Category Archives: General

A Little Anniversary Magic

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice, the U.S. beating the Soviet Union 4-3 in one of the most improbable upsets in sports history. Last night we had a fitting hockey tribute when a 42-year old kidney transplant survivor and Zamboni driver earned one of the most unlikely wins in NHL history.

Ayers was the “emergency goalie” a figure each home team in the league has to have ready in case either team loses their two active goalies. And that exactly what happened to Carolina in the second period when their backup goalie got into a collision and had to leave the game just like their starting goalie had to in the first period.

In came Ayers, wearing a Maple Leafs t-shirt under his Carolina pads and promptly surrendering two goals.  But he stabilized, made eight saves and became the oldest person to win his NHL “debut”.  A pretty amazing story

 

 

Heck of an Ending

If the Super Bowl had played out like it looked it would with about twelve minutes to play, I think we would have relegated it to the dustbin of ho-hum Super Bowls. There wasn’t much that great that happened in the first three-plus quarters and while the 49rs would have certainly deserved their title, I think we all would have felt a bit letdown that these two clubs gave us such a mediocre game.

Instead we got a great ending as the Chiefs made then plays they had to and turned a 20-10 deficit into a 31-20 win. They have the youngest player to ever win both the regular season MVP and the Super Bowl MVP, and when you consider the deficits they overcame this postseason, this looks like a team setting up for a sustained run of excellence.

But as soon as I type that, I recall that KC went to three of the first four Super Bowls and then waited 50 years to return. Let’s see how the offseason shakes out before we make another prediction.

Super Sunday

This is a really interesting game. You have two teams where the narratives are not exactly in line with the facts. The 49rs, are perceived as a defensive juggernaut, but Kansas City actually gave up fewer points. And while KC is considered the dominant offense, San Fran actually scored more points than they did. Put it all together and the 49rs are a 1 or 1.5-point underdog heading into the game.

Before the New Year, I picked a KC Super Bowl win over the 49rs, so I’m not deviating from that now. It’s been 50 years in the making, but they are champs again in KC.

Conference Time

A few weeks ago, I picked a KC-49rs Super Bowl, so the only question is how much I think each of them will win by this weekend. KC-7 over Tennessee is an easy pick for me. I’m less confident in laying 7-1/2 with the 49rs, but they did destroy Green Bay already this season, so I’m going with it. Give me the two favorites and let’s get to Super Sunday.

Take 2

i went 0-4 ATS last week, dropping a tough game in OT, never giving the Titans a chance, losing another tough one in OT, and then seeing the Eagles lose their QB in the first quarter. Them’s the breaks as they say. Hoping to do better this week, I’m picking one upset and three favorites.

Vikings +7 over SAN FRAN- The Vikings showed me something last week and this is the first ever playoff game Jimmy G and most of his teammates. I think the 49rs likely win, but I don’t think by much.

RAVENS-9.5 over Titans- The Titans will run, run, and run again, but I don’t think they have an answer for Lamar Jackson.

CHIEFS-9.5 over Texans- I think the Chefs are going all the way.

PACKERS-4 over Seattle- This spread seems way to low for a playoff game at Lambeau after two weeks off.

NFL Follies

Sunday gave us two of the best, and most frustrating, football games you will ever see. The NFC Championship was marred by a double missed call of enormous importance. The AFC Championship showed us once again why the NFL has stupid overtime rules.

Let’s start in New Orleans where the referees missed two calls on the same play that would have left New Orleans in an almost no-lose situation. The problem is that there is no mechanism in replay for a review of a call that wasn’t made.  Now I don’t think we want the NFL to create a system where pass interference is reviewable if it hasn’t been called. That would create six hour games. But, there are two changes they could make.

First, similar to college football, allow reviews for targeting. In the play in question, the defender clearly made an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit. That’s a safety issue and something that should be reviewable even if it isn’t called.

Second, add another official during playoff games who utilizes the overhead cameras to look for missed penalties. The official can zoom in on certain area and make calls that officials on the field miss. MLB adds to extra umpires during the playoffs, why can’t football?

As for the AFC it was a wonderful game, but the NFL has to change the overtime rule. I’ve said it before, but championships should not be settled on a coin flip. Yes, just like two years ago, the Patriots executed when it mattered, but change the coin flip in those two games and we might have a Falcons Suoer Bowl victory and the Chiefs heading to one. That’s dumb.

I’m not suggesting the NFL change the rules for the regular season, unless they want to adopt the far-superior college rules, but in the playoffs both team should get the ball once. After that it becomes  sudden death game and whatever happens happens.

Getting Uglier

Back in October we got the initial details of a big scandal in college basketball. Now, right before the best time of year for the sport, we are getting even more details and they are really bad.

Start with the fact that the FBI has the head coach of Arizona on a wiretap discussing a payment of $100,000 to his star freshman. Arizona is a top-20 team, and the player in question, Deandre Ayton, is one of the best players in the game right now.

But it goes much deeper than that.  Michigan State and Duke, two of the best teams in the country have current players accused of taking money.  Assuming that is true, those programs might have to vacate wins or championships because they used inelligble players. And, they have to decide right now if they want to sit those potentially ineligible players to try to head off those penalties

Kansas, Kentucky, and UNC are also implicated in this as they have former players who show up on the expense report of the rogue agent at the center of this scandal.  It isn’t hyperbole to say that this could fundamentally change the way the sport works

But for now we will be left with more questions than answers.  The FBI is still investigating and they are not going to answer questions in the middle of that process.  Maybe more charges get filed that bring some answers, but it is also quite likely that March Madness gets played this year under this enormous cloud of uncertainty.  What a mess.

 

 

 

How I Feel About The Super Bowl Explained

What A Mess

The Islanders are moving back to Nassau County, but it is going to be a messy process until they get there. The Barclays Center wants them out and soon, threatening to terminate their lease after next season if they won’t play at least half their home games at the renovated Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders have apparently agreed to play at least a third of their games there.  That probably means that for at least the next three years, you will have to really, really check the schedule before buying Islanders tickets or you may be in for a big surprise. And I have no idea what happens to season ticket holders under this situation.

I was trying to think of a parallel to this situation and drew a blank. The Packers used to play a couple of games in Milwaukee and the Bills did the same with Toronto, but football is a bad comparable. There are only eight home games. The Islanders have 41 home nights a year, this will be a logistical nightmare.

And, as usual, the reason comes to greed. The NHL doesn’t want any games played at the new Nassau Coliseum because it would be the smallest arena in the league with very few corporate suites. (I suspect that they are also worried that if the Islanders start playing there and people love it, support for building the new arena will crumble.). How does this end?  It will end with ticket-buying fans getting hosed once again.

Pat Shurmur

The Giants have hired their new coach, giving a five year job to the former Browns Head Coach and current Vikings Offensive Coordinator. It’s a solid move in my mind.

The knock on Shurmur is his time in Cleveland, but the thing is everyone fails in Cleveland. That team has averaged 3.8 wins per season since 2007. So, Shurmur’s nine wins in two seasons look good in that light.

He is unquestioned in his ability to develop quarterbacks and that is a critical skill for the Giants right now. With the second overall pick in the draft, they will almost certainly take a QB. If they choose right and develop him correctly, the Giants could go from 15 seasons of Eli to 15 seasons of the next guy. Few teams have ever had that.

But the real test of Shurmur will be changing the culture of the locker room which went completely off the rails this year. That may require some tough choices like cutting some big players and demanding accountability for others, but it has to be done.

The harsh reality is that coaching hires in the NFL is a crapshoot at best. Consider the seven coaches hired two years ago, a group which included Ben McAdoo. Three have been fired already and only one, of the remaining four, Doug Pederson, has a winning record.