Friday, November 30, 2007

A Simple Rule for Sports Fans

So there's a kid in one of my classes named Adam who likes to rip on other people's favorite teams when they do poorly. I'm not sure if he does this because he doesn't know any better, so I'm not trying to pick on him. He's 18 and Canadian, and doesn't cheer for the local teams because he spent part of his adolescence in Northern Alberta. He also cheers for not one but two different NFL teams: the Packers because of Brett Favre and the Saints because of Reggie Bush. Basically his affiliation for NFL teams changes with the direction of the wind. Adam's a great guy but this particular habit of his bothers me.

I was talking today with my buddy Mark, who is a lifelong Cowboys fan (and a Notre Dame fan...don't even get me started), and was congratulating him on the win over the Pack last night. Anyway, Pack/Saints fan jumps in about how great Favre is, I rip on his comments, and he responds with: "well at least they're better than the Vikings."

The Sports Guy did a whole list of rules for being a sports fan, and I'm not here to recreate the list, or make my own, but I am here to say he missed a major one: you can't rip on other people's teams when you don't have a vested interest in a team in that sport or even that game. Or if you're an extremely fair weather fan.

I may rip on the NHL or CFL to my buddies here who are fans of teams in those leagues, but I would never consider ripping on their TEAMS for poor performances. Although I like to see the Canucks do well, I don't have an emotional interest in their performance. Do I like to see the Canucks do well? Of course, but I'm certainly not living or dying by how they're doing. I've watched maybe 4 games all year. For me to rip on, say, an Oilers fan like Mark because the Oilers are having a rough year would be just plain wrong. Criminal almost (the Maple Leafs are an exception to this: The Leafs, their fans, and Toronto in general should be ripped on whenever possible. Because everyone hates Toronto. That's another rule).

So for Adam, who won't be a Packers fan after Favre retires, and could stop cheering for the Saints if he'd just realize how overrated Reggie Bush is, shouldn't be allowed to rip on me as a Vikings fan. Let's be honest: I've been a Vikings fan for as long as Adam's been alive. Longer even. Sure, that's perhaps a pathetic indication that I'm still in school at 29, but it also says fans should have the decency not to do this.

There are not rules for being a sports fan, and considering that teams, especially professional ones, show no loyalty to us as fans, Adam has every right and reason to cheer for whoever the hell he wants. I'm just saying that for stupid people like me who blindly cheer for the same team their entire lives, there should be a level of respect there. It's just common courtesy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


It's Hot Stove League time in major league baseball, and for a change, the Twins are right in the middle of the action. Sure, they're sellers instead of buyers, but it's still nice to have a lot of Twins talk nationally. As you may or may not know, I'm not Twinkies owner Carl Pohlad's biggest fan. Pretty sure I've been up front about that, especially on how he repeatedly held the Twins back by not letting former GM Terry Ryan (it feels weird to type "former". He's been the Twins GM forever) go after that big impact bat that would cost a lot of money but would put the team over the top.

To some, letting Torii Hunter walk, and pushing to trade allstar pitchers Johan Santana and Joe Nathan, seems like a complete slap in the face to not only Twins fans, but tax payers in Minnesota who are footing the bill for the brand new ball park. Sure, this looks like Pohlad was lying when he said to give him a new stadium and he'll give the fans a winner. I know how this looks, but I'm telling you, seriously, honestly, and with all sarcasm aside, it's not what it looks like.

Are the Twins rebuilding? Yes, sort of. They're repositioning themselves to be a contender for when the new ballpark opens in 2010. Although the fans don't like it, this is absolutely positively what they should be doing. Keep in mind I'm saying this as a third party observer who has no real emotional or irrational feelings towards the team. And maybe this is why I'm so excited for the Twins, because they're building the right way (as a Mariners fan this is a foreign concept, and frankly one I'm jealous of).

As of right now, even IF the Twins resigned Torii Hunter to that horrendous $90 million dollar deal and somehow found a way to keep Santana longterm, guess what? They're still the third or fourth best team in their DIVISION. Not just the league, or even the American League, but the AL Central. The Indians and Tigers are World Series contenders, and the White Sox, if they make a few minor adjustments, have to be considered at least as good as Minnesota. So what's the point of the Twins going for broke when the chances are slim that all that salary won't get them much closer to a World Series title?

Before the words are even out of your mouth, I know your retort to as a Twins fan is that trading star players or letting them walk sets a very bad presidence for their current young players and any potential free agents who want to play for a winner. While that's a valid argument, I don't think it should be a concern, at least not right now, and certainly not enough to focus the roster and organization on being World Series-ready by 2010.

They tried to resign Santana, with rumored offers of $15-$20 million a year, but that doesn't even get them into negotiations at this point, not when the big boys can give him $25-$30 million a year. And I know, he should be loyal and stay for the hometown discount, but come on: no matter how much you like your current job and where you live, if a company in, say, Seattle or Boston or New York offered you double the salary and better position you'd say no? Really? I doubt it. Although I admire the people who have the peace of mind to take less money, I don't think you should think less of Santana for taking the big raise.

Wait, this was not supposed to be about defending Johan, but rather the Twins, so I digress. Even sans Johan, Torii and Joe Nathan, the Twins are still in great shape with plenty of good, young, cheap players that are under team control long term. That's a very enviable position to be in. Shopping Santana now is going to net them, if you believe the rumors, AT LEAST 2 major league-ready blue chip players, plus a third or fourth good prospect and/or quality major league regular. So right now, you've got Mauer, Morneausy, Cuddyer, and probably Bartlett locked into regular starting gigs at C, 1B, RF, and SS. The organization is flush with good young arms, so they're more than covered in pitching, especially with at least one s young arm coming back in any Santana deal. It's a luxury that few other teams have. The major holes are centerfield, a "toolsy" young outfielder, a third baseman that doesn't suck (that means NOT playing little Nicky Punto and his .206 average at the hot corner), and a league average second baseman. They SHOULD be able to get some or all of that back in deals for Santana, Nathan, and even Matt Garza, giving the players a few years develop and be ready for a major push.

A team built like this may not make the playoffs next year, but they'll be fun to watch for the fans, and could really surprise sooner rather than later. I'm telling you Twinkies fans, this is going to look really good when the new park opens and the Twins have one of the best teams in baseball.

Finally, I though I'd give my two cents on what trades or players I like for the Twins to acquire...but considering how long this is already, I'll save it for my next post. However, I had to comment on the that surfaced today: yes, this is the same Delmon Young who threw a bat at an umpire and got suspended 50 games. He's also the same guy who was the undisputed #1 prospect in baseball before that incident. Last year, his first in the majors, he hit .288/.316/.406 with 13 home runs while playing solid outfield defense. Although the low power totals are a little troubling, he's still a 22 year old with all star potential. He's also righthanded, and if the power comes around like scouts think it should, he'd be the perfect compliment to the left handed sticks of Mauer and Morneau. YEs, he could be a headcase/problem child like Albert Belle or Carl Everett, or it could have been a simple case of immaturity and a teenager being given too much too fast. If the Twins can get this deal done, it's a great gamble for them. I just hope the D-Rays don't realize how good a player they're giving up before pulling the trigger.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I should probably do a "Here's what I'm thankful for post" since, you know, it's Thanksgiving and all. But I've been gone so long, I thought instead I'd share some of the things I've been thinking over the last month or so...

...American Thanksgiving is far superior to Canadian Thanksgiving. I saw a story on the news last night that many Canadians take American Thanksgiving off so they can watch football, eat turkey and stuffing and mashed pertaters, and, if you're fortunate, the green bean casserole that Jer's grandma makes. This isn't to argue that we should only celebrate American Thanksgiving, it's that it seems reasonable to celebrate both. Who doesn't want more days off, and MORE Thanksgiving food? Exactly. When I become King of the World, or at least the continent, we will get days off for both Thanksgivings. Also, the Monday after the Super Bowl AND the first two days of March Madness will be official holidays. Who are we kidding? Nobody works those days anyway, so why not get a paid day off?

...I'm not as Canadian in Canada as I am in America. This is just a fact. The two sports everybody talks about here are hockey and the Canadian Football League. While I enjoy hockey, I hate the NHL as currently run. And the CFL? There's 8 teams in the league, and the players are guys who aren't good enough to play in the NFL. Who cares? Many Canadians, that's who. For the life of me I'll never understand why.

...On a related note, the big news up here is Toronto getting a few Buffalo Bills home games. For everybody outside of Ontario, this is supposedly a terrible thing because obviously Toronto is a much better market than Buffalo (TO's in the top 10 for population for cities in Canada or the USA), so it would make sense that the Bills will eventually make a permanent move to Toronto (current Bills owner Ralph Wilson has already said when he dies, and he's 89 years old, the team will not be inherited by his family, but instead be sold to the highest bidder- and there's nobody in Buffalo who could outbid the people in Toronto). Anywho, so when the Bills officially move, it means the CFL's Toronto Argos will fold, and then so will the CFL. People here are honestly angry at Toronto for wanting an NFL franchise because it will ruin the CFL for the rest of the country. This is ridiculous on so many levels, but let's just concentrate on this one: TV ratings for the NFL in Canada are huge, certainly better than that of the CFL. Here in Vancouver we have BC Place Stadium (which is identical to the Metrodome- just remember we built ours first!). For BC Lions CFL games, they close off the entire upper bowl, and a "sell out" is considered filling the lower bowl. Even then, in order to put a Lions home game on TV, they need to sell 35,000 tickets, which they rarely do. And yet the Lions probably have the best attendance in the league. Compare that to the NFL, where a crappy crowd for a game is still 50-60,000, or almost twice as many as a good CFL crowd.

Now, I hate Toronto for reasons I won't go into, but it's just ludicrous to knock Toronto for wanting to get a franchise that will make them hundreds of millions of dollars. I'm apparently a really awful person, and anti-Canadian even, any time I point this out. People here in Vancouver also fail to see that WHEN Toronto gets a franchise, and it's well supported, that the next logical place to relocate a franchise to is Vancouver. We've got a population that's top 20 for the continent, a first-class city that's one of those "Gateway to the Pacific Rim" cities that everybody seems so excited about, and there's a ton of money here. So when the Saints or Chargers or Jaguars are moved, they'll be moved here. Then nobody would complain about the CFL when we have an NFL team. But again, I'm anti-Canadian for thinking like this.

...As you may have noticed from the last item, I refuse to call the NFL the National Football League. People here do it with the NHL too by always referring to it as the National Hockey League. I'm not saying it's wrong to not use the abbreviation, I’m just not sure it's right either.

...For Twins fans that didn't want Torii Hunter to leave: trust me, the Twinkies did the right thing here. $90 million for a 32 year old center fielder with bad knees is not a good investment for anybody, but especially for Minnesota. I know he's a good guy and great clubhouse presence and he was one of the few guys with power in the lineup, but his best years are behind him. Will they miss that bat in the lineup? Yes, but I still refuse to believe he'll keep consistently hitting as well as he did last year. He's also not the defender he used to be, and considering defense is part of the reason he's so valuable, well, under no circumstances is he worth anywhere close to $90 million.

...Also, the Angels will now be paying $53 million for four outfielders next year. Um, you can still only start 3, right? Right?

...I don't buy the argument that the Patriots won't go for 16-0. Have you been watching this team? I understand the position that if they're 15-0 heading into the Meadowlands to face the Giants with home field locked up, it would be foolish to risk injuries by playing your starters in a meaningless game for a silly record that will have no impact on whether or not they win the Super Bowl. While this is logical, it's gone completely against the way the Patriots have played with the ginourmous and collective chip on their shoulder they've been playing with. Winning the Super Bowl? Yes, they want to do that, but I think they also want to obliterate every team in their path, and leave no doubt they're the greatest team ever. It's the only way to explain the rampage they've been on this season. At no point have they showed signs of letting up in a game, so I'm not sure why they'd do so when they're one game away from a perfect regular season.

...If anything, I think Don Shula's comments about putting an asterisk on their record if they go undefeated was the clincher that the Pats WILL go for 16-0. New England is proving that they're taking every slight and negative comment against them, and that for Shula to say things like that, well, call it throwing gasoline on a forest fire. Well done Don: not only will the 2007 Dolphins be the first team to ever go winless, but your whiny comments will now ensured that the 1972 Dolphins will not be the only team to ever go undefeated, ruining the only claim to fame that team really had.

...We are living in a world where the Green Bay Packers are 10-1.

...We are also living in world where the second biggest game of the year, Cowboys vs. Packers, is on the NFL Network, and cannot be seen by the vast majority of television viewers.

...While I hate Canadian sports television 95% of the time, there are four redeeming things about it:
1) No WNBA. Ever.
2) No Stu Scott or Linda Cohen. Ever.
3) During March Madness, one of the sports stations will run a different game than CBS has on. So you get two games for the price of one.
4) TSN (which they say stands for The Sports Network, but really stands for Toronto Sports Network) carries every game the NFL Network does. So I will get to watch the Cowboys/Packers game from the comfort of my couch.

...Finally, I can't think of two NFL franchises I hate more than the Cowboys and Packers. And yet, I'm really excited for the game Thursday night.

...Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and now that it's passed, let me be the first to say MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Showdown of Showdowns

Hi there, me again. I wanted to get this up Tuesday or Wednesday, but my week has been a tad insane. So forgive me for waiting so long to talk about the Game of the Century: Pats vs Colts. Good vs Evil. Awesome vs Awesome. The two best coaches, the two best quarterbacks, and the two best teams in the league square off in Indy this Sunday at 1:15pm. Short of hell freezing over or a major earthquake, I can't think of anything that will keep me away from the TV Sunday afternoon. It's the first time in history two undefeated teams have met this late in the year. And in my 20+ years watching football, I can't think of a time when two teams were clearly this much better than everybody else. How can this game possibly live up the hype of The Biggest Game in Regular Season history?

That's the best part: it WILL live up to the hype. Surpass it even. There's so many things working in favor of this matchup, we've got a better chance of Brittney Spears winning Parent of the Year than of this game being a stinker. The biggest reason? BOTH teams feels slighted. One of the things I'll never understand is how grown men getting paid obscene amounts of money to play a kid's game need extra motivation from media or fans "doubting" them. The money and joy apparently just aren't enough, so they get their fire from talking heads or newspapers or fan blogs saying they're not good enough.

This has already been pointed out to you, I'm sure, but my favorite story line so far is how the Patriots are ticked off because they were CORRECTLY slighted: they were caught cheating. People called them cheaters. They ARE cheaters. And yet the Pats feel this is an injustice. "How DARE you call us cheaters when we were caught cheating!" I don't know how Bill Belichek has managed to use this as a rallying point, but boy has he! I have never seen a team this mad for this long. In the NBA you'll see Kobe or Gilbert Arenas go off on a team that he feels disrespected him, but it really only lasts for that one game. The Patriots have been playing with a level of anger, hatred, and revenge for 8 straight weeks that even Rambo couldn't top. They CANNOT score enough points or beat a team bad enough. Most teams get up 3 or 4 TD's and either put it in cruise control, or the coach goes ultra-conservative. The Pats? They blitz at every chance, and go 4 wide in the 4th quarter up 30. It's just un-freaking-believable that the whole team is buying into this and WANTS to run up the score. They smell blood in the water and not only go for the kill, but seem to enjoy doing it, ripping their opponents apart piece by piece.

Then we have the Colts. How would you like to be the defending Super Bowl champs, undefeated, and be 5 POINT UNDERDOGS AT HOME?!?!?!?!? That point cannot be stressed enough. It just can't. Never in the history of the world has that happened. Indy's done everything right, beat everybody in their path, and are just as undefeated as the Pats, who oh by the way they beat on their way to the Super Bowl last year, and they're still underdogs AT HOME!!!!

In all the hype for this game, one thing I haven't seen talked about is how this has to be a YUGE advantage to Indy. In the biggest NFL regular season game ever, there's zero pressure on the Colts to win. Think about it: If the Pats lose this game there's going to be an avalanche of criticism about how they've played and what kind of team they are, and what a bunch of a**holes the whole lot of them are. People are DYING to pile on the Patriots and be justified in hating them. But if the Colts lose, well hey they lost to the greatest team in history. They'll get another chance in the AFC Championship game. They were 5 point dogs at home. If the Colts can't beat New England, then nobody can. No big whoop.

There's no pressure AND free motivation for Peyton and Dungy and the rest of them.

The best part about all of this is that both teams wouldn't have it any other way. The Pats have been the Goliath/Anti-Christ since game 2, and have responded by outscoring opponents 331-127. For perspective, the 2nd highest scoring team in the league, the Cowboys, have 227. And yes, they've played one more game than just about everybody, but unless the Cowboys score 104 points this week, the Pats are still well ahead. For the Colts, I can't imagine Peyton Manning, who prepares for every game like it's the biggest of his life, needing extra motivation, but he's got it if he wants it. The Colts have followed in Dungy's footsteps as being the quiet, respectful, reserved, business-like team who'll knock you down, and after the whistle blows help you back up. You can't find more of a contrast in styles.

That's another thing that I haven't heard talked about enough: HOW these teams are winning is having a huge effect on how people perceive this game. Other than the Dolphins game, when the Pats led 42-0 at half in the most impressive 30 minutes of football I've ever seen, New England's huge point totals and margins of victory have been coming because they refuse to pull their starters and go conservative. The Cleveland win in week 5 is the only time where New England didn't have at least one 4th quarter touchdown with their starters in with the game well in hand. Look through the box scores- every game but that one they've got a TD mid to late 4th quarter from their starters with at least a 17 point lead. Is it impressive that they're got at least a 17 point lead in the 4th quarter in 7 of 8 games? Sure, but I still think it skews the thinking on the Patriots. Yes they're winning by a lot, but when they're putting up gaudy numbers BECAUSE they're running up the scores and leaving their starters in, which nobody else is doing.

The Colts, on the other hand, have won 5 of 7 games by at least 17 points, and have just one game, the 41-7 week 1 dismantling of the Saints, where you could say they ran up the score. That's it. If the Colts had continued to pile it on late in games to rack up points and stats, would their wins be more impressive? Maybe.

So who wins Sunday? Honestly, I have no idea. I could see New England winning by 40, gunning for another TD late in the 4th, and Belichek responding in the postgame with something like "Running up the score? If the Colts had stopped us, scored, recovered the onside kick, and then converted a 28 point touchdown, they would have been within 14 points of us. We weren't running up the score." I could also see the Colts cooly and calmly controlling the clock with Joseph Addai and Kenton Keith, Manning picking apart the Pats secondary, and the D being the first and only team to give the Patriots problems, and winning a 24-21 game. The only thing that would shock me would be the Colts blowing out New England, but then again, perhaps that shows I'm underestimating the Colts too. So far, nobody's been able to run a balanced offense against New England for the entire game. The Pats have played from behind for a grand total of about 4 minutes all season, which came in the third quarter of the Dallas game. Other than that New England's been ahead early and often, being able to dictate what they want to do offensively, and being able to "pin their ears back" on defense because they know their opponents have to throw. That's part of why the Vikes D was so good in 1998 because the other team was always playing from behind so they didn't have to worry about the run.

Am I grasping at straws here? Trying to make this matchup seem closer than it is? Decide for yourself. Am I cheering for the Colts? Yes. Am I cheering for the Greatest Regular Season Game in NFL History to be The Greatest Regular Season Game in NFL History? Yes again. The best part is, I think we'll get it.