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The View from the Cheap Seats

January 13, 2010 under Cheap Seats, College Basketball, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL

By Eddie Mayrose

New York Jets Both Lucky and Good

The Jets went into Cincinnati last Saturday having spent as much time defending their Wild Card position cheap_seats_3_owumas they had preparing for the game, itself.  Blasted for having punched their ticket through the generosity of the Bengals and Indianapolis Colts; two teams with nothing to play for that had virtually rolled over and played dead for Gang Green in the season’s final two games, the Jets took the field with a little something more at stake than just a playoff game.  They wanted to prove they belonged.

And prove it they did, behind Mark Sanchez’s best contest of the season.  They sent the Bengals home for the winter in a performance that, while not as dominating as the previous week’s, saw them control every facet of the game from start to finish.  Head Coach Rex Ryan had raised more than a few eyebrows with some of his pre game statements; like calling his Jets the Super Bowl favorites, but his charges made him look like a prophet, for the first round at least, and have some thinking that maybe Ryan is crazy like a fox.

While the Jets are still the longest of long shots, there is a budding sense among players and fans alike that something special could actually happen.  Cursed for most of their existence by some of the most excruciating losses and disappointments the NFL has seen, these Jets have actually had the breaks go their way over the last month.  Their late season matchups with Indy and Cincy could not have been better timed, the myriad of teams that needed to lose in order for the Jets to advance did just that, there could not have been a better first round matchup than the one they drew with the Bengals and, finally, Baltimore’s rout of New England brought a second round tilt with San Diego; a daunting foe, indeed, but a far more favorable opponent than Peyton Manning and the Colts.  Are these guys really the Jets?

The one thing Big Rexy and his boys need to guard against, however, is the idea that they’re now playing Jets Patriots Footballwith house money; as if last week’s win validated a successful season and whatever happens next doesn’t matter.  While each of those points is true, to a degree, the NFL offers a very small window for teams chasing a title.  No matter how young, no matter how talented, franchises can never be sure how many opportunities they’ll get for championship glory.  The Jets should know this better than any as their Super Bowl drought is longer than every team but the Detroit Lions and is marred by missed field goals, snapped Achilles tendons and muddy fields.  Ryan has given every indication that he’ll keep his foot on the gas pedal and his team’s confidence seems to be growing because of it.  Now, let’s see how much of the newfound good fortune they can transport to San Diego.

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

In the aftermath of the Jets’ first round victory came the post game comments of SNY commentator Adam Schein and WFAN host Mike Francesa.  Schein, on the SNY post game show Saturday night, came BrownFrancesa02smtdown very hard on punter Steve Weatherford, who was held out of the game due to illness, according to the team.  Schein, who gives no impression of ever having worn a football helmet, questioned Weatherford’s character; stating that the illness had better be serious.  The Jets would later reveal that Weatherford had been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, something he’ll need to have surgically corrected in the off season.

That revelation did nothing to dissuade Francesa, who went down the same path Sunday morning, only to be corrected by a colleague.  That he was unaware that the punter’s condition had been made public the night before is not surprising as his indifference is exceeded only by his arrogance.  Each of these gas bags missed what was obvious to most: that since Weatherford was, in fact, on the sideline and in uniform, his condition must have been very serious for the Jets to hold him out of the game.  But, hey, why let the facts get in the way of sounding like a big, tough ballplayer?

NCAA Basketball Shill Vitale Loses Credibility

After thirty years, it’s time for ESPN’s lead hypocrite, Dick Vitale, to pack up his self-proclaimed “one eyed ziggy” act and go away forever.  While it’s always been difficult to stomach the superfluous nonsense he spews during his network’s broadcasts, he now regularly ignores and, in fact, rewrites the history of the dick_vitale_1coaches and programs whose fannies he chooses to smooch.

During Tuesday’s matchup of Florida and Kentucky, Vitale went into a rant about Mark McGwire, repeating what he’d said that morning on “Mike and Mike”.  He used the term “cheater” numerous times, referring to how sick he was of the steroid mess in baseball and how he sought refuge by talking up the game between the Wildcats and Gators.  A game that, incidentally, featured one of the college game’s more infamous cheaters, John Calipari, who’d been identified as such just weeks before by Vitale’s ESPN colleague, Bob Knight.  Not surprisingly, Vitale chose to ignore the issue. Not only was much of the telecast filled with Vitale’s praise for Calipari’s coaching ability, a graphic soon popped up naming the Kentucky coach as Vitale’s selection as Coach of the Year through this point in the season.  Finally, he mentioned that Calipari is attempting to become only the second coach to take three teams to the Final Four.  A complete rewriting of the facts, actually, as both of Calipari’s previous trips to the Championship round with UMass and Memphis have been vacated due to NCAA infractions.  According to the NCAA’s own records, Calipari’s never been to a Final Four.  I guess Vitale didn’t get the news.  Regardless, until he’s told by ESPN to take his ball and go home; something that, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be imminent, any game that he works will be an extremely difficult and annoying listen.

New Jersey Devils Star Toils in Virtual Anonymity

If Devils’ goalie  Martin Brodeur  had been as dominant over the course of his career in any other sport or for any other New York area team, there’d already be a statue of him standing in front of a stadium.

New York Knicks Haunted in Oklahoma

During their two day stay in Oklahoma City, New York Knicks forwards Eddy Curry and Jared Jefferies complained that they were unable to sleep due to the fact that their hotel, The Skirvin, is haunted by ghosts.   I’ll leave you to your own punchlines.

Mark McGwire’s Weak Apology Does Settle One Score

Why would we have expected anything different from Mark McGwire?  Why would we think that, unlike all of the other steroid cheats who have come forward, sort of, that he’d be the one to completely open up mark-mcgwire-congressabout his own use?  Sorry, wasn’t going to happen.  Despite the earnest attempts of MLB Network’s Bob Costas to guide him to the full disclosure necessary for forgiveness, McGwire resisted throughout.  As a result, he looked like someone who came forward only because it was a requirement for his employment with the St. Louis Cardinals.  However, despite the fact that we learned very little that we didn’t already suspect, McGwire inadvertently settled one major debate about himself.

Forget his ridiculous assertions that the steroids were low dosage, that they did nothing to improve his performance or that he always wanted to come forward about his use of PED’s. It’s all nonsense.  Focus, instead, on his admission that, due to his frustration with chronic injury, he decided against retirement and started using steroids in 1996 to help him overcome his physical woes and get back on the field. By that very statement, he is also confirming that in no way does he deserve to be considered for the Hall of Fame.

Prior to the ’96 season, McGwire had posted 220 HR and 657 RBI over his first ten seasons; a far cry from consideration for the Hall.  He had appeared in just 74 games over the previous two seasons, prompting his thoughts of retirement.  In 1996, however, McGwire embarked on a four year slugfest that saw him launch an inhuman 245 home runs. So, if we connect the dots, what McGwire actually told Costas was that, had it not been for steroids, he’d have retired with the 220 dingers that would have left him off of every voter’s ballot.

Baseball is a game in which cheating has long been revered.  Hitters cork their bats while teams grow the grass high to aid slow infielders and water down the dirt to foil basestealers.  The 1951 Giants won a pennant aided by an employee in the scoreboard stealing the other team’s signs, journeyman pitcher Mike Scott won a Cy Young by scuffing the ball and spitballer Gaylord Perry has a plaque in Cooperstown.  Oddly, fans and players alike look at these indiscretions with a kind of twisted admiration.  To that end, baseball got exactly what it asked for with these steroid cheats.  I just wish they’d have a little more respect for our intelligence when they come forward and not hand us the ridiculous crap that we saw from McGwire on Monday.

With Trouble Brewing for USC Football, Carroll Splits

January 13, 2010 under College Football, Uncategorized

by Eddie Mayrose

USC Football Program Left Holding The Bag

As has become tradition in college sports whenever the NCAA investigators show up, Pete Carroll, Head Coach of pete_carrollthe USC Trojans, beat it out of town a step ahead of the sheriff.  Laughably, Carroll denied that the  investigation into his USC Football program had any bearing on his decision, citing opportunity as the only reason for his departure to the Seattle Seahawks.  The fact remains, however, that the three year probe into alleged infractions involving payments made by boosters to USC stars Reggie Bush and Joe McKnight has been concluded, with the NCAA Committee on Infractions scheduled to announce its findings in late February.

Carroll is merely the latest coach to turn tail once improprieties have been exposed.  These snake oil salesmen jump at the first job offer made to them once it all hits the fan, leaving their former players and employers holding the bag.  Now, the universities are just as culpable as the coach due to their responsibility for their own compliance with NCAA regulations.  But what of the players that committed, not only to the university, but the coach himself?  A coach that sat in their living rooms and promised their parents that he’d take care of their sons.  What becomes of them?

Right now, they have but two options: stay or transfer.  Stay; and take the chance that the new coach, one that did not recruit them, owes them no loyalty and may espouse a system not suited for their talents or transfer to another school and sit out an entire season.  Some choice.

When will the NCAA, charged with protecting the best interests of these student athletes, realize the gross inequity that currently exists?  There is no way to prevent a coach from moving to another school; nor should there be, as many more of these changes are legitimate upward moves than not.  However, the NCAA can easily establish two rules that give the player some security.

First, make the coach carry the sanction with him to his new job.  USC gets two years probation?  Carroll’s new employer goes on probation for the same amount of time should he ever return to the college ranks. Think that’ll promote compliance?  How hard would the University of Kentucky have pursued John Calipari if the sanctions against the Memphis basketball program would be theirs, as well?  Second, and most importantly, allow the player to transfer without sitting a year whenever the coach leaves; no matter the reason.  Why punish them for infractions committed before they even arrived on campus?

Unfortunately, there is collateral damage with each of these moves. After just one season as Tennessee kiffinFootball coach, Lane Kiffin takes over for Carroll, leaving behind an entire class of kids that came to Knoxville after being promised by Kiffin that he would be their coach.  Worse, there are nine high school recruits committed to Tennessee that graduated early in order to enroll in January and participate in spring practice.  What happens to them should they decide to transfer; especially now that many schools have committed to other players?  Don’t ask Pete Carroll or Kiffin because neither one of them care.  Nor, apparently, do the stuffed shirts at the NCAA.

But We Didn’t Ask For Boise-TCU!

December 18, 2009 under College Football, Uncategorized

College Football Bowls Conspire To Protect BCS System
Boise State vs. TCU in the Fiesta Bowl? With the sleight of hand used by a magician, the College Bowls make bcs_trophythemselves appear to be magmanimous by granting a sscond BCS bid to a non-conference school while diverting our attention from their bigger goal; protecting their wallets by diffusing the uproar for a playoff system to determine a champion in the NCAA Bowl Championship division.  Nice try, guys.

With five unbeaten teams headed into the Bowl Season, anti-BCS sentiment was running at an all time high and figured to ramp up to an intolerable level if as many as four were left standing after their Bowl Games. A likely scenario, as contracts between the Bowls and certain conferences should have had Cincinnati facing Georgia Tech in the Orange, TCU against Florida in the Sugar, Boise matched up with Iowa in the Fiesta with Texas and Alabama deciding the Championship.  While the loser of the BCS title game would have dropped from the ranks of the undefeated, it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if all of the other perfect teams finished that way.  How then, would the powers-that-be quell the demand for a playoff?

Here’s how.  Using loopholes to get around the conference agreements, the Sugar Bowl drafted Cincinnati as its BCS at-large team and the Fiesta paired Boise State with TCU; robbing both schools and college bcs2football fans of the opportunity to see how these “outsiders” would fare against the big boys.  What they did create, though, was a scenario where only one team beside the champ is unbeaten.  TCU is much better suited to handle Florida than the boys from Cincy who’d have had a much easier time with Georgia Tech in the Orange. Considering that the Bearcats will head into the Sugar Bowl without their head coach, beating Florida will be difficult.  As for the Fiesta, the loser is out of the conversation.

Every year we hear the same nonsense from NCAA officials about the logistical difficulty of staging an eight or sixteen team playoff.  Travel and academics are the two obstacles most often cited.  They’d have merit, too, if only the NCAA’s lower divisions didn’t already participate in a 32 team format.  What’s the old saying?  When they say it’s not about the money, it’s always about the money.

Fiesta Bowl May Be Worth Watching After All

December 1, 2009 under College Football

By Eddie Mayrose

 

Does BCS Stand For “Boise Can’t Stay”?

Fans of the College Football Bowl season were spared a post-season stinker last Saturday when Oklahoma State was drubbed by Oklahoma 27-0 and saw its BCS aspirations dashed. Those in the know expected thatboise State would receive a bid to the Fiesta Bowl; creating a matchup with one of the Big Ten’s overrated, weak sisters, Iowa or Penn State. Representatives of the Fiesta Bowl were prepared to snub an undefeated Boise State squad for the second consecutive year and completely ignore the Broncos’ heroics in their 2007 Fiesta victory over Oklahoma; possibly the best Bowl Game ever played.

It’s a ridiculous system employed by the NCAA when it comes to football. There are playoffs at every level except the highest, where multiple teams with unbeaten records are denied an opportunity to play for a title. That one of College Football’s most successful teams needed help to get an invite over a school with three losses is as ridiculous as it gets. We’ll count our blessings, however, that things broke the right way and saved Fiesta Bowl officials from their own stupidity.                                                                                                                        

Conference Championship Weekend

Five of the six BCS conferences will have their championships decided this weekend; three in conference title games and two by way of convenient scheduling. Only the Big Ten, wrapped up a few weeks ago by Ohio State, won’t crown a champ on Saturday. In addition, Army and Navy will battle for the Commander-in-Chief Trophy in Philadelphia while Johns Hopkins travels to Delaware for the Division III quarterfinals. Johns Hopkins? Read on.

SEC Football Championship: Florida vs. Alabama

This is the one we’ve waited for all year as the two schools have been ranked 1 and 2 for most of the sec_logoseason. The anticipation seems to have distracted fans from the fact that both have suffered lapses; especially the Crimson Tide. Florida football fans expect the world from QB Tim Tebow but will have the title delivered by the Gators’ dominating defense, especially if ‘Bama RB Mark Ingram can’t rebound from the bruised hip that limited him to just 39 yards vs. Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
Florida 23 – Alabama 13

ACC Football Championship Game: Clemson vs. Georgia Tech                                                 ACC 2

Both teams come off disappointing losses in intra-state rivalry games; perhaps caught looking ahead to this rematch. Georgia Tech knocked off Clemson in Week 2 on a last second field goal that gave the Yellowjackets a 30-27 win. Clemson will look to RB C.J. Spiller to pull the upset but Tech’s Josh Nesbitt will lead his squad to the Orange Bowl.
Georgia Tech 34 – Clemson 27

Big 12 Football Championship Game: Texas vs. Nebraska

Heisman front runner Colt McCoy should have no trouble continuing the recent Texas football tradition Big12logoof playing for a National Championship. While Nebraska has played well recently in capturing the Big 12 North title, they’ll be no match for the Longhorns.  Texas, currently enjoying its second week atop the CollegeSportsView.com Top 25, has barely been challenged in the Big 12 all season.  Saturday will be no different.
Texas 48 – Nebraska 20

Pac Ten Football Championship: Oregon vs. Oregon State

This year, the Civil War will determine who goes to the Rose Bowl. Ducks’ QB Jeremiah Masoli has emerged Pac 10 Helmetsas the league’s most important offensive player after leading blowout wins over Cal and USC. A slip vs. Stanford served as a wakeup call, one that rang the alarm bell for Oregon’s run to Pasadena.  Their gutty, overtime win over a desperate Arizona squad on the road last week served notice as to the team’s resilience.  That they’ve managed to navigate such a tough conference without their best player, LeGarrette Blount, spells big trouble for Ohio State on New Year’s Day.   Besides, is there a college football fan anywhere that’s not waiting to see Oregon’s Rose Bowl uniforms?
Oregon 38 – Oregon State 34
 

Big East Football Championship: Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh            big-east-logo

While Pitt took one on the chin vs. West Virginia last week in the Backyard Brawl, the loss had no impact on its Conference Title chances. Cincinnati QB Tony Pike returned to the starting lineup and celebrated with a school record six TD passes.  However, Cincy has surrendered quite a few points over the last two weeks and can’t help but be distracted by Head Coach Brian Kelly’s flirtation with Notre Dame.  Dion Lewis runs wild as Pitt heads south for the Orange Bowl.
Pittsburgh 31 – Cincinnati 28

Army-Navy                                                                                                                                                   dowd

It’s a good thing that the tradition is the big sell in this matchup as it’s been a long time since Army’s been able to compete in this one.  Navy’s ground attack, behind sophomore OT John Dowd, will be too much for the Cadets to handle as the Middies grab their eighth straight victory in the series.  No matter the outcome, don’t miss the singing of the Alma Maters after the game as it’s the best moment of the College Football season.  Always emotional, it’ll be the last game for the Army seniors while just a bowl game remains for the Annapolis grads before many find themselves in harm’s way.  Godspeed.                                                                                                                                                     John Dowd
Navy 37 – Army 10                                                                                                                                           

NCAA Division III Quarterfinals: Johns Hopkins vs.Wesley

It’s been a wild ride over the last two weeks as Johns Hopkins has knocked off two previously unbeaten new ryan linoteams on its way to the third round of the D-3 playoffs. Operating behind an offensive line led by junior guard Ryan Lino (right), the Blue Jays have gained more than 400 yards in each game with a balanced attack run by QB Hewitt Tomlin.  RB Andrew Kase has posted consecutive 100 yard games, as has WR Dan Crowley.  Their last minute heroics vs Kentucky’s St. Thomas More in Saturday’s 31-29 victory put K Alex Lachman in position for a game winning 42 yard FG as time expired.  They’ll have their hands full this week, however, taking on a Wesley team ranked third in the nation.  If Lino and Company can continue their dominance and give Tomlin enough time to throw, Crowley should turn in another big game and it’s on to the Final Four for the Hops. 
Johns Hopkins 26 – Wesley 24

CollegeSportsView Top 25

1. Texas 12-0
2. Florida 12-0
3. TCU 12-0
4. Alabama 12-0
5. Boise State 11-0
6. Cincinnati 11-0
7. Oregon 9-2
8. Ohio State 10-2
9. Georgia Tech 10-2
10.Pittsburgh 9-2
11.Virginia Tech 9-3
12.BYU 10-2
13.Oregon State 9-3
14.Miami 9-3
15.Iowa 10-2
16.LSU 9-3
17.Penn State 10-2
18.West Virginia 8-3
19.Houston 10-2
20.USC 8-3
21.Nebraska 9-3
22.Central Michigan 10-2
23.California 8-3
24.Oklahoma State 9-3
25.Stanford 8-4

Five to Watch
Johns Hopkins 10-2
Navy 8-4
Mississippi 8-4
Northwestern 8-4
North Carolina 8-4

CALIPARI BEATS THE RAP AGAIN

August 27, 2009 under College Basketball, Uncategorized

In light of the NCAA’s decision to vacate the thirty eight wins amassed by the calipariUniversity of Memphis men’s basketball team in the 2007-2008 season due to compliance violations, the question of how to hold coaches accountable for their actions once again comes to the fore.  This was the second time around for head coach John Calipari, whose other appearance in the Final Four with the University of Massachusetts was also vacated because of his tendency to ignore the rules of the NCAA.  Sadly, in both cases, Calipari was able to skip town for a big payday while the schools and players were left to deal with the consequences.

Back at UMass in 1996, after a meteoric rise to national prominence guided by Calipari, Minuteman star Marcus Camby was found to have been given $28,000, jewelry and prostitutes by boosters.  Before the NCAA’s investigation was completed, however, the coach had skipped town for the riches of the NBA.  This time, in Memphis, it was falsified SAT scores that brought the program down, as it was found that someone other than Derrick Rose had sat for Rose’s test.  There was also a small matter of unpaid travel expenses on the team’s charter plane for Rose’s brother.  But, once again, Calipari was gone before the sheriff could lock him up; this time to Kentucky.

It seems like an easy fix for the governing body of collegiate athletics but, all too often, easy is a synonym for impossible in the world of college sports. How difficult is it to impose the same penalty on the offending coach as the one handed down to the school?  Can’t see Kentucky throwing $40 million at Calipari knowing it won’t be making a tournament appearance for two years.  Nor would Memphis have hired him eight years ago if the UMass probation had still been hanging around his neck. Remove that golden parachute and watch how fast compliance becomes the focus of the program.

And what of the players that committed to the coach? While the NCAA professes to operate in the best interests of the student-athlete, it turns its back on the shenanigans of coaches whose actions have such a negative impact on the very athletes for which they are responsible.  In Memphis’ case, the players who were lied to by Calipari must now continue on with a new coach and no chance to participate in the post season or transfer and sit out a year.  Why not allow players to change schools and play immediately when they’ve been victimized by a coach’s misdeeds?

A decade ago, George O’Leary was hired as the head football coach at Notre Dame, only to be released a few days later when discrepancies were found on his resume.  I’m wondering if Calipari will suffer the same fate at Kentucky.  After all, he’s been hired as a coach that’s taken two teams to the Final Four while a quick look at the NCAA record books now indicates no such thing.


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