Archive for September, 2010

To Vick or not to Vick, that is the question (week 2 of NFL 2010)

“Kevin Kolb is my quarterback.”  This statement has been brought to you by the one and only Andy Reid more than once since the start of training camp.  Not a surprising revelation considering Reid drafted Kolb out of Houston, trained him under Donovan Mcnabb for 3 seasons, then traded the aforementioned winningest quarterback in franchise history within the division to pave the way for Kolb to take over.  How quickly things can change.  Michael Vick has played six quarters of football this season, Kolb has played two, and after the performance Vick showed this past Sunday it is unlikely Kolb will get a chance to increase that number.  Yes, it was against the Lions who sport one of the worst defenses in the league, and yes it is a well known practice in the NFL that players do not lose their starting jobs because of injury, however it was glaringly clear that the Eagles offensive line can’t block anyone and given Kolb’s lack of mobility the obvious choice for this team at this time has to be Vick.

In order for that to come to fruition Andy Reid must do something he has gotten pretty familiar with over the last few years, swallowing his pride.  Mr. Reid thinks he is smarter than everyone else in the National Football League, which is bold considering how many people make up the league and how many coaches have championship rings donned on their fingers while Reid has zero, nevertheless in thinking this way he has made many costly decisions. He was wrong about Sheldon Brown not being able to play, he was wrong about Brian Dawkins being over the hill and subsequently wrong that ‘Macho’ Harris could carry the burden of filling his shoes, wrong about Shaun and Stacy Andrews, about the fact that Jason Peters is as good as he made him out to be, and unfortunately wrong that Kevin Kolb is anything more than a glorified back-up in a league that eats that position for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

He was right to take a chance on Vick when no one else wanted him, you say?  A relatively innocuous response from an outside observer; however it isn’t hard to connect the dots as to why Reid took Vick in the first place.  Reid’s sons have had some drug problems in the past and in a time of need Tony Dungy stepped in to give the boys some guidance and help them onto the right path.  Dungy did the same thing for Michael Vick once he was released from federal prison.  If you don’t think that taking Vick was an ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’ situation between Dungy and Reid than you are blind to the state of affairs.

Ultimately Vick found his way to Philadelphia, learned from Mcnabb for a year, and is now carrying the torch of the mobile quarterback in Eagle green.  He’s looked solid so far.  His ball has the same zip it once had in Atlanta, and it brings with it more accuracy than we have seen in the past, his legs look to be soundly back in the fold as the scariest in the league when in space, and both his decision making and patience in the pocket are greatly improved.  Some fans hate it, some dog lovers have shunned the team, and some don’t really care as long as they put Ws on the board.  Given the propensity for coaching turnover in the NFL Reid will ultimately choose the quarterback that gives him the best chance to win football games right now, not in the future.  Judging by the numbers there is a clear-cut Vick-tor in that race.  What? I had to do one bad pun before I could finish!


HBO Presents ‘Hype Knocks’ (week 1 of NFL 2010)

Bravado.  A simple word that is generally healthy for most people in the working world.  It can help to prove to co-workers that you know what you are doing, you are confident, and ultimately will work your hardest to either earn a promotion or keep from being put on the chopping block.  The NFL is an entirely different entity.  Having swagger is good, having confidence is also positive, but blasting the entire league by proclaiming that you’re the favorites to win the Super Bowl, after a roller-coaster nine and seven campaign just a season ago, during training camp via a television show is the equivalent of ‘foot in mouth’ disease, and it has afflicted the Jets tremendously.  While boastfulness is good sometimes, not angering Ray Lewis is one of the smartest recent pastimes, and NFL players don’t like to break it, however head coach Rex Ryan, Lewis’ former defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens, has seemed to adore the smack-talk spotlight even before the light actually shines.  His early comments seemed to spark some unsavory feelings from Lewis and his mates before the first meeting for the two teams, and the Jets offense paid the price.

It is no secret that the Jets have one of the best, if not the best, defenses in the league.  They have a scheme that is built to work perfectly with their players, especially when Darrelle Revis signed his new deal and ventured back to New York like a prodigal son who lost his way.  However the jury is still out on whether the offense and second year starter Mark Sanchez have turned the corner from simply managing the game to winning the game.  The Ravens defense is equally as good and has been for quite some time and the game was the first in a long season, but the tussle was the furthest thing from a walk in the park for the Jets measly looking offense.

The new look Jets, who’ve added a considerable amount of talent this offseason including future Hall of Famer Ladainian Tomlinson, all-pros Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie, and perennial pro-bowler Jason Taylor, were on full display on Monday night ready for the public to be amazed as they run roughshod over the league.  Needless to say things didn’t go exactly as planned.  The defense stood true to last season’s number one ranking, holding the Ravens to only 10 points total.  However, angering Lewis came back to bite Ryan’s offense in the behind, as the Jets could only muster three field goals against the defense that Rex previously built and won a Super Bowl with while Sanchez looked frazzled and nervous throughout a majority of the contest.

It is too early to determine if the game can be viewed as a microcosm for the season ahead, but the signs are no longer automatically pointing towards Dallas, the host city for this year’s Super Bowl.  Whether or not the Jets are able to turn it around on the offensive side of the ball is something that the viewing public will have to wait and see, but one thing is for certain, it will unquestionably be a much quieter locker room, training facility, and media conference for the days, weeks, and months that follow.

Where Has Tiger’s Game Gone? ( written July 2010)

It’s mid July of 2010 and Tiger Woods is still the number one ranked golfer in the world.  A fact that surprises even Tiger himself.  “To be ranked number one you have to win something”, said Tiger Woods, who is winless in his comeback after taking a considerable amount of time away from the game for rehab and family problems.  Tiger has experienced the biggest dry slump of his professional golf career since turning pro in 1996.  He has experienced more highs in the golf world than almost anyone else in the game has ever dreamed, but the lackluster play and missed cuts have introduced Tiger to an entirely different aspect of professional golf, struggling.

Recently Tiger traveled to Ireland to play in a golf charity pro-am just a few hours after not breaking par at the AT&T National in Pennsylvania for the first time on tour since 2001.  Playing a sleep deprived round of golf is never an easy thing to do and led to Tiger shooting a first round 79.  He rebounded with a second round 69, but lost his cool off the course when the relentless European press asked some penetrating questions that rubbed Tiger the wrong way, including if he is worried that he has lost so many sponsors, and if he regrets his actions because of the hit to his wallet, etc.  Ultimately the confrontation led to a number of simple sentence answers from Woods before exiting the stage to head back home.

Traveling from a PGA Tournament in Pennsylvania to a pro-am in Ireland just 13 days away from the British Open seems like a very smart plan.  In theory it would allow Tiger to practice at a number of links golf courses that are set up very much in the same manor as St. Andrews.  But when he hurriedly travels back to Florida to “see my kids” it musters up questions of whether Tiger is truly ready to commit to golf fully.  If he isn’t it is completely understandable.  Some golf analysts and “experts” have even hinted that he probably should not have attended the pro-am in the first place.  Tiger Woods has such a multitude of other factors that require a considerable amount of attention it almost goes without saying that his golf game has taken a hit.

Many golf fans can agree that Tiger will eventually figure it all out and return to form.  Everyone is waiting for that to happen as soon as possible, but golf takes time.  Many people point to the British Open as a very large chance to regain some of his form.  He has made it well known in the past that St. Andrews is his favorite course to play, which is obvious by his results.  He’s won the British Open twice at St. Andrews, in 2000 and 2005, and owns the best score ever at the course, 19-under 269 over four rounds, which is also the lowest score in relation to par at any major tournament.

Tiger Woods entering the final day in the last group of a major is something that many people have become very accustomed to over the past 14 years.  And still, through all the turmoil that surrounds him currently, the major question is not if he will return to top form but when.

From Tiger To Kitty-Kat (written July 2010)

Throughout every new wrinkle in the story that has been Tiger Wood’s year of embarrassment and subsequent fall from grace there was always one thing the American viewing public could count on.  The simple, unabashed fact that the man would still dominate his competition on the course almost as well as he can dominate his competition in the nearby Perkins restaurant or Miami nightclub.  That seemingly irrefutable statement has been bashed to the ground since Tiger made his glorious return to golf.  Perhaps he was worried that his all-world persona was shot to kingdom come in one fell swoop, or maybe, more-so, he was worried how the crowds would react to him when being introduced, or in some crazy idea of the human emotion, maybe we all witnessed something that was able to take his invincible belief in himself away and make him realize that he is human.  Bobby Jones said, “The game of golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears”.  His game might not be gone but that belief that was ripped from him is more important than you might think.

Running into a fire hydrant wouldn’t be the biggest news of the day, let alone the story of 2009, but that hydrant, which was built to put out flames, started a firestorm of cover-ups and lies that Woods was never able to recover from in the public eye.  For a man who lived his entire life in privacy, away from the prying eye of TMZ and Inside Edition, he was thrust onto the front page in the matter of minutes.  Rehab, divorce, and custody battles followed, but we can’t forget that this is the man who won the U.S. Open on one leg, who has won countless player of the year awards while playing a third of the tournaments than the rest of the field enters and winning three times more.  His bust would be on the Mount Rushmore of sports.  Were we wrong in assuming that he can overcome anything and continue his supremacy on the links?  Something such as infidelity couldn’t possibly bring this man to his knees, right?  Maybe he needed to ask Kobe for some lessons, or perhaps even Michael Jordan.

The crowds have been more than accommodating to a man who hasn’t shown much remorse for his despicable conduct off the course, but Wood’s has done nothing to prove to us that he still has “it”.  The white light that the fans besieged upon him is no longer present.  The silent roar that created so much fear in his competitors is now gone.  He is no longer the man alone at the mountaintop, he is no longer the man everyone wants to see win the big trophy; he isn’t even the man that everyone flocks to see.

In this day and age witnessing a sports icon fall from grace is passé.  A majority of them walk through the other side and go on performing the same way they had in the past and usually up to the standards that defined them.  However, none of them had as far to fall as Tiger Woods did.  Maybe he’s still in the free fall and will pick himself up, dust himself off, and go right back to winning in the future.  Even still, for now maybe the moniker should be kept in a vault.  When Eldrick regains his form and remembers how to control the thoughts in his head to win golf tournaments it can be returned to him.

No Silver on the Table (written June 2010)

Witnessing a sports team, or individual for that matter, choke on a big stage is nothing new to most sports fans.  The streets are littered with papers of yesteryear in which countless people have made bonehead decisions that either lead to the team shattering or the playing cracking under pressure. The thought of a “choke job” is more common in golf than any other sport played, with players like Mickelson and Van de Velde topping the list. The idea of losing a series after having a 3 to nothing lead is more common in hockey than any other sport, but not unfathomable.  We’ve been on both sides in the past.  Sure there was Buckner’s mishap in 1986, but I know we haven’t forgotten about 2004 and the epic battle against the dark side already, right? Call it karma, call it dumb luck, call it whatever you want but it was inevitable that we would have to repay that amazing feat with one from the other side of the coin.

Our beloved Bruins were so kind as to grant us with another Boston sports catastrophe that we will undoubtedly be talking about for years to come, unless a Cup is bestowed on the TD Garden soon with the Bruins hoisting it.  If the Bruins came out flat in game seven and didn’t tease us with three first period goals the sting of defeat would not hurt so much.  It’s as if the team knew that a simple loss in the final game wasn’t enough, they had to make it epic.  They surely succeeded, but in doing so they created a buzz.  You can’t lose that way and not make waves.  The aftermath isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The team feels that there is unfinished business to attend to, and the belief to go out and right a wrong can go far on the ice.

Is it worse that we choked, or that we choked against one of the most poorly viewed hockey franchises ever?  Does it even matter?  We lost, and as a Bruins fan I have become pretty familiar with that feeling.  Yes, the Bruins have won the Cup five times in their history, but the last was in 1970, 15 years before I was born.  Would it have hurt a little more if it were deeper in the playoffs? Absolutely, because that hope would have built up to an even higher level, but the loss doesn’t mean that I won’t be cheering from the arena seats once again next October for the start of the season.

If it’s one thing that sports fans can hang their hat on, especially Boston sports fans, it is that we don’t give up.  We stood around and cheered for 86 long drought filled years, all the while blaming an inanimate idea of ‘the curse’, until finally our faith was rewarded with a World Series.  Our city is certainly not championship deprived.  In recent years we’ve seen the Vince Lombardi trophy held up three times, the Commissioner’s World Series trophy twice, and the Larry O’Brien trophy once, but lost in that shuffle are the underachieving Bruins.  It’s one thing to not contend, it’s another to continue to lose.  Perhaps the feeling was that they wouldn’t compete for airtime or television love if they just lost in a ho-hum manner.  Perhaps they just really couldn’t take the pressure that is growing every year they come home empty handed.  Whatever the reason is, we have to believe that there is a silver lining around the dark cloud that is the most recent “big-choke” for our city.

Flyers Offseason Moves (written July 2010)

The Philadelphia Flyers had a miraculous Stanley Cup playoff run this past season, but the true test for the administration was not how they ended up finishing, rather it was this offseason in which the team was sure to be busy with both re-signing current players while trying to bolster their lineup. After the team watched the Chicago Blackhawks hoist the Cup on their own ice the biggest question ahead of them was what to do about the goalie situation. After talks with Evgeni Nabokov, the unrestricted free agent goalie formerly of San Jose, fizzled, the team looked inward and decided to resign Michael Leighton, the goalie that took them to the Finals after being picked up on waivers mid-season, to a two-year deal worth $3.1 million. A move that didn’t make many headlines and was not the “hot” choice in the eyes of many fans.
Once the goalie situation was solved team officials looked to strengthen and youthen a back-line whose age showed in the long playoff run. In a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning the team was able to add a significant defensive body in Andrej Meszaros, 24, in exchange for a second round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. In addition they were able to resign Braydon Coburn, 25, who is highly regarded as the best skater on the blue-line. The most intriguing acquisition of the summer for the Flyers was signing Nikolai Zherdev, a former top pick in NHL draft who had been playing in the KHL after leaving the NHL in 2009. Zherdev appeared in all 82 games and compiled 23 goals and 35 assists for the New York Rangers in 2008-2009, his last season in the NHL.
In one of the most shocking moves the Flyers brass decided to sign Jody Shelley, a player who boasts a long and woefully unremarkable history as an enforcer in the NHL, to a relatively expensive three-year deal worth $1.1 million per season. The fact that this deal sounds too good to be true has left a lot of Flyers faithful confused as to the direction of the team in the future. The signing of Shelley left many almost certain that Dan Carcillo, known as ‘Car-Bomb’ to the fans, and Darroll Powe, the two remaining free restricted free agents not yet signed at the time, were done in Philadelphia.
Carcillo, who was acquired two years ago in a trade with the Phoenix Coyotes, quickly became a fan favorite for his aggressive playing style and extracurricular activity after the whistle. However, he took a while to catch on with the Steven’s led coaching staff. Once Peter Laviolette took the helm Carcillo seemed to thrive and was viewed as an integral part of the teams turn-a-round. In a surprise move earlier this week the Flyers were able to avoid arbitration with the right-winger and sign him to a one-year deal worth $1.075 million. The move now puts the Flyers 23-man roster over the league salary cap by $2.5 million. The signing almost guarantees that more moves are yet to come for the Flyers, with the biggest name on the trading block being that of Simon Gagne; a player who is viewed as a top six forward on any team, but carries a substantial cap hit. For a cap strapped team like the Flyers, Gagne might be the answer to their financial woes.