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Monday, October 17, 2011

Around the Sporting World in 80 seconds

October is a special month in sports because SO MUCH is going on. The NFL is in full swing. Major League Baseball is in its post season. Ordinarily, the NBA is preparing for the start of its season with preseason games and the season opening around October 30th, give or take a few days (instead we are treated to labor negotiations and European league contract updates). The NHL season is underway. College football begins its jockeying, in earnest, for BCS positioning. There is something for every sports fan!

Because there is so much on the menu, I had trouble picking a single topic for today. Instead, I will throw in my two cents, three cents after the tip, on different regions of the sports world, readable in 80 seconds or less.


The Green Bay Packers are the last of the unbeaten in the NFL. No surprise there.... What is surprising is that the Detroit Lions were the next-to-last to fall from those elite the San Francisco 49ers, who have the second best record in the NFC. Really? Yes, really.

The Dallas Cowboys may be two games back of the New York Giants. However, considering the talent level of the Cowboys, if they perform at the level they performed in their loss to the Patriots, I think they will take over the NFC East. Washington had serious quarterback issues, Philadelphia feel behind, out of the gates, too far, and the Giants simply do not have the talent level of the Cowboys, outside of their offensive backfield.

Out of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints, and Atlanta Falcons, one of these teams are likely to miss the playoffs. This is good for football, yet somewhat unfair at the same time. The competition is great, but top tier teams shouldn't be penalized by missing the postseason for being in the same division with rivals superior to those in other divisions. Even the 1-5 Carolina Panthers are a tough out, who might be above .500 if playing in either of the league's West divisions.

The AFC has some interesting story lines. Still, the main objective for these teams is to win the conference. Right now, in spite of the quick start by the San Diego Chargers, the resurgence of the Oakland Raiders, and the demise of the Colts opening the door of the AFC South to the Texans and Titans, it appears to be the Patriots, the Ravens, and "everyone else" in the AFC.

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh (left) and Lions coach Jim Schwartz (right) should just lace up the gloves and get it on. 1


Given the large, historic following of the St. Louis Cardinals, I cannot help but wonder if there was some rigging involved in the landslide win by the Cards over the Milwaukee Brewers in the deciding Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. For all of the offensive talent and personality the Brewers have, the Cardinals are going to be a greater draw for television than the Brewers.

The unlikely, Cinderella-like late season comeback of the Cardinals is a made-for-movies storyline. The Cardinals were more than 10 games back of the National League Wild Card in August only for their pitching to get red hot in September. The Cardinals caught and passed the Atlanta Braves in the Wild Card race on the final day of the regular season.

The Texas Rangers' story is the polar opposite. An underdog in the 2010 American League playoffs, the Rangers upset the defending World Series Champion New York Yankees to win the American League pennant, but fall to the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. Expectations, naturally, were high this season, with most of the key players in the lineup returning in 2011.

The Rangers met those high expectations disposing of the Tampa Bay Rays, who some analysts declared a favorite in the American League playoffs, and crushing the Detroit Tigers with pitching while overpowering them with their bats, particularly the bat of ALCS MVP Nelson Cruz.

On paper, the Rangers appear to be a favorite, with a pitching staff that looks difficult to solve over a seven game series. The Cardinals, however, have been beating the odds for the last two months. If anything, this series should be entertaining.

How many more times will Cardinals fans be treated to this post home run spectacle? Could this be the Grand Finale for Prince Albert in St. Louis? 2


I think the ultimate prize will go to the winner of the November 5th game of #1 LSU at #2 Alabama. The race for "also ran" is getting interesting, however. The Oklahoma State Cowboys made a big statement by beating the University of Texas on Saturday. The Oklahoma-Oklahoma state game could decide who will be cannon fodder, in January, for the LSU-Alabama winner.

I would not sleep on Wisconsin, either. I would pay little notice to Boise State. Whether Boise runs the table or not, the BCS powers that be will find a way to keep them out of the championship game, as appears to be the annual tradition.

November 5th: It's ON! 3

There is no basketball. It is not likely that there will be any basketball in this calendar year. Based on the rhetoric of the players and the unwillingness to further compromise by the owners, there may not be any basketball this season.

The Birdman (right) and the Birdman, Jr. A.K.A. Lil' Wayne...betcha this would get settled quickly if NBA Commissioner David Stern were locked in a room with these two until he convinced the owners to offer something suitable to the players. 4

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