Tuesday, March 21, 2017


It's now time for the Sweet Sixteen and then the Elite Eight and lastly, the Final Four. I haven't heard any alliteration for the last game - maybe the Top Two?

** The  #1 seeds left are Kansas, Gonzaga and North Carolina, so the pre-tournament seedings seem to be pretty good, in spite of some analysts belief that Wisconsin, for example was seeded too low and shouldn't have been playing the #1 seed in the second round.  Of course it's interesting to have the #1 team playing the #2 team in the finals, but who says they're the #1 and #2 teams? Isn't the whole idea of the tournament to determine who is #1 and #2? Logically, the last two teams playing ARE 1 & 2. So what if Wisconsin - a really good team - played the so-called #1 team in the nation - Villanova - in the second round. It was still a good game and proved that obviously, Villanova was NOT the nation's #1 team.
No matter how you seed them, the tournament will always be full of good games. Seedings are just someone's opinion anyway. Historically, the biggest upset pairing has been the #12 - #5 matchup.There are four #12s and four #5s, so the #12 team could be the 48th best team in the country or the 12th best, and the #5 team could be the 20th or the 5th. So why is that such a big upset? If #12 beats #20, it could be expected. Draw the match-ups out of a hat and you'd still have a great tournament.

** Another big upset is Duke getting eliminated by South Carolina in the second round. One good lesson from this is that Duke's Grayson Allen now knows what it's like to be tripped up.

** There is always a team that gets hot at the right time, a Cinderella team if you will, and this year it's Xavier. They will play Arizona on Thursday and that should be interesting. Unfortunately, that game doesn't start until after 10:00 pm EDT and probably won't end till close to 1:00 am, but that's okay. I'm sure your boss or teacher won't mind if you drag your sleepy butt around all day Friday, after all, it is the Sweet Sixteen.

** I love that the color commentators, usually former players, like to talk about rule changes they'd like to see. Sometimes they make sense, but sometimes they overreact when they don't like the enforcement of a good rule. The Flagrant Foul rule is a good example. This is when a foul is deemed excessive and stricter penalties are assessed. The analysts will object when that call is made when they feel the intent was not there. Sorry, but you can't have a rule that relies on someone's judgement of "intent." The rule is very specific and intent is not part of it. You commit the foul, you pay the price. It's meant to protect the players, so deal with it.

** There is always a discussion of how to shorten the length of the games and one of the big causes is the last two minutes of a game. There are the endless 'intentional' fouls and timeouts galore. Here's a suggestion that will help.  A team can't call a timeout unless it is in possession of the basketball. In a close game, the team behind will score a basket and then call a timeout to set up their defense. Oh, no you don't. You don't have the ball so you're on your own. The coaches will never let this rule in. This is their time in the sun. "What do you think Coach Smith will do here, Harry? Will he press or will he foul?" "I don't know, Jim, but he always has something up his sleeve. Look, he's drawing up his plan now." They need that time with the cameras on them, after all, the players come and go but the coach, he's always there. Unless he loses and gets fired.

** Speaking of coaching changes, the big discussion in New York is the continuation of the coaching career of Syracuse's Jim Boeheim. After saying for two years that next season will be his last and assistant coach Mike Hopkins will take over, it's all changed. Hopkins has taken a job as head coach with Washington and Boeheim has signed an extension beyond next year. No other details are known except Adrian Autry, a former player and assistant coach, has been named associate coach. The one question remaining is, did Boeheim sign an extension because Hopkins left or did Hopkins leave because Boeheim signed an extension? I think Hopkins was smart to leave since it would have been awfully tough for him to step in behind Boeheim after being his assistant for 10 years. I don't think Boeheim really wanted to retire after the NCAA stripped him of 100+ wins, not that anybody is actually taking that punishment seriously.

Back to baseball.
The USA WBC team is in the semi finals, which is their best showing ever. Well, good for them. I just hope no one gets hurt.
I haven't been taking seriously the success the Yankees have been having in the Grapefruit League, since they are playing against a lot of minor leaguers, but the further along they go with the continued success, it's becoming harder and harder to ignore. Maybe they will contend strongly for the playoffs this year. Greg Bird and Matt Holliday have been particularly impressive. 
ESPN asked a pretty interesting question this week. If you were starting a team, who would you take as the first pick: Bryce Harper or Manny Machado? I guess I'd go with Machado because he's more flexible defensively and more of a team player. I think Harper's ego may get very tiresome after a while.
Tim Tebow will begin the season with the Mets Class A team in Columbia, SC. No surprise there except maybe that it's not Class C or D.

"Johnny Manziel hired an NFL agent. That’s a little like me hiring a caddy to tote my bag during the championship round of the Masters."  -- Brad Dickson
"I had to tell a non basketball fan that the Zags were not named after one of the guys that invented that ‘rolling paper’. (and Duke is not named after John Wayne)"  -- TC Chong
"Contrary to rumours, a Miami attorney did not lose any fingers when his e-cigarette battery exploded. At the time, both his hands were deep in his clients’ pockets."  -- RJ Currie
"The Raiders reportedly want to coax running back Marshawn Lynch out of retirement. For some odd reason, Lynch wasn’t available for comment."  -- Dwight Perry
"How bad did the first spring training game go for Tim Tebow? He was charged with three errors and he was the DH.  -- Brad Dickson  
"SMU blew a 10 point lead with 11 minutes to play to lose to USC, who had already survived a play-in game. Normally for this much embarrassment, SMU relies on their football team."  - Janice Hough
"Sports Illustrated has released a video of 2017 swimsuit model Nina Agdal asking Houston people for tips on how to get a date. Tip one: look like  Nina Agdal."  -- RJ Currie
"British Open host Muirfield Golf Course in Scotland will finally admit females as members. This coincides with their first purchase of two “Beer Carts”.  -- TC Chong
“Just filled out my March Madness tax bracket and I’m picking the IRS to take it all.”  -- Argus Hamilton
 "The women’s NCAA tournament kicked off with UConn being presented the 2016 championship trophy — no, wait, that was the 2017 championship trophy. Why wait?"  -- Brad Dickson  [I doubt the Syracuse women would object after last night's 30-point loss to the Huskies - CP]



Tuesday, March 14, 2017


This usually means very serious college basketball. It is, in my opinion, the most exciting collegiate sporting event of the year. I know, I know, there's that football playoff and all those ridiculously named bowl games but this is better.Why? Because it includes more teams and a wide variety of school sizes. When you look at the top ten football teams, you see Ohio St, Alabama, UCLA, Michigan St and the like. All huge schools with student bodies of 100,000 or more. No Creighton or Gonzaga or St Mary's and certainly no Florida Gulf Coast. They're all in the NCAA Tournament but you won't see Alabama or Ohio St in it. They weren't good enough.

This tournament is all about match-ups and brackets. It's designed to give the best teams a chance to meet in the final game, but they still have to earn it. Villanova may be the number one team in the country but they will still have to win six games in three weeks against a few of the best teams colleges have to offer. Since they can only put five players on the court at a time, sometimes a hot team will advance a lot farther than the seedings would lead you to believe. In football, win one game in the "playoffs" and you're in the final. If you are seeded number five or higher in the country, you don't even get a chance to try for it. How can you beat a system like the NCAA's? Okay, maybe you could add a few more teams, but that really wouldn't do much good, so let's stick with the current arrangement.

I'm sure you've all heard the experts drone on and on about their picks. If you haven't, turn the TV on to any one of six channels and you will. This team can go far because the committee matched them up with so-and-so. This team is seeded sixth which makes their road a lot harder. This team has to travel out west so they'll have it rougher. And so on and so forth. But let's have some fun. Let's match the teams differently

By nickname 
This would make it easier on the announcers to remember.
How about Wildcats? You could almost fill a bracket with these. There are five of them: Arizona, Kansas State Northwestern, Kentucky and, of course, Villanova.
Tigers is usually a good bet, but there are only two this year: Princeton & Texas Southern.
There are four Eagles in this one. N.C Central, Winthrop, Florida Gulf Coast and Marquette (actually Golden Eagles)
How about  the Trojans - Troy and UCLA. Maybe not a good match up on the court but they could always share a mascot.
One of the strangest obscure nicknames is the Gaels, and yet we have two of them. St. Mary's and Iona. The only problem with this match up is that one of them has to win which means another week of research for the announcers, trying to figure out what it is.
Then there are the sea going folk: the East Tennessee St. Buccaneers and the Vanderbilt Commodores. I have yet to understand how two schools in landlocked Tennessee, some 300 miles from the ocean, could end up with sea going nicknames.

By location
The committee has done this work for us. A number of years ago, there was a big uproar because Syracuse played the first round in Buffalo, some 130 miles down the road. This year, Florida, Florida State and Florida Gulf Coast all play their first round in Orlando, Florida. Poor Miami (Fla) has to go to Tulsa, Oklahoma to play. Doesn't seem fair.

Finally, this would be the best match-up of all
Miami (Fla) Hurricanes against the Iowa State Cyclones. How could you not be blown away by this one? (Okay that ones for Dwight Perry and RJ Currie, the kings of the pun)

Here's a  thought. If they matched up teams like Notre Dame and Oregon or Michigan, all with their penchant for neon uniforms, they might not have to turn the lights on in the arenas.

Since I can't beat Annie-O anyway, I gave up using any skill or insight since I don't seem to have either and picked Butler to win it all. Annie-O has picked Arizona. 

"In women’s NCAA tournament, Connecticut, winner of 107 straight, was given overall #1 seed. In related news committee announced water was wet."  -- Janice Hough
" Happy 70th birthday to Olympic gold-medal high-jumper Dick Fosbury, who gained fame for jumping back to the bar. “Me too!” said Johnny Manziel."  -- RJ Currie
" The Nebraska Husker bowling team recently defeated Lincoln Memorial, Valparaiso, Maryville and Elmhurst. That sounds suspiciously like an SEC football team’s nonconference schedule."  -- Brad Dickson
"As Americans focus on their brackets, many sites ask for tie-breakers like guessing the score of the final game. Wouldn’t it be more a test of skill to ask entrants to name one player on each of their final four teams?"  -- Janice Hough
"Food stands at the Royals’ spring-training ballpark in Surprise, Ariz., are selling a hot dog — wrapped in bacon, which is then wrapped in a cheeseburger — called the Triple Play Dog.What, was “Triple Bypass” already taken?"  -- Dwight Perry
"The Saskatchewan Roughriders signed 33-year-old ex-NFL QB Vince Young to compete with veteran pivot Kevin Glenn, 37. Presumably this is part of their youth movement."  -- RJ Currie
" The 88th annual Midwest Spelling Bee was just held. For the first time, this year kids were allowed to use spell check. -- Brad Dickson


Sunday, March 12, 2017


It won't be long now when the games will be contested in earnest. In the meantime, March Madness will be in full swing. Sunday night, the brackets will be announced starting at 5:30 pm followed by ESPN's in-depth analysis at 7:00 pm. This will be when they will tell us how 'they knew it all along."  Joe Lunardi will explain why the selection committee made mistakes by not picking it the way he said. Who cares; the games will be just as good.
The Picasner analysis will follow this week but that is all tongue-in-cheek, including my pick for the winner which will, of course, be foot-in-mouth.  And Annie-O will out pick me.

Spring Training report
We're seeing more regulars now and fewer minor leaguer's fighting for jobs. The Yankees used only three pitchers today in their win over the Tigers. By the way, you gotta love that Detroit logo, the old English "D."
Masahiro Tanaka started for NY and he was terrific. Four perfect innings including six straight strikeouts to start the game. Interestingly, in an interview after he finished, Tanaka wasn't pleased with his performance. He said his pitches weren't sharp and he had trouble with his command. A couple of his curve balls were okay but overall he felt he didn't pitch very well. Meanwhile, over on the Detroit bench a few of the players were saying, "Wait, what? That wasn't good? What's going on? Did you hit him? Hit him? I couldn't see him. What's he talking about?"

Advantage: Large school or small school?
One of the insights announcers try to impart to viewers during basketball games is the importance of bench strength. Does a team have a 7-man rotation, or 8-man or do they utilize just one sub off the bench? This is where these analysts say that large schools have an advantage: they are able to recruit a greater number of talented players. I have a counter point to this theory. Yes, fatigue can be a factor playing only 6 men, but you are still only allowed 5 players on the floor at once. It's different if you're talking about a football team. It's much easier to recruit 5 or 6 prime  players than the 22 to 25 that may be needed for football. I don't think the "Big School Advantage" is as much of a factor as the analysts and bracketologists think it is. (By the way, who decided that 'bracketology' is a real word?)

Well, oh yeah? 
Friday night, with an 11-point lead and possession of the ball and .9 seconds left in the game, Arizona  coach Sean Miller signaled for a timeout, infuriating UCLA coach Steve Alford. Apparently this was retaliation for Alford calling a timeout a week earlier against this same Arizona team. That time, there was 12 seconds left and only a 5 point lead. Alford says he was trying to set his defense but coach Miller would have none of it. I  can see Alford's point as 12 seconds can be a lifetime in basketball, so it would appear that coach Miller is just a l-i-t-t-l-e bit sensitive in spite of all his protestations. Oh well, what's a little sarcasm among friends.

The sounds of silence 
During last Sunday's game at MSG, between the Knicks and the Warriors, the following message was displayed on the large teleprompter over the court.
"The first half of today’s game will be presented without music, video or in-game entertainment so you can experience the game in its purest form. Enjoy the sounds of the game."
Now this is an interesting concept. Fans had no distractions and focused completely on the game, hearing the squeak of the sneakers, the bouncing of the ball and the referee's whistles. Wow. Remember your high school basketball games? The only distraction was the cheerleaders and they performed only during a stoppage of play. The Garden only did it for the first half but this is a great idea. Now if we could only get the announcers and color guys to shut up.  

I have a question.  
Supposedly, the USA World Baseball Classic team is making a big push to have a better than decent showing in this year's tournament. Important because the USA team has never made it into the championship round in a sport which originated in this country. Well, they lost to a loaded Dominican Republic team last night, 7-5My questions are: Why was Paul Goldshmidt batting 6th? why was Giancarlo Stanton batting 7th? Where was Ben Zobrist? Bryce Harper? They were facing what may be the toughest team in the tournament and the USA's best players weren't either in the game or in the best position to help the team. Maybe this is a reason the USA hasn't done well in the past. 

Whose side are you on? 
Rob  Manfred, in a statement released by MLB about a particular Sunday night ESPN game, said, “MLB’s greatest responsibility is to ensure that today’s youth become active participants in our game as players and fans." Sure, that explains why World Series games end at midnight or later and Sunday night games don't start until 8:00 PM.  Rob, you'd sound a lot smarter if you just stopped talking.

I'll get around to it
Last week was the celebration of  National Procrastination Week    I should get to it later this week. Maybe.

"I think the safety precautions at the Daytona 500 are getting a little ridiculous. This year there were speed bumps."  -- Brad Dickson
"Thinking  the Duke-Notre Dame game might have tied an NCAA record as far as a basketball game where most viewers wanted to see both teams lose."  -- Janice Hough
"When King Salman of Saudi Arabia took a recent trip to Indonesia, he brought along 506 tons of baggage. In other words, almost as much as Colin Kaepernick."  -- Dwight Perry
"Star forward Dirk Nowitzki has shown steadfast loyalty to the team and city for 19 seasons. “When you pay somebody $200 million, they tend to be loyal."  -- Owner Mark Cuban
" At Mardis Gras the newly traded-to-New Orleans DeMarcus Cousins was photographed with underwear on his head. This is about that time when a GM goes, “What did I get myself into?”"  -- Brad Dickson
"Supermodel Kate Upton said Tigers' ace and fiancĂ©, Justin Verlander, forgoes sex the nights before and after he plays. So when he’s pitching games, he’s not pitching woo?"  -- RJ Curry

"A recent study says adults who eat home-cooked food and don’t watch TV during meals are less likely to be obese. Which is good news for all three of those people."  -- Jim Barach
"Talking about Kentucky basketball recruits history of one-and-done. We celebrated one of the rarest things in sports this week: Kentucky University Senior Day."  -- Bob Ryan 
"The Cleveland Browns have made Charley Hughlett the NFL’s highest paid long-snapper. Well, gee, as many times as Cleveland punted last year, I’d say he earned it."  -- Bill Littlejohn
"At the Big Ten tournament BTN sponsored a baby race. Each Big Ten school sent an infant to the baby race except for Ohio State, which was represented by coach Urban Meyer."  -- Brad Dickson
"While making bracket picks can we have a side bet on how many technical fouls Grayson Allen will get in?"  -- Janice Hough
"Blue Jays backup catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has the longest surname in team history at 14 letters. Now that’s a high-character player."  -- RJ Currie
"The Kansas City Royals spring training stadium is selling a hot dog wrapped in a burger patty 
wrapped in bacon. It’d be healthier to throw this away and eat a baseball."  -- Brad Dickson



Friday, March 03, 2017


Things are getting so politically correct that there's nothing to rant about anymore. The worst thing in sports I've read about involves pro basketball player Kyrie Irving claiming the world is flat. You'd think that a guy that spends that much time in the air that he could see for himself how ridiculous that is. Maybe the next time he wants to fly he should use an airplane instead of those funny mushrooms.

I'm not the only one looking for something to write about. Colin Kapernick made headlines saying he was going to stand for the National Anthem from now on. Really? A professional athlete makes news by offering to follow the rules? Okay, if that's all it takes, I'm not going to ogle pretty girls anymore. Actually Annie-O has enforced that rule for many years now, but I can dream.

 Don't get too cocky.
For all you Yankee fans who are thrilled at the 7-1 record NY has scored so far in the Grapefruit league: don't let it go to your head. Sure they're hitting the ball hard and their pitchers are dominating, but they aren't really facing major league quality teams. Yesterday, they beat Baltimore 8-1. At least, that was the name on the uniforms. 16 Orioles appeared in that game plus 5 pitchers. I think only 4 of them had ever appeared in a ML game before. Let's see what happens when they start playing for real.

I still don't get this.
Why are they still doing this World Baseball Classic thing? It must be MLB's attempt to interest foreign countries in baseball. I see no good reason for it. I can't imagine a team's front office being happy with some of their stars going off to play in a meaningless tournament before they been able to fully work out and stretch those baseball muscles. Because they seem to go all out to win games, the odds of someone getting hurt is multiplied, especially among the pitchers.

Here it comes, one of my favorite times of the year.
Yes, it's March Madness, boys and girls. After years of frustration  and heart-breaking defeats, I refuse to match bracket picks with Annie-O this year. Since I told her this, she's been walking around the house making chicken-clucking sounds, but I will not be deterred.
Well, okay, but this is the last time.
Can't see the forest... 
The rule change to eliminate four wide pitches for an intentional walk is now official, which should shorten the length of games by maybe a minute. This is like solving world hunger by giving everyone one oyster cracker. All the other proposed changes - limiting trips to the mound, limiting pitching changes, etc. - have all been rejected by the Players Association. they can be implemented next year without the players consent if they're given a years notice, which they now have. Obviously, it's not just old timers and purists that don't want these changes, it's the players themselves. The people who are suggesting these changes are not the ones who have to live with them. The ones who have to live with them - the players -  don't want them. The stupidest rule change , yes stupid, is the suggestion that each extra inning game begin with a runner at second automatically. Sleepy Joe Torre, MLB's yes-man supreme,tried to defend this in an interview and came off as a deer in the headlights, which were the only lights in that room.
The Albatross
For a few years now, sports writers and announcers have expressed dismay over the contract of Jacoby Ellsbury, 7 years for $153 million. They said it was not a good deal for the Yanks. Now they're saying it may be the worst contract ever. In three years with NY, he's hit a very ordinary .270. He's stolen a total of 46 bases in three years, which is what he averaged in his 5 full seasons in Boston. The worst part? The Yanks have him for four more years - and $84 million.

"Alex Rodriguez said there is a “zero percent” chance he plays baseball again. Speaking of zero percent chances, the Minnesota Twins have reported to spring training."  -- Brad Dickson
"Colin Kaepernick says he is going to stand for national anthem next year. Of course, he may be standing in his living room."  -- Janice Hough

"Ex-Lions cornerback Stanley Wilson II was arrested in the buff on suspicion of burglary in Woodburn, Ore. — his third naked run-in with police in eight months.  On the bright side, prosecutors say, picking him out of a lineup shouldn’t be a problem."  -- Dwight Perry
"SI Swimsuit model Kate Upton says there's no sex with fiancĂ©, MLB ace Justin Verlander, the nights before and after he plays. Still, most guys wouldn't mind that pitching rotation."  -- RJ Currie
"Men’s Health magazine published a study claiming that, for men, having sex burns the same amount of calories as running six miles. That’s so ridiculous. Nobody has ever run six miles in 30 seconds."  -- Argus Hamilton
" A Tom Brady movie is in the works. No word on who will play the role of Tom but rumor has it that the short list of actors to portray Roger Goddell is down to PeeWee Herman or Bozo."  -- TC Chong
"Michigan State recruit Donovan Wilson couldn't sign because he was in jail for stealing a gun. It's never too soon to show scouts you are NFL calibre." RJ Currie 
" The Los Angeles Lakers fired Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak. One more firing and Jack Nicholson is in charge." -- Brad Dickson
"A viral photo appeared to show Knicks’ president Phil Jackson snoozing on a city bus. Not pictured was Carmelo Anthony — under the bus, where Jackson had thrown him."  - RJ Currie
"New 49ers GM John Lynch said he’ll be in the market for fast, physical players with character. There was concern that Lynch would say, We’ll be looking for slow, weak guys with no respect for the law."  -- Scott Ostler
"George H.W. Bush was chosen to do the coin toss honors at the Super Bowl. If Trump had been selected, something tells me we would have lost the coin."  -- Norman Chad
George H.W. Bush does the coin-toss honors. If Trump did it, something tells me we’d lose the coin. - See more at: http://www.westmanjournal.com/opinion/columnists/nhl-s-all-time-best-3-2-1-99-1.10593022#sthash.zk4hJUV5.dpuf
George H.W. Bush does the coin-toss honors. If Trump did it, something tells me we’d lose the coin. - See more at: http://www.westmanjournal.com/opinion/columnists/nhl-s-all-time-best-3-2-1-99-1.10593022#sthash.zk4hJUV5.dpuf
George H.W. Bush does the coin-toss honors. If Trump did it, something tells me we’d lose the coin. - See more at: http://www.westmanjournal.com/opinion/columnists/nhl-s-all-time-best-3-2-1-99-1.10593022#sthash.zk4hJUV5.dpuf