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Posted on: October 3, 2010 9:58 pm
 

Sunday Morning Quarterback

Things I learned from the action Saturday

Alabama is a good football team: And I mean scary good. Granted, Florida has been horrifically overrated all season, playing sub par opponents and scratching out victories. However, they do have a fair amount of talent on that squad and they were completely dismantled. That game was an absolute massacre. Ingram had fairly pedestrian stats (12 rushes – 49 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Alabama still won by 28 points. Auburn may be the only team left that can keep the Tide away from a second national championship game, and the only reason I say that is because it is a rivalry game, and Cam Newton is playing way above his head right now.   

Oregon may be the 2<sup>nd</sup> best team in the country: You want a dominant performance? Oregon goes down 21-3 in the first quarter. Their response was to simply outscore the ninth ranked Cardinal 49-10 for the rest of the game. I was incredibly impressed especially with the onside kick Chip Kelly called after their first touchdown, which set up a second score and brought the Ducks back into the game. They don’t have much in the way of defense, but their offense is the most explosive in the country, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them vault over Boise State and TCU if they manage to run the table in the Pac-10 in the rankings – although USC getting upset this weekend hurts those chances.

The Big-XII is having a down year: Texas and Oklahoma played this weekend, did anyone notice? The Sooners managed to hold on in the face of a furious Texas rally and now a collision course with the Cornhuskers in the Big-XII championship game seems immanent. Yet, I ask myself if Oklahoma or Nebraska were able to run the table, would it be enough to put them in the title game ahead of an undefeated Ohio State, Oregon or even TCU and Boise State? The answer right now is undoubtedly no. I can’t remember the last time that I really believed that an undefeated Big-XII champion wouldn’t belong in the national championship, but that is a clear indicator of just how down the conference is this year. They needed to have a strong year from their big names that were staying in the conference, and every game Nebraska wins hurts the conference, which I still don’t think will be around in 5 years.

The Buckeyes are vulnerable: Ohio State is not nearly as invincible as advertised. Their 24-13 win against Illinois was a lot closer than the scoreboard indicated, as they only had a 4 point lead late in the fourth quarter against a pretty bad Illinois team. Granted, Ohio State does tend to play down at least once or twice a year against Big-10 foes that it should handle easily, however their schedule is not exactly a walk in the park, especially with tough road games in Madison and Iowa City, and Penn State and Michigan at home are not exactly gimmes either. I thought this team would play for the national championship this season at the beginning of the year, but they need to improve a lot if they want to run the table in the resurgent Big-10.

Michigan State is a darkhorse in the Big-10: At the beginning of the yar I had Michigan State penciled in as a contender for the Big-10 title. Their schedule was incredibly favorable (easy non-conference, Wisconsin at home, no Ohio State) and they were returning a lot of talent. I will be the first to admit I didn’t think they would live up to my expectations but they have passed every test sent their way. Now we will see if they can truly contend for the Big-10 title as they have their first road game of the year against the most explosive offense east of the Mississippi. If the Spartans win this weekend there are really only two more tests on the schedule, at Iowa and at Penn State.

Denard Robinson is still a freak: Seriously, the man is a human highlight reel. He is doing things that no one has ever done and he is doing it as a sophomore. He looks like someone playing a video game against the lowest difficulty setting. The yardage he racks up every week is astonishing, he has led two game winning drives on the road and, most importantly, he is not turning the ball over. One interception against UMass and a fumbled snap against Indiana are the only blemishes against him thus far, and if he can stay healthy, Michigan has a shot at beating any team they play this season.

 

My Top 5:

1) Alabama

2) Oregon

3) Ohio State

4) Boise State

5) TCU

Posted on: July 21, 2010 6:59 pm
Edited on: July 23, 2010 11:13 am
 

I have a confession

I don't care about the NBA

I really don’t. Not even a little bit. I probably watched a grand total of 15 minutes of the NBA this year, and 10 of them were Game 7 of the Finals. I almost cared this summer during the Free Agency of Doom. I thought I cared, even said I cared, but on the night of “The Decision” I was too busy reading a book to remember to turn it on. I could have caught the SportsCenter recap of it that night, but I chose instead to watch Diamondbacks – Astros highlights on the MLB network.

However, I read a couple articles written by friends about the NBA and they brought back memories of a time when I had once cared about the NBA. When I was younger, I was that kid in the teal Pistons jersey shooting hoops and reliving the days when Thomas and Dumars ruled the court. I was up late watching the new and improved Bad Boys win the title in 2004 and the year after when the Spurs snatched the title from their hands.

Oddly enough, I’m still a basketball fan. I enjoy watching and playing the sport very much. I have a yearly March Madness tournament and I tried to attend as many Michigan basketball games as I could. The problem does not lie within the sport itself, it’s the organization that has taken this game that I like and destroyed it.

My biggest problem with the NBA is that they’re not playing basketball. Oh sure, its some sport that vaguely resembles basketball, the general aspects of basketball are all there: one team tries to put the ball in the hoop more times than the other. However, the similarities between basketball and the NBA end there.

One of the reasons I love sports so much is that they are universal. The games played at the lowest levels resemble those played professionally. Granted, there are some differences, but the majority of the rules that apply to you in those leagues apply to the athletes who participate at the highest level. It allows those who have played to connect with the athletes even though they are not competing with them.

But the NBA has completely warped the game of basketball into something I no longer recognize. The league has slowly bent rules, allowing for small infractions in an effort to “preserve the flow” and “make the game more exciting”. There is only one small problem with that, because now players are moon walking from the 3 point line to the hoop. Traveling and Carrying, two of the more fundamental rules you learn when you’re playing the game as a kid, no longer exist in the NBA. And when it does get called, the players are outraged that the ref would have the gall to penalize them. Lebron all but spat in the face this rule after such a traveling penalty was called on him that cost the Cavs a win against the Wizards in 2009. When asked to explain the call, the official’s response was “3 steps on the move to the basket. Basic travel call.” Any youth league player, coach or official would back that statement. Not Lebron. He believed that it was a “bad call” and that “they need to look at it and they need to understand that’s not a travel.” Specifically he said that “I watched it again, and I took a ‘crab dribble’ which is a hesitation dribble, and then two steps.” This is how badly the NBA has perverted this game; one of the faces of the league has no idea what a basic traveling foul is. Caron Butler seemed to find James’ statement lacking in credibility as well, commenting “’Crab dribble’ is when you, uh, travel…That’s the hottest thing on the market right now.” In order to clear up the confusion, I called Merriam-Webster and they are going to add the word “crab dribble” to their dictionary in 2011. The listing will look something like this:

crab dribble: vb 1 a hesitation dribble before taking two steps towards the basket in the sport of basketball. 2 see: traveling

My second complaint stems from my first one. I understand how excessive traveling and carrying calls could stall a game out and thusly lose viewers. The NBA is right that there is a certain flow to a game. Yet, when I turn the game on, there is no flow at all. This is because it’s impossible to have flow if every time the defense thinks about breathing on a player with a big name while he is headed for the hole, they get penalized. Granted, the name on the back of the jersey generally makes an impact on how he is officiated in every sport, but none of the sports have favoritism like the NBA.

This is a list of the top 10 players ranked by free throws attempted in the 2010 regular season (the parenthesis indicate the amount of free throws attempted during the season).*

1) Kevin Durant (840)

2) Dwight Howard (816)

3) LeBron James (773)

4) Dwayne Wade (702)

5) Amar’e Stoudamire (632)

6) Carmelo Anthony (612)

7) Chris Bosh (590)

8) Dirk Nowitzki (586)

9) Corey Maggette (551) 

10) Gerald Wallace (544)

*Take note that the top 3 players averaged over 10 free throws per game.

So, when Wade, James and Bosh signed with the Heat, 3 of the top 7 leaders in this category are now on one team, and combined they took 2065 free throws last season. The slogan for this new super team should be “Root for us, we’re going to get all the calls anyway!”

Of the 10 players I just listed, only Maggette was not an All Star.  And, just in case someone wants to use him as an example, Kobe Bryant came in at #11 with 541 (3 less than the #10 spot) and he ranked #1 in free throws attempted in the playoffs with 183 (his teammate Pau Gasol came in second with 158). That’s right, the two best players on the team that won the championship were also #1 and 2 in free throws attempted during the playoffs. It’s even harder to argue against some bias if you look at the stats from Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The Lakers defeated the Celtics 83-79 to win their second title in a row. With the roster the Lakers had this year, I don’t think anyone would dispute that the better team won that series, but my problem lies within how they won it. At the end of the game Kobe Bryant had attempted 15 free throws, Pau Gasol attempted 13, as a team the Lakers attempted 37 free throws. Think about that, 37 free throws in a game 7 of the NBA Finals. The Celtics? They attempted two more free throws as a team than Kobe attempted by himself. The Celtics took 17 free throws and the Lakers took 37, a difference of 20, and yet the Lakers only managed to win by 4 points.

Everyone who follows a specific sport has a favorite athlete, and the greatest players of their respective generations have exploits that can only be considered legendary. When I was younger, I would spend hours alone shooting at my basketball hoop, recreating the epic buzzer beaters of Jordan, Bird and Thomas (ironically enough my team was usually down by 1 point). Soon the buzzer beater will be replaced by the free throw, with future generations practicing “clutch free throws for the NBA championship”.

While I’m on the subject of officiating, I’d like to discuss the pink elephant in the room in regards to the NBA. Tim Donaghy, a referee who admitted to fixing games for the mafia, filed a court document that claimed, among other things, that Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Lakers andKings was fixed. He claims that he “learned from Referee A that Referees A and F wanted to extend the series to seven games. Tim knew Referees A and F to be ‘company men, always acting in the interest of the NBA, and that night it was the NBA’s interest to add another game to the series.”  The Lakers won that game, attempting 18 more free throws than the Kings in the fourth quarter and went on to win the Title that year.  

Naturally David Stern has denied the accusation and attacked Donaghy’s credibility. Most people believe that the NBA is not fixed, however with all that evidence stacking up and all those stats you see, doesn’t just a little bit of that doubt creep into your mind? I mean, everyone wrote Canseco off after he named all those players in his book, and lo and behold every single one of them has been tied to steroids since then. What if Donaghy is actually telling the truth? While I’m not prone to conspiracy theories, there is a fair amount of evidence that suggests that the NBA may have successfully headed off one of the biggest scandals in the history of sports.

You know, I think I finally figured out what the NBA is. There is another “sport” out there that involves fake refs and staged competition.  Another confederation of athletes that sold away the legitimacy of the sport they play in favor of higher entertainment value. They have colorful casts of characters who perform every night even though the script already says who is going to win and who is going to lose.

The NBA is the WWE with a ball.


Posted on: December 14, 2009 6:05 am
 

I'm Disappointed...

My Saturday was going great...I ran in a 5K for arthritis, and had finished two papers for a class. I got to watch a little college football with my little brother, and even enjoyed 2 hours of American Ninja Warrior on G4 (I love watching grown ups do obstacle courses.) Then, right around 8:45, it promptly took a turn for the worse.

Let me preface this post by saying that I have no problem with Mark Ingram as a person. He went to school near me and I will always root for local boys in almost every situation. I think he is a fine athlete and a good person, his speech at the Heisman acceptance speech was moving and compelling. He had a very good season, and I will be rooting for his team to kill the Longhorns in the national championship.

However, having established this fact, I just cannot rationalize any way in my head that he should be the Heisman trophy winner.
By now Alabama fans who were about to add me to their favorites lists are now doing the dramatic water spit up out all over their computers I’m sure. But please, before you dismiss this post entirely, read on and give me a chance.

I’m of the opinion that the Heisman trophy is exactly what it claims to be, a trophy awarded to the “most outstanding player in football”. Yet, this year, Mark Ingram, who had a fine season, didn’t even win the award for best running back. That award went to Toby Gerhart, who was another Heisman finalist. I don’t understand how on earth a player who was voted the best at his position then loses to that same player in the award that is for “most outstanding player”.

I tried to look at it from different angles. Statistically it is not even close. Gerhart was 1st in rushes (311), rushing yards (1,736), and touchdowns (26). Keep in mind that he played one less game and had far superior stats to Ingram (249, 1542, 15).

My friends have argued that he was more important to his team than Gerhart. I would agree with them if we were only taking the Florida game into account, but I mean, where would Stanford be without Gerhart? Because of this player, Harbaugh is suddenly the top coaching prospect left on the market, they knocked off two top 5 teams in consecutive weeks including the worst beatdown USC has suffered in some time (maybe ever?). In one less game, Gerhart had 62 more rushes than Ingram…isn’t that essentially saying he meant more to that offense than Ingram? Even more telling, Ingram, who had fantastic stats against ranked teams, only had 30 yards on 16 carries against the mighty defense of Auburn, in a rivalry game with the national championship on the line. I just don’t think that is a Heisman worthy performance.

Another side fact that I wish had swayed the voters more was the fact that Gerhart is a senior , and Ingram is a sophomore…he will have his chance to win this award when he has a season that is more deserving. I know that’s a bad reason to want for someone to win it, but as a senior in college now I sort of empathize with Gerhart.

Now, I’m not going to go out on a limb like some other authors on this site have and say that he wasn’t even the best running back in his conference (McCluster is a name that comes to mind as a rival in that dept) or in his region (Spiller) like a certain columnist here has (*cough*Doyle*cough*).

I’m disappointed in the Heisman voters because it feels like they copped out. I know they did the popular thing and put Texas in the championship (which everyone wants to see more than Alabama-TCU, the two teams I think are best in the country) but for them to do that and then give this award to Ingram just feels like they are giving the best player on the best team the award, which I think violates the spirit of the award. I feel cheated. Instead of doing the hard thing and giving it to the player who plays on a less high profile team who legitimately had a better season. I’m all for giving Ingram an award, heck, we could make our own award and call it the Ingram, and make it for the best player on the best team.

Anyway, I’m sorry if I’ve upset you Alabama fans, but I had to get that off my chest. Congratulations again on getting your first Heisman winner, he had a fantastic season worthy of recognition, I just wish it hadn’t been in a year when there was someone who got passed over while having a better one. Good luck in the BCS championship, and for the record, I have you winning 27-13 against the Longhorns.
Posted on: December 11, 2009 9:58 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2009 9:59 pm
 

Restoring the Glory since 1993

This is my contribution to the blog "Critical Couzens" at Blogspot.com, if you wish to see the otherviewpoints on this topic, go to criticalcouzens.blogspot.com

With the hire of Brian Kelly today, Notre Dame officially put the Charlie Weis debacle behind them (Goodbye Charlie, you will be sorely missed in Ann Arbor, we will never forget your late inning heroics in the game this year). Notre Dame fans around the country rejoiced. The bells rang from churches everywhere. The smoke rising from the Vatican finally burned white. The anointed one had come, the man who would lead the Irish from the desert of mediocrity into the promised land of excellence once again.

But did they make the hire right? Personally, I think they did. The rumor floated by my good friend The Architect was completely right; I think Michigan hired the wrong coach from the Big East when they stole Rich Rod from West Virginia. Kelly has been a proven winner at every location he has coached. Since 1991 (when he first became head coach at GVSU) he has a record of 171-52-2, a .748 winning percentage. At one point he had a 32 game winning streak with the Lakers. He successfully turned around a horrible Central Michigan program to the point where now the Chips have won 3 of the last 4 MAC championships. And he set school records for Cincinnati, winning 10, 11 and now 12 games in his 3 seasons there. My esteemed friend The Bus Driver points out that Rich Rod won everywhere he coached as well, but the point I differ with him on is the aftermath. Personally I believe a sign of a good coach is when he leaves and the teams he leaves behind continue winning. Central Michigan and Grand Valley are still winning at the same rate that they were when Kelly left, yet West Virginia has dropped off its winning significantly.

However, Notre Dame fans should temper their rejoicing for two reasons. The first is that Brian Kelly’s teams do not play great defense. In his 6 years coaching D-1 ball his defenses given up an average of 23 points per season. The adage “Defense wins championships” comes to mind, but the other fact of the matter is that Notre Dame was mediocre this season because of their defense. They gave up 311 points this season, an average of 26 points per game. They had the offense solved, and Kelly will continue that production with his spread attack. He won with 5 different quarterbacks last year and put up video game numbers with Tony Pike and Collaros this year. But, if he can’t find a way to create a solid defense at Notre Dame, he won’t be able to win as consistently as he did in weaker conferences. The second downside to Brian Kelly lies within his nature. He is a mercenary coach. He goes where the money is, and has no compassion for the people he leaves behind. While I respect him for the consistency, Notre Dame had better be prepared to be the latest team to be burned. If the NFL comes calling, I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised to see him take off faster than Usain Bolt.

This hire is Notre Dame’s Alamo. If Brian Kelly, a proven winner in every other program he has coached, can’t win at Notre Dame, it will officially signal an end to the rich tradition at Notre Dame. Short of stealing Urban Meyer from Florida, the school won’t be able to return to a national powerhouse without either drastically changing its standards academically or joining a conference. No pressure Brian.






Posted on: June 3, 2008 1:46 pm
 

What a game

Sitting in Hockeytown last night, I could not help but marvel at how amazing that hockey game was. It was such a wonderful game to watch, the highs and lows, watching a team that was playing near the top of their game battle a goalie that could seemingly do no wrong. The Penguins roared out of the gate to an early 2-0 lead, and the crowd groaned their displeasure. They could feel the game slipping away. As the second period started, we waited on the edge of our seats, begging, praying for a reason to cheer. Darren Helm answered the desperate city's prayers, punching a goal past Fleury. The third period rolled around, everyone wished again, holding out against hope that this team could bring home the Cup that night. Pavel Datsyuk shot one past Fleury, the crowed erupted....and then promptly were shot down with the realization that the puck had only hit the crossbar. Then, the red light was lit behind the goal, again by Datsyuk. This one counted, the game was now tied. Hockeytown was in a frenzy, strangers were hugging, people were screaming and jumping around. Three minutes later, the puck found the back of the net. Pandemonium ensued, suddenly the lead was theirs!! Red and white clad fans were running around, the mighty Winged Wheelers had united this crowd behind them, nothing could stop them. The minutes ticked away, and the anticipation grew, and grew and grew. With a minute left no one was left sitting. Suddenly, with 35 seconds left, their hopes were dashed, as the Penguins found the back of the net. A desperate goal by a team that had nothing to lose, the crowd was deflated, but, at the same time, refused to leave, knowing this game was far from over. The first overtime went through with plenty of close calls on both sides, the city groaned and cheered, their anticipation killing them. The second overtime started, a few fans left, the die hards held on, their own voices making up for those who had left. The play ebbed and flowed, the crowd sat on the edge of their seats, both teams tired, started making mistakes, but neither could capitalize, Fleury held on strong, his pads suddenly impenetrable. The second overtime ended, more fans left, we refused to leave. The third overtime started, suddenly, the Penguins had more life in them, and then the whistles rang out, and the fans knew something was wrong; A four minute penalty, our hearts sank. Could the Wings find a way to end this seemingly unbeatable penalty? The red light behind Chris Osgood was suddenly alight with a flame that burned the hopes of the city down. The Penguins had managed to defeat the Wings. But what a game it was. Those of us who watched the whole thing should treasure the experience of being able to see that, no matter what happened, one team had to lose, and the Red Wings, unfortunately couldn't capitalize on some golden opportunities. Now its upsetting that the wrong team won, but the Wings are still ahead 3-2 in the series, and Fleury will have to play 2 more perfect games to beat them, and I do not think that he can do it. I said Wings in 5 to start the series, but, I think that the game tomorrow night will be the night that Niklas Lidstrom and the rest of his Winged Wheelers lift the Cup aloft, celebrating their 11th Championship.
Posted on: May 22, 2008 9:19 am
 

A Great Night

Last night was one of those nights where I remembered how wonderful the summer is. My brother and I got (really really good) tickets to the Tigers game, and we had an awesome time down at the ballpark. It rained all over us, and we couldn'tve cared less. We stuck it out to the end, yelling and screaming until the final out was recorded. I taught him how to keep score with a pen and paper, and we bantered with all the fans that were able to stick it out through the rain until the end. Marcus Thames had a grand slam (which was the first I had ever seen) and we were going insane. We sang take me out to the ballgame as loud as we could, it was just an awesome night. With all of the Tigers' recent woes and the economy doing so poorly, but for one night last night, nothing really mattered except for that game.
Category: MLB
Posted on: May 5, 2008 3:49 pm
 

NHL Final Four

- And then there were 4: Pittsburgh and Dallas advance in overtime thrillers, and, while Pitt was no surprise, the Stars managed to race out to a 3-0 lead, and then allowed the Sharks to creep and creep back into the series. However, Marty Turco has looked nothing short of amazing on getting his way to the Western Conference Finals. What interests me the most about these Western Conference Finals is that Marty Turco generally struggles against the Red Wings, especially in Detroit, where the Stars lost twice this year, only going 1-3 over the course of the series this year. Will Turco continue this hot streak? My guess would be yes. Unfortunately for him, I don't think his team is better than the Red Wings, considering one of their second line players, Johan Franzen, just broke the franchise goal record for a series, besting Gordie Howe's mark of 8 in a 7 game series, with 9 in a 4 game series. Their starting line of Henrik Zetterburg, Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom is, in my opinion, the best line in the country, with Sydney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marian Hossa coming in as a close second. Personally I think the Wings will win in 6 games, and the Penguins, who still have not played a quality opponent in my mind, will march through the Flyers in 5 games, setting up a pretty interesting Stanley Cup Finals. Personally I think the Wings will win (then again, I'm a hometown fan) but lets see how things work out.
Posted on: April 25, 2008 1:46 am
Edited on: October 5, 2010 12:37 am
 

Wow

- So THERE'S the offense: 30 runs in 3 games? Apparently that's all the Tigers need to sweep a team in a 3 game series. Welcome back Curtis Granderson, we missed you. The offense obliterated the Rangers, putting up a lot of points in a hurry. A 5 run deficit apparently means nothing to these guys, an 11 run inning will cure that but quick. I'm glad to see the bats booming downtown, hopefully they don't get cold by the time I'm out there on Sunday.

- Pistons prove they can play when they care: Turns out, Philly has no chance of winning this series if the Pistons actually put their minds to beating the 76ers. A near 30 point blowout in Detroit proved that. Hopefully this momentum continues into the road games at Philly. I'm sticking to my prediction of Pistons in 6.

- Renewed Rivalry?: The Wings and Avalanche meet for the first time in the playoffs since 2002 when the Wings won the Stanley Cup, with the Wings taking Game 1 with a 4-3 victory. While many of the old time hockey (see: pre-lockout) fans want this to be the same as the old wars these two teams waged on each other, it just feels slightly forced to me. Yes, I do direly wish that this was the days when Patrick Roy battled Claude Lemieux for the title of "Detroit's Most Hated Rival", but these aren't the same Avs, and they really aren't the same Wings. I'm going to enjoy this series for what it is, a good Conference Semi-Final, and most likely a fun series to watch if all the games follow like this one (Osgood's save with 8 seconds left, amazing), but I'm not going to turn it into what it is not, and that's part of that 6 years where these two teams waged war on the ice for 7 games and by the end you would have thought they won the Stanley Cup with the way these cities rejoiced from downing their hated rivals. Granted, it may turn into that, but I won't put that pressure on this series until then.

- Michigan Man goes #1: Congratulations are in order to my fellow schoolmate, Jake Long. He's fought for 4 years to earn the right to be the #1 pick in the NFL Draft, and I hope that he and the Dolphins find success with each other.

- Pacman gobbled up by Dallas: Jerry Jones is going to officially announce the new name for his team, the Dallas Rehabbers. They work wonders for troubled athletes, bringing them in, and turning them into semi-respectable pro athletes. I'd bash them for this move, but its worked in the past (Terrelle Owens doesn't annoy me half as much as he used to) so kudos to Dallas, you got a damn good corner for next to nothing. It makes me hate you even more, but props are deserved.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com