Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dance, Mark!

It is clearly gay that this leads the blog, but since he is our Mavericks’ leader, a review of Mark Cuban’s big night …including some award winning self-righteousness…

Nobody was expecting billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban to be a runaway surprise on the ABC reality show Dancing with the Stars, but he naturally managed to raise a few eyebrows on his Tuesday night dancing debut. For one, the opening credits featured the Dallas Mavericks owner and HDNet guru shouting "I am a lean, mean dancing machine!" And paired with scantily-clad Australian dancer Kym Johnson, the 49-year-old entrepreneur wiggled his hips, snapped his fingers, lip-synched, and (naturally) let his tongue hang out.

Cuban did indeed "churn the butter" as he'd promised his blog readers. He also ended his dance with an odd little hop that led one of the judges to characterize him as a "bouncing bionic billionaire."

He clearly had a lot of fun, and was remarkably good-natured about the whole process despite his reputation for picking fights around the NBA. But it was borderline offensive when Cuban, who is reportedly worth $2.6 billion, showed up in brown coattails covered in faux tatters and danced the foxtrot with Johnson to the tune of hobo anthem "King of the Road."

It's going to sound preachy of me in the midst of an otherwise fluffy blog post, but homelessness and poverty are legitimate problems in the U.S. and it was neither cute nor funny for Cuban to evoke vagrancy in his dance debut. What would happen, for example, if Apple CEO Steve Jobs dressed up as a homeless person for Halloween?

All political correctness aside, Cuban also managed to look adequately ridiculous. As one anonymous observer glued to a TV screen told me, "That jacket is a fashion felony."

Cuban earned a final score of 21 (a seven from each of the three judges), to which he responded with "Blackjack, baby!" Viewers won't know until Wednesday night whether he makes it to the next round. Whether or not more dancing from Cuban will be amusing or simply irritating remains, well, up in the air.

On to the Cowboys, 1 year ago today Owens stole the show

A year ago today, Owens was rushed to Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas after what was later termed an accidental overdose of pain medication.
Police originally thought Owens tried to commit suicide.

That initial report created a national uproar. Soon helicopters soon were hovering over his Deep Ellum condo, and TV and print reporters were stationed in the front and back of his home.

Owens' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, flew in from Miami and Deion Sanders left his home in Prosper to support Owens.

A year later, Owens wishes he could erase one of the worst moments of his life. He said he was embarrassed by the incident but has grown from it.

"That's not something I really want to be remembered for," Owens said. "The thing is, people can take things the wrong way and misinterpret the situation. I go from accidental overdose to suicide attempt. That's two totally different things. People who know me, my family, know I love me. It was an unfortunate situation."

Cowboys dominate the 4th Quarter

A mark of a good team is how it finishes.

In the big picture, the Cowboys' season will be defined by how they finish in December, which is why coach Wade Phillips reminded his team on Monday they have played just 19 percent of the season. Of course, many of his players can remember the 1-3 close to the 2006 season that cost the Cowboys a chance to win the NFC East.

But in the small picture, the Cowboys' ability to finish games has been impressive through three games.

The Cowboys have scored 86 points in the third and fourth quarters. That's more than every team in the NFC, including division rivals New York, Washington and Philadelphia.

For comparison, New England has the second-most second-half points with 59. The fourth quarter is even more impressive. The Cowboys have scored 48 points in the final 15 minutes that's more points than Buffalo (24), Jacksonville (46), Kansas City (26), Chicago (33), New Orleans (38), Atlanta (30) and – Sunday's opponent – St. Louis (32) have scored in three games.

"You can see at the end of ballgames our team is really powerful," coach Wade Phillips said. "I like the way we finish now. We have finished three games, and we have been the dominant team in the fourth quarter."

Phillips points to the work his players put in during the off-season from the organized team activities, mini-camps and training camp to learn a tweaked offense. But he also credits strength and conditioning coach Joe Juraszek for having the players in excellent shape.

Phillips did not mention halftime adjustments, which can be somewhat overrated because of how little time a team has make changes between the first and second half. But clearly the Cowboys are doing something right at intermission.

Rams limp in to town

Few could have predicted the Rams would start the season 0-3. That in itself is surprising.

But when you consider the fact that the team is 0-3 largely because of inept offense, well, that goes beyond surprising and into the realm of shocking.

The Rams have scored only 32 points in three games, the fifth-lowest total over any three-game span since the team moved to St. Louis in 1995.

This season, only three NFL teams have scored fewer points. The Rams rank 25th in total offense, 22nd in rushing offense, 20th in passing offense and 32nd in red-zone offense.

How can this be?

The Rams entered the season with five Pro Bowlers among their 11 starters on offense. The offseason additions of tight end Randy McMichael and wide receiver Drew Bennett were supposed to add even more options, and more flexibility to the attack.

In Bennett, McMichael, running back Steven Jackson and wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, the Rams had five players who caught 46 or more passes last season. That quintet combined for 365 catches last season, more than all but three entire NFL teams.

For all of those reasons, and more, this was supposed to be the most potent offense in St. Louis since the days of the Greatest Show on Turf. Instead, it has been a train wreck. There are many reasons. And because of a rash of
injuries, there's no easy way out.


In 21 red-zone plays, the Rams have gained a mere 30 yards. Running the ball effectively in the red zone is a key to scoring TDs, but the Rams have gained only 12 yards on 11 red-zone carries. Five of those carries, including four by
Jackson, resulted in negative yardage.

Games are often won or lost inside the 20. The Rams have been woeful in close this season, scoring only two TDs on eight trips inside the red zone. They've turned over the ball twice in the red zone.

"That's been our nemesis all season," Olson said. "It's gotta be corrected and it will get corrected."

That's proving easier said than done in what so far is a lost season.

To College Football we go, Coach Fran finally sort of answered some questions

Coach Dennis Franchione wanted to talk about Baylor, but he spent most of his time re-examining topics that arose from the Miami debacle.

•What did Franchione mean by saying the first four games were the "exhibition season?"

"I didn't mean that those games weren't important," Franchione said. "I didn't mean
anything other than it was just a different way to classify that non-conference is over. That's all it was."

•Why did running back Jorvorskie Lane get only two carries against the Hurricanes?
Franchione said A&M wanted to neutralize Miami defensive ends Calais Campbell and Eric Moncur by using the zone read option. On that play, Miami's ends consistently came down the line of scrimmage to stop Lane. Quarterback Stephen McGee's job was to pull the ball back and race outside.

"The same play Jorvorskie carried 23 times in the Fresno game, they weren't going to let him carry the ball as much on that play," Franchione said. "We didn't get the ball to the edge and do as much with it after that as we hoped we could."

•Did Franchione at least consider giving it to Lane once or twice to see what would happen? One of A&M's best offensive weapons finished the game with 2 yards.

"We had a lot of those thoughts all week long," Franchione said. "That was in the plan, and it just didn't work out in that game."

A&M players said they normally start looking at the next opponent on Sunday nights. But last Sunday, the Aggies didn't study anything about Baylor. Several players said a two-hour practice was devoted to fundamentals.

Players have been unable to avoid criticism outside the Bright Football Complex, though.

Two A&M officials said McGee found a negative letter under the windshield wiper of his car when the team returned from Miami. Asked about it Tuesday, McGee said, "My car is fine."

The quarterback said he's used to negative feedback and "that's just the way life is.

"Listening to what some negative guy sitting up in section 81 has to say about our team isn't going to help us beat the Bears at all," McGee said. "If it's not going to help us beat the Bears, what's the point of listening to it?"

Why is Byrne protecting Fran?

The Sooner machine keeps destroying

The Sooners certainly have done that so far, winning their first four games by an average of 49.8 points and scoring more than 50 points in four straight games for the second time in school history. For their chance at an unprecedented fifth straight 50-point game, Oklahoma faces Colorado (2-2) on Saturday in the Big 12 opener for both teams.

But that won't be the team's focus.

"We don't pay attention much to what the other team's doing or how they're acting or stuff like that," Murray said. "We know we have a goal to put points on the board, have fun doing it and continue to work hard."

In redshirt freshman Sam Bradford, the Sooners chose a quarterback who personifies that "robotic" approach. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said Bradford has been able to keep a level head through his early success — he's completed 78 percent of his passes for 1,067 yards and 14 touchdowns — but also was able to shrug off a shaky start with an interception on the first drive last week at Tulsa.

While Wilson was at first worried that Bradford might be too reserved and could "go in a shell," he now considers the quarterback an extension of the coaching staff on the field.

"As quiet as he is, there is a competitive spirit about him. He has a significant amount of personal pride to go with some athletic ability and a calmness that makes it a pretty unique deal," Wilson said. "He's got some unique intangibles. He has some things that you don't coach."

What the Sooners have been coaching is discipline, with an emphasis on eliminating the occasional mistakes that have popped up — penalties and turnovers on offense, and breakdowns in fundamentals on defense. The approach has kept players humble.

"I don't think we'll come out thumping our chests and saying we're the greatest because we've won a couple games or what not," Murray said. "We've just got to stay focused, stay levelheaded and look at the prize that we've been trying to work for."

The Longhorn media gets a laugh out of Kansas State paper

Has it come to this?

Is Texas’ 4-0 really that unimpressive?

The Kansas City Star has a headline that states (with a straight face), “K-State isn’t overlooking Texas.”

Huh? Isn’t Texas the one with the No. 7 ranking, the perfect record and a date with Oklahoma next week?

Seems that the buzz in Manhattan these days is about Kansas State’s upcoming game with Kansas, just as the buzz (or maybe it’s dread) in Austin is about Texas’ upcoming game with Oklahoma. (Except that the latter game actually matters.)

Explains Wildcat nose tackle Steven Cline:

“All these people are talking about Kansas this, Kansas that. It’s the talk of the town. We’re just focused on Texas. That’s all that matters.”

Who is your Heisman?

The Heisman race is muddled one-third of the way into the season. Here's a quick update on some of the candidates that explains:

A running back (Arkansas's Darren McFadden) who gets most of his highlight footage lining up at quarterback.

A quarterback (Florida's Tim Tebow) who plays like a running back.

A quarterback (Oregon's Dennis Dixon) who spent the summer playing minor league
baseball instead of working on his passing skills -- and was ripped by his coach
(Mike Bellotti) for the choice.

A quarterback (Kentucky's Andre Woodson) who nearly quit football before the 2006 season but was convinced by his mother to keep playing.

A quarterback (Boston College's Matt Ryan) who is flourishing under a new coach (Jeff Jagodzinski) and offensive coordinator (Steve Logan).

McFadden, the preseason Heisman favorite, leads the nation in rushing. That's the good news. The bad news is that Arkansas has two losses. Given the Razorbacks' remaining schedule, it's difficult to imagine them closing out the season without another loss.

USC's Carson Palmer (2002) and Wisconsin's Ron Dayne (1999) won the Heisman playing on teams with two regular-season losses.

Since 1970, only Texas running back Ricky Williams -- who was on his way to becoming the career rushing leader -- has won the Heisman playing for a team that lost three games before the votes were tallied.

In its weekly survey of 10 voters, the Rocky Mountain News Heisman poll had this top three: Tebow, McFadden and Woodson.

Four players received first-place votes and 12 players were listed in the voters' top five.

With the Stars season opening one week from tonight, the preseason rolls on

So the Stars' defensive coverage wasn't perfect Tuesday, even after a grueling workout Monday to stress the team's need for improvement in that area.

The Stars were competitive across the ice at the Pepsi Center, and coach Dave Tippett believes that had a lot to do with a 5-4 overtime win over the Colorado Avalanche in preseason competition.

"We were fatigued, and you could see that on the bench, but we fought through it," Tippett said. "And we showed a lot of battle when we needed it."

And how about that power play?

"That didn't hurt at all, either," Tippett said.

Going against an Avalanche team that was almost at full strength and battling to keep up with their top skaters, the Stars handed out 10 power-play opportunities. However, Dallas killed off eight of them, thanks to a lot of hustle and an impressive game from goalie Mike Smith, who faced 35 shots.

On the other side of the coin, the Stars created some power plays of their own, and cashed in on four-of-seven, including Sergei Zubov's game-winner in overtime. Getting Zubov and Mike Modano in for only the second time in five preseason games, the Stars relied heavily on their biggest stars.

Zubov finished with two goals and an assist, and Modano with a goal and two assists.
Chris Conner, who played on a line with Modano and Brenden Morrow, chipped in three assists.

It was the perfect game to get the Stars going forward in a 2-2-1 preseason that has been a bit disjointed.

"It was a great test for us," Tippett said. "And I really liked the way we responded."
Smith turned away 10 shots in the first 10 minutes before he was scored on, and was spectacular at times while keeping the Stars in the game. Even when Colorado went up 4-2 with 11:56 remaining in the third period, Smith was there to keep the chances of a comeback alive.

That's when Niklas Hagman converted a perfect pass from Antti Miettinen on the power play to make it 4-3. A minute later, Morrow was chipping in a shot in the crease on a pass from Conner off the half wall to tie the score.

William Wirtz, dead at 77

As a boyhood Blackhawks fan, I often claimed that I would celebrate on the day Dollar Bill Wirtz died, given that finally, the Chicago Blackhawks could stop embarrassing themselves with a greedy owner that didn’t seem to care. Perhaps those who follow after him will take better care of one of the NHL’s true jewels, but now I am awfully uncomfortable since he really did die of cancer last night. I think I will postpone the celebration.

A throwback to a bygone era in American sports when family ownership of professional sports franchises was the norm, Bill Wirtz died early Wednesday morning at age 77 at Evanston Hospital after a recent battle with cancer.

Many considered Wirtz to be a dinosaur in today's environment of corporate ownership.

A more apt metaphor would be to describe him as a mammoth, a giant of the modern ice age that saw him play an integral role in the expansion of the National Hockey League from six to 30 teams.

Although Wirtz was best known for his long tenure as president of his family-owned hockey team, the Chicago Blackhawks, his business ventures went far beyond sports. And his sports ventures went far beyond the Blackhawks.

How does Chelsea rally from firing Jose? Buy Ronaldinho! …of course, he is not the man he was, but who cares?

The Sun has reported that Chelsea's rumoured approach for Ronaldinho is still very much alive, with the London club set to offer the player 16 million euros a season for the next five years, should they agree a transfer with his current club, Barcelona.

The newspaper claims that the Stamford Bridge side is eager to coax the player to the Premiership, offering him almost double his current salary of 8.5 million euros in doing so.

Liverpool’s Fernando Torres is the King


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Martellus dunks on Coach Fran

Don’t Tase me, remix

1 comment:

cracker1743 said...

It looks like Fran got a whiff of Martellus' taint. He's probably a lot more familiar with Bill Byrne's. And his post-game rationalizing was ridiculous. I would have been shocked if it was otherwise.

God, please, someone, anyone: fire that effing loser.