Saturday, 28 April 2007

2007 Kentucky Derby - Down The Stretch To The Top Ten (Or So), Part I: The Favorites

I am going to give you my top 10 Derby horses in two parts; the favorites and the long shots. Odds listed are as of Friday April 20, 2007.

Curlin: With only three start, this horse has dominated the competition by an amazing 12 ¾ lengths at Gulfstream, 5 ¼ lengths at the Rebel and 10 ½ in the Arkansas Derby. Coming in with 5-1 odds, this horse is certainly a favorite. Odds: 5-1.

Street Sense: With Churchill Downs being his home track, I predict that this horse, who won the Breeders Cup last year by 10 lengths, will perform admiralty on May 5th as well. Odds: 6-1.

Circular Quay: While it would have been nice to see this horse at the Wood Memorial, I like this horses spirit and think that if he can avoid traffic problems, he will be in contention. Odds: 8-1.

Nobiz Like Shobiz: This horse showed what he was made of at the Woods Memorial. After being back by 3 ¼ lengths to Any Given Saturday, he came back to win by a half a length. Odds: 8-1.

Any Given Saturday: After a disappointing finish in the Wood, it may spur this horse on to victory at the Derby. It may also help that Garrett Gomez will be the jockey replacing John Velazquez who will ride Circular Quay. Odds: 10-1.

Scat Daddy: This is my favorite for the wild card amongst the favorites. He has a terrific record and with the combination of Pletcher and Prado, he has a lot going for him. If he can capture the magic of the Fountain of youth and the Florida Derby, he could just scat right in to win. Odds: 10-1.

Of the favorites, my prediction; Scat Daddy.

T. Michael Testi is a photographer, writer, software developer and ardent fantasy football fan and of horse race handicapping. He also blogs at PhotographyTodayNet and at All This and Everything Else

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Joe Thomas And The Browns: The Last Thing Cleveland Needs Is Another Orange Barrel

Okay, all you draftniks and beatniks, I need to squelch one thing right now: The Cleveland Browns should not (and will not) draft offensive lineman, Joe Thomas, with the #3 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

The only thing Joe Thomas, the offensive tackle from Wisconsin, will be "fishing for" this weekend during the 2007 NFL Draft is an approving endorsement from this writer.

"But, Chris!" you might screech, with your neurotic lady's voice, like your favorite character on Grey's Anatomy upon seeing "McDreamy" in the hospital hallway. "The game of pro football is won and lost on the offensive line!"

Well, you're half-right. But unfortunately the only thing THAT logic, along with a Master's degree in Creative Writing and an Indian nickel, will actually get you is a job proofreading classified ads placed by "Barney Gumble" in The Springfield Shopper - and another 6-10 season for the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns need an offensive line, true enough - and they are on their merry way - but work it through free agency and the later rounds of the draft.

So, I don't care what you have heard over on "Grumpy and The Dunce Talk Sports!" - or any other local Cleveland talk show for that matter. The only thing you are going to get from them is a "bad case of the bends" after eating at one of the eateries that advertise on their show.

Hey, I can suck lemons with the best of them in this town, folks, and believe-you-me: You NEVER, EVER waste a top 3 pick in the NFL Draft on a (shudder) offensive lineman!

Everyone knows you waste it on a skilled position: Quarterback, running back or wide receiver.

So, do yourself a favor and save a trip to the infirmary ("infirmary" is a 19th century term meaning "Urgent Care Center," kids - Google it!) for some other sports sap - and pray to your personal deity that the Cleveland Browns draft either Brady Quinn or Adrian Peterson.

Frankly, I think Brady Quinn (for better or worse) is the best quarterback in this year's draft - and JaMarcus Russell is an overrated soon-to-be-bust that is being "built up" by the cackling magpies in the national media who wouldn't know talent from Mel Kiper's tube of Sugar Bowl hair gel.

Regardless, I am getting quite tired of Quinn "positioning" himself between the glamour of being drafted number one by the "Oops! I did it again!" Oakland Raiders - over his "love" for playing for his beloved hometown Cleveland Browns.

Which is it, Brady? Pick your poison, pretty boy!

The Cleveland Browns would do just as well drafting running back Adrian Peterson with their 1st round pick and pouncing on Michigan State quarterback, Drew Stanton, in the second or third round.

But what do I know, huh?

I have as much chance of influencing the Cleveland Browns (and their draft) as hosting my own mid-morning "gabfest" (with some creepy sidekick) on my local FOX affiliate: "That's Cancelled! with Chris McVetta" (where my guests will include the ghost of Kurt Vonnegut who will award me the coveted "Sally Struthers Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Blogging and VCR Repair").  And we'll whip up a batch of my tasty Geez-us! Fish in a succulent lemon sauce over in my McKitchen.

The Cleveland Browns need a star quarterback or running back: Quinn or Peterson (and the rest will follow) to restore faith in the followers of the Elf they call "Brownie."

And you can bet your creepy sidekicks on that! (Check your local listings.)

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.

Barry Bonds Will Have a Short Reign As All-Time Home Run King

In the history of competitive sport you’d be hard pressed to find a more negative situation with regard to someone breaking a record. As Barry Bonds staggers across the finish line of 755 career home runs, his biggest accomplishment will that he tarnished one of the most hallowed records in all of sport.

Where Hank Aaron stood tall in the face of enormous pressure and was ever the gentleman despite every opportunity to turn sour, Bonds has been a selfish, unappealing anti-hero. Face it: only the most hardcore San Francisco Giants fans are rooting for Bonds to hit 756.

The bad news is that barring any recurrence of his knee problems, the doddering old Bonds – baseball’s Norma Desmond - looks like he’ll pass Hammerin’ Hank later this season and “earn” his place in the record books as the all-time home run king.

The good news is that it’s a pretty good bet that Bonds’ reign will be over almost as soon as it starts. Like Pope John Paul I and Bud Fox, Bonds won’t spend too much time on top.

You may have heard of a guy by the name of Alex Rodriguez who plays third base for the New York Yankees. A-Rod, as he’s commonly known, started the 2007 season as a 31-year old with 464 career homers. As I write this he’s sitting at 478 and has gotten off to a record setting start, hitting 14 home runs in April.

Going into this season Rodriguez averaged 42 round-trippers per season for the past 10 years since becoming a full-time player as a 20-year old in 1996. Barry Bonds hit only 292 home runs during his first 10 seasons, and were it not for his * cough cough * power surge over the past 11 seasons, where he hit 442 homers and averaged 40 per season, he would be lucky to be sniffing the 600-career home run mark.

But we all know that story by now. So let’s move on, because this is surely what baseball will do.

Assuming Bonds can gimp past 755 this season, there will probably be a lull of a season or two before the “A-Rod Watch” begins. As baseball looks to get the taint of the scandal-plagued and unpleasant Bonds scrubbed off of the game, they will turn to Alex Rodriguez - wherever he is then.

You don’t have to be a math whiz or a baseball expert to look at A-Rod’s numbers and figure out that he’s going to sprint past whatever number Bonds puts up -– or if he doesn’t make it -– Aaron’s 755 standard. Since he has been a legit slugger throughout his entire career, it’s not unreasonable to extrapolate the numbers and figure that by the time the 2013 season starts the 37-year-old A-Rod will have accumulated 711 dingers and will surpass the Aaron or Bonds standard during the ’13 campaign.

Barring injury or major scandal Alex Rodriguez should hit his 760th career home run during the latter stages of 2013, and will hit his 800th home run well before he turns into the faltering 40-something year old that Bonds has become. As compared to Bonds who hangs on pathetically just to break a record nobody wants to see him break, A-Rod will become the all-time home run king as a productive 38-year old ballplayer.

Where Bonds struggled and stumbled, Rodriguez will glide gracefully into the record books, at the peak of his game.

For a big man playing demanding positions A-Rod has been remarkably durable. Since he became an everyday player he has appeared in under 140 games just once and has averaged almost 600 at-bats per season. Since the steroid era began, the argument can be made that A-Rod has been the league’s most durable slugger. This kind of dependability, combined with big-time consistent production, bodes well for a guy who is in pursuit of the all-time home run record.

And you can bet your bottom dollar that Major League Baseball will pull out all the stops to promote the efforts of a player that can help the league move past the shame of the sordid, scandal plagued steroid years, for which Bonds was the poster child.

For all of his public relations blunders under the unforgiving glare of the New York spotlight, Rodriguez isn’t a bad guy; he hasn’t yet been tarnished by scandal and hasn’t run afoul of MLB’s drug policy. As a matter of fact, A-Rod’s biggest problem is that he was so good at such a young age that he signed the most lucrative pro contract ever, with the Texas Rangers prior to the 2001 season. In one of the worst bargaining moves ever, the Rangers bid against themselves and offered money to A-Rod that was well in excess to what any competing teams offered.

In the aftermath, the Rangers were failures and A-Rod bore the brunt of the fans' ire, and he was traded to the Yanks prior to the 2004 season. The anti-A-Rod faction likes to point out that he hasn’t performed well in the clutch and as a result can’t be considered a truly great ballplayer, and to a point this may be so. However, Barry Bonds hasn’t exactly been Mr. October himself. Since we are talking about the all-time home run king here, and not the all-time best ballplayer, matters of “clutch” don’t really matter that much.

Oddly enough, Aaron’s legacy as a phenomenal all-around player has taken a backseat to his position as the man who broke Babe Ruth’s record.

And Rodriguez still has a lot of baseball left in him and should have plenty of opportunities to perform well in clutch situations and as a result help whatever team he is playing for win a ring.

So Bonds may surpass Aaron and show up as number one on the all-time home run list for a few years. But his time at the top will be short, and seem even shorter, for as soon as Bonds is off the scene the baseball world will follow the slugging exploits of Alex Rodriguez, the heir obvious to the throne of home run king. It could be the best thing that’s happened to baseball in a long time.

The king is dead, long live the king.

Sal Marinello is a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer, a U.S.A. Weightlifting Certified Coach, a full-time, private Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach, an assistant football coach and a Head Strength Coach for a suburban New Jersey High School. He writes a lot and has no free time.

"Looking Back" On The 2007 NFL Draft: Adrian Peterson the Bust

Quick! We need more buildup to the NFL Draft! The top prospects do not have enough pressure on them. Will they bust or become perennial Pro Bowlers? Matt Sussman and Tuffy examine both sides of each coin, writing articles from the year 2011 "looking back" on the top 2007 draft picks. Just another reason to own a flux capacitor.

Adrian Peterson The Bust

MINNEAPOLIS -- When Adrian Peterson fell all the way to the seventh pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, Vikings fans across the state felt they had stolen the best running back in the draft. Rob Brzezinski, Vikings general manager at the time, agreed. "We got away with one today," Brzezinski smirked. Considering the recent history of poor and even forgetful draft selections over the previous few seasons, it certainly seemed the Vikings had indeed pulled Peterson out from under the other franchises.

When no other owners sought prosecution of Zygi Wilf for violating Title 18, United States Code, Section 2314 (transportation of stolen goods over state lines), perhaps someone should have been suspicious. However, Peterson delivered the goods himself for the 2007 season. He showed up in the best health of his career and strapped the team on his back, leading them to a 10-6 record with the same brute force with which he slammed through defensive lines.

After 401 carries, 1620 yards, and a respectable second-round playoff exit, the 2008 season fell into the Super Bowl or Bust category. When the Vikings went 6-10 and Peterson tried to shake off nagging injuries to his shoulder and hamstrings all season, the franchise fretted but could do nothing but reload and hope Peterson could regain the form he showed in his rookie campaign.

Peterson struggled off the field as well. He became moody and withdrawn, even from teammates and especially from the media. A DUI arrest in Eden Prairie, MN, in February 2009 brought Peterson's maturity and devotion into question when his love for football was cited as his strongest point merely two years previous.

Peterson scuffled again in 2009, hiding a turf toe problem after the fan abuse heaped upon him for his 2008 injuries. He only reached 842 yards and finally shut down his season in Week 14 when the Vikings were eliminated from playoff contention.

Running backs, more than any other position, have only so many miles they can handle. After so many carries and blows to their bodies, they simply can't offer any more. Reduced effectiveness and injuries follow. The will to play at the highest level is knocked from their bones, as happened with Barry Sanders and Robert Smith, another former Vikings running back.

For Peterson, he seemed to hit his limit earlier than other running backs, but he couldn't be pushed any further. His 2010 campaign ended before it started with an ACL tear during the last preseason game, his first after arthroscopic knee surgery in the 2009 offseason.

Only recently has Minnesota discovered the law broken on draft day: Title 15, United States Code, Section 1984 (odometer fraud). Peterson and the Oklahoma Sooners ran up untold miles and carries on his fragile body, hiding the abuse and spinning back the odometer just in time to raise the hype on Peterson in the 2007 NFL Draft. The Vikings didn't make the steal; they were fooled into giving this young lemon a slotted contract with a seven-figure bonus.

Unfortunately for the Vikings and their fans, the statue of limitations ran out long ago on this crime. Instead of trying one more time to get this young man's body running again, the Vikings released Peterson today. Billionaire visitors to the used running backs lot this spring should beware and bring their own body mechanics while shopping this time.

Now read Matt Sussman's "Adrian Peterson The Star."

Tuffy cares about you. While others have neglected you, Tuffy has not forgotten you. Just lie back and think of Tuffy. Tuffy writes for DeadOn as well.

"Looking Back" On The 2007 NFL Draft: Brady Quinn The Bust

Quick! We need more buildup to the NFL Draft! The top prospects do not have enough pressure on them. Will they bust or become perennial Pro Bowlers? Matt Sussman and Tuffy examine both sides of each coin, writing articles from the year 2011 "looking back" on the top 2007 draft picks. Just another reason to own a flux capacitor.


Brady Quinn The Bust

CLEVELAND — The Brady Quinn Era looks just about done in Cleveland. The Browns' new head coach Brian Kelly unabashedly named Dan LeFevour his starting quarterback for the 2011 season. And yet another highly touted quarterback has fallen by the wayside.

Quinn, the Notre Dame graduate and No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 draft, tried to make the Browns a success in the 3½ years he started for them. And like Tim Couch and Charlie Frye before him, Quinn is now on the short list of failed quarterbacks.

He began his rookie year starting midseason, replacing the aforementioned Frye. In 10 games he threw for 1,991 yards, 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and a 3-7 record. Injuries to his safety valve, running back Jamal Lewis, and the offensive line didn't help Quinn's sophomore season at all as he and the Browns finished 6-10. His third year was a promising 9-7, but the season ended in a disappointing loss to the Jets. And last year, Quinn hit the low point of his young career, finishing 5-11 and chucking 16 touchdowns to 23 interceptions.

What also cursed the Quinn Era was James Filiaggi, a convicted murderer who was put to death four years ago, whose final words were that he'd work his magic in heaven to get the Browns to the Super Bowl. That, uh, didn't happen.

Quinn will serve as the backup for the highly touted LeFevour -- in his second year out of Central Michigan -- but he is considered to be on the trading block and could be dealt to the Panthers or Giants in the next couple of weeks.

Browns fans hope the LeFevour/Kelly combo works this year as well as it did in 2006, when Kelly coached LeFevour at Central Michigan University to win a Mid-American Conference championship. But the Filiaggi Curse is still in effect for one more year.

Now read Tuffy's "Brady Quinn The Star."

Matt SussmanBeing editor of BC Sports isn't Matt Sussman's main job -- nor is blogging at The Futon Report or writing a weekly column for the Toledo Free Press -- and it shows. Contact him at .

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"Looking Back" On The 2007 NFL Draft: Adrian Peterson The Star

Quick! We need more buildup to the NFL Draft! The top prospects do not have enough pressure on them. Will they bust or become perennial Pro Bowlers? Matt Sussman and Tuffy examine both sides of each coin, writing articles from the year 2011 "looking back" on the top 2007 draft picks. Just another reason to own a flux capacitor.

Adrian Peterson The Star

MINNEAPOLIS -- Fantasy owners need no introduction. Just a simple acknowledgment that he's healthy.

And he's healthy. Draft away, managers.

Adrian Peterson, the sensational running back for the Minnesota Vikings, aims to go for his fourth straight 1,000 yard season in hopes of putting his team back in the playoffs. Peterson, who ran for a career-high 1,354 yards last year, will be the focal point of the Vikings hard-nosed offense as the Men In Purple endure a hotly contested quarterback controversy.

Peterson was believed by many to be the top running back to come out of the 2007 draft, even though he was snagged in the seventh overall slot. Going six picks without a back seems lengthy, but not when you consider Stephen Jackson as the first back taken in the '04 draft by the Rams in the No. 24 slot. So no matter how long it took, the Vikings got the most talented back in the draft that year.

His first season he was the secondary running back to Chester Taylor. Peterson ran for 663 yards and 7 touchdowns. The following year, Minnesota had one of the top rushing attacks in football as Taylor ran for 987 yards while Peterson finished with 1,034. As injuries began to poke away at Taylor's legs, Peterson shone brighter in 2009 when he finished with 1,213 yards and 16 touchdowns.

But Taylor's success has not always correlated with team success. In 2008 the team finished 11-5, their best season under the Adrian Peterson Era. Coming off a 9-7 year, the Vikings have most of their core talent returning and should be the favored team coming out of the NFC North.

Of course, Viking wins mean nothing to fantasy owners. So let's just say a 1,400-yard season is not out of the question.

Now read Tuffy's "Adrian Peterson The Bust."

Matt SussmanBeing editor of BC Sports isn't Matt Sussman's main job -- nor is blogging at The Futon Report or writing a weekly column for the Toledo Free Press -- and it shows. Contact him at .

"Looking Back" On The 2007 NFL Draft: Brady Quinn The Star

Quick! We need more buildup to the NFL Draft! The top prospects do not have enough pressure on them. Will they bust or become perennial Pro Bowlers? Matt Sussman and Tuffy examine both sides of each coin, writing articles from the year 2011 "looking back" on the top 2007 draft picks. Just another reason to own a flux capacitor.

Brady Quinn The Star

MIAMI - The Miami Kid has struck again.

This time, Brady Quinn has struck the jackpot, signing a new 7-year, $225 million contract. As always, the NFL players' contract numbers are more statement than fact; Quinn will never see the last years of that deal. However, the statement is clear: Brady Quinn is the brightest star on South Beach until further notice.

When Quinn arrived in Miami after free falling to the ninth pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, he was already a polished quarterback on the field and in the media room. He knew how to flash a smile and an audible with the same genial ease. His All-American looks and Fighting Irish pedigree made him a cinch to be a familiar face before his first pro snap.

However, he was a surprisingly difficult sell in south Florida. His pale complexion and bravado defined a cocky kid not from around Miami. His initial holdout, though ended after one day of camp, did not win any instant affection.

For most fans, though, the first pass of the first preseason game was a more powerful conversion tool than Touchdown Jesus Himself. He wheeled out of the pocket, skipped past two defenders, and visibly shook his head at the second man. He then launched a Titan III from the Florida coast, 45 yards on the run, to Chris Chambers as he strode past his defender for the end zone. Miami's fans rose as one with the pass and erupted as it touched down.

The replay of the head shake dominated the game coverage and followed Quinn into post-game conference. With charm and modesty that marked his Notre Dame tenure, he downplayed the incident as misinterpreted and that he would never embarrass a fellow warrior on the field. "I'm not the most important person out there," he shrugged. "I'm just a kid right now."

The Miami Kid was born.

As he tore through the preseason competition, Brady Quinn quickly split America down a fault line. Those who couldn't stand his slick persona stood on one side; south Florida and nearly every woman in America stood slack-jawed on the other. Peyton Manning was supplanted as America's Sunday Spokesman almost instantly.

Quinn didn't walk on water all season, unless one counts his slick moves across the nightclubs of Miami. Still, he put in a very impressive showing for first-year coach Cam Cameron, ending at a 9-7 record, just missing out on the playoffs. Quinn especially shone on Monday Night and Sunday Night, rising to the occasion for the national cameras.

His first Pro Bowl appearance after the 2008 season followed a 10-6 season and completing nearly as many passes as rumors of celebrity indiscretions. Still, a young prince is allowed his dalliances if he succeeds in the postseason, which he failed to do, putting in his first poor performance under the spotlight against the Broncos.

Unlike his corporate predecessor, Quinn wouldn't let the hothouse flower label stick for long. In 2009's preseason, Quinn let slip (quite accidentally, certainly) that he looked forward to playing in a virtual home game in Super Bowl XLIV that February. Quinn's Super Bowl guarantee hung over him all season, possibly leading to the increase in interceptions as he tried to force his team to victory. A 9-7 record allowed Miami to sneak in this time.

From there, the Miami Kid began writing the best chapters of his epic tale. With no home field advantage along the way, Brady Quinn rode a hot hand and a steely determination to his promised destination, providing Miami with its first Super Bowl appearance in Quinn's lifetime. His Super Bowl MVP heroics cemented a legend. Fans finally leaving Dolphin Stadium half-jokingly argued about where to put the Brady Quinn statue and what pose to put it in.

With 2010's bitter AFC Championship Game loss to an aging Tom Brady and New England still lingering, Quinn reloads with a promising running game and a new commitment to success. He has supposedly cut back on his endorsements, though his smiling bronze face still seems to be ubiquitous on Sundays. His focus, never really in question, seems sharper than ever.

The Miami Kid will strike again this fall.

Now read Matt Sussman's "Brady Quinn The Bust."

Tuffy cares about you. While others have neglected you, Tuffy has not forgotten you. Just lie back and think of Tuffy. Tuffy writes for DeadOn as well.

2007 Kentucky Derby - Down The Stretch To The Top Ten (Or So), Part II: The Long-Shots

I am going to give you my top 10 in two parts; the favorites and the long shots. This edition is the Long-shots. Odds listed are as of Friday April 20, 2007.

Great Hunter: Although he moved too early from his second slot in the Blue Grass and was forced to pull up because of tiring Teuflesberg, he still show the kind of aggressiveness needed to win in the Derby Odds: 15-1.

Hard Spun: He has had six weeks off which certainly is a question that can go against a horse. His trainer said Monday that he came of his work out "Really good" and he is "Moving forward". Odds: 15-1.

Dominican: This is a very dangerous horse that works well both on Polytrack as well as dirt. He got the nose on what was really a four horse finish at the Blue Grass. Odds: 20-1.

Cowtown Cat: This horse is peaking at the right time, has the ability to lead or stalk and his trainer is the amazing Pletcher. Odds: 20 -1.

Chelokee: At the Florida Derby, he showed that he can run with the big dogs. He might just be the sleeper Odds: 25-1.

Of the Long-shots, my prediction; Dominican!

Next week I will follow up with a summary of horses and update odds as we head to the Derby.

T. Michael Testi is a photographer, writer, software developer and ardent fantasy football fan and of horse race handicapping. He also blogs at PhotographyTodayNet and at All This and Everything Else