Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Lebron's Sore Toe Could be the Best Thing for the Cavaliers

I am never going to be "that guy" who decides to write an article saying that a team is better without their superstar player. While that article has been written about other teams before, I am not going to write it about this year's Cleveland Cavaliers team. At the same time, many of the problems with inconsistency this season have occurred as a result of the team looking sluggish on offensive sets. They have a tendency to move through one iteration of the offense, until the ball gets into Lebron James' hands, and then shuffle a bit until James does something. This is why Lebron doesn't have nearly as many highlight passes this season as he did last year. The movement away from the ball isn't good enough for a streaking player to be open.

lebronstreetclothes.jpgWe saw something interesting happen last weekend in Philadelphia when Lebron sat down in street clothes with his toe injury. While the team looked lost in the first quarter on its way to a 25-38 deficit, their team offense progressed thereafter on the way to a 105-97 win. It wasn't that they were better without Lebron, but the rest of the team seems to play a little bit differently when Lebron is on the court. They play a lazy style of offense, almost trying to stay out of Lebron's way rather than trying to be his options streaking to the hoop, or around a pick.

They slowly realized in the Philly game that they didn't have a bail-out option (Lebron) to throw it to with seven seconds left on the shot clock. Usually the team can count on Lebron to at least hit the rim no matter what low percentage shooting situation they put him in at the end of an offensive set.1

In Philly the Cavs were doing the same thing in the first quarter, except when the clock ran down, the ball was thrown to Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Eric Snow, Sasha Pavlovic, or Larry Hughes. They couldn't handle it the way that Lebron does.

What ended up happening was that they started to execute their motion on offense. They ran the court with better spacing on the break. The energy on offense translated to energy on defense and they went out and scored 11 more points than the 76ers in the third quarter and 14 more points than the 76ers in the fourth quarter on the way to a 105-97 victory.

I think that the Cavaliers can play this well as a team like they did in the second half against the 76ers and they can do it with Lebron James in the lineup. But, they need some practice without Lebron so that they can remember how to play like that. They have lost the muscle memory of playing a team game because they got used to standing around and watching Lebron. They are hurting themselves, and they are taking away Lebron's ability to throw great passes to his teammates in positions for high percentage shots.

If Lebron sits out the next two or three games and the rest of the Cavs' players remember that they need to move on offense, it will pay huge dividends as this team heads toward the playoffs. It should improve the horrendous offensive (in)efficiency that the Cavaliers have shown so far this year. On top of that, it should translate into a more consistent team defense as the team is always more energized to play team defense when they are clicking on offense.

Don't get me wrong. A team shouldn't have to have their star player sit out of the lineup to get themselves to play the right way. That would (and should) normally occur under the tutelage of a coach in a practice situation. That is another story for another day. In the meantime, maybe something good can come from Lebron taking a few games off to let his toe heal.

1. Incidentally, I have heard a lot of complaints about Lebron "jacking up" shots this year. I think this is why and I don't necessarily blame him for feeling the need to hoist shots at the end of the 24 second clock.

Craig Lyndall rants, raves and writes other stuff at FilteringCraig.com

College Football Recruiting Phrases

Recruiting brings out the best and worst in college football. I'll try to focus on the latter because ESPN hypes the recruiting process as if it were a coronation ceremony. Thus, in order to lift the IQ of the average fan, here is a list of phrases you'll hear in the next two weeks with their true meaning listed for your edification:

•He's headed to a Prep School: Prospect didn't go to class or, if attending, he assumed Algebra was a protégé of Jay-Z.
•He's a man among boys: His real age is closer to Warren Sapp's. Repeated fourth grade so often the school district named a wing of the school in his honor.
•He transitions well to the college level: Futile statement; why recruit someone who doesn't transition well to college football.
•This kid is all about heart: Dad's a coach or booster.
•Can't miss at the next level: In a couple of years he'll be working at Denny's.
•He could end up anywhere: This means the kid has yet to receive enough money from a school so he's holding out for Reggie Bush money.
•He's a solid verbal commitment for (insert school): He'll change his mind each time a recruiter from a different school calls.
•He's a soft verbal commitment for (insert school): He'll change his before a recruiter calls.
•He has a solid family: Father left when the recruit was two and mother is currently the town drunk with the town being New York.
•He had one off the field incident: Gunned down eight people in a dispute over an X-Box.
•He's a workout freak: Doesn't go to class.
•His Dad's involved in the recruiting process: Poor kid is subjected to his father's lifelong dream. Will end up like Todd Marinovich.
•Has enjoyed the recruiting process: The money and women really made an impression.
•Has many admirers around town: He sired 12 kids his senior year.
•Has passion for the game: Willing to ingest steroids.
•A student of the game: Plays Madden 2007 daily.
•This guy is a project and, according to our recruiting experts, he will need a few years to flourish: He'll be a Freshman All-American.
•A Receiver with athletic ability: Can't catch the ball.
•A Receiver with great hands: Runs a 10.2 forty yard dash.
•He can plug a gap: Obese.
•He needs to get into the strength program: Anorexic.
•His high school coach is excited to see (insert player) move to the next level: Kid drove coach nuts.
•His High School coach hates to see him go: No more state championships.
•His Dad played in the Pro's: Kid just met him last week.
•Wants to stay close to home: Mom refuses to let him get away.
•Wants to leave the West Coast to play on the East Coast: Wants to get far away from Mom.

The Critic dissects the sports world. He practices the ancient art of BS detection and is a nationally certified curmudgeon. He edits the Critical Sports Blog.

Sean Salisbury: Idiot or anti-Semite?

The mini drama playing out over the apparent comment by ESPN football analyst Sean Salisbury wherein he may have said "Jew" instead of "chew" is over the top. It is as if he directly offended the sensibilities of a group of people who are looking for any reason to castrate him publicly. The group of people is sports fans.

Salisbury generates discussion because he is not well suited for his position. Boisterous and obnoxious, he appears on the verge of a meltdown each time he is asked a question or offers analysis.

Few people acknowledge their regard for him and it is doubtful he will win popularity contests. Yet, a slip of the tongue, if that, is not definitive proof of a person being an anti-Semite. Apparently, some people contend the slip is indicative of evil thoughts. If so, every human being is a racist, sexist, and any other 'ist listed in the OED.

People need to look at the context of his comments to come to some reasonable decision. If Salisbury is known to have a pattern or displays it in the future then it is rational to conclude he has issues. I will admit to paying little attention to Salisbury except when a digital signal forms a picture of him on my television.

From reading posts and articles, one now assumes Salisbury was a member of the Hitler Youth. Is it fair? No. Again, calling someone an anti-Semite is serious and more proof is required to make that statement.

If he is, The Critic will join others in attacking him for his misguided views, though I will always refrain from trying to stop someone from expressing their opinions. Everyone deserves the right to state what he or she believes despite our universal loathing of his or her beliefs.

Until some other proof arises, Salisbury is just a pompous ass with a predilection for sending pictures of his penis to other people via a mobile phone.

The Critic dissects the sports world. He practices the ancient art of BS detection and is a nationally certified curmudgeon. He edits the Critical Sports Blog.

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A Horse Is A Horse: The Strange Prominence of Barbaro's Death

When I found out Barbaro died, my reaction was pretty insubstantial. It’s not that I don’t feel bad for the horse, or that I don’t feel bad for the people who owned or cared about the horse. But with everything there is to be concerned about in the world, I find the death of a horse to be a somewhat minor tragedy.

So imagine my surprise when Charles Gibson reported at the top of last evening’s broadcast of World News Tonight about the death of Barbaro. I can only imagine what Peter Jennings would have thought. Maybe he’d have read it first. But I just can’t see Jennings reading the story, then going to a correspondent at the Pentagon for a report about the war.

So let me get this straight. America is engaged in two wars where people are dying every day. And the first story, on a world news program, is the death of a horse? It’s not that I don’t like animals. I’ll admit to crying when my dogs died. But I don’t ever remember so much significance placed on the death of an animal.

Barbaro may have inspired people; he may have made people happy. In that sense, I understand the sadness. But I couldn’t help but laugh when I read the Associated Press story by Dan Gelston, in which David Switzer (executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association) remarked, apparently with a straight face, that “this horse was a hero.”

I have always been cautious of using the term “hero” in sports. Of course, my main fear was in using it to describe players like John Elway or Derek Jeter, as it would equate them with soldiers, police, and firefighters. But by using “hero” and “horse” in the same sentence, Switzer has practically ruined the term. And what exactly did Barbaro do to earn “hero” status?” I’ll admit that animals can be heroes, but most of them have to do something heroic. If a dog saves a child from a burning house, the dog is a hero.

I have never owned a horse, so maybe that’s the reason for me not understanding the significance of this story. To me, a horse is a horse. I’m sure people who own horses understand, and people who saw Barbaro win the Kentucky Derby live understand.
But I don’t.


Roger Federer is Great for Tennis - and Sports

Here’s the thing: tennis is one of those sports I play more than I watch. It's just one of those things. There's not enough time in a day for me to watch every sport. On the other hand if someone would pay me - trust me - I'm watching anything.

You're reading the words of a guy who has watched curling on more than one occasion.

Tennis is a great game. The athletic demands are complimented by the technical aspects of mastering the sport. A few years ago my close friend, a former tennis player and instructor, told me that by the time he's done Roger Federer may very well be the greatest tennis player who ever lived. I took those words seriously since my friend was not into hyperbole. More sober and sane than he they don't come. "There no weaknesses in his game," he said.

Well, Roger Federer won his 10th men's singles grand slam title, winning in straight sets over a feisty Fernando Gonzalez at the Australian Open. That's good for fifth all-time, which ties Federer with Bill Tilden. He's two titles behind Ray Emerson and only one behind Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver.

More importantly, at 26 he is just four grand slam titles away the all-time leader Pete Sampras.

Wow.

Tennis has a problem on its hands. Through most of the sport's history tennis was blessed with classic rivalries. Who can forget those battles in the 1970s and 1980s between Borg, McEnroe, Connors and Lendl? Sampras and Agassi had a thing going too. But who will dance with Roger?

Andy Roddick has the attitude and will to challenge him, but if his serve is off he struggles. Rafael Nadal has flair and is blessed with a more complete game but outside of clay he's a mere mortal.

In modern tennis there is no one that comes remotely close to Roger Federer. His dominance is pure net - excuse the bad pun. What captivates me is how smooth and beautiful his game really is. He's perfect in all aspects of the game without looking like a robot.

Let me take this a step further. Forget statistics. I'm dr opping the gloves here. Forget Tiger Woods. Forget Babe Ruth, Pele, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. Forget Michael Schumacher and Mohammed Ali - to name a few.

Yeah, I may be getting excited here but I'm going with a sports junkie's instinct here. People will always debate Montana or Unitas? Chamberlin or Jordan? Lemieux, Orr, Howe or Gretzky? Even Pele has legitimate challengers in Diego Maradona and Alfredo di Stefano. Some even swear that we wasn't the greatest Brazilian player ever. For this they look to Garrincha.

For his part, Ali is sometimes not referred as the greatest heavyweight of all time. It's notoriously hard to judge auto racing or cycling - though Eddie Merckx can easily plead his case as the greatest cyclist ever. Come to think of it, he Woods come as the closest challengers that I can think of. But even experts admit Tiger has some weaknesses to his game. I've yet ot hear that about Federer.

I know I 'm mixing some team sports in there but you get the picture. Yes, tennis has had its fair share of dominant players. The consensus however has Rod Laver as the greatest and most complete player ever. Sampras has the numbers to back him up.

I recognize all that. Still…

There is a very real chance that when Federer retires he may close out his career as the most dominant professional athlete ever.

Just for that I'll be watching. There may not be any parity in tennis (sometimes dynasties are just plain good) but Federer's class and elegance may just enough for sports fans to forgive and forget.

Alessandro Nicolo - the hack with a knack - is a freelance writer and sedentary bon vivant living in Montreal.

Big Ask For Super 14 Opener as Waratahs Trek to High Veldt and Lions' Den

The national coaches of the three Southern Hemisphere superpowers will be looking on eagerly this weekend in the hope of unearthing some new talent as the Super 14 rugby season kicks off in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the countdown to the Tri-Nations tournament and September's 2007 Rugby World Cup in France.

The Waratahs (Sydney, Australia), perennial underperformers of Super Rugby, have been given the toughest task of the competition for their opening rounds of the 2007 Super 14: three away matches in South Africa, starting with the reformed Lions outfit at parochial Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa on Friday night.

With the High Veldt traditionally proving a graveyard for many visiting sides, the 'Tahs will be forced to blood some uncapped newcomers in the rarefied atmosphere of the Johannesburg cauldron, with seven rookies included in the tour squad. And with the Johannesburg f ranchise now reborn after The Cats debacle of previous seasons, the clash might also prove something of an eye opener for the Wallabies and Springboks selectors.

'Tahs Coach Ewan McKenzie dealing with player losses that include rugby-league convert utility back and Australia star Mat Rogers - who has quit rugby and returned to the 13-man game after signing with Australian National Rugby League newcomers Gold Coast Titans - expects a tough hit-out at altitude, where on paper the Lions will have the double advantage.

As part of his new squad McKenzie has decided to take schoolboy sensation Kurtley Beale, who a bit over six months ago was running around in the First XV for St Joseph's College in the Sydney GPS competition. He is joined by another promising schoolboy newcomer, speedster Lachlan Turner who captained the Newington College 1st XV in the same competition the previous season. Both can expect the level o f football to go up a few gears in intensity from what they're used to, even though both have already shown their credentials in international junior representative rugby.

Beale gave a clue to his potential at top-level when he was slotted in at five-eighth in the second half of last week's Rotomahana Challenge trial game against the champion Crusaders (Canterbury, New Zealand) at the Sydney Football Stadium. Beale sliced through the Crusaders' thin red line, splitting the defence like a can opener before off-loading to Josh Holmes for the match-winning try.

Brett Sheehan and Josh Valentine will share the half-back duties in the Republic and while they will be up to the task, McKenzie will certainly miss the services of his veteran half Chris Whitaker, who is now playing in Ireland for Leinster.

Meanwhile star fullback Peter Hewat, who finished as second-highest points scorer in last season's Super 14 on 191 just behind Crusaders centre Dan Carter, is also likely to be fit after recovering from an ankle injury suffered in a trial game the previous week. Hewat, a kicker with a radar-like boot and the the unchallenged master of the intercept try in Super Rugby, will also be hoping to impress Australia coach John Connolly in the lead-up to both the Tri-Nations and the World Cup after being ignored by the Wallabies selectors since making his debut in the old Super 12 in 2004. If Hewat's to get the nod for the national side, this is his chance with incumbent Wallabies fullback Chris Latham (The Reds, Brisbane, Au stralia) ruled out of the Super 14 season with a knee injury.

In the forwards the Waratahs will also miss the service of big second-rower and lineout specialist Dan Vickerman, and the bullocking charges from the back of the ruck by Wallaby No.8 David Lyons, both of whom are injured. While Lyons' stock in trade has been no-holds-barred physical exploitation of the chaos on the fringes, he has battled injury and underperformed recently with ball in hand so will be looking to impress when he returns to the paddock.

After their opener against the Lions, the Waratahs return to sea level to take on the Sharks (Durban, South Africa) at Kings Park before returning to the High Veldt again for their clash with the Cheetahs (Bloemfontein, Sth Africa) in Kimberley. Points from the three away games will be crucial for the 'Tahs in the latter stages of the competition.

McKenzie's men get a two-week break after their South Africa leg and a round-four bye before they put in their first appearance on home soil at Aussie Stadium in Sydney against the Western Force (Perth, Australia). McKenzie will also be hoping to pick up some vital additional bonus points on the away leg.

Meanwhile, the Lions will look to regain some credibility in front of their partisan home crowd after previous seasons of inept performances had them labeled as the easybeats of the competition. Coach Eugene Eloff will be buoyed by the imminent return of injury-prone winger Ashwin Willemse and new talent Jannie Boshoff, a former Natal Schools player and a product of Maritzburg College, South Africa's rugby nursery equivalent of St Joseph's.

The Lions depend heavily on the prodigious boot of five-eighth Andre Pretorius, but in general play it won't be enough to simply keep turning the Waratahs around on Friday night . The Lions will need to employ their big forwards and their traditional pick-and-drive game to batter away at their more mobile opposition in the hope of setting the platform for Pretorius to release his backs. If he can make space for talented Springbok centres Jaques Fourie and namesake Jaco Pretorius, the Waratahs will need to concentrate on shoring up their defensive line.

While the 'Tahs should pick up the points on Friday, jet-lag and altitude will probably take their toll on the Sydneysiders late in the second half and the Lions will have to match them early and exploit their tiredness as the game draws to a close to have any genuine hope of a win.

The other Friday night openers see the Blues (Auckland, New Zealand) take on the Crusaders in their traditional grudge match at home at Eden Park, while wooden-spooners the Western Force, hoping for a better second season of Super Rugby, get the home-turf advantage against the Highlanders (Du nedin, New Zealand) at Perth's Subiaco Oval.

That clash will be notable for the debut outing for the Force of Wallaby star Matt Giteau, who was a revelation in the Australia No.9 jersey during the Wallabies' unhappy 2006 Northern Hemisphere Spring Tests tour. Giteau, one of the world's most dangerous players, filled in nicely at halfback for George Gregan, his former veteran teammate at the Brumbies (Canberra, Australia).

Gregan, the incumbent Wallabies skipper, is still one of the best and wiliest organisers in world rugby and he arguably possesses the best short-passing game of any halfback at top level. However, he was rested from the tour by Connolly, who had hoped to uncover some new options.

Giteau, who excels in more space at inside centre and can open up gaps as succinctly as he slices through them, was probably wasted at the scrumbase in Europe given his other talents and reportedly says he wants to play five-eighth this season for the Force. The Wallabies star has a slick set of hands and would easily handle the move inside to pivot, so Force coach John Mitchell will probably oblige him to give the West Australians more attacking options through a formidable backline back line that now includes Sydney Roosters rugby-league convert Ryan Cross.

Opening round full draw:
Friday:
Blues (Auckland NZ) vs Crusaders (Canterbury NZ) at Eden Park, Auckland, Ne w Zealand.
Western Force (Perth Aust) vs Highlanders (Dunedin NZ) at Subiaco Oval, Perth, Australia.
Lions (Johannesburg SA) vs Waratahs (Sydney Aust) at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Saturday:
Chiefs (Waikato NZ) vs Brumbies (Canberra Aust) at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand.
Queensland Reds (Brisbane Aust) vs Hurricanes (Wellington, NZ) at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia.
Sharks (Durban SA) vs Bulls (Pretoria SA) at Kings Park (ABSA Stadium), Durban, South Africa.
Cheetahs (Bloemfontein SA) vs Stormers (Cape Town SA) at Free State Stadium (Vodacom Park), Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Stan Denham is a Sydney journalist who likes sport, politics, and music and has a fondness for beer

Barbaro's Final Campaign

The 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was euthanized on Monday after a long ordeal that began with the running of the Preakness Stakes. This was a hard decision by his owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson, who indicated that the pain that Barbaro felt was no longer manageable.

Born April 29, 2003, Barbaro was an American thoroughbred that won the 2006 Kentucky Derby by a decisive margin. Undefeated going into the race, he was sent off as second best by the betting public. At odds of 6 to 1 in a field of 20 horses, he charged ahead to finish by seven lengths. This was accomplished without jockey Edgar Prado asking the horse for top speed.

Barbaro began the Preakness by bolting out of the starter's gate prematurely. He disengaged the magnetically locked doors with his nose. On the official start he was off in a better position than he had been in the Derby, but soon he was under duress. Those who were watching will never forget Prado pulling Barbaro up and bringing him to a gentle stop. He dismounted and, using his shoulder, acted like a crutch. Bernardini went on to win the race.

Barbaro was taken to the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. It was determined that his leg was broken in three places. For a horse, this is a life threatening injury. In fact, had this been almost any other horse; one that had not won a major stakes race, he would have been put down immediately.

After some bad turns in July -- including a severe case of laminitis in the left rear hoof -- there was what appeared to be light at the end of the tunnel. In late August, it appeared that the leg was almost healed. In October, it looked like his laminitis was improving. And then in early November, his cast was removed and replaced with a splinted bandage. In December, the bandage was removed completely.

Things finally went down hill in January when, because of all the pressure compensation his front legs took to support his hind legs, they developed laminitis. Now, Barbaro could not comfortably stand at all. Barbaro was euthanized on January 29th at around 10:30 a.m local time.

"Certainly, grief is the price we all pay for love" said co-owner Gretchen Jackson.

T. Michael Testi is the curator of the PhotographyToday.Net website, a photographer, writer, software developer and ardent fantasy football fan. He also blogs at PhotographyTodayNet and at All This and Everything Else

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When the NFL Jumped the Shark

As we near Super Bowl Sunday, it’s as good a time as any to ask the following questions: Has the NFL jumped the shark? If so, when did this happen?

For those who are not familiar with the term, “jumped the shark” originated from the TV sitcom Happy Days. It references an episode in which the character Fonzie attempts to jump over a shark while water skiing. Many fans of that show agreed that, beyond this point, the show was never the same, i.e., never as good as it was before. The term “jump the shark” has now come to mean any point in the life of a TV show, organization, sports league, etc. beyond which it is never the same -- a kind of turning point for the worst. Jumping the shark can occur all at once or slowly, over a period of time.

I believe the NFL has indeed jumped the shark and it occurred during the 10-year period from 1993 through 2002. During that time, several changes took place, which I believe had an irreversibly negative impact on the league.

The downtrend began in 1993, when the New England Patriots switched away from their red, white, and blue uniforms featuring a logo of minuteman “Pat the Patriot” on white helmets. The new, mainly blue (first royal blue and now navy), uniforms with a “Flying Elvis” logo on silver helmets are a disgrace. The old uniforms were classy and distinctive. The new ones can easily be confused with those of several other teams. This was the beginning of the trend toward ugly uniforms in the league.

In 1997, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos took ugly uniforms to new heights. Tampa Bay replaced their red-orange, yellow, and white uniforms, featuring the “Bucco Bruce” logo on white helmets, with dark red, black, and pewter uniforms, featuring a “Skull and Swords” logo on pewter helmets. They succeeded in trading ugly uniforms for some that were even uglier.

But the Broncos took the cake. They replaced their attractive bright orange, bright blue, and white uniforms, featuring a white horse inside an orange “D” logo on bright blue helmets, with mainly navy blue and white (with some orange) uniforms, featuring a white horse’s head with an orange mane logo on navy blue helmets. Denver’s “Orange Crush” nickname had come from both the soda of the same name and the bright orange home jerseys they wore. Now the Broncos wear boring navy blue jerseys at home, with very little orange left in them. In addition, the new uniforms have an ugly streak that runs down the side of the jerseys and the pants. Curiously enough, several other pro and college teams have since tried to duplicate this feature.

However, ugly uniforms aside, the meat of the NFL’s shark-jumping came in the form of a spate of ill-conceived expansion and relocation, which also began in 1993. That year, the NFL granted expansion franchises to Charlotte, North Carolina and Jacksonville, Florida. They would become the NFL’s 29th and 30th franchises and would begin play in 1995. Even though attendance has been good for both the Carolina Panthers and the Jacksonville Jaguars, I never believed that either of these locations are NFL timber. I also believe this was the beginning of the NFL’s over-expansion and unnecessary dilution of the league’s talent.

In 1995, the degradation continued with Los Angeles losing both of its NFL franchises, as the Rams moved to St. Louis and the Raiders moved back to Oakland. Losing the Los Angeles market, the second largest in the U.S., could not have been a positive thing for the league. To add insult to injury, both teams left for markets that are now among the smallest in the NFL.

In 1996, the Cleveland Browns were allowed to move to Baltimore to become the Ravens. At that same time, Cleveland was promised a new expansion Browns franchise to begin play in 1999. It would be the league’s 31st franchise. I never understood why this was done. Attendance was good in Cleveland. And did the Baltimore-Washington area really need another team? Since losing the Colts 12 years earlier, Baltimore was getting along just fine without a team.

In 1997, the Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee, playing the first two seasons in Memphis as the Tennessee Oilers, before settling into their permanent home in Nashville as the Tennessee Titans. As is the case with Charlotte and Jacksonville, I do not believe Nashville, Tennessee belongs in the NFL. In addition, the name Titans was one that was discarded in the 1960s by the New York Jets, who were originally called the New York Titans. Couldn’t they have selected a name that no previous NFL team had used? It’s not like there was a shortage of names available. In short, the Houston Oilers, a team with one of the most nifty and original names in all of sports, moved to place known more for music than football, and traded in that name for one that someone else had thrown into the NFL’s trash bin. What a shame.

In 2002, the expansion Houston Texans began play as the NFL’s 32nd franchise. Los Angeles was originally conditionally awarded this franchise, but its city leaders botched their stadium plans, prompting the NFL to revoke it and award it to Houston instead. As was the case with the Tennessee Titans, this team selected a name that had previously been discarded by another NFL team. The Kansas City Chiefs started out in Dallas and were known as the Dallas Texans before moving to Kansas City. Not only did the Texans opt for a second-hand name, they chose uniforms that, from a distance, were almost indistinguishable from the new uniforms of the New England Patriots.

One other questionable thing the NFL did during this era was to tweak the starting times of wildcard, divisional playoff, and conference championship games. Before this time, all of these "early" games, regardless of whether they were played on Saturday or Sunday, started at 12:30 p.m. eastern, and the "late" games started at 4:00 p.m. Now, early and late Saturday wildcard and divisional playoff games begin at 4:30 and 8:00 p.m., respectively. The Sunday starting times for these games are now 1:00 and 4:30 p.m. The early and late conference championship games (both still played on Sunday) have been shifted to 3:00 and 6:30 Eastern time, respectively. I know they're trying to get more games into primetime to boost the advertising revenue, but I liked the earlier starting times better.

The NFL now has at least four more franchises than it should have, with many of its current teams in places that have no business hosting NFL teams, and using names previously tossed aside by other teams. In addition, more teams than ever had opted for ugly and/or copycat uniforms. Attractiveness and originality are out; ugliness and conformity are in. And to top it all off, more postseason games have been shifted away from their optimal afternoon starting times. I’m still a big NFL fan, but I know it’ll never be the same as it was prior to 1993.

Terry Mitchell is a software engineer, freelance writer, amateur political analyst, and blogger from Virginia, USA. He writes and blogs on on a variety of subjects such as politics, technology, religion, health and well-being, personal finance, and sports. His commentaries offer a unique point of view that is not often found in mainstream media.