The Honcho Awards, Mar. 22nd, 2011

Recovered enough to carry on, loyal Honchoans, thanks for asking. Am I too old to pretend this sort of activity doesn’t ruin my body for a week? Is this sore throat, cough, runny nose, and overall malaise/nausea a result of my weekend’s activities? It’s possible I suppose.

I don’t care. I’m doing it again next year.

Was I able to keep tabs on the sporting world while partaking in such debauchery? Of course. There’s an app for that.

And so, to our winners…

– Anthony Robles, who won the NCAA Championship this weekend for Arizona State at 125 pounds by defeating Iowa’s Matt McDonough. Oh, and as I’m sure you noticed from the photo, he did all this with one leg. One wonders, of course, whether it might be an advantage, in wrestling, to have only one leg. Fewer places to grab, greater overall strength at a lesser weight class (without the weight of the leg), contortionism that can’t be pulled off by others. Of course, there’s be disadvantages as well… any leverage based move would be tricky (leg sweeps, etc…), and staying on your feet would be much more difficult. I’m thinking it would be more a disadvantage overall. And hence, here he is.

– Kyle Lowry, who dropped a triple-double in Houston’s 110-108 win over Utah by going for 28 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. Lowry has quietly stepped up for the Rockets since they traded Aaron Brooks away, and has led the Rockets on a late-season playoff push. In fact, if they make the playoffs, you’d have to say it’s the play of Lowry that led them there. That’s some Honcho-worthy achievin’ for the diminutive point guard, and now he’s had the game to prove it.

– P.K. Subban, who scored a hat trick and dished out an assist in Montreal’s 8-1 shellacking of Minnesota. Not bad for a defenceman (note the hockey-specific spelling please, thank you) who’s been in and out of the lineup/roster for the last year. Sure, he’s only 21 and still establishing himself, but I’d say a Honcho Awards helps things along, wouldn’t you?

– Kemba Walker, who scored 33 points, grabbed 6 rebounds and dished out 5 assists in UConn’s 69-58 win over Cincinnati in the second round of the NCAA tournament (OK, technically the third round now, but I refuse to call it that). Frankly, it’s good to welcome Kemba into the Hall of Infinites. He deserves it for the season he’s having.

– Mladen Petric, who scored a hat trick in Hamburg’s 6-2 beatdown of FC Cologne. Forever known in England as the man who knocked the Three Lions out of Euro’ 08 qualifying with a blistering 25 yard shot to give Croatia a 3-2 win in London, he’s been banging in goals for fun since then for Arsenal’s sister club in sponsorship, Hamburg. A worthy inclusion to the world of Honchodom, methinks.

– Ryan Getzlaf, who had a goal and three assists in Anaheim’s 5-4 win over Calgary. This guy’s gettin’ to be a regular on these here pages. Star, captain, pretty boy, based basically in L.A… hmmm… someone get Harvey Weinstein on the phone.

– Jimmer Fredette (again), who scored 34 points and dished out 6 assists in BYU’s 89-67 win over Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA tourney. So how far can the Jimmer carry BYU. Most figured they’d be out by now with the sex-scandal loss of Brandon Davies, forcing Jimmer to carry much more of the load. So far, so good. But how long can Jimmer keep it up? Can Jimmer carry them all the way to the final four? Can Jimmer carry them all the way to the championship? And yes, I love, love, love saying his name. Jimmer Jimmer Jimmer. Belongs in the Great Cathedral of Immortals. And it’s there, many times over. Jimmer.

– Rick Nash, who had two goals and two assists in Columbus’ 5-4 win over Minnesota. The lesson here, exemplified by Mr. Nash and earlier by Mr. Subban, is to play Minnesota, and much as possible, if you want to hoard the stats necessary for winning yourself a Honcho Award.

– Brandon Knight, who scored 30 points, grabbed 3 rebounds and dished out 4 assists in Kentucky’s 71-63 win over the Hatfields… er, West Virginia. So here we have the latest Calipari freshman to star. From Derrick Rose to Tyreke Evans to John Wall to Knight, this guy’s the king of the one-and-done. It’s a deal with the devil to be sure… on the one hand, they’re always good, on the other, he’s never won a National Championship (though he came agonizingly close with Rose and Memphis). And now here he is again, advancing his way through the tourney, led by probably early-entry player and Honcho Award winner Knight. I’m guessing he doesn’t win it this year either.

– Hideaki Akaiwa, who… well, you’ll just have to read this article to get a good feel for what he did, and why he simply had to be a Honcho Award winner. Sure, it didn’t all happen this past weekend, but news travels slowly from disasters, and you might say his feats don’t qualify traditionally as sport… to which I’d say shut up, then point out that everything he accomplished was the exact sort of thing athletes aspire to… more than it, really. So here’s to you, Hideaki Akaiwa, Honcho Award winner and international badass. And a hearty kudos to reader Narve for the heads-up on this deserving man of awe.

And now, I’m off to bed…

To Be Continued…

I’m saving the Honcho Awards for tomorrow, loyal Honchoans, because frankly, I’m no good to you today. Just staring at the screen is causing headaches and flashbacks, and I’m just not up to it.

I would, however, like to trudge through just to give you a brief taste of some of the things that went down at SXSW, in snippet format:

– At 1 AM Saturday morning, a surprise show started at an old, decommissioned power plant that would end with Kanye West and Jay-Z on stage together past 4 in the morning.

– Death From Above 1979 reunited and played at such a tiny venue the fans outside rioted and the riot police had to be brought in.

– LL Cool J rapped for the first time in at least a decade as a surprise guest of famed DJ Z-Trip (this, your intrepid Eddie witnessed first-hand… when “Don’t call it a comeback” burst from the speakers, 4,000 people lost their damn minds).

– Jack White emerged from a van with a guitar and played an impromptu set in a parking lot at 2 in the afternoon.

– The following bands, including the aforementioned, felt the need to be at SXSW to play either secret shows or showcases, some at bars/clubs that held less than 50 people: Queens of the Stone Age, TV On the Radio, Duran Duran, The Dead Milkmen, Big Boi, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Men Without Hats, Snoop Dogg, The Strokes, Bright Eyes, Foo Fighters, Diddy, Erykah Badu, Hanson, Bon Iver, Kid Rock, Bad Brains, the Wu-Tang Clan, Raphael Saadiq, Chromeo, Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon (and together, once, as the Plastic Ono Band), Fishbone, John Legend, Bob Geldof, the Cold War Kids, Pete Wentz, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and that’s just off the top of my throbbing head, there were many, many more. Some at 3 in the morning, some at 3 in the afternoon, some in parking lots, some at converted art galleries and clothing stores.

Yours truly and his partner in crime the Brianstorm got into the private Rolling Stone party on Saturday afternoon, drank free Stella Artois and Bloody Mary’s, ate free barbecue and got free T-Shirts, and watched the best band of the festival, The Joy Formidable, who will be huge in a year, play for a crowd of 50 people.

It was awesome.

Until tomorrow…

SXSW Baby!

That is all… Will report back when coherence returns.

Words of Fury, With Mad Adam

INTERNET GENERAL’S WARNING: Reading Mad Adam causes random tirades, irrational freak-outs, the urge to punch things, and may complicate pregnancy.

Cutting Off Their Nose to Spite the Fans’ Faces

I tried to stay away from the topic.  Week after week after mind-numbing week of failed NFL-NFLPA labor negotiations have passed and I haven’t said a word.  What’s the point?  I like talking about sports, not mediation shuttle diplomacy tactics, warring tweets and the minutiae of union decertification and collective bargaining agreement terms.

But, I can stay silent no more.  Why?  Because the players are about to squander all the current goodwill they have built up in one exceedingly stupid move.

According to multiple sources, the NFLPA is reaching out to the top 17 NFL draft prospects and encouraging them to not attend the NFLdraft.  Instead, NFL Players Association executive George Atallah said Tuesday that players and their families will be in New York for the NFL draft next month, but the experience might be “different.”

Different?  Like what pray tell?  Word on the street is that the NFLPA plans to give the draftees the “same experience down the street.”

Seriously?  The same experience?  Will the Commissioner be there to shake their hands?  Will ESPN be there scrutinizing every pick?  Will there be hordes of drunk Jets fans booing every move made by their beloved franchise?

The answer is Hell No.  Instead, these new players will be treated to a petty side show designed to make the NFL look bad.  Which in turn will only piss off fans, sour the tenuous trust that players have built in this war of words and rob future NFL players of the defining moment of their athletic careers.

Gimme a break.  If this works out, here are a few more ideas for the NFLPA to implement:

Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony — Let the silly NFL gather in Canton, Ohio with their yellow coats.  The NFLPA can party like rock stars in Poughkeepsie, NY and the inductees can don plaid jackets to remember the day.

Pro Bowl Weekend — Who needs Honolulu?  The NFLPA can lobby to move this showcase of the NFL’s best players to Beaver Stadium in Beaver, Oklahoma, home of the Beaver Dusters.  I am not making that up.  It would save money and really cause a splash nationally when the media descends on Beaver and learns about the annual World Championship Cow Chip Throw®™.  Again, I am not making this up.

Super Bowl MVP Destination — Everyone knows where the MVP of the Super Bowl is going – the Magic Kingdom.  Fuck that noise.  The NFLPA should spurn that obvious NFL endorsed destination and opt for Silver Dollar City.  This will help connect to the common man and woman who can afford to see Kerry Christensen, Master Yodeler and pride of Silver Dollar City, but not that overpriced rat Mickey.

Nice job NFLPA. You have managed to make me stop loathing the insanely rich old white guys who are pinching every dime and compromising player safety (more games anyone?) while whining about their need to take another BILLION dollars off the top of the NINE BILLION dollar pie to build more stadiums and make more money, and instead loathe the short-sighted players union (errr… trade association) for this ridiculous publicity stunt.

Fuck ’em all.

Ensi Yayay

You’ve all been there, loyal Honchoans. You’ve poured over team reports and analyzed flow charts and designed and run your own simulations and maybe even consulted a mystic or two in filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket, and it’s a beautiful, pristine, thing, and you enter it into the competitions… and you get beat by some girl that picked teams based on their nicknames, or some girl who picked Louisville cause she thought Rick Pitino was hot, or by some kid who doesn’t know Duke University from the Duke of Bonkinghamshire. Probably what makes it all so interesting, but definitely what makes it all so frustrating.

Well I’m here for you dear Honchoans. I happen to have access to a child. The child’s not mine, but it’s a child with wild opinions, so he should suffice for this exercise. Let’s see what he thinks of this tournament thing.

East:

First Round:

UTSA over Ohio State: UTSA is like USA. I live in the USA.

George Mason over Villanova: Our cat’s name is George.

West Virginia over Clemson: Just because.

Kentucky over Princeton: I love Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Xavier over Marquette: Xavier sounds neat.

Indiana State over Syracuse: Because of Indiana Jones.

Washington over Georgia: Georgia’s a girl’s name.

UNC over LIU-Brook: The second one’s not real.

Second Round (at this point, I use only the nicknames):

(UTSA) Roadrunners over (George Mason) Patriots: The roadrunner always wins.

(Kentucky) Wildcats over (West Virginia) Mountaineers: Our soccer team is called the Wildcats.

(Xavier) Musketeers over (Indiana State) Sycamores: Three Musketeers!

(UNC) Tar Heels over (Washington) Huskies: I don’t like dogs. I was bit by one once.

Sweet Sixteen (full name this time):

Kentucky Wildcats over UTSA Roadrunners: Cause our soccer team is good.

Xavier Musketeers over UNC Tar Heels: I like Three Musketeers.

Elite Eight:

Kentucky Wildcats over Xavier Musketeers: Go Wildcats!

West:

First Round:

Duke over Hampton: Duke Nuke ‘Em.

Tennessee over Michigan: I just learned how to spell Tennessee in school, but I don’t remember how.

Memphis over Arizona: Just because.

Oakland over Texas: Because we hate Texas.

Cincinnati over Missouri: Cincinnati sounds neat.

Bucknell over UConn: Just because.

Temple over Penn State: The Temple of Doom!

San Diego State over Northern Colorado: Go Diego Go!

Second Round (nicknames only):

(Tennessee) Volunteers over (Duke) Blue Devils: I don’t like devils.

(Oakland) Golden Grizzlies over (Memphis) Tigers: The Tigers beat us in soccer.

(Cincinnati) Bearcats over (Bucknell) Bison: What’s a Bearcat? Sounds neat.

(Temple) Owls over (San Diego State) Aztecs: I like owls.

Sweet Sixteen (both names):

Oakland Golden Grizzlies over Tennessee Volunteers: Volunteers don’t sound very scary.

Temple Owls over Cincinnati Bearcats: I like owls, and I like Indiana Jones.

Elite Eight:

Temple Owls over Oakland Golden Grizzlies: Hoot hoot! Are we done now?

Southwest:

First Round:

Kansas over Boston: Cause I know Kansas is good (uh-oh, our findings might get compromised… let’s see how this plays out)

UNLV over Illinois: Just because.

Richmond over Vanderbilt: Just because (and our young subject’s getting fidgety and impatient).

Morehead State over Louisville: Cause Morehead sounds funny (you’re right there, kid).

Georgetown over USC: Our cat’s name is George.

Saint Peter’s over Purdue: (Reason withheld to protect the subject’s identity… let’s just say he’s a fan of the name Peter)

Florida State over Texas A&M: We went to Florida on vacation.

Notre Dame over Akron: The Hunchback!

Second Round (nickname’s only):

(UNLV) Runnin’ Rebels over (Kansas) Jayhawks: Runnin’ Rebels sounds neat (to be fair, I might have said Runnin’ Rebels with as much pizazz as possible, seeing as our subject seemed to have a Kansas bias. Did I influence the result? Maybe).

(Morehead State) Eagles over (Richmond) Spiders: Ewwww… Spiders are gross.

(St. Peter’s) Peacocks over (Georgetown) Hoyas: What’s a Hoya? (Got me kid).

(Notre Dame) Fighting Irish over (Florida State) Seminoles: The luck of the Irish!

Sweet Sixteen (full names):

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels over Morehead State Eagles: It sounds neat.

St. Peter’s Peacocks over Notre Dame Fighting Irish: (again, reason removed to protect the identity of our young subject, but let’s just say he has a mighty strong attachment to the word ‘Peter’)

Elite Eight:

St. Peter’s Peacocks over UNLV Runnin’ Rebels: Go St. Peter’s!

Southeast:

First Round:

UALR over Pittsburgh: Just because.

Butler over ODU: Cause my friend Kyle has a butler.

Kansas State over Utah State: Cause I know Kansas is good (now this might work out to our advantage…)

Belmont over Wisconsin: Ms. Belmont was my teacher last year, and she was nice.

Gonzaga over St. John’s: Gonzaga is fun to say. Gonzaga!

Wofford over BYU: Just because.

Michigan State over UCLA: Just because (uh-oh, getting fidgety again…)

Florida over UCSB: Cause we went to Florida for vacation.

Second Round (nicknames only):

(UALR) Trojans over (Butler) Bulldogs: We beat the Bulldogs in soccer, but I still don’t like them.

(Kansas State) Wildcats over (Belmont) Bruins: Go Wildcats!

(Gonzaga) Bulldogs over (Wofford) Terriers: A terrier’s what bit me! (trumping his distaste for bulldogs, clearly)

(Florida) Gators over (Michigan State) Spartans: See ya’ later Alligator (contextually inexact, but he likes to say it).

Sweet Sixteen (both names):

Kansas State Wildcats over UALR Trojans: Go Wildcats!

Gonzaga Bulldogs over Florida Gators: Gonzaga!

Elite Eight:

Kansas State Wildcats over Gonzaga Bulldogs:  Go Wildcats!

Final Four:

National Semifinal:

Kentucky Wildcats over Temple Owls: Go Wildcats!

St. Peter’s Peacocks over Kansas State Wildcats: (A very strong attachment to St. Peter’s).

Final:

St. Peter’s Peacocks over Kentucky Wildcats: (again, an incredibly strong attachment to a certain element of St. Peter’s name)

Do You Have a Final Score?

174-4

Sounds about right.

So there you go. Should you have to cojones to bet like a child, put everything on the St. Peter’s Peacocks, and bet on them to cover the spread.

The Honcho Awards, Mar. 14th, 2011

Good day, loyal Honchoans, and what a good day it is. The finest of the water cooler days. A day to gamble legally, to waste company time, to pour over the strengths and weaknesses of  Richmond and Utah State, to find the best 5-12 upset, to boast to your peers that you know more about college basketball than they do.

Yes, it’s the day after the NCAA tournament bracket has been released. So much possibility in that symmetrical matchup sheet. So much potential for boasting and wallet enrichment. So much fun.

But first, there’s this, your Honcho Award winners:

– Harrison Barnes, who scored an ACC-tournament-record 40 points and nabbed 8 rebounds in North Carolina’s 92-87 win over Clemson. Now there’s the crazy-gifted freshman we all thought the Tar Heels were getting when Barnes signed on the dotted line. The guy who should be the #1 overall pick. The guy who struggled out the gate and had many doubting his skills. I think maybe, now that he’s a Honcho Award winner, you can expect that to stop.

– Arjen Robben, who scored a hat trick in Bayern Munich’s 6-0 drubbing of Hamburg. And he was substituted with 30 minutes left to go, that’s how thorough both Bayern’s beatdown and Robben’s efficacy were. And yes, the man pictured above is only 27, though he looks 47, seems to have been around for 20 years, and runs like he’s 17. They say age ain’t nothing but a number, but it seems like a bunch of numbers to me.

– Matt Duffy, who became only the second player in Tennessee history to hit for the cycle in the Volunteers 18-4 thrashing of New Orleans. Not much better than hitting for the cycle when it comes to baseball. It shows one’s completeness as a player, power and speed, the big hit and the little hit to keep things going, a real pro’s pro. And just so… cyclical. Complete. I like cycles.

– John Holland, who had 27 points and 11 rebounds in leading Boston past Stony Brook and into the NCAA tournament 56-54. And it’s not so much the numbers, though they are certainly lovely, but it’s how they were accumulated that really stand out. Boston was down by 15 in the second half when Holland took over and dragged the Terriers kicking and screaming (as terriers are wont to do) in the Big Dance. And that sort of thing wins Honcho Awards. That’s just how it is.

– Stanislav Sestak, who scored a hat trick in Ankaragucu’s 3-2 upset win over Galatasaray. So VfL Bochum, who own Sestak’s rights but have loaned him out to Ankaragucu, couldn’t use a guy like this? He single-handedly beats one of the top Turkish sides, wins a Honcho Award, and Bochum, mired in the second division of German football, couldn’t use him? Who’s running the show Bochum? And do you need a replacement?

– Tom Zbikowski, the boxer who would be an NFL safety (were there an NFL to be a safety within), who knocked out Richard Bryant only 1:45 into the first round of their fight Saturday night on the Cotto-Mayorga undercard. Maybe Zbikowski can finally be the football player who crosses over to fighting. Remember Johnnie Morton’s attempt at the MMA? No? Yikes. Remember Mark Gastineau’s attempt at boxing? No? Well his record was OK at 15-2, but the 60 Minutes report on how all his opponents were paid to take dives kind of sullies it. But now we have ourselves a Honcho Award winner, he’s got to be legit, right? Right?

– Chris Paul, who scored 33 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and dished out 15 assists in New Orleans’ 115-103 win over Sacramento. Not a bad way to return from injury, methinks… dominate a game, almost score a triple-double, win a Honcho Award… I’m thinking he’ll be mighty pleased with this. Mighty pleased indeed.

– Jonas Kamper, who scored a hat trick in Randers 3-1 defeat of Esbjerg. From released from his contract by Arminia Bielefeld to Honcho Award winner with Randers… what is it with German clubs and their decision-making? Again, Bielefeld, if you need someone to make some decisions for you, there’s that “contact us” link in the top right corner up there. Don’t be shy.

– Matt Holland, who hit for the cycle in Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s 14-5 win over Texas Tech. A strange week, wouldn’t you say loyal Honchoans? Not only our second guy to hit for the cycle (and maybe our fourth overall in Honchodom), but our second guy with the surname Holland. Now if only there was a Paul Barnes out there somewhere, and he hit for the cycle, we could put every dime we have on black.

– Brittney Griner, who led Baylor the the Big 12 Championship by scoring 31 points, grabbing 8 rebounds, and blocking 7 shots in the Lady Bears’ 61-58 victory over Texas A&M. Hardly seems fair, does it, that one so tall could be so athletic? Ah, but you still have to put in the work, and she does, apparently, to the tune of her 4th Honcho Award.

So there you are… now go, loyal Honchoans, fill out those brackets. Oh, and a tip… Ohio State for the win.

1.14 Years Hence…

So yesterday’s excellent, entirely accurate mock draft got me thinking about football (in truth, I’m always thinking about football, it’s just sometimes diluted with thoughts about taking out the trash, paying the bills, doing the dishes, etc…), and I got to thinking about college football, and I got to thinking about what players to watch out for in college football for next year’s draft, and I got to thinking “I should alert my readers to watch for them too”, and I got to thinking “yeah, that’s a great idea”, and then I got to thinking about the dishes…

Dishes done, allow me to illuminate, teach, and generally broaden your knowledge base. It is, after all, what I do. So when you’re watching the collegians playing next year, pay special attention to these guys, cause you’ll be hearing their names called early by your favorite pro teams.

Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Let’s start with the obvious. Were he in this year’s draft class, he’d be the #1 overall pick, so it stands to reason he’ll be right there next year or close to it. Seen as the most can’t miss QB prospect since Peyton Manning. Of course, I’m guessing you already knew that one.

Matt Barkley, QB, USC

Unlike this year, Luck will actually have some competition at the top of next year’s draft in the form of Barkley. In fact, he’s got some advantages on Luck… he’s a better athlete, he’s got a better arm, he’s been carrying a mediocre team (thanks to the sanctions – though the same could be said for Luck). He’ll have the pro teams chomping at the proverbial bit, provided he comes out (and with the sanctions looming over USC, why wouldn’t he?)

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

At 6’3″ with freakish athleticism and that ever-important arrogance seen in all good cornerbacks, go ahead and pencil Kirkpatrick in now for a spot in the top 10. Corners are too valuable, and two years spent shadowing Julio Jones in practice won’t hurt either.

Matt Kalil, OT, USC

One of the major criticisms against this year’s offensive tackle prospect Tyron Smith is that even though he possesses all the skills of a left tackle, he never actually played there for USC. Any team drafting him is drafting him on his potential alone. And that’s because Kalil, one of the better tackles prospects to come out in years, was manning the left side for the Trojans, and wasn’t about to be unseated. Smith can only hope his team doesn’t select him next year.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

Anyone interested in the second coming of Larry Fitzgerald? Jeffery won’t blow anyone away with his speed (though he’s plenty fast), but put the ball anywhere near him and he’s coming down with it. Plenty of teams need those kinds of skills.

Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

Stanford with two top 10 picks? How likely was that only two years ago? I’ll go ahead and answer… not very. And yet here we are. And some would argue Martin’s case over Kalil… he had the better year last year, and he could this year too, but he’ll get picked apart a touch, penalized for the pure awesomeness that is Andrew Luck. Still, guys this size (6’6″, 305) and this athletic don’t last very long.

Quinton Coples, DE, UNC

North Carolina sure managed to hoard the talent. Just look at their roster from three years ago… Robert Quinn, Marvin Austin, Deunta Williams, Hakeem Nicks, Greg Little, Brandon Tate, Kendric Burney, Quan Sturdivant, Bruce Carter, E.J. Wilson, Cam Thomas… if only Butch Davis could coach as well as he could cheat… er, recruit. And then there was Quinton Coples, who may be the best of the lot. From the new breed of freakishly large defensive ends that seem to be bred in the Carolinas (Julius Peppers, Marvin Williams, Da’Quan Bowers, and now Coples), he stands 6’6″ and weighs 275 pounds, and terrorizes QB’s. Coming soon to an NFL stadium near you.

Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

The success of Sam Bradford is certainly helping the case of Landry Jones, who I’ll never forgive for shaving that facial hair. Still, he’s accurate, he’s composed, and while not as physically gifted as the two guys above him, he’s proven he can step in to tough circumstances and thrive, a must of a top 10 QB. Now grow out the damn ‘stache!

Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

When you go for 100 yards and a touchdown in every game, you tend to get noticed. I’m not sure how he can improve on those numbers, but as long as he doesn’t fall completely off, it doesn’t really matter. What will matter more now for Blackmon is how he tests… how fast is he? What kind of a route runner is he? How are his hands? The answers to these questions will make or break his draft status. Still, he should have come out this year.

Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State

One of my favorite players in all of college football. Think Ray Lewis with more, much more athleticism, and a burning desire to inflict pain. The only reason he doesn’t top this list (or, the only reason he’s not second to Luck) is because of the position he plays. Inside linebackers just don’t get drafted that high. Even Patrick Willis, one of the most can’t miss prospects at the position in years was picked out of the top 10. But Burfict is just freakish enough, and just mean enough, that some coach is going to fall in love, and he’s going top 10.

So there you have it. As you’re watching college games this year, keep your eyes on these guys. Especially since it might be the only football we get, unless the owners and players can stop with the shenanigans and come to an accord.

Mock Out With Your Cock Out, Vol. II

One of the few things the NFL got right when they drew up their lockout provisos was the continuation of the draft. Had they nixed it, they’d have a real PR backlash on their hands. I’m fully confident that the draft is the most anticipated factor in the NFL equation… moreso than the games themselves, moreso than the playoffs, moreso than even the Super Bowl… with possibly only fantasy football drafts giving it a run for its money. And the reason is simple… every team, from the 2-16 laughingstock to the 14-2 juggernaut has a stake. Half the teams in the league have been talking draft since last October, when their team was essentially eliminated from contention. I happen to be one of those fans (though a four game winning streak to end the year, including a win over the eventual champs, certainly has me excited).

So what’s the skinny with this year’s draft? Any Sam Bradford’s or Ndamukong Suh’s to be had? Well… maybe. Just maybe. Let’s see how it’s gonna go, shall we?

1. Carolina Panthers

The Panthers really got hosed when Andrew Luck decided to return to Stanford. Seen as the best QB prospect entering the league since Peyton Manning, Luck was theirs for the taking, and then he wasn’t. And unlike last year, when the consolation prize for such an event was Ndamukong Suh, this year, any number of players could be the pick. In fact, view six mock drafts, and you’ll get six different opinions on who’s going number one. It’s really a quandary.

It comes down to six, yes six guys. QB Blaine Gabbert of Missouri, DT’s Nick Fairley and Marcel Dareus of Auburn and Alabama respectively, DE Da’Quan Bowers of Clemson, CB Patrick Peterson of LSU, and WR A.J. Green of Georgia. Under normal circumstance, you’d rule out the DT’s and WR, as they don’t have enough positional value to warrant #1 pick kind of money, but it seems to be consensus that there will be a rookie salary cap in the new collective bargaining agreement, making every position up for the taking.

And the Panthers, as you might expect from a dogshit team, have needs all over the place. They could use a DT, a few of them. They need a #1 WR (Steve Smith’s best days are behind him). A QB might be of use, as Jimmy Clausen sucked giant hairy balls when he got on the field. And though they’re OK at DE, OK doesn’t win you games there. And every team needs CB’s, except maybe the Jets. Maybe.

The pick: Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama

While Clausen sucked, it was his first year, and he was a second round pick last year. If Luck were available, he’d be the pick in a heartbeat. But he’s not, and the other options at QB didn’t exactly set the world on fire last year. And even though they’ve got a new coach (Ron Riviera) with no ties to the Clausen pick, there’s simply not a better option.

Had A.J. Green showed up at the combine and put on a Julio Jones-type show, he’d be under more serious consideration. If a WR’s going number one, even with a rookie salary cap, he’s got to be something extra special. Green might be, but he’s no Calvin Johnson style freak. Jones is, but his production was up and down, plus he broke his foot at the combine and won’t work out again before the draft.

Nick Fairley is widely seen as the top DT right along with Dareus, but there’s concern that he’s a one season wonder. He literally went from out of the first round to being discussed as the #1 overall pick with one great season. That gives pause, especially at number one. Plus he’s more of a one-gap penetrator, and Carolina needs an all-around kind of guy.

Patrick Peterson might be the best player in the draft. He’s number one on plenty of draft boards, and he’s the type of athletic freak that goes at the top of drafts. But he’s a CB, and though there’s a rookie salary cap coming, do you really draft a guy that your opponent can just throw away from #1 overall. He can only cover one guy at a time, that leaves plenty of other options for the opponents.

And there are injury concerns, albeit slight, with Da’Quan Bowers. Coupled with the fact that Carolina is OK at DE, it bumps him off this spot. So they go with Dareus.

2. Denver Broncos

Denver also has a new coach… a common theme for teams picking this high. Ironically, it’s former Carolina coach John Fox, rewarded for making the Panthers just a tiny bit shittier than Denver. And he’s bringing with him a new defense, the 4-3. The 4-3 calls for the D-Line to do a lot more work than Denver’s previous 3-4 defense, and Denver doesn’t have the horses for it, so it says here the picks gonna come down to one of two guys, Fairley and Bowers.

When Fox joined the Panthers, his very first pick as head coach was a guy named Julius Peppers. There are lots of similarities between Bowers and Peppers. They’re both bigger DE’s with freakish athleticism. They’re both coming off monster seasons. They’re both accused now and again of taking plays off.

And the hole at DT is gaping, and Fairley could capably fill it, even though he’s a risk.

The pick: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

The NFL is coming around, slowly as per usual, to my way of thinking… that pressure needs to come more from up the middle than from around the sides. The blockers there aren’t as talented, and QB’s have mastered the art of just stepping up in the pocket. With Elvis Dumervil returning to wreak havoc from one outside spot, the Broncos could use someone to be waiting on any QB foolish enough to step up in the pocket.

3. Buffalo Bills

If you hadn’t noticed, and I’m guessing you didn’t, the Bills were scoring points last year. Chan Gailey, as expected, had the offense humming, or, at least he stopped its stuttering. Like Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech. Their defense on the other hand…

Interestingly, they had statistically the best DT in football in Kyle Williams. The former late round pick was a terror against both the run and the pass, and the Bills, I think, will be thankful to see two DT’s go before this pick.

Still, the rest of their defense left quite a bit to be desired. No one’s exactly sure what kind of defense the Bills plan on running. Last year they were supposedly a 3-4 team, but it turned out to be some sort of hybrid, and that’s the way things are said to continue this year.

The theory goes that they have talent in their secondary, but they have to hold their coverage too long. Once teams figured out that Williams was the only threat to the QB, they began to double and triple-team him, and the QB had all day to throw. One guy could remedy all that.

The pick: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

Sure, Peterson is great value here, as is A.J. Green. But they simply must address one of two areas: pressuring the QB and protecting the QB. No offensive lineman warrants this high a selection, and while Texas A&M’s Von Miller will be intriguing, he’ll only be pressuring the QB from a 3-4 look, and will be dropping into coverage too much on the Bills, a waste of his prodigious pass-rushing skills.

4. Cincinnati Bengals

The draft could go a lot of different ways here, and it’s all down to Carson Palmer’s threats. Would he really retire if he’s not traded? He seems quite serious, and he’s got that whole tech career to fall back on. So does Cincy roll the dice on one of the QB’s?

Maybe. They could also use a WR, and the T.Ocho show is coming to a thankful end. You don’t want to attack the defenses of the AFC North with Jordan Shipley as your number one WR. And every team will be considering Peterson now, needs be damned.

The pick: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

This just feels like his spot, you know? The Bengals are notorious for taking character risks, not to mention guys that can boost attendance figures. Newton happens to fit nicely into both categories. Then they can trade Palmer and get something in return… a second round pick maybe.

For the record, I think it’s a horrible pick, but what do I know?

5. Arizona Cardinals

Another team in desperate need of a QB, but this one comes with an asterisk. Ken Whisenhunt is in no mood to wait for a QB to develop. If any team amongst the top picks is going to trade for one, it’s going to be Arizona.

Alas, they can’t do it before the draft (probably, unless the CBA gets miraculously worked out). So they’ll be drafting without knowing if they’ve got their QB or not. It’s a risk, to be sure.

But it says here they roll the dice. There are plenty of viable QB’s out there to trade for… Kevin Kolb, Kyle Orton, Donovan McNabb, Vince Young… surely one of them will wind up in Phoenix, even if they have to overpay for them.

So the Cardinals can focus on some of their other needs, and one in particular jumps up and slaps you across the face.

The pick: Von Miller, OLB/DE, Texas A&M

The Cardinals run a 3-4 defense. Pressure, in the 3-4 is supposed to come from the outside linebacker (think James Harrison and DeMarcus Ware). This doesn’t happen in Arizona, where pressure comes from nowhere. Part of that is having Joey Porter, at 78 years old, as one of your OLB’s. The other part is having Clark Haggans, at 77, at the other spot. And thus, Von Miller.

6. Cleveland Browns

This is one of the easier picks. The Browns have quite a few needs, but none greater than someone to scare defenses. And Mohammed Massaquoia and Brian Robiskie don’t scare defenses.

The pick: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

Now, if Green were to go before this pick… very plausible considering how highly he’s thought of, I see Cleveland trading down with Dallas. In fact, I think Dallas will be doing everything in their power to trade up somewhere above San Francisco to grab Patrick Peterson, but if the draft falls like this, they’ll fail.

7. San Francisco 49ers

Another team that could use a QB. They’re everywhere. But I have it through the northern California grapevine (a fine area for grapes) that new coach Jim Harbaugh believes he can develop Alex Smith, a veteran, or a later round pick. Now, if someone more enticing were here to be had, say Harbaugh’s former collegiate QB Andrew Luck, then yeah, he’d be the pick. But there’s not.

So the Niners assess their need and the value here, and what do you know? One player fits both like a glove.

The pick: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

And he’s a steal this late. But that happens to CB’s. They can only affect so much of what goes on in a game, so they’re devalued. Much to the Niners benefit.

8. Tennessee Titans

And yet another in a seemingly endless stream of teams that need QB’s. But again, I wonder, are the QB’s worth it? They’ve got a new coach, and that usually means new QB, but not always. And there are a couple of other impressive need-fillers available here. Hmmm….

The pick: J.J. Watt, DE/DT, Wisconsin

A bit surprising, and not one I’ve seen much, but I’ll explain. The Titans secondary, long considered ripe for an upgrade, isn’t as bad as some believe. It suffers from a lack of QB pressure, especially over the last half of the season. And new coach Mike Munchak is a grinding kind of guy. I see him looking at their offensive and defensive lines and wanting an upgrade. And here it is.

9. Dallas Cowboys

Surprising for a team picking so high, Dallas doesn’t have a lot of holes. Really it comes down to three, an offensive lineman, a defensive lineman and a cornerback. You can rule an offensive lineman out, as none are worth this high a spot, and the defensive lineman needed is of the 3-4 variety. Someone exactly like J.J. Watt, who was just picked. Still, Cal’s Cam Jordan is there, and he would fit the bill.

But not as much as another guy…

The pick: Prince Amukamura, CB, Nebraska

The guy literally comes from a line of African royalty. That will appeal to Jerry Jones, you know it will. And Terrance Newman ain’t getting any younger.

10. Washington Redskins

Yes, they need a QB. But they also need a WR just as bad, and after the show Julio Jones put on at the combine, can there be any doubt who the pick is here?

The pick: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

And thus, finally, the mighty mite era ends in Washington.

11. Houston Texans – Robert Quinn, OLB/DE, UNC
12. Minnesota Vikings – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
13. Detroit Lions – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
14. St. Louis Rams – Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
15. Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
17. New England Patriots (From Oakland) – Cam Jordan, DE/DT, California
18. San Diego Chargers – Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois
19. New York Giants – Tyron Smith, OT, USC
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Justin Houston, DE, Alabama
21. Kansas City Chiefs – Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
22. Indianapolis Colts – Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College
23. Philadelphia Eagles – Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida
24. New Orleans Saints – Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
25. Seattle Seahawks – Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
26. Baltimore Ravens – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
27. Atlanta Falcons – Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
28. New England Patriots – Jabaal Sheard, OLB/DE, Pittsburgh
29. Chicago Bears – Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
30. New York Jets – Muhammad Wilkerson, DE/DT, Temple
31.  Pittsburgh Steelers – Benjamin Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova
32. Green Bay Packers – Sam Acho, OLB/DE, Texas

And there you have it…

Words of Rage, With Angry Eddie

So Mad Adam can’t be with us today, and I thought to myself “you know Eddie, you’ve been feeling pretty hateful these last couple of days, like the world’s got it out for you, like you deserve better, like everyone else is an idiot and you’re the greatest… a bit like Mad Adam, to be honest”. And so I thought here I’d wear Mad Adam’s shoes for a day and rant, doppel his ganger if you will (uh, that looks worse than it did in my head… let’s just say to doppel is to borrow, and one’s ganger is their persona, that ought to do, you dirty pervs).

And so we begin with Jim Tressel, who wears a sweater vest, so he must be a good guy. You could put Tony Montana in a sweater vest and neighbors would invite him over for tea. Well what do you know? Mr. Rogers is a cheat just like everyone else. All those crooks at Ohio State? He knew about it a year ago, and he still let them play the season. And how does Ohio State punish him? They suspend him for two games. Two games! Probably against Eastern Ohio Tech and Lower Michigan Community College. It’s like telling a jewel thief he can’t go into a grocery store for two weeks. And who does that punish? I’ll tell you who it punishes… us, and our sense of intelligence. We’re being taken for fools, and we’ll take it, just like we always do. Well not this scribe. I demand satisfaction! Two years, not two games. You’ll be receiving my petition shortly.

So the NFL owners want more money from the players, but they refuse to let them know exactly how much it is they make. What fantasy land do the owners live in? Where else in the world would this work? The NFL makes over 9 billion dollars per year. That’s billion with a ‘b’. We’re expected to believe the owners are hard up for cash? Do they all have scores of expensive goomahs that won’t look so good on paper? Gambling debts? Why in the world would they be losing money, and if so, why would they not show the players. Something stinks here, and it’s not just the folds in Jerry Jones’ face, or Al Davis’ dead body.

Isn’t it obvious to the world now that FIFA and its bastard sister UEFA are the most corrupt sporting organizations around? Barcelona is the team everyone wants to watch, so there was no way they weren’t going to advance past the round of 16 in the Champions League. Arsenal was doomed from the start. It’s just, no one expected UEFA to be so blatantly crooked. For those that didn’t see it, Arsenal were reduced to 10 men when Swiss referee Massimo Busacca gave Robin Van Persie a second yellow card for kicking the ball away after a whistle… less than a second after a whistle where a crowd of 96,000 were jeering and yelling and whistling and making all the strange noises that soccer crowds make (there may have even been a vuvuzela or two). That was worth a yellow card? Yeah right. It was an opportunity, an opportunity for the Swiss ref to follow UEFA’s mandate, “do whatever you have to do to make sure Barcelona advances”. Credibility, rest of the world, credibility. You lack it.

So Phil Jackson is calling out the Heat for crying. Now I have no problem with the taking of sides when it comes to the crying issue, but I do tend to get rubbed the wrong way (sideways, in case you’re wondering) when it comes to hypocrisy. Something about glass houses. And when Phil Jackson says big boys don’t cry, I think of this:

…and wonder who was coaching him at the time. Oh, right… Phil Jackson. Was Michael Jordan not a big boy? Did Phil intend to include some qualifiers in his statement, something like “unless they win championships”? All I know is he didn’t, and so I’m queuing up near Phil’s house with the first stone.

Wow, so Tiki Barber’s making a comeback. At 36. As a running back. There are so many reasons to laugh at him I’m left not laughing, like they’re all canceling each other out. He was supposed to be the next big media star, now he’s what, on Versus? I’m not even sure anymore. He’s going through a divorce, you think that might have anything to do with it? And he’s 36… 36! How many 36 year old running backs do you know of? Sure, his twin brother still plays, but he does so as a DB in a cover two system that hides his weaknesses, namely his lack of speed, and has DB’s keep receivers in front of them for a quick tackle. He ain’t no running back. This should be good.

And finally, you wouldn’t believe the craziness going on with the future of the Phoenix Coyotes. Everything was looking good, they were all set to be sold to Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer who would keep them in Phoenix, when a shady organization known only as the Goldwater Institute defied the ruling of a government organization, in this case, the City of Glendale, Arizona. Basically, the city was going to sell $116 million in bonds to subsidize Hulsizer in his attempt to buy the team from the NHL, which purchased the Coyotes from bankruptcy court in 2009. You know, a city acting just like every other city that wants a professional team (see Arlington, Texas). They held a public vote on the thing and it passed, which would normally be the end of it. But the Goldwater Institute didn’t like that ruling, the one the people of Glendale voted on, so they went and warned all the bond-rating agencies that the decision was actually illegal under the Arizona State Constitution, which is probably true, and is probably true of every state, though there are surely work-arounds that would be found out in court, but only after millions of dollars and hours of time are spent. Well this sale happens to be on a schedule, and if it doesn’t go through, the Coyotes are to up and move to Winnipeg, Manitoba. Hmmm… something’s sounding shady, isn’t it?

And so guess what’s happened to the price of those bonds? The interest rates are skyrocketing. As of this writing, the city will be on the hook for over $100 million for the next 30 years. All of sudden it doesn’t sound like such a good deal.

So what is Goldwater’s intent here? Is it a power play? Are they being subsidized by the city of Winnipeg? Are they really looking out for the public interest (HA!)? From what I can tell, an obstacle to the sale has appeared from nothing, and that usually means someone is desperate to stop it. Who could that be?

I’m thinking the city of Winnipeg has some explaining to do.

Saying that, the NHL should be in Winnipeg over Phoenix, every day of the week. Just not like this. Not like this.

Whew, I have to admit, I feel better. Rage subsiding. General pleasantness returning. Maybe there’s something to this venting thing.

Cry Baby, Cry

Sports and crying are a touchy, feely, weepy subject. On the one hand, crying as an athlete shows you care… you care deeply, enough to show emotions typically associated with a child for all the world to see. On the other hand, don’t be such a puss.

So where should we stand on the crying debate? Tales of Miami Heat players getting all teary after a loss to the Magic has spread throughout the newsosphere, and they’ve been both lauded and patronized (heavy on the latter)… and that one wasn’t even for the cameras. We’d have never known about it had coach Erik Spoelstra not told the media about it during a post-game interview.

It’s funny how we react to it. When Adam Morrison does it:

…we rake him across the coals. Part of it I imagine is that he just looked so damn whiny and bratty whilst doing so, very much reminding of us our spoiled little brother when we kicked his ass… again… at whatever it is we’re kicking his ass at this time.

But when Dick Vermeil does it:

…he’s hailed as an emotional coach who cares deeply for his players. And even though pretty flowers might have brought him to said tears, “that’s just Dick.”

And again, when Jordan does it:

…he’s just overwhelmed with winning a championship he’s worked so hard for. We love him, he’s just like us, we’re just like him. Just like the greatest basketball player of all time. That’s right, who’s gonna argue?

But when T.O. opens the duct gates:

…he’s just a fucking maniac who cries at inappropriate times, a showy performance to prove to the world that he loves his QB Tony Romo… look, he’s even willing to cry on camera for him.

So what gives? Why are we so Jekyll and Hyde about our athletic cryers? One could argue context matters, but if so, Morrison and the Heat wouldn’t catch so much… uh, heat I guess… since they’re crying because they care so much. Allegedly and contextually, that’s the sort of crying we’re supposed to be OK with.

So maybe context is overruled by our built-in biases. The world didn’t like Adam Morrison. He was a spoiled crybaby and then he went out and actually cried, and voila, all of our visions of him were fulfilled. Never mind that it was at the end of the heartbreaking end to his career. Bias trumps context.

And the Heat… well, everyone hates the Heat. Everyone hates The Decision and LeBron James and this super-team they’ve tried to create, so the image of them crying, even after a heartbreaking defeat, satisfies our every spiteful wish for them.

So what I’ve learned through this exercise is this: if you’re gonna cry, make sure the world already likes you, or doesn’t care about you one way or the other (for that, see the end of every NCAA tournament game, when virtually the entire bench of the losing team is crying… which is fine, cause it’s a tough way for a season/career to end, and we rarely have any pre-conceived notions about benchwarmers for teams we’ve never heard of). If you’re already on the world’s bad side, don’t go crying (T.O., the Heat, Morrison, Favre wouldn’t go over well, nor Tebow, and Carmelo Anthony would certainly get called out).

Crying had nothing to do with being a baby, and everything to do with supplying us with more ammunition, one way or the other.