Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Famous Buckeye Bucks for a 2nd Chance

Do you remember Maurice Clarett? The great running back at Ohio State, who rushed for 18 TD's in '02 and was a major contributor for the Buckeyes the '03 National Championship team. If you don't, I can't blame you, because he fell off the map very quickly after his great season. Due to many legal troubles, including being jailed for the past 3.5 years, his football career floundered. But now he's back, and it's a good comeback story.

His 2002 season was great, including scoring the winning TD in the Fiesta Bowl, rushing for 1,237 yards (a school rushing record for freshmen), and stealing the ball away from Sean Taylor, who had just intercepted a Craig Krenzel pass. But, his off seasons were more notable than his one season on the gridiron. He was suspended for the entire '03 season after filing a false police report, and was dismissed for taking financial benefits. He tried to get into the 2004 NFL draft by suing the league, but that failed, and he was drafted by the Broncos in '05 in the 3rd round at pick 101. He failed to impress in the preseason, and shocked critics by even being drafted at all, and as high as he was, but was released without playing a game. It was sad to see such a good running back falling so far as he did. He was the best running back in college football and fell so far. But his legal troubles dropped him even further.

He was arrested two times in 2006, once for robbery, and another for leading the police on a car chase, and having loaded guns and open alcohol in his car. He was sentenced for 7.5 years in jail, but could apply for release after 3.5 years, which is now. He has been blogging about his prison experiences for awhile, and in a recent post, he said, "Understand my struggle so you can respect my hustle. I am never coming back here, believe that. Never, I am cool on this. It is first-class living from the day I get out. I WILL NEVER SETTLE FOR LESS, EVER AGAIN." And with this drive and determination, he was signed yesterday by the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL. This is great for all football. This is because it shows how you can come back from the brink, to back on the football field, with the goal to change his life, and all people can learn from his drive and determination.

America is the country of second chances, and it seems football is the sport of second chances now. Donte Stallworth, Michael Vick, Ricky Williams, and plenty others have done the same thing, so why can't Clarett? Yes, he hasn't played a true football game in almost 7.5 years, but that doesn't mean he can't try again. If he can keep his life in order, then this will be a great comeback story, even if he is in the UFL (better than the CFL I suppose). He needs to show his devotion to head Coach Jeff Jagodzinzki, GM Rick Mueller, and the whole UFL, and if he does that, he could one day make it back to the NFL, as he is only 26. "I am committed to working hard to earn the right for a second chance in football and more importantly in life." Clarett said on Monday when he was signed. Rick Mueller believes he deserves a second chance, and so should everyone.

If Clarett keeps himself out of trouble and plays well, and uses his mentor, former Packers back Ahman Green, for all the help he needs, and the UFL wants him to have, then this can be a successful comeback. Vick, Williams, and to a lesser extent Stallworth (despite his broken foot), have all done well in changing their lives around so that they can play football, even if Vick and Stallworth haven't been successful on the field. This is an example that players, and everyone else who suffer major problems in their lives should take after. Devotion, commitment, and passion can set your life straight, with a bit of help. This is a great story for football, even if it is under the radar. John Anderson compared Clarett to a comet on last night's sportscenter. His points of fading and white-hot importance have come and gone, and now he's back on the trail to being "white-hot" again. He's coming back into the football world, and I'm happy to see him back.

Monday, August 30, 2010

My 2010 NFL Predictions

Here they are, with absolutely no bias:

AFC East: 1. NYJ 11-5 2. NE 10-6 3. MIA 9-7 4. BUF 4-12
NFC East: 1. DAL 12-4 2. NYG 9-7 3. PHI 8-8 4. WSH 7-9
AFC North: 1. BAL 12-4 2. CIN 10-6 3. PIT 8-8 4. CLE 5-11
NFC North: 1. MIN 12-4 2. GB 11-5 3. CHI 8-8 4. DET 6-10
AFC South: 1. IND 13-3 2. HOU 9-7 3. JAX 8-8 4. TEN 7-9
NFC South: 1. NO 12-4 2. ATL 10-6 3. CAR 7-9 4. TB 4-12
AFC West: 1. SD 11-5 2. DEN 7-9 3. OAK 6-10 4. KC 5-11
NFC West: 1. SF 9-7 2. ARZ 7-9 3. SEA 6-10 4. STL 3-13


Wild Card Round: (3) NYJ over (6) CIN & (4) SD over (5) NE
                             (5) GB over (4) SF & (3) DAL over (6) ATL

Divisional Round: (1) IND over (4) SD & (2) BAL over (3) NYJ
                           (5) GB over (1) NO & (2) MIN over (3) DAL

Conference Title Games: (2) BAL over (1) IND, & (5) GB over (2) MIN (Yeah, what Dramatic Irony)

SB XLV: (2) BAL over (5) GB

My picks, I stand by them, comment if you need clarification.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Swindling Marlins Owners

I wouldn't normally write 2 articles in back-to-back days, but this floored me. A leaked Florida Marlins financial report from Deadspin shows that the Florida Marlins used MLB money for profit. Not for other things, like payroll, staff, and oh by the way, THEIR NEW STADIUM, profit. When this country is still slowly recovering from a financial recession, and the Marlins being 28th in MLB in attendance figures, the greedy owners of the Marlins used revenue-sharing and other league money for profit. This equals wall street corporate fraud, and it will cause financial strain to generations of Miami-Dade county tax payers $2.4 billion for years and years to come. Just wow.

Now, most of the MLB distributed money is from revenue-sharing, which helps teams like the Pirates (who by the way have had something similar revealed a few days ago), Orioles, and others. This money should help with payrolls to keep good players instead of having fire-sales (which the Fish have done twice), keep up the minor-league systems, and enable a good product to be placed on the field so the team isn't irrelevant. The Marlins have won two World Series, and yet they couldn't keep their great players up to now due to money problems. That is where revenue-sharing money should go, not into Jeff Loria's pocket.

But worst of all is the stadium. This is horrifying. The Marlins have been asking for a stadium for their own for at least 10 years before they finally got it. Moves to San Antonio and other places came pretty close for a team that won 2 world series. Their new stadium cost $634 million, and the Marlins paid $155 million of that.
That's about 25% of the value of the stadium. Annual payments for the stadium run until 2049, which Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports notes that Hanley Ramirez will be of social-security age by that time. He also notes that Loria wanted as much public funding as possible, while 1200 jobs were cut by Dade County this year. And Loria has commissioned an aquarium behind the backstop and artwork to be used when the Marlins hit home runs. Yes, it may have been enough to save a team that is a clear 3rd in its market in terms of fans, but not enough to save money in a county where they need to desperately, while the team basks in its revenue-sharing money. Bernie Madoff couldn't conjure up something this crazy.

This will go up with the Nationals stadium deal and others in terms of stadium deals that were quite egregious. Yankee Stadium and New Meadowlands cost more than $1 billion, yet this never happened in the same way. The Marlins hid the truth which should have been made public in the first place, and it shows what swindlers Jeff Loria and David Samson are. The Marlins are fond believers in the "If you build it, they will come" philosophy. Tell that to Pittsburgh, Washington and Cincinnati. The Reds are 19th in attendance, while they are 1st in the NL central, the Nats are 22nd, and the Pirates are 27th. Dade County will pay $1.2 billion to pay off $91 million. Where did the other $1.109 billion dollars go? To the owners pockets again?

Some of the Marlins great former players, like Miguel Cabrera, could still be a Marlin if the owners used the millions and millions of MLB dollars properly. The MLB telling off of the team to up its paltry payroll by, actually spending money, would never happen. Knowing what I know now, I'd much rather the team be in North Jersey, Portland, or San Antonio, where they were very close to going to, then knocking down a legendary stadium, to build a stadium that cost so much to the county of Dade. Can the Miami tourist tax overcome the money losses by October? I hope so. The Marlins weren't the team bleeding red ink, and because of it, Dade county now will be. Neil deMause, who wrote the book "Field of Schemes", said that, "(The teams), don't need new stadiums, they just need new revenues. It's just like a bailout." And America has already dealt with bailouts. Paul Beeston, the former MLB president who now runs the Jays, famously said, "Under generally accepted accounting principles, I can turn a $4 million profit into a $2 million loss, and I can get every national accounting firm to agree with me.” Yep, swindling at its finest, summed up in one quote.

Just shameless. And so sad.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shanahan v. Haynesworth

It's a story that has been going on since voluntary mini-camps, when Albert Haynesworth didn't attend. Then, he didn't attendmandatory OTA's, because he didn't fit in with the new Redskins scheme. Then, he failed a conditioning test that even Mike Golic could finish. Then, he complained some more, and now he's truly ticked off his coach. My question is, why?

Albert, why make such a stink about playing with the 2nd team defense against Baltimore, and not liking the scheme? You have the most guaranteed money in the history of the NFL, and yet you still aren't happy. He hasn't put his money where his mouth is obviously. But, I can understand why he would do this. He's been used to being the center of the team, being able to do what he pleases, dictate where he plays, and there hasn't been a fuss about it. Then Mike Shanahan came. And, he wants it his way, or the beltway. Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post wrote in a column on August 23rd that, "He's the worst cliche of a head case -- he demands respect instead of earns it, and lately he has cast himself as that most pitiable of things, a perpetual victim." He's crashed his own career with the Redskins, and it's all his fault.

He's been a diva since his great 2008 season with the Titans. And after that, people forgot that he stomped on Andre Gurode's face against Dallas in 2006. Those things don't go away, just put in every ones subconscious. Most of that attitude came out with the saga this summer. And by the time Albert was tired enough of playing with the 2nd team to admit he has Rhabdomyolysis, which is the breaking down of muscle fibers resulting in the release of muscle fiber contents into the bloodstream, and causes serious fatigue. Now I'm not mad that he's admitted that he may have this, but if his head coach thought he had headaches, there is a serious divide between the two. Albert, I must say, even with the craziest and longest of holdouts, including Darelle Revis', you have overtaken it, and you have been playing. Whatever your motives are for this, it needs to stop. If you truly have this disease, then you need to focus on healing, not complaining about playing into the 3rd quarter. Mike Shanahan said you have to earn you're way onto the 1st team D, and he's right. Shut up and play. And now, I will quote Coach Shanahan to end this, "To keep on talking about things outside of football to me is completely ridiculous..." He's so right. Albert, just play to earn your respect back, if you're not already being shipped out.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tiger Woods: THE Big Sports Story (Whether it should be or not)

At a golf course he very often excelled at, in Akron (where he took away headlines from Lebron), Tiger's performance has intrigued most golf critics. His 18 over finish at the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone is the worst in his career as a pro, and he was 30 shots back of the winner, Hunter Mahan. He replied about that afterwords, "I never, ever thought that would be possible." Well, you're not alone. Most everyone in the world of sports (let's face it, it's ESPN), is still a bit shocked by Tiger Woods' bad performance. But, even though some people, including me, kind of expected a bad performance, people still want to harp on Tiger's bad performance, a week before the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, and even more importantly, this performance hurt his Ryder Cup stock. But, I want to know, why all the hype surrounding Tiger, months after his scandal quieted.

Golf Experts like Jason Sobel, have retracted statements saying that Woods would break Jack Nicklaus' record of major titles. He went on to say, that Tiger's performances are now great unknowns. I believe that all of that is true, and has been pointed out for months now, but, why do we have to continue to hear it again and again from the worldwide leader? We get that Tiger is not as good as he was before the scandal broke, we got that the first moment we learned of this. But I still see the "Tiger Tracker" on ESPN's front page for golf. Even for the 3 days between tournaments, we'll see stories from Tiger's practices, to hear about his inability to putt consistently, or hitting only 35.7% of green's in regulation. But, I do know why Tiger is constantly put in the spotlight.

The story causes ratings, which ESPN wants badly, which I find funny because ESPN doesn't have the rights to broadcast the tournament. But, no matter even if something major happens this weekend in sports, no-hitters, Brett Favre returning or actually retiring, whatever it is, Tiger may be put out in front. Now, don't get me wrong, I want to know what happened with everyone, and how it relates to the Ryder Cup (which I'm interested in), but I don't want the first 10 minutes of coverage to be Tiger, I want to see how everyone else did. I'm interested in Tiger, but not THAT much.

Tiger has had much different things to deal with this year, besides the scandal. He has to care for his kids, and he has said that caring for them is more important, and that has taken away from his practice time. He has parted ways with his swing coach, Hank Haney, in May. He has had bad finishes in every tournament except the U.S Open, when he finished in 4th. This has been a trend, that even I, not a big golf fan, can see. I like Tiger Woods, and I think Tiger is a great golfer, but I can't stand the constant stories on ESPN about him that frankly aren't necessary, and are taking time away from worthier stories. I don't discredit ESPN for doing this, and I love the worldwide leader, but, after Tiger struggles to make the Ryder Cup team (unless he plays really well in the next few tournaments, including winning 1), I want the stories for golf to focus on golfers that are close to winning tournaments, and the people who are playing. Take the foot off the gas guys, Tiger's a big public figure, but he and the viewing public of America need a break from each other.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Has the End Finally Come for Brett Favre?

We've watched him retire and un-retire twice before, so what makes me believe that this time he's real about it? Dorsey Levens and Keyshawn Johnson said on ESPN today that they won't believe that he's retired until the Thursday night opener against the World Champs in New Orleans and he's not taking the first snap for the Vikings. I agree completely. Brad Childress and the Vikings big bosses haven't been informed of this from Favre himself, and I haven't seen an overblown press conference yet, so why should I believe text messages to teammates that may have not happened?

Players on the Vikings haven't heard this news from Favre himself yet, so again, I can't believe this. Yes, he may haven't fully recovered from ankle surgery, but he's changed his mind as much as MJ, or Evander Holyfield with retiring and un-retiring. I can't trust these reports yet, and with everyone in the NFL was caught off guard, and viewed with skepticism this announcement, I don't think any Viking fan will take this seriously yet, with the fact that his first preseason game was in week 3, and he barely went to training camp in Mankato.

How different will this NFL season be without Favre starting for the Vikings? Different, and the complexion of the league could have been different if this is true, and was announced in April, let's say. Donovan McNabb could be a Viking, or even, here's a shocker, Ben Roethlisberger. All hypothetical situations, but would've happened if this was announced in March, or April. The league would be very different if these things had happened, and if this was true. I know people in Vikings circles believe Tarvaris Jackson is ready to be a great QB for the Vikings, and he could take them very far, but I doubt that any Viking fan would take him over Favre starting in week 1 (no offense to Jackson, who I think has great potential).

Everyone, including me, thinks this situation is still fluid, even with Brett Favre saying that he doesn't feel good.  
Retirement may be the option today, but two weeks, or a month from now, he may feel fine and ready to play. The reports may be completely valid, but don't count out him starting for the Vikings 5 weeks from now.  We didn't for MJ and Evander, why should we for Favre? I won't, and neither should you yet, unless you take everything for face value.