Posted on: February 16, 2012 3:30 pm
 

The Stanley Cup Playoffs: Why I love them.

As we sit here in mid-February, many are looking forward to the men's NCAA basketball tournament or March Madness which is set to begin in about a month.  While highly exciting in its own right, there is another tournament which begins shortly after the hoops are done in early April.  This tournament receives less fanfare here in America, but I personally enjoy it more than March Madness.  By the title of the entry you know I am referring to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Hockey has the most parity of any of the four major North American sports.  It is truly the case that any NHL can defeat any other NHL team on a given night.  Just a quick glance at the standings right now show how contentious the playoff race is..only the Blue Jackets and possibly Edmonton are totally out of it at this point.  Once a team makes that top 8 and secures a playoff berth, they can become hot and outplay their regular season record.  

For example, in 2006 the 8th seeded Edmonton Oilers made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final as Western Conference champions.  They started their improbable run by defeating the mighty Red Wings, winners of the President's Trophy for best regular season record, and who were thought to be unbeatable.  The Oilers came within one game of the Cup that year, losing to Carolina in 7 games.  Just two years ago the Flyers (a 7 seed) advanced to the Final.  Any team who has solid goalie play and a balanced offense can catch fire come playoff time.

In addition, hockey is the sport in which statistically home advantage means the least..the last four Stanley Cups were won on road ice.  Aside from the rare crowd eruptions due to goals and big hits, the home ice advantage is almost effectively neutralized as the players just focus on finishing their shifts hard like they've done all the way through juniors.  Close contests and wins on the road are much more common in this game than other sports, which further enhances the unpredictable and fun aspect.

I encourage anyone new to the sport of hockey to give the playoffs a chance this year.  They are a source of exciting and gripping play, with one goal and OT games on the docket almost every night.  Series sweeps are very rare, with the majority of series going 6 or 7 games.  The more hockey is exposed here in America, the more people seem to like it.  It is my hope that sooner rather than later the mainstream sports media will give hockey the attention it deserves..and not a mere mention in passing on Sportscenter.

Category: NHL
Posted on: July 14, 2011 1:37 am
 

Losing a Friend

Sadly, losing those who are close to us is a part of life we all have to deal with.  A good friend may be taken before their time, or even if they live out a full and healthy life it hurts just the same.  I’ve lost acquaintances over the years, but only a handful of friends; I guess you could call me lucky, but I am young enough at 28 to know that there is more heartache to come.  It’s just something we have to deal with.

About five years ago, I was of the opinion that one could not meet a person over the internet and become a true friend with them.  That all changed.  I am saddened to report the loss of one of my very dear friends, Trudy Turner, who you may know better here at CBS as

Mopsele


In January of 2007, I stumbled across a thread here called the “All Friends Bar & Grill” and Mopsele, Mops as we called her, was one of the mainstays.  I only later found out she was a southern lady, and the classiest one you will ever find at that.  Mops had the kindest, gentlest soul I have ever encountered here, or arguably out in the face to face world too.  She would treat anyone with dignity and respect so long as they deserved it, but had a mighty strong backbone too.  She was not afraid to speak her mind and tell trolls to leave the rest of us alone.

When I first heard of Mops’ illness a few months back I was distraught, but also deeply touched by the outreach of everyone and anyone who knew her.  We all pitched in to help her fight, whether through prayer, phone calls, or even a special radio show.  We have all spiraled into a deep depression upon hearing the news of her passing.  Yet, I know that she has entered a better place where she is free from pain and all of her earthly physical limitations, looking down on her B&G with pride, and that makes me happy.

After meeting such great people like Mops and countless others here on CBS, I call bullplop on the “You can’t develop close relationships with those you meet online” argument.  But, some have just not been as lucky as I, to come upon a place where you are welcomed and respected..and even yes loved, by your peers.  My thoughts and prayers go out to Trudy’s widow Willie, I can’t imagine the pain he is going through right now.

In closing, I invite all who read this blog to visit Mops’ home, the All Friends Bar & Grill.  It is on the off topic board, always near the top.  I also invite anyone to share their personal experiences of loss, that it may bring you comfort to express your pain.  You never truly get over the loss of a friend, but hopefully in time the realization sets in that he or she wouldn’t want you to fret over their death, but move forward and seek happiness in your own life.  God bless.



Category: General
Posted on: May 30, 2011 1:32 pm
 

So, a College Coach Resigned Today...

Yes you may have heard of him, Jim Tressel who spent ten seasons at my alma mater Ohio State.  After all of the NCAA allegations and impending sanctions a part of me felt that this was the only way for the situation to end, but especially after hearing that Tress had hired on a prominant attorney I was a bit surprised on today's news.  I have mixed feelings about the situation and indeed about the coach himself.

On the one hand I am upset with him for having brought about the worst scrutiny and negative attention our football program has ever seen.  We are in the news for all the wrong reasons, and while that seems to delight a good number of college football fans, it isn't fun for a die hard Buckeye as you can imagine.  I also realize that the problems don't all sit on Tressel.  The players had to know that the NCAA is out for blood these days and even the most innocent infractions are reported.  I find it hard to believe that selling off gold pants and trading memorabilia for tattoos was seen as okay by a majority of these young men, they were just too immature to care about it and had no idea the extent of the ramifications to come.

I can only hope that going forward tOSU takes this bump in the road as a strong lesson and keeps their integrity intact.  I will remember Jim Tressel as a great coach and leader, a passionate person who cared a bit too much about his players to report their wrongdoing when it needed reporting. 

As time goes on I believe that his legacy will be written about successful seasons and a national title, not tattoos..much like Woody's legacy is about much more than a punch.  Luke Fickell will be coming in to run the show this season on an interim basis, an experienced defensive mind who will be prepared for the job.  I think the program will be in good hands and I for one am ready for September 3rd and the kickoff.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: March 13, 2011 8:52 pm
 

Blitz's Bracket Bonanza..how far can tOSU go?

Well the brackets were released tonight as we know and there were a few surprises along with some glaring omissions.  I will discuss my thoughts of what strikes me in each region as a whole briefly and then get in to specific Buckeye talk.

East

Clearly to me the toughest bracket, anchored by tOSU.  I had thought that Villanova would pose as a major "uh oh" 8 or 9 seed for whoever the number 1 was and sure enough it is my boys.  They have been underachieving recently for sure but are capable of playing more like a 3 or 4 seed.  Plus the more than a week of rest will likely have them fresh and ready to go.  Not that I don't think tOSU can beat them, but they would take a lot out of them, more so than an 8 or 9 should.  I am pulling for Mason here.

Kentucky looks good to make the Sweet 16, and have been on a roll as of late.  Keep an eye on Clemson if they beat UAB in the play-in..they have a chance to take WVU to the limit.

Xavier is underrated, and that Marquette game should be a dandy.  Washington could give UNC a struggle if they both survive their openers..but all in all Syracuse stands out to me as the biggest threat in the bottom half of the region.


West

Duke looked good today, but I think is the least secure of the #1 seeds.  Michigan or Tennessee could give them a ballgame, but I will still advance them into the regional semis.  UConn, SDSU, Zona or Texas could all pose formidable threats to them in Anaheim.

Mizzou and Cincy have both been hot n' cold teams..I am struggling with that choice.  Oakland-Texas is an interesting upset game, not sure whether I'll pull the trigger or not.  Oakland has experience playing with the big boys though, as they came close to taking out Michigan and MSU and did beat Tennessee.

PSU has a surprisingly good shot at the Sweet 16, depending on which SDSU team shows up.  I won't pick it, but it wouldn't floor me either.


Southwest

The second #1 seed Kansas has roost in this region, and they have a great chance to make the Elite 8 or further.  UNLV-Illinois..can I flip a coin?  I see Vandy and Louisville making the round of 32 and am toying with idea of giving the Commodores the nod.  Either way, should be some good hoops in the top half.

Purdue doesn't strike me as a team with their heads in the right places for tournament play..I think the Hoyas are capable of winning a close game in the second round. 

Notre Dame impresses me..I would have been fine with them getting a #1 seed over my second love, Pitt.  But they are a 2 here and can make some noise.  They will defeat either G'Town or Purdue and advance to the regional finals, where I just might select them over the Jayhawks.


Southeast

The aforementioned Panthers of Pitt headline this region.  There are a few threats to their trip to Houston..in the top half either KSU or Wisconsin could give them a struggle, more likely the Wildcats in my mind.  Belmont is one of the top "under the radar" teams and will test the Badgers' mettle at the very least.  I try to avoid picking too many upsets but this one is screaming at me like Oakland over the Longhorns out West..we shall see.

St. John's were the real surprise in the Big East and I see them topping the Zags and then the BYU Cougars who are sans-Davies, their leading rebounder.  Florida may be a bit high on the 2-line, but should be able to handle MSU or UCLA. 

I really became a fan of the Red Storm this year, so I will go out on a limb and match them up with Pitt in the Elite 8.  The Big East would love that one.  KSU could make a run to the Final Four themselves though.


Ohio State's Chances

As I said to open, I think the East is a barn-burner of a bracket.  The top four teams could make anyone's Final Four list.  I think tOSU can match up favorably with any of them if they stay out of foul trouble and keep the excellent perimeter shooting going.  They need to be more assertive and force other teams to play to their pace.

At the end of the day I likely will choose the Buckeyes as my champions, as I think they have as good a shot as anyone in the country.  It will hardly be a steel-trap lock though.  One thing is certain, if they do make it to Houston they will be more than ready to square off with the winners of the other regions because it will have likely required wins over Villanova, Kentucky, and Syracuse or North Carolina.

Let the Madness begin!  Should be a great few weeks.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 7, 2011 5:28 pm
 

An Open Note to All Packer Fans...

...congrats, from a die-hard Steelers fan. 

Your's was the better team from the opening whistle.  The Steelers had a good amount of Super Bowl experience compared to the Pack (only two players on their roster had ever played in a Super Bowl game), yet it was Green Bay who rose to occasion and made the plays they had to make.  The Steelers had too many costly turnovers and failed to force even one from the other side, which proved to be the difference maker.  That all being said, I was very proud of how my boys overcame all of their early mistakes and made a great game of it at the end.  It just wasn't enough to topple a great football team in the Packers who played fantastically well throughout the playoffs.

Green Bay has always been my favorite team from the NFC, and I have a great deal of respect for them.  I always wanted to see this Super Bowl matchup since my childhood, and we came very close a couple of times in the mid-to-late 90's.  After the '95 season, the Steelers qualified for the big game but faced the Cowboys who had defeated the Pack two weeks before.  Then two years later, Green Bay qualified for Super Bowl XXXII but the Steelers faltered to John Elway and the Broncos in the AFC Championship.

I got the matchup I wanted thirteen years later, and did it ever live up to the hype.  The loss stings quite a bit don't get me wrong, but I have had a lot of fun in the past six years as a Steelers fan and you need to take the tough losses in order to truly appreciate the big wins.  The Packers sit alone now for fourth place in Lombardis with four (and as we all know, own the most championships overall).  With the young nucleus they have in place they could be a formidable threat for years to come.  I hope to see a rematch in the Super Bowl someday between our two proud franchises.

Once again, congratulations to Cheeseheads everywhere..you've waited quite a while for trophy #4, and with the path you took to get through the playoffs on the road as the #6 seed, you definitely deserve this one.

Category: NFL
Posted on: December 6, 2010 3:26 pm
 

Sugar Bowl Thoughts

It’s official now: Ohio State to play Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl the night of January 4th.  I think a great deal of Buckeye fans myself included wanted another shot at the almighty SEC who currently own an 8-0 record over us in bowl games.  This will be an important matchup for both teams as tOSU obviously wants to end the streak and the Razorbacks want to establish themselves as an elite SEC school.  A BCS win would work wonders for their recruiting.

Some of the keys to the game:

Arkansas struggles a bit defending the run, and Tress must establish the two-headed monster of Herron and Saine early and often.  Don’t force Pryor to make the plays all by himself.

It seems obvious, but it is imperative to get pressure on Ryan Mallett to force him out of the pocket.  tOSU has some All-America caliber defensive backs but they will be worked all day.  Some big plays are inevitable, but we need to do a better job at getting the gunslinger uncomfortable than LSU did.

Field position will be key if the Bucks hope to force the Hogs into their style of play.  Special teams will be important, and of course solid ball possession.

I think at the end of the day Ohio State has the capacity to win this one by a small margin, 28-24.  I think this game may steal the BCS show; best of luck to both teams and no injuries.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: August 30, 2010 9:01 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2010 9:01 pm
 

Predict the Steelers' Final Record in 2010

It will be interesting to see what Steelers fans and fans of other teams alike see in store for the black n’ gold in 2010.  It could be another subpar year by Steelers standards with all of the off the field issues we have been facing, but I see the opportunity for some good things to happen, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, provided they can stay healthy.

Without further ado, my predictions for the 2010 schedule:

9/12 vs. Atlanta – Win.   The Steelers can overcome a missing Big Ben and do business with the running game enough to take the Falcons’ defense to task.

9/19 at Tennessee – Loss.   If the team can contain CJ they may have a good opportunity for a win here, but I just don’t see it happening.  They could struggle to move the ball as well.

9/26 at Tampa Bay – Win.   Good things have been said about Josh Freeman, but he doesn’t have enough talent around him to get much done on our defense.  This is almost a sure thing.

10/3 vs. Baltimore – Loss.   The Ravens should be able to make enough plays when necessary to put pressure on Leftwich to keep pace.  The offense will have a hard time making plays on their veteran defensive unit, and will likely turn it over a time or two as well.

10/17 vs. Cleveland – Win. 
Roethlisberger’s glorious return (we expect it to be a 4-game suspension) after the bye week.  The Browns will prove a good opponent for him to get his timing back with the receivers.

10/24 at Miami – Win.   Iffy I know, as these teams look to be fairly even.  But the Steelers took care of business last year in South Beach without Troy Polamalu, and I think his presence is more valuable than a lone receiver (Marshall).  Steelers in a close one.

10/31 at New Orleans – Loss.   The past two world champions square off on SNF in what could be a wild affair.  Our secondary would do well to hold the Saints around 24-28 points and give an opportunity, but I don’t see it happening. 

11/8 at Cincinnati – Win. 
A good week for a bounceback contest within the division.  I see Palmer throwing a pick or two and hopefully the TO and Ocho sideshow has already hit the forefront by week 9.  The Bengals won’t have as good a defensive unit as a year ago.

11/14 vs. New England – Win.  Back home for the first time in a month and back on national prime time TV, the Steelers ride the momentum from last week to another close victory.  Call this one a hunch, but I think we are finally ready to beat these guys.

11/21 vs. Oakland – Win.   Memories of last year’s stunning defeat to the Raiders fresh in their heads, the Steelers avenge that loss here.  Oakland will be a better team however, so there won’t be any room for sloppiness.

11/28 at Buffalo – Win. 
The Bills won’t be able to match up; this and the Bucs game are about the only two I would bet the house on.

12/5 at Baltimore – Loss.  Riding a 4-game winning streak, the team once again meets their old foe.  I see the Ravens winning here at home and sweeping the series, much as it pains me to say so.

12/12 vs. Cincinnati – Loss.   A split in the series this year, really could have gone either way but I see with the schedule placement this game more likely as the loss following a tough Ravens matchup.

12/19 vs. NY Jets – Loss.  A lot of people are giving the Jets more credit than they deserve, but I feel that at this point they will have gelled and seen the playoff picture clearly in a tight race with the Pats.  They win but it won’t be easy.

12/23 vs. Carolina – Win.  Quick turnaround after a three-game losing streak, the team rebounds on Thursday night.  The defense should be able to give either Moore or Clausen enough fits to get the job done.

1/2 at Cleveland – Win.   Well rested and most likely in a close playoff chase, the Steelers stay focused and sweep the series with the Browns for the 6th time in 7 seasons.


That has the final record at 10-6.  I think this team will have some growing pains but will ultimately still be in the playoff conversation through week 17.  The Ravens are a rightful favorite in the division as it stands now, but I think a wild card is a distinct possibility.

Let me know what you all think, and it will be fun to see how close our predictions really are come the turning of the new year.

Go Steelers!!


Category: NFL
Tags: Steelers
 
Posted on: June 13, 2010 1:55 am
 

Re-introduce the tie to college football.

Okay, I haven’t really done a true “opinion” blog topic in awhile, so why not air my thoughts on something that has been bugging me for a long time.  A great and mighty tempest is brewing in college football which seems to be leading to the inevitable super conferences, with Texas truly expanding the definition of “Pacific.”  And as everyone clamors endlessly for a playoff (which I, too, would like to see implemented in the future), I have taken a more realistic approach to this issue by accepting that this radical change is nowhere in the immediate future.  It was suggested that the current BCS system may remain in place through 2040.  While I see that statement as a bit of a stretch, 2020 could be a distinct possibility.  This begs the question: what can the NCAA do NOW to increase the credibility of the BCS system and eliminate so many controversies that have plagued it in the past decade?

The answer, my friends, is simple.  Reinstate the tie to the college football rulebook, and eliminate overtime.

It is widely accepted that the overtime rules in both the NFL and NCAA are a farce.  In the pros, sudden death means over half the time, the coin flip decides the game; the winner will simply convert 2 or 3 first downs, kick a mid-range FG and go home.  In college, it is simply too ridiculously easy to score.  While the equal opportunity offense makes sense, it is extremely flawed in the NCAA.  Starting at your opponent’s 25 yard line, a team can kick a very makeable 42 yard FG without gaining an inch of territory.  How many times have we seen these games turn into 7, 8 OT marathons?  If overtime is to remain in place, the starting field position should be moved to the 50 yard line, but that’s another argument for another day.

Quite frankly, what brought this opinion of mine back to the forefront was a soccer match of all things: the United States vs. England, in the World Cup.  This game resulted in a 1-1 tie, but was it really a tie?  Obviously, one team (the US) can take a great deal more solace in this outcome than the English squad can.  The same would be true in college football.  If say, Eastern Michigan came into the Horseshoe this season and earned a tie with Ohio State, they would truly be the winners.

Think back to all those great matchups in the late 80’s and early 90’s before overtime was instituted.  Often the team with the final possession would score a touchdown while being down by 7 points, then face the gut-wrenching decision of going for the win or the tie.  If a team was in national title contention, this decision could speak volumes to where they played in January.  I believe the same could happen today, and it could eliminate much of the headaches associated with the BCS.  Many early season marquee non-conference matchups would likely fall into the tie category, as a coach with real aspirations would hesitate to gamble for a win when assured of a tie.  This team would still be officially undefeated, but whether it would be enough to land them in a major bowl game would remain to be seen.

It’s about time we make a return of authentic strategy to the college game.  Let a coach decide whether to go for broke or accept a tie.  At the very least, returning to the old way of doing things could clear up many conference title races, and it would almost assuredly help to clear what would be a muddled national title picture between 3-4 teams if OT was still in effect.

After reading my proposal, who in their right mind would be against bringing the tie back to NCAA football?

For those who are (and those who agree!!!), the floor is all yours.

Category: NCAAF
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com