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Thursday, April 22, 2010

2010 NFL Draft

Tonight is one of the biggest and most popular events in football. Regardless of who your team is, they are participating, looking to improve, building for the now and onward towards the future. The 2010 NFL Draft begins tonight at 8:00pm on ESPN. Are you ready for some football?!

For months, the experts have provided us with hundreds of mock drafts, predicting every possible outcome. The scenarios include trade options of current NFL players, repositioning of teams in the draft or the smoke screens sent up by teams to gain leverage.

The one constant are the top three selections. The St. Louis Rams are poised to finally select their quarterback of the future with former Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford from the University of Oklahoma. Over the past two years, the Rams have bypassed several studs such as Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez. As a team selecting number one overall, the entire team needs a makeover, but Bradford will become the centerpiece of the franchise as it begins the rebuilding process. If able to recover from a serious shoulder injury, Bradford has the opportunity to be great. For his sake, the Rams had better draft a couple offensive linemen to protect their new $50 million investment.

The Detroit Lions are still a mess, but are slowly improving. After drafting big armed quarterback Matthew Statford last year, the Lions will now draft defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh from the University of Nebraska. Suh will anchor the Detroit defense for 10-12 years, as some believe he is the most talented prospect in this years draft.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will round out the top three selections by selecting another defensive tackle, Gerald McCoy from the University of Oklahoma. This is Tampa's opportunity to fill a big hole from within, left by future Hall of Famer Warren Sapp. These two very large men will both have an immediate impact on their respected teams and the rest of the league.

After the first three picks, anything can happen. But there is one draft prospect that you can go ahead and expect guaranteed success. Some might refer to him as the second coming, but he is a quarterback. I predict that Tim Tebow will be a quality NFL starting quarterback, providing not only leadership on and off the field, but superb performance as well.

Throughout Tebow’s legendary career at the University of Florida, which included two national championships and countless awards for his superior play (including a Heisman Trophy), everyone has condemned him to NFL mediocrity. Most have penciled him in as a halfback, tight-end, or a gimmick-player on the next level. But Tebow will not allow nor accept a position change.

Since passing for over 450 yards in his final game with the Gators, With an elongated delivery, Tebow was prone to fumbling. He was also easily read by the defense, resulting in interceptions. Tebow has completely broken down his throwing mechanics, rebuilding himself as a passer. Before this reincarnation of Tebow, an NFL defense would have picked him apart, as they are light-years ahead (faster and smarter in all aspects of the game) of a college defense. Tebow’s new mechanics will limit preventable turnovers, as well as help him effectively read defenses. He has the arm strength to make all the throws necessary to execute an efficient offense.

This will not be an overnight adjustment. Essentially learning how to throw a ball all over again, Tebow must continue to progress or else he won't make it as a NFL quarterback. He is a winner though, and failure is not an option. On every level, Tebow has had doubters, critiquing his every move, stating that he will not succeed. The doubters are back, and I am really excited to see Tebow prove everyone wrong, again.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Philly Class

Have you ever been to a sporting event and found yourself in the uncomfortable situation of being close to drunk and disorderly fan(s)? This past week at a Philadelphia Phillies-Washington Nationals game, Michael Vangelo and his 15-year-old daughter were in for a long day at the ballpark.

Throughout the game Vangelo, an off-duty police captain, tolerated the belligerent actions of two young men, who were seated just behind he and his daughter. Initially, it was not Vangelo, but his daughter who felt that enough was enough. Turning around, she asked the fans to please stop. Shortly after, the disorderly conduct started again and escalated. One of the fans began spitting, landing several on Vangelo’s daughter.

Finally, security stepped in and an officer escorted the spitter from his seat and out of the stadium. Upset by what had transpired, Matthew Clemmons, the spitter’s friend, felt that he needed to act on his behalf. Clemmons, 21, of Cherry Hill, N.J., announced that he was feeling sick. He began to stick two fingers down his throat and proceeded to vomit on Vangelo and his daughter.

“It was the most vile, disgusting thing I’ve ever seen,” said Vangelo.

Acting as quickly as possible, Vangelo tried to block his daughter from Clemmons attempt, receiving the blunt of the vomit. Clemmons also punched Vangelo in the face during the madness. Several fans and Vangelo tackled Clemmons, getting in punches of their own and held him to the ground until law enforcement arrived.

Clemmons was charged with assault, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and related offenses for the incident. He was held Friday on $36,000 bail.

This is just one example of the negative affects of alcohol being present at sporting events. It’s truly unfortunate that children are subjected to this reckless behavior. The sad thing is that these types of situations in the stands, as well as fan altercations with players, will continue to occur. The demand for alcohol is extremely high; thus allowing teams to charge awfully high prices for its consumption. The teams are also being paid an incredible amount of money for sponsorship rights. It's not going anywhere, any time soon.

How do we fix the problem? It’s simple; remove alcohol from sporting events. This will promote a family safe environment for all to enjoy. You don’t need alcohol to have a good time at a sporting event.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Ultimate victory

Phil Mickelson is a true champion, but not because of the golf tournament he won yesterday. What am I talking about? The Masters is the Super Bowl of golf tournaments; Augusta is the Mecca of golf courses and experiences. But no, Mickelson would trade his third and even his two previously earned green jackets as a Masters champion for one thing, his family.

Throughout the past year, Mickelson’s wife Amy has battled breast cancer. Although she immediately underwent major surgery and has been through intensive treatment, Amy has struggled immensely. Though fighting for her life, she and her family have continued to stay strong through love and faith.

Mickelson played absolutely masterful this past weekend. He was unquestionably the best golfer through 72 holes. His championship performance has become an instant classic. The unimaginable, gutsy shots he took and capitalized on, will be heralded throughout the golf community. But the moment that will last forever, didn’t happen during any of the rounds of play, let alone on the golf course.

Ridden to bed rest, Amy was not expected to make an appearance at Augusta. But on this day, nothing would prevent her from being by her husband's side. After birdying the 18th hole to win the Masters, Mickelson quickly went to his wife and three children. He immediately embraced her, sharing tears of joy. As Mickelson was presented as the 2010 Masters champion, he dedicated his victory to Amy.

No matter if he never wins another golf tournament, Mickelson’s already won. The time he has with his family is the ultimate victory. Amy's prognosis is positive, but she and her family still have an uphill battle ahead of them going forward.

Mickelson is a true champion, and no one will ever take that away from him. Regardless if you are a golf fan or not, Mickelson’s display of love demonstrates that we must be here in the now by always living in the moment.

This blog is dedicated to my late grandfather, Bob Demirjian. My grandather introduced me to the game of golf and continues to inspire me to be special. I miss you grandpa.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Time's an issue

Following the opening series with the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, umpire Joe West expressed his feelings on the length of the games specifically regarding these two teams to the Bergen (N.J.) Record.

"They’re the two clubs that don't try to pick up the pace," said West, the crew chief of the three-game series. "They're two of the best teams in baseball. Why are they playing the slowest? It's pathetic and embarrassing. They take too long to play."

Throughout the season, their series' are consistently the longest in length; a typical Yankees-Sox game lasts approximately 3:45 to play. The Yankees were also criticized after game 4 of the World Series, when catcher Jorge Posada visited the mound eight times in one inning.

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera took exception to these remarks. "It's incredible," Rivera told The Post. "If he has places to go, let him do something else. What does he want us to do, swing at balls? "He has a job to do. He should do his job. We don't want to play four-hour games but that's what it takes. We respect and love the fans and do what we have to do and that”s play our game."

West is considered one of the best and most respected umpires in baseball. Umpiring since 1976, West is a fixture at the most significant games throughout the the season. He has called several All-Star games as well as each round of the playoffs, including the World Series. Nicknamed "Cowboy Joe," West is also known for being a country singer/song writer.

Despite his credible resume, West is wrong. Whether a game lasts two hours or five hours, the game will be played as long as it is necessary. When the Yankees and Red Sox meet, the level of play and competitiveness is never higher. Every decision throughout a game is critical. Whether it’s what pitch to throw or the positioning of the defense on every play, one mistake can cost you the game, or even your season. Unlike any other game or series, the rivalry is different; honor and pride are at stake.

Regardless of what West believes, nothing will change. Managers Joe Girardi and Terry Francona will continue to approach each game with such care and precision, but most importantly, Commissioner Bud Selig loves every second. With no other game or series does the league earn such high ratings as when the Yankees and the Sox play. Financially, Major League Baseball prospers when these two teams are atop the baseball world, battling each other 18 times a year, plus the playoffs.

Be sure to clear your schedule May 7-9, as the World Champion Yankees travel to Boston for another epic three-game weekend series. I have a feeling Selig might have something to say on which crew of umpires will be in attendance. Have fun in Cleveland "Cowboy Joe," they do there very best to finish games in record time.

Monday, April 5, 2010

2010 Baseball Outlook and Predictions

Baseball is finally here. Five months ago today, the New York Yankees became champions of baseball for a record 27th time. Despite a valiant effort from the defending champs, the Philadelphia Phillies were no match for the Bronx Bombers. But this is a new year, a new season; a season filled with hope and optimism for 30 teams and their fans. As Yankees legend Derek Jeter said last week, “Last season is over. The time is now.” Throughout the off-season, clubs have worked to improve and continue progressing to achieve the ultimate goal, becoming a champion.

The Colorado Rockies are the sexy pick this season. Loaded with young talent and viable veterans, the Rockies are poised to continue their progression and return to the World Series. The most disappointing team of this off-season has been the Los Angeles Dodgers. Due to the pending divorce of owner Frank McCourt, the Dodgers were unable to use to the necessary finances to improve their team going forward. The Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants will be competitive throughout the season, but will falter by mid-September, allowing Colorado to roll into October unscathed.

The St. Louis Cardinals are poised to recover from an October swoon, which saw them lose in the NLDS. This surprising loss prompted the organization to re-sign outfielder Matt Holiday to a long term contract. Now, the organization must focus their attention on resigning the best hitter in baseball, Albert Pujols. Regardless, St. Louis still has one of the best rotations in baseball with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright leading the way to October redemption. The NL Central will be the least competitive division in baseball. The Milwaukee Brewers have a couple nice players, but will not be able to compete with the Cards and their pitching staff. Sorry Cub fans, maybe next year.

While the Phillies did obtain the best pitcher in baseball, Roy Halladay, for some reason that has yet to be determined, they traded pitcher Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners. Despite this moment insanity, the Phillies are the favorite to repeat as league champions. With an all-star lineup and the addition of Halladay, it’ll be tough for any team to compete with this potential dynasty in the making. But the resurgent Atlanta Braves might have something to say about that. This being Bobby Cox’s last season at the helm, the Atlanta is an exciting ball club who is sure to come out playing for their manager. The Washington Nationals have significantly improved from last season, but the key word is the future. With pitcher Stephen Strasburg marinating in the minors and all-world prospect Bryce Harper soon to be drafted number one overall, the future is bright in our nation’s capital. As for the New York Mets…no comment.

The Mariners overhauled their roster from last season, in an effort to contend in the “Wild West.” The additions of Chone Figgins and Milton Bradley will bolster their paltry offense from last season considerably. By signing Figgns away from the Anaheim Angels, the Angels consistent rule of the division could be in jeopardy. Ichiro is still one of the most dynamic players in the game, and although he’s now 40 years young, Ken Griffey Jr. still has some pop left in the sweetest swing in baseball. With pitchers Felix Hernandez and Lee atop their rotation, the Mariners will have a chance to win and make a run for a playoff spot. Although the Texas Rangers have made some nice moves this off-season, Hall of Famer and now owner Nolan Ryan won’t be pitching any time soon.

The AL Central is a toss up and will be determined in the last week of the season. Discard the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals right now. They are as what we refer to as, “rebuilding.” The Chicago White Sox will be the surprise team of the year. They made their move for this season, last season, by trading for pitcher Jake Peavy at the trading deadline. From all reports, Peavy is finally healthy, as he looks to reclaim his CY Young form. The Minnesota Twins will not only be battling teams this season, but Mother Nature as well. The Twins will attempt to begin play in their new open-air stadium; good luck. The loss of their all-star closer Joe Nathan will be difficult to overcome, but the state of Minnesota can rest easy knowing that their native son, catcher Joe Mauer, will be a well paid Twin for the foreseeable future.

As defending champions, the Yankees are the class of baseball. By trading with the Tigers to acquire outfielder Curtis Granderson, in addition to having one of the top infields in baseball history, the Yankees can set the cruise control to October. In his second stint in New York, pitcher Javier Vasquez will thrive in his new role as the fourth starter/innings eater. The Tampa Bay Rays, not the Boston Red Sox, will be the Yankees toughest challenge throughout the season. Led by Manager Joe Madden, the Ray’s gifted rotation and electrifying lineup have tremendous potential, which will result in a wild card berth. Despite a string of runs to produce an opening night victory, Boston’s aging offense will eventually fail them again. Their starting pitching is overrated and will be hammered on a regular basis by both New York and Tampa. By seasons end, the “Nation,” will be finish in third place, once again bowing down to their superior supremacy, Yankees Universe.

No surprise here, Albert “The Machine” Pujols and Alex Rodriguez will each win their fourth MVP award. We are watching history each time these two men step in the batters box. Rodriguez will be pushed by Joe Mauer, but Rodriguez will have much more opportunity to boost his numbers with a better team around him and having the opportunity to play 81 games in Yankee Stadium. If able to stay healthy, Florida Marlins Josh Johnson and the before mentioned Peavy will each win the CY Young award for their respected leagues.

Come October, the St. Louis Cardinals will head to the Bronx and attempt to dethrone the New York Yankees in the 2010 World Series. Mayor Bloomberg can go ahead and plan a parade through the Canyon of Hero’s, as Yankees will become champions of baseball for the 28th time. Sorry Francisco Cervelli, you might want to start looking for a new uniform number now, because Girardi’s will be changing again.

The next eight months are sure to be absolutely remarkable. Opening Day is truly an American holiday. Today, no matter your allegiance, your team is in first place and everyone has a fresh start. Baseball is the greatest game there ever has been and ever will be. As Hall of Famer Wade Boggs said, “Baseball is America and apple pie, baby!”

Happy Opening Day!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A day in Tampa

The smell of freshly cut Bermudagrass was in the air. The sound of wood bats hitting the ball rang all over. Baseball is officially back. After attending countless Major League Baseball games throughout the country, I had never attended a Spring Training game. Yesterday, my family and I traveled to Tampa, Florida, spring home of the World Champion New York Yankees. The Yankees welcomed the Minnesota Twins to Tampa on an absolutely perfect day for baseball. Unfortunately, due to record rain fall the previous two days, I was unable to attend any other games throughout the Grapefruit League circuit.

As we approached the complex, we noticed the Yankees preparing for the game on a practice field adjacent from their home stadium, George M. Steinbrenner Field, otherwise known as, “The Boss.” Only a mere 10 feet away stood the champions; Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixiera and the list goes on. Even all-time greats such as Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson were in full uniform, never looking better. Earlier this week, Jackson was asked, “How many home runs do you think you could hit at the new Yankee Stadium?” Jackson answered, “I’d hit 18-20.” The commentator was taken aback by Jackson’s surprising response. He responded, “Are you serious?” As sharp as ever, Mr. October smirked and said, “What do you expect? I’m 62 years old.”

As defending champions, players can become complacent, taking for granted what they had achieved the year before by not preparing at the highest level necessary to be successful. Complacency is not in this team’s vocabulary. This mindset starts from the top, led by the Steinbrenner family and General Manager, Brian Cashman. On the field, the team is led by its general, Manager Joe Girardi. This mindset for greatness was evident from the players as well. The veterans were hustling harder than ever, proving that no matter your age or prior success, you always hustle on the baseball field. The new comers, such as Curtis Granderson, were being as involved as possible to become acclimated with their new team. Everybody was communicating on and off the field, establishing a strong relationship with one another.

Players are familiar to fans calling their names, requesting pictures, autographs or just a look over in their direction. As players mature, they develop a mechanism to block out distraction, having the ability to focus on their craft. I noticed one woman was screaming for Jeter and Rodriguez to look over, so she could take their picture. To the novice fan, they may not realize that this is their job. The common argument is that because these men are paid such an exuberant amount of money to play baseball that they in some way owe everyone something. Regardless if they make a lot of money playing baseball, this is their job and they are preparing for a 162 game season and beyond.

I mentioned this to the woman and was quickly refuted with a remark that the players owe her, a woman from New Jersey, a picture and their undivided attention. Realizing that I was wasting my time, she continued to scream. As the next group of players came in to hit, the screaming intensified as well as autograph seekers literally banging bats and other merchandise on the fence. Cool as ever, Jeter walks by and says, “I’m working now.” Jeter was not rude or disrespectful in any way. He is appreciative of all the support he has received throughout the years, but he is simply doing his job. As comedian Jerry Seinfeld said, “Would you like me to come to your place of work and harass you?”

At this point of Spring Training, the veterans are ready to break camp and begin the marathon of 162 games. For most of the players, they have spent the last two months in Florida working tirelessly on all of the small things from covering first to bunting. In the meantime, players battle for the final spots on the opening day roster. Journeyman veterans compete to save their job, while minor leaguers fight for a chance to fulfill their dreams of becoming a major leaguer.

As a baseball fan, I want to see the best players play, exhibiting the highest level of play, but it’s exciting to see who will step up and claim a spot on the 25 man roster. I was hoping to see superstar catcher Joe Mauer of the Twins, but unfortunately due to opening day next week, the Twins chose to rest their star. This is understandable considering the Twins just invested $186 million over the next eight years in Mauer. It is also common for veterans to not travel with the team during spring training, allowing other players to see playing time, allowing the coaching staff to evaluate them as well.

The game was great and the weather couldn’t have been better. The Twins were victorious, defeating the Yankees 4-2. In Spring Training, wins and losses are not as significant as the regular season. The bottom-tier teams typically have the best records throughout the spring, as they play their regulars much more often; the better teams rest their players for the games that count.

Rodriguez did not disappoint, blasting a home run into the right field bleachers. Pitcher Phil Hughes was shakey at best. Hughes lost his control throughout the outing, forcing Girardi to go to his bullpen earlier than expected. As the season approaches, Hughes remains a question mark, as Girardi took a big gamble last week, announcing that Hughes would replace embattled pitcher Joba Chamberlain in the starting rotation.

One of the highlights of the day was seeing pitcher C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia didn’t pitch, nor was he even in the dugout. Between innings, I spotted the big lefty on a practice field, playing with his children. Starting Sunday night, as the Yankees head to Boston to open their season; Sabathia won’t be able to see and spend as much time with his family. That time he is able to spend with his kids is so valuable. I am so thankful that I was able to spend the day with my family. Days like yesterday will be treasured forever and I hope to do this with my children in the future.

I highly suggest to all baseball fans to attend a Spring Training game. It was a really cool experience that all fans would thoroughly enjoy. It’s also not as expensive as it may be to attend a game during the regular season. The price for 12 tickets for my family was the equivalent of two tickets to a Yankees game.

On Sunday, look for my predictions and outlook going into the 2010 season. I hope everyone contributes their thoughts and opinions as well. This season is sure to be great!