College Bowl Pick Recap: Although it's old news now, I just wanted to report how my bowl picks went, especially since I went to the trouble to make them all. I got off to a horrid start, missing three out of four on the first day. But eventually, I rebounded well enough to post a 19 - 14 record, not bad considering that I vastly underestimated the ability of the bottom of the SEC and ACC to come through with victories. Overall, however, I'm pleased with my performance, especially down the stretch and in the national championship game. For the season I was 229 - 86 for a 73% winning percentage. Now we only have to wait seven more months before it starts all over again.
NFL Playoff Pick Recap: After going 1 - 3 on wildcard weekend, I came back to even my record at 5 - 5 for the playoffs. Wins by Denver and Seattle capped the comeback. Denver made it through to the Super Bowl a year late, overcoming last year's disappointing loss to Baltimore in the divisional round. The Seattle - San Francisco game was as good as anyone could have hoped for, eventually hinging an outstanding play by Seattle DB Richard Sherman. As a Peyton Manning fan, I was particularly pleased to see the Broncos easily handle the Patriots, setting up a classic struggle between the top offense against the best defense in the Super Bowl. You'll have to wait until next week for my pick in that one.
NBA Update: Now that we've reached the halfway point in the NBA season, I feel it's time to weigh in. The Eastern Conference is pathetic, sporting just three teams over .500. However, the race to secure seeding to avoid first round series against Indiana and Miami will be intense. With the Heat resting players in back to back game situations, I have a difficult time seeing them catching Indiana for the top seed. But it appears Miami is more focused on entering the playoffs rested than on getting there as the number one team. A wild card for Miami may well be Greg Oden, who is seeing action for the first time in almost five years. If he can continue to contribute quality minutes, Oden may just be a factor against the Pacers in the conference finals. The Pacers should cruise through the regular season, then hope they can do what they've failed to do the past three years: unseat the Heat in the playoffs. The Western Conference is once again led by Oklahoma City and San Antonio, but is very deep and could provide a lot of surprising teams come playoff time. Whether it's just a fluke or because of the competition in the West, there is a huge disparity in the quality of teams in the two conferences. By the time we get to the finals in June, despite the depth of talent in the West, whoever comes out of that conference might just be too worn out to put up a good fight against Indiana or Miami.
NHL Commentary: While I like watching hockey, especially during the playoffs when I have a team to support, the brawl between the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks illustrates all that is wrong with the sport. The league's response further illustrates how far out of touch the commissioner is with the attitude of other sports and the direction they are headed, especially when it comes to violence and protecting the players. It was clearly the intention of Flames' coach Bob Hartley to instigate some type of altercation when he started the game with his fourth line comprised of enforcers or "goons". When Canucks' coach John Tortorella countered with a similar line, the inevitable occurred. After the dust, or in this case, ice crystals settled, several players had been penalized or ejected. Tortorella, in defense of his team, tried to enter the Flames' locker room following the first period. So in its infinite wisdom, the league suspended Tortorella fifteen days, during which he'll miss six games. But Hartley, the instigator, was fined $25,000, a sum which will undoubtedly be reimbursed by the team in some fashion. So one guy gets six games and the other coach gets a slap on the wrist and a pat on the back for perpetuating the violence that the NHL mistakenly thinks draws fans. Really? And the guys in the suits wonder why their only national television contract is with the NBS Sports Network and most sports fans don't know icing from a cupcake.
A-Rod and PED's: Pete Rose got banned for life from baseball for betting on his own team as a manager, thus eliminating him from Hall of Fame consideration as a player despite being the all time leader in hits. But Alex Rodriguez, despite his repeated attempts to gain a competitive advantage as a player through his use of PED's, is still around and intends to return for the 2015 season after serving a one year suspension. The NHL is pretty bad, but Major League Baseball is right behind them on the train wreck list. The hypocrisy is unbelievable. So let's recap, shall we? MLB is hit by a strike in 1994, eliminating the postseason. Upon getting back on the field and trying to bring fans back into ballparks, home runs and scoring increase dramatically, as well as the size of the players. The sport applauds the power outburst, turning a blind eye to the obvious use of PED's. An entire generation of players had to make a decision to use or lose, at least from a competitive standpoint. Barry Bonds in particular was forced to watch as players with less skill surpassed him statistically. Without any substantive action by the commissioner and with resistance by the players' union to drug testing, what we now routinely look at as banned substances were not in fact against the rules. Faced with a competitive environment where income and longevity was, and still is, based on productivity, most players chose to use PED's and the sport not only ignored the phenomenon, but celebrated the players' historic accomplishments. Only after public and media speculation did the players and the sport ban PED's. But what do we do about Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and the countless others who had the unfortunate luck to be playing and excelling during that era? In retrospect, anyone can self righteously be critical of their decision, but is that really fair? Can you imagine hitting a stretch of highway without a speed limit sign, hitting the gas pedal and redlining your car at 160, knowing you're jeopardizing your life and probably anyone else on the road? But hey, it's not illegal. Then fast forward a couple of years and you get a summons in the mail, telling you they'd changed the speed limit on that highway and you were now being charged with reckless driving. And to add insult to injury, they were only going after the people with the really fast cars. The people who couldn't go 160, but who topped out at 115, well, they're "under the radar". I'm not here to let Bonds and Clemens totally off the hook, but to throw them under the bus is wrong. And what about A-Rod? Well, the rules have changed, he knew it and continued to use, despite having natural skills that needed little or no enhancement. As far as I'm concerned, I'll give him a pass on the early use, but at this point his suspension should be permanent.