Thursday, February 24, 2005

Presidents' Day Holiday Weekend in Review

by Dave Schmitt, KankaNation Guest Columnist

This past weekend, I felt, was worthy of a Weekend in Review. It was the Presidents’ Day Holiday Weekend, which is exciting, because I love President Bush. I know it’s not his holiday, but still.... Washington and Lincoln weren’t bad, either. There’s an excellent new biography out right now on Washington called His Excellency by Joseph Ellis. It’s a great read, only about 250 pages. On to the weekend....

Friday night after work, Ellen, Brian Campbell, my friend Sabina and I headed down to McSorley’s Ale House in somewhat-downtown Manhattan. You may have heard of McSorley’s as the oldest bar in New York (in continuous existence). It’s quite the experience. Loyal KankaManiacs would love it. It’s a complete dive that looks like it hasn’t been cleaned since the 1800’s. Sawdust is all over the ground, the mustard on each table is in a glass instead of a standard mustard jar, there are old maps all over the wall, and lots of drunk Irish guys yelling at random times. Now, you can only order 2 types of drinks here: light or dark. No mixed drinks, no bottled beers. Light beer or dark beer, made right there. The beers are $2 each, and the waiter (and by waiter I mean drunk Irish guy standing next to the bar) brings them to you 2 at a time. So I guess they cost $4? Excellent brews. The glasses are smaller than regular pint glasses, so you just keep ordering rounds and throwing down beers without having to spend hours deciding what to drink (which helps things when Ellen’s involved). Seeing as it was a Lenten Friday, we all ordered fish & chips, which was pretty good. After 2 hours at this place, everyone was pretty drunk. Sabina still wasn’t sober when she got back to the train station, so her mom had to pick her up. Ellen passed out on the train. Good times all around.

Saturday was a day-night doubleheader of Big East sports action. First, Ellen and I attended the Rutgers-Notre Dame women’s basketball game, which was played under the rules of “no blood, no foul.” Rutgers has some tough-looking girls, presumably from the streets of Newark, who kept blatantly knocking over Megan Duffy and not getting called for any fouls. Ugly, ugly game, double-digit ND loss. I was pretty impressed with the RAC, though, as they got just about a full house. Little Friend Caitlin (manager) was too busy to really stop and chat, so we may try to harass her again next week at Seton Hall.

The nightcap was the Big East Men’s & Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships from Eisenhower Park (on Long Island, by Nassau Coliseum). So soon after returning from the game, we got in Ellen’s car (actually, her mom’s car, for reasons which are beyond my comprehension) and drove to LI. To give you an idea of how exciting swim meets are, the first 2 events were 1,650 meters each – about 16 minutes of back-and-forth apiece. Yikes. But after that, it got easier to handle, and the platform diving amused me. Both ND teams won the team titles, and both coaches won Coach of the Year. It was the women’s 9th win in a row, and the men’s first ever. Ellen was having a freak-out attack because she LUUUUVS Tim, the men’s coach (he loves the Pope and cowboys). So it was a very exciting night for Ellen. After leaving the pool around 10, and realizing we hadn’t eaten dinner, we met Sabina and Vino at a diner.

The next two days did not really consist of anything that would amuse KankaNation.

Coming up next: because of a scheduling conflict, in lieu of a running diary of the men’s Big East basketball tourney, we will be a doing an international edition of Weekend in Review, starring me, Ellen, Molly who Kanka’s only seen sober that one time she was working at Recker’s, and my brother, from London. Look for it around March 18 or so.

Editor's note: I'll be back next week with the AL East preview.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Weekend in Review

Revolving Deadline Edition

Transaction Wire

  • Bobcats sign Matt Carroll. Carroll had been leading the NBDL with 20.1 PPG, and was the NBDL player of the month for January.

  • The Bears will assign Nick Setta to an NFL Europe team in March.

  • Jerome Collins, Mike Goolsby, Justin Tuck, and Ryan Grant were invited to the NFL Combine which started Wednesday and lasts until March 1.

  • Raiders allegedly will trade Napoleon Harris and draft picks to Minnesota for Randy Moss. Hoorah for the malcontents.

  • Jerry Jones signs Drew Bledsoe. Hey, it doesn't take that much talent to take a snap and hand off to Julius.

  • Calgary Stampeders name Bill Diedrick QB/RB coach. I'll let you form your own opinions on the press release.

  • Indians sign Darren Bragg to a minor league deal. I'm not sure, but I think Bragg started his career before Darrin Bragg was even born.

  • Nationals sign Carlos Baerga to a minor league deal.

Bubble Watch

Men: As you know, the magic number for the men is 34 - that's the number of at-large teams that make the tournament. As of Sunday night, the Irish had an RPI of 39. Of the 38 teams ahead of the Irish, 16 lead their division. That gives the Irish a theoretical "bubble magic number" of 23. Barring any major collapse, I would think that's good enough to dance into a 7-8-9 seed.

Women: Nothing to worry about here. A loss to Rutgers dropped them to #10 in both polls. But, the 12th toughest schedule gives them an RPI of 5, one ahead of tOSU. Look for a 2 seed for the "Lady Irish."

Miscellaneous Ramblings

  • Is Nascar turning into the WWE with its sponsorships? Darryl Waltrip was on SportsCenter recently, and it named him as the Nextel Cup Champion in '82, '83, and '85. But wait... it wasn't called the Nextel Cup back then.

  • Thanks to the two pieces of "fan mail" I recently received. One shared my admiration of Brian Brennan. The other asked about the Kim Dunbar that works for I looked into it, and it turns out Givens' site is made by Paid, Inc., a Massachusetts company that, among other things, makes personal websites for athletes. (Check out,, and among others). Dunbar writes for all of these sites, so I'm not sure whether or not this is the same Kim Dunbar.

  • So, I was in the ND Bookstore this past weekend, and do you believe they sell video games now?

  • Speaking of ND, the McDonalds High School All-American Game, featuring ND recruit Luke Zeller, will be played at the Joyce Center March 30. Who's with me? There's even a special event at Bethel College on the 28th as part of the festivities. Bethel's such a nice school.

  • Link of the week #1: If you're ever wondering what the current Bones are up to, check out these videos taken by current GradAss Matt Merten. I will warn you, though, that "Bones Love Nature" prominently features F-Bomb being F-Bomb.

  • Link of the week #2: Apparently, there's this site called The Face Book, where you enter your information and list your friends who are also a part of the Face Book. And they list their friends, etc. Originally, I thought it was only for current ND students, but apparently alumni can join as well. Here's why Ellen has join: not only is it a blatant "your face" reference, but there's also a group called "The DJ Fitzpatrick Fan Club." I swear I'm not making this up. (Hat tip to Andy for pointing this out to me.)

  • Link of the week #3: For all you liberal democrat ND sports fans out there, here's Musings of a Domer.

  • Wrasslin' Rambling #1: Dave, it's too bad your brother is abroad this semester. Otherwise, he could have warned us that Mick Foley was coming to ND on February 17 to talk. You could have gone up to him afterwards and told him that you, too, come from "the city of Long Island."

  • Wrasslin' Rambling #2: Chyna (or, Chyna Doll, as she is now known to avoid legal prosecution from the WWE) is on this season's "Surreal Life." In the next episode that's coming up, her boyfriend shows up and they get in a fight. Now, do you remember who her boyfriend is? That's right, it's none other than X-Pac. I'm not even making this up.

AL East preview coming later this week.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

MLB Preview 3: NL East

Atlanta Braves

Rafael Furcal SS
Marcus Giles 2B
Raul Mondesi RF
Chipper Jones 3B
Brian Jordan LF
Johnny Estrada C
Andruw Jones CF
Adam LaRoche 1B

Tim Hudson
John Smoltz
John Thomson
Mike Hampton
Horacio Ramirez

This is a good lineup, if Mondesi and Jordan can still perform, and if Estrada's year wasn't just a flash in the pan. The only thing close depth on offense is in their infield - Julio Franco and Nick Green - include Wilson Betemit if you think he's going to break out this year.
The rotation has experience if nothing else. All they have to do is get it to Bobby Cox's endless bullpen and hand the ball to new closer Danny Kolb. If Kolb can do well in Milwaukee, imagine what he can do on an Atlanta staff.

Philadelphia Phillies

Jimmy Rollins SS
Chase Utley/Placido Polanco 2B
Bobby Abreu RF
Jim Thome 1B
Pat Burrell LF
Mike Lieberthal C
David Bell 3B
Kenny Lofton CF

Brett Myers
Randy Wolf
Vincente Padilla
Jon Lieber
Paul Abbott
Corey Lidle
Gavin Floyd

Rollins and Thome are strong. Abreu had a good year batting in front of Thome - look for him to repeat. And, finally, Pat Burrell was able to play at his expectation level. Other than that, this isn't a division winning lineup. Lieberthal is a good hitting catcher, and Bell and Utley are good role players. But will Lofton be agreeable? And can more than Rollins, Thome, Abreu, and Burrell produce consistently, or even stay healthy consistently?
The rotation has a lot of great middle of the rotation names, but someone will need to step up and be a dominator if this team wants to go anywhere. If they do, their bullpen, again lead by Billy Wagner, shouldn't be anything to worry about.

Florida Marlins

Juan Pierre CF
Luis Castillo 2B
Miguel Cabrera LF
Carlos Delgado 1B
Mike Lowell 3B
Paul LoDuca C
Juan Encarnacion RF
Alex Gonzalez SS

Dontrelle Willis
Josh Beckett
AJ Burnett
Al Leiter
Ismael Valdez
Logan Kensing
Nate Bump

Throwing a healthy Delgado in the middle of this lineup makes it look really nice, arguably the best in the division (it'll take a healthy Lowell and good years from 6, 7, and 8).
The rotation will need bounce-back years from Willis and Beckett, and the long awaited breakout of Burnett. The veteran Leiter in the middle of the rotation will help from an experience standpoint. Meanwhile, the addition of Guillermo Mota turns a so-so bullpen into a pretty good one.

New York Mets

Jose Reyes 2B
Kaz Matsui SS
Carlos Beltran CF
Mike Piazza C
Clifford Floyd LF
Mike Cameron RF
Doug Mientkiewicz 1B
David Wright 3B

Pedro Martinez
Tom Glavine
Kris Benson
Steve Trachsel
Victor Zambrano
Jae Seo
Matt Ginter
Tyler Yates
Aaron Heilman

Well, you can't buy championships, but little can stop you from trying. This lineup is an interesting one - Reyes, Piazza, and 6 #2 hitters. The emergence of Reyes and Wright are key, of course. But, if Floyd and Cameron can produce, and Mientkiewicz can get back to being a .320 hitter, the Mets will do OK in this division. Speaking of Cameron, who expects to move to right, isn't it interesting to have him and Andruw Jones in the same division? Both are 4-tool players, and in each case the lacking tool is hitting for average. The Mets have one of the deepest benches in the NL East. Jason Phillips, Miguel Cairo, and Super Joe Ewing will back up the infield, while former Expo Ron Calloway, fantasy star Victor Diaz, and Eric Valent back up the outfielders.
The rotation looks really good on paper (but, of course, you don't play the game on paper - you play it on grass). Pedro will play well if the team plays well. Benson has been blasted for his poor numbers, but those numbers will look a lot nicer when they're supported by a lineup not wearing gold and black (sorry, Andy). Everyone has Victor Zambrano tabbed as a sleeper this year, and with any luck Heilman will return to his superprospect form. A big name or two in the bullpen by the trading deadline will help, but other than that the pitching staff is pretty much set.

Washington Nationals

Brad Wilkerson 1B
Endy Chavez CF
Jose Vidro 2B
Jose Guillen RF
Termel Sledge LF
Vinny Castilla 3
Brian Schneider C
Christian Guzman SS

Tony Armas
Zach Day
Livan Hernandez
Esteban Loaiza
Tomo Ohka
John Patterson
Jon Rauch
Claudio Vargas

This is just one of a possible 100 lineups with the replaceable parts on this team. Throw Alex Escobar or hot prospect Ryan Church in the outfield. Move Wilkerson to the outfield if Nick Johnson finally decides to show up. Heck, why not let Frank Robinson return to his player-manager days?
The rotation is not as bad as it looks. I'd go into detail, but I don't want to think about it too much and end up changing my mind. The bullpen? Well, when I'm looking at the entire staff and have to ask, "who's the closer?", they're in trouble. Rocky Biddle, used as a closer and a spot starter (hey, if he's good, you might as well give him playing time) last year, will miss most of the year with a shoulder injury. So, the Washington staff will need some help.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Weekend in Review

Browns Notes

  • Patriots Secondary Coach Eric Mangini has decided to stay in New England as the Defensive Coordinator. He took winning and learning under Bill Belichick over money - I'll salute him for that. With Mangini off the Browns' list, they most likely will turn to former Cleveland linebacker Pepper Johnson, most recently a position coach with the Patriots.

  • The Offensive Coordinator position goes to former Giants running back Maurice Carthon. Carthon, most recently an Offensive Coordinator for Bill Parcell's Cowboys, has coached with Romeo Crennel for 13 years.

  • Good news for the Cleveland fans who like him - and for the man himself - Terry Robiskie will stay with the Browns as their receivers coach. It would have been nice to see him as the OC, but you have to expect a demotion for a guy from a fired staff.

  • Other hirings: Jerry Rosburg, special teams (retains his current job); Jeff Davidson, O-Line; John Lott, strength and conditioning.

  • Well, I was hoping to break the news nationally when I heard it Sunday, but now I'm too late. Jeff Garcia will be cut by the Browns. I liked him for being a gamer, but he needed to keep his mouth shut and keep his opinions on coaching between him and the team. The new staff likes Kelly Holcomb from what they've seen. Holcomb has been outstanding in relief over the past few years, but no so good when a team has had a week or two to prepare for only him. If the offensive line can protect, and if he can learn not to stare down his intended targets, Cleveland will be OK. Luke McCown is still the QB of the future, and I'm still a fan of the guy (although he needs to get used to the weather). Bowling Green (not a state) productJosh Harris remains on the roster after a late season addition - who knows what his future is.

  • After the Davis era, Jeff Faine is becoming considered by the local media "just another first round bust." The fact that he has only played 22 out of a possible 32 games hasn't helped, especially when Courtney Brown and other top picks have had trouble staying healthy. At the same time, though, one of the knocks on Butch Davis is that he overworked his guys in the weight room, not giving them breaks and causing them injuries. But, the knock on Faine is that Melvin Fowler, drafted the year before, is a better center. Now, wait a minute. Story time. At the beginning of this year, the Packers released Tim Couch. They said that they had compared the tapes of Couch at Kentucky and what they were seeing now - it wasn't the same. The Browns staff had messed up his delivery, and the Packers didn't have the time or the motivation to correct it. Isn't it possible that the same thing happened to Faine? He's spent two years hearing about how the guards next to him are terrible, and as a result often tries to overcompensate. I wish I had stats to back my claim up, but for now there's nothing to combat Butch Davis's O-Line coach and a growingly feisty Cleveland media.

Transaction Wire

  • T-Wolves fire Flip Saunders and name Kevin McHale interim coach. Well, someone's got to get that talent to play well. Will it be McHale? We shall see. I can only speculate based on the recent performances of Isiah Thomas and Larry Bird, but I shouldn't jump to conclusions like that.

  • Nets trade second round picks in '05 and '07 to Golden State for Clifford Robinson. I had to look this up, because I had no idea. Robinson is 37 years old. Funny, I thought he was about 37 when I started watching basketball 15 years ago.

Miscellaneous Ramblings

  • Great quote from my grandpa the other day. The family was discussing anniversaries, and my grandma said that she and Grandpa had been married for 59 years. I jokingly mentioned that she had a bit of a sour face when she said that. She said that it was because Grandpa always claimed that one day he would "trade her in for the new model." Grandpa's response: "Yeah, I thought when she turned 40, I could trade her in for two 20's."

  • Utah paid $68 million for Carlos Boozer this offseason, and now they're starting to regret it. First of all, they're finally realizing that Boozer is not a $68 mil superstar - he's a role player that works well on a team with a star center and a star perimeter player. He's definitely not a #1 option, although he thinks he should be. And now, he's starting to mail it in on the court, especially on defense (where he wasn't that great to begin with). The Jazz have called him out on it, and it's all downhill from here. Meanwhile, Drew Gooden has taken over Boozer's double-double every night role in Cleveland.

  • Speaking of disgruntled Cavs, Darius Miles is not happy in Portland. Say what you want, but character guys and chemistry do make a difference, even in the pros.

  • Finally, in "you can't make this up" news, an Akron, OH man is being investigated by the FBI after allegedly sending threatening emails to Ray Lewis via his charity organization. Some reports say that the man is a relative of one of the two men killed by Lewis's posse in 2000. Wow, I can't even comment on this one - there's just too much going on.

Later this week: NL East Preview.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

MLB Preview 2: AL West

Fighting Los Angeles Fighting Baseball Angelroons of Anaheim, California, USA

Chone Figgins 3B
Orlando Cabrera SS
Garret Anderson LF
Vlad Guerrero RF
Steve Finley/Jeff DaVanon CF
Darin Erstad 1B
Tim Salmon DH
Bengie Molina/Josh Paul C
Adam Kennedy 2B

Bartolo Colon
Jarrod Washburn
Kelvim Escobar
John Lackey
Paul Byrd
Aaron Sele
Ramon Ortiz
Esteban Yan

I tried to go lefty/righty here, but in a perfect situation, Vlad hits 3rd, Anderson 4th, and a meathead righty hits fifth. Finley is a decent pickup, though.
Not much change in the rotation - Byrd is serviceable and will give the Angels good innings. Plus, he's a great change of pace after throwing Colon and Washburn at an opponent. And, of course, the bullpen is once again great, even after the loss of Troy Percival.

Oakland A's

Mark Kotsay CF
Jason Kendall C
Eric Chavez 3B
Erubiel Durazo DH
Eric Byrnes LF
Nick Swisher RF
Bobby Crosby SS
Scott Hatteberg 1B
Mark Ellis/Marco Scutaro 2B

Barry Zito
Rich Harden
Danny Haren
Juan Cruz
Justin Duchscherer

OK, the A's lineup in reality will look nothing like this. But, I have no idea how a moneyballer would play it. Durazo has been playing low in the order; Ellis is normally a 1-2 guy but is coming off surgery. I may have given Byrnes too much credit, and judging by the reviews, I may not have given enough. The bad news for Steve Stanley (A's best AA player, mediocre year at AAA) and Brian Stavisky (high A) is that, in addition to three quality starting outfielders, the A's also have Bobby Kielty and Charles Thomas coming off the bench.
Major turnover in the rotation for a team that only needed to use 6 starters all of last year. Harden and Haren are huge on promise, though. I don't know if Cruz will be a starter, but they really don't have anyone else to do it. The lack of experienced starting pitching could really wear on what otherwise is a good looking bullpen (and on the cartilage of curveballer Zito if he needs to become an innings eater this year).

Texas Rangers

Michael Young SS
Hank Blalock 3B
Alfonso Soriano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Richard Hidalgo RF
Dave Dellucci/Adrian Gonzalez DH
Kevin Mench LF
Laynce Nix/Gary Matthews CF
Rod Barajas C

Kenny Rogers
Ryan Drese
Chan Ho Park
Pedro Astacio
Ricardo Rodriguez
Joaquin Benoit
RA Dickey
Chris Young
Juan Dominguez
Nick Regilio
Kameron Loe

Not much change in the lineup this year. Hidalgo basically replaces Brad Fullmer. I have a feeling that Nix and Matthews will have a bit of a lefty/righty platoon. I'd love to see PT for Gonzalez this year, too. But, with Teixeira at first, it will have to be at DH unless he can learn to play the outfield.
Rogers is backed by a boatload of decent young starters in the rotation. But, can any of those guys make the jump from "decent" to "great?" We shall see. Meanwhile, the best bullpen in the league returns led by breakout star closer Francisco Cordero.

Seattle Mariners

Ichiro! RF
Randy Winn LF
Richie Sexson 1B/DH
Adrian Beltre 3B
Bret Boone 2B
Bucky Jacobsen DH/1B
Miguel Olivo/Dan Wilson C
Pokey Reese SS
Jeremy Reed CF

Jamie Moyer
Gil Meche
Joel Pineiro
Ryan Franklin
Bobby Madritsch
Ron Villone
Travis Blackley
Clint Nageotte
Cha Seung Baek

Wow. Well, that's how the lineup may look, but I really have no idea. Perhaps Mike Hargrove will try something completely different. This lineup looks great 1-6 - assuming Sexson stays healthy, Beltre wasn't a flash in the pan, and Boone isn't a 'roid user. But after that it's not so good. Reese will play great defense no matter where he is, and I put him and Reed at the bottom of the order as "secondary leadoff men." To be honest, though, I've never heard of Reed before in my life. The tricky task for Hargrove will be to get 3B Justin Leone in the lineup. Leone showed some promise after being called up after the All Star break, but cooled off over the rest of the season.
The lineup won't scare too many people, but that may be to Seattle's advantage. Given these guys, I'd go with a 5-man rotation, but would try to convince Moyer that he would be by #1 and #4 starter. The numbers of Meche, Pineiro, and Franklin last year weren't great, but they'll look much better with this lineup. All they need to do is get it to the 7th, so Rafael Soriano, Shiggie Hasegawa, and Everyday Eddie Guardado can take over.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Weekend in Review

Sorry, talking animals and groin shots not included

NFL Playoffs Update


Jerome Bettis, RB - Pittsburgh: This Week: 17 rush for 64 yd and 1 TD, 1 fumble lost. Total: 44 rush for 165 yards and 2 TDs, and 1 lost fumble. 1 rec for 21 yd.

Brennan Curtin, OT, Green Bay: Team total: 105 rushing yards, 2 sacks given up.

Vontez Duff, CB, Pittsburgh:

Tony Fisher, RB - Green Bay: Total: 1 rush for 4 yards, 2 receptions for 1 yard, and 1 drop.

David Givens, WR - New England: This week: 3 receptions for 31 yards and 1 TD. Total: 12 receptions for 116 yards and 3 TD. 1 rush for -1 yards.

Joey Goodspeed, FB - St. Louis: Total: Thrown at once (screen pass), 0 receptions.

Paul Grasmanis, DT - Philadelphia:

Jim Jones, OG - Pittsburgh: Team this week: 163 rushing yards, 1 sack given up. Team total: 356 rushing yards, 2 sacks given up.

Mike Rosenthal, OL, Minnesota: Team total: 98 rushing yards 2 sacks given up.

Allen Rossum, PR - Atlanta: This week: 4 kickoff returns for 102 yards, 2 punt returns for 20 yards. Total: 8 kickoff returns for 182 yards, 5 punt returns for 172 yards and 1 TD.

Gerome Sapp, S - Indianapolis: Total: 2 special teams tackles.

Hunter Smith, P - Indianapolis: Total: 8 punts, 40 yard average, 5 inside 20, long of 54 yards.

Bobby Taylor, CB - Seattle:


(Former ND assistants or ND alumni)

Pete Bercich, Linebackers Assistant, Minnesota: Linebackers total: 26 tackles, 1 forced fumble.

Kirk Doll, Special Teams, Denver: Team total: 23.5 kick return average, -1.0 punt return average. 18.0 kick return average and 9.0 punt return average given up.

Bishop Harris, Running Backs, New York Jets: Team total: 226 rushing yards.

Jim Johnson, Defensive Coordinator, Philadelphia: Team this week: 24 points , 236 passing yards, 113 rushing yards given up. Team total: 48 points, 688 passing yards, 319 rushing yards given up. 3 interceptions.

Dean Pees, Linebackers, New England: Linebackers this week: 19 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT. Linebackers total: 54 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT.

Johnny Roland, Running Backs, Green Bay: Team total: 105 rushing yards, 1 TD.

Kurt Schottenheimer, Defensive Backs, Green Bay: Team total: 284 passing yards, 4 TD given up.

George Stewart, Receivers, Atlanta: Team this week: 136 receiving yards. Team total: 220 receiving yards, 2 TD.

Mike Stock, Special Teams, St. Louis: Team this week: 17.4 kick return average, no punt returns. 20.0 kick return average and 50.7 punt return average given up (including 1 punt return TD). Team total: 20.3 kick return average, 4.7 punt return average. 18.9 kick return average and 40.3 punt return average given up, with 1 punt return TD.

Trent Walters, Secondary, Philadelphia: Team this week: 236 passing yards. Team total: 688 passing yards and 3 TD given up. 3 interceptions.

Charlie Weis, Offensive Coordinator, New England: Team this week: 24 points, 236 passing yards, and 113 rushing yards. Team total: 85 points, 597 passing yards, 449 rushing yards.

Transaction Wire

  • Tigers sign Magglio Ordonez. Catcher? Check. Right fielder? Check. Hey, only 7 more years until they're contenders!

  • Devil Rays trade Jose Cruz Jr. for Casey Fossum. Will they have good years? Will they underacheive again? Who knows! It's baseball time again in Phoenix and Tampa!

  • Browns sign Romeo Crennel to a 5 year deal worth $11mil.

  • NBA All-Stars of note: Vince Carter (starter), LeBron James (starter), Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Rashard Lewis.

  • ND Trustee Dave Duerson resigns his post facing charges of domestic battery. Lucas Sayre of Daily Contentions calls the resignation "telling." Don't forget, though, that Duerson was a big Malloy backer, and that Monk's camp is noted for over-control of public image.

Miscellaneous Ramblings

  • Nothing says "impending sense of doom" like Tim Higgins' crew doing a Syracuse-ND. Now, he shouldn't get all the blame this time - after all, he wasn't the one who went 5-17 from the free throw line.

  • Seeing Dennis Lattimore at the free throw line running the "high" of the high-low offense against Syracuse's 2-3 zone, was I the only one who missed Tom Timmermans' shooting and passing ability from that spot on the floor?

  • On to that football game. I made a point of not watching any pregame... or so I thought. When will I learn that a 6pm start on Fox really means 6:35?

  • You have to love Alicia Keys for her respect of the legends who came before her, or at least her manager for making her look like she does. Playing with Stevie Wonder at an awards show, and now the tribute to Ray Charles with his alma mater. There's someone with her head on straight. (And yes, I do now officially have a thing for girls named "Alicia." I hate you guys.

  • Early on in the pregame, I made a wishful comment about the Anthem being sung the right way - by a military choir. Who knew that I would get my wish? Well done, NFL.

  • Speaking of well done, my dad and I both incredibly 'ppreciated the tribute to the WWII vets. A big salute to bringing class to sports instead of going for ratings.

  • Very early in the game, I could tell Romeo Crennel was a great choice as Cleveland's new head coach. The Browns' defense has been incredibly inconsistent these past few years. This year, it boiled down to sloppy tackling. The Patriots, meanwhile, rarely missed a tackle early on (there were maybe two in the first half, one by Troy Brown). Instead, they wrapped up, held on, and drove back. The Browns can start with a fundamentally sound defense and build from there.

  • Not a great game from Givens, but of course he came up with a key touchdown. Next time, though, don't do your mocking celebration right next to the ref. Have you learned nothing from Bobby Brown?

  • Hey, a quality halftime show that everyone could enjoy. It was odd, though, seeing people of all ages, and even families, rocking out in the SRO area around the stage - an area normally reserved for groupies and "beautiful people."

  • What happened to the Eagles halfway through the final quarter? I started seeing the Eagles of last year's NFC championship - a team that blatantly didn't show up. That team was a team that didn't want to go over the middle, ole'd balls for fear of getting hit, and didn't fight for the extra yards. This team was patient to a fault, getting way to cautious at a time when they didn't need to be.

  • OK, OK, so Terrell Owens had a great game. Was he even hurt? I was expecting a Byron Leftwich-esque "looks great during the play and drastically worse after the whistle" performance where his teammates would have to carry him down the field by the end of the game.

  • Speaking of receivers with great games - would Deion Branch be getting the proper attention for tearing up the great Eagle pass defense if he was a big talker?

  • My dad loved the group hug by Belichick, Crennel, and Weis. I wouldn't be surprised to find a framed picture of it in our living room one day. It may be a while, though - I just tried to find it using Google with no luck (let me know if you see it).

  • I don't know how much Fox contributed to the pregame, but they definitely could have done better with the postgame. Hey, this is a great moment in sports - let's bring in Darryl Waltrip to advertise the Daytona 500 for the 300th time tonight!

  • Cleveland GM Phil Savage said he was going to offer Crennel the head coaching spot shortly after the game. He wasted no time - Crennel's cell phone rang at 10:30 and he accepted the job. Rumor has it that Maurice Carthon of Dallas will be the Offensive Coordinator.

  • The new man of the hour, meanwhile, is Patriots DB coach Eric Mangini. Mangini is supposed to be offered the Defensive Coordinator position in both New England and Cleveland (and is expected to pick Cleveland due to a bigger offer). Can he handle it? Well, he was the Patriots DB coach this year. Meanwhile, with a few more years' experience, Patriots DLine coach and former Browns linebacker Pepper Johnson is due to be a popular choice as someone's Defensive Coordinator.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Super Bowl XXXXIXXIXXXIX. Or whatever.

by Klondike, special to KankaNation

I suppose I have to contribute some sort of meaningful, Super-Bowl-Related commentary to the blog. The Whiskey Monster has been trying to convince me to do a colorful and insightful review of the game, backed up with statistics and historical facts and whatnot. Unfortunately, the Whiskey Monster left after half time, and the Gin Fiend had to take over.

The Gin Fiend doesn't know fuck-all about sports. I had to go with the next best thing.

Commercial Highlights:

  • Bud Light: One of the first ones out there, where the pilot jumps after the beer. Simple. Funny. Short and sweet. Thumb up.

  • Quiznos: That talking baby. Slightly humorous the first time we saw it. Incredibly annoying the 98th time we saw it. Thumb down.

  • Fed-Ex: 10 things needed in a Super Bowl Commercial. Groin kicks, dancing grizzly bears, and hot girls. Thumb up.

  • Subway: Two guys in a car eating sandwiches. This does absolutely nothing for me. Way to blow your advertising bucks, guys. Thumb down.

  • GoDaddy.Com: Hot Girl on a spoof of C-Span. Hilarious. Thumb up.

  • Diet Pepsi: P-Diddy gets a ride in a Diet Pepsi truck, causing everybody to drive one. Thumb up on the monster Diet Pepsi truck.

  • Regular Pepsi: Thumb up on the beautiful girls. Thumb down on the terrible, terrible commercial.

  • Lays: Random nonsense getting thrown over a fence, including MC Hammer. Awesome. Thumb up.

  • U.S.Cellular: Some guy shoving his pelvis at people. Plus, it's an old commercial. Thumb down. Way down.

  • Tobasco Sauce: Hot Sauce. Hot Girl. Thumb Up.

  • Nascar: Pirates? Thumb up. Nascar? Thumb down. Nice try.

  • CareerBuilder.Com: A normal guy working with a bunch of monkeys. We've all had days like this. Did I mention Monkeys? Thumb up.

  • Anheuser-Busch: Airport travelers giving a standing ovation to American soldiers. Well done. Thumb Up.

  • American Mortgage: 'Don't Judge Too Quickly' Situational comedy, Thumb up. The guy looking like an idiot every time (as opposed to the girl) Thumb down.

  • Hyundai: Ugly pickup truck, thumb down. Big-Ass Alaskan belt buckle, thumb up.

  • Bubblicious: LeBron James walks out acting like LeBron James. This is a commercial for Bubblicious. ?! Thumb gouging out eyeballs.

Potential Things That We Should've Seen, But Didn't:

  • The Eagles winning the Super Bowl.

  • Paul McCartney's Breast.

  • Team captains beating the ever-loving crap out of that little kid for such a bullshit coin toss.

  • Paul McCartney's Drummer's Breast.

  • Bush vs. Clinton Celebrity Deathmatch.

Why yes, Mr. Fiend, I will have an extra olive with that.

All the best.

Editor's note: First of all, I hope Klondike's not too pissed that I blatantly stole this from the message board. Second, I'll be back tomorrow with a Weekend in Review, and later this week with MLB Preview #2.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Super Bowl XXXIX Preview

Eagles Rush Offense vs. Patriots Rush Defense

The Eagles ran for 1639 yards this year, 4 more than Corey Dillon had in less than 16 games. This isn't a pound it out team. Brian Westbrook (812 yards, 3 TD) will get the brunt of the carries, but Dorsey Levens (410 yards, 4 TD) will get his fair share. But Levens really isn't a role player - the "big back" or short yardage guy - he's used whenever. Aside from Westbrook and Levens, Donovan McNabb has strategically rushed for 220 yards this year. With 3 rushing touchdowns, he's always a threat in the red zone.
The Patriots gave up 1572 yards on the year, which comes to less than 100 yards per game. They chiefly employ a 3-4. The 3-4 isn't used by many teams, but those who do use it use it very well (the Steelers are another example of this - have you ever seen a team with a bad defense run the 3-4?). If necessary, though, the Pats aren't afraid to put 9 guys in the box, or even 2 guys in the box.

Patriots Rush Offense vs. Eagles Rush Defense

Dillon was the workhorse for New England this year. In addition to his 1635 yards, he also had 12 touchdowns. Kevin Faulk had 255 yards in a spot role. Everyone's a player in this offense, too - fullback Patrick Pass had 39 carries this year, abnormally high for a "no-name" fullback these days.
The Eagles, meanwhile, are not known for their run defense. Somehow, though, only Mike Martz and Butch Davis of all people were able to figure that out this year. Philadelphia gave up 1903 yards on the ground this year. Weis knows how to play on an opponent's weaknesses, so look for a steady dose of Dillon in this one.

Eagles Pass Offense vs. Patriots Pass Defense

Will Terrell Owens play or won't he? Doesn't God have better things to do than talk to spoiled loudmouths? I'm sure Bill Belichick and Romeo Crennel realize that even if he plays, TO won't be much more than a decoy. Who's the guy to stop then? Brian Westbrook. Westbrook is a Marshall Faulk-in-his-prime style threat out of the backfield. Do the Patriots have a linebacker athletic enough to cover him? Will Crennel just settle into a zone? Or will we see Kevin Faulk's debut as a DB spying Westbrook? Besides Owens and Westbrook, McNabb has distributed most of the remainder of his 3875 yards and 31 TDs between Todd Pinkston (676 yards, 1 TD), Freddie Mitchell (377 yards, 2 TD), LJ Smith (377 yards, 5 TD), and Chad Lewis (267 yards, 3 TD). Chad Lewis, of course, is out as well, moving Jeff Thomason to backup TE.
Facing the team that no longer has any receivers is the team that no longer has any DBs. The pass defense, and really the defense as a whole, revolves around the linebackers. New England had 45 sacks this year, led by Willie McGinest with 9.5 and Mike Vrabel with 5.5, Patrolling the middle of the field will be leading tackler and safety Rodney Harrison. The Patriots as a team gave up 3400 yards in the air this season.

Patriots Pass Offense vs. Eagles Pass Defense

Will Charlie Weis go to the air when former ND assistant Jim Johnson tries to crowd the box? If he does, he has a 3692 yard, 28 TD season from Tom Brady to work with. David "I thought I was his favorite receiver" Givens led the team with 56 catches for 874 yards. Right behind him is Cleveland castoff David Patten with 800 yards and 7 TDs. Deion Branch is #3 with 454 yards and 4 TDs. Daniel Graham is the red zone threat with 7 TDs, and Faulk and Pass are the threats out of the backfield.
Well, the Eagles had to do something right on defense to make it to the Super Bowl. That something right is their pass defense. Philadelphia has held their opponents to 3212 yards in the air and has recorded 47 sacks. The team sack leader, of course, is Jevon Kearse with 7.5. (Only TO could make Kearse's addition underrated.)

Special Teams

If you like kickers (ahem, Ellen), you'll love this game. Adam Vinatieri and David Akers are two of the best. Vinatieri was 31/33 with a long of 48, and Akers was 27/32 with a long of 51.
The punters are close as well, and it's hard to give an edge to either one. Josh Miller of New England had an average of 42 yards, a net of 33.7 (hoo hoo), 5 touchbacks, 19/56 inside the 20, and a long of 69. Dirk Johnson of Philadelphia had an average of 42.1, a net of 37.4, 6 touchbacks, 20/72 inside the 20, and a long of 62.
The Eagles gave up an average of 6.5 yards per punt return, and only 34 of Johnson's 72 punts were returnable. Philadelphia's kick coverage teams, however, gave up an average of 23.2 yards per kick, with a long of 75 yards. New England's punt covereage team gave up 11.8 yards per game and 1 TD. Their kick coverage gave up an average of 23.3 yards and 1 TD.
Punt return duties for Philadelphia were shared between Dexter Wynn and Reno Mahe. Mahe was the better of the two, with an average of 10.8 yards and a long of 40. The main kick returner for the Eagles was JR Reed with an average of 23.1 and a long of 66 yards. Kevin Faulk actually got the majority of the punt returns for New England this year, not Troy Brown. Faulk averaged 6.7 yards with a long of 16, while Brown had an average of 6.9 yards and a long of 23. The Patriots' top kick returner was the speedy Bethel Johnson (Bethel's such a nice returner). Johnson had an average of 24.8 yards, with a 93 yard TD return.

Look for a big game from
Brady, Dillon, Givens, Bethel Johnson, Troy Brown, Harrison, Vinatieri Westbrook, Pinkston, Dhani Jones, Akers.

Patriots 33, Eagles 27

Transaction Wire

  • Marlins sign Carlos Delgado. I probably should have guessed this when I didn't see Delgado on Dave's fantasy team. And Dave - no "I hate you" cheap shot on the message board - you already got Beltran and Pedro. You'll have to live with...

  • Mets trade a prospect to the Red Sox for Doug Mientkiewicz. Mientkiewicz has shown that he can put a solid hitting season together - he should at least be good enough to fit in an NL lineup.

  • Pirates sign Ben Grieve. Andy, all I can say is this: hey, at least your football team is doing well. And the NHL lockout can't last forever.

  • Cubs trade Sammy Sosa to the Orioles for Jerry Hairston, Jr. and two prospects. The general feeling was that the Sosa-Chicago marriage was over. Hairston and Brian Roberts were both playing well in Baltimore, but you can't put two guys at second base at the same time. (Not even in the T-ball league I played in, where everyone on the 15-20 kid team played defense the whole game - one kid at each regular infield position, and everyone else lining the outfield. If you can have 4 center fielders, I argued, why can't you have two second basemen. Eventually, I did get "promoted" to the right fielder specifically in charge of backing up throws to first base. Whoops, I'm caught in a tangent, aren't I? Moving on.) The only problem for Hairston now is another log jam, as Dusty Baker will likely find a random 35 year old second baseman to start 140 games. Sosa, meanwhile, makes the Oriole lineup look very good - I couldn't find a weak hitter at any position. Of course, quite a few of those guys, including Sosa, are nearing the end of their primes - if they aren't there already.

  • Mets sign Scott Stewart. Sorry, I ran out of "Hey, I played little league with a guy named Scott Stewart" jokes last season.

  • Cubs sign Jeromy Burnitz. He's no Mags Ordonez, but he can be a decent NL hitter when the wind's blowing out to right.

  • That's all I got, other than the Indians trading away a third base bust for a guy that Baseball Think Factory compares to Mark Lewis. I don't even want to think about that.

Bonus Ramblings

  • Remember when I mentioned that my dad knew a guy who's daughter was dating Drew Carey. Well, the guy is from Pittsburgh, and apparently he knows Dave Wannstedt well enough that "Wanny" is the godfather of the guy's other daughter. My dad has already started bugging this guy about tickets.

  • Congrats to Allen Rossum, who was named the NFC's Pro Bowl return man as an injury replacement.

  • Finally, a new entry in the "best website ever" competition - Snoop Dogg will be bringing his youth football team from California to Jacksonville to play a local all-star youth team. And, a direct quote from the site: "NFL representatives will be on hand for the official announcement of the Snoop Youth Football League (SYFL) which will begin play in the fall of 2005." I don't know what's better, the fact that there will be a Snoop Youth Football League, or the fact that the announcement needs NFL representatives on hand.