August 30, 2008

Best Ocho Cinco Comment

For the first time in history, someone on made a funny or interesting comment.

With regard to Chad Ocho Cinco's newest hilarious stunt, this comment was made:

blobsalad (9 hours ago)

I hope to God Chad "Ocho Cinco" gets traded to the Rams where Jack Youngblood's #85 has been retired.

He'd have to change his name to "Ocho Dos" or something like that.

August 28, 2008

NFL Investigates Cutting Preseason, Expanding Schedule

Maybe the Patriots blew a chance to be nearly assured of being the last undefeated team in NFL history. The league is reportedly investigating cutting the preseason to two games and extending the regular season by two games. The switch would make the owners more money, which means it isn't an impossible dream. It would not cost season ticket holders any more, as they already pay for 10 home games.

There are impediments, of course. For one, records would all be made worthless by adding two games. Luckily football is not as stats obsessed as baseball. There would be additional attrition with the players now facing what likely amounts to six additional quarters of actual football. Perhaps rosters could be expanded to include the practice squad after a certain week. The biggest problem, however, is that teams would not agree on when to add the games.

If you add the games to the beginning of the season, in August, the hot weather cities would enjoy an advantage. It might be 70 in August in Buffalo, but it's 100+ in Dallas and Phoenix. Plus, there are still dual use stadiums, and baseball scheduling would pose additional difficulties. If you add the games to the end of the season, the cold weather teams would enjoy an advantage. The NFL would get their coveted bad weather games, but they'd be holding the Super Bowl in mid-February....possibly on Valentine's Day.

I think we'll see a compromise position, adding one to the front and one to the end. This probably works best, especially if they'll eliminate the bye week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. I think we can all agree that more football is not a bad thing. Hopefully this will get done.

Donaghy Scandal Doesn't Faze NFL

When news first surfaced that Tim Donaghy was being investigated for a possible role in fixing NBA games, all of the pundits talked about how all sports would have to tighten up to prevent suffering the same fate. Some sports, like baseball and basketball, are somewhat easier to fix from an officiating point of view than others, like football. Nevertheless, it is still possible for an official to have a focused impact on the outcome or at least score.

You can see how a back judge especially could be a little loose calling pass interference one way but not the other. A referee controls the pacing of the game, marking the ball ready for play and calling subjective penalties like roughing the passer. He could have a measurable influence on the over-under by slowing down or speeding up games.

That's why it is so baffling to me that the NFL continues to allow referee Gene Steratore to serve on the same crew as his brother, back judge Tony Steratore. The odds of two crewmates independently falling into the seedy underworld of gambling and organized crime are pretty slim. When you add the brother bond, though, the odds jump considerably. It's still extremely unlikely, but why risk it?

College Football Picks - Week 1

Welcome back for another exciting season of college football! Every week, I'll be breaking down some of the biggest games, as well as addressing some of the biggest scores, rumors, and trends.

The first week of any season is always tough for betting (as I noted yesterday), and this year is no different. However, there are some very intriguing games worth paying attention to.

The Big Games
CLEMSON (-4.5) over Alabama - Huge expectations are yet again hovering over Clemson, and the talent is certainly there. Bowden has the talent assembled and his team has started strong recently. On the other hand, this is Saban's second season in Tuscaloosa and expectations aren't exactly low. This is a huge game for both squads and the neutral site (Georgia Dome) doesn't hurt the drama. Clemson is the more talented team, and I'm taking them on that basis. Clemson's (slim) shot at the national title hinges on this game.

Saban needs a couple big wins this year to keep the Tide alumni happy.

MISSOURI (-8.5) over Illinois - Played in anonymity last year, both teams ended up in the top 10 last year. This year, both teams are likely to be good again, but I think the loss of Mendenhall and others will hurt Illinois more. This will be worth watching to see which teams will back up their Cinderella stories from last year.

Tennessee (+7) over UCLA - Rick Neuheisel's first game is no cupcake. Both teams have plenty of talent, but the experience of the home-and-home with Cal the last two years should really benefit Tennessee. I think the Vols' physical presence will be enough for a victory on the road. If UCLA and Neuheisel pull out this victory in their first game, look out Pac-10!

Can Brian Johnson and the Utes win in the Big House?

The Interesting Weird Matchups
Utah (+3.5) over MICHIGAN - A new year, a new coach, same old story for Michigan. Last year, App State and Oregon were Michigan's first two home games and both teams were quite talented. This year, Utah is the subject of a lot of buzz from the MWC and could be legitimate BCS at-large contenders. Meanwhile, Michigan must adapt to a new coach, new system, and new starting QB. I don't think they're ready yet.

Southern Cal (-18.5) over VIRGINIA - It doesn't matter whether Sanchez is healthy or not. USC is much, much better. Unfortunately, this could be a preview of Cal-Maryland. I don't think this will be close at all. Don't forget UVa's stellar showings against Wyoming to start the last couple seasons.

RUTGERS (-5) over Fresno State - Rutgers lost Ray Rice and struggled down the stretch last year with him, so they had some issues to work through. However, Fresno isn't as dangerous now that teams know how good they are. Plus I think Fresno has fallen off a little since their peak 5ish years ago. This won't be a blowout but Rutgers will prevail, even though Fresno is a strong favorite to win the WAC this year.

Football starts in less than 10 hours! Go Terps and Yellow Jackets!

Dream Races

Where would you love to see NASCAR run? What track should F1 add to its season next?

What if they put you in charge and you could pick any race track in the world? What race would you add to each series?

Here are my picks:

MotoGP at Martinsville

"Two drag strips with a turn around on each end"is the way Martinsville is most often described. I'd love to see the awesome acceleration and braking of the MotoGP bikes around that track.

Someone would probably end up with whiplash by the end of the race, but it would be an awesome sight.

Nascar at Laguna Seca

Nascar's road course races are always fun to watch. The stock cars never seem to be at home with right hand turns and it's all the driver can do to get the car stable in between turns.

The Laguna Seca corkscrew would be an incredible test of driver and mechanic ability in a stock car. For those not familiar with it, the corkscrew is a left-right turn complex with the left hander coming over the crest of a hill and the right hander on a very steep decline. It's very difficult to hit the complex just right, but drivers who do can carry a good bit of speed through it.

Nascar fans often wonder who the best pure driver in the series is, and Laguna Seca would definitely help them answer that question.

IRL at the Nurburgring

The Nordschleife is a 14 mile track in Germany that used to host F1 races before it was determined to be unsafe due to its length. It's an amazing track with every sort of turn you could imagine, and presents a huge challenge to drivers.

IRL is a series that is centered around one race, the Indianapolis 500. The series really needs another marquee event to define itself as different from all the other open wheel circuits.

I thought about putting Nascar here, just because it would be so much fun to see the teams try to put spotters around a 14 mile track.

F1 at Bristol

I'm sure F1 purists will strongly disagree with me here, but it would be awesome to see those cars race at Thunder Valley. My biggest complaint about Formula 1 races is that there isn't enough passing. At last weekend's European Grand Prix, I don't remember seeing a single overtaking move for position.

At Bristol, "The World's Fastest Half Mile," lack of passing wouldn't be a problem. The Nascar races at Bristol run several different racing lines that are all evenly matched. The 30 degree banking in the turns makes sure of that.

I've always thought it would be fun to see F1 race on an oval, and Bristol is certainly the most fun oval of them all. It would be a huge challenge for the mechanics to optimize the set-up on the cars for a track so different than all the others, but that might let some of the backmarker teams have a chance at a race win.

I'm sure none of these dream races are feasible in the slightest, but wouldn't it be awesome if they were?

August 27, 2008

Top 5 Reasons Not To Wager on Football in Week 1

Everyone loves football, and most football fans like to gamble. The incredible excitement of the first week of the season, both college and NFL, can lead to the desire to start the season off with some winnings. Here are some reasons why discretion might be the better part of valor in this case.

Will UCLA be ready for Tennessee in week 1?

Coaching Changes
- RichRod, Neuheisel, Bo Pellini, Paul Johnson, Jim Zorn, Bill Parcells/Sparano... who knows how quickly the new systems will take effect or whether the appropriate talent is in place yet. In addition, under the radar changes can affect things more than you realize. Coordinators are hired and fired to minimal fanfare, yet they do most of the actual hands-on coaching on most teams. In addition, schemes change as well. Did you know Auburn is running the spread this year? Or that Maryland is switching to a 3-4 defense? Some of those quirks take a couple real games to work themselves out, and it doesn't even take a coaching change for some of them to happen.

Preseason Games Mean NOTHING!! - Bettors instinctively rely on the most recent games as the basis for their decisions, but the preseason with limited playbooks and experimental packages is worthless for predicting anything. Even the time with the starters in the game is worthless, for the most part. In addition, the last couple regular season games of last year aren't reliable as good NFL teams were resting their stars, while the bad teams had already given up. And if you think college scrimmages and spring games are helpful, you should spend your money elsewhere.

The Razorbacks didn't just lose McFadden and Jones, they lost Nutt too. Who knows what they have this year, other than a new everything?

Vegas Knows Everything - While you've been busy watching the Olympics, drafting your fantasy teams, and sleeping through the dog days of summer, the odds makers have been studying these teams carefully. They know more than we do until the primary evidence is seen by everyone, in the form of a game or two (a good reason to check out Doc's if you must gamble now).

Personnel Changes - Everyone knows about the big trades and the graduating seniors. Obviously, Arkansas won't be the same without McFadden and Jones, but what impact will Terrence Pryor have? Will Favre's new team excel in his presence? Everyone can only guess.

Can the Giants repeat without Osi?

Injuries - Always a variable, the severity of offseason injuries is hard to predict, and the loss of key players can really damage a team's chances. Can the Giants repeat without Osi and Strahan? Should UGA still be a favorite for the national title without their starting left tackle? Is Peyton really healthy for week 1 and will he be sharp if he even plays?

Good luck with your betting this year, but try to be patient early in the season. Just remember Michigan last year if you need a reminder.

August 26, 2008

Donald Young: Future of American Tennis?

Tonight, Donald Young and James Blake played 5 sets of tennis in the 1st round of the US Open, while most of you were sleeping off your Olympic hangover. Eventually, the better player prevailed with the #9 seed Blake winning after the match was 4-4 in the 5th set, but Blake may not be regarded as the better player for long. It's no small irony that the emergence of Donald Young may come at the expense of James Blake, if only in fatigue for the moment. Credit Blake with surviving the challenge in the 5th and keeping his composure.

Donald Young could be the next great American tennis player.

While still showing his youth and immaturity at times, Young displayed a level of talent rarely seen from such a youthful player. With a dominant forehand, strong lefty serve, and crisp volleys, Donald Young was able to dominate Blake at times, the same James Blake who beat Federer in the Olympics. Young's speed around the court was eye-opening at times. He also demonstrated mental strength and maturity, recovering from 6-1 blowouts in the 1st and 3rd sets to level the match. How about Young having the composure to hit a winner on a break point with a broken string during the 5th set? Blake was by no means perfect, but Young was certainly applying some serious pressure.

Vision of the future, but with bigger trophies?

For the American tennis fans frustrated with the inability of Blake or Roddick to break into the top 5 recently, the same fans who watch Mardy Fish look awesome and then terrible, this could be the beginning of a brave new era. Young is still only 19, but won 3 of the 4 junior majors. He took a set off Novak Djokovic two years ago, and now he has taken Blake to 5 sets in the US Open! Young has been the #1 junior player in the world and was the youngest junior champion in a major ever, and could build on these experiences to bigger and better things. Only #102 in the world, Young certainly has a long way to go and should not be crowned as the next great hope quite yet, but things are looking up. James Blake played well tonight, and Donald Young gave him everything he wanted and more.

August 25, 2008

Zai Jian (Goodbye), Olympics

After 16 days, the Beijing Olympics are over. It's tough to believe that we have to wait another four years for the next Summer Olympics. After the Super Bowl, it's bad enough knowing that you have to wait 7 months for the NFL to start back up again, with the Olympics, the gap seems like an eternity. The fact that they only happen every four years is part of what makes the Olympics so special, though.

No one had a "Free Tibet" t-shirt?

For all the worrying about what would go wrong in Beijing, things went smoothly. I expected to see a lot more political protests and some Mexico City style athlete protests on the medal stand. While there were some issues with protesting and the horrible tragedy of the stabbing, I think there was much less drama than people expected.

I could quibble with some of the minor points of NBC's coverage of the games (I think the Gold Medal Soccer game was shown at least 5 times Saturday), but they showed more events than ever before and still managed to leave me wanting more. They cut out most of the human interest stories and showed sports that you rarely see without compromising the swimming, gymnastics, and track coverage that everyone loves. The time difference sucked, and I would have preferred to see them handle it differently, but NBC was in a tough position and tried to make the best of it.

NBC also lucked out with some of the surprise performances by the US teams (indoor volleyball and water polo, particularly). With very few events contested in the final day of the games, NBC was able to show two events featuring US teams. And how great was it to end the Olympics with a story like the men's volleyball team? Hugh McCutcheon suffers an awful tragedy to start the Olympics, and then he ends the games with a gold medal. You can't make that stuff up, but it always seems to happen at the Olympics.

Four years is a long time, but I'm sure it will be worth the wait.