Curse Broken By Stromuhr

  • Sunday, June 6, 2010 6:23 PM
  • Written By: Mike Rosolio

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The refurbished Browns are one of the league’s most docile doormats. The Indians are the second worst team in baseball. The most physically gifted basketball player of all time is a homegrown hero and seems all but destined to leave the Cavs to give New Yorkers a taste of what it feels like to be a winner.

But rest easy, Cleveland, all is not lost.

Your new favorite daughter has brought home a championship to Northern Ohio! Anamika Veeramani of Cleveland took down the Scripps National Spelling Bee with a killer maneuvering of the word STROMUHR, which is a rheometer designed to measure the amount and speed of blood flow through an artery and is not recognized by spell check. There, you got your taste, Cleveland, so it was all worth it. Let’s take a walk back through the great moments in Cleveland sports history:

-- Jim Brown terrorizes the NFL pre-merger, retires in his prime to help Lee Marvin kill Nazis.

-- Browns get it back together just in time for John Elway to come into the league (see The Drive and The Fumble).

-- The Indians’ ineptitude is lampooned in a film where they finally win a pennant, only to lose to the Yankees.

-- Michael Jordan ruins the Cavs with ‘The Shot;’ also took the over.

-- The Indians’ continuous ineptitude is once again lampooned in a film where they finally make a World Series. They probably didn’t win, since the next installment featured most of their lineup in Double-A ball.

-- The 1994 strike interrupts what was at the very least a wild card year for the loaded Indians.

-- The Browns leave town in 1995. Five years later, Art Modell hoists the Lombardi trophy.

-- The 1995 Indians lose the World Series in six games to the Atlanta Braves, who mastered the art of losing World Series in the mid-90s. The 1997 Indians lose to the Florida Marlins after leading in the ninth inning of Game 7.

-- Tim Couch, first overall pick.

-- Manny Ramirez wins two titles in Boston. Albert Belle has his Halloween Adventure.

-- CC Sabathia. Cliff Lee.

-- LeBron James is on the brink of going to New York.

-- Anamika Veeramani.

It was a long way back to glory, Cleveland. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

New York Super Bowl Changes Everything

  • Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:11 AM
  • Written By: Mike Rosolio

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There was the Dead Ball Era in baseball. Then the Steroid Era. In hockey, there were the goal-happy 80s, which were destroyed by the New Jersey Devils and the Left Wing Lock. In basketball, the death of the hand-check fit right into David Stern’s Superstar Scheme.

Such a change just happened in the NFL.

A lot of people will discount the league awarding the 2014 Super Bowl to New York/New Jersey, the first outdoor cold-weather Super Bowl in history. But history will call this game the end of the five-wide era, the death of the dome team and the end of the quarterback as Super Bowl MVP.

Make no mistake, this will not be the only cold-weather Super Bowl. The seal is broken, and with a big fat precedent to argue behind, the deep pockets and shrewd business minds of Washington’s Dan Snyder, Philadelphia’s Jeffrey Lurie and New England’s Robert Kraft are going to all say, "Why Not Us?" The nicest stadiums outside of Dallas are in Green Bay, New England, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Baltimore, and Snyder can always get a bucket of patriotic crocodile tears about holding America’s greatest game in the nation’s capital. Not to mention the fact that New Meadowlands will probably become a regular host, unless there’s 30 feet of snow on the ground and no one watches.

Everything changes.

Home-field advantage in the NFL also dictates what a team is used to. Playing a dome team in a dome means dealing with a fast track and no fear of the elements. Playing outdoors in the North means dealing with frozen tundras. So what’s the difference? Teams like Indianapolis, New Orleans, Minnesota and Arizona have all built perennial contenders in recent history by installing high-octane

passing attacks. Whereas Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Chicago were historically built on running games and defense, although, hilariously, all three have become pass-first teams. Why? Because all three knew that if they made it to a Super Bowl, the downhill running, too-cold-to-tackle-me stuff was going to be replaced by a shootout. If the big game is played in the elements, it’s going to be the latter kind that has the advantage; the shootout is going to become a power game. Suddenly, teams like Baltimore, Tennessee, Miami and the Jets, all playoff contenders, don’t have to worry about their running games becoming irrelevant in the last game of the season. On the contrary; the Colts and Saints, who should both be Super Bowl contenders this season, have to worry about running into a grinder team.

Warm weather favors quarterbacks. Only Brett Favre is better in the elements than when it's 75 and sunny. So it shouldn’t be surprising that of the 44 Super Bowl MVPs, 23 have been quarterbacks. In the last 20 years, only three running backs (Ottis Anderson, Terrell Davis and Emmitt Smith) have won it. Look for that number to go up after they become more necessary in the cold.

Now, this isn’t taking place for another four years, but the wheels are in motion, and smart teams plan for the future. Starting in 2011, a first-round pick of a fullback might not be worthy of a boo.

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Cleveland's Last Hope: Lose Tonight

  • Thursday, May 13, 2010 6:56 AM
  • Written By: Mike Rosolio

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Everyone's treating tonight like it's the last chance for Cleveland to be anything. The Browns, while possibly on the right track, are light years behind even the third-place team in their division. The Indians haven't been this bad since Rick Taylor retired. And everyone in town is convinced the last guy who would leave the Cavs is all but gone if they drop Game 6 to the Celtics tonight.

We've got Drew Carey on ESPN pleading for LeBron James to stay. Bill Simmons drafted up a diary of The Death of Cleveland Basketball, which was more of an article about Boston than anything. If you think about it, LeBron leaving Cleveland basically means the team should just fold. If you can't keep a hometown guy, you can't keep anyone.

But I'm going to take an opposite stance: I think LeBron losing is the best chance for him to stay.

We all know LeBron wants to be a Global Icon, which you can't do on Lake Erie. No one in Al Qaeda knows what Cleveland is. If you have any chance at all of staying in Cleveland, as opposed to going to New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, it's until you win a championship. If the Cavs won the title this year, there would be no reason to stay; he'd brought glory to Cleveland and could leave in good conscience. There's still going to be unfinished business there, which will make the exodus a little harder to swallow. Not saying he's going to automatically stay now, just saying there's a possibility. Also, he won't be the only megastar to get bounced this offseason: The two biggest tickets in the NHL - Sid The Kid and Alex The Great - are both done too. The NHL stands for National Hockey League. It's a sport with sticks played on ice. They run it on the bull-riding channel. Sigh ...


Now about the supporting cast. Yes, they brought in a leaky Shaq and Antawn Jamison and took a big run at it. But how about the New York Knicks' ability to 'bring in help?' They would have made the same mistakes, if not worse. Maybe they could wheel out Raef LaFrentz or Antoine Walker. The key piece in the Superteam is LeBron. Who's to say the Cavs can't keep LeBron and then bring in D-Wade and Chris Bosh? What if that loaded Knick team is actually a loaded Cleveland team? Yeah, it costs a lot of money and obviously New York has deeper pockets that the Cavs. But it's a zero sum game: your franchise is either WORTHLESS or it becomes the New Bulls. A Big Three of LeBron-Wade-Bosh will win multiple championships no matter how bad the coach is. And don't give me that "Nike wants their guys in New York" argument; Nike breaks even if every Cavs game becomes a three-part commercial for Air Jordans.

On to the coach. Mike Brown's gotta go. He's officially the Brad Childress of the NBA. Again, let's say you can construct the Superteam. Guess what that means? Lure Phil Jackson away from Los Angeles to add to his ridiculous ring total. Make an offer to John Calipari or a Godfather Offer to Mike Krzyzewski. With that team, you could almost just make LeBron Reggie Dunlop and let the inmates run the asylum.

There isn't a city in the country more desperate for a winner than The Mistake By The Lake. If it can keep LeBron, it has a shot at being one. But if they win it this year, they'll be a Jeopardy Question: "The team LeBron won his first title with before the eleven he won in Los Angeles."

At least Drew Carey can still watch him.

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Test Your Toughness

  • Thursday, May 6, 2010 12:28 PM
  • Written By: Mike Rosolio

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There is no tougher city to play in that Philadelphia. It’s a town with a chip on its shoulder unrivaled in the world. It hates New York for being a bigger, better city and hates DC for stealing the capital from it 210 years ago. They’re never satisfied with any semblance of winning, because no amount of winning will ever be good enough. It’s for this reason that the biggest star in the history of Philadelphia sports is a fictional boxer who always gets to win in the end (or come to a draw, which is a moral, arty win).

On the flipside, there probably isn’t an easier city in play in than Pittsburgh. It’s hard to find an example of a player or coach that has played in that city that wasn’t embraced in a blind zeal. Throw a couple touchdown passes and they’ll name some jerky after you. You get to go into any club for free and never pay for anything. The only real way you can screw up is if you’re a serial rapist.

Cool, an example.

The somewhat scattered point is that Pittsburgh fans have turned hard on Ben Roethlisberger, way harder than any fanbase ever has with a current player. But the details of the guy’s life, chronicled in TMZ-style detail by a recent Sports Illustrated cover story, shows a guy who is entitled, misogynistic and just a world-class asshole.

Pittsburgh fans have been playing defense on this guy for a while. “Oh, there was no criminal charge in Tahoe” and “Well, he was just targeted for money in Georgia.” A lot of them still will, especially if he wins a couple games this year.

But in reading the killer article and studying the situation, I don’t think he can handle this.

Take Donovan McNabb, the toughest skinned guy in the world who was only the best athlete the Eagles have had in the last 20 years, tied maybe with AI and Reggie White, and yet was run out of town. But as the villagers came after him with pitchforks and fire, McNabb had a smile on his face. The first seconds McNabb experienced as an Eagle was soaked in a chorus of boos, as the Philly "faithful" wanted Ricky Williams to clambake the Vet. This is a guy who could handle absolutely anything, and is personally responsible for every single game the Eagles won under his guidance.

Roethlisberger, on the other hand, is a guy who rode the coattails of a running game and defense right out of the gate. He had a better supporting cast than any rookie in the history of the game. But he always wanted the spotlight. You can tell based on his dour response to the Steelers' Super Bowl win in 2005, in which they won in spite of him. Now Roethlisberger has become a really good quarterback, there’s no denying that, and slowly but surely the Steelers have become about him. The team even abandoned their decades-long tradition of Strong Running Game First to placate him. He got his wish.

Now what?

His teammates don’t like him. It’s no secret there. And while he’s always been booed mercilessly in opposing stadiums, it’s going to get damn specific when he hits the road in 2010. Baltimore and Cleveland especially, two of the more hostile places to deal with, are going to do nothing shy of read the deposition outloud on the Jumbotron. But pros are pros, and every enemy territory is tough. But what about the home being tough? What about this weird trauma-victim urge ol’ Ben has to be the center of attention and hailed as a king? What if that goes away?

In all likelihood Ben’s handlers and agents will fulfill the requirements set by Roger Goodell to return after the minimum four games, unless he assaults another co-ed (which is certainly not impossible given his track record of "making better decisions"). Then the Steelers have a bye week, then three in a row on the road. So actually, either way, Ben’s first home game is going to be Week 10 against New England. I’m guessing the pregame announcements will be the defense.

But he’ll take the field eventually. Does the guy who has to be loved have the fortitude to block out the reign of doom that will come from the friendliest crowd he’ll face all year? It shouldn’t be too hard.

Just like riding a bike.

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Franchise MVP Worth The Wait

  • Sunday, April 25, 2010 11:46 AM
  • Written By: Mike Rosolio

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A friend of mine who happens to root for a far less successful team than ours sent a very interesting text after the Dickson pick:

'getting Ozzie from the Browns may have been worth a couple decades without a team'

It's possible that the Colts leaving in 1984 was the best thing that ever happened to Baltimore. Would you rather have the team that went from Art Schlichter to Steve Emtman to the countless other Colt busts or Newsome? Yes, the Colts have a ring and are perennial contenders, but they've really only made one great choice in Peyton Manning, who's just that good. But they almost took Ryan Leaf!

Then, if you recall, we got screwed over by the league again when Jacksonville took the team that was supposed to be ours. That front office just took Tyson Alualu tenth overall. How are we looking now?

Phil Savage was the genius and he left. Then George Kokinis. So many "guys behind the guy" and we forget there's really only one "guy." Ozzie Newsome is worth 12 years of suffering. Maybe double that.

It was a near perfect draft: We got two boom-bust projects in Art Jones and Ramon Harewood. A sure-handed route runner in David Reed, two receiving tight ends (only one has to pan out), and two first-round defensive starters who get to learn under veterans.

Admit it: Thursday night you were bummed out.

We were THIS close to getting Dez Bryant, but got jumped by the Cowboys. Then we passed on Kyle Wilson because the deal was "too good." Just getting Wilson seemed like a good deal, didn't it? Here's what Ozzie was thinking:

The Ravens' Achilles heel last year was their corner play. Pass defense. Teams were going vertical on us and there wasn't much we could do about it. Wilson fixes that problem immediately. But that wasn't the problem. Don't get me wrong, if Lardarius Webb takes his sweet time getting back on the field, we're not going to have the best back end in the league. But the problem was the pass rush. The Ravens had 32 sacks last season. Compare that to the 60 in 2006 and there's a bit of a discrepancy. We gotta shorten the amount of time these guys have to cover.

Enter Sergio Kindle.

If Kindle, projected as an even higher pick than Wilson, is as good as the aforementioned corner, and either Dickson or Ditta catches a touchdown pass this year, it's a win. Rather than fix one need (pass defense), Ozzie fixed two (pass defense and tight end).

There are a lot of teams who wouldn't mind a dozen years in football purgatory to have Ozzie at the helm. Allow me to be the first to ever say this:

"Thanks, Bob Irsay. We wouldn't be here without you."

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Two-Team Trade Affects Ten

  • Wednesday, April 14, 2010 10:37 AM
  • Written By: Mike Rosolio

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Over. Checkmate. Forget about it. Every year they say it’s the craziest offseason of all time, but this one clearly takes the entire cakesheet.

The Brandon Marshall trade is the biggest of all, so far, impacting far more than just the two teams involved. Let’s go to the tape:

-The Denver Broncos unloaded an off-the-field headache and saved a boatload in bucks that might as well go to Eddie Royal who’s almost as good talent-wise. But Marshall was Kyle Orton’s best friend. Forget the 10 TDs and 1,120 receiving yards. The guy had 101 catches this season. One third of the balls completed by Orton were to Marshall. And it’s not like he was actually expendable. Take away Marshall (and I know, odds are someone else would have caught at least some of the passes, but this is for dramatic effect), and Denver is 30th in total offense (ahead of only Cleveland and Oakland). This was a pass-first team that just lost its ability to pass. Maybe the Broncos can translate the high picks in a good draft to compensate for that, but for right now, the team that was a four-game losing streak away from making the playoffs is probably a lot less than that.

-As for Miami, Bill Parcells gets the exact kind of player he always looks for: Someone else’s malcontent problem that he whips into shape. If there’s any talent at all in Chad Henne, we’ll know it right away. He’s got a solid defense, a tricky running game and now a big No. 1 receiver. Miami was probably closer in the One Player Away realm than most of the teams in the league. They were 20th in passing offense, fourth in rushing.

-Then you have to think about the Bills, Jets, and Patriots. While the Dolphins lost their last three to knock them out of the playoffs, they went 4-2 in the conference. What’s the Achilles heel of other AFC East team? Stopping the run (NYJ: 8th, NE: 13th, Buffalo: 30th). No more stacking the box against the Fins this year. If Henne is at least a little bit good, this could be the most competitive division in the league. In the same vein, the Chargers, Raiders, and Chiefs have to be licking their chops that the best receiver in the division now isn’t.

-And let’s not forget our beloved AFC North. Oh yes, this trade has your name on it, too. The Steelers, Bengals, Browns and Ravens all need a receiver in that order, or at least could be drafting one. The Broncos and Dolphins were both likely destinations for one of the top talents, be it Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas or Arrelious Benn. With the Dolphins out of the way, at least two of these guys could be sitting there when the Steelers pick at 18. The odds, therefore, of a top three receiver ending up in the North just doubled.

-Back to Cleveland. The Browns have a million needs and if they stay put will probably take Bryant. But now with the Dolphins out of the market, the Broncos’ chances of taking Bryant rose exponentially. Therefore Holmgren’s 7th pick just increased in value for teams wanting to trade ahead of Denver. This is all based on the hypothesis that the character issue isn’t an issue if the player is really good. Guess what? Bryant is.

All of this for a second-round pick. We’ll see if it’s worth it.

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Why Holmes Is A Jet

  • Monday, April 12, 2010 6:05 AM
  • Written By: Mike Rosolio

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The Steelers sent Santonio Holmes to the Jets last night for virtually nothing. A fifth-rounder, which is the real life equivalent of the guy being traded for the cold Coors Light.  There are so many angles with this that they’ll have to be addressed individually, but they all add up to the Steelers being lucky as all get out.

Except one: Santonio Holmes had sort of become the main piece on offense after Ben NoMeansNo. The identity of the Pittsburgh attack was not the pounding of the running game or the dink and dunks to Hines Ward. It was a play breaking down, Ben hurling the ball downfield and Holmes being around to catch it. So for this very moment, the Steelers lost.

But, here are the many ways they lucked out considerably.

1)    Holmes Screwed Up. The fact that Holmes did anything wrong at all is the best thing that could have happened to the Steeler organization. While the allegations against him were not as strong as the ones against Roethlisberger, they could be in a position to say, “We take character seriously” without having to make a drastic move with their serial rapist franchise player. Sure, Holmes is good, but Ben’s the team. He became the perfect fall guy. If he doesn’t hurl a glass at a lady, the Steelers have to figure out how they can save face while still keeping their quarterback. Now they don’t have to.

2)    They got something at all for Holmes. The Steelers are very good at not succumbing to players’ high-priced demands, which means a lot of them leave in free agency (see Plaxico Burress, another class act). Holmes specifically wanted No. 1 receiver money and to play in a bigger market: Chicago, DC, New York. Boom, goes to the Jets, gets what he wants. So the Jets now have a potentially loaded roster and all it cost them was a 5th-rounder. The Steelers got a compensatory pick. But ...

3)    Dez Bryant is slipping. Does no one else see the writing on the wall? Is there any way Pittsburgh makes this trade if Bryant shows up on time to his pro day? The best receiver in this draft and many others is going to slip like Randy Moss did in 1998. The Steelers pick at 18 and have eleven picks in the draft. If he gets past Miami (or maybe even not), the Steelers will have a clear shot at a guy who’s better than Holmes and cheaper in the short term. They couldn’t have justified taking him with Holmes still on the roster, considering they also have Ward and Mike Wallace. But now, it makes total sense. This is the master plan, and it just fell into Pittsburgh’s orange-jumpsuited lap.

It’s always better to be lucky than good.

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Tide Turns in DC

  • Thursday, April 8, 2010 9:24 AM
  • Written By: Mike Rosolio

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Let’s get this out of the way first: I don’t like the Redskins.

In fact, everyone has a list of teams they unequivocally hate, and the Redskins check in at numero tres, thanks to the proximity to the 410 and Tagliabue’s using them as a consolation prize for not getting the Bombers in 1992. They’re behind only the Steelers and the Colts. And, also in fact, the animosity towards Indianapolis has dwindled to quite a serious degree that it’s possible the boys from the Beltway could overtake them. Then again, they’d have to be remotely competitive and beat the Ravens in a meaningful game. Well, the latter won’t happen this year, since the only matchup is a preseason nothing Week 2 of the preseason.

The point that’s being made here is that I really think the former will.

There are a million reasons why it won’t happen, the biggest of which being the literally biggest: the absolute tire fire that is Albert Haynesworth. He’s unhappy, unmotivated, and uncheap (damned dedication to alliteration…). But other than that…

The first reason any team ever has a chance to go from Worst to First is the schedule, and it’s pretty glaring in the NFC East. Every team plays the NFC North and AFC South, but the difference is in NFC South and NFC West. Both divisions are built the exact same way: three teams all about the same level, and then a doormat. So while the rival Cowboys have to deal with the Saints and the Eagles get the Falcons and Niners, Washington gets to sit back, relax, and beat the tar out of Tampa and St. Louis, two of the three teams picking ahead of them this year. Now, it’s true when the schedule came out, both the Rams and Bucs went, “Sweet, we get to beat the tar out of the Redskins this year.” But it’s all about competitive differences in division.

Next, let’s look at what exactly Mike Shanahan means to the division. Nay sayers will always bring up that the Broncos won only one playoff game without John Elway (Divisional game vs New England in 2005). But Shanahan knows offense. Remember it was only a couple years ago that he was dragging people in off the street and turning them into 1,000 yard rushers. Now even if Clinton Portis and Willie Parker are both done, who’s to say the third guy isn’t going to get the job done? Shanny does offense and that’s the problem in Washington. The defense actually doesn’t stink, even with Haynesworth spending the majority of his money on jet engine fans for when he’s on the bench. The Redskins were tenth in total defense. TENTH. On a 4-12 team! So why was that the case? They were 16th in points allowed (translation: short fields) and 22nd in total offense, 26th in scoring offense. Now all stats are meaningless, but the point here is that the thing Shanahan does right is the thing the Redskins don’t. Post Elway, Shanahan’s offense finished in the bottom half of the league only twice and in the top five five times. Including the 6-10 year after Elway retired and no one knew what to do, Shanahan had a losing record only once: the year he got fired.

And then there’s McNabb.

That’s why were talking about the Redskins in any term other than Bye Week. The trade was massive because it gave the Redskins a motivated quarterback who just might be the third best of the last ten years. He’s also only 33 years old. Oh yeah, and he left the Eagles. If he can get any kind of protection (and knowing Shanahan’s history, he’ll get the right tackle at 4), the Redskins offense may not be electric, but won’t be abysmal. It’s impossible to bring in a guy like McNabb and still just be an absolute disaster.

Way Too Early Prediction: The Redskins will go 10-6 and win the division. They’ll also be competitive for the next couple years.

But will they overtake Indy? The jury is still out.

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Buzzer Beaten, But I Feel Fine

  • Monday, March 22, 2010 6:16 AM
  • Written By: Mike Rosolio

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Watching the One Shining Moments year in and year out, I always wondered what it was like for the Other Team. Every March, without exception, the students and alums of Mississippi get to watch Bryce Drew drain a legendary three over them. No matter how many titles John Calipari weasels for them before he bolts pending another NCAA investigation, Kentucky will never get to d-up Christian Laettner again.



Even this season, when a wireless company shows people around the country watching Maryland’s Drew Nicholas bury UNCW, that has to sting a bit, right?

Probably fitting this was the year MD got that commercial.



Despite years of Maryland basketball devotion, huge wins, crushing losses, and that game where Chris Wilcox missed a dunk so badly it nearly counted as a three the other way, I have never been on the receiving end of a buzzer beater. And you know what?



It’s actually not that bad.



That’s not to say it wasn’t devastating, especially after the ridiculous comeback from 16 down that probably would have made its way into Terp lore the other way. And having the careers of three seniors – Eric Hayes, Landon Milbourne and the boisterous Greivis Vasquez – end instantly like that certainly isn’t the best way to go.



But it was instant. No blown lead, no charge call, no seconds of tension during a years-long final defensive stand.





I think back, as I often do, to the great piece of cinematic genius known as Soylent Green. In a post-apocalyptic world, rather than die of starvation or disease, Edward G. Robinson opts to go to a government facility, have a huge steak dinner, and then get snuffed out painlessly and quickly. When that three fell, it was like ripping off a Band-Aid. It hurt for a second, but then that was it.



While certainly a good Maryland team, this wasn’t a great one overall. And let’s be totally honest: this loss doesn’t crack the top ten. It’s not like the 10 points in 54 seconds game against Duke, or the Final Four in 2001 against Duke, or really any loss to Duke. It was Michigan State. And it was fast.



That’s the key about getting beat by the buzzer. In every other kind of college basketball loss, there’s a melting down. There’s that run, that weird call, that feeling of impending doom. When it’s instant, there’s no impending anything.



You can’t compare it to baseball’s equivalent: the walk-off home run, because there’s too much time and tension. This buzzer beater started and ended in six seconds.



You can’t compare it to football’s equivalent: the shanked field goal, because in that case, you lament the blunder not the other team’s success.



You can’t compare it to soccer’s equivalent, because no one scores in soccer.



The agony of defeat isn’t commensurate with the thrill of victory on a buzzer beater. It’s all in all, pretty low cost. And it came at the hands of Michigan State, a team eerily similar to Maryland right down to the coach. And we even get an upside:



And least it wasn’t Duke.



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Fool Me A Few Times ...

  • Thursday, March 11, 2010 5:37 AM
  • Written By: Mike Rosolio

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The most commonly heard phrase at DUI checkpoints is undoubtedly, “I swear I’ve never done this before.” Most cops, judges and AA sponsors will agree that most people who get caught are driving while hammered quite routinely, setting up a glorious 'matter-of-time' situation that those more religious than myself would call fate. The same is true of drug overdoses. If you follow the wise words of Dr. Drew Pinsky on one of his several hundred rehab shows, you’ll know the deaths of Brittany Murphy, Heath Ledger and Len Bias were probably not their maiden forays into chemical fun-times.

Is the same true of rapists?

The Ben Roethlisberger story has implications so far reaching that it’s still too early to truly examine all of them. But we’ll start with what we already know.

Ben’s kind of an idiot, dense as lead to warning signs and close calls. We knew this after he smashed the hell out of his face after getting tossed off a motorcycle and he immediately said through tons of gauze, “I don’t think it's as much of a risk as people make it out to be” and vowed to continue riding sans helmet. So it’s within his insane judgment to, Nevada accusations still fresh, put himself in a similar position. That’s the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is after getting nearly busted for rape (despite Harrah’s attempts to cover it up), he decided to rape somebody else. Allegedly.

If this is true, then it’s his second time. That sort of erases the “in a moment of weakness”/ “bad judgment” defenses reserved for one-time offenders. If guilty, Roethlisberger is a rapist. That’s what he does. Not a guy who made a mistake, but an honest, card-carrying sex offender who enjoys his craft.

The next element is his excuse, and it’s not a great one. He admitted sexual contact with his accuser. ‘There was sexual contact, but not intercourse.’ He apparently went to the Bill Clinton Memorial School of Innuendo. And then stated that the victim fell down and hit her head. He moonlighted at the Battered Wife From The 50s Academy for Poor Excuses and Needlepoint. He trotted out two Pittsburgh area police officers, who were not there in an official capacity but as friends and fellow partiers of Roethlisberger. While this may have worked as a character stunt, neither one of them saw or could recognize his accuser. But Ben already said there was some contact. So what’s the point of bringing up character witnesses who didn’t see something that has been confirmed as happening?

Finally, Roethlisberger has hired big shot defender Ed Garland, the same guy who famously defended Ray Lewis in the 2000 murder trial of the same name. Here’s the trick, you don’t hire a guy like Garland if you’ve done nothing wrong. Ray Lewis didn’t commit murder, but he was definitely there when two of his buddies did. Roethlisberger was alone in a bathroom with his accuser; how’s the third man defense going to work here, Martin Vale?

There aren’t charges yet, but Ben’s got a prominent defense attorney and ESPN, who steered clear of the previous allegation for fear of losing access to Roethlisberger as a spokesman and interviewee, is all over this as well. We won’t know for a while what actually happened, but Adam “Pacman” Jones was suspended from the league for far less than this, and he wasn’t charged either. Stay tuned, because one accusation wasn’t enough to stop Roethlisberger from cruising. Maybe he’ll go for the hat trick.

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Boldin, The Beautiful

  • Friday, March 5, 2010 11:13 AM
  • Written By: Mike Rosolio

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Michael Jackson fans can argue, but the Ravens just added the best receiver they’ve ever had in Anquan Boldin and got him at a relative pittance: Boldin and a 5 for a Baltimore 3 and 4. Sure the draft is super deep and Ozzie does some of his best work in the middle rounds, but think about the flexibility this thing just purchased:

-Ozzie no longer has the pressure of reaching for a tumbling Dez Bryant in a trade, or rolling the dice on undersized Golden Tate, unproved Arrelious Benn or currently broken-footed Demaryius Thomas.

-Ozzie can trade down. The mid-twenties is prime real estate for teams worried about missing out on their guy in round 2. Historically, The Wiz is one of the best at fleecing dumb teams into trading up a little bit at a king’s ransom (Jacksonville in ’07, anyone?).

-The Ravens will get, as they do whenever they can, the best player available.

And the Ravens aren’t done.

Kevin Walter, the guy compared to Wes Welker for no other reason than he’s a white guy, is still technically on their radar, although he’s not getting the big contract he originally could have. And then there’s Derrick Mason, a guy who claims he just wants to win a ring at this point. If that’s true, he sees the Boldin signing as a chance to be a part of a vicious passing game in 2010. Mason played out of his mind drawing top and double coverage each of the last two years. Can you imagine what he can do singled up on a second corner? But it’s possible that Mason, who sees the writing on the wall as far as Father Time, could just want to get paid and if that’s the case, he probably won’t be back next year.

So let’s look at the options for the 2010 Ravens, draft aside:

1. Boldin, Mason, Walter, Stallworth. This would be the Madden version, and would require big contracts to Walter and Mason. It’s unlikely the Ravens could do this, even with the new weird cap rules. But if they ended up with this smattering, it would be hard to say there was a team in the league with a better receiving corps.

2. Boldin, Mason, Stallworth, Clayton. This is really the best case believable scenario. Boldin and Mason are possession guys with good speed and toughness, Stallworth and Clayton can maybe be home-run hitters.

3. Boldin, Walter, Stallworth, Clayton. This would stink only because Walter will have gotten Mason’s money, meaning we get a younger guy, but lose that rapport with Joe Flacco. This lineup is still far and away better than last season’s.

4. Boldin, Stallworth, Clayton, Williams. This is what we get if neither of the two other guys make it to the 410. And you know, it’s better than last year as well. The only thing you worry about is that this would be the injury prone all stars.

The Ravens got a lot better today, but they could get a whole lot better with one more move. Bring back Mason and let’s light the place up!

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Bring Me The Monster

  • Tuesday, March 2, 2010 7:49 AM
  • Written By: Mike Rosolio

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In the golden age of offensive football (constructed by the golden age of defensive penalties), the biggest debate at the top of the draft is between two defensive tackles: Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh. A lot of draftniks (ESPN’s Todd McShay, CBS’s Chad Reuter, SI’s Don Banks) think McCoy is better. Everyone else thinks it’s a close race.

WHY?

Gregg Doyel of CBS is the only guy to point out how crazy this argument is. He cites stats (Suh’s 2009 totals are better than McCoy’s career numbers), the most glaring of which is that McCoy has 14 career sacks and Suh, considered to be the inferior pass rusher, had 12 this season. He had a quarter of McCoy’s CAREER sacks against Texas alone! He also brings up the argument that Suh was the entire defense for Nebraska and McCoy was surrounded by all Americans.

Me? I go back to the Eye Test.

When you see McCoy on film, you see the Sooner line break down the defensive line and McCoy wrapping up the ball carrier.

When you see Suh on film, you see a Scooby Doo Monster.

Clockwise from right: Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley, Jerrod Johnson, Daniel Thomas, Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh

For those who can’t remember, a seminal plot point of every Doo was the part where Shaggy, Scooby, and the occasional rest of the gang run from the monster, who towers over them, arms outstretched. This sequence would often be interrupted with an image of the Gang in a band, the monster on drums. But anyway…

There are two other factors that are hindering the no-brainer-ness of this argument. The first is that many scouts are limited by comparison. What do you hear most often about guys in the draft? Eric Berry is the next Ed Reed. Sam Bradford is the next Matt Ryan. Gerald McCoy is the next Warren Sapp. There hasn’t been a Suh before. There wasn’t a LeBron either.

The other factor is that program prestige sometimes creeps into the conversation. Sure, Nebraska is a big time program, but it’s not Oklahoma. At least not these days. That’s where the insane logic of Jimmy Clausen comes in. The reason anyone likes Clausen at all is because he was the top recruit in the country. Back in the day, Sebastian Telfair was a prodigious commodity. None of it means anything, just watch the tape.

Now, this may be irrelevant because if the Rams like Sam Bradford at all, they’re going to take him instead of a tackle, especially in a dome. But at least with the second pick, Jim Schwartz, king of the defensive line, will make the bold declaration as to who is better.

Here’s the last part of the eye test: McCoy and Suh are nearly the exact same size (both 6’4”, Suh is 15 pounds heavier). Who looks bigger?

The eyes have it. Give me Suhby Doo.

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It's Meaningless...But We Time It

  • Friday, February 19, 2010 9:04 AM
  • Written By: Mike Rosolio

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The beer vomit isn’t even cold yet on Bourbon Street and the 2010 season is already starting. With the savage free agency restrictions of the uncapped year, the draft is even more important than ever. And next week, the first step toward the draft is underway.

Oh yeah. It’s combine season!

For the uninitiated, the combine is a staggering waste of time masquerading as the scientific part of the evaluation process. With all of the money poured into not only the players but the scouts, there simply has to be some method to what seems like random chance.

Yet Bill Polian, Ozzie Newsome, A.J. Smith, Kevin Colbert, and the rest of the best scouting guys in the business aren’t really distracted by it. They use the ‘eye test.’ The guys they take are the ones where the clips from college makes you go, “Whoa, that guy’s good.” There’s maybe never been a better example that Patrick Willis, whose Ole Miss footage looked like it was Mike Singletary circa 1984.

The combine is like you’re making a soup. And you’re not really allowed to taste the soup until you’ve bought it. So you just look at the ingredients you think are in the soup and try each one on for size. Ice cream is good, burritos are good, alfredo sauce is good. They don’t make a good soup.

According to the combine, the following truths were scientifically proven:

-Ryan Leaf was just as good as Peyton Manning

-Vernon Gholston was the next Lawrence Taylor

-Malcolm Jenkins was too slow to play corner

-Michael Oher couldn’t adapt to the NFL game

-Darrius Heyward-Bey was a Hall of Fame deep threat in waiting

-Mike Mamula was a seamless Reggie White replacement

-Randy Moss was too much trouble

-Jerry Rice was too slow

How is all that turning out?

Then you look at some of the famous guys who slipped through the cracks. How does Ray Lewis, who will go down as at the very least one of the three best linebackers of all time, end up as the fourth linebacker taken in the 1996 draft, behind Kevin Hardy, John Mobley, and Reggie Brown? How does Ed Reed slip to the 20s? What about Tom Brady? It’s that everyone overthinks the draft. It’s too important to be left up to instinct.

So here are the best bets to be the 2010 combine freaks, along with a prognosis of actual talent:

-Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford. I’ll preface this by saying Gerhart passes the ‘eye test.’ But Gerhart shouldn’t be a first round pick. He’s predicted to be a big shocker in the 40, which should make a dopey team reach just a little too high (cough cough, Pete Carroll, cough cough).

-Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame. Take the hype from being the top high schooler a couple years back and the legacy of the Golden Dome, and you’re already talking about an epic reach. But Clausen has the most potential to do one of the JaMarcus Russell/Kyle Boller stunt throws from a unicycle or something that makes the Redskins or Bills decide he’s the next Dan Fouts. When in reality, he’ll be the next Russell/Boller.

-Colt McCoy, QB, Texas. I actually really like McCoy. He’s ridiculously accurate and could be a Drew Brees type in the pros. But he doesn’t have Brees’ leadership (see him sulking on the sideline in the National Championship Game) and could have an EPIC athletic combine. He’ll post a crazy good 40 time that’s going to convince a team he’s something he’s not. He’s a guy who should go to a good team and be an elite game manager (paying attention, Vikings?). He’s not Vince Young (paying attention, Niners?)

-Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame. All he needs to do is run fast and he could be the second wideout off the board. So he’s been working on this. If his 40 time is anywhere near good, he could be the elite first round receiver teams are looking for, in the mold of Troy Williamson, Heyward-Bey, and Charles Rogers.

So the combine is meaningless. But I’ll still be watching. If for no other reason than to see if Rich Eisen can beat a D-lineman.

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Same As The Old Boss

  • Sunday, February 7, 2010 4:51 PM
  • Written By: Mike Rosolio

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We should have known.

So many old books had been rewritten this year. It was all about the quarterbacks, not just the last two, but about ten guys who were all elevated to franchise passers this season. It was all about the death of defense, or rather the birth of about seventy rules to make playing defense damn near impossible. And the final four coaches this year were two rookies, Brad Childress and Sean Payton. Childress is maybe the scariest coaching situation in the league, at least as far as his own fans are concerned. That leaves Payton.

Coaching wins.

Super Bowl XLIV, which was another amazing game for the third straight season, was billed as Peyton Manning vs Drew Brees, the second coming of Joe Montana vs Dan Marino, but it was actually Payton vs Jim Caldwell.

Caldwell blinked maybe twice and opened his mouth fewer times than Alice does in the new Tim Burton trailer. Payton stunned Indianapolis with an onside kick to open the second half. And that was just his most visible stroke of absolute genius:

-After Dwight Freeney took down Brees with one hand, he was never heard from again. Payton erased him by doubling him, chipping him, and running right at him. For a number of big plays at the end of the game, he was on the sideline sucking wind.

-Along with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Payton executed the one kind of fourth quarter game plan that could possibly work against Manning: the one he hadn’t seen. After dropping six or seven guys into coverage for most of the game, the fourth quarter became a Rex Ryan free-for-all. Four guys were in coverage on the pick six, everyone else was rushing.

-Payton kept his team psychologically in the game. The fourth and goal from the two was exactly the right call, successful or not, because field goals don’t beat Manning. Know what happened? Indy went three and out and the Saints got a field goal anyway.

-The onside kick. No one is better, maybe ever, than Manning coming out of halftime. So why not keep the ball out of his hands? Unreal.

Brees was named Super Bowl MVP. Pierre Thomas was a force. Tracy Porter was the defensive hero. But Payton got carried off the field.

The NBA was built to be a star league. Baseball was designed to be about the owners and the bucks. NASCAR is about drinking, heavily, while outside. Football is and has always been about the coaches. Don Shula was carried off after the perfect season. Vince Lombardi, John Madden, Joe Gibbs, and Bill Parcells were all as well.

Quarterbacks win you games. Coaches win you Super Bowls.

Just ask Marino.

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Coaching and HVAC Consultation

  • Tuesday, January 26, 2010 10:02 PM
  • Written By: Mike Rosolio

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No one likes it when you talk to the pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter, but despite the softening of the anti-Indy rage I’m not rooting for the Colts, and thus don’t care.

There are a million interesting storylines in Super Bowl XLIV. You have the Saints on the precipice of maybe the greatest rejuvination story in sports history, considering a bunch of their fans lived in their stadium a couple years ago. You have the Manning Bowl: Archie’s old team vs his kid’s team. You have Peyton Manning who, with another title, could jump in the all-time rankings from five or so (we have him at 4) to number one. But Jim Caldwell is an interesting story.

Who?

I guarantee there are even Colts fans who are asking that question.

Rex Ryan is a big, brash defensive wizard. Sean Payton is a Parcellsian offensive guru. Brad Childress is a bearded dope of a cuckold coach (worst extension since Crennell). And Caldwell is… Tony Dungy’s guy.

Manning obviously runs the show in Indy. He’s a player of such staggering value that most people believe the Colts wouldn’t be a playoff team without him. Others conservatively estimate that they’d be the Rams. He calls all of the plays, and for all we know, dials in the blitzes on defense in between auditions for Vizio ads. Speaking of which, the D is Dungy’s old Tampa-2 that, once installed, doesn’t require a lot of maintinence. The Tampa-2 is basically a Mac: really simple and easy to use and does everything you want it to do. Larry Coyer is Indy’s hipster in the Apple lanyard.

So what does Caldwell do?

People have made jokes about him all season. Every cut to the sideline is the same: he casually chews gum, looking around the stadium as if to say, “Hmm. I wonder what the air conditioning bill is like around here. What is this, 4 million square feet? Wait, that’s too much. Or is it? I guess if you go to volume…yes 4 million cubed feet. Wait, that’s not enough.”

So here’s a bold storyline for Super Bowl XLIV:

If the Colts win, it’s time to put Dungy in the conversation of the greatest coach of all time.

Huh? He’s retired! He’s spending his days praying with dog murderers and showing off the whites of his eyes on NBC. I’m not saying he’s the best, I’m saying he’s in the conversation, which most will agree shakes out like this (in no particular order, Bills first):

-Bill Parcells

-Bill Walsh

-Bill Belichick

-Chuck Noll

-Don Shula

-Tom Landry

-Vince Lombardi

There are cases for all of those guys, and the main thing about them is that they’ve all won multiple Super Bowls. But of them, there are only two true Nation Builders, coaches who come in and turn more than one team into a contender for years: Parcells (New York, New England, Other New York, and Dallas) and Shula (Baltimore, Miami). That’s the mark of a true genius.

Enter Tony Dungy, who has a chance of winning his third Super Bowl.

Dungy turned the Tampa Bay Bucs from the ultimate laughing stock (take the practice squads from the Lions, Browns and Rams and make ‘em wear orange and then we’re close) into a defensive force. The table was totally set in 2002; Gruden won with Dungy’s team. Then, of course, he actually got to touch the Trophy in 2006. Now this season, Dungy’s left a team in such good shape that anyone, even a amateur HVAC guy like Caldwell, can win a Super Bowl. If the Colts emerge victorious, Dungy belongs in the most hallowed of coaching conversations.

I guess we should start calling him Bill.

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