Did the Philadelphia Eagles squash the Winter Classic 2012?   Leave a comment

If you live or follow Philadelphia winter sports you know in the last few years the Eagles have held supremacy as far as popularity among the fans. However, there have been a strange string of events where the Eagles coincidentally (?) staged some major announcements around the surging city champions the Phillies.

Now this topic has become somewhat of a hot topic around water coolers and corner bars alike. There was the trade of Donovan McNabb, arguably the best modern day QB the team has had, on Easter Sunday. That was the first week of the Phillies season coming off a World Series appearance. There was the Michael Vick signing, which was a definite attention grabber. Both of these topics flooded talk radio shows even as the tulips and smell of fresh mowed grass filled the air.

There is a sense of insecurity among some higher ups at the Eagles. Almost every time the Eagles are connected to the fan stealing, money grabbing conspiracy they respond with a statement. There are some good people over there at the Eagles. There are some influential people there that just don’t get it. Very rarely will you be at an Eagles game and get a baseball score, or any score for that matter. The Eagles bang heads with the Phillies over parking. It just is too much to label a coincidence.

The latest comes as a result of some information I received from a source on the NHL side. This would be the Eagles neighbor to the west. The relationship between these two has been nonexistent from a public standpoint, not to say that there may be a professional rapport or agreement between the two. Maybe it’s because the Eagles look down on the Flyers by not considering them a viable threat to their kingdom. The Eagles have pretty much owned the Philadelphia fan dollar for the better part of the last 10 years. The Flyers were competitive but the early part of a hockey season isn’t recognized as crucial, which is when the Eagles play. However with the popular New Years Day NHL Winter Classic, an outdoor professional hockey game played in the winter elements in a large venue, the Eagles have reason for concern.

The Philadelphia Flyers since their inception have had sort of a cult following, 17,077! Once that Stanley Cup was hoisted by Philadelphia’s new sons Bobby Clarke and Bernie Parent, a love affair bloomed. An entire generation of kids was in schoolyards and side streets playing hockey, mimicking these players. Maybe that was a contributing factor to a large number of those players spending the rest of their lives in the Philadelphia area, hear that Sarah Madson? The Eagles at that time sucked? The California guy named Dick Vermeil brought Kelly green into the picture. The Flyers however were still playing in Stanley Cup Finals and the Phillies were perennially in the playoffs winning a championship in 1980. Vermeil by the way also keeps residence in the Philadelphia area.

This all brings us an interesting story. The Philadelphia Flyers had recently played in a Winter Classic at Fenway Park in Boston. Fenway Park is a shrine and the Flyers beat the Bruins for one of their Cups. There was a history here. With the NBC on NHL having a large say in the participants of this game, ratings are the end all be all, could the Flyers host this game? The initial rumors involved Philadelphia and Pittsburgh at Beaver Stadium. 100,000 plus in the geographical middle of the state looked good on paper but was highly unlikely since the Pens already played in two. The next alternative would be a great draw, a ratings monster; the Philadelphia Flyers versus the New York Rangers. Philly v. NY, Bullies V Broadway is a given. Lincoln Financial Field which holds roughly 68,000 would be ideal. New York fans would commute and the fun would begin. The problem is twofold, the Linc is basically owned and operated by the Philadelphia Eagles and January 1st falls on the last Sunday of the NFL season.

The blogs and beat reporters started almost immediately at the conclusion of the 2011 Winter Classic about the Flyers hosting. The question is NBC and the NHL. Some owners may frown upon the Flyers playing back to back however NBC looks at dollars and cents. Philadelphia-New York draws attention, period. What had to be looked into is the question of the facility, Lincoln Financial Field.

The NFL knows who the opponents will be well in advance. The schedule makers lock themselves in a room at the Park Avenue offices and hash together a schedule. They take into account the availability of the venues as well as corresponding events. If a City requested to the NFL to consider an event which is important to a city, as long as there is ample time, the NFL has and will more than likely accommodate them. Don’t buy the NFL are hard headed bad guys, they are not and past history shows that. I’ve been privy to some information where the NFL actually left the decision up to the team.

Here is how the Eagles could have made this happen. The NHL needs about a week to make the turnover to the rink. If Philadelphia was in fact in the mix, the Eagles could have requested to play on the road the last week of the season. Is this a given?  On the surface, probably not, however if the Winter Classic was thrown into the mix it is a win-win situation for the NFL, NHL, Eagles, Flyers and the city. NBC already has a relationship with the NFL for the Sunday Night Football contract so I believe that would be no problem How about Winter Classic at 4pm and final Sunday Night flex game involving the Eagles at Dallas. That’s money right there.

As far as the venue, it’s all about the Benjamin’s.  Citizen Bank Park has no history and seats 48,000. Franklin Field would be interesting but it’s logistically a nightmare. This leaves the Linc. Now why would the Eagles squash it? Well look at their past coincidental series of events. With the NFL embroiled in a nasty lockout, the Eagles are going to want to keep the income flowing. Popularity and winning equal’s money. Should the Eagles not be in a playoff race or it’s a shortened season or no season at all, the Flyers will be the boys of fall and winter. Look outside the box and think of the hype and anticipation leading up to the game. Attention would start instantly upon the announcement. This means more pressure on the Eagles to succeed, especially if the Phillies play in October. There is a possibility the Eagles fall to 3rd for the fall of 2011. That means loss of revenue.

The Eagles would get paid handsomely for use of the Linc, but it’s hard to buy back that fan dollar.

The investigation continues, but if this proves to be true, the Eagles would lose potentially more than the game unless they themselves would raise the Lombardi, the only trophy Billy Penn doesn’t have.

I wouldn’t be surprised…

Posted April 20, 2011 by The Wizard of Sports in Uncategorized

RESPONSIBILITY TO THE FAN   Leave a comment

I know you probably read the title and thought this was going to be another bash piece on the Philadelphia fans. Wrong! I am a Philadelphia sports fan, I get happy when they do well and are frustrated when they don’t. I’m not a person who “boo’s” but if you choose to that’s your preference. I will cheer as a sign of approval when something happens to benefit the positive outcome of the team. This is not what this post is about since we beat that to death last week. It is about the responsibility athletes,coaches and personnel have toward us, the fans.

There has been some historical actions and statements made by Philadelphia’s sports figures that are scarred our minds. There is the Ricky Watters “for who ?,for what?” on that opening September Sunday at the Vet (RIP) in the late stages of a game when “for me,that’s why” was the answer to the question. Then there was Allen Iverson, coincidentally dubbed “The Answer” spouting out about the reason for not taking his job seriously, Practice, ya’ll talkin ’bout practice. Lets not for about Erik Lindros’ mommy and daddy bitching and complaining and more recently a member of our currently beloved Phillies spouse not thinking before she spoke.

Fans are always criticized and it seems Philadelphia is the baseline for bad fan behavior. Fairly or not, it is the passion for which the fan sees the game. To the fan, it is an event. It is something that people take money they don’t have to attend a game. It transcends all walks of life. The fan doesn’t want to see players smiling at each other, posing for pictures and exchanging pleasantries. The fan doesn’t want to hear its their job. The fan wants sacrifice. The professional athlete,coach and front office fails to see that in many cases.

Philadelphia fans want accountability. The want someone to have the guts to take responsibility, sincerely! (Hear that Andy Reid). Words are empty, actions are complete. Many athletes and coaches get it, some don’t.

Since I mentioned it, lets start with the Eagles. Their fans are rabid. When they smell blood, the want to taste it too. Eagles fans really aren’t difficult to gauge. They want honesty and effort first. Buddy Ryan won nothing with arguably the best defensive talent EVER assembled. Defense in and of itself did not win championships for Buddy. Buddy however fed off the fans. He was anti-scab, anti-owner and anti-establishment. He looked fans in the eye and told it like it was. Dick Vermeil spent a relatively short time here in Philly. He got to a Super Bowl and was embarrassed. He failed to sign a kicker going into the playoffs and it cost him a game. He was a California guy. Didn’t matter, he showed emotion and talked TO YOU not down at you. Both guys showed a responsibility to the fan. The current coach Andy Reid talks DOWN at you. He at times believes its inherently his right to not tell the fan anything. He throws words out to a microphone that mean nothing. He is the winning-est coach in Philadelphia Eagles history. Don’t matter, he shows a lack of responsibility to the fans.

Philadelphia football fans may like aloofness in their teams but its rather simple. Leonard Tose,loved. Brahman and Lurie,not. Jaworski and Cunningham respected, McNabb shown the door. So there you have it. Eagle fans want the team to show a little responsibility and grant them respect!

The Sixers have a fan base that is “street smart”. They know what a good product is, and even when the product may be sub-par, they will respect those that show a responsibility toward them. Pat Croce is a public relations genius. He is successful, a motivator and most importantly remembers his roots. Fans loved Pat because he knew what his responsibility was. The players were of split personalities but in the long run Sir Charles and A.I. knew what and where their responsibility was, ultimately with the fan.

The Flyers may have the smallest but most loyal and blind fan base. The front office of the Flyers starting with Ed Snider, teach their personnel what their responsibility is when they are wearing the orange and black. Most of the Stanley Cup teams of the early 70’s still remain in the Philadelphia area and are active in the community. It wasn’t until recently that waves showed up in the water. Ill give Eric Lindros a mulligan because it was his parents that were rocking the boat, but Chris Pronger is showing a lack of responsibility to us. His act was amusing in the beginning but his recent bouts of ornery attitude is growing thin. Chris, although you are a transplant, it IS our business if you will help us win the cup. We do not live in a world of Dr Seuss. Wise up! I could fill this page with players who would love to bond with us.If you choose not to, then politely decline to be abrasive and move on and do your job. Flyers fans are loyal and deserve better. Mr Snider knows what the organizations responsibility is, just ask him.

I purposely saved the best for last. Our new found heroes. The city’s true Champions (although it is going on 3 years),the Phillies could almost do no wrong. Pat Burrell got one hit in the World Series and rode on the lead wagon in the parade! Aaron Rowand ran into a wall and left. Jim Thome, the guinea pig used to build these Phillies, came and went. These guys all knew their responsibility to us, and we remembered. The jury is still out on Jaysen Werth but when he allegedly made a comment by the batting cage in spring training, the city went nuts. (Cue the lynch mob). Werth back pedaled a bit and got a little bit of love this week in a story where he spoke highly of Philadelphia. He gets it! The problem however is the timing of your statements and who says them. Sarah Madsen, the wife of Phillies set up man Ryan, has the fans in a rage. In a nutshell, she doesn’t like us and can’t wait to get back to Cali. Hey Sarah, do you have a calender? Its April, your husband has just started a season of unprecedented expectations. Are you nuts? This is a total lack of responsibility and respect.

There is no problem leaving Philadelphia in the off season to relax. When your husband plays for the city’s most popular team and  the closest to glory, you have to expect to be “bothered”. Sorry Sarah..smile! (cue up Hall & Oates)

What prompted this post is what now appears to be a double standard by our fans, at least some of them. Why are you attacking the background of the writer of the Madsen story? She said it! Its quoted! It isn’t Ryan’s fault, but doesn’t he have the responsibility to address the context of this? I really don’t care about his wife, but it stings. We expected Cole Hamels to show some responsibility and stay focused (your words not mine) so why not Madsen.

The franchises in this town and every other town have a responsibility to you the fan..don’t let anyone tell you any different.

Posted April 14, 2011 by The Wizard of Sports in Uncategorized

Giving it the old college try   Leave a comment

To the ordinary sports fan, college football has been put into the rear view mirror and will not be unearthed until the local farmers market starts advertising for pumpkins and hay bales. To the college football aficionados, the season never ends. The coaching carousel spins to the tune of the school marching band. Players make decisions regarding their football careers. Athletic directors and officials attend meeting after meeting discussing rule changes and violations. The most disturbing thing which seems to rear it’s ugly head however is the headline grabbing scandals.

The University of Miami started the wave pool when popular home-grown head coach Randy Shannon was let loose with his offensive coordinator Mark Whipple after they failed to beat cross state University of South Florida. A game where pre season press phenom Jacory Harris was supposed to bring back the ways of “The U” with an explosive offense to match Shannon’s defense. It never happened, Harris struggled and to the bench he went for freshmen Steven Morris. Didn’t matter. Gone was Shannon and Whipple for the a Golden boy named Al. Al Golden injected life into the Temple Owls, the Division I school from the heart of North Philadelphia. Temple Football teethered dangerously with extinction before coach Golden sent the Owls bowling. Miami wants to keep a clean image. The Ghosts of “the U”  are shuttering at the thought. Time will tell , but Miami and Al Golden will give it the old college try…

Fiesta Bowl official John Junker for 30 years was the driving force behind the Fiesta Bowl, one of the BCS shining jewels. Then came this year when the decision was made to take Big East over achievers UConn with the stoic Randy Edsall and send  them from the chilled northeast to the warm environs of Tempe, Arizona to meet the Boomer Sooners. College football fans cringed at this matchup and tried to convince themselves that UConn had a punchers chance. The box office took a beating. UConn students and alumni couldn’t gather enough financial support and they took a bath both in the pocket and on the field. This mismatch helped bring light to the ledger sheet and found strip clubs, birthday parties and trips were financed by this non-profit bowl. Edsall moved on to Maryland, considered an upgrade, while the BCS brains decide what to do. The Cotton Bowl is already being whispered as replacing the Fiesta as an official BCS bowl. The dilemma is to do whats right. The BCS will give it the old college try…

With the state of the NFL unknown, the NFL draft fast approaches. The combines have come and gone and the draftniks have changed their mind on a weekly basis. Prospective draft picks hold pro days and edit film of their greatest hits to try to achieve the dream of every 65 pounder playing Pop Warner, make it on the stage on the first day of the draft. These gifted talents by now have accepted invitations to be in New York City for the opportunity to don that team cap. Some will squirm in their seats as the numbers are called. The camera will focus on these guy’s discomfort and dismay. There will be surprises no doubt. Some kid will be grocery shopping when he gets the call. It happens every year. The current NFL players union or non-union tries to encourage these kids not to attend the draft to show solidarity.  These are the same guys that will make their new teammates buy the breakfast at camp, carry helmets and get the chicken for the road trips. Just today, the NCAA player security official warned the students that accepting anything at the sponsored draft parties would jeopardize their own eligibility, a black mark , per se. Both the NFL Players and NCAA want the potential new millionaires to do the right thing. In a few weeks the pictures may become clearer but both are giving it the old college try…..

The Big East and Villanova started flirting with each other at the end of last season. Villanova coach Andy Talley brings the Wildcats to the top echelon of their group year after year. Players are getting invites to NFL camps. There is a school spirit that erupts on the main line of Philadelphia on Saturdays. They have a radio network covering their games and local news will give you their highlights more consistently then Temple and Penn, both bigger and more recognizable schools. The Big East actually evicted Temple for its lack of interest in football and the failure to uphold the expectations of a conference seeking football recognition.  Temple now plays in the MAC and has fans filling the lower bowl at Lincoln Financial Field. Villanova plays in the CAA at their own cozy horseshoe. There are many details to be worked out for Villanova to meet Big East standards in football but the parties are talking. Both are giving it the old college try….

Right now baseball is hatching and the NBA and NHL playoffs are knocking at the door. A college basketball and hockey national champions were crowned. College football still goes on. Spring football is going on right now at a college near you. Games are being broadcast on ESPN U and other college sports outlets. No matter how much you think there is no football going on, look around.

Give it the old college try….

Posted April 12, 2011 by The Wizard of Sports in Uncategorized

WE WIN-THEY LOSE   Leave a comment

A lot of the national media focused this week on Philadelphia fans (what a surprise!) regarding the booing of Cole Hamels as he left the mound in his first start of the season at Citizen’s Bank Park. (CBP) Those outside the area as well as some local pundits think the fans were a bit over the line. After all, Hamels was the guy who took the lead responsibility in finally bringing a championship back to The City of Brotherly Love. Prior to that, the city sports fans had been given a vasectomy with regard to major sports championships (sorry Phantoms,Wings,Soul, etc). It had been over 100 consecutive seasons of professional sports since the last championship, which by the way was the least followed franchise of them all, the Sixers in 82-83. Hamels was the NLCS and World Series MVP. The Phillies fans are still referring to the Phillies as ‘champions”, but because of Hamels perceived “west coast aloofness” he is not considered “one of us” so gets no recognition of his achievement. Interesting, the team gets a pass, some of his teammates get a pass, but arguably the Series hero, screw him!

I believe the thing was an ignorant display by a minority of uneducated, drunken bandwagon fans. I am not going to generalize everyone. I personally do not boo, especially in baseball. The season is a marathon; a pitcher who is probably going to give your team 200 + innings over the next 6 months is a valuable piece to the puzzle. Interesting how the next night, Joe Blanton, affectionately referred to as “Fat Joe”, blows a 7 run lead, in 77 pitches, in 4 innings. A smattering of boos mixed with the ‘golf clap”. That’s right I said Clap!

Confused? So are many of these fans. The excuses continue to flow as of today. The Phils started a road swing on Friday against the team some think will challenge the Phils for the division, the Atlanta Braves. Cliff Lee was on the mound, Philadelphia’s new prodigal son, after an 11-0 pasting of the Mets. How many were penning this in as a win? Well Lee took a whipping himself. There was no movement, bad location and the rockets’ red glare. Lee and the Phils took the loss in battle number one in the war of the east. The question posed is, would Lee have been booed exiting the mound at CBP?  Nope.

Excuses are a defense mechanism. People try to convince themselves that they are right. Because you paid (or were given) a ticket you are free to boo and cheer as you may. No one is questioning that. Isn’t cheering or booing a situational act? In actuality, a ticket gives you the privilege to observe the game. Foul language, inappropriate behavior and other acts of nuisance are not permissible. The problem lies here with the atmosphere at CBP. There does exist a lack of etiquette and total apathy for the game. For some, the target market currently for the Phils, many consider their ticket as a “cover charge” for the party. They stand while at their seats, exceed the level for beer purchases and some are more worried about the tailgating (bush in itself) and bagging a mate then the game. After all, the Phillies are suppose to win EVERY GAME.

I don’t buy the “home grown” argument. Although your option, I don’t agree with the “I paid, Ill boo” explanation because that’s how a parent talks to their toddler (Because, I said so). I know you don’t give a hoot about how I feel, but don’t get pissed when the outside world criticizes the actions a few for the entire base. In fact, some fans admire the label given to them.

For the most part, your voices of displeasure have no affect on the outcome. I know it gives you a feeling of belonging and I’ll get to that in a minute. The game will be played, there will be a result and the players will perform. In fact, negative reaction could have a negative outcome on the player. Oliver Perez of the Mets once hired a sports psychologist to guide him through the boos. Do you think the players aren’t trying? Do you know their workout regimens, their superstitions, and their personal state of mind? No, No and No!

Consider this small sample, in 2009 the Pittsburgh Pirates were one of the worse teams in baseball. Their average home attendance in a beautiful new ball park that season was 19,601. They had a home record of 40-41. Not good but considering they were 22-58 on the road, they still over performed in front of apathetic and upset fans. The year the Phillies won the World Series their average home attendance was 42,254. (It has since risen given the hope of another championship). Their home record was 46-33; a mere 6 games better then the Pirates. They performed almost equally on the road when hostile fans are expected at 44-37. The 2003 Florida Marlin averaged only 16,089 fans per home game. They won the World Series! My point being, whether you cheer or boo, the outcomes are rarely affected, however a player maybe in a negative way. Booing does not necessarily motivate but it denigrates. (See Perez).

I did some research on this since it intrigued me. As a suspected, fans take an identity in the team they root for. The fan is centrally involved in the outcome of the event. Whoever you root for represents you (McKinley,NYT,2000). Does Cole Hamels represent you? Fans have voiced that he doesn’t therefore the quick criticism. When the team wins it’s “WE Won”, after a loss it’s “THEY stink. When a team or favorite player does poorly, it’s usually because of bad luck, a terrible umpire or an off night. We rarely credit the other team’s skill. Yelling a screaming whatever you want is a release. In fact for many it’s therapy. In a crowd, many will act and yell things to gain approval of those in the majority. It is not solely alcohol, although it helps fuel the illogical behavior. How many sober adults run onto the field? So the behavior is a sense of belonging. When the player or team does badly, the crowd blames the THEM. When the team or player performs well, the crowd takes responsibility. . THEY/WE.

Here is my other theory where I believe the Phillies are partially culpable. Christian End, an expert in sports fan behavior at Xavier University notes that the environment at major sporting events allows, even encourages many behavior outside the norm. (Handwerk 2005). We believe our behavior helps the team win or lose. Social identity is what we actually are displaying. A correlation also pointed out is “The more violent society gets, the more violent sports get…”  this from Allyce Najimy from Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society. (Handwerk,2005). Makes sense.

Good sports discussion is a good thing. Its good therapy and puts people in a conversation or atmosphere they might not normally be in. It transcends all barriers. There is nothing wrong with wanting to believe you have something to do with the team’s performance. Don’t take it personally or serious. It is their win or loss. It is their job.  There are great fans across the world and every city thinks their fans are the best fans. There is truly no barometer but I know if fans continue to show an inconsistency of feelings and continue to be proud of being in a negative light, you deserve it.

BOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Posted April 9, 2011 by The Wizard of Sports in Uncategorized

KOOL AID ANYONE?   Leave a comment

It is now the day after and many of us, including myself, have drunk the Kool Aid. Not a sip but the entire pitcher. Of course that “purple drank” was prepared by those Butler Bulldogs, those same Butler Bulldogs who were swept by Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and suffered losses to Youngtown State and Valparaiso. I woke up dazed and confused, like after putting on an all-night bender asking myself;”What was I thinking?”

It is no fault of Butler that they assumed the role of America’s sweethearts after that VCU team was exposed by whom, Butler. The fact is once the likes of Pitt, Florida, Kansas and Georgetown were gone, that instinct in sports fans was shaken loose. That instinct is the unexplainable rooting for the underdog. The little guy, the Rocky story, the Cinderella and David against Goliath is what fans passionately love to see. Some conversations have become heated and personal on the social media networks. I have gone against my own theories, but damn that Kool Aid looked good.

It is not automatic to jump to conclusions. How could a team who made it down the “Road to the Final Four” in back to back seasons be considered an underdog? Hold that thought. VCU was a legitimate underdog. Looking back now, I don’t think if you are honest with yourself you could have possibly thought they had a chance. It was a group of young men who took an Us vs. World mentality and ran with it. Shaka Smart is a great motivator and was promptly rewarded. Just remember, at every level in every sport better teams will occasionally play down to its competition. Any Given Sunday, right?

The whole Cinderella thing is mostly equated with the NCAA Tournament, minus the Namath Jets of course. Some people trace its origins way before the field of 64 (68). In 1950, CCNY’s run to the championship was the longest of long shots, hence the Cinderella story. University of Pennsylvania in 1979 was another team that made it to the Final Four. This was prior to the bracketology,but they were seeded 9th out of 10. A few years ago St. Joseph’s went undefeated out of the Atlantic -10. They got that coveted number one seed but went home early when they faced the big bad boys from the majors. Of course, the 85 Villanova team was an 8 seed when they sent the Georgetown team packing. Richmond has made it deep as a 15-14-13 and 12 seed. Murray State was a 16 seed when they took Michigan State to overtime.  In fact some true Cinderellas glittered twice prior to this season when LSU and more recently George Mason got there. Coincidentally GM was from the same conference as VCU. They must play some decent hoops in that Colonial conference, ya think?

VCU wasn’t supposed to be there but how do you think the 1979 Alcorn State team felt? They went 27-0 and got no invite. Perhaps, in hindsight, they didn’t get an invite because they would have been embarrassed. VCU was an exception to the rule. This is a fact, but remember VCU was a hybrid number 12 not a 16. The sixteen has NEVER won.

 Would last night have been a huge upset? I don’t think so and either did the odds makers who eerily enough get it right most of the time.  In 1999, UConn was a 9.5 dog when they won one of their 3 Championships. Nova was a 9 point barker in 85 so it happens. Don’t forget when Phi Slamma Jamma of Houston got jammed by Jimmy V’s NC State team. That was a true Cinderella story.

We (I) tried to convince ourselves that Butler would out muscle UConn in the paint. They were able to run with VCU so the slow pace would be in Butler’s favor. Well guess what, Butler couldn’t handle the bright lights and UConn didn’t exactly light it up but played not as bad and won handily in an ugly UNDER contest. Kemba Walker was named the tournament’s most outstanding player so kudos to him and the UConn Huskies. The better team won. A team that finished 9th in the Big East showed that a big conference schedule will beat a mid-major a large majority of the time.

There are 346 Division I college basketball teams that have a chance when they take the court for their midnight madness practice in early fall. Read that statement again. That’s not true now is it? Five coaches have won 3 or more championships. Coach Calhoun just entered the elite club as one of those five. A handful has won a couple. Mid majors don’t win. They will NEVER win under this system.

College football has it right with its tiered Division I standards. There are 120 BCS Division I programs. There are 116 Bowl subdivision teams. That makes 236 total Division I –ish programs. Let’s concentrate on the 120 BCS teams. Do you honestly think that all of those 120 teams have a chance? Ask TCU and Boise State if they have gotten a fair shake. We referred to them as Cinderella’s. Why? They play in a conference and are considered a major program. Your mid-majors are in the subdivision. They have a playoff. As much as we may cry for a Division I playoff, how many times have they gotten it wrong?  I don’t think since its inception, they ever got it wrong. Even the poll system got it right because occasionally there were TWO Champions or co-champions. Since 1936, the only team who had more than 1 loss and claimed a championship was the 2007 LSU Tigers. They lost the SEC Championship but went in and won the BCS Championship Game.  30 of the 120 have won at least a share of the prize. 18 have won multiple and 7 have 5 or more. So 25% have won a Championship. That’s not bad on its surface but of the other 75% there are programs that will not even be considered for the Top 25 let alone a major bowl.

I guess what I propose is a NCAA basketball subdivision. A lot of programs get invited to the NIT,CIT or CBI. Get rid of the automatic bids from those “small” conferences. Put the best 64 in, period. With a subdivision, use the NIT as the championship. Give automatic bids to those mid-major conference winners.  I like an underdog as much as the next guy but they have to have a puncher’s chance. UConn was in the ring with their arms down and Butler still couldn’t punch them in the mouth.

We remember good underdog stories, like the 83 NC State team, the 85 Villanova team and the 69 Jets. The reason is that there was a legitimate story line, a big bad wolf.  Just imagine that those examples were before the mass media of today. The media did it’s best to create a Cinderella, it just wasn’t there.

Kool Aid anyone?

Posted April 5, 2011 by The Wizard of Sports in Uncategorized

Are you sure this is what you want?   Leave a comment

Im sitting here finding myself enthralled with this NCAA Women’s Basketball regional semi- final between the best female basketball program ever in UConn being given a fight by the Lady Hoyas of G-town. The Lady Hoyas will not go away in the second half and I find myself torn over who I want to win. Sure the cliche’ “everybody loves and underdog” comes into play but is it really true. We are often reminded that Dominance = Perfection and isn’t that what we strive for?  Im torn. By the time I finish this maybe Ill have the answer but lets break things down by current observations.

The NCAA Mens Madness is winding down as we will have a Final Four by the end of this bright but cold day in the northeast part of America. Lets face this fact,which is documented, March Madness is probably the most anticipated sports event during the year. Bigger then the Super Bowl, World Cup, Daytona and what ever else you could muster up. It has no prejudices, no boundaries. More people will fill out brackets and buy fund-raising tickets then for any other event. The people in Vegas throb with action. Starting on a Thursday through Sunday for 3 straight weeks there will be hoops on from noon until close to midnight. Multiple networks, pre game and post game, tout services and commercials you name it revolves around excitement. There is number 1 seeds. The big boys. These are the teams that most people just fast track to the last weekend. You know that one of them will lose but you play it safe. College hoops heads can’t have a March conversation without talking of John Wooton’s UCLA dominance or Dean Smith’s Carolina blue or Coach K’s intimidating Cameron crazies. This is dominance, the infatuation with dominance. The Alpha dogs love dominance. The generation of today loves the “in your face” stomp. But are you sure this is what you want?

This year finds almost an entire carload of fairy tales coming true. The number one seed overall Ohio State was beaten by and SEC Kentucky team who some say overachieved, the Big East sent 11 teams, in my opinion 2 too many, have UConn standing. Admit it you all thought they would be too tired to keep winning. Pitt feel, Duke fell and Kansas remains standing. It appears at first glance that the Jayhawks are the only team that got the memo to step on the throats of your opponent and most importantly lock the backdoor. VCU, a team who was the subject of much scorn and ridicule find themselves nose to nose with the mighty Kansas. Is it unreasonable to think VCU will win? Not this year. Who wrecked the lower corner of your bracket? The Butler did it!

As the brackets burn we talk of the excitement of these schools slaying the giant. The word “choke” is thrown around like pollen blowing in the spring breeze. If we enjoy rooting for the underdog, why do we show a tinge of aggravation when the favorite wins?

In the locked down NFL, you can’t get through a day without a mention of greatness. How many shows and series are done on the underdogs? You get the eyes wide open when you talk of Lombardi’s Packers, the Steel Curtain, Montana and Walsh’s 49ers or even the ahem, Dallas Cowboys of the 90’s. How about teams like the Minnesota Vikings,Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles? There is always a “but” in that talk and you know the saying;” after the but comes the bullshit”.

The NFL openly confessed to striving for mediocrity. They claimed that we the fan wanted that. That every team should have a fair shake to win a Super Bowl every year. The got what they wanted to an extent but in many barber shops and sports bars fanatics will still tell you they prefer dominance. They miss watching perfection. Even teams like the modern-day Steelers and even the Patriots might be considered great but hardly dominant. The Patriots went 18-0 before losing to the Gints in the one “1” that counted. Ten different teams represented the NFC in 10 years. So you get an extra playoff team and mediocrity, are you sure thats what you want?

Phillies fans, including myself are excited about the upcoming year. Some are still hung over by the World Series win going on 3 seasons ago, that they still refer to the Phillies as Champions. Baseball though is a strange hybrid. The Atlanta Braves ruled the 90’s but people wanted them to lose. The Oakland A’s were a likable team with the HGH powered “Bash Brothers” but for some reason, perhaps success, people can’t warm to Tony LaRussa. need I even mention the Yankees? The Yankees glow with perfection. They are expected to win,much like this years Phillies. No doubt if the Phillies lose the “C” word will freely spew from baseball fans mouths from Alaska to Zimbabwe. Maybe because baseball is so long. I don’t know.

The NBA has “showtime” with the LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics. The NHL has the Oilers and Canadians. There is Jeff Gordon in NASCAR and the “U” in its hey day but what all those teams had in common was the vigor and excitement that followed. People watched golf for Tiger Woods until the night his wife chose a nine iron without the help of a caddy. Did we watch for dominance or the hope someone would beat him?

Upsets are great. I find myself rooting for the underdog when there might be a chance they could win. Very rarely do I look at a game and not believe the dynasty will win. It is human nature to creep to the end of your chair as you think you might witness history. It is very rare though as years pass that fans remember the fateful night the underdog slain the giant. The excitement last for hours, maybe days and the pfft, all gone.

So as the tournament forges on, do you want to see a 12 seed playing for the championship? Does it cheapen the game? Do you really hope the Phillies and Red Sox don’t meet in October? Is it really good when a team backs in the playoffs and wins the championship? Ask the Gints, people still talk about the Patriots that year.

So where do you stand? As the upsets continue, you have to ask yourself:

Are you sure this is what you want?

By the way, the cream usually rises to the top. The Lady Huskies beat G-town and continue on as expected.

Posted March 27, 2011 by The Wizard of Sports in Uncategorized

ENOUGH ALREADY   Leave a comment

Alright, so the phony extension on the NFL collective bargaining came and went. What did it really mean but an extended vacation for owners and more grandstanding for players. What exactly can get accomplished in 4 hours of talking in front of a neutral arbitrator who probably knows more professional chess players than Pro Bowl players. The owners have been building their fortresses out of brick made of gold long before the expiration of the CBA. If the NFLPA (RIP-2011) didn’t see this writing on the wall, then shame on their overmatched elected lawyer DeMaurice Smith and the 32 players who were chosen by their peers to ensure their interests were in good hands. In fact, many former players around the country are now kicking themselves for not backing a former player for the head of their union. Gene Upshaw was a former player who was able to sit down with former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and hash out a 4 year “temporary” solution. Upshaw was a former player great with Al Davis’ Oakland Raaaaaaaiiiiiidaaas. If Davis doesn’t have alligator skin then neither do those residing in Alligator Alley in South Florida. A guy like Troy Vincent, a player and one who groomed himself throughout by being active in player-owner communication was perfect for the job. Troy sat on veteran player committee boards both in Philadelphia and Miami. Politics and bad blood emerged and Troy was swept away by a lawyer. The NFLPA’s loss was the NFL’s gain as the league swiftly scooped up Troy and gave him an executive position,thank you very much.

As expected when a lawyer is steering your career ship, the NFLPA chose to decertify, which is a farce that could be seen through the trees, and bring it to their favorite legal “fan of the players” Judge Doty. Like anything in the courts, expect this to be a long drawn out affair. There is no doubt that the NFLPA will mysteriously resurrect in some form once this is all settled but hold on to that thought. One thing the players forgot, the owners have the deck of cards and are dealing them. For every action, there is a reaction. The NFL and its 32 owners basically print their own money so the NFL players better get out and sell those 50-50 tickets, hit the autograph show circuit and stand at intersections with their buckets because their money will disappear in a heartbeat.

Initially I was mixed on where my loyalties were as a fan but I used my knowledge attained from my 23-year-old marketing degree to arrive at my opinion. In the long run the players are going to be the bad guys. Now before you start calling me names, hear me out. Regardless of how much money the owners make, it was these very owners who invested their monies into the ownership of an NFL franchise. There are only 31 of these in the universe (Green Bay is a public owned entity). Many of these owners borrowed money to buy their own fantasy football team so they have a responsibility to repay their investors. The players are the employees. Some would argue that a young aggressive marketing employee has just as much a role making an organization money as the rookie gunner on the punt team. The only numbers the owners should have to justify to everyone is their commitment to public funding for stadiums and facilities,period. It is not an employee’s business where his/her boss spends their profits or shows their losses. Why does a player who is making a six figure minimum salary have to know the owner pays his family a salary? Why does an employee have to know where an owner spends his vacation and how much he/she lost at the craps table?  As long as the employee is getting paid then shut up and cash your already inflated pay check.

What right do players have to the money the league and owners negotiate with television and advertising? If I owned  7-11 and had to pay my employees 55-60% of my profits, how long would I be in business? NFL, that is Not For Long. I’m reading how friends of mine are calling the owners greedy. Why aren’t the players being called greedy? If the players aren’t happy with their millions, then go become a cop or construction worker. See how it is to work for bosses who always cry poor yet never show you their books.

As far as the fans “uniting together to boycott the NFL”, please give me a break. This stuff NEVER WORKS! The “Blue Flu” and “sick outs” and “work slowdowns” never work because there is always someone who will make the overtime or curry favor of the bosses by picking up the slack. If you give up your family heirloom season tickets, someone with have their deposit on them before you hang up the phone. A few years later when your former team,remember you vowed not to support those “crumbs”, makes it to the big game or signs that sought out superstar, you will have to answer to your kids or the guys at the bar why you gave in to something you couldn’t control. It’s not worth it, your one voice doesn’t matter. Death threats to your local team will only land YOU in hot water, and I’m not talking about a spa either.

Now the 18 game issue. Talk about hypocrites! The players are now using the safety argument. The very same players who appeal the fines levied against by the league looking out for THEIR best interest. The USFL played 18 games in the spring and summer and at least 2 former players tell me that they seen no significant difference in injuries. The players want more money,period. And this is the owners fault how? The trade-off is of course little to no OTA’s and a shorter training camp. The owners are making their money on those preseason games anyhow whether you play 18 games or not. The funny thing is the owners were willing to table this issue and the players still balked.

Another disturbing issue is now the players are not supervised. Law enforcement officers are now going to be a little extra busy in some of the urban areas these people chill out with their boyz. There is already a handful of “alleged” incidents involving players. No drug tests, no supervision, no reason to be under the thumb of their coaches all equal trouble. These are tough times for the REAL working man /woman, not those who play a game for a living. I do agree that all people live within their means so welcome to my world Mr Pro Football Player.

Next month college players will be getting drafted. To many this is the final step of a dream,the family lottery ticket. Unfortunately, after taking their picture on stage there will be no playbook, no contact with their coach or teammates and most importantly no signing bonus. They are property of a team closed until further notice. Better go back to checking ID at the door of your local gentlemen’s club. Any contact with a team is prohibited and must be documented. Amazing.

The biggest shame of it all is that the now defunct players’ union issued a booklet of behavior for lack of a better term. Do not purchase excessive motorized toys, Limit the size of your entourage, do not purchase expensive items such as jewelry and avoid expensive clubs and use of credit to run up large bills. Are you kidding me?

ENOUGH ALREADY with the fan boycott talk, ENOUGH ALREADY with the talk of how the players are now going to struggle, ENOUGH ALREADY with the legalese chatter on sports television and media,ENOUGH ALREADY with using the safety issue as a crutch, ENOUGH ALREADY with the talk of owners being greedy,ENOUGH ALREADY feeling sorry for the football players because they could care less about you. Remember in Bronx Tale when “C” is told by his father on the bus how much players care about you. Everybody loses but in the end the owners are going to win. Everybody will lose but the owners. Enjoy baseball, the NCAA March Madness,NBA and NHL playoffs, NASCAR and Arena football and as far as the NFL….

ENOUGH ALREADY!

Posted March 12, 2011 by The Wizard of Sports in Uncategorized

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