Christmas Wishes for Your Favorite Athletes and Teams

Maybe my Christmas wish will come true and Tiger will actually just admit he played poorly for once.

First of all, Merry Christmas to everyone! Hope your day is filled with all kinds of good food, family and fun. Today I’m giving you some Christmas wishes for any number of teams and athletes.

My Christmas wish is…

for Tony Romo to get at least one playoff win.

for Michigan to land a head football coach who wants to be there.

for Roger Goodell to resign.

for ESPN to cancel First Take and no longer allow Stephen A Smith and Skip Bayless on television.

for you to win every bet, on every game this coming year. (giggles a bit)

for Tiger Woods to walk off the course just one time and say, “I played like crap” rather than blame it on everything else.

for the Kansas City Royals not to be one-hit wonders.

for college football to immediately move to an eight-game playoff.

for high school athletes to enjoy being “high school athletes” and not be forced to specialize by club sports.

for ‘Mike and Mike’ to use more of my tweets.

for the National Basketball Association to become interesting again.

for Coach K to get one more title before he hangs up the whistle.

for soccer to go back to being a world sport and not an American one.

for Marshawn Lynch to actually give a decent interview after a game.

for Steelers’ Coach Mike Tomlin to drop a few of his cliches.

for MMQB’s Peter King to finally admit he’s just a shill for the NFL.

Thanks Ed O'Bannon for ruining my family's favorite video game!

for the NCAA and EA Sports to find a way get the NCAA Football video game back for us.

for NFL people stop using the word “elite” when it comes to quarterbacks.

for Antonio Brown to go up against Richard Sherman in the Super Bowl.

for Peter Edward Rose to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

for all of us to just admit that college football and basketball is nothing more than a minor league for the pros.

for Mike Emrick to call every game in every sport for the rest of his life.

to never see another pro athlete charged with domestic violence.

for the Super Bowl to be a national holiday and everyone gets the next day off.

for the Atlanta Hawks to the NBA Title.

for the Detroit Tigers to win a World Series before owner Mike Ilitch dies. No one has been more important to Detroit sports than he has.

for group celebrations to be allowed after NFL touchdowns.

for a “Gretzky-like” figure to reappear in the National Hockey League.

for the Cleveland Cavaliers to lose in the NBA Finals. Let’s face it; it makes for more interesting sports talk.

for the Lakers and Celtics to continue being irrelevant.

for defensive backs so they can actually play defense again.

for Jerry Jones’ plastic surgeon who must be tired of seeing him walk through the door.

for Larry Fitzgerald to get a Super Bowl title before he retires.

for Al Michaels to narrate my life.

for someone in a Santa suit today at an NBA game to do something ridiculous.

for officials at all levels and in all sports to remember it isn’t about them, it’s about the game.

for Oregon to settle on a uniform or 50.

for Devon Still’s daughter to make a complete recovery.

for karma to show up at Jameis Winston’s door.

for the NFL Playoffs to be as great as ever.

for your favorite teams to do as well as they can!

Richard Sherman Speaks the Truth and the MLB Races Have About a Month to Go

Even if you don't like Richard Sherman you have to appreciate his honesty.

Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman is a lightning rod plain and simple. If you took  a survey of 100 football fans you’d probably get half that love him and half that hate him but I like Sherman for one reason; he speaks his mind.

Sherman did just that when he basically became the first active player to say what I’ve been saying for years now about the direction of the National Football League. In a Sunday Night Football interview with NBC’s Josh Elliott Sherman was asked about all the penalties on defensive backs this preseason. His response:

all the illegal contact calls this preseason were due to the NFL feeling the pressure from advertisers and sponsors. “When the fantasy football numbers need to be what they need to be, then the league needs to do what it needs to do to get it done,” Sherman said. “This is a money-driven league, so whatever sells the tickets is gonna sell the tickets.”

There it is. Finally a player has said what all of us have pretty much known for years. The whole ‘player safety’ issue was actually just an attempt to limit the defense so offenses could score more points. The NFL masked it with the whole concussion lawsuit. I’m all for making the game safer but let’s be real too.

More offense means more fantasy points which means more fantasy players which means more people watching the NFL. Fantasy football owners don’t want to see 10-7 games. The horror!!!!

I appreciate Sherman being himself and supporting what we all know to be true. Unfortunately it won’t do anything to slow down this machine that Roger Goodell has created. Get ready to see more scoring and more offensive numbers skyrocketing out of sight.

Manager Buck Showalter has the Orioles firmly in first place in the AL East.

Baseball Has About a Month to Go

Most  Major League Baseball teams have about 30 games to go and some of the races are fulfilling the promise I have had all season long.

Starting in the American League, the East Division has seen Baltimore quietly take a six-game lead over the New York Yankees. Toronto is eight back and Tampa Bay is 10 games back.

In the Central, the incredibly hot Kansas City Royals lead the injury-riddled Detroit Tigers by two games. Hovering in the distance are the Cleveland Indians who are six games back. The Royals have won seven of ten and continue to be among the best teams in baseball since the All-Star Break.

In the AL West, the LA Angels have a one game lead over the Oakland A’s after beating the A’s last night. Seattle is lurking at six games back but their eyes on the wild-card. Currently, the wild-cards are Oakland and the Mariners with the Tigers just a game back. New York is three and a half back.

In the senior circuit, the NL East has seen a once close race fall apart. The Washington Nationals have won nine of ten and have a commanding eight game lead over the Atlanta Braves.

The NL Central has seen some separation with the Milwaukee Brewers hanging on to a 1.5 game lead over St. Louis. Pittsburgh has fallen off the pace however and is now five full games behind the Brewers following a streak where the Pirates have won just three of ten.

The NL West is a two-team race. The LA Dodgers have a 4.5 game lead of rival San Francisco. San Diego has dropped to 12.5 games back. The Giants and Dodgers have six games remaining against each other with three each at home.

The National League Wild-Card is much more exciting. The Cards and Giants hold the two spots right now but Atlanta (1GB), Pittsburgh (1.5GB) and the Marlins (4GB) are within shouting distance.

Closing the Door on the Seahawks’ Title and Peyton Manning

Seattle's Dan Quinn master-minded one of the great defenses in Super Bowl History

If ever there were an ominous tone set in the biggest game on the planet then that is exactly what the first offensive play of Super Bowl XLVIII was. When you look back at the snap snafu that immediately gave Seattle a 2-0 lead that they would never relinquish, the more you realize that Denver was in for a long night.

How many hundreds of times before had Peyton Manning walked the line calling audibles and fake audibles this season? There is no way it was crowd noise because it just simply a mistake and a costly one at that. It was essentially the first trickle of water that ultimately became a powerful waterfall. Before Denver and Manning could recover it was 43-8 and the title was Seattle’s.

While much of the focus has been on what Manning and Denver couldn’t do, the real story was what the Seattle defense could do and did do. For one of the first times in NFL history, a defensive unit really was built from the secondary forward rather than the other way around. The Seattle front office recognized what was happening in the game today in terms of big, fast receivers and they matched the trend.

The Seahawks went out and got big cornerbacks like Richard Sherman and even bigger, more physical safeties like Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. While their size and ability to match up with the Denver receivers was crucial, their closing speed and solid tackling is what really spelled doom for the Broncos. Obviously a secondary needs a good front seven and the Seahawks have one.

The linebackers are fast and athletic and the down linemen are quick but have good size that creates significant problems for offensive linemen. Because the Seahawks shut down 2013’s most prolific offense, they will earn high praise and all of the attention they deserve. Where they rank historically is anyone’s guess but I think the bigger piece is that they may have changed how defenses are built in the years coming.

Manning's loss solidifies his role as a great 'regular season' quarterback.

Manning’s Legacy Did Take a Hit

Peyton Manning will more than likely go down as one of the top five quarterbacks of all time and probably the greatest regular season quarterback of all-time as well. The problem as I see it is that Manning’s playoff and Super Bowl failures will standout much greater than anything he accomplished in the regular season.

Sunday’s loss puts Manning’s playoff record at 11-12. His Super Bowl record is 1-2 and he has eight ‘one and done’ playoff appearances as well. Many will cite his one Super Bowl victory but the Colts offense could only muster two touchdowns and took advantages of three Rex Grossman turnovers. Experts will often refuse to say what I’m writing because Manning is a ‘good guy’ and ‘ultimate professional.’

The fact remains that Peyton Manning has struggled in huge games and that’s something that dates back to his college days. It doesn’t make Manning less of a great player or great person but it is what it is. Manning has been outstanding to watch during his long career and the fact that he could come back from such serious health issues is a credit to his work ethic and dedication.

Unfortunately, there are a handful of quarterbacks I’d rather have under center for me with the game on the line or in a big game period. This doesn’t diminish what Manning has accomplished as one of the great NFL quarterbacks but we measure quarterbacks by titles and this is one of few areas where Manning comes up short.

This Monday Really Sucks But There is a Silver Lining

The end of football season sucks but at least you don't have to hear "Omaha" for awhile.

For the vast majority of us in the workforce, few days are as bad as Monday. It’s the first day of the work week which means that after Monday, there are still four more days to get through. Even for those of us who enjoy our jobs we must admit that Monday is often very tough to get through.

Today is Monday. This particular Monday however is a little more excruciating than really any other Monday on the calendar for a decent percentage of us. Last night, the Super Bowl was played and I don’t yet know the winner because I’m writing this early so I can watch the game. Be that as it may, today we embark on a long journey of days without football.

Some of you will make the smooth transition into college basketball, the NBA or the NHL but some of you will loathe the next five to six months when you find yourself digging through old DVR recordings of games from this past season. Still, it isn’t the same.

Oh sure, there’s the NFL Combine coming later this month but how many fans really tune into that expecting it to take away their ‘no football blues?’ When the combine ends, the on campus workouts begin and free agency gets underway and it is often enough for us to be satisfied if ever so slightly for our taste in football.

NFL Draft
The NFL Draft will be here soon enough so don't dispair football fans.

As you comb over the multitude of mock drafts looking to see who your favorite team is interested in you start to get the itch but you can’t scratch it because training camp is still a couple of months away.

The draft comes and you comb over the players your team has selected and then you start to read about whether this guy is a ‘reach’ or that guy is a ‘bust’ or maybe that third-rounder is a real ‘gem.’ Regardless, it only satisfies you a little.

Eventually the summer rolls around and before you know it you’re setting off fireworks in the backyard to celebrate Independence Day. Now, just weeks away is the start of training camp and thought of your team being on the field once again brings a small tear to your eye as your long wait is over.

Football will be back.

Until then, take solace in the fact that there are a few things you won’t miss. These are the things that will make up your silver lining.

  • No more discussions about whether Richard Sherman or Bill Belichick is the ‘real thug.’
  • No longer have to hear half of ESPN’s NFL crew butcher the English language.
  • You won’t have to sit through reviews which are ‘reviewed’ purely so the NFL can get in another series of commercials.
  • You’ll no longer have to listen to the following question each week from your significant other; “What time do the (insert your team here) play?
  • You’ll get a substantial reprieve from seeing Jim Harbaugh pout like five-year old on the sidelines or in some cases on the field.
  • No more ‘Omaha!!!!’
  • No more ’12th man’
  • No more Cris Collinsworth
  • You can forget hearing about whether Tony Romo is a choker or not.
  • You can also forget hearing about what stupid thing Roger Goodell thinks up next.
  • You’ll be glad not to hear about Mike Shanahan and RGIII twelve times a day.
  • No more close-ups of Archie Manning whose fame is far greater as a father than it ever was a player.

These are but a few of the things you will be happy to be without for the next several months and today is only Monday. The worst Monday of them all.

Let the Super Bowl Hype Begin

This is the scene of Super Bowl XLVIII on a much warmer day than what is expected for the game.

Once we get through this farce of an all-star game known as the Pro Bowl tomorrow night, 100% of the football focus will immediately take aim at the New York/New Jersey area and Super Bowl XLVIII. There are several angles to this year’s Super Bowl and I’m breaking down the topics that are sure to gain your attention and drive you nuts.

The Weather

Right now, the forecast for Super Bowl XLVIII calls for temps in the low 30’s at kickoff with a chance of precipitation as well. While this is not the blizzard some of us have been hoping for, it appears to be less than wonderful conditions. Common thought is that any precipitation will favor Seattle and their running attack while a dry evening will favor the Broncos.

Because we don’t know exactly what the weather will do at this current time, it’s hard to discuss the possible outcomes and excuses the weather will create. Perhaps most importantly, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has already stated that he’ll be sitting outside and will forego the suite life. I’ll give him till mid-second quarter before he suddenly needs a “potty break.”

Don't expect Sherman to be quiet on Media Day but I don't think it'll be as memorable as last week.

Richard Sherman

Super Bowl Media Day is Tuesday and some fans get the chance to watch it for $30. Media Day is also sponsored by Gatorade too which just boggles my mind that media day needs a sponsor but I digress…. While the long snapper for Seattle sits in obscurity, Richard Sherman will have no shortage of press members surrounding his podium as if he were Justin Beiber getting out of jail.

Because of Sherman’s thirty-second blast following the Seahawks’ win over San Francisco, he has become the most discussed and dissected person in sports and it won’t stop here. I don’t expect any memorable lines from Sherman this week because I think he is just as tired of the attention as we are but that doesn’t mean he won’t enjoy the moment.

Peyton Manning

Thank goodness that the two teams come out for media day at different times on Tuesday or else MetLife Stadium may need to increase capacity considering the press that will be around Sherman and Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. Unlike Sherman, Manning will be relatively low-key and matter of fact when answering questions and that’s nothing new for him.

The biggest question Manning will get probably will deal with his future. There has been some speculation that a victory could mean the end for Manning but I don’t see it that way. I can’t believe that Manning would retire coming off his greatest season even if the Broncos were to lose on Sunday. It just doesn’t sound like him which is why the health question about his neck will be a dominant conversation piece on media day.

The Commissioner

Most of you are aware I have no love for Roger Goodell and I see no reason that will change. He has personally assaulted the game by taking away the aggression of the sport, wants to have a franchise in London and even has suggested a Super Bowl in England as well. Those are just for starters… Later this week, Goodell will deliver his state of the game message and I hope there is at least one journalist who will put Goodell’s feet to the fire.

Chances are, the majority of NFL journalists who are nothing more than shills for Goodell will ask softball questions but I hope someone is willing to go after him. I guarantee there are people who hate what he is doing to the game as much as I do so I hope someone at the very least makes Goodell sweat a little.

Looking Back and Ahead in the National Football League

You might not like Richard Sherman but he doesn't care and those that came before him don't either.

It’s Tuesday and the temperature in my world will likely not get out of single digits today but such is life. Makes the hot days in the summer worth it I guess. Today I’m taking an early look at some of the storylines from this past weekend’s NFL Championship Games and will briefly look ahead to the Super Bowl as well.

The Richard Sherman Blow-Up

Those of you that read my stuff regularly know that I’m an old school guy when it comes to sports. That said, you’d think I’d be all up in arms over Richard Sherman of the Seahawks going crazy after Seattle won the NFC Title.

I don’t mind Sherman talking trash because I understand its part of the game now. Doesn’t mean I like it, but I “get it” so to speak. What turns me off about not just Sherman but other guys as well, is when they want to put all of the focus on them rather than the team.

Sherman didn’t need to run over to Michael Crabtree and taunt him the way he did. That was classless as was the choking gesture which I still don’t get. Seattle was at home and the number one seed so how did the Niners choke?

Sherman is a tremendous player and he will make for some great sound bites over the next two weeks that’s for sure.

Welker and Belichick were both wrong in my opinion and need to move on.

Welker’s Pick, errrrr, Block

New England Head Coach Bill Belichick said Wes Welker’s ‘block’ of Aqib Talib was dirty. The block knocked Talib out for the rest of the game and as expected, Peyton Manning attacked his back-up at will.

I feel both Belichick and Welker are wrong here. There is no question in my mind that Welker committed the same types of blocks while he played in New England so Belichick needs to stop right there.

As far as Welker, it was a clear pick-play across the middle and the fact he went low should have drawn an immediate flag. Furthermore, with his concussion history, Welker is lucky that he didn’t take a more substantial knee to the head.

Going low in that part of the field should not be allowed. Defenders in that case are truly defenseless against such moves.

Early Thoughts on SBXLVIII

As of right now, the long-range forecast for New York/New Jersey on Super Bowl Sunday is a high of 37 degrees with a 60% chance of precipitation. Roger Goodell claims he will be sitting outside too. If he makes it a half I’ll be impressed….

This will be the first time since 1980 that the number one scoring offense takes on the number one scoring defense. Offense sells tickets but defense wins championships right? Does that still mean anything today?

Seattle’s Pete Carroll has the opportunity to join Barry Switzer and Jimmy Johnson as the only coaches to win both an NCAA Title and a Super Bowl Title.

Early analysis tells me that the biggest factor in the game will not be Peyton Manning or Russell Wilson. Look for Denver’s Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball to be the keys. If they have any success running the ball then that will make Peyton Manning that much more dangerous and will keep the Seattle defense off balance.

Should Denver struggle to run the ball, which isn’t impossible against the NFL’s best defense, then Manning could face serious pressure all evening.

Why Seattle Worries Me As a Super Bowl Pick

Can Wilson survive the 'Sophomore Slump' and lead Seattle to the Super Bowl?

In 2012, the Seattle Seahawks emerged as one of the up and coming teams in the National Football League. Behind rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and a very athletic and aggressive defense, the Seahawks finished just a half-game behind NFC West rival San Francisco for the division title.

Despite their Wild-Card status, Seattle went into the nation’s capitol and defeated the Washington Redskins before finally dropping a 30-28 decision at Atlanta in the Divisional Playoffs.

The 2013 Seahawks have already garnered a ton of national media attention as an odds-on-favorite to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII. This declaration comes with good reason.

Seattle returns Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch and has added former Vikings’ receiver and all-purpose guy Percy Harvin to the mix on offense.

Defensively, the team returns with those big, aggressive corners like Richard Sherman and young pass rush phenoms Bruce Irvins and Bobby Wagner.

The ‘Hawks are still one of the youngest teams in the league and some may see that as a positive but I’m not so sure.

Carroll has high expectations to meet in Seattle in 2013.

Right now, our friends at Bovada have Seattle listed 8-1 to win Super Bowl XLVIII in New York. That ranks third behind the rival 49ers and the Denver Broncos. The Sporting News Pro Football Preview edition has Seattle and Denver playing for the Lombardi Trophy in February.

Bovada also lists the Seahawks over/under win total at 10.5 which is a pretty fair estimate based on their record from last year but how realistic is it?

After Baltimore defeated San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII, no team saw more futures action for the 2013 season than Seattle. Along with the Redskins, they were the most often selected team to win the title this coming season.

That’s all fine and good but here are my concerns with the this team moving forward.

1. The Schedule Concerns Me – Take schedules for what they first of all. They are on paper and don’t take into account injuries and break-through players that can emerge through the season.

That said, Seattle opens with three of their first five on the road and gets San Francisco at home in week two where the weather shouldn’t be a factor. Those three road games are at Carolina, at Houston and at Indianapolis. They also have away games at Atlanta and at the New York Giants. I can see two to three losses right there.

2. Wilson and the Sophomore Slump – Second-year QB Russell Wilson is not going to sneak up on anyone this season. While defenses will still have to stop him, they know a lot more of what to expect when they see number three on the field.

Wilson is a very level-headed, mature young man but will the attention and pressure get to him or will it get to his receivers? I look for a year not quite as good from Wilson in 2013 as defenses will be prepared.

3. The Adderall Issue – In May, Bruce Irvins became the fifth Seattle player suspended by the NFL for using the drug Adderall which is typically used to treat Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity-Disorder or, ADHD.

He will serve a four-game suspension as will John Moffitt, Allan Barbre, Winston Guy and Brandon Browner. Richard Sherman also tested positive but his situation was over-turned because of a testing technicality. Sherman would later say, “Half the league uses Adderall.”

The issue here is that Seahawks’ players aren’t the only ones using it but they are the currently the team with most guys caught using it. I don’t see this issue going away especially if someone else is nailed.

4. Percy Harvin’s Health – In his four-year career, Harvin has played just one full season. Last year, he missed seven games and in previous season has missed a game or two as well.

Right now the trade for Harvin looks spectacular but if he isn’t on the field it’s a moot point.

The Seattle Seahawks will make the playoffs in 2013. Whether they will win 10 games or more I would probably bet on it, but I don’t like them as my Super Bowl pick especially if they don’t have home-field advantage in the playoffs.