Monday, January 28, 2013

Is the NFL Doomed?

Bernard Pollard has contributed to the NFL safety debate on both sides. On one, he's seemingly knocked the stuffing out of many players he's played against. On the other, he's gone on the record saying that the NFL may be done in 30 years when talked to CBS Sports.

"I don't think it will be in existence. I could be wrong. It's just my opinion, but I think with the direction things are going - where (NFL Rule Makers) want to lighten up, and they're throwing flags for everything else, there's going to come a point where fans are going to get fed up with it." Certainly fans have been fed up with  the rule changes, but in the interest of safety, many football fans have accepted the new reality and moved on. But for one way or another, is the league in trouble with safety now, in the mind of some, taking the football out of football? In the short term, no.

Pollard also voiced his concerns about an on-field death happening in the league sooner or later. "The only thing I'm waiting for... and Lord, I hope it doesn't happen... is a guy dying on the field. We've had everything else happen there except for a death. We understand what we've signed up for, and it sucks." Carson Palmer echoed the same sentiment in 2009. And while these concerns are genuine, and it would be big trouble for the NFL if it did happen, but with the pace of safety advancements and rule changes, death looks less and less likely to happen from contact. If anything, a cardiac arrest on the field seems the more likely if an on-field death happens, and that has already shaken college basketball to its core in 1990, and has happened in soccer numerous times in the past year, with the most famous being Fabrice Muamba in the FA Cup last year. What should scare the NFL more than an on-field death (gruesome I know, but go with it for now), is having the player pool drop considerably in quality and quantity.

President Obama said recently in an interview with the New Republic that he'd be hesitant to let his son play football because of the dangers involved. Since so many now are pathological about everything being safe and danger-free, football seems the sport with the biggest bulls-eye on it in terms of safety. Fewer parents will let their children play football because of the recently exposed health risks, which means fewer players will play all levels of football, and even fewer will now get to the NFL. Or, the best athletes will be channeled into playing basketball, baseball, and especially soccer. It's the depletion rate that might get the NFL first, before the lawsuits take a true toll.

Everyone under the sun has written recently about how football as a sport is at a crossroads, and its future is certainly marked by the path from which it takes. But is the NFL as a result doomed? We won't know the affect of what is happening today for another 20 or 25 years, because this is the first generation of kids that has been affected by knowing about CTE, and seeing the death of Junior Seau. If the football is still alive and kicking when this generation of kids becomes NFL draft eligible, then maybe the concerns about the league's viability were unfounded. There is still much more to learn about the health risks of playing football, and others sports in general as well, but at the current stage, the NFL is not doomed.

If someone does die on the field during a game, the fears might become true and the doom could start to creep in, but now, we still love football the same way we did when CTE didn't mean anything.

When a glorified flag football game can bring in 12 million viewers across the country, the game is not doomed.

At least... not now.

Friday, January 18, 2013

2012(not)-2013 NHL Season Predictions

3 months late, sure, but now the NHL season is starting, and it is customary for me to make predictions about what will happen. I know I was bad at these at year ago, but this is a new season, and I know more hockey now... although these picks might not indicate it. Enjoy the 99 days of total mayhem and absolute hockey craziness. The predictions will go by final conference order, with playoff picks at the end.

Eastern Conference: 

1. New York Rangers: They were the most complete team last year in the East, and they've now added Rick Nash to the mix to help with scoring. Anything but a Stanley Cup Finals trip will be a disappointment. 

2. Boston Bruins: They will dominate a poor Northeast division this season with 18 of 48 games inside the division. The biggest question remains in net, and that might determine how far they go.

3. Carolina Hurricanes: They had problems scoring last season, so they only went out and got Jordan Staal and Alex Semin. Their defense is an issue, but they should have enough offense in a Southeast division that is tough to call.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins: Full seasons of Crosby and Malkin, plus more solid goaltending, and this team could easily be the number 1 seed in the East. Only questions are: can they get production from their bottom 6, and can Marc-Andre Fleury rebound from a playoff horror show?

5. Philadelphia Flyers: This team will probably score the most goals in all of the NHL, but they might also allow the most as well. If Ilya Bryzgalov plays like he did in Phoenix, then this team could be scary. But so is their defense corps.

6. Washington Capitals: The Caps will play good looking hockey again under the heralding of the artist, Adam Oates, but the transition might happen during the season, which knocks them down here. They're too good to miss the playoffs though.

7. Florida Panthers: If only this team won 2 of those 18 shootouts they lost... Injuries could hurt them early, but since so much hasn't changed with this team, a slight improvement is likely, although the Southeast division is much better.

8. Ottawa Senators: Erik Karlsson might have to replay his Norris form from last year to get here, but they have enough young talent coming into their own to make the playoffs this season.

9. Tampa Bay Lightning: I should just call them Philadelphia light. If their defense isn't awful, watch out. The biggest question remains in net with newcomer Anders Lindback.

10. Buffalo Sabres: This team has to be happy that the #1 draft pick is now available to all 14 teams that miss the playoffs, not just the 5 worst. Not good enough for the playoffs, not bad enough to start over.

11. New Jersey Devils: They are old in too many areas, and the loss of Zach Parise could kill their offense. Although, it is hard to doubt a team with Marty Brodeur in net.

12. Montreal Canadiens: They are far away from contending, but they have some nice pieces. Alex Galchenyuk, if he stays on, will be fun to watch. 

13. New York Islanders: Only 2.5 years until Brooklyn calling! Until then, watch John Tavares and Matt Moulson light up the Island, while Evgeni Nabokov gets lit up.

14. Winnipeg Jets: The novelty of the MTS Centre will wear off this year, and they haven't improved enough to compete in the logjam that is the Southeast division.

15. Toronto Maple Leafs: 9 years without the postseason and running. In Toronto, too.

Western Conference:

1. St. Louis Blues: Rock solid team that didn't change much, and has 2 very good goalies which will help in a compressed schedule. Their playoff loss to the Kings will help them learn.

2. LA Kings: The Stanley Cup Champs changed very little from the team that won the Cup, and they might even win their division this season. This team is still very, very good.

3. Vancouver Canucks: Injuries are a problem to start the year, but in the Northwest, that won't hurt them. Their AHL players are better than most of the Flames bottom 6.

4. Chicago Blackhawks: So much offensive talent, yet so many questions about Corey Crawford being the guy. If he is, then the Hawks are a darkhorse contender for the Cup.

5. Detroit Red Wings: Can't see them missing the playoffs even without Nicky Lidstrom, and even though their defense corps could be a horror show.

6. Phoenix Coyotes: Never underestimate any team coached by Dave Tippett. What's scary is, he says this team might be better than the Western Conference runners up team from last year.

7. Nashville Predators: No Suter, no problem? They have enough young talent on the blueline to help Shea Weber, and up front to score, to keep Pekka Rinne happy and the Preds in the postseason.

8. Minnesota Wild: I might be stretching this, but Parise and Suter with some of their pieces makes them a playoff team. They aren't good enough to contend though. With their farm system, that will come soon enough.

9. San Jose Sharks: This year ends the long run of success for a Sharks team that never quite got over the hump. Too bad.

10. Anaheim Ducks: I really want them to make the playoffs for Teemu Selanne's NHL swan song, but they have too many defensive issues to make the postseason. And about Getzlaf and Perry...

11. Edmonton Oilers: You can only get so much better in a quick turnaround season. The young talent will make them better, but not playoffs better.

12. Colorado Avalanche: They are a confusing team, and they don't score very many goals. If they have any defensive frailties, this could be a disastrous season.

13. Dallas Stars: Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr are a combined 4 times older than the length of the Stars time in Texas. And that might be how long this season feels for Stars fans (on an aside, sign Jamie Benn please).

14. Calgary Flames: Please, start rebuilding so Jarome Iginla can win a Cup... please!

15. Columbus Blue Jackets: Seth Jones or Nathan Mackinnon?


1) NYR over 8) OTT
2) BOS over 7) FLA
6) WSH over 3) CAR
4) PIT over 5) PHI

1) NYR over 6) WSH
4) PIT over 2) BOS

4) PIT over 1) NYR


1) STL over 8) MIN
2) LA over 7) NSH
3) VAN over 6) PHX
4) CHI over 5) DET

1) STL over 4) CHI
3) VAN over 2) LA

1) STL over 3) VAN

2013 Stanley Cup Finals: 1) STL over 4) PIT in 7.

Sorry to Blues and Penguins fans for ruining your respective seasons in advance.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Did You See That: Other Covered Up Sports Hoaxes

With the Manti Te'o fake girlfriend story blowing up twitter and the sports world in general, I started to think about other sports hoaxes that were covered up. Me and my super-secret set of spies did lots of digging to uncover these stories, so if you have a weak constitution, you might want to stop reading.

Luis Suarez: His diving during most games allows him ample practice to become the focal point of the 2016 Summer Olympics Uruguayan diving team: His true calling. (Authors Note: This story seems eerily similar to one we uncovered about Daniel and Henrik Sedin, although that was for synchronized diving)

Ryan Braun: That wasn't testosterone that failed a drug test for him in December of 2011, it was just obscenely high levels of cheap quality Manischewitz wine that Bud Selig loathes.

Tim Tebow: Oddly enough, he isn't just a devout Christian, but also a devout follower of the little known Baha'i faith. His bible tweets spell out a secret message declaring his true faith in the Bab.

Dustin Penner: Turns out, his love of pancakes came from Dean Lombardi joking about what Penner would play for to get out of Edmonton.

AJ McCarron: His girlfriend is not a former Miss Alabama, she's a former Miss Mississippi, and is understandably embarrassed about that.

Dwight Howard: Never really wanted to leave Orlando, because when he won his first Championship, going to Disney World would have been nothing more than a walk for him (which oddly enough, he does plenty of in LA).

Fernando Torres: His poor performances for Chelsea were secretly part of a plan to get Rafa Benitez back as his manager, which worked!... *looks over to spies* What? You mean they've signed Demba Ba anyway? *shakes head*

Tim Thomas: Not playing while hiding in his Colorado house was a secret ploy to get Karl Rove to say he's still better than most NHL starting goaltenders.

Rahim Moore: Blew the coverage against Jacoby Jones because he secretly hates Jack Del Rio's Oklahoma Drill as much as most anyone with a brain does.

Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo: Both grew out their immense beards because they were raising baby birds in the middle of them, and somehow nobody noticed for either one.

Lance Armstrong: Went on Oprah to announce he did in fact dope was carefully planned out since he knew about Manti Te'o's fake girlfriend before the media did.

Reagan Mauia: Lennay's real! I swear! I met her at an after-party! (Author's Note: Speech was slurred, walk was staggered). This was all to cover up the fact that people don't know he's a NFL player.

Maybe I'm not who I say I am here... Maybe I'm the person who created Lennay Kekua... you have no way of proving it...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Can You Win when so Much has Been Lost?

Out of the 4 major leagues in North America, NHL fans are used to being jerked around by the commissioner's office, their favorite teams front office, and players. That doesn't mean they stand for it though. Finally, after 113 days of being fed PR spin, drivel, and useless explosions in negotiations that made facepalms the only medicine required, the lockout ended. The noise has thankfully been stifled, and pucks can be dropped where they belong; on sheets of ice, not a New York City sidewalk turned to ice by the dead of winter. Fans are quick to decide "winners" and "losers" of this labor strife, but is it worth it, when it's clear everyone sans Mr. Beckenbaugh lost?

The familiar refrain a year or so prior to the latest lockout was, "There's no way this can happen again, right?" This was comforting to fans with 2004-05 still fresh in their minds. But as the witching hour got closer, murmurs surfaced and heads began to roll, as the lockout seemed more inevitable. Fans were then treated to the ride of their lives, a social media induced roller coaster of positives then negatives with only podiums, Guy Serota, and an NHL insider in funny photoshops to quell nerves. While the NHL is back, and it sure has felt like something has been missing from the sports calendar, how can we as fans say anyone won these negotiations when they have been so asinine, infuriating, and downright painful to track? The NHL is the butt of jokes around the sports world for a reason.

Yes, Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr are supposed to be spin-doctors by trade, but that doesn't mean that issues that seem so small and minute can be blown up to be "the hill we will die on" so quickly, when they didn't register a day before? Hearing negotiations have blown up when they look so positive is infuriating, and no column that makes up synonyms for infuriating can replace that feeling for the fans. At a point, you can only spin something so fast before people get whiplash, and fans got that quickly. Apathy set in soon as well, unsurprisingly. So, the reactions of many who are certainly glad to see the NHL back, but are by no means happy, are understandable. While the people who work in NHL arenas and the businesses that depend on NHL hockey have been the biggest losers in this whole ordeal, no player or owner has won anything in these negotiations other than the right to say they have saved face. Arguably the most passionate group of fans in North American sports, especially in the US, deserve better than this. Thankfully, everyone was saved by the calendar (not the Mayan one).

The job now of these men, plus their constituents is to rebuild trust with the fans, because everyone involved in the NHL had a role in this being dragged out. All the momentum from Crosby, Ovechkin, the 2010 Olympics, and a fresh TV deal in the States has been stopped cold, and now everyone has to build it up all over again, and that's no small feat. Small displays of charity to the people that make the league go, and certainly not buckets of blue paint on the NHL's ice will not build this trust back. It might take years to do that, and luckily the next work stoppage might not be for another 8 years. Lucky us.

How different the NHL landscape looks in 2020 is not relevant right now, but how different it looks in the next 2 weeks is, because the sight of empty seats in NHL arenas cannot be coated over with "Thank You Fans" and a Marek Malik skills competition goal between his legs. There is work to be done, and now that the PR has been shelved, it can at least begin. No one can win from this, and hopefully everyone can work together to minimize the losses. That's the only way to save this league from itself.

Game on indeed, NHL. Now help all the fans out at let it stay on for good.

Friday, January 4, 2013

2012-13 NFL Playoff Picks

For my honor! For my integrity! To prove that I actually have no idea what I'm doing! These are my 2012-13 NFL playoff picks.


Wild Card Round:
3) HOU over 6) CIN
4) BAL over 5) IND

Divisional Round:
1) DEN over 4) BAL
2) NE over 3) HOU

AFC Championship Game:
1) Manning over 2) Brady


Wild Card Round:
3) GB over 6) MIN
5) SEA over 4) WSH

Divisional Round:
3) GB over 2) SF
5) SEA over 1) ATL

NFC Championship Game:
3) GB over 5) SEA

Super Bowl XLVII:
1) DEN over 3) GB

Sorry to both Packers and Broncos fans for jinxing you both in advance.

2012 NFL Season Predictions in Review

Usually at the end of the regular season for certain leagues, I look back on my preseason predictions to see how smart I was, or more often, how dumb I was. It's time again for the NFL picks in review, and I doubt my MLB momentum carried over.

What I got Right: I got 6 of 8 division winners right, with the only 2 that were wrong being the Giants and Steelers (we'll get to them in a minute). In the AFC, I got 4 of 6 playoff teams right, missing on both the Steelers and Chargers. I was a bit less successful in the NFC, with 3 of 6 right, missing on the Giants, Eagles, and Bears. In terms of getting teams final records exactly right, I did that with 3 teams. I got the Jets, Panthers, and Cowboys records exactly right. That's the extent of the good...

What I Screwed up On: I grossly overrated the Bills, Jaguars, Lions and Eagles. Not all of those are surprising, mind you, but I had to overrate a few teams, and those were the big ones. I underrated the Redskins, Rams, Vikings, Colts big time as well, but I think everyone else did that too.

Awards: My Coach of the Year pick was Lovie Smith. Welp. My MVP pick was Tom Brady, and while he's always a candidate, either Peyton Manning or Adrian Peterson will win that. Andrew Luck was my offensive ROY pick, and he could win it, depending on how people rate RG3 and Russell Wilson. Luke Kuechly was my defensive ROY pick, and he was silently consistent this year for the Panthers, and I can't see anyone else that deserves this more than him. Janoris Jenkins was good for the Rams this year, but was not such an integral of a defensive like Kuechly was. Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Willis were my Offensive and Defensive POY picks respectively, and while they are always going to be candidates for those awards year in and year out, I don't think those guys will win those awards this time around.

In Summary: My Super Bowl pick has already one team out in the Steelers, so that gives you an indication of my struggles in picks this year. The 49ers can salvage some pride for me, but I don't think they're heading to New Orleans this year. I'll guess I'll have to take my MLB pick record, and enjoy that until the NHL possibly starts again.