Heark The Herald Angels Sing …
As the world of sports enters into the Christmas season and all of the festivities one would come to expect at this time of the year , we can also reflect on what has taken place during 2016. In the world of College Football , was there ever any doubt the Alabama Crimson Tide would be riding high at the top of the College Football world ? This team has simply ran roughshod over the opposition all season long and they now find themselves in the playoffs , as head coach Nick Saban looks to win another national title in the modern era. Suffice to say , the only thing likely to deny the Tide their chance of winning a title will be the complacency shown by the team. From my own standpoint, I do not believe Alabama will be that naive or over-confident.
Well, we’re almost through with the NFL season and who would have thought the Dallas Cowboys would be considered the best team in the NFL throughout much of the season? The team’s rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has been sensational in leading the Cowboys to an eight-game winning streak , though as of late the team has slipped up. Having already qualified for the postseason and winning the NFC East with consummate ease . The question being asked , can the Cowboys win their first Superbowl title in over a decade ? Certainly , on paper Dallas does appear to be good enough, but the postseason is a completely different environment from the regular season.
Dak Prescott in his rookie season shown a great deal of maturity , but one has to wonder if he will be able to show all of the mental traits needed to win. Jerry Jones , the team’s owner , knows he has experienced veteran Tony Romo to call on, but anyone with an ounce of common sense will know Romo’s record in the playoffs can be best described as being mediocre. In week fifteen the Dallas Cowboys will be in action and it will be interesting to see if the decision is made to give Tony Romo some playing time in the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) in what might be the best game on the schedule this upcoming weekend.
If the Dallas Cowboys are said to be flying high, then the woes of the Cleveland Browns’ (0-13) record is a sign of not just a bad team , but one which has been lacking confidence all season long . The Browns now seem to be well on their way of equaling the unnerving season of the Detroit Lions in 2008 . For all of those who have forgotten Detroit somehow managed to go 0-16 , a mark in history which goes down in infamy. All of the signs with the Lions are now to be witnessed with the Cleveland Browns and their inauspicious season , as it unfolds . For head coach Hue Jackson , he cannot be blamed for the team’s woes and the fact there appears to be no leadership from anyone on the roster. Needless to say, heading into week fifteen after thirteen consecutive losses , there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of hope the Browns will be able to avert a fourteenth straight loss. Cleveland will be on the road when they meet the Buffalo Bills on Sunday 18th December in Orchard Park , New York at New Era Field (Ralph Wilson Stadium). Defeat there and most certainly the odds-makers will be shortening the odds on the franchise not averting losses in weeks’ sixteen and seventeen .
The death of 1994 Heisman Trophy winner and former Chicago Bears’ running back Rashaan Salaam came as a shock to many . Salaam had a four-year career in the NFL , which never lived up to hype or heights of his collegiate career . His apparent suicide, is still under investigation by the authorities , but it would appear there are mitigating factors now coming to light , as to why he would choose to take his own life , with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Rashaan Salaam is just another in a long line of former NFL players suffering from acute or chronic neurological disorders brought on by the impact of playing not only at the collegiate level but also in the NFL , where brute force seems to be the norm , with bone-crushing hits fitting of a gladiatorial theater . Meanwhile , the NFL hierarchy under Commissioner Roger Goodell , continues to create the perception , the league is doing to enough to protect the players and aiding in the well-being of retired players. In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth , as proven with the league seeking to fight the civil suit and settlement of $1 billion in US Federal Court , filed against them as defendants.
As an $8billion a year behemoth , it is easy to understand why the NFL seeks to protect its brand and image , but with no clear transparency and the autocratic rule by Roger Goodell and the team owners goose-stepping on queue behind him, anyone with the belief the league has a compassionate nature to it , is sadly mistaken.
So here we go and it’s the off—season in Major League Baseball and the free agency market is now heating up , as teams make a big splash signing players to deals , which in many respects , we should now come to expect. Team payrolls in some cases , are likely to increase over last season, with the Los Angeles Dodgers once again leading the pack in 2017 with the highest payroll in the game. Dodgers’ GM Farhan Zaidi and the club’s Head of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman will try to put together a roster which they believe will be able to compete in 2017 . This past season proved to be a monumental disappointment for the Dodgers, as they were expected to challenge for the NLCS Pennant in 2016.
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ NLCS loss to the eventual World Series champions the Chicago Cubs was an embarrassment of riches for the Cubs. Chicago manager Joe Maddon and his team were gifted the series , because simply put, the Dodgers have come to be known as “chokers” when it comes to their recent forays in the postseason. Consider the fact, it has been over twenty-five years since their last appearance and victory in the ” Fall Classic” and you have to wonder why their narcissistic fans believe they are always good enough to win ? The Dodgers’ biggest move of the off-season was the signing of pitcher, Kenley Jansen to a five-year deal . Whether or not Jansen can prove to be as productive for the team this upcoming season as he was in 2016 remains to be seen. As a closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers , Kenley Jansen was among the best relief pitchers in the game last season . While I expect the Dodgers to be competitive this upcoming season , I am not holding out any hopes of them being considered to be a legitimate contender for the World Series. They have yet to learn anything at all from their recent postseason appearances and it will continue to be a problem for the organization.
With the recent announcement Allan ‘ Bud’ Selig and Atlanta Braves’ Team President John Schuerholz will be among the inductees into the Hall of Fame in 2017. I have to wonder what were the precise merits for Selig to have met the criteria for his induction ! I have no problem with the induction of Schuerholz as his resume’ simply speaks for itself concerning the success attained with both the Kansas City Royals , but even more so with the Atlanta Braves. The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) have their very own set of rules and the Veterans’ Committee continues to be a bastion of sheer stupidity , but in reality the institution itself remains an endeavor of comedic delight and idiocy. This has to be one of the very few institutions , who believe itself to be above reproach and who clearly believe they know what they are doing at every given moment. When your vote can be bought and sold at the drop of a hat , concerning a nominee , it simply smacks of incredulity , connivance and deceit on the part of the BBWAA.
Bud Selig was among the longest-serving Commissioners in Major League Baseball and while it could be said he presided over the growth of a game , to the point where it is now a mult-billion dollar commercial enterprise annually. It has to be said, the game has seen its fair share of mistakes made by the hierarchy under Selig’s guidance. I find it extremely difficult to laud someone , who remains unwilling to admit his mistakes as Bud Selig has failed to do repeatedly over the years ! During the ” steroid tainted era “ , when the likes of Mark McGwire , Sammy Sosa , Barry Bonds , Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro were among the notable names known to have taken an illicit substance. Bud Selig as well as the members of the BBWAA and other journalists failed to investigate in-depth , the cheating which took place.
Steroids remained rampant during the last decade and it was rampant within the Minor Leagues , something which Selig failed to acknowledge. During his tenure also, baseball was no longer an Olympic sport, as MLB and the sport’s international governing body failed to reach a compromise on comprehensive drug testing within the sport. This was a requirement of not only the IOC (International Olympic Committee) , but also the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) . Now in spite of claims maintained by the former commissioner , as well as his successor Rob Manfred , the sport still finds itself in something of a quandary. Both Bud Selig and Rob Manfred are hoping for baseball’s return to the Summer Olympics along with the sport of Softball. The IOC remains reticent about the game’s return to the Summer Olympics and it is unlikely either sport will be welcomed back with open arms.
With the sport of baseball no longer having an international presence MLB in conjunction with the World Baseball & Softball Federation have come up with the grand idea of an international team competition called the World Baseball Classic . This quadrennial event will return to the international stage in March 2017 , at a time when teams in baseball will be in the midst of Spring Training . Team USA will be a participant in the competition along with teams from thirty-one international countries .
As for the aspirations of the US Team , with their having never won this tournament , it could be stated without a victory and even with the competitive nature of the competition . It does seem remarkable with the talent at the coaching staff’s disposal , they have failed miserably on each occasion the event has been staged . Claims of the tournament being an instantaneous success has been mixed and the television audience domestically, has been nowhere near the levels anticipated by MLB . On an international front , the attendance levels have been high , as too have been the television audiences around the globe, but the sport has not really grabbed the public’s attention in the way baseball’s hierarchy and the game’s international body had anticipated.
In what might be deemed a highly competitive NBA season after the major trades which took place during the off-season. It has to be said a rematch of last season’s NBA Finals might be the most appealing thing the fans could wish for. Reigning champions the Cleveland Cavaliers would like nothing better than to make a successful defense of their title, while the beaten finalists the Golden State Warriors will be attacking this season with a renewed vigor. The addition of Kevin Durant to the Warriors’ lineup makes this team the most formidable in the entire league . Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr and the coaching staff are still showing the acumen seen last season as the Golden State Warriors’ dominated the league , but fell short in the NBA Finals.
This season the Golden State Warriors have proven themselves more than up to the task, as they dominate within the Western Conference and have opponents in the East quaking in their boots. The dynamics of this Warriors’ team, is one where they have a three-pronged offensive attack led by Steph Curry , Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant. It would also be foolish to overlook the contributions of others on this team. In their most recent game the Golden State Warriors defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves by an eight-point margin on their way to a 116-108 victory .
Golden State will be back on the on the court this Tuesday night , when they will face Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans in all Western Conference clash . This game should prove to be a very interesting contest between two very determined teams.
At this point of the season, the leading candidate for League MVP might be none other than point guard Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder . Westbrook has been on a unique tear , having recorded six triple doubles this season , a franchise record . The league record in a season for triple-doubles is nine , recorded by NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain . It will be interesting to see if Russell Westbrook can break the record of Wilt Chamberlain , but for a player who is often criticized as being selfish, but I feel the point guard has taken on the mantel of being a leader of this Thunder roster , after the departure of Kevin Durant. Westbrook has picked up the slack , but has to be aided by his teammates if the Oklahoma City Thunder are to have any chance of success this season.
College Basketball has gotten underway and already there have been one or two surprising results. Sitting at the top of the heap are Villanova (10-0) , unbeaten and looking like the top team in the nation . In their last game the Wildcats laid down the “smack” in taking apart Notre Dame , winning by an eight-point margin, 74-66 , in a contest where had they taken every opportunity available , the margin of victory would have been far greater.
Villanova head coach Jay Wright and his coaching staff know that they and the team are now under a microscope , as they have a target on their back as the number one team in the nation. Wright and the Wildcats’ next game will be against Temple (Owls) on Tuesday, 13th December , 2016 .
Storied program or not , you have either come to love or hate the Duke Blue Devils . Head coach Mike Krzyzewski continues to have a commanding respect from legions of Duke fans across the country. Granted , of late the famed head coach has been under a great deal of criticism and justifiably so , but at the end of the day , you simply cannot deny his achievements . Krzyzewski and the team have suffered an early defeat on their season schedule , but as we all know , the season is about the NCAA championship and not much else. Duke will set its sights on another title , as Mike Krzyzewski seeks to add to his already astonishing legacy. Next up for the Blue Devils will be a game against Tennessee State . in a contest which should offer the fans a real treat. For Duke to win the NCAA title this year , I do believe this team has to be more consistent all-round , with their being total dominance by their best player , Luke Kennard who is averaging 20 ppg , 3.2 assists has a 52% field-goal percentage for his season’s statistics .
Now considered to be a PGA Tour veteran, former world number one , Tiger Woods made his return to the Tour , although his first appearance at the Hero World Challenge was not in an officially sanctioned tournament by the PGA . Woods no doubt, wants to regain the form which made him the most dominant golfer on the Tour for several years, having won fourteen Grand Slam Major tournaments , second only to golfing legend , Jack Nicklaus .
There was a time when a Tiger Woods’ sighting on a golf course during a tournament, a Grand Slam Major in particular, actually meant something. However, due to recurring injury problems , a drop off in form and his well-chronicled personal issues, Woods has now become something of an aging fossil among his contemporaries . Tiger Woods has now dropped so far down the World Golf Rankings , you need to turn several pages just to see a mention of his name , never-mind his standing among the Fedex Cup listings. Woods’ next appearance in a PGA Tour event might well be the subject of a great deal of conjecture and speculation , as the player himself has not made us a ware of his playing schedule for the current list of PGA Tour tournaments. If his body can withstand the rigors of the Tour, then I expect Tiger Woods to play a minimum of fourteen tournaments , including all four Grand Slam Majors . I do not believe he will regain the form to make him a legitimate contender for a Grand Slam tournament , but there is the possibility, we might well see Woods lifting a trophy , having won an officially sanctioned PGA Tournament. Jason Day , Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy will seek to made those variables seem less likely. The triumvirate are all ranked in the top-ten of the world rankings .
As entertaining as this sporting year has been , with a slew of great performances , singular and team-wise , I can’t help but wonder if thing could have been better during 2016 and what 2017 will have in store for the fans ! At the end of the day, we will be left with memories , some good and some bad. The sporting gods are watching and the likelihood will be, a great deal more is about to happen , expected and unexpected. there are