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The Fan-atic BlogBy Rob Trahan(12,494)
About Rob Trahan(12,494)
Posted Monday, February 04, 2008 (118 days 10 hours ago.)
Ever have an epiphany (or as Smee from 'Hook' says: an apostrophe)? Ever have an idea so brilliant it couldn't have possibly come from you? Every once in a while I have an idea that is even more astute than usual. Here's my latest one:
To combat the slowing economy, have every professional athlete give one paycheck to a family middle class or below. Throw in head coaches, too. I know, some families would get more than others. But even the ones who are matched up with league-minimum guys would still end up with a pretty nice prize.
Consider this. Recently acquired Mets pitcher Johan Santana just received a contract extension that averages to roughly $23 million a year. If he gets paid weekly throughout the season, that comes to just under $767,000 a check. Shoot, you could split that 100 ways and still end up giving out almost $8000 to 100 families.
Young guys in most professional leagues generally make around $500,000. One week's check in baseball is $16,667. One game check in football is $31,250. You can't convince me that even the low guys on the totem pole couldn't spare a little to help out his fellow American.
So how about it? We give to our athletes. It's time for them to give back!
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Posted Thursday, January 24, 2008 (129 days 9 hours ago.)
Storylines are great. I love storylines. If I go see a movie and it doesn't have a good story, chances are I'm not sitting through the whole thing. I've never finished a book that didn't have a good storyline. And I've quit on many a TV show because the storylines were played out.
So is it weird that I don't want storylines in my sports? I don't care that player X is playing his old team again a month after he got traded. I'm not interested in seeing how a team will handle the distraction of its star wide receiver's latest brush with authorities. I want to see a good game on the field (court, diamond, pitch) and I want the team I like more to beat the team I like less. I want to see players I like succeed and I want to see Barry Bonds fail.
Which is why I have a hard time with Super Bowl hype. It's a never ending cycle. There are two weeks between the Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl to build excitement. And the media has to find endless storylines to fill two whole weeks to keep interest. So we find out that a Super Bowl win would mean the world to the long lost great-grandmother of the long snapper. And the defensive backs coach once shopped at the same grocery store as the brother of the trainer of the other team, so there may be some bad blood.
But this year is different. This year actually has interesting plots besides which team can beat the other (don't they say that every year?). This year has an undefeated team looking to be the first team to go 19-0 in a season. The same team that was caught cheating in the first game of the season, continuously ran up the score against inferior opponents, has a coach who dresses like the unabomber and a star quarterback who gets famous girls pregnant and then dumps them (that one was for my wife). There's also the, um ... the uh ... well, that's about it. Sure people will say, "Eli Manning!" And they'll say, "10 road wins in a row!" And they'll say, "fought hard in the last game of the season when they didn't have to!"
To that I say, "Seen it, heard it, YouTubed it." Lately there has always been a team that made it to the big game when no one thought they could (two years ago had two of them, Pittsburgh AND Seattle!) and an embattled quarterback (Rex Grossman ring a bell?). All I care about is this: Will the Patriots win and secure their place in immortality? Will they be the first best-team-ever who wouldn't even be acknowledged by their own mothers? Or will whichever team that managed to make it this far be able to do what no other team has this season ... beat New England?
It's the only storyline that matters.
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Posted Thursday, January 24, 2008 (129 days 10 hours ago.)
There are a lot of ways professional sports can be trimmed down and made more bearable. The NFL can do away with the 2-hour halftime during the Super Bowl, "celebrity" interviews during Monday night football games, commercials after every play and punting.
Major League Baseball can do away with endless pitching changes, the designated hitter, performance enhancing drugs (had to throw that one in there) and five-game playoff series.
The NBA could stand to lose hand check fouls, isolation plays and the last 30 seconds of every game taking as long as the first 47:30 (seriously, how many timeouts do teams get now ... 15?)
The NHL needs less Versus, less anynomity and less mullets. A lot less mullets.
The MLS actually needs more of just about everything, especially exposure.
But there's one thing that all of the leagues (with the exception of the MLS, I'll explain later) need to do away with immediately: The all star game. At least in its present form.
Consider this: with the exception of the NFL, all of the all star games are played in the middle of the season. That means players aren't awarded for playing well all season, but for only the first half. And the NFL isn't off the hook on this point either, Pro Bowl ballots are turned in well before the end of the NFL season as well. What does it matter? Here's an example. In 2005, Morgan Ensberg, then with the Houston Astros, was named to the MLb all star game as a replacement for Scott Rolen. Prior to the all star break, Ensberg was hitting .290 with 24 homeruns and 65 RBI. After the break, he only hit another 12 homeruns and 36 RBI and his average dropped. And he's one of countless players who get chosen based on half a season worth of work.
Even if the players were picked based on the entire season, rarely are all of the best players chosen. Fan voting has become popular across professional sports. The average fan votes for his or her favorite, not the best. A perfect example is the record number of votes that Ichiro and Yao Ming continue to get, not because they are deserving (although usually they are), but because they are each the favorite player of an ENTIRE NATION! How can anyone compete? And player and coach voting is little better. Players and coaches don't have enough time to pay close attention to everyone in their league to know who is the absolute best at each position in any given year. It usually comes down to a popularity contest, just like the fan voting.
And the game isn't about the game anyone, it's an "experience." I should know, I've witnessed it first hand. the MLB and NBA games both come with traveling museum/trade show/kid-friendly extravaganza! Don't get me wrong, there's something very cool about seeing how a baseball is made or memorabilia from 50 years ago, but where does the game come in? And everything involves some sort of skills competition from the MBL Home Run Derby (yawn), to the NHL skills contests to NBA dunk contests (snore) and 3-on-3 with WNBA players (yikes!).
If the players don't want to play, why should we want to watch? Often you see players bow out of the all star games with any excuse they can come up with. Even when the games "mean something" as they do in the MLB (the winner gets home field advantage in the World Series, which is one of the dumbest rules in the game), players still choose not to participate.
So what's the solution? Let's assume all star games aren't going anywhere. After all, they are money-making machines for their respective leagues. Here are a couple of suggestions. First, choose teams as close to the end of the season as possible. And have someone knowledgeable who pays attention to the league regularly decide who is deserving, like sportswriters or statisticians. Once the teams are decided, do as much as you can to give the players incentive to play. Throw money at them if you need to (how about a $25,000 bonus if you make the team and $50,000 if you win the game?). But don't make it affect the regular season. It is an exhibition, after all.
Finally, give the fans a reason to watch it again. This is why I like what the MLS does. The MLS All Star game pits the best of the league with a well known club team from Europe. Last year it was Celtic, a couple of years ago it was Chelsea. How about the MLB all stars play the Japanese all stars? Granted, this won't work across all sports. Who would the NFL all stars play? The Arena League? Please!
All star games are unavoidable. The least we can do is make them worth the time of the players and the fans.
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Posted Wednesday, January 09, 2008 (144 days 10 hours ago.)
Ladies and gentlemen, bar your doors and hide your children. The steroids issue in baseball just got a lot hairier. Congress is involved and this time they're in it for more than just grandstanding.
In March 2005, The congressional committee that interviewed Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and others did little actual investigating. They asked questions, sure. But none of them were probing, none of them were hard-hitting.
They had originally scheduled a similar meeting with Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Brian McNamee, Jason Giambi and others for this week. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (the committee conducting the interviews) announced today that they have postponed the meetings to February 13 and they will take sworn testimony from each person involved before the hearings.
This bipartisan move (both the Democratic chairman, Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, and its ranking Republican member, Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, made the decision together) suggests that the committee is digging deeper even than the Mitchell report did. In addition to the depositions, the committee staff will be gathering other material.
The players can certainly have their lawyers with them during the depositions, but the union will not be involved (the same union that discouraged the players from cooperating with Mitchell and his team). All signs point to some very hard-hitting questions regarding information in the Mitchell report and more.
With the information gathered in the depositions and other information obtained before the public hearings, don't expect to see many comments like McGwire's from 2005. "I'm not here to talk about the past" just isn't going to cut it this time.
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Posted Monday, December 31, 2007 (153 days 22 hours ago.)
As the clock hit all 0s Sunday night on the Titans-Colts game, the playoff picture came into focus. With their win, the Titans secured the final open playoff spot and the Browns fell victim to Tony Dungy doing what was best for his team.
Wild Card weekend is next and there are a few intriguing matchups. Here's what you can look forward to this Saturday and Sunday.
Washington at Seattle (4:30 p.m. ET on NBC)
Washington comes into the playoffs as the hottest team in the NFC. The secured the final Wild Card spot on the last day of the season with a convincing win over the Cowboys. they are playing the year in memory of their fallen teammate, Sean Taylor, who was killed in a home invasion earlier in the season.
Seattle quietly went about its work this season and, once again, won the NFC West. Their running game isn't what it used to be as Shaun Alexander is starting to show his age, but Head Coach Mike Holmgren has committed his team to be more wide open and they have been catching some teams by surprise.
Washington is the sentimental pick, but they are playing with a journeyman quarterback and a coach who has looked like the game has passed him by at times. Holmgren and the Seahawks still have the taste of their last Super Bowl win in their mouths and will do what it takes to make it out of the first round. Seahawks by 7.
Jacksonville and Pittsburgh (8 p.m. ET on NBC)
One of the biggest shockers of the year was Jacksonville's win at Pittsburgh. They won by running the ball against a team who has one of the best run defenses in the league. And they did it in the Steelers' house. That's got to still sting Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. Jacksonville comes into Saturday's game healthy, having rested most of their starters in the regular season finale versus the Texans.
The Steelers, on the other hand, enter Wild Card weekend without running back Willie Parker, the biggest key to their offense. Without much of a running game, the onus of the scoring falls on the broad shoulders of Roethlisberger, who has shown in the past that he can handle the pressure of the NFL playoffs.
Jacksonville went to Heinz Field once this season and defeated Pittsburgh, it stands to reason they can do it again. Pittsburgh is going to play angry as they avenge that earlier loss. I think the loss of Parker is going to be too much and the tandem of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew will combine to run all over the Steelers defense, just like last time. Jaguars by 9.
New York Giants at Tampa Bay (1 p.m. ET on Fox)
The Giants ended the regular season by almost upsetting the undefeated New England Patriots. Eli Manning showed that when he stopz thinking and starts playing, he can be the quarterback Tom Coughlin and the Giants need him to be. On defense, they have the most sacks in the league, getting to quarterback Jeff Garcia won't be a problem. But they still only beat one team with a winning record this season.
Tampa Bay is another team without their starting running back as Cadillac Williams is out for the year. But Earnest Graham has filled in admirably. Jeff Garcia has staved off old age once again to lead the Bucs to the playoffs. John Gruden's defense has played as expected.
Truthfully, this game won't matter in the big scheme of the playoffs, neither team has much of a chance to make it out of the next round. Giants by 3.
Tennessee at San Diego (4:30 ET on CBS)
The Titans go to San Diego banged up. Quarterback Vince Young left Sunday night's must win game against the Colts with a thigh injury. Albert Haynesworth is also nursing a leg injury. If Young can go, they'll need his legs as well as his arm. Most of all, they'll need him to live up to his big game reputation. The Titans defense is stout and they'll need to bring their A game to slow down LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner.
Norv Turner is on the hot seat. He's probably not going to get fired, but he replaced Marty Schottenheimer because Marty couldn't win in the playoffs. Norv and quarterback Philip Rivers have the most to prove. Turner has a reputation as a good play caller, but his team stumbled out of the blocks. Can he get his team ready to play a physical game? Rivers has been shaky this season. He doesn't have to do much because of the backs that will line up behind him, but he can't make mistakes.
Expect the most physical game of Wild Card weekend to be its last game. Both defenses like to hit hard and hit often. Both offenses are run oriented. If Vince Young can play at 100% or close to it, the Titans have a chance. But the Chargers running backs may be too much to handle. Chargers by 7.
Dallas, Green Bay, New England and Indianapolis vs BYE
The bye week will help the Colts the most as they have players that are banged up and could use the extra week to heal, but none of the top four teams should have any trouble getting out of the next round. Expect the Conference Championship games to be Cowboys/Packers and Pats/Colts. Would we want anything else?
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