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Michael Sam Is Doing More Harm to His NFL Future

NFL-LogoLet me start by saying I am fan of Michael Sam.  Not only do I think Sam could play in the NFL, I want the young brother to succeed in doing so.

The problem is that he is making it harder for himself to realize that dream.

Sam recently gave a speech and Q&A session in Dallas recently when he said he was not the only gay person in the NFL. Here’s more:

“I’m just saying there is a lot of us. I respect the players that did reach out to me and had the courage to tell me that they were also gay, but they do not have the same courage as I do to come out before I even played a down in the NFL.

“The players who have reached out to me and told me about their sexual orientation, it just means a lot. But I will never say anything about who they are, what teams they are [on]. I’m just saying there’s some famous people, and I’m not the only one.”

As far as I know, Sam probably was just answering an audience member’s question.  I’d imagine that after giving such a speech, Sam (or anyone else) would have no choice but to be candid during a Q&A session.

And to be sure, there are gay players in the NFL.  If the NFL mirrors society’s demographics, there would be quite a few such players in the NFL.  And hold on to your hats (or toupees for the balding readers), but I’m pretty sure there are coaches AND teammates who know who those gay players are – and likely do not give a damn.

I just think that there are coaches – and probably some players – who are getting a little tired Michael Sam’s act.  It’s not just because the brother is gay, it’s because teams hate, and I mean HATE, distractions.

No one wants to put up with the media circus that Sam would bring in the locker room, especially for a guy who can’t run (he clocked a 4.99 40-yard dash at the NFL veteran combine).  Far too many people in the NFL are still smarting from the Tim Tebow experience, even though most of it was through no fault of his own.

Even though Sam hoped that his sexuality was the reason why he couldn’t stick to an NFL roster last year, I’ll take it a step further and say that his OPENNESS about his sexuality before even being drafted had a huge part in him not playing last season.   In fact, if he kept his sexuality to himself I think he would have been drafted much higher, maybe in the third or fourth round.

Do I think it’s wrong that the former SEC co-defensive player of the year has not caught onto an NFL roster?  Absolutely.

It’s not Sam had a bad 2014 preseason with the St. Louis Rams.  He acquitted himself in the Rams’ last two preseason games, including a two-sack performance vs. the Cleveland Browns.  Word was that Sam was barely beaten out by an undrafted free agent during that preseason.

I just think that Sam should have focused his efforts on working harder on his measurables and concentrated on having a good Combine showing for teams interested in his services instead of looking to be a celebrity/activist.

As I have learned as a black man in America, sometimes one has to play the game to get where he/she needs to be.  It’s not right, but it is what it is – especially in a society where he/she is in the minority.

Sam would be more effective if he were speaking out for gay rights while being firmly entrenched on an NFL roster.  The more Sam keeps speaking out on gay rights while remaining unemployed, the more radioactive he becomes.

Thoughts on the 2015 NCAA Tournament’s Opening Weekend

ncaaThere were lots to love about the first weekend of the 2015 NCAA Tournament‬: a few upsets here, a couple of shockers there (sorry Kansas).  And my bracket has officially been shot to hell (gee thanks Michigan State for eliminating my Final Four pick).

Meanwhile, I think what stands out the most is the following:

The Big 12 Conference may have been a bit overrated.

Save me the rhetoric over the conference’s high RPI rating as a whole (it’s the best).  And yeah seven of those teams made the tournament, and rightfully so based on the regular season.

But no conference worth its weight would have only two of its seven teams make it to the Sweet 16.  I mean, let’s count the ways – shall we…

  1. Kansas getting smacked by 7th seeded Wichita State in the second round*.
  2. Oklahoma State (whose presence was a bit debatable) losing to Oregon.
  3. Baylor and Iowa State being upset by two double-digit seeds (Georgia State and UAB, respectively).
  4. Texas getting spanked by Butler.

I mean after all, such a MIGHTY conference shouldn’t be losing to such teams – especially in the first round*.  Speaking of Kansas, think Bill Self and company are still looking down their noses at Wichita State?  Then again, the Jayhawks would probably be more afraid to schedule the Shockers.

The Atlantic Coast Conference may have been a bit underrated.

All I have been hearing all season is how the ACC is so damn top-heavy, that outside of the conference’s top five teams (Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame, UNC and Louisville).  In fact, some of those same “experts” claimed that the sorry-ass Big Ten was more “balanced” (really?).

But as my alma mater NC State would demonstrate, teams in the second-tier of the ACC are not exactly chopped liver.  Just ask Villanova.

Besides, there is a reason why the ACC is 11-1 in the tournament, with five of its six teams in the Sweet 16.  The Big 12 nor Big 10 could make the same claim.

The so-called mid-majors represented yet again.

As with the case of prior years, the mid-majors made some noise in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.  UAB beating Big 12 tournament champ Iowa State.  Georgia State beating Baylor (sorry Big 12 fans).  My alma mater NC State beating top-seeded Villanova.  UCLA beating SMU on a “turrible” goaltending call.

While Gonzaga was not that big of a surprise per se, seeing Xavier and Wichita State in the Sweet 16 was cool to see.  The latter doing it had to be especially sweet to fans of the Shockers (see my clowning of Kansas above).

The Pac-12 Conference acquitted itself pretty well.

Three of the four teams from the Pac-12 are in the Sweet 16, which is one fewer than the so-called “tougher” Big 12 and Big 10 conferences combined.  Arizona, Utah, and UCLA are playing good basketball right now.

Speaking of UCLA, it had been intriguing to see the Bruins advance to the Sweet 16 – bad goaltending call notwithstanding.  While it is probably going to get curb-stomped by Gonzaga in their Sweet 16 matchup, UCLA is having a good tournament run nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Arizona might have something to say about Kentucky’s unbeaten streak.  It is playing in LA for the Sweet 16, which is not only a Pac-12 hotbed, but it will be a HUGE homecourt advantage for the Wildcats.  I’d be shocked if Wisconsin beats them in the Elite Eight, should both advance that far.

Never bet against Tom Izzo in the NCAA tournament.

Another year, another year Coach Izzo has his Michigan State Spartans in the Sweet 16.  This year has been more impressive because this year’s squad is nowhere near his best.

His Spartans beat a #2-seed Virginia team that on paper is light years better than this #7-seeded Michigan State.  The Cavaliers do what his Spartans do best, and do it better.  However, the Spartans were in control of the game from start to finish in winning what was essentially a road game in the second round*.

Once again, Izzo proved to be one of the best coaches in college basketball.  Tom Izzo is the man.  Period.

*- I do not believe the play-in games in Dayton are part of the tournament.  All four games feature mediocre teams who may have no business in the tournament, let alone advancing very far.  They do call them “play-in games” for a reason…

2015 NCAA Tournament Preview

ncaaThe 2015 NCAA Tournament is here (whoo-hoo!!!).

And while I won’t use this time to bitch over undeserving teams getting in the tournament (Indiana and Purdue I am looking right at your asses), I will use this space to give the people what they want: a comprehensive NCAA preview that is second-to-none.  Well, maybe second to A FEW…

At any rate, here is how I see the 2015 NCAA tournament turning out:

(By the way, join my NCAA Tourney Pick’em challenge NOW…)

Midwest Region

Top four seeds

  1. Kentucky
  2. Kansas
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Maryland

Dark horse: Wichita State

Analysis:  Kentucky is the prohibitive favorite to win the NCAA title, and I do not see any squad in this region that will challenge them.

However, there are some intriguing matchups.  I am looking forward to the possibility of Wichita State and Kansas getting it on in the second round (Bill Self and the Jayhawks can’t run from the Shockers much longer).  Maryland had its best season ever, and Notre Dame is looking to build off its ACC tournament title.

Having said all that, this region is nothing more than a bunch of sacrificial lambs for Kentucky.

Region Winner: Kentucky

East Region

Top four seeds

  1. Villanova
  2. Virginia
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Louisville

Dark horse: Northern Iowa

Analysis:  I know Villanova had a gaudy record this season, and the Big East is not a bad conference on paper, but I don’t think the Wildcats are #1-seed material.  Let’s be honest here, the Big East is not the Big East from my childhood.  Butler and Creighton, as well as watered down Marquette and a so-so St. John’s?  Pul-leeze.

I think this region will come down to Virginia and Louisville.  Both teams are tough as nails, and hails from the ACC: one of the strongest conferences in college basketball.

Northern Iowa poses a credible threat of preventing an all-ACC regional final from happening, and a Louisville-No. Iowa Sweet 16 matchup would be epic.

Region Winner: Virginia

West Region

Top four seeds

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Arizona
  3. Baylor
  4. North Carolina

Dark horse: VCU

Analysis:  Wisconsin is one of a few teams that could take out Kentucky.  It is long, big  and fundamentally sound.  Unfortunately it is in what is arguably the most difficult region seeded with the likes of UNC, Arizona, Baylor, Oregon, Arkansas and VCU.

As we all know, the tournament is all about matchups, and I do not see the Badgers matching up well with the likes of UNC, Baylor and Arizona.  I wouldn’t be surprised if UNC takes out Wisconsin in the Sweet 16.  In fact, I expect the Tar Heels to do just that.

I will be keeping my eyes on VCU.  Led by head coach/soul brotha #1 Shaka Smart, the Rams can’t be counted out and are riding high after winning the Atlantic-10 tournament.

This should be an entertaining region to watch.

Region winner: UNC (I just threw up in my mouth)

South Region

Top four seeds

  1. Duke
  2. Gonzaga
  3. Iowa State
  4. Georgetown

Dark horse: SMU

Analysis:  Outside of Iowa State – and MAYBE Gonzaga – I do not see any team challenging Duke in this region.  Sure the Blue Devils wet the bed in Raleigh last season, falling to Mercer (Mercer?!) in the opening round.  I just do not see any team who could counter Jahlil Okafor in the post and backcourt tandem of Tyus Jones and Quin Cook.  And Duke has the depth to put together a nice run.

If picking UNC to go far is bad enough, thinking Duke will go deep into the tournament nauseates the hell out of me.

Region winner: Duke

My Damn Final: Kentucky 80, Duke 75

Thoughts on 2015 NFL Free Agency

NFLWell, the NFL’s free agency period is here – and the magnitude of player movement does not disappoint.  Here are a few observations I made this early into the signing/trading period.

The Indianapolis Colts are going “all-in” in 2015.

The Colts signed RB Frank Gore and WR Andre Johnson earlier in the week.  Great moves by the Colts if I do not say so myself.

You have to believe that Andrew Luck is somewhere doing the “Neutron Dance“.  He finally has dependable weapons to get the ball to and doesn’t have to do it all himself.  I think the Colts brass learned that they cannot win in the postseason with Luck shouldering such a heavy load.

Ya think last year’s playoff loss to the New England Patriots didn’t inspire Indy to get better on the offensive side of the ball?  I didn’t think so.

The Miami Dolphins WAY overpaid for Ndamukong Suh.

It’s not everyday when you see a defensive tackle gets paid more than the top quarterbacks in the NFL.  $114 million contract with an NFL-record $60 million guaranteed.   That’s a lot of money for a dude who since 2010, he amassed 36 sacks and 239 tackles.

I’m sure Suh will help the Dolphins’ run defense, which ranked 24th last season (while Detroit had the top-ranked run defense with Suh anchoring the line).  I’m just saying that it’s a lot of money to be tied up into one dude while Miami needs more offensive weapons to help QB Ryan Tannenhill.

Besides, what if Suh reverts to his “Mr. Stomp A Lot” and miss some time?  Would it be worth it then?

The New York Jets look a lot better right now.

Those cheers we are hearing are from Darrelle Revis coming back to the Jets.  Was the five-year, $70 million contract (with $39 million guaranteed) Revis signed a bit much?  Sure it was, but if your team has a chance to bring in the best cover corner in the NFL (sorry Richard Sherman) you’d better believe your ass would be clamoring to bring him in.

The Jets also made another good move in acquiring Brandon Marshall from the Chicago Bears.  That gives QB Geno Smith (or whomever will be the starting QB) a big-time weapon in the passing game.

Patriot Nation may not be happy about Revis leaving, but at least its Patriots have a Super Bowl win to show for his services.  Right?

What in the hell is Chip Kelly doing?

Where in the hell do I begin with this guy?

First of all, Kelly got rid of deep threat DeSean Jackson last season.  Kelly then traded away his best offensive player in LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for an injured linebacker (who was a stud his rookie season).  He had Frank Gore renege on a promise to sign with the Eagles.

And now he traded QB Nick Foles for Sam “My Ass Is Always Injured” Bradford?  Really?

I understand a coach wanting to mold a team into his own image, and that there is nothing wrong with coaches trusting their systems.  But this shit is ridiculous.

Kelly is trying to turn the Eagles into the Oregon Ducks right before our eyes.

I wrote a rant saying that systems do not win in the NFL, good players do.  I think Kelly is going to learn that the hard way after making all of those silly-ass moves.

Syracuse Hoops Got Lucky

syracuseAt first blush, I thought that the NCAA dropped the hammer on Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse basketball program. Boeheim was suspended for nine ACC games (including the one this past Saturday) and his basketball program will be losing 12 scholarships over a four-year period. Syracuse was placed on a five-year probation.

And last, but certainly not least, the NCAA vacated 108 of Boeheim’s wins.

That led me to opine on Facebook that I feared that not only Boeheim’s legacy would take a huge hit, but the suspension could very well be his swan song.

After revisiting it though, things could have gone MUCH worse for Boeheim and the Orange.

Look at the charges the NCAA levied against Syracuse:

“Over the course of a decade, Syracuse University did not control and monitor its athletics programs. And its head men’s basketball coach failed to monitor his program.”

There’s more.

The NCAA mentioned that the violations included academic misconduct, extra benefits, failure to follow the drug-testing policy and impermissible booster activity. Add to that Boeheim’s failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitor his staff, and the school’s lack of institutional control.

That is ONE STEP closer to the dreaded “lack of institutional control” charge.

I don’t know about you, but those charges normally carry more than just a probationary period and loss of a few scholarships.

Speaking of the latter, 12 scholarships seemed harsh at first blush until you divide it by the aforementioned four years. Given that an average roster for a men’s basketball team is 12-14 players, three lost scholarships per year only hurts the Orange’s depth if anything.

The fact that Syracuse did not receive any postseason bans (other than its own self-imposed ban this season) should give Orange fans a huge sigh of relief.

As for Boeheim himself, I still think he is one of the best coaches in college basketball. The fact that he molded Syracuse into a perennial college basketball powerhouse should be commended.

Sure the nine-game suspension and vacated wins will leave some egg on his face, but a postseason ban would have created a major stain on his legacy.

So rest easy Orange fans, your beloved Syracuse is out of the woods.

Ronda Rousey is the UFC’s Future

Ronda-Rousey-Says-Cyborg-Is-not-a-Woman-MMA-SpotlightWhat’s not to like about Ronda Rousey?

She is UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion.  Her record as a professional mixed martial arts fighter is 11-0, 2 by knockout and NINE by submission.

She took out talented fighters like Miesha Tate, and Alexis Davis.  She forced Cat Zingano in 14 SECONDS!

All that leads to the following conclusion, one that UFC head Dana White willingly conceded: Rousey is the new face of UFC’s present and future.

It’s not like UFC was hurting before.  The likes of Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Brock Lesnar, Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jones, Rashad Evans, and Jon “Bones” Jones have taken the UFC to new heights.  White’s leadership also had a lot to do with that.

I’m just saying that it helps that Rousey has one important thing going for her: she is an attractive woman who can kick some ass.

It’s unfortunate that female athletes have to be sexy to get some publicity.  After all, sex does sell.

Lets just hope that the success of Rousey and other female athletes garner some respect for their respective sports.

The good news is it’s already working for Rousey and the UFC.  She has conducted several interviews, starred in a movie (The Expendables 3) and in future roles (Furious 7 and Entourage), posed for Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue (which is definitely a “must-see”, ERRRR I mean “must-read”) and has an endorsement deal (Reebok).

The sky is the limit for Rousey, and the UFC should be thankful for that.  It’s future depends on it.

Memo to Chip Kelly: Players, not Systems, Win in the NFL

Philadelphia-EaglesWhen I first learned of the LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso trade, two thoughts entered my mind:

  • Did Chip Kelly fall and bump his head?
  • He must REALLY want to change Philadelphia’s mascot to the Ducks.

All kidding aside, one thing was apparent when that trade went down: Kelly was hell bent on the Eagles being HIS team.

Don’t believe me?  Let’s take a gander of the personnel moves Kelly made since leaving the University of Oregon to coach Philly.

The first major move he made was getting DeSean Jackson out of town.  Despite Jackson being one of the premier deep threats in the NFL, Kelly soured on Jackson’s “me-first” attitude.  In Kelly’s eyes, Jackson was not about the team and wasn’t too fond of his system.  Kelly, along with Eagles management, went out of his way in sullying Jackson’s reputation.

Remember all those “leaks” about Jackson’s possible gang affiliations?  Yeah, I do too.

The next dominoes to fall were defensive end/outside linebacker Trent Cole and cornerback Cary Williams, with the latter being used like toilet tissue by even the lesser star receivers last season.

And in the biggest bombshell to date, Kelly jettisoned McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for Alonso.  Sure McCoy didn’t have a stellar seasons by his own standards (scoring only five touchdowns), but he did still rush for over 1,300 yards (1,319 to be exact) and averaged over four yards a carry.  He was the engine that made the Eagles offense go the last few seasons.

Yet Kelly believed in Alonso, who while having a stellar rookie season (amassing 159 tackles) missed all of last season due to injury.  Oh, and he also played under Kelly at Oregon.

In moving McCoy, Kelly believes more in his system more so than the personnel.  His offenses at Oregon set college football on fire, and he is more than sure that same offensive system will tear NFL defenses apart.

And while having and adhering to a system is all fine and dandy, Kelly must be careful of not learning the same lesson that other like-minded coaches made before him: players, not systems, make NFL coaches successful.

There are plenty of those cautionary tales in the NFL.

Mike Shanahan is regarded as one of the best offensive minds in football.  Yet after QB John Elway retired, Shanahan’s record has been mediocre at best.  The dumpster fire in Washington only sullied Shanahan’s rep as an offensive guru even more.

John Gruden is another offensive guru of sorts.  Gruden never had the offensive firepower in Tampa Bay as he did in Oakland with QB Rich Gannon leading the way.

And we all know what happened to the likes of Marc Trestman and *gasp* George Seiffert.

Look, I’m not saying that Kelly is guaranteed to fall on his face for believing that an offensive system that was successful in college could work in the NFL.  I think he has the moxie to do his best in realizing that goal.

I’m just saying that no matter how successful one’s offensive (or defensive) system may be, it won’t translate to wins if any coach does not have the talented players to execute said system.

Hell if Boo-Boo the Fool was coaching an NFL team full of talented players, he’d be guaranteed at least division titles.  Just look at Barry Switzer…

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