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Thursday, March 25, 2010

The second weekend

Last weekend’s opening round of the NCAA Tournament was one for the ages. The upsets were a plenty and the drama was unmatched by any movie. But what can we expect going into the second weekend?

The upsets we projected, failed to come to fruition, while the games we had written off as all but won proved to be anything but guaranteed. As the games were being played I had already thrown my bracket out the window, pulling for the little guys to dethrone the national powers. Giants such as Georgetown and Wisconsin were knocked off quickly, but nobody projected Kansas to fall so soon.

As the number one overall seed in the tournament, the Kansas Jayhawks had a presumed path to the Final Four. Little did they know that the Panthers of Northern Iowa would show up to play. Led by senior guard Ali Farokhmanesh, UNI played the game of their lives. Slowed by a full-court press late in the game, UNI finally broke through the press. With a full shot-clock and about a minute left in the game, Farokhmanesh would knock down one of the ballsiest shots in tournament history, inevitably ending the Jayhawks season.

UNI is not the only mid-major program causing havoc in tournament pools. Ivy League champion Cornell has advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time, but faces the very talented Kentucky Wildcats in their next game. The Saint Mary’s Gaels are also a surprise, as they take on the upstart Baylor Bears. But don’t be surprised if one of these three teams dances its way to the Final Four. As we all should know by now anything is possible in March.

Several teams are doing their best to shed the “mid-major” title. The Xavier Minutemen are legit and must be taken seriously. In the past seven seasons, the Minutemen have advanced to the Sweet 16 three times and the Elite Eight twice. The Butler Bulldogs and the Gonzaga Bulldogs are perennial national contenders every year. They both excel throughout the regular season, playing extremely competitive non-conference schedules and consistently win tournament games. Mid-major or not, nobody should be taken for granted in the tournament.

The biggest disappointment of the tournament by far have been the representatives of the Big East. Before the tournament began, the Big East was proclaimed by most, including me, as the best basketball conference in the country. With eight teams at the start of the tournament, only two remain. Syracuse and West Virginia must carry the load for the underachieving conference going forward into the second weekend. However, Syracuse still remains a favorite to advance to the Final Four and win the championship.

With my Final Four already skewed by one, I will replace Georgetown with Tennessee to face Syracuse. My projection of Kentucky versus Duke still looks solid. Going into the tournament, I was concerned about the Wildcats inexperience, but thus far they look scary good. Led by all-world freshman John Wall, Duke will have their hands full. But I stand my by original prediction of Syracuse defeating Duke in the national championship game.

The second weekend of the tournament will not disappoint. Make sure to have your game snacks ready and to schedule your bathroom breaks accordingly, because you will not want to miss anything. Let the madness ensue!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The MJ affect

Michael Jeffrey Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all-time, is prepared to take his biggest gamble yet. Last week, Jordan became the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. This is Jordan’s second chance as a front office executive, as his first attempt was nothing but failure.

In 2000, Jordan became part owner of the Washington Wizards. His main role with the organization was as President of Basketball Operations. This role included comprehensive control over all player personnel and on-court activity.

The most magnified transaction of Jordan’s tenure with the Wizards was the drafting of high school phenom Kwame Brown with the number one overall pick in the 2001 draft. To Jordan’s credit, all of the experts agreed with this selection due to his enormous upside and projectability. Unfortunately for Jordan, Brown would never blossom into the force he had imagined. Brown’s career quickly fizzled out as a seldom used backup, never realizing his potential. They will forever be linked together as one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history.

Brown did have the opportunity to play with and learn from a great player. No not Rod Strickland; it was Michael Jordan. Jordan returned to the NBA for two more seasons with Washington. Half the player he once was, Jordan did make the all-star team each season (due to fan voting) but failed to revive the floundering Wizards. Returning to reality, Jordan assumed he would return to his former role with the organization. After the draft debacle and initiating several unpopular trades, Washington’s owner Abe Pollin fired Jordan, ending a dismal attempt of running an NBA franchise.

Jordan has developed a reputation as one of the most fiercely competitive human being’s ever. It was to no surprise to anyone that he wanted to revenge his shortcomings in Washington by performing at a higher level with another organization. In 2006, Jordan became a minority shareholder of the expansion Charlotte Bobcats.

With the Bobcats, owner Bob Johnson named Jordan as the Managing Member of Basketball Operations. Within this role, Jordan would once again have the opportunity to do a job he had once failed at with the Wizards. Under Jordan’s watch, the Bobcats have drastically improved. Despite poor drafting once again, Jordan has been able to make several key moves, such as trading for Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson. Currently, Charlotte is vying for its first playoff appearance in its young franchise history.

Nine months ago, Johnson, the first African-American majority owner of a major professional sports team, decided to seek buyers for the Bobcats. After losing tens of millions of dollars the previous year with Charlotte, Johnson wanted to recoup his losses from his initial $300 million investment. After negotiations between two investment parties, Johnson awarded Jordan the opportunity to buy controlling interest of the Bobcats. Jordan’s latest purchase was a bargain for $270 million.

Jordan is now the first former player to become a majority owner of a major sports team. With full control over all decisions, Jordan is now in charge. Several questions loom from within the basketball community, the organization and the city of Charlotte regarding the Bobcats.

Jordan must prove doubters wrong, demonstrating the ability to spend more time doing his job of running a successful NBA franchise. He has often been blatantly absent from Charlotte while traveling around the world to golf, party and gamble. Jordan states that his home-base will still be out of Chicago while his children are in school, but that he will spend much more time in his home-state of North Carolina. In just one week as owner, Jordan hasn’t missed a game (home or away) of his Bobcats.

The team’s name has also been a hot topic for the city of Charlotte and its fans. The BOBcats were named after former owner Bob Johnson. Johnson was never a fan favorite throughout Charlotte, rarely attending games and often criticizing the city and its citizens. Considering that Johnson has left a stale taste in the fans mouth, Jordan has left the door open for potential renaming of the organization; this would cost Jordan $3-10 million. Names such as the Cats and the Cougars have recently been suggested. As the ever capitalizing entrepreneur, Jordan might go as far as renaming his team after his own brand, such as the Flight (an original favorite considering the states history in aviation) or the Airmen.

Spending more time and contributing to the city is critical for Jordan going forward. He will look be much more involved than Johnson ever was with charitable opportunities and city endeavors, building a relationship with the once shunned (or Shinned) city. Reportedly, Jordan met with Charlotte 49ers Director of Athletics Judy Rose to discuss developing a long-term business relationship with each other. This would be huge for both, as each program suffers to capitalize on its own community.

The city of Charlotte and the NBA deserves that from Jordan as well. Jordan has the opportunity to make professional basketball relevant again in the Queen City. After the city’s beloved Hornets were ripped away from them by owner George Shinn, the fans have been reluctant to get attached to this new product. Although attendance and ticket sales have improved this season, the team still ranks in the bottom-half of the league of attendance per-game.

Jordan has compared himself to the Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban. Cuban is known as a billionaire super-fan that will do anything for his investment to succeed. That’ll mean less golf, and more work for Jordan. But no matter what the team name is, the team must progress and produce. To do so, they will need their new boss to be present and accounted for on a daily basis. If able to continue playing well and earn a spot in the playoffs this year, the team will be off to a great start.

I truly believe Jordan will do what is necessary to succeed in Charlotte. His ego and pride are way too big for him not to do so. His competitive drive is still as strong as when he was battling the Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys” in the ‘80s and the Utah Jazz ‘90s. The MJ affect has already been felt throughout Charlotte, as people are actually talking Bobcats basketball. A new era is set to begin in Charlotte and the future couldn’t be brighter.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March Madness

Starting today, our nation will be put on hold. Today, the madness begins. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is by far the most exciting sports event throughout the year. This event is unlike any other because of its ability to capture the attention of such a wide variety of Americans. Because of this, it allows the below average fan that typically may not engage in sports banter with the more avid follower, to participate in the fun as well.

But there are affects of the tournament that are significantly felt throughout society that are often overlooked and ultimately forgiven; this being the loss of productivity and revenue in the workplace.

John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement and business coaching consultancy at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, has led several outreach assessments of these affects. Challenger reports that throughout the four weeks of the tournament, over $4 billion will be lost in productivity and revenue. This is a result of skipping work or taking extended breaks to follow the several games in progress throughout the day. Our world of technology feeds into the problem as well. We have the convenience of not even having to leave our workspace with the ability to track all of the games with a touch of a button, further facilitating the madness into the workplace.

So how do we fix this problem? Is it a problem? Employers can prohibit any site to be visited that has no such relevance to their work or have sites that would enable this behavior, blocked and unable to access. But employees may not react well to this course of action, taking the day off figuratively or literally. Unfortunately for companies throughout our nation, they will have to manage their assets as well as possible during this time, continuing to work to the best of their ability while coping with this national outbreak of basketball madness.

As the 2010 tournament brackets were unveiled, I honestly was distant and frustrated with basketball as a whole. I was not one of the millions of fans waiting in anticipation as the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee announced this year’s 65 team field. My alma mater, the Charlotte 49ers, had another disappointing season, failing once again to reach the post-season (including the NIT). But as today’s opening round games approached and all of my friends were fanatically filling in their brackets, I couldn’t be more excited. Well, I suppose I’d be a little more excited if my 49ers could be playing…

Debates regarding the tournament will rage on throughout the next couple weeks, ranging from the possible 12 seed over the 5 seed, to who would become this year’s Cinderella team. Many people fill in several brackets with various outcomes throughout the tournament. I personally fill in one bracket; that’s all I need. It will drive you crazy the more you try to break down and analyze every match-up and potential outcome for every minute detail.

Even President Barack Obama completes a bracket every year. If the leader of the free world, who is working tirelessly to fix our economy and implement universal health care, can enjoy the tournament as well, I guess it isn’t too bad. Sorry John Challenger, you’re on your own.

President Obama is one for one with picking the national champion, as he selected the North Carolina Tar Heels last year. This year, he’s picked the Kansas Jayhawks to become champions of college basketball. Not a bad pick considering they are the number one overall seed and prohibitive favorite, as was North Carolina.

Leading up to the tournament, I also try to avoid the sports networks on television or on the radio. During this time of the year, the networks are all on an unhealthy dosage of March Madness adderall, having only one focus while disregarding all other sports. They constantly air their “experts.” These experts share their “insight” throughout the upcoming weeks, preaching to sports nation on who to pick and why. To be completely honest, you probably know better than anyone, especially than the “experts.” If you’ve followed college basketball throughout the season, go with your gut and stick with it!

Now from those experts to me, it looks pretty simple. This year’s tournament will be dominated by the Big East. Without a doubt, the Big East is the most competitive and overall best basketball played in the country. With eight representatives in the field, the national champion will be from this conference. There will not be many upsets, but if there is one watch out for, go with the 12 seed Utah State over the 5 seed Texas A&M. Don’t expect a Cindarella team causing havoc for anyone’s bracket(s), as this year will be dominated by the big boys.

My Final Four includes Georgetown vs. Syracuse and Kentucky vs. Duke.

Georgetown is loaded with talent, being led by the most skilled big man in college basketball, Greg Monroe. The Cuse is getting discarded by the masses because of their early exit in the conference tournament. Coach Jim Boeheim will not let that happen again. It also helps to have the lethal three-point shooting of Andy Rautins and extremely skilled swing man Wes Johnson. The Kentucky Wildcats are dangerous. Loaded with all the talent in the world, Kentucky should advance to the Final Four with ease. Eventually, a lack of experience will catch up to them, as the Wildcats won’t be doing ‘The John Wall Dance’ for long. Coach K and his overachieving Blue Devils will have an answer for Kentucky, advancing to the final game.

After a low scoring championship game, the Syracuse Orangemen will defeat the Duke Blue Devils to become national champions.

I am truly looking forward to this year’s tournament. It is one of the most competitive fields in recent memory, which will provide us with an amazing four weeks of drama and excitement!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bobby Lutz fired

Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball coach Bobby Lutz has been fired. This news is not a surprise to most, but still shocking that the Charlotte Athletic Department finally acted on what was needed at this time. Despite a strong start to the 2009-2010 season, the 49ers lost seven of their last eight games.

In the opening round game of the conference tournament, the Niners hosted UMass. With 90 seconds left in that game and only down by three, the Niners were called for a technical foul for having six players on the court; Charlotte would inevitably lose the game. This lack of consciousness probably didn’t result in Lutz losing his job, but it was certainly the cherry on top. Inconsistency throughout the season and the late season fallout would cost the Niners a bid to the NCAA tournament and the NIT as well.

In 2005, Charlotte was victim to conference realignment. After winning the regular season conference title in Conference USA, they were moved to the Atlantic 10. The common notion was that Charlotte would run the table in the lesser conference. Unfortunately for Niner Nation and Lutz, that would never happen. Over those five seasons, the 49ers posted an 83-75 overall record, including a 41-39 in the conference. Last season, Charlotte hit a new low going 11-20, 5-12 in conference play. The 49ers did improve this season, posting a record of 19-12 and finished in a tie for fifth-place in the A10 with a 9-7 record. There are many reasons you can point the finger at why the Charlotte failed, but the bottomline is that they just didn't get it done.

Lutz leaves Charlotte as the programs all-time winningest coach, guiding the 49ers to eight post-season trips in his 12 year career. Those eight bids included a school-record five NCAA Tournament appearances, the last of which came in 2005. Since 2005, Charlotte has advanced to two NIT's in the last five years.

Where do the Niners turn now? Do they hire a proven coach such as College of Charleston’s Bobby Cremins? Maybe the great Bobby Knight? I’m sure Charlotte’s Director of Athletics Judy Rose can find a green sweater for Coach Knight. The consensus is that Charlotte will target a younger coach to rebuild the once great program. Kansas State’s Dalonte Hill, William and Mary'
s Tony Shaver and Vermont's Mike Lonergan have been suggested.

Hill was a player and an assistant coach for Charlotte. He was responsible for Michael Beasley’s original commitment to the Niners. Hill was quickly plucked from Charlotte by then KSU’s Bob Huggins, realizing that Beasley would follow his mentor to Kansas.

Charlotte needs to make a splash with this hiring. With college football on the horizon and set to begin play in 2013, Chancellor Phil Dubios and Rose must do what is necessary to satisfy the alumni and the community. The state of the 49ers program and university is in jeopardy, but Niner Nation should have faith in Rose.

I have had the privilege of developing a relationship with coach over the past five years. Lutz has always been there for Niner Nation and the University of Charlotte. No matter the circumstance, he would be there for any function if it meant one more student or member of the community would come support his alma mater and team. There are not many more coaches in the country that are as active with charitable causes as well. Bobby Lutz is a true class act and Charlotte will miss him.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Strictly business

Greed: excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions.

After helping the New York Yankees win their 27th World Championship, outfielder Johnny Damon became a free agent. Damon, a former all-star, displayed common symptoms of greed and received poor advice from his agent, Scott Boras. Unforunately for the two, their blatant desire for more resulted in less.

The obvious option was to re-sign with the Yankees and defend their title. It was the perfect match; the Yankees wanted Damon to continue patrolling left field, and Damon wanted to perform on the biggest stage for the greatest show on earth, playing for the New York Yankees.

Now the 36 year old Damon is a step slower and a sprint away from pulling a hamstring. He has the worst arm in baseball, which typically resulted in a double-cut on a play to third or home from shortstop Derek Jeter and second baseman Robinson Cano. Though his home run and RBI totals were high last season, they are significantly exaggerated, receiving a boost from playing in the sand box known as the new Yankee Stadium.

Nevertheless, going into free agency, Boras declared that his client has earned the right and deserved to be compensated as one of the best in the game, even going as far as comparing Damon to the all-time great Jeter. To their credit, Damon does have a legitimate chance of becoming a member of the 3000 hit club, currently sitting at 2,425 hits through 15 seasons. The Damon camp demanded to be rewarded with a multi-year contract in the range of two to three years with an annual salary of $13-15 million.

As the Yankees should, they did what was in the best interest of the organization. Understanding that the negatives highly out weighed the positives at this stage of Damon’s career, the Yankees offered him a two year, $14 million deal to stay with the club; that was quickly rebuffed by Boras and his client. Assuming the phone would be ringing off the hook and the bank would be broke by the Yankees, they waited, and waited. New York did not.

Moving forward with business as usual, New York reunited with a former Yankee, Nick Johnson. Johnson will serve as the team’s designated hitter. Damon and Boras claim that the Yankees never offered an acceptable offer, while disrespecting Damon by negotiating with other players. Regardless, the Yankees still hoped that Damon would come to his senses and re-sign with the club; no dice. The organization called Damon’s bluff and moved on, turning the page on the Johnny Damon era in New York. The Yankees traded for center fielder Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers. A younger, more talented Granderson fills a void in center field and will be a great addition to the Yankees clubhouse.

Now stuck without a team and spring training right around the corner, Damon needed a spot to land. With a vacancy in their outfield, Detroit approached the Damon camp. On the day position players reported to spring training, the two sides came to an agreement. Damon accepted a one year, $8 million offer, far from his previous demands.

Damon will be missed in New York. He was the ideal Yankee. No matter the circumstance or situation, Damon ate it up. His free spirit attitude and big city persona was the perfect mix for the corporate, white collar Yankees. His double-steal in game four of the World Series will live on in Yankees history forever.

The Yankees will go into the season with Brett Gardner and Randy Winn platooning in left field. Gardner is much more valuable as a sparkplug off the bench and Winn is way past his prime. Do not be surprised if the Yankees make a move at the trade deadline, bringing Mr. Damon back to the Bronx. By that time, the Tigers will be out of contention and will want to get any value out of Damon before he leaves for free agency the following year.

In the end, greed overmatched the potential production of this aging outfielder. Maybe Damon received bad advice from Boras, but the two men should have realized what a special opportunity they had sitting right in front of them. Hitting behind Jeter while being protected in the lineup by Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez? Having the opportunity to play with the World Champion New York Yankees? Whoops!

With all due respect to Damon, it wasn’t personal…it was strictly business.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Boston class act

Nomar Garciaparra, or better known as “Nomah,” has announced his retirement from the game of baseball. Once considered the face of Boston and tabbed as the man who would resurrect Red Sox Nation, has continued to stay strong through many ups and downs throughout his career.

As a prized prospect of the Boston Red Sox, the sky was the limit for this uniquely gifted player. As a shortstop, Garciaparra could hit, and hit for power. He broke into the majors in 1996, but made his impact felt the following year winning the American League Rookie of the Year and the Silver Slugger award. Garciaparra was often compared to his position counterparts Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. This threesome was referred to as the “Holy Trinity of Shortstops.”

Over the next six seasons, Garciaparra would earn the right to be considered one of the best hitters in baseball. He would go on to win two batting titles and be named to six All-Star teams. But then, the unspeakable happened during the 2004 season.

Because of an erratic arm at shortstop and free agency looming following the season, new general manager Theo Epstein felt that a change was needed. Boston traded their star to the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline. This was very difficult for Garciaparra, but he understood the business of baseball.

That same year, Boston accomplished the unthinkable by overcoming a 3-0 game deficit in the American League Championship Series to defeat the New York Yankees. With the “Nation” on their side, Boston went on to win the World Series for the first time in 86 years. Since Garciaparra started the season with with the Red Sox and for all he had done for the organization, the team recognized him with a World Series ring.

The following years didn’t get much better for the once great shortstop. Due to injuries, his play deteriorated and his future Hall of Fame plaque was no more. He would spend the next five seasons as a utility player with the Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics.

Although his Hall of Fame career may have been cut short because of injuries, Nomar Garciaparra is a class act. In many ways, he is similar to Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Red Sox Nation hates the Yankees, but they have the utmost respect for Jeter and the manner in which he plays the game. The same is true about Garciaparra, who throughout his tenure with Boston, was a Yankee killer. Despite playing for the enemy, his all out, hard nose play has earned the New York fans respect. Players like Garciaparra and Jeter don’t come around too often and are truly what makes baseball so special.

Garciaparra can now find time to spend with his family; he is married to soccer legend Mia Hamm and has two daughters. He will also begin a new career as an analyst on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. I look forward to listening to his insight for years to come.

Don’t forget your long underwear

This baseball season, the Minnesota Twins will open a beautiful new downtown, open-air stadium. I’ve never been to Minnesota, but from all reports, it is COLD. If you have not played baseball, let alone watched it in cold weather, you don’t want to; it is miserable. Between the stinging of your hands while trying to hit and catch, the gripping of the baseball or simply staying loose for an extended period of time, it is very difficult to play well.

Throughout the summer, an open-air stadium is not an issue, but what about the months of April, October and sometimes November? The average temperature in April is 50 degrees. In October and November, it’s football season; and the Minnesota Vikings don’t even play outside. The average temperature is 35 degrees with an average low of 20. Oh yeah, it also relentlessly snows with a mixture of freezing rain in the “Twin Cities.”

This also could have an affect on attracting free agents in the future. With a small budget as it is, it’s already difficult competing against the bigger markets. Retaining players could come back to bite them as well. The face of the organization, catcher Joe Mauer, is due to become a free agent at seasons end. With an opportunity to make over $30 million annually, Mauer may split for warmer pastures.

Although building this open-air stadium in Minnesota is crazy, a new stadium was much needed. The MetroDome was a fielding error waiting to happen. It was common for a fielder to lose vision of the ball, as it would get lost in the white ceiling. The MetroDome was one of the last stadiums to have Astroturf, a highly outdated playing surface, which led to more errors and injuries. The Twins also shared the dome with the Vikings, the reason why the field had odd dimensions and used quirky methods to create a baseball field.

The city of Minneapolis is the biggest winner; they get to keep their beloved Twins in Minnesota. Despite winning two World Series titles, the Twins were often rumored to be relocated throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Cities such as Charlotte, Las Vegas and Portland were among the possible destinations. Even though the city and the Twins faithful are thankful, I’m sure they would have graciously accepted and appreciated a retractable roof with their new stadium, i.e. Seattle and Milwaukee.

It should be interesting to see how this plays out, but the Twins are already facing a huge loss. With the season just month away, yesterday the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that All-Star closer Joe Nathan will miss the entire 2010 season with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He will undergo more tests throughout the next couple weeks, but the outlook does not look promising with an inevitable surgery on the horizon. Don’t forget your long underwear, because it looks to be a bitter, cold season in Minnesota.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Carolina turns the page on Jake

It is officially the end of an era in Charlotte. Thursday, the Carolina Panthers released quarterback Jake Delhomme. Throughout seven seasons, Delhomme was a model citizen and gracious human being. Unfortunately, Delhomme became more known for his erratic play on the field and Bojangles commercials.

After beginning his NFL career with his hometown New Orleans Saints, Delhomme signed with the Panthers prior to 2003 season. Carolina fans were weary of this unproven quarterback with a Cajun twang; head coach John Fox thought otherwise.

During Carolina’s first game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, starting quarterback Rodney Peete was awful. Even though it was only the first game of the season, Fox felt that a change was needed. Going into the second half, Delhomme was thrown into the fire. He led the Panthers back from a 17-0 deficit, throwing three touchdowns, including a touchdown with only 16 seconds left in regulation to win the game. From that point on, Delhomme was the guy.

The magical ride didn’t stop in Jacksonville. With significant contributions from wide receiver Steve Smith and stud rookie defensive end Julius Peppers, Delhomme led the Panthers to their first Super Bowl appearance. Through a valiant all-around effort, Carolina’s quest to complete the ultimate Cinderella story ended in Houston. As time expired, Adam Vinatieri kicked the game winning field goal to win Super Bowl XXXVIII, 32-29.

The following three seasons were Delhomme’s best. He set career highs in several passing categories and franchise records as well. He would go on to earn a spot on the NFC Pro Bowl roster and help the Panthers reach the playoffs again. Then, 2007 happened.

In the second game of the year against the Atlanta Falcons, Delhomme would injure his throwing arm, ending his season. He would be forced to have “Tommy John surgery,” becoming one of the first professional quarterbacks to undergo such an operation.

Following the surgery, Delhomme was never the same. His accuracy and velocity was significantly stricken, which led to many costly turnovers. After two seasons of dreadful football, the organization and the city finally had enough, leading to his inevitable release.

Where do the Panthers turn now? Is young Matt Moore the answer? Do they take a gamble and trade for Michael Vick? Maybe they should draft college superstar Tim Tebow in the upcoming draft? I think Panther great Chris Weinke is available. There are a number of options for Carolina, but this time, it could make or break the organization for the foreseeable future.

I had the privilege of meeting Jake Delhomme last summer at the Panthers training camp in Wofford, SC. He was one of the most gracious, kind individuals I had ever met. Regardless if he had some bad games, Delhomme always did his very best. He'll sign on with another team and provide a serviceable veteran presence and continue to be a leader in the community.

Thank you Jake, for you have been the catalyst of many wonderful moments as a player, and your starring role in classic Bojangles commercials that will last a lifetime.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Just what the "Doc" ordered

After winning back-to-back National League pennants and one World Series title, the Philadelphia Phillies can’t get much better. Or can they? Welcome the best pitcher in baseball, Roy “Doc” Halladay.

Throughout 12 seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, Halladay was the lone bright spot of a floundering organization. He accumulated 148 wins and only 76 losses while posting a 3.43 ERA. You must keep in mind that he did this in the best division in baseball which includes the World Champion New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. In this day of age with low pitch counts, five to six man rotations and the babying of pitchers, Halladay could be the last pitcher to have a chance of becoming a member of the exclusive 300 win club.

Halladay had his ticket punched to join the defending champions last year at the trade deadline. Unfortunately for the Phillies, they got greedy, demanding a kings ransom for the superstar righty. They were able to obtain Cliff Lee from the Cleveland Indians at the deadline. Lee was phenomenal, helping lead Philadelphia get back to the World Series to defend their title. In the end, it just wasn’t enough, as the Yankees defeated the Phillies to win their 27th World Championship.

You might be thinking, “The Phillies have Lee AND Halladay now? This isn't going to be fair!” Wrong. If the Phillies were to trade for Halladay, they had to sign him to a long term contract extension, thus making it difficult to afford Lee after this season as he will become a free agent. Lee expressed a strong desire to stay in Philadelphia and a willingness to negotiate a mutually acceptable deal. The Phillies didn’t buy in and shipped him off to Seattle for prospects. We now can only imagine what a force the Phillies would have been with those two studs at the top of their rotation.

The Phillies and their passionate fans will instantly fall in love Halladay. Losing Lee might hurt considering what he did in such a short period of time, and may seem a little confusing in how he was dealt away, but Halladay is arguably the best pitcher in baseball. This was a great deal for the Phillies and they would have kicked themselves for years if not completed.

After winning all of the awards there are to win, Halladay has one goal; win the World Series. He is compared to the toughest competitors throughout baseball history and often referred to as bull dog on the mound. As is with most baseball fans, I’d take him on my favorite team any day.

Halladay won’t have much time to get comfortable. The Yankees travel to Clearwater today to face the Phillies. The pitching match-up: CC Sabathia vs. Roy Halladay. Don’t get too excited though, for this is just a teaser. This being the first spring training appearance for both pitchers, they'll each be slated to pitch an inning, maybe two. In the mean time, we can definitely dream about a potential rematch for this years fall classic.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Long Live Hockey

Congratulations to Team Canada for keeping the gold above the border. Although finishing in second, Team USA may have saved hockey.

USA shocked the world by defeating Canada in an earlier round match-up, 5-3. Suddenly Team USA, led by the supreme goaltending of Ryan Miller, goaltender of the Buffalo Sabres, had become the team to beat in the 2010 Winter Olympics. With all the confidence and momentum on their side, USA could taste the gold!

Unfortunately our hopes and dreams of winning gold were dashed yesterday, as Canada won in overtime, 3-2. Both teams, filled with the NHL’s very best, played their hardest, putting it all on the line for Olympic glory and pride. These two teams played as if their country depended on the outcome.

The average to below average hockey fan will probably only know of two, maybe three active hockey players; those being Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, and….does Wayne Gretzky still count? My point being, hockey is not an American sport. Not everyone has access to an ice rink or a frozen pond, let alone knows how to skate. Hockey is not a TV watch. Most of the time, you can’t find a game on TV unless you mistakenly come across VS Network.

But through the spirit of the Olympics, America became a hockey country for two weeks. The sports talk captivating a country, consumed with football and its original national pastime of baseball, was talking hockey. We as a nation truly appreciated and loved every moment.

Right now hockey is hot, and it will cool off, but this could just be what the NHL and the game needed. As a nation, we welcome hockey back to prominence as one of the major sports. The NHL must capitalize now. They have been blessed from higher powers with a second chance. With all due respect to Al Michaels, do you believe in miracles?