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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.

Addison Russell Should Be New York Mets’ Biggest Priority Going Into Trade Deadline

July 06, 2015 By: Category: Major League Baseball, Sports

The MLB trade deadline of July 31st is rapidly approaching, and with the New York Mets holding steady in second place of the NL East, they need to make a few moves before time runs out.

The Mets could certainly use a relief pitcher or two, but in order to boost their chances of playing baseball in October, they need to find a replacement for shortstop Wilmer Flores. His inconsistencies in both the field and at the plate make him a liability as the Mets drive forward with their eye on the National League pennant.

With Jenrry Mejia set to return to the Mets lineup this week, acquiring a steady defensive presence in the middle of the infield is the clearly the priority heading towards the deadline. With just one true shortstop on the roster in Ruben Tejada, the Mets will certainly look for a young, promising player to trade for and take over the position fully.

Acquiring Addison Russell from the Cubs would solve this issue for the Mets, making this move essential in the next 25 days. Chicago, with their deep roster of young middle infield talent including Starlin Castro, Gleyber Torres and Javier Baez, could easily absorb the loss of Russell.

In order for New York to lure Russell from the Cubs, they will need to give up their top right-handed pitching prospect, Noah Syndergaard. Although Syndergaard (a.k.a Thor) has shown a lot of promise, the Mets have plenty of young talent on the hill. Though, the Mets are hopeful that a package of lefty Jonathan Niese and others will attract the Cubs to shipping Russell out, they’ll have no problem accepting the possible loss of Syndergaard in order to tighten up their middle infield.

A package of Niese and others could be attractive to the Cubs as they look to solidify their rotation that currently only has one lefty in Jon Lester. For the Cubs, the addition of Niese as a solid third option in the rotation, would be attractive in order to manage some of the power hitting lefties that are in the NL central with them.

Plain and simple, the Mets need solidification in their infield, while the Cubs certainly have infielders they can spare. Chicago needs pitching help and the Mets can certainly spare prospects in that department. While the Mets are looking for an influx of offensive ability, Russell’s batting average of just .229 is not something to be worried about. At just 21, Russell is still in his rookie campaign and simply needs to continue to adjust to the MLB keep working towards reaching his offensive potential.

Both teams look poised to make a trade before the deadline, it is just a matter of when and who will be involved in trades. This trade will happen, but don’t expect either team to show their cards in the next few weeks. This one is surely coming down to the wire.

Tom Brady Should Be Exonerated By The NFL

June 23, 2015 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

On Tuesday, June 23rd, at 9:30AM, and if necessary, continuing on Thursday, June 25th, New England Patriots 4 time winning Super Bowl Champion QB Tom Brady meets with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for an appeal hearing of Brady 4 game suspension for his alleged involvement in the scandal known as “Deflategate.”  Tom Brady will be represented by his agent, Don Yee. NFLPA President  DeMaurice Smith will be aiding Brady, as will attorney Jeffrey Kessler.  Hearing the appeal will be Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has refused the Player’s Union’s request to step aside from hearing the case. Goodell  will be joined by Troy Vincent, Executive VP of Football Operations, and other NFL officials. The appeal will be heard at the Park Avenue office in New York City.

As many of you already know, the polarizing and emotionally charged scandal called “Deflategate” happened  when prior to the January, 2015 AFC Championship Game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots, the Colts complained to the league that the Patriots were allegedly using under inflated footballs.  An intercepted football by one of the Colts players set this whole thing in motion, even though Colts GM Ryan was complaining before, during, and after the game. The Colts were checking the intercepted ball on the sidelines, which is against the rules, and all heck broke loose.  The scandal hit the morning papers and the Internet, and everyone knows the rest of  story.

According to the controversial Wells report, named for Ted Wells, who was hired by the NFL to investigate “Deflategate,” Patriots employees were found to be responsible for purposely tampering with the footballs. The Wells Report said that Jim McNally and John Jamstremski purposely under inflated footballs below the allowable minimal limit of 12.5 psi ( pounds per square inch.) . The Wells report also claimed that Patriots QB Tom Brady was “generally aware,” of the two men’s activities, and it was “more likely than not” that the footballs were tampered with, and Brady was in on it.  The Wells Report exonerated the Patriots Organization and Coach Bill Belichick.

The punishments were the following :  the Patriots were fined $1,000,000, and lost a 2016 1st round pick and a 2017 4th round pick.  Jim McNally and John Jamstremski were suspended indefinitely, per League orders.  QB Tom Brady was suspended for 4 games for his alleged involvement, and for allegedly not “cooperating.”  To put these harsh punishments in perspective, in 2012, the San Diego Chargers were penalized $25,000 for wiping their footballs with a sticky substance on the towels. The fine was rescinded. No suspension for Chargers QB Philip Rivers.

In 2014, Minnesota  Vikings and Carolina Panthers got warnings from the NFL for warming up the balls on the sidelines. Neither QB was suspended either. Why the NFL didn’t just fine the Patriots the minimum fine for “football tampering,” which is  $25,000, and announce that football handling procedures will be improved, I don’t know.  This was a simple equipment violation. It wasn’t made into a big deal for the other teams mentioned.  The Patriots were targeted because the NFL wanted to reassert their authorized after the Ray Rice, and the Bountygate debacles.

Tom Brady is obviously appealing his suspension.  In his appeal letter, in part, he said that he wants to be exonerated, and the suspension should be wiped out. I agree with him. Tom Brady got railroaded. In this blog, I will be making my case for Tom Brady’s exoneration.  I  will be analyzing the arguments that I have heard in support of his suspension, and give my counter-argument.

Pro Suspension Argument #1:

Brady should take the suspension like the Patriots did, and no one is above the rules.

Counter-argument:  According to the NFL Owners By-Laws, no NFL Owner is allowed to sue the NFL. Patriots Owner Robert Kraft would have been blackballed, if he tried to pull off a lawsuit. Fans also have to realize that business is business. As for why Brady doesn’t take his punishment, he is in a UNION, and Mr. Kraft is not. Player Union members are allowed to appeal their cases, and there are no unions for Owners or head coaches. As a union member, Tom Brady has a right to appeal a suspension. There’s a perception from the Tom Brady haters that Brady has no rights.  Former Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice  (Domestic Violence) , Adrian Peterson ( Child Abuse ) , and Greg Hardy (Domestic Violence )had rights to appeal their suspensions.

No one said that Brady or any player is above the rules.  I think that all players, from the undrafted free agents to the elite players, should be punished if they are in violation of the rules. I just don’t see where the NFL proved that Tom Brady violated the rules. The Wells report claimed that the texts and emails received from Jamstremski and McNally are proof. McNally’s calling himself “the deflater,” and  Tom Brady signing stuff for them. From looking at the texts and emails in the Wells report, they sounded like a lot of joking and sarcasm. Brady,  like many other QBs, has signed stuff for employees and others, in the past. There’s nothing sinister going on here.

Pro Suspension Argument #2:

Brady won’t give up his phone.

Counter-argument: This argument is one of the main sticking points for those who support the suspension. In a rather vigorous defense of his report, Ted Wells said that he and his investigators didn’t want Brady’s entire phone, just the pertinent information concerning the alleged tampering.  The Brady camp, led by Agent Don Yee said that Wells and company wanted the entire phone.  I’m more inclined to believe that Wells wanted the entire phone.

It goes back to those emails, which those who support the suspension also say are “damning.” Are they?  It depends on how you take them. I would have taken them as a bunch of people who were joking around. The thing is that  Ted Wells is the type of investigator that once he has his mind made up, he is going to keep digging until he gets what he wants, no matter if the evidence says otherwise.  No wonder he wanted to interview McNally a fifth time. Perhaps Wells wanted to interview him a sixth, seventh.  I  just don’t think Wells was all about the truth here.

Back to the issue with Brady’s phone.  Who’s to say that Wells would have wanted to see more than what he claimed , even if Don Yee was supervising? How will Wells guarantee that no leaks will happen?  After all, the NFL itself leaked the false story to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that 11 of the 12 Patriots footballs were 2 pounds under the legal limit.  Why would Brady and his team expect Wells to keep things under wraps?  Besides, we are talking about a PERSONAL phone. We are not talking about a COMPANY phone.

What is disturbing is that in the Brett Farve case, where Farve would not hand over his phone, all he got was a $50,000. I know this is a different case, but the concept is  similar. Besides, according to the CBA , the rules say that the play must cooperate “reasonably” with the investigation. On March 5, 2015, Tom Brady sat down with Ted Wells and his investigation team, and answered questions all day. Brady cooperated plenty, in my view.

Pro Suspension Argument #3:

The integrity of the game must be protected from cheaters like Tom Brady.

Counter-argument: One of my favorite Bible verses is “He who has no sin, cast the first stone.”  The other is “Do not judge lest ye be judged.”  The one thing that drives me crazy is trying to add morality into sports, and the hypocrisy of the entire thing.  Is integrity of the game important? I absolutely think so.  I  feel that there should be a level playing field.  People who cheat SHOULD be punished .  That is, if there is proof of cheating.

As my readers have heard, the NFL football has to be between 12.5 and 13.5 PSI.  Every QB likes a football a certain way. There are some like Tom Brady, who like the footballs at the lower range,  and  there are some like Packers QB Aaron Rodgers who like it at the higher end of the range. I want to emphasize that it IS legal to have a football at the lower end of the allowable range, and even at 12.5. Tom Brady likes the football at 12.5, which, despite popular opinion, is legal. Again, the minimum PSI is 12.5.

We have to go to the science behind all this. The Wells Team tested eleven  Patriots balls at half time, and only four  Colts footballs because of time running out. After all, the same footballs were needed for the game.  Something struck me weird about this. It doesn’t sound like a fair sample size comparison.  How can anyone make a fair conclusion comparing eleven footballs to four?

Another thing that bothered me was that Referee Walt Anderson’s faulty memory of which guage was used to measure the footballs was praised so heavily by Ted Wells.  The referee and his crew were so incompetent to let the bag of footballs disappear (also against NFL rules) , and couldn’t remember what guage he used in such an important investigation, that Ted Wells relies on him to try to prove that Tom Brady is the mastermind of this conspiracy to destroy the “integrity of the game,” by deflating footballs. If this were so important, why didn’t the referees write down the PSI of the balls, and allow them into the game, after the balls were missing for all that time?

Besides, once those balls were rubbed up, and set up the way the QB likes them, they’re not supposed to leave the referees’ sight. How was McNally able to take the bags of balls from that room. Those referees should have been punished for allowing that to happen.  I  find this interesting that no punishment was handed down to the referees.

Many point to the science part in the Wella Report where the Patriots balls lose more air than the Colts balls, thus the Patriots were cheating and Brady was in on it.  Well, not so fast. Just recently, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, released an independent scientific study that sharply criticizes the Wells Report and the science behind it.  The A.E.I Report argues that the Patriots balls may not have declined as much as Ted Wells said they did. The AEI also said that Ted Wells totally ignored the Ideal Gas Law. The A.E.I. said that when the footballs were taken from the cold weather and place in the warm room, the Patriots footballs deflated to an expected amount, whereas the Colts footballs deflated too little.

The reason, which Ted Wells ignored, is because the Patriots balls were tested first, and that gave time for the Colts balls to warm up and expand. Therefore, that’s one of the main reasons why the American Enterprise Institute is of the opinion that the Wells Report is unreliable, and Commissioner Roger Goodell should take it under advisement when he hears Tom Brady’s appeal. (On the Wells report – AEI http://www.aei.org/publication/on-wells-report/ )

I am also of the opinion that Tom Brady is not a cheater. I don’t think, despite the NFL’s threshold of “more probable than not,” that the NFL has proven their case. I also don’t feel that his wanting the ball at 12.5 is cheating, especially since that is the lowest that the football is allowed to be. I don’t think he had any kind of advantage. His stats improved in the second half of that AFC Championship game, and everyone saw what he did against the vaunted “Legion of Boom” in Super Bowl 49 with a properly inflated football.

As for why I believe that Brady got such a harsh punishment , and the Patriots for that matter, I believe the answer is very simple. In the grand scheme of things, a deflated football is not the biggest thing in the world. This is not something to get all bent out of shape over. However,  since the story broke in January, I have been seeing the general public getting all up in arms over, in essence,  an equipment violation.  People have been  overreacting because this case, that the NFL itself turned into a big deal, involves not only the greatest QB ever in Tom Brady,  but a QB who’s married to super model, Gisele Bundchen.

The general public, who already has this wrong perception that everything was handed to Brady,  were just ready to tear him apart with their jealousy fueled lies and media driven hysteria. I mean, so-called “journalists” like Mike Wilbon and Stephen A . Smith were calling for the Colts to be inserted into the Super Bowl if the Deflategate allegations were true. Anything that ESPN said about Brady, people took as the Gospel.  Anyone who defended Brady was insulted, and was treated as if they were defending a murderer.  I have been told that I was a “cheater,” “Immoral,” and was told that I “should be ashamed.”  I  mean people were, and still are SO angry about this issue.

The weird thing is that some of these SAME people will compromise their so-called personal integrity and cheer for athletes on their teams who are not so perfect either.  Some of these same people give passes to some of the folks who I mentioned earlier, Ray Rice,  Greg Hardy,  and Adrian Peterson. Even dog butcher, Michael Vick has his supporters, but I should be “ashamed” to defend Tom Brady?  Anyway, what I am getting at is that it is hard to deal with an angry mob. After the debacles with the Bounty and Ray Rice cases, and afraid of another public relations hit, I think Brady got railroaded into a suspension to quiet the angry mob. Someone had to be the sacrificial lamb for this nonsense.  Luke 23:21 “The crowd said, ” Crucify Him. Crucify Him.”  Roger Goodell, who has integrity issues of his own, did exactly that.

Now, that I have made my case for a complete exoneration of Thomas E. Brady, all I can do is see what happens. Roger Goodell claimed after the

Owners Meeting in May that he was “open minded” and depending on whatever “new information Mr. Brady had,”  Goodell was “not necessarily wedded” to the Wells Report. Goodell says lots of things. What he actually does, is a totally different matter. If he wasn’t necessarily wedded to Wells’ report, why did Brady get suspended?  Why did the Patriots get hit with such a huge penalty, and  penalized for Spygate again, if Goodell wasn’t necessarily wedded to the Wells report?

Besides,  there’s something else at stake, Brady’s reputation and his legacy.  As far as his NFL legacy, I think it’s intact. Trust me.  You would have to to remove a lot of people from just about every Hall of Fame, if you are of the Polly Purebred mind. Brady is a first ballot Hall of Famer.  As for his reputation, obviously,  he wants his name cleared.  Sadly, because this issue has become so polarizing, thanks to the NFL and the media, I’m afraid people are entrenched in their views. In the camp of the  Brady supporters, his reputation is great. In the Brady haters camp, he is a villain.

As for the Patriots, he is a vital part of the team, and they want him for week one. The Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins wrote in her column, “Goodell painted himself into a corner of his own making.”  (http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/redskins/as-brady-appeal-nears-roger-goodell-is-stuck-in-a-corner-of-his-own-creation/2015/06/17/a5fcbaa6-1456-11e5-89f3-61410da94eb1_story.html ) We will see how or whether Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to paint himself out of that corner. After all,  there’s that angry mob called public opinion that Roger Goodell has to worry about.

State of the Baltimore Orioles

June 22, 2015 By: Category: Major League Baseball, Sports

As we approach the 70-game mark, the Orioles are hovering around .500 and remain in the thick of things in the competitive AL East. Only 3 games separate the top 4 teams in the division and it’s shaping up to be quite a race as we head into the dog days of summer.

The O’s have played their best ball of the year thus far in June as a six-game winning streak helped push them over .500 for the season. The club has won 11 of their last 14 overall games making them hot right now. Streakiness has been an early theme for the O’s. In addition to the six-game winning streak, they have endured 2 five-game and 1 four-game losing streaks.

The recent strong play could be a sign that the team is turning the corner and rounding into the contender they were projected to be at the start of the season. While they may not match last year’s division winning 96-66 record, they should remain in the pennant race and make for an exciting summer. As long as Camden Yards keeps pumping out cheap ticket prices, the Baltiomore Orioles should see very few empty seats for the second half of the season.

Let’s take a look at the pieces the O’s have in place:

Top Bats

Adam Jones is one of the most underrated hitters in MLB and Manny Machado is rounding into his potential superstar form. They reside in the top 20 in both Batting Average and OPS (On-base % plus Slugging %) and will both receive serious All-star consideration. Jones is on pace to match last years’ HR totals (29) and is currently ahead in Avg. (.301 this year vs. .281 last year). He may fall a little shy of last years’ 96 RBIs, but could easily get back on pace with a strong summer. Machado is well on his way to a career year, the future looks very bright for the young third basemen.

Solid Support

Chris Davis remains one of the most feared sluggers in the game. While he won’t match 2013’s phenomenal 53 HRs and 138 RBIs, he appears on track for a solid 30-35 HRs and 90-100 RBIs. Although his AVG leaves something to be desired, as long as he keeps slugging successfully and keeps the AVG respectable, he’s in line for a solid season. Jimmy Paredes is also making the most of his opportunity with the Orioles. If a top 15 AVG and top 30 OPS continue throughout the season, the O’s will have an extremely solid heart of the order as the Division race heats up.

The Rest

Matt Wieters has recovered from his injury and is off to hot start since his return. Caleb Joseph filled in admirably in his absence, but he’s no Wieters with the stick. If Wieters can continue with his strong return, we are looking at a potent O’s offense as we enter into the summer heat. J.J. Hardy has carried over his disappointing offense from 2014 into 2015. He’s a long ways away from the 2013 version that contributed 25 HRs and 76 RBIs in what will no doubt be the peak of his career. Travis Snider, Steve Pearce and Ryan Flaherty fill their roles nicely and the bench provides solid support. Overall the O’s are looking at a solid offense with the potential to go deep into the playoffs, if all of the marquee players can stay healthy.

Pitching

No one will be mistaken for a Cy Young candidate, but the rotation has been pretty solid overall. Wei-Yin Chen, Ubaldo Jimenez and Miguel Gonzalez combine for a solid 1-2-3 combination, having collectively kept their ERA’s under 3.40. Concerns lie with Chris Tillman and Bud Norris, as only 8 of their 22 combined starts are being deemed as quality showings. Kevin Gausman could soon be challenging them for innings. Zach Britton is looking at another solid year and he is well on his way to matching or exceeding last years’ 37 saves.

Bottom Line

The O’s are in good shape heading into the summer. Two potential All-stars in Machado and Jones while the solid Davis, Paredes and Wieters should provide them with plenty of firepower. Improvement overall from the staff, especially the back of the rotation, would go a long way to keeping the Orioles in contention heading into September. In a division with no clear front-runner, the O’s should remain in the mix for a Division crown or Wild Card berth.

Horse Racing: American Pharoah Becomes the 12th Triple Crown Winner

June 08, 2015 By: Category: Sports

On a beautiful Saturday evening, June 6, 2015, a gorgeous 3YO colt named American Pharoah won American Thoroughbred Racing’s elusive Triple Crown at Belmont Park. American Pharoah, with jockey Victor Espinoza aboard, defeated seven challengers in front of 90,000 screaming fans. After a slight bobble at the start, American Pharoah went to the lead, and never looked back. Going wire to wire, American Pharoah was challenged near the top of the stretch by the eventual 2nd place finisher Frosted, but, American Pharoah was way too superior. American Pharoah just kicked away, and left that field in the dust by 5 1/2 lengths. The colt became the 12th Triple Crown winner in Thoroughbred Racing history, last being Affirmed, edging out his rival Alydar in all three Triple Crown races, in 1978, thus ending the 37 year old Triple Crown drought.

This was an amazing achievement. I was screaming and jumping up and down in my apartment when the field came around the clubhouse turn, and the top of the stretch. I knew American Pharoah was going to win. I saw that down the backstretch, Materiality was not going to be able to stay with American Pharoah. Mubtaahij made a decent move, but when I saw Frosted make a good run at American Pharoah, that’s when I got a little nervous.

However, American Pharoah just pulled away, and I knew the Crown was his. Hearing that roar on TV, and realizing thata Crown was actually going to happen was very emotional. I was screaming and crying, “HE DID IT!” repeatedly. I heard jockey Victor Espinoza shout, “HOLY $&£%!” The FCC, I am sure is going to bust someone. I can’t blame Victor. It was Victor’s third attempt at winning the Triple Crown. If it we me, I would have been yelling a few other choice words. NBC should have had the seven second delay ready. What was really awesome, post-race,was seeing jockey Victor Espinoza parading the horse in front of the entire grandstand, so those folks could see them. That was awesome.

American Pharoah’s owners, Zayat Stables, were very gracious in their accepting the trophies for both the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown. Ahmed Zayat, the head of the stable, said that the trophy was for “racing” and for the “fans.” The Zayat entourage all passed the Triple Crown trophy as if it were the Super Bowl trophy. Trainer Bob Baffert was very gracious as well . There was much talk of business deals connected to AmericanPharoah, and one of them was one with Monster drinks. That’s why during the presentation, jockey Victor Espinoza was holding up the Monster drink cans. I thought it was a little tacky, but that’s how it is.

Now that American Pharoah has won the Triple Crown, what does this son of Pioneerofthe Nile do for an encore? Well, he’s NOT “going to Disney World.” However, he has been flown back to Churchill Downs, where he’ll stay there for a week or so. In speaking of Churchill Downs, this Saturday, June 13th, he will be a part of the NBC sports broadcast of the Stephen Foster Handicap. I believe he will be making a special appearance. Later, he’ll go back to California, and from my understanding, his next target is likely the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. His main target is the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, KY. Due to a deal the Zayats made with Coolmore between the Preakness and the Belmont, American Pharoah will be standing stud at Ashford Stud (Coolmore) in Versailles, KY upon retirement at the end of this year. I am disappointed that American Pharoah won’t be running as a 4YO, but considering that this deal was made, and now that the horse has won the Triple Crown, he is worth tens of millions at stud.

The one thing that I am really happy about concerning American Pharoah’s winning the Triple Crown is that it should put to bed any ideas of changing the Crown. There have been calls for changing the distances, or changing the spacings between races. The fact that there’s been such a long drought, people in racing have started to become desperate for a Crown winner, that they think changing it will make it easier. Of course, we had that ridiculous tirade from California Chrome’s minority owner Steve Coburn, in partnership with Perry Martin as Dumbass Partnership (DAP).

California Chrome, dead heated for 4th in his attempt to win the Crown last year. Coburn whined that it wasn’t fair for new shooters (Tonalist, the winner, skipped the first two legs ) to enter. Well, the Triple Crown winner is supposed to face all comers. American Pharoah not only won all three legs. He ran on fast tracks, and on a sloppy one. He ran against horses he faced already, and new shooters in the Preakness and the Belmont. He did it all, and even bungled the start of the Belmont Stakes, and still won. No excuses.

How great is American Pharoah? By virtue of his winning the Triple Crown, he’s already there. That’s not to say that if a horse hasn’t won the Triple Crown, he/she is not. I mean, both Spectacular Bid and Alysheba both had the first two legs, but were unfortunately not great on Belmont Day. I still consider those two, “great.” Anyway, we will see as his racing career goes forward. As his owner said, as long as the horse is healthy, he’ll continue to race. I am looking forward to seeing him race. American Pharoah has already joined Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935 ), War Admiral (1937 ), Whirlaway (1941 ), Count Fleet (1943) , Assault (1946) , Citation (1948) , Secretariat (1973) , Seattle Slew (1977) , and Affirmed (1978) in accomplishing the most difficult achievement in all of sports. In my opinion, he’s great already. I think he is going to be extraordinary. Not to take away from any of these great horses, I mean, Secretariat is in a class by himself. I am just saying that I don’t think Baffert has scratched the surface with American Pharoah.

I want to end this by saying that I am so not only happy to have seen another Triple Crown, but I am glad that younger generations finally got to see one. I am so happy that these young people can tell their kids about American Pharoah. Not only that, I hope that younger people can become new fans of the sport as well. I hope that you enjoyed this blog. Feedback is welcome.

Belmont Stakes 147 Predictions and Preview

June 04, 2015 By: Category: Sports

On Saturday, June 6th, the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes for 3YOs will be taking place at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY, out on Long Island. The distance is the grueling 1 1/2 miles, which gives the race the nickname, ” the Test of a Champion.” It is the only 1 1/2 mile race for 3YOs, and the winner get a blanket of white carnations across his/her withers.

The Belmont Stakes is also the last leg of the Triple Crown, which is the toughest accomplishment in all of sports to achieve.

The last horse to win the Triple Crown, was Affirmed in 1978. In this year’s edition, just like last year, another 3YO will make an attempt to make history. His name is American Pharoah. American Pharoah is owned by the Zayat Stables, and is trained by the legendary Hall of Famer Bob Baffert.   Will American Pharoah make history?  I will be discussing my views on that, and his competition in this blog.

Before I get to all of that, I want to start by saying that as a racing fan, I want to see American Pharoah pull it off.  I have been a racing fan since 1977. I have been very blessed to have three horses win the Triple Crown in my lifetime. I was about 5 1/2 when Secretariat won, so I don’t remember him. I had to learn about him later.  The twoTriple Crown winners that I actually saw win were Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978. The Slew became the first hero that I ever had, and Alydar, who finished 2nd to Affirmed in all 3 Triple Crown races,  made me fall in love with the sport. Alydar is my all-time favorite racehorse.

Anyway, I have since followed the sport seriously, and through all the near misses (Spectacular Bid, Alysheba, California Chrome, etc.) I hope that today’s generation gets to see a Triple Crown.  I am not saying this because I think a Triple Crown will save the sport, because it won’t save it, but that’s another story.  Seeing a Triple Crown happen is thrilling. It is so awesome seeing a 3YO horse win three races at three different tracks with different surfaces, at different distances in 5 weeks.  I remember when I was 9 and 10 years old, when Seattle Slew and Affirmed accomplished the feat. Thirty-seven years later, we have fans in their 20s who have never seen a Triple Crown happen in their lifetime.

Now, I will get down to business, and  analyze this field.  As one who is a blogger, I have to discuss these horses seriously. I also have to give my opinion on trying to beat American Pharoah. We       are dealing with an 8 horse field. Several of these horses faced American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby, but have skipped the Preakness.  Since there are only 8 horses, I think I am going to analyze one horse at a time. I will then give my prediction for the Belmont Stakes.

EVENT: BELMONT STAKES 147
WHERE: Belmont Park
TIME: 4:30PM-7:00PM, EST
POST TIME: 6:50PM
NETWORK: NBC

Link to the field: Field set for 147th Belmont Stakes http://thisishorseracing.com/news/index.php/racing-news/3166-field-set-for-147th-belmont-stakes

ANALYSIS OF THE FIELD:

1. Mubtaahij

Mubtaahij ran a rather disappointing 8th in the Kentucky Derby, considering his fantastic run in the UAE Derby in Dubai. However, he’s been training at Belmont Park, and his times have looked pretty good. He has been working quite frequently at the track, which is not abnormal for him.  Like usual, Mubtaahij runs without Lasix, and will have a new rider, Irad Ortiz, Jr. The horse’s regular jockey had a prior commitment. Ortiz also rides at Belmont Park, so that should boost Mubtaahij’s chances. I would use in exotic betting at the very least.

2. Tale of Verve

Preakness Stakes runner up Tale of Verve is still a question mark to me. I don’t know if the sloppy track at Pimlico Racecourse, which caused problems for Firing Line and Dortmund, helped Tale of Verve do better than he would have or not. Before the Preakness , he was eligible for Maiden Special Weights. Trainer Dallas Stewart and jockey Gary Stevens must think this horse belongs. Tale of Verve has the pedigree to go 1 1/2 miles.  I’m not sure that he’s got the talent.

3. MadefromLucky

Here’s the winner of the 61st running of the Peter Pan Stakes, trained by Todd Pletcher.  This horse, sired by Looking at Lucky, has the pedigree to win the Belmont Stakes. It will be interesting to see if MadefromLucky can do what Tonalist did, and be the second  Peter Pan winner in a row to spoil a Triple Crown bid.

I also would watch out for the Pletcher horses in this race. Pletcher won the Belmont Stakes in 2007 with Rags to Riches and in 2013 with Palice Malice. Pletcher horses have been second in a few other editions. I would consider this in your handicapping. Personally, I am not sure about this particular horse. His Peter Pan race was good. I don’t see a Tonalist type of a horse, though.

4. Frammento

Frammento is trained by Nicholas P. Zito.  Frammento’s morning line odds are 30-1. I am guessing that they’re going to be huge at post time, even with jockey legend Mike Smith aboard. Frammento’s been training at Saratoga Springs for the Belmont. His past performances don’t suggest that he’s going to be much of a threat to beat American Pharoah, or even hit the board. However, if you pay attention to past history, Nicholas P. Zito has been known to upset a Crown attempt, or two. He upset Big Brown with Da’Tara in 2008 and Smarty Jones in 2004 with Birdstone. Both horses were over 30-1.   If you like longshots,  this is your horse.

5. American Pharoah

Well, here we have the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner. Will he make history?  He has never raced at Belmont Park, before.  Much has been made about that, and the fact that the horse is not training there. I think that Bob Baffert knows what is best for the horse, and that’s that. The horse is either going to like the track, or he won’t.  California Chrome trained at Belmont Park, and that didn’t work out so well (save the excuses.).  American Pharoah has looked phenomenal at his workouts, and has looked great at Belmont. I do worry about his jockey, Victor Espinoza, who also rode California Chrome. Espinoza has a terrible record at Belmont. I hope that Espinoza doesn’t get into a duel, or go too soon. Concerning  American Pharoah’s pedigree, which on his dam’s side, it is a bit sprinty, I have concerns as to whether horse can get the distance . He just might be a freak. You must use him.

6. Frosted

Frosted  has gotten a lot of attention from people to play the role of spoiler. Some of the same people said this horse was going to win the Kentucky Derby also. In that race, he was a fast closing 4th,  off of dawdling fractions. Frosted been training great at Belmont Park, and has the pedigree to go the distance. I am not sure though. Frosted comes across to me as a “wiseguy” horse, and I get a feeling of “Fool me once..” sort of vibe. I would use him in exotic betting based upon his performance in the Derby, but I am not sure he wins.

7. Keen Ice

Keen Ice has an excellent pedigree for this race. However, pedigree isn’t everything, and I would be stunned if this horse wound up with the garland of white carnations.  Keen Ice needs a hot and fast pace, and I just don’t see that happening. Keen Ice will have to be up closer.  I like and respect the horse’s trainer Dale Romans, but I don’t see this horse pulling the upset.

8. Materiality

Materiality is one of the horses that will be providing the speed in the race, besides American Pharoah.  I’m guessing that this horse will try to get pressure on  American Pharoah. Materiality did finish 6th in the Kentucky Derby. If Materiality runs back to his Florida Derby race, he could be trouble for American Pharoah.

While the horses in the Florida Derby weren’t the greatest, and there was the  non-call by the stewards at Gulfstream Park , I saw a Materiality that was tenacious. He could wear down American Pharoah, and set it up for a horse like Frosted.   Do I think he’s that talented, or that much of a threat?  I know he’s trained by Todd Pletcher, but I don’t think so.

PREDICTION:

This is a solid field of horses. American Pharoah is facing horses that he’s already beaten, but they are rested. If there’s going to be an upset, I am sure that it will be one of them. Yes, it is fair, because a Triple Crown winner must overcome everything thrown at him/her.  From my analysis, and study,  as much as I have been trying to beat American Pharoah in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, I fell flat on my face both times. There are horses that have a shot, but I think that if American Pharoah is on his game, he’s going to be the next Triple Crown winner.  He’s the best horse in the race.

The horse that I predict will win the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes is American Pharoah.

Upset Possibles: Mubtaahij, Frosted, Materiality

Longshot Recommendation: Frammento

I hope you enjoyed this blog. Feedback is welcome.

2015 Preakness Stakes 140th Predictions and Preview

May 15, 2015 By: Category: Sports

This Saturday, May 16, 2016, will be the 140th running of the race known as the second  jewel of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes. The race, run at 1 3/16ths miles, is run at Pimlico Racecourse, outside of Baltimore, MD. Because of the racetrack being on a hill, it is given the nickname, “Old Hilltop. Should Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah be fortunate to win on Saturday, he will have two-thirds of the elusive Triple Crown.

I was at the Kentucky Derby this year. Before I give my readers my opinion on the Preakness, I want to share my thoughts on my Kentucky Derby experience. First of all, I highly recommend that my readers attend the race. Not only do you see great racing action, but the people watching is awesome.  I  hung out around the paddock area, and I saw quite a few famous people. I  met Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his wife. I  got his autograph. He was very nice. I saw Kentucky Governor Steve Bashear (D), and Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater, who played for the University of Louisville, gave the “riders up” for the Derby horses.  I ran into various horse trainers and owners as well as people wearing all sorts of crazy hats.

As for the race itself, as I had General Admission tickets, I had to watch the race on a screen, but I thought it was a very exciting race. The way the track was playing, I knew that any horse that came from way off the pace didn’t have a prayer. Any horse that was near the pace was going to have a shot. I had picked Dortmund. I also thought that Firing Line and the favorite American Pharoah had a shot. Wow, I  should have played the Trifecta. American Pharoah won, with Firing Line second, and Dortmund third.

Much has been made about Pharoah not being impressive. I didn’t buy that. Some people were expecting a 15 length victory, like his last two races. Has anyone ever heard of “bouncing?” What I mean by that is when a horse regresses from a huge effort.  I also saw the fuss about his jockey Victor Espinoza hitting Pharoah 32 times. First of all, Pharoah blew the turn, so that explains some of the use of the whip. Also,  if you watch the head on replay, Espinoza didn’t make contact with the horse during the 32 uses. Many times, he flagged the horse. In other words, he waved the whip to get the horse’s attention.  Am I a HUGE FAN of using the whip like Espinoza did?  I am not, after all, as the saying goes, “It’s all in the hands.”  I’m just saying that why I think this is a very important issue for discussion, I think it was way blown out of proportion.

Now, that I’ve discussed the Derby,  onto the Preakness. Like my Kentucky Derby blog, I will discuss the Preakness by using the same format . I will give you a link to the field, with the morning line odds, jockey, etc. I will group them according to how much of a chance I give them to win the 140th Preakness Stakes. As we only have an 8 horse field,  I’m going to split them up into two groups. So, without further ado, here are my predictions for the Preakness Stakes.

EVENT:  Preakness Stakes 140
VENUE:  Pimlico Racecourse
NETWORK: NBC
TIME:
POST  TIME: 6:18PM, EST

The Preakness Stakes.

GENERALLY AWARE THEY’RE LONG SHOTS

Mr. Z.

Mr. Z leads off the group of horses who are generally aware they don’t have big change of winning the race. If my readers like to play long shots, by all means, please do.  Anyway, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who trains this horse just HAD to have a horse in the Preakness, right? The poor animal has not won a race in nearly a year, and even though his now former owner, Ahmed Zayat,  said after the Derby,  that Mr. Z wasn’t running in the Preakness, the once powerful Calumet Farm buys him. Now, the horse is in the Preakness. Lukas is a legend in the sport, but I think his ego is getting in the way. Even Todd Pletcher is not entering a horse in the race. Regardless, I don’t think this horse should be in the race.

Divining Rod

This horse will have a lot of sentiment attached to him. He’s owned by Gretchen and Roy Jackson, who owned and bred Barbaro. To refresh your memories, in the 2006 Preakness, Barbaro shattered his hind leg soon after leaving the gate. After a 9 month struggle for his life,  he sadly passed away.  Anyway,  after almost a decade absence, the Jacksons return with Divining Rod. The horse has won the Coolmore Lexington Stakes, the last time out. He has finished 3rd in the Tampa Bay Derby as well. He would be one to play, if you like hunch bets. I am sure many Barbaro fans will be backing him.

Tale of Verve

Like Mr. Z, what is this horse doing in the Preakness? All the races this horse has run in are Maiden Special Weights. I  know his trainer, Dallas Stewart, has had horses hit the board in past Triple Crown races, but he must think highly of this horse to put him in the Preakness.  Tale of Verve also needs a very fast pace to run at, to even have a shot. From looking at where the speed is, he could get it. I’m not sure he has to talent.

Bodhisattva

Bodhisattva, who’s named for the Buddhist term, “enlightened one,” is the local horse. He may be a California bred,  but his sire, Student Council, won the 2008 Pimlico Special, so there are Maryland ties. He’s the winner of the Frederico Tesio Stakes, and had placed in the Private Terms Stakes.  If you are a fan of Steely Dan, put a couple of bucks on his nose. ( https://youtu.be/uAEphHf0P-c)

MORE PROBABLE THAN NOT TO WIN THE PREAKNESS

Firing Line

The second place finisher in the 2015 Kentucky Derby kicks off my discussion of the 4 horses that I feel are more likely than not to wind up with the famous blanket of Black Eyed Susans that is placed on the back of the winner of the Preakness. Firing Line had a great Derby. He battled Dortmund for the lead. He finally seized the lead, but American Pharoah was a bit too much. Firing Line has been working like a monster since the Derby. He’s coming from the far outside post, #8, but I think Gary Stevens can get him into a great position.  A slight caveat is that the last second  place finisher in the Kentucky Derby to win the Preakness was Prarie Bayou in 1993.

Danzig Moon

Danzig Moon ran fifth in the Derby, which I was impressed with, considering that the pace was dawdling, and the track was not playing to closers. I  was impressed with his second place finish in the Bluegrass Stakes, as well. With a possibility of a better pace scenario, I think Danzig Moon could either pull the upset, or hit the board.  He should be better positioned in the race, as there’s just 8 horses. I would use in exotics.

American Pharoah

Here’s the Kentucky Derby hero. He’s an amazing looking horse in person. I thought he won a hard fought race in the Derby. I’m more impressed by that kind of win, than a blow out, a lot of the time. Again,  he’s the horse to beat.  Much has been made of his post position, #1. I  will admit that it’s not ideal, considering the fact that the rest of the speed is on the outside of him. I  think that he has the class to overcome his bad post.  He’s won from the #1 hole as a 2YO, so this won’t be foreign for him.  There’s a possibility of thunderstorms as well,  so a wet track should not bother Pharoah either,  if you remember his performance in the Rebel Stakes back in February.

Dortmund

Dortmund ran an awesome Derby. He set dawdling fractions. He battled eventual second place finisher Firing Line, his main rival during the Kentucky Derby prep season in California, during the entire race.  Firing Line got his revenge, as Dortmund wound up third. After the race, it was revealed that on April 25th, the week before the Derby, Dortmund was nearly scratched due to a bout of colic. Briefly, colic is an intestinal disease, that can be very serious    in horses.  Horses like The Wicked North have died from the disease. The issue with this, is that the concealment of the news of the horse’s illness IS a big deal.

While the horse was cleared to race, and thankfully, he was alright, I felt that both his owner Kaleem Shah, and his trainer Bob Baffert should have said something to the public. This is an integrity of the game issue.  Handicappers and fans, I feel should have had the information.  Fans and the public need to know that this game is on the level, and handicappers need to know that the sport they’re betting on isn’t rigged. I’m sure had they known the horse was sick,  they would have changed their bets.

That being said, from looking at Dortmund this whole week after the Derby,  he looks a lot better than he did in the Derby. He really looks like he will give a much better effort in the Preakness.  I am willing to give him a mulligan.  I liked him in the Derby.  I’m not in love with his post position, #2, but I think he has great tactical speed to overcome it.

MY PREDICTION:

Obviously, American Pharoah is the horse to beat.  If he’s at his best, no one will beat him.  I have been on this horse’s bandwagon since the beginning. However,  I also have been on the Dortmund bandwagon as well. I am behind Dortmund again.  I think he turns the tables.

Your winner of the 2015 Preakness Stakes is: DORTMUND.

Five Takeaways From Deflategate

May 13, 2015 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

On January 18, 2015, the New England Patriots hosted the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game for the right to go to Super Bowl 49. The Patriots demolished the Colts by a score of 45-7. As we all know, the Patriots went on to defeat the then defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks, and become Super Bowl 49 Champions. QB Tom Brady became SB MVP for the third time in his career. The Patriots also had broken a ten year drought.

Leading into this particular Super Bowl, the Patriots were dealing with a very bizarre controversy. The day after the AFC Championship Game, news broke that the Patriots were being investigated for allegedly playing with under inflated footballs in the AFC Championship. This accusation was made by the Indianapolis Colts. It had to have been the strangest thing I’ve ever heard.

To explain this, the rule is that a properly inflated football has to be between 12.5 and 13. 5 psi (pounds per square inch). The Patriots were accused of purposely deflating the footballs, so QB Tom Brady could have a better grip on the ball. The outrage by columnists, fans, and the American public was incredible. It was way more than the outrage over Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. Anyway, both Patriots Coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady gave separate conferences. All this followed the team to the aforementioned Super Bowl, which the team won.

Now, we fast forward to May 6th of this year. It was over 100 days since Ted Wells, an attorney who was assigned to investigate this rather crazy case. After all the hype and energy and money that has been put into this case, the Wells Report found that “it was more probable than not” that the Patriots purposely deflated the footballs. Wells also concluded that QB Tom Brady was “generally aware” that Equipment Manager James McNally and John Jamstremski were deflating the footballs with his (Brady’s) knowledge.

After more hysteria from the media, and the American Public, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell dropped the hammer, and suspended QB Tom Brady for four games. The Patriots were hit with a $1 Million dollar fine, the highest in NFL history. The Patriots were docked their 2016 first round draft pick and their 2017 fourth round draft pick. Many pundits and fans have had their say about the whole event. I’m going to give my five thoughts on this entire debacle.

1. THE VIOLATION ITSELF OVERBLOWN
Much has been made about the violation itself. People are going crazy. Some are comparing deflating a football to using a PED, or to what the Saints did. People need to slow down. Acting like Tonya Harding’s hoodlums and, putting a pin in a football are not related at all. To me, it’s like a baseball player using a bat with pine tar, a la MLB Hall of Famer George Brett. ESPN’s Mark Schlereth was fined $5,000 for putting Vaseline on his arms. It was rescinded, but you get my point. While I am NOT advocating rule breaking, people are making this way more than it is.

2. THE WELLS REPORT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.

I have read the Wells Report, and I just don’t get the impression that it’s a slam dunk. The issue of different guages being used bother me. Referee Walt Anderson’s not being sure which guage he used is bothersome. Ted Wells now says that It doesn’t matter what guage was used. Well, if Wells and the NFL want to nail the greatest QB in the NFL, they should not be so cavalier with details. If this was such a huge deal to the NFL, Well should not have included sketchy details. His information needed to be way more accurate.

Walt Anderson also said that the balls were gone for a time. Well, when the balls showed up, why weren’t they retested? When the Colts first made the complaints, why did the NFL allow the game to go on? Why didn’t the NFL tell the Patriots that they (the Patriots)were busted before and that the NFL had heard some complaints, and if the Patriots didn’t stop, they’d be busted again? Why was Ron Grigson, the Colts’ GM, allowed to make a complaint based on rumors and gossip? Is this how the NFL is going to be run?

Do those texts and emails look damning to Tom Brady? Yes. I am not saying they don’t. However, they sound more like they’re sarcastic jokes. As for Brady and his phone, if this investigation were not the witch hunt that it was, maybe he should have done it. However, I think he did the right thing. I don’t think I would turn in my phone, especially to the NFL.

3. GOODELL WENT TOO FAR

Even though there was little evidence of wrongdoing, as I said, Tom Brady and the Patriots got hammered. Some people are saying “too hard,” “not enough,” and many fans are thinking about boycotting the NFL. I think Commissioner Roger Goodell went way too far. The Patriots were treated as repeat offenders because of Spygate, hence the highest fine in NFL history of $1,000,000, and the aforementioned draft picks. Brady’s suspension was done because the NFL wanted to send a message that no one was above the rules. I also think that the League Office was mad that Brady would not cooperate with the witch hunt.

The fine for this kind of violation is $25,000. The San Diego Chargers were penalized the same amount in 2012. They used a sticky substance to the towels used for the game footballs, which is against NFL rules. There was no uproar by the NFL or by the public. (http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/8604254/san-diego-chargers-fined-20000-failing-comply-game-official) Both the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers got WARNINGS for heating the game balls this past season. (http://espn.go.com/blog/minnesota-vikings/post/_/id/11218/nfl-aware-of-game-ball-incident-during-panthers-vikings ) In these cases, there were no outrage by the NFL or the public. Even when the Colts emailed the NFL about their suspicions, the NFL didn’t get the public in a fuss. Now, they start this investigation and all of a sudden, this violation has turned into the equivalent of the Titanic disaster? I’m not buying it.

Goodell wanted to make an example of Brady and the Patriots, and that’s what he did. I mean, why on earth did Spygate have to be considered into Brady’s punishment? He wasn’t part of it. That was on Belichick. The fact that the team is being punished for something they’ve been punished for already, I think is ridiculous. The fact that Brady is being treated as if he took PEDs is asinine, especially considering the usual punishment for this type of thing. Shame on Goodell for pandering to public pressure, and not according to the actual violation.

4. IMPACT ON THE NFL FIELD

How will this four games affect the NFL on the field product? As we know, Tom Brady is appealing his suspension, as expected. Trust me, this is not over by a long shot. I wouldn’t be surprised if Patriots owner Bob Kraft has a few tricks up his sleeve. I’m guessing that the next time Roger Goodell messes up, Kraft won’t be there. The team is standing by their QB as well.

The AFC East will be even more interesting. Assuming that Brady loses his appeal, he returns Week 6, against the Colts. Backup QB Jimmy Garropolo will be the starter. Garropolo will be facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Dallas Cowboys. Despite the prognosticators of Doom, I think the Patriots can go 2-2, at worst. The Patriots went 11-5 without Brady in 2008, when Brady went down week one. That QB was Matt Cassel. From what I’ve seen of Garropolo, I think he’s better than Cassel. If the rest of the AFC East teams, with their improved defenses, stumble out of the gate, that’s on them. I still think that the Patriots will wind up winning the Division.

5. TOM BRADY’S LEGACY INTACT

After all this moralizing and hand-wringing, and such, in this blogger’s opinion, Tom Brady’s NFL legacy is intact. He’s a First Ballot Hall of Famer. His NFL achievements are many. Do the findings in the Wells Report erase them? In the minds of the shrill few, and the haters, yes. For those who look at Brady’s career as a whole, and for those who will be voting on his candidacy five years after his retirement, I seriously doubt it.

In conclusion, I am going to wait and see what happens with Brady’s appeal. He has just hired attorney Jeffery Kessler to help with the appeal. This should be a very interesting next few months. Thanks for reading. Feedback is welcome.

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