We are going to dive into the Ides of March here in a bit but lets delve away from the insanity for a bit and hit the side news first.
The Miami Heat have now won 26 in a row and had one of the most challenging games during their streak this week when playing the Celtics on Monday. Winning number 23 in a row on Monday only helped guide them to winning their next 3 in a row during the week. Guess who it was that led them to victory on Monday? LeBron James. The same guy a year ago revered by many as the biggest villain in the NBA, who now seemingly has zero backlash or has at least calmed the haters that he once had. He hit a spot up jumper to take the lead in the waning minutes against the Celtics to cool the crowd in Boston. The Wednesday night game against the Cavaliers in Cleveland was another incredible comeback during this streak. At one point the Heat were down 27 points in the 3rd quarter, and all they did was bounce back to win again. Who knows how long this streak is going to last, but considering the schedule they have lined up for them, expect it to last deep into this up coming week, and if they can get to Sunday and beat the Spurs, I'll be the first to let you know.
Baseball starts a week from today... Dang, spring training went quickly. The World Baseball Classic was won by the Dominican Republic, and they won every single game they played. More importantly, Hanley Ramirez goes down with an injury causing him to potentially miss the first month of the regular season. I could come on here and talk about how important the WBC is towards the culture of the game but let me be honest in saying that this is a sport seriously going down hill in popularity. It is especially detrimental when ESPN doesn't promote a majority of the tournament on it's main network affiliates. So where am I supposed to watch it at? I'm not going to watch it on ESPN Deportes because I can't understand 90% of what they are saying and I'm not going to listen to Hispanic jargon that's going to fly over my head when Pablo Sandoval pops out to second base. All I can say is, Congratulations Dominican Republic! You earned it! You actually do have one of the best lineups ever assembled, and when ever your pitching staff decided to put together a solid outing, we all knew you would win it in closing time. Enjoy your plantains, and please bring your fan base to America in October so we can remember what it feels like to be excited in the postseason, whether people have a team in the postseason or not.
I will have my MLB 2013 Preseason Prediction Blog up on Saturday, the day before opening day (Sunday March 30th). I will also have my regular blog up on Sunday. I just want to get my World Series prediction out there early so all of you can get my take on how the season will play out.
Let's get away from baseball and jump to football quickly.
Johnny Football got into a pushing match with a graduate assistant because the graduate assistant was gawking at being so close to Manziel. Seriously? He's a damn 20 year old who had an incredible freshmen year, but that doesn't mean you need to gawk him while he throws interceptions in a Spring Football game. I understand the perspective of Johnny Manziel, he's there to improve his ability to play the Quarterback position and he was struggling in a scrimmage practice. If some dumb graduate assistant can't distance himself from being a fan and being a co-worker, then I'd be pissed too. I would be like "Bro, help me out, I'm not superman. I make mistakes too. Just because I won the Heisman last year doesn't mean I'm not looking for a National Championship this season."
The NFL finally got rid of the tuck rule. Oakland is now saying, "It took you 11+ years to finally figure out this was a stupid rule?" We all know the Raiders would have won that game in the final game at the old Foxboro stadium if it wasn't for that terrible call. We also know we wouldn't have seen the greatest kick in NFL history if that call went undone. So as happy as I am this rule is gone, it still screwed over a franchise at a shot at an AFC Championship opportunity. At the same time, Adam Vinatieri would never have been viewed the same. Click here
The real rule change that will turn football into a powder puff league is the new "Delivering the blow" rule in the open field for an offensive player. Apparently you cannot plow over a defensive player with the "crown of your helmet" anymore when you are outside of the tackle box. Any body have any flags lying around... anybody have a tutu? Anybody? I can't buy a tutu? I thought this was football!!! I thought this was a sport embracing the violence of contact out in the open field!!! I understand the NFL is going through some serious legal ramifications when it comes to lawsuits and thousands of cases are being discussed about the impact of head injuries and what they do to individuals later in their lives. I get it. I really do. But this is absurd!!! This is a sport you sign up to play as a child and you grow up knowing that you are playing something that is violent and may cause you harm later on down the road. If you don't know that, then consider yourself an ignorant fool for not understanding the risk involved in this game. I've been saying it for the last 2-3 years now! When it comes to the health of American football, this sport will die by 2050. You know why? If it doesn't at least die, it definitely won't be what it looks like today, heck, football doesn't look today like it did ten years ago. Imagine what 2050 will look like? With the amount of technology and how soft our country is becoming and how sensitive every little thing is becoming, do you seriously think the most popular sport in the land will stay at this level? You better believe the sport will be gone in the future especially with the amount of money being paid toward lawsuit files and with how soft the sport is becoming when it comes to the way officials call games and lean on the side of protection over what the game represents (hard, physical, tough, bone crushing blows). I think all you need to do is look at Ray Lewis and listen to his take on how much the game has changed since he entered the league in 1996 and understand the amount of change he saw throughout his career up until he retired a couple months ago. Click here
Some NFL moves also took place in the 2nd full week of free agency. Brian Urlacher was officially let go of the Bears after both sides could not come to an agreement. Ed Reed signed with Houston, making them a bit stronger on an already vaunted defense heading into 2013. Dumervil found a spot in Baltimore after the Broncos duped him on a signing mistake. It seems for the most part a majority of big deals in free agency have come to an end. The only real question left is what will Victor Cruz do when it comes to his signing, and where will he go. Other than that, the free agency fireworks seem to be coming to a slow and steady halt.
One more NFL thing before we get to the madness. I have to get to this Robert Griffin III (RG3) "superhuman" story. I really hope this guy recovers and turns into the star that we all think he can become, but I am going to be completely skeptical going into next season for one reason and one reason only: He's a QB. The thing people forget about Adrian Peterson when he went down was that he wasn't anywhere near 100% until about November. The first 5-6 weeks of the NFL season, Adrian Peterson was not who he normally was, and the team even monitored his carries on the field. RG3 came into last season healthy as an ox and he still got banged up by the end of the season. Imagine how he will play if in week one he is thrown directly into the fire? We know this guy does not need to be a running QB to be successful as we all saw last season, but there is no way this guy is going to be running for at least the first month of the season. That will force him to adjust to becoming a pure pocket passer. This may cause RG3 to struggle and look worse compared to last season because the threat of him running will be mute for a while. If RG3 were any other offensive skill position, I would give him the nod and say he could do it. I also am hesitant to discount his ability to comeback because I was dumb enough to say Adrian Peterson's career was done on Christmas Eve 2011. I just think with the importance RG3 is to the Redskins, and how much they have invested in him, they need to seriously take caution with this situation, and make sure he is completely healthy. All it takes is one defensive end to trip and it could destroy RG3's career along with sending the Redskins into a tizzy for the next five seasons minimum.
SHALL WE GET TO THE MADNESS ALREADY!!!
Barack Obama picked Indiana to win it all, Sports Illustrated picked Louisville to win it all, and I picked Miami (FL) to win it all. We are all still in line to have our champions hold the title in Atlanta.
If you haven't already, check out my Tournament breakdown blog (which by now looks like a comic reel considering the upsets that have taken place, but look at it anyway for the fun of it). Here are the Sweet 16:
Michigan, Michigan State, Louisville, Arizona, Oregon, Marquette, Syracuse, Ohio State, Indiana, Kansas, Florida, Miami, Duke, Wichita State (huh?), La Salle (who?), Florida Gulf Coast..... wait... FLORIDA GULF COAST?
Let's get to the break down shall we?
The first game that caught my eye during the day was Saint Mary's vs Memphis (Click here!). Dellavedova caught a pass and let it go from three... Clang, the agony of defeat falls over the campus of Saint Mary's. Marquette vs Davidson wasn't a sleeper either (Click here!). A one point win as Marquette moved on to the round of 32, giving Davidson a heart wrenching feeling as their fans flew back to North Carolina. Gonzaga almost made the wrong kind of history as Southern nearly shocked the world as they battled the Zag's to the very end, coming so close to being the first #16 seed to beat a #1 number one seed. Both Oregon and Cal upset their opponents as #12 seeds after the PAC-12 received little respect with their at-large bid selections. Harvard as a #14 seed won their first NCAA tournament game upsetting New Mexico and wiping out about 99% of the perfect brackets left throughout day one (Click here!). Syracuse beat Montana by 47 in a first round drubbing. VCU did the same thing, except Akron had two players with the flu, and another with chronic back pain. After day one 1,238 brackets remained perfect on ESPN's Bracket Challenge. There were 8.5 million brackets filled out.
Day two merely destroyed anybody's hope at a perfect bracket. Another #12 seed in Ole Miss upset a consistent Wisconsin team who shut down Michigan and Indiana in the Big 10 tournament. Marshall "The Real Slim Shady" Henderson sharked it up against Wisconsin and won by eleven. N.C. State and Temple had an epic classic as Temple pulled out a four point win to move on to play Indiana. Creighton and Cincinnati also had an epic game with Creighton moving on to play Duke in the round of 32 with their four point victory. This is where day two got nasty. La Salle upset Kansas State (Click here!) making the West region officially the "Wild West" creating a round of 32 match-up in Ole Miss and La Salle on Sunday. Florida Gulf Coast University won it's first NCAA tournament game ever as they were the seventh #15 seed to ever win since the NCAA tournament expanded in 1985 to 64 teams. This is probably the most magical moment of the tournament (Click this!). Many people, such as myself, had Georgetown going deep in the tournament. Instead, Georgetown will be watching it from home the rest of the way. Western Kentucky almost scared off Kansas, similar to Gonzaga/Southern a day before. Except this time, Kansas put Western Kentucky away in the last five minutes. The way a #1 seed usually does it to a #16 seed. Another year the #1 seeds prevail. No more brackets were perfect after day two.
If there was ever a boring day in the first four days of the NCAA tournament, this was it. Almost every game was a blowout until the last couple games. There were two upsets though. Oregon and Wichita State solidifying their places in the Sweet 16. Now it's debatable that Oregon didn't really "upset" St. Louis considering they were not your generic #12 seed. It is somewhat of a joke that they were even placed that low in the tournament because they won their conference tournament in the PAC-12, but nonetheless, they still made it and won two tough games. With Wichita State sending home the first #1 seed in the tournament, it was the best story of the day by far. Click here! I want you to watch Ron Baker in this clip -> Click here! How could you not like this kid? He is what every kid in America should strive to be, especially with the way he handles himself after such an exciting moment. Beautiful stuff. Speaking of beautiful, Marquette won another close game over Butler, this time by two points (Click here!). Marquette won by a margin of three points combined in two games to reach the Sweet 16. You talk about close, this Marquette team knows how to make it exciting.
This is one of those days that if you were watching basketball, you will remember it forever, especially if you're from Florida Gulf Coast University. To start the day, Iowa State nearly out ran Ohio State but Aaron Craft had something to say about that with a game winning three (Click here!). There was a controversial charge call in the game that has been debated, either way Ohio State moves on to the Sweet 16. Olidipo hit a dagger three in the waning seconds to help Indiana stave off Temple who hung tight all game (Click here!). Then came the history maker. Cinderella was in the building, and midnight wasn't striking anytime soon. Click here! When McKnight got that Alley-Oop and followed it up with the block, you knew something special was going to happen. The first #15 seed to ever get to the Sweet 16 happened on Sunday March 24th, 2013 and Florida Gulf Coast is only in their 6th year of existence as a Division I program. If that doesn't spell Cinderella, what does? Click here! It also doesn't hurt that La Salle beat Ole Miss, and that it was La Salle's first Sweet 16 in 58 years. They were a #13 seed that also made it to the Sweet 16, and it was only sweeter that they did it in the way they did. Click here!
These are things that make sports beautiful everybody. If this doesn't strike a chord somewhere, sports aren't for you. It's the representation that counts, and that's what these underdogs have done for those who don't have anything else. These kids play the game for the love of the game, and they play because it is something that has been in their blood ever since they could walk, dribble, shot, run. This time of year is not played for the paycheck. This time of year, is not about what could have been or what could be better. This time of year is the time to think forward, to think that anything is possible no matter your situation. It is the pure representation of the body, mind, and soul. Something we all have, and basketball is just a sheer metaphor of that very thing. Teams like Florida Gulf Coast, La Salle, Wichita State, and Oregon... They give us hope. They give us that feeling that even if we don't have the best tools available, we can still put together a masterpiece. Even if we are down, with the most dreaded of diseases or an obstacle blocking our path, our perspective can change in a flash, and our life can take on a new meaning of hope and prosper. That is what this time of year represents. A new season, a new hope, and a new chance at life.
I'll see y'all on Saturday with my MLB 2013 Preseason Prediction Blog! Enjoy your first full week of Spring! Enjoy the rest of the madness!