Monday, July 25, 2011

Comparing the NFL Lockout and the Debt Crisis

Since our country has been focused on 2 different sets of negotiations that are paramount to our country, I figured since 1 of them is now solved, I should compare the 2. Here are the similarities and differences between the 2011 NFL Lockout and the Debt Crisis.

Similarity: 2 groups are arguing over billions and billions of dollars that no one in the U.S would even dream of having even a whiff of. No one feels any sympathy.

Difference: One deal was doomed to oblivion from the start, while the other had an end date that no one wanted to acknowledge.

Similarity: One group is a bunch of old white guys with a lot of money and wanting the old ways back, while the other is a multi-cultural diverse group headed by an African-American.

Difference: One African-American has been called a pansy by the opposition, while the other has been fighting hard for what he wants and got a lot out of the old white guys.

Similarity: If either agreement didn't come to pass by a certain date, both would have inevitably lead to downfalls of certain organizations and groups.

Difference: If one agreement didn't pass, the economy would tank and no one would have money. If the other agreement didn't pass, then a whole 50% of the countries men would be bored to tears on Sunday with an open Cheetos bag.

Similarity: Both negotiations have had sources that have reported the near end of the conflict thousands of times over, and were wrong all of the time.

Difference: For one negotiation, the sources caused a ton of confusion amongst the population, and in the other the sources have stood back and threw their hands in the air.

Similarity: When both negotiations end in a peaceful agreement, mass chaos will ensue.

Difference: With one negotation, the mass chaos will be over where players sign, and with the other, the late-night comedy shows will be scrambling to find something to make fun of.

Similarity: Both negotiations were tough to complete, and it was difficult to please both sides.

Difference: Robert Kraft: "The debt crisis is a lot easier to fix than this deal was." Then if that is so, then why hasn't the debt crisis ended with a celebration and fireworks? The government likes to wait until the last minute to finish everything, I guess.

Similarity: Both negotiations have been met with an air of criticism for not ending soon enough because "the people deserve to see it end".

Difference: In one negotiation, the people deserve to see an end, and in the other, they don't. They missed nothing.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My 2011 MLB Predictions: In Review

I know we're way past the halfway point of the MLB season, but since many teams have played 100 games so far, it's time for me to look back on my predictions I made the day before the season started. So, let's look at how smart (stupid) I was...

My 6 divisions winners were: Philly, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Boston, the White Sox, and Rangers. Funny enough, I was smart here. 5 out of the 6 have a very good shot to win their divisions. The White Sox, well...  they aren't out of it, but Cleveland and Detroit are better teams right now. If Paul Konerko wasnt' half as good as he was, the Sox would be approaching Royals levels of bad. The rest of the teams are either in first or tied for first, so I'm smart! But, I'll take my hits next...

My 2 wild card teams were the Braves and Yankees, and once again, I prove to be smarter than I appear. But those teams weren't the hardest to pick, the hardest were the other contenders. The bigger contenders in the NL for me were Colorado, LAD, Cincinnati, Florida and St. Louis. Funny enough, only 2 of them are serious contenders right now in Cincy and St. Louis, and they are also competing with Pittsburgh (!). The rest of the teams are having bad years, and once again prove I'm not as smart as I look. My AL wildcard contenders were Oakland, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, and Detroit. One of those teams is atop their division, one is saddled with being in a tough division, and the other 2 are having pretty bad years. The preseason hype machine for Oakland was obviously unfounded, and once again prove those preseason preview magazines are also not helpful tools for getting an accurate outlook on the season.

My award winners are though, about to restore my dignity, possibly. Adrian Gonzalez was my AL MVP pick and thankfully he's living up to the hype. My NL MVP pick was Albert Pujols, and he's not the leading contender, as he has taken a backseat to Jose Reyes and Matt Kemp. The Cy Young picks were Cliff Lee and Jon Lester, and while one has lived up to the billing, the other has been too injured to be a serious contender. My Manager of the Year picks have been pretty decent, with Ron Roenicke leading his Brewers to the NL Central lead and Terry Francona leading the injured Red Sox to the best record in the AL. But they won't win those awards in my minds now because of the managers of the surprise Indians and Pirates likely taking the cake.

But where I really fall down is in my Rookie of the Year picks. They were Aroldis Chapman and Dustin Ackley. Oops. Craig Kimbrel is dominating the NL, and Justin Turner has been a nice pleasant surpise for the Mets. In the AL, another Mariner could win in Michael Pineda, and also Jeremy Hellickson and Zach Britton have been pretty decent. Even though this has been normally the hardest award to predict the winners of, I will admit failure.

So you've just seen my ego-deflating look back at my MLB pre-season predictions. Hopefully, someone has done worse than me, but no one will admit it. Oh well, next up... FOOTBALL!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer Soccer Blues

US Soccer has never been stronger. There has never been this much interest in soccer in the U.S... ever. You could also argue that it has never taken a bigger punch to the gut after the 2 heartbreaking losses in championship finals in 2011. The interest climbs up to a high point, and when the finals are done, only the cult like following the sport has here soldiers on and waits until another World Cup for the bandwagon to come alive again. This is a sad fact to me. Soccer is a glorious game, and should not be treated like this in the U.S. I can understand not having the interest during the MLS season, or even watching EPL games on ESPN2 at 7 AM on a Saturday, but try to maintain some interest please.

As I write this, the 2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge is going on in the U.S and Canada. It involves some of the world's best clubs... and yet is only a side dish to the hoardes of baseball games and lockout coverage. This is also troubling because ESPN covers soccer better than they do any other sport. Will anyone who has been in love with Abby Wambach or Alex Morgan want to go see some WPS in a college stadium with teams you have never heard of before? Sadly not. All the momentum from this stunning run from the USWNT will stop here, and women's soccer will not even be a footnote until 2015, and that is sad.

This goes for the men's game too. After the World Cup, did we see an amazing spike of popularity for MLS? In some places yes, but as a whole no. Did the same spike happen for European leagues? Nope. It will take another amazing run by a U.S team in order for soccer to regain a status like it had during the Women's World Cup. And this is not meant to downgrade all of the people who supported the women who wore the red, white, and blue so valiantly in Germany. It's meant to question our sports culture that unfortunately is stagnant and takes a shock to the system in order to change.

The sports culture in this country is a hard thing to break, I know, but adding a little soccer to your day can't hurt. The last 2 World Cups have shown us what true drama and tension are, and even though you can get that in all 4 major American sports... you can't get that same feeling that soccer brings.

Here is something to consider: the more the casual American sports fan cares about soccer, the more popular it will become in this country. The more popular the sport becomes, the more little kids will play the sport and grow up with it. That one kid who you would never expect to become a star could become the next Landon Donovan or Cobi Jones, but he may not have that chance to fulfill his dreams because soccer isn't as popular here. He'll try baseball or basketball instead. If you want the U.S to succeed more on the international stage for soccer, make the sport more popular at home.

All I ask is that you watch a little MLS, or some of the EPL, the World Football Challenge, and especially EURO 2012 and the U.S world cup qualifiers. It will make a world of difference to the health of the sport in this great country. I know soccer will never reach the European and South American levels of popularity here, but if the overall level can rise, you never know what could happen.

Just remember: South Florida and Texas have produced NHL players as of now. The U.S can produce a world cup winner if soccer just got a slight boost in popularity.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Can We Cap the Cap?

The Florida Panthers are the NHL definition of futility. One playoff win since they made the Cup Finals in 1996, and they have set an NHL record for consecutive seasons out of the playoffs. But what happened on Friday may change everything for them. They went on a signing spree, signing everyone from Jose Theodore to Sean Bergenheim in a matter of hours, not to mention the 3 former Blackhawks they acquired via trades. The dueling opinions on these moves are split on country lines, oddly enough. U.S observers think that these moves are great for a franchise that needed to do something to get out of the doldrums, while Canadian observers think these moves are all for nothing and the team will continue to be just as bad as they have been. Why? The reason I have been inferring is the amount of money the Panthers spent, $28.5 million to be exact. All because they had to meet the salary cap floor at $48.3 million. The Panthers will never ever spend up to that unless they have to, but this year, they had to. I now wonder, and maybe other NHL observers are too: Can we cap the salary cap?

The good thing about the cap being at where it is shows the health of the league. Teams can now spend the money they have well earned in a good and fruitful marketplace. The bad thing about the cap being at $64.3 million, is that we have nowhere to go but down, and that could take a team like the Panthers with it. But, this is what the NHL set forth and everyone agreed to it. EVERYONE. So why single out a team like Florida for doing something they had to do, because the league mandates it? Are we rebelling against a league being healthy and prosperous?

The NHL CBA is up for renewal after this season, and the major sticking point many owners will point to is the height of the cap. How do we prevent it from going so high, in a league with so many teams who don't make enough money to spend to the cap floor?  The simple answer is... well there is no simple answer. How can you get a team out of the doldrums to make enough money to spend to the cap floor because the overall league has not been this healthy in years? Again... there is no simple answer.

The salary cap is this high because the league is coming off a successful postseason, a brand new lucrative American TV deal, and the casual fan pool is increasing. So, by logic, if the naysayers of spending want the league to go back into their immediate post-lockout shell of staving off irrelevance in the U.S, then wish for a lockout come next summer. But, to criticize a team for doing what they have to do because the league is healthy just makes no sense.

I know that many of you will probably say the reason for this outlash towards the Panthers is that they are the Florida Panthers, and they should stay bad. But would there be a similar outlash towards a team like the Maple Leafs spending the same amount of cash that the Panthers did? No. Fans of every team and observers of this great game alike need to understand that criticizing a team like Florida for doing what they did just doesn't make sense in the context of today's NHL.

The NHL has not been as healthy as it has been now in years, so why is the spending spree such a big deal in a bad way? It shouldn't. We will in all likelihood, never see something like this in the NHL for a long time coming, and that may be a good thing for everyone. But right now, overpaying players is what you have to do to reach the floor. There is no choice. All of the many teams below the floor at this point have to do the same thing, and whining about it won't make the situation any better.

So... can we cap the cap? Yes. How can we do that? There is no clear answer right now, but we need to understand that where the league is right now, with its health and the strength of the Canadian Dollar, can allow things like what has happened with the cap to happen. It's a culture change for both the NHL and the Panthers, and change is something that will happen with things like this... it's just the way that the world is.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Lockout Life

The NFL lockout has been garnering news since owners opted out of the past CBA in March of 2010, and it has dominated headlines since. Now, the NBA and its owners have decided to join the fray. And if you thought that the NFLPA and the owners had a lot of ground to make up, the NBPA and the owners have 10 times more. Why has the lockout suddenly become the preferred choice of labor movement, and why will the NBA's be so bad?

As with all leagues, there is a major gap between small and large market teams. But in the NBA, the chasm is about as wide as the Grand Canyon. Large Market teams like Chicago, New York, the 2 LA teams, and now Miami, can make as much money as they want because of ticket sales and TV deals, and then promptly spend that on payroll. The small market teams like Milwaukee, Sacramento, Memphis or Minnesota can't afford that, and you see what happens. The first battle to be fought will likely be between the 2 groups of owners; those who want a drastic change, and those who don't. And it doesn't help that the players aren't budging on anything.

Unlike the NFL where the major issue is dividing up revenue, the NBA's major issue is the hard salary cap, which the NBPA detests. The owners want parity, but as much as fans of the teams that never win want it, the big time owners don't. The NBA was at its height in popularity when there was no parity, but the league was smaller at that point. How the sides can compromise when there is a schism in the owners camp and the players aren't budging makes everything look worse. And then you see the league's economic state.

The league maintains that 22 of 30 teams lose money every year. And when you crunch the numbers, that isn't too far off. Would revenue sharing help? Sure, but would the NBA take the plunge? Doubtful.  But how could this be when the league has had record TV ratings and it has never seemed that the league was as popular as it is now? Combine a recession with a bad business model, and here you are.

How David Stern allows this to happen after his league had already had a season halved by a lockout at a popularity height is beyond me, and beyond many league fans and observers. This one seems destined to be worse. There are so many battles to fight, so few seem like they can be won. The owners that owned an NHL team during the lost season in 2004-05 feel that a season can be lost to get what you want, and the NHL needed an amazing Olympic tournament in 2010 to bring themselves out of the doldrums. Can the NBA afford to wait that long?

While the NFL lockout looks to be ending soon, the NBA lockout has no end in sight. Ric Bucher said that the best case scenario is a 50 game season, but if things don't change soon, we may have no season at all. And David Stern and his owners have no one but themselves to blame.