Friday, December 29, 2006

Barry Larkin Signs With Giants

The San Francisco Giants made a big splash in the free-agent market yesterday with the signing of former Oakland A's left-hander Barry Zito. Today the Giants added another Barry to join Zito and Barry Bonds. San Francisco has reportedly agreed to terms with former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin.

The signing continues the club's efforts to be the best collection of Barrys in the history of major league baseball. The strategy was apparently inspired by Barry Bonds's chase for Hank Aaron's all-time home run record. On every road trip, the Giants expect to hear endless "Barry Sucks" chants. However, if the team is stocked with Barrys, opposing fans may get confused and forget which Barry they're booing. In that scenario, they would likely stop booing and put down their fake syringes as Bonds bids for history.

The strategy has made life hectic for general manager Barry Sabean, formerly known as Brian. Landing Zito was a huge coup after the loss of ace Jason Schmidt, who had refused to change his name to Barry Schmidt. The club will not go so far as to alter its nickname from the Giants to the Barrys. However, the team's new logo has been unveiled, showing a game of catch between a giant Barry Manilow and a giant Barry Gibb.

The signing of Larkin brings one of the all-time great shortstops out of retirement. The 1995 National League MVP was a 12-time All-Star who won three Gold Gloves. Larkin will turn 43 in April, so many observers felt that he was too young to play for the Giants. He will likely have to change positions, due to the presence of Barry Vizquel in San Francisco.

Official terms of the deal have not been released. Larkin last played in 2004, batting .289 with 8 home runs and 44 RBI in 111 games. Those pedestrian numbers and the layoff surely reduced what he could command in this free-agent market. Preliminary reports indicate that Larkin signed a one-year deal for $22 million.

While the Giants are thrilled with the signing, fans in Cincinnati are far more critical. Larkin has been involved with the Washington Nationals since his retirement, but his entire playing career was with the Reds. He won a World Series title with the Nasty Boys in 1990 and is a Cincinnati native. One fan summed up the city's disappointment: "Barry Larkin is as synonymous with the Cincinnati Reds as mug shots are with the Bengals."

Larkin's return will delay his Baseball Hall of Fame eligibility. Another Hall of Fame welcomed Barry Sanders last year. But as the Detroit Lions know too well, not all Barrys return.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ohio State Granted NFC Playoff Berth

With one week remaining in the NFL season, two postseason berths are still available in the AFC. However, a surprise decision from the league office means that all the NFC playoff teams have been decided. Commissioner Roger Goodell announced today that the Ohio State Buckeyes will be the sixth seed in the NFC.

In explaining the decision, the commissioner cited the unworthiness of the five 7-8 teams who had been in contention for the last NFC slot. The New York Giants were in the best position, despite losing six of their last seven contests. Three weeks ago, the Green Bay Packers were 4-8 after a 38-10 loss at home. The Atlanta Falcons have dropped four consecutive home games - the last of which snapped a four-game losing streak for the Carolina Panthers. Not to be outdone, the St. Louis Rams fell seven times in an eight-game span this season. As Goodell remarked of the 7-8 group, "That's the worst quintet since New Kids On The Block!"

The league decided to reward Ohio State for being far more consistent. Therefore, no one needs to waste time analyzing complex playoff scenarios for undeserving recipients. One NFL insider admitted, "at a certain point, I had no idea what the tie-breakers were. I just figured the team whose website got the most hits would get in."

The development means that the Buckeyes will be taken out of the BCS national championship game. Instead, a month-long debate will be settled as Michigan and Florida actually get to face each other on the field. Wisconsin will take the Wolverines' place in the Rose Bowl, preserving the traditional Big Ten-Pac 10 matchup with USC. The trickle-down effect for Big Ten bowl participants means that either the Insight Bowl or the Champs Sports Bowl will be cancelled. No one is expected to notice.

As the #6 seed, Ohio State will go on the road to take on Philadelphia or Dallas. After dealing with Eagles fans, any future trip to Ann Arbor would be considered a walk in the park. However, storylines would be particularly abundant if the Buckeyes take on the Cowboys. It would be OSU's second high-profile trip to Texas this season, and Dallas wide receiver Terry Glenn could face his old school. Also, if the Ohio State band gets to play at halftime, it would love for Terrell Owens to dot the "i" in Script Ohio. No athlete is more committed to the letter "I."

Participating in the NFL playoffs will pose huge challenges for a team accustomed to college competition. The Buckeyes will not get to play in Arizona, where it has made a habit of winning postseason games. Also, as a precaution, coach Jim Tressel plans to sit Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith at the start of the game. After watching Carson Palmer last year, Tressel became convinced that any Heisman QB making his NFL playoff debut with an Ohio team would get injured during the first series. Most fans do not expect a college team to be competitive against an NFL opponent, but a Carolina Panthers official disagrees. He remarked, "Chris Weinke lost 17 starts in a row for us. Don't you think he'd be more confident in a Florida State uniform?"

Ohio State is definitely a longshot as it enters the NFL playoffs. However, last year the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl as a #6 seed. No matter how far the Buckeyes go, they will represent something that many thought was impossible: a college football team in a playoff.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Quick Look At NFL Week 16

The Green Bay Packers opened the NFL's week 16 Thursday night with a 9-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the latest potential finale for Brett Favre. It is too soon to say how many "final games" will be played by the legendary quarterback, but he is unlikely to threaten Roger Clemens's record. Here's a quick look at the remaining 15 NFL games this week.


Kansas City Chiefs @ Oakland Raiders: The Raiders are desperate for offense as an old AFL rival comes to town. So Daryle Lamonica will start at quarterback.


Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers: In honor of the 7-7 Steelers and 6-6 Pitt Panthers, NASCAR will hold the Pittsburgh 500 at Heinz Field. Look for the Steelers to pick up speed down the stretch, and Pitt to run out of gas.

Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons: Panthers quarterback Chris Weinke has lost 17 straight starts. In the off-season, he plans to sign with the Washington Generals.

Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions: A week after squeaking by 3-11 Tampa Bay, the Bears visit the 2-12 Lions. Next week, they take on Temple.

Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans: It's no surprise that the Colts' much-maligned defense rose to the occasion against Cincinnati. Around the Bengals, you often hear, "Will the defense please rise?"

New England Patriots @ Jacksonville Jaguars: Last week, Jacksonville surrendered three defensive touchdowns against Tennessee. The Jags vow that this Sunday, their offense will tackle better.

New Orleans Saints @ New York Giants: The Giants have a losing record at home. So like last year's visit from the Saints, they're calling this one a "road game."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Cleveland Browns: The Bucs hope for a rare cold-weather victory as, oh, you don't care...

Tennessee Titans @ Buffalo Bills: The Titans have amazed everyone by winning five straight. Just don't use the word "Miracle" around Bills fans.

Washington Redskins @ St. Louis Rams: If Washington University is in St. Louis, why isn't St. Louis University in Washington?

Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers: In high school, Niners QB Alex Smith handed off to Bush (Reggie). Now he does the same to Gore (Frank). Staying with the 2000 election theme, we'll have to wait a month to find out who wins this game.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Denver Broncos: Chad Johnson got to town early to practice his snow angels. Meanwhile, Isiah Thomas has already accused Denver of running up the score.

San Diego Chargers @ Seattle Seahawks: Expect the Chargers' team plane to make multiple landings in Seattle. With LT on board, you can't have just one touchdown.


Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys: Having lost in the Superdome and the RCA Dome, the Eagles are thankful for the hole in the Texas Stadium roof. Like the Sixers and Flyers, they can't win indoors.

New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins: In last week's victory over Minnesota, Jets QB Chad Pennington passed for a career-high 339 yards. He credited an inspiring pep talk from his old Marshall coach, Matthew McConaughey.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rocky Balboa & Allen Iverson: A Comparison

A Philadelphia icon returned to action today, as Rocky Balboa opened in theatres across America. Rocky's reappearance came one day after another sports legend, Allen Iverson, said goodbye to the City of Brotherly Love. One is known as AI, while the other had the Eye of the Tiger. Here's a comparison of The Italian Stallion and The Answer.

Rocky: Was focused in the ring with Apollo.
Iverson: Will focus on a ring with Carmelo.

Rocky: Trainer Mickey died of a heart attack.
Iverson: Gives his coaches heart attacks.

Rocky: Took hundreds of shots in a fight.
Iverson: Takes hundreds of shots in a game.

Rocky: Was mates for life with Adrian.
Iverson: Was teammates for 27 games with Adrian Caldwell.

Rocky: Had Cold War battle with Ivan Drago.
Iverson: Had Cold War battle with Larry Brown.

Rocky: For a while, his statue was outside the 76ers' home arena.
Iverson: After December 8, he stayed outside the 76ers' home arena.

Rocky: Immortalized while jumping atop the Art Museum steps.
Iverson: Immortalized while yelling, "We talkin' bout practice!"

Rocky: Fought in six movies, although everyone forgets about Rocky V.
Iverson: Played for six Philly coaches, although everyone forgets about Randy Ayers.

Rocky: Trained by chasing a chicken.
Iverson: Has played with lots of turkeys.

Rocky: Had a great moment, proposing to Adrian in the snow.
Iverson: Had lots of great moments with Eric Snow.

Rocky: Has occasional squabbles with Paulie.
Iverson: Has occasional battles with Paul Pierce and Chris Paul.

Rocky: Likes to punch ribs.
Iverson: New teammates like to punch Knicks.

Rocky: Trained Tommy Gunn.
Iverson: Played with Kenny Thomas, and likes guns.

Rocky: Focus of an Oscar-winning movie.
Iverson: Won MVP, like Oscar Robertson.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas Characters' Sports Counterparts

Athletes have often been compared to Christmas figures, even going back to the story of the Nativity. Mark Messier was The Messiah, and A.C. Green was the Virgin. There have been plenty of wise men – just none affiliated with the Arizona Cardinals.

Today’s athletes also relate to the secular Christmas icons. I made a list and checked it twice. Grab some egg nog and read on…

Santa Claus: Greg Oden. He’s a big man who wears a red uniform and came onto the scene in December.

Rudolph: Kobe Bryant. People say he doesn’t fit in with the others. But he can really light it up.

Dasher: Devin Hester

Dancer: Chad Johnson

Prancer: Terrell Owens

Vixen: Maria Sharapova

Comet: Sheryl Swoopes. Of the Houston Comets.

Cupid: Davis Love III

Donner: Pat Riley. Like Richard Donner, Riley directs Superman – when he’s healthy.

Blitzen: Shawne Merriman

The Grinch: Kenny Rogers. He was a mean one, but in October his heart grew three sizes.

Ebeneezer Scrooge: Alex Rodriguez. He’s rich as can be, no one seems to love him, and he’s haunted by ghosts from the past.

Tiny Tim: Tim Dwight

George Bailey: Vladimir Guerrero. He helps a guardian Angel (Mike Scioscia) achieve his goals.

Frosty: Allen Iverson. His relationship with the 76ers.

Notice that college football was not featured above. Because it can’t truly be “the most wonderful time of the year” until we get rid of the BCS.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Anaheim Ducks: A Mighty Paradox

For the first 13 years of its mostly forgettable existence, Orange County’s National Hockey League franchise was known as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. In June, the team formally simplified its name to the Anaheim Ducks. So far this season, the Ducks have dominated the NHL, with just three regulation losses in their first 34 games. The development has brought up an interesting paradox. Once they stopped being called Mighty, the Ducks actually became mighty.

The Ducks continued their stellar play Wednesday night with a 2-1 road victory over the Atlanta Thrashers. Star forward Teemu Seelane scored both goals, and goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere won his ninth straight start. Anaheim’s 12-1-2 away record is the best after 15 games in NHL history. The 1951-52 Detroit Red Wings had set the previous mark – after changing their name from the Potent Red Wings.

This excellence was rarely seen when the team was known as the Mighty Ducks. The franchise only made the post-season 4 times in 13 seasons with that name, highlighted by a 2003 run to the Stanley Cup finals led by Giguere. The nickname was so misleading, the Anaheim broadcasters reportedly used quote signs whenever saying the word “Mighty.” The name, of course, came from a 1992 movie from Disney, which owned the team until 2005. No professional sports franchise has ever been successful when named after an Emilio Estevez film. The NBA still has nightmares over the disastrous Cincinnati Breakfast Clubs.

With Disney no longer in the picture, management determined that the “Mighty” part of the name was no longer necessary. Like the University of Oregon, Anaheim was happy to just be the Ducks. The revision also helped the team’s public image. Not only did “Mighty Ducks” bring snickers from sports fans, but it was also a reminder of the AFLAC duck’s notorious steroids scandal.

Good things happened almost immediately after the name change, as star defenseman Chris Pronger was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers less than two weeks later. The spirit of change also extended to the team’s home arena, as the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim was renamed the Honda Center. Surprisingly, the switch had nothing to do with corporate sponsors. It was made because most actual ducks like to drive Civics.

After observing Anaheim’s great play on the ice, others are considering dropping “Mighty” from their names. Producers of one 1998 box office disappointment feel that they can earn big bucks by re-releasing it as simply Joe Young. Also, Mira Sorvino is confident that changing Mighty Aphrodite to just Aphrodite could elevate her Oscar-winning performance from Best Supporting Actress to Best Actress. The rights to any lost “Mighty” names will reportedly be assumed by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, who plan to reunite as the Mighty Mighty Mighty Mighty Mighty Mighty Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

The Ducks look to continue their hot streak this Saturday against the Sharks in San Jose. By demonstrating their mightiness after dropping “Mighty” from their name, the Ducks have shown that actions speak louder than words. Or if you prefer, slapshots speak louder than quacks.

Monday, December 11, 2006

An "LT" Tribute To LaDainian Tomlinson's Record

Sunday in San Diego, Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson broke the NFL single-season record for touchdowns in a 48-20 victory over the Denver Broncos. His third score of the contest gave him 29 on the season with three games remaining. Like Lawrence Taylor, Tomlinson is an LT who will wind up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. To pay tribute to Tomlinson’s record, here is how some other LT’s relate to the San Diego Super Charger.

Lofa Tatupu: The Seattle Seahawks linebacker is a teammate of the previous record-holder, Shaun Alexander - a reminder that the best hope to contain LT is to put him on the cover of Madden NFL 08.

Lee Trevino: The golfing great won six major championships during his career. LT can relate to an athlete who knows how to get six.

Lubbock, Texas: Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight will also break a record soon. After he screams at the record and throws it across the court.

Liv Tyler: She appeared in the Lord of the Rings films. LT wants a ring of his own, and he’s much better in the open field than Frodo.

Louisiana Tech: The school’s Karl Malone was like LT as a high-scoring future Hall of Famer. However, a SportsCenter commercial showed that LT cannot be a Mailman.

Lawrence Tureaud: That’s the birth name of Mr. T, who pities the fool who tries to tackle LT.

Lincoln Tunnel: The tunnel goes under the Hudson River. LT lines up behind Philip Rivers.

Lucy’s Trickery: Unlike Charlie Brown, LT can score because Lucy doesn’t keep the ball away from him.

LSU Tigers: They ended last season with a bowl victory over Miami. LT hopes to end this season with a Bowl victory IN Miami.

Lakers-Toronto: Like LT, Kobe Bryant put up ridiculous numbers when these teams met in January. Even LT can’t score 81 points in a game – well, maybe against the Raiders.

Leaning Tower: When trying to tackle LT, defenders are as off-balance as the Pisa landmark.

Liz Taylor: With 29 touchdowns, LT has equaled Taylor’s number of husbands.

Lake Tahoe: The ski resorts will be busy in early February, as LT hopes to be.

Love Train: The party song plays as the Coors Light Silver Bullet Train brings freezing conditions. This might be the only way to cool off LT.

Lawrence Tynes: The Kansas City Chiefs kicker gave LT his last loss with a 53-yard field goal with six seconds remaining on October 22. Next Sunday, LT can give KC’s playoff hopes the boot.

Leo Tolstoy: LT is a rusher who easily goes over 1000 yards. Tolstoy was a Russian who easily went over 1000 pages.

Left Tackle: That’s the position of San Diego rookie starter Marcus McNeill. His team is 11-2, and he blocks for a guy who spends most of the game in the end zone. I think Marcus likes the NFL.

Lap-Top: Computers are influenced by Bill Gates, while LT is helped by Antonio Gates. In either setting, you’ll have crashes.

Looney Tunes: Defenders have the same success in trapping LT as Wile E. Coyote does with the Road Runner.

Lily Tomlin: On The West Wing, she worked with Martin Sheen, who received six Emmy nominations as President Bartlet but never won the award. LT also works with a Marty who finds trophies to be elusive.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

NBA's Atlantic Division To Merge With Big East Conference

In the early stages of the NBA season, the Atlantic Division has been notable for the abysmal performance of all its members. As a result, league officials have decided that it would be inappropriate for Atlantic teams to continue playing against NBA competition. Instead, these teams will test themselves against other opponents in the northeast. Commissioner David Stern announced that the Atlantic Division has merged with the Big East Conference.

The announcement gives hope to these franchises that they can once again be competitive on the basketball court. The collegiate ranks, even with the presence of the second-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers, should provide more opportunities for victories. The rest of the NBA has not been kind to the Atlantic Division, with the New Jersey Nets holding first place at 7-12. Only three teams outside the division have a worse record, and Atlantic teams have gone 7-29 against the Western Conference. Since the start of the NBA season, only Michael Richards and the Republican Party have fared worse.

Despite the teams’ struggles, Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese is delighted to welcome five new members to the league. Recent conference realignment caused the Big East to lose three schools to the ACC while picking up five from Conference USA. When the dust settled, the Big East was left with a mere 16 members. Tranghese found that shortage unacceptable, lamenting, “That’s small enough that most of our schools actually play each other. I mean, how can we honestly have ‘Big’ in our name if everyone is in the same country?”

Now with 21 members, including the Toronto Raptors from Canada, Tranghese’s concerns have been addressed. Immediately, some classic backyard rivalries will be ignited. The Nets will battle for Garden State supremacy with Seton Hall and Rutgers. The 76ers will square off with Villanova for bragging rights in Philadelphia. And St. John’s and the New York Knicks will get it on in Madison Square Garden. Red Storm sophomore Anthony Mason, Jr. will provide Knicks fans with a reminder of better days, when his father’s teams were a fixture in the postseason. Things could be even better this time, as neither Michael Jordan nor Reggie Miller is expected to be in the building.

Storylines will be particularly abundant for the Boston Celtics. A showdown versus Louisville will bring a grudge match with former Celtics coach Rick Pitino, and current Boston coach Doc Rivers will get to take on his old school, Marquette. Games with Notre Dame will determine who has the toughest leprechaun in all of sports. However, the presence of Sebastian Telfair, Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, and Kendrick Perkins on the Celtics’ roster does provide reason for concern. The team might not have enough college experience to compete in the Big East.

Other subplots are sure to provide intrigue. When New York’s Quentin Richardson and Philadelphia’s Steven Hunter competed for DePaul, the Blue Demons were still in Conference USA. They won’t have to miss out on the Big East experience any longer. A New Jersey – Connecticut matchup will enable former Huskies Marcus Williams, Clifford Robinson, and Josh Boone to take on their old school. And at least for the time being, Allen Iverson is in the same conference as the Georgetown Hoyas. His old school could even be a plausible trade destination, as The Answer only seems to be able to coexist with coaches named John Thompson.

The recent expansion could make the Big East Conference tournament particularly interesting. Nine teams will be excluded from the 12-team field. If the Knicks make it that far, they’ll be very unlikely to win the title. The Big East champion must be able to win repeatedly in Madison Square Garden.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Crash Davis For Being Stuck In The Minor Leagues

ESPN Classic viewers enjoy regular installments of the Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame… series, hosted by Brian Kenny. As noted in two of my previous columns, the series is overly focused on real-life sports figures such as Bill Buckner and Chris Webber. To address this issue, I expanded the approach to take a deeper look at the perceived athletic shortcomings of fictional characters. Previously I chronicled the top 5 reasons you can’t blame Apollo Creed for losing to Rocky Balboa and the top 5 reasons you can’t blame Charlie Brown for his sports futility.

Today I will turn my focus to Crash Davis. Featured in the 1988 film Bull Durham, Davis was a highly respected veteran catcher. However, all his years in the minor leagues only led to one 21-day stint with a major league ballclub. Ever since those three weeks of glory, Crash continued to bounce around the bus circuit with the desperate hope of returning to The Show. However, those major league dreams never again materialized.

A closer examination reveals that numerous factors beyond his control kept Davis out of the big leagues. I may not change your mind about Crash’s role in his fate, but at least I hope to provide material to make you think – without hurting the ballclub. Before I get to the top five reasons you can’t blame Crash Davis for being stuck in the minor leagues, here are reasons that did not make the list – the “Best of the Rest”:

Ron Shelton: The Bull Durham writer/director based the film on his experiences as a minor league ballplayer. If Bill Mazeroski had written and directed the movie, Crash Davis would have won the World Series with a home run.

Playing Too Early: Crash was named Best Picture at last year’s Academy Awards ceremony. Crash was also a hit 1996 album for the Dave Matthews Band. However, in the 80s it was not yet trendy for a Crash to be rewarded.

Home Run Chase: Before retiring, Davis broke the all-time minor league home run record. During home run record pursuits in the major leagues, Roger Maris had his hair fall out from stress, Hank Aaron was bombarded with racist letters, and Barry Bonds is being dogged by steroid allegations. But Crash got his record in the minors, so no one bothered him at all.

And now, here are the top five reasons you can’t blame Crash Davis for being stuck in the minor leagues.

Reason #5: Davises. Crash was the victim of a numbers game by playing during the 1980s. In that decade, numerous prominent players named Davis entered the major leagues. The list included Alvin, Chili, Eric, Glenn, Jody, Mark, Mike, and Storm Davis. The major leagues simply would not allow another Davis to enter their ranks. As a result, not only was Crash Davis kept out of the big leagues, but so were Geena, Bette, and Ann B. Davis.

Reason #4: For Love of the Game. Baseball has been a common theme in Kevin Costner’s movies, having portrayed a fan in Field of Dreams and a retired ballplayer in The Upside of Anger. For Love of the Game, in which he played a Detroit Tiger pitcher, was the one film besides Bull Durham in which Costner portrayed an active player. The results were utterly forgettable, proving that Costner characters are much more compelling when in the minors.

Reason #3: Durham. Playing in Durham does not bode well for success at the highest level. The Bulls were a Single A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves when the Braves were annually awful. After Atlanta became consistently good, the Bulls switched over to be the AAA affiliate for the inept Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Also, the Duke basketball program has only produced one player who went on to win an NBA championship. And some members of the 2003 San Antonio Spurs still do not believe that Danny Ferry was on their roster.

Reason #2: Annie Savoy. Crash pointed out to his Bulls teammates that in The Show, “the women all have long legs and brains.” However, it was in Durham that he found a beautiful, horny woman who understood the intricacies of baseball. Sure, she was a bit nuts when she talked about things like breathing through your eyelids. But any guy will put up with some “crazy” to land a hot chick who can explain the infield fly rule.

Still not convinced? C’mon Meat, there’s just one reason left.

Reason #1: Big League Front Offices. Crash Davis was a switch-hitting catcher with frequent home run power who handled pitchers well and helped the wildly undisciplined Nuke LaLoosh take full advantage of his talent. You would think that general managers would regard such a prospect as Jesus with a mitt. So it boggles the mind that they didn’t have a spot for him on a major league roster. Reportedly, many GMs were scared off by the instances when Crash helped opposing batters to homer after telling them what pitch was coming. The front offices were apparently fearful that Davis would make a habit out of this activity while placing bets on the opposing team. Also, in terms of the homework they did on prospects, many of those GMs were just lollygaggers.

So there you have it. Maybe I’ve changed your mind about Crash Davis, and maybe I haven’t. But I hope I’ve at least given you some new perspectives to consider. In the meantime, I’m just happy to be here - hope I can help the ballclub.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ohio State vs. Florida: An Early Breakdown

Two weeks after Ohio State ended a perfect regular season, speculation was rampant over who would take on the Buckeyes in the BCS national championship game. Michigan will not get a second chance at its arch-rivals, as the Wolverines were edged by Florida in the final BCS standings. How do the Gators match up with Ohio State? Here is an early analysis.

Nicknames: Gators are lethal animals with a fearsome bite. The Buckeye is the state tree of Ohio, and no one is scared of being eaten by a tree. Unless you’re Charlie Brown’s kite. Advantage: Florida

Legendary Coaches: A high level of excitement can result in a Woody. But guys never talk about getting a Spurrier. Advantage: Ohio State

Current Coaches: Florida’s Urban Meyer earned a master’s degree from Ohio State and was a graduate assistant there. So he has inside information on his opponent, unlike OSU’s Jim Tressel, whose failure to infiltrate the University of Florida shows a lack of preparation. Advantage: Florida

Cities: Gainesville was named after General Edmund P. Gaines, commander of U.S. Army troops in Florida during the Second Seminole War. So both Columbus and Gainesville were named for men with a habit of slaughtering Native Americans. But government offices don’t close for Gaines Day. Advantage: Ohio State

Leading Rushers: DeShawn Wynn leads the Gators, while Antonio Pittman carries the load for the Buckeyes. “Wynn” reminds you of victory, but “Pitt Man” makes you think of a mediocre Big East team. Advantage: Florida

Quarterback Names: After Ohio State’s Troy Smith wins the Heisman Trophy, Troy University and the Men of Troy will participate in bowl games. No bowl invitations went out to Chris Tech or Leak A&M. Advantage: Ohio State

ESPN Football Personalities: OSU’s Kirk Herbstreit is a fixture on the College GameDay crew, while UF’s Erin Andrews reports from the sidelines. Hint on this one: I’m a dude. Advantage: Florida

Jesses: While winning four gold medals in front of Hitler, Ohio State’s Jesse Owens inspired freedom-loving sports fans. As The Bachelor, Florida’s Jesse Palmer inspired reality-TV junkies. Advantage: Ohio State

Griffins: The Gators’ home field is named for benefactor Ben Hill Griffin. But OSU’s Archie Griffin could have asked him, “Hey rich guy, did all that cash get you two Heismans? Didn’t think so!” Advantage: Ohio State

Late-Night Political Satire: The Daily Show shot its “Midwest Midterm Midtacular” on the Ohio State campus, but that was only for four days. Florida’s Darrell Hammond has done his impressions on Saturday Night Live for much longer. I think he joined the show with Joe Piscopo. Advantage: Florida

2006 Championships: The Buckeyes won Big Ten titles in numerous sports this year. However, the Gators took the national championship in basketball, David Eckstein was the World Series MVP, and Emmitt Smith reigned supreme on Dancing With the Stars. Advantage: Florida

Golden Effect: Florida routed the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles, while Ohio State did the same to the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Florida may be home to The Golden Girls, but OSU’s Jack Nicklaus is the Golden Bear. Advantage: Ohio State

Weekend Campus Debuts: On Saturday, Greg Oden made his initial appearance as a Buckeye in a 78-58 victory over Valparaiso. Whatever firsts took place in Gainesville this weekend, I’m sure none of them involved the top pick in the next NBA draft. Advantage: Ohio State

Award-Winning Actresses: OSU’s Patricia Heaton won two Emmys for Everybody Loves Raymond, but Florida’s Faye Dunaway trumps her with an Oscar for Network. And in Mommie Dearest, she was much scarier than the vaunted Buckeye defense. Advantage: Florida

Inventions: Florida professor Robert Cade invented Gatorade. Roy Plunkett invented Teflon after getting a Ph.D. from Ohio State. Winners don’t get Teflon dumped on their head. Advantage: Florida

The Apprentice: Florida grad Kendra Todd won season 3 of Donald Trump’s competition. However, being an apprentice means that you’re not the top dog. Advantage: Ohio State

2003 Fiesta Bowl: The last time the BCS national championship game was played in Arizona, Ohio State defeated a team from Florida with a second-year coach. Gator fans, watch out for those pass interference flags. Advantage: Ohio State

Tallying up the results, it’s Ohio State 9, Florida 8. Assuming that will be the final score, you can expect a late Buckeye field goal to overcome an 8-6 deficit and bring home the championship.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

USC Bans Use of "Rose" For Rest of 2006

Site of many past triumphs for the program, the Rose Bowl has been a house of horrors for USC football in 2006. In both January and December, the Trojans’ national championship dreams were dashed in the historic Pasadena stadium. Therefore, coach Pete Carroll has determined that the word “Rose” will bring nothing but doom for his team in 2006. As a result, Carroll has banned the word from his program for the remainder of the year.

In January, Vince Young broke the hearts of USC fans in leading Texas to a 41-38 Rose Bowl victory. While the Trojans were devastated after the game, they knew that they had fallen to a great team led by a phenomenal performer. However, yesterday’s 13-9 defeat came to a UCLA Bruins squad that entered at 6-5 on the season, with seven consecutive losses in the cross-town rivalry. Since rational explanations for the shocker were scarce, many in the USC camp searched for answers outside the norm. Pregnancies are not abnormally high in Pasadena this year, so the city cannot be blamed for making Trojans ineffective. The Rose Bowl lingered as the obvious culprit. Taking no chances, Carroll decided to remove “Rose” from his players’ vocabulary through the end of December.

The USC coaching staff is confident that the Rose hex is only in effect for 2006, so the ban will be lifted on January 1. The Trojans will be back to play in the Rose Bowl that day. It remains to be seen how Carroll will keep his players from hearing “Rose” in the pre-game buildup before New Year’s Day. Internally, the team is referring to the contest as The 110 Freeway Bowl. During December, players will be forbidden from appearing on The Best Damn Sports Show Period, hosted by Chris Rose.

The coaching staff has also placed restrictions on the team’s on-campus life. Players are not allowed to listen to music by Guns ‘N Roses for the rest of the month. They are also forbidden to enter USC film school buildings during that time. They could possibly overhear discussions of Woody Allen that mention Broadway Danny Rose or The Purple Rose of Cairo. A reference to Titanic would inevitably include Kate Winslet’s character of Rose. Also, an evaluation of the impact of Citizen Kane would be all about Rosebud.

This policy will also impact basketball fans on the team. The Trojans cannot watch the Phoenix Suns in December due to the presence of Jalen Rose. On the bright side, Malik Rose will keep them from seeing the New York Knicks. The coaching staff was also concerned after learning that the USC basketball team has a walk-on guard named Chris Penrose. However, they decided that like all USC students, the football players will just naturally avoid seeing the basketball team play.

As the players unwind after practice, their television viewing habits will need to adhere to the policy. They can watch reruns of Charmed, but only the episodes before Shannen Doherty was replaced by Rose McGowan. The Golden Girls is strictly forbidden due to Betty White’s character of Rose – no small matter given the show’s popularity with college-aged males. The Trojan players have all been encouraged to watch DVDs they have been given about the Baseball Hall of Fame – a fitting subject for anyone observing a ban on “Rose.”

Yesterday, the Bruins drove a stake through the heart of USC’s national championship hopes. The Trojans suffer like vampires in another respect. Vampires are extremely resistant to garlic, whose common nickname is The Stinking Rose.