Best Photobomb....ever! And Chiefs fans probably felt this way after the game too.
Greetings from the Hoodwood, where it’s colder outside than in the freezers…much colder
NFL: A wild weekend
I’ve been a big fan of the current playoff structure giving the top two seeds in the conference the first round and the twin doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday with the primetime games on Saturday Night. There was a knock on two of the division winners that they were undeserving and that a third playoff team was an underserving last minute back in. Three of the four games were thrillers, and one of the so-called undeserving team proving that it belonged.
The first game was supposedly the ho-hum game as the Chiefs tried to shake off a bad late season fade and knock off the #4 seed AFC South champ Colts. A rare, rare playoff meeting between a pair of top draft picks at QB in Alex Smith of Kansas City and Andrew Luck of Indy. Despite losing Jamaal Charles early on, the Chiefs made Lucas Oil Stadium quieter and quieter as they roared out to a 24-7 lead 17 minutes in the game and as much as a 38-10 lead when Knile Davis scored his 2nd TD of the game barely 90 seconds in the 2nd half. The Colts were getting hampered by numerous interceptions by Luck. But Luck steadied his play and rallied the home team, the lead shrank quickly as the Chiefs mismanaged the clock and inexplicably kept throwing the ball. Now the absence of Charles was becoming more and more glaring as the Chiefs threw more in the second half than they ran it. The Colts cut the lead to 41-31 and cut the lead to 41-38 on a heads up fumble recovery by Luck on a fumble by Donald Brown. But right after the Chiefs pushed the lead back to 6 at 44-38 with Ryan Succop field goal, the Colts pulled the final trump card with a 64 yard bomb from Luck to a stunningly wide open T.Y. Hilton. Indy had completed the 2nd biggest comeback win in the NFL history as they took their first lead of the game with 4:21 to play. Not a bad opening act of the playoffs.
But the Saturday night game was even more a thriller. The Eagles fresh off their rousing elimination of the Cowboys in NFC East title game hosted the Saints in the bitter cold of Philly. After a tight first half, the Saints roared out to a 20-7 lead and the Eagles looked finished but they rallied smartly and when Nick Foles made a snappy TD pass to backup TE Zach Ertz, the Eagles looked to have rallied all the way back to take a 24-23 lead. But the Saints have Dat Dude…no not me…Dat Dude Drew…Cooooool Brees. He got the Saints down the field and the old vet Shayne Graham silenced the rowdy crowd with a winning kick at the gun to knock off the Eagles 26-24. After winning their first road playoff game in team history, The Saints now have a showdown with the Seahawks in Seattle.
Sunday looked to be the first of a pair of weather related games. As the Chargers headed east to supposedly be dead meat against the Bengals. It was supposed to be cold, snowy and miserable. Turns out it was none. It was cool but nothing out of the ordinary. The Bengals diddled about failing to make big plays while the Chargers played it conservative. The Bengals held a 10-7 lead that should have been a lot bigger, but as the rain moved in and got heavier the Bengals were the ones who fell apart like a cheap suit in the rain. The Chargers methodically moved up and down the field and took advantage of numerous Bengals turnovers to build up and hold onto a 27-10 win. The 9 win Chargers who needed a lot of help just to get to the playoffs are still very much in the playoff picture and are heading to Denver for a high stakes divisional showdown with the Broncos. The Bengals are left with another promising season that ended in the cold reality of January, the Bengals are 0-5 in the playoffs under the winningest
Sunday’s finale was on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field as the Pack hosted the Niners. The Pack, bolstered by the return of Aaron Rodgers and their road win over their despised rival last week to win the NFC North, with a bitterly cold temps as an additional caveat the Niners looked to have a lot against them, but with Colin Kapernick’s wily runs boosting their offense. The Pack simply had no answers. The game was tight all the way but who had the last crack at the ball? The Niners who milked the clock late and won with a last second field goal. Niners win 23-20 and make the Packers 3-5 in their last 8 home playoff games after starting out with 13 straight home playoff wins.
BCS: What a finale
Personally, I didn’t like the spread, #1 Florida State as a double digit favorite over Auburn and the Tigers proved me right making the Noles look very much like the awestruck team that they were and racing out to a 21-10 lead but the Noles chipped slowly away at the lead and cut the lead to 21-20, when Auburn kicked a field goal to increase the lead 4, the thought was how the Noles were going to drive to take the lead but Levonte Whitfield turned that thinking around in a hurry with an electrifying 100 yard kickoff return, so the Tigers were the ones that looked to need the last minute game winning touchdown and when the rugged Tiger running back Tre Mason (who I think should be a sleeper for the 2014 Heisman) raced 37 yards for a Touchdown with 79 seconds left, the Tigers looked to be on the verge of their 2 national title in four years and the national title not only staying in the SEC for the eighth straight year to the chagrin of many but also in the state of Alabama for the fourth straight year. But Jameis Winston had the last play and he made it in spades. Racing the Noles back down the field in 70 seconds, aided by a 49 yard catch and run Rashad Greene. Winston capped it off with a bullseye throw to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds to play and the Noles won 34-31. This was a great finale to the BCS era, I’m no fan of the process to get to the BCS title game but to settle the game on the field is the way to go. One can hope that the playoff series games will be as good.
PHAT DAP/HEAD SLAP
To the companies in Cincinnati that helped the Bengals achieve a sellout by buying tickets then donating these tickets to military personnel in the tri-state area. The tickets went fast and though the Bengals flopped at home in their playoff game. It was a great way to give a little something back to the folks who give so much to the country.
Also a phat dap to the brave, bold Colts fan in Indy who photobombed a group of CHiefs fans who posed for a group photo outside Lucas Oil Stadium. The photobomb was so good, the NFL retweeted the picture.
To someone I really respect. Dan Patrick who on his radio show Monday suggested that the NFL was going to expand the NFL playoffs by a couple wild cards slots. This is just stupid. The playoff structure is perfect the way it is. Shame on Patrick for even floating the idea. Please please please don’t give Sheriff Goodell any stupid ideas.
A few more things
Why can’t my beloved Bearcats get any love? At 13-2 and coming off a road rout of Memphis the Bearcats are off to a flying start. But the Bearcats are still not getting enough votes in the AP to crack the top 25 and have even less votes from the fellow coaches. Where is the love? Going back to last season the Bearcats have not allowed a team to score 70 or more points on them in 22 straight games. They've won ugly to be sure but they are winning with defense and while many know of their solid senior guard Sean Kilpatrick who has led the team with an 18.9 ppg avg. Many havent heard of Justin Jackson who has made dare I say a Kenyon Martin type leap into prominence. He as won the conference player of the week 3 weeks running and has been turning heads and opening eyes with his roughneck, old school hard nosed play. He plays hard under the boards and has had a double-double in each of his last five games as well as at least 3 blocks, including 7 in the win at Memphis. The Bearcats are one of the better teams you probably know little about aside from an ugly win against Pitt in the Jimmy V classic last month. Believe it or not they are still catching flak for the so-called Crosstown Brawl with Xavier that happened 2 years ago. The Bearcats take on a good Houston team Wednesday, if you get CBS Sports Network check em out.
The Knicks and Nets won for the first time this season on the same day this past Saturday. That’s a sad sad state
There was talk of a trade of Blake Griffin for Carmelo Anthony straight up. That talk kinda faded after Chris Paul was injured on Sunday and could be out 6 weeks. I thought myself that the trade would be dumb.
Why does Andrew Bynum keeps getting a paycheck? Why does trade talk of Pau Gasol for Andrew Bynum talk keep happening? Gasol deserves better.The paycheck stealer was instead traded to Chicago for the very serviceable Luol Deng. Which means without Derrick Rose, the Bulls are trying to get massive cap room because Bynum will be likely given his outright release, which he wants anyway. The Bulls are also seemingly trying to joing the number of teams trying to tank this season out to get into the seemingly bumper crop of fresh rookies coming over the horizion for the 14-15 season. So much for competitiveness in the NBA...which is why I dont even pay attention to the NBA till the playoffs.
The Spec Sheets are coming soon...
I’m betting that Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine will make the MLB Hall of Fame and that will be so much better than the farce of no one elected last year. We’ll discuss that more next week.
While hoping that the winter storm leftovers (snow) melts down a little before we get hit with another round of fresh powder...
More bad news this week for the Celtics. Their stay in first place of the Atlantic division has gone by the boards after three more losses.
The Celtics blew yet another 18 point lead as they lost to the Atlanta Hawks 92-91. Kelly Olynyk had a career high 21 points in the game as the bench players got a lot of action when the starters got benched for a large part of the game due to ineffectiveness. Case in point: The starters shot 25% for the game while the bench hit 62% of their shots.
Kris Humphries scored 18 points and grabbed 10 boards while Courtney Lee added 11 points. Jared Sullinger had 11 points in the game.
There was some flareup on the Boston bench between Brandon Bass and Jeff Green. It has been played off in the press as just a run of the mill argument between teammates. I'm hoping that is the case because the Celtics can't afford any lingering bickering between two of their top players.
On Thursday, the Chicago Bulls put a 94-82 knockdown on the Celtics with 6 Bulls hitting double figures in the game. As for the Celtics, Jordan Crawford scored 22 points and had 7 assists. Green and Sullinger each scored 11 points. Sullinger had 11 boards as well. Humphries finished with 9 points and 11 boards.
And then came Friday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans. Avery Bradley scored 22 points. Bass had 16 points and 11 boards and Green added 16 points. Jared Sullinger finished with 13 points and 11 boards. Kris Humphries scored 7 points but led the team in rebounding with 12.
Jared Sullinger has been toughing it out as of late. It seems he re-aggravated a hand injury and it is causing him some harsh discomfort, but so far he has been adamant about playing through the pain. While an admirable trait, I hope the injury doesn't get so bad that he ends up having to be out for a long period of time. I'd rather see him down for a few games than a few dozen.
And have you noticed the way Kris Humphries has been playing as of late? Injuries led to his playing time increasing and he has shown up in a big way in the box score. He's scoring the ball, but he has also been a huge factor on the boards. For a guy that initially looked like he might not even be with the Celtics when the season started, he's actually earning the money he's getting right now. It's a long way from how people (including me) saw him as originally.
The official results of my dabbling in being a fake NFL GM this year saw me finish 5th overall in one league and 7th overall in another. I'm guessing if I was an actual GM, the one you'd compare me to most was the guy in Tampa Bay who just got fired.
Better luck to me next year I hope.
Two resoundingly bad bits of news this week for the league.
It seems the Los Angeles area is in for their second round of gawdawful ownership worries (after the McCourts-Dodgers debacle). The majority owners of the L.A. Sparks, the family owned company led by Sparks chairman Paula Madison have essentially walked away from their responsibilities as team owners.
The league has taken over the search for a new owner since the ones who were in control have abdicated their duties. The front office and coaching staffs (three weeks after head coach Carol Ross signed a contract extension) have been laid off / fired. The players got letters saying as of Dec. 31st, they were no longer employees of the team. They are apparently still being paid and getting their benefits though.
This is a rather spectacular disaster for the league, which has had more than its fair share of teams folding or moving it its relatively short lifespan.
From what I've read on the Rebkell women's basketball message boards, the Madison family ownership was seen as bad from Day 1 and allegations of shady business dealings by Paula Madison and her brother have been getting some play on the boards too.
It has also been mentioned that if the league can't maintain a team in a media capital like LA, it might further hasten a possible demise of the entire league.
Apparently there might be some light at the end of the tunnel though as Joe Lacob, the owner of the Golden State Warriors has expressed interest in owning the team. He's a big supporter of women's basketball and owned the San Jose Lasers in the ABL before that league folded.
It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds from here.
The other bit of news came on Friday when Seattle Storm President and CEO Karen Bryant announced the 2014 season will be her last with the team. She has spent 15 years with the team from securing the franchise in the first place and helping name the team to becoming one of the owners of the Storm.
While an owner stepping down/away from the team might not seem like a big thing when the rest of the ownership is still in place, you can't help but wonder if this is another BAD BAD BAD sign for the league when it loses one of its most passionate supporters in actively working in the WNBA.
Missouri State - The Lady Bears have been on a roll as of late. They beat North Texas 85-79 to win their 4th straight game and improve to 5-6 on the season.
Yes I know it is still a losing record but the rough start to the season had you wondering if it was going to be a long run of losses this year. It is nice to see things starting to take hold for the team as a whole before their Missouri Valley Conference schedule kicks in.
Bry Snow scored a career high 21 points and Tyonna Snow added 21 points of her own. Nijay Gaines added 12 points and Kenzie Williams finished with 11 points and 8 boards. Of course, the biggest factor in the win just might have come from the foul line as MSU hit 30 out of 40 attempts.
Tennessee - The Lady Vols split their last two games. First up they destroyed Lipscomb 110-42. The score makes you wonder why this team was on Tennessee's schedule in the first place.
Isabelle Harrison (pictured below) led the team with 26 points and 15 boards. Meighan Simmons added 15 points. Cierra Burdick had a big game with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. Mercedes Russell, who would be named SEC Rookie of the Week, added 12 points and 7 boards. Bashaara Graves and Nia Moore each scored 11 points.
The score of the game was the largest margin of victory for Tennessee since 2005.
But the good times didn't keep rolling along when they faced off against #16 LSU. The Tigers are coached by former Lady Vol Nikki Caldwell and she came back to somewhat mar the Candace Parker jersey retirement ceremony (pictured below 1st) by upsetting the #5 Lady Vols 80-77.
Isabelle Harrison tied her career high with 26 points and added 10 rebounds. Simmons had 15 points. Ariel Massengale scored 10 and dished out 12 assists while Jasmine Jones (pictured below 2nd) had 8 points and 10 rebounds.
The loss leaves Tennessee at 11-2 on the season.
Hartford - The Hawks dropped a 70-56 decision to Penn State last week. Cherelle Moore scored 11 points as the only Hartford player to hit double figures in the game. She added 9 rebounds as well. Alyssa Englert scored just 4 points in the game but did have a career high 9 assists.
Hartford closed out their non-conference schedule on Saturday afternoon with a 56-43 victory over Dartmouth. They improve to 4-10 on the season. Amber Bepko (pictured below) was the only player in double figures for Hartford, finishing with 11 points (all in the first half).
You can see the highlights and the post game presser with coach Jennifer Rizzotti below.
NFL - I don't have a whole lot to say about the playoffs that hasn't already been said by talking heads who get paid to offer their opinions or by other bloggers on TSBN or YouGabSports. So I'm pretty easy on this...GO PATRIOTS!
But the interesting read I had this week had to do with the Cleveland Browns. This joke of a franchise should be contracted to save the NFL the weekly embarrassment that is the so-called professional football franchise. I've got a friend who is a huge Cleveland sports fan (no accounting for his tastes but I digress). While I'm not saying that I'm hoping a Cleveland team wins to get him off the metaphorical ledge of the building, it would be nice if he had SOME hope.
After the firing fest that took place last Sunday and Monday, it looked like the pink slips had gone by the wayside for the NFL head coaches. But yesterday, the Tennessee Titans fired Mike Munchak after he went 22-26 over three seasons.
I guess you can't say it was much of a surprise that he was fired but the timing is odd. What was going on that it took an extra week to decide he wasn't going to be brought back for a 4th season?
The article I read said the team has been holding meetings for the last week, but I can't imagine they just started their organizational review AFTER the season ended.
The firing ends Munchak's tenure with the club which began in 1982 when he was drafted to play for the franchise.
As for yesterday's first playoff game, fans sure got their money's worth for the game, didn't they?
I tuned in with 13:39 left in the 3rd quarter with the Kansas City Chiefs just smacking the Indianapolis Colts around, 38-10.
But just when you might've thought the game was over, the Colts rallied back, in "Music City Miracle" fashion, and with 4:21 left in the fourth quarter went ahead 45-44.
Yes neither team played much defense in the second half and yes the Chiefs were hurt by a number of injuries (including running back Jamaal Charles) but for those that love offensive football, this was a game of Thanksgiving meal sized proportions.
BOSTON COLLEGE NOTEBOOK
Women's Basketball - The women's team is cooking with fire lately. They've now won 6 games in a row to stand at 9-5 on the season.
They beat Providence 80-71 behind a season high 23 points from Kristen Doherty. Kat Cooper added 15 points and Nicole Boudreau scored 15 points of her own to go with 6 boards. Katie Zenevitch had 14 points and 6 boards.
You can check out a brief video of the post game comments from Erik Johnson below.
The team followed that victory up with an 81-67 win over Mount St. Mary's. Katie Zenevitch had a career high 29 points and career high 16 boards to power the Eagles to victory. Boudreau added 17 points and Doherty had 13 points and 8 boards. Lauren Engeln finished with 10 points.
The most amazing thing about this current win streak is that the Eagles are doing it while at the same time missing a large portion of their lineup. Against Mount St. Mary's they had just 7 available players for the game.
If they ever get all their players healthy and contributing...man I could be setting myself up for disappointment in a big way, but I would think they could be a factor in the ACC conference play.
You can watch the postgame with coach Johnson below:
Men's Basketball - The "Fire Steve Donahue" movement is now starting to get louder. On the BC athletics Facebook page in particular. After the Eagles lost to Harvard on New Year's Day 73-58, unhappy basketball fans aren't even bothering to hide their dissatisfaction with the product on the floor.
I can't say I blame them. The Eagles have now lost to Harvard 6 years in a row! They were 4-10 on the season after the Harvard loss and it isn't because they lack players. They've got guys who can score. But apparently they have no one who can play defense. And improvement doesn't seem to be on the horizon when you factor in that the ACC schedule with teams consistently ranked in the Top 25 (and top 5 for that matter) will be their opponents for the rest of the regular season.
If you can't stop teams that aren't as good as what you'll be facing in conference play, how the hell do you think you are going to stop Duke, Syracuse or North Carolina?
For the Harvard game, Ryan Anderson led the Eagles with 17 points and 9 boards. Olivier Hanlan added 13 points. Eddie Odio scored 11 and Joe Rahon chipped in with 10 points.
The Eagles played Clemson on Saturday afternoon. The first half was awful as BC was held to just 17 points for the first 20 minutes.
The game was much better and closer in the second half. Olivier Hanlan had a chance to tie the game at the foul line but front rimmed the first shot and had to purposely miss the second attempt. Clemson got the rebound and the final horn sounded and the Tigers won 62-60
Hanlan had 27 points and 5 rebounds in the game to lead Boston College. Ryan Anderson finished with 13 points as the Eagles dropped to 4-11.
TV - While I've been doing a rewatch on the cancelled Fox series Wonderfalls on DVD and watching Night Court on On Demand, the biggest TV news is also movie related.
The three season series Veronica Mars is getting a big screen movie. And the first official theatrical trailer has been posted online. You can check it out below. As a huge fan of the series, I was quite happy with the tease of the trailer.
Books - I picked up two books this week. The first I mentioned last week as having ordered it. But my copy of Hank Phillippi Ryan's The Wrong Girl finally came in the mail this week.
The other book I picked up was the latest Star Trek novel Star Trek: The Fall - Peaceable Kingdoms by Dayton Ward.
Also, as part of my writing duties for KNAC.com, I submitted my list of the 10 best CDs of the year. You can read the full article including the lists from everyone else involved with the content side of the site here: http://knac.com/article.asp?ArticleID=10688
My full breakdown of the best of goes like this:
01.) Oliva - Raise The Curtain (Nuclear Blast)
02.) Metal Church - Generation Nothing (Rat Pak Records)
03.) Black Sabbath - 13 (Republic Records)
04.) Fates Warning - Darkness in a Different Light (InsideOut Music)
05.) S.U.N. - Something Unto Nothing (Robo Records)
06.) Pamela Moore - Resurrect Me (Rat Pak Records)
07.) Deep Purple - Now What?! (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
08.) Helloween - Straight Out Of Hell (Sony)
09.) Queensryche - Frequency Unknown (Cleopatra Records)
10.) Benedictum - Obey (Frontiers)
If you include the NON-Metal releases, the list would look like this:
1. Oliva - Raise The Curtain
2. Metal Church - Generation Nothing
3. Black Sabbath - 13
4. Beth Hart - Bang Bang Boom Boom
5. Fates Warning - Darkness in a Different Light
6. S.U.N. - Something Unto Nothing
7. Pamela Moore - Resurrect Me
8. Beth Hart / Joe Bonamassa - Seesaw
9. Deep Purple - Now What?!
10. Helloween - Straight Out of Hell
Happy Friday, Gabbers! Great to see all the Christmas cheer this week as it was lovely to read all about the many Christmas celebrations and gifts. We saw family, friends, and the second Hobbit movie on Christmas. I love Tolkien, having read the books, appendices, published drafts...a big honking Middle Earth nerdfest, but the movies are a whole new beast with the reinterpretations, stuff left out, and new plotlines added. I enjoyed it, but now am wondering how I last a year to see it wrap up.
A great Christmas here for the Bent clan...the best news for me was the time off I got this week. As an employee of the great Commonwealth, our agency is unionized and time-off is all based on seniority. Last year I got ZERO time off at Christmas, but with a new position this year I am apparently in a different group (as a supervisor now) so I put in for all the time off and this time actually got it. I had nothing planned, so I enjoyed sleeping in, getting stuff done, and just being home with the Lovely Mrs. B. and the kiddos.
Christmas eve and Christmas day were busy with the clan and crew, so I missed every minute of NBA basketball. I did catch a bit of the MLB network’s traditional running of the Ken Burns Baseball series which is always great. I don’t know squat about filmmaking, but Ken Burns makes some compelling television. I’ve had the wife sit through the entire baseball documentary and she is a fan of ballpark food and experience much more than the game (believe me, if it was compelling enough to have her watch all those hours with me it is good stuff!).
As always, I’m online somewhere writing about the New England Patriots this week. A topic of Christmas with the family was my blogging obsession and how this year I’ve really expanded on the work load. One thing I was thinking about was the baseball aspect because in my youth I was very much a baseball enthusiast to the extreme. I had the baseball encyclopedia, was a member of SABR for a brief period, read every baseball book in every library around the area, had numerous books, magazines (remember Baseball Digest), and--of course--the Sporting News.
As football heads to the offseason, I’ve been thinking of expanding the baseball writing. aspect. I still am into the Red Sox, both leagues, advanced statistics, love to watch the games, love the history of the game...I just have a niche with the football right now that seems to work well. Maybe that’s an avenue to expand in 2014. Of course, I also have comics and the poetry of T.S. Eliot that I obsessed about for years...but I don’t think I’m planning on writing much on either of them in 2014.
Of course, I did say “avenue to explore” and not say “New Year’s Resolution”. I was never one resolutions each year. I figured Lent was enough...not that I did much for that anyway...I wasn’t really Catholic...but my mother is (was? she married my Dad who was a divorced protestant so I know that doesn’t go over well) so we kind of bounced around religiously...a “religious caterpillar” was the term famously used by Christopher Marlowe. Anyway, New Year’s is nearly upon us and resolutions are coming soon.
I guess I’m off-track this week as well...but I figure I need to write a bit on sports…always a couple things I have to gab about!
The Boston Celtics are getting guard Rajon Rondo back at some point in 2014 which is scary for their NBA Draft positioning since the team is better than they should be considering the “rebuilding” going on. Of course, the Rondo news this week is that the New York Knicks are trying to convince him to force a trade to New York. That begs the question: Who the heck do the Knicks think Boston would want from their crappy roster to make the deal? (I looked, there is NO WAY that a trade can go down between the two teams unless Celtics GM Danny Ainge loses his mind).
I am sure Rajon Rondo is just thinking about his next contract and getting some leverage in while he can when since his value dips with him as the focal point and his injury.
Somehow the New England Patriots keep winning games. Last week, just about every prediction I read, saw on TV, heard, etc was picking Baltimore over the Patriots. So of course the Patriots win 41-7 after leading 20-0 in the third quarter.
I love, and I am sure head coach Bill Belichick loves, the Patriots as an underdog. It was wonderful to watch the Ravens go down...I mean, this is their top “rival” right now (back-to-back AFC Championship games kind of make it so). The Patriots seem to be in good shape despite all the injuries, turnover on offense, etc. I just hope they take care of business on Sunday against Buffalo...look at Miami’s letdown after beating the Patriots: they got shutout by the Bills!
Japan’s Masahiro Tanaka has been posted and teams are lining up to pay $20 million to his old team if they are able to pay a boatload the 25 year old.
I think it is an interesting conundrum for MLB teams to chase Tanaka. On one hand, Yu Darvish is a legit Cy Young candidate; On the other, there were a lot of Japanese can’t miss pitchers who were a bust like Daisuke “Dice-K” Matsuzaka. The teams only pay the posting fee if they sign him, and since Dice-K and Darvish both were posted at over $50 million, Tanaka is a bargain. All reports say “Yankees” but I am hoping to see someone swoop in and grab him under their noses. 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA is a must-see in whatever league.
All right, Gabbers...hope you all had a great Christmas and am looking forward to a superb 2014! Thanks for all your support, insights, debates, news, and gabbing throughout 2013. Be safe on New Years Eve and may 2014 be a great year for us all!
Greetings from the Hoodwood, where despite the snow being non existant, the locals are in a festive mood in this most special time of the year.
Before we start lets set the mood with one of my more favorite Christmas tunes…covered often but done best by its original artist Donny Hathaway
Ok, now pull up a chair, there’s plenty of cocoa from the Keurig brewer available.
NFL: The playoff scramble as the final frantic week looms
Your humble scribe went to the Vikings-Bengals game (they only come this way once every 8 years) It was a debacle almost from the word go. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting the Vikings to beat the Bengals who are unbeaten at home and have scored 40 or more points in their last three home outings but to see them just fold to the tune of 42-14 was especially disheartening. I was surprised by a number of things. How many Vikings fans were there, I went with my uncle who noticed not only the number of AP jerseys being sported not including mine. But also the number of other numbers and old school numbers like Tarkenton, Krause, Carter and Foreman. I was also surprised by the number of empty seats. With the Bengals on the verge of clinching their 2nd AFC North title in 3 years (if everything fell right) and the rare appearance by the NFC North team that featured the reigning NFL MVP. I was stunned to see a number of empty seats. The attendance was listed at 61,555 but I was sure that there weren’t 55,000 there and it was a surprisingly mild day. But the fickleness of their fans aside, the Bengals are quite fearsome on the banks of the Ohio River. They needed to win and they did that with relative ease. Holding AP to 45 yards and the Vikings to a pitiful 217 yards of total offense, forcing 4 turnovers that led to 14 points. The Bengals needed help to clinch a playoff berth, the got that help from the Bills who held the Dolphins to a paltry 107 yards total offense and sacked Ryan Tannehill 7 times. The Bengals also clinched the AFC North later in the day when the Pats dealt the Ravens a crushing blow in a shocking 41-7 rout, that got blown open late. So the Bengals went from a playoff question to a playoff certainty in about 7 hours.
The rest of the NFL got crazier with the minute, the Pokes teetered on the brink of playoff extinction but Tony Romo drove them to a winning score with less than a minute to play. That sets up another winner take all showdown for the NFC East title. The Pokes lost the to Giants in 2011 and the Redskins in 2012 in season finale showdown game which like this one against Philly will be nationally televised. Im banking my 15-1 lock record on Philly winning this one. Its now dicey if Romo will play in this game with a herniated disk in his back. I don’t wish injury on anyone and Im not calling the man’s character into question, but this comes at the most inopportune time to happen. Romo has been called a few things, a choking dog but certain scribes you know. But this will do nothing to help his rep as a player who cant roll trips when the big money is on the line.
Lets turn the scene to Charlotte where Cam Newton led the Panthers on a last ditch race downfield to a winning score against the suddenly vulnerable Saints who cant seem to win outside of Orleans Parish. The Saints are looking over the shoulders at not only the Panthers who nailed down a playoff berth that was seen as a long shot at seasons beginning but also the Cardinals who are the best team that you know nothing about. No you don’t. Name one player not named Carson Palmer or Larry Fitzgerald on this team…I’ll get back to you on that and No Rod Tidwell doesn’t count
Anyway the Cards stunned the Seahawks in Seattle before an absolutely sullen crowd at Century Link Field expecting a walkover win but at 10-5 are not in the most favorable positions in the dreaded win and need help category as they could actually beat the Niners next week in University of Phoenix Stadium and go nowhere but home for New Years…with an 11-5 record. I don’t think that Ive ever seen a team since the playoffs were expanded in 1990 to be sent home with a that sterling a record. That would be the best record that the Cards have had since moving to the desert in 1988, and don’t you think Bruce Arians would be a straight lock for coach of the year regardless if the Cards are playing in January or not… As the final week looms only 2 of the NFC playoff spots are taken and none of the divisional champions have been decided. As this column goes to press San Francisco was still holding an outside shot to win the NFC West. All of the division races here could go any number of ways and may not be settled till early evening Sunday…stay tuned.
In the AFC , there is a little more definition. You know many of whom are going to the playoffs and where many of the games will be at Denver, New England, Cincy, and Indy all have secured their respective division titles and Denver is clear of the Wild Card round with a bye secured. Kansas City will have at least 11 wins but will be a road playoff team. They could go any of three places for the first round. The Pats will be hosting a playoff game as AFC East champs for the 5th year running but depending on how they make out in their final game could be playing in the wild card round or have home field advantage throughout. The Bengals are AFC North Champs but cant get home field advantage. On the other hand, if they win and the Pats lose they take the tiebreaker on head to head. They currently hold the #3 spot because of the head to head win over the Colts who clinched the AFC South three weeks ago. The scramble is for the 6th spot where 4 teams are jockeying for the lone remaining open spot. The Dolphins lead the pack at 8-7 but took an crucial loss to Buffalo which negated their chances of winning the AFC East and their tiebreaker edge over the Bengals (which would become moot after the Patriots beat the Ravens) they host the Jets who aren’t going anywhere in spite of their 7-8 record. The other 8-7 teams are the Ravens who got housed by the Pats and now need to beat the Bengals in Cincinnati with a hobbled Joe Flacco. The Chargers all but left for dead a few weeks ago are steaming down the stretch with four wins in their last five, and face a nothing to play for playoff bound Chiefs team but need to win plus losses by the Dolphins and Ravens to secure a spot. The Jets have a 7-8 record which is the same as Pittsburgh, and the Steelers are ahead of the Jets by virtue of their win but the Steelers are in the race still, like a Seagal in that 1990 movie they are Hard to Kill.. But as it stands now if the Steelers beat the Browns at home in Pittsburgh (very likely) and the Dolphins, Chargers, AND Ravens all lose the Steelers make the playoffs in a five team scrum at 8-8. How you ask? What I learned from my sources, was that when you eliminate a team in the tiebreaker, you revert back to the top of the criteria and go again. That is why the Steelers can get through the head to head loss to Miami because the Jets eliminate them first because divisional play is considered first (head to head then divisional record) The Jets get then eliminated because they lost to the Steelers. The Chargers are eliminated by conference record.
NBA: Is the the end of the elite for Kobe?
Kobe Bryant is out for at least 6 weeks with a lateral tibial plateau fracture and the questions are already starting to arise. Not if this is the end, you have to be fairly confident that the self-monikered Black Mamba will make a comeback and not let his career be stopped by an injury but you are left wondering. How much does Kobe have left. He is 35, which by normal basketball standards is getting up in years but still functionally elite. Dirk Nowitizki is 35 and still very much elite. But you also have to think Kobe has been playing at the highest level since the 96-97 season and has only missed the playoffs twice, and one of those times was due to his recent Achilles injury, Kobe has played in 220 playoffs games that’s the equivalent of 3 additional seasons. That’s like a car going over 200,000 miles. Kobe has been going for so long at such a high hard level that its easy to take it for granted but the fact remains Father Time is undefeated. Kobe might not want to admit it but he is fading and he cant bounce back from injuries like he used to. I hope the Kobe doesn’t fade to the level of Jordan with the Wizards. Paunchy and a step to slow. I remember a young Kobe busting jumpers over Jordan and taunting him with “You should have never come back.” Who do you think will do that to him? Andrew Wiggins?
Phat Dap/Head Slap
To President Obama who named tennis icon Billie Jean King to the Olympic delegation to the upcoming winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia. Obama’s naming of the King is in open defiance to Russia’s anti-gay legislation. King will not be alone she will be with Olympic skating legend Brian Boitano and two time Olympic medalist Caitlin Cahow all of whom are openly gay as part of the delegation. President Obama will not attend the Olympic games in protest of the laws that are openly mocking and discriminatory of gay people in Russia. It’s a bold move by the President and a shot at the stupidity of this law…bravo.
To the three Texas players that will be ineligible for the Alamo Bowl because they are academically ineligible. What I don’t understand is with all the tutors that are available how players can screw up going to class and passing? I know that football in itself is a full time job, but so many hundreds of thousands of players make it work, why couldnt these chowderheads?
One more thing
And well close it out with one more musical number, this is my moms favorite and I’ve always liked the very end…Merry Christmas Darling by the Carpenters
Ill take a look at the year in review next week. From the Hoodwood and this side of the keyboard to yours. I wish you and your peeps in your hood, the most blessed and Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Joyous Kwanzaa