Monday, April 19, 2010

Weekend Hangover - Love/Hate


- The Jon Gruden “QB Camp” show on ESPN was absolute gold. Not quite “Carrie Underwood at the Country Music Awards show” gold, but extremely entertaining. Gruden has a passion for the game and an understanding of the quarterback position that is on par or above anyone in football today. He also has a sense of not taking himself too seriously (calling himself the FFCA – the Fired Football Coaches of America) while getting his point across to the young quarterbacks. I have to believe the only reason he’s not coaching somewhere is because he doesn’t want the stress – he loves the game and gets full access to all the players and all the film while toiling away at ESPN. Yet something tells me he will be back on the sidelines soon. Watching him dissect film with Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow showed an insight into the players’ personalities as well as what Gruden cherishes in his signal callers. I won’t be doing a mock draft (I don’t try to understand the nuances of offensive lineman – they need to have long arms. Or they don’t – see Joe Thomas) so maybe tomorrow I’ll give my thoughts on each quarterback just from what I’ve seen of them playing and watching this heavily edited show. (that’s my caveat in case my predictions are as bad as my NCAA basketball picks)

- During last night’s country music awards show, LL Cool J came out to introduce an award and opened by saying “this is my first country music awards show.” Really? You don’t say. You mean “Momma Said Knock You Out” and “Around The Way Girl” didn’t qualify for country music awards. That was the second most surprising part of the show. The first was trying to figure out who Laura Bell Bundy was and if she was actually the offspring of Al Bundy on Married With Children.

- Watching the NBA playoff games this weekend and a familiar script took shape in every game I watched: Cleveland vs. Chicago, Atlanta vs. Milwaukee, Los Angeles vs. Oklahoma City and Orlando vs. Charlotte. In every game, the favorite jumped out to a big lead of 20+ points, then in the second half the underdog rallied to get back in the game, only to have the favorite keep them at a punching distance despite the tries by the announcers to make you believe it was a close game. I suppose it’s to be expected considering the short shot clock and the “momentum officiating” that is so prevalent in the NBA, but it didn’t make for entertaining basketball to watch. I turned off each game for a considerable time in the middle of each game knowing I could come back in a half hour and the game would be closer.

- The Lakers struggled down the stretch of the regular season, giving hope to fans of the Mavs, Suns, and the rest of the Western conference. Well, Andrew Bynum came back to start the playoffs and suddenly, the Lakers look more like the team that was rolling through the league earlier in the season. Everyone will focus on Durant’s struggles against Ron Artest, but that’s not surprising. Artest has the ability to slow him down and we knew that. What we didn’t know was that Bynum would come back with a vengeance, scoring 9 points, grabbing 5 boards and blocking 3 shots in only 15 minutes of the first half. If he can get his conditioning back by the Western Conference finals, it will be as tough to slow the Lakers as it is for a tight dress to contain Christina Hendricks.


- Kevin Garnett has always played with a rage and intensity that bordered on lunacy. Well the elbow he threw at Quentin Richardson was dumber than Lindsay Lohan. He got himself a 1 game suspension for a Celtics team that has very little room for error. The game was over and there was no need for the elbow. Yes, Richardson is a clown and shouldn’t have been over there chirping in Garnett’s ear. But it doesn’t make it any less dumb for Garnett to fire the elbow at a useless nomad. He is a 15 year veteran and has to know better than that. On the other hand, it makes that series much more interesting, however due to the NBA’s horrendous scheduling, I have no idea when this series continues. Too many of the series have 2 day breaks between games 1 and 2 – there isn’t even a travel day!!

- I know the season is young and it’s not time to press the panic button for any baseball team yet. However I’m losing hope quickly on the Brewers chances to compete this season. Their starters are not up to par and their bullpen appears shakier than Ben Roethlisberger’s reputation. They have blown late leads regularly and it appears there is something wrong with LaTroy Hawkins shoulder because he does not have the velocity or strength that he had in his first couple outings. And it sure appears that the Brewers signed a left-handed version of Jeff Suppan in Doug Davis. There was a reason they let him leave town 3 years ago, right? And a reason the Diamondbacks were happy to see him go this past offseason, right? What made us think he’d suddenly regain a form from 4-5 years ago? Davis was spotted a 10 run lead on Sunday before he threw his first pitch and couldn’t survive five innings to qualify for the win. Then combine the poor pitching with pathetic offensive efforts like Saturday against the lowly Nationals and you have all the ingredients of a disappointing season.

- Speaking of the NL Central – there are little things that show when a team is for real. The Cardinals and Adam Wainwright showed it on Sunday. After the Cards and Mets went 20 innings on Saturday, blasting through their pitching staffs, both teams were in danger of wearing out their bullpen early in the season which could have long term repercussions for the rest of the season. Instead, Wainwright takes the ball and throws a complete game on Sunday night, giving his bullpen a day to recover and not have the extra inning game throw them off kilter. Those are the little things that make the difference. Imagine the Brewers needing to rely on Jeff Suppan, Doug Davis or Dave Bush to give their bullpen a rest. Exactly. That’s why the Cardinals will run away with the division.

- I caught a brief part of the Red Sox game against the Rays on Sunday afternoon, and a random note that the announcer made kind of blew me away. After a strong play by the Ray’s left fielder (I’m too lazy to look up who it was) of a ball bouncing off the Green Monster at Fenway, it was noted that the guy was comfortable at Fenway because it was his 70th game at the stadium. 70th!!! And he’s never played for the Sox. If that’s not a sign that the baseball season is too long and too imbalanced with divisional games, I don’t know what is.

- Two quick thoughts on announcers. Vin Scully celebrated his 60th anniversary announcing games. His first game was in 1950. That is incredible. He has one of the best voices, tells amazing stories and also weaves in a tremendous amount of information into his playcalling. Listen to his play call of the infamous Bill Buckner call. Listen to his call of the Kirk Gibson homerun in the 1988 World Series. Just pure verbal poetry. On the other end of the spectrum, I listened to some of the Orlando-Charlotte game on TNT and heard Kevin McHale doing the color commentating. McHale’s knowledge of the game and understanding of the nuances of playoff basketball is beyond reproach. Yet much like I have a face for radio, McHale has a voice for something other than broadcasting. I can’t put my finger on it, but his voice has a nasal tone or something that was like nails on a chalkboard. Play to your strengths, and announcing is not McHale’s strength.

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