GOING LONG

Posted: November 18, 2011 in NCAA

College football is something that takes over college towns in the United States like no other sport can. You would like to think that the big basketball schools love their teams, but even a small division 1 school come Saturday morning is abuzz the second the sun begins to rise. I can’t really say why that is, maybe it’s because the school spirit is so high, maybe because most of these small college towns are built around the income streams created by the local post secondary institution and this is their closest thing to big time sports. Either way, a great college season is coming to its end and there is a ton of excitement to take in.

One of the first big debates starting to come about is who will face LSU in the national title game. That argument of course is accompanied by a huge assumption that the tigers will win out their last few games. Now looking at their schedule it is totally acceptable to assume that they will roll over Mississippi State, but Arkansas is currently ranked #6 in the BCS rankings. Not to mention they are no slouch, as any half-decent college football fan knows that any top half team in the SEC can bring a big game any day of the week.

I for one believe that LSU will definitely be in the championship game, not to jinx them but their defense is just out of control. They smother the ball and rush you with what seems like NFL veterans against under sized and under skilled offensive linemen. They are killers on the field, take the ball from whoever they feel like whenever they want it, and almost always seem to call the right plays.

However the favourite is never safe in college football. Let’s not forget how strong a team Oklahoma was in the pre-season rankings and for the first few weeks of the season. With Landry Jones behind the helm of another strong offense from the Sooners they were favoured by many analysts to go on and win Stoop’s second national championship in his Oklahoma tenure. A slip up at Texas Tech however crushed almost any hope the Sooner’s had and gave them almost no shot at raising the crystal football.

Oklahoma State is the favourite right now to play LSU for the championship and I think all college football fans need to support this. It was too long ago that the “I’m a man!” speech from Cowboys’ now famous coach Mike Gundy was made you remember OSU. I for one was extremely entertained by that speech; it showed that there are great men as coaches out there looking out for these kids. Now the talk of OSU is about their football team and the incredible success it is having and not just about their coaches ability to take over a room.

Brandon Weeden is tearing up defences like an NFL pro would be at a high school game. He threw for over 400 yards and five touchdowns this past weekend against Texas Tech in about three quarters of play. This guy isn’t even playing complete games all the time and is still dominating college football like it’s a play date. Having passed for 3600 yards this season, 31 TD passes and his team ranked #2 and undefeated, I would challenge anyone else to seriously contend another player getting the nod for the Heisman right now.

Andrew Luck has been the favourite amongst fans and voters so far this season, but I feel he is benefitting too much from pre season hype and name status. Sure, Luck will be the #1 pick in the draft the second that his college career ends and everyone knows it. However he is still playing college football and after his team lost a must win game this past Saturday at home to Oregon, tell me how he is better that Weeden who earned himself early bench rest because he was simply too good to leave out on the field?

Trent Richardson is another name that comes up for Heisman talk but I can’t see him getting the win this year. Granted his former teammate Mark Ingram held the hallowed trophy proudly two years ago, but he was an incredible player on an incredible team. Alabama is great but they are great on defense, I would argue at best only decent on offense. By needing Richardson to be that guy I think it increases his touches unfairly as they need him to produce. LaMichael James missed two games and yet still averages more yards per carry than Richardson and has more rushing yards for the season.

Case in point, Weeden spreads the ball around, makes it look too easy and his team is in better position to contend for a national championship. Not to mention he cannot hide behind an NFL talent laden defense. He needs to stay out there on the field and give them rest and also put points on the board to help them play with ease. Richardson knows his defense will take care of business so the pressure is not as high on him to perform.

As for the other bowl games, I really don’t see the point in getting into them. I watch these games absolutely. There is something enchanting about the Rose Bowl and all that encompasses it. There is the parade, the beautiful setting of Pasadena California to provide usually great playing conditions, and the 90,000+ fans in attendance. One of the great things to see in that stadium is the aerial shots outdoors with one half of the stadium completely one colour, the other half another colour. Last year when Wisconsin faced TCU it was a sea of Purple against a sea of Red, spectacular.

I’m a sucker for spirit and team support, it’s something I love to do and people call me lame but whatever, my life and I like to do it. If there is one thing US schools do well in my opinion, it’s school spirit. Students of all backgrounds and majors love their school and love supporting it. They’re always out there in colour, gear, costumes, whatever they feel they can do to give their team the support and edge it needs to get it done.

We couldn’t talk about college football without a brief mention of the Penn State debacle that has transpired in the news and media these past weeks. Let me make it clear, POS does not support the actions of Sandusky nor do we support any of those acts done by anyone. It is saddening that once again, someone in power to help people instead chose to take advantage of them. What I am going to plead for is your understanding of the situation for Mike McQueary, one the witnesses of the events. We were not there when he saw whatever it is he saw, no descriptions needed here. We were not in that environment, we were not friends or admirers of the coach. We did not have a coaching career starting to worry about, or grad school credentials or any of that stuff on the line. Mr. McQueary for all we know was shell shocked and didn’t know what else to do than go to his coach, Joe Paterno. Mr. McQueary is not a victim, but he is neither an accomplice nor a criminal.

We would all like to think that in that moment we would stop any acts we witnessed and be the hero, but we have absolutely no idea what we would actually do if we saw it first hand. Not to mention, does anyone honestly think if he did step in as a whistle blower that every big time college program wouldn’t black list him for life? This again is not to excuse him not following up with Paterno and the AD and President of the school. He should have made sure they were reporting this, but I no way can we judge his decision to report what he saw to a higher power given his position and age, I would have probably reported it to a higher power too, but he should have followed up with them.

I also ask that you think about this for a second if you were JoePa. What if you were informed that your long time friend and colleague had just been seen committing these crimes, you pick up the phone and call the cops? Would you want to believe it in the moment? What I hold JoePa responsible for is not following up on the situation and what was being done about it after he informed the athletic director. He should have followed up on his own report. However, the initial hearing of these incidents and not calling himself I understand. We as outsiders have no idea what we would do if we were told a friend was committing these heinous acts, we don’t. To sit there and judge “That was pathetic, he has no soul or conscience, how did he not call the police?” is insane. We were not in his shoes, feeling the feelings he felt. Put yourself in that situation and you would probably want someone else to make that phone call to the cops on your friend too.

Another thing when forming your judgements on McQueary is to understand just how big these programs are, not the school, the football programs. So many careers and lives are tied to the money that they generate. Towns, employees, players, schools, are in existence sometimes solely because of the revenue brought in by the program. McQueary new that if he called in and was the whistle blower that it would bring down a program and a school, that’s a big pill to swallow. Again, I cannot make it clear enough that I don’t believe he was 100% correct, he was not. He should have followed up a week later or less and asked what was being done. In no way however, is he a criminal or an accomplice, he acted how he felt fit and for anyone to judge his actions without having faced the same situation themselves in the same environment is judging unfairly.

That all being said, it is terrible unfortunate for any victims of these crimes as there is no true repair to any damage done. We can only hope that due process does its job and any guilty parties are held to their actions and pay whatever price deemed necessary by the courts.

What I hope now mostly for Penn State is to get this whole ugly mess behind them as quickly as possible and get back to normal life on campus. The school does not need this hanging around them nor do any of the innocent people involved. They all deserve to get back to their normal lives and continue on living them.

On that happy note, I look forward to seeing the rest of the games in the college football season playing out and all the standings finalized. Everyone wants to see if we will have 10 one loss teams in the top 10 rankings and how the national championship game will be decided. Even if it all seems fair there will still be tons of debate going on this year about who gets to play who, who should play who, etc. It will be a crazy mess of debates, yelling and outright blame game playing and I for one cannot wait.

Advertisements

I’m Back!

Posted: November 9, 2011 in MLB

I’m Back! After a long layoff of opinions, ideas and sometimes outright insanity, Presononsports makes its triumphant return. I can’t even count the number of stories that I have missed since the last time I made a contribution to the literary world. We had the melt down of the Boston Red Sox in the American League divisional race. We had the never ending talk about the NBA lockout and if we will miss a season, some wonder if we will miss two. We had the great story in the NFL of the Detroit Lions and the Buffalo Bills, although the Lions are still a great story and are set towards their first playoff birth since 1999. The NHL has started another campaign with the Boston Bruins still feeding off the energy of their incredible cup win last season.

For my first article back I am choosing the most recent championship and the St. Louis Cardinals winning their second World Series title in 6 years, the previous being in 2006. This incredible story needs to be talked about because it is truly incredible. There were so many story lines that surrounded not only this World Series, the champions, the players, the roads taken to get here and what I considered great playoffs all around.

This year we had some great triumphs and failures on the way to the playoffs, but all around it was pure greatness we saw from the 2011 Major League Baseball season. People will complain about the season being too long, divisions needing to be re-aligned, or some other problem with baseball but this season was great.

I would go as far back as the all-star game where we had a resurgence of the homerun derby. The Yankees’ second baseman Robinson Cano came up with a mystifying performance that reminded us why chicks dig the long ball. Robinson, with the help of his father pitching to him, took the title of Homerun King on all-star weekend and let everyone know why he’s the leagues most powerful second baseman.

Then we had the playoff race down the stretch as the dog days of summer survived July and August and we came into September with the challengers laid out and the winners more or less in place. What we did not see however, was the other-worldly surge that came from the Cardinals in the National League wild card race that combated the collapse of the Atlanta Braves.

All season the Phillies were the favourite if not to win the World Series, then at least the hands on favourite to come out of the National League. Atlanta knowing this, played strong enough to establish themselves as a strong wild card candidate and going into September having almost a 10 game lead on everyone else. Like we’re always told though, never say never, and as we’re always reminded this is why we play the games.

St. Louis was well behind a strong Milwaukee squad for the division lead but they never said never when it came to the wild card. How well did St. Louis play? They were an outstanding 18-8 in September, 23-9 since late August. Those are dominating numbers in any month, but to come up with a stretch like that at the time it matters most is unthinkable.

Getting into the playoffs Michael Wilbon made a great point on his weekly sports talk show Pardon the Interruption, the Cardinals would be dangerous in the playoffs if they made it. They had all the pieces you need, a strong ace (Chris Carpenter), strong closer (Jason Motte), the best player in the game and maybe of all time (Albert Pujols) and a Hall of Fame bound skipper in Tony La Russa. Don’t forget they also had an incredible bullpen to get from their starter to their closer, as some would regard as the best pen in the league.

Skipping through the playoffs to the championship round, St. Louis always did what it needed to get a win. When I thought about the Cardinals as serous title contenders going into the playoffs I thought “Could this team really do it? I mean I know they’re the Cardinals but who do they have after Pujols?”

Apparently they had everybody as it turned out, or at least just the right people they needed to put it all together. David Freese, who I thought would be a solid pre-season fantasy stud, proved his worth and then some in this series taking home the title of WS MVP. If you were smart enough to watch these amazing games, you would have seen how he came through time and time again in both the late stages of game 6 with the two-run triple and the game winning HR in the 11th, as well as RBI’s in game 7.

The beautiful thing about this World Series was that it pinned two opposites against each other on the surface. We saw last year’s runner up in the Texas Rangers get back to the ship, which many people had them making if not winning from the start. At the very least almost everyone had them going to the World Series to face the Philadelphia Phillies, who were the other World Series champion favourites.

St. Louis was a dark horse in that they needed every one of their 162 games to get into the playoffs, but any smart baseball fan knows that this team was the farthest thing from a pushover. Tony La Russa, a respected and tenured baseball manager was looking to get his third championship, and second in the past 6 seasons after his first in St. Louis came in 2006. Albert Pujols was starring on a team of amazing roll players and rejuvenated careers.

So there you have it, the Cardinals were not really an underdog because their franchise is so rich in history and tradition winning is what they do. They know what player’s they need to have combined on their roster to make wins happen. In baseball there are so many components to the team and to a win that you are able to bring in numerous roll players. Pinch hitters, pinch runners, substitute fielders, and let’s not forget the bullpen. The almighty bullpen, have you ever seen two teams use them to such lengths as we did in this year’s World Series? I haven’t.

Well that should do it for the first article back, a little rusty? I apologize, my brain is still recovering from the daily workouts I put it through over the last 3 months but I am happy to be back where I belong, writing, complaining, and sharing my opinions with anyone who wants to waste their time reading them.

Most Valuable…Pitcher?

Posted: September 19, 2011 in MLB

Most valuable pitcher, that is a term that has not been thrown around that much this year. The thought that Detroit’s Justin Verlander could become the first pitcher since Roger Clemens to win both a Cy Young award as well as a Most Valuable Player award in the same season however, has been.

Justin Verlander has been dominating major league hitters this entire season and I would argue that he secured the Cy Young victory about six wins ago, when he was only 18-5. Yes I said it, ONLY 18-5, as he is now an impressive 24-5 and will probably finish an astounding 25-5, according to ESPN predictions.

After looking at the statistics in the last 10 years or so, Justin Verlander is having a year unlike any other, except perhaps Randy Johnson in 2002 when we had a ridiculous year of 24 wins, 334 strikeouts and a 2.32 ERA.

What makes Verlander’s year so incredible is that he also has four complete games and two shutouts to boot, as well as a no-hitter. Now I am well aware that Cliff Lee has had several moments of unbelievable brilliance, with six complete game shutouts, but his wins and other measurable statistics are not nearly as good.

There is also the ever elusive triple-crown that is in play this year, which many would believe is near impossible to get. Well start believing in the impossible dream sceptics, as Verlander leads all of major league baseball in the following categories as this posting: wins (24), innings pitched (244), striekouts (244), ERA (2.29), WHIP (0.91).

All Verlander needs to do is maintain this pace and hope that young guns like Clayton Kershaw blow-up in their next few starts and we could see the first triple-crown pitcher since Johan Santana did it in 2006. Note that Jake Peavy got a National League triple crown, whereas Santana led all of the majors in wins, strikeouts and ERA in 2006.

I thought that this accomplishment was going to be amazing, but I didn’t realize it was done so recently. The hitting triple-crown is the elusive mark of excellence that is so tough to achieve. Although I still think leading the majors in those three big categories for pitching is insane, and anyone that does it with the classic stats of wins-strikeouts-era, forget WHIP and WAR, deserves serious MVP consideration.

Back to the MVP talk, the most common argument against Verlander receiving both the CY as well as the MVP is that the CY is the pitcher MVP, and the MVP award should be given to an everyday player. I think we can make arguments both for and against this issue.

AGAINST
The Cy Young is the award given to the best pitcher in each league and that is their recognition for being the most valuable pitcher. They are recognized as the best within their respective league, however there is no award saying which pitcher is the best amongst all the teams. Perhaps that is a flaw in the award system, maybe we need to have a piece of hardware that clearly identifies the best pitcher in the game that year so that we don’t have two best pitcher winners when there could clearly be one better than the other.

It also brings into question, why do we have a best pitcher award if there is not a clearly defined best hitter/field player award? Then we have the combined efforts wrapped into the MVP discussion? It would seem unfair to me to award pitchers separately and then combine then with the batters to determine which player is most valuable to his team in a given season.

You are increasing the chances of pitchers receiving recognition for their efforts while at the same time potentially decreasing the chances of batters. In a year like this where raw power statistics like HRs, RBIs and hits are down there is no clear winner amongst the everyday players in either league.

Also, let’s not forget that pitchers go out there once every about five games to compete for their team whereas the fielders/batters are out there almost every single game of the 162 game season. How can you compare durability of a player that plays even 150 games versus a pitcher who takes the field maybe about 35 games in a year. There is no comparison when a player can contribute to every single win of that team’s season.

FOR
Now for the pro argument, a pitcher you could argue can be the difference between a winning season and a losing season. Let’s look at the team records this year for example and see where a pitcher is the difference between a winning record and a losing record. I understand that the flaw here is that I am assuming if the pitcher didn’t win these games, the team would have lost those games no matter who else was pitching, but just go with me on this.
The Tigers clinched their division with just over a 12 game lead on second place Cleveland. No other team except Philadelphia (which also clinched their division) has even secured themselves a playoff birth yet. That alone speaks to the value of Justin Verlander on that team. Even if you only took away half of his wins, the Tigers would then be only .5 games ahead of second, if not in second place or even third as Verlander has three wins against Cleveland already this year.

I know that wins are not a guaranteed loss against a team if you switch the pitchers, but let’s remember the effect that Verlander can have on a team. If you see the scorecard for that day and you know you’re going to be facing 100mph fastballs from start to finish you’re not going to be very optimistic.

Verlander has improved everything, his endurance, his speed, his control, and has taken over as the most dominant pitcher in the majors. Roy Halladay may be the best pitcher in the game overall, but this year it is by far Justin Verlander. He is the most valuable player on the Detroit Tigers, and that’s taking into consideration the great year Cabrera has had, once again.

So to sum up, as I always do, there are two strong arguments to give the MVP to a Cy Young winner in the same year. You can say that the Cy Young is the MVP for pitchers and that they can’t hog all the hardware in a given season. Or you can argue that if one is this dominant, they deserve to take home all the recognition for their consistent efforts. Either way this decision is ultimately left up to the selection committee, one club that I can say I’m happy not to be a member of.

LET THE ROCKET RIDE

Posted: September 1, 2011 in NBA

An interesting story came across my desk the other day and my editor told me I should do a piece on it. Actually it happened nothing like that, I am my editor and a shaky one at that but I do what I can. This story involves a proud past resident of our great country who wishes to give back.

The story involves former Raptors forward, fan favourite and now current San Antonio Spurs player Matthew Bonner.

Matt Bonner was once upon a time a beloved athlete in this city by the raptor’s fan base and Toronto community. He was nicknamed the “Red Rocket” for his fiery red hair, and constantly being caught riding the TTC to be economical and blend into his surroundings.

I for one was a huge fan of him as he was the every man that all fans wish their stars could be. He would be found reading at book stores around the city, eating at restaurants not reserved for the rich and famous, and would chat with people when recognized on transit and at these other locations.

He took his pride and love for the city/country to such lengths that he actually married a Canadian woman whom he met while playing in Toronto and has a Canadian daughter. Further more, he has a grandfather who came from Newfoundland. He also currently has a home in Toronto which he plans to move back into full time once his playing career is done

The story behind all this is that Bonner is awaiting approval of his Canadian citizenship to play for Team Canada in Olympic qualifying games with the eventual hope of playing in the Olympics while wearing the Maple Leaf.

Now I for one being a radical self-proclaiming Canuck and Canadian fanatic could not be happier at this news. An American born not only wants to return here to live out his post career life, married one of our own and fathered another proud member of our country, but he wants to represent us? Amazing, best decision he could ever make.

Athletes’ faces glow when talking about competing for this country, with a gleam in their smile and a twinkle in their eye. Clearly Bonner has watched the same sporting coverage I have with a Canadian bias instilled in him by his wife and wants to feel that same joy.

But for some reason the process of making him a Canadian citizen is back logged and taking longer than I feel it should. This man was employed here, owns assets in the country, has a wife and a relative who were citizens and wants to contribute, yet we’re not granting him his citizenship?

Now I will honestly admit, I have zero knowledge of the citizenship application process as I was thankfully born and raised here and birthed the beautiful right to call myself Canadian. But I for one want to welcome this newcomer with open arms as fast as possible.

He has stated emphatically that he loves this country and cannot wait to become Canadian officially/legally and to start playing for our country. That’s exactly the type of people we need coming into this country and the kind of player’s we need in our athletics programs.

Canadian basketball is nothing to brag about, well not seriously at least. Thanks to Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns we have gained some recognition as a country able to produce players with some talent on the hard court.

The past few years we have been sending more and more talented youth down to the states on athletic scholarships, most recently notable Tristan Thompson, who was selected 4th this year in the NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

There have also been notable improvements in our youth programs and NBA alum running camps to help our middle and high school level ballers get the coaching and exposure they need to get scholarships of their own.

So in sum, the first notable thought here was about how proud I was to hear that Bonner truly and honestly wants to play for Canada. He wants to represent us as one of our own and help us win some games. My hat goes off to you Mr. Bonner.

My second thought was how I usually hate when athletes do this, leaving one country to play for another, but I feel like he is a special case. He is different to me because a) his family history, b) he actually lived and worked here, and has a wife and child who are both outright Canadian, so he’s already half-Canadian in my books.

When I heard about Canadian, well formerly Canadian, Dale Begg-Smith who quit the Canadian ski team to ski for Australia I was appalled. Who quits their country because it “clashes with business interests” to then ski for another country who is more flexible? This is not a team you are asking to be traded from, this is your country, your fellow canucks!

The Olympics and international competition for your country is about just that, your country. I read that he moved to Australia with his brother when he was 16 (Wikipedia), but you are still Canadian blood and Canadian at heart and you never turn your back on your country like that.

Another example of weak heritage ties to play for another county is Chris Kaman. He has dual USA-German citizenship because his great grand parents were German. Great grand parents? Come on, you are American play for America, if you can’t then be a fan.

I am aware there may be a slight double standard poking its head out here, but I will argue that Bonner is different because he has closer (grand parent vs. great grand parent) ties to relatives, as well as he owns property and married a Canadian. Two things that Kaman did not do yet still he claims he can play for Germany, as an American.

This is the beauty I think of sports and mostly national athletics, there is not basis for your emotional connection or reasoning to the rules you make. Now I feel that these rules I have put forth are pretty standard and my feelings are justified. I would NEVER EVER want to play in an Olympics if it wasn’t for Canada. I am Canadian and if I cannot compete for them, I will cheer for them with all my heart and soul, period.

You can call shenanigans on this if you want, but you would be wrong. Your country is your blood, your soul, your people. It is everything who you are, a lot of the person you have become is related to your country because of your communities, peers and leaders help shape your ideals. Obviously parents do a lot of this too if not most, but I’m sure you see my point.

Anyways in conclusion, Canada please let the Rocket ride again. He wants to play for a country that could benefit from improving its international basketball prowess and an NBA name that we recognize wouldn’t hurt. Hopefully the next time we see them play we’ll be seeing red, and it won’t just be on our jerseys.

VICK-TORY

Posted: August 30, 2011 in NFL

First off I must apologize to the faithful POS readers for the decreased frequency of my posts. I know that I started off like a bat out of hell with these blogs, however I try to write when something sparks my interest or opinions and there just hasn’t been that much controversy that I can write about.

However this morning I learned that Michael Vick is now at a 9/10 for his comeback story. The Philadelphia Eagles permanently tied their future to Vick yesterday by signing the dynamic double-threat quarterback to a 6-year, $100 million contract. The contract will pay $40 million in guarantees, with a $14.4 million salary cap hit (ESPN.com).

This struck me as interesting, because there are so many angles to look at this from, so let’s begin.

The first thing we can take from this is that Philadelphia is serious about making themselves a contender for the near future every year. They are not messing around and want to get their first title under Andy Reid and they want it now.

With their additions this summer, most notably Rodgers-Cromartie, Asomugha and Jenkins, they have made strides in the right direction on both sides of the ball. Not to mention adding Ronnie Brown for minimal money who is still on the good side of 30.

However the main cog in their resurgence last year, and perhaps one less interception from going to the divisional playoffs and maybe beyond, was Michael Vick.

Many reporters and analysts attribute Vick’s success to the simple fact that he had two years to prepare for this comeback. His body had two years outside of the game without training camps, regular seasons or optional team workouts to recover. During his time spent in prison he worked out, trimmed up and studied the game.

When he came back he was in shape and ready to play, not to mention Vick had special athletic gifts already that many do not have. When he sits in the pocket he looks poised and ready to throw, but if you blink he’s already past the line of scrimmage and darting around like the most elusive running back.

His ability to scramble and sprint is what makes his so dangerous. Couple that with his renewed throwing abilities and accuracy and you’ve got an unstoppable football machine.

The only knock on his game however is his recklessness for himself. When Vick is in the zone it is magical to watch him play. He has a cannon for an arm and can zip the ball between opposing defenders into the arms of his receiver on any given play, or launch a deep ball half the length of the field to a receiver in-stride.

It is when Vick removes himself from the pocket, and turns himself into a vulnerable running back in the open field, that makes fans and team officials hold their collective breaths.

Vick is trim, fit, and built like many wide receivers in the league but is still not that large. When you have 6’3 250lb linebackers running at you thinking about how big their hit is going to be, even a 6’0ft 215lb quarterback seems small.

Last year we saw that he is not invincible, when he suffered an injury to his rib cartilage while diving for towards the end zone against the Washington Redskins. Vick made his move and was sandwiched between two Washington defenders. Although he walked away from the hit on his own strength, the mentality that he will do anything for the score is both thrilling and nerve wracking.

A player like Michael Vick is so rare in football that with a capable defense and a few playmakers on offense you can say that he will take you to the promised land and deliver a championship. Clearly the Eagles front office feels this way, otherwise they would not invest their near future in him.

But on some level you have to question this move a little bit, is it too soon?

The Eagles will of course say they have done their due diligence and feel that Vick is changed for the good going forward and has learned his lesson. I for one hope that this is true, as enough animals have suffered at his hands, literally.

Now I will not turn this into a rant, as a dog lover I think it’s heinous what he did but I also believe in rehabilitation. I do not accept his excuses, however at what point do we stop hating on his past and start celebrating his present and future?

I read on an old ESPN article that Vick has attended and spoken at 23 humane society events or animal treatment events at the least. That is a strong commitment from anyone. The minimum would have been about 5, yet he continues his work with the humane society for the treatment of animals and speaks about the wrongs he has committed.

He embraced his evil doings, never hides from it and speaks up against it. It is easy to maintain the villain image in your head about Vick and continue to hate, but the most painful punishment is having to tell his young children why they can never own a dog of their own.

So let’s celebrate this slightly, mostly for the fact that Vick is almost completed one of the most spectacular comebacks in sports. He was brought down from the mountain top and tossed into the gutter. Then he was resurrected when people thought he had nothing left and now will get to pay off much of his debt and owed salary to the Falcons, and will still have a small lottery winnings worth to put away in the bank.

If Philadelphia wins the Super Bowl in the next 6 years with Vick under centre, it would truly be one of the great sports stories of all time and I will celebrate it. However no victory is complete without its losses, Vick has suffered enough of those for a few people, now we wait and see if he can get the one victory he has yet to win.

Does anyone have some Advil?

Posted: August 19, 2011 in NHL

This week as almost every hockey fan knows, it was reported that Sidney Crosby suffered another semi-setback in his recovery efforts from a concussion suffered this past NHL season. According to reports out of Pittsburgh, Penguins GM Ray Shero said that Crosby still suffers from concussion-like symptoms (ESPN). This begs the almighty question, is Sid the Kid done in the NHL?

Concussions have been the early exit for many players in the NHL, or just their exit period. Eric Lindros, his brother, Scott Stevens, Mike Richter, Keith Primeau, and a hand full of others have had to end their careers because of difficulties resulting from concussions suffered during their tenure in the league.

The issue is a very serious one as we are seeing more and more athletes suffer from concussions, in every sport not just hockey and the degree of the injuries are impossible to say with certainty. We have field tests that can be applied however we cannot do brain scans or medical tests that will define the extent of ones head injury to the brain.

So with that said, and covered in a previous article, what could this mean for the NHL?

There are some hockey fans that are jumping to the claim that it is a huge loss for the NHL if Sidney never comes back. To that I say get over it, he is not the entire league and if you think so then clearly you don’t enjoy the overall product of NHL hockey and all the superstars it has to offer.

Now, would the league be missing out on some potential great plays and great playoff performances? Absolutely, there is no doubt that as this past season showed Crosby can be on pace for some great statistical years. However they were all based on projection, other injuries can hinder a season/career and affect those projections.

In addition, the NHL I feel, is loaded with stars and as many as several on each team. I am not going to say that someone would fill his shoes as each star brings his own unique skill set and abilities to the game. What this might do is give some Crosby lovers the ability to see the rest of the league and its greatness.

Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby are the two top dogs in the NHL, whether you like OV or not he is the 1A to Crosby’s 1. OV may not have been a statistical stud this year, but in years past he has put up huge numbers and is a marketing gold mine for the NHL and its brand. But after those two you look at the stars on the scoring leaders list and it’s just pure talent after pure talent.

There are goal scorers, playmakers, slap shooters and heavy hitters which all equally contribute to the quality of the product we see on TV and live in the arena, as well as in our fantasy leagues.

I understand very well his impact on the game, but let’s remember two things here. First off, America loves football which is a very violent and aggressive sport. That’s why Ovechkin is so popular amongst the American fans, they love his style of play and recklessness on the ice. Therefore the game in the USA is protected as long as he continues to play like that and others like him. The USA matters here because majority of the teams plays in the USA and they are a market essential to keep the NHL alive. Both in marketing revenues, ticket sales, fan gear, etc.

Also in Canada, we love the game so much and appreciate it and ALL of its talented players, that the loss of one player should not decrease our interest in the game of the league.

The biggest losers in this scenario, besides Crosby himself, are the Pittsburgh Penguins and Team Canada. As we all know Crosby scored the game winning goal for Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics after a near impossible tape to tape pass from Jerome Iginla.

Team Canada has the deepest talent pool to go and look for its replacements, but we can all admit that there is only one Sidney Crosby, and if he were to be lost from the roster that would be a talent that we would simply have to swallow and move forward from. Even with the likes of Steven Stamkos guaranteed to make the next Olympic roster, barring some epic faux pas, he still will not bring the intangibles.

So now we move onto the next phase of this recovery process, how do we avoid these incidents? Can we?

Is it truly possible to eliminate, or almost eliminate, head shots from Hockey without ruining the games flow and competitiveness?

I for one do not know, I am merely an opinion writer who reads as much as he can on all sports and then generates an opinion into words. I think that at a certain point it is still up to the players to respect each other while respecting and honouring the competitiveness and ferocity of the game of hockey.

At its best (I would say Olympics, but maybe I just love seeing the maple leaf too much) hockey is just something like no other professional sport. You are on ice, things can be done that can’t be done on any other surface. Players throw their bodies around seconds before and after big shots, passes, etc. But in order to keep seeing these amazing plays and talents players need to take care of themselves and each other.

You can hit someone cleanly but still knock them off the puck and put them on their ass. It is not impossible and for the players that keep whining about that, to them I say shut up. Go back to camp and learn to hit, I see plenty of stars and defensive beasts manhandle other huge players cleanly without giving them a concussion. Crosby’s first hit to the head at the Winter Classic was a cheap shot, obviously, he wasn’t looking and got an elbow to the head. The second hit was just massive, but arguably from behind.

Anyways, to sum up this is a big story in the NHL and could have long lasting ramifications for the league, Team Canada but most importantly for a career we only saw get started. Like all athletes, equally, losing a player too soon in their career is never fun. Hopefully Crosby, along with every single other head injury athlete on the DL, can get their heads back in the game and idiot players that caused the injuries can get theirs out of their behind.

Statue Frenzy

Posted: August 17, 2011 in Sports just because

Preston on Sport’s faithful, this summer has been rather uneventful when it comes to opinionated issues. Sure I have ranted amongst friends briefly, perhaps edited a facebook status to voice my displeasure but not much has really irked me to write.

This morning when watching the sports highlights I noticed that the Philadelphia Phillies erected a statue commemorating former broadcaster Harry Kalas, now in the hall of fame.

This triggered the immediate reaction of “really? Another statue?” The thought process behind this reaction is that it seems every week another team is erecting another statue. This is not to say that the people are not deserving of recognition or honour, but at what point will these stadiums be surrounded by an army of brass look alikes?

From what I can remember, this summer the following statues were unveiled: Nick Saban (Alabama Football Head Coach), Tim Tebow (Florida Gators QB, Heisman winner), Cam Newton (Auburn QB, Heisman winer). Karim Abdul Jabaar littered sports headlines earlier this summer when stating his claim that he felt slighted about not having a statue in front of the Staples Center in L.A.(Currently there are five statues right now: Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Chick Hearn, Wayne Gretzky and Oscar De La Hoya)

Pittsburgh Pirates have multiple statues, Boston Garden and Fenway Park also have multiple statues around their stadiums recognizing the many greats over time.

But at what point do we need to find a new form of recognition? These players, most of them at least, probably or will soon have their bust forever enshrined in their respective hall of fames for which ever sport they played. That would be the ultimate commemoration of their career no?

I am all for recognizing your athletes, but I think statues and retiring numbers are too permanent and can limit abilities going forward. First off, these statues cost a lot of money and weigh a lot. Once they are placed in front of the stadiums, athletic facilities, etc. they are near impossible to move. What if the stadium is old and a new one is built? What if the player disgraces the school or ends up being a serial killer?

That last option is obviously outlandish, however the point is you are permanently linking yourself to this person and a lot of statues right now are awarded very early. They are recognizing players before their lives are over with, which is to say, a few great things makes you statue worthy. Nick Saban has won only one national title for the Alabama Crimson Tide, yet he has a statue already, so the value I think is being decreased as we move on.

Retiring numbers is a whole other story. What would you say defines the criteria to have ones number/jersey retired? Sure, Gretzky, Jordan, Ruth, Magic, Kareem, Howe, Orr, The Rocket, these players amongst others transformed cities and their team for years and rightfully made their mark on the game and are in the hall of fame. But should teams perhaps up the anti on their standards?

The New York Yankees for example, have multiple players right now on their roster who could have numbers retired. A-Rod, Jeter, Rivera, could and should all have their numbers retired given the standard for other teams. However the Yankees have had so many greats, and will continue to have so many greats on their teams that they may very well run out of numbers if they keep retiring the way they should. The Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers suffer from the same storied success. They have had so many great players on their teams and so many legends that their rafters are littered with retired jersey numbers which players can on longer don.

The problem now becomes, do we find an alternate for recognizing the greats? Is there one standard for the league with which we hold our retiring criteria to? Or do we allow the organizations who specialize in historic greatness and remembrance to take charge of deciding who deserves to be immortalized in the games history?

Frankly I think we should just leave it up to the Hall of Fames to do the bronzing and displaying of jerseys. What I saw with the Pittsburgh Steelers that was really cool when I visited their stadium, is that they had on display tons of awesome memorabilia in replica locker stalls of their greats. Let the fans see that to remember them by. There is no need to bronze a larger than life replica outside your stadium every time someone does something great.

Now as always, don’t get me wrong I enjoy the idea of remembering contributions by the greats. Discussing history about sports is great and there is nothing I enjoy more than old NFL films, watching old NBA or NHL games on cable when a good one presents itself.

But at what point do we say “Thanks you did a good job, good luck with the hall of fame” and give them a bobble head night and be done with it? I mean these guys made money, have fame in that city and they want more? The fact that Jabbar feels he deserves a statue or is slighted kind of bothers me. You are in the hall, the all time scoring leader, you’ve got rings and everyone in LA loves you. Do you really need more? You’re going to let a piece of brass deprive you of complete and utter happiness with your legacy?

To sum up, recognition is good but at what point is enough, enough? People will get inducted into their sports respective Hall of Fame, which is the ultimate prize with a championship ring. The Hall is saying you are one of the best of all time, congratulations. How many times does one need to hear that after their career is done? I support legends nights, a postcard or bobble-head night, but statues are for leaders, society difference makers. The brass should refer to the people in the front office making new legends and running the teams, not standing outside as a pigeon stoop.