There he goes and there goes Bama's chance for a three-peat. Auburn's Chris Davis with a show-shocker ending to the Iron Bowl
Greetings from the Hoodwood, where the residents are still shaking off the effects of the tryptophan.
College Football: A Pair of True Classics
I’ve watched football since I was 9, and really started to appreciate when I was 12. I saw the fabled Hail Mary on the day after Thanksgiving in 1984. I was in the 7th grade and I liked Miami, but when Doug Flutie hit that 60 yard Hail Mary to beat the Hurricanes and essentially win the Heisman. I’ve seen some wild games, I’ve seen some miracle comebacks. To that end, the ending of two classic games this past weekend rivals nothing that I have ever seen in 30+ years Two games back to back that just left you speechless. And so in love with the emotion, pageantry and beauty of college football.
First, the classic rivalry that is Ohio State-Michigan. For this scribe in Hoodwood, I live right smack dab in Buckeye Country. I once lived in Columbus. That said I despise the Buckeyes, I grew up in a neighborhood that of course was chock full of Ohio State fans and I grew up getting in a lot of fights because I refused to go along with the crowd. I thought the Buckeyes were boring. This was the era of Earle Bruce, the Bucks were slow stodgy and very conservative offensively. The Wolverines on the other hand were wide open and the winged helmet to me just looked cooler. I rooted for the Wolverines and relished when they would play and beat the Buckeyes more often than not. Like I said, I got into a lot of fights in November. When I went to college, UC was atrocious so I still followed Michigan and laughed every fall that they would beat Ohio State. I remember the statement “Don’t kick the ball to Desi, Coop” When then Buckeyes coach John Cooper was so sure that Heisman hopeful Desmond Howard wouldn’t break a punt back. He elected to punt to Desi, Desi brought it back and did the famous Heisman pose. John Cooper was a decent coach but he went 2-10 against Michigan and twice was denied national title shots because they got beat by Michigan. It also stuck in the craw of Buckeye fans that Michigan garnered another Heisman and a national championship in 1997. Of course Ohio State fans will quickly point at Jim Tressel and how his Bucks dominated the series after 2000 and won a title of its own in 2002. After tattoo-gate and the residual fallout that saw Jim Tressel get fired and the overmatched Luke Fickell stumble to a 6-7 record and a loss to Michigan in 2011, the Bucks reveled in its hire of former Bowling Green, Utah and Florida (And UC alum) Urban Meyer. Though the Bucks were on probation in 2012, they made sure everyone knew that they were unbeaten and edged their hated rivals in their season finale. As everyone knows the Bucks have repeated their feat of 2012 running the table in their first 11 games but unlike the year previous will have games beyond the regular season grudge match. As Leaders division champs, they will be heading to Indy in the first weekend of December to take on another team from Michigan as Sparty and his crew from East Lansing await in the Big Ten title game and a possible BCS date so this game in the Big House had a lot higher stakes that the year previous. The Bucks were not ready for the Wolverines who looked nothing like the punchless toothless offense that they had been in the past four weeks. They took the fight to them, and traded scores with the Bucks for the better part of four quarters. The Bucks forged to a 35-21 lead only to see the Wolverines charge back to tie. The Bucks behind 226 relentless yards rushing from Carlos Hyde the Bucks surged ahead again. The Wolverines came back downfield and when Devin Gardner (I love that he wears a crazy number) found Devin Funchess in the end zone with 32 seconds in regulation a majority of the 113,511 were going bonkers. Overtime seemed imminent, but wait Brady Hoke decides to go for two. I loved the gutsy call but I hated the play that was call. Gardner got picked off in the end zone after Michigan went to a stack right pass formation. The Bucks hung on to win the game 42-41. Instant…classic for the ages.
Well that title lasted all of about 3 ½ hours. The annual grudge match that is called the Iron Bowl was played in Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn. Both teams traded mind blowing plays. Auburn QB Nick Marshall rumbled 45 yards to a score for the first points, but the Tide rolled up 21 straight points to take the lead as Tide QB AJ McCarron was brilliant and TJ Yeldon also added a score. Auburn did score late in the half to cut the lead to 7 and tied the game in the 3rd. Auburn’s punter Steven Clark is going to be in the NFL, landing absolute dagger place punts to bury the Tide more than a few times inside the 1. The Tide did get out of that hole when AJ McCarron hit a streaking Amari Cooper for a 99 yard touchdown to give them lead. The game got conservative as both teams checked and parried one another but the Tigers got a late score on a brilliant shuffle pass from Marshall to Sammie Coates and it looked like overtime was imminent. But the Tide got downfield in a hurry and was aided twice by time being added back to the clock and with one second left Adam Griffith, a redshirt freshman looked to be the hero at least attempting to be with a 57 yard field goal. Nick Saban said later that he felt that Griffith could hit the long field goal since he had hit 60 yarders before the game. Griffith lined up the kick but Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn called a time out. Most thought he was trying to ice the kicker but instead, he put his punt returner Chris Davis under the goal post. I thought when I saw Davis waving his hands was “He could return the kick if it’s short.” Griffith’s kick had some oomph, but not enough it was short by about a yard or two. Davis caught the miss and charged out of the end zone, to the utter delight of most of the 87,451 in attendance picked up blocker raced up the sideline and was gone! That’s not an Oh snap moment, that was a HOLY SHIT! Moment. Davis went all the way to the end, that’s the ball game. No kick, and that was the finale a stunning coda to a thrilling game. The Tigers stunned the Tide with the checkmate move and won 34-28, effectively knocking the Tide out of title contention and putting themselves in the title talk. 2 games 7 hours, 1 wow.
A-Rod: The complexities of a cheater
I’m not really sure about this whole A-Rod arbitration thing now. I have long been on record as someone that abhors A-Rod. I think he’s a self-centered whiny punk who had undeniable talent but felt that he needed to be the biggest name in the game. I wasn’t surprised when he engineered the trade that sent him to New York, and his “Will you please love me now?” ministrations to the crowd. He wanted to be loved and be looked at like his one-time contemporary and rival Derek Jeter. Jeter, has always seemed to have that studied cool, but it has always been natural and never forced. Long the Yankee Captain (capital is my doing) Jeter has the kind of effervescent play and style that gets grudging respect from even the most bitter of Yankee haters. A-Rod wanted to be loved like the city’s prince and be the franchise face but instead was the very easy face to root against and the symbol of the Yankees excess and supposed greed.
A-Rod just seemed to do things that annoyed all baseball purists and when he admitted in 2009 to having had taken PED’s no one was surprised. Many expected his performance to sharply nose dive, but instead he put up MVP candidate numbers and the Yanks rode his all-around sterling play to a World Series crown. A-Rod finally had his ring (and garnered the postseason MVP award to boot) and those that despised him quietly shook their heads but couldn’t knock that he was on top of the game. A-Rod’s numbers did decline late in the 2012 season was fighting problems with his hip and a torn labrum, and was pinch hit for a number of times in clutch situations in the postseason. In 2013 A-Rod had surgery on the labrum again and didn’t start playing in the minors until late June. The Yankees for their part dawdled and delayed bringing A-Rod back to the majors as long as they could and I’m sure that the timing of the 211 game suspension on the day that A-Rod was due to debut for the Bombers was just sheer coincidence right? Did A-Rod deserve to get suspended? If he was getting busted for PED use then he should be suspended. The 50 games was the apropos punishment, his admissions aside according to the letter of the law he was a “first time” offender. Suspending him for not only the balance of the 2013 season but all of 2014 virtually guaranteed that A-Rod would likely never play again and that the Yankees could take steps to void his burdensome contract. Is A-Rod someone you think should be punished? He is the type that seems to be one that deserves punishment for his semi-arrogant cum who me innocent but I have a real beef, the arbitrary rest of the season all of next for his alleged involvement with the biogenesis. Of course A-Rod has appealed but he has done himself no favors by storming out of the arbitration hearing after it was announced that MLB commish Bud Selig would not be testifying in said hearings. A-Rod’s legal team has maintained that they would have some sort of revelatory information “An info surprise if you will.” The A-Fraud” saga will likely drag into the next baseball season as the arbiter will likely not make his ruling until after the first of the year and the legal machinations will go on for some time.
Football: Has the game been pussified?
I grew up in a different era. The hits were legendary. Players like Lawrence Taylor, Ronnie Lott, the Selmon Brothers, Jack Tatum were feared for their devastating hits. I used to have a tape called Crunch Course and it had all the great hits and they were fearsome. I loved to see the old cats like Sam Huff, Dick Butkus and Chuck Bednarik lay suckas out. Ask Frank Gifford about how he lost an entire season from a clean hit from Concrete Charley. Sadly, these hits are a thing of the past, all of the hits that you see on this tape (The NFL doesn’t sell it anymore) would be considered borderline if not outright illegal. The hits that many players have to try to avoid in the game now are nowhere near as devastating as they used to be. I remember the old video of Lawrence Taylor absolutely wearing out the Jets in a game and soberly telling Ken O’Brien after he leveled him again. “Son, ya’ll gotta do better than this!” Now in the interest of safety…or maybe because they are trying to head off a number of concussion lawsuits there are so many that comes from these devastating hits. Now the NFL is trying to keep big hits from happening. Now you have defensive backs who don’t know how to hit or where to hit. You have a bunch of players that are getting flagged and fined for hits that were once not only legal but celebrated. You can’t hit player in the air anymore they call him a defenseless player. So where is this leading? I’m waiting for the rule to start that you can’t hit a QB at all in the pocket. Or that certain players can’t be hit at all during certain times. Has the game been totally pussified? You tell me.
Phat Dap Head Slap
How loud is 137.5 decibels? Louder than a jet engine roar. That was the sustained roar from the crowd at Century Link Field in Seattle during their 34-7 rout of the Saints. That is a Guinness record. The Seahawks are giving their insane fans even more reason to be crazy, they have won 14 straight at home and are making the rest of NFC dread the fact that the road to New York for the Super Bowl will go through that noise factory
To the fan that took the Auburn-Alabama game too seriously. So seriously that she shot someone. ESPN reports that Adrian Laroze Briskey, 28, was charged Monday with murder in the killing of 36-year-old Michelle Shepherd. Briskey allegedly shot Shepherd because she wasn’t devastated enough over the Tide’s loss to Auburn Saturday. Briskey was allegedly incensed because Shepherd had the temerity to laugh about the loss and say that wasn’t as bad as a Miami Heat loss. The victim’s sister said that the shooter said that they “weren’t real Alabama fans because it didn’t bother them that they had lost.” Shooting and killing someone over a game…really?
The Final Word from the Hoodwood
Just so that we don’t end the week on a downer. Hoodwood is rooting for Pat Yarber. The 53 year old is trying to see a game in every D-1 venue. Yarber has retinitis pigmentosa and it has deteriorated his vision to the point where he has lost 80 percent of his vision. He has very poor depth perception and will eventually lose all of his sight. He will make all of the 125 D-1 venues by the end of next season. If he wants to go to a game at Nippert Stadium whether he has his sight or not. I would be happy to take him.
That’s the view from the Hoodwood, until next time fellow sports fans!
Now that we have had our fill of turkey and stuffing, enough time battling the mall traffic or internet traffic as the case may be, it is time to turn our attention to some real shopping...MLB Free Agents. This year's crop of free agents has the potential to tip the scales in favor of...or against...some very strong teams. MLB GM's have done some early holiday shopping but the Christams Carole Turkey, aka, Robinson Cano, is still hanging in the store shop window.
Cano has been a bright star since coming into the league in 2007. He has hit well over .300 every season except one (2008, .279) with a career average of .309 and an OPS of .860. He is solid in the field at second base and has collected all of the appropriate awards that a star should collect. The big question is, at age 32, how big do you go for Robbie Cano?
His agent, Jay Z, staked out some rarified air for the Yankee star as his opening bid....10 years for $300 Million. Now, I am not a big fan of adulterants, but whatever he is smoking, I'll take some. Most MLB teams have managed a payroll of about $100 million, plus or minus - how many teams would be willing to shell out 30% of their payroll for one guy? And to do for 10 years that would leave the last few years of his deal as ones of declining performance (unless he winters in Miami, of course).
There is no question for the next 3 or 4 years, Cano can be a force in any team's lineup. Yes, he could take a top tier team to a Championship team. You can fingure he is good for at least 5 years - but a ten year deal? I don't see that as viable for just about any team except the Yankees, Angels and Dodgers. Of course the Angels have seen up close and personal how signing the "best player in the game" has worked out. After hitting over .300 for 10 consecutive years in St. Louis, he has not broke that barrier either season in LA and has been injured to boot. In games played in 2013, Pujols' slugging percentage hit .437 (vs. a career number of .599!). So, in this case, buyer beware. I have no doubt that Jay Z and Cano will be celebrating their deal, but I would be surprised if even the Yankees would consider anything more than 5 or 6 years.
One factor that will certainly impact the signing of free agents is the cost of the a top draft choice to sign a player who received a qualifying offer. For this list of 13, any team signing them loses their #1 draft pick while the team losing the player gets comp'ed a pick. How did the MLBPA allow this to happen?! It is a major deterrent when it comes to signing one of the elite free agents. Of course that did not stop the Yankees from signing Brian McCann - a huge blow to the Braves and a big win for the boys in the Bronx. Nevertheless, it will give most teams pause for thought.
The Red Sox have 3 players on this list and for the most part, according to sources most of these guys are going to fly the coop. In particular, Jacoby Ellsbury, a near .300 career hitter playing a key position in the field (CF). Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing Ellsbury end up with the Nationals since Span did not really work out. He will certainly be missed in Boston as would Napoli and Drew. Assuming all of these players find other places to play, it looks like free agency may yet again crush the chances of a dynasty.
Then there are the pitchers - and in my view, the pitchers have always been the diciest proposition in free agency sports. Their ability to stay in the zone is always variable and the "true ace" is indeed a rare commodity in baseball. Look at the Giants, one year champs, the next year chumps. Why did they lose it? Pitching (or too much sake & sushi?!). The top prospect this season is from Japan...Mashahiro Tanaka. That puts the usual suspects into play to pick the 26 year old Japanese star up. I think pitchers are best home grown...use free agency to fill out the back of the rotation, not the ace.
Well, I think it's time to go shopping. I think I dial up my buddy Mike Rizzo and see what deals I can help the Nationals make.
It has been a cold Thanksgiving weekend putting a damper on annual Turkey Bowls and Turkey Shoots (golf) everywhere. I know we all love sports here and we have lots to be thankful for. I personally have had a tough year from a health perspective and I am grateful for each day. I have a great family and they really look out for me (although they are driving me to be a pescaterian ...no meat, fish OK). For everyone who takes time to read my column, I am thankful for that too. It is always nice to see everyone chime in on a debate and to create some additional points to consider is a lot of fun. If I wasn't a science guy, I would have loved to be a sports journalist. So thank you to everyone who spends a few minutes here each Saturday and have a very happy and joyous holiday season!
Greetings from the Hoodwood where the less you say about fantasy teams and last weeks picks the better your dental work will be…
Could the troubles of Jameis Winston help…Ohio State?
I’ll be perfectly honest, I like Florida State QB Jameis Winston. He reminds me of a more personable Cam Newton and hes only a redshirt freshman! Wildly talented, personable and just darn fun to watch, Winston has led the Seminoles to their best start since 1993. And with his three main competitors for the Heisman, Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota, and Bryce Petty all had lackluster performances in losses for their respective squads this pass weekend, Winston is a front runner to be Florida State’s first Heisman winner since Chris Weinke (Winky!) in 2000. The problem that is brewing is that Winston has been accused of sexual assault. A young lady has accused Winston from an encounter in December 2012. Winston has stated through his lawyer that the sex was consensual and the accuser has accused the Tallahassee police of trying to dissuade her of bringing charges which in itself is disturbing. Ive read the posts by the so called wonks here and there that are already convicting Winston of rape and ready to toss him into the klink. My theory is to wait. I want to wait until all the facts are out before we make a judgment and I still don’t think that we as a sporting public are even fit to judge. Im a wannabe sports columnist who makes my point from a watchers point of view. But Im not one to judge, I can cluck my tongue at the reprehensible actions of the Tallahassee police if there were transgressions and a cover up. Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News said it rather succinctly on ESPN Sports Reports when he flatly stated Accusations aren’t arrests, arrests aren’t indictments, and indictments aren’t convictions. But here is where it gets tricky. The team that might get a big break from all of this is Ohio State. I could just see the BCS throwing one more monkey wrench into this by deciding to bypass the Seminoles and take the Buckeyes for the BCS game just to stay away from possible controversy. If Alabama ends up as the two time defending champion waiting in Pasadena after beating Auburn (no guarantee) and either Missouri or South Carolina as the SEC East Champ they could be playing a non-controversial Buckeyes team in a controversial title game especially if Florida State wins out but is still dealing with the Winston affair
300 Million: has baseball taken it to the limit?
Jay-Z is a boss, that’s all I can say. Ive always been a fan of his, call him Jigga, call him Hova, you’d be hard pressed to not call him the GOAT in the rap game. He’s pretty savvy outside the booth too, his partnership with Damon Dash to create Roca Wear was a clothing boon, he’s been the president of Def Jam records and was a part owner of the then New Jersey Nets and many feel that he was instrumental and getting that team to relocate to Brooklyn. And he’s married to some decent looking chick named Beyonce. He moved into the sports agent realm with his creation of Roc Nation Sports and is actually planning to become a licensed sports agent. His signing of Yankees star 2B Robinson Cano away from the stable of legendary super agent Steve Boras was seen widely as a coup.
Heres where things get complicated, Cano is making his walk down the free agent runway. Cano is 31 and has averaged a solid .309 with 24 HR’s and 97 RBI’s in a 8+ year career with the Yankees, he has been fairly durable averaging better 158 games a season since becoming a regular six years ago. Cano is looking for a big payday. No not like the 85 million that Brian McCann just signed with the Yankees. No, Jay-Z is floating…no pretty much telling everyone that Cano should be getting $300 million over a 10 year contract. Whewwww! That’s crazy paper even on a Jay-Z scale. My problem here is that you look at these mega contracts that have been garnered by players like Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Prince Fielder and A-Rod and the back end of their contracts will be as bloated as they will be when they are grinding on the basepaths in their mid 30s. The Yankees are first and foremost have been and have always been big spenders, not so fast Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner and team president Randy Levine are saying. They are flatly saying that they have no desire to give Cano that kind of money. The only team you could see paying out that kind of outrageous money would be the LA Dodgers a team flush with big money from Fox Sports, but they have their big money player that will be soon taking his walk down the free agent. His name is Clayton Kershaw. Now Kershaw is still arbitration eligible but his salary jumped from $500k to $7.5 Million to $11 million over the last three seasons. One has to wonder how much he will get in arbitration after winning his 2nd Cy Young and his 3rd straight pitching title…and remember he is still a year from becoming a free agent and many say he could command a $300 million contract, he will be six years younger than Cano but hes a pitcher and a ten year contract for a pitcher has long been frowned upon. Though MLB only spend 43% of its revenue on its salaries which is the lowest of the maojr sports and has the most profitable franchises, they have this thing with crazy bad money. Only the NBA deals out more dumber contracts than MLB has historically. The line might have been drawn at $300 million. Is a player really worth $30 million a year? Maybe, but getting that at 10 years? I think that might be the line that cant be crossed.
NBA: D-Rose…Oh no not again
Derrick Rose is one of the best young players in the NBA no one will dispute this statement, bold fearless and clutch shooter who had led the Chicago Bulls to become one of the rising powers of the East but during the 2012 playoffs disaster struck, the dynamic guard tore his left ACL and was done for the playoffs. The Bulls stumbled out of contention to really give the Heat a true challenger in the East. The trouble and grumbling began when the truncated 2013 season started and Derrick Rose was nowhere close to being ready to comeback. There were feints and stabs at a comeback but there were no games played for him in the 12-13 season. There was talk of Derrick Rose not being the same type of explosive player and that he might be tentative coming back. But Rose was back and coming along nicely until…he came up limping in Portland (What is it about franchise players getting injured in Portland?) An MRI Monday in LA confirmed the absolute worst nightmare. A torn meniscus in his right knee. Rose is out for the year and now the speculation will ratchet up on how it will take Rose to comeback from this injury and if he can ever return to the electric player that he once was. Many Bulls haters are calling it divine justice for the Jordan years (you don’t get two great players that close to each other).
Baylor and Oregon: Exposed and overrated?
Many people talked about Baylor as being a real threat for a BCS outsider to make noise, they scored points in bunches. To start out the season the Bears were scoring an average of 61 points a game. The Pundits though knocked the Bears lightweight schedule and pointed to their first (and maybe only) test would be in Stillwater where an underrated but very dangerous Oklahoma State team would be waiting. On a cold raw night, the Pokes handed the Bears a cold, raw dish of reality. Eschewing the gimmicky high speed football espoused by the Bears the Pokes played smashmouth on both sides of the ball anad smashed the former #4 team by a 49-17 count. Clint Chelf threw for 370 yards and the Bears just were wore out. Bryce Petty got hammered and their famed running game was neutralized. The Bears are pretty much out of the mix in the national championship. The Oregon Ducks in spite of losing a tight game against Stanford were still in the mix and trying to be one of the one loss teams that were still in the mix. But then they got took to the woodshed by middling Arizona team that is good but really should have not be beating the Ducks by a 42-16 score. The Ducks like the Bears are out of the mix. They might make an entertaining minor bowl matchup but they are for all intents and purposes out of the national title talk.
To Daniel Rodriguez of Clemson who scored his first colleigate touchdown. Now keep in mind that this in itself is trivial. Rodriguez is an Iraqi and an Afghanistan war vet, a purple heart recipient and a bronze star medal with valor winner. This guy is a real hero. He walked on to the Clemson football team after enrolling on the GI Bill and has been a special teams ace. He got to score in Clemson’s blowout of the Citadel and you just had to give him dap for getting his moment of glory after all he has done in service for our country.
To the Florida Gators who lost 26-20 to Georgia…SOUTHERN. Not the Bulldogs, who have already lost to earlier this season but to the FCS Eagles who are transitioning to the FBS but was supposed to be a Senior Day punching bag. Instead the Gators got socked. They lost to a team that didn’t have a single passing yard. The Eagles entire offense was running 429 yards worth and the Gators couldnt stop them. It was a humiliating loss and first to an FCS school. Not only did the Eagles get an iconic win for their history books they also got a $550k check as the supposed Gator bait victim. The Gators are assured of their worst season since 1979 and of course have no shot at a bowl game. And guess who the post-Thanksgiving guest is? Uh oh...Florida State relishing a chance to stomp its hated in state rival and put an emphatic coda to a nightmare season for the Gators.
Next week: The complexities of a cheater, Handicapping the Heisman and Has football been totally pussified?
From my side of the keyboard in the Hoodwood to yours, Have a safe, filling and blessed Thanksgiving...until next post fellow sports fans!
While wondering if she really missed me with that "Where have you been?" comment or just wondered where I'd gotten to on general principle...
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
The Higher Standard?
It made the national news broadcast and even got a front page link on Yahoo and Sports Illustrated. But I'm not sure how many people really read about the story of the Lunenburg football team forfeited the rest of their season (two games) after a player's home was vandalized with racist graffiti.
While it has been strongly suggested that some of the team was involved, there has been no confirmation about this at all. And they are of course painting the whole team with the brush of racism instead of trying to find out if there were players involved AND which ACTUAL players.
Of course, the last of the two games being canceled is the Thanksgiving Day game. Now, don't think I'm not sympathetic to the idea of anyone being targeted over their race. Of course I am. But I think a little common sense should've prevailed here.
And that should have included NO forfeiting of games. Unless you can say who did what, why are you effectively punishing everyone? You know, including the innocent that everyone purports to be protective of.
The targeted player's father was quoted as saying it was right that the game was canceled. To that I say, "BS!"
While your kid should not be subjected to such idiocy, aiding and abetting the idiocy by canceling a game that the innocent parties were looking forward to is ignorant as well.
I look at it this way. For many high school seniors, the Thanksgiving Day game is their last game. They went through four years and that last Turkey Day game is their "Senior Moment".
And I'll tell you, if it was me that got denied the chance to play that one last game over something I didn't do, I'd be raising holy or unholy hell.
Sure I know people will say that I'm not supportive of the kid who got targeted. But the fact of the matter is now I would be the one being targeted. I'm being looked up as guilty by assumed association. And we all know what happens when you assume...
By canceling the game, you are holding the innocent parties to the lower standards of the morons who painted the graffiti in the first place. And for me, that is a HUGE problem. It seems everything these days is solved by cutting and running, instead of confronting said issue.
I used to coach in the community I live in. Besides having a yearly background check, you are effectively held to a higher standard or at least should be. And I had no problem with that. But I despise the notion of being held accountable for something I didn't do and so should those Lunenburg players.
It is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure option people. Will you allow yourself to be held to a lower standard of expectations or aspire to the Higher Standard?
Speaking of lower standards, is there any way for Alex Rodriguez to become more of a pansy in the eyes of the public? Is there yet another new low for this repugnant piece of filth to discover?
From the successor to all that was good and worth honoring in the history of baseball to pariah beyond measure. That is how far he has fallen so far.
And after his prima donna performance of a childish temper tantrum at the arbitration hearing and staged radio interview this week, if there is anyone out there who thinks that he isn't both guilty and a total tool, you really need to be given an actual lobotomy to go along with your metaphorical one.
And now for a palate cleanser from the distasteful leadoff to the column. I went 2-0 in the fantasty football matchups last week. I'm in third place in one league and fourth place in the other. It was a good week that featured a come from behind Monday win in one of the leagues.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
As everyone else has written over the course of the last week, the Patriots got hosed but good on Monday Night Football last week. Because I have a jam packed Monday TV schedule, I was watching my regular programs and only caught bits and pieces of the game until the final 8 minutes or so of the 4th quarter.
But since it really all came down to the very last play of the game, I can't say I missed most of what was worth watching.
I know that Carolina was on their hot streak and looking to continue it. I know the Patriots were looking to continue to establish themselves as a top rung team despite lower rung talent.
And for the most part, everyone got to see a real heavyweight battle. And let me be clear, the Panthers were the better team on the night. They did outplay the Patriots. And of course New England helped by redefining what it means to not tackle properly, well or even at all.
But the makeup of the game before the final play became moot because of said final play. The crowd in attendance and the viewing audience at home all saw it. Luke Kuechly should've been penalized for holding Rob Gronkowski in the end zone. Or pass interference. Or faceguarding.
Oh wait, he was penalized. The back judge threw the flag. But then all hell broke loose when the rest of the crew browbeat him into taking back the flag. Which was preposterous!
Explanations from both sides of the call were quickly given but anyone who watches the video knew the truth. And those arguing in favor of no penalty should be immediately fired for incompetence.
There's no saying that the Patriots would've won the game with the untimed down and one final play they should've gotten. It's 50-50 no matter how you look at it. But they should've gotten the chance.
Most of America was happy that the Patriots got screwed because they hate New England. And that's fine. But the next time THEIR team gets screwed by a bad call (that the league actually tried to spin and defend as being correct), don't come crying to me.
Of course, Tom Brady's comment to referee Clete Blakman is probably the best summation of the end of the game: "That was F**king horrible, Clete".
The Celtics have officially cratered. After the four game losing streak to start the season and then a four game win streak. They've now lost 6 straight games, including three in the past week.
They went on the road to Texas where they went 0-2 with a loss to the Houston Rockets (which I read one article that said the team embarrassed themselves and the uniform). It probably says something when your leading scorer is the point guard off the bench Courtney Lee (17 points). But anyway you look at it, a 109-85 loss against a team that has that hack Dwight Howard on it, is bad.
When you follow that up with a loss to the San Antonio Spurs (104-93), you just hope you can get the hell out of Texas. There was a bit more of a concerted effort that produced some individual results at least. Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley each scored 19 points. Sullinger also added a career high 17 rebounds. But a loss is a loss.
On Friday night, Boston played the Indiana Pacers. Other than the Miami Heat, Indiana is probably the best team in the league both on paper and on the court. And the Pacers showed the Celtics their place in the pecking order, coming away with a 97-82 victory.
Jordan Crawford had 24 points and Jeff Green actually strung together two high scoring games with a 20 point performance. Sullinger added 13 points.
A 4-10 record pretty much reveals just how good or bad a team is. And that good feeling of 4-4 has completely evaporated. It wasn't entirely unexpected, but you can't blame a guy for hoping the team would be better than projected.
But for a change I don't have to end a section about the Celtics on a down note. After 6 straight losses, the Celtics close out their week on a high note. They took on the Atlanta Hawks last night and despite trailing by 10 points at the start of the 4th quarter, blew the doors off the Hawks in that last frame (30-13) and took the 94-87 win. The win ups their record to 5-10.
The Celtics were keyed by Brandon Bass. He returned to the starting lineup and finished the game with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. All five starters, plus Vitor Faverani off the bench, hit double figures. Jeff Green hit for 16 points, Jared Sullinger had 15 points and 9 boards and Jordan Crawford had 12 points and 10 assists.
For fans of the classic days of pro wrestling it was a sad bit of news this week. Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon passed away at the age of 84. Besides his 13,000 match professional career, he also represented Canada in the 1948 Olympics.
Remember the Duke lacrosse rape scandal? The one where the accuser turned out to be a liar of epic proportions? Well, it seems that she is now on her way to jail. She was convicted second degree murder.
Everyone immediately assumed she was telling the truth when the Duke story broke and it turned out she was less believable than Alex Rodriguez. But nothing really happened to her despite multiple chances to nail her for her lies.
After EA Sports and College Licensing Co. settled their portion of the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit, I suppose it was a matter of time before the National Communists Against Athletes...err...the NCAA turned on them like they do on the athletes they claim to care about and represent.
They've filed a lawsuit against EA Sports and CLC saying "CLC failed to adequately supervise EA Sports, subjecting the NCAA to “potential liability in several lawsuits currently being litigated relating to EA’s alleged use of NCAA student athletes’ names, images, and likenesses in EA’s NCAA-themed video games.”
In today's crazy story of the week comes the news of one of the most successful high school girls basketball coaches in the country resigning after, I kid you not, biting one of his players on her face.
Do you remember the teen queen singer from the 1980's Debbie Gibson? I certainly do. I am a hard rock and heavy metal guy for the most part, but in moments of niceness, I was a fan of Debbie Gibson. I still have some of her albums too.
Well, she was apparently brought out to perform at the New York Knicks game on November 14th. And the now 42 year old Debbie Gibson totally rocked a sparkly teeny tiny leotard for her performance. So totally yummy!
My favorite basketball player, Katie Smith, retired at the end of this past season. I was on the lookout for a new favorite team since I supported whichever team she was playing for. I moderately supported the Chicago Sky because ex-Boston College star Carolyn Swords is on the team. And while I will still do that, it looks like I'll be staying to root for the New York Liberty as well.
It's a bit funny that both Smith and Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd begin their coaching careers in New York and both with no prior coaching experience. Although at least Smith has the sense to begin learning the ropes as an assistant.
Back when both were Olympic athletes, they once shared a trading card!
WOMEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL
It was a big week for the teams that I follow in college basketball but not all in a good way.
Hartford - The Hawks got trounced by Providence 79-53. They committed a season high 25 turnovers and shot just 33.3% from the floor. Morgan Lumb (pictured below) had a team high 11 points while Deanna Mayza and Cherelle Moore added 10 points apiece.
You can check out highlights of the game and postgame comments from coach Jennifer Rizzotti in the video below.
The team followed the loss to the Lady Friars with a 63-59 loss to UMass. The loss drops the Hawks to 1-3 on the season.
Amber Bepko (15 points and 9 boards) and Cherelle Moore (10 points) combined to lead Hartford's offense. But they got out rebounded 41-32.
Highlights of the game and the post game press conference are below.
Missouri State - The Lady Bears fell to 1-3 on the season with two losses this week.
Against IUPUI, they fell 76-65 despite 16 points from Kenzie Williams (who was named Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week). Tyonna Snow had 12 points and 6 boards while Bry Snow had 10 points and 6 boards. Hannah Wilkerson (pictured below) had 10 points.
Friday night's game against Arkansas was a 78-44 blowout in favor of the Razorbacks. The Bears shot just 26.9% from the floor. Tyonna Snow had 14 points to lead MSU in scoring. Kenzie Williams added 12 points.
Tennessee Lady Vols - The Lady Vols ran their record to 4-0 with an 87-76 win over Georgia Tech this week. Bashaara Graves (pictured below) had 23 points and a career high 18 rebounds to power the Lady Vols to the win. Meighan Simmons added 13 points and Mercedes Russell had 14. Isabelle Harrison finished with 10 points and had a career high 18 rebounds.
The team's 65 rebounds is the most they had in one game since 1996.
Meanwhile, Ariel Massengale was named both SEC and NCAA player of the week.
On Friday, the school held the dedication ceremony for Pat Summitt Plaza where they unveiled a statue of Summitt. I'm not crazy about the look on the statue's face, but you can't say Summitt wasn't worthy of the immortalization.
A couple of blowout games caught my eye when I saw the final scores. North Carolina became bowl eligible by beating Old Dominion 80-20. The game saw UNC set all-time school records for points and touchdowns (11) in a game and total yards (721). The game was such a blowout that the 4th quarter was shortened to just 10 minutes.
QB Marquise Williams (pictured below) had 409 passing yards, 5 TD passes (all in the first half) and ran for 60 more yards.
Coastal Carolina was 10-0 going into today's game with #12 South Carolina, but that was a thing of the past by the end of the game. It was 70-10 in favor of Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks.
It was the most points put up by South Carolina since Spurrier took over the program. QB Connor Shaw (pictured below) played less than 1 quarter of action as the South Carolina rolled up 639 yards of total offense. He had one passing TD and one rushing score.
It is simply another case of one team not belonging on the same field as the other. I'm actually amazed Coastal Carolina put any points on the board.
And just when you thought that might be the biggest blowout of the weekend, Florida State comes along and in the looming shadow of the possible Jameis Winston criminal case, just blew the doors off Idaho 80-14.
Oh, and in the annual Harvard-Yale clash "The Game", Harvard rolled to a 34-7 win.
Alabama - Heading into next week's big SEC showdown in the Iron Bowl with Auburn, the Crimson Tide got their game on with outclassed Chattanooga. The final score was 49-0.
A.J. McCarron (pictured below), playing his final home game, left the game after the first drive of the second half. He became 36-2 as a starter, breaking the tie he was in with Jay Barker. He threw for 171 yards and 2 TDs (one to Kevin Norwood and one to Amari Cooper).
Kenyan Drake ran for 77 yards and a score (which is shown below), but T.J. Yeldon appeared to have the day off as he didn't appear in the box score.
It was the third shutout of the season for Alabama and their special teams blocked a field goal attempt by Chattanooga. The defense picked off one pass and recovered a fumble.
BOSTON COLLEGE NOTEBOOK
Women's Soccer - The women's soccer team knocked off #10 Nebraska 4-1 on Friday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The win advances BC to the Sweet 16 for the 9th time in school history.
They will play Illinois today at 2 pm.
Women's Hockey - After the team's 6-2 win over UConn yesterday, they are now 11-3-1 on the season.
Women's Volleyball - After dropping consecutive matches 3-0 to Georgia Tech and Clemson, the team falls to 9-21 on the season.
Men's Basketball - It was a relatively successful week for the Eagles. Things started off with the team notching their first win of the season. They beat Florida Atlantic 82-79 behind 38 points from Olivier Hanlan. Joe Rahon added 17 points and 7 boards.
Against #18 UConn, the Eagles missed out on an upset with the Huskies escaping 72-70. Ryan Anderson had 22 points and 7 rebounds in the game while Hanlan (pictured below) added 19 points. Alex Dragicevich finished with 10 points.
On Friday night, BC knocked off Washington 89-78 in a game that saw them hit 8 out of 11 three pointers in the first half. Joe Rahon (pictured below) led the team with 22 points (including 4 of those first half 3's). Hanlan had 20 points and Anderson added 18 points and 7 rebounds. Lonnie Jackson was the fourth Eagle to hit double figures in scoring, finishing with 10 points.
The team is now 2-4 on the season.
Football - The football team picked up their 7th win of the season yesterday. They edged out Maryland 29-26 with a stunning comeback. They were trailing 24-13 but a 72 yard TD run from Andre Williams and a 74 yard TD pass from Chase Rettig to Alex Amidon (where Amidon was EMBARRASSINGLY wide open) gave the Eagles the lead in the game. The Terrapins ran back a blocked PAT 104 yards for a 2 point conversion to tie the game. But Nate Freese kicked the game winning field goal as time expired and the Eagles got to celebrate!
It was a miserable day for Chase Rettig in the passing game outside of that long TD to Amidon. He went 6-14 on the day with 119 yards. But he was picked off once and lost a fumble.
Once again, along with Freese using his leg to put points on the board, it was Andre Williams (pictured below) being the horse for BC. He had 263 rushing yards on 32 carries and scored twice. It must be said again, he should be a legitimate Heisman award candidate.
Women's Basketball - The week started off with a Monday press conference with coach Erik Johnson.
Before heading off to play 3 games in the Cancun Challenge this coming week, the Eagles took care of business when they hosted FIU at Conte Forum. They came away with an 89-69 win that saw Kristen Doherty score 19 points and grab 5 rebounds. The point total pushed her over the 1,000 point mark for her career. She went 9-9 from the foul line where she is shooting 92.9% for the season thus far.
Nicole Boudreau finished with 14 points on 4-5 shooting from three point range. Kelly Hughes had 12 points (three 3-pointers). Kat Cooper got her first star and responded with 11 points and a career high 8 rebounds. Lauren Engeln added a career high 7 assists.
BC is now 2-2 on the season.
The post game presser is below:
In BC women's hoop alumni news, Kerri Shields scored 18 points to lead her Ulster Rockets (Belfast) team to a 73-62 win over the Meteors (Dublin) in the Ireland Premiere League. The Rockets are 2-3 on the season.
Kerri is on the left in the picture below:
XMAS - I watched another Hallmark Xmas movie last night. It premiere last weekend but I didn't get to see it then. It's called Catch a Christmas Star and starred Shannon Elizabeth as a famous singer who ends up meeting up with the guy who was her high school sweetheart. Leaving aside the bad special effects work, the story wasn't all that bad. Until the end when preposterous is the best way to describe how the resolution came about.
I'm in the midst of holiday shopping. I am trying to be done as early as possible so I don't have to go to the stores during the "Official Holiday Shopping" times.
And of course, on Tuesday November 26th, I'll be glued to my TV which will be tuned to CBS. Nope, it isn't a new episode of NCIS. Instead, it is the traditional airing of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that I'll be watching.
I know my Scrooge like demeanor will have many wondering what I could be thinking watching the annual holiday classic. But I love the special and of course own it on DVD (well, technically my mother owns it) but it is the one holiday show that I make a point of insisting on watching on TV with the commercials every year.
And despite my inability to carry a tune, I happily (though badly) sing along with all the songs as well.
TV - The 50th Anniversary special of Doctor Who aired yesterday. And it was really quite fantastic. It celebrated the entire history of the series while simultaneously telling a good story that retconned a major event without seeming a cheat. And it featured a huge cameo from a former Doctor.
It was a blast to watch and I can't wait to see how things go from this point forward. The Christmas special is bound to be amazing.
By the way, if you plan to watch it, there was a prequel webisode I posted in last week's Sunday Musings that you can check out. But here's another one that you should watch as well.
And it seems with the global simulcast, the whole world was in on the big celebratory event. Google even had their webpage done over to feature Doctor Who and had a little game you could play as well. (I did, and managed to win it.)
Movies - The release of The Hunger Games - Catching Fire is this weekend. I saw the first movie and I wasn't all that impressed. It was fine to watch one time but nothing much beyond that. Of course, I might see this second movie. Not because I have any burning (sorry, pun not intended) desire to continue with the story, but it seems one of my favorite actresses is in the movie. I've been a fan of Jena Malone since I saw her debut in the TV movie Bastard Out of Carolina.
She plays Johanna Mason (didn't read the books, don't know much about the character).
Books - I picked up a couple of new books this week. I got the new Janet Evanovich paperback Notorious Nineteen. It's another in her Stephanie Plum series. And I got the Iris Johansen thriller Hunting Eve. It's the immediate followup to Taking Eve a special three book trilogy story featuring her forensic sculptor character Eve Duncan.
Music - Ex-Ozzy and Badlands guitarist Jake E. Lee is coming back to the music scene after a long absence. His new project is called Red Dragon Cartel. The debut album is due out in January 2014, but you can check out the lyric video for the song "Feeder" (guest vocal by Cheap Trick's Robin Zander) below.
There's a sweepstakes going on in professional sports. No, I don't mean who can make the most absurd amounts of money, players or owners. No, I don't mean who can show the most (or the worst) commercials. No, I don't mean who can drag out a game longer with modern last-minute 'strategy'. Or who can charge more for the privilege of watching a game.
It's more basic than that, and it's the one thing that leagues used to dread until it became obvious that if you feed the public enough glitz, not enough of them will care --- in sports or in real life. It's the question of which sport is the most corrupt.
Anything with refereeing can be corrupted. Anything with gobs of money at stake can be corrupted. Anything with billions of dollars changing hands on the streets pending scores can be corrupted. Anything that has no direct competition can be corrupted.
Bingo. Exactly. Heard lately of something that competes with MLB for the baseball audience? Something that competes with the NFL? The NBA? The NHL? Didn't think so. Unless you go to scholastic sports, international competition, perhaps a foreign professional league, none of these organizations have any. They've taken care of that.
The American League came about because Ban Johnson's Western League got enough capital to declare itself a major league over a century ago. The impetus was a ton of bad publicity garnered by the National League, some of it from the lack of orderly conduct at games on and off the field, some of it from --- what else? --- corruption.
Baseball took care of that little problem when the Black Sox scandal prompted the appointment of an autocratic commissioner to restore trust in the game. With the advent of the Babe, Landis became superfluous, but his institution was a double-edged sword. Slowly, the unification of the game produced a monster called MLB. Oh, sure, the leagues are still 'separate' --- sort of. But don't kid yourself. Steroids and the rabbit ball helped Bud Selig destroy tradition over a decade ago when, for a few seasons post-strike, historical batting totals were rendered useless as the two factors combined to create absurdly inflated totals. But everybody forgot the strike.
And, of course, it created a scandal. But as with most big, successful monopolies, it was the scandal they wanted. It avoids the one they don't want --- a scandal on credibility.
Despite the ease with which umpires can control games, however, it's gotten harder with radar showing balls and strikes and replay showing plays in the field. Not impossible, mind you, but harder. Had Boston lost the World Series, the possible gifting of one game to St. Louis might have been a problem. Fortunately for the league, it was forgotten.
In the NBA it hasn't been so easy, but the game has slowly devolved into the closest thing to pro wrestling on the cred charts, largely courtesy of the reign of David Stern, where glamor and money (how unusual) were items 1 through 10 on the priority chart. Much like baseball, the league's CBA was allowed to strangle team options to the degree that players now largely dictate where they will play. Officiating has been exposed as under orders from gambling interests. The gullible have swallowed the inane claim that the problem was dealt with. But there's never one ant at a picnic. He's just the only one you saw.
The NHL may be the easiest league in which to fix games for one purpose or another due to the impact of power plays and especially penalty shots, but despite a number of infamous calls over the years it has largely avoided such a stigma. Of the four major sports it is the most regionally limited in interest despite its overspread deployment, rakes in the least cash, and has probably the least amount of gambling interest. All of those limitations have the silver lining of purity.
Which leaves us with the clearest candidate to join the WWF (besides the NBA) as a fraud --- the NFL. The most powerful league in existence wiped out all competition by merging with the AFL many moons ago. Of course, long before that there were games with dubious outcomes. The most famous may be the missed overtime field goal by Don Chandler --- he was headed off the field with his head down --- that was called 'good', handing Green Bay the game and, ultimately, the Western Conference title over Baltimore.
But under Pete Rozelle, the league went haywire with power in the consolidated '70s, flaunting its monopoly without apparent fear of repercussions. This author, despite the time barrier, recalls no fewer than four games offhand (including the Ben Dreith travesty in Oakland) in which clearly corrupt officiating dictated outcomes. You don't read much about them today, but they were that infamous at the time. The league also had no problem reviewing film to award OJ his 2000 yards, an unprecedented and incredibly phony end to a great season by Simpson... that ended at 1999. "Bad Call, NFL" was put in war type headlines in more than one newspaper. Or sweeping massive cocaine abuse by players under the rug. Steroids? In the NFL? Surely you jest.
The league backpedaled from its clearly corrupt officiating practices, at least, under Tagliabue, but today officiating has gone back into the tank. Replay seemed to be the cure, but the league has now spent several seasons modifying rules to the point of random arbitration, making replay useless in increasing amounts. The 'make a football move' rule is one of the most laughable in the never-ending attack on clarity. Two feet down was just too hard to subvert. Not content with the 'football move' rule, the phrase 'maintain possession through the act of the catch' was added, and continues to be used to an absurdly arbitrary degree (ask the Lions). Then there's the new 'pushing' rule. In a league that hasn't called the ancient anti-flying-wedge rule about pushing players from behind in ages, it sticks out like a sore thumb, especially when it's rationalized as a rule to protect the vulnerable centers. One problem --- another such rule was already in place, preventing DTs from lining up over the center on kicks.
Pass interference (or the lack thereof) has become so subjective that officials can call anything they want anytime. Anquan Boldin, e.g., commits offensive interference on about half his catches, but it's his 'style' so it passes. And it spreads. DBs are allowed to manhandle receivers without a call --- except when they aren't. Quarterbacks can't be hit high --- or low --- except, of course, when they can be.
The excuse given is that the rules are meant to fill holes in previous rules and to protect players from injury. If it's the former, they are widening the holes into a chasm. If it's the latter, analysis by objectives and results tends to indicate it ain't working --- and in astronomical fashion.
Of course, to those cynical, neurotic conspiracy theorists out there, it's all because everything from spreads to actual results is being fixed. The league would never do that. It wouldn't risk getting exposed and derailing the gravy train.
Really? Does anybody think even fixed games would cripple revenue in this day and age? The American public has never been so gullible. All that's required is damage control by the media. That's proven every day in and out of sports. Most fans are there for the show anyway. And as long as no one divulges who's getting the breaks today, it's still an unknown outcome, if not exactly a sport anymore. But to many younger fans to whom reality itself is a video game, the 'sport' factor isn't a killer. And to gamblers, about half will be happy with the fix anyway --- about the same number as pure fans, if there are any left.
Billions of dollars change hands through syndicates every week. The sums dwarf what players and officials make. They even dwarf what the commissioner makes. Untouchables? Are you kidding? Whitey Bulger bought off the FBI for years with way less. And the league itself has motive galore in wanting the biggest TV ratings. You get those by steering things toward the best matchup. Don't kid yourself. They'd take New York vs. New York over Kansas City vs. Carolina in a New York Minute.
Ultimately, even assuming the fix is in, assessing specific blame is about as easy as saying who killed JFK. But in this case at least, whether it's the league, Las Vegas or Vladimir Putin manipulating headsets, there's one piece of golden advice as old as Methuselah, and it's right on the money. Funny we should say that. It is, of course.... Follow the Money!