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The Weekly Six-Pack, Aug. 2

In Baseball, Football, Hockey on August 2, 2012 at 10:47 pm
Today’s post starts off with a couple of different things. First, we are welcoming a new member to the site as a contributer in my good friend Kevin Pomazal. He’s a  die-hard Flyers, Packers and Cubs fan, which could be enough for everyone to hate him off the bat (he won’t care if you do anyway). The two of us are going to attempt to post some of our discussions regarding whatever the hell we come up with. So it could be anything from hockey to music, which is perfect and hopefully entertaining to you.
Yes I know, his initials don’t fit in to the title of the website. Our other site contributer isn’t able to post anything due to his job. Totally understandable. A paying gig is more important than a blog that’s supposed to be recreational. But fear not Dylan, just like Nearl Crews said, “Your legacy is in tact.”
And for the one person reading this that’s a Frisky Dingo fan, you’re welcome for that reference.
Second, I have to give a big shout out to my buddy Kyle Schassburger for his new gig as studio host for IMG sports, covering Kent State football and Michigan hockey. Bro, you stuck with the broadcasting gig and you’ve earned this. You’ve come a long way from the kid that co-hosted a sports talk show with me in college as a freshman. Now if ya make it big and can get tickets to a big event, don’t be afraid to hook a brother up.
All right, the sappy stuff is out of the way. Let’s do this.
Atlantic Division Announces its Supremacy
Last week, I covered the acquisition of Rick Nash by the Rangers, giving them the high-scoring forward the team needs to add more offense for a team that struggled in the playoffs scoring. With the addition, it gives the division three teams that are the three best teams in the East and each could be playing for the Stanley Cup this coming year in Pittsburgh, the Rangers and Philadelphia. Oh yeah, they also boast a Devils team fresh off a trip to the Cup Finals and an Islanders team that should be much better this year than last. Granted, I’ve been saying this about the Isles for the last few years, and they’ve sucked.  So take that for what it’s worth.
But the top three teams should be competing for the Cup this next year, although each have a weakness. The Flyers still have Ilya Bryzgalov in net and the uncertainty of Chris Pronger’s future to worry about. Pittsburgh lacks depth on the wing and in young forwards. The Rangers have to worry about whether or not they can score enough with Marian Gaborik out with shoulder surgery.
Despite the slight weaknesses, each team is going to be just fine in the regular season. The Flyers and Penguins can light up the scoreboard with what might be the three best centers in the world today (Crosby, Malkin and Giroux), and the Rangers are a defensive juggernaut that are always in games because of their back end.
So take no offense with the weaknesses listed people. One of your teams should represent the East come next June in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Patrick Kane, Professional Lightning Rod for Bad Behavior
Yes, I know this is dated. It’s a slow time for sports news, so I’m pulling for stuff. To say Patrick Kane’s offseasons have been loaded with controversy in the last few years is a bit of an understatement. I don’t need to go over what he’s done in the past, but this year’s incident at a party in Madison, Wisconsin seemed to be a little different as far as a level of offense. As opposed to the Buffalo cab incident, one that he was way out of line for, I was actually amused by this news as opposed to the past.
Keep in mind, Kane is 23 years old. I would like to say that I was straight-laced when I was that age, but that would be a lie. Add in the fact that he just came off a tough season and another early playoff exit where he didn’t live up to his talent level. I understand if something like that happens, someone of that stature is expected to be pissed and hard at work to get ready for the next season.
At the same time, a chance to cut loose should be earned by someone that’s busting their chops for 11 months of the year in an extremely demanding sport. Sure, he may have acted like a total bag (based on the articles I’ve read) and fell victim to some pictures that leaked on social media sights. It’s 2012, that kind of thing happens to everyone. But I’m not going to get as wrapped up in this as others have. Nor do I think you should.
NHL Dress Code Needs to Change Again
Now you KNOW it’s a slow time when I’m busting out the old debate of home colors vs. home whites as far as jerseys go. To make it even worse, this came to me as I was playing NHL 12. My original idea for this came when I scored against Dallas, who was wearing their black jerseys, by scoring on the goalie that was screened by his own defenseman. How obviously, it’s difficult to see through a human. I get that. But it got me thinking how much tougher it might be for a goalie if he’s trying to pick up a puck and someone’s loose jersey gets in the way for a team wearing black.
Nine teams in the league have a black sweater, and the only two I’m all right with seeing that are the Kings and the Suc- I mean Ducks. Dallas’ bother me the most because I liked their old green sweaters, and their current home selection is just boring. Had to be the last design the Reebok guys put together and they must have been on their 15th pot of coffee when doing so. Get rid of them or at least make them a little more vibrant. Watching a Dallas/LA game in Dallas must be like watching it on a TV that required you to get up to change the channel. Make it stop.
On the flip side, I’m all for bringing back the home white jerseys. It gives the home fans a chance to see different colors each night and to be honest, it just feels right. Seeing the Leafs, Red Wings, Blackhawks etc. in their barn wearing their classic white sweaters is a beautiful thing. And I’ve missed it ever since the change started back in 2003. I can only hope this changes down the line.
Cubs Trade Deadline Finally Brings in New Blood
So the trade deadline is gone and the Cubs did what I expected in unloading some of their current roster players to contenders. We all knew it was coming, but I can’t help but feel a little let down. Yes, they got some nice pieces that could make an impact in the bullpen down the road. But having Ryan Dempster block a trade to the Braves for one of their top prospects was a bummer. But I’m a firm believer in what Theo Epstien is doing with this team. Yes, the team is going to be bad for the rest of this year and probably the next few. But it’s not like it wasn’t expected and for anyone that was heartbroken and upset about the deals for Dempster, Geovany Soto, Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm, keep in mind what the ultimate goal is. A great breakdown of the players the Cubs got in return was posted by my good friend Chad Ruter and can be found here. It’s worth a read from one of the smartest sports fans I’ve ever come in contact with.
ESPN and Pop Radio Might as well be One in the Same
I can’t take it anymore. I used to be able to sit down and enjoy the hour I would spend each night getting caught up on the day’s news by watching SportsCenter. But watching it now makes me want to shove knitting needles in my eyes. I understand that the job for television execs is to get more viewers to their brand to make more money. But listen, ESPN, devoting 45 minutes of a telecast to the New York Jets camp and Tim Tebow coverage is insanity. And if it’s not about that, then it’s all about Peyton Manning and the Broncos or Michael Phelps and Ryan Locthe. Sure, the occasional baseball coverage will get mixed in, but once the NBA season ended, all the focus shifted to the NFL. Which, keep in mind, is something that doesn’t start for almost two more months. It’s like turning on the radio and knowing what you’re going to hear each and every day. The New York Jets might as well be sports current version of “Call Me Maybe.”
The point is, feel free to mix in something else. The product may just be more interesting to someone that’s wants to know about how their team is doing in the baseball playoff race. Or if you want to stick with the NFL, how about focusing on some of the other 30 teams and how their training camps are going?
Now I’m done. I’ll jump off my soapbox, but keep it close by just in case.
Umpire in Florida Loses his Mind
If any of you have ever been an umpire at any level of baseball or softball, you know that it’s a thankless job and players, coaches and fans will take any chance to let you know how bad of a job you’re doing. It develops character and thick skin for most people that put on the mask. But what happened in Daytona last night during a Daytona Cubs has officially blown my mind when it comes to an umpire that needs to quit taking himself so seriously.
In case you missed it, the full information on the incident is here. The umpire tossed the Cubs’ music guy for playing “Three Blind Mice” after a blown call. How an umpire can toss someone in the crowd, let alone the press box, is beyond me. Especially if there’s no profanity involved.
My point is that this guy needs to take a step back and realize that it’s all in good fun. Any umpire that makes the game about himself so that we know his name is in the job for the wrong reason.
That’s all for this week’s session. Hopefully something interesting in the hockey world happens between now and next week so I’m not talking about the jersey situation again.
Until then.

The Weekly Six-Pack, July 27

In Football, Hockey, Pro Wrestling on July 27, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Normally, I feel the need to start this off with some sort of musing, but I’ve spent the last week playing uncle to my niece and two nephews. So the only thing I can come up with after all that time is that I’ve gotten each of them hooked on old school Street Fighter II for the Super Nintendo. And yes, I’m very proud of this.

That said, strap in kids, here we go.

Predators match Shea Weber offer sheet
What had been looming over the hockey world for the last week was answered earlier this week, as Nashville emptied their payroll to match the Flyers’ monster offer sheet for captain Shea Weber. And honestly, good for the Preds. I said it last week, if they let Weber go, Nashville is on the fast track to becoming the Atlanta Thrashers, 2.0. But GM David Poile swallowed hard and kept the team’s best player in the fold. By doing so, Poile saved the franchise’s credibility and appeal to not only the current cast, but future free agents. In addition, having Weber’s presence means that guys like Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi and Jon Blum can fill in with a veteran mentor. So good for you, Nashville. The last thing an expanding market needs is to turn into what the Thrashers used to be.

Rick Nash heads to Broadway
FINALLY! After five long months of being unhappy in what might as well be hockey purgatory, Nash gets sent to the New York Rangers for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a 1st-round pick. Of course, like most hockey analysts (something I am far from), I like the deal for the Rangers more than the Jackets. New York gets a power forward to help soften the blow of Marian Gaborik’s injury, and they didn’t have to give up any of their top young forward like Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan.

For Columbus, this isn’t the type of return I’m sure GM Scott Howson was looking for. Yes, he got two NHL-ready forwards and a very good prospect on defense in Erixon. But even though he didn’t get the 30-goal scorer I’m sure he was after, he didn’t get totally hosed and get 30 cents on the dollar like I thought he would. Then again, based on what Howson’s original asking price was, I’m not shocked with the return he got.

Dubinsky and Anisimov will step in right away, but the one that intrigues me the most is Tim Erixon. By adding Erixon, the defense could be considered one of the best in the Western conference when healthy. Yes, I know, I’ll probably regret that statement down the line. But on paper I love what they’re building on defense in Columbus. How if only the team could find a way to lose Howson as GM, they just might find a way to contend.

Alex Semin heads to Carolina
Another guy that I was very interested in just where he would be playing next year, Semin inks a deal to head to Capitals’ division rival Carolina. I love that the ‘Canes got him for one year and it’s similar to what Detroit did a few years back with Marian Hossa. Semin gets to play with some very talented players in the Staal brothers and Jeff Skinner, but his added offense could very easily make the Hurricanes the favorite in that division. On top of that, he’s coming in to a locket room with stable leadership, something that hasn’t really been the case in the nation’s capitol the last few years. I love the deal for each side and I would be very surprised if Semin doesn’t score 30 goals this year.

Raw 1000 turns back the clock
Like many people my age (I’m 26, if that helps), growing up was a blast because every Monday night was wrestling night. It was the Attitude Era and every weekly show was a blast just because of the antics of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, DX and others. So when I heard about the 1,000th episode of Monday Night Raw, I figured it would be fun to watch for the nostalgic factor alone. And of course, I was treated to some old names and faces that made me feel like I was a 12-year old sitting on the couch with dad every Monday night. This even included mom yelling, “I can’t believe you’re watching this crap.” Ah memories…

So it was great to see DX as a whole group, The Rock still carries himself like he never left the business and Lita and Trish Stratus are still SMOKING hot. While I was a little upset at the absence of Stone Cold and Edge, I was more let down with the wrestling product. Each week during the Attitude Era guys like Triple H, Chris Jericho, Edge, Eddie Guerrero and others would have some very entertaining matches each week. This show lacked that in a big way. So clearly the times have changed in that aspect. Regardless, it was a fun night to laugh about some of the best memories from a simpler time for me.

Chiefs training camp opens. Warning: May cause false optimism
OK, back to sports talk. Sorry about the detour. I know a lot of my friends have been chomping at the bit to get football back, and only now have I started to pay a little bit of attention. Of course, that means I’m likely subjected to another torturous season of watching the Kansas City Chiefs. And as bad as last year was, I’m optimistic in the early stages of camp just because the team went 7-9 last year without Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry for most of the year. Yes I know the Broncos have Peyton Manning and everyone thinks the Raiders are going to be better. But the Raiders are still the Raiders, the Chargers are still coached by Norv Turner and the Manning is one missed block away from ending his career. I’m probably going to remain optimistic until things start to go south. The fact that Dwayne Bowe isn’t in camp is a good start to that…

My encounter with an NFL running back
I’m closing the column today with an unexpected meeting that happened to me as a young teenager. I was spending some time with my family and my Godparents’ family in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in what I want to say was 2001. We were having a nice time when some of the football players for Coe College stopped by. There were three total, but two of them were twins from the state of Texas, one of whom happened to be Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson. My memory from that long ago isn’t the best, but I remember that night and how friendly Jackson, his brother and his teammate were to us. They were nice enough to play some alley basketball with us (stomping us mercilessly) and dance to the Cha Cha Slide in the living room (where I announced my status as the whitest of white boy dancers). The picture still sits in the living room of that house, and it’s amazing to just how far Jackson has come.

My Godparents became very close with Freddy and his brother in school and that has continued to this day. It’s also a cool little story for me to tell today, given that I never would have expected it back when I met Fred 11 years ago.

Ranking the Top Sporting Events

In Baseball, Basketball, College Sports, Football, Golf, Hockey on March 28, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Sports are a part of the fabric of American Culture. As the years have passed, sporting events have become bigger in terms of the level of competition and fanfare. While there might be great games played on a daily basis, there are certain events that we as fans look forward to each time they come around. These are the events that you call up your buddies to go have a few pops at the bar for. The kinds of events that you expect magic from each year and it rarely fails to deliver.

This list takes the best of the best in sporting events and ranks them on the amount of interest that each garners each time takes place. One thing I need to mention though, this includes both single-game and events as a whole, so it might have a few overlaps. File this under “obvious foreshadowing.” I know this list won’t be the same as everyone else, but it’s my list, damn it!

Before we get to the list, a few honorable mentions. These are in no particular order.

Accenture Match Play Championship
It’s golf meets the NCAA Tournament. The best players in the world all flock to one place and get after each other for five days. What I love the most is the unpredictability. It’s not unusual to see a 16-seed knock off one of the top players and make a run deep in the tournament. It’s also a chance to see some of the players that don’t play much on the PGA Tour, which for golf enthusiasts is a nice thing to see. And it’s a lock that once Tiger gets bumped in the second round, everyone tunes out. That knocks it off the list.

Triple Crown Horse Races
They take place close together each summer and every few years there exists a real chance that the next big horse could win the triple crown. The issue is that, it’s freaking horse racing. There is so much build-up to a race that only lasts a few minutes. Bonus point for the man that calls each race at the track though.

Home Run Derby
What we all love about baseball, the long-ball. To quote a good friend of mine when it comes to baseball, “If I’m going to pay $500 for a ticket, I want to see some ******* Home Runs.” Hard to argue with that, we like offense and we like watching a baseball sail in to the night. This is something I used to get REALLY excited for. I used to love getting excited to see Sosa, McGwire, Bonds, Griffey, etc. go out and swing for the fences. But much like other All-Star Weekend festivities, the stars don’t show up each and every year. And the guy that deserves to win doesn’t win each year (see: Hamilton, Josh).

BCS National Championship Game
Here’s one I bet you weren’t expecting. For a game that gets a month to gain as much steam as the sporting networks will force-feed the American Public, it loses points for the fact that so many people want a playoff system. There’s always some team that claims they got screwed out of playing for the National Title even though they play in a cupcake conference and easy non-conference schedule. This has improved over the last few years, but it never fails to piss someone off, each and every year. Add in that the game has only had a pair of really memorable games, and maybe those people that want a playoff  feel a little bit better at the end of the day.

World Cup
The world’s sport makes its presence felt on American culture once every four years in an event that even I was paying attention to last summer. Plus, it has Tommy Smythe on ESPN for a month straight. Even if you can’t understand a damn thing the guy says, still great TV. What keeps it off this list? IT’S SOCCER. If I want to see a game with no scoring and a bunch of athletes flop around like they just got shot, I’ll dial up Vince Carter or Vlade Divac’s greatest hits. Soccer sucks.

Now to the list.

10. NHL Winter Classic
Hockey in the elements. Rain, snow or shine, they play on. It’s been a revelation for the NHL since it’s inception in 2007. Great sporting venues such as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park have played host to what has become a New Year’s Day tradition. Add in the retro sweaters the players usually trot out and you’ve got yourself a great event. The only downside to this event is that it could become repetitious in terms of the teams that participate. Teams in warm-weather places wouldn’t make any sense playing in this game. Now if only I could manage to not be deathly hung over for next year’s game…

9. World Series
This one was so near to my heart for so long just because it’s baseball. While I still love tuning in to the Fall Classic every year, it is no longer as high on my list as it used to be. Can you remember the last time there has been a World Series that delivered in terms of drama and great baseball? Every Series since 2003 hasn’t been much of a competition. It was refreshing to see two teams that no one thought should be there last year (Brian Wilson helped), but there isn’t enough parity in the game to the point where you feel like anyone could win it each year. I want them to shorten the regular season (to avoid playing the games in freaking November) and add playoff teams. It’s a pipe dream, but hey, I can always wish.

8. The Masters
For my money, this is the biggest golf tournament each and every year. Every year, the tournament is held at the same place and every year someone carves their spot in history. Not many golf tournaments captivate everyone for four days each and every year. The biggest thing that keeps everyone coming back is that either Tiger or Phil always shows up. They may not always win, but they give everyone a show.

7. NBA Playoffs
While I have to admit, I had been sour on the NBA playoffs for a decade, they have redeemed themselves in the last couple of years. It all began with the epic Bulls-Celtics series back in ’09 and finished with a great Finals series last year between old rivals. This year, even I am excited with everything that could happen in the playoffs. With the Bulls competing for a top seed, to getting to see Kevin Duran t play, to the Big Three in Miami and how they perform. All this without talking about the defending champs in LA. I vividly remember as a kid in the mid-90s being captivated  by so many good teams. In the West you had Seattle, Phoenix, Houston, Portland, San Antonio, Utah and LA all being locks to make the playoffs. In the East, you had Jordan’s Bulls, Ewing and Riley’s Knicks, ‘Zo and Larry Johnson in Charlotte, Shaq and Penny in Orlando and Reggie Miller and the Pacers. That’s alot of talent and depth kids. It also saw numerous rivalries born as a result, something that isn’t near as prominent today. It slides down on this list because of the decade-long lull after Jordan retired.

6. Thanksgiving Day Football
What has become the best part of the holiday instead of dealing with the relatives you don’t see but once a year and have nothing in common with. What is better than eating as much turkey and stuffing as you can shovel into your mouth and passing out on the couch or in your favorite chair while the game is on? My money says not a whole lot. What doesn’t land it higher? The fact that they’re regular season games and always feature the same teams. Shame on the NFL for forcing us to watch a bad team and a hated team each and every year.

5. Baseball’s Opening Day
Another personal favorite of mine, the unofficial signal that summer is on its way. Every team starts with the same record and each team has hope that it might be their year. How many of us wouldn’t love to skip out on work or class to go to the yard, get a few dogs and beers and watch the spot we grew up watching with our dad or grandpa. Baseball will forever be the game that will make me feel like a kid, and that alone is what puts it this high on my list. Then my feelings come crashing back down to Earth because I am a Cubs fan and we employ some of the game’s biggest chumps. I’m looking at you, Soriano.

4. “Game 7”
This is one that might not be thought of as an event, but Game 7 grabs my attention NO MATTER WHAT. It gives the sports that have a best-of-seven format the feel of a super bowl. Do or die. Win or go home. All or nothing. I’ll stop with the cliches now.  Obviously my favorite is Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, but I’m not picky. Last year’s Game 7 of the Lakers-Celtics series? Fantastic. Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals? One of the best hockey I have ever watched with a great ending. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

3. Stanley Cup Playoffs
For those of you that know me, the fact that this is on the list shouldn’t be much of a surprise. It might not be a popular choice because it’s not overly-popular in this country. I get all that. But this is hands-down the best post-season out of the four major sporting leagues. 16 teams take the ice and embark on a two-and-a-half month odyssey for the greatest trophy in sports. Players often play through anything and everything for their chance to hold Lord Stanley’s Cup. If they’re not in the emergency room, a player is going to suit up and do whatever they can to help the team win. The stars show up each and every year, and there’s always an upset waiting to happen. The fact that the last two President’s Trophy winners failed to get out of the first round means that any team can win at any time if a few guys get hot. In baseball and basketball, the lowest seeds aren’t given much of a chance to win. Hockey doesn’t work that way. What kept me from ranking this higher than third is the fact that it needs perfect circumstances to get any media coverage. With the Blackhawks winning last year and Montreal making a deep run, it got the sport some mainstream press. This needs to happen more often. The rivalries are (Chicago-Vancouver, Boston-Montreal, Pittsburgh-Philly) beyond fierce and magic can happen if those teams meet up. Not to worry, new rivalries can be born as a result of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and rivalries make a sport go. This year has been so wide open that it is almost impossible to predict how the Cup will be won. Probably by the team that scores more goals than the other. No expert, but that’s just my ethos.

2. Super Bowl
The biggest sporting event in the United States has to be on this list somewhere. The current sport of the USA and its championship game is the one sporting event that everyone watches each year. Even those who don’t watch much football will tune in for the commercials. It also gives friends and family a chance to come together and enjoy each other’s company while throwing back a few beers and mowing down the taco dip. People clear their schedules for Sunday (and for some, even the day after) to watch a game that they might not even have a cheering interest in. It’s become the event that everyone gets excited for every year and even has people hoping that the day after become a national holiday. That alone puts it in front of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for me.

And the most exciting sporting event in the country today is:

1. Daytona 500
What can I say about this event that brings out the excitement in everyone… Ah, who the hell am I kidding?  There is NO WAY IN HELL that anything positive dealing with NASCAR will ever end up on anything I write. NASCAR sucks out loud. End. Of. Story.

My real Number 1:

1. NCAA Tournament
For anyone that disagrees, look at what has happened with this year’s tournament and tell me you haven’t been captivated by what VCU and Butler have done. Has the talent in college basketball been the best this year? Not even close. Does anyone feel like the best team in the country won’t be the one that wins the tournament? Absolutely, and I’m one of them. But it doesn’t matter because we all love the Cinderella story that VCU has pulled off in this tournament. And what happens when these magical runs don’t happen? You get some pretty damn good basketball being played to win a national championship by the best teams in the tournament.  All this and I haven’t even talked about the four best days in sports with the first two rounds of the tournament. Upsets happen, titans fall, the little guy proves they belong, buzzer beaters and overtime games until you end up in front of the TV completely exhausted and wanting more. And this happens over the course of three weeks. That makes the NCAA Tournament the most exciting event in sports today.