Truth is, I blame Mayor Nutter less for his lack of judgment than I do Temple President Neil Theobald for his blatant display of coercion and extortion. More »
The Silver medal column however IS a true indicator . . . in my opinion, a truly defining sabermetrician’s way of gauging your overall team’s age . . . and future. More »
By: Mike McShane
I love the “March Madness” time of year. The Conference tourneys. The “Field of 64.” The “Sweet 16.” The NCAA Tournament . . . the greatest multi-week sports event ever conceived by man . . . and, yes, it IS better than the Stanley Cup playoffs. I love it because it’s unexpected. I love it because it’s one-and-done. I love it because it IS an “on any given day” mentality. And, I personally love it for a few other very basic reasons.
First, I graduated from an NCAA Division I Basketball school. We didn’t have a football team but, being a city school we had basketball . . . and for a couple of my years there, we had good basketball.
Second though, and even more basic . . . I love college (a.k.a. “amateur”) basketball. I love college basketball because it IS a team sport. I love college basketball because it’s played the right way and without ego. I love college basketball because it is pure. I love college basketball because it’s NOT that crap they serve us over in the “pro-fessional” NBA . . . that “me”-centered; most egotistical & over-rated league of the four majors.
Mind you, I don’t want it to be that way. I want to like the NBA, and I have flirted with a few teams here and there over recent seasons. But really, I want it the way it was back in the late 70’s and 80’s. It was great then. Today . . . it just sucks!
Let the “hate” mail fly!
Alright . . . hold on, hold on. Don’t hit “Send” just yet. . . I’ll make a deal with you.
Over the next few months, occasionally I will come to you here with examples of how horrible; how ridiculous; and, how egotistical and me-centered the NBA is compared to the others. IF, by the NBA Championship, I have not proven my point I will encourage you to send me as much “hate” mail as you can muster . . . and, I’ll sweeten the pot. I’m going to throw two great example to you right here; right now.
Deal? Good . . . I thought so.
LeBron “Joker” James: The “face” of the NBA; the off-again, on-again, off-again (?) villain of Cleveland, LeBron James has made the news quite a few times in the past week. At the top of the week, it was a noble and well-deserved 61-point performance against the Charlotte Bobcats. Yes, I know it’s been done before . . . multiple times. But, I refuse to be as pointedly sarcastic (yet dead-on accurate) as Keith Olbermann was last week. I believe that a performance of that caliber deserve its recognition.
No, no . . . I bring up “Joker James” more for his 19-point performance in the Miami Heat’s 111-87 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on March 6th. In that game, James was 33% from the field (6-18) and 0-3 from 3-point territory. Following the game, James wasn’t waxing a personal comparative analysis of the two uniquely different performances separated by a mere three days as, perhaps one would have thought, he should have presented.
Nope . . . this “Joker” was giving us personal preference fashion tips:
“I’m not making excuses, but I’m not a big fan of the jerseys; not a big fan of them. I have to figure something out the next time I have to wear the short-sleeved jerseys. . . Every time I shoot, it pulled. It feels like it’s just pulling every time I shoot, right underneath my arm. I already don’t have much room for error on my jump-shot anyway, so it’s definitely not a good thing.”
I don’t care who it is. I don’t care if it’s any elected official; an entertainment celebrity; your auto mechanic or electrician working in your house; your wife, girlfriend, son or daughter; ANY time someone begins a sentence with “I’m not making excuses . . . “, what’s sure to follow will be an excuse. What makes it worse, it WILL be a whine disguised as an excuse.
ESPN came to LeBron’s rescue and did their level best to enable his comments. They went so far as to bring in folks with degrees in physics and math to display and demonstrate how the NBA’s dally with the T-shirt sleeved uniform shirts restrict movement and how that can affect the degree of arc on a shot (I’m not joking). They brought in statisticians who broke the numbers down on LeBron “wit” and “wit out.” PLLLLEEEASE!
What they failed to bring to the fore were known pathological whiners of sports because what “Joker James” was doing was whining. They should have had Joe Namath testify; there’s a guy that should be able to identify a fellow whiner. How about “Sid-the-Kid” Crosby; Barry Bonds who just today declared “without a doubt” he should be in the Hall of Fame; Terrell Owens needing to feed his family, or his teammate Donovan McNabb who’s been lobbying for his own Hall of Fame induction just to name a few . . . and, many others could be contacted.
So the NBA decided to try T-shirt sleeved jerseys. More than likely, they’ll be gone after this season or next. For the freaking few times you have to wear them, suck it up “King Joke.” By the way, I noticed this evening that the Miami Heat lost to the Chicago Bulls (Sunday, March 9) 95-88. Lebron’s line? 17 points; 8-23 from the field; 1 of 3 in 3-point range; wearing regular traditional jersey; post-game presser 0!
I’d say, that’s a perfect example of the “all about me” mentality of the NBA. How about . . .
Phil “Jester” Jackson: We’ve passed the mid-point of the NBA season which means it’s time once again boys and girls for the annual . . . “Where’s Phil Jackson going to be next season” dog-and-pony show!
So, the hot rumors are the “Zen Master” of “professional” basketball Phil Jackson is entertaining the possibility of going to work for the New York Knicks (shallow clap followed by a weak “yay”). Who cares, . . . Phil??? The last I checked . . . Phil . . . the NBA was still annually crowning championships WITHOUT you . . . Phil!
Look, I take nothing away from Phil Jackson. In fact, I was a big fan of his . . . back in the day! No NBA coach will probably ever match his 11 Championships over two teams in a 20 year span and a career 70% win percentage. I got it.
But . . . he also inherited two of the greatest teams in NBA history with the Chicago Bulls and later, Los Angeles Lakers. So, has anyone wondered, like I have, why the “Zen Master” hasn’t rushed back? Might it be because he can’t walk into a custom-fit Championship team? (Might require a bit more magic than he has available in his zen fingertips.)
Rumors flew at the beginning of the 2012-13 season that the Lakers reached out to Jackson pre-Mike D’Antoni. Reports also were that 68-year-old Jackson might consider a return with numerous conditions . . . one of them being he would only attend a handful of road games! That’s exactly what I want; a coach that’s not on the bench for half the season. “We’re talkin’ about games! Not practice. Not practice. Not practicing the game I love. We’re talkin’ about games!”
“Ahhh . . . ahhh . . . ahhh . . . don’t leave . . . Phil . . . how much do you want?”
This guy is so full of himself, he truly thinks that he just simply needs to show up on the roster of a team’s management and they’ll automatically be rewarded with success. The New York Knicks attempted to lure him to the sidelines. When he said “no,” they quickly changed their offer to a front office personnel position. Yeah, now that sounds like a team with a direction; a real handle on their needs and who would best correct their deficiencies.
“You want to be coach . . . Phil? . . . No? Well how about President of Player Personnel . . . Phil? . . . No? How about Vice-President of Media & PR . . . Phil? . . . No? Well, can you supervise our stadium maintenance crew?”
In a nutshell, Phil Jackson has become the Jon Gruden of the NBA and . . . Phil . . . I for one have become so bored of your self-righteous shtick! As much as I used to appreciate you . . . Phil . . . I now recoil at your “Zen Master” “Luke, I AM Your Savior” nose-in-air attitude and demeanor. If I were a team owner or GM, I would purposefully stay away from Jackson and insolate my team from his infiltration just to prove that we can be successful without his egotistical me-centered presence on our management web page.
Check back again soon for another in my continuing series here on the people and players that make the NBA so likable.
Frat House Mike aaaaannnnd Sidekick are joined by a couple of guests including “the voice of God” . . . and long-time friend and MLB analyst from Philliedelphia.com, Frank Klose reporting from Philadelphia Phillies training camp. THAT’S just the beginning as this show covers virtually EVERYTHING including . . . (1) a “feel-good” local making it big with the San Francisco Giants; (2) a New York Rangers-Tampa Bay Lightning trade that shouldn’t have been allowed; (3) the NFL listening closely to Frat House Sports; (4) Kurt Busch going for the trifecta of motor sports in IndyCar; (5) NASCAR’s second race with a “charmed” (?) Dale Earnhardt, Jr.; (6) MLS gets kicking; and, (7) the NCAA Tournament springs forward! See THAT . . . covering IT ALL! IT’S THE FRAT HOUSE AT ITS BEST! It’s another wonderful show you gotta’ pass around to all your friends & family!
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By: Mike McShane
The NASCAR season is the longest in sports; 26 regular season races followed by the 10-race “Chase” playoff. However, with the rule changes regarding qualification to the “The Chase,” winning a race virtually guarantees a spot in the 10-race playoff.
So, with last week’s win at the Daytona 500 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. locked up one of the 16 Chase spots. Going into the second race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway, there was a lot of chatter about Junior repeating his success two weeks in-a-row.
Winning multiple races in a season is very common; winning back-to-back not so much. But, Junior certainly gave it a strong effort.
Here’s what we took away from the second race of the season.
5. Toyotas don’t fare well at PIR: Phoenix International Raceway is a tough track to run from behind. We saw that all day long on Sunday. Unlike last week’s race at Daytona where there were 42 lead changes among 18 different drivers, at PIR there were only 14 lead changes among 8 drivers, and only once for one lap was the race lead by a Toyota – Clint Bowyer’s Lap 248 which occurred as a result of debris caution pit stops.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that PIR is so flat. Phoenix dimensions reflect a 10-12 degree banking in Turns 1 and 2, and a mere 8-9° in 3 and 4, versus last week’s Daytona International which has a 31° banking on the turns. Whatever the reason, Toyotas seem to be a fail in the Arizona desert.
Of the top-10 finishers yesterday, only one was a Toyota; Kyle Busch’s #18 that came in 9th. Kyle’s red Skittles car may have been pretty, but he struggled with that vehicle to just get it into the top-10. In the fourteen years Toyota’s have been running at Phoenix, only Kasey Kahne (November 2011) and Denny Hamlin (March 2012) have seen a Toyota to a Cup Series victory lane.
4. Is it me, or is Carl Edwards just going through the motions?: It appeared Carl Edwards would make a run at a win on Sunday. Reports all weekend were that he had a strong vehicle, and it appeared that way throughout the race. He started at 23rd and ended in the Top-10 (8th), plus had the fastest lap for the race. However, I have been sorely unimpressed with Edwards’ driving demeanor since the thrilling Chase competition that came down to the last race of the year in 2011 against Tony Stewart. Since then, the perception I get is that he seems very content to rack up all the Top-5 and Top-10 places he can get . . . and he does get those.
In 2013, Edwards had two wins; last March’s race at Phoenix and the very last race of the 26-race season at Richmond in September. But, add to that he had six additional top-5’s and six additional top-10’s, and those results were good enough to qualify him for The Chase. Aside though from two Chase race Top-5’s his average finish was 19th in last season’s “playoff.”
Under the new rules however, Edwards should be showing a more aggressive style. That’s what NASCAR wanted – give the driver’s the motivation to win, not just place. Conversely, Edwards just doesn’t appear (to this observer) to have the “eye of the tiger” – the “fire in the belly.”
More than likely, Edwards will make this season’s Chase, however if he replicates last year’s playoff performance he’ll be knocked out of contention by the first three “Challenger Round” races.
3. Austin Dillon & other rookies grounded to a halt: Following a respectable showing for this large 2014 class of rookies last weekend, they all came back to the dry earth in Phoenix . . . particularly Austin Dillon.
The only rookie to complete the race on the lead lap was Kyle Larson with a 20th place finish. Dillon was a lap behind and came in 24th. Others included, Cole Whitt 27th (-2 laps); Justin Allgaier 30th (-3 laps); Michael Annett 34th (-5 laps); Ryan Truex 35th (-5); and both Alex Bowman 41st and Parker Kligerman 42nd did not finish (DNF).
Kudos to Kyle Larson for driving well to finish on the lead lap and sending a message we all want to hear to Austin Dillon – there will be at least a two-man race for Rookie of the Year.
2. The Stewart-Haas “Dream Team” still showing rough edges – except Kevin Harvick: Kevin Harvick didn’t just win the race at Phoenix, he dominated leading 224 of the 312 laps. Pre-race analysis warned that if Harvick found his way to the front, he would not give it up easily driving one of the strongest cars to hit the track. USA Today reported; “Kevin Harvick has proved the biggest decision of his career was an astute one,” referring to Harvick’s move in the off-season from Richard Childress Racing to the Stewart-Haas team.
The question is how Harvick can have such a dominant machine while the other members; Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, and Danica Patrick have performed very mediocre? How could the #4 vehicle seemingly be in beast mode, while some of the others have ended in engine failures?
At Phoenix, engine issues plagued Kurt Busch’s #41 and knocked him out as a DNF in Lap 292. He placed 39th. For the second week in a row, Danica Patrick was involved in two on-track incidents resulting in damage to her #10. Nonetheless she ended the race 6 laps back and with a 36th place finish. Tony Stewart ended better than he did at Daytona finishing 16th and on the lead lap.
There’s plenty of time for the Stewart-Haas team, and “Smoke” (i.e., Stewart) historically performs better in the summer months when the tracks get much warmer. Additionally, once the team works out their obvious engine issues, Kurt Busch should be as consistent as he was with Furniture Row Racing last year, assuming he keeps his head on straight. If this past Sunday however is simply a precursor of dominance by Kevin Harvick this season, he will certainly be the standard bearer of Stewart-Haas . . . perhaps all of NASCAR.
1. Have all the planets aligned to make this Junior’s year?: Coming off of last week’s Daytona 500 win, the “Junior Nation” cult were in full throttle . . . and the decibel level only rose higher as Junior secured himself the fifth starting position at Phoenix – certainly close enough to Brad Keselowski’s pole position to challenge.
Throw on to the fire all of those post-Daytona interviews where Dale Earnhardt, Jr. repeatedly stated that he and his team would be “going for the jugular this year,” and even non-Junior fans couldn’t help but get swept up in the hype. Well he damn near fulfilled all that hype.
Junior ended with a solid 2nd place finish just 0.48 seconds behind Harvick and, actually ran the last two laps faster than Harvick to close the gap. It’s hard to dispute that, at least early on, it appears Junior may have one of the top-five rides in the field. Some may argue, he’s been the best through two. Well, that’s what the Sprint Cup Leaderboard reflects right now with Earnhardt leading at the top with 90 points; Keselowski in second place with 84. But, who cares about points . . . it’s wins that matter.
We’ll see what the “Junior Nation” PR-machine has in place this week as the Cup Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway where Junior has yet to win.
Speaking of Las Vegas, this 1½-mile (nearly) flat track oval has been owned by four-timer Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth (3 x), and Carl Edwards (twice) since the Cup Series added it to the schedule in 1998.
By: Mike McShane
Allow me to get a couple of necessary quick facts out of the way right from the top.
1. The City of Philadelphia has a long history of rowing dating back to 1835 along the Schuylkill River. Those of us native to the region drive by, but give very little thought to our historic “Boathouse Row,” but there it is . . . lit up and shining brightly as we return from a Philadelphia Flyers or 76’ers game along the Expressway screaming “HISTORY . . . Right here!”
Lured by both the “blue-blood” influence of the nearby “Main Line,” and the perfect setting for traditional rowing, the “Boathouse Row” section of the Schuylkill has hosted the plethora of Philadelphia-based colleges like Drexel University, University of Pennsylvania, Villanova University, LaSalle University, Saint Joseph’s University, and . . . Temple University for decades. The area has drawn numerous rowing regattas, some for over a hundred years. The Head of the Schuylkill Regatta was first run in 1874; the Stotesbury Cup has been drawing prestigious private high school crews since 1927; and, the Dad Vail Regatta first run in 1935, draws over a hundred colleges and universities from all over North America.
Philadelphia is home to one of the most famous oarsman; John B. Kelly, Jr. Kelly was a four-time U.S. Olympian (1948-1960). A member of the famous Kelly family of Philadelphia (sister, Hollywood actress and Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly), he was appointed President of the U.S. Olympic Committee in 1985.
2. Temple University of Philadelphia is a 130-year old public research institution of higher education with an enrollment of 38,000 graduate and undergraduate students, and an endowment of over $278 million. The school’s 2014 fiscal year budget is over $1.2 billion, with $44 million of that allocated for intercollegiate athletic programs.
Okay, let’s get to the story.
On December 6, 2013 Temple University vice-president and director of athletics Kevin G. Clark announced that, effective July 1, 2014 the school would eliminate baseball; softball; men’s gymnastics; indoor & outdoor track; and, men’s & women’s crew. The decision was largely motivated by economics with, according to school officials, and eye toward making the university as competitive as its peer institutions in the American Athletic Conference.
At the same press conference, AD Clark cited Title IX as well, the federal regulation requiring collegiate programs to reflect equality toward women’s sports. That was later echoed by Temple President Dr. Neil D. Theobald in a written statement released on December 21:
“. . . although women outnumber men among our undergraduates, only 42 percent of our athletic-scholarship money was going to females. Federal Title IX law requires that the money spent on sports reflects the gender proportion of our student body.”
Both Clark and Theobald issued similar preemptive announcements (just in the event anyone wanted to try to connect-the-dots), that these moves had nothing to do with the school’s identity-lacking, conference-jumping Temple Owls Football program. Clark’s comments mirrored Theobald’s statement:
“In the aftermath of the announcement of these cuts, many have pointed to our football program as the root cause or the obvious solution. They are simply wrong. Any potential savings from reallocating football scholarships to other sports would be more than offset by the resulting loss of television revenue from our conference’s new seven-year contract with ESPN and CBS Sports. Football is not the reason for this move.”
The end result was; (1) 208 student athletes are now without a sport to play, some of them attending Temple on scholarships which the school said it would honor. (2) A budgetary savings to the school of between $3-3.5 million, about 8% of the athletic budget and . . . 1/3 of 1% of the school’s overall annual budget. (3) A lean, mean AAC machine that is now more comparable to its peers and more fairly in the spirit of Title IX. Okay, all is right with the world. Bite the bullet; that’s just the reality of it . . . or, is it?
In this age of ridiculously skyrocketing costs of post-secondary education which has been, for decades, inexplicably out-pacing inflation, I’m all for fiscal responsibility and internal stewardship. However, we’re talking about a sacrifice to over 200 students for, in the grand scheme of things, a budgetary benefit of LESS THAN 1/3 of 1% OF THE TOTAL INSTITUTIONAL BUDGET!!!
I was prepared to “go off” on this story way back in early December when it first broke, citing some of my recent rants against NCAA financials, and others . . . like school districts building $60 million high school football stadiums in Texas (which, BTW was just announced yesterday has been closed after two seasons due to structural integrity issues). However, I’m glad I waited on expressing any sentiment on the Temple University sports shell game, because it got a whole lot more interesting this week.
By the end of January it was being reported that the Temple University Board of Trustees were rethinking the elimination of the seven sports. Hopes from many of the on-campus student athletes were buoyed, but I had a feeling there was really only one program that was in serious conversation.
Rumors of a possible recapitulation came to a conclusion with an official press conference involving City of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on February 24 announcing that $5.5 million would be donated to Temple University to renovate one of the boathouses used by the Temple team. With that, Temple’s men’s and women’s crew programs would be saved. All others previously announced in December, would be axed. Temple President Neil Theobald stood behind the Mayor beaming.
The terms of the “bail-out” include a $3 million contribution from Temple trustee and local philanthropist Gerry Lenfest . . . and $2.5 million from the City of Philadelphia???! Yep, the same City of Philadelphia that annually has to go to Harrisburg begging for revenue to support its own bankrupt public education system. You got it; $2.5 million the city won’t put toward its own students in elementary and secondary schools; we’ll put it toward a $1.2 billion/year higher educational institution we have 0% obligation . . . but, because we have a history of rowing along the Schuylkill in the city . . . well . . . hmmmm. Look . . . hey, if worse comes to worse, we’ll just borrow another $50 million in August as we did last year in order to open our schools on time!
Truth is, I blame Mayor Nutter less for his lack of judgment than I do Temple President Neil Theobald for his blatant display of coercion and extortion. There is a residual economic benefit to the city from those regatta events that draw hundreds of schools and thousands of tourists to the shores of the Schuylkill. So Mayor Nutter, wanting to keep all the parties in place, rolled the dice on the $2.5 million investment versus the tourism/economic revenue to his municipality. I understand. I didn’t say it was wise. Frankly I don’t think anyone would have noticed or even given a damn whether Temple was present at this year’s Dad Vail or not.
However, I would like to stand and applaud first year Temple President Theobald. Congrats Neil; “Welcome to the Bigs!” You’ve elevated yourself, not to rightful status of esteemed academic University president, but to the gutter-likes of Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay (we might soon be adding St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke to the list) and many other single-dollar minded scum-bucket owners we’ve come to loathe in professional sports. Nicely though, you clothe yourself in an academic gown. It’s not as noticeable.
Cheers Neil, in less than one year, you’ve become a real “team player;” a guy who gets things done . . . through threats, coercion, less-than-subtle arm twisting; and, extortion. Dude, the Philadelphia Eagles are worth a billion. Your operating budget is over that . . . so, for sure YOU should have more clout than that guy down at Lincoln Financial Field (better work on making your product relevant).
Hats off Neil, you held the fifth largest city in America up for $2.5 million (on your $1.2 billion budget)! Aren’t you the man? You’ve gone where no college President has gone before . . . or ever should again!
What has gravely concerned me since December regarding Temple University’s announcement about the elimination of athletic programs has been the ripple effect. As big program universities continue to claim financial struggles (which I call “BS“) with “non-revenue producing sports” like . . . what? . . . women’s volleyball, men’s gymnastics . . . softball; well, for that matter just about EVERYTHING except football, basketball, and hockey, how many will resort to the “Temple model?” Find a “niche” sport to the school / community at large and threaten!
And of Mayor Nutter; by breaking under pressure you’ve simply enabled all of the other billion dollar industries across our country currently referred to today as “universities” to worship at the Temple.
The last week of February can only mean two things. We’re getting close to spring, and NASCAR has begun! We’re starting to get back to normal, and Sidekick is back “in the house” and we’re eager to hear all about his visit to the Daytona 500 . . . but, we need to clean up some loose ends from the Sochi Winter Games and one last look at the medal count. That however leads into an interesting discussion with Uncle Mark on whether the NHL may or may not participate again in the 2018 Pyeong Chang, South Korea Winter Games. The NFL held the Scouting Combine this week in Indianapolis and . . . who’s Blake Bortles??? Well, he’s the one turning heads and moving up the draft board. NASCAR has us talking Dale Earnhardt Jr, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Stewart-Haas Racing, and looking ahead to Phoenix International Raceway with Sidekick’s picks. IT’S THE FRAT HOUSE AT ITS BEST! It’s another wonderful show you gotta’ pass around to all your friends & family!
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By: Mike McShane
For all of us NFL football fans the two weeks off between the AFC/NFC Conference Championships and the “Big Game” are excoriatingly difficult. We’ve just come through four weeks of preseason, 17 weeks of the regular season, and three weeks of the post-season playoffs . . . and, NOW you want to take a week off?. . . and, expect us to be content and happy? . . . and, feed us pabulum-puke like the Pro Bowl?
NASCAR moves into their season with two weeks of festivities, exhibitions, remembrances, and celebrations of the sport and its history. As fans we haven’t had it around for over three months so building up to the first big race of the season with much fanfare is A-Okay . . . even if it IS delayed for over 6 hours one-quarter of the way through.
Recognizing that the racing fan stereotype is that they are below-average-intelligent hayseeds, make no mistake there were many NASCAR ”analysts” making numerous sophisticated assessments regarding the future of the season based on the results of the Daytona 500.
Mind you, while there are 25 races until “The Chase”, and 35 competitions to the awarding of the 2014 Sprint Cup Champion, here are a few observations the Frat House Sports analysts came away with following this past Sunday’s first NASCAR race of the 2014 season.
1. Junior must be head of a secret cult: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won his second Daytona 500 (last was 2004) and only his fourth race since 2006. Since 1999, when he appeared in five Cup Series races, Junior has won only 20 races and his average finish over 506 races has been 16th. Yet, he is annually voted the fans favorite driver year after year after year. Since Sunday he has appeared on every major network talk-entertainment show on the airwaves. He (and NASCAR) made the cover of Sports Illustrated; a ridiculously rare occurrence (last was October 17, 2011 – Jimmie Johnson).
I, for one, have never been able to wrap my reasonable brain around the Junior mystique. As an example, Tony Stewart came to the Cup Series in 1999 as well. In the same time, Stewart has run 522 races; won 48; and, has an average finish of 13th. Yet, there’s no “Tony Nation.”
I can only assume it has to do with his frequently despised yet martyred father, “The Intimidator” Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Yet, I’d like to think that even the most ardent Junior fan would admit that he hasn’t even crawled into the shadow of his old man who ended his career tragically at the 2001 Daytona 500 with 76 wins on 676 races started. So, without even a comparable level of achievement, why the adoration?
The only conclusion I’ve been able to draw is that Junior must be a Jim Jones-type cult figure who, unbeknownst to us mere mortals, communicated via the recent selfie Junior circulated in front of the statue of his father; a secretly coded message to his groupies . . . his following . . . eerily referred to by the media and NSA alike in a threateningly militia-type way as “Junior Nation” . . . to ramp up the noise and fervor. It’s working.
2. Junior spoiled the return of the #3: While it probably won’t have a long-term effect, Junior’s win took all the wind out of the sails of the biggest pre-race story; the return of the #3 to the track since the 2001 Daytona 500. The previous #3 was driven by . . . Dale Earnhardt, Sr. where he won 6 of his 7 Cup Championships. For years it has been debated that the #3, which had also been run by Richard Childress, Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, and Junior Johnson (to name a few) over the past 50 years, should have been retired following the in-race death of Earnhardt, Sr. Retiring car numbers though isn’t the NASCAR way.
With the elevation of Austin Dillon from NASCAR’s Nationwide Series to Sprint Cup, Richard Childress Racing decided to resurrect the #3. At Daytona, rookie Dillon, grandson of Richard Childress, maneuvered the Dow #3 to the pole position; a tremendous accomplishment.
Ironically though, Junior’s second Daytona win completely overshadowed the fact that Dillon, driving daddy Dale’s resurrected number, came in the top-10 (9th) and had the fastest race lap. Call it more of the “cult-leader” magic, and the significance was not overlooked by Junior:
“I thought about holding up three fingers as I was driving down the front-stretch, but I didn’t want to bring too much attention to that.”
3. “Ordained” Dillon may be short of friends before he gets to Bristol: With all the media attention poised on rookie wunderkind, Austin Dillon; driving the #3; former Nationwide Series Rookie-of-the-Year; securing the pole position at his rookie-year Daytona 500, it seems he’s already a “made” man in the Cup Series before he’s even won his first race; hell, before he even ran his first lap.
That won’t last long if he finds himself at the center of too many multi-car wrecks as he did at Daytona on Sunday. In Lap 145 Dillon ran into the back of RCR teammate Ryan Newman’s #31 sparking a 13-car pileup involving Danica Patrick, Michael Waltrip, Marcos Ambrose, Kasey Kahne, and others. Dillon escaped the melee unscathed.
No sooner back from the caution on the clean-up from that mess, Dillon again got too close to the rear of fellow rookie Kyle Larson in Lap 162 sending him spinning into another nine vehicle pinball game. This time Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, Brian Vickers and others were victims. Again, Dillon survived without a scratch and now, even closer to the front of the pack.
It’s one thing as a rookie to inadvertently cause a chain-reaction wreck subsequently taking your own vehicle to the garage. IF however carnage is left in your smoke as you advance unmarked, well that’s not going to endear you to the driver’s fraternity. Dillon may be aware of that saying:
“I think the yellow stripe on the bumper (signifying a rookie) showed a little bit tonight, but we made it through it.”
The fourth race of the season comes up on Sunday, March 16 at Bristol Motor Speedway. We’ll see whether he’s having lunch by himself at that point.
4. Make no mistake; it’s Kyle Busch that has all the moves: Kyle Busch did not have a very good start position for the Daytona 500 opening from an unfamiliar spot near the back of the pack at 37th. Yet, it didn’t seem to take very long before all of the sudden the Joe Gibbs Racing M&M’s #18 was running in the top-15 . . . top-10 by Lap 3 (!) . . . top-5 . . . to leading the race by Lap 32. When the 6+ hour red flag rain delay began on Lap 38, Busch was the leader from the 37th starting position.
But later, a pit stop penalty put Busch a full lap behind the leaders on Lap 78 and he ran the next 70 a lap down. For most drivers that would have pretty much ended their hopes of medaling, but by Lap 153 Busch had worked his way back up to 13th; 8th by Lap 189; and, 4th by Lap 193. If it weren’t for getting caught up in the final green-white-checkered wreck involving six vehicles, Busch, who amazingly led 19 laps, would have had a top-5 finish and perhaps challenged Earnhardt for the win.
We saw this type of maneuvering from one of the most talented and skilled natural drivers all last season. Currently Jimmie Johnson may be the most prolific in NASCAR, but Kyle Busch began this year again proving he has all the moves.
5. Denny Hamlin may be 2014’s “dark horse”: JGR’s Denny Hamlin suffered a fractured back after dueling with on-again / off-again “friend” Joey Logano for the lead in last season’s Auto Club 400 on March 24 in California. He would miss the next five races, and with the 2013 season not even at the half-way point, Hamlin’s hopes for The Chase had already evaporated.
He climbed back behind the wheel on May 11 at Darlington Raceway and took 2nd! “I’m tired. Just worn out,” Hamlin said just after that race. Hamlin ended the season outside The Chase and with only one win . . . the very last of the season; the 10th race of The Chase where no one cares who won – they only care who won the Cup Championship which was Jimmie Johnson.
If anyone on Sunday appeared to have the “eye of the tiger” it was Denny Hamlin. He started fourth in the race; had one of the most consistent and fastest cars in qualifying and practice; led the race three different times for 16 laps and finished 2nd. While the usual suspects are getting mentioned this year, quietly keep Denny Hamlin’s name tucked neatly in the back of your mind . . . and, remember later you heard it from me first.
6. Bad debut for the NEW Stewart-Haas Team: Big changes came off-season to Stewart-Haas Racing. Near the end of last season it was announced that Ryan Newman was axed just days before the team expanded from three cars to four. Huh? Right. In comes Kevin Harvick from Richard Childress Racing to take Newman’s place. The fourth car would be run by, of all people, Kurt Busch who had a remarkably commendable season with the single-car “little engine that could” Furniture Row Racing team . . . and, a remarkably contentious relationship with co-owner Tony Stewart.
Nonetheless add Tony Stewart’s #14 at the top and Danica Patrick’s Go Daddy #10 sponsorship dollars to the mix, and on paper this appears to be an All-Star team. Behind closed doors however, the whispers have been that the team is as combustible as an open canister of Sunoco Racing Fuel. Columnist Randy Covitz of the Kansas City Star is typical of the media gossip:
“The intrigue now that Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch have joined the team is whether the Stewart-Haas race shop is large enough to contain the egos of some of NASCAR’s biggest and most volatile personalities.”
How did the dream team fare at Daytona? Danica Patrick finished 40th after getting knocked out of the race in Lap 145 in the first Dillon-instigated wreck. Stewart finished 35th after encountering fuel pressure issues with his #14. Kurt Busch finished 21st and was involved in the final lap scrum. Kevin Harvick had the best race of the bunch finishing 13th after starting in 38th.
With high expectations for this team and as quick as the trigger appeared to be in the off-season, it seems to me Patrick’s driver’s seat is quite warm. She better perform better than last season’s one top-10 finish otherwise we may only be seeing her on a go-cart track sipping Coca-Cola’s and reminiscing with Tony on Wednesday evenings next year.
7. Many NASCAR fans really AREN’T too smart: This year’s Daytona 500 was red flagged at 2:13 p.m. ET due to rain. It remained stalled for the next 6+ hours.
Not expecting the longest delay in Daytona history, FOX Sports scrambled to bring programming to a racing fan base they didn’t want turning to the closing ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics on NBC. So, after filling the requisite first 45-60 minutes with banalities engaging just about every sidelined headline driver not napping in their motor home, the network began running an edited version of the 2013 Daytona 500.
In hindsight, perhaps not the best option with so many of the players being the same ones running on Sunday. Perhaps a better option would have been to go to archives of 2004, or 1994.
Many viewers, perhaps coming in late . . . or taking a break from the coverage only to return were convinced that the replay was live, accurate and real-time. “WOW, can you believe this Ethel? Jimmie Johnson just won Daytona for the second year in a row!”
Not wanting to pile on the stereotypes referring to the average I.Q. of NASCAR fans, I will admit that even I stupidly slipped very briefly watching the replay and thinking it was live. A true NASCAR fan however would have caught the mistake pretty quickly as paint schemes did not match what were run for the first 35+ laps and the field was missing some key personnel like rookies Kyle Larson, and Parker Kligerman . . . (oh, and where the hell did Juan Pablo Montoya come from? Didn’t he head back to F-1?) So more than likely, the hundreds of congratulatory tweets Jimmie Johnson received on his 2014 win were NOT your stereotypical NASCAR fans. They were probably those blood-thirsty Neanderthal NFL fans just looking for a monstrous collision!
Here comes this week’s 129th consecutive “Frat House Sports Show with Frat House Mike annnndddd . . .” NO . . . no, Sidekick . . . try Uncle Mark . . . and special MLB analyst and CLW83 Touch ‘en All host, Jim Williams. (Sidekick’s off playing hooky.) Jim comes in to chat New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies off-season stories, and most are expensive! The “Top Stories” this week include new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in denial about the Philadelphia 76ers and others; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers unveiling new art; and, NFL investigator Ted Wells unveiling his writing skills. Olympics coverage takes us to the hockey rink for Team USA, Russia and Canada; more disappointment as things have not boded well for Bode Miller; Lolo Jones may be on a yo-yo with some of her teammates; and, a Leaderboard that’s the different but the same. NASCAR’s Daytona 500 is here and so is the largest rookie class in a long time including Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Ryan Truex, Justin Allgaier, Parker Kligerman . . . and, more! IT’S THE FRAT HOUSE AT ITS BEST! It’s another wonderful show you gotta’ pass around to all your friends & family!
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By: Mike McShane
We’ve all heard the adage; “strength in numbers.”
Frequently it’s true. But, sometimes the will and desire of an obviously weaker foe can “out-number” the favorite. Thus might be the case of the 2014 U.S.A. delegation sent to Sochi, Russia for the XXII Winter Olympics.
The United States sent the largest delegation of athletes of any of the participating 88 countries. At 230 there’s more American representation in the Olympic Village than any other country. In fact, the U.S. has fielded the largest delegation of athletes ever sent to any Olympic Games. To illustrate, there’s a 1-12 chance that you will bump into an American athlete in the McDonald’s built exclusively in the village.
One would think that simply by virtue of fielding the largest number of athletes that SHOULD equate to leading the medal board. But, that hasn’t been the case from even Day 1. The U.S. has been second, third, fourth on the board always (to date) behind The Netherlands who only sent 41 athletes and was awarded a whopping total of 8 medals; 4 gold in 2010 but already has 17 total medals just half way through the events.
At the close of activity on Sunday February 16, the U.S. is just slightly ahead of Norway who sent 118 athletes with Norway currently on pace to beat their 2010 medal count of 23.
Not such good news for the U.S. Olympic Committee who, as of today, practically conceded that they cannot mirror their 2010 performance according to USOC CEO Scott Blackmun:
“Vancouver was a once-in-a-lifetime performance by our team. While that’s a good benchmark from an aspirational standpoint, it’s not a realistic expectation every time we compete because it was just so special. It was like competing on home soil, our time zone, our culture, our food — it was that combined with the fact that our athletes had a lot of lifetime best performances.”
Seriously, Mr. Blackmun?
I think I need a ruling on this. Does citing the home soil, time zone, culture, and food . . . OF CANADA qualify Mr. Blackmun as a “whiner?”
I would suggest that Mr. Blackmun sit with some of the other countries’ tables at that McDonald’s (an American food culture) in Sochi, Russia’s Olympic Village and take note of one of the big differences between his / our delegation and the others. It should become obvious quicker there for him than it has to those of us that have viewed our athletes strictly in uniform performing their vocation on a TV screen.
Just an observation from all my hours of viewing, listening, and reading (of which it’s been hundreds) but, I submit the U.S Olympic teams are, for the most part, stacked with experience (a.k.a.: nostalgic success) . . . and age . . . blinding the objectivity of “analysts” parroting the PR-machine of the USOC which has enjoyed feeding the frenzy of a “veteran” team’s visit to an ancient Cold War villain environment . . . and, it’s simple to prove. There’s the “eye test,” and the “math test.”
We’ll start with the eye test:
Shaun White: three-time Olympian (2006) Snowboarding * Age 27 * Gold medalist in Turin in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010 * Bails out at the last minute on the Slope-style Snowboarding citing Sochi course conditions * The gold medal is subsequently won by his teammate Sage Kotsenburg * Attempts to become the first American 3-time gold medalist in any event in Halfpipe Snowboarding * Does not medal.
Bode Miller: five-time Olympian (1998) Downhill Skiing * Age 36 * Gold, Silver, and Bronze in Vancouver 2010 * To date, despite the hype from his year off from an injury, merely a Bronze.
Julia Mancuso: four-time Olympian (2002) Downhill Skiing * Age 29 * Gold medal 2006 Turin * Silver medal 2010 Vancouver * Bronze medal 2014 Sochi.
Kelly Clark: four-time Olympian (2002) Snowboarding *Age 30 * Gold medal 2002 Salt Lake * Bronze medals in both 2010 Vancouver and 2014 Sochi.
Shani Davis: four-time Olympian (2002) Speedskating * Age 31 * Gold & Silver medals in 2006 Turin * Gold & Silver 2010 Vancouver * Did not medal in 2014 Sochi.
The average age of the U.S. team is on the high side of 26. The average age of all other countries represented is on the low side of 25. Not that great a difference, I understand. And, before you malign me . . . yes, we have seen terrific performances from the aforementioned 20 year-old first-time Olympian gold medalists Sage Kotsenburg and 24 year-old Kaitlyn Farrington who got the baton passed to her surreptitiously, perhaps reluctantly, from teammate Kelly Clark.
Yes, we have our share of youthful contributors. 15 year-old freestyle skier Maggie Voisin didn’t get a chance to compete due to a late ankle injury, but 18 year-old Jason Brown did get to wow his country and the world with a figure skating preview of his future success.
Nonetheless, far too many of our 2014 medaling prospects were over-aged . . . and over-hyped to the extent that we . . . “we” as an uninformed behind-the-scenes simple once-every-four-year spectator . . . believed they would merely show up and the judges would bow to the stars and stripes.
The USOC needs to realize that the proof lies in the math test as well for even the commoner:
To me it’s simple, and I pointed it out on this past week’s Frat House Sports Show #128. Just look at the medal count leader-board.
The Gold medal column is one we all covet. Hey it’s sports, folks. You don’t ever approach something to be second or third best. That’s awarded to you. Not something you set as a goal. So if you’re country is leading in gold medals, that’s great! You are the best in that discipline and there’s no one better.
The Bronze medal column is a double-edged sword. It could mean you’re on your way up . . . or on your way down. It’s not a great barometer of the metal (or did I mean “medal”?) of your country’s athletic effort.
The Silver medal column however IS a true indicator . . . in my opinion, a truly defining sabermetrician’s way of gauging your overall team’s age . . . and future. IF many of your Olympians are capturing numerous Silver medals and your country has a healthy dose of silver, it bodes well for your future. It means there’s one . . . maybe two . . . athletes somewhere in the world just better than yours. It becomes a matter of just setting your sites on those one or two competitors and positioning your athletes in a way to eliminate them over the next few years.
Now to prove my point; apply the “eye test” I established earlier by reviewing the ages of the favored U.S. athletes to my “math test” analysis of the medal count board. Of the top-5 countries through February 16, which country has the most bronze?
The United States, with 50% of their medals being on the downward scale; many awarded to some of our aging athletes I previously mentioned. Nonetheless, without those eight medals we wouldn’t even be on the board.
Looking down the silver column however, you’ll notice that the U.S. is near the bottom (and has been until today) in those awards. Not a good sign for our future, I’d say. On the other hand countries live Russia and Canada obviously fielded athletes in their disciplines who just “missed it by that much,” and you can bet you’ll hear their names again in 2018.
In fact, I’ll go so far as to say “bank” Russia and Canada NOW for 2018 (if early bets are your sort of thing), and oh USOC, let’s get younger for the next time around . . . and shoot for the . . . SILVER!
By: Mike McShane
The Philadelphia 76ers are a disgrace. I’ll take it one step further. The Philadelphia 76ers are a disgrace to ALL professional sports teams!
You can call me emotional – unrealistic – a romantic, dreamer, purist. You can sit there and tell me it doesn’t matter. You can tell me that the team has to lose in order to build for the future. You can tell me that the team doesn’t care about this season on purpose because that’s part of their master plan for cashing-in their pending draft spots. You can tell me that these are the darkest days for a franchise that will only get better quickly next season, and it’s all going to be okay.
. . . and, I’ll say the same thing . . . all the MORE so; they are a disgrace!
Let’s start with the Sixers recent off-season acquisition from the New Orleans Pelicans of their 2013 overall #6 pick in the NBA draft, Nerlens Noel. Google Noel’s name and the brief description that comes up in the right column of all the recent links about him states: “Nerlens Noel is an American professional basketball player who currently plays for the Philadelphia 76ers.”
Well that’s a joke right there, because like Andrew Bynum from last season, Noel has only worn a Sixers jersey once – for his official team portrait and perhaps some valueless trading cards. For those photo-op appearances, the Sixers are paying Noel $3.17 million (compare that to the $2.2 million being paid to an often-mentioned Rookie-of-the-Year candidate, Michael Carter-Williams who has been on the floor for over 80% of the season). Mind you, it’s not the $16.5 million handed to Bynum for nothing last year, but the result is the same . . . and, this year it’s even more diabolical.
The Sixers actually wanted Bynum to play during their 2012-13 campaign. They believed he could . . . would. However, entering the 2013-14 season, team brass made the conscious decision that Noel, rumored to have chronic knee issues (the “Bynum rabbit hole”), would NOT play before 2014-15. Many surmised that this was a less than seamless attempt to crap-out the season to obtain one of the coveted top-5 2014 draft picks.
This is not a new strategy and certainly not one unfamiliar to the Sixers. Many teams have purposefully coordinated the worse possible season for the exact same purpose, and it is believed that the Sixers did something similar during their 1992-93 season when they went 26-56, secured the overall #2 pick in the 1993 draft and . . . picked everyone’s favorite, Shawn Bradley.
Sixers owner Josh Harris, General Manager Sam Hinkie, and Head Coach Brett Brown have all scoffed at the notion of purposefully blowing the season. Brett Brown was quoted as telling Sixers forward Evan Turner before the season began: “Well, they got the wrong coach if we’re going to go out and lose on purpose. We want to compete and get better.”
For a while, I actually bought that rhetoric; . . . well it wasn’t difficult. The Sixers opened the season with a win over the NBA defending Champion Miami Heat 114-110. Three nights later they beat the Chicago Bulls 107-104. In fact, going into mid-January the Sixers led the league in average points per game at over 102. Nonetheless, they had a losing record because their defense was as poor as their offense was rich. But, as a fan base at least it didn’t look like they were purposefully throwing the season. As a fan, you had that element of sports unexpected.
About a month ago, the team began struggling to score 90+ points/game. Now, couple that with their season long defensive issues, and their games had become un-viewable. None more so than their west coast visit to the Los Angeles Clippers on February 9 where Blake Griffin and company looked like the Harlem Globetrotters flat-out embarrassing the Sixers by 45 points, 123-78. In that match the Sixers shot 27% from the floor. (Is that a new NBA low record? Seriously!)
The very next night (February 10) it was a similar result against the Golden State Warriors losing there by 43 points, 123-80. It was obvious this team was in complete freefall. Thank God the All-Star break was just days away. But, is THIS what we can expect for the remaining 3½ months?
On Tuesday, February 11 ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith appeared on the “Mike Missanelli Show” on Philadelphia’s 97.5 The Fanatic and presented a scathing assessment of the Sixers and their on-court management:
“It’s not about losing; it’s about how you go down. When you lose two consecutive games by 40+ points; when you’re down 50 points in a game; that’s beyond embarrassing. That speaks to a lack of preparation. It speaks to a lack of fight. It speaks to a lack of integrity and, dare I say, professional decency. How can you be that damn awful? “
Later in the same interview, he weighed-in on head coach Brett Brown saying that the team should be “ashamed” and the coach should be taking some heat for the results:
“You’re not supposed to see that kind of stuff in professional sports. The fact that you did is very, very bad; it’s inexplicable; it’s inexcusable; and, something has to be said about that. It’s the kind of performance where you have to call cats out because you can’t have anyone thinking that’s alright.”
WOW! Read that again. Stephen A. Smith called into question the Sixers “integrity,” AND “professional decency.”
Now look, Stephen A. Smith is just another “talking head,” but someone in the Sixers front office should be squirming and sitting up straight because that’s a pretty damning remark and accusation . . . and, coming from a “national” guy who can influence the perception of YOUR fan base, Josh Harris!
Yet, as we’ve moved into the peaceful solitude of the NBA All-Star break there have not been “anonymous” reports of player-player meetings with the Sixers as we’ve heard so frequently with the Phillies and Flyers. There’s been no leaked story of Brett Brown turning tables in the locker room. In essence, that “calling out” that Stephen A. called for didn’t happen, and that’s a shame . . . but, I’m not surprised.
For the second season in a row the Philadelphia 76ers have played a shell game with their fans. Last year they were just learning how to do it. They really didn’t want to play the game, but they found it became convenient.
This year they’ve mastered the art of the shell game. Like all inexperienced and amateur “Artful Dodger” cons though, they’ll work it for a while and end up embarrassed when their year-long snickering behind-our-backs effort at duping their audience reaps them another . . . what? . . . Shawn Bradley?
This week we managed to get it done on time despite enduring another miserable snow day . . . bringing you all the sports stories we love for our Valentine’s Day show: New York Yankees Derek Jeter hopes to play more than 17 games in 2014 but then no more; Michael Sam hopes to just play; the Cleveland Browns seem to be playing with their fan-base; and many Americans at the Sochi Winter Games may just be too old to play. Uncle Mark takes a look at Olympic Hockey and NHL trade rumors. Hard to believe but the NASCAR season is upon us and team and rule changes take center stage. IT’S THE FRAT HOUSE AT ITS BEST! It’s another wonderful show you gotta’ pass around to all your friends & family!
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