Saturday, January 31, 2009

Prediction time...for whatever that's worth

It is 1 day away and both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals are ready to hit the field to compete for the Lombardi Trophy.This is a very difficult game to break down because it is difficult to know what teams are coming to play. The Cardinals have been underdogs all post season and twice at home and that is almost unheard of but with the terrible history of this franchise it is difficult to become a believer. Larry Fitzgerald has emerged as the best receiver in the NFL and will command a lot of attention. Will he be able to overcome the inevitable double teams or will that extra attention open things up for the running game or Anquan Boldin?

Regardless of the Cardinals offense one can’t overlook the defense from the Steelers. They have made there mark by playing a solid defensive game, and as they say defense wins championships but now they are up agents a veteran QB with a lot of weapons. The benefit that Pittsburgh has is that Kurt Warner has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long and can be prone to sacks and fumbles and with Troy Polamalu lurking around interceptions may not be out of the realm of possibilities.

Ben Rothlesburger has banged up ribs and Hines Ward is also banged up and thais is where the game selection becomes merkey. The defense of the Steelers should be able to contain the Cards, but can big Ben and Ward be healthy enough and be able to do enough to be successful? That is why this game is either going to be a barn burner or a 30-13 blowout for the Steelers.

My logical sense is that the Steelers will be the team to raise the trophy, I think that Ben will be able to just enough to win.That being said would I rather the Cards win? Yes I hope that they do. Will I be surprised if the Cards pulled off another unlikely upset? No...could I be more on the fence? Probably not.

I think that this will wind up being close and am guessing on a 30-24 Final in favour of Pittsburgh.
Get you chips, dip, fingerfoods, Beer and Soda ready sit back and enjoy the game

Friday, January 30, 2009

Supr Bowl or Super Bore?

It is that time of the year again. The New Years Eve of Football

Usually over-hyped and built up bigger then it needs to be and also never live up to the billing...but it is an event that everyone observes and makes special plans for that one day.

The greatest spectacle in sports, the single greatest sporting event in the world, yet usually the most uninteresting game as far as play on the field. If you are a corporate sponsor or a high roller you get your VIP parties and various events to attend. For the average fan or casual observer you have the creative new commercials that they play during halftime, which is interesting because for 364 days a year people try to avoid commercials. Oh yeah, and of course the gambling. Whether you follow football or not there is something for everyone from game bets to well over 500 prop bets that can be made from the coin toss to the team that will kick the first field goal over 46 yards. This is always the busiest weekend for local bookies, Vegas and of course all the offshore online betting sites.

For the week leading up to the game it is just about media and parties and very little about football, well come to think of it even Sunday is like that to a degree.

There is no fear for a lack of coverage on TV. In Canada, CTV who hold the rights to show the game will begin coverage at noon and in the states the coverage will begin before that and going straight through to kickoff after 6pm.

Once the game actually kicks off it is your job to sit back watch the game until halftime...sprint to the kitchen reload the food and drink, hit the head, sprint back to the TV in time to see The Boss (Bruce Springsteen) and the halftime show and settle in for either the conclusion of an epic game, or enjoy the snacks and take in the end of a blowout.

I will give my views and picks in my next posting and as usual I will give the disclaimer that the chances of my pick being right is probably 50% at best. But I will say this now It will be either a blowout or a field goal game...find out which way I am leaning, Pittsburgh of Arizona and how next time!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Is Fighting in Hockey Necessary?

For just over the last 2 months there has been an increase on the debate on whether fighting should be allowed in hockey, and if or if not it even has a place in the game any more. There have been strong arguments for both sides.

There is the old school mentality that fighting is necessary in order to self police the game and keeps cheap shots such as hits from behind and shots to the head out of the game...clearly that is not the case. I would be very surprised with no fighting if there was any more then there already is because it certainly doesn’t seem like having the nuclear option on your bench is doing anything to deter players from these questionable infractions. There have never been a time where this type of tactic has been used. Back in the day (more the 70’s era and the Broad Street Bullies of Philadelphia) there was way more stick work and hacks and slashes that escalated into bench clearing brawls. Now with a simple rule enforcement that is drastically cut back. That just proves that provided that the league makes a mandate to officials to call the game properly there is little need for the goon role anymore, A penalty for an infraction is more effective to punish a TEAM rather then put away 2 tough guys for 5 minutes each that otherwise would get 3 minutes of total ice time and be on the bench for the rest of the game.

There is nothing more annoying then the 2 tough guys who fight for the sake of fighting in a staged event at centre ice that offers nothing to the game, where there is no reason for it and is payback for nothing except to justify them being in the lineup and not a healthy scratch of out of the league all together.

The only thing worse then the staged fight is the fight that ensues from a clean, I repeat, clean hit that either looks big or sounds big and all of a suddenly there needs to be some sort of payback. That is where the rules need to be enforced. A clean hockey hit should deserve no retaliation except for a hit in the same manor later on if and when the opportunity arises...don’t want to get blown up, don’t skate through the middle with your head down or don’t admire your pass for too long. A body check into the boards should not be an automatic invitation to drop the gloves and throw hands.

Football (probably the most violent of the "Big Sports") - anything close to a fight is 15 yards and a possible ejection, suspensions and fines.
Baseball - The odd hit batter but any fight will result in an ejection, suspensions and fines
Basketball - Hand slapping and that will also result in ejection, suspensions and fines
NASCAR- Even bump another car let alone the driver results in loss of points, suspensions, probation and fines and a trip to meet with the officials and Mr. France.

If fighting is so much a part of the game, why was it that the Pay-Per View was cancelled where it was just people fighting with skates on who would fight for no reason? Why is it not at the All Star game with a 16 or 8 man tournament to see who the top heavyweight in the league is as part of the skills competition? If that sounds silly so does the argument of fighting in the games.

If you want to see a fight there are many options at your fingertips; WWE, MMA, UFC, Boxing and Martial Arts Competitions.

When is hockey the most watched and the most interest being paid to it? World Juniors, World Championships, Olympics, and Playoffs. There is little or no fighting in any of these events and it is some of the best hockey you will get to watch. There is a flow to the game, it is fast, it is exciting, there is even hitting...yet little or no fighting. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? IS THIS HOCKEY??

The answer is YES and it is very entertaining. I think that perhaps hockey should fight Cancer and that's about it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

NFL Confrence Finals

Philadelphia at Arizona
Philadelphia -4.5

It is tough to pick the Eagles in a game like this but they have made it to the conference finals numerous times and the Cardinal's have basically never been this far. Arizona has that powerful offense and looks to get Anquan Boldin back this week too. Edgerin James is running for a contract which is always dangerous but I look for Donovan McNabb to steer this team to a victory just because he wants to prove that he is the leader and the reason for their recent success. Westbrook will be the reason the cover the spread

Baltimore at Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh -5.5
This is a battle of defense. Take the under in this game. I take Baltimore in this game...but not to win. This will be a close fought close to the vest hammer it out game and will likely come down to a field goal. Big Ben will do just enough not to lose the game and create an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl. Pittsburgh will manage to edge out the Ravens and go for their second championship. Joe Flacco being a rookie may be in over his head in this one.

Superbowl Matchup February 1
Philadelphia vs Pittsburgh

Sunday, January 11, 2009

2009 World Juniors Wrap

It has been almost a week since the World Juniors have ended in Ottawa and I think that it is time to reflect on just what a great 2 week tournament not only this was but what a great tournament this is. Ottawa seemed to do a great job from top to bottom hosting the event. I heard nothing but good things, no horror stories no glaring problems or logistical difficulties. To manage to pull off a tournament of this magnitude and to shatter the attendance records (granted the event is rarely held in the same city and allowed for more of a cross section of available games and locations) was no small feat, from the execs to the volunteers to the great people handing out mini Febreeze’s...grabbed me a few bottles of those for myself. Eugene Melnyk was the face of this bid and did a great job. With that said, a huge hand goes to 67’s owner Jeff Hunt who had made many attempts in the past to year in and year out bid to get this tournament held in Ottawa. He knew what the tournament meant not only to Ottawa but to Canada.

The Canadian team’s “ Drive For Five” was an added storyline that just added to the excitement, not that as Canadians we needed any more reason to watch. TSN had the highest ratings ever on the network for the Gold medal game topping at 4.7 million viewers at its peak. Scotiabank Place was sold out Canada’s games and topped over 20,000 in a few games. Not bad for a city that is supposed to not be a “sports town”.

The one major downside and this will continue to be difficult to overcome in the near future is that after watching the tournament and going through the ups and downs, the roller coaster of emotions that the games put us through, we have been spoiled. The New Years Eve Classic that was dubbed as one of the best hockey games ever played, the 5.4 last seconds goal from John Tavares to Zach Boychuk and then to the gold medal game between Canada and Sweden. I watched 2 Sens games since the end of the tourney and compared to what i saw the 2 weeks prior the 2 NHL games could hardly be called hockey. No excitement no urgency and the game seemed to be slow and un-passionate. Hopefully that will change and the games will pick up but as for the Juniors they put on a great show and for those of us in Ottawa who were lucky enough to take in the tourney, we were treated to a great show and a great product.
Now it is time to attempt to collect some autographs from some of these young Canadian Hero’s.I have already gotten to meet 7 of them and get a mini Team Canada jersey signed when they did a signing at the SportCheck in Kanata right after the team was selected and on their way to Petawawa.

In closing, thanks boys you did the country proud and GO CANADA!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Canada-USA New Years Eve 2008

As for the second part of the New Years Eve story. Following the early game I roamed around the arena for a bit, grabbed some free giveaway cheese, which was good as i was in need of a snack, in fact i went back for a second one. Treated myself to a Jumbo Hotdog and a tallboy Coors grabbed me a set of thundersticks...not once not twice but thrice. At this point it was off to my standing room location. The giant flag worked it’s way around the arena and it was time for the USA vs Canada a rivalry renewed. The main reason that I got a ticket to the game was mostly because of the epic game Montreal Canadiens Versus The Red Army in 1975. It came with the billing of a huge game from the start of the tourney.I figured this had all the makings of a classic and I wanted to be a part of that. After the game began the building was electric. But then all that changed. Like Harry Carey would say “It 1, 2, 3” ...not strikes your out but goals had fans wondering if maybe the 2 things that should be out was Dustin Tokarski and the chances for a Canada win. That was when John Tavares took over and scored 2 goals in less then a minute and Canada managed to tie the game at 3 all. Canada then went up 4-3 USA tied it up, Then Cody Hodgson scored to put Canada up 5-4. Canada eventually potted 2 more to salt the game away in the last minutes of the game. The building was even more crazy then when the game began. You couldn’t hear yourself think, it was craziness. I am not one that usually gets loud and crazy at sporting events...this was more then a sporting event...this was National Pride. The great thing about being in the standing room was when my Thunder Stick EXPLODED in my hand I still had 1 that I was able to bang on the ledge at the top of the arena! The guy next to me stated that it was the wildest game he had ever seen, I tended to agree. The next day all over the TV and radio was that it was one of the best Junior games ever, and I believe that it was. Little did we know at the time that there was going to be a semi final game vs the Russians that would either equal and probably overtake it only a few days later with some last minute heroics that not even a Hollywood writer could come up with. I was so glad that I decided to get tickets for that game but kicked myself that I didn’t go with my gut and get a ticket for the Semi versus Russia in what will be known as the 5.4 second Jordan Eberle game.As regulars who read my blog and recall earlier events that I have attended by myself as I have had trouble recruiting people to attend events with me if the are additional “storylines” I will mention it. There was indeed and the girl to my left in the standing room was about 5’7” blond and smokin’ hot!
Now as i finish this post Canada has just won the Gold medal and I am sure I will have to have a take In the next few days after I have time to take in the true magnitude of the event.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Wild Card Weekend

Atlanta (11-5)
Arizona (9-7)
Spread Atlanta -2.5

In the first game I will be jumping on the Falcons bandwagon, or more accurately the Michael Turner/Roddy White/Matt Ryan bandwagon.
The offensive rookie of the year looks cool under the pressure and Turner/Norwood are a 1-2 punch that will not only run the ball strong but keep the ball for a long time and the longer that Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are on the bench the better. Cards have a weak running game and time of possession could prove to be key.

In this game look for Atlanta to prevail over Arizona in the desert.

Indianapolis (12-4)
San Diego (8-8)
Spread Indianapolis -2.5

In the Late game Saturday I will stick with the road team. With or without LaDanian Thomlinson the Colts have the edge. With the newly crowned MVP Peyton Manning and his leadership and a Colts defence that is not great but usually shows up in the playoffs look for them to exploit the banged up Chargers. LT is hurt apparently, Antonio Gates is banged up and have been without Shawne Merriman all year. Philip Rivers doesn't get the credit he deserves but he may just bot have the weapons to compete with the Colts at home this week

In this game look for Indi to roll and take this game with relative ease.

Baltimore (11-5)
Miami (11-5)
Spread Baltimore -3.5

In the early game, again, it will be a road team special. There may be a wildcat on the loose but it looks like the Ravens will thwart it with great run and pass defence... quote Ray Lewis and Ed Reed NEVER MORE. Joe Flacco will do what needs to be done and get just enough points to snatch the victory on the road. The Dolphins have had a great comeback season after nearly going win less last year but look for the dream season to come to an end this week.

Baltimore will take this in a close game an move into the next round

Philadelphia (11-5)
Minnesota (11-5)

Spread Philadelphia -3.5

In the final game, again, it will be a road team and a clean sweep in the wild card week. The Eagles will swarm with a great defence and the veteran presence of Donovan Mcnabb and Brian Westbrook. If the Eagles can contain Adrian Peterson then they will get to whoever the Vikings have at QB whether it be Jackson or Ferrot.

Eagles will leave the Metrodome with a victory and move on.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year

Due to Christmas and the New Year, I have taken a bit of a hiatus in the blogging department but it is 2009 and it is time to get back to it!

Post 1 for 2009 is the only thing that it could be and that is the IIHF World Juniors that are being held here in Ottawa.

For those who are familiar with some past entries, I had purchased a 5 game ticket package at Scotiabank Place that included 3 Senators games and 2 World Juniors. The first 2 Sens games were decent (despite the teams record) but the main focus was on the Jr. Games. The first game that I attended was the Canada vs Germany game. Not a battle of the titans but a surprisingly closer game on the scoreboard then it should have been. Canada dominated in shots and dictated the play but Germany kept it close and fought a good fight agents the more skilled Canadian team. It was a fun game to watch as there was little doubt about the outcome and there were many goals eventually scored. The game was a little frustrating at times as the shots for increased and the shots allowed were minimal at best. The goaltending by the Germans was very respectable but a failure to capitalize on the many opportunities that were presented to the Canadians was trying at times.

The second game was Kazakhstan vs Czech Republic on New Years Eve Day. Not the most entertaining game as it was very 1 sided and with 2 lesser teams involved the atmosphere and attendance was decent but not great. It was nice to see that the crowd got behind the kazaks and were cheering saves and good chances and celebrating when they managed to get 2 goals. It was nice to see that there was legitimate fondness for a team that maybe shouldn’t be involved in the tournament (like Canada at any international soccer event).
At the conclusion of that game begins a whole new storey and that will be touched upon in my next post!