Friday, October 28, 2011

Cards/Rangers, Jerry Rice and Vegas Winners

It's hard for me to imagine that a baseball team that has been out-managed and has committed a ton of mental lapses in the 1st six games as the St. Louis Cardinals have done can win a World Series. It's even harder for me to imagine that a team that lost Game 6 the way the Texas Rangers did last night has any chance of winning the World Series.

If the Cards manage to win this thing (and personally I don't see how they can't), it will go down as the one of the most improbable championship runs in sports history. This is way more improbable than the Boston Red Sox coming back from down 3-0 against the Yankees in 2004. They only had to win 4 games in a row. The Cards have been in a basic must-win situation since the beginning of September when they were 8 games out of the playoffs, which now seems like an eternity ago. They have taken destiny and turned it into a comic book. It's hard not to root for the Rangers, though.

Speaking of improbability, the Badgers' loss to the Michigan St. Spartans on a last-second hail Mary should remind everyone why college football has the best regular season in sports, bar none. The Oklahoma Sooners' loss should only come as a surprise to newborn babies that know nothing of sports. Bob Stoops is slowly turning into Norv Turner: great on paper, but disappointing on the field. Alabama and LSU would be 10 pt. favorites over every other team in the BCS bowl, but I really like Stanford.

Here are some of the players that were drafted ahead of Carolina Panther WR Steve Smith in my fantasy football draft: Santana Moss, Johnny Knox, Chad Jonson, Brandon Lloyd and Julio Jones, to name a few. Guess who is leading the league in receiving yardage? Steve Smith. This reminds me of Randy Moss when he was basically given away to the Patriots because everyone thought he was washed up, and all he did was produce one of the greatest single seasons a wide receiver ever had. My point is, as long as you have a QB a wide receiver generally will produce, which leads me to this...

The enigma of the legacy of Jerry Rice
Here are the QB's that Jerry Rice played with: Joe Montana, Steve Young, Rich Gannon and Jeff Garcia. Only when Jeff Garcia was his QB did anyone think Jerry Rice had lost it. See what I'm getting at? There is no denying that Jerry Rice is the best receiver in the history of the NFL, and it's not even close. I also would argue that no one has had a better career in the NFL than Jerry Rice - with the personal records and 3 Superbowl trophies, his credentials speak for themselves. That being said, it's a really tough sell for me to accept Jerry Rice as the best football player in the HISTORY of the NFL.

Jerry Rice was in great shape, and his longevity is amazing, but he was fortunate to have played with some outstanding QBs. No other receiver can come close to boasting the group of QBs that Jerry Rice had. The big argument for Jerry Rice is that he was head and shoulders above every other WR that ever played. That's true, but he still is a wide receiver.

There's a reason why a wide receiver has never won a regular season MVP: their value is limited. If I'm trying to put together a championship team, a wide receiver is one of the last pieces to the puzzle, not the building block. If the discussion of Jerry Rice being head and shoulders above everyone else is enough justification, can I then throw Ray Guy who is widely considered the best punter in the NFL into the mix? Of course not, because his value is limited. I'm not saying Jerry Rice isn't an all time great, just not the greatest!

And of course, I have my all time top 10:
11. Ray Lewis (I know it's my top 10, but Ray is really good.)
10. Jerry Rice
9. Reggie White
8. Johnny Unitas
7. Lawrence Taylor
6. Jim Brown
5. Peyton Manning
4. John Elway
3. Walter Payton
2. Tom Brady
1. Joe Montana

I have no idea what happened to a section of my last week's blog. For some reason, my picks weren't posted, and sadly for you they were winners, but I'm still on top of my game so here you go:

The Cards/Rangers over 8: I don't believe in any of these pitchers, so expect a lot of runs.
Lions -3: I am not one of the f**ktards that believe in Tim Tebow.
Giants -10: They always seem to disappoint when they are heavy favs, but not this week.
Seattle/Cincy under 38.5: Expect field goals, not TDs.
San Fran/Cleveland under 38.5: Cleveland can't score more than 10, and San Fran won't score more than 28.

Penn st. - 5: The fighting Illini have lost their fight.
Georgia +3: This ain't yo father's Gators. Georgia wins outright.
Clemson-4: Yeah, it's a trap game, I get it. But speed outruns traps. Go Tigers!
Stanford -7: I said earlier I really like Stanford, and here's my proof.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lebron James

Recently, ESPN had a poll about the top 100 players in the NBA. Here's the top 10:

10. Blake Griffin
9. Deron Williams
8. Derrick Rose
7. Kobe Bryant
6. Kevin Durant
5. Dirk Nowitzki
4. Chris Paul
3. Dwayne Wade
2. Dwight Howard
1. LeBron James

The Enigma that is Lebron James

I get it. Lebron's production is off the charts, and he is the ultimate stat stuffer. I predicted that last year the Heat would challenge the Bulls for the all-time best record and that the King would average close to, if not, a triple double. Which of course was before I saw how flawed a team the Heat were. That being said, by the time the playoffs started I thought they had righted the ship, and they were my favorite to win the championship. I had given Lebron a pass for his previous playoff failures simply because I knew that his previous Cleveland Cavalier teams weren't very good and that the Orlando Magic led by Dwight Howard and the Boston Celtics defensively led by Kevin Garnett made perimeter players mortal. Even the likes of Kobe Bryant, who almost shot the Lakers out of winning a championship until Pau Gasol saved them with gutsy play (that we haven't seen from him since), was limited by the Celtics' incredible team defense. But not this year, no sir. With Dwayne Wade on his side and Chris bosh, no way they can clog the lanes and keep LeBron down. He's just too talented to not bring home the title. THE BEST PLAYER IN THE LEAGUE playing with the 3rd best player - no way.

I was dead wrong. Not only have I jumped off the bandwagon, I'm running along the side of it, throwing burning bottles of booze at it. Not only do I not think Lebron James is the best player in the NBA, I would argue that he is the WORST kind of superstar to have.

In basketball, you build your team around the superstars. You find out what they do incredibly well, and then you plug in the pieces. Consider this: in the NBA finals, everyone on both teams played near or surpassed what they did in the regular season except one player - Lebron James. He was the only one that didn't come close to putting up the numbers that he normally does, and that's fine to a point, but you still gotta get your numbers, even if it means shooting more at a lower field goal percentage. A team will average between 92-108 pts scored per game. When a guy throughout the year averages 26-28 of those points and then it starts to trickle down, we now have to come up with an additional 65-81 pts. When someone averages over 25% of your points scored, that means that the ball is in their hands a lot, which means that other players don't get many touches. Offense in sports is all about finding a rhythm, and if a player does not get the ball much, it's harder for him to establish that rhythm.

LeBron every season averages between 26-30 pts a game. When he has been eliminated in the playoffs, he performs woefully under his playoff production. Last year he averaged 27 points in the reg season and in the finals, 14.3...ouch. I know that he played great in the 1st three rounds in the playoffs, but he hit 17-41 from 3-point range, which is nowhere near what he normally did, and after Game 1 where he hit 4-5 against Dallas from 3-point-land, he was effectively exposed. He has no real mid-range game and no post moves, so teams know that if they don't let him drive the lane, he will shoot threes and that doesn't get it done in the playoffs. LBJ, I still believe you have a lot of time left to stake claim as one of the 10 best players to ever play the game, but greatness is all about winning championships.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Random Thoughts about Sports

I feel the need to give a little bit of a back story before I go into the heart of my blog. I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago, the youngest of 10 (7 boys, 3 girls). Back then, there was no cable television, definitely no world wide web, and our video games consisted of Atari 2600, which is not the kind of gaming system to keep you in the house all day. What we had back then was good old-fashioned fun: kickball, baseball, hide and go seek, basketball and of course, football.

We played football at recess, after school and on weekends. When we played, everyone I knew wanted to be Walter Payton, the greatest running back in the history of professional football. From the age of 7, I took part of the family tradition of watching Chicago Bears games. Breakfast of frozen waffles and bacon, fighting for some quality time in our 1 1/2 bathrooms and the words from Brent Musberger, "You are looking live at ...," was how our Sunday mornings were spent. Sure, I liked other sports, but they were just holdovers until football season.

The Bears weren't particularly good back then. They had a decent defense, but their offense consisted of Walter Payton left, Walter Payton right. In the 80s when they became really good, I couldn't have been happier. I loved the Bears more than anything right up until I realized that vaginas were real and attainable (but not easily), and then I loved them both equally.

In the 90s I went to college at Wisconsin-Whitewater. Wisconsin has a torrid love affair with the Green Bay Packers. They hated the Chicago Bears, and I in turn hated the Packers, but not because I saw them as a threat. It was because in 1986, then Packer defensive end Charles Martin had a hit-list of Bear players they were trying to hurt, and he succeeded by slamming our QB Jim McMahon to the turf, ending his season and severely crippling our hopes of repeating as Super Bowl champs. The Pack were a competitive footnote to me as the Bears dominated the division in the 80s with only the Minnesota Vikings putting up a small resistance at the end of the decade.

Along came Brett Farve. This f**king hillbilly gunslinger came out of seemingly nowhere and started whooping the Bears. At first I thought it was a fad. I was still living in the 80s, and I knew that this young kid was not going to continue this dominance. I would've bet my 4 pair of Cross Colour jeans and my Z. Cavaricci slacks that it wouldn't happen. But the Pack also had Mike Holmgren, and he reigned Brett Farve in, making him the best player in the NFL during the 90s. So not only were the Packers good, but they were kicking the crap out of my Bears, and they even won a Super Bowl. To make matters worse, my roommate, a diehard Packer fan, decorated the living room with Packer newspaper clippings. It was like seeing pictures of my girlfriend getting trained by Sterling Sharpe, Mark Chumara and F**king Farve. Even when the Bears were decent, they were no match for the Pack. It was heartbreaking. It got to the point that I was equally as excited with a Bear win as I was a Packer loss.

The next decade was met with highs and lows. Lovie Smith was hired and made it a point that the Pack would no longer run roughshod over the Bears. He was exactly what we needed to regain respectability. We started beating the Pack, and it felt good like a comfort food; a Bears victory over the Packers was like fried chicken and creamed corn...

And then came Aaron Muthaf**kin Rodgers. This guy is Brett F**king Farve without the stupid game-costing interceptions. I feel like the 90s are about to start all over again, which is why I had to explain myself. I picked the Eagles to win the SB at the beginning of the year even though I knew they weren't the best team because I couldn't say the Packers. It physically hurts me to say it - it's an admission that I have a drinking problem, it's a confession of watching gay porn, and it's a receipt to a donation to the tea-party. IT'S JUST WRONG.

Here's the thing: the NFL has just gone through another philosophical change in the way that they game plan. With the NFL already protecting the QB from getting hit and now protecting wide receivers from getting annihilated as they catch passes across the middle, it's now a passing league, which means that the team with the best QBs and wide receivers have a distinct advantage over the other teams. Those teams are the Packers, Saints, Patriots, Chargers and Eagles, Baltimore being the lone exception by being a contender while not having a superior passing game. (I would have considered the Texans, but injuries have taken them out of the picture.) Now out of those teams, the Packers and Patriots have the 2 best QBs in MFing Rodgers and Tom Brady, which give them a slight advantage over everyone else.

In the end, the team that shows who can defensively match up best with this style of play will win the SB (which is why I still hold out a little bit of hope for my other SB pick, the Jets). The Patriots defense is awful, and unless they somehow magically figure out a way to rush the QB, they won't win. However, the Green Bay Packers can defend. You can tell already as you watch them they are getting better and better defensively with each passing game. We also have to remember the Packers won last year despite having numerous players injured, and now they are all healthy. In other words, Bear fans, we are f**ked.

The Pack will win the SB, and that sucks.

Ron Washington makes me feel indifferent about cocaine. If not for bad hamstrings, Nelson Cruz would be talked about as one of the top 5 players in baseball. Since when are two World Series wins in the last 7 years (when you haven't won any in like 80 years prior) considered a failure? Congrats, Cubs, on a great hire of Theo Epstein. Jimmy Johnson is yawning right now. Why hasn't Michael Jordan, who led the players union in the last NBA lockout, been heard from in this lockout? The Big Ten football conference is awful, and that will unfortunately keep an undefeated Wisconsin team from playing in the BCS bowl championship game. I would not be upset if people take my football picks and bet the opposite...I've been that bad.

Packers- 15: I can't write almost an entire blog on how awesome the Pack are and not have them, right?
Tampa Bay +4.5: They may lose to the Saints, but it will be by a fg or less.
Giants/Bills under 50: That number does not seem right at all.

A lil bonus
LSU-18: They are a juggernaut, and Tenn is not. Juggernauts cover 18 point spreads.
Mich St.-2: Michigan got lucky against Notre Dame, and Mich st. was unlucky against Notre Dame. Luck will have nothing to do with this one.
Oklahoma St. -8: The longhorns can't match the Cowboys' firepower.

Overall record: 6-8-1

Now, grasshoppers, go live your lives 'til next week!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Random Thoughts about Sports

Hey NBA, hopefully someone peeked his head out of the conference room to see how awesome baseball is with a best-of-5 series format for the 1st round. If you're going to potentially cancel the NBA season, you may as well try to fix everything instead of just lining your wallets and losing momentum from the best season you've had since the Jordan years.

For starters, let's get rid of the NBA lottery. For now on, the teams with the best record instead of the teams with the worst record that DIDN'T make the playoffs should get the first pick in the draft. With this rule there would be no need for the lottery. The lottery was installed to encourage teams to not lose on purpose to get a high draft pick. It clearly hasn't worked, as teams throw in the towel at the end of the year positioning themselves for a high lottery pick. Allowing the 'best of the rest' format would prevent teams from trading away their best players and ensure teams will play hard to the very end instead of trying to lose games on purpose.

By the way, I'm rooting for the players in the lockout. It's not their fault that NBA general managers are the worst in sports. Overpaying for mid-level talent is a big reason why the NBA is in a hole. That being said, there is no way the players win this one. The owners hold all the trump cards, and the players say they will hold firm and keep solidarity...I know. I don't believe it, either.

Kudos to Jim Leyland for believing in his team and out managing Joe Girardi and the New York Yankees. Not being tempted to pitch Justin Verlander on short rest in Game 5 will benefit the Tigers in a big way because now you get him 2, maybe even 3 times, against the the Texas Rangers. No way Brett Gardener shouldn't have been batting leadoff for the Yanks, especially when they played in Detroit where small ball plays way better than trying to hit home runs.

With two more Game 5s tonight, MLB has clearly showed that it may no longer be America's game, but it is definitely Must See TV. If the Phillies lose tonight, they will be worse than the Miami Heat. At least the Heat GOT to the finals. I still like them and the Brewers to take care of business.

This is the most college football I've watched in a long time. The 5 most impressive teams have been LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Clemson, but Boise St. and Stanford look really good. I hope that 6 of them go undefeated, and the BCS admits that they are clusterf**ked. Whoever loses between Alabama and LSU are my 1st pick to lay an egg in whatever consolation bowl they play in.

Russell Wilson is what everyone thought Terrell Pryor would be in college. Tiger Woods is David Duvall until he shows otherwise. Herman Cain will be the Joe Frazier to President Barack's Muhammed Ali. Shaquille O'Neal is the only athlete besides Babe Ruth (who played in a era where maxing out was uncommon) to be one of the top 10 athletes in his prospective sport to not reach his full potential.

Let's get down to business:
NY Giants-10: Seattle has to fly across country and play a noon game. They are gonna get smoked.
Green Bay 0ver 52: The pack can score at will - I know this cause Aaron Rodgers scored 53 f**king pts. against me last week in fantasy football.
Lions-6: I love my Bears, but they just aren't very good right now.
Lions over 47.5: I love my Bears, but they just aren't very good right now.

I fully expect to go 4-0. Deuces!