Posted by: dvolpe | November 14, 2010

The Cam Newton Controversy

I’m going to make this short and sweet, people. There is no controversy. These stories are written for the naive sports fan, who still believes that such a thing as the student athlete exists. Okay, don’t get me wrong. They exist. You’ll find them on volleyball courts, and at track meets and even in football and basketball in small colleges you’ve never heard of. But in the big sports, in the big time programs, the student athlete is just a quaint notion that makes sports fans feel good about college football, and the whole college experience. Siss boom bah, rah rah rah, but let’s cut the crap for a minute and be realistic. This might come as a shock to some people, but this is a reality: If you don’t like pay-for-play, you don’t like college football. Or basketball for that matter.

Think about how often there’s a “scandal” involving college player taking money. Now… what percentage of actual NCAA infractions do you think are ever reported, or come the surface? %10? %20? College players get paid to play. Not all of them, but the blue chippers? Yeah, they get paid. They’re over 18. They provide a service that’s worth millions of dollars to whatever school is lucky enough to bring them in, and yes they get paid for that service. It’s amazing to me how by creating a rule you can get everyone to confuse rule breaking with amorality. Is it amoral to break a rule within an inherently corrupt system? Everyone gets paid in college football. Coaches get paid, coordinators get paid, professors get paid and yes, like it or not, the student players get paid. If you don’t like then you need to either push for NCAA reform or stop watching, but catching one player every few years will do nothing to stem the tide of pay-for-play players.

So believe whatever you want about Cam Newton, but don’t call his situation a controversy. The only mistake he made was getting caught. Because like it or not, his situation, like so many others in college football, is just business as usual in the NCAA.

QUICK BITS:

Congratulations to the Buffalo Bills on their win this sunday, even though it came against my Lions. I know how it feels to be the only winless team left in the league, and what a relief it is to finally win a game. At least for one week, the Bills get to feel like winners.


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Posted by: dvolpe | September 15, 2010

Hosed Again…

It’s getting pretty hard to be a Detroit sports fan. It was bad enough earlier in the year when Detroit Tiger’s pitcher Armando Galarraga lost out on a perfect game because of a blown call by the ump. Now a Detroit Lions team that won 0 games two seasons ago and just 2 last season, has been robbed of a game by referees following the “letter of the law” as it were. When Calvin Johnson caught what would have been a game winning touchdown, got both feet in bounds, went to the ground, got his butt down and his knee down and his hand down, and then lost the ball on his way up to celebrate, most analysts agreed that according the rules as they are written the right call was made. But in my opinion the way the rule is written, there is no right call because its incomplete.

Here’s what the rule states:

Item 1: Player Going to the Ground. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.

Now here’s the problem I have with this rule as its written. It says that he “Must maintain control of the ball after he hits the ground.” Here’s what’s missing: For how long? Does he have to hold it for 30 seconds? Until the whistle blows? Until the referee comes and takes it from him? Until he get’s on the team bus to go home? It’s not clear. Is the defender, or multiple defenders, allowed to rip and scrape and tear at the ball not only on the way down but after he’s down since the “process” is not yet complete? When is the play over? Can the defenders attempt to bat the ball out of his hand as he’s getting up to celebrate, on the way to the bench, when is the play over?!

It really makes no sense. Which leads to a situation where a player feels he’s held onto the ball long enough, gets up and loses the ball during his celebration. The worst thing about the rule is that it looked like a touchdown catch to most everyone watching. The fans saw a game winning touchdown catch, and oh by the way, the fans really like game winning touchdown passes. It is one of the, if not the, most exciting plays in football. Why would you want to take that away from the fans? Especially the fans in detroit, who quite frankly, don’t get to see that many game winning plays of any sort.

Quick Bits:

The Heisman that wasn’t: I’m sure you’ve all heard by now that Reggie Bush has decided to put an end to all this nonsense and just go ahead and forfeit the Heisman trophy he won in 2005. So let me get this straight, if I go to the Major League Baseball’s singles season and all time home run hitting record books,  I see names like McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, all of them known or at least suspected juicers, but a kid who took a little money in college has to give the Heisman back? Give me a break.

QB controversy in Philly?: Andy Reid has tried to squash the impending quarterback controversy in Philadelphia after starting quarterback Kevin Kolb gave a substandard performance before leaving the game with a concussion at halftime. Reid has reiterated that Kevin Kolb (if healthy) is the starting quarterback to put to rest any rumors that Vick might be taking over the job full time. Unfortunately for Kolb and Reid, Michael Vick came in and electrified the team, almost leading them to a comeback despite the fact that the Eagles were down 10 points when Vick took the helm. Worse still for Kevin Kolb fans and for Andy Reid, the other Eagles players (especially DeSean Jackson) seemed fired up by Vick’s presence. If Reid doesn’t figure out a way to rally the team behind Kolb, there could be fractures in the locker room and booing in the stands in a heartbeat. After all, this is Philadelphia we’re talking about.

Posted by: dvolpe | March 8, 2010

Lakers, Magic, Matt Barnes, and Ron Artest’s Hair.

Magic Lakers last night was a great game. It had everything you wanted. Two playoff contenders matching shots, getting chippy and going down to the wire, plus theater, to wit: the comedy of Ron Artest’s hair.

Finals Rematch? With the Celtics faltering down the stretch, leaving the way open for the Magic, and the Lakers perhaps a bit complacent, but still the obvious class of the West, we may very well have a finals rematch. So right from the start the tension was there. The Magic had a lot to prove after a 4-1 series loss to LA that was closer than that score would indicate, considering that 2 of LA’s wins were in overtime.

Scrappy: Let’s face it, when a game gets chippy, it ratchets up the dramatic tension for fans. The players showed that this was more than just a regular season game, with Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard getting tangled up on several occasions and Gasol being whistled for a frustration foul that was called a flagrant 1. Matt Barnes showed, what he was perhaps brought to Orlando to do, getting into Kobe’s face, and trying to get under his skin, even faking a pass at Kobe’s grill on an inbound pass. For the record, Kobe did not flinch. Barnes can’t have any of Orlando’s ill will towards LA, having not been a member of the team last season, but it seems that he brought more than enough with him from Phoenix. He was in Kobe’s jersey the whole game. Kobe, generally stood his ground and stared Barnes down while raising his arms to show the referees that he had no intention of getting into a fight. Ron Artest was surprisingly absent from the confrontations. Perhaps he was instructed by Phil or Kobe, not to get into it.

Down to the Wire: The Lakers had a chance to win it all with one shot. Kobe instead opted for a 2 pointer that would have tied the game, which he missed. But the important thing from the impartial fan’s point of view is that the game came right down the wire as all the best game’s do. For Orlando it was proof that they can win a close one. If they do face the Lakers in the finals, here’s hoping the contests, and the series are as hotly contested and evenly matched as this game.

If you lose the game, the haircut's lame.

Ridiculous Ron: Alright for anyone out there wondering what was the deal with Ron Artest’s hair, it wasn’t a paid advertisement for foreign products, or an homage to Dennis Rodman (although it looked like one) it was defense, written in Hindi, Hebrew and Japanese in the Lakers team colors, the purple and gold. Why those three languages? I don’t know. But maybe Ron Artest should have written offense in at least one of the languages, because Ronny shot 2-10 from the field with a couple of turnovers. So he didn’t play well and the team lost, time for a new lid Artest. Maybe you should try “Victory” in Cantonese next time…

Posted by: dvolpe | March 6, 2010

Exactly How Old is NBA Referee Dick Bavetta?

NBA Official and Iron Man, Dick Bavetta

While watching a recent Pistons game, I caught a shot of referee Dick Bavetta and wondered, exactly how old is that guy? I can’t remember a time when I was watching a basketball game and Dick Bavetta wasn’t an NBA referee. There’s a reason for that. Dick Bavetta has been a professional refree since 1975. Which is one year before I was born. That means that even if I had watched my first basketball on the day I was born, I still could not have watched a game in the pre-Bavetta era. The average NBA career is 5 years in length. Bavetta has refereed for 7 careers of that length. If he was a player he could have retired as a player, become a coach and retired as a coach by now. Not only that but in all that time, he has reportedly never missed an assigned game. Take that Cal Ripken Jr.

One of the single greatest examples of durability, reliability, professionalism, and likeability in any sport. It will be a sad day indeed when he retires, but at the rate he’s going, I’m not sure how many of us will be around to see it when he does.

Posted by: dvolpe | March 6, 2010

NFL Free Agency: The Detroit Lions

I’m actually pretty happy with the what the Lions have done in free agency. Nate Burleson will be a nice addition at wide receiver and hopefully take advantage of the single coverage he’s all but guaranteed with Calvin Johnson on the other side,  and Kyle Vanden Bosch (though he’s 3 seasons removed from his 12 sack 60 tackle form of 2007). Now if someone can just convince the hapless Rams to pull a Portland Trailblazers and go for Sam Bradford and his busted wing, the Lions can add Ndamakong Suh which just might open things up for a Vanden Bosch renaissance. Sure it would have been nice to nab an a-lister like Peppers or Marshall, but Marshall has too many personal problems for my taste, especially when the Lions already have a premier wide receiver on the roster and Peppers, though he would probably have been a good move, would have been a risky one because of the price tag. He’s 30 years old, so you really don’t know whether or not his best years are behind him. For the kind of money the Bears will spend (reportedly in the 85 mil area) you really want a surefire thing. Besides the Lions are not ready to be great right now anyway, so by the time the Stafford matures, Peppers would likely be well past his prime. So I have to give the lions a B-/C+ considering  what was available out there.

Quick Bits:

What no love for the Slanket? The Cavs and the Pistons are going to tip it off tonight. Snuggies for everyone! Thousands will be handed out. Finally fans don’t have to worry about spilling their nachos or their beer. Just thought you should know.

Posted by: dvolpe | February 19, 2010

Should the Detroit Pistons Have Drafted Carmelo Anthony?

“For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'.” ~John Greenleaf Whittier

Do you ever think of a lost love, or a friendship that fractured, a job interview you blew, or a potential game winning shot that you missed, and wonder what might have been? Many Pistons fans experience that sensation, every time Carmelo Anthony scores 30, or hits the game winning shot at the buzzer. We wonder what might have been. Especially now, that the sun is setting on the 2nd championship era in Pistons history. The Pistons are no longer a power in the east, or even a factor for that matter. They will be lucky to make the playoffs at all this season, and unlikely to do much after that. Meanwhile the Nuggets are fielding one of th best squads the franchise has ever known, with aspirations for the Western conference finals and beyond. So should they? Should the Pistons have drafted Carmelo Anthony? 

On the face of this question, the answer is simple, a resounding yes. It seems a question not even worth asking. Carmelo has gone on to be a perennial all-star, one of the league’s stop scorers and is now on one of the West’s best teams. Meanwhile the Pistons are floundering. At the very beginning of a rebuilding mode, and very likely won’t even make the playoffs.

Still, other questions remain regarding the Pistons, especially when it comes to th championship they won. For insta nce, would the Pistons have gone after Sheed if they had Carmelo? Would all of the players have fit under the cap? Would they all have fit on the floor for that matter? What of team chemistry?

These questions are important ones. I think the first key to the championship was the acquisiton of Rasheed Wallace. Without the impregnable barrier of Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace around the rim, I don’t believe the Pistons would have won a championship, even if they had Carmelo. Offense wins games remember, but defense wins championships, and Melo, though one of the league’s elite scorers was certainly not known for his defense in those days. The cap question is another important one. Its easy to speculate that the team would have automatically become better with Carmelo, but with NBA salary caps being what they are, someone would likely have had to go. Who’s place would he have taken? Richard Hamilton who lead the team in scoring? Tayshaun Prince whose perimeter defense was key against the Tracy McGradys and Kobe Bryants of the league? Chauncey Billups who hit big shot after big shot?  Then there’s the question of chemistry, ephemereal as it is, it does exist. Would the Pistons have played as well together, if they added another piece, even a supremely talented piece like Carmelo Anthony?  I’m not so sure. Much of the Pistons chemistry was based around their no superstar system. They all pitched in and won as a commitee. They all checked their egos at the door and gave 110% because they knew that without a superstar, they had to equal more than the sum of their parts. Could they have done that with Carmelo on the team, would they? There is no way to tell. All of that is to say nothing of whether Carmelo would have flourished under Larry Brown’s tutelage, which many younger players bristle under, and the questions go on and on, ad infinitum. There are too many to catalogue, let alone answer.

The truth is we can never know what would have happened, what might have been. We only know what did happen. The Detroit Pistons reaped the immediate benefit of a championship and then another finals appearance. The Denver Nuggets reaped the benefit of a franchise player that they are still benefitting from today. That being said they are still waiting for a championship in Denver, and Carmelo is still waiting for his first finals appearance.

So should the Detroit Pistons have drafted Carmelo Anthony? Maybe, but they didn’t. They didn’t and they made their  run, and they won it all and now it is other teams turn.

There’s only one solution for Pistons fans across the nation. There’s only one solution for anyone wondering what might have been; focus on what you have, not what you might have lost. Focus on what was, not on what might have been. Pistons fans can remember the days of  those two finals runs. Would you really have wanted it to be any different? Pistons fans can remember Rasheed Wallace arguing with the refs, making jokes and screaming, “the ball don’t lie!” after missed free throws from opposing players. They can remember the gongs after blocked shots by Ben Wallace. Pistons fans can remember the Reggie Miller block by Tayshaun Prince in that playoff game against the Indiana Pacers. They can remember Richard Hamilton, the man in the mask, and all those “big shots” hit by Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups.

So I say to Pistons, what I am really saying to myself in these down years, waiting for the team to rise to prominence once more. Be happy for what you have, a lot of laughs, the cheers, the championship. And wish Carmelo Anthony the best, knowing that he ended up where he should have, and cheer him as you would a Detroit Piston in the playoffs. Because his absence may well have been a part of the Pistons Championship run.

Quick Bits:

Wheelin’ and Dealin? That being said, I have to say I’m a little disappointed in the Pistons moves at the trade dealine this year, as in no moves whatsoever. Ordinarily I trust Joe D. implicitly, but I’m just a little concerned with the direction the team is headed. I knew that a rebuilding year had to come some day, and that’s okay. But the one thing that concerns me right now is the log jam at the the guard position, (Bynum, Atkins, Stuckey, Gordon, Hamilton) and the seeming redundancy of players like Jerebko, Prince and Daye.  I would like to have seen a move made, but I accept that in all likelihood, there were no good options presented. I am hoping that the Pistons will be able to make a splash in free agency next year.

U-S-A, U-S-A! I’d like to take a moment to give props to team USA. The team that is currently leading the olympics in overall medals and in every category of medal as well, including the gold. Go team USA!

Where will some of the league's elite QBs land this year?

  

Several big name quarterbacks in the NFL may be moving this offseason, either to another team or into their retirement years. So today, I want to talk about where these prime time players might end up next year.  

Kurt Warner:  Warner can still play, make no mistake about that, but can he still take the beating? Does he want to? The Cardinals surprised everyone last year by making it all the way to the Superbowl, though they lost to Pittsburgh. Then they surprised many again this year by making the playoffs. But I believe that the combined effects of diminishing returns in terms of how deep they went into the playoffs, the toll the game takes on the body, and other factors like family will lead Warner to hang ’em up this year. 

Brett Favre: I think that Brett Favre returns. In spite of the fact that its a long season, in spite of the fact that it was a very disappointing ending to this season, and perhaps a little because of that fact, I expect Brett Favre to do his little song and dance, miss training camp, and yes… return to play for the Vikings once again next season. The Vikings are just a few moves, or even a lucky bounce or two away from playing and possibly even winning the Superbowl. So why not take one more stab at going out on top? That being said, if I work in the Vikings front office, I look to pick up a quarterback in the draft this year. That way you get a healthy competition between the new kid and the other QBs on the roster if Favre doesn’t return and you have time to develop the rookie if he does. 

Michael Vick: Vick is perhaps the hardest of all to guess at. First of all there were numerous teams that went on record as saying they did, or did  not have an interest in Vick the first time he became available, fresh out of jail. One of the teams that did NOT express any interest was Philadelphia, who eventually did sign him. So right out of the gate this thing is unpredictable. Add to that the fact that rumors are now swirling of McNabb being traded. If McNabb is traded does that make Vick more or less likely to stay in Philadelphia? Add to that the fact that presumably Vick would like to start next season and things get even more confusing. If a team with no current solution at quarterback offers him a starting position, Vick will likely take that job, but I’m not sure if such an offer will be forthcoming. Take the Carolina Panthers for instance. They did not rule out signing Michael Vick before the eagles signed him, but said they were happy at the quarterback position. But after the giant egg that Delhomme laid last seaons are they still happy? The Vikings could also sign Vick as Favre-insurance, providing Vick was willing to gamble with probably not knowing for sure if he was the starter until after training camp. The scenarios are endless. But I’ll take my shot. I’m gonig to say that Vick ends up with the Ravens. They have admitted to having several conversations about him, and shown intereset in the past. Vick has to some extent proven himself, not being hugely successful but at least making things interesting this season. And he fits into the Ravens defensive scheme in that they don’t have a lot of money to spend on offensive players. He wouldn’t start, but if he’s wiling to accept a part time role, Vick could allow th Ravens to throw a wrinkle in on 3rd and long plays and get the defense a little extra rest, while doubling as a quality back up to Joe Flacco. The Ravens are my pick but if last season has taught me anything, its that there’s no telling where this guy will end up. 

Donovan McNabb: Rumors are now swirling that if either Warner or
Favre retires than that team will go after McNabb. As quality a team as the Vikings is, I actually find Arizona more intriguing. McNabb has had some quality receivers in his day, but he’s never had the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. I would be intrigued to see what McNabb would do with wide receivers like that and I wonder if McNabb wouldn’t be eqaully intrigued. It seems that the Eagles really are interested in moving McNabb in favor of Kevin Kolb their QB of the future, so I’m going to go on record as saying that McNabb ends up an Arizona Cardinal, pending Warner’s retirment. 

So there you have it, my take on where these NFL quarterbacks will end up next season.

Quick Bits:

Green Bay Fans Cheer Favre:  It is my understanding that Green Bay fans cheered when Favre threw a season ending interception in the conference championship game against the Saints. He used to be their qaurterback and now he plays for their rival, I get that. But I really don’t understand the Green Bay faithful’s problem. They had a quality quarterback for 15 seasons, who took them to 2 Superbowls and won 1. They now have another quality quarterback who they hope will take them to another Superbowl, and by the way, who was chosen over Brett Favre by the Packers front office, to be the starting quarterback prior to Favre’s leaving.  Speaking as a Lions fan, who hasn’t seen a good QB play for his squad in 50 years, I think Green Bay fans should count their lucky stars and shut their ungrateful mouths.

Congrats to the Saints: On a more positive note, congratulations to the New Orleans Saints for making it to the Superbowl. Theirs is one of the best stories in the history of the NFL. When Drew Brees arrived in New Orleans, both the man and the city were broken. New Orleans had been ravaged by hurrican Katrina and Drew Brees was coming off a shoulder injury that many believed could be career ending. Drew Brees now looks better than ever. Here’s hoping that sometime in the near future we’ll be able to say the same thing about the city of New Orleans.

Posted by: dvolpe | January 14, 2010

NBA Rookies, Beware of The Blazers and Clippers…

With the recent news that Clippers rookie Blake Griffin is out for the season, and the Portland Trailblazers young center Greg Oden is out for the season again, it is time to issue a warning to upcoming NBA rookies. If either of these franchises attempt to draft you it’s time to consult the book of Eli. No I’m not talking about the new Denzel Washington movie, or any scripture. I’m talking about the draft day playbook of Eli Manning who refused to become a part of the Chargers organization, because he didn’t care for the way it was run.  I’m not sure, based on the way the Chargers have been playing lately, if that was warranted, but in the cases of the Clippers and the Blazers it’s the way to go. Both teams have a history of destroying promising NBA careers. If you don’t believe me ask Sam Bowie and Bill Walton if its possible to stay healthy in Portland. There must be osteoporosis in the water at the Blazers facility because it seems like no big man has ever been able to stay healthy there. Unless you count Kevin Duckworth… and you don’t, trust me on this one.  And if you have your doubts about the Clippers well, the truth about them is that being drafted by them is no guarantee you won’t be successful, it just won’t happen as long as you’re wearing a Clippers uniform.  Don’t believe me? Just ask  Lamar Odom, Danny Manning, Antonio McDyess, Tom Chambers, Quentin Richardson, the Professor and Mary Anne, and everyone else who either never got their careers going as a Clipper, or never got them going at all. You could say that the Clippers have had a run of bad luck in the draft, but that wouldn’t be fair to bad luck. You need to be bad, and unlucky, and maybe cursed to have a string of picks as long as the Clips have without ever finding that superstar you’ve been looking for.  So NBA rookies run like hell if you see either of these two franchises coming your way.


Quick Bits:

Is it Changing of the Guard Time in the NFL? Wild card weekend makes me think perhaps it is. All of the wild card matchups were young vs. old. But of all the old-timers only Kurt Warner prevailed. Romo’s Cowboys were able to defeat McNabb’s Eagles for the 2nd time in about a week. Sanchez’s Jets took down Carson Palmer’s Bengals. Flacco unseated Brady. Only Warner was able to defeat the much younger Aaron Rodgers. It looks like a sign of things to come, and though the NFL’s young guns will probably have a much tougher time of making past the likes of Peyton Manning and Brett Favre in the coming week, we are getting a good look at the league’s future, and a snapshot of tomorrow’s stars today, at the quarterback position.

The steroid rule: Today I would like to forgo my usual statement in favor of a question. Mark McGuire’s recent admissions have had steroids all over the news again, and Jay Leno is on record as saying (no doubt tongue in cheek) that each team should be allowed one Steroid freak on their roster. I can’t really say I’m in favor of that but in light of McGwire’s statements that he was trying to recover from injury more than enhance his performance, I’m wondering what people out there would think if sports allowed steroids, but only for recovery. That is to say, players would not be tested for drugs when a third party doctor (not a team doctor) had diagnosed them with an injury serious enough to take them out of the game for a sizeable amount of time. Most sports fans would agree that steroids are bad for the game, but most sports fans would also agree that the game would be better with fewer injuries that lasted for a shorter time. So what say you sports fans? If pro sports could allow steroids but only for recovery from serious injury, would you be for that, or against it?

Posted by: dvolpe | December 19, 2009

The State of the NFL: Does Parity Still Exist?

For years there was talk of the great parity in the NFL, but recently it seems that gap between competitive teams and non-competitive teams is widening.

For a long time after trotting out stats showing how seldom losing teams return to the Superbowl, or how seldom even the winning teams make it back to the big game, commentators would go on to espouse the great parity of this era’s NFL. How every team has a puncher’s chance etc. etc. And most years, I would sit there, nodding my head, and agree with them. But in the past few years it seems like we are re-entering an era of dynasties, such as the years when The 49ers and Cowboys seemed to win every Superbowl. Or hearkening back further to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins dynasties. And now I’m starting to wonder whatever happened to parity in the NFL? There have been plenty of new faces in Superbowl’s lately, which is nice. But prior to the 2007 season, no team had ever had an 0-16 regular season or a 16-0 regular season. Since that time both have happened. The former, unfortunately to my Detroit Lions in 2008 and the latter to the 2007 New England Patriots, though they went on to lose the Superbowl to the Giants. Not only that but, but the Indianapolis Colts have made a regular season tradition of threatening to go 16-0 with 12 wins or more in each of the past seven seasons including this one, where they might actually win every game. Not only that but the Saints are threatening to do the same. What used to be unheard of (the undefeated regular season) is becoming almost commonplace and we could conceivably have an all undefeated Superbowl this year, at least until it’s over. Now that, admittedly, could be fun, but not if the trend continues. And what (I can assure you) is not fun, is being on the other side of those kinds of records. In 2006 and 2007 there was only 1 team each season that won 2 games or less. In 2008 that number jumped to 3 including the winless Lions and in 2009 it could go up another notch to 4 depending on how the last few games of the season play out. What does this mean? Well it could be just a 2 year statistical spike and the numbers could drop off as quickly as they went up. But if the trend continues, it will mean the widening of the gap between the NFL have’s and have not’s. The deterioration of the NFL’s middle-class if you will. The NFL may become a league of feast or famine, of rich or poor, and as the winning team’s stadiums fill to capacity (which they already do most of the time) the losing teams will draw smaller and smaller crowds which will hurt the league as a whole.

And yet, not much more can be asked of the NFL. It already does a lot, including profit sharing and the worst-team-picks-first draft, to ensure that a losing has every opportunity to pick itself up again and turn itself into a winner. So it seems we’ll have to wait out the current storm of 1 and 2 win seasons, and hope that the sun shines on a brighter tomorrow for the victory-challenged teams of the NFL.

But a more important question than the question of parity, is whether a perfect league exists, and if so, what would it look like? Would it be a rotisserie style league where teams crash and burn one season and rise from the ashes like a phoenix the next? Or a league where there are perennial winners such as the Patriots and Colts that you can be sure will be in the playoff mix just about every season? Or would it be a league so hotly contested that all the teams are bunched up in the middle of their division, setting off a thousand tie-breaker scenarios in a horse race that comes down to the final game every season? I, personally would prefer the last version. But the NFL will probably never get there. That kind of across the board excellence is rare in pro sports,  if it exists at all. And if games were close because the teams were all mediocre what fun would that be? So for now, we have the league we are given. It is still a great league and a fun league to watch. But I hope the divide between good teams and bad teams narrows, rather than widens. A league of woeful, almost winless teams and stellar squads charging hard for a chance at perfection and immortality is fun for a season or two. But in the end, competition is what sports is all about. And it’s lacking when so few teams have so many wins and so many teams have so few.

Quick Bits:

Free agency free-for-all: Much has been made of the vaunted free agency season of 2010 which features such mega-star names as Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. But there just might be a quiet killing to be made before that period, in trades. Rumors are swirling of Sixers forward Elton Brand and Warriors forward Anthony Randolph, perhaps, being available for trade. Are you listening Mr. Dumars? I think either one would be a fantastic edition in Pistons blue, especially if we could use some of our surplus at the guard position in trade.

Collision Course? Most analysts, fans, gamblers, casual viewers and human beings, are expecting the Celtics and Lakers to meet up in the NBA finals this year. And a great majority of them seem excited at this “clash of the titans,” this “throwback series,” this “rivalry renewed,” this “meeting of the two most storied franchises in NBA history.” As a die-hard Pistons fan, I think the whole thing stinks. I’m rooting for the every other team in the NBA over these two, so that I don’t have to watch the hated Lakers and the even more hated Celtics each go for their 2nd championship in 3 years. Go Spurs, Nuggets, Cavs and Magic!

Posted by: dvolpe | December 16, 2009

Have the Lions Lost by Winning?

Suh terrorized opposing offenses this season in the NCAA. Now he's terrorizing NFL GMs. Especially those that had the bad luck to win at once, too little, and too many games.

When the 2009 season started, after the worst season in NFL history in 2008, most Lions fans would have given just about anything for a win. And after that 1st win against the Redskins it seemed like a great weight was lifted off the organization. It would not be until week 11 that they won again, but even that felt good.  At least it took the Lions out of the conversation of worst team in the NFL with a few teams in the NFL still looking for their 2nd win.  But now I’m beginning to wonder if the second win was a victory, or a different kind of loss. You see this time of year, perennially, Lions fans begin to turn away from the inevitable end of the playoff-less season and turn towards that distant glimmer of hope on the horizon… draft day. Is this the year they will draft a player that will turn their fortunes around? Is this the year they will draft the next Barry Sanders, or Herman Moore, the next franchise player? That second win may be the one thing that robs them of getting what they need more desperately than anything else; a defensive game changer. One Ndamukong Suh. I haven’t seen a kid look this strong, this dominant, coming out of college in a long time. Double-teamed on just about every play he still finds a way to wreak havoc among the ranks of college’s elite teams, with 12 sacks in 2009 and 82 tackles. The powerful and disruptive Nebraska defensive tackle looks like the perfect piece to replace the gap left by Shaun Rogers, which has never really been adequately filled since his exit in 2007.  Suh could anchor a struggling Lions defense, help put a stop to their run defense woes, and take pressure off the beleaguered cornerbacks who are often forced to chase opposing wideouts ad infinitum, because no one on the current D-line is able to pressure the quarterback. But that 1 win over Cleveland, may well cost the Lions of their chance at Suh.

If the draft began today, the Lions would pick 4th, the 3 other 1-win teams picking ahead of them. According to most analysts Suh will be long gone by the 4th pick. Most have him going number 1 in this year’s draft class. And so the Lions get the worst of both worlds. Another losing season, but not quite losing enough. There are other players to draft of course, and sometimes a lower pick will outperform every player drafted above him, and leave a team wishing they’d had the 3rd or 4th pick instead of the 1st. But Suh looks like a sure-fire winner. Something I can’t say about any other defensive player in the draft. And defense is what the Lions need. And so, as the season winds down, and some teams jockey for playoff position, others are jockeying for draft picks. It seems only the teams in the middle of the pack have nothing left to fight for, or lie down for as the case may be. And those of us, with losing teams, are placed in the awkward, uncomfortable position of not knowing whether to root for our teams for the final 3 games, or against them.


Quick Bits:

Unbeaten teams: Both the Colts and the Saints remain undefeated deep into NFL regular season and now the talk has really started to heat up. Will they win it all, or won’t they? Will they be the greatest team ever if they do? Etc. The one question, that really gets to me is should they try to win every game, or should they rest players for the playoffs? Of course they should try to win the games. In the immortal words of Herm Edwards “You play to win the game!” There are no guarantees of winning or losing any given game. There are no guarantees that players will or won’t be injured. There are no guarantees that a team will or won’t get rusty if they rest their starters. But there is one guarantee, and that is that you will go down in history as one of, if not the, greatest team that ever played the game if you run the table, regular season and playoffs. You owe it to yourself and your team to go for that. More than anything else you owe it to your fans. And you owe it to the game as well, because the best teams, should give their best week in and week out.

Ron Artest Stands up for Tiger? It seems that Ron Artest has taken a break from being an attention whore in L.A. to come out in defense of his friend Tiger Woods… Or maybe he’s doing double duty on this one, now that I think of it. Anyway, I could go look up the quote  and post it but eh… I don’t feel like it. I don’t want to give Artest any more publicity than he already gets which is already about 300% what he deserves. But if Ron really wanted to help Tiger Woods out, the last thing he would do is stand up for the guy. When guys like  Michael Jordan, and Charles Barkley are conspicuously absent, and haven’t come forward to say anything in Tiger’s defense, but career knucklehead Ron Artest has his back, doesn’t that just make things look even worse?

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