December 5, 2009

College Football Picks - Championship Week

Better than late than never, here are my picks for this week's huge games, sure to be wrong:

Cincinnati (-2) over PITTSBURGH - I'm expecting a close game, but I've had the Bearcats as my Big East Champs since the start of the season, and there's no reason to change now.

Houston (-2.5) over ECU - Skip Holtz has a good team, but Houston has played up to their opposition all year, beating Texas Tech, Ok State, and Miss St. I think they'll be up for this one as well.

ALABAMA (+5.5) over Florida - Yeah, I'll take the points with Saban playing the same team in the championship game for the second straight year. The Florida offense hasn't impressed all year against good teams, and Bama has just enough offense to win this game.

CLEMSON (pk) over Georgia Tech - I hate saying this, but Clemson is probably the better team right now. Nesbitt is not 100%, the Tech defense has been wretched against good teams all year, and it took a bunch of lucky, trick plays for Tech to win at home earlier in the year.

NEBRASKA (+14) over Texas - The Huskers defense has kept them in games all year, and when your front four can control the other team's line, things start happening for you. Plus the inept Nebraska offense just watched a .500 Aggies team pick apart the vaunted Texas defense, so there should be some lessons learned there. I'm expecting a low-scoring game, that stays close at least for a while.

Enjoy the games, and GO JACKETS!

December 4, 2009

NFL Picks - Week 13

This post is sponsored by, the best place for sports betting online.

Alright, a tough week for most of us last week. But seriously, not too many football fans (aside from degenerate gamblers) are caring about the lines of this week's games... damn near everybody (aside from maybe one member of our Fantastic Four) is more concerned this weekend with the push for playoff positioning in fantasy football.

Brien (26-33-1)
This is starting to get ugly.

Denver (-4.5) over KANSAS CITY - Arrowhead is normally a tough place to play, but the Chiefs are only 1-4 there this year.

Houston (pk) over JACKSONVILLE - My stay on the Jaguars bandwagon didn't last very long.

San Francisco (pk) over SEATTLE - The Seahawks aren't getting enough credit for really sucking this year. The Rams are hogging the spotlight.

CHICAGO (-9) over St. Louis - Speaking of the Rams...

GREEN BAY (-3) over Baltimore - The Packers are coming off a long rest after playing on Thanksgiving, and the Ravens are coming off a tough, emotional win last Monday.

Jason (28-32-0)

We're painfully far removed from my 5-0 week now.

TORONTO BILLS (+3) over New York Jets - I just can't trust Sanchez on the road any more. Fitzgerald has looked adequate. (editor's note - pick came in pregame on Thursday afternoon)

New Orleans (-9) over WASHINGTON - This line wasn't available when I created my pool at work, and I set it at -14.5. Philly was -9. New Orleans deserves more respect.

New England (-6) over MIAMI - The Patriots have to establish that they belong in the same sentence as the other three elite teams.

Baltimore (+3) over GREEN BAY - Now that the Ravens have signed another fullback, the McClain show can get back on track.

INDIANAPOLIS (-6) over Tennessee - I want to be wrong, Vince.

Jeremy (26-34-0)
Don't look now, but two straight 3-2 weeks.

New Orleans (-9) over WASHINGTON - Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Drew Brees vs. Carlos Rogers, Fred Smoot, Laron Landry. 37 points per game average. This could be 35-0 by halftime.

ATLANTA (+5) over Philadelphia - The Eagles are a dangerous team to pick because you never know which team will show up. The probable loss of DeSean Jackson hurts them pretty badly though.

INDIANAPOLIS (-6) over Tennessee - The whole Vince Young hysteria thing comes to a screeching halt this week.

San Diego (-12) over CLEVELAND - It'll be a cold game for the Chargers, but let's just say I'm really glad to be starting Rivers in fantasy this week.

Baltimore (+3) over GREEN BAY - Against teams with good defensive front 7's, the Packers have had a losing record this season.

Magic 8 Ball (28-32-0)

New Orleans (-9) over WASHINGTON - "No." (Redskins won't beat the spread)
ATLANTA (+5) over Philadelphia - "My sources say yes." (Falcons will beat the spread)
INDIANAPOLIS (-6) over Tennessee - "Yes." (Colts will beat the spread)
CLEVELAND (+12) over San Diego - "My sources say yes." (Browns will beat the spread)
GREEN BAY (-3) over Baltimore - "My sources say yes." (Packers will beat the spread)

Russell (26-33-1)
The horror, the horror...

New England (-4) over MIAMI - I may be missing something, but the Dolphins did lose to the Bills last week, right?

Minnesota (-3) over ARIZONA - The Cards have struggled at home, and even if Kurt starts, this could be a long day against the mighty Vikings.

San Diego (-13.5) over CLEVELAND - Yeah, the Browns are this bad.

Denver (-4.5) over KANSAS CITY - The Chiefs shouldn't be within a TD of a team with a winning record.

New Orleans (-9.5) over WASHINGTON - Even though the Saints have struggled at times on the road, and the Skins won their last home game against an undefeated team coming off a MNF victory, I just can't see it.

Brien: DEN, HOU, SF, CHI, GB
Jason: BAL, BUF, IND, NE, NO
Jeremy: ATL, BAL, IND, NO, SD
Russell: DEN, MIN, NE, NO, SD

December 2, 2009

Yet Another Reason why Soccer will Never Succeed in the States

Most Americans won't recognize this image. Nearly all Europeans will instantly recognize this image. This picture was snapped of French national team member Thierry Henry taking part in the ultimate transgression - a handball to maintain possession of the ball. Henry then passed the ball to teammate William Gallas who scored the tying goal against Ireland, allowing France, instead of Ireland, to advance to the 2010 World Cup. Ireland sought all sorts of sanctions, including a replay of the game. Despite attempted bribes with pints of Guinness, the requests were turned down. France is off to the World Cup.

That's the back story. Is it over? No. Is it because Ireland continues to appeal? No. It is because FIFA, the International Soccer Governing Body, is opening an investigation into Thierry Henry for unsportsmanlike conduct. Sadly, this is not without precedent, according to ESPN:

FIFA rejected the use of extra match officials at the 2010 World Cup on Wednesday, instead opening a disciplinary case against France's Thierry Henry for a handball in the World Cup playoff against Ireland.... The independent disciplinary panel has the authority to impose a one-match suspension on Henry, which would take effect at the start of the World Cup in June. In a similar case last year, Italian authorities banned Fiorentina forward Alberto Gilardino for two matches after he scored with his forearm in a Serie A match. The league ruled that Gilardino was unsportsmanlike for not acknowledging the handball during a 3-1 win over Palermo.

About the only parallel to what soccer expects Henry to do is when the PGA expects golfers to turn themselves in for taking improper lies or signing defective scorecards. And big surprise, golf is at best a niche sport in America.

Americans don't expect Tim Duncan to tell the refs in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals that the ball really went out of bounds off him instead of off of Kobe Bryant, as originally called. Americans don't expect Derek Jeter, in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, to own up to missing a tag of second base on a stolen base attempt when he has been called safe. Americans don't expect Brett Hull to own up to the fact that in overtime of the deciding game of the Stanley Cup finals he knocked the game winning goal into the net while his foot was illegally in the crease. Americans don't expect Troy Polamalu to let the referee know that in the AFC Championship Game he actually trapped a ball against the ground on an interception when replay was inconclusive. Duncan, Jeter, Hull, and Polamalu are all generally recognized as upstanding sportsmen in their respective sports.

Simply put, the American sports creed is "Just win baby." We don't consider any of the above examples "bad sportsmanship," even if our favorite team is the aggrieved team. We are pissed off at the officials for missing the call. But we don't blame the offending athlete for not throwing his own teammates and fans under the bus, all in the name of some foggy notion of sportsmanship. It's not quite cheating and it's not quite honesty. And that's quite alright with American sports fans.

Terps Basketball - What We Know Now

jin soo choiWe’re at the point in the basketball season where we start to have an idea of how good teams are.  Before now, it’s all conjecture, but now that the pre-season tournaments are over, we can take stock.

So how good are the Terps this year?  Obviously, the Top 25 ranking was a bit generous, especially if Greivis is going to have a cold streak, but I’m optimistic for the season.

Here’s what we know about the Terps after some tough losses and a few decent wins:

The team has heart

During the Maui debacle, I didn’t see any lack of effort.  It just seemed like shots weren’t falling.  Some years the team has looked like it doesn’t care that much about winning, but I don’t see that this year.

Sean Mosley and Landon Milbourne have improved

mosley milbourne I think all Terps fans had big hopes for these two this year, but I’m shocked at how much better they look.  Milbourne is a reliable shooter and is emerging as a team leader.  Mosley has shown ability to create his own shot and is always scrappy on defense and fighting for loose balls.  Both guys always play with a ton of energy, which takes some pressure off Vasquez to be the emotional center of the team.

Eric Hayes has found his role

eric hayes He’s not Steve Blake, and it looks like he’s finally comfortable admitting that.  Hayes is going to be consistent on defense and a spark on offense when we need it.  He doesn’t need to be the center of the offense, and he shouldn’t be with Vasquez available to run the show.  Maryland has lacked a reliable outside shooter for the past few years (even Mike Jones was frustrating), so I think he’ll be a big advantage in ACC play when we see a lot of zone and have to shoot over it.

The freshmen bigs are good but frustrating

james padgettI have really high hopes for Jordan Williams and James Padgett.  They’re going to fill the holes left when Boom Osby and James Gist left two years ago, but there are going to be a lot of missed free throws along the way.

Both guys are incredibly athletic for their size and run the court really well.  If they continue to work on shooting, in a couple years we might have two guys to fill the Lonny Baxter sized hole we’ve had in the roster.

I’m really excited to see how they match up against ACC competition.

The team struggles when Vasquez shoots poorly

greivis vasquez After leaning on Greivis so heavily for the last few years, the Terps are going to have some rough games when he has an off night.  Maryland has enough weapons to compensate for the loss in production most nights, but I think they need to get used to nights when he can’t get an open shot or when he’s not shooting particularly well.  Vasquez is still the best player on the team, but the problem is other teams know this too.  The rest of the team needs to make opponents pay for keying on Greivis.

November 29, 2009

Tiger Woods Accident - Possible Explanations

Most reasonable people have rejected the official explanation of Tiger Woods' accident at 2:25 a.m. on Friday morning. The idea that he left his home, alone and sober, at that hour and hit a fire hydrant and tree outside his own driveway just doesn't sit with most people. The reported severity of the injuries from an accident that did not even cause the air bags to deploy creates additional suspicion. Throw in that internet gossip sites were reporting an extramarital affair between Tiger and another woman just last Wednesday, and there is enough fuel to start a minor explosion.

So how can Tiger's people spin his way out of this?

EXPLANATION 1: Tiger and wife Elin Nordegren were fighting, and she hit Tiger. Elin attacked Tiger after a fight at home over the affair rumors. He was injured and dazed, and tried to escape in his SUV. She busted out the back window as he attempted to drive off. He was distracted/dazed and struck the hydrant and tree.

Plausibility: This is the most plausible explanation for what actually happened.

Downside: Just read it. To admit to this explanation, Tiger basically has to admit that the affair story has legs. He also has to admit that his wife beat him up pretty badly. Given Tiger's preference for total privacy, this spin would give the story at least a few weeks of play. It's simply not an option.

EXPLANATION 2: Tiger's infant child was sick and he was running to a 24-hour pharmacy. He was worried and drove recklessly, losing control of his SUV.

Plausibility: This version would explain why Tiger and Elin were both awake. It also explains why Tiger would be leaving the home alone at such an early hour, and why he might lose control of the vehicle.

Downside: It's easily disprovable, as someone would have had to call in the prescription. Also, they would have taken this one to the media immediately because it makes Tiger look like a caring father.

EXPLANATION 3: Stick to the official story. Explain that Tiger is an insomniac and works out at all hours of the night. His loving wife gets up with him some times to see him off. Tiger was distracted by something in the car, perhaps playing with the radio.

Plausibility: This is still a real stretch. No one can understand why Elin would hear a car accident and bring a golf club outside. No one can understand why she supposedly busted out the back window when all four doors were undamaged. No one can understand how Tiger suffered significant facial and head injuries from a low-speed collision. This also does not explain the secrecy after the fact.

Downside: Most people will never believe it.

EXPLANATION 4: This is the one I like the most. Tiger is a known insomniac. Ambien is a sleep medication with a known sleepwalking (and sleepeating and sleepsexing and sleepdriving) side effect. Tiger sleepwalked his way to the vehicle and started to drive off without a seat belt on. Elin was not awake, but was awakened by the crash. When Tiger was not in bed with her, she grabbed a weapon and went to investigate. She saw the vehicle and panicked, thinking the front end damage was worse than it looked, and smashed out the back window. (Alternate explanation: Tiger was not buckled and actually tumbled to the back of the car).

Plausibility: This version explains all of the weird aspects, including why Tiger would leave at 2:25 a.m., why Elin would have a golf club, and why Tiger might have been significantly injured.

Downside: I cannot really see one. Due to medical privacy laws, no doctor could comment either way regarding whether he/she prescribed Ambien for Tiger. Tiger does not shill for any sleep medication. The affair and Elin's wrath are not implicated.