Wednesday, 27 June 2007

The Miami Dolphins' 2007 Schedule: Who's On Their Play List

Every year, Miami Dolphins fans find themselves swimming in wonderment, questioning whether their team will be good, bad, or just plain ugly. While the NFL is filled with teams that need little speculation - teams that are routinely playoff bound or teams that are a shoe in for a good draft pick - Miami isn't one of them. Perpetually hovering around the .500 mark, with a few good seasons and bad seasons peppered in, the Dolphins are a team that can go either way: towards a winning season or into the dark cracks of failure.

This year, however, could be different. As Dante Culpepper's career takes a metaphorical and literal knee, Trent Green looks to be the new starting quarterback, one who can hopefully "fin"ish the season with more wins than losses.

The following is the Dolphins' 2007 schedule, and a breakdown of their opponents.

Sept 9th @ Washington Redskins: With a 5-11 record under their belts last year, the Redskins looked to revamp their entire team during the 2007 off season. But, they didn't revamp it enough. Washington should see another bad year, making them wonder if Doug Williams should restart at quarterback.

Sept 16th Dallas Cowboys: Dallas was a game above mediocrity with a 9-7 record last season. After a devastating loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs (laces out, Tony Romo), the stability of the Cowboys lies solely in how their quarterback -- who ended last year on a sour note "holding" the ball for a field goal -- will react. He will either bounce back, or fall further. If he plays well, Dallas could be a hard team to beat.

Sept 23rd @ New York Jets: The Jets just about have all of their ducks in a row: they are almost ready for takeoff. After making nice additions on defense, and signing Thomas Jones at running back, this team will be better than they were last year. With a 10-6 2006 record, being better will make them a force to be reckoned with.

Sept 30th Oakland Raiders: Remember when the Oakland Raiders made it to the Super Bowl in 2002? Yeah, neither do we. A team that has fallen far, far, and farther, they really have nowhere to go but up from their 2-14 last season record. If JaMarcus Russell is as good a quarterback as they are hoping, Oakland could be decent, but don't expect miracles: since their Super Bowl appearance, they have made a disappearance, finishing way under .500 for the past four seasons.

October 7th @ Houston Texans: At 6-10 last season, the Houston Texans weren't as bad as they could have been: perpetual underdogs, they found a way to win games they shouldn't have won. Still, their decision to release David Carr will come back to haunt them, and it will make them realize that Carr wasn't to blame: it's hard to be a good quarterback when you have zero help on offense.

October 14th @ Cleveland Browns: A team with a horrible 4-12 last season record, the Cleveland Browns are anxious to get the Brady Quinn era underway. This is a young team: they probably won't make many waves this season, but don't be surprised to see them turn some heads in the years to come.

October 21st New England Patriots: After finishing 12-4 last season, and receiving a devastating loss to the Colt's in the "real Super Bowl," the Patriots are hungry for redemption, and another championship. They won't go undefeated, but they will get to the playoffs; they always do.

October 28th New York Giants (in London): A team that finished at .500 last season, it's about time for Eli to start carrying on the Manning name. Genetically destined for greatness, Manning is the X-factor: if he plays well, the Giants will be good; if he plays poorly, the Giants will be watching the playoffs from their living room couch.

November 11th Buffalo Bills: Just like the Giants, the Buffalo Bills are also in the hands of their quarterback. After a 7-9 season last year, the Bills look to improve with an improving JP Losman. A quarterback that seemed to come of age in the last half of the 2006 season, if he continues to get better, the Bills will finish about .500. The new additions on the offensive line should help booster Losman's protection and his confidence.

November 18th @ Philadelphia Eagles: Finishing at a good 10-6 last season, the Eagles could be one of the teams to beat in the NFC this year. If Donovan McNabb reclaims his starting position, and stays healthy, the Eagles should be soaring high. If he doesn't, then the Eagles could end up looking more like canaries.

November 26th @ Pittsburgh Steelers: After winning Super Bowl XL, a Super Bowl that left fans wondering if the refs could in fact see, Pittsburgh found itself staring down the barrel of mediocrity. It's hard to say what went wrong: perhaps the loss of Jerome Bettis hurt or maybe the source of Ben Roethlisberger's power was in his appendix. Whatever went wrong, this season, with a new head coach, might not be full of that much improvement.

December 2nd New York Jets: See above.

December 9th @ Buffalo Bills: See above.

December 16th Baltimore Ravens: A team that finished 13-3 last season, it's a safe bet that Baltimore will once again be at the top of their class. With a defense that is always good, it will be hard for opponents to score. However, Steve McNair at quarterback isn't exactly a spring chicken; if his play starts to falter, the Ravens may find their winning ways to be never more.

December 23rd @ New England Patriots: See above.

December 30th Cincinnati Bengals: The Cincinnati Bengals were better than their 8-8 record last season. As Carson Palmer continues to heal from injury, they should at least make the playoffs. This is, of course, contingent on whether or not the Bengals can keep from blowing huge leads, and keep from losing games they should really be winning.

So, there you have it: Miami's schedule is filled with teams they should beat and teams that should beat them. But, shoulda, woulda, coulda means nothing: it will all come down to whether or not Cam Cameron can get his team, and his quarterback, to jell. But, for kicks, I will go ahead and make this prediction: Miami will finish 9-7, and make the playoffs as a wild card. Call your bookies now.

Jennifer Jordan is a senior editor for Millenium Limo. An avid traveler and sightseer, she has been to a variety of places around the world. She's also been to Wyoming more times than she cares to count.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

What Will You Say When Barry Bonds Hits No. 800?

As Barry Bonds was playing the Yankees this weekend, I was watching the game in between commercials during the Mets game on SNY. I am a Mets fan, but since Bonds was conveniently playing the other team in town, I took the opportunity to flip channels and get a glimpse of him. This is when I started grumbling (to myself since no one else was in the room) that he was bound to break the home run record set by the legendary Hank Aaron this year. I usually like to see records broken, but this thing called "steroids" sort of ruins it all for me.

I recalled the time Hank Aaron hit number 715 as if it were yesterday. Since I was not around for Babe Ruth's dingers, I felt privileged to have witnessed Hank's home run and remember the frenzy of talking about it the next day with my friends at school. We felt like we were all part of history, and since we were Mets fans, the idea that he broke a record held by a Yankee didn't bother us at all.

Still, there was a good deal going on back in those days that we kids didn't know about. We didn't know how difficult it had been earlier in Hank's career, when he suffered indignities coming into baseball less than a decade after Jackie Robinson paved the way for black ballplayers. We didn't know about the death threats he had received as he inched closer to the Babe's home run mark. There must have been a good deal going on inside Number 44's head as he stepped to the plate and hit the record-breaking homer off another guy wearing the same number on his uniform, but we didn't know about any of this other stuff.

No, all we knew about was the glorious swing and the great strides taken by Hammerin' Hank as he rounded the base paths. We saw the stupid fans running after him, forever immortalizing their bravado and foolishness on video. Hank had broken the record and that was fine, but the record almost didn't matter as much as the idea that we got to see a moment of baseball purity. Ball thrown cleanly; bat against ball; ball soaring over the left field fence into baseball history. It seemed all about the moment: surreal and eternal and it makes me shiver still just thinking about it.

Back in those days we didn't take for granted when we got to see Hank playing at Shea when the Braves visited New York. I still recall going to games to see opposing players: Johnny Bench, Mike Schmidt, Willie Mays, Lou Brock, Fernando Valenzuela, Ozzie Smith, and so many others. One of the amazing things about baseball is the connectivity between generations, the feeling that I having saw Hank play could last forever because I would tell my kids, just as my grandfather told me about seeing Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb, and my father spun tales of Mickey Mantle and Stan Musial, and that kind of thing lasts forever, even long after the ballplayers are pushing up daisies in their personal field of dreams.

But at that moment watching Bonds step to the plate (against Roger Clemens no less) I had a bout with the Angel Vic on my right shoulder and the Devil Vic on my left. Angel said, "Oh, let's give this fellow a pass no matter what he has supposed to have done. He still has accomplished something wonderful." This was working for a few seconds until Devil groaned, "What's he going to say when Bonds hits Number 800?" Now, I really was feeling benevolent until Devil said that, and then I started wondering about it all, and Devil added, "How many of those homers were hit when he was juiced?"

In the end the "dramatic" showdown between Roger and Barry resulted in a base on balls. I sighed in relief that number 750 didn't go sailing over the wall, but it also seemed like Clemens bailed out. I thought he was so tough (you know, this was the guy who threw a splintered bat back at Piazza because he thought Piazza broke his bat on purpose), but in the end he was more Roger Dodger than Buck Rogers.

How many homers will Bonds end up hitting? He could make it to 800 if he hangs around long enough, so this will be the target for A-Rod and any other guys who follow. But, considering what Devil Vic said, there is a serious question hovering over some of those homeruns. How many of his homeruns actually should count? Well, when did Barry start looking like one half of Hans and Franz on Saturday Night Live? We can do the math and subtract however many from the total, but in the end Bonds will retire with his copious amount of homers intact (even if a phantom asterisk forever haunts the final total).

I watched Bonds the other day, but as the countdown brings us closer to the inevitable breaking of the record, I know that I won't be glued to the set watching as I was the night Hammerin' Hank thrilled the world. Hank's homers were all about talent, the purity of the game, and the notion that what happened on the diamond mattered because it was sacred ground. Unfortunately, today we have ballplayers who take steroids and deny it, and they are the worst kind of heretics, because in the end they claim to profess the faith even after they've broken the commandments.

Some people don't care if Bonds breaks the record or not. Some even feel it's still a record no matter what and must be respected. What will you say when Bonds breaks Aaron's record? I know I will not have anything to say because I will be speechless. Nothing will ever bring back the purity of the game the way it should be played, the way it was played on that April night so long ago when Hammerin' Hank sent a ball sailing into the bullpen, broke the Babe's record, and set the bar so high that some players decided that the only way to reach it was by less than natural means.

Victor Lana has published numerous stories and articles in literary magazines and online, including his favorite haunt here at Blogcritics. His novels A Death in Prague (2002) and Move (2003) and his new book The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories are available at online bookstores.

Monday, 25 June 2007

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Chicago Bears Jettison Their Tank, Whatever He Was Filled With

This past weekend, when I heard of Tank Johnson's speeding ticket-slash-possible DUI, I wondered if his upcoming eight-game suspension would increase and if he would see action for the Bears at all this year.

I guess he won't. The Bears released him.

The defensive tackle still has to wait a couple weeks for the results of his blood test administered "Friday morning" (I still assert it's Thursday night), but now he'll likely have to wait longer to find a team that will sign him. At this stage in free agency, a talented defensive lineman is a hot commodity, but not one that served a 60-day prison sentence and could be guilty of a DUI.

Again, I'm always hoping that guys like Tank Johnson can turn their life around, and nothing has changed that sentiment since I first wrote about this story. He just has another step in his life -- finding another team that will give him the support the Bears gave him earlier this year.

Then again, maybe "turning his life around" doesn't imply his return to success on the football field. His personal demons could be fought through so many other methods. Falcons running back Warrick Dunn is considered a great humanitarian, as he's best known for getting housing for single mothers. Tank Johnson may not be that rich, but he does have money. Maybe he can find some peace of mind through voluntary charity -- not the kind a judge says he has to perform.

Matt SussmanContact SussBeing 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.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Tank Johnson Drives Too Fast For A Suspended Athlete

An upcoming eight-game suspension would be reduced to six with good behavior? That doesn't sound too ... whoops, I guess it's eight after all.

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson was stopped Friday morning -- 3:30 a.m.? Dude, that's Thursday night to the rest of us -- for driving 40 in a 25, and the officer believed Johnson was under some kind of fermented influence. Even if he's not charged with a DUI, he can probably plan on serving his full eight-game suspension, which was handed down by the league for violating his probation on gun charges.

Before the suspension was laid down and after his release from prison on said gun charges, Tank Johnson made it clear that he wants to eventually become a poster boy for all football athletes who make stupid decisions yet recover. "One day I want to be the face of the league for guys who have come through adversity and ultimately become the Man of the Year in the NFL." I suppose he's not getting a running start toward that goal, but rather the Fred Flintstone start in which you move backwards a little before taking off full speed ahead, past the edge of the Hanna-Barbera animation cel.

As a sports fan, you almost yearn to see talented guys like Tank Johnson turn his life around and fix his personal flaws, much like footwork or technique on the line of scrimmage. But it's tricky. You can work on your three-point stance for hours on end, but to slay inner demons, you just have to sit around and not have cops approach you with questions.

Fortunately, he has the time to sit around and stay out of trouble. Eight weeks, actually.

Matt SussmanContact SussBeing 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.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Three Florida NFL Players For Your Fantasy Football Team

Yes folks, it’s about that time: time to start thinking about which players to draft for your 2007 fantasy football teams. Some of us may still be relishing in our surprising picks from last year (hello, Frank Gore) or seething because of those who had less than stellar seasons (thanks a lot, Randy Moss), but it’s time to put both the good and the bad of last year behind us and remember this year, it’s a whole new ball game… 16 of them.

There are about a million lists out there telling everyone who to draft (LaDainian Tomlinson) and who not to draft (anyone from the Oakland Raiders) and each list includes a plethora of players. For the sake of time, and potential cramps in my typing fingers, I am simply listing the top three players to pick from any of the Florida organizations (Florida, after all, has like 50 football teams… or maybe just three).

Chris Chambers, WR, Miami Dolphins: Chambers was a player who allowed many of us, myself included, to sail into the playoffs during the 2005 season, a season in which his stats erupted. Unfortunately, 2006 did not produce the same results. But, we can’t blame this on Chambers, at least not all of it. Last season saw Miami with quarterback instability – an instability that hopes to be resolved with Trent Green - and a coaching style that just didn’t seem to include much of ol’ Chris. Chris Chambers, last season, simply seemed to disappear.

He might be down, but he’s not out…..

As Miami starts a new quarterback, and Cam Cameron starts as head coach, this receiver will regain the explosiveness that saw me getting an “I Heart Chambers” tattoo on my ankle with my 2005 fantasy football winnings. It’s also worth it to note that Chambers – like the entire Miami Dolphins team – has a tendency to get on fire towards the end of the season. For many fantasy players, the end of the season games are the most important: depending on who’s team he is on, Chris Chambers has the potential to make grown men cry… either tears of joy, or just plain tears.

Joey Galloway, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Galloway, taking a page from the Chris Chambers handbook, did the same thing as his Miami counterpart: he had an awesome 2005 year only to be silenced in 2006. However, Galloway’s silencing wasn’t as quiet as Chambers’: he still had 1057 yards and seven touchdowns. On the downside, Galloway often went several games without catching much to having one game where he suddenly became a fantasy owner’s BFF. These inconsistent performances often left people unable to know when to sit him and when to start him.

Yet, Galloway, like Chambers, was forced to deal with his fair share of quarterback instability and an overall dreadful Tampa Bay offense (even Cadillac Williams performed more like a Pinto). Assuming the Buccaneers stick with a quarterback – be it Jeff Garcia, Chris Simms, or an “Oh I’m not really retired” Jake Plummer – Galloway will bounce back to a great season. If Jeff Garcia starts, which (as of now) it looks like he will, Galloway could have a truly career year; the Tampa Bay running game will just be the meat between the veteran sandwich of Garcia and Galloway.

Ronnie Brown, RB, Miami Dolphins: Ronnie Brown didn’t have the best season ever last year, but it wasn’t bad: though he was out for three games with a broken hand, he still scored five touchdowns, and rushed for 1008 yards. This year, Brown, and his stats, have nowhere to go but up… way up.

Assuming he stays healthy, 2007 could be a career year for Ronnie. Not only will he get plenty of playing time – as the Miami Dolphins do not have the most solid selection of second string running backs – but he will also be playing under Cam Cameron. As the former offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers, I think – I think - Cam Cameron just might know a thing or two about turning good running backs into great ones.

So, there you have it, the top three players from Florida to place on your Fantasy team. I know, I know… getting Fantasy Football advice from a woman might seem ridiculous to some of you men out there (ahem, the 1950s called and they want their ideologies back), but I always play fantasy football and I always do well; I win, and then I burn my bra.

Jennifer Jordan is a senior editor for Millenium Limo. An avid traveler and sightseer, she has been to a variety of places around the world. She's also been to Wyoming more times than she cares to count.

Jason Giambi Agrees To Help The Mitchell Investigation

The steroids in baseball story is not going away anytime soon, and the people that keep saying, “nothing will ever come of [insert the latest development]” haven’t been keeping up with the story.

Some sports journalists who should know better by now are still naysaying in the face of a series of developments that have spoken to the contrary. As a matter of fact, every development has propelled the issue forward since the Balco Labs story. The congressional hearings, the Jason Grimsley situation, the Kirk Radomski story, and most recently Giambi’s non-apology apology have all advanced the story of the use of performance enhancing drugs in major league baseball.

Now it’s quite possible that baseball will bollocks this thing up and not handle Giambi in the right manner. But now that the Yankee under-achiever has decided to cooperate with the George Mitchell/Bud Selig investigation, he can offer a lot of valuable information that can help baseball understand how PEDs infiltrated their sport, and how to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

The question is, does MLB know the right questions to ask Giambi?

Aside from the sizzle that might come from naming names, nothing good can come from Giambi providing the league with the names of any fellow users. If word got out that baseball was just looking to get the names of steroid/human growth hormone users, the league’s effort would be severely discredited. This investigation shouldn’t be about tarnishing the reputations of ballplayers or ex-ballplayers, but should be about developing information that can help the league clean house while making sure that baseball doesn’t expose itself to another similar scandal.

And besides, Kurt Radomski has already given the authorities plenty of names since at the time of his arrest a couple of years ago he was identified as the major supplier of PEDs to ballplayers in the post-Balco years. Radomski has been cooperating with the investigation since he was busted, so it’s doubtful that Giambi can add any names to the list that baseball undoubtedly has.

There’s no doubt about it; performance-enhancing drugs are here to stay. Sports have always manipulated technology and athletes have always been willing to use immature scientific advances before they were ready to be used – or should be used - by the masses. Powerful alternatives to steroids and human growth hormone have been available for the past few years and are being used by people in all walks of life right now. The best step that the league can take to protect the players is to understand how these drugs can get into the hands of ballplayers and to take the proper preventative measures.

This is where Jason Giambi can be of great assistance.

Little elves don’t put drugs into the lockers and gym bags of major league baseball players, and most guys aren’t dumb enough to buy PEDs on the Internet. Some are, but most aren’t.

If I were running the Q&A, I’d want Giambi to tell me how the process works. He doesn’t have to give up any names, addresses, times and/or places. Here’s how it would go.

“Jason, tell me who turned you on to the drugs. Was it your trainer, some guy in the gym, a teammate or a clubhouse guy? Did you on your own figure out you wanted to use steroids? How did you get the drugs, did you buy them or did someone buy them for you?"

“Just a few more questions, Jason….”

“Once you had the drugs, did you carry them from city to city, and if you didn’t carry, who did and how did you handle the in-season use? If someone bought the drugs for you – no names, Jason – tell me, were they team personnel or someone in your employ? Who advised you as to the proper doses and how to administer the drugs?”

There are more questions, but they all follow this line of questioning. Knowing who takes or took steroids won’t help baseball solve the problem. However, knowing how drugs infected the game – the channels through which they flowed – will help the league keep other PEDs out of the game in the future. What Giambi has to offer, combined with the inside-the-clubhouse info that Radomski has given up, should provide MLB with an insider’s view of how steroids and HGH coursed though the veins of major league baseball.

Hopefully, baseball investigators – and even some members of the sporting press - understand the kind of help that Jason Giambi can offer, and take advantage of this opportunity to continue the process of cleaning up baseball.

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.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Sammy Sosa is the Second Greatest Home Run Hitter of the Steroid Era

Despite the fact that many baseball fans and members of the baseball media want to ignore the issue - or want to wish it away - steroids, human growth hormone and other performance enhancing drugs will be part of the discussion of baseball as long as the names Bonds, Sosa, McGwire and a few others are in the record books. These guys did what they did and regardless of who people want to blame, the fact is that guys have used drugs to get an edge. The reality is that the stats and records that have been attained over the past 15 years need to be viewed through the prism of drug use.

Sammy Sosa hit his 600th home run Wednesday night, and that clearly makes him the second best home run hitter of the Steroid Era. Certainly he isn’t better than Barry Bonds, and while the argument can be made that Mark McGwire could the second best slugger of the Steroid Era, Sosa has been more consistent, will have a longer career and has come back to face scrutiny and criticism to be a somewhat productive player.

The qualifier “Steroid Era” needs to be attached to Sosa and his accomplishments because clearly his home run numbers came during the era where performance enhancing drug use was prevalent in baseball. At the same time, no real baseball fan/observer can seriously consider Sosa to be in the same category as Aaron, Bonds, Ruth, Mays, Mantle, Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks, Harmon Killebrew and the rest of the sluggers who played before PEDs affected player stats.

As an aside, even though Bonds is the best home run hitter of the Steroid Era, he was considered to be the best player of this generation until he became seduced by the power of the “Juiced Side,” and sold his soul to hit home runs. Without the juice Bonds would have still been considered to be the best ballplayer of the past 50 years and one of the best – if not the best – players ever. In an ironic twist, the accomplishments of the players of the Steroid Era served to devalue the home run. The homer became an ordinary event, which brings us back to Sosa. Did you ever think that 600 career home runs would have elicited so many “big deal” responses?

After all, we acknowledge the “Dead Ball Era” and the “Live Ball Era” so to address the players from the current day as members of the “Steroid Era” doesn’t break from protocol, and isn’t meant as an insult or to impugn anyone’s reputation. Calling Sammy Sosa the second best home run hitter of the Steroid Era just puts his accomplishments into context. This isn’t casting aspersions, it’s dealing with reality. Pitchers have been using PEDs just as the hitters have, and pitcher’s stats can be viewed with the same jaundiced eye as the stats of their bat-swinging counterparts.

The argument can be made that using the term Steroid Era unfairly tarnishes those players who didn’t use PEDs. However, this doesn’t change the fact that Major League Baseball and the player’s union did nothing to discourage the use of the juice, and if anything encouraged players to bulk up and hit more home runs. Maybe that’s the price that baseball will have to pay – historically – for not acting sooner to deal with the steroid issue. Perhaps as time passes and as we learn more about what went on during the Steroid Era the accomplishments of less-heralded players will garner the appropriate attention and there will be recognition of those who excelled without the aid of pharmaceutical preparation.

Congratulations to Sammy Sosa, the second greatest home run hitter of the Steroid Era.

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.

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