Saturday, May 26, 2012

2012 Stanley Cup Finals Preview

Only in the NHL will you have the 6th seed from the East and the 8th seed from the West make it to the final and have little reaction from the experts and fans. Hockey is all about momentum, and home ice is usually irrelevant until game 7. The Devils didn’t have the home ice advantage in the first three rounds but will have it for the finals; unfortunately, the Kings are 8-0 on the road so far and would love to continue that streak in Newark for game 1. Ironically, the Kings seem to be the clear-cut favorite, beating teams at will and giving the opponents almost no hope along the way.

Don’t let the King’s 8th seed title fool you -- they have been one of the most dominant teams in NHL playoff history so far. They took 3-0 leads in all 3 of their first series and only lost 2 meaningless game 4s to the one and three seeds. In the same way, the Devils weren’t supposed to make it this far -- maybe half of the experts had them making it past round 1 -- but there was no way they should have made it to the finals. Round two was where they should have lost to the media darling Flyers, who had just beat the Penguins in an impressive fashion. Yet the Devils made short work of the Flyers and ended up just embarrassing that defensive unit. After a 2-2 start with my beloved Rangers, most of the experts still chose the Rangers and continued to call out the advantage in goaltending for New York. People said Marty Bordeur was 40 and clearly past his prime. I wish that was true and kept telling myself that... up until the Devils scored the series-clinching goal in the overtime of game 6.

Both teams didn’t seem to belong in the finals at the start of the playoffs, yet both teams are hot and showing us an amazing amount of desire and will on the ice. Once again the veteran goalie Marty Bordeur for the New Jersey Devils will be facing one of the best young goaltenders in the game in Jonathan Quick, who was only 6 years old when Bordeur won his first Stanley Cup in 1995. Quick has dominated in this year's playoffs, and it’s a good thing because the LA Kings struggle to put in power play goals. LA has almost just as many shorthanded goals as they do power play goals in these playoffs, which shows you how good Quick and that defensive unit can be.  Most people have written off Marty Bordeur and have started wondering when this guy will eventually retire, but I think the only thing people should be thinking now is if this man is going to end up with his 4th ring.

There will be no shortage of big names offensively in this series. Mike Richard and Jeff Carter, both ex-Flyers that have been to the Cup Final before, will continue to play with a chip on their shoulders as they try to finish this magical run. While the Devils will rely on their two stars, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, who have been scoring at will in this playoff run. Both teams have players who have been here before, so I don’t think experience will play a huge role in this series. Also I don’t believe the physical play will bother either team. The Kings will look to try to rough up the Devils early, but after seeing the amount of punishment the Devils took from the Rangers, it's obvious that even getting knocked down on the ice won't faze them.

Overall this series should be filled with quality goaltending and physical play, with both teams bringing a blue collar attitude to work. The Kings have already made me look very foolish by picking against them, but that’s exactly what I will be doing once again. I am going to take the Devils in 7 because of the resurgence of Marty Bordeur -- it just doesn’t seem right to pick against a man who is 3-1 in Stanley Cup finals just because he’s over the hill.


The New Jersey Devils over The Los Angeles Kings in 7 games 

Photo courtesy of Maxx Wolfson - Getty Images

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

That Time I Met: Dexter Pittman

Did I ever tell you about that time I met Dexter Pittman?

It was on August 4, 2009, and I was playing in a basketball league with player/coach Lawrence Chen.  I played in a similar league on a different day of the week, so I expected the competition to be about the same.  I showed up to the first game and find out we are playing against Dexter Pittman, who was at that time the starting PF/C for the UT Longhorns.  As you could expect, the 6'11" dude yammed all over us, and for one putback, he nearly dunked Lawrence through the hoop like a Dunkin' Donut.

In reality, this was not my first encounter with Dexter, but it was when I got a picture with him.  I came into contact with the big man in the summer of 2006 at Gregory Gymnasium.  I was in there playing some pickup ball when in comes this 350+ pounder.  He pretty much loafed around the whole game, tried to cherry pick a few times, and tried to dunk every chance he got (without success).  Imagine my surprise when after the game, someone notified me that this guy was ranked as one of the best center prospects coming out of high school and a top-150 recruit.  Needless to say, I was not impressed.

Fast forward to this year.  After getting drafted into a perfect situation in Miami a couple years ago, where Dexter would practice with/against players like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James on a daily basis, and where he would only have to get in shape and improve to the level of a Joel Anthony to sniff meaningful playing time, you'd be hard-pressed to see any area of improvement in his game at all.  However, due to the injury to starter Chris Bosh, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra inserted Pittman into the starting lineup for game 3 of the eastern conference semifinals series versus the Pacers.  This would be Dexter Pittman's chance to truly shine.

Dexter responded with the following stat line: 0-2 shooting from the field with both shots getting swatted and 1 personal foul in 3 minutes and 29 seconds on the court.  Sit down, big fella.

And now Dexter Pittman has been reduced to goon status.  As he is clearly incapable of doing much else on the court (and with zero detriment to his team if he were to be suspended a couple games), he connected a vicious elbow to a full-speed Lance Stephenson in yesterday's game 5 with his team up 35 points with 20 seconds left in the 4th quarter.

If you don't know the full story, Stephenson is a rookie who made a choking hand gesture towards LeBron James earlier in the series after the self-proclaimed king missed two crucial free throws.  Lance has since apologized for his actions, but I suppose Dexter decided to take matters into his own hands.  It was pretty much the most classless, flagrant act I've seen on the basketball court since Metta World Peace's assault on James Harden, and frankly one of the worst representations of the great University of Texas I've ever seen.

Friday, May 18, 2012

137th Preakness Preview

It's only been two weeks since I'll Have Another came on late to take the Kentucky Derby, and now he'll have a chance to keep the Triple Crown dream alive at the Preakness Stakes on Saturday.  It's been four years since we've had a horse take the first two legs of the Triple Crown (Big Brown in 2008).  Prior to that, it seemed to have happened much more regularly, as 1997-1999 and 2002-2004 all had horses with a chance to capture the Triple Crown (but ultimately failed) in the Belmont.  Maybe this means we're due for another Triple Crown Contender this year.

Before we get to the picks for the Preakness, here are a couple of takeaways from the aftermath of the Kentucky Derby:

1) Bodemeister is for real - some questioned whether Bodemeister was for real since he never raced as a 2-year old, but I think he silenced all doubters in the Derby.  The pace for the early half of the race was blistering, and I think most felt Bodemeister would fail miserably down the stretch.  Instead, Bodemeiester held strong and almost took the win wire-to-wire.

2) I'll Have Another is for real too - at least I had I'll Have Another among my "Maybes" picks for the Derby, unlike last year when all of the Triple Crown winners ended up being among my "Stay Away" picks.  I'll Have Another had two major negatives against him before the race - starting from the 19th post and having a seemingly inexperienced jockey.  Mario Gutierrez certainly showed that he is ready for the big leagues as he guided I'll Have Another perfectly to become the first winner from the 19th post position.

3) Missing in Action - A few of the Derby horses who I hoped would run again in the Preakness (Alpha and Dullahan in particular) are skipping the race instead, but hopefully they'll be back for the Belmont.

The Preakness field this year is only 11 horses, with 6 runners from the Derby and 5 new runners.  This field is much more manageable than the 20-horse Derby, so I don't think traffic will be as much of an issue.  As you'll see from my picks, I think the favorites should come out on top in this one, as few of the new runners seem intriguing.  Of course, this means payout potentials are more limited, so my final betting picks are definitely focused more on the exotics:

High Potential

2- Teeth of the Dog (15-1): Probably the biggest question mark in the field and my only longshot/new runner among the top picks; definitely has the upside potential to hit the board for the exotics
5 - Went the Day Well (6-1): Impressive in the Derby as he overcame a rough start to finish a strong 4th
7 - Bodemeister (8-5): Odds are really low, but I think he deserves it; should be able to control the pace better with the Derby sprinters sitting the Preakness out, helping to conserve enough for the finishing kick
9 - I'll Have Another (5-2): Again, some really low odds, but post position is much better this time, and Gutierrez has shown he knows how to manage this horse


3 - Pretension (30-1): Won two weeks ago at Pimlico, but probably doesn't have the talent against this field
6 - Creative Cause (6-1): Had a chance in the Derby, but forced to make a wide turn at the end, and still finished 5th; might be a good play for the exotics
8 - Daddy Nose Best (12-1): Didn't show anything special in the Derby, finishing 10th
11 - Cozzetti (30-1): Has only won once in his career, but ran pretty impressively to finish 4th behind Bodemeister last month

Stay Aways

1 - Tiger Walk (30-1): Hasn't looked good this year, and post position is a negative too
4 - Zetterholm (20-1): On a three-race winning streak, but those wins came against weak competition at a shorter distance
10 - Optimizer (30-1): Not sure why he is running in the Preakness after a weak 11th place finish

The Bets:

$4 Exacta Box - 7, 9 (Bodemeister, I'll Have Another)
$1 Exacta Box - 5, 7, 9 (Went the Day Well, Bodemeister, I'll Have Another)
$1 Trifecta Box - 5, 7, 9
$1 Trifecta Box - 2, 7, 9 (Teeth of the Dog, Bodemeister, I'll Have Another)
$0.10 Superfecta Box - 2, 5, 7, 9

Total Bets: $28.40

Photo courtesy of AP

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Standing Ovation: Fat Flavor Flav

I went back and forth deciding whether Fat Flavor Flav deserved a party foul or a standing ovation, but seeing as his cameo was the most interesting few seconds of yesterday's Philadelphia 76ers v. Boston Celtics game, I leaned towards the latter.

I can't stop watching this gif.  It's like when I muster up the courage to flip the TV to Animal Planet for "River Monsters" -- I want to look away because I'm terrified, but there's a tiny part of my psyche that is intrigued by such a life form in its natural habitat.  Perhaps the best part of this now-entrenched memory from last night is that my first wedding anniversary is fast approaching, and the wife and I have agreed to exchange modern gifts. The modern gift for the first anniversary?  You guessed it -- clocks.

So if any of you out there happen to know Fat Flavor Flav's contact information, please inquire as to his availability in July.

Best.  Gift.  Ever.

Image courtesy of SB Nation

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Standing Ovation: Patrick Reed

Patrick Reed is currently living the dream.

After leading Augusta State to the NCAA Men's Golf Championship, Patrick Reed decided to forego his senior season to try to make it professionally. The 21-year-old from Texas has no status on the PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour, which means he is technically unemployed and has to qualify for tournaments if he wants to play in them.

This last January, he played and won a pro-am tournament in Tobago earning him $25,000. When he returned to the United States he asked his girlfriend, Justine Karain, to marry him. Justine was working as a registered nurse but decided to sacrifice her career, travel with her soon-to-be husband, and become his full-time caddy/driver/support system.

Why is he getting a standing ovation? Just check out this chain of events...

04/16/12: Monday qualifier for the Valero Texas Open
During his qualifying round, he was added to the tournament because a player withdrew and he was the first replacement on the list.

04/22/12: Completed the Valero Texas Open
He finished T-35 and received a check for $22,915.00.

04/23/12: Monday qualifier for the Zurich
After finishing at the Valero on Sunday in San Antonio, TX, Reed and his fiancee drove nine hours to New Orleans. They arrived at 3 in the morning, had four hours sleep, then teed it up for his qualifier. He shot 4-under, including a birdie on the first playoff hole to earn one of three available spots in the Zurich Classic.

04/29/12: Completed the Zurich Classic
He finished T-24 and received a check for $51,840.00.

04/30/12: Monday qualifier for the Wells Fargo Championship
With his earnings, the couple chose to fly to the next PGA tour event in Charlotte, NC. Routed from New Orleans to Chicago to Greenville, SC, the couple didn't make it to their hotel until after 1:00 am. During this qualifying round, Reed needed to birdie the 18th hole to avoid being forced to play in another playoff. He saw the putt one way, Justine saw it another way. But as we all know, the woman is always right -- so he went with Justine's read, made the putt, and the rest is history.

05/06/12: Completed the Wells Fargo Championship
He finished T-32 and received a check for $34,450.00.

05/14/12: Monday qualifier for the HP Byron Nelson
He did it again. Patrick Reed notched 8 birdies en route to a 8-under 64 round, finishing three strokes clear of the other qualifiers. As a result, he will be participating in the Byron Nelson this Thursday. This is the fourth straight tournament he will be partaking in, and he needed to play his way into all four of them.

In the last month, he has made a total of $109,205. If he can continue his inspring play, he has the opportunity to make more and maybe earn a spot on the tour in 2013. To earn an exemption for the 2013 Nationwide Tour, he will have to earn around $170,000 during this playing year. And for the 2013 PGA Tour, he needs to finish in the top 150 on the money list to qualify for a special temporary membership which would allow him to accept sponsor exemptions to 12 tour events. Last year, that number was at $571,000.

No doubt, he is close to reaching his dreams. I just hope he is enjoying the ride, loving his soon-to-be wife, and making lots of memories along the way.

We've all heard of the Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroys, and Rickie Fowlers of the world but it's little known, Patrick Reed, who has really captivated the tour this year.

Connect with Albert Nguyen!

That Time I Met: Shane Battier

Did I ever tell you about that time I met Shane Battier?

It was Rockets Play Day 2009, where season and mini-season ticket holders get a chance to hang out, take a snapshot with, or cop a signature from the players.  (The most underrated and often forgotten part of the day was that I would not have gotten a free ticket to attend this extravaganza if it wasn’t for my friend Timmy’s dad being unable to make it, so thanks Mr. Chui.)  I was at Toyota Center with my friends Timmy, Albert, and Koller, and I remember I had gotten a slip of paper to redeem for an autograph session with Von Wafer.  As has always been my policy, a picture is worth a thousand words (or 500 signatures), so I managed to trade one of my friends for his photo session with Shane Battier.

I descended down onto the basketball court and realized that it wasn’t just going to be a simple polaroid snap-and-go -- there was a photo booth set up with 6’ 8” Shane Battier crammed inside.  As I waited in line, I sorted through some of the props that were available to use and settled on two clownish hats with flowers sticking out the top.  One red, one yellow -- to rep the old school (and rightful) Rockets team colors, of course.

It was then my turn, so I walked into the booth, introduced myself, chatted briefly, and watched the camera click four times.

During Shane Battier’s tenure as a Houston Rocket, it was easy to distinguish how fans felt about him.  If you were a dude, you either resented him because we gave up the draft rights to Rudy Gay for him, or you loved him because of all the intangibles he brought to the game.  If you were a chick, you just loved him.  Plain and simple.  Find me a female who doesn’t like Shane Battier, and the first question out of my mouth will be “how long have you not liked men?” followed by a courtesy “who hurt you?”

As for me, I can honestly say that I loved the 2006 draft-day trade that the Rockets made to acquire Shane.  (You hate letting go of the potential of Rudy Gay, but in actuality, the part of the trade that worried me most was having to toss Stromile Swift into the deal as well.  Long live Stro Show.)  Shane was what the Rockets needed most -- a good individual defender who could stick on the opponent’s best wing, a great team defender who could take a charge or get a weakside block, and a consistent shooter who could knock down the open three-pointer.  Houston had just suffered through year 2 of the Yao/Tmac experience which saw them miss 70 games combined and enter the lottery.  Management knew that the window of opportunity was closing with this team, so assuming the pair could stay healthy, you gotta go full win-now mentality.  

(This mentality led us to a 7-game first-round series against the Utah Jazz during which Tracy McGrady attempted to carry the team on his ailing back by averaging 25/6/7/1/1.  Just talking about that year brings back horrible memories for me as I attended 3 games in that 7-game span, including the fateful game 7.  In the end, the Jazz were the definition of a nightmare matchup for the Rockets, as Yao Ming literally could not guard anyone on the floor.  He was out of his element guarding Mehmet Okur 20 feet from the bucket, and I distinctly remember Carlos Boozer having his way with Yao on the hardwood -- it was like watching a douchebag hit on a helpless girl at the bar, except there was nobody there to intervene and help the situation.  Boozer ended up torching Yao for 35/14/5 in the deciding game, including two huge offensive rebounds over the “big man” in the waning moments of the game to seal Houston’s season.)

After five memorable seasons with the Rockets, Shane Battier was dealt to the Grizzlies last year for Hasheem Thabeet, DeMarre Carroll, and a first-round draft pick.  I was sad to see him go and thought we could have gotten more in return, but I couldn’t have been happier for him when on April 17, 2011, with Memphis down by two to the San Antonio Spurs, Shane made the game-winning three to give the city its first playoff win in franchise history... on the same day that his high school sweetheart gave birth to their second child.  Amazing.  Oh, and his team went on to defeat the #1 seed Spurs to move on to the 2nd round.

But alas, the man is now on the Miami Heat playing alongside the guy I hate most in the league, LeBron James.  If El Heat end up winning the ship this year, the fact that Shane would receive a ring would be the only possible saving grace to this shambles of an NBA season.  Now please excuse me while I go browse Amazon for a sackcloth to wear after tearing one’s clothes Bible-style in the instance of Queen James getting fitted for a championship ring.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Night Fights: Playoffs Round 5 and Mother's Day

The 2011-2012 Conference Semifinals are finally in the books. This past week, we welcomed the final three teams into the Conference Finals. The Phoenix Coyotes took out the Nashville Predators in 5 games, the New Jersey Devils coasted through the Philadelphia Flyers in 5 games, and the New York Rangers went the distance with the Washington Capitals in a great seven-game series. Conference Final play starts tonight with the Los Angeles Kings hosting the Phoenix Coyotes. Even with three series wrapping up this week, there failed to be a single fight in any of the games so thus, Sunday Night Fights will be idle this week. But life moves on! And so does the world of sports.

Hendrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers are moving to the Eastern Conference Finals
But since I'm already writing this post, I would like to take the opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Mother's Day. It is such a joy and blessing to experience and witness just the great love mothers around the world give to their children each and everyday. So here's a shoutout to all the mothers who sacrificed so much to raise their sons and daughters into the men and women they are today. Mothers are truly gifts and blessings from God so here's to you, mothers!

I'll leave with a short excerpt of Oklahoma City Thunder Forward Kevin Durant's mother, Wanda Pratt. I know this is a hockey column, but I still got great love for KD and his upbringing!

"I want Kevin to become the man he would want to look up to." We have you, Wanda, for setting that example! Long live athletes and their mothers who guide them through life!

Kevin Durant with his biggest fan!

Photos and video courtesy of, &

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sunday Night Fights: Playoffs Round 4

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first conference finalist of this beautiful NHL playoff season! Congratulations to the Los Angeles Kings for their sweep of the St. Louis Blues this afternoon. First, the Kings took out the Presidents' Trophy recipient and defending Western Conference Champions, the Vancouver Canucks, in 5 games. Now, they have swept the league's best regular season defensive team (165 goals allowed) by outscoring them 15 to 6. With superb goaltending and timely scoring, the Kings are looking like the hottest team in the playoffs right now. What's more impressive is that they're doing all of this as the 8th seed in the West, yet don't let that 8th seed fool you. If it wasn't for losing their final two games, the Kings could have easily been the 3rd seed. Nonetheless, let's give credit where credit is due -- four more wins and the Kings will be the second ever 8th seed team to reach the Stanley cup Finals, with the other being the Edmonton Oilers in 2006 (only to lose in 7 games to the Carolina Hurricanes). But I won't get ahead of myself.

Fighting in the dark is never a good idea.
Rather, I'll get down to real business. I'm not here to give you a recap of the NHL playoffs. I'm here to showcase some wild haymakers and bloody faces! So it's my pleasure to reintroduce James Stewart of the St. Louis Blues. Stewart made his first Sunday Night Fights appearance earlier this playoff season (SNF: Round 2) and didn't want to go home without a bang. Midway through the first period in Game 4 between the LA Kings today, Stewart takes a big hit from Center Jordan Nolan while trying to start an odd-man rush. Well, let's just say Stewart wasn't too happy about it...

Nolan comes out strong firing some great lefts on Stewart. Stewart takes on the task and starts throwing rights at Nolan, who at this point has already lost his helmet. After trading some blows, Stewart manages to drape Nolan's jersey over his head and lets him have it. The officials try and step in (standard safety procedure when a player has his jersey over his head), but Stewart has already done enough damage. Nolan comes out with a shiner under his left eye. Stewart gives a friendly finger to the mouth to quiet the crowd, but the LA Kings and Jordan Nolan got the last laugh. In the end, Nolan scores the first and eventual game-winning goal as the Kings send the Blues packing for summer vacation. So I'll tip my hats to both men for their relentless pursuit of the Lord Stanley's Cup.

Photos and video courtesy of,, &

Friday, May 4, 2012

Kentucky Derby Preview

Apparently we got a bunch of hits for this picture last year... might as well include it again!
With the Kentucky Derby coming up tomorrow, it's time to resurrect Gym Class All Stars' horse racing coverage for the 2nd year. If you were one of our early readers last year, you'll remember that my Triple Crown picks were nothing short of disastrous, as each winner came from one of my "Stay Away" picks - oops. (To see the carnage from last year, click here, here, or here).

So, what are some takeaways from last year? Here's a few:

1) Because all of the entries are 3-year olds, these horses all have minimal experience, so historical results should be evaluated with caution.
2) With a massive field of 20 entries, absolutely anything can happen.
3) The fact that this is the race with the largest "public" betting must be considered.

Considering these lessons, my picks strategy this year will focus on finding value rather than thinking too hard about jockey/trainer combinations and past results. In particular, I think the greatest value will be found in those horses with "mid-range" odds. The longshots are probably going to be bet down by the betting public (since the public loves the underdogs and is rooting for a big payday). The favorites will also get plenty of action, so that should leave the middle-of-the-pack horses as the undervalued picks.

One other interesting tidbit before getting to the horse-by-horse rundown. In the last ten Kentucky Derbies, if you placed a $2 win bet on every single horse, you would have generated a profit in 4 out of the 10 years:

2002 War Emblem: $43.00 payout - $36.00 bets = $7.00 profit
2005 Giacomo: $102.60 payout - $40.00 bets = $62.60 profit
2009 Mine that Bird: $103.20 payout - $38.00 bets = $65.20 profit
2011 Animal Kingdom: $43.80 payout - $38.00 bets = $5.80 profit

In fact, if you actually placed $2 win bets on every horse entered in the last ten years, you still would have ended up positive (by $1.20) thanks to Animal Kingodm's victory last year. This is truly a testament that anything can happen in the Derby, so read on at your own risk.

High Potential

3 - Take Charge Indy (15-1): I like the "mid-range" odds, and you can never count out Calvin Borel; just hope that the Borel factor doesn't bet down the final line too much
5 - Dullahan (8-1): Wish the odds were a little higher (4th favorite right now), but seems to be peaking at the right time
8 - Creative Cause (12-1): Love the odds, beat the favorite (Bodemeister) back in March
10 - Daddy Nose Best (15-1): Another "mid-range" odds pick, strong jockey/trainer combination, coming off two wins (although against weaker fields)
11 - Alpha (15-1): Good odds, nice results, post position shouldn't be a problem
13 - Went the Day Well (20-1): Nice payout potential, exact same jockey/trainer/owner as last year's winner Animal Kingdom
14 - Hansen (10-1): Has won big on this track (Breeders' Cup Juvenile), consistent results, undervalued?


1 - Daddy Long Legs (30-1): Coming off a huge $1.2 million win in Dubai, and the odds are tempting, but post position is a killer.
4 - Union Rags (9-2): Odds don't give much value; with 20 horses, might get pinned in like last time out and leave him with no chance
6 - Bodemeister (4-1): The favorite - would be the first horse in 120 years to win the Derby without running as a 2-year old, but who knows? Not much value as a win pick, but definitely a consideration for the exotics
12 - Prospective (30-1): A couple of wins in 2012, but hasn't shown up for the biggest races; at least he has experience racing on this track before
15 - Gemologist (6-1): Undefeated, experience at Churchill, but not sure the odds justify a pick
19 - I'll Have Another (12-1): Like the odds, good momentum, but hasn't even touched Churchill Downs surface before, and will have to come from way outside

Stay Aways

2 - Optimizer (50-1): Last horse to sneak into the field, ran poorly last time out
7 - Rousing Sermon (50-1): Hasn't won this year, odds are not tempting enough
9 - Trinniberg (50-1): Sprinter who has never run the 1 1/4 miles, so probably will run out of gas?
16 - El Padrino (20-1): Has the "stats" (100 Beyer Score), but seems to have peaked too early
17 - Done Talking (50-1): First time at Derby for trainer and jockey; very inconsistent results
18 - Sabercat (30-1): Has struggled recently, nothing special?
20 - Liaison (50-1): Would have to come from way outside, best results were last year

The Picks:

$2 Win - 8 (Creative Cause), 10 (Daddy Nose Best), 11 (Alpha), 14 (Hansen)
$2 Exacta Box - 11, 14 (Alpha, Hansen)
$2 Exacta Box - 8, 11 (Creative Cause, Alpha)
$1 Exacta box - 8, 11, 14 (Creative Cause, Alpha, Hansen)
$1 Exacta Box - 3, 5, 11 (Take Charge Indy, Dullahan, Alpha)
$0.10 Superfecta Box - 8, 10, 11, 14

Total Bets: $30.40

Other Fun Bets To Consider: This year's Derby has one "also eligible" for the first time (My Adonis). Since I'm a homer, I would probably throw at least a $2 Show bet on My Adonis if he's able to sneak into the race. The last time I ignored a New Jersey-based horse with the same owner/trainer combo, Ruler on Ice won the Belmont Stakes.

Another fun bet would be the 1, 10 Exacta Box (Daddy Long Legs, Daddy Nose Best). The call down the stretch would be reminiscent of this race a few years ago:

Video courtesy of,

Thursday, May 3, 2012

That Time I Met: Case Keenum

Did I ever tell you about that time I met Case Keenum?

It was November 1, 2009, and the University of Houston football team chaplain was speaking at FBCC Focus service.  In the midst of a sermon upstairs in the Encounter service, I caught wind that QB Case Keenum had tagged along as well, so after the benediction, I strolled downstairs expecting to see a man whose mere presence would command fear in the hearts of an NCAA secondary.

But to be honest, Case did not exude intimidation and swagger like I thought he would.  He looked bigger and tougher on film than in real life.  He just seemed like a typical nice guy.  He was down-to-earth and friendly enough to chit chat and take pictures with fans and randoms who likely had no idea who he was.

Luckily, I had Peter’s relatively new football in the trunk of my car, so I fished it out, got Case to sign it, and snuck in a hook ‘em during the photograph.  (For those who are wondering, we continued to play with the football, and there is now not a shred of evidence that Case Keenum ever came in contact with it.)

A lot has happened in the 2+ years since that meeting, and our fates have been eerily similar.

We both suffered severe knee injuries.  I disclocated my knee cap and spent six months rehabbing.  Case tore his ACL during the Cougars’ third game against UCLA and missed the rest of the 2010 season.

We both got married.  Case tied the knot in June 2011.  I jumped the broom in July 2011.

We both rep that red, white, and that blue.  I’ve been a Houston Texans fan since David Carr embarrassed the Dallas Cowboys in the franchise’s first ever game in 2002.  And earlier this week, after Case went undrafted, he agreed to a contract with the Texans.

I’ve been following Case Keenum’s career over the past few seasons, and while I’m not claiming to be his biggest fan, I’ve had multiple discussions with coworkers about how he would be a great fit in the Texans system.  Assuming we can shore up the offensive line and find somebody to replace the immense void that Jacoby Jones will leave behind (sarcasm), our offense looks poised to yet again put up some big numbers.  And if somehow, God forbid, history repeats itself and we have our starting quarterback and backup quarterback go down, it’d be intriguing to see what Case Keenum could step in and do with these weapons.

Of course, I’m getting way ahead of myself.  Welcome to the team, Case, but no offense: I hope you don’t sniff even a minute of playing time next year.  Then maybe, just maybe, we will both be sporting Houston Texans Super Bowl Champion T-shirts next year (no jinx).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Haterade: The State of Boxing - Floyd Mayweather v. Miguel Cotto

When I was growing up, I remember my dad would go on and on about boxing greats such as Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns. He didn’t immigrate to the United States from Vietnam until 1980. So all of the earlier legends like Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, and Roberto Duran were all mythological names to him because he didn’t watch TV growing up.

And I guess since I had the opportunity to watch TV as a kid, for as long as I can remember, he would make me sit down with him and watch boxing matches even though they frightened me. Plus, I would have rather had basketball or football on. But this is the reason why Mike Tyson, Roy Jones Jr., Felix Trinidad, and, to a lesser degree, Evander Holyfield and Prince resonate with me so much. For me, that was boxing’s “heyday” -- the good ol’ 90s.

So, what the hell happened to the sport of boxing? Even though I was young at the time, I remember those Tyson fights were a really really BIG deal. People would pay large sums of money just to watch a fight that may or may not last one round.

Even after his loss to Buster Douglas in 1990 and having to serve three years in prison for rape charges, his “comeback” fights were on a whole different level in terms of anticipation and buildup.

But today? Most people can’t even name three boxers outside of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.

The easy thing to do is put the blame on money -- to be honest, money can be blamed for almost anything these days. To me, however, the greatness that was boxing was the fact that if you were a champ, you were the champ of the
world. Muhammad Ali, for example, was the heavyweight champion of the world. No questions asked.

Sadly, promoters and television networks have taken control of the sport and have created a new belt for every day of the week it seems. Currently, you have the WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO, and The Ring championships. This means you can potentially have five different middleweight champions at one time. Really? Does this make sense to anyone? The aura that surrounds the champion is no longer one with mystique and reverence.

Add to boxing’s poor management with the arrival of other contact/combat sports coming into the fray, and you ultimately have a dying sport. Dana White has undeniably taken the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) to a level of popularity it has never experienced in the past.

As a result, most of the recreational fans gravitate towards it because A) fights happen more frequently and B) there are a number of UFC shows on TV (The Ultimate Fighter on FX, UFC on FuelTV, Fox, and even Facebook). If boxing were to unify and create a league similar to the NFL, NBA, or UFC, it may have a chance to survive.

But at this rate, once Manny and Floyd retire (which is coming sooner than you think: Manny is 33 and Floyd is 35), there will be no reason for the general public to follow the sport. This, of course, is the fundamental reason why everyone wants to see that fight so badly. I personally don’t see it happening, but that topic is for another day. Therefore, I’m going to be enjoying the sport for as long as I can. I don't know about you guys -- but once boxing dies, a part of me will die as well.

This Saturday, Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Miguel Cotto will be squaring off at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The undercard also includes the exciting Saul Alvarez aka "Canelo" going against the hall of famer, “Sugar” Shane Mosley.

Why you should watch the fight:
  • Mayweather is undefeated with a 42-0-0 record and Cotto is 37-2-0 (with one of the losses coming against cheater Antonio Margarito and his loaded gloves). The sheer possibility that Mayweather’s flawless record can be tainted is enough reason to tune in. This is why he is the biggest pay-per-view draw; love or hate him, he is the face of boxing because of that record.
  • Floyd Mayweather is going to jail after the fight (domestic violence). In fact, just three weeks after his bout with Cotto, his place of residence for 87 days of his life will be the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas.
  • This is only the second time in Mayweather’s career where he’ll be fighting at the 154-pound division. His only other fight at this particular weight came against Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, who many still claim beat Mayweather that night.

Who the sportsbooks predict to win:
  • Mayweather is at -800 and Cotto is at +500. The line has actually moved in Mayweather’s favor in the days leading up to the fight. If you’re like me and like taking fliers with your bets, 5:1 odds for Cotto is not bad at all.
  • If the fight goes the distance, Mayweather’s technical precision and speed will be too much for Cotto to handle. Mayweather is regarded as the best ever for a reason. But, I think Cotto has the punching power to make it interesting. If he were to win, it’ll be because Mayweather gets rocked, and Cotto’s left hand is as powerful as anyone’s. We saw what Mosley did to Mayweather early in their match, and the power Cotto possesses at this point in their careers is vastly superior to Shane’s.
  • Cotto has already fought Manny, so this conceivably could be his last real major payday. He needs to jump on Floyd early and often in order to give himself a chance. If I had to pick a winner, obviously it would be Mayweather in a decision because frankly, he’s never lost. But this fight definitely has much more intrigue than his last few fights (Victor Ortiz, Shane Mosley, and Juan Manuel Marquez).

Being the hater that I am, I want to see Mayweather knocked out for the simple fact that it would shock the boxing world and maybe give it what it needs.

May’s What's Poppin' topic: Video Games and Sports

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The NBA: Where Speed Dates, Odd Jobs, and Handshakes Happen

In anticipation of going to my first Celtics playoff game on Friday (interestingly, tickets were less than half of what I paid to see Linsanity), here are a couple of my favorite video clips featuring players in the post-season:

Landry Fields: I guess Fields and some guy no longer on the Knicks had a short-running video series last year. The funniest ones were of their speed dating adventures:

Blake Griffin and Metta World Peace: Produced for last year’s ESPY Awards, this clip shows us what athletes do during a lockout.

More Kevin Love- Okay, so the T-Wolves didn’t make the post-season this year and Love was recently voted by his peers as one of the dirtiest players in the NBA, but these were too good not to include. First, watch this: 

Dude. That’s a pretty bad handshake, right? How do you even recover from that? By making this video:

Y'all have any other good clips? Let me know in the comments!

Photo and videos courtesy of NBA FrontPage and YouTube

Party Foul: Amare Stoudemire

Violation: Amare Stoudemire attacks the glass.

Explanation: After losing game 2 to the Miami Heat, New York Knicks Amare Stoudemire punched a glass casing surrounding a fire extinguisher.  Really?  Some throw chairs in frustration.  Others just hang their heads.  Amare punches glass.  Not the brightest crayon in the box, but at least he finally started showing some emotion in this series.  He even tweeted: "I am so mad at myself right now.  I want to apologize to the fans and my team, not proud of my actions.  Headed home for a new start." But then, right after I saw that, I watched video footage of him leaving the arena in a sling and nonchalantly munching on some snacks without a care in the world.  It's okay to be frustrated about playing time and not being involved in the offense.  It's not okay to respond to said frustration by sucker punching a fire extinguisher.

Punishment: Amare suffered lacerations in his left hand which required stitches, so he is out for game 3 and possibly the rest of the playoffs.  This may be a blessing in disguise, as he will no longer have to risk being outplayed by Chris Bosh, the softest big man in the league.  Fortunately for the Knicks, this year the team actually has a better winning percentage without Stoudemire than with him.

Photo and video courtesy of Thomson Reuters 2012 and YouTube