Thanksgiving Edition of SBDS Picks

What a day we have today.  For those of you who aren’t Americans today is Thanksgiving.  And it wouldn’t be an American holiday if there weren’t padded rugby on the television all day!  It’s the only way we can get the lads to stay close enough to the ladies who are normally cooking the turkey in the kitchen.  Its a day where we all sit around the television talk about our fantasy teams, cheer every time our players score, and simply discuss football so that if the ladies ask us to help out with the food we can simply give them the ole “But we’re watching/talking football”. There are plenty of things to be thankful for this on wonderful day.  First off we should all take time to be thankful for our family, friends, coworkers, pets, etc.  But now I get to tell you some of the things I’m thankful for in the sports world.  To get started on the right foot, I’m thankful for being better at everything sports related than Tuck Sauce.  Thankful for the winning streak my Bucs have gone on to ruin any shot of being thankful for the first pick in the draft.  I’m thankful for the Florida State Seminoles football team for allowing me to “Witneis” an truly historic season and potentially a National Championship.  Thankful for Michu and Bony for continuing to keep my Swans out of the relegation zone in the Barclays Premier League (10th place).  I’m also thankful for the existence of the Capital One Cup, so that my Swans could win a cup and book their trip to Europa (Including their game today versus Valencia today) COME ON SWANS!

 

Now that we got our thanks out of the way we can move onto the juicy Thanksgiving matchups on the schedule today.  We get our Thanksgiving off right by heading up to Motor City to watch an old NFC North rivalry.  The Green Bay Aaron Rodgers-less Packers squad take on the now reeling Detroit Lions.  Who would have thought two years ago that the Bears, Packers, and Vikings would be the ones who were on the hurt quarterback carrousel and not the Lions with Matthew “Charmin Soft” Stafford staying healthy.  Interesting stat today if the Packers start Matt Flynn (Which all indications are that they will)  they would have started more quarterbacks this season than they have in the past 21 years combined.  If the Detroit Lions win they ultimately control their own destiny.  If the Packers pull the upset then its kept their season on life support one more week until they get Aaron Rogers back.

The Pick – Detorit 27 – Packers 23

The next NFL game on the slate is the Dallas Cowboys taking on the Raaaaaiiiiiiders!  The Cowboys are looking to go two games over .500 which in the NFC East is like being six games over and almost locked into the playoffs.  Where as the Oakland Raiders are simply playing for pride.  When was the last time we were this far into the season and the Raiders wern’t simply playing for pride?  But that being said they’re going to throw Penn State rookie QB Matt McGloin out there today, who should have a good day against the worst defense in the NFL.  McGloin has actually looked pretty solid in his two outings for the silver and black.  We’re not saying hes the next Rich Gannon but at least theres a quarterback under center that’s not Jamarcus Russell or Terrell Pryor who couldn’t hit the ocean if it were standing in front of them. Assume another early pick for the Raiders this year in New York at Radio Music City Hall.

The Pick- Dallas 34 – Oakland 21

In whats probably the best game on tap today is the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.  The Pittsburgh Steelers winners of five of their last seven have found something in the ole fountain of youth.  Seven weeks ago we wouldn’t have thought the Steelers would be vying for a wildcard birth? But Ben Roethlisberger has picked his game up and has the no huddle tiring opposing defenses to death at the end of the game.  He and Antonio Brown have connected 80 times this season, the most receptions by any tandem in the NFL, and that has pulled an offense who was otherwise in neutral and put it firmly in drive.  The comeback of Le’veon Bell has helped steady the run game as well.  Meanwhile over in Baltimore the Super Bowl winning Ravens have struggled all season.  Their 100 million dollar McDonald eating quarterback has been anything but a value meal but more of a dollar menu item this season. You never really know what you’re going to get out of the Ravens, which makes it hard to trust them and in this case pick them.  But one thing that is consistent is the Raven defense at home.  Giving up the fewest points in the NFL at home this year in just under 11 points a game, a far cry from the 50 plus points they gave up in their opener versus the Broncos. The winner is ultimately in the Wild Card hunt where the other takes one step closer to a top 15 pick in next years NFL draft.

Pick- Pittsburgh 20 – Baltimore 16

Here are SBDS writers Thanksgiving Pick ‘Ems:

Games

Tuck Sauce

Hambino

Detroit v Green Bay

Green Bay

Detroit

Dallas v Oakland

Dallas

Dallas

Pittsburgh v Baltimore

Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh

Swansea v Valencia

Swansea

Swansea

Tottenham v Tromso

Tottenham

Tottenham

We here at 6 Beers Deep Sports hope you all enjoy the games and everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving with their friends and families!

Island of Misfit Players

The money that circulates around soccer’s top clubs makes the game highly competitive.  So much so that these teams sometimes bring in stars for which they have no room.  In many ways the top clubs have started to treat the transfer market like fantasy football, picking up star players for their names without thinking about what kind of consequence they may have on the system.  These transfers destroy players careers and clubs, all while pissing off Hambino.  Yes some of these moves are forgivable since some teams are looking for depth to get them through a long domestic and European campaign. Plus I don’t think Chelsea cares what Hambino, a lowly Swansea fan, thinks.   However, I reckon you could create a title contending team out of these club misfits, even though they struggle to find time at their clubs.  These are my best 11 that struggle to get off the bench.

Iker Casillas (Real Madrid/Spain) – Keeper

casillasThe Spanish goal keeper used to be a staple for both club and country.  That is until Portuguese boss, Jose Mourinho, did the unthinkable.  He benched his captain.  Mourinho’s fall out with his star keeper wasn’t an isolated incidence, and was one of the reasons Jose left the Bernabeu.  However, since Mourinho’s departure, Casillas has struggled to regain his starting position at Los Blancos.  His age may have something to do with Ancelloti’s reluctance to start the Spaniard.  Time may prove me wrong, and Iker could regain a consistent starting roll but until then he’s my keeper.

Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal/Belguim) – Center Back

Only two players in and my team has two club captains.  Vermaelen started the season out of the starting lineup as he vermaelenbattled with injury.  In his absence the defensive pair of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscienly has led the Gunners to a start that sees them on top of the table.  Wenger also seems to favor fellow Frenchman Monreal over his captain.  While Vermaelen seems to be healthy, he has struggled to find time at the Emirates.  However, Vermaelen seems content to battle it out for his spot at the North London club and has yet to ask for a transfer.

David Luiz (Chelsea/Brazil) – Center Back

Luiz is an interesting character.  If you watch his highlight film it is amazing to think he would struggle to get time at any club.  His free kicks and technical ability on the ball makes Luiz a threat anywhere on the pitch.  However, he has struggled to get time in Chelsea blue behind the more dependable pairing of Cahill and Terry.  The Benitez experiment of playing him as a holding midfielder also seems to have been abandoned by Mourinho.  This has prompted transfer rumors from two of the world’s biggest names, Bayern Munich and Barcelona.  While I can see it’s possible for Luiz to trade in Stamford Bridge for Camp Nou, something more concrete will have to come up before I start believing it.  If all goes wrong he can always audition for a live action portrayal of Side Show Bob.

luiz

Jolean Lescott (Manchester City/England) – Center Back

lescottIt wasn’t long ago that Lescot was a member of a formidable back line at the Etihad.  In fact the efforts of himself and Vincent Kompany were a huge part of their title run two years ago.  As the World Cup approaches Jolean must be dying to get into City’s starting 11 in order to prove that he still has it.  However, Lescott is 31 and his international days maybe completely over.  It is interesting to see if he does make his way into Pellegrini’s side but with the talent at the Etihad it seems unlikely.

Isco (Real Madrid/Spain) – Midfield

Isco is one of the most sought after young players in the world and his future looks bright.  Los Blancos were blown Iscoaway by his display in the Under-21’s World Cup and the Spaniard could be essential to an aging Spanish side.  However, Isco has three big problems, Ronaldo, Di Maria, and Bale.  The Bernabeu is home to three of the greatest wingers on the planet and Isco has struggled to get time amongst them.  In a young players developmental stage this can be terribly damaging.  My hope is that Isco finds a way to play even if it is with another crest on his chest.

Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United/Japan) – Midfield

free kagawaKagawa may be the most talented player that Japan has ever created.  His vision, pace and technical ability made him a super star at the Bundesliga side Dortmund.  However, his trip to Manchester hasn’t gone as planned.  Despite United’s lack of creativity in the middle of the pitch, Kagawa has rarely found himself in the starting 11.  While he has occasionally been seen as a substitute, his usual spot in Moyes’s plans is on the bench.  This has prompted a “Free Kagawa” campaign from supporters of his former club.  I would not be surprised to see the Japanese international in Dortmund Yellow again soon, especially if Marco Reus comes to the Premier League.

Juan Mata (Chelsea/Spain) – Midfield

Mata has clawed his way up through the ranks to finally get a spot on the best international team in the world.  In thatmata time he became Chelsea’s two time player of the year, and seemed to be crucial piece to Roman’s plan at Stamford Bridge.  Unfortunately for the Spainard, Mourinho does not seem him in the same capacity.  Mata’s lack of defensive prowess has left him out his accustomed spot.  However, when Mata comes on he seems to provide a spark to an occasionally stagnant Chelsea side.  There are rumors that Mata may be on his way to join PSG and this maybe a good move for the former Valencia man.  However, I would still like him to improve his game and regain a spot in the Chelsea starting 11.

Wilfred Zaha (Manchester United/England/Ivory Coast) – Midfield

Wilfried_ZahaZaha came into the transfer firing line for many top clubs while he led Crystal Palace out of the Championship into the Premier League.  His importance to his former team can be seen in the way the London based team has struggled so far this year.  Leaving that aside, Zaha looked to be a main piece in developing a younger, more attractive United.  However, the change of management has seen Zaha isolated to the bench.  With the rise of fellow young midfielder Adnan Januzaj, Zaha’s chances at Old Trafford seem to be dwindling by the day.  While we have not seen him play at a high level yet, his quality is still undeniable.

Edin Dzeko (Manchester City/Bosnia-Hertzegovina) – Forward

Dzeko must have thought with the transfer of Tevez that he would find himself a staple at the Etihad.  However, with Edin-Dzeko-Norwich-Manchester-City-Premier-Le_2879451the acquisition of Spanish international Negredo, Dzeko again finds himself down on the pecking order.  The Bosnian is well known for his aerial ability and his knack for scoring goals.  However, he seems to lack the technical ability that would make him a regular in Pellegrini’s 11.  There are whispers that Dzeko is quite distraught about his current surroundings, and he is looking for a way out of the Etihad.  If this is true, he would make quite a difference to one of the many teams in this striker hungry market.

 Jermain Defoe (Tottenham/England) – Forward

jermain-defoeDefoe is a goal scoring machine.  His diagonal runs terrify defenders around the world.  However the Englishman has fallen out of grace for both club and country.  Despite being a prototypical English number nine, Hodgson seems to prefer Sturridge for the roll.  At least this selection is warranted since Sturridge seems to be unable to stop scoring goals while in a Liverpool shirt.  Meanwhile, at Tottenham, Defoe sits on the bench while Spurs have scored an abysmal 9 goals as a team this year.  Three Premier League strikers have at least equaled that number this year.  While most managers would see this as a sign that maybe it is time for a change, AVB has decided to stick it out with Spanish front man Soldado.  I would not be surprised to see Defoe with a different crest on his chest soon, especially with the World Cup approaching.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (Manchester United/Mexico)

While the Mexican little pea has seen an increase in playing time under Moyes, he has yet to receive the starting javier-hernandez_1693168cminutes he believes he deserves.  After being left out of the Mexican World Cup Play-Off against New Zealand, Hernandez has to feel a little down on himself.  However he is seen at Old Trafford as THE super sub.  He comes on in key situations when the Red Devils need a goal, and more times than not he delivers.  Hernandez is currently on the wish list of many top clubs and was the inspiration for this team of misfits.  While his future in the Mexican side is most likely not threatened, it would still be great to see Chicharito as a regular in a Premier League side.

THE LIFE OF AN EXPAT SPORTS FAN

Being a dedicated sports fan living overseas comes with both downsides and upsides, but it remains up to you to which will dominate your experience abroad. I’m a glass half full kind of guy so we’re going to start with the downsides before blindsiding you with some uplifting anecdotes so we can all finish this article happy.

Downside #1: Soccer is on every channel all the time and it makes my face hurt.

Being a true red blooded American male, I don’t give a damn about soccer. And yes I’m calling it soccer, because I’m an American and we earned the right to call it whatever the hell we want when we claimed our second straight World War championship title in 1945. I’m sorry, but I just could never bring myself to take a sport seriously in which games end 0-0. For the sports fan that doesn’t follow soccer, living abroad can be akin to some sick version of the twilight zone. Example: The other day I was flipping through TV channels, during which I counted eleven, yes ELEVEN, different soccer games all being broadcast simultaneously. While I might feel compelled to at least watch of few minutes of Chelsea vs. Manchester United or Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, nobody in their right mind would spend an hour and a half of their afternoon watching the soccer version of UTEP vs. FIU. That’s just cruel. I could rant against the shortcomings of Communist Kickball for an entire article in and of itself, but knowing that a vast majority of Americans are already on my side I will press on with the current topic at hand.

Downside #2: Different time zones

As an expat anywhere outside the western hemisphere you will have to deal with the issue of time differences. Whether you’re six hours ahead or twelve hours ahead, this throws a serious monkey wrench into any sports watching plans you may have. I have really only had to deal with this recently and I’ve got to say, it sucks. Beforehand I lucked out, first being in Bulgaria over the summer after I left the states. Yes this meant I missed the NBA playoffs and a good chunk of regular season baseball, but I also got to watch the Olympics in real time. Granted it was all in Bulgarian, but I didn’t exactly need Bob Costas to tell me who won the 100 meter dash. Then my luck continued as I spent the fall and winter (the best sports months of the year) in Trinidad and Panama, which meant I was in the same time zone as the US East Coast and even got American sports channels! But this soft lifestyle all changed when I moved to the Mid-East. Being seven hours ahead of EST, now eight after daylight savings, has meant I miss pretty most of the big ticket games.

The close of the MLB season and the entirety of the playoffs were dominated by night games I couldn’t watch. Sure I dodged a bullet by having to watch those bearded vagrants from Boston take home the World Series title in real time, but it also meant I missed Mariano Rivera’s last outing of his career. The biggest match ups of the college football season are often night games, meaning I have missed many season defining games like Alabama beating Texas A&M in a downright barnburner, Stanford ending Oregon’s championship hopes for a second straight year, or my beloved South Carolina Gamecocks upending Mizzou in an improbable road win in OT. (Ok that may not be an instant classic, but I’m biased so deal with it). I will forever be sports poor for having missed some of these moments.

All griping aside, being a sports fan living abroad isn’t all misery and disappointment. That special combination of suffering is only reserved for Cubs and Browns fans. I have also learned several ways in which my time overseas and my love of sports have managed to enrich both experiences.

Upside #1: It’s a way to feel connected to home

One of the most important aspects of being a sports fan is the sense of community it brings. This becomes even more important when you’re overseas. Cut off from friends and family and living in a place with different customs, language, environment and food (don’t get me started on how much I miss pork) it is natural to feel disconnected and a bit homesick. Sports can provide that very tangible link to home. Even though I’m on a different continent and living a totally different experience from those back home, I can take comfort in knowing they are watching the same game that I am watching. No matter what, I can call up a friend and we can chat about that absurd Hail Mary catch in the Auburn game, or bitch about the ongoing struggles of the Redskins. I may be out of the loop about the new hit songs on the radio, or the most recent (shockingly) not disappointing SNL sketch, I can always feel I’m not totally out of it thanks to sports.

Upside #2: It legitimizes your fandom

Sure it’s easy to watch every game when you root for the local team whose games are aired on one of the main channels every weekend. But staying up until 3:00am on a work night just so you can watch the end of double digit loss in a relatively meaningless regular season game is a whole different story. Like I said, I’m eight hours ahead of EST so even the afternoon games go late into the night for me. For night games I throw in the towel, instead saying a little prayer before bed and tossing on the relevant team jersey to sleep in for good luck. Waking up for work on Monday morning and waiting while my SportsCenter app loads the score of the Redskins Sunday night game seems a gut wrenching eternity. More often than naught this season, that apprehension leads to a daylong depression as the disappointing score and usually even more disappointing stat line appears. Granted, I was saved from 2+ hours of painful offensive play calling and inept tackling, but getting smacked in the face with that first thing in the morning always ruins your day. However, when the opposite happens I get an elation that negates the need for my morning coffee and keeps me going until lunch time (at which point I don’t care how many TD’s RGIII threw, its noon and daddy needs a sandwich). There’s something satisfying staying up late, watching my team play on my tiny computer screen on a crappy stop and go internet feed that I found on some illegal website. I feel like this is my proverbial 40 years in the desert, and soon I will be rewarded with my return to the promised land where I can watch NFL redzone on a 72” HDTV or feast upon char grilled brats and frosty brews at a tailgate before joining 90,000 other fans to scream my head off. I know this may sound like a downside, but in the same way that completing a challenging workout or acing a difficult test is satisfying so too is managing to keep up with your team even if you’re 7,000 miles away.

Upside #3: Meeting and interacting with fellow sports fans

There’s nothing that strikes a quicker bond than seeing someone wearing the gear of your favorite team and chatting them up. All it takes is a sideways glance at an airport bar to see a Redskins t-shirt, a quick “Go Skins” and the next thing you know you’ve killed a two hour layover having a full on Tony Romo hatefest. Or the time I was in Beirut and I saw a Lebanese guy wearing a South Carolina Gamecocks shirt and selling lotto tickets on the street. Granted, I’m sure he hadn’t a clue about the team (or perhaps even the state), but was happy to greet my drunken excitement with a smile and a high five. In Panama, I got to spend my Sundays watching NFL games on big screens at Hooters, sucking down wings and beer with other Americans and feeling almost like I was home. The multitude of screaming Panamanians also present, incidentally all Dolphins fans, gave it a more Miami than Virginia feel, but close enough for me. Even better was watching the World Series in Panama and discussing base running strategy and pitch selections in a mixture of broken Spanish and English. Getting to connect with people I had initially felt so very different from and realizing that they were as passionate about the perfection that is Andy Pettitte’s pickoff move as I was can all be chalked up to the magic of sports.

However, you also sometimes get caught presuming and feel like a fool, like the time I spotted a guy on my flight sporting a nationals cap and asked him where in the DMV he was from. Turned out he was Czech and had never watched an inning of baseball in his life; he just thought the hat looked cool. Still, I was proud that a Washington sports team’s logo was deemed “cool” enough to be worn for no other reason other than a fashion statement…although I don’t expect to catch some Italian rocking a Wizards jersey any time soon.

So there you have it, the wonderful, weird and often frustrating life of an expat fan. To paraphrase Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park, “Sports finds a way.”

 

 

SBDS Weekend Picks

After a winning week in the previous edition, Hambino has slowly closed the gap in the race for the SBDS Pick Em Championship.  There could be a big swing again in the standings after this week.  Tuck Sauce has decided to pick all favorites this week with the exception of Washington and Arizona State making it tough for Hambino to make up ground.  But word out of his camp is he’s not even nervous he knows he will make up ground.

All that being said there are some great match-ups this weekend.  We get the games started early with our British Premier League games.  So while you’re crowded around the TV trying to figure out what the family should watch while you chomp down on some bacon and waffles lets suggest turning on Everton and Liverpool!  Getting to watch Roberto Martinez captain his Everton side in his first Merseyside derby.  But wait it gets better, right after the Merseyside Derby is a battle of two of the top four teams in Arsenal and Southampton.  The Saints have been the biggest surprise this year in the Premier League and their out to prove they’re no cinderella  but that they are for real!  Two tasty match-ups that should get you going until college football kicks off at 12.

Premier League Games

Tuck Sauce(31-18-1)

Hambino (29-20-1)

Liverpool v Everton

Liverpool 2-1

Draw

Arsenal v Southampton

Arsenal 3-2

Draw

Chelsea v West Ham

Chelsea 4-1

Chelsea 2-0

Swansea v Fulham

Swansea 2-1

Swansea 3-1

Manchester City v Tottenham

Draw

Manchester City 3-1

Manchester United v Cardiff

Manchester United 3-1

Manchester United 2-1

College Football has a couple good top 25 teams going at it that have BCS and Conference Championship implications.  But to get you started early, Johnny Manziel gets to take on the last team to truly shut him down defensively in LSU.  Granted this is a completely different defense than the one Manziel faced last year.  Expect Manziel to have a field day.  Over in the PAC-12 you have teams going at it to represent the South in the PAC-12 Championship game.  If ASU beats UCLA it will be them who will most likely face Oregon.  However if UCLA were to win they would control their own destiny.  They would simply have to beat USC in the finale to book their trip to Eugene.  Our primetime nationally televised game will be #4 Baylor taking on #10 Oklahoma State in Stillwater.  It should be Baylors toughest test to date, going into a truly hostile atmosphere and play a somewhat decent defense for Big-12 standards.  Expect this to be closer than the 10 point spread.

NCAA Football Pick ‘Em

Tuck Sauce

Hambino

Texas A&M v LSU

Texas A&M

Texas A&M

Wisconsin v Minnesota

Wisconsin

Minnesota

Arizona St. v UCLA

Arizona State

UCLA

Missouri v Ole Miss

Missouri

Missouri

Baylor v Oklahoma State

Baylor

Oklahoma State

After an action packed Saturday expect a bit of a let down in the Sunday NFL games.  The biggest game outside of the Patriots Denver game would have to be the Dallas Cowboys taking on the New York Football Giants.  Who would have thought four weeks ago we would be talking about the Giants as a potential NFC East contender?  Well after four straight wins they find themselves two games out of an otherwise very mediocre division.  A win here would do wonders for them, not to mention beat their hated rivals the Cowboys.  If the Cowboys don’t win this game don’t be surprised if Jason Garrett is out of a job even if Jerry Jones said he’s safe for now.  And then there was the 14th meeting between Peyton and Tom Brady.  Two teams coming off big games, one victorious and one felt they had one stolen from them.  Brady is 9-4 versus Manning in his career, I think we can all say Manning has the better side going into this game and should add a loss to Bradys record.  But its in New England and with temperatures dipping in the low 20’s I expect this to be anyones ball game.  Sit back and enjoy what could arguably be the greatest quarterback rivalry in the past three decades go at it in Foxborough Sunday night.

 

NFL Pick ‘Em

Tuck Sauce

Hambino

Dallas v New York (Giants)

Dallas

Dallas

San Francisco v Washington

Washington

San Francisco

Detroit v Tampa Bay

Detroit

Detroit

Denver v New England

Denver

New England

 

SBDS Weekly Podcast

0:00-38:30 The latest in the Jameis Winston saga.

38:30-50:00 Terrible Officiating in NFL

50:00-71:15 World Cup Draw

USC’s Next Priam

There was so much promise for the Trojans two years ago.  Despite NCAA sanctions left over from the Carroll regime, Matt Barkleythe Matt Barkley led Trojans went 10-2 under Lane Kiffin’s supervision completing the best campaign since 2008.  However, The Trojan postseason ban left USC without a significant trophy at the end of the year.  USC’s scholarship ban was even more damaging than the post season ban, especially as other powers were rising in the PAC-12.  For years the Trojans were the face of football out west.  USC won the PAC-10 15 of the 32 years the conference existed.  The prize for all these conference championships was a trip to The Rose Bowl, which is played on USC’s home turf.  The face of Pacific football has been completely altered since then.  The void created by the NCAA punishment allowed two powers to fill it, the traditional Stanford and the new flashy Oregon Ducks.  USC has since fired Lane Kiffin after a disappointing 2012 campaign and a dismal start to the 2013 season.  So who’s going to take over USC when this season ends?

The Front Runner

OrgeronEd Orgeron is currently serving as USC’s interim head coach.  The Trojans are 5-1 under his tutelage and are still statistically alive in the PAC-12 south.  The defensive genius has a history at USC having previously served under two regimes before his stint with Lane Kiffin.  Coach O’s current success most certainly puts him as a favorite to remove interim from his title and become the full-time Head Coach.  However, there are problems with the Trojan’s fearless leader.  His last head coaching job didn’t go over very well.  In fact Ole Miss only had 2 wins against teams with a winning record during Orgeron’s reign.  Coach O may be a great coach but his track record as the grand puba hasn’t gone over so well.

Professional Connection

Jack Del Rio played both football and baseball for the Trojans in his heyday.  However since Del Rio left to pursue hisJack Del Rio NFL playing dreams, he has not stepped on a college campus for anything other than entertainment.  His coaching career has involved working for great minds such as Mike Ditka, Brian Billick and John Fox as an assistant.  After his first stint with John Fox at Carolina, Del Rio was granted the Head Coaching job for the Jacksonville Jaguars.  During his time in Jacksonville, Del Rio had a win-loss record slightly below .500 and never advanced past a divisional playoff game.  After a 3-8 start to the 2011 season, Del Rio was sacked.  The following season he rejoined John Fox, now with the Denver Broncos, as an assistant.  With Fox’s recent health problems, Del Rio has done well with his interim head coaching opportunity, helping the Broncos to a 2-0 record.  It is no wonder that Del Rio has recently been interviewed by USC for the vacancy next year.

The Prodigal Son

Washington-steve-sarkisianSteve Sarkisian has a long history with USC.  Right out of High School Sarkisian walked onto the Trojans baseball team.  However, his foray into Division 1 didn’t go as planned.  Sarkisian left USC and eventually became the BYU Cougar’s starting QB.  After Steve’s professional dreams piddled out in Canada, he settled into a coaching career.  Sarkisian joined USC in 2001 as an offensive assistant and quickly rose through the ranks.  His talents for QB coaching was noticed at a professional level and in 2004, Sarkisian left USC to join the Oakland Raiders coaching staff.  For some reason the professional spotlight hasn’t agreed with Sarkisian.  Steve returned to USC the next year as Assistant Head Coach.  In 2008, Sarkisian went north to take over a struggling Washington program.  Sarkisian has since built the Huskies into a consistent mediocre program, a far cry from the bottom dwelling teams of the past.  Even though Sarkisian was unable to be pulled away from his commitment at Washington the last time the USC job was vacant, his name should be on top of the search list.

The Dark Horse

There is a name that exists in the darkness of the Rocky Mountains that epitomizes program building.  For years he chris petersenhas challenged the major conferences both on the football field and in the recruiting realm.  Many of these battles he has come out on top.  It is scary to think what this man would do with the money and facilities he would have at USC.  The man of course is Boise State’s Chris Petersen.  While there is no significant connection to USC, the Boise State Head Honcho understands recruiting in the area and has a knack for winning.  In 8 years Peterson has 5 conference championships and is 2 for 2 in BCS games.  Don’t be surprised if his name comes up in the offseason.

 

There is always a chance that there is a name that none of us have heard of that could come and grab the job.  However, this is USC, one of the most proud programs in the country.  The Trojans are going to want a big name to compete against the Oregons and Stanfords of the world.  If Coach O wins out the job is probably his, but with all great jobs USC will definitely evaluate all of their options.  Hopefully they make the right pick and get back into the PAC-12 mix.  The conference is more exciting when USC is involved.

But who’s the right choice?

Chris Petersen’s record, both on and off the football field, should make the Boise State Head Coach the prize possession for the Trojans.  It may be hard for the Trojans to lure him away from a program he’s built.  To convince Petersen to leave his child, the Boise State man would have to feel comfortable that the Bronco’s were in the right hands.  USC may have an easier time convincing Sarkisian to come back home.  However, Washington’s disappointing season may turn many Trojan Boosters away from Pete Caroll’s former assistant.  If Coach O wins out he will be a hard man to dethrone.  Word on the street though is that if Jack Del Rio’s job if he wants but I don’t think he is the right choice.  USC needs a winner and would do well to convince Petersen or Sarkisian to come to Pasadena.

Fighting for Hockey

This is a huge pet peeve of mine.  Every week I sit on my couch and turn on various sports shows to hear commentators complain about fighting in hockey.  They attack it as a barbaric act that has no place in a major American sport.  This sentiment is then spread down to the lower, developmental levels of the sport that attack fighting like a plague.  For instance the league I grew up playing had a minimum 6 game suspension for a full out fight for everyone involved.  However, fighting is important for hockey and not just because it adds to the entertainment value.

ReavesFightsEngellandContrary to popular belief fighting in hockey is not all that common.  Yes there is an excessive amount of extracurricular activity after many whistles but this doesn’t constitute a fight.  The pushing and shoving when the play is dead would be regarded in most sports as unnecessary but even this has its place.  Clearing people away from goal or a little shove on a defender shows your team mates that you’re standing up for them.  It also protects exposed players, like a goalie covering a puck or a forward that’s been knocked to the ground.

On average this year there has been about one fight in every two games.  In fact the number has stayed below a fight a game in the last twenty years and never got over 1.3 fights a game.  This is because the situations that necessitate a fight are far and few between.  For one, both players have to be willing to drop the gloves and square off which takes a little prompting.  Really the only time a fight breaks out is when something blatantly brutal happens to defenseless player.  Bertuzzi provided us with a perfect example a few years ago.

This was a particularly upsetting situation since it basically ended Moore’s career.  However this is just an example of a hit that warrants a fight.  In this way hockey becomes a self-enforcing sport.

EmeryHoltbyFightNo one in hockey is forced into a fight.  When a non-willing player is pushed into one, i.e. Emery on Holtby, most of the hockey world is appalled.  Most of the time the biggest or toughest player on the line is the fighter and he is usually quick to stand up for the skill players.  When a star player is being drawn into a fight with a bigger player the enforcer usually steps in.  So what is the result?  The game usually gets a boost of adrenaline and play steps up.  In American sports we love a game changer and the time after a fight tends to be the most exciting part of the game.  The result can also be a momentum changer for a team that’s been dominated physically thus far.

So how does hockey fights differ from a fight in any other sport?  Fighting is not usually a personally motivated tool in the NHL.  Defending a teammate or protecting your team in general tends to be the motive as opposed to a personalron-artest-brawl1 vendetta.  There is also a contained feeling to fights in the NHL.  Both players understand the rules and when the fight is over, usually when someone falls to the ice.  However this level of civility and respect doesn’t exist in the other major sports.  Most fights are prompted by some personal event that occurs in the moment.  These fights are usually insanely intense and require other members of the team to break them up.  The NBA has even had a brief history of these fights flowing into the stands (see below).   The NHL though is able to separate the fan from this experience and control it.  The referees become diligent MMA officials and control the circumstances of the fight.  So please commentators, BACK OFF.  We like our sport how it is.

Thanks to dropyourgloves.com for the stats!