Subscribe

Archive for the ‘Sports’

Beholder Makes History in the Pacific Classic

August 26, 2015 By: Category: Sports

Several days later, I am still astounded by what I just saw at the Pacific Classic on Saturday, August 22, 2015. I was very confident that Beholder was going to have a great shot at becoming the first female to win the Pacific Classic. I was very pleased that the 5YO mare won the race and made history as the first female to win the prestigious race. What I was NOT expecting was how easily Beholder won, and how effortlessly she ran the race. I am still in disbelief.

At the start, her jockey Gary Stevens places her in the third position, while Bayern and Midnight Storm battle it out on the front end. As Bayern needs to have the lead all to himself, I figured that he’d give up, and Beholder would take over the lead. I also thought there’d be challenges from Red Vine or Hoppertunity. Well, Beholder was wasn’t having any of that. As the field approached the far turn, Beholder surged to the front in the blink of an eye, and never looked back. At the top of the stretch, she was about five lengths ahead. She obliterated the field by 8 1/4 lengths. She ran the 1 1/4 miles in 1:59 4/5 sec, just missing the track record. That’s not bad for a daughter of the sprinter Henny Hughes.

I was in awe. I was screaming and jumping up and down at home. I still couldn’t believe that a horse, regardless of gender, could just devastate a field like that. That move Beholder made to seize the lead down the backstretch was mind-boggling. The field looked like they were standing still. Gary Stevens didn’t even have to touch her with the whip. As Stevens said, “She did it all on her own.”

Her trainer, Richard Mandella, and owner, B. Wayne Hughes of Spendthrift Farm, were very pleased with Beholder’s win. In his excitement, B. Wayne Hughes stated that 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and Beholder should face each other in a match race. Many in the social media world got all up in arms. I am pretty sure that Mr. Hughes said what he said because he was very excited about Beholder’s achievement. I didn’t think it was a big deal. When asked about which Breeders’ Cup race Beholder may run in, Richard Mandella said in response, “I’m just going to enjoy this.” (https://youtu.be/aRibYpt3-HY) More importantly, Mr. Hughes said of Beholder that he feels “lucky to own her.” Trainer Richard Mandella said that he “didn’t expect to see Beholder beat up on the colts like this.” (http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/93877/beholder-blows-away-pacific-classic-foes)

As for Beholder’s next race, it’s looking like the Zenyatta Stakes on September 26, 2015, at Santa Anita Racetrack. She’s won the previous two editions in 2013 and in 2014. (http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/93881/mandella-beholder-one-of-the-greats) Of course, now that she has the option of entering either the Breeders Cup Distaff, where she’d be the overwhelming favorite or the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where she’d be second or third choice to the presumed favorite, American Pharoah. It’s known that she’s 0 for 2 when she has to ship to places outside of California. In my opinion, I would have Beholder skip the Zenyatta Stakes and ship her to Keeneland to run in the Spinster on October 4, 2015. That way, Beholder will already have a race over the track, and will already have acclimated to her surroundings. The race is still a month away from the Breeders’ Cup.

I want to conclude by saying that horse racing should be very grateful to see a brilliant older horse like Beholder in training. I was so thrilled to see an amazing performance by a great mare. It was one of the greatest races, that I’ve seen. I will never forget the move she made for a very long time. Beholder’s one gutsy mare. Beholder is a great mare, and I am looking forward to seeing her in the Breeders’ Cup. My congratulations go to owner Spendthrift Farm, B. Wayne Hughes, Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, and Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens on a job well done. Of course, congratulations to Beholder, herself.

Now, as for the Breeders’ Cup, my readers are probably wondering which Breeders’ Cup race I would want Beholder to enter. I’d want her to enter the Classic. She’s done almost everything that she could do against her own gender. Can she beat American Pharoah? Let me put it this way. I attended the second day of the 2010 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs. In that Classic, I saw a horse named Blame do what I and many others thought was impossible. He defeated the previously unbeaten Zenyatta. In other words, anything is possible in horse racing once those gates open. That’s just my opinion.

I hope you enjoyed this blog. Feedback is welcome. I leave you with the replay of the 2015 Pacific Classic, where Beholder made history. Enjoy.

Champion Beholder to Face Males in the Pacific Classic

August 20, 2015 By: Category: Sports

This Saturday, August 22, 2015, at Del Mar Racecourse, champion mare Beholder, will be taking on nine males in the Grade I Pacific Classic. This will be the first time the 5YO mare will face males in her illustrious career, where she’s won 13 of her 18 previous starts against her own gender. Beholder has won the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies in 2012 and the Breeders Cup Distaff in 2013, among other races, such as the 2014 Zenyatta Stakes. Right before the 2014 Breeders Cup, Beholder became ill, and was forced to scratch from the race. She was withdrawn from the 2014 November Fasig-Tipton Sales, and given time to recover. She was returned to racing this season, and is 3 for 3. Beholder comes into the Pacific Classic off of a smashing 4 length victory in the Clement Hirsch, a “Win and You’re In ” qualifying race for the  Breeders’ Cup Distaff  on August 1, 2015. Therefore, Beholder is all set for the Distaff.

After her victory in the Clement Hirsch, Beholder’s trainer, Richard Mandella stated that he was considering running her in the Pacific Classic against males. That was a bombshell, and three weeks later, here is Beholder against 9 fellow stakes winners and stakes placed horses. Should Beholder win on Saturday, not only would she make history by becoming the first female to win the Pacific Classic, but since this race is a “Win and You’re In” qualifying race for October’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, Beholder would be automatically entered into the Classic.  As I previously mentioned, Beholder has already qualified for the Distaff. Imagine what kind of decisions her owner B. Wayne Hughes,  of Spendthrift Farm, would have to make if she had two Breeders’ Cup races that she could run in? I certainly wouldn’t want to be him, even though I think she’s going to wind up running in the Distaff.

Of course, she has to win the Pacific Classic first. In this blog, I am going to review the field of horses for the Pacific Classic. As in previous blogs, I am going to give my readers a link to the field, and then analyze each horse.  As this is a 10 horse field, I think I will discuss each horse individually, and then give my handicapping advice.

Here’s the field for the Pacific Classic:

https://www.ladyandthetrack.com/news/13383/tvg-pacific-classic-at-del-mar.html

EVENT: TVG Pacific Classic
VENUE: Del Mar Racecourse
NETWORK: TVG
POST TIME: 6:10PM, PT / 9:10PM, ET
WEIGHTS: All carry 124. Beholder carries 119.

Analysis:

1. CLASS LEADER:  From looking at his past performances, I am not sure if I see this son of Smart Strike as a contender. He was 3rd in his last 3 starts. The John Sadler trainee’s last start was at Indiana Downs at 1 3/4 miles in the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Stakes, where he came in 3rd. His last win was the Sir Barton last year as a 3YO. He gets Mike Smith in the irons.

2. BAILOUTBOBBY:  This Doug O’Neil trainee finished second to Big John B in the Cougar II Handicap  at 1 1/2 miles last time out at Del Mar.  However, from looking at this horse’s past performances, he has a very inconsistent record. The Cougar II was a Grade 3. This is a pretty steep climb.  James Graham gets the mount.

3. BAYERN:  As you know, Bayern won the most controversial edition of the Breeders Cup Classic last year. However, this year, he doesn’t appear to be the same horse. Most racing fans know that Bayern is a horse that needs the lead. However,  Bayern just seems to lose any kind of fight.  This horse is a puzzle.  In the San Diego Handicap,  he just got  3rd.   I would bet with caution, despite his being trained by Bob Baffert  (one of my favorite trainers).  Rafael Bejarano is the rider.

4. HARD ACES: This son of Hard Spun won the Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 27th, last time out.  Hard Aces benefited from a strong pace and a smart ride from Victor Espinoza, who will be riding him in the Pacific Classic. The Gold Cup was Hard Aces’ first graded stakes win. I like this horse, but I think this John Sadler trainee is in over his head.

5. RED VINE:  This horse is one to watch. He’s trained by Christophe Clement, trainer of 2014 Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist and 3 time Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti.  Red Vine switched from turf in his first 13 starts to dirt in his last 3.  The turnaround has been amazing. In his last 3 starts, Red Vine has finished 1st or 2nd. He finished 2nd in the Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park on dirt. He’s ridden by Joel Rosario. Red Vine is sired by Candy Ride, who’s won the Pacific Classic.

6. IMPERATIVE:  The last time Imperative ran was in the Charlestown Classic. He finished 2nd to the recently retired Moreno. We’re talking about a horse coming off a 4 month layoff, as the Charlestown Classic was on April 18th.  Even though Imperative finished 3rd in the Pacific Classic last year, I think winning this race is a tall order for this horse. He will provide some speed. Corey Nakatani rides.

7. CATCH A FLIGHT: Richard Mandella not only has Beholder in the Pacific Classic, but Catch A Flight, winner of the San Diego Handicap, last time out. I really like this horse. He comes from off the pace. I would expect him to be sitting right off the speed, and then make his move in the stretch, like he did in the San Diego. As Gary Stevens decided to ride Beholder, Flavian Prat will get the mount.  I would use him in exotics.

8. HOPPERTUNITY:  This Baffert trainee is a puzzle that I can’t figure out. He shows promise, only to blow it when the chips are down.  He should have won that Gold Cup.  I don’t know if it was because the son of Any Given Saturday blew the turn, but that horse needs to put it all together.  His last Grade 1 win was the 2014 Clark Handicap.  Martin Garcia is in the irons.  I would use him in exotics at the very least.

9. BEHOLDER: Here’s the favorite for the Pacific Classic, Beholder. Richard Mandella trains her, along with Catch A Flight.  Gary Stevens will be riding Beholder. For handicapping purposes, I think she has a great chance here. She’s outside of the speed in post 9. She is a speed horse herself,  but I think Gary Stevens can get her to rate and relax.  I realize that she’s never been past 1 1/8 miles, and is sired by Henny Hughes. However,  she’s crushed her competition this year, and I am not all that impressed with this field, save a few of them.  I think she has a shot.  Her connections have been very conservative with her, and I don’t think they’d throw her in the race if they didn’t think she’d be able to compete. I’d use in exotics.

10. MIDNIGHT STORM: This son of PioneeroftheNile is going from his last 4 starts on turt to dirt. The Philip D’Amato traineed has some dirt experience in his early career. I don’t see this horse even hitting the board. He does have some early speed though.  Tyler Baze gets the mount.
I  would toss this horse.

PICK: Before I make my pick, I want to thank you for reading this blog.  I hope that if/when you do make bets,  that you bet with your head,  and not over it.  Now, without further ado, I am going to make my prediction of the the winner of the 2015 Pacific Classic, according to my analysis. Feedback is welcome.

PREDICTION: Beholder will win the Pacific Classic.

UPSET SPECIAL:  Red Vine.

Brock Lesnar Says WWE CEO Does It Better Than UFC Prez

August 18, 2015 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts, Videos, WWE | Pro Wrestling

Former WWE and UFC champ Brock Lesnar is quite the charmer…well at least he was on Tuesday’s ESPN Sportscenter. Lesnar appeared on ESPN to hype up SummerSlam, talk about the conquering the streak, and even took a shot at his former boss.

The WWE is getting a huge boost of credibility from the mainstream this week on ESPN. ESPN is hyping SummerSlam more than they have hyped any other WWE show in recent memory (or ever). Brock Lesnar returned to ESPN to appear on Sportscenter and talked about a variety of subjects, but one particular comparison is drawing immediate headlines.

Lesnar was asked about UFC president’s recent comment about the WWE being “fake.”

@RKORollins I hear u bro but fake shit should be 9.99 – @DanaWhite

Lesnar took the defensive side in favor of pro wrestling, defending the honor of his current profession. Brock also said what hardcore UFC fans don’t want to hear, in that what Dana is promoting is the “same racket.” It was what Lesnar said next that is bound to get under the skin of his former boss.

“I think Vince McMahon is better at it than Dana and that might rub Dana the wrong way.”

A couple of things here. One, Brock said that without being provoked. It wasn’t as if the interviewer asked him who was better. Two, no matter what Dana says about Brock he can’t change one thing. Brock was the biggest draw in company history, more than Ronda Rousey, Georges St-Pierre, Chuck Liddell, and Anderson Silva. Lesnar still holds the record for headlining the biggest buyrate in UFC history. So no matter what kind of childish potshots Dana takes at Brock, the bottom line is that he’d take him back in a second.

As a matter of a fact, the UFC was negotiating with Brock up to the last minute a few months ago before Brock re-signed with WWE.

WWE: The Kliq Rules

WWE: Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes! Yes! Yes! on Amazon.com

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

10 Fantasy Football Comeback Players For 2015

August 18, 2015 By: Category: Fantasy Football, lists, NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Fantasy football is back and so are the dozens of players you drafted last season that disappointed you. Like you, several fantasy studs will be looking to bounce back in 2015 and it is time to put these guys on your draft day radar.

The wonderful thing about fantasy football is that like many NFL players, you get the chance to rebound and turn things around in under a year. So injuries and situations resulted in several bust picks in your draft. Some of those busts will be permanent while several others are poised to be undervalued in the 2015 draft.

Last year’s busts could be this year’s sleepers! It’s not just those first and second rounders that win you titles, it is having the knack with some luck to grab a good sleeper. Here are ten that have the potential to make some big comebacks next year.

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings – My number one comeback player of the season. I had a conversation with a friend recently and he asked me who would be the top player in fantasy this season. Without hesitation I said Adrian Peterson. I love him for a couple of reasons. One, he had an entire season off to rest his body. At his age with his wear and tear that is absolutely huge! Two, he hasn’t played with an offense like this in a long time. He has a couple of playmaking receivers, a playmaking QB, a playmaking TE, and a coach and coordinator that know how to get RBs involved in the offense. Look at what Matt Asiata did in this system last year. This guy is going to be a beast period!

Mike Wallace, Minnesota Vikings – Wallace is coming into Minnesota with a chip on his shoulder. Every interview I have read from Wallace indicates a guy who knows he is better than what he did in Miami. I agree. The biggest difference from the last few seasons is that teams can’t focus on Wallace. Wallace will be lined up with arguably the best running back in the NFL and teams will have to pick their poison. Wallace also has a QB who is a playmaker and can buy time allowing for Wallace to go deep. Throw in Norv Turner and you have a recipe for a huge bounce back season.

Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers – Keenan broke my heart last season. I drafted him high, he stunk up the first half of the season, I traded him, and then he had a few break out games. Reports from San Diego indicate that he is having a real great camp. Even better, he won’t have Eddie Royal (and Antonio Gates for a few weeks) to steal touchdowns away from him. I like him a lot in a bounce back season.

Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers –
Davis has been a source of frustration for the last few seasons. After coming out of the gate red hot last season, David immediately quieted down and remained quiet the rest of the season. Reports out of camp are that tight ends coach Tony Sparano loves Davis and the feeling is mutual. New coach, new system, and a lot of trust from his QB leads me to believe that Davis will find his way back inside of the top 10 of TEs.

Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – I did not fall for the Doug Martin hype after a strong preseason showing last season and with good reason. This season is different. I am buying it. Lovie Smith has been talking up Martin all training camp and reports out of Tampa indicate he is lighting it up in training camp. Martin will benefit from being a part of one of the sneakiest offenses this season. With Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, and Jamies Winston on the field, teams won’t be able to stack the box against Martin. The offensive line is also much better and while the Bucs aren’t going to be the Saints, I do see teams sleeping on them, especially early in the season. I certainly wouldn’t gamble on Martin with your first RB pick, but as an RB 2 I think he will have a solid season.

Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles – Call it the homer in me but I am super pumped about Bradford coming to the Eagles. The Eagles have arguably the best QB in franchise history at the helms this season with an offensive mastermind pulling the strings. The biggest issue with Bradford is health. He’s got weapons, a great offensive line, an innovative offensive, and the best fantasy RB from 2015 surrounding him this year. I love him and so should you.

Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Here we go again. I have never been a Vincent Jackson so count me out of the list of the same fantasy bloggers who predict bounce back seasons for him. This year is different. He has what appears to be the best QB he has played with in Tampa Bay. One report that caught my eye was one from Pro Football Focus that reported only 56% of Jackson’s targets were catchable. Even Jerry Rice couldn’t produce under those circumstances. The Bucs are openly talking about getting Jackson more involved and history shows that O.C. Dirk Koetter knows how to get wide receivers involved. I don’t think he’s a top 10 receiver but I do see him falling back in the top 15 by the end of the season.

Shane Vereen, New York Giants – I don’t know if I’d call Vereen a comeback player since he wasn’t put in anyone’s top 10 but he only finished the season with 1 TD for the Patriots. I like him a lot in the Giants offense. With ODB and Victor Cruz at receiver, Vereen should be able to capitalize on one-on-one coverage. I think he will wind up as the #1 back in New York due to his pass catching abilities which makes him a real sneaky sleeper this season, especially for PPR leagues.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens – I have two words for you, Marc Tressman. Tressman is an offensive genius and a guy that is tailor-made to bring the best out of Flacco. The addition of Breshad Perriman gives Flacco one of the most underrated receiver corps in the league. Flacco finished with respectable numbers last season. He’ll put up more than respectable numbers this season, he will be top 10 and a guy you can count on as a late QB in your draft.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions – Calvin broke your heart again last year if you took him in the first round, which is where he went in many drafts. After a disappointing season, Johnson will likely fall to the third round where you need to grab him (or late second). He is being ranked by many experts out of the top five receivers which are a good thing if you want some value. The Lions could have a real threat at RB this year in rookie Ameer Abdullah. If Johnson can stay healthy for the season which is always the biggest gamble, he will be a beast.

Bonus: Chris Johnson, Arizona Cardinals – There are reports today that the Arizona Cardinals have signed the former fantasy stud to a one-year deal. This is big news and while many predicted a comeback year last season for Johnson, I wasn’t one of them. I feel different this year. This is the first season in Johnson’s career that he will be playing with an elite QB. That means that teams cannot stuff the box against Johnson like they have in most seasons. He is also playing behind one of the better lines in the league this year. I like Johnson a ton this year if he can remain healthy.

Fantasy Football Apps on Amazon.com

NFL Fan Shop on Amazon.com

CM Punk Talks WWE Politics, His Name in UFC, and More

August 12, 2015 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts, WWE | Pro Wrestling

CM Punk remains a hot topic in both the UFC and WWE worlds. RollingStone.com recently spent some time with Punk who offered some interesting reflections on his time in the WWE.

Punk continues to keep his name fresh in the press as he trains for a UFC debut that has yet to be scheduled. Plenty of skeptics (including myself) are starting to take the former WWE champ seriously as he continues to endure an indefinite training camp. Punk may not be any closer to the UFC octagon than he was a month ago but he remains one of the most quotable fighters on the roster.

RollingStone.com shadowed Punk for a couple of days and hit on a variety of topics with the former WWE star. Punk’s reflections on his past career as a WWE superstar remain fascinating as he continues to try and make sense of what appears to be a very crazy time in his life.

I think at some point in my wrestling career, I took myself way too seriously, and I took the wrestling business way too seriously,” he reflects. “It probably helped sour me on the whole process. It probably helped burn me out.

That is a very interesting quote as Punk has been accused by peers of taking himself too seriously going back to the independents. I am sure his obsession contributed to the burnout, yet at the same time you have to think he would never have been as successful without that desire.

For the longest time [in] what I did, the competition wasn’t that clean-cut,” he reflects on his WWE tenure. “It didn’t matter if you were the best. There’s slimy backstage politics, there’s always somebody trying to undercut you. To me, there’s something romantic about just you and another guy locked inside a cage and the better man wins. In that time and space, nothing else matters. I definitely think it can be f*cking scary, but I like embracing the things that scare me.

This is not surprising as Punk was highly outspoken about this on his infamous Art of Wrestling appearance as well as several times throughout his tenure as a WWE wrestler. It certainly doesn’t seem like he misses it does he?

Nobody calls Rampage ‘Quinton Jackson.’ Nobody calls Korean Zombie whatever the f*ck his real name is,” to inferring judgment and remarking, “I think there’s people who are negative for the sake of being negative and that’s just something they can pick on. Who gives a sh*t? Who cares?”

“I understand all the negativity, but I only have so many goes around the sun. I’m gonna capitalize on everything I can, and I’m gonna be the best at whatever I can.

Punk took some criticism early on by MMA fans for not dropping the CM Punk name. I always thought that was ridiculous as Phil Brooks is a lot less marketable than CM Punk in the UFC. At the end of the day, it’s a business and he is certainly not the first guy to use a moniker.

I’d highly recommend checking out the entire interview where he discusses more WWE as well as his road to the octagon in RollingStone.com.

WWE: The Kliq Rules

WWE: Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes! Yes! Yes! on Amazon.com

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

Tags:

CM Punk Talks Hulk Hogan Controversy, WWE Return, and UFC Training

August 10, 2015 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts, WWE | Pro Wrestling

CM Punk is no stranger to controversy, especially when it comes to taking heat from the political correctness police. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that Punk was asked about Hulk Hogan’s recent controversy although the answer may be a bit of a shocker.

Punk is now a year and a half removed from the WWE, yet he will always be associated with the company and pro wrestling. Punk was recently asked about a couple of pro wrestling topics, including his reaction to fans waiting for him to return to wrestling and a guy that Punk has been outspoken of in the past, Hulk Hogan.

Punk was asked about the recent Hulk Hogan controversy and racist comments made on tape.

I don’t really have a comment on it. Like I said, though, stuff that you say can come back and bite you in the ass. Everybody gets what they deserve in the world. Hopefully he issued a sincere apology and we can all move on from it.
We all have said stupid things, and I don’t think you should judge somebody on what they said a long time ago. But some of the stuff is harsher than other things. It is what it is.

Most probably would have expected Punk to come out strongly against Hogan, especially after Punk ripped Hogan on Twitter for being a Chicago Blackhawks bandwagon jumper a few months ago. I wasn’t. Don’t forget that Punk was caught up in his own controversy regarding remarks just a few years ago. Punk took a ton of heat for homophobic remarks he made to a fan at a WWE event. Punk was never suspended and everyone moved on to the point where most people don’t even remember the incident today. Thus it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Punk’s reaction to this would be more or less to move on.

On whether it aggravates him when he is asked about a potential return to pro wrestling and the WWE.

Yes and no. It irks me a little bit because I think it’s the same people that are asking it. But at the same time you have to roll with the punches because it comes with the territory. It’s probably what I’m most known for, and there are fans out there that miss me in that venue. I am not one to draw in the past and I’m sailing on.

The “We want Punk” chants have died down quite a bit in recent months and I think fans have finally resolved themselves to accepting Punk is not coming back. Punk has never minced words and has made it clear from day one that he was done and wasn’t coming back. Yet pro wrestling fans are so conditioned to seeing guys quit or retire only to come back a short time later. I still wouldn’t close the door on Punk wrestling ever again. I highly doubt it will ever be in a WWE ring. However, for a guy that loved pro wrestling so much it wouldn’t shock me to see him pop up at an independent show sometime down the road and work an unadvertised match. Who would blame him? You have to give the guy credit for controlling his own destiny here whether he comes back or not.

Punk was also asked about his UFC training and how he felt he was progressing as a professional MMA fighter.

Well, I’m my own worst critic. I always want to be better than I am, and you can apply that to any aspect in my life. I want to be a better husband, better comic-book writer and better mixed martial artist. I am right where I need to be. I am keeping up with everybody, and that’s a tough task with all those “killers” in that gym.

Check out the entire interview, which includes thoughts on a recent text message Punk received from Daniel Bryan over at RedEyeChicago.com.

WWE: The Kliq Rules

WWE: Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes! Yes! Yes! on Amazon.com

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

The WWE Has A UFC-Sized Problem

August 05, 2015 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts, WWE | Pro Wrestling

While the WWE is preparing for another John Cena world title run now that the “Winner Take All” stipulation has been tossed out in a challenge by the current champion Seth Rollins, will the big “16” keep fans interested in the product on television?

Frankly, I do not know the answer to that question. The WWE has a serious issue right now as it is being “punked” (no pun intended) by poor booking and no leader to take over the band other than the man who had his nose smashed two weeks ago on Raw. The fact John Cena is still on top of the wrestling scene right now with talent on the roster that is not being properly used speaks volumes about where the WWE is. Also, the fact it does not have the dominant character right now like the UFC has in Ronda Rousey.

I’m sure the McMahon Family would give anything to have wrestling fans talk about its performers the way we are all buzzing about how Rousey is the most dominant athlete in any sport at the present moment. And that kind of momentum isn’t going away anytime soon. Like the McMahon’s, UFC President Dana White might have issues putting enough top-level talent on a fight card, but when you have the one person everyone is talking about both in fighting and entertainment circles, it masks a lot of problems that might exist. The card from last weekend was not the most stellar White has put together.

But this is a blog about the WWE and how it has gotten away from the big bang of a wrestler who is so dominant that everyone talks about them – regardless of whether they are a casual fan or a hardened old-school relic.

This is something not even John Cena can fix. Seth Rollins is good, but he is not good enough. Brock Lesnar is great, but he cannot carry the WWE on his back the way Rousey is carrying White’s baby. And if you want to talk about other roster talent, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens, Cesaro and others aren’t even close.

Where is the dominant squash match when you need it? I thought that was what Lesnar was supposed to do – to come in and beat the hell out of opponents like Cena, The Undertaker and Rollins and leave them all in his wake.

With Rousey, the match is the story as much the fighter. I liken it to Floyd Mayweather in his prime. How fast can Rousey or Mayweather win a fight? How quickly will there be a submission or a knockout? Let’s plunk down $59.99 to see a 34-second match.

Now that the company uses the WWE Network for pay-per-view shows and exclusive network viewing, this would be a good time to find a wrestler who can dominate much like Rousey is beating the competition today. At $9.99 (yes, I know I sound like a commercial and probably should get paid by the company for this cheap form of advertising), wouldn’t it make more sense to get fans to purchase the product at a lower buy rate for the sure enjoyment of seeing pure mayhem?

I’ll give the WWE credit for changing its guard a bit and creating longer, more intense matches. Old school wrestling meets new school talent. The creation of a dominant Divas division thanks to Charlotte, Paige, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks has as much to do with the Rousey buzz and the fact WWE fans saw the dominant beauty in a WWE ring at WrestleMania. Fans can only hope at some point she makes the jump to the older product and helps it thrive.

When wrestlers like Big Show (The Giant) and Goldberg and Lesnar arrived in the WWE, they were as dominant as Big John Studd, King King Bundy and even a heel Hulk Hogan was at the beginning of his career. And fans ate it up. Somehow, wrestling got away from that, and in the process another product came along that showed it could be more dominant – even if it is only one athlete leading the charge.

The WWE is at an advantage when it comes to personalities because they are scripted and expected to be over-the-top performers. With Rousey, Conor McGregor and others, they are in-the-moment types of stars. The attitude is real, the everyday appeal isn’t rehearsed.

Rousey and McGregor are said to be part of a mega show at UFC 194 at Dallas’ AT&T Stadium set for Dec. 5. The WWE is still working on building its SummerSlam card that is now going to be four hours long. With Rousey’s win this past weekend and given the fact there may not be four hours of solid entertainment to keep fans interested, doesn’t it look like Rousey’s appeal to wrestling fans will again turn the tide even more and take away viewership from the McMahon stable? It’s just a thought, but if I were in Stamford right now, I’d be more than a little concerned.

Brock Lesnar and Undertaker is a great concept with the “big brawl” feel. But unless the Divas are taking ratings away from every other wrestler on the WWE roster and something unheard of happens in the match between Rollins and Cena, the WWE will still be playing the underlying role between the two companies.

That certainly isn’t good for the WWE, mainly because they don’t have the mega-star right now they can hitch their wagon to and build as a dominant force. Certainly not the way White and the UFC has done making Rousey the biggest and best athlete in sports today.

WWE: The Kliq Rules

WWE: Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes! Yes! Yes! on Amazon.com

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

A Final Word on NFL Deflategate

July 30, 2015 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

I have some great news for you NFL fans. NFL training camps are starting to get underway. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings have already gotten started, as they’re playing against each other in the Pro Football Hall of Fame game on August 9, 2015. Many other teams are starting to open up camps in preparation for the upcoming 2015-16 season. I’m very excited about the upcoming season, as I am sure my readers are as well.

The defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots have opened camp on July 23, 2015 for the rookies, and today, July 29, 2015, for the veterans. Well, unless you have been living under a rock, as you already know, the Patriots enter camp with a huge uncertainty at the QB position, thanks to a six month long saga called “Deflategate.” The Patriots were accused of tampering with footballs in the 2014-15 AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots were fined $1,000,000 and lost 2 draft picks. QB Tom Brady was suspended 4 games for “being generally aware” that Equipment Manager James McNally and John Jamstremski were deflating the footballs and for not cooperating with Investigator Ted Wells. Yesterday, on July 28th, 35 days after hearing Brady’s appeal, Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the suspension.

As I am sure many of my readers are worn out from this story, I am as well. In this blog, I will discuss my opinion on Goodell’s decision, and the NFL’s investigation of the whole thing. I will comment on the reaction from Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Bob Kraft. Outside of a possible mention of the results of the court’s outcome, this will be my final word on this controversy.

The NFL’s Investigation and Goodell’s Decision

It has been my belief that this “investigation” was messed up from when the starting gates opened, so to speak. Instead of pulling a poor man’s sting operation, the NFL should have just announced that the Patriots were fined $25,000 for tampering with the footballs. The NFL also could have followed up with saying that they will be announcing new rules to make sure that violations don’t happen in the future. Instead of that, they chose to make a mountain of a molehill and tarnish the reputation of the greatest QB ever in the process. I have felt this way since day one, and the decision by Roger Goodell has not changed my mind.

This so-called “scandal” was created because the New England Patriots are an easy target. In the mind of the general public, thanks to the “experts” at the alphabet network, ESPN, the Patriots win too much and are unfairly seen as “cheaters.” Besides, Roger Goodell knew he screwed up, in the minds of the general public, the Ray Rice case, so this is a way to get himself back in the good graces of the general public. Does anyone really think that had the accusations been against the Denver Broncos, or the Pittsburgh Steelers, there would have been this huge investigation?

As for Goodell’s decision to uphold Brady’s suspension, I wasn’t expecting anything else. He wasn’t “open” or ” fair.” About Tom Brady “destroying” his phone, that’s a red herring. People need to remember that the NFL is driving the message home. The NFL is controlling the message. The NFL LEAKED the FALSE STORY that ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported back in January that 11 of the 12 Patriots footballs were 2 pounds under the legal limit. No one in the NFL corrected the story. Does ANYONE really think any of this is FAIR?

I read Goodell’s 20-page report, and outside of the phone non-story, he basically gave a summary of the Wells Report. Once again, in an attempt to dot every “i” and cross every “t” Goodell addressed every objection raised, such as the Chargers, Vikings and Carolina Panthers messing with the footballs. The problem with that was that the NFL didn’t care about those teams. In the notes, Goodell writes that Brady offered to help retrieve the lost texts, but Goodell declined, saying it would be too much work. ( Brady offered to help NFL gather missing text messages
http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2015/07/28/brady-offered-to-help-nfl-gather-missing-text-messages/) So, the NFL can’t get a bunch of law school students to look up numbers?

Goodell’s comparing Brady’s violation to PED use is absurd. It also didn’t explain how the Indianapolis Colts, playing with their own footballs only scored 7 points. It doesn’t explain why Brady’s stats increased in the second half of the AFC Championship game with properly inflated balls. Again, Goodell brushed aside all scientific objections, to the almighty Wells Report, including the AEI study. In speaking of the phone, which is a red herring to get headlines, I must remind readers that the NFL does NOT have subpoena powers. The NFL had no right to his phone, besides the NFL already HAD the information from the phones from the two locker room guys, James McNally, and John Jamstremski. As bad as it may look, Brady has a right to dispose of his phone.

As I previously mentioned, Brady offered to help retrieve the lost texts, but the NFL refused. Besides, there’s a logic gap. If this so-called “new information” was so outrageous and “troubling,” why didn’t Goodell increase the suspension? If what Brady allegedly did with his phone was so “detrimental to the League,” why wasn’t the punishment increased? Come now, Commissioner. I think Goodell was clutching at straws. This whole thing was about Goodell re-establishing his power over the players, so he picked Brady to show he could take down a star.

Patriots Owner Robert Kraft

As you know, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was reportedly, and understandably irate, when in early May, the NFL levied the largest fine in NFL history on his team for the Deflategate scandal. The Patriots also lost their 2016 first round draft pick and their 2017 fourth round draft pick. Jamstremski and McNally were let go by orders of the NFL. There were stories going around stating that the Patriots owner would challenge the ruling. As several owners, such as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and Steelers owner Dan Rooney, sided with the NFL, and Kraft didn’t want to drag the controversy out any further, Robert Kraft took one for Team Owners, and accepted the penalties “with great reluctance” at the Owners’ Meeting in late May.

Many Patriots fans were not happy with Kraft’s decision, and it appears they may have had a reason not to be. Robert Kraft made a statement before the press on July 29, 2015, expressing his disappointment with Goodell’s upholding Brady’s suspension. (http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2015/07/29/robert-kraft-tees-off-on/ ) He also stated that he regretted capitulating to the NFL, as far as the penalties. He thought that if he did, Tom Brady’s suspension would be reduced. Kraft said that he couldn’t understand why the league wants to target Brady and Brady’s reputation.

As an NFL observer, it was evident, back in May that Robert Kraft was trying to send some sort of message that if he took the penalties, Goodell would reduce or wipe out the Brady suspension. I was quite skeptical. It goes back to that Wells Report. Goodell hangs onto that report like the Peanuts character Linus hangs onto that blanket. I didn’t think Goodell was going to reduce that suspension, no matter what Kraft did. There’s the alleged influence of a “small minority of owners” that gave me pause.

Looking back on now, Robert Kraft definitely made the wrong move. The penalties the team received are really excessive. I know that some will point to the so-called ” noncooperation” part of the punishment. I think that the Patriots were being punished for Spygate (again), and also for not cooperating as much as the NFL WANTED the Patriots to cooperate. I should remind my readers that the Patriots organization was EXONERATED in the Wells Report, so that’s another reason why Kraft should have challenged the penalties, and why I feel they’re excessive. As for Kraft’s current comments, I have never seen an owner tell his/her commissioner to “stick it where the sun don’t shine” like Kraft did.

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had the opening day of the training camp press conference right after owner Bob Kraft spoke. ( http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2015/07/29/bill-belichick-on-brady-suspension-its-already-been-addressed/) In usual Belichickian fashion, he gave few answers. Trying to get information from Belichick is like trying to get blood from a stone. However, as you know, Belichick was also EXONERATED in the Wells Report. I will say that in his January press conferences, he did come across as believable. He had his statement and thoughts well prepared. Of course, he didn’t go into any of that, deferring the matter to Bob Kraft’s previous comments.

As for what lies ahead for Belichick, this will be a huge challenge. He has to split reps between Tom Brady and presumed Week One starter Jimmy Garoppolo. The team has to see whether or not Brady can get the injunction, so he can play while appealing. Belichick has to be prepared for the possibility of losing Brady in the middle of the season if the Courts don’t rule in Brady’s favor. They’re in the AFC East, and even though the division appears to have gotten better, and the detractors are giving away the AFC to other teams, I think Belichick will have this figured out.

Patriots QB Tom Brady

After months of silence, Tom Brady made a statement on his Facebook page. ( http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2015/07/29/tom-brady-im-very-disappointed-i-did-nothing-wrong/ )He basically said that neither he nor the Patriots did anything wrong. He also defended how he disposed of his phone. Brady also said that no offer was made by the NFL. He also said that he was fighting for other players and for his right as a private citizen.

Here’s how I feel about Tom Brady concerning this whole scandal. Was he totally perfect? No. However, I certainly don’t think he’s the evil villain that the NFL and ESPN, the mouthpieces for the NFL, have portrayed Brady to be either. I go back to why he was a target in the first place. He not only wins too much, but people have this wrong perception that his team cheats. In their ridiculous logic, “if the Patriots are cheaters, then Tom Brady has to be one.” He’s also married to a Brazilian Super Model and is handsome. People get the wrong idea that he never worked for it. Success breeds contempt.

As for Brady and his role in this “scandal,” I think he should have handled that January press conference better. He should have done what Belichick did. He should have come out with a prepared statement. Many of those questions were the type to put the man on the defense. Did disposing of his phone on the day he was to be questioned by Ted Well look bad? Yes. However, as I said, the NFL had no right to his, or any other player’s phone, for that matter.

Do I think Brady’s legacy as one of the greatest of all time is tainted? No. Maybe it takes an initial hit by the holier-than-thou folks, but in the long run, he’s going to be fine. He will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day. I do hope that this blip on his record won’t cost him First Ballot status.

This has been the most bizarre scandal since the Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding saga. I have come to the conclusion that this was a case of sour grapes brought on by the Indianapolis Colts because they were tired of the Patriots kicking their butts the last few times the two teams met. The NFL saw a way to get Goodell, who was reeling over the backlash concerning the bungling of the Ray Rice case, back in the good graces of the general public.

Therefore, the NFL decides to start a nonsensical investigation, and for over 5 months, use ESPN to spread lies and innuendo about a team that people already hate and a QB of whom people are jealous. During this time, the NFL whips the general public into a frenzy and then drops a report that’s worth the toilet paper I use. The League gives out very harsh punishments based upon said Report, and in a Kangaroo court, upholds Brady’s suspension. The ruling portrays Brady as a slimeball, and leaves him with the same amount of games as Dallas Cowboys DE Greg Hardy, who committed domestic violence, four. The NFL had the gall to go to court first.

I am glad to see that the NFL has its priorities straight. They got the Big Bad Brady. Perhaps they will concentrate on the minor issues, like domestic violence, or child abuse, or HGH use among NFL players. What about that annoying little issue of CONCUSSIONS, Mr. Goodell? I forgot. You took down Tom Brady. That’s the most important thing in your whole career. Got it.

That’s my final piece on this saga. Brady and the NFLPA are in court, so I am done. I am ready for some actual football. I hope you enjoyed this blog. Feedback is welcome.

Major League Soccer Has Come so Far, but Has a Far It Still Has to Go

July 28, 2015 By: Category: Sports

For fans of North America’s top-tier soccer league, 2015 has been a memorable year for a lot of reasons. We’re seeing incredible growth in the 20-year-old league, but there are still things to fix. Here are three things that show how far MLS has come – and three reasons to stay reasonable about its prospects.

Three Reasons to Celebrate Progress:

The 2015 league expansion

The addition of NYCFC and Orlando City Soccer Club this year has not been without its drama (more on that later), but it’s hard to say that they were anything but an overall success. Both teams are attracting crowds, with NYCFC out-drawing their 20-year-old neighbors, the Red Bulls, and Orlando City routinely filling a large and attractive stadium. In fact, the most attended match of the year so far was the Orlando City-NYCFC showdown, where 62,358 fans showed up. That game helped fuel an attendance surge early on. In the first two months of the season, MLS attendance was up 11% compared to last year. Expect similar overall numbers for the year.

The TV deal

2015 has been a landmark year for another reason: MLS’s new television deal. MLS broadcasts are now split between FOX Sports, ESPN, and Univision under a new eight-year contract. The grand total is $720 million. At $90 million a year on average, that’s more than triple the old contract’s $27 million per year. A TV contract can make or break a league — just look at how the NBA has pulled away from the NHL over the past decade couple of decades — and MLS seems to have secured a good one.

The free agents

MLS has always sought aging European superstars, but their recent string of high-profile arrivals is worth noting. Andrea Pirlo, though 36 years old, comes fresh off an appearance in the European Champions League final. Pirlo, David Villa, Steven Gerrard, and Kaká are all big signings for the league, and they all debuted the same season. Kaká and Villa are 33, with a lot of years left in them.

It sounds odd, but perhaps the most exciting thing about these signings is that they’re not that exciting. These types of signings are less groundbreaking now than they’ve ever been, and MLS fans are more likely to be skeptical of foreign signings’ ages and declining skills. That ho-hum reaction to big names arriving is a luxury that MLS fans didn’t have even ten years ago.

Of course, one of those names up there didn’t quite debut on schedule – and that brings us to the three signs that MLS still has a ways to go.

Three Reasons to Stay Skeptical:

The Frank Lampard Debacle

NYCFC fans are tired of hearing about Frank Lampard, but the saga is an important part of why MLS needs to keep building legitimacy. MLS allowed the owners of a foreign club, England’s Manchester City, to acquire a majority stake in their New York expansion franchise. The new ownership’s priorities were made clear when Frank Lampard “signed with NYCFC,” but ended up spending half the MLS season in England. What Manchester City wanted, they got, and MLS was left holding the bag. There’s no quick fix here, but MLS needs to be careful about which owners they allow in the future. The league is getting too big for second-favorite teams and soft drink names (looking at you, Red Bulls).

The All-Star Game Selections

The MLS All-Star Game format is a neat little experiment in marketing. Instead of pitting the conferences against each other (as most other major U.S. leagues do), MLS assembles just one team of all-stars and plays an exhibition match against a foreign club side. It’s not a bad idea: it sells tickets, drives interest, and encourages fans of foreign soccer to come see what the domestic side has to offer. So far, so good.

But this year’s All-Star team, which will take on Tottenham Hotspur FC in the game, is a joke. Most of the team was selected by fan vote, and name recognition was the winner of the day. Players like Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco were left off the starting XI in favor of popular USMNT players like Graham Zusi. Commissioner Don Garber, who was allowed to add two players to the roster, rounded out the group with Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. At the time of that decision, neither man had played a single minute in MLS. That may be good for marketing, but it’s a sure sign of just how badly this league still needs to be marketed.

Yankee Stadium

When MLS was in its infancy, soccer-specific stadiums were not a concern. But as the years passed, plenty of teams built great new stadiums. Red Bull Arena (New York), BBVA Compass Stadium (Houston), and Avaya Stadium (San Jose), among others, are shining examples of this trend.

So when MLS added a second team in New York, fans expected to see them break ground on a new stadium. That should have been a part of the deal, but MLS let NYCFC’s ownership slide. The Yankees and Manchester City make for high-profile owners, and that’s good for the league, but playing games in a baseball stadium is an embarrassment.

Baltimore Ravens Looking Solid in the 2015-16 Season

July 14, 2015 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

The Baltimore Ravens were good last year, but not good enough. Despite a big playoff win on the road in Pittsburgh, the Ravens season ended at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. This year, though, the Ravens look a little better than the Pats do. In fact, the Ravens may have the best squad in the AFC.

That’s thanks in a large part to a core group of players that aren’t going anywhere, including quarterback Joe Flacco (who is still enjoying his Super Bowl XLVII payday). The recently re-signed Justin Forsett leads a solid corps of running backs, and the defense remains a top-ten squad – which could be enough to get the job done.

Losses in the offseason

The Ravens traded DT Haloti Ngata to Detroit and OL Gino Gradkowski to Denver, both for picks. They lost WR Torrey Smith, OLB Pernell McPhee, TE Owen Daniels, S Darian Stewart, LS Kevin McDermott, and QB Tyrod Taylor to free agency. They also cut RB Bernard Pierce, WR/KR Jacoby Jones, LB Ryan Jones, and NT Terrence Cody.

Despite all the losses, the team remains in pretty good shape. The Ravens saw Justin Forsett emerge as a legitimate starter last year, so they won’t regret cutting ties with Pierce. Plus, the Ravens already proved that they could live without Ngata when Timmy Jernigan stepped up during Ngata’s PED suspension last year.

One spot to watch is tight end. With Daniels gone, the Ravens have a bit of a gap there. The wide receiver situation isn’t ideal, either, but the Ravens’ strong draft will help them overcome the issues. All in all, the Ravens are a remarkably complete team considering the number of players they’ve lost this offseason.

Rookies

The Ravens did extremely well in this year’s draft, snagging three great players (Florida WR Breshad Perriman, Minnesota TE Maxx Williams, and Iowa DT Carl Davis) with their first three picks. All three of these players could make an impact right out of the gate. Williams and Perriman, in particular, will be players to watch. If they perform as expected, they’ll fill two of the biggest holes in the Ravens offense.

The Ravens also drafted Kentucky DE Za’Darius Smith, USC RB Javorius Allen, Texas Southern CB Tray Walker, Delaware TE Nick Boyle, Tennessee State OG Robert Myers, and Georgia Tech WR Darren Waller.

The Ravens un-drafted free agent signings were:

OLB Darius Allen (Colorado State – Pueblo)

OL Darryl Baldwin (Ohio State)

DE/OLB Brennen Beyer (Michigan)

WR DeAndre Carter (Sacramento State)

T Blaine Clausell (Mississippi State)

LB Trey DePriest (Alabama)

C Nick Easton (Harvard)

OL Kaleb Johnson (Rutgers)

QB Jerry Lovelock (Prairie View A&M)

RB Terrence Magee (LSU)

P/K Justin Manton (Louisiana-Monroe)

OLB Cory Morrissey (Iowa State)

S Nick Perry (Alabama)

OL De’Ondre Wesley (BYU)

CB Julian Wilson (Oklahoma)

WR Cam Worthy (East Carolina)

Free agents

The Ravens didn’t poach any superstars from other teams this year, but they did make some free agent signings. They inked QB Matt Schaub, CB Kyle Arrington and S Kendrick Lewis. Arrington should be a solid addition to the Ravens’ secondary.

The players the Ravens managed to keep were more important than those they gained. They’ve managed to re-sign RB Justin Forsett, which was key. They also re-signed K Justin Tucker, OG Jah Reid, DE Lawrence Guy, DT Chris Canty, DE Christo Bilukidi, S Will Hill, S Anthony Levine, and LS Morgan Cox.

Season outlook

The Ravens look to be one of the best teams in the AFC. Unfortunately, a couple of other contenders are sitting right in the same division. The Ravens remain the favorite to win the AFC North, but don’t be surprised if the Steelers or even the Bengals manage to steal it away (you’re allowed to be surprised if the Browns do).

Once out of the division, though, the Ravens have to feel good about their Super Bowl hopes. The Patriots and Broncos just aren’t the same teams that made their respective Super appearances, and the Steelers and Colts, while good, don’t quite have the roster that Baltimore does. Nothing guarantees a Super Bowl appearance (or even a playoff spot), but the Ravens have to like their chances at least as much as any team in the AFC right now.