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Same Ol’ Spurs — James Plays Passive, Now 0-5 in Finals vs S.A.

Posted by RichieZ23 on June 6, 2013

The narrative prior to Game 1 of the NBA Finals was how much LeBron James has evolved as a player. Six years ago, James was swept in the Finals by the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili led Spurs while James was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

With a more talented team via the Miami Heat, James can now get his revenge for 2007. LeBron is a completely different player since then. He is also a completely different player than in 2011, his first season in Miami that saw LeBron lose again in the Finals, this time to the Dallas Mavericks.

James finally broke though in 2012 as the Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder for his first championship.

But in Game 1 of the 2013 Finals, James played like the LeBron of old. Forget about his stat-stuffing triple double that many will point to. Sure, 18 points, 10 assists, and a ridiculous game-high 18 rebounds is nothing to sneeze at. It’s a career game for many. And while the Spurs played good defense on James, too often he was too passive with the ball in his hands.

Lebron Game 1

James watched as the Heat fell behind 0-1 (Photo: Christian Petersen, Getty Images)

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Posted in NBA | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Dwight Taking Flight in 2012? — Will poor contracts cause the D12 reign to end in Orlando?

Posted by RichieZ23 on April 6, 2011

With the NBA playoffs approaching, the playoff seeds in the Eastern Conference are nearly set.

Chicago will most likely hang out to the No. 1 seed.  Miami or Boston will have the two and three slots, and Orlando has locked up the fourth.

It’s hard to imagine anyone other than one of the above four teams making it to the NBA Finals.  On the broad shoulders of Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic will be looking to make its third straight appearance in the Conference Finals, and its second Finals appearance in three years.

The run in Orlando with D12 has been a success so far, even though falling short of the ultimate goal.  However, how much longer is Howard looking to stick around town?

How long will Howard's run in Orlando last? (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

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Posted in NBA | 1 Comment »

Sports Fans — Part of the Game Too

Posted by RichieZ23 on December 15, 2010

You might call me a fanatic.  When it comes to my favorite teams — the Iowa Hawkeyes, Dallas Cowboys, and Orlando Magic — I love them.  I identify with them that makes me spend my financial resources and invest my emotional time in the outcomes of their events.

It’s what makes sports so great.

I’m sure we can all remember our favorite sporting event.  Mine was being at the 2010 Orange Bowl in Miami and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes defeat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets for the first BCS bowl win in Iowa history.  That is a memory that you can never take away from me.  I also made sure to record plenty of video of it too.

The identity we have to our favorite teams cause us to feel such highs and lows from the outcomes and performances of our favorite teams.  I still get chills every time I watch this video from the 2010 FIFA World Cup:

That’s just 100% pure joy and emotion that might not ever be replicated again.  Some fans don’t even wait until the end of the game, or a game-winning shot to let out their emotions.  They just wait silently until the 10th point is scored in a basketball game, a tradition at Taylor University:

You always hear coaches and players thank the fans, and while it sounds cliche, it’s because it is.  But there is truth behind it.  Without us fans, these guys would essentially be playing by themselves in an open gym, field, or diamond.  It doesn’t matter what type of fan you are, if you support a team with either emotional resources or financial resources, you’re part of what makes the role of sports what it is today.

So next time you go to the stadium and arena and are idolizing the players performances, just know that you too play a part.

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Five Friday Favorites — December 5

Posted by RichieZ23 on December 5, 2010

While it technically might not be Friday, let’s get this week’s Friday Favorites going…

1.)  Dallas at Indianapolis — What was once supposed to be a Super Bowl preview is now a battle between teams trying to make the playoffs and fighting to be .500.  Indy is sitting at 6-5, and with a loss would put itself behind the Jaguars in the AFC South and with potential to miss the playoffs altogether.  Dallas’ season has been over for weeks.  However the honeymoon era with Jason Garrett at the helm is still underway.  If not for a late-game fumble by Roy Williams Dallas would be 3-0 with Garrett as head coach.  Even with Jon Kitna as quarterback, look for the Cowboys to continue to play to their potential.  Peyton Manning has struggled against 3-4 teams in the past to distinguish various blitzers.  Dallas might give up some points, but look for them to come out victorious 34-31.

Jon Kitna has played well in the Garrett Era (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)


2.)  New York at New England — This is going to be some great football to watch on Monday night  The polar opposite head coaches, the established quarterback vs. the up-and-comer.  Both teams are 9-2 heading into the game, and the winner has an expected 80-percent chance to win the AFC East.  Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, but I like Rex Ryan and the Jets in this game 24-14.  The Jets have the attitude and confidence to go into Foxboro and snap Tom Brady’s NFL record 25-game home winning streak.

3.)  Pittsburgh at Baltimore — The Sunday Night Football battle on NBC will be a primetime game worth watching.  The Steelers and Ravens are a dead-even 8-8 in their past 16 games against each other.  Some people like to watch shootouts between teams like the Colts and Saints.  Eff that.  Give me teams like the Steelers and Ravens going at each other every single time.  Players like Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, LeMarr Woodley, and Troy Polamalu make defense fun to watch.  That being said, both teams can put points up on the board.  Ben Roethlisburger and Joe Flacco can sling the rock.  Flacco and Lewis out-duel Big Ben and Polamalu and win 21-17.

4.)  Atlanta at Tampa Bay — This game might be the biggest surprise of the season.  Atlanta is sitting at 9-2 with Tampa Bay right behind at 7-4.  If you would have told me Atlanta would be going into this game tied with the best record in the league, and that Tampa would be contending for a wildcard, I would have said you’re crazy.  But that is the reality.  Head coach Raheem Morris has done a great job in Tampa Bay, and second-year quarterback Josh Freeman is a prime example of a quarterback who wins football games.  He continues to make plays and get things done.  However, Atlanta is the better team, and while it will be a tough battle, Atlanta squeaks by with a 28-27 win.

5.)  Oakland at San Diego — The Chargers look to make it 19 straight in December games.  I liked the Raiders to win the division this year at first, but Philip Rivers has proved to be the best quarterback in the league, and made me look stupid in the process.  The Raiders still are a competitive team, but my Oakland pick was more or less an insult to Rivers and the Chargers than it was any due praise for the Raiders.  The Raiders might make the game competitive, but Rivers and San Diego will continue to roll.  I’m going to say 35-14.  Go Chargers, go.

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Philip Rivers and San Diego Chargers Own Month of December

Posted by RichieZ23 on December 2, 2010

In a previous blog entry, I noted how San Diego Chargers quarterback has been the best quarterback in the 2010 season.

Well, if you’re a Chargers fan, there’s more good news coming.  According to Michael Signora of NFL Football Info, the San Diego Chargers have won an NFL record 18 straight games in the month of December.  The mark is also shared with the 1970-74 Dolphins, who also won 18 games, those in the month of November.

So what does that mean?  With the Chargers already having the best quarterback in the league, now combined with the fact that the Chargers absolutely own the month of December, we will most likely see a supercharged Chargers team come out in the following weeks.

The return of Vincent Jackson will help the Chargers catch their annual December hot-streak. 18 straight wins and counting. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Rivers also has top-targets Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson at his disposal, that he did not have earlier in the season.  Jackson hasn’t played all year due to a holdout and a suspension, and Gates missed time as well with nagging injuries.

The Chargers have two games coming up in the surprising AFC West.  They host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, and the Kansas City Chiefs will visit San Diego the following week.  If history tells us anything, it’s that the Chargers play their best in December.  It isn’t looking too good right now for the Chiefs and Raiders, two teams who sit at 7-4 and 5-6 respectively.  The AFC West is essentially a two-team race between Kansas City and San Diego, although my preseason favorite Oakland Raiders have an outside shot as well.

While the Raiders and Chiefs may have a shot, it doesn’t appear to be a very good one.

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White-Out — Sports Media and the Lack of Ethnic Diversity

Posted by RichieZ23 on December 1, 2010

I’d say there is a layer of white-out across the sports media.  It’s just I’m not sure if there is even a layer of ink underneath it.  It’s blindingly white.

According to the 2008 APSE-Report Card, there is a serious lack of ethnic diversity in the sports media.

Findings of the report card show that on average, whites account for 89.4 percent of the following job titles in sports media — sports editors, assistant sports editors, columnists, reporters, and  copy editors.

For a sporting world in America that is largely made up of African Americans, how can there be such little ethnic diversity in the jobs that cover these athletes?  Are we in the sports media not giving non-whites a fair chance?  I do not believe that to be the case.  While America is far from perfect regarding race relations, there has been progress made.  While it might be a small factor, there is little reason to believe that  racial discrimination is largely responsible for such a disparity between whites and non-whites in sports journalism.

Are non-whites just simply choosing to pursue other avenues in life besides those in sports media?  Quite possibly.  But why wouldn’t they want to be involved with the sports that are made up of their fellow race?  I don’t know.  I do not have an answer for that, as I am a white male.  But something just isn’t adding up here

Jason Whitlock, an African American sports journalist is one of the best in his craft.   Michael Wilbon is another African American who is one of the better sports journalists out there today.  Aren’t non-white kids and teenagers seeing this and wanting to be like Mike off the court, if they can’t be like Mike on the court?

Michael Wilbon, an Afican American sports journalist, is one of the more popular sports journalists in America. There should be more.

After all, if a large percentage of athletes in the United States are non-white, wouldn’t non-white reporters, editors, and others in the sports media world share a common bond?  This is not to suggest that race plays a factor in the quality of one’s work.  Far from it.  However, it is also realistic to admit that athletes would relate better to Stuart Scott than they would Skip Bayless.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume Scott and Bayless are equal in what they do as a sports journalist.  Wouldn’t Scott be better at relating to the player and asking better questions, thus hopefully getting better answers from the person being interviewed?  As previously stated, this is assuming that all other factors are equal in the perfect world — which rarely happens.  Being white or non-white obviously does not make you a good or bad sports journalist.  There are too many other factors.

But still.  Wouldn’t having a more diverse base of sports journalists both indirectly and directly improve the product due to the personal relationship phase of sports journalism?

Yes and yes.

An increase in ethnic diversity is needed to both potentially increase the quality of modern day sports journalism, and to also give non-whites opportunities in sports journalism.

It may be still a predominately white business, but at least there can be some color in it as well.

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Philip River is NFL’s Best Quarterback in 2010

Posted by RichieZ23 on November 30, 2010

I was not a believer in Phillip Rivers as an elite NFL quarterback before this year.  His throwing motion might be the ugliest I’ve seen since Joe Montain-ya.  He runs his mouth like he is Tom Brady when Rivers hasn’t even appeared in a Super Bowl, let alone win it.  The one time he visited the AFC title game, he lost to Brady and the Pats by throwing for just 211 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions.  I just didn’t think he was as good as he thought he was.I picked the San Diego Chargers to miss the playoffs, and the Oakland Raiders to win the awful AFC West.  Yeah, I’m not so sure about that now…

So far this season, Rivers has not only proved to myself and others that he is an elite NFL quarterback, he has proved that he is the best quarterback in the NFL in the 2010 season.  Rivers has passed for 3,362 yards and 23 touchdowns, both of which would lead the league if not for Kyle Orton’s 3,370 yards.

Philip Rivers has been the best quarterback in the NFL in 2010. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

But what makes it even more impressive, is that Rivers has done all this without his number one option Vincent Jackson.  He has also had his other targets Antonio Gates, Malcolm Floyd, and Legedu Naanee for extended time.  Patrick Crayton, who was acquired from Dallas via trade, will be out for awhile with a dislocated wrist.

And yet he’s still second in the league in yards, and tied for first in touchdowns?  Are you kidding me?  While he did get Antonio Gates back in the Chargers win over the Colts on Sunday night, what he has done this year with limited receivers is outstanding.  It will only get better as he has standout holdout receiver Vincent Jackson coming back from suspension.

For me, it’s a two-way race for the remainder of the season between Rivers and Mike Vick for MVP.

The Chargers don’t have the defense or running game that they used to have, but if they’re going to go anywhere this season, it’s going to be completely on the arm of Rivers.

As good as Rivers has been in 2010, he could get a chance to get back to the AFC Championship game, and earn the right to talk some real trash.

Posted in NFL, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Can’t Fix Stupid — Late Cowboys Fumble Foils Dallas

Posted by RichieZ23 on November 26, 2010

It doesn’t matter if it is Wade Phillips, Jason Garrett, or Vince Lombardi coaching the Dallas Cowboys.

You can’t fix stupid, and that is exactly what has been plaguing the Dallas Cowboys for the 2010 season.  Simple tasks such as snapping the ball, punting the ball, and protecting the ball with two arms while trying to ice the game seemed to go over the heads of Dallas players.  Let me be clear when I say this is NOT an example of poor coaching.  I fully trust and believe in Jason Garrett as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys now and into the future.

While you have to give Dallas credit for battling back from an 17-0 deficit and nearly defeating the defending Super Bowl Champions without their starting quarterback, the fact is they lost the game due to stupid mistakes — the same type of mistakes that got Wade Phillips fired.

Again, the game is NOT a reflection of Jason Garrett.  The level of play from his team been up since taking over as head coach, and the mistakes have went down.  At some point you have to lay blame at the feet of the players.

Like Andre Gurode seemingly STILL not knowing the snap count.  Even Troy Aikman said he has never seen a center in the National Football League have the mental lapses Gurode has playing center.  How many times have we seen a poor or mis-timed snap from Gurode?  This time he didn’t have Romo to bail him out.

Or Pro Bowl punter Mat McBriar who bobbled a clean snap and botched a punt on 4th down from the New Orleans 35 yard line.  Rather than attempt a 53 yard field goal, Garrett decided to punt the ball and pin New Orleans deep.  Poor execution foiled this strategy.

Or Terrence Newman sitting on Robert Meachem and watching him blow right by him for a 55-yard gain on 3rd down with under two minutes remaining.

Roy Williams' fumble with Dallas leading by four points was a large contributor to Dallas losing on Thanksgiving.

Or best yet, Roy Williams for not securing the ball with two hands after catching a 3rd and 6 pass at midfield and racing down the field, splitting two defenders to  his left and right.  With Dallas up by four points, rather than securing the ball and going down, Williams got greedy and tried to score a touchdown.  The Saints cornerback Malcom Jenkins stripped the ball out of Williams left hand, and New Orleans recovered on the Dallas 10 yard line with just over three minutes remaining, down by four.

A little over a minute and five plays later, and the Saints re-took the lead, 30-27.

The change of culture is underway in Dallas.  Garrett has done more in three weeks than Phillips did in eight in Dallas in 2010.  But the amount of stupid plays and penalties in Dallas is on the players, not the coaches.

However, the sliver lining in this, is Garrett is a coach who will hold his players accountable.  As long as the mistakes do not continue, things will be fine.  After all, it’s not like a 3-7 Dallas was going to do anything this year anyway.  If the same players keep making the same mistakes, they will not be in Dallas anymore.

While stupid plays were ultimately Dallas’ undoing, progress is being made, as long as the same stupid mistakes are not made again.

There is a change of culture underway in Dallas, but no matter how much is changed, you can’t fix stupid.  The Cowboys just have to hope the players take things upon themselves and find ways to do simple football tasks such as snapping a ball, covering a receiver, or protecting the ball with two hands.



Posted in NFL | 3 Comments »

Is Lions Rookie Suh a Dirty Player?

Posted by RichieZ23 on November 25, 2010

Talk about your 180 degree turn.

First Lions rookie Ndamukong Suh is criticized for being a dirty player for viciously slamming Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme to the ground in his first game.  He stated after the game that he was not a dirty player.  Well it sure looked dirty.  And in a way I kind of liked it.  Suh showed from day one the mentality he brings to the field, that is of an absolute monster…you better bring your lunch pale if you’re going to line up across from him.  Off the field, every report is that he’s as nice as can be.

But now, he is claiming he isn’t a dirty player by…apologizing for pulling Cowboys running back Marion Barber’s hair.  Yeah, seriously.  Pulling hair isn’t dirty, just not what you’d expect from the physically imposing beast that is Suh.

Marion Barber might want to tuck away the 'locks

It’s Barber’s own fault he hasn’t visited his barber lately.  He is an offensive player, and having hair that long is just asking for trouble.  At least Troy Polamalu is a defensive player…he can’t get yanked down by his own locks.  Well, normally.  But Larry Johnson made sure to give it a try.  But Marion Barber?  Marion, come on.  You’re running back.  You had to know you were going to get it yanked, just not from a defensive tackle like Suh.  You’d think that would be something that Deangelo Hall would pull, or some other corner who makes business decisions hates to tackle.

So is Suh a dirty player for grabbing hair?  Not at all.  Maybe just taken down a notch on the man-scale for being a defensive tackle and using hair tactics.

Posted in NFL | 1 Comment »

Sucks to be You — 2-7 Lions Have Out-Scored Opponents 215-202

Posted by RichieZ23 on November 18, 2010

This is a situation of a glass being half-full, or half-empty.  The Lions are coming off a 2-14 season in 2009, and for the second season in a row lost former first round pick Matt Stafford for the season with a shoulder injury.

The Lions are 2-7, which sounds like a poor record.  But perhaps this is just the year for 2-7 teams like the newly rejuvenated Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions are out to prove the old Bill Parcells saying wrong.  Maybe you aren’t what what your record says you are.

Even at 2-7, the Lions have out-scored their opponents in 2010. Yeah, they’ve out-scored their opponents 215-202, and they’re 2-7?  Yeah, sucks doesn’t it?  But what else do you expect?  The Lions are the only NFL franchise that has been in existence for every one of the 44 Super Bowls and has never attended the big game.  So we’ve got a 2-7 team that has out-scored its opponents, including wins of 38 and 12 points.  However, they’ve dropped the close ones, including two losses by two points, two losses by three points, one loss by five points, and another loss by eight points.

Lions rookie Ndamukong Suh laughs at Santana Moss while returning a Rex Grossman fumble for a touchdown.

The good news for Detroit fans is that this franchise is legitimately on its way up.  Everywhere you look on the team, a legitimate playmaker is there.  When Matthew Stafford is healthy, he has the ability to be a very, very good quarterback.  Calvin Johnson might be the most physically gifted wide receiver.  Tight end Brandon Pettiegrew has the potential to cause serious matchup problems, and running back Jahvid Best has the breakaway speed to be one of the most electrifying backs in the league.

On the defense side, free safety Louis Delmas has proven to be a playmaker after being selected in the 2nd round of the 2009 NFL draft.  He returned an interception 101 yards his rookie season for a touchdown.  Also on defense is rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. I don’t think I need to say anything else.  The motor and intensity that Suh plays with is contagious and spreads throughout the entire defensive unit.

So while the team might be 2-7 so far this year and the glass looks half-empty this year, the glass really is half-full going forward.

The next step is a matchup against the 2-7 Dallas Cowboys in a battle of 2-7 teams that could easily be 5-4.

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