Jun

27

Ronaldo Must Single-Handedly Beat the Greatest Team in the World to Live Up to Unrealistic Expectations

At the club level, Cristiano Ronaldo has won everything there is to win. Still, he is criticized and constantly compared, not just to Lionel Messi, but to the greats of all time like Pele and Diego Maradona. In regard to the latter two, Ronaldo’s critics love to mention that he hasn’t won a major tournament for Portugal.

20120627-100605To be fair, his performances for his country haven’t matched those for his clubs. He has been surrounded by more talent at Real Madrid and, before that, Manchester United. Former Portugal manager Carlos Quiroz did him no favors with his negative tactics either.

Thus far, Ronaldo has been the player of the tournament. I had no expectations that Portugal would survive the Group of Death. If he loses to Spain today, that should change nothing. Spain is supposed to win. Portugal did defeat Spain recently in a friendly, 4-0, but Spain took that game as seriously as a game of FIFA on X-Box.

Just because people remember Maradona leading what was considered to be a mediocre Argentina side to a World Cup, some expect Ronaldo to do the same. If Spain does win, get ready to hear this garbage. Portugal legends Eusabio and Luis Figo couldn’t deliver a major championship either.

Perhaps Ronaldo’s arrogance that he carries himself with attracts undue attention. His chiseled physique, model good looks and long string of bombshell WAGs maybe just inspires more jealousy. Hell, I think the guy is a douchebag half the time! None of that means he’s less of a footballer if he does the improbable tonight.

Jun

25

The Beginning of the End for Venus Williams

You always want your favorite sports athletes to go out gracefully. Not everyone can go out a champion like John Elway. You at least want them to retire before it gets sad watching them. That’s why it’s painful to see Venus Williams play in 2012.

On Monday, Williams lost to Elena Vesnina in the first round at Wimbledon. Wimbledon is the same tournament where Williams won five championships and became one of the greatest female grass court players of all -time.

Vensina, who is ranked No. 79 in the world, had lost 10 of her previous 11 Grand Slam singles matches prior to Monday’s match. Vesnina is someone Williams would have beaten in straight sets two years ago. Today, Williams just looked like a player who should have retired a year ago when her health took a turn for the worse.

The five-time champion has been suffering from Sjogren’s syndrome, a disease which the immune cells attack and destroys exocrine glands that produce tears and saliva. The disease is also said to reduce energy, which could explain Williams’ performance in 2012.

Williams withdrew fr25venus_cnd-articlelargeom last year’s U. S. Open after she was diagnosed with and did not return to tournament play until March. She has made the quarter-finals three times since coming back, but only reached the second round of the French Open.

After today’s loss, Williams refused to answer questions about her health, saying simply, “I did my best today. My opponent played well.” She also said, “Life is challenging. I’m always up for a challenge.”

Even if Williams is past her prime, no one imagined she would go out like this. Not only did Williams win Wimbledon titles in 2000 and 2001 when she was in her prime, but she also won in 2005, 2007 and again in 2008, over her sister Serena Williams in the final. Her last major victory came in 2008.

The Olympics will be played at Wimbledon in a little over a month, but Venus says she will be there, despite her 2012 struggles. “Yeah,” Venus said, “at the Olympics, you’ll see me here.”

Remember how sad it was to see Brett Favre’s consecutive-game streak end due to injury? Remember how poorly he played in 2010? I don’t want to see Venus go through the same thing. She has nothing else left to prove to anyone. She is a sure-fire Tennis Hall of Famer and one of the best female tennis players of all time. Everyone knows how hard of a worker Venus is and how determined she is, but even her pride can’t get in the way of father time.

Williams just turned 32 on June 17 and that is ancient in tennis years. With Williams suffering from Sjogren’s, I believe 2012 will be her last year on tour. When her sister, Serena, is focused, she is still one of the best in the game, but the game has passed Venus by.

I just hope Venus takes a long hard look in the mirror and realizes that she shouldn’t be losing in the first round of major tournaments. Venus, it is time to retire.

Jun

24

Cheaters Never Win – Peralta Gets Caught Red-Handed

On Friday, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Joel Peralta was suspended eight games for 146569409_crop_exactcoming into a game with pine tar on his glove. This whole fiasco went down on Tuesday, when the Rays were in D. C. taking on the Washington Nationals. Peralta had just entered the game in relief of David Price. While throwing warm-up pitches, Nationals manager Davey Johnson approached home plate umpire Tim Tschida, which everyone thought was a bit out of the ordinary. After their pow-wow, Tschida headed to the mound and inspected Peralta’s glove.

Upon finding pine tar, Peralta was immediately ejected from the game; before exiting the ballpark, however, the reliever tipped his cap to the bench of his former team. Granted, MLB rules clearly state that pitchers may not apply foreign substances to the ball or have any such substances in their possession, I find myself in agreement with Joe Maddon. Knowing full well his pitching habits from when he played for Washington, Peralta’s former teammates made sure to tell Johnson about the likelihood that he would have pine tar on his glove.

But, what really boggles my mind is that the league considers using a foreign substance to be a worse offense than admitting to beaning an opposing player on purpose – which Cole Hamels did to Bryce Harper. Hamels, who claimed the incident to be his version of welcoming Harper to the majors, only got a five-game suspension out of the deal, which ultimately only resulted in one missed start. Yes, cheating is wrong, but the punishment really needs to fit the crime. If Hamels got five games, Peralta’s punishment is absolutely ludicrous. But I digress …

I can understand the reasoning behind wanting to use insider information to gain an edge, but the guilty party must have to be willing to pay the price. Like Johnson, If a ballplayer – or manager, in this case – essentially breaks a set of unwritten rules, he will, undoubtedly face some sort of wrath from colleagues. Personally, the way things went down with Peralta, I think Maddon had every right to call Johnson’s actions “cowardly.” But I’m curious to know what other people think. Is it an act of cowardice when you betray a gentlemen’s agreement or does the old “all’s fair in love and baseball” saying apply here?

Jun

22

David Ortiz is Right, And if You Disagree You’re Missing the Point

David Ortiz went on another one of his now patented rants on Thursday. The WEEI.com headline is that Ortiz says he isn’t having fun in Boston. Can you blame him? It is a new and different shit-show every day at Fenway Park. If I was David Ortiz, I wouldn’t find having to deal with the constant drama that surrounds this team to be fun either. Most of this drama has nothing to do with him. He wasn’t in the chicken and beer crowd. He didn’t piss away hundreds of millions of dollars on free agents who have literally contributed less than nothing. He didn’t force the new general manager to hire a manager he didn’t want, then sit idly by as the manager was undermined publicly by the GM. Nor is Ortiz responsible for the dysfunction amongst the coaching staff, which Buster Olney and Sean McAdam have alluded to. Boston is become the “shit-hole” team it used to be. Forget your father’s Red Sox, these are the Red Sox I grew up with. It was dysfunction like this that was the real reason why this club went 86 years without winning a World Series. Those of us who remember how this team could never get out of its own way thought we were finally beyond this after the Yawkey stink was removed from this franchise. Unfortunately, John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino have managed to reinvent the wheel in that regard. At least on the field, the club has managed to turn things around. They are three games over .500 and several of their injured stars are getting close to coming back. This team may well be primed to make a push for one of the Wild Card spots. Either way, I doubt it will be without dramaDavid Ortiz went on another one of his now patented rants on Thursday. The WEEI.com headline is that Ortiz says he isn’t having fun in Boston. Can you blame him? It is a new and different shit-show every day at Fenway Park. If I was David Ortiz, I wouldn’t find having to deal with the constant drama that surrounds this team to be fun either.

Most of this drama has nothing to do with him. He wasn’t in the chicken and beer crowd. He didn’t piss away hundreds of millions of dollars on free agents who have literally contributed less than nothing. He didn’t force the new general manager to hire a manager he didn’t want, then sit idly by as the manager was undermined publicly by the GM. Nor is Ortiz responsible for the dysfunction amongst the coaching staff, which Buster Olney and Sean McAdam have alluded to.

Boston is become the “shit-hole” team it used to be. Forget your father’s Red Sox, these are the Red Sox I grew up with. It was dysfunction like this that was the real reason why this club went 86 years without winning a World Series. Those of us who remember how this team could never get out of its own way thought we were finally beyond this after the Yawkey stink was removed from this franchise. Unfortunately, John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino have managed to reinvent the wheel in that regard.

At least on the field, the club has managed to turn things around. They are three games over .500 and several of their injured stars are getting close to coming back. This team may well be primed to make a push for one of the Wild Card spots. Either way, I doubt it will be without drama.

Jun

18

Dale Ends Drought

After 143 winless races, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. proved yesterday that he can still find Quicken Loans 400his way to Victory Lane. After four years without a win in the Sprint Cup Series, Dale beat Tony Stewart quite handily, finishing 5.393 seconds ahead of the No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet. He dominated the 200-lap Quicken Loans 400, leading 95 laps; no other driver led more than 38 laps.

With 11 top 10 finishes before Sunday’s win, this could prove to be Earnhardt’s year to finally win it all in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He is second in points behind Matt Kenseth, but it’s still early in the season. It seems, after a few inconsistent years, that Junior has finally started to find his footing once again with Hendrick Motorsports. When he made the move to the colossal NASCAR conglomerate in 2007, teaming up with the likes of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, I was skeptical, to say the least. I thought he might be overwhelmed or get lost in the shuffle, but it appears that their leadership and success has rubbed off on the 37-year-old.

I haven’t watched a whole lot of NASCAR in the past couple years, but I hate seeing a fan favorite like Earnhardt, Jr. struggling while arrogant pricks like Johnson and Kurt Busch have constant success … when Busch isn’t suspended, that is. And don’t even get me started on Stewart’s thoughts about Earnhardt, Jr. snapping his losing streak. No, Tony, it’s not a national holiday, but at least show some respect for your fellow racecar driver. Now I know why I’ve always hated that jerk.

Jun

5

Rajon Rondo: The Stuff of Legends

Rajon Rondo’s performance in the Eastern Conference Finals has been underappreciated. All I read about still is LeBron James or Russell Westbrook’s 9-assist game that was spotlighted on ESPN’s First Take. LeBron James’ 40-point performance against Indiana was also analyzed and praised, but still, nothing on ESPN’s First Take about Rondo. There have only been a few articles here and there, but nothing mainstream about it. He only did something that has never been done before in the postseason, and had a 44-point, 10-assist, 8-rebound and 3-steal performance. That’s right, Larry Bird never did it, Magic Johnson never did it, Michael Jordan never did it and Wilt Chamberlain certainly never did it (he could pass and led the league in assists during the 1967-1968 season).

This performance was overshadowed by the fact that the Celtics lost the game. LeBron James, who is widely considered the best player in the NBA, had this to say about Rondo’s performance: “Rondo was absolutely amazing. The performance he put on tonight will go down in the record books.”

145702302_crop_650x440Almost every superstar in the NBA has a moment or game when the world takes notice of them and realizes how unbelievably talented they are. For example, when I think of Jordan, I don’t think about the flu game. I think of the 63-point performance he put on against one of the greatest teams ever, the 1986 Boston Celtics. Coincidentally, Jordan’s performance was in a losing battle as well. Paul Pierce’s moment came during a regular season game when the most dominating center in the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal, let the world know that the Lakers couldn’t handle The Truth. I also, think of the 2008 NBA Finals when he dominated the league’s MVP and best player, Kobe Bryant.

Wilt Chamberlain had his 100-point game. Magic’s moment was when he played center in Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s absence in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals. Larry Bird told Kevin McHale he should’ve scored 60 when McHale set the Celtics single-game scoring record. Bird proceeded to do it himself and break McHale’s record one week later. Bill Russell doesn’t have just one game; he will always be remembered for his 11 championships and eight in a row – both records that will never be broken.

Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals was Rondo’s defining moment. He let the world know what Celtics fans already know – that he is the best pure point guard in the NBA, no doubt about it. There isn’t a single player in the NBA who can do what he does. He is special and talent like that only comes around once in a while. I’m not talking LeBron James talent, I’m talking Magic Johnson and Larry Bird potential. He has the ability to control the game without scoring. No player has been able to do that since Magic and Bird hung ‘em up. Rondo makes everyone around him better. This is not a knock on LeBron, who is crazy talented, but LeBron can’t alter the game the way Rondo can. Nobody in the NBA can when Rondo plays like this.

People talk about what the future Celtics will look like when the Big Three of KG, Pierce and Sugar Ray are gone. Well, I think you got a good glimpse; they will be just fine, as long as Rondo is there. Do yourself a favor and go look up highlights for this game so you can fully understand how great this performance was. It deserves to be watched again and immortalized because it is the stuff of legends.

May

30

2012 Celtics – A Team That Makes Boston Fans Proud

The 2012 Celtics team makes Boston fans proud. It’s a team that lives by the motto best stated by none other than the great Kevin Garnett, “grit and balls” – that’s how they win, with grit and balls. The Celtics are a team that, time and time again, prove all the so-called analysts wrong.

When no one gave them a chance to get to the 2010 Finals and defeat King James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, they did. No one talked about how Paul Pierce, the 2008 Finals MVP, who earned that honor by destroying the regular season MVP, Kobe Bryant, was going to be handled. Last time I checked, LeBron didn’t have one of those. The 2010 Celtics took the Lakers to a Game 7 and were minutes shy of winning another title20120530-1429441.

In 2011, once again, they were disrespected. This time, they were defeated in the second round of the playoffs by the despised Miami Heat, who were aided by Rajon Rondo’s injury – an injury, if not for Dwayne Wade’s questionable play, should never have happened. I’m not saying Wade is dirty; I’ll let you form your own opinion on that. Rondo, being the warrior that he is, came back and played with one arm.

The players on this team do not give up. That same core of those prior teams makes up this team, and they refuse to quit, no matter the reason, even if that reason is injuries. The 2012 team has been plagued with injuries all season. They lost Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox to heart conditions, Pierce has an injured knee, Ray Allen has bone spurs in his ankle and is a shell of himself, and Avery Bradley had surgery on both shoulders … yet, the team continued to play with no excuses.

The 2012 Celtics were cast off as road kill and everyone was yelling for them to be broken up. There was talk of trading Rondo, Pierce and Allen. Say what? You are going to trade Paul Pierce, the 2008 Finals MVP, and everything that embodies a Celtic? You want to Trade Jesus Shuttlesworth (Allen), the greatest three-point shooter in the history of the NBA? “Oh, Rondo is cranky, let’s get rid of him too!” He is only the best pure point guard in the NBA. He went out and won the assist title.

Here we are again. That team you wanted to just throw away is in the Eastern Conference Finals. The media have already declared Miami the winners, so we should just tell the Celtics to go home? Wow, Miami won one game, the first home game in the series. Aren’t they supposed to win that game? All I know is Miami played almost as good as they can, while the Celtics played terrible and for most of the game it was still close.

Let’s not discount the impact the officiating had on the game either. It had a huge impact in the third quarter and that is when the Celtics started to lose focus. Yes, Allen and Bradley are injured and, if they were healthy, the Celtics would put a hurting on this team. Unlike teams like Miami, who made a big deal about Chris Bosh being injured, the Celtics don’t except that as a viable excuse. No, they will fight with every last breath because they don’t know the meaning of quit. That is why Celtics fans should be proud. They play because they love the game and treat it as life or death. Red would be proud.

May

29

The NBA … Where Fans Come to Watch the Refs Play

The NBA – where the amazing happens! Yeah, right! Only if by amazing the NBA means the “Amazing Adventures of the Referees.” Last night’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat was an absolute abomination. I think the Celtics got the memo from the league: the fix is in. It was clear the refs were told, at all costs, do everything possible to make sure the Miami Heat win and make it to the Finals. If – and it is a big if – the league didn’t put the fix in, why wouldn’t every one of these officials be fired and fined for last night’s tyranny?

Celtics Heat BasketballJeff Van Gundy, who is not the biggest fan of the Celtics even commented on the ridiculousness of the officiating. There wasn’t a fan, player, coach or analyst who thought what the refs were calling was even close to being correct. It seemed that some of these calls were coming out of thin air. Stephen A. Smith, who I consider a good basketball analyst, was in disbelief on both the Ray Allen and Doc Rivers technical fouls. At one point, it almost felt like LeBron James purposely missed a technical free throw due to how bad the officiating was.

Now, let’s discuss that egregious technical foul called on Ray Allen. Allen has been called almost universally a pro’s pro, and one of the most professional athletes in all of sports. Did Ray Allen get in the face of the official after the call? No! Did Ray Allen swear at the ref for the call? No! Did Ray Allen go insane or create a scene after the call? No! He reacted as he always does, as a professional. He jumped up in the air away from the officials in frustration. Mind you, AWAY from the officials. Basketball is a competitive sport and, as such, people have emotions that they display while they play. Does the NBA want robots? We talk about how athletes today don’t care enough about the sport and they only care about money and the business side of the game. Is the NBA not sending the wrong message here? These are people and they are going have emotions and react to things. Heck, we want them to. That adds to the excitement of the game.
I don’t even want to get into the lack of calls that were given to the Celtics in the third quarter when they were driving to the lane. I don’t believe Paul Pierce or Rajon Rondo got a single foul and there was a ton of contact on those drives. I am not saying the Celtics would have won because they did not play well and deserved to lose based on how they played. I will say the officiating definitely affected the game. The Miami Heat played great … or, shall I say, LeBron James played great. The sad thing about that is I will not remember how great LeBron was in this game. I will remember how bad the officials were. As a fan of the game of basketball, that is hard to say.

For years now, fans and analysts have been crying about how bad the officiating has become in the NBA. It is so bad, it leads people to speculate that the referees are purposely intervening in the games for their own ego, personal benefit or the league’s benefit. What you do know, an official, Tim Donaghy, was even convicted and went to prison for betting on games. The NBA would like you to be believe he was the only one, that the officials do a great job and don’t have any ulterior motives. What an insult to the fans that pay to watch the NBA, to think that we are that naïve. I think the league needs a definition to what that means. We pay to watch very talented athletes do what we wish we could do on a basketball court. Hence, the “B” in NBA stands for basketball. Last time I checked, the referees don’t play. Why? Simply because they are not talented.

I grew up in a city where sports are a religion – the city of Boston, home to the Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots and Boston Bruins. This is a place where, not only do we argue about our teams being better than other city’s teams, but we also argue about which team in our own city is the best and what sport is better to watch. Well, I think I can officially stop arguing that basketball is the best sport to watch after last night. The officiating just ruined the game and the sport to the point where it is almost unwatchable.

The NBA has become a joke. At the forefront of the joke is David Stern. The once great commissioner who took the sport and made it internationally known, is now the one who is destroying it. I ask Mr. Stern to do something about it: Step up to the plate and admit that you have made mistakes in the past with officiating and rectify them. Don’t sit by while the sport you have invested your life into gets tarnished. Do it for yourself, do it for the fans and, most of all, do it for the love of the game.

May

21

A Case for the BCS and Why A Playoff Would Hurt College Football

Like millions of others across the nation, I’m a huge fan of college football. Each Saturday from noon until the late night, I sit in front of the television and watch just about every game. There is nothing I would change about college football right now. Well, except the fact that all of these schools are leaving old rivalries like Texas vs.Texas A&M and West Virginia vs. Pitt behind.

2009-2010-bcs-championship-oddsFor years, people have been talking about getting a college football playoff system, but I never thought it would happen. As of yesterday, it seems like we are as close as we’ve ever been to a four-team college football playoff. Personally, I’m not a fan of this because I know this will open Pandora’s Box.

Fans think a four-team playoff will be the solution to college football, but there still will be controversy. The four teams in the playoff would be selected by a committee. Now what happens when some team everyone thought deserved to get into the playoff complains that they were left out? What happens if a non-BCS conference team gets left out of the playoff, even though they go undefeated? Then fans and university presidents will be screaming for a eight-team playoff. Then from eight teams, it will go to 16 teams.

As soon as that happens, this will devalue the college football season. Also, there will be a lot of questions about the seeding. People would question who should be the No. 1 seed, No. 2, etc. A No. 1 seed would have an easier path to the National Championship game than the third or fourth seed. Again, more controversy.

College football is a do-or-die situation week in and week out. If you go to a playoff system, no matter the size, that will change. The beauty of the college football season is that it is a playoff in and of itself. If a team plays in one of the big six conferences and wins all 12 games, there’s a good chance they will be playing for the BCS National Championship. If a team plays in the SEC, they will have a great shot to play for the championship, no matter where they start. If a team wants to play for the National Championship, don’t lose. Once a team loses, its fate is put in the hands of voters, as well as the BCS.

Another reason I love college football so much is because it is everything college basketball is not. From week one, people pay attention to college football. When college basketball season starts, it is an afterthought. No one pays attention to college basketball until after the Super Bowl, when North Carolina and Duke play their first game. If college football goes to a playoff, I don’t think it will gain popularity because even the people who complain about it will still watch the games. It will never be the NFL, but if they go through with a playoff, they will try. The NFL is its own game and college football is its own game. If you don’t like the bowl system, watch the NFL.

All of this leads me to what a playoff system will do to the current bowl games. Do you think as many people will watch the bowl games as before when there’s a playoff system? ESPN promotes “Bowl Week,” which starts the day after Christmas. The games will not get as many viewers with a playoff system, especially if it turns into a 16-team playoff, which I expect it to do someday if the playoff goes through.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Last season, we had the best two teams, Alabama and LSU, play in the National Championship game. When people complained about Alabama getting into the championship, all they did was crush LSU and proved they belonged in the game. I never said the BCS is perfect, but neither is a four-team playoff. I love the BCS and I wish it would stay around for at least another 10 years.