Friday, May 30, 2008

Trojan Baseball Shouting: Randy Johnson & Bret Boone

I have to show my appreciation for two Trojans that were big hits (and pitches) on the USC baseball diamond. Though the letters U-S-C are synonymous to college football, the Trojan baseball program is historically one of the best in the country. With 12 baseball titles, the competition pales in comparison, with no other program recording more than 6.

Randy Johnson recently reached another major league milestone. Fanning 9 Giants on Thursday night, the Big Unit has tied Roger Clemens for second on the all time strikeouts list. In 20 major league seasons, he now has 4,672, trailing only Nolan Ryan, who holds the all time lead of 5,714. It’s not likely that he’ll catch Ryan, as the 44 year old is nearing major league closure. But in all, it’s still a tremendous feat, and a mark of an outstanding professional career.

Bret Boone has officially announced his retirement from the majors, though this was a long time coming. This 3 time all star and 4 time golden glove winner leaves the game with the 3rd most homeruns hit by a second baseman, trailing Jeff Kent and Ryne Sandberg. Bret, and his brother Aaron (also a Trojan), represent third generation major leaguers for the Boone family, As his father (Bob) and grandfather (Ray) also played professional baseball. With his father being a member of the Washington National’s baseball management, I’m expecting to see the same career choice for Bret. Good luck to him, in whatever he chooses to do.

O-Linemen clocked in the 40- Do you care?

We’ve developed this fascination of waiting the 40 yard dash results of football players. To some extent, those times may hold importance and further the evaluation. But when it gets to the point where we anticipate the results of 350 pound men chugging in a straight line for 40 yards, with each looking like they should have worn a sports bra, I’d say it’s a little overboard.

First, let’s make sense of an offensive lineman running full speed for 40 yards. There would only be two possible scenarios to force this, and neither is good. The only reason those big hogs would be running that far, and that fast, would be in the result of an offensive turnover. If your offense serves up an interception or fumble, these mastodons have the unlikely task of running down the opponent that now possesses that ball. Umm...Good luck with that.

If you’re going to clock and seek out the largest player most likely to run down a cornerback, linebacker, or safety, you’ve already missed the point, because it’s your inaccurate quarterback or butterfingered skill players that are the problem. Even on screen plays, if it's necessary for your offensive linemen to still be blocking 40 yards downfield, then they've obviously set the blocks for the tortoise, and not the hare. Tailbacks and receivers should already be passing the screen blocking O-lineman, by the 10 yard mark.

So realistically, a better speed measurement for offensive linemen would the 10 yard dash. After all, you’re not looking for someone to win Olympic gold on the track. You’re looking for the quick and sudden burst and explosion. NFL scouts clock offensive linemen for 10 yards, as part of their evaluation. Any lineman already 40 yards down field, in less than 5 seconds, is drawing an "offsides" penalty or is extremely undersized. That's just reality.

And since we’re talking about it, wouldn’t you know it? I have some 10 yard dash results of Trojan linemen. It took a while, but you knew this was leading somewhere. Didn’t you?

Charles Brown 1.81
Zack Heberer 1.81
Nick Howell 1.67
Butch Lewis 1.73
Kris O’Dowd 1.75
Martin Coleman 1.88
Alex Parsons 1.73
Mark Reardon 1.70

Those numbers may not mean much, unless you clock yourself in the 10 yard dash, and then imagine carrying the body weight of an offensive lineman. But I will say this, and mark my word, Kris O’Dowd will be the next great run blocking/pass protector at USC.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Last Hoorah For Mike Williams?

It seems like yesterday that Mike Williams was clad in the cardinal and gold and wearing that No. 1 on his chest. The memories of spectacular catches and dominating performances are still fresh. By his sophomore year, Williams was averaging an unbelievable “1 touchdown for every 5 touches”. He was alerted by the Downtown Athletics club that he was in consideration for the Heisman Trophy. He was a first team all American and AP national champion, but quickly things changed.

After losing a battle with the NFL for early entry, Mike sat out an entire year from football, and still managed to become the 10th overall pick in the 2005 draft. That would become the highlight of his NFL career, as he has appeared on 4 different NFL rosters since entering the league. Mike Williams is a bust, but not without another chance. This upcoming season with the Tennessee Titans could possibly mark the last hoorah in the NFL tour of Michael Williams.

There’s a mutual respect between Titans coach Jeff Fischer and troubled receiver Mike Williams. Fischer, the Trojan grad, and Williams, the former Trojan star, are in a position where each needs the other. The Titans are desperately in need of targets for Vince Young, and Williams is in desperate need of keeping his job. Of all the rosters Mike has appeared on, this may be the most logical fit.

Tennessee represents the first playoff team for Williams, after struggling in Detroit and Oakland. It’s also a place without a true No. 1 receiver, as the Lions featured Roy Williams, and the Raiders split Porter out wide. There isn’t the pressure of comparison that often leads to criticism and disappointment. The Titans run a system where the passing game supports the run game, and not vice versa. They also feature a quarterback that struggles with accuracy, so the bigger the target, the better.

But before Williams could even take the field, Fischer laid out his expectations and demands. If Williams is going to continue to struggle with his weight and work ethics, he cannot be a part of this team. Williams arrived at the Titans OTA’s 30 pounds lighter, early, and ready to work. There is no more guessing. This is the last stop. It may have come 3 years late, but it seems as if Mike Williams has finally matured. “Now or never” situations are usually good for speeding along that process.

I believe a decision to try and force early entry into the NFL, that eventually cost him is college eligibility, is something that slowed his growth. But looking at his companion (Maurice Clarett) who also pushed the courts for sophomore entry, the house of busts is far better than that house of bars. There is no guarantee that Williams will make the Titans final cut or even survive the season, but I wish him the best for going out trying, rather than sitting back, as in years past, expecting automatic roster spots based on collegiate tape and statistics.

Thanks for the memories, Mike. Fight On!

DOH-mer Of The Week- Cheap Date

There’s the ongoing debate of whether or not amateur athletes should receive some type of monetary compensation for their performances on the field. This week’s DOH-mer adds a new wrinkle, and reason to support the “yea” sayers. When your starting defensive back is arrested for shoplifting a box of condoms, it’s either time to examine a student athlete’s inability to purchase low cost items or look into the rising cost of prophylactics.

Purdue Safety, Torri Williams, was suspended indefinitely from the team, following an arrest where he was suspected of stealing a box of condoms from a grocery store. Williams was already on probation for a prior DUI, and was also present at a nightclub where one of his teammates became the victim of a stabbing. Though the condom snatching was a misdemeanor, the university had seen enough.

The whole ordeal has me wondering if he was seriously broke or just embarrassed. Believe it or not, but for whatever reason, some men are embarrassed to purchase condoms. I’ve never had that problem, and will happily use that little box to announce to everyone in line that I’m getting laid that night. Seriously, how embarrassing can it be? Females have no problem tossing their little package on the counter that alerts all customers and employees that their menstrual cycle has begun (though the menacing look on their faces is a good indication), so why can’t males buy condoms, without trying to bury the merchandise beneath a bunch of sh*t that’s only being purchased to hide that little box with the Trojan on it. Hell, the most embarrassing question a cashier can ask is, “Do you want that in a bag or would you like to wear it home?”

If it is the embarrassment, then here’s my suggestion to all you embarrassed males. Purchase your condoms at a sex shop. With aisles lined with whips, chains, blow up dolls, butt plugs, and pocket vaginas, a tiny box of condoms on the counter is mild. They are also available through mail order, but if you’re cheap or broke, you couldn’t pay the postage anyway.

Now I'm no rocket scientist, but more embarrassing than purchasing condoms is getting caught stealing them. If I’m ever caught shoplifting, the cops better be pulling a 50” HD television out of my pocket. The last thing anyone needs is that chuckle, when fellow inmates ask the dreaded question of, “what are you in for?”

And it also makes no sense to spend all your money on dinner and a movie, if you kill the ending by not being able to afford the nightcap. You have to budget in the rubber costs, even if it means she gets the smaller box of popcorn.

By thinking safety first, this Purdue Safety lost his spot on the team, has jail time pending, and never got the nookie. But the entire evening wasn’t a complete waste, because now he has a DOH-mer.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Eyes On A Foe: Bruins protected against Neuheisel’s past

With the details of Rick Neuheisel’s contract released, the Bruins don’t appear to be as stupid as some thought them to be. Neuheisel left a trail of sanctions and damaged programs behind him, but this time around, if he can’t break old habits, it’s going to hit him in the pocket.

Colorado received 2 years probation, for violations occurring while Neuheisel was head coach. Washington forced him out, after allegations of gambling surfaced and began to swirl. UCLA opened their arms and welcomed their former Rose Bowl quarterback home, but that welcome required a signature that would protect the program against any future losses.

One provision of Neuheisel’s contract states that if the program receives sanctions and/or probation, “in which the coach was directly involved, that coach facilitated, condoned, ignored what the coach knew or should have reasonably known”, bonus incentives become void and repayable to the program.

In writing, the punishment doesn’t seem very severe. But when you look at a coaches salary, you realize the bulk of their annual earnings are generated by bonuses. Neuheisel receives a base coaching salary of $250, 000 per year, but with incentives and bonuses, it’s stretched to a possible $1.75 million annually. His contract includes as follows:

Academic bonuses- up to $50,000
8 victories- $20,000
12 victories- $100,000
Pac 10 title- $100,000
Pac 10 co-champ- $80,000
BCS title game- $200,000
Any BCS game- $100,000
Bowl paying conference $1 million- $40,000
Bowl game under $1 million- $20,000
Coach of the year- $50,000

Also included in the contract is a home loan, 2 Automobiles, and a family suite at the Rose Bowl.

Note: The Bruins just landed Super prospect QB Richard Brehaut from Rancho Cucamonga. The 6’3 High School Junior should give Neuheisel a step towards reaching his incentives in the future.

Monday, May 26, 2008

2008 Heisman Favorites and Why They Won’t Win

Jumping out early, I’ll play the role of fashion show judge. I’ve lined the models on the stage, and I’ll break down why they made my list, along with why each won’t win it. Of course, someone has to win, but I’ll allow you to make that early prediction.

Tim Tebow, QB, Forida- How could I not put the current Heisman winner on the list? Just the fact that he has the stiff arming figure in his trophy case should make him the front runner. In 2007, Tebow was the ultimate college football weapon. When it came to scoring in multiple ways, no one else was better.

Why he won’t win: For the same reason he is the front runner, is the same reason he won’t win. You can duplicate your Heisman winning numbers, and still not win the award a second time (See Matt Leinart). What was good enough in ‘07, certainly won’t be good enough now, unless someone else is doing it. If the Heisman comes down to a tight vote, Tebow becomes victim of the “We gave it to him last year, so let’s reward this guy” philosophy.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech- If Crabtree plays out his career at Texas Tech, he will possibly leave with every NCAA receiving record. There wasn’t a more consistent receiver in 2007. And though some will say he’s benefiting from a system, wouldn’t that also hold true for Jerry Rice? Rice turned out to be pretty damn good.

Why he won’t win: Receivers are dependent on the quarterback, and will have fewer touches per game than some other teammates. Realistically, QB Graham Harrell has a better shot of winning the award. Receivers that have won the Heisman usually have a secondary duty, such as return specialist (See Tim Brown and Desmond Howard). This adds to additional moments in the spotlight. He can be great on one play, but another 10 plays may go by, before he touches it again.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia- Moreno begins the season positioned well. His team will likely be preseason No. 1 in the majority of polls. And if not, Georgia shouldn’t be any lower than No. 2. He also expands his stage, with the Bulldogs traveling west to Tempe. If any of my fellow west coasters haven’t had an opportunity to watch the kid run, they really need to check him out, because it’s pretty damn sweet. With his Western tour and his many high profile SEC contests, this model may spend more time on stage than any of the others.

Why he won’t win: The same helping schedule is a hurting schedule for Moreno. Too often, team success becomes more of a factor than the individual performances (See Arkansas’ struggles and McFadden’s early 2007 fade from the Heisman running). If Georgia can survive their schedule, we can scribe Moreno on the Heisman today. But unfortunately, if other favorites manage to have more team success, it unfairly penalizes this redshirt Sophmore.

Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri- He was on the Heisman stage last year, so why not invite him back? Daniel lost twice to Oklahoma in 2007, and his Tigers will miss the Sooners in the regular season, which is a plus. But he won’t dodge the Longhorns in ’08, and a great performance in that game is a must. He also has the season finale against the rival Jayhawks, before setting up a possible meeting with the Big 12 South winner in the title game.

Why he won’t win: Daniel won’t win, because how can you receive the nation’s most outstanding player award when you’re not even the best in your conference. The Big 12 may arguably have the best group of quarterbacks in the country, and Daniel will more likely be receiving fewer headlines than Harrell, Bradford, and McCoy.

Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma- Jason White won it, Adrian Peterson came close, and now enter the next Sooner Heisman hopeful. Bradford was in the ’07 running, until OU lost a couple of games they should have won. The early season explosion of stats was soon forgotten, when Sam lost to Colorado, and then again to Texas Tech.

Why he won’t win: Bradford is in the same position as Daniel. OU won’t play a regular season game against Mizzou, but it will be important for Sam to outperform McCoy, Harrell, and Reesing in the 2008 meetings.

Beanie Wells, RB, Ohio State- Beanie is in great shape. Of all the contenders in this year’s class, he was the last to perform on a football field, where he did well in the BCS title game. His memory is most fresh, even in a losing effort. With Mendenhall and Hart now in the NFL, Wells is possibly looking at towering in stardom over the lesser known Big 10 runners.

Why he won’t win: The Sep. 13 trip to Los Angeles will be crucial to Beanie’s Heisman hopes. Win or lose, against USC, he needs to perform well. Mendenhall’s Rose Bowl performance against the Trojans gave him a boost from “very good” draft prospect to “first round, and top 3 in the running back class”. Following the game against the Trojans, the Buckeyes stage is dimly lit. It has bookends of spotlight games, so somewhere in the middle he may get lost among the other big name buzz across the nation.

Joe McKnight, RB, USC- It would be crazy to not have a running back from tailback U on the Heisman watch list, especially one being called the “second coming” of Reggie Bush. Mcknight has all the tools to become one of the next great Trojan running backs, and had a year to mature in Steve Sarkisian’s offense. He brings an added bonus, by also utilizing his skills in the return game.

Why he won’t win: Pete Carroll is running a tailback by committee offense, and this will limit the touches for Joe McKnight. Sharing the ball with Marc Tyler, Stafon Johnson, and C.J Gable will make it difficult to be a standout in any game. Unless he can guarantee highlight reel performances on every carry, he’s going to be viewed as just “one of many” running backs at USC. He’ll also be running behind a very inexperienced offensive line, and he’ll go as the line goes. 2009 would actually be a better Heisman projection for Joe.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Pittsburgh- Is anyone still seeing the name and asking “who”? McCoy is one of the best kept secrets in college football. His team’s greatest 2007 achievement was the upset of West Virginia, and though most can quickly pick out Pat White from a group, few can identify McCoy or even tell the number he wears. I’m expecting big things in ’08 from this super Soph, but who knows how many people will actually see it.

Why he won’t win: The panthers don’t get enough exposure. Unless he puts up astronomical numbers, 2008 will be a very good but quiet year. Ray Rice, Kevin Smith, and Matt Forte rushed for over 2000 yards In 2007, yet not one of them was a Heisman finalist. Rutgers had some exposure, but Pitt would rank with Tulane and Central Florida, as far as media spotlight goes. Trying to select McCoy for the award, with little exposure, would be similar to selecting the prettiest girl in a beauty contest, and one is dressed in a Burqa.

Pat White, QB, West Virginia- Pat White and the Mountaineers demand your respect. They arrived quickly, and they haven’t left. They’ve more than held their own in the biggest games, and despite the coaching change, look to be preparing for another BCS run. White’s speed and agility can conquer most defenses, leaving only a question of his arm.

Why he won’t win it: If the committee is choosing between dual threat quarterbacks, White’s overall stats are going to be compared to Tim Tebow. Although he may be the most electrifying player in college football, in a comparison of both passing and running stats, he may fall short of the current Heisman winner. Last season, the worry was that teammates (White and Slaton) would pull votes from each other. This year, watch out for Noel Devine.

Sleepers- Percy Harvin, WR, Florida; Amanti Edwards, QB, Appalachian State; Ian Johnson, RB, Boise State, Max Hall, QB, BYU

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Are football powers willing to trash their trophies?

If college football finally gets that long awaited playoff format and the opportunity to crown a champion on the field of play, the fans will finally be rewarded with what they’ve been requesting for many years. Well, at least some fans, and to some extent. While a playoff would bring mostly good to the college game, as far as solid season ending closure, for traditional powers, it may bring something they aren’t so willing to do.

When we finally see a team work its way through a playoff and finish as the last man standing, for the first time in history, the number “1” will be recorded in the NCAA college football books. That team would become the first recognized football champion by the NCAA. Currently, the association recognizes not a single champion in college football, for the lack of a true method of crowning one. Our football teams are crowned by media outlets and other organizations that select the champions of their choice.

Once the number “1” is registered in the books, the number “12”, for Notre Dame, becomes insignificant. The number “11” becomes meaningless to Southern California, and so on, and so forth. We would usher in a new era on the college gridiron by trashing those so called “championship” achievements of the past.

Tell me how much significance, in today’s game, does the national championship trophies of Yale and Princeton hold, since the sport was split into divisional levels? We’re already beginning to have a BCS trophy count, with LSU being the first two time winner. That alone is the beginning of phasing out championships of the past. Once there’s an actual playoff, and the NCAA begins to recognize a football champion, the deal is done.

Essentially, such a move would render the Alabama Crimson Tide as the NFL's Green Bay Packers. The Packers had a total of 9 championships by the 1965 season. And by the opening of the ’67 season, they suddenly had none. Is there any wonder to the NFL championship award being called the “Vince Lombardi Trophy”? The name is a lone remnant of the Packers early dominance and greatness. The new NCAA championship award can scribe itself as the “Paul Bear Bryant Trophy” (as the AP award does now), to carry a small bit of Bama's past history into the new era, as those achievements quickly become worthless tidbits.

Are all those programs that are calling for a playoff system also willing to make the sacrifice? If your program has zero titles, then hell, the answer is easy. But what about the traditional hardware collecting programs, and what they stand to lose? It’s not possible to have one without the other, because this, without a doubt, is a playoff package deal.

Mayo, coming to an arena and bookstore near you

It’s not surprising that the next chapter in the life of O.J. Mayo will feature many chapters about his stay at USC. O.J’s former confidant, Louis Johnson, is preparing a “tell all” book for publication, with a release date set for the tail end of 2008. The book is expected to net Johnson an easy 6 figures.

It’s apparent that the man with the inside info is looking to be the man with the money, which is what sparked this ordeal in the first place. Anyone watching him on ESPN’s “Outside the lines” could see a man more driven by jealousy and anger, for not being the fat wallet man that Rodney Guillory was, and coming with an attitude of “if I’m not getting paid, I’ll make sure you all pay, in one way or another”.

Well, that payday is now on the horizon. Johnson’s lips have been sealed, since originally breaking the story. Now you’ll have to pry his mouth open with hundred dollar bills. Now, instead of a network relaying his story, and cashing in on its worth, Johnson will bypass the middle man and reap the profits on his own.

Although I believe he has much truth to speak, I also believe this rush to profit may hurt his credibility. It doesn’t look like a man eager to expose a ring of corruption, as much as he looks like a man in a hurry to enjoy some of the finer things in life. If it’s all about doing what’s right, the rat starts squealing when the first dollar is spent, and not after an alleged $200,000 are dropped in the bucket. But receiving $200,000 in money and gifts is definitely more book worthy than passing a buck.

I can easily say I wouldn’t spend a dime on this soon to be publication, but I know my own curiosity, and I will add to Johnson’s profits. Hopefully, it’s a paperback, and not a hard cover.

McKnight regains eligibility

Tailback Joe Mcknight acquired the academic marks necessary for eligibility. He was declared ineligible in the Spring, after dropping a class, and did not participate in the latter of spring practices or the annual spring game.

With restrictions lifted, McKnight can now participate in all team functions and look forward to the summer workouts. But it wasn’t all good news coming out of USC. Though no players are academically ineligible or completely failed out of the program, some players will be forced into summer session classes to retain their Fall eligibility. When, and if, those players are identified, I’ll share those names in an update.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Best and Worst Athletes turned Actors

Terrell Owens has jumped into the Hollywood scene, and Jason Taylor has made his future intentions clear. Over the years, plenty of players have gone from field to film, but most are unable to match the same greatness they had in sports, and incorporate it to the silver screen. Owens and Taylor left me wondering who was the best and worst to make the switch. There's quite a few that attempted this, and some actually had success.

I give you part one in a series of best and worst athletes turned actors. They are in no particular order, and their talents receive a Horse’s rating of either “God given” or “God awful”. Enjoy.

God Awful: Ray Allen, Boston Celtics. Ray Allen was chosen to star in Spike Lee’s “He got game”, and hasn’t received a role since. The first mistake was accepting a starring role, with Oscar winner Denzel Washington playing a lesser part. If anything, it drew more focus to how lousy Ray was in his film portrayal of an umm…basketball player. After displaying his non talent, Ray Allen’s television endorsements and ESPN commercial spots have learned not to give him any speaking roles longer than a paragraph.

God Given: Mark Harmon, UCLA Bruins. This former Westwood quarterback never took a snap after graduation, and instead jumped into the world of acting. Though his roles are about as Oscar worthy as his football performances were Heisman worthy, it was apparent that Mark was more suited for make-up and teleprompters than pads and playbooks.

God Awful: Bruce Lee, MMA. Bruce may be one of the greatest action film stars in Hollywood history, but is someone that was always typecasted. The scripts in Lee’s movies were about as important as scripts in porno flicks. They were all about the action, faces, and climax. He spawned an onslaught of future kickers that took to the movie screens to also become lousy actors, with Chuck Norris, Jim Kelly, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Steven Seagal to follow.

God Given: Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers. Terry receives the “God Given” label, because in his roles he’s playing himself. No, he wasn’t a Superbowl winning quarterback in “Failure to launch”, but the personality of his character is much like his own. It’s similar to Icecube doing an outstanding job of portraying a thug in “Boys in the hood”. Imagine that? Let’s see both Icecube and Terry Bradshaw play the role of a trial lawyer, and we’ll judge again.

God Awful: O.J. Simpson, Buffalo Bills. This NFL Hall of Fame member, turned murderer (umm, allegedly), dazzles me in the wonder of how he received so many scripts. The juice wasn’t getting better with each role, but if anything, getting worse. The only thing even close to receiving nominations from the academy was his tugging and shrugging to indicate that a glove was maybe 2 sizes too small, in the 90s drama “If it doesn’t fit, must acquit”.

God Given: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Miami Hurricanes. Before gaining silver screen fame, Dwayne was known in the wrestling world, which is the same as acting. Isn’t it? This former member of the Miami Hurricanes football team has shown where he’s most comfortable, and that’s in Hollywood. He’s quickly gone from the more action packed roles to roles requiring more acting skills, such as “The Gridiron Gang”. The Rock looks to be solid on film for years to come.

God Awful: Brian Bosworth, Seattle Seahawks. Brian still hasn’t found anything he’s good at. He was a terrible NFL football player, as displayed by his short league stay, and just as bad as an actor (also reflected in his few roles). I think Hollywood tried to ride on a popularity that began at the University of Oklahoma, and managed to somehow continue into his NFL career. It was a very short ride for the Boz.

God Given: John Wayne, USC Trojans. Injuries may sometimes act as a blessing, and when John Wayne (known then as Marion Morrison) sustained an injury at USC, football coach Howard Jones yanked his scholarship, forcing him out of the program and school. Now he’s most remembered as the Duke, and I have to wonder if that little hitch in his giddee-up was a result of the past injury.

God Awful: Shaquille O’ Neil, Phoenix Suns. Shaq was allowed to be “Shaq”, as he co-starred with Nick Nolte in “Blue Chips”, but as for his other roles, they were for kids, where he simply played a freak of nature. It was the look, and not any talent that landed these roles. It’s the same as other massive on-screen freakazoid athletes, such as Bubba Smith, Wilt Chamberlain and Andre the Giant.

God Given: Tom Selleck, USC Trojans. Before “the stache” was Mr. Baseball, he was a young Trojan on a basketball scholarship. He’s actually been back in the news of late, giving his opinion to the newest O.J. Mayo scandal at USC. Selleck was never a great actor, but he’s not bad either.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Eyes On A Foe: Willingham tells Miles to bring it

Ty Willingham has just inked a deal that would place his Washington Huskies on a football field with the LSU Tigers. The first of the home-and-home series will be played in 2009, in Seattle. The Dogs would then travel to the bayou in 2012.

The Huskies have never dodged opponents, so there’s nothing surprising about the agreement. 2007 showed Washington playing one of the toughest schedules in the country, with 3 of their opponents appearing in BCS bowl games, and 6 finishing the year in the AP top 25. They roll into 2008 with Oklahoma, BYU, and Notre Dame as their non conference opponents.

Willingham’s philosophy is, “to be the best, you have to play and beat the best”, though he’s yet to do it, since returning to the Pac 10. He scored some big victories over ranked Tennessee and Michigan programs, as a coach in South Bend. But since his return to the west, he’s still failed to beat USC, though he has come close in the past two attempts, and he’s also fallen to Ohio State and Oklahoma. In fact, this past season gave him just 2 Pac 10 wins, with the program's other victories coming outside the conference, against Syracuse and Boise State.

If the Huskies fail to show improvement in the upcoming season, Willingham won’t be coaching against the Bayou Bengals in 2009. If ever there was a hot seat coach, he is it. The AD that hired him is now gone, terminated for the program's recent bout with futility. Willingham is a remnant of that athletic director’s reign, and I believe anything short of bowl eligibility in 2008 will leave Ty searching for new employment.

As for the fans in the Pacific Northwest, this news must have them buzzing. 2009 will not only bring USC and Cal to Seattle on the flip, but now they’re also hosting LSU.

Note: LSU is 4-0 versus the Pac 10 in the BCS era:

2006: LSU 45 Arizona 3 (Baton Rouge)
2005: LSU 35 Arizona State 31 (Tempe)
2004: LSU 22 Oregon State 21 (Baton Rouge)
2003: LSU 59 Arizona 13 (Tucson)

The meeting will mark 20 years since Washington has played an SEC opponent, since beating Florida 34-7 in the 1989 Freedom Bowl.

Bullsh** is smelt before actually seen

Enter the new phase of the O.J Mayo saga, and we find his selected sports agency, and the center of the controversy, has now severed ties with the former USC caging star and future millionaire. The biggest question becomes "why", being that sports agents aren’t in the business of voluntarily dropping investments of future earning potential.

Billy Duffy Associates released a statement with an explanation, as follows:

"Due to the overwhelming intensity of recent allegations regarding the recruitment of O.J. Mayo, we feel that our representation of him is a distraction for he and his family at this time," the statement said.

"This should be the best time in his life and anything that takes away from that enjoyment and the experience of this process is not fair to him."

That’s a nice try, but I’m not buying it, mostly because you can usually smell the bullsh*t before actually seeing it. That isn’t how a sports agency operates, and they’ve never cared more for a client and their families, as much as the care for their own greed. Reggie Bush didn’t seem to have problems lining up agents amid his controversies. Character players like Nebraska’s Maurice Purify and Alabama’s D.J Hall managed to pick up agents before draft day. And hell, even with the arrests and fallout to incidents circling Adam “Pacman” Jones and Chris Henry, they may have missed out on any potential endorsement deals, but still managed to maintain sports representation.

In one instance, someone can view the split as squashing the allegations against USC and O.J. Mayo. The allegations are based on sports pimping, and if an agent is willing to drop his client, it would likely send a message that there was never anything invested in him. But still, I’m not so quick to buy into that.

If you look at the bigger picture, it would appear that an agency is creating space between themselves and any possible penalties that may result from illegal actions. It would appear that an agency is willing to drop one, to protect all the others across the country on the payroll. O.J. can’t be the only one, can he? I doubt it. To assume the allegations are exclusive to a single player would also be the assumption of exclusiveness to one agency. Both assumptions would be false.

It’s usually during these occurrences of severance when all the good dirt hits the table. With nothing to lose, having already lost the money put into the investment, the agent will squeal and lay it all out on the table. Don’t expect any of that to be happening anytime soon, because this isn’t about an agent being snubbed by a client. It’s about an agency trying to preserve its existence and the future draw of other prospective clients on Junior High playgrounds.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Eyes On A Foe: Virginia posing little threat

The Trojan kickoff counter has now reached the “100 days” mark, as the downtime continues to drudge onward. The 2008 Rose Bowl appears distant in the rearview mirror, and a date with the Virginia Cavaliers looms closer than ever. The first game should give answers to spring questions, but I’m not so sure that this one will.

The last time the Trojans opened against an ACC opponent on the East Coast, they met a very formidable and competitive Virginia Tech Hokies squad that went on to become the ACC champions in 2004. In that game, the Trojan offense sputtered against a stiff Tech defense, and a young Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith struggled in their first collegiate starts. Norm Chow then made halftime adjustments, making Reggie Bush the primary receiver in the second half, and the Trojans walked away with a victory. That was then, and this is now, as the team, and times, have changed.

With the Virginia Cavaliers being this year’s opening target, they appear a lesser team than those Hokies of 2004. The Trojans will open with questions about the offensive line, and whether or not the young group has meshed properly. We won’t get those answers, as the Cavs defensive line is shot full of holes. Chris Long has moved on to the NFL, and Jeffrey Fitzgerald (expected to fill one of those holes) is no longer in school, transferring out of the program. What he takes with him is 73 tackles, 11 ½ for loss, and 7 sacks.

Four of Virginia’s returning starters are currently not enrolled in school. Academics have forced out QB Jameel Sewell, LB Darnell Carter, Cornerback Chris Cook, and WR Chris Dalton. If the Cavs fail to get academically better, they can be starting a true sophomore at quarterback, who threw just 61 passes in 2007.

On paper, and with the Virginia problems already mentioned, this game has the makings of a rout. This opponent should pose little threat, if any at all. But as everyone knows, a Trojan appearance, on the road, and against a BCS opponent, will always bring their best shot. The Cavs will have hopes of field storming in the end, and the Trojans will need to put such thoughts to rest, by flexing their muscle from beginning to end.

Anytime you're on the road it's tough, but in this case, I think USC will make themselves at home.

Fight On!

Arthur Blank needs his head examined

After reading reports of Matt Ryan’s newly acquired $72 million dollar deal, I can only imagine that somewhere in a federal penitentiary, and just across the Oakland Bay Bridge, former Falcons Michael Vick and DeAngelo Hall released a burst, somewhere along the lines of “Are you sh*@ting me?” Atlanta’s Arthur Blank has signed an unproven rookie quarterback to a contract that exceeds the amounts of Tom Brady and Tony Romo.

If you’re Michael Vick, and you’ve ever wondered if you would ever be a dirty bird again, this presumably answers your question with “no”. If you’re DeAngelo Hall, wondering if the Falcons wanted you to continue to prove your worth, before receiving an increase, or if they simply didn’t like you, I think you can go ahead and choose the latter.

Combining two Boston College educations (Tom Condon and Matt Ryan), and coupling that with a gullible spendthrift (Arthur Blank), the end result is a happy and wealthy rookie, and some very angry veterans across the NFL. If the welcome wagon was rolled into Falcons training camp for Ryan, I’m sure it’s suddenly been tipped on its side.

Nothing personal against Matt Ryan, but this deal wows me. This one deal, more than any other, reveals the need for a rookie salary cap. The trickle down effect will land deep in NFL pockets. Some may have felt safe with their draft positions on the 2008 board, feeling they could reasonably sign their selections, but now the message is clear, and regardless of where you sat in that first round, you’re going to pay a hefty price for it. Ryan, the No. 3 overall pick is getting $72 million. What will Darren McFadden want, as No. 4 overall? Tomlinson money?

Note to commissioner and players union: Rookie salary cap discussions should begin within the next 10 minutes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

DOH-mer Of The Week- 4 Hours of Horse Sh*#t

Yes, I’m a fan of horse racing. I’m even a fan of Big Brown, hoping to see a horse finally win the Triple Crown. But I’m not a fan of the pre-race festivities aired on the networks. Even after a thorough mind search, I still can’t find reasoning for them. A two minute race is preceded by 4 hours of race programming. Where’s the sense in that?

I actually got caught watching some of this programming, before the Preakness. It wasn’t something done purposely, but as I occupied myself with other activities, I never thought to change the channel. Suddenly, it dawned on me. Two hours later, analysts were still trying to break down a race that would only amount to 4 commercial spots on the network.

We all see the extensive pre-game coverage on Superbowl Sundays, and if you combine all races (Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes), it would be the “Superbowl” of Horse Racing. But still, that’s a little more than 6 minutes of actually racing, scattered over 3 days, and providing nearly 12 hours of coverage. Necessary? Hell no!

Unless Mr. Ed or Shrek's good friend "Donkey" is entered in any of these races, you won’t be getting an interview from the actual competitors. What you will get is live feed of “groomers”, explaining brush strokes. You’ll hear from “trainers”, with talks about diets and exercise. And you’ll also hear from owners, explaining the worth of their horse’s ejaculation, and comparing it to what they paid for semen.

Obviously, a horse is the staple of manhood. First, we coin the phrase “hung like a horse”, and then we place value on their sperm. Big Brown’s stud rights sold for $50 million, and I’ve spent a lifetime offering up my own as a free donation. In comparison to Big Brown, I’m not feeling very manly. America has spoken, and the Big Brown horse is far greater than the Trojan Horse. Maybe I'm just jealous...You think?.

Our DOH-mers will also give us spot interviews with several jockeys. Listening, more than actually watching, I couldn’t tell one from the other. My ears told me they represented the “Lollipop Guild”, with the “Lullaby League” sure to follow. And as I looked over to view the images on the screen, I found my eyes and ears to be in agreement. I can’t even remember any of their names. And just as I’m sure you can tell me which horse won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, I’m pretty certain you can’t give me the name of the jockey that rode him to victory. I can't, and I'm not even going to look it up. What the hell for? It doesn't matter!

When I turn on a Superbowl pre-game show, and see interviews with Tom Brady’s hairstylist, then maybe I’ll understand what pre-race shows are patterned after. When Tom Brady’s cook is telling the nation what he had for breakfast or Giselle is explaining his value in bed, then I’ll just call them copycats. When they interview the team equipment manager, waterboy, and the person on laundry duty, then I’ll understand why they have a person on camera for no other reason than riding a champion home. But until then, I can only conclude that these DOH-mers are fulfilling a need to fill space, when it’s obvious that 4 hours before a 2 minute race isn’t a need, but a want.

Make sure you tune in for the 4 hour Belmont Stakes pre-race show. I’m sure they’ll make another attempt to sell the excitement and thrills of horse racing, by highlighting the show with discussions about horse’s dying on the track.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Buckeyes and Trojans on a scouting field of dreams

On September 13, with the 2008 college football season still fresh, Ohio State and USC will meet on a football field for the first time in 18 years. And regardless of personal love or hate for either program, the television ratings are certain to explode. It marks the first big game of the new season, with each certain to be listed in the nation’s top 5. It has potential to be the biggest college football event outside of the BCS championship game, with title implications possibly resting on the results. And with its star-studded cast, and if the game lives up to the hype, it could rank among the historical best ever played.

Somewhere beneath that Fall sky, and lurking the Los Angeles Coliseum floor, representatives of the 32 NFL franchises will be in attendance. They will travel to a city that doesn’t host an NFL team, but to a stadium that is hosting future NFL players. With schedules created far in advance, and rosters changing each year, no one could have predicted that a game penciled on a schedule years ago would essentially lead to one of the largest regular season gatherings of potential first day draft selections. It’s a scouting field of dreams, long before the Senior Bowl (which excludes underclassmen), and months ahead of the NFL combine (featuring players in drills, and not in football performance).

Three of the nation’s top linebackers will be featured in that September game. Southern Cal’s Rey Maualuga and Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis (good luck trying to spell either last name on first attempt) were projected on many boards to go in the first round of 2008, but each chose to remain with their programs for their senior year. USC’s Brian Cushing, who struggled with injury in 2007, now joins Maualuga and Laurinaitis as a projected first round linebacker.

In the secondary, the Buckeyes bring the top rated cornerback, in Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins represents another that passed on the professional dollars to return to school. He maintains his first round projection, to begin 2008. In the Trojan secondary is an underclassman that may very well be the best safety in the country. Junior, Taylor Mays, has drawn comparisons to both Troy Polamalu and Ronnie Lott. Now draft eligible in 2009, if Mays chooses to forego his Senior year, he could be nabbed by the NFL in the middle of the first round.

With the 2009 running back class highlighted with the names, C.J. Spiller, Knowshon Moreno, and LeSean McCoy, Ohio State’s Chris “Beanie” Wells looks to be the top prospect at the position. Among his offensive lineman, Alex Boone looks to join his teammate in the first round. USC brings youth at running back and along the offensive line, but from the defensive trenches, Fili Moala is being rated anywhere between top 10 and top 5 of all NFL prospects.

The Trojan receiving corps is questionable, having failed to impress in the previous years. But Buckeyes wide out, Brian Robiskie, has the potential to be a first day selection, be it late first or somewhere in the second round.

Revisiting the Trojan secondary, other possible names that can be called in the second round include, S Kevin Ellison, CB Shareece Wright, and CB Cary Harris. Along with Taylor Mays, this group is arguably the best secondary in the country, and the best Pete Carroll has ever fielded.

To find a similar gathering of first day potential on one field, I think we would have to go back to 2006 Rose Bowl, when Vince Young, Limas Sweed, Frank Okam, Michael Huff, Aaron Ross, Jamaal Charles and the Horns squared off against Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Lendale White, Steve Smith, Dwayne Jarrett, Winston Justice, Ryan Kalil, Keith Rivers, etc. in the BCS Championship game.

If the upcoming September game can rival that 2006 Rose Bowl, fans across America are in for a definite treat. And for the NFL executives in attendance, as well as NFL fans, it brings the first glimpse of the league's future.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Are The Spurs A Dynasty?

Are the San Antonio Spurs considered a dynasty? I watched analysts debate this very subject on an NBA pre-game show, and I’ve still yet to draw my own conclusion. When I hear “Dynasty”, I think dominance, extended over a period of years. But the question becomes, with a championship being the ultimate sign of dominance, is winning the title in consecutive years essential to the criteria?

Main Entry: dy·nas·ty
1 : a succession of rulers of the same line of descent
2 : a powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable time

*Webster's Dictionary

The Spurs have won more division titles in the past 30 years than any other NBA franchise. If the Lakers manage to remain the last man standing in this year’s Western playoff race, they would tie, with 14. In the past 30 years, only the Yankees and Braves have won more division titles (15) than the Spurs. But even with 15 divisional titles, and only 1 World Series championship, I would categorize the Atlanta Braves more as “choke artists” than anything near a dynasty. The Spurs also possess the highest winning percentage of all sports in that time period, missing the playoffs just 5 times. Dynasty? No, not quite.

Until the Chicago Bulls went on a three year run of championships in the 90s, the Boston Celtics represented the last great NBA dynasty, running off a string of seven straight titles from 1960-1966. The Bulls ended their own run by winning 6 championships in 8 years, and left no questions to Chicago’s dynasty. The Lakers had a 3-peat of their own (2000-2002), and established themselves as the first dynasty of the 21st Century. And since the dismantling of that Lakers team, the focus has been on the Spurs, who managed to bookend the Los Angeles 3-peat, and pick up another pair of titles afterwards.

In all, the current run for the Texas black shirts is 4 championships in a 9 year period, with an opportunity to make it 5 in 10. A championship in 2008 would represent their first repeat performance. Is this a dynasty? If they add the hardware in ’08, there’s no question. But I’m still not sure we should be questioning, without this year’s title. If winning consecutive championships is a must, then it would mean the Spurs continuing to win titles in only odd numbered years would still restrict them from the label. If they won the title in ’09, and ’11, skipping this year and ’10, they would have 6 world Championships in a 13 year span. How can a team winning nearly half the titles in 13 years not be considered a dynasty?

I guess it's all open to interpretation. Either you must remain in power for consecutive years or be the most powerful in a span. I'll allow you to make the call. Are the Spurs a dynasty?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

DOH-mer Of The Week- 3 For 1 Special

"Richie Sexson made an ass of himself". That could have been a quick summary of this article, if two other members of the Seattle Mariners didn’t do the same. It turns out to be a historic moment for the Horse, because for the first time in this series, I'm given the opportunity to hand out 3 DOH-mers for a single event.

I’ll begin by saying that I know major league pitchers are hurling an object at nearly 100 miles per hour from just 90 feet away. I know what kind of damage can be done. I also know that any batter that stands at the plate in fear is no longer participating in the game, but becoming the game. In this case, Richie Sexson got played.

Sensing the mounting tension from 2 Rangers being hit by pitches earlier, the overrated, overhyped, and overpaid Richie Sexson stood at the plate. The pitch was thrown high, but wasn’t tight enough to be considered “head hunting”. But obviously, when you’ve already exchanged your jock strap for a pair of panties, and you’re already cowering before the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, that high pitch “over the plate” warrants a rushing of the mound. Sexson has a right to be angry, but not about the pitch. He should be angry with himself, after watching his actions replayed over and over again, and realizing that he got punked.

A quick mound rushing observation: Regardless of who the catcher or batter may be, the angry batter always wins the race to the mound. From my baseball hypothesis, anger equates to speed. I swear, if Prince Fielder (who’s about a doughnut away from running the 40 in about 10.6) was hit by a pitch and rushing the mound, Olympic sprinters wouldn’t be able to catch him. I’m still waiting for a Fielder mound rush, to prove my theory right.

So of course, as always, the 6’ 8 Sexson beats the catcher to the mound, tossing his helmet towards the pitcher, and Mariners fans witnessed a rarity. Sexson got a hit!

If you followed the link and watched the clip, you saw DOH-mers 2 and 3 appearing at the scene of the grime. Felix Hernandez is irate that his teammate was given a “high” pitch. He’s out there pushing, cussing, and trying to get in the mix. How the hell is Hernandez angered by a high pitch, when he plunked 2 batters earlier? The hit batters score for the game was 2-0, in favor of the Mariners, and Felix hit them both. He instigated the entire mess, so if Hernandez doesn't play on this day, the Mariners give up fewer runs, have fewer HBP stats on the scorecard, and his buddy Richie could have probably worn his boxers for the entire game.

And then there’s Milton Bradley. And first of all, if your name is “Milton Bradley”, you should at least have game. Milton is well traveled, and probably on the anger management registry lists of at least 7 states. So to see Milton playing peace keeper, would be about the same as seeing Colonel Sanders holding a PETA rally outside of Popeye’s Chicken. And last year, Bradley was pretty vocal about his torn ACL that he suffered when an umpire picked him up and moved him backwards, trying to clear him away from a fight. One year later, this DOH-mer is the one giving someone a lift. He demanded that the umpire be fired, for using that method to restrain him a year ago, so let's see if Milton will terminate himself.

As the dust settled, the Rangers won in a shutout, Sexson received a suspension, and he and his teammates are awarded DOH-mers. Brawls on the diamond are nothing new, but I’m sure that somewhere out there, Jose Offerman is sitting on his couch and calling Richie Sexson a poser, because he didn’t bring the bat with him.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mayo a statistic; Trojan basketball a tragedy

I guess I should be surprised with the new allegations against O.J. Mayo and the USC basketball program, but I’m not. Eyebrows were raised, before he ever arrived in Southern California. Here we had one of the top prep basketball players in America choosing a football school. That was already an immediate red flag. Mayo had a choice of any program in America, including perennial powers Duke, North Carolina, and the Trojan rival across town, UCLA. He announced that he would attend the University of Southern California, and I asked myself why.

Before his arrival, he even stated that he would give the Trojans one year to improve the team around him, before deciding if he would remain in Los Angeles or jump to the NBA. But the true statement would have been that he was going to play the year and determine his NBA value, before opting to run with his worth or stay and improve on it. He served his one year sentence, as I like to call it, since the NBA punishes star athletes with their under 19 rule, forcing them to either sit out and wait or play at the lower level without compensation.

Mayo is now a statistic, as I personally believe the allegations to be true. I find truth in it, because I know the work of basketball pimps that scour the nation’s high schools for hoes. The story broke, and people were buzzing about ESPN’s “outside the lines” segment that I had yet to see. I eventually saw the second showing of the episode, and the show mapped it out as I know it from experience.

Unless a kid has a family that can offer financial security throughout their collegiate years, the temptations will be there, and that player is a prime candidate for pimping. In many cases, we have superstars on the college courts and fields that can’t even afford a ticket to the movies on off days. The NCAA restricts seasonal employment, because your job is to be the money maker for these greater pimps. They label them as “student athletes”, but they are, in truth, “athletic students”. You have 2 jobs, maintain eligibility with class work, and then go out there and use your talents to increase the programs profits.

USC should have known better, especially with the Bush allegations still ripe. I can’t see how the school could not have knowledge of Mayo’s relationship with this ever-present “mentor”. Unlike the Bush allegations, which seem to identify transactions involving his parents in San Diego, we have Mayo on campus and a paper trail across the city that his mentor left behind. At some point, someone had to ask and wonder why Rodney Guillory was always there. I’m sure someone did, and I’m pretty sure those inquirers let it pass.

Prepare yourselves for the woeful days of Trojan basketball to return. And if you’re head Coach Tim Floyd, now would be a good time to start updating and preparing job resumes. As the L.A Times reports, the future may appear as this:

A compliance director for another West Coast university, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to comment about other schools, said potential penalties facing USC would hinge on whether school officials were aware of wrongdoing. Penalties could include forfeiture of victories, probation, loss of television appearances, scholarship losses or other recruiting restrictions.

Lil Romeo should just back out of his commitment now, unless he wants his basketball talents shelfed with what's left of his music career.

All kids won’t succumb to the instant fortunes being served up by sports pimps, just as all programs don’t have these pimps hidden in the Shadows. But the truth is, many kids, and many programs do. And both will spend many years getting away with it, until that one person slips or one reporter digs too deep. The athlete then moves on to professional glory, and the school left behind becomes the casualty. It’s just the way of the amateur world.

Will The Real 'USC' Please Stand Up?

As if there wasn’t enough debate between Southern California and South Carolina over which is the real “USC”, a third party now enters the discussion. Well, at least they’re making an attempt to be recognized, and the University out west has them frozen in the headlights.

In Utah, the high school formerly known as Woodland Hills has taken on the name Utah Southvalley Community High School, using “USC” for short. The letters alone won’t hold much importance, but also take into consideration that the school’s nickname is “Trojans”. Are the Southern Cal faithful flattered? If you are, let’s take it a step farther. The school’s colors are now cardinal and gold, and the logo is displayed below.

The interlocking letters bring and end to flattery, and a possible beginning to a lawsuit. The private school’s owner claims it isn’t a rip off, but a reflection of his ancestry, claiming to have lineage to Priam, the ancient ruler of Troy. Even if he did, which I doubt he can prove, it doesn’t give reason to the obvious cloning of the West coast institute. Their basketball team even went as far as adopting the black uniforms Southern Cal will wear from time to time, and complete with the exact cardinal lettering. Coincidental? I doubt it.

There are plenty of High Schools named Notre Dame. I once lived just around the corner from the one in Sherman Oaks California, which produced current Raider Justin Fargas and American Idol Katharine McPhee. Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks has a football team that mirrors Notre Dame of South Bend, with Golden helmets, blue jerseys, and the “ND” we’re accustomed to seeing on NBC Fall Saturdays. But for the sake of avoiding complete replication, the school’s nickname is “Knights”.

This new USC in Utah has no current plans to change, so any alterations would be by the order of the courts. And as for the debate between the other USC, South Carolina was founded in 1801, while Southern California appeared in 1880. You may think being 79 years the elder would give the Gamecocks the edge and rights to “USC”, but they were originally founded as South Carolina College (SCC). The name changed several times, before finally settling with “University of South Carolina” in 1887. The only change that came out west was the nickname, going from the “Fighting Methodists” to the “Trojans”, but “USC” has been a constant for 128 years. Still, the debate will always rage on, until one institution possibly takes the Ohio State route and places emphasis on “THE”. “tUSC”? Nah. I’m really not feeling that.

You say “USC”, and I think “Fight On”. And now that I think of it, I wonder if USC High School in Utah has coined that phrase, as well. If they haven’t already, I’m sure they will. Because after reading about the school’s owner, he may claim it was the battle cry of ancient Troy, and even provide recordings as proof.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Sun Devils Suddenly Have Morals?

I find it extremely funny that Arizona State is threatening to ban their cheer squad from the sidelines. I use the word “threatening’, because I won’t believe it until I see it. It’s ludicrous to believe they’ve suddenly developed morals. And it’s even more ridiculous to believe this upcoming ban stems from the internet photo (posted above) displaying cheerleaders in their bras and panties.

Joe Francis, and his film crew (Girls Gone Wild), spend so much time in Tempe Arizona that they might as well enroll and register for classes. Thanks to this entrepreneur turned millionaire, ASU is more known for T & A than anything they could possibly achieve in academics or athletics. You can search the entire internet for collegiate rankings in all categories, but you won’t find the Sun Devils in the top 10, until the list reflects “hottest co-eds”.

And then there’s the issue of the picture, itself. I fail to see what’s so terribly wrong, where it would warrant a complete ban. If it were bathing suits, instead of undergarments, would the photo be more tasteful? Both garments cover the same areas, and show just as much skin, so honestly, what’s the difference? Maybe it’s the “hands on hips” that brought forth the ban. You think? Former Louisville cheerleader, Becca Manns, was kicked off her squad for masturbation photos displayed on the internet. This is hardly on that level.

A former Trojan Volleyball player, Lisa Love, is the Vice President of ASU athletics, and the one making this call. She spent her career around song girls in sweaters, so maybe showing any skin above the wrist is over the top. In my opinion, It’s petty, and a rush to judgment. If I were on the ASU staff, I doubt I would vote for a ban, and would probably follow the procedure of viewing said photo, enlarging said photo, printing said photo, and displaying said photo on my bedroom wall. And finally, concluding with a big “thumbs up” to the girls, and issuing a warning to be careful where they post their pictures, along with the whole “you represent Arizona State University” spiel.

Besides, just because we won’t see them on the ASU sideline, doesn’t mean we’ll never see them again:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

DOH-Mer Of The Week- Finger Pointing

The BCS is here to stay. Well, at least until 2014. That announcement came last week, and created quite a buzz in the media. And along with all the talk, quite a few DOH-mers began their finger pointing, directing it towards the Big 10 and Pac 10. As someone out here in Pac 10 country, I point a finger back, and respond with a “F*&k You”. It’s easy to place blame and play follow the leader with the media, but a majority of those finger pointers didn’t even take a look at the pile of $h!t being disguised as a “playoff format”.

We have 119 teams in division I-A football, and the proposal calls for just 4 to be in a playoff. Unlike other sports, these 4 teams are still a production of the media vote, which isn’t any different than what we have now, except it limits the number of participants in any championship conversations. Your final BCS standings in 2007 were as follows:

1. Ohio State 11-1
2. LSU 10-2
3. Virginia Tech 10-2
4. Oklahoma 10-2

How do you tell two BCS conference winners (USC and West Virginia) that their achievement is insignificant, though they have the identical records of OU, Virginia Tech, and LSU? How do you tell a one loss Kansas team that they can’t be in this playoff?

That is how they finished the regular season, with no playoff in place. But if this proposed format was accepted last season, Virginia Tech would not be in, despite being No. 1 in the computers. If the media is in full control of which teams will participate, I could almost guarantee that Tech would have received fewer votes in the final polls, with Georgia and OU receiving more. Georgia and LSU didn’t play during the season, but media voting could have, and probably would have, forced the match up. We saw this happen in 2006, when the media votes allowed Florida to jump over Michigan to obtain a spot in the championship game, and for no other reason than the voters not wanting a Michigan/Ohio State rematch.

For it to even begin to be sensible, the field would have to be stretched to at least 8, and still wouldn’t be a full representation of college football. With their proposal, and teams qualifying with human votes, you’re still getting a media champion. If you can call that a playoff, then I’d say you’ve been bamboozled. What we have now is closer to a playoff, with teams practically playing in a double elimination tournament that begins in August and ends in January. To complete it, you would just take the BCS bowl teams, with the wildcards, and play it to an end. If anything, that would have been the proper proposal, instead of the smoke and mirrors campaign that was launched. I'm not saying it would have been accepted, but it would have been a hell of a lot better than the bull$h!t they served on the plate, and expected everyone to eat. Has the desperation reached the point where people are willing to accept any format, regardless of how asinine it may be? Sorry, but I'm not that desperate.

And Jim Rome, shut the f*&k up, because I’m burning now. Who is he to call out conferences? Who is he to talk about the shame of not having a playoff in college football? College football does have a playoff, on two different levels, but no one watches that $h!t. In December, I see Jim Rome booking guests that are about to play in the BCS championship game. How about having Armanti Edwards as a studio guest, Jim? All he’s done is lead his Appalachian State team to back to back Division I-AA championships, in a “playoff”! Don’t cry about the lack of a playoff, and blame anyone for it, when you’re sitting their promoting the BCS on your damn show! ESPN can shut the f*&k up with their blame game. College football live, college gameday, Sportscenter, Thursday night football, and airing games from sun up to sun down on Saturdays is all focused attention on Division I football. Eventually, at some point near the end of the show, hidden beneath all of that, an anchor may give his "by the way, Appy State won a title today". Pfft!

The SEC fought for a plan so transparent that it wouldn't take 20/20 vision to see through it. They looked to be the college football saviors, and quickly turned their water into whine. College football may need a true playoff, but judging by the viewers and monies exchanged, it surely doesn't need saving.

The DOH-mers are anyone crying about not having a Division I playoff, and pointing their fingers at the Pac 10 and Big 10. That includes anyone watching, promoting, airing, reporting and SPENDING on these events. It’s not the Pac 10 and Big 10 that are the culprits. It’s you, me, and everyone else that continues to increase the sports ratings and fatten their pockets. Stop crying, and deliver your message, by tuning out college football under the current format. Can you? I bet you can't. So yeah, I'm giving you the finger, and DOH-mer. Congratulations.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Live For The Game Or Die For Your Country

Another weekend has passed since NFL franchises made their 2008 draft selections. Those rookies have now joined their new teams and will work vigorously to obtain a roster spot. It was a draft filled with big name talent, but there’s a much smaller name that seems to have embedded itself in my thoughts. That name is Caleb Campbell, an Army cadet chosen in the seventh round by the Detroit Lions.

Everyone is aware of the personal sacrifice made by Pat Tillman, who willingly gave up a career in the NFL to fight for his country. Not since World War II had we seen professional athletes display that type of dedication to a cause bigger than the games they played, until Tillman shocked friends, family, and a majority of America with his announcement. Tillman eventually lost his life in Afghanistan, and a nation grieved for him.

In the case of Campbell, we get a complete reversal. Here is a young man who signed on to make the defense of America’s freedoms his priority, with anything else being secondary. Government money prepared him to be an officer on the battlefield, and nothing more than a hobbyist on the football field. But as Campbell's college football career came to an end, the U.S Army altered those priorities.

Before Roger Staubach could sling a single pass downfield for the Dallas Cowboys, he had to first fulfill his commitment to the United States Navy, including a tour in Vietnam. Before David Robinson could wear a San Antonio jersey, this Navy Midshipman had to serve two years of service, after being drafted by the Spurs, before he was permitted to appear on the hardwood. Times have changed, with rules changing with it, and it all leads to a question of fairness.

Under the new Military policy, any athlete drafted by a professional team can report immediately, and their service is pushed back. If that individual makes the roster, and remains in the league for two years, their service is waived completely. In theory, Campbell won’t only represent the Detroit Lions, he also becomes the Army Public Relations man and recruiting officer. The Army feels he’s more beneficial in a recruiting role than in a leadership role on foreign soil. The end result is that many of his graduating class, and former teammates will find themselves in active duty. Some will participate in the hostilities of Iraq and Afghanistan, and some will make the ultimate sacrifice with their lives. Is Caleb Campbell being rewarded for being great on the football field? Are his teammates being punished, because they were not?

And how much more pressure does it place on a coaching staff, when they are already faced with the big decisions of who should make a roster? There’s a big difference between cutting a player and sending him off to a smaller league or the American workforce. But that decision looms even greater, when a roster cut possibly condemns a young man to the atrocities of war. And what of the grieving parents, who hear time after time that their children assumed the risk, when they signed on the bottom line? The message seems to be that if their children were better athletes, they’d still be alive today. And in the midst of the controversy, itself, there is Caleb Campbell, victimized by the pressures of both sides of the argument.

I personally oppose the war in Iraq, while giving full support to the troops. I can only wish they were all better athletes. Do I think the new Military ruling is fair? I’m not sure. It bothers me that sport marks the separation between a soldier and his classmates. But at the same time, we get these great stories of our military saving Iraqi lives, so why is it a bad thing when we save one of our own?

But in all, Caleb Campbell has a military education, and an NFL contract. Everytime his name is mentioned or images are shown, the controversy will swirl. As a military man, he was given the choice to live for a game or possibly die for his country. Tillman chose his country. Campbell chose the game. I can't tell you which is right or question any loyalties, but I can tell you that for the first time ever, the popular phrase, "being thrown to the lions", has new meaning.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Eyes On A Foe: Taking It In The Wazzu

The Washington State Cougars will be short 6 scholarships for the upcoming season. With a poor Academic Performance Rating (APR), the NCAA will impose sanctions against the program, which will lessen the amount of scholarships by 6. Fewer scholarships puts a serious hurt on a programs recruiting, and we all know Wazzu can use all the help they can get.

The APR was set in place in 2005, and is a compilation of statistics and graduation rates for each Division I program. Schools graduating less than 50% of their players are sanctioned. I'm not sure where the less than 50% of Washington State's players that didn't graduate went, but it surely wasn't into the NFL.