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Monday, November 11, 2013

Too early for the panic button

The two-time defending NBA Champions have not got off to a strong start. Although the Miami Heat are 4-3 to start the season, they are leading a mediocre Southeast division. Their last loss came against the Boston Celtics on a last minute shot. Through 7 games, the Heat are averaging slightly over 100 points allowed a game. So now the defense is in question. Defense, which has always been the blueprint for a Pat Riley team.

Lebron James, who was supposed to be on Celtic's guard Jeff Green when he beat the Heat at the buzzard, has made his displeasure for the team's defense known. Now, this isn't a blame everybody else situation. James is including himself. This is great and he's showing he's matured as a leader.

The good thing about basketball is that there isn't that many days off and you get to go back to the hardwood quickly. The Heat, whom offensively are one of the best teams in the NBA, tip-off tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks.

What do you guys think? Will the Heat woes continue? Or was this just a little bump in the road?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Who do you side with?

Richie Incognito, Miami Dolphins offensive lineman has been getting quite a lot of support lately. A lot of that support is coming from his own locker room. After being suspended on Sunday night for allegations that he bullied fellow offensive lineman, Johnathan Martin. Players like Brian Hartline and Tyson Clabo have made it clear that "Richie" is not a bad guy. Incognito, who has a reputation for being the NFL's dirtiest player, feels like his past is haunting him.

Martin, a former Stanford University standout, left the team suddenly on Monday afternoon. This behavior shocked his teammates and fans. Most teammates that have spoken on the matter are saying that Martin was like Incognito's little brother. In fact, the infamous voice mail that Martin brought forward recently, was a laughing matter back in April.

I don't know why, but when I first heard that Martin left the team due to hazing, the first guy that came to mind was Incognito. Maybe, I am like the rest of us who will judge people on the past. As more of this situation develops, it's only looking worse for both- especially, Martin. Incognito, will probably find another team, but get paid minimum salary; Martin will be known as a gentle giant (in other words-soft), who you can trust in the locker room. That will make it tough for him to get another gig in the NFL.

So who do you side with? Was Incognito just doing what all NFL players do in a locker room environment? Did he go overboard? Or is Martin too soft (mentally, physically, and emotionally) to play football?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Champions League predictions

Eight Champions Leagues games will be played today. The main card seems to be Juventus vs Real Madrid. Real Madrid is in great form after beating Spanish clubs Sevilla and Rayo Vallecano. Juventus is also coming off a strong win against Parma.

The last time these two teams faced each other was two weeks ago. Real Madrid won 2-1. I expect these that Madrid have a similar fate this time around.

Other predictions:

Manchester City 2-1 CSKA Moskva
Real Sociedad 1-3 Manchester United
FC Copenhagen 1-2 Galatsaray
Paris-Saint Germain 3-0 Anderlecht
Plzen 0-4 Bayern Munich
Shaktar Donetsk 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Olympiacos 0-1 Benfica

So what are your thoughts or predictions for Tuesday's Champions League fixtures?

Ausmus named Tigers Manager

Brad Ausmus, former major league catcher, has been named the new Detroit Tigers' manager. Ausmus, aside from managing the Israeli team in the World Baseball Classic, has no managerial experience. Before being hired on Sunday to manage the American League Central champs, Ausmus was a special assistant to the general manager in San Diego.

So what qualified Ausmus as the leading candidate for the job that Jim Leyland left behind? Well, Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski was impressed with Ausmus' interview the most. Ausmus, who played 18 seasons in the majors, retired after the 2010 season. This gives him an advantage similar to young managers like Mike Redmond (Miami Marlins), Mike Matheny (St. Louis Cardinals), and (Robin Ventura), in that there's no disconnect from the locker room culture.

As previously mentioned, the Tigers are a team still at the peak collectively. They will continue to contend. So should this be easy for Ausmus? Well, no. This will be as challenging as it was for Matheny, who had to replace another legendary manager, Tony La Russa, after winning the World Series in 2011. Ausmus will have the pieces in place like Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. He just needs to know when to move them. Good thing he'll have an experienced bench coach in Gene Lamont, who is the only holdover from Leyland's staff.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Martin claims harrasment

Jonathan Martin, a 6'5" 312-pound offensive lineman, left the Miami Dolphins squad earlier this week due to an unsafe workplace environment. After a few days, rumors and unnamed sources are coming out. Most of those rumors or accusations are pointing towards Guard Richie Incognito. Incognito, who usually gets in trouble for on-the-field penalties, has been accused of harassing Martin. Those unnamed sources, who are most likely other young players on the Dolphins, stated that veterans are taking advantage of rookies and other young players on the team. In fact, reports claim that Incognito asked for $15,000 for a Las Vegas trip with other Dolphin veterans.

Rookie hazing has always been a part of sports, but it usually takes place in training camps. It's difficult for coaches, front office, and even fans to find out that these things are happening in the middle of a losing streak. It would be hard to believe that not one coach was aware of anything like this. In fact, the Dolphins have asked the NFL to start an investigation in to this matter.

Incognito displayed his plea for innocence on Twitter:

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.


@68INCOGNITO at 4:47 am. November 3, 2013.

For now, the Dolphins aren't speaking any further on this matter except for the following press release found on the official Miami Dolphins website:

“The Miami Dolphins, including Coach Joe Philbin and Jonathan's teammates, have been in communication with Jonathan and his family since his departure from the club and continue to be in contact. Our primary concern for Jonathan is his overall health and well-being. As an organization, we take any accusations of player misconduct seriously. The notion of bullying is based on speculation and has not been presented to us as a concern from Jonathan or anyone else internally. The reports that the NFLPA is investigating our players are inaccurate. Additionally, the NFL offered its assistance during this time, which we appreciated and gladly accepted. We will continue to make Jonathan's health and well-being a focus as we do with all of our players."

It's great to see the Dolphin Organization supporting Martin. Some may question Martin's toughness- especially mental. I believe this could have been handled in-house by Martin, as well as other coaches. Once again, I would find it hard to believe that a professional football team with at least 20 coaches wouldn't know what was going on.

 So what are your thoughts on the whole situation? In this blown out of proportion? Is Martin overreacting? Or did Incognito and other teammates go too far?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Can the Chiefs go undefeated?

After a dismal season in 2012, in which the Kansas City Chiefs finished with a record of 2-14, some changes needed to be made. First, they started at the top. Scott Pioli, who was hired after the 2008 season as the General Manager, was let go. Pioli, who came over from the New England Patriots, was expected to bring a new winning tradition. Pioli was replaced by John Dorsey. Dorsey injected the team with enthusiasm from the beginning. He went on to hire Head Coach Andy Reid, who was successful in Philadelphia. So far this season, Reid has his new team at 7-0.

Also, after tying for the worst record, changes to the roster had to be made. Most importantly, the Chiefs brought in former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Alex Smith. Smith has never been flashy, but tends to get the job done. That's exactly how we can describe his season so far. Although he's only thrown nine touchdowns this season, he still maintains a good touchdown-to-interception ratio. Smith, a nine-year veteran, plays it safe and minimizes turnovers.

Another key player to the success of the Chiefs this year is Running Back, Jamaal Charles. He has regained his form that had made him one of the best running backs in the league a couple of seasons ago. Through seven games, he has rushed for 635 yards and averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Charles, a six-year veteran, also does well minimizing turnovers. So far this season, Charles has only lost 2 fumbles.

Smith and Charles may be the offensive leaders and helping the team win, but they're not the main reasons this team is undefeated. In fact, it's not one player that stands out; It's the Chiefs Defense. The Chiefs' stingy Pass Defense ranks 4th in the NFL. They have racked up 10 interceptions and 36 quarterback sacks. This defense is quicker and always looking for the turnover

So how about the remaining schedule? Well, the Chiefs will face the 3-5 Buffalo Bills tomorrow. The Chiefs will get a bye in week 10, but their schedule doesn't get easier. Usually, the worst team in the NFL gets the easiest schedule next season. The next month is nothing easy for the Chiefs. They will encounter Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos twice, and the San Diego Chargers all in a matter of three weeks. This will not only determine if the Chiefs go undefeated, but really give them that challenge to determine if they are a true undefeated team.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Miami, FSU rivlary on primetime again

Recently, I talked about how certain American sports rivalries have died out. The Miami Hurricanes and Florida State Seminole rivalry is no exception. In the 1990's. This was the top rivalry in the nation- On and off the field. These two programs were constantly ranked in the top 10 and often battling for National Champions. Not only were the battles for bowl games, but for top recruits. These two programs have always been on the prowl for top recruits across the state of Florida- especially in South Florida. Whenever you found a recruiter from one program, you know the counterpart was there, as well.

This rivalry was also made famous by FSU place kickers over the years. Have you ever heard of "Wide Right?" FSU lost more than one game to Miami in the last seconds by missing field goals wide to the right. In fact, in 2002, FSU place kicker Xavier Beitia, missed a kick wide to the left. This was a change to the trend that happened in the 90's

So why did both programs drop in polls in the last decade? Well, as I discussed in a previous post, these two ACC schools went through tough situations- Especially, Miami. The U, as the University of Miami football team is recognized by many, was sanctioned by NCAA on a couple of occasions. In fact, just a week ago, they were placed on probation. These sanctions have come with reduced amount of scholarships, which hinder the recruiting process. Also, these two programs did not adjust to strengthening competition within the state of Florida. The University of Florida, who reemerged as a national powerhouse when Urban Meyer took over as head coach in 2005, sold recruits well. In fact, they constantly had top 5 recruiting classes in Meyer's reign. Another school, the University of South Florida, recruited well for a couple of years (2006-2008). In fact, they were ranked as high as #2 in the 2007 regular season. In other words, it wasn't a 2-horse race anymore.

So as FSU went through a coaching change a few years ago, their recruiting improved again. They've gone back to that flashy style of play. They can beat you with the long-ball or an 80-yard run for the touchdown. This year, they are led by Freshman quarterback, Jameis Winston. Some scouts say he is pro-ready. Winston is your modern-day quarterback, who likes to scramble and pick up some yards on the run, but he'll throw one deep if needed.

Miami is led by Senior quarterback, Stephen Morris. This was supposed to be a Heisman-like season for him. Injuries have hindered his performance. He is still applauded for not missing games and his teammates recognize him for his toughness. Duke Johnson has been Miami's most consistent player. The running back has rushed for 823 yards so far this season. He has averaged for 6.7 yards per carry. The U hasn't had a running back of this caliber since the days of Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, and Frank Gore.

Having these two programs back on top is great. As fans, we would like for them to stay on top and have this rivalry mean something constantly. I used to like the fact when I would like on a scoreboard and both schools had a ranking number next to them.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Snyder not changing team's name

For over eight decades, the Washington Redskins have been in existence. All of a sudden, a group of Native Americans have come forward and stated that they are offended by the name. The Oneida Nation, who have brought forward this claim, defines the term Redskins as a racial slur. The Oneida had their chance to meet with NFL executives today. Neither Daniel Snyder (Washington Redskins owner), nor Roger Goodell (NFL Commissioner) attended the meeting. Ray Halbritter, the Oneida Nation leader, left disappointed after the meeting. He feels the executives he met with defend the use of the Redskin name.

Daniel Snyder jumped on a Public Relations opportunity and wrote a letter to the fans. He defends the use of the Redskins name and there is no inclination as to changing the name. Snyder had the chance to meet with Goodell in person yesterday. Synder made it clear to Goodell that he is not willing to change the name. 

As a result, Halbritter has called on the Goodell to exercise his authority as the NFL Commissioner. Halbritter wants goodell to sanction Snyder for "conduct detrimental to the rest of the league." The NFL execs that conducted the meeting, promised Halbritter and other Oneida representatives that they will have their chance to meet with Goodell, Snyder, and the rest of the league's owners around Super Bowl week.

So why now? Why are the Native Americans coming forward with their racist claim after so many years?Well, Native American leaders have met before with former NFL Commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, in 1992. The Redskins and the Kansas City Chiefs were the teams in question. Tagliabue simply told them he can't pressure the teams to change their names. This matter died out quickly after that. 

So will the matter die out, as well? Or will there be enough media-driven material to keep it alive until Super Bowl week? Keep in mind, Native Americans were polled and nearly 80% were not offended by the Redskins name. This is going to make it tough for the Oneida Nation to state their case.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ortiz, Red Sox 1 win away

David Ortiz, the 16-year veteran, has been with the Boston Red Sox since 2003. In his time with the Red Sox, Ortiz has gotten a chance to play with hall of fame-caliber players (Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, and Curt Schilling), break the bambino curse, and most importanly, rewarded with contract extensions for his consistent play. As mentioned, Ortiz has seen many greats come and go in the organization, but he is the only player remaining from the 2004 team that broke "the curse" and won the World Series.

So what has kept Ortiz, who turns 38 next month, with the Red Sox for so long?  Ortiz has remained productive- plain and simple. Since joining the Red Sox, he hasn't hit less than 23 home runs in a season. Aside from consistency, Ortiz is a great teammate and clubhouse leader. Big Papi, as nickname that was given to Ortiz since his first couple of seasons with the Red Sox, has always been respected by his teammates. He's also a fan favorite, which has made him marketable for the organization.

Is that it? Are those the only reasons why Big Papi is still a Red Sox after 11 seasons? Well, no. How about post-season performance? Ortiz is clutch in the off-season. Entering Monday's game, Ortiz had a .290 batting average with 17 home runs and 59 RBIs. Currenty, in this post-season, Ortiz is hitting a whopping .733 with five homers and 14 RBIs.

Jon Lester, Game 5 starter, who dominated the Cardinals like he did in game 1, has been key to the Red Sox being on the verge of winning the World Series. It is hard to take any credit from Lester after both starts, but it is equally hard to leave off 250-pound Designated Hitter off the line-up, as well. If the Red Sox go on to win the World Series, David Ortiz has my vote for World Series MVP.