Wednesday, October 31, 2007

They're Playing Basketball

Well, Game 1 is tonight in Cleveland, as our little heroes, the Dallas Mavericks attempt to slowly and surely recover from the biggest disaster in NBA Playoff History. It will begin on ESPN at 7pm, and expect all season long that when the Mavericks appear on a Network broadcast, 2-3 hours of doubting and questions that will not be answered until the spring time.

There is nothing you can do, and there is nothing the team can do. If you depend on the national announcers to build your team up to make you feel better (and most of you are like this) then prepare for many nights where you will be angry. The Mavericks are no longer everyone’s darling – of course, where did that get them when they were? The Mavericks are a national punch-line until further notice.

So, what will be different this season? Quite possibly, nothing. As I feared that night in Miami in June of 2006, when Game 3 had just been choked away, the best chance for this team to ever have their One Shining Moment likely has already happened.

Now, the West is looking as dangerous as ever. But, for some reason, I have as big a love affair with these guys as I do any team in this city. I freaking love the Mavericks. I am a homer for these boys. And I am prepared to unwrap this 2007-08 season and begin the long march to the playoffs.

This is how you find out if you are a die-hard fan. Because the so-so fans will hop on in April. Are you in for Game #2 in Atlanta on Friday?

Dirk is ready to get going again

Nowitzki, 29, seems relaxed and ready for his 10th NBA season, crediting a two-month summer stretch during which he didn't touch a basketball.

Dirk's Excellent Adventure included several weeks of backpacking through Australia, New Zealand and Tahiti. He entered clean-shaven and "fed up with basketball" and emerged with a monk-like beard and cleansed mind.

It was his first extended break from the sport since he was selected ninth in the 1998 NBA draft, five days after his 20th birthday.

He packed a towel for his first trip to Dallas because he wasn't sure one would be provided during his stay at then-Mavericks coach Don Nelson's home.

At the time, he earned about $1,100 a month from his club team in Würzburg and drove a Volkswagen. He earned $1.47 million during his rookie NBA year, but because it was a lockout-shortened season, common sense told him to rent a car, a Plymouth.

"Every time I pulled up, the boys [teammates] would be killing me, 'Get a car!' " he laughed.

His father owned a Mercedes, so one of his few ambitions was to get one. He indulged
with an E-class in his second season and now drives a new two-door CL63.

Though he could afford a fleet with his $16.3 million salary, his only other ride is the Denali he gets for doing commercials for a local dealership.

"Other than that, I don't buy fancy watches or rings," he said. "I don't need all of that. Obviously, it's awesome to know that I don't have to worry about it ever in my life again. I can do whatever I want, really, and my family will be fine."

Though he is entering the final season of a six-year, $79 million contract, he already has signed a three-year, $59 million extension that kicks in next year.
But while some pro athletes have sizable entourages, the tightness and makeup of Nowitzki's inner circle has changed little during the last decade.

Just when you thought the Mavericks were short a spare, they sign Juwan Howard again

The Dallas Mavericks are welcoming back a familiar face. Forward Juwan Howard is ready to sign a one-year contract, giving the team valuable depth on the front line.
The two sides have agreed in principle to the deal that cannot become official until today, when Howard clears waivers. He and the Minnesota Timberwolves agreed to a buyout of his contract on Monday.

"Juwan is a consumate professional and a winner through and through," president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. "It's an honor to have him back. It's going to be good fit for us, and he's a Maverick alum – he knows the Maverick way."

Howard, 34, was solid for Houston last season, averaging 9.7 points and 5.9 rebounds in 80 games (38 starts). His 26.5 minutes per game were a career low, but he was effective.

To create a roster spot for Howard, the Mavericks waived D.J. Mbenga, ending a three-year run in which the athletic, 7-0 center never earned enough playing time to blossom.

Complicating matters for Mbenga was an anterior cruciate ligament injury in February.

He didn't play again until the preseason finale last week.

Nelson said Mbenga is expected to clear waivers and play in Europe this season.
"We have nothing but love and respect for that young man," Nelson said. "We think he has a very bright future. We're hopeful that future will be with the Mavericks. This is the toughest part of the business."

Althought the Mavericks are ridiculed, here is a funny video from San Antonio ….

Tony Romo appears to be rich now …The bar just raised for the kid…I hope he is up to the pressure that lies ahead…

Tony Romo was in the midst of playing every sport for every season, and he was the best player in his high school, but he wasn't really trying as hard as he could. Mostly because he didn't have to.

"God gave you something," Ramiro told his then-teenage son. "If you don't want to take it any further, that's fine. We're going to love you no matter what. But take that gift you still have and work at it. We're not going to tell you to do this. And we're not going to make you do it."

Tony did the rest. On Tuesday, that paid off big time for Romo, as well as Jerry Jones and the Cowboys.

After searching high and low, and spending a lot of millions in between, Jones committed himself to the future of the Cowboys at quarterback and officially made Romo the heir to Troy Aikman.

The unlikeliest candidate when the Cowboys signed him as undrafted rookie out of Division I-AA Eastern Illinois in 2003, Romo agreed to a six-year, $67.5 million extension Tuesday.

After going through Tony Banks, Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, Clint Stoerner, Anthony Wright, Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson, Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe, Jones could say his search is over. Mostly because Romo's play told him he no longer needs to look.

"We tried very hard to be very prudent on how we'd make this kind of commitment," Jones said. "It's no secret, but it's hard to put it together and get where the Cowboys must strive for without excellence at the quarterback position."

Through more than a season's worth of starts, Romo has demonstrated he is worth more than 15 minutes of fame. He is a Pro Bowl quarterback with a 12-5 record as a starter, and is among the NFL leaders with a 95.6 passer rating. His team is tied for the best record in the NFC at 6-1, and the Cowboys are in the enviable position of having a stable quarterback position.

"When we had it, we won Super Bowls," Jones said. "When we didn't have it, we didn't get close."

But Romo doesn't view his new contract as an end. He knows he still hasn't won a playoff game.

"I don't think I've made it," Romo said. "Were my goals to make a bunch of money? If that's the case, I've accomplished something. That was never the intent. The best part is these guys really believe in me."

The belief was born, however unlikely, when the Cowboys originally signed him to a rookie free-agent contract May 1, 2003, with a $10,000 signing bonus. Since then, he steadily moved past the "big-time" prospects such as Hutchinson and Henson, and outlasted the established veterans such as Testaverde and Bledsoe.

Here is the Todd Archer breakdown

Tony Romo signed a six-year, $67.5 million deal that included $30 million guaranteed and an $11.5 million signing bonus.

Where does the rest of the money come in? There are no roster or option bonuses to the deal. The other guarantees come in Romo's base salaries the next two years.
Here are the yearly base salaries:

2007 - $6 million (the Cowboys added $4.5 million to his $1.5 million base this year)
2008 - $6.5 million (fully guaranteed)
2009 - $7 million ($6 million guaranteed)
2010 - $8.5 million
2011 - $9 million
2012 - $9 million
2013 - $11.5 million

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan attempts to rile up the natives

At the risk of committing football blasphemy, it must be said that it's better for Eagles fans when the Dallas Cowboys are good.

It just doesn't feel right when Chan Gailey or Dave Campo is on the sideline for some 6-10 season. If you're honest with yourself, you enjoy it a lot more when the 'Boys are riding high and the Eagles take them down. That's what rivalries are all about. The nastier the villain, the harder you root for the hero.

When the Cowboys are good, as they are going into Sunday's game at Lincoln Financial Field, there is no meaner villain in the eyes of Philadelphia sports fans.

This goes back to the early 1970s, when the pre-Dick Vermeil Eagles were terrible and the Tom Landry Cowboys carried themselves like the rich kids from the nicer side of town. They had their fancy stadium with the hole in the roof, their cheerleader posters, the whole America's Team conceit. It was hard not to hate them.

Fittingly, when the Eagles finally reached their first Super Bowl, they did it by beating Dallas at Veterans Stadium.

It was a mixed blessing. That NFC championship game was the high-water mark of an entire Eagles era. But if you ask Ron Jaworski or Bill Bergey or any of those Eagles, they'll tell you that beating Dallas left the team emotionally drained for the Super Bowl itself. In a roundabout way, even in defeat the Cowboys haunted the Eagles.

When Buddy Ryan got to Philadelphia in 1986, he picked up on the fans' loathing of the Cowboys and saw an opportunity. Ryan made no secret of his disdain for Landry. After his first win over the fedora-wearing legend, Ryan opened his news conference by saying that the Eagles really hadn't played all that well.

"Isn't that what Landry says?" Ryan sneered.

During the 1987 players strike, Landry's team - most of his regulars - trounced Ryan's very irregular replacement squad at Texas Stadium. Two weeks later, with the strike over, the real Eagles were beating the Cowboys, 30-20, as time was running out.

Randall Cunningham took a snap, started to kneel to run out the clock, then heaved a pass downfield to Mike Quick. Dallas was called for a pass-interference penalty, and the Eagles punched the ball into the end zone for a grudge score. As Ryan ran up the tunnel toward the locker room, laughing, he shouted something unprintable about Landry.

Dallas week was like some kind of festival in those years. Linebacker Seth Joyner would stand at his locker and talk with real passion about wanting to beat the Cowboys. For guys like Joyner, Wes Hopkins and Andre Waters, there was something personal about the rivalry that you just don't see in the current players.

Ryan's time in Philadelphia coincided with Landry's decline, and the Eagles beat them nine times in 10 tries through 1992. By then, Rich Kotite was coaching against Jimmy Johnson and a budding young team with Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.

That year, the Cowboys zoomed past the Eagles again. Another era ended with Reggie White's final game as an Eagle, a 34-10 playoff loss at Texas Stadium. The Cowboys won the first of their three Super Bowls in the '90s. The Eagles lost White, then Joyner and Keith Jackson and Clyde Simmons.

The rivalry lost some luster, but there were still some memorable games: stuffing Emmitt Smith twice on fourth and 1, the botched chip-shot field goal that cost the Eagles one win, James Willis' end-zone interception off Aikman and lateral to Troy Vincent for a combined 104-yard touchdown return.

If the '90s belonged to the Cowboys, this decade has been all Eagles. In 2000, Andy Reid's team declared itself with that 41-14 opening-day victory in triple-digit heat, then went on to win five of six NFC East titles.

And maybe this is why the Cowboys continue to loom so large in these parts. When the Cowboys have been on top, they've won Super Bowls. When the Eagles have had the upper hand, they've fallen short.

Now the Cowboys appear to be surging again. In Tony Romo, they have a quarterback worthy of your most irrational dislike. He seems like a good guy. He dates singers and actresses. He was seen hanging out with Britney Spears in L.A. last week.

There's Roy Williams, the safety whose penchant for injuring opponents forced the NFL to outlaw the horse-collar tackle. There's DeMarcus Ware, the playmaking outside pass rusher. There's that wide receiver who played briefly in Philadelphia - what's his name again?

The Cowboys are 6-1. Dallas week feels like a big deal, so an Eagles win would feel that much better. That's all you can ask for from any rivalry.

I just about made this today’s lead story. Because it is my lead story. Today is a wonderful day for me. The NHL Network is Now on Directv!!!!…Channel 215!!!! I am watching it as I blog!

Oh, how I love my hockey highlights. I no longer care that Sportscenter wants to give me 20 seconds of hockey. Screw them! I have 24 hour hockey!!! Hurrah!

Patrick Kane, #1 pick of 2007 draft, in town tonight with the Wirtz-less Blackhawks

Crosby with another 10 game scoring streak

Top to bottom, the Penguins nailed it, getting goals from the players who are supposed to score, getting a solid game from backup goaltender Dany Sabourin, staring down a Wild team that lives off a stifling defense -- all the while taking care of its own end.

It started at the top, with center Sidney Crosby collecting a goal on a pretty breakaway and three assists. His left winger, Evgeni Malkin, had two goals and an assist. Their right winger, Ryan Malone, had two assists.

"Crosby's line was on fire," coach Michel Therrien said. "They were skating very well, creating some good opportunities, but being cautious about the defensive game as well."

Twice, Minnesota erased a one-goal Penguins lead.

The Penguins regained the lead for good, 3-2, when Petr Sykora's wrist shot from the slot beat goaltender Josh Harding at 10:05 of the third period on the Penguins' only power play. They iced it 4:24 later when defenseman Sergei Gonchar's eyes got big as he got the puck, after Malkin blocked a shot, and saw Crosby streaking out of his own end.

"The only thing I was worried about was if it might jump off my blade," Gonchar said with a small laugh.

The pass was crisp, and Crosby soared from near the center red line on a breakaway to beat Harding with a forehand shot that slid under the goaltender.

Sabourin stopped 28 of 30 shots by the Wild, whose scoring chances seemed to come in flurries.

The Penguins seemed to start slow, but it was more a case of being patient, setting things up in their own end.

"We knew if we went [flying] down against them we'd be in trouble," Whitney said.
Things opened up in the second period just enough for the teams to take advantage of some offensive chances.

"We had to be patient," Crosby said. "They play a strong system and they're disciplined. We really made an effort to skate and create chances. I don't think we sat back, and that can be easy to do against a team like this."

Malkin found a minuscule space between Harding's left skate and the goal post for a wraparound goal at 3:30 of the second period to break the ice.

Crosby, at the far side of the net, partially whiffed on a pass behind the net to Malkin, but it was just enough for the puck to trickle to the winger.

Stephane Veilleux tied it from the left circle at 6:14 when he pounced on the long, wide rebound of a Branko Radivojevic slap shot from the opposite circle that left Sabourin scrambling side-to-side in the net.

Fifteen seconds later, Malkin restored the lead for the Penguins. He dove in the right circle to deposit a rebound from a Malone shot that bounced off Crosby in front of the crease.

"Our first line played unreal," Sykora said. "They created most of the chances, and they turned the game around in the second period with those two big goals."

Minnesota came back again when Brian Rolston deposited a feed from Mikko Koivu to tie it, 2-2, at 6:26 of the third period. With Brent Burns off for tripping Penguins center Maxime Talbot, Sykora made it 3-2 at 10:05 of the third period for what turned out to be the winner.

Then it was up to Crosby, who moved into the team lead with 17 points and has a 10-game point streak, to seal it. Which is about what would be expected of the team captain who led the NHL in scoring last season.

Matt Ryan Spews on National TV – We should all be this lucky

Amazing Race is back on Sunday …Do love this show…

With the 12th edition of Amazing Race arriving at 8 p.m., Sunday on CBS, some big things have changed, while many things have stayed exactly the same.

CBS was ready to begin airing AR in January, but the stinkage of Viva Laughlin was so bad that it was required to pull our dear Phil Keoghan out of the drawer and dust him off early.

No worries here. We’ll take a disappointing season of AR over just about anything that’s on TV. Right?

- Two fewer episodes in the season.
- Elimination of the non-elimination Pit Stops (yea!)
- Five countries we’ve never visited, including Ireland, Lithuania, and Croatia
- No young all-male teams (or, as we like to call them, the winners).

New Amazing Race

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What Did You Think I Would Lead With?

Pack drop an Overtime Bomb on Denver

Brett Favre, the 38-year-old gunslinger, stepped into this Wild West setting he's been in so many times.

Thunder, the Broncos mascot horse, made his cameo following Jason Elam's game-tying field goal that sent Monday night's game against the Packers into overtime. The Packers won the overtime coin toss, and Packers coach Mike McCarthy loaded Favre a final bullet, "Zebra Double Go," to open the extra session.

Tight end Donald Lee was the zebra down the middle of the field. Greg Jennings and James Jones were ordered to run as far as the old man could throw.

And throw he did. Favre tossed an 82-yard touchdown pass to Jennings that warned the NFL not to retire a gunslinger when he still has bullets. Favre beat a young gun, Broncos QB Jay Cutler, 19-13 in what Favre described as one of the top thrills of his NFL career.
The Packers are 6-1, and Favre still has it.

"That one ranks up there near the top,'' Favre said of the victory.

Just recently, a writer covering the Packers pointed out that Favre might be firing blanks. Four long passes were underthrown in Week 6 against the Redskins. In the first six games, Favre had thrown only 20 passes longer than 20 yards. He completed only six. The quarterback known for having the best long-range rifle in the game was struggling in the pistol range.

Favre took the story as a challenge, but he doesn't call the plays. McCarthy does. But the coach and the quarterback are more than just employer and employee. They are friends, a bond formed when McCarthy was Favre's quarterback coach. McCarthy's hire as head coach was incentive enough for Favre to continue playing for the past two years.

On the Packers' fourth play of the game, McCarthy called "Zebra Double Go." Favre hit Jones for a 79-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7 in the first quarter. Jones was covered by Champ Bailey, the best cornerback in the game. Jones caught the ball down the right sideline and traversed the field before reaching the end zone. On the play, back judge Jim Howey injured his back and was out for the rest of the game.

"Against the Redskins, I underthrew it and took ownership of that," Favre said. "I knew it didn't have anything to do with my arm strength. It was just one of those days."

Monday night was one of those nights. Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan felt he had secured perhaps the league's best one-two cornerback tandem when he traded for Dre Bly to pair up with Bailey. Unfortunately, Shanahan junked his entire run defense and now the Broncos can't stop any running back, not even Ryan Grant, who had 104 yards rushing on 22 carries. He was the Packers' first 100-yard runner of the season.

With the security of having Bly and Bailey at the corners, Shanahan designed a defense that should have insulated itself against big plays. On plays in which the Broncos had two safeties, they lined up 20 yards away from the line of scrimmage. In the Cover 1 formation or plays in which one safety lined up, the deep safety was 25 yards deep.

In other words, the Broncos had their bulletproof vest just in case Favre tried to shoot them deep. They were determined not to give up the deep pass play, but they still ended up getting burned twice.

"We really had two big go-routes in this game," McCarthy said. "We knew that their corners are outstanding and it was big for us to go out there on top with Champ and Dre.''
Favre's young teammates joke with him about the criticism he's been taking. Because the Packers are about the worst running team in the league, opposing defenses have the luxury of having their safeties playing deep instead of near the line of scrimmage. Hitting the 79-yarder to Jones after having only six long completions all season was huge.

And now, for your Dallas Sports Appetite, The Cowboys get Tony Romo signed, sealed, and delivered …This is a good day, in my estimation…

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is still going to wear his baseball cap backward whether you like or not. And he's still going to wear socks and sandals no matter how many times he has been told it's a fashion faux pas.

He's still going to sign autographs for 20 minutes after training camp practices and
he's still going to belt out Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" after a big win even if he's perpetually off-key and his teammates beg him to shut up.

All of this should comfort you.

You don't want Romo changing one bit just because, according to multiple sources, he agreed to terms on one of the most lucrative deals in Cowboys history Monday afternoon.

Although I don't know from personal experience, a six-year, $67.5 million deal with $30 million guaranteed would change a lot of folks.

Romo isn't one of them because your opinions don't faze him.

The deal removes any doubt that Romo is the face of the franchise, something the
Cowboys haven't had since Emmitt Smith left for Arizona after the 2002 season.
Romo's earned it.

Every accolade. And every dollar.

He's worked his way up the depth chart from unknown, undrafted free agent to Pro Bowl quarterback last year.

His performance has been even better this season with 1,984 yards passing and 16 touchdowns. Only Tom Brady has more yards and touchdowns. Romo, 12-5 as a starter, has a 95.6 passer rating, which leads the NFC.

See, he's already had plenty of opportunities to become intoxicated with his success, and it hasn't happened.

Goose’s take makes me feel better by comparing his deal to JaMarcus Russell

JaMarcus Russell started only two seasons at LSU and threw fewer than 800 passes. That didn't prevent the Oakland Raiders from making him the first overall selection of the 2007 NFL draft and giving him a $60 million contract – almost half of it in guaranteed money.

The Raiders committed to Russell with the hope he can develop into a franchise quarterback. But the Raiders really don't know.

The Cowboys are giving Tony Romo slightly more money than Russell – $67.5 million, of which $30 million is guaranteed – with far less guesswork.

The Cowboys and Jerry Jones know exactly what they have in Romo. A quarterback capable of staring down Peyton Manning on the football field. A quarterback capable of leading a team to the playoffs. A quarterback capable of playing at a Pro Bowl level.
The Cowboys know that because Romo cashed that trifecta in his first season as an NFL starter in 2006. And Romo has been even better in 2007, passing for 300 yards in four of the first seven games and winning six of them for the NFC East-leading Cowboys.

Maybe that's why Jones waited this long to give the undrafted Romo a contract extension. He wanted proof that Romo had franchise potential and would be worthy of a $67-million investment.

Jones had been fooled before by the likes of Quincy Carter, Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson. All arrived with hope, all left in disappointment. But Romo has delivered on that hope in his 18 career starts.

The NFL always has been and always will be a quarterback's league. If you have one, you have a chance. Jones now knows he has one. A good one. Jones is through betting on longshots. This time he believes he's betting on Secretariat – and it's a $67 million wager.

Stars let another one slip away As the Sharks steamroll in the final 10 minutes for 3 goals and a win …Joe Thornton Rules…

When Mike Modano assisted on an early second-period goal, a celebration of the record for all-time points scored by an American-born player seemed imminent.

But in the end, a Canadian did the celebrating after scoring the first two goals of his career in San Jose's 4-2 win at American Airlines Center.

Modano got upstaged by an upstart who has played in 1,248 fewer games. In his NHL debut, Devin Setoguchi led offensively challenged San Jose.

His goal at 11:53 of the third period tied the score, 2-2. His next goal, 2:34 later, put the Sharks ahead. Steve Bernier joined the fun, beating Marty Turco a mere 17 seconds later.
San Jose shouldn't get all the credit. The Stars contributed turnovers, and Turco failed to compensate for the mistakes.

So Modano had no record, only a blown lead at home against a Pacific Division rival that was struggling to score. No doubt coach Dave Tippett will sound like a broken record as he preaches to his team the value of protecting and stopping pucks.

"Some mistakes were made on our end by people we rely on to shut people down, and they put the puck in the back of the net twice," Tippett said. "The people we rely on to get the job done didn't get it done."

The Stars will celebrate the minute Tippett allows them to come off the ice after today's practice. He hinted that lineup changes could be made.

"We'll visit that tomorrow," he said. "We have 15 forwards, and the three guys that didn't play tonight are all itching to play."

Through much of 2 ½ periods, the Stars seemed in control. The line of Mike Ribeiro, Brenden Morrow and Jere Lehtinen dominated. Ribeiro opened the scoring, and although San Jose countered with Joe Pavelski's goal, Dallas took a 2-1 lead when Matt Niskanen scored on a one-timer from Modano.

But the Stars couldn't land the deciding blow. After failing to convert scoring chances, they got sloppy in their own end.

Coach Fran answers for himself ….again…

Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione's off-the-cuff August joke about Oklahoma's NCAA problems resurfaced Monday on the Big 12 conference call.

Franchione defended himself about the remark he made while speaking to the Houston Touchdown Club. While dissecting the Big 12 South race, Franchione said he wasn't sure who would be OU's quarterback.

"That may be the only question mark they have ... other than what jobs they are going to work this year," Franchione said Aug. 1, according to the Houston Chronicle. "That is a joke. I couldn't resist."

The joke was a reference to NCAA violations made by former OU players Rhett Bomar and J.D. Quinn while they worked at a Norman car dealership.

Franchione wasn't laughing Monday while speaking with reporters. When asked if that comment would make its way to OU's bulletin boards, Franchione said, "I don't think Oklahoma needs that.

"Again, that was a light-hearted comment with a bunch of Aggies in the room," Franchione said. "I certainly feel bad about it. It's not my style to do that. I have great respect for Oklahoma and their program. They've got a lot to play for other than that."
OU coach Bob Stoops said he wouldn't remind his players about the wisecrack. Stoops is 4-0 against A&M since Franchione arrived in College Station.

"No. We don't need to do that," Stoops said. "Yeah, it surprised me. But he can clarify his comments. That's not for me to do."

No. 5 Oklahoma (7-1, 3-1 Big 12) doesn't need added motivation against A&M (6-3, 3-2). OU is locked in a two-way tie with Oklahoma State for first place in the Big 12 South. The Aggies need a victory Saturday to keep their South title hopes alive.

Mavericks just 1 day from the opener ….

For the next six months, beginning with the start of the regular season Wednesday in Cleveland, if the Mavs hear it once, they’ll hear it a thousand times.

Cue the refrain: “It’s not so much the regular season that you have to worry about Dallas,” TNT analyst and former Indiana Pacers star Reggie Miller said. “Obviously, you have to worry about them come May. Will they be mentally ready in May for a quest for a championship?”

The Mavs believe they can be. After two postseasons of heartache, the Mavs bring back, more or less, the same group that blew a 2-0 lead in the Finals two seasons ago and suffered a humiliating and historic first-round upset last season as the No. 1 seed.

“It’s hard to forget, especially when basketball is still being played and it’s a constant reminder, you constantly see it on TV,” Mavs point guard Devin Harris said. “It’s hard to get it out of your head, but once the season actually gets over, then it kind of separates itself, you kind of get away from it for a while.

“And then you get excited more for the upcoming season because you know things can be different. I just look at it as us on the way to learning how to be a championship team.”

Unless the Mavs gut the roster in a blockbuster deal for Kobe Bryant, the same Mavs are back for more.

No one doubts the team’s talent or coach Avery Johnson’s ability to maximize its effort. The Mavs are again a top contender to win the Southwest Division and the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed.

But their postseason busts have made the Mavs national punch lines, criticized as mental lightweights, a team with good players and nice guys, but one that lacks a killer mentality.

Soon after the humbling loss to Golden State, a redesigned Mavs logo hit the Internet.

The culprit changed the logo’s color from Mavs blue to pink, and the horse head in the shield, a symbol of strength, was replaced with My Little Pony.

Do you mean, this logo?

Dallas Clark – Happy Hands Club

Brilliant Blooper

Monday, October 29, 2007

And So It Ends...

Boston Red Sox = World Champions

You didn't just see the Boston Red Sox win the World Series. You didn't just see the Red Sox sweep the World Series. You saw something bigger, something deeper, something historic.
This wasn't 2004. That's ancient history now.

This wasn't 86 years of torment and misery, curses and ghosts, being washed away by events taking place on a baseball field. This was different. Very different. Couldn't have been
more different.

This is a franchise that has turned life as we used to know it upside down. This is no longer a team defined by all the years it didn't win. This is a team carving a whole new niche in the sporting universe.

Make no mistake. The Red Sox now are one of baseball's powerhouse franchises. And what they just did -- in this World Series, in this October and especially in the past week and a half -- made that 100 percent official.

"It's a different organization now," Curt Schilling said after the 4-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies that completed this sweep and this journey. "It's different. Nobody feels sorry for us anymore. And they shouldn't. We're not the little guy on the block anymore. We're not David to Goliath. Payrollwise, we're up there with anybody now. But it's about a lot more than payroll. They built this franchise to last. And it's been a privilege to watch it take off."

Until Sunday, the only franchise in the history of this sport that ever swept two World Series in four seasons was the one, the only New York Yankees (who, of course, had done that four times).

But now the Yankees have company. Now the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox have moved in right beside them, leaving their stamp on their sport and its rich postseason history.

And this team stampeded up that mountainside in a way no team ever has. Well, not since baseball expanded its postseason in 1969, at least.

This team outscored the Los Angeles Angels, the Cleveland Indians and the Rockies by a combined score of 99-46 -- the greatest October run differential in postseason history.

These Red Sox finished that run by outscoring the Rockies 29-10 in this World Series -- the greatest World Series run differential in history.

In the last 10 World Series, we have had 5 sweeps: 1998, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007 (all by the American League). 2 more series were 5 games, 2000 and 2006. And the American League has won 7 of the 10.

As I was pondering the Red Sox winning another title, I was thinking 2 things:

1) How further insufferable will New Englanders be?

2) How different is the 2004 Champs from the 2007?

Take a look:

This season’s Red Sox

C – Varitek
1B – Youkilis
2B – Pedroia
3B – Lowell
SS – Lugo
LF – Manny
CF – Crisp/Ellsbury
RF – Drew
DH – Papi

SP – Beckett
SP – Matsuzaka
SP – Schilling
SP – Wakefiled
SP – Lester

Clo - Papelbon

And, the 2004

C- Varitek
1B – Millar/ Mientkiewicz
2B – Bellhorn
3B – Mueller
SS – Cabrera
LF – Manny
CF – Damon
RF – Kapler/Trot
DH – Papi

SP – Lowe
SP – Pedro
SP – Schilling
SP – Wakefield
SP – Arroyo

Clo – Foulke

I guess standing pat is not the answer?

Now, in “how can we save Tom Hicks money” news, ARod- saves Hicks lots of cash

Curveballs seem to elude his bat each October, but if we've learned anything about Alex Rodriguez, it's that he never allows a dollar bill to skip past him.

Thus, the reports Sunday night should not have stunned anyone that Rodriguez, the human bank vault, has turned up his nose on baseball's already-richest contract.

As was his contractual right, Rodriguez reportedly has opted out of the three years
remaining on his New York Yankees contract and plans to again become a free agent.

For the Rangers, the news has to be greeted with perverse glee. By Rodriguez turning his back on his current contract, Rangers owner Tom Hicks is off the hook for $21,304,500 owed to the Yankees to subsidize the remaining $81 million in salary.

Spend it wisely, Mr. Hicks. People will be watching.

What was amusing is that the new regime at the Yankees' fiefdom-in-transition, Steinbrenner and Sons, actually thought there was a chance that Rodriguez wouldn't do it. Hank Steinbrenner, blustery son of the ailing blustery father, had been trying lately to summon Rodriguez to the family castle.

For what, we wondered? To lay a guilt trip on Alex and try to hold him to his midseason word about how he always wanted to "remain a Yankee"?

Or did the Steinbluffers think they were going to dazzle Rodriguez with their arithmetic?

Rodriguez was scheduled to be paid $27 million annually through 2010. Yet, reports in the New York-area newspapers were saying that the Yankees had no intention of making anyone baseball's first $30-million-a-year player.

That's not much of a raise for a guy who hit 54 homers.

But it's moot now. Rodriguez had 10 days after the conclusion of the World Series to exercise the opt-out clause, and no one can accuse Opt-Rod of stringing the Yankees along.

If you want to believe Steinbrenner and Sons, Rodriguez's days in pinstripes are done.

As Hank Steinbrenner put it so tactfully last weekend in the Long Island, N.Y., paper Newsday, "I don't think there's any secret that we want A-Rod to stay, but it's also no secret that Brian [Cashman, general manager] made it clear a long time ago, and I've made it clear after him, if they opt out, goodbye."

The Yankees weren't interested in retaining Rodriguez, in other words, unless the Rangers' money was helping them to pay for him. And since that would have required Rodriguez to forgo his opt-out clause, the Yankees, in effect, were telling baseball's best player that he had a deadline: Sign now or see ya.

Since Scott Boras is Opt-Rod's agent, projections and contract expectations should be viewed with a smirk. Boras, for example, reportedly wants Rodriguez, who is 32, to get a 12-year deal. The annual salary should start, at the least, at $30 million.
Is he worth it? Hicks and the Steinbrenners have already answered that, haven't they?

Now, 2 Days from the Mavericks opener in Cleveland, Who is Brandon Bass?

The Mavericks are bringing the 6-8, 250-pound Bass along slowly, feeding him only
the information that is needed for survival at this point.

He's shown a knack for rebounding and grinding against bigger players in the paint.
But the coaches have to keep reminding themselves that Bass is really not much more than a rookie. His two seasons in New Orleans after winning Southeastern Conference player of the year honors at LSU were spent almost exclusively on the bench.

"He's not going to be as good this year as he is next year," coach Avery Johnson said. "And he's not going to be as good next year as he will be in two years. We just want him to take baby steps.

"We've wanted a workmanlike power forward. And Bass gives us that opportunity to have that. But he hasn't played in a real game for us yet."

It's likely Bass will play some with Dirk Nowitzki, who has been a 40-minute man at power forward most of his career. The hope is that Nowitzki can use mismatches at either center or small forward to open up time for Bass.

Bass is just happy to be in the mix. After riding the bench with the Hornets for two seasons, any time spent in an upright position is a plus for him.

"He can be a change of pace for us, but not only that, he can play together with Dirk," Jones said. "You saw it in the last preseason game that Bass played four and Dirk played a little three. That's a big lineup, with Josh [Howard] going to the backcourt."

Tony Romo is Forrest Gump

A metrosexual pal who's in a position to know (and no, we're not talking about his wide stance) saw the ever-mercurial Britney Spears enjoying herself big-time Friday night at Hollywood hot spot Les Deux.

Her good time seemed to have a lot to do with enjoying the company of big-gun Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo. Hunky sports hero Tony knows a thing or three about picking up blitzes, but he seemed caught off guard by Britney's southern charms.

Say what you will about Britney, she doesn't seem to have any problem attracting men. And while she goes through guys like Kleenex, she changes clothes even more often, donning three different outfits on this evening. The more things change, frocks included, the more they stay the same.

Big 12 balance of Power is clearly shifting

We all knew that the Big 12 North Division would be improved this season.

But who would have ever guessed that the recent South domination in the conference would end so suddenly?

The North flexed its muscles on Saturday with three statement victories and nearly claimed a fourth.

Kansas proved itself as one of the most underrated teams in the country with an impressive 19-11 victory at Texas A&M. Colorado stymied Texas Tech's passing game with a blitzing defense that paved the way for a 31-26 win in Lubbock. Kansas State's 51-13 victory over Baylor ranked as one of the three largest victory margins in conference play this season.

And only a dramatic late charge by Texas enabled the Longhorns to escape with a 28-25 comeback victory over struggling Nebraska in Austin.

The topsy-turvy condition of the Big 12 is best illustrated by the fact Kansas remains the league's only undefeated team — both in overall record and in conference play.

The combined record of both divisions shows how even the games between the two divisions have been. After Saturday's games, both divisions have claimed eight victories in the cross-divisional games.

Every Big 12 South team has lost at least one game against the South with the exception of Oklahoma State.

The North-South series will be settled on Nov. 10 when Kansas visits Oklahoma State and A&M travels to Missouri.

Two of the three best teams in the league over the first half of divisional play are North teams. At this point in the season, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri appear to have separated themselves as the logical contenders for the championship game at the Alamodome on Dec. 1.

The dominance on Saturday allowed the North to already claim more victories against South teams than in any season since 2001, which was the last time the two divisions were even in head-to-head games.

In a way, it's a throwback to the earliest days of the league. The North dominated the South in the first three seasons of league play, posting a 33-21 edge from 1996-98. And the two divisions split the first six championship games, with North and South teams winning in alternate seasons from 1996-2001.

But the arrival of Mack Brown at UT and Bob Stoops at OU, Tom Osborne's retirement as Nebraska's coach and the opening of the fertile Texas recruiting base for mostly South teams served as catalysts for the South's recent rise.

The South received its first edge in 2000 and then dominated solidly from 2002-06. During that period, South teams claimed a 62-28 edge over North teams.

It was worst in 2004, when the South had a record 15-3 edge. The only North victories came over Baylor.

After that season, several Big 12 coaches talked about going to one division as a way to reduce the South's domination.

Including Big 12 championship games, South teams entered this season having won 42 of the previous 57 games.

It's been especially pronounced in championship games, with South teams outscoring the North by a combined 133-13 margin in the last three.

Last season, Baylor went 3-0 against North teams and 0-5 against the South.

But it appears that the North teams have started to reclaim the edge. And it's not surprising that Kansas and Missouri are the two teams that are jumping to the top of the trend.

SMU Cuts the cord …I say Craig Swan should be considered…

SMU coach Phil Bennett was fired Sunday, a day after the Mustangs lost 29-23 at Tulsa and were eliminated from bowl contention.

Bennett, who is 18-48 in six seasons, will finish out the season, athletic director Steve Orsini said.

"I appreciate Phil's efforts here at SMU, but I felt it was time for a change," Orsini said in a statement.

The Mustangs are 1-7 with four games remaining. They play at Houston on Sunday.
Bennett is expected to address the media Tuesday. He did not immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press on Sunday.

Bennett was reportedly close to losing his job after the 2005 season, but won the last three to finish 5-6. He signed an extension in January 2006 that put him under contract through the 2009 season.

But that was before Orsini came aboard as athletic director and began to put his mark on the program. His first big move was to hire former North Carolina basketball coach Matt Doherty.

Bennett, under Orsini's close watch in 2006, led the Mustangs to a 6-6 record. It was the team's second non-losing season since the NCAA shut down the program in 1987 for numerous violations, including paying players.

In an interview with the AP last year, Bennett acknowledged that his job was in jeopardy.

"You know and I know if you don't perform, it doesn't matter," Bennett said. "Steve has a vision for this place, and I know he wants to win. That's my job."

The Sharks come calling ….

ESPN experts were Shark-crazy in their preseason predictions.

Four of the five put San Jose in the Stanley Cup Finals. Two predicted the Sharks to win it all.

Just so much hot air from "the nation's sports leader?" Possibly. But they weren't alone.

Las Vegas oddsmakers gave San Jose the fourth-best chance of winning the Cup. EA Sports worked through the season and playoffs on its video games and deemed the Sharks the eventual champs.

Not entirely scientific, mind you, but the message was clear: This was expected to be a magical season in the Bay Area.

But something has happened to the Pacific Division in October. The forward-rich Sharks are .500 and struggling to score goals. The defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks are battling injuries and wallowing below the surface at 4-7-2. The defense-happy Stars rank 16th in the NHL in average shots on goal against at 28.6.

"I think we've just been inconsistent," said Sharks center Joe Thornton, echoing the thoughts of an entire division. "You have to work to earn your points."

So while Versus imagined a showdown between two of the NHL's better teams tonight in a nationally televised game from America Airlines Center, it is getting a game in which both squads will be hungry for points.

For Dallas, the challenge is finding consistent lines that can both score and defend. For the Sharks, it's finding offense from a group that many believe is among the most talented in the NHL.

"It's nice that people have said that about us, but we don't feel the pressure from the outside. We feel the pressure from within," captain Patrick Marleau said. "The reason they picked us is because of what we have done in the past, because we have worked hard and done all of the little things to win games. If we get back to doing that, I think we can reach our goals this year."

The Sharks (5-5-1) are putting together a nice history. They went 51-26-5 last season, including a league-best 26-14-1 on the road. They preceded that with a 44-27-11 season and had a 43-21-12-6 campaign (and a division championship) before the lockout. They have been the perennial team "about to explode."

Poor Shawn Chambers

To call Shawn Chambers the worst player in video game history does the man and his career a disservice. Chambers had an accomplished thirteen-year NHL career as an NHL defenseman, winning two Stanley Cups in the process. Despite suffering through more than twenty surgeries on ailing knees, Chambers made it to the playoffs seven times and had 235 points in 625 NHL games.

And yet, if you loaded up NHL '93 back when you were wearing your flannel shirt and blaming your Gin Blossoms CD on your ex-girlfriend, you would've seen Chambers sporting the worst rating ever given to any athlete in video game history: A 1 overall rating.

In modern versions of EA games, players receive ratings on a roughly 55-100 scale, so Chambers' 1 rating has not been threatened for seemingly a decade. In addition, Chambers was not the only player on his team (the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning) to receive an extremely low rating: fellow defenseman Jeff Bloemberg (who never played a game for the Lightning) was given only a 4, while brutal winger Shayne Stevenson (he of the 27 career NHL games) mustered a whopping 7.

It's even stranger, then, that Chambers was given the lowest rating in recorded video game history. To find out why, well, we asked the most obvious source: Chambers himself, who detailed an amazing, up-and-down career that seemed to oscillate wildly between being unwanted and being essential.

Snoop booked for Today’s show – buys a nail gun (language)

Get Peyton Pregnant!

Friday, October 26, 2007


Given the fact it is Friday, I have no choice but to offer a blog that should cover about 16 different topics. It can’t happen any other way.

Let’s start with a picture being worth 1,000 words. Quincy’s mug shot.

Ok. Now, on to the World Series, Where Schilling is being Schilling

• He's now the only starting pitcher in history who can say he's won a World Series game in his 20s, his 30s and his 40s.

• He's now one of only two starting pitchers -- Kenny Rogers being the other -- who can say he's won a World Series game after turning 40.

• And the Elias Sports Bureau reports that, by winning Series games 14 years apart, Schilling is now just the second pitcher ever to record World Series wins that many years apart or longer. Jim Palmer (17 years) is the other.

Those are very cool feats, very cool little slices of October trivia, very cool tidbits to file away for some future "Who's The Greatest Postseason Pitcher Ever?" debate.

Here, however, comes the number that's Schilling's personal favorite -- .846.

That's his career postseason winning percentage. And it's now the best winning percentage in baseball history among all pitchers with at least 10 postseason decisions.

Whether you love him or hate him, whether you root for him or against him, you have to admit this about Curt Schilling: His postseason numbers are getting downright insane.

No matter how many times you look at them, they tell the tale of a pitcher who has risen to these moments as successfully as any starting pitcher we've ever laid eyes on.

Go ahead. Check them out.

He's now 11-2, with a 2.23 ERA, in his 19 postseason trips to the mound.

He's now 4-1, 2.06, in seven career World Series starts.

And he's now 6-1, 3.28, in eight postseason starts for the Red Sox.

Maybe he can't reach back for that old 97-mph flameball the way he used to. But his manager, Terry Francona, admits that when he points Schilling toward the mound in games like this, he has just as much trust in him as he ever has.
Why? How? Simply because of "his will to make sure the score ends up in our favor," Francona said.

"I've been around him so long," the manager went on, "I probably expect unfair things out of him. But that probably won't stop. It's a good feeling when he pitches."

World Series Game Story Here

Now, on to the event of the night: Boston College shocks Virginia Tech.

You would like to think that a 10-0 lead with 2:00 to go would be plenty….

Matt Ryan bought some time, scrambling to his left away from the Virginia Tech rush while searching for an open receiver.

He found just what he was looking for, fired a pass all the way across the field and kept No. 2 Boston College perfect.

Call it Ryan's Heisman moment.

The senior quarterback threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Andre Callender with 11 seconds left and the Eagles validated themselves as national title contenders with an improbable 14-10 victory over No. 8 Virginia Tech on Thursday night.

Boston College avoided becoming the fourth second-ranked team to lose in the last four weeks, with Ryan throwing two touchdown passes in the final 2:11 after doing little for the first 55 minutes against the Hokies' swarming defense.

"Well, you know there's still time left on the clock," Ryan said. "You know you still have a shot and you still got a chance. We've been in this situation so many times through the course of the year in practice and we've prepared ourselves really well."

Boston College (4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), second in the BCS standings this week, improved to 8-0 for the first time since 1942. Despite the fast start, some were skeptical of the Eagles, who had only played one ranked team before Virginia Tech.

Ryan finished 25-for-52 for 285 yards with two interceptions, but the final numbers hardly told the story.

"That's what Heisman's do," Hokies defensive end Chris Ellis said. "They don't ever give up. We beat the O-line, put licks on him and he came through at the end. He had a 2-minute drill -- two of them. He did what he had to do."

Remember Terry Glenn?

Terry Glenn made an appearance at Valley Ranch on Thursday.
Glenn, the Cowboys receiver who is recovering from two knee surgeries, was doing weight training while the team practiced.

Glenn said he expects to return at some point this season but doesn't know when.
"His spirits are good," coach Wade Phillips said. "He's rehabbing his quad; they are building that up. Once you have a knee operation, you need the quad to go down, so they're building that up."

It could take one or two weeks for Glenn to get enough strength in the quad before he starts running. Glenn said after his first surgery – to remove a cyst in August – he came back too fast. The second surgery Sept. 13 was to clean up loose cartilage.
Glenn said he wants to take his time during this rehab process.

"I wasn't healthy enough or strong enough to come back that soon," Glenn said after the New England game. "It wasn't like the surgery was related to that injury, but in a way it was. I had surgery and it made my quad a little weak and I couldn't get my strength back in it."

Glenn, according to the doctors, doesn't need the dreaded microfracture surgery that could have ended either his career or season.

"I don't have too much time left, man," the 33-year old Glenn said. "It's not like I'm trying to get ready for a five-year run. I think we have a good team and we can win now, and I want to be a part of that."

Albert Breer looks at the “Phillips Defense” ….

When Wade Phillips was hired in February, one number he brought with him stuck ... the same one that's been glued to Roger Maris for decades.


The number of sacks Phillips' crazed-dog Chargers defense posted last year. The symbol for all the coach would turn loose once he ripped the shackles off the Cowboys' 3-4 personnel and the players who groused about being reined in by Bill Parcells' two-gap, defeat-the-blocker scheme.

Seven games into Phillips' tenure, the numbers fail to show a quantum leap. The Cowboys have 18 sacks, projecting to 41 for a season, which would be a modest improvement from last year's total of 34. Dallas ranks 12th in sacks per pass play, another decent but not huge jump from last year's finish of 19th in the category.

But to look at the numbers alone would be missing the point. The simple threat a Phillips defense presents, especially when armed with an elite edge rusher like DeMarcus Ware, has worked to handcuff offenses.

"I'm encouraged about our pass rush," Phillips said. "We're seeing more max-protect – it's what we saw [coaching] in San Diego. They keep everybody in, and therefore you can cover better."

Never was that more evident than last weekend against the Vikings, a game in which the Cowboys didn't register a sack until the midway point of the fourth quarter, yet held quarterback Tarvaris Jackson to 72 yards passing and a 32 percent completion rate.
By an unofficial count, Phillips and defensive coordinator Brian Stewart sent just four rushers on 18 of Jackson's 25 pass drops. They sent five men to pressure seven times, and never more than that.

But, as Phillips said, that didn't stop the Vikings from keeping tight ends and backs in to block. More often than not, six blockers were kept in to handle four rushers, and seven were there to block five. In some instances, Minnesota even had seven in protection blocking four, and that's with a line starting two players who have nine Pro Bowl berths between them.

"When you get that situation, although you'd like to say the speed and the intensity of the pressure will get there ... they've got a chance to block it," Stewart said. "So what you want to do is play coverage. You can double guys and drop more guys, and you get coverage sacks, not just the blitz sacks."

It becomes a blitz economy. In the situations in which Minnesota kept a back and a tight end in with the tackles, guards and center, only three receivers were releasing. In the cases where Dallas rushed four, seven dropped into coverage. Meaning in that circumstance, seven guys are covering three receivers.

Tim McMahon points out on the Cowboys Blog the new Mock Draft at

MUST READ GOLD OF THE DAY: Cowboys featured on Uni-Watch

The Dallas Cowboys: so successful ... so beloved ... so completely annoying. From the "America's Team" arrogance and the incredible run of lucky breaks (can someone please explain why Neil O'Donnell threw that ball right to Larry Brown?) to the loathsome owner and the succession of even more loathsome coaches (has there ever been a more irritating quartet than Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer and Bill Parcells?), the Cowboys have set the standard for despicability for decades. Love 'em or hate 'em, you've got to hate 'em.

It's tough to knock their uniforms, though. The Cowboys almost always wear basic white jerseys, their helmet design is timeless and classic, and their basic aesthetic approach is blissfully free of extraneous bells and whistles. All in all, they present a simple, straightforward look.

Or so it would appear to the untrained eye. But to the practiced uniform acolyte, the Cowboys' attire is rife with idiosyncrasies. In fact, America's Team wears what is arguably the quirkiest uniform set in all of professional sports, full of unexplained anomalies and team-specific protocols found nowhere else. Look back into their history, and you'll find even more aberrations.

The NFL goes to London, so let’s read the London Times Report

With two days to go before the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants meet at Wembley in the first NFL regular-season game to be played outside North America, the movers and shakers behind the sport are already considering its possible effect on their plans for global expansion.

As well as representatives from the two teams, other league executives and owners are in town for the game, many attending a conference on sports business at a London hotel yesterday. Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, gave the welcoming address and explained why the league wants to take the leap into a territory where American football barely registers among many sports fans, with the London-based Monarchs franchise having failed to stay the course in the now-defunct NFL Europe.

“We have to be innovative,” Goodell said. “We have devoted considerable resources already to the global growth of football – American Bowls [the NFL’s series of preseason games played outside the United States, which started in 1986 at Wembley], NFL Europe, bringing the football experience to new fans and establishing a European fanbase. But it was time for something new, to take the game to the widest possible global audience in new ways.

“First, staging regular-season games outside the US. It is bringing our best product to fans here and in other international cities.The NFL is the ultimate reality TV – three hours of unscripted and unrehearsed moments. Thirty million Americans watched the Dallas Cowboys-New England Patriots game a couple of weeks ago. It was the most-watched event in the US for the week by a margin of ten million viewers. Our goal is to translate America’s obsession into the world’s passion. This Sunday is just the beginning.” The NFL is not fooled into believing that the high ticket demand for Sunday’s game will automatically translate into support for regular games in the UK. “I think the fourth or the fifth game will be more of a test,” Alistair Kirkwood, the managing director of NFL UK, said. “We could have sold this game out two or three times over, but at some point there won’t be a novelty value and there will be two teams playing that don’t have the same name recognition.

“We will evaluate Sunday’s game on three different levels. First of all, logistically – are the teams thinking this has gone as smoothly as possible? Second, the fan experience here and the feedback that US folks get: I believe that the avidity and passion will be unbelievable and that they will be very pleasantly surprised. Third, we will look back at this in three years’ time and see where it led. It would be a hell of a lot of work, and a logistical minefield, if this were to be a one-off. It has to lead to more things and the jury will be out for a lot longer than the next 72 hours.”

The rivals of the Dolphins and Giants are also taking a keen interest. “We are being watched by the other 30 teams and there is a tremendous curiosity,” Steve Tisch, the Giants co-owner, said. “I think the league has been pleased with the reaction we have had and there will be a lot of conversation on Monday. I expect that it will be to the effect that this has been a tremendous first step. Another barometer is what this means to London. With fans of both teams travelling here, it has been on a ‘mini-Super Bowl’ kind of scale.”

But not every team are keen to follow their example. “Hats off to Wayne Huizenga [the Dolphins owner], because giving up a home game is tough,” Jerry Jones, the owner of the Cowboys, said. “It is something that will help us get new fans. But it’s not for me and it wouldn’t be good for the Cowboys.”
Tisch said: “Jerry is entitled to his opinion. It’s one of many that he has had.”

To Hockey:

The Stars have now played 5 road games. They scored 3 goals on opening night in Colorado. Since then, they have scored 1 in Nashville, 1 in Chicago, 2 in Columbus (including the 2nd in the 59th minute), and now 1 in Los Angeles.

So, 8 goals in 5 road games is bad. 5 in the last 4 games is horrendous. Especially considering that those 4 games are not exactly against any dynasties, eh? Just 5 goals in 5 games at equal strength. The numbers are telling.

The harsh realities really show up on the road. Mike Modano is no longer a player teams have to game plan against. And the Stars roster is made up of non-threatening skaters, except for the Ribeiro line, which still generates almost all the offense this team has.

Stars lose in Los Angeles

The Stars learned a valuable lesson about momentum Thursday night - it's better to have it than not.

Dallas had solid control of a sleepy game in the first period, outworking the Los Angeles Kings en route to a 1-0 lead at Staples Center. With the Stars on a nine-game winning streak against the Kings, this seemed like the first step in what has become a custom of easy wins in LA.

But something happened on the way to "easy." The Kings toughened up, fought back, and grabbed hold of the game's momentum. And in the end, they took a hard-earned 2-1 victory.

"We had a good start and did a lot of good things, but then we had a few turnovers and they took our momentum away from us," Stars coach Dave Tippett said of the loss that dropped the Stars to 4-3-2. "We had some chances tonight, but we didn't execute them."

Dallas was solid all around in the first period, earning an 11-6 advantage in shots and a 1-0 lead. The line of Brenden Morrow-Mike Ribeiro-Jere Lehtinen had several nice cycles and controlled the pace of the game just about every shift they were on the ice in the first period.

That hard work paid off in the form of Lehtinen's second goal in as many games.

"I felt our line was playing pretty well," Morrow said. "We were getting good chances."

But when the Stars were unable to cash in, it opened the door for the Kings. And a resurgent Los Angeles team took advantage in a second period that was dominant. The Kings outshot Dallas, 19-6, in the second period, tied the score on a Brian Willsie rebound goal and carried that momentum into the first two minutes of the third period. There, Los Angeles went ahead on an Alexander Frolov goal and took control of the game.

"We came out with the period we wanted, especially on the road, but then, for some odd reason, we made some mental errors," said goalie Marty Turco, who had 28 saves. "The way we lost momentum was the worst part. (The Kings) played well, but when you do it to yourself, it's tough."

Hawgsports looks at the evolution of Dirk’s Hair ….

Television for College Football:

Colorado @ Texas Tech (ABC, 12:00) - Dan Fouts, Tim Brant, Todd Harris

Nebraska @ Texas (ABC, 3:30) - Ron Franklin, Ed Cunningham, Jack Arute

Kansas @ Texas A&M (ESPN2, 7:00) - Gary Thorne, Bob Davie, Stacey Dales

And Television for Futbol – 1 game matters to me:

Sun Oct 28 11:00AM Central
FOX Soccer Channel (FSC) - US
English Premier League
Liverpool vs Arsenal

Here is Tom Hicks endorsing Liverpool’s manager ….

Liverpool's manager, Rafael Benítez, will have to guide his team to the Premier League title to justify the £40m the club invested in new players in the summer, according to the club's co-owner Tom Hicks. Speaking 24 hours after Liverpool's prospects of qualifying for the knock-out stage of the Champions League were severely dented by a 2-1 defeat by Besiktas in Turkey, Hicks said the domestic trophy remained the club's priority. Benítez based his pre-season approach to the American owners of the club on a challenge for the Premier League title, impressing on them the need for more strength in depth if he were to mount a credible challenge to Manchester United and Chelsea.

Hicks and George Gillett acceded to his wishes, investing £26.5m in Fernando Torres and £11.5m on the Ajax winger Ryan Babel. Hicks pledged his support for a coach who has often seemed more at home in European competition than the domestic fray. But in comments that will increase the pressure on Benítez to deliver a title the club have not won for 17 years Hicks implied he and Gillett are expecting a swift return on their investment.

"One of the reasons we made the signings we did in the summer was to create the depth we now have. Rafa explained to George and me that is how you win the Prem, because you have to play every team twice," Hicks said. "We totally support Rafa, nobody wants to win more than Rafa. But I know when we committed the resources for signings in the summer the whole idea was to have a team that could compete for the Premier League. We've not had the depth previously to do that.

"This squad is good enough to win things. It should be winning things. If it doesn't we'll have to look at the circumstances and have a meeting at the end of the year to understand what happened. I don't want to predict failure, I want to predict success."

UFC 78 looks poor, but UFC 79 looks awesome ….

Years of frustration for fans, fighters and promoters will be erased when Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva step into the Octagon to fight Dec. 29 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

Dana White officially announced the fight on Tuesday and it will be the co-feature to UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra's bout, which will be against former 170-pound king Matt Hughes.

"Chuck and Wanderlei -- two legends in the sport -- will face off in the most important match of their careers at UFC 79," White said in a statement on "Chuck and Wanderlei have both wanted this fight for as long as they can remember, and this is definitely the fight that fans have waited for years to see. Finally, PRIDE's most dangerous striker will face the UFC's most dangerous striker, and the world will know after years of speculation who will win and who will lose this fight."

The UFC and PRIDE had discussed the bout for years, but nothing ever came to fruition.
As a PRIDE fighter, Liddell traveled to Japan in 2003 to participate in the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix in hopes of meeting Silva. "The Iceman" was stopped by current UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson in the semifinals, and Silva asserted his dominance in PRIDE by brutally knocking out "Rampage" in the finals.

In 2006, Silva appeared in the Octagon with Liddell, touting a possible cross-promotional fight, though it failed to materialize.

White repeatedly expressed how important the fight between Silva and Liddell was to him and the sport, and fans echoed the same sentiment. And while the Silva-Liddell confrontation has lost some luster because both men are on two-fight losing streaks, the anticipated clash will likely be the one discussed most as the card approaches.
Liddell and Silva are two of the most dangerous strikers in MMA history and concurrently reigned as the top 205-pound champions in their respective organizations, sparking debate among MMA fans as to which fighter -- and in many ways which MMA organization (Liddell, the former UFC champion and Silva the former PRIDE champion) -- would win if they fought.

Here is some email regarding our World War 2 discussion on yesterday’s show:


I see that you are as big a WWII buff as I am. This is me bragging:
This is a site that has a little info on my uncle – Woodrow Crockett. He was a Tuskegee Airman and flew during the war. Uncle by marriage – He married my dad’s older sister – Daisy McMurray (note the name of his plane). He still lives in Annandale, Virginia. Aunt Daisy passed about six years ago and is buried in National Cemetery.


Thought you might find interesting. I did this site for a WWII B17 pilot who
goes to my church. He has some unbelievable stories.

Scott Gilmore


Tours at Omaha Beach

The Office

Fox 4 Bloopers

Thursday, October 25, 2007

High Drama at Fenway

Well, sue me for thinking the Rockies had a chance in this World Series. I am not saying it is over, but if it isn’t, they sure gave the impression that they don’t plan on competing much in this series.

It is only 1 game, but Ubaldo Jiminez is going to win in Fenway against Schilling? Right.

Beckett proves to be WAAAAAAAAY too much

Never mind that cute business of putting baseballs in a humidor. If the Colorado Rockies hope to make the 103d World Series competitive, they may have to stuff the Red Sox in a meat locker and throw away the key.

The Rockies' baptism onto baseball's biggest stage instead resembled a ritual drowning on a misty night in Fenway Park, where only one winning streak of consequence remained after the Sox took apart the Rox, 13-1, before a damp but delighted crowd of 36,733. The 13 runs were the most in a Series opener, and the 12-run spread made it the most one-sided outcome in an opener.

Gone was Colorado's 10-game winning streak and whatever aura of invinci bility they created by winning 21 of their 22 previous games, including seven in a row through the National League playoffs. The Rockies can only hope it was the eight days off between games that accounted for their play, because at this rate they'll be taking a much longer vacation sooner than they'd planned.

Very much alive is a five-game winning streak in the World Series for the Sox, who swept the Cardinals in 2004 to break their 86-year Series drought, then cuffed around Colorado with the same impunity that they finished off the Indians in the American League Championship Series.

"It's tough, obviously, to have eight days off, especially coming in and facing the best pitcher in baseball," said Sox rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who made his first Series at-bat one for the Facebook, hitting a leadoff home run off Jeff Francis. "That's definitely not easy."

The Sox outscored the Indians by a combined score of 30-5 to win the last three games of the ALCS. Last night, the Sox looked like they might match that output in one game, as they welcomed the Rockies to sea level with Pedroia's leadoff home run and never let up. Francis was gone after a yield of six runs in four innings, and a seven-run fifth inning against an embarrassingly inept Rockies bullpen had Fox executives second-guessing their decision to preempt tonight's episode of "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?".

"They're a hot-hitting team over there," said Francis, joining the list of pitchers with a pedigree shredded by the Sox this October, their victims including John Lackey of the Angels and C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona of the Indians. "You can't make any mistakes."

Josh Beckett, meanwhile, struck out the first four Rockies batters he faced, and five of the first six, as he ran his October record to 4-0 with another take-no-prisoners performance, one in which he pounded the Rockies with fastballs (30 of his first 32 pitches) before mixing it up.

"Watching him is different than watching everybody else right now," said Curt Schilling, who will face Ubaldo Jimenez in tonight's Game 2, even before Beckett dominated Colorado. "He's so locked in. The thought that his stuff is more dominant now than it has been at any point in the season is impressive because we're at the tail end of the season. He's 200-some innings into it, and he's throwing his fastball better command-wise, better velocity, throwing his curveball, better command-wise and velocity-wise, and a better changeup than he has all year long, and that's some incredible stuff to watch."

Beckett, who struck out nine and was scored upon only in the second inning, when Garrett Atkins doubled and scored on Troy Tulowitzki's two-out double, left to a huge ovation, lifting his cap as he disappeared into the dugout. He finished with nine strikeouts and one walk, while allowing just six hits. In 30 innings this October, Beckett has struck out 35 while walking just two in 30 innings, and his earned run average this October is 1.20 (four earned runs in 30 IP).

You know what I think of Rudy Jaramillo …But, I bet you also know what Gramps thinks.

Here Galloway wants the Rangers to keep Rudy at all costs …Really? Next thing you know, Galloway will tell us that Norv should be the Cowboys coach, right? Oh wait. He did. Forget it.

But now comes the sticky problem. The next to leave could be Rudy Jaramillo, who needs no introduction.

Rudy is an institution in Arlington, having served for 13 seasons as the Rangers' hitting coach, and across Major League Baseball is generally considered the best in the business.

It's not like Jaramillo will have a problem finding another job. It's also not like the Rangers haven't rewarded him over the years. Rudy has been the highest-paid hitting coach in the business for several seasons.

But now there is a hang-up.

Rudy has signed three-year contracts here the past two times there have been
negotiations. At the moment, Daniels is limiting his offer to a two-year deal because he doesn't want a coach's contract to extend beyond the contract of manager Ron Washington.

Meanwhile, Rudy's agent has dropped a hammer on Daniels, asking for five years, $5 million in opening the negotiations. The Rangers have countered with two years for just under $1 million.

Rudy's agent won't get close to what he's asking, but obviously he wants his client to be in the $550,000-a-year range or even higher. Daniels' headache is he's paying his manager only $500,000, maybe the lowest salary for a manager in the majors.
Can a coach make more than the manager, or should Jaramillo be held back because Washington had no financial leverage when he was picked a year ago for the job?

Better yet, is there a middle ground? Michael Young, the Rangers' best player and a Jaramillo disciple, almost demands that the middle ground be found.

"It's one thing when you are talking about a player asking for $150 million," Young said Wednesday, "but if you are letting a valuable coach walk over almost no money, baseball-wise, I don't know what that says.

"Honestly, I don't want to even think about what my reaction would be if Rudy isn't back here with us. We already lost Wak, and he was great for this team. But Rudy? You don't screw with a man like Rudy, who means so much to the organization, on the field and off."

Daniels stressed that he didn't want a public confrontation with Jaramillo because of his respect for Rudy. "But right now, there is obviously a big gap in the negotiations," he added.

This "gap" comes at a time when the Rangers' roster is loaded with unproven major-league hitters. Plus, with the team's "new" direction, young and unproven talent hopefully will surface in Arlington over the next several seasons.

Jaramillo's expertise is needed now more than ever.

Hopefully, one day we can say Daniels has done his job as well as Jaramillo does his. But it's not even remotely close at the moment.

Weekly Jimmy Burch



Kansas at Texas A&M

Statistically, all signs point to Kansas. The Jayhawks are 7-0 and look sharp on both sides of the ball. Historically, however, you have to wonder how long that will last. Kansas hasn't been 8-0 in any season since 1909. The Hawks are winless in two trips to Kyle Field as Big 12 members. A hunch says a loud home crowd helps the Aggies pull an upset.

Pick: A&M 28, Kansas 27


Texas 41, Nebraska 20: The Cornhuskers' porous defense inducts its fifth member of the season into its 40-point club.

Texas Tech 42, Colorado 28: Tech rebounds from last week's meltdown in Missouri by earning payback for last year's blunder in Boulder.

Kansas State 34, Baylor 14: All of the Bears' momentum is headed in the wrong direction.

Missouri 45, Iowa State 14: The Tigers build steam toward a November stretch of games with Big 12 title implications.

Matt, from MavsCentral has a theory on the Mavs versus the uptempo team

The Mavs were raved as the team that can play any style for majority of last year. Especially after playing "small ball" and running San Antonio off the court followed by slowing it down and beating the Suns in the 2005-06 Western Conference Finals.
Dallas even tinkered with the roster, adding players like Devean George and Greg Buckner, who were supposed to make this team even better.

Well, looking back at last season, Dallas did have a weakness and it was playing against more uptempo teams. If the 2006-07 Mavericks played the 2002-03 Mavericks, the 02-03 Mavs might give them a good run for their money. I don't think last year's Mavs could have played in those same insane games against the Kings in the playoffs like they did in the 02-03 season.

Thanks to crazy stat guys like John Hollinger, we have new ways to look at basketball. One of those ways: Pace Factor.

Pace factor in basic terms could be defined as an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes by a team. The higher a team's pace factor, the more uptempo that team plays as they will have more possessions.

Looking back at Dallas' 15 regular season losses last season, nine of them came against teams ranked in the Top 10 last season in pace factor. Three of those losses against teams ranked 11-30, were during Dallas' 0-4 start when I think any team with any type of style would have beaten the Mavs.

Basically, if you take out those first four losses of the season and look at their last 11 losses, eight came against teams ranked in the Top 10 with six of those losses coming to teams ranked in the Top 5.

Dallas did not play well against teams who played more uptempo. Guess who was ranked #1 last year in pace factor? Golden State.

Here is a look at their losses and where the opponent was ranked for the 2006-07 season.

First 4 Losses
11/02/2006 - SA - 27
11/04/2006 - @Hou - 22
11/06/2006 - GS - 1
11/08/2006 - @LAC - 19

Last 11 Losses
12/04/2006 - @Was - 5
12/07/2006 - Det - 30
12/11/2006 - @Uta - 15
01/07/2007 - @LAL - 6
01/25/2007 - @Chi - 8
03/12/2007 - @GS - 1
03/14/2007 - Pho - 3
04/01/2007 - @Pho - 3
04/06/2007 - @Den - 2
04/13/2007 - Uta - 15
04/17/2007 - @GS – 1

Yesterday on Norm, Avery suggested that Terry and Stackhouse will come off the bench this year. Does it mean we need to get know Trenton Hassell better?

The Playoffs begin tonight in the MLS, For Dallas, it starts on Saturday ….

Fans may have already seen the colors, slogan, and images for Mission 360, which refers to total minutes necessary in order play in the MLS Cup final = four 90 minute games. The first step in Mission 360 will see FC Dallas face the Houston Dynamo in one of two Western Conference Semifinal Series. FCD will host the first-leg on Sat. Oct. 27 (7 p.m. CT) at Pizza Hut Park with the second-leg scheduled to be played at Houston's Robertson Stadium on Fri. Nov. 2 (7:30 p.m. CT).

The other Western Conference Semifinal Series pits Chivas USA versus the Kansas City Wizards, who move over to the Western Conference Playoffs after finishing 5th in the East and claiming the final playoff spot (top two in each conference automatically qualify, as do the next best six teams regardless of conference).


Conference Semifinal series are conducted under a home-and-home, aggregate-goal format, with single-game Conference Championships determining the MLS Cup Finalists. For each Conference, the 1st seed plays the 4th seed, and the 2nd seed faces the 3rd seed in the Conference Semifinal series, with the lower seeded team hosting the first game.

The team that scores the most goals in the home-and-away series advances to the single elimination Conference Championship. If the teams are tied after 180 minutes in the Conference Semifinal series, a 30-minute extra time period (divided into two 15-minute periods) would be played followed by a penalty-kick shootout, if necessary. The team with the higher seed between the two Conference finalists will host the Conference Championship game.

Houston hates Carlos Ruiz

No other FC Dallas player riles up the Houston Dynamo like Carlos Ruiz.

The Dynamo defenders get an extra couple of rounds with the Guatemalan forward when the MLS playoff series between the rivals begins Saturday at Pizza Hut Park.

Ruiz, the league's all-time leading scorer in the playoffs with 15 goals, knows for sure it will be a physical battle with kicks coming from all sides.

"I just have to respond the right way, by scoring goals," Ruiz said.

The last time these teams met, on Sept. 30, Houston midfielder Ricardo Clark kicked Ruiz on the ground in retaliation for a blow in the back during Dallas' 3-0 loss. Clark received a nine-game suspension and won't be available for the playoffs.
FC Dallas coach Steve Morrow said he doesn't believe there will be any after-
effects. But Ruiz will have to deal with an old foe, defender Eddie Robinson.
Ruiz and Robinson have battled each other since Ruiz played for the L.A. Galaxy and Robinson for the San Jose Earthquakes.

"Those two guys showed the fight in them and that they wanted it as bad as everybody else," said FC Dallas midfielder Arturo Alvarez, a Houston native.

Morrow said he wants all his players to adopt a feisty attitude against Houston.
"Having the right amount of fight and desire to win games, that's what it's all about," Morrow said. "Whoever wants to win the most will win."

Sponge Bob does Soulja Boy

Bo Ryan, Wisconsin Coach, also does Soulja Boy - No doubt to prove to the young brothers that he can relate when recruiting time arrives...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rockies - Red Sox

Ah, the World Series. Be still my beating heart.

Seriously, many of you are no doubt wondering a bit about the Colorado Rockies… Here are some answers

A month ago, I wasn't even paying attention to the National League West east of the Colorado River. Where did the Rockies come from?

From virtually nowhere, with one of the great stretch-drive runs in Major League history. Beginning on Sept. 16, when they were in fourth place in both the division and NL Wild Card standings, the Rockies won 13 of their last 14 regular-season games to force a one-game playoff with the San Diego Padres. They won that game, 9-8, by scoring three runs in the bottom of the 13th inning.

Did that torrid drive take the starch out of them, empty their emotional tank?

Hardly. The Rockies swept Philadephia in the NL Division Series, and did the same to Arizona in the NL Championship Series.

Has that ever happened before?

No. Since the introduction of the best-of-five Division Series following the 1995 season, no team in either league has swept both series to qualify for the World Series.

So the Rockies are the first team in Major League history to go 7-0 in the postseason?

No. In 1976, the Cincinnati Reds swept the then-five-game NLCS from the Phillies and also swept the World Series from the New York Yankees for a 7-0 postseason. But when the World Series begins next week, the Rockies will have the opportunity to become the first team to start 8-0 in the postseason.

If I've got my math right, that's 21 wins in 22 games. Has there ever been such a streak in Major League Baseball?

Not at this time of the year. The 1935 Cubs won 21 straight and 23 of 24, and the 2002 Oakland A's won 20 straight and also 23 of 24. But sustaining such a streak through the postseason is something else. Closest to the Rockies' accomplishment were the 1960 Yankees, who closed out the regular season with 15 straight wins and 19 of 21 -- but they then dropped Game 1, and eventually the World Series itself, to the Pirates.

Is five-time All-Star Todd Helton, the Rockies' only household name, still their top player?

Helton contributed mightily to his first postseason team, hitting .320 with 17 homers and 91 RBIs, but the Rockies' big gun is Matt Holliday. Holliday is a prime MVP candidate after leading the league with a .340 average and 136 RBIs, while also hitting 36 homers.

Anyone else I should know about?

This is a very deep team. Third baseman Garrett Atkins and right fielder Brad Hawpe also drove in 100-plus runs. And Troy Tulowitzki just missed, with 99.


You better remember that name. He is the rookie shortstop who just turned 23, a 6-foot-3 guy who fields even better than he hits. Cal Ripken Jr. says he does everything as well as he did and one thing even better -- throw on the run. The Hall of Famer is right; Tulowitzki makes off-balance throws better and stronger than anyone in memory.

With all that talent, why did it take the Rockies so long to make a move?

Through mid-September, the Colorado staff had an ERA of 4.45. Since Sept. 16, that figure is 2.80. It always comes down to pitching, and the Rockies have received huge contributions from a pair of youngsters added late to the mix, 23-year-old Ubaldo Jimenez and 21-year-old Franklin Morales.

Does the pitching staff have an ace, the kind of undisputed No. 1 that is needed to set the tone?

Yes, and he is left-hander Jeff Francis, who tied the club record with his 17 wins, then won the opening games of both the Division Series and the Championship Series.

As for the Red Sox, you know everything about them. If you don’t, then you are not watching enough television. Here is something that will not be mentioned on tv. It shouldn’t be mentioned here, either, given the amount of naughty language. But, it is too funny. Your guide to be an annoying New England Sports Fan

Be sure to try and distinguish yourself as a “real fan”. All “real” Boston fans must be able to judge their fellow Boston fans' credibility. Never been to Fenway? Poseur. Didn't like the Pat Patriot logo? Bandwagoner. Went to college outside New England? Turncoat. Too young to remember the '86 Celtics? F-----.

Adopt the attitude that you, yes you, DESERVE this success. “Hey, we Pats fans know how it used to be back in the day. We earned these titles.” Don’t treat your team’s good fortune as the stroke of good fortune it happens to be. No, no, no. Your championship has to be deeper then someone else’s championship. It has to mean something more. Why? Because you fancy yourself as being introspective. Treat it like some sort of karmic reward for Len Bias dying, or some other twisted, idiotic explanation.

Always treat your fandom as membership to some kind of exclusive club of super cool people. Like the whole Red Sox Nation thing. Oooh, you guys all root for the same team? How unique! How special! ------g die. Be sure to adopt a siege mentality when your team is criticized. “Hey, you can’t rip on Papelbon! He’s fackin’ one of us!” Whatever you need to make yourself feel less alone in the world.

Be sure to grow your hair out under your artificially aged Red Sox hat so that little hair wings sprout out the side. That looks great.

Laugh at your own jokes. You're so funny, guy!


Shun Ben Affleck. Embrace Matt Damon. That apples line never gets old!

Speaking of New England, The Dallas Morning News has hired Albert Breer. I don’t know him. I have no reason to mention him except that I love his work. Here are some examples of it below. He appears to be a football writer that will write about interesting things regarding football. What a concept. Statistical Analysis! I love it.

Tale of the Tape for the Minnesota Game

We’re seeing a pattern now developing with how defenses attack Tony Romo, and it’s probably one that should’ve been utilized earlier. Pressuring Romo and putting him in scramble situations, these guys have learned, only puts him at his best. Now, the Vikings did try to generate a rush, but they did it in a different way. They’d drop a defensive tackle – usually Kevin Williams – underneath and run what looked like a zone blitz. The twist was that Williams seemed to be there not as a cover guy, but simply to spy Romo. In plenty of other cases, the disciplined, reserved nature of the pass rush indicated that the tackles were instructed to get push, but not hit gaps too aggressively and give Romo a lane to step up into. The first time the QB could do that demonstrated why. On the play, a third-and-2 on the game’s first drive, the Vikings left end spun inside on Marc Columbo. Romo saw this, roll right and – as the play broke down around him – found Terrell Owens sitting down in a hole in the zone for 24 yards. But it was so many other occasions on Sunday when you really saw Romo’s growth. Yes, it was a dink-and-dunk day. Thing was, that Romo seemed comfortable in the pocket, checking down underneath with the Vikings playing off the receivers, and that’s something that will serve him well when the tests get tougher.

A lot of times, I think T.O. gets killed for being a guy who just gets by on being an exceptional physical talent. Well, Sunday proved why he’s more than that with Owens’ awareness and knowledge of coverage. On that 24-yard strike, Owens was running a fly out of the ‘Z’ (flanker) position on the right side. Recognizing that Romo was flushed from the pocket, Owens sat down in a hole between the underneath and deep parts of the Vikings cover-2, finding the space for Romo to get him the ball. Five plays later, on his touchdown, Owens – perhaps the most scrutinized player on the field in coverage – lulled the Vikings to sleep in the back of the end zone, slipped behind the coverage, and settled in a hole between two defenders. And Romo found him for the 5-yard score. Then, on a third-and-9 on the Cowboys’ next drive, he ran a comeback to the right sideline, and made his break with enough space to get back to the ball and out of bounds right at the sticks. Say what you will, but T.O. showed he’s got that football awareness that great receivers generally have.

It’s hard to ever pinned the ebbs and flows of a unit on one player, but really, it seemed like the run defense’s success was based heavily on Jay Ratliff’s play on Sunday. And that’s not unusual, that a nose tackle is the most important guy for a 3-4 defense. In the first quarter, Vikings center Matt Birk absolutely throttled Ratliff, sealing him off and creating lanes on 6-yard runs by Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, and taking him completely out to open seams on zone runs. And then, it happened. In the second quarter, Ratliff turned the tables, controlling Birk at the point and shedding effectively from there on. In the first quarter, the Vikings had 54 yards on eight rushes. From then on, they 77 yards on 19 carries. But 28 of those yards came on two carries at the end of the third quarter, with Ratliff out of the game. So that brings the number down to a pretty respectable 49 yards on 17 carries. Tank Johnson will find his place here, but Ratliff really showed the kind of nose tackle he’s playing in those three quarters Sunday.

So here’s where we explain how it wasn’t all Ratliff getting the job done against
the run. After the Cowboys got gashed on the first drive, they started playing Roy Williams a lot closer to the line. The only question that remains is why that wasn’t the plan from the get-go. The Vikings have little to threaten on the outside, a quarterback who’s struggles don’t need to expounded on here, and the top running game in the league. Williams needed to be down there.

As noted in the rush chart a couple blog entries ago, the Vikings went to max-protect plenty and almost never kept just five men into block. In fact, it was more often than not four blocking six or five blocking seven. So imagine the advantage this gives the coverage. In those cases, you’ll drop seven guys to cover four receivers or six to cover three. And imagine a quarterback as inexperienced as Jackson being forced to find the open man in those situations. Here’s what happens: 6-of-19, 72 yards. Plus, a clinic on how the Cowboys’ pressure is strong enough that the simple threat of it coming has other teams bracing for impact, and opening things up even more for the Dallas defensive playcallers.

Also down there is the effectiveness with which Dallas ran the ball out of three-receiver sets – 58 yards on seven carries – and I’ll go a little further with it here. On the Cowboys’ first drive, out of the no-huddle, 10 passes were called in 14 plays. The Cowboys ran three plays, all completed passes, while the no-huddle kept the Vikings’ base personnel on the field. And then Dallas turned the tables. When the Cowboys’ went to ‘11’ personnel from there, the Vikings brought in a fifth defensive back. And that allowed the Cowboys to rip off chunks against a six-man front.

I agree that Adrian Peterson needs to see the ball more. But I can also see why he’s not ready to play on an every-down basis. In the fourth quarter, a blitzing Bradie James flat-out embarrassed Peterson with a spin move on his way to a sack. It’s not that unusual that a top rookie back has trouble with blitz pick-up, since most weren’t asked to do it much in college. That doesn’t make it any less of a liability. And if you simply bring another back into handle that, and have someone like Peterson in to run, it can tip your play-calling to the other team.

Marc Columbo’s struggles were well-documented here on Sunday. There was the sack he allowed to Kenechi Udeze, the way Ray Edwards beat him to create a sack for Bryan Robison, and the two false starts. But Kyle Kosier had a similarly tough day dealing with nose tackle Pat Williams, who causes trouble for most. And Williams, not noted as a pass rusher, was able to get in Romo’s face some, in addition to keep the running game out of the middle of the field.

Finally, I’m starting to see the difference in how Julius Jones is used. The trouble with Jones, to me, seems like it has as much to do with how he fits his linemen as anything. Jones is at his best on zone running plays where he’s charged with reading the defense, finding a seam, and making one cut into the opening upfield. It’s for the same reason he was good on screens Sunday: Jones works well in space because he has burst and can change direction quickly. The way he cuts can catch defenders, influenced in a direction by the blocking, off balance. Well, the trouble appears to be that the Cowboys line isn’t well-fit to run much zone. Yes, they can do it, but the massive front is better in man-blocking situations that require less movement and quickness. And those looks fit Marion Barber like a glove –

he’s aggressive into the hole and can beat guys one-on-one with his shake or his shoulders. That’s not to say that Jones is better than Barber. I think it’s clear that Barber’s been better. But it is to say that Barber has been put in a better position to succeed with a line and scheme that fits his style better.

Romo’s Targets

Here's a new addition we're going to throw in this week. We'll chart the number of times each player had the ball thrown his way, his catches and drops. Here goes, starting with the high number for the day:

Thrown to: 13 (10 first half/3 second half)
Final stats: 10 catches, 86 yards (9-73 first half/1-13 second half)
Drops: 2

Thrown to: 7 (6 first half/1 second half)
Final stats: 7 catches, 103 yards (6-81/1-22)
Drops: 0

Thrown to: 5 (4 first half/1 second half)
Finals stats: 4 catches, 9 yards (4-9/0-0)
Drops: 0

Thrown to: 4 (4 first half/0 second half)
Final stats: 2 catches, 19 yards
Drops: 0

Thrown to: 4 (3 first half/1 second half)
Final stats: 4 catches, 30 yards
Drops: 0

Thrown to: 2 (2 first half/0 second half)
Final stats: 2 catches, 16 yards
Drops: 0

Thrown to: 2 (2 first half/0 second half)
Final stats: 2 catches, 14 yards
Drops: 0


First Half: 28-32, 231 yds., TD
Second Half: 3-7, 46 yds.

NFL Draft improved! …for me, anyway…

The NFL moved to speed up its draft on Tuesday during owners' meetings at which it also discussed having the Buffalo Bills play regular season games in Toronto, expanding the reach of the NFL Network and moving the Pro Bowl.

No action was taken on any of those issues except the draft, in which the time between picks in the first round will be cut from 15 minutes to 10 to help speed up a process that went a record 6 hours and 8 minutes last April.

Starting time was also moved from noon EDT to 3 p.m. for the first day, which will be limited to two rounds instead of three.

"We believe this will make for a more streamlined and efficient draft," commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement issued during the league owners' meetings.

Mike Leach is allergic to punts

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach just about cringes when he says the word.

Leach, the master of the spread offense, can't stand to punt.

Leach has a hard time pulling his national-best offense off the field, and it cost the Red Raiders against Missouri in a 41-10 loss. Leach went for it on fourth down seven times Saturday, and Tech converted only three attempts.

Tech gambled on fourth down five times inside Missouri's 40-yard line and made it just once. Two of those failed attempts came with Tech down only a touchdown.

"Yeah, I didn't think it was a good idea really," Leach said Monday. "I mean, it was short, and we had a lot of space and whatnot, but it wasn't a good idea. I should have punted."

Tech plays Colorado on Saturday before finishing its season against Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma. The Red Raiders still have a shot at a special season, but it could be dashed if Leach mirrors his impatience against Missouri.

Leach often put his defense in a bad position against Missouri in situations where a punt could have pinned Missouri deep in its own territory instead of giving the Tigers a short field.

Aggressiveness in football is generally good but at times can be devastating.

"Between frustration and everyone wanting to do well [against Missouri], it becomes a series of over-corrections, which is too bad," Leach said. "And on my part, too. You know, punt. I don't like to punt, but punt."

Though his defense has been put in difficult situations at times because of the fourth-down failures, interim coordinator Ruffin McNeill said he has no problem with Leach's aggressiveness.

"You can't hold back," McNeill said. "You have to shoot all your bullets, and that's been our philosophy since we've been here. Mike has probably gone for it more on fourth down than anybody, so we expect it.

"Mike thinks he can make it and keep the ball – that's just his mentality. He wants to keep the ball."

The Red Raiders have punted 15 times this season (less than twice per game). Their opponents have punted 42 times.

Leach's go-for-broke play-calling Saturday makes one wonder if he trusts his defense enough to keep Tech in games. But McNeill and Tech defensive players say that's not the case.

"I don't think it's that. I just think he has confidence in the offense," senior cornerback Chris Parker said. "You watch the whole season, and they get that any time, any place."

For the season, Tech's success rate on fourth down is 50 percent (9-for-18), tied for 55th nationally. A 50-50 chance is far from a sure thing.

Leach said his philosophy on going for it on fourth down is simple.

"Can you get it, more or less," Leach said. "If you think you can get it, try to get it."

Martellus Bennett has failed smile

After a month-long silence, Martellus Bennett met with reporters at Texas A&M's weekly media luncheon on Tuesday. He simply "took a break like Tiger Woods."

The loquacious tight end cracked wise as usual. But Bennett turned serious at one point and said he'll likely jump into the NFL Draft this April if he's considered a first- or second-round pick.

"You've got to get out while you're hot," Bennett said. "That's what I told Reggie [McNeal]."

Bennett never said he was disappointed about coming to A&M. The 6-7 junior said he was impressed at how McNeal, A&M's former quarterback, excelled in a pass-oriented offense in 2004. But A&M switched to the option and now many believe Bennett, once the nation's No. 1 tight end recruit, has gone underutilized.

When asked whether he could show his skills at the NFL scouting combine, Bennett said, "I'm going to have to do it somewhere. As far as blocking and run after catch, I've been doing the best I can."

Bennett said people tell him every day that he should leave A&M for the NFL.
"But those people don't have an impact on my life," he said. "People tell me I should go rob a bank with them, but I don't do it. People tell me to do stuff all the time."

As for the decision, Bennett said he'll talk with coach Dennis Franchione and get his input. But mostly, "I will talk to my brother for a long time about it, my dad, my mom and my little sister."

In 31 career games, Bennett has 80 catches for 935 yards and seven touchdowns. Many A&M fans expected more. So did Bennett. As for why that hasn't happened, Bennett said, "I have no idea.

"I've been working hard, doing everything I've been told to do," Bennett said. "I've been taking in everything like coaching and all that. I've just got to work on something else.

"When Reggie was here, they were throwing that thing. I don't know how Reggie didn't make the NFL, but he had a cannon for an arm. He was one the best quarterbacks I've ever seen as far as pocket presence and everything."

Weekly Buccigross focuses on the Blackhawks resurgence after Wirtz’ death

The Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues are two NHL franchises attempting to make that long, purposeful climb out of the NHL gutter.

The Hawks have missed the playoffs in seven of the past eight seasons and last won a postseason series in the spring of 1996. The Hawks have WWW on the front of their uniforms this season. That is not the start of a Web site address, it is for the late owner William W. Wirtz, who died before the season began.

Wirtz was a compelling individual with contrasting characteristics shared by a fair number of wealthy, 20th-century white men. Generous to charities and short-sighted in the marketing of his hockey team, Wirtz was a successful businessman who supported good causes and neglected the infrastructure of the Hawks management and marketing departments. Considering the number of companies under the Wirtz family's umbrella, it's not surprising a company here or there may go awry from time to time.

Hawks fans pointed to Wirtz as the reason for the demise of this once passionate fan base. As society evolved in the mid-1990s with the big bang of the Internet, the Hawks were still run like an 8-Track player with Journey's "Infinity" blaring in a '78 Trans Am. The NHL was changing and the Hawks seemed to either under-react or overreact. When Wirtz passed away, there was little sentimentality from Hawks fans. Instead, they asked, "Would the funeral be televised in Chicago?"

After the NHL lockout, the Blues, strapped with older players and big contracts, missed the playoffs for the first time since the 1978-79 season and missed the postseason again in 2006-07 after a 24-point improvement. Owner Dave Checketts and president John Davidson began running the show last season and this duo could sell a coal-burning power plant to Al Gore. They gots mad people skillz. So, to call the Blues a gutter team is probably not accurate; they're more like a gutter ball from Mark Roth. The Blues' two-season playoff drought is likely over.

The Blues were a big-time team as the 21st century arrived. They were a first-class organization that spent a lot of money and treated people well. Successful sports franchises are not all about spending money; it's also the ability to understanding and interacting with different kinds of people with different needs. That's one thing the Blues were always better at than the Blackhawks. Now, with the Checketts/Davidson duo at the helm, the Blues might be the leader in the clubhouse in that department.

In Chicago, GM Dale Tallon and chairman Rocky Wirtz are trying to close that interpersonal communication gap. An early first step in their attempt is televising home games. After only five home games were aired locally last season, Wirtz is reportedly in the starting stages of talks with Comcast SportsNet to televise more home games this season.

''It's important to understand that Comcast SportsNet's current schedule was developed well over a year ago, so fitting the Blackhawks into that schedule can't be done overnight,'' the Blackhawks said in a statement. "[This is] ''the appropriate next step to re-energizing Chicago hockey fans and creating new fans. 'We have already showed, and will continue to embrace, positive change, and we remain committed to a bright future."

From 2000-04, the Blues' point totals were: 114-103-98-99-91. They signed free agents and went for it all, but never reached the Stanley Cup finals. Now, they are trying to rebuild through the draft and sign smart free-agent deals (three years, not seven, for Paul Kariya) in an attempt to build their 21st-century salary-cap team and reconstruct their fan base. That is difficult to do, but not as difficult in the cap era.

The last two No. 1 overall draft picks have been made by these two franchises Erik Johnson, the big and sturdy Chris Pronger-like defenseman for the Blues, and Patrick Kane, the quick and smart Daniel Briere-type forward for the Hawks.

Dwight vs Andy

Tell me this isn’t goofy!