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

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).

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

@ #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

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.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Better Headbutt?

Zidane's headbutt somehow managed to claim the top spot of my most memorable World Cup moments.

Patrick Kaleta just happens to be a boss. This is somewhat of old news in the hockey community, but I'm guessing that means this is largely unknown of in the wider sports community.

Kaleta had not one, not two, but three great headbutts. I've never seen someone actually almost get hurt from a headbutt until I saw this.

Continuing with the theme of not actually writing a post and just embedding videos, I'll leave it to the readers (most of the other Sports Casual bloggers and my brother) to debate it in the comments: Who had the better headbutt?

I'm obligated to vote for a gritty Western New Yorker who plays for my favorite hockey team over some French guy who can't take some standard Italian trashtalk, but I recognize that some credit needs to be given to the stage. I'm not sure if Zidane should benefit for headbutting in the most important single sporting match over a four year span, or be penalized for getting a red card in it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Best 2 out of 3?

I know I'm in the minority, but I thought the Alabama-LSU game was incredible. I watch football games that end in the 40s all the time, but how often do I get to see two real defenses play? I loved the crazy interceptions, the hard hits in the backfield, Les Miles giving up on the pass completely by putting in Jordan Jefferson (because a 3 yard QB run is better than nothing), and the fact that one play, at any moment, could end the game.

But now let's get to the real question, will there be a rematch? I don't care if they should, I just want to predict the future, which of course means we should take a quick look at the only comparable situation: Ohio State vs. Michigan.

Here are the rankings BEFORE the Championship game.

Michigan's resume
Key Wins: #7 Wisconsin, @ #11 Notre Dame
Only Loss: @ #1 Ohio State

Florida's resume
Key Wins: #4 LSU, #12 Arkansas (SEC Championship), @ #17 Tennessee
Only Loss: @ #9 Auburn

Before, the SEC Championship and after Michigan's loss, Michigan was still ranked ahead of Florida, but Florida jumped Michigan with it's win over Arkansas. With that said, they have pretty much identical resumes and I don't think there is any difference. Notice how the computers also see them as dead even. I remember that the big argument at the time was "you have to win your conference championship" which isn't even a real rule, but with how close these two teams were, I can understand why that was used as a tiebreaker.

Ultimately, what this means for Alabama is that they not only need OSU and Stanford to lose, but they'll also need any team with a "similar resume" to get an extra loss. Alabama only has one for sure big win all year (Arkansas), and if Auburn and Penn State lose a few more games, they could be in a real trouble. The depth of the SEC is weak this year, and I see that as being the biggest hurdle from a rematch. At the end of the day, Alabama will need a significantly better resume than the other teams, but they don't have enough opportunities left to do that. The dreaded "tiebreaker" that doesn't actually exist will once again be the reason for preventing a rematch.

MLS: Teaching The Sports World A Thing Or Two About Expansion

1) Football, 2) Baseball, 3) Soccer, 4) Basketball, 5) Hockey

Looking at the above list, dear reader, what could I possibly be ranking? Is it a list of my favorite sports? No - it couldn't be - because team handball, tchoukball, and water polo are noticeably absent. Is it a list of sports from youngest to oldest? I haven't been around long enough to be sure, but I don't believe neanderthals were skating around trying to go five-hole on the goalie. Is a ranking of major sports in order of the circumference of the balls/pucks used? Certainly not, and if you're in this camp, I don't think you're playing baseball correctly.

What if I told you this list above ranks the average attendance per game amongst the major sports leagues in the United States? *Cue the jaw drop*

That's right - this year, Major League Soccer passed the National Basketball Association as the third most attended sports league in the country. The MLS's figure of 17,872 fans per game was enough to eclipse the NBA's 2010-2011 average of 17,319 as well as basketballs current average attendance figure of zero.

Acknowledging that arena capacity certainly plays a part in these rankings, soccer's jump to third is still quite impressive. The most significant factor contributing to soccer's increased popularity is its expansion into strong soccer markets. Arguably, the MLS has seen the most successful expansion of any sports league in American history.

If David Stern and Gary Bettman could pool their BRI and hockey-related revenue, they'd have about $6.5 billion dollars to put towards the development of a time machine so they could go back to the 1980s and 90s and undo all of their stupid expansion decisions. Bill and Ted can come too; it will be an excellent adventure.

The NBA has far too many teams in weak markets, something that is prolonging the lockout substantially. In (somewhat) recent years, we saw the league leave Vancouver, Seattle, and (briefly) Charlotte. In addition, the Hornets have been owned by the league for quite some time and many other teams are losing money. In the NHL, expansion may have been even worse. Bettman exited Canada for bigger (but warmer and less interested) American markets like Phoenix, Carolina, Dallas, and Atlanta. The commissioner has begun to undo his mistakes by moving the Thrashers up to Winnepeg, but many NHL teams are still reeling financially and competitively. Even the NFL has made a few mistakes, like plopping a team down in the middle of WhoCaresVille, Florida.

The MLS, conversely, has seen its expansion teams become its most successful clubs. This is the way that it should be. Why add an expansion team if it's going to be one of the worst attended teams in the league? Since 2007, the league has added four teams, and they all rank in the top half of league attendance:  Seattle Sounders FC (#1), Vancouver White Caps FC (#3), Toronto FC (#4), Portland Timbers (#6), Philadelphia Union (#7).

Through methodical and intelligent expansion, the MLS continues to grow. It will add a 19th team in Montreal next season. With the NBA lockout almost certainly squashing the entire 2011-2012 season, there is more room for soccer fans in America than ever. It's hard to believe that for a given contest, the question "Did you go to the game last night?" is being answered "Yes" by more soccer fans than hockey or basketball fans. Ole!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Where is the Fitzmagic of Yesteryear?

Only two weeks removed from a terribly boring weekend and a scheduling nightmare in which no NFL game featured a matchup between two winning teams, we were treated to one of the best days of football that anyone could ask for. I was fortunate enough to watch three straight games between contending teams. The day started with a thud, as the 4 and 3 Jets put together a dominant defensive effort to shut down Fred Jackson and the Fitzmagically delicious Buffalo Bills. The day got even better when Tom Brady threw hissy fit after hissy fit as the Giants defense - fueled by strong play across the defensive line - stymied the Dreamboat and his crew of not-so-merry men. It was only fitting that the Sunday Night matchup between two fierce AFC North rivals turned into an epic. The Ravens victory, covered in the previous article, was a fantastic cap to a great day of football.

Much like Hogwarts, Revis Island does not allow any magic on premises.

The Jets-Bills game did not live up to its top-flight billing (I made a pun!) as the two-score difference separating the teams at the end of the day does not adequately convey the Jets' dominance throughout, but it was a close one for a half. The Jets offense continues to be incredibly frustrating and difficult to watch. After leading the team on a 15 play, 87 yard drive which took more than ten minutes off the clock, the Sanchize managed to overthrow Dustin Keller in the back of the end zone, landing a pass firmly in the welcoming arms of Bills' free safety Jairus Byrd. The Jets could not find the end zone until an LT touchdown midway through the 3rd quarter. Although Tomlinson only gave the team a 13-0 lead, it felt like more than enough in a game in which the defense is this dominant. Although FJax was able to rip off 4.6 per carry, the Jets containment came from the same place it always has this season: the secondary. Fitzpatrick completed fewer than half his passes, and finished with a QB rating of 51.9, boosted a large degree by a touchdown drive that took place in garbage time, with the Bills trailing by 24 points with only 3 minutes remaining. While the score and some of the stats did not betray the magnitude of this blowout, the Jets managed to control the ball for 38 of the game's 60 minutes. This was an important win for the Jets, who won their first road game of the season and their second in division.

As good as the Pats-Giants game must have felt for Giants fans, it must have been maddening. How does one team manage to both lose to the Seahawks at home and beat the Patriots at Gillette? This Giants team has proven that it will play to the level of its competition, winning 4 games by 4 points or fewer thus far. The contrast between this game and the Seahawks game was astounding. Despite playing without their best running back (Bradshaw) and their best wide receiver (Nicks), Eli managed to work with what he did have and he did just enough to squeak out a win. When that Giants defensive line is at full health, they are a daunting matchup for anyone. The Patriots offense had not been shutout for the first half of a game in 783 years, but the Giants D managed to do just that. The team's build can be incredibly successful when they are clicking. They have four players who can consistently get to the quarterback and win one-on-one matchups in Kiwanuka, Tuck, Umenyiora, and Pierre-Paul. It is impossible to know which Eli Manning will show up on any given Sunday, but if the right one does, this is a team that can make a push deep into the playoffs.

This spectacular day of football really highlighted how much parity there is in the AFC. As it stands, there are no undefeated and no one-loss teams in the conference. In fact, the Ravens and the Bungles (SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?) are the only two loss teams in the AFC. There is a pack of good teams assembling just behind these frontrunners, as there are now 5 three-loss teams and 4 four-loss teams. Two of these three-loss teams will meet next Sunday, when the Patriots visit the Jets in a game which will determine the AFC East's division leader. Belichick and Brady are famously good at bouncing back from losses, and so it will be fascinating to see if they can bounce back from consecutive losses while playing on the road against a division rival.

With the presence of an undefeated team in the Packers and a one-loss team in the 49ers, the NFC has not seen as much parity. However, outside of the NFC West, every other division is still somewhat close.

While plenty of intriguing storylines remain, it is tough to imagine a regular season slate of games that are more entertaining than those which took place on November 6th, 2011.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Macabre Media Men: What Broadcast Team Do You Want At Your Funeral?

“All the world’s a stage, and men and women merely players”
                - Bill Shakespeare

This quote is found in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, a story of love triangles and French forests, and in an era of reality television and split personalities (real life and Facebook, to name two) it seems more relevant than ever.  And what greater stage exists in today’s world than professional sports?  Sports today draw unprecedented audiences, taking place in cathedrals of athletic achievement and unfolding late game drama and intrigue in front of millions of spectators, many of whom are as adrenaline filled as the athletes (if not more).  Thus, the two greatest stages in existence are professional sporting events and life itself.  

At the beginning of any sporting event, the stage is set with the announcement of a pivotal group of people – the broadcast crew.  A play-by-play man, a couple of color commentators and a sideline reporter are all a crucial part of modern televised athletic events.  If that’s the case, then why not have broadcast crews present at the greatest performances of our own life – our entrance and exit, birth and death?  More importantly, which commentators, past and present, would be best suited for the job?

Birth- The Hospital
Play-By-Play: Gus Johnson.  His enthusiastic game calls would be perfect for such a joyous, momentous occasion.  Plus he’s comfortable working with kids.

Color men: Dick Vitale, Peter Gammons.  “Dicky V” has unparalleled enthusiasm for the word “baby” and after witnessing hundreds of diaper dandies is in a unique position to help the newborn start life off the right way (and improve his draft stock in the process).  Both he and Peter Gammons, being of a relatively advanced age (i.e. old) have an appreciation for the fragility of life which they can impart to us through color commentary during the birth.  Although a mother can remain in labor for upwards of 8 hours before giving birth, Peter Gammons has honed his ability to talk for hours on end during an extensive career in Major League Baseball.

Sideline Reporter: Erin AndrewsBeautiful, talented and sports-savvy, Erin Andrews is the total package.  Why not be exposed to perfection embodied as soon as you exit the womb?  One reason: your life can only go downhill from there.

Death- The Funeral
Play-By-Play: Marv Albert.  “Is he dead yet? Yes!!”  Can’t you hear it now?  Marv Albert’s slightly understated oratory will show respect for you, the dearly departed, while still capturing the magnitude of the moment – you’re dead, that’s a game changer.  

Color Men: Dennis Miller, Cris Collinsworth.  Who better to bring levity to an otherwise grim situation than Dennis Miller, arguably the greatest color man who had been a comedian and subsequently fell off the face of the Earth?  There’s no better venue for political humor mixed with a dash of conservatism than a funeral, right?  As for Cris Collinsworth, he’s an idiot.  An absolute idiot.  What better way to cement your legacy than to rise from the dead and kill Cris Collinsworth during the wake, taking him to the grave with you in the ultimate act of self-sacrifice.  The world will be a better place, with you to thank.  

Sideline Reporter: Tony Siragusa.  “Goose” will help to keep things pretty lighthearted, while reminding the audience of its own mortality.  No other sideline reporter in the game blends humor and insight more skillfully, or can eat more hot dogs in one minute.

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

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Quotable Les Miles

In case you weren't excited enough for this weekend's game...

"I want my players focused. I don't want the distraction of not being focused to be a distraction"
-Les Miles

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Wonder-Children

NFL quarterbacks are a unique breed. All it takes is one Sunday slate of NFL games for someone to be reminded of the significance of the vertical passing game. Even when quarterbacks do not serve as the franchise player or the offensive spark, signal callers such as Mark Sanchez, Joe Flacco, and Alex Smith have had success as game managers. While all sorts of offensive metrics can come up short at times, the one that has impressed the most is the Wonderlic Test. As a general aptitude test, many critics still doubt its relevance to the NFL, but the results have been startling. Many teams refuse to draft a quarterback with a score below a 21, and the historical average for NFL quarterbacks is around 24 (out of 50).

In the past decade, no quarterback with a score under 25 (Roethlisberger) has won a Super Bowl. Furthermore, 88% of teams with winning records in the past two years in the NFL were led by quarterbacks who had scores of 25 and above. Players like Vince Young (who reportedly scored a 7 before retaking it) have not faired so well, and have often lost their starting jobs. In fact, the only quarterback who scored below a 24 and whom could definitively be called upper tier is none other than Michael Vick. Furthermore, the average appears to be rising. As players like Ryan Fitzmagic (48), Alex Smith (40), and Matt Stafford (38) have enjoyed a great deal of success in the first half of this season, the trend-line seems to bend ever-upward.

However, the near infallibility of this metric may have finally met its match. The rise of rookie phenom Cam Newton has put the Wonderlic test on shaky ground. Cam scored a 21 on the test, and has been racking up yardage and an unprecedented level for a rookie. Thankfully, he has led his team to an abysmal 2-6 record, as the Panthers have managed to overcome the absence of terrible quarterback play from the likes of Jake Delhomme, Jimmy Clausen, and Matt Moore, and have found new ways to be terrible. The certain emergence of world-beater and self-proclaimed "motherfucking G" Andrew Luck will hopefully set things straight again, assuming this Stanford product can do to his Wonderlic what he did to his SATs.

All of this talk about Wonderlics first came to my attention when I found out that Mark Brunell had managed to dig himself into $25 million of debt. Despite earning over $50 million over the course of his career, Brunell managed to fuck up 9 different business ventures over the past several years. As Brunell was reported to have scored a 22 on his Wonderlic, this is another instance verifying the accuracy of the test. However, expecting the worst, Rex Ryan has already assured Mark that he will be able to sell his imaginary Super Bowl rings (and his real one) on e-bay.

So I'm left with one question: if Brunell could dig a hole this big after scoring a 22, then how much debt will Vince Young be able to accrue by the time he's 40?