Friday, May 31, 2013

Pay Attention! It's Mariano's Farewell Tour

For those fans lucky enough this summer, I would say do whatever you can do to try and see Mariano Rivera pitch one last time. The Yankee great and future hall of famer will hang up his spikes at the conclusion of this season, his 19th in MLB. He is without a doubt the greatest reliever of all time, and he has spent his entire career with the New York Yankees. In the era of free agency, this is both a testament to his team loyalty and sustained longevity. Not too many pitchers strike fear into the hearts of a professional hitter, but armed with his cutter, Rivera has been a force to be reckoned with.

After a brief start to his career as a starter in 1995, Rivera was moved to setup man in 1996 and then closer in 1997. The rest is history. Rivera is the all time saves leader in MLB by a wide margin. He has well over 600 saves; only one other person in history has over 600 saves, Trevor Hoffman with 601. He holds countless major league records, most of which are a testament to his longevity and success. Some of the most impressive, but sides the saves, are his 15 consecutive years saving at least 25 games. Also, he has finished over 900 baseball games in his career. His most impressive regular season record may be one he shares with hall of famer Walter Johnson. In 11 seasons, he has recorded an ERA under 2.00; go take a look at the league leaders in ERA for a full season to gain some perspective of this accomplishment. What has made Mariano a legend is his post season success. No pitcher in the history of the game has had as much success in the post season as Mariano Rivera.

Long time Yankees manager Joe Torre said that the regular season was fun for Rivera, but the post season is where he separated himself from the rest of baseball. In helping the Yankees win 5 world titles during his tenure, Rivera has set countless post season records. His 0.70 ERA is a record, made all the more impressive when you consider his 96 appearances are also a record. No pitcher has saved more games in the post season or pitched more consecutive scoreless innings. In an era of 1 inning closers, Rivera made the multiple inning save a specialty of his. During 1998-2008, Rivera made 26 saves lasting more than 1 inning. To compare, the rest of baseball combined during that time only had 33. His success helped the Yankees shorten game to around 7 innings, giving them a distinct advantage. When he would come into the game, you could bet money that the game was over. Only most occasions, it was.

As he gets ready to ride off into the sunset, I hope everyone will take a moment to cherish what he meant to the game and how good he really was. Playing for the Yankees, he has made his fair share of enemies among baseball fans. People love to hate the Yankees, and Rivera was a big part of that. His success brought titles back to New York, and a swagger that people either embrace or detest. While I may not be a Yankees fan, I am a baseball fan. I can appreciate what it took for him to be such a dominating force. Hopefully, us fans will be lucky and the Yankees will make the playoffs this year. Then, we can give Mariano the proper send off, perhaps a final save in a 6th championship season.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Great Time to Be a Bay Area Sports Fan

It has taken quite a while, but the Bay Area sports scene has become one of the strongest in the entire country. Sure, there have been other high times of success, but the current run has seen just about every team from the area have success. With the exception of the Raiders, all of the major professional sports teams are having fine seasons. Even better, most teams are doing it with young rosters, giving promise to a sustained run of excellence.

The San Francisco 49ers are one of the best teams in the NFL. Having just lost the Super Bowl in February, the future looks promising. Led by a young Colin Kaepernick, the team has the players and potential to be an elite team for at least another decade. Also, the front office has shown over the last few seasons that they know what they are doing; supplying Jim Harbaugh with all the necessary pieces he needs to put a winning product on the field.

The San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's are both making names for themselves in MLB. The Giants have won 2 of the last 3 World Series and look to be in shape to make another run this season. They will have some questions coming up soon that will determine how long the dominance can continue, but they have a core of veterans that have proven they know how to get the job done. Also, having locked up young pieces like Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, the future looks solid. The Oakland A's have become a force, but not in the traditional sense. They play small market baseball, relying on talent evaluators to get the most out of their money. This has made them competitive despite spending a small percentage of what the top teams spend. It is scary to think what would happen if the front office was given a $150+ million dollar payroll.

The San Jose Sharks have been very consistent over the last decade. Regular playoff appearances have become the norm, but that is not good enough. The lack of a championship is what haunts this club. They have had great teams, but have not been able to get over the hump. While it is a little frustrating not having a championship, just getting into the postseason year after year is an accomplishment all to itself. They show no signs of slowing down.

The Golden State Warriors are the newest team to shine from the Bay Area. They made the playoffs this year, for only the third time in roughly 25 years. While that may not seem like much to celebrate, the team has the look of a team that can compete for the foreseeable future. Led by Stephen Curry, the team has a bright future. Coach Marc Jackson recently said Curry and back court mate Klay Thompson were the best shooting back court ever. Shockingly, there were not many people in the media who thought that was an outrageous statement. That goes to show you what kind of core the team has. All they need to do is get a dominant big man and stay healthy as a team. Easier said that done, but it is not like they need a bunch of pieces to become a contender.

Even with the lackluster efforts of the Oakland Raiders, the Bay Area sports scene remains bright well into the future. Besides, its not like the Raiders are very far off from contending. A few solid drafts and they will be back in the title hunt. It is time people start recognizing the amount of success the area is having. While they have not turned into a bunch of championships, I could see plenty of titles coming back to the back in the next 10 years. I am not talking about one or two either, but multiple from many sports.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Crabtree likely done for year, what now?

The San Francisco 49ers just suffered a major blow as wide receiver Michael Crabtree has suffered a torn Achilles tendon. It is a devastating blow for the defending NFC champs, but luckily is has come sooner rather than later. While the injury is most likely season ending, it gives the 49ers time to adapt a new game plan or go out and sign someone. However it plays out, the 49ers front office has to work its magic once again.

With no clear in house replacement for Colin Kaepernick's favorite target, the 49ers must look to the remaining available free agents. Three names come to my mind, each with positives and negatives. First up is Brandon Lloyd. He is a former 49er, and might sign for less for the chance to finish out his career with a contender. He has the ability to be a down field threat and has proven to be a tough player. His biggest downside is his reputation as a locker room cancer. He has become unwelcome is New England and Denver. Next is Devery Henderson. He isn't as accomplished as Lloyd, but he is another proven down field threat. He has the speed to stretch the defense, and that is huge for a team that relies so much on the run. His biggest perceived problem is that almost 10 years in the league, he has never stepped up as the main guy for his team. Lastly, and most unlikely, is the return of Randy Moss. Everyone knows the future hall of famer can still play and is the most dangerous deep threat ever to play the game. His problem is similar to Lloyd's, in that both have a reputation for speaking their minds regardless of what the team or coaches think. I am not sure the team would be willing to bring him back after some less than stellar remarks last year.

If I was GM Trent Balke, I would take a long look at Brandon Lloyd. He is younger than Moss and has done more in the league than Henderson. I would try to sell him on the prospect of ending his career the right way. He can be a major contributor on a team who has their sights set on a Super Bowl victory. Then, I would take to coach Harbaugh. I would make sure he was OK with bringing on a perceived locker room threat. I don't think Harbaugh would have a problem because his locker room is very tight and would not allow an outsider to tarnish what they have built. The likes of Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman and Justin Smith will not allow dissent. While losing Crabtree is not the end of the season, what the team does to replace him could be.

The NBA and NHL Playoffs are WAYYY Too Long

In professional sports, the first goal of any team is to make the playoffs. Making the playoffs ensures the right to play for the ultimate prize, a championship. However, there are some sports that take advantage of the playoffs to maximize profits and stretch things out. The most prominent culprits are the NBA and the NHL. Both organizations use roughly the same system for their playoffs, and I think it cheapens each league as a whole.

The biggest problem with their playoffs is the number of teams allowed to participate. Both allow 16 teams to make the postseason. By contrast, the NFL and MLB allow a total of 12 teams to compete. The problem is that too often, average teams at best a granted playoff spots. In recent years, there have been teams who finished with a below average record but still qualified for the playoffs. This is absurd and a complete was of the viewers time. Who wants to waste time to see a number 1 seed take on an 8 seed who couldn't even finish at .500? Basically, it appears to me to be a money grab by the owners. They know that people will fill the stadiums and buy the merchandise, so who cares if the first round product is of a sub par nature.

The next biggest problem is the length of these two playoffs. Both starts their playoffs in April, and conclude towards the end of June. That is almost two months of playoffs, certainly way too long. Each round has become a best of seven, making each series last over a week, easily. Not only does this prolong the playoffs, it also increases the chances the best team may get knocked off due to an unforeseen injury. Once again, the owners realize the profit potential of having these extra games, so it is hard to see them going away. It may take a serious injury or two before the leagues realize the lengthy toll playoffs take after an insane amount of games.

The are a few obvious changes that should be made, but probably will not be made because it will cost both the league and owners money. First, the leagues need to restrict the number of teams that qualify. There is not a valid argument as to why half the league should make playoffs. It is a privilege to play for a championship, not a right. It also cheapens the regular season because teams can clinch a spot weeks ahead of time, choosing to rest their players for the last few weeks, and it is the fans who suffer. Second, the first round should be shortened to a best of five series. This would drastically shorten the playoffs, and bring some much needed excitement to often boring first round games. Lastly, the leagues needs to find a better medium when it comes to mass viewership. People on the East Coast are regularly subjected to late night games coming from the West Coast. There are countless games that start at 10pm or later on the East Coast, and I am sure the ratings drop dramatically.

There is no quick solution, but something must be done. The NBA and NHL are at best the 3rd and 4th biggest sports organizations in the United States. They a niche sports at best, so they need to find a way to appeal more to the masses. Hockey is a very expensive sport to play, as well as being a cold weather sport. Unless you are tall, you probably only played basketball in pickup style games. These are reasons why these sports are not as big as football and baseball. So, its time to adapt or recognize your place in the sports stratosphere.

Friday, May 17, 2013

It's time for American Idol to Go

Season 12 of American Idol wrapped up last night, and does anyone even really care? The show seems to have gone on way too long. Out of the 12 winners, not even a handful have remained relevant after their season ended. I think the main reason for this is that shows like this are glorified karaoke competitions. There are literally thousands of people with great singing voices. What separates successful singers and the winners from American Idol is ability to write their own songs. Being able to write music that is catchy, inspiring or just interesting is what allows an artist to sustain over the years. I believe most of the winners are not accomplished song writers, and that is why they need to go on a reality TV show instead of getting a deal based on their own merits.

The best part of the show left a few seasons ago. Acid tongued Simon Cowell was the most entertaining part of the show. His no frills assessments of the acts made for great television. Even the goofball antics of Paula Abdul was worth watching. Now, Randy Jackson has left the show, leaving no original judges. We are left with someone like Nicki Minaj, who 5 years ago was not even relevant in a national sense. Also, she is classified as a rapper. How is a rapper supposed to accurately asses and mentor future pop stars? It just does not add up.

The best part of American Idol is the first episode or two of the season. Watching the train wreck of potential contestants is the only part worth watching. That is because America loves a train wreck. If they changed the theme of the show to find America's worst singer, the ratings I'm sure would return. As it were now, people are tired of watching people win a seemingly prestigious competition only to go on to do nothing.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

6 Early Favorites for the Super Bowl

For a real fan, football season is pretty much a year round event. After a few weeks off from the Super Bowl, fans get into the scouting combine, trying to figure out who their team is going to draft. From there we have the actual draft, than off season team activities and final real training camp. Since we are roughly four months away from the regular season kickoff, anything can happen. Here are three teams from the NFC and AFC who I think have the early lead to play for the Lombardi trophy in February. These are in no particular order.

1) San Francisco 49ers - The team that represented the NFC last February brings back pretty much the entire team. Young quarterback Colin Kaepernick gets a full off season as the starter and the coaches can develop game plans suited to his strengths. The signing of wide receiver Anquan Boldin helps improve the 49ers weakest element on offense. The running game and defense should both be top 5 units, and perhaps even better with the return of running back Kendall Hunter, who went down last season with an injury. The kicking game should be better as well, with the addition of veteran kicker Phil Dawson, signed to replace the shaky David Akers. The 49ers have all the pieces to go all the way, its just a matter of how Coach Harbaugh chooses to use these pieces.
2) Green Bay Packers - This team is not far removed from hoisting the Lombardi trophy, and they feature arguably the best player in the entire league, Aaron Rogers. While they may not be the most balanced team, the offense can more than carry the team. The receiving corps is probably the best in football, even with the loss of Greg Jennings. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones can match up with any secondary, and Rogers can strike from anywhere on the field. The addition of running back Eddie Lacy via the draft gives the offense another dimension that was missing for most of last year. If Lacy can command attention, this offense is going to be historically good.

3) Seattle Seahwaks - It is not too often that you get two teams from the same divison in a top 3 list, but the Seahwaks are loaded on both sides of the ball. Second year quarterback Russell Wilson should be more involved in the offense, and running back Marshawn Lynch remains one of the best runners in the league. Add to that the addition of game changing wide receiver Percy Harvin in a trade from Minnesota and the offense is going to be fun to watch. But the real story of the Seahawks is the defense. Boasting arguably the leagues best secondary, they got stronger with the free agent signings of Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. The Seahawks and 49ers should be going head to head for division supremacy for the next few years.


1) Denver Broncos - The Broncos were upset at home by the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Coming into his second year with the team, Peyton Manning and company are poised for a serious run. They signed free agent wide receiver Wes Welker away from New England, and now have given Peyton Manning his best corps of receivers ever. The addition of running back Montee Ball should give the Broncos more balance on offense. It is going to be fun watching the break neck pace these guys will set on offense.

2) Houston Texans - The Houston Texans finally arrived last year as an elite team. Although one of their best defensive players was out for most of the year, they still had an intimidating defense. Led by all pro defensive end J.J. Watt, the defense will get back linebacker Brian Cushing and should get a boost from newly signed safety, future hall of famer Ed Reed. The offense boasts one of the best overall running backs in the league in Arian Foster. Perennial Pro Bowl wider receiver Andre Johnson finally got his wish when the team used their first round draft pick of receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Although Johnson will probably still see double teams, the addition of Hopkins could pay huge dividends. 

3) New England Patriots - Tom Brady does nothing but win games. While the Pats haven't made any huge additions, they boast one of the most disciplined teams in the game. Plus, they play in one of the worst divisions in football. Since winning the division is almost a foregone conclusion, that means they will get at least one home playoff game. Brady is almost perfect at home in January, so one win would put them in the AFC title game. Tom Brady usually shines brightest on the biggest stages, so it is unwise to ever count them out until they are mathematically eliminated.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mom, A Boy's First Love

As Mother's Day approaches, one cannot help but think of the Mother in their lives. Sometimes the person we call Mom is not our biological Mother. It could be an Aunt or Grandmother, or any influential women in a person’s life. Regardless of the relationship, Mother's Day is about celebrating the most important women in our lives. I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful Mother who would do anything to make sure I was happy and safe. While not all family relationships are as easy, it is important to at least remember the most basic of things. Without our Mothers, none of us would be here today. So, if nothing else, your Mother deserves love and respect for that. For me, the love for my Mother is unmatched and undying. It has been that way for as long as I can remember, and I think most men can relate to a special bond with their Mothers. There is some truth behind the phrases Mama's boy and Daddy's little girl.

The bond between Mother and child is forged even before birth. There is no comparison to having a living being growing inside you. When born, it is almost as if their animal instincts take over. From that point on, their child comes first, their own needs second. As a child, your Mother is there for you 24/7. From cooking to cleaning, to being a chauffeur and personal shopper, our moms do just about everything for us. Whenever there is a problem, Mom is the one who solves it. If you skin your knee, no medicine could compare to a Mother's touch. When you were sick, did anything feel better than having your Mom by your side? It was almost as if she felt your pain, and in many ways, I'm sure she did. Mom was the one you always wanted to make proud, and whose disappointment you felt the most.

As a teenager, things changed only slightly, at least for me. I was never the wild and rebellious type, so my Mother and I still got along. For some, the teen years can be a time where your parents are just the most embarrassing people on the planet. Everything they do seems to be to humiliate you, even when you know that is not the case. I know these years are about discovering you and forming an identity, but luckily for me I was never embarrassed by my Mother. The worst thing is probably the adjustment period for Mothers; going from doing everything for their kids to the kids wanting to be independent. That must take a mental toll on Mothers, seeing their kids go from dependent to independent. Fortunately, the teenage years are just a brief period.

Once you become an adult, you realize the importance of being yourself, even at the expense of what your peers may think. This is often a time of mutual respect between parent and child. You can now legally drink in front of your parents, and they do not have as much influence over our daily decisions. In a good relationship, they are still sought out for advice and encouragement. Your Mother truly knows you like no one else, and can always be counted on to tell you things straight. She has no secondary motive, so you know you can trust her words. While your Mother will always consider you her child, adulthood is when you can become more like friends; sometimes even the opposite is true.

No child and parent relationship is the same, or perfect for that matter. That is probably the most important thing to realize. There is no standard one should be trying to reach or attain. Just treat your Mother with love and respect. The sacrifices she made may never fully be recognized until we have children of our own. Then we may finally know just what it means to be a parent. I am truly blessed to have a Mother whom I like, love and respect. I treat her as if every day is Mother's Day. I know not everyone has the same relationship with their Mother, but I think in a perfect world they would. I love you Mom, forever and always.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Parents......Your kids need Sports

Bay Area radio personality Damon Bruce ends his show each night with the line, "Sports don't build character, they reveal it." In many ways, he is right; A lot about a person can be found out by how they deal with obstacles and adversity. While sports is not the corporate world, it offers situations that can both teach and reveal. I think it is important that kids be introduced to sports at a young age. There are many benefits, both long and short term. Aside from the physical benefits, they offer kids a chance to learn how to work as a team, overcome adversity, and the chance to experience the thrill of victory and defeat.

The most popular acronym for TEAM is together everyone achieves more; I am not sure there is a better life lesson than that. Being a productive part of a team is something that should be learned at an early age. It will certainly benefit the child later in life, because almost every job in America will require some form of teamwork. The sooner that children learn about teamwork, the more likely the will be willing to work with others and even ask for help when needed. Knowing that you have people around you who support and care for you can be a very positive influence for a child. Confidence can be gained knowing everything does not have to be done by themselves. Consequently, a child will be more willing to both help and ask for help in the future.

As an adult, adversity is almost a daily occurrence. Between work, friends and family, curve balls are always being thrown into the puzzle of life. Learning how to overcome such problems can be learned as early as childhood. Sports almost always offers various opportunities to work through adversity. Whether an opponent is bigger, faster, or stronger, there is almost certainly a way to conquer them. Learning how to identify and solve problems is a tool that will serve a child well throughout their entire life. From finding a job to paying bills, life offers plenty of problems for an adult to figure out. With the proper background, they can be addressed and dealt with in a timely manner.

To experience the thrill of victory, one does not always have to be the hero. Sports teaches us that there many roles to play, not just the starring role. All parts are important to the outcome, so all are equal when it comes to the team concept. Furthermore, learning how to accept defeat is another important life lesson. We have all seen the little kid who cries, kicks and screams whenever things do not go as planned. Humility is a valuable lesson that should be instilled as early as possible.

In conclusion, sports are a very important tool for a young child. While there are certain risks associated with sports, that can also be a valuable lesson. Learning how to asses risk and act on them will serve your child well. Nothing was scarier as a child than the first time facing another child pitching from a mound. You did not know where is was going to go; if it was going to be a strike, a ball or if it was going to hit you. Much like life, you can either hold your ground or bail out. The ones who decide to stand there ground are off to a much faster start in life.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Congrats to Jason Collins, it was a long time coming

You should never be afraid to be yourself. After all, is a life spent living a lie truly a life at all? With the recent coming out of active NBA player Jason Collins, many questions have been brought up throughout the country. Is it the right time for someone to come out of the closet while still playing? Is he going to be shunned by teams based on him being truthful to who he is? Are his teammates going to accept him into the locker room? All these are valid and important questions, but perhaps the most important question has yet to be broached. Should sexuality, or a hetero or homosexual nature, have any place in sports? To me, this answer is no. Sports are sports, you can either play or you cannot. What you do off the field should have little effect on how you are perceived on it. However, things are not always as easy as they should be; a team’s locker room, front office personnel, and fan base can all play a part in how players are treated.
Enter into any professional locker room, and it plays like a scene in a badly written movie. Testosterone fills the air, along with the smell of the blood and sweat that put these men in a position to make a living playing a game. They are modern day gladiators, putting on a show for a public that pays to see them at their top form. Players don’t think twice about playing through pain or injuries; some just shoot themselves up to numb themselves to the pain, all for the greater good of the team. These men’s livelihood depends on the cohesiveness of the team, knowing that your teammates will sacrifice their personal glory for the greater good, because together everyone achieves more. However, when trust becomes an issue, everyone can suffer. I would say it would be better to be open and honest from the start, rather than living a lie and having to endure locker room talk that would probably be offensive. But, thinking everyone is heterosexual, could you blame them for speaking in an archaic way? I think everyone is guilty of speaking a little wildly when in the company of friends. Being accepted in a locker room is probably easier than we give a team credit for. In today’s day and age, I would argue almost everyone knows a gay person. The next hurdle for a player coming out is dealing with the team’s front office personnel, which has to deal with more than just winning games.

When a player prepares to come out, inevitably they will tell their coach, general manager and owner first. From there, the team has to formulate a plan to get ahead of the soon to come media wave. A good owner will stand with and for that player, because that is the right thing to do. Sometimes, things do not go as smoothly. For example, Giants manager Dusty Baker recently told a story about a teammate he had back in the day that he sure was gay. His name was Glenn Burke and many people credit him and Dusty for inventing the high five celebration. He never formally came out, was traded, and was eventually retired by the age of 27. Unfortunately, there are still some owners who would just rather get rid of a suspected problem than deal with it head on. Also, they have to deal with the headaches their players can cause them. When Collins came out, Mike Wallace of the Miami Dolphins tweeted about how he could not understand the decision to be with a man with so many beautiful women in the world. Even though Wallace did his best to try and back pedal, the team was forced to make a statement to the media about how they did not agree with Wallace’s statement. While it is refreshing to see organizations standing behind their players, the worst part of coming out in a professional sense may be the interactions with fans.                                                                             

Buying a ticket to a sporting event affords the ticket holder certain opportunities. You may see your team win, you may see history being made, or you might even catch a foul ball. Too bad for the players, it also gives you a right to heckle, and fans can be merciless. Part of the fun of going to a live event is the feeling of being a part of a controlled mob. Everyone rooting for the home team, and cursing the opposing team. However, there are always going to be people who take things way too far. I would not be surprised if Jason Collins receives taunts that would make a sailor blush. Just having to endure that night after night is reason enough to keep it a secret. The only way unruly fans will change, is if fans start policing themselves. I know we have some protection under the first amendment, but there is such a thing as common decency. For the most part, fans are respectful of one another. The best example of that came in the wake of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. During a game at Yankee Stadium, the fans sang along to the song Sweet Caroline, which is notoriously sung at every Boston Red Sox home game. While this would have been considered blasphemy just a year ago, it paints a bigger picture of how sports can unite any group under a common goal.
In a perfect world, sexuality would be taken out of sports. The scantily clad cheerleaders would be gone from sidelines, as well as the ring card girls who serve no other purpose than to be objectified. Some might claim that these are traditions, and have been going on for over a century. To that, I would say traditions are meant to be broken. Not that long ago, it was tradition not to have anyone of color play baseball. It used to be tradition that Women could not vote. The thing that makes this country great is our willingness to adapt, to admit things are not wrong and change them. With that, I see no reason that, in time, sexuality will be a non-topic in terms of sports.              

The NFL might really stand for "Not for Long"

As much as it pains me to say, football has overtaken baseball as America’s past time. As a nation, we have moved to a sport that suits our society at the given time. A few decades ago, life went at a much slower, simpler pace. Baseball was king, and it captivated a nation. Men wore suits and ties to games, and big leaguers mingled amongst the fan base. Arguably, college football was even bigger than the NFL at the time. However, as times have gotten fast and more complicated, the NFL has risen to power. Now, after a few decades of dominance, the NFL is facing a crisis that could spell the long term death of the league. While both short term and long term safety is important, it is ultimately weakening the game and will eventually spell the demise of the league.

One of the reasons football has overtaken baseball is the speed of the game. While both games usually last in the three hour range, the pace at which a football games plays out is unmatched. Every 40 seconds, a new play happens and you get to see someone get hit. Add to the fact that these men colliding are some of the biggest and fastest humans on Earth, and you have a recipe to hold an audience’s attention. Much like a roller coaster or scary movie, the danger is fun when you know you actually cannot get hurt. But as the game grew bigger, so did the athletes. Today, players are bigger and faster than ever before, leading to a tense situation that could destroy the game from within.

The NFL players’ union has the task of protecting not only current players, but players who have since retired. Since player safety has come under scrutiny recently, the union and the league has taken steps to help quell the high rate of concussions. There are no more two a day practices allowed anymore, something that was a mainstay of football teams dating back to high school. Also, if players are having concussion symptoms during a game, they are not permitted back in the game. From there, they must be cleared by an independent medical professional before they are allowed to resume their football activities.

The NFL is trying to take the violence out of a violent sport. That is their first mistake; turning the game into a version of flag football is not going to keep people in the stadiums. Furthermore, how are they going to justify the rising cost of player’s salaries and tickets when the product is becoming poorer in quality? Personally, I think that being paid millions of dollars is worth the sacrifice. These players know the consequences of playing the game from a young age. They continue to do so because it is a passion, as well as a way of making a great amount of money if they are good enough. Now you have older players suing the league claiming they did not know about the effects of running full speed into another human being hundreds of times. That’s funny, because when I was four years old I ran into a wall. It hurt, and from then on I made the correlation between running into something and pain. Any instance after that was of my own doing, no blame to spread around.

Perhaps it is the flow of society that has the game at a critical point. Now that society has become a vastly PC place, there might not be room for such a barbaric sport. Then again, with billions and billions to be made from television deals and advertising, there is reason to believe a medium will be reached. This fan would rather the game die and be remembered for being great than to continue on as a shell of its former self.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Crazy Times in America......and Cleveland

As much as we like to think the incident in Cleveland is a rarity, it is more common than it should be. From Jaycee Dugard to Amy Smart, there have been multiple instances over the years. It is truly a scary thought for any parent raising children in this country. While there are many things that can be done to help prevent kidnappings, it is impossible to stop them all together. For better or worse, there are some people in this country who are just wired differently. To better help prevent danger, there are a few things I think that can be done to help foresee things before they go wrong.

I feel that communication can really be the biggest deterrent in kidnappings. When I say that, I am talking about communication throughout the community. Way back when, everyone knew their neighbors, talked with each other, and basically we're all a close knit extended family. Today, people and families mostly keep to themselves, not wanting to bother anyone or be bothered. My suggestion is that we get back into the old school way of thinking. Everyone should know everyone in their community. Through block parties and the like, getting to know those around you could help prevent disaster in the future. The more you know those around you, the more likely you are to realize when something is amiss. It is not perfect, but it is a start. The next phase would be more parent involvement.

Parenting over the last 25 years has changed dramatically. With a spike in single parent households or households with 2 working parents, it is the children who are often neglected. Rather than spending time with their parents, kids are either sent to a day care or left at home by themselves. Also, when kids and parents are together, technology has become a new barrier. From cell phones to tablets, it is much easier to have your kid play a game on their phone than play a real game in person. It is leading to a disconnect amongst parents and children. Unfortunately, until there is a shift in culture, it does not look as if this problem will be going away soon.

All in all, danger always has and always will be present in our society. The true calling card of a society is how they choose to deal with these problems. They can either be neglected, which will inevitably lead to tragedy; or they can be addressed head on. While this is not always the most comfortable way of approaching a problem, it is by far the most effective. Although it seems like not doing much, just being more aware of your surroundings can have a positive impact on your local community and the people that make it up.

Monday, May 6, 2013

It's time for Tebow to be real

After a horrendous year, the New York Jets mercifully cut quarterback Tim Tebow from their roster. With Mark Sanchez, David Garrard, Matt Sims and Geno Smith on the roster, Tebow became expendable. Many thought the Jets would try to trade Tebow during the draft, but apparently no one came calling. Some would think that would be impossible with the way the NFL has been trending. The read option has become a staple of some dominant teams, and the option is perfect for Tebow. The question becomes, "Why would a team, desperate to contend, not take a flier on a young, mobile QB with a history of being an excellent runner?"As it turns out, there were a few teams to inquire about his services, it is just their truth and his reality have not seen eye to eye.

Reportedly, there were several teams who called the Jets and Tim Tebow to gauge interest in a trade. After no trade was done, people started to wonder if the Jets had asked for too much or were offered to little. As it turns out, compensation was not the biggest hurdle in a trade. Teams wondered if Tebow was willing to change positions, from quarterback to tight end. He declined a change in position, stating he wants to be a quarterback. The only problem with Tebow's logic, is that he may be the only who thinks he can still be a legitimate NFL quarterback. While he did lead his team to a playoff victory in his first year, something Peyton Manning couldn't do last year as his replacement, Tebow lacks a few basic fundamentals needed by a quarterback.

The first problem Tebow has, he has had since his days at Florida. The mechanics of his throwing motion simply do not translate into the NFL. In a game where every millisecond counts, Tebow has a windup that telegraphs his throws to defenses, which can be very dangerous and lead to turnovers. He has gone to camps, hired trainers, and worked indiviually with coaches. There have been some tweaks, but nothing major has changed, so the perceptions of NFL administartors has not. Add to that the fact the Tebow is setup to run a certain offense, can leave teams wondering if they dare put all their eggs into one basket. He will never be a classic drop back passer, nor will he be able to throw the ball with success 50 times in a game if needed. All these things, including the clock, are working against the man.

In the end, Tebow needs to decide what he wants out of his career. If he wants to hold a clip board and get in the game for a handful of snaps each week, he should stay on his current path. But if he wants to make the same kind of impact on the field the way he does off, he needs to embrace a position change. He is a natural with the ball in his hands; a powerful, elusive runner capable of being a game changing piece on an offense. However, he is simply not an NFL quarterback.

Like Him or Not, Floyd Mayweather is MONEY

This past weekend, Floyd  "Money" Mayweather did something he has done 43 times before. Robert Guerrero was given the task of handing Floyd his first loss as a professional. Like all the men before him, Guerrero came up short. Well, came up short may be an understatement. Guerrero was dominated throughout the entire fight, ending in a unanimous decision loss for the Bay Area native. As a fan of boxing for over 20 years, this outcome was about as easy to predict as the sun rising in the East. Although he does not make many fans with his style or attitude, Floyd Mayweather remains one of the greatest boxers of all time. He simply holds himself to a higher standard.

When most people think of boxing, they picture two guys standing in front of each other throwing punches until someone gets knocked out. When you watch a Mayweather fight, you may be bored with the way he chooses to win fights. His game plan is so easy, yet no one has figured out how to beat him. All he does, is hit people without getting hit. He does not go for knockouts, because those generally require him to be left susceptible to damage of his own. That he does not allow. Gifted with great defense and perhaps greater speed, Mayweather has ignored Father Time and continues to dominate well into his 30's.

What is perhaps his greatest weapon, is his intelligence in the ring. There is not another boxer on the planet who can stick to and execute a game plan the way Mayweather can. Most of his game planing is done with his father, Floyd Sr. and his Uncle Roger. The funny thing is that these 3 have had such a volatile in the past, it is almost a shock to see them all back together. But then again, it goes to show the intelligence of Floyd. After absorbing a ton of punishment in his previous fight against Miguel Cotto, Floyd knew he has to recommit to his defensive training. Since his Uncle was going through some health problems, he called his father to come back and be his trainer. Floyd Sr. had taught his son the shoulder roll defense that had made his son a legend. After the Cotto fight, he knew he had to work with his son on his footwork. Sure enough, the move paid off as Guerrero rarely ever landed a bunch that could do any significant damage.

Mayweather has 5 fights left on a new 6 fight deal he signed with Showtime. Never in a bind financially, many believe these will be the final fights of his career. While you can, you should pay to watch this man fight. He may not have the style that makes an exciting fight, but when you get the chance to see Picasso paint, you take it. Floyd Mayweather is easily one of the greatest pound for pound fighters of all time, and that is not up for debate. The real debate will come if he retires at 49-0. Then people will have to legitimately ask if he is the greatest boxer of all time.

A Quick Introduction

Hello everyone,

My name is Joe Guttenbeil and this is the start of a little blog I will be trying to maintain. For better or worse, I've always had opinions on many a wide subject. Usually, I would just keep my opinions to myself, or annoy one of my friends with my ramblings. Now, I thought it would be better to write these things down. While this will be predominantly about sports, every now and again I will change subjects and write about current events. Before we start, I thought I would give everyone a quick run down of the author.

I am a Bay Area resident, born and raised. While I do root for the 49ers and Giants, my sporting interests go beyond the local scene. I am a die hard Cleveland Indians fan, as well as a huge fan of boxing. While it can be easy to keep the blog about the local teams, I do not want to limit the content to one specific set of teams. I have been playing sports all my life, starting with T-Ball and soccer at the age of 5. Since becoming an adult, it has been mostly softball and basketball. Mix in a little hiking and fishing, and I try to do a little bit of everything.

While I may not have the credentials of a long time writer, I feel I bring a different perspective to the genre. Sometimes the average perspective can be more insightful than someone who appears to have all the inside sources. Also, not being affiliated with any team or website allows me to speak openly without having to worry about stepping on peoples toes. I welcome all readers and comments, as sports is a passion of mine and I could talk all day on the subject.

Thanks and Happy Reading!

Joe G