Chances are most of you reading this have an inclination of what deflategate is. If you have no idea here is the synopsis: The New England Patriots’ equipment personnel either took it upon themselves for; or in cahoots with quarterback Tom Brady to alter the football pressure to levels outside of the National Football League’s parameters. How did that help? Different people say different things, some QB’s argue it helps. In the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts, the Colts brought this issue to the League and the footballs were corrected at halftime. The score of the game at halftime was 17-7 in favor of New England. Now I can not speak for all football fans or experts or even players, but whatever the condition of the football is I believe if I am rooting for a team and the halftime deficit is only 10 points I believe that the team I am rooting for has a good chance to go in and make some adjustments and come out clicking on all cylinders. But, this is beside the point isn’t it? Now lets get into some stats of the game and see if we can make heads or tails of this. New England forced 3 turnovers, rushed the ball 40 times while only having 1 turnover. Indianapolis ran the ball 19 times ALL GAME. How many times have we been preached to about valuing the football in a playoff atmosphere? I have heard that since before I was a teenager. How many times have we been preached to about “Championship Football” being running the rock and have a strong defense? I have heard that my entire life as well. Sure the footballs were deflated, by whom honestly I. Do. Not. Give. A. DAMN. And, this is also beside the point for me. Here is what I think is important: Roger Goodell upholds the 4 game suspension first handed down to Tom Brady. The why I think this is important is something I have not heard any talking head mention since the news broke the suspension is being upheld. It is important because this sends the message that you can beat your significant other and have a suspension appealed and reduced, but you if you are caught up in the possibility of breaking an on the field rule…your assets are grass. The Patriots have already been fined 1 million dollars and had a 1st and 4th round draft pick taken away for this egregious and blatant attempt to shame the shield on the field of play (in the eyes of the NFL). No this is not some pity party for the Patriots, here is what I am getting to. A video of Ray Rice absolutely without a shadow of a doubt knocking his then fiancé unconscious was on TMZ and he got 2 games at the beginning. Since 2010 there have been 68 different charges of players either having assault, domestic violence, battery, or animal cruelty-you can view the entire arrest record of the NFL’s players here: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/nfl/arrests/. Some of the stuff in there is absolutely sickening but there is a silver lining. Most of the time the team gets rid of the player immediately, but there are a few cases such as Tony McDaniel only getting a 1 game suspension for shoving his girlfriend, whose head hit pavement; Brandon Underwood got a 2 game suspension for pushing his wife to the ground and ripping a necklace off of her (he was later cut by the team); Erik Walden got a 1 game suspension for a felony assault on his live in girlfriend. Now we get into the issues that are fresh into our minds: Greg Hardy’s initial suspension was 10 games, we all applauded the league. It is now 4 games (the same as deflating a football apparently) for assault and communicating threats, after he was alleged to have assaulted an ex-girlfriend by grabbing her, throwing her into furniture, strangling her, and threatening to kill her. That action is the same as deflating a football in the eyes of the NFL’s commissioner. That is the egregious error in judgment that I see from all of this. I side with Robert Kraft saying that he was wrong for placing faith in the league, however I feel as though if a player is not cut by his team after having these types of charges brought against him, it is then the commissioners job to hand down some punishment. If you then make the punishment equal for deflating a football and doing what Greg Hardy allegedly has done then you send the message that your little game is more important than the human beings that stuff your wallets by watching on Sundays.
Think back to the good ol days for a moment. There was an ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 8, Pac 8 (for 10 years) then Pac 10, SEC, & SWC. Arkansas set this whole thing off if you think about it. Bolting big brother Texas on to greener pastures in the SEC. Things went that way for awhile, then Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Miami decided they would take their talents to the Atlantic Coast Conference. This was all started because the SEC had decided that they should have a conference championship game between the two divisions that were created by the Hogs running East. The Big East tried to save themselves, becoming a lesser football conference and now just a basketball conference. The Big 12 (which happened shortly after Arkansas left the SWC…the major college programs of that conference hooked up with the Big 8 and voila you have 12) got raided by the Pac 10 at the time and the Big 10 (11) and just to make matters even better the SEC raided them as well. So all of this makes crystal clear perfect sense right? What are we left with? The SEC has 14 teams now, as does the Big 10, the Pac 12 as its known now makes the most sense for a major college conference, the ACC has 14…Notre Dame you sly Catholics you…ACC has 14.5 football teams and 15 for basketball and has become the premier college basketball conference since the death of the old Big East. So that left the Big 12 with Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech. Oh and by the way in danger of other exodus happening to greener pastures. So what did they do? Sometimes you’ve just got to promote from within and Texas Christian had all of a sudden became nationally relevant. Good move, but then they went on a date with West Virginia and ended up getting married to the Mountaineers and now the geographic center of the Big 12 is Broken Bow, OK and that’s over 1000 miles from Morgantown. Channeling my inner Vince Lombardi-What the hell’s going on out there!! So in my ever growing want to fix what I feel is wrong with sports I enter this as my solution to the ever changing college football landscape. Option 1: Tell West Virginia to take a hike, they don’t fit. There is almost as much of a chance of that happening as Kanye and Kim coming up with a sane name for baby #2 or #3. Option 2: Expand yourselves before the other four conferences decide they want four 16 team leagues and some of your friends don’t get invited to the party. This seems more realistic, but who do you invite that would a) geographically make sense b) financially make sense and c) galvanize the conference with rabid fanbases? The curiosity I felt brought me to use one of my favorite things in life…a spreadsheet. The results are in and not only am I here to report these options would make the Big 12 its number again, increase that number to 14 teams. Lets compete with the SEC, ACC, Big 10 and see what happens to our west coast friends in the Pac-12. Drum roll please: institution number 1: BYU. Now lets get to the reasons why. BYU boasts an endowment of 1 Billion that is larger than Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Iowa State. In the state of Utah would only compete with the Pac-12’s University of Utah for eyeballs. BYU has a larger student population than almost every other institution in the Big 12, save for Texas and Iowa State. The athletic budget is slightly lower than the other member institutions but at 60 million (the last figure I found) that is still higher than all but 1 of the options I am going to present. LaVell Edwards Stadium is where the Cougars play their home football games, the stadium seats 63,470. That number is already larger than every other institution not named Texas or Oklahoma. The Marriot Center holds 19,000 fans and that already would be the largest arena in the conference. Geographically speaking the State of Utah borders an old Big 12 footprint state (Colorado) and the rotation factor of having a 14 team league would ensure that would be held to a home and home series between the furthest schools once every 12 years. In my estimation I am wondering why the Big 12 has yet to offer this potentially wallet fattening institution yet. Institution number 2: Cincinnati. Cincinnati boasts an endowment of 1 billion just like BYU, they also have a higher athletic budget-coming in at 62 million. The University of Cincinnati also has a larger student population than every single other Big 12 institution present or future not named Texas. You read that right, more Bearcats than all but Longhorns. Nippert Stadium checks in with 40,000 seats with a new renovation including premium seating, a new pavilion, additional restrooms, upgraded concessions, and improved concourses. Just think what they might do with more revenue generated from being in a higher profile conference. Fifth Third Arena holds 13,176 fans and is already larger than member institutions Oklahoma, Kansas State, TCU, and Baylor. Conference expansion is about expanding the footprint and with a metro of 2,214,954 the Cincinnati metro area is the 28th largest in the nation. How’s that for putting eyeballs to television sets. Not to mention Cincinnati becomes the bridge to West Virginia, helping in the overall balance of the new Big 12. This move makes as much sense as offering BYU and just with those two moves alone the Big 12 would be saved. But, who wants to stop at just adequate? Not I, enter institution number 3: New Mexico. Now you may be thinking I have lost it, what could they bring to the Big 12? New Mexico’s endowment is larger than Kansas State, they have more students than Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, TCU, Baylor, and West Virginia. While their athletic budget is lower than all the current and proposed Big 12 institutions, I believe growth is not only possible it would be instantaneous once the Big 12 offered the Lobos. The state of New Mexico is another 2 million plus eyeballs for the Big 12 to expand the footprint and what Cincinnati is to West Virginia; New Mexico would be to BYU. I can not overstate enough how important I feel it is for all the schools in a conference to be somewhat connected and this move makes the most sense from that standpoint. I will start with The Pit in my stadium/arena pitch. The Pit has been known as a house of horrors for other teams, think Hilton and the Octagon of Doom for atmosphere. The Pit seats 15,411 fans, which is larger than Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, TCU, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Baylor, West Virginia, and the new member Cincinnati. The bad news is University Stadium in Albuquerque only seats 39,224 fans. Record attendance indicates that 44,760 fans can fit in the stadium though, which is comparable to TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium. Also, getting back to the thought that an influx of revenue can help a school expand a stadium, University Stadium has not been renovated since 2010. I think that number can be grown into something bigger. What is a conference with only 13 member institutions? That just will not suffice, our last proposal: Colorado State. A nostalgia factor can be sensed, the Big 12 returns to Colorado but that is not all. As mentioned before, Colorado borders Utah as well as New Mexico, therefore tying it all in together. Colorado State also has a similar situation to Iowa State, the rival is in a power conference. One of my favorite games to watch for some reason is Colorado vs Colorado State, I have no idea why but I always watch that game. I am a college football junky on Saturdays and that late game usually is a good one. Enough with the nostalgia do they make sense? CSU’s athletic budget would be the lowest of all member institutions, but my argument to that is with more revenue from a larger and higher profile conference they would grow their numbers. CSU’s endowment is larger than Kansas State, no one else’s but that is a start. CSU has this, 31, 256 students-larger than Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, TCU, Baylor, and West Virginia. That is impressive for such a ‘mid major’ in my opinion. CSU is set to open a brand new stadium that seats 41,000 in 2017, they have shown that they are willing to get big time, and that number could easily be increased to a Big 12 level in a short amount of time. Moby Arena, where the Rams play basketball, currently is only larger than TCU’s Daniel-Meyer Coliseum. But the Big 12 let TCU in-TCU is in the middle of a 63 million dollar renovation to Daniel-Meyer and that has been brought on by the inclusion in the Big 12 no doubt. The same can and should be accomplished in Fort Collins. To tie all this in and go one step further, I mentioned the football rotation. I propose two 7 team divisions East and West. The East would include West Virginia, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. The West would include BYU, Colorado State, New Mexico, Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, and Baylor. You could keep the Red River Rivalry as a common opponent to keep the Sooners and Longhorns happy and now you have multiple opportunities for cities to place bids on a Big 12 Conference Championship Game. Dallas, Houston, Denver, Kansas City, and Cincinnati all have NFL stadiums that the game could be staged in and be within the footprint of the conference. Now they must do this, grow Big 12-you still have a chance to save yourselves.
July 26, 2015
This past week in Major League Baseball has seen quite a few things. Cueto to the Royals (best team in AL this year), a no no from Cole Hamels (would someone trade for him already!), A-Rod had a 3 home run game in Minnesota (best comeback story all year). So what stands out to you? If the playoffs were to start right now the Yankees, Royals, and Angels would be the division winners in the American League with the Twins visiting the Astros in a one game playoff. Keep in mind the Royals used that game to springboard themselves into the World Series last year. The National League would shape up as follows: the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Nationals would win their divisions and Pittsburgh would host San Francisco…wait isn’t this the same lineup as last year in the NL? Lets revisit, the Giants went to Pittsburgh for the one game playoff at PNC. Then took out the Nationals as the Cardinals beat Kershaw-Greinke & Co. The Giants beat the Cardinals and then one of the best World Series this side of St. Louis vs Texas took place. Okay so maybe it is a little ho hum in the NL. The Cubs and Mets are realistically the only other two baseball clubs within striking distance of a playoff berth at the moment. The Mets have added two bats…two bench players and the Cubs have yet to make the Theo Epstein blockbuster trade(s) he pulled off while in Boston. In the AL the Blue Jays are the only team at or above .500 not in the playoff picture. They have the offense to scare the hell out of anyone but can the pitching/defense get there as well? Time will tell. The MLB Trade Deadline is fast approaching and beyond the Blue Jays acquiring David Price and the above mentioned Cole Hamels (still waiting on that trade) I just don’t see them having a well rounded enough team to push the other teams in front of them. As for the teams under .500 lets use the team with the worst record in the AL to make the case they are all doomed. The Boston Red Sox are 43-55 on the season, that adds to 98 games played and 64 left. Even if they finished the season winning 3 out of every 4 games they’d only finish with 91 wins. Hardly any optimism can come from that. The NL is slightly more wide open in terms of the Wild Card, however after you get past the Mets the Padres are the next team in the standings and haven’t shown any reliability all year. Barring a historical collapse such as…oh I don’t know…the Red Sox’s collapse of 2011; the playoffs are basically set. It ought to be a fun few days leading up to the Trade Deadline and perhaps even a few blockbusters could happen in August. Who is playing well right now? The Yankees have won 8 of 10, rumors say they could add Aroldis Chapman to the bullpen! Please Cashman please let us see Betances, Miller, Chapman at the end of games! However the Giants are also rumored to be in on Chapman and Cincinnati seems like they are motivated now that they have unloaded Cueto. As for those Giants they have won 9 of 10 and seem as if they would like to play postseason baseball in an odd numbered year. The Cardinals have won 7 of 10 and rumor has it they are good. They truly are baseball’s best ran organization I feel. Giants, Yankees, Cardinals…baseball royalty you could say. Before I forget the Philadelphia Phillies have also won 8 of 10 games for reasons unknown. For every yin there is a yang and the fun now starts as we delve into the MLB clubs who are quite frankly an embarrassment to their fanbases at the moment. The Boston Red Sox have lost 9 of 10 in what has became another lost season. The only solace is they have shown the willingness to blow the team up at a moments notice and turn that into a World Series win-check 2013 World Series. Both the Marlins and Indians have lost 7 of 10 and it sure is a long way from 1997-check 1997 World Series-spoiler alert Craig Counsel. The Marlins did go 10-10 post Giancarlo Stanton’s injury, please someone get this man healthy, but they seem poised to have a sell off of their own starting with reliever Steve Cischek. What has happened in Cleveland? They have the manager, the Cy Young winner, and a pretty good roster if memory serves. It seems ever since they got rid of Chief Wahoo as a primary logo they have just been stuck spinning the tires in the muck of mediocrity. It also doesn’t help they play in the same division as the Royals and Tigers…the latter has been relevant for a decade now prior to the this season’s fiasco. Will we have a surprise World Series participant this year? Who knows. All signs point to a rematch of 1985 and the state of Missouri being the center of the baseball universe. However there are ten teams or so that will have their say in that before all the dust settles. It is going to be an interesting sprint to the finish.
It is late July and roughly this time each year I sit down with the new NFL schedule, open a spreadsheet, and start picking games. I highlight the non usual dates such as Thursday Night, Saturday Night, the ever expanding London (really NFL, NFL Europe was such a success) games, Sunday Night, and Monday Night. I feel it is important to look at the schedules shrewdly, if you play on Sunday then travel on Thursday that puts you at a disadvantage. If you play on Monday and travel the next Sunday, that also puts you at a disadvantage. The time between games is not as much as a hindrance on the coaches I feel, the players’ healing time needs that full week in order to play at their best. There are other factors that I feel can be the difference between a W or L. Of course home field advantage helps, but what if both teams are coming off of a road game the week prior? How many time zones a team must travel and at what time slot the game is to be played are major as well. How often have the Oakland’s or Arizona’s traveled to play the Miami’s or Carolina’s in the past few years? Usually the Eastern Time Zone team wins, especially if the game is played at the 1 o’clock time slot. Remember for a California team that’s 10 o’clock in the morning. Quarterback matters, another obvious point by me, would you rather have Tom Brady or Matt Cassel starting for your team? I’ll take the man with 4 rings thank you very much (deflated footballs be damned). Without further adieu here are the league’s 32 franchises’ win totals.
NFC East: Eagles* (13-3), Cowboys^ (12-4), Giants (7-9), Redskins (6-10)
NFC West: Rams* (12-4), Seahawks^ (9-7), Cardinals (8-8), 49ers (4-12)
NFC North: Packers* (12-4), Lions (9-7), Bears (6-10), Vikings (3-13)
NFC South: Panthers* (11-5), Saints (9-7), Falcons (7-9), Buccaneers (3-13)
AFC East: Patriots* (11-5), Dolphins^ (9-7), Bills (8-8), Jets (7-9)
AFC West: Chiefs* (13-3), Raiders (9-7), Chargers (8-8), Broncos (6-10)
AFC North: Steelers* (11-5), Ravens^ (11-5, Browns (6-10), Bengals (4-12)
AFC South: Colts* (9-7), Texans (7-9), Jaguars (4-12), Titans (3-13)
*=Division Winner ^=Wild Card
Your eyes may be drawn to several different points of interest with these picks. Oakland 9-7! Denver 6-10! What is this man thinking? How did he determine tie-breakers? (I assure you I have carefully went through each tie breaking policy on who gets in the playoffs and the 12 franchises I have as getting in are the correct ones). So that leaves us with the playoffs, first the Wild Card. I have 6. Seattle visiting 3. Green Bay in what is surely going to be the most hyped matchup of the weekend. The Packers get revenge from last years onside kick debacle to advance. The other game features 5. Dallas visiting 4. Carolina even though Dallas has a better record. I think that matters, Carolina’s division is weak and they will not be as battle tested as the Cowboys (who are in a primetime slot 7 times this year. Dallas wins and advances. On the other side of the bracket in the AFC you will find 6. Miami (who barely got in over the Raiders??? What!?!?!) going to New England for an inter divisional matchup with the Super Bowl champs. I have the two teams splitting in the regular season, both winning at home, I see no reason to change that mindset, Patriots advance. 5. Baltimore goes to the perennial AFC South champion 4. Indianapolis, Baltimore is clearly the better team and prove that with a convincing win. It is time for the Colts to really get Luck some help, last year was a fluke. Into the divisional round 5. Dallas goes to Philly for a cheesesteak and a road playoff win, they also want to spoil their former running back Demarco Murray’s first Eagle playoff appearance. I had both home teams winning in the regular season, however I feel Dallas has some mojo going after the Wild Card round, Dallas advances to the NFC Championship. The other matchup features 3. Green Bay traveling to 2. Los Angeles…my bad 2. St. Louis and facing the surprise of the NFC. I get Aaron Rodgers on turf?? I’ll take the Pack to advance and look out they will now host the NFC Championship at the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field (channeling my inner Chris Berman voice). The AFC Divisional round’s first game is 5. Baltimore visiting 1. Kansas City, I feel Kansas City was injured a lot last year and never put it all together. They were the last undefeated team 2 years ago for a reason and blew out the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots at Arrowhead last year. Tough place to win, especially in the cold playoff atmosphere. Chiefs win. Another playoffs, another Brady vs Roethlisberger matchup. How good is Tom Brady in these? Add in the fact that Pittsburgh’s long time D coordinator left town and I see Belichek and Co. putting it on the Steel Curtain…wait the steel…well lets just say the Patriots win…again. The NFC and AFC Championship feature 4 historically relevant football franchises in the NFC Green Bay hosts Dallas in what is certainly going to be another “Ice Bowl”. As I mentioned earlier, I feel as though Dallas has something this year despite what recent history has given us as data to go on. Dallas to the Super Bowl! Will the same blowout happen to the Patriots at Arrowhead a year later? A much bigger game in importance and I doubt a blowout happens, but keeping with my earlier sentiments, the Chiefs were the last undefeated team 2 years ago for a reason. Chiefs to the Super Bowl! Dallas vs Kansas City in Super Bowl 50. Classic matchup, storylines galore…how’s this: Andy Reid does it to the Cowboys again and the Chiefs win their first Super Bowl since January 11, 1970.