Thursday, January 6, 2005

Orange Bowl, The NHL Lockout, and Wild Card Weekend

OK, the week that was in sports.

Orange Bowl

I thought Oklahoma would go in there and blow away USC, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one. The Sooners blew out almost everyone and seemed to be on a mission to get back and win what they think they should have won last year. What happened in the game completely shocked me, and it wasn't just because I got to watch the game on my friend's new HDTV set. USC was the faster team *and* the team that wanted to win more. It wasn't that the Sooners weren't trying, though. The problem was they fell behind, which they hadn't done that early at any point this season, and panicked.

You know what happens to a playground bully when someone actually punches them? That's what Oklahoma looked like in the game. Hopefully, Bob Stoops has learned his lesson about blowing teams out, but I doubt it. He's as stubborn as his mentor, Steve Superior...um..Spurrier.

Since the halftime show is getting more run than the game, I will address it briefly. Ashlee Simpson's handlers are killing her. Their first mistake was telling her she should be a rock star rather than a pop star, because backing tracks are acceptable practice in pop music. Their next mistake was not calling it quits after the SNL incident. I guess the parents needed a new Mercedes and the Orange Bowl paycheck was too good to turn down.

NHL Labor Situation

TSN, the Canadian version of ESPN, is reporting that the owners have cancelled a meeting where they would have voted cancelled the season. It's probably delaying the inevitable, but at least it gives them a chance to maybe negotiate once more.

I'm going to talk about this situaton once, and not again until they reach a deal. I don't like either side. But the players make me more mad than the owners in this situation. They have no perspective. These pampered athletes demand millions of dollars for playing a game when many people I know are under the constant threat of losing their jobs to downsizing and outsourcing, and others can't make enough to get by. The only people who deserve to make even close to a million dollars (because they have the most important job) are school teachers. Period. End of story. Athletes don't deserve a dime and they should be happy someone is actually letting them play sports beyond college. It's a privelege to play pro sports, not a right.

What's worse though is that the Players Association suppresses the free speech of it's members. You remember free speech right? That right in the U.S. (and Canada) that allows us to say what we think? Well, NHL veteran Rob Ray got his strike pay wiped out for merely suggesting that he was going to cross the picket line and similar players who have made statements critical of the union have "revised their statements" after getting calls from the union. I don't care what contract you signed, you have the right to be critical of the people negotiating on your behalf.

But I'd rather talk about solutions, and the owners and players need look no further than the other winter sports league for a good compromise. Yes, as much as I hate the NBA, they have the only salary cap that satisfies everyone's interest, owners, players, and fans. The NBA exempts the full salary of star players and a part of the salary of veterans. They also tax the big spenders who try to load their teams with good players. The star players get what they think they deserve (which is actually more than they deserve, but there's no perfect world), the owners make money, the veterans get to play a little longer that they would under a hard cap, and the fans get to see their favorite players for years.

This could be done in the NHL (with a extra exemption for the starting goalie) if the players would just listen to a proposal that contains a salary cap. (And yes, this means the owners are going to have to give up the demand for a hard salary cap, but this would be a better solution than no cap or a luxury tax).

I know the NHL players proposed a luxury tax, but I've been following the baseball winter meetings and it's pretty clear that the luxury tax isn't a solution. The Oakland A's, which every pro-union supporter points to as an example of a competitive team in a luxury tax league, is having to trade it's best starting pitcher because they can't afford him as a free agent, and may do the same with it's other starters. Plus, baseball's luxury tax hasn't deterred the Yankees, Red Sox, or Orioles from driving up the free agent market and forcing the mid-market Astros to overpay for Carlos Beltran (Yes, I said "overpay". For what he's going to make he should be able to throw a 100 mph fastball left-handed and have a wicked curve and change-up rather than play centerfield) There's your luxury tax in action, union sympathizers.

By the way, A friend of mine on Avalancheboard.com complained that I wasn't ever going to talk hockey, hmm...

Wild Card Weekend

The story line of the NFL's Wild Card Weekend seems to be rematches, which is always fun because there's an element of revenge involved that makes the game more watchable than normal...

  • St Louis at Seattle (Saturday 3:30 PM Central on ABC) - ... except when it's this matchup which pairs two underacheivers. What makes this game interesting, if you like soap operas, is that both teams are in locker room turmoil and both coaches are on the hot seat. Except that the winning coach may only delay the inevitable by a week. The last two meetings were both sloppy, mistake-prone, and won by the Rams and there's nothing that suggests this one will go any differently. Oh, and I don't like soap operas, so I'm going to mow the lawn while waiting for...
  • New York Jets at San Diego (Saturday 7:00 Central on ABC) - This matchup is a re-match of the Week 2 meeting between these two clubs, both of which have gone in different directions since. The Jets have played mediocre football, and the Chargers have played great. Both teams can run the football and play defense, which promises to keep this game close. What will win it for the Chargers, however, is Drew Brees. He's healthy and Chad Pennington isn't.
  • Denver at Indianapolis (Sunday, noon Central on CBS) - It would have been bad enough had one of the Broncos only said something to fire up Indianapolis. Unfortunately, John Lynch had to knockout Dallas Clark, and as we all know, "actions speak louder than words." That hit was worth more bulletin board material than any quote in a paper, and you know Indy's going to come out fired up. Plus, Jake Plummer will find a defender open at some point and launch the ball his way. You know it will happen. I like Indianapolis in this one.
  • Minnesota at Green Bay (Sunday, 3:00 Central on Fox) - Granted, The Frozen Tundra isn't the home field advantage it used to be and Brett Favre has reverted to his younger days where he tries to make plays himself and ends up throwing picks instead. Still, I can't see how Minnesota, which backed into the playoffs and tanked another late season game, is suddenly going to show the character needed to win this game. Green Bay wins.

Accentuate the positive

Kudos to Jermaine O'Neal, Pau Gasol, Tracy McGrady, Jalen Rose, Bob Sura, and Mike Miller, who are donating $1,000 per point scored in games last night and tonight toward to tsunami disaster relief.

Have a good weekend, and see you all Monday

Monday: Wild Card Recap


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