Sibling Rivalry: What the Clippers Success Means for the Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers share a city, share a population and share a building. They aren’t cross-town rivals: they’re brothers. The Lakers are the older, more established big brother to the up and coming Clippers. They hold the records, they hold the championships, and they hold the majority fan base.

But what happens when little brother grows up?

Since the team’s move to LA in 1984 the Clippers haven’t finished above 5th in the Western Conference. They have made the playoffs exactly five times, with only two trips that resulted in advancing past the first round. The Lakers have never had to deal with a good Clippers team. The Clippers have never been seen as a threat. But behind Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the much-improved DeAndre Jordan who has finally figured out how to hit free throws now and again, the threat level is at an all-time high. Though the same can’t be said for the number of three’s BG32 is going to attempt in the future.

This sibling rivalry is about to get real. Forget the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. Nothing shines brighter than the lights in LA. The stage is set for these two teams to really go head to head this season.

The Clippers couldn’t have picked a better time to start getting good. With the Lakers in a transitional period the Clippers have a little more room to breathe in the Pacific Division. Of course, they have taken that room and ran with it. Even with losing their past two, they remain neck and neck with the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder for the top spot in the Western Conference. Plus the whole 17-game win streak thing. On the other side of the arena you have Kobe calling the Lakers “old as $@!%” as well as using analogies such as ‘stuck in the mud’ and ‘sluggish’ when referring to the Lakers’ level of play. One might just think there is a new big dog in LA. But one would be wrong.

Let’s face it. The Clippers fan base started off as people who didn’t want to like the Lakers. It has now grown because of Blake Griffin’s dunks, Chris Paul and the deepest bench in the league. But only one team has Kobe Bryant.

No matter their current record, the Lakers are regarded as a dynasty. They have some of the most high profile championship titles as well as the most high profile players- past and present. They are a global brand. You could even go so far as to say they are the face of the NBA in many other countries. Kids in China sport #24 on their jerseys. Kobe does Turkish Airlines commercials with Lionel Messi that make Blake Griffin’s Kia flashback commercials look like late night infomercials. Though I have to admit I chuckle every time I see future Blake tell little Blake to stop wearing jean shorts. The point is, the Lakers are more marketable, more well-known and will never take a back seat to anyone, especially with the worldwide appeal of the Black Mamba.

Even in this ‘transitional’ period the Lakers have captured more of the limelight than most teams that are doing extraordinarily well *cough*Spurs*cough*. The Lakers struggles are constantly front page news on the ESPN home page. The vast expanse of the Lakers fan base can be found sounding off all over cyber space in support of their purple and gold to anyone who will listen. Whispers of patience and determination are still there. No one has given up on the Lakers, and the Lakers haven’t given up on themselves. Yes, they are still flirting with the .500 mark but what better way to get back to half and half than against little brother himself? The Lakers tip off against the Clippers in ‘their’ building Friday at 7:30 PM P.T.

My Miserable Apathy Towards the NHL Lockout

ScreenShot2012-09-16at12.28.27AM_crop_650x440I’m tired. Not just tired; no, I’m apathetic. Even as I write this I had to will myself to start pressing keys on my keyboard. I am just so sick and tired of being sick and tired over this NHL lockout. The only motivation for writing this article was more of an ‘I told you so’ angle.

Back when the lockout started I chronicled my thoughts and ever growing despair about this lockout for weeks. I made it until Halloween. That’s when I gave up hope. I believe it came right after the NHL canceled the Winter Classic: the biggest revenue producing single event the NHL has. But then I remember- I just don’t care that much.

Well now it seems I’m not the only one who has given up hope. The NHLPA itself may have just done the same. The latest rumors are that the NHLPA is going to disband itself, abandoning talks and any hope of rationalizing with the league. Players would then have the opportunity- individually- to bring their own litigation against the NHL. The league itself went forward with a motion to bring lockout negotiations into the New York City Court System. None of these things, simply put, are good. But then I remember- I just don’t care that much.

I want to laugh at anyone who thinks we are going to have a season, albeit a shortened one. Hell, I want to laugh at anyone that even cares anymore. But then I remember- I just don’t care that much.

I want to rant and rave on and on about Bettman, Fehr and Daly. About the sheer incompetence these men and their ‘mediators’ possess. I want to shake all three of them, demanding to know where they get off keeping us puckheads away from our favorite sports release. I want to smack each and every NHL owner that hasn’t been involved in negotiations because of their arrogance. I want to right hook every player that hasn’t been involved in negotiations because they are playing overseas. I want to slap shot a puck at Alexander Ovechkin’s face because… well, just because. But then I remember- I just don’t care that much.

My Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup jersey is hanging, collecting dust, in the back of my closet. No need to bring it out- my dad and I won’t be going to a single game this season, which has been a tradition since before the last lockout. All I’m wondering now is what the NHL doesn’t understand about its ability, or rather lack thereof, to withstand its second lockout within the course of a decade? But then I remember- I just don’t care that much.

The NHL isn’t the NFL or the NBA. It’s not even NASCAR. The NFL boasts $9 billion in total revenue per year. NASCAR- $3.3 billion. The NHL projected revenue they are about to lose on this season? $2.7 billion. Nothing to snuff at, to be sure, but it’s still less than NASCAR. The NHL is acting like the biggest diva of them all, when in reality they aren’t even close. In keeping up this attitude they are going to lose fans. A lot of them. But then I remember- I just don’t care that much.

I want to encourage fans to stay the course. I want them to create an uproar- give Bettman and the NHLPA no choice but to figure this thing out fast. I still can’t comprehend why the rowdiest fans in professional sports have been silent these past few months, standing idly by watching as the season slips out from between their gloved fingertips. I want to tell them to care. I want everyone to care.

But then I remember- I just don’t care that much.

I Love My… Devils

Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com

This is a bit of a departure for me. Not because I’m not used to writing about ASU. I’m just not used to not writing for ASU. Rubs hands together here goes nothing!

Alright, if any of you saw last night, the Arizona State Sun Devils got straight up embarrassed in their most hyped up home game of the season against the 3rd ranked Oregon Ducks. Neither team had been especially tested up until that point and the number one offense in the Pac-12 was going up against the number one defense in the Pac-12. Yes, that was actually true, ASU had the best defense in the conference, get over it. It was sure to be a good show.

That is, until the second snap of the game. Devils defensive leader Will Sutton forced a fumble from Oregon QB Marcus Mariota but subsequently went down with a knee injury and would not return the rest of the game. An MRI is scheduled for today. The ensuing ball game was more like walking through a haunted house for ASU. You didn’t actually want to continue, but you didn’t want your buddies thinking you were a pansy so you did. The final score was a deceiving 43-21. It wasn’t that close.

Alas, I’m actually not even pissed we lost to the Ducks. First off- I don’t care who you are, their uniforms are sick. You can’t hate them. I do hate that duck though. Put some damn pants on there are children present! I did like Chip Kelly a lot, until after the first Oregon touchdown of the game (a 72-yard run by, surprise, Kenyon Barner) Kelly decided to go for a two point conversion to get the lead. That was straight disrespectful Chips and Dip. Seriously. How rude! (In my best Michelle Tanner voice). But like I said, I’m not pissed.

Here’s the good news. This isn’t the end of the road for ASU. They could potentially meet the Ducks again for the Pac-12 championship if they get it back together. The Pac-12 South is ripe for the taking. ASU has UCLA at home next for homecoming. Confidence booster perhaps? If they can beat either USC or Oregon State their chances look really good. And maybe, just MAYBE they would be a little more prepared for Oregon the second time around.

Even if THAT doesn’t happen guess what? I’m still not suicidal. Listen, if anyone in the Pac-12 has a shot at getting to the National Championship this year it’s the Oregon Ducks. Had ASU won last night’s game that would have gone out the window. If Bama had a fluke loss would that be the case? Roll No. Of course not. The BCS loves the SEC way too much. But with Oregon manhandling their first road challenge, they now have a shot at proving to the BCS and the nation that the Pac-12 is not to be f*&%ed with after all. They are the only team in the country who I could see going toe to toe with Bama. And by God, I think they’d win it.

So all in all, I still love my Devils. I always will. But I’ve found the silver lining in these scenarios. That is, a carbon fiber silver lining that subtly reflects metallic green when the gridiron lights shine on it.

Why the Replacement Ref Situation is More Ridiculous Than You Think

The Denver Broncos vs. Atlanta Falcons Monday Night Football game was the absolute last straw. With the real NFL referees still in a lockout, the replacement officials are just simply not cutting it and the league is to blame.

I was one of those people in the beginning of this whole thing saying, these guys aren’t doing that bad for the situation they are in; they only had a few weeks to learn all the rules, cut them a break, blah blah blah. What do I say to that now? “Rule #76: No Excuses, Play Like a Champion.”

Oh yeah, I went there.

Except, I’m not saying that to the refs, I’m saying that to the league. Indulge me in the following analogy:

Remember the NFL lockout last year? Ok, what if instead of creating a work stoppage, the NFL decided to put AFL players in there and still call it the NFL? Guess what? A weed by any other name is still not a rose people. It wouldn’t be the NFL- it would be the AFL, with NFL rules and venues. How can the league think that bringing in Division III collegiate referees can serve as a legitimate substitute for the real thing? Not only do I not call that fair- I call that ridiculous.

What I’m getting at is that the integrity of the game is at stake. Just ask Baltimore Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh, who called Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles ‘chaotic’ because of the officiating. Joe Flacco flat out said the replacement refs are affecting the integrity of the game. While Harbaugh isn’t by any means known for his mild manner, Joe Flacco is. When you have one of the least controversial and well-respected quarterbacks in the NFL calling these guys out how can you not acknowledge this is a real problem?

Monday Night’s game was just embarrassing. Not only were they blowing basic calls that my grandmother could have called right (she’s 83 and barely speaks English), they did things like give the Broncos an extra six yards on their touchdown drive that ended the first half. Oh by the way, the first half? It lasted almost two hours. The first quarter alone took AN HOUR. I watched the entire two hours of The Voice and still was able to catch most of the second quarter. Could it be because the Geneva Convention followed every flag thrown, which happened to be every other play?

If these refs can’t call the basics and get spots right, what chance do they have against the ever-problematic pass interference? The answer is none. Too many times in these first two weeks of the regular season I’ve seen great plays by corners negated by bogus 15-yard penalties. Those are game-changing penalties. They are penalties that have changed these games.

These refs have zero control over the game. I heard someone say the players are treating these guys like substitute teachers, which is absolutely accurate. These guys are fighting and jawing at will. What do the refs do? Call off-setting penalties so neither team actually gets penalized. Is it coincidental that one of the most topsy-turvy starts to the NFL season in decades comes when the NFL referees are on strike? Doubtful.

Steve Young said last night that despite all this, the desire for the game hasn’t changed so in the end, the NFL doesn’t care. That might be the truest thing anyone has said about this debacle. It is just sad.

With no new talks scheduled between the NFLRA and the NFL was the Monday Night game still not enough to nudge the commish? Wise up, Goodell. Can I get a ‘Roger, that’?

Your Dislike of Tim Tebow is Misguided

No, that wasn’t a question. It is. Period. Unless of course you don’t have a soul.

Before I get into the infinite reasons there are to like Tim Tebow, which I can’t even believe I have to argue, I am going to start by shooting down the main BS reasons why people don’t.

BS Reason #1 He starts every speech with thanking God: And? If you were the offspring of two Christian missionaries in the position he is in, I’ll bet you would too. Does he go around condemning everyone that isn’t Christian? No. Does he go out and campaign that everyone should join his church and believe in God? No. He just expresses his gratitude for his talent and good fortune the only way he knows how. If there was ever a definition of ‘blessed’, pretty sure Tebow is the poster child. Good for him that he recognizes that.

BS Reason #2 He is ‘too perfect’: This is just stupid. When has Tim Tebow EVER said he was perfect? In fact, I can recall quite a number of times where he’s said he’s not perfect. Sure, the media portrays him as the Second Coming, but how is that his fault? At the risk of sounding too much like Gretchen Wieners from Mean Girls I’m just gonna go ahead and quote it, “I don’t want to be punished for being well-liked.” While having a father that invented toaster strudel is certainly a concrete reason for being well liked, isn’t a quarterback who is genuinely a good person and works his ass off also justified? Why are we punishing him for being a role model, and a fantastic one at that?

Which brings me to another point.

BS Reason #3 He’s overrated: Ok I’ll concede a bit on this one. Sure, his delivery is unconventional at best. Sure, he isn’t the most consistent. Sure, he doesn’t have the mechanics of Peyton Manning. Hey, no one expected him to make the transition to NFL quarterback well. However,  I’m pretty sure he’s made a habit of proving everyone wrong, and no one likes to be wrong. Last season he was the only reason the Broncos made it into the playoffs with those ridiculous fourth quarter comebacks. Did I mention he did that as the backup QB in his SECOND season in the NFL? How could you expect him to be Peyton Manning? If you step back and realize he was a BACKUP maybe you could cut him a little more slack, not that he’d take it.

Enough with the reasons to not like him. This man is a good person. He gives everything he’s got in every situation. I know you all remember Florida’s 2008 loss to Ole Miss and the press conference following:

You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season, and you will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season, and you will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season.”

And ya know what? We didn’t. How can you hate a man who follows through on his promises? Motivates his teammates? Teaches football (and English) to impoverished orphans in the Philippines every summer?

When you have NFL owners and analysts supporting and making excuses for athletes like Dez Bryant who allegedly beat his own mother a few weeks ago, how can you justify hating Tim Tebow? This man has never been in trouble with the law, never been plastered all over the tabloids with different women each time and no one who has met him has ever had anything but wonderful things to say about him. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s easy on the eyes. Sorry, had to.

So for all of you that claim to hate Timmy, I challenge you to give me one GOOD reason for that disdain. Don’t worry I’ll wait.

Why I Don’t Hate Ohio State… Anymore

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Image courtesy of AnnArbor.com

So I went to a school called Arizona State, far away from Middle America in the land of the Pacific-12. Palm trees, sunshine and hazy mountains were a far cry from the picturesque cornfields of the B1G Ten (is that how you write it now?).  However, I did always have an allegiance, albeit a blindly led one, to the University of Illinois though. This then became concrete when my best friend from high school attended the university.

Now, my very first weekend visiting her came in 2007. It was the weekend Illinois played Ohio State in Columbus when the Buckeyes were ranked #1 in the country. If you claim to be any degree of B1G Ten fan… you know what happened that night. The Illini went in there and buried those Buckeyes. Call it overconfidence on OSU’s part; call it Illinois being underestimated. I called it: glorious.

The years following I learned more of this Buckeye football program. Of Jim Tressel and that wannabe Bill Cosby sweater vest he liked to subject the viewing public to. I hated everything he stood for. I hated the overconfidence of his players. The way the fans acted as if he, and the program, could do no wrong. The way they referred to themselves as The Ohio State (which for the record I still don’t like). Yes, I hated Ohio State.

I quickly learned I was not alone in this attitude. No, no. Ohio State was the USC of the B1G Ten. Everyone hated them. Except Ohio State, of course. My best friend growing up ended up at Michigan State. She also hated that God-awful football program. Fantastic. It was settled.

Yet, today, with another heaven-sent season of college football looming, I find myself at a crossroads. Jim Tressel, and his woolen vest of vomit, is no longer the head coach. The program has paid its debt to the college football society in the sanctions imparted on them by the NCAA.  My two best friends from the B1G Ten are no longer in school. The Buckeyes were on ESPN’s Training Days- the damn white boy manager DID THE DOUGIE… and ya know what? He did it well. So tell me again, why do I hate Ohio State?

Not only is Jim Tressel not the coach anymore, Urban Meyer is. The same Urban Meyer who made me love the University of Florida and is responsible for my irreprehensible-one-of-only-a-couple athlete crushes on Tim Tebow. I feel those eyes of judgment. Just deal with it.

That episode of Training Days, Meyer got those boys fired up. ASU’s practices never looked like that. I didn’t see 250lb linebackers getting rewarded with mid-day naptime on air mattresses in the field house. This was adorable. This was real. This ladies and gentlemen, was college football.

While every fiber in my being is telling me “No! Carmen! Don’t do it! Think of the children!” I am forced to face the reality: I no longer hate Ohio State.

Impending Doom for the NHL

Does anyone realize that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement in the NHL is set to expire September 15th and that no new deal has been reached so far? No? Didn’t think so.

I personally haven’t seen enough concern as of late considering the NHL is facing a full-fledged lockout in less than a month. I decided to post about it to at least get whoever reads my blog up to speed. I guess what I really want to know is has anyone been an NHL fan long enough to remember the 2004-2005 lockout? And how disastrous that was? Hockey wasn’t the same after that.

Growing up my dad and I always went to Chicago Blackhawks games, a tradition we still continue to this day. As a little tyke I was drawn to hockey. Of course, back in those days, the Hawks sucked and the only reason to go to games was to see the fights and puppy-dog eye my dad into getting me some cotton candy. Yeah, violence and sugar- my dad was winning on the parenting thing.

After the lockout though, things changed. Of course the only thing I was concerned with was that the rules for fighting changed. I knew nothing of the CBA and the implementation of salary caps and revenue sharing. I just knew that I didn’t get to see as many teeth being knocked to the ice. Luckily for me, just a few short years later the Hawks became awesome and then won the Stanley Cup. That worked out.

And yet, I notice that not all hockey fans are as passionate as Hawks fans are. There are certain teams that won’t survive another lockout. With the league struggling in comparison to the other three major sports, this is the absolute LAST thing it needs. Hell, the entire league might not survive another lockout, especially one of the 04-05 variety where the entire season is wiped out. That would make for two seasons within ten years, gone.

I don’t want to see this happen. When the NFL was in a lockout fans were in an uproar. When the NBA missed a portion of last season, fans were breaking down David Stern’s door, calling for his resignation and demanding the season be reinstated. Why isn’t there a similar uproar from hockey fans? Hockey fans are some of the most rowdy in the entire sports world. Now, when the league needs that battle cry- where is it?

Now that I understand more about the business end of sports this lockout is completely unnecessary. The changes the owners are demanding are outrageous. They want to cut the players’ revenue sharing from 57% to just 43%. The players union estimates that this would cause a $450 million shift in revenue from the players to the owners, according to an article on ESPN. That is just plain insane. You are going to take away 14% of the total revenue share from the players (who are the workhorses of your league) in one fell swoop? And I thought the NFL owners were greedy…

The owners proposal does suggest limiting player contracts to five years, which I can’t say I’m not in favor of. These 12 and 13 year contracts are getting a bit on the ridiculous side. I understand guys can play in the league longer than most other professional sports, but I’m not trying to see guys my dad’s age out there, and I’m sure the 16-year-old rookies aren’t either.

The players union counterproposal however is substantially more reasonable and could set balance to the industry. It agreed to a revenue share cut- but one that would be broken up over a three year period. It also urges the NHL into a revenue-sharing program that helps struggling franchises, which face it, there are a number of in the league. It was estimated that the league would gain $465-$800 million with this agreement if the players were allowed to switch back to the current system on the fourth year, according to the ESPN article.

While my sports business knowledge is limited, what the players are proposing seems pretty fair. But by default I think I’m always on the players’ side anyway. They are after all, the ones who are taking the ice… and the hits.

It’s time to step it up NHL fans. Let the league know that we aren’t enduring another black hole of a season this year. Show them you are on these players’ sides. Show them just how many ‘pucks’ we give.