Saturday, March 14, 2015

2015 NFL Free Agency Recap: The Insanity of Chip Kelly & How The NFL Discovered That Trades Are Actually Fun!!!

Well, we're five days into the NFL's 2015 free agency period and the pundits are scratching their collective heads so much that their perfectly coiffed locks are drifting to the ground like nuclear fallout from an A-bomb being dropped on the headquarters of Vidal Sassoon. The Eagles went from having a virtually nonexistent running back crew to having way too many ball carriers, the Saints seem to be edging ever closer to fire sale mode & the Bills look to be a quarterback away from being serious Super Bowl contenders. To paraphrase the youthful texters of today...WTF?!?!

Chip Kelly has stolen the show this offseason, just like Heath Ledger's Joker in "The Dark Knight"...trading one of the league's top backs (LeSean McCoy) for a young but still somewhat unproven linebacker in Kiko Alonso (who just happened to go to Oregon, Kelly's last gig), then trading for the oft-injured Sam Bradford while bailing on the young but eerily effective Nick Foles and finally throwing tons of cash at former Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray AFTER inking former Chargers RB Ryan Mathews. Trying to make sense of these moves is like trying to figure out how "The Mindy Project" is still on the air...

Meanwhile, New Orleans gave Seattle the offensive weapon they desperately needed in Jimmy Graham, the Dolphins mortgaged South Beach to sign Ndamukong Suh to a budget-busting deal & the hapless Jets invested ungodly amounts of money in re-acquiring cornerbacks they had on their roster just a few years ago. The big winner this offseason? Hands down, the Buffalo Bills. They got the best head coach available on the open market in Rex Ryan, snagged McCoy for a reasonable price & kept their solid defense (mostly) intact for Sexy Rexy to play with...

Yes, it sounds strange but the Bills are looking like legitimate playoff contenders this year. They just have to upgrade at signal caller to start thinking about reaching "The Big Game" (no offense intended, Matt Cassel & E.J. Manuel). Hmmmmmmm, rumors are flying that there's a team in Chicago that really wants to part ways as soon as possible with their physically gifted QB who just happens to be in the prime of his career & word on the street is that they'll make a deal for next to nothing!!!! Hey, who really wouldn't want to see Jay Cutler sporting the blue, red & white up near the Canadian border? As a Bears fan, I'm screaming "Yes! Yes! Yes!" like Meg Ryan in the classic deli scene from "When Harry Met Sally"!!!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Farewell “Mr. White Sox”

--> When Minnie Minoso, “The Cuban Comet”, passed away this past weekend, Chicago lost another baseball legend.  Minnie was the first black Latin player in Major League Baseball and first black player in the American League when he signed with Cleveland in 1949.  Two years later he was traded to the White Sox, where he became a fan favorite for his relentless style of play and outgoing personality.


Minnie played 12 of his 17 years with the White Sox and is one of only two players to have played at least 1 game in 5 different decades.  Minnie was a 7-time All Star and 3-time Gold Glove winner in left field.  He led the AL in triples and stolen bases 3 times each.  His accomplishments both on the field and off led to his number 9 being retired and he is immortalized with a statue on the outfield concourse at U.S. Cellular Field.
Minnie’s popularity in Chicago only grew after his retirement.  As a community relations ambassador, he represented the White Sox with class and a never ending smile.  He took the time to talk with fans wherever he went, freely signing autographs for anyone who wanted one.  It is said that he signed enough autographs for every resident of Chicago to have at least one.

I was fortunate enough to have met Minnie at Sox Fest years ago.  My buddy Jamie and I were standing in the hallway between autograph sessions when Minnie walked up to us.  He introduced himself and asked us where we were from.  With hundreds of fans walking around, Minnie spent about 5 minutes with us talking baseball and of course signed an autograph for each of us.  Minnie was one of the nicest, most personable sports figures I have ever encountered.
Despite his wonderful career and historical significance paving the way for Latin players, Minnie has been denied entry to the Hall of Fame.  Was it coming to the Majors later in his career after spending so much time playing in Cuba and the Negro Leagues or the “stunt” game in 1980 to have played in 5 decades that have kept him out?  It’s a shame that only Chicago has recognized a great man.
Career Stats
Games
Hits
HR
SO
BB
RBI
Runs
SB
Avg.
Fld. %
1,835
1,963
186
584
814
1,023
1,136
205
.298
.971

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Group Qualifying in NASCAR– What is it, why do it and please stop.

In an effort to appease the casual fan watching qualifying on television, NASCAR has looked across the pond for inspiration to shorten the length of their time trials to set the starting line up for each race.   Formula 1 (F1) racing has been using the group qualifying format.  What is group qualifying?  Multiple cars run on the track at the same time run as fast as they can to se their best lap time.  This is done in place of single car runs for two laps, taking the best lap time.  Sounds great.  If it works for F1 it will work for NASCAR, right?

F1 race fields consist of eleven 2-car teams, 22 cars per race.  F1 races on road courses that average about 3 miles in length.  The cars usually end up spread out around the track.  The format for group qualifying is simple and used at every track.  It consists of three segments spread out over the course of an hour.  Cars can run as many laps as they wish in each segment. 

            Q1 – All 22 cars can run laps during the first 18 minute segment. The 6 slowest cars
                        are dropped and fill positions 17-22 on the grid.
                                    7 minute break
            Q2 – Times are reset and the 16 remaining cars run during this 15 minute segment.
                        The 6 slowest cars are dropped and fill positions 11-16 on the grid.
                                    8 minute break
            Q3 – Times are reset for a 12 minute shoot out for the final 10 cars.  Positions 1-10
                       are filled on the grid.
            If a driver impedes another at any point, the time may be cancelled or a grid penalty
            given.

NASCAR runs a field of 43 cars on ovals that range from a half mile to 2.6 miles in length and two road courses.  On the ovals the cars are not able to spread out.  NASCAR’s version of group qualifying is NOT as simple as that in F1.  NASCAR has 3 different sets of rules: one for short track and intermediate tracks (ovals 0.5 to 1.5 miles in length), one for super speedways (ovals 2 miles or more in length) and one for the road courses.  Yes, all three are based on the F1 model with the fastest cars moving on after each segment and breaks in between.  Chaos has been the norm on the ovals.  It does work for the road courses.

Group qualifying for NASCAR has been confusing for both the drivers and the fans.  Yes, it has shortened the length of qualifying for the casual television audience.  We have seen a lot of good cars needlessly torn up and driver safety put at risk on the ovals. 


NASCAR has chased the almighty dollar in the pursuit television ratings and again, panders to the casual fans.  How I long for the days of the single car, balls to the wall, 2 lap dash for the pole. My father and I made many a journey up to Michigan International Speedway on Fridays (both races) just to spend the day watching practice and qualifying.  The crowd went wild every time the fastest lap was set.  No time was lost due to accidents or blown engines.  Yes, it took a little longer, but the journey was enjoyable.  Let's go back and end the madness.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

NASCAR Preview 2015 (or "How To Tell The Difference Between Tony Stewart & Jimmy Spencer In Five Easy Steps")

Well, it's that time of year, kids...love is in the air (and bondage too, if you're into that "Fifty Shades..." stuff), winter is winding down and NASCAR is back to pull us out of our collective early February sports doldrums. The whole Daytona spectacle kicks off this weekend with the Sprint Unlimited and pole qualifying for the 500, so I figured what better time than a snowy V-Day to give you my five things to look for in the 2015 Sprint Cup season...
1) Is Danica Patrick going to finally show up or continue to make fools of us all? Yes, we know she's a marketing machine (and yummy to boot) but we're all still waiting for her to actually MATTER as a Sprint Cup driver. She seemed to make a bit of progress at the tail end of the 2014 season...can she generate some kind of momentum off of that and put together more than two or three decent races in 2015???
2) Will Tony Stewart regain his championship form? Tough times for Smoke over the past eighteen months or so...can he recover physically and emotionally from what he's been through? A black flag at the initial Daytona weigh-in could be interpreted as a good thing (Stewart's back to causing trouble again) or a bad thing (he's even more out of shape than usual). Sports Frenzy's rooting for you, Tony...
3) Will Jeff Gordon go out on top? Mr. Whinebag had a great year in 2014 and there's no reason to think he won't be a championship factor in 2015. Is it really that hard to see him winning the Sprint Cup in his final year as a full-time driver? For those of us who hate the runt, yes...otherwise, not in the least.
4) Now that he's switched teams, will Carl Edwards finally realize his potential? Joining Joe Gibbs Racing should give him a nudge in the right direction, but sometimes he seems like a slightly more talented male version of the aforementioned Danica Patrick...lots of marketing savvy, little fight and fire. Put down the $5 foot-long and win a title already, Carl!!!
5) In its second year, will the new Chase format gain more fans or detractors? Lots of grumbling about the "elimination" concept seemed to emanate from the camps of many of the top drivers during the off-season - will we see yet more tweaking after this year or will the powers-that-be in NASCAR finally stick with a specific "playoff" format for an extended period of time?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Resurrected!!!

Despite the fact that we've kept our presence felt on YouTube and Facebook over the past five years, we have obviously let out blog lapse. Well, that's about to come to an end!!! Look for new posts coming in February 2015, kids!!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

No Need To Panic…


Urlacher is done for the year. Cutler looked lost in Green Bay. We’re still checking to see if Lovie has a pulse. The Steelers, the defending Super Bowl champions, come to town this Sunday afternoon.

Reason to freak out? Not really.

Hey, The Maestro was a bit shaken too after the debacle in Green Bay last Sunday night. However, it was only one game, and it was a game that the Bears were expected to lose anyway. Same goes for this week with Pittsburgh. An 0-2 start was a definite possibility we were all looking at BEFORE the Week One disaster against the Packers.

The Bears can survive without Urlacher. Cutler can only get better (and he will). The issues Chicago really has to address in the coming weeks are as follows:

1) Can Lovie Smith continue to coach up the defense without Urlacher? Smith is a dopey automaton as a head coach, but he can definitely guide a defensive unit. Look at how the D kept the Bears in the game against Green Bay despite Cutler’s picks and the early loss of two starting linebackers. Will Lovie be able to keep this unit focused like that for the next 15 games?

2) Speaking of coaches, can somebody fire Ron Turner already? I’ve seen that stupid middle screen he calls constantly burn Grossman, Orton, and now Cutler. Yet Turner continues to keep it in the playbook. Yes, the receivers are young and inexperienced, but a good o-coordinator should be able to overcome that to some extent. Turner can’t. He needs to take the fall this year if the offense continues to struggle. If Jay Cutler stinks after working with a new coordinator next season, then we can write him off too…

3) Will Jerry Angelo keep sitting on his butt, patting himself on the back for the Cutler deal, or will he go out and try to make this team better immediately? Yes, Derrick Brooks, Amani Toomer, and Marvin Harrison are getting old, but this team needs help NOW. Without a #1 pick next year, contingency plans have to kick in after that embarrassing Packers loss. A minimal amount of cap space will get you Brooks, Toomer, and Harrison to help out this year. If one or two of the trio pan out, Angelo looks like a genius again. If he does nothing, Jerry is obviously the Vanderbilt-obsessed moron some of us think he truly is…

There you go, Bears fans. Chill out, take the Pittsburgh spanking with class (“Thank you, Ben!!! May I have another?!?!”), and look forward to the rest of the year with some measure of optimism. The playoffs may not loom for us this season, but the future’s so bright, I gotta wear my Devin Hester jersey with pride everywhere!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Maestro’s 2009 NFL Picks & Predictions


Well, I’m typing out this blog post at 8:55 PM on Thursday, September 10, 2009 - the Steelers & Titans have each had the ball twice, and the NFL season is officially game on!!! What better time than now for all of you denizens of the blogosphere to feast on The Maestro’s full-season prognostications?!?!

2009 AFC Division Winners: Titans, Chargers, Patriots, Steelers
2009 AFC Wild Card Teams: Colts, Ravens

No big shockers here. There just doesn’t seem to be any positive buzz surrounding the rest of the squads in the AFC. With Tom Brady & Shawne Merriman healthy, the Patriots and Chargers should meet in the AFC Championship, and despite Norv Turner’s worst intentions, Philip Rivers & LT will get San Diego to the Super Bowl…

Other AFC Notes: Peyton Manning will struggle a bit with a weak offensive line - he may even get hurt and (gasp) miss a game or two. Miami will fall back to the pack this year, and the ‘Wildcat’ formation will prove to be a quickly fading fad (fingers crossed). Following in the footsteps of Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, and Eric Mangini, Scott Pioli in Kansas City & Josh McDaniels in Denver will once again prove that the fruit falls very, very far from the Bill Belichick tree.

2009 NFC Division Winners: Eagles, Saints, Packers, Seahawks
2009 NFC Wild Card Teams: Falcons, Vikings

The power has clearly shifted to the NFC. With Jay Cutler, Albert Haynesworth, Tony Gonzalez, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Brett Favre jumping ship, the AFC looks a bit thin – no offense, Kyle Orton. Some really good teams (Giants, Cardinals, Bears) will be on the outside looking in. Look for the Eagles and Packers in the NFC Championship; “The Redemption Bowl” will feature Aaron Rodgers & Green Bay triumphing over Michael Vick & Philly.

Other NFC Notes: Favre will be a monumental headache for Minnesota; they’ll get into the playoffs as a Wild Card only because of Adrian Peterson & a solid defensive unit. Dallas will need a major overhaul (See ya, Wade Phillips! Bye, Roy Williams! You’re on notice, Tony Romo!) after a mediocre season. The NFC West will still be unbelievably weak when compared to the other three divisions. Tampa Bay will edge Detroit and St. Louis for worst record in the conference.

Super Bowl: Chargers over Packers
MVP: Philip Rivers edges Aaron Rodgers and Adrian Peterson

As always, comments and criticisms are welcome - remember to watch our weekly picks throughout the season on YouTube, kids!!!