Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pro Basketball - MJ Turns 50

I'm going to keep this short and sweet ... I don't like Michael Jordan. I've never met the guy, probably never will, and for all I know he's the greatest dude ever to walk the planet. But I grew up a Knicks fan, and even more a Patrick Ewing fan. And, thanks to MJ, Patrick never won an NBA Championship and also lost an NCAA Championship. For anyone else who has ever had a hero, it's really hard to like the person who prevented your idol from being successful. When was the last time you heard Iago singing a song about how much he loves Aladdin? It just doesn't happen.

With that said, I respect Jordan's accomplishments and what he did as a professional athlete. So instead of singing his praises myself, I refer you to an excellent article written by Michael Wilbon, sports writer and TV personality for ESPN. Enjoy ... Wilbon on Jordan

He's still no Patrick ...

- Fishy

Thursday, February 14, 2013

College Basketball - Praising the Enemy

[I would like to start this post by pointing out that many fellow Tar Heels will find it sacrilegious to say anything positive about the Dookies. With that said, I am prepared for the consequences of my actions.]

Coach K has been reading my blog. Ok, probably not, but if you carefully watched the end of last night's Carolina-Dook game, you may see why I have drawn that conclusion.

For all of my loyal readers (thank you to both of you), you probably recall that this past weekend I wrote an entry discussing the practice of rushing the court in college basketball venues. I pointed out that the practice was over-done and not being reserved for those truly special and unexpected moments of joy.

Fast forward to last night. After a hard fought and close rivalry game, Dook ended up besting the Tar Heels on their home floor. At the final buzzer, a handful of Dookies poured out of the stands and bolted towards center court. At that moment, Coach K took control and immediately stopped the students and scolded them back into the stands. He shook his head in disgust as the students retreated and then proceeded with the traditional post-game handshake ritual with Roy Williams and the rest of the Carolina squad.

I would like to officially take my hat off to Coach K for what he did last night. Regardless of my personal opinions, biases, and feelings on the Tobacco Road Rivalry, Coach K understands that his school should EXPECT to beat Carolina everytime they play. Whether or not that happens is a different story, but it is not a game you ever go into with question marks about what will happen. The same goes for the Heels. Coach K also knows that defeating a Carolina team who is unranked and may or may not get into the NCAA Tournament is only significant because it's a rivalry game, not because it was an impressive victory. It is for this reason that the head Dookie guided the students away from the court and prevented them from making a juvenile and unnecessary public celebration display.

I may not like Coach K, he might be the leader of the enemy, he might look like a weasel, he might speak like a whiny 4 year old girl, he might hug men in an uncomfortably passionate way, and he might be the most obnoxious figure head in all of collegiate sports, but for now, I would like to say THANK YOU for doing the right thing last night. I appreciate it.

- Fishy

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Soccer - Hitting the Net

Over the last couple of years, I have really started to enjoy watching soccer. I am not sure how that happened considering I found the sport to be boring and slow throughout most of my childhood. Like most Americans, I preferred sports where the scoring was high and the action was non stop. But I suppose as I mature, I have come to appreciate the psychology and precision that is football to the rest of the world.

There is one thing though that I cannot appreciate. As I sit and watch the Barclay's Premier League on Saturday mornings (England's top pro league) it astounds me how many soccer players miss wide open shots. And I'm not talking about the guys who take the ball out of mid-air and miss the goal by 2 feet on either side. I'm talking about the star players who line up wide open shots off a fairly stagnant ball and miss the net by more than 10 yards. I mean, these kicks aren't even close!

Now, I know I'm not a soccer player and I've never personally scored a goal. However, these men are getting paid millions of dollars to play a game where they are expected to be the best of the best. To me, missing a shot that badly is the equivalent of Bill Gates walking into Best Buy and asking the Geek Squad to take a look at his computer because he's having trouble getting Windows to boot up. It just shouldn't happen. If you want to be an international superstar who gets to travel the world, have the girls, and live the life of luxury ... then play like it on the field.

The kicker for the San Francisco 49ers, David Akers, was receiving death threats earlier this year because he missed 10 kicks over the course of the NFL season. 10 kicks! And they were all close misses. Can you imagine if we applied the same standard to Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney, and Van Persie? They would all be living in bunkers every second of the day fearing for their lives! Now I'm not saying that Akers was treated fairly, but I do believe we can expect our top-level athletes to play like top-level athletes.

So please guys, do me a favor, just get the ball close. You don't have to put it in the back of the net every time, but I promise you, it's very difficult to score goals when the ball is landing 30 rows up in the stands on the lap of a grandmother who's had a few too many pints. That's not the kind of easy scoring we're paying you for.

- Fishy

College Basketball - Storming the Court

Over the last few weeks, Men's College Basketball has been some of the craziest and most compelling regular season sports that I can ever remember. Every week thus far in 2013, the number 1 team in the country has lost and many of those were to unranked or poorly ranked opponents. In addition to that, quite a few other top 5 and top 10 teams have gone down which has created all kinds of chaos and uncertainty in the weekly Top 25 polls.

With all of these upsets comes excitement. And recently, it has also come with student sections across the country storming the court. Just last night, the students at Notre Dame rushed the floor after defeating #11 Louisville in 5 overtimes. Let me repeat that ... they rushed the court after beating the number 11 team in the country even though they were ranked themselves. Why?

I'm sorry to say this, but it's starting to get ridiculous how the students are acting. It's not bad that they are excited and pumped up after a big win ... I understand the desire to celebrate. But back in my day (10 years ago), you only rushed the court after pulling off something truly spectacular. If you're a horrible team that happens to knock off the number 1 team in the country who was favored to beat you by 58 points, that's an excuse to storm the court. But when I turn on the TV to see college students rushing their team after beating Creighton, I know something is wrong.

Why am I having issues with this trend? There's 2 reasons:

1. It's dangerous. Yes, I know that makes me sound like an 85 year old man. However, a few weeks ago in Raleigh my point was proven. After the NC State Wolfpack defeated the Dook Blue Devils (yes, that's how us Tar Heels spell the name of the University located 8 miles down the road in Durham) the student section decided to storm the court. In the process, several students ran over and trampled a kid in a wheelchair!!! Luckily there were not major injuries to that student (that I am aware of) but it was not the first time that students have been injured in similar celebrations.

2. It sends the wrong message to your team. As I mentioned above, storming the court should be saved for major and unexpected accomplishments. When you storm the court, you are admitting to the world "holy crap, I expected us to lose and we didn't." Show more respect for your team and their abilities. Just because you beat a team ranked #7 doesn't mean it was a miracle ... especially when you're in the Top 25 yourself. When was the last time you saw students at North Carolina, Dook, Kansas, or Kentucky storm the floor? You know why they don't? They EXPECT to win. It doesn't mean you can't be excited about the victory, but winning is a culture, and the spectators help build that culture. Stand up, clap for your team, and tell them "great win, enjoy tonight, then get ready for practice tomorrow and go do it again next week."

I appreciate the enthusiasm of students on and off the court in collegiate athletics. Unfortunately, this is one trend that needs to go away. And since you can't expect 18 year old students to truly understand the ramifications of what they are doing, it's time for the University, the coaching staff, and the floor security to take a stand. It's not a bad thing to stay in the stands, it's the right thing.

- Fishy

Pro Football - Super Bowl Recap

When I think of the NFL Championship game, many wonderful thoughts and memories come to mind. I remember sitting on the couch with my dad during Super Bowl XXV, wearing matching t-shirts, watching our NY Giants win a thriller against the Buffalo Bills (thank you Scott Norwood). I remember living in Phoenix during Super Bowl XXX and having the chance to enjoy the phenomenal event known as the NFL Experience the weeks before the big game. I think of all the great parties I've attended, the food I've put away in my gut, and of course the commercials.

Unfortunately, this year's event will not be remembered by anyone for any of the reasons above. Super Bowl XLVII will simply be known as "The Blackout Bowl." And if you were paying any attention at all to the telecast, you know why.

Early in the 3rd quarter, half of the lights in the New Orleans Superdome lost power and shut off. In addition to the lights, the CBS commentary booth also lost power so we were not able to get an immediate explanation on television of what was going on. At first, the situation was simply perplexing and on some levels a touch scary (welcome to the post 9-11 US mindset). However, over the next 35 minutes, it went from perplexing, to humorous, to annoying, to ridiculous. At one point I was convinced that a 49ers fan had pulled a plug somewhere just to get their team back in the game. After all was said and done last Sunday night, the power outage in NOLA was the #1 topic of discussion.

Oh, by the way, there was a game that night too. And as it turns out, it was a really good one. Had the power never gone out the Ravens might have cruised to their Super Bowl victory, but circumstances as they were allowed San Francisco to make an improbable come back ... one that came up just short of being the greatest turnaround in NFL history.

I would like to say that the Baltimore Ravens played 30 minutes of outstanding football. The first half they put together was close to flawless and they earned their win before the half. Unfortunately for them, they knew it, and they almost blew it for that very reason. Had it not been for some very questionable play calling by Coach Harbaugh (Jim, if you're counting), the Niners would have finished off the storybook ending. And let's talk about that for a moment ... specifically the goal-to-go situation late in the 4th quarter. With only a few minutes left and needing a touchdown, San Fran had the ball inside the Baltimore 10 with 4 chances to put the ball in the end zone. On first down, they ran with Frank Gore to get the ball around the 5 yard line ... conservative but sensible call. However, they proceeded to run the exact same pattern 3 times in a row to get the ball in for a score ... a pass to Michael Crabtree in the right flat. Besides the fact it was ridiculous that no play was called to give Colin Kaepernick the ability to run and use his athletic ability, this was the same pass route that the Niners used to win a close game late in the regular season. Don't you think Jim's brother on the opposite sideline knew this was coming?! The total lack of creativity by the offense was disturbingly poor and ultimately made it much easier for the defense to hold their ground. Oh ... and did anyone else notice on that 4th down play that Vernon Davis was wide open in the middle of the end zone? The Niners can complain all they want about not getting a holding penalty ... had they called a better play it wouldn't have made a difference.

Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens on winning their 2nd Super Bowl and sending Ray Lewis out as a winner. But honestly, will anyone remember the final score? It's only a week after the game ended and I couldn't tell you right now what the margin of victory was. I know it was close ... but more importantly I know that half the stadium couldn't see their beer cups for 35 minutes. And if I ever forget that, last night's opening skit on SNL will always be there to remind me ... SNL Super Bowl Skit

- Fishy

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Pro Football - Super Bowl Sunday

It's Super Bowl Sunday!

For me, this statement is more than just the declaration of a game or 24 hour period ... it's more like a religious experience. The Super Bowl is not just a championship matchup ... it is a holiday that celebrates the culmination of 5 months of sitting on my couch and logging countless hours of football watching. Today, the two best teams in football square off for immortality and a permanent place in NFL history.

Ok, so the "two best teams" piece can be debated, but the rest is pretty much spot on. Before this season started, the 49ers were my pick to win it all. They had the most impressive wide receiving and running back squad in the NFL, they returned a phenomenal defense, and Alex Smith was showing signs of becoming a franchise quarterback. Fast forward to today ... toss out the facts that Brandon Jacobs was a bust and Alex Smith took a back seat to a dynamic young hot shot, and I still think the 49ers are the best team in football.

That brings us to the Baltimore Ravens. I suppose they could be the second best team in football (especially since no other team was consistent enough all year to earn that title) but I still believe they'd be on the couch like me if Ray Lewis hadn't announced his retirement. But, Ray DID announce he was leaving and there is no doubt that Baltimore earned its trip to New Orleans. When you can go on the road in the playoffs to beat both Peyton Manning AND Tom Brady, you've already accomplished something special.

So that begs the question ... who wins today? So far this post season, the team with the most talent has had better luck than the team who wanted it more or who had the more prestigious coach. That hasn't held true for every game, but for the most part that's how we got here. Since the two coaches today are pretty much a wash (unless you root for the Niners or Ravens, you really couldn't tell the difference between the Harbaugh boys), I'm going with talent. And just like I said before the NFC Championship games, watch out for LaMichael James and Vernon Davis (who just happened to score the first 2 TD's for the Niners ...). Now, I don't think they will be quite as influential as they were against the Falcons, but both players have the potential to be difference makers. Today though, the hero is going to be Randy Moss ... just wait and see.

Official Prediction:
27-21 San Francisco 49ers over the Baltimore Ravens
MVP: Randy Moss

At the end of the day, I don't really care who wins. I want a good game, funny commercials, and lots of unhealthy food! Happy Super Bowl Sunday everybody!