The case of the man in the moon …

The case of the man in the moon …

Somehow, in the wake of the horrors of the events which took place in Paris, France with the world taking a moment to mourn the loss of the victims. The sports’ world paid their condolences to the victims’ families. In the UFC , in what has to be deemed the most shocking event in the genre’s history the Women’s Bantamweight Champion , former Olympic judo medalist Ronda Rousey saw her unbeaten run come to an end, as she was defeated by challenger Holly Holm with a second-round knockout.

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For Holm , the unbeaten challenger and now champion, this was the biggest win of her career. Calls for a rematch now seem to be a certainty , with UFC President Dana White knowing a return bout between the two would be an instant sellout and a major PPV draw. Rousey has been the biggest draw in the world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) since her debut. Her charisma has attracted a slew of female and male fans , along with young girls now seeing the former champion as something of a role model. It hasn’t hurt also, with Ronda Rousey having carved out something of a niche, as a budding action star, with revelations that she will be the lead , in a revamped remake of the Patrick Swayze action drama “Roadhouse” .

For the moment however, Rousey will be looking to prepare for her rematch against the newly crowned champion Holly Holm. UFC 193, the event where the shocking result took place, will likely prove to be a major revenue winner by way of PPV broadcast views and ancillary rights for the UFC. A win-win situation for everyone involved in the event , including both the main fight card headliners , Holm and Rousey.

I am not so sure what can be learned from week ten of the NFL schedule , other than to suggest there were one or two teams who are now falling way short of expectations for the season. Inexplicable losses on the road as well as at home may well have led to a great deal of frustration among the fans as well as the coaching staffs of the franchises around the league. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots were able to pull off a last-minute come from behind victory , defeating the New York Giants by the narrowest of margins eking out a one-point 27-26 victory , with kicker Stephen Gostkowski being the hero of the day. With the win the Patriots, moved their record to 9-0 . leading the AFC East by a healthy margin , with Bill Belichick likely now preparing the team for their week eleven contest against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium, Foxboro’ , Massachusetts, on Monday , 23rd November, 2015.

Of the more unexpected results , we witnessed the losses suffered by the Denver Broncos falling to divisional rivals the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers seemingly falling apart at the seams , losing to the Detroit Lions. Those defeats suffered , might not have as lasting an effect on the teams in question, but in the case of the New Orleans Saints and their thirty-point plus loss to the Washington Redskins , this might well have put the final nail in the coffin for the Saints and their inept season.

Sean Payton as the head coach of the Saints , is now left wondering what went wrong during his team’s 47-14 loss to the Redskins. The defeat was the New Orleans’ worst loss of the season and likely leading to some major shakeups to the roster before the Saints meet their week twelve opponents the Houston Texans on the 29th November, 2015. Week eleven will be a bye-week for the Saints as the coaching staff and players look to reassess the issues of the team.

A seven-game losing streak hasn’t yet convinced Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys front office , this team is simply bereft of coaching acumen , leadership on and off the field of play. At the start of the season , Jones believed the Cowboys was capable of actually winning the Superbowl. Needless to say , Jerry Jones remains delusional and continues to live in the land of make belief. Sunday afternoon , was just another day at the office for the Dallas Cowboys, as the display from the players was as inept as any given during the seven game losing streak , accumulated by this team over the course of the season. The fact the Cowboys were facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should have been a warning sign of things to come as their ineptitude , shown throughout the contest remained bewildering through four quarters.

In a low-scoring game, the Dallas’ offense could only muster six points and 216 yards of total offense . The two opposing quarterbacks combined for three interceptions , two fumbles and plethora of mistakes throughout the contest and questions are likely to be asked of Jason Garrett , the Cowboys’ coaching staff and the lack of commitment from the players on the Dallas Cowboys’ roster. Lovie Smith may well be smiling after the Buccaneers mind a numbingly boring 10-6 victory, but there was nothing about this win which could convince anyone the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still capable of gaining a wildcard berth for the NFL postseason. As to where this now leaves the Dallas Cowboys, can be best summed up by suggesting Jones and the front office are hoping for a high draft pick from the 2016 NFL Draft .

Ten games into the NBA season and needless to say, the Los Angeles Lakers(2-8) have been the butt of so many jokes , with continued criticism of Byron Scott , his coaching staff and the team . With Kobe Bryant back in the lineup and the team being inconsistent through season’s infancy , there is the belief the Lakers will continue to struggle over the remainder of the season. Coming off a twelve-point home victory over the Detroit Pistons this past Sunday , the win provided something of a respite for a team still in search of an identity .

On Monday night as the Los Angeles Lakers seek to keep the momentum going , they will get the opportunity when they meet another Western Conference counterpart , with the team meeting the Phoenix Suns in what is likely to be a thoroughly entertaining contest.

Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak, team owner & CEO Jim Buss will be hard pressed to turn things around at this juncture , with this likely being the last season of Kobe Bryant illustrious career . The five-time NBA champion will certainly be looking to go out with a “Big Bang” , but that is unlikely to happen this season given the Lakers’
at this stage of their NBA schedule.

In their last game, played on the 14th November , Golden State toyed with the rather inept Brooklyn Nets on their way to an eight-point , 107-99 victory over the Eastern Conference based Nets. The Brooklyn Nets have been struggling and it seems unlikely the coaching staff led by Lionel Hollins knows how to get the team out of their current funk . In their next game the Brooklyn Nets will face the Atlanta Hawks in their home venue of the Barclays Center , Brooklyn, New York on the 17th November, 2015. The match-up should prove to be very interesting as the Nets seek to improve on their current record and stop their current losing streak, where Brooklyn are 1-9 in their last ten games . Only the Philadelphia 76ers have a worse losing streak (0-10) over the time-frame in question , which is no big a surprise , considering the 76ers’ record this season within the NBA .

It would not be remiss to suggest the front office of the Philadelphia 76ers remain without a clue and they are a badly ran franchise . Team owner Joshua Harris and GM Sam Hinkie seem bereft of intelligence , leaving many to wonder if their intent is simply to share in the spoils of war , when one considers how , profitable the NBA teams have become , seeing a sizable appreciation in the value of the franchises ?

Philadelphia 76ers’ head coach Brett Brown will be hard pressed to have this team playing with any type of resilience , when the coaching staff , itself not being able to find anything worthy from the players on the roster. Work in progress or not with the last two first round picks on the roster, but it is clear Brown and Sam Hinkie can no longer this malaise to continue.

Brett Brown and the Sixers will play their next game at home against the Indiana Pacers . Neither Joel Embiid or Jahlil Okafor have been able to provide significant production for Philadelphia this season. The Philadelphia 76ers remain a franchise simply out of their depth and there are no signs, this team is about to get any better anytime soon. It has been almost fifteen years since the Sixers last won a divisional title ,not since the 2000-01 season , with their last Playoff Appearance coming during the 2011-12 postseason , where they fell to the Miami Heat in the first round .

James Harden of the Houston Rockets (4-7) has now become an elite player within the NBA , but it remains to be seen whether or not he can lead Rockets to another NBA title for the franchise. The Houston Rockets have yearned to raise the Larry O’Brien Trophy and for team owner Leslie Alexander , nothing would give him greater pleasure than for his team to win the title. Head coach Kevin McHale and his coaching staff , I believe are capable of coaching this team their being able to make a deep playoff run, but a great deal of that will be dependent upon the play of Harden and whether or not Dwight Howard can finally step up to the plate during the postseason. The Rockets’ center has continued to disappoint and I do not believe he is capable of playing at a high-caliber , when it matters the most and that is during the NBA Playoffs.

Houston has made a solid start to the season, but with the Western Conference being so tough , their best chance of a postseason berth I continue to believe will their winning the Southwest Division within the West. In their most recent game the Houston Rockets hung tough in their contest against the Boston Celtics , but lost a game , which on paper, was far from being close, with the Rockets falling , 111-95 in a home loss .

Brad Stevens
has achieved a great deal since being hired to succeed Doc Rivers as head coach of the Boston Celtic. The fact that the team made the NBA Playoffs of last season before being brushed aside in the first round might well provide the fans and the franchise with the hope Stevens was not only the right man for the job, but GM Danny Ainge and team owner Wyc Grousbeck had to be extremely satisfied with the hire. Stevens has now cultivated a mindset within his young roster of players , which everyone now seems to be buying into , including the Boston Celtics’ fans. Boston might not be prolifically talented by way of their offense , but this team does play with a great deal of bravura .

Jared Sullinger , Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson , Evan Turner , James Young , Tyler Zeller, Isaiah Thomas , Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier are among the teammates of the Boston Celtics who are making the franchise one of the hot topics of conversation this early in the season among the Eastern Conference as well as within their division and the NBA this season. Clearly, if the Celtics are able to make back to back playoff appearances and build upon what was achieved last season. Then there is no reason to believe why this team cannot be seen as a legitimate contender for the NBA title at some point in the future. With a very good coaching staff in place, along with a front office making the right type of personnel decisions ,the future does seem bright for the franchise’s long-term relevancy .

Something is finally going on after the recent years of instability within the Detroit Pistons’ franchise and organization. Team owner Tom Gores along with the front office seemed to have figured it out. Former agent Arn Tellem has been brought in to run the business side of the Pistons’ operations, with Jeff Bower as the general manager of the franchise. The ouster of Joe Dumars was seen as an obvious move , after the decline of the franchise during the last few years of his tenure as general manager.

Sitting two games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers (8-3) within the Central Division of the Eastern Conference the Detroit Pistons find themselves in a comfortable position in a division which will be closely watched. Coming off great victory over the Cavaliers, where LeBron James could not muster his teammates to get the win needed to increase their lead within the division , while also while also looking to pad their lead over the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks within the conference. The win might be the most significant of the Detroit Pistons’ young season which is still in its infancy. It might bode well for the team, if they can build upon the victory and put themselves in a position to contend within their division as well as the Eastern Conference.

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With all the news which has come into focus over the past few days beyond the world events . There is the common belief sports can truly unite the masses ,when we can witness a genuine act of sportsmanship , heroics on the field of play. but above all else , a true love of the environment being cultivated on the field of play.

Tophatal ……..

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Trials, tribulations, a whole lot of grief and angst …

Trials, tribulations, a whole lot of grief and angst

In the aftermath of another not so overwhelming MLB postseason , with the Kansas City Royals winning their second World Series in the franchise’s history , things are suddenly taking on a new shape in the world of baseball. With the Winter Meetings just over a month away , several players have declared free agency , with perhaps the biggest surprise of being Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers .

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Greinke had an exceptional year for the team , but the Dodgers’ postseason foray ended up being nothing more than a glimpse of recent past seasons.

There was nothing about this Don Mattingly managed team which suggested the NL West champions were in with a serious chance of winning the NL Pennant and being the National League’s representative in the World Series. Now it will be, back to the drawing board for front office representatives GM Farhan Zahidi and Head of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, as they seek to rebuild the roster through likely free agent acquisitions and their farm system .

Don Mattingly is no longer a part of the managerial staff , having agreed to mutually part at the end this postseason. While there was considerable success under Mattingly, the Dodgers’ non appearance in the Fall Classic only added to the ball-club’s ongoing woes. There can be no excuses made for the abysmal failure witnessed over the past six seasons by this organization and their having spent over $1 billion in players’ salaries during the time-frame in question.

Zack Greinke’s decision to opt out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent , will now add to the plethora of pitchers now on the market this off-season. Teams in need of very good starting pitching will be required to pay top-dollar for a number of these prized assets.

There are times within world of baseball where one has to take a step back , d simply observe the frailties within the game and among the players . New York Yankees’ starting pitcher CC Sabathia with his admittance , that he has a sobriety issue as an alcoholic, makes you wonder why an athlete would seek to ruin their career for the sake of a momentary high. Sabathia for his part , made this disclosure while on morning television , explaining in the aftermath of the Yankees’ wild-card loss to the Houston Astros , he checked himself into a drug and alcohol dependency program. Given the recent woes of Josh Hamilton of the Texas Ranger, this issue I truly believe, just happens to be more widespread within the game, than teams and front office executives would care to admit ! As for the MLB hierarchy, given the ongoing lack of a really in-depth testing program for users of banned substances , this is just another glaring headlight the game of baseball can really do without.

There have been no formal comments coming from the New York Yankees’ front office concerning CC Sabathia’s current situation and while the player is due to become Yankees’ free agent this upcoming season, it remains to be seen whether or not he is likely to be re-signed by the franchise. Bud Selig and now his successor MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred have been twirling their fingers and thumbs not seeking to work in conjunction with the MLBPA (union) on a wide variety of issues within the game. The relationship between these two entities, has become adversarial , rather than one of bipartisanship when dealing the problems within the game of baseball.

It seems hard to believe that in 2008, the Detroit Lions were win-less during a regular season , with sixteen consecutive losses on their record. The team’s statistics during the year remains among the worst in NFL history. Rod Marinelli coached the Lions at the time and along with the coaching staff and it was clear they were completely out of their depth. This season bearing a record of 1-7 and it would appear the Lions are on track to have another morbid year in the NFL. Detroit Lions’ quarterback Matt Stafford is having a season he would rather forget , while the talents of wide receiver Calvin Johnson are being wasted on a team which has showed absolutely no signs of winning a game at all this season.

Detroit’s only win of the season so far , came during their week six victory over the equally abysmal Chicago Bears as the two NFC North divisional rivals met in that particular contest. With a bye-week during week nine the Detroit Lions can rest their weary bones while preparing for their week ten contest against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin on the 15th November , 2015.

Matt Stafford’s record (2-7) against the Packers has not been a favorable one , with his last victory against this divisional rival coming in week three of the 2014 regular season. The Lions’ issues this season have come in various guises, with the defense and offense being mediocre at best.

The disarray within the Lions’ organization, particularly within the front office has led to the firing of GM Martin Mayhew and Team President Tom Lewand , but the coaching staff of head coach Jim Caldwell have been kept for now , but I expect if there are likely to be changes should the Detroit Lions fail to turn their season around before the end of their schedule. Mayhew’s firing has led to added responsibilities and a first within the NFL , as Allison Maki becomes the first woman in NFL history to hold the position of general manager for an NFL franchise. It will be a joint role , to be shared between Maki and Sheldon White as interim general manager .

Likely to be also clear, will be the impending future of quarterback Matt Stafford , a first round draft pick from the 2009 NFL Draft. Stafford , who is not due to become a free agent until 2018. Stafford’s three-year $53 million contract , with $41 million guaranteed , expires in 2017 and should the Lions seek to trade the player , they would still be liable for the remainder of his guaranteed money. Matt Stafford is not one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL in spite of the fact he has amassed a great deal of yards during his playing career. He has not proven himself to be a leader , vocal or otherwise as a player with the Detroit Lions. This I believe is what is sadly missing from this Lions’ roster , beyond the ongoing incompetency of the coaching staff !

William ‘Bill’ Clay Ford as one of the team owners of the Detroit Lions has sat idly by as the franchise has gone through a quick succession of head coaches over the last eight years . The off-season I believe will bring a great deal more upheaval within the Lions’ organization , far more than anyone might have thought possible.

It would be fair to suggest the NFC is having something of a down year, with some notable teams within the conference still struggling at the mid- point of the season. Of late, fans of the San Francisco 49ers (2-6) are decrying the fact how quickly the team has fallen off the face of the map after the successes of 2012 and 2013 . There is no denying successive postseason appearances had the Forty Niners’ fans wanting more, but a great deal of complacency set in among the play and coaching staff of former head coach Jim Harbaugh.

This season the plight of the Niners has become worse , with head coach Jim Tomsula considering the improbable with the benching of Colin Kaepernick , perhaps the best offensive weapon on the entire roster. For their part, team CEO Jed York and GM Trent Baalke have offered little or no explanation behind the team’s fall from grace. The warning signs were certainly there last season , ending with sheer embarrassment for the NFC West based Forty Niners. Off the field issues with Ray McDonald and Aldon Smith , clearly showed the franchise to be lacking in moral fiber , while it would appear everyone seemed willing to give Jim Harbaugh a pass, as things continually spiraled out of control. Harbaugh was just as much to blame for San Francisco’s woes , as Trent Baalke and Jed York. Colin Kaepernick for his part, in spite of his postseason heroics still had his stuck firmly in the clouds, beyond having signed his ludicrous contract .

Heading into their week nine contest against the Atlanta Falcons (6-2) the San Francisco 49ers will be looking to right their ship , which is still struggling to stay afloat. If Colin Kaepernick is benched in favor of his backup Blaine Gabbert, it is hard to envisage how Gabbert would be viewed as a better option than Kapernick in this contest . While I don’t believe Jim Tomsula will be fired from his position, I do think the head coach will be in the unenviable of situation of being cast as the ” real villain” of this current situation, when everyone from the front office on down has played an equal part in the franchise’s woes seen this season.

There remains a great deal of idiocy among many of the so-called sports’ fans who genuinely believe they have some insight on sports in general and in particular the NFL. Recently on a visit to sports’ site , the contributor suggested with his declining play , Denver Broncos’ (7-0) quarterback Peyton Manning was no longer capable of playing at a high level or leading a team to a postseason berth. Now given Manning’s play since joining the Broncos as a free agent in March of 2012. In the three years since the Broncos’ ascent to the top of the AFC West which has gone unchallenged by their divisional foes and again in 2015 , the team is back to its very best , starting their season with a seven-game unbeaten streak. So much for this idiocy of Manning not being able to play at a consistently high level. In their week eight game against the then unbeaten Green Bay Packers beat their NFC opponents with the utmost ease destroying the Aaron Rodgers’ led Packers defeating them 29-10 .

The defeat for Green Bay derailed their chances of an unbeaten season, while the Denver Broncos , New England Patriots (7-0) and Cincinnati Bengals (8-0) seek AFC supremacy within their conference , with the three teams still unbeaten entering into the week nine NFL schedule .

With the NBA season still in its infancy , with the majority of teams having only played six games, there is only one franchise that remains unbeaten. Defending NBA champions the Golden State Warriors (6-0) are leaving no one with any doubt, , why they won the title last season. With few changes to their core roster of last season , the Warriors have simply began from where they left off at the end of the regular and postseason. The fact they have won their first six consecutive games of this season, should not come as a surprise to anyone, even to those who still believe last season’s beaten finalists the Cleveland Cavaliers were the better team .

Reigning League MVP , Steph Curry has lit up the scoreboard in each of the Warriors’ victories and this season he already has a season-high 50-point game for the year. LeBron James may well be the best all-round player in the game, but Curry isn’t that far behind, with the shadow also of Kevin Durant also to be considered as part of the equation.

Golden State in their last game , subdued the Denver Nuggets on their way to a 119-114 victory and quite obviously the best record in the Western Conference. Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr and his coaching staff will now prepare the team for their next game where their opponent will be the Sacramento Kings in a contest to be played at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California on Saturday, 7th November ,2015.

With both New York based NBA franchises struggling at this point of the season and in all honesty, it does not come as a surprise to me at all ! The Brooklyn Nets (0-6) and the New York Knicks (2-4) have mediocre records and are struggling within their divisions as well as within the Eastern Conference. For head coaches Lionel Hollins of the Nets and Derek Fisher of the Knicks , this might be the last opportunities provided to them in their respective positions , because I feel , if both should fail this season , then there would be no alternative than their firings by Billy King of the Nets , Steve Mills and Phil Jackson of the Knicks. It is certainly not difficult to understand how bad both the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks have been , when you consider the underwhelming talent on their respective rosters. The Brooklyn Nets were on the wrong side of another loss on Saturday night , coming at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks , another in a long line of mediocre performances by the Nets this season.

If the intent of Phil Jackson was bring about change since he assumed control as Head of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks. Then the change witnessed by the fans and Knicks’ fans in particular, has been a complete embarrassment for the franchise and the NBA in general . Derek Fisher and this Knicks’ coaching staff remain deep, in over their heads and Phil Jackson’s apparent acumen as a front office executive is and will remain overrated , in spite of his idiots still coming to his support , suggesting he still remains a basketball genius. As a coach yes, but in his current role , he has become an absolute joke.

Billy Donovan is now the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder (3-3) and the expectations are once again high for this team. The loss of Kevin Durant for a large chunk of last season led to the Thunder missing the NBA Playoffs by the slimmest of margins . This season Durant and Russell Westbrook will seek redemption and lay claim , they are the equal of the Golden State Warriors and among the best within their conference. A Sunday afternoon home game for the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Phoenix Suns should prove to be an interesting contest for both of these Western Conference based franchises.

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As the sports’ world meanders through the usual glutton of stories, it appears the salacious and the mundane tends to get the front page notice while the events on the field will at times take a backseat to it all.


Tophatal … 2015/11/07

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