Sunday, August 31

Boom goes the Nominee!

EDIT: The YouTube video was pulled, but Deadspin has it here.

While not nearly as bad as the most epic of sports broadcasts ,this video of Republican Vice President nominee Sarah Heath Palin, has been making it's rounds. She was just 21, fresh out of college and working at an Anchorage news station. Ignoring all political implications, let's take a look at this Alaskan time capsule.

  • "Lots of Dogs" being used to describe something other than WNBA action or ACC football performances.
  • Ahh, March Madness had 64 teams.
  • Refers to Mackey arena as McKay arena and the fourth quarter (half) of action in the Michigan/Purdue game.
  • Allowed to say "killing a team" (twice) and no one thinks homicide.
  • The Big 12 was the Big 8.
  • The Clippers were BAAAD then too.
  • Hockey analysis? What's that? More than we've seen out of ESPN since Barry Melrose left.
  • I miss you Winnipeg Jets. If it wasn't for Bob Essensa's crappy goalkeeping, I totally would've considered using you more in NHL 95 (when I wasn't playing with the Hawks, of course).
  • The Patrick Division? Ahh, when deciphering hockey divisions were more complicated than picking a college football champion. If she can figure out those divisions...
  • What a simpler time it was when the whale tale was the coolest logo in sports and not a tacky porn fascination.
  • The wave was the hip new thing to do.
  • Are the Mets big in Alaska? Today, sprinklers coming on would be called a landscape malfunction, chuckle chuckle snicker snicker.
  • Hey, mustached news caster, no one gives a rats ass about your alma mater. Syracuse lost anyhow, Dick.

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College Football Week 1 Saturday Notes

The Heisman trophy cannot be won in August or September, but it can be lost. Distant darkhorse Armanti Edwards is officially out. Ohio State running back Beanie Wells and Jeremy Maclin both left their games early with injuries, and if they linger, will cost both of them a shot at the trophy. Missouri QB Chase Daniel will also see his chances decrease if Macling remains hampered with the ankle injury. Pitt RB LeSean McCoy’s campaign sputtered out of the gate, amassing one TD, but only 71 yards, with a 3.1 y/c average. The numbers themselves are not atrocious, but because they lost, they’re magnified.

People are already saying Florida QB Tim Tebow’s numbers are down. His team rolled to victory over Hawaii, and his coaching staff appeared to be trying to limit hits on him. Given the punishment Tebow endured last year, protecting him more this season is in the team’s best interest.

ECU’s win wasn’t an upset. ECU is better, right now, than VT. Over 40% of VT’s players had never played in a game entering into yesterday, and yet they were ranked. These two teams played last year, a 17-7 win for VT (at home), in which their first TD was a Pick 6 interception. Look at the way VT scored this year. They’ve scored less than 20 points off offensive drives of more than 30 yards in two games against ECU.The core of the dominating defense of the last four years is gone, and let me be the first to say that maybe the reason Coach Beamer redshirted the talented QB Tyrod Taylor, is because he knows this is a rebuilding year, and would rather save Taylor for when the young offense has matured, and the defense is up to par.

Dave Wannstedt – still bad. He had the ultimate blind squirrel game against West Virginia last year, but another dismal performance from one of his teams. This is his fourth year at Pitt, and again appear to be heading for mediocrity.

Why do the broadcasts never replay the plays the viewer wants replayed? Like a critical third down pass interference call in the Alabama-Clemson game?

Watching App State’s lines get annihilated by LSU’s I realized they were no match for a true BCS power. When the camera panned to the sideline, I realized their cheerleaders weren’t either. As good as the coverage of the Michigan game felt, the sting of the “Not This Year” still hurts. The sting, however, will fade quickly.

Freshman RB Caleb King had more total yards and a higher y/c average for the Georgia Bulldogs, than did Knowshown Moreno. Great news for Georgia’s title hopes, but bad news for Moreno’s Heisman hopes.

It’s hard not to like Sylvester Croom, but losing to La. Tech isn’t acceptable for an SEC team trying to make themselves relevant again. Of course, 4 INTs isn’t acceptable either.

Western Michigan or not, 47 points has to feel good for Cornhusker fans as they enter the Bo Pelini era.

Georgia Tech seems to have picked up new coach Paul Johnson’s offense well. If they’re able to execute against conference foes, combined with their defense, they could well be the ACC BCS rep. Yep, I just typed that.

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Friday, August 29

Projecting the American League Playoffs

As baseball enters the final month of the regular season, playoff races are (mandatory cliché) heating up. Focusing on the American League, all six potential playoff teams have series with major implications starting this weekend. Yes, even the Angels and yes, six means the Yankees are included. With 23 of 29 remaining games against playoff teams, the Toronto Blue Jays are in prime position to be the biggest spoiler in the league. With quite a bit of disparity between schedules, a lot of shuffling of the standings remains.

Note: When using the term “playoff teams” it refers to all six teams potential playoff teams remaining in the hunt. Parentheses for remaining games are ( X home / X Away)

Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have 30 games remaining and a 4.5 game lead in the East. Sixteen of their remaining games are against playoff teams, six against both the Yankees (3H/3A) and the Red Sox (3H/3A) and four at home versus the Twins.

Biggest Concern: Close the season playing eighteen games in seventeen days, including their last eight on the road. The silver lining is those eight are against Baltimore and Detroit and the Rays are a combined 11-3 against them.

Potential Spoiler: Baltimore Orioles. Almost a quarter of Tampa’s remaining games are against the Orioles. This season Baltimore has not won more than a single game in a series against the Rays. The one consistent threat to Tampa has been Aubrey Huff, as he’s been a big part of all three Oriole wins.

Make or Break Stretch: Sep. 15 – 21. Seven game home stand against Boston (3) and Minnesota (4). The Rays will be coming off a nine game road trip, with the final six against Boston and New York. If their lead shrinks it will be heading into this home stand. Their final home stand will be their last games against playoff teams and should solidify their spot in the playoffs.

: Tampa Bay will win the east, but finish behind the Angels for the best record in the league.

Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have 29 games remaining, currently trail the Ray by 4.5 games and have a 2.5 game lead in the Wild Card standings. Twelve of their remaining games are against playoff teams, six against the Rays (3H/3A), and three against the White Sox and the Yankees, all at Fenway.

Biggest Concern / Possible Spoiler
: Excluding the health of Josh Beckett, it’s their performance against Toronto. They are 4-7 against the Blue Jays this year, with seven games (4H/3A) remaining to be played this season. The good news: Boston will face both AJ Burnett and Roy Halladay only one time.

Make or Break Stretch: Sep. 26 – 28. The last weekend of the season, the Red Sox welcome the Yankees to town. If the Red Sox make a push for the division, they’ll need these three games. If the Yankees claw their way back in, they’ll need these three games. If Boston’s going for the wildcard, the Red Sox will need these games to hold off or catch either Central team, both which enjoy easier schedules.

Verdict: It’s hard to pick against the Red Sox, but Beckett’s injury has implications for the rest of the season and beyond. If this was written 48 hours ago, the Red Sox would be the pick, but Boston limps to the line, and out of the playoffs.

New York Yankees
The Yankees have 29 games remaining, 10.5 games back in the East and are currently 6 games out of the Wild Card race. Sixteen of their remaining games are against playoff teams, six against Tampa (3H/3A), four at home against the White Sox, and three against the Red Sox and Angels, all away.

Biggest Concern: The hole they’re in. They have the toughest schedule remaining, and will face the tandem of Burnett and Halladay this weekend. They are 6-6 against the Blue Jays so far, but Burnett and Halladay are a combined 6-1 against the Yankees this season.

Possible Spoiler: Toronto again, but in their last 3 game set, the Yankees will avoid Halladay.

Make or Break Stretch
: Sep. 12 -21. New York may be done before their final home stand ever in Yankee Stadium, but whether they’re dead or still kicking, this set of games will have major implications. They open with three against the Rays, then four against the White Sox, and finally three to close the stadium against Baltimore.

Verdict: Why include the Yankees just to leave them out? If the schedule had broken differently, the Yankees may not have been out, but too many games against too many teams that need wins will leave the Yankees on the outside.

Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have 30 games remaining, 1.5 game lead in the Central, and 1 game back in the Wild Card (if needed). Thirteen of their remaining games are against playoff teams, four at the Yankees, three against each the Red Sox (A), Angels (H), and the Twins (A).

Biggest Concern: Their schedule is second to only the Yankees in terms of toughness. Ten of their remaining games against playoff teams are on the road. They also stand to face Cliff Lee twice, as well as Burnett and Halladay.

Potential Spoiler
: Yankees. With a four game set in the last home stand in Yankee Stadium, whether the Yankees are in or out, they’re going to be playing with tremendous pride and fanfare. The White Sox could fall victim to the Pinstripe Lovefest that will be going on.

Make or Break Stretch: Sep. 15-25. Starting with the four game set in the Bronx, this ten game road trip ends with a three game series in Minnesota. This series will likely decide who wins the Central, and could knock either team out of the wildcard picture.

Verdict: The White Sox have been tremendous at home, but mediocre on the road. Unfortunately, with so many big road games this September, they will not win the Central, but will win the Wild Card.

Minnesota Twins
The Twins only have 28 games remaining, trail by 1.5 games in the Central, and 2.5 games in the Wild Card race. They have the second easiest road to the playoffs, with only seven games against playoff teams, four at Tampa and three at home against Chicago.

Biggest Concern: They’re just 3-5 on their current west coast swing. With three more games against Oakland, they need to stay close until they return home on the 5th.

Potential Spoiler: Kansas City has six games remaining against the Twins, but are 3-9 against them so far.

Make or Break Stretch: Sep 18-25. They have four games in Tampa, followed by three at home against the White Sox. The good news for the Twins is they get a day off in-between. Ideally, they’ll have recaptured the Central lead going into this stretch, otherwise the pressure on each game will ratchet up.

Verdict: Provided they don’t go into a complete tailspin on this current road trip, the Twins schedule sets up well. They get the final series against the White Sox in their building and should be able to claim the Central.

Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have 29 games remaining, and have a 16 game lead in the West. They have only six games against playoff teams, three at Chicago and three at home against the Yankees.

Biggest Concern: Home field advantage. With 20 games against the West, the Angels will be playing against the standings not their opponents on many nights.

Make or Break Stretch: Sep 5-10. The last games of note, LA plays Chicago and the Yankees back to back. Expect them to play both series tough, as they are potential playoff matchups.

Potential Spoiler: Texas. While the Rangers aren’t going to knock the Angels out of the playoffs, with nine remaining games, they could help knock LA out of that top spot. So far, the Angels are 6-4 against Texas.

Verdict: LA wins the west and the top seed in the playoffs. The biggest concern will be that after September 10, they will not play against a team that’s over .500.

Projected Playoff Picture:
Los Angeles Angels v. Chicago White Sox
Tampa Bay Rays v. Minnesota Twins

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College Football Recap

A few things I observed and noticed from the action in the opening night of college football.

-Miami looked impressive. I don't care if it was only Charleston Southern, that was the most points they have scored against anyone since 2005. The good feelings will end quickly though next week in the swamp.
-Wake continues to have doubters, but they left no doubts last night clobbering Baylor. The Bears started the game with QB Kirby Freeman, a trasnfer from Miami who anyone in Coral Gables can tell you, is not a strong performer. He ended his day 4/11 for 31 yards, and 2 INTs. He also rushed twice for 0 yards.
-Riley Skinner remains a big reason why I picked the Deacons to win the ACC with his 27/36, 220 yard, 3 TD night.
-If you were wondering what conference the officiating crew for the NC St./S. Carolina game was from, look no further than a few bad calls early on...they were an ACC crew. They missed an early late hit on NC St. frosh QB Russell Wilson and gave a South Carolina DB a 15 yard penalty for doing a few push-ups after dropping an INT.
-Glad to hear Russell Wilson only had a concussion. For a moment it was feared there was some spinal damage. Big props to the blonde South Carolina fan that was doing the cell phone/wave to the TV cameras as they were bringing Wilson on a stretcher to the tunnel. You stay classy, Gamecock.
-The Wolfpack Defense played very well. Unfortunately the offense could not capitalize, especially once Wilson went out. A few horrid turnovers deep in their own territory got South Carolina the lead it needed. The weather was very muggy and once the Wolfpack D got tired, the old ballcoach found it necessary to show off. Good luck trying that in conference.
-The Stanford/Oregon State game proved to be the most entertaining to watch, despite the bizarre fumbles. It's early season football, there are going to be miscues.
-I hope the weekend provides us with more watchable games and it should, I'll be out of town, but Catfish may have a little something for posting.
-Also, I'm working on a Alma Mater form of fantasy football, we have compiled a list of fantasy players listed by school and conference and are working on throwing something together to see which conference/school can represent best in Fantasy land. Stay tuned, math is not my strong point. Have a great Labor Day and enjoy the football.

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Thursday, August 28

An SEC preview Saved By the Bell style from Catfish via Friends of the Program. Anything involving SBTB on this site gets immediate glory from me.

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The Fictional Quarterback Scouting Report

I was preparing to write some NFL Divisional previews, but I got distracted by this instead. This is off of memory so there might be some great fictitious QBs I’m leaving out but the question is always posed: who do you want to build your franchise around? Let’s examine the scouting report on these make-believe signal callers

Johnny Utah

College: Ohio State
Current Status: FBI Agent
Last Game: Football on the beach with Bodhi and the ex-presidents

Positives: The kid is a go-getter, he will risk anything to get the job done. Great arm. Tremendous athlete, he has been surfing to stay in shape so conditioning shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Also has great hair.

Negatives: The knee, oh those knee injuries. Latest blow was falling out of an airplane and pulling the parachute cord seconds before he landed. Amazingly he didn’t die even though he probably would have hit the ground at a tremendous speed, but sadly he did land on the knee. Would have to get him away from FBI, perhaps a trade could be worked out or some kind of buyout. Also, he was dating Lori Petty.

Outlook: The kid is tough; he has got the killer mentality but the control to be on the right side of the law. The knee is a huge concern though and with the damage done it is a huge risk to roll the dice on this guy as the QB of the future. But that arm, dude….whoa.

Paul Blake

College: Texas State University
Current Status: Sophomore
Last Game: Led TSU to a victory over the heavily favored number 1 Texas Colts.

Positives: He’s got experience, lots of experience. Heck, he has even traveled back in time and assumed the bodies of other people (including women) in order to rectify certain situations. He has the physical tools, and his body is not battered despite his age. He has been taking it easy on the farm but still throws the ball through his tire swing every now and then. He was also coached well at TSU by Ed “Straight Arrow” Genero.

Negatives: He is old, at 34 he only has a few more good years in him, unless he is Favre-like. The one season may have been an aberration as well. He also quit on the team halfway through the season, so he may have commitment issues.

Outlook: It may be a quantum leap for Blake to adjust to the NFL game, but with his experience he may be able to do it. It’s never bad to begin the franchise with a crafty veteran at the helm. He also was able to thrive despite having the female place kicker, clearly succeeding where Gary Barnett and Katie Hnida failed. Worse case he mentors the young back-up QB and can even serve as the back-up when the young one takes his place.

Joe Kane

College: ESU
Current Status: Senior
Last Game: Led ESU to a last second victory which made them bowl eligible.

Positives: Seems to be a theme with this list, but he’s got a great arm. He’s also mobile and has all the physical tools. Able to keep his head through a tough season and home situation, the kid is resilient.

Negatives: Well, the kid has a drinking problem; got busted for DUI this past season. Also may have a problem dealing with big time pressure. He threw an INT in the last minute to lose to Michigan and his heisman rival.

Outlook: Coach Sam Winters was the real glue that held that team together through the tough season, but Kane did the work on the field. This guy is definitely an unknown; he will either flourish or end up drunk in a ditch. Also, Kristy Swanson looks better with blonde hair.

Jonathan Moxon

College: Brown University (incoming freshman)
Current Status: High school senior
Last Game: Led the West Canaan Coyotes to the division title.

Positives: Intelligent, physically gifted, and a great leader. If only he could tell Joey how he feels and forget what was between her and Pacey…..sorry got off-track there. Mox is the kind of QB that cares about his teammates and stays cool under pressure because he does not take the game too seriously.

Negatives: He doesn’t want your life. Football seems to be secondary to his life aspirations. He wants to get out of small town Texas, but who doesn’t. May be questionable whether he plays at Brown or not and he only has one season as a starter under his belt.

Outlook: The kid has the guts to win the big game and to stand up to Bud Kilmer. If he can get his head straight at Brown and play football, he could develop into on of the best QBs ever to come out of the Ivy League and join his fellow Brown alums Zak DeOssie, Sean Morey, and Paul Raymond in the NFL. Also, Amy Smart looks better with blonde hair.

Paul Crewe (the real one)

College: FSU
Current Status: Prison
Last Game: Led the “Mean Machine” to victory over the prison guards

Positives: Another guy who has all the tools. He is incredibly tough but mentally unstable. Has learned to become a leader and the importance of the game, resisting another chance to tank a game.

Negatives: The point-shaving incident is hard to overlook. If he did it once, it may happen again. He also currently resides in prison. If he were to be brought out he would most likely be out of football shape.

Outlook: Since the warden is a big football fan, I’m sure he could be appeased and let Crewe out on time. Maybe give his prison guards a try-out or give him a luxury box. We don’t know how Michael Vick will do when he gets out of prison but this might be a good barometer, Paul should quickly get back in shape and the public seems like they might forgive him after the show he put on against the guards. He is a risk but the payoff could be huge.

Shane Falco

College: Ohio State
Current Status: Finished season as replacement player for the Washington Sentinels
Last game: Led the Sentinels to victory over the Dallas Ropers

Positives: Similar build to Johnny Utah, eerily similar. He, of course, has the tools, talent, and hair to lead the team to victory.

Negatives: Dude is a flip-flopper. Seems to shrink away in the big moment. Choked in the Sugar Bowl in college and failed in his first pro gig. He did win the big game against Dallas but how will he react if he ever makes the playoffs or Super Bowl?

Outlook: Doug Flutie, Steve Young were both able to come from non-NFL leagues and flourish (Young more so). So who’s to say Falco can’t. He may be a risk in big game situations though. Also, these Ohio State quarterbacks don’t seem to flourish in the NFL lately (I’m looking at you Herbstreit) unless Troy Smith can do it with the Ravens.

Steamin’ Willie Beamen

College: Houston
Current Status: signed free-agent contract with the San Diego Aztecs
Last Game: Lost in the Pantheon Cup Playoffs

Positives: Many, including film-maker Oliver Stone, liken his game to Jeff Blake. He is mobile and athletic. Has great ability to audible.

Negatives: He might just be a system QB under Coach Tony D’Amato, and his accuracy is suspect at times. He also has complained of shoulder soreness.

Outlook: With only half a season under his belt it is tough to judge his potential. Since he signed a new contract with the Aztecs it will be tough to lure him away to the NFL. I would put him low on the list of target quarterbacks.

Tami Maida

College: (still in high school)
Current Status: Homecoming Queen
Last Game: Lead Minnville High to the state championship

Positives: She’s tough, and she has a winner’s attitude. Great flexibility.

Negatives: Might be a negative psychological effect on the team by adding a female at the QB position. Unknown as to how tough Oregon high school football is, her level of success may be harder to come by in the NFL. It would be a media attention grabber and become a circus so bad Rachel Nichols might end of accosting her as she entered her practice car.

Outlook: She can’t be drafted until she comes of age, if there is a college that would give a shot to start, then she could be evaluated. She is a great story but I just don’t know if I’m mad about her.

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Shawne Merriman Scoffs at Your Medical School Diplomas

The Chargers’ linebacker has decided against the advice of four doctors and elected to play this season with two torn ligaments in his left knee. Shawn says, “I just want to play football.” Noble words, but there is a fine line between bravery and stupidity and Merriman is lights out dancing down it. The Chargers are no doubt one of the favorites in the AFC this year, but after the way Philip Rivers was hopping around against the Seahawks, and the uncertainty of LT’s health this seems an unnecessary move. Antonio Gates is also returning from a toe injury and says he is not 100% yet either. Merriman may feel like this is San Diego’s year but he is 24 years old, should he really risk the rest of his career for one season?

The tears in his knee are the posterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments. For you non-anatomy majors the PCL runs back across the knee and the LCL is located on the outside of the knee running from top to bottom. The ACL (anterior cruciate) is the cousin of the PCL, and it crosses over in front of the knee and is the one you hear most when it comes to knee injuries. The ACL is what allows the fast cutting and change of direction in the knee. The final ligament is the MCL (medial collateral ligament) which is located on the side of the knee closest to the middle of your body, so in this case the right side of Shawne’s left knee. The MCL is also most often injured because of the way the knee is built and the direction from which it takes collision.

In short, Merriman is fortunate in that the two of the four ligaments torn are the ones are the less essential to what he does on the football field. If his ACL was torn, there would be no way he could play. This does not mean he should run out there and play though. The knee is the most precarious and fragile joint of the body when it comes to sports. It is held together by these four ligaments, and two of Shawne’s are unstable. Yes at the moment he can play on them, but if he is hit the wrong way, it could blow his knee out completely. That would be the reason that the doctors have been saying that “career-ending” phrase to Merriman.

I can’t imagine why at 24 Merriman would risk the rest of his career. Perhaps it is that he feels the urgency of this being San Diego’s year, but with Brady and Manning standing there and the other fragile knees on the roster, I don’t get that one. Maybe it is that Shawne is willing to risk his football days being over because he wants to live the celebrity life. Everytime you turn around Shawne is on a different TV show. I was counting down the best beach bodies on the E! channel and then Shawne came in for analysis. He is co-hosting FSN’s Pro Football Preview show as well. He appeared on numerous spots on ESPN throughout the summer, maybe he should have been getting his knee checked out. His choice might just be based on arrogance, here is a person who got caught with steroids and didn’t flinch and created a ridiculous celebration dance anytime he makes a tackle. Whatever the case, it has many people in the football industry shaking their heads. If he makes it through the year unscathed and the Chargers get to the Super Bowl, then we doubters look the fool, but it may just blow up in his face like a block from Maurice Jones-Drew.

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Seven Golds and One Silver: A Case for Instant Replay

Tonight, Major League Baseball will officially embrace instant replay, ending its long-standing resistance against introducing the technology. Even Commissioner Bud Selig is not excited to see the purists overruled, “My opposition to unlimited instant replay is still very much in play,” he said. “But when you look at the technology we have and you look at the new ballparks — and even some of the older ballparks that have been reconfigured — there’s no question that [these calls] were a challenge for the umpires and everyone else. Like so many times in life, you have to make an adjustment. And this seemed right for that.” Every sport has its need for technology. Tennis smoothly made the transition, Derek Fisher’s memorable .4 second shot against the Spurs states the case for basketball, and imagining football without replay seems archaic. The ultimate case for technology in sports, however, was made this year in Beijing.

It certainly was not in the National Indoor Stadium, where replay seemed to serve no purpose, other than to delay the proceedings. The case was made in the Water Cube. Everyone has been gushing over Michael Phelps’s eight gold medals, but consider this: If Michael Phelps was competing at the time of Mark Spitz (see note below), he would’ve had seven gold medals and a silver. Without the Omega touchpad timing device, no man, woman, or child would’ve correctly called the 100-meter Butterfly. Serbian Milorad Cavic would be the dragon-slayer, swimmings answer to the New York Giants. What everyone saw that night and what was right were different. If not for technology, Phelps’s hard work and dedication would’ve gone for naught. The world would’ve been robbed by one of the most impressive feats any of us have had the pleasure to see. Spitz would still be a record holder, but like Barry Bonds’s homerun total, it would’ve been a fraud.

During the 2004 ALCS it became clear that baseball needed instant replay. Even except for the Yankees and their fans were fortunate the umpiring crews got each call correct, but what it they hadn’t? Baseball would’ve lost out on the greatest playoff comeback in history. Human error remains a part of baseball, the ball will still roll through Buckner’s legs, curve balls will still hang, and A-Rod will still ground into double plays. The human error element will never be removed, it’s why we watch, but human error should never rob an athlete or a team of their achievements. The impact of this change may not be this year, but at some point a team’s success or failure will hinge on a call made right by instant replay. Purist or not, no one can argue when the calls are correct.

Note: I took a little bit of liberty with the facts. The touchpads used in the swimming pools were introduced in the 1968 Olympics, so Phelps’s results would’ve been correct. Before that, though, they used 3 men with stopwatches. So, if Michael Phelps was edging out Johnny Weismuller, there’s no way he wins the gold. Anyhow, you get the point. I just wanted to get the facts right, even if it took a little extra time to review.

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Wednesday, August 27

Memo to London: Respond by 2012

Morning Govna! I have a message to whoever is heading the London Olympic committee. I’m sure you were watching the opening ceremonies at the Beijing games a few weeks ago, and while you no doubt were mesmerized like the rest of us, I’m sure you were thinking “Oh dear, how are we going to match this?” Well you most likely cannot. You don’t employ the same kind of method of funding and you style of government actually lets your citizens think for themselves. But considering your country’s empire once covered one-third of the globe, you need to show some source of pride and I think I know how you can make a memorable moment.

First off, if you travel through your history, it will pale in comparison. China has been around longer than you and its history is more artistic. But I’m sure some show of the grand history will be shown. It should be pretty awkward with the US sitting there though when you get to the revolution. But I digress; there is one thing you can do that will erase anything else, any other memory from your opening ceremony and possibly the entire games from a non-athletic standpoint: Bring the Beatles back to play the opening ceremony.

I realize that two of the fabulous four are no longer with us, but that can be amended. The Beatles are the greatest thing you have produced in the modern era, and their reach was global. There has been a backlash against them recently, a new generation is proclaiming that they are not as good as they were hyped to be and they are overrated. That is to be expected, their music is not transcendent, but it was the phenomenon of their move to America, of their status as deities that made them the cultural icons. All the cultural icons in popular music today can trace perhaps even the tiniest connection back to when the Beatles got things rolling.

The original Beatles sadly never got back together and when John Lennon was senselessly murdered in 1980, that chance was lost forever. With the recent loss of George Harrison it makes Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr the only two originals. I don’t care what you have to pay them, what they ask for, or whatever else; get them on stage. For the other two spots, I suggest John’s son Julian, the one who “Hey Jude” was written for. His other son Sean, looks too much like Yoko. Yoko Ono should be kept away at all costs, she has done enough damage already. To replace the great guitar playing of George Harrison, another famous British musician, Eric Clapton should suffice. The four of them, on stage in Olympic Stadium playing just before the torch is lit, would attract global attention and provide the lasting image of the games and one that everyone will be talking about.

Whatever it takes, however you have to get it done. How else are you going to come close to what the Chinese did? You have four years, get rolling old chaps.

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ACC: Did You Know?

With college football finally arriving, previews are all over the internet, but here are a dozen things you may not know about each of the ACC teams and the upcoming season.

Not More of the Same – Miami has suspended seven players for the season-opener against Charleston Southern, but unlike past coaches, Randy Shannon made these decisions, not the school administration. The most notable suspended player is redshirt freshman starting quarterback Robert Marve. Marve’s suspension results from an incident on October 31 of last year, where he broke a car mirror following a fight with his girlfriend. Charges were dropped in March. Coach Randy Shannon was clear about the suspensions, "When I took the job at the University of Miami, I was going to hold everyone to a higher standard than the rest of the country (in regards to) academically, curfew, study hall and doing the right things in the classroom. We have some guys who won’t be (playing in) the game because of those reasons, and then we move forward.” Shannon’s refreshing stance shows his commitment to changing the program. Bobby Bowden would point out it’s easy to suspend players when you’re playing Charleston Southern, but Shannon has been resolute since becoming the head coach.

Out of Matty Ice – Boston College senior Chris Crane gets to attempt to fill the shoes of ACC Player of the Year, Matt Ryan. Crane has attempted just 40 passes in three years, including 4 attempts last year. While lacking experience, Crane should have good protection, as 3/5 of the offensive line that gave up a conference-low 1.56 sacks/game will be back.

Thunder Rolls – Running back James “Thunder” Davis, one half of Clemson’s “Thunder and Lightning” (is there any other name for RB pairs?) rushing tandem, sits at 35 career rushing touchdowns. He could surpass ACC leader, NC State’s Ted Brown, who rushed for 49. To catch Brown, Davis will have to return to his 2006 form (17 rushing TDs), which also be required if Clemson is to finally meet expectations. In two of Clemson’s three losses last year, Davis was held to a combined 19 yards on 18 attempts.

You’re Gonna Pay for That – Georgia Tech has had six chances in the last five years to avenge a loss of 21 points or more. They’ve won every game, including last year’s 13-3 upset over Clemson. Last year, Virginia Tech was the only team to beat GT by 21 or more. New coach, Paul Johnson, will look to extend his team’s revenge streak on September 13, but the game will be in Blacksburg.

Good, but not Great – The only team in the ACC that has never been ranked in the top ten: Wake Forest. Ironically, no North Carolina school has been ranked in the top 25 since 2003, except Wake. They will also be looking to extend their first ever bowl-streak to three.

Golden Power – Notre Dame will meet North Carolina on October 11th. The two teams first met in Yankee Stadium, back in 1949. Notre Dame has reeled off a 16-1 record against the Tarheels. Their last meeting in Chapel Hill was in 1975, when Joe Montana connected on an 80-yard game-winning touchdown pass with just over a minute remaining. UNC’s lone win in the series was a 12-7 win in 1960.

Blessing or Curse – Duke returns ten of eleven defensive starters, the most of any school in the conference. The defense, however, was the worst in the ACC allowing over 5000 yards and 45 touchdowns, ten more than any other school in the conference.

Red (Zone) does not mean Stop – NC State converted on 29 of 41, or a conference worst 71.7%, of their red zone opportunities last season. With 6 red zone interceptions, they had twice as many as any other school.

31 and counting – Florida State has had a winning record for the last 31 seasons. Their last losing season was head coach Bobby Bowden’s first. In that year, 1976, the Seminoles had six losses, the same number of defeats they’ve had in both of the last two seasons. When FSU and Miami face off on October 4th, Bowden will coach in his 500th game, becoming just the third man to reach that milestone (Joe Paterno and Alonzo Stagg).

Bring a Sack Lunch – Virginia Tech’s offense needs a lunch pail. Last season they gave up 54 sacks, which amounted to 297 yards lost. When upright, QB Sean Glennon will be throwing to a receiving corps that has a combined zero career receptions. On the other side of the ball, VT loses seven starters, but they’ve got the lunch pail and special teams to lean on.

Poll Position – Virginia meets Southern Cal on Saturday, and it will be their first matchup against a non-conference opponent ranked in the top 5 since 1989, when they lost 36-13 to a #2 ranked Notre Dame. The highest ranked non-conference opponent the Cavaliers have beaten was ranked 12th, which they did twice, West Virginia in 1984 and Penn St. in ‘89. UVa’s only two wins against a top 5 team were both against Florida State, in 1995 and 2005. Both Florida State and Georgia Tech have the potential to face the number one team in the country in their last games of the season (Florida and Georgia, respectively). If either team does, it will the first time an ACC school has met the number one team since Virginia Tech lost to USC in 2004.

Never Heard of ‘Em – Last year football fans were impressed by the 22 touchdown receptions of Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree. Maryland WR Darrius Heyward-Bey had a whopping three. Both young men are 6’3” with blazing speed, and Heyward-Bey had a higher yards per catch average last season. Crabtree benefited from a system where his QB threw almost 50 TDs while Maryland had a conference-low nine passing TDs. Injuries plagued the Terrapins all season, and with a new offensive philosophy look for Heyward-Bey’s numbers to jump.

To explain the image way back at the top, I’m finally on board with the Clemson bandwagon. Two of their losses, last year, were directly due to special teams failures. Against Georgia Tech had a blocked punt and four field goals missed by Mark Buchholz, who converted on a conference worst 62% of his FG attempts last season. This season, Buchholz is back, but he’s on the list for the Lou Groza award, so he must’ve improved! Against Virginia Tech, Clemson allowed a punt and a kickoff return for a touchdown. The only loss where they didn’t have a special teams collapse was against Matt Ryan and the Boston College Eagles. I’m buying Clemson, but with their first game against Alabama, I recognize it could blow up in my face faster than a Cuban martial artist. I'm also hopeful for the Tarheels, it's time to bear the fruit of hiring Butch Davis. If, however, they lose to this guy and Notre Dame, I'm officially fast forwarding to basketball season.

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Monday, August 25

Deoderant, check, Toilet paper, check, playbook... check?

This picture has nothing to do with the post, but it's the most incredible sewing project I've seen and I wanted to share.

Some people may hate it, others love it, but virtually everyone has gotten something from Wal-Mart. With football season fast approaching Western Carolina has decided to start shopping for new plays. Fans will be able to submit a play at the local Supercenter and one play will be picked for each home game, including the game against 3-time defending National Champion Appalachian State. I’m not sure where this ranks in terms of admitting your program is a joke, but it has to be just above fielding seven players and wearing flags.

As the Mike Martz of Tecmo Bowl, I feel compelled to help. After scouring my playbook, which makes War & Peace look like a pamphlet, I have settled on one:

The key to this play is giving to ball to number 34. For Western, that will mean freshman linebacker Ricky Schwarz. For this play to work it will be mandatory that they switch into black and silver uniforms. From the snap, Schwarz needs to run up and down (sideline to sideline) and I will guarantee a touchdown, even if the other team knows its coming. The results speak for themselves.

If my play is selected I could win a 32-inch flat screen television. For mere play-calling mortals the following prizes are being offered:

Offensive Plays
• 0-3 yard gain = Western Carolina logoed t-shirt
• 4-10 yard gain = $25 gift card to Wal-Mart
• 11-19 yard gain = $100 gift card to Wal-Mart
• 20+ yard gain = 10 megapixel camera or gift card
• Touchdown = 32" flat screen television or shopping spree

Defensive Plays
• Less than 15 yard gain = Western Carolina logoed hat
• 0-3 yard gain = $25 gift card to Wal-Mart
• Tackle for Loss = $100 gift card to Wal-Mart
• Interception/Turnover = store selected home theater system or gift card
• Defensive TD/Safety = $1,000 shopping spree

Just a note: there is no mention of it needing to be an offensive TD to win the TV.

It will be unfortunate if the Cullowhee faithful are not creative with their choices. There is so much potential out there. If they don’t run a single play where they get an illegal procedure penalty, it will be sorely disappointing. If a player over 300 pounds is not on the receiving end of pass, it’s a failure. So, to encourage the new offensive coordinators for Western, we present a first here on ASD, a top ten list. The Top 10 Trick Plays!

Trick Plays have evolved in sports: from the dastardly fad that was the forward pass to flea flickers, from play-action pass to halfback passes. Reverses have become double reverses and the fumblerooski gets re-invented on a yearly basis. Baseball has the hidden ball and the fake to third, throw to first. Deception in basketball is also nothing new, from the wrong way inbound pass to the inbounds off the ass. It has become a mainstay in the Globetrotters routine and was a major factor in the recent And 1 phenomenon.
The Onion was nice enough to compile a list of seven plays that didn't quite make the cut. Trick plays should be fun, unlike this one. What a pathetic display by a pathetic human being. Now to the fun...

10. "Broken Mirror Play" - The angle of this video detracts, but the runner on 1st base runs at the pitcher while hollering, and the runner on 3rd takes home. The reaction of the pitcher is funny, but the fallout is pretty tame.

9. "Wrong Ball" - Either called Wrong Ball or Wet Ball, this play is the internet phenomenon trick play. Inspired by Youtube clips, coaches around the country have been employing it at all levels.

8. "Water Bucket Play" - A modern nod to one of the most innovative trick plays in football.

7. Reverse/Receiver Pass - Slotting this one at 7 may seem high, but Steve Spurrier has to make an appearance. To call this play, up seven in the fourth quarter, on a 3rd and 2 takes either a mad man or a genius. I may have also been motivated by enjoying Andre Ware's brilliant analysis.

6."McCluster Fluster" - After the rules were changed to stop Fumblerooski's, coaches had to get a little more creative.

5. Super Bowl XL - If it was not for the fact that this was in the Super Bowl it wouldn't even crack the list. Perhaps the most obvious trick play in the history of trick plays. Everyone was looking for a trick play, which had become a Steeler staple that season, everyone except the Seahawks. The first fifteen seconds of the video reminds us all how bad the officiating was that game.

4. Music City Miracle - The chain of events set off by this play may be unsurpassed. Bills coach Wade Phillips made a controversial decision to start Rob Johnson over fan-favorite Doug Flutie. Despite the bandana-sporting Johnson playing well enough to win the game, including a late drive to get the Bills into field goal range, the Miracle effectively ended both Phillips's and Johnson's careers in Bufflao. On the flip side, the Titans would go on to the Super Bowl, before ultimately falling a yard short. This video is worth a view just to listen to the flip flopping of the old Sunday Night Football crew. I had also forgotten that Phil Luckett was the referee of the game.

3. The Barking Dog Play - I was unable to find video of the often imitated, rarely duplicated Barking Dog play. This play employs the same tactic, but without the humiliation of one of your teammates, so it's not as good.

2. "Bee Play" - This one's a biased choice for sure. Cleet recently relayed a story where he was asked to get caught in a rundown to allow a run to score. Upon returning to the bench his teammates acted like he was an idiot, and his coach didn't "pick him up," resulting in emotional trauma that continues to this day.

1. 2007 Fiesta Bowl - Never has there been such trickeration on such a big stage. The combined body of work propels Boise State into the Number 1 spot. That 28 in maroon seems like he's pretty good, whatever happened to him?

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LSU/ASU preview video

A well done video on the Clash of the Champions.

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The Jamaican drug debate is in full swing, and Victor Conte is weighing in! Plus the Jamaican team doctor comments on slavery, and Bolt's father comments on magic yams. Yahoo! Sports

Type rest of the post here

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Reflections of the Olympic Games

After the past sixteen days we have seen everything that is virtuous about sports in the global society. A great many other things have been seen along the way and naturally not all of them have been positive. I will not focus on the political implications (or at least try to) and I will limit the discussion of the downside of the games mainly because I thoroughly enjoyed this installment of the Summer Olympic Games. I believe our country’s athletes exemplified what is pure in the exaltation of athletic victory.

The Build Up

There was a great degree of trepidation as to how smoothly these games would run. The discussion of smog, the human rights issue and PEDs seemed as if they would but a damper on the games. The rumblings began with the protesting of the running of the Olympic torch. The lasting image that China used was the protesters attacking a paraplegic girl and the girl protecting the torch. She was hailed as a national hero. I don’t care what side of Tibet you hail from, physically going after a girl in a wheelchair for carrying an inanimate object is reprehensible. It’s a torch, not the keys to the Chinese military. The Chinese clearly had their act together when the Opening Ceremony began on the 8th. It’s hard to put into words the theatrical presentation of the Opening Ceremony and unless someone has seen it the description gets lost in translation. The enduring image was the towering Yao Ming walking side by side with a little boy who saved classmates in an earthquake that occurred in the Chinese countryside.

The Cube

The pool in the Water Cube was built for speed and for all who watched inside it or on TV, it was built for pleasure. The pool was designed wider and deeper to decrease the water disturbance and decrease the times. Combined with the aerodynamic Speedo suits the world records did not stand a chance, even Janet Evans’s 19 year old 1500m Freestyle record was crushed. At the head of the excitement stood Michael Phelps, with his immense breakfast, training regiment, motivation, and physical attributes. In the early stages of his run, it seemed the only one who could come close to Phelps was the green line marking the world record pace, but even the line fell short. It was in the 4x100 meter relay that the drama began. The anchor leg by Jason Lezak should be remembered as one of the greatest Olympic performances of all time. His amazing comeback on the French prompted the now indelible image of Phelps celebrating in exaltation. It was commented that Phelps was rejoicing in the fact that his dream of 8 Olympic medals was still alive, but I think he was simply captured in the moment of half disbelief that Lezak caught Bernard and half team pride for winning the race just as everyone watching was.

Phelps was clearly the best, but the swims were taking a toll on him. In a situation where he and the Serbian Cavic have equal amount of rest Phelps would win easily but in this case Michael was on the tail end of the gauntlet of races. The half stroke he took proved to be the difference proving that even the best benefit from an amount of luck. In the end, Phelps accomplished something that no one else has in Olympic history. That in itself should be celebrated and appreciated for the phenomenal event that transpired. The rush of hyperbole came on faster than Phelps in the last 15 meters of a race. Suddenly it was a question of how Phelps stacked up against the history of not only his own sport but also the greats of other games. I am hesitant to crown him king of athletes and lord of the Olympics, but I do know I was rooting for him, and most definitely admire his performance.

The Young and the Senseless

Having an older sister that competed in gymnastics I am accustomed to watching the sport every Olympics. I am not ashamed to say I know who Bart Connor is and the origins of the Thomas flare. I was glued to the television when Kim Zimeskal heartbreakingly failed to win gold in Barcelona and when Kerri Strug hit the vault on the broken leg. That being said I was both inspired and disappointed in what happened in the women’s competition. The judging was inconsistent and quite favorable to the Chinese. The Americans were penalized far more harshly for mistakes than the host country. Many times the wait for the judges scoring brought the competition to a halt while they discussed over the phone the routines or watched them in slow motion on their monitors. The American team’s hopes fell when Alicia Sacramone fell off the beam and then on the floor. At 20 years old, this was likely Alicia’s last Olympics and it was aching to watch her after the stumble on the floor. Is there any worse feeling in sports than letting your team down?

Nastia Luken and Shawn Johnson redeemed the second place team finish with a great battle in the All-around which they continued in the Event finals. Some of the Chinese team members are not of age, I don’t care what you say its common sense. The Americans never made a case of this, and simply pressed on. It was great to see Shawn finally get a medal on the floor. In all the sports of the Olympic Games the athlete’s sacrifice, but particularly in gymnastics the training is brutal. Everyday spent in the gym, taking a pounding again and again all for one chance at a routine every four years. Underage and pre-menstrual jokes aside, the dedication and precision of Nastia and Shawn’s performances are more than admirable.

The suspect judging of course was prevalent in the indoor stadium. Alicia Sacramone lost out on a bronze medal in the vault to Chung Fei of China who missed so badly on her second vault she landed on her knees. Jonathan Horton completed a dazzling high bar routine in the Event finals and produced a better landing than his Chinese counterpart, yet had to take the silver. The Chinese crowd even booed his lower score when it was revealed. All being said, the American men took home the team Bronze with a team half filled with alternates and the American women took home more medals overall than the Chinese.

The Bobsled team has a lot to live up to

On the track, Usain Bolt put forth a performance on par with Phelps in the pool. It included breaking the 100 meter record while looking around the last 15, pushing in the 200 meters past Michael Johnson’s Atlanta record, and finally running behind Asafa Powell in the 4x100 relay rooting him on to another world record. Bolt was criticized by the IOC president and others for his celebrations after he won, but no one could deny his greatness. At only 22, he has a chance to become even more of a legend in London.

Elsewhere on the track, the USA team had both great successes and failures. The most heart wrenching of the latter was women’s hurdler Lolo Jones. With two hurdles to go in the finals, Jones caught the hurdle even though she miraculously stayed on her feet she finished out of the medals. At 26, it is unknown if she will be in there in London to try again. Watching the tears leak out of the eyes of the beautiful woman whom no one had wanted when she was young and finally found a loving foster home was like a shot to the gut. Yet despite the disappointment she still gave an interview and even managed a smile and congratulations for her competitors. The baton passing was errant to say the least in the 100 meter races but the 400 meter races went well for the Americans. Despite those that fell below expectations, the Americans came away with more medals than they ever have in an Olympic games. This included Decathlon winner Bryan Clay, one of the athletes that participated in a heightened drug testing program before and during the span of the games.

Redemption Song

The Redeem team not only had a well conceived nickname, the team itself was well conceived. When Jerry Colangelo was given the reigns to USA Basketball, he made it a point to only bring on players that wanted to win the gold back after the debacle in Athens. I cannot think of another venture in which 12 multimillionaires came together and played so selflessly for each other and their country. They were impressive early and their play was spectacular at times, but in the final against Spain their determination rose above all else. As Catfish said in a text he sent me, “The rumors of Dwayne Wade’s demise were exaggerated.” Wade came through in every single game with a big performance including a 9-12 game in the finals. As great as this win is and should be celebrated, can the USA team being this energy and attitude in every installment of the Olympic Games?

The Spirit

There are stories too many to count but those are the moments that stuck out in my mind. Just today seeing Hugh McCutcheon taking a moment for himself in the tunnel after his men’s volleyball team won gold after the tragic death of his father-in-law. In the spirit of competition and emotion these games were tantamount to any we have seen. It is hard to fathom what goes through the mind of any of the American athletes that won gold and stands on the podium hearing the national anthem. Perhaps they think of their country and what is good about what it means to be American. Maybe their thoughts fall on all the training, sacrifice and hard work that has led to this moment. Or maybe it is something as simple as the fact that they can’t wait to get back to the Olympic village and participate in the “activities” that occur after competition. For most of the athletes, it is back to a life of anonymity, and for those who did not come home with hardware, it is an even more thankless return home. I do not wish to place these athletes on an unworthy pedestal; I merely recognize and appreciate what these men and women stand for, and what they go through. Even now I look forward to the next Olympics, where this unique congregation of sport meets again.

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NCAA Doesn't Play Fair

This post is light on humor, and long. For me, that's not a good combo, but I hope it is enlightening.

In the past month the NCAA has denied a sixth year of eligibility to both University of Cincinnati quarterback Ben Mauk and Pitt University forward Michael Cook. The rulings, however, are not the problem. The problem is the systematic hypocrisy of the NCAA in these cases. Ben Mauk is hardly a sympathetic figure. He took advantage of a loophole to flee Wake Forest and start playing with Cincinnati without having to sit out a year. Now, he's fighting to take back the quarterback job from Dustin Garza, again. Garza is Aaron Rodgers to Mauk's Favre. Mike Cook suffered a knee injury just minutes before LeVance Fields hit a late three pointer in overtime to beat Duke in Madison Square Garden. Both players could be tremendous assets for their teams, but as it stands, both of their collegiate careers are over. The sixth year of eligibility has been a lifeline for many student-athletes, but with each approval or denial the contradictions mount up.

NCAA rules state that athletes have four years of eligibility and five years to use them. In the event of an injury, bylaw 14.2.4. serves as the baseline for requests of a sixth year of eligibility. A 2006 change to the rule now allows athletes to participate in up to thirty percent (up from 20) of their team's season and still be eligible for the hardship waiver. The Horizon League proposed the change and offered the following argument, "The general philosophy of seasons of competition is that a student-athlete should receive four complete seasons to compete in his or her sport." If only it were so simple.

In 2006, Eric Butler, a Kansas University defensive lineman was denied his sixth year of eligibility. In 2001, Butler was set to play football at Northwest Missouri State, but his then-girlfriend (now wife) got pregnant. Rules prevented them from keeping a baby in the dorms, so they returned home. Butler enrolled at a DeVry Institute, and in the eyes of the NCAA, started his five year clock (despite DeVry not having athletics). He then took a year off to take care of his new-born daughter. In 2003, he began attending Avila University, where he finally began playing college football. The following year he transfered to Kansas, where he was a walk-on. After only two years of playing, his five-year clock was up. His initial request for a sixth year was not granted, so he tried something radical. He claimed the pregnancy exception hardship. NCAA bylaw states, "A member institution may approve a one-year extension of the five-year period of eligibility for a female student-athlete for reasons of pregnancy." Butler's appeal, claim of a Title IX violation, and attempt at a temporary restraining all failed. His playing days at Kansas were over.

Fast forward to two weeks ago and Pat Liebig, a West Virginia University defensive lineman was granted his request for a sixth year of eligibility. In 2004, he was a medical redshirt and in 2007, he withdrew from school. His father was ill and needed help running the family business. Liebig was praised for placing his family first and will be suiting up the Mountaineers this fall. It's hard not to interpret this as a moral judgment being passed by the NCAA. Being a good son is more noble than being a good father, particularly an unwed one.

Mike Cook was unfortunate, not only to have a knee injury, but also the timing of it. The Duke game was the team's eleventh of the season, and meant he was just past the thirty percent threshold for the hardship (34% to be exact). Thanks to a tremendous run in the Big East tournament, Pitt actually played 37 games, but the NCAA uses only scheduled games as the determining number, therefore the total was 32 (31 regular season games and 1 guaranteed post-season game). Cook has previously sat out the 2005-2006 season when he transferred from East Carolina. With three complete seasons and more than 30% of the way through the fourth, Cook's appeal was an open and shut case.

The NCAA accepts Cook's redshirt because he transferred, but they are unwilling to accept Ben Mauk's redshirt, because he wasn't transferring and he wasn't hurt. When Mauk enrolled at Wake Forest it was understood he would redshirt. It's what Wake does. 42 of 44 players in their current two-deep depth chart have redshirted. The NCAA policy states, "[If] you attend a four-year college your freshman year, and you practice but do not compete against outside competition, you would still have the next four years to play four seasons of competition." That would make Mauk, who suffered a season-ending arm injury in the 3rd quarter of the first game of the '06 season a perfect candidate for the hardship waiver. The NCAA, however, is demanding proof that he sat out his freshman year due to injury. As a result Mauk is having to invent an injury and blame Wake Forest for poor record keeping, when all parties involved know he wasn't really injured. It's not fair to Mauk and it's not fair to Wake. The NCAA is not justified in punishing voluntary redshirts. Again, the policy is not across the board.

Washington State defensive end Matt Mullennix was recently granted his sixth year of eligibility. Like Mauk, he missed the 2006 season. His waiver was in part based on also getting injured in the 04 season. After four games, he was hurt in practice and out for the rest of the year. That season, Washington State went 5-6, meaning that Mullennix had played in 36% of the games, and therefore this season should not be a reason for an extra year of eligibility. Both Mauk and Mullennix missed one season, both started out as redshirts and Mauk is the odd man out, while Mullennix is a team leader for the Cougars. Mauk's use of a now rescinded rule to avoid sitting out while transferring seems to be the lone difference.

The NCAA has in recent years shown a shift from requiring two seasons lost to injury for a hardship waiver, to one redshirt season and one for medical reasons. Still, the rules remain ambiguous and arbitrarily enforced. The perfect example of their hypocrisy came in the courtroom proceedings of the dedicated father, Eric Butler. A lawyer for the NCAA claimed Butler's participation would harm the goal of ensuring a level playing against the other NCAA schools which do not field such athletes. The following year, Eric Butler was playing football again. This time for Washburn University, a NCAA Division II school.

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Saturday, August 23

Miles of Implications

Darius Miles is now a Celtic. He signed a non-guaranteed contract and now, two-plus years after a “career-ending” knee injury he’s looking to return to the league. The former third pick in the draft, Miles’s greatest impact will occur 2,500 miles to the west. When Miles’s knee injury was determined to be career-ending, the Trailblazers were able to get his remaining contract taken off their salary cap. If he plays in ten or more games over the course of the next two seasons, two years and $18 million will go back on the Blazers’ payroll. In other words, if Danny Ainge heads to Orgeon expect Kevin Pritchard and Francis Fratelli to force him to do the truffle shuffle and threaten to blend his hand unless the Celtics cut Miles.

The effect this season will be largely monetary. Portland already has to shell out $27.25 million to Darius for the privilege of not having him on their team. If Miles plays ten games the Trailblazers will instantly become $10.35 million over the luxury tax threshold. The greater impact will be felt heading into the 2009 season. Portland has only $15 million in contracts for the 2009/10 season, but several team options and restricted free agents to be concerned with.

It’s a virtual lock that the team options for Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Brandon Roy will be picked up. Sergio Rodriguez’s team option is for less than two million and depending on his play this season will probably be picked up as well. The total contract value for 2009/10 rises to $32 million.

Ike Diogu, Channing Frye, and Martell Webster will all be restricted free agents following this upcoming season. Webster was a starter and Frye a contributor off the bench. Martell will be their first re-signing priority and they would like to keep Frye for frontcourt depth, but depending on his play his price tag could rise too high. Diogu will likely be the odd man out. If the Blazers are able to keep both Webster and Frye it will cost the team in the neighborhood of $15 million, for a new grand total of $47 million.

The salary cap for the 09/10 season will likely be in the neighborhood of $61 million. The Blazers had hoped to have plenty of cap room to be players in the free agent market, but with the addition of Darius Miles’s contract they will be at approximately $56 million of the $61 million cap. They also will have to decide if they want to keep Steve Blake whose contract is not guaranteed for the 09/10 season. The veteran leader is a competent floor leader and one of their best 3-point shooters.

Combined with new draft picks the Blazers will be pressed up against the salary cap. If they want to add a free agent, they’ll be forced to subtract from their own roster. The following year, both Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge will be up for contracts and the year after, Greg Oden. The cap flexibility and surplus of young talent will slowly erode.

It’s hard to feel bad for the Blazers when GM Kevin Pritchard has been open about trying to dissuade other teams from considering Miles and the leak of a positive drug test that would result in a ten-game suspension for Miles if he makes it back. It would be hard to argue with any team (particularly in the west) signing Miles solely for the purpose of screwing with the Blazers cap space. As it stands now, the extent of Portland’s short term success may hinge on the attempted comeback, three time zones away, of an inconsistent forward, who at one point was compared to Kevin Garnett. Keep those antennas up to see how it all plays out.

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Thursday, August 21

A Historical Perspective

Sports fans, as a whole, have been suckered in. Debates about whose favorite player reigns supreme is nothing new, but the need instantly quantify an athlete’s place in history is a phenomenon intensified by the Talking Heads. We no longer have 24 hours to enjoy an accomplishment before we have to rack and stack their performance against history. The problem is not the debate, but that battle lines are drawn, hyperbole and insults serve as ammunition instead of facts.

Part of the joy of Michael Phelps’s performance was the opportunity to look back and learn how his performance compares to other Olympic greats. Phelps has, at minimum, established himself as the best all-around swimmer in history. This fact is quantifiable. He holds records in individual strokes as well as medley events, a rarity not seen since Gary Hall, Sr., who held three individual world records to Phelps’s four, but never won a gold medal. To date, no one has broken Phelps’s individual records except himself, a fact made more impressive considering he’s held three of them for five plus years.

Limiting Phelps’s greatness in today’s day and age is unacceptable. The titles of Greatest Olympian and Greatest Athlete are now mandatory discussion points. People try to quantify his accomplishments against those of Jesse Owens, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, et al. The topic is not a bad one, except that most people lack the breadth of knowledge to discuss them, while all taking different sides. Defenders of Owens play the Nazi card, while neglecting the awe-inspiring day he had at the Big Ten Championships. Others attempt to quantify Phelps’s medals v. Woods’s Majors, assuming a 1:1 medals to majors ratio. This ratio would put Padraig Harrington (3 majors) on the same level with Russian Greco-Roman wrestler Alexander Karelin (3 Olympic Gold Medals), a beast of a man that went undefeated from 1987-2000. These apples to oranges comparisons are as limitless as they are difficult, and too often spiral into a chorus of “nuh uh,” “you can’t be serious,” and “you must be joking.”

It’s ironic given all the hard work that these athletes put in to their craft, is offset by the lack of effort put in by the people that state their case. The discussion should be entertaining, a challenge to place someone in the hierarchy of history, but the need to anoint one is a futile effort that, like so many arguments, is often “won” by those that yell loudest. We should embrace these opportunities to learn about the greats before our time or to revisit their achievements. The fun should lie in learning that Johnny Weissmuller was undefeated, revisiting Edwin Moses’s winning streak, and hearing what others have discovered. The joy of debate should be the discussion, not the result.

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Wednesday, August 20

College Football Predictions: The BCS

The (shudder) BCS remains the defining end to the college football season. We have reviewed the BCS Conferences, now here are my picks for the BCS match-ups and the attempt at explanation for the choices:

Rose Bowl, Jan. 1st 2009
Oklahoma vs. Ohio State

Orange Bowl, Jan 1st 2009
Wisconsin vs. Wake Forest

Sugar Bowl, Jan. 2nd 2009
Auburn vs. West Virginia

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Jan 5th 2009
BYU vs. Missouri

BCS National Championship
USC vs. Georgia

National Champion: Georgia

First off, anyone who tells you that their picks are certain or even worth betting an old civil war heirloom that is actually a whiskey flask that they are right is ludicrous in itself. But this is the scenario I see unfolding. I believe Southern California will beat Ohio State in the game of the year. I do not expect a blow-out and of course the Buckeyes are quite capable of winning this one. That should be the only blemish on the OSU resume, but with their final game against Michigan and pollsters not willing to put their faith in another Buckeye appearance in the title game (which is improper thinking), they will fall into the dreaded three spot in the final rankings. I have a hard time seeing USC losing if they get by Ohio State, but then again they lost to Stanford last year. They slip once, but the win over the Buckeyes will validate their spot (validation in BCS terms). I do believe Georgia will fall once during their gauntlet run of the SEC, but winning the East and taking down Auburn in the title game will solidify their argument. By the way, I think it may very well be Auburn who hands Georgia that one loss.

The Georgia-USC match-up will be one that is touted as the game people wanted to see last January. A case could be made for either side in this case, but I believe Georgia will be hungry and Mark Richt will steer them to a close victory and then everyone will continue to have to listen to intolerable SEC smack talk for another decade. The element I always notice in these games is how unpredictable it is to know how these top teams will perform after a month off. But something tells me Richt’s preparation will have more of a sense of urgency than Pete Carroll’s will.

Ohio State will trounce Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl to take out their frustration much like USC did last year to Illinois. The BYU-Missouri game appears unsexy on the surface, but it would be an extremely entertaining game. BYU has been shown the way by Utah, Boise State, and Hawai’i and I expect them to run the table. Wisconsin and Wake Forest will therefore be dubbed as the worst match-up, but it pits two great defensive coaches against one another, but don’t expect any great highlights even though it would be hotly contested. Auburn and West Virginia would be a game I would definitely be interested in observing. The fading spread offense of WVU against the newly born spread of the Tigers. I would expect this to be Bill Stewart’s last grasp of the big time.

Well, I for one cannot wait to see how wrong I am come December and January and my only hope is that the games this year give us the same excitement, and less pointless arguments than last year, but I am not an optimist by trade.

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Monday, August 18

College Football Predictions: The Pac-10

For the final BCS Conference preview we head out West. And in a huge shocker we choose USC to take the title. Despite the sliding kneecaps and the loss of more talent, Pete Carroll and crew should take the Pac-10 title and compete for a spot in the BCS title game. It will not be as glamorous as years past with the absolutely dominating performances, but USC is simply more talented than their opponents with the exception possibly of Ohio State. The stumbles the Trojans had last year including the inexplicable loss to Stanford and Jim Harbaugh at home, and a loss in Eugene to Oregon fuel the fire for this year. They have a similar chip on their shoulder to Georgia in that both teams were playing better than anyone in the country at the end of last year, but while Georgia’s case was shot down by not winning their Conference, USC could not overcome a loss to the trees. There might be a few close contests in the mix, but the Trojans should once again be champs of the Pac-10.

Of course we must give a nod to the September 13th match-up with Ohio State. It will be a game of epic proportions and I think it will be more the margin of victory than who wins the game that will be the most important result to take away from the game. Offensively, the Trojans will lean on their running backs and why not? They have plenty of depth at the position, a sturdy offensive line, and look for Joe McKnight to take off this year behind center Kris O’Dowd and company. I have a feeling USC will muscle defenses around in conference this year. The oft overlooked USC defense will be the backbone of the team. This version of the Trojan army should be more of a grinding team led by staunch linebacker play of Brian Cushing. Right now it appears that Sanchez will be able to play behind center. As long as he or whoever is taking snaps can stay clean and avoid big mistakes, the Trojans should roll in Conference play.

Their main competition should come from Arizona State. Somehow Dennis Erickson has been washed clean of the mess he left at Miami. It is now but a distant memory and he has had work ever since, bouncing around in the NFL and Oregon State. Last season the Sun Devils had a surprisingly good year, and even had thoughts of winning the Pac 10 until USC beat them at home. I see this year’s team winning the games they are supposed to, but I think Georgia is seeing their match-up with the Devils in Tempe on September 20th, as a statement game and the Devils have not won a big game in a while. Quarterback Sam Carpenter adds new true freshman wideout Gerell Robinson to the offensive attack, but it may be the defense which proves to be the Achilles heel. Oregon came into this season ranked 20th in the coaches poll but if there were questions as to how the team would do without Dennis Dixon or Jonathan Stewart, it was put to the side after the tragic drowning of redshirt safety Todd Doxley. The running game should be fine with Jeremiah Johnson, but questions at QB for a spread offense are never a good thing. He has accomplished a lot already but I think we will really see a gritty coaching performance by Mike Belotti this year. I was expecting UCLA to over perform this year, but with Ben Olson out for two months, the Bruins might be in too deep of a hole by the time they return. I’m sure Phillip Fulmer would be doing cartwheels if he was physically able after learning that UCLA will be sans Olsen for their match-up. The rest of the Pac10 will duke it out as always, but I think the axe will fall on Willingham in Washington this year unless they win a bowl game.

Pac 10 picks
Conference Champion: USC
Below Expectations: Washington, Oregon
Above Expectations: Oregon State, Washington State
Player to watch: Joe Mcknight, RB, USC
Game to watch: Arizona State @ USC, October 11th

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Thursday, August 14

College Football Predictions: The Big East

Mike Tranghese and friends over at the Big East have been quite happy with themselves with the recent success the conference has had despite losing its three top programs to the ACC. While the ACC has floundered in football, especially in BCS games while the Big East has been strutting. Capped off by last years’ West Virginia lambasting of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, the Big East looks (and mostly prays) for the trend to continue. They already lost one high profile coach, and may lose their others to other power conferences, but the talent keeps coming in and the Big East keeps performing. Bottom line is, the trend will not end this year, and it figures to be West (by God) Virginia taking the title home again.

I see this conference as a two boat race between West Virginia and South Florida. Rutgers will be hurting from losing Ray Rice and three starters from the O-line. The Scarlet Knights had what has now become a disappointing 8-4 season last year. I expect them to take 3rd in the Big East, but they face Pitt, West Virginia, and South Florida all away from the comforts of Jersey. South Florida became everyone’s darlings last year for a few weeks last year before losing steam and getting routed by Oregon in the Sun Bowl. Jim Leavitt is a coach you can enjoy watching because you know he really cares for the program and is not just hamming it up on the sidelines. Matt Grothe is the head of the offense for the Bulls. As the saying goes, to kill the dragon (bull in this case) you must sever the head. If Grothe is held in check, the Bulls seems to flounder. But with another year of experience behind him, I expect the South Florida offense to perform well. They will be tested early, facing Kansas on September 12th in Tampa, but expect them to perform just as well, if not a shade better than they did last year. Expectations are suddenly up for the stache of Dave Wannstedt after shocking WVU in the “Backyard Brawl” last year, ending the Mountaineers title hopes. But this is Dave, the stache, they will struggle once again, even with sizzling sophomore LeSean McCoy in the backfield. Losing NFL first round pick Jeff Otah on that line makes it even harder for McCoy and you can bet there will be many defenders in the box when the Panthers take the field. Another blow to the team was losing DE Doug Fulmer for the season with a knee injury. Louisville and coach Steve Kagthorpe have an uphill battle I front of them. Hopefully the luster from years past can propel them to signing the same level of talent they had beginning with John L. Smith years ago. A lot will be expected from Hunter Cantwell as he replaces Brian Brohm, but he is a senior and the Cards will need him. The first game against Kentucky may very well be a barometer of how the team will fare this season.

That leaves us with the lads from Morgantown. West Virginia was brought to new heights under Rich Rodriguez, but now they face the long years ahead. But Lo! Pat White returns to the delight of Moutaineer fans and Erin Andrews(obligatory) and even though backfield mate Steve Slaton is now cashing checks from Sunday, Noel Devine is more than able in the backfield (8.6 yards per rush last year). Many have pointed to the Bill Stewart factor as being a similar situation to when Larry Coker inhabited the powerhouse Miami team of Butch Davis. I say a thousand times yes to this comparison. Rich Rodriguez may not be welcome in the wild and wonderful state, but fans will miss what he brought to the program. This West Virginia team will thrive this year with their only out of conference road test coming against Colorado and I look for them to play with a purpose after just missing the national championship last year by giving it away to Pittsburg in the last game of the regular season. Their home date with Auburn will probably decide whether they enter the BCS title conversation or have to rest their hopes on simply another Big East title. Either way I see them coming out on top, or then after this year, I see dark days ahead. So enjoy the sun while it shines in Morgantown, because it won’t last after this year.

Big East picks
Conference Champion: West Virginia
Below Expectations: Pittsburgh
Above Expectations: Louisville
Player to Watch: Matt Grothe, QB, South Florida
Game to Watch: South Florida @ West Virginia, December 6th

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College Football Predictions: Big Ten

Big Ten discussion begins and ends with Ohio State. They’ve won two straight Big Ten titles, but lost two straight national championship games. This year they are poised to become the first team to win three straight Big Ten titles, but will they receive an invitation to a third straight national championship game? The question could be answered on September 13th, when they hit the road to take on USC. A win would legitimize a team that people are increasingly questioning, due to their less than stellar performances in the past two championship games. If they lose that game, it would not be hard to imagine them being left out of the BCS National Championship.

In an almost annual tradition, one Big 10 team will have a favorable schedule and end up ranked higher than they should be. This year’s candidate is Iowa. Their toughest conference tests will be three straight games, at home against Wisconsin, on the road against Illinois, and back at home against Penn State. With a road game against Pitt (and stud RB LeSean McCoy) their toughest non-conference game, anything less then eight wins should disappoint Hawkeye fans hoping to rebound from a 6-6 season.

Penn State, who were (cue the cliché machine) much maligned this off season, will need to rebound from a 4-4 conference mark. If they do not, look for the “Fire JoePa” cries to reach a deafening level that could result in an ugly off-season drama on par with the recent Favre saga. Unfortunately for fans of the Coke bottle glasses, they play three of their toughest contests on the road. They have games against Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Iowa will all be on enemy turf in a one month span. One of the oft-cited reasons JoePa needs to go has been his inability to beat either Michigan or Ohio State. A victory over Michigan combined with a big road win should buy him another year. If he beats Ohio State, he can coach until he’s decomposed.

Michigan fans were stunned at the beginning of last season, and while Rich Rodriguez may lead the team back to conference power, this will not be the year. They lost the Terrelle Pryor sweepstakes and will be without a QB to run Rodriguez’s spread offense for at least one season. Their soft non-conference schedule as well as games against Minnesota, Purdue, and Northwestern should allow the team to stay above .500, but if they lose any of these games, watch out. Rodriguez has allegedly eroded the family values of the program, and could do the same for the win total this season.

Wisconsin stands to have another 8 or 9 win season, but could be propelled into second place if they can solidify their quarterback position. Currently, the second highest ranked team in the league they return a solid line, bruising running back PJ Hill and tight end Travis Beckum, who should serve as a comfort blanket for new QB Allan Evridge. A tough non-conference game at Fresno State will set the tone as they enter conference play, but look for them to end the season strong.

The bridesmaid of the Big Ten stands to be Illinois, who return Juice Williams, but have lost Rashard Mendenhall. Danny Dufrene is poised to fill-in at that spot after averaging only one-tenth of a yard less per carry than Mendenhall last season (6.4 ypc v. 6.3), but in less than a fifth of Mendenhall’s carries. Illini fans better hope than it takes less time for Daniel to break out then it took Andy. While Illinois beat Ohio State last year, don’t look for a repeat performance. This year’s game will be a revenge game for the Sweater Vest and company, and could be their last test on their way to Miami. Terrelle Pryor gives OSU their own Juice Williams and could serve as a Ryan Perrilloux-like addition that pushes the Buckeyes over come January.

Big Ten picks
Conference Champion: Ohio State
Below Expectations: Michigan
Above Expectations: Wisconsin, Iowa
Player to Watch: (How do I pick just one Buckeye? Ignoring the All-American and Heisman hopefuls) Potential X factor Terrelle Pryor, QB Ohio State
Game to Watch: Ohio State @ Illinois, November 15th

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