As some of you may or may not be aware, a couple of articles I wrote recently were published on Yahoo! Sports. The two, requested of me by Yahoo!, were to come up with five reasons why my favorite team was so great and to come up with five reasons why my least favorite team was so awful. I usually try to avoid being so obviously biased in most of my articles, but the opportunity to get articles published on Yahoo! Sports was something I wasn’t about to pass up, even if what they wanted was to be as biased as possible on purpose. Frankly, I’m not sure why Yahoo would want to post a bunch of “my team is awesome, your team sucks” articles from Associated Content writers anyway. Seems kind of counterproductive for AC’s credibility (and I say this knowing I contributed to it), but whatever. I ended up writing about my favorite team, my hometown Detroit Red Wings, and the team I like the least, the Nashville Predators.
Anyway, as expected from a community as large as the one Yahoo! possesses, I got quite a few comments back. The Red Wings article received a little bit of fanfare, with the comments as of this writing being from Red Wings fans who appreciated the writing. Oh, but that Nashville article, the one where I basically told Nashville to stick to its day job, which isn’t hockey, pretty much caught the eye of every Predator fan on the internet. You can see from the comments in that article that I am not a writer of merit to those people. For those too bothered to check the link, I pretty much spent the entire article explaining why the Predators are conceptually the worst team in hockey (and I do mean conceptually as in a hockey team in Tennessee, not literally as the Predators do field a decent team).
Admittedly, I haven’t been writing on AC for very long, and up until now the only real negative comment I’ve gotten was a “We’ll see buddy” when I predicted the Blackhawks would beat the Sharks in the 2010 Western Conference Finals. Given that this is Yahoo’s community we’re talking about, I’m not surprised the article got riddled with middle school level comments, but that’s only because I pretty much wrote an article that featured middle school level trash talk – on Yahoo’s request.
Yes, I am fully aware that the Predators have a growing fan base thanks in part to their series of 1st round playoff exits (though they were still 26th in attendance last season) and that, like most Predator teams recently, this team will likely scrap their way to another berth. They have the most points in the standings thus far thanks to five wins and three OT losses (though Calgary also got off to a hot start last season only to miss the playoffs altogether so don’t take too much stock into essentially a 5-3 record). I am also fully aware that karma likes to punch me in the face far too often and that, come playoff time, a Nashville 4-game upset over Detroit in the 1st round with Predator fans everywhere in the stands in both arenas is now guaranteed. You’d think that’s a joke but I know my luck; stuff like that happens all the time and I am willing to bet money that exact scenario will happen come April.
Associated Content is always looking for more writers, though. I’m sure they’d love someone familiar with the Nashville Predators to write about them here. I’m sure Yahoo will also give you a chance to write about how the Nashville Predators are the best team ever and how the Detroit Red Wings are the worst team ever. You can also contact me via private messages here and I’m sure we’ll have some nice debates there is we’re willing to remain civil about it. Which neither Nashville fans in those comments nor I were able to do with that article. For that, I apologize.
Anyway, now its time for some news and notes.
Rypian’s Fan Fallout
Vancouver’s Rick Rypian was suspended six games by the NHL following a confrontation last week in Minnesota. Rypian, whose Canucks were losing 5-1 at the time of the incident, had been in a couple of brawls in the game and, after receiving a 10-minute misconduct following one, grabbed a nearby Wild fan who had been applauding the whole thing.
The suspension was justified of course, some might’ve wanted it to be longer than six games but it could’ve easily been two or three instead. Manny Malholtra implied that the fan had said or done something to warrant retribution. The fact is, however, a player just can not go into the stands and grab a fan no matter what is said or done. After all, those are just words, right?
(So says the guy who just spent several paragraphs on what were just words)
Speaking of Fans…
Attendance woes already haunt the likes of teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Atlanta Thrashers, and most notably the Phoenix Coyotes, so says a recent Yahoo blog post.
Phoenix, as many know, has been in financial and location limbo the past couple of seasons after former owner Jerry Moyes attempted to put the team into bankruptcy in an attempt by Jim Basille (I’m sure Nashville fans are familiar with his name, right?) to backdoor purchase the team and move them to Hamilton. After failed bids to buy the team, commitments to pay for the team’s eventual losses and the NHL’s continued ownership of the team; it is still unknown where this team will be playing next season. Many think they may move back to Winnipeg, where the franchise originally was, but Gary Bettman and the NHL is doing everything in its power to keep the team in Phoenix. With that turnout, its hard to justify that decision though its also hard to blame Phoenix fans who may not want to invest in a team who may be gone regardless if they go to their games or not.
Atlanta, whose Thrashers are its second NHL team after the Atlanta Flames left for Calgary 30 years ago, haven’t had much to look at during the franchise’s ten years. Ilya Kovalchuk was their best player during much of that time but he was traded last season. This year’s team, seen by some as more of a rough’em up kind of team, is tenth in penalty minutes thus far but has hardly been in any fights. Unlike with Phoenix, their status isn’t in much flux, but they have had struggles getting fans in the stands. Given their only success came in winning a then-weak Southeast division in 2007 only to get swept by the Rangers, those fans are hard to come by.
Columbus in particular really saddens me. I’ve always believed Columbus could be a great hockey market. The Ohio State Buckeyes in hockey usually draw well. They’ve had what seems to always be a young team on the way up led by Rick Nash, who is still among the league’s top goal scorers. For one reason or another, though, they have just had no success, getting into the playoffs just once in 2009 only to get swept by the Red Wings that year. More so than other struggling markets, if the Blue Jackets can start fielding a consistently competitive hockey team the fans should start coming very quickly. It just hasn’t happened yet.
The Benching of Ilya Kovalchuk
For some reason, the New Jersey Devils benched their highly paid star Ilya Kovalchuk as a ‘healthy scratch’ in their Saturday loss to Buffalo. Coach John MacLean refused to give a reason why he made the move, only that it was between him and Kovalchuk and that the issue had been resolved. Kovalchuk returned to play on Sunday against the Rangers, but the Devils lost that game as well.
Kovalchuk, who still hasn’t found a groove with the Devils since being acquired by them last February, initially signed with the Devils for 17 years and 102 million dollars. The NHL didn’t like that deal, as most of that 102 million would be paid earlier in the contract and the later years would be minimal to help the Devils ease their Salary Cap hit, so it got tossed. Instead, the Devils were able to sign him for 15 years and 100 million. For the record, that gives New Jersey an additional cap hit of 2/3rds of a million which doesn’t seem like too much.
This season both Kovalchuk (three goals in eight games played) and the Devils (2-6-1) have struggled to start the season. Perhaps Kovalchuk’s benching was meant as a message to the rest of the team to get its act together and start playing better, or perhaps a message to Kovalchuk himself to get it together but there’s still plenty of time for New Jersey to return to its usual playoff capable self. It just makes you wonder if New Jersey or Kovalchuk already regret making that 15-year deal.
Part of that whole karma thing I was mentioning earlier is whenever I give a team some praise, they go and tank for at least awhile. You might say it’s just a coincidence but if that’s the case I sure have seen hundreds of coincidences by now.
The latest of which are the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs, who surprised pretty much everyone by starting the season 4-0 have since lost three straight although their only real “bad” loss was their latest one to Philadelphia on Saturday.
Now sitting on top of the league are those Predators, whose wins against the also-quick starting Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning gives them 13 points, more than any team so far and the only team not to lose in regulation time. So, I guess I should give them some praise too.
The Overblown Ratings Game
Perhaps it is the sore ramblings of Yankees or Phillies fans that are saying this but will people really not care about this World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers?
Well, okay, that’s kind of a silly question. After all, an ALCS game between the Rangers and Yankees got beat in the ratings by a Monday Night Football game between the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. I reiterate: a Jacksonville Jaguar regular season game out rated a New York Yankees playoff game. It may just be how much more popular the NFL is to the MLB right now, and how popular fantasy football is as well, but it’s still a surprising thing to learn.
Perhaps this is somewhat of a sore remark being a hockey fan and all, but ratings always seem to be a bit overblown by some people. The notion that somehow a league lives or dies depending on how many more millions of people watch them rather than something else is a bit silly. Obviously, its important to know how many people are actually watching your product, I’m not saying it isn’t but that doesn’t mean that a league or its quality of play are suddenly in the gutter because 50 million people aren’t watching you all the time.
That being said, I am really looking forward to this World Series, even if just for the sake of variety but more so because of the pitching matchups and all the power both teams possess (more so Texas than San Francisco).
What just happened this week?
Cleveland handled New Orleans easily in the Superdome.
Buffalo scored a ton of points on Baltimore whose defense got Ed Reed back of all things.
Oakland put up 59 points, a team record. It doesn’t even matter who it was against (Denver by the way).
What was going on this past week? Even the Packers were finally able to beat Brett Favre, though that one was easy to explain: Favre was terrible more often than not.
The Chicago vs. Washington game turned into quite the ugly game for awhile, or comical depending on your view of it. Some games involved the exchanging of punts, but this game did the same with turnovers. Chicago coughed it up six times, four of which were DeAngelo Hall interceptions, but Washington turned the ball over three times themselves. Two of the four touchdowns in the game were interception returns. It’s hair-pulling if you’re an offensive coordinator but at least it still made for good TV in its own crazy way.
This week has just been a highlight on what has been a very unpredictable NFL season. The playoff field, especially in the NFC where every team has at least two losses, is wide open.
The Dallas Cownundrum
Early in Monday night’s 41-35 loss to the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo fractured a clavicle in his left shoulder. Such injuries usually have a recovery period of around two months.
The Cowboys, who are now 1-5 following that loss to New York, have had a miserable season to this point. Marred by untimely penalties and mistakes to this point, the injury to Romo may very well end Dallas’ chances at the playoffs even in the up-for-grabs NFC. Jon Kitna eventually played decent enough to stage a Dallas comeback late in that Monday Night game, but he can’t be considered a long term replacement for the next couple of months if the Cowboys still think they have a shot at the playoffs. At this point it may not even matter, the next big game in Cowboys stadium may not happen until February unless Dallas really gets it together.
Neither Oklahoma school remained undefeated this past weekend. The Sooners were soundly beaten by the still-unbeaten Missouri Tigers while Nebraska beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys in a shootout. LSU also went down against undefeated Auburn. That leaves:
BCS #1 Auburn: like recent #1 teams, Auburn has to go on the road to face Ole Miss, perhaps the weakest team in the SEC West but still a very strong team in its own right. If they can win that and last another month, their Iron Bowl game against Alabama may be the biggest such Iron Bowl in quite some time.
BCS #2 Oregon: Oregon heads to Los Angeles to face Lane Kiffin’s USC Trojans this week. The #1 in most human polls, Oregon will have quite a challenge here as USC’s only losses have come from last second field goals and are looking to regain some legitimacy following their awful offseason.
BCS #3 Boise State: They’ve got a Tuesday game against Louisiana Tech on the blue turf. The Bulldogs are on a two-game winning streak but that’ll likely end against Boise barring something REALLY unexpected.
BCS #4 TCU: They, too, are on the road against 1-6 UNLV. It’s a bit of a trap game, as their big game against Utah is the week after, but it shouldn’t be any trouble for them.
BCS #5 Michigan State: Perhaps Sparty’s biggest game in years is this Saturday against Iowa, the Hawkeyes looking to rebound following a tough loss to Wisconsin. It’s really hard to see the Spartans winning here but should they be able to, only a road game at Penn State to finish the season stands as a challenge the rest of the way.
BCS #6 Missouri: Following their definitive win against Oklahoma, they now go on the road to play against Nebraska. A very tough task indeed but Texas was able to win there and look how bad they’ve been this year.
BCS #8 Utah: A road game against a decent team in Air Force is all that stands between them and a major matchup against TCU in two weeks.
It’s very possible for two or three undefeated teams to lose again this week. MSU and Missouri are the obvious suspects, but Auburn and Oregon are susceptible as well. Utah could also fall. It just sets up yet another excellent Saturday in college football.
The Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky got a win against the Ragin Cajuns on Saturday, so congrats to them. That just leaves two winless teams.
Akron lost hard to Western Michigan on Saturday, now they have to go to Philadelphia and play Temple, a favorite to win the MAC.
New Mexico lost by 10 to San Diego State. They’ve got 2-win Colorado State next, but it’s on the road.
After sifting through Locker, Luck, Ingrim, Robinson, Pryor and Martinez, it seems many people are riding on Auburn’s Cam Newton as the Heisman favorite now. Newton, who had a stellar performance against LSU on Saturday, has been impressive all season long. The former Florida QB who left following Tim Tebow’s decision to return for 2009, excelled in a season in a junior college before coming to Auburn and excelling some more. He deserves to be a leading Heisman candidate at this point; hopefully if he has a bad game people won’t jump ship to another candidate like they’ve been doing all season long.
LeBron Got Over It, Why Can’t You?
LeBron James gets plenty of hate from people nowadays. The city of Cleveland is still up in arms over his decision to leave the Cavaliers to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. Others were not fond of how he went about making “The Decision”, an ESPN special just about everybody watched (well, I didn’t, I watched Lacrosse on ESPN2 instead).
After dealing with all of that newfound hate, LeBron James seems to of decided on how to deal with those critical of his decision: to either “Get over it”, or, well, this.
Well, I guess that’s one way to go about things, I’m not going to bother being critical about it. He’s going to get booed hard in 29 NBA arenas this season anyway so he might as well try to defend himself. Here’s hoping he can handle it on the court too once the season starts. Which is actually tonight!
The NBA Season
On Tuesday, 30 teams are hopeful for big things but really only four or five teams have any real shot at it, at least at this point. Pretty much everybody has the Lakers winning the West with a few thinking maybe the Thunder can do something about that while the East could be won by the Magic, Celtics or those Heat that people either love or hate now.
Besides them, who else really has a shot? The Blazers? The Jazz? Maybe even the Bulls? It’s hard to make a case for anybody outside the five I mentioned in the previous paragraph. The NBA Regular Season should pretty much be a wash aside from the few key matchups between the big guns – and I guess whatever team you may follow that isn’t one of those top five as well – but it will still be an interesting season nevertheless.
Oh, and I might as well give a Finals prediction too. I might as well be overly bold about it too: Thunder over Heat in 5 games.