Archive for February, 2011

Devil’s Advocate

Mario Lemieux has every right to say whatever he wants about the state of the NHL whenever he feels the need to. He had every reason to complain about the physical nature of the game and the need for a change in the way the game is called and played back in 1999, and his past grants him the ability to do the same today. His time as an NHL player dazzled, amazed and left us wondering how he possibly found the strength to come back from debilitating cancer treatments and excel at such a high level. He scored nearly 700 goals, almost 2000 points, and had two comebacks. If Wayne Gretzky is the Michael Jordan of hockey than Mario is Magic Johnson. With such an illustrious career and now a co-owner of one of the top teams in the NHL it would be hard for the executives to discredit or ignore anything that Super Mario says. He felt his team was slighted, and the NHL didn’t do enough justice to the Islanders. If he can’t speak up for his team, who will?

Eric Tangradi lies motionless on the ice after a barrage from Gillies

Mario Lemieux needs to shut up. His time as a hockey all-star is done. How many other owners do you see whining and complaining about the state of the game? That’s right, none. He is upset because his team had to deal with an unhappy Islanders squad who’s goalie, Rick Dipietro, just recently had his jaw broken because he took a goalie fight against Brent Johnson, the pens goalie, to be a joke, yet Johnson did not.

Everyone loves a goalie fight, except Dipietro's jaw

Maybe the Islanders are upset because their past few seasons haven’t been exactly what they had wanted, or maybe the players are pissed because their “franchise goalie” is an idiot and they felt the need to take out a little frustration on the currently star-less Penguins. If he’s upset about that, or that the league has turned into a brawl sometimes, than he should fire Matt Cooke and free up a roster spot for a player who plays his brand of hockey. Lead by example.

A one hundred thousand-dollar fine to an organization is pittance, a four game suspension for Matt Martin, who tried to sucker-punch Max Talbot, is an absolute joke, and a nine game suspension for Trevor Gillies, who was clearly trying to hurt Eric Tangradi, is a travesty. The NHL had the opportunity to send a clear message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated and they clearly forgot to do so. If they want the NHL to resemble the Federal League and the Islanders to resemble the Charlestown Chiefs then they are on the right track. If they want the NHL to showcase the best hockey in the world played by the best players than they better do something to clean up the game. Matt Cooke can’t be taken off the roster because without him how are the stars for the Penguins supposed to protect themselves?

Matt Cooke

Enforcers are always a part of a team’s make-up. They are used to keep the ice clear for the skill guys, and every now and again they need to remind people that they are there. Cooke doesn’t sucker punch people, he makes sure they are looking first.

Hockey games have the tendency to get out of hand, especially in the third period of blowouts when there is bad blood between the two teams. Take the ass whooping and roll to the next game, there is no need to publicly complain that you didn’t like the suspension length for the players. This is hockey, not figure skating, and the players have spent their entire lives playing it. They know what they’re getting into when they step onto the rink. The last thing the NHL needs at this point is one of, if not the most highly recognized owner of one of their most marketable franchises publicly complaining about the way things are done and threatening to leave if things don’t change. The NHL is the fourth biggest sport in the United States, and you can make a case that its fifth if you consider driving a car to be a sport. How can we remedy that problem? Create positive publicity for it, not drive a stake through the heart of it and turn off potential fans because things didn’t go the way you like. Do you know how many people watch wrestling, MMA and boxing these days? Think about the heights the league could reach if they tried to market the toughness of the sport as well as the skill.

Crowded penalty box, eh boys?

Mario’s comments clearly brought to light the fact that the NHL’s suspension policies regarding fighting, sucker punching, third man in, jumping in from the bench, and intent to injure calls are ridiculous. They should be redone and hopefully his comments are the added push that the executives need to change things up. The last time Mario complained he got his wish, seven years later, so perhaps he will be luckier this time around and won’t have to wait as long. The way to build hockey is not to make it look like a wrestling ring, instead teams should be put in hockey hotbeds. How is hockey supposed to compete in Arizona, Florida, and Columbus?

Hockey isn’t going to change because Mario threatened to leave if it doesn’t. Why should it? True hockey fans love the sport the way it is. It’s not just a brawl, the fights are calculated most of the time and usually have an order to them. The players are tough and the checking can be fierce. There doesn’t have to be ring ropes around the boards for people to appreciate that part of the game as well. The game itself is made up of so many entities, why can’t all of them be marketed? Maybe more people in a different area would be more inclined to watch a game or two. Give it a shot. If you want to change the game, do it from the inside out. The fans, who don’t have the direct line to the executive offices, know that, why doesn’t Mario?

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February Fools!

In case you missed it, the Philadelphia Eagles proved once again that they have absolutely no idea what they are doing. After a few weeks of skirting around the question of their defensive coordinator position, almost as well as some politicians, it became abundantly clear on Wednesday afternoon that Andy Reid is losing control and is starting to resemble a gorilla with his head cut off. Reid named former offensive line coach Juan Castillo the new defensive coordinator yesterday. You may be asking yourself, who? Allow me to shed some light on the issue. Castillo is a former college linebacker, in Division II. He went on to play one season of professional football for the San Antonio Gunslingers, of the USFL. After 12 years outside of “pro” football he was hired as the Eagles tight end coach in 1997, then changed to offensive line coach in 1998. Have no fear; he does have three years of experience as defensive coordinator, for Kingsville High School in Texas; impressive, right?

Naturally, I had assumed that the Philadelphia Daily News would be all over this story with their snappy headlines on the back page, but it seems as though I was wrong. Today their back page was a picture of Andy Reid and the letters “WTF” strewn above him.

Subtle, no, but it gets the point across rather well. In an effort to help them out for future publications I have come up with some off-the-cuff headlines that the Daily News can use whenever the Eagles defense does something wrong, err I mean right. Oh, what the hell, they can be used either way.

1. Juan in a Million…Too easy? Ok
2. Last Juan Left Standing…I have to get these out of the way
3. Was There Only Juan Candidate Left?…Originality is sorely lacking
4. Here’s the Juan
5. Welcome to the Juan-Zone
6. From 32 to Juan
7. What was Wrong with Dick Jauron?
8. I’d Kill for Juan More Interviewee
9. Is Sean McDermott Available?
10. Is Jeff Fisher Available?
11. Seriously, Is Jeff Fisher Available?
12. That Offensive Line Looks Great!
13. Hey, Remember Buddy Ryan’s Defense?
14. It’s True, God Hates Eagles fans
15. Juan Chance Left For Andy

And, for good measure, five headlines you are sure to never see in reference to the Philadelphia Eagles under this regime:
1. Andy Reid is a Genius!
2. Reid, Castillo Coach Team to Victory
3. Eagles Defense is #Juan in League
4. Eagles Reward __________ with New Contract
5. Philadelphia Eagles Are Super Bowl Champions!

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Role Model? Seriously?

The shirt says it all

I have never pretended to be a fan of Ben Roethlisberger, but he recently brought up a very good point. No, not the idea that he wants to be a role model and the fact that he likes it when kids wear his jersey, but instead he brings up a more dubious question, should athletes be considering role models at all? What happened to the athletes like Allen Iverson and Charles Barkley? You know, the ones who had absolutely no desire to be a role model and ultimately did everything in their power to back up that notion. When AI did something outlandish, in bad taste, or all in all considered out of the realm of social norms fans didn’t care. When Charles Barkley said that he didn’t want to be a role model the fans laughed. Do you know why? It was expected. From the day they were introduced to us they never pretended to be something they weren’t, and never made any apologies for that. Sports fans didn’t care because they were never going to mistakenly cast these types of players in that light, and that was okay.

Times have changed, or maybe the idea of the athlete has changed, but either way the sportsperson who probably left college early to play a professional sport that we happen to like now wants the youth of America to view him in the same light that they should be viewing their teachers, their parents, etc. Sports personalities aren’t the main culprits of ruining children’s minds. Let’s keep in mind the fact that we live in a society that catapults the Jersey Shore cast to millionaire status, makes Miley Cyrus a world icon, and falls in love with a song that is basically a guy singing about two colors for four minutes. Not exactly rocket science Wiz Khalifa. Maybe society is getting dumber or maybe the crop of good role models is getting smaller and smaller, or most likely both, but no matter what, the sports stars should not be next on the list of people to look up to.

I’m not an idiot, people are going to continue to want to make these guys their role models, and so for them I simply offer some guidelines in an effort to help them choose wisely. When propelling the athletes that you watch on TV to role model status there are a few things you have to consider. How will I be perceived by being a fan of this player? If it doesn’t matter to you what other people feel or say when the topic of your newfound heroes past comes up during a lull in the action than feel free to explore the fan-path that you see fit. How important is my new role models personal/private life? If you are in the group that feels that a man’s private life has no bearing on whether you can root for him than more power to you. The line is supposed to be black and white. When he gets onto the field of play the thought of what he did personally should make no difference. C’mon, we live in America, when is the line ever as simple as that? It’s not like people are going to forget that a guy bankrupted a baseball team while simultaneously supposedly recommending performance-enhancing drugs to players to increase revenue and then go ahead and elect that man President. What’s that? That happened? Whoops!

There was a time when it was safe to believe in a sports star. Before Tiger hit a tree, before Brett Favre took pictures of himself in the buff, before Mike Vick decided to run a dog fighting ring, before big Ben ran around with underage, unwilling girls (allegedly), before O.J. was acquitted of killing his ex-wife and her new husband and then subsequently wrote a book entitled “If I Did It”, before Michael Phelps decided to smoke a bong, before Ray Carruth shot into an occupied vehicle, before Mike Tyson existed, before Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Canseco, Bret Boone, Jason Giambi, Mike Piazza, David Ortiz, Rick Ankiel, Garry Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Eric Gagne, Sammy Sosa, Troy Glaus, Manny Ramirez, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada, Lenny Dykstra, Dave Hollins, Roger Clemens, and so on and so forth were implicated or admitted to taking steroids. The only problem is that the time before is so far back that many people don’t remember it even existing, and unfortunately I am fresh out of DeLoreans.

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