Monday, December 24, 2007

Republican Hopefuls

Now it is the Elephants’ turn to prove themselves worthy of the nomination from The OpinionSmith.

Rudy Giuliani: Quite simply the most pathetic athletic resume I have ever seen. All I have found is that he is a Yankees fan. If a tyrannosaurus rex was in the presidential race, the dinosaur would get the nod over Guiliani if you asked me. And to top it all off he isn’t even that good at being a Yankees fan. He was rooting for the Red Sox in the most recent World Series. That is the true definition of a politician: Moronic.

Mike Huckabee: He is a former Baptist preacher, which isn’t impressive from an athletic standpoint. But did you know that the Baptist preacher at my church growing up played college and semi-pro basketball? Even more impressive is that Huckabee lost 110 pounds after finding out he had adult-onset diabetes. To put that in perspective: He lost my wife! I recall seeing him in a Runner’s World issue a while back because of the weight loss and the fact that he has run four marathons.

Duncan Hunter: He served in Vietnam but was not a POW, which I’m sure he is thankful for. The fact that he wasn’t a POW does not lessen the fact that he fought though. Hunter represents San Diego, which is a city I am very fond of from a sports perspective. I played in Spring Break baseball tournaments in my high school days and my wife ran a marathon there.

John McCain: Everyone should be familiar with the fact that McCain was a POW during Vietnam after his plane was shot down. If you’re not, shame on you. I encourage you to read up on his time in captivity because it’s quite amazing. All in all, McCain spent 5.5 years as a POW. Some lesser-known facts on him are that he received two varsity letters as a prep wrestler, boxed while attending the Naval Academy and drove a Corvette and dated an exotic dancer out of school. If that last tidbit doesn’t resonate with today’s professional athletes nothing will.

Ron Paul: Fairly impressive athletic resume when compared to the other characters in the race. He was the Pennsylvania state champion in the 220-yard dash and finished 2nd in the 440-yard dash in high school. Given those distances that must have been a long time ago since I’ve never heard of races at that distance. Rumor has it, Paul had a track scholarship but due to an injury he figured it would be prudent not to take the risk. He also competed in wrestling, football and baseball.

Mitt Romney: He has the best chance of relating to the lifestyle of an elite professional athlete. His net worth is estimated to be between $190M and $250M. You know you have a lot of money when the gap between the low end and high end is $60M. Romney did have a successful run as CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. From all accounts Salt Lake did a great job hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics and Romney gets some credit since he took over after it was determined the previous regime was corrupt.

Tom Tancredo: He taught junior high school before selling out and becoming a politician. A lot of junior high teachers are known to coach so maybe Tancredo did some of that. He is known for his hard-line stance on immigration so you have to figure he is a huge fan of Team USA at the Olympics or any other international competition.

Fred Thompson: After high school he worked nights at a bicycle assembly plant. This isn’t really the same as competing in the Tour de France but what else can you expect from an actor. Thompson had a role in Necessary Roughness (also starring Kathy Ireland, who was in the SI Swimsuit Issue a time or two) and Days of Thunder. Not exactly the makings of a decathlete here.

The Pick: Needless to say this group is much more impressive from an athletic standpoint than the Democrats. I get the impression that some of these guys have actually played sports during their lives. Since The OpinionSmith values winning more than just participating the choice is Ron Paul. He actually won a high school state championship. I love the fact that he knows how to win and that he did it in an individual event. There was no relying on teammates for Paul, just relying on his fast-twitch muscles.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Democratic Hopefuls

The research has been done and consider yourself lucky. I am letting you in on how The OpinionSmith selects candidates from both parties. Without further ado here are the Donkeys.

Joe Biden: What is it with these East Coast lawyer types? Again, no mention of sports which makes voting for him impossible. In his first Senate election he beat J. Caleb Boggs. Wade Boggs, not sure if related, was quite a baseball player and even more of a legend when the liquor cabinet was involved. Biden also worked to pass a bill that made androstenedione illegal. I wonder what “worked” means. Does it mean he voted against it or actually laid some of the groundwork for the bill?

Hillary Clinton: Apparently she participated in tennis and other sports as a kid. Not exactly the most impressive sports resume. She certainly can relate to the career path of a middle reliever having been raised in Illinois and claiming Arkansas, Washington, D.C. and New York as home.

Chris Dodd: Dodd isn’t much of an athlete. If he really is he can thank his Wikipedia page for mentioning his athletic prowess exactly zero times. I really had to connect-the-dots to make mention of sports with this guy. He attended Georgetown Prep in Bethesda, MD. Since it is an all boys school you have to figure the school is a sports power. Since it’s a preppy East Coast school G Prep probably dominates crew, which isn’t all that impressive.

John Edwards: He was a football star in high school, which isn’t a surprise at all. With his charm and good looks you have to figure he was the James Van Der Beek from Varsity Blues at his own school. During his schooling Edwards attended three ACC schools (Clemson, NCSU, UNC). I’m guessing when he talks of two Americas he’s referring to his type (uber-rich) and the ‘poor’ folk he befriended at public universities.

Mike Gravel: Apparently he is a candidate. I saw him at the first debate and thought he was a paid actor trying to make the debate exciting. He drove a taxicab during college so he might be the choice of liberal NASCAR fans. I say fans but would be surprised if it was even a fan.

Dennis Kucinich: He was a third-string varsity quarterback in high school. I admit to respecting his honesty. He could have pulled a Richardson and said he was a Notre Dame recruit. Kucinich is vegan so his disdain for Michael Vick must be as high as anyone else’s. My love for meat (I know this makes me an evil Neanderthal but I have to be honest) makes voting for him unlikely.

Barack Obama: During his much-publicized childhood he spent time in Indonesia and Hawaii. I suppose this means he may have spent some time on a surfboard. He did play basketball in high school and continues to play. Obama claims to be a good poker player but I don’t consider that a sport so it factors very little into whether I pick him. Plus, who doesn’t say they are good at poker? If you have played poker against 3 friends and won the pot you say you are good. Lastly, Obama’s dad is Kenyan. Kenyans are phenomenal distance runners so if Obama decided to quit smoking (not a very athletic thing to do) he may become quite the runner.

Bill Richardson: Like many boys growing up Richardson played baseball in high school. Unlike many boys Richardson was selected in the baseball draft. Well, he said he was drafted. It turns out they keep track of such things and there is no record of a Bill Richardson being drafted. It’s easy to relate to someone that remembers his playing days fondly (though not quite to the level of lying about being drafted) so you might be able to relate to Richardson.

The Pick: The OpinionSmith has to go with Bill Richardson. I love recounting my days as a prep baseball prodigy. I batted .500 senior year (1 for 2) and definitely would have been drafted if I had wanted to be. It’s just that I wanted to move on with life and subject myself to college courses. Other factors that likely explain why I wasn’t drafted were that I peaked in my freshman and sophomore seasons, broke my thumb both years of varsity and was stuck behind someone currently playing AA ball for the Indians.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Mitchell Report

Just when I was getting ready to put the finishing touches on my presidential choices former Senator George Mitchell got behind the mic and released his findings. I didn't take the time to read the 400+ pages. For me, The Mitchell Report is of interest because I wanted to see the names. When I saw that over 80 names were included I felt I should see which team had the most accusers. What I did was use the fine statistical resource, Baseball-Reference, to find out which teams each player listed has played for over the course of his career. This only includes team played for through the 2007 season. I realize that in many cases the player may not have used performance enhancing drugs while on the team but go along with me here. It was hard enough trying to chart all of the names and teams, let alone read The Mitchell Report and figure out when they supposedly took the drugs. Now, I did not double-check the teams I marked for each and every player so it's reasonable to assume there are some inaccuracies. I assume the numbers to be fairly accurate though. Without any further ado, here is the list:

22 NYY
18 BAL
12 FLA, KC
4 CHI(A)

It certainly made my day when I counted the tallies and the Yankees showed up at the top. My disdain for the Yankees is obvious so I was fired up to see they have paid more players on the list to wear their uniform than any other team. To be honest the teams that suprised me most were the Mets, Giants and A's. I figured since the Mets former clubhouse slappy, Kirk Radomski, and BALCO (located in the Bay Area) were major players in this saga that those teams would be leading the charge. I didn't do anymore statistical analysis than what is shown above but a quick glance at the list does tell me one thing, I think. The top part of the list is dominated by teams along the East and West Coasts. The bottom of the list seems to consist of teams in between. I'm not sure what this means but it is interesting.

The only thing I conclude from the names provided is that performance enhancing drugs were a big deal in baseball. There is no way this is close to an exhaustive list of names. If somehow we had access to all the names that ever cheated in this way it wouldn't surprise me if every team had just about the same number of offenders.

My last point on The Mitchell Report is that no matter how much people want to bad mouth MLB for steroids and this report at least they are doing something. Everyone wants to pile on MLB for turning a blind eye and putting this report together without subpoena power. I ask you, what's the NFL doing? Players are being suspended on a weekly basis and when they return it's as if nothing happened. Whenever Barry Bonds plays all the announcers can talk about is steroids. When Rodney Harrison plays all they talk about is how much he loves the game. When Shawne Merriman plays all they talk about is how dominant he is and that he has really cool commercials.

Whether the media, public or both has forced MLB's hand I can't say. You never see MLB praising the virtues of its players that have tested positive. If the NFL doesn't watch out they are going to wish they learned from the backlash MLB received from steroids. Since the NFL is the most arrogant pro league in American sports they probably won't. They will feel really foolish when it happens because they had MLB's debacle as a chance to learn a lesson.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

In The Works

In the next couple of days I will be rolling out my latest investigative work. Since it’s getting close to the presidential primaries it is appropriate for The OpinionSmith to make known its picks. After analyzing the field for both the Republican and Democratic parties I chose one from each that best fits the ideals of The OpinionSmith. It is expected that if you are registered to vote and plan to do so in your state primary that you will choose the candidate recommended.

I looked at the race, not from an issues perspective, but from a sports perspective. My research has shown that some of the candidates have more, and in some cases far more, interests in athletics. For each of the candidates I went to his/her Wikipedia page to get the information. It was impossible to find out if any of these characters had a sporting past or present by looking at official campaign websites. Those sites spent their time on immigration, the economy, foreign relations and other issues that The OpinionSmith doesn’t care about.

It is understood that Wikipedia is not the end all source of factual evidence. For this reason I made sure that the information I used was cited and from a reputable source. I would not recommend going to each of the candidates’ Wikipedia pages unless you are incredibly bored. To save you time I will let you know about the candidates. Let’s see: a childhood of privilege, young adult years spent in prestigious law schools and adulthood selling their souls to their respective political party’s devil. A couple of these candidates do not fit this profile but they are the exception, not the rule. Just thank me for doing the legwork later. In summary, without sports I would have no chance to relate to any of them. Thankfully sports allow me to relate to this bunch so I’ll let you in on what I found in the coming days.

(Photo of White House from Ben's Guide.)

Born in 1938

Video games have never been that big of a deal to me. We never had video games when I was growing up. In elementary school I begged for a Sega Game Gear but not hard enough. It’s just as well, I always had to be outside playing sports anyway. My big video game moment happened in middle school. My mom, sister and I waited in line during the wee hours of the morning at Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving. It was the day that Nintendo 64 was released. So of course, we waited in that line to buy Super Nintendo because it was super cheap. It was hilarious because there was a mad rush for the electronics department and my sister and I were the only ones jacked to see the Super Nintendo pile. In the 10+ years since my family has yet to buy another system.

Well, those days of never being that impressed/enamored with video games may be coming to an end. My wife and I had the pleasure of playing Wii Fitness. It was a lot of fun. I certainly was not any better at the Wii than any other video game system but I had a great time playing it. After playing a little bit of tennis, baseball and bowling the Nintendo Wii calculated my skill level to be that of a 69-year-old. Yeah, I thought of all the jokes too! I have no idea how the age was calculated. The thing about the Wii that made it fun for me was that I could run around the living room and prove that I was a top-notch athlete. I may have slipped and fell over the ottoman once or twice but I could care less.

What was difficult for me to handle was that my wife performed as a 46-year-old would. Only in video game land could a pregnant lady be that much more athletic than I! The 23-year difference can be attributed to bowling, which I found outrageous. She smoked me in that but I did very well in the home run derby in relation. That is the last of the complaining you’ll hear from me. The next time I play I will score better than my wife!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

No Heisman For Dixon

It was announced yesterday that Dennis Dixon is not a finalist for the most prestigious individual award in all of sports, the Heisman Trophy. Given that Dixon did not play in the final 2.75 games it is not a surprise that he isn’t a finalist but it is kind of sad. Before Dixon went down in Tucson he seemed to be the clear front-runner for the award. Unfortunately, it appears missing the last part of the season really hurt Dixon’s chances. I had no expectation that Dixon would win but was hoping he would at least be invited as a finalist.

As I understand, there are no real criteria for voting on the award. Sometimes voters pick the best player overall, most valuable or best player on a top team. The award has almost exclusively been given to offensive players though that technically is not required. As the last part of the Ducks season has shown Dixon would clearly be the winner if it was given to the most valuable player.

Another thing that hurt Dixon was that he was such a darkhorse coming into the season and through the first half of the season. Even the most diehard of Duck fans, local TV announcers come to mind, questioned whether or not he should have been the starter after spending 7 weeks of the summer playing baseball. It’s hard for a guy that even the Duck homers won’t get behind to have a pre-season Heisman campaign.

In the end, the biggest factor in Dixon not being invited to New York was not that he was injured or that some of the biggest Duck fans felt he should be benched for playing baseball. It was that he came from out of nowhere to contend for the Heisman. Imagine if Dixon had been the favorite for the award for the entire off-season and then played as he did. He most certainly would have been a part of the final discussion even after getting hurt. Since no one had anything invested in Dixon’s campaign (financial, emotional or otherwise) it was far easier for voters to dismiss Dixon once he got hurt. Whether that’s right or not, that’s for you to decide.

(Photo of Dennis Dixon from George Sakuma/AP.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Broncos Finally Win

It has been an extremely difficult and disappointing season for the Broncos. It has become so bad that Tuesday was the best day of the season as far as I can tell. Travis Henry won his appeal of a positive drug test and will not be suspended. Now that the season is practically over for the Broncos it is nice to know that Henry will be with the team for the remainder of this season. More importantly, Henry should be in the backfield next year when the Broncos totally redeem themselves.

Back to the drug test debacle. I realize this may be a surprise to some but I am not a doctor so I don’t know all of the medical jargon associated with the drug test. I do know that Henry tested positive for elevated levels of something. When the story first broke Henry claimed the test was not valid because he did not smoke pot and he did not have representation present at the test. What I like about this case is that Henry and the Broncos showed that they weren’t going to let the NFL run all over them. Too many times the players are treated like expendable assets by the league. Maybe this will inspire other players to stand up to the big, bad NFL.

A little known piece of this story that I heard on the radio a couple of weeks ago was that Broncos coach Mike Shanahan had Henry take a lie-detector test. Shanahan said that he believed Henry’s story but wanted a lie-detector test to be taken to prove it to everyone else. If Henry failed the test Shanahan said he was going to cut Henry. Well, Henry passed the test, did whatever he had to do to dispute the positive drug test and is not going to be suspended. I’m not sure who Henry’s lawyer is but if he can give the NFL the middle finger I think he is going to be quite busy representing other athletes in the future. As a Broncos fan I’ve had very little to get excited about this year. Given that, this certainly counts as something to get fired up about.

In entirely unrelated news: How does one manage front row seats at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show? A legitimate answer may even top the news of Henry avoiding suspension.

(Photo of Travis Henry from AP.)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Was That The NBA?

Just finished watching the Monday Night Football game against Baltimore and New England and all I can think is that David Stern has had a hand in preparing NFL officials. It sucks for the NFL that they want an undefeated team so badly because all of a sudden they started calling every play against the Ravens. On the Patriots final drive they converted a couple of 4th downs, well saying they converted them would be too generous. The referees decided after 59:30 of tough, hard-nosed football that they were going to call every ticky-tack foul they could. The most egregious penalty was on 4th and 5 from the 13. A touch by a Baltimore defender was called holding and as I watch the highlights on ESPN it’s no wonder they didn’t show a replay on the worst holding call of the weekend. If the NFL routinely called plays as closely as this one each game would average 40-45 penalties. I could have sworn I was watching David Stern’s referees directly change the outcome of games with selective penalty enforcement.

I definitely was not the only one that thought the referees decided they needed to do their part to keep the Patriots undefeated. After the Patriots scored on a catch that certainly could have been overruled but wasn’t, Bart Scott of the Ravens accumulated 30 yards in penalties. The referees called an unsportsmanlike penalty on Scott so he picked the flag up and threw it in the crowd. I thought it was great because it showed how much emotion the Ravens defense played with and how unfortunate it was that the referees would play such a crucial role in the game.

Championship Weekend In Review

This last weekend was a big weekend for college football. As has been expected this season the #1 and #2 teams lost so the BCS was flipped upside down. Let’s just hope that this time the BCS is such a mess that they have no other choice but to implement a playoff-type system. No matter how small it will be better than what is being done at this point. With all of the big games my mind was racing.

The Civil War: The Ducks have found every way to top the pain of the previous week’s loss this past month. Each week I thought there was no way a loss could hurt more but each week I have been wrong. You will not find me making any excuses for the loss against the Beavers given the fact that the opportunity was there for a win. Everyone knows that if the game was played a month ago it would not have been close but it wasn’t played then so there is no need to whine about it. My one observation concerns the OSU defense. Coming into the game I was worried because statistically the OSU defense was as good as any in the nation (USC included). Well, after seeing them play against a shell of the UO offense I can only come to one conclusion. They are words spoken by a person smarter than I. “Statistics don’t lie, but you can lie with statistics.” When it comes to the OSU defense truer words have never been spoken.

Hawai’i: Since Hawai’i has been on TV quite a few times I have been able to see a lot of their games. Given all that was riding on their game against Washington I felt it appropriate that I watch the entire game. Well, if I were the god of a college football playoff there would have to be at least 32 teams in the tournament before I’d consider putting them in it. Washington was the only BCS conference team Hawai’i played all season. They were clearly the best team Hawai’i played all season. (Don’t anyone tell me Boise State is better because Washington dominated them.) Since Washington is part of the Pac-10 I have seen quite a bit of them and know that they are not a good team. If the only game you’d seen Washington play was their last one you might think differently. Hawai’i made Washington look like a Top 10 team if you believe Hawai’i is any good. Hawai’i was playing at home in the biggest game in their school’s history and they needed a questionable illegal pass by Washington QB Jake Locker (he’s going to be very good), a last minute touchdown and a last play stop after Washington drove the length of the field in 20 seconds. There was nothing impressive about the Hawai’i victory. There’s a chance that Hawai’i gives Georgia a game but it will do nothing to change my opinion about a WAC team being any good. If the conference’s biggest teams think they are big time because they play Washington they are mistaken. Given a month’s time to prepare any team can pull out an upset. It’s something else to actually play 3 good teams in a month (not in a player’s 5-year playing career), which WAC teams never do.

Weak Schedules: While on the topic of lame schedules I figure it’s a good time to talk about Ohio State. Last year, when USC was cleaning up in the Pac-10 I came to the following conclusion: There is no reason to have a competitive conference if a team plays a tough non-conference schedule. In fact, I think teams should root for their conference to be poor. It makes it a whole lot easier to shoot up the rankings (see Hawai’i or Ohio State). When talking about Ohio State a wise man once compared them to “qualifying for the U.S. Open by playing a par-3 golf course.” I find it funny, true and sad all at the same time. Now I can only conclude that the theory of playing a tough non-conference schedule is overrated too. Ohio State has proven there is no benefit to playing tough teams when the other option is to create a schedule that all but guarantees an undefeated season. The fact that Ohio State couldn’t even go undefeated is likely quite embarrassing but not nearly as embarrassing as getting pounded in the BCS Championship for the second year in a row.

No BCS for ASU: Last week on the radio Lou Holtz commended the Pac-10 for playing a round-robin league schedule. When the NCAA allowed for 12 regular season games the Pac-10 was the only conference that added a league game instead of a cupcake. Kansas coach Mark Mangino likes cupcakes on his schedule and dinner plate. In fact, I think he likes them on his breakfast and lunch plate too but I can’t confirm that. Back to Lou Holtz. He said that if it comes down to a Pac-10 team and a team from another conference a Pac-10 team should be chosen. Note that Holtz didn’t define it but you have to figure he was talking about BCS-type decisions. I thought Lou Holtz had a great point. So you know, it didn’t change my opinion of him since I already love him having grown up on Notre Dame football! With all of that said I don’t think ASU was screwed by the BCS. The Pac-10 didn’t deserve multiple BCS bids. Notre Dame (an epically bad team) only won 3 games, 2 of which were against Pac-10 teams. Need I say more.

Bowl Eligible: I do not get paid to watch or analyze college football but maybe I should. The people that do are complete morons. Does anyone really think that comparing how many bowl eligible teams are on a team’s schedule is a reasonable way to determine whose schedule is more challenging? If you have a brain you can’t. I’ve already explained how teams create non-conference schedules. As a reminder, teams create non-conference schedules to mirror Mark Mangino’s diet. Now the other piece of this pie (Mark Mangino probably likes pie too) is that a team only needs to be 6-6 to be bowl eligible. It doesn’t take a math major to realize that a team that is not from the Pac-10 only needs to win 2 conference games to be bowl eligible. There is nothing about bowl eligibility that impresses me and the media pundits need to realize this. In summary, a team can win its first 4 games then win 2 of its next 8 to be bowl eligible. Very impressive!