Category Archives: NHL

Good Good Friday to you

It’s Good Friday, when Christians across the world observe the Crucifixon of Jesus Christ. 

The Roman Catholic Church prescribes Good Friday as a day of fasting, where only one meal is allowed. I’ve never followed that rule, although I may very well come close this year. I finished off the remainig asparagus I got last night at Outback before leaving the hotel this morning, but I haven’t eaten anything else. I was tempted to eat when I stopped at 7-Eleven, but I held firm. 

The vast majority of Catholics in the United States will go back to eating meat on Fridays starting next week. I’m going to try to go old school and not eat meat. It will be tough next week when I’m in Kenutcky, but I’ll do all I can. At least I’m in Lexington, where there are enough options, unilke some of the rural towns in Mississippi and Alabama I passed through on trips to the schools in those states. Good luck trying to find something without meat. If the place had a McDonald’s, at least there was Filet-O-Fish and fries. Not optimal, but it had to do. Finding a Catholic in most of Mississippi is harder than finding one in downtown Baghdad. 

I’m now at Buffalo Wild Wings in Liberty. I’m probably going to eat, becuase it would be rude of me not to eat after spending as much time as I have here yesterday and today. I was expecting to see Larry (MIZZOU) so we could play trivia, but by my deductions, he’s at the B-Dubs in Zona Rosa. Oh well. No big deal. 

I’m starting to enjoy the B-Dubs in Liberty more anyway. I’ve been going to Zona Rosa regularly for four years now, and it does get repetitive, even if I like seeing eveyrone there. A change of scenery is good. In this case, I’m finding Liberty to be superior to Zona Rosa in many ways: newer decor, lighting not as harsh, climate control works well, musicTV not as loud. I’m starting to get to know people here, so that’s an added bonus. I will never totally abandon Zona Rosa, but as more and more people leave, it’s good to have an alternative. 

I’ll make my way west on Missouri Highway 152 eventually. Minksy’s for sure. B-Dubs not so sure. 

The NBA playoffs start tomorrow. Yipee. I haven’t cared about the NBA very much since the Bulls ruined the league by bullying everyone behind Jordan and Pippen, and later Rodman. I know who wins, but I’m not going to watch a full NBA game. 

The NHL playoffs began Wednesday. All five Candian teams–Canadiens, Senators, Maple Leafs, Oiliers and Flames–lost their openers. NBC is ecstatic. The last thing it wants is a Canadian team advancing deep in the playoffs, becuase it will mean lower TV ratings, not to mention the hassle of trying to broadcast in another country. Except for the Stanley Cup Finals, NBC will simply take the Candian feed and transmit it back to the states when a game is in Canada. 

I’m so happy the Panthers, Lightning and Hurricanes are not in the playoffs. The Predators are. Can’t stand them. Period. First, Nashville should not have hockey, and second, their captain, Mike Fisher, was traded from Ottawa to Nashville after his wife, Carrie Underwood, demanded the Senators trade her precious baby doll to the Predators. 

Underwood’s demands reminds me of when Wayne Gretzky was traded from the Oilers to the Kings in 1988. The Great One married actress Janet Jones following Edmonton’s victory over Boston in the 1988 Stanley Cup Finals, and then told owner Peter Pocklington he wanted to go to Los Angeles for his wife’s career. Fearing he would lose Gretzky in free agency and not get any compensation, Pocklington sent Gretzky to the states. 

I’m sure the Oilers live in fear that their current superstar, Connor McDavid, will demand a trade out of Alberta one day. The Oilers are in a small market and have to deal with the logistical problems of a Canadian team, notably the exchange rate and the high taxes to fund the National Health System. If McDavid played in Montreal or Toronto, it would be far less likely those teams would lose him. But the Oilers are in another boat, even though they have a new arena which opened this year. 

Edmonton is in the playoffs for the first time since losing in the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals to the Hurricanes. The Stanley Cup in North Carolina? Don’t get me started. 

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Oilers, because their dynasty got cranked up at the same time I began watching the NHL regularly. By time the Oilers won their second Stanley Cup in June 1985, I could name much their roster: Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Coffey, Huddy, Lowe, Anderson, Fuhr, Moog, and so on. Those Oiler teams could score and score some more. Glen Sather is never ranked with Scotty Bowman, Toe Blake and Punch Imlach amongst the great NHL coaches, but he built that team from nothing after the NHL gutted the Oilers after the league absorbedt the Oilers, Whalers (Hurricanes), Jets (Coyotes) and Nordiques (Avalanche) from the World Hockey Association. Fortunately, Edmonton was allowed to protect two skaters, and it chose wisely: Gretzky and Messier. 

I’m sure you didn’t come to the blog to read about my Edmonton Oilers musings, so I’ll stop there. 

It’s already 12:30? Wow time flies when you’re playing trivia and blogging. 

Healthy dose of sports hate!

The Cubs won the World Series.

I hate it.

I turned the game off in the fifth inning last night, with the Cubs leading 4-1. I couldn’t take it anymore. The Indians came back to tie in the eighth, but still lost 8-7 in 10 innings.

I have never liked the Cubs. NEVER. I got sick and tired of them in 1984, when they won the National League East division (although the Cubs should have been in the West), and Harry Caray gloated over them on WGN. Since then, they’ve been one of my most disliked sports teams.

One good reason you should hate the Cubs, too: Hillary Clinton loves them. That would be enough for me, but I hated them long before anyone outside Arkansas knew who Hillary Clinton was and how insatiable her desire for power is.

The Cubs are one of four MLB teams I truly despise.

Another is the other team in Chicago, the White Sox. I hate their black uniforms, which are not only ugly, but they evoke memories of the biggest cheaters sports has ever known, the 1919 White Sox, who threw the World Series to the Reds, another team I am not fond of.

I loved the uniforms the White Sox were wearing when I was born. I’m sorry, but the jerseys with the big floppy collars were cool. I bought the hat this summer, not only because the uniforms were awesome and it was the team’s hat when I was born, but because asshole Chris Sale cut up the throwback jerseys in July.

The White Sox play in a shitty ballpark in a shitty neighborhood. The original Comiskey Park had charm. The current park, now known as Guaranteed Rate Field, is the complete opposite of charm. It has a steep upper deck, and if you have a seat in the upper deck, you cannot move, period. Not even to sample the concessions. What a bunch of turds the White Sox are.

The biggest reason to hate the White Sox: BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA or Barry Soetoro or whatever his real name is.

The third team in my axis of MLB evil: the Atlanta Braves.

I hated the Braves from the first time I saw them on TBS. I got sick and tired of hearing them proclaimed as “America’s Team”.

First, Georgia does not speak for all of America. Maybe for itself, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi, but not all of the South, and certainly not all of the country.

Second, the Braves were shitty for the vast majority of their first 25 years in Atlanta. The only things mitigating it were (a) Hank Aaron setting the home run record (he still is the legitimate home run king; I will never recognize Barry Bonds) and (b) winning the NL West in 1982 with Joe Torre as manager. I loved watching the Braves lose, which happened often between 1985 and 1990.

Third, the Braves were owned until recently by supreme asshole Ted Turner. Not only is the son of a bitch far to the left, but he also has bought up all the water rights to the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides water to most of central United States, including all of Kansas. Now farmers and the states will have to pay this piece of shit to reacquire the rights. What a fucking turd.

The fourth MLB team on my shit list: the Miami Marlins.

The Marlins are owned by another real fucking asshole, Jeffrey Loria. Jeffrey Loria, the man who ruined the Montreal Expos by running them on a shoestring budget and then selling them for a handsome profit to Major League Baseball, giving Bud Selig and his minions the excuse they needed to abandon Montreal and return MLB to Washington DC for the first time since 1971. Yes, Washington deserves a team, but Montreal should not have had to lose its team.

Somehow, the franchise has won more World Series (2) than division championships (0). The Marlins bought both championships, 1997 and 2003, by using high-priced free agents, then dumping them when their contracts expired after one year in most instances. For all of you who bitch and whine and moan about the Yankees buying their teams, shut the fuck up. The Marlins perfected it, simply because they went back to being shitty after their one year of glory on both occasions.

Right now, I’m sick and tired for all of the sympathy the Marlins are receiving.

Jose Fernandez, the Marlins’ ace pitcher, died Sept. 25 in a boating accident. Turns out he was high on coke and drunk. Too fucking bad. Did himself in. Just like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and millions of others.

Four of my most hated teams. Here are some of the others.

NHL

Anaheim Ducks–Don’t hate them, but California needs only ONE NHL team. The Kings fit that bill long before the Ducks or The Mighty Ducks. At least they can beat up on the Coyotes.

Arizona Coyotes–The team moved from Winnipeg in 1996. That made me hate this team forever. Winnipeg has a team again, but it should not have been forced to go without the NHL for 15 years. That’s bullshit. Not only did the team leave Winnipeg, it refuses to let the new Jets have the old Jets’ history. What a bunch of shitheads. Bobby Hull and Dale Hawerchuk never skated one second in the state of Arizona. Why should the Coyotes get to claim their achievements?

The Coyotes also went bankrupt many years ago. Yet commissioner Gary Bettman demanded the team stay in Arizona. Heaven forbid the franchise move to a city which can actually support an NHL team, like Hamilton, Hartford, Quebec City, or Toronto, which could easily support two teams. Even Seattle would have been a major upgrade.

The Coyotes will always be the sixth most popular team in Arizona, behind the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Suns, Arizona State and the U of A.

Carolina Hurricanes–Stole the Hartford Whalers thanks to shithead owner Peter Karmanos. Hartford supported the Whalers when they would get their brains beat in regularly by the Bruins, Sabres and Canadiens, which was most nights. The Nordiques even took their turn for several seasons. Karmanos said FUCK YOU to the loyal fans of Connecticut and moved the franchise to that hockey hotbed, North Carolina. The first two seasons, the Hurricanes played before empty seats in Greensboro, while the arena in Raleigh now known as the RBC Center was under construction.

What do you call a Hurricanes season ticket holder? One who is (a) too poor to own North Carolina State basketball season tickets or (b) someone who is too stupid to realize the NHL has no business in your state.

Colorado Avalanche–Don’t hate them. Colorado should have a team. However, it still depresses me they were once the Quebec Nordiques.

Florida Panthers–Florida should not have hockey. Period. Especially not the NHL. Gary Bettman is a fuckwad. Putting teams in Miami, Nashville, Raleigh and Tampa, yet teams can’t survive in Hartford and Quebec City? Or Hamilton? Or Saskatchewan? HOLY SHIT. Bettman, you fucking suck. Then again, you learned from the ultimate piece of shit, David Stern.

Nashville Predators–First and foremost, Nashville does not deserve a hockey team. ANY CITY WHERE YOU CAN’T SKATE OUTSIDE IN THE WINTER SHOULD HAVE AN NHL TEAM. Second, my pissant brother and his wife are huge Predators fans, so another reason I hate them. Third, Carrie Underwood forced the Ottawa Senators to trade her husband, Mike Fisher, to Nashville. Since when does Carrie U. Fisher run an NHL team? The Senators should have sued Carrie and the Predators for extortion. I refuse to listen to Carrie’s music. She’s on my no-play list as much as Bruce Springsteen. At least in Carrie’s case, it’s not because of toxic politics. The Boss hates America and always has.

San Jose Sharks–California only needs ONE NHL team. The Kings were around long before the Sharks came along.

Tampa Bay Lightning–Again, Florida should not have any NHL teams. Worse, Tampa is a real piece of shit city with piece of shit people. It’s a cesspool. Yet somehow three of the four major sports organizations in North America see fit to place teams in the area. Steven Stamkos’ wife must look hot in a bikini. That’s the only reason he would re-sign with Tampa over going to Chicago, Detroit, Toronto or any other REAL hockey city.

NBA

Atlanta Hawks–Once owned by Ted Turner. Good enough reason to hate them. Also, Atlanta is a shithole with no redeeming value. The only reason to even like them was the cool pea green uniforms they wore when Pete Maravich played for them in early 1970s. Otherwise, they’re a bunch of turds.

Brooklyn Nets–Russian shithead owner who tried to buy a team. Great to see the team fail miserably.

Charlotte Hornets–Owned by Michael Jeffrey Jordan. FUCK THEM.

Chicago Bulls–Michael Jeffrey Jordan. His arrogance is all you need to know about why I despise this franchise. I do not worship Jordan. I do not believe he is the greatest of all-time. I do not believe the 1995-96 Bulls are the greatest NBA team of all-time. Jordan benefitted from a watered-down NBA, one which let him get away with everything. I’m sure he could have murdered someone on an NBA court and nobody would have said a peep. FUCK JORDAN AND FUCK THE BULLS.

Dallas Mavericks–Mark Cuban can go fuck himself. He’s a complete asshole on Shark Tank, the same way he’s a complete asshole owning the Mavericks. I would love to see Kevin O’Leary (MISTER WONDERFUL) kick him in the balls on Shark Tank. Better yet, it would be much sweeter if Barbara Corcoran kicked Cuban in the jimmy.

Miami Heat–The Heat committed collusion for FOUR YEARS and David Stern didn’t give a shit. Dwayne Wade begged LeBron and Chris Bosh to come, and of course, who were they to say no? FUCK THEM.

New York Knicks–James Dolan is a big piece of shit. Cunt. Asshole. Motherfucker. Good enough reason to hate them entirely.

Sacramento Kings–Left Kansas City in 1985 to move to the cesspool which is California’s capital city. Team was going to move to Seattle, but mayor (and former Suns guard) Kevin Johnson, an admitted criminal, bribed NBA owners to keep the team in Sacramento. Bought by a Russian turd who is just as big a turd as the one owning the Nets. FUCK SUCKRAMENTO.

San Antonio Spurs–Bruce Bowen got away with attempted murder against the Suns during the 2007 playoffs, thanks to degenerate gambler/”referee” Tim Donaghy. Bad enough. Then there’s the gigantic piece of shit Greg Popovich. The walking definition of CUNT.

Washington Wizards–Changed name from “Bullets” to be politically correct. FUCK THEM.

NFL

Atlanta Falcons–Once employed dog killer Michael Vick. Also, Atlanta has no redeeming value.

Baltimore Ravens–Where do I start? Let’s see: Art Modell stole the Browns from Cleveland because he was broke and desperately needed to pay off 700,000 creditors. Ray Lewis got away with murder. Ray Lewis flaunted his “innocence” and Baltimore fans thought he was the greatest athlete in the city’s history, not remembering men like Johnny Unitas, Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken. Okay, that’s enough.

Carolina Panthers–Once employed murder mastermind Rae Carruth, who was so callous as to order a hit on his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Cherica Adams, after she refused to get an abortion. Adams died; the baby survived, but is mentally retarded.  What a total piece of shit. Why Carruth didn’t get the death penalty, or at least life without parole, is absolutely sickening. North Carolina has some really fucked up people.

(S)Cam Newton has done anything nearly that bad, but he’s an arrogant turd who can’t take it when things don’t go his way.

Chicago Bears–They play in CHICAGO, home of BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA and birthplace of HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON. There.

Miami Dolphins–Sick and tired of the overrated 1972 Dolphins celebrating when a team loses so their perfect record can’t be equaled. The 1972 Dolphins played an absolutely shitty schedule. Would have lost Super Bowl VII had Redskins coach George Allen not been so fucking paranoid. HE lost the game for the Redskins. Not Billy Kilmer, Larry Brown, or the Over-the-Hill Gang Defense. George Allen was responsible. Hope he’s rotting in hell over it.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers–Employ gigantic asshole Jameis Winston, who got away with rape and only a slap on the wrist for shoplifting. Once employed gigantic asshole coach Jon Gruden and gigantic asshole player Warren Sapp. Have disgusting uniforms which they stole from the Raiders. Tampa is a shithole. Need more?

Tennessee Titans–Nashville is a shithole. I hate that city. I hate it. Vanderbilt is the only thing making that city remotely tolerable. I also hate Nashville stealing the Houston Oilers. Yes, Houston has another team, but for the nation’s fourth largest city to go without an NFL team for five years was very bad.

I do not recognize Major League Soccer as legitimate. Not as long as they want to have playoffs to determine its champion.

 

What’s wrong with a draw? NOTHING!

Following the Seattle-Arizona tie, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson suggested if overtime ends still tied, that a field goal be attempted. If the kicker for his team makes it, they win. If he misses, the other team wins.

STUPID. REALLY STUPID.

That would be the equivalent of a free throw contest in basketball or a home run derby in baseball to break a tie. It’s already stupid enough in hockey and association football (soccer in America) with the penalty shootout.

Personally, I do not see the problem with a draw. I believe the American obsession with winning and having to have a winner and loser in every single facet of society, whether it be sports or something else, is the reason why people disdain ties so much.

The most popular sports league on earth, the English Premier League, has witnessed 24 of 90 league matches to date end in draws. That’s almost two out of every seven matches. Nobody in Manchester, Liverpool, Leicester, Southampton, Bournemouth, London or any other Premier League outpost is griping about it. Neither are German fans of the Bundesliga. Or La Liga in Spain. Or Serie A in Italy.

Even though Major League Soccer is seriously flawed, thanks to having conferences instead of a single table and playoffs to determine its champion instead of using only the regular season, at least it ditched the shootout in 2000.

The shootout in MLS used from 1996-99 was beyond asinine. A player had to start 35 yards from the goal, dribble ahead, and shoot from the penalty area. He had to do it all within five seconds. Matches which ended level did not even feature extra time; it was straight to the stupid shootout.

My God. That’s not association football. That’s stupidity. That’s a video game.

If a draw was so toxic, the Premier League and other association football leagues would not award a point for a draw. It would disregard a draw, as the NFL did through 1971.

What is the outcome of many chess matches? A DRAW. STALEMATE. INSUFFICIENT MATERIAL. Has the good possibility of a draw stopped boys and girls from across the globe from learning the game? HECK NO.

Wars have been stalemates, so why are Americans so obsessed with determining the winner of a sporting event? If America would have accepted a stalemate in Vietnam, it would have looked a heck of a lot better than fighting on and accepting disadvantageous peace terms as Nixon and Kissinger did.

Before 1982, there was no provision whatsoever for a penalty shootout in the FIFA World Cup, the most watched sporting event on the planet. If a knockout round game ended drawn prior to ’82, it was replayed in its entirety. Many competitions continue to use the replay rather than a shootout if a match remains level after 120 minutes (90 regulation, 30 extra time).

The NHL got rid of overtime in the regular season in 1943. It didn’t return until 1983. In 1982-83, the last season before overtime returned to the regular season, 127 of 840 games (15.1 percent) ended drawn. That’s slightly more than one in six. What’s the big deal? So what if one of every six ends in a draw?

Hockey is a brutal enough game for 60 minutes of regulation. If a game is even after 60 minutes, that’s enough, at least for the regular season. I understand the need for having a winner in a playoff game. But playoff overtime is real hockey: 5-on-5, 20-minute periods, not this crazy 3-on-3, 5-minute crap for overtime, then the stupid shootout.

The NHL should award a team three points for a regulation win. NO OVERTIME. Draws earn each team one point. That’s it.

The same applies to American football.

Players expend far, far, far too much energy over 60 minutes, more than the average human can only dream of expending. Why make them go any farther during the regular season? If it’s even, the game should end right then and there. In the playoffs, yes, there needs to be overtime. And none of this crap about both teams need to possess the ball. Straight sudden death. If your defense is not good enough to prevent the other team from driving to score a field goal, you don’t deserve to advance.

Don’t get me started on how ridiculous college and high school overtime is. College is bad enough starting from the 25-yard line. High school is much, much worse, going from the 10. If an offense can’t gain 2 1/2 yards per play for four plays, then that team needs to give up the game.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association has done some really dumb things. The tiebreaker its former Executive Director, Brice Durbin, came up with in 1971 is totally ludicrous. It’s not real football. You’re asking a defense to hold a finger in the dike having to keep the offense out of the end zone from 10 yards out, and that team is already within range of a field goal.

The college and high school football format is not football. It takes the kickoff and the punt out of the game. Special teams have made the difference in thousands of football games over time. Why take part of it out of the game? Also, where is the strategy for a high school defensive coordinator, when you’re defending 10 yards every time?

High school and college football games in the regular season should end drawn if the score is level after 60 minutes (48 in high school). Overtime should be sudden death in the playoffs. If high school associations want to return to the old method of using first downs and penetrations inside the 20-yard line to break a deadlock, then go right ahead.

Baseball isn’t nearly as physically taxing as American football or hockey, but there are limits, too.

In Japan, regular season games are declared a draw if the score is still even after 12 innings (three extra). That’s not a bad idea for the United States. Once a game gets to 15, 16, 17 innings, teams are out of pitching, and it affects them for days after.

Major League Baseball would balk at any idea to declare a game drawn, but many managers would breathe a sigh of relief when they didn’t have to throw four relievers three innings each. The vast majority of games are resolved in nine innings, or those which do go extra can be resolved in 10, 11 or 12, so why worry about a draw? Not going to happen very much.

Basketball? Everyone has overtime, so I don’t see too much of a problem. Non-varsity high school games should be considered draws after regulation, simply to keep things moving. .

Some states use the “international tiebreaker” for softball. In that situation, the last batter of the previous inning starts the new frame on second base, and then the batting order proceeds as normal.

Hate it. HATE IT. Play real softball.

There are many, many more pressing issues than if a sporting events ends in a draw. America, as it is on many issues (using red for Republicans and blue for Democrats, not using the metric system, using paper money instead of coins or plastic), is DEAD WRONG.

Mr. Hockey goes to heaven

This year is not quite halfway over, and we have lost a number of notable people. The music industry lost David Bowie and Glenn Frey, among others, early in 2016, and now the sports world is taking it on the chin.

One week after Muhammad Ali finally succumbed to the debiliating effects of Parkinson’s Disesase, another sports icon from years gone by has left us.

Gordie Howe, better known as Mr. Hockey, died this morning at age 88. Howe had been in ill health for several years, and while there will be sadness over his passing, he’s in a much more peaceful place now.

Howe was The Great One long before Wayne Gretzky laced up his first pair of skates. He came into the NHL at age 19 in 1947 with the Detroit Red Wings, which was very hard to do in those days, since there were only six clubs in the league (the “Original Six”), and it would stay that way until the fall of 1967.

Gordie didn’t take long to make his mark, ledaing the NHL with 43 goals and 43 assists in the 1950-51 season, at a time when the NHL played 70 games in a season (compared to 82 now), and with only five other teams in the league, goalies and opposing coahes had much more time to devote to studying the opposition, so I’m certain the Candiens, Maple Leafs, Rangers, Bruins and Black Hawks all had their tactics in an attempt to stop Howe.

Those tactics mostly failed. By time he retired from the Red Wings in 1971, he had an all-time records in goals (786), assists (1,023) and points (1,809).

But Howe wasn’t through. He came out of retirement in 1973 to join the Houston Aeors of the World Hockey Association, and would come back to the NHL in 1979 with the Hartford Whalers, playing at age 51 alongside sons Marty and Mark.

(The Hartford Whalers are no more. They became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997. F YOU, Peter Karmanos. Raleigh-Durham deserves a hockey team about as much as Hillary Clinton deserves to be President of the United States.)

Howe hung it up in the spring of 1980, adding 15 goals and 26 assists to his records, which were finally broken by Gretzky.

Unlike Gretzky, Howe did not need several enforcers to take care of his business. Anyone who crossed paths with Gordie would pay for it. There became a term for a game in which Howe recorded a goal, an assist and a fight: the Howe Hat Trick.

Howe’s passing will certainly receive more attention once the memorial service for Ali concludes today. Yes, I understand Ali was a cultural icon for his generation, but he was a BOXER. If this is how the media is covering a sproting icon, I can only imagine the slobbering which will go on when Obama passes away in 2058 or thereabouts.

One-Mule State

The Los Angeles Rams made a huge splash Thursday morning when they traded with Tennessee to acquire the Titans’ No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, which begins April 28.

It’s the first time since 1991 that a team from outside the top 10 traded up to the No.1 pick. That year, the Cowboys acquired the top overall pick from the Patriots and selected Miami (Fla.) defensive tackle Russell Maryland, who was a starter on Dallas’ three Super Bowl championship teams in the 1990s.

Nobody knew it at the time, but New England and Dallas would someday share a common coaching link. Bill Parcells, who did not retire as Giants coach until after the ’91 draft, would coach the Patriots from 1993-96, and then the Cowboys from 2003-06.

The Rams and Titans already share a common coaching link. Jeff Fisher coached the Titans (previously Houston/Tennessee Oilers) from the middle of the 1994 season through 2010, and then took over the Rams in 2012. The franchises have another link with the late Jack Pardee, who played linebacker for the Rams from 1957-70, then was Fisher’s predecessor as Oilers coach from 1990 through the middle of ’94.

Of course, the Rams played in St. Louis from 1995 through 2015, making Missouri a two-team NFL state, as it was from 1963, the year the Dallas Texans moved to Kansas City to become the Chiefs, through 1987, the Cardinals’ last year in St. Louis before moving to Arizona.

Now, you can clearly tell Missouri is once again the exclusive domain of the denizens of Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs’ radio network now shades all of Missouri as part of “Chiefs Kingdom”, a term liberally used by play-by-play man Mitch Holthaus. It used to only include the section of Missouri roughly along and west of US 63, which includes Columbia and Jefferson City. Those two locales did not have many Rams fans until Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce began “The Greatest Show on Turf” era until 1999. The Rams were dominant in mid-Missouri from 1999 through 2003, but after that, the pendulum began to swing back to the west, but really, both teams were pretty pathetic for many years between 2004 and 2012.

I went to a Bed, Bath and Beyond yesterday after eating lunch with Bill. I did not see a single Rams item. I saw plenty of Chiefs, Royals, Blues and Mizzou. But no Rams. Not even in the clearance bin. It’s been only three months since NFL owners approved Stan Kroenke’s request to move the Rams back to Los Angeles, and you can’t tell the team played its last game in St. Louis last December 17.

Coincidentally, 2013 was a turning point for the loyalties of both NFL and MLB fans in mid-Missouri.

The Chiefs immediately improved under Andy Reid, starting 2013 9-0. They’ve made the playoffs twice under Reid, winning their first playoff game since 1993 earlier this year. The Rams? Did anyone in Columbia, Jefferson City (and Springfield for that matter) notice the Rams? Sure, they were on TV in those cities when it didn’t conflict with the Chiefs, but did anyone really watch? Those with NFL Sunday Ticket certainly didn’t. And most others could simply watch Red Zone to follow all the games at once.

Meanwhile, by September 2013, people in this part of Missouri realized there was a real MLB team playing on the western edge of the state, not a team playing in MLB masquerading as a minor league squad.

The Royals were pretty much irrelevant in all of Missouri, save for the immediate Kansas City area and the I-29 corridor all the way to the Iowa state line, from the mid-’90s until 2013, when Kansas City enjoyed a late surge and finished with 86 wins.

Now, I would say the loyalties may be 60-40 Cardinals, a major improvement for the boys in blue. Columbia is actually closer to St. Louis than Kansas City by a few miles, but there are an awful lot of Royals fans here.

Now hockey loyalties have NEVER been a problem in Missouri. All Blues, all the time. Yes, I’m aware there were the Kansas City Scouts for two seasons in the mid-’70s, but hardly anybody in Kansas City cared, so I’m certain nobody did 125 miles to the east.

Even Mizzou doesn’t have the entire state’s loyalty. The Kansas Jayhawks have owned the Kansas City metro in recent years, and that ownership has only grown after the Tigers left the Big 12 for the SEC. Right now, Mizzou is toxic in the City of Fountains.

The NBA hasn’t been in Missouri since April 1985, when the Kings left for Sacramento (Suckramento–thank you Jim Rome). The Hawks left St. Louis for Atlanta in 1968, four years before the Cincinnati Royals moved to KC. I guess the Bulls are the choice of most NBA fans here, although there may be pockets of Thunder fans in southwest Missouri and Grizzlies fans in the southeast.

Major League Soccer? Sporting Kansas City plays in Kansas. Never mind.

 

Dennis menaces an official

Overshadowed by all of the news coming from the Super Bowl and college football’s national singing day was a lengthy suspension handed down by the National Hockey League.

Calgary Flames defenseman (or defeceman for those you in Canada) Dennis Wideman was suspended 20 games by Commissioner Gary Bettman for cross checking linesman Don Henderson during a January 27 game vs. the Nashville Predators. Wideman was knocked off balance along the boards, then as he was about to come off for a line change, he plowed into Henderson.

Wideman claims he was woozy from earlier hits and that he did not barrel into Henderson on purpose. He claims it was an accident, which is what Flames president Brian Burke argued to the league in hoping the suspension would not be as severe.

I saw the replay several times. Wideman is lying.

Cross checking is a penalty if it is done by one player to another. It’s lifting the stick off the ice with both hands, turning it sideways and clubbing a player, usually in the face or neck. A cross checking penalty is a minimum of two minutes, but many are ruled major penalties, leading to five minutes in the penalty box for the offender. And if the penalty is a major, the team must play short-handed for the full five minutes. On a minor penalty, the player can come back if the opponent scores on the power play.

You cannot tell me Wideman “accidentally” picked up his stick with both hands and “accidentally” jammed it into Henderson. This was an intentional act, and as far as I’m concerned, Wideman may have gotten off light with a 20-game suspension. He’ll forfeit almost $565,000 (CDN$777,250) in salary.

I’ve seen my fair share of horrible officiating in high schoool, college and professional sports. However, it does an athlete, coach or spectator the license to physically assault an official.

The Flames repeatedly have stressed Wideman had never been previously disciplined by the NHL. He has never been penalized more than 83 minutes in a given season, so the statistics back up Calgary’s boast. However, this incident was way too severe, way too ugly to overlook. It’s the same as if someone with no criminal record goes out and kills another person, whether it be drunk driving or shooting. It must be punished.

I recall in October 1983, Tom Lysiak of the Chicago Black Hawks (yes, I know it’s spelled Blackhawks, but back then, it was spelled Black Hawks; that’s another discussion for another day) intentionally tripped linesman Ron Foyt during a game vs. Hartford. Lysiak had been ejected from the faceoff circle, and after the puck was dropped, Lysiak ignored the Whalers’ Sylvain Turgeon and immediately went for Foyt, pulling his feet out from under him with his stick. Referee Dave Newell immediately handed down a 20-game suspension to Lysiak (at that time, NHL referees had the power to hand out discipline without consent of then-president John Ziegler), which was appealed by Lysiak and the Hawks, who took the case to federal court before losing.

Lysiak had not been known as a dirty player before the incident, and was a solid player for the Atlanta Flames throughout the 1970s. However, the incident could not go unpunished, even with Lysiak’s previously exemplary record.

I do not like Gary Bettman. I hate what he has done to the NHL. I despise the man for putting teams in Miami, Tampa, Atlanta and Nashville, and allowing teams to leave hockey hotbeds Quebec City, Winnipeg and Hartford, especially considering the Jets moved to Arizona and the Whalers to Raliegh-Durham. Hockey does not belong anywhere south of Interstate 70, except for ONE team in Los Angeles. Canada could support 15 teams if need be.

I understand Denver getting a team, but I would have preferred it not be the Nordiques, the team I rooted for most when I started watching the NHL over 30 years ago.

In this case, Bettman showed backbone, backbone which has been seriously lacking from his office. Now, Gary, just bring back hockey to Quebec City and some may be forgiven.

Inglewood, sports paradise

The National Football League is returning to Los Angeles.

Earlier this evening, NFL owners voted 30-2 (I would love to know who the two were) to approve Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s stadium proposal in Inglewood, located in Los Angeles County a few miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles.

The Rams, played in St. Louis from 1995 through 2015, will play in the Los Angeles Coliseum for the next three seasons while the stadium in Inglewood is built.

The Rams  will not be the first professional sports franchise to call Inglewood home.

Inglewood is the home of The Forum, which was the home of the NBA’s Lakers and the NHL’s Kings from 1967 through 1999, when both teams moved to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. The Clippers, who previously played at the Los Angeles Sports Arena from 1984-99, also moved into Staples Center.

The Forum was built by Jack Kent Cooke, who owned the Lakers and was awarded an NHL expansion franchise which became the Kings. Cooke was tired of the Lakers having to share the L.A. Sports Arena with USC and other events, and thus built his own facility for his teams.

The Lakers enjoyed their glory days in the Forum. Led by Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West, Los Angeles won 33 consecutive games during the 1971-72 season en route to the franchise’s first championship in California. The Lakers won five titles when they were in Minneapolis, led by George Mikan, but had come up short time and again in L.A., losing in the championship series five times between 1962 and 1970.

Cooke traded for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975, and in 1979, drafted Earvin “Magic” Johnson out of Michigan State, and Showtime was born. The Lakers won titles in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988, abut more importantly, the Forum was the place to see and be seen. Jack Nicholson, Dyan Cannon and numerous other stars were regulars at Laker games.

The Kings were an afterthought during their first 20 seasons. They were mostly terrible, more often than not residing at or near the bottom of the NHL standings. Los Angeles often had to struggle to reach the playoffs, and that took some serious doing during the 1980s, when the Kings routinely battled with two other bottom feeders, the Winnipeg Jets (the team which is now the Arizona Coyotes) and the Vancouver Canucks, for to playoff spots.

Hockey became cool all of a sudden on August 9, 1988.

That Tuesday afternoon, just a few hours before the Cubs played their first official night game at Wrigley Field vs. the Mets, Wayne Gretzky was traded by the Edmonton Oilers, who won four Stanley Cups in five seasons with The Great One leading the way, to the Kings.

All of a sudden, the Kings were no longer the poor stepchild of Inglewood. Although the Kings never won the Cup with Gretzky–they lost in the ’93 finals to Montreal–the Kings’ success allowed the NHL to (regrettably, in my opinion) expand further into California and other southern locations.

When the Lakers and Kings left Inglewood, nobody could have dreamed the town would ever host a professional sports franchise again. Yet come 2019, the Rams will call Inglewood home.

The sad thing in all this is the Rams should have never left in the first place. I’ll get into that in this blog very shortly.

 

 

Sports mania Monday

I have not left my house today. However, that’s not to say it has been boring.

Far from it.

There has been so much going on in the world of sports, more than usually happens on a Monday, especially during the summer. It’s expected in the fall, since there’s a Monday Night Football game, the highlights of Sunday’s NFL games run non-stop on ESPN and NFL Network, and many college coaches hold their weekly press conferences on Monday, including LSU’s Les Miles.

Bud Black became the third National League manager to lose his jpob when he was axed by the San Diego Padres at 2 p.m. (noon in San Diego). The Padres were expected to contend in the NL West despite the presence of the World Series champion Giants and the Dodgers having the game’s best pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, plus a star-studded lineup, but the Swinging Friars are one game below .500, and the only reason they’re in third place is because the Diamondbacks and Rockies are pathetic, although not as poor as the Phillies and Brewers.

Milwaukee was the first team to fire its manager this season when it sacked Ron Roenicke May 3. The Brewers were 7-25 at the time, and they are still struggling at 24-41 following tonight’s loss to the Royals.

Two weeks following Roenicke’s dismissal, the Marlins canned Mike Redmond only minutes after Miami came within one out of being no-hit by Atlanta’s Shelby Miller at Marlins Park. The Marlins were expected to give the Nationals a run for their money in the NL East this year, but right now, the only thing keeping the fish out of the cellar are the woeful Phillies.

Not long after Black lost his job, Vanderbilt completed a stunning comeback in the College World Series, scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth to down Cal State Fullerton 4-3.

The game game began last night, and the Comoodores had no answer whatsoever for Titan ace pitcher Thomas Eshelman. Fullerton went ahead 3-0 in the fifth, but in the bottom of the sixth, the heavens over Omaha opened up and rained down hard enough that Noah would have needed his ark. The NCAA declared the field unplayable and ordered the game suspended until 11 a.m. today.

Only the game didn’t start at 11 a.m. The NCAA was forced to backtrack when the rain kept coming, and the start time was pushed back three hours.

Reigning national champion Vanderbilt scored in the bottom of the sixth when the game resumed, but the Titan bullpen shut down the Commodores in the seventh and eighth.

Zander Wiel, who doubled home Vandy’s run in the sixth, started the ninth with a double. Two batters later, Bryan Reynolds singled him home and the ‘Dores were within one.

Vandy’s next batter was freshman Jeren Kendall, a left-handed hitter.. Fullerton had left-handed relief ace Tyler Peitzmeier on the mound. Peitzmeier came into the CWS having limited left-handed batters to a .208 batting average this season.

So what does Kendall do? He jerks a full-count fastball into the Titan bullpen in right field. Game over. Vandy into the winner’s bracket to face TCU, Fullerton to play LSU in the second loser-leaves-town matchup.

If the Bayou Bengals fail tomorrow, the SEC will be down to two, both from the East, Florida and Vandy. Arkansas lost 4-3 to Miami to bow out 0-2. Right now, Virginia and Florida are locked in a 0-0 battle in the bottom of the sixth. It’s after midnight in Charlottesville and Gainesville, so I wonder how many people are still watching.

The Stanley Cup will not be returning to Florida. PRAISE JESUS.

The Blackhawks wrapped it up tonight in Chicago, blanking the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0. It’s Chicago’s third Cup in six years after not winning it for 47 consecutive seasons from 1961-62 through 2008-09. The Blackhawks also clinched the Cup at home for the first time since 1938. They won it on the road in 1961, 2010 and 2013.

I’m still seething over 2004, when the Calgary Flames gagged away a 3-2 lead and lost in seven to the Lightning. Calgary lost game six at home when Martin St. Louis scored for Tampa 33 seconds into overtime, and of course, the Flames’ goose was cooked back in Florida two nights later.

Even worse than the Lightning winning it, they got to keep the Cup an extra year, thanks to the lockout which wiped out the entire 2004-05 season. And then it got stupid when the Carolina Hurricanes won the Cup in 2006 over the Edmonton Oilers. I still wonder how many people in Raleigh-Durham can name all 30 NHL teams. Probably not many.

The Women’s World Cup featured four matches from Canada today. The host nation choked away what looked like a sure victory vs. the Netherlands when the Dutch scored in the 87th minute to forge a 1-1 draw. The Netherlands are a superpower in men’s association football, but the women’s program lacks far, far behind.

That’s not uncommon for one gender to have a strong association football team and for the other to be lagging. The men are far ahead of the women in England, Italy and Spain in addition to the Netherlands, while the United States, Canada, China and Japan are the opposite.

The are only two countries where the men and women are on equally strong footing.

The most obvious is Germany. Deutschland won the Women’s World Cup in 2007, it has won the men’s Cup four times (including 2014), and I would bet my bottom dollar it will beat the United States if and when the countries meet.

The other country with futbol equality is Brazil. It lost the 2007 women’s final to Germany, and it still has one fo the strongest men’s squads, the implosion at the end of the 2014 World Cup notwithstanding.

Virginia has broken the scoreless tie with Florida in the bottom of the sixth. The Gators have not been behind very much during the NCAA tournament, but the way they’ve swung the bats, it’s next to nothing.

Have a good night and pleasant tomorrow.

All-Star absurdity

The Pro Bowl began a few minutes ago.

As bad as the NFL’s annual all-star game has been through the years, it’s now a total joke.

Instead of the traditional AFC vs. NFC format, which was used from the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 through the 2012 season, the game is now a glorified playground game, with teams chosen the same way third graders choose their teams for kickball at recess.

Two Hall of Fame players serve as team captains. The top two vote getters among offensive players and top two vote getters among defensive players are assigned to teams and advise the Hall of Famers on whom to draft.

Sadly, the NFL isn’t the first major sports league to use this format for its All-Star Game.

The NHL began it one year before the NFL. There have been several formats tried in hockey, including the defending Stanley Cup champion vs. All-Stars from the rest of the league, and a North America vs. World format. This, however, is ridiculous.

As bad as the pick-up formats used by the NFL and NHL are, at least those are pure exhibition games which count for absolutely nothing.

That’s not the case in Major League Baseball.

In 2003, then-commissioner Bud Selig overreacted to the uproar caused when the previous year’s All-Star Game, held in Selig’s hometown of Milwaukee, ended in a 7-7 tie after 12 innings when both teams ran out of players.

Beginning with the 2003 All-Star Game, Selig decreed the league which wins the exhibition contest would receive home field advantage for the World Series that season.

I’ve heard of stupid ideas, but this was beyond stupid. Bud Selig should have been put in a psychiatric hospital for that idea.

MLB rules state every team, no matter how pathetic, must have at least one All-Star. And given the bad attitude of today’s players, who sulk and bitch to everyone within earshot if they don’t get into the All-Star Game, it often puts home field advantage for the most importnat event of the season in the hands of players who have no chance of sniffing the wild card game, much less the World Series.

The NBA does not draft its All-Star Game teams, nor does it count for anything, but there’s no defense, period.

There’s got to be a better way in all four sports.

An interested observer–nothing more

I’m sorry. I cannot get caught up in Royals hysteria. I can’t do it. There’s something that isn’t letting me.

Yes, I have favorite professional sports teams, but I am not invested heavily in them. For instance, there are no pennants of my teams on the walls of my basement room, I don’t have posters, clocks, lamps or anything signifying whom I pledge my allegiance to. The only thing I’ve got is a Brewers jacket. I have Brewers hats, but I don’t wear them, simply because I can’t. My head is way, way too big to fit comfortably even in a size 8 cap. I “liked” my favorite teams on Facebook and follow them on Twitter, but you won’t find me in Buffalo Wild Wings screaming for them. And you certainly will never find me wearing a jersey. Waste of money. Big waste of money. Why do I want to spend $250-$350 on a shirt?

The Arizona Cardinals, my favorite NFL team, played in Super Bowl XLIII. i got pretty excited when Larry Fitzgerald scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, but I knew in the back of my mind the Steelers would come back, and sure enough, Ben Roethlisberger hit Santonio Holmes and assured Pittsburgh of its sixth Lombardi Trophy. It would have been nice to see the Cardinals win, but I would not have gone out and bought a bunch of Cardinals championship gear. Sure, it would have been nice to wear it for a month or two after the game, but once the next season started, what did it matter?

I’ve witnessed LSU win six baseball national championships and two ore football national titles since 1991. The most emotionally invested I was for any of those teams was the 1997 CWS title team, since I had worked all the home games and would be moving into an expanded role for 1998. I got to see LSU win the 203 football title in the Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma, but in that case, I was in the press box and could not cheer. I have not watched an LSU football game as a spectator since the Bayou Bengals lost their 1993 season finale to Arkansas during my senior year of high school. I’ve only watched LSU baseball games as a fan during the old Winn-Dixie Showdown at the Superdome in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Do I have preferences for many events? Sure. I could not stomach the Oakland Athletics of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. I was not a fan of the Cincinnati Reds when they won the 1990 World Series. And I have always been negative about the Atlanta Braves, largely because they were owned by left-wing lunatic Ted Turner, and because Turner kept forcing “America’s Team” down our throats on TBS. Unless America only consists of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and the Carolinas, then the Braves are NOT America’s Team.

I’ll freely admit I could not stand Michael Jordan. Great player? Yes. Great person? HELL NO. Turd. Jerk. Arrogant bastard. All about him. I wanted the Bulls of Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman to lose every game they played, and I was angry every time they won the NBA championship. And I do not like any NHL team in the south. I believe hockey should only be played in places where it’s cold enough to do so outside in the winter. Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, Miami, Tampa, Atlanta and Dallas don’t qualify.

Is the journalist in me preventing myself from getting caught up in the hype? Maybe so. I do not feel comfortable going to sporting events and just watching. I feel like I have to be doing something, anything, whether it’s taking pictures, taking notes, following something online, whatever. Sitting at a game with a bunch of strangers just isn’t my cup of tea, nor am I one to sit at a sports bar with a bunch of friends to watch a game. I prefer to be in my own world, watching the game the way I feel comfortable doing so, without distraction, without pressure.

I was at Buffalo Wild Wings the night of the Royals’ wild card game victory over the Athletics. I had far bigger concerns than the Royals. I did not cheer. I did not clap. In fact, I put earplugs in for most of the night. I did not go to B-Dubs during the division series because I knew hotel space would be next to impossible to find with the NASCAR race at Kansas Speedway in town that weekend.

I was at B-Dubs for game two of the ALCS, but again, no cheering. Just watching, playing trivia and checking on my computer.

I’m watching the 2014 World Series the same way I watched the 1984 Series: a guy who likes Major League Baseball. I am not rooting for the Royals or the Giants. Not my style.