Friday, September 13, 2013

Won't Get Fooled Again-Chargers

I was exhausted and four hours into a six hour drive that got started much too late.  It was Sunday, November 25, 2012.  Firecracker (asleep in the passenger seat) and I were retuning to Austin after watching the Sooners escape Oklahoma State 51-48 the night before in Norman.   I was able to find the Ravens vs Chargers game on the radio which was helping the drive move along.  To my surprise, the Chargers were winning.  They played excellent defense and had the Ravens on the ropes.  At one point ahead 13-3, the Chargers clung to a three point lead near the end of the fourth quarter.

As a Chargers fan I had mentally checked out of the season.  There were no expectations.  They were 4-6 and would definitely miss the playoffs.  Norv Turner and A.J. Smith would be fired at the end of the season and the Chargers would once again try to rebuild with a new staff.  Like so many years past, I had sworn not to get emotional about the Chargers.  I would follow the games and root for the team, but I wouldn't get upset, no matter what the situation.

With 1:37 left in the fourth quarter the Ravens were facing fourth and 29 from their own 37.  If the Chargers could keep the Ravens from gaining 30 yards, the game would be over.  Some of you might remember what happened next.  "Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle."  A one yard dump off turned into a comedy of errors defensively and Rice picked up the 29 yards by an inch.

That's when I screamed, "WHAT THE FU**?!? ARE YOU FUC*ING KIDDING ME?!?"  Not my proudest reaction.  Even after swearing I would not be emotionally invested, I was again torn apart by something terrible the Chargers did.  The Ravens went on to kick a tying field goal sending the game to overtime where they defeated the Chargers 16-13.

It's really unbelievable.  Since I started this blog in 2009, I have had very few positive things to write about the Chargers which is why they don't make many appearances.  It's very easy as a San Diego sports fan to complain incessantly, and no one wants to read that. 

My explosive reaction gave Firecracker quite the rude awakening to which I was admonished sternly.  As an elementary teacher, she really has a way of distributing quick punishment that makes you feel like an eight year old.  An eight year old driving a car with a filthy mouth, but an eight year old nonetheless.

Or maybe, it's the Chargers that make me feel like an eight year old.  Tantrums become commonplace.  Entering this season, I once again swore off tantrums.  I did and do not have playoff expectations.  When friends asked me (mockingly I'm sure) how the Chargers would be this season my response was slightly below mediocre.  I bragged that I wouldn't get emotionally invested.  The same claim I made last season and the season before and the season before and the....

So as the Monday night opener approached I was not nervous.  I was still rocking Chargers gear and excited to see them play on TV, but certainly not nervous because I knew I wouldn't get too high or too low.  There was no way the Chargers would fool me again.

Then the Chargers had a seven point lead 15 seconds into the game.  I was excited.  Damn it.  Then more scoring and great defense.  By the beginning of the third quarter the Chargers were ahead 28-7 and only needed a few first downs to get a fantastic win against the supposed second best team in the AFC.  The game was all but over.

I started thinking I was wrong to doubt these Chargers.  I started thinking I could get excited.  Yes.  Screw it.  I'm excited.  The Chargers are going to win!  And once again, the rug was pulled out from under me.  A second half collapse led to an improbable come from behind win for the Texans.

Ughh.

It was almost one in the morning as I sat numb on my sofa.  I wasn't really surprised.  Had I stuck to my guns and not allowed myself to get excited, there really wouldn't be any sting.  But, I didn't.  The words of The Who, Won't Get Fooled Again rang through my head.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss...don't get fooled again, no, no!

That's the most maddening thing about the Chargers.  They do fool you.  It's not like they're atrocious.  They have just made a habit of falling short of expectations that they build.  Even in a one game scenario expectations are dangled in front of your face only to be ripped away by that familiar Chargers quality of letting the win slip through their fingers.  It wasn't quite "Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle," but it still stung.

For the second time in a season that is one game old, I have sworn not to get fooled by the Chargers.  I'll root, but I won't get fooled again.  At least not until they have a fourth quarter lead against the Eagles this Sunday.  Kinda like I swore I wouldn't write another post complaining about the Chargers.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

That Didn't Take Long

Blake Bell is starting the third game for the 2-0 Oklahoma Sooners.  Those following the OU quarterback situation knew there was a strong chance there would be more than one starter this season.

Trevor Knight was inaccurate at best in the opener against Louisiana-Monroe, but ran the ball effectively leading the Sooners to an impressive 34-0 shutout.  Despite poor passing numbers I think most fans were encouraged by Knight's performance.  He was clearly nervous which lead to accuracy problems, but that's to be expected from a freshman making his first start in front of 80 thousand restless fans.  He also threw three touchdown passes and had several drops by receivers.  After a slow start, the Sooners committed to the run which helped get points on the board.  Knight looked like a freshman, but he would surely improve with his nerves if nothing else.

A week later Knight failed to improve his poise or passing accuracy against a weak West Virginia team.  The Sooner defense turned in another stellar performance, but Knight and the offense struggled to the point that he was replaced after two horrendous interceptions.  The first came near the goalline after four consecutive runs had the offense set up for a touchdown.  Making matters worse, the coaches said the play was designed as a run-pass option in which the run was the best option.  After Knight was picked off the next series, his evening was over.

I was begging for Bell well before the change.  Truth be told, I was begging for Bell after the fourth offensive series against ULM.  Knight was so nervous and inaccurate that passing was not an option.  It was my understanding that Knight won the job because of "explosive play" ability.  In two games he has failed to be the catalyst of any explosive plays through the air.  I know he can run.  I also know Bell can run.  What I don't know is if Bell can pass or lead the offense, but he can't be worse than Knight has been.

Knight's play is reminiscent of Rhett Bomar's freshman year after taking over for Paul Thompson.  Bomar and the Sooner's improved but not before losing four games.  Unlike Bomar's year, there are other options at quarterback.  The Sooners cannot wait for losses this season.  The defense looks like it will be an asset, the running game is the best in years and the receivers are too experienced to wait out a freshman to get settled.  This is doubly true when you consider there is a redshirt junior on the bench who has meaningful game experience.  If there is a tie in this competition, the tie should go to the junior.

Bell only had to wait two games more than he originally thought to start for the Sooners.  Knight was injured against WVU giving Bob Stoops a break from the quarterback controversy questions, but I believe this change was coming regardless.  Knight had his chance, now we see what Bell can do.  If he fails to show more promise than Knight then the Sooners will need to make another move.  Patience is not in the best interest of this team at quarterback.  They can win with average, turnover free passing.  That's all it will take.  The defense and run game will shoulder the rest of the burden.

Muddying the waters a bit will be the return of Kendal Thompson who is once again practicing after missing time with a fractured foot.  Thompson had a great chance of winning the starting job before his injury paved the way for Knight.  The quarterback roulette should spin until the Sooners hit on a winner.

So, should we freak out as fans?  Absolutely not.  I am so excited about the defense and the fact the Sooners are forced to commit to the run.  That is exactly what I wanted from this season and it looks like I'll get my wish.  Oklahoma stock is selling much too low at present.  I don't care how awesome spread-tempo offenses look, if you can run and play defense, you can win.  The Sooners are winning time of possession again and the defense is starting series fresh and getting off the field fast.

Of the three quarterbacks the Sooners might use this season, every one of them can run.  As long as they aren't making dumb decisions or turning the ball over, I expect the Sooners to win.  The Tulsa game is the first game of the rest of Bell's life.  How he plays will determine how many more there will be. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Stoops Chooses Knight Over Bell

Bob Stoops wasn't paying lip service when he insisted all summer the quarterback competition was wide open at the University of Oklahoma.  Stoops announced Thursday that redshirt freshman Trevor Knight would start at quarterback over redshirt junior Blake Bell.  For two years fans and analysts alike assumed Bell would follow Landry Jones as the next OU quarterback.  Bell is the Sooners most heralded quarterback recruit on the roster, the most veteran and the only one with any game experience.  Bell's emergence as the short yardage and goal line quarterback prompted Drew Allen to transfer.  Had Jones decided to leave for the NFL after his junior season, Bell would have likely eased his way into the starting role without competition.

Instead, Jones returned for his senior season which gave younger quarterbacks Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson a year to develop.  Even with the emergence of the two younger quarterbacks, the job was Bell's to lose.  Although he can never say it, I'm sure Stoops wanted Bell to seize control of the position.  The choice to start a freshman over a junior who has three years invested in the program and two years as a solid contributor could not have been easy.

So how should Sooners fans react?  I think there is a general feeling of disbelief mixed with excitement and a dash of letdown.

The letdown is the promise of Bell as the starter that we miss out on.  A vision all of us had of Bell throwing the ball like Jones and then powering home touchdowns on the ground.  Fans saw Tim Tebow when they thought of Bell.  No matter how many passing records Jones broke the grass was greener with Bell as the heir apparent.  The Sooners wanted a quarterback who could make plays with his feet if need be.  They wanted a quarterback with toughness and moxie, exactly what Bell showed when plowing over defenders on the goal line.  They were sick of the sacks, sick of the pout face and sick of the same letdowns the past four years.  Bell was going to make all of that better.  There would be no need to shuffle different quarterbacks on and off the field because the Belldozer would already be in the game.  That's the letdown.  The death of that vision.

The disbelief is the fact Bell couldn't win the job as a redshirt junior.  It seemed like he had paid his dues.  After three years in the program and tons of meaningful snaps, how could anyone beat him out?  And losing to a freshman?  Implausible.  No one saw Knight coming this season.  Entering competition he was a distant third.  Even if the competition was close, or if Bell made some mistakes, surely the coaches couldn't ignore the on field experience.  Bell was on the Heisman watch list for Switzer's sake.  Thompson's injury reaffirmed Bell's chances of starting.  The competition was supposed to over.  Someone forgot to tell Knight he wasn't supposed to win the job.  That's the disbelief.  Bell wasn't a sure thing after all.

The excitement is wondering what happens next.  From day one, Stoops said the best players will play.  No matter what the expectations were, Knight beat Bell on the field.  If Knight really is better than Bell, then how good can he be?  We have heard stories of the freshman terrorizing the scout team, but that was the scout team.  Other than a couple of scrimmages, we don't know much about Knight.  We know he's fast and can make plays with his legs, something Sooners fans were looking forward to with Bell.  The unknowns of the coming season are exciting.  How good can this team be?  Who will step up on defense?  Will we run the ball more?  And now, what will a Knight led offense look like?  Instead of dreaming the Tebow dream, fans can hope Stoops found himself the next Sam Bradford.  That's the excitement.  The discovery of an unknown commodity with unlimited potential.

The most intriguing question to me is whether Knight won the job or Bell lost it.   That's what we'll find out a week from Saturday.  A starting job at quarterback is not guaranteed under Stoops.  Nate Hybl was named the starter before losing his job to Jason White mid-season.  Paul Thompson started the first game of the 2005 season and only made it through a half before losing his job for the season.  If Knight isn't moving the ball, you can be sure Bell will come in.  Stoops said "both quarterbacks will be ready to play" after naming Knight the starter.  I would expect both players to continue competing.

Another intriguing question is what will happen to the Belldozer package this season?  Will coaches continue to shuffle in Bell with no threat of the pass?  I have never been a fan of the package.  I know I'm in the minority, but there are talented running backs all over the roster who aren't getting enough touches.  If Josh Heupel can't find a way to get them involved then he's not a very good offensive coordinator.  At this point I wouldn't be surprised to see the Belldozer, but I would be disappointed.  It would seem like a slap in the face.  Backing up Jones is one thing.  Backing up your freshman competition is humiliating.

To bottom line things, no matter which of the three quarterbacks got the nod, the offense was going to be good.  All three quarterbacks are mobile and talented passers.  Beyond that, the offense is littered with playmakers.  The offensive line is as deep as it's been since 2008, the receivers are experienced and talented and the running backs go six deep.  The only problem for the offense is that there's only one ball and lots of playmakers to feed.  Knight is stepping into a dream situation.

The defense is really what will define the 2013 Sooners.  How will Mike Stoops overcome the lack of defensive line depth?  What wrinkles has he added to slow down potent spread attacks?  Will the linebackers play to their potential?  Those are the real questions.  I can't wait to find out the answers.  Boomer Sooner!

As an aside: We won't be spared the headline puns that Bell lends itself to.  Knight will create equal opportunity.  The Bell Tolls for Bell.  The Difference Was Knight and Day.  Bell of the Ball.  Knight Wins the Day.  Ring the Bell.  Good-Knight.  Yeah, can't wait for those.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sooners Get No Respect

I am not a pessimistic Oklahoma Sooners fan. I will admit, however, the older I get, the more realistic fan I have become.  Last season finished on a sour note when the Sooners were humiliated by Johnny (and all I got was this lousy autograph) Manziel and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.  The past two seasons have produced some of the worst defense in OU football history.  To be honest, the past four seasons have been frustrating for Sooners fans.  It started in 2009 when numerous injuries derailed a potential national championship team.  In each of the next three seasons OU squandered winnable games eliminating championship hopes.

Until now I have approached this coming season realistically.  The Sooners are breaking in a new starting quarterback and lost seven of eleven starters from a defense that finished last season humbled.  That said, a realistic approach to the season was admitting the Sooners probably wouldn't win the national championship.  I still expected them to win the conference, beat Texas and Oklahoma State, and play in the Fiesta Bowl.  Realistic.

Those realistic goals are similar to what the Sooners have produced the past five seasons.  Since 2008, the Sooners have played for a national championship, won three Big XII championships and went 3-2 in bowl games including a BCS bowl victory.  Despite this, pollspeak.com rated OU as the most overrated college football team of the last five years.  The site compared teams preseason ranking with final rankings and calculated the difference.

I know what you're thinking.

With their resume, how are the Sooners considered overrated?

No?  That's not what you were thinking?

Then, you were probably thinking the bulk of the poll differential (-49 from preseason rankings) came in 2009 when they began the year ranked 3rd only to finish unranked after Sam Bradford's injury.

No again? Okay, I got it.

You're thinking, who the hell is pollspeak.com and why the hell would I care what they say?

That's exactly what I was thinking too when I read it.  But apparently I'm not the only person that noticed.  The moniker of overrated has been tossed OU's way after losing back to back national championship games in 2003 and 2004.  It's funny that being one of the final two teams would earn you an overrated label, but that's what happened.  Now this pollspeak article appeared and gave detractors all the ammunition they need to insult OU football, and they are taking advantage.

The Sooners start the season ranked 16th in the coaches poll.  Probably fair aside from being ranked behind Texas and Oklahoma State.  In three college football preview shows I watched, analysts unanimously trashed the Sooners. One went so far as to say Oklahoma State has taken over as the best program in Oklahoma.

What a joke!  OSU has exactly one series win in the last decade.  ONE!  In a DECADE.  The all-time record is 83-17-7 in favor of the Sooners.  One win per decade is all OSU fans need to be the most obnoxious in college football.  So many years of living in big brother's shadow has left Poke fans with very low self esteem.  The Mets have a better chance of taking New York from the Yankees than the Cowboys have of taking Oklahoma from the Sooners.  OSU will always find a way to lose if they are expected to win, so I guess it's good that everyone outside of Norman expects the Cowboys to beat the Sooners this season. 

Speaking of obnoxious, the pundits also predicted Texas would beat OU even though the Sooners have won the last three games by a combined 88 points (their overrated years, don't forget).  Texas hasn't even been competitive the last two games allowing the Sooners to score 55 and 63 points.  I understand that Texas has talent, but when have they not had talent under Mack Brown?  The problem is you actually have to coach and develop that talent, neither of which are strong suits for Texas.  As long as Brown is on the burnt orange sideline, I will never worry about a disparity in talent.  Never.  Outside of Stoops, Brown is my favorite head coach.

That's not all.  Apparently, TCU is also going to beat OU, and if the Sooners aren't careful, Baylor will get them too.  Not one analyst had anything positive to say about OU.

After hearing all that my blood boiled.  My transformation into Football Blake is nearly complete and I am sick of the Sooners getting disrespected.  Screw being rational or realistic, here's what I know.  Since 2000, the Sooners have won eight of the 13 conference championships.  With six different quarterbacks.  For those who think the Sooners will suffer without Landry Jones, it looks like Stoops has a pretty good idea what he's doing.  They won't be the most talented or deep Sooners ever, but I don't see them dropping off into mediocrity, and I sure as hell don't see them losing to Texas or Baylor.

Maybe this is the kick in the ass the Sooners needed, coaches and players alike.  They are no longer college football royalty and the SEC has a strangle hold on championship football.  I used to hope the Sooners weren't reading their headlines.  Now, I hope to hell they are.  No one has OU in the championship hunt.  No one has OU even being dangerous.  Not even in a conference they have owned for 13 years.  I can't wait to see how they respond.

The Sooners have a roster full of potential and an offense that should average 45 points a game.  Josh Heupel needs to do a better job of staying balanced and getting the ball to Trey Millard often.  He has as much to prove as Blake Bell or whoever the Sooners name as the starting quarterback.

The defense has even more to prove along with Mike Stoops entering his second year in his second tenure as defensive coordinator for the Sooners.  The defense might not dominate against the spread attacks they will face in conference, but I expect great athletes with pride.  I don't know who will step up, but someone will.  I feel it now where I didn't before.  No matter who takes the field August 31, they will have Sooners written across their chest, 80,000 fans wearing crimson and both Stoops patrolling the sidelines.  I like our chances.  It's time to unleash the beast.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Are You Ready For Some Football...Predictions?

It's football season which means I do weird things like spend the entire night breaking down the 2013 NFL schedule in order to predict the outcome of every game played. So, here you go. No need to watch the actual season.  Just read below to find out exactly how each team will perform. Now your Sundays are free to cruise outlet malls and do yard work.  I think I just sarcastically figured out why the NFL is so popular in our country.  It is the excuse for not doing yard work or cruising outlet malls.  Football is back. Here are my guesses.


NFC East

1. Washington Redskins (10-6) Division Champions
2. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
3. New York Giants (9-7)
4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-13)

Most intriguing game: Redskins at Giants week 17.  Down to the wire as the division tends to be.



Sure bet: Growing pains for the Eagles, especially with Jeremy Maclin injured.

Biggest question mark: Can Robert Griffin III stay healthy?

Hot seat: Jason Garrett. The division is up for grabs with three teams capable of taking it.  Cowboys have been odd man out too many times lately.  No matter what you think, it really isn't Tony Romo's fault and Jerry Jones won't fire himself.

Team Notes

Washington Redskins: Without a healthy RGIII, it's third place for the Redskins.

Dallas Cowboys: An easy early schedule will put them in the drivers seat, but can they finish?  History says no.

New York Giants: Could win the Super Bowl, could miss the playoffs.  Such is life for a two time Super Bowl winner.

Philadelphia Eagles: They should be fun to watch even though they will assuredly stink. Will they look like an NFL version of the Oregon Ducks?  Who's the QB?


NFC West

1. Seattle Seahawks (12-4) Division Champions
2. San Francisco 49ers (12-4)* Wild Card
3. St. Louis Rams (7-9)
4. Arizona Cardianls (4-12)

Most intriguing game: Seahawks at 49ers week 14.  I think they'll need three tiebreakers to determine the division.


Sure bet: 49ers and Seahawks will both make the playoffs.

Biggest question mark: What will Carson Palmer's impact be on the Cardinals?  I mean, what will Carson Palmer's impact be on Larry Fitzgerald in terms of his fantasy production?

Hot seat: Sam Bradford

Team Notes

Seattle Seahawks: How bad is Percy Harvin's injury? Could be a game changer.  Can Russell Wilson improve on his rookie season?

San Francisco 49ers: Colin Kaepernick has to stay healthy.  With Michael Crabtree out, Anquan Boldin will play a huge role. Rumors of Vernon Davis playing receiver after his production dropped with Kaepernick running the offense.  That would be fun to see.

St. Louis Rams: Coaching and defense will once again keep the Rams competitive.  The offense is too young to be a true threat.

Arizona Cardinals: Lots of talent but no identity.  Could be Palmer's last try.


NFC North

1. Detroit Lions (11-5) Division Champions
2. Green Bay Packers (10-6) Wild Card
3. Chicago Bears (9-7)
4. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)

Most intriguing game: Vikings at Packers week 12.  Greg Jennings returns after bad mouthing Aaron Rodgers in a game that will have playoff implications.


Sure bet: The division will be a four horse race until late in the season.

Biggest question mark: Can the Lions finally put together a complete season?  It seems like their time.

Hot seat: Jim Schwartz. Like I said, it seems like their time.  He's driving the the ship.

Team Notes

Detroit Lions: Too much talent to miss the playoffs again, injuries withstanding.

Green Bay Packers: A pair of rookies hope to revive a dormant running game.  How good will Aaron Rodgers be? Do we still expect an MVP?

Chicago Bears: Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

Minnesota Vikings: As long as Christian Ponder is the quarterback the Vikings will not be a threat.

NFC South

1. Atlanta Falcons (12-4) Division Champions
2. New Orleans Saints (9-7)
3. Carolina Panthers (9-7)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8)

Most intriguing game: Week 1 Falcons at Saints. Great way to kick off the season.



Sure bet: Atlanta runs away with a very competitive division.  I just realized how one sided I think the cross conference matchups will be.

Biggest question mark: Will the reemergence of Sean Payton bring the Saints back to prominence?  Before Bountygate the Saints were thought of as Super Bowl contenders.

Hot seat: Ron Rivera.  It was a strange hire from the start.  I guess if Cam likes him...

Team Notes

Atlanta Falcons: Super Bowl or bust. What will Steven Jackson bring to the table?

New Orleans Saints: Can an offensive head coach reinvigorate a terrible defense?

Carolina Panthers: Make or break season for the entire coaching staff.  No room for regression.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: They've got some flashy names but lack credibility in a division this tough.

AFC East

1. New England Patriots (10-6) Division Champions
2. Miami Dolphins (6-10)
3. Buffalo Bills (6-10)
4. New York Jets (2-12)

Most intriguing game: None

Sure bet: Worst division in the NFL


Biggest question mark: Who will Mark Sanchez play for next year?

Hot seat: Rex Ryan. Go ahead and pack your bags.  Remember, any team would be lucky to have you as their defensive coordinator.  Leave that head coaching stuff alone for a couple of seasons.

Team Notes

New England Patriots: Should've been the year they finally miss the playoffs, but they will win their crappy division instead.

Miami Dolphins: Work in progress.  Sort of like the Buccaneers last season.

Buffalo Bills: They won't be pushovers, but they won't be very good either.  You know, just like the last thirteen seasons.

New York Jets: "...should die of gonorrhea and rot in hell." "What do you know? They're little footballs." Ace Ventura is the only person who can properly express my feelings for the Jets.

AFC West

1. Denver Broncos (12-4) Division Champions
2. San Diego Chargers (8-8)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (8-8)
4. Oakland Raiders (4-12)

Most intriguing game: Broncos at Cowboys week 5.  There's not a division game worthy of the "intriguing" label.


Sure bet: Raiders, once again, make the rest of the division feel good about themselves.

Biggest question mark: Can Andy Reid and Alex Smith transform a talented roster in their first year together?

Hot seat: It should be Phillip Rivers, but there's no such thing as a hot seat in San Diego.  Just a comfortable 72 degree seat that sometimes isn't fully in the shade.

Team Notes

Denver Broncos: A runaway AFC favorite, but injuries to the offensive line might make life harder than expected in Denver.

San Diego Chargers: This team has been stuck in neutral since losing to the Jets in the 2009 playoffs.  One of the least fun teams to root for in the NFL.

Kansas City Chiefs: New coach, new quarterback and a plethora of first round draft picks.  The Chiefs are on the rise, but it's a rise from the doldrums, that's a long climb.

Oakland Raiders: Goodbye, Carson Palmer. Hello, Matt Flynn.  Do you know what you signed up for?

AFC North

1. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) Division Champions
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) Wild Card
3. Baltimore Ravens (7-9)
4. Cleveland Browns (7-9)

Most intriguing game: Week 7 Ravens at Steelers.  Will it have the same feel in a weakened year for both franchises?


Sure bet: We're going to be forced to watch way more of this division than we'll want to.

Biggest question mark: Will the Ravens even make the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl?

Hot seat: Brandon Weeden. The Browns didn't learn much from Chris Weinke.

Team Notes

Cincinnati Bengals: It's a great year to be the Bengals, the only divisional foe that didn't regress is the Browns.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Big Ben will earn his money if he can keep the Steelers competitive.

Baltimore Ravens: One Super Bowl was enough to ruin the next seven seasons.  Flacco forever and no money to pay anyone else. Yay!

Cleveland Brown: Honestly, they're a quarterback away from winning the division.

AFC South

1. Houston Texans (10-6) Division Champions
2. Indianapolis Colts (9-7) Wild Card
3. Tennessee Titans (7-9)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15)

Most intriguing game: Colts at Texans week 9.

Sure bet: I will get annoyed when the Texans are on every week in Austin.  That means I get to see Jacksonville and Tennessee twice a year.  Awesome.

Biggest question mark: Will the Jaguars win a game?  It's the NFL, so I'm sure they'll win one game.  I got them beating the Titans in week 16.

Hot seat: Jaguars franchise.  Someone's going to Los Angeles. Thank God for the Chargers that the Jaguars exist.

Team Notes

Texans: Out of division schedule is as difficult as divisional schedule is easy.

Colts: I'm not convinced last year wasn't a fluke.  Double digit wins is very unlikely with 49ers, Broncos and Seahawks on the schedule. They still might make the playoffs since the AFC is terrible.

Tennessee Titans: Seven wins might be a generous prediction.  Jake Locker has a few more developmental years coming.

Jacksonville Jaguars: How is Chad Henne backing up Blaine Gabbert?  It's tough to find a Jaguars topic.

NFC Champions: Atlanta Falcons
AFC Champions: Denver Broncos


Super Bowl Champions: Atlanta Falcons

Saturday, July 27, 2013

How Much Pressure is on Sam Bradford?

Football season is here.  It cannot be ignored any longer.  August is on the doorstep making the Oklahoma Sooners first game a month a way.  One month away.  For me, it is a time of awakening.  The person I refer to as Football Blake has been hibernating since January.  Like man becoming wolf, I too will transform in the coming months.  I know this change will occur.  I look forward to it.  But, like Wolfman, losing control is both exalting and terrifying.

Who will I become 6 p.m., August 31st?  Will the superstitions eat me alive or will the Sooners play well enough to keep me mentally stable?  Will my neighbors think I'm a profane, raving lunatic, or will I keep it together?  Will my car survive the road trips this season?  Will I resist temptation to cook tailgate food on a weekly basis (not off to a good start as the kick off menu ideas list has 15 entries already).  Will I bounce back from a tragic season of fantasy football?  Will the Chargers force me to root against them?  Will my weeks be ruined by poor football?

Will Sam Bradford be on the hot seat this season?  That is what I wish to focus on today.

The answers to the previous questions are as follows in order: Football Blake, Yes/No, Yes/No, Maybe, No, Yes, Yes, Yes. 

Bradford is my favorite football player.  At least I want him to be.  He is similar to Blake Griffin in my rooting hierarchy because there is a ceiling on how excited I can get.  I have chronicled my issues with Griffin in previous posts, but Bradford presents me with similar challenges.

For starters, no matter how good Bradford is, the St. Louis Rams will not be great offensively.  He has the youngest group of receivers in the NFL, his offensive line has a lot to prove and Steven Jackson is gone.  Jackson was the team leader.  He was the veteran the locker room looked to for leadership the same way Baltimore Ravens players looked  to Ray Lewis.  He also was an effective runner that kept defenses honest.  Even the most hardcore NFL fans probably couldn't name a single running back on the Rams roster today.

Bradford is entering his 4th season as a starting quarterback.  This will be the first season he won't have to learn a new offense.  In 2010 Bradford won offensive rookie of the year and was within a game of the playoffs one year after the Rams finished 1-15.  That progress earned offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur the Cleveland Browns head coaching job.  Bradford spent most of the 2011 season injured and the Rams went 2-14 with the worst offense in the NFL.  That decline earned the entire coaching staff a pink slip as the Rams brought in Jeff Fisher. Under the third new offense in three years Bradford and the Rams improved to a still mediocre 7-8-1.  A great improvement, indeed, but Bradford lacked dazzle.

That brings us to 2013.  The Rams still don't have a single proven receiving commodity.  There are high hopes for first round draft pick Tavon Austin and tight end acquisition Jared Cook, but not a single proven threat on the roster.  So just to refresh, no receivers and no running backs.  Throw in an offensive line with a proclivity for giving up sacks and you've got a challenging year ahead offensively.

The NFC West has become top heavy with San Francisco and Seattle boasting loaded rosters and exciting young quarterbacks.  They are stacked on defense and surrounded their quarterbacks with proven veterans at all the skill positions.  It is extremely unlikely that three teams  from the same division could make the playoffs.

Bradford still has three years and lots of money left on his contract so he won't have job security issues this season, but fans and management alike are looking for Bradford to breakout.  Nine wins would be a triumph of a season for the Rams.  The best they can hope for is 3-3 within the division.  The roster is still a year or two away from truly competing.

While I fully expect the Rams to be mediocre again, I don't expect it will be Bradford's fault.  He simply doesn't have the weapons.  I know what you're thinking, "it's a shoddy carpenter that blames his tools..."  I understand.  I also believe that will be the reaction of management and Rams fans. That is why I am concerned for Bradford's future.  The Rams were a horrible franchise before he was drafted and instantly breathed life into the team.  That early success led to unrealistic expectations as did the instant success of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, and Russell Wilson. Patience is a nearly non-existent virtue among NFL faithful, but that's exactly what St. Louis needs.  A playoff appearance is not in the cards this year.

What fans need from Bradford is a sign of improvement.  Moving beyond a game manager and making plays that end up on Sportscenter.  He should get plenty of chances to put the ball in the air with the uncertainty of his run game.  Who really knows?  I am not convinced that Fisher hired the right offensive coordinator.  Aside from his last name, I can't understand what credentials Brian Schottenheimer has.  His last job was developing Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets offense.  How'd that work out?  He's been widely criticized for not taking the reigns off Sanchez and hopefully he will not repeat that mistake with Bradford.

When Bradford was drafted, I thought his ceiling was Tom Brady and his floor was David Carr.  He is closer to Carr than Brady currently.  With coaching and surrounding roster playing such a huge factor in the life of a quarterback, Bradford has another uphill climb this season.

If the Rams are smart they'll stay patient.  If they do get tired of him, I know a certain running back in Minnesota who would welcome him with open arms.  In fact, that's actually what I hope happens.  Screw playing well this season.  Let's hope the Rams and Vikings underachieve until they reunite Bradford and Adrian Peterson.  Now that would be fun.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

LeBron James Must Unite Big 3

They say that winning back to back championships is the most difficult task in professional sports.  If you asked the Miami Heat today, I think they would agree.  As predicted, the Heat and the Indiana Pacers will need seven games to determine the Eastern Conference Finals.  Throughout the series the Pacers have robbed the Heat of their identity with only one game left to take it back.

Most of this season it was a forgone conclusion that the Heat would win the NBA championship.  They won 66 regular season games that included a dazzling 27 game winning streak. The once clunky dynamic of the Big 3 was tightened to a well oiled machine after Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh handed the keys to LeBron James.  The addition of Chris Anderson appeared to be the final piece of the puzzle as the Heat dominated the regular season.

Before winning their first championship together last season, the Big 3 were the most scrutinized group in NBA history.  Each individual faced daily criticism and were openly mocked for their impolitic choices before ever playing together.  Most were delighted when the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals.  As the biggest star, James was the biggest target for critique, especially after consecutive poor fourth quarter performances.  Bosh and Wade helped shoulder James' burden and made him the leader the following season.  Rather than crumble, the Big 3 were galvanized.

There was more adversity their second season together and they relied on the previous year's experience to win the championship.  It was never as easy as they imagined when they signed together.  They faced deficits against the Pacers in the second round and in the Eastern Conference Finals where they needed seven games to beat the Boston Celtics. They were pushed to the brink, but they crossed the finish line together.  That's what was unique about the Big 3.  Each player gave up personal glory to play for team.  James was recognized as the best player on the planet, but his greatness is defined by his unselfish play.  It was that unity that pushed the Heat over the championship hump.

The obstacles that the Heat currently face are unlike any they have experienced as a group.  Game 7 tips off Monday with everything on the line for both teams.  Unlike last year's game 7 against the Celtics, the Heat are not riding momentum, in fact, it appears they are fracturing as a group at the worst possible time.

Wade and Bosh have struggled miserably throughout the series.  Bosh has less rebounds than three point attempts and Wade's knee problems have stolen his athleticism.  In the Heat's three wins against the Pacers, neither Wade nor Bosh contributed offensively.  It has been James who handled the burden while the national media dubbed the Heat a Big 1.

The Pacer's size has disrupted Miami's offense into an identity crisis.  Pacers center Roy Hibbert has dominated the paint and made the Heat reluctant to attack the rim.  Even while James has put up spectacular numbers, he is doing most of his damage through jump shots.

Matchup issues aside, the real concern is what's going on inside the Heat's locker room.  James seems to have lost trust in Wade and Bosh referring to his game 5 heroics as, "going back to my Cleveland days."  Reggie Miller referred to the Heat as the "Miami Cavaliers" in their game 6 loss.  After the game Bosh took responsibility for his play and said little else.  Wade, however, said the Heat (James) need to work harder to get he and Bosh involved in the offense. Perhaps it was a response to James' Cleveland comment.

James has a very important decision to make for game 7 as the primary ball handler and playmaker.  Should he trust the other Big 2 in the apex of their worst simultaneous slump as teammates, or should he imitate Michael Jordan and look for his shot early and often?  To do so would mean to abandon the very dynamic that carried the Heat to a championship last season.  James certainly carried the scoring load in critical games last year, but he never lost trust in his teammates, especially Wade and Bosh.

It's a tough decision considering Bosh has played tentatively preferring to shoot three pointers rather than mix it up with David West and Hibbert, and Wade hasn't found his jumper the entire playoffs and lacks the explosion to get to the basket and finish.  It also doesn't help that Ray Allen and Shane Battier have been no-shows.  Both were extremely reliable three point threats all season at over 40 percent.

So what should James do?  He should look to score, but he needs to stop relying on jump shots.  The Heat are far more effective with Hibbert off the court, yet they haven't tried to get him into foul trouble by challenging him.  It's as if James and company are concerned with getting shots blocked.  James needs to lead the charge in the paint as he did all season and get the rest of his teammates follow his lead.

Getting Bosh going means getting him open looks from about 15 feet.  Bosh has always been more effective offensively when he makes his first jumper.  James looked for him early in game 6 but after he missed a few attempts, the ball didn't go back his way very often.  Even when Bosh would get a touch he was looking to pass immediately.  Getting Bosh going early should be a huge priority for James and head coach Eric Spoelstra.  Hibbert has been free to plant in the paint because Bosh has not factored in the offense.

Getting Wade going is a matter of chemistry with James.  Wade is a slasher by trade.  The Heat are at their best in transition and cutting to the basket.  Back cuts and easy dunks broke Wade out of his slump last year against the Pacers.  There's no reason not to approach game 7 the same way.  If there is friction between James and Wade they have 48 hours to get it sorted out.  Wade is limited, but he should be much more productive.  James can't turn his back on him now.  He has to take it upon himself to get Wade involved, just like he did in game 4 against the Pacers last year.

It would be easy for James to put up 30 shots and try to win on his own in game 7.  Unlike prior years, he will not get the bulk of the blame if the Heat lose.  But, one ring is not enough for James and the Miami Heat.  They were built to win multiple championships.  Team play is the hallmark of Miami's Big 3 and team play is what led them to the championship last year.  If the Heat are not unified by James' play in game 7, they will be watching the NBA Finals at home.

Having Anderson's interior presence will be a boost after missing game 6 for being an idiot, and Mike Miller should eat some of Allen's minutes after he provided a fourth quarter spark last night.  But, it will be up to the Big 3 to play like a trio if the Heat want to advance.  If they are united, they will find a way to win.  Together.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Sooners Need Unconventional Traditionalism

You can't question the success of Bob Stoops and the University of Oklahoma football team, but you can question the recent direction of the program.  The Sooners are no longer perennial championship contenders.  Despite notching double digit win totals and a Big XII championship, OU has been unable to run the ball or defend consistently the last four seasons.  Defense and ball control are the first two ingredients to championship football. The trend of mediocrity can be blamed on recruiting, defense, Landry Jones or Josh Heupel, but the main culprit is the offensive philosophy.

The Sooners were ahead of the no-huddle, hurry-up, spread offense trend.  With Sam Bradford and Kevin Wilson, OU's no-huddle became the most prolific offense in college football history.  They were often unstoppable and scored touchdowns at a record breaking rate.  No one worried as the defense dwindled.  That was just collateral damage.

That was also the past.  The unbelievable players from 2008 are gone along with Wilson.  Also missing is offensive balance, defensive pressure, and any novelty advantage once possessed by the Sooners.  Almost every team in the Big XII runs no-huddle killing their own defense along with the opponents.  It's either a quick score or quick punt which negates ball control and forces the defense into more possessions.  Also since Wilson's departure, the Sooners have failed to maintain a run/pass balance despite great talent and depth at the running back position.

Stoops should stay ahead of the trend once again, and scrap the no-huddle.  Keep a package for late half situations and change of pace, but otherwise, huddle up, run the football, and control the clock.

When Oklahoma State catches up, it's time to rethink your brand of football.  The current Big XII resembles the WAC with most games producing basketball type scores.  It's embarrassing for the Sooners to be associated with that.  OU has traditionally been a great defensive program, but last year's Sooners gave up over 41 points in three of their last four games.  Against OSU and West Virginia (who also use no-huddle) OU's defense was on the field 100 snaps.  Why not shorten the game?  You can't expect the defense to perform in the fourth quarter after playing so many snaps.  Stoops also can't expect to recruit top defensive talent with the current system.  The talent drop off is already alarming.  Where are the playmakers?  Probably in the SEC where they're not on the field 100 plays a game.

Unconventional traditionalism is what the Sooners need to evolve.  Stoops has shown that he actively looks for trends and is willing to try unconventional offenses.  His first season as a head coach he hired Mike Leach to run his unconventional spread offense.  A return to a traditional huddle up approach would be unconventional in the current Big XII.  Kansas State played ground control football while the rest of the conference aired it out and they're reigning conference champs.

With the departure of Landry Jones the Sooners offense is ripe to convert to a run focused system.  Blake Bell has already proven himself a capable ball carrier and there is a stable full of underused running backs.  Plus, the best player on the team is fullback Trey Millard.  The Sooners would dominate time of possession and keep the potent Big XII offenses on the sidelines.

I will be eternally grateful to Bob Stoops for what he has done for OU football.  He restored pride to a demoralized fan base.  He woke the giant and I believe he earned the right to coach the Sooners as long as he wants, but he is under pressure.  In over twelve years as head coach Stoops never fired a coach.  He has since fired four in 18 months.  There has been a muted tensity surrounding the program the last few years.  Several players grew disgruntled and transferred while others inexplicably left for the draft despite terrible draft stock. 

The best way to cure the Sooners is to win.  If defense wins championships (as the saying goes) the Sooners should scrap the no-huddle and control the clock.  Unconventional traditionalism.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

They Made a Huge Mistake: Arrested Development Season 4

Annyong! ("Hello!")

An Arrested Development post is long overdue ("I don't want to blame it all on 9/11, but it certainly didn't help").  My love for the show cannot be overstated ("He's very good").  My blogger profile pic is from the show ("and after he gave you animation rights to his banana grabber character").  I have lobbied for friends and family to try the show out and have several devout converts under my belt ("Caged Wisdom changed my life").  My wife and I have used the show as a friendship compatibility test ("Maybe you're not smart either! I didn't know until they told me").  I have watched the first three seasons over and over to the point that I can quote nearly every episode word for word ("it's going to be a long time before Sgt. Wendell Baker calls someone Private Homo again").  The laughs have never stopped ("They're laughing with me, Michael.").  I doubt they ever will ("At you").  But I could never figure out what to write about ("Franklin said some things Whitey wasn't ready to hear").

No episodic comedy has been ripped off more than Arrested Development ("I'm an ideas man, Michael. I think I proved that with **ck Mountain").  They mastered flashbacks, cutaways, and the mockumentary style of filming (are you forgetting I was a professional twice over: an analyst and a therapist, the world's first 'analrapist'").  The show became a cult hit after it's quick cancellation in 2006 ("Say goodbye to these, because it's the last time").  DVD and Netflix revived the failed TV show increasing the popularity exponentially ("Did you enjoy your lunch, mother?  You certainly drank it fast enough").  It became obvious the show was too good to not be resurrected ("I will become my dead father's body as I am lowered into his grave.  Dad's dead?").  The writing ("He said some wonderful things), the direction ("and you tell me you have some P.E. teacher directing, well, that just makes me want to puke all over your head, sir"), the cast ("her?"), and the light-hearted approach to comedy was simply some of the best in television history ("You're doing time Dad.  I'm doing the time...of my life").  So when Netflix announced it would bring season 4 to viewers over Memorial Day weekend, I was beyond excited ("I haven't had sex in a month.  You know you've been in here for two months").

I had a two day menu planned including cocktails ("10 cents gets you nuts") in anticipation for what felt like opening day after a seven year strike ("from whence you came").   In fact, I had planned on doing a short commentary on the show and focusing the Arrested Development post on my show inspired food ("there's always money in the banana stand").  But something very different happened ("It's never the one's you hope").  The changes and tone of the show were so distracting that my two day dinner party dissolved in disappointment ("I'm a failure.  I can't even fake the death of a stripper").

Spirits were high and flowing early Sunday afternoon as Firecracker and I began episode 1 ("it turned into one of the Bluth family's better parties").  We started the day with Gene Parmesan popovers filled with eggs, bacon, cheese and green onion ("it's just some idiot with balloons.  Is it?"), and paired it with a drink called Lucille's breakfast ("Get me a vodka rocks.  It's breakfast, Mom.  And a piece of toast) stolen from this guy, which is basically a vodka (Cloudmir) martini rimmed with toast crumbs.

I wasn't sure how to react after viewing the first episode ("you're gonna get some hop-ons").  After seven years I didn't want to see stunt actors in the opening scene, especially Seth Rogen's awful interpretation of George ("you got to play me like a man and not some mincing little Polly").  I was also confused how the show would change after devolving Michael ("the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together").  The lunatic antics of the rest of the family work because we had Michael as a backbone, the rest of the cast was free to be hilarious idiots ("I'm looking for something that says Dad likes leather").  Speaking of the cast, the ensemble format was abandoned in favor of character driven episodes ("C'mon!"), a direct contradiction of the style of show Arrested Development was ("No. Glasses on, hair back up.  Let's just get that hair right back up").  It was also clear the directing and editing were quite different ("and I apologize for that. I thought it was a pool toy").  The original program was confined to 20-22 minutes on Fox, the Netflix platform allowed for longer episodes resulting in longer scenes ("and scene").  Gone are the lightning quick edits which kept the laughs coming each scene ("Oh my God, we're having a fire...sale...oh the burning, it burns me, evacuate all the school children, ahhhhhh, amaaaaz, this isn't a fever,  zing graaace, can't even see where the knob is").

We withheld judgment ("My name is Judge") understanding the show would inevitably be different, and watched episode two.  After the second episode it was already time for a break ("spring break, woo!").  I knew the show would be different, I knew there were impossible standards to live up to, but I never thought I'd ever watch an episode of Arrested Development without laughing ("it's like she gets off being withholding").

After our break, we returned with a renewed optimism ("Even if it means me taking a chubby, I will suck it up") as we sat down to a lunch of mayoneggs and the Ike and Tina tuna plate ("I don't understand the question, and I won't respond to it").  We washed it down with a drink called I'm afraid I just blue myself which was vodka, lemonade, and blue curacao ("No. It just looks like he's dead.  He's covered in blue paint or something").  The further we got into the season, the worse I felt ("Hey, who wants to go to the hospital?").

The new season had a much darker feel than the original series ("always keep from crying, even though your heart is dying").  The subject matter included hitting rock bottom, drug addiction, adultery, divorce, a month long roofie cycle, and prostitution ("Not tricks, Michael, illusions.  A trick is something a whore does for money").  Seasons 1-3 might have been able to make some of that funny, but the bombardment of dark humor really became a bummer in season 4 ("Ignore it! That's something the body does when you shake it").  Equally as distracting was Portia de Rossi's face which was nearly unrecognizable from obvious plastic surgery ("and I think I maced a crane").

By the time we were frying up cornballs and drinking Gob's Tea for Dong ("I need something to give my dingle less tingle. Me quick want slow, wait that's Indian"), I realized the magic was gone ("The Gothic Asshole?").  I tried to tell myself that once I watched every episode the jokes would become clear and therefore funnier the second time around ("well, did it work for them? No. It never does. I mean, these people somehow delude themselves into thinking it might, but...but, it might work for us").  I even tried to marvel at the inside-inside-inside joke that season 4 was an allusion to the actual life of the show ("did someone say wonder?").

In the end, we only had a banger in the mouth ("oh, I forgot, in the states you call it a sausage in the mouth.  We just call it a sausage") and Buster's juicebox to cheer me up ("We have unlimited juice? This party is going to be off the hook").  We didn't even have the stomach for hot ham water, especially after seeing new character DeBrie smear margarine all over her face ("is she funny or something?"), or maybe it was because we had a Skip's Scramble for breakfast ("don't order the Skip's Scramble").

I hate being so critical of something I have loved for so long ("she thinks I'm too critical. That's another fault of hers"), but I just couldn't find the funny ("if I can't find a horny immigrant by then, I don't deserve to stay here").  My despondent mood wasn't fixed by watching live TV since there are half a dozen apocalyptic movie trailers currently running ("I just want my kids back").

The Bluth weekend I waited seven years for was a doleful mess and I had to go back and watch some old episodes to wash out the taste of season 4 ("take the Seaward back. I'll leave when I'm good and ready").  Rewatching the original series reminded me that the show did typically tackle cynical subjects, but did so with a much lighter touch ("No touching!").  It is because of this that season 4 will never be included with the first three ("I'm a monster!"). It will live on it's own as a dark and zany experiment gone wrong ("I know you're the big marriage expert. Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot, your wife is dead...I'm sorry.  That was 100 percent inappropriate, and I do apologize profusely").

I still have Bluth bananas in my freezer ("Gimme a Gob").  I'm not sure if I should just throw them out in disgust or eat them and feel fortunate that they gave it a try ("you didn't eat that did you? It died right in the middle of a show").  One thing I do know, the rumored movie is in serious peril thanks to the backlash the series is sure to receive ("it doesn't retain the complex eroticism of the French original").  If they do try beyond season 4, I hope they learned a lesson ("and that's why you always leave a note").  Until then, we'll always have the original series ("That's like comparing apples, and some fruit nobody's ever heard of").

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Garcia Beats Himself In Tiger Feud


Q: How do you become the loser of a lose-lose situation?

A: Say something racist to a reporter.

Ball in water, meet foot in mouth.

He'll make you beat yourself on the course.  Sergio Garcia knows this well.  He intimidates.  And he intimidates Garcia.  Even during Tiger Woods' down period, he was far superior to Garcia.  Woods is often able to watch his opponents beat themselves while he stays the course.

That's on the golf course.  Off of the course, Woods historically struggles.  He is still the most popular golfer.  No question. But, he's also the least popular golfer with the amount of people that actively root against him.  I'm talking to you, Mom and Grandma Rose.

So it amuses me that Garcia beat himself in a mini-feud with Woods.  The whole thing was a bore, and it looked like there were no winners to be had.  Bombs like this passed through the media from Garcia, "He's not the nicest guy on tour."  Damn. Consider yourself served, Tiger.

Tiger picked himself off the mat and returned fire by calling Garcia a "complainer."  Ouch.  It just got real.

Turns out, it did, sort of, just get real.  Garcia found a way to lose a battle with no winners by making a fried chicken reference towards Woods to a reporter who asked Garcia if he would have Woods over for dinner.

Nice one, Sergio.

Woods was already the target of the same ignorant remark by Fuzzy Zoeller, and Zoeller was from the old guard where it's expected to some degree.

Today is different, and almost all of that can be attributed to Woods.  The old days of exclusion are melting away in a sport where tradition means everything.  Woods did that.  No.  He's not likable as a human.  Neither was Michael Jordan behind the curtain.  But Woods is unquestionably one of the top players to ever play the sport, and he is a minority.  He is Jordan meets Jackie Robinson.  You can't take that away from Woods.  No matter what he did, or how you feel about him, he is a pioneer.

As soon as Garcia went racist, he lost.  Beat himself.  I doubt Garcia is a bigot. More of a pampered idiot would be my guess. But, who the hell knows?  All we know is he went there with a mic in his face.  Now, he's a racist for life.  Some things cannot be unsaid.  The proof will be when sponsors start dropping him.

Woods truly doesn't like Garcia.  I doubt he was seriously hurt by the comment, but he certainly didn't try to bail out Garcia.  Nor should he.  His response to Garcia,

"The comments made weren't silly.  It was wrong, hurtful, and clearly inappropriate.  I'm confident that there was real regret that the comment was made. "

It was a stupid feud that was hardly worth mentioning before Garcia crossed the line.  Now it will cost him millions of dollars and his reputation.  Garcia will also likely struggle on the course because of the backlash.  A vacation is probably in order.

If this feud were a golf tournament it would the same Player's Championship that started the feud.  Tiger holds on to win as Sergio puts his foot in his mouth ball in the water.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

LeBron's Legacy Tested Again

Anything short of a NBA championship is a failure for LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

Every year Miami's Big 3 are together they are expected to win.  There are no moral victories and no slack from fans or critics.  Even when James got his first ring last year, some found ways to diminish the accomplishment.  "It was a strike shortened season (66 regular season games instead of 82)," was a personal favorite.

James answered every question raised of his game during the Heat's run to the title.  He was clutch.  He put his team on his back.  Not only did he beat the Pacers without the injured Chris Bosh, we forget that Dwyane Wade was on the verge of imploding.

Wade was playing terrible and visibly frustrated.  It was clear his knee was bothering him and at one point had a sideline altercation with head coach Eric Spoelstra.  He left the team between games 3 and 4 to get his head straightened out.  The Heat were in trouble.

Down 2-1 to the Pacers and playing in Indiana, James played one of the best games in playoff history.  Trailing by 10 in the 3rd quarter James continued to look for Wade to get him some easy buckets and break him out of his funk.  It worked.

Wade scored 22 in the 2nd half as he and James scored 38 consecutive points for the Heat.  James finished with 40 points, 18 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals while icing the game with clutch free throws.  It was the turning point for James.

But that's in the past.  One championship would never do for James and the Heat.  It's a new challenge and new series against the Indiana Pacers. Throughout the regular season the Pacers were considered the best threat to beat the Heat in the Eastern Conference.  They are above average at every position and especially strong in the post.  They were the top rated defensive team this season and excellent rebounders.  Rising star Paul George is one of the very few players that matches up with James defensively.

Size differences between the two teams highlights two very different styles.  The Heat play without a big man opting to spread the floor with Bosh at center.  This strategy pulls the opposing center away
from the basket and opens up the driving lanes for James and Wade.  The Bosh/Roy Hibbert matchup will be pivotal.  The best chance the Pacers have to win is to dominate rebounding.

The Pacers are capable of winning the series.  It will be up to James to keep them from doing that.  Even with Wade ailing again, there are no excuses.  Last year began what needs to be three straight titles if James wants to fulfill his Chosen One moniker.  No other player on the Heat lives with that scrutiny, though James put that on himself (literally).

But, why wouldn't he?  We want our superstars to strive to be the best, and supreme confidence is what makes transcendent players.  He has the skills to realistically get there someday. But today, he needs to win.

So we can throw away game plans, matchups, and supporting cast.  This series comes down to LeBron's legacy.  Will he, or won't he? The greatest of all time would win this series even with an injured Wade and no inside presence.  Even if it takes 40 points, 18 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals.

James has cruised through the first two rounds...That's not going to work against the Pacers.  I wouldn't be shocked to see a seven game series.  There will be moments where the Heat are backed into a corner.  There will be questions from critics after a bad game.  In the end, James and the Heat should march on, leaving an intense rivalry in their wake.

I believe, like Michael Jordan, we are watching someone truly special and destined for greatness.  Time will tell, and it's time to prove it.

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