Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ad Ode to Brad Lidge

One of the last pieces of nostalgia from the Philadelphia Phillies' 2008 World Series run has moved on, as reliver Brad Lidge, the closer on that team, signed a one-year contract this week to play for the NL East rival Washington Nationals.

Lidge struck out Eric Hinske for the final out of the '08 Series, bringing a championship to the City of Brotherly Love for the first time in 25 years -- exactly 100 agonizing sports seasons since the '83 Sixers won one -- and dropped to his knees in one of Philadelphia sports lore's most iconic scenes.

Oct. 29, 2008. Greatest. Night. Ever. (Top 3 at least)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Baltimore's no Vegas, but neither is Indy ...

After a night to sleep on it, here's some more thoughts from Saturday's spectacular conference title games ...

  • Even Pittsburgh Steelers fans have to feel for Baltimore Ravens fans this morning. First, Lee Evans had the winning touchdown catch, and then he didn't. If he holds on, Billy Cundiff never gets the chance to be the goat. And how can the replay official not spend an extra 30 seconds looking at that play? It only decided who went to the Super Bowl. The networks showed that Evans did not get the second foot down before the ball got punched out, but it was very, very, very close.
  • We spent all week talking about New England's offense and San Francisco and Baltimore's defense. Where were both games won and lost? Special teams. Ain't called "special" for no reason, people. Maybe if Jim Harbaugh had put Vernon Davis back to return punts, too ...
    Fu manch-blew.
  • Joe Flacco showed his stripes. Nobody gets to doubt him any more. He will get the Ravens to the big one someday, even with having to maneuver around Big Ben and Andy Dalton for at least another five years. (Wonder if Mike Holmgren in Cleveland is going, "Hmm, was retirement really that bad?") But, dude, shave the 'stache. You don't do porn.
  • Yes, I spoke ill will of Eli Manning last night. But that's because of the hijinks he pulled on Draft Day 2004 to get out of San Diego and into the glitz of New York. I must give mad props to his game. He got absolutely massacred by the 49ers' pass rush (five sacks and 10 knockouts, some that would have us yelling, "Check please!") and got right back up every play. He now has five playoff wins on the road and has started every game for the last 7+ years.
    Vinny, Dominic and Joey One-Brow
    await your business transaction.
  • Besides, NBC couldn't sell Alex Smith if they tried. Eli sells himself, especially going for a second ring (to Peyton's one) in big brother's barn. So expect big ratings. Vegas is saying that this should be the heaviest-wagered Super Bowl to date. The Patriots open as a 3-point favorite and I'll stick with them since I picked them to win it all back in September, but the Giants have been proving me wrong for better than a month.

Memo to Peyton: Make Brady and lil' Eli pay rent

Gut reactions from the AFC & NFC championship games:

  • Baltimore either plays like a world beater or an egg beater. Hard to know which is coming, but they threw everything at the Patriots and frankly deserved better, and I love Joe Flacco's grit. Would loved to have seen the Ravens in the Super Bowl.
  • Maybe Jim Harbaugh should have used Vernon Davis to return punts rather than Kyle Williams.
  • So ... Giants-Patriots. Do we really have to do this all over again?

At first I thought I'd do what I did 8 years ago when it was Carolina-New England ... dust off my bowling ball and roll some frames while I ignored the Super Bowl.  But since I can't avoid the next 2 weeks of the talking heads repeating the same story lines ad nauseum, skipping it would be like asking your buddy for the 18 cents to pay exact change at the store when you're paying with a 20.

The most popular of those storyies will be: The Rematch, Brady going for another ring in the home of his arch-nemesis, and Eli going for his 2nd in the home of his brother, and how that would give him 2 rings to Peyton's one.

Please hit me with a tire iron now.

The Patriots don't bother me so much; at the start of the year I had them winning the big game, over Green Bay. Those ferkin' Blue Blobs had to ruin it for me.

This isn't about any "I hate New York" sentiment. I feel jilted as a football fan. Green Bay and New Orleans were BY FAR the best teams in the NFC for the 4-month regular season. I should be rewarded by seeing them play for a title rather than a team that played their best over a 3-week period, or a San Fran team that got 6 games vs. the Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks.

Instead, last week was where Vince Lombardi divided by zero.

The Giants are in the playoffs soley because those around them soiled the bedsheets. If Dallas holds that 20-something point lead against Detroit or if Philadelphia had held on to double-digit 4th quarter leads at home against San Fran OR Arizona (that one just tore me up inside) the Giants would have been golfing by Jan. 9.

But if the Giants hadn't had their rash of injuries they'd be 12-4. If you think this team has 9-7 talent, you're crazy, I've heard three Giants fans tell me in different versions. But what was it that your former coach, Bill Parcells, used to say .... You are what your record says you are.

Eli Manning as a human being is another big problem for me. Remember when he got drafted and told the Chargers, who had the first pick, "Don't bother. I don't want to play for you, and my Daddy said I don't have to if I don't want to. I want to play in a bigger media market." He used his rookie clout to get San Diego to work a draft-day deal to the Giants. It's the same exact reason I would beat Kobe Bryant with the closest object possible if I ever met him -- he was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets out of high school but told them, um, no, I'm playing for the Lakers. Make it happen. (They should've traded him to the L.A. Clippers.)

Eli's a fraud. I hope he rots in Indianapolis and Tom Brady makes him looked like a smacked ass. Then again, Kobe has five NBA championships, so maybe these guys channel my hate for them into championship focus.

Dammit. So where is my bowling ball, anyway ...

Rest in peace, Joe Paterno. Don't let it disturb your afterlife that Gerry Sandusky and the Penn State Board of Regents worked in concert to kill you.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

UCF validates ... and why in the hell I wore a Giants jersey

If you were wondering how the UCF men's basketball team would respond after beating Memphis, who played for the national title just 4 years ago, here's how. They had to go on the road Saturday afternoon and play UAB (that's not a taxi company, thats Alabama-Birmingham) and scored just 48 points.

But when you play lockdown defense, it's enough. The Knights moved to 4-1 in Conference USA play and 15-4 overall with a 48-41 win over the Blazers. There might, just might, be something special about this UCF team.

The Knights get back at it Wednesday at Tulsa.

But, in a related move that had to balance out the sports universe ... if you get the feed for my sports podcast with Orlando Predators' media relations director J.C. Carnahan, "Upon Further Review", you'll understand why there's pictures circulating of me wearing an Eli Manning home jersey.

Listen to our show and you'll understand why.

And that's all I hafta say about that ...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"A snapshot moment" at UCF

Game. Set. Match. Hells to the mutha' truckin' yeah, baby!
 UCF 68, Memphis 67.

I typed that late last night, and then sat back and just looked at it, soaking it in.

The Knights have been to the NCAA tournament four times since 1994, but I would never go as far as to call them a "power". Memphis, on the other hand, has been nationally ranked annually for about the past 20 years, and were a couple of free throws away from winning The Big Dance four years ago.

And UCF has its first win over the Conference USA big boy in 11 tries.

Who's a big boy now?

Monday, January 16, 2012

My recap of the NFL playoff weekend; I Ain't Right

Well I picked both NFC games wrong and both AFC games right this weekend, but, then again, who didn't?

Let me get this out of the way -- do you people really enjoy the unexpected, like upsets and longshots coming through? I'm learning this about myself ... I do not. Instead, I feel gyped because I'm not getting the New Orleans-Green Bay battle royale I so desperately anticipated as a Super Bowl appetizer.

Monday, January 9, 2012

My Hall of Fame ballot

The Baseball Hall of Fame will announce its 2012 signing class later today.  The last few years, a few of my friends have shared amongst our klatch what we'd do if we had one of those ballots supplied by the BBWAA, and why. Here, for the first time for public consumption outside our consortium, is my 2012 Hall of Fame ballot, in decending order of worthiness ...

I Owned You All in Fantasyball, Beyond That There's Nothing To Say:  Jeromy Burnitz, Vinny Castilla, Juan Gonzalez, Brian Jordan, Javy Lopez, Bill Mueller, Terry Mulholland, Phil Nevin, Brad Radke, Tim Salmon, Ruben Sierra, Tony Womack, Eric Young.

Some consideration:
Fred McGriff -- solid hitter for a while but not enough OSF (Oh Sh!t Factor) when he came to the plate
Rafael Palmeiro -- my lasting memory of him is wagging his finger at Congress, and it turns me off
Lee Smith -- Outside of his longetivity, his stats were underwhelming at an overrated position
Bernie Williams -- Sorry Yankee fans, there just isn't enough there
Don Mattingly -- I had him on my ballot for years as in, probably because he deserved better than he got. I've given up the ghost on him as a HOFer, but still think he had the greatest, silkiest swing for a lefty that I may have ever seen.

Plenty of careful consideration:
Larry Walker -- Wow. So very close. Actually looked up the stats. Hit .353 and averaged 30 HRs and had an OPS of 1.089 from 1997-2002, and it included one season of 83 games due to injury. Had his share of OSF, but did a lot of his damage in Colorado pre-humidor. I will hold him off for consideration next year, when he'll be a strong maybe again.
Alan Trammell -- A lock for the Hall of Very Good. A .297 hitter in his prime years. Good SS, but I just don't find the credentials there.
Barry Larkin -- Everyone seems to think he's a lock to get in this year, but I don't see it. He was a 10-time all star ... hell, Dave Concepcion was a 9-timer. See Trammell, Alan.
Dale Murphy -- If you could delve more into his stats, you might find something here. His RBI numbers don't jump out, but then again he was on some pretty bad '80s Braves teams so he often had nobody to drive in. If he gets in I won't really disagree, but my vote is a hesitatant thumbs down.
Jack Morris -- I've championed him for like the last 10 years. Winningest pitcher of the '80s, but is that like being the surfing champion of Nebraska? I've cooled on him now.

And my 2012 Hall of Famers are ...

Edgar Martinez -- Like  and Jason Stark said this year, now that we're getting pure DHs on the list, we have to consider them, and why not start with the greatest one to ever play the "position".

Jeff Bagwell -- Career OPS: .948. Absolute monster in his heyday. 30-30 twice. Not bad for 1B. Had just enough OSF for me. Trying to remember if I voted for him last year.

Tim Raines -- In the '80s only 2 men led the NL in steals -- Raines and Vince Coleman. Greatest leadoff hitter of our era not named Ricky Henderson.

Mark McGwire -- Didn't get my vote the 1st 2 years, but I've changed my tune. He was never asked to run, or bat leadoff, or field his position like a Gold Glover. He was asked to slug. And slug he did over a long enough period. Was held in the same regard from 1996-99 as Barry Bonds in his best era, and guess what, I'm voting for Bonds, too, come that time.

Friday, January 6, 2012

So THIS is what the Solar Bears will look like

I like the old look better. But this ... this is, um, different.
The Orlando Solar Bears, the ECHL team that will hit the rink at the Amway Center this October, presented their new-look logo at halftime of Friday's Orlando Magic-Chicago Bulls game at the Amway. The presentation is a part of the team's "Out Of Hibernation" marketing campaign.
Your 2012 Orlando Solar Bears! Let's go Bears!
"Shades", the ever-popular mascot, is back on the logo, holding a stick in a new and rather macho manner. A sun shaped in the letter 'O' for Orlando sits behind Shades.
He's holding the stick behind his shoulders, kind of like he's waiting on deck at a baseball game, instead of ready to pounce on a puck or an opposing winger. And the 'O' doesn't impress me.
But, it's not bad, and it's definitely interesting. I guess we were expecting it to have the panache of the Old O-Bears, who played in the International Hockey League from 1995-2001, winning the Turner Cup in 2001 before the IHL folded.

This guy look familiar?

In addition to the unveiling during the Magic game, the logo lit up the roads throughout Orlando on ClearChannel Outdoor Digital locations in a synchronized manner at 11 p.m. in an official "Orlando Solar Bears Road Block." (If you're reading right after I write it ... you have 45 minutes to hit the road and check it out.)
The Solar Bears will introduce their jersey designs, announce an NHL affiliation and introduce its coaching staff in the next 4-6 months, the team website ( said.
There's more details in my story at found here.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012's first bits of tid

Some things you may have missed as you experimented with various hangover recipes after last night ...
  • Dick Clark looked and sounded better last night than he did the prior two years. Might a revival of American Bandstand be coming next? (We goin' hoppin! We goin' hoppin' today where things are poppin' the Philadelphia way ...)
  • LeBron James liked it so he put a ring on it and finally made an honest woman out of his baby'momma. No wedding date's been set, but I can't wait to see where they're registered, and what's on the list.
  • Minnesota Vikings DE Jared Allen put the fear of God in Michael Strahan back at the FOX football studios. Allen had 3.5 sacks midway through the third quarter of their game against Chicago, giving him 22 for the year. Strahan set the season record of 22.5 sacks when he was with the Giants, putting some buzz into what was a 17-13 loss to the Bears that dropped the Vikings to 3-13. Allen got four more defensive drives to get to Chicago QB Jake McCown, but, with Strahan feigning interest back in New York, he could not get the record-breaker. Minnesota picks 3rd in the upcoming draft, so maybe Allen will get some help.
  • On Dec. 1, my Eagles were 4-8. No playoffs, but good draft pick right? Nnnnope. On Jan. 1 a 34-10 win over the Redskins was their fourth in a row. 8-8? Yippee. No playoffs and picking around 15th in the Draft. In Philly, don't be mediocre. Be great or be terrible, either way let the people know exactly what you are. Yanno, to set expectations. And no, Baby New Year did NOT get pelted with snowballs ...
  • In Sunday's Broncos-Chiefs game, Denver OT Chris Cooper got hurt on a play, and they had to bring the card out to fetch him. Tim Tebow slapped him on the shoulder pads as they got him up. And he wasn't healed! St. Timmy laid hands on the sick and afflicted and he was still sick and afflicted!
  • Have any of you who haven't attended a bowl game in person watched a bowl game on TV all the way through yet? I tried to watch the Alamo Bowl with Baylor and Washington while working on the computer, and every time I turned back the score changed! (Baylor won, 67-56.)
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