I think the script for Moneyball 2 is being written right before our eyes.
Billy Beane and the perpetual underdog Oakland Athletics are at it again. They are proving experts wrong, frustrating big money division rivals like the Angels and Rangers along the way.
Oakland’s 12-5 victory over the Rangers yesterday moved them into first place. In fact, it marked the only time all season that they were on top of the standings. Considering it came after game 162, it really was the only time that matters.
How did they do it? Their payroll of just over $55.3 million ranks second-lowest in baseball. Their team batting average was an abysmal .238.
They did it with a commitment to team. They did it by taking a group of players that other teams had given up on and teaching them to never give up.
Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss, Seth Smith and the list goes on. All significant contributors. All had been given up on by other teams. The only real person in their everyday lineup that doesn’t fit this description is uber-import Yoenis Cespedes.
They also have the second best ERA (3.48) in the American League, despite the fact that before the season the only A’s pitcher anyone had heard of was Bartolo Colon (who was supposedly washed up five years ago), who ended up getting suspended.
Here they are, soaking up their first champagne shower since 2006. With the Tigers looming, one may wonder when their next locker room party will take place. Standing in their way is Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, home run derby champion Prince Fielder, and Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander.
The A’s are used to being the underdogs. In fact they thrive under that designation, but this may be to steep of an uphill climb. Still, one can’t help but wonder if this story will have a happy ending.]]>
Simultaneous catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball.
Last night this was the rule that came into play. Came into question. Came to be famous.
In a play that for history’s sake we will call the “inaccurate reception,” the record books will show that receiver Golden Tate caught a touchdown pass from Russell Wilson. The books will show that the Seattle Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers 14-12. What these books will not show is the erroneous decisions on the officials. It won’t show the NFL’s disregard for the integrity of their own game and their defense of the inexcusable. It won’t show the ghastly consequences of the lockout of NFL officials.
With eight seconds remaining in yesterday’s game, Russell Wilson threw up a hail mary. He threw up a prayer. A prayer that was answered from above. Let me explain…
The two officials that were around the action saw two different things. The side judge signified that it was a touchdown. The back judge however, signaled for the clock to be stopped, due to an apparent interception. Referee Wayne Elliott, didn’t ask either official what happened, instead going under the hood to look at a replay. Ultimately the answer would come from replay official upstairs.
A voice from above.
Howard Slavin was called upon to determine if this play was a simultaneous catch between Tate and safety M.D. Jennings. Simultaneous catches can be reviewed in the end zone (so can be pass interference, but more on that later). Slavin had to determine if this was the case.
The video showed Jennings catching the pass, Tate getting a hand on it, trying to get possession from Jennings (who had the ball secured to his body).
I guess Mr. Slavin saw a different video.
The ruling (that was never officially made) on the field was confirmed. The Seahawks had won.
“It’s very questionable,” said Seattle’s Coach Pete Carroll. “It’s a very questionable call to make.”
That’s one way to look at it. Most of the world saw it as simply the wrong call.
First there was the blatant offensive pass interference by Seattle (which could have been reviewed. Then there was the obvious footage of Jennings establishing possession. Yeah Golden Tate got a hand on it, Jennings had two and his chest. The tie may go to the runner; this wasn’t a tie.
It was interception.
Russell Wilson threw the first game-winning interception in NFL history.
Even worse, the NFL supported their refs. The NFL issued a statement saying that there was not irrefutable evidence to overturn the call, a call that was never made by the referee. It did conceded that the officiating crew missed a call of pass interference, but refused to overturn the outcome of the game.
The wrong team won, and it was directly due to replacement officials and the league’s defense of them.
Before this, there were plenty of other mistakes by these scabs. There were extra timeouts, extra yards and extra challenges all awarded. There was a call that could have gone either way on a field goal. There were also plenty of flags for phantom pass interference. But never before was there a blatant mistake that directly and immediately decided the outcome of a game.
Plenty of people have been fined for abuse of officials. John Fox and Jack Del Rio from the coaching staff of the Denver Broncos had to pay $30,000 and $25,000 respectively. Kyle Shanahan of the Redskins and Bill Belichick of the Patriots can expect to open their wallets as well. I argue that if the officials had been doing their job, they would have never have said or have done the things that got them in trouble. The officials refuse to take control of games, and when they do they make bad decisions. The NFL is allowing this to happen. Someone needs to say something.
Some did. Aaron Rodgers simply called it awful. T.J Lang of the Packers wasn’t so p.c. in his statement, first dropping an F-bomb and then suggesting the NFL should use any would-be fine money to get the real officials back.
I”m sure a lot of people would chip in. The truth of the matter is this is a $9 billion dollar annual industry is nickle-and-diming officials over a few thousand dollars a game. Reports say it may only cost each team $100,000 a season. The mistake alone saw at least $150 million switch sides in Vegas alone according to early estimates. You think it would be worth it to get a deal done and fast.
The New Jersey State Legislature thinks so, as it tries to pass a bill that would not allow NFL games to be played in their state unless it is done with actual officials.
President Barack Obama also thinks so, personally tweeting: “NFL fans on both sides of the aisle hope that the ref’s lockout is settled soon.”
Unfortunately no matter when it comes, the settlement will not have come soon enough.
Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints had this to say: “It’s ironic that the league punishes us for conduct detrimental. Who’s CONDUCT is DETRIMENTAL now?”
Over 70,000 people called and left messages with the league offices in New York to vioce their displeasure. So far, the cries have fallen on deaf ears.
Brees is right. The fans are right to be upset. The impact of this is far worse than the lockout of the players that impacted the 2011 preseason. The all-powerful commissioner Roger Goodell has the power to change this result. The owner’s (as do the locked-out referee’s) have the power to change things going forward.
It’s time for some change.]]>
That was rhe case with legendary UConn basketball coach Jim Calhoun, who retired today after 40 years as a head coach.
“There have been some bumps in the road,” he said. “But we are headed in the right direction.”
Some of those bumps have been figurative, some literal. Calhoun arrived to the press conference on crutches, as he recovers from a bicycle accident. While it may be with a limp, he is walking away from the game on his own terms.
873 wins, three national titles, an NIT Championship and seven Big East tournament titles leave quite the legacy. Calhoun has also sent over two dozen players to the NBA. He is single-handily responsible for taking the University of Connecticut from relative obscurity and turning it into the powerhouse it is now. That legacy will now continue, as his hand-picked successor (Kevin Ollie) steps in to take his place.
Calhoun’s former assistant and player has no head-coaching experience and will coach on a one-year contract. But he is used to overcoming the odds before.
“My first six years in the NBA, I didn’t have no guaranteed contract,” Ollie said. ”This is easy. This is exactly where I want to be at.”
This is in true Calhoun spirit, who overcame a tough conference, injury and even cancer to lead the Huskies, and became the oldest coach to ever win a national title in 2011. His stats are impressive, but don’t really illustrate Calhoun’s full impact.
“He’s showed us how to work,” former player Kemba Walker said. “He’s pushed me to be the best player and person I could be. He’s one of the most special men in my life.”
He would have retired after his last title, but as his team faced sanctions for poor academics, he wanted to face them with his player. He never backed down in the past, surely he wouldn’t when his team needed him.
Happy trails Jim Calhoun, you truly were one of the greatest.]]>
Playing the defending champion. After squandering a two-set lead, the odds seemed against Andy Murray. He was 0-4 in Grand Slam finals. No Brit had one a Grand Slam in 76 years. Finally, the man standing in his way was Novak Djokovic.
“Novak is so, so strong. He fights until the end in every single match,” Murray said. “I don’t know how I managed to come through in the end.”
Come through he did, and in a thriller. The match was the longest in US Open history at just short of five hours. The first set alone needed a record 22 tiebreak points. Yet when the dust had settled, one man was still standing: Andy Murray.
He may not be as strong as Djokovic. He may not be as talented as Federer. Murray doesn’t even have a blistering serve. So how did he do it? How did he upset one of the game’s elite? With heart, guts and determination.
The volleys were long, yet Murray hustled for every ball as if the match depended on it. He battled hard for the first two sets. Most importantly, after being dominated in sets three and four, he responded. He could have easily thrown in the towel. The momentum was clearly not in his favor. Instead, he dug in when it mattered most. That is why today he is a champion.
“He deserved to win this Grand Slam more than anybody,” Djokovic said of Murray.
This caps quite the summer for Murray. Often considered the lovable loser of tennis. A man that was on the cusp of greatness, but never could quite get over the hump. At Wimbledon he surprisingly made the finals, only to lose to Federer. He was given a chance at redemption during the Olympics, and delivered against Federer to claim gold and glory for queen and country. Now, he is a Grand Slam champion and will rise to number three in the world rankings. At the ge of 25, he should have a lot of good tennis ahead of him.
Here’s to you old chap.
According to sources, a three-man arbitration panel has overturned the suspensions of the four players connected to the Saints’ bounty scandal. Thus allowing Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove to return to the field as soon as this very weekend.
“Victory is mine!!!!- Stewie Griffin,” Vilma tweeted.
Unfortunately this decision affects only the players involved. Coaches Gregg Williams, Sean Payton and Joe Vitt will continue to serve their suspensions.
Still, this is a huge victory for the players involved, the Saints Organization and the NFL Players Association.
The four players, along with the NFLPA, had filed a lawsuit against the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell, claiming Goodell abused his power and that the league used improper procedures in disciplining the players for their role in “Bountygate.” The damages the sought was the simple overturn of their suspensions. This ruling makes that a moot point.
More importantly, it should start to curb the power of the totalitarian Goodell. A man who has for too long serves as the judge, jury and executioner of the NFL. This ruling should set precedent that will lead to reform of the league’s disciplinary policies; specifically in regards to appeals. Under the current system, both disciplinary hearings and appeals are heard by Goodell. He determines the guilt, the punishment and whether or not it is fair. Isn’t this what our country;s forefathers fought to prevent? For the head-honcho of America’s game, Goodell seems to handle his business in an astoundingly un-American way.
That ends now.
If they so chose, every player in the NFL can have his right to a fair trial. The exact framework of the changes to the disciplinary system are a mystery. In fact, there is nothing to say there even will be changes. Nevertheless, a large window of opportunity has been open. The NFLPA would be doing a disservice to the players they represent if they didn’t act. DeMaurice Smith is way to smart for that.
This is a good day for the Saints. This is a good day for all the players. This is a good day for the fans. This is a good day for football.
The Cowboys were impressive on Wednesday, but this marks the biggest victory so far.
His latest battle, however, proved too much for Lance Armstrong.
Facing charges from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Armstrong has decided to not take his case to arbitration. Fueling speculation that he was indeed guilty and potentially costing him his seven Tour de France titles.
“It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and athletes,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said. “It’s a heartbreaking example of win at all costs overtaking the fair and safe option. There’s no success in cheating to win.”
I don’t believe this is a sad day for Tygart. The USADA has been after Armstrong since 1996. They have failed to prove anything, and had a Federal Court case thrown out. This time, if Armstrong elected arbitration, it would have been done on the USADA’s turf and terms, with a lesser burden of proof than required by the court system.
“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ For me, that time is now,” Armstrong said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. He called the USADA investigation an “unconstitutional witch hunt.”
“I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999,” he said. “The toll this has taken on my family and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today — finished with this nonsense.”
He has passed over 500 drug tests, yet Armstrong has been relentlessly pursued by USADA. While Armstrong will not fight, some may on his behalf.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) is waiting for more information before commenting on the matter, as is the International Olympic Committee.
The UCI, which is cycling’s governing body, says USADA is required to submit a detailed explanation of the actions they are planning to take to all parties involved. They also question whether or not USADA has the authority to strip Armstrong of his titles, as does Armstrong.
“USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles,” he said. “I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours.”
The UCI had supported Armstrong’s legal challenge to USADA’s authority and in theory could take the case before the International Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Many people (including both fans and media) have already passed judgement on Armstrong. I, for one, will at least wait until more evidence comes out.
The evidence I have seen is overwhelmingly in Armstrong’s favor. He has NEVER failed a drug test, and he competed in one of the most heavily tested sports in the world. It seems like people want to take every comeback story and turn it in to a scandal.
Just mere days ago, baseball’s Derek Jeter, a well-respected consummate professional, was accused on ESPN of potentially taking PEDs.
The USADA says they have witnesses. So far I think all they have is hearsay. That, and a grudge. Unfortunately this may be enough.
I don’t blame Armstrong for not wanting to fight anymore, as he has endured enough. Still… I wish he would. It may be an uphill battle, but he has excelled at winning those. Just ask cancer.
The LSU Tigers have dismissed Mathieu, last year’s Chuck Bednarik Award recipient as the nation’s top defensive player, after repeated violations of the team’s substance-abuse policy.
“Being an athlete is a privilege. You have to follow the rules to take advantage of that privilege and unfortunately, he doesn’t have that privilege here any more,” Athletic Director Joe Alleva said, calling this an ongoing issue.
This also means that LSU will be without “the privilege” of his services as well. The team made it to the national championship game last season before losing to Alabama. Currently, they are ranked as the preseason number one. A lot of this had to do with the “Honey Badger.” Mathieu lead the team in tackles last season. He also had seven for a loss and 1.5 sacks, despite being undersized.
This is not to mention the drastic effect he had in the return game, where he was a constant threat. The quality of play he brought to the table was especially impressive considering he played in the SEC, which is almost universally regarded as the best conference in college football.
How do you replace someone like that? The short answer is simply that you can’t. Mathieu is an elite player, a little reminiscent of a smaller Charles Woodson.
Still, his removal shoyuldn’t come as a surprise. This is his third substance-abuse violation at LSU. Last season, he tested positive for synthetic marijuana and was suspended. Although it hasn’t been confirmed, it is believed that this violation is along the same lines. Mathieu had been in drug counseling since the spring.
So what’s next for Mathieu? He is a redshirt-eligible junior, so he could transfer and still play two years after sitting out the mandatory season. The supplemental draft has passed, so he cannot turn pro before this season.
The last remaining option is to transfer to a lower level of play, like the FCS. This way, he could play immediately. This seems the most likely, as he is expected to declare for the NFL draft after the season.
“I can’t imagine he would be here and not want to transfer and go play football,” LSU Coach Les Miles said. “We will help him in every way we can.”
On can’t help but wonder what these developments will do to his draft stock. He was expected to be a top-five pick in 2013. Now, his character concerns, and inability to move past them have grown too large to ignore. Still, his talent should keep him in the first round, especially considering whoever takes him should get a good recommendation for Miles.
“For the team, we lost a quality person. We enjoyed working him. He was a great teammate.”
It definitely looks like the first big play this season for the Louisiana State Tigers was for a loss.]]>
After an impressive workout yesterday, the 38-year old reciever has agreed to a one-year contract with the Seattle Seahawks. His time in the 40-yard dash was reportedly 4.45 seconds. Not bad for a man near 40, who’s coming off of acl surgery.
In spite of this, one must wonder how much Owens has left in the tank? Sure, Seattle may want the publicity. While a second season of the T.Ocho Show is out of the question, as the other half changed his name back to Johnson and is playing across the country in Miami; Owens can still garner headlines. Unfortunately they aren’t always good. With Seattle in the middle of a Quarterback competition, there is a chance Owens will be at odds with whoever they chose.
True, he says he was a good soldier in Cincinnati, but look at every other stop. In San Fransisco he was not shy about commenting on Jeff Garcia’s lack of talent. In Philadelphia, his dislike of Donavan McNabb was legendary (but hey, T.O. wasn’t the one taking a knee during the Super Bowl). In Dallas he was always on the sideline pissed about something, that’s why Jerry Jones showed him the door. In Buffalo he didn’t get the ball enough. Even with the Allen Wranglers he was released and lost his ownership stake because he wasn’t a “team player”.
The overwhelming evidence should definitely draw caution. Especially with Coach Pete Carroll, who isn’t really known as a disciplinarian.
Still, I like this signing. The team could use another talented receiver.
True they have a lot of names on their roster. Sydney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Braylon Edwards and Ben Obamanu all currently catch passes for the Hawks, but I actually think that T.O. has the capability to out-produce all of them. Rice has the most talent of any of these receivers. That being said, he is coming off two shoulder surgeries. With injuries as a concern, I wouldn’t want to expose him too much over the middle. Trying to keep him healthy may limit his production, as would coming off those injuries.
Baldwin was a great story last season, leading the team in receiving yards as an undrafted free agent. Now people are keen to him, he is the most likely candidate tin the league to suffer from a sophomore slump.
Tate and Obamanu have potential, but with an unproven quarterback (something Seattle will have no matter who wins the starting job), they shouldn’t be pushed to quickly into a starring role. This runs the risk of seeing their potential wasted. Also Tate coming off the bench will allow him to maximize his value in the return game.
Finally, there is Braylon Edwards. Just signed last week, he will be T.O.’s biggest competition for a roster spot. Both are veterans and Edwards probably has the edge in the locker room. Still, I think T.O. has the edge to be the one who sticks.
How can that be? He is older and more volatile than Edwards. There are actually several reasons.
T.O. is faster. Edwards maybe could have run 4.45 five years ago, but I would be hard-pressed to think he could do it now. Also T.O. is a workout fiend. He hits the weights hard, perhaps harder than any other receiver in the league. This would make him a great influence on the younger receivers, teaching them the importance of conditioning.
Speaking of conditioning, T.O. is huge. He can take punishment over the middle, and pick up yards after the catch. He fits this mold better than anyone else on Seattle’s roster.
You don’t become one of the all-time greats by accident. Even in Cincinnati at the age of 36, he was their best receiver. Now he has something to prove. That chip on his shoulder could lead to a very productive season.
If not, the risk is minimal. Owens signed for the 10-year veteran’s minimum of $925,000. If it doesn’t work out, just send him packing. The loss wouldn’t hurt that bad financially.
But what if it does work? Seattle could have found one of the bigger catches this off-season.]]>
This just in: Usain Bolt is still the fastest man alive. This should have easily been the biggest story of today’s Olympic competition.
Not so fast.
That distinction belongs to Andy Murray. The tennis star from host Great Britain made a surprising run (including beating a heavily favored Novak Djokovic in the semis) to face Roger Federer with gold on the line.
Murray, the lovable loser, has lost all four of the Grand Slam finals he has played in (three of which were against Federer). Recently, he faced Federer in this year’s Wimbledon final, losing to the all-time Grand Slam champ. Olympic tennis is also being held at the historic Wimbledon venue. Same venue. Same opponent. All signs pointed to the same result.
Not so fast.
In front of over 60,000 of his hometown fans, Murray made his country proud. Playing the best tennis of his life, he dominated Federer throughout the entire match. When the smoke had cleared, Murray found himself in an unfamiliar position: on the top of the podium. 6-2, 6-1, 6-4… a masterful performance. Now Murray can claim a distinction that has eluded the great Federer: that of an Olympic champion.
“It has been the best week of my tennis career by a mile,” Murray said. “I’ve had a lot of tough losses. This is the best way to come back from the Wimbledon final. I’ll never forget it.”
The team from Great Britain struggled early in this Olympic Games, but has surged as of late. They currently sit third in the medal count behind the US and China. No win will be more memorable for the host than Murray’s triumph.
A great underdog/comeback story is what Olympic dreams are made of. As Murray showed the world, the Olympic spirit is alive and well in London.]]>
No, the opening ceremony was not really one of them.
Women’s gymnastics featured an intense competition between rivals Russia and the United States. At the end the US was atop the podium and the Russians were in tears. The US took home the team gold and Gabby Douglas took home the gold for the individual all-around competition. Fresh off his historic Tour De France win, Bradley Wiggins took home a gold in cycling for host Great Britain. Who can forget USA Basketball putting up a record 156 points in one game (I know Nigeria never will).
There has been controversy.
The was cash for gold allegations in boxing and who can for get four teams purposely putting the bad in badminton, as they got kicked out for throwing games.
There has also been disappointment.
Today, saw defending gold medalists Philip Dalhousser and Todd Rodgers (USA) get upset by Italy’s Paolo Nicholai and Daniele Lupo in beach volleyball. Gymnastic all-around favorite Jordyn Wieber didn’t even qualify for the individual competition.
Then there’s Ryan Lochte.
Lochte started of his London experience well, beating Michael Phelps for gold in his first event. After that, everything went south. The US was poised to win the 4×100 relay. Lochte was the best they had. He was their anchor. He was given a lead. He blew it, allowing himself to be caught by France’s Yannick Agnel. Lochte was shocked, disappointed and has struggled to recover. A relay gold later would help to soften the blow. Perhaps he would finally make a full recovery to win an even he has dominated: the 200 IM.
Michael Phelps had other ideas.
Lochte holds the best time in history. Actually, he holds six of the top ten. Phelps holds the other four. Yesterday had all the hype. Lochte vs. Phelps for one final time. The ending did not disappoint, with Phelps just out-touching Lochte to win the gold. In the process, he became the first swimmer to three-peat in the same event in the Olympics.
Michael Phelps is now the proud owner of 20 Olympic medals. Wait! spoiler alert! Phelps had his last individual event today: the 100-meter butterfly. Here he faced Chad le Clos from South Africa. le Clos just edged out his idol Phelps to win to win the 200 fly, with Phelps seemingly taking his foot off the pedal when it mattered most. Today’s race was the same event Phelps won by just 1/100 of a second in Beijing.
Although this year’s rendition wasn’t quite as close as the race four years ago, it was still a nail-biter. At the turn (the halfway point) Phelps found himself sitting seventh in the eight-team final. Things weren’t looking good, but Phelps is quite the closer. On this day he closed. As he turned to see the leader board, his name was once again on top. The 21st medal for the most decorated Olympic athlete in history was gold, his 17th.
“He’s the king of the Olympics Games,” said his butterfly rival, Serbia’s Milorad Cavic.
But as it is the Olympics, Phelps is now planning to pass the torch. He will retire after these games. Although he could probably still compete in the 2016 games in Brazil, he has stated he wont. Perhaps Lochte will recover by then.
As for these games, there is a lot of excitement left as we head to the weekend. Will lightning strike twice for Usain Bolt? Hometown favorite Andy Murray will face the man that just bested him at Wimbledon (Roger Federer) in the tennis finals. USA Basketball will also look to repeat. Currently the US has one more medal and one more gold than rival China (who had some not too nice things to say about the “Yankees” in the press recently).
So tune in, or miss out on a golden opportunity.]]>