Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Riley Cooper was wrong, but its way OVERBLOWN

Let me start off by saying that what Riley Cooper said was wrong and insensitive. He should have never said what he said, but he did and it is time to move past. Can any of us truly say that at 25 years old, we never made a bad decision or said something we regret? Does anyone believe he was at a Country music concert and was NOT drunk? I do not think so. I can understand his team, the Philadelphia Eagles, giving him a brief leave of absence to get some sensitivity training or whatever. What I cannot understand is the public outcry for the league office to suspend him. Since when has the NFL turned into Big Brother, watching and judging its players even when they are away from anything related to football?

First of all, for those who don't know, the league could not punish Riley Cooper. Under the newest collective bargaining agreement, both the team and the league cannot punish a player. So, as soon as the Eagles decided to handle things in house, there was little to nothing Roger Goodell could have done. Second, I think people as a whole are becoming way too concerned with being politically correct all the time. It is turning this country into a soft country. We are becoming far too worried about appearing so perfect, that its rotting us from the inside. Finally, although what he said was wrong, is he not protected by a little thing called the first amendment?

Freedom of Speech is one of the strongest pillars this country was founded on. It allows any citizen to speak there mind, as long as they are not threatening violence on another person. For example, it is this freedom of speech that allows members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church to rally with hate at the funerals of fallen soldiers and the like. It is despicable, but they are protected by the Constitution. While Cooper's contract almost certainly has language concerning issues detrimental to the team, his biggest punishment is going to be going into a mixed minority locker room everyday and having to look his teammates in the eye. Some have said they forgive him, others have said they aren't sure yet about him.

Another aspect of the story is how the guy grew up over the last 7-10 years. He played his college ball at Florida before joining the Eagles. Anyone who has ever played football, or been in a locker room, you know the "N" word is thrown around in many different contexts. While Cooper's use was certainly on the bad end of the spectrum, is it out the realm of possibility he felt somewhat exempt from the consequences because he worked and went to school with a bunch of black athletes. Perhaps he was so overexposed to the word, he felt nothing wrong with using it however he felt. Surely, he was mistaken in his thinking, but at the end of the day this story was way overblown by the media. Its time to move on, and start reporting about all the murders, crime and poverty that are effecting this country in a far more powerful way.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Boxing will always be the #1 combat sport, at least to me

Besides running, there is no simpler yet complex sport than boxing. Since ancient times, people would pay to watch two gladiators step into the ring. It was a test of skill, endurance and will power. At one point, boxing was the top draw in terms of sports in America. Guys like Frazier, Ali, and Foreman were household names. However, over the last 20 years the sport has declined in popularity. There are still a ton of great fighters and fights almost monthly, but the public seems content to let the sport continue as more of a novelty. That can change, but its going to take some give and take from both fans and the boxing community.

The biggest obstacle facing boxing is the lack of any real heavyweight competition. The Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali, currently share all the major belts. The problem with that is they both promised their mother a long time ago that they would never fight each other. This is a promise that will not be broken, and it is killing the sport. The heavyweight division always has offered the most marketable stars. Their size and power make them natural attractions, but without valid competition, there are no quality fights to be had. The Klitschko's have been unstoppable and appear to remain that way until they decide to retire. While both are future Hall of Fame inductees, their style of fighting does not draw in new viewers. Boxing purists love their almost robotic style, throwing jabs and lead rights; fans think it is boring. So, until the heavyweight division becomes competitive again, boxing as a whole will still wait for another cultural boom in America.

Another big problem plaguing American boxing, is the lack of homegrown superstars. The two biggest American stars currently are probably Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Andre Ward. Mayweather is currently the best pound for pound fighter in boxing and is an established force in boxing. He is a great self promoter, and his PPV fights continue to break records. For better or worse, he plays the cocky character perfectly. Half the fans pay because they likely are witnessing one of the greatest fighters of all time. The other half pay because they finally want to see someone shut him up. Andre Ward is a former Olympic gold medalist. He is already a star, and with his undefeated record, is quickly ascending to super stardom. Outside of these two, American fans do not have a ton of legitimate talent to root for. Also, there is no real American talent in the heavyweight division. This is a problem because rooting interests would suggest people would most likely root for a fighter from the same country as them. However, most Americans with heavyweight size are usually committed to playing football or basketball.

There is also some work that needs to be done from the sanctioning bodies and promoters in boxing. There are so many different sanctioning bodies, that it can get confusing for people to follow. The WBC, WBO, WBA and IBF are just a few of the sanctioning bodies. It leads to too many champions and titles often being forfeited.  Also, there are too many weight classes; there is almost a different weight class every few pounds. They need to limit the amount of weight classes, thereby adding more quality fighters to each smaller division. Finally, promoters need to stop hoarding fighters and not allowing their fighters to fight guys from other promotions. Currently, Bob Arum and Golden Boy are the two biggest promoters in boxing. They often squabble about fights and fighters, and the fans end up on the losing end. Mandatory fights should be made regardless of the promoter, the purse or the venue.

With the rise of MMA in America, boxing needs to make some drastic changes fast. The sweet science is a beautiful sport, but it is in danger of falling by the wayside. Fans have still proven to pay big bucks to see mega fights, so the potential is there. If the big wigs in boxing in the USA were smart, they would start cultivating interest in the youth of America. It is rare to find a boxing gym nowadays, with parents often concerned with physical contact and injury. However, boxing can provide children with many valuable lessons. Hard work, overcoming obstacles, and sticking to a regimen are all things that will benefit children in their adult lives. The possibility of injury is there, but is very limited as long as professionals are around to supervise. I love boxing, and hope it continues on the upswing. I used to and still love watching boxing with my dad, and it is something I hope to watch with my son in the future.

Monday, July 1, 2013

This Year will be Brady's Biggest Test

Tom Brady is one of the greatest stories in the history of the NFL. He was overlooked coming out of the University of Michigan; he had to hear 6 other quarterbacks names get called before his. Players such as Giovanni Carmazzi and Tee Martin were drafted ahead of him. He was the fourth quarterback of New England's roster. Finally, after an injury to Drew Bledsoe in 2001, Brady got his shot. The rest is well documented history. Three Super Bowl wins, a single season touchdown passes mark, and a sure fire fist ballot Hall of Fame career. However, this upcoming season may be his most difficult. With the loss of Aaron Hernandez to a murder charge, Wes Welker to free agency and Rob Gronkowski sidelined with back surgery, Brady will have to implement a new system in order to keep the dominance going.

As astounding as it seems, the New England Patriots currently have one wide receiver that caught a pass from Tom Brady last year. His name is Julian Edelman, and he is not even assured a roster sport through training camp. The loss of Welker may be felt the most, as he was Brady's favorite target. He was New England's all time leader in catches, but the team felt they could still maintain a championship team by letting him walk. The team signed Danny Amendola, who plays the slot just like Welker. The potential problem is that Amendola has a history of injury. The team also signed Donald Jones and Michael Jenkins. Jones could never become a consistent force in Buffalo, while Jenkins has earned the nickname Molasses Mike for his inability to separate from coverage. While Brady has done wonders with groups of no name receivers before, this group is going to test the skill of the 35 year old. But luckily for him, he won't have to do all the heavy lifting.

The Patriots usually go as far as Brady's arm will take them. But last year, the Patriots found they had a pretty good compliment of running backs. Led by Stevan Ridley, this group is going to be asked to shoulder a heavy offensive load. Ridley rushed for over 1,200 yards and a dozen touchdowns last year. The team will expect nothing less and it will likely have to lean on the running game. In addition, the team also has Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, and the newly acquired LeGarrette Blount. Vereen has been used as a pass catcher, while Bolden and Blount run with more power. This group will have a lot to prove, and with defenses keying on Brady first, they could be a nice surprise.

All in all, I think it will be another division title in New England. They are lucky they play in one of the worst divisions in football. While the Dolphins spent a lot of money this off season, there is no proof that will translate to the field. The Jets and Bill are both in a rebuilding phase. This should give Brady at least another season to get into the playoffs. From there, anything can happen. Brady has gone to 5 Super Bowls, and won 3. If he can get just one playoff win, I think this season will be a success. Just don't tell any Patriots fans that. They expect to hoist the Lombardi trophy every year, no matter what.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Time to make a move Giants

With the baseball season right about at the halfway point, its time for teams to decide whether they are contenders or pretenders. Those who feel they can contend will look to strengthen their team for the final run. A missing bat or pitcher could be the key to a championship. For teams who are out of it, now is the time to both dump payroll and see what they have in young talent. For the San Francisco Giants, this question is a hard one to answer. They are currently 3 games under .500 and sit 6.5 games in their division. While some may say that makes them pretenders, we are talking about a team that has won it all 2 of the past 3 years. There is still time to turn this season around, but the Giants are going to have to make some changes in order for that to transpire.

The first thing the Giants need to do is find another power bat. Currently, the team ranks 28th out of 30 teams in home runs hit. They also rank in the bottom half of the league in slugging percentage. They do rank 6th in the league in team average, so all is not lost. They get people on base, but aside from Buster Posey, they have no other premium threat in the lineup. Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval have proven to be streaky, so I think another big bat would help. Josh Willingham of the Twins is a player I would look out for. The Twins are in rebuild mode, and might want to unload the 34 year old on the cheap. He could slide into left field until Angel Pagan returns, then can platoon, pinch hit or even play some first base. The power he brings is worth the price, and with the arms in the Giants division, they need as many quality hitters as possible. The Giants need to find power at one of the corner positions of left field or first base. Those are typically power hitting positions, and the Giants are severely lacking in that area. For example, Brandon Belt has 8 home runs as the Giants everyday first baseman. Chris Davis, first baseman of the Orioles, has hit 28 home runs. The situation needs to be addressed because the offense has to score to win, because the pitching has been far from dominant.

Over the last few years, pitching has been the Giants calling card. From the starters to the bullpen, fans could almost always expect a great performance from the pitching staff. It even gave birth to the phrase "Giants baseball......torture!". One run games were routine, but OK because the pitching staff could shut down most opposing teams. It would seem, however, that the league has slowly begin to catch up with the Giants. The team ranks in the bottom half of the league in team ERA and WHIP. This is alarming mostly because the offense is so woeful; the team has a hard time playing catch up, which puts added pressure on the pitching staff to carry the team. While there is no one transaction fix, I think adding another starter is crucial. Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito have been less than stellar, and the bullpen has been down right atrocious. In a perfect world, the Giants would trade for Phillies ace Cliff Lee, a proven starter who would thrive in a pitchers park like AT&T. He does have a huge contract, but the Giants have deep pockets and could afford to take the hit if they wanted. It probably wouldn't cost too much as the Phillies try to slash payroll, and you could trade Tim Lincecum. Chances are the team won't resign him anyway, so might as well use him to get something. In baseball, sometimes all the moves in the world don't mean a thing without some luck.

Much like 2011, this season the Giants have been struck by multiple injuries. Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro, Ryan Vogelsong, Angel Pagan and Santiago Casilla have all missed multiple games with injuries. All of those players were integral parts of the World Series winning club. If the team can get back a strong Vogelsong and Pagan, it will go a long way to turning the season around. Sometimes you can't overcome a laundry list of injuries, so only time will tell. Whatever happens to end the season, the Bay Area is lucky. Having a team win 2 championships in 3 years is a rare feat nowadays. So even if this season ends with disappointment, these guys have given us plenty to cheer for over the last 36 months of so.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Not surprised about Hernandez

Since the conclusion of this past Super Bowl, there have been 28 arrests involving NFL players. The most shocking arrest came today, when New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested. Shortly after his arrest, his was released by the Patriots. Following his arraignment, the world found out he was being charged with first degree murder as well as numerous gun charges. While this certainly is one of the most shocking arrests, it can not come as a surprise to followers of the NFL. For as long as people can remember, players have been getting arrested for a myriad of crimes, and the end does not appear to be insight.

The biggest problem facing players in the league, is that pretty much all of them do not come from rich families. That usually means that when they sign their rookie contracts, they become support for many members of their families. Also, they now have so much disposable income, they don't know what to do with. They end up spending money on cars, clothes, houses and jewelery. Of course, they think the next logical step is to buy guns, because you have to protect all these new belongings. Parents, guardians, or friends need to level with these kids. You are bigger than most humans, and usually roll with an entourage. Let them protect you or carry the guns. You have one job, to play a game for millions of dollars. It is sad that some people wont tell them they are messing up in fear of losing their meal ticket.

The next biggest problem with young NFL players are the people they allow to hang around them. Many players gain an entourage of family and friends, most of whom are there to reap the benefits of being close to an NFL player. While the player might feel some obligation to his friends and family, only he has worked his ass off to get to that level. They should not feel guilty about saying no to those closest to them. After all, the average NFL career is less than 5 years, meaning it may start off hot, but the money can quickly be gobbled up. No one is saying you cant give back, that is one of the benefits of being an NFL player. They just have to be smart about things and realize this money has to last the rest of their lives, they wont be making millions for the rest of their lives unless they get lucky.

The last problem they face is probably the most difficult to fix. The culture of athletes is general is a poor one and many athletes think they have to fit into that mold. They should be out at the club, popping bottles in the VIP. They should be dating models or actresses. Pretty much living the life of a celebrity. The problem is, they are not celebrities per say. They don't sing or act, they play a game. Unlike being an actor or singer, off the field problems can derail an athletes career.While you may be perceived as a dork or loser, staying in and watching television is a much safer activity. At the end of the day, its about the positions you put yourself in; a smart person knows how to avoid or at least recognize a potential problem. Stupid people either cant see trouble coming, or think they can deal with it. Sad to say, but the arrests will keep continuing as long as these factors are still rampant.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tebowmania isn't dead, just on Hiatus

Both Tim Tebow fans and detractors both were made happy early this week, when Tebow signed with the New England Patriots. Fans of Tebow are happy he is still in the leauge after drawing little to no interest on the free agent market. People who do not like Tebow are happy he went to New England, where the circus that usually follows Tebow will not be tolerated. It really is the perfect situation for all parties involved.

On the surface, the move does not make much sense for the New England Patriots. They have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Tom Brady, and he has said he wishes to play until he is at least 40. They also have a young, strong armed quarterback in Ryan Mallet. So, why would they add someone as their 3rd QB? I think this will end up being a brilliant move for New England. Tebow is reunited with Josh McDaniels, the man who drafted him in the first round while a coach for the Denver Broncos. Without any pressure of starting, he can refine his horrendous mechanics for a whole season or two. Then, I see the Patriots trading away Ryan Mallet. He is far too young and talented to waste away on the bench.

Before letting him walk as a free agent, they will trade Mallet for a 3rd round pick. This will bump Tebow into the second string role, but by then his mechanics should have much improved. Unlike his last two stops, the fan base in New England loves its current coach and quarterback. There will be no huge media push to play Tebow, and that is exactly what he needs. Tebow has never lobbied for himself to play, but his loyal followers are always insistent. This move allows him to sit and learn behind one of the all time greats, while still having a shot at contributing to a Super Bowl winner.

Do not hold your breath waiting to see Tim Tebow take a snap under center. Unless it is the preseason, he will be holding a clip board or playing another position. Everyone in the organization knows that Tom Brady gives them the best chance to win. It has been that way for over a decade. They will not take the ball out of Brady's hands for the sake of a gadget play. Tebow is more than capable running the ball, so I would expect to see him lined up all over the field. He will be especially dangerous in the red zone, where a read option play with him and Brady could prove lethal.

All in all, I think it is a win win situation for both sides. Tebow can grow as a player without the media hype surroungding him. The Patriots are known to be very bland with the media, and that should help calm the circus. I don't know if Tebow will ever be a starting caliber quarterback. But, I do know this is the best situation for him to be thrown in. It will be fun to follow, but unlike his stint in New York, we will not have daily press conferences about him or his practice habits. The Patriots are all about winning, not about individuals. Just ask Wes Welker about that one.

Monday, June 10, 2013

We all know LeBron is great, but explain to me something.......

LeBron James has just won his fourth MVP award in the last five seasons. He has proven to be the most talented player in the league, at least from an overall skill level. However, I think there are somethings people are over looking when talking about Mr. James.

To any follower of basketball, we expected just about nothing less from LeBron James. Since appearing of the cover of Sports Illustrated while still in high school, we have been expecting big things from him. He was anointed "The Chosen One" and even has a tattoo that says as such on his body. He was drafted number 1 overall right out of high school by his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. After 7 seasons in his hometown, including the franchises first finals appearance, he was gone. He could not deliver a title to his home state, so then he made his first mistake.

For the first time in history, a free agent had an entire show dedicated to his free agent destination. It was called "The Decision". On national, prime time television, James went on ESPN and ripped out the hearts of not only Cleveland fans, but fans of the NBA. He said he was taking his talents to Miami, to team up with off the court buddies Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. The decision turned a lot of people of because of the grandiose way James went about a business decision. Never before, and probably never again, has an athlete gone on prime time television to address his next destination. The worst part was that Cleveland was still in the running to resign their hometown hero, but he ripped there hearts out on national TV.

Since arriving in Miami, they have both won and lost an NBA championship. The team has added other pieces at a cheaper cost because players are willing to take less to win a title. While I am a proponent of this attitude, it is generally not the way the game used to be played. It used to be that a player would essentially want to be the "Man" on his team. Like Jordan, Russell, Bird or Magic, when you thought of those guys, you thought of them as the one guy on their team. Now, players just want to team up in pursuit of rings. To me, it is not a good thing for sports in general. Pretty soon, there will only be a handful of viable teams, while the rest have to watch as mega teams get put together. It is sure to have an impact on the overall product sports are trying to produce.

Basically, I think LeBron James is the most physically gifted player in the NBA. He can do it all, but he is not without his flaws. He could not win a championship until he teamed up with two other superstars. He has a tendency to disappear in big games, deferring to other teammates. While he is surely going to be a Hall of Famer and be talked about as one of the greatest ever, there will also be whispers about the things he could not do on his own. Namely, carrying a team to a title.