Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Random Thoughts from the Passionate Sports Fan's Mind VII

The Carmelo Anthony-to-the-Knicks trade is finally done, and the Nets acquire Deron Williams from Utah in two mega-deals.
But, wait for it...........................
The Rangers continue to struggle mightily in February, despite last night's huge shootout win in Carolina.
Is it too late to retract me "believe in the Rangers" comments? Maybe they will continue to surprise me, but it's unreasonable for me to expect a Cup this year.
Not only are the NFL and NBA collective bargaining agreements expiring, but MLB's expires after this upcoming season.
If you listened to White Sox GM Kenny Williams' comments about the potential $30M per year contract forthcoming for Albert Pujols, it is slightly possible that the owners may demand a salary cap. If that happens, I would be three times more worried about a baseball lockout than an NFL lockout.
Hank Steinbrenner blasts the Yankees and Derek Jeter for "building mansions" instead of winning the 2010 World Series.
So Hank, I guess it's a sin that the Yankees get all the way to Game 6 of the ALCS and get beaten by a better team? Shut up, Hank. For the love of George! Do the Yankee Universe a favor and leave the baseball operation to Hal? If you actually think that the construction of Derek Jeter's new home in Tampa caused the worst season of his career, you know nothing about baseball!
There's a New York City basketball team that is relevant again!
No, I'm not talking about the Knicks, but the St. John's Red Sotrm! With all the upsets the Johnnies have been pulling off, don't surprised if they make a Cinderella run this March.
A 20 year old rookie driver, Trevor Bayne, wins the Daytona 500.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. How does NASCAR justify their most important race on their calendar being the first race of the season, but not the last?
Adam Wainwright may be done for the year with an injured elbow.
Speaking of retractions, if the Cardinal ace does indeed need Tommy John surgery, then it may almost be paramount that the Cards sign Pujols after this season. Who knows if Wainwright will be the same again?
And for my non-sports thought of the week:
Everyone should pay attention to the Wisconsin protests. Similar happenings may occur in New Jersey very, very soon, along with any other state with public labor and union issues. But it also underscores a major underlying theme: people are getting off their collective asses and fighting for their rights. And you can thank a bunch of young, internet-savvy Egyptians for inspiring all this.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Random Thoughts from the Passionate Sports Fan's Mind VI

Pitchers and Catchers have officially reported! Welcome to Baseball season!
Words of caution: Do NOT pencil in a Boston/Phillies World Series. Championships aren't won on paper. Also, do NOT count the Yankees out despite their pitching woes.
The NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement expires March 4.
Fans: DON'T PANIC if a deal isn't signed by then. It won't affect the draft, and it won't affect any games unless the lockout extends into training camp. If that happens, THEN you may panic.
Last week's Penguins/Islanders game may have been the ugliest in NHL history.
If you read Mario Lemieux's complaints about the lieniency of the suspensions handed out to the culpable Islander players, 66 should think about this: get your superstar player roommate healthy, because losing Evgeni Malkin for the season may have crippled your team's Cup hopes.
Albert Pujols' deadline for the Cardinals to sign him to a new deal has passed.
Unless he takes a hometown discount to remain in St. Louis beyond this season, don't expect him back next year, Redbird Nation. But it will NOT cripple the franchise if it does happen.
If you think the Madoff/Wilpon situation won't affect the Mets operations, think again.
Guess what? David Wright is correct. If the Wilpons lose millions in this impending lawsuit, who is paying the players?
Non-Sports thought of the week (actually, two of them this time)
After taking your wife or girlfriend out for Valentine's Day, I hope your card went something like this: "Honey, thank you for tolerating my absence the last 21 Sundays."
Plus, I normally could care less about the Grammys, but kudos to the academy by choosing Arcade Fire, the best band of the 21st century not named Radiohead (more on them soon...) and their album "The Suburbs" on winning Album of the Year over less talented corporate artists like Lady Gaga and her egg and Katy Perry. Oh, and for shutting out Justin Bieber! And to all music lovers everywhere: Radiohead's new album, The King of Limbs, is released digitally this Saturday!!!!!!!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Super Bowl XLV Preview

After 10 postseason games, 254 regular season games, and even 65 preseason games, we've finally arrived at the only one that truly matters. The Super Bowl. Forget the hype, forget the pagentry, and even forget the weather. Steelers-Packers promises to be a classic for all-time. When was the last time you really considered the Super Bowl a toss-up? Both teams are so evenly matched, don't be surprised if we see the best Super Bowl ever played. Here is the position-by-position breakdown plus the pick for the game:

Big Ben has been here before. He has done an admirable job of dealing with all the questions regarding his checkered past leading up to the game. He led one of the great game-winning drives in NFL history two years ago in Tampa. He has the potential to do it again here. And you know for a fact he will produce a huge play or two on improvisation alone. On the other side is a pure passer with scrambling skills, Aaron Rodgers, whom as I have stated before, is better than his legendary predecessor. I expect him to put up huge numbers on a fast turf, indoor weather, and a mediocre Steelers secondary. Take your pick here. Edge: EVEN.

Running Backs
Let's not go there with Green Bay's running game producing much against the Steeler D. Don't expect many KUUUUUUUUUHN chants, either. One of the keys for the Steelers to win this game is Rashard Mendenhall. If he can produce a 100-yard plus game with efficiency the way he did against the Jets, Pittsburgh will have a chance. Big Ben can make the big plays, but Mendenhall has to set him up. Edge: STEELERS.

Wide Recievers
Like Mendenhall, Mike Wallace will also have to make a couple of big plays. Let's not forget that Hines Ward is a former Super Bowl MVP, so expect some key catches from him. Ditto rookies Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. With the potential absence of a running game, Aaron Rodgers will be throwing to his big play recievers all night long. Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and co. will be very busy Sunday night, and don't be surprised, if the Packers win, one of Rodgers' recieving corps will win MVP honors instead of him. Edge: PACKERS.

Tight Ends
Heath Miller just may be Big Ben's favorite target. Not to mention he is one of the most underrated tight ends in the business. Andrew Quarless has filled in nicely for the injured Jermichael Finley, but don't be surprised if Finley's absence has an impact. Edge: STEELERS

Offensive Line
All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey has officially been ruled out for the Steelers, creating a huge void in an already depleted O-line. Doug Lagursky will make his first NFL start at center. No pressure. Flozell Adams is returning to the place he called home for more than a decade, so expect some extra motivation from him. The bottom line is, Green Bay's O-line is three times as healthier than Pittsburgh's, and if they neutralize the Steeler pass rush, it could be a long night for Pittsburgh. Edge: PACKERS

Defensive Line
Aaron Smith will not play for the Steelers, but they have survived without him. Caveman Brett Kiesel, Ziggy Hood, and Casey Hampton are all capable of wearing down the Packer O-Line with their relentless physicality. With the depleted Steeler O-line, expect B.J. Raji to be the X-factor for Green Bay. Just hope he doesn't pull one of his ridiculous dances. Edge: EVEN

James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons. The four horsemen. Pick your poison, Green Bay. Clay Matthews alone makes the Green Bay linebacking corps a force. His containment of Rashard Mendenhall and rushing of Ben Roethlisberger are vital to the Pack's success. A.J. Hawk will help as well. Edge: EVEN

Defensive Backs
Troy Polamalu is a household name. Ryan Clark ain't bad either. But if the mediocre Steeler cornerbacks can't cover the Packer recievers, the Steelers may have to engage in a shootout, something they probably are not built for like the Packers are. The Packers have three, possibly four household names in their secondary: Charles Woodson, breakout stars Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, and Nick Collins. The Steelers recievers have their hands full. Edge: PACKERS

Special Teams
Shaun Suisham is still questionable in a big spot. The coverage team, especially on punt returns, is suspect. Tramon Williams or Sam Shields are capable of bringing one to the house. Either way, neither unit is anything to write home about. Edge: EVEN

It's been there, done that for Mike Tomlin, coaching his second Super Bowl at only age 38. Mike McCarthy should probably have won Coach of the Year honors for the way he kept his team together through a litany of injuries to key players. The matchup between defensive coordinators Dick LeBeau and Dom Capers is very fascinating. Both coached together in the 90s with the Steelers, and are very good friends. Edge: STEELERS

The Pick (2-0 Championship Sunday, 27-27 overall)
The one major prediction other than the winner is that for the first time in Super Bowl history, the game will go to overtime. You read it here first. This is such a great matchup historically, logistically, and player-wise that it will only be fitting that a game made for the state of Texas will be even bigger. The keys to the game were listed above. The Steelers must run the football, and the Packers must make plays through the air. Two big plays per team on both sides of the ball will be made, and at least one team will score a defensive touchdown. A late field goal will push the game to overtime, where I believe the big game experience of Big Ben and his teammates will prevail over the young, promising Packers. The greatest Super Bowl ever played ends with the final score of..........................

STEELERS 26, PACKERS 23 (OT); PIT +2 1/2

Enjoy the game, folks!