Lebron vs. Kobe: Career vs. Career

February 1st, 2008

By: Jim Vassallo

Sports is an outlet for many people to voice their opinions of players and teams, debate with friends over who is the best player in the history of a specific sport, or which team is the greatest of all time. This is a blog designed partly for the reasons listed above. Now its time for me to put my two cents in regarding a debate that has become pretty heated within the past couple of seasons in the NBA; Lebron vs. Kobe. Not head to head in a game, but head to head in talent, skills, leadership, and career numbers. Lebron vs. Kobe: Who will be remembered more for their accomplishments? Who will be the most successful NBA player out of the two?

In this his 12th season in the league, Bryant has surpassed many of the expectations that fans and his franchise dreamed of when he was drafted right out of Lower Merion High School by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick. Bryant never played a game for the Hornets, who traded him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac, the then starting center for Los Angeles. Bryant was also the first guard in league history to be drafted into the NBA right out of high school.

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Howard vs. Phillies

January 27th, 2008

By: Jim Vassallo

Since I am a Philadelphia fan, I knew that this debate would come up sooner than I had hoped. The Phillies and slugging first baseman Ryan Howard are 3 million dollars apart from where either would like to be regarding contract status. Let’s not worry yet, Howard is still a handful of years away from free agency (He can’t test the market until 2012). But here is where the worrying comes into play, if the two sides go to arbitration, will GM Pat Gillick ‘hurt’ the former NL ROY and NL MVP’s feelings by not giving in to his wishes? Let’s hope not.

In my opinion, Howard deserves the price that he is asking, which to me seems lower than he really deserves. Howard is asking for 10 million, the Phillies are offering 7 million. They are lucky he isn’t asking for the price that he truly deserves, 15 million. He has done so much for this franchise in terms of building an incredible fan base and putting on a show in the 2006 home run derby (he finished with 23 and the title in Pittsburgh).

Here are Howard’s credentials as to why he deserves the 10 million and maybe more:

  • He is only the second player in Major League Baseball history alongside Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. to win Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in back-to-back seasons.
  • In his first extended stint in the majors, 2005 (Thome on DL), Howard finished with 22 home runs and 63 RBIs in only 88 games. He added a .288 average too.
  • In 2006, Howard’s first full season in the majors; he put up 58 round trippers and 149 RBIs to lead the league. He also turned in a .313 average to go along with a .659 slugging percentage.
  • In 2007, Howard’s numbers declined a bit because of a stint on the disabled list, but he still finished strong. He picked up 47 long balls and 136 RBIs to go along with a .268 average.
  • For his career, which spans 410 games, Howard has a .291 average, 129 home runs, 353 RBIs and a .610 slugging percentage.

Howard’s presence in the Phillies lineup, especially at home, has bred success throughout the 1-8 hitters. From top to bottom, the Phillies lineup has been one of the most potent lineups in baseball over the past four seasons. The homegrown talent with the bat has been stellar; the hits keep coming from 2007 MVP Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Pat Burrell (when he is on his game) to go along with Howard.

Howard has provided a much needed left handed power hitter in the lineup to go with a solid glove at first base. He is the anchor of a young, talented group of homegrown infielder for the franchise. His presence in the lineup is felt even as he waits in the on-deck circle or at the top of the dugout steps.

The Phillies would be wrong to let this case go to arbitration, the first since Travis Lee went in 2001 with the team. The arbiter might rule in Howard’s favor, in the Phillies favor, or pick a number somewhere in the middle ground. Yet again, in my mind Howard deserves 15 million, five more than the 10 million he is requesting. Hopefully the two sides can settle before heading to arbitration on February 20th.

Product Review: Oakley Sunglasses

January 21st, 2008

In college, I had no money, but I loved my Oakley sunglasses. My world today is different. Today, I have a little money, but until recently, I did not own a pair of Oakleys. For the past few years I have been buying cheap sunglasses. You know the “buy one pair for $10 or two pair for $15″ deals in the mall that have labels like “compare to styles from Ray-Ban” or “compare to styles from Oakley.” Heck, I have even tried out a couple of pair of fake Oakley sunglasses purchased on the streets of New York City. Needless to say, I have owned a few different pair of sunglasses in my life.

For quite some time I could tell that the cheap sunglasses I had been wearing were not quality. My wife was nice enough to buy me a new pair this summer after another $10 pair broke, and while I liked the thin, wire-framed look, the lenses were off. There was a distortion in one lens that caused me to have to hold my head at an angle to see straight; they were a waste of our time and money.

After pondering the whle “should I spend $100 for a pair of sunglasses” issue I finally made the decision to do it. I broke down and spent the money on a new pair of Oakley sunglasses, specifically the Straight Jacket. Not only do my black Straight Jackets have a stylish look, but there’s something about the quality of how well I can see with these lenses that has reminded me of the quality that Oakley provides. The nice thing about this company is that they no longer limit themselves to sunglasses, and even with eyewear they are innovative leaders. From mp3 player sunglasses, boots & watches to Oakley women’s sunglasses & clothing, the quality you can expect from a name like Oakley carries into all of their fine products.

Roger Goodell Finally Figured It Out

December 27th, 2007

By: Jim Vassallo  

Well thanks Roger, you got it right and it only took 15 weeks to do so. The biggest game of the regular season, even though both teams have playoff spots secured, will be played Saturday night the 29th. It is…the 15-0 Patriots at the New York Giants. That’s why its a big game, the Pats are looking for 16-0. But in Roger’s eyes, no big deal, we will wait until three days beforehand to announce that the game will be simulcast on three different networks.

The game was set to air only on the NFL Network, which most of the country is without, including this fan. Goodell announced Wednesday that the game would be simulcast on NBC and CBS along with the NFL Network. Wow Roger, thanks for the Christmas gift. Here’s a better idea, stop leaving the public ugly games to watch on Sunday and Monday Night Football. How about you let us see some of the games you scheduled for the network on those aforementioned nights.

I wonder who had to convince our fine commissioner to move the game to simulcast? Is he really that blind to not see how important this game is, even though the Giants are going to have almost five NFL records broken and then reset at their expense. The Giants will put up a fight, during the opening kickoff, and from that point on it is going to be a debacle, but I’m not complaining. I can’t wait to see this team get lit like a bonfire. They deserve it, for once again limping into the playoffs.

The selection of games aired on Sunday and Monday Night Football have been less than stellar. Remember that tackle football game from only a few weeks ago between Chicago and Minnesota? Brutal; even though I was happy to see the Bears eliminated it was still a difficult game to watch. All the turnovers and horrendous quarterbacking. What has gotten into the league this year? It is in complete shambles regarding ‘key’ matchups.

One of the best Sunday night games was Eagles v. Patriots in Foxborough midway through the season. Why? Because the Eagles were the first team to truly play well against the Pats, catching them completely off-guard, and giving them a game for four quarters. No other team up until that point could boast that type of accomplishment. And to be honest with you, no team has been able to do so since.

The Patriots are the talk of the league and for a good reason, 15-0, and on the verge of possibly the greatest run for a football team the league has ever seen. They have broken record after record and have a few more in their sights Saturday night: most points scored in a season, largest point differential for a season between them and their opponents, most touchdown passes in a season, and most touchdown receptions in a season.

What took you so long Roger? The Wednesday before the game the announcement for simulcast is announced. You’ve got to be kidding me. You had to have known, at least when the Pats got to 10-0, that this game might be meaningful come week 16, that they might be playing for a perfect regular season. But, I guess not. I guess I was wrong for expecting more out of the league’s commissioner. My mistake. Give the fans a break Roger. We support the league; we pay money to go to the games, to buy the memorabilia, and to enjoy a piece of tradition. At least let us see some decent games on Sunday and Monday nights next year. That’s all we ask as fans, that’s it.

Mitchell Report: Happy Holidays MLB

December 13th, 2007

By: Jim Vassallo

So, in case everyone lives under a rock, the Mitchell report on steroid use in baseball is due out tomorrow around 2p.m. The league has already reviewed a copy of the report but Commissioner Allen H. (Bud) Selig will not be in attendance for Mitchell’s press conference.

The list, which has been compiled based on the results of an investigation headed by former Senate majority leader, George Mitchell, includes 60-80 names of former and current players who have used steroids. This list could damage not only the reputation of former players but could also destroy the image and reputation of current ones.

The big question surrounding this report is whether or not Selig and his discipline committee will offer up any suspensions or life-time bans for steroid use stemming from Mitchell’s assessment. One problem with this report is that it is based on an investigation of drug companies and former player’s testimonies. It remains to be seen how many of the names on this list have actually tested positive for HGH or any other banned substance in MLB. In my opinion, the only way Selig could suspend active players would be if they had previously tested positive for steroid use.

The press conference, which will be aired on ESPN and ESPNnews, will be followed by a press conference from Selig two and a half hours later. SportsCenter will also have special coverage of the day’s events from 1p.m. to 6p.m.

The release of this report comes only days from one of the biggest holiday seasons of the year. It is interesting to see how many players’ holiday plans will be affected by this document or if they could really even care less. Mitchell’s report, once released, will not even come close to resolving the problem that is steroid use in baseball. It might not even help to weed out the major contributors who supply the drugs to the players. But this could be completely wrong.

Let’s not forget what it was that grabbed America’s attention in the summer and fall of 1998. It was the home-run race between Mark McGwire of the Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Cubs. When those two began to inch closer and closer to former Yankee Roger Maris’ all-time record of dingers in a season, the nation and the world paid close attention to every pitch of every at-bat they had.

That summer, MLB experienced fandom that it hadn’t seen since before the player strike in 1994. Fans were finally back into baseball. They were finally believing again in America’s past-time. Who had any reason to doubt that the sport was not back to being one of the nation’s most loved.

Well, the Mitchell report might just drop baseball back down to where it once was before that magical 1998 season. If it does so, it might take the league a lot longer to regroup and regain the trust of its fan-base.

One question fans will be asking themselves come 4p.m. Thursday is where does this list end? Were there players left off of the list for unknown reason? What kind of repercussions will these players face from the league?

The Mitchell report will send shock waves throughout MLB and it might not be the end of name dropping as we know it in the sport.

Are the Broad Street Bullies Really Back?

December 12th, 2007

By: Jim Vassallo

Over the past three months, the Philadelphia Flyers have given their fans much to cheer about. For starters, they sit in second place in the Atlantic Division as of this article, behind only the New Jersey Devils. They have also brought back fleeting memories of the Broad Street Bullies from yesteryear.

The talk throughout the NHL began in preseason, when Flyers prospect Steve Downie leveled former Flyer and current Ottawa Senator Dean McAmmond into the boards in what was considered a dirty hit. He was awarded a five minute major and a game misconduct, subsequently leading to a league suspension of 20 games, one of the highest in history for the sport.

Following the Downie hit, new Flyer Jesse Boulerice was suspended 25 games (the longest single-season suspension in league history) for slapping Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler across the face with his stick.

Despite the two, 20-plus game suspensions, the Flyers did not back away from their aggressive style of play as defenseman Randy Jones was suspended for two games following a hit on Boston’s Patrice Bergeron on October 27. Jones threw Bergeron face-first into the boards. Bergeron suffered a concussion, some minor lacerations to the face, and a broken nose as a result.

The list keeps on growing as Scott Hartnell was suspended for two games following a check to the head of Bruin defenseman Andrew Alberts. Following that suspension, the Flyers added another to their list as Riley Cote became the fifth different Flyer to garner a suspension from the league this season. He was forced to sit three games stemming from an elbow used to throw Dallas’ Matt Niskanen into the boards.

As a result of the five suspensions handed down to the Flyers, the organization was reprimanded by the Commissioner’s office, warning them to stop playing dirty and eliminate their cheap hits on their opponents.

The suspensions have garnered the Flyers the utmost attention of their league-wide opponents since Downie was first reprimanded. Many teams are crying foul as well are the fans. They feel that this year’s Flyers are the Broad Street Bullies from the 1970’s. I tend to disagree. That team was loaded with tough guys (not to say that this team doesn’t have them).

The Flyers team that takes the ice each night during the 2007-2008 season is not the same from the 1970’s. They are faster, more skilled, and have somewhat better discipline than that team. But then again you look at last night’s debacle in Philadelphia and start to second guess yourself. The Flyers roughed up the Pittsburgh Penguins in more ways than one.

In an 8-2 romp of their in-state rivals, the Flyers fought four times, recorded two misconduct penalties and one game misconduct (Hartnell). Is this team losing focus of their goals? I don’t tend to think so. Every now and then it is nice to watch a hockey game and see fighting, scrums in front of the net, and an 8-2 victory, no matter what teams are playing. Those are the golden days of hockey, until the lockout arrived in 2004-2005 and the commish, Gary Bettman, decided to change around the game and limit fighting and roughing in front of the net.

To really answer the question that is this article’s title check back with me at the end of the season. I think it is still too early to tell whether or not the Flyers are returning to their roots of the 1970’s, when the Broad Street Bullies roamed the Spectrum and were one of the most feared teams in the league.

Georgia’s gettin’ upset!

December 2nd, 2007

This has been the most unpredictably ridiculous season of college football ever. If you would have asked me what the chances were that Pitt could knock off #2 West Virginia in Morgantown to keep them from getting to the BCS title game, I would have said maybe one in 100. But it happened. So, too, did #1 Missouri losing to Oklahoma to send the championship game picture into total chaos. Who deserves to play for it all? The question of “who is the best team?” has gone up on websites and radio shows throughout the country with no consensus answer. Ohio State is almost a lock to make it to New Orleans, but who will they face? Solid arguments can and have been made for Georgia, Oklahoma, LSU, USC, Virginia Tech and even Hawaii.

Some people argue that there’s no way Georgia should make it over LSU because the Bulldogs didn’t even win their division in the SEC, while LSU won the conference. But if that is valid logic, then why was Georgia ranked ahead of LSU to begin with? Why would that all of a sudden be a factor now that the national championship is at stake when it wasn’t last week when it seemed neither team would have a shot? Do poll voters only get serious about their selections for the very last poll of the season? If that’s the case, then human polls should be done away with. There should be some level of integrity in the process and moving a team down below another that just a week ago was though to be inferior does not display integrity.

Does college football need a playoff? No. Need is too strong a word. A playoff would certainly generate interest but to say that people aren’t interested now would be ignorant. As controversial as the BCS system might be, it DOES generate interest as well. If this were 1997 or earlier, none of these recent upsets would have generated the excitement about college football as they did because many teams would be locked into their bowls already. The BCS does create interest and excitement because of the national championship game. Period. Now whether that game always features the two best teams in the country is debatable, but the fact of the matter is that it’s never possible to say for absolute certain which team or teams are the best.

There is no perfect system. Even a playoff doesn’t necessarily determine the BEST team - just the team that happened to be playing the best (or getting the luckiest) at the time. In addition, a playoff WOULD diminish the relevance of the regular season, to a more or less significant degree depending on the number of teams in the playoff. There are always going to be arguments. If there is an eight-team playoff, then teams, fans, and critics are going to be arguing about who deserves to be in that 8th spot, just as they do now with the BCS.

But, back to this season, folks seem to be clamoring for LSU - AGAIN - to be the other team in the title game. I say LSU had their shot. They were ranked #1 earlier in the season, then lost. Then, they climbed back up to the top spot and lost again. Enough is enough. They have had their chances. If you want to give the spot to the team that is playing the best, right now, then it would be between Virginia Tech, Georgia and USC. Virginia Tech lost to LSU earlier in the season 48-7. No team that loses a game by 41 points to any opponent should be able to win the national title - end of discussion. USC lost at home to a very bad Stanford team that oddsmakers said they were supposed to beat by 41 points. They also lost to Oregon, who just wilted down the stretch and proved to be not nearly as good as previously thought. That leaves Georgia, my pick to play Ohio State in the BCS National Championship game. They have won their last 6 games - better than Ohio State, USC, Virginia Tech, LSU, Oklahoma or any other serious title contenders (save Hawaii) and have been playing great football as of late. It may not be the popular pick, but in this crazy, crazy season, it’s the right thing to do.

Heisman race will be decided today

December 1st, 2007

Colt Brennan. Chase Daniel. Tim Tebow. Darren McFadden. One of these four players will likely win the Heisman Trophy next weekend. These four should indeed be the favorites, and it’s hard to ignore the stats: 3,732 yards, 33 TD and a 11-0 record for Brennan at Hawaii, 3,951 yards, 36 TD and a #1 ranking for Daniel at Mizzou, 29 passing TDs and 22 rushing TDs for Tebow @ Florida, 1,725 rushing yards and a 206-yard performance @ then #1 LSU for Arkansas’ Darren McFadden. That stats are utterly amazing.

People base their Heisman votes on many things, but here are a few I expect to see and hear about:

  • Consistency. Consistency has to be on the side of Tebow, the Florida QB who has amazingly had at least one passing TD and one rushing TD in every game this season, a statistic difficult to even produce on a video game.
  • Career. Career stats and success have come into play in the past; see 1997 and Peyton Manning. Colt Brennan has put together an amazing career at Hawaii throwing for over 13,500 yards in three seasons and 126 TDs.
  • Big game preformer. The biggest of the big game performances may not have happened yet as Daniel leads #1 Mizzou against #9 Oklahoma, but Arkansas RB Darren McFadden’s 206-yard performance @ then #1 LSU is about as big as big gets considering Arkansas defeated LSU 50-48 in OT.

Today we will see two of these four in action. Personally, Tebow is the favorite in my opinion coming into today, but a perfect 12-0 record for Brennan @ Hawaii or a Big 12 Championship and appearance in the BCS National championship for Mizzou and Chase Daniel.

Castroneves wins Dancing With the Stars

November 28th, 2007

Helio Castroneves was crowned champion of Dancing With the Stars 2007 last night as the Indy Car racing champion added the coveted mirror-ball trophy to his case. Dancing with Julianne Hough, who won the 2006 DWTS championship with speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno, was Helio’s partner throughout the competition which also featured boxer Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Helio’s smile and personality were huge factors in his win, but his quick mastery of the difficult dancing steps and styles helped him edg Spice Girl Mel B for the championship.

Giving credit where it’s due.

November 13th, 2007

Kansas’ Mark Mangino, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, Arizona St.’s Dennis Erickson, or Oregon’s Mike Bellotti will likely take National Coach of the Year honors when the season comes to an end, but the announcement of the semifinalists for two of the major honors might have come a week too late for one name to be on the list.

While Alabama’s Nick Saban and Kentucky’s Rich Brooks are on the list, there’s a name not on the list that has picked up victories over both. Along with those victories, there’s an impressive road win at Auburn.

Along with those three wins over top-25 caliber teams, this coach has led his team to their most conference and overall wins in seven years, and has them on the verge of their first bowl appearance in that amount of time.

Who’s the mystery coach? None other than Mississippi State’s Sylvester Croom.

Croom was a favorite for the chopping block this season, and it was thought that the Bulldogs would flounder once again, as has been in the previous six seasons, where MSU’s best record at any time is 3-8.

Getting shut out 45-0 by LSU on national TV to start the season didn’t do anything to help those expectations, but it ignited the Bulldogs.

Two weeks later, they went to Auburn and walked out of Jordan-Hare 19-14 winners, and started 3-1.

But, little was still expected, as MSU hadn’t yet reached the meat of their schedule, and after three losses in four games to South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia, the Bulldogs stood at 4-4.

But, they overcame those losses, and went into Lexington to take on #14 Kentucky. They forced Andre Woodson into three picks, and dominated the game from start to finish in a 31-14 victory.

And on Saturday, MSU wrapped up bowl eligibility with a 17-12 victory over Alabama, which came in front of a school-record crowd of over 56,000.

A win in the final two games (at Arkansas, vs. Ole Miss) would wrap up a 7-5 overall record and a 4-4 SEC mark, and likely send the Bulldogs bowling. If MSU could win those two games, they would likely find themselves back in the top 25 for the first time since the preseason polls entering the 2001 season, when the downhill spiral began

It’s taken time and patience, but Croom has turned the program around his way, the (sometimes brutally) honest way, and has turned a program that has been a laughingstock in the last several years into a winner once again. The resurgence has also brought life back into a fanbase that, to say the least, was disheartened by the last several seasons, which not only included a bunch of ugly losses, but NCAA sanctions and probation.

While MSU hasn’t exactly won pretty in some of their victories, they’ve gone from losing ugly to winning ugly. With a true freshman starting at QB, and throwing only one interception in 158 passes, after getting tossed into the fire against some of the top teams in the country.

The defense has had its struggles in a few of the losses, and hasn’t gotten help from the offense in a couple of games, but have created a lot of problems for opponents and are tied for the NCAA lead in interception returns for touchdowns, with five, including a pivotal one just before halftime to swing the momentum in the Alabama game.

And while Les Miles, Philip Fulmer, or Mark Richt may win SEC Coach of the Year for leading their teams to something that they were expected to do, if I had a vote it would be for Croom, who apparently should be packing his bags (sorry ‘experts’) for the land of unemployment, but instead, will be packing his bags for an unexpected trip to the postseason. And if that doesn’t deserve some sort of recognition, then someone’s got some explaining to do.