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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Where Do All the Pacers Go?

While I don't have a definitive response to the question everyone and their mother has been asking, here's my attempt to answer it.

Paul George goes to a table to play the blame game.
Roy Hibbert goes to the 8th wonder of the world where apparently even 7-footers can hide.
Lance Stephenson saves his appetite in Indy so he can eat his words in Miami.
And, Frank Vogel, he just goes home and cries.

What is it about this Indiana team that makes them so dysfunctional?  Well first off, it doesn't help that Paul George may be the most mercurial "superstar" in the NBA. Also, Larry the man (boss), the myth (great executive), the legend (this is true) decided it was wise to sacrifice team chemistry for..... What exactly did he trade Danny Granger for again? Frank Vogel hasn't had control of his team since the rumors started flying that the aforementioned Mr. Bird would grab a seat with the players again. Indy thought they were ready for the spotlight, in regards to which I had a wait and see mentality. And now I'm done waiting, the verdict is in and they aren't who we thought they were!!

 Since Miami's big 3 came to be, two teams from the Central division have been seen as potential Heat stoppers. Chicago and Indy. Chicago's hopes of dethroning King James have been floating around in D. Rose's knee for two years. Indianapolis, well their hopes have gone wherever the Pacers go. Can they get it together? This year, probably not. But hey, how does that cliche phrase go? There's always.... well that you do know.

Sorry guys, maybe next year.

Monday, May 26, 2014

(Drumroll Please) It's the Return of the Chitown Hitmen

Thank you Rick Hahn, thank you so damn much for making the ChiSox exciting again. Some time last month, after Jose Abreu hit his (at the time) league leading 10th homer, I laid in bed and I wept. I don't know why (I'm lying) but I just laid there, smiled, and wept.

Why? Because for the first time since 2005 I have a legitimate reason to watch baseball! It's so surreal I don't remember if it was a dream or not. All I know is, I wept.

 I've wept because the Sox were terrible. I've wept because they won the World Series. And, I wept when The Big Hurt left and had a few solid years left in the tank while we floundered in post title Hell. But never have I produced tears of excitement over the future. This guy Hahn that replaced Kenny Williams (and in all honesty should have taken a job elsewhere before Kenny got promoted) is my new favorite person. He's my new favorite person because he stayed in Chicago and also because he had the foresight to outbid the opposition and pull the trigger on Abreu. He forced his hand and convinced Reinsdorf to sign off on a team record $68 mil. dollar deal. And, for that all of Chicago should thank him.

Despite actual contenders like the Red Sox, Rangers, and Yankees vying for the Cuban defectors services, somehow, someway, Ricky Hahn pulled off the impossible. He signed the best hitter Cuba has ever produced. Yeah, I said it. He's better than Yoenis Cespedes and even Yasiel (ManBear)Puig (Thank you Mykel Leon for the amazing moniker). This has turned out to be THE year of amazing "rookies", if you even want to call them that. Yes, they're new to the MLB but can Tanaka or Abreu REALLY be considered rookies? I mean come on... it's not even fair. This race was over before toes hit the starting line. Given that Abreu has missed even a day of action has all but guaranteed Tanaka the AL "rookie" of the year. But, this could go down as the best race in recent memory. And, at the very least, the most fun to watch.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

End of a Young Era? The World of Post BCS Football and the Inevitable Resurrection of the Trojan

Has anyone in Eugene given any thought to how terrible it would be to lose a golden era that was gone before we realized what we had? I doubt very many Oregon Duck football fans have even considered the notion of their team falling back to "good.. but not good enough." This new generation of UO football is just too young, too promising and the Ducks have just been too damn FAST!

We've come a long way, baby... And the finish line is right there. Just a few years ago everyone could "smell the roses" and sure as the promise that some dared not whisper, the roses were in our mouths. A nation of Ducks fans young and old couldn't believe and cherished the final seconds that promised the Rose Bowl championship would finally come back to Eugene for the first time since 1917.

 Belotti built a culture that Kelly mastered and drove all the way to perennial title talk in Track Town. Staying true to the nickname of our beautiful city, Duck football has ignited a frenzy of coaches switching to the ultra fast hurry up spread offense that even (not surprisingly) the NFL has adopted, now making the position of half back almost obsolete. Coaches want versatile weapons, players who can line up in the slot, the backfield and even as the first option wideout all within just a single three-down stretch. It's fast, exciting, and damn does it put points on the board. The system that was once taboo is now proven and no one has done it better than the Mighty Ducks over the past 5 years, that we are sure of.

But, what about the uncertain? It seems as though everyone has already forgotten the Mighty Trojans as if they were as played out and old as the tiring moth ridden annual Notre Dame hype (this coming from a former Chicagoan that grew up cheering and still does for his beloved Fighting Irish). It seems we forget that all of this great success has come during one of the worst stretches (by their University of Spoiled Children standards) of USC football in decades. The days of fearing the Trojans vanished so suddenly since the demise of Pete Carroll's dynasty when the NCAA hammer came falling down hard.

The sanctions came and BCS dreams for Barkely, Reggie's Heisman, and fear of the Trojan Horse all disappeared. What will happen when all those sanctions are lifted and their scholarships reinstated? Will Oregon still be able to recruit the De'Anthony Thomas's of the world? How about the Kenjon Barner's or even the Kiko Alonso's? All three stars of the Rose Bowl team, all three from the sunshine of Californ-I-A. I'm not sure how many Eugene natives realize this, it could be a lot, could be a little. But coming from someone who has spent 3 years in Southern California and with all the history, former success, sunshine, women and stardom that come along with playing for the best thing LA has had in terms of football since... well, ever; I have seen first hand it is pretty much every young California football player's dream to play for USC. Yes LA once had the Raiders (twice actually) and also the Rams. But after LA ran Al Davis out of town and the Rams skipped town for St. Louis people finally realized they only had one true team in LA, one that hardly ever disappointed and definitely never truly broke their hearts.

And, those would be the Trojans.

I've been to my share of frat parties, keggers and all manner of suares on the lovely USC campus all in the name of research of course (insert wink face here) and believe me those guys are treated like royalty. Even walk on's get attention that is unheard of up here in the Emerald state. They have entourages, they're recognized everywhere, they get free meals everywhere they go and they live the most lavish college lifestyle imaginable. And why? BECAUSE IT'S LA! Now yes, Oregon took the bull by the horns and did one hell of a job of capitalizing on the opportunity to finally rule the Pac-10 and now 12. Despite some poor luck against Stanford, in the absence of USC, UO firmly seated themselves atop the Pac-12 throne. That was evident after Chip (who is an amazing coach but also an incredible recruiter) left for the riches of the NFL Oregon was still ranked in the pre-season top 5. I can't think of one other program aside from MAYBE Alabama who could have done the same. Don't get me wrong and don't take this out of context, Mark Helfrich is a great coach. Before being given the reigns to the hyper-speed Ducks he was the longest tenured assistant in the country who grew under the tutelage of Belotti (who was offered the USC job before Carroll) and Kelly who is possibly the most brilliant mind in all of football.

 Let me state this clear, Helfrich was indeed the right hire. But after that mind boggling and embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Wildcats last year wasn't the writing if not in bold font, parhaps maybe even scribbled on the wall? Stanford didn't miss a beat after Jim Harbaugh departed for the NFL, in fact they have performed arguably even better. Winning the Rose Bowl in 2013 and just barely losing an upset to Michigan State last year. But, here we are in the midst of pre-season hype and speculation once again. Football hype no matter how silly and how unrealistic it can be is ALWAYS fun. And last I checked Oregon was once again ranked in the top 5 after spring game polls. Absolutely amazing, especially after last year in which we missed a BCS game for just the first time in 5 years.

One thing the Ducks do have in their corner and it's not just a trump card it's a pair of pocket aces, is returning Heisman favorite Marcus Mariota. And another thing that may not be as celebrated as Mariota but certainly just as, if not more important is one year of head coaching experience and recruiting under Coach Helfrich's belt. That is experience that truly is priceless and more than anything else will lead Oregon to the new four team Championship playoff in it's first year of existence, giving them a shot at their first National Title. Something that even his great predecessors could not accomplish. And with that I say this in confidence, this could finally be our year to bring it home. Hell, I'll just say it, this IS our year. So everyone stay tuned, if nothing else this year is gonna be fun, it's gonna get ugly, and we all know.. it's gonna be FAST. GO DUCKS!