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Making Sense of Tebowmania

December 19, 2011 Leave a comment

By: Aaron Watson

Here is what Tim Tebow isn’t: a polished passer capable of making quick decisions or reading a defense like Brady or Brees.

Here is what Tim Tebow is: an incredible leader, runner and motivator who doesn’t make costly mistakes and is growing as a passer each week.

He didn’t ask for the hype. He doesn’t write the hundreds of stories each week about his heroics. He’s just trying to win football games for a team that, if we’re being honest, is mediocre at best. Yet for some reason the publicity he has generated just “trying his hardest to win” has made him a target for voracious criticism and overzealous praise that no other young player in the league seems to see.

But I guess it is fitting to have the Mile High Messiah being crucified for being different.

Nevermind that he is outplaying the oft injured Sam Bradford, last year’s #1 overall pick. Or former high picks Josh Freeman, Joe Flacco, Blaine Gabbert, Colt McCoy, Jimmy Clausen and Christian Ponder. While those players continue to struggle week after week, it is Tebow who gets blasted by the pundits who seem to forget he is young, winning, and surrounded by a cast of players no one else wanted. And did I mention this is the same team that won 2 games last year?

I guess having too many fans is a cardinal sin in the NFL.

Does he get too much credit for his last minute heroics that have caused his team to move from 1-4 to first place in the AFC West? Sure. Has the defense made some great plays? Absolutely. But to say his 7-2 record is simply due to the defense and kicker is to forget how awful this team was in the first 5 games with Kyle Orton. And when Brady and Stafford carve up that defense with ease it should serve a reminder that this is simply an average team.

I honestly believe that if Tebow wasn’t so popular, he wouldn’t be as vilified. But as his ardent fans base continues to grow, his detractors feel the need to knock him down as many notches as they possibly can, regardless of how fair and honest their criticism. They see Tebowmaniacs going overboard in their support and thus feel the need to go overboard in their condemnation. There is no middle ground.

No one seems to accept the obvious. The team is average. The quarterback is young and has a steep learning curve. And the team is overachieving.

If the criticism was fair then Tebow’s detractors should be vilifying Sam Bradford for stumbling through an atrocious season. And if the support was fair then people would be lining up to receive Andy Dalton’s autograph and talking about how God must be a Bengals fan (that would be ironic).

But they are not. Because this isn’t about football anymore. It’s about him. It’s about a young man’s aura attracting a fan based that is simply unwarranted based on his production. And that just pisses off armchair quarterbacks who know he can’t be successful… ever. They’ve played enough Madden and fantasy football to know what a good quarterback looks like.

So to you pissed off armchair quarterbacks, I have a brief message:

Let the fans in Denver have their moment. If he can’t play, as you seem convinced, then the madness will end after 2 or 3 seasons like it does with all other young QB’s and you will have your moment of glory. And if you can’t do that, then at least be fair in your criticism instead of being just as irrational as the fans who think he deserves all the credit.  You don’t need to buy in, and you can be critical. Just give him the same deference you seem inclined to give every young quarterback not named Tebow.

And then when his legend fades off into the sunset one inaccurate pass after another, you can smile and look the rest of us in the eye and say, “I told you so.”

Or maybe, just maybe, he proves you wrong.

Aaron Watson saw his NFL career cut short when his pee wee coaches informed him he wasn’t very good. So he turned his attention to writing, studying journalism in college while blogging for several sporting blogs since 2005. He and his wife currently live in Richmond, VA, one of the worst sports towns in America despite the short lived hype during the Final Four. When he is not at the local sports bar pursuading the owners to put the Buccaneer or Gator game on the big screen, Aaron serves as the Director of Staff Development for TeenPact Leadership Schools, a non-profit training teens to impact their nation through government, business and ultimate frisbee. He has also stayed in Tim Tebow’s house.

Back On Top…

September 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Sports Smithy Staff 2011-12 NFL Season Picks

 

Aaron Booth:

MVP – Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers

ROY – Mark Ingram, RB Saints

 

Team predictions

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots
  2. New York Jets
  3. Miami Dolphins
  4. Buffalo Bills

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans
  2. Indianapolis Colts y
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Tennessee Titans

AFC North

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. Baltimore Ravens  y
  3. Cleveland Browns
  4. Cincinnati Bengals

AFC West

  1. San Diego Chargers
  2. Kansas City Chiefs
  3. Denver Broncos
  4. Oakland Raiders

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. Dallas Cowboys y
  3. New York Giants
  4. Washington Redskins

NFC South

  1. Atlanta Falcons
  2. New Orleans Saints
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  4. Carolina Panthers

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers
  2. Chicago Bears
  3. Detroit Lions
  4. Minnesota Vikings

NFC West

  1. Arizona Cardinals
  2. St. Louis Rams
  3. San Francisco 49ers
  4. Seattle Seahawks

(y – wildcard playoff spot)

Playoff prediction

Byes – Packers, Eagles, Patriots, Steelers

Round 1 – Cowboys over Falcons, Saints over Cardinals, Colts over Chargers, Texans over Ravens

Round 2 – Cowboys over Eagles, Packers over Saints, Patriots over Colts, Steelers over Texans

Round 3 – Packers over Cowboys, Patriots over Steelers

Superbowl Prediction

Final:     Patriots over Packers

 

 

Aaron Watson:

MVP – Tom Brady, QB Patriots

Last years unanimous winner dominated teams with weapons like Deon Branch, Danny Woodhead and two rookie tight ends. This year the team adds Ochocinco, the rookies are a year older and more experienced and Danny Woodhead is back and raring to go. Oh, they also win a ton of games every year and look much improved on defense.

Runner up – Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers

OPOY – Darren McFadden, RB Raiders

The often injured burner finally showed what he is capable of last year, averaging 5.2 ypc and leading the league in rushes of forty yards or more. If he stays healthy (obviously a huge if), he could be primed for a monster season. He is explosive both between the tackles, on the perimeter and in the passing game.

Runner up – Arian Foster, RB Texans

DPOY – DeMarcus Ware, OLB Cowboys

The league is obsessed with sack totals, and Ware is one of the premier players at getting to the quarterback. Rob Ryan will move him all over the field to get him good matchups, so expect his numbers to be fantastic for a team that should be better on defense.

Runner up – Ndamukong Suh, DT Lions

OROY – Mark Ingram, RB Saints

High profile player on a high profile team, he will split carries but will look good doing so. He also will rack up great TD totals as he acts as the goal line back. His ability as a receiver and blocker will help him see the field than a lot of other rookies might.

Runner up – Cam Newton, QB Panthers

DROY – Von Miller, OLB Broncos

I know being the highest defensive player drafted almost assures he will not win this award (although Suh did it last year), I still think he has the talent to be a difference maker in his first season. Early reports have him dominating in practice and he appears to have a great feel for rushing the passer as well as dropping into coverage, especially for such a young player.

Runner up – Jimmy Smith, CB Ravens

Team predictions

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots – 13-3
  2. New York Jets – 10-6 y
  3. Buffalo Bills – 6-10
  4. Miami Dolphins – 3-13

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans – 10-6
  2. Indianapolis Colts – 9-7
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars – 6-10
  4. Tennessee Titans – 5-11

AFC North

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers – 12-4
  2. Baltimore Ravens – 11-5 y
  3. Cleveland Browns – 7-9
  4. Cincinnati Bengals – 2-14

AFC West

  1. San Diego Chargers – 12-4
  2. Oakland Raiders – 9-7
  3. Kansas City Chiefs – 8-8
  4. Denver Broncos – 4-12

NFC East

  1. Dallas Cowboys – 10-6
  2. Philadelphia Eagles – 10-6 y
  3. New York Giants – 8-8
  4. Washington Redskins – 5-11

NFC South

  1. New Orleans Saints – 11-5
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 10-6 y
  3. Atlanta Falcons – 10-6
  4. Carolina Panthers – 4-12

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers – 12-4
  2. Detroit Lions – 9-7
  3. Chicago Bears –  7-9
  4. Minnesota Vikings – 6-10

NFC West

  1. St. Louis Rams – 9-7
  2. Arizona Cardinals – 7-9
  3. San Francisco 49ers – 6-10
  4. Seattle Seahawks – 5-11

(y – wildcard playoff spot)

Playoff prediction

Byes – Chargers, Patriots, Saints, Packers

Round 1 – Bucs over Cowboys, Eagles over Rams, Jets over Texans, Ravens over Steelers

Round 2 – Packers over Bucs, Eagles over Saints, Patriots over Ravens, Chargers over Jets

Round 3 – Patriots over Chargers, Packers over Eagles

Superbowl Prediction

After defeating the Chargers in the Championship round, the Patriots will play the defending Champion Green Bay Packers in the Superbowl.

Final:     Green Bay – 24                  New England – 31

 

 

Britton Norris:

MVP – Tony Romo, QB Dallas

He’s in the prime of his prime.  He was an MVP candidate in 2009, but Peyton Manning was carrying the Colts on his shoulders.  Romo has matured.  Last year was a disaster and his season was cut far too short when Giants linebacker Michael Boley came charging through the line unblocked.  This year, Romo has the benefit of a head coach that has been his offensive coordinator the past four seasons.  While the concern will be the Dallas O-line and their inexperience, Tony Romo will have a field day throwing downfield to targets like Witten, Bryant, Austin and Murray.

Runner up – Drew Brees, QB New Orleans

OPOY – Andre Johnson, WR Houston

Johnson has a classy persona, but he’ll never back down from a fight – check out his beat-down of Cortland Finnegan a year ago if you want to see NFL attitude at its best. Johnson puts on a clinic every year.  He’s a big powerful receiver that wants to win.  In fact, he’s on record this year declaring that he’s tired of watching the NFL playoffs from his sofa and is determined to get the Texans into the postseason for the first time in franchise history.  A fantasy superstar every year, expect Andre Johnson to make a bid for OPOY.

Runner up – Ray Rice, RB Baltimore

DPOY – Ndamukong Suh, DT Detroit

This guy is a stud.  If I’m lining up as an offensive center or guard I’m shaking in my boots.  “There are two types of intimidation,” Suh said. “There is dirty intimidation, which people have accused me of. And there is the intimidation of always being in somebody’s face, doing the right thing, causing them problems, not allowing them to run their offense. I think that’s what I have consistently done. That’s what my job is. That’s what I want to do. We do that as a front four. Quarterbacks are aware at every single point, that all four or eight of us can come in and cause you a problem.”  Enough said Mr. Suh.

Runner up – Brian Orakpo, OLB Washington

OROY – Mark Ingram, RB Saints

The Saints already have an offensive machine and rookie running backs are notorious for picking up an NFL offense fast due to the position’s reliance on instincts.  This is one of those picks that seem to be pretty popular.  In Head Coach Sean Peyton’s mind, Ingram will be everything Reggie Bush wasn’t.  He has hefty expectations, but I can see him excelling in this offense.

Runner up – Julio Jones, WR Atlanta

DROY – J. J. Watt, DE Houston

This is a shot in the dark.  I do think that Houston will have a much improved defense with new coordinator Wade Phillips.  This defense has several high profile draft picks and just hasn’t gotten it done year after year.  The buzz about Watt is strong and he’s won the starting job… who knows.

Runner up – Patrick Peterson, CB Arizona

Team predictions

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots – 11-5
  2. New York Jets – 9-7
  3. Miami Dolphins – 6-10
  4. Buffalo Bills – 3-13

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans – 11-5
  2. Indianapolis Colts – 6-10
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars – 6-10
  4. Tennessee Titans – 4-12

AFC North

  1. Baltimore Ravens – 13-3
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers – 10-6 y
  3. Cleveland Browns – 5-11
  4. Cincinnati Bengals – 1-15

AFC West

  1. San Diego Chargers – 12-4
  2. Kansas City Chiefs – 9-7 y
  3. Denver Broncos – 7-9
  4. Oakland Raiders – 4-12

NFC East

  1. Dallas Cowboys – 11-5
  2. Philadelphia Eagles – 9-7
  3. New York Giants – 7-9
  4. Washington Redskins – 4-12

NFC South

  1. Atlanta Falcons – 12-4
  2. New Orleans Saints – 11-5 y
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 8-8
  4. Carolina Panthers – 4-12

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers – 12-4
  2. Detroit Lions – 10-6 y
  3. Chicago Bears –  5-11
  4. Minnesota Vikings – 5-11

NFC West

  1. Arizona Cardinals – 9-7
  2. St. Louis Rams – 8-8
  3. San Francisco 49ers – 4-12
  4. Seattle Seahawks – 3-13

(y – wildcard playoff spot)

Playoff prediction

Byes – Baltimore, San Diego, Green Bay, Atlanta

Round 1 – Dallas over Detroit, New Orleans over Arizona, Houston over Kansas City, Steelers over Patriots

Round 2 – Atlanta over New Orleans, Green Bay over Dallas, Baltimore over Pittsburgh, Houston over San Diego

Round 3 – Atlanta over Green Bay, Houston over Baltimore

Superbowl Prediction

Final:    Atlanta – 30          Houston – 28

 

 

By: Nate Douglas

MVP – Tom Brady, QB Patriots

I must concur with my colleague, Mr. Watson.  Brady made a gourmet meal of steak, potatoes, asparagus and a good cabernet out of a McDonald’s happy meal last year, and it’ll only get better this year.

Runner up – Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers

OPOY – Jamaal Charles, RB Chiefs

Last year’s leader in yards per carry will finally get the touches he deserves, and will run away with this award.

Runner up – Roddy White, WR Falcons

DPOY – Ndamukong Suh, DT Lions

Adding Nick Fairley to the mix will give opposing o-lines fits, and Suh will get even more opportunities this year to eat QB’s.

Runner up – Eric Berry, CB Chiefs

OROY – Julio Jones, WR Falcons

Julio will be targeted frequently, has good hands and great speed.  He will make an immediate impact at the WR position as Roddy White draws the tougher assignments.

Runner up – Mark Ingram, RB Saints

DROY – Patrick Peterson, CB Arizona

If you’re considered a part of the Heisman conversation as a cornerback, you’re good.   Peterson will rack up interceptions, many returned for TDs for the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Runner up – Von Miller, LB Broncos

Team predictions

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots – 12-4
  2. New York Jets – 10-6 y
  3. Buffalo Bills – 4-12
  4. Miami Dolphins – 3-13

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans – 11-5
  2. Indianapolis Colts – 10-6 y
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars – 6-10
  4. Tennessee Titans – 5-11

AFC North

  1. Baltimore Ravens – 12-4
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers– 9-7
  3. Cleveland Browns – 7-9
  4. Cincinnati Bengals – 3-13

AFC West

  1. San Diego Chargers – 10-6
  2. Oakland Raiders – 9-7
  3. Kansas City Chiefs – 9-7
  4. Denver Broncos – 5-11

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles – 11-5
  2. New York Giants – 9-7
  3. Dallas Cowboys – 8-8
  4. Washington Redskins – 4-12

NFC South

  1. Atlanta Falcons – 11-5
  2. New Orlenas Saints  – 10-6 y
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 8-8
  4. Carolina Panthers – 4-12

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers – 13-3
  2. Detroit Lions – 9-7 y
  3. Chicago Bears –  6-10
  4. Minnesota Vikings – 4-12

NFC West

  1. St. Louis Rams – 9-7
  2. Arizona Cardinals –8-8
  3. San Francisco 49ers – 5-11
  4. Seattle Seahawks – 3-13

(y – wildcard playoff spot)

Playoff prediction

Byes – Patriots, Ravens, Falcons, Packers

Round 1 – Texans over Jets, Colts over Chargers, Eagles over Rams, Lions over Saints

Round 2 – Patriots over Texans, Ravens over Colts, Falcons over Eagles, Packers over Lions

Round 3 – Patriots over Ravens, Packers over Falcons

Superbowl Prediction

Final:     Green Bay – 35                  New England -21

Everybody play nice!

August 24, 2011 Leave a comment

How rule changes are hurting the game of football

By: Aaron Watson

The NFL is at it again this season. To protect the health of players the NFL has fundamentally changed the way the game is played on the field. Rules adopted to protect defenseless players, to define acceptable contact, and to limit collisions on kickoff returns have all been enacted to preserve the health of players. And mainly to protect offensive skill players. You know, the ones who are the face of the league. The cash cows, as it were.

The question is no longer whether or not the NFL is trying to make the game softer. They are, even if they don’t phrase it  that way in a nationwide press release. We already have quarterbacks  treated differently than any other players on the field. You can’t tackle  them low. You can’t tackle them high. And if you’re Ndamukong Suh,  you can’t push them down from behind either.

Receivers were added to the fold last year as protected players, with  defenders no longer able to touch them above the shoulders until they  can defend themselves (and even then you better not get close to their  helmet when making the tackle, even as they lower their heads to brace  for impact or dive head first towards the endzone!).

Returners and members of the kickoff and return team are the newest  group added to the “protected” group, although they are being  protected against their will. Due to gruesome injuries sustained over the  last few years both in college and the NFL, league officials have moved  the kicking team up 5 yards and made touchback percentages shoot  higher than Tom Brady’s completion percentage.

No, the question isn’t whether or not the NFL is going soft, the question is whether or not it is worth it. And in my mind, the answer should be a resounding no.

The fact is you can’t legislate injuries out of a collision sport without changing the sport. And little by little, that is what the NFL is doing.

Let’s be clear, I think spearing and launching your body head first at a receiver is a bad idea, and should be eliminated from the game. Deliberate helmet to helmet contact like that has no place in football. But having a defender penalized and fined for hitting a receiver with his shoulder pad is just ridiculous, no matter where he hits them.

Take this hit by James Harrison. In the replay the receiver is hit in the helmet with the shoulder of the defender, dislodging the ball and creating a positive play for the defense. The receiver also can be seen lowering his head to brace for the hit, which in essence leads to the contact to the head to begin with. As ferocious as this hit is, it shouldn’t be illegal.

In this instance, another problem can be found with the new set of rules. On the play, RB Willis McGahee appears to lower and turn his head after safety Ryan Clark has already turned his body low for the hit. Their helmets collide, but it is the action of McGahee that causes that contact, not the hitting position of Clark. Luckily the NFL got this one right and didn’t fine Clark, but that is a rarity.

Or this hit once again by NFL bad boy James Harrison. Josh Cribbs is clearly a runner and hasn’t been tackled when the Steelers linebacker plows through him with his helmet. Now before I continue, please understand that the head is connected to the shoulders via the neck, and there is no human way to eliminate the head from potentially making contact with a player. Proper tackling form is to put your head on the ball or on one side of the ball carriers body while driving through him with your shoulder pad. This works great when the running back doesn’t move! Unfortunately for Harrison, Cribbs is spun around and has his head lowered as the tackle is being made.

A similar play occurs in this video. The difference being that the back is 260 pounds and the defender just bounces off him. But apparently we need not protect defenders, only skill position players who get lit up or quarterbacks who make all the money.

In essence, the NFL seems content to change the nature of the game to protect their investment by keeping players healthy, even at the expense of the competitive nature of the game. Kickoffs have essentially been rendered useless and will soon be seen as comparable in boringness to the riveting extra point attempt. It turns out watching a player take a knee isn’t compelling entertainment.

More specifically, the rule changes seem to indicate that the NFL is simply asking players to play nice; to respect one another enough to not hit as hard or be as violent. And while that might reduce injuries as players are fined and suspended until they change their nature, it destroys the purity of the game by reducing the competitive fire and fearsome antics that makes certain players great.

Defenders like Ronnie Lott, Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, Dick Butkis and Mike Singletary used fear and intimidation to impact the psyche of players even considering getting in front of them. It helped make them great and it helped make the game great.

And now to baby quarterbacks and receivers like the NFL does is slowly destroying how the game is respected. It’s not destroying interest, mind you, and that is why fans can and should expect a watered down product that caters to health more than competition.

And before you start telling me I sound obsessed with violence, please remember I didn’t invent the sport where the goal is to separate player from ball. But if you are going to create a sport where players are rewarded for knocking the ball out of the hands of the other player, then you should understand when fans get upset when their team is penalized for hitting hard. This isn’t ultimate Frisbee.

Aaron Watson saw his NFL career cut short when his pee wee coaches informed him he wasn’t very good. So he turned his attention to writing, studying journalism in college while blogging for several sporting blogs since 2005. He and his wife currently live in Richmond, VA, one of the worst sports towns in America despite the short lived hype during the Final Four. When he is not at the local sports bar pursuading the owners to put the Buccaneer or Gator game on the big screen, Aaron serves as the Director of Staff Development for TeenPact Leadership Schools, a non-profit training teens to impact their nation through government, business and ultimate frisbee. He has also stayed in Tim Tebow’s house.

The Superstar Backup: Should Kyle Orton start over Tim Tebow?

August 13, 2011 1 comment

By: Aaron Watson

 

The Denver Broncos have a bit of a problem on their hands. Tim Tebow isn’t practicing well. Or playing well in team scrimmages. And not just compared to starter Kyle Orton, who according to team sources has been light years ahead of the former Heisman trophy winner in training camp. No, Tebow seems to be in a legitimate battle with former first round pick Brady Quinn for the #2 spot on the roster.

But don’t tell that to the fans, who are clamoring to see the legend of Tebow grow as the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos. And therein lies the problem.

 

Team owners and new coach John Fox just don’t seem convinced that Tebow can be an effective quarterback in this league. But the fans aren’t interested in another losing season with Kyle Orton at the helm throwing for tons of yardage in the fourth quarter when the game is already out of reach. They want a franchise player who can bring back the glory days of John Elway.

 

And they think Tebow is that player.

 

And if the Broncos don’t let him prove that, they are making a huge mistake.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not convinced Superman is an elite QB prospect. Coming out of college I questioned his anticipation, accuracy and timing, and I’ve seen nothing in the last year that leads me to believe he has corrected those weaknesses. However, by leaving an icon on the bench in favor of a journeyman who just hasn’t won games, the team is hijacking their long-term future by not letting the Tebow experiment play out. Allow me to explain.

 

Either Tebow can play or he can’t. But you don’t find that out by having him ride the pine. And I guarantee you the fans, who have bought hook line and sinker into Tebowmania, won’t be satisfied with having their Savior on the bench. Even if Orton wins 8 games, the guys in the stands will say Timmy would have won 12. And news flash to those in the front office: those are the folks who pay the bills. Those are the folks who made a rookie’s jersey the most popular item the NFL store carried. Who made a preseason debut one of the most watched games in NFL preseason history. And who seem willing to fill the stands to watch him play regardless of the scoreboard.

 

Make no mistake about it; if the guy can’t play, then cut him or trade him. A franchise should never play a guy who keeps losing just because the fans like him. But this franchise is being hijacked by the hype, and that needs to stop. Putting Tebow on the field and letting him sink or swim is the only way to satisfy a fan base starving for excitement.

 

Let’s face it, Kyle Orton may be a more polished player, but does anyone really think he is a franchise QB? The Bears didn’t, so they let him leave after four years. And after two futile years in Denver, it is apparent that he is simply an average player. So why hitch your future to that wagon? The last team to win a Superbowl with an average QB was Tampa Bay in 2003, who had one of the greatest defenses of the decade, and who fell apart the following seven years. This is a passing league that demands great QB play for a team to be successful.

 

And who knows… maybe Tebow will reinvent the way the game is played. Or maybe he will put the Broncos in the driver’s seat for superprospect Andrew Luck.

 

Neither of those options sound bad to me.

Aaron Watson saw his NFL career cut short when his pee wee coaches informed him he wasn’t very good. So he turned his attention to writing, studying journalism in college while blogging for several sporting blogs since 2005. He and his wife currently live in Richmond, VA, one of the worst sports towns in America despite the short lived hype during the Final Four. When he is not at the local sports bar pursuading the owners to put the Buccaneer or Gator game on the big screen, Aaron serves as the Director of Staff Development for TeenPact Leadership Schools, a non-profit training teens to impact their nation through government, business and ultimate frisbee. He has also stayed in Tim Tebow’s house.


Choking with the Stars

July 27, 2011 1 comment

By: Aaron Watson

Bryant Gumbel was right. The USA women’s soccer team choked. And not just in the horrendous shootout that featured mistake after mistake by both United States shooters and keeper Hope Solo. The entire game was a series of unfortunate events, from poor defending on counter attacks and defensive miscommunication to shot after shot that missed the target.

But these women were media darlings. And criticizing them for losing in a World Cup Final just seemed unfair. This is soccer, after all, a sport where in the United States the men’s team gets hero status for barely beating Algeria in the World Cup and championed for defeating Panema 1-0 in the gold cup semi final. Only, of course, to be brought back to reality thanks to powerhouses like Ghana and Mexico.

Except that in women’s soccer, the United States was the top ranked team in the world. A team on the verge of winning more World Cups than any other country on the planet. A team with the world’s best goalkeeper and one of the most feared strikers not named Marta. And yet they lost.

To recount, here is what Gumbel said on HBO’s Real Sports, “Can we stop coddling women in sports? Are we now so fearful of being labeled sexist that we can’t objectively assess the efforts of female athletes? Had a men’s team turned in a similar performance, papers and pundits nationwide would have had a field day assailing the players, criticizing the coach, and demanding widespread changes to a men’s national team that flat out choked. Yet the common reaction to this ladies’ loss were simply expressions of empathy for the defeat of the unfortunate darlings and pride in their oh-so-heroic effort.”

Yet to me, the worst part isn’t that the women aren’t taking flak for their multiple mistakes during the World Cup Final loss to Japan. It’s that they are being celebrated for their great effort and almost applauded for trying so hard in their loss to a clearly inferior opponent that had never come close to defeating them and had previously lost in two pre-Word Cup exhibitions.

Poor LeBron James gets just lambasted by every major media outlet after slumping in the NBA finals, but no such criticism for the great Hope Solo or Abby Wambach, who couldn’t stop the Japanese from fighting their way back time after time in the biggest game of their lives. They were bigger, faster, stronger and simply better than their opponent, and yet they lost the game. That’s called choking, folks, and we shouldn’t coddle them for turning in a “great all-around performance”. The object is to score and stop the other team from scoring, and they lost that battle no matter how “pretty” and “skilled” they looked in losing.

And I don’t say any of this to discredit what the Japanese did, which was heroic and emotionally charged. But when goliath is slain, doesn’t the giant have to take some criticism? The Giants win over the undefeated Patriots in Superbowl XLII earned Brady and Belichick plenty of negative press. You think the Russians went home and walked the red carpet after losing to Team USA during the 1980 Winter Olympics? And we all remember what happened to Michigan in 2007 when Appalachian State came in and shocked their division one athletes.

But when you’re the best in the world and favored to win the game by every media outlet in the world, shouldn’t the word “choke” come into play? According to Hope Solo, “…we played our best game. We were attacking, we had opportunities on the goal, we played beautiful soccer, like the game is meant to be played, in the final. So did we choke? We played a beautiful game. We played our best game. But we didn’t come out on top. I don’t think we choked at all.”

Yes, Hope, you did. That’s what it’s called when you lose a game you are supposed to win and that you should have won. You see, it’s not just that they lost to a team that played them tough. They lost to a team they outshot, outjumped and outplayed for over 120 minutes. And credit to Gumbel for coming out and saying it, instead of setting up another red carpet event for beautiful women who just couldn’t get it down in the end.

Anna Kournikova, anyone?

Aaron Watson saw his NFL career cut short when his pee wee coaches informed him he wasn’t very good. So he turned his attention to writing, studying journalism in college while blogging for several sporting blogs since 2005. He and his wife currently live in Richmond, VA, one of the worst sports towns in America despite the short lived hype during the Final Four. When he is not at the local sports bar pursuading the owners to put the Buccaneer or Gator game on the big screen, Aaron serves as the Director of Staff Development for TeenPact Leadership Schools, a non-profit training teens to impact their nation through government, business and ultimate frisbee. He has also stayed in Tim Tebow’s house.

For the Love of the Pay

By: Aaron Watson

 

If Terrelle Pryor gets his way, he would have me feeling sorry for him. Sorry that he was forced to take money and benefits that destroyed his college eligibility. Sorry that Ohio State University made millions off of his image while giving him nothing in return. Sorry that he is being punished for something that was beyond his control.

But you know what, I’m just not buying what he, Reggie Bush, and countless other diva athletes are trying to sell. I’m sick of former players and commentators giving me sob stories about how college athletes can’t take their girl out to Chili’s on a Friday night, and that’s why they broke NCAA rules and took thousands of dollars from boosters and cheats.

First, there is simply no excuse for blatantly breaking the rules and lying about it. Are there arguments that exist that raise the question as to whether or not athletes should be compensated for their services to universities? Certainly. But the fact is that student athletes already receive more than their fair share of compensation for their services.

Athletes receive benefits that other “peasant” students can only dream of having! Preferred housing, free tutoring, special treatment from teachers, and above all, a signed diploma without having a cent of debt to their name. That is, if they don’t already have millions in their pocket from a professional contract given to them before they graduate due to their performance at the school’s facilities and under the school’s coaching.

But what about the gobs of cash schools make off of these amateur athletes? Well there are several arguments against that line of thought.

First, athletes receive thousands of dollars in benefits attending institutions that they are rarely even qualified for academically. From facilities to academics to coaching to the national platform athletes receive to showcase their abilities, the benefits given may not be in cash, but they certainly provide more opportunities to athletes than their academic capacity often warrants. And the money universities make from their respective athletic programs allows them to maintain the national spotlight that allows athletes to be recognized by professional scouts.

Second, institutions are allowed to make a profit off of the students who attend. In fact, the goal of universities is to churn out successful alumni who will in turn give back to the school and whose name can be used to assist in recruiting. Since when is it a crime for a school to seek a return on its investment? Giving athletes a platform for fame and fortune is an opportunity they can’t find anywhere else! Sure they can try playing football in Canada, or in an arena, or for the UFL. But no organization has developed millionaires more effectively than the athletic programs of universities like Miami, USC, Oklahoma and Ohio State. So be humble about your opportunity to earn a degree while auditioning for one of the greatest jobs on earth.

Athletes believe their popularity entitles them to special benefits. And it does and should. The scholarship and benefits they receive upon arriving on campus more than qualifies as “special benefits”. The problem exists when they feel entitled to more and start manipulating or just flat out breaking the rules to serve that coddled spirit. If you want money to take your woman to Chili’s on a Friday night, get a summer job. Or a spring job. Save and spend your money wisely, like most other students in that school have to.

As ESPN’s Doug Gotleib put it, “No one, athlete or non-athlete, has a lot of money in college. And rules do allow for athletes to earn some spending money. Those who are totally financially destitute can get Pell Grants, as well. The payoff is in the end, after school, much like the future doctors, scientists and businessmen and women with whom you attend school. College is about sacrificing, learning and growing as a person. The reward for all students is the memories and experiences gained in the short term and benefiting from them in the long run.”

Sorry, TP. I’m just not going to feel sorry for you. And despite what your agent is spewing, no NFL team feels sorry enough for you to take you anywhere near the first round of the supplemental draft. Unfortunately, the destruction you are leaving behind at Ohio State will continue to impact the university long after you flame out of the NFL.  But in case you do make millions at some point in the future, should OSU consider sending you a donation letter? I’m going to go ahead and presume you could care less.

Aaron Watson saw his NFL career cut short when his pee wee coaches informed him he wasn’t very good. So he turned his attention to writing, studying journalism in college while blogging for several sporting blogs since 2005. He and his wife currently live in Richmond, VA, one of the worst sports towns in America despite the short lived hype during the Final Four. When he is not at the local sports bar pursuading the owners to put the Buccaneer or Gator game on the big screen, Aaron serves as the Director of Staff Development for TeenPact Leadership Schools, a non-profit training teens to impact their nation through government, business and ultimate frisbee. He has also stayed in Tim Tebow’s house.