Friday, November 30, 2012

Beware the WildKaep

The WildKaep will prowl the Edward Jones Dome as the San Francisco 49ers’ starting quarterback this Sunday.

Kaepernick, the current toast of the town and the ONLY reason why you hear about the 49ers on ESPN, will be given another shot to prove to everyone he has the coveted "hot hand."

It’s obvious that Harbaugh was tippy-toeing the Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick high-wire act and attempting to quash any talk of a quarterback controversy.  (Interestingly enough, Steve Young replaced Joe Montana 25 years ago against the Bears.)  Though Smith would have dealt with the media in his nonchalant, ‘team first’ attitude, Coach Harbaugh would not bring shame upon his pal (and one-time caddy) like that.

To the blind eye, it seems like the 49ers coach is taking it on a week-to-week basis, giving each of his signal callers a fair shot.  For all intents and purposes, though, Harbaugh’s emptying out the backfield.

We all know the story: Kaepernick tames the Bears with Alex in concussion limbo, then beats a Saints defense that averaged 27.3 points allowed per game with a healthy Smith on the sidelines.

Coincidence?  I think not.

Jim Harbaugh’s skills as a tactician go well beyond the chalked sidelines.  He knows what he’s doing, despite fumbling language at press conferences and providing embarrassing fodder such as “Gobble Gobble Turkey from Jive Turkeys.”  Call me a conspiracy theorist, but this seems like an all-too-perfect swing for a young kid that the coach moved up for to draft in 2011.  He’s no fool.

Smith's emotionless role model
Despite all the media gushing over him, did anyone else notice that he was the first guy to get fired up about Ahmad Brooks’ pick six?  Yeah, you saw what I saw:  the interception return was the white-out over Kaepernick’s errant pass thrown to that same vaunted Saints defense.  While there’s nothing wrong with congratulating a teammate, Brooks’ pick six absolved the quarterback’s mistake.  He was noticeably dejected after the play and needs to channel his inner Smith, who shows all the emotion of an android when given face time, if he's going to make it as a starting quarterback.

Like any QB miscues, they can be easily swept under the rug of a vaunted defense.  (See: his predecessor, one Alex Smith and 49er great Trent Dilfer).  And that’s why I’m not as quick to anoint him.  I’ll be the first to admit that his stuff is electric and exciting.  No question about that.  It's something fans haven't seen for the better part of a decade and a half. To that point, I have to ask: How many young signal callers have ended up in the refuse bin after being elevated to a similar “game-changing” status after two starts?  I’ll wait…

Just two games removed from an 18 of 19 performance against another highly respected defense in the Arizona Cardinals, Smith has questionably been placed neatly in Kaepernick’s shadow.  Lest we forget he’s a man that endured the likes of Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary, dropping into deep valleys (abysses may be more pertinent), only to emerge victorious over the same Saints Kaepernick just dusted.  And, oh yeah, he was the man who almost led the team to a Super Bowl birth (I’ll just leave the heartbreak at that.  The wounds are still fresh in the casual 49ers fan’s mind.).

Holding all things constant, I would say that we have one good game and a relief appearance that ended in a tie to judge the young buck.  That isn't exactly the proving ground I picture when ushering in a new quarterback era.

Whatever the case may be, Harbaugh may have picked his horse (without picking him), and he'll have to live with it.

The turkeys are quiet, holding their collective breaths while they mull around the circus.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Standing Ovation: Guan Tianlang

When I was in 8th grade, I was busy worrying about my image and trying to fit in with the popular kids. Guan Tianlang, on the other hand, is currently preparing to compete in the 2013 Masters. At 14 years old, Tianlang will become the youngest player ever to participate in the game's greatest championship at Augusta National next April.

When I first heard of this unbelievable feat, the first thing that popped into my head was that he's just probably a physical freak. Someone like Michelle Wie who was over 6 foot tall when she was just a teenager, giving her the length to compete with men twice her age.


Guan Tianlang weighs a measly 125 pounds -- but the kid still has the ability to not only hang with the big boys, but beat them as well. Simply put, he is an exquisite striker of the golf ball, who started playing the game of golf at the tender age of 4. In addition, he may be making the belly putter "cool" for the next generation of players. He recently converted to the belly putter (even though he doesn't have a belly) and subsequently won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship to earn a spot in the Masters.

With most kids his age, Tiger Woods is his favorite player. He's had the opportunity to meet Tiger a couple times and plans on playing a practice round with the game's biggest star to prepare for the major tournament.

Good work, kid. Keep it up.

Photo and video content courtesy of,

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Lindecision Watch: First Impressions

Last season here on Gym Class All Stars we shared our thoughts on Jeremy Lin's surprising success in the NBA and his impact on race and stereotypes in our nation. I even started a column about the New York Knicks and deemed them Asian America's team. Much has changed since the end of the season, including Jeremy Lin leaving for a lucrative contract in Houston.  The Knicks replaced him with three new point guards, with two of them in the tail ends of their basketball careers. Yet some things still remained the same: the Rockets still got the better of the Knicks again, the Knicks' success still lies on the shoulders of Carmelo Anthony, and James Dolan is still the worst owner in all of professional sports.

I personally was frustrated and bitter over the departure of Jeremy Lin from my beloved Knicks. What didn't make it any better was that it was the Rockets who used the poison pill strategy to pry him away, which led me to write a post about my dislike for the Houston Rockets. In the "Lindecision Watch," I will be following both Jeremy Lin's progress in Houston as well as the Knicks ability to succeed without him.

As the first week of the NBA season comes to an end, it is clear that both Houston and New York are off to a fast start.

Harden's arrival has already had a huge impact. After the huge trade for James Harden shocked the NBA world, Harden was given an $80 million contract. I am not going to talk about if I think the Rockets got the better end of the trade or if I think Harden is worth the 80 million -- I will let the Rocket fans interject on that topic -- instead I will say that this trade was maybe the second-best thing to happen so far in Jeremy Lin's young NBA career, second only to getting playing time in Mike D'Antoni's offensive system. Harden has taken on a lot of the burden that fell on Jeremy Lin.  James is now the star player, and Jeremy is more than capable of supporting him. Also the "713" connection as they are calling it in Houston has been clicking so far.  All I have to say is I didn't realize that the Thunder traded Michael Jordan to Houston, because James Harden has been ridiculous so far.

New York point guards have proven more than capable. New York now has three new players running the point: Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, and Pablo Prigioni. Kidd is no stranger to NBA success, yet many people felt that his production would fall off this year due to Father Time. Kidd is the most important addition to the Knicks roster. Some may disagree, but everywhere Kidd goes, that team gets better. There is no doubt in my mind that Kidd will continue to adapt to any role he is in; Raymond has already come out to say how much Kidd's mentoring has helped his development this year. Felton might still look short and round, but one thing that's different from last year is that Felton is in shape. Raymond clearly took it personally when everyone in the media criticized his ability to play basketball and is currently putting up 13.7 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1.67 steals a game in only 28 minutes of playing time. These numbers are quite comparable to Jeremy Lin with about 9 minutes less in playing time. Felton played great for the Knicks before he was included in the Carmelo trade two years ago. He plays better in New York City because he enjoys playing here, and he's the main reason letting Jeremy Lin walk last summer wasn't as big of a blow as most people thought it would be. Lastly we have Pablo Prigioni, the 35-year-old rookie from Argentina. Pablo might be the oldest rookie in over 40 years, but this guy is as crafty as any veteran in the league. Pablo was the starting point guard that won the gold during the 2004 Olympics and has achieved every award in the Euro league. At times it does seem like Prigioni is allergic to shooting, but his ability to set up his teammates is supreme. While only averaging 4.3 points in 19 minutes, what is impressive is that he averages the same 4.3 in assists per game. Pablo helps Kidd stay fresh and gives Woodson the flexibility to play Kidd at shooting guard.

Improvement in the Knicks defense after a full training camp with Mike Woodson. The number one priority for the Knicks this year is defense. The team is aggressive and swarming all over the court. As a life-time Knicks fan, it is a pleasure to finally see defense again in MSG. I always felt that the biggest weakness of having Jeremy Lin, Carmelo Anthony, and Amar'e Stoudemire on the court together was how defensively inept they were. Now the current Knicks unit only has a few guys who lack on the defensive side of the ball; in that category I would include only Amar'e and Novak, as even Melo has figured it out after playing with team USA this summer. Carmelo has come back slimmer, stronger, and quicker. The best part of that is he is using these improvements on the defensive end and is setting a great example for guys like J.R. Smith and Felton. I hope this doesn't change with the return of Amar'e, but I will address that later on in this article. In their first game against Miami, the Knicks forced 21 turnovers.  In their second game against the 76ers, they forced another 18 turnovers. In their third game also against the 76ers, Philly only shot 33% from the field.

Jeremy Lin's consistent output has been positive for the Rockets. So far so good, as Lin seems to be earning his worth after receiving a contract close to $25 million over three years. Lin has been overshadowed by James Harden's brilliance, but his numbers have been solid. Lin's stat line reads 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.3 steals. Also so far he only is committing 3.3 turnovers a game. Of course the season is still very young, but this is a promising sign and shows that Jeremy can contribute to this team in many different ways. I believe his steals and rebounds will dip, but I wouldn't be surprised to if points and assists see a small lift moving forward. I hope that Jeremy Lin will still find way to make a cultural impact like he did last year, but I still think that will be harder to do in Houston as opposed to New York City.

Omer Asik is the wild card for Houston's ability to compete. Harden and Lin will obviously be the main reasons why the Rockets have success this year and in years to come, but Omer Asik is critical in providing things for this team that Harden and Lin can not. Omer gets rebounds and plays solid interior defense, and his ability to do both of these things will give Harden and Lin the chance to take this team to the next level. It will be interesting to see if he can develop a low post offensive game which would open up things for the rest of the team as well, or run the pick and roll effectively with either Lin or Harden. If Asik can do these things, I believe Lin will benefit the most and will enjoy a successful career in Houston. Currently Omer is only averaging 5.3 points a game, but his 14.3 rebounds per game speaks volumes for how important he is to this team.

Stat's return is still the biggest question mark for the New York Knicks. Amar'e Stoudemire's absence in the Knicks lineup is easily forgotten; nevertheless Stat will be back before you know it, and the Knicks will need to figure out how he can fit into what they are doing. I want to believe that Carmelo and Stoudemire will be able to play together, but so far the numbers don't lie. The Knicks are a better team when only one of the two Knicks stars is on the floor. With Stat playing the four, Melo will be moved to the three, and either Brewer or Kidd will not be in the starting unit. This will drop their ability to defend and create mismatches on the offensive end. Woodson needs to find a way to make this work, unless by some miracle the Knicks could trade the untradable in Amar'e Stoudemire.

Overall, both Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks are doing just fine without one another. You could make an argument that the Knicks look better than ever while Jeremy Lin is just holding steady to his production last year. Or one could say that Jeremy Lin has not reached the same highs he had last year where for a 7-game stretch he was the focal point in New York City.  The verdict is still out, but so far it seems like everyone came out a winner after the summer of 2012. The Knicks, Jeremy Lin, Carmelo, Morey, and even James Dolan.

Photos courtesy of, Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE,  Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE, and Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images 

Monday, November 5, 2012

America's Team: 2012 Midseason Report

Heading into the season (Dallas Cowboys 2012 Season Preview), I was admittedly pretty optimistic with the direction of the franchise and the strides the team appeared to be taking. My prediction of 9-7 is not a particularly great record, but I understood it was ultimately another transition year for the team. With that being said, I believed that the Cowboys were going to be smarter, tougher, and more disciplined under the leadership of both Jason Garrett and Tony Romo in 2012.

I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

After eight games, Dallas is nothing more than a mediocre ball club that has actually taken steps backwards in some areas. Sitting at 3-5, the season may arguably already be lost -- and in the best interest of the team and its fans, I believe it should continue to lose. I was extremely upset and disappointed in 2010 when the team went 1-7 in their first 8 games (mainly because of Romo's injury) but proceeded to "finish the season strong" and lose out on drafting Patrick Peterson -- a dynamic, game-changing playmaker at the cornerback position.

Fast forward to today and this is the current state of the Dallas Cowboys:

Tony Romo has 10 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Coach Garrett's inexperience and poor time management has repeatedly cost the team. Dez Bryant suddenly has alligator arms and is dropping balls. The expensively revamped secondary can't produce any takeaways. There are still way too many pre-snap penalties. The rushing attack has been nonexistent (sans the Baltimore game). There is nothing special about the return game (when was the last time the ST scored a touchdown anyway?).

I could go on and on, but I'm trying to not get too negative.

With early injuries to Jason Witten (Romo's favorite target), Jay Ratliff (the team's best interior defensive lineman), Barry Church (starting safety), Demarco Murray (starting running back), and Sean Lee (one of the best inside linebackers in the NFL), it has simply been too much for the team to overcome.

But at the end of the day, making excuses is a loser-ish way of thinking. You either perform or you don't, and unfortunately there are too many disappointments in every facet of the team -- management and coaching staff included.

Cowboys fans, it's been 17 years since our last championship. We may still be America's Team in title, but the current generation of kids who are growing up and watching football today honestly has no idea of those dominant Cowboy teams of the mid 90s. We competed in four Super Bowls in the 70s, and that's why we became the face of the league. Then another three in the aforementioned 1990s, which ended up being timed perfectly for the proceeding generation of NFL fans. Thus, the momentum just continued to build and build from there. This is the reason the franchise became the most popular team in the league (and currently the 4th most valuable sports franchise in the world). Unfortunately, if the Cowboys don't win soon, the brand will eventually lose its luster.

I could have named many more than three busts, but I don't want to get too depressed.

Top 3 Performers:

1. N/A

Nobody is worthy of this spot. Sean Lee was definitely on his way to becoming the defensive leader and playmaker the team sorely needs, but his season-ending injury in week 6 took him out of the running. To me, he was the one guy the Cowboys couldn't afford to lose on the defensive side of the ball.

2. DeMarcus Ware

DeMarcus constantly sees double teams week in and week out (because of the Rob Ryan-led defense's ineptitude in producing quarterback pressure), but he is still on pace for 15+ sacks. You can basically pencil him in for a sack every game. That is consistency.

3. Jason Witten

Witten had a miserable start to the season partly because of his spleen injury, confidence issues, and forgetting how to block his man without having to hold. But, he quickly turned it around and has broken the team's all-time receptions record in the process. Congratulations.

Top 3 Busts:

1. Tony Romo

A. You can't have more interceptions than touchdowns. You just can't. Especially since you're in your 8th season as a full-time starter. Romo is not that young guy with a ton of potential anymore... he's 32 years old and has already peaked.
B. But when you do throw an interception, they can't be pick 6's. At least give your defense a f-ing chance.

2. Doug Free

After getting PAID in the offseason, he has proceeded to thank the organization by committing as many false starts and holding penalties as he can. No doubt, Doug Free has been the biggest disappointment on both the offensive and defensive lines.

3. Dez Bryant

I would like to start by saying that I am a huge Dez fan. I think he is one of the most talented players in the league. But his inability to focus throughout the entire game and his recent drops problem has really hurt his confidence. Basically, he has lost the swagger that makes him a special player. I just don't see the guy that fights for balls or makes people miss anymore. I used to blame his lack of production on coaching, play calling, and Romo, but maybe he just doesn't get it. Maybe he doesn't get how good he can be, and most importantly, he doesn't understand how hard you have to work to get there.

Looking to the second half of the year, it doesn't get any easier. Dallas still has two games against Vick and the Eagles (who are also underperforming), two games against the explosive RGIII and the Redskins, a tough game on the road in Cincinnati, and home games against Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans. I wouldn't be surprised if there are more Steelers and Saints fans in Cowboys stadium during those two games.

With that schedule, a 4-4 finish would be considered a successful 2nd half to the year. But like I mentioned earlier, I would rather go 0-8.

I am definitely feeling those Cowboys blues.

Photo and video content courtesy of,