Friday, June 4, 2010

What the Kid did for this kid

In the wake of the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr this week, you'll read numerous articles on the matters of his career numbers, from his 630 HRs to his 10 Gold Gloves, maybe even him being #2 all time in CF assists (maybe the most underrated stat he carries).
You'll read how a kid born in the same hometown as HOFer Stan Musial, who's All-Star Dad played for arguably the greatest lineup in National League history and once hit 8 HRs in 8 ABs in the Ohio HS playoffs was destined to become what he did and this should be remembered and talked about for years to come.
What I would like elonorate on is what George Kenneth Griffey Jr did or didn't do directly or indirectly to me.
I grew up in the late 80's early 90's, incase you were living under a rock at that time, you'll have to know that baseball was still king, albeit losing ground to the NFL. It had been 25 plus years since a player had won a triple crown, the Pirates were still relavant and field turf was a futuristic fantasy. Not to take anything away from the players of the late 80's but baseball had been somewhat converted from the power stroking, homerun hitting game it was to more of a hit and run Japanese style of ball. It wasn't uncommon to lead the league with 35 HRs.
Then in 1989, the Seattle Mariners made Cincinnati Arch Bishop Moeller grad and son of one of "The Big Red Machine's" best players, thei number 1 pick in the amatuer draft. The excitement caused by this kid was like nothing I had ever seen. Ad many of you recall, we did everything we could, cut grass, wash cars, sell your bike to buy as many Ken Griffey Jr Upper Deck rookies as possible. They were the best thing since sliced bread and on the front a 19 yr old kid, wearing a gold chain, a hat 2 sizes too big and a sincere smile. On the back...NO professional stats. Even with his pedigree and skill set, how did we know he was going to be this good?
As his career progressed and we saw what he could do, he became kind of a folk hero, even in opponents cities. I recall being overcome with excitement when I found out my Dad was taking us to a Cleveland Indians game to see him. I didn't really care for the Indians...or the Mariners for that matter, but I sure did care a out Griffey. He didn't hit a HR that day...instead he awed me with 2 doubles and OF play gave him the appearance he was cheating. I recall my Dad talking the whole drive home about his first step. How it was always right on.
I noticed more his swing. The Swing. Before I saw Griffey, I had always thought Will Clark 1B for San Fran had the sweetest swing ever...that was before my trip to Cleveland.
Upon return, all I wanted was a pair of "Griffeys". I'm not sure the real name of these shoes, but Nike put his face on em...and that's what I wanted.
My associated partner (the other Fat guy) mentioned he had Griffey's "Next Generation" did I...and 3 out of 4 of my buddies on my block. None of us were Mariners fans. Griff took this stage gracefully. Never a harsh word toward an ump, a fan or the media. I'm going to make a comparison (hold off on the "how many rings he got?" comments), but Griff was to baseball as Michael Jordan was to the NBA. Everybody in my age group who gave one iota about baseball followed him. Everybody.
Through my High School years, I watched Griffey go from the The Man. His numbers and level of play were out of control during that generation of baseball. I mean 48+ HRs, 130+ RBIs, and .290 avg 5 out of 6 years(the 6th was injury plagued) Who does that? Mantle came close, DiMaggio not even close, Hammerin Hank? Nope. Only Babe Ruth can claim those numbers...and we all know who the better fielder was.
...and as I've blogged about team,the Cincinnati Reds went out and traded for this Ruthian figure, in a High School seniors body for Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko and some others. This...just may have been the most excitement I've experianced in my life up to that point. The chance to watch this guy play for MY team? To break Aaron's record wearing a Reds uniform?
Well people, I'm not going to dwell on what couldve happened. We all know what did. The greatest player of my generation kept getting hurt. It affected his cards values, it affected his shoe contracts and poster deals, but it didn't affect how I felt about him. He was the best, CF I've ever seen play. Even in Cincy, often injured I saw him do wonderous things. If you're bored one day, look at Griffs Cincinnati stats and put them in a 162 game a season context...the man didn't really miss a beat.
So with this Ken Griffey Jr, a superstar that at times was standoffish and invredibly senstitive to media criticism; to a man who during the "steroid era" never had his name linked to performance enhancing drugs, which was a rarity among his contemporaries such as Barry, Sammy and Big Mac; to a man who while warming up in the batters circle would shoot a smile to kid wearing his jersey without a second thought; I want to say thank you. Thank you for playing the way you did, thank you for carrying yourself the way you did, thank you for that 1995 ALCS, thank you for playing baseball...but most of all...thank you for that 1989 Upper Deck.

Friday, May 28, 2010

UFC 114 Predictions

Saturday May 29, 2010 the grudge match many MMA fans have been waiting for is taking place in Las Vegas, NV when Quinton "Rampage" Jackson takes on "Suga" Rashad Evans. The hatred that these two men share has been brewing since Rashad entered the cage to challenge Rampage following Rampages's win over Rashad's friend and training partner Keith Jardine. It grew during their stint as opposing coaches on The Ultimate Fighter. This fight was supposed to happen at the end of theat season but was postponed due to Rampage's role as BA Baracus in the upcoming A Team movie. The winner gets the first shot at newly crowned UFC Light Heavyweight Champions Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Unfortunately a match up between Forrest Griffin and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira was supposed to be the co main event but a shoulder injury requiring surgery sidelined Griffin so Little Nog will be taking on Jason Brilz and the match up between Michael Bisping and Dan Miller has been bumped up to co main event status. Also on the card Diego Sanchez makes his return to welterweight against undefeated John Hathaway. Here are my predictions for the upcoming event.

Main Event:
Quinton "Rampage Jackson (30-7) vs. "Suga" Rashad Evans (19-1-1)
Prediction: Rampage by 2nd Round TKO

Co Main Event:
Michael "The Count" Bisping (19-3) vs. Dan Miller (11-3, 1 NC)
Prediction: Dan Miller by 1st Round Submission

Todd Duffee (6-0) vs. Mike Russow (12-1, 1 NC)
Prediction: Russow by 1st Round Submission

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (18-3) vs. Jason "Hitman: Brilz (18-2-1)
Prediction: Nogueira by 1st Round TKO

Diego "Nightmare" Sanchez (23-3) vs. John "The Hitman" Hathaway (13-0)
Prediction: Sanchez by 2nd Round Submission

Spike TV Prelims:

Amir Sadollah (4-1) vs. Dong "Stun Gun" Hyun Kim (12-0-1, 1 NC)
Prediction: Kim by 2nd Round TKO

Efrain "Hecho En Mexico" Escudero (13-1) vs. Dan "The Upgrade" Lauzon (12-3)
Prediction: Escudero by 1st Round Submission

Melvin "The Young Assassin" Guillard (42-9-3, 1 NC) vs. Waylon Lowe (8-2)
Prediction: Guillard by 2nd Round TKO

Luiz "Banha" Cane (11-2-1) vs. Cyrille "The Snake" Diabate (16-6-3)
Prediction: Cane by 1st Round TKO

Aaron Riley (28-12-1) vs. Joe "The South Side Strangler" Brammer (7-1-1)
Prediction: Riley by 2nd Round Submission

Jesse Forbes (13-5) vs. Ryan Jensen (15-5)
Prediction: Forbes by 3rd ROund Submission

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Super Bowl F-f-f-f-f-forty eight

Would you rather spend a February evening in New Jersey or Miami? Well apparently the NFL would rather spend their time in Jersey. Make no mistake, they’ll sell this like it’s a huge deal that New York City is getting the game. And why not, it has the bright lights and the big buildings and there’s no shortage of things to do. The only hitch is that the game is in New Jersey. So let’s not BS ourselves by calling the site of this Superbowl New York/New Jersey. It’s in Jersey.

But the real story, at least to me, is the NFL’s message that without adding a retractable roof the South Florida market won’t see regular Superbowls anymore. This is where I call bullshit. And I’m calling out the NFL for being a bunch of hypocrites. First of all the facts, the consensus around the meetings, according to Omar Kelly and Fins writer Andy Kent, was the South Florida Group’s presentation was by and far the best, even going so far as to contribute a million dollars towards operating expenses at the owner’s meeting as an act of good faith.

The NFL accepted that good faith, then proceeded to make South Florida the first candidate to be eliminated. Now let’s ignore for a second the fact that Sun Life Stadium just saw a 250 million dollar face-lift in 2007. Forget the continual work that Stephen Ross has done in improving the experience of fans at the stadiums (improvements like personal televisions at seats, which other stadiums are now considering). The NFL has the balls to tell the Dolphins and the South Florida area that despite the trying economic times and the recent multi-million dollar renovations that they need to put more taxpayer money into the stadium in order to continue to get the chance to host the Superbowl, and they do so while accepting a million dollar gift?

What stews you even more though is the fact that Tampa got no such treatment. Tampa, whose Raymond James stadium is newer than Sun Life, also has no retractable roof. Now I visited Tampa probably 30 times in 30 years and I can tell you with a great degree of authority that the odds of getting rained on in Tampa are just as high as they are in Miami. New Jersey has no retractable roof. Not to mention, on the date the Superbowl has been played over the last five years the weather in Jersey has been on average mid-40’s with snow last year and rain in 2007. What’s better than dropping a few grand to go to the Superbowl and getting to sit through 40 degree rain in New Jersey? Dysentery. I would honestly rather crap myself to death than pay two grand to sit in cold rain for three hours in Jersey.

I wish Miami would call the NFL on its bullshit. The NFL profits more off of new stadiums with its business model (revenue sharing, hence Jerry Jones’ campaign to end it before his Cowboys opened their billion dollar palace last year). Now the owners are telling the citizens of South Florida that if they want to continue to host the Superbowl and enjoy the 350-400 million dollars of stimulus that it brings they area, they have to pay a few hundred million to put an ugly roof on top of what is in reality already a very nice stadium. And they do so knowing damn well they stand to pocket about 4-5 billion dollars in TV revenues despite locking the players out next year, which will deny all of the South Florida football fans they’re already trying to fleece a year of football.

Having a Superbowl venue with a roof isn’t even always a positive thing. The Superdome has a roof and it’s a complete dump.  And why, seemingly every time the NFL plays the Superbowl in a dome they inexplicably shoot off ten minutes of fireworks and pyrotechnics, I do not know. But I do know that it must be nice to inhale smoke and enjoy decreased visibility through most of the third quarter while they try haplessly to suck the smoke out.

My point is this, if Miami wanted to play the game in the rickety old Orange Bowl (RIP) it would sell out. The fact the NFL is trying to leverage the Dolphins to dump more into their stadium (and by virtue of that they’ll make more money collectively) is downright criminal. Miami is a destination attraction. Does it rain? Yes, it actually is more of a shower pattern that tends to move on in a few hours. That’s nit-picking though. But it’s also going to be in the mid 70’s, hell maybe even the 80’s. But this isn’t about rain or a retractable roof. It’s about money. And they don’t think Miami’s spent enough lately. So let’s not pretend it’s anything else.

There is no way in hell you can tell me that in February an outdoor stadium in New Jersey is a better destination than Miami, Tampa and Arizona. Hell, ever. I wouldn’t want to go to Jersey over Miami, EVER. I don’t care if the new Meadowlands could make the Palace of Versailles blush with golden toilet seats and Ushers in tuxedos, it’s still Jersey in February. And the reason you give for eliminating South Florida is a retractable roof? Bullshit. Just be honest next time, “we want you to spend more money.”

In a related story, Barrow Alaska municipal stadium has undergone a $800 million dollar facelift. The new outdoor "fan miserable" stadium will host the 2020 BCS Championship game. Festivities will be underground in an old nuclear warhead storage facility. This event will replace the old, lack of fun and bad weather Orange Bowl in Miami. Because the game is being played 30 miles from the city in which the NCAA claims it to be in, fans will be allowed to ride the DSTA (dog sled transit authority) or the "TA" free of charge for the weekend. The DSTA promises that no vagrants, homeless or chemically dependant nuciences will be riding at those times. 

The last paragraph was untrue. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Ballad of a Tortured Sports Fan

In the day after my beloved Cincinnati Reds imploded, giving up 7 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning to fall out of first place, I see what is in store for me this season...

I'm sure alot of you can relate to things of this nature, unless you're the classic team flopper.

Over the past 2 decades (with the exception of my Florida Gators and Puttsburgh Penquins) I have been maybe the most tortured sports fan in this great country. In a way, I guess it serves me right. As a young boy, when I was figuring out the sports world, rooting for certain teams, etc,
the teams I became fans of were all winners. I wasn't the only young lad to root for the likes of Dan Marino, Pete Rose, and John Stockton, but now eras pass, ownerships change, and the entire landscape of sports is adjusted, including the futures of storied franchises.

I would imagine it was about 1982, around the age of 5, relatives of mine from South Florida would speak of Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins at family gatherings. I'll be honest, their bright colors and my lifelong pattern of going against the norm (Steelers fans where I come from) were my biggest reasons for following them. In the years to come, I followed my Dolphins and the uber exciting Dan Marino though years of playoff failures. Even making trips to Buffalo in back to back years with my Old Man, only to see shootout losses at the expense of the K-Gun. I've seen regime change after regime change. Coach after coach (Nick Saban can catch the clap and his hands can contract arthritis so he can't relieve himself for all I care). QB after QB failed me. In 2001 we went 11-5, had the number 1 defense in football...the next year we trade for RB Ricky Williams who rushed for 1800+ yds and 16 TDs, we have the #3 defense in the NFL...and we go 9-7? How does this happen Coach Wannstadt? Seriously?
Then you have the trading of a "washed up" Wes Welker, the decision to sign Duante Culpepper over Drew Brees, the Run Ricky Run saga, and so on and so forth.
I have yet to see my team win an NFL Chamionship. This year could be different. We have a big big big Defense (Parcells philosophy), a good young QB, 2 great backs and a game changing WR...I won't be getting my hopes up though.

1984...while playing Little League in the small community of Mingo Jct ,which I excelled at as a youngster, I played for the Reds. Now as many kids of that era, I wore my Reds cap everywhere. To school, to the pool (yes I swam on gamedays...sorry Coach Frieling), and so on and so forth. They were my team. As luck would have it, my Mom was a big Reds fan. I guess living in the 70's and if you were from Ohio it was easy. So I listened the stories of Pete Rose (a HALL of FAMER!!!!! Get over it commish), Joe Morgan and Dave Conception. Not to take anything away from my Dad's Yankees stories, I still say Mickey Mantle was the most talented player to ever put on spikes, but our rival in Little League was the Yankees. I couldn't be a Yankees fan. It just wasn't an option. We actually followed Pete Rose to a few stadiums looking to get #4192 (it happens after we had to return home of course). Later on I witnessed some success, my beloved Charlie Hustle banned from the sport I loved, a few 2nd place finishes...then The 1990 World Series.
Ahhhh yes, a four game sweep of the heavily favored Oakland Athletics. The Bash Brothers and Tony LaRussa were swept by a bunch average players and a very injured, although courageous, Eric Davis. It was awesome. Just awesome...and the fact we beat the local favorite Pirates made it sweeter. I wore my Reds hat to school all year.
Following that the Reds had some success. An NLCS appearance, a couple division titles etc. In 1999, we lost a one game playoff with the eventual NL Champs the NY Mets. We had a good season, 90+ wins...and that off season we signed Cincinnati Arch Bishop Moeller HS grad, AL MVP Ken Griffey Jr. Wow, the excitment. I honestly didn't think we would lose a game....

We've had one winning season since. 1
This year could be different. We have a young, talented and hungry ball club off to a good start (last night was tough though). I won't be getting my hopes up though.

Basketball. It took me a little while to really get into hoops. My family and friends rooted for either the Celtics, Bulls or Cavs. I watched all of them. Larry was outstanding, Michael was, well Michael, but when I saw an undersized John Stockton, a hulking figure in Karl Malone and a mountain city embracing and supporting them like no other, and when I saw them take the Lakeshow or Showtime 7 games in the Western Conference finals...I was hooked.
After that...9 years of 50+ wins and early playoff exits. Then Jordan retires. Opening the door for everybody else. Well, the Rockets beat us in the Conference Finals in back-to-back seasons on their way to NBA Chamionships. Then...we beat em. A 3 pointer as time expires to get us to the NBA Finals. To play...the Bulls and Michael. Dammit.
We get back the following year with the best record in the league and home court. Again, we play the Bulls and Michael. Same results.
Since then we have had limited success. Playoff runs here and there with a young team, but nothing really gets me too excited.
Now I will say, we have the best PG in the league, a solid core and a lottery pick (thanks Isaiah), and an outstanding coach...but again I have yet to see my team win an NBA Championship.
Maybe next year will be different?

This ramble was brought about by my Reds totally collapsing yesterday, but has been brewing for quite some time. I'm sure that most all of you can relate in some way, shape or form to what I'm speaking of and we are forced to ask ourselves...what makes us follow this thing they call sport?
It's because the hope of raising that trophy on National TV will be a part of our life and something we can share with our kids, nieces, nephews and friends that will make that moment live forever.

By Fabz

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fred's Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery Predictions

Tomorrow night Strikeforce will present Heavy Artillery on Showtime. The headliner of this card is a "Heavyweight Championship" fight between Allistair "Demolition Man" Overeem and Brett "The Grim" Rogers. I won't get into the fact that it's a joke to call this a title fight considering Overeem, "the champion", hasn't defended his title since he won it via submission over Paul Buentello in 2007 and the challenger Rogers lost his last fight in order to obtain his "title" shot. I am iterested to hear if Overeem's urine glows in the dark during drug testing considering the suspicions people have about his PED use. He hasn't fought in the US since the Buentello fight (his fights have all been overseas) and this is a man that 3 years ago was a 205 lb fighter that suddenly is tipping the scales at a solid 253 lbs. This alone doesn't make him guilty but it does make one suspicious. Anyway, here are my predictions for the main card fights taking place in St. Louis, MO.

Allistair "Demolition Man" Overeem (32-11-1) vs. Brett "The Grimm" Rogers (11-1)
Prediction: Overeem by 1st Rd TKO

Andrei "Pittbull" Arlovski (15-7) vs. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva (13-2)
Prediction: Arlovski by Unanimous Decision

Ronald "Jacare" De Souza (11-2-1) vs. "Smokin" Joey Villasenor (27-6)
Prediction: "Jacare" by 1st Rd Submission

Roger Gracie (2-0) vs. Kevin "The Monster" Randleman (17-14)
Prediction: Gracie by 1st Rd Submission

Antwain "The Juggernaut" Britt vs. Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante
Prediction "Feijao" by 1st Rd TKO