Wednesday, December 22, 2010

89 and Counting....



What were you doing in Nov 2008? Don't remember, its okay. UConn's women's basketball coach, Geno Auriemma, just started another streak. No big deal, right? No way he repeats his 70 game win streak from 2001-2003. Well, yesterday the women of UConn basketball broke the single longest winning streak in NCAA basketball set by the UCLA men in the 70s. Put it in the record books because they have won 89 consecutive games in a row and they're not done yet.


Earlier in the week, coach Geno Auriemma was critical of the attention his team would receive because women are breaking a men's record. His comments set off a storm where many argued the women's game is not the same as the men's and the record should not be held in the same regard as UCLA's streak. I couldn't disagree more. Winning 89 games in a row requires effort. They could of easily lost focus in the beginning of each season when they played weaker opponents. They've played tough opponents during the NCAA tourney where madness occurs.  Playing each game with the same focus and determination was not necessarily required. A loss here or there wouldn't of hurt their championship chances. But winning 89 games in a row is much mental as it is physical. This is a college sport where players come and go. Much credit goes to Auiremma for keeping his team's mindset the same regardless of who took the court. He is able to go out and get the best girls to play for him. Even having the best doesn't guarantee wins (see Miami Heat). Even if he has the best players and other programs don't, thats not his fault. It's not UConn's problem their opponents can't be as successful. Constant winning only created a target on their back and the Huskies weren't afraid of it. They asked the best of their opponents but didn't always get it. Their closest victory during the streak was only a few weeks ago against Baylor (by 1). The most consistent number 2 team, Stanford, was defeated 3 times during the streak.


To anyone who says this streak doesn't deserve the credit its receiving, I challenege you. Are you a good free throw shooter? Go swish 100 of them. You're good at a video games? Go defeat the computer on the hardest difficulty and win 89 times in a row. Can you pick 89 stocks on the market and, without fail, tell me they will all grow by 2012? Keep in mind, the UConn women not only won but by an average of 30+ points a game.


Plain and simple, this streak needs more attention. Recently, the Mavs, Heat, Celtics had streaks of 10+ wins a row. Sportscenter leads with those teams on most nights. They start looking ahead on the schedule to see when they will lose. ESPN.com has a special page, the Heat Index, for a team that hasn't consistently started winning until recently. Give credit where credit is due.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fall of the Great Wall



Yao. Ming. Hurt. Three words no Rockets' fan wants to hear. Three words that have become too common. This time the pain may be as long as the star going down. In the offseason, Yao said worst case scenario would be to retire if he is not able to fully recover from his foot/ankle problems. We may have reached that point. It was announced today that Yao has a stress fracture in his left ankle. In the last 5 years, Yao's injury list reads: infection of the bone in his left foot, broken right knee, stress fracture in his left foot, hairline fracture in his left foot, eventual surgery on a broken bone in his left foot and now the stress fracture in his left ankle. Currently, he has screws in his foot to make sure it heals properly. OUCH! With so many previous surgeries, the option to have reconstructive ankle surgery (if needed) would be a complicated approach. I hope you are thanking your blessings that you can walk.


Yao remains optimistic as always but everyone knows optimism doesn't get you wins or 20+ points and 10 rebounds a game. Before breaking his right knee in 2006, he was considered an early MVP candidate. His numbers were beastly - 26.8 ppg, 9.7 rbg and 2.3 blocks a game. It's hard to believe that between 2006 and 2008, Yao averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds. Today that would put him in the top 10 in both categories. Just last week Yao said he felt ready to play and was just waiting on the green light from the Rockets. Even if he was going to come back, it would be hard to dominate when the Rockets limit him to 24 minutes a game. Sounds like the Rockets have been through this before with Tracy McGrady. He felt ready, he wanted to play and he received limited playing time and could never get into a rhythm. Regardless of how much the fans disagree, the Rockets seem like they know what they're doing. Now the Rockets collection of role players will have to play bigger than they really are.


If Yao does call it quit, it would be unbelievable. Every athlete, no matter their health, tries to push their body's limit. See Iverson, Marbury, Antoine Walker, Penny Hardaway, the list goes on. Only the smart ones can manage it. Yao is a smart guy but his biggest obstacle is himself. His size is the source of the problem. Yao is a humble dude but to give up on your dream and throw away talent at the young age of 30? That's unheard of. Imagine you gave up your favorite hobby before you can enjoy it to its fullest. Yao's never had an ego but now would be a good time to start. Get the surgeries, rehab, sit out a year or two, sign the minimum contract with the Rockets, get those fresh legs under you and prove to everybody you can still play for the love of the game. Or is it even worth it?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cliff "Lebron" Lee



Let's get the obvious out of the way...
LeBron is the most athletic NBA player, a once in a life time talent. Cliff Lee is good, close to awesome and awe but not one of the greatest pitchers ever. No where close
LeBron is in his prime, 26 years of age at the end of 2010. Cliff Lee is 32.
LeBron is probably underpaid at 6 years, $110 dollars. Lee is maybe overpaid at 5 years, $120 dollars.
LeBron's decision was a heavily publicized. Lee was almost pin drop silent.


Now look, at how eerie the similarities between James and Lee's free agency is....
Previous team - Cleveland is an hour away from LeBron's hometown of Akron. Arlington is about 5 hours away from Lee's hometown in Benton, AK.


Previous owner - Dan Gilbert was fully invested in doing anything to bring James back. New Rangers's owner, Nolan Ryan, made no secret he was going all out as financially possible to bring Lee back. He presented Lee with a menu of contract options.


Free Agent Teams - Big city New York Knicks and Yankees. "Hometown" team Cavs and Rangers. Joining a potential championship team with the Miami Heat and in Lee's case the already loaded pitching staff of the Phillies. 


New Teammates and Roster - James teams up with another superstar, Dwayne Wade and an all-star player in Chris Bosh. Cliff Lee joins a pitching staff that has Cy Young award winner, Roy Halladay, World Series MVP Cole Hamels and an experienced playoff pitcher Roy Oswalt. The Miami Heat after the Big 3 have some skilled players but no one really stands out. The Phillies just used all their money to sign pitchers. Now they are stuck with an inconsistent, aging offense. On paper, Polanco, Rollins, Howard, Ibanez and Victorino sounds like an all star lineup but doesn't always hit like one.


Baseball requires players to work together without necessarily having to talk to each other. No one player can win the game. In basketball, LeBron James or Wade can take over a game at any given moment and win 10 in a row. Clearly, the skill level and ego of LeBron garnered media attention which makes Lee's decision seem like just another signing. Lee won't be ridiculed for picking the Phillies. He won't be called a quitter or someone who couldn't handle the pressure. You know why? Because Lee didn't quit on his team in the playoffs. The Rangers made the World Series and didn't lose because of Lee's efforts.


At least, athletes understand you play to win the game. It's not about being the richest person, breaking individual records or necessarily being liked. In the end, LeBron and Cliff's decision was based on one thing - winning.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Love Him or Hate Him, You Respect #4



No matter what you think of Brett Favre, you have to respect the fact he started 297 consecutive regular season games (321 including playoffs). Favre was involved on nearly every offensive play for 18 years. Constantly being pressured by grown ass men twice your size. As much it is physical, there is a mental aspect. The preparation week in and week out. Constant grind of knowing where every teammate on the field is so he can execute the play correctly and lead the Packers, Jets or Vikings to a victory. Think about what you do for a living and doing that consecutively for nearly a year. Getting up, packing a lunch, working and repeat. No sick days, working/playing through injuries such as broken/fractured/bruised _______(insert body part) , no time off for death in family, no excuses. And quarterback is no easy position. Just imagine working for 14 more years after most people finished their careers. 


Just think about how much has changed since September 1992. Number of teams in the NFL, physicality of athletes, the way we do business, wireless capabilities, rules and regulations, fashion, the list goes on. If you are currently a college sophomore or younger you have never seen a NFL weekend where Brett Favre did not play....until today.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Beginning to look a lot like...football weather!


Its that time of the year where the weather causes football games to appear more exciting than they are. You will get a sloppy game, a blowout or a boring game.


Vikings vs. Giants - The Metrodome's roof collapse/deflation looked like something out of a movie, almost surreal. Thanks FOX for having your camera ready for the game even if no one else was. Good thing no one was hurt.
The only person on Brett Favre's side is Mother nature. With the game on Monday, Favre gets an extra day to rest and another day for us all to speculate if his streak will continue.
The game is now in Detroit with free tickets being handed out. All of sudden the Giants become the home team because 1) no loud Vikings fans and 2) Lions fan don't cheer for division rivals (Vikings)


Redskins vs. Bucs - Redskins' kicker Graham Gano should change his last name because each time he misses its too easy to make fun of him - Ga-NOO! His name may actually be affecting Gano's kicking game. Missed twice today and the holder couldn't do his job on the extra point (yes, I'm blaming Ga-NOO for that)


Steelers vs. Bengals - No offensive TDs for Pittsburgh, no problem because Troy Polamalu plays for the Steelers. Defensive Player of Year? After these past 2 weeks, yes. MVP? Maybe


49ers vs. Seahawks - Anyone can win this division. No seriously, the 49ers are 5-8 and only a game behind. Maybe SF's owner knew what he was talking about when he said they could still win the division. NFC West=Ugly.


Patriots vs. Bears - Did you really think Brady's passing game was going to be off just because it was 20mph wind, snowing and felt like 20 degrees? Come on now! He plays in cold weather New England for cold-hearted coach Bill Belichick. Its Tom Brady not the erratic Jay Cutler. Don't doubt Brady, ever. Clearly the best QB this year. MVP? Yes.


Jets vs. Dolphins - Boring game but big ups to Dolphins D and punter Brandon Fields. Everytime Fields punted, he reversed the field completely. Now thats a good name for a kicker/punter (take note Gano). Also, the word "swagger" should not be used by NBC/FOX/CBS commentators. They just don't say it correctly. However you say it, the Jets have lost it. They lived up to the hype early, it got to their head and now they aren't staying composed.


Chargers vs. Chiefs -  Chargers had a little hiccup last week and all they needed was a KC team without their starting QB to get back on track. It's been said before but watch out for San Diego. Also, for all you Matt Cassel haters, look at how poorly Chiefs did without him. His game may not be Brady-sexy but in his last 4 games - 11 TDs, zero interceptions, QB rating over 100 and team went 3-1.