"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.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

TUESDAY MUSINGS: WHINING AT THE US OPEN, DURANT TASTES A TITLE, FOOTBALL ON THE HORIZON

US Open Whiners, Not Winners: One hundred and fifty-six golfers, mostly so-called professionals will tee off Thursday morning at Erin Hills in Wisconsin for the 117th U.S. Open Golf Championship. They'll be gunning for a $2.1 million winners check, be pampered with courtesy cars, brand new practice golf balls, entourages of coaches and caddies, etc. etc. etc. But many of them have taken time out of their busy schedule to criticize the USGA on everything from the course setup to rules changes to  the color of head man Mike Davis' golf hat. Okay, maybe not the hat, but pretty much a wide array of topics. They even question what the USGA is doing with the $320 million the organization has in an investment fund. Don't get me wrong, the entity that rules the game in the United States needs to be held accountable for their actions, but it seems a bit extreme coming from a group that gets paid an insane amount of money for playing a game that most of spend a lot of our income in which to participate. The FedEx points winner takes home $10 million, and that's in addition to the over $1 million for winning the tournament and the $5 million plus that they are bound to have won during the season. I agree that the handling of the Dustin Johnson penalty at last year's tournament at Oakmont was atrocious. I've been critical of their decision to go with Fox as their broadcast partner. But last time I checked, deep rough, punitive sand traps and fast greens are part of the game. If you think you're the best, then shut up and prove it on the golf course. Whining and complaining is weak and unprofessional. The course conditions and setup apply to all 156 players. Unfair is an incorrect and ignorant categorization. Unfair is when something isn't applied consistently to all competitors. I don't see anyone with a weedeater lowering the rough for one player or creating an additional obstacle for another. So what if they can't break par? At the end of the day, it's totally irrelevant. The point is to get it around for four days in the least number of strokes. There aren't any bonuses for lower scores. For me, I'm very intrigued by how the potentially longest course in U.S. Open history will hold up to what is a truly great and compelling field. And I can't wait for the whine fest after Thursday's opening round.

Warriors' Kevin Durant Gets a Ring: We'll never know, but without Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors may very well have been watching Lebron James lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to another NBA championship. But when the former Oklahoma City Thunder star took his talents to the Bay Area, it set the stage for his first and probably not last title. The Warriors won the series in what will look like a dominant 4 - 1 edge, but if the Cavs don't tank in the final three minutes of Game 3, the result could have been very different. Even the outcome of Game 5 was in question until Durant took over in the fourth quarter. The question at this point is how long Golden State can sustain this run. Recent history would indicate that it won't be for very long, if only because it's difficult to keep three or four elite players together for four years or more. The Warriors have Klay Thompson on the block first, and he can be a key player for any franchise. That leaves Steph Curry and Draymond Green, then Durant for them to try to keep. Will Thompson give up max money to stay? Will the others? With the increased salary cap at the expense of ESPN, players can still make an unbelievable amount of money if they're willing to subordinate their egos in order to accumulate titles. I can't answer for the importance of the symbolism of the money versus the actual value for each individual player. But I can give my opinion on what could happen for the better part of a decade if the current Warriors collectively decide to stay where they are, and it doesn't bode well for Lebron James, unless he decides to to what Durant did, and join the party in Oakland.

Is It Football Season Yet? Not quite, but with the NBA and to a lesser extent, the NHL season's behind us, we can at least see it from here. Sure, we have the NBA draft, a couple of golf majors, tennis' Wimbledon and plenty of dog days major league games to fill our time, but most of the sports conversation will be around the upcoming college and professional football seasons. Can Clemson repeat with a new quarterback? Will Alabama be back for another run? Does Bob Stoops' surprising retirement derail Oklahoma's title chances? Is the fourth College Football Playoff committee going to be similar to last season or add more guess work for coaches and administrators? No, of course, probably, absolutely. Now I'll take them one at a time, starting with Clemson. It's hard enough to contend in consecutive seasons with the same team without having to incorporate a new player at a key position. Clemson will be good, but they have a tougher schedule in 2017, having to play at Virginia Tech and contend with Florida State and Louisville in the Atlantic Division. Alabama simply reloads and I'm sure the way Deshaun Watson shredded the Tide defense for the second year in a row won't sit well with head coach Nick Saban. The most stunning news of the college offseason was the retirement of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. He was replaced by 33 year old offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, another surprise. The Sooners have a national title contending team, but the change at the top could have an impact, especially with a week two visit to Ohio State looming. I'm wondering if this is an Urban Meyer type move and we'll see Stoops emerge in a new locale in a year or two, but that's a question within an answer. Finally, with Frank Beamer and Jeff Bower, both former coaches, replacing Condoleeza Rice and Barry Alvarez on the committee, there can't help but be a change in how the committee acts. It will be interesting to see how having more of coaching perspective will affect the rankings and eventual makeup of the playoffs themselves.

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.






Tuesday, May 23, 2017

WARRIORS AND CAVS ON COLLISION COURSE FOR THIRD STRAIGHT SEASON: IS IT HISTORIC?

Despite a surprising last second loss to the Boston Celtics on Sunday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers are still overwhelming favorites to meet Western Conference champion Golden State in the NBA Finals. It would mark the third consecutive year that the two teams have met with the championship on the line. How rare a circumstance would it be, not just in the NBA, but in the Big Four professional sports leagues? Let's look back and see.

NFL: I went back only so far as the beginning of the Super Bowl era, but that's still over fifty years of championship games. Despite the dominance at times of the Packers, Steelers, Cowboys, 49er's and Patriots, there has only been one repeat match-up in Super Bowl history. That came in 1994 when Dallas dismantled Buffalo for the second consecutive year. Forget about two teams meeting for three years in a row. In fact, only two teams have made it to three or more Super Bowls in a row: Miami from 1972 - 1974 and Buffalo from 1991 - 1994. Granted, the NFL and NBA are drastically different leagues, with just a couple of basketball players capable of making a team dominant for a few years. But it still shows how difficult it is for two teams to meet each other for the title in consecutive seasons.

NHL: I went back to about the same time, the mid-1960's, to look for consecutive meetings in the Stanley Cup Final.  Prior to then, the NHL was a small league with just the original six members, producing a lot of teams meeting a couple of years in a row. Still, we have to go back to Detroit and Montreal in 1954 - 1956 to get three seasons in a row of the same teams in the final. Since 1965, there have been four repeat meetings for Lord Stanley's Cup, the last one in 2008 - 2009 between Pittsburgh and Detroit. This is despite the tendency for hockey teams to have significant runs of excellence, like the Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers and Detroit Red Wings.

Major League Baseball: You would think that with the Yankees and Cardinals combining for fifty-nine World Series appearances and thirty eight wins, they would have met in consecutive fall classics at some point in the last 50+ years, which comprises the expansion era of baseball. Well, it just hasn't happened. There has only been one repeat, that being the '78 series between the Yankees and the Dodgers. You would also think, given the ineptness of teams like Philadelphia, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and others, that we would have seen an extended run of repeat Series from 1920 - 1964. Well, you would be wrong. We have to go all the way back to 1923 to find the third Series in a row that pitted the aforementioned Yankees against the then-New York Giants.

NBA: Not surprisingly, the league with the most back-to-back Finals is the one with the fewest players on the roster. Ten times since 1963 the same teams have met two years in a row, twice in the last four seasons. But even with that total, the same teams have never, in the history of the NBA, played for the title three times in a row. What about Magic and Bird, you ask? Even though they combined for seven NBA titles, they only met twice in the Finals in non-consecutive seasons.

So what do we make of this potential development? There are a couple of things, actually. One is, don't count the Celtics out of this series. Even with the Chicago Cubs breaking their jinx-provoked streak in the World Series, at least they'd won before. The Cavaliers advancing to play the Warriors erases the word "never" from the description of three consecutive finals with the same teams. Another is that all of the panic expressed by some members of the media over the lack of competitive balance in the league is probably misplaced and blown out of proportion. It can most likely be chalked up to a circumstance of these particular teams getting to the Finals at this point in time. But don't forget, it's still "never" happened. At least not yet.

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Thursday, April 27, 2017

SERENA'S PREGNANCY, TIGER'S SURGERY, JUNIOR'S RETIREMENT

The last couple of weeks has brought us some varying news about three of the most compelling figures from the last twenty years in sports. It all demonstrates that even famous and accomplished athletes are not immune from age, injury or the realities of life.

Serena Williams is Expecting: In what I consider exciting news, twenty-three time singles Grand Slam tournament winner and thirty-five year old Serena Williams announced last week that she is pregnant and will miss the rest of the 2017 tennis season. I don't know her personally, but through the years I have come to have enormous respect for her in the way she graciously conducts herself off the court, as well as the way she performs on it. Her talent is immense, and along with Tiger Woods, I consider them the two greatest individual sport athletes this country has produced. Serena is arguably the greatest female athlete in history. I'm thrilled that she will be a parent, and am curious what her path will be over the next couple of years. Will she choose to return to competitive tennis, looking to eclipse Margaret Court's 24 Grand Slam singles titles? Or will her current open-era record be good enough to send her off into a period of parenthood and post-playing activities? Either way, up to this point, she's certainly earned the option to do whatever she pleases without criticism from any quarters. Many athletes of her gender have chosen to leave their sports behind, but several did not. Kerrie Walsh won an Olympic gold medal in beach volleyball, Evonne Goolagong won a tennis U.S. Open and Nancy Lopez continued to compete in golf following the birth of their children. Will she be as driven, be able to compete at the same high level and possibly get those two Grand Slams? I tend to believe that age, not her gender or childbearing, will be the biggest obstacle. But if she can take a year or so off and play at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows in 2018, I won't be betting against her chances for victory.

Is Tiger Done? After a fourth surgery on his back, fourteen time major tournament winner Tiger Woods is again sidelined for an extensive period of time. Most experts agree that it will take about six months of recovery and rehabilitation for Woods to return to playing golf, competitive or otherwise. The big questions remain: Will he be able to compete and will he want to compete, even if he's able? Who really knows? At the age of 41, it's highly unlikely that we will see Woods add to his major victory total, making Nicklaus' record of eighteen safe for the foreseeable future. Of current players, only Rory McIlroy is probably in a position to challenge the record. Sorry Jordan Spieth fans, but I just don't see it happening. I haven't seen the singularity of focus on the golf course from any of the current top golfers that both Nicklaus and Woods displayed in their prime. It's unfortunate that we haven't seen much of Tiger since a great 2013 season. It's my suspicion that outside of assistant and eventual head captains' roles at Ryder and President Cups, we've likely seen the last of him in an active role at a competitive golf event. But if it is the end, it's the end of one of the greatest runs in sports history. Not only did Tiger Woods win in ridiculous and exciting fashion, he transformed the game in the process. Who else but Tiger Woods could have forced Augusta National to significantly alter their beloved golf course? No one, that's who.

Fan Fave, Link to the Past: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. never won a Winston/Sprint/Whatever the Cup is called now title in his over twenty years of NASCAR racing. But he carried the name of one of the greats of the sport. Since Sr.'s death at Daytona over sixteen years ago, Jimmy Johnson has dominated on the track, but Dale Jr. has dominated in the stands and on the various networks that have carried the sports' races. Earlier this week, Jr. announced that this season would be his last. He sat out most of last year with effects from concussions and came back this season looking to be competitive again for Hendrick Motorsports. However, a series of DNF's, disappointing finishes and concern for his long-term health prompted his decision to leave the driving to younger guys with a passion for racing. I can't help but speculate that his father's death behind the wheel at Daytona in 2001 and Junior's recent marriage had to play a part in his choice. After all, he's a car owner, so he won't be leaving the sport he loves and grew up on. The bigger question is, in a crowded sports landscape, can NASCAR withstand the retirement of yet another popular driver?

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.






Thursday, April 13, 2017

THURSDAY HOMER REPORT: HOKIES, REDSKINS, CAPITALS AND RAZORBACKS

As many readers of this blog know, I am a fan of the Virginia Tech Hokies, Washington Redskins, Washington Capitals and the Arkansas Razorbacks. I rarely take the opportunity to comment on them as a whole, but with a recent scheduling announcement, the NFL draft a couple of weeks away, the NHL playoffs just beginning and the NCAA baseball season in full swing, I thought I'd take a little time to review some current news.

Hokies to Open 2018 Against The 'Noles: In the prior four seasons, the Virginia Tech regular season football schedule has been absent of both the Florida State Seminoles and Clemson Tigers, the top two programs in the ACC Atlantic Division during that time frame. That changes this season, as the Hokies will follow up a close loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship game with a meeting in Blacksburg on September 30. In 2018, a schedule change announced this week will pit the Hokies against Florida State in Tallahassee to open the season on Memorial Day weekend. It's a shrewd move by the ACC, especially if Virginia Tech continues to make progress after last season's surprising performance under first year head coach Justin Fuente and transfer QB Jerod Evans, who is headed to the NFL. Given the recent success of Florida State and their last couple of recruiting classes, it's unlikely that the 'Noles won't be in the national championship mix for years to come. The advantage of having what could arguably be two of the top four teams in the league face off in week one is that early losses are much easier from which to recover than those incurred later in the season. It's unlikely that more than a team or two will go undefeated for the season, so a setback against a quality team to open the season can easily be forgotten by the time the playoff committee makes their final four announcement in December. Remember the Ohio State Buckeyes, the inaugural playoff champion? They lost to Virginia Tech at home in week two in 2014, but went on to run the table and lift the championship trophy. The ACC, with two of the last four national champions, is trying to oust the SEC as the top conference in college football, and opening season matchups like they'll put on display in 2018 can't help give them a boost in the court of public opinion, no matter how finicky that can be.

What Are The Redskins Thinking? It's been twenty-five years since the Super Bowl Trophy has resided inside the nation's capital. Given the way owner Daniel Snyder is handling things, it might be another quarter of a century until they see another one. Really? Another year of a franchise tag for Kirk Cousins? A mysterious firing of the General Manager? So that means no long-term deal for a quarterback that is easily capable of leading the 'Skins for the next five to eight years and a lack of football acumen in the front office. It's actually hard to believe that the NFC East, which recorded ten wins in sixteen Super Bowl appearances with every team in the division represented from 1971 - 1996, has just two wins in four appearances in the twenty years since. My point here is that unless things change quickly in Washington, I doubt they'll be among the division's teams other than New York to break through anytime soon. After drafting Kirk Cousins in the same draft where they took RGIII with the top pick, they've seemingly treated him as an afterthought, even though his play on the field has been stellar. I can understand the rationale for tagging Cousins and they can do it again in 2018 if they want to throw away a lot of money for a quarterback who will almost surely be playing elsewhere in 2019. Why not lock up the guy for a few years, especially since he is just entering what most experts consider to be a quarterback's prime? I don't get it, and apparently they don't either.

League Has Caps Right Where They Want Them: The easiest time to beat the Washington Capitals is in the playoffs. Despite sporting the best record in the league for a second consecutive season, few that follow the NHL expect the Caps to even get to the Eastern Conference finals. Last year, the Pittsburgh Penguins knocked them out of the playoffs on their way to the Stanley Cup title, something Washington is still seeking after more than forty years in the league. This year, if the Caps get by the Toronto Maple Leafs, they'll probably need to get past the Pens again to advance, historically a difficult match-up for them. It almost defies the odds that Washington has only been to a single Stanley Cup final in a league that has what is clearly the most unpredictable playoffs year in and year out. I've heard all of the analysis, from the position that the Caps don't play the right style of hockey to win in playoffs to one that their regular season wins don't really matter that much. The analyst in me wants to agree, but the fan side of me just wants to say "Puck You" and chalk it up to bad luck. Heck, the Cubs broke through last year, maybe it's the Caps' turn in 2017. Why not? Oh yeah, they're not built for playoff hockey.

Razorbacks' Baseball Bounces Back: Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn suffered through his worst season as a college baseball coach as the Hogs finished at 26 - 29, with a monumental meltdown in the second half of the schedule. Injuries and youth played a big part in that, and as of this writing they stand and at 26 - 8 overall, 8 - 4 in the SEC and ranked 15th nationally with an RPI of 22nd. With Georgia, not one of this year's SEC powers rolling into Baum Stadium for an Easter weekend series, the Hogs stand a decent chance of bettering those numbers. After an impressive Friday night win last week over LSU, Arkansas blew an 8 - 1 lead on Saturday, then suffered a hangover 2 - 0 loss on Sunday to spoil what could have been a breakout series. With series opening pitcher Blaine Knight virtually unhittable, the Hogs are certain to be in position to win every series the rest of the way. If they can avoid a bullpen meltdown like last Saturday's, it's possible for them to make a run at hosting a regional in Fayetteville and challenging for another berth in the College World Series in Omaha.

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.





Monday, March 27, 2017

MONDAY MUSINGS: MARCH MADNESS REVIEW, DUSTIN JOHNSON BETTERS TIGER, US MENS SOCCER ROUT

South Carolina Surprise: The program had never advanced beyond the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but that didn't stop Frank Martin and his Gamecock team from believing they could get to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond. They're now headed to Phoenix with a lot of confidence and a defense that can pretty much stop anyone, including a pretty complete Gonzaga team. In defeating seeds two, three and four, South Carolina gave up an average of 67 points a game to teams familiar with scoring a lot more than that. At the end of the season, the 'Cocks limped into the SEC tournament and lost their first game in ugly fashion to Alabama. Many believed their seven seed was somewhat of a gift, but they proceeded to prove their naysayers wrong with a convincing twenty point win over Marquette in the first round. Although they were 19 - 4 at one point in the season, they only won three of their last nine and I doubt anyone but the staunchest Gamecock supporters believed they could make the kind of run they did, especially in a region with Villanova and Duke. Can they go all the way? Absolutely, especially if you believe that Duke is at least as good as anyone left in the field, and they blasted the Blue Devils back to Durham with a scorching second half after trailing  by five at the break.

DJ With a WGC Slam: Okay, it's not exactly the Tiger Slam or even a career Grand Slam, but when Dustin Johnson parred the eighteenth hole on Sunday to win the WGC Match Play, he accomplished something Tiger Woods never did. Even though Woods was dominant in World Golf Championship events, winning a total of 18, he has thus far failed to win the WGC - HSBC championship. After all of the talk of Tiger's crown being taken by Jordan Speith, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and more recently Justin Thomas and Hidecki Matsuyama, DJ appears to be in the process of making a case as the heir to the former number one player in the world. Since his U.S. Open win at Oakmont, Johnson has won five times, including his last three tournaments. He's on quite a roll, not unlike a basketball team from his native state of South Carolina. In the past, DJ was generally regarded as a long hitter that lacked the short game to consistently win on tour. But in the past couple of seasons, his play around the greens and his putting have dramatically improved. Add some increased confidence, and it creates a pretty tough guy to beat heading to Augusta National and the Masters in two weeks. Something that isn't widely discussed, but is a notable accomplishment, is that he has won at least tournament every season he's been on tour, now his tenth year. His fifteen total wins is also significant and if he starts to add some majors, there's a chance he'll make a case for being the best player of his generation, even if he is getting a bit of late start at age 32.

Bruce Arena Finds Magic: The U.S. Men's National Soccer Team entered Friday night's match with Honduras in San Jose on a very hot seat. After an embarrassing 4 - 0 loss to Costa Rica in November that resulted in the firing of coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. found themselves at the bottom of the standings in the last stage of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. What made matters worse was the five goal differential they had accumulated, making a win Friday night almost mandatory if they were to climb back into qualifying contention. New coach Bruce Arenas made some lineup changes, including the addition of midfielder Sebastian Lletget of the LA Galaxy, with whom Arenas is particularly familiar with as the Galaxy coach. The move immediately paid dividends as Lletget scored on a rebound of a Christian Pulisic shot in the fourth minute to give the Americans a much needed lead. Forward Clint Dempsey, back on the field after a heart condition kept him sidelined, added a hat trick as the Hondurans got run over by a U.S. freight train. Stalwart captain Michael Bradley and eighteen year-old phenom Pulisic also scored in the 6 - 0 win that not only gave the U.S. some momentum headed to Panama for Tuesday night's matchup, but it also erased their entire goal differential, an important tie breaker. I'm a little of a late comer to soccer, but the team I saw on the field in San Jose looked remarkably different than the one that virtually gave up against Costa Rica. They were aggressive, sharp and appeared to be playing very well together. Pulisic is an absolute superstar in the making. His assist on Clint Dempsey's first goal was a thing of beauty, flicking the ball over a Honduras defender and onto the shoulder of Dempsey, who then buried the shot past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. The Americans, not content to sit on a 3 - 0 halftime lead, scored on a Pulisic run and shot just 15 seconds into the second stanza. At that point, it was pretty much game over and the only drama would be how much they would win by and whether the shutout could be preserved. Can the momentum be sustained in Panama? We'll see Tuesday night, but my guess is they won't be giving up, even if they can't pull out a victory.

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Wednesday, March 22, 2017

MARCH MADNESS: A CLOSER LOOK AT THE SWEET SIXTEEN SINCE 2010

When top seeded Villanova was stunned by Wisconsin and second seeded Duke was surprised by South Carolina in the east region of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, one may have been led to believe that Bracket Armageddon had occurred. However, I looked back, starting in 2010, at the composition of the Sweet Sixteen and found some surprising and revealing facts.

Top Four Seeds: This year, twelve of the top sixteen teams made it to the Sweet Sixteen. That's the most of any year in my sample. The year with the least of the top seeds advancing was 2010, when only half of them advanced to the second week. But what is really interesting, in terms of consistency, is that when the fifth seeds are included, the numbers are very similar from season to season. The most of the top five seeds to get to the Sweet Sixteen is still twelve, but at least ten have advance every year since 2010.

Eleventh Seeds: Teams seeded in this spot have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen an astounding nine times in the past eight seasons. That's more than any other spot outside the top four seeds. This leaves me wondering if for some reason, the committee is missing the boat on this particular seed line. But what it really tells me is that despite us feeling like there are more upsets in any particular year, it's actually pretty constant from season to season.

The Bottom of the Field: I commented during my last couple of appearances on the "Lou in the Morning" program that I generally spend a lot more time analyzing the top seeds than I do looking at who might squeak into the field. To my point, no seed lower than an eleven has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen since 2013, when a twelve, thirteen and fifteen all made it. That's half of the total from that group to advance that far in the last eight years. So while an improbable run by a Florida Gulf Coast stays in our memory, it's primarily because of its rarity.

Number One Seeds: Only twice in the last eight years has every top seed made it through the first two rounds, and not once has more than one fallen in the same season. Again, that's an extremely consistent and interesting statistic. Therefore, Villanova's loss to Wisconsin was more the norm than the exception, with the Wildcats joining five others since 2010 to watch the second weekend from home.

 Number Two and Three Seeds: All of the two seeds have never advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, likewise with the number three's. In fact, those two seeds are more vulnerable, albeit barely, than the fours since 2010. No more than two seconds seeds have advanced since 2013 and in the last eight years, an average of just two third seeds have gotten past the second round. Whether this demonstrates parity, or a flaw in the seeding, I suspect a case could be made either way.

Number Four Seeds: Despite having to play, at least theoretically, tougher teams, the fours have more success in getting to the Sweet Sixteen than the seeds above them. All of the number fours have advance twice, the same number as the top seeds, both instances occurring in the last four years. Over that time, only one less four has advanced than the top seeds. My point is that even though a lot is made about being a top seed, it hasn't been that big an advantage in the most recent tournaments.

The challenge going forward of course is to determine that single number one that's going to get knocked out by an eight or nine, and trying to predict the couple of twos or threes that will advance. As you can see from these numbers, Warren Buffett is no fool when it comes to offering a hefty bounty for anyone that can successfully predict the first 48 games. It's no easy task, and virtually impossible from a statistical perspective.

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Monday, March 13, 2017

MARCH MADNESS IN FULL SWING: SOME INTERESTING TAKES ON THE BRACKET

Sunday night saw the unveiling of yet another March Madness bracket, otherwise known as the  schedule for the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. As I reviewed the match-ups, some interesting, and occasionally strange thoughts entered my mind.

Tulsa: A Presbyterian school is hosting the regional where the Methodists, Baptists and very possibly the Catholics will have teams in attendance. That's right, all eight teams are the guests of Tulsa, and among them are SMU and Baylor, with a chance for Providence if they get by USC in Dayton. I'll be at this regional and fully expect a multi-denominational church service to break out between games. Let's not forget that Oral Roberts University is also in the city, so even though they have no official role on the tournament, I'm sure they'll be there in spirit.

Orlando: The NCAA selection committee is either really lucky, or they're just looking for sold out venues. Florida, Florida State and Florida Gulf Coast will play at the home town of Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World. For residents of the state that have tired of trips to Orlando, the presence of three of the five Florida teams in the tournament at a single venue should get them to make the drive up or down I-4. Compare that with Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and Notre Dame having to shuffle off to Buffalo for their first round games.

Salt Lake City: In the SAT/ACT bracket, Northwestern makes its first NCAA tournament appearance against Vanderbilt. With the number of sports media members that are graduates of the Evanston, IL school, I'd expect there to be a large contingent of them in attendance. They'll either be there to cheer on their Wildcats, or if we can believe the reports of impending layoffs at ESPN, to hand out resumes.

Buffalo: Notre Dame and Villanova could be joined by a third Catholic school, Mount St. Mary's to make it an unfair fight against Princeton, founded by Presbyterians a few years before Dick Vitale began annoying college basketball fans. I'm surprised they didn't move this regional after Syracuse was shocked to be left out of the field with a stellar mark of 18 - 15, with only two of those wins coming away from their beloved Carrier Dome.

Greenville: When the NCAA decided to punish the State of North Carolina for their controversial LGBT law, they must have been left with a difficult task of finding another city that started with Green and an arena that could host basketball games. The State of Arkansas sent in a couple of candidates: Greenland and Green Forest. With a combined population of a little over 4,000, the reasoning was that there would plenty of room for the fans. But ultimately, in what I understand was a tight vote, the committee decided on the South Carolina town a couple hours from Greensboro. Unfortunately, North Carolinians attempting to make the trip will be stopped at the border and sent north. Hey, I don't make the rules. I'm just the messenger.

Indianapolis: In a rare move, all residents of the city will exchange places with those living in Lexington and Louisville for the weekend. That way all of those University of Kentucky and University of Louisville fans will have a place to stay, and the Indiana fans won't have to drive around trying to figure out where the Hoosiers aren't playing. In an unprecedented show of flexibility, the NCAA has also included Cincinnati as an alternative destination, as there will probably be some Northern Kentucky University fans making the trip, as long as they can edge their gold and black vehicles into the long line of blue and red heading to Indiana.


Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Thursday, March 9, 2017

MARCH MADNESS IN FULL SWING ALREADY: DOWN GOES KANSAS

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

TCU on the Rise? There have been relatively few upsets so far in the conference tournaments, but TCU's 85 -82 defeat of Kansas was the biggest to date. Jamie Dixon left a relatively healthy Pittsburgh team to coach at his alma mater and try to bring them some basketball success, something they've had very little of in the past. To put things in perspective, the Horned Frogs' six league wins are the most since joining the conference. So even though Kansas was playing without suspended guard Josh Jackson and his 16 point scoring average, it's still a huge win for the TCU and Dixon. What does the Jayhawks' loss mean to their NCAA Tournament seeding? Likely very litte. They'll still be seeded first in the Midwest and likely play the first two rounds in Tulsa. A fall from the first overall seed to two or three is probable, but that may not make that big of a difference. If they get through their first two games in Tulsa, then they get the regional in Kansas City, a distinct advantage for the team and its fans. I don't see the committee significantly punishing them, particularly since it was a close loss and Jackson was out. The big victim here is the Big 12 tournament, also being held in Kansas City. There were over 18,000 at the TCU - Kansas game, but with the Jayhawks ousted, it's doubtful their fans will see much point in attending the rest of the tourney.

Bracketology: What's the Point? I certainly understand the various sports media outlets, particularly ESPN, Fox, CBS and Sports Illustrated attempting to predict who will get in the tournament, where they'll be seeded and even what venue they'll be playing in. But it all seems like a waste of time, especially since so much depends on what happens in not the power conference tournaments, but in the mid-majors and others. In addition, the selection committee has a lot of rules that govern the seeding and regional placements of teams, particularly those from the same conference. While the pod structure has certainly aided the committee in creating more regional balance, it forces the committee to reward the higher seeded teams by keeping them closer to home. This can have ramifications farther down the line. For instance, the Tulsa sub-region would appear to be locked into having both Kansas, a projected top seed, and Baylor, a projected number two seed at the moment, at that venue. Of course that means that by default, the committee has to send sixteen, fifteen, eight,  nine, seven and ten seeds to Tulsa. Given that Kansas is pretty much a lock for the Midwest region, that means Baylor will be placed in a different region, and so on and so on. And that's just one of eight sites. It helps somewhat that many conferences have already completed their tournaments, or will by Friday night. But you still have the power conferences and a handful of others, like the Atlantic 10 that won't be completed until Saturday night or even, in the case of the Big Ten and the SEC, on Sunday, shortly before the field is announced. It's obviously fun to speculate and prognosticate, but for me, we'll all know soon enough without wasting a lot of time on something very few people can predict.

How Many Teams Have a Chance? The NCAA field is comprised of 68 teams, all with at least a slim mathematical chance to cut down the nets in Phoenix. But how realistic is it for most of them to believe it could actually happen? Not very, if history tells us anything. Sure, we've seen some spectacular surprises, like NC State and Villanova in the 80's. We've even seen Butler make it to back to back Final Fours. But even NC State, Cinderellas as they were, came from, at the time, the top two conferences in the country. George Mason and VCU have cracked the Final Four in recent years as well, neither one making it out of the semifinals. And even last season, Syracuse got hot and made it all the way through as a regional champ. But those cases are rare, and if you're filling in brackets, it's probably wise to stay primarily with favorites. The last couple of seasons, I've finished in the top 3.5% of the ESPN bracket challenge, and that's submitting a single bracket. It's generally wise to stay with the top two seeds in a region, unless for some reason one feels the committee really missed the boat. Historically, the winners come from the Power Five conferences, and the Big East, evidenced by Villanova's and UConn's recent successes. Early upsets are fun, but you rarely see a team that can truly contend for the national championship go out before the Sweet Sixteen. So my belief is that there are probably twelve to fourteen teams with a legitimate shot to win it all. They will all be at least a four seed, and most likely a three or higher. Is there potentially more depth than normal this year because of a lot of parity in the major conferences? I don't think so. In fact, there are probably less really good teams than normal, with the SEC a great example. Kentucky is at the top of the league, but they're young and vulnerable. Florida is second, and I wouldn't count them as a powerhouse. The real strength lies out west, with Gonzaga, UCLA, Arizona and Oregon virtually unknown east of the Mississippi, but all of which I would have to count as teams with a good shot at the. One thing's for certain, a perfect bracket is hard to come by, but a perfect Final Four pick is possible.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Wednesday, February 8, 2017

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: TIGER TAKES A STEP BACK, PHIL JACKSON POKES AT MELO, MARCH MADNESS AROUND THE CORNER

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Tiger Done? After last week's withdrawal from the Dubai Desert Classic, it would appear that Tiger Woods may be facing a much more difficult road back to respectability on the PGA Tour. His back spasms that forced him out of the tournament were much less troublesome to me than than his birdieless five over 77 in the first round. I was always a bit perplexed by his decision to play in a tournament that required a lengthy trip, given his back issues and the strain that can put on your body. I traveled internationally for many years, and it's pretty tough to perform at a high level when you're dealing with jet lag and other pressures. But unlike the PGA Tour, the European Tour allows for payment of appearance fees, so there were other motivations at play here. Unlike at Torre Pines and the Hero Challenge before that, Tiger didn't seem to have much focus and showed a lot more rust by failing to make putts and give himself any chance at at decent score. He has a couple of weeks to regroup and get back in the States, but a west coast start followed by one in Florida will test his 41 year-old body, even if he does travel by private jet. From what I've seen so far, I'd have to say it's extremely unlikely for the former world number one to contend for a tournament title this year. But I also hope I'm wrong.

Too Much Drama in the Big Apple: The New York Knicks seem to be farther away from relevance than when Phil Jackson and his eight figure salary took over basketball side of the franchise. His recent denigration of Carmelo Anthony, who Jackson himself granted a no-cut contract extension, is not quite as baffling as one might believe. On ESPN's Mike and Mike Show this morning, the thought was expressed that Phil might be trying to make life so difficult for Melo that he would accept a trade that he might otherwise reject. The rumor that the Cleveland Cavaliers would be willing to part with Kevin Love to acquire one of Lebron James' closest friends is patently absurd. Love has proven to be a valued member of a triplet of players, along with Kyrie Irving and James, that accounts for a reliable 70 points a night, not to mention bushels of assists and rebounds. All Carmelo Anthony brings to the table is the propensity to shoot the ball, and not always that well. He plays no defense and brings no ball distribution skills. Adding him to the Cavs without giving up Love might  make sense, especially in the absence of injured JR Smith. If Jackson can't find a home for Anthony, there is almost no way he can rebuild the Knicks. If he can find a home for Anthony, there is almost no way he can rebuild the Knicks. It seems to me the one person they need to move away from isn't Carmelo Anthony, but instead it's Phil Jackson.

Let the Madness Begin: It's barely the second week in February and this past weekend felt like an upset laden first day in the NCAA tournament. Six of the top ten teams lost on Saturday alone. The selection committee will be making periodic releases of where they are leaning for the top four seeds in each region. I recommend that they get a bunch of Etch-a-Sketches because judging from this past week, those seeds will be changing more than the choice of sport coat by the late, great Craig Sager. This just may be the most tumultuous season in recent memory, which speaks to two issues, one positive and one not so much. First, there's incredible parity among the top teams in men's basketball. Talent, for the most part, is spread around regardless of conference or geography. I can't help but believe that part of that is coming from a somewhat diminished desire to play football, with more athletes opting for other sports, primarily basketball. Most high school players compete in multiple sports, with the most talented getting opportunities to make a choice of which one to follow into college and ultimately the pros. Which brings me to the second reason for some unpredictability and inconsistency of some top teams, and that's the one and done rule imposed on the college ranks from the NBA. Top players are barred from advancing directly to the NBA from high school, so they have to go to class for a semester and audition on their college team for a spot in the pros. College coaches are forced, in a way, to promise these top players playing time immediately or run the risk of not signing them. But basketball is a team game, and showcasing an individual at the expense of the team runs counter to the philosophy of the sport. How long did it take Lebron James to become a distributor as well as a scorer? John Calipari has seemed to master both the recruiting and coaching aspect of embracing the rule, but even his teams can be inconsistent as a result. I believe the rule will eventually be challenged in court and changed, but until it is and since football is facing an uphill battle regarding brain injuries, college basketball fans will be entertained with uncertainty and upsets.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Wednesday, January 25, 2017

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: MUSBERGER HEADING TO VEGAS, ROETHLISBERGER NURSING HIS WOUNDS, JAMES LOOKING FOR HELP, TIGER'S BACK

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Brent Musberger Leaving Play By Play Duties: I was a freshman in college in 1975 and the first weekend at school was the beginning of the NFL season. As Redskins fans, my dorm mates and I huddled around a small black and white television to tune into what we thought would be another boring pre-game show on CBS, at that time the network that broadcast the NFC games. But instead, we heard a new voice say "You're looking live at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC" and instantly knew something very different was happening and 12:30 pm on Sundays would never be the same. Musberger, along with Irv Cross and former Miss America Phyllis George brought an entertainment aspect to the program that mesmerized the nation. The host was young, dynamic, smart and captivating. Irv Cross brought a player's perspective and Phyllis George brought, well, Phyllis George. One year later, Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder would be the first to actually pick games against the spread, something we take for granted today. The groundbreaking show was our introduction to one of the most enduring sports broadcasting figures in history. Today, ESPN announced that Tuesday night's Kentucky - Georgia basketball game on the SEC Network would be the last broadcast for legendary announcer Brent Musberger. Whether it was football, tennis, basketball, baseball or golf, Musberger brought something special to the big events on CBS until he was fired in 1990. He didn't miss a beat, quickly ending up at ABC and shortly thereafter on ESPN as part of the Disney tandem of networks. When I think of iconic broadcasters, it's a pretty short list. Vin Scully, Pat Summerall, Keith Jackson, Al Michaels, Verne Lundquist and Brent Musberger immediately come to mind. Initially, he added tremendous value to the network for his ability to pitch prime time programming, making each new show sound like the one that would literally change your life. Later, it was his preparation and professionalism that were particularly noticeable to me. Put me at a table with Keith, Al, Verne, Brent, Vin and a couple of bottles of wine and I wouldn't wish for anything else for the rest of my life. The stories those guys could tell must be amazing. But unlike Keith Jackson and Vin Scully, Musberger isn't retiring, but instead heading to Las Vegas to start a sports handicapping business. I guess he must have learned some secrets from Jimmy The Greek way back in the day, huh?

Big Ben Hinting At Retirement? Is Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger just frustrated and banged up after his team's loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game, or is there more afoot here? Big Ben recently stated that he was going to reflect on this past season and  ponder the next one, if there was one. Given the amount of punishment Roethlisberger has endured over the course of his thirteen year career, it's not inconceivable that he could be pondering retirement. In an interview that I conducted with Leigh Steinberg earlier this week, he laid out a very grim picture of the damage repeated hits to the head inflict. With three young children, probably a pretty secure financial situation and his still moderately good health, is there really any reason for the two-time Super Bowl champ to return for more physical punishment? Only he knows the answer to that question, but it really wouldn't surprise me if Big Ben decided to hang it up. In a recent article in "Sports Illustrated", Roethlisberger was portrayed as someone who tolerated more than sought the spotlight. If his competitive drive has been diminished, what else does he need to prove? His resume is probably already worthy of consideration for the Hall of Fame. Is the preparation necessary to get ready for another grueling 16 game season worth placing himself at risk for serious personal injury?

Help Wanted: Backup Guard for Lebron James: Apparently, Cleveland Cavalier great Lebron James is a bit frustrated that his team has lost four of their last six games, with the superstar forced to play excessive minutes in the process. Before the season, you see, guard Matthew Dellavedova accepted a nice offer from the Milwaukee Bucks and since then small forward J.R. Smith has gone down with an injury, leaving only Kyrie Irving and Lebron to distribute the basketball. The trade deadline is less than a month away, but that's still plenty of time for Cavs' GM David Griffin to make a deal. I guess Lebron is wanting to make sure the guys in the front office have a clear picture of the needs of the team. Really? This is a GM that has done a pretty good job of getting the right pieces to the puzzle, including signing and keeping Kevin Love, bringing in the now injured Smith and adding a role player or two along the way. Center Chris "Birdman" Anderson, who was with The King in Miami, would have given the team better rebounding, but he's out for the season with a torn ACL. On this morning's "Mike and Mike Show" on ESPN, Stephen A. Smith was critical of James for being so public with his frustration because it would just drive up the price of any players that Griffin chose to work a trade for. I tend to agree. It's one thing to speculate what your trading partner's urgency is, another to know with certainty that they're desperate to appease the best player on the planet so they have a shot at a second consecutive title, probably having to face either the Warriors or Spurs in the Finals. My feeling is, inflated value or not, Griffin and owner Dan Gilbert will find a way to get one or more deals done to bring much needed help to ensure James gets to his seventh consecutive Finals, if not capturing another championship.

Tiger Woods: New Clubs, New Swing: Even at the age of 41, Tiger Woods is still indisputably the biggest draw in golf. It's been a year and a half since he last teed it up in an official tour event, and you'd think from today's coverage that he was the only guy in the field. Regular readers of my blog will know I'm unabashedly a huge Woods fan, primarily because I focus on action on the course, field and court. The former number one in the world and winner of fourteen majors brings a new swing and a new club sponsor to Torre Pines for the Farmer's Insurance Open. Woods announced today that he has signed with Taylor Made to play their metal woods, irons and wedges. He'll continue to wear his Tiger Woods branded Nike apparel, but the deal has to be a shot in the arm for Taylor Made. The clubs aren't the only thing new about his game. Tiger's swing is clearly less violent, which should place significantly less stress on his surgically repaired back. I'm not expecting a lot from Woods this week, a made cut probably the most he can hope for, if for no other reason than to be able to get four competitive rounds under his belt. He tees off at 1:40 pm EST Thursday, and I'm betting The Golf Channel alters their coverage to make sure his first tee shot is shown live. Nothing against Jordan, Jason, Dustin, Rory, Justins (Rose and Thomas) and the other young guns, but it's good to have Tiger Woods back on tour.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Monday, January 16, 2017

COLLEGE FOOTBALL RECAP: ACC BETTER THAN THE SEC, AT LEAST FOR NOW?

It's been an entire week since the College Football national championship game, won in scintillating fashion by Clemson. The Tigers finished the season the way they started, by defeating an SEC West team from the state of Alabama. That's a pretty good way to bookend the season, especially given the SEC's dominance in the recent past. Since 1992 and the advent of at least a partial attempt to pit the top two teams together in a championship game, the SEC has a total of 17 appearances, with twelve wins, including seven straight from 2006 to 2012 What's even more impressive is that those appearances are spread out over five teams, all of which played in at least two of those games. Only the Big 12 had more than two teams represented, and one of those was Nebraska, now in the Big Ten. Of course, these results are skewed in a way, because until the advent of the BCS in 1998, the Big Ten and the Pac-12 didn't participate, choosing instead to maintain their annual meeting in the Rose Bowl. Nonetheless, it's still an impressive showing by SEC teams.

The last four years have painted a little different picture. Suddenly, the ACC, after over a decade of absence from the championship game (remember, Miami was in the Big East when it made its last appearance following the 2002 season), has had a resurgence, tying the SEC with three appearances and one-upping them with two championships. In addition, this past season saw the ACC run up a record of 10 - 4 against the SEC, winning an impressive four out of five in the postseason. What does this say about the relative strength of the two leagues? Since I have close ties to both Virginia Tech and Arkansas, I tend to watch a lot of games involving teams from both conferences. My take is that the SEC just had a bit of a down year, while the ACC is benefiting from longer tenured coaches or in the case of Virginia Tech, new energy at a solid program. Teams like Ole Miss and Mississippi State that had seen their programs rise recently in both talent and results, were in more of a rebuilding year. Unlike Alabama and LSU, and to a lesser extent Florida, which tend to reload rather than rebuild, the other schools in the conference tend to ride a couple of decent recruiting classes to three or four successful seasons before having to replace key players. This is especially true of Mississippi State, which had to replace an almost singular talent in Dak Prescott. We need look no further than the rookie QB's performance with Dallas this season to appreciate what he brought to Starkville. 
The SEC East was breaking in new coaches at key schools like Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri. LSU, meanwhile, was dealing with the circus surrounding their handling of the Les Miles era.

I believe the anomaly isn't so much that the ACC is more competitive against the SEC, it's that it was off the radar from a national perspective for much of the first decade of the new millenium. Mark Richt's presence at Miami, what Dabo Swinney is doing for a traditionally strong program at Clemson, Jimbo Fisher's commitment to keep Florida State in the spotlight, Bobby Petrino's always dangerous offense at Louisville, the aforementioned revitalization of Virginia Tech under Justin Fuente and the always difficult offensive scheme of Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech have all emerged to bring the ACC back to national prominence. I also believe that the ACC is making a better effort, at least at the top, of focusing more on improving their out of conference schedules. The addition of Notre Dame's commitment to play five ACC teams every season, bolsters, at least on paper, the pedigree of the ACC. For instance, in addition to Notre Dame, Virginia Tech took on Tennessee in the Battle at Bristol. Clemson opened at Auburn and finished the season against South Carolina. Pittsburgh took on Penn State and Oklahoma State, while North Carolina played Georgia and Illinois to open the season. True, Boston College, Syracuse and some others played embarrassingly weak non-conference slates, but half the SEC did as well.

Can and will the SEC bounce back? Every indication from the past would point to yes. Arkansas, with Bret Bielema in the final year of his contract, should be better with a full season under QB Austin Allen's belt. Missouri, with its strong football tradition, will probably rebound in Barry Odom's second season, building on a season ending win over Arkansas. Will Muschamp at South Carolina and Kirby Smart at Georgia will be in their second year, while Tennessee's Butch Jones will be looking for a way to build on a season that, while not up to early expectations, ended on a positive note with a bowl win over a tough Nebraska team. With just over seven and a half months (but who's counting?) until the 2017 kickoff, we still have a lot of time to speculate. One thing is certain, though, when it comes to the SEC. Alabama is king of the hill, and at the moment it's a long way down the closest challenger!

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.






Thursday, January 12, 2017

LOS ANGELES RAMS GO YOUNG AT HEAD COACH: NOT A GREAT IDEA

The Los Angeles Rams have hired 30 year old Sean McVay, most recently the offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, as their head coach. McVay will be the youngest head coach in the history of game. With the track record of young coaches, it appears that McVay will have a difficult time getting the Rams back to respectability. If reports are to be believed, he will need to build a coaching staff that can do a better job of developing quarterbacks, including L.A.'s top pick last year, Jared Goff, who wasn't even active for much of last season. Can a 30 year-old command the kind of respect necessary to manage and motivate 53 professional football players? Recent history would indicate that he probably can't.

Lane Kiffin took over the Oakland Raiders at the age of 31 after a 2 - 14 season. Granted, it was the Raiders, still run by an aging Al Davis who had a propensity for hiring young coaches through the years, including John Madden and Jon Gruden. But Kiffin failed miserably, going 5 - 15 in less than two seasons and has been bouncing around the coaching ranks ever since.

Raheem  Morris was tapped to replace Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay following the 2008 season in which the Bucs finished a respectable 9 - 7. Despite taking over a pretty good team, the 32 year-old Morris could only manage one winning season while going 17 - 31 in three years at the helm.

Back in 1993, Cincinnati hoped to get more out of the Shula name by hiring 32 year-old Dave as their head coach. He inherited a team that had gone 3 - 13 the previous season and even though he bettered that record twice in his tenure with the Bengals, he exited with an overall record of 19 - 52 with his best season a mediocre 7 - 9 in 1995.

Another 32 year-old, Josh McDaniels, followed a long tenure by Mike Shanahan in Denver after the fourteen year head coach was fired following an 8 - 8 season. Despite inheriting a decent team, McDaniels was unable to find success and was fired twelve games into his second season after going 3 - 9 for a two year record of 11 - 17. McDaniels has since found success with the New England Patriots as their offensive coordinator and is reported to be in the running for another head coaching opportunity.

Combined, the four previous youngest head coaches had a combined 62 - 115 record, with only one winning season between them in nine full years and three partial seasons. With the recent history of young coaches being so brutally bad, why would the Rams think they can break the mold? Perhaps in this day and age, there's a perception that experience doesn't matter. But that perception clearly doesn't match the stark reality of a 35% winning percentage. The other thing that is interesting is that only one of these coaches was given more than three seasons to turn things around, indicating to me that there could have been other issues in play. Could it have been lack of maturity and leadership? You think?

I'm not advocating some archaic good old boys' network requiring people to "pay their dues" for inclusion in the head coaching fraternity. I'm just saying that the track record of coaches thirty-two and younger is drastically different than those thirty-four and older. Take a look at the next four youngest coaches that took over since 1990.

Jon Gruden at the age 34, now ESPN's Monday Night Football analyst, turned around the Oakland Raiders in 1998 after a 4 - 12 season in 1997. His record was a respectable 38 - 26 before leaving for Tampa Bay, where he won a Super Bowl against his former team in his first season with the Bucs. He won two more NFC South titles in Tampa before getting fired and finding his way to the broadcast booth.

When Chuck Noll retired in 1992, the Pittsburgh Steelers brought in 34 year-old Bill Cowher to add new life to a team that went 7 - 9 in 1991. Did he ever, winning five division crowns in his first six seasons and getting to the Super Bowl following the 1995 campaign, losing to the Dallas Cowboys. Cowher retired after fifteen seasons, compiling an impressive 149 - 90 -1 record and winning Super Bowl XL.

Coincidentally, Cowher was succeeded by another 34 year-old, current Steeler head coach Mike Tomlin. All Tomlin has done is go 104 - 57 with a Super Bowl title and no losing seasons. Pittsburgh takes on Kansas City this weekend, with the Patriots looming in the AFC title game.

Also at the age of 34, Eric Mangini inherited a 4 - 12 Jets team in 2006 and went 10 -6 in his first season in New York (well, New Jersey technically, but...). He lasted three years and compiled a respectable 23 - 25 record while adding another winning record.

So the contrast is rather dramatic, although it could be argued that the Steelers are one of the top organizations in the league, which gives Cowher and Tomlin a bit of an edge. But the sample size here is large enough to offer up what seems to be a clear differentiation between thirty-two and younger versus thirty-four and older. Which leads me predict that unless something radically changes in Los Angeles, we're likely to see Sean McVay back in the press box calling plays for another team in a two or three years.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Friday, January 6, 2017

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF CHAMPIONSHIP: CLEMSON IN AUGUST, CLEMSON IN JANUARY

For a podcast on this subject go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/01/09/to-the-half-with-matthew-long

In my preseason picks, I chose Clemson to win the college football championship, and I'm not backing away now. Last year's exciting 45 - 40 Alabama win over the Tigers has created a lot of excitement over the rematch and it will be difficult to top last season. Given the one-sided games that have dominated the first eight games of the three playoffs held to this point, it might even be too much to expect a close game that goes down to the wire. Since I've already picked the winner, let me share some other perspectives that might have an impact on the outcome.

Clemson Wants Revenge: It's pretty hard to take a close loss that ultimately hinged on a couple of special teams plays. I remember when Virginia Tech lost to Florida State in 2000 they held the lead in the fourth quarter until Peter Warrick took over for the Seminoles by returning a punt for a touchdown that ended up ending the chances for the Hokies. Last year, Alabama used a perfectly executed onside kick to swing the momentum in their favor. Look for Clemson to have those bases covered (to use a wrong sport metaphor) this time around. It's been thirty-five years since the Tigers have won a national title and these current players have the best chance to do it since, well, last season. Anyway, you get my point, sort of.

Deshaun Watson Wants Revenge: Okay, so I'm repeating myself a bit. I'm sure when Watson watched Lamar Jackson from Louisville lift the Heisman Trophy, he was probably thinking, "Hey, what about me?" Clemson's only loss was by a point to Pittsburgh and Watson threw for almost 4200 yards, completed over 67% of his passes and tossed 38 touchdown passes while rushing for almost 600 yards and eight touchdowns. I don't disagree with Jackson's award, but that's not really my point. The issue is whether it will give the Clemson QB further motivation to show that maybe the voters got it all wrong. I think it will.

Alabama Offensive Coordinator Shakeup: I can make a case either way on this one. I'll start with the argument that Steve Sarkisian replacing outgoing Lane Kiffin a week before the championship probably won't matter. After all, Sark was brought in as a consultant to Nick Saban's Alabama staff since it was widely presumed that Kiffin wouldn't be retained beyond the expiration of his contract the first of February. Kiffin and Sarkisian both come from Pete Carroll's coaching tree so philosophically there's not likely to be a big change, as least not this late in the season. In addition, Sarkisian has been involved in game planning and scheme development since his hiring. Now for the opposite point of view. Regardless of how great a coach and administrator Nick Saban is, Lane Kiffin's status and ultimate departure can't but have been at least a bit of a distraction. And even though Sark has been heavily involved, he hasn't been the one calling the plays and managing the offense on game day.

Alabama Won a Diminished SEC: I'm sure any SEC fans reading this will take exception, but the conference really was down this season. Neither Ole Miss nor Mississippi State managed even a .500 record. Every team in the SEC West other than Alabama had at least four losses, and all of those other than LSU had at least five. In the East, only one team, Florida, had a winning conference record and they were hardly an offensive juggernaut. Alabama's signature non-conference win was in week one against USC, which went on to get clobbered twice more before making a change at quarterback and running the table the rest of the way. Clemson defeated two SEC teams on the road, plus Florida State, Louisville and Virginia Tech on their way to the playoffs. To say that Alabama was more tested on its way to the final is inaccurate this year, and remember I follow both conferences very closely, with ties to both Virginia Tech and Arkansas.

It's Time For A Change: There is absolutely nothing logical or performance based for this other than my desire to see someone else other than Alabama win. As great as the Crimson Tide is, and there's no denying that should they win they are very deserving of the title, I'd like to see Clemson find a way to prevail Monday night.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.