Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Passing The Commercial Torch 2

Last May I posted an article about the next generation of athletes stepping into the media spot light of commercials. Although currently Jordan still dominating and like great brand franchises like Les Paul and Madden, Jordan may stay with us till the end of time. But being able to sell merchandise with your logo or name on it is only half the equation. If that was the case Kobe, Lebron, Durant, and Rose would be leading the pack, and although all have been seen in various commercials none have been really that memorable and rarely do they have to do with something other than their own brand or sports related item like Nike and Gatorade.

This brings me back to Blake Griffin, which last time I crowned him as the next rising commercial star of the next generation. Of course we have to talk about this guy after he completely posterized Perkins last night (see link). I know somewhere Timofey Mozgov is thinking "finally someone understands how I felt, and maybe I won't be shown in every Blake Griffin highlight." Blake hasn't done too much since his Rage commercial debut besides some KIA commercials in which he doesn't need to talk, which makes it seems more like a D Rose commercial to be honest. But that all changed for me after watching this:

Although Blake can still be a little awkward at times he still seems to have enough personality for brands to take a chance on him, also I think I made a huge mistake in not mentioning Kevin Love in my last post. This guy might have the best commercial presents in the bunch of young athletes out there its just too bad he is stuck playing in a small market. This commercial only adds to his resume which includes him showering in a Right Guard commercial and his serious but fake commercial promoting his fake fragrance NUMB#RS.

I think it is safe to say Durant is still far from starring in a commercial that lets him show a little personality and we are seeing Aaron Rodgers enter the game with his ongoing discount double check campaign that has also included some of his Packer teammates.

Feel free to comment on what you think and share other commercials starring other athletes.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 Royal Rumble Results

Here's some quick results from today's Royal Rumble.

Daniel Bryan defeated Mark Henry and Big Show in a Steel Cage Match to retain the Heavyweight Championship

Mark Henry aggravated a knee injury this past week, so his role was kept to a minimum. Every change he got, Bryan tried to escape the ring while Show and Henry went at it. Eventually he was dangling outside the ring hanging on to Big Show's arm. It became too much and Big Show dropped him, letter Bryan get the win. Will this setup more Big Show/Bryan? Or will we move on to Sheamus/Bryan?

Beth Phoenix, Natalya and the Bella Twins defeated Kelly Kelly, Alicia Fox, Eve and Tamina

Filler match that I assume was not very memorable (I was getting dinner). It seemed pretty similar to all the other tag team diva matches from the kitchen window.

John Cena and Kane had a double DQ (countout)

Strangely they didn't seem to follow through with any of the buildup at the beginning and it seemed like any other match. After a while they fought to the back, both getting counted out. Kane attacked Ryder, who was in a wheelchair, brought him into the ring, and gave him the tombstone pile-driver. Cena then came out and was choke-slammed. Kane got the upper hand at the end, and we'll see if Cena really "embraces the hate" on Monday. I thought he was turning already, but that didn't seem to really take. Also will we see Cena really snap while pushing the anti-bullying campaign?

Brodus Clay defeated Drew McIntyre

This was another filler match thrown in to separate the title big singles matches. I actually had to look up whether McIntyre was still in the WWE when writing my predictions, so I guess it isn't surprising that he got squashed. This also protects the Funkasaurus from a Royal Rumble loss.

CM Punk defeated Dolph Zigger to retain the WWE Championship

John Laurinaitis decided to be impartial be just being the outside ref, and called in a regular ref to do the main job. The match was pretty good, eventually leading to a ref bump, where CM Punk got a few pins while there was nobody there to count it. Eventually the ref woke up and saw Punk get a 3 count. Laurinaitis did this weird thing where he slid in and counted along with the ref for the second and third counts - I wonder if this will come into play somewhere, of if it was just a mistake.

Sheamus won the Royal Rumble Match

A few notes, some based on my predictions from earlier in the week:
- Funkasaurus did not even appear in this match, so that prediction was off.
- Santino had a much bigger role than I thought he could. He had a sock-fight with Mick Foley which was the highlight of the night.
- Ricardo Rodriguez was hilarious - he came in with Alberto Del Rio's entrance but with a real beat up car, did the whole entrance with the scarf and had some funny moves in the ring. I hope this isn't the last we see of this character.
- Christian and Mason Ryan did not even appear. With 3 spots wasted on the announcers, a lot of wrestlers did not get a chance to even show up.
- Kharma came back. I thought she just had a baby!
- Road Dogg came back and got a "You still got it" chant. Of course he still has it - he is still an active wrestler! It isn't like Ricky Steamboat where he was retired and we weren't sure if he could still wrestle.
- The final four were Orton, Jericho, Sheamus (I guessed those three) and the Big Show. I wasn't expecting Big Show to do this well.
- Jericho didn't show any of his over-the-top character tonight.
- Sheamus beat Jericho at the end to win the match. I don't see a CM Punk / Sheamus feud going anywhere, so I bet he will be going after Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania.

Overall this was a pretty good match (though Royal Rumbles almost always are). My favorite section was the Santino / Mick Foley / Ricardo Rodriguez bit. What did you guys think?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2012 Royal Rumble Predictions

This poster might be Santino biggest contribution to the Rumble

No sports blog is complete without pro-wrestling coverage, so let's get it started with some predictions for the Royal Rumble. This is the most accessible PPV of the year, so it's a great time to get your friends into it too. A new guy enters the ring every 1-2 minutes so you can spend the night explaining who people are ("He's a crazy guy who has imaginary people talking to him" or "He's famous because he's really pale") rather than why they should care about two guys grappling for 3 hours. And if you successfully convert anyone, Wrestlemania is right around the corner!

John Cena vs Kane

Cena has played the clean-cut, goody two-shoes for years. Children and women cheer for him while grown men boo him out of the building. Kane returned about a month ago, playing up the boos that Cena has been getting and trying to get him to "embrace the hate". To do this, he has been attacking Cena's buddy Zack Ryder every week, trying to stir up something in Cena. Last week Cena finally showed some hate, beating on a defenseless Jack Swagger and almost crushing him with the ring steps. This week Kane attacked Ryder until he was taken away by an ambulance, and after some awkward facial expressions, Cena showed a scowl that presumably means he has finally snapped. What is Kane's ultimate plan with all this? Will the hate be enough to beat Kane? Or is that what Kane wants?

John Cena's best Kane impression

With two months to go until Wrestlemania, they have a long time to keep Cena busy until the Rock comes back and starts hyping their matchup. In order for this story to continue, the final step would be for Cena to go crazy beating on Kane. Even though Kane takes a beating, this will be all part of his plan, and he will get the win by disqualification.

Prediction: Kane by DQ

CM Punk vs Dolph Ziggler for the WWE Championship

I'm not entirely sure how this match came to be. Ziggler just dropped the US Title to Zack Ryder a few weeks ago, and is now getting a title shot? Apparently he has gotten a bunch of victories over CM Punk recently, but from the fast-forward blur of my DVR, I don't think any of them were convincing wins. Ziggler doesn't have Vicki or Jack Swagger in his corner, so they are not a factor. John Laurinaitis is the special guest referee, but after promising to screw over Punk last week, he has promised to call it fair this week, otherwise HHH will fire him at his performance review on Raw.

Ziggler, you gotta do something about your hair!

I think Ziggler has shown a lot of promise this year. He can have solid matches and deliver very good mic work. He is moving past the mid-card US/Intercontinental level, but isn't quite at the main event level yet. I expect him to get there over the course of the next year, but I don't see him winning the belt on Sunday. Besides, so many victories heading into a PPV is never a good sign.

Prediction: CM Punk clean.

Daniel Bryan vs Mark Henry vs Big Show in a Steel Cage Match for the Heavyweight Championship

This is a Smackdown feud, so I can only guess at what is going on based on the few clips I've seen. Daniel Bryan, the small vegan underdog got the Heavyweight Championship a while back, but has turned heel over the past few weeks. He whined a lot when the Big Show accidentally knocked over his girlfriend AJ. I imagine he has some sort of beef with Mark Henry.

There have been some rumors that Big Show is going to fight Shaq at Wrestlemania. If that happens, it doesn't make a lot of sense for him to also have the championship - nobody is going to believe for a second that Shaq is going to win the Heavyweight Championship. I think they'll drag this out a little longer and let Bryan retain.

Prediction: Bryan, escaping the cage while Big Show and Mark Henry beat each other up.

Royal Rumble Match
There hasn't been as much revealed about this year's match compared to previous years'. Other than the Miz coming in at #1, we don't know the ordering. We haven't had qualifying matches, so we're not sure which mid-carders are in. The announcers even said that for the first time ever, anyone can enter. Will someone who already has a match like Cena go in and win it? Before we get to my pick for the winner, here are some random predictions:

Funkasaurus, the most entertaining wrestler today

- With Big Show, Mark Henry and Kane all already in other matches, Brodus Clay (aka "Funkasaurus") is one the few big men in the match. Given that all his matches have been squashes until this point, I expect him to do very well. He will probably clear a ring full of mid-carders, have enough time to do his t-rex dance before getting thrown out.

- Santino already has the record for fastest elimination in the Royal Rumble (1 second), and did extremely well last year, coming in at second place. I expect a so-so performance this year. The cobra might be great, but it is not going to knock anyone over the top rope.

- Mick Foley was put in at the last minute this week on Raw. I'm not sure where his run is going. I haven't seen him wrestle in years, and from what I've read, his TNA run was not that exciting. Since he came out with some Cactus Jack gear this week, I'm going to guess he'll wear some Dude Love clothes on Sunday.

- Christian has been out for a while with injuries, but I think he'll make a return towards the end.

- Mason Ryan is another guy who's been around but hasn't done much. He's built for this kind of event and will throw a few people over the top rope.

- As far as surprise entrants go, I can't really think of anyone that special who is active and not at TNA. I'll go with Tough Enough winner Andy as a surprise.

- Final four are going to be Orton, Seamus, Jericho and the Miz!

Nobody got this t-shirt

Prediction: Jericho has been on a roll since he came back. He's doing babyface mannerisms that are so over-the-top that he's a heel. He didn't speak for a few weeks, pretending to be so overwhelmed by emotion that he had to leave. This week he teased the t-shirt launcher and finally muttered a few words. I've been hearing rumors of a Jericho/CM Punk main event at Wrestlemania and this is a perfect chance to set that up. I think he'll get a late number and hang in there until the end.

What do you think is going to happen? Post your predictions below!

Monday, January 23, 2012

For the Good of the Sport

One of the traditions in sports that I have grown to love are the friendly wagers made between mayors of opposing cites. It gives us much needed perspective and reminds us that this is still just a game. At a time we forget with the buildup, pressure, and millions on the line why we love sports in the first place. A few weeks ago before the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers game, their cities respective mayors made a friendly wager. Unlike the usual wager set between mayors from opposing cities there was no food involved. Instead their fashion choices would be at stake, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock had agreed to wearing a Steelers’ jersey and a yellow “Terrible Towel” to a public event. Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl on the other hand agreed to wearing a Broncos’ jersey and” Tebowing” for the media. Well now we know the results and here is a picture of the epic event that followed.
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl "Tebowing"
This story doesn’t end here either, Luke Ravenstahl decided to take a fun bet and turn it into something far more meaningful. This past week Ravenstahl put his new Tebow jersey up for auction on Ebay to raise money for a local charity. The auction ended up bringing in $1,400 for the charity Pittsburgh Promise which is an organization that gives scholarships to students who graduate from Pittsburgh public schools to pay for their college tuition. Who would think a fun bet ending with a government official “Tebowing” would end up make a difference in a student’s life. 

Other bets that have been made so far this playoffs include Denver’s Mayor Michael Hancock wearing a Tom Brady jersey to a Denver Nuggets game. With this gesture came 40 pounds of Colorado beef as well. I am sure Boston’s Mayor Tom Menino is going to need plenty of friends to help finish off all the food especially since he just won some crab cakes from Baltimore’s Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. From the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers the stakes were high with naming rights of 49 St. in New York City on the line, and the potential of a cable car flying a NY Giants flag up and down the streets of San Francisco. Still waiting on photos of the cable car but I am sure it will be painful for 49er fans to see. Of course once again food was also involved and a batch of sour dough bread will be on its way to New York City.
Denver's Mayor rocking a Tom Brady jersey at a Nuggets game
Both NFC and AFC Champion games were gut wrenching and filled with "what ifs" for both losing teams. It is easy to focus on the mistakes make, but let's take a step back and remember this is just a game and I hope that eventually we don’t forget that and create the next Bill Buckner/Steve Bartman nightmare. It isn’t fair to either side to focus on the mistakes made, and like Ray Lewis said yesterday, “we win as a team and we lose as a team.” I think these Mayors have taken it one step further and now “we win as a city and we lose as a city.” 

As we prepare for the XLVI Super Bowl, I have no idea what Bloomberg and Menino will wager for this upcoming game, but I do know that both Mayors will have been well fed leading up to it. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Heart Exam - Ryan Anderson

In my last column, I provided you with some predraft advice. Let's see how that worked out for you:

Kevin Martin - He's decreased in all stats across the board while playing more this season compared to last. Needless to say, this guy didn't really pan out. However, the one positive is that he's played in every game so far this season. Martin's production will be there, and Rockets are finally getting into a rhythm winning the last 5 straight.
Verdict: Martin looks to be getting into midseason form so hold on to him right now. If you can buy low on him right now, I would pull the trigger.

Gerald Wallace - Wallace is pretty much having the same kinda season that Martin's been having. Decreased in production across the board. However, he's also played in every game so far this season. I think what you see from Gerald now is probably the best he'll give you from here on out. With more minutes and time with the team, one would expect him to continue his production from last year. Right now, he's looking like a poor-man's Al Harrington.
Verdict: Package this guy in a trade and ship him out

Andrew Bynum - And then we have Bynum -- a diamond in the rough. Bynum has been playing lights out and could lead the league in rebounds this year. My modest projection for him predraft was 16-12-2. Right now, he's at 16.3 - 13.8 - 1.9. I'm going to go big on Bynum and project him to finish at 21-13-2. He's getting the looks down low, and Kobe can't keep dropping 40 every night…right?
Verdict: Strong hold if you drafted him. Prepare to give up big if you're going to trade for him.

Andrew Bogut - As for the other Andrew, it's not looking so good. It's bad enough to take a 4-game vacay back in your home country, but now, he's getting hammered with concussion-like symptoms? Production has dropped across the board here, and it's going to take a miracle for him to achieve the same success he's shown in the last couple of years. At this point, if he plays 40 games by the end of year, I would be shocked.
Verdict: Bogut still puts up meaningful numbers. If you can sell for a fair value, don't hesitate.

Devin Harris - Last time, I said "this guy has been on my don't draft list for the past decade." I should of listened to myself on this one. Devin Harris has been an (to put it nicely) utter trainwreck, disappointment, and failure at life. As a 10 year veteran in the league, Devin hasn't had this kind of horrible production since his rookie season playing 15mpg.
Verdict: I own Devin in over 50% of my leagues. I don't expect him to be on my roster by all-star weekend. Waiver-wire trash.

For this week's heart exam, I want to feature one player who's shown a ton of heart and is playing lights out right now.

Ladies and gentlemen....Mr. Ryan Anderson

In a stacked 2008 NBA draft where we had Drose, Beasley, Westbrook, KLove, Danilo, Eric Gordon, and Brook Lopez all go in the top 10 (along with Mayo, Augustin, and Joe Alexander) , Ryan Anderson quietly fell to the Nets at the 21st pick. This year, Ryan Anderson has been a force to be reckoned with next to Dwight. The reason why Ryan Anderson gets featured here today is that I believe he will be the sole reason why Dwight will resign with Orlando. Ryan's improvement will also earn him the MIP award by season's end. Magic has started off hot with a 10-4 record and that's largely due to the fact that Ryan Anderson has helped Dwight be even more dominant. Dwight has gotten an uptick in almost all stats: most notably rebs and asts. At Ryan's current level of production, he's looking to be a top 10 player by season's end. Many will question if he will be able to keep this up but if my Dwight prediction holds true -- lookout because Ryan Anderson is here to stay.

Why Patriots will win super bowl XLVI

Despite being the most dominant team since the start of this millennium, the New England Patriots have more questions than ever. This isn’t your dad’s Patriots or should I say, this isn’t your older brother’s Patriots since we are only going back a couple of years. For the last two years, there has only been one fixture to the Patriots defense: big Vince Wilfork clogging up the middle. The rest of the unit has been plagued with injured players, failed draft picks, waiver wire pickups, and even a receiver playing cornerback. Clearly with this defense, one would think that the Patriots have no shot. They can’t even stop a nosebleed, right Bart Scott?  In most cases, a defense ranked near the bottom of the league would have never made it to 13 wins or have a shot at going to the Super Bowl. But not all defenses have Tom Brady. Brady has done enough that we can never count him out, even though he was upset the past two years in playoff games at his own stadium. Brady has been so good for so long, these recent shortcomings will never make us forget the clutch drives and 3 rings he has already achieved. One might think that having a supermodel wife, building a mansion in California, and starring in multiple Ugg commercials would make Brady lose sight of the goal of winning another Super Bowl. But after hearing Ochocinco’s comments last week, it’s clear that no one wants to win more than Brady. Already a lock for the Hall of Fame, Brady still has this need to keep proving himself like he was drafted in the 6th round just yesterday. Maybe people have forgotten how truly unbelievable he is and have moved on to the next generation of Eli, Brees, and Rodgers. But whatever it is that makes Tom Brady tick, it still drives him to grow his legacy. Random thought. The word grow made me think of his ridiculously long hair last season. He is the only sports figure that Mcfarlane has made in three versions, each with a different Tom Brady hairdo. Now that’s legendary. 

  • Tom Brady, enough said
  • The dueling twin dragons of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. It’s pick your poison for opposing teams because there is no way you are stopping both tight ends. Gronkowski provides unbelievable size, reliability in the passing game, and strength to break tackles, while Hernandez allows flexibility to be creative, seen last week when he lined up as a running back.
  • Experience. Tom Brady and Coach Belichick have the most wins in history for a coach and quarterback combo and look to continue adding to that record. Although the rest of the team is young, the leadership has been here, done that and will by now have seen it all.
  • Bill Belichick is still a football genius even though his defense has come out flat for the last two years. I would be scared to see how this defense would perform under another coach; something tells me it would be much worse. Bill Belichick is a defensive mastermind and has gotten the most out of this rag tag bunch of no-names.

  • Pass rush has been a struggle and only became a bigger uphill battle with the loss of Andre Carter to injury a couple games ago.
  • Secondary has never had the time to gel and has been dealing with injuries all year. There is some talent in this unit, but too many times they give up big plays which lead to quick and easy scores.
  • Linebackers have not been very consistent in a long time; it has gotten to the point where Bill Belichick doesn’t feel always comfortable running his traditional 3-4. Although there has been improvement of late with Rob Ninkovich finally getting some pressure on quarterbacks, they still need improvement in stopping the run when the opposition gets by Wilfork.
  • Run game has always been inconsistent in New England, but with the passing game working so well, few even notice. Maybe with the addition of Aaron Hernandez in the backfield, things will improve.

Keys to success:
  • Patriots need to score over 30 points to stay ahead of what is sure to be many points given up by the Patriot defense.
  • Defense needs to bend but not break. The key to this game is trying to hold teams to field goals, which could be easier versus teams like the 49ers and Ravens but will be a challenge against the Giants.
  • One offensive player besides Brady, Gronkowski, and Hernandez needs to step up. This easily could be Wes Welker who had an amazing start to his season, but slowed down after teams began to take notice. I would love to see Woodhead or Branch step up in a big moment to make teams pay for doubling the two tight ends.
  • Patriots need to possess the ball and keep their defense off the field. I believe for them to win, the Patriots need to actually slow down the tempo during part of the game so that they can keep that leaky defense on the bench.

Reasons why they will win it all:

Of the last four teams remaining, no offense has more pressure to score than that of the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick needs to coach the games of his life because this defense lacks talent and experience. At one point this year when two of the defensive players were introduced on screen, it took me a minute to realize why they weren’t saying their name and school. Their faces were on a photo, not video. Both players had never started and were thrown in so last minute that NBC did not have the time to tape them. That basically tells the story of this defense and the lack of time to gel, but we are seeing improvements that should be enough to get it done. Tom Brady and company will out-score their opponent and no player in the league wants it more than Brady. There will always be a mismatch on the field for Brady to pick apart even in the top defenses in the league. There is no one in the history of the NFL quite like Gronkowski. He’s a 6 foot 7 inch giant who can run, leap, and catch most balls thrown his way. Let’s not forget his ability to just truck players smaller than him trying to bring him down. We will be seeing Gronkowski’s famous touchdown celebration spike that goes about 10 yards into the air. Brady will take advantage of whatever is left open, which includes a long list of midget-like weapons (Branch, Welker, Edelman , and Woodhead), Hernandez, and the law firm BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Scoring will be high, but when the game is on the line there might not be a quarterback you would take over Tom Brady to lead the game winning drive, even if it means that the game ends with a field goal.

The Fall of the NBA

If the 1980's and early 1990's represented the "golden age" of basketball, then this millennium should be dubbed the "plastic age." Might be pretty enough to pass for something valuable on the outside, but once you crack into it, you discover it's just cheap with no substance.

As one of NBA commissioner David Stern's biggest critics, I have to first give credit where it's due -- I applaud Stern in his efforts to make NBA games as viewer-friendly as possible. You can tune into any game or jump onto Youtube and find all the highlights, game recaps, and interviews your mind can handle. This might not seem like much to the casual fan, but don't take it for granted -- Bud Selig and the MLB are still light years behind on this matter. The NBA, thanks to Stern, is extremely accessible to both the casual and diehard fan.

However, there are still countless problems with the NBA. I'll just mention my top 3 qualms regarding the players, the officials, and the commissioner.

The Players

Basketball IQ is dead and gone like a fart in the wind. RIP mid-range jumpshots, back screens, blocking out, and decent man-to-man defense. The NBA is now a hotbed for players trying to be heroes. Everybody wants to make Sportscenter instead of doing the little things to win the game.

Back in the day, the majority of players would take a defensive assignment seriously. It'd be a battle within a war, but in a good way. Michael Jordan would scoff at the thought of you trying to stop him from scoring AND at the thought of you trying to score on him. Nowadays? Few people give two craps about playing good defense. You score on me? Who cares -- I'll just score on you now. This is the era of basketball that has birthed phrases such as a "two-way player," referring to a guy being able to play both offense, and (gasp) defense. Oh, the humanity! What was commonplace a decade ago is now a novelty.

But can you really blame these kids? I call them kids cuz that's precisely what they are. Kids coming out after a year of college who would be completely unprepared for the NBA life of my childhood. These rookies come to the NBA so raw, usually getting paid on nothing but heaps of "potential." A rule change to require players to be at least three years removed from high school would help BOTH NBA basketball and NCAA basketball. Players would be given a chance to learn the game on the court and grow up off the court. The NBA would enjoy higher quality basketball, and the NCAA wouldn't be gutted of talent on an annual basis. Wins all around.

The Officials

We all know NBA officials don't exactly have objective minds of their own. Every year, they are told about different points of emphasis and rule interpretations to focus on. My main beef with the officials boils down to flopping, superstar calls, and the lack of calls for carrying/travelling.

Flopping is so prevalent in the league now. Not only do referees not punish players for doing it, they are actually rewarded. I don't think I need to elaborate any more on that front -- it is what it is.

I am aware that superstar calls existed even in the golden age, but enough is enough. There's so many politics involved with the NBA game nowadays that the superstars of the game could get away with murder on the hardwood.

The whole carrying/travelling thing links in with this topic, but it sickens me how many times a game players will carry the ball, change pivots, shuffle their feet, or take too many steps. The fundamentals of the game have gone by the wayside, and referees are turning a blind eye to all of these rule violations.

The Commissioner

I thought the mishandling of the lockout situation was bad enough, but David Stern kept his best move for the Chris Paul fiasco. If you were living under a rock during that time, let me sum it up for you:

1. The Hornets were looking for a new owner.
2. The NBA purchased the Hornets.
3. The Lakers, Rockets, and Hornets took part in a 3-team trade that would send CP3 to the Lakers.
4. David Stern nixed the trade for "basketball reasons."
5. Repeat #3.
6. Repeat #4.

I have a friend who defends David Stern as if he were blood-related, and his response to the commish nixing the trades was that Stern was doing it to support his family. In essence, as the commissioner, he is just a puppet working for the league owners, and he had to veto the trade in order to keep his job and feed his family.

Aside from all the balderdash in those statements, I will say this -- as commissioner of the NBA, it was his job to have the foresight to know that the NBA purchasing the Hornets was a terrible idea and would inevitably lead to a conflict of interests nightmare. 29 NBA owners having control over the 30th team? How does that make sense to anybody?

Furthermore, regarding the actual veto, let's not act as if David Stern did not have a choice. You always have a choice. And in this case, Stern chose to set a shameful precedent for the league. Just to make it clear, as a diehard Rockets fan, I did not care for the trade that would have brought Pau Gasol to Houston, but as a sensible person and fan of the game, I realized that the trade had to go through in order for the league to not lose the little amount of credibility that it had left. There have already been whispers for years of fixed games, playoff matchups, and the league playing favorites, but this event just called attention to the elephant in the room.

And to think, the league commissioner had the opportunity to set it all straight by allowing the trade and gaining back some goodwill for the NBA, especially after losing countless fans due to the lockout, but instead, he pulled his best Vince McMahon impersonation and showed everyone he still writes the scripts.

With all my complaining about the NBA, do I still watch the games? Yes. But my motivation for doing so stems from supporting my team (by wanting them to tank), following my fantasy basketball players, and keeping up with my daily wagers. I know a lot of you still live and die by the NBA and think I'm just being dramatic when I say all this stuff against the league, but whether you want to admit it or not, from a basketball standpoint, the level of play has drastically worsened.

Now please excuse me while I go reminisce about the NBA in all its glory back when there were still Sunday tripleheaders on NBC, and Anfernee Hardaway was still shooting commercials with Lil Penny.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why the Giants will win Super Bowl XLVI

The New York Football Giants have been here before. The buildup has been eerily similar to the 2007 season and while most of the cast members have changed, the story remains the same. Tom Coughlin has his team playing its best football at the right time of the year and believing that they can win. The 10-6 Falcons at home? Next. Packers at storied Lambeau field? Been there, done that. Traveling to the Bay to take on the revitalized Niners where we lost in the regular season? Bring it on.

As we continue our weeklong segment of analyzing each of the remaining contenders, this New York Giants team might have limped into the playoffs, but no one is taking them lightly after they dethroned the reigning Champions. During the regular season, there was a mix of very good and very bad play. While they've performed extremely well so far in the postseason and have shown true grit, they still have lingering deficiencies. Let's take a look at both and the keys for the Giants for the remainder of the playoffs:

- Eli Manning - I wrote about it earlier this season (link). Let's put the argument to bed. Eli needs to be considered an elite quarterback. The way he's played throughout this season and postseason warrants inclusion with the current group. This season, that list is short. Brady, Brees, Rodgers, and Eli. If Big Ben wasn't injured, sure. Don't talk to me about Rivers, Vick, Stafford, or Romo until they win a game that actually matters.

Eli threw 16 4th quarter touchdowns this year, won more than a handful of games when the Giants were trailing in the 4th quarter, and is clearly playing the best football of his career. Nothing seems to phase this guy. Everyone likes to judge him by his poor body expression after bad plays or his dopey kid face, but make no mistake, if the Giants are only down one score and they get the ball back, you better watch out. The team, organization, and fan base believes in him and knows that with him at the helm, the Giants are never out of a close game. Also, it doesn't matter who he has to throw to. His receivers for the 2007 season: Plaxico, Toomer, Smith, Kevin Boss, and of course, David Tyree. His receivers for the 2011 season: Nicks, Manningham, Victor Cruz, Jake Ballard, and Travis Beckum. While many Giant fans were nervous after losing Smith and Boss to free agency this offseason, Eli quietly took a group of nobodies in Cruz, Ballard, and Beckum and made them into a very deep receiving corp. Eli is the 2nd best quarterback remaining in the postseason and his experience and demeanor will be crucial down the stretch.

- Coaching - Blast Coughlin, Gilbride, and Fewell as much as you want for some poor regular season coaching, but their game plan, play calling, and personnel choices have been solid this postseason. They will take what they learned from their regular season loss to the Niners and will have the team well prepared for this week's tilt. I have faith that the Giants coaches will not let this team experience an emotion letdown after Sunday's victory. The Giants have been playing playoff football since Christmas and are not ready to go home just yet.

- Pass Rush - The Giants front four were a bit quiet against the Packers, but they disrupted Rodgers when it mattered. With JPP, Tuck, Osi, Canty, Tollefson, Joseph, and Bernard, the Giants have a deep rotation of strong rushers. If they can get to the quarterback early, it can definitely screw up his timing the rest of the game.

- Wide Receivers - The wideouts have been nothing short of amazing so far. It's hard to play double coverage on any of the three wideouts since they can all make plays and run after the catch. The tight ends are a bit banged up, but with Cruz playing an excellent slot and Manningham back healthy, their usage isn't vital as it was earlier in the season. Nicks is a big game receiver and needs to be respected. Manningham looks as healthy as last season and with the emergence of Cruz, no longer just a preseason superstar, Eli now has three targets he can trust.

- Secondary - While they have been okay so far in the postseason shutting down the Falcons and well, sort of stopping the Packers (they played decent coverage, but a lot of dropped balls and poorly thrown passes), they are still the biggest concern for the Giants. I do not trust Ross as an every down corner and Prince still needs work after his preseason injury. Rolle and Grant, while decent so far, are prone to mistakes and bad tackling.

- Run Game - Our running game has been terrible all season, and while they put up numbers against Atlanta, Bradshaw and Jacobs were not able to consistently move the ball against a pretty bad Packers defense (to be fair, I do not think their run defense is as bad as their team defense ranking suggests). A good run helps to control the clock and preserve leads. The Giants will face a very tough Niners defense and will need to have a balanced offense to keep them honest.

- Kicking - More like, Lawrence Tynes. He is simply too inconsistent. He didn't kick well against the Packers and can miss chipshot field goals. One can hope that this Giants-Niners playoff game doesn't come down to a last minute field goal again! On the bright side, Steve Weatherford has quietly had an excellent season and I do not miss Matt Dodge, one of the worst draft picks during the Reese regime.

Keys to Success:

- Balanced Offense - If the Giants can establish a run game and set up play action for Eli, they will be in very good shape. Bradshaw and Jacobs playing well and averaging 4-5 yards per carry will go a long way in setting the Giants up for victory.

- Linebacker play - I cannot stress how vital it was for the Giants to get Boley back and healthy. Boley has been playing his best football at a Giant at the time we need him the most, including two discount double checks on Rodgers on Sunday. We'll need strong linebacker play to contain Gore and Davis and if go further, against either the Pats and even the Ravens (Won't discount how good Dickson has been for them so far). Rookie Jacquian WIlliams has been a great stopgap this year and has played well so far.

- Keep the game close - Giants can ill afford to let their opponent rush out to a big lead. For this Giants team to succeed, they will need to keep it close, trade punch for punch, and put the ball in Manning's hands with the game on the line. If they can do that, they will have an opportunity to beat any of the remaining teams.

Why they will win it all:

You can poke holes in how the Giants played in the regular season, they lost some bad games to the Seahawks, Eagles, and Redskins and got destroyed by some very good teams. You can say that the Falcons were an easy opponent or that the Packers beat themselves, but at the end of the day, the Giants are in the NFC Championship game and one win away from going to Indy. Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning have been in this situation before and the Giants are 4-0 in NFC Championship games as a franchise. Do I think they will be worried come Sunday? Not really. When you beat the #1 seed in an away game (much like the 07 team beating the Cowgirls in Dallas), there's nothing left to be scared of. This team has the fortitude and passion that is very difficult to recreate. On top of that, this is a team that is playing with extreme confidence and trust in each other. If they keep that emotion and confidence up, they can beat any team remaining.

As a Giants fan, honestly, I didn't believe in the 2007 team. I didn't think we would win in Dallas, thought Favre was going to tear us apart in Lambeau, and the Patriots were going to embarrass us in the Superbowl with their vaulted offense. That team proved me wrong and I won't let that happen again.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why the 49ers will win Super Bowl XLVI

It has been a long time since the San Francisco 49ers had stability at the quarterback position, nine years to be exact. In that same time period, they also failed to make the playoffs nine times. San Francisco is a proud franchise with legendary coaches like Bill Walsh and quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. But in the past decade, it is easy to forget what the 49ers were and get caught up with what they became. We saw unworthy players take up the role of QB1 only to be replaced a few games later and coaches who were fired and replaced year after year. It got to the point where a coach even dropped his pants in the locker room to give imagery to his embarrassment. It has been 6 years since the 49ers used the first pick of the draft to take Alex Smith, and in that time, Smith has had 6 different offensive coordinators and no consistency in the playbook. We labeled him a bust before his rookie contract was up and I think a majority of fans wanted to give up on him after year two. It is hard to win when you start with a losing culture.

The 49ers are officially back and in a big way, and just maybe Alex Smith isn’t a bust after all. We all watched the Saints game in shock and awe as the prodigal son Alex Smith carried the team to two touchdowns, both in situations I personally had given up hope. Seriously, who knew Alex could run (almost looked like Tebow from that Jets game this year). Once again, it is clear that coaching plays a huge part in this game, and by boosting self confidence, a non playoff team sky-rocketed to the second best record in the NFL. Jim Harbaugh has changed the culture of this team. His men love him and clearly are ready to go to battle for him every day. The last time the 49ers won a playoff game before this year was the 2002 season when Jeff Garcia led his team over the New York Giants in a wild comeback in San Francisco. 9 years late the Giants are coming back.


  • Forcing turnovers has been a key to San Francisco’s success and they are +28 in turnovers this year, which also tells the story that this offense doesn’t cough up the ball either.
  • Vernon Davis has been a well-kept secret for a while, but not after this past weekend. People forget how big and athletic this guy is because he plays in a conservative offense, but I think he would be challenging Gronko’s record if he were playing with Tom Brady.
  • Run defense is the best in the league, giving up only around 77 yards a game on the ground during the regular season. Also it wasn’t until December 24th that the 49ers gave up a rushing touchdown. O_O “That’s CRAZY.”
  • Jim  Harbaugh, do I really need to explain this one? First year coach, took over a losing team with no major talent improvement from the year before. He took a quarterback that everyone lost hope in and made him into a winner. Jim saw talent in this team and finally the team sees it in themselves.
  • Inexperienced compared to the rest of the field that is left. The other three teams all have players who have won Super Bowls and are constant regulars in the playoffs year after year.
  • Red zone offense is the worst in the league and although we saw a huge improvement last game, the fact that the kicker broke Jerry Rice’s single season scoring record shows how pathetic this team is when it comes to putting the ball into the end zone.
  • Receivers have failed to make any real impact, with many high draft picks who have not lived up to their expectations. This forces Alex Smith to rely on their tight end. Vernon Davis will be doubled teamed the rest of the way, so the question will be if the receiving core can step up.
  • Offensive line has had ups and downs, but giving up 9 sacks to the Ravens during the Thanksgiving game is a huge red flag. They also had games where they gave up 5 and 6 sacks as well.
Keys to success:
  • Alex Smith needs to build on the momentum he has created, and will need to potentially face two top defenses before it’s all said and done.
  • Convert touchdowns instead of field goals. The 49ers were able to do this last weekend and maybe it caught the Saints by surprise when it was clear San Francisco wanted nothing to do with tying that game with a field goal.
  • Defense continues doing what they have been doing. They need to bring pressure on the pass rush because like the Saints, a couple teams left can throw the hell out of the ball. Also, they need to take the run away early, force teams to be one-dimensional, and get at least get two turnovers per game to win it all.
  • Stay confident no matter the situation. Great teams have the ability to rebound from any early deficit. Jim Harbaugh needs to lead his men with strong emotion, the same emotion that brought Vernon Davis to tears at the end of the Saints game.
Reasons why they will win it all:

Defense, defense, defense is why the 49ers are going to win it all. This defense is terrifying and they made a huge statement when they forced a fumble at  the 3 yard line right when you thought the Saints were going to jump up to a 7 point lead on the first drive. The hit heard around the stadium, a Saints offensive player was taken down by one man in the open field and completely crumbled. There is nothing sexy about the 49ers defense or offense, but they are fundamentally sound and rarely make mistakes. Let’s not forget that if Vernon Davis can get out early, we will be sure to see a healthy amount of Frank Gore who might not get the same limelight as Ray Rice, but is in the same class and has the ability to carry an offense for an entire game. I believe Alex Smith has turned the corner and we are finally seeing glimpses of why he was worthy of the first pick in the 2004 draft and how this man led his college team to an undefeated season. Even as a Packer fan, it’s nice to see the red and gold back in the playoffs, something just felt like it was missing the last 9 years.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why the Ravens will win Super Bowl XLVI

The Baltimore Ravens may have had the least impressive win in the divisional round, but they have shown many qualities of a championship-caliber team. The Ravens had many inconsistencies this year with all four losses coming against non-playoff teams. These losses were clearly mental lapses and I do not believe we will be seeing that during this playoff run. In many ways, this team still looks a lot like the last Super Bowl winning Ravens in 2000. As critical as people have been of the Raven offense, which also includes criticism from the Raven defense, the offense this year has far more upside than the Raven offense in 2000. Nothing against Trent Dilfer personally, but he only completed 48% of his passes for 158 yards in that Super Bowl performance. I believe it is safe to say any sports analyst would take Joe Flacco over Dilfer just on the fact that he can make so many more throws that Dilfer just physically could not. And just like the Ravens of 2000, the Ravens of the present have a strong run game and will be depending on that to establish any offense.


  • Ray Lewis’ will to win and desire to carry the young guys to their first Super Bowl.
  • The other stars on defense, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata, have all done their part over the years and will be hungry to win their first Super Bowl.
  • Ray Rice, who has shown his ability to show up when the lights are the brightest, gives this team consistency and versatility in the offense. Rice is able to beat you between the tackles, spread you out, and catch the ball when needed.
  • Lastly, their coach John Harbaugh, who is vastly underrated. Harbaugh is 44-20 in his career during the regular season and 5-3 in the playoffs. He had big shoes to fill replacing a Super Bowl winning coach and has done it without missing the playoffs. Also, all 3 losses in the playoffs were against teams that eventually represented the AFC in the Super Bowl.


  • At times their offense is very stagnant and lacks identity and consistency. In the last game, the offense really did not do much and was lucky to capitalize on a short field caused by a huge fumble by the Texans’ return man.
  • Lack of unity between the defense and the offense. The defense does not trust the offense to come through in key moments and feels the pressure to carry the team on their own, which may lead to more risk taking than necessary.
  • No receiver depth and a lack in what seems to be essential in today’s offense, the tight end position.
  •  Unproven road record this year. They are 4-4 on the road with losses to teams that were by far less talented than the Ravens.

Keys to success:

  • Offensive line needs to live up to their hype and give Flacco enough time to make plays and also create holes for Ray Rice to force the other team to make tackles in the open field.
  • Defense needs to continue be consistent and force turnovers to give their offense good field position.
  • Ravens need to hold the Patriots to under 30 because it will be hard to keep up in a shootout.
  • Ray Lewis will need to play a large role in pass defense. The remaining teams all have strong receiving weapons that will challenge them in the middle of the field. 

Reasons why they will win it all:

Defense wins championships; at least history has taught us that. Ray Lewis is the only one left that played 11 years ago in the Super Bowl, but he knows his window of opportunity is closing and it’s now or never for a team that has had a celebrated defense for over a decade. Ed Reed has performed at his best in the post season with 8 interceptions in 10 career playoff games. I think Joe Flacco is underrated and Ray Rice is special. And do not forget the experience and ability Anquan Boldin brings. Ravens have the best chance in matching up against tight end sets and have the ability to stop the run without letting their pass defense break down. Foster ran for over 100 last week, but the Texans have the best running game in the league and were held well under 200 yards in the passing game. Finally, I think John Harbaugh is the last reason why one should have faith in the Ravens. John isn’t going to wow you with complicated schemes or win the press over with a bigger than life personality, but he gets it done. The media has fallen in love with his younger brother Jim who has turned a losing team into a consistent winner in the 49ers, but don’t forget that it was the Ravens who dominated the 49ers in the Thanksgiving Harbaugh bowl. John believes in his team and trusts them to make the right decisions. Now he just needs to trust his own gut and not second-guess any of the choices he makes the rest of the way.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Picks for 2012 Championship Weekend

This past weekend we saw two close games which could have gone either way, and two game in which one team definitely didn’t look like they remembered that they even had a game this past weekend.

Congrats to the 49ers, Patriots, Ravens, and Giants for advancing to the Championship round of the playoffs. Honestly looking at all possible Super Bowl match ups it is safe to say Super Bowl XLVI is going to have a great story line going in. If the Giants make it, it will insure a rematch of either the 2000 or 2007 Super Bowls which will come with plenty of flashbacks and motivated teams. Not sure if any of the Giants are left from 2000, but I know Ray Lewis would love the memories he had from that game. If the 49ers make it we could see another strength verse strength games in which we will see the 49er defense face off against Tom Brady and company, or we get the Harbaugh Brothers in a rematch in the biggest game of the year. Honestly that might be the least entertaining match up and might just end up looking like this year’s college BCS Championship game. Of course it seems like the match up everyone wants that doesn’t have a dog in this race is the rematch of the 2007 Super Bowl. Some might think it’s a good idea to face your demons head on, but as a Packer fan that wanted nothing to do with a rematch with the Giants in Green Bay this week I believe all Patriot fans are rooting for the 49ers this week.

Media favorite to win it all has to be the New York Giants who look very similar to both the 2007 Giants and 2010 Packers.

The last interesting fact is that in the last ten years there have been ten different teams to represent the NFC. If the 49ers win against the Giants this will continue that streak, also in that same window only four AFC teams have made it to the final game and in the last eight years only the big three have made it (Patriots, Steelers, and Colts). The Patriots can continue this streak if they are able to make it past the Ravens. In some way history will repeat itself, but honestly it’s anyone’s guess which history that will be.

Here are my best guesses for the two upcoming games:

New York Giants win over San Francisco 49ers 27-23

Giants are hot and in Vegas you ride that hot hand, I know the last time New York was in San Francisco they blew a large lead and watch the seconds tick away at a failed field goal attempt. There is one big difference from then and now and that is the Giants coaching staff, which preaches discipline every day. I do not see many mistakes happening in this game, and all turnovers instead will be earns by hard work and hard hits. There will be ups and downs for both teams and I expect a roller coaster game as we saw in the 49ers and Saints game last week. In the end Giants’ experience pulls them through into this year’s Super Bowl.

New England Patriots win over the Baltimore Ravens 31-29

I have been flip flopping all day over this pick and honestly I think it is going to be really close. The reason I am going with the Patriots is because the Ravens did not show me enough last week to convince me to stay with my original Super Bowl pick (see Wild Card post). Also Ravens have only four losses and all happened to be on the road, which means they were only .500 on the road this year. I believe many points will be scored and that Tom Brady might need to have one of those last minute drives that end with a clutch field goal.

Will be rooting for neither of the NFC teams after watching my Packers fail to put up a fight, but will be rooting for the Patriots because of my brother and brother in-law.

Next four days there will be a post each day about a different team that is left in this year’s playoffs with further details and keys to winning it all.

Friday, January 13, 2012

NFL 2012 Divisional Round Predictions

Last week I had a rough start and started 0-2 with my predictions but finished up strong with a 2-2 record. Texans stomped all over my prediction and made me look pretty foolish with an easy victory, but like I said there was a defensive touchdown in the game. Saints ran up the score, which rubs me the wrong way and the shoot out became one sided pretty quickly. Its hard to keep up when the Saints are taking high risks and converting 4th downs on their own side of the field. Also Lions clearly panicked when they threw a risky deep ball that was intercepted when they were only down 10. The other two games played out exactly how I thought they would, but it was shocking how much was scored in the Steeler Bronco game.
 Predictions for this week:

San Francisco 49ers over the New Orleans Saints 23-20

I just might be that fool that keeps on picking against the Saints, but for the second week in a row I am betting against the Saints in a close game out in San Francisco. Recently many have doubted the phrase defensive wins championships, but I'm still a believer and I still don't believe in the Saints defense. On top of all that I do believe in the 49ers D and their throwback style in their run game and how well the offensive line finds ways to keep Alex Smith standing up. This Defense is special and might be the only team left that can keep Drew and company under 30 points.

New England Patriots over the Denver Broncos 38-31

After reading well over 10 Tebow articles this week I have become a firm believer in the person he is, but lets not forget this is still a team game and one thing I do not trust is Denver's defense against Tom Brady and his dual tight end formations. This is still the hardest offense for anyone to match up with because no team has people fast enough and big enough to stop both Patriot tight ends. I am hoping for a shoot out and I really do believe Tebow will show up in a big way, but if their isn't a miracle I am going with Brady and company.

Baltimore Ravans over the Houston Texans 19-17

Once again I can't pick a team I had picked to lose the week before. I do think it will be a close one, and I admit I underestimated the Texan's ability to run the ball even with a rookie quarterback. Raven's get needed production from Ray Rice, while both teams play great defense. Turnovers will play a huge part in the outcome of this game.

Green Bay Packers over the New York Giants 31-28

This is the upset I want to pick, but there is no way I am going to pick against my favorite team the Packers. In a time like this I rather be wrong then say the Giants will beat the Packers. Packers offensive line will struggle against the fully loaded front line of the Giant defense, but this isn't the first time Aaron Rodgers has had constant pressure in his face. Both team will score, but Packers will do much better against the run with the return of Hawk and Bishop and I expect one interception by Manning in this game.

Teams I am rooting for this week: 49ers, Patriots, Tim Tebow (want his team to lose but him to do great), Texans, and Packers.

Enjoy the games everyone!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Wild Card Weekend Picks

 Cincinnati Bengals over the Houston Texans  24-20

 I know the city of Houston will disagree with me on this one, but its just too hard for me to pick a third string QB that is banged up from last week to lead his team to a playoff win. Especially against a team they needed a fourth quarter miracle to beat the first time around. Bengals are 9-3 if you take out the games verse the Ravens and healthy Steelers. I see both offenses struggling in this one with at least one defensive touchdown being scored. 

Detroit Lions over the New Orleans Saints 37-34

This one is going to be the game of the week, with both teams gain tons of yard in the Super Dome. I believe the Lions are ready to shock the world, while the Saints run out of magic and start building somewhat of a choking reputation following last year's disaster

Denver Broncos over the Pittsburgh Steelers 19-17

Tebow finally wins again after losing the last three and with it the national press that he had over the year. Too many injuries for the Steelers to overcome with the loss of their Center, Running Back, and Safety. Also Big Ben will have a rough night against the quick DE and LB of the Denver Broncos. I believe Tebow does just enough to get into field goal range for the win.

New York Giants over the Atlanta Falcons 34-17

Giants finally come out and play and blow out the Falcons. I have no faith in Atlanta even though I would much rather the Falcons be in Green Bay next week. Falcons get down early and are forced to throw the ball, which allows Giants' front 7 to just focus on rushing Matt Ryan. This also takes out Atlanta's top weapon in Running Back Turner.

Teams I am rooting for this weekend are Texans, Lions, Broncos, and Falcons.

Superbowl prediction Packers VS Ravens with the Packers winning

More predictions to come after this weekend...