Posted by: danimal25 | 01/05/2009

Fiesta Bowl Preview

While this contest has about as much impact on the national title picture as an intra-squad scrimmage in the middle of April, I (along with every degenerate sports gambler) will be watching the action very closely Monday night.

The reason I am so anxious for this matchup? Two words: Terrelle Pryor. Ohio State’s freshman phenom dubbed “The Next Vince Young” will be facing VY’s former team in the Fiesta Bowl. From the moment Pryor was rushed into duty as starting quarterback at the beginning of the season, his play improved dramatically each week.

As a result, the Ohio State coaches began loosening the reigns on the young stallion and have begun expanding his role in the offense.  Since the Buckeye’s last game was back on November 22nd, the squad has had over 7 weeks to prepare for Texas. This break has allowed Pryor time to digest more of the offensive playbook, as well as giving him an opportunity to refine his raw throwing mechanics.

Considering the progress the young QB has made on a weekly basis during the season, I am anticipating a much more polished and prepared Pryor coming off his 7 week hiatus.

It won’t be easy, however. Texas has a swarming athletic defense led by senior sack artist Brian Orakpo. If the Longhorns are able to rattle the young QB and limit his scrambling ability, it could be a very long night for the Buckeyes.

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Posted by: danimal25 | 12/31/2008

Rose Bowl Preview

After a prolonged hiatus, the “Sports Savant” is back to deliver the goods. I know, I know… You’re asking yourself… “What the hell is a handsome 20-something doing at home writing a blog on New Years Eve night when he could be out drinking heavily with his peers??” Trust me, this is an EXTREMELY valid point… and the more I think about it, the more I’m craving an adult beverage… But to be honest, the reason I am sitting at home in front of my keyboard in my boxers (I know, TMI) is that I can’t risk being hung over for tomorrow’s big event: THE ROSE BOWL. This game (and the USC cheerleaders) DEMANDS my full attention.

Now, obviously, the “experts” have labeled this a snoozer of a matchup. The consensus is that the Trojans will steamroll Penn St and it’ll be over by the middle of the second quarter. While that may be true, there are 3 key reasons to watch this game:

#1) IT’S THE FREAKING ROSE BOWL

Do me a favor… flip on ABC at 4:30pm EST and take a look at the view. What you will see is the most beautiful football field in sports. The grass is better manicured than an Augusta fairway. The painted end zones are immaculate. The California sky is crystal clear. The glorious Hollywood Hills shine in the distance.  The crowd is rowdy and rearing to go.

THIS is it. This moment, RIGHT HERE, defines New Year’s Day in the United States of America.

#2) The Coaching Contrast

Could there possibly be a more entertaining matchup of coaches for a college football game?

On the one side, you have USC’s Pete Carroll. This guy is “SoCal cool”. He struts the sidelines in his Ray Bans and chest bumps 19 year old wide receivers. He has a Facebook page. He surfs. He hangs with Snoop Dogg and Will Ferrell. Basically, he’s George Clooney with a headset.

Now, on the other sideline (in this case, booth), you have 82 year old Joe Paterno. He’s forgotten more football than all of us will ever know. He sports the “Coke Bottle” lenses and somehow still has a head full of dark hair (Just For Men Gel, anyone?). I always enjoy his interviews/press conferences because he NEVER refers to his players by name. It’s always, “da quarterback” or “da lineman”… I’m convinced he stopped concerning himself with the minutiae of his players’ names back in the Matt Millen era.

And as I mentioned previously, he will be “coaching” from the press box due to his ailing hip. Now, I put “coaching” in quotes because I honestly don’t have the slightest clue what he does up  there. The TV crew will show intermittent shots of him and he always has his head down like he’s catching a snooze… or perhaps an assistant coach gave him a crossword puzzle to keep him busy… Kinda like when parents give a youngster the “kids menu” to play with until the food arrives. Either way, he won’t know where he is or what the hell is happening on the field.

#3) The USC Defense

Full Disclosure: I HATE USC. I hate the fight song. I hate the uniforms. I hate the mascot. I hate Pete Carroll.  I hate their arrogance.

With all that being said, I cannot deny the greatness of their defense. If you want to see the NFL stars of tomorrow, watch this game. Senior Linebackers Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, and Clay Matthews will all be first round picks in April’s draft.  Just consider that for a moment. The three starting linebackers from ONE college defense will all be chosen within the first 32 picks of this year’s draft. That is a remarkable achievement.

And let’s not forget Safety Taylor Mays. He is the second coming of Ronnie Lott. Dude is 6’4″ 235lbs of pure muscle. Don’t be surprised to see some “alligator arms” of the Nittany Lions receivers if they dare go across the middle. Mays is the definition of a headhunter. Unlike the linebackers, he is only a Junior, but there is little doubt this will be his final collegiate game.

So there you have it. The 3 reasons to watch the Rose Bowl. Stay tuned in the next few days as I unveil my Fiesta Bowl and National Championship previews. I’m off to catch some shut eye before tomorrow’s big matchup. Let’s hope old “Joe Pa” isn’t out partying too late… Then again, he can catch up on his sleep tomorrow during the game.

Posted by: danimal25 | 07/08/2008

Overrated & Underrated

OVERRATED

Andy Roddick Men’s Tennis Player

Despite winning the US Open back in 2003, Roddick’s career has been a major disappointment. When he first debuted on the tour in 2001, he was expected to be the next great American tennis star along the lines of McEnroe, Agassi, and Sampras. However, he has failed to live up to expectations. While he is armed with tremendous talent, which includes a 150 mph serve, he appears more concerned with his off-court romances than his on-court peformance. When Roddick retires in a few years from professional tennis, we will all think to ourselves, “What could’ve been?”

John Kruk ESPN Baseball Commentator

Kruk is a likable dude. He’s that one fat guy of the group that gets along with everyone. However, that doesn’t usually translate to being a good television analyst. Often times, he avoids criticizing fellow players and adds very little insightful analysis to the broadcast. I truly enjoy watching “Baseball Tonight.” It’s one of the best shows on TV. However, I always find it humorous when Kruk unleashes a 5 minute diatribe on his beloved Phillies, while contributing little else to the discussion regarding the other 29 teams in the league.

Derek Jeter New York Yankees Shortstop

DJ has four World Series rings, three Gold Gloves, and nine All-Star Game appearances. However, his on-field production pales in comparison to other prominent Major League shortstops. I appreciate the fact that he is a “winner” and “plays the game the right way.” But for $22 million a year, he should be producing more than 12 home runs, 70 RBIs, and 15 steals per season.

UNDERRATED

Rafael Nadal Men’s Tennis Player

I know, I know… you’re thinking to yourself, “How could the 2008 Wimbledon Champion be considered ‘underrated’?” Well, the truth is, he is not yet fully appreciated. At the age of 22, Nadal has accomplished more than most players have over an entire career. He is in perfect position to capture 3 major titles in a single year. Rafa won his 4th straight French Open title in June, defeated Roger Federer over the weekend for his first Wimbledon, and is now the world’s #1 player heading into next month’s US Open. Considering Andre Agassi played professionally until the age of 36, the capri-panted Nadal will have plenty of hardware by the time he calls it quits.

Chris Singleton ESPN Baseball Commentator

While Singleton doesn’t have the same name recognition of other analysts on The Worldwide Leader, he has quickly become one of ESPN’s most polished commentators. His smooth and comfortable delivery, combined with his knowledge of the game has elevated his status at the network and has afforded him extra airtime. Singleton’s supreme intelligence is all the more apparent when he is paired on the “Baseball Tonight” set with the likes of John Kruk, Fernando Vina, and Eric Young.

Rick Ankiel St. Louis Cardinals Outfielder

Flashback to the 2000 NLDS between the Cardinals and Braves. A 21 year old phenom by the name of Rick Ankiel is the starting pitcher for Game 1 of the series for St. Louis. The Cardinals jump to an early lead by scoring 6 runs in the bottom of the first. Despite issuing a couple of walks, Ankiel escapes the first two innings unscathed. Then it happens. The “Ankiel Express” is derailed. The “Next Sandy Koufax” can’t throw a strike to save his life. He proceeds to walk four batters and throw 5 wild pitches in front of a packed stadium on national television. Flash forward seven years. The same Rick Ankiel is back on the field for the Cardinals. However, he is not at his customary position in the middle of the diamond. No… he is playing in the outfield for the Red Birds. Not only is he playing outfield at the Major League level, he is hitting tape measure bombs and throwing runners out from the warning track. The same guy that suffered through unbearable humiliation seven years ago is back on the field dominating the competition at a completely different position. This story is so far-fetched, Hollywood would laugh at the premise. Ankiel’s courage, determination, and belief in himself should be recognized and appreciated by all.

Posted by: danimal25 | 07/01/2008

MLB Awards at Mid-Way Point

AMERICAN LEAGUE

MVP: Josh Hamilton: A tremendous story. Hamilton has overcome unbelievable odds and is deserving of the award.

Cy Young: Cliff Lee: This isn’t a typo. Lee has accumulated an 11-1 record, with a  2.34 ERA.

Rookie of the Year: Evan Longoria: It is rare to see a phenom live up to the hype. Longoria has not disappointed.

Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon: Tampa Bay is leading the AL East on July 1st. Case closed.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

MVP: Chase Utley: Barely edges out Berkman for the honor. Utley is redefining the second base postion.

Cy Young: Tim Lincecum: Has compiled a record of 9-1 with very little run support. This kid is for real.

Rookie of the Year: Geovanny Soto: Has been a steady contributor to a 1st place team.

Manager of the Year: Tony La Russa: His team always overachieves, and this year is no exception. He just wins ballgames.

Posted by: danimal25 | 06/02/2008

The Truth Hurts

Kobe Bryant is better than Michael Jordan.

There. I said it. I had to swallow my pride and admit it.

I have long been critical of Kobe. His arrogant swagger, constant showboating, and aloof personality have always rubbed me the wrong way. For years, I have rooted against him and have reveled in his failures.

However, now, I must face the truth.

Bobby Jones once said about Jack Nicklaus, ”He plays a game with which I am not familiar.” This is precisely how I feel about Bryant. I have watched countless hours of basketball during my 25 years on this planet. Never before have I seen someone so dominant on a basketball court as Kobe has been during the 2008 playoffs.

Clearly, Michael’s career achievements outweigh Bryant’s. However, right now, Kobe’s skills cannot be matched. His combination of explosive athleticism, shooting touch, passing ability, and defensive intensity are what set him apart.

On top of all of this, Kobe has a killer instinct. He plays with a controlled rage and wants to absolutely bury the opponent. While most players fear taking the final shot (Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber, etc.), Bryant lives for the crucial moment. He welcomes it with open arms. When the game is on the line, that is when Kobe is at his best.

Now, this doesn’t mean I am running out to buy a #24 Laker jersey. I am simply stating a fact…. as much as it pains me to do so.

Posted by: danimal25 | 05/30/2008

Western Conference Finals: Game 5 Running Diary

6:10pm PST: First closeup of tonight’s announcing crew: Doug Collins and Marv Albert. Doug is grinning ear-to-ear having just agreed to become the next head coach of the Chicago Bulls. Marv is attempting to fake smile while his rug slowly peels from his scalp. Marv, you’re not fooling anyone. We know you’re bald.

6:13pm PST Tip Off: Lakers control the opening tip

6:37 left in the first quarter: Game is tied at 11. Our first commercial break features a WNBA spot promoting the slogan “Expect Great.” It appears the league’s marketing department might even be worse than the actual product it is attempting to advertise. David Stern, please pull the lever on “Old Sparky” and kill this mistake once and for all.

3:14 left in the 1st period: Michael Finley hits a corner three pointer to give the Spurs a 6 point lead, 21-15. Finally, someone on San Antonio is beginning to contribute besides Duncan and Parker.

2:52 left in the first: We get our first close up of Gregg Popovich. To say he is hard on the eyes, is an understatement. Dude’s face resembles the surface of the moon. He makes Tommy Lee Jones look like a Neutrogena model. This is one of the few times I regret having a High Definition television.

End of the first quarter: San Antonio holds a commanding lead 28-15.

Beginning of the 2nd quarter: Turiaf and Walton enter the game for LA. Turiaf is sporting a cornrow with a ponytail. Needless to say, not a good look.

10:15 left in the 2nd: Brent Barry drains a 3 pointer and extends the Spurs lead to 17 points, 33-16. Meanwhile, Phil Jackson is filing his nails on the sideline while his team is in danger of falling behind by 20 points.

6:33 left in the 2nd: Another commercial break. This time, we get the pleasure of a Buick advertisement featuring Tiger Woods. Tiger drives a Buick? Riiiiiight. Just like Michael Jordan wears Hanes tighty whities.

4:25 left in the 2nd: First shot of the celebrities in the stands. Let’s see…. there’s Dustin Hoffman…. Cameron Diaz…. Denzel Washington…. Jack Nicholson… and Adam Sandler and Baron Davis? What are these two doing together? And why is Baron dressed like a hobo?

37.6 seconds left in the 2nd: The Lakers have put together a 9-0 run in the past 2 minutes and have closed the deficit to 6 points.

Halftime: Spurs lead 48-42

TNT Halftime Show: Magic Johnson joins Ernie, Kenny, and Charles. Kenny opens things up by declaring, “The Spurs need to penetrate and knock down shots.” Wow. Astute commentary. Charles rolls his eyes and checks out the talent in the stands. Magic attempts to speak coherently, but fails.

Beginning of the 3rd Quarter: San Antonio starts the second half strongly. Tim Duncan swishes his patented angle bank shot from 18 feet and pumps his fist. This is the most emotion I’ve seen from him since…. ummm….. well….. ever. The Spurs extend their lead to 8 points.

5:20 left in the 3rd: After some back and forth, Kobe knocks down a jumper and cuts the Spurs lead to 4 points, 56-52. Kobe is just an assassin on the court. He attacks the rim harder than anyone in the league. However, his incessant licking of his lips is driving me nuts. Kobe, mix in some Chapstick.

End of 3rd Quarter: Kobe and the Lakers have grabbed hold of the momentum and now lead 64-63.

Start of the 4th Quarter: The once deflated Staples Center crowd is now buzzing with anticipation. The Lakers are 12 minutes from punching their ticket to the 2008 NBA Finals.

8:40 left in the 4th: Kobe Bryant is putting on a clinic. He splits 2 defenders and sinks a reverse layup over the outstretched arm of Tim Duncan. Lakers now lead 74-68.

3:34 left in the 4th: Bryant again knocks down a floating jump shot in the lane and the Lakers are in front 85-81. Coach Popovich stares blankly into space as his team is gasping for its last breath.

30 seconds left in the 4th: Brick City. Tim Duncan nearly shatters the backboard with an attempted 3 pointer. Spurs are down 93-84.

End of Game 5: The buzzer sounds and the Lakers win game 5, 100-92. They prepare to face the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals. Meanwhile, the Spurs slowly walk to the locker room in disgrace. Their season and dynasty are over.

Posted by: danimal25 | 05/24/2008

Dorsey Enjoying “The Good Life”

A Kansas City newspaper recently published a profile on new Chief defensive tackle, Glenn Dorsey. The number five overall selection in the draft is viewed as a future Pro Bowl performer. His combination of power, speed, and quickness is rare for a man of his size.

However, the article describes Dorsey’s extravagant spending habits. In the past three months alone, he has purchased over 75 pairs of shoes! And he hasn’t even signed his contract yet! Now, this doesn’t mean that he will be a wasted draft pick. His talent is undeniable. You have to wonder though, will he become complacent and satisfied now that he is a multi-millionaire?

Much is expected of these top draft picks as they enter the NFL. But, it is difficult to project how a rookie will adapt from college life to his new career as a paid professional. Franchises have squandered millions of dollars on college players that lose their drive and motivation once they sign on the dotted line. For the Chiefs’ sake, I hope Dorsey is worth every last penny. If he isn’t, his selection will have been a costly mistake.

Posted by: danimal25 | 05/23/2008

Rose Is Right For Bulls

The NBA Draft Lottery took place on Tuesday and the Chicago Bulls hit the jackpot. Going in with a 1.7% chance of winning, they beat the odds and will pick first at the upcoming draft on June 26th. Once the draft order was announced, the debate began. Who are the Bulls going to take with the first selection? Clearly, it is a two horse race. The Bulls will have their choice between Memphis point guard Derrick Rose and Kansas State forward Michael Beasley.

While most “experts” are tabbing Beasley for the pick, I disagree. It is true that the Bulls lack an inside scoring presence and he would fill that void, but I see the Chicago native, Rose being a perfect fit. At 6’4″ 200 lbs, Rose has an NBA ready body. He is a tenacious defender with excellent quickness and leaping ability. In a league where point guards can come in immediately and make an impact (Chris Paul, Deron Williams, etc.) it would be a mistake to pass him up. Recently, New York Knicks head coach, Mike D’Antoni referred to Rose as “Jason Kidd with a jump shot.” D’Antoni happens to know a bit about point guards having coached Steve Nash the past four seasons.

Now, this is not to say that Michael Beasley is the next Sam Bowie. It is rare to find a 6’9″ power forward with his shooting range and rebounding ability. However, there are some serious character concerns with Beasley. He had some off the court issues as a high schooler and has been accused of being immature for his age. When a franchise is investing tens of millions of dollars in a player, they cannot afford to make a mistake on someone that will bring negative attention to the organization.

On top of the character concerns, the Bulls have already invested high first round picks in front court players Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah. The last thing Chicago needs is another forward. Memo to Bulls General Manager John Paxson: pick Derrick Rose, trade Kirk Hinrich for a scorer, and hire Avery Johnson to fill your vacant head coaching position. Follow these three steps, and you’ll be back in the playoffs in 2009.

Posted by: danimal25 | 05/22/2008

Not Exactly A Parcells Kind Of Guy

Miami Dolphins defender and “Dancing with the Stars” participant, Jason Taylor, recently said the following regarding his football career: “I want to win period, and I would love to win in Miami. There are a lot of things out here (Los Angeles) going on, and a lot of opportunities coming up, but the plan is to play. Football is still my priority. I still have a passion to play football.” However, in the same conversation, he mentioned that he is going to miss all offseason workouts, including Dolphins training camp when it opens in July.

Okay… so, let me get this straight. Miami’s defensive “leader” just spent the last three months in Hollywood prancing around in a leotard and is going to remain in LA to pursue other “opportunities” while his teammates are slaving away in South Florida learning a new playbook? If Taylor really had a “passion” for the game, he wouldn’t be memorizing lines for a “Days of our Lives” casting call. Instead, he would be hitting the weights with his fellow Dolphins and acting like a professional.

If he doesn’t want to play football anymore, that’s fine. He can join the ballet for all I care. But he needs to be upfront with Bill Parcells and the new coaching staff and stop stringing them along. This sort of double talk sends the wrong signals to the coaches, fellow players, and the fan base. A young team coming off a 1-15 season needs a veteran leader, not a wannabe Ricky Martin.

Posted by: danimal25 | 05/21/2008

Separated at Birth, Vol. 3: Spurs Edition

…………Sports Star………………………………………………………………………….Twin

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Spurs Forward Robert Horry……………………………………………….Actor Will Smith

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Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich……………………………….The Jigsaw Killer from “Saw”

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Spurs Guard Manu Ginobili……………………………..….Balki from “Perfect Strangers”

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