Sunday, 25 February 2007

Will The Cleveland Browns Draft Brady Quinn?

Bless me Lucky Charms: The Cleveland Browns are drafting #3 in the 2007 NFL Draft. All the unicorns and leprechauns in my little Brownie universe, it seems, have aligned. The Cleveland Browns -- and their Death Star of a franchise -- are in the right orbit now to draft Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn.

The only question now is this: Will they pull the trigger?

No doubt, the Browns -- like most of the special children in my universe -- have a lot of needs. Offensive linemen, a top-notch cornerback, a stud running back to bash his way out of the backfield, and even a feisty water boy with a heart of gold are on the top of their wish list.

So, the question remains, who should they select with such a high pick?

My rule of thumb is you never pass up a potential franchise player with a lofty draft pick in the NFL. Yes, the Cleveland Browns desperately need a star lineman to keep their future quarterback from continually chewing turf on the shores of Lake Erie. Yes, the Browns need a running back who could beat both The Flash and Superman in a foot race around the globe.

But, unfortunately, I truly believe that the Cleveland Browns need a quarterback with a rocket-to-you arm and all the mechanics to just win, baby, win.

Charlie Frye, albeit a good guy, is not the answer. Frye has, at times, shown the ability to be very okay, at the very least. But Frye (like most young quarterbacks) has made his share of shudder-inducing mistakes as well in the most crucial of times when the game is on the line.

The Browns need a force to be reckoned with in their backfield. The Browns need a fearless leader who is able to utilize the weapons of pass destruction they have constructed in the Cleveland Etch-a-Sketch forms of Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow Jr., and Joe Jurevicius.

And that force of nature just happens to be Quinn.

Last year, the Oakland Raiders passed on quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler -- and their franchise has suffered significant losses because of it. Owner Al Davis -- in all of his polyester jumpsuit "wisdom" -- made the blunder of this NFL century by settling for the bumbling Aaron Brooks. Can the Browns afford to make the same mistake? I think not.

Critics of Brady Quinn might claim that the Browns might be better suited to draft Oklahoma running back, Adrian Peterson -- and they might have a point.

Truth be told, the Browns lost out big time when they passed on LaDainian Tomlinson who is on pace to possibly be the best running back of all time. But I question whether Adrian Peterson is the next Tomlinson. Peterson's injuries on the field seem to often outweigh his potential talent.

Brady Quinn, on the other hand, could be the second-coming of Joe Montana, which is a hard trick to beat -- but it's possible.

Make no mistake about it: Love us or hate us, I am a Notre Dame football fan. But I am not letting that loyalty blind me over my foolish love for the Browns. If Adrian Peterson was the best running back in this draft, I would take him in a heartbeat. But Peterson's injuries make him a M*A*S*H-like risk that even Hawkeye might not be able to fix with a scalpel in one hand and an extra-dry martini in the other.

Brady Quinn has all the intangibles and the talent who could easily make the seamless transition from Notre Dame Leprechaun to Brownie Elf.

Bill Cowher, the former coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, let his ego and blind ambition follow his chosen quarterback, Kordell Stewart, down a path to nowhere for years and years -- and probably cost him a few more Super Bowls in the process.

Can Randy Lerner, Romeo Crennel, and Phil Savage really afford to do the same with Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson? All egos aside, I think the fans of the Cleveland Browns deserve better than that tired fate.

Sure, the Cleveland Browns will never go anywhere until they build a superior offensive line to protect their investments in the backfield. But I believe they were on the right path by building that line in free agency. Hopefully, all the unexplained "X-Files" injuries won't scare them off from continuing to do just that in 2007.

Like Popeye with his spinach, Olive Oil has poured a can of Belgian Ale down my throat and I a ready to go the distance with Bluto and anyone else who thinks drafting Brady Quinn is a mistake. Hey, I am what I am.

Fight the future. The Cleveland Browns are a storied franchise who are within reach of greatness. Don't flush that all down the toilet, Phil Savage, just to try and prove the point that you can win with Charlie Frye and a head coach that is hanging by moment here with you in Cleveland.

The Browns need to draft Brady Quinn. The Truth Is Out There. I Want To Believe.

Chris McVetta is a graduate of THE Cleveland State University and an alumni of The Second City. Chris has published hundreds of articles on pop culture, sports, film, TV and comedy in such venues as The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Scene, The Free Times, North Coast Voice, SportsJam! and Entertainment Weekly. Chris is also the writer/creator of the pop culture blog, The id and I.

Saturday, 24 February 2007

The BCS Mess: Golden Dome My Ass

Many a pundit has written article after article about how this team or that team got snubbed for the national championship, or what about so-and-so from a mid-major... enough of that crap.

This past season showed everything that I hate. Notre Dame is what's wrong with the BCS.

The Irish lost, 41-14, to the LSU Tigers, and are now 0-9 in bowl games since 1994. What does this have to do with the BCS, you ask? Well...

Notre Dame went 10-3 and wound up in a BCS bowl, having finished 11th in the BCS standings. Granted, the Irish made it to a BCS bowl by default - the two teams above them in the BCS that didn't go, Auburn and Wisconsin, couldn't go by rule because their conferences already had two other teams in BCS bowls. That doesn't make it okay for Notre Dame to get a nod.

In the past 5 seasons, including bowl games, Notre Dame is 40-22 overall. Not too terrible. Look closer though - they are 11-13 overall against ranked opponents (and three of those 11 wins were against teams that were ranked when they played them but finished the season unranked). In the last two seasons, during the "turn-around," the Irish are 19-6 overall, but 4-5 against ranked opponents, and 1-5 against teams that started and finished the season ranked.

Sounds a lot like a mid-major team, doesn't it?

I've always held a bit of a grudge against Notre Dame, mainly because they like to present themselves as a good, Catholic institution, yet for purely monetary reasons they play every single sport except football as a member of the Big East Conference. This just helps my case, though.

I understand that Notre Dame has a following nationwide, not unlike the Pittsburgh Steelers, and therefore is a guaranteed ratings, tickets, and revenue. But don't you think the Sugar Bowl reps could have gotten an equally big draw from allowing West Virginia (right behind them at 13th in the BCS) a return trip to the bayou, especially after what they did against Georgia last year? Or, God forbid, tweaking the rules so that a FAR more deserving Wisconsin or Auburn team could have gone?

I suppose, in the end, there are three possible outcomes.
A) Notre Dame keeps getting gimmes, and we keep writing articles like this.
B) They lose respect and BCS bids.
C) They suck it up, join the Big East for football, and dominate their way to repeated automatic BCS bids.

Excuse me if I pray for anything but A.

The Notre Dame issue, on the other hand, may just be the by-product of a bigger problem - has anyone paused to consider that the BCS is eating itself alive?

First and foremost, you have the irony that the BCS concept was originally created by Harvey Schiller, who at the time was commissioner of the SEC -- one of the conferences with the most trouble getting to the BCS Championship.

Which leads right to the second problem - getting into the damn BCS games to begin with. I personally love catching a Big Six conference match-up, because I know (especially in the SEC and Big 10) the odds of seeing a close, hard fought, nail biter of a game is almost a given at least a few times a season. It's that very competitiveness that leads to teams taking each other down a peg, which is great TV, but horrible for title hopes in this day where every loss is so huge.

Just this season, you had a #2 ranked Auburn team lose to an unranked Arkansas team to drop to 11th. Then the very next week, they defeated the Florida team that moved into second in their place, and moved back up to 8th. They gradually climbed back up to 5th in the rankings, then lost to another unranked team (Georgia) to drop to 15th in the rankings, before winding up 10th at season's end. I think this is the first time I have ever seen one team play two different games in one season where they were a top 5 team and lost to an unranked team. I can't see this happening in a non-BCS conference.

Then there was the Big East. One week, #5 Louisville beats #3 West Virginia to take their place at #3; then two weeks later, that #3 Louisville team loses to #15 Rutgers, which moves Rutgers up to #7; then Rutgers (as #7) loses to Cincinnati, to cede #7 to West Virginia; then West Virginia goes out the next week and loses to unranked South Florida.

Got all that?

Folks used to say, "Oh, so-and-so from the Big 10 is never going to make the BCS because that conference is so deep that everyone is beating each other." Well, that's also true of the SEC. And the Pac-10. And the Big East. It would be true of the Big 12 and ACC as well if not for the presence of teams like Baylor and Duke.

Bring on the playoff! I mean seriously, it isn't enough of a slap in the face that you have been renamed from "Division I-A" to "Bowl Championship Subdivision?"

Geeves is mainly a critic of the sports and entertainment arena, publishing his works at pirateguy.blogspot.com and nationalsportsreview.blogspot.com . He tends to lean towards the sarcastic, but often bears down and takes the world seriously.

Hacks, All of You

Seriously. I throw this claim at pretty much every talking head lately, but it stems from a much earlier incident.

In the beginning of this season, the NHL suspended Nashville Predators forward Scott Nichol for nine games for a sucker punch on Buffalo defenseman Jaroslav Spacek the previous night. I didn't see it right away, but then I caught the replay, and Scotty straight up cold-cocked the boy. Whomped him good.

Me personally, I'm happy with a nine game suspension. It was swift and significant action, and Nichol sat out a full three weeks away from the rink. Yes, it was a cheap shot, but it wasn't Todd Bertuzzi chasing Moore down from behind so he could donkey punch him. All is well.

Then all day on the day the suspension was announced, there are talking heads everywhere going on and on about how "oh, when black NBA players get into a scuffle, it's a bunch of thugs in a riot, but when a white hockey player punches another, it's just part of the game." Which turned into these long, rambling diatribes about how the pooh-poohing of any sort of violence in the NBA and the condoning of it by the NHL is an overarching race issue.

This is, by any standard, a big, steaming pile of crap. First of all, it is a well established fact that hockey is a predominantly white sport, and basketball (along with football, for that matter) is a majority black sport. That's just the way it is right now. Secondly, in basketball you have a sport that is played in an open court, with physicality in the form of hand-checking, bumping shoulders, and the occasional charge or hard foul. Hockey is a sport played by guys who are just as fast, but doing so while skating around on a slick surface within a confined area. I don't doubt that the NBA would be far more violent if the players had the option of checking their opponent into the boards (it's certainly true in arena football). So hockey can't help but have a significantly higher level of violence; slick surface+skates+big players = lots and lots of momentum within very finite spaces.

In basketball, you D up on the opponent's best player by getting up close to him, and playing him certain ways. In hockey, you do the same thing, except the players are constantly moving. So the best way to stop the best player is to stop him from moving - hitting him into the boards. If one team gets a little froggy doing just that to a star player, it will be brought to their attention that it isn't appreciated.

Hockey and basketball are completely different sports with completely different levels of physicality. Comparing the allowances for the extremes of that physicality is at best apples to oranges, and has not a damn thing to do with race.

Geeves is mainly a critic of the sports and entertainment arena, publishing his works at pirateguy.blogspot.com and nationalsportsreview.blogspot.com . He tends to lean towards the sarcastic, but often bears down and takes the world seriously.

Fantasy Horse Racing: Road To The Roses Contest

The Road to the Roses Fantasy Contest has begun. Between February 17 and the Kentucky Derby (May 5) you can put together your stable of horses, hire your trainers and jockeys and see if you have what it takes to make a run for the roses.

2007 Road To The Roses is the official fantasy game of the Kentucky Derby. Prizes include a $500 or $1,000 win wager in the Derby, Derby jackets as well as the grand prize, an all expense paid trip to the 2008 Kentucky Derby.

To play, you start off by picking ten horses, two jockeys, and two trainers. You will be given two additional opportunities to choose additional horses. You can pick three horses between March 12th and March 16th, two horses between April 17th and April 20th, or five horses between April 17th and April 20th.

In your stable you must have five active horses at all times. That means that you have to watch the schedule of your horses and see whe n they will be racing and have them active. You will be able to change what your active horses are any time before the scoring race day lockout period (usually this is 12:00 a.m. Eastern time on Saturdays). Check out for full rules and regulations.

You must sign up before the lockout period to be eligible for the races that week. Points are scored and standings posted after each weekend is complete. Good luck and hope to see you on the 2007 Road To The Roses.

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 Everythi ng Else

Interview: Miami University Hockey Captain Ryan Jones

After going on a tear this weekend, Miami RedHawks’ captain Ryan Jones was named Central Collegiate Hockey Association Offensive Player of the Week. Facing a surging Robert Morris University squad, the junior forward provided five goals and two assists in the series sweep. Thursday night in Oxford, Ohio, Jones scored two goals in the first four minutes of the game on his way to his second career hat-trick. Saturday night on the road in Pittsburgh, Jones provided similar heroics with a pair of goals and a game winning goal.

The native of Chatham, Ontario, is having a stellar campaign. This season, the left-winger broke Miami’s single season record for goals scored. He currently has 25 goals and 17 assists for a total of 42 points. Jones also holds Miami’s record for game-winning goals with 13, including four this season.

I had the opportunity to speak with Jones earlier this week.  

On Miami’s unofficial fan site, a lot of the fans expressed concerns that you would not gain the CCHA Offensive Player of the Week award with the RedHawks facing a non-conference opponent in Robert Morris. Did you give that much thought?

No, (laughs) as players, you don’t really worry about whether you are going to get awards and whatnot. You are just glad that you can contribute to the team winning a couple ga mes. To tell you the truth, it was the last thing on my mind until somebody said [I had won the award’]. I really didn’t know.

You have had an illustrious career at Miami. This season, you broke the single season goal record, and you are Miami’s career leader in all-time game winning goals, are those things that you will look back at one day rather than at this moment in time?

Yeah, it will be one of those things where you can brag to everyone about when you are an old guy, but like I said, right now, it is about getting the team where we all want to be at the end of the season. And you know when we get to the Frozen Four or if we are blessed enough to win a national championship, it doesn’t matter who scored the goals and who gets the points, it is the whole team that gets recognized.

Speaking of the team, it seemed like you guys had hit a low with a four-game winless streak and Brian Kaufman went down wi th an injury against Alaska, and now all of a sudden the team has bounced back, winning four in a row and earning a first-round bye in the CCHA playoffs. Have the spirits totally changed since the Alaska trip?

No, not really. I don’t think there is a huge difference between the four games where we didn’t get a win and the four games where we did. We got a few unlucky bounces in those two games. We went to the overtime with Alaska, twice. Anything can happen in overtime. And, I think the last four games, the bounces just went our way, and when you work hard, you tend to get those bounces and that’s just the difference between those two quarters there.

Do you think a lot of that has to do with the veteran leadership that you and the five seniors bring to the table, realizing how long the season is and it is more like a marathon than it is a quick sprint?

Yeah, you don’t want to dwell on the four-game streak where you don’t have wins. Because, like you said, it is an extremely long season. You can bounce back, and as long as you win your last game, that’s all that matters.

And, speaking of your last game, I heard there were a couple hurdles trying to even get to the arena Saturday night.

Yeah, the bus got stuck behind the hotel, so we went over the arena on shuttle buses with 10-12 guys on each bus. And knowing [head] coach [Enrico] Blasi and how superstitious he is, we are going to be taking shuttle buses to every rink from hotels.

Speaking of superstitions, do you have any, and did Saturday night’s transportation troubles throw off any of those off?

No, I just try to focus on the game. I have a few tape stick superstitions and I listen to a play list, but I don’t get too in depth in that kind of thing because situations like that can throw anything off.

What is it like playing in the brand new Steve Cady arena, home of the crazed "Ricoville" fans?

It’s been great this year. Our fans have been awesome. There haven’t been any empty seats on any given night, except for the [holiday] break when the students were not in town. The atmosphere at our arena is great, and to have home ice for the playoffs is huge for us.

Having the opportunity to watch you, you look like a throwback player, someone from a different era evidenced by your hard-nosed style of play and the fact that you have never missed a game in your collegiate career. Do you feel like you have something in your blood that is a little different than others?

(laughs) That’s just the type of game that I like. I like to be in the corners of the net and play a physical style of game. And that has to do with watching my cousin play in the late ‘80’s, early ‘90’s. He’s the only player that I&rsqu o;ve modeled my game around, so maybe that where I picked it up.

Blogcritics' M.D. Sandwasher moonlights as a freelance writer and is an avid lover of sports and music. He regularly contributes to Blogcritics and maintains his own blog.

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Still Just a Wie Girl

Pardon my bluntness, but this is really getting old.

Last month, Michelle Wie participated in the Sony Open for the third year in a row. She struggled constantly and finished her two day appearance 14 over par, missing the cut by 14 strokes.

Michelle injured her wrist in the tournament and is now sitting out the requisite four to six weeks to let it heal, which may or may not keep her from playing in thes year's Kraft Nabisco Championship. Forgive me for not holding my breath awaiting her return.

I appreciate that Michelle is/was a teen phenom who absolutely obliterated all of the competition her age prior to turning pro, and in doing so created a lot of buzz as the next big thing, the next marketing hook for the LPGA and/or PGA to hang their hat on. Unfortunately, Michelle has now competed in six PGA tour events - three trips to the Sony Open, two John Deere Classic, and the final 84 Lumber Classic last year - and has only come within three strokes of making the cut once (while missing the cut by at least 10 strokes three times). Overall, for her career, she has participated in 46 events and has only one victory, three years ago.

There are several things at play here. First is that t he LPGA is trying to turn her into the next Annika Sorenstam - highly popular, successful, and attractive female who goes and plays with the boys. Only one problem there. The main reason Sorenstam made the foray into the PGA as she did was that she was dominating almost every tournament she played in on the LPGA circuit - it was a move to find new challenges, not just new marketing opportunities.

They (executives) are also trying to make her the next Tiger - pumping the phenom status, look at what she can do, forget what she can't do... which completely ignores the fact that there probably won't be another Tiger. Ever.

Wie had never really done anything prior to this. Sure, she blew everyone away in 2003 when she took the Amateur Links as a 14-year-old. She then finished her "amateur" career with four appearances in the Kraft Nabisco Championship (9th/4th place finishes) and U.S. Women's Open (39th and 13th place fini shes).

She turned pro in '05 - which is only technical. She can't be an LPGA Tour member until she is 18 (October of this year) but until then, her "pro" status earns her the right to recieve sponsor exemptions for up to 6 PGA Tour events per year. I already mentioned how she has done in the few she has appeared in. In the meantime, the last two years have brought about a more respectable five top-five finishes at LPGA events.

I have no problem with her being marketed as a rising star, but I don't really feel right with calling her the "Next Big Thing" even in the LPGA until she actually wins something. Here's hoping she does, and returns to the PGA Tour in due time once she has proven what we all hope - that she will eventually dominate the women like Annika.

Geeves is mainly a critic of the sports and entertainment arena, publishing his works at pirateguy.blogspot.com and national sportsreview.blogspot.com . He tends to lean towards the sarcastic, but often bears down and takes the world seriously.

Sports On XM And Sirius: When Satellites Collide

Rivals XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio have announced there intentions of merging to create a single giant satellite radio company, with a combined market value of approximately $13 billion. However, it does not have FCC approval as of yet so it's not a sure thing. DirecTV and DISH Network attempted a satellite monopoly merger of their own but could not gain the support of the FCC. The reason being consumers would only have one option for satellite television.

The reason for XM and Sirius' desire to merge is pretty simple: both companies are bleeding money. The two satellite radio giants lost $1.5 billion combined in 2005, and the still unannounced 2006 figures are expected to be similar.

Okay, on to the sports part.

In an arms race to acquire exclusive content both companies scrambled (and spent big dollars) to lock the broadcasting rights for sports.

So far Sirius has:

• Locked up NFL rights for $200 million plus stock options
• Bought the rights to NCAA's March Madness tournament
• Stolen the NASCAR Nextel Cup from XM
• All this plus landing the biggest radio free agent ever: Howard Stern for $500 million over five years.

Meanwhile, XM has: 

• Forked over a $650 million payout to broadcast MLB games for 11 years and for the "Official satellite radio provider of Major League Baseball" tag line
• Secured rights to NHL

(We won't even go into CFL, soccer, tennis, and golf.)

Each provider inked past and present sports personalties to host shows on these channels when there's no games on.

So it's easy to see how the large price tags for pro sports content effected on each companies ability to turn a profit.

What does it mean to sports fans? If the merger gets the OK then we have a single amazing product to listen to practically any sport going on anywhere in the world as it happens.

The gates are open at all times here at The Jaunt. Everyday is fan appreciation day, the drinks are never flat, and you don't have to be subjected to a loud; shirtless fat dude. Here at The Jaunt you will be enlightened and entertained by every facet of one of the most spiritual experiences in the world. A trip to the ballpark. Anything and everything that makes up the entire ballpark ambience will be discussed -- sometimes intelligently. The Jaunt serves as a meeting ground for all individuals who embrace camarad erie and share the same passion for sporting events, road trips and other gatherings.

Goodbye D.J.: Celtic guard Dennis Johnson Dead, 52

I heard the news last night, one of those moments that bring instant nostalgia mixed with sadness.

Dennis “D.J.”, Johnson, dead at the so very young age of 52.

Now, many are more qualified to write about his stats as player and coach, but I know as a Boston Celtics fan from the ruling days of the mid 1980s, I am just as qualified to write about what #3 meant to me and the rest of the NBA. You see, there was this extraordinary group of players, way back then, who worked parquet chemistry that has rarely been replicated since.

I never followed professional sports much before or after those glory days, but to me the band of brothers known as Ainge, D.J., The Chief, McHale, Bird; these men absolutely defined ‘Dream Team’, even before the ’92 Olympics. And now the dream has been diminished as if there was a funky rift in a sports version of the space -time continuum.

Of course, Dennis Johnson was not a cancer researcher or on his way to be canonized for selfless work in the name of humanity. He was just an average guy from Compton, but he developed into an outstanding ball player and outstanding team player. One of the best moments of Celtics lore (and memorably called by the iconic Johnny Most) was during game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference finals. Larry Bird stole a pass from the Detroit Pistons’ Isiah Thomas and whipped it to DJ, who laid the ball in the net for a one point lead in the final seconds of the game.

“…Oh MY, this place is going crazy…”

I remember that moment so vividly – but now the overall image of those days has just had a significant piece ripped away.

Dennis Johnson leaves his wife Donna; and three children Dwayne, Daniel and Denise.

Mary K. is a freelance writer living in the Greate r Boston area. She is also Features Editor for Hot Psychology Magazine, and has contributed to the recently published anthology, Brewed Awakenings.

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