Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Why We LOVE Sports: Day Ten

#1) The Championship Runs – These are what everyone remembers.  The hard work, the luck, the close wins, the blowouts, the controversies, the questionable decisions, the last seconds of the clock, the trophy.  Is there anything better than knowing your team is top dog and just proved it?  Absolutely not, unless your team wins back to back championships. 

The essence of a championship run though is one of two things: a rag-tag team that has to prove themselves game after game and the team that looks unstoppable and is.  Sometimes those two meet for the championship even.  I can think of two such instances that stick out to me.  The first took place on February 3rd, 2008, Super Bowl XLII.  New England entered the game as the first team to go 16-0 in a 16 game season and was looking like just the second team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl undefeated.  New York entered with a 10-6 regular season record and, not counting those playoffs, hadn’t won a playoff game in seven years.  The Giants overcame what was thought to be impossible odds and won, upsetting the Patriots and capping a historic post season, a historic championship run. 

The other game that comes to mind occurred on January 3, 2003.  The Miami Hurricanes came into the National Championship after winning it last year and winning their past 34 games.  The Ohio State Buckeyes entered the game after losing last season’s bowl game but finishing that season with a 13-0 record.  The buckeyes won six of those games by seven points or less.  In the end, Ohio State won much like they did in those close six games, by seven points.  Ohio State finished their championship run, going 14-0 and being the first team to do so.  Both the Giants and the Buckeyes were two touchdown underdogs going
into the game.  They proved that, to make history, a championship run is necessary.

That’s what all teams live for.  Winning the championship, making history, being forever remembered.  A championship run defines a team.  It builds legacies, honors traditions, provides us fans with hope that the same will happen next season.  That’s why we love the championship runs.

So there it is, my Top Ten Reasons Why We LOVE Sports.
#10) The Offseason
#9) The Underdogs
#8) The Uniforms
#7) The Stadiums
#6) The Food
#5) Making Noise
#4) The Camaraderie
#3) The Commentators
#2) The Rivalries
#1) The Championship Runs

That’s my list and I'm sticking to it… for now.  Let me know if you think I put something in the wrong place or left something off the list.  And never quit LOVING sports.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Why We LOVE Sports: Day Nine

#2) The Rivalries – Where to start, where to start.  There are so many rivalries in the world of sports that I'm not going to be able to put them all here.  Let’s try it anyways.

Slater v Irons, USA v Mexico, Affirmed v Alydar, Australia v New Zealand, Gatti v Ward, Rice v Sanders, Schwarzenegger v Oliva, Leonard v Duran, Woods v Mickelson, Busch v Johnson, Williams v DiMaggio, Brazil v Argentina, Sampras v Agassi, Canadiens v Leafs, Army v Navy, Hogan v Snead, Earnhardt v Waltrip, Navratilova v Evert, India v Pakistan, Yarborough v Allison, Ravens v Steelers, Chamberlain v Russell, Manchester United v Liverpool.  Phew!  Still with me?  Hagen v Jones, Edwards v Keselowski, Bird v Johnson, Federer v Nadal, Duke v North Carolina, Real Madrid v Barcelona, Manning v Brady, Texas v Oklahoma, Canadiens v Bruins, Packers v Bears, Andretti v Foyt, Tennessee v UConn, Giants v Dodgers, Auburn v Alabama, Red Wings v Blackhawks, Celtics v Lakers, Nicklaus v Palmer, Redskins v Cowboys, Yankees v Red Sox, Frazier v Ali.  And of course the Grrreatest rivalry in ALL of sports, Ohio State v TTUN.  I’ll be frank, I did forget about the rivalry with the most relish, Kobayashi v Chestnut.

There they are.  I went through ten different lists of greatest rivalries in sports and I have the majority above.  I want to make it clear though; it’s not the names that make the rivalry, it’s the actions.  A storming of the mound could have started it or maybe a coach crossing lines.  Maybe it’s just because two teams are in the same state or city even and they want to prove who the best is.  Two teams meet year in and year out in the playoffs or championship and a rivalry is born.  The best faces the best.  All those things are what creates a rivalry.  And don’t we just absolutely freaking love it as sports fans.  I mean, come on.  Would we even care if rivalries didn’t exist?  Of course!  Rivalries will always exist and we will always love them. 

There is certain aspects of a rivalry that we love to see though.  The hard fought game between a contender and a pretender, that is only a close game because it’s a rivalry.  Team A comes in the clear favorite.  Team B comes in as mediocre.  It’s all thrown off the table.  Once that game starts, those athletes are the best in the world and they are there to prove it.  Team A wins a championship.  It’s only loss?  Team B was the champion that day.  That is a rivalry.  Perennial powers face off more than it was thought possible.  They don’t like each other because no one likes the opposing team.  The thing that makes it special though is the game within the game.  A trash talker, a dirty play, some show boating.  The next game comes along and the feud continues.  All of a sudden, someone realizes something.  Maybe a reporter, a columnist, an owner, a fan, or a coach or player.  Those two teams?  They just started a rivalry.

Why is a rivalry important though?  It makes that game so much better.  It gives TV stations more money and the commentators more to talk about.  It shows that no team is invincible.  So whether you like the origins of your favorite rivalry or not, continue to root for your team.  Continue to hope and pray that this year, your team comes out on top over the bitter rivals.  While you’re at it, eat that soggy hot dog and wear that everlasting jersey.  And always remember: when facing a rival, they are the enemy and you win at all costs.

Check in tomorrow for #1.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Why We LOVE Sports: Day Eight

#3) The Commentators – Commentary has gone along with the game since the game’s origins.  There have been so many great voices over the years.  To me, these guys, and gals, bring the game to life.  I know some people don’t like the commentators, but they add something to the game if you ask me.  A great voice goes a long, long way. 

Let’s start with The Voice of God, John Facenda.  NFL Films sure as hell knew what they were doing when they brought him in.  Majestic, profound, simplistic.  “It starts with a whistle and ends with a gun.”  “The Autumn Wind is a raider, pillaging just for fun.  He'll knock you 'round and upside down, and laugh when he's conquered and won.”  “As the fourth period began, Denver’s determined offense still needed more restoration work from Norris Weese, what it got instead was a demolition job from the Doomsday Defense.”  It is truly incredible listening to the greatest voice football has ever known. 

Moving right along now.  Who doesn’t love the English commentary of a European futbol game?  “The ball flew straight into the goal, it looked like a frozen rope.”  I don’t know many English commentators, but Ian Darke is who I like best.  Since 2010 he has worked with ESPN, commentating to us silly, futbol-illiterate, Americans.  He did the 2010 FIFA World Cup and will do it again in 2014.  He also commentated the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup with Julie Foudy and that’s when I started to love his commentary.  Listen in futbol fans, Ian Darke is here to stay, thanks to ESPN.

The last commentator I chose to highlight in detail is someone who most of you will not know.  He announces the Glass City Marathon and the Sylvania Triathlon and Duathlon.  He is known by me simply as Announcer Bob which is okay.  There’s someone like him in every state and country.  We all have our favorite marathon announcers, if running is your forte.  You know the scene though.  Spectators line the end of the route leading to the finish line.  Every runner has their family waiting for them to get the picture of them breaking the imaginary finish tape.  The first placers cross the line, which is great, but the real show begins once the majority start rolling in.  Announcer Bob has his spotter who catches the runners’ numbers from 50 yards away.  He then looks up the number and announces the runners’ name and home town.  Announcer Bob then goes into detail about the runner and how they talked before the race or how he knows the family.  Sometimes he talks about the home town; like, “Where the heck is Island Plains, New York?  Good job Tom Smith!  Way to finish!”  Then there’s the races within the race.  The battles to the finish line.  “They’re neck and neck, toe for toe, right down the line!  Come on, folks, let’s hear it for these two fine competitors!”  The crowd goes wild and it’s too close to call.  Then, “Here comes Jane Smith and it appears she’s got some little ones right on her tail!  Congratulations Jane!  Great finish!”  If you have any idea what I'm talking about, then you know this is truly something spectacular to watch. 

Now time to finish things off.  I don’t have the time these commentators deserve to go in depth, so I’ll just throw them a mention to a few who are my favorites.  Pat Summerall and John Madden.  Brent Musburger, Brad Nessler, Beth Mowins.  Marv Albert and Reggie Miller.  Joe Buck, who does football and baseball.  I think he’s better doing baseball myself.  Bob Uecker.  Mike Tirico, who does just about everything.  Al Michaels, who commentated the 1980 Miracle on Ice and does Sunday Night Football for NBC now.  Those names were in no particular order and definitely deserve much, much more praising than I can give them here. 

Check in tomorrow for #2. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Why We LOVE Sports: Day Seven

#4) The Camaraderie – The whole point to play sports or watch sports is to have fun, right?  Okay, maybe not, but it’s a huge portion of the point, next to winning.  Merriam-Webster defines camaraderie as a spirit of friendly good-fellowship.  Basically, camaraderie is getting along very well with the people around you.  Fans getting along with fans. Players getting along with players, and coaches. 

To have camaraderie is something special.  You can’t find it growing on a tree or even on eBay.  No, it takes two or more people that just understand each other and, in the end, have a common goal.  For the fans, that goal is making sure they see the whole game and hopefully from a reasonable seat.  For the players and coaches it’s obviously winning the game and eventually winning championships.  At least that’s what we hope the players and coaches want to do, and that their not just in it for the money. 

What camaraderie really is though, pertaining to the sports world, is having the greatest time of your life.  Having fun.  A team of players competing week in and week out, playing the game they love with teammates they love even more.  It truly is one of the most perfect examples of camaraderie, next to America’s Military.  When it comes to the fans’ camaraderie, we all remember the first game our Dad took us to.  We all remember when Mom finally picked out a jersey for game days.  A memory I will always love is going to my hometown hockey team’s games with my Grandmother.  She loves hockey.  Not because it’s incredibly hard to skate and shoot a puck at the same time.  Not because of the scoring or the horn after the score.  No, it’s because of the fights.  That’s right, my Grandmother loves hockey because of the fights.  She loves seeing two opponents rip their gloves off and duke it out.  The camaraderie that is lost by those two opponents is surely gained by my Grandmother and I, and I couldn’t love it any more. 

So there you have it.  Camaraderie is #4.  Check in tomorrow for #3.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Why We LOVE Sports: Day Six

#5) Making Noise – There are many types of noise.  There’s baby noise, car noise, dog barking at 3 AM noise, you’re annoying, why are you talking to me noise, I live next to the airport noise, and so much more.  What this article is about though is sports noise.  It’s the best noise around and everyone contributes. 

From the coach yelling at the players, to the QB or PG calling out the play, to the fans in the stands, to the band, and even the humming from the Goodyear blimp.  It all adds up to turn into something great.  Making noise is just so darned fun!  There’s no way you can disagree with me either, because as a sports fan, you expect there to be loud noises and to make your own loud noises when you go to a game.  A touchdown is scored: fans cheer ecstatically.  The home team has a 2 point lead with little time in the fourth quarter of a basketball game: home fans shout “DEFENSE! DEFENSE! DEFENSE!”.  You’re at an international futbol game:  Vuvuzelas are all you can hear.  Go to any hockey game: there is at least one instance where somebody yells “HIT SOMEBODY!”. 

And there’s the on field noise.  The defense yelling “pass, pass”.  The offense getting the play call from the sideline.  The chatter coming from trainers who don’t have anything to do.  The whistle of the ref.  The bounce of the basketball.  The collision of pads.  The squeak of sneakers.  The boot of a football or futbol.  The ping of the baseball as is comes off the bat.  The puck slamming and ricocheting off the glass.  All those sounds are part of why we love sports.  It all just seems to make sense.  If those noises don’t happen, it doesn’t seem real.

They do happen though.  And whether or not you’re making noise because your team is winning or losing, or you’re doing it because you hate the other team, or maybe you’re just like any other red blooded sports fan and love to make noise.  It’s all okay, all accepted.  So go ahead, make some noise people.

Check in tomorrow for #4.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Why We LOVE Sports: Day Five

#6) The Food – As American’s, we consume a lot of freaking food.  As humans, we consume a lot of freaking food.  We all love food.  Most of the time, food loves us.  As a sports fan, I am not a stinkin’ vegetarian.  That’s just unethical to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love veggies, as long as they’re smothered in cheese or on my hot dog or burger.  This could be higher on the list of Top Ten Reasons Why We Love Sports, but I choose to put it here at #6 and here’s why.

If you like eating food, you like to eat all the time.  When game day arrives, for me, it’s all about what kind of food do we have.  Whether I'm watching the game at home, at a sports bar, or from the stands, it’s all about the food.  The food starts off all the festivities.  Make sure the nachos are out of the oven before the game starts.  Make sure we got some thick, chunky, spicy salsa.  Do we have enough charcoal to make it through three plus hours of tailgating?  All this and more is why the food is #6.  It’s only the start of great things to come, in particular, the game.

Of course, once the game starts, everyone is most likely full and bloated from eating one too many chili dogs or because they finished off an entire bag of Doritos JACKED.  It’s understandable though.   You can’t watch the game on an empty stomach.  That’s why when halftime or the middle of the fifth inning roll around, you’re ready for more food.  If you’re eating at a stadium, let me tell you, there are certainly some good, good eats there.  Anything involving pretzel bread is like Heaven on Earth.  If it comes with grilled onions, always ask for extra.  And if it happens to be covered in chili, don’t be a wimp and eat it with a knife and fork, not even a Spork.  You man up, or woman up, and eat that sucker with your bare hands!  Just make sure you don’t spill anything down the front of your jersey. 

Now time for my favorite stadium food.  You can get these at probably every single stadium in the United States.  MLS, NBA, NFL, MLB, NCAA, high school, heck, even little league games.  They all have that crappy hot dog.  You know the one I'm talking about.  It comes out of a giant vat of dogs and wrapped in a piece of aluminum foil.  The bun is soggy and you have to pay for the toppings.  Instead of paying for cheese though, you go the free route and slather a gallon of mustard on that dog and you eat it like it’s the best damn hot dog you’ve ever had.  But let’s face it, that is the best damn hot dog.  That hot dog is what makes the game that much more special.

Check in tomorrow for #5. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Why We LOVE Sports: Day Four

#7) The Stadiums – I am an Ohio State fan.  Ohio State is in the Big Ten and huge stadiums go along with the Big Ten.  I love football stadiums.  100,000 plus people in one place watching a football game, regardless of what the weather is like, is just fantastic.  The beauty of some of the more recent stadiums that have been built is pretty great too.  Look at Cowboys Stadium, now known as AT&T Stadium.  And it’s obvious that the stadium is important to the front office because of these new stadiums being built.  Also, all the upgrades that every stadium gets.  It seems like every single college football season there’s at least ten stadiums that have been overhauled to fit more fans or got a shiny new jumbotron. 

This story isn’t just about football though.  Let’s look at probably the greatest stadium ever built: Circus Maximus.  It was the first super stadium and rightfully so.  Nearly a half mile long and almost 400 feet wide, Maximus held 150,000 people and could have reached a capacity of 250,000.  It was built in Ancient Rome, which explains why it was built.  Ancient Romans loved a good show as evidenced by the Colosseum, another great stadium.  I think it’s fair to say that we have followed in Roman footsteps when it comes to building stadiums.

Football stadiums, check.  Ancient Rome’s stadiums, check.  What else is left?  How about NASCAR?  I'm not a NASCAR fan, but they sure know how to flock people in there.  Who’s ever idea it was to have the motorhome parking in the infield for NASCAR stadiums was a genius.  Those baseball stadiums.  Some of them are the most b-e-a-utiful things I have ever seen.  How about those futbol stadiums?  The stadiums they construct just for the FIFA world cup, they are incredible.  A stadium built for a single event lasting for only 4 ½ weeks?  If that’s not stadium love, I don’t know what is.

Everything that goes along with these great stadiums just adds to the experience.  I mean, the food, the noise, the announcers, they make the stadiums even better.  By the way, one of those is #6, so check in tomorrow to see which one it is.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Why We LOVE Sports: Day Three

#8) The Uniforms – Who doesn’t love it when they get that jersey they’ve been wanting for Christmas or the helmet that’s used as a chip and dip bowl for their birthday.  How about when it was jersey day at school?  Let me tell you, those were my favorite days.  Whenever I got the chance to rock my Emmitt Smith or Chris Spielman jersey, I was ecstatic. 
My first jersey I received though, was a Francesco Totti, club Roma jersey.  That’s right, my first jersey was of an Italian Futboler who I had never heard of.  The story is that my Grandfather went to Italy and decided to get me something.  A Totti jersey seemed to fit the bill.  I don’t remember how old I was when I got, five maybe, but I still have the jersey.  I love that thing.  I’ve never seen Totti play and I don’t know of his stats, but that jersey is special to me.  The first one always is.

Now time to talk about the jersey changes.  It happens all too often, sometimes good, sometimes turrible.  For example, Oregon Football.  I don’t get it.  Something like hundreds or thousands of different combinations.  That’s just ridiculous.  I like it when a team stays old school.  Teams that haven’t changed their uniforms in decades, sometimes centuries.  Uniforms that stand the test of time.  Those uniforms are the best.  Most teams out there don’t have that though, so they decide to suit up in some throwbacks.  Often times, the throwbacks are a combination of brown and yellow, blue and puke orange, or even Creamsicle.  Sometimes though, those throwbacks are just what your team needed and just what you wanted to see.

Whatever type of jersey you like though, I think we can all agree there is a certain love for the uniforms. 

Check in tomorrow for #7.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Why We LOVE Sports: Day Two

#9) The Underdogs – Let’s face it; we used to be the underdogs.  I’m talking as a country.  Way before we knew how great sports were, America was fighting off the Goliath known as Britain.  It’s only natural that we root for the underdogs.  Of course, there is more than just people in the United States reading this so let me explain why we all love the underdogs.

To be an underdog you have to be the favorite to lose going into a game.  As humans, we are often considered only underdogs to Mother Nature, but we have found a way to beat her time and again.  We are the underdogs every single time though.  For those of you who don’t agree, tell me how much you like being rained on, struck by lightning, or having a hurricane come through your home town/state.  It’s because of those very reasons why we love underdogs. 

Just think about it.  The underdog comes in and win the game with all odds against them.  It is the ultimate definition of teamwork.  Look at some of the most recent underdog victories.  Texas A&M over Alabama.  Seattle over Green Bay, albeit with replacement refs. Golden State advances over Denver. The one game Chicago won over Miami in round 2 of the NBA Playoffs.  The 7 seeds advancing in the NHL Playoffs.  And you can’t leave out the always fantastic wins by underdogs in the NCAA Tournament. 

Then there’s the historic underdog wins.  Broadway Joe and the Jets beat Unitas and the Colts in SB III.  The Miracle on Ice.  Whenever Michigan finds a way to lose to incoming underdogs.  For example, Appalachian State in 2007 and Toledo in 2008.  Giants beat the undefeated Patriots in SB XLII.  Y. E. Yang over Tiger Woods.  Let’s never forget when the James Madison Dukes beat Virginia Tech in 2010.  The 2007 Fiesta Bowl.  All of Rocky Marciano’s career.  Hoosiers.  Texas Western.  Jimmy V and the Wolfpack.  Oh yeah, and the most important one, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.

They were all great moments.  Moments that will last for a very, very long time.  Thank you Chuck Norris and remember the 5 D’s of Dodgeball: Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, and Dodge. 

Check in tomorrow for #8.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Why We LOVE Sports: Day One

Ask everyone you know why they love sports.  Each person will tell you something different.  You may agree with them.  You may disagree with them.  Really though, it doesn’t matter if we all love sports for different reasons.  As long as our beloved sports still exist, here’s my top 10 reasons why we LOVE them.

#10) The Offseason – Most sports fans probably don’t like the offseason at all, but there really is a lot to love about it.  The biggest is definitely the controversies.  What are players doing in their spare time?  Where do they go on vacation?  Who are they marrying?  Who got arrested?  Who got injured?  Who’s just out there having fun?  Yes, the offseason has many questions.  You can’t tell me though that watching Kevin Durant play a little streetball isn’t the greatest thing ever.

Or maybe you just enjoy seeing how your favorite team is preparing for next season.  It could be anything from seeing those crazy college coaches entice those pesky recruits to play for them or hearing how your favorite NFL QB is organizing some team activities.   And of course there is the coveted draft.  If you’re into that sort of thing, the draft is probably the peak of the offseason, but not for me.  After the draft comes free agency.  A player basically chooses who he wants to play for and you’re hoping it’s your team.

You can’t talk about the offseason and not mention how stupid players can be though.  It’s why some of you hate the offseason.  You just want the players to play and coaches to coach and games to be won.  I couldn’t agree with you more; however, it is nice to see some justice to be served to some of those idiots.

Alas, this is only #10, so make sure to check in tomorrow for the #9 reason why we love sports. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Last of the 42's.

April 18, 1929: Larry French debuts for the Pittsburgh Pirates as the first of the 42’s.

April 15, 1947: Jackie Robinson debuts for the Brooklyn Dodgers as the speediest of the 42’s.

May 23, 1995: Mariano Rivera debuts for the New York Yankees as the last of the 42’s.

April 15, 1997: Major League Baseball retires the number 42

From the first to the last, 42 has had some fun times.  The most memorable being its ride with Jackie Robinson.  The speedster from Cairo, Georgia who broke the color barrier.  He may be the most important player in the history of the game.

Since the Robinson days, 42 has been adorned by so many, but maybe the best to wear it is Mariano Rivera.  After all, this story is about him.  From Panama City, Panama and entering the game via Enter Sandman, Rivera is the undisputed king of the save.  He has over 630 of them and is adding to that in his final year.  Rivera is in his 19th season in the league and he couldn’t be happier. 

With the All-Star game on and the 8th inning about to begin, Buck and McCarver go silent and the cameras are on Rivera.  He throws one last warm-up as the music starts.  You can hear the crowd start to thunder over the music and the start of something incredible begins.  Rivera walks through the gate, and I just know the fans are standing by now.  He starts his jog to the mound and Citi Field is a madhouse.  When Rivera reaches the mound, the cameras finally leave him, long enough to show the whole stadium on their feet, players included.  It cuts back to Rivera who tips his cap and the place is at its loudest.  Then Buck comes back on.

The top of the eighth is won in 16 pitches.  The master is still the master.  Rivera walks off the mound to another thunderous applause and a second ovation.  He reaches the AL dugout and hugs Verlander as if they were the best of friends.  Rivera had just completed his final All-Star game and did so in fantastic fashion.  The AL went on the win the game 3-0 and Rivera won MVP honors, which included the game ball delivered by Joe Nathan.

Of all the moments in Rivera’s career, to me, that All-Star game has to be in his top 10.  Rivera represents class, he represents the Yankees, and he represents the number 42. 

Mariano Rivera is the last of the 42’s.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Why Dwight Howard went to Houston

Some of you are asking just why Dwight Howard is moving to Houston.  He’s somebody who is considered to be the best center in the game of basketball, when he’s healthy.  He’s had playoff experience.  He’s had Finals experience.  Then he moved to LA and it appeared that the Lakers were the team to beat in the West, yet again.  He got the chance to play with the likes of Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, and Kobe Bryant, all future hall of famers.  Of course, there’s playing for future hall of fame coach Mike D’Antoni too.  The Lakers have a much bigger budget than the Rockets.  So, why did Dwight Howard move to Houston?

Here’s reason number one.  Dwight Howard doesn’t like Kobe Bryant.  Kobe Bryant doesn’t like Dwight Howard.  Watching the two bickering back and forth during last season was hysterical.  Here’s two guys, who are great players, on a should be great team, arguing over how well Howard can play with a back injury.  I’m not a Lakers fan by any means, but something like that should never happen. 

Naturally though, that wasn't the whole story.  I don’t know what the entirety of it was, but here’s my take.  The Los Angeles Lakers is Kobe Bryant’s team.  I wouldn't be surprised if he sat in on owners’ meetings.  When Howard came to LA, he wanted the Lakers to be his team.  Therefore, we have a rift among players, and no one will be happy unless they’re winning games or someone cedes to the other.  Well, neither of those really happened. 

The Lakers made the playoffs by the leather of the basketball, and really only because Howard was finally healthy and Bryant realized they needed to win games.  So the two set aside their differences and lost in the first round.  As soon as that happened, I knew Howard wasn't staying in LA.  There’s no chemistry between Howard and Bryant and never will be.

Here’s reason number two.  The Houston rockets are an up and coming team.  They are young.  They got their first taste of the playoffs last season and are looking to take a bigger taste next season with Howard at center.  The Lakers, however, are a somewhat old team, and without new tricks.  Not including Howard, the Lakers’ stars were all 33 or older.  Dwight Howard is 27.  Meanwhile, over in Houston, only one player has been seen on this earth for 30+ years and the core of the team is 27 and under.  Dwight Howard is 27.  He also wants to win for a long time.  He’ll do that in Houston with those young players.

There’s also coach Kevin McHale, whose 4 year resume may be deceiving.  I believe the man knows how to coach and will also be in Houston for a while.  He may not be a Mike D’Antoni, but he’s getting there.  James Harden was a pretty good player before he came to Houston, but McHale is going to make him into a superstar. 

Dwight Howard is healthy.  Dwight Howard is playing with stars.  Dwight Howard has a team.  Dwight Howard has a coach.  Dwight Howard is in Houston.  Dwight Howard is happy.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bruins v. Hawks: Predicting the Unpredictability of the Stanley Cup Finals

Ladies and gentlemen, it's finally time.

If I'm being honest, I would have never imagined being here and writing this article six months ago. I, like many others at the time, had lost any hope of a 2013 NHL season. But, as we know, the right people finally came to their senses, and here we are, just three days away from what promises to be a fantastic Stanley Cup final. Here's some keys to the series and how I see them playing out...

In case you haven't heard, Chicago has a few decent scorers on their team. Bryan Bickell, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa have all proved that they can put the puck in the back of the net this postseason. Combine them with the potential of Jonathan Toews (1 G this postseason) catching fire or "Hatrick" Kane continuing where he left off in Game 5 against LA,  and Chicago has every reason to be confident that they can out-score Boston. Boston has never been a team to play amazing offensively, and it hasn't been a huge hindrance this postseason,  but it's hard to see a scenario where Boston doesn't have to attempt to run n' gun and outscore the Hawks at some point.
Verdict: Chicago Leads 1-0

Now we're playing Boston's game. The Bruins have only given up three or more goals three times this postseason, two of those occurrences coming way back in round one against Toronto. Boston is, and has been for years, led by their strong defensemen who always seem to be in the right place at the right time. However, Chicago is no slouch defensively either. With Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook leading the way, the Hawks have put together a strong group of six defensemen they can trust. Behind them, netminder Corey Crawford has played surprisingly stellar this entire season and has posted a save percentage of .935 this postseason. Crawford and the Hawks have been good, but not nearly as good as Bruins goalie Tukka Rask. Anyone who seen a single minute of the Bruins-Penguins series will attest to that.
Verdict: Series Tied 1-1

The Bruins and Blackhawks are both lead by Stanley Cup champions in Claude Julien and Joel Quennville. The Bruins have made the playoffs every year since 2007 when Julien arrived in Boston and have a record of 256-146-56. In 2009, Julien won the Jack Adams Award as the league's best coach. In Chicago, Coach Q has also enjoyed success since his arrival, making the playoffs in all four of his season is Chicago and posting a record of 222-106-44. Although both coaches have proven their worth as top coaches in the NHL, Quennville gets a slight edge do to experience. In 16 NHL season, a Quennville coached team has only missed the playoffs once when his Colorado Avalanche finished the 2006-07 season one point behind the eight seed Calgary Flames.
Verdict: Hawks Lead 2-1

The Bruins win this matchup. Boston finished the regular season with 140 more penalty minutes than Chicago. Just like Chicago likes to stretch the ice and play at an upbeat tempo, Boston likes to slow it down, jam the net, and mix it up occasionally. Oh, and it doesn't get a whole lot more gritty then having a player break his leg and refuse to leave the ice and continue to kill off a minute of a penalty.
Verdict: Series Tied 2-2

Whenever two original six teams meet in a Cup Final, you have to talk about the history each team brings to the table. Somewhat shockingly, this will be the first time the Bruins and Blackhawks play for Lord Stanley's Cup. The Bruins have won the Cup six times compared to Chicago's four. The Bruins have also won more divisional titles, conference championships, and have more retired jerseys then the Hawks.
Verdict: Bruins Lead 3-2

Home Ice Advantage
Both teams have taken advantage of home ice these playoffs with the Hawks going 7-1 at United Center and the Bruins 7-2 at TD Gardens. What may give Chicago an edge on home ice is how much talent the Hawks have invested in their bottom two lines. If coach Quennville can find the proper chemistry and pull the right cards, it's hard to believe that the Bruins will be able to match up line-for-line with the Hawks without eventually getting burned by a mismatch the Hawks take advantage of. The Bruins great goaltending and strong defense will minimize Quenville's opportunities to take advantage of mismatches, but it only takes one bad decision that could cost the Bruins a series that promises to be as hard fought as this one.
Verdict: Series Tied 3-3

To me, this is probably the single most intriguing question of this series: can anyone in the NHL party as hard and Kane? Hold on Blackhawk fans, hear me out. I know what you're thinking: how could anyone EVER out party this guy?

As hard as Kaner can party, the Bruins may have a set of challengers that will finally dethrone Kane. Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand. Although they are long-shots, never in history has Kaner been challenged with not one, but two of the heaviest partiers the NHL has to offer.... at the same time. As much as I would love to see another round of Kaner celebrating the win in downtown Chicago, I'm feeling an upset. Seguin, Marchand, and the Bruins have what it takes.
Final Verdict: Bruins win in 7

Thursday, June 6, 2013

You should want the Spurs to win the NBA Finals and here's why.

The 2007 NBA Finals was the first and only time that the Cleveland Cavaliers have been to the NBA Finals.  It was the fourth visit for the San Antonio Spurs, who ended up sweeping the Cavs and winning their fourth ring.  In all honesty, I hated the Spurs then.  Yes, I'm a Cleveland fan.  But I'm a true Cleveland fan.  I didn't keep rooting for LeBron to win or do well after he made "The Decision".  No, I stuck with my Cavaliers and it has been a very rough go.  I felt great when the Cavs beat Miami in the Q that first season though, and again when they won the first draft pick and then when they won the first draft pick again.  Now, Kyrie is taking over and I couldn't be happier as a Cleveland fan.   Well, maybe I could.  If the Spurs beat Miami in the Finals, they will have five rings in five visits and beating LeBron for two of them. I want the Spurs to win, not just to beat LeBron, but to finish the legacy.  The Spurs didn't get on a stage when their "Big 3" was formed and promise 7 or 8 championships.  Hell, I can't even remember when the Spurs had a true press conference.  They play with dignity, class, and modesty.  They are the model franchise in the NBA and that's why I would love the Spurs if they beat the Heat.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Super Bowl sites every sports fan wants to see.

Lambeau Field – Capacity 79,594

         Located in Titletown, USA, how can you not have a Super Bowl here?  The NFL has approved of one cold-weather Super Bowl and that will probably be the deciding factor for future Super Bowls in the cold.  A Super Bowl Lambeau leap though should really be enough incentive to have a Super Bowl in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  
      Average February temperature: 13-28

Arrowhead Stadium – Capacity 76,416

        Probably one of the most underrated stadiums in the NFL.  The fans at Arrowhead take advantage of the shape of the stadium, their cheers reverberating back and forth between the two sides of the field.  This is one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL and has drawn in more than 80,000 fans.  
      Average February temperature: 26-45

Sports Authority Field at Mile High – Capacity 76,125

        The air runs thin, you can see every breath you take, mountains on one side, downtown Denver on the other.  Does that not sound like a great Super Bowl could be played here?  Watching Peyton Manning and the Broncos play Joe Flacco and the Ravens in the AFC Championship last season felt like a Super Bowl environment.  
      Average February temperature: 18-49

CenturyLink Field – Capacity 67,000

        Quite possibly the loudest stadium ever built, ever.  Seahawks fans take pride in how loud they can get and the roof sections are to thank.  A beautiful city and a beautiful stadium, there is no reason that Seattle cannot host the Super Bowl.  
      Average February temperature: 37-50

Edward Jones Dome – Capacity 66,965

The name says it all, DOME.  Weather is not an issue, so the Super Bowl should have been played here by now.  The city of St. Louis has the Gateway Arch and truly is a magnificent city.  Every NFL city should host a Super Bowl; might as well start here.  Average February temperature: 70 
(The game is indoors!)

New Vikings Stadium – Capacity 65,000

There is no doubt in my mind that the NFL will grant Minneapolis a Super Bowl.  After all, who doesn’t like a brand new and sparkling stadium?  This might end up being one of the most beautiful stadiums not only in the NFL but in all of pro sports.  
Average February temperature: 13-29

Ohio Stadium – Capacity 102,329

As a Buckeye fan through and through, I cannot leave out the greatest college football stadium ever built.  Host to “The Game” every other November, The Horseshoe has no problems filling it’s seats and more in cold weather.  One of the largest capacity stadiums in the U.S.  
Average February temperature: 22-42

Michigan Stadium – Capacity 109,901
Begrudgingly, I put this stadium on the list.  I assure you, I am a Buckeye, but you cannot deny the mass amounts of people that collect here during TTUN home games.  This stadium is the largest in the U.S. and third in the world when it comes to capacity, probably why they call it The Big House.
      Average February temperature: 20-35

Yankee Stadium – Capacity 54,251
Most likely, this will never happen.  You have to give Yankee Stadium it’s props though.  It has hosted NCAA football games, will host NHL games, hosted a boxing match, and even some futbol.  The only thing that’s left is the Super Bowl, right?
      Average February temperature: 29-42

Busch Stadium – Capacity 46,861

Again, won’t happen, but here’s hoping.  One of the more beautiful stadiums in the MLB and will host a future NCAA football game.  Probably the better St. Louis option over the Edward Jones Dome too.
      Average February temperature: 28-45

Wrigley Field – Capacity 41,058
Will not ever happen, ever.  Wrigley is simply too small to play a real football game and does not have anywhere close to the seating capacity that the NFL wants for its most important game.  Oh well.
      Average February temperature: 22-36

Talladega Superspeedway – Capacity 175,000
A dream that will not be fulfilled.  The NFL wants to expand who views their games.  Why not have the Super Bowl in the heart of NASCAR country.  This will only happen if Ricky Bobby gives his approval.  Shake and bake!
      Average February temperature: 33-58

Bristol Motor Speedway – Capacity 160,000

Again, a lost dream.  Bristol actually was scheduled to host an NCAA football game between Tennessee and Virginia Tech in 2005, until both teams backed out.  Now, it seems Bristol has given up on trying to host a football game with the video tower sitting right where the 50 yard line would be.
      Average February temperature: 28-50

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

East and South 2013 NFL Draft grades

Now that the 2013 NFL Draft is more than in the books, let's do some draft grades.  I have been given the task of the East teams and the South teams.  There were certainly some surprises in this year's draft and, of course, the obvious picks.  Alright, let's get right into it.

AFC East
Buffalo - eight picks, overall draft grade of B-
The Bills are done with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, need someone to compliment WR Stevie Johnson and S Jairus Byrd and need to add depth all over the field.  They accomplished two of those.
     EJ Manuel, QB - He can run, has a big arm, can take a hit, and allows receivers to go up and get the ball.  Most importantly, he has tremendous character.  After his name was called by Roger Goodell, he stopped his interview to honor the military service members.  Should start Week 1.  Pick grade, A
     Robert Woods, WR - Can catch and run, does well on the sidelines, and can take a hit while catching the ball.  He doesn't make many hand catches though, resorting to catching the ball with his body.  Pick grade, B
     Kiko Alonso, LB - Has a nose for the ball and blitzes well inside.  He can get caught in traffic though, forcing him out of the play and has had two police run-ins.  Pick grade, B
     Marquise Goodwin, WR - Quick between blocks, has return ability, and can track the ball well.  He should play a flex position, switching from the slot to the back field.  Pick grade, C
     Duke Williams, S - A big hitter, can wrap up, has good closing speed.  Between him and Meeks, Buffalo has added some safety depth.  Pick grade, C+
     Jonathan Meeks, S - Has a little speed but needs to be more consistent.  Seems to sit out some plays.  Pick grade, C-
     Dustin Hopkins, K - A power kicker who kicks well in Buffalo type weather.  Pick grade, C+
     Chris Gragg, TE - Has some hops for a TE and speed as well.  Has some health issues.  Pick grade, C-

Miami - nine picks, overall draft grade of C+
The Dolphins are an up and coming team but need a lot to get past the Patriots.  They had holes on the front seven and at DB.  They got that in the draft.  What they didn't get was O-line.
     Dion Jordan, DE - Has some speed, plays with ferocity, does not give up on the play.  Should be a good compliment to Cameron Wake. Pick grade, A
     Jamar Taylor, CB - Plays for the ball and wraps up well.  He also seems to blend into the turf well.  Pick grade, B+
     Dallas Thomas, OG - Should play tackle for Miami, can block down field, and plays well in a passing offense.  He can miss the first level if their not rushing and just continues to the second level.  Pick grade, C+
     Will Davis, CB - He gets his hands up but can get lost on the field.  Pick grade, C+
     Jelani Jenkins, LB - He's short and his size plays against him.  Can get lost in blockers.  Pick grade, C-
     Dion Sims, TE - A big target with no top speed.  Pick grade, C-
     Mike Gillislee, RB - Miami wants him to be Reggie Bush's replacement, he won't be.  Can be a good pass catcher.  Pick grade, C
     Caleb Sturgis, K - Will eventually replace Dan Carpenter.  Was consistent kicking the ball.  Pick grade, C+
     Don Jones, S - Does not have top speed and is better playing over the top.  Pick grade, C

New England - seven picks, overall draft grade of C+
The Patriots have no one at WR except their TEs.  They need a lot of help at DB.  They did get the positions but not the players.
     Jamie Collins, LB - Doesn't have great size, but is quick and can run over the ball carrier.  Looks more like a safety.  Pick grade, B-
     Aaron Dobson, WR - Will be compared to Randy Moss because he can make the spectacular catch.  Is not Randy Moss.  Pick grade, B-
     Logan Ryan, CB - Can tackle but tackles low.  Can give up short yardage all day long and has moderate speed.  Pick grade, C-
     Duron Harmon, S - A big hitter but plays too deep sometimes.  Is not a good blitzer.  Pick grade, C+
     Josh Boyce, WR - Can catch the deep ball and has size of slot player but not the speed.  Pick grade, C+
     Michael Buchanan, DE - Is a leverage player and more of a pass rusher than a run stopper.  Pick grade, C-
     Steve Beauharnais, LB - Plays with brains over talent.  Is a pass rusher.  Pick grade, C-

New York - seven picks, overall draft grade of C+
The Jets need a lot on both sides of the ball.  After cleaning house they need a great draft, and after Dee Milliner they didn't have it.
     Dee Milliner, CB - He's not afraid to lay some lumber, is fast, and watches for the ball.  The man thinks he's the intended receiver.  The Jets have sold Revis Island and drafted Milliner Island.  Pick grade, A+
     Sheldon Richardson, DT - Consistently pressures the QB and sees screens developing.  He can't be double teamed.  Pick grade, B+
     Geno Smith, QB - This is the right spot for him, no QB truly deserved the first round.  He's a scrambler who can put a lot on the ball.  He is very confident and at times reminds me of Brett Favre.  Should start week 1.  Pick grade, B+
     Brian Winters, OT - A strong lineman who gets shoved back entirely too often.  Won't play tackle for Jets.  Pick grade, C+
     Oday Aboushi, OT - He controls his man but can also be pushed back.  Won't play LT like he did in college.  Pick grade, C
     William Campbell, OG - Will play D-line for Jets as their previous two picks were O-line and he did half and half in college.  This is a depth pick so he won't play much.  Pick grade, D+
     Tommy Bohanon, FB - A pass catcher who will play anywhere.  Pick grade C+

NFC South
Atlanta - eight picks, overall draft grade of C
The Falcons don't need much, other than depth.  They did get what they wanted.
     Desmond Trufant, CB - Can play big and has excellent hands.  Can play over zealous. Pick grade, B
     Robert Alford, CB - Looks like the intended receiver most of the time but lacks top speed and size.  Pick grade, C+
     Malliciah Goodman, DE - Great size and can run around the blocker.  Uses the fall down tackle.  Pick grade, C++
     Levine Toilolo, TE - He falls forward when tackled but is a blocking TE, not a catching TE.  Not Tony's replacement.  Pick grade, C-
     Stansly Maponga, DE - A depth pick who won't start anytime soon.  Pick grade, C
     Kemal Ishmael, S - Good at run support and is a good tackler.  Lacks coverage skills.  Pick grade, D+
     Zeke Motta, S - A big hitter who plays zone well.  Will not run down WRs.  Pick grade, C
     Sean Renfree, QB - A depth pick who will grow under Matt Ryan.  Pick grade, C

Carolina - five picks, overall draft grade of C-
The Panthers wasted this draft after they picked Lotulelei.  They needed a lot more than five picks.
     Star Lotulelei, DT - Can get off the block and stays with the play.  A huge anchor for the D-line who has the ability to blow up the play in the back field.  Pick grade, A
     Kawann Short, DT - Plays well against a double team and always pushes his man.  Sometimes just watches the play.  Pick grade, B
     Edmund Kugbila, OG - Could dominate in DII but won't in the NFL.  Has some technique issues but good size. Pick grade, C
     AJ Klein, LB - An old-fashioned LB who plays zone well.  Not very quick though.  Pick grade, C+
     Kenjon Barner, RB - He is quick which means he's not a power runner.  Has return ability.  Pick grade, C

New Orleans - five picks, overall draft grade of C
The Saints were dreadful on defense last year and needed more DB help than they drafted.  This defense hasn't improved much after Vaccaro.
     Kenny Vaccaro, S - A big hitter who finds the ball quickly.  Can rush the QB well playing off the D-line.  A great start to a better defense.  Pick grade, A
     Terron Armstead, OT - Blocks well down field, but doesn't always stay with his man.  Can lose his battle on run plays.  Pick grade, C+
     John Jenkins, DT - Good size and initial burst.  He follows the ball well when he's not swept off his feet.  The double team renders him useless.  Pick grade, C
     Kenny Stills, WR - Has some speed with a long body.  Can play all over the field but won't be a top receiver.  Pick grade, C
     Rufus Johnson, DE - He will take awhile to be good in the NFL.  Pick grade, C-

Tampa Bay - six picks, overall draft grade of C+
The Buccaneers snatched Darrelle Revis from New York and need a compliment.  They have a pretty good offense needing only depth on both sides of the ball.
     Johnthan Banks, CB - A big hitter who uses his hands well and looks for the ball.  Pick grade, B+
     Mike Glennon, QB - Great size and looks like Matt Ryan.  Throws off his back foot too often.  Could replace Freeman if he doesn't have a good season.  Pick grade, B-
     Akeem Spence, DT - Has pursuit ability and can blow up the run play.  Can be taken out of plays and isn't a pass rusher.  Pick grade, C-
     William Gholston, DE - Has long arms and gets them up.  Can destroy plays in the flats.  Pick grade, C++
     Steven Means, LB - Good size but should play DE.  Pick grade, C+
     Mike James, RB - Uses brain over talent but will be a special teams player.  Pick grade, C-

AFC South
Houston - nine picks, overall draft grade of B-
The Texans have finally taken control of Texas and needed players at some key positions.  They got them.
     DeAndre Hopkins, WR - Catches passes through contact and uses good speed variations.  Can turn on the jets and has good initial footwork.  He can jump too.  Pick grade, A
     DJ Swearinger, S - A big hitter who can come up and tackle.  He may be fined often because of his hit style.  Pick grade, B
     Brennan Williams, OT - He can't play the blind side and has trouble against top caliber rushers.  Pick grade, C+
     Sam Montgomery, DE - Has good size and stays with the play.  Has flashes of brilliance.  Pick grade, C++
     Trevardo Williams, DE - Not great size but may fit anyway.  A relentless rusher.  Pick grade, C+
     David Quessenberry, OT - A depth pick who will play OG.  Pick grade, C-
     Alan Bonner, WR - He's not a burner like Hopkins but a possession receiver.  Also a depth pick.  Pick grade, C-
     Christopher Jones, DT - A tough player who shows up every play.  A shorter player who is a depth pick.  Pick grade, C
     Ryan Griffin, TE - Not a big play threat.  He's a possession receiver who needs to develop his blocking.  Pick grade, C-

Indianapolis - seven picks, overall draft grade of C
The Colts made the playoffs last season due to hard work and a lot of Luck.  They needed a better draft to get back.
     Bjoern Werner, DE - Can look like JJ Swat and sheds blockers well.  Still a lot of football experience to have,  Pick grade, B-
     Hugh Thornton, OG - Can play tackle.  Is a bigger O-lineman.  Pick grade, C
     Khalen Holmes, C - Can read the defense but be easily pushed back.  Pick grade, C
     Montori Hughes, DT - He doesn't get consistent pressure but seems to get lucky on some plays.  Pick grade, C-
     John Boyett, S - Has some health issues but is a depth pick.  May start in the future though.  Pick grade, C
     Kerwynn Williams, RB - Not a power runner but has top gear.  He can catch the ball and has return ability.  Pick grade, C
     Justice Cunningham, TE - A blocker who can catch the ball in a crowd.  Is Mr. Irrelevant.  Pick grade, D+

Jacksonville - eight picks, overall draft grade of C+
The Jaguars needed a lot on both sides of the ball.  They shored up LT, but that's about it.
     Luke Joeckel, OT - Has excellent quickness and gets off the defender with great footwork.  Can block down field and take on two defenders.  Has power.  Will play 12+ NFL seasons.  Pick grade, A+
     Johnathan Cyprien, S - A big hitter who knows how to tackle.  Played in Sun Belt.  Pick grade, B
     Dwayne Gratz, CB - Plays smart and finished plays.  Not a flashy corner who gets beat when he has safety over the top.  Pick grade, B
     Ace Sanders, WR - Fast with return ability.  A patient runner.  Pick grade, C+
     Denard Robinson, WR - First WR to catch the deep ball at combine.  Fast with return ability.  No experience.  Pick grade, C+
     Joshua Evans, S - A big hitter who is a depth pick.  Is not a center fielder.  Pick grade, C
     Jeremy Harris, CB - Has speed but needs to bulk up.  Uses hands well.  Pick grade, C-
     Demetrius McCray, CB - No top gear and is a depth pick.  Pick grade, C

Tennessee - eight picks, overall draft grade of C-
The Titans needed an O-line and receivers and some defense.  They got part of the first half.
     Chance Warmack, OG - Has strong arms and is quicker than he looks.  A good pulling guard.  You don't mess with The Belly.  Pick grade, B++
     Justin Hunter, WR - Has good size and speed.  Looks like AJ Green but tries to do too much sometimes.  Pick grade, B+
     Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB - Has long arms and uses them.  Can take some bad angles.  Pick grade, C+
     Zavier Gooden, LB - Has good tackle ability given his size.  Lacks some instincts.  Pick grade, C-
     Brian Schwenke, C - Knows his assignment  but can get pushed aside.  He can get to the second level.  Pick grade, C+
     Lavar Edwards, DE - Has good size and strong hands.  Pick grade, C+
     Khalid Wooten, CB - Has good instincts but not a man defender.  Tackling needs improving.  Pick grade, D
     Daimion Stafford, S - No top speed.  Plays better over the top.  Pick grade, C-

NFC East
Dallas - seven picks, overall draft grade of C
The Cowboys seemed to be out of it during the draft, or maybe just Jerry Jones.  They got some need picks but not the right players.
     Travis Frederick, C - Blocked for record-breaking RB in Montee Ball.  Always seemed to move forward.  A slower O-lineman.  Pick grade, B
     Gavin Escobar, TE - Can create space and is a big target.  Has great hands but needs to improve blocking.  Pick grade, B+
     Terrance Williams, WR - Can put it into high gear.  Not going to get that extra yard but can be an edge run blocker down field.  Pick grade, B
     JJ Wilcox, S - A big hitter who wraps up.  Looks for the ball and uses his hands.  Didn't play top teams in college.  Pick grade, C
     BW Webb, CB - Takes advantage of bad throws and not afraid to tackle.  Has return ability.  Pick grade, C+
     Joseph Randle, RB - A receiver in the back field but not a strong runner.  Pick grade, C+
     DeVonte Holloman, LB - A depth pick that will play special teams.  Pick grade, C-

New York - seven picks, overall draft grade of C+
The Giants need help on both lines, at RB and DB.  They picked okay to start and it went downhill from there.
     Justin Pugh, OT - Can be the lead blocker and is relentless.  Can become flustered and continue after the whistle.  Pick grade, B-
     Johnathan Hankins, DT - A bull rusher who doesn't give up on the play.  Can be double teamed.  Pick Grade, C++
     Damontre Moore, DE - Senses the snap well and has good size.  Can get pushed out of the play.  Pick grade, C+
     Ryan Nassib, QB - Throws well in the rollout and just looks like Eli.  Fires the ball every throw and needs some technique work.  Pick grade, C+
     Cooper Taylor, S - He has an awkward size being too big for S, but not big enough for LB.  Will be backup S.  Pick grade, C
     Eric Herman, OG - A run blocker who plays gritty.  Pick grade, D+
     Michael Cox, RB - Not much experience.  Only a two down back who might be a project player.  Pick grade, D

Philadelphia - eight picks, overall draft grade of C+
The Eagles are now coached by Chip Kelly and  his first draft went well.  He got players that fit his schemes and added depth where they needed it.
     Lane Johnson, OT - Can get down field and takes away the lead rusher.  Can play either side and played fast at Oklahoma which fits Kelly's offense.  Pick grade, A
     Zach Ertz, TE - Can catch the tough ball and doesn't go down easy.  More receiver than blocker.  Pick grade, B+
     Bennie Logan, DT - Can get outside and uses hands well.  Is a bull rusher.  Pick grade, B
     Matt Barkley, QB - Can make reads to change the play.  WRs can catch in stride.  Can escape from pressure but is sometimes oblivious to it.  Pick grade C+
     Earl Wolff, S - Can wrap up and is a big hitter.  Plays centerfield.  Pick grade, C+
     Joe Kruger, DE - Has good size but needs to play lower.  A depth pick.  Pick grade, D+
     Jordan Poyer, CB - Plays the ball but is small and has no top speed.  Pick grade, C
     David King, DE - A run stopper who is a depth pick.  Pick grade, D+

Washington - seven picks, overall draft grade of C
The Redskins needed some DB help and depth on offense.  They may have their DBs and got a couple steals, but not a great draft.
     David Amerson, CB - Tackles bigger than he is and uses his hands well.  Can be beat and plays better in zone.  Pick grade, C+
     Jordan Reed, TE - Not really a TE.  Should play flex but needs to grow at receiving.  Pick grade, C+
     Phillip Thomas, S - Can snag ball from the air and is a big hitter.  Led nation with 8 ints last season.  Pick grade, C++
     Chris Thompson, RB - A speed back who can compliment Alfred Morris.  Health issues let him drop.  Pick grade, C+
     Brandon Jenkins, LB - A pass rusher and a depth pick.  Pick grade, C-
     Bacarri Rambo, S - A nose for the ball but is a depth pick.  May start in the near future.  Pick grade, C+
     Jawan Jamison, RB - No top speed but falls forward when tackled.  Pick grade, C

Well, that's it.  Criticize me if you like.  I'm sure I've made some mistakes but overall it was not a great draft for any team.  We will truly see how well I did by the time September rolls around.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Some Future Outdoor NHL Games We Want to See

Last week, reports broke that the NHL plans to add five more outdoor games to the 2013-14 schedule that take place in Chicago, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and two games in New York. With this decision and the past success of the Winter Classic, one could assume that more open-air NHL games are to come in the near future. Here's a few matchups off the top of my head that I would love to see played.

Detroit vs. Columbus
Ohio Stadium
Opened: 1922
Capacity: 102,329
Columbus is one of the league's most promising up-and-coming teams. With superstar Marian Gaborik and Vezina candidate Sergei Bobrovsky leading the way, the Blue Jackets finally look like a team on their way up. With the University of Michigan getting an outdoor game on their campus in the form of the
2014 Winter Classic, it's only fitting that Buckeye country gets a crack at hockey as well.

Detroit is only about three hours north of Columbus and is sure to draw a crowd where ever they go, making them the perfect team to help Columbus fill the Horseshoe's 102,000 seats. Columbus has been division rivals with Detroit since the team's inception in 2000 (although this will end in 2013-14 with the NHL's planned realignment) and went 4-0 against the Wings this season. If for some reason Detroit can't make the trip, the Pittsburgh Penguins would also be an ideal opponent to play Columbus in Ohio Stadium.

Dallas vs. Minnesota
Target Field
Opened: 2010
Capacity: 39,021 
If there is one city who hasn't hosted an outdoor NHL game and that deserves too, it's Minneapolis... or St. Paul.... well, you get what I mean. When you imagine what these outdoor NHL games might look like, it's hard not too include the frigid weather and hundreds of frozen lakes that Minnesota is famous for. Plain and simple: Minnesota is perfect for an outdoor hockey game.

The state of Minnesota was blessed with watching their Minnesota North Stars form 1967-1993 before owner Norm Green bought the team and moved the Stars to Dallas. Minnesota would be without an NHL team for seven seasons until the NHL announced that Minnesota was awarded an expansion team to begin play in the 2000-01 season. When the NHL first announced their planned division re-alignment starting in the 2013-14 season, the one positive many fans spotted was the possibility of a Dallas-Minnesota division rivalry. What better have to add fuel to the fire then a nationally televised outdoor hockey game?

Chicago vs. St. Louis
Busch Stadium
Opened: 2006
Capacity: 46,861
St. Louis is filled with up-and-coming talent and play very well with head coach Ken Hitchcock's team first style. Combine that with the beauty of Busch Stadium and the Gateway Arch that overlooks the field (or in this case, the rink), and St. Louis has a legitimate case for an outdoor NHL game.

The Blackhawks and Blues have played in the same division since 1970, a fact that will remain true with the NHL's re-alignment. Admittedly, St. Louis isn't the biggest of hockey markets. This season, the Blues are 23rd in attendance in terms of percentage of tickets sold with 94.3%. Not to say that St. Louis can expect to play in front of a half-empty Busch Stadium, but whether or not there are 46,000 people willing to buy NHL tickets in the St. Louis area is unclear. By playing Chicago, one of America's strongest and wide-spread hockey markets, St. Louis would be sure to generate the ticket sales and attention from the media that these outdoor games require.

Montreal vs. Boston
Fenway Park
Opened: 1912
Capacity: 37,400
I'll admit it: Montreal-Boston is, without a doubt, my favorite rivalry in the NHL. Both teams have original six roots and the history that comes with them, both teams are consistently good, and, probably most importantly, both teams are great at finding reasons to hate each other. 

As any fan of both baseball and hockey like myself will attest too, there is just something that would be awesome about watching a hockey game at Fenway. If I had to choose one possible game to take place from this list, this would be it, without a doubt.

Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia
Beaver Stadium
Opened: 1960
Capacity: 106,572 
Beaver Stadium, home of the Penn State Nittany Lions, is the fourth largest stadium in the world in terms of capacity. State College is conveniently located almost exactly half way between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and would serve as a glorious venue to one of the league's most heated rivalry games.

Edmonton vs. Winnipeg
Investors Group Field 
Opened: June 2013
Capacity:  Approx. 40,000
Since finally witnessing the return of their beloved Jets in 2011, Winnipeg has proven themselves as one of the best hockey cities in the NHL. When the NHL announced that the Atlanta Thrashers would be moving to Winnipeg, fans all over Manitoba pulled out old Jets jerseys from the attic and lined up to purchase tickets. As thing stands now, it is believed that the Jets have already sold out every home game for the next three to five years. 

In June 2013, the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers will unveil their new venue, Investors Group Field. What better place to celebrate hockey in Winnipeg?

I debated with myself about who I would most like to see play Winnipeg in this theoretical match up, but finally decided on the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton is a young, fun-to-watch team that has the potential to have multiple superstars on their roster by the time this match up would take place (January 2015, at the earliest) and once had a bit of a rivalry with Winnipeg in the 90's before the Jets departed to Atlanta. Other viable options include the Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes.

Florida vs. Tampa Bay
Local Roller Hockey Rink
Opened:  ???
Capacity: 343, including standing room only tickets
According to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, warm cities in Florida and Arizona are the only thing keeping the NHL alive and without them, markets like Toronto and Detroit would crash beneath themselves and the league would be bankrupt within a year. I say, let's take an afternoon to celebrate hockey in these great markets and expose the world to the hockey hot bed (no pun intended) that is Florida. LONG LIVE WARM WEATHER HOCKEY!!!