"Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel"

My new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" is the follow-up to "Illegal Procedure" and "Roughing the Passer" and is now available in print and in e-formats at amazon.com, smashwords.com and iBooks. Follow me on twitter @kevinkrest.

Monday, February 29, 2016

SPORTS: SUBSTANCE OR HYPOCRISY?

It seems to me that we seem to be expecting a lot from our professional athletes. They need to fit a certain mold, project a particular personality and meet all of our expectations both on and off the field, court or ice. We justify those potentially unrealistic expectations by asserting that their high salaries and even higher public profiles demand that they should somehow be held to a higher standard. Yet there are a lot of people in this country and throughout the world that make a lot of money and frankly, have far more influence over our those things that really impact us on a day to day basis, that somehow escape the scrutiny through which we put our athletic achievers. In fact, the very media that reports every minor indiscretion would probably be hard pressed to undergo the same level of evaluation. I'm not talking about the criminal activities, which is generally inexcusable no matter who it is. But for some reason Robert Downey, Jr., Miley Cyrus and Charlie Sheen, to just name a few, can demand millions of dollars for their talent despite outrageous behavior, yet Cam Newton comes across a little surly in a post-game interview and all of a sudden he's no longer worthy of our respect as an exceptional athlete. Are you kidding me?

We have CEO's of major corporations that could buy and sell these supposedly highly paid athletes and not even worry about how to pay for their mansions, cars and other toys. Athletes, particularly football players, have prime earning years of maybe five or six years if they're lucky. Soccer is longer, so are basketball and baseball. But unlike the players that play the game, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is making in the $30+ million range, yet the guys who actually do all of the work are prohibited from making that amount of money. As much of a sports fan and commentator as I am, there is a certain amount of hypocrisy that pervades the entire industry. Owners complain when a player tries to "maximize" their value, yet those same billionaires think nothing of holding a community hostage when trying to get the best stadium deal available. In college, coaches can jump from school to school, yet the athletes have to sit out a year if they want to transfer, even if the coach that recruited them bails for greener pastures. Really? How can anyone possibly argue that there is justice in that scenario?

And what about the NBA,  that for no apparent reason, has chosen to ruin not just their own game, but the college product as well by making kids go to college for a year before they're eligible for the draft. Really? Who exactly, other than John Calipari, is this benefitting? The kid who would otherwise get drafted right out of high school gets denied a year of earning power while the college coach that signs him has to figure out a way to build a team knowing that the kid won't be there beyond his freshman season. If a school pays a kids room and board for a few months, clearly knowing that they won't ever aspire to earning a degree, it diminishes the entire scholarship argument. I don't know the exact best solution, but I can certainly tell when the current one isn't even close. From the AAU programs killing high school basketball, to the one and done's killing college basketball and to the fundamentally unprepared players entering and killing the NBA, there is really no good level exhibiting solid and entertaining basketball. One of the reasons I believe the Golden State Warriors are so dominant is that they, along with the San Antonio Spurs, are one of the few teams that actually play basketball the was it was intended to be played.

And going back a few years, the best example of total hypocrisy was the steroid era in Major League Baseball. Are you kidding me? In an effort to rebound from the lost 1994 season, MLB decided to turn a blind eye to the performance enhancing drugs permeating the game. Instead, they promoted the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, two obvious juicers, which eventually forced more talented players like Barry Bonds to join the fray so they could remain competitive. And in the ultimate insult, the league then leaked drug testing results which ultimately villified Bonds and others, including Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens, for alleged acts that at the time weren't even against the rules. If you think that's insane, it only gets better. Then we have the Hall of Fame voters who arbitrarily decide who gets in and who gets left out based on unsubstantiated claims of innocence when it comes to PED use. How do they know who juiced and who didn't? Okay, Bonds ended up looking like a Zika virus baby, but most others didn't have quite so obvious a manifestation of the effects. I don't believe John Smoltz, Dennis Martinez and some of the others in the latest HOF classes were PED users, but how do we really know? In the prime of their careers, there was no testing and by the way, as I mentioned before, it wasn't against the rules. So how does anyone really know, and great players like Barry Bonds and roger Clemens, both HOF caliber players even before the steroid years, get left out.

And yet, despite of or perhaps because of all of the hypocrisy, we still watch, we still listen and we still comment on the action. Because at the end of the day, it's what happens on the field, on the court, on the ice and on the course that holds our interest. Athletes come, they play and they retire, to be replaced by the next wave. And still we cheer, groan, cry and rejoice at what happens. It's sports and it endures.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first two, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" and "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and SmashwordsTune into www.WPFLRADIO.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on "Lou in the Morning" with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.






Friday, February 26, 2016

A LITTLE 19TH HOLE CONVERSATION: STATE OF THE PGA TOUR AND MISSING TIGER

Spring training has started, the NFL Combine is in full swing and the Golden State Warriors have made rest of the NBA look like their very own version of the Washington Generals, the longtime whipping boys of the Harlem Globetrotters. March Madness is still a couple of weeks from captivating us, the Masters at Augusta won't begin until the azaleas are in bloom, the Stanley Cup playoffs won't get started for a couple of months and even tennis' next grand slam, the French Open won't get underway until May. If I sound a bit bored by the entire scene, then you're doing a good job of reading my mood. We're only three weeks removed from the Super Bowl and it feels like months ago that the Broncos held off the Panthers. So maybe it's time to talk about golf.

The world's top ranked player misses a cut at a prestigious tournament, fan favorites Ricky Fowler and Phil Mickelson blow final round leads in consecutive weeks and the previous next big thing, Rory McIlroy is once again trying to find his consistency. Last I heard, Tiger Woods was playing with his kids in Florida and hiding in football luxury suites, far removed from the lush landscapes where he once dominated his sport. Maybe he and Peyton Manning are sitting around drinking beer, lamenting injuries and falls from grace, discussing the pros and cons of calling it quits. 2007 began with Manning leading the Colts to a Super Bowl title and ended with Tiger Woods winning seven times on tour, including the PGA Championship (his 13th and next to last major), FedEx Cup Championship and PGA Tour Player of the Year. Now Woods is a Ryder Cup assistant captain, all but forgotten as the 2016 season ends it's run on the wast coast and heads to Florida in preparation for the first major of the year at Augusta, and Peyton Manning is probably headed into retirement after a Super Bowl victory and revelations of a potentially ugly episode most likely attributed to the stupidity of youth.

Jordan Spieth, the golden boy of the last couple of seasons, seems to be struggling to adjust to the fame and fortune that have come his way. Is he the next Tiger Woods? Hardly. Catch this stat: in almost twenty years on tour, Woods has missed fifteen cuts, with many of those coming in the last few years as he's battled back from injury. Spieth, at the rip old age of 23, has already failed to qualify for the weekend 13 times. What always set Tiger Woods apart from his peers, if you could call them that, was his ability to grind out a good score even if he wasn't playing at his best. That trait contributed greatly to his unbelievable record of making cuts. Do I sound like I believe the players of today don't share the same trait? I hope so, because the money that is generated, partially due to the popularity of the game that can be attributed to Woods, has made the top professional golfers a little soft and seemingly spoiled. Spieth, in a desire to capitalize on his popularity, went globe trotting this past winter and while his bank account is probably pretty hefty, his game seems to have suffered a bit. Look, I'm not begrudging Spieth, or for that matter McIlroy, Watson, Fowler, Day, Dustin Johnson or any other good players from cashing in. But what most of them don't do enough of to win me over is to compete and win.

It's easy to forget that even before Tiger Woods turned pro, he won six consecutive USGA titles, all in match play. Beginning with the 1991 U.S. Junior Amateur, he won 36 consecutive matches, an unbelievably impressive feat. No one before him or since has come close to that kind of dominance. I believe that his match play mentality is what made him such a fierce competitor and enabled him to continue to stay focused even when he wasn't at his best. If it appears that I'm a big fan of Woods, it's because I am and have been for almost twenty-five years. Can any of the players of today aspire to the kind of career he had? Perhaps, but only if they stay laser focused on their game and on winning tournaments. From 1997 to 2008 (12 seasons), Woods won fourteen majors, ten player of the year awards and eight Vardon Trophies for the low scoring average. That's an incredible run that I just don't see being duplicated anytime soon. It's bad enough that football season is over,  but I don't even get to look forward to turning to Tiger Woods to fill the gap between February and September.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first two, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" and "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and SmashwordsTune into www.radiobookshelf.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on "Lou in the Morning" with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.







Monday, February 8, 2016

DENVER DEFENSE SHUTS DOWN THE MVP TO WIN SUPER BOWL 50

As I predicted last week, the Denver Broncos were able to contain, and in most cases, shut down the Carolina Panthers' MVP quarterback Cam Newton and win an ugly Super Bowl by the score of 24 - 10. Newton saw a lot of white shirts virtually from start to finish, becoming increasingly frustrated, ultimately to the point of ineffectiveness. I thought that the Panther offense would be better than they played, but in the end, the relentless pressure was just too much for a team without a legitimate deep threat.

Peyton' Legacy: I was asked during a radio appearance this morning what I thought the win did for Peyton Manning's place in football history. It's an excellent point of discussion and I feel it just solidified him as one of the top five or six QB's ever to play in the NFL. Now he can stand with Brady, Montana, Unitas and a few others with multiple championships. Unlike Marino, he was able to put the "can't win the big one" commentary behind him. Manning's career postseason record of 14 - 13 isn't particularly glossy, but it does include four trips to the Super Bowl with four different coaches and two different teams, a pretty stunning accomplishment. It also means he led his team to fifteen playoff appearances, no small feat in a league where just over a third of the teams qualify for postseason play. I would have to think that Manning will stroll into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, secure with a lasting legacy.

More Manning: Is The Ride Over? I'm going to have to predict that it is. His behavior after the game, referring to drinking some beers and having a good time is a stark contrast to his normal demeanor. He has little else to prove to himself, the fans and the media. There's almost no way he will be able to return to the Broncos, whose only motivation in having Manning in the first place was to do just what they did this season. They were built for the short term and accomplished their collective goal. It was a great one, but every career comes to an end. It would be nice to have the final Peyton Manning memory one of him standing on stage, smiling and holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Can the Panthers Make a Return Trip? It's going to be difficult. The stars aligned for Carolina, with a favorable schedule and a weak division that will certainly be tougher next season. The Seahawks are probably not going away, the Rams might be more focused with a new home in L.A., the Redskins played well at the end of the season, the Packers look poised to make another run if Aaron Rodgers gets healthy, the Cowboys might be a force if they can get 14 or 15 starts out of Tony Romo and the Cardinals will contend again if they can get solid quarterback play from an aging Carson Palmer or his replacement. Obviously, the Panthers could make another run, but history is against them. It's just very difficult to do it in back-to-back seasons, making the Buffalo Bills' appearance in four consecutive Super Bowls quite an accomplishment, even if they weren't able to pull out a win.

Commercials, Halftime Show, Cam Newton's Press Conference: I'm an avid football fan and commentator, so anything outside of the action on the field isn't that interesting to me. I certainly understand the appeal to many casual fans or observers who tune in for the side shows, but I don't tend to pay a lot of attention to it. That being said, I thought the Beyonce - Bruno Mars choreography was cool, there were a few entertaining commercials and in the end, Cam Newton could have handled himself better in the aftermath of a devastating loss. It's not necessarily fair that the losing team's players have to face the media so soon after the game, but that's the world we live in and if you're going accept the money, fame and glory, then you need to be prepared to handle the unpleasantness as well. I'm sure Cam Newton will learn from the experience.

Preview of Next Year: As I alluded to earlier, I think the NFC is going to be crowded at the top next season. In the AFC, Oakland is a potential team on the rise, as are the Jets and Texans.  The mainstays will also stick around, with Indianapolis probably returning to form behind Andrew Luck, New England doing what New England does, Denver contending again if that defense stays healthy and Pittsburgh making a case with their multi-faceted offensive power.

The Hard Part: We now face that long stretch of almost seven months with no meaningful NFL or college football games. It was a great season, with a lot of story lines on which to comment and two deserving champions in Denver and Alabama. For me, I'm not going anywhere. I'll be on WPFL radio and the Radio Bookshelf with my Beyond the Commentary segment every Friday morning at 8:40 am EST. In addition, I begin a Thursday night broadcast from 8:30 - 10:30 pm EST on MRN in February.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first two, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" and "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and SmashwordsTune into www.radiobookshelf.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on "Lou in the Morning" with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.






Friday, February 5, 2016

FRIDAY'S SUPER BOWL THOUGHTS AND MY LAST PICK OF THE SEASON

ESPN's Media Blitz: I like the Super Bowl as much as the next person, but ESPN seems to like it a lot. I'm surprised they don't have a show airing from a cable car or a studio hanging from the Golden Gate bridge. One of their shows actually took place in the general's residence at one of the army posts in the area. I don't think anyplace was safe from the ESPN invasion. How much can one game possibly be covered? I mean, it's the Broncos and the Panthers. Peyton Manning and Cam Newton. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, Von Miller and Demarcus Ware. Wait a minute, I think I just boiled it all down to six guys. A full week of coverage from San Francisco for about 237 shows? Really?

Manning's Swan Song, Cam's Disrespect? Of course, about 236 of those shows have focused on two issues. Is this Peyton Manning's last game and has Cam Newton been portrayed unfairly? Let's take the Manning one first. It's pretty simple. Either he knows already or not, and at this point, he's not talking about it. I would suspect that at the age of 38 and facing the prospect of preparing for another season, and with a new team at that, he is probably going to call it a career. But we might not know that for a while. Regarding Cam Newton, I like him and I think his antics on the field are refreshing. If you're an opposing team and don't like it, then the best way to stop him from celebrating is to keep his team out of the end zone. Is there a racial component to all of this? Possibly, but I think most fans have gotten past all of that. It's really interesting to me that people will bash the NFL for not allowing celebrations, but when someone displays genuine exuberance, they're vilified for it.

Santa Clara is not San Francisco: I heard a number of commentators talk about the lack of Super Bowl vibes in San Francisco. What do you expect? The game is being played almost 60 miles south of the City by the Bay, much closer to San Jose, where the teams are staying. When the Super Bowl was played up the road in Palo Alto at Stanford stadium, it was fifteen miles closer to San Fran, about 45 minutes in California traffic. What did these guys expect from a game that is drawing 70,000 fans to a metropolitan area that numbers almost 9 million people?

Can the Broncos Contain Cam Newton? This game really hinges on the ability of the Broncos to limit the Panthers' dangerous QB's big play chances. In the AFC championship game, Denver repeatedly put Tom Brady on his back, a difficult place from which to make plays. It'll be harder for the Broncos to do that to a bigger, stronger, more mobile quarterback, but Newton has the same problem Brady had: Outside of a talented tight end, there isn't a Panther receiver that can truly stretch the field. The Broncos are the toughest defense the Panthers have played, with the talent to rush from the outside and inside. The first quarter will be the key to this football game. If Denver can withstand an early push by the Panthers and take the game into the second half, they have a chance to put Cam in pressure situations.

Does Young and Brash Beat Old and Seasoned? It's a mixed bag in Super Bowl history. Namath beat Unitas, but Plunkett beat Theismann. Wilson beat Manning, but Brady beat Wilson. Two years ago, Peyton Manning's Broncos were absolutely humiliated by a talented and enthusiastic Seattle Seahawk team led by a tenacious defense and multi-faceted quarterback. Sound familiar? Yes, with one exception. The Denver defense this time around is built for post-season football and Wade Phillips is a terrific defensive coordinator. Manning gets two weeks to get healthy and Phillips gets two weeks to game plan for Cam Newton. Two years ago the Broncos were gashed by the running of Russell Wilson. I'm not so sure Newton will have the same success, but if he does, the Panthers will win.

Super Bowl Prediction: I've picked the Broncos in their first two playoff games, going with my heart and definitely against the grain. I'll go out sticking with Peyton Manning to do what John Elway did for the same team, win a title in his last game and ride off into the sunset, humming the Nationwide theme song with a saddle bag full of Papa John's pizzas. Why the Broncos? I just think their defense will disrupt the Panthers enough to give Manning a chance to engineer a few effective drives. Could Carolina do the same thing the Seahawks did? Sure, especially if they jump out on top like they did against Seattle and Arizona. Will they? I don't think so.  

Denver Broncos (14 - 4) 24  Carolina Panthers (17 - 1) 23

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first two, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" and "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords