I Spy With My Little Eye ….

I Spy With My Little Eye   …..

So last night within the world of sports  the big  news’  story  was  that of the  NBA Draft   and  the  Lottery  Pick , with  the   New  Orleans Pelicans obtaining  the  top  pick  in the  2019  NBA  Draft  Class  , with the franchise  taking    Duke   player  Zion  Williamson  as  the  number  one  overall  pick.  Williamson   is  seen  as  the  best  player among  the draftees  and  his  case was  made  all  the  more  emphatic,   with  the  statistics  seen during  the NCAA Tournament  , even though   the program’s  appearance  was short-lived.  With  the  drafting rights   of  Williams  ,  there  is the belief that the front office  of the  Pelicans  might now  be  in a strong  position to  convince  their   All  Star  forward   Anthony  Davis  to  re-sign  with  the  franchise rather   than  pursue free  agency .

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Zion Willliamson , second from the right is seen here as the announcement is made that the New Orleans Pelicans will have the number one overall draft pick for the upcoming NBA Draft .

All signs do seem to be pointing to the fact that Anthony Davis’ seven-year career with the New Orleans Pelicans will come to an abrupt end as the player wishes to seek new challenges elsewhere. There would be a litany of teams certainly interested in a player of Davis’ prowess, with his all-round undoubted skill-set . Davis is not due to become a free agent until 2021 and with his apparent unwillingness to remain with the Pelicans, it would be in their best interest to trade the center to another franchise , who could perhaps offer something of merit in return.

Anthony Davis and LeBron James just happen to share the same agent and sports’ management company with Rich Paul as the CEO of Klutch Sports . It is widely known that during the season , James sought out Davis as a potential teammate , with him joining the Los Angeles Lakers . With Magic Johnson still having some influence within the organization , albeit , that he’s no longer Head of Basketball Operations. It remains to be seen if Johnson can still persuade the Pelicans’ forward to join the Lakers’ franchise , with them having to give up a considerable amount of talent in order to acquire the All Star in a trade.

The NBA Playoffs are now in full swing and the respective conferences are now set with their Conference Finals now underway. Within the East , the top two seeded teams will meet with the Milwaukee Bucks playing host to the Toronto Raptors in the best of seven-game series. In the West , reigning NBA champions the Golden State Warriors will meet the surprisingly resilient Portland Trailblazers , who will be led by their talented point guard Damian Lillard . His performances throughout this postseason have been scintillating to say the very least.The game-one opener saw the Warriors overcome the Blazers to take a 1-0 lead, winning the contest, 116-94 . Game two of the series will take place once again at the Oracle Arena , in Oakland , California on Thursday night, 16th May , 2019 . The Eastern Conference Finals Series’ opener will be on Wednesday evening as previously stated and it will be interesting to see how these two teams will fare .

Away from the NBA Playoffs, other than the Draft Lottery Pick having taken place, the surprising news which made the headlines , was the hire of Michigan Head Coach John Beilein as the latest hire of the Cleveland Cavaliers , to succeed Tyronn Lue as the franchise’s latest Head Coach. It is being revealed , Beilein will be signed to a five-year deal , with Cavaliers’ GM Kobe Altman set to make the formal announcement . This also seems to have the blessing of team owner , Dan Gilbert . Beilein’s ascension to the position would make him also one of the oldest Head Coaches in the NBA , while also being a rookie in the position. Suffice to say , as the Cavaliers seek to rebuild , the learning curve for the coach will be a considerably tough one .

Call it cynicism or just plain awkwardness , but when an athlete believes himself to be something special , while having not having proven themselves in the field of battle , you just have to wonder what is going on in their mind ? Josh Rosen the recently acquired Miami Dolphins’ quarterback is aggrieved that his former team’s GM Steve Keim , failed to offer him the opportunity to prove his worth with the Arizona Cardinals . Rosen claims, he wasn’t consulted by Keim , as the general manager chose to take Kyler Murray as the number one overall pick in the recent NFL Draft (2019) . Last I looked , it wasn’t Steve Keim’s position to consult a player over personnel decisions for a team , much less the fact , Rosen’s play for the Cardinals was far from overwhelming .

Josh Rosen should consider himself lucky , that he was given the chance to move on to the Miami Dolphins , where he will succeed another failed quarterback , Ryan Tannehill , whose tenure with the franchise , proved to be a very unsatisfactory one. From my own perspective the Miami Dolphins will need all the help they can get this upcoming season , as too will the Arizona Cardinals , as each failed miserably last season within their respective divisions and conferences .

When it rains , it certainly does pour and for the New York Jets , this franchise is now beset by a deluge, as the Jets fire their GM Mike Maccagnan , with his being replaced by Adam Gase , current Head Coach , who for the moment will be fulfilling both roles within the Jets’ organization. It is abundantly clear that after last season, the Jets were in need of some radical changes within the front office , coaching staff and among the player personnel. Well the NFL Draft took care of their needs , as did some timely trades. Yet the belief remains , Maccagnan’s tenure and the failure in 2018 , played a big part in his ouster. Far be it for me to suggest, but the Jets are still a long way from where they need to be and they will be in a for a long haul if they’re to make it back to the NFL postseason , given the fact that their last appearance
came
during the 2010 season , when they reached the the conference championship where they faced the Pittsburgh Steelers .

From here-on in, it will be interesting to see how Adam Gase seeks to improve the fortunes of the New York Jets.

The next couple of games within the world of baseball could prove to be very interesting to say the least. I’d like to think at this point of the season should be very interesting in the lead-up to the 2019 All Star Game . With the divisional standings being what they are , the teams are now gearing up to really play with some zeal. . Wednesday and there are several games of real interest to the fans who will be in attendance .

While I believe that the New York Yankees are capable of winning the AL East this season , there are still some doubts as to the veracity of this team and manager Aaron Boone . Since ,2009 when their last World Series’ victory came about , it would be prudent to suggest that team ownership are somewhat exacerbated , having not added to their tally of world championships. The New York Yankees will be in action today when they are due to face the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, New York. This will be part of their regular season meetings during 2019 , with their meetings over the last decade being very eventful.

New York Yankees’ veteran pitcher CC Sabathia , having been the most recent starting pitcher to have hit the plateau of 3,000 strikeouts . Sabathia’s next projected start could take place on the 17th May , when they are due to meet divisional leaders the Tampa Bay Rays . His record against the Rays is a commendable one , since his debut in the Majors came in 2001. If CC Sabathia is to become a Hall of Fame bound player , it will be interesting to see how his statistics will match up against a number of his peers and contemporaries .

It’s hard to fathom how embarrassing the state of baseball continues to be within the State of Florida . Attendance at the Miami Marlins’ Ballpark as well as Tropicana Field , home to the Tampa Bay Rays continues to be truly appalling , by anyone’s standards . Both of these teams will be in action throughout this week and their weekend series will see the Rays face the New York Yankees, whereas , the Miami Marlins will be matched against the New York Mets at home . The Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays will continue their in-state series as of Wednesday, with a game being played at the Marlins Ballpark in Miami, Florida . Between now and the All Star Break , I believe that Derek Jeter as the Head of Baseball Operations for the Miami Marlins in conjunction with Michael Hill will have some serious decisions to make concerning the long-term and short-term direction of this franchise. This season certainly hasn’t helped with the Marlins currently sitting at the bottom of the NL East , with one of the worst records in all of baseball. The future does seem bleak for this baseball franchise, given the real absence of competitiveness.

Another loss was suffered by the Miami Marlins , further making their season all the more plausible, as their being on the way to another losing season. At no point during their game against the Tampa Bay Rays was there any sense of urgency by the players , seeking to make this match-up competitive even from the fans’ viewpoint. Instead , the team wasted a chance to show any form of resilience. The Marlins will be back in session for their next game when they face off off against the New York Mets in a divisional game this Friday , as part of their regular season meetings , with this being a home-based series. The opposing pitchers in this contest will be Jacob DeGrom of the Mets against Trevor Richards of the Marlins.

Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers is certainly proving himself to be a player of value and all the more so, given the salary being paid to the player . He has a become a staple for the Dodgers’ fans this season, as the team blusters into their schedule , slaying many of their opponents with ease in many cases. The Dodgers will be in action over the next few days and it will be interesting to see how they will fare through the month of May as exhibited last season by this Dave Roberts’ managed roster. Roberts and his players will prepare for a weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds on the road , in the three games to be played at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati , Ohio . The first game of this series will take place on Friday evening with the opposing pitchers being Rich Hill of the Dodgers and Anthony DeSclefani of the Reds.

If the Los Angeles Dodgers are to make it back to another postseason appearance, then their play will have to rise to even greater heights than previously seen over the last eight years.

With it still being early in the season , but there are grumblings that several teams might be seeking the upgrade to their rosters , with the MLB Postseason being their clear main motive and the chance of winning the World Series . One player considered to be atop of every contenders’ list, might well be starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel . The pitcher who’s yet to make to make his debut for the Houston Astros this season. His wish is to sign with a big-market team , of which is the New York Yankees, might be the one ball-club with an inside track to land the starter , Also said to be in the mix among starting pitchers who might well be with a new team at the trade deadline , Craig Kimbrel . This season will be an interesting one during the upcoming months as witnessed during 2018.

What are the big stories which you believe will be front and center during the upcoming weeks and months within the world of sports ?


Tophatal ……….


NBA news ……..

2019 NBA Playoffs

NBA salary cap (2019)

NBA free agents (2019)

Salary cap players (2019)


NFL news …

2019 NFL schedule (regular season)


MLB news …

MLB schedule three days at a glance (15th May to 17th May)

MLB standings (division)

MLB Important Dates …


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Continue reading “I Spy With My Little Eye ….”

Let’s take a walk on the wild side …

Let’s take a walk on the wild side

The fallout of the NFL season has begun with the firing of three NFL head coaches in the past ten days. There will likely be more to follow at the end of the regular season as the teams now will play their final games of the seventeen-week sixteen-game schedule. Jeff Fisher was given his marching orders by the front office of the Los Angeles Rams . Fisher for his part , stated he was proud of the accomplishments achieved , most notably the wins attained. Unfortunately, for the Rams , his record with the franchise was deplorable and overall it was sub. 500 . Buffalo Bills’ head coach Rex Ryan was ousted after GM Doug Whaley made the decision the vociferous head coach had to go. Two seasons of absolute failure with his teams failing to perform was far too much for team owner Terry Pegula to bear. It should be noted , Pegula purchased the Bills for a reputed $1.6 billion with the understanding he wanted a competitive product on the field of play , alongside a world-class organization within the front office . Clearly , the Buffalo Bills have fallen way short of the target sought by their billionaire owner .
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Another NFL owner, whose fortunes have failed to meet his own lofty expectations , are those of Jacksonville Jaguar’ owner Shahid Khan . Since his acquiring the franchise, the Jaguars have yet to post a winning season or have a top-two placement finish within the AFC South . Jacksonville , also seem to be waiting on the maturity level of their top pick from the 2014 NFL Draft . Quarterback Blake Bortles continues to struggle and much of this stems from the fact there front office has never placed around him, a team capable enough to win consistently . Gus Bradley was made the sacrificial lamb and with good reason, as he was never able to get the best out his players during any part of his tenure with the Jaguars. His firing was not a complete surprise to most NFL fans or analysts around the league.

Several of the divisions within the NFL have a reached a conclusion concerning their winners , but there are one or two which have yet to be decided. Likewise , within the AFC and NFC , there are postseason berths which are still up for grabs and many of the teams on the outside looking in , will be hoping to make one last attempt to make it in. Not to be left out of the equation are the teams capable of playing spoiler for the aspirants with an eye on a postseason position. Needless to say, all of the outcomes will become known to the fans as the week seventeen schedule comes to a close on Sunday evening (1st January). The Los Angeles Rams are set to face the Arizona Cardinals , while the Buffalo Bills will have a divisional match-up against the New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars will find themselves at the mercy of the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday.

Hue Jackson and the Cleveland Browns (1-15) managed what a number of fans did not think would be possible for the team this season. The Browns actually won their first game of the year , having defeated the San Diego Chargers in week sixteen . Prior to the victory , the Browns managed to lose fifteen consecutive games , one shy of the regular season record achieved by the Detroit Lions in 2008 . It is a record which remains intact , but there were several people who believed the Browns were capable of matching the feat this season. Certainly, the odds-makers in Las Vegas may well have hedged their bets, but I get the feeling they favored the Chargers to pull off the victory !

I am of the opinion, you never mess with a good thing , when things are going good, why seek change ? Jerry Jones and the coaching staff are said to be ‘toying’ with the idea of inserting Tony Romo back into the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys for their final game of the season. Now consider the fact, while Romo was sidelined due to injury, the Cowboys were led by a rookie quarterback , Dak Prescott , who has since broken rookie franchise records for Dallas and actually making believers out of the detractors, who felt the Dallas Cowboys were past their prime. Not only have they been the best team in the NFC throughout the season , but also the best team in the NFL over much of the season.

Tony Romo will likely get some playing time in this game against the Philadelphia Eagles , but I do not feel it would be in the bests interests of the Dallas Cowboys were he to play the entire game ! The veteran quarterback remains susceptible to innocuous injuries and clearly as his career is in its twilight , he is no longer the passer everyone believed him to be , much less a player capable of leading this franchise to a Superbowl victory. His postseason record simply speaks for itself , in spite of the continuous excuses being made for one of the most overrated quarterbacks in the NFL over the past twelve seasons.

The Dallas Cowboys might well have been the surprise of the season , but I feel the most disappointing teams in the NFL were the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints . Both teams have very good coaches , with Chuck Pagano leading the Colts , while Sean Payton has led the Saints as their head coach for over eight years , along the way winning the Saints ‘ first Superbowl in the franchise’s history , during the 2009 NFL season . Defense and a lack of it has been one of the many issues which explains many of the woes faced by both the Colts and Saints this season. Quarterbacks Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts and Drew Brees of the Saints have been productive , but it could also be said, they are having down years by way of their own lofty expectations. Brees and his Saints’ teammates will lock horns in a season divisional rematch when they meet the Atlanta Falcons , while as I alluded to earlier the Colts will be facing the Jaguars. This season continues to be one filled with surprises and they will continue once the postseason begins .

So let me get this straight , fans are acting all surprised as the Philadelphia 76ers currently have the worst record in the NBA ? It’s not as if this wasn’t to be expected , considering the Sixers at its core remains the same team seen , as last season . The coaching staff has remained in place, with Brett Brown still serving as the Sixers’ head coach. The only real change other than another mediocre draft has been the insertion of Jerry Colangelo and his son, Bryan Colangelo into the franchise’s front office to head their Basketball Operations . Team owner Joshua Harris remains bereft of ideas and it would seem this franchise is more interested in off the court activities , having purchased several non-core basketball interests . One would have thought there would be an urgency to not only invest in the on-court product but also make sure this is a team built to be competitive and to win ?

Over their last twelve games played , the Philadelphia 76ers have performed with the mediocrity expected of a team with little or nothing to play for . Brett Brown will now prepare the Sixers for their next game when they face the Utah Jazz on the road this Thursday , 29th December . It is becoming abundantly clear the Sixers are playing to be part of the Draft Lottery for the third time in the last three seasons. It is no longer idiotic to suggest the NBA hierarchy led by Commissioner Adam Silver and the team owners are willing to accept continued mediocrity from their franchises , just as long as everyone is making money along the way . In the case of the league . when you have an estimated $7.7 billion a year in gross revenues , there are unlikely to be any complaints from within the NBA fraternity .

It didn’t seem that long ago when Rajon Rondo was on the crest of being seen as one of the elite point guards in the NBA. Having won an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics , the player soon began to become a detriment to the team and who was disliked by his teammates and coaching staff . His departure from the Celtics and subsequent travels , has seen a decline in his productivity and to the point where is now being benched by his current head coach Fred Hoiberg of the Chicago Bulls . Hoiberg has this team playing some moderate baseball , while holding down the seventh spot within the Eastern Conference and 8 ½ games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers (23-7) within the Central Division . If things continue to disintegrate between Rajon Rondo and Fred Hoiberg then the point guard’s days with the Bulls could be numbered. Though he is not due to become a free agent until 2018 , GM Gar Forman and John Paxson might think it feasible to cut their ties with the disgruntled player. Rajon Rondo continues to say all the right things , by vocally cheering on his teammates, but it cannot hide Hoiberg’s dissatisfaction with Rondo , as he is slowly becoming a distraction for the franchise.

The Chicago Bulls have essentially become Jimmy Butler’s team though he will be aided by veteran guard Dwyane Wade , as the players seek to rally behind one the league’s brightest young stars . Butler and his teammates coming off a five-point victory over the Indiana Pacers will be on the court to face the Brooklyn Nets at the United Center in Chicago , Illinois, on Wednesday night. Brooklyn’s head coach Kenny Atkinson and the Nets are in need of a win , given their sorry state of affairs at present . This will be another problem year for the Brooklyn Nets and one in which, I do believe team owner , Mikhail Prokhorov will actively and aggressively seek to sell either a majority stake or the franchise in its entirety to any interested party willing to buy the Nets. He has sunk a considerable sum into the Brooklyn Nets as an investment and it has been to no avail . Prokhorov will perhaps retain ownership of the Barclays Center and the surrounding properties owned by his holding company, but the franchise must go , forfeiture of a sale .

If DeMarcus Cousins continues along his path of self-destruction , then he will have no one else to blame but himself. It is becoming exceedingly difficult to try to justify any reason for the mercurial and talented center to be kept by the Sacramento Kings . Cousins might well be the best player on the team’s roster , but he also has become their problem child , with a combustible temperament , which is also a detriment to the team. Former Kings’ players , Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic are senior front office executives for this Kings’ franchise and it does not appear that they carry enough of an influence to change the mindset of Cousins. The coaching staff of Dave Joerger also appears to be dumbfounded and at a loss for words in dealing with their troubled star. Suspensions and monetary fines by the Kings or the NBA hierarchy has done little to sway the behavior of DeMarcus Cousins and it is difficult to see how he has the respect of his teammates at this juncture.

At 14-17 , the Sacramento Kings are third within the Pacific Division of the Western Conference , some 12 ½ games behind division leaders, the Golden State Warriors , who are for all sense and purpose running away with the division and on their way to another divisional title . For the Kings their divisional record is poor and even poorer when facing divisional opponents. The Sacramento Kings have yet to meet the Golden State Warriors this season , but their first meeting of regular season schedule will take place on the 8th January at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California ,. The two teams will face each other four times over the course of the season and I believe the Warriors will end up being the winners of the regular season series between the two teams ! DeMarcus Cousins and his teammates will have their next game against the Memphis Grizzlies at home this Saturday, 31st December .

The New York Knicks might well be the most valuable NBA franchise , solely based on their location , but when it comes to basketball legacy within the NBA everything starts and ends with the Boston Celtics or the Los Angeles Lakers . For Lakers’ head coach Luke Walton , his rookie season has been a tough baptism of fire , but he is coping well , has the respect of his players , but most noticeably , the front office have continued to back him all the way. However, on the personal side , with the revelation that Jeanie Buss had ended her four-year engagement to former Lakers’ head coach Phil Jackson . Conspiracy theorists have run amok, with the suggestion , because Jeanie couldn’t persuade Phil to return to the franchise , she torpedoed their relationship to devote more time to the Los Angeles Lakers, leaving Jackson to try and reinvigorate the fortunes of the New York Knicks.

The Los Angeles Lakers are struggling , having lost thirteen of their last fifteen games , leaving them battling among the also-rans of the West , as well as within their division . If there has been one thing which Luke Walton has been able to convince his players in doing and that is to play hard for the entire forty-eight minutes of a game. The Lakers’ last victory came in a game played against the Los Angeles Clippers on Christmas Day , but prior to that , you would have to go back as far as the 16th December when they defeated the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania. Luke Walton and his team will be looking to increase their wins’ tally, when they play their last game of 2016 , facing the Dallas Mavericks on the 29th December in a home game. The most consistent player for the Lakers throughout much of the season has been Lou Williams , averaging 18.8 points a game , a far cry from the 31.7 points per game , averaged by the league’s leading scorer and best player this season , Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder . Now one can understand why the Lakers problems have manifested themselves in the way they have done .

The Los Angeles Lakers simply have has no one on the roster who can score or average a double-double per game , much less their being any type of support coming off their bench. Defensively the team is also very anemic , but as long as there remains a commitment from the players in doing things the way Luke Walton believes they should be done, then there will likely be gradual signs of improvement from the team.

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Within the realms of the NBA and NFL which stories do you believe will create the greatest impact in the coming week or days ?

Tophatal ……….. 2016/12/28

NFL news

Week seventeen schedule

NFL standings (divisional) and conference standings

NFL league standings

Playoff picture

NBA news

NBA schedule 29th December

NBA results to date

NBA divisional standings and conference standings

NBA team stats (wins) , team stats (offense) , team stats (defense) and team stats (points’ differential)

NBA player stats and rookie stats

Heark The Herald Angels Sing

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.

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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.

Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder will be on the court to face the Portland Trailblazers this Tuesday.

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

Tophatal ……………. 12/13/2016

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Save It For Another Day ….

Save It For Another Day …

OK, so the country is in a state of shock after the events of the past seventy-two hours and I am of the belief , you cannot change a country, when the mindset of the political leaders remains ambivalent , rhetorical and pragmatic . The United States of America no longer remains the Land of The Free , but it has become about the have’s and have not’s . No other country on the earth judges its people than by the wealth amassed and the power one has by the fortune amassed. From my own standpoint , I no longer wish to make any type or real observation concerning the country , because I know in essence, things are unlikely to change , no matter who takes power at the highest levels of political office .

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In the world of sports , the NBA’s off-season has taken shape with a spate of transactions and the ongoing stupidity exhibited by analysts such as Charles Barkley and Stephen A Smith . The duo have taken things to a new level of such idiocy with their statements concerning Kevin Durant’s departure from the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors . How little they seem to remember , when it came to the orchestrated and embarrassing performance by LeBron James , when he left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat and where James would lead the Heat to two of their three NBA titles while he played for the franchise. Rather than address the fact , the NBA is no longer about team success , but more so about singular titular achievements of the league’s superstars. The fans of the NBA now have to put up with the utter bull$hit exhibited by individuals (Barkley and Smith) who clearly want to proffer up idiotic opinions, with the belief they will be listened to with a great deal of clarity and real intellect.

Dwyane Wade’s shocking departure from the Miami Heat to join the Chicago Bulls was more of a jolt , than Kevin Durant’s decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder. Heat Team President Pat Riley has played footloose and fancy-free over the last six seasons conjuring up the success for their franchise. Yet, his plan had to unravel , because the financial burden for the Miami Heat had become too much to bear. Wade for his part sacrificed professionally as well as monetarily in order to facilitate the wishes of the front office executive Yet at the end of the day , as we all know the NBA has been nothing more than a business , with team success being secondary in nature and nothing more than a bye product of it all.

In reality the league (NBA) has become entity without any heart , soul or real competitiveness, where they are no longer any great team rivalries , player rivalries or in-depth skill-set. There are but a handful truly great players in the NBA , with the coaching also being rather mundane, if not pedantic , bordering on being less than average.

Away from professional basketball , Major League Baseball is on the cusp of taking its mid-season break for the events of this year’s All Star Game being held at PETCO Park , home to the NL’s San Diego Padres . Teams are still vying for divisional supremacy as well a vital playoff berth within each league. Of late things have slowed up for the Chicago Cubs who at one point had the best record in all of baseball. That mark now belongs to the San Francisco Giants who are bring pressure to bear on their divisional rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers whose gargantuan payroll dwarfs so many of their rivals within the NL West as well as the rest of MLB . Over the last ten games played , the Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays have been the two best teams in baseball , with each compiling an 8-2 record . Though it is not reflected in their divisional standing within the NL East or the AL East where they sit several games behind the respective divisional leaders.

Coming off their last contest the Toronto Blue Jays were 5-4 winners over the Detroit Tigers in a game played the Rogers Center in Toronto , Ontario. The two teams will face each other again on Friday evening , with the Blue Jays seeking to inch closer the Baltimore Orioles , who currently lead the AL East . In the case of the Philadelphia Phillies , it has been a lack of consistency throughout much of the season which has led to their faltering behind the Washington Nationals and New York Mets within the NL East . Thursday’s embarrassing loss to the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Denver Colorado , proved to be something of a setback for this Phillies’ team , but they will get the chance to rebound from the defeat , when they meet in the resumption of their regular season series this Friday.

At this point last season , the standings within the game gave us no real indication as to how the postseason would play out for the participants . I certainly believe the last month of the regular season will play a part in what we could very well expect during the postseason foray for the teams. For now, the fans will prepare as the All Star Game festivities get underway , with the beginning of the mid-season showcase starting with starting with the Celebrity All Star Game on Saturday, followed by Sunday’s Home Run Derby , with the pinnacle being Tuesday’s big event of the whole showcase. The AL and NL rosters for the game might well have been filled with surprises , but when you consider this is nothing more than love-fest , which comes courtesy of fan voting , rather than on the merits of the accomplishment of the players up to this point of the season. Then there are bound to be a number of grievances from various arenas covering the game of baseball. Yet at the end of the day, the fans simply want to be entertained, while seeing a very competitive contest from the best players the game has to offer.

What should have been one of the biggest promotions in UFC history with the scheduling of UFC 200 , will now turn into something of a nondescript spectacle. One of MMA’s biggest stars, Jon ‘Bones’ Jones has been forced to withdraw from his proposed Light Heavyweight title bout against reigning champion Daniel Cormier . Jones has tested for a banned substance and a mandatory two-year suspension by WADA comes strong on the heels of the fighter just returning to the octagon having tested positive for cocaine after his having originally defeated Cormier in defense of the title he had to relinquish . Jones has pled his innocence stating that he could have only tested positive having taken a prescriptive medication for which he wasn’t aware was among the list of substances banned by the UFC. Plausible or not , Jon Jones has become the unwanted face of the sport because of his past offenses in and outside of the octagon. Jones , alongside Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey , are the three biggest draws in the sport , which at present is truly bereft of a breakout star, given the fact in recent months, each of the three fighters mentioned suffered losses professionally in the octagon or their reputations have been sullied with some negative press, because of actions outside the sport. UFC President Dana White , whose avuncular style and dictatorial leadership of the UFC has drawn negative reviews , is now pressed in having to deal with another damaging blow the sport.

Criticism from many circles concerning the UFC’s business dealings with contracted fighters signed to the company are not misplaced , in spite of claims to the contrary by White , and UFC’s owners , Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta . UFC 200 will still be staged , but the main attraction on the card will mark the return of former Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar who will face Mark Brown , while Miesha Tate will defend her Women’s Bantamweight title against Amanda Nunes . Daniel Cormier is likely to be tested in his bout when he faces off against Anderson Silva the former UFC Middleweight champion. These three bouts will highlight the main card for the evening’s events staged at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas , Nevada on Saturday , 9th July, 2016. If nothing else, UFC needs a shot in the arms after all of the negative publicity surrounding the Jon Jones debacle as well as the uncertainty concerning Conor McGregor’s future within Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). The Irishman seems unfazed by the antics of the UFC President , knowing full well the UFC needs him more than he needs the sport. Contract obligations asides , his staged announcement and walking away from sport was nothing more than hyperbole.

Brock Lesnar’s return will certainly give us something of a comedic spectacle, given the fact his reign as the former champion was short-lived . All-American or not , Lesnar has limited skills as an MMA fighter , where his greatest strengths are his wrestling and physique.

Serena Williams will be looking to add to her twenty-one singles’ Grand Slam titles when she faces Angelique Kerber of Germany in the Ladies’ Singles Finals at Wimbledon. Kerber , defeated Williams to win the Australian Open in Melbourne , this past January, depriving the American of her chance to equal Steffi Graf’s modern era Open record of twenty-two Grand Slam singles’ titles. Serena Williams will enter the Finals at Wimbledon as an overwhelming favorite , but I believe Angelique Kerber is not to be underestimated ! Williams is by far the best player of her generation and among the top-five female players in the history of tennis, but it is difficult to suggest she is the greatest female player of all-time. Her career record while outstanding , would pale into comparison when measured against the likes of Martina Navratilova , Steffi Graf , Billie Jean King and Margaret Court .

If Serena Williams fails in her quest on Saturday afternoon , it will not be for the lack of trying , but questions will certainly once again be raised where she ranks within the pantheon’s of the women’s game should she falter again , at the hands of Angelique Kerber.

The Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro , Brazil are just over month away and while IOC President Thomas Bach assures the world at large everything is OK. What cannot be hidden from the public , is that the country remains beset by political scandal , has an outbreak, which many believe Brazil cannot contain , in spite of assurances from the nation’s Health Ministry and the WHO (World Health Organization) . While I believe the ‘Zika Virus’ outbreak is a real cause for concern, my greatest fear, is that Brazil and its security apparatus will be unable to handle a terrorist attack . The whole world will be watching the biggest sporting spectacle to be staged each quadrennial and I have to admit , I will be fascinated to see many of the events unfold. Team USA will seek forge unity , trying to unite a nation divided by racial and economic divides , while idiot politicians and members of the media seek to suggest the nation is more unison, when it faces its greatest adversity. Nothing could be further from the truth, as there remains a perpetuation of xenophobia fomented in the bigoted rants of political commentators , Presidential candidates and even idiot members of the populace , who know little of the nation’s history, much less the reality of the real world .

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Recent tragic events , which we have now borne witness to via media resources, reminds us why very little has changed in the US over the last six decades, much less since the nation came into being. All men are not created equal and they are certainly not treated fairly under the law. Anyone with an iota of intelligence can see that for all sense and purpose the United States remains divided along racial and socioeconomic lines. It is the way in order to keep the status quo as is, with those in power , controlling the wealth and suppressing the freedom of others, specifically those who are of an ethnic background.

Tophatal …………. 2016/07/08

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A Swing and A Miss ….

A Swing and A Miss ….

Well, we’re just passed one-quarter way through the MLB schedule for this season and already there has been a managerial casualty , unlikely to be the last of the season . Fredi Gonzalez’s dismissal as the manager of the Atlanta Braves was not that much of a surprise, given the fact the team possessed the worst record in all of baseball. Elsewhere , the Chicago Cubs have caught everyone off-guard with their resolute play while leading the NL Central . Already , there has been growing discussion as to which players have been performing well and should be considered among the front-runners for an appearance at the All Star Game which is being held at Petco Park , home to the San Diego Padres . It will be interesting to see which players will obtain the largest tally of votes within the AL and NL for baseball’s mid-season showcase event.

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Several teams this season will be under a great deal of assessment from the fans as well as the analysts at large , most notably the New York Yankees who are still in transition after the retirement of former team captain Derek Jeter . This team seems to have lost its direction , while there appears to be no apparent leader , or anyone capable of showing the leadership qualities often seen by Jeter at his very best. Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi and his managerial staff have been nonplussed by the lack of competitiveness shown by the players and I fully expect there to be some major shakeups among the playing the staff , if the team is not in a position to be challenging for the AL East divisional title or a wildcard berth during the waning months of the regular season schedule. Over their last ten games the New York Yankees have posted a 7-3 record , but still placing them third within the division, 5 ½ games behind the Baltimore Orioles (26-16) .

On Tuesday afternoon the Yankees will be playing host to the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium , in the Bronx , New York . On the mound for the New York Yankees will be Nathan Evoldi (4-2, 4.44 ERA) against R A Dickey , the Blue Jays’ knuckle-baller. The contrasting styles of the two starting pitchers should make for an interesting contest.

If the Yankees are to have any chance of winning the AL East then their play will have to be far more competitive than the fans have seen this season and it is especially true against their divisional and AL rivals . It remains to be seen whether or not Joe Girardi can win the second World Series’ title of his managerial career with the first coming in 2009 when the franchise won their very last world championship .

Robin Ventura and the Chicago White Sox (27-19) have made a solid and surprising start to their season , but over their last ten games the team has been far from impressive with a 3-7 mark , leading an AL Central division where the reigning World Series champions the Kansas City Royals are within striking distance of the division leading White Sox. Ventura is in his fifth season as the manager of the Chicago White Sox , having succeeded Ozzie Guillen who had been fired by former GM Ken Williams after what was thought to be a great deal of dissension and off the field issues between the manager and front office executive. Team owner Jerry Reinsdorf backed Williams’ decision wholeheartedly and the hiring of Ventura was something of a formality. The White Sox manager and his staff will be hoping the players can meet the expectations of their fans and the front office , as their postseason appearances over the past six seasons have been rare. In fact Chicago’s last appearance came in 2008 when they made it to the divisional round of the postseason that year . Their subsequent 3-1 series’ loss to the Tampa Bay Rays ended their postseason sojourn for the year.

The Chicago White Sox will be preparing to take on the Cleveland Indians at US Cellular Field in Chicago , Illinois on Tuesday evening, in a meeting of the top two teams within the AL Central . Chris Sale of the White Sox will be seeking to become the first ten-game winner in the Majors this season. Sale remains unbeaten (9-0) , heading into the game against the Cleveland Indians and it will be interesting to see if he can maintain his spectacular start to the year.

During his astonishing career Ichiro Suzuki has hit some highs in terms of his personal achievements in the Majors . The one thing missing from the player’s mantelpiece is a World Series’ ring and title. He has been lucky enough to have played for three famed ball-clubs , but his postseason forays have been noticeably paltry , primarily because neither the Seattle Mariners , New York Yankees or Miami Marlins have made that much of an impact in the postseason over the past five years . Ichiro is now in his first second season with the Marlins , where he is seen as one of the team’s seasoned veterans . The player now stands on the threshold of joining a select group of players with 3,000 career hits and a career batting average of .300 or more . One should also remember at the height of his career he was also one of the best outfielders of his generation and though not as athletic as when he first entered the Majors in 2001 , winning the AL Rookie of The Year as well as ALMVP . Ichiro is still able to pull of a spectacular defensive play and showing why he is so respected among his peers.

Miami Marlins’ manager Don Mattingly has inherited a team filled with talent , but they have yet to meet their potential and whether or not the players are able to do so will be dependent upon the motivation brought by Mattingly and his managerial staff . With established stars such as Ichiro Suzuki, Giancarlo Stanton , Jose Fernandez , Marcell Ozuna , Wei-Yin Chen and Christian Yelich . it is hoped this will be the season where the Marlins prove to be competitive enough to take on all-comers. Having won two World Series during their history , it could be said the franchise has far exceeded expectations during their two decade existence , but with a relatively new stadium , baseball within South Florida has yet to grab hold of the community at large .

The Miami Marlins still have sparse attendance levels for their home games and being on the road does not appear to have whetted the appetite of the fans of the teams they tend to be playing in those contests. Baseball in the state of Florida at the Major League Level is about as popular as a bikini contest featuring grossly overweight females who believe themselves to be supermodels on a catwalk. Both images have about as much appeal as watching paint dry in the hot sun. Playing in the non-competitive NL East , the Marlins will find themselves this season as perhaps the fourth best team in the division, behind the Washington Nationals , New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies . Holding up the rear would be the Atlanta Braves , whose season continues to be abysmal .

The Miami Marlins will be looking to make inroads into the divisional lead of their rivals when they play host to the Tampa Bay Rays at Marlins Ballpark, in Miami on Tuesday evening. Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays when he faces Tom Koehler of the Marlins.

Call me naive, but you will have to prove a hell of lot to me in order to justify being paid $28 million a year , as is the case with Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers . Granted , the remaining two years on the player’s contract is guaranteed by his former team the Los Angeles Angels . Yet, I get the feeling neither team will be the benefactor in this deal. Hamilton has yet to play a full season for the Rangers ,ever since his return back to Texas. During the time-frame in question his productivity for the Texas Rangers has bordered on being mediocre. All this from a player who still believes the Angels did not come to his support after his sobriety issues once again hit the headlines. Josh Hamilton’s fall from grace was of his own choosing and twice before , the Angels came to his support , by assisting the outfielder get into a rehabilitation program for individuals who suffered with alcohol and chemical dependency (drug abuse). Somehow this must have escaped Hamilton’s attention, when he harangued the Angels’ organization , directing his vitriol at former general manager Jerry Dipoto and team owner Arte Moreno .

Courtesy of ESPN

MLB Rumor Central: Will Josh Hamilton return to Texas in 2017 ?

Any hopes that Josh Hamilton would provide a late-season boost for the Texas Rangers ended Monday when the club announced the 35-year-old outfielder will have left knee surgery.

Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers (Getty Images/ Bill Butler)

Hamilton, already on the 60-day disabled list, has only 170 regular-season at-bats and eight home runs since being re-acquired in a trade with the Angels last year.

General manager Jon Daniels said Hamilton intends to play in 2017, which will be the final year of his five-year, $125 million contract. There is no guarantee, however, that Hamilton’s return will be in Texas.

“We’re not ready to address that yet,” Daniels told Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News.

There is little financial risk in bringing back Hamilton since the Angels will be picking up all but a small portion of his remaining salary. The Rangers, however, might balk at using a roster spot on Hamilton since they will have no idea on what they will get in return. Texas was left short-handed by Hamilton’s injury issues this spring, contributing to its pursuit of free agent Ian Desmond.

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Josh Hamilton is now on the Texas Rangers’ disabled list (DL) and will be lost to the team for the rest of the season . Due to become a free agent in 2018 , I certainly don’t believe Jon Daniels would be willing to sign the player to a long-term deal as the risks far outweigh the advantages . Hamilton is no longer at the peak of his career and he has never provided any sense of leadership or maturity with any team he has played for. A player like Josh Hamilton has been a great disservice to the game of baseball , in spite of the accolades feted on the outfielder. Unfortunately, baseball has become such a parody of all the things once thought to be pure about the game , it is easy to understand why it has been bedeviled by scandal and lack of leadership and incompetence throughout its history. There are those who still to suggest the social significance of the footsteps taken by the sport , but at the end of the day it has counted for absolutely nothing.

Hector Santiago of the Los Angeles Angels will be on the mound when he faces Colby Lewis of the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Stadium in Arlington , Texas on the 24th May , 2016. A continuation of the current series between these two long-established AL teams.

Perhaps it’s too early to start talking awards and the leading contenders for AL MVP, NL MVP , Cy Young Award , and Rookie of The Year . But there are several extremely great candidates for each given their productivity for their respective teams. In the AL for MVP , it could come down to the usual list of suspects with among the front-runners , Miguel Cabrera , Mike Trout , Josh Donaldson , Robinson Cano , Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr . All of the players mentioned have stood out for their teams and they are one of the major reasons why those clubs have been prominent in the standings. In the NL we have Ben Zobrist , Ryan Braun , Yoenis Cespedes , Bryce Harper and Nolan Arenado to name but a few. It would be safe to say no matter which way you try to disseminate the argument , Clayton Kershaw remains the best pitcher in baseball by a wide margin . His success this season has been staggering and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher looks as if he is certainly the guy to beat in the NL for this year’s Cy Young Award. In the AL , you can take your pick from Chris Sale whose season just seems to be getting better with each game. His challengers could come from among the following candidates , Rich Hill , Jose Quintana , Danny Salazar , Chris Tillman and Josh Tomlin . Among the Rookies within the NL and AL , it will come down to the consistency shown these youngsters over the course of the season and their quest for Rookie of The Year honors within each league .

Joe Maddon has been a very good manager and in recent seasons he has shown why he is so well-respected among his peers. Having won the AL Manager of the Year while with the Tampa Bay Rays , it is quite possible he could be the leading contender for this season’s award within the NL. The Chicago Cubs are still flying high and have not been truly tested to date within the Majors , while having being among the best of the teams within the National League. Buck Showalter has the Baltimore Orioles leading the AL East and looking to make their way back to the postseason. The team has been playing with a great deal of resolve with Manny Machado showing why he is one of the best short-stops in the game. As the Orioles’ manager Showalter has been able to resurrect the fortunes of the franchise and make them relevant once again. All that is now needed , is a prolonged postseason run and their chance of winning World Series title. If this is to become a reality , then the effort from the players will have to be a concerted all-round push over the course of the season. Showalter remains my personal favorite to win his fourth AL Manager of the Year Award !

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What are your impressions of the first-quarter of the MLB season and which teams do you believe to be in danger of falling from grace and which do you believe are firm contenders for the pennants this season as well as the World Series ?

Tophatal ….. 2016/05/24

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As the world turns ….


As the world turns

If nothing else, what’s a good story without a great deal of drama ? Well , this NBA postseason the fans are being inundated with a great deal more than expected. The defending champions the Golden State Warriors still appear to be in control of their series against the Houston Rockets , but with a niggling injury besetting their League MVP and best player, Steph Curry . There is now the belief the team and their fans could be entering uncharted territory. A Warriors’ team without Curry still remains competitive , but head coach Steve Kerr knows , as Steph Curry goes, then so does this team .

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If the Golden State Warriors are now to make it to the second round (conference semi-finals) without Steph Curry for the remainder of their first round series, then it will be up to his teammates to up the level of their play against the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis for their part, have put up something of a spirited opposition to Golden State, but they have been unable to overcome their deficiencies during the contest. Rick Carlisle , his Rockets’ coaching staff and the team have been unable to come up with a strategy to overcome the league’s best offense throughout this series

Courtesy of Sports Illustrated .

Stephen Curry’s knee injury: What it means for Warriors and rest of NBA

By Ben Golliver , SI (Sports Illustrated)

Thanks to a wet spot on the Toyota Center court, the NBA playoffs now hinge on four unsettling words: Stephen Curry knee injury.

The reigning MVP returned to the court for the Warriors on Sunday after missing two games with a right ankle injury, only to see his night end early when he sustained a right knee sprain while slipping awkwardly just before halftime. Although Golden State went on to beat Houston 121–94 for a 3–1 series lead, Curry wasn’t able to return to the court in the second half and could miss two weeks.

• MORE NBA: Warriors’ title defense takes hit with absence of Stephen Curry

Clearly, the implications are massive for the 73-win Warriors, who are looking to repeat as champions. Curry’s value is monstrous and indisputable: he led the league in scoring, threes, steals, Player Efficiency Rating, True Shooting %, Win Shares and Real Plus Minus, and he’s the overwhelming favorite to be named MVP for the second straight year.

What’s known ?

Curry sprained his right knee while attempting to defend a Trevor Ariza three-pointer just before halftime. Curry’s left foot appeared to slip on the court first, causing him to lose his balance. With his right foot unable to plant, Curry’s leg twisted awkwardly at the knee as he fell forward to the court. Curry grabbed at his knee immediately before picking himself up and limping off the court.

After halftime, Curry attempted to go through a warmup routine but then retreated to the locker room, holding his head in apparent frustration.

The Warriors announced that Curry could miss two weeks for the injury after he underwent an MRI on Monday. Nevertheless, the initial reaction suggested that Curry’s absence during the second half was more than a simple precaution.

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Having won their most recent contest the series against the Houston Rockets , the Golden State Warriors will be looking to close , with a win in the next game between the two teams. A quick respite, allowing Curry and the team to recover fully , could be the best thing possible for Steve Kerr’s players before facing the winners of the series between the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trailblazers .

Damian Lillard of the Trailblazers are proving to be more than a handful for the Clippers , although Los Angeles currently has a 2-1 lead over their conference rivals . These two teams will meet on Monday night at the Moda Center , in Portland Oregon , for game four of their seven-game series. Doc Rivers and the Clippers’ team will be looking to make it all inevitable as to the final outcome .

Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs made quick work in dispatching the Memphis Grizzlies in a four-game sweep . Kawhi Leonard coming off his second consecutive NBA Defensive Player of The Year Award has shown another aspect to his game with his offensive prowess . Leonard was the leading scorer for the Spurs during the series and he will be looking to maintain that momentum when the San Antonio Spurs meet the winners of the current series between the Dallas Mavericks (1-3) and the Oklahoma City Thunder (3-1) . Oklahoma head coach Billy Donovan has his team playing high intensity basketball , completely outplaying the Mavericks in every aspect of the game. This series is likely to be over , when the two teams meet on Monday night at the Chesapeake Energy Center , in Oklahoma City , Oklahoma .

 

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San Antonio Spurs’ forward Tim Duncan who this season celebrated  his fortieth birthday . Duncan , combined with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli to win more games than any other trio in regular season (575) and playoff (124) history. NBA Photos ….

 

In the Eastern Conference the series have been competitive , though not necessarily thrilling for all of the participants involved . The Cleveland Cavaliers (4-0) led by LeBron James blew by their first round opponents the Detroit Pistons (0-4) without breaking much sweat on route to a four-game series’ sweep . It was a solid contribution from the Cavaliers’ players , with head coach Tyronn Lue having to be pleased with what he witnessed from his team. The Cavaliers will now await the winner of the series between the Atlanta Hawks (2-2) and Boston Celtics (2-2) , with a pivotal game-five being on the line when Atlanta host the Celtics on Tuesday evening.

Of all the series within the Eastern Conference , the most competitive appears to be the match-up between the Indiana Pacers (2-2) and Toronto Raptors (2-2) . Toronto came in as the higher seed of the pairing and with a better regular season record . All of which now seems to count for nothing as they have struggled to put together consistent performances during the series. If the team is bounced at this stage of the NBA Playoffs, then I believe the off-season could bring about some drastic changes among the roster .

Masai Ujiri , General Manager & President of Toronto Raptors , while being pleased with the regular season record of the franchise, has to feel somewhat perplexed with the fact the team has failed to show real competitive grit in this series. Dwayne Casey as the head coach of the Raptors , along with his coaching staff are being out-coached by Frank Vogel and his staff . Which begs the question , are the Toronto Raptors able to adapt and change course or will they continue as they are ?

It may well be too early to suggest , but I believe the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat (2-1) could very well be on a collision course , with the two teams likely to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals . Based on the current play seen during the playoffs and the results witnessed , Miami and Cleveland appear to be the two best teams playing within the conference. Granted , the semi-finals’ series have yet to be played , but I do not believe any of the other teams are capable of beating either the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Miami Heat over a seven-game series.

Erik Spoelstra will be seeking to win his third NBA title as the head coach of the Miami Heat. In their current series against the Charlotte Hornets (1-2) , the Heat are finding the Hornets to be a stubborn opponent. In the absence of Chris Bosh not being in the Heat lineup for the NBA Playoffs , it is being left to Bosh’s teammates , most notably the rookies who have been making major contributions to the team’s performances in this series against the Hornets. Game four of the series between the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets will take place on the 25th April at the Time Warner Cable Arena , in Charlotte , North Carolina.

In conceding the Conference Semi-Finals are still some way off , we can take note of the results seen last season during the NBA Playoffs of 2015. How it all plays out during the current playoffs will be determined by the performances seen over the rest of the schedule.

So there we have it folks, the Philadelphia 76ers for the second time inside of a decade , the franchise has finished with the worst record in the league . The fact the 76ers have been able to achieve this type of mediocrity can either be looked at as sheer incompetence or the fact the ownership down the years has been inept. I believe it to be a mixture of both ! Joshua Harris the current owner of the franchise has shown himself to be a buffoon , while the clear window dressing of bringing in Jerry Colangelo , is no real sign, things will change overnight. Colangelo might have an astute business and basketball mind , but he is not on par with Jerry West , whose considerable acumen has laid the foundations for the championship caliber status achieved by the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors. One should also bear in mind Brett Brown and his coaching staff remain completely out of their depth and then add in the fact this roster lacks depth , experience and has no one , who could be deemed a leader. Yet, somehow fans are expected to put up with such garbage ?

To understand how bad the Philadelphia 76ers just happened to be , you simply have to look at their record over their last fifteen games and then over their final thirty games of the regular season. Heading into the off-season and with the NBA Draft just around the corner , it will be interesting to see the choices made by the front office , as they seek to restructure this team and quite possibly the entire coaching staff.

 

 

 

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With NBA Playoffs still in its early stages which of the teams do you favor within either of the conferences to make it to the NBA Finals ?

🙂

Tophatal ……… 2016/04/25

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The Year of Living Dangerously …

 

The Year of Living Dangerously

No more queries as to the morass of underwhelming season in the NBA where the singular high points have been the exploits of the Golden State Warriors and their dominance of the league. Steve Kerr and his team have been barely challenged within their division , conference and the league as a whole. Last season’s League MVP , Steph Curry , is all but certain to repeat as MVP and it would appear nonsensical, were Kerr not named Coach of The Year after another astonishing season .

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Golden State are well on their way to beating the exploits of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls , who would go on to win the NBA title that season with Michael Jordan winning the trifecta of a championship ring , League MVP and Finals’ MVP on the way to the franchise’s historic season. Kerr was a member of the championship winning team of the Chicago Bulls from that year, which was coached by > Phil Jackson . For the legendary coach, he now finds himself overseeing a rather disappointing New York Knicks’ franchise , whose season has been a rather turbulent and indecisive one. At every turn , nothing but incompetence has been on display by the team, while apologists for Phil Jackson continue to come up with the most asinine of excuses to try to fend off the lackluster efforts of Jackson as a front office executive . Phil Jackson’s persona remains larger than life , as does his ego , which rivals that of GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump .

While Golden State continues to remain dominant inching closer to the 72-10 record-breaking mark of the Chicago Bulls , the question now being asked , which of the Warriors’ conference rivals during the upcoming NBA Playoffs might be capable of dethrone the reigning NBA champions. The only other team who has been able to mount a serious challenge to the Golden State Warriors this season have been the San Antonio Spurs . The likelihood of these two teams meeting in the Western Conference Finals seems all but certain , with only a major upset , being the only thing on the horizon likely to make this not appear to be a reality. San Antonio will be back on the court Monday night to face the Memphis Grizzlies on the road , where Tim Duncan and his Spurs’ teammates will be looking to take down the Grizzlies. Golden State will be looking to knock off another Eastern Conference opponent when they face the Washington Wizards on Tuesday evening. .

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has provided its fair share of surprises during the tournament with seeds falling left , right and center at the drop off a hat< . Now the only remaining number one seed from the four regions , just happens to be Roy Williams’ , University of Carolina Tar Heels . Williams’ team has been exceptional throughout the tournament , coming through a very tough regional phase , where they are also joined by Syracuse (Orangemen) , Oklahoma (Sooners) and Villanova (Wildcats) . All four teams have paid their dues and justifiably they have made it through to this stage of the competition. The quartet of teams will face off on 2nd April , when Villanova will face Oklahoma and North Carolina will tip off against Syracuse. These two games should provide a great deal of excitement for the fans in attendance as well as the millions of viewers nationwide who will be watching the television broadcast.

Officially and it is still seven more days until the start of the MLB season, with a full schedule of games to be played on Monday 4th April , 2016. Defending World Series champions the Kansas City Royals will be looking to make a successful defense of the AL Pennant and world championship . From my own perspective , I believe the Royals have been the best team in the AL over the past three seasons and through astute managerial acumen and GM Dayton Moore not plunging headlong into over paying for talent on the team roster , it has served the Kansas City Royals extremely well.

Kansas City has four games left on their exhibition schedule before embarking on the regular season with their opening game against the Arizona Diamondbacks , in a two-game road series , beginning on the 1st April.

Of the teams under the greatest pressure this upcoming season , I believe both the Los Angeles Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers Angels have the most to prove ! Dave Roberts might well have succeeded Don Mattingly as the Dodgers’ manager , but with a multi-million dollar payroll and a roster laden with stars , there can no longer be any excuses being used for the club’s repeated failures. For Roberts’ counterpart with the Angels , Mike Sciocsia is under as much pressure. I believe team owner Arte Moreno will seriously consider the future of the managerial staff and it will come with the due diligence expected to be seen from Billy Eppler , who succeeded Jerry Dipoto in the position as the Angels’ general manager .

Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are expected to play significant roles in the Los Angeles Angels’ season as was the case in 2015. Their pitching staff is expected to be far more productive , but I do believe it has been the lack of consistency which has been the team’s downfall in recent years ! One more slip-up on the part Mike Sciocsia and his staff this season and I believe Billy Eppler will have no alternative , but to fire the franchise’s longest-serving manager . Sciocsia will undoubtedly be looking to get the Loss Angeles Angels off to a fast start this season and their schedule begins in earnest with their opening game of the regular season schedule , which pits them against the Los Angeles Dodgers on the 1st April at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles , California,. For Mike Trout this might be the year where he more than anyone else on the Angels’ team has to take the lead and show his commanding presence . because I believe Albert Pujols while still a great player , is no longer capable of consistently putting up the prolific numbers often seen before. Granted , last season was among the best seen this former multiple NL MVP , but it begs the question can he once again reproduce that form while leading the Los Angeles Angels to their first World Series’ title since 2002 ? If that is to be the case then Angels will most certainly have to get the better of their AL counterparts and specifically the Kansas City Royals.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will enter this season with by far the largest payroll of baseball’s thirty teams. All this for a franchise which has spent in excess of $1.2 billion on salaries since the team was purchased by Guggenheim Baseball Properties LLC , who parent company Guggenheim Partners is one of the nation’s largest venture capital firms with assets of over $200 billion . Senior partners in the ownership group of the Dodgers are former NBA star Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson , Hollywood mogul Peter Guber , senior executives from Guggenheim Partners , Todd S Boehly and Mark Walter .

The Dodgers had been purchased for the extraordinary sum of almost $2.2 billion , at the time a record for the sale of a North American professional sports’ franchise. Based on the value of the teams in MLB , the NFL and the NBA . It could be suggested the owners might well have overpaid , solely based on the assessed market-value and brand name , rather than the true-value of the franchise. It should also be noted at the time of the sale , the Los Angeles Dodgers were emerging from bankruptcy proceeding brought on by the rather duplicitous business dealings of the club’s former owner Frank McCourt . Former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig’s actions during this whole process , should not go unnoticed , as it appears his influence held sway even over the whole process over the Dodgers’ emerging from the bankruptcy proceedings . Those who believe otherwise, are either naive , or simply have no real idea concerning the nuances of sports economics and the business of finance.

The Los Angeles Dodgers need to win now and not one or two years from now. It seems remarkable , that it has been over twenty-five years since this franchise won its last World Series’ title. NL Pennant appearances and the recent miseries associated with those appearances can pretty much sum up the woes of this organization over the past two decades.

This will be the penultimate season of Alex Rodriguez’s two-decade career. The New York Yankees’ current DH has made the decision to announce his formal retirement at the end of the 2017 season. If based on his current productivity , Rodriguez will fall short of the all-time career home-runs’ record at present held by another disgraced player , Barry Bonds , batting instructor for the Miami Marlins . Their careers have taken similar paths and the notoriety has not stopped there as during the latter years of their heralded careers. Their links to the steroid era became linked to one of the most infamous sordid chapters in the history of baseball. Forget the White Sox scandal and the idiocy of Pete Rose, Bonds and Rodriguez have shone a glaring spotlight on baseball which showed us , not only the depth of deceit within the game , but also the duplicity of the MLBPA (union) and the ambivalence of the league hierarchy under Bud Selig and now Selig’s successor Rob Manfred . Baseball’s hierarchy looked the other way , while taking the money , running with it and extolling the era of steroids as one baseball’s most exciting chapters while being in complete denial and that was even with the advent of in-depth investigative reporting into not only the BALCO ‘ Scandal ‘ and Biogenysis , which some fans to this day ,remain ambivalent about . with their nonsensical statements . Which again goes to show, sports’ fans in North America were never that intelligent to begin with , even when the facts are laid out right in front of their very eyes .

New York Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi will have his work cut out for him this season and I believe it will be his toughest yet, since he succeeded Joe Torre to become the franchise’s manager. He has one World Series’ title to his resume’ , but beyond that , there has been very little which one would deem to be a great deal of success. A disappointing showing in 2015 within the AL East and the team’s early dismissal in the wild-card round of the MLB postseason summed up a disastrous year for the Yankees last year. Alex Rodriguez can become only the fourth player league history to pass the seven-hundred career home-runs’ plateau and he will likely achieve the milestone by his thirtieth game of the 2015 season . Rodriguez should hit that mark during the early part of August, based on current projections for the season.

Of the three players to have hit seven-hundred career home runs, only Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth are currently in Baseball’s Hall of Fame , in Cooperstown, New York . Barry Bonds is eligible and his name will be on the list of nominees for 2017 as a repeat entrant . Alex Rodriguez will not become eligible for that accolade until 2022. Like Bonds, I do not believe he will voted into the Hall of Fame as a first time ballot nominee ! It will likely be several years before either of the players’ eligibility will be taken seriously by the voters within the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) who adjudicate the ballots after these nominations are put forward by baseball’s hierarchy . Alex Rodriguez is thirteen home runs away from reaching this historic milestone of seven-hundred home runs and it seems inconceivable his career is still being looked upon in a number of circles, as being historic . Yet, this is what the game of baseball has now become over the past two and a half-decades , because of the cheating , posturing within the game by the players , owners and league itself. Corruption , breeds contempt and along with it comes the loss of honor , integrity and fairness of competition within the game .

This will be a make or break year for the New York Yankees and we know there are several players on this roster who are way past their prime , while being paid an exorbitant salary and offering little in return . CC Sabathia , Jacoby Ellsbury , Mark Teixiera , Michael Pineda and Brian McCann are all being paid a king’s ransom , but in large part the failure of the franchise since 2009 has come about by way of the poor management structure . lack of developing talent at the Minor League Level and poor draft classes and transactions over the years . GM Brian Cashman also bears a great deal of responsibility for this , as do the senior members within the ownership structure , headed by the Steinbrenner family . Having the most profitable team in baseball as well as the most valuable has always created pitfalls for the game’s most successful franchise . When the Yankees are winning , no questions are asked, but when the team is losing, then everyone takes aim and justifiably so , because this has been an organization which often makes repeated excuses for poor management decisions made within the hierarchy .

The New York Yankees will begin their regular season schedule with a contest as part of a three-game series against the Houston Astros , who defeated the Yankees in the wildcard round of the postseason of 2015. It remains to be seen what type of season will be had by the New York Yankees , but it will be interesting to see how things unfold for the franchise over the course of their schedule.

What do you believe has been the most surprising issue you have witnessed during the course of this year in the NBA , College Basketball ? Also, what are your own expectations for the upcoming MLB season ?

Tophatal …….. 2013/03/28

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Exit stage right or is it , stage left ?

Exit stage right or is it , stage left ?

Well , the curtain has finally come down on the career of the NFL’s , five-time League MVP and two-time Superbowl champion Peyton Manning . With the undoubted acclaim which will now come , it does appear the recent controversy surrounding Manning’s career will bear some light upon how he is viewed in certain circles. To my mind the Denver Broncos’ quarterback is among the best quarterbacks of his generation and I would certainly rank him among the top-five players at the position in NFL history.

Peyton Manning will have his detractors, but what cannot be denied, has been the tenacity shown by the player and his willingness to take a team on his back and lead them with a great deal of authority. He is one of the few quarterbacks over the course of their careers to have averaged at last ten wins per season throughout their tenure. Manning could teach his younger sibling Eli Manning a thing or two about what it is like to be a leader , while also seeking to limit the excuses when his performances have been poor.

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Courtesy of ESPN (Transcript of Manning’s retirement speech)

Transcript of Peyton Manning’s retirement speech

ESPN.com Staff

Here is the transcript from Peyton Manning’s retirement speech Monday:

“In my very first NFL game, I completed my first pass to Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk. I threw a touchdown in that same game to Marvin Harrison, who would be inducted into the Hall of Fame this August.

“The quarterback for our opponent, the Miami Dolphins, was — after my dad, my favorite player — Hall of Famer Dan Marino, who on the first third down of the game completed a 25-yard skinny post. And it was the damndest throw I’d ever seen.

“Later, I completed a pass to tight end Marcus Pollard down the middle and somebody hit me really hard and after I got up, I told myself, ‘I know I can play in this league.’

“Later in that struggling season, we played in and lost to Baltimore. It was the first time that the Colts had returned to Baltimore since they had moved back in 1984. We didn’t exactly get a warm reception that day. The fans were screaming at me and I kept thinking, ‘Hey, I was only 8 years old then, get off of my back.’

“I had met him once before, but when the game was over I had the chance to shake Johnny Unitas’ hand. He told me, ‘Peyton, you stay at it. I’m pulling for you.’

“Well, I have stayed at it. I’ve stayed at it for 18 years and I hope that old No. 19 is up there with his flat top and maybe his black high tops on and I hope he knows that I have stayed at it, and maybe he’s even a little proud of me.

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In many respects it was clear to see , this was bound to be Peyton Manning’s last year in the NFL after nineteen seasons torturous play and the type of physical exertion on his body , which left him mentally and dare I say it physically in a state of disrepair. What I believe was a telling sign during this last season , was Manning admitting the fact he played through one or two games injured and that his throwing arm , showed signs of weakness and some nerve damage. Wear and tear and most notably the accuracy of his passes were very telling and to the detriment of the team. Either way, had Peyton made the decision to return for a nineteenth season , I do believe Broncos’ Head of Football Operations and a former quarterback for the franchise , John Elway would have made the decision not to re-sign Manning, solely for the reason of cap space availability and avoiding having to pay the player the almost $20 million he would have been due in 2016. The era of Brock Osweiler now beckons and it will be interesting to see what the future now holds for the Broncos , as well as for Osweiler, who now steps into some rather gigantic shoes , having to succeed Peyton Manning.

The baseball season has started and already the game finds itself in the midst of further controversy. New York Yankees’ pitcher Aroldis Chapman has been given a thirty-game suspension by the league hierarchy for conduct unbecoming the game , after his being charged with domestic violence . The player’s act of contrition has been somewhat lukewarm and one has to bear in mind while seek to portray it all as a random act , it is believed this was not be the first time Chapman has been abusive towards his spouse, although there are no records counteract the allegations. Baseball much like the NFL has been slow to react to the issue of domestic abuse and the social ramifications seen from the behavior from the athletes with both sports. It certainly has not helped with either union , from the MLBPA and the NFLPA remain so silent on this issue , which itself is extremely disturbing. Rob Manfred , the current MLB Commissioner , his predecessor Bud Selig and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appear to be no clearer to addressing the issue , much less having sought to make the public aware of their respective leagues’ stances on what has become a social virus.

Another controversy engulfing the sport of baseball was the lifetime banishment of New York Mets’ pitcher Jennry Mejia , for a third positive test of a banned substance (performance enhancing drug / PED), in violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. For the current NL Pennant winners this was just another blow for the franchise , many of whom believe the Mets might be the team to beat this upcoming season within Major League Baseball. Pitching might well have been the strength of the New York Mets’ team last season , but I do believe they will be hard-pressed to eclipse the form shown during the early rounds of the postseason before the World Series failings against the Kansas City Royals .

Mets’ manager Terry Collins has yet to give a public statement concerning Mejia’s lifetime ban and what might be even more nonsensical concerning the player’s banishment is the little known fact , Jennry Mejia can be reinstated by the league hierarchy after two years at the league’s discretion. Mejia can return to the game, but Pete Rose remains a pariah within the game of baseball ? This is the sort of stupidity Major League Baseball has become known for , along with the buffoons at the upper echelons of the game, who clearly show no common sense whatsoever.

The New York Mets are involved in two split-squad games involving the St Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers as opponents on Monday afternoon. Reigning World Series’ champions the Kansas City Royals will be taking on the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s in another set of split-squad games being played.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been in charge of the Chicago Cubs’ front office , dealing with all of the franchise’s player-personnel dealings, while the Ricketts’ family as the owners of the Cubs have sought to bring back some shine to the club’s laughable legacy over the past eighty-five years . It is bad enough Tom Ricketts has now seen fit to embroil himself in the current political climate with a Super-PAC (Political Action Committee) now in place , which is said to favor ‘ Conservative Causes ‘ and policies , while also seeking to oppose the support of Republican Presidential candidate and the party’s front-runner for the nomination , Donald Trump . It is at times like this , which has me wondering where the two areas collide , but then I look at how baseball and specifically the MLB hierarchy plays both sides of the political aisle , as they seek to maintain their status and hold unto their antitrust exemption granted to them by the Congress. Massaging the egos of the five hundred and thirty-five members within the legislature , does have its merits.

From my own standpoint, I don’t believe the Cubs will be competitive enough to be a force within the NL Central . Joe Maddon and his managerial staff , along with the team will need to be completely focused if they are to compete with their divisional counterparts this upcoming season. The Cubs’ season will begin with a game against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday , 4th April , in what will be viewed as the road game for the Chicago Cubs.

So at what point , do the naysayers start to it up and take note , the Golden State Warriors are for real and their exploits this season are not just a flash in the pan ? Over their last fifteen games, led by Steph Curry and his teammates , have been “torching” their opponents with ease , while , posting the best record in their division , as well as the Western Conference and the league , overall . The question now remains , can this Steve Kerr coached team which has set franchise records and league records , as they seek to surpass the achievements of the Chicago Bulls and the record breaking season on their way to the NBA championship in 1995 and eliminate the Bulls’ mark from the record books ? The Bulls went 72-10 during that year , with Michael Jordan leading the way for the team . A recent loss by the Golden State Warriors suffered at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers has done nothing to deter the Warriors , as they seek to make press along with their historic run this season. The victory has been one of the few bright spots for the Lakers this season and I firmly believe , Byron Scott will not be returning to the franchise next season to coach this Los Angeles’ team . With Kobe Bryant’s retirement coming at the end of this season , the prayers being asked by the franchise’s fans is their wish the Lakers pursue Kevin Durant who will be one of the many free agents , but among the marquee list of players who might be looking for a new home which beckons in the 2016 NBA season.

A prohibitive favorite to win the League MVP for a second successive season , Steph Curry has been rewriting the records books and stamping his mark on what might turn out to a historic season for the player and this Warriors’ team. The consensus appears to be , not that Golden State will break single season mark of the Chicago Bulls , but which team in the league has the best chance of defeating the team during the NBA Playoffs. Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs might well have the second-best record in the league , but the Spurs have proved to be no match for their conference rivals during their meetings this season . I am inclined to believe that will also be the case should the two teams meet during the Conference Finals this postseason ! Golden State will back on court , Monday night , when they face the Orlando Magic in what will likely turn out to be a thoroughly entertaining game.

The UFC staged another of their marquee events with two title holders being the main draw for their fight card of UFC 196 , which was staged at the MGM Grand Arena , Las Vegas , Nevada , this past Saturday, 5th March, 2016. Heading up the card were title Conor McGregor facing Nate Diaz , as McGregor faced Diaz in a catch-weight contest without his Lightweight Title not on the line. The other main attraction was Holly Holm making the first defense of the UFC Women’s Bantamweight title against Miesha Tate , A title which Holm won A in convincing fashion , defeating former champion Ronda Rousey . What should have been a lopsided contest turned out to be a shocking defeat for Holm , as she surrendered her belt in an unbelievable manner.

Two major upsets all on the same night , with McGregor being forced to submit by Nate Diaz and Holm’s inexplicable loss , has left many wondering, is the depth of talent in the UFC really that good or is it merely the hype and the skilled marketing by UFC President Dana White , which has us believing , the bouts staged, are as good as advertised ?

For Holly Holm, it’s back to the drawing board and for Miesha Tate, she can look forward to a lucrative payday , with a contest being lined up against former nemesis Ronda Rousey. Conor McGregor for his part, might well have been magnanimous in his loss , but I cannot help but wonder , during the pre-fight publicity junket , all of the well-staged publicity was all being done in the name of hype for a champion , McGregor, took his opponent way too lightly and who was very much complacent during the bout against Nate Diaz !

The English Premier League (EPL) is now heading into the final stretch of what has turned out to be a surprising season . Sitting at the top of the divisional standings are the surprising minnows of the division , Leicester City . Bought by the current owners for less than $500 million dollars just under four years ago . Should , Leicester win the title , it would be the biggest upset in English soccer history, since the Premiership came into being. The likes of Chelsea , Arsenal , Manchester United and Manchester City with their big-money stars and an abundance of success , have been cast into the shadows by an exceptional all-round team managed by their unheralded coach Claudio Ranieri , are now on the cusp of achieving something truly historic for the club.

In their most recent game , Leicester City were the victors over Watford , winning the game 1-0 . Granted , the Premiership contests are not known for high-scoring games , but what was on evidenced in this contest , was the stealth and resilience shown by Ranieri’s players . Next up for Leicester City will be a game against Newcastle on March, 14th, 2016. A victory in this game , while not making the conclusion of the season a formality, it would certainly go a long way in laying the foundations of what has been a memorable season for The Toffees , as they are more commonly known by their fans. What comes out of this season could very well set the template moving forward for a number of teams in upcoming seasons. Clearly , n the case of Leicester City as well as the Kansas City Royals , Golden State Warriors and Denver Broncos, their success was attained by the use of due diligence , an eye for detail and placing an emphasis of having the players and management in place to achieve their goals sought.

Do you believe the decision made by Peyton Manning to retire from the NFL was the right choice   ? Of the sporting events  that  took place over this past weekend , which would you consider to be the most relevant of all ?

 

 

 

 

 

Tophatal ……………. 2016/03/07

By  clicking  on  an  individual   image  seen below  , you   can view  a  picture  in a reformatted size  along  with an  accompanying  narrative.

NFL news

MLB news

MLB results 6th March and schedule

MLB standings (Spring Training)

NBA news

NBA results 6th March

NBA schedule 7th March

NBA standings (divisional)

NBA standings (conference)

NBA Playoff Picture (projections)

UFC news

Results from UFC 196
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EPL Premiership soccer , Premiership news

This past weekend’s results , form guide

Premiership league table
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So What Am I Missing Here ?

 

 

So What Am I Missing Here ?

Here we are once again and with a new Superbowl champion, with the Denver Broncos having triumphed over an under-achieving Carolina Panthers’ team. During this off-season teams with their front office executives and coaching staffs are seeking to make roster, cuts with the cutting of players, impending free agents as they seek to pare down cap commitments with a view to preparing themselves for not only the upcoming NFL Draft but also, what has become the usual free-agency free-for-all and all too ridiculous off-season drama repeatedly seen at this time of the year.

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Already, a number of high-profiled players have been let go by their teams with the recent announcement by the Chicago Bears that their veteran running back Matt Forte will not be returning to the franchise in 2016. Which begs the question , where will Forte now end up and is he willing to take pay cut in order to fulfill his ambition of winning a Superbowl title ? If that were not enough, the ongoing drama which still surrounds the future of Johnny Manziel , still looms large for the Cleveland Browns even in the aftermath of the idiotic claims now being made by Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslam , that he and the coaching staff were lied to by the Texas & AM Athletics Department and coaching staff about the conduct and demeanor of Manziel , while he attended the school as a player. I am sorry, but given the repeated media coverage of quarterback’s conduct both on and off the field, it has me wondering if the Browns’ Scouting Staff and coaches actually used diligence before coming to the decision to draft Manziel in the 2014 NFL Draft as the twenty-second overall pick in the first round of the Draft that year ? Since then, the alleged flashes of brilliance shown by the player have been about as illuminating as damp squib on the 4th July. Now with a giant shadow being cast over Johnny Manziel’s future in the NFL , his issues with sobriety and allegations of domestic violence, his unwillingness to check himself into rehab , event at the request of his own father.

One no longer needs to question the fact, the Cleveland Browns should cut ties with the player and now seek to rebound from the farce of making the former Heisman Trophy winner the focal point of their future. At no point during Manziel’s tenure was there ever a glimpse of the acclaimed brilliance he was said to possess at the collegiate level ever bearing fruit for the Browns. Bear in mind also , the team struggled throughout much of the season , where they would finish up with a 3-13 record for a last place finish in the AFC North and one the worst records in the entire AFC, not to mention the league itself. Cleveland’s offense was as bad as their record suggests and the team’s defense was equally inept . With teams having to declare their pare down of payroll in order to free up cap-room availability , it will be interesting to see what now takes place between now and the 1st March.

Calvin Johnson , wide receiver with the Detroit Lions is now said to be mulling retirement after another disappointing year by the team. It has to be said the blame must lie with the fact the player has been let down once again by an inept coaching staff and front office . I believe a great deal of the blame must also rests with team quarterback Matt Stafford who continues to be a conundrum and enigma all rolled into one. From my own perspective, I believe Stafford along with Matt Ryan , Jay Cutler , Ryan Tannehill , Sam Bradford and Tony Romo are the most overrated quarterbacks now playing in the NFL. Now there are those who will point to the fact , Romo remains consistent during the regular season, but the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback is now softer than a roll of Charmin’ tissue paper and unlikely to be healthy enough to play a sixteen-game schedule. And it will always come down to the fact repeatedly. Romo in the postseason, is as poor as his record suggest without his being the constant butt of so many jokes , his continually seeking to blame others for his own poor play and his lack of leadership.

 

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Jim Caldwell , head coach of the Detroit Lions is seen here speaking with team quarterback Matt Stafford (9) . Caldwell’s position with the team could be in jeopardy  there appears to be mounting speculation he could be relieved of his coaching duties during this off-season. GM Bob Quinn is undecided and has met with Martha Firestone Ford , owner of the franchise and members of the Ford family, as well as other senior executives to discuss the head coach’s future . The possibility of Jim Caldwell being fired seems likely , but it would only add to the increased turmoil and lack of stability for the Lions who have gone through several head coaching changes over the past ten years . AP Photo / Sarah Carson …

If Calvin Johnson does make the formal announcement to walk away from the game then the fans of the NFL can feel privileged enough to have seen one of the best wide receivers of this generation . Certainly , Johnson when judged against his peers , has shown the consistency not often seen and while there are those chomping at the bit concerning the exploits of Odell Beckham , other than the hype there has been little of note achieve by Beckham or the New York Giants since he was drafted by franchise. Granted , the same can be said concerning Calvin Johnson , but bear in mind the Detroit Lions , have only made the postseason on two occasions since 2009, first in 2011 and then again in 2014 , where their forays were short-lived and nothing of note was achieved.

Lions’ head coach Jim Caldwell will be hard-pressed to get this team back on track this upcoming season and with improvement seen with the Minnesota Vikings along with the ever-present, Aaron Rodgers guiding the Green Bay Packers , I do believe Detroit will be playing catch-up once again this upcoming season ,while the Packers and the Vikings remain the dominant forces within the division (NFC North) for this year !

For their own part, Detroit will almost certainly be looking to make some changes to last season’s lineup and the likelihood of several of their free agents not returning after an unproductive season is seen as inevitable. Lions’ GM Bob Quinn will be under a great deal of pressure to make the changes necessary , as he seeks to improve the roster in the run-up to the NFL Draft and preseason.With the free agency market being what it is, I also believe he will be seeking to make some rather fascinating moves , delving into the alternatives available to him there , seeking one or two options as he surveys that particular landscape. For the moment, Matt Stafford’s appears to be safe, but I can’t help feel , if the opportunity arose for him to trade the quarterback , it would be taken at the drop of a hat and close out what has been a rather disappointing tenure by Stafford, whose seven years in the NFL have proven to be underwhelming .

$20 million a year can get you a great deal in the NFL , but there are too few quarterbacks in this league actually worth the sum , who are capable of winning consistently in today’s NFL. Now consider the fact Sam Bradford of the Philadelphia Eagles , who becomes a free agent during this off-season , is now seeking such a deal , it begs the question will the front office staff continue with their idiocy after the hire and then firing of Chip Kelly and the ignominy of his tenure with the franchise ? Bradford at best , is no more than a backup quarterback for any franchise in the league, but given the Eagles’ poor pass offense , among the coaching staff of new head coach Doug Pederson. Bradford is thought to be the best of an awful bunch.

The Philadelphia Eagles had a litany of issues all over their roster and much of it stemmed from the fact during Kelly’s tenure , the franchise never had a propensity for playing defense and this run-gun- mentality of the team’s offense barely served them any purpose or brought about any tangible success. Yet somehow , purely upon his accomplishments with Oregon , Kelly was thought to be a football genius.

Having been hired by the San Francisco Forty Niners to succeed Jim Tomsula , Chip Kelly will be allowed a “second bite of the apple” , on a team with issues both on and off the field , and where there is said to be little faith in the acumen of GM Trent Baalke or team Chairman & owner Jed York . If the rumors are to be believed , with Chip Kelly longing to reunite with Sam Bradford and bring him to San Francisco , then one has to ask, what does the future hold for Colin Kaepernick and his remaining with the team ?

We are all aware of the decline in Kaerpernick’s play since 2014 and his being more concerned with his high-profile image , contract-value , than actually leading his team . Which all stems from the quarterback’s lack of maturity , leadership ability and being caught up in his own world. Back to back postseason appearances and there were comparisons being made with Niners’ legends Joe Montana and Steve Young in some circles . Pump the brakes and take a step back for a minute or two and then start to look at when and where the decline began for not only Kaepernick , but also for the Forty Niners where they now find themselves in their present predicament. The team in its present guise might not even be the best in their division and I certainly believe the Seattle Seahawks will remain the “ cream of the crop” within the NFC West . Seahawks ‘ quarterback Russell Wilson has to now be considered an elite quarterback in this league and as a Superbowl winning quarterback , I believe that he is only going to get better . He has shown the temperament , has the backing of his teammates , but also , he has shown himself to be a leader, leading by example and his teammates seem to be more than willing to follow his lead. I doubt the same can be said of Colin Kaepernick at this moment in time !

Jim Harbaugh’s wish to part ways with the San Francisco 49ers , were two-fold in the premise leading to his departure . Harbaugh’s relationship with Trent Baalke and Jed York had soured , his failure to hold his players accountable for their conduct off the field as well as on it was there for all to witness ( Aldon Smith and Ray McDonald ) , but idiot fans of the franchise seemed to be more concerned with the malaise and folly of the two front office executives. During the off-season Chip Kelly and his coaching staff will seek to assess the merits of the current roster while also assessing the potential free agents heading to the market , as Trent Baalke and coaches seek to bolster the roster. This upcoming season will be make or break for Colin Kaepernick, while Chip Kelly’s first season with the San Francisco 49ers will also come under a great deal of close scrutiny. Abject failure is not something likely to be tolerated by the fans of the franchise and many of their former players still closely associated with the organization.

Four Superbowl victories for New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick has pretty much sealed his legacy as perhaps the best NFL coach of his generation, as well as perhaps being one of the most despised individuals in NFL history. There is no denying the franchise has now become the most hated in the league ,along with the never ending controversies which have dragged down the image of the Patriots’ organization. Team owner Robert ‘ Bob’ Kraft remains all powerful, though his relationship with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has soured in aftermath of the ‘ Deflate-Gate’ . Though the allegations against Tom Brady were not necessarily groundless, but the league hierarchy’s presentation of their case in front of an arbitrator in a US Federal Court smacked of incompetence and showed that Goodell and his minions are in fact imbeciles . It should tell you a great deal about the case when the league’s own Chief Legal Counsel Jeff Pash refused to testify on behalf of the NFL in the presentation of their case against Brady. The decision by Pash , pretty much handed the victory to Brady and his legal representatives and guaranteed his four-game suspension being lifted.

New England’s loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC championship game led to their falling short of making a successful defense of the title won last season. For Tom Brady and his teammates , this is not an off-season for them to ponder what went wrong, but for the coaching staff and front office to assess how the team can actually get better. The Patriots struggled on offense when it mattered the most in their encounter against the Broncos and for Brady this was not one of his better encounters against Peyton Manning during the postseason .

Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia will likely seek to strengthen the team’s defense , while also looking add to the team’s offensive corps of players. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has to be aware the team’s rush offense was something of a letdown , while offensive line is in need of a major upgrade to protect Tom Brady and allow the quarterback more time in the ‘pocket’ . There is the feeling Belichick working in conjunction with GM Nick Caserio , will add Matt Forte to the team’s roster , while releasing one of the Patriots’ quantity of running backs among the lineup from this past season. We know the league to be a ‘cut-throat’ business at this time of the season and I expect New England to be no different from any of the other franchises around the league as they make the cuts they believe necessary in preparing for the NFL Draft and free agency.

With the NFL cap figure expected to be $155 million for 2016, the New England Patriots find themselves in a favorable position should they make place themselves in a position, to make a big splash for marquee free agent as mentioned earlier (Matt Forte) . Things worked out well for several teams at this point last season , as they sought to bolster their rosters through free agency and in some respects it played a part in the success of the Denver Broncos during the postseason.

Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins may well have won the NFC East , a division I believe to be one of the worst in the entire NFL , but the thought of Cousins now on the cusp of seeking and being signed to a multi-year deal does seem daunting. The Redskins’ front office could seek to ‘franchise tag’ the quarterback and then simply offer him a one-year deal equivalent to the average earnings for a top-five paid passer in the league. Whether not Cousins is said to be worth such a deal , is dependent upon what you might believe are his attributes as a passer ? Jay Gruden witnessed his team grind out a rather mediocre 9-7 record to secure the divisional title before being upended in the wildcard round of the postseason in a rather embarrassing loss to the Green Bay Packers. Cousins and the Redskins were simply out of their depth against a superior team, with a far better coaching staff than those at the disposal of Jay Gruden.

A great deal of the deliberations this off-season will not only surround the status of Kirk Cousins but also , his teammate and fellow draftee from 2012, Robert Griffin III . Griffin was the second overall pick taken in the draft behind quarterback Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts . In what would appear to be all of the alleged warning signs, the feeling seems to be the coaching staff and front office no longer have any implicit faith in Robert Griffin’s abilities , while also, his being a malcontent and a major distraction. Injuries have played a part Griffin’s fall from grace, beyond the erratic play and willingness to sacrifice himself needlessly to make a ‘big play’. Gruden’s predecessor Mike Shanahan was never really able to get the best out of Griffin , even after his leading the Redskins to a postseason appearance in 2012, his rookie season. From thereon-in , his demise has been swift and somewhat demoralizing. If Robert Griffin is cut, then he could very well be signed by a team in need of a player with regular season experience , primarily in a backup role to a starter. Griffin still believes himself to be a front-line starting quarterback and more than capable of leading a team. With his career now at a crossroads , it is extremely difficult to suggest where Robert Griffin now goes from here. At the start of 2012 , so much was expected of the player after a stellar career at Baylor (Bears) , which now seems to be stuck in a morass.

Redskins’ team President Bruce Allen and team owner Dan Snyder have yet to make a public decision concerning the beleaguered quarterback and even GM Scott McGloughlan seems reluctant to discuss the matter in public , but there are swirling rumors now being floated, a decision has been made , Robert Griffin III , will be be released by the franchise. The release of Griffin would save the Washington Redskins $16.2 million against the team’s cap for 2016 and will go a long way in creating cap space and their pursuit of several highly-prized free agents as well as possibly ‘ tagging’ Kirk Cousins, rather than signing him to a multi-year deal .

Basking in their return to the greater Los Angeles area , the St Louis Rams will return to the roots and become associated with the city where they first garnered fame . For Jeff Fisher and Stanley Kroenke , this becomes the chance to perhaps see an appreciation in the Rams’ value and profitability as well as the notable rise in attendance likely to be seen in 2016. For the fans of the Rams within the community this brings about their long wait for the return of a franchise to the city of Los Angeles . OK, one can choose to ignore the era of the Oakland Raiders when they were known as the Los Angeles Raiders and given the abysmal record of the Raiders since 2004 , I think just about anyone who has a vested interest in the NFL will simply ignore the AFC West based franchise and the systematic incompetence seen with Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie . The less said about Raiders’ season of ignominy the better off the whole would appear to be.

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Kurt Warner , left , is seen here being hugged by Dick Vermeil after the St Louis Rams’ victory over the Tennessee Titans in the Superbowl . Neither Vermeil or Warner are currently in the Pro Football Hall of Fame , in spite of both having been retired for several years and having met the eligibility requirements .

For Jeff Fisher and this current crop of players , several of whom are unlikely to be on the roster for this upcoming season. I believe a fresh start with new faces might provide the franchise with something it has long sought and that is a chance to return to competitiveness seen when Kurt Warner was ruling the roost with the ” Greatest Show on Turf”” . Those days are long gone and the Rams haven’t come close to achieving the sort of notoriety seen when they won the Superbowl.

Last season for the St Louis Rams was a year when nothing seemed to go right for the team, from week two right to week six . A 7-9 record was just an indication of where the Rams stood at the end of the regular season and in reality it told us a great deal about the team in general . Nick Foles is being asked to place a great deal of the burden upon his shoulders and to lead the St Louis (Los Angeles) Rams this season and I believe it will be far too tough a task for him , even if surrounded by complementary players suitable to his skill-set . Foles is a creature of habit and his not being able to think outside the box , is not something we have not seen from the player at this point of his career . This will have to be the year, where Nick Foles convinces us all , how great he can be under the guidance of Jeff Fisher’s coaching staff and his sortie of teammates. While I believe Foles to be a good quarterback, I am yet to be convinced he is the kind of player capable of leading the Rams a Superbowl victory !

Three things will unfold this season for the Dallas Cowboys . One , Jerry Jones will finally get another chance to see the good and the bad side of the Dallas Cowboys and two , he will have to make a decision as to whether not he can still stand by Tony Romo as the starting quarterback of the team. Finally, he has to come to his senses as to the merits of Jason Garrett’s tenure as the head coach of the franchise. Romo’s postseason record notwithstanding , but Garrett’s own achievements have been equally abysmal , in spite of his being given the keys to the “Kingdom” , an alleged Ferrari , which he hasn’t been able to get out of first gear. The Dallas Cowboys might well be worth an estimated $4 billion and have the luxury of playing in cavernous and ostentatious Texas (AT&T ) Stadium , built at the reputed cost of $1.4 billion ,but the Cowboys in their present guise will never make an appearance at their home venue as a participant in the Superbowl and I am prepared to go on record and state Tony Romo will not be leading the franchise to a Superbowl victory ! He may well say all of the right things , but his window of opportunity has now firmly closed and he can simply dream of what might have been. Romo can continue to dream , where in his world and fantasies of make he belief he raises the Lombardi Trophy in victory around, with the team owner and teammates.

In recent years injuries have plagued Tony Romo and we are no longer guaranteed the fact , he can play a full sixteen-game regular season schedule and if that were not enough, is not enough , the depth on the roster at the quarterback position is very weak . Anyone under the misconception , Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden were the answers to Jason Garrett’s and Jerry Jones’ prayers, are completely delusional . This off-season , a decision has to be made concerning the Cowboys acquiring a decent backup starter for Romo, as well as the drafting of a very good college quarterback who will be groomed for the future. As to whether or not Wade Wilson , quarterbacks’ coach for the Cowboys , can make that all a reality remains to be seen, dependent upon the decisions made by the Cowboys during the upcoming NFL Draft. Dallas has not drafted a quarterback since taking Stephen McGee in the 2009 NFL Draft . McGee’s career statistics if nothing else , simply makes for a good way to pass the time or for a piece of Cowboys’ trivia of not so fun-filled facts. Either way, it sums up the Dallas Cowboys’ continually abysmal record in the NFL since 2008. All of the excuses in the world , cannot hide the fact, you cannot dress up a pig and call it a sow . Oink, oink , oink !

This season could very well be the last year we all get to see Tony Romo is a Cowboys’ uniform as his best years are now behind him and not ahead. His career plateau has been reached , Pro Bowl appearances and personal achievements , but an elusive Superbowl ring and victory will not be on his career resume’ upon his retirement , not unless it is in some other capacity , either as a backup starter or in some coaching capacity of the future.

What moves do you believe will take place during this off-season in the NFL ? Which teams are likely to benefit from this free agency period in the run-up to the NFL Draft ?

 

 

Tophatal  … 2016/02/24   By clicking on an image seen below you can view the picture in a reformatted size alongside the accompanying narrative.

 

NFL news and NFL  transactions  (February 2016)

2016  NFL  Draft & NFL  Combine  news

NFL free agents

Projected team salary caps

Top-capped players in 2016

NFL transactions (March 2015)
NFL archived news

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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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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.

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Pick your poison …..

Pick your poison …

The NFL season has proven to be a great deal more than many would be willing to admit and now the consensus and debate is whether or not Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton is a deserving winner of this year’s NFL League MVP. From my standpoint , with Newton having led the Panthers to an unbeaten 14-0 season , with two games left to be played . It would take an idiot to bet against the player and his possibly leading them as only the second franchise in NFL history to go unbeaten during the NFL’s sixteen-game regular season schedule. There might well be a sense of foreboding , with the fact the last team do so, the New England , having gone 16-0 , would then fall to the New York Giants in the Superbowl .

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Ron Rivera and his coaching staff have the team playing some explosive football, with Carolina being impressive all season-long with their statistics bearing this out. Yet, this has all been a collective effort from just about every player on the roster. From the rookies to the seasoned veterans , everyone has somehow played a part in what has become a historic run for the Panthers. With two games left to the regular season schedule, it will be very interesting to see how Carolina continues to navigate their season. Singular glory asides, I believe Cam Newton would rather lead the Panthers to their first appearance and victory in the Superbowl ! Newton has performed admirably throughout the season , having set career-bests and now placing himself as a dual-threat and not what one would deem to be the NFL prototypical quarterback .

Passing league or not , the NFL is in need of a player to assume the mantel soon to be relinquished by the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees . Granted , Aaron Rodgers to my mind , has been the best quarterback in the league over the past six seasons has proven himself to be among the elite players at the position and is slowly carving out a career which will likely see him inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio upon his being eligible.

Having gotten the better of the New York Giants in their most recent game , the Panthers defeated the Giants in a close and highly contested contest . The two NFC stalwarts gladiatorial in the contest with it being highly physical. Though Carolina Panthers were victorious , the game will certainly be remembered for the thug-like antics of Giants’ wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr , whose infantile behavior and lack of maturity , is showing him in a negative light. Throughout much of the game , Beckham was constantly under pressure from Panther’s defensive player Josh Norman and with the receiver having dropped a number of passes thrown his way by teammate Eli Manning, it was easy to understand Beckham’s frustration. However, what was totally abhorrent, was Odell Beckham’s attempt in trying to decapitate the Panther’s defensive back during the game.

While we all know taunting is prevalent during games between opposing players during NFL games , what is now becoming a regular occurrence. is the continued taunting and unsportsmanlike conduct. Beckham was given one-game suspension for his conduct , while Norman went unpunished for his conduct. If the league hierarchy cannot deal with such issues aggressively and adequately, then the type of behavior shown will continue to be a pattern within the game.

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers will seek to keep their fourteen-game winning streak intact when they face the Atlanta Falcons in a divisional road game on Sunday evening . This is a game, which I believe will a lopsided contest favoring the road team , one which could end up rather embarrassingly for the Falcons. Though the Atlanta Falcons leads the series 27-14 with the two teams having met forty-one times over the two decades during which the contests have taken place. In their most recent meetings , it was Carolina winning both games in 2014, with Cam Newton prevailing over his divisional rival.

Matt Ryan , the Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback will be expected to lead his team with authority. Something, I now believe he is incapable of doing with any degree of certainty , given Atlanta’s rapid decline this season. Thomas Dimitroff’s position as the general manager is certainly being scrutinized by team owner Arthur Blank and I also believe Ryan’s own long-term future with the franchise is in jeopardy. Granted , the Falcons have a considerable sum invested in their quarterback, who has failed to deliver when it has mattered the most and his dismal season , has only further emphasized the issues which continue to dog Matt Ryan as a player.

If there is a “ call to arms “ , which players are most likely to meet the call and lead by example ? It’s said to be the quarterbacks’ duty to lead and his teammates will likely to follow. Of late , I have a great deal of idiocy surrounding, how Brock Osweiler was meant to be the face and future of the Denver Broncos , much of this having been based one game , where Osweiler led the Broncos to a victory over a disheveled New England Patriots’ team. In the past two weeks Peyton Manning’s understudy has shown the NFL he is not yet ready to actually take over the reins from the future Hall of Fame bound player. Denver for its part , has been struggling in recent games , though their postseason aspirations are not necessarily in jeopardy. One has to wonder , if Brock Osweiler has the temperament to lead the Denver Broncos on a deep playoff run, much less Gary Kubiak being able to show real signs of coaching acumen. Kubiak’s postseason record can be best described as mediocre .

This weekend with the teams lining up for their penultimate game of the regular season schedule , it will be interesting to see the end results will be . The San Diego Chargers will kick off this part of the schedule with a divisional game against the Oakland Raiders , in a contest during which both teams will be looking for some form of salvation. Brock Osweiler and the Denver Broncos will have a tough game on their and quite possibly be in for a rude awakening, when they meet the Cincinnati Bengals a formidable conference foe . Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will be the guests of the New York Jets in what is likely to be seen as a “ must-win game” for the Jets. There is a very meaningful game taking place on Sunday afternoon, when the Washington Redskins take on the Philadelphia Eagles , with the victor likely in the driver’s seat concerning the destination of the NFC East divisional title. All that you might well need to concerning the division, is that it remains one of the worst in the entire NFL.

Chip Kelly as the Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach has presided over the steady decline of the franchise since his being introduced as its head coach . A lone postseason appearance coming in 2013, saw the Eagles fall in the wildcard round of the NFL postseason in a game against the New Orleans Saints led by their quarterback Drew Brees.

A Philadelphia Eagles’ loss and we might as well begin to ask how long before team owner Jeff Lurie makes the decision to fire both Chip Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman ? Clearly, the two inspire about as much confidence as a blind man playing hopscotch in the middle of a mine-field. We know stuff gets blown up , but Roseman has countenanced every dumb move made by Kelly , allowing the head coach unparalleled latitude with his decision-making concerning the team’s roster . Chip Kelly on his best day couldn’t spot NFL talent , much less coach it , if he were given the proper tools to do so. Kelly’s teams in the NFL have lacked finesse and they certainly have no propensity to play defense , but yet there are moronic fools repeatedly jumping to defense, believing him to be a very good NFL head coach. That is about as inspiring as suggesting Roger Goodell has been a great asset to the NFL as its top executive. Goodell has presided over a popular league , but he remains weak and indifferent when dealing with a litany of issues facing the NFL.

Among the top contenders of candidates for this season’s NFL Rookie of The Year , the consensus appears to be Todd Gurley , Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston are the best of a really bad bunch of NFL rookies in 2015. All three have had their moments this season in the NFL, but the trio also play on very bad teams who are not even in contention for even their divisional titles much less a postseason berth . I would also throw in Amari Cooper of the Oakland Raiders , but again as before, he is playing on an exceptionally bad team. While I get the fact the award to reward a player for their season-long contributions achievements within the league during their rookie season. I can’t help but feel, rewarding so-called excellence when your team just happens to be bad , is nothing more than giving a child a lollipop after they have finished in the bottom-half of a Spelling Bee Competition !

Would you also like to have some cheese with your wine and continued whining ? There has to be something said when three NFL quarterbacks, having signed multi-million dollar deals have put together a string of performances this season that have you feeling depressed and the thought beyond their being overpaid, you could actually do better. Joe Flacco , Colin Kaepernick and Jay Cutler are three such quarterbacks, where the blame can be in part be laid for the abysmal seasons of the Baltimore Ravens , San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears . Obviously , all three teams will be in action during week sixteen with the Ravens taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers , the Forty Niners facing the Detroit Lions and the Bears taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All of these games given their status, should prove to be eventful and at the samepoint last season teams were in the waning moments of their respective schedules.

Head coaches in some cases are coaching with job-survival being on the line and there is no doubt in my mind , we are likely to see several coaching turnovers during the off-season. Jim Caldwell is likely on the “outs “ with the Detroit Lions and similar fates could also await Mike Pettine, Bill O’Brien , Chip Kelly , Jim Tomsula and Sean Payton . It remains to be seen whether or not , Jerry Jones will finally admit the Jason Garrett era must finally come to an abrupt end after another disastrous season by the Dallas Cowboys .

Jason Garrett will prepare the team for their road game against the Buffalo Bills , where Bills’ head coach Rex Ryan is facing an internal mutiny among his players after their lackluster season and not understanding Ryan’s often blurred coaching strategies. It seems almost nonsensical to suggest the number of stories written concerning the calls for Jason Garrett’s dismissal or calls simply for Jerry Jones to relinquish his position as the Cowboys’ general manager. The loss of Tony Romo due to injury , simply added to the Dallas’ woes for the season and essentially place the team on their current path to one of their worst finishes in franchise history in recent seasons. . Jerry Jones is unlikely to be forced to heed the calls for Garrett’s firing , as it would simply prove his mistake in hiring the incumbent head coach as the successor to Bill Parcells .

For Sean Payton and the complacency shown by the New Orleans Saints, is slowly emphasizing what we already knew , having won a Superbowl and the aftermath of ‘ Bounty-gate Scandal’ , there was nothing left in the tank and Payton’s coaching acumen was indeed slipping. Take into account the departure of several key players over the last three seasons and you now have to wonder where the Saints can now go from here . The New Orleans Saints are no longer a match for the Carolina Panthers’ and Cam Newton has to be considered the best quarterback in the NFC South , not just based on this season , but also over the past three years. His ascent while Drew Brees’ steady decline seems to be providing us with a stark reality of what is now happening within the division. Sorry Matt Ryan , but you were never going to be part of this equation as you are soft , softer than a baby’s ass a matter of fact ! Brees and the Saints will seek to redeem themselves when they face the Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend, as the two teams meet at the Mercedes Benz Stadium in New Orleans , Louisiana , on Sunday afternoon.

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As the regular season comes to a close, which teams do you feel have been a failure and which teams do you believe will be in the hunt for the Superbowl ?

Tophatal …………

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The wind beneath whose wings ……..

The wind beneath whose wings …

The NBA season is now in full swing and in the lead-up to the always important Christmas Day schedule , teams will certainly be looking to play with a great deal more consistency than with the initial start to their season.

Defending NBA champions the Golden State Warriors are certainly proving why they are the best team in the league and also have the best starting lineup by far. There is no other team in the NBA with greater depth and certainly they have the best head coach currently coaching in the game.

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Steve Kerr has experienced it all as a player , head coach and brought a sense of stability and intellect needed to a Warriors’ franchise , which it lacked under Kerr’s predecessor Mark Jackson . Add in the fact among the franchise’s front office , you have Jerry West as a consultant and an astute general manager with the acumen of Bob Myers and you can see why the Warriors remain ahead of the curve both on and off the court.

The same cannot be said for a litany teams around the NBA and that is with due respect to the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers , New York Knicks , Sacramento Kings , Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers , all of whom are simply bringing the NBA to its knees , if not lying on its back , prostrate. Simply look at their respective records within their divisions , conference and the league overall as a reason why they are and remain so bad.

When Joe Lacob and Peter Guber made the decision to buy the Golden State Warriors from former owner Chris Cohan, they sought to fix the problems often ignored by their predecessor and the front office.

Cohan, for his part , was often seen as an owner who simply didn’t care about the fate of the team during his tenure, just as long as he was able to share in the profits reaped not only by the team, but also the league in general. One has to remember , first and foremost the NBA as a brand is a major money-making business , which is presided over a group of executives whose major and primary concern has been to exact a degree of control over its brand , which makes it impossible for anyone to compete against them on any level.

The tyrannical rule seen under David Stern as the league’s commissioner, was one of complete authority, even if along the way there were buffoon-like decisions made along with a slew of mistakes and his even using race and gangster rap, as a selling point to market the NBA brand. Yet , I have been told countless times by a number of individuals , Stern was very good for the NBA. In reality, the former commissioner made use of Michael Jordan as the “tool” needed to sell the brand globally around the world . Now we are in the era of LeBron James and this league remains as popular as ever, even though there has been a marked decline in the quality of the play on the basketball court. In part , that could be down to the coaching and also the lack of real in-depth talent advancing from the college level over the past few years.

Adam Silver has succeeded David Stern as the NBA Commissioner and Silver looks to further the league’s ambition to expand beyond the North American continent. From my own perspective, while basketball might be one of the most popular sports in the world , second only to soccer. The league will be in for a hard sell in such places as Latin America , Western Europe and certain regions of sub-Saharan Africa. To date, the NBA’s most successful advances have been made in Europe and on the Asian continent , where in particular , China has been the league’s big success. A billion-plus consumers to be embraced and you cannot go wrong and then add in the fact the country’s biggest sporting export Yao Ming still remains popular in China, even after his retirement and you can understand why the NBA seeks to have its tentacles firmly around the globe. Something , I firmly believe the hierarchies of the NFL, MLB and NHL have failed yet to grasp, when it comes to marketing their brands on the global market.

The Golden State Warriors on their march to seeking a second consecutive NBA title have been blowing past opponents and leaving them in their rear view mirror. Reigning NBA League MVP Steph Curry , is having another banner year and his teammates are following his lead. Defensively, as good as they are , the Warriors can still get better and the question now on everyone’s lips , which team can inflict Golden State’s first loss of the season. At 22-0 , the Warriors are just eleven games away from equaling the longest consecutive winning streak in NBA history, a mark held by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. Another five-straight wins by Golden State would see them equal the second longest mark set by Miami Heat during the 2012-13 NBA season.

In their last game the Golden State Warriors in a contest , which pitted them against the Indiana Pacers . A home loss for the Pacers in a 131-123 defeat pushed Indiana’s record to 12-9 for the fifth best record in the Eastern Conference. The Warriors’ next game will see them on the road to face the Boston Celtics , where we are likely to see Golden State improve their road record as well as against another Eastern Conference opponent.

While the Golden State Warriors are being praised for their success this season , for the teams at the bottom end of the NBA and the continued ineptitude shown. I don’t know that a great deal more needs to be said about the play of the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers , Brooklyn Nets , New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. Ineptitude this season , shall we say, is the new normal ?

Brett Brown , head coach of the 76ers, is a franchise, which is bereft of talent on the court , but even more among so the coaching staff and front office . Having recently won their first game of the season , the Sixers can rest assured no one is really concerned what they do over the remainder of their schedule, much less the idiocy of those who believe GM Sam Hinkie is building something which will be of benefit to the franchise and their long-term future. This is the sort of prevailing idiocy which is now prevalent around the NBA, with the fans and analysts alike. Once, the several of these younger players (rookies) have fulfilled their contractual obligations with Sixers , I believe a number of them will be getting as far away from Philadelphia as fast as they can, without taking a look in their rear view mirrors !

Rajon Rondo may well be resurrecting his career with the Sacramento Kings , but the team will not be going anywhere at all this season. George Karl, as experienced a coach as he is, has to be provided with a team willing to play, one which plays with a great deal of zeal. Clearly not the case with Sacramento at home or on the road this season. A six-point victory over the Utah Jazz by the Sacrament Kings may well have provided the Kings with some respite momentarily but they will be in for something of a test when they face the New York Knicks at home on Thursday evening. For the New York Knicks, this will give the Derek Fisher coached team a chance to improve their record against Western Conference opponents. While there might be a great deal which the Knicks’ fans feel they can rejoice about , at this point of the season, with a 10-12 record within the East and 2 ½ games behind the eighth placed , Orlando Magic (12-9) , is not necessarily a great place to be for a franchise , where their fans as well as the front office believe the team is capable of making the NBA Playoffs this season.

LeBron James might well be considered the best player in the NBA since his entrance as the number one pick during the 2003 NBA Draft . The ensuing years have provided the fans with just about everything they expected and a great deal more. As LeBron seeks to guide the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first NBA title, the player seems to be making all the right commercial moves off the court , while still making a considerable salary on the court. James’ signing of a lifetime $500 million contract , further enhances his viability as the NBA’s highest-profile and commercially viable marketing asset, the league currently has. The deal with Nike Inc, will push the player’s lifetime earnings in excess of $1 billion. If the rumors are to be believed then the player could be joining his personal icons Michael Jordan and Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson of becoming not only major sports’ icons , but also billionaire status .

The Cleveland Cavaliers have not proven to be as dominant as some believed they would be this season and already the team has suffered some rather embarrassing losses against opponents, which many felt were beneath them. Over their last six games heading into Wednesday night the Cleveland Cavaliers have posted 3-3 record , hardly emblematic of a team seeking to be the best within their conference. Granted, the Cavaliers do have the best record , but they have been far from dominant within the Eastern Conference. In their last game Cleveland had to overcome pesky Portland Trailblazers , who they defeated 105-100. Prior to that game, they lost a lopsided decision to the Miami Heat , while they were without LeBron James for the contest. The next game for the Cavaliers will see them take on the Orlando Magic at the Amway Arena , Orlando, Florida on Thursday , 11th December ,2015.

It would be fair to suggest there are no more than a handful of teams in the Western Conference likely to be able to derail the chances of the Golden State Warriors making a successful defense of their NBA title. Among those , I would count the Oklahoma City Thunder , Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs to be among the teams in question ! Of the three franchises mentioned , the Spurs with their depth might be the team capable of making that a reality. The fact that Gregg Popovich and RC Buford were able to pull of such a coup in acquiring both LaMarcus Aldridge and David West only adds to the fabled accomplishments of both executives .

San Antonio currently has the second-best record in the league and the conference behind the undefeated Golden State Warriors. Certainly, when these two teams meet in the first of their regular season meetings , it is likely to be one the games of the season and most definitely the game of the night, when this contests takes place. These two teams will meet four times times over the course of this season as part of their schedule, with those games being contested on the following dates, 25th January, 19th March, 7th April and the final meeting between the two taking place on the 10th April . Last season both the Warriors and Spurs put on an exhilarating display in each of the three games held as they sought conference supremacy .

Tim Duncan and his San Antonio Spurs’ teammates will next take to the court when they are due to face Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant having announced this will be his his last season in the NBA, will not be going out with a splash, but more so, on a somber note as the Lakers’ season is already imperiled due to the poor play by the entire roster and poor coaching of Byron Scott .

The only way is up , from here-on in concerning the Los Angeles Lakers, but I believe it is too steep a mountain which this franchise is incapable of climbing . simply because of the lack of intelligence shown by the team’s owners Jim and Jeanie Buss, while GM Mitch Kupchak remains clueless in his assessment of talent and how to put a competitive together. Six years on from their last NBA title triumph , the Lakers have labored in a pool of acrid mediocrity .

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What have you found to be the most impressive statistic witnessed at this point of the NBA season and do you believe the Christmas schedule will play a large part in what we could very well see over the remainder of the NBA schedule ?

🙂

Tophatal …………..

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Something Wicked This Way Comes …

Something Wicked This Way Comes …….


Week three
of the NFL season is now in our rear-view mirror and with it came the results leaving a great deal of the league in something of an after-shock. We have seven unbeaten teams , with the AFC on appearance having the better of the showing in terms of the success seen among the franchises. NFC champions the Seattle Seahawks remains a team in a state of disarray , albeit , they had their first win of the season with a 26-0 thrashing of the Chicago Bears , a team I believe will likely be among the worst of the NFL’s thirty teams this season.

Jay Cutler remains more of a liability to the Bears than he is an asset. Among the other NFC franchises, we have the San Francisco 49ers , looking as if they have been caught in a head-on collision , having been hit by a sixty-foot semi-trailer at high speed. Niners’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s season thus far has been one of sheer disappointment, while fans of the San Francisco 49ers appear to be pointing fingers at team CEO Jed Yorke and GM Trent Baalke for the franchise’s disarray.

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The Niners’ assuredly embarrassing loss to the Arizona Cardinals was as abhorrent a sight as one would not wish to see on an NFL field. Head coach Jim Tomsula and the coaching staff are as much to blame for this defeat as the players themselves. This Niners’ team lacks not only confidence but also a great deal of leadership and discipline. There can be no excuse for the loss , even if one could attribute it the loss , to the fact the Cardinals were the better team on the day.

In week four the San Francisco 49ers will play host to the unbeaten Green Bay Packers (3-0) , where quarterback Aaron Rodgers seems to be on a record breaking pace for the season in terms of his own personal achievements during the Packers’ regular season schedule . Personally, I do not believe the Packers will face much of a daunting task from their divisional rivals within the NFC North during 2015 !

While I believe over the past two seasons we have seen the growth of Cam Newton as a player, until he leads the Carolina Panthers (3-0) on a deep run in the NFL postseason , for the moment, he will just be considered a very athletic and gifted quarterback. He possesses a great deal of athleticism which is undeniable, yet he is complemented by a roster of players who have yet to meet the goals expected of the fans or the ownership at the moment. Head coach Ron Rivera and the Panthers’ coaching staff have slowly begun to mold this roster into a competitive force within the NFC South as well as the NFL , but the real goal for this organization has to be deep run in the postseason and ultimately a Superbowl victory.

The Panthers romped to a victory over a very labored New Orleans Saints’ (0-3) team missing Drew Brees in this contest. Granted, Brees’ back Luke McCown was being asked to do a great deal in this match-up , this loss was indicative of how bad , the Saints have become this season. Three games into their schedule and I am not so sure the New Orleans Saints are capable of extricating themselves out of a hole of their own making. Next up for the Saints will be a home game against the Dallas Cowboys (1-2) , in a must-win contest for both teams , if either of these two franchises are to make sense of their season.

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers will be taking their show on the road to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers , where Jameis Winston will be looking to acquit himself after his rather lackluster display in the Buccaneers’ week three loss , suffered at the hands of the Houston Texans. Going into this contest against the Panthers , I would be very surprised if the home team is able to pull of a victory against the visitors in this contests . Games between the two teams since Cam Newton was drafted by Carolina have been in favor of the Panthers’ quarterback.

Say what you will , in the aftermath of the debacle which engulfed and embarrassed the NFL hierarchy with Tom Brady seeing his proposed four game suspension bite the dust with US Federal District Court Judge Richard M Berman, siding with the player, The judge stated, the league had overstepped its limits in seeking to suspend the New England Patriots’ quarterback for the first four games of the Patriots’ regular season schedule. Deflate-Gate as this debacle and unmitigated disaster, has come to be known, isn’t simply about the accusations of the New England Patriots cheating , but it is a damning indictment of a league lacking in leadership from the hierarchy on down to the front office executives and among the players themselves.

Meanwhile, clueless individuals , notably the anal retentive fans pointing an accusing finger at the Patriots’ franchise , have been quick to overlook the misdeeds of coaches such as Rex Ryan , Josh McDaniels , Sean Payton and a slew of bothers. Needless to say, these same blithering idiots , with their short-term memory loss have quickly forgotten the antics of the New Orleans Saints’ organization and the antics surrounding the Bounty-Gate Scandal. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell remains the consummate imbecile , while the anal retentive and apathetic fans of this league continue to wax on lyrically about how great the NFL happens to be , but they appear to be nowhere intelligent enough to be succinct in their criticism of a clueless commissioner.

Tom Brady for his part has led the New England Patriots to an unbeaten three-game start to the season, with the Patriots’ quarterback going about his business , as if the scandal which engulfed his reputation was simply a meaningless obstacle. Questions may will still arise as to player’s innocence or guilt, but given the fact the league’s case as so ill-prepared , even the NFL’s SVP and Chief Legal Counsel Jeff Pash failed to take the stand to explain the NFL’s case against Brady , has simply been another indicator of the ongoing incompetence of this hierarchy under Roger Goodell’s leadership.

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots annihilated the Jacksonville Jaguars on their way to a 51-17 victory for their biggest win of the season , with their schedule still in its infancy . Brady has already amassed over 1,000 passing yards on the season , thrown seven passing touchdowns without an interception , with a completion percentage above sixty-five percent (65% ) and a QB rating in excess of 115.00 . Outstanding statistics for the four-time Superbowl winner, three-time Superbowl MVP and two-time League MVP . Awards being what they are and even in light of the most recent allegations , Brady has remained at the top of his game without any real distractions. Granted , there still remains the idiocy of the league , still holding out some hope they are able to suspend the player at some point during this season, but given the league’s poor presentation of their original case , there seems little chance of their having a successful ruling in a Federal Appeals Court , which renders Richard Berman’s verdict null and void.

Brady now remains single-minded in his pursuits , with franchise records and a number of career milestones now within his sight, but perhaps the biggest achievement yet remaining for the player , might be the chance to win a fifth Superbowl ring and championship with the Patriots’ franchise. His six appearances in the NFL’s biggest showcase event is a testament to his career and while there will remain detractors , the fact of the matter remains, neither player or the organization are solely to blame for the malaise and bad publicity this latest scandal has brought the NFL. The leadership within the NFL remains weak , and the owners seem more concerned with , money , profits , team value and less about a positive image, while Roger Goodell’s continued incompetency and lack of real leadership ,drags the NFL further into a quagmire of its very own making.

The New England Patriots will head into week four with a bye , though still looking to increase their lead within the AFC East , while also seeking to remain among the front-runners within the AFC. Their next opponents will be the Dallas Cowboys , whom they will meet in week five of the regular season at Cowboys Stadium , Arlington , Texas on the 11th October , 2015. Defensively , the Patriots still leave a great deal to be desired , as the defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will certainly have to assess the issues of the secondary and their continued woes. It remains the one area Bill Belichick must have his deepest concerns and reservations about , as the team seeks to progress this season .

Heading into this season, it was felt, both the Baltimore Ravens (0-3) and Oakland Raiders (2-1) might be in a position to do something special within their respective divisions in 2015. Three weeks into the season and the struggles of both franchises can be chronicled with just a couple of words, “ they have been abysmally awful “ . The Raiders might well be off to one of their best starts in recent seasons , but head coach Jack Del Rio knows a great deal more consistency will be needed from this team , especially from quarterback and presumed on-field leader Derek Carr . The AFC West could become a highly competitive division with the starting quarterbacks within, all looking to play a significant role in their teams’ success. The Raiders will be looking to make sure that their fortuitous start to the season doesn’t come crashing down around their ears when they face the lowly Chicago Bears (0-3) in a game where the visiting Raiders take to Soldier Field in Chicago , Illinois on Sunday , 4th October , 2015.

Joe Flacco is coming off a season where by his own lofty standards , he was less than satisfactory for the Baltimore Ravens. Their indifferent start to this season makes his and the team’s situation all the more bewildering. An early season favorite for the Superbowl and now win-less, they might not be in a position to win the AFC North or gain a postseason berth given their poor start to the year. It doesn’t seem that long ago when Flacco’s postseason exploits which led the franchise to their second Superbowl title was being lauded as one for the ages . Out of those scintillating performances from 2012 , Flacco was able to land himself a six-figure deal making him one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL . Now while the Ravens have been frequent visitors to the NFL postseason since their 2012 triumph over the San Francisco 49ers , the real issues have been their failure to draft well , ill-timed free agent acquisitions, while several players on the team have failed to meet the expectations of the coaching staff and front office . GM Ozzie Newsome may well be feeling the need to look over this roster and begin to cut the waste from this lineup.

When the Baltimore Ravens take to the field to play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on 1st October , 2015 in their Thursday night contest , should the Ravens fail to gain their first win of the season. In all probability John Harbaugh will likely be under a great deal of pressure in his role as the head coach , beyond the fallout of a fourth consecutive loss for the franchise.

Things are not all that sunny on the beaches of Miami or with the South Florida based Miami Dolphins (1-2). Quarterback Ryan Tannehill along with his teammate Ndamukong Suh have bared the brunt of the criticism leveled at the team as well as Joe Philbin and the coaching staff . One could question the fact the Dolphins chose to make Suh one of the highest paid defensive players in the league, with Suh yet to show the leadership or ability sought to lead this defense . With the New England Patriots off to a solid start and the New York Jets (2-1) under Todd Bowles , seemingly revitalized by the stabilizing lay of Ryan Fitzpatrick and seasoned veteran corner-back Darrelle Revis back to his best as he has played with a great deal of zeal, leading the Jets’ secondary , among the best in the league at this point of the season.

Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins will play host to the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon in a divisional clash, with Miami seeking to avoid a third consecutive loss at this early stage of the season. Tannehill will be tested in this contest and his play has to be at its very best , if the Dolphins are to overcome this very confident Jets’ team .

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At this stage of the season with there still being a great deal to play for , several of the teams who remain win-less now will now have to play solid football over the remainder of the season if they are to prevail with their season’s ambitions. Yet, for all we have witnessed from the teams, I cannot help but wonder what is likely to happen next.

Tophatal …….

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NFL standings (overall)

NFL schedule week four

NFL player stats (week three)

NFL team stats (week three)

NFL teams’ salary caps (2015)

This month in NFL history

On this date in NFL history