Category: Sports

Super Week

Well, it’s Super Bowl week. Normally, I don’t pay too much attention to the comings and goings of the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Of course, normally, the Super Bowl isn’t taking place in my hometown, and an hour away from where I live.

The city of Indianapolis is pulling all the red carpet in a major way this week. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about it being in Indy, and I’m glad to see that the planning has gone so well. Quite frankly, I hope they eat their words. I’ve been hearing nothing but positive remarks about the city so far. Who knows? Maybe Indy will host again in the future.

On Monday night, Katie and I went to see her brother play. He joined a band named Stereo Deluxe a few months back. The band has been around for years, but he just stepped in a few months ago for somebody who felt like it was time to move on. It was a great show. They had some minor technical difficulties during their set, but we’re able to play through them. They’ve got a great sound and are a lot of fun in concert. If you get the chance, check them out. Their music is on iTunes.

All in all, this week is really showcasing Hoosier Hospitality at its finest. There’s local flavor and a national spotlight. I’m proud to call myself a Hoosier.


We Are the Champions!

In my league, the fantasy football season wrapped up on Sunday.  I was in Week 2 of the Championship Game.  Going into the week, I had a huge lead from Week 1, but that lead was erased quickly when the 49ers decided to pull Frank Gore after only 9 yards rushing (which means 0 points), and Matt Stafford went off for 48 points (we don’t use standard scoring in our league; QB’s get 6 points for TD’s, not 4).  When I checked during the 4 p.m. games, I was actually losing by about 12 points or so.

However, Ray Rice went nuts on the Bengals defense, ending up with 31 points, and the Falcons defense dropped from 24 points to 15, and Fitzgerald and Bowe ended up with decent games as well (14 & 9 respectively).  In the end, I was holding on to a 33 point lead with my opponent having Nicks going in the late game.  I knew it was possible that he could go off, so I was checking in from time to time.  Nicks ended with 13 points, and I ended up with a 20 point win to take the championship.

I’ve enjoyed this season of fantasy football.  I took an early gamble and picked up Cam Newton, which paid back in spades.  Of course, I am slightly ashamed to mention that I decided not to keep Drew Brees in the offseason, and he ended up having a monster year (10 weeks with 25+ points, including the last 6 straight).  But all in all I had a great team: Ray Rice, Frank Gore, Larry Fitzgerald, Dwayne Bowe, and Jermichael Finley were my constant players, alongside Newton after Week 3.

I know it may seem silly, but I enjoy fantasy football because it’s a good way to keep in touch with the NFL, especially when “your” teams are having terrible seasons, which ended up happening for both the Bears and the Colts this year.  Having to only think about it once a week certainly helps as well.  I tend to lose interest in fantasy baseball because of the daily need to set lineups.

Anyhoo!  This was the 3rd year of the 3 season keeper league that I started with my friends.  We’ll see if the league meets up again next season.  If we do, we all start with a clean slate, so it will be interesting to see how things go.

The Power of One

I live in Indiana, and a good portion of Indiana has become Colts country in the last several years – the last 13 years, to be precise, the time when Peyton Manning was drafted as the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts.  As you may know by now, last Sunday a neck injury kept Manning out of his first game since being drafted in 1998.  A few weeks back, the Colts signed Kerry Collins out of retirement to hold the spot until Peyton was healthy enough to take the field again.

Game 1 of the Kerry Collins Experiment took place… and it was a disaster.  Now, a lot of people are saying that the 34-7 drubbing at the hands of the Texans was not because of the absence of one Man(ning), but that the defense did not play well enough to keep them in the game.  Well…. that’s not quite what I saw.

1. Collins’ final line: 16-31 for 197 yards and 1 TD.  Okay, that’s not terrible, and, actually, if the Colts had any kind of running game, that would be acceptable…. but they don’t.  On the other hand, when you are down 34-0 at halftime, you aren’t going to get your running game established anyway.  However, that puts Collins at a 51.6% completion percentage; a percentage that Manning hasn’t sniffed since December of 2009.  In fact, in all his seasons, Manning has only had a lower completion percentage 9 times.  Against the Texans?  Manning had a 53.6% in their second meeting last season, and that is the worst that he has played against Houston.  So, what does this establish?  Collins is no Manning – I don’t think anybody is arguing that… at least nobody with any sense of sanity.  Of course, you know what you don’t see in that line above: fumbles… 3 of them… 2 of which were lost.

2. Collins fumbles on consecutive snaps.  Now, the offensive line needs to do a better job protecting the QB; however, when the pressure comes, Collins needs to hang onto the ball.  He gets hit, fumbles, and gives the ball to the Texans on the 12 yard line.  The next possession, he misses the snap, fumbles, and give the ball to the Texans on the 18 yard line.  You can’t do that.  Maybe you will blame it on the fact that the Colts didn’t sign him until late in the preseason, but let’s remember, Kerry Collins is no spring chicken.  He has been in the league for 17 seasons.  He is playing for his 6th different team, and he has been a starting QB for most of that time.  He should be able to take a snap without giving the opponent the ball inside the Red Zone.

3. Final Score: 34-7.  Now, a lot of people are going to bang on the defense for allowing 34 points.  Is that fair?  Collins gives the Texans that ball inside the 20 on consecutive snaps.  The defense doesn’t get any time to rest on the sideline between these drives, and they are given a combined… combined… 30 yards to work with.  You cannot put your defense in that kind of position, especially not against a team that has a very capable QB in Schaub; one of, if not, the best WR in the league in Andre Johnson; and a capable running game, even without Adrian Foster.  So, there’s 14 points.  Oh, and the special teams gives up a 79 yard punt return for a TD right before the half.  There’s another 7.  Take away those 21 points, and you are looking at a 13-7 game.  Throw in a rare short field goal miss by Vinatieri, and you have a potential 13-10 loss instead.  Let’s not forget, the Texans didn’t score in the second half.  The defense gave up a long drive (79 yards) at the beginning of the game that resulted in a 25-yard field goal, and another long drive (89 yards) in the second quarter that resulted in a Johnson TD.  All in all, could the defense have played better?  Yes, but they weren’t awful, and they weren’t the primary reason why they lost the game.

Conclusion: How much of a difference would Peyton Manning have made?  A huge difference.  In the Peyton Manning era, the Colts have only scored fewer than 13 points ten times, and two of those were in his first three games as a professional.  Against the Texans, the Manning-led Colts have never scored fewer than 19.  If Manning is in the game, maybe he doesn’t lose those fumbles; maybe the defense is more rested, and maybe it turns into a 19-13 win.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming Collins for the loss – it is a team game.  What I am saying is that some were putting the loss on other issues – like the defense – not the absence of Manning.  I’m not so sure that I completely agree.  I think that if Manning is playing, this would have been a completely different game.

The bottom line is: we don’t know, nor will we ever know what could have happened in Week 1 down in Houston if Peyton Manning had been under center instead of Kerry Collins.  For all we know, he could have been knocked out of the game, and Curtis Painter would have been the QB, and the final score would have been exactly what it was in the first place.  But, one thing is for sure, Manning has been named MVP of the NFL four times, and maybe we’ll start to see that it should have been more.  That’s the power of one player in this game.

I was listening to ESPN radio the other morning.  I enjoy listening to Mike & Mike in the mornings because they are engaging and entertaining.  Occasionally, they have topics that tend to dominate the day, and on with the allegations of rules violations at the University of Miami, Wednesday was one of those days.  There were a couple of key points that really stuck out to me as I was listening.

First, the issue of throwing out the rules in the first place.  Greeny was making the argument that the only reason why these things are violations in the first place are because the NCAA says they are violations, so why not change it so that this is no longer against the rules?

For some reason, Greeny did not think that this was an absolutely ridiculous suggestion, which is funny because he is usually the one that falls back on logic when addressing the issues.  He argued that since this is happening anyway, why not change the rules so that it is permissible?  Golic immediately shot back with the chaos that would ensue.  Eventually, what would happen is that the schools with the most money are going to be the ones who end up winning every year because they can afford the better players.  If that were to happen, then college athletics will go down the drain.

The simple truth is, you shouldn’t change the rules simply because nobody is paying attention to them in the first place.  There are definitely some instances of corruption in college athletics, and they need to be addressed, not praised.  By changing the rules to accommodate the activities that are currently violations would be caving in to the corruption, and there is never an instance in history when that has gone well for anybody.

Secondly, as so often happens, the issue of paying student-athletes also came up.  As somebody who is currently paying of around $60,000 in student loans, I’m completely against the idea of paying student-athletes, particularly the ones who have their tuition, room, board, books, and travel already provided, while the “regular” student often struggles and has to take “breaks” from school in order to pay just the tuition.  And I put breaks in quotation marks because what often happens is that student eventually has to quit school altogether because he/she cannot afford it.

In a survey that took into account 2007/2008 total costs, your average 4 year public university came in a just under $14,000.  Put that over 4 years, and the student-athlete with a full scholarship is getting around $55,000 to go to class, practice and games, while the average student is trying to find a way to scrape all that together just to go to class.  Oh, and by the way, in some schools, do you know what part of that tuition goes to – running the athletic program.

According to USA Today, in 2004/5 Auburn’s athletic program took just under $1 million from student fees.  In 2006/7, that amount was up to $4.9 million.  do you really think the university cut $4 million from it’s budget in other places, or do you think they simply raised tuition?

Now, I will say that there may be legitimate reasons why a student-athlete would want to hold down a job.  While everything they could want that would be school-related is going to be provided, who doesn’t want to go out occasionally, or buy a new game for their Xbox?  Fine.  The NCAA does not permit student-athletes to have jobs because there is the potential that they would be compensated for work that they did not do, or they would be over-compensated for the work they did do.  Perhaps student-athletes should  be able to have a job, but a job that is regulated by the university.

Work-study is a program that allows the student to work on campus.  My experience with work-study several years ago was that the hours and pay per semester are limited.  Perhaps the NCAA could explore work-study as an option for those players who would like to have some extra spending money.  It’s not a lot of money, but even a little would go a long way in removing the temptation to violate the NCAA rules for some extra cash.

Ultimately, it is a problem that is going to have to be dealt with.  Unfortunately what it has come to at this point is that the NCAA needs to start handing out more severe penalties so that the universities will be more self-regulating, and the student-athletes will be held more accountable.

So, much to the delight of a nation of people who hate Lebron James, the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat in Game 6 to win the NBA Championship.  Unfortunately, what is getting all the press is not that the Mavs won, but that the Heat (and specifically Lebron) lost.  Let’s not forget that the Mavs are the team that destroyed the Lakers to get to the Western Conference Finals, made the Thunder look like the inexperienced team that they are to get to the Finals, and dominated the Heat in Game 5 and Game 6.  It was a great series, and the Mavs came out on top in convincing fashion over the last two games.

Yet, as I read through some of the things on Twitter and Facebook, people are cheering the fact that Lebron James choked.  That the great Heat experiment failed to bring in a championship after 11 months of playing together.  That James should have stayed in Cleveland, and we’d all love him.  (Of course, this neglects the fact that Cleveland had a horrible basketball team this season, and wouldn’t have made it out of the second round of the playoffs even if James was still there.)

Apparently at the press conference after the game, Lebron said, “All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before.”  This quote was on the Sportsnation Facebook page with the question: Where Lebron’s comments out of line?  As you can imagine, there are all sorts of responses along the lines of: Lebron is a jerk; I hate Lebron; he should’ve stayed in Cleveland; etc.

But the simple truth is, even if he was being a smug, arrogant jerk in saying this… he’s right.  Everybody that has poured so much energy into rooting against Lebron is going to have to wake up the next day to their regular lives.  They don’t have anything to root against anymore.  They are still bitter about this decision that he felt like was best for him, and the simple truth is, he’s moved on.  He has now played an entire season as a member of the Miami Heat, and he got further there than he ever did as a player in Cleveland.  (Yes, I know that Cleveland did make the Finals when Lebron was there, but, if memory serves, they were swept by the Spurs.  So, by winning two games in the Finals, he went further than before.)

Now, I wasn’t fond of the way that Lebron made his decision known.  It was the epitome of arrogance, but who hasn’t done something like that in their lives?  Because he is a major sports star who gets paid millions of dollars, we think that it’s okay to hang on to that bitterness, but what good does it do?  Do you really think that by hating Lebron, you played a role in the Heat losing in the Finals?  Is your life any better this morning because of your bitterness towards Lebron?  No.  It’s not.  You had nothing to do with the Heat losing the Finals.

So, instead of focusing on how the Heat didn’t win, why don’t we applaud the Mavericks for a phenomenal run through the playoffs?  It doesn’t matter what Lebron has to say, he didn’t win the Finals MVP.  Let’s focus on Dirk, shall we?  Let’s applaud the champion and realize that our bitterness doesn’t do anything but make us sour.

>Greatest Interview Ever!!!

>Now, I could have sworn that I scheduled this one to post the day after I wrote it.  Apparently I didn’t.  So, here you go now.

Here’s former NFL coach Jim Mora appearing as a guest on the Doug Gottlieb Show on ESPN radio.  This has to be the best interview I have ever heard.

“You were a real joy.”  That’s fantastic.

P.S. – In case you were wondering, no I didn’t post this during a worship service.  I scheduled it last night!

>As rosters are being set in anticipation of tomorrow’s match-up with a fellow UM clergy member, I thought I’d go ahead and catch y’all up on the last two weeks of fantasy football…. because you care…

Week 2
Starting Lineup
QB: Brees
RB: Rice, Jackson, Brandon Jackson
WR: Hines Ward, Gaffney
TE: Finley
D/ST: Chiefs
K: empty

High scorer: Brees, 22 points
Low scorer: tie, Hines Ward, K spot, 0 points
Result: Steel Curtain Reborn 91, Hillsboro Rabid Monkeys 77

Three things really stand out to me in this game.

1) I forgot that Hines Ward is bi-polar when it comes to fantasy football scoring.  He either has a 10+ point week, or a 1 point week.  He played well in Week 1 while he was on the bench, and then threw up a stinker in Week 2 when he was in my lineup.  I have nobody to blame but myself, after all, I know that he’s worthless after a good week.

2) Making a last minute move to get a new kicker is only beneficial if I remember to install that new kicker into the lineup.

3) I needed to make some changes at WR.  Gaffney is no longer on the team after putting up a 1 point performance.  Ward is sitting until further notice.  My WR position combined for 1 point this week, while the three I had sitting on the bench averaged 9 points… each.  Another loss chalked up to poor managerial choices.

Week 3
Starting Lineup
QB: Brees
RB: Rice, Matt Forte, Jackson
WR: Knox, Mike Williams (TB)
TE: Finley
D/ST: Chiefs
K: Ryan Succop

High scorer: Brees, 28 points
Low scorer: tie, Forte, Williams, 3 points
Result: Team Kermeen 94, Hillsboro Rabid Monkeys 91

This one came down to the Monday night game, where I had Forte, Knox and Finley going.  When it was all said and done, a holding penalty is what killed me.  Finley scored a TD that was negated by a holding call, and there went 7 points that I wasn’t going to get back.  In spite of great night from Knox & Finley, I still came up short.  Ironically, because of two guys that I had sitting on the bench in Weeks 1 & 2, who would have won my games if I played them in those weeks.  Forte had an off night, and Williams had a so-so game. Meanwhile, Hines Ward (who was on the bench in favor of Williams)… you guessed it… managed 9 points.

Starting off 0-3 isn’t promising, but I do remembering being 3-3 last season, then running the table and winning the championship.  Perhaps the most damaging part of this week was the fact that both Ray Rice and Steven Jackson went down to injury, and are still listed as questionable for Week 4.  Chances are, both are going to be sitting… then they are going to go off and post huge numbers.

>Fantasy Football 2010, Week 1

>Well, that was a rough way to start the season.  Let me just say, I pondered replacing Guy A with Guy B all week long, really felt like I should do it, but stuck with the “experts” who had Guy A ranked above Guy B for the week.  Guy B – San Diego rookie Ryan Mathews, not a bad game for a rookie – 75 rushing yards, but he did lose one fumble; total – 5 points. Eh.  Guy A – Matt Forte, who only had 50 rushing yards and also lost a fumble… and then he had 151 receiving yards with 2 TD’s.  Yup, I didn’t go with my gut, and ended up with an extra 25 points sitting on my bench, which, as you’ll see, I could have used.

Starting Lineup for the Hillsboro Rabid Monkeys:
QB – Drew Brees
RB – Ray Rice, Steven Jackson, Ryan Mathews
WR – Johnny Knox, Jabbar Gaffney
TE – Jermichael Finley
K – Sebastian Janikowski
DEF – 49ers

High scorer: Brees, 15
Low scorer: 49ers, -1
Result: Rabid Monkeys 56, Hokie Pokies 72

You guessed it, that 25 point turn-around cost me an 81-72 victory.  That’s all right, though. I’m still shooting for 12-2 this season.

And if you’ve stuck with me this far, here’s an update on the other fantasy football leagues I’m doing:

Pigskin Pick ’em – Picked 9 games correctly. All my incorrect picks were visiting teams – that should say something.  I’m not sure what, but something.

Gridiron Challenge – 104 points w/ Matt Forte (go figure) leading the way

Eliminator Challenge – Miami Dolphins won, so I continue to next week.

>2010 Fantasy Football Roster

>It’s almost that time again!  The Swish’s Pals league had its draft this morning, and I have to admit, I’m pretty happy with the team I was able to assemble.  You’ll be getting the weekly updates once the league rolls around, but I’m just going to throw out that I’m shooting for an 11-2 season with a successful defense of my 2009 title.  We’ll see how it goes.

QB – Drew Brees, Alex Smith
RB – Ray Rice, Steven Jackson, Ryan Mathews, Matt Forte, Clinton Portis
WR – Hines Ward, Johnny Knox, T.J. Houshmanzadeh, Donald Driver, Derrick Mason
TE – Jermichael Finley, Heath Miller
D/ST – 49ers
K – Neil Rackers

I’ve got a lot of guys with some significant upside, but overall production is going to be uncertain.  I’m not too heavily dependent on any one team this season; I’ve got two from 4 different teams, but in each grouping, only 1 is going to be a regular starter unless something major happens.  I am pretty happy about having 3 of the Top 10 overall players (Brees, Rice & Jackson).  We’ll see how it goes!

>Last week, LeBron James took part in one of the most self-aggrandizing, egotistical television “specials” of all time.  I think it was absolutely ridiculous the way things went down last week.  I can’t necessarily blame ESPN because they did it for the ratings, and they were approached by LeBron’s people to do the show.  I’m fairly certain the people involved felt used… I know I did, and I only watched 15 minutes of it.  However, after saying all of that, there are a few things that have been on my mind, and I just want to throw them out there.

  1. This is the first time in his career that LeBron has really been able to decide where he wanted to play.  Yes, he did sign an extension with the Cavs that kept him there a couple more years, but this is really the first time he was courted by other teams and able to really take in what his options were.
  2. LeBron played seven season in Cleveland.  He didn’t bail at the first opportunity.  He was the best player on the best regular season team for the last two years, and each year, the team failed miserably in the postseason.  Did he fail the team?  I don’t think so, he just came up against better teams.  An individual doesn’t make a team.
  3. LeBron didn’t owe Cleveland anything.  Cleveland was not entitled to have LeBron for his entire career.  Cleveland was entitled to have him from the time he was drafted until now, but beyond that, there was no obligation on either side of the relationship.
  4. People are saying that LeBron will hurt his legacy by playing with Wade and Bosh.  What will hurt his legacy more – winning 4 championships in Miami, or not winning any championships in Cleveland?  If it is about winning championships, then LeBron made the move that gives him the best chance to win multiple championships, and you can’t fault him for that decision.  
  5. The first thing people talk about when discussing the best of the best is the number of championships they’ve won; fair or not.  How many championships did Jordan win without Pippen?  None.  How many championships has Kobe won without either Shaq or Gasol?  None.  You don’t win championships without a top-tier #2 guy.  One guy alone cannot win a championship in the NBA.  LeBron’s decision was about winning a championship.
  6. He simply took good advice.  Kevin Garnett, who played for the Timberwolves for a number of years, picked Minnesota over free agency and spent his best seasons in frustration.  Then he was traded to Boston and won a championship with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.  After Boston beat Cleveland in the playoffs, Garnett basically said that there’s a lot to be said for loyalty, but if it holds you back from winning the championship, then maybe you need to rethink what you are doing.
All right.  That’s all I have to say about that.