Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I'm Hyped To Be A Part Of This Book! is a site where sports bloggers can post their articles for other bloggers to see.  Other bloggers can read the articles and "hype" them if they like them.  Hyping a blog post is similar to liking something on Facebook.

Recently, they came out with their "Best Sports Blogs of 2012" and guess who made the list...Yours Truly!!  I was very honored to be included in this compilation with a lot of other talented writers.  The book is free to view.  All you need to do is click on the link here.  I am on page 40.  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sports Blog Nation...A Place To Go For All Of Your Fashion Advice

 The Broncos of Western Michigan University will not only be debuting a new coach this upcoming football season, but new helmets as well.

The updated look will have a new Bronco design on one side of the helmet, and the players jersey number on the other side.

Personally, I like the new helmets.  They are a great way to help ring in the new era of Bronco football with coach PJ Fleck.  It is a fresh updated look for Western Michigan University and it's football program.

Unfortunately, I am in the minority with my opinion.  A poll on showed that out of 427 votes, 50.35% of them (215 votes) did not like the new helmets.  A writer for Sports Blog Nation,  which is one of the biggest sports blogging websites in the country, proclaimed that it looked like "WMU spray painted the Boise State helmets and unveiled it as a new design".  This same person said that "Nike must have made a ton of Bronco helmet stickers and found a willing buyer for its surplus of inventory".

I have no issues with the poll from (I voted that I liked the new helmets by the way).  My question is when did Sports Blog Nation become an authority on fashion trends?  This shouldn't even be a story in my opinion.  Honestly, the Broncos don't even look that much alike.  They're both broncos, they both have manes, and they are both looking in the same direction.  That's about it...

Perhaps next this writer can comment on what Beyonce is wearing at the Super Bowl next week...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Robinson Hoping to Catch Passes and the Attention of NFL Scouts at Senior Bowl

Former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is hard at work.  Since finishing his career at the University of Michigan, he has been busy working out and preparing himself for the next step in his life…playing in the NFL. 
Robinson has been working out in Mobile, Alabama getting himself ready for the Senior Bowl this coming Saturday.  There will be many NFL scouts and coaches watching the game and taking careful notes on how these potential prospects perform.  Robinson will be playing wide receiver in the game and hopes to show potential NFL suitors what he can offer them by playing that position.    
I've watched Robinson play on Saturdays for the past four years and have written many times on this blog about how badly I wanted Robinson’s tenure at Michigan to be over because I didn't like him as a quarterback.  He is a phenomenal athlete and no doubt has the skill set to play in the NFL…it’s just a matter of finding the right team / system to put him in. 
If I were a General Manager (and after all of the NFL drafts that I have watched on television, I should be), I would be wary of spending a draft pick on Robinson.  Yes, he has astonishing athletic prowess, but he has shown to be fragile as well.  He endured a lot of hits the past couple of years due to the amount of times he ran the football.  Once he came back off of his most recent injury (elbow), he did play some wide receiver and running back for Michigan and did quite well in my opinion.
Unfortunately, my opinion doesn't matter to the NFL.  The NFL might not even think that Robinson is worthy of spending a draft pick on.  There have been more successful college quarterbacks in the past that did not get drafted at all.  Take Charlie Ward for instance.  Ward played for Florida State from 1990 – 1994.  He won the Heisman Trophy in 1993 (Florida State won the National Championship that season).  I would go so far as to say that Ward was an even better athlete than Robinson as well.  In addition to playing football for the Seminoles, he also played for their basketball team (he was a 1st round draft pick of the New York Knicks).  He never played baseball at FSU, but was still drafted as a pitcher by the Milwaukee Brewers (1993) and then the New York Yankees (1994).
Still not convinced that Ward was a better athlete than Robinson is?  Let’s look at the tale of the tape from their senior seasons in college…
Denard Robinson                                                                                          Charlie Ward                     
6’0                                                                          Height                                       6’2                           
190 lb                                                                     Weight                                      197 lb                       
4.32  seconds                                                  40 yard dash time                            4.12 seconds

With all of that being said, if you look throughout the entire 1994 NFL draft list, Charlie Ward’s name will not come up.  Not one team took a chance on him.  Granted, he did state publicly that he would consider playing professional basketball if he wasn't drafted in the 1st round.  But that shouldn't ave been cause for him to be completely shut out of the NFL draft.  There are many people who get drafted each year that don’t even make the team.  If I were a General Manager, I would have gladly spent a later round (8 – 10) draft pick on him. 

The point that I’m making is that nothing is guaranteed.  Sure, Denard Robinson was the most exciting player in college football the past couple of years and we were lucky here in Michigan to be able to watch him on Saturday’s.  But he’s got a lot of work to do if he wants to make it to the next level…and a lot of luck to wish for.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

No Lions, No Problem! My Advice on How to Choose What Team to Cheer For.

Future Baltimore Ravens Head Coach, John Harbaugh

The field has now been set for the biggest game of the year.  February 3rd will pit the San Francisco 49’ers against the Baltimore Ravens in a game to decide the Super Bowl Championship.  It should be an exciting match-up with plenty of story lines (Harbaugh vs Harbaugh, the last ride of Ray Lewis, 49’ers return to the Super Bowl for first time in 19 years, etc.).  Both teams are playing very well right now as evident by their come from behind wins in each of their respective conferences. 
Jim Harbaugh...Michigan Wolverine
The only question now is who do you cheer for?  If we lived in Baltimore or San Francisco it would be an easy answer.  We live in Michigan though.  A lot of times our sports teams have long been eliminated by the time a championship is being decided.  This is the Super Bowl though; we want to be able to cheer for a particular team.  Every good story needs a protagonist and an antagonist, and sporting events are no different. 

The process by which we determine what team will receive our loyalty for the day is different for many people.  Some decide what team they want to root for by the colors of the uniforms.  Others will choose allegiances based upon if they've visited the city before or not. 
In situations like these, I do some research and find out which teams have the most connections to our state.  This can make that team feel more like your home team. 
With that being said, let’s take a look at the teams and what connections they have to Michigan.
Joe Staley as a Rockford Ram
Baltimore Ravens
·         Head Coach John Harbaugh
o   Harbaugh started his coaching career at Western Michigan University (1984 – 1987) working for his father (Jack Harbaugh).  He earned his master’s degree from WMU while he was coaching. 
·         Running Backs coach Wilbert Montgomery
o   Wilbert played for the Detroit Lions during the 1985 season.  He also coached the Lions running backs during the 2006 – 2007 seasons.
·         Assistant Equipment Manager Kenico Hines
o   Kenico was the Equipment Manager for Western Michigan University from 2004 – 2011.
San Francisco 49’ers
·         Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
o   Harbaugh played at the University of Michigan from 1983 – 1986 and signed with the Detroit Lions before the 2001 season (he was cut before the regular season began)
·         Offensive Tackle Joe Staley
o   Attended Rockford High School (2000 – 2003) and Central Michigan University (2004 – 2007)
·         Wide Receiver Mario Manningham
o   Attended University of Michigan (2005 – 2007)

While some connections are strong (Staley, Hines), others are shaky (Manningham, Montgomery).  With that being said, I have to say that I will be pulling for the Ravens on Super Bowl Sunday.  Baltimore’s John Harbaugh is a WMU alumnus and the assistant equipment manager is also from WMU.  Then add former Detroit Lion player and coach Wilbert Montgomery into the mix and it produces a stronger Michigan connection than what San Francisco has in my opinion.

That is my process for picking a team to root for.  Knowing more about the teams adds to the pleasure of watching the games for me.  It’s certainly better than picking a team just because I like the colors of their jersey…purple and black does go together well though.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

Te'o Hoax Reaching the Minor Leagues

What do you mean she's not real?

The Florence Freedom (independent baseball team in the Frontier League) made headlines recently when they came up with a promotion for their upcoming baseball season involving the recent Manti Te’o imaginary girlfriend scandal. 
Who are the Florence Freedom?   You say that you’ve never heard of them?  Neither have millions of other people.  That may all change though after today.  Whether it’s for the better or not is still up in the air. 
May 23rd will be “Manti Te’o Girlfriend Bobblehead Night” in Florence.  The first 1000 fans will receive a boxed bobblehead that bears his girlfriend’s likeness.  Wait…wasn’t his girlfriend a hoax?  Yes it was; it was all a hoax.  The box that will be handed out to the first 1000 fans will be empty.  That’s the joke…the bobblehead is imaginary.
"This will be the best kind of bobblehead a fan could get," Freedom General Manager Josh Anderson said. "Because now fans can make the bobblehead out to be whatever they want it to be."
But wait!  Empty boxes won’t be the only imaginary-theme event going on that night.  Section 115 of the ballpark will be blocked and reserved only for fans to sit with their imaginary friends, girlfriends/boyfriends, or spouses.  The Freedom will also have a pretend kiss cam going around the ballpark, an air guitar contest, and an imaginary food fight. 
I am a huge baseball fan and an even bigger fan of minor league baseball.  I love the creativity that goes into their promotions and how “fan-friendly” they are.  With that being said, I do applaud the Freedom staff for jumping on this story and making a promotion out of it.  It has definitely given them a lot of publicity. 
If it turns out Te’o did indeed know that his “girlfriend” was imaginary and still went along with the hoax in order to gain publicity for himself, then I’m all for this promotion.  He deserves to be mocked.  On the other hand, if Te’o is innocent, this promotion will be looked at as distasteful. 
Only time will tell which one it will be…

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Oh No They Didn't!

The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2013 was announced today.  It was an eagerly anticipated vote considering the fact that three players who could be considered the cover boys of the "Steroid Era" were eligible for the first time.

Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens were all eligible for the first time and, not surprisingly, none of them achieved the required 75% of the vote to gain entrance into the Hall of Fame.

The BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) not only kept them out, they kept EVERYBODY out this year.  Yes, you heard me correctly...NOBODY was elected to the Hall of Fame this year.  For only the eight time in history, not a single player received enough votes.

To be honest, we all knew that the steroid guys weren't going to get in (at least not anytime soon).  Most of the other eligible players that weren't associated with steroids probably weren't getting in either.  Guys like Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell were great players, but when I think of them I don't see Hall of Fame.  I just don't.  One guy that I do see as Hall of Fame worthy is Jack Morris.  Morris only received 67.7% of the vote (he needed to have at least 75%.

The fact that  Morris isn't in the Hall of Fame is mind boggling.  I've already stated my case in a previous post about Morris's candidacy.  This time, I'll let Jack Morris himself do the talking...

Jack Morris on why he thinks he belongs in the Hall of Fame - "I don't know how to defend this. I really hate to have to do this. There is a growing trend of guys who are caught up into this numbers deal: WHIP and RIP and ZIP. I don't know what it all means. I know this: I threw more pitches, got more people out, had more complete games, did all the things starting pitchers are supposed to have done, than anybody in my time. I don't know what else to say.  I can honestly say I will go to my grave saying, "I can play at the level of anybody who played the game."

I couldn't have said it better myself...JACK MORRIS FOR HALL OF FAME INDUCTION IN 2014!!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

NHL Ready to Drop the Puck, But Did They Drop the Ball with their Fans?

After 113 agonizing days of waiting, the NHL and the players association reached a tentative agreement on a new 10 year labor deal and avoiding what could have been the second cancelled season in less than 10 years.

"We've got to dot a lot of Is and cross a lot of Ts," Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "There's still a lot of work to be done, but the basic details of the agreement have been agreed upon."

The end of the lockout means that the players are happy, the owners are happy, the employees of the teams are happy...but are the fans happy?

Hockey fans are unfortunately used to work stoppages. In the 1994 - 1995 season, the lockout spanned 104 days which caused the cancellation of 468 regular season games. The 2004 - 2005 season wasn't played at all because the two sides couldn't come together on an agreement in time. It lasted 310 days and cancelled a whopping 1230 games. And this most recent lockout ended after 113 days, cancelling a total of 628 regular season games. For those of you playing at home, that is 527 days of being locked out and the cancelling of 2326 games.

You'd think that all of lockouts and cancelled games would turn even the most die-hard fan away for good...right? The NHL isn't the only game around, even in my hometown I have an ECHL hockey team and a top notch college hockey program that are less than 20 minutes away (and considerably less expensive than going to an NHL game). I could even stay at home and watch plenty of college hockey from the comfort of my couch on the NBC Sports Network.

History has shown though that NHL hockey fans do forgive and forget. During the 2003 - 2004 season, the Detroit Red Wings had a total attendance of 822,706 for the season (averaging 20,066 per game). The 2004 - 2005 season was lost to the lockout. However, the Red Wings fans came back out to support their team during the 2005 - 2006 season. The team had almost identical attendance numbers (822,646 total and 20,509 average per game).

Granted, the Red Wings had a great season that year and they do play in "Hockey Town". So, just for comparison, let's look at a team that had a not so memorable year. The Chicago Blackhawks won only 20 games during the 2003 - 2004 season but had 543,374 in total attendance (13,253 average per game). For the 2005 - 2006 season, they saw 546,075 people come through the turnstiles (average of 13,318 per game).

So, when the NHL drops the puck on this current season, will the fans be able to forgive and forget again? Or was this lockout the straw that broke the camel's back?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Will Morris and Trammell Get "The Call"?

Pop quiz hotshot!  You have a Major League Baseball Hall of Fame vote and have to decide whether former Tigers Jack Morris and Alan Trammell are Hall of Fame worthy.  If you don't vote for them this year, then they  may not ever have another chance to obtain the necessary votes.  If you do vote for them, they could become immortalized in Cooperstown...WHAT DO YOU DO! "and scene"

To clarify, that was my horrible interpretation of Dennis Hopper talking to Keanu Reeves in the move "Speed" if Keanu held a Hall of Fame vote.  All joking aside though, I wish that the voters would think of how they are voting in a similar fashion.  To give players 15 chances to be elected is ridiculous.  I feel that either you are a Hall of Fame player or you are not.  How does a player not achieve the required amount of votes one year, but gains them another and is only then considered a Hall of Famer?  Goose Gossage had to wait 9 years before he was considered a Hall of Famer.  Bert Blyleven had to wait 14 years.  The entire process needs to be reworked.

On Tuesday, January 8th, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce their 2013 inductees.  This year we will see some big names from the "steroid era" on the ballot for the first time.  Players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa are all first time eligible.  Mark McGwire (7th year eligible) and Rafael Palmeiro (3rd year eligible) are carryovers from  previous years.

To gain entrance into the Hall of Fame, a player has to be on at least 75% of the ballots cast.  Each voter is able to vote for a maximum of 10 people (although they don't have to vote for 10, it can be less).  This year will be the 14th year on the ballot for Morris and the 11th year for Trammell. 

Growing up here in Michigan, I was a big Tigers fan.  Morris and Trammell were both in the prime of their careers, so I guess that you could say that I am a bit biased.  A lot of people don't believe that Morris or Trammell deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.  However, if you look at the numbers that these players put up compared to other current Hall of Famers, I think that they will see things a little differently. 

Jack Morris
  • Morris was the winningest pitcher in the '80's (162 wins).  This was more than current Hall of Famers Bert Blyleven (123 wins) and Nolan Ryan (122 wins).
  • He finished with an astounding 175 complete games (133 of those in the 1980's alone).
  • One of the best "big game" pitchers there ever was (Named World Series MVP in 1991 with Twins with a 2-0 record, 1.17 ERA, and a 10-inning, 1-0 victory in Game Seven)
Last year, Morris was named on 66.7% of the ballots, falling 48 votes short of election.  No player has ever received more than 65% of the vote and not been elected, however Morris is running out of time.

Alan Trammell
  • Trammell played 20 years (all with the Tigers) and had a career batting average of .285.  Current Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr had a career batting average of only .276.
  • Trammell's on base percentage was .352, compared to .340 for Ripken.
  • Trammell earned 4 Gold Gloves over the course of his career compared to 2 Gold Gloves for Ripken. 
Trammell was named on 36.8% of the votes this past year and will need a lot of help if he's going to make it to the elusive 75% level. 

Are they Hall of Fame worthy?  To be honest, it's a very simple question that I think many "experts" make difficult for the purpose of creating controversy.  If it were up to me, I'd vote for both Morris and Trammell.  They've proven to be Hall of Fame worthy and should already be in Cooperstown, not waiting for 15 years before it's official.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What To Do? College Football Players Make Life Changing Decisions

"Should I stay or should I go"?

No, I'm not talking about the classic rock song by The Clash.  I'm talking about college football players who have just finished up their junior year of eligibility.  They have to decide whether they are going to stay in school for their senior year or forgo their final year of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. 

This is a monumental, life changing decision in their lives.  So, in order to help those players make their decisions, the NFL established a Draft Advisory Board.  This board is made up of General Managers and Personnel Directors from several NFL teams, along with the Directors of the two NFL scouting combines. 

Eligible players will submit their applications to the advisory board sometime in December and, once they receive the Board's decision, have until January 15th to decide if they are going to enter the NFL Draft or return to school.  The Board issues a decision that the player has the potential to be picked:
  • in the first round
  • as high as the second round
  • as high as the third round
  • after the third round
  • in no round at all
Four notable players from the state of Michigan are currently contemplating this decision.  Le'Veon Bell, William Gholston, and Dion Sims from Michigan State and Taylor Lewan from Michigan have all submitted applications to the Board.  The Board's projections for these players is as follows:
  • Taylor Lewan (offensive tackle) - in the first round
  • Le'Veon Bell (running back) - as high as the second round
  • William Gholston (defensive end) - as high as the third round
  • Dion Sims (tight end) - as high as the third round
These players will take this information into consideration when making their decisions.  They will also gauge the opinions of family, trusted friends, and coaches. 

Not to toot my own horn, but I consider myself a bit of an NFL Draft guru.  If any of these players asked my opinion, I would STRONGLY encourage all of them to enter the NFL Draft.  A solid argument could be made though that they should stay in school to earn their degree.  I understand it completely, but I also disagree with it wholeheartedly.  These kids can always go back to school and earn their degree (I got mine when I was 33 years old).  They only get one chance to make it in the NFL. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Michigan Blows Lead to Gamecocks, Looks to the Future

In his final game as a Wolverine, Denard Robinson could only stand on the sideline and watch as the Gamecocks of South Carolina went ahead with only 11 seconds in the game to win the Outback Bowl 33 - 28.

Arguably the most exciting athlete to ever play for Michigan, Robinson finished with a quiet (for him) performance of 100 rushing yards and 7 receiving yards.  He finishes as the NCAA career leader in rushing yards by a quarterback with 4,495.    

So what's next for Brady Hoke and the Wolverines?  They reportedly have a top 5 recruiting class coming in next season to help strengthen an already solid core group of players.  Denard Robinson will be gone, so offensive coordinator Al Borges can run an offense that involves the entire team, instead of centering it around Denard.  I believe that Devin Gardner will become a more polished quarterback next season knowing that it is truly his team now. 

I've heard a lot of people saying that this was a down year for the Wolverines (who finished with a record of 8 - 4).  I disagree...think of it this way, three of their four losses were against the top three ranked teams in the final poll (Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State).    In my opinion, Michigan had a legitimate shot at beating both Notre Dame and Ohio State (Alabama simply destroyed them), they just made some crucial mistakes that cost them those games. 

I for one am excited to see what Year 3 of the Brady Hoke era will bring to Ann Arbor.  Lloyd Carr brought a National Championship to Michgan in his third year as head coach, Brian Kelly is in his third year at Notre Dame and has his Fighting Irish playing for the National Championship. 

Can Brady Hoke do the same?