Friday, October 19, 2012

Pity the fight fan

For they know not what they want.  And it has beaten up many a promoter trying to walk the line between credible fights and fan-friendly ones.

Jones v. Sonnen may be a financial windfall, but it denigrates the UFC Light-Heavyweight belt. Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports.

Sonnen was knocked out in devastating fashion by Silva in the second round at UFC 148. That dropped him to 0-2 in his two bouts with Silva. Whether or not he won five of the seven rounds against Silva, he didn't win the fights. He lost.
One of the things that White and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta did in taking control of the company in 2001 was to try to structure the titles in a way that they meant something.
There has been a path to a championship that is transparent and understandable. No one was given title shots just because of their name or who their manager happened to be, as has been the case far too long in boxing.

As Iole mentions, the UFC roster has been devastated by injuries of late.  It becomes very hard to sell a pay-per-view full of lightly fought rookies, last minute replacements, or the ton of MMA fighters on roster that aren't household names.  There's a limit to the number of "Superfights" any fighting sport can realistically have.  Boxing has Pacquiao-Mayweather now, and in the future they might have something with Andre Ward vs. Canelo Alvarez but there's only ever going to be two or three big names out there in adjacent weight classes that anyone really wants to see.

The UFC is in the same boat.  Anderson Silva vs. George St. Pierre would be a GREAT fight, as would Silva vs. John Jones, but in each case one fighter is going to be giving up significant size to step in against a man who's at the top of a bigger division.  The fans want those fights, but they rarely live up to the hype.

The biggest problem is that the casual fight fan is terribly uneducated and only knows a handful of fighters, most of whom headline credible cards against lesser known foes.  While the hard-core fight fan realizes that Silva v. Weidman is a great fight, it's not going to have the juice of Silva v. Jones no matter how hard the UFC promotes it.

During it's early heyday the UFC had a roster full of star-caliber fighters who, unfortunately, were nearing the downside of their careers just as viewers were tuning in.  Fighters like Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Rich Franklin and Quinton Jackson generated viewer interest on the downsides of their career.  Today's fans never got to see Bas Rutten fight, and that's a shame. He was a better striker in his prime than anyone fighting today.

The real shame is that, in many cases, most of the young up-and-coming fighters are more well-rounded and better fighters than many of the "stars" of the past.  The casual fight fan doesn't see that however, clamoring for fights with the names they know.  This leaves Dana White & Zuffa in the unenviable position of trying to cobble together profitable fight cards with a roster of healthy fighters with little buzz.

Remind you any of boxing? (Minus the corruption that is.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

College Football Game picks (10/18/2012)

Good slate of games this week:


Houston 37 @ SMU 27 - I've no faith in Gilbert and the Cougars are looking better of late.


LSU 17 @ aTm 13 - Part of me wants to predict the upset.  That part of me is probably drunk.

Va Tech 13 @ Clemson 31 - These aren't your older brother's Hokies.

Iowa St 35 @ OSU 38 - Iowa St. is ranked?  That won't last long and all will be right in the world again.

Purdue 10 @ Ohio St. 17 - Why closer than everyone thinks?  Because the Buckeyes aren't blowing anyone out this year.

Stanford 27 @ Cal 17 - Coach Tedford on the hot seat.

S. Carolina 27 @ Florida 24 - The Old Ball Coach > Muschamp.

TxTech 47 @ TCU 24 - Without Pachall TCU is just a frog.

Alabama 42 @ Tennessee 10 - The Vols aren't that good. Not sure why everyone thinks they are.

K-State 42 @ WVU 30 - I think the Wildcats have enough on defense to stop Geno Smith. (sorta)

Baylor 56 @ Texas 52 - After the OU debacle, how can you pick UT in this game?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

College Football: Now we're getting there...

Lot of thoughts about College Football as it stands at the 1/2 way pole.  Some teams better than I thought, some teams just about what I thought they would be, some surprises, and some teams that are turning it around.

The rankings are here but I'm not going to limit my thoughts here to the teams on them....

Surprises to the good:

Kansas St. - I thought they would be pretty good, but I didn't think they'd be top 5 good.  They beat a very good OU team and destroyed Miami.  Anyone think they're not going t beat WVU and UT?  Could be a big season for the Wildcats.

Louisville - I still think they're underrated, probably should be a top 10 team.  The fans of Louisville should enjoy it now because Charlie Strong is not going to be there for long as other teams will come calling.

Miss St. - Again, probably underrated.  However, could play down to their ranking as the schedule starts to improve.

Ohio - That this 7-0 team is only ranked 25 in the AP is a crime.  They beat Penn St. which seems to be better than everyone thought.  Their exclusion from the USA Today Coaches Poll is my current biggest argument for the stupidity of that poll.

Ohio St. - This shouldn't have surprised me, because of Urban Meyer, but I didn't think he had the players for his system yet.  They're not winning pretty, but they're winning.

Oregon St. - Didn't see this one coming at all.

Surprises to the bad:

Arkansas: Duh.  Probably talking to Charlie Strong as we speak.

Va Tech - I thought, with the talent returning, that Va Tech was a sleeper candidate for the ACC title this year.  Oops.

Texas - Probably should have seen this coming. Mack Brown has only been good when he's had strong defensive coordinators.  Manny Diaz is not a strong defensive coordinator.

Auburn -   I didn't think the Tigers would be good, mostly because I don't think Chizik is a good head coach, but I didn't think they'd be THIS bad. Probably looking for a new HC after the end of this season.

About where we thought they would be:

Alabama - Until someone can prove otherwise, this is the #1 team in all the land.

Oregon - Has the most speed of any team in major college football and a defense that's turning out to be pretty good this year.

Rice - There's never a year we don't think the Owls are going to be terrible.  They're just more terrible than usual this year.  It's time this university took a hard look as to whether or not it wants to continue playing major college football.

Turning it around:

Houston - After losing their first three games (and looking terrible while doing it) it seemed that the Cougars were in big trouble heading into the Rice game.  Fortunately, Rice starting QB McHarge was injured and unable to play so the Cougars got their first win. Since then they've looked good against North Texas and UAB so there's progress.  They could get a win against SMU this Saturday and then the schedule gets tougher.  If they can sneak in a win against either UTEP, East Carolina or Tulsa they could go 8-4 and make it to a decent bowl game.

Michigan - The loss to Alabama didn't concern me, neither did the close win over Air Force, but the ND win exposed a team with a bad defense and a QB who should be playing WR.  Now, into conference play, the Wolverines seem to have found their stride and just pasted a decent Illinois team.  A win against Sparty this weekend puts them in the catbird seat for the conference championship game and a B(C)S bowl game.   Go figure.

Oklahoma - 63-21 over Texas.  Enough said. Probably not going to make it to the B(C)S championship game but could make it to a B(C)S game if they win out.

My Top 10 rankings:

1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. Florida
4. K-State
5. Notre Dame
6. Ohio State
7. Oregon State
8. LSU
9. Oklahoma
10. Louisville

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Things are not looking good right now for Lance Armstrong.  From holding status as the most prolific Tour de France rider ever (not the best rider ever, that title belongs to Eddie Merckx and always will) to being accused of being the best sporting drug czar ever the fall has been swift, and fairly damning. Whether or not you like or approve of USADA (I don't, as I think the drug enforcement groups are often more corrupt than the athletes themselves) the information that they put together has ruined the legacy of the greatest American cyclist of all time.

Lance Armstrong was the leader of the biggest doping conspiracy in sporting history say USADA. Nick Hoult, The London Telegraph

The United States Anti-Doping Agency charged him with six offences covering the use of banned substances, the trafficking of drugs, the administration of drugs to team-mates and aiding and abetting a massive cover-up between 1998 and 2005, a period when he dominated the world’s most famous race.
Dave Brailsford, British Cycling’s performance director who was key to Bradley Wiggins becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France this year, said was stunned to read the USADA findings. “It is shocking, it’s jaw dropping and it is very unpleasant.”
A total of 26 witnesses including 11 fellow riders from the United States Postal Service team testified to USADA against Armstrong in a ­doping case the agency described as “more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports ­history”. The dossier has been sent to the International Cycling Union which now has 21 days to challenge its findings and appeal to the World Anti-Doping Agency or comply with the decision to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles.
In short, cycling another mess on it's hands.  In question are Lance's 7 Tour de France titles won from 1998 to 2005.  The easy solution would seem to be to just strip Armstrong of his titles and award the next finisher in line the championship.  The problem with this scenario is that most of the cyclists who finished 2nd to Lance (Including Ivan Basso) have been implicated (and in may cases suspended) for their own drug-related scandals. A worse option might be to vacate the titles and leave cycling with a gaping void of seven years where no Tour champion is listed.  It may not be a good solution, but it could be a fitting tribute to a cycling era where anyone who wasn't cheating wasn't seriously trying. (I'm looking at you, French riders)

For his part, Armstrong is remaining defiant, deciding to stay quiet and out of the public eye perhaps hoping that all of this just blows over and that he can keep chugging along post cycling as the public face of LiveStrong.

Time will tell what the legacy of Armstrong will ultimately be, but I don't think there's any way he's going to totally over come his doping legacy.  Even the staunchest of Lance Armstrong defenders has to go pale after reading the accusations and evidence compiled by USADA in this instance. There are really only two options, either Lance Armstrong is guilty as charged, or he's the subject of the greatest, most wide-reaching conspiracy that's ever been hatched to take down an individual who, by all accounts, hasn't hurt anyone if the allegations are false.  It's a staggering amount of money and resources that have been spent in what would all amount to a lie.

At the end of it all this case brings about one inevitable conclusion:  It's time to have a serious grown-up talk about PED's in sports, and whether or not we're willing to let a bunch of lawyers in suits come in and declare invalid what we've seen with our own eyes because they enjoy the power and privilege that come with being on the doping control board.  In the end, drug "cheats" hurt no one but themselves and we spend Billions trying to stop them from doing so.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

If Pat Forde is correct....

And the B(C)S polls DO rank the Irish #1

Then we have exhibit A in the argument that the entire system was rigged from the git-go.

Any casual observer can determine that the number 1 and 2 teams in the nation are Alabama and Oregon respectively.  Now, granted, 3-5 might be a crap-shoot and Notre Dame is in the mix, but they're nowhere NEAR the number one spot.

Does anyone think that Nick Saban's team wouldn't take the Irish helmets and melt down the gold to build a Saban statue?  And the Golden Domers haven't faced a team with near the speed of Oregon.

Thank goodness this mess of a system is going the way of the Dodo.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Texans fans expected a blowout....

.... and a football game broke out.

Final score: Texans 23 NY Jets 17

Of course, this has caused ChronBlog's 33 year veteran "NFL reporter" to go into full meltdown mode.  If you were reading his Twitter feed during the game last night you might have thought he was live-tweeting a Rice football game.  Filled with such adjectives as "pathetic" and "horrible" the descriptors felt more like you were watching an 0-5 team rather than one that had just ran it's record to 5-0. John McClain is in full-on, my buddy K.S. (Bud) Adams has a losing team and I'm mad dammit, melt-down mode.

While last night's game was not a stunning spectacle of football that would bring a tear to Vince Lombardi's eye, it was a win, on the road, in the NFL, against a team who's back was against the wall.  Step back and let's take a look at the positives AND negatives instead of relying on the angry pecking of a writer who's thrown in the towel.

The Good:

J.J. Watt: Probably the BEST thing about this Texans team has been Mr. Watt for a few weeks now.  It's not that he makes every defensive play, but he's sure involved in most of them.  Put aside the Hall of Fame hyperbole and you have the beginnings of a Defensive MVP season.  He just needs to stay healthy.

Arian Foster: Say what you want about his vegan diet (and I've poked fun more than a few times on Twitter) but last night's Foster ran with authority and strength, he easily had his best game of the year against a team that was ripe for the picking against the rush.  Good players are SUPPOSED to do well against teams with a running defense like the Jets.

Road win: People forget this: It's HARD to win in the NFL on the road.  Especially against a team like the Jets who were humiliated the week before by one of the best teams in the league.  Yes, the Texans did not bring their "A" game to the Meadowlands, but they were good enough to win with their "C" game.  That says a lot about the make-up of this team.

Brooks Reed & Conor Barwin: Signs of life.  Good sign.

Matt Schaub: Every week this becomes more and more Schaub's offense.  I don't remember a time last night that he was sacked, or even seriously pressured.

Offensive Line: See above, easily had their best game of the season protecting Schaub and opening up big holes for Foster to run through.

The Bad:

Special Teams: It's time to end the Trindon Holliday experiment.  At this point it would be better to take a knee on every kick-off and fair catch every punt then to keep trotting him out there kick after kick.  Return blocking needs serious work.

Andre Johnson: It's not that he's done, it's just that he has lost a step over ten years and can now be covered one on one by elite corners.  For the fans saying he sucks: You're wrong.  He's still very good but he's now become one option in an offense that has many to choose from.

Jonathan Joseph: Easily his worst game as a Texan. Probably just a case of a good player having a bad game but it sure was rough to watch.

Cushing's Injury:  Reports out this morning report that he suffered an ACL tear that will end his season.  This means that Tim Dobbins and Brady James are the new starting LB's until Darryl Sharpton comes off the PUP, probably after the off week.  Until then, hopefully they'll cut Holiday and pick up a street-free agent linebacker for depth and special teams.

Play calling: It felt like the Texans were trying to force the ball to Andre Johnson too often and, when that didn't work, Schaub was forced to throw the ball out of bounds.  There is a time to go conservative, and a time to be more aggressive, Kubiak still needs to understand where that line lies.

Overall I would think that Houston Texans fans should walk away from this one pretty happy.  The team proved something Monday night, that they can win despite not playing at their best.  That's a huge step forward for a team that still has a lot to prove in regards to it's toughness when things go pear-shaped. Unfortunately, the former newspaper of record has shown that they cannot handle the same.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Now the polls have no idea what to do.

Ah upset Saturday, that one weekend of the year when the College Football world gets turned upside down and the polls get ever more shaky as pundits, beat writers and SID's with little clue try to piece together what's left of the wreckage into a Top 25 that makes even less sense than it did at the beginning of the year.

This week's Top 25 is no different.

Some thoughts:

 - They've got it right at the top.  There shouldn't be any debate about #1.  They're last year's defending champions and, so far, they've looked better this year than last. Alabama is, until beaten, the top team in the land.

 - The "Coaches" poll is worthless - Just worthless. Being tied to the B(C)S it omits Ohio State, and is completed by school's SID's (for the most part) or coaches who don't get a chance to watch a lot of football.

 - What to do with West Virginia? On the one hand, they keep winning. On the other hand, how high can you really rank a team with no defense to speak of?

 - How good is K-State?  This could be a big question going forward for the Big XII.  If K-State is really good, then they could win the conference and compete for the B(C)S championship.  They don't have the roughest road in front of them, and we still just don't know.
 - Michigan?  At 25? As a Wolverine fan even I'm confused by this one.  Sitting right behind them is an undefeated Ohio team that has a quality win over Penn St.  If voters paid attention this wouldn't have happened.

 - Overrated: LSU, Texas, USC, Boise St

 - Underrated: Clemson, Louisville, Cincinnati, Ohio

 - We'll know more after this weekend about:
        - aTm and La Tech.  The teams play each other at a neutral site.
        - Oklahoma and Texas. See above.  Less shine on this game than in year's past however.
        - South Carolina - At LSU is a tough place to play, even if the Tigers have no offense to speak of.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Picks vs. Reality (Week 4)

So, How'd I do?  And do I owe John McClain an apology or no?

Pick: Titans 10 @ Texans 27
Reality: Titans 14 @ Texans 38
If anything, I under-stated just how bad the Titans were, and things get knocked out of whack when a starting QB went down.  Still. 1-0

Pick: Vikings 24 @ Lions 13
Reality: Vikings 20 @ Lions 13
Not too bad.  This game played out just as I thought it would. 2-0

Pick: Panthers 7 @ Falcons 35
Reality: Falcons 30 @ Panthers 28
Way off on the score, but I got the W/L correct.  Since I'm not a handicapper I don't do point spreads, but I was surprised by the Panthers offense in this one.  It's an ugly 3-0 but I'll take it.

Pick: 49'ers 27 @ Jets 3
Reality: 49'ers 34 @ Jets 0
Reality is pretty ugly for the Jets right now.  4-0

Pick: Seahawks 24 @ Rams 20
Reality: Seahawks 13 @ Rams 19
Not sure what to make of this one.  I thought the Seahawks should handle St. Louis but they looked terrible. 4-1

Pick: Saints 20 @ Packers 41
Reality: Saints 27 @ Packers 28
The Saints are already in panic mode, perhaps the Packers should be.  I watched a lot of this game and neither team is any good.  Again, it's ugly, but I'll take 5-1

Pick: Redskins 13 @ Buccaneers 6
Reality: Redskins 24 @ Buccaneers 22
All in all not too bad.  But I was surprised the Redskins let the Bucs score that much.  Neither team is any good. 6-1

Pick: Bears 27 @ Cowboys 24
Reality: Bears 34 @ Cowboys 18
It's hard to predict a 5 INT game, but that's what Tony Romo served up last night to the Bears.  The Cowboys need to gut this thing and start over but, given their owners super-sized ego, there's little chance of that happening.

Final results: 7-1 for the same games John McClain of the Chron was 5-3.

So I don't owe an apology to the General, and he did do a good job on the picks he got right.  It still feels like he's picking based on how he felt the teams were at the start of the season, as opposed to what's been playing out in live games.  This suggests that the Chron's NFL "expert" is not watching a lot of NFL football.

Neat, one-week experiment which I think I'll let go.  Will probably keep picking 8 games per week however, for no other reason than I want to track how I do.