Friday, April 29, 2011

LSU-FLA Mayhem

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Cam Newton's equipped for the NFL's fast lane. He has the body
of an H3 Hummer, runs like a Ferrari, and shines like a meticulously
detailed Bentley.

But get out of the Car Fax and you'll see that he has some serious
damage under the hood. There was the arrest for stealing a laptop
at Florida, whispers of a cheating scandal, and that pay-for-play
drama with Mississippi State that monopolized the headlines in the fall.

Still, scouts are drooling over Newton like a 13-year old goes
gaga over a high school teacher who has all the "tools". The former
Heisman trophy winner is gifted with a bazooka for an arm,  legs
that can cover forty yards in 4.5 seconds, and a body that is 250lbs
of twisted steel.

But Newton's ability to play quarterback at the next level has been
seriously questioned by anyone and everyone who has and has not ever
played the game. They say he played in the spread at Auburn, didn't
have to drop back or read a defense, but rather the numbers off a card
that the offensive coordinator displayed on the sideline.

As you read, there are a lot BUT's and HOWEVER's with Cam Newton
because he's a mega-talented star with lots, and lots of question marks.

As John Gruden demonstrated in his coaching session with Newton on
ESPN, just calling the plays can be like learning a foreign language. How
about: 3 set, triple right, kill option zone, z post, x fly, y cross, on one,
ready break. In that session alone, Newton's head was spinning like a top
on the playground.

Does a team like the Carolina Panthers really want to invest about $50
million dollars in a player who may not be a able to read a defense or
call an audible? Newton admitted in his meeting with Gruden that
he NEVER called an audible at Auburn. Never? How is he going to
do when James Harrison is frothing at mouth while showing blitz and
Troy Polamalu is sprinting up the middle like a heat-seeking missile?
Oh, the Panthers will probably take Newton cause their franchise,
which is on life-support, needs Newton to be its defibrillator. Somebody
who can spark ticket sales and sell sponsorships.

Plus, every coach and staff thinks they can "coach up" a player.
Didn't they think that with JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf, two
gifted college QB's who didn't have the brains or moxie to play QB
in the NFL. They turned out to be two of the biggest busts in the
history of the league.

A QB is the CEO of the team and the face of the franchise. Can
the Panthers trust a player who was stealing laptops in college? Can
they teach a guy who never learned how to read a defense in college,
to break down the sophisticated, Star Wars defenses of the NFL?
Matt Ryan was a ready made NFL QB coming out of Boston College.
He started for three years, ran a pro-style offense under Jeff Jagodzinski,
who was an offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers.

In his pre-draft meetings with the Atlanta Falcons, he was breaking
down defenses and making sight adjustments better than the coach
who was grilling him. Newton is nowhere near as advanced as Ryan,
and even Ryan struggled in his second year when teams adjusted to him.

Newton will be a project to which team drafts him. He'll  need a
good two to three years to develop into just a solid back-up. That's how
Aaron Rodgers developed after being drafted in the first round. He sat
behind Brett Favre and learned the ropes. And when he was called
upon, Rodgers proved he is one of the best QB's in the NFL. Carson
Palmer sat behind the immortal Jon Kitna in Cincinnati for a year after
being the first overall player taken.

Newton won't be sitting behind a Favre or a Jim Kelly in Buffalo,
if the Bills do take him. Newton will be thrown into the fire right away.
But Newton has been thrown into the fire a lot over the last year,
hasn't he?

Tonight's NFL draft should be very interesting and guaranteed to
draw some big ratings, thanks to Newton and his mystique. The man
who wore number 2 at Auburn is most likely to be taken first overall
by the Carolina Panthers, but don't be surprised if he keeps falling, and
falling, and falling and drops a lot further than expected.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


10. Can't Wait! to see Brandon Marshall so I can rip him about his
      wife trying to gut him like Hanibel Lecter with a steak knife.
      Going to send along some fava beans and chianti.

  9. Can't Wait! to see Mark Sanchez and explain to him the difference
      between a 16-year old girl and a 21-year old. It's usually a dead
      giveaway when she says, "wait, I have to put my retainer in before
      I go to bed."

 8.  Can't Wait! to see the new Rex Ryan foot fetish videos. Sexy
      Rexy and his wife have been working on two blockbusters,
      "Feet gone wild", and "This little piggy went to the market."

 7.  Can't Wait! to see Antonio Cromartie on Father's day. With
      9 kids by 7 different woman, he's going to need some name tags.

 6.  Can't Wait! to see Tom Brady and rag on him for dancing like
      Pee Wee Herman in that video from Brazil. And Can't Wait! to
      send him some tissue after seeing him break down in that
      "Brady 6" piece cause he didn't get drafted in the third round.

 5.  Can't Wait! to see Braylon Edwards and congratulate him for
      not getting arrested in the off-season. For once.

 4.  Can't Wait! to see Vernon Gholston. Oh, wait a minute, they
      finally cut his ass. He was the biggest failure in Gang Green
      since Rich Kotite was wearing a fake nose and glasses on the
      sideline. What? They weren't fake? My bad.

 3.  Can't Wait! to see Tiki Barber and recommend that he keeps
      himself retired. You left your pregnant wife with no class,
      NBC fired you, and no NFL team wants you. There's always
      the UFL.

  2. Can't Wait! to tell Rex Ryan to keep his fat mouth shut. The guy
      guarantees a Super Bowl win every year and it's getting old. How
      can so much garbage come out of his mouth at the same time
      so much is going in? At least he kept his shirt on this off-season
      and didn't flip anybody the bird.

  1. Can't Wait! for this NFL lockout to end so I can cash in on all
      this "Can't Wait!" stuff.

The day I tried out for the Boston Bruins

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Carl Crawford is already heading into Mike Hampton territory. You
remember Hampton, don't you? He parlayed a 15 and 10 season into
a monster of a contract. The Colorado Rockies gave him an 8-year,
$121 million dollar contract, which was unheard of for a pitcher.

Hampton wore that mega-deal around his neck like an albatross. He
buckled under the pressure of it like Bernie Madoff did after his Ponzi
scheme was uncovered. Hampton was always getting hurt or whacked
around like a Pinata at a 10-year olds birthday party. Over the next 8
years, Hampton won just 63 games. Oh, but he could hit. He finished
his career with a .246 average.

Crawford could only wish he could hit like Hampton right about now.
After Friday's oh-fer, the speedy outfielder is hitting .135 with an OBP
of under .200. That's not exactly what the Red Sox had in mind when
they signed him to a 7-year, $142 million dollar contract in the off-season.

Right now, Crawford is hitting seventh in the lineup as an outfielder with
not many hits and no power. He can't steal any bases because he never
gets on-base to even try.

Is this a case of Crawford getting caught in the Boston headlights? Is
the pressure of signing the 14th richest contract in sports history causing
his to squeeze the bat so tight that saw dust is coming out? Crawford makes
a cool, $125,000 per game. That is insane!

When Crawford played for Tampa Bay, he never had to be "the man."
Thathonor was bestowed upon All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria.
I was goingto say that Crawford just blended into the crowd, but the
trouble is, there weren't many of them at Tropicana Field. High school
football games had more fans for Friday night football games than the
Rays averaged during Crawford's time there.

In addition, the media down there is softer than the stay-puff
marshmallow man. They would much rather be your friend, than ask
you a tough question or write something bad about you. Crawford had
it so good and so easy down there.There was no pressure, no criticism,
and he could go unnoticed around Tampa and not have to worry about
fans getting all over him if he was in bad slump.

And Crawford's personality was perfect down there. He is just a nice
guy. Nevercauses any waves and is friendly to his teammates, media,
and fans. I wouldn't say he had anything close to thick skin. He is a
ridiculously talented player who was so good at football and basketball
in high school, he could've played just about anywhere he wanted in both.

Now, he's in the Hub of the sports universe. A place where every
game is covered like the World Series, and fans pack the house every
night. If you pick your nose and say you did it with your right finger, the
fans will call BS and tell you did it with your left. Fans in Boston know
the name of the mother of the back-up second baseman of the team's
Class A affiliate in Salem, Virginia.

The media? Uh, we already know that it's tougher than tough. They don't
want to be your friend, but do want to know why you swung at that nasty
3-2 slider in the dirt in the fifth inning with the bases loaded. They are
merciless. After the game,  players coming back from their shower will
find a bigger hoard of media than that of a presidential news conference.

Edgar Renteria found out what Boston was all about the hard way.
He signed a 4-year, $40 million dollar contract in 2005. I covered his
initial press conference with the Red Sox and did a one-on-one interview
with him after it. His eyes were bugged out, just like the guy who got
his boat rammed by the big yacht in "Caddyshack". You know, the
holy &^$#! look. Renteria was sweating and his hands were shaking.
I was like, "this dude, ain't going to make it here." And he didn't. Renteria,
once a slick-fielding shortstop made 30 errors in his first season. The
Red Sox had seen enough. They paid the Atlanta Braves about
75 percent of his contract to take him. Please, just take him.

The worst thing that could've happened to Crawford happened. He
got off to a horrendous start. He not only can't hit, but he's having
trouble fielding.The fans are already on him, and he's getting criticized
for the first time in his life in most sports-crazed town in the country.

Crawford's make-up is going to be seriously challenged. There's nothing
worse for a hitter to look up on the board and see your average
hovering near the price of a bottle of water. I know all about that,
I got off to a 2-for-21 start in my second year in the minors, and I
felt like my season was already over.

The mental battle is a tough one and Crawford will have to pull
it together just to finish with a respectable year. He didn't even have
to be the man with the Red Sox. After all they already had established
stars like Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Adrian Gonzalez, who is
also having trouble adjusting from life in sunny San Diego where everyone
is laid back, to Boston, where everyone is type-A. But when you're
"the man" with a $141 million dollar contract, there his no place to hide.

On Friday night in Anaheim, some fans sitting near Red Sox dugout
were throwing crumpled up dollar bills at Crawford while he was in
the on-deck circle. Ouch. Good luck, Carl.

Monday, April 11, 2011


A funny thing happened on Sunday. I was watching a golf tournament
and a NASCAR race at Talledega broke out. These fine-tuned machines,
with the exception of a stocky one from Argentina, were fighting for
position while barrelling toward the finish. There were no restrictor
plates, just a bunch of guys hell bent on glory, throwing caution to the wind.

It was white-knuckle time. The slightest of errors would crush the chance
for sports immortality. One mistake, and you could lose control, turning a
nice Sunday drive, into an unforgettable disaster. Remember Greg Norman
at the Masters in 1996. He was up by six shots with 18 holes to play.
The Butler cabin already had the chairs lined up, and his jacket size
ordered. However, he spun out and wound up like Rusty Wallace
in 1993 at Talledega. Wallace flipped over seven times before coming
to a stop. His car, a skeleton of its former self, kind of like Norman.

Rory McIlroy made that one crucial mistake, a colossal one that caused
a terrible wreck. You wanted to turn away, or at least put your hands
over your face. But you couldn't. You peaked through your fingers and
watched a gut-wrenching disaster.

McIlroy, in position to win the Masters at just 21-years of age, came
apart right before our very eyes. Like Wallace did 18 years before him, the
golf prodigy walked away without any physical damage, the psychological
effects however, may rear themselves next week,  next month, or as
McIlroy hopes, in his next lifetime.

Nobody will ever be able to get inside of McIlroy's head to find out
what he's thinking. But after watching him handle a most public failure,
we certainly know what the kid is made of.

His errant drive on the 10th hole was the start of his epic disaster. Few
of us will ever forget the image of him standing, looking shell-shocked,
as he pontificated his next shot in the shadow of  Butler cabin. The misery
for McIlroy didn't end until he tapped in for an 80, a score comparable to
Chipper Jones hitting .210 for the season.

The coveted green jacket in his rear view mirror, and all the critics
straight ahead of him, McIlroy could've made excuses or hid like Rafeal
Soriano after blowing a save earlier this season.

But McIlroy stood tall and acted with amazing class and dignity. His
one car accident was horrific, along the likes of Norman's incredible
wipe out. However, McIlroy vowed to learn from it, and many athletes,
including Tiger Woods, should learn from him, as well.

During his spectacular crash, McIlroy didn't slam a club, drop an f-bomb,
stare down a restless photographer, or act like a petulant 5-year old
who didn't get his way. The kid kept his composure and never really
lost his temper. Oh, sure he flung his putter after 3-jacking on the 12th
hole. But it was more of a surrender than a Tiger Woods attempt at
a record javelin throw with his putter.

McIlroy envisioned walking up the 18th fairway to a thunderous
applause, the prelude to being crowned a champion. But after blowing
a big-lead on the final day, it must've felt like golf's walk of shame.
A stroll accompanied by incredible pain, and incessant thoughts
of what might have been. An opportunity lost, and the story
of a major collapse written. Rory managed a little smile and gave
a tip of the hat, thanking the patrons for trying to ease the torture
that came about from his nine-hole hell.

Unfortunately, McIlroy's meltdown will be etched in the annals of
Masters history, along side Norman and the choke of Scott Hoch.
But his pure class and the way in which he handled an embarrassing
failure, will be respected and remembered for a long time as well.
McIlroy may have lost the tournament, but he won over a great deal
of fans.

Friday, April 1, 2011


You've probably never heard of Lou Gorman, and chances are
you'll forget about what he accomplished in baseball by the next
edition of "SportsCenter".  But if, and when you come across his
name again, I hope you'll say, "Yeah, Lou Gorman, I heard he
was one heckuva nice guy."

Gorman died early Friday morning, just hours before his beloved
Red Sox were going to open their new season. A cross between
Captain Kangaroo and the Pope, Gorman was a man of impeccable
character and integrity, who wouldn't say a bad thing about anyone,
not even Oil Can Boyd.

A captain in the Navy, Gorman served our country for eight years
before embarking on a baseball career that few could only dream of.
He was a general manager in Seattle and Boston, and helped build great
farms systems in Baltimore, Kansas City, and New York. He earned
two world series rings as a consultant with the Red Sox and was
inducted into six Hall of Fames.

I first met Gorman during spring training in 1988 when I was just a low
level minor-leaguer trying to find my way in camp. He was the general
manager of the Red Sox, who just two years earlier, came within a
strike of beating the Mets, a team he helped construct, in the World

We had finished a minor-league workout and I went to watch
the big team play an exhibition game. I kept getting kicked out of seats
by people who had actually paid for them. Gorman had been
watching all of this, and invited me to sit next to him in his customary
spot just off press row. I was a nobody and he made me
feel like a somebody. That was Lou Gorman.

Gorman let me sit there the entire game and pick his brain about
building a team and inquiry about all the players he had drafted,
from Jim Palmer to George Brett to Daryl Strawberry. It was
flat-out awesome and something I'll never forget. I thanked him
for the experience, and then we went our separate ways.

18 years later I made it to Boston, not as a player but as a sportscaster
for NESN. Our offices were in Fenway Park and we shared a break
room, or at least I did, with Red Sox front-office personnel. What
money I made from NESN, I felt guilty because it felt like stealing.
Boston. Red Sox. Fenway Park. Baseball. NESN. Are you kidding

I was in the kitchen one day stealing all the Red Sox food supplies,
(kidding, kind of) when Gorman walked in. It was like seeing
your grandfather after so many years. I introduced myself and told
him of our meeting in Winter Haven in 1988. He said he remembered
me, which he clearly didn't. Lou always wanted you to feel good
about yourself and feel important. That was Lou Gorman

This is how Lou treated everybody, like you were his best friend.
Always happy, always positive, he made everybody feel at home.
I still had an itch for baseball and asked if I could talk with him
some time and get his advice on making a career move back into
the game. Lou said it was no problem at all. He gave me his card
and said to call to make an appointment.

I called two weeks later and made the trek to his office at Fenway
Park. Trying to find it, one has to navigate the narrow hallways
as if they were galleys on the submarine in "The Hunt for Red
October." I managed to find Gorman's pint-size office and he
welcomed me like I was a member of the family.

We talked and talked and talked some more about baseball.
We'd get interrupted by phone calls, and Gorman would just say
he was busy and kindly asked to call back. I had the chance to
soak up all of this man's knowledge of the game, and the stories
were priceless.

He was instrumental in drafting some of the best players in the game.
George Brett, Willie Wilson, Bret Saberhagen, Dwight Gooden,
Strawberry, Dykstra, Mo Vaughn...the list went on and on.
As a baseball junkie, I had gone to the right place to get my fix.
Lou Gorman was amazing.

I asked him about the infamous trade of Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson,
one that followed him forever with the Red Sox. He didn't bat an eye.
"We already had Wade Boggs at third, and Scott Cooper, another solid
prospect in the minors," Gorman would say. "Bagwell hit for average in
AA but didn't have much power. We projected him to be a 10-15 home
run guy." Then the steroid era came. My words, not his. Bagwell went
on to hit almost 500 home runs for the Houston Astros.

People stopped by Gorman's office as if they were visiting Santa
Claus at the Mall before Christmas. Everybody loved Lou Gorman.
Everybody. He was a guy you hoped, would live forever. He deserved
to. A gentleman, a patriot, a man who helped so many others in
need, Lou Gorman was a class act. That was Lou Gorman. He will
be missed.