Monday, February 28, 2011

He's Baaaaaaack!

AP Photo
Kudos to Juan Martin del Potro on winning the Delray Beach International Tennis Championship in Delray Beach, Florida-- his first ATP title since his stunning upset of then-No. 1 Roger Federer at the 2009 U.S. Open. This was a huge win for the former-World No. 4 as he continues his comeback from a devastating wrist injury which sidelined him for most of 2010.

In fact, del Potro has almost become a forgotten man but he is still the only player NOT named Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic to win a Grand Slam since 2005.

After his monumental U.S. Open win in 2009 the stars seemed to be aligning for the 22-year old Argentine but in January 2010 (after the Australian Open) he suffered the crushing right wrist injury. The injury, which required surgery, derailed the rest of his season and his promising march toward No. 1. After the surgery, del Potro would not touch a tennis racket for almost 8 months and slipped in the rankings from No. 4 all the way to No. 484 as a result of his absence, especially his absence from the U.S. Open which he was unable to defend. Currently del Potro has worked his way back to No. 89 in the world.

His comeback, which began in late September 2010, got off to a horrendous start as he was twice ousted in the first round of the 2 tournaments he attempted to play. After the disappointments he decided to call it a year and let his still-ailing wrist get some more rest.

The 2011 season started with some promise as he was able to, at least, win a match in the first tournament he played before getting ousted in the second round. At the Australian Open he had the same fate, one round and out. But apparently, his wrist was gaining strength because in the 2 tournaments (SAP Open and Cellular South Cup) following the Aussie he advanced all the way to the Semifinals.

AP Photo
And then at Delray Beach, with those two semifinal appearances under his belt, a much stronger right wrist and a high confidence level, del Potro finally broke through and won the first tournament of his comeback. Although he is yet to defeat a Top 10 player, he fully understands it's a long process. After his win he said, "I don't know if I'm ready to fight with top-10 players, but I'm working very hard and hope to do it soon. I need 20 to 25 matches before I'll really be ready to play with them, but it's coming soon."

It may come sooner than he thinks. After his Delray win, the first thing the much-appreciative del Potro did was kiss is right wrist and if he can get it back to his 2009 form, it's just a matter of time before he regains his No. 4 ranking and possibly a lot more.

And I do mean A LOT more. He is that good.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Duke Snider (1926-2011)

Brooklyn/LA Dodgers great Duke Snider, 84, has died.

Snider,one of the most iconic players to ever walk on a baseball field, died of natural causes in a hospital in Escondido, California. The Hall of Famer was an 8-time All-Star with a .295 AVG, 407 HR, 1333 RBI. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980.

Perhaps Snider is best remembered for being a member of the famed "Boys of Summer" group who helped the Brooklyn Dodgers win their first-ever World Series in 1955 against the crosstown New York Yankees after losing to them in five previous tries (1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953). However, the sweet victory would last for just one season as the boys from Brooklyn would go on to relinquish their World Series title to the rival Yankees (yet again) in 1956.

Snider would win another World Series title in 1959 with the now-Los Angeles Dodgers but his legendary status will always be synonymous with the connection the borough of Brooklyn had with it's beloved team who Brooklynites (still) refer to as "Dem Bums".

In Brooklyn, Snider played with legendary players like, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella and Gil Hodges in a mecca called Ebbets Field, located in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn. He was also part of what is perhaps the most famous trio of center fielders to ever simultaneously play in one city. A trio simply referred to as "Willie, Mickey and the Duke".

New York Greats - Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Duke Snider 

Snider once said, "I was born in Los Angeles. Baseballwise, I was born in Brooklyn. We lived with Brooklyn. We died with Brooklyn."

Farewell to the Duke of Flatbush.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hello Deron!

Getty Images
Holy guacamole!

Things are smokin' in the New York area. First Carmelo Anthony and now Deron Williams.

The word today is that Utah Jazz All-Star point guard Deron Williams is coming to the New Jersey Nets in another blockbuster trade. The Nets will ship Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first-round draft picks to Utah in exchange for the disgruntled superstar. As we all know, Williams has been unhappy with the direction the Jazz were going for some time now and the situation worsened when he got the bum rap for the abrupt departure of legendary coach Jerry Sloan. Many blamed Williams for the coach's resignation. Williams vehemently denied any bad blood between he and the coach, but nonetheless, the damage was done.

So it was a forgone conclusion that Williams would eventually leave the Jazz but nobody anticipated this. Most of us thought it would happen when Williams becomes a free agent in 2012.

As for the Nets making this power move--

When I stop to think about it, it doesn't surprise me. The Nets were aggressively trying to get 'Melo and I'm sure they were left with a sour taste when they learned that their sibling-rivals, the crosstown Knicks, landed the superstar. And one thing we've learned in the past year is that Nets owners, Russian-billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and rapper-extraordinaire Jay-Z, have vowed to make the Nets the No. 1 game in town. I mean, they've made no bones about it.

DNAinfo/Nina Mandell
As we can see, it was kind of obvious when they mounted the above billboard just one block away from the Knicks' mecca, Madison Square Garden. As ESPN analyst Stuart Scott would say, "they plastered it right in the Knicks' mug". Of course, the Knicks and their die-hard fans were livid when they saw the billboard, but hey, we the neutral fans loved it!

I gotta give it to the Nets, who will soon call Brooklyn their home, it seems they're putting their money where their mouth is. Good stuff!

The future-monster rivalry is starting to evolve!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Knicks Are On The Clock!

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I have to say this, the Carmelo Anthony trade to the Knicks has caused quite a stir here in New York. I mean, I haven't seen so much (basketball) excitement here since the good 'ole days of the Patrick Ewing era.

But considering how anemic the Knicks have been for the past decade, the frenzy is quite understandable. Knick fans have reasons to hope now. I guess it's officially safe to say that the separation from the nightmarish Isiah Thomas-led era has begun.

However, Knick fans have to understand that this is a work-in-progress.

Just simply acquiring Carmelo doesn't make them a championship-caliber team yet. They still have a long way to go. As I see it, the Knicks (28-26) will be the 6th seed in the playoffs and most likely will play the 3rd seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round. I could see the Bulls winning in six, making the Knicks a one round and out team this year. They simply don't have the depth to beat the Bulls.

AP Photo
But depth will slowly come. The hard part is done.

So the remainder of this season and quite possibly next season will be a good opportunity for 'Melo and Amar'e Stoudemire to coalesce until the third missing link arrives. Did anyone say Chris Paul or Deron Williams? Right now the Knicks have to be the favorites to land one of those two superstars. As the old saying goes, talent attracts talent.

If anything, the acquisition has created a BRIGHT future in New York. If the Knicks make the right moves, there is no doubt they will soon be a force to be reckoned with. And who knows, maybe sooner than we think.

So welcome home 'Melo. This is your time. Your moment. Your town.

Monday, February 21, 2011

New York State Of Mind: Welcome Back, 'Melo!

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NY Daily News


The Future Of Men's Tennis Is Here

AP Photo
The world of men's tennis has a new rising star and his name is Milos Raonic from Canada.

Raonic (with his lethal serve) caught the attention of the tennis world at the Australian Open with his impressive run to the 4th Round. Considering that it was only his second-ever Grand Slam event, the unseeded Raonic turned heads by defeating No. 22 Michael Llodra in the Second Round and then stunning No. 10 Mikhail Youzhny in the Third Round. He eventually lost a tough Fourth Round match to semifinalist-to-be No. 7 David Ferrer. But nonetheless, he became the first qualifier to reach the 4th. Round of a Grand Slam since 1999.

But anyone can have a Cinderella run at a Grand Slam, right? The 20-year old Raonic wasn't the first newcomer with a dream run and he won't be the last. But what has made Raonic the talk of the town is his performances in the tournaments he's played since the Australian Open. You know, those non-Grand Slam tournaments that nobody knows about and only die-hard tennis fans follow. In these tournaments Raonic has shown he is no fluke.

Following the Australian Open, Raonic has played in 3 tournaments. He had a disappointing showing in the South Africa Tennis Open, losing in the second round but the following two tournaments have put him on the tennis radar. He won his first-ever ATP title at the SAP Open in San Jose, California with a gut-wrenching (7-6, 7-6) win against World No. 9 Fernando Verdasco in the Final. But perhaps his next performance (in a losing cause) at this past week's Cellular South Cup in Memphis, Tennessee is what has the tennis world buzzing.

In Memphis, Raonic again defeated Verdasco, only this time in the first round. He disposed of World No. 16 Mardy Fish in the Semifinals to reach his second consecutive final. In the Final, however, he lost (barely) to World No. 8 Andy Roddick in what perhaps has been the toughest match of Roddick's career. In the end, Roddick, the seasoned veteran, escaped with a 7-6 (9-7), 6-7 (11-13), 7-5 victory and it doesn't get any closer than that. This match was the equivalent of Apollo Creed vs. Rocky Balboa in the movie Rocky. Yes, Creed won but all eyes were on the heavy-underdog Rocky for his brilliant performance and the same can be said about Raonic.

After the match, a bloodied (literally) Roddick said: “He’s as exciting of a talent as we’ve seen in a while,” Roddick said of Raonic. “The good news for him is he’s going to be able to learn on the run because that serve is going to win him a lot of matches, even if he goes up and down with his play because it’s one of the biggest serves I’ve seen.”

This is one huge compliment coming from the man who for many years has had the fastest serve in tennis history.

AP Photo - Roddick was beaten to the ground but found a way to win.
In less than two months Raonic has moved from No. 156 to No. 37 in the world and something tells me he ain't done yet. Keep an eye on this kid because he is for real.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Miguel Cabrera Needs Help

AP Photo
Detroit Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera has a problem. A MAJOR problem.

Last night, Cabrera was arrested and charged with a DUI, resisting arrest and other reckless behavior charges. According to reports, Cabrera was uncooperative, cursed at the deputies and topped off the messy incident by playing the "do you know who I am?" card and taking a swig from a bottle of scotch right in the officer's face. Ugly, to say the least. Very ugly.

The latest word is that a now-sober Cabrera is embarrassed by the incident and plans a public apology. Ok, but that's NOT enough.

The bottom line is--

Cabrera is an alcoholic and needs intervention. Period.

I'm not saying this to be mean or condescending. I'm saying it because that's what the people around him need to tell him-- "Miguel, you're an alcoholic. You need help". "Miguel, tu eres un alcoholico. Necesita ayuda".

No more beating around the bush!

Cabrera has a disease. An unmerciful and unremorseful disease that will stalk him. It will hunt him down. And it will not rest, EVER, until it destroys him.

The Tigers and his family need to get more aggressively involved. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it!

This isn't Cabrera's first alcohol-related altercation and it won't be his last if he doesn't get the help he needs. Last off-season he did a stint in rehab but apparently it wasn't good enough. He needs to check into a more aggressive program. And the writing was on the wall after his rehab stint when he said, "I don't consider myself an alcoholic".

It's called DENIAL. The Tigers should know this. His family should know this.

The problem with Cabrera's arrest yesterday wasn't that he fell off the wagon. He's human, there's nothing wrong with that. The problem was his behavior after he got caught. His cockiness and his reckless attitude are not signs of a person who understands they have a problem.

When Josh Hamilton fell off the wagon last February he understood what he had done. Hamilton felt awful afterwards and drank his own tears in remorse. He apologized to his family, his team, the world and most importantly his god. He talked about it to the media and to anyone who would listen. Josh Hamilton is not in denial. He knows exactly who the demon is that dwells within him and he is doing everything in his power to keep it under control.

I'll say it again, there's nothing wrong with falling off the wagon but how you behave and respond afterwards is what says it all.

I wish nothing but the best for Cabrera. It's not an easy thing to come to terms with. But it has to start with Miguel Cabrera. Until he doesn't look in the mirror and admits it to himself, he will be on a collision course with disaster. And that would be a tragedy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Albert Pujols Ain't Leavin' St. Louis!

AP Photo
Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals have stopped talking!


Pujols' self-imposed deadline for negotiating a new contract will expire any minute now, meaning the best player in baseball will more than likely play out the season and "test" the free agent market come November. Ahem, I don't think so.

For the record, the original deadline was noon yesterday but Pujols pushed it to noon today for one reason-- Stan Musial.

Yesterday, Musial received the presidential Medal of Freedom and Pujols did not want his contract talks to be a distraction. The Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor anyone can receive and the always-respectful Pujols knows this.

In the words of President Barack Obama, "Stan is a gentleman you would want your kids to emulate". I'm sure Pujols heard these words. I'm sure they resonated with him. He knows he's the only man on this planet that has a shot at equalling Stan the Man. Like Musial, Pujols is a passionate philanthropist. The two men care deeply about their fellow human beings.
Getty Images

So the questions are: Does Pujols deserve the highest contract in major league history? Yes. Can the Cardinals afford to give him a contract larger than the 10-year, $275 million deal Alex Rodriguez signed with the New New York Yankees? Probably not.

A further question is: If not the Cardinals, then who? Come November Pujols may just be a victim of his own greatness. There are only a handful of franchises that have the resources to meet his demand and some of them probably won't be in play. The Yankees have Mark Teixeira. The Red Sox have Adrian Gonzalez. The Angels and Dodgers seem to have tightened their wallets and aren't willing to pull the trigger on such a monster contract.

The team that has been mentioned the most are the Chicago Cubs. But does Pujols really want to go there and inherit the 102-year baggage that will most likely be put on his shoulders? I don't think so.

So the only logical destination for Pujols is St. Louis. Pujols is a student of the game. He knows the Cardinals are winners. He knows they will find a way to win with or without him. So why go elsewhere and start over? Besides that, Pujols also knows the rich and iconic history of the Cardinals. He knows his legacy in St. Louis. And one name will keep him in St. Louis-- the above-mentioned Stan "The Man" Musial. Pujols knows Musial. Pujols knows Musial's god-like status in St. Louis and he also knows that he's on his way to breaking all of Musial's Cardinal records. He knows that will seal his immortality.

In the end, his dream of becoming the greatest Cardinal-ever will make Pujols lower his demands and he'll find common ground with the Cardinals. Having a statue in front of Busch Stadium next to the great Stan the Man is important to him. His humility and his knowledge of his stature in St. Louis will not allow him to depart and abandon his potential-immortality of biblical proportions.

For a few extra bucks? No way!

Monday, February 14, 2011

R.I.P. Bob Cook

AP Photo
Bob Cook, one of the 4 members of the "Never Missed A Super Bowl" club has died.

For those who aren't familiar with the club, it's basically simple. Cook, along with Thomas Henschel, Larry Jacobson and Don Crisman are the only 4 known human beings who have attended every single Super Bowl. Until this year.

Henschel, Jacobson and Crisman attended Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, so they are now 45 for 45 in attendance. Cook, on the other hand, fell ill in January and was hospitalized in Milwaukee. His illness worsened and he was unable to attend the big game. He gave his tickets to his children, thus ending his streak at 44.

And the sad irony of this story is that Cook was a lifelong, die-hard Packers fan. He saw the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl from his hospital bed with his wife by his side. She even decorated the room with green and gold lights. "I'm just a die-hard Packers fan", Cook told the AP. His obituary ends with "GO PACK GO".

For those who follow the "Super Bowl Ads" craze, Cook was featured in the "Never Missed A Super Bowl" Visa commercial.

When Cook was hospitalized we didn't yet know the Packers were going to the Super Bowl. I believe his hospitalization occurred around the time of the Wild-Card round when no one could have fathomed the Packers winning three games on the road. But I'm sure there was no doubt in Cook's mind.

Was it an omen? How ironic is it that a man who never missed a Super Bowl and who is a lifelong Packers' fan, finally misses his first game the same year his beloved Packers returned to the promised land. This is one of those head-scratching stories. Amazing.

At least Cook (a Brown Deer, Wisconsin native) was able to see his beloved team win the championship before passing away. I'm sure from a far away place, he is saying, "Let's repeat!"

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Cavs Streak Is Over, Settle For Tie With Tampa Bay!

AP Photos
Finally! The misery has ended for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavs ended their NBA-record 26-game losing streak with a 126-119 overtime win against the Los Angeles Clippers last night. And how fitting that the streak ended against the lowly Clippers (4-19 on the road) who are the NBA's most notorious losers in the last four decades.

The Cavs will have to settle for a tie with the 1976 expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the longest losing streak ever by a team from the 4 major North American team sports. The expansion Bucs began their NFL career by losing their first 26 games. Now they , at least, have company in the record books. Who ever said misery doesn't love company?

So now the Cavs take on the anemic Washington Wizards, who themselves are flirting with history. The Wizards travel to Cleveland sporting an 0-25 record on the road this season. The NBA record for road futility to start a season is 0-29 by the 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks. So (obviously) either one of two things will happen: The Wizards end their march toward history or the Cavs put together a 2-game winning streak. Either one would be huge for the struggling franchises.

Oh an by the way, the Buccaneers won 2 in a row after their 0-26 start, so it could be an omen for the Cavs against the Wizards.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jerry Sloan Steps Down

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Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan has called it quits after 23 seasons at the helm.

Sloan was by far the longest tenured coach in the NBA and his 23 seasons with the Jazz are the most ever by an NBA coach with one team.

According to reports, Sloan has simply run out of gas and as he put it, "it's time to move on". His alleged confrontations and souring relationship with point guard Deron Williams also didn't help and made his decision that much easier to make.

Although Sloan never won an NBA Championship with the Jazz, he walks away as one of the most successful coaches in NBA history. He is third all-time in wins (1221) behind Don Nelson (1335) and Lenny Wilkens (1332). He is the only coach ever to win at least 1000 games with one team. Sloan won 1127 games with the Jazz (1988-2011) and 94 games in his only other coaching stint with the Chicago Bulls (1979-1982).

In 2009, Sloan was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach.

As for his tenure, in the business of sports where coaches and managers have a short shelf life, Sloan was considered one of the "Last of the Mohicans". Now only Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs (1996-present) remains as the lone coach hired in the 20th century. Next on the longevity list is Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics, who was hired relatively recently in 2004. So as we can see, Sloan (hired in 1988) was one of the last of an endangered species.

Anyway, as for Deron Williams, I don't know what his beef was with coach Sloan, but when someone hangs around long enough to coach a team for an NBA-record 23 seasons AND has a winning record in 22 of the 23 seasons AND is 1 of only 3 coaches in history with 15+ consecutive winning seasons AND has coached one of the most successful duos in NBA history (Hall of Famers Karl Malone and John Stockton) for almost their entire careers, I think they must have done something right and must have gotten along with a WHOLE LOT of people over the years. So I'm going to side with the old man on this one.

Lighten up Deron. You're great, but you're not that great.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cleveland Surpasses Cleveland, Eyes Tampa Bay Next

SI & AP Photos - Click on image to view larger
The Cleveland Cavaliers have outdone, well, the Cleveland Cavaliers. And to keep it local they also outdid, well, the Cleveland Spiders.

What in the world am I talking about?

As we all know, the Cavaliers set a new NBA record with their 25-game losing streak. They broke the record of (24 consecutive losses) held by the 1981-1982 Cleveland Cavaliers, which was set over a two-season span.

The Cavs' losing streak in also the second longest of all the major American professional team sports. The Cavs also surpassed the professional major league baseball all-time losing streak of 24, which is held by the now-defunct Cleveland Spiders of the American Association, which was then a major league. The Spiders losing streak occurred during the 1899 season.

So what's next for the Cavs? If they lose tonight (at home) against the Detroit Pistons, they will tie the all-time American professional sports record of 26 consecutive losses which is held by the then-expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL.
AP Photo

However, tonight's game against the Pistons is a very winnable one for the Cavs. The Pistons aren't even a shadow of what they used to be and are 6-21 on the road. So hopefully the Cavs' misery can end tonight. But if it doesn't, their next two games are also at home against the Los Angeles Clippers (3-18 on the road) and the Washington Wizards (0-25 on the road). C'mon, they gotta win at least one of those three!

I don't want to beat this LeBron thing to death, but it's amazing what can happen to a nation when they lose their king. Hey Dan Gilbert, have you torn up that manifesto yet?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood

ESPN reporter: "Have you heard from Brett Favre?"
Aaron Rodgers: "No I haven't."
ESPN reporter: "Do you expect to hear from Brett Favre?"
Aaron Rodgers: "No I don't."

AP Photos
And so it continues. Even the day after Aaron "Superman" Rodgers leads the Green Bay Packers to the promised land he still has to hear the nagging Brett Favre questions.

Is it me or this whole "Rodgers is playing in Favre's shadow" soap opera just a figment of our imagination because it makes for juicy gossip?

Let's break it down to it's simplicity in a quick nutshell:

1. Rodgers was drafted by the Packers in 2005 with the 24th overall pick. Favre was still the starter so common sense tells us that the rookie Rodgers will be his understudy and he'll spend most of his time holding a clipboard.

2. During Rodgers' rookie year Favre took 99% of the snaps and Rodgers fulfilled his rookie duties-- just sit back and be prepared in case we need you.

3. By this point, we were already getting our first whiffs of the "Brett is thinking of retiring" roller coaster and the kid Rodgers will be his heir apparent.

4. In the next two years the "Brett retiring" thing becomes a circus created 100% by the aging Brett himself. The Packers know they are not going to get 10 more years out of Brett so they come to the decision that it's time to move on and begin a new era with the kid Rodgers. A stubborn and selfish Brett refuses to let them do that and puts them between a rock and a hard place. Do they risk upsetting their fans by cutting loose their god-like hero? Finally the Packers work out a deal with the disgruntled future Hall of Famer and trade him to the AFC's New York Jets. They start to move forward with a kid that can lead them for the next decade.


So now the kid is portrayed as playing in the shadows of the departed immortal as if all this was his fault. At last check, he was drafted by the Packers and was under contract by the Packers. Sooner or later Brett was going to hang it up and someone had to replace him. Or should a team retire the position when an immortal retires or walks away?

If I'm not mistaken, Favre isn't the first and he certainly won't be the last Hall of Fame quarterback to walk away from the team they took to glory. And if I'm not mistaken, no team has ever retired the quarterback position in honor of the departed great. So why do the Aaron Rodgers of the world have to hear all this bs about playing in their shadows? At the end of the day, somebody has to fill the void. Right?

Oh I get it. This "shadow" thing is a combination of a few factors. First, the departing great has to be a future Hall of Famer who's been the leader of the team for a LONG time. Second, the departed must have won at least 1 Super Bowl with his team. Thirdly, the replacement must be a young stud who has the potential of building his own immortality and Hall of Fame career. And finally, there has to be some drama in the departure of the Hall of Famer and the one waiting in the wings bares some of the blame because his potential greatness makes it easier for the team to let the immortal go.

Got it! It's a punishment for having the potential to be great and even as great as the person you're replacing.

I even have a name for it, "The Steve Young Syndrome".

So that's why Brian Griese didn't hear all this "shadow" garbage when he replaced the immortal John Elway. Griese got the gig because he was simply the better of two evils and he was only expected to hold the fort until the Broncos found the next Elway. Since greatness wasn't expected from Griese and Elway retired gracefully, the "shadow" thing didn't manifest itself.

As for Dan Marino and Warren Moon's replacements, they didn't hear all this jazz because "them dudes" never won a ring. Forget their replacements, Marino and Moon got their own "no-ring" shadows which is a juicier story.

AP Photos
But Steve Young? Yes, he's the original Aaron Rodgers. And why? Because he was good. He was damn good. And he was replacing a disgruntled future Hall of Famer with 4 Super Bowl rings. So of course, Young had to play at a Joe Montana-level or always be remembered as a bust. How dare he be so good that the 49ers didn't hesitate to run immortal-Joe out of town? Now Young is playing under a shadow and has to prove himself.

And how dare you, Aaron Rodgers, be so good that you were the (direct or indirect reason) why Brett wasn't able to have the Packers as puppets or in Joe's case, the 49ers as puppets. Like the old adage says, "three's a crowd". So the notion is-- for being so good, Aaron, the "Brett's shadow" thing has to follow you around until you do something great.

Anyway, at last check, Steve Young won a Super Bowl with the 49ers and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Aaron Rodgers has now won a Super Bowl with the Packers and if his health permits, he too, will someday be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

So this notion that potential immortals have to play in the shadows of departing immortals is all a bunch of hogwash and only circulates because the media has a never ending thirst for gossip. End of story.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Green Bay Packers Get It Done!

Getty Images/AP

Green Bay Packers 31 - Pittsburgh Steelers 25

I have to hand it to some of the pundits over at ESPN. This time around they got it right. From the very beginning (when the playoff seeding were set) some of them said, "don't be fooled by the Packers being the No. 6 seed." Analyst Trent Dilfer said something to the effect, "this may be the most dangerous No. 6 seed ever." He was right. They were right.

My gut feeling was also with the Packers. Why? Because I believe in the tenacity of the road warriors. It has happened before. My New York Giants did it in '08. The Steelers did it in '06. The bottom line is, you don't win 3 tough playoff games ON THE ROAD and then not finish the job. If you make it that far after toughing it out on the road, you just gotta find the will to do it one more time. It's the law. Period. So forget all the X's and O's. WILL is much bigger than that.

I'm sure that was Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the team's mentality. Their confidence level and their sense of invincibility were just too high. I guess success on the road can do that to you. No doubt!

I also tip my hat to the Steelers. They came within a whisker of pulling it off, but then again, nobody said it would be easy. And it shouldn't be easy.

In the end, there can only be one winner and how fitting that it was the team from Titletown, USA.

CONGRATS, Green Bay.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Farewell, Andy Pettitte

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Andy Pettitte has ridden off into the sunset.

Today, the Yankee great will officially announce his retirement and walk away from another guaranteed 1-year deal from the Bronx Bombers. For the last couple of years Pettitte and the Yankees have been working on a year-by-year basis due to Pettitte not being sure if he should continue playing or retire. I guess this time around his mind is made up and he's definitely walking away.

Pettitte had a great career and deserves to walk away on his own terms. He finishes with an impressive 240-138 record, with 2251 strikeouts and a career 3.88 ERA. More impressively, Pettitte has 5 World Series championship rings (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009) and a major league-record 19-10 record in the playoffs. Overall he appeared in 8 World Series, 7 with the Yankees and 1 with the Houston Astros.

As with all other border-line players who retire, the debate will begin as to whether or not Pettitte is Hall of Fame worthy. His solid regular season numbers and his great post-season accomplishments surely lean toward saying yes and had he played in a different era he most likely would be in the Hall of Fame. But unfortunately his admission to using HGH and his involvement in the Roger Clemens mess makes it highly unlikely that he'll get elected. As we have seen in the past 5 years, the BBWAA voters have taken a tough stance on any player within "6 degrees of separation" from the steroids scandal. Just ask poor Jeff Bagwell.

All in all, Pettitte was a great player, a great role model and a great champion. Like I said, he deserves to leave on his own terms, á la Mike Mussina and he will be sorely missed in the Yankees rotation.

Good luck in your next endeavor, Andy.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Packers-Steelers: Who Will It Be?

The Green Bay Packers have 3....
The Pittsburgh Steelers have 6....
....Classic Sports Illustrated championship covers that is.

So who will grace next week's cover as Super Bowl champions?

Click on images to view larger

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Super Bowl XLV: The Big Ben Theory

Drew Litton/Rocky Mountain News
We are officially three days into Super Bowl week and somehow I knew that all the talk and media coverage was NOT going to only be about football. I just knew that Big Ben Roethlisberger's past issues were going to come up and come up big time.

And why?

Because we are a society that loves drama. The media loves drama, the fans love drama, everybody loves drama. For the media, drama sells newspapers, it sells magazines and it gets eyeballs glued to the t.v. sets. Sports Illustrated is all over the Big Ben beef this week. The media has taken a comment made by Commissioner Roger Goodell to SI about Big Ben's teammates not having his back and run with it. And now the Steelers players have to answer all these annoying questions about an issue that happened last summer.

I'm not going to get into Big Ben's prior troubles because I think by now everyone knows what went down last offseason which led to his 4-game suspension to start the season.

But my point is, why not just let it rest? He paid his debt. He was never charged with any wrong doing. So why keep beating a dead horse? Why not just talk football? At last check, it's a football game the Steelers and Packers are playing on Sunday. Remember?

Anyway, the Sports Illustrated drama piece reads like this: Chasten The Dream {A humbled Ben Roethlisberger returned from his suspension intent on proving he'd changed. He could win his third ring on Sunday in Dallas, but winning back the fans remains a work in progress}. Oh brother! Hand me a Kleenex so I can wipe my tears. The article also features a picture of a nostalgic Big Ben staring at the heavens with what looks like the Milky Way galaxy in the background. Another Kleenex, please.

Like I said, drama, drama, drama. Even if the Steelers had not made it to the Super Bowl the media would've still figured out a way to inject drama into Super Bowl week. Can you imagine what Super Bowl week would've been like if it were the New York Football Jets (with all their excess baggage) playing instead. And just imagine if it had been Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles instead. What a soap opera that would've been! Heck, even if the Atlanta Falcons had made it, the Mike Vick beef would've found it's way into the headlines of Super Bowl week.

Sean Delonas/NY Post - The Jets lose the AFC Championship Game
 Let's not stop here.

If the Chicago Bears would've pulled off a dramatic comeback and win the NFC Championship Game and would've been here instead of the Packers, all the "Jay Cutler Quit On His Team" drama would've taken center stage. And what if the Seattle Seahawks or the New Orleans Saints would've made it? Somehow I get the feeling the Pete Carroll-Reggie Bush-USC beef would've hovered over Super Bowl week. Or maybe Kim Kardashian's name would've came up once or twice.

Drew Litton/Rocky Mountain News

I just finished reading an article which said that Big Ben and former Steelers-great Terry Bradshaw broke bread together and are now chums after Bradshaw disowned him for being a bad boy. Nice. But what does that have to do with the game itself. Oh I know-- it's good drama.

In the end, let's sum up Big Ben. He likes motorcycles. He has a weakness for booze and the ladies. Hmmm? Should he have been more responsible? Of course. But what are we gonna do? Stuff happens. He's taken responsibility for his actions and claims to be a changed man. So why not move on from all that and talk football instead? Besides, at last check, he's a football player who gets hit (and gets hit hard) for a living in a dangerous and (somewhat) brutal sport. It's not like he's the pastor of a nearby neighborhood church. If that were the case, I can see why his lifestyle would be an issue.

Big Ben is a rough and tough dude and only rough and tough dudes make it in the NFL. I think Commissioner Goodell wants to portray them as alter boys, which ain't gonna work. At the end of the day, rough dudes have rough lifestyles.

But in a drama-driven society, even the lives of our toughest and most-rugged men are turned into soap operas. Did I hear, forget all that (bs) and let's play football.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

NBA Standings: Some Eye-Catching Numbers

Getty Images
I have to admit, lately I haven't been watching too many NBA games and even took my eye off the ball for a little bit. But today I took the time to catch up on all the latest news and to scrutinized the all-important standings.

Here are some interesting numbers that caught my eye:

1. The Chicago Bulls are 33-14 (.702). Wow! It seems like the Bulls finally have themselves a solid and legitimate post-Michael Jordan era title-contending team. We are now 13 seasons removed from the final year of the Jordan-era (1997-98 NBA Champions) and, as everyone knows, it's been a tough and brutal journey for the Bulls since then. Chicago failed to make the playoffs in the first 6 post-Jordan seasons going a miserable 119-341 during that span. They have rebounded (somewhat) in the latter years where they have made the playoffs in 5 of the last 6 seasons even though it's been one round and out for the most part. They did manage to win a first-round playoff series in 2006-07 but were quickly eliminated in the second round by the Detroit Pistons. To date, that has been the only playoff-series win in the post-Jordan era. But is it still the "post-Jordan era" or has the statute of limitation run out on that phrase? After all we are 13 seasons removed from the days of "His Royal Airness" and the current Bulls team only has one holdover from the teams that began making semi-decent playoff appearances in 2004-05. The current team is built around 2008 No. 1 overall pick Derrick Rose, and sprinkled with lone holdover Luol Deng and first-year difference maker Carlos Boozer. So maybe this isn't the post-Jordan era anymore? Maybe this is more like the post-Elton Brand-Ron Artest-Marcus Fizer-Jamal Crawford-Tyson Chandler-Eddy Curry-Jay Williams-Kirk Hinrich-Ben Gordon era. Or is that phrase too long?

2. The LeBron-less Cleveland Cavaliers and the Bosh-less Toronto Raptors have combined to lose a whopping 33 consecutive games. Meanwhile, things are smoking down in the Valley of the Kings where the LeBron/Bosh-led Miami Heat are an impressive 34-14 (.708). Hmmm? Maybe Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert should change the name of his team from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Cleveland Langoliers because pretty soon he's going to be slowly ripping up his LeBron-bashing manifesto in a crazed state, á la Bronson Pinchot in the Stephen King classic, The Langoliers.

Speaking of Bronson Pinchot-- let's take a look at one of those classic paper ripping scenes from The Langoliers. The Pinchot moment is toward the end of the clip, at the 4:29 mark:


3. The Washington Wizards are 0-25 on the road. With this kind of futility I think the Wizards are praying the Langoliers show up and chew away this season so they can start from scratch. My, oh my, where have you gone Gilbert "You Don't Need A Gun" Arenas? Anyway, for the record, the worst road start in NBA history is 0-29 by the 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks. And last but not least, if it makes Wizards fans feel any better-- their next road game is at Cleveland. Is it winnable? Well, if that one isn't than I don't know which is?!

Oh no! The Langoliers are coming!