Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Suck to Unsuck the Suck for Luck


Indianapolis was well on their way to a historic season. Two weeks ago, 0-16 was pointing straight at them. And their fans could not be happier. Some franchises go 40 years without a competent quarterback. Indianapolis was about to secure back-to-back superstar quarterbacks in Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. All that stood in their way was 3 division games.

It was at this point that, according to unnamed sources, owners Bud Adams, Bob McNair, and whoever owns the Jacksonville Jaguars put in motion what's been called "Suck for Not Luck." The plan was to simply out-tank the tanking Colts. Whenever the Colts started to suck, they would suck even harder.

The Colts first matchup came against the Tennessee Titans. Despite desperately needing the win to make the playoffs, the Titans could not afford to hand the Colts the number one pick. Three turnovers, including a pick-six, and one 80-yard TD run due to "poor tackling" later, the AFC South was one win closer to facing Justin Blackmon for the next decade.

Next, the Dan Orlovsky led Colts welcomed the Houston Texans on Thursday Night. Being a nationally televised game, the Texans had to make sure that it wasn't too obvious that they were not trying. But, when leading by 4 points, the Texans smartly decided to take Pro Bowl cornerback Jonathan Joseph off Reggie Wayne in the final seconds, allowing him to score the game winning touchdown. The AFC South was again one win closer to having to face Justin Blackmon next year.

This Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts will visit the Jacksonville Jaguars. Unlike the Texans and Titans, the Jaguars don't have to pretend they suck. They just need to make sure Blaine Gabbert is a crucial part of their gameplan. The AFC South could be decided for the next 15 years on Sunday. For better or worse.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Greatest Athlete of All Time: Kim Jong-il

Last name General. First name Invincible and Ever-Triumphant.



Although he never went to the bathroom, The Beloved and Respected Father was too busy kidnapping movie starsbeing a world class djinventing hamburgers, and saving his country from famine by breeding giant rabbits to go pro. There is no doubt that the world benefited from his selfless decision to steer clear of pro sports and instead dictate the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea. Despite never playing professionally, Kim Jong-IlThe Great Sun of Life, is the greatest athlete in history.

The first criteria for the greatest athlete is dominance in his sport(s). The greatest athlete is not the best in a made up event that awards sub-world-class skill in a number of sports; as they say: jack of all trades, master of none. He is so good at the sports that he competes in that no one cares about his ability in other sports.

The second criteria is talent in multiple sports. The greatest athlete needs to have a wide range of skills that cover a wide range of sports. Being good at football and rugby, or bocce ball and curling, earns no extra points. On the contrary, baseball and football require vastly different skill sets and thus require a great athlete to excel at both.

The third criteria is playing sports that people have access to. Success in sports with location or money barriers to playing are discounted. An athlete who is dominant in a sport that has a low participation rate would probably not be professional if other people tried it, and he also doesn't get paid. Athletes in sports that aren't played in America are immediately removed from consideration because the best non-American at something is probably about the hundredth best in the world. Sorry, men's field hockey.

The Ever-Victorious, Iron-Willed Commander sweeps all three criteria. The first time he golfed, he shot a 34 (-38) with 11 holes-in-one at the 7,700 yard Pyongyang Golf Course. No PGA golfer could beat that score in mini golf. More impressive, The Great Sun of the Nation did this at age 52. His natural athleticism was so overwhelming that it transcended both age and preparation. Naturally, his athleticism was too much for the low ceiling of bowling. In his first game at Pyongyang Lanes, The Bright Sun of the 21st Century rolled a 300. Just like when you stop playing baseball in your friend's backyard because it's too easy to hit a homerun, The Great Man Who Descended From Heaven never returned to bowling. Although golf and bowling are not very popular sports, they cover a large part of the American population because there is little overlap between participants. Who goes from the country club to $3 pitcher night at the alley? While golf has a cost barrier to entry that prohibits young potential athletes, the barrier's effect is minimized because all professional athletes golf after their season ends; not all potential athletes golf, but all proven ones do.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Twas the Night Before a Sports Casual Christmas

 
'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the House,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Tebow soon would be there

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads
And mama in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap

When out on the roof I heard such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter
Away to the window I flew like a flash
Tore open the shutter, threw up the sash

The moon on the breast of new fallen snow
Gave the lustre of midday to objects below
when, what to my wandering eye should appear
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer

With a little old driver, so lively and quick
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick
More rapid than eagles, his courses they came
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name

"Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!" 

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,
 
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!" 


Joe Silvestro is a regular contributor to Sports Casual, check back every Funday Friday for his witticisms concerning the Wide World of Sports.  Email him at jsilvestro21@gmail.com

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

NFL Power Rankings


With only 2 weeks remaining in the NFL regular season, 4 division races and 3 wild cards are still up for grabs. Let's take a look at the power rankings to see how the final 2 weeks of the season might play out.

Top 5 Teams
1. Green Bay Packers
2. New England Patriots
3. New Orleans Saints
4. San Francisco 49ers
5. Baltimore Ravens

Top 5 Teams I Still Can't Believe Are Actually Good
1. San Francisco 49ers
2. Houston Texans
3. Detroit Lions
4. Cincinnati Bengals
5. Denver Broncos

Top 5 Teams With Players Accused Of A Felony
1. Green Bay Packers
2. New England Patriots
3. Baltimore Ravens
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Chicago Bears

Top 5 Teams With Players Convicted Of A Felony
1. New York Jets
2. Cincinnati Bengals
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. Washington Redskins
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, pending trial

Top 5 Teams With God On Their Side
1. Denver Broncos
2. Denver Broncos
3. Denver Broncos
4. Denver Broncos
5. Pittsburgh Steelers

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Cheer


In this season of giving, it’s time to throw away your Christmas Bonuses by risking it all on things that are impossible to predict. But don’t worry, I’ve found 6 NBA bets* that will give you a real chance at cashing in. Let’s get to it.

Chris Paul alley-oop passes over/under Chris Paul field goals – I’m taking the over. Blake and DeAndre will get the majority and hopefully they'll bring back Jamario Moon so we can see more of this.

Houston Rockets will finish the season as the 9th seed in the west (50/1 odds) – The worst possible three-peat in basketball. Not only do you never make the playoffs, but you can’t even get a good draft pick. Houston’s only hope is to get Terrence Williams more minutes in the hope that he forgets how to play basketball every time he goes in the game. That or Hasheem Thabeet. Tanking at its finest.

Demarcus Cousins over/under .5 nights hanging out with Jimmer Fredette this year – I’m pretty sure these two have a total of zero things in common. Except for the fact that Tyreke Evans won’t pass them the ball.

Chris Bosh being traded to the Mavericks in order to sabotage their title hopes (25/1) – A similar bet involving Juwon Howard, the ultimate basketball curse, is also available for 5/1 odds.

Blake Griffin accidentally killing someone on the basketball court this year (10/1 odds) – Those odds can more than make up for the moral implications of cheering for Earl Boykins to take a charge against Blake.

Mascot most likely to get hurt first: whoever the new Philadelphia 76ers mascot will be (60/1 odds) - If someone doesn't trip the Ben Franklin mascot during his first NBA game, I want my money back.

*These bets may or may not be real

Thursday, December 15, 2011

NBA Diaries: David West



Working in association with the NBA, Sports Casual has secured exclusive access to blog posts from two time All-Star power forward David West and Duke legend Shane Battier.  Throughout the season, these players will write about their experiences transitioning to a new team.  After spending the first 8 seasons of his professional career with the New Orleans Hornets, West recently signed a 2-year deal with the Indiana Pacers.  This week, David West weighs in on his first day and night as a member of the Pacers.  

David West, PF, Indiana Pacers

Hey guys,

      So right after I signed my new deal with the Pacers, I hopped right on a private jet and made my way to Indiana so I could get started on getting back into game shape.  The lockout felt like forever, I just can’t wait to play!!  The private jet was a nice touch, although I later found out it was a necessary one too – there are no commercial flights into Indiana, you have to fly into Ohio and catch a horse and buggy from there.  

When I got off the plane, Mr. Bird was there to greet me.  What an honor to meet such a legend of the game.  During the car ride back to team headquarters we talked about a few different things; mostly Mr. Bird just called me a “ninny boy” and “girly man” and told stories about beating Dennis Johnson in H.O.R.S.E.  The arena is awesome!  They took me on a tour of the training rooms and practice courts, the court and press box area, and ended in the locker room.  A few of the guys were already in there after seeing the trainer, so I got to meet Darren Collison, Brandon Rush and Danny Granger, all great guys.  Roy Hibbert was there, but he just sat at his locker reading a dictionary like he always does

 Anyway, Brandon Rush invited me out to a bar that night to celebrate with some of the guys, and it was a great time.  We had some drinks and some laughs, a bunch of my new teammates came through to say hello and talk about the season.  The one who hung around the longest was Jeff Foster – what a guy.  We talked about our lives and careers; all he kept saying was “Foster – it’s Australian for basketball”.  It was funny at first, but once he started crying as he said it things got awkward.  I talked to the Indiana girls at the bar – definitely an experience.  Both of them were nice and very interested in the outside world, but unfortunately their brother-husbands pulled them away pretty quick.  Oh well.  Well that’s it for now, I’m looking forward to a great year in Indy, championship or bust!  And by bust, I mean use my newly acquired millions to vacation outside of Indiana.

                                                                                                Love and Lay-ups,
                                                                                                                D-West

Joe Silvestro is a regular contributor to Sports Casual, check back every Funday Friday for his witticisms concerning the Wide World of Sports.  Email him at jsilvestro21@gmail.com

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year


Let's run through the bowl schedule, shall we?

The best bowl before Christmas: San Diego County Credit Union Poinsetta Bowl
TCU and Louisiana Tech are two of the most underrated teams in the country. Both teams are really hot coming into this game, and Louisiana Tech is just good enough to upset TCU in this game.

Team most likely to shave points: Boise State
If you can't beat them, join them. Las Vegas may be the only place where their conference can make up the money they got screwed out of.

Florida team most likely to win: Florida International
Florida team with the most wins this year? Florida state and....Florida International. Huh?

Highest scoring bowl: AT&T Cotton Bowl
Kansas State gave up a combined 110 points to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Arkansas can't stop physical run teams. Fireworks in Jerry's World.

The "Gee, maybe we should go for third in our conference every year " bowl: Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Shouldn't the best bowls be in the best locations? Why are we rewarding the third best team in the WAC by letting them go to Hawaii. The national championship should be in Vegas, the BCS bowls should stay, Hawaii and Dallas should be the next two biggest bowls, and the worst bowl game should be played in Antarctica.

Best under the radar bowl game: GoDaddy.com Bowl
Arkansas State and Northern Illinois went a combined 15-1 in conference play. Neither has lost since Oct. 1st. Should be a fun, high-scoring game.

Conference most likely to shine: Big 12
The best conference all season and a lot of favorable matchups. Missing the national championship hurts for Oklahoma State, but at least they can go score 200 hundred on Stanford.

Conference most likely to be exposed: SEC
The SEC will boast the national champion, but this conference has no depth. LSU and Bama are two elite teams, but Auburn, Florida, and Mississippi State are terrible football teams. Arkansas and Georgia have two tough games. Vanderbilt is playing the co-Big East champs. Looks like a potential 2-6, with one guaranteed victory.

The "Sportscenter Not Top 10" Bowl: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Neither team has a head coach. This could be an all time great if you love bad clock management, blown coverages, failed challenges, terrible halftime speeches, penalties, turnovers, and an overall lack of effort. Oh wait, no one likes those things. Feel free to delete this on your DVR.

BCS National Championship: LSU vs. Alabama
I picked LSU to win the first game because they were more ready to handle adversity. I'm picking Alabama to win this one, because you just don't beat Nick Saban twice in one year. I expect a surprisingly high scoring game.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Misaligned

Extremely confused and hardly enthused.
Last Monday, the NHL Board of Governors approved a conference realignment scheme that has since been referred to as "radical," "chaotic," and "inequitable." I'd like to add another adjective to the mix: Bettman-esque. The commissioner's conference plan is just one more bad decision amidst the worst commissioner tenure in modern sports. Among the lowlights of the deal are conferences of different sizes (two with 7 teams, two with 8) and a hazy, undefined playoff structure.

The league has yet to name each of the four new conferences, so I've taken the liberty of doing so myself:

Quebec Nordiques Memorial Conference: Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks
Over-Expansion Division: Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets
The "Two Of These Things Are Not Like The Others" Conference: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadians, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs
Lockout '04-05 Division - People Don't Forget: Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburg Penguins, Washington Capitals

Certainly, there are some positives that emerge from the new conference structuring. For one thing, travel will be vastly reduced for many Western Conference teams that were previously getting the Samuel L. Jackson. Additionally, all teams will play each other at least twice - once per home venue - meaning season ticket holders will get to see every NHL team at least once.

And that's where the list of pros ends. These benefits, however, are in no way worth the sacrifices that the NHL is making. Here are four of the most noticeable problems with the new division alignment:

1) Travel issuess aren't really solved - Upon announcing the new structure, league officials admitted - there is no perfect solution. Exhibit A: see above. While the burden may be lifted for some teams, it has been placed squarely on others. Take a look, for example, at the Northeast/Southeast "Two Of These Things Are Not Like The Others" Conference. The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning get to fly straight past Nashville, Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and New York en route to play their "divisional" matchups against Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto. Um, what?

2) No other league has a 4-conference structure - Since Wayne Gretzky retired, which if I'm not mistaken happened sometime during the late 1800s, hockey has veered away from the mainstream and cemented a reputation as a niche sport. The infamous TV deal with Versus certainly hasn't helped. If the NHL wants to rebuild a reputation as a major American sports league, then why shy away from the traditional 2-conference structure? This point is essentially your classic peer pressure / "nobody else is doing it" argument. But let's face it: even if he grew up to be a cool guy, there's a reason why no one in elementary school wanted to hang out with the kid who wore corduroys and a sweater-vest every day. NHL, put on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt like everybody else.

3) Problems were created where there didn't need to be any - Divisional structure has been a hot-button topic in Major League Baseball as of late. The perceived inequity of having one 4-team division and one 6-team division was so great that baseball bumped Houston to the AL despite the scheduling nightmare it now creates. With this new realignment, however, the NHL has gone in the opposite direction, willingly creating an unnecessary imbalance. Two conferences will now have 7 teams, while the other two will have 8 clubs, which *segway* means serious playoff inequity.

4) Playoffs?!?! - How will the new NHL playoffs be structured??? The league has yet to decide. But don't worry, as was apparently the consensus in the NHL boardroom, that's an issue that can be figured out later. There's even talk of adding a MLB-like play-in round between 4th and 5th place teams because, yeah, the NHL needs more teams in the playoffs. The likely proposal is that the top four teams from each conference will advance to the postseason for 2 rounds of within conference playoff series, followed by some type of final four between each conference champion. This would deprive us of some of the greatest hockey rivalries in later postseason rounds. Detroit vs. Chicago, Boston vs. Montreal, etc could never take place after round 2. For shame, NHL, for shame.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Empire Strikes Back: David Stern Steps In


Last night, the Hornets, Rockets and Lakers completed a three-team deal which sent All-Star Chris Paul to the Lakers.  But then they didn't.  In the era of good feelings following the end of the NBA Lockout, teams wheeled and dealed (whelt and dealt?) for the chance to acquire either Chris Paul or Dwight Howard (or both).  It seemed that the veil of negativity had lifted from the NBA, and teams and players alike looked forward to doing what all professional athletes and franchises do best- Get Paid.

But The League didn't account for one thing: the Commissioner.


As the tzar of the NBA since 1984, Stern has held almost complete control over NBA ownership, creating a unified front in negotiations and decision making for nearly a quarter century.  However, as the NBA ownership demographic has shifted from older owners invested for the long-term towards younger owners with expectations of short-term returns, Stern's influence has waned.  The recent lockout only served to drive that point home - many owners' statements ran counter to Stern's statements, and Stern's strong-arm approach to negotiations came across as more Andropov than Stalin.

Enter Chris Paul: the latest in a line of NBA stars to attempt to force a trade in a contract year to have his cake and eat it too (choosing his team and getting the salary benefits of resigning instead of entering free agency).  This issue was one the new CBA tried and failed to address, but now the vicious cycle was repeating itself.  And David Stern wouldn't stand for it.

The vetoing of the Chris Paul trade by the league office will have an immediate, tangible impact; today the players involved in the trade had to report to training camp (or not) and face their teammates and team officials, and Chris Paul is preparing to do his best Oscar Robertson impersonation and sue the NBA.  However, the psychological impact of this decision by Stern is much more interesting.  Sports fans tend to view every franchise as sovereign, independent to do as it pleases (unless you're Frank McCourt), but the reality is much different - David Stern just crossed the same line that he and other league executives (Bud Selig, for instance) have toed for decades.  Our shock at his willingness to attempt to control superstar movement between franchises speaks to the naivety of sports fans as much as the audacity of David Stern.

Joe Silvestro is a regular contributor to Sports Casual, check back every Funday Friday for his witticisms concerning the Wide World of Sports.  Email him at jsilvestro21@gmail.com

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tim Tebow


It's been several weeks since I explained why I feel the way I do about Tim Tebow. So I don't want to go into that again. Let's just talk football.

I want to first begin by explaining why Tebow was successful in college. The formula for winning in college football is simple: play great defense, make plays on special teams, and then you run up the middle every single play with your star player. Seriously. In college, having an ordinary passing game is ok.

Cam Newton, Mark Ingram, Percy Harvin, Tim Tebow, Vince Young, Joseph Addai, Jacob Hester (not a stud, but converted so many critical 3rd/4th and shorts), and Reggie Bush.

College is all about the running game, because college football is all about consistency. A power run team never changes. You don't have off days when it is raining or windy. That star defensive end doesn't matter as much. You get long drives, and make less mistakes. You control field position. You don't turn the ball over. You hold onto leads. You convert key short yardage situations. You don't need a superstar QB. You merely need a game manager, which is why Greg Mcleroy, Matt Flynn, Matt Mauk, and this year's champion can win.

Based off those requirements, Tim Tebow was the ideal college QB.

Consistency means you have a chance to go undefeated. That's why prolific passing offenses lose against teams like Iowa State every year. Although your peaks with a great passing games are higher, your valleys are much lower as well. Better to bring your B game every week in college football than fluctuating between an A and an F, because 1 loss could end your season.

The NFL is the complete opposite. Consistency doesn't mean anything. Teams that struggle during the regular season often times get hot and win Super Bowls. Their overall body of work may not be pretty, but when they play at their best, they can compete with anyones. Having a higher peak is more important than being consistent. Which is why the passing game is so important in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers, Big Ben, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Eli Manning are all capable of playing a perfect game. You need that kind of QB, because you'll need that kind of game at some point in the playoffs.

Which leads us to Tim Tebow. We all know that building the team around Tebow will be more difficult (can't have receivers with big egos, have to have a playmaking D, enough running back depth to handle the load, ect.), but let's assume Denver does a great job of managing the roster and putting the right players around Tebow. In that case, I wouldn't be surprised if Tebow continues winning regular season games like he's been doing. He doesn't turn the ball over, he keeps the clock moving, he keeps his team in the game, and he can convert key short yardage sitautions. He's consistent, which makes his team consistent. A consistent team should be good for 9-10 games a year. Tebow will probably lead his team to the playoffs almost every year from here on out (assuming they still play the same field position time games). Tim Tebow's been a much better pro than I ever thought he'd be, and his game against Minnesota was the best of his career.

But can he win a Super Bowl? I still don't think so. Not until he learns to throw the football. Put me down for being a non-believer. I think this is as good as Tebow as we're going to see for a while. I don't think this Denver Broncos team has that extra gear. I don't know if he can make the perfect throw to covered receivers over and over again in the playoffs. If you saw Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, you saw a QB who threw receivers open almost every throw down the stretch. Tebow still can't do that. I don't think he ever will.

The reason John Elway is hesitant to commit to Tebow is he may be what I think is the most dangerous QB to own. The type of QB that can get you the playoffs every year, but never win the Super Bowl. Matt Hasselbeck, Kerry Collins, Steve McNair, McNabb, ect. All those guys won a lot of football games. They put up great numbers. Franchise committed to them for a long time. Never won a Super Bowl. Looking back, they would have been much better served finding a new QB earlier. John Elway doesn't want to spend 10 years falling short. He wants a QB capable of being elite. Or he wants to keep looking for someone new.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Penalty Shootouts

Soccer is a team sport in which the most important games
are settled with 10/11 of the team watching what happens from midfield.

Before I was old enough to form independent opinions, I thought penalty shootouts were the best part of the World Cup. As much as I loved watching actual soccer, there was something irresistible about letting five minutes trump the previous 120. Clean slates. New rules. Same outcomes. Since then, I have added "fair" and "manufactured excitement" to my vocabulary. Shootouts have a time and a place, but they have no place in important sporting events such as the World Cup, Champions League, the Olympics, and the MLS Cup Playoffs because the importance of determining a deserving winner and the need to do this by continuing the original sport outweigh the benefits of saving time and the excitement of this premature and abrupt finish.

Big time sporting events value the ability to schedule events for known time intervals to allow for multiple use of the same facilities and the simplification of television coverage. The Olympics would likely have difficulty in implementing sudden death overtime for these reasons. The honorable and respectable soccer governing board, FIFA, on the other hand, is largely unaffected by this concerns. Scheduling matches with the potential for overtime in a manner to avoid conflicting with later events that require the same facility and utilizing online streaming and the increasing number of channels would avoid these concerns.

The immediacy of a shootout is pretty sexy, but it lacks the suspense and emotional connection only seen in sudden death overtime. In a shootout, the outcome unfolds over its course, granted quickly, instead of appearing spontaneously; in sudden death, any shot can win it. Further, the highlight goals from a soccer penalty shot are few and far between, although the same can't be said for hockey. Unexpected is exciting, and soccer shootouts fail in this category as well (with the exception of the the three possible kick directions: left, right, or center): the closer the probability of the two potential outcomes is to 50%, the more unexpected the outcome is. Hockey has been able to gain a large national following because of the excitement created by a nearly 50-50 shootout situation. If only there were a way to make this the case for soccer...

Despite the difficulty of scheduling for sudden death matches, and regardless of your opinion on the entertainment value of a shootout, ending a match in one sport with a completely different competition featuring a fraction of the original players and a mild overlap of skills is ridiculous. Beer league kickball allows for chug-offs if a play is challenged--a different contest, beer chugging, is used to decide the outcome of the original game, kickball. This is ok because it is beer league kickball. This is not ok in the belle of world sports. It would be excusable to end soccer with something logical that utilized more relevant skills and included the full team, like mayan deathball, roller derby, or tagteam MMA, but a contest of kicking a ball into a net that is 192 square feet from 12 yards away doesn't cut it. Of all the skills required in soccer, shooting is the one that has the least overlap across all positions, and it isn't even used that much in a game--compare the number of dribbles, passes, or tackles to the number of shots; penalty shot ability is not a good predictor of the quality of a soccer player.

Shootouts are a marginally better method of deciding a match than flipping a coin; they make away goals seem like a good idea. Because soccer and hockey are low scoring, they can't add an additional period to decide a winner immediately like basketball or tennis (depending on where it is played). However, this is not an excuse for not continuing the game until there is a winner. If overtime is too long, people don't have to watch it, and if more people watch overtime than would watch whatever it would be running over, the station should be able to make more money from advertisements. Spectators tend to enjoy the excitement and emotional connection that develops throughout overtime, rather than complain about it taking too long. If they were interested in watching the game when it was less exciting in regulation, they're probably interested in watching overtime. If for whatever reason overtime can not be played, a subjective scoring by judges, like in boxing, or a formula from a regression that weighted the importance of various game statistics, such as possession and shots on goal, in winning a game could get the job done. Shootouts are fine when they have no effect on the course of an 82 game season and are actually entertaining to watch, but elimination games should not be decided by a shootout. Deciding a deserving winner should take precedence over brevity.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Declaration of Independence: What Will It Take to Make Chris Paul a Knick?


When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one player to dissolve the professional bands which have connected him with others, wild speculation ensues.  Almost immediately after the NBA Lockout was settled, Chris Paul's agent informed the Hornet's management that he "wants to be traded to the New York Knicks" and would not be signing a contract extension.  There is certainly a precedent for this type of conduct; for better or worse, players holding their teams hostage during a contract year has become the norm (a norm preserved in the form of extend-and-trades as part of the new CBA).

However, while Chris Paul has expressed a serious interest in the Knicks, the Hornets have good reason to not be seriously interested in making a deal with them.  The Knickerbockers unloaded essentially all of their tradeable assets (assuming Amar'e and Melo are untouchable) in their dealings with the Denver Nuggets, leaving them very little with which to entice New Orleans.  However, if the Knicks get creative there's still a chance that this deal can happen - here are the three most creative trade options which end in Chris Paul in the orange and blue.
__________________________________________________________________________________


1) Knicks Get: Chris Paul    Greece Gets: Bailout   Hornets Get: Greece


Although the Knicks lack trade assets, the one thing Jim Dolan can always count on is money.  Everybody wins in this deal: the Knicks get Paul, Greece gets solvency, and the Hornets get the rights to all players and olives coming out of Greece in the next 10 years.


2) Knicks Get: Chris Paul      Hornets Get: Rights to Isiah Thomas, Marv Albert


The Knicks' current players may not be attractive trade bait, but the Garden's famous player and play-by-play man represent a tantalizing deal for the Hornets.  If anything, the Knicks are overpaying with this one.


3) Knicks Get: Chris Paul     Hornets Get: Spike Lee, Landry Fields, 2030-2035 first round picks


The 2030-2035 first round picks are the only first rounders the Knicks haven't already traded away.  Spike Lee is essentially Chris Paul with more Knicks gear and two fewer knees, and after Landry Fields retires he can put his Standford degree to good use in the front office.  There's no downside to this deal.

Joe Silvestro is a regular contributor to Sports Casual, check back every Funday Friday for his witticisms concerning the Wide World of Sports.  Email him at jsilvestro21@gmail.com

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Done Deal



Given the context, it is all the more surprising that Major League Baseball was able to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement without any turmoil. After all, no American sport has seen more labor turmoil through the decades than baseball. Yet quickly and quietly, Major League Baseball deprived us of the 2011 lockout trifecta.

Of course, the collective bargaining process may have lasted a little longer if either side brought up competitive balance / revenue sharing issues. For better or for worse, however, Pirates fans don't get a seat at the bargaining table. With the players making a decent living and teams - even perennially awful ones - profiting each year, the MLB followed an age-old adage and decided not to fix "ain't broken" things.

A few highlights from the new deal:

-Two additional wildcard teams, one from each league, who will play a 1-game playoff for the right to be in the ALDS or NLDS. With such impressive TV ratings from 1-game playoffs in previous years, the MLB has essentially decided to force a tie in every wildcard race each year. You know what I can't wait for? A tie for the 2nd wildcard. Which teams will be the first to have a 1-game playoff for the right to play in a 1-game playoff for the right to be in the actual postseason?

-A move from the NL to the AL by the Houston Astros, which will take place in 2013. The Rangers-Astros rivalry will be an exciting one, assuming Houston is able to snap out of a current trend and actually find 9 guys who know what a baseball is. The move will create a scheduling headache, but for now it looks like we're stuck with two 15-team leagues. The MLB is reluctant to expand, and the league shot down my proposal of traveling back in time and un-adding the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays.

-A partial ban on smokeless tobacco, which prevents players from use during team appearances and TV interviews but allows them to keep dipping on the field. The iron fist of Bud Selig strikes again.

-Blood testing for HGH, which is the Players' way of saying "We've found something better and less detectable than HGH."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, and....TJ Yates?



Don't worry Houston fans, you're in great hands.

TJ Yates, a 5th round pick from North Carolina, is the next superstar rookie QB.

Ok, maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but I still think they're playoff chances are in great shape, and they could steal a game or two in the playoffs. For those who've never seen TJ play, just know that his first NFL start came last year in the first game of UNC's season against LSU. Despite pretty much the entire team being suspended, TJ Yates led UNC back from a 20 point deficit in the 4th quarter only to fall a little bit short in the end. He had a total of 412 yards against Patrick Peterson, Moris Claiborne, and Tyrone Mathieu (granted, it was Mathieu's first collegiate game ever).

Coming into his senior season, UNC was a defensive team, with many stars on that side of the ball. Unfortunately, none of those guys were allowed to play, because they were all illegally recruited, so it was up to TJ to step up. TJ became the leader of the team, improved his completion percentage went from 60% to 66% form his junior to senior season, threw for 1300 more yards than the previous year, and led the team to 8 wins (should've been 5 or 6). He knows how to battle through adversity and has been asked to step up before. Houston is the single easiest offense to QB in the NFL and with a dominant defense (wait...HE'S their defensive coordinator??), they still have a chance to win it all.

With that said, if you find a TJ Yates for Super Bowl MVP, go ahead and put $1 on it. Thank me later.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kyle Orton Says Goodbye

I was in the middle of a post about the new Major League Baseball CBA when this amazing video was brought to my attention. Don't worry, you'll hear all about the MLB later, but this needs to be shared with the [Sports Casual] world.


Monday, November 28, 2011

NBA Players to Remain on Strike Indefinitely


As news of a collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and the NBPA sweeps across the nation and sports columnists, TV network executives, and Kobe Bryant bashers breathe a sigh of relief, there is one important issue that remains uncovered. While the media has covered the details of the new CBA extensively and have begun to illuminate the new 2011-2012 season schedule, little has been said of the players themselves. While agents and advertisers have started to talk in definitive terms about the prospect of a new season, players themselves are more hesitant.

"At first I was disappointed, sure," said Celtic forward Kevin Garnett, "but I was really getting used to the idea of going a whole year without basketball. I was all ready to cozy up on my couch, grab my DVDs, and watch a Burn Notice marathon with director's commentary on Christmas Day. Now I'm being told that I'll have to chase aggressive, sweaty men for over 2 hours."

Mr. Garnett was not alone. One Landry Fields had told reporters that he was "all ready to put [his] Stanford degree to good use" when asked by an excited gaggle of reporters if he would be prepared for the regular season. Said Fields, "several marketing firms tried to hire me this offseason. I thought I was getting an endorsement, but then they explained to me that they wanted to pay me a 6 figure salary to sit around an office making powerpoints all day. That sounds way easier than trying to play defense." Continued Mr. Fields, "apparently, Stanford University is a pretty good school. Who knew?"

While the thought of ignoring professional basketball to focus on "other, more important things, like my rap career" is tantalizing, according to Suns' point guard Steve Nash, "I guess I just have to get back out on the court and have thousands of people I don't know jeer at me and accuse me of being 'the beneficiary of subtle racial bias.'"

Even legendary Center JaVale McGee had started to adjust to life without basketball. "Me want play basketball next year, play modern warfare 3 this year," he asserted when reached for comment.

Although many players had been using their time off for personal betterment, countless others have taken this opportunity to give back to their respective communities. Several members of the Miami Heat have even begun developing an acute interest in politics, and have become a part of the famous "Occupy Wall Street Movement." Center Chris Bosh read several books and scholarly papers on the American political system over the summer, and he was immediately transfixed. "It is an incredibly unjust country that we live in," said Bosh, while speaking from a podium at Zuccotti Park, "and the more that I have studied it, the more I have realized that we need change on a structural level before we can even begin the healing process." Bosh's voice dropped momentarily as he affirmed his solidarity through muffled sobs, "I am the 99 percent.


However, the prospect of a work stoppage was not met with optimism by all NBA players. After Bosh's speech drew thunderous applause, there are reports that a 6'8" man named LeBron emerged in riot gear and began pepper spraying women and small children while screaming, "Why have you people stopped throwing buckets of money at me? I am the 1 percent!" LeBron has said that he is anxious to resume playing basketball.

At press time, it is unclear if the NBA will play the 2011-2012 season.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Deserts: Who's Who on the Dinner Table



Thanksgiving.  A time of reflection, revelry and reheated turkey.  Each year millions of people gather with family and friends to share a traditional Thanksgiving meal, watch an NFL game (or not), and remove themselves from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  But what is the significance of the meal itself?  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, the list of food goes on and on.  It seems like sacrilege to not serve these foods on an American holy day, but what deeper meaning do they hold?  Each item on the Thanksgiving table represents a certain personality, a certain archetype which can be found on the football field before and after your Thanksgiving meal.  Here's a rundown of who represented what food yesterday on the field.

Turkey- Bryant McKinnie
Bryant McKinnie knows how to gobble.  He gobbled his way to 400 pounds during the NFL lockout this past offseason, and in the past has been accused of chronically gobbling to the detriment of his team and his personal health.  However, after being cut by the Vikings McKinnie has experienced relative success with the Baltimore Ravens this season, and yesterday's victory over the 49ers only furthers the notion that Bryant McKinnie, turkey neck and all, is not only capable of stuffing himself but also of winning football games.

Mashed Potatoes- Evan Dietrich-Smith
While it would seem that most families today buy powdered pre-made mashed potatoes, there are still some who make their mashed potatoes the old fashioned way - they actually mash them.  Dietrich-Smith represents the latter, after Ndamukong Suh tried to mash his face with his cleat during the Packers' victory over the Lions yesterday.  Technically this means Dietrich-Smith is still just a potato, but close enough right?

Stuffing- Frank Gore
More accurately, Gore was stuffed by the Ravens, who held him to 39 yards on 14 carries yesterday.  Everyone makes their stuffing a little differently; some people include celery, others include raisins or their bastard brother, craisins.  Frank Gore filled his stuffing with dirt, lactic acid and nothing to show for it.

Cranberry- Jason Witten
Much like cranberry, Jason Witten is smooth, sweet and can knock you on your behind.  Jason Witten's romantic advances yesterday left a cheerleader beside herself on the Dallas sideline.  What a sweet guy, sneaking up on her from behind just to say hello.  He truly is a smooth operator, just like cranberry.

Pecan Pie- Johnny Jolly
Technically, Johnny Jolly is no longer a member of the Green Bay Packers - he's traded in his green and yellow for some bright orange, joining the State Penitentiary team.  Pecan Pie is often sweet, but a little nutty.  Jolly has proven throughout his career (and arrest record) that he's a little crazy, and interested in sweet tasting things (Purple Drank, for instance).  This southern dessert and southern defender go hand in hand.  

Joe Silvestro is a regular contributor to Sports Casual, check back every Funday Friday for his witticisms concerning the Wide World of Sports.  Email him at jsilvestro21@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Not Again...



(Here's hoping that everything in this article is completely wrong)

He's the most hated coach in the country. He even looks like a douschebag. He quickly rose from merely an assistant to USC, to the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, to the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, to the head coach of the USC Trojans....all without really doing anything. There has never been a coach in history who's gotten so many great jobs after doing so little.

His pompous attitude. His smoking hot wife. His unearned coaching rise. The reasons for hating him go on and on.

Which is why it hurts so much to say that maybe, just maybe.....he's actually a good coach. He might even be a great coach.

The tools neccessary to being a great head coach can be narrowed down to 3 simple things:
1) Ability to recruit
2) Ability to improve players in practice
3) Ability to maximize your team's talent during the game

Let's look at these one by one.

Recruiting - Lane was the recruiting coordinator for USC when they were bringing 5 star recruits to play 3rd string. You can question his methods (and I'd be willing to be that he gets someone on probation at some point), but you can't question his results. Even at Tennessee, he put together a top 10 class in 2009 and was putting together what turned out to be a top 10 class in 2010. The guy appeals to high school players. There's no denying that.

Practice - The only way to tell if coaches are successful during practice is to see if they improved throughout the season. Tennesse is a great example of that. After starting the season losing to a very average UCLA team, Lane's team ended the season winning 5 out of its last 7, which includes a two point loss to eventual national champion Alabama. Not to mention, he transferred Jonathan Crompton, one of the worst QBs in the SEC at the beginning of 2009, into an NFL draft pick. He threw for less than 100 yards in two of his first three games of 2009, but ended the season throwing 20 TDs to only 5 picks in his last 9 games.

Gameday - This is a tough one to judge without actually having you watch him coach. With that said, you can't compete with top 10 teams when you have less talent without having a superior gameplan, and Lane has held his own against those teams (especially when he's calling plays).

Tennesse
@ #1 Florida - Lost 23-13
@ #2 Alabama - Lost 12-10

USC
@ #16 (ended season #4) Stanford - Lost 37-35
@ #2 Oregon - Lost 53-32
vs. #6 Stanford - Lost 56-48 (triple overtime)
vs. #4 Oregon - Won 38-35

Sure there's only been one win, but his loses were by an average of 8 points, with a chance to win many of them. With a top 10 team this year, and a potential National Championship team coming up next year, Lane Kiffin is on the rise again. And this time, at least he's earning it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sports Gluttony: A Thanksgiving Feast


Who's hungry for some unforgettable Thanksgiving-weekend sports matchups?

This guy.

Every year, Thanksgiving weekend brings some unbelievable games. This year, however, the games look a little bit unbelievabler than usual. Here's a look at the top 7 games between today and Sunday.

7. Auburn vs. Alabama - This year's Iron Bowl has huge implications for the BCS Championship Game. Of course, the game would be a lot more exciting if Auburn still had one Mr. Cameron Newton to run wild over unsuspecting defenses, but you can't win 'em all I suppose.


6. Detroit Red Wings vs. Boston Bruins - The NHL looks to grab a little attention this holiday weekend with its first annual "Thanksgiving Showdown" on Black Friday. After getting off to a slow start, the Bruins have awoken from hibernation and won 10 straight games, vaulting into 1st place in the Northeast division. Detroit is 7-3-0 it its last 10 games and sits just 2 points out of first place in the Central division. It's Original Six at its finest.


5. New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles - It's easy to forget that there are NFL games on Sunday, too. It becomes especially easy to forget about those games after looking at the unimpressive schedule. Although the circumstances around this game are quite different from what we imagined, this is still a game that football fans circled at the beginning of the season. The "Dream Team" hosts the "really really good team" with the hopes of salvaging the 2011 season.

4. Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions - In a great [somewhat] traditional Thanksgiving matchup, the Lions look end Green Bay's perfect season. In fact, with Jay Cutler going down, it may be the last game that poses any threat to the Packer's perfect record. The only thing that could ruin this game? A halftime show featuring Nickelback.


3. Ohio State vs. Michigan - The historic college football rivalry always brings a memorable game. Officially, Ohio State has won 6 straight, but Michigan fans will tell you that just because the 2010 OSU win was vacated doesn't mean the 30-point drubbing hurts any less. The Wolverines are more than a touchdown favorite and poised to end the losing streak. But hey, they play the game for a reason.


2. San Francisco 49ers vs. Baltimore Ravens - Never in the history of the NFL have teams coached by brothers played against each other. Well, never in the history of human civilization did man have fire until man created fire. J. Harbaugh the younger brings his surprise 9-1 San Francisco 49ers to J. Harbaugh the elder's Baltimore playground. The Ravens, who have a tendency this year to beat good teams and lose to awful ones, should escape this game with a W.


1. Arkansas vs. LSU - What a huge game for college football. Arkansas fans saw this coming all season long. The other 99% of sports fans have been pleasantly surprised. If Arkansas wins, they'll likely create one of the biggest messes in college football history. Not only would there be 3 (or more) teams that could play for the national championship, there would be 3 times tied for HALF of a division title. But really, who needs a playoff?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Return of the King: 5 Reasons Why We Should Be Watching Slamball


With the beginning of the holiday season, many NBA fans will soon find their holidays devoid of the normal slate of exciting early season NBA match-ups.  It seems that all hope for an NBA season has been lost, as Billy Hunter and David Stern remain locked in a battle of incompetence and egotism.  But what if I told you we could not only be watching basketball, but basketball with full contact (such as hand checking), artificially enhanced vertical leaps and the unconditional endorsement of Spike TV?  Although such a vision would seem delusional, in fact this version of basketball has been in existence since 2002 and features 6 teams that actually play (instead of argue over revenue sharing while wearing "Basketball Never Stops" t-shirts).  However, Slamball play has been suspended indefinitely in the US due to lack of funding.  Here are the top 5 reasons why Slamball should start tomorrow.

1) The NBA is locked out.  Not only that, it's reached the "nuclear winter" stage of negotiations, the bizzaro Shangri La of labor negotiators everywhere.  The void left by this lockout represents Slamball's best (and last?) chance at gaining relevance in the modern mainstream sports industry, becoming more Dexter Douglas and less Freakazoid.

2) There are only 8 players on the court at any time.  One very serious complaint about the NBA has been the gradual loss of space on the basketball court, as players get bigger and more athletic there is simply less room to maneuver.  Reducing the number of players in the game opens up space for good fundamental play, and face melting dunks performed by athletes wearing full padding on trampolines.

3) Dunks count for 3 points.  In a league where not everyone is capable of throwing it down perhaps this rule would seem unfair, but on a court with 4 trampolines, why not incentivize show stopping dunks on every trip down the floor?

4) It's full contact.  Is there anything more frustrating than watching an enforcement of the continuation rule in the NBA?  (Maybe listening to Cris Collinsworth do his best "competent commentator" impression.  Is English even his first language?)  What if, the next time a whistle blows and Derrick Rose takes three more steps down the lane for a dunk, he gets laid out by a Zach Randolph punchDemarcus Cousins would get much more playing time, that's for sure.

5) It's huge in Italy.  Since debuting there in 2007, Slamball has made a distinct impression on Italians, gaining notoriety across southern Europe (ok, maybe just in Italy).  By bringing Slamball back to the States its creators will have continued the USA's grand tradition of importing Italian excellenceFiat, Lavazza, and now Slamball.

Joe Silvestro is a regular contributor to Sports Casual, check back every Funday Friday for his witticisms concerning the Wide World of Sports.  Email him at jsilvestro21@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Replacing a Legend



It's been a sad week in the college football world. One of the most prestigious programs in the country is in a tailspin, and it'll take some great leadership to bring Penn State back to its former self. The hardest thing in all of sports is to replace a legend, and it'll be difficult finding someone who can bring character back to the University while also winning football games. Here are the top 5 guys that I think should replace him. The only rule I used was these coaches couldn't have any connection to Joe Pa.
  1. Urban Meyer – He’s been the top guy on everyone’s list, and it’s hard to argue against it. He won two national championships at Florida, and led Utah to the BCS. His spread system will help negate the fact that recruiting will be hurt in the upcoming years, because it takes less overall talent to run the spread. He’s a big name, and at this point in their careers, he’s actually a better coach than Joe. So what’s the big drawback? Money. Ohio State will also be pursuing him, and having to pay a coach 6 or 7 million dollars a year is not ideal after you just lost several boosters this past week.
  2. Tony Dungy – As classy as they come, he would be the top choice for fixing the “image” of Penn State. Not to mention that he’s a great coach, and the single best recruiting tool is a Super Bowl ring. However, this seems to be a long shot, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Tony Dungy never comes back to coaching.
  3. Mark Richt – Although he’s on the hot seat at Georgia, I think he’s easily one of the ten best coaches in the country. When talking to SEC fans, he seems to be everyone’s second favorite coach. He doesn’t talk a lot of trash, is very respectful to other teams, is very loyal to his staff, and tends to do things the right way. I don’t know if he has any connections in the Northeast, and if he wants to leave a young superstar QB in Aaron Murray, but he should definitely be considered.
  4. Denzel Washington – Maybe he only has three plays, but he ran those three plays to perfection. Not only did he lead his team to the state title, but he’s had enough experience dealing with the media that he’ll flawlessly answer every question thrown at him. Nothing can shake this guy. Remember kids, you can't fall back; you have to fall forward.
  5. Jim Grobe – No coach in the entire country cares more about character. When he recruits, one mention of a player being lazy, disrespectful, selfish, or unmotivated, and he will be immediately crossed off Jim Grobe’s recruiting list. Although his numbers have been inconsistent at Wake Forest, he did lead them to a BCS game, and he is severely limited in what he can do, considering their tiny student population. Jim Grobe is in my opinion the most underrated coach in the country, and although Penn State fans may be disappointed in the hire, they could do a lot worse.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Is The 24-Hour Hoops Marathon A Good Idea For The NCAA?



Don't take this the wrong way; I enjoy 24 hours of uninterrupted college basketball just as much as the next guy. ESPN's 24-Hour College Tipoff (which is on in the background right now) does, however, raise poignant questions about the NCAA's constant failure to balance athletics and academics.

Take, for example, this morning's game between Rider and Drexel. The game, played in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, tipped off at 6 AM. ESPN's footage shows throngs of college student pouring into the (small) gymnasium and plenty of rowdy Rider and Drexel fans jumping around in the stands.

What statement are these schools making about the importance of athletics on the college-life hierarchy? In these instances, students are - albeit implicitly - expected to put athletic spirit before other commitments, and are rewarded with TV coverage for doing so. Lest we forget, today is a Tuesday.

It's just one more notch in the NCAA's championship-of-hypocrisy belt. UConn isn't allowed to participate in the NCAA tournament because of a failure to meet academic standards, but standards for student-athletes and the student body as a whole go right out the window when the NCAA wants to stage a nationally televised spectacle?

How about a better solution for everyone: start on Friday at midnight, and go for 48-hours instead.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Holy Day Temporarily Moved from Sunday to Thursday This Week




For those who observe the Sabbath, it should be noted that the great Tim Tebow (Peace Be Upon Him) will not be glorifying God next Sunday. Due to a scheduling conflict, worshiping will instead take place Thursday night at 8:20 PM. If anyone was operating under the assumption that Sunday was chosen as the day for the Sabbath before Tebow (PBUH) began playing games on the holy day, you should be disabused of that erroneous belief posthaste. The Lord chose Sunday as His Holy Day because He knew that Tebow (PBUH) would one day grace the field and illuminate our minds for many Sundays to come. The Great Prophet Tebow (PBUH) will not be glorifying the Lord this upcoming Sunday, and so the Sabbath will need to be moved up to Thursday for the time being.
Therefore, in compliance with Satan's wishes, the Rapture will not take place next Sunday, the 20th, and is instead scheduled for Thursday, the 17th of November. Please adjust your prayers accordingly. (As a caveat, it should be noted that any prayers begging for a stat line better than a 2 for 8 performance will go unanswered.)

In addition, it should be noted that followers of the Cult of Revis will be affected in the same way due to this scheduling conflict.