Super Bowl Hyped

There’s so much Super Bowl hype that the hype itself is over-hyped, if that makes any sense.  It seems like there’s more stories about the “hype” than there is about the game and the players in it.  And now here I am, writing about how much other people write about how much other people write and talk about this game.  My head hurts.

Anyway, I have a point here, even if it’s not a good one.  It seems to me that the result of all this hype, this year at least, has been to convince a lot of people that this will be a tight game.  I’m not saying most people, but a lot of people are thinking the Giants have a good chance of winning. 

So many people are out there writing and opining about the game, that many of them have to come up with different eliangles.  A common (and totally logical) angle to take is, “This is what the Giants have to do to win this game”.  Another (much less logical) angle is, “The Giants will win this game, and this is why”.  Some people have to take that angle, and I certainly can’t blame them.  But the result of all this is that more and more people start talking themselves into the Giants winning the game.  Now, if you’re a Giants fan, I understand the impulse, otherwise, you’re crazy!

Obviously, there is a chance the Giants will win and, of course, there’s a chance it will be a close game.  There’s even evidence you can point to: the Giants only lost by 3 when the teams played in Week 17, the Pats didn’t look very good in the AFC championship game, the Pats haven’t been nearly as dominant over the last couple of months as they were in the first half of the season.  That’s all true.  What’s also true is that this is one of the biggest mismatches in Super Bowl history, and that’s saying something.  This is arguably the best team in the history of the league going against a team that claimed the fifth-seed in a very mediocre NFC.  This is Bill Belichick and Tom Brady against Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning.  This is a rout.  Patriots 38, Giants 17.  The Pats ride off into the sunset, into the history books, and with any luck (or maybe a lot of luck), we’ll never hear from them again. 

I Just Don’t Get It…

NOTE:  Just when you thought you were getting tired of my gimmicky “recurring themes posts,” I want to add another to the mix.  I am not a smart man.  In fact, I am quite dumb.  There is a wide range of things that I simply don’t understand.  I have found, however, that it can be quite therapeutic to acknowledge what you do not know and ask the question.  So, I am not looking for answers (though, they are welcome), I am just trying to relieve myself of the burden of my stupidity–or at least today’s reminder of it.  As always, thanks for listening.

Okay, today’s burdensome reminder of my stupidity is two-fold because there are similar situations for two Philly sports that I simply don’t understand.

CASE #1:  The Eagles
Okay, let me see if I have the facts straight:

  • The Eagles are (and have been every year in the McNabb Era other than the Super Bowl year) in desperate need of a big-play wide receiver
  • Chad Johnson, a clear #1 wide receiver, is unhappy in Cincinnati
  • The Eagles are, as always, very much under the salary cap ($17.12 million under, actually)

Okay, I don’t get it.  Why are there rumors swirling about Chad Johnson going to Miami?  Why are the Eagles not involved?  Are they scared of another “loud” wide receiver after the T.O. debacle?  Are they not convinced that Chad Johnson is really deserving of being a #1 wide receiver, and therefore, getting #1 WR money?  Are they banking on Reggie Brown to finally have that break-out year?  Is there someone in the draft that they have their eyes on?  Are the Eagles involved, but it just has not gotten to the media yet?  Is Johnson intent on going to his hometown Dolphins now that they have Parcells?  Or, is the media blowing this out of proportion and Johnson is not really going anywhere? 

All of these are possible, but if Johnson really is on the proverbial “trading block” and the Eagles are not in daily phone conversations with the Bengals, then something is wrong.  How perfect of a fit is Chad Johnson in Philadelphia?  I just don’t get it…

CASE #2:  The Phillies
There is a similarly vexing situation going on with the Phillies.  Now, I understand that the Phillies have neither the prospects, the ownership payroll ability, nor the risk affordability to even pursue a Johan Santana.  Players like Santana are only available to teams that play in New York, Boston, Chicago or Los Angeles.  Whereas the other side of the spectrum–the Twins, the Marlins, the Pirates–only get star players for 6 major league seasons, forcing them to build by trading the Santanas and Cabreras of the world.  The Phillies are in the middle.  They can keep their own star players, but once a star hits the open market, they have no chance.  These mid-level teams can (and recently have) win titles, but they have little room for error.

This leads me into what I don’t understand about the Phillies right now.  Why are they not in the discussion for Erik Bedard?  Right now, it seems as if the Orioles are in serious talks with the Mariners.  Can the Mariners give a better package than the Phillies?  Are the Orioles looking to ship Bedard off to the West Coast, so as to curtail a little of the hammering they are bound to take in the press?  Do the Phillies think that the asking price is too much for a young, front-line pitcher?  Do they believe that Hamels, Myers and Moyer are a “Big Three?”

Just like the Eagles, who could fill a major need with an available player, Chad Johnson, the Phillies can also fill a major need with an available player–Erik Bedard.  So, why are they not involved?  I just don’t get it…

Mets Get Santana; Become NL East Favorites

It’ s being widely reported tonight that the Twins and Mets have agreed to a trade that would send All-World pitchersantana Johan Santana to New York in exchange for four prospects: outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra. 

The deal will not be complete (and will probably not be publicly announced) until the Mets reach an agreement with Santana on a contract extension.  It seems very likely that that won’t be a problem. 

The initial reaction if you’re a Phillies fan has to be: “Oh, Sh%#!”.  Santana is probably the best pitcher on the planet right now and you have to think that this acquisition, without losing player of consequence from the major league roster, makes the Mets the NL East favorites heading into the 2008 season.  To make matters worse, it looks like they got Santana at a discounted price.  The deal is probably not as good as some offers the Twins received from the Yankees and Red Sox over the past couple of months.  There are rumors that Santana told the Twins front office, some time in the last week, that if he was not traded before spring training, he would exercise his no-trade clause on any potential trade thereafter, and leave as a free agent after the season.  So the team asked all the interested teams for a final “best offer”, but apparently the Yankees and Red Sox had lost some interest, and the Mets stepped up to make the deal.  The Twins tried to get outfield prospect Fernando Martinez into the deal, but Mets GM Omar Minaya stood his ground and it appears to have paid off.

It seems possible that the Red Sox and Yankees’ main interest was keeping Santana away from each other, but it still seems a little odd that they backed off from a chance to bring in one of the top pitchers of this generation.  I’m especially surprised that the Yankees did not make a push, considering they appear to be slightly out-manned right now by the Red Sox and the Tigers.  Also, they let Santana go to their cross-town rivals, probably sacrificing the baseball headlines in New York to the Mets for the foreseeable future.

Gomez appears to be a pretty big-time prospect, but not on the level of Phil Hughes.  Humber is a former first-round pick, but is not as good as any of the pitching prospects mention in previous deals, like Ian Kennedy, Jon Lester, or Clay Buchholz.  He is not even as good as the Mets’ own Mike Pelfrey.  The other two pitchers in the deal are not major prospects.  Mulvey is a Villanova product who was a second-round pick of the Mets in 2006.

One good thing to come out of this trade will be potential duels between Santana and Cole Hamels.  They have the two best changeups in the game, by far, and it should be very interesting to see them going at it.  I just wish I could have seen it happen in interleague play, not in a divisional game.  Maybe Santana won’t sign a deal with the Mets?  Maybe? 

Phils Add an Everyday Thirdbaseman

What would your reaction be if I told you that the Phillies could add 20 home runs and solid defense at third base?  You would probably be pretty happy, right?

What if I told you that Phillies signed Giants thirdbaseman Pedro Feliz?  Same reaction?  Probably not.  Either way, both felizof those things just happened this afternoon, as the Phillies signed Feliz to a 2-year free agent contract.

Feliz has now had 4 straight 20 home run seasons, though his batting average over that period has been as low as .244 and only once was higher than .253.  Honestly, I do not know what I think about this signing.  It only just happened.  I will think more about it when I get a chance (I hate it when life gets in the way of “thinking” about baseball), but my initial gut reaction is that Feliz does not seem like that big of an upgrade.  Am I wrong about this?  Is he that much better than Wes Helms and Abraham Nunez? 

The dollar figures aren’t out yet, so maybe it did not cost us that much.  A lot will have to do with what the salary is.    We shall see.

Enough Already…

There are many things going on the world of sports that I find utterly ridiculous.  Here is a brief list of sporting institutions that I think need to calm down and shut up:

  • The National Collegiate Athletic Association.  There is talk of the NCAA coming down on USC freshman standout O.J. Mayo because he accepted complimentary tickets to the Lakers-Nuggets game last week.  Granted there has been no official comment by the NCAA, but it is clear that Mayo violated the “letter of the rule” that states that no athlete can receive gifts because of their status when he accepted the tickets from Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony.  It is certainly NOT against the “spirit of the rule” to punish Mayo for accepting tickets from someone he has known since 7th grade.
  • The National Collegiate Athletic Association (again).  The story about which I posted yesterday may not have as happy of an ending as everyone may hope if the NCAA, again, sticks by the “letter of the law.”  Ron Hunter coached his IUPUI Jaguars yesterday in bare feet to raise awareness to the lack of affordable shoes in Africa.  He plans to deliver some of the shoes he raised personally to Nigeria in July.  There is talk that, though his team would all like to join him, the NCAA will not allow the school or anyone else to pay for that trip.  Again, this is a letter vs. spirit of the rule debate.  The NCAA is supposed to uphold the mission of its universities–education–and I cannot think of a better educational experience than a humanitarian trip to Nigeria.
  • St. Louis University.  On Saturday, the St. Louis Bilikens head coach, Rick Majerus, appeared at a Hillary Clinton political rally and professed his pro-choice and pro-stem cell research personal views.  Because of this, a Roman Catholic Archbishop is calling upon St. Louis–a Catholic university–to take “appropriate action” regarding the comments made by their head coach.  This is absolutely absurd, in my view.  First of all (not that I think it matters), Majerus was there as a private citizen.  He was not there as a representative of the school in any way.  Second of all, he is not the president or provost or even a dean of the school.  He is the basketball coach.  Third of all, there is absolutely no reason that employment at a Catholic university requires 100% agreement with every doctrine of the Catholic church.  Majerus, a Catholic himself, and every other employee of Catholic schools (or any school, for that matter) around the country, should be able to believe anything they wish.  Accepting employment at a specific institution is not a concession of one’s Freedom of Speech.
  • The Critical Media of the Women’s Tennis Association.  There are many members of the media calling for “punishment” for Maria Sharapova because of her dad’s “throat-slitting gesture” after defeating the world’s #1, Justine Henin this week.  The WTA–correctly, in my estimation–dismissed the act as a “joke.”  First of all, what should they do as “punishment?”  Second of all, why is Sharapova even accountable for her father’s actions?  And, finally, how is his “throat-slitting motion” so offensive.  He is not telling her to kill someone.  He was not even referring to her opponent.  This whole this is ridiculous.
  • The NFL Media Coverage.  Yes, it is the 2-week feeding frenzy for the national media leading up to the Super Bowl, so this one does not surprise me, but it still needs to stop.  Why is everyone so concerned about (a) Tom Brady’s boot, and (b) Tom Brady’s flower delivery methods?  I understand that he is the most important player in the most important sporting event of the year, but does anyone think he may not play?  And, does anyone think that he will really be affected?  I still kind of understand it, but why is everyone so hung up on the flowers?  Who cares?  No, really, who cares?
  • The NFL Gossip.  What I understand even less is this whole gossip meets football obsession with Tony Romo, Jessica Simpson and their relationship.  Now, maybe I am just not used to being thrust into the world of entertainment gossip, but is this really news?  And, why do we care?  Again, maybe I am not the audience for which these stories are intended, but…WHY ARE THEY ON ESPN?
  • ESPN.  Now this will probably end up as “Yet Another Pet Peeve,” but why are we stuck watching the X-Games–AGAIN?!?  This is now the “Winter X-Games 14,” and have any of you ever watched the X-Games?  In fact, do any of you even know someone that has ever watched the X-Games?  Why does it take up valuable ESPN airtime.  This has bothered me for, well, about 13 years now (after the novelty wore off).  We successfully eradicated hockey from the ESPN airwaves, why have we not done the same to the X-Games?

Transcending Sport

(DISCLAIMER:  This post may cross the line from sports commentary to social commentary.  I am surprised it has not happened sooner, but I will let you be the judge.)

Martin Luther King Day.  To most of America, this day means an unexpected, post-holiday three-day weekend.  Not to me.  Martin Luther King, Jr is as close to a “hero” as I claim to have.  In my opinion, no man has stood up against seemingly impossible odds with more class, more dignity and more effectiveness than Dr. King.  His messages, despite their apparent religiosity, are genuinely human and universally moral, just and inspiring.  His day is a day in which we–as Americans of all colors–ought to think about how we treat one another and, more importantly, why we may do so.  That is all Dr. King would ask of us.

The 1960’s were a time of social unrest and essential change in the United States.  Now, four decades later, new wars must be waged in a shrinking world.  The human atrocities to many of the world’s citizens are coming to the forefront, just as the atrocities to many of America’s citizens did in the turbulent times in which Dr. King was a ray of hope and a warrior for justice.

This year marks the 40th anniversary (for lack of a better term) of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  There will be many sad memorial services and nostalgic, optimistic celebrations of his life’s accomplishments as we draw closer to the actual day, April 4, but tonight, one man will take Dr. King’s message of hope, inclusion and public service and use it in his own arena–a sports arena.

Ron Hunter, the head coach of the IUPUI men’s basketball team, will coach the team’s game tonight against Oakland in bare feet.  He is doing this in an attempt to raise 40,000 pairs of shoes to be donated to West Africa–a place of the world where far too many people do not have any shoes.  Whether the IUPUI basketball team outscores the Oakland University basketball team tonight or not, I say that Coach Hunter is coaching the winning side.

As someone who has experienced, first-hand, what life is like in rural West Africa, I am not only grateful to Mr. Hunter for his efforts, but pleasantly surprised about the tact and the determination with which he is embracing this mission.  Though any effort towards helping those in need is certainly warranted, some efforts either miss the point of their intentions or are done for personal publicity or fame.  This, however, does not seem to do either.

First of all, he has accurately identified a real issue in Africa.  So many people think of West Africa and its people and think about starvation and sickness.  Yes, there are a lot of dire illnesses, and many people do go hungry.  But, just as any other human culture anywhere in the world, they have found ways to survive and thrive in their environment.  The typical West African does not go hungry.  However, the typical West African does go shoeless.  Will a pair of shoes save their lives?  Probably not.  Will it make their lives a little easier?  Absolutely, and what is really lacking in West Africa is exactly what we have in abundance in the developed world–ease of living.  Hunter should be commended for recognizing a real problem in this area of the world and, even more impressively, recognizing that he has a platform with which he can make a real difference.

Secondly, Hunter is the coach of IUPUI and has been since 1994.  He may have designs on a bigger program, but it does not seem like it is his primary motivation, considering he has been in the Mid-Continent Conference (now the Summit League) his entire career.  (A coach looking for an ACC coaching position does not stay at IUPUI for 17 seasons.)  And, from all that he has said about this, he appears genuinely and passionately concerned with making a difference.  The only publicity he wants to raise revolves around raising awareness for the problem and embracing the organization for whom he is representing in tonight’s game, Samaritan’s Feet.  In fact, he even posted an inspirational message on their website, explaining his intentions. 

Finally, and the most telling part of the story to me, is that Hunter is going to Nigeria in July to personally deliver some of the shoes that he raised.  This strikes me for two reasons.  One is that he wants to really be a part of his current mission.  There is no way to really understand West Africa unless you see it.  You cannot “learn” West Africa in a book, a magazine or on TV.  You have to feel it.  You have to experience it.  You have to live it.  And, trust me, it is worth it.  It is, by far, my favorite place in all the world because of its uniquely human character.  It is the only place I have ever been that I can say is 100% “real” and 100% “human.”

Secondly, and possibly even more significant, is that the trip is planned for July.  Now, that may not seem significant, considering a college basketball season is played from November to March, but as many people may not realize, July is the heart of recruiting season for a college basketball coach.  In an era of so many people being defined by their work and so many so-called celebrities using their status for individual gain, Hunter is putting aside his work, for one month, and giving back to the world community.  In an attempt to honor the 40-year memory of one of the most courageously selfless men to ever walk this earth, Coach Ron Hunter is putting himself and his own personal work aside to try and make a difference.  He is using his relative celebrity as a pulpit for increased awareness and positive change in an area widely lacking in these things. 

For that, Mr. Hunter, I salute and I thank you.

Cimorelli’s Question of the Day

With the upcoming Super Bowl between the Giants and the Patriots, I (for obvious reasons) started thinking about the sports teams that I hate the most.  So, what teams do you hate the most?  In other words, what teams do you get the most enjoyment out of watching them lose?

Not a Big Deal?

[NOTE:  Okay, I am going to try and clean up some old “drafts” that I have been meaning to write for a while now.]

For us Phillie fans, this baseball offseason has been a rather uninteresting one for our team.  There were no impact free agents (all apologies to Geoff Jenkins).  There were no big trades, other than the mildly impactful addition of Brad Lidge in the very early going.  Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are about to enjoy another year of their big contracts and Ryan Howard may become the highest arbitration case of all-time, but none of this is expected to really affect the 2008 Phillies roster or said roster’s performance. 

If you ask anyone outside of Philly, however, the sentiment is probably clear that the biggest roster change for the Phils from 2007 to 2008 is the loss of high-dollar centerfielder Aaron Rowand.  Is it just me who doesn’t care or is this not a big deal to most Phillie fans?

                                  

I am not saying that there should be a city-wide feeling like the one following the departures of Sir Charles Barkley or the great Allen Iverson.  It will never come close to the feeling of loss from Mike Schmidt’s midseason retirement or the possibly impending departure of one Donovan F. McNabb.  But, Aaron Rowand was–both inside and outside the numbers–a phenomenal player.  Last season Rowand hit .309, with a .374 OBP and a .515 slugging percentage.  He hit 27 home runs, knocking in 89 and scoring 105.  He made the All-Star team and finished 22nd in MVP voting.  This is all not to mention his stellar defense in centerfield and his intangible leadership and winning attitude.  He was inarguably one of the most important pieces of first division title in 14 Phillies’ seasons.  And now he’s gone, with no real compensation (other than a couple draft picks)…and we don’t care.  Why not?

There are several possible reasons:

  • Rowand only played one and half healthy seasons for the Phils.  All the other “big names” that have left Philly teams were here forever.  In fact, Barkley, Iverson, Schmidt, and McNabb (again, not saying that Rowand is in that category of player) all started their careers in Philadelphia and were each here for nearly a decade, at least, before exiting the Philly sports scene.
  • The Phillies have an incredible nucleus of young players among which Rowand never really was considered.  When you have an offense of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, you are in good shape.  When you consider the fact that they are all still under 30 years old, you are in good shape for years to come.  Because of these three and other guys like Shane Victorino, it doesn’t seem like the Phillies really need Rowand–strange as it is to say about an All-Star in his prime.
  • Rowand just signed an enormous contract.  About a month ago, the Giants signed Rowand to a 5-year, $60 million dollar contract.  Despite all the stats mentioned above about Rowand’s fantastic 2007, I personally think that the Giants grossly overpaid for a career .286 hitter who is on the wrong side of 30 years old.  Furthermore, the Phillies situation, with their offense set with big contracts for Rollins and Utley and a big contract coming for Howard, dictates that any more money that they spend should probably be done so on bolstering the pitching staff.
  • Rowand does not seem to really be all that upset to leave Philadelphia.  This is the big one for me.  As great as all his press conferences were and how well he answered questions with all the right answers, I never once got the sense that Rowand really wanted to be here.  It seemed as if his heart was still with his ex-teammates in Chicago, where he won a World Series.  Either that or in his native California, where he is returning now to the Giants.  In fact, the impetus for this weblog was an interview I heard Rowand give on the Jody MacDonald show on December 13.  You can hear the interview here.  Now, maybe I am being hypocritical because all I ever want from anyone, especially athletes and other public figures, is honesty.  There is no question that Rowand answered all of Jody’s questions honestly and accurately.  But, it just proved to me that, though Rowand does say all the right things and surely does value his family and his contract just as much as anyone else, he never really wanted to be here and certainly did not want to stay here.  Maybe that, above all, is why I (we?) do not really care that he will be wearing another team’s colors next year.  I wish him all the best.  He is no J.D. Drew, Scott Rolen or Curt Schilling, in my mind, but I will definitely not lose any sleep over the Phillies not paying Aaron Rowand $12 million when he is 35 years old.