Friday, December 2, 2016

To Hell With Trump-Loving Patriots' Coach Bill Belichick






Screw Bill Belichick.

I've tried, really hard, to maintain positive feelings and admiration for the New England Patriots' head coach, but I just can't.  He's a Trump supporter. Recently he called the President-elect to congratulate him just after he beat Hillary Clinton. I've been steaming about that ever since. I can't believe Belichick actually likes Trump.

From now on, Belichck is in my doghouse. I always gave him credit for being sharp, smart and wise. Now, to me, he's just a misguided jerk who has swallowed the lies of a consummate con man.. How can he vote for and be buddies with a man who is a liar, a racist, a sexual predator--and that's just for starters?. Trump is a rotten human being, a dangerous demagogue who has no idea how to run a country. Some ugly years are ahead of us with this boob running things. I can't stomach Trump. Nor can I stomach a coach who pals around with him.
                                                                            
That's not all. Patriots' QB Tom Brady is also in the Trump camp. I used to be a Brady fan. But no more. To hell with him too.

With Belichick and Brady as Trump supporters, I can't look at the Patriots the same way ever again. Rooting for them will, for me from now on, be like rooting for Trump. I just can't do it.

I know, I know, it's not rational or reasonable. I wish I didn't feel this way. I'm sure there are some decent guys on the Patriots who loathe Trump as much as I do. But I can't help feeling this way.

Here's what really scares me. I'm a San Francisco 49er fan. What if Niners' coach Chip Kelly is a Trump supporter?. I'm also a Cal fan. What if head coach Sonny Dykes is a Trump follower?. What does that do to my allegiance to those teams? Damned if I know. I hope I never have to deal with that issue.

Ideally sports and politics should be kept separate. It's a lot simpler if you don't know the political views of your sports heroes. Then you can appreciate them for performance alone. Then views that clash with yours don't cloud the issue.

But in this case it's too late. I know Belichick's political views. I know Brady's views. To me, their views stink. It's a gut feeling and I'm going with my gut.

So screw Belichick and Brady, And damn the Patriots.









Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Why LA Rams Should Start QB Jared Goff







It's plain old QB Management 1A. So simple. But LA Rams head coach Jeff Fisher flunked this one badly. He keeps playing lousy Case Keenum, while Jared Goff, the NFL's overall No.1 pick in the last draft, strolls the sidelines waiting for a chance to play..

The Rams are tottering, 3-5 and in the middle of a four-game slump. Common sense says Fisher should bench Keenum and start ex-Cal QB Goff. But the coach is mule-stubborn,.clinging to the notion that the Rams have a shot at the playoffs and Keenum, not an untried rookie, gives them the best chance to grab one of those spots.

Fisher is clearly delusional.

The Rams aren't making the playoffs for two reasons--they're not good enough and, at the mid-season mark, are too far behind. They  have an exceptional defense, ranked No. 8, but a bottom-of-the-barrel offense, anchored by a so-so line and.led by a badly flawed QB..

Keenum, small and a mediocre scrambler, is a career backup who will never be a quality starter..His arm isn't very strong so there's no real deep, defense-stretching threat to take pressure off the run game. When rattled, he's likely to throw an interception. Way too often he'll over-shoot an open man. His only real advantage over Goff is his experience. Goff doesn't have any. 

At his best, though, Goff can throw accurately and deep. He has a skill-set that Keenum can only dream about. But playing Goff won't guarantee an offensive explosion. Like any rookie he will make plenty of mistakes and maybe even cost the Rams a game or two. Some rookie QBs--Zak Prescott, Carson Wentz, Cody Kessler--who all went lower in the draft than Goff. are starting and playing well. If given a chance, Goff just might play well too.

So Fisher should give him a shot. What do the Rams have to lose? Mired in a long losing streak, the team is barely scoring. Goff couldn't really do any worse than Keenum and, with his rocket arm,  just might do better. What's sorely missing from the Rams' offense is a deep-passing game, something Goff just might provide.

Another reason to play Goff is to find out how good he is and whether he really is the future of the franchise or just another blown pick. The Rams traded lots of picks to climb the draft ladder to snare Goff. Was that a smart move or a blunder? Do they need to continue QB hunting after this season?

There's only one way to find out.








Friday, October 28, 2016

Why The Warriors Won't Win the NBA Title







When the Golden State Warriors signed small forward Kevin Durant last summer, most people figured they would cruise to the NBA title..They already have two of the top five shooters in the league in guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Now with Durant, they have three. Who could beat them?

Actually several teams..

If you're betting on which team will win the NBA title, put your money on two other Western Conference aces, the Spurs or the Clippers, or even on the cream of the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers, who whipped the Warriors in the Finals last June.

The Warriors will make it to the Western Conference Finals or even the NBA Finals. They just won't win.
Their problem? Their brilliant power forward Draymond Green. He's a nut, a loose cannon, a constant pain in the butt. They can't win without him. But the way he is now, they can't win with him either.

Every time he steps on the court he's a triple-double waiting to happen. He had 13 last season, unheard of for a power forward. There is nobody in the league like him. Nobody can do all the things he can do at such a high level. He's a point guard and a shooting guard rolled up in the cast-iron physique of a power forward. People who really know basketball will tell you that Curry isn't the team MVP, it's Green.

But according to sources close to two Warrior players, Green is also a cancer. He gets in fights with players and coaches. His ego is huge and needs considerable stroking. He's a constant source of locker room tension. He keeps the team on edge because they don't know what crazy thing he'll do next--like slapping LeBron James in the groin, which earned Green a suspension from Game 5 of last June's Finals, and triggered the slide which swept Cleveland to the championship..

One thing for sure. The addition of Durant has disturbed the team's dynamic and ruffled Green's ego. No question Green will get fewer shots, will figure less in the offense, will get fewer assists and triple-doubles. It was apparent in the preseason that Green was unhappy. It was clear in that ugly opening-day loss to the Spurs that all wasn't right with the team.

It's not going to get better. Quite possibly the Warriors will have to trade Green. That would seriously hurt the team since there's no power forward on the planet who can do all Green can do.

My guess? He's not with the team by the end of the season, Or maybe he stays and he's much less effective. Either way, this super team slips a few notches and become merely excellent.

So there's a very good chance that NBA title trophy won't be in Oakland next June after all.






Friday, October 7, 2016

Why The 49ers Are Not Playing Kaepernick








Let's face it, the San Francisco 49ers stink, battling Cleveland for the embarrassing title of NFL's Worst Team. The Niners are a pitiful 1-4. After shutting out the LA Rams the first week, they have lost every game, including Thursday night's fiasco, falling to Arizona 33-21.

Part of the reason the Niners are so bad is the abysmal play of QB Blaine Gabbert. Against Arizona, he was doing everything wrong--making dumb decision after dumb decision, missing open receivers, throwing into double coverage, visually zeroing in on targeted receivers so defenders knew where he planned to throw. He also had a bad case of happy feet. Gabbert was a walking disaster. What's worse, there's no sign he's getting better.

Which leads to the big question. Why is he still starting? Why is backup Colin Kaepernick, who is much more skilled, not playing, particularly since new coach Chip Kelly cherishes read-option plays that are Kaepernick's specialty? During the sparsely attended Arizona game, when Gabbert did something especially stupid, there were chants to put in Kaepernick.

Some people think the Niners are not playing Kaepernick as punishment for him leading an anti-police brutality protest movement that involves not standing up when the national anthem is played pregame. Wrong. Team management supports his activist activities and there's no evidence that these activities have created any locker room problems.

The Niners are reluctant to play Kaepernick for financial and contractual reasons. In other words, because of  money. He's earning $12 million now because he was injured most of last season and virtually untradeable and consequently still on the roster this past April 1. If the Niners play him now and he gets injured, the same scenario could play out again, but this time the stakes are higher. If  he's on the team April 1, 2017 he'll get $14.5 million.

They could cut him now but that would anger the liberals in their fan base. It would be smarter to wait til off season.to dump him. So don't look for Kaepernick to be in a Niner uniform next season.

Meanwhile playing Kaepernick now would definitely increase the team's chances of winning games. But so what? They may win a few more games with him at QB but not nearly enough to make the playoffs. When LB Narvorro Bowman, the team's best player, was declared out for the season last week with a torn ACL, any remote chance the Niners had of making the playoffs evaporated.

Bottom line. Playing Kapernick now and risking him getting a serious injury enhances the chances of something the Niners don't want--him on the roster next April 1.

What about winning games? They will never say it out loud but the team management has an answer for that question--"who cares?"








Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Trade Colin Kaepernick? Stupid Move









San Francisco 49ers' GM Trent Baalke has made some really stupid moves. So far, teaming with owner Jed York to run brilliant but difficult head coach Jim Harbaugh out of town has been his most infamous blunder. But Baalke is about to top himself. Looks like he's going to get rid of QB Colin Kaepernick.

Dumb, dumb,,,

This time Baalke has some powerful opposition--new coach Chip Kelly. A renowned QB guru, Kelly is no dummy. He doesn't want to lose Kaepernick  Give Kelly some raw material and, with his high-speed, unorthodox system,  he'll come up with a polished QB. Big, fast and blessed with one of the strongest arms in the league, the 28-year-old QB has all the tools. Just give Kelly time to work his magic..

Kaepernick isn't what he used to be. After a few good years, he's fallen on hard times, regressing drastically. Last season he was truly horrible. He's been slowed by injuries and his confidence, normally one of his strengths, has taken a major hit. Because he's still not 100%, he's been forced to take a backseat to a lame QB, Blaine Gabbert, who's been getting all the playing time. A healthy, fit Kaepernick leaves Gabbert in the dust.

One reason Kaepernick has been slow getting back to normal is his recent preoccupation with political activism. To protest racism and police brutality against minorities in America, Kaepernick, who is biracial, refuses to stand up when the national anthem is being played pregame, first sitting but now kneeling. All of a sudden, he's the center of a media firestorm. Some support him but many have been raging against him. Lately, he's even been receiving death threats.

No question, Kaepernick has been a distraction. Not only that, he's being paid around $12 million a year Baalke, no doubt, is thinking Kaepernick, now just a over-paid bench-warmer, is more trouble than he's worth.

What Baalke has to do is look past the current mess and focus on Kaepernick, the potentially great QB. Kaepernick led the Niners to the Super Bowl once, he can do it again. If you dump him, then what? Without him the 49ers are left with Gabbert and another stiff, minimally talented Christian Ponder. These are bottom feeders who aren't going to get any better. One huge problem with the Niner offense is that Gabbert is a lousy long passer, which keeps defenses clustered around the line of scrimmage, which is lethal to their running game. Face it. With Gabbert or Ponder running the offense, the Niners will never make the playoffs.

The 49ers have just one hope--a healthy Kaepernick schooled by Kelly. Possibly the coach can figure out how to get him back on the right track.Unquestionably, Kaepernick's activism will get in the way. Restoring the QB to peak form won't be easy but it can be done. Otherwise the team is headed for another crappy season, with three-to-five wins.

Fortunately the locker room, in turmoil when Kaepernick launched his career as an activist a few weeks ago, has settled down. Realizing he's their best shot at a good season, most of the players would like the keep the QB.

Hopefully GM Baalke comes to his senses and bails out of this dumb dump-Kaepernick mode. But, given his penchant for boneheaded moves, don't count on it.







Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Fire USC Football Coach Helton!








Last Nov. 30,  USC hired interim coach Clay Helton as head football coach after he had posted a 5-2
record. I thought that was a big mistake. Not only wasn't he dynamic or creative or an exceptional leader or a big-time motivator or a superior bench coach but, most important, he had no head coaching experience. The prestigious SC job seemed too big for this career assistant.

Since he was hired he's coached three huge games--two last season, against Stanford and Wisconsin, and the season opener Saturday against No.1 Alabama, He blew all three, including Saturday's 52-6 mauling by Bama in Arlington, Texas. That one really turned off many SC fans, The "fire Helton" rants have already started.

Hate to say I told you so, but.......

Examine that Bama fiasco and you can only conclude that Helton doesn't know what the hell he's doing. It was one of the low points in the long, glorious history of USC football, the worst loss since Notre Dame crushed the Trojans 51-0 in 1966.  Who deserves the blame for this mess? It's all on Helton.

SC wasn't ready to play, though the team had several weeks to prepare.The SC players looked lost and tentative and, too often, were totally out of position. Helton and his staff were overwhelmed, misusing timeouts, making the wrong adjustments, etc. Sure Bama has superior players but the Trojans have some quality talent too. You wouldn't know it, though, from the way they staggered through the game..

SC hung in there through most of the first half but you knew it was just the calm before the storm. In the second half, after the Bama staff sized up the Trojans, the Tide really rolled. SC just rolled over and played dead. They actually quit. At times you could see they were just going through the motions. Helton and his staff didn't have a clue how to jar them out of that funk.

Bama piled up 465 yards of offense, while SC's offense couldn't even crack the 200-yard mark. The Trojans needed a strong run game but they couldn't put a dent in that brick wall set up by Bama's front seven, racking up a pitiful 64 rushing yards. Even in the second half, when Bama was playing its scrubs, SC was stymied. Part of the problem was the inexperienced Trojan QBs, who couldn't get the offense in gear. But Bama is just as inexperienced at QB, yet they managed to get the job done. You think Bama's smart, skilled coaching staff might be a primary reason?

This game should have been competitive, with a score like 30-17. A loss like that would have hurt but not as much as a blow-out. The SC players needed a boost, some savvy guidance and a kick in the butt from Helton and his staff, but didn't get any of that.

Go back to the last decade, during the Pete Carroll heyday. Can you imagine a Carroll-coached team getting pummeled like this? No way. SC might have lost but would have at least been competitive.

That's because Carroll was a good coach. But SC doesn't have a decent coach now. Since Carroll, there has been a parade of second-tier guys in charge. Helton may be the worst yet. So, SC fans, expect more stumbles during this season, particularly since the Trojans have one of the toughest schedules in the nation.

One thing you can be sure of, that the "Fire Helton!" cries will get get louder and louder.









Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Kaepernick Mess: Where It's Headed







San Francisco 49er QB Colin Kaepernick is in deep trouble. He's a football player who doesn't seem to care about football at the moment.

His football career is hanging by a thread, yet that's clearly not his focus. On Friday, he was launched into the realm of racial politics--on a national level yet. Just before the Niners played the Green Bay Packers, Kaepernick, who is biracial, decided not to stand during the pregame national anthem, protesting, he later explained, the nation's mistreatment of blacks and other minorities..

During the next 24 hours, all hell broke loose

Some fans support his protest. Others condemn him for disrespecting the flag and the anthem. He has the support of the Niner organization and the NFL doesn't require players to stand when the anthem is being played. But it's not possible penalties that's the problem. As a QB he's on shaky ground--actually. more like quicksand. This is the same QB who, a few seasons ago, was riding high, barely missing a Super Bowl win. Then in his mid twenties, big, with great speed and a rocket arm,  he was considered the model QB, the future of the NFL.

But in Friday's game, which the Niners lost 21-10, he looked terrible--sloppy passing, completing just 2 of 6 dinky throws, indecision, lackluster running,. Part of it was plain old rust. He hasn't played since last November, and it showed  He's also recovering from a shoulder injury, which has limited his practice time. Even more important, he's playing for a new coach, Chip Kelly, in a new system with many new players.

During the off season, Kaepernick, 28, wanted to be traded. The Jets and Broncos were possibilities but the Niners never could work out a deal. The problem was that his last two seasons were awful. He was regressing and no one could figure out why. Many thought Kelly, who has a knack with QBs, could fix whatever is ailing Kaepernick. But, because the QB has been rehabbing that bum shoulder, Kelly hasn't had a chance to do much with him.

Kaepernick isn't even good enough to reclaim his starting job from Blaine Gabbert, who has a fraction of Kaepernick's talent and has been regarded, at best, as a career backup.

But now Colin K not just a football player, he's also a civil-rights activist. That will be a major distraction from now on. The Niners probably aren't sure what to do with him. He has great potential, but will it ever be realized? His average annual salary is $19 million. Right now he's worth nowhere near that.

What happens now?

Kaepernick's career may be circling the drain at the moment, but he will resurrect it, with the help of Kelly or the coach of some other team. He has way too much talent to fall by the wayside.

But what will happen to Kaepernick the activist? Will he sit down again when the anthem is played pregame? All this raises an even bigger question. Will Kaepernick's protest trigger activism among other athletes, pro and/or college?

On this front, the next few months will be very interesting.







Saturday, June 18, 2016

How To Fix An NBA Game








Don't listen to the analysts who say fixing an NBA game is so complicated and insanely complex and involves so many people that it never happens.

That's rubbish. Fixes happen in the NBA. Not only that, they aren't all that difficult to execute..

By the way, the players aren't involved. It's just the refs--very few refs. In college, where fixing means point-shaving, gamblers involve players and that gets messy, because you're dealing with amateurs. So it often doesn't work. Limiting it to officials keeps it simple.

In the NBA, for the most part, fixing is shaving points to fix point spreads for gamblers. But at playoff time, it can also entail adjusting the game to help a team win to extend a series. Obviously, for TV networks, a six-or-seven game series is preferable to a four-game sweep or a five-game series. The longer the series, the more money for everybody. The networks downplay that or point out that's not true, but that's crap. The longer the series the more money for everybody. Period.

In the playoffs, in certain critical series, there are covert ways for refs to get orders to quietly do what they can to help underdogs. This doesn't go on in every game, just certain games in certain series..

Over the years a very small percentage of NBA refs have been working with gamblers, who have, here and there, leaked info that the NBA, at times, has also ordered adjustments in certain playoff games. My info comes from two sources that are close to three veteran gamblers.

The NBA isn't stupid. They have a whole network of checks and balances set up to spot fixes. The bad gays, though, are way ahead of the good guys. It's like in sports where there are tests to spot doping. The tests are always several steps behind, so it's tough catching the cheaters.

Here's a key point. Fixing an NBA game isn't always possible. Let's say, if the fix is on in five games, in two of them, it doesn't get done. Sometimes a ref looking to influence a game can't do it because the adjustments would be too obvious.

One way that refs can fix a game is by making the game look like it's sloppily refereed overall. In the context of many bad calls, it's easier to execute a fix. But if a ref is involved in too many badly called games, that hurts his record and may keep him from being assigned to important games. So fixers have to be careful with this tactic.

Game six of this Warriors-Cavaliers series was, from an officiating standpoint, a mess. Some of the calls were atrocious. Cleveland needed that win to tie the series and force a game seven. They got it. Some calls severely damaged the Warriors. Specifically, Steph Curry was in foul trouble the whole game, which effected his play, and eventually got him kicked out.

Some Warrior fans, even Golden Sate coach Steve Kerr, insist some of the calls against Curry were bogus.
Were they just bad calls or part of a fix? It's hard to say. But if it was a fix, it was nicely done.









Friday, June 10, 2016

Why The Cavaliers' Game Three Rout is Meaningless.







Relax, Golden State Warrior fans.

There's nothing wrong with your team. That 120-90 drubbing by the Cleveland Cavaliers is no cause for concern. What it meant is that the Warriors didn't take that game seriously. After crushing the Cavs in Oakland in the first two games of the Finals, they know they're better than Cleveland and can whip the Cavs when it counts. To the Warriors, that third game was a perfect time for a siesta.

The difference was the Warrior defense. In the first quarter you could see the GS defenders weren't sharp. They were a step slow, and often late on their rotations, playing closer to matador defense than lock-down defense. When Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving, a lame defender who tends to disappear in the clutch, scores 16 points in the first quarter, you know the defense is tanking.

Also, and very important, the Cavs were desperate. Losing that game meant slipping to an 0-3 deficit, essentially a death sentence. Desperate teams play all out for 48 minutes and tend to play way over their heads. That was Cleveland on Wednesday.

That day, the Warriors weren't even close to matching the Cavs'  intensity. It's nearly impossible for a team to switch its mental attitude once the game starts. If their heads aren't in the game and they start out in first gear, they are not going to shift into overdrive during the game. It's like the Warriors' loss to the lowly, pathetic Lakers during the season. Playing at their usual high level, the Warriors could destroy the Lakers by 40..But the Warriors, for some reason, were playing at half speed and got pummeled. They had that same I'm-on-vacation attitude on Wednesday.

You know something is wrong when the short-handed Cavs can kill the Warriors. Cleveland was without starting power forward Kevin Love, sidelined by a concussion. OK, so Love may be soft and slow-footed but he's still a decent player. In his place was ancient Richard Jefferson, who racked up 9 points and 8 boards. When Love comes back, he'll be sub par. Jefferson is too old to be effective for the rest of the series. With Love ailing, Jefferson will be forced to play more minutes than usual. Also, that will weaken an already weak bench.

Part of the Warriors' problem is that their big stars, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, have played poorly in the series. Curry, hampered by an injured knee, isn't in top form. But he still is healthy enough to beat the Cavs, who aren't capable of playing great defense--which they did on Wednesday--for long. With that bad bench, the team won't have the energy to keep the Warriors down the rest of the way.. 

To win the Finals, the Cavs have to win one in Oakland, which they simply don't have enough talent to do. The Warriors took a game off and they may do it again--on the road.

When the Warriors have to win games, they will do it. Remember, they beat the Thunder, which is a much better team than Cleveland.

So Warrior fans, you can relax. At the end of Finals, the Cavs will slink back to Cleveland, empty-handed..











Thursday, June 2, 2016

Golden State v Cleveland? Mere Anti-Climax








Golden State Warriors will battle the Cleveland Cavaliers for the NBA title. What's wrong with this announcement?

Everything.

The NBA championship has already been settled. It happened early in the week. The problem is that it happened in a series with a misleading title. The Golden State Warriors beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in game 7 to win the Western Conference Finals. But Golden State did more than win the West. That was the unofficial NBA title series. They really won the league championship, their second in a row.

Hail the NBA champion Warriors!

Though billed as the NBA championship, this series between Golden State and Cleveland is just an anti-climax. Remember back in the 1980 Olympics, the "Miracle on Ice," when the US hockey team upset Russia, David v Goliath-style, in a semifinal round? Everybody treated that like a Gold Medal win. But it wasn't. The US still had to play Finland, a much lesser opponent, to claim the Gold Medal, which they did.

Golden State is in the same position as that 1980 US hockey team. The Warriors already beat the toughest competitor, Oklahoma City, but they still have to knock off another team, Cleveland, which is not as tough, to officially take the title.

The main question is whether the Warriors can get revved up enough to play the Cavaliers, who aren't as good as the best in the West. Cleveland wouldn't fare well against the other top Western teams. The Thunder would whip the Cavs in a seven-game series. So would the rugged San Antonio Spurs, who have the best defense in the NBA but only finished third in the West.

Cleveland won the East, but so what? In the playoffs, they powered through the powder-puff schedule like a buzz-saw through balsa wood, first shutting out Detroit and Atlanta. They had a little trouble with Toronto, losing two in Canada after blowing out the Raptors twice in Cleveland. What happened is that the Cavs got lazy and over-confident on the road, mailing in two low-intensity performances. But then Cleveland restored order in game five, showing Toronto who was boss with a demoralizing 116-78 victory, followed by a game 6 rout, cinching the Eastern crown.

Now the Cavs finally have to face a top-notch team. Cleveland is well rested, having played fewer games and having faced weak competition. But the Cavs have a huge problem--inferior defense. LeBron James will play at his usual high level, but rest of the Big Three, point guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Love, don't have the skills to shut down the Warriors fast-paced offense, which is highlighted by deadly three-point shooting. When Steph Curry and Klay Thompson get in rhythm, they are unstoppable. The Thunder couldn't do it. The Cavs certainly can't.

The Warriors' only problem is energy and maintaining interest. That seven-game series against the Thunder was tense, brutal and draining. It may take a while for the Warriors to recover. They also know Cleveland isn't as formidable as the Thunder so they may be mentally in low gear for a game or two. So don't be surprised if Golden State loses one of the first two in Oakland.  

Bottom line: the Warriors, with Curry and Thompson, are simply much better than Cleveland, with a superior starting five, defense, offense and bench. Cleveland has the best all-around player, James, but that's not nearly enough. It shouldn't take six games, but even if it takes seven, the Warriors will officially win a title they unofficially already own.