, Roger Clemens isn't a bad option for the mound after that. Give credit to Mr. Clemens for coming back to where he's despised. He was an important part of Sox history. And chemicals helped resurrect his career after Boston.

Good luck, Roger.

Super Mario on a Rampage

Red Sox Lose Last Fenway Game

Maybe Liverpool FC should schedule some games at Fenway Park in October. Or perhaps Boston College could play a football game there. Otherwise, Fenway will be dormant in October, once again.

Jon Lester lost his 14th game of the year last night. He wasn't awful, but once again he simply wasn't very good. 6 innings, 4 hits, 3 runs. To be honest I didn't watch most of the game. I got to the bar and all the TVs were on baseball, but not on NESN. The Phillies/Nationals game was on two TVs, on two stations (ESPN2 and MLB Network). I had to request the Sox game be put on. That's the state of baseball in Boston.

Anyway, Lester wasn't very good and a JV lineup only managed 2 runs of support. There goes Bobby Valentine's plans to get Lester to .500.

No more games at Fenway and thank God. The Sox were 34-47 at home this season, which is utterly shameful.

Bobby Valentine actually thinks he'll be back next year:

"My gut feeling is they haven't talked to me yet. There hasn't been any dialogue. We've talked, but not about that. Which makes me think I'm coming back. I don't know."

Yeah, if he's coming back, I won't be. I'll just ignore baseball for an entire season, follow cricket or something, and return once this joke has reached its punchline.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

NFL Referee Lockout Is Over

I think the last time I wrote something so happily was when the Bruins hoisted the Stanley Cup in early summer of 2011. The NFL Referee lockout is over! The real refs could return as early as tonight as the Baltimore Ravens face the Cleveland Browns.

And never again will officials be cheered so heartily, and welcomed with such warmth.

All I've been able to find out about the terms of the deal is that the refs agreed to an 8 year CBA, so I have no idea how much the NFL caved about the pension or anything else. And maybe that's how both parties want it the terms to be.

All I care about is that the men who know how to run an NFL football game will be running it. They won't be perfect. They'll make mistakes. But those mistakes will be minimalized in effect. Mistakes should be egregious exceptions to the norm, not normality, and not to be expected. Which they were the replacements.

And I'm sure the sideline decor of coaches and coordinators will improve. So too will the behavior of defensive backs in coverage, and offensive lineman in pass-blocking.

The sheriffs are back in town.

I would love to give Ed Hochuli a hearty handshake, even if he'd crush all the bones in my fingers.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bill Belichick Fined $50k

This news isn't surprising at all. Bill Belichick put his hands on an official, that's against the rules, so the NFL has to punish him. Considering the lack of maliciousness with the contact, a suspension would have been too much.

Las Vegas even set an over/under on the fine, at $50,000.

It makes sense. Kyle Shanahan got fined $25k for pursuing then berating officials after a game. This was one step worse than that as Belichick actually made physical contact.

I don't think there will be many more incidents like this one, especially from Belichick. He crossed a line, the NFL has penalized him, and he won't cross it again.

Give Pedro Martinez and Kevin Millar a TV Show

After watching Pedro Martinez and Kevin Millar on NESN's broadcast of the game last night, and being thoroughly entertained by it, I want to see these two guys on my TV more. They should have their own show. Maybe even their own network.

We could be obvious and give them a baseball or sports talk show. But that's not taking full advantage of how much range these guys have. Here are pitches for some show ideas:

Hunting and Fishing show
Millar can shoot deer, Pedro can chase chickens. And I think if you put these two guys on a high speed powerboat in the middle of a lake, provide them with a few liters of rum, you're going to get an entertaining fishing segment.

Cooking show
Millar seems like a guy very familiar with Chef Boyardee and microwave cooking. Mix that with some spicy Dominican cuisine. Spaghetti and meatballs in salsa.

Soap opera
Spanish language soap operas are awesome. The women are gorgeous and all the actors are so obvious with their emotions that you don't need to speak Spanish to grasp what's going on. Just imagine a typical Spanish soap opera... with Kevin Millar as a character.

Dating show
Get a guy, get a girl, send them on a date, have Pedro and Millar each coach a date and give them advice. Then viewers vote on who did the best job coaching their date.

Detective show
Millar plays an old school, shoot from the hip, wild west sheriff. Pedro plays a nerdy, by-the-book, desk-job officer from the suburbs. Together they have to solve animal related crimes. Manny can play the street smart veterinarian.

Comparing the 2004 and 2012 Red Sox

Last night the 2004 World Series winning Red Sox team was honored at Fenway Park. For some reason, the Sox chose to commemorate the 8th anniversary of this event. Whatever. Must sell tickets. Must continue streak.

Compare the 2004 and 2012 Red Sox and the differences are extreme, top to bottom, on the field, in the clubhouse, inside the Front Office.

The pitching was better in 2004. They had two potential Hall of Famers in Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling. Then solidity after that with Wakefield, Lowe, and Arroyo. 933 combined career wins from those five guys.

The hitting was also better. Assisted by PEDs, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were the best 3-4 combo since Ruth/Gehrig. The Sox led the AL in runs, OBP, and SLG. The 2012 Sox offense is inconsistent, 4th in runs, 7th in OBP, 6th in SLG.

The 2004 Sox had a better attitude. The players were laid-back. They had a Manager that allowed that easygoing attitude. Kevin Millar, Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz were entertaining characters. Quieter guys like Bill Mueller and Derek Lowe seemed to enjoy the Millar/Manny sideshows drawing all the attention.

The Manager also balanced a pair of prima donnas (Pedro and Schilling). Both of them remained focused on the same goal: winning. Terry Francona got the most out of those two just like General Eisenhower got the most out of Patton and Montgomery in World War II. Francona kept everything low key.

In 2012, Bobby Valentine goes out of his way to keep players on edge. He criticizes them in the media, and he doesn't move on and let things go.

The GM is different too. In 2004, Theo Epstein had the balls and the authority to trade Nomar. Could you imagine, in a pennant race, Ben Cherington being allowed to trade a star player?

Players, managers, and GMs change. But the ownership is still the same. Or is it?

In 2004 the owners owned just the Red Sox. They had no other concerns. And their only goal was to win the World Series, at all costs.

Now they own a struggling soccer team in Liverpool. And the aims of the Red Sox is scattered and out of order. It's tough to figure out which objectives are the most important for them. They have to sell tickets, use the media to besmirch ex-players, lie about sellout streaks, market the ballpark, overspend on free agents, and somewhere in this mess of priorities is trying to win ballgames.

In 2004, the Red Sox were John Henry's biggest concern, his main focus. Now, when the '04 Sox are honored at Fenway, the owners aren't even present.

The Sox were once Fenway Sports Group's entire empire. Now they're just a colony, and Larry Lucchino is the Imperial Governor, appointed by King John to run day-to-day operations.

But Larry Lucchino hasn't run the Sox, he's ruined them.

The way ownership operate this team is the biggest difference between 2004 and 2012.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Liverpool FC Really Sucks

Liverpool lost 2-1 to Manchester United this weekend, in a game full of officiating controversy (sound familiar?). And after 5 English League games this season, Liverpool are winless. They have 3 losses, 2 draws, and are 18th in the 20 team League.

That place in the standings is significant because at the end of the year the 18th, 19th, and 20th place teams are demoted to a lower level. Three teams are promoted from a lower level to replace them.

For a team with the history of Liverpool, it would be a huge embarrassment. And a massive financial setback. And I would laugh my ass off. The Fenway Sports Group would own a team that competed with the likes of Huddersfield Town, Nottingham Forest (insert Robin Hood reference about stealing from rich clubs and giving to poor), and Sheffield Wednesday. That's hardly the same as competing with Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal.

I doubt Liverpool will stay winless or in 18th place. They're only 2 points (a win is worth 3) away from being tied for 12th. But the key positions in the League are the Top 4. These are the teams that get invited to next season's Champions League. It's worth a heap of money, and elite players will only play for teams that compete in the Champions League.

The chances of Liverpool finishing in the Top 4 are slim. They've only scored 4 goals in 5 games. They have no scoring threat up front. The natives are getting restless in Liverpool, and the anti-FSG anger is rising.

I love it.

Photo Credit:
PA Sport

Chad Johnson Buys $376,000 Lamborghini

What do most people do when they lose their job and their wife leaves them? Maybe drink. Maybe write a country song about it. Maybe buy a $376,000 supercar.

Chad Johnson has bought a Lamborghini Aventador, and then posted about it on Instagram. It has a 690 horsepower 6.5 liter V12 engine. It goes from 0 to 60 in less than 3 seconds, and has a top speed of 217 mph.

It is indeed a sick car. And I would love to be able to touch one, let alone drive one, let alone own one.

That being said, this is a stupid purchase by Chad Ochojohnson. This is how athletes that get paid millions of dollars wind up broke and the subject of ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries.

Cars are rarely good investments. They tend to depreciate in value, and they cost a lot to maintain. Johnson drove a Prius when he was a member of the Patriots. Now he drives a car that gets 13.7 miles per gallon.

He has no income. He seems like an impulsive and even violent kind of guy. I don't think he needs a 690 horsepower engine at his disposal. One of these days he's going to get pissed off, decide to thrash around in his $376k "toy" and wrap it around a tree.

Replacement Refs Will Cost the NFL Money

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, the NFL's replacement refs find a way to screw up a game even more.

The Packers should have won last night's game. There's no doubt about it. But a game-sealing interception by Green Bay was ruled a game-winning touchdown by Seattle.

These referees plainly suck. The argument has been that since they're not driving viewers away, there's no motivation for the NFL to give in to the unionized referees.

I'm not so sure that this premise is true. There may be an effect these refs are having on games that poses a financial threat to the NFL.

These games are taking longer, and they're progressing more slowly. These refs are taking extra long to confer and make decisions. They have to discuss with NFL officials what they can and can't review.

Long games aren't good for TV ratings. Especially the featured games on Sunday and Monday night. How many viewers do NBC and ESPN lose as these games crawl past midnight? How many fans fall asleep instead of watching the commercials which pay the NFL's bills?

Here's another argument. Even if the NFL isn't losing viewers due to the referees, are they gaining any?

What will we tell the British about our officials when the Patriots and Rams play in London in a few weeks? How do these debacles make the NFL more appealing to European fans? Roger Goodell and the NFL have been working hard to grow the game in international markets. But show the end of last night's game to some German guy watching football for the first time and try to explain to him why that was called a touchdown.

Why would any new fan want to watch a game being officiated by fourth-rate hacks who understand the rules less than the players and coaches they're officiating over? How can new fans truly get into a game if they don't understand what is and isn't a penalty?

It isn't just the game that's being ruined by this relatively insignificant labor dispute, it's the brand.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bobby Valentine Hearts Jon Lester

The Red Sox lost yet another series, dropping 2 of 3 to the Orioles. What irks me is Friday night' 4-2 loss. Not for the loss itself. I mean, who cares at this point? It's because Bobby Valentine seems devastated that poor Jon Lester wouldn't get win #10.

When being interviewed/psychoanalyzed by WEEI, Bobby V defended his pinch hitting of Julio Iglesias mid-at-bat because he was dead-set on helping Jon Lester get a win, and hopefully finish .500, and therefore have more confidence for 2013.

I'm sorry, but if Lester's confidence depends on him having a .500+ record, then he's not worth a jersey.

The problem isn't Lester, though, it's Valentine. Bobby V will run this team in twisted, perverted ways until he is dismissed. He'll try his damnedest to get Jon Lester a few wins, but if Jon Lester wants to, he can be a man, admit he's had a shitty year, and try to make 2013 better. To me, that builds more confidence then ending the year 12-12 with an ERA hovering near 5.00.

Bobby Valentine doesn't understand this. Because Bobby V has never experienced actual confidence before, only a facade of ego and an array of apparent self-satisfaction that made him seem confident.

The season is almost over though, and hopefully the reign of Bobby Valentine is just as close to ending.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Why the NFL Referee Lockout Needs to End

Well, we all saw last night's debacle. I'm not going to blame refs for a Patriots loss. Because the refs sucked both ways. The main point is, they suck in general.

My favorite Ref Lockout moment was when the officials called a timeout to measure a ball that was over a yard from the 1st down line. The time it took to do so allowed John Harbaugh's staff ample time to view every single replay and then decide to challenge the spot of the ball.

Of course, the replacement refs got the spot horribly wrong to begin with. Harbaugh was right and the spot was wrong. Qualified officials wouldn't have made the mistake that started all this.

I understand the NFL's position in this dispute. We'll all watch the NFL next week, even though the refs suck and might be affecting the game. So if the NFL isn't losing money, why should it pay money to retain properly trained officials?

The NFL might not be losing money, but these games are losing legitimacy.

And at some point, the loss of legitimacy will affect the number of people watching the sport. See: Black Sox Scandal in 1919. It might take a long time, but it will happen. In 1919 baseball was as popular in this country as football is now. And it was facing a legitimacy crisis because some Chicago White Sox players took money to throw the World Series. Baseball was king but even it was threatened by a loss of legitimacy.

And how long can owners of Super Bowl contenders tolerate the shoddiness of officiating? Bill Belichick has already grabbed an official and will likely be (justifiably so) disciplined for it. How long until Robert Kraft lobbies for a settlement with refs to avoid further rankling?

I have never seen Bill Belichick so enraged as he was during that game last night.

Oh and don't forget these games are taking longer, and that's a problem for TV networks and their ratings. So these poor officials might be having a financial impact on the game after all.

The ultimate consideration for me is legitimacy. So many Patriots fans will be griping about the refs this week. I disagree with them and think the Pats are the most responsible for their defeat, but the lack of legitimate refs has resulted in the lack of legitimate wins. So whoever does well this season won't receive proper and just praise, because people will blame the low-rent refs for dictating who won and who lost in the 2012 NFL.

Ravens 31, Patriots 30

Regardless of whether or not that field goal was good, and despite the amateurish officiating that seemed to define the game, the Patriots are the most responsible for their loss to Baltimore last night.

And it wasn't the defense. Even though the defense allowed Baltimore to move the ball on that game-winning drive, even though the defense allowed the Ravens to stay in the game, it was the offense that didn't hold its side of the bargain.

The Patriots offense had so many chances to end this game. And they didn't execute. When the Pats' defense stopped the Ravens on 4th & 1, the offense didn't do much. They were up by 9, with about 10 minutes left, and a chance to make it a 16 point game. Or even a 12 point game. 6 plays and 3:21 later and Baltimore had the ball back.

And the drive before that, the Patriots drove to the Baltimore 2, and only managed a field goal.

The Patriots made 5 trips to the Red Zone and only managed 3 touchdowns.

There were other missed opportunities. Joe Flacco should have been picked off 3 times, not just once. Devin McCourty bungled those. He was also burnt more than an Irishman's skin in the Sahara with no sunscreen. I don't know how such horrific burns don't appear on the injury report.

The play-calling last night was, at times, infuriating. The direct-snap to Danny Woodhead, then end-around to Julian Edelman was one of the most enraging moments of my life. It's 2nd & 6, you're moving the ball with traditional plays, so you open up Boise State's playbook, and get all cute and clever? Why?

The Ravens had been penetrating into the backfield all night until that point, and McDaniels/Belichick/Brady gave them a chance to blow up a play and end a drive.

I get the feeling with this offense that they're trying to win a certain way, instead of just trying to win any way possible. These tricks and gadgets are for the Bad News Bears or for the softball team from Camp Misfit when the super-athletes from across the lake come to play them.

If you think you need to try these tricky type of plays in order to win, then you don't have faith in your offense to simply execute the simple.

In that drive, the Patriots already tried an end-around and got a 1st down out of it. So Baltimore was already keenly aware of such a possibility. More traditional plays had been working, so why risk a big loss on 2nd & 6?

Sometimes you can think yourself so smart that you do stupid things and don't even notice it.

Anyway, I'll talk about the refs in a separate post, because it's a big enough issue in and of itself. The refs didn't cause the Patriots to lose, the Patriots caused this loss themselves. Although it's strange how Rob Gronkowski gets called for holding at least once a game. Are these all these replacement refs related to Bibi Jones or something?

Anyway, the Patriots should have won the last 2 games and didn't. That's good news/bad news. The good news is this team has talent enough to be 3-0. The bad news is, they haven't demonstrated an ability to consistently turn that talent into victory. They haven't executed, and consequently they'e 1-2, and below .500 for the first time in 145 games.

And you know what, you can't help but feel sentimental for Torrey Smith. He had a brilliant game only a few hours after tragedy completely changed his life. Logos and jerseys aside, I'm glad he had a good game.

The Pats are in Buffalo next Sunday. The Bills, along with the Jets, are ahead of the Patriots in the AFC East standings. I just puked in my mouth.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, September 21, 2012

Grenade Thrown onto Iranian Soccer Field

Suddenly Philadelphia fans seem like kindhearted angels.

I feel bad for the refs here. This game between Iranian team Sepahan and Saudia Arabian team Al Ahli is part of the Asian Football Confederation's Champions League. The ref is from Hong Kong, and when he was selected to officiate in this tournament he was probably pretty happy. He'd get paid extra, and get to travel, maybe to Australia or South Korea. Instead, he gets Iran, right as the Middle East is going nuts over a YouTube video.

Then someone throws a grenade on the field. Not fun.

More NHL Players Flocking to Europe, Tyler Seguin and Other Bruins Among Them

The flow of NHL players signing with European teams remains steady. Tyler Seguin will go to Switzerland, signing with EHC Biel. Andrew Ference will play in the Czech Republic for HC Ceske Budejovice. There are reports that Czech native David Krejci will also be playing in his home country. Russian backup goalie Anton Khudobin has signed with HC Atlant Moscow Oblast of the KHL.

Alex Ovechkin will also be in the KHL, signing with Dynamo Moscow. The LA King's Anze Kopitar will play for the Swedish team Mora IK. Jason Spezza is going to Switzerland to play for Rapperswil-Jona. Logan Couture will play in Geneva, also in the Swiss league.

I don't know how much leverage this gives the players. Their salaries over there aren't much lower than their NHL contracts, and checks from KHL teams are tax free. A guy like Alex Ovechkin can pocket more playing in Russia than he can in the US or Canada.

But not every NHLer will find work in Europe. Enforcers like Shawn Thornton wouldn't be allowed to fight in European hockey. And while a Swiss or Czech team might pay big Euros for the star appeal of a Tyler Seguin, the lower tiers of players won't get much money in Europe.

Rules also prevent teams from stocking up on imported talent.

Then again, this helps the players at least survive a long-term lockout. While the NHL is cutting its payroll by 20% and owners will lose money with every game not played. This has become a battle of attrition, siege warfare, and the players might have the long-term supplies necessary to outlast the owners.

If I were a program director at ESPN, I'd try to negotiate for the broadcasting rights of the KHL and the Swiss National League A. You might not get many viewers in the US, but Canadians will be desperate for quality hockey. Hockey is their heroin, and they'll be jonesing for a fix. Canadians will endure the 8 hour time difference and stay up all night to see Dynamo Moscow play Atlant Moscow, and HC Davos take on Geneva. It's the only way they'll be able to sleep.

Ignorant College Football Picks*

Two weeks ago my picks were 4-3, and last week I was lazy and didn't make any picks. I'm back with some ignorant, uninformed picks of this weekend's games.

Virginia Tech -17.5 vs. Bowling Green
I smell blocked kicks and INT returns.

Wake Forest -7 vs. Army
The Demon Deacons aren't good, but they're at home, and Army is winless.

UConn -1 at Western Michigan
UConn has been good.

Penn State -7 vs. Temple
Rebound day for the N-Lions.

Washington State -20 vs. Colorado
CU might be the worst team in college football.

USC -16.5 vs. Cal
Don't sell USC just because they lost to Stanford.

Auburn +21 vs. LSU
Don't think Auburn will win, but it's the SEC, it's at night, should be a closer game.

Louisville -13.5 at Florida International
Why not?

Michigan +5.5 at Notre Dame
The Irish are overrated, so are Michigan, so who is the most under-overrated?

Oklahoma -14.5 vs. Kansas State
K-State is 3-0, but it's tough to go to Norman and hang with the Sooners.

Clemson +14.5 at Florida State
Kind of a big spread. I like how Clemson plays.

Arizona +21.5 at Oregon
Immediately regret this pick.

The Ravens Don't Scare Me

I'm not guaranteeing a Patriot victory. I'm sure this game will be close, and maybe the Ravens will make a few plays, Welker will drop a pass, Gostkowski will miss a kick, and Baltimore will win. Shit happens, some players execute, some players fail. They're all human.

But there's nothing about the Ravens that has me especially nervous or anxious about this game. As good as their defense is, and as much as Tom Brady has struggled against them in the past, one unavoidable fact remains...

Their quarterback is Joe Flacco.

I'm not impressed. If the Patriots can contain Ray Rice (the way they did Chris Johnson in Week 1), then the game rests on the shoulders of the man from Deleware. The guy whose QB Rating was 18th in the NFL last year, whose completion percentage was 26th, who was 24th in yards per attempt.

I'm not scared.

And with guys like Chandler Jones chasing Flacco around all day, I'm even more not scared.

Brady still struggles with Ed Reed and the Ravens' defense, so I don't expect him to throw for 400 yards and 4 TDs. But he won't have to. Because the Ravens' QB is Joe Flacco.

Patriots 24, Ravens 20

Sox Lose Again

I don't care about the result of this game. I'm glad to see Clay Buchholz doing well. He threw 7 scoreless innings, only allowed 4 hits, and was in line for his 12th win of the season.

In the 17 starts he's made since the end of May, he's averaging over 7 innings per start, and has a 2.80 ERA. There aren't many brilliant free agent starters available this off-season, so there's a strong likelihood that Buchholz will be the best pitcher on this team in 2013... IF he can stay healthy, IF he can avoid these prolonged slumps at the start of the season, IF he can be consistent.

As for this game, Andrew Bailey totally blew it. The Sox had a 4-1 lead in the 9th and lost in undignified fashion. This was an embarrassing loss (at least it would have been if people were still watching), and the Sox have had more than a dozen of these horrible, painful, inexcusable giveaway games.

Only 11 baseball games left.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Like How the Patriots Handle the Media

The difference between 4 Yawkey Way and 1 Patriot Place go beyond the differences between a clustered city street and an expansive suburban roadway. Fenway Park spews and leaks information like the Titanic leaked water, while Gillette Stadium is as air-tight with info as an astronaut's helmet.

Brian Waters is the latest example. For weeks, speculative theorists like The Sportshub's Michael Felger have been berating the Patriots for being cheap with Brian Waters. They had no facts to base their criticism. These weren't sharks that detected blood, Felger was more like a blind/dead/senseless vulture bumbling around for a provocative story, making up things until something he said wound up being true.

But it wasn't. The Patriots offered Brian Waters $4 million to play this year, almost triple his $1.4 million salary. But Waters wants to stay at home in Texas. And that's his right, and his choice. Waters might want to play for the Houston Texans, but the Patriots understandably would rather not help one of their AFC rivals improve.

Felger didn't get why the Pats would "nickel and dime" a Pro Bowl lineman when Brady's protection seemed so suspect in the preseason. Instead of acknowledging that he didn't know anything, Felger assumed. And people who assume make asses out of themselves. Felger was wrong. He didn't understand the Pats nickel and diming Waters because they didn't.

I think Shawn Thornton said it best...

Anyway, as unnerving and frustrating as it can be, I like how valuable the Patriots regard information. They don't talk about anything. Even when they talk, they say nothing.

They don't mind being perceived as cheap. They don't care about perception. They don't mind jagoffs like Felger flapping their jaws and spouting rubbish. Unlike the Red Sox who desperately try to control the narratives that sports media discuss.

I remember when the Pats traded Randy Moss they actually went out of their way to debunk stories that had come out about Moss's problems with the team. The Patriots defended a popular star player they dumped. That's something the Red Sox would never do.

It seems funny to me how much criticism the Patriots get in this town, even though they're the most successful Boston sports team in this century. It's because the media doesn't get juicy gossip, doesn't get the inside scoop, they get frustrated and make things up. See: Felger, Ron Borges, John Tomase, et cetera.

Fuck the media, go Pats!

Let's Start Our Own Hockey League

The NHL has cancelled preseason games in September, and it won't be long until regular season games are erased from the schedule.

But what's to stop another league in the US and Canada from starting? And if that happened, what would we want that League to look like?

Well Florida wouldn't have any teams. If I had to pick cities that had franchises, it would be the following:

New York
Los Angeles

That's it, 21 teams. Divide them into 3 divisions of 7 teams, or don't divide them at all. Whatever. But the root problem with this NHL labor dispute is that small-market teams can't keep pace with large ones. The players want revenue sharing to remedy this problem, the owners want players to get less money. My solution is: eradicate the small-market teams in cities where hockey is seen as a weird side-attraction.

But finding billionaire hockey fans in so many cities might be tough, so let's keep the league at 16 teams, in these cities:

Boston, New York, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Denver, Minneapolis, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Newark, Los Angeles

Fewer teams, higher talent level, more familiarity between teams, and no Phoenix Coyotes or Florida Panthers dragging the League down.

How hard can it be? Just adopt the NHL's rules, hire the officials, hire the players. Many of the rinks are owned by cities and states, not the NHL teams that play there. Boston might be a problem, for instance, because Jeremy Jacobs owns The Garden. But offer him high enough rent rates and he'll succumb to his greedier instincts.

To be honest, the players are the attraction. All us hockey fans love the NHL because the best players play in the NHL. We don't care about franchise rights, or anything like that.

So let us start our own League. We'll call it the North American Hockey League, and we'll plunder the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and commandeer the Stanley Cup.

So the Red Sox Will Be Below .500

For the first time since 1997, the Red Sox will finish below .500. 1997 doesn't seem like very long ago, but remember that was the year Pedro Martinez won the Cy Young, for the Expos. The Orioles won the AL East. Nomar Garciaparra won Rookie of the Year. Derek Jeter had 385 career hits. Tom Gordon was a starting pitcher. The Marlins won the World Series.

That's how long it's been since the Red Sox lost more games than they won.

Back then, Dan Duqeutte made a trade for an Ace (Pedro), and the Sox became contenders in 1998 and 1999. The Sox could use another transaction like that.

Daisuke Matsuzaka laid another egg last night. The good news was he only walked 1. The bad news was he allowed 9 hits in 3 innings. Alfredo Aceves looked just as bad, Daniel Bard looked even worse.

I sincerely hope the Sox don't keep Matsuzaka. He's slow, and he isn't very good. If the rest of the rotation had more certainty, I wouldn't mind him as a #5 starter. But with the top of the rotation in flux, Daisuke is too much of an unknown variable.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fire Bobby Valentine Now

If Bobby Valentine is the manager of the 2013 Red Sox, I think we'll all be stunned. For a few weeks, I didn't mind that he was sticking around. What's the difference between that and a bench coach serving as interim manager?

But Bobby Valentine is doing harm to this team. His pinch-hitting of Jose Iglesias is my Exhibit A. He pinch hits for a young AAA guy with a 2-2 count because there's a man who just stole second. And in the process, he jeopardizes a prospect's confidence, doesn't do much to win the game, and magnifies his own ego issues.

The reason the Mets dropped Valentine is that he tries too hard to impact the game. He can't just sit back, do his job, and manage. He tries to do more than that. He tries to have an effect on every single aspect of the game, the team, the organization.

He tried to provoke responses with statements to media (See: remarks about Kevin Youkilis). He tries to get youngsters motivated by putting them down (See: remarks to Will Middlebrooks). He tries to boost pitchers' self-esteem by leaving them in games. He's always trying, always failing, always reaching beyond his job description. He's not a psychologist, not a self-esteem guru, he's a friggin' baseball manager.

Bobby Valentine feels like it's his responsibility to do everything. He feels like the role of manager is the most important job on a baseball club.

It isn't.

Managers are supposed to manage. They're supposed to move players in and out of games. They're supposed to manage egos and expectations. They balance, they don't control. They're supposed to let pitchers pitch, hitters hit, and fielders field. They're not supposed to take players out of 2-2 at-bats.

Valentine is a shitty manager. There's no other way to phrase it. Every day he manages this team, he does harm to it. He infects it with his egomania, which is a mask for his lack of self-esteem.

Bobby Valentine is a psychological mess. He has Oedipal issues with his father. He's what I call an Insertive Personality, in that he feels the need to insert himself in any situation. He can't just sit back and let others do their job and succeed without his own influence. He pushes, far too much.

Most of all, Bobby Valentine is scared. He was scared of Pedroia back in April, he's scared of failure, he's scared of disappointing his father, he's scared of looking in the mirror and seeing Bobby Valentine.

Fire him and send him to a shrink.

My Favorite Brick at Fenway Park

A friend sent me this picture he took of a brick at Fenway Park. I would pay good money for this piece of masonry.

Patriots Sign Deion Branch... Again

This is perhaps the least surprising sports story in New England history. Even after releasing him, the Patriots never removed Branch's nameplate from the locker room. You never heard any rumblings that he might end up elsewhere. And with the injury to Aaron Hernandez, the Pats could use another reliable receiving weapon. There was no way that this wouldn't happen.

They also signed Kellen Winslow Jr. Winslow had worked out with the Patriots before the start of the season. I remember WEEI's Lou Merloni being baffled that the Pats would work out multiple tight-ends (they also worked out then signed Michael Hoomananawanui), if they didn't intend to sign them. This is why, Lou... just in case.

What will the offense look like without Hernandez and with Branch and Winslow?

Branch has always been one of Brady's most reliable, must-have-down targets for Brady. When it's 3rd and 7, Branch will get 8. He's older, but he can still play a situational role on the offense, which should take some pressure off Brandon Lloyd.

The Patriots can't just replace Hernandez's type of production. Winslow will get some passes thrown to him, but Hernandez was practically a wide-receiver. Branch will get some throws, Welker will get more attention, and the whole offense will have to change while Hernandez is out.

It's always good after both a loss and an injury to a key player to get a nice bit of news. I'm glad to see Branch back.

Red Sox on a Mission for .500

The Red Sox need to win every single game in order to avoid their first sub-.500 finish since 1997. And they're on their way. Only 13 more wins to go.

Felix Doubront went 6 innings and only 1 hit. He also allowed 5 walks. But it's good to see him get another win, and maybe end 2012 on a positive note. Doubront and Clay Buchholz are now tied for the team lead with 11 wins. Which speaks volumes about the struggles of the Sox rotation.

I wouldn't mind Doubront as a #5 pitcher in a future rotation, so long as the 1-4 pitchers were actually 1-4 pitchers. This team is loaded with #4 and #5 pitchers, and that's one reason they'll need a 15 game win streak in order to finish 81-81.

Cody Ross had a pair of hits, including his 32nd double. It'd be nice to see him back with this team next season.

There's nothing about this team you can't enjoy by watching any garden variety reality TV show. A reality TV show that lasts over 4 hours.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Great Time to Be a European Hockey Fan

The best hockey players in the world are flocking to Europe. So if you're a hockey fan in Europe, this lockout has been great news.

HC Davos of Switzerland has signed Joe Thornton and Rick Nash. The two played there during the last lockout, and probably chose the team because Davos is a ski resort town in the Alps. Sort of like playing in Aspen.

Mettalurg of Russia's KHL has been busy. They signed Sergei Gonchar, Evgeni Malkin, and Nikolai Kulemin of the Maple Leafs.

Some NHL players have taken advantage of the lockout to play closer to home. Christian Ehrhoff signed with the German team Krefeld, which is only 14 miles from his hometown of Moers. Mark Streit is playing in Bern, which essentially is his hometown town. Russian Ilya Kovalchuck signed with SKA St. Petersburg.

There are rumors that Bruin David Krejci will be signing with a Czech team.

I don't think Tim Thomas will be playing in Europe. But you never know.

The Best Commercial Ever for So Many Reasons

What Replacement Refs Are Like

I've come up with an analogy to illustrate the significant drop-off between proper NFL officials and the replacement refs that have tortured football fans for 2 weeks.

The proper NFL refs are like the US Congress. We didn't like them, they didn't seem to get anything right, and all we did was criticize them. But they actually knew what they were doing. They knew the procedures by heart, their mistakes were rare, and they knew how to do the job.

The current replacement refs are like the Norwood (or insert your hometown) Town Council being asked to do Congress's job. They're trying, but they aren't equipped to do the job, nor do they have the experience to figure out how to do it.

So imagine defense committees at Congress being run by people who are accustomed to zoning permits and organizing free concerts at the gazebo in the center of town. That's what these replacement refs are like running an NFL game.

Your Wes Welker Theories

After Week 2 last year, Wes Welker had 15 catches for 241 yards and 2 touchdowns. After 2 games this year, he has 8 catches for 109 yards and 0 scores. Why has his contribution been so dramatically reduced?

The last person anyone is blaming is Wes Welker. And some of New England's more dunderheaded sports fans have been attributing his lack of catches and lack of playing time to villainous scheming by Bill Belichick. My two favorite theories have been that Belichick doesn't want to pay Welker very much in 2013, so he's limiting Welker's production, thereby reducing his apparent value. The other golden nugget of imbecility is that Belichick is trying to "send a message" to Welker for the receiver's off-season contract negotiations.

People who actually believe such notions should be spayed or neutered in order to remove their faulty DNA from the gene pool and protect the human species from devolving back to simpler primates.

Other players have had contract disputes with the Patriots, then returned to the team, and their playing time didn't change. Why would Belichick start sending such messages now? And the suggestion that Belichick would jeopardize winning, or that Tom Brady would go along with such a change in priority, is laughable.

There are other FOOTBALL RELATED reasons that Welker isn't on the field as often. I think Josh McDaniels had wanted the slot-receiver role to be minimized in general. He wanted the tight-ends, Brandon Lloyd, and the running game to be the spearheads of the offense. That might change after Aaron Hernandez's injury. Welker certainly got more attention in the second half on Sunday.

And to be frank, maybe Welker hasn't earned more playing time than he's gotten. I can't forget his Super Bowl drop. Or his drop in Week 1. Or the drop on Sunday that preceded the blocked punt. He doesn't look as sharp as he did in years past. An maybe he doesn't look sharp in practice either.

Nobody is talking about this. Nobody is attributing the lack of targets or snaps to Wes Welker. I could only bear to listen to a few minutes of sports radio yesterday, but didn't hear Welker's pre-punt-block drop mentioned once. He had a chance to make a big 1st down play, and he failed. All 10 fingers touched the ball.

I don't pretend to know why Bill Belichick or his assistants do what they do. I try to come up with possible explanations that make logical sense. There is a complete lack of logic behind some of these Welker theories. To me it seems impossible that Welker's lack of targets/snaps is anything more than a football decision. You might not think it's a smart decision, but don't conjure harebrained theories about contracts or messages.

Oh, the Red Sox Won, That's Nice

Did you watch any of this game? I watched a few pitches. Basically, the Tampa Bay Rays are collapsing. The Sox never really collapsed this season, they've been deflated since Opening Day.

Jacoby Ellsbury had a good night: 3 hits, 3 RBI, and a homerun. This is a lost season for Ellsbury as much as it is for the Sox. Next year will be his price-tag year as he approaches free agency. So it's good to see glimpses of production from him this September.

Aaron Cook pitched 6 innings and only allowed 1 run. Boston native Rich Hill didn't allow a run in his inning. Junichi Tazawa threw yet another scoreless inning, striking out 2. Mark Melancon felt compelled to increase his ERA to 6.98 by allowing a run in the 9th.

The Rays are on the verge of falling off the cliff in the Wild Card race, so perhaps the Red Sox can win a few in front of 11,000 people in St. Pete and pass Toronto for 4th. Huzzah!

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Monday, September 17, 2012

I Love Hakeen Nicks

Hakeem Nicks was questionable going into Sunday's game. That's how I knew he'd have a monster performance. He's always questionable, or doubtful, or limited participation, or no participation.

Then on Sunday he catches 10 passes for 199 yards and a TD.

That's why for the last four seasons, Hakeem Nicks has been a key member of my fantasy football team: The Fingering Penguins. Nicks personifies what the Fing-guins are all about. He's explosive, he falls in the draft, and for some reason I like him slightly better than anyone else likes him.

Thank you for the 25 points, Hakeem. The rest of my team disappointed this week, but that's the Fingering Penguin way. I need Matt Ryan to score over 20 tonight to win. Individual inconsistency is fine though, so long as teammates pick each other up. Penguins finger together!

Bruins Give Milan Lucic Stupid Extension

Just before the lockout was officially locked, the Bruins signed Milan Lucic to a 3 year, $18 million deal. It's the latest chapter in the Bruins' efforts to never again issue new jerseys or change roster sheets. The B's are deadset on keeping the same group of players together on this team.

Even though Lucic scored 0 goals in last year's playoffs, and a modest 26 goals in the regular season. He's got 15 goals and 20 assists in 65 playoff games. Which isn't good at all. He isn't good on a Power Play. You'd never want to see him on the ice short-handed. He's an inconsistent defender. He's slow, lumbering, inconsistently skates.

I'm just not sold on Lucic. Not to the tune of $6 million. And certainly not when this team is committed to having a roster as similar to the 2011 Cup team as possible.

The problem is, that team won the Cup because Tim Thomas played at inhuman levels. And the Bruins played some teams that they matched up well against (they could out-muscle Montreal, Tampa Bay, and Vancouver. The Flyers had catastrophic goaltending difficulties).

All the players that the Bruins have retained are good, even very good players. None are great. Milan Lucic is not a great player. He's got quality, but he's not a scorer, not a passer, not an any-situation-player, and his production is unreliable. He's a good 2nd liner. The Bruins have one #2 line, but lots of 2nd liners.

If hockey is played in 2012-13, we'll see how the Bruins contend against teams that have done more complex things to improve apart from extending all the contracts of their current players.

I'm Growing a Lockout Beard

The NHL players have been locked out. The owners wanted the players to lower the percentage of hockey revenues they got paid, instead of sharing revenues with smaller market teams. The idea the owners had was that small market teams could afford to pay players the same as big market ones, and big market teams could pocket all their additional profits. It's not surprising that Jeremy "Ebeneezer" Jacobs is spearheading this greedy endeavor.

There are two kinds of greed in this world. Short-term, avaricious, 7 Deadly Sin kind of greed that seeks immediate gain, forsaking all consequences and repercussions. And intelligent, productive, ambitious greed that "has marked the upward surge of mankind." There's greed that urges you to take all the pennies in the dish by the counter, and there's greed to start a business and produce something.

The NHL owners are hungry for immediate profit. And this foolish kind of greed will destroy this game.

Do you hear much outrage over the NHL lockout? Do you hear wailing in the streets, the sounds of large appliances being hurled through drywall as millions of angry fans struggle to cope with the loss of hockey?

No. Hockey is a regional sport, with a core of fanatic supporters, and a large contingent of casual fans. These casual fans are in football mode, fretting over their fantasy teams. And in February, when football stops, if there's no NHL they'll just watch college basketball and drink more.

For most sports fans in America, the NHL is like a girl you occasionally hook up with when you can't get anything better, and you don't have any strong feelings for. They threaten to never talk to you again unless you get serious with them, and you're kind of fine with that.

The NHL has done decently since the lockout. Total revenues are up. Ratings are better. The big market teams are doing well. Chicago, Boston, LA, New York, and Philly are tuning in to the game. This should be the opening stages of an upward trend for the NHL, not another massive hiccup.

This is no time for ultimatums, or short-term cash grabbing. This might be a time for small changes, but not major readjustments to the owner/player balance. The players are the entertainment. They're the ones with the skills. They're the ones making the plays, scoring the goals, unleashing the hits, taking the risks.

Why should they get less?

Until the owners can adequately answer this question, or until they realize they should stop asking the question at all, I'm letting my beard grow. I trimmed it Saturday. It's a blonde/black/ginger mix, so when it grows it gets sketchy. Tendrils of red hair curl over my lips. Patches of black hairs mix with blotches of blonde on my cheeks. It's not pretty.

This league seems to not want to take care of itself, groom itself, and keep itself presentable. So I will do the same.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Patriots Commit Cardinal Sins

You can point to two special teams plays and say "Here's where the Pats lost the game." The blocked punt that led to an Arizona touchdown, and of course Stephen Gostkowski's missed field goal.

It's not so simple. This was a team loss. The Patriots lost this game, quite thoroughly. Not just a kicker, not just a backup receiver that failed to execute a block.

The play before Zoltan Mesko's punt was blocked, Wes Welker let a ball slip through all 10 of his fingers. He catches the ball and gets a 1st down, Arizona never gets such an amazing scoring opportunity.

Brandon Lloyd also dropped a big 3rd down pass in the 4th quarter.

The Patriots didn't execute. The offensive line was toyed with. Tom Brady wasn't his absolute best. I mentioned Lloyd and Welker. The Patriots couldn't get anything going on the ground. And all the big plays were made by the Cardinals.

But Arizona tried so hard to give the Patriots chances in this game. The fumble by Ryan Williams is a perfect example.

As a team, the Pats didn't do enough to win. I don't think it's very complicated. I don't think it's something to worry too much about. It's something that can be isolated to this one game. Hopefully.

The Pats play the Ravens in Baltimore next Sunday night. Both teams are 1-1 and will be hungry to avoid going 1-2.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Red Sox Play a Part in Playoff Races

There's a seriously exciting three-way race in the AL East this year. And it's painful to not be part of it. The Red Sox are completely irrelevant, except that they might beat relevant teams and knock them out of the playoff hunt.

That's just about the only reason to watch this team these days. That and to watch players now and imagine who might be on this team in 2013, and how they might do. Last night we got to see Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Junichi Tazawa do well. And that can provide some hope for 2013.

Jon Lester had a decent start last night. He's been such an impossible to figure puzzle this year. He walked 7 Yankees. He also struck out 5 in his 5.1 innings. He allowed 5 hits, but only 3 of those 12 baserunners he allowed managed to score.

A fresh start in 2013 would do Lester good. He's not a guy I'd want to build a rotation around, but I don't mind him being a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher.

Jacoby Ellsbury was 4 for 5 on his birthday, with a double, 2 RBI, and the game-winning single. I'm not sold on Ellsbury, to be honest. I'll give him a pass for this season because of injuries and the sorry state of the team. But he's only had one good year in his career. He's always been about potential and only occasionally been results. And stolen bases. Scott Boras will tout him as a 30/30 man, but he's only managed to hit 10+ homeruns in one season. His career OBP is below .350.

2013 will be a make or break year for Ellsbury. Can he stay healthy? If so, can he demonstrate that he's still as good as he was in 2011? The Sox have the available funds to sign him, but will they want to?

I want Junichi Tazawa to be the #1 middle-reliever on the 2013 Red Sox. And maybe even consider him for the closer's role. He throws strikes. He almost never walks anyone. He comes in any inning any situation and does his job. He struck out 3 in 1.2 innings last night. And in 35 innings this year he's struck out 35 and walked only 5.

I don't much enjoy the Red Sox embracing their role as spoilers. There is a great race for playoff spots going on and Boston is miles away from the action. September baseball without a playoff race, without scoreboard watching, is simply a weekday distraction between football games.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Seguin Staying in Boston

The Bruins and Tyler Seguin have agreed to a contract extension worth $34.5 million over 6 years. That's an average of $5.75 million per season. And that's not a bad deal.

Taylor Hall, who was drafted ahead of Seguin by the Edmonton Oilers, just signed a deal worth $42 million over 7 seasons. That's $6 million per year for those of you who struggled with multiplication tables.

I think Seguin is a slightly better player, and the Bruins secured him for slightly less money.

With the CBA still up in the air, some might feel it's unwise to commit large sums of money to players. The Bruins just agreed to a 4 year, $18 million extension with Brad Marchand. And the Bruins already have big chunks of cash tied up in David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, and Patrice Bergeron.

But I think the B's are actually taking advantage of CBA uncertainty. They're locking up players who might be worried that when/if the salary cap is reduced, they won't be able get as much on the free market.

Just a Few Moments for Some Thread and Fabric

Today is the anniversary of the September 11th attacks. I think most of us remember where we were when we were told what was happening. I recall the surreal silence of the skies around Norwood Airport, as no flights took off.

As 9/11 became a memory, it also became a rallying point. In my opinion, there's no better or more succinct rallying point for Americans than our flag. Because our flag has been a symbol of our country's dogged determination, our resilience to those who would corrupt our country's values, and our strength in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

In 1814, the British Navy bombarded Baltimore and Fort McHenry. American lawyer Francis Scott Key witnessed it first hand, and reveled at the sight of the Star Spangled Banner fluttering in the breeze the next morning. He was so inspired that he wrote a poem that was later converted to a song, which eventually became our National Anthem.

Another flag was carried into battle in the Civil War by the 54th Massachusetts, the first black unit in the US Army since the Revolution. The Civil War resulted in the end of slavery. Slavery was perhaps America's most shameful institution, but thousands of Americans fought and died to end it.

In 1945, a group of Marines and a Navy corpsman planted another flag on Iwo Jima, in one of the most iconic images in US history.

In 1969, Neil Armstrong planted a flag on the surface of The Moon.

And in 2001, when a group of stupid, psychotic, extremist assholes tried to dampen American spirit, tried to hurt us, tried to make us feel afraid, a group of New York firefighters stuck an American flag in the rubble, and reminded us all that we live in the best country in the world. And that we don't yield to pressure. We fight. And we win.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Even God Felt Bad for Savannah State

The Savannah State Tigers were losing 55-0 to Florida State in the 3rd quarter Saturday when both coaches agreed to end the game due to weather. The game had already been delayed by lightning, and more storms lingered in the area. It was in essence a Mercy Rule ending from God/Mother Nature for the Tigers.

The Seminoles were up 35-0 after the 1st quarter, and had already amassed 255 yards of offense. It was a 48-0 game at half-time, and 55-0 with 8:59 left in the 3rd when the game was called.

A week earlier, Savannah State was the victim of an 84-0 pounding from Oklahoma State.

In the two losses Savannah State allowed 1,095 total yards and only managed to gain 167, a difference of more than half a mile.

But don't feel too bad for the Tigers. They were paid for being sparring partners with two heavyweight programs. A total of $860,000 to be exact. That's a nice haul for a modest athletic program's financial needs.

And Savannah State were never anywhere near the all-time record for biggest college football blowouts. In 1916 Georgia Tech annihilated Cumberland College 222-0.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Steve Cannon

Overrating the Jets

One of the big stories from Week 1 of the NFL is how Mark Sanchez and the Jets have "silenced" their critics. How after their offense struggled in the preseason they put up 48 points. How this team was a circus in Training Camp but seems to be a well-oiled machine now that the season has started.

Here's the real story from the Jets' 48-28 win over Buffalo: the Bills suck. They turned the ball over 3 times in the 1st half, then Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a pick 6 to start the 2nd half.

Everyone seems impressed with how well the Jets did, but since when are the Bills a measuring stick for the NFL? Especially a Bills team without Fred Jackson for most of the game.

Give credit to the Jets defense, and it's nice that Sanchez threw 3 TDs, but the 48 points on the scoreboard are deceptively complimentary to the Jets offense. 7 points were from a punt return. 7 were from an interception. In total, 24 were off turnovers.

So it was a good win for the Jets, but let's not get carried away. The Bills are a bad team. And they played horribly. The Jets did their job and took advantage of mistakes. But for some reason whenever that team, with that once anointed quarterback, and that jackass of a coach win a game against a bad team, suddenly there's a new force in the AFC East.

I don't think so. This team is as illegitimate as 8 of Antonio Cromartie's 12 children.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Welcome Back, Patriots

Yesterday our TVs were once again blessed with a sports team that tries, that cares, and that wins. It's been a long summer for sports fans in New England. Welcome back, Patriots.

Yesterday's 34-13 victory illustrated three major differences between the 2011 Patriots and the 2012 edition. We saw a wide receiver wearing #85 be a reliable target. We saw a defense capable of big plays and stops. And we saw an explosive running game.

Brandon Lloyd caught 5 passes for 69 yards. It took Chad Ochojohnson three games to catch 5 passes last year. Lloyd's 5 receptions are a third of what Ochojohnson had last year, and 69 yards is exactly 25% of Ochojonson's production in 2011 (276 yards). Lloyd made one mistake and it cost the Pats a touchdown, but his other catches demonstrated his skill as a receiver and his understanding of the Patriots' offense.

How many fantasy football people will be picking up the Patriots' DST this week? The Patriots had 2 sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble plus a recovery and touchdown. Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower are freaks. But they also stayed at home, did their job, and let the big plays come to them. The defense completely eliminated Tennessee's running game. Chris Johnson had 11 carries for 4 yards.

The Pats outrushed the Titans 162 to 20, and the main reason behind that was Stevan Ridley, who ran for 125 yards on 21 carries (6.0 yards per carry) and a touchdown. His first career 100 yard game. He was explosive once he got past the line of scrimmage. Five of his rushes were for 10+ yards, and four were 15+.

Having a playmaking running back is something we didn't see in 2011. Having defensive weapons making an impact is something we didn't see in 2011.

But there were some things that carried over from the previous season. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski being brilliant, for example. Both caught 6 passes, both caught a touchdown, but both didn't execute their trademark celebrations from last year. Hernandez didn't make it rain and Gronk fumbled his mega-spike.

Another carryover was a shaky secondary. The Titans did the Pats a favor every time they ran the ball or threw dink and dump passes. The defense is still vulnerable to 8-15 yard curls and other basic mid-range routes.

Hopefully an improved pass rush can help deflect attacks on this weakness. And on offense, perhaps an improved running game can chew up clock and eat up yardage so opponents won't have enough time to exploit the secondary.

In any case, I'm just glad it's football season, the Pats are 1-0, and sports are once again fun to watch. The Cardinals come to Gillette Stadium next Sunday.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Wade Payne

Friday, September 07, 2012

Incorrect College Football Picks*

I'm going to make some college football picks, but I'm not going to research them much, I won't be trying very hard, and in all honesty you shouldn't take my advice. But maybe you shouldn't take my advice so much that you should take it. Wink, wink.

Anyway, here are my picks.

Utah -6.5 @ Utah State
Why not think the Utes will win by a TD?

UConn +3.5 vs. NC State
Well the game is up here in Storrs. So go with the Huskies.

Penn State +10 vs. Virginia
I feel a rebound coming for the Nittany Lions.

Ohio State -18 vs. Central Florida
Should be a 3+ TD game.

USC -26 vs. Syracuse
This is more than a 4 touchdown game.

Texas Tech -18 @ Texas State
TTU should cover.

Nebraska -5 @ UCLA
The Cornhuskers should win this game because they kind of need to. I don't know why, they just do.