Friday, September 11, 2009

The NBA's Greatest Generation

With no disrespect intended to the two tremendous coaches being enshrined in Springfield, Mass., today – Jerry Sloan of the NBA’s Utah Jazz and C. Vivian Stringer of three Final Four teams – the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2009 will be identified by the three Dream Teamers inducted: Michael Jordan, David Robinson and John Stockton.

And even while Jordan is eclipsing the other two more-than-worthy inductees, the everlasting impact of all three can never be overshadowed. They were key figures on that groundbreaking, never-to-be-duplicated 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team. And they, in turn, are icons of the greatest era in the history of the sport.

They are part of the NBA’s Greatest Generation.

(Continue to The Steele Drum)

Can Imperfect Ravens Get It Done?

Joe Cool: Ravens second-year QB Joe Flacco

Heading into the new season Sunday versus a struggling, red-meat Kansas City Chiefs, the Ravens are looking like a team out to show -- again -- that imperfection can win a Super Bowl.

The 2009 version of the Ravens is relying on a familiar formula -- a Ray Lewis-led, shut-down defense, a solid running game and stout line play on both sides of the ball. If they can beat AFC North nemesis Pittsburgh after three losses last season (23-20, 13-9, 23-14) to the Super Bowl champion, the stars could align their way.

After the surprise of last season, reaching the AFC title game with first-year head coach John Harbaugh and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens are being touted as one of the league’s elite teams along with the Steelers, Eagles, Patriots, Giants, Titans, Chargers and Vikings. There is every reason to believe that the unflappable and strong-armed Flacco will be even better going into his sophomore season.

(Continue to DMA 7-22 Sports)

Jets Might Be Surprise Contender

There is a lot of anticipation in New York as the NFL season prepares to get under way.

Most of the talk centers on the Giants, who are generating a lot of attention as a preseason NFC favorite to win the East and reach the Super Bowl. They improved their depth on the defensive line, have one of the league’s top quarterbacks and a strong running game.

They also have a strong pedigree, winning the Super Bowl in February of 2008 and a coach most regard as one of the best in the business in Tom Coughlin. There is no reason not to believe the Giants won’t be playing in January and perhaps making it to the Bowl once again.

But the intriguing team in New York is the Jets, who turned over some key personnel after going 9-7 last year. They have a new quarterback in Mark Sanchez, and a new coach in Rex Ryan but the most important thing is this: a new defense, orchestrated by Ryan, which will go a long way toward determining Gang Green’s fate this fall.

(Continue to New York Minute)

Webb Riding for Good Cause

When I was growing up, watching the Islanders of old in the early part of this decade, there were a handful of players that I admired. One was Steve Webb, who fought hard every shift, and played with a blue-collar attitude which so many Long Islanders could relate.

I was not surprised when I saw the main story on the Islanders website this morning. Webb, the founder of the W20 Foundation, is going to bike from Petersborough, Ontario Canada to Uniondale, NY - a 650 mile journey.

(Continue to Thin Ice)

9/11 Has Lessons to Teach Us

I watched on television in horror that Sept. 11 day in 2001 as the second of the Twin Towers crumbled onto the streets of Manhattan. The site of those falling buildings proved one of the darkest days in U.S. history, a disaster that galvanized this nation like nothing people had witnessed.

Not that Americans hadn’t seen horrific events before; we had seen plenty.

To our parents or grandparents, the attack on Pearl Harbor remains vivid. How about the bombing in Oklahoma City? And what person from my generation can’t still see the streets of urban America aflame in the 1960s, an event that ate at the nation’s core. Those riots in Detroit, Watts, Newark, Cleveland and elsewhere frightened us, pulling us inward instead of outward to find lasting solutions to these still unresolved problems of racism and poverty.

But 9/11 did the reverse. It brought strangers of all colors together. They shared tears and hugs and anger and frustrations. They shared love and displayed American grit, even as confusion reigned like a warlord over why this wickedness had visited U.S. soil.

(Continue to Justice Is Served)

Peterson, Pfungstadter and Polamalu

It's Football Friday in the Grill Room, but we're still cleaning up around here following this morning's dandy of an NFL season-opener.

It wasn't always pretty, but the Pittsburgh Steelers, rated No. 1 in the Grill Room's NFL 100- PROOF RANKINGS, knocked off the No. 7 Tennessee Titans, 13-10, in overtime.

It seems the only folks around these parts that weren't ready for some football were the Polizei. They'll tell you they'd rather face the Russians in winter than deal with a drunken, raucous, mostly American football crowd at 5 in the morning.

We were able to buy happiness for our neu gut freunds when we properly bribed Captain Heinrich and his gang with an all-the-Pfunstadter-they-can-drink-for-free offer. And let's get this out of the way now: Pfungstadter is the official bier of the GR.

(Continue to The Grill Room)

September Wasteland, Cont.

Pro football fans like to thumb their noses at college football for a number of reasons. But when it comes to mismatches, they do have a point.

Yes, they do play those meaningless exhibition games in the NFL (at most papers, including the ones that I worked for, it's verboten to call them "preseason" games), but once the real deal gets started, it's serious stuff. Every game immediately attains a whole lot of meaning, and you have to take even the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders seriously every week.

Not so in college football. Not in September, for the most part, anyway.

(Continue to BCS Guru)

Week 2 Predictions

Well, the good news is that it'd be really hard for me to do worse than last week.

North Carolina Tar HeelsTar Heels @ HuskiesHuskies Connecticut (+4.5)

The Huskies will be looking for some revenge after getting pasted in Chapel Hill last year. But the Tar Heels are still moving up and should be able to get it done.

The Call: North Carolina by 10

Iowa (-6.5) HawkeyesHawkeyes @ CyclonesCyclones Iowa State

Iowa State had had the Hawkeyes number when this has seemed like a mismatch in past years. But Iowa got a huge scare last weekend and should come out fired up and more focused.

The Call: Iowa by 7

Fresno State BulldogsBulldogs @ BadgersBadgers Wisconsin (-9.5)

You know, I really shouldn't do this. It's a bad idea.

The Call: Fresno State by 4

(Continue to The National Championship Issue)

This Week's 'Game of the Weak'


Mike Hlas is an award-winning columnist with the Cedar Rapids Gazette and force behind The Hlog. Each week he will break down the biggest mismatch in college football. Considering the increasing number of Bowl Championship Series teams scheduling games against cupcake opponents, Mike's task is more challenging than getting a South Carolina congressman to act respectfully during a presidential address.

It's never fun to see two college football teams meet when both are struggling to gain some sort of positive identity.

Bad real life can be harsh. So it is Saturday when two teams on the rocks are thrown together on their sport's jagged shore.

(Continue to The Wiz of Odds)

Expect a Big Night from South Florida

We'll make the call right now, today.

USF will man-handle the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Saturday night in Bowling Green, Ky.

The reasons are simple: USF is flat out better, is an advanced program compared to Western and watched film of Tennessee flat-out tearing up the Hilltoppers in Knoxville last week.

Defensive coordinator Joe Tresey watched Monte Kiffin's new defense swarm to the ball, squash Hilltopper backs and receivers left and right on a day that saw Western held to 83 yards total offense.

(Continue to Running with the Bulls)

Time to Bring the Juice

Copyright Spenser Ayres Photoshop Productions

Seeing as how the NFL season begins today (remember that the Steelers host the Titans tonight, but please do not put Kerry Collins into your starting lineup because he's playing a prime time game), most drafts have already taken place. The decision-making is not over, however. The most important decisions you'll make from now until the season's end is who to start from week to week.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is more frustrating in fantasy football than benching a guy that goes off for a monster game while the guy you started in his place puts up a dud. Of course, it's nice to see your players do well, but successful fantasy owners ensure that they're getting the best players in their starting lineups on a weekly basis.

(Continue to Inside Fantasy Sports)
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