So you think you know sports ?

So you think you know sports ?

 

Well, with the Superbowl slowly approaching and the two participants from the AFC and NFC now in preparation for the NFL’s showcase event. Away from these preparations , we have a litany of news surfacing concerning a number of the league’s franchises. Outside , what appears to be an idiotic remark by Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton interjecting the issue race into the mix, with his stating being a ‘ black quarterback’ in the NFL makes him a target for criticism. I beg to differ Cam, what will make you a target for criticism for the NFL and analysts in general , would be the issue of the Panthers performing poorly and the team not winning. The fact of the matter has been , the Carolina Panthers reeled off fourteen consecutive wins during the regular season , with the team’s only loss coming at the hands of their divisional rivals the Atlanta Falcons.

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Cam Newton for his part through much of the season played at a consistently high level and had several career firsts during the season as well as career records . Head coach Ron Rivera has to be entirely happy with what he saw from his team as they ended the regular season posting a 15-1 record, best in the NFL. Carolina’s opponent for the Superbowl game on the 7th February will be the Denver Broncos , who will be led by their veteran quarterback Peyton Manning. For those questioning Manning’s ability this season , they should consider the fact for much of the year the player was playing injured , something his critics obviously overlooked with their rather asinine prognostication and claiming Manning player was past his prime and his playing days were in fact over. Peyton Manning simply does what he does best and that is to answer those critics by leading the team into the postseason and unto another Superbowl appearance, the third of his career and the second for the Broncos in the last five seasons .

This game is the match-up the fans and analysts undoubtedly wanted to see, with the two best teams in the league vying for the Lombardi Trophy. Carolina are likely to be viewed as slight favorites in the game by the odds-makers in Las Vegas. Gambling on the’ big game’ should run into several hundred million dollars , if not at least one billion or more.

The fiftieth edition of the Superbowl and this is the game the NFL wants to be seen as the event which takes them into the latter half of the decade , with the fans expecting a great deal more. The league and its’ major corporate sponsors will be looking to this game to be a tremendous success competitively and from a commercial standpoint.

The NFL hierarchy has granted permission to the St Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers to relocate to the greater Los Angeles area. Rams’ owner , billionaire real estate and sports’ mogul Stanley Kroenke having bought a vast track of real estate in the town of Industry , California , will now be looking to both municipalities , Industry and the city of Los Angeles to finance a stadium, which will house a proposed new venue for the NFL franchise . While fans of the Rams rejoice about the return of the NFL to the city of Los Angeles , I seriously doubt they are intelligent enough to realize that ramifications involved , both cities proposing the use of taxpayers’ funds for the building of a new stadium for a billionaire who is among the four hundred richest people in America as well as being among the list of billionaires with a net worth exceeding $5 billion . The cities of Industry and Los Angeles still have their fiscal budgetary woes and the league hierarchy likely pressing both cities to facilitate their financing of a new stadium for the St Louis Rams. Stanley Kroenke has not been totally upfront on his proposals , other than to state stadium and the surrounding area will see an aesthetic use of the land with a mixture of commercial and residential use surrounding the $1 billion stadium.

The Spanos family, owners of the San Diego Chargers have not stated categorically, they will relocate the Chargers’ franchise, but all signs seems to be the pointing to the fact , with their negotiations with the city of San Diego at an impasse , their only alternative would be the move to Los Angeles.

The Oakland Raiders after another unfulfilling season in the league , have now sought to make themselves part of the NFL news’ cycle , with front office having met with officials from the city of Las Vegas to discuss their moving the state of Nevada and the city of Las Vegas. Over the past two-and-a-half decades the Raiders have long felt the city of Los Angeles has been theirs by territorial right, albeit the franchise has remained noncompetitive since 2004 and have not made a postseason appearance since their loss in the Superbowl to the Tamp Bay Buccaneers . In the ensuing years the Raiders have been a joke and through a string of head coaches since Bill Callahan took the team to their last Superbowl appearance.

Mark Davis as the owner of the Oakland Raiders has remained impervious to the criticism leveled at him by the fans and analysts alike and with each passing season of abject failure , there appears to be no real signs of improvement from any member of the team. Derek Carr was seen as something of a savior for the franchise , but in reality , he cannot do it all by himself and as a quarterback , as he has yet to attain the leadership skills sought to lead the Raiders where they need to be. Carr and the Oakland Raiders were not competitive enough to be viewed as a significant contender within the AFC West or AFC throughout much of this past season. Davis’ reasons for wanting to relocate the Raiders stems from greed and the fact the league hierarchy under Roger Goodell , have never looked favorably on his wish to have the sole territorial rights for the greater Los Angeles area , going unchallenged as the sole NFL franchise within Los Angeles. The NFL would have to grant their blessing for a proposed move by the Oakland Raiders and that is unlikely to happen in time for the upcoming 2016-17 season and so in all likelihood, such a move might not take place for at least another two years .

As baseball enters its silly off-season of movers and shakers among the executives , owners and agents negotiating contracts for free agents and players in arbitration , an interesting morsel of baseball historical news was revealed . Trades and free agent acquisitions have taken place at a fairly rapid pace , with several players signing lucrative deals during this off-season. Yet I believe the biggest news to hit the cycle to hit the world of baseball was the announcement that Ken Griffey Jr and Mike Piazza were to be the two players inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame for the class of 2016. Both players I believe were thoroughly deserving of this illustrious privilege , the highest honor possible for a player outside their winning a World Series’ ring. Future Hall of Fame eligible players for 2017 and 2018 are those who have met the eligibility requirements or those from the past, who will be appearing on ballot as a repeat eligible player .

With each passing year baseball seems to find itself dealing with some form of controversy or this never-ending idiocy of either the MLB hierarchy dumb-founded fans talking about Major League Baseball expansion. Were it not for the fact the hierarchy continues to be so damn clueless , along with the vast majority of the game’s fans and their not realizing the vast majority of the teams are barely financially viable , but yet the talk of expansion continues to raise its ugly head. For the Tampa Bay Rays having seen their hopes dashed repeatedly for a chance to build a new stadium within the city of St Petersburg or the greater Tampa area , as the franchise now appears to be on the verge of leaving the state altogether. Clearly the powers that be , among the civic dignitaries for cities of St Petersburg and Tampa cannot justify or explain to their residents, a thoroughly good reason why public funding should be used to build a stadium for a franchise whose attendance levels have continued to sit among the bottom half of baseball’s thirty teams.

At no time during the Rays’ two decade plus existence has the franchise ever seen those figures be ranked among the top-ten clubs within baseball’s attendance levels . The game is barely viable as a sport during the regular season for the two professional teams within the state of Florida , with both the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins struggling to remain competitive as well as seeing an upswing in attendance. The game of baseball is barely viable as a sport during the regular season for the two professional teams within the state of Florida , with both the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins struggling to remain competitive as well as seeing an upswing in attendance.

Baseball only remains relevant within the state of Florida during the Spring Training schedule , because of the abundance of teams who make use of the state for their Spring Training habitat and schedule.

So as the NBA season meanders along we are beginning to see the continued mediocrity of the teams , who are simply fighting to play themselves into contention for a Draft Lottery pick. The Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers continue to vie for the worst record in the entire league and with good reason, given the mediocrity seen with their continued play. The Eastern Conference remains abundant with its ineptitude and far be it for me to suggest , but anyone who still believe the Cleveland Cavaliers are even remotely capable beating the top five teams in the West Conference over a seven-game series , then those fans of the Cavaliers had better think long and hard as to how good they believe Cleveland to be.

LeBron James might not have played a part in David Blatt’s firing, but after it was revealed his relationship with Blatt’s successor Tyronn Lue went beyond a head coach , player relationship , one has to wonder what were the behind the scene maneuvers which led to David Blatt’s downfall and his firing by GM David Griffin . The Cleveland Cavaliers will be back on court when they take on the Detroit Pistons on Friday evening , 29th January , 2016.

I have never been convinced the NBA has ever sought to be truly tough on their players, when it comes to reprehensible behavior ! Granted, David Stern might well point to the fact , Latrell Sprewell was fined and suspended for his now well chronicled altercation with P J Carlessimo and then we have the idiocy of Gilbert Arenas and his former teammate Javaris Crittenton trying to prove their manhood , by drawing their guns in the locker rooms of the Washington Wizards as a way of resolving an argument over a gambling debt. Suffice to say beyond that idiocy , we also have to deal with the widespread homophobia and misogyny constantly at play within the NBA . Need we forget also, the league hierarchy’s poor response to Donald Sterling’s ignorant racial rants which took time for the league to deal with in a timely manner. What else would you expect of a hierarchy ran by a group of predominantly aging Caucasian males who preside over the upper echelons of the NBA ?

There are teams we know in the NBA who are seen as perennial contenders within this league and among them one might consider the Los Angeles Clippers to be among the elite teams . However, in light of the news Blake Griffin will be missing from the team’s lineup for the next five weeks , one has to wonder what the player was thinking when he got into an altercation with Mathias Testa , an equipment manager with the Clippers’ organization. Griffin has since issued an apology on Twitter apologizing to his fans and the Los Angeles Clippers for his conduct. This is not the first time Griffin’s temper has gotten the better of him and the player’s lack of maturity must now come into question and what his loss may well mean to the team in the coming weeks.

Doc Rivers , as the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers appears to be more concerned with the loss of the player . rather than Griffin’s conduct and the fact neither he, the Clippers or the league have seen fit to take action against the player. What this suggests about the NBA and perhaps the Clippers to lesser extent , is the feeling unless a player has committed and charged with a a felony , then he should be treated with ‘kid gloves’ and the presumption of innocence. However, when one takes into account a repeat offender as is the case with Blake Griffin, then you have consider the hypocrisy of the league and the Los Angeles Clippers at this juncture.

With the All Star Game a little over two weeks away it will be interesting to see how the teams position themselves for the second half of the season and their continued ambitions over the remainder of the schedule.

With the first Grand Slam Tournament of ATP Tour and WTA entering its final phase it has been interesting to note the speed with which the ATP hierarchy has shrugged off the claims of their being widespread gambling within the world of Men’s Tennis and that certain players had been paid to “ throw matches” . In a report actually commissioned by Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) which governs the men’s sport , they went on to state that the evidence was inconclusive but they would take it under advisement pending a meeting of their Executive Committee before issuing a formal statement. The fact that sixteen of the world’s top fifty players were named in this report, should be a cause for concern, not only among the fans of the game but also for the International Tennis Federation (ITF) but also the IOC (International Olympic Committee) .

Novak Djokovic the world number one among the Men’s Rankings has seen his name associated with this report and the player has acknowledged the fact that early in his career he had been approached to throw a game , which in the end he refused to do.

The Australian Open has always been the first official Grand Slam Tournament on the tennis schedule for the game’s calendar year. Many of the world’s top-ranked men and women will be competing at the event in Melbourne , Australia , with the Men’s Finals taking place on Sunday and the Women’s Finals on Saturday afternoon. This two-week event takes its toll on the players both mentally and physically because of the humidity and heat which remains constant throughout the tournament . Serena Williams will be looking to make a successful start to the season as she once again looks to possibly rewrite tennis history.

Serbian. Novak Djokovic a five-time champion at the Australian Open will simply be looking to solidify his position atop of the Men’s Rankings and win his sixth title at this particular event. The story itself concerning gambling within the sport of tennis is nothing new , but what might be considered unnerving has been the fact the ATP hierarchy has not taken the claims of the investigation seriously, albeit , in the past , at least three players within the rankings have either been fined or suspended after allegations were proven that they had thrown matches for financial gain , to the benefit of the illegal bookmakers bribing the players in the match fixing.

Tennis alongside , professional soccer on the continent of Europe, has long been a target of not only organized crime and their involvement with gambling on sports , but there are claims now being made , many of these criminal enterprises and syndicates would like to ultimately make their way across the Atlantic, get a firm foothold in North America and a piece of the multi-billion dollar gambling industry which takes place here, covering the entire gamut of sports at the collegiate and professional level. We know from years past, illegal wagering and the shaving of points , have taken place within the world of College Basketball . Within College Football and the NFL , one could make allegations , there too , such activity might well have been widespread , but as we know , it is not something the NCAA or the NFL would like to discuss openly in public.

From my own perspective with their being so much money awash within the world collegiate sports and at the professional level , claims of match fixing . corruption and bribery will always be common place and no matter how much oversight is said to be taking place , somewhere and somehow those involved will always be able to find a way to elude the very people said to be overseeing the sport. Does anyone truly believe the sport of boxing remains clean and is still above reproach given the lack of oversight by the numerous international governing bodies now presiding over the sport ? Chime in with your thoughts as you see fit on the points raised within this article.

Tophatal ….. 01/29/2016

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The wheels on the bus goes round and round , round and round …

The wheels on the bus go round and round

We have passed the midway point of the number of games played over the course of the NBA season, but we have yet to see the events of the 2016 NBA All Star Game , which will be played at the Air Canada Centre home to the Toronto Raptors. Both conferences this season have seen their ups and downs as well as with the intra-conference match-ups between the East and the West. In the Western Conference the Golden State Warriors have led the way for much of the season , but as of late the Warriors have suffered a few slip-ups , as the San Antonio Spurs have made inroads into Golden State’s lead in the conference. Within the Eastern Conference , last season’s losing finalists the Cleveland Cavaliers are having problems of their own over the last six games. Now while many are claiming injuries have plagued the Cavaliers this season, I believe the real issues for Cleveland has been the fact players have yet to gel as a team.

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In the lead-up to the All Star Game , it will be interesting to see how the teams will fare in comparison to last season at the same point of the NBA schedule. For the most part it should not come as a surprise to see how good the Golden State Warriors continue to be. They have hardly skipped a beat since winning their title of last season. While Steve Kerr has been absent due to health issue, his assistant Luke Walton has taken over the reins as the team’s head coach. Walton has shown the uncanny acumen not often seen from a coach with such limited experience in his role , but when you take into account his experience as a former player and the success achieved with the Los Angeles Lakers , it easy to understand why he has been able lead this team with such authority in his role as the head coach.

The Warriors’ front office , headed by co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have seen the value of the franchise appreciate since their purchase of the Golden State Warriors, along with the continued press coverage given to the team and their stars such as Steph Curry , Klay Thompson , Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala . Given the Warriors’ impressive start to the season , before their recent setbacks , there was a thought the team was capable of surpassing the all-time regular season wins’ total of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10). They remain on par to exceed sixty-five wins along with the possibility of the Warriors making a successful defense of their NBA title. I certainly believe Golden State is capable enough of winning the championship , but their path to the title could be derailed by the San Antonio Spurs , who over their last fifteen games have been among the best teams in the league. San Antonio currently has the second best record in the NBA and their making inroads into the wins’ total of the Golden State Warriors.

As the reigning NBA League MVP Steph Curry is having an exceptional season with some terrific performances for the Golden State Warriors. He is the consensus leader to win the NBA League MVP Award for a second successive season following in the footsteps of some his most recent peers LeBron James and Steve Nash who have won back to back League MVP Awards. If there is more than one possible challenger to Curry’s chance to win the award , it could well be from the likes of Kawhi Leonard , Kevin Durant , Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins and LeBron James. Golden State will next take to the court when they face the Chicago Bulls led by Jimmy Butler , who appears to have assumed the mantle as the leader of this team. Butler’s teammate Derrick Rose remains an integral cog to the franchise , but with his injury woes in recent years , it is hard to try and now justify the financial investment in the point guard .

I am not so sure what to now make of this idiocy with some analysts and New York Knicks’ fans regaling the world with the fact the franchise is now worth $3 billion , while also being the most profitable team in the NBA . Personally, I believe the fans of the Knicks should be more concerned they are no better than a .500 team of players, where there is very little depth to the lineup overall . Perhaps the one saving grace of the season happens to be Carmelo Anthony leads the team in scoring , while rookie , Kristaps Porzingis is having a very good season among all rookies to have played on average twenty minutes or more per game. Derek Fisher is still learning on the job , while being provided with very little aid from his coaching staff . There won’t be any calls as of yet , for Phil Jackson to make a welcome return court-side, but who can what is likely to happen should the Knicks continue to falter ?

Derek Fisher will be preparing the New York Knicks for their next encounter when they tip-off against the Los Angeles Clippers at home in Madison Square Garden , New York City, New York on 22nd January .

I think it is a pretty safe bet to suggest the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers will most certainly lose their fortieth games by no later 1st February , based on their propensity for losing over the last eighteen days ! Both of these teams are in complete disarray with neither Jim Buss as owner of the Los Angeles Lakers or Sam Hinkie of the 76ers having a clue how the resurrect the fortunes of their respective franchises. Mitch Kupchak is like a blind man without the aid of a walking stick and guide dog when it comes assessing talent for the Lakers’ roster. Philadelphia might be even a worse situation given the fact former general manager Sam Hinkie was relieved of his duties and Jerry Colangelo was brought in to become Head of Basketball Operations for the franchise. I believe the Los Angeles Lakers won’t be making any moves concerning the roster and will simply play out the rest of the season, hoping to make some sense of it all. Kobe Bryant will end his illustrious career with another losing season added to his resume’ .

Jerry Colangelo will have to completely reassess the Sixers’ organization from top to bottom , starting with the front office , moving down to the coaching staff and the entire playing roster. Certainly for Brett Brown as the head coach , his days have to be numbered and the same has to said of coaching assistants. Among the players it is hard to say where on should start and end. The drafting of players for this franchise has been a monumental bust with a number of the players taken in 2012 , 2013 , 2014 and 2015 are no longer with the Sixers. This can be best summed up by looking at the attendance levels for the Sixers and the team’s record over the past three years. Philadelphia has now become a bad franchise getting worse and unlikely to turn things around anytime soon. In their last game the Philadelphia 76ers were able to overcome the Orlando Magic defeating their conference counterparts 96-87. The Los Angeles Lakers were not so lucky, falling to the Sacramento Kings 112-93 .

Anthony Davis remains a prodigious talent and that can be seen from his impact with the New Orleans Pelicans and on the NBA. The power- forward has to be viewed as the best player in the league at the position. As the number one overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Not due to become a free agent until 2021 , he is still in his rookie deal , but will undoubtedly be looking maximize his worth as league one of the league’s premier power forwards .

Over their last eleven games the Pelicans have struggled to stay abreast of their Western Conference counterparts as well as the rest of the NBA . In their last contest the New Orleans Pelicans had a fifteen-point win over the Minnesota Timberwolves , defeating their opponent 114-99 and will prepare for the next game when they face the Detroit Pistons at home , playing at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans , Louisiana on Thursday, 21st January , 2016. The Pelicans are 3 ½ games out of a playoff berth within the Western Conference based on the current standings as of 20th January. The eighth and final berth is currently held by the Sacramento Kings (18-23).

To my mind the team which has proven to be the biggest disappointment this season , has to be the Houston Rockets ! Somehow they have found a way to be lackluster , complacent and playing with no passion , while head coach JB Bickerstaff tries to make sense of his best lineup from among his twelve man roster. James Harden remains the Rockets’ best player even if he doesn’t provide a great deal of defensive presence for Houston. As a defensive unit overall the Rockets are giving up 105.7 points per game the fourth highest in the NBA , with only the Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers allowing more points per game .

Harden and his teammate Dwight Howard were seen as the one-two punch likely to bring some resolve for the Houston Rockets, but since Howard’s acquisition by the franchise the Rockets have failed to deliver in numerous ways. Dwight Howard has proven to be an enigma and a conundrum all rolled into one. He is no longer the player who was once dominant defensively , having won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award on more than one occasion. The rumors continue to percolate that the Rockets might well seek to trade the center at the trade deadline, if the team isn’t in contention for a playoff berth . Where the Houston Rockets now go from here will be incumbent upon the players themselves and coaching acumen shown by the coaching staff.

The Denver Nuggets have not been a force to be reckoned with in the George Karl was head coach of the franchise and while Carmelo Anthony was the talk of the town as a player with the Nuggets. The last postseason appearance for Denver was several years ago and the makeup of the roster at the time was considerably different than it is today . The Nuggets fell to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the Western Conference postseason from 2012 . This season under the coaching acumen of Michael Malone the Denver Nuggets are struggling to compete in the Western Conference while not yet making their presence felt within the Northwest Division .

In their last game played , the Nuggets performed poorly ,suffering loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder , led by Kevin Durant who was the leading scorer in the contest. I believe this to be an inexperienced Nuggets’ team still finding their way through the season and their unlikely to be considered a contender for their division or a playoff berth this year. Denver will play host to the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday evening, where Danilo Gallinari will be looking to put in a another solid performance for the Nuggets.

I will continue to say this until I am blue in the face and taking my last breath , the best and most successful NBA franchise over the last two decades is and will be the San Antonio Spurs ! Fans of the league who remain oblivious to this fact, have spent too much time drinking the Kool Aid , while being enraptured with the play of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and others. During the time-frame in question , the Spurs have quietly ran off eighteen straight seasons of NBA Playoff appearances and won five NBA titles , a feat unmatched by any other franchise in NBA history , much less North American professionals sports’ franchise history. Yet, because the San Antonio Spurs are not in a top-five market among market advertisers or within the cultivated texture of the Madison Avenue executives and NBA fans in general , the Spurs are often ignored and mildly admired .

The Golden State Warriors may well have bolted out of the starting gate with an impressive start to their season reeling off victories at an amazing rate , but over the past the twelve games Golden State have played second fiddle to the San Antonio Spurs in more ways than one. Steph Curry might even have the League MVP Award all sewn up , given his performances and leadership shown with the Warriors , but if there is a serious contender to the race, then Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs would fit the bill , as he has been the primary reason San Antonio remains within a hair’s breath of Golden State’s record at this point of the season. A conference finals’ clash seems assured, if these two teams remain consistent , albeit , the Oklahoma City Thunder are close by (third best team in the West) watching things unfold.

Kawhi Leonard’s statistics might not match up favorably to Steph Curry’s , but there are intangibles being overlooked as to what he has brought to the Spurs since he was acquired in a trade with the Indiana Pacers . A choice I now believe Pacers’ executive Larry Bird must deeply regret ,having selected Leonard as a first round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft . by the franchise.

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San Antonio over their next few games will be hoping to keep the momentum going and they have a fairly easy test in their next game when they face the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center , Los Angeles , California should prove fruitful. Yet , it will be San Antonio’s scheduled contest at Oracle Arena on Monday night which will provide them a real test , when their opponent will be the Golden State Warriors. This game should be something of a barn-burner between two highly proficient teams skilled at just about every position on the floor.

Through the first half of the NBA season what do you believe has been the most surprising story to come out of the schedule ?
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Tophatal …. 01/21/2016 7:47 pm

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Tit for tat …

With the weekend results now in within the NFL the constant there appears to be with regard to the postseason , has been the fact any showdown between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will draw the nation to their television sets.

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Granted, when the New England Patriots play as the guests of the Denver Broncos , this game will be the marquee match-up of the conference championship games being played next weekend. Regular season and postseason meeting between these two prolific quarterbacks have become drama and a thrill ride ever since these two players entered the league. It would not be remiss to suggest the NFC championship game between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers will be taking a backseat to the AFC championship game. There Carson Palmer will seeking to create an upset with the elimination of the Panthers, but I believe with the season had by Cam Newton we are likely to see Newton and the Panthers make their first appearance in the Superbowl !

Back to the AFC contest and the expectations for Broncos’ head coach Gary Kubiak , his coaching staff and in particular Peyton Manning. Kubiak succeeded John Fox and now having taken the team to the brink of another Superbowl appearance , the thought has to be ,can Manning guide the team to another Superbowl victory, which would be the second of his illustrious career ? As the Denver Broncos’ owner Pat Bowlem seeks to overcome his medical issues the debilitating illness of early onsets of dementia , it has to be said beyond the drama off the field , there will be a great deal of drama on the field when this game kicks off.

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(1) Tom Brady (12) of the New England Patriots has another postseason meeting with Peyton Manning (18) when the two teams meet in the AFC championship game this upcoming weekend. Brady has met Manning on several occasions during the postseason and regular season with a favorable record overall. AP Photo/ Matt Wilson

 

An exceptional season for the Carolina Panthers coming within earshot of only the second unbeaten season in NFL history , since the inception of the sixteen-game regular season schedule. The Panthers’ lone defeat came at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons , where Panther’ head coach Ron Rivera rested several of his starters during the waning during the second half of the game , leading to their 15-1 record . It was perhaps in the Panthers’ best interest to have lost the game and concentrate on the ultimate goal of the postseason and a Superbowl victory. Getting past the Arizona Cardinals will prove to be a tough task, but not an impossible one for the best team in the NFL. It is a game where the two opposing head coaches Bruce Arians and Ron River a will have show all of their acumen , once this contest gets a full head of steam.

With the recent announcement by wide receiver Reggie Wayne , it is intent to retire from the NFL , this Hall of Fame bound player steps away from the game and he has to be recognized as one of the best players of his era at the wide receivers’ position. His career stats place him in the upper echelons of his contemporaries, as well as his peers . His relationship with former teammate Peyton Manning is well-respected by both players and among their contemporaries. Wayne was unable to find a permanent team during this past season and now with his career having wound down , there is no need for him to assess where he ranks among his peers.

If one of Reggie Wayne’s contemporaries Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions has seriously mulled retirement , then one has to consider his position and the fact his talents have been wasted with the Lions over the past five years. The struggles of the franchise have been well-chronicled and the brunt of this malaise has to borne out by Ford family as the owners of the Lions and the clear ineptitude shown by the front office as well as the list of head coaches to have held the position over the last decade. Who can forget their 0-16 season, where the team at the time , from week to week sank to new levels of ineptitude. .

I have long been a admirer of Calvin Johnson and his retiring from the game I would have to say , would come as a complete surprise ! Johnson’s angst is understandable , where another season of incompetence was there for everyone to see with the team’s failure this season in the NFC North and the lack of real progress seen with Matt Stafford. I believe Stafford to be overrated , with his continued failings there for everyone to see ! Calvin Johnson is not due to become a free agent until 2020 , but with the continued disillusion of the wide receiver there might well be a chance the front office might well relent and possibly trade the player , knowing they would be able to obtain a slew of players in return. It remains to be seen if GM Bob Quinn would believe such a deal to be in the Lions’ best interests. For the moment Jim Caldwell’s job appears to be safe as the head coach of the team and there is no apprehension on my part in believing another year of this team failing to make the postseason and Caldwell would be relieved of his position. For the moment Jim Caldwell’s job appears to be safe as the head coach of the team and there is no apprehension on my part in believing another year of this team failing to make the postseason and Caldwell would be relieved of his position !

Eight wins in two seasons and Lovie Smith’s coaching career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ tenure with the franchise came to an abrupt end, after the decision was made to fire the head coach. Needless to say, the finger-pointing began with blames being apportioned right across the board. Idiotic praised, was heaped upon the shoulders of the team’s top , draft choice and the number one overall pick from this past season’s draft as Jameis Winston’s rookie season was an inauspicious one . A 6-10 season summed up the incompetence seen , even if Winston threw for over 3,000 yards and had a five-touchdown performance game for the Buccaneers . The only player on the team to have truly made an impact was running back Doug Martin who amassed over 1.200 rushing yards to finish among the top-ten rushers in the league for this past season..

Lovie Smith’s firing has led to the promotion of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter , who in his formal acceptance of the position stated , he would seek to improve the Buccaneers’ performance of the franchise . I believe it will be a tough task for a rookie head coach whose head could be on the chopping block.. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem to have a revolving door with regard to the head coaches of the franchise over the eight seasons . Needless to say, GM Jason Licht’s position could come under a great deal of scrutiny during the upcoming season should the Buccaneers fail to contend. The only way is up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as this franchise seeks to reinvent themselves once again . Can it get any worse for this NFC South based franchise, whose only lasting moment of glory was their Superbowl victory over the Oakland Raiders ? This has been the only thing the Buccaneers’ fans have been able to cling unto for just over a decade. There is likely to be a big reassessment of the Buccaneers’ roster by the front office with several players likely to be jettisoned this off-season.

Other than the NBA , MLB and the NFL there are few sports in North America where a $20 million a year salary seems to be the norm. Within baseball , this stat is very much the norm , as too with basketball as well as football . Leading the way among the players with this classification are those with their guaranteed contracts , salaries and the fact a number of them have failed to live up to perceived expectations . With millions being paid out annually in salary commitments , it begs the question how can the NFL continue with their antitrust tax exempt status while teams at the drop of a hat, pending league approval , leaves a municipality in something of a rut ? Stadiums have been built for these professional franchises , whose owners are among some of the richest individuals in America.

With the recent announcement that the league hierarchy had granted their approval for the relocation of the St Louis Rams whose billionaire owner , Stanley Kroenke is the sixty-fourth richest individual listed on Forbes’ 400 list. Kroenke’s estimated $7.4 billion dwarfs many of his contemporaries within the league and the fact his franchise and the San Diego Chargers have been granted their relocation wish to move to the greater Los Angeles area.

Stanley Kroenke purchased a large tract of land in the city of Industry , California hoping to develop the acreage , with a stadium as well as commercial development, covering retail and entertainment concerns . The proposed stadium however is unlikely to be private-financed , with the belief , Kroenke and the league seeking the financing of the venture, coming by way of public funding (bond issue) jointly by the cities of Industry and Los Angeles . This proposal may well sit well with fans of the Rams, who would have yearned to see the NFL brought back to the greater Los Angeles area , but beyond that, their concerns on the impact to the infrastructure of the cities in question as well as the ongoing budgetary woes for both municipalities, isn’t within their sphere of thinking.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will continue to wax on lyrically concerning how competitive the league has become , its growing impact from an economic standpoint , which seems to be the only issue the commissioner can point to as a sign of positive growth. . Elsewhere, under his leadership, he remains an abysmal failure on a litany of issues encompassing the NFL . .Issues which the league has failed to address with any degree of their outcomes being long last ing much less being morally correct. .

As the NFL postseason comes into view what if anything are you hoping to see from the games being played this upcoming weekend ?

Tophatal …..

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Not on my watch …

Not on my watch

Well,the NFL regular season came to an end and teams seemingly squandered their chance at a postseason berth . With the wildcard round underway , the participants provided the fans with a great deal of excitement and disappointment and nowhere was this more prevalent than the games which saw the demise of both the Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings . Both teams entered the postseason as divisional champions and were perhaps widely expected to make their way to the divisional round of the postseason. It was not to be for the Marvin Lewis coached Bengals as they completely fell apart in their astounding loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Cincinnati’s defensive player Vontaze Burfict imploded showing his wrath , denigrating officials , his head coach as well as opposing players on the Steelers’ roster. As to what this suggests about the Cincinnati Bengals , can best be summed up by simply stating this was a team completely out of control , with the coaching staff showing little, if any experience in their coaching acumen.

For Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota Vikings their loss might well as have been as dramatic as anything seen in the NFL over the past eight seasons in NFL postseason history. The continued knock against the Vikings will be the fact they are not as competitive as many believe them to be. It might well have been a complete fluke the team actually won the NFC North , but herein lies the issue for the franchise, Teddy Bridgewater the Vikings’ junior rookie quarterback still remains a work in progress , while the defense though steady , have yet to reach the level of consistency expected of a perennial championship contender. Adrian Peterson a year removed from his suspension , came back with something of vengeance , but he proved that a player of his caliber cannot do it all by himself. At this stage of Peterson’s career , I am not thoroughly convince Minnesota remains the best place for him to round out his career or the franchise gives him his best chance of winning a Superbowl !

With the Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings now bowing out of the postseason, it’s now onto the divisional round of the NFL postseason where the match-ups become all the more intriguing.

The top seeds within the AFC and NFC will enter postseason play with the Carolina Panthers led by Cam Newton facing the Seattle Seahawks , while the Green Bay Packers will be the guests of the Arizona Cardinals. In the AFC Peyton Manning makes a welcome return to postseason play , while the idiot Brock Osweiler supporters, can simply shut the hell up with their idiocy of Osweiler being the immediate future for the Broncos. The backup quarterback in the last of his regular season performances proved himself to be barely adequate in his role , but many believed him to be the answer to the Broncos’ prayers. Denver will face the Pittsburgh Steelers at Sports Authority Field in Denver, Colorado on Saturday afternoon. The other AFC contest will feature defending Superbowl champions the New England Patriots facing the Kansas City Chiefs , with Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick seeking to win his fifth Superbowl title as a head coach. Belichick and Tom Brady should they win the title , can also use the spectacle as a poke in the eye of the NFL hierarchy for their ham-fisted approach in seeking to punish the player and franchise for their alleged actions in the Deflate-Gate Affair. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league hierarchy are still hoping to punish the player albeit , after their suspension of Brady was overturned in a US Federal Court Judicial process. Goodell is adamant the quarterback is guilty of the allegations, but the league’s own evidence supporting the charges are circumstantial and held very little merit.

When your teams’ season can only be viewed as a disaster , then there isn’t a great which can be done to appease your fans other than to uproot your franchise and move elsewhere. With the recent announcement that the NFL has granted their wish to see both the San Diego Chargers and St Louis Rams back in the city of Los Angeles. The one question I have to ask, will the league seek to make their feasibility study on the issue public or will we simply have to take their word this is in the best interests of both teams as well as the city of Los Angeles along with their residents ? This much is abundantly clear, the taxpayers are on the hook for this whole process from a financial standpoint. The NFL as constituted , is seen as a not for profit business, but repeatedly , all Roger Goodell has sought to address throughout his tenure , has been the rise in revenues, the profitability of the teams and the league’s growing expansion around the globe. Never let it be said , the league hierarchy actually cares about the fans , much less the players, who are essentially overpaid subjugated slaves.

For the moment it would appear the St Louis Rams are a definite go with their return to Los Angeles set for 2016, but the San Diego Chargers have not yet made their thoughts known on the league’s approval. Alex Spanos and his family as the owners of the Chargers will likely move , with arrangements being made for a venue to be made available for the team’s home games in 2016. Where this now leaves the Oakland Raiders and their long-held ambitions to also make a return to Los Angeles is just about anyone’s guess at this juncture. As to the thoughts the Raiders would be a playing a greater part in determining the AFC West title. Well that came and went with the absurdity of the team’s performances on the field of play last season !

In what has to be seen as one of the best national title games in recent College Football history , as Alabama rolled past the Clemson Tigers , with both teams putting on an exhilarating display of football. Nick Saban claimed his fifth title as a collegiate head coach , while Alabama (Crimson Tide) won their fourth title in the past eight years . The Crimson Tide will round out their year as the national champions , ranked number one again and have to be seen as a prohibitive favorite for the national title next season. DeShaun Watson and Derrick Henry solidified their respective positions as two of the best players in College Football during 2015,

The Golden State Warriors’ indomitable start to the season and their continued dominance has placed this team among the most consistent seen in recent NBA history. In the absence of Steve Kerr , Luke Walton is proving himself to be of considerable worth to the franchise as the team’s head coach. In all likelihood , Walton could very well end up being a head coach with a team at the start of next season. All signs now seem to be pointing to this and it only seems a matter of time before it all becomes a reality. Steph Curry , Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are the primary reasons why the Warriors have been so good this season. As to the nay-saying idiots seeking to detract from Thompson’s play this season , perhaps they need to be reminded this is a team game and solely about individual glory?

Golden State in their most recent contest took care of the Miami Heat with consummate ease getting by their Eastern Conference opponents on their way to an eight-point victory . The Warriors next game will see them on the road when they face the Denver Nuggets in a Western Conference road contest . Golden State is well on its way to nothing up their fortieth win of the season, leading their closest rivals by a considerable margin in the wins’ tally .

While the Golden State Warriors have remained dominant the same cannot be said for the Brooklyn Nets , who in mid-season have decided to rid themselves of head coach Lionel Hollins and general manager Billy King, The upheaval within the front office with King’s dismissal was not unexpected bu the firing of Hollins , may well have caught everyone by surprise. While there may well be justification for the coach’s dismissal , a great deal of the blame must rest on the shoulders of the team’s billionaire Russian entrepreneur , mogul and owner Mikhail Prokhovorov. The owner gave cart-blanche for King to try and outspend their rivals in assembling a high priced roster which was all to no avail repeatedly over the past five seasons. The fact, the current roster bears no likeness to the roster fielded during the 2012-13 season , should give you an indication as to how far things have come with this franchise and the present predicament they now find themselves in .

Tony Brown is now the interim head coach of Brooklyn Nets and I believe it is unlikely he will be given the position on a full-time basis. Rumors are now already in motion , with the front office seeking to gauge the interest of Kentucky Wildcats’ head coach John Calipari. Calipari does have NBA experience having been a former head coach of the Nets , but I believe he is far too comfortable in his role and clearly doesn’t want to deal with the bloated egos of the players at the professional level. Besides, he’s the coach of one of the most envied and wildly known programs in all of Men’s College Basketball.

Over their last fifteen games played the Brooklyn Nets have labored during the time-span in question.The Nets’ last victory came by way of a win over the Boston Celtics on the 2nd January, a span of six games , during which the Nets posted an anemic 1-5 record. Tony Brown will now prepare the Brooklyn Nets for a Wednesday night game against conference rivals the New York Knicks which will be played at the Barclays Center , Brooklyn, New York. Considering the intense rivalry between these two teams over the past three seasons this contest should tell us a great deal about the directions the two clubs are heading in .

For the New York Knicks this season has been something of an indifferent year , with the team having its struggles, but suddenly showing some signs of life. Derek Fisher might well be finally coming into his own as an NBA coach . The Knicks find themselves in second place within the Atlantic Division behind the Toronto Raptors(24-15) and with the team playing some credible basketball.

Sitting mid-table within the Eastern Conference , the New York Knicks might well be considered a playoff contender , but I feel the team is still a long way off from where they need to be ! How the Knicks fare over the remainder of the season will be predicated on the mindset of the team.

Pat Riley , now a senior executive with the Miami Heat has an association with the well-known NBA franchises., with his first professional mark coming as a player with the New York Knicks , also as a head coach with the New York Knicks , finally to be followed with the Heat. Having been the architect of all three champions successes for the Miami Heat., you can well understand why his success has left an indelible mark with all three NBA franchises. This season for the Miami Heat , without LeBron James having left the team after their last title , the franchise now finds it self at a crossroads. Their two elder statesmen Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are now in the twilight of their respective careers. Amare’ Stoudemire is proving to be nothing more than a stop-gap measure, even if his salary is deemed minimal . Yet , there might be nothing more Pat Riley would like to prove to his detractors, than to win another title without four-time League MVP LeBron James . His departure from the Heat might not have created a great deal of anger, but in some circles it was deemed James felt he was ill-served by Riley’s unwillingness to bolster the roster .

Erik Spoelstra as the Miami Heat head coach along with the coaching staff have worked diligently to have the team playing with a great deal of resolve, This can be seen with the play of several of the Heat’s youngsters on the playing staff, while the veterans also continue to show they have what it takes. Whether not the Heat has what it takes to beat the best in the East , we will have to take under advisement. Miami over their last eight games have been fairly competitive , but the feeling remains consistency , year-long will be the key for the team. In their last contest the Miami Heat fell to the Golden State Warriors in a 111-103 loss, with the defending champions showing why they continue to have the better of the Eastern Conference. Miami will be on the court Wednesday night when they face the Los Angeles Clippers led by Blake Griffin and Chris Paul .

How bad can an NBA franchise be and why does the NBA hierarchy allow teams to intentionally tank their seasons , while the fans are actually being defrauded ? Oblivious to this all, are some of the idiot fans and analysts who subscribe to the belief a team will be able to resurrect their fortunes by way of the NBA Draft . It doesn’t appear to be working out for the Philadelphia 76ers as their season continues to implode before our very eyes.

Joshua Harris as owner of the 76ers has been extremely negligent from a business and competitive standpoint , concerning the franchise over the past six seasons. Brett Brown and the coaching staff remain completely out of their depth. The firing of Sam Hinkie as the general manager will not cure what ails this franchise and I seriously doubt the hiring of Jerry Colangelo to head the franchise’s Basketball Operations will lead to an immediate turnaround in the short or long-term ! Key players such as the Sixers’ last two first round picks , I certainly don’t believe will be sticking around to play for an noncompetitive organization. Harris for his part, has sought to apportion blame elsewhere for the team’s continued woes, when he has been just as complicit in the debacle as the players and coaching staff in recent years.

Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid have yet to make their mark for the Sixers and in all likelihood both players will continue to struggle with the franchise. If the coaching staff is unable to get the best out of these two young players then the chances of Philadelphia getting better anytime soon will not be happening for the foreseeable future. Free agents will be unwilling to come to a franchise where there is no track record of recent success. Cap space availability now and next season doesn’t portend to anything meaningful. Granted, with the acumen of Jerry Colangelo , anything is possible , but as I have stated before the damage has already been done , due to the negligence shown by Joshua Harris.

At no point during their season have the Philadelphia 76ers been able to put together a winning streak of two games or more and considering their record it is easy to understand the reasons why !

Statistically , beyond the lack of coaching acumen shown by Philadelphia 76ers, the fact there seems to be some sort of pleasure being gleamed from the ineptitude indicated , there is no way the NBA hierarchy can continue to suborn this type of incompetency and believe it best serves the interests of the league . It is an insult to the fans of the game and if nothing else indicates the league’s top executives are just profit-driven and not much more beyond that ! The Sixers for their part , can continue to be among the least supported teams in the league alongside being its worst .

Do you believe professional sports’ hierarchies have an obligation to ensure the fans are provided with the best product available or just there to simply make money for their teams ?

Tophatal ……..

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” As We Enter” … Nas & Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley

 

Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and bestow greatness upon those who are deserving of it …

Major League Baseball made their formal announcement for the inductees of the 2016 Hall of Fame class , with Ken Griffey Jr and Mike Piazza leading the list of nominees for the class. Among the list were also, holdovers from 2015 , where the likes of Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds , Mark McGwire , Gary Sheffield and Roger Clemens were the most recognized of the names .

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First time nominees for the 2016 class provided the fans with new names , many of whom like Piazza, Sosa, Bonds , McGwire, Sheffield and Clemens were closely associated with the steroids’ era of the late eighties and through last decade and entering into this decade. While the stoicism of the BBWAA continues to be one where they consider themselves the bastion of all things pure about the game of baseball. What cannot be denied has been the mere fact the Baseball Writers’ Association (BBWAA) has been hypocritical in their addressing and reporting the issues and evidence of the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs within baseball.

While there will be continued claims the players who ran afoul baseball’s archaic rule were not breaking the law, what was paramount once the were rules in place, players simply ignored the rules and a rampant epidemic ensued, with a widespread pandemic use of banned substances at the Minor League Level as well at the Major League Level (MLB) . During Bud Selig’s reign as the Commissioner of baseball , his apathy knew no boundaries as the ball-players eschewed the rules and cheated their way to fame, glory and a great deal of money while defrauding the public and obliterating some of the most hallowed records in the game of baseball. Selig’s successor Ron Manfred appears to be walking the same path as his predecessor and the claims made by Bud Selig , that baseball now has the most stringent testing policy in all of professional sports is as comical as it sounds.

Ken Griffey Jr’s long anticipated Hall of Fame induction was a certainty , as the player’s career and the fact he remained untainted by allegations of steroid use added to the aura which surrounded the long-time Seattle Mariners , Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox standout outfielder and multi-faceted All Star. What seemed inconceivable about Griffey’s balloting, was the fact he failed to garner a unanimous vote with three judges failing to cast a vote in his favor. Only Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver in BBWAA history has garnered more votes, but Griffey leads by way of the percentages received .

Mike Piazza’s career has been well-chronicled and he is considered to be one of the best offensive powered catchers in baseball history. Like Griffey, he was never able to capture that elusive World Series’ ring , though each made postseason appearances at various points of their respective careers. With these modern-day icons entering the Hall of Fame , one now has to ask the pertinent question , at what point will either the BBWAA and baseball”s hierarchy truly seek to address the issue of steroids still being proliferating the game of baseball and when will the Players’ Union (MLBPA) actually seek to themselves address the issue , deal with the underlying problems and educate their members as well as the players at the Minor League Level as to the inherent dangers of misusing steroids and other banned substances? It was never dealt with by former Executive Directors Donald Fehr , the late Michael Weiner or , Wiener’s successor and current union Executive Director Tony Clark .

In 2017, the list of eligible players due to be part of the year’s ballot for induction into the Hall of Fame will once again have the players who failed to obtain the required seventy-five percent of the voted for enshrinement will be once see another crop first-time eligible nominees as well as holdovers . I am inclined to believe those players will not make the cut once again and among the fresh faces on the ballot, it will be difficult to truly suggest a case can be made for several of the players viewed as eligible. The most likely candidates to receive the votes assuring their induction would appear to be Vladimir Guerrero, Jorge Posada , Trevor Hoffman , Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Mussina . Their careers I believe , should assure them of induction, but again, given the pomposity of the BBWAA , nothing is guaranteed or even written in stone.

Far be it for me to suggest the off-season shakeups which took place , with a number of players finding new homes , having declared their free agency and we witnessed the type long-held belief, baseball’s front office executives and owners are nowhere as smart as they believe themselves to be. The Los Angeles Dodgers with their $300 million payroll of last season will enter 2016 , with a newly revamped roster , new managerial staff with Dave Roberts succeeding Don Mattingly as the team’s manager. Less we forget also, Zack Greinke opted for free agency and then signed a six-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks . From my own perspective, while the addition improves the look of their starting pitchers’ rotation, it doesn’t mean the Diamondbacks can be considered legitimate contenders for the NL West. The division I believe remains the Dodgers’ to lose , unless we see the reemergence of the San Francisco Giants , who in 2015 failed miserably in just about every aspect of their game.

This upcoming season in baseball should be an eventful one , with these two divisional powerhouses Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants likely to entertain their fans throughout their seasonal meetings as witnessed last season. These two ball-clubs will begin their regular season schedules with Dave Roberts taking the Los Angeles Dodgers crosstown to meet the Los Angeles Angels in a game to be played at Angels Ballpark in Anaheim, California on 2nd April, 2016. The Arizona Diamondbacks will be play host to the current World Series’ champions the Kansas City Royals , while the San Francisco Giants will play the Oakland A’s at the O.Coliseum , Oakland , California ,.

The talents of Mike Trout are being wasted , while he remains the focal point of the Los Angeles Angels and as good as the Angels were last season , with Trout and his teammate Albert Pujols pounding out hits and home runs with such regularity. You have wonder why Mike Sciocsia and his managerial staff failed to guide the team to the MLB postseason . It was widely felt Mike Sciocsia would have been fired , but instead , it was GM Jerry DiPoto who abruptly left the organization , disillusioned that he was being undermined by the manager as well as not having the total support of Arte Moreno , billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Angels.

Billy Eppler has since succeeded DiPoto as the general manager and the Angels were not major players in the free agency market during the off-season. What we are likely to see from the Angels, are refocused efforts, with an emphasis on youth , with the offense built around Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Personally, I believe the real weakness with the Angels has and will remain their lack of depth among the pitching staff. Their relievers and starters have to be more consistent throughout the season rather than showing a great of inconsistency.

The past two seasons have indicated to us how good the Kansas City Royals just happen to be and their emphatic triumph over the New York Mets was one of the most lopsided World Series played over the last ten years. Terry Collins’ Mets team were never in the running for the NL East based ball-club to win the series. The pitching and hitting for the New York Mets was ineffective and there was never a player on the roster ready to lead by example. In the case of the Royals there was an eagerness about the team and their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the greater good , while playing as a team .

Kansas City Royals’ GM Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost will enter this season looking to fortify their position as the best team in baseball. Kansas’ biggest challenge could come from the likes of the New York Yankees , Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers over the course of their schedule in 2015. Having lost Johnny Cueto to free agency with the pitcher joining the San Francisco Giants , thereby strengthening what will be a very good pitching staff. Moore will will undoubtedly seek to bolster the team’s own pitching rotation during the off-season. Pitchers and non-roster invitees will be invited to Spring Training which is just over six weeks away.

Whatever is now happening with the Cincinnati Reds the blame for the team’s woes this past season are firmly being placed at the door of GM Walt Jocketty and his inability to acquire and draft players capable of creating a team which can compete the NL Central much less within the rest of baseball. The Reds have not a made recent postseason appearance in a number of years and the thought of relevance concerning the organization is whether or not Pete Rose will ever be reinstated or ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame. With Rose’s rejection to be reinstated within baseball, it has all but closed his chances of receiving the game’s biggest honor , beyond winning a World Series , is being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Rob Manfred doesn’t believe there has been enough contrition on the part of the former Cincinnati Reds’ manager and player.

As to the Reds’ continued woes , the managerial staff seems beside itself and while Joey Votto remains the focal point of the team, there is a common belief Walt Jocketty is on the verge of having a fire sale, gutting the roster and simply going with players from their farm system as well as retaining players who are inexpensive in terms of their salaries . The payroll for the Reds this upcoming season will be among the lowest in all of baseball .

Bryan Price will enter his first season as manager of the Cincinnati Reds hoping to imbue the team with confidence and the belief they are are capable of competing with the best the game has to offer. The first month of the team’s schedule should tell us a great deal about the team and whether or not Price has the Reds on the right track. Cincinnati will begin their regular season schedule with a game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday 4th April , 2016 at Great American Ballpark , Cincinnati, Ohio,.

Out with the old and in with the new as Don Mattingly comes into town, expected to do great things in resurrecting the fortunes of the Miami Marlins . Mattingly leaves behind a $300 million payroll team of the Los Angeles Dodgers to now steady a capsized vessel known as the Marlins , where the payroll of the team is now a minuscule. Since 2012 , the struggles of the Miami Marlins have been well-chronicled and a year during which former manager Ozzie Guillen led the team into an abyss while portraying himself as a bigoted buffoon , repeatedly exhibiting the type of behavior often associated with someone who shows a great deal of ignorance . A last-placed finish within the NL East forced the hand of the front office leading to his dismissal and the implosion of the roster during off-season of that year. Many of the high-priced acquisitions were sent packing elsewhere and the roster since then has been completely been completely reassembled along with managerial turnover having been equally indecisive.

The biggest news’ splash made by the Miami Marlins was their decision to sign big league slugger and their All Star player Giancarlo Stanton to a multi-year $325 million deal , making the player among the highest paid individuals in baseball. Stanton for his part has been productive for the franchise and perhaps the sole reason to watch the team play, albeit, they have for the moment still been able to retain their NL Rookie of The Year pitcher Jose Fernandez . Yet, it doesn’t mean GM Michael Hill isn’t willing to listen to offers for their young star , in spite of the often mistimed releases from the front office concerning updates regarding Fernandez.

Heading into this season it will be interesting to see what Don Mattingly and his managerial staff will have to offer this Marlins’ team by way of their managerial ingenuity and what the players themselves will seek to do once on the field. Miami’s biggest obstacle to winning the NL East and securing themselves a postseason berth , will undoubtedly come from the newly revamped roster of the Washington Nationals , who have to be seen as the preseason favorites to win the division as well as quite possibly the NL Pennant . With a new manager in tow , Dusty Baker taking over the managerial duties and Bryce Harper now proving himself the best all-round player in the NL , all signs could very well be pointing to an exciting season for both of these two teams.

For Bryce Harper having come into his own last season, showing prodigious talent and maturity , the player will now seek to have another emphatic season , while trying to impress upon Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo he is worth being offered a long-term deal tying him to the Nationals and the organization’s aspirations of winning a World Series. Scott Boras , Bryce Harper’s agent, will undoubtedly seek to make his client the highest paid player in the game and a multi-year $400 million deal will likely be sought by the agent. Mike Rizzo and the Nationals’ owner , Ted Lerner might not be willing to pay a King’s ransom while the ball-club seeks to remain viable and enlarge its fan-base .This could very well be the year where records within the game are set to be broken. but not necessarily for the right reasons.

An exciting year awaits within baseball, if the teams believed to be good enough can meet or exceed the expectations of the fans and analysts alike . The Kansas City Royals will be hoping to hold unto their crown while seeking to fend off all challengers seeking to dethrone them as World Series champions. Which players and teams do you believe will prove to be dominant this upcoming season ?

Tophatal ….

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I love the smell of Napalm in the morning …

I love the smell of Napalm in the morning !

Well, in the  aftermath a tumultuous  NFL season we now know the twelve teams   to have made the NFL postseason. The New Denver Broncos and New England Patriots are the two top-seeds within the AFC, leaving the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals as the top seeded contenders within the NFC.

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Results   emanating   from Sunday’s games left us in no doubt who the top teams were within the    conferences after the two hundred and fifty-six games played. As usual with the postseason approaching , speculation will be raised to the possible coaching carousel likely to take place. There is the likelihood we might well have seen the last game coached by Tom Coughlin   as the head coach of the  New York Giants   after the team’s rather embarrassing loss to divisional rivals the Philadelphia Eagles.

With Chip Kelly’s abrupt firing by the Eagles’ front office , the number of coaches terminated this season are numbered at four , with the recent dismissals of Mike Pettine with the Cleveland Browns and Jim Tomsula with the San Francisco 49ers . As abysmal a season had by each of the teams in question , they were not the franchises with the worst record in the NFL during the 2015 regular season schedule . That accolade belonged to none other than the Tennessee Titans (3-13) a mark which was also shared with the Brown. What this might suggest about both teams can be best summed by their results over the course of the season and their statistical play throughout.

With the top two teams in each conference having a bye in the wildcard round of the postseason , teams seeded three through six will begin the playoffs with the scheduled games due. Those match-ups are likely to prove very intriguing with perhaps the best of the bunch being the NFC contest , which pits the Seattle Seahawks against the Minnesota Vikings . The two opposing quarterbacks Russell Wilson of the Seahawks and Teddy Bridgewater of the Vikings, will provide the fans to see two of the more productive passers within the NFC this season.

Though we have not yet reached the midway point of the NBA season there can be no denying which team has been the best in the league at this point of the schedule. Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors have set a blistering pace leaving others in their wake . Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr , in his absence has seen his understudy Luke Walton guide the team with a great deal of coaching acumen , leading a number of analysts to believe, Walton will likely be pursued by a number of teams at the end of the season, once the customary firings begin to take place. There are likely to be at least six teams seeking the former player’s services, but I do believe he will be reluctant to leave, unless his desired destination is with a franchise where there is a more than reasonable chance of success.

Coming off another victory , Curry and his teammates will next take to the court to face the Charlotte Hornets at the Oracle Arena , Oakland, California on Monday, 4th January . This should prove be an easy win for the Warriors against an Eastern Conference opponent given the team’s record against the conference and their record at home . The Hornets for their part will be looking to keep apace within their conference as well as against a Western Conference opponent where the team has had relatively little success this season.

The Los Angles Lakers (8-27) and the Philadelphia 76ers (3-33) have combined for eleven regular season wins at this point of the season , having played roughly thirty-five games. It would be fair to suggest both teams could very well end up with what would be franchise lows in terms of regular season victories. There also appears to a remote possibility the Sixers are well on their of equaling the NBA league-low number for regular season wins, a mark held by 1973 Philadelphia 76ers .Wins have been have been very difficult to come by for this Brett Brown coached Sixers’ team . Philadelphia’s last victory came on the 30th December when they defeated the Sacramento Kings by the score of 110-105. The team’s next game will be a home contest against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday evening.

For Byron Scott and the Los Angeles Lakers , their season has been one of sheer ineptitude with only sparing glimpses of Kobe Bryant at his best among the players on the Lakers’ roster. It is hard to envisage where the Lakers now go from here , as GM Mitch Kupchak and team owner Jim Buss have very few alternatives with regard to the depth on the roster. Capable perhaps of only playing for their self-respect, the Los Angeles Lakers do not appear to have a short-term, much less a long-term strategy once Kobe Bryant has played his last game for the franchise. Bryant made it official , this would indeed be his last year with the Lakers , formally announcing his retirement for the end of this season. Unlikely to be a major player in the free agency market , salary dumping or otherwise, Kupchak can only seek to assess the current crop of Los Angeles Lakers’ players and go from there with regard to rebuilding the roster. With a game coming up against the Golden State Warriors , which will be on the road , it will be interesting to see how the team will fare against a conference opponent , the reigning NBA champions .

The College Basketball season is now in full swing and with the teams gearing up towards ‘March Madness’ ,and it has been an interesting season , which has meandered its way through a slew of games. Seated atop of the rankings are the Kansas Jayhawks (12-1) under head coach Bill Self and his Jayhawks’ team . Wayne Selden , Perry Ellis and Frank Mason are the leading scorers for the Jayhawks , but a great deal of praise this season has been heaped upon Ben Simmons of the LSU Tigers . Simmons is considered to be a consensus first round lottery pick and the likely number one choice of the team privileged to have the first pick in the 2016 NBA Draft . Judging by his game that is not without merit for a player whose all-round skill-set has been compared to has been compared to four-time NBA League MVP and Cleveland Cavaliers’ player LeBron James . Great praise indeed, but I believe it to be way too premature to be making such comparisons ! The LSU Tigers have an upcoming game against the Kentucky Wildcats.

Bill Self and his Kansas Jayhawks will have pride of place when they tip off against the Oklahoma Sooners in a battle of top-ten ranked teams.

We know the SEC to be the best conference in College Basketball and there can be no questioning of that very fact. The programs within the conference, speaks volumes as to the quality of play witnessed each year. Florida are now going it alone without Billy Donovan going as the head coach of the program. His successor Mike White is being asked to fill a big pair shoes after the considerable success achieved by Donovan during his reign. Florida is off to an inauspicious start to their season and their most recent game was an exhilarating victory over the Georgia Bulldogs with a fourteen-point 77-63 win . White and the Gators will be on the road to face the Tennessee Volunteers in a contest which should bring out the best in both teams.

I have to admit in recent years I have grown tired of the sport of boxing ! It remains corrupt , devoid of real leadership at the international level and most notably without any real transparency by way of leadership here in North America. The USBA which is affiliated to the IBF remains a constant joke, like many of the international counterparts which now hold sway over the sport internationally. Consider the fact there is no undisputed champion in any of weight categories and it is easy to understand why this sport is dying on its knees and close to being in need to resuscitation.

Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao may well have brought back a certain amount of excitement in what was Mayweather’s last professional bout which saw close out his career with an unbeaten 49-0 record. In reality however, this fight was five years too late and simply lacked the excitement the fans truly hoped for . Lackluster, would be too soft a word to describe the title fight , where both fighters walked away with an estimated $300 million to split between them , Mayweather taking the larger slice of the purse before taking into account another $200 million in television rights from the overseas sales and merchandising revenues grossed.

From my own perspective , I believe Floyd Mayweather will make a return to the ring to push his record to 50-0 . Mayweather has not really fought anyone of consequence in the past four years and even though his resume’ boasts and unbeaten record , along with multiple title defenses , one could suggest the record might well stand the test of time , but it truly lacks the hyperbole many believe it deserves.

Several boxers at the welterweight and light middleweight division would undoubtedly like to head into the ring and got toe-to-toe with Floyd Mayweather, but herein lies the caveat with the unbeaten fighter. He cherry-picks his opponents and simply added insult to injury , when he chose Andre Berto , to push his record to 49-0 . Berto was certainly undeserving of a title shot and the fact he was not high enough within the welterweight category clearly indicated the titleholder wanted a “patsy ” in the opposite corner for his last professional bout.

It has been ten years since the heavyweight category last had an undisputed champion with the last titleholder of the titles being British fighter Lennox Lewis. Since Lewis’ retirement from the ring there have several claimants to the differing established belts as recognized by the four main international governing bodies. Unfortunately, the entities in question have failed to give the fans what they yearned , a unified and undisputed champion. Siblings Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko for years, each held claim to one version of the title but refused to defend their versions against each , seeking to unify the division. With Vitali having retired it was left to Wladimir to reign supreme over the division , which in many ways he had done with a string of successful defenses, against less than credible opponents.

Yet in what was believed to a bout where he was considered to be a clear-cut favorite , he fell to the boxing skills of Tyson Fury of Great Britain in what some considered to be one of the biggest upsets in recent boxing history. The bout itself was far from being an instant classic but what it lacked in drama was made up for with the passion shown by the challenger as he wrestled away the title from the Ukrainian champion. However, in what one could only deem as farcical the IBF (International Boxing Federation) has seen fit to strip Tyson Fury of the belt he legitimately won in the ring. The explanation if it is to be believed, smacks of stupidity on the part of the governing body and from the former titleholder , Wladimir Klitschko , who was said to be not only upset with the decision rendered by the judges in a fight he lost in a unanimous decision, but also by the fact Fury sought not to grant him an immediate rematch within ninety days. If boxing has a flaw , then it is one of its own self-importance and indulgence , where the fighters themselves lack as much credibility as the various governing bodies which preside over the sport.

Boxing has lost a great deal of credibility around the globe, albeit , if there are claims it remains the one pugilistic and combative art form every fight fan yearns for . I am not so sure those claims are any longer legitimate and can be proven. While boxing has seen a marked decline , the rapid rise of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) now under the banner of the UFC , seems to be giving fans something they really yearn for. UFC has brought legitimacy and business acumen to a sport which has now become the fastest growing participant sport across the globe. Many of the fighters within the UFC stable of MMA stars are fast becoming recognized names as well Hollywood action stars and crossover celebrities. Suffice to say, the UFC hierarchy under Dana White has struck box-office gold , even if White is considered to be a dictatorial executive.

Ronda Rousey’s shocking and surprising loss to Holly Holm may well prove to be a welcome change for the sport and actually shape the direction and open even more opportunities for women who might see an interest in entering the genre. Rousey created a buzz needed when many felt MMA had lost some of its appeal. Now with her defeat, her drive and eagerness to reclaim her Bantamweight title could be the best thing to happen to Women’s MMA as well as the UFC in general.

In recent months several champions have seen their reigns come to an end within the UFC and added new honorees within the sport. It could well be seen as a good thing for MMA and its viability long-term if the excitement created can be maintained . Certainly , Dana White is taking a new approach of growing the UFC brand globally as well as expanding across North America , with the executive’s biggest wish being to see the sport be granted the license to promote and stage events in New York State.

For some strange reason the State Legislature of New York State sees no need to grant a license and continues to show their disapproval of a sport they deem barbaric. Last I looked, with the issues stemming from the NFL and how that particular league hierarchy has dealt with the issues of chronic head trauma , I would have to say the New York State Athletic Commission has been oblivious to the idiocy of Paul Tagliabue and his successor Roger Goodell , who have somehow chosen to remain in the dark ages as to the deniability of the damages caused from years of brutal head to head helmet contract driven by the physicality of football within the NFL. The league itself , still seeks to challenge the multi-billion dollar settlement obtained by retired by players in a Federal Appeals Court ruling , while also seeking reinstate their four—game suspension of Tom Brady for his alleged involvement in Deflate-Gate. Begs the question, at what point will both the New York State Athletic Commission and the NFL hierarchy actually wake up and smell the coffee , much less the napalm ?

Sports in general as always is in need of a good shakeup , be it at the competitive level or among its hierarchical leadership structure. One thing for sure, without real change , things tend to stagnate and show signs of recession rather than real growth or excitement.

Tophatal ………. NB : By clicking on the individual images seen below you can view them in a reformatted size along with a narrative.

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