Sunday, November 22, 2015

In Defense Of Niner QB Colin Kaepernick

Is QB Colin Kaepernick finished as a 49er? Maybe not.

Is he finished in the NFL? Definitely not.

This is a hellish time for Kaepernick, who just a few years ago, was considered one of the best QBs in the league. He led the Niners to the Super Bowl in February, 2013, which they barely lost to Baltimore. But, since then, he's been on a slow, shocking downward spiral. A few weeks ago he lost his starting job to Blaine Gabbert, an inept journeyman who's really not good enough to be a starting NFL QB. Then, this weekend, the Niners announced that Kaepernick is out for the season because of surgery on his non-throwing shoulder.

Skeptics are predicting that he'll never play QB for the Niners again. Haters insist he'll never play in the league again.

But don't put the final nails in Colin's coffin just yet.

First of all, he just might play for the Niners next season. There will no doubt be a new coach and a new coaching staff running the team then. The current head coach, Jim Tomsula, is an inexperienced defensive line coach hired early this year when the owner and the GM dumped the great Jim Harbaugh. in way over his head. His staff isn't much either. The team just plain stinks. No question, Tomsula and his crummy crew won't be back.

Possibly, however, the new coach and his staff might want to keep Kaepernick. It would be a smart move.

Just 28, the five-year-vet is a decent QB--a superlative runner and, under the right circumstances, a good passer. A few years ago, the entire NFL was drooling over him, gushing about his skills and proclaiming him the model for the QB of the future. So all of a sudden he's no good? How stupid.

Not too long ago, the Niners were one of the top three teams, with a great coach, a top-notch defense, a formidable offensive line and a superb running back. But the team surprisingly collapsed, through injuries, defections, dumb trades, retirements, coaching changes and run-ins with the law. Suddenly, Kaepernick was surrounded by a lousy team and inferior coaches.

His confidence plummeted. His skills, because he was working with grade C talent, eroded. Now he's on the NFL scrap-heap, down there with the also-rans.

But he's salvageable. With the right team and capable coaching,  he can be a productive NFL QB again--maybe even with the Niners.

So don't write Kaepernick off just yet.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Why Coach Pitino Isn't Sweating The Louisville Sex Scandal

First of all let's dispense with a primary question in the University of Louisville sex scandal.
Head basketball coach Rick Pitino claims he didn't know anything about the campus sex parties, featuring paid escorts, organized by then director of basketball operations Andre McGee for players, recruits and others between 2010-14, costing $10,000. The details surfaced recently in a book, "Breaking Cardinal Rules,"  by Katina Powell, who organized the parties.

Face it, Pitino knew. Naturally, he says he didn't know, but he most certainly did..

There's no way those activities could have happened for years without Pitino, an obsessive control freak who keeps close track of everything involving his program, knowing about them.  If you're talking a few isolated parties that cost chump change, maybe they might have happened behind his back. But years worth of parties involving thousands of dollars, something that could topple his regime? No way he didn't know.

Sources at Louisville said those parties were so notorious, people outside the sports department knew about them, and wished they were invited. According to the sources, the parties detailed by Powell in her book were just the tip of the iceberg. There were more women and drugs and money involved. But investigators will probably never catch the others. The cover-up began as soon as word leaked out about the book.

The fact that college athletes and those surrounding them are treated to sex parties is no surprise. The only surprise is that Louisville was dumb enough to get caught.

Sex and drugs are integral parts of most college basketball programs, particularly the bigger ones, like Louisville. Those parties have long been considered one of the perks of being part of the basketball program. Reports an ex-player for an SEC team:

"Sluts and pot, they go hand in hand with college basketball. It's one way of paying the players  We get a little money under the table and occasionally girls and pot, That's college basketball. Even after you graduate you can get in on those sex and drug goodies. That's the way it is everywhere. Nobody wants it to go away. Everybody keeps it quiet and enjoys the hell out of it. The bitch who wrote that book about the Louisville parties ruined it for everybody--for a while anyway. Those parties won't be happening on any campuses til this dies down. But they will be back."

What about Pitino?  Is he in any danger of being fired?

It's doubtful. McGee, the coach who set up the parties, has been working for the University of Missouri--Kansas City in the past year. He has already resigned that post. Looks like he's the Louisville fall-guy. Every school has a plan in place to protect the head coach, who is carefully isolated from the dirty, illegal essentials. The filthy footprints never lead to his door. When the crap hits the fan, the layers of protection are so well set up that the head coach, particularly at the top schools, is never soiled.

But this case is a little different. Powell, who served as the madam for the Louisville parties, is peddling a book, so she's on the major media circuit. Consequently this scandal, unlike most, has legs and may snowball into something big enough to knock down Pitino.

But if he is forced to resign from Louisville it could be a blessing for him  He wouldn't be unemployed for long..Athletic directors from many colleges, waving fat contracts, will line up to hire him. He'll be tainted but so what? Those schools won't care.

Bottom line, he's one of the top five coaches in the college game. In the end, the way things are, that's all that matters.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fire SC Athletic Director Pat Haden, Now !

Southern Cal's athletic director Pat Haden is toast. 

It's not official yet, but he's finished. You don't royally screw up the way Haden has in the Steve Sarkisian mess--angering fans and big-money boosters--and keep your job.

Two years ago, Haden hired a football coach who should never have been hired--Steve Sarkisian, a former SC assistant in the Pete Carroll era who, as head coach, had turned around the sagging U of Washington program.

Sarkisian, sadly, is an alcoholic.

You can bet Haden, who is no dummy, knew about Sark's problem, but figured it was manageable. Haden downplayed the problem because he was anxious to hire another link to the Pete Carroll era--just like Lane Kiffin, who Sark replaced. Sark's drinking problem was apparently no secret in Seattle, so there is little chance Haden didn't know about it. That was one of many reasons Sark wasn't that popular up there. Word is many fans and boosters were happy to see him go.

This season, Sark's second, after his respectable 9-4 debut, was supposed to the big one, with the Trojans trumpeted as strong PAC 12 title contenders. Instead, it's been a two-loss disaster, beginning with his drunken speech at an SC fan event in late August and culminating with a Coliseum loss, 17-12, last week to his old school, Washington. Word is leaking out that Sark smelled of booze, at games and practices, often during the season. According to sources close to two players, the team knew about his alcohol excesses and some players were disturbed by it and questioned him as a leader. No question, Sark's problem had a negative effect on the team. A responsible AD would have been on top of the situation and taken action. Haden did not.

With that August incident, Sark embarrassed himself, the team and the university. Haden should have dumped him then. Even though the coach was reportedly hung over and in no condition to coach a practice last Sunday, Haden still didn't act decisively, but just placed him on indefinite leave. It was the outrage of the SC nation and big boosters that finally forced Haden to fire him the next day. Offensive coordinator Clay Felton will lead the team for the rest of the season. Once again SC had to fire a head coach mid-season. This time the blame falls solely on Haden.

Sark wasn't Haden's lone coaching-hire misfire. The other black mark against him is basketball coach Andy Enfield. In two years he has coached the Trojans to consecutive last-place PAC 12 finishes. They are the laughing-stock of the conference.

Enfield was hot for a minute a few years ago when he coached obscure Florida Gulf Coast, of the Atlantic Sun Conference, to the Sweet 16, the first 15-seed in tournament history to get that far. His main accomplishment in that 2012-13 tourney? Just winning two games, over two good teams, Georgetown and San Diego State, to reach the regional semis. Bottom line, he was a coach in a rinky-dink conference. He's simply not PAC 12 coaching material and is in way over his head. Blame Haden for that foolish hire too.

Haden has proved he's lousy at picking head coaches. Is this the guy the SC nation wants choosing the next coach? Don't think so.

According to inside sources, the pressure from some big-money boosters is mounting to can Haden. The feeling is that he's in a shaky position and any coach he hires will be in a shaky position too. If Haden is fired where does that leave the new coach? So, with Haden in charge, top coaches might shy away from SC, realizing they might wind up working for a different AD. Also, with Haden still in charge, you know recruiters from rival schools will use that against SC, painting a bleak picture of a program in chaos..

The USC ship has sprung a leak. It desperately needs a new captain..


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

49ers' Win Over Vikings Misleading? Maybe

As usual. the NFL's opening weekend was loaded with shocking wins and losses, because transitioning from meaningless exhibition games to meaningful games isn't as easy as it looks. Some teams need a wake-up call. One of the sleepyheads is the Minnesota Vikings, who got trampled, 20-3, Monday night by the San Francisco 49ers..

It was possibly the biggest stunner of all..

The consensus was that the 49ers are ticketed for the NFL scrap heap while the Vikes are headed to the playoffs. Did the experts blow it? Don't think so. The results just might be misleading. After examining the game tape closely here's what happened.

The game was a miserably-played mess, full of bad blocking, bad tackling, bad quarterbacking, bad everything. The Niners won but they were awful. The Vikings, though, were worse. For some reason they simply didn't show up..

After several years of success, the Niners, who struggled through the exhibition games, figured to be horrible this season.. They have nothing going for them, a star-studded team that suddenly lost nearly all its stars, A team that had one of the best head coaches in the league, Jim Harbaugh, is now run by a rookie, Jim Tomsula, who appears to be in way over his head. The biggest problem, though, is that QB Colin Kaepernick, has been in regression mode since the start of last season.

In Monday's game Kaepernick didn't do much, but that was the plan. He became Trent Dilfer--hand the ball off, through the occasional short pass and don't make a mistake. He was a supporting player in the Carlos Hyde show. The second-year RB had the game of his career, rushing 26 times for 168 yards, carrying the offense just as the departed Frank Gore had done for so many years,. The defense, bolstered by the return of LB NaVorro Bowman, essentially won the game for the Niners, keeping the Vikings out of the end zone.

But the defense wasn't really taxed. QB Teddy Bridgewater was in a fog, missing open receivers, making bad decisions. The passing game was supposed to set the stage for the running game, the star of the offense, featuring RB Adrian Peterson, the best in the league. But Peterson, returning to the team after missing most of last season grappling with child abuse charges, wasn't ready. Reeking of rust, he carried just 10 times for a measly31 yards,

So, Niner fans,don't read so much into what happened Monday night. What most likely happened was that the 49ers ran into a superior team having a lousy night.

Still, it's possible the Niners, with this new cast of players and coaches, are much improved. Maybe coach Tomsula has some Bill Belichick in him and can wring wins out of a team loaded with inferior talent. We'll know more after Sunday, when the 49ers travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out Pittsburgh's game plan. Armed with a tape of Monday's game, they will plot to gang up in the rushing lanes to stop Hyde and force Kaepernick to beat them. The Niner defense will have to slow down a solid offense lead by QB Ben Roethlisberger, who's much better than Bridgewater.

The Steelers are favored by five. If the Niners win or come close to beating a tough opponent on the road, then there will be real reason for SF fans to make plans for a decent season.

But not until then.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

PAC 12 Football--Shaky Start

All we've been hearing this year, since the PAC 12 beat the pants off the other power conferences in the last bowl season, is loud chest-thumping from league fans and players, crowing about how the PAC 12 is the best in college football.

All of a sudden, though, you don't hear a peep out of those PAC 12 braggarts. What happened? A disastrous weekend, that's what.

The worst thing was that mess at Oregon, which is the No 1 team in the conference and No. 7 nationally. Oh, the Ducks won, scoring at will, piling up 61 points on 731 yards, on a northwest patsy, Eastern Washington. But here's the ugly part. EWU scored 42 points and gained 549 yards. Could it be that the PAC 12 big dog has a lousy defense? Looking at that game, it seemed like lack of talent, rather than lack of effort, was the problem.

But Oregon was just one part of the PAC 12 meltdown. No.15 Arizona State got whipped, 38-17, by an unranked SEC team, Texas A&M.  No. 21 Stanford didn't even score a TD in its 16-6 stumble against a minor Big Ten team, Northwestern. No. 22 Arizona didn't  look very strong sneaking past a very weak opponent, Texas San Antonio, 42-32. Even the PAC 12 bottom feeders stunk, with Washington State losing  to pitiful Portland State, 24-17, and Colorado not being able to handle horrible Hawaii, bowing 28-20.  .

It wasn't all bad, though, for the PAC 12. Utah did triumph, 24-17, over Michigan, but the Wolverines, under new coach Jim Harbaugh, aren't very good and don't have a quality quarterback. The top 25 Los Angeles teams did win big, However, SC trampling little Arkansas State, 55-6, means nothing and UCLA beating a so-so ACC team, Virginia, 34-16, isn't anything to crow about. Bruin freshman QB Josh Rosen was impressive but that Virginia secondary that was supposed to be so stellar looked like one of the sieves in the Mountain West conference. Rosen could be a superstar but let's hold judgement until he faces a tougher opponent.

The other second-tier PAC 12 teams had so-what victories. Cal beating up on poor Grambling State, 73-14, and Oregon State whipping Weber State, 28-7,  is nothing for PAC fans to get worked up about.

Bottom line. Two of the PAC 12's six Top 25 teams, Stanford and Arizona State, lost and two others, Oregon and Arizona, won but looked wobbly doing so,  playing crappy defense against lowly teams.
You can't tell much about PAC 12 strength from the wins by SC and UCLA.

But you will be able to tell something about the PAC 12 after Saturday, following the biggest game of the early season, a battle of  Top10 powers, Oregon playing Michigan State in East Lansing.

For MSU, still smarting from last season's infamous 48-17 loss to the Ducks, this is a revenge game. The Spartans are coming off a lazy 37-24 win over Western Michigan in which their pass defense seemed suspect..Neither the Oregon nor the Michigan State defense looks to be superior, but MSU lives off its defense, while Oregon, with that explosive offense, can often get by with an average defense..

 This game means more to Oregon because they are the PAC 12 kingpin. If they lose to MSU,  the PAC 12 rep goes down with them. The Big Ten rep, however, lives and dies with Ohio State, not MSU.

Michigan State is favored by 3 1/2. Who wins?. I'm betting on the Oregon offense and multi-talented new QB Vernon Adams. After Saturday,  PAC 12 fans, quiet this week, will be roaring again.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

USC's Steve Sarkisian: Dead Man Walking

Steve Sarkisian is a dead man walking.

The USC head football coach doesn't realize it but his days at SC are numbered. Last Saturday, in front of thousands of hard-core fans and boosters he made a fool of himself with a drunken, obscenity-laced rant. It was so offensive his "speech" was interrupted.and he had to be dragged off stage, This guy is the face of SC sports, the face of the university, a leader that young people look up to?

Him? You gotta be kidding.

He claims he got drunk that night because he mixed booze with medication. That's crap. He may have mixed booze and medication but that wasn't why he went off the rails. The problem was rotten judgement. A responsible man, realizing he was getting drunk and knowing he had to talk to fans and boosters at this major annual event, would have taken steps to sober up. According to insiders, this isn't the first time Sarkisian has been inebriated in public and used bad judgment.. Apparently it happened in Washington a number of times when he was coaching the Huskies. He's not, according to two sources close to SC sports, an alcoholic, just a sloppy drunk.

Certainly personal problems have him off kilter. He's going through a divorce and selling his sprawling Rolling Hills mansion for $8.5 million, one million less than the asking price. Still, none of this is an excuse for his drunken behavior.

SC athletic director Pat Haden was screaming at him backstage that night after the incident, but didn't suspend him. Haden probably thought that was the end of it. Man, was he wrong. Sarkisian embarrassed himself but, more importantly, embarrassed the university. SC fans, alums and boosters usually mention, with pride, their affiliation with the school. But not right now. SC haters will taunt them with vicious cracks like: "How's that drunk doing, the guy that's heading your football team?"

Some boosters want Sarkisian gone now. According to sources, Haden has had to do some fast talking just to keep Sarkisian from being fired. Wealthy boosters could easily buy out this contract. Haden's argument, of course, is that dumping Sark now would ruin the team, which is in the preseason Top 10. But Haden, to satisfy angry fans and boosters, may at least have to suspend him for a few games.

The only way Sarkisian survives this is if SC has an 11 or 12-win season that would elevate the team among the nation's elite.Winning heals all wounds. After a super season; all would be forgiven. But having a respectable season, like nine or ten wins, won't be good enough..

Chances of SC winning 11 or 12 games in the tough Pac 12 are remote. After the Sark fiasco, SC will be the laughing stock of the league. When they're on the road the team will be taunted unmercifully about that bad night. Another thing. You can be sure his own players will look at him differently, with less respect. SC will need extra fire and dedication to overcome the fallout from the coach's drunken blunder. Don't expect that essential extra to materialize. The team is good but not that good.

And what about the recruiting season? You can bet other schools will relentlessly use Sark's drunken rant against SC. Unquestionably, if he stays, his faux pas.will cost SC some top players in the next few years,

A great coach, like Urban Meyer or Nick Saban, might put this scandal in the rear-view mirror and
cruise to a solid season. But Sarkisian isn't a great coach and this is not a great team. Throughout the season, at any SC stumble--and you can be sure there will be stumbles--fans and boosters will be calling for Sark's head.

This will be a rocky season for Sark. Don't look for him to be SC's head coach next season.


Monday, August 3, 2015

49ers Face Pitiful Three-Win Season

Brace yourselves, Niner fans. This is going to be the season from hell, a miserable, circling-the-drain mess. You thought last-season's 8-8 was an abomination? After this one, you'll look back fondly on that as the good ol' days.

The ugly reality is that if the Niners win three games this season, they'll be lucky.

For starters, they have no decent head coach. Yes, they have Jim Tomsula, a 49er defensive line coach who was promoted. But his sole head-coaching experience was leading the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe in 2006. That resume really inspires confidence. He'll be learning on the job, surrounded by new coordinators, Geep Chryst (offense) and Eric Mangini (defense), who will be looking to him for leadership. Good luck with that. 

After owner Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke ran Jim Harbaugh, a great but hard-to-manage head coach, out of town following last season, they hired someone they could control. Tomsula is the anti-Harbaugh, a nice guy who listens to his players and creates a friendly atmosphere. Harbaugh is a crusty, nasty, headstrong SOB, who bullied and terrorized his team. Players hated him. But he got results, three straight appearances in the NFC title game and one Super Bowl berth. Man, can he coach. He draws up smart game plans and is spot-on in assessing strengths and weaknesses of players and opponents. He has a feel for the game rivaled only by that of Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick, the other super coaches in the NFL.

Jim Tomsula has to follow THAT. It's like replacing a lion with a kitten. Early word out of the 49ers camp is that players are comfortable with the new head coach. They find him pleasant and easy to work with. Do they respect his coaching talents? According to sources close to several Niners, the players think he's a marshmallow who has a fraction of Harbaugh's skills.

This fledgling head coach might have had a chance at a good season if he had inherited a first-rate team, but he didn't. He was left with dregs. Due to retirement, trades and defections, the Niners, once teeming with talent, have lousy personnel. The offensive line, a sieve at the end of last season, hasn't improved. Reliable RB Frank Gore is gone. Michael Crabtree went across the Bay to the Raiders. TE Vernon Davis, a one-time devastating deep threat, has to come back strong from an awful season. If Davis doesn't come through, they are really screwed.

The defense, once the team's strength, is in ruins. The line-backing corps, which used to be on a par with Seattle's, is in tatters. Excellent LB Navorro Bowman, back after missing last season, will be a step or two slow. The defensive line will be down a notch or two in quality. Opposing QBs are already licking their chops, dreaming about passing against the Niners' shaky secondary, which will no longer be protected by a top line and linebackers. And don't expect help from this year's draftees right away. None of them look to be starters this season on offense or defense..

The biggest problem is at QB. Colin Kaepernick, once an elite QB, took a giant step backward last season. Now he's among the NFL's also-ran QBs. Can he return to his former status? Not likely, considering he's flanked by average RBs, protected by a mediocre line and throwing to so-so wide receivers.

Add to these negatives one more. The Niners are plagued with a tough schedule, one of the toughest in the league. They'll be underdogs in just about every game.

Niiners fans will be crying and cursing throughout this rotten season. But back in Ann Arbor, where Harbaugh is coaching the Michigan Wolverines, he'll be doing a lot of smiling and celebrating, thrilled that he got out just in time.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The DeAndre Jordan Bungle. Blame Paul and Doc Rivers.

Who's to blame for LA Clippers defensive whiz/center DeAndre Jordan defecting to the Dallas Mavericks, instantly dropping the Clips among the also-rans in the NBA's Western Conference title race?

Point the finger at point guard/ team leader Chris Paul for starters. He helped create an atmosphere that alienated Jordan to the point where he took less money to go to an inferior team. Jordan's exit leaves a giant hole in the team, one that can't be filled this season because he made his move after all the free-agent big men had been signed. The blame for that unfilled hole, which ruins the upcoming season, belongs to head coach Doc Rivers. But that's a separate issue.

First let's look at Paul, who was instrumental in driving Jordan away.  According to two sources close to two Clippers' players, Paul made Jordan's life miserable for years with his relentless badgering. Paul is a fanatical competitor who thinks players should be focused on work, work, work, all the time. He has little patience with a hang-loose guy like Jordan. He also was constantly pestering Jordan about his lousy free-throw shooting. The bickering, reported the sources, witnessed by those with seats near the Clippers' bench, was just the tip of the iceberg. The arguments in the locker room were louder and nastier.

According to the sources, nobody on the Clippers is crazy about Paul, whose somber, non-nonsense, super-authoritarian attitude turns players off. Teammates compare him to Michael Jordan , who was a hard-driving dictator in the Chicago Bulls' heyday. Michael took the fun out of playing. Arguably, say the sources, so does Paul. As DeAndre's stature rose in the NBA, he felt he was above being picked on by Paul. He simply had enough and wanted out.

Something else bothered Jordan about being a Clipper. He also wanted to play a bigger role in the offense. He was fed up with being the third option, behind Paul and Blake Griffin. Recognizing that was on his wish list, Dallas promised to make him an offensive star.

Everything, said the sources, pointed to Jordan leaving for Dallas, particularly since he's a Texas native who went to Texas A&M. Sources said it was 90-10 that he'd sign with the Mavericks. Why didn't coach Rivers see this? Others said it was clear Jordan couldn't wait to get out of LA. So why didn't Rivers take some steps to lure another decent big man, like Tyson Chandler or Robin Lopez, before they signed elsewhere? Instead, he was dragging his feet, allowing Jordan to leave the team high and dry. Colossal blunder by Rivers.

By the way, this sudden need for a center also probably means curtains for the Clipper career of Jamal Crawford, the No 1 offensive bench weapon,  He'll be the prime trade bait in their search for a replacement for Jordan. Losing Crawford will take considerable punch away from the offense, just like losing Jordan will subtract significant power from the defense...

The Clippers really blew the Jordan case on several levels. Regression, here they come.

Nice work, Chris Paul. Good job, Doc Rivers.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

How NBA Refs Have Been Fixing Finals

The NBA Finals, featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Golden State Warriors, are surprising close, and surprisingly entertaining. You can thank the refs for that.

Without their calls--or non-calls-- the Warriors, by far the most talented team, would have cruised to a four-game sweep  But, with help from the refs, all three games have been competitive, with the first two going into overtime. The underdog Cavaliers, even without two of their three best players, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, are leading the Warriors 2-1. That's amazing since nearly all experts picked Golden Sate to romp in four or, at the most, five games.

Fans are loving it. So is the ABC TV network. These Finals have the biggest ratings in years. At first the Finals looked to be a low-rated, mismatched loser, with most fans outside the San Francisco Bay Area not caring to see Golden State be Goliath. But, with the undermanned Cavs playing David, they are whipping up on the Warriors.

How is this possible? It's very simple. The refs have set a rugged tone, beginning with the first game, that overwhelmingly favors Cleveland.  While an excellent defensive team. the Warriors are basically an offensive juggernaut that relies on the jump-shooting skills of guards Stef Curry and Klay Thomspon. They play a fast-paced style that uses bullet-passing to get their shooters open shots. But that's not what's happening in this series.

With the aid of the refs, the Cavs, a thuggish half-court team, are bullying the Warriors, beating up on them at every turn. The Warriors are best at a high-scoring, wide-open, fast-paced style. But these games are low-scoring, slow-paced, wrestling matches. They're much like those Eastern Conferences playoffs back in the day, with teams like the Knicks, Bulls, Pistons and Celtics locked in bruising defensive battles, with scores in 80s..

What the refs are doing now is not calling penalties on the Cavs when they are roughing up the Warriors. There is so much Cavalier hacking and clobbering that goes on with the refs looking the other way. The refs are subtly encouraging this pro-Cavs style of play.

There was one play in the third game where Cleveland's LeBron James barreled into slender Curry from behind, bowling him over, without a whistle on James. It was shocking. Meanwhile the refs are letting James be in freight-train mode, without penalty. On many of his many drives to the basket, where he'll plow into two or three Warriors, he could easily be called for charging. But he almost always gets by with no penalty.

James' constant pounding and extra-rough tactics of other Cavs take their toll on the Warrior players, who don't have the energy to make their offense run more smoothly. This tiring style of play is a boost to the Cavs. The result is a bunch of ugly games, with the sleek, race-horse Warriors sinking into the sludge with the rhino-like Cavs.

How is it all going to play out? It's possible that the Warriors may get down and dirty and beat the Cavs at their own game. Or maybe this wrestling-style of play is so wearying that the Cavs, who aren't very deep, may wear down in the last few games.

It may not be pretty but the games will probably be close, which will attract fans. This series will probably go six or seven, unless the Cavs shock the world and win in five, which is unlikely. Even if it ends in five it's already been a much more entertaining series than expected.

Whatever happens you can bet the refs--the puppeteers pulling the strings with ABC in mind--will be guiding the action in a direction favorable to ABC. Naturally the network, as usual, will deny any hanky-panky.

But knowledgeable folks in the gambling and gangster underworld will tell you that the network, in this case, is full of crap.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Ugly Adrian Peterson Stain

This fall, after a year layoff, RB Adrian Peterson will be back terrorizing defenses, most likely for his old team, the Minnesota Vikings. But when he's bulling through the line, knocking over defenders like bowling pins, that's not what I'll be envisioning. What I'll be seeing won't be pretty,

I'll see Peterson running, all right, but not through defenses. I'll see him not carrying a football but a switch, which is a thin, bare tree branch about a foot long. He'll be chasing a four-year-old boy, looking to grab him and whip him with the switch..Whenever I see Peterson playing ball that's the image that will dominate.

I won't see Adrian Peterson, the great running back, the highest paid RB in NFL history. I'll see Adrian Peterson, the child abuser. I saw pictures of that youngster after a brutal Peterson whipping. It was ugly.

He sat out nearly all last season after being indicted September 11 by a Texas grand jury for severely beating his four-year-old son in May of last year. Following a media furor and a laughable Vikings penalty--a puny, one game suspension--Peterson got a more suitable punishment. He was placed on the commissioner's exempt list, ending his season. For months all we got from Peterson was a lot of whining and bitching, like he was being mistreated and misunderstood. He kept saying he made a mistake. But what he did, violently whipping his little son, is much more than a mistake. It goes much deeper than that.

Reinstated by the NFL in April, Peterson is back with Minnesota. Yeah, yeah, he's apologized and said some of the right things, about therapy and parenting and discipline and blah, blah, blah. Funny, but I don't believe him. His apologies don't right true. He claims he's a changed man. I don't believe him. What he's saying sounds rehearsed and insincere. Something is haywire deep down in his core, something that allowed him to viciously punish his son in the first place. My sense is that what was wrong hasn't been repaired.

I had the same problem with QB Michael Vick, when he was reinstated by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009 after serving a 21-month prison sentence for his role in operating a dog fighting ring. When I watched him play I couldn't get those horrible animal-cruelty images out of my head. It tainted any game I saw Vick play in. But Vick worked hard to show the world he had changed his thinking about dogs. Gradually those gruesome images faded for me. After a while I could see Vick the football player again, and not that other monster.

Now Peterson will taint Vikings' games for me the same way. Maybe he'll eventually convince me and other doubters like me that he really is a changed man and finally close the book on that dark chapter of his life. The Christian thing for me to do is to be forgiving and him a second chance.

I'm working on it.

Pardon me, but, like many other Peterson haters, I'm not there yet--not even close. Will I ever get there? In this case, I'm not so sure.