Survive and Advance

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And so the Madness has begun… One day in and we’ve already got upsets, tears, heartbreak, and elation.  I can’t tell you how much I love this time of year.  David Vs Goliath match ups, the big power conference vs the little guy next door, but one thing always in common…. MADNESS!  This tournament I feel will go down as one of the craziest ever.  With no clear cut favorite, I have a feeling we will see a lot of upsets and surprises… I’m talking to you New Mexico!  As always, the brackets have been filled out… and the games have begun.  So, let’s take a look at some predictions.

First off let me get one thing off my chest… the NCAA absolutely places teams in situations to create ratings, so please stop telling people it is all computer generated.  Oklahoma State would back me on this… as should the entire ACC (minus Duke) for their seedings.  Moving on, let’s talk some pretenders and contenders.

Pretenders:

Gonzaga: I’m sorry for all of those loving the ‘Zags, but this team will be the first 1 seed to bow out early.  They almost became the first ever 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed last night… to the national powerhouse, Southern University.  A potential match up with Wisconsin does not bode well for Gonzaga.

New Mexico State:  I know, it already happened, but had I written this yesterday I would have told you the same.  Overrated with a weak conference schedule… and it showed.

UNLV: See New Mexico State.

The entire SEC:  Sorry, but after Florida, there are no SEC teams with a chance to make any noise in the dance.

Duke: Up and down end to the season, but a team that struggles against teams that can match up well inside and have speed to guard the three.

Contenders:

Indiana: Fairly consistent team with some hiccups along the way this season.  But as far as all around talent, if this team can get hot and play good team basketball they will be tough to beat.  however they have struggled at times this year to put it all together consistently.

Ohio State: Finished strong with a Big 10 tourney championship, could be getting hot at the right time.

Louisville: I don’t have a lot of faith in Rick’s boys here, they seem to disappear at times.  But just like Ohio State, they are playing their best basketball of the season right now.

Kansas: See Louisville and Ohio State.

Miami: Somewhat of a sleeper here, but they have played well in the last half of the season minus their last couple of regular season games.  Solid all around team with a good inside/outside game.

Sleepers:

North Carolina: After a rough start to the season, Roy’s boys have played well with the small ball.  Unfortunately, they will live and die by the “3 ball” and one off game could send them packing.  And, no thanks to the NCAA selection committee they will have a rough road to the sweet 16. UNC vs Kansas 2nd round?  Computer selected, okay NCAA…

Michigan: Probably boasts the best backcourt in the tournament… but will have to play better on defense to make a deep run.  Speed and talent can carry them a long way, but they have a tough draw as well.

Wisconsin: Had some signature wins against good Big 10 opponents this season.  They play a style that can be frustrating and can slow down faster more athletic teams.  Plus, they have a very favorable draw being in Gonazaga’s bracket.

Saint Louis: A stretch here, but have to give the A-10 champ some respect.  They are an athletic team that can put points on the board, if they get hot, watch out.

Final Four:

Kansas, Ohio State, Indiana, and Michigan State (Izzo always seem to find a way)

Winner: Kansas

Weigh in folks, let’s hear how you think this madness is going to go down!

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LiveWrong: The Lance Armstong Story

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So, according to reports Lance Armstrong, the 7 time Tour De France winner, has admitted to Oprah (I thought she retired) that he cheated throughout his career.  The same Lance Armstrong that paraded for years around denying that he ever cheated, even going as far as to ridicule those that were caught cheating.  And now we find out he was just like the rest of the cheaters.  The most decorated cyclist of all time, the inspiration to millions, and the face of one of the largest cancer research organizations in the world… a cheater.  Millions of dollars in endorsements and prize money over the years…. and he was “unclean”.  Repeatedly lying to the media, the fans… hell, the world.  And now, he thinks he can save face by admitting to Oprah that he cheated…. he’ll have excuses, he’ll beg for forgiveness… all to hold on to the little bit of positive celebrity status he still owns(not so he can continue to race in marathons/triathlons etc).  I’m looking forward to this interview, I want to hear what he has to say.  I’m sure Oprah will ask the riveting questions… or the ones that Lance’s publicist tells her she can ask.  But let’s be honest, the real losers here are those associated with the Livestrong Foundation.

For all of those who have put their hard work and time into the Livestrong organization, my heart breaks for you.  To have been repeatedly lied to, and to constantly have to defend the face of their organization… and now, the confession.  I truly hope that people will be able to look past the confession from Lance and continue to support the cause.  It would be a complete injustice to allow this man’s selfish actions to destroy the organization that is completely innocent in this whole situation.  Guilty or innocent, clean or tainted, the fact of the matter is the Livestrong Foundation still is a positive force.  One that should continue to be supported and funded.  At the end of the day, the man will ride off into the sunset and eventually be forgotten…. but until a cure for cancer is found, we must continue to cycle forward until we cross that finish line that keeps getting closer and closer.  Lance, you lived wrong… but the fight against cancer, continues to Live Strong.

Let The Games Begin

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And so they have arrived, the 2012 Olympic Games have begun and for an avid sports enthusiast I couldn’t be more excited.  The Olympic games has the ability to pull our interest in facets of sports and life like no other event.  I can honestly say I would never go to a Handball game or an Archery….event?  I don’t even know what their competition is called.  But when it comes to the Olympics, I’m all in.  If there is an American competing, even if it is  in a sport that I have no connection too, I’m watching.  And then of course you have your mainstays, the Swimming, Track and Field, Gymnastics, and so on.  I have to say I am a little burned out on Michael Phelps… but needless to say, when he’s on… myself, and the world.. will be watching.  So, this begs the question.  What are you most looking forward to in this summer’s Olympics?  My personal interest is on the Tennis, can Roger Federer pull off the career Golden Slam?  Roger can join Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf (who did it all in the same year), and Rafael Nadal as the only players to ever win the career golden slam.  So, let’s hear your thoughts.  Tell me what you are most looking forward to over these next couple of weeks.  And, in the meantime, enjoy the games….

MVP: Most Valuable Prima Donna

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And the award goes to……. Lebron “Sweet Baby” James.  Wait a minute… the Most Valuable Player award went to a guy who plays on the same team with two other All Stars and possible future Hall of Famer’s?  I’m not knocking LBJ, I know he had a solid season.  But, don’t you think he should have a productive season with all the talent around him?  If Michael Jordan had Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley playing with him for the Bulls they probably wouldn’t have lost a game during the season (slight over exaggeration, but you get the point).  MJ would have won, “not 3..not 4..not 5… not….” wait, he did win 6 championships.  Sorry Lebron.  Personal feelings aside I feel like there were some better candidates for the MVP this year.  Player’s who don’t have the star power around them and are looked at to carry a larger load than Lebron has to for Miami.  In my opinion the MVP could have gone to any of the following:

1.  Kevin Durant:  A true scoring machine that plays in a small market with a great point guard and a team full of role players.  I know the knock on Durant, he is a scorer and a scorer only… but, without Durant I think OKC is lottery team.

2.  Kobe Bryant:  As much as I hate to admit it, it’s true.  Through everything that the Lakers have been through, Kobe has remained as reliable and dominant as ever.  Losing team leader and point guard Derek Fisher along with all around player Lamar Odom was a big hit.  Add in the enigmas that are Ron Artest (refuse to call him Metta World Peace, see previous blog) and Andrew Bynum, and Bryant might as well have been playing with the And 1 Mixed Tape Tour Team.  Offensively and Defensively Bryant has been solid this year, while having to keep a team together and bearing the load of a new coach and scheme.

3.  Rajon Rondo:  Kind of a stretch I know, but honestly I think the “old celtics” wouldn’t be half the team they are without Rondo.  I know he has great talent around him, but it’s “aged talent”.  Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen are in the twilight of their careers, and are by no means in the prime like Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.   Rondo is the perfect PG for this team, runs the offense to a T, and has shown that he can be counted on to score when needed.  Multiple Triple Doubles (including 2 already this post season) show how versatile and important Rondo is to his team.  Without Rondo at the point, Boston would be a .500 team in my opinion.  Showing just how VALUABLE he is.

Those are my thoughts, i’m interested to hear yours.  I try to put my hatred and bias aside when criticizing LBJ, but sometimes he just makes it too easy.  Without James the Miami Heat are still an upper echelon team, therefore proving to me LBJ is NOT the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER.

Metta World… Piece of S%*T

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Ron Artest… Metta World Peace… Scumbag.  As of my writing of this article the NBA has not punished this piece of crap for his actions, but they have to come down heavy, right?  What a blatant elbow that was, for no reason.  Harden wasn’t approaching Mr. Piece… of S&*T.  He was simply coming down to take an in bounds pass after his opponent scored.  POS on the other hand, was flamboyantly beating his chest and yelling after scoring on a break away dunk… which brings me to another question.  If you are a 6’9″ african american athlete, shouldn’t you be able to dunk?  Why are you beating your chest?  Have you just accomplished something that you weren’t supposed to be able to do?  All the NBA needs is another chest beating, egotistical, self indulged athlete to bring down what used to be an enjoyable spectator sport.  Anyway, that’s a whole other blog all in itself… back to the POS.

Back in 2004 Ron Artest became infamous for going into the crowd during a game against the Detroit Pistons and fighting fans.  He was punished, but obviously the punishment didn’t teach him anything.  After yesterday’s incident, I would expect a similar punishment, if not a full time ban.  Crazy?  Too much?  I think not… in a day and age where the NBA needs to clean up their act and start promoting role models to children (that’s right Sir Charles, you are role models), the last thing they need are idiots like Metta Worl… screw it, i’m not calling him by that ridiculous name… The last thing the NBA needs are the Ron Artest’s of the league screwing it up for the rest of the guys that bust their ass on a nightly basis to make the league what it once was.  Will the NBA do the right thing?  Will they put a stiff punishment on Artest?  Probably… because he’s not a “star”.  But will it be worthy of the “crime” he committed?  Crime, yes… I said Crime.  Just because you are on a professional sports field/court doesn’t mean you can go around elbowing people for no reason.  That is assault… no matter how you want to spin it.  If Roger Goodell was the commissioner of the NBA what do you think he would do with Artest?  I think David Stern has done a respectable job as the commissioner of the NBA… but he lets way too much slide.  Hopefully he will do the right thing here and come down hard on Artest.  What’s the worst that could happen, maybe if Artest gets banned from the league we can finally get that new album he promised us ALLURE was going to drop soon…

Sunday Cinema: Rocky

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So, tonight I turned the TV on and as always at this time of year, there was absolutely nothing on.  College Basketball is over, College Football is just starting their spring practices, and the NFL is gearing up for the draft.  NBA basketball is…. well, who cares.  In flipping through the channels I came upon a “mini” Rocky Marathon.  Though, i can’t for the life of me figure out why they always stop after Rocky IV and never continue with Rocky V or Rocky Balboa (I’m pretty sure Stallone meant for those to be a comedy, right?).  I watched the end of Rocky III and then watched Rocky IV in its entirety, and it left me with this question…. Which Rocky movie is the best of the bunch?

Personally, I have seen Rocky III and Rocky IV more than the others, but that is only because they are broadcast more often.  Where most will agree that Rocky V was a poor excuse for a cinematic sequel, I have to admit the one liners in that film are pure genius all on their own.  When Rocky tells his son that Santa Claus is up on the roof with the reindeers and their “rantlers” i literally spit out my drink.. and i wasn’t even drinking anything.  But as far as pure interest and entertainment goes, I think you have to throw Rocky V and Rocky Balboa out.  So, which of the first 4 takes the crown?

Rocky I was the film that really created the term “a rocky moment”.  A true underdog story complete with action, love, drama and a true to life feel good story.  Rocky II followed up on this with the battle between Rocky and Apollo, and at the time of their release stayed true to form with a real “black vs white” feel.  The fight scenes were somewhat believable, and the story lines outside of the ring helped hold an emotional interest as well.  Though I can’t say that two fighters becoming best friends after beating the life out of each other is totally believable, but i guess we might one day see Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao hanging out playing blackjack in Vegas… Or Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield enjoying a nice buffet together…

Rocky IV took an international approach, and used the tension between the USA and USSR as a plausible theme.  Maybe I am biased because I am currently watching Rocky IV, but Dolph Lundgren’s Character of Ivan Drago did such a great job of playing the “monster heel” that it really made me want to beat the crap out of him.  I found myself at times feelling like I was watching a real fight with no predictable outcome.  The graphic fight between Drago and Apollo Creed really set the tone for the movie, and established a true “good guy vs bad guy” feel for the movie.  I will have to say that the soundtrack ( and most importantly, Survivor) had a irreplaceable part of the feeling of this movie.  At times I actually believed I could pick up a net full of boulders, or carry a giant tree trunk up a snow covered mountain.  Throw in the modern day David Vs Goliath fight at the end, and you couldn’t write it any better… Maybe Stallone should have taken that advice and thrown in the towel right there..

I know I omitted Rocky III, but any film that uses the lead character from Mr. Nanny deserves to be left out. Casting a bleach blonde Hulk Hogan as “Thunderlips” and inserting a guy who’s real life stage name has a single letter for a last name just doesn’t do it for me.  I pity the fool that did the casting for that film.

In the end, I’m interested to hear what others say, please weigh in with your own thoughts on the Rocky Films.  Maybe some differing views will help to sway me in another direction, because at the end of the day, “if I can change, and yous can change, we all can change”….

Who’s The Master?

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No, not Bruce Leroy… and over the past few years not Tiger Woods either.  Now a few years removed from his extra marital affairs and “revamping” his swing, is Tiger ready to once again conquer the pristine course that is Augusta National?  Or has the field and the “young guns” of professional golf caught up and surpassed Tiger Woods?  A month ago I may have said Tiger had a 50-1 shot of winning The Masters.  But after winning two weeks ago for the first time in years, I can’t say I’d bet against Tiger.  Now obviously, the Arnold Palmer Invitational is not The Master’s, nor does it bring the same pressure and stress.  But, is Tiger back on track?

Over the past few years Tiger would at times have glimpses of the old Tiger, but he never could quite put it all together.  If his driver was working, he couldn’t make a putt to save his life.  And if he was sinking putts, his drives looked similar to that of a weekend hack playing “military golf”.  But two weeks ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational it looked like it was all coming together for Tiger.  He was putting drives in the fairways, hitting greens, and displayed that Tiger-esque putting touch that the world used to expect on a weekly basis.  However, is it just the physical talent that kept Tiger on top of the world for so long (no pun intended)?  Or was it the mental intimidation factor he used to have on the rest of the field?

Tiger used to have an aura about him that seemed to leave other world class golfers begging to be paired with someone else… anybody else… for the final round of a tournament.  Thousands of fans following and breathing down your neck, watching and analyzing every shot.  Even the most world class golfer could fold up under that pressure… and they did, time and again.  However, over the last couple of years that mental killer instinct seems to be “extinct” from Tiger.  But does that one victory bring it all back?  Is Rory Mcilroy shaking to the point he’s going to cut himself shaving the three hairs he can now grow on his chin?  Is Phil Mickelson’s psoriatic arthritis going to flare up because Tiger is prowling again?  I tend to think not… but then again, this is Augusta… and this is where Tiger thrives.  Regardless, no one is happier that Tiger has won again than the TV execs.  Numbers prove when Tiger is winning, people are watching.  With that being said… there should be a lot of eyes on Tiger this week.  And not just those eyes watching on a TV.