Sunday, January 27, 2013

Misc. Sports - A Very Odd Week

One of the beautiful things about sports that I love is how they can sometimes be unpredictable. The heavy underdog can upset the favorite, the unknown bench warmer can suddenly become the hero, and the last second finish can leave us all standing in awe. Sports can bring us hope, joy, excitement, and relief all in the same moment. And then you have weeks like this one when things just get weird.

Remember last week when we found out that Manti Te'o's girlfriend didn't actually exist? And we all thought it was a weird and crazy twist to the Te'o saga? Well, it got even more absurd this week. Early in the week we come to find out that Manti's fake girlfriend was actually a guy. The same guy who made up the story to begin with. Apparently he's got crazy good vocal training. And the next day ... just kidding, it wasn't actually him, it was his female cousin! Or was it? Maybe it was both of them ... or it could have been 3 people according to some stories. This whole situation just keeps getting more and more convoluted to the point where I have no idea which way is up and which is down. Does anyone actually know what happened here? At this point I'm left with two possible conclusions:

- Manti was in on the hoax the entire time and his group just keeps making up pieces to the story hoping it will fit together and people will believe that he's innocent.
- Manti is one gullible son of a gun who not only can't decipher whether or not a person is real, but apparently he also can't tell the difference between a dude and a girl.

Either way, I really don't see how this can help the long-term image and career of Manti Te'o. I'm sure we'll find out more information as we move forward, but don't be surprised if it turns out Manti is actually a very sophisticated hologram that was engineered by a group of alien farmers living on the North Pole of Pluto. Which isn't a planet ... sad ...

This wasn't the only crazy story of the week. Enter the Miami Hurricanes. Here's the backstory ... 2 years ago it was revealed that a Miami booster named Nevin Shapiro had been providing improper benefits to Miami football players since the late 1990's. Supposedly. Of course the NCAA needed to get involved and do a full scale investigation to determine the severity of the transgressions. Along the way Miami self-imposed bowl sanctions each of the last 2 years including removing themselves from the ACC title game this season ... all in the hopes that the NCAA would go easier on them when the investigation was over.

Finally this week the NCAA was set to unveil it's findings and subsequent punishment for "The U" ... we'll ignore the fact that it took 2 years to complete an investigation of one man. Anyway, what do we find out? We find out that the investigative team of the NCAA actually broke it's own rules while completing the investigation and there is now an investigation of the investigation team. You following me here? The NCAA has now hired an external party to help complete the review of Miami to decide what punishments actually need to be handed down based on what crimes were actually committed.

If this sounds like a joke ... I wish it were. The NCAA has once again proven it's complete ineptitude to be an effective governing body of collegiate sports. In the last year alone they have made a complete mockery of the Miami case, overstepped their boundary in a legal matter involving Penn State University, and admitted on other occasions to screwing up investigations involving individual athletes. Now, I'm not suggesting that the NCAA doesn't have a place in college sports ... they absolutely do. However, I am saying that it might be time for a change in leadership and direction before the member schools start jumping ship and anarchy returns. It sounds like a drastic measure, but I have a feeling that a mass departure from the NCAA isn't that far away if things continue the way they're going.

So if you take the 2 stories above, toss in the fact that the number one team in Men's College Basketball lost by 27 points this week, 6 of the top 19 in Men's College Basketball lost to unranked teams on Saturday alone, the Harbaugh brothers refuse to talk to each other before the Super Bowl, an entire round of the PGA Tour's Farmers Insurance Open in California was lost due to fog, and Shaun White came in 5th place during a Winter X-Games Competition ... it's been a very bizarre 7 days in sports.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

- Fishy

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pro Football - NFL Conference Championship Recap

San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons

Here's a riddle for all you sports fans ... What do you get when you combine a Pro Bowl Quarterback, a dynamic receiving core, and a head coach who doesn't have the balls to step on the throat of his opponent? Give up? You get the Atlanta Falcons sitting at home while the 49ers take their Super Bowl spot in New Orleans.

If you watched the game, you know what I'm talking about. For the second straight week, the Falcons built a huge 1st half lead (17-0 early in the 2nd quarter) and then found a way to squander it. Rather than stay aggressive and put the game away, Mike Smith went conservative and the "Dirty Birds" blew the advantage. And unlike last week, this time they couldn't recover. Once the damage was done, not even the magic of Matty Ice could save them in the end. Many Falcons fans would like to believe that the refs had something to do with the final outcome ... they didn't. Let's be very clear, the Falcons lost this game on their own.

A good friend of mine (you know who you are) told me today that Colin Kaepernick played like crap yesterday. Well, I whole-heartily disagree. In fact, I would say that Colin K was MORE impressive this week than last week. And why? Because this week, he DIDN'T run the ball. In short, he was brilliant. His passes were precise, his decision making was spot-on, and he played the hand that the Falcons dealt him. You can make any great athlete in a unique scheme look brilliant by tossing them in against a sub-par defense and letting them run around. But last night, Colin Kaepernick became a quarterback, and a darn good one if you ask me.

Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots

In an earlier post, I predicted the Patriots would win this game because of brains, not because of talent. What I failed to realize is that John Harbaugh is a lot smarter than I thought he was.

Now don't get me wrong, the coaching call of the game was the 4th down conversion for the Patriots where Tom Brady pretended to call out signals to a wide receiver while the ball was being snapped to the running back. Brilliant play design! But that was the only brilliant thing the Patriots brought to the field last night. Their opponents were more talented athletes than they were, and they did absolutely nothing to compensate for it.

Whereas the Atlanta Falcons lost their playoff game, the Baltimore Ravens absolutely won theirs. By the time the final whistle blew, there was no doubt who the better team was. The Ravens played harder, faster, more physical, and most importantly, smarter than New England. Joe Flacco had the second half of his life and the Baltimore defense once again lived up to its reputation. Congratulations to Ray Lewis ... he gets to enjoy 2 more weeks of employment before hanging up his cleats for good.

- Fishy

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pro Football - Conference Championship Predictions

I'm going to keep this post short and sweet. Here's my projections for today's Conference Championship Games and the reasons behind them:

NFC Championship Game

San Francisco 49ers over the Atlanta Falcons.

Why: Simply put, the 49ers just have more talent. They were my pre-season pick to win the Super Bowl and I'm sticking with it. Watch out for LaMichael James and Vernon Davis, they could be the difference makers that put San Francisco on top.

Plus, I just enjoy rooting against the home team (sorry fellow Atlantans).

AFC Championship Game

New England Patriots over the Baltimore Ravens

Why: Even though I can't stand the Pats ... they're good. Real good. Baltimore has more talent, but the Patriots just know how to win on this level. Belichick and Brady will put together a game plan that allows New England to win and they will move on to New Orleans to avenge last year's loss to my New York Giants.

Sorry Ray, it's been a magical playoff run, but now it's time to ride off into the sunset.

- Fishy

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hockey - The Return of the NHL

After months of negotiating, news stories, arguing, fighting, debating, proposals, lockouts, changing schedules and anticipation ... FINALLY it is opening night for the NHL! And let me be the first person to say ...

Who cares?

I mean seriously, who cares ... other than the 25 people on my Facebook feed who seem to have unbelievable loyalty to the Boston Bruins or Washington Capitals? Side bar: How is it that a guy who's never lived north of Chapel Hill can possibly have so many friends who cheer for Washington and Boston? I don't get it.

Back to the original story. Tonight ends the second major work stoppage in the NHL in the last 5 years. And honestly, I'm surprised hockey is still breathing in the United States. While the sport continued to thrive in the rest of the world, nobody really seemed to notice in the US that it was even gone. Even ESPN essentially stopped talking about it because nobody was that interested in the return of the sport. How do I know? When was the last time you saw hockey (before this mess of course) on a major television network? I think NBC televised one or two games last season and I'm pretty sure the majority (if not all) of the Stanley Cup Playoffs were available exclusively on Versus.

Since hockey fans are a dying breed here in the States, I thought now would be a good time to recommend a few ways to boost the popularity of the sport. It certainly couldn't hurt. Here are 5 ways I think the NHL could increase it's viewership very quickly:

1. Double the size of the net. Americans love scoring ... a final score of 14-12 sounds a heck of a lot more exciting than 3-1.

2. Bring in the 30 heaviest sumo wrestlers Japan has to offer. Give them the largest pads a goalie can possibly wear and still be able to move. Have them lay down on their sides in front of the net. See what happens.

3. Get rid of offsides and icing. Open the game up a little more and let players have freedom on the ice. As I mentioned in #1 above, Americans love scoring, and this would certainly help.

4. Instead of penalizing a fight, reward it. Most hockey fans go crazy for the brawls so why not increase the frequency? In a fair one on one fight, the winning player is awarded a goal. Everybody is happy!

5. Stop playing indoors. I would be willing to bet that the Canadians don't learn their craft skating around a cozy air conditioned rink in the middle of Phoenix. They are out on a frozen pond in the middle of winter freezing their butts off. And you know what ... there's a reason they are so much better than us. If you want to authenticate the NHL a little more, try playing more than 1 game a season outdoors in the elements. If Tom Brady can play in the snow, so can these guys.

- Fishy

Friday, January 18, 2013

Golf - Nike's New Commercial

For everyone out there who saw the word "Golf" in the subject line of this post and still decided to keep reading, thank you! For anyone who decided to close out the window and turn on a re-run of Full House, you are about to miss 2 and a half minutes of glorious entertainment ...

Everybody and their mother (and my mother for that matter) has an opinion on Tiger Woods. Regardless of what (or who) Tiger has done over the last few years, he still manages to capture moments of greatness that even non-golf fans can appreciate.

Of course, I'm talking about commercials. We all remember this beauty from a few years back, right? Tiger Woods - Bouncing Ball Commercial

Well, this year Nike has once again managed to capture lightning in a bottle. For those of you over the age of 25, you probably recall a very popular series of McDonald's ads from the late 80's and early 90's featuring Michael Jordan in a trick-shot contest with Larry Bird. It was extremely popular at the time and Nike has now created their own version for 2013 ... Tiger vs. Rory.

Between bad press and an aging body, Nike has recognized that it must slowly move away from Tiger Woods as the face of Nike Golf. Enter Rory McIlroy. Rory is one of the most dominant players on the PGA Tour and is still young enough to have many years of success ahead of him. Not only that, but he's a good looking kid so the ladies swoon over him. Which brings us to the commercial. In this one minute masterpiece, Tiger and Rory go shot for shot in a classic battle of young vs old. Nike does a phenomenal job of playing off the building rivalry between the two stars and I believe this is going to be the passing of the torch into many years of Rory McIlroy on our television screens.

I don't want to give away too much, so have a look for yourself ... Tiger vs Rory 2013


- Fishy

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

College Football - Manti Te'o's Girlfriend

Finally, the day has come where I am ready to go public with my big news ... I am dating Manti Te'o's ex-girlfriend! I know it's hard to believe that a relatively unknown guy like myself can find true love with the ex of a Heisman Trophy candidate, but somehow, the stars aligned and we made it work!!!

Let me tell you all about her ... Her name is Lennay and she is one of the most beautiful spirits I have ever met. Well actually, we never met in person, because she lives across the ocean and we actually found each other online. She is smart, funny, caring, warm and pretty much everything I ever wanted in a life partner. I cannot imagine any girl ever touching me the way she has, it was love at first chat.

Wait ... what? What do you mean she died? Today? In September? Wait ... what? What do you mean she doesn't exist? You mean like, ever? I'm so confused ... we were destined for each other ...

If you didn't guess already, I'm making all of this up. Which may very well be what Manti Te'o did as well. If you aren't familiar with the story, Te'o became a national hero of sorts when we found out back in September that both his grandmother and girlfriend died within hours of each other. He was immediately embraced by the Notre Dame community, the college football community, and almost anyone who heard about his story. Well today, the Tide has Rolled (bonus points if you get the reference). As it turns out, Manti's girlfriend doesn't actually exist. Supposedly, this was the brain child of a scam artist who used to go to high school with Te'o. It was all a big joke, and Manti says he knew nothing about it.

For one of the few times since I've started watching sports, I'm absolutely baffled. I really have no idea what to think or which way to turn. My initial gut feeling tells me to believe Te'o and his claim that he had no knowledge of the scam and simply made a mistake with his heart. I want to believe that Manti is every bit as good of a guy as the media has made him out to be over the last few months and that he is the victim in a very cruel situation. But honestly, I just don't know. Everything about this story is so far fetched, so unexpected, that I can't help but feel there are more facts to come. Did Te'o know about the scam and play along to help boost his Heisman candidacy and public image? Or did he really fall in love, online, with a girl he's never met, who doesn't live anywhere close to him? It's not likely, but I'm also a romantic at heart and believe it can happen. If Ariel can grow legs and marry Prince Eric, Manti Te'o can fall in love online. Right?

My guess is we haven't heard the end of this story. It will make media headlines for the next week or two and nobody is really going to know, or believe, the truth about the situation. Then, things will simmer down a bit, we'll move on to the next great sports scandal, and everyone will more or less forget about this crazy situation. Until April that is. Why April? The NFL Draft. As we approach Draft Day, every NFL scout will be digging up as much dirt on Te'o as they can to try and judge his true character. Did he know about the scam? Was he clueless about the scam? Did grammy really die? Did Notre Dame really lose that badly to Alabama? It will all come out someway, somehow. Then, and only then, will we know the truth ...

I am dating Manti Te'o's ex-girlfriend.

- Fishy

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cycling - Lance Armstrong Took PED's

Before we get into details, I would like to make my stance very clear: I am GLAD that Lance Armstrong cheated!

There, I said it. Once your lower jaw returns to its upright and locked position, please continue reading.

As you may have heard, Oprah conducted an interview with Lance Armstrong yesterday in which he was candid about his history in cycling and allegations of PED use (performance enhancing drugs). While this interview won't air on television until Thursday and Friday (on Oprah's network of course), inside information has leaked that Lance did admit to cheating on his way to 7 Tour de France titles. This should come as no surprise since Armstrong has already been stripped of all 7 titles and given a lifetime ban in cycling for positive drug tests.

So then, you might be wondering why I'm happy about this. After all, steroids are a pressing issue in today's sports landscape and nobody likes a cheater. Well in this case, I do.

Lance Armstrong is a cancer survivor. Let me repeat that so it sinks in ... Lance Armstrong is a cancer survivor. That by itself is more impressive than any bike race he could compete in. So, after defeating cancer, Lance decides to continue his cycling career. Can you really blame a man who just fought a successful battle with cancer for trying to get a little extra competitive edge? It's tough enough to be competitive when you're healthy, but even more so after beating a potentially fatal disease. He cheats, he wins, and he becomes a hero because nobody knows the difference. And that's where it gets good.

Ever seen a "LIVESTRONG" bracelet? Unless you live in a Ugandan hut raising 5 children and a goat, my guess is yes. Lance Armstrong brought life to the movement to defeat cancer. Using the celebrity he earned from his Tour victories, Lance has raised millions and millions of dollars for cancer research through his foundation. He has potentially helped to save hundreds of thousands of lives with the money he helped raise and has been the face of cancer research for almost 10 years. The good that Lance Armstrong has brought the world is absolutely immeasurable and far surpasses the supposed "disgrace" that he brought to the already corrupt sport of cycling.

Let's take a look at some other notable cheaters from the world of sports. Jose Canseco admitted to using steroids to hit home runs. His greatest contribution to society: a book that slanders half the athletes in Major League baseball. Pete Rose was caught betting on baseball games (clearly against the rules) and banned from the Hall of Fame. His biggest contribution? He has a new reality show on TLC that follows him as he looks to marry a model. Way to go Charlie Hustle. And it's not just men. Remember Marion Jones? Decorated Olympian and discovered cheater. How has she given back?

The truth of the matter is, Lance Armstrong cheated and ultimately the world is a much better place because of it. While at first it bugged me that he took so long to come clean, I get it now. He had to wait. He knew the second the truth came out, all of the good he had done would be forgotten and the progress he made in cancer research halted. And guess what, he was right. The interview with Oprah hasn't even aired yet and already the internet and social media are filled with hate and disgust for Lance Armstrong. What a shame.

If Lance Armstrong had not cheated, I think it's fair to assume he never would have won the Tour de France even once, let alone 7 times. Had he not won the Tour, he would never have become the icon that he is. His story would have been a tiny footnote that nobody remembered. Who even knows how many other cancer survivors have competed, all because they didn't win? If Lance wasn't an icon there would be no LIVESTRONG, no bracelets, no foundation, and significantly fewer cancer survivors because the funding wasn't there. I'm not prepared to tell someone who has benefited from the money raised that they probably should have died because "cheating is wrong" in sports.

So yes, I am glad that Lance Armstrong cheated. And for the good of society, I hope you are too.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pro Football - NFL Divisional Playoffs, Weekend in Review

Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos

Tim Tebow - 1, Peyton Manning - 0. Nobody is going to want to talk about it, but let's face it, a lot of people are thinking it. Two years in a row the Broncos start their playoff run with a home game against an AFC North opponent. Two years in a row the game goes into overtime. Tim Tebow won, Peyton Manning didn't. How you feeling now,  Elway?

To be fair, I'm not going to give the majority of the blame for the Broncos loss to Peyton Manning (despite throwing the interception that led to the game winning field goal). I'm not even going to give the majority of the blame to the terrible Broncos secondary that gave up the game tying touchdown near the end of regulation. The honor of "blame" goes squarely on the shoulders of Broncos head coach John Fox. Why you ask? With 2:00 minutes remaining in the game the Broncos had a 3rd down and a 7 point lead. Instead of giving the ball to the multi-million dollar star quarterback with a chance to seal the win, Coach Fox decides to hand the ball to the rookie running back and let the clock run. Well John, the clock didn't run long enough. Infact, it ran so little that we come to mistake number 2. Even after the defensive collapse, the Broncos got the ball back with 31 seconds left and 2 timeouts. Again, instead of letting Peyton Manning work his magic, John Fox decided to take a knee and go to overtime. And we see how that turned out.

Amid the coaching mistakes, poor defense, and bad pass from the Broncos in the 4th quarter and overtime, let's not lose sight of one thing ... the Ravens played one heck of a ballgame. They were an overwhelming underdog but fought for the entire game. When the final kick sailed through the uprights, they earned the win.

Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

I'll be the first person to admit it, I was wrong about Colin Kaepernick. I was certain that the 2nd year QB out of Nevada was going to come into the playoffs and absolutely suck it up, proving that Alex Smith is getting shafted. When Colin K came out in their first possession and threw a pick 6 to Sam Shields, I smiled. And not just because I grew up as a fan of the U and that pass was 1 more that Shields caught than I can remember him having in 4 years at Miami. But low and behold, the kid regained his composure and ended up having one of the all time great playoff performance by a QB. Props to him, he showed that a scrambling signal caller really can get it done on the big stage.

Outside of the performance from Kaepernick, Saturday night's game was a demonstration of what has been hurting the Packers all season long. You can only have a crappy defense and offensive line for so long before it's going to bite you. Aaron Rodgers can only throw so well when he's flat on his back and Green Bay just couldn't hang with the athleticism of the 49ers.

Speaking of which, I have two words for everyone to remember: LaMichael James. Right now, as a rookie who has barely played, James is one of the top 5 running backs  in the NFL. Watch out, before all is said and done this post season, James is going to have an impact on who wins the Super Bowl.

Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons

What started out as a snoozer turned into the very definition of an Instant Classic. The first half of this game was more or less a complete joke ... Seattle couldn't move the ball and the Falcons just kept pouncing. Infact, when the score hit 20-0 at the break, I sent my buddy Charles a message that said "Time to bench the starters to rest up for next week." What I did not anticipate was that the Seahawks were going to wake up in the second half.

Coming out of the locker room, the Falcons put the game on cruise control but Seattle put the pedal to the metal. Even when they were down 20 at the start of the 4th quarter, they kept fighting and never gave up. For those of you who missed it because you had already flipped to re-runs of Buckwild on MTV, here's what you missed:

- Seattle touchdown early in the 4th quarter on a nice drive down the field. 27-14 Falcons
- "Matty Ice" interception on the next Falcons possession.
- Seattle touchdown after the turnover taking advantage of the short field. 27-21 Falcons
- Falcons drive goes nowhere. Seattle drive goes nowhere. Falcons drive goes nowhere. Seattle ball with around 3 minutes to play.
- Seattle picks apart the Atlanta defense and scores a Lynch rushing touchdown with 31 seconds left. Extra point gives a 28-27 lead to the Seahawks.
- After the kickoff, Matt Ryan completes a 20 yard pass down the left side to Douglas followed by a 20 yard pass over the middle to Tony Gonzalez. With no timeouts left, Matt Bryant connects on a 49 yard field goal with 8 seconds left on the clock. Falcons up 30-28
- The Falcons inexplicably squib the ball directly to the Seahawks front line on the kickoff. Seahawks ball at their own 48 with 6 seconds remaining.
- After a short completion of 4 yards, Julio Jones of the Falcons intercepts an attempted Hailmary by the Seahawks to end the game.

Unbelievable last 15 minutes ... as they said on TV: "If you bought a ticket to this game, it was worth every penny."

Houston Texans @ New England Patriots

I should mention that as I'm writing this, there's still more than 13 minutes left to go in the 4th quarter. And as we saw in the game above, anything can happen in the NFL. But in this case, I really doubt it.

Here's a summary of how this game has gone: The Patriots kickoff to start the game. Manning of the Texans puts together a very impressive 94 yard return to the Patriots 12 before getting tackled from behind by a Patriots special teams player. Houston goes on to do nothing good the rest of the game. Although New England took just a 4 point lead to halftime, they blew the gates wide open in the second half. At press time, they lead by 25.

Disappointing end to what has been an outstanding weekend of football. If somehow the Texans pull off the miracle comeback ... who am I kidding? Ain't gonna happen folks.

- Fishy

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Sports are Fishy - An Introduction

I love sports. I love to watch them, play them with friends, collect memorabilia, talk about them, and even play their video games. Since as early as I can remember, sports have played an integral part of my life and who I am. I feel it's very important that you know this before we begin.

Why start a sports blog? I'm not getting paid for it ... I'm not a professional athlete or writer with an agenda ... and I certainly wasn't a journalism major in school. Well, the answer is actually quite simple: I needed a forum to express my opinions and thoughts other than my Facebook status updates. This blog is really just an outlet for me. Think of it as an open diary of sorts, only everything is about sports instead of the cute girl sitting in front of me in math class.

Now, don't get me wrong, I certainly hope people read my posts. My posts are sure to be opinionated, controversial, and sometimes outrageous. I hope you laugh, cry, scratch your head, get angry, do a dance, and are thoroughly entertained. You are more than welcome to make comments and express your feelings, provided they are respectful and language-appropriate. I'll even welcome guest bloggers! I want to hear from you, and I would love open dialogue. But at the end of the day, I'm still going to keep writing, even if the only one who reads what I write is my Mom.

For those of you who only want to read my commentary on sports you care about, I'll go ahead and put the subject of the sport in the title of each entry for you so that you know what to expect. And if you're like me and love all sports, you can just skip the title and get straight to the good stuff.

To close out this opening post, I need to give kudos to the inspiration behind this blog: Ben Couch. Ben is a fraternity brother, former college roommate, fellow sports nut, and a writer for the Brooklyn Nets. I've been following his writing for almost 10 years and he has made me appreciate the beauty of words in describing sports. Check out his work, it's good: View From Couch

That's about it for now. Come along for the ride, should be interesting.

Play Ball!

- Fishy