The Long Walk of Shame ….

The Long Walk of Shame ..

The NBA season will resume after the All Star Game , where New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis rounded out the game’s festivities on his way to winning the All Star Game MVP , as well as being the leading scorer in the contest with fifty-two points for the Western Conference in their triumph. Off the court the big news happens to be the coup made by the Pelicans in acquiring DeMarcus Cousins in a trade from the Sacramento Kings , that was astounding as it was surprising . Many are now questioning the mindset of the Sacramento Kings and the front office led by Vlad Divac and Peja Stojakovic . In allowing Cousins to be traded , the franchise avoided a max contract which would have paid the center $209 million over five years , making the center the highest paid player in the NBA. Having gone through nine head coaches in almost as many seasons and the continued dysfunction of the Kings, there is no real good reason to believe this trade will be in the best interest of the franchise. Acquiring Tyreke Evans , a player who is often injured , Buddy Heald , Langston Galloway and two future protected draft picks does little for the Sacramento Kings as a franchise .

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Vlad Divac who heads the Basketball Operations for the Kings cannot be taken seriously in his position as a front office executive and the same can be said Peja Stojakovic as the general manager. Team owner Vivek Ranadive has not issued a public statement concerning the trade , but it is believed , he gave the go-ahead for the deal to be made after the approach from Divac.

Vlad Divac for his part in a press interview suggested that he turned down a far better deal for a trade to send DeMarcus Cousins elsewhere. It is believed there were as many as five teams interested in acquiring the center. A player who many believe is the best player at his position within the league. Cousins has been the sole reason to watch the Sacramento Kings this season and it doesn’t bode well for the franchise’s future , given this latest faux-pas as well as having one of the lowest attendance levels in the entire NBA. Refurbishment of the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento has to be considered a complete waste, especially when it comes at the expense of taxpayers’ monies , something clearly not on the mind of former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson , whose persistence in seeking to make this happen while his city faced a budget crisis remains an ongoing indication , why municipalities continue to be a lap-dog of professional sports’ hierarchies.

Vivek Ranadive assumed control of the Sacramento Kings, having brought the franchise from the Maloof family . Ranadive promised the fans a change , one where the team would seek to be competitive and have a great team on the court for the fans to take pride in, but nothing has been further from the truth. Head coach Dave Joerger and his coaching staff are completely out of their depth while Vlad Divac and his fellow executives continue to lead the Kings deeper into an abyss. It’s pretty much safe to suggest the fans will likely abandon franchise in even large numbers in the aftermath of this shocking and inexplicable trade.

Both New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings will be back in action on Thursday 23rd February , when the Kings will face the Denver Nuggets at home , while the Pelicans take on the Houston Rockets .

While the idiocy of the Charles Oakley ‘incident ‘ remains fresh in the minds of the fans around the NBA , many are now asking, how long before Phil Jackson and Steve Mills decide to pull the plug and simply implode the roster of the New York Knicks ? Rumors are now running wild , with the Knicks likely out of playoff contention , it simply doesn’t make sense to keep together one of the league’s highest salaried teams . Derrick Rose has failed to make a major impact and Carmelo Anthony lacks the drive to lead the team with any great determination . If there was ever one thing clear about Carmelo Anthony , it has been the fact his game is extremely one-dimensional , with scoring being his greatest strength .

Thursday 23rd February is the trade deadline and it will be interesting to see if New York Knicks’ head coach Jeff Hornacek is given instructions to sit out both Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose or simply the Knicks’ starting point guard, Rose, as they seek a trade of the former League MVP from 2010 . The New York Knicks will face a tough task when they resume their schedule , as they face the Eastern Conference’s best team , the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night at the Quicken Loans Arena , in Cleveland , Ohio. Contests featuring Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James as adversaries have always favored the four-time League MVP. New York Knicks continue to be a monumental disaster , not being of much relevance in the NBA over the past five seasons , with their last NBA Playoff appearance came during the 2012-13 NBA season .

If the New York Knicks are said to be having a bad season m then by comparison , one could look at the Brooklyn Nets and say “ they are dead in the water” . With the league’s worst record and a roster simply bereft of talent , it would be easy to suggest team owner Mikhail Prokhorov , having spent tens of millions to buy the franchise, has wasted even more , investing in players who simply were not good enough. It wasn’t that long ago the Nets were a star-studded team , with one of the highest payrolls in the NBA with Brooklyn playing in front of a sold-out arena. Those days are now long gone , former GM Billy King is no longer there, but the billionaire owner of the Brooklyn Nets still presides over the mess. Prokhorov is said to be listening to offers for the franchise, but there have been no interested suitors or actual buyers for the team. There is no known asking price , though it is believed Mikhail Prokhorov would be willing to sell the team just under $2 billion .

Considered to be the best player on the Brooklyn Nets’ roster, Brook Lopez could be on the block , as the Nets look to recoup something for the player, while taking his salary and the remainder of his contract off their books . At this point , it’s best to start with their very own ‘ fire sale ‘ and look to regroup later. It is about the only thing Sean Marks can do without being faulted , as he inherited a mess from his predecessor Billy King. Kenny Atkinson was given the unenviable task of being asked to coach this band of misfits and clearly things have not worked out as planned . For the remainder of their schedule there isn’t really a great deal left for the Brooklyn Nets to play for . Pride is no longer evident and their will to win has been sorely lacking .

Sibling rivalry , tumult and turmoil have now engrossed what could be the makings of the biggest soap opera in the NBA . Los Angeles Lakers’ CEO Jeanie Buss has relieved GM Mitch Kupchak of all his duties . Jeanie Buss has also dismissed her brother Jim Buss from his role within the franchise , creating what could very tell turn into a bitter feud between the two siblings. Not since the departure of Phil Jackson , have the Lakers seen such drama and it certainly doesn’t bode well for the future of the Los Angeles Lakers. Head coach Luke Walton is certainly trying to do his very best , but the rookie head coach is facing a tough task of having to coach a team short on experience , without veteran leadership and actual play-making ability on all fronts . Short-term thinking , the lack of development of talented young players and this constant belief money can bring the best talent to the franchise has been sorely misplaced. Not one player on the current roster was deserving of a vote to be even remotely considered for a roster spot on the Western Conference All Star team . The idiocy of fans having a vote continues to show why the NBA is actually bereft of ideas.

Courtesy of USA Today

Why Lakers’ Jeanie Buss fired Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak

By Sam Amick , USA Today Sports

Jeanie Buss had been fed up for years.

You could never tell by watching her in that familiar Staples Center courtside seat, the 55-year-old Lakers governor always smiling and entertaining her high-profile friends who would watch her beloved team lose almost every time out.

But behind the scenes, in those moments when she’d recount all the mistakes that her brother, part owner and former front office executive Jim Buss, and longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak had made and wondered why her patience in them hadn’t paid off, she was more and more ready to do this deed.

The hammer finally fell on Tuesday, when Jeanie and recently added Lakers legend Magic Johnson fired Kupchak and stripped Jim Buss of all his basketball power. While Johnson now assumes the role of president of basketball operations, the Lakers are expected to add Rob Pelinka, the agent of retired Lakers star Kobe Bryant, as general manager, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

Pelinka, a teammate of Michigan’s Fab Five whose current client list includes the Houston Rockets’ James Harden and the Houston Rockets’ Eric Gordon, would have to divest himself of his Landmark Sports Agency before joining the Lakers.

Click on link shown above to read this article in full .

With the ouster of Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss , Jeanie Buss has sought to make changes and her first order of business has been to name Magic Johnson as Head of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Lakers. How Johnson will be able to manage this role , while also being a senior executive with the Los Angeles Dodgers remains to be seen . The Lakers have also traded Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Corey Brewer . This trade made absolutely no sense whatsoever , as Williams was the leading scorer on the roster and certainly their most effective player throughout this season . Magic Johnson’s ambitions lay somewhere between his wanting to be taken seriously as a front office executive and still be seen as one of the best players in Los Angeles Lakers’ history .

While I don’t believe Luke Walton’s job is danger as of yet , I do believe Magic Johnson’s patience might not endure the Los Angeles Lakers, not being able to turn around their season with at least a winning record at the end of the season. The Lakers will resume their schedule with a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on the 24th February , one of several games taking place on the night.

Jeanie Buss and Magic Johnson will need to hire a general manager of proven ability or someone with a great deal of basketball knowledge and if the rumors are to believed they might well have found their man , with Rob Pelinka , famed basketball agent and founder of The Landmark Sports Agency , home to some of the most recognizable names in the NBA . Pelinka will have to assess this roster , address their wants , dissolve itself of the players who are either unproductive or just simply no longer requisite to the long-term future of the Los Angeles Lakers. It will be a tough task, but it will not be easier than watching the ruination of the franchise since 2010.

It is hard to contend how this NBA season can be seen as being truly competitive , when claims are being made the Eastern Conference is on par with its Western Conference counterpart. The West if by far the more competitive conference , with far more quality teams, whereas in the East, there are only a few teams barely worth talking about this season. Other than the continuity seen from the Cleveland Cavaliers , the most surprising team in the Eastern Conference , might just be the Boston Celtics , who are playing like a team which has finally arrived and believe that they are good enough to take on the best the league has to offer .

Boston Celtics’ head coach Brad Stevens is proving to be one of the best young coaches in the league (NBA) and could very well end up being named the NBA Coach of The Year this season. He has shown himself to be adept , a great motivator of his players and he certainly has gained their respect. It easy to understand why both GM Danny Ainge and Wyc Grousbeck have undoubted faith in their head coach. The Celtics will be preparing for their next game after the break when they face the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre , in Toronto , Ontario this upcoming Friday , the 24th February .

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As the NBA season slowly winds down, what do you believe has been the biggest story of the season and which team do you believe has been the biggest disappointment overall ?




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Keep on , keeping on ….

Keep on , keeping on …

The Boston Red Sox seem to be well on their way to sealing the deal and winning the AL East , barring the team’s self-implosion as they close out their regular season schedule . This weekend the Red Sox will be in action as they face divisional rivals the Tampa Bay Rays . This series will be the final chance for Rays’ fans to see David Ortiz in action for the Red Sox as the future Hall of Fame bound player plays his last series of games against the Rays. This season Ortiz has been one of the most effective and productive players on the Red Sox staff. As always, the resilient veteran Dustin Pedroia has stepped up to the plate, but perhaps no other player on the team has personified the Red Sox way of doing things other than Hanley Ramirez . Over the past eighteen days it has been Ramirez who has been the premiere offense stalwart on the roster. He would very well end up being the AL Player of The Month for September , if there is any justice in the game. Boston has been on a tear as they seek to win another divisional title , having already clinched a postseason berth for 2016.

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The success of the Boston Red Sox has come about from the performances of several of the younger players on the roster , most notably from Rick Porcello , Xander Bogaerts , Jackie Bradley Jr as well as the seasoned veterans Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. Red Sox manager John Farrell , his coaching staff and the team’s Head of Operations Dave Dombrowski have essentially assembled a competitive roster, which to be seen as one of the favorites for not only the ALCS (AL Pennant) , but also the World Series . Farrell for his part will be seeking to win his second World Series’ title as the manager of the Red Sox franchise. In doing so , he would join Terry Francona as one of the only managers in Red Sox history to have won two titles with the franchise. In 2013 John Farrell led the Boston Red Sox to their most recent World Series’ victory when they defeated the St Louis Cardinals , taking the series in six games. I fully expect David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox to get by the Tampa Bay Rays in this road series , given the lack of consistency shown by the home team throughout this season , be it on the road or at home !

Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays will be on the mound as the starting pitcher for the home team when he faces off against Drew Pomeranz of the Red Sox. For the Tampa Bay Rays , they are now simply playing for pride after what will turn out to be another disappointing season for the franchise. Excuses will continue to be made for the continued poor play and the lack of real commitment shown by the managerial staff and front office executives .

Hard to fathom how the Los Angeles Angels will continue to tolerate the lack of real success by Mike Scioscia , his staff and in particular by the team over the past six seasons. Having won a World Series title in 2002 , the intermittent years have seen nothing but meager pieces of consolation for the ball-club and their fans. Having assembled a high-profiled team , the Angels continue come up short and the patience of team owner Arte Moreno is now running thin. Mike Trout continues to be the cornerstone of this ball-club and perhaps one of the few reasons to watch the Angels play. The Los Angeles Angels have been a very poor team in just about every aspect of their game and it is reflected in their record (67-86) this season . Mike Trout and his teammates will be in action this weekend in a series against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston , Texas. This is part of a current four-game series between the two AL West divisional adversaries.

With very little to play for other than self esteem, the Los Angeles Angels could very well be on their way to saying goodbye to several members of this current roster as well as the entire managerial staff at the end of this season. High hopes and great expectations and the Los Angeles Angels have failed to meet any of those aspirations and the same could be said of > last season’s NCLS Pennant winner the New York Mets whose season appears to be on the brink of becoming ashes.

With nine games to play before the end of their regular season, the New York Mets find themselves in a three-horse race for two of the final wildcard spots in the NL , which begins the postseason with the wildcard round . Eight games behind the NL East division leaders the Washington Nationals , the Mets simply have to win out to make sure they are one of the two qualifiers for the wildcard round of this postseason . It is imperative for the Mets to start their weekend series with a win when they face the Philadelphia Phillies at home , with Gabriel Ynoa on the mound for the Mets and Jeremy Hellickson of the Phillies as the opposing pitcher. Mets’ manager Terry Collins has a great deal to prove if he and this team are to be seen as worthy favorites within the National League (NL) .

The New York Mets have an important series this weekend which will require an all-out effort from every player on the team. I have no doubt they will prevail over an ailing Philadelphia Phillies’ team which has simply been abysmal throughout much of the season.

There was a time when Joe Mauer was considered one of the best young players in the game , but those years have since past. Still considered something of a figurehead and face of the Minnesota Twins’ , Mauer is now considered a veteran of the ball-club guiding the next generation as manager Paul Molitor tries to take steps to reassert the success once seen under former manager Ron Gardenhire . The Twins’ owners have been seemingly unresponsive to the desires of the fans while resting on their laurels , barely eking out any type of success from a financial standpoint . Paul Molitor and his team face the Seattle Mariners this weekend at home with just about everything on the line for the ball-club this season.

Barely competitive within the AL Central it is easy to understand why the Minnesota Twins have fallen by the wayside so rapidly. There is an underlying feeling the Pohlad family are now disinterested in the franchise and quite possibly willing to sell the ball-club to the highest bidder .

So what will it take to get the Los Angeles Dodgers over the hump and to win their first World Series’ title in almost thirty years ? Having spent mercilessly since 2012 , after this ball-club was purchased for over $2.1 billion . The Dodgers’ organization , their seemingly apathetic fans and the incompetent local media are still at a loss to explain the lack of tangible success on the field . I guess when you can commit to spending over $1.3 billion on players’ salaries during that time-frame , you might not need to explain to anyone how incompetent you still remain ?

On their way to another divisional title the Los Angeles Dodgers are and will remain like a deer caught in headlights when it comes to the postseason as evidenced by their most recent appearances . Having been no further than the NLCS , it remains the stumbling block on their path to glory and with good reason. This ball-club has never been able to find consistency when it was needed the most , during the postseason . The Los Angeles Dodgers will be in action today as part of their current series , where they will be taking on the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles , California . On the mound will be Dodgers’ All Star pitcher Clayton Kershaw as he faces Chad Bettis of the Rockies .

Likely to end up with the worst record in baseball this season the Atlanta Braves will play their very last game at Fulton County Stadium , in Atlanta , Georgia when they face the Detroit Tigers on the 2nd October , the final day of the regular season. In 2017 , the Braves will ring in a new era , having moved to a new stadium , Suntrust Park , with the likelihood of a larger fan-base , though I am very skeptical of the predictions. For the time being the Braves still have to fulfill their obligations for the rest of September. This afternoon the team will be facing the Miami Marlins at Marlins Ballpark in Miami , Florida . Aaron Blair of the Braves will be on the mound as he faces off against Wei-Yin Chen of the Marlins in this Saturday evening contest .

From my own perspective I do not believe Brian Snitker can remain in his current position as the Atlanta Braves’ manager. GM John Coppolella and fellow front office executive , Team President John Scheuerholz made an extreme mistake in Snitker’s promotion from within the coaching staff. It would have been preferable had they made the decision to hire a more high-profiled manager with a proven track record or someone more widely known and closely associated with the organization. Within certain circles the name of former players John Smoltz , Chipper Jones and even Greg Maddux have been brought up as possible candidates to fill the role as the next manager of the ball-club. Clearly, something will have to be done during the off-season as the franchise prepares for the move to their new ballpark.

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With the regular season now winding down within baseball what are you hoping to see over the final few games and heading into the postseason ? Which teams do you believe are in with the best chance to succeed the Kansas City Royals as this year’s World Series’ champions ? Also which ball-club do you believe has proven to be the biggest disappointment of the season ?

Tophatal ….. 2016/09/24


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Knowing …..

Knowing …………

It doesn’t necessarily take a special athlete who knows when to call it quits, but it does take a special individual who knows when his time is up. Many NFL fans felt it was selfish when Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders chose to walk away from the Detroit Lions at the height of his career and well on the way to breaking the all-time career rushing record . Sanders is still beloved by fans of the Lions , many of his contemporaries and peers. Though Emmitt Smith’s record still remains intact , there are many who believe the record was Barry Sanders’ for the taking , had he prolonged his career in the NFL . From my own perspective I believe Sanders was never afforded a team which complemented his skill-set and it should be remembered upon his retirement the Detroit Lions would go on to record their own moment in history went down in history as being the only team in recent history to record a 0-16 win-less season , since the NFL went to regular sixteen-game schedule.

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In the subsequent years since the Detroit Lions’ win-less season the franchise’s fortunes have been erratic with a great deal of changes being seen among the playing staff , coaches and front office. The Ford family still remain in control of the NFC North based franchise. Head coach Jim Caldwell , his coaching staff and GM Bob Quinn did their best in making sure the NFL Draft would at least serve the organization’s best interests . However, with the announcement by the Lions’ best player over the past six seasons, wide receiver Calvin Johnson has since announced, his retirement, having become the franchise leader in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns . Johnson’s abrupt retirement has shocked the NFL world as well fans of the Detroit Lions.

Courtesy of The Detroit Free Press

Calvin Johnson: Maybe 2016 Lions will be tougher to defend without me

By Dave Birkett , Detroit Free Press

Maybe Matthew Stafford was onto something.

Stafford told Sirius XM NFL radio this week that the Lions might actually be tougher to defend now that Calvin Johnson is retired because they’ll take a more balanced approach to offense.

Johnson, speaking at his free youth football camp Saturday, said in his first comments since he announced his retirement that there’s an element of truth to his former quarterback’s statement.

►Related: Calvin Johnson details retirement plans, explains social media surge
►Related: Calvin Johnson talks retirement, says he was fed up with football

“Well, I felt like it should have been easier because they were going to double me a lot of the time, especially in certain situations, so it’s breakout time for somebody to make something happen,” Johnson said. “One on one, that’s what you want. So, put it like this year, I don’t know who if anybody’s going to get double-teamed, so I think they have the play-makers. So if Matt can get them the ball, they make the plays, they can be good, man.”

Johnson led the Lions with 1,214 yards receiving on 88 catches last year and finished his career as the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

The Lions didn’t always surround Johnson with reliable talent during his nine-year NFL career – no teammate reached even 60 catches in four of his seasons – but they appear to have a balanced group of pass catchers heading into this fall.

Golden Tate led the Lions in receptions the last two years, Marvin Jones takes over the X receiver position coming off a 65-catch season with the Cincinnati Bengals, Theo Riddick tied for the league lead among running backs with 80 catches last year, and the team is counting on continued improvement from tight end Eric Ebron.

Johnson said he hasn’t followed much football since announcing his retirement just before the start of free agency in March.

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Calvin Johnson has stated his decision is final and he is unlikely to change his mind. Much as in the same way Barry Sanders’ abrupt departure came as something as a shock . I do believe there are similarities in the circumstances which has led to the decisions made by both of these players ! The front office has failed to build a competitive team capable of winning a Superbowl , much less the Detroit Lions being able to win their division. Quarterback Matt Stafford remains an enigma and a player who has failed to meet the expectations sought .

The loss of Calvin Johnson to this Detroit Lions’ roster will be impactful and I certainly do not believe there is a player on the team capable providing the type offensive productivity sought by Jim Caldwell’s coaching staff. Johnson made Matt Stafford look good on days when the quarterback was simply mediocre . Heading into this upcoming season it will be interesting to see how the Detroit Lions will fare against their divisional rivals in particular, where I believe the NFC North will likely be a two-horse race between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings , with the Chicago Bears and Detroit looking feed off the table scraps left at the bottom of the division ! The Detroit Lions’ preseason schedule will consist of the four customary exhibition games , where their rookies will get the chance to prove themselves while hoping to influence the coaching staff and their possibly making a roster spot roster spot for the Lions’ regular season opener. Detroit’s opening game of the preseason will see them face the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in , Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania on August 12th ,2016.

If the Detroit Lions are to be considered among the elite teams in the NFC this season then team on both sides of the ball will have proved themselves worthy on both counts. If there is a player who might be now viewed as the best offensive threat for the Lions currently on the team’s roster , then it would have to be wide receiver Golden Tate . Though a case could also be made for running back Stevan Ridley , but I believe not having Calvin Johnson as part of the offense could prove to be fateful for the Lions this upcoming season. While questions still arise concerning the inconsistency of Matt Stafford , player who this season will have a great deal to prove. I can’t help but wonder if GM Bob Quinn’s predecessor Tom Lewand could not have been more persuasive in trying to get Johnson change his mind about retirement , but better yet , seeking to put together a team competitive enough to be considered a legitimate contender for the Superbowl.

A fast start to the regular season will be needed for the Detroit Lions if they are to be in with a chance of winning the NFC North . Anything less than 3-2 by their fifth game of the schedule and I believe we might as well count them out for the divisional crown ! The conference and a postseason berth might well be their best option , but even with that in mind , I still do not believe this team is even capable of making it a reality.

Jim Caldwell and the Detroit Lions will open their regular season with a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis , Indiana on the 11th September , 2016.

Peyton Manning went out on top and at his own wish , rather than being forced out . Granted the five-time League MVP did not have one of his best seasons in the NFL but when it mattered the most , the player proved himself up to the task as he guided the Denver Broncos to their third Superbowl title and Manning’s second win of a championship. As for the idiocy of some fans, who stated the quarterback was never good enough to lead the Broncos to another title. I’d say this to those idiots , given what you all witnessed from Brock Osweiler as Manning’s back-up during the regular season , do you honestly believe he would have been good enough to have led Denver to victory over the Carolina Panthers in the championship game ? Osweiler has since departed for pastures new . where he is expected to lead the Houston Texans this upcoming season.

From my own perspective I believe the Texans simply to be a moderately average team , where hype over JJ Watt as the best defensive player in the NFL is nothing more than sensationalism, much as it was with the claims of Nnamdi Asomugha being a shutdown corner and one of the best corner-backs to have ever played the game. On his best day Asomugha would be no match for the likes of Rod Woodson or a litany of other corner-backs to have played the position down the years who are now enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Far too often the media will be too quick to heap undue praise on a player, who has yet to achieve anything of note. Watt is a very good player , but I do not believe him to be the best defensive player in the league. He is certainly among the top-ten and quite possibly top-five .

With Peyton Manning’s retirement and the departure of Brock Osweiler , John Elway as Head of Football Operations for the Denver Broncos , brought in Mark Sanchez to succeed the two former quarterbacks of the Broncos’ franchise. This might be the last for Sanchez to prove himself as a quarterback of renown in the league , given the misfires over the course of his career in the NFL . But for his postseason glories with the New York Jets , there has been little which could be described as awe-inspiring to his tenure. There is no denying the strengths of the Denver Broncos last season was their defense and the offense while not firing on all cylinders , when needed there was some firepower there , specifically among their receiving corps . Wide receivers Demariyus Thomas and Emanuel Sanders proved to be a great tandem alongside a rush offense led by Ronnie Hillman and C J Anderson .

Gary Kubiak and his Denver Broncos’ coaching staff will be looking to show their fans the team in its new guise will be able to play with a great deal of determination over the course of the season. It will all start with the preseason schedule and assessing his fresh recruit of rookies and acquired free agents from this off-season. Denver’s first game of their exhibition schedule will see them face the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field , Chicago , Illinois , with the Bears and Jay Cutler looking to get off to a winning start to their preseason schedule. I have no doubt the Denver Broncos will be able to make a successful defense of the AFC West divisional title , simply because the case to be made for the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers remains so dire . Denver’s opening game of the regular season will pit them against the Carolina Panthers in a rematch of last season’s Superbowl . The game itself will be the first of the regularly scheduled games on a Thursday night as part of the NFL scheduling.

Drew Brees might be the most beloved player in New Orleans Saints’ history and holding several of the franchise’s passing records , there can be no denying he is a Hall of Fame bound player. His career statistics speaks volumes and he has been one of the most prolific passers of his generation alongside , both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Yet I can’t help but wonder after the Saints’ disappointing season in 2015 , will be Brees be motivated enough to recapture the form which made him and the franchise one of the most feared in the NFL ? In the twilight of a playing career when he has won a Superbowl , captured the hearts of residents in the Crescent City after ‘Hurricane Katrina’ .

Saints’ head coach Sean Payton will be looking to regroup while also seeking to stop the recent dominance of the Carolina Panthers within the NFC South . Brees in his encounters against the Panthers has always held the upper hand , but since the emergence of Cam Newton with the Carolina Panthers , it has been the current League MVP holding sway over his divisional rival. These two teams will meet twice over the course of this season and I fully expect if either can win the season series , it provides them with the inside track to the divisional title. I certainly don’t believe the Atlanta Falcons will provide a credible challenge within the NFC South and the inconsistency seen with Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers simply indicates the freshman quarterback’s learning curve has yet to take an upward spike for the better.

The New Orleans Saints will begin their foray into the 2016 regular season with a game against the Oakland Raiders at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium , in New Orleans, Louisiana ,. Drew Brees and the Saints should feel assured of a victory in their opening game of the season . Brees as a fifteen-year veteran of the NFL might well be entering his last season with the New Orleans Saints and will likely want to leave on a high . Whether or not this comes by way of a deep run in the postseason, with the ultimate goal of winning a second Superbowl for the franchise will be dependent upon the mindset of the quarterback and his teammates , as well as the coaching staff .

The shelf-life of an NFL running back and wide receiver , is said to be six to seven-years on average , with a quarterback the longevity is thought to be closer to twelve years . When you consider Peyton Manning , Tom Brady , Drew Brees and Philip Rivers have now been in the NFL for the better part of ten years or more gracing us with their skill-set . Then you can understand the reasons why these players have such a difficult time in making the decision to walk away from the game. Personal goals asides , sometimes it is pride or the financial need which forces a number of these athletes to prolong their careers. If these players can have a moderate amount of success while along the way , earning a healthy living then the resulting endeavors can be something they can feel entirely happy with.

A s with previous NFL seasons, the league this year could prove to be very exciting, with their being a heightened sense of expectation for several teams. The New England Patriots will have a great deal to prove , with the Tom Brady suspension looming large over the league and the player likely to appeal his case with the US Supreme Court , this chapter concerning the franchise and the NFL hierarchy is far from over . A verdict in Brady’s favor will certainly bring to an end one of the more unsavory aspects of the whole Deflate-Gate fiasco altogether. Elsewhere, this continued idiocy that the NFL should be lauded for all of the great work it is doing in the community , when the league itself continues its deceptive practices and conceit concerning the treatment of NFL veterans , speaks volumes as to the duplicity of the NFL team owners and the hierarchy led by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell . Yet this is all somehow lost among apathetic fans , who simply overlook such issues.

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As an NFL fan do you believe Calvin Johnson’s retirement will have an adverse effect on the fortunes of the Detroit Lions this upcoming season ? Also which players and teams do you believe will be making the headlines throughout much of this season ?

Tophatal ……………….


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If it’s not broken then it doesn’t need to be fixed, but if it’s broken then tear it all apart ..

If it’s not broken then it doesn’t need to be fixed, but if it’s broken then tear it all apart ..

The NBA Playoffs have hit their stride with the first round coming to an end and no real surprises. Teams such as the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets should have fared better , but instead they both fell by the wayside in their first round series . Once again the officiating during the series remain inconsistent with their being no apology forthcoming from either the NBA league hierarchy or from the referees themselves. Which begs the question would the league rather continue to court controversy or simply stem the tide of criticism by trying to fix the problem? As the conference semi-finals get underway it is becoming abundantly clear the best teams at this stage of the NBA Playoffs have been the teams which have shown a great deal of resilience.

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I certainly believe within the Eastern Conference the conference finals are being set up for a showdown between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat , as these two teams appear to be the best of the participants within the conference at this stage of the playoffs. The Cavaliers brushed aside their first round opponents without breaking much sweat , while the Heat had to overcome a pesky Charlotte Hornets’ team during their first round match-up. In their respective conference semis , the Cleveland Cavaliers are taking on the Atlanta Hawks , while the Miami Heat are facing the Toronto Raptors . In the Western Conference it is likely to be about which of the remaining teams can be seen as the worthy challengers to the reigning NBA champions the Golden State Warriors . They are currently playing without the reigning League MVP and point guard Steph Curry . In his absence teammate Klay Thompson has stepped up to the plate and has shone for the Warriors. With or without Curry they remain the best team in the NBA by far and that is very clear at this stage of the NBA Playoffs and schedule.

At this point last season during the NBA Playoffs the teams favored to make it through to the latter stages were able to do so , but solely through showing a great deal of resilience.

Bryce Harper showed the world why he was indeed the best player in the National League last season , as he won the NLMVP putting up some staggering offensive figures on his way to the award . Harper this season , has took up where he left off and is once again among the NL leaders in a number of categories , as he and the Washington Nationals are off to a fast start to the season. The Nationals lead the NL East where they currently head the division by a game and a half over the New York Mets . Dusty Baker heads the managerial staff of the Washington Nationals and the team will have a game on Wednesday afternoon when they face the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City , Missouri,. Stephen Strasburg will be on the mound for the Nationals when he takes on Kris Medlen of the Royals.

If Bryce Harper is able to put the Washington Nationals in a position to compete this season as well making it to the postseason , then it would clearly benefit the franchise. Harper , alongside , Mike Trout , Manny Machado and Andrew McCutchen are quite possibly the best young players within Major League Baseball. The future of the game is exceptionally bright, as long as neither is touched by controversy and they are able to maintain their current level of play within the game.

There are two teams within baseball with a great deal to prove this season and they would be the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees . These are two of the most revered teams in baseball history, as well as being among the game’s most successful . In recent years however the two have become more known for their off-field issues , lack of success and more having committed over $ 2 billion combined on salaries since 2012 . The New York Yankees are already struggling to keep apace with their divisional rivals within the NL East . The team itself managed by Joe Girardi is a veteran one at its core , overly reliant on several players who are well past their prime and lacking real leadership and commitment , as well as being overpaid . In the case of the Los Angeles Dodgers , it is one where the front office has continually oversold the fans on a team which has failed to live up to perceived expectations since the new ownership group bought the ball-club for almost $2.2 billion in 2011. Playing in a less than competitive NL West division this season , the Dodgers are barely above .500 in terms of their record at this stage of the season.

Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts and the team are coming off a 10-5 victory over a struggling Tampa Bay Rays’ team. These two teams will meet once again on Wednesday afternoon at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Tampa . I expect the visiting team to get by their hosts with a great deal of ease. The New York Yankees for their part have been a constant headache throughout their schedule, unable to show any signs of consistency and they are a paltry 3-7 over their last ten games . A 4-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles has pretty much summed up the woes of the team this season . Other than the performances of Masahiro Tanaka there has been no other player on the Yankees’ roster who has really stood out over the course of this season. Now comes word , DH Alex Rodriguez will be sidelined quite possibly for the next two weeks. 2017 will be the last year during which fans will get to see Rodriguez in a Yankees’ uniform and there is no doubt his legacy will be that of a player . who has brought a great deal of disgrace to the game, <i rather than a great deal of satisfaction for the fans . No matter how one tries to spin it, Rodriguez’s career has been one of sheer disappointment.

If there rumors are to be believed , then there is likely to further upheaval within the Atlanta Braves organization. Former GM Frank Wren his been moved sideways and out of his former role to be replaced by John Coppolella . Team President John Schuerholz who oversees the Baseball Operations for the franchise is said to be completely dissatisfied with another pitiful start by team and all fingers seem to be pointing towards current manager Fredi Gonzalez . During his five year tenure Gonzalez has failed to instill any type of discipline into the team , his game decisions have been considered indecisive , but what might be more apparent , has been the repeated failure by the Braves to competitive enough within the NL East and to even be considered a perennial postseason contender over his tenure. The current roster lacks players with proven ability and the current crop of players within their farm system doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence.

Courtesy of USA Today

Braves discussing whether to fire Fredi Gonzalez, eye Bud Black

By Bob Nightengale , USA Today Staff Writer

The Atlanta Braves, embarrassed over their horrific start this season, are internally discussing whether they should fire manager Fredi Gonzalez, a high-ranking Braves official told USA TODAY Sports.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity since he was unauthorized to speak publicly about the discussions.

The Braves have the worst record in the Major Leagues at 7-19, and going back to mid-July, they are just 31-72.

The Braves considered firing Gonzalez last season, but instead gave him an extension last July through 2016, rewarding him and his staff for their surprising 42-42 start.

While the Braves are in a full-scale rebuilding mode, and certainly don’t place all of the blame on Gonzalez, they believe the team should be performing better. They have already had two losing streaks of nine and eight games.

The biggest question facing the Braves, if they decide to dismiss Gonzalez, is whether they replace him with an interim manager or hire a permanent manager.

Click on link to read this article in full.

Fredi Gonzalez’s record since being made manager of the Atlanta Braves in 2011 has not been the most exciting, let alone impressive . There have been only two postseason appearances , each ending with an early round exit . It is clear the front office are no longer impressed with attributes of the manager or his managerial style. The ‘knock’ against Gonzalez was his continued insistence in not demanding more of his players or holding them accountable. His style, often called for the players to simply play at their own pace , rather than of the demands of the managerial staff . As of the 4th May the Atlanta Braves stood at the bottom of the NL East standings with one of the worst records in all of baseball. After twenty-seven games played (7-20) the Braves are on pace to lose 120 games of their one hundred and sixty-two game schedule. The ball-club’s impending move to their new state of the art ballpark , Sun Trust Park might well be filled with a great deal of optimism for the fans . But if there is not a winning product on the field , I seriously doubt the fans will be attending future Braves’ ball games at the new venue with a great deal of excitement. Atlanta has lost seven of their last ten games and they are currently on a one game win-streak. These are the sort of statistics that has you wondering why the Braves’ front office have not chosen to take action sooner , rather than now contemplating what to do next.

In their last game played on Wednesday evening the Atlanta Braves faced the New York Mets and they were on the wrong side of an 8-0 annihilation by their divisional rival. These are the type of results which are a true reflection of an organization, lacking real leadership and structure at all levels , from the top to the bottom . On Thursday the Atlanta Braves will be the guests of the Arizona Diamondbacks when the two teams meet at Chase Field in Phoenix , Arizona . The starting pitchers are Aaron Blair of the Braves , who will face the Diamondbacks’ Zack Greinke . Fredi Gonzalez and his managerial staff will remain under close scrutiny in the coming days, but I do not believe any action will be taken before this weekend. If the Braves should continue falter over the next five days , then I believe Gonzalez will be fired ! It is extremely difficult to see where the Atlanta Braves can now go from here and even if Bud Black were to be hired to succeed Fredi Gonzalez , I do not believe he would be able to turn things around over the remainder of this season. This current lineup is so lacking in talent at almost every position imaginable and the confidence level must be at an all-time low.

As a rookie pitcher in baseball this season , Kenta Maeda is having a phenomenal year at this stage of his young career . Who knew that the Los Angeles Dodgers would have struck gold with this signing and making fans already forget the name of Zack Greinke ? Maeda joins a team with a list of All Stars at almost every position imaginable in this lineup , which features highest payroll in the game . Having committed over $1.26 billion in salaries to the ball-club since 2012 , I am beginning to wonder if the owners of the Dodgers are getting value for the monies spent ? Magic Johnson might well have now become the face of the Dodgers’ franchise as its most recognizable executive , but the business acumen is still provided by Mark Walter , Todd S Boehly and the vast resources at their disposal through the franchise’s parent company Guggenheim Baseball Properties LLC , which is part of the vast venture capital and investment firm Guggenheim Partners Inc . In the world of North American professional sports there is no other franchise with the resources of Guggenheim Partners whose assets exceed $245 billion. Granted , the Los Angeles Dodgers’ profits and value are a great deal less than the New York Yankees and several of the teams in the NFL . Yet brand value and name recognition has been the main reason why the ball-club remains at the forefront of MLB.

If Kenta Maeda can continue with his staggering performances already seen this season , then there is no reason to believe why the player cannot join the long list of illustrious players to have won the NL Rookie of the Year and quite possibly the NL Cy Young Award as a Los Angeles Dodgers’ player. Maeda is proving to be that good and a great deal more. His next projected start will be against the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday evening when the two teams are scheduled to meet at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario.

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From your observations concerning the NBA Playoffs, which teams do you believe have a definite chance of making it to the NBA Finals ? Also , with baseball still in its infancy at this stage of the schedule, have you been surprised with any of the teams in terms of their performances ? Leave a comment as you see fit and thanks as always for the continued support of the content encompassing Tophatal’s Blog and its associated sites !


Tophatal ….. 05/04/2016


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A Tale of Two Cities and Two Franchises Commonly Intertwined Through Familiarity & Scorn …

A Tale of Two Cities and Two Franchises Commonly Intertwined Through Familiarity & Scorn …

The long-held rivalry between the  Miami Heat and  the   New York Knicks has been well-known and the continued interwoven chapters of their existence has on display for years. Miami Heat Team President   Pat Riley     association with both of these franchises, is another thread and link between the two. Current Heat forward  Amare’ Stoudemire ,   is himself a former New York Knicks’ player now on the Miami  roster    and Stoudemire would like nothing better than to show the Knicks what they are now missing. To say , the New York Knicks have under- achieved would not only be a statement in fact, but it also goes to the complacency shown by the entire front office led by team owner James Dolan , with Phil Jackson as Head of Basketball Operations and Steve Mills as the team’s general manager.

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What should have been a season of hope for the New York Knicks has now turned into one of comedic errors of monstrous proportions , coming to a head where criticism is pointing towards Carmelo Anthony , after it was revealed publicly for the first time , the player had met with Phil Jackson to discuss the direction of the team and the long-term goals of Jackson. This criticism would not be so ridiculous , were it not from the fact the instigators of this idiocy , are in fact Knicks’ fans ,who believe Phil Jackson is currently without blame for the current woes of the team and their current standing within league , and conference . Consider the fact, Jackson fired Derek Fisher and has replaced Fisher with Kurt Rambis , a former player and head coach ,whose only claim to fame might be the fact he played on a championship winning team the Los Angeles Lakers . Rambis’ own accomplishments as a player can be best described as being nondescript.

Hard to envisage any scenario , between now and the end of the regular season where the New York Knicks would be deemed competitive enough to gain a playoff berth for the upcoming NBA Playoffs . The Knicks are 6 ½ games behind the eighth seed , the Chicago Bulls (33-32) as of the 15th March . It’s pretty much safe to say suggest the Knicks’ season is essentially over and they have nothing to play for over their remaining fourteen games. Pride is something which seems to be lost on this team as well as the entire organization. They have lacked the acumen sought and there is a clear lack of direction and leadership now being seen from all levels of the franchise . from the top on down to the players , themselves.

Carmelo Anthony’s meeting with Phil Jackson might well have been productive as all parties have claimed, but from my own perspective, it simply adds to the uncertainty concerning the player’s long-term future and whether or not he honors the remainder of his contract as a player or be traded elsewhere. The New York Knicks in their most recent game took on the Los Angeles Lakers and won the contest by a three-point margin 90-87 . In their next game the New York Knicks face a more daunting task as their next opponents will be the Golden State Warriors , whose dominance over the East Conference remains as lopsided as ever.

Win or lose , the New York Knicks have place themselves on a path of mediocrity this season where there have been no redeeming qualities at all in the way they have conducted themselves as an organization or as a team . The level of incompetency has to be seen to be believed and yet, there are Knicks’ fans questioning the fact of player seeking answers from an executive about the team’s lack of success ? Now you can understand why no one takes the franchise seriously anymore . The Knicks may well be the most profitable and valuable team in the NBA , but that might be the only thing they have in their favor as a franchise .

Courtesy of the New York Times

Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony Heartened in Talk With Phil Jackson

By Andrew Keh, Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES — Carmelo Anthony said he felt positive about his one-on-one meeting with the Knicks’ president, Phil Jackson, last week in which the two discussed the direction of their struggling team.

Anthony, 31, has three more seasons left on his contract, and he has, at times, expressed frustration and disappointment about losing this season as the Knicks, who seem assured of missing the playoffs, have once again stumbled into irrelevance.

“The only thing I’m going to say about it, I thought it was a good conversation,” Anthony said late Sunday after the Knicks’ last-second victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. “I thought it was good timing for us to sit down and talk.”

Jackson revealed last week that the two had met. He told reporters that Anthony had seemed committed to the team, that he told Anthony he remained the cornerstone of the team, and that Anthony was engaged in the discussion, asking direct questions.

Click on link to read this article in full.

Pat Riley may well be seeing the light finally, as the mindset has changed in this venerable sage. Erik Spoelstra , his coaching staff as well as Juwan Howard have rang in the face of change for the Miami Heat. No longer is there the belief the team can be solely reliant on their veterans such as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh . While the two remain very good players , it has been some of the younger players on the roster who have now began to step up to the plate and bring about this “ new face “ to the Heat and perhaps place them on a path and new chapter of success . The same cannot be said of their conference rivals the New York Knicks and the level of incompetence seen over the last six seasons .

Juwan Howard has been instrumental in the development of several of the young players on the Miami Heat roster , with the aged veteran really showing his coaching acumen , as well as being a valuable asset to the coaching staff of Erik Spoelstra. The Heat have been one of the more impressive teams in the league over their last twelve games and they have found themselves in a comfortable position within the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference, where they currently reside as the third seed behind the Toronto Raptors and the top seeds , the Cleveland Cavaliers . For the Miami Heat , Erik Spoelstra has to be extremely with what he has seen from the likes of Justise Winslow , Josh Richardson , Tyler Johnson and Hassan Whiteside . This has been the year where they have been given the chance to shine on a bigger stage , while helping the Heat to some real semblance of success .

Five appearances in the NBA Finals during an eight-year span does have a way of raising the visibility of a franchise and the New York Knicks’ fans continue to bitch and whine as if theirs is a divine right to be thought of as one of the pillars of the NBA ? It’s time for those fans to remember , they are of little relevance in the league today and they haven’t been in years. There is a reason why fans of the New York Knicks remain so do damn obnoxious and without a clue . Fans of the franchise have never been able to handle constructive criticism, much less their being intelligent enough to be critical of the hierarchy within the Knicks’ organization and their continued failings .

Regular season meetings between the Miami Heat and New York Knicks were actually celebrations of a rivalry , which was among the fiercest in NBA history and most notably during the NBA Playoffs where the two met on several occasions . Those meeting became even more heightened when Pat Riley was the head coach of the Miami Heat. This season in their regular meetings between the Heat and the Knicks , these games have been very competitive , with the Miami Heat holding a 3-1 series’ lead .

I certainly believe the Miami Heat are good enough to make a deep run in the NBA Playoffs and they are definitely capable of beating the top contenders within the Eastern Conference in a seven game series ! As good as the Cleveland Cavaliers are said to be . the LeBron James’ led team has a number of issues across its roster and it has been a cause for concern , with Tyronn Lue and his coaching staff being perplexed with the frailties of the team.

Tyronn Lue would no doubt like to get the better of his Miami Heat counterpart Erik Spoelstra this season and contests between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Heat have proven to be exhilarating and thoroughly entertaining for the fans. These two teams met four times during the regular season of last year , with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat splitting the series at two games apiece (2-2). There is still one game to be played in the four-game regular season series between the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers , as the Heat seek to enter the playoffs riding on a wave of optimism.

Now might be the time for several teams to start reassessing their season up to this point and how they have fared . I believe this to be true of several franchises who thought they were in with a chance of a divisional title or at least a playoff berth at the All Star Break . It has to be said , since the league’s mid-season showcase event a number of teams have lapsed in terms of their play while others have prospered . Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors have set a blistering pace within the league and they seem well on their way to shattering the Chicago Bulls’ record season run for the number of wins (72-10) in a season. If the Warriors continue at their current pace they are likely to set a new mark of seventy-five wins .

Golden State and the San Antonio Spurs are the only teams in the NBA this season to have surpassed fifty-five wins. They are also the only NBA franchises to have won over fifty games at this point of the NBA schedule . While there is no denying the two best teams in the league this season have been the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs, it does send a startling message to the fans , how dire the NBA just happens to be ,with these two teams being so dominant , while the rest seem to be stagnant . Far be it for me to suggest the NBA has a lack of quality players , but I do believe the coaching has now become mediocre .

Of the teams proving to be the most disappointing, I believe that to be the New Orleans Pelicans (25-42) and the fact Anthony Davis has seen the team stumble while trying to keep their play at the levels seen last season . Pelicans’ head coach Alvin Gentry must look to Davis to now lead this roster with the stature the front office believes he has , having made the center the number one overall draft pick in the 2012 NBA Draft . With all of the off-court problems for the franchise and the uncertainty of the team’s ownership with several members of the Benson family now challenging the competence Tom Benson , it remains to be seen what steps are likely to be taken by the league hierarchy , should the patriarch and team owner be declared incompetent , as the family continues to fight over the billionaire’s estate and his fortune .

Inconsistency has been a key issue for the New Orleans Pelicans along with the continued struggles of several players on the roster over the course the season and specifically their schedule. For Alvin Gentry and his coaching staff , this has to be an extremely frustrating time, while for the fans this simply adds to their disappointment in seeing the team not succeed. Expectations were high and the belief there was a chance for the Pelicans to make the NBA Playoffs as a top-five seed . The Pelicans have fallen way short of those expectations , while for Anthony Davis having signed his five-year $145 million deal , he has to be wondering what the intent of the front office is likely to be moving forward in terms of rebuilding the roster.

There are several issues to be dealt with by this Pelicans’ organization beyond the team’s on-court problems and the pending litigation concerning Tom Benson’s competence. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will closely monitor this situation as the outcome will likely have some ramifications for not only the franchise , but also for the league itself , should there be a change in the ownership or sale of the New Orleans Pelicans by the Benson family at some point in the future. This situation will also be of interest to the NFL , as Tom Benson also owns the New Orleans Saints .

In their most recent contest the New Orleans Pelicans faced the Sacramento Kings and came away with a fifteen-point victory, defeating their Western Conference opponents 123-108 . Alvin Gentry and the Pelicans will be looking to redeem themselves, as their season winds down , with just fifteen games left on their schedule . With the final day of the regular season ending on the 13th April , 2016 , it will be interesting to see how the teams fare over the final ten games of the season.

What are the issues which you believe sum up the misfortunes of the New York Knicks’ season ? Are you of the opinion Phil Jackson has been a failure in his role as the Head of Basketball Operations for the Knicks’ organization ? If there are to be far-reaching decisions to be made , what are his best options concerning the long-term future of the franchise ? By contrast, do you believe the Miami Heat are now in a better position , with the front office having assembled a young roster , while looking ahead concerning their own future ?

Tophatal ……….

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Angst , stupidity and a whole lot of mediocrity

Angst , stupidity and a whole lot of mediocrity

As we close out the sporting calendar for 2015, I would like to think the highlights far outweighed lows of the sports’ year which is about to come to an end ! We started off in January with the NFL postseason providing us with a Superbowl to remember for the right reasons . Only to be followed by the fallout which was to follow, with the Deflate-Gate revelations .

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Tom Brady’s legacy being what it is, irreparably tarnished , even with the four-time Superbowl winner , now carving out another career-defining season for himself and the New England Patriots . Brady and the team are on their way to another postseason appearance , while seeking to make a successful defense of their title. Yet, this season I believe belongs to the Carolina Panthers and their spectacular year highlighted by the play of their quarterback Cam Newton .

Newton and the Panthers bolted out of the gate, opening up their season with a remarkable fourteen-game winning streak to start their season. The team being so well-rounded are as equally adept on offense as they are on defense, with Cam Newton having another stellar season , one of personal firsts. The Panthers’ quarterback has to be seen as the leading contender for League MVP and it would be considered a complete travesty were he not to win the award.

There were managerial casualties this season, but the firing of the Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach Chip Kelly was not totally unexpected. The question remains however, why did it take so long for GM Howie Roseman and the team’s owner Jeff Lurie to come to this decision ? Kelly over the past eighteen months made some rash and rather bizarre personnel moves that have completely defied logic. The fact the Philadelphia Eagles failed to make the postseason , was no great surprise, but it could well lead to complete roster shakeup during the off-season.

Another head coach likely to be firmly on the hot seat has to be Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints, as this team simply fell off the map, even with Drew Brees once again passing for over 4,000 yards for the season. A dismal year, no playoff appearance and it will now be left to Mickey Loomis and the front office to assess the real issues of this team and where they now go from here.

The Saints’ final game of the season will see the team meet divisional rivals the Atlanta Falcons, where the two opposing quarterbacks Brees and Matt Ryan will square off with each other for quite possibly for the very last time. Both Atlanta and New Orleans are essentially out of the mediocrity shown.

Week seventeen will provide the fans the last chance to see their teams on the field during the final game of the season, before the top six teams from each conference embarks on the postseason.

Baseball’s regular season played out without much real fanfare, but its postseason was a bear of another nature. Multi-million dollar payrolls notwithstanding , a minnow of another sort proved to be the dominant giant among the postseason contenders as last season’s AL Pennant winner the Kansas City Royals completely dominated the New York Mets in the 2015 World Series .

For the Mets this off-season is already proving to be one of woe, as they failed to sign their postseason hero Daniel Murphy to a lucrative contract. Instead, Murphy was allowed to leave , joining the Washington Nationals and putting his name to a paltry three-year deal worth $37.5 million . Begs the question there has to be a great deal of incompetency within the Mets’ front office if they cannot afford to pay Daniel Murphy $37.5 million over three years ?

I have never been a fan of the NHL and why would I be , where the sport itself barely registers a blip on the television ratings during the televised coverage by either ESPN or NBC Sports ?

The NBA witnessed the rise and dominance of the Golden State Warriors as they completely wiped the floor on the court, marching their way to the NBA title last season . This season has been no different , essentially keeping the core of their roster in tact, adding a few pieces and still remaining dominant . Any questions concerning who the best player in the league now happens to be can be put to rest, as the League MVP , Steph Curry continues to add superlatives to his already astonishing career. Move over LeBron James as there is a ” new sheriff” in town.

No real reason to discuss either the Los Angles Lakers or the New York Knicks as their respective records would suggest ” they are what they are “ and not a great deal is about to change in the coming months as the NBA schedule meanders along.

In the UFC , champions who were thought to be invincible saw their flaws exposed as both Jose Aldo and Ronda Rousey were dethroned as champions within their weight categories. Ronda’s loss was seen as a major upset as lost to Holly Holm in a first-round knockout to the Muy-Thai specialist. UFC President Dana White seems to be in a real hurry to set up a lucrative rematch between the two female bantamweights .

Aldo’s loss came in a bruising contest to Connor McGregor which saw the Brazilian lose his UFC Featherweight title to the Irishman. A rematch has to be in the offing dependent upon the UFC scheduling in the coming months.

Floyd Mayweather Jr’s boxing career has been an impressive one, amassing a forty-nine win unbeaten streak and then heading off into his presumed retirement . From my own perspective, Mayweather’s seventeen-year career was filled with many highs for the multi-weight , multi-titled unbeaten champion, but the biggest misfortune, might well have been , he boxed in era where he was never truly challenged.

Over the past two years, Floyd Mayweather Jr fought and amassed an estimated $400 million in fight purses , likely more and his estimated fortune is believe to exceed $600 million with career-earnings of $700 million . Mayweather has also been shrewd enough to have invested his money wisely, beyond being the sole proprietor of Mayweather Promotions Inc, which has co-promoted his fights over the past eight years, as well having its own stable of established , up and coming fighters .

Considered to be the pound-for-pound King of The Ring at the time of his retirement , I firmly believe , Floyd Mayweather Jr will step back into the ring for one last big payday , while also pushing his career-record to 50-0 with that one last fight. He still remains the biggest draw the sport of boxing has and it has been this way for the past ten years or more.

Elsewhere , boxing had a new heavyweight champion with British boxer Tyson Fury pulling off the “upset of the year” , dethroning the now former champion Wladimir Klitschko who held four of the five major title belts recognized within the sport of boxing. Fury has since been stripped of one of those belts, with the asinine reasoning of the IBF over non-contractual obligations . As to what this might mean is just about anyone’s guess. It just simply adds up to the fact the sport of boxing remains caught up in its own self-importance, while not being able to clean up its own image.

Boxing has no real standard bearer to now carry the mantel Floyd Mayweather relinquished and promoters such as Bob Arum and Don King , while relevant ,have not exactly been forthright with their business dealings within the sport of boxing , leaving it with a sullied legacy and reputation. How I long for the days of Ali , Frazier , Mike Tyson , Bernard Hopkins and Marvin Hagler ! Well, those are now bygone days for a sport that is now taking on water faster than the Titanic.

Soccer remains by far the most popular sport on the planet , but it has quickly become the most corrupt, by way of its leadership on the international front, with both FIFA and UEFA now embroiled in some unsavory actions which has led to the suspensions of the governing bodies’ upper executives. Sepp Blatter’s suspension as FIFA President was long overdue, but the shock of Michel Platini’s suspension caught just about everyone off-guard, after it was revealed he took millions of dollars in bribes , from his FIFA counterpart, Blatter.

With both executives seeking to appeal their suspension by taking their case to CAS (Council For The Arbitration of Sports) , I have to ask is this really worth it and what would be gained from their doing so? It is not as if Blatter or Platini can or would still be seen as individuals with gleaming reputations. They have presided over their respective governing bodies , treating FIFA and UEFA as their own personal fiefdoms and leaving a legacy of corruption and discord along the way.

As an avid fan of the sport and where my sole interests now lie in the comings and goings of the Premiership (EPL) ! I have to admit , the English Premierleague (EPL) remains my sole sporting enjoyment when it comes to the country of my birth. As the season now plays out, the big clubs within the league are either playing at a high level or in the cases of Manchester United and Chelsea , they are swimming with the sharks , where they are the actual prey , rather than being the hunters.

These two teams , Chelsea and Manchester United are among the most popular within the Premiership and also have a loyal fan-base across the globe. Add in the fact , the two clubs combined are valued at in excess of $4.5 billion and you can well understand why the sport of soccer (football as it is known around the world) remains so popular as well as a shrewd investment for a number of wealthy individuals now tied the sport.

Chelsea and Manchester United will be in action , with both featured in games, where they will be playing for their very survival . The Blues (Chelsea) have a fixture against Crystal Palace on January 3rd , the first of the EPL’s scheduling of games to open 2016 ‘s matches for the New Year on a Sunday. Manchester United will take on Swansea City , as the Red Devils will try to resurrect what has been a disastrous season at this point of their schedule . Manager Louis Van-Gaal is walking a tightrope and his job is already on the line in his first season as the team’s head coach.

Though not on a final note, I believe for Serena Williams , Novak Djokovic , Usain Bolt and Jordan Spieth , this has been a year in which each of these athletes have truly excelled and rose to the top of their respective sports. Granted, for Williams and Djokovic they have ruled the WTA and ATP Tours with such dominance , it is hard to envisage either being knocked of their perch as best female and men’s player in tennis.

Bolt, again proved why he is the fastest man on the planet , dominating track and field like no other track star ever.

Jordan Spieth simply placed an another exclamation mark on his remarkable career in golf. What’s that you say, is Tiger Woods’ dominance now over ? Consider the fact , it has been more than four years since Woods last won Grand Slam Major and has now become more known for his sexual exploits off the golf course , than his hitting long drives and putting excellence. Suffice to say, Tiger’s balls were being rubbed and played with, but not in the ways his fans had come to expect.

As 2015, now comes to a close what do you believe has been the sporting highlight of the season and what do you hope to see in 2016 from a sporting standpoint ?

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the continued support of all the sites associated with Tophatal’s Blog and wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year !

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Meet Shay ……………….

I'd like to show you the bare necessities but Shay seems to be covering up the points that'd make the story very interesting .

I’d like to show you the bare necessities but Shay seems to be covering up the points that’d make the story very interesting .

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Heavy is the head that wears the crown which doesn’t fit ..

Heavy is the head that wears the crown which doesn’t fit ..

Well the weekend in the world of sports brought about an array of news’ stories which might have been pleasing to some and a real disappointment to others. As the College Football season winds down last year’s national champions. the Ohio State Buckeyes succumbed as their unbeaten season came to an end with a loss to Michigan State (Spartans) , a 17-14 defeat to the Spartans , which football/ may well derailed the Buckeyes’ chance to repeat as national champions.

For Urban Meyer this season has been one filled with missed opportunities and for Ohio State to have actually fortified their season, as the top-ranked team in the nation before some rather indifferent performances during their schedule. Now one might be critical of the polls and how the rankings are being determined, but in many respects, the new playoff format and the polls have simply diluted what we see and know to be one of the many litany of problems and this format altogether.

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With the fall of Ohio State’s fall in the rankings the Clemson Tigers (10-0) have fortified their stand at the top of the polls. Alabama (Crimson Tide) 10-1 and Florida are now seen as the likely candidates to face off in the SEC championship given their respective standings within the divisions of the SEC. Jim McElwain as the head coach of the Gators , have been explosive as their season has unfolded , with the coaching staff bringing out the best the team has to offer throughout much of the season. Florida struggled to an overtime win over Florida Atlantic , overcoming their instate rival 20-14 .

The AP Poll as it now stands provides us with four unbeaten teams among the top-eight and an array of plot-lines now likely to unfold over the final week of the regular season schedule.

Say what you will about the NFL season , but it is now becoming abundantly clear , several teams have fallen way short of their own lofty expectations. With two unbeaten teams now left as the season meanders into the final quarter of the NFL schedule . Both the Carolina Panthers (10-0) and New England Patriots (9-0) have sought to continue their unbeaten runs within the league.

Cam Newton and his Panthers’ teammates laid waste to the Washington Redskins on their way to an emphatic 44-16 victory over their NFC rivals. As to what this might indicate about this Jay Gruden coached team can be best summed up by how inept the performances of the Redskins have been over the course of their schedule to date.

Dan Snyder has to wondering whether or not this franchise said to be worth $2 billion is actually worth the ongoing frustrations and the salaries being paid out to several of the players on the roster. A billionaire team owner, whose interference in the team’s affairs have been well-chronicled has presided over an unmitigated disaster in recent years. Jay Gruden entered his second season as the head coach and remains unsure as to what his best lineup just happens to be and also which quarterback he can place in his implicit trust in. Neither Kirk Cousins or Robert Griffin III have been able to prove their worth to the team and in all likelihood there is the remote possibility the front office will seek to rid themselves of both players at the end of the season .

The New England Patriots if they can overcome the Buffalo Bills when the two teams meet in the Monday Night Game being played on 23rd November , 2015 at Gillette Stadium , in Foxboro’ Massachusetts, will edge closer towards NFL history , as they seek to become the first NFL franchise to twice go unbeaten during the regular season.

Superbowl L (SB50) will be held at Levi Strauss Stadium in Santa Clara , California , home to the San Francisco 49ers (3-7) . For the Forty Niners , this has to be a season , the organization and the players would rather forget. Apportioning blame to the front office , coaching staff and team would be appropriate , but in reality, it is hard to understand how this franchise could have fallen with such rapid decline from the heights of the 2012 and 2013 NFL seasons. On Sunday the San Francisco 49ers fell to the Seattle Seahawks with another inept performance , where defensively and from an offensive standpoint Jim Tomsula’s team was simply nowhere to be seen in this 29-13 loss .

Colin Kaepernick’s six-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers is now looking something of an overreach on the part of the franchise , even if they were basing it all on Kapernick’s postseason heroics for the franchise. With there now being rumblings GM Trent Baalke will be looking to offload the disgruntled quarterback as well as several other players on the roster, one can only surmise the 49ers are at a point, where they have not only given up on their season, but will be taking some aggressive steps to try and turn things around as quickly as possible.

Delving into the mediocrity of the conferences this season and it easy to understand why several of the teams have failed so miserably .

The Cleveland Browns (2-8) , San Diego Chargers (2-8) , Tennessee Titans (2-8) within the AFC , the Dallas Cowboys (3-7) , Detroit Lions (3-7) and San Francisco Forty Niners (3-7) within the NFC, are representative of the worst of what each conference has offered the fans this season. Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones still believes the team remains capable of obtaining a playoff berth in spite of the Dallas Cowboys’ inept play this season and with Tony Romo having missed several games due to injury. Romo’s return for their week eleven clash against the Miami Dolphins might have proved to be something of a respite , while also showing signs the Dolphins are now a lost cause for the rest of this season. I certainly don’t believe the Dallas Cowboys are capable of reeling off six consecutive wins to be in with a chance of gaining a wildcard berth, much less a remote chance of winning the NFC East , as mediocre as the division just happens to be !

So the MLB off-season has brought about the customary moves one has come to expect as teams seek to make the trades they believe will put them in a position to win for next season . Award winners are now known and there were no major surprises determining the recipients. The departure of Don Mattingly from the Los Angeles Dodgers to become to the new manager of the Miami Marlins , was no big surprise , but I believe Mattingly will be in for a tough time ahead, as he moves from an organization with a $300 million payroll in 2015 to a franchise where the projected payroll for next season is likely to be a paltry $65 million . Given the ineptitude shown by the Marlins over the last six years , it will take a lot more than Don Mattingly to turn the ball-club around.

For the Los Angeles Dodgers, after the disappointment of this past postseason , the search for a new manager began in earnest as GM Farhan Zaidi and Head of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman interviewed a list of potential candidates. Though it now seems a formality , it would appear Dave Roberts will succeed Don Mattingly as the Dodgers’ new manager. If Roberts is named the manager of the baseball franchise, he would become the first minority manager to hold the position in Los Angeles Dodgers’ history.

Zack Greinke after spectacular regular season with the Los Angeles Dodgers coming me up short in the postseason and then failed to win the NL Cy Young Award . when many felt he had the inside track to the award. Jake Arrietta beat out the Dodgers’ pitcher to win baseball’s top individual pitching award within the NL . Greinke added to the Dodgers’ disappointment for the season , by opting to become a free agent this off-season , and be among the leading starting pitchers on the market . While I believe Zack Greinke will find a new home , I don’t believe he will be offered the type of contract signed by his former teammate Clayton Kershaw.

The off-season could prove to be interesting for the Los Angeles Dodgers as the front office seeks to completely restructure the make-up of the roster as the organization goes about its rebuilding process. Twenty-seven years and counting since the Dodgers last prevailed in the World Series and the closest this ball-club has come to making a reappearance in the Fall Classic, saw the team fall to the NL Pennant in the 2013 MLB postseason. The Boston Red Sox would go on to become the world champions for that year, upending the ambition of the St Louis Cardinals .

The Red Sox for its part had an inauspicious season in 2015, never managing to be competitive enough to make a difference within the AL East. Within the front office the departures of Ben Cherington and Larry Lucchino , brought about the about the hiring of Dave Dombrowski to succeed Lucchino as the team President and Head of Baseball Operations , while Mike Hazen succeeds Cherington as the new general manager. This upcoming season will also see the final year the final year of David Ortiz in a Red Sox uniform , as the DH has announced this will be his last season within Major League Baseball. Ortiz’s heroics with the franchise have been well-chronicled and he is likely to become a future Hall of Fame inductee as a Boston Red Sox player. Where the franchise now goes from here, will be dependent upon the decisions likely to be made by Dave Dombrowski , Mike Hazen and the managerial staff led by John Farrell , as they seek to revamp this current roster with an influx of new talent through trades , free agent signings and promotions from within their farm system.

Two years into his ten-year $240 million contract and it would appear Robinson Cano is not happy in his tenure with the Seattle Mariners . If the rumors are to be believed, then his wish for a return to the New York Yankees is unlikely to be granted , unless the Mariners can obtain a player of equal value or at least several top Yankees’ prospects in return. Cano it should be remembered , left the New York Yankees having burned several bridges with his criticism of the front office , with a great deal of anger pointed towards among others , Brian Cashman , Hank and Hal Steinbrenner as well as SVP Lonn Trost. If the Yankees could pull off such a deal to bring Robinson Cano back within the fold , I believe they would be prepared to do so , even if it meant adding part of Cano’s remaining contract to their future payroll. Such minor details have never stopped this organization before , especially a baseball franchise which was the first to break the $200 million a year payroll barrier as far back as 2008 .

In 2015 , with only the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers surpassing $200 million a year payroll ceiling , it is easy to understand why baseball’s finances remain so out of whack , with it simply being about those who have and those who do not . The New York Yankees’ failure in the postseason , with their abrupt dismissal in the wildcard round loss to the Houston Astros , summed up the team’s frustrations and lack of competitiveness all season-long. Joe Girardi and the managerial staff could not get the team to play with any level of consistency with the pitching and offense being so mundane .

One year removed from a league-mandated suspension and his regular season heroics , Alex Rodriguez still finds himself among the disliked of the active players within the game of baseball. While he was never in serious running for the AL MVP Award , a distinction for which Rodriguez has been named three times by the BBWAA . There were a number of supporters who felt the player’s contributions for the Yankees in 2015 made him a legitimate contender for the AL Comeback Player of The Year . To my mind , an act of contrition or not by Alex Rodriguez and his winning of the award, would have meant a slap in the face of the fans , while also continuing to make a complete mockery of the game. Bud Selig and his successor MLB Commissioner , Rob Manfred have continued with the ineptitude for which the hierarchy has come to be known for, along with the myopic view of the press and the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) .

Fifteen games into the NBA season and the Philadelphia 76ers (0-15) seem be well on their way to infamy. Win-less and a streak going back to the latter half of 2014 and bets are now being taking legally and otherwise. as to when the Eastern Conference franchise will gain its first victory of this season.

Personally, it is this sort of ineptitude which has now come to epitomize the ongoing mediocrity of the NBA , along with the lack on insight among so many general managers within this league . Never mind, we have idiots with single-minded lunacy insisting the likes of an inexperienced Derek Fisher is are somehow good for the NBA ? . Fisher’s lack of coaching acumen alongside Phil Jackson’s ego remains the primary reason why the New York Knicks were so bad last season and the fact they are now barely above . 500 , with the NBA season still in its infancy , doesn’t provide a great deal of optimism when you consider the team’s longest winning streak of the season has been no more than four games at this point of their schedule .

On Monday night the New York Knicks fell to the Miami Heat as these two Eastern Conference foes sought to get the better of each other. The Philadelphia 76ers continued with their losing ways suffering another defeat , this time at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves , in a five-point 100-95 loss .

Make way everyone, as the Los Angeles Lakers continue to meander through their lousy season , because sooner , rather than later , Kobe Bryant will wage all-out war on the franchise , his teammates and anyone else he believes is not giving him any love. An impoverished season with only two wins in their last ten games and one can understand why many , are screaming for the head of Byron Scott to be served up on a platter with the rest of the heads of his coaching staff . The last of those two victories came in a game against the Detroit Pistons in the Lakers’ twelve-point 97-85 victory over the surprise team within the Eastern Conference this season, which took place on the . 15th November at the Staples Center in Los Angeles , California,.

Byron Scott will now prepare the Lakers for their next contest where they will play the reigning NBA champions the Golden State Warriors at the Oracle Arena, Oakland , California on Tuesday evening . The Warriors remain unbeaten at home and on the road this season .

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With so much news having unfolded within the world of sports over the past seventy-two hours and many story-lines still to be played out. It will be interesting to see what takes place over the next few days and which athletes or teams take center-stage , seeking to make their presence felt.

Tophatal ……….

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If you can sell it they will come …

If you can sell it they will come

Well the 2015 NFL season will kick off its schedule on Thursday 10th September, as the New England Patriots will play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium , Foxboro, Massachusetts. With the news that Tom Brady will be able to resume his career in the league, will be greeted with a great deal of anger among some fans, while Patriots’ fans will relish seeing the franchise’s all-time leading passer and perhaps its best player in England’s history. What cannot be denied, has been the Patriots’ success since 2001.

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Granted, prior to 2001, the years under former owner Victor Kiam was littered with failure and Ron Meyer as the head coach had little semblance of success during his reign .

The New England Patriots have been the most successful franchise in the NFL over the past fifteen years and the organization’s success has been borne out by the number of divisional titles, conference championships and Superbowl appearances, alongside their historic fourth Superbowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks. In the midst of the latest furor concerning the NFL and the continuous fallout from the “Deflate-Gate” scandal “ , a great deal of the blame must also be laid at the feet of the league hierarchy and the continued incompetence shown NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. An appeal has been made within the US Federal Court of Appeals seeking to overturn the decision rendered by US Federal District Court Judge Richard M Berman , which reinstated Tom Brady back into the NFL , with his four-game suspension deemed invalid.

I seriously doubt the Court of Appeals will seek to reverse the decision of the lower Courts and it now leaves the NFL in awkward and embarrassing position. Something I believe the fans should consider to be a position we will all become accustomed to during the continued reign of Roger Goodell !

The media has already began their prognostications as to which teams they believe will be the likely participants in Superbowl L(SB 50), with several analysts picking the Pittsburgh Steelers as the AFC representative, meeting and beating the best the NFC has to offer. As to who that might be , can best summarized up by stating , if the Seattle Seahawks can’t maintain their consistency seen in the last three years, then we are likely to see another candidate from the conference.

From my own perspective as it relates to this season in the NFL , I believe the league will have to overcome the adverse publicity , seen in light of another scandal dragging down the integrity of this league. Beyond the simple apathy shown by the fans and their belief that the New England Patriots are just cheaters. It seems remarkable , they have not seen fit to point to the pattern of behavior of the other franchises within the league over the past two decades or more and the candid deeds of those teams, the coaches , owners and front office executives. This has been a league with filled its own self-importance , while the fans themselves remain endlessly apathetic, simply ignorant and downright stupid. The players themselves should not be left out of this equation and neither should the NFLPA , who if anything have remained adversarial at every juncture concerning the behavior of their members, be it good bad or indifferent.

If week one of the regular season is anything to go by, then the league will be off to a somewhat inauspicious start. For several players this could very well be their last season playing at the professional level, while some will be looking for redemption and the rookies will be looking to make their mark in the NFL entering their first season. One game which will be of interest to many around the league will be the contest which pits the top two players selected in this most recent NFL Draft. Opposing quarterbacks Jameis Winston the number one overall pick , taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the Tennessee Titans , where Marcus Mariota will be looking to guide the visiting team to an season victory opener over their NFC South based opponent.

Many felt that the Buccaneers erred in taking Winston over Mariota as the top quarterback and player in this past draft. Given the performances of both players during the preseason and the respective preseason records of the Buccaneers and Titans . I certainly believe both of these franchise will have an extremely tough time ahead as the schedule begins to unfold. These two rookie quarterbacks, will a have a great deal riding on both of their shoulders as they are each seen as the future of their respective franchises. It should be noted ,the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans were not among the most visibly popular teams by way of attendance last season. For Lovie Smith of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ken Whisenhunt of the Tennessee Titans this upcoming season will likely prove to be an eventful one for both head coaches.

Live to fight another day and that may well be the case for the San Diego Chargers , as they live to fight another day, after it was speculated on during the off-season the Chargers were considering, parting ways with their quarterback Philip Rivers. After years of solid service for the franchise, it seems ridiculous the front office might have considered such a move.

The San Diego Chargers will enter this season with a newly revamped roster, a number of coaching changes , but the constants being, Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates . However , in light of the rash of punishment meted out to several players before the start of the season. Gates will be among a litany of starters missing from their teams’ lineups for the start of the season. A number of these players will be missing due to they’re abusing the league’s steroid policy , leading me to believe the NFL and the union remain lax on a policy, which has failed to be enough of a real deterrent to the players.

Mike McCoy and the San Diego Chargers will host the Detroit Lions at Qualcomm Stadium , in San Diego , California on Sunday afternoon. Philip Rivers will seek to solidify his record against his NFC North opponents , as Matt Stafford and the Lions will be looking to get off to a winning start to their season. While the Chargers will certainly be looking to usurp the dominant reign of the Denver Broncos and what appears to be the stranglehold the Broncos have on the AFC West divisional crown. I certainly believe San Diego will be the team likely to end Denver’s reign as the divisional champions. The regular season meetings between the two teams in 2015 should prove to be very interesting. These two contests will take place during weeks’ thirteen and seventeen of the regular season. San Diego will host the first of the two divisional games on the 6th December , 2015 , with the second taking place at Sports Authority Field (Mile High Stadium) in Denver, Colorado on January 3rd , 2016 .

During the regular season if offense wins those games then during the postseason defense becomes paramount to the participants during this part of the schedule. The Carolina Panthers may well have yielded the least amount of yards per game during the during last season’s postseason sojourn , but they fell well short of Ron Rivera’s expectations of his team. In spite of the Panthers’ heroics, Cam Newton and his teammates were unable to overcome the offensive firepower of the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round of the 2014 postseason , as they fell to Seattle 31-17 in a rather lopsided contest. If the Carolina Panthers as a team can regain their composure and some semblance of consistency, then there is no reason to believe why they cannot make a successful defense of their NFC South title and along with it, another postseason appearance. The Panthers and New Orleans Saints appear to be the class of the division and the common belief remains the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be left to fight over the table scraps within the division to see which of the two teams might be the worst of the pairings.

Ron Rivera and the Carolina Panthers will begin their quest for the Superbowl with their opening regular season game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Everbank Field in Jacksonville, Florida , this upcoming Sunday. Elsewhere within the division, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers facing the Tennessee Titans and the Panthers facing the Jaguars, the Atlanta Falcons will face off against the Philadelphia Eagles at home , while the New Orleans Saints will be taking on the Arizona Cardinals in an NFC clash.

The departure of Jim Harbaugh from the San Francisco 49ers may well have been a damning indictment of not only former Niners’ head coach and his lax approach in controlling his players, but also the very fact Trent Baalke did nothing to take control of a very bad situation. Instead , it all led to a very disturbing situation where it was said , Harbaugh and the front office exchanged very few niceties, by way of curtness formally or informally as last season wound down for the Forty Niners. The San Francisco 49ers were 1-4 in their last five games of the season and the team was simply mediocre on all fronts , for which a great deal of responsibility laid with Jim Harbaugh as well as the players on the team. Highly paid , but yet this was not a team by any stretch of the imagination , with their being very little leadership on or off the field of play. Harbaugh’s alleged resignation , in some circles it was said to be a dismissal (firing) , led to serious ramifications among the playing and coaching staff.

Jim Tomsula succeeded Jim Harbaugh and now has the tough task of not only gaining the confidence of this current roster , but to also win over the fans of the Forty Niners as well. Colin Kaepernick has now managed to garner himself a big contract , based on his exploits for the San Francisco 49ers, but he has provided very little leadership as a player among his teammates. Granted , he is only four years into his NFL career , with two playoff appearances and a Superbowl appearance which culminated in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens . A game in which Joe Flacco was scintillating for the Ravens as he led his team to a well-deserved victory , while also winning the Superbowl MVP Award .

A fast start will be needed right out of the gate for the San Francisco 49ers, where the NFC West will be a very competitive division this season , perhaps far tougher than in 2014. San Francisco will play host to the Minnesota Vikings , where Adrian Peterson will make a welcome return to the NFL after his league-mandated suspension through part of last season. Jim Tomsula will have to shore up a secondary which ranked among the worst in the NFC as well as the NFL as a whole last season . The San Francisco missed the postseason by a considerable margin in 2014 , and it was the final nail in the coffin for the team , leading to Jim Harbaugh’s departure.

Big things are happening within the city of St Louis and the proposed move of the St Louis Rams back to city of Los Angeles might be the biggest of them all. Team owner , Stanley Kroenke and the board have all but finalized the deal for the impending move , subject to league approval. Yet the coup-de-gras during the off-season might well have been the acquisition of Nick Foles from the Philadelphia Eagles and the moving of Sam Bradford in the opposite direction by the Rams. Foles over the last two seasons has been one of the league’s most accurate passers and will add some potency to St Louis’ lackluster offense.

Jeff Fisher in his second year in charge as the head coach , will bring about some mental toughness in the team , as well as a propensity to play much a sterner type of defense. On the offensive side of the ball, expect to see a real improvement in the passing and rush offense. The St Louis Rams will kick off their season with a game against the Seattle Seahawks in an all NFC West clash, played at the Edward Jones Dome Stadium , St Louis , Missouri , this Sunday. It will be interesting to see what Nick Foles and his teammates will be capable of doing in this contest with a newly revamped roster.

Horses for courses and once again Jason Garrett is being to achieve the impossible , by taking the Dallas Cowboy deep into another postseason run. As infrequent as the scenario has arisen over the past six seasons , you cannot imagine how dire the situation will likely become should the Cowboys fail this season. Jerry Jones has left us bemused over the past decade with his prognostications which can only be matched by the sheer stupidity of the analysts who have consistently picked Dallas to win the Superbowl. Perhaps, the biggest flag bearer of them all has been ESPN analyst Skip Bayless who simply wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys. Granted, Bayless’ unrequited love for all things Tony Romo doesn’t border on being homo-eroticism, but I can’t help but feel, the two were actually made for each other .

Romo has become something of a party pooper when it comes to the postseason, as his record has consistently borne this out. Toughness , has often been used to describe the Cowboys’ quarterback ,but leadership ability is not a trait to be seen on his radar .

Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys have a divisional game to start off their season when they play the New York Giants at Cowboys’ Stadium , Arlington Texas, in what is likely to be one of the most watched games during the opening week of this NFL season. Eli Manning , the opposing quarterback will have a great deal to prove , as he seeks to renegotiate a lucrative contract for himself , by letting the Giants know what they are likely to be missing should they decide to let him go.

Another NFC East quarterback who has come under a deal of scrutiny this off and preseason has been the Washington Redskins’ three- year starter Robert Griffin III. Now demoted to the backup role on the roster , I am not so sure it is a position which fits the player . given his own aspirations and beliefs. Jay Gruden , Scott McCloughan and Daniel Snyder have placed themselves in a corner . Gruden has proven himself to be almost as inept as his predecessor Mike Shanahan , with his handling of Griffin when it comes to the issue of recurring injuries and lackluster play.

With Kirk Cousins now handed the starting quarterback position for the Washington Redskins and the demotion of Robert Griffin in place , it now becomes a question of what ifs and where do the Redskins now go from here ? That answer is likely to become clear during the Redskins’ first five games of the season and if they have winning record heading into week eight , then I fully expect Washington to consider shopping Robert Griffin to any team willing to take the player off their hands. Cousins now has the chance to prove himself worthy of the role by leading the Redskins to an opening day win when they face the Miami Dolphins at Fedex Field in Landover , Maryland on Sunday, 13th September, 2015.

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This NFL season has started off under a cloud and the league hierarchy under Roger Goodell continues to be ridiculed , because the commissioner’s leadership continues to be poor, haphazard and simply idiotic. He has now become everything the NFL should not be seeking to be and that is the laughing stock of the professional sports’ world. It is one thing to have buffoon like political leaders, most notably among the crop of political candidates now seeking their party’s nomination to become the next President of the United States. Yet, the continued incompetence being showed by Goodell , while being mirrored by the Congress and Barack Obama. It has to be said, what the NFL is now selling , has the fans coming back for more, even when they know the on-field product to be mediocre and the off the field issues remain never-ending. Are and will you buy into what the NFL will be selling this season ?



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The next movement as things fall apart

Things fall apart

Well the NFL preseason has begun in earnest with the Minnesota Vikings getting the better of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame game played at Fawcett Stadium , Canton, Ohio this past Sunday.

Prior to the NFL preseason opener there were eight notable inductees into the Hall of Fame. Among those being inducted were Jerome Bettis , Charles Haley, Will Shields , Tim Brown , Bill Polian , Ron Wolf and posthumously the late Junior Seau . I believe all eight recipients are well deserving of the accolade and I have no doubt that the eligible candidates for next season will be equally thought of , though they are likely to be some doubters . Eligible for induction next year are Brett Favre , Terrell Owens , Tony Dungy , Jimmy Johnson , John Lynch , Orlando Pace and Darren Woodson .

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Week one’s schedule should prove to be interesting , when there will be a slew of games scheduled ,with the first of those games taking place on Thursday night 13th August, 2015 when the Baltimore Ravens play host to the New Orleans Saints, as both teams will seek to have a great start to the preseason. There is a great deal which the NFL will seek to overcome, but with the likelihood of the fallout of Deflate-Gate not yet to have reached a satisfactory end , the league hierarchy led by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will still have to face the team owners and state to them why the league under his tenure has continued to be dragged down by the ongoing negative publicity. To my mind, the owners are as much to blame for the current debacle as are Goodell and the NFLPA (Players’ Union)! With that being said , there is nothing like bad publicity to get you noticed and keep you within the public’s attention at all times.

As the defending Superbowl champions the New England Patriots seek to make a successful defense of their title. It would appear Tom Brady is unlikely to be a part of the team’s preseason plans and they’re likely start to the regular season schedule without him. Patriots’ owner Robert ‘ Bob’ Kraft remains steadfastly supportive of his star Pro Bowl and three-time Superbowl MVP . Brady seeks to have his four-game suspension overthrown and with situation now to be played out in a Federal District Court in New York City . It begs the question , how much longer can the league be content to have the players as an ongoing adversary.

Clearly, while many believe the Patriots’ quarterback is in the wrong, the question remains, is it practical to have the Commissioner be the sole arbiter of justice within the NFL’s appeals process ? Roger Goodell points to the collective bargaining agreement which provides him with the authority to act in all disciplinary matters concerning player misconduct as well as numerous issues affecting the NFL. Yet, there has to be room for some sort of concession and an actual perception that justice is seen to be done during any type of arbitration procedure.

Bill Belichick
as New England’s head coach , has remained out of the spotlight on this latest controversy to have engulfed the AFC East based franchise. Belichick will now embark on the season without Brady to helm the team , looking instead to sophomore quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to lead this season’s roster into battle. Garoppolo will get his first chance to show his head coach what he’s capable of doing when the Patriots open their preseason schedule against the Green Bay Packers. Other teams New England will face, are the New Orleans in Saints in week two, the Carolina Panthers in week three and then closing out their preseason in week four with a game against the New York Giants. The Patriots’ regular season begins on the 10th September with an AFC contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium, Foxboro , Massachusetts,.

A colleague and I recently had a brief discussion concerning the New York Giants and their two-time winning Superbowl quarterback Eli Manning . This acquaintance , believes Manning now has the best receiving corps in the entire NFL with targets Victor Cruz , Odell Beckham , James Jones , Corey Washington and Marcus Harris. Perhaps it’s me , but I have an issue with his perception as to how good he believes the Giants to be , without delving into the fact in spite of Beckham’s impressive rookie season. There is no guarantee that he is likely to exceed last year’s stellar performances. Need one also state, Manning over the past three years has been less than impressive and beyond that, there is also no guarantee Beckham and Cruz are likely to play a full sixteen-game regular season schedule. Also the Giants’ protection of Manning will continue to be in doubt , given the offensive line’s less than impressive protection of the quarterback.

Eli Manning is as much to blame for the New York Giants’ woes over the last two seasons beyond the belief Tom Coughlin might be on the decline as an NFL head coach. If Manning is unable to show any signs of improvement this upcoming season , then it is my firm belief the front office will have to make the decision to cut themselves loose of the player . Anything short of a playoff berth and that decision will have to be seen as a foregone conclusion.

The baseball season is now entering its final stretch run with less than sixty games left to be played over the remainder of the teams’ schedule. Since the All Star Break , it has to be said several teams have really hit their stride as they seek to make amends for the first half of the season, while also seeking to play themselves into postseason contention. No team has been more impressive than the Toronto Blue Jays . who have put together an impressive streak , going 9-1 over their last ten games , the best mark in all of baseball during the time span mentioned.

While the New York Yankees may well be leading the AL East , pressure is being brought to bear by the Blue Jays as they continue to narrow the gap between themselves and the Yankees. Joe Girardi must know his players cannot afford any major slip-ups down the stretch by playing themselves out of contention. Tuesday will see the Toronto Blue Jays take on the Oakland A’s, where Kendall Graveman of the A’s will look to stem the tide for the visiting team at the Rogers Center in Toronto, where Drew Hutchinson will be on the mound for the Blue Jays. The New York Yankees will be on the road as they face the Cleveland Indians . Luis Severino will be on the mound for the Yankees against the Indians’ Carlos Carrasco .

Al Avila has since succeeded Dave Dombrowski as the general manager of the Detroit Tigers . Not exactly and enviable task considering the success achieved by Avila’s predecessor during his fourteen-year tenure in the role. Dombrowski aided by the largess of team owner Michael Ilitch was able to build a perennial divisional and title contender. Yet, the one failure of the Tigers was actually to fulfill the owner’s ambition and the bringing home of a World Series’ title to Detroit. Appearances in baseball’s postseason finale came in quick succession, but each time the Detroit Tigers came up short in 2006 and 2012 .

The parting of the ways between Dave Dombrowski and Michael Ilitch , might well have been the decision by the organization not to retain the services of starting pitcher Max Scherzer , who signed with the Washington Nationals as a free agent and with it, came a multi- year six-figure deal making Scherzer one of the highest paid starting pitchers in the league . Granted , the Nationals have struggled this season , in what now appears to be a one-horse race within the NL East with the New York Mets poised to win their first divisional title in several years.It remains to be seen if the Mets’ manager Terry Collins can make it all a reality. The anticipation of a “ Subway Series “ between the New York Mets and New York Yankees would certainly create a great deal of interest on the East Coast , possibly bringing about a ratings’ bonanza for MLB , but I seriously doubt it ! Terry Collins and his team will be looking to make light work of the Colorado Rockies in their match-up on Tuesday evening at Citi-Field , in Flushing , New York .

The San Diego Padres entered the 2015 season with the grandest of plans . A new lineup , plenty of money to spend and Matt Kemp was meant to be leading a roster of proven stars. Unfortunately , along the way the managerial staff , players and front office were swept up and away under the weight of long burdened and overdue expectations.

Neither Kemp or his teammates have proven to be effective at effective at all over the course of this season. . Instead , it has been left to the Los Angeles Dodgers making strides within the NL West, but there too, Dodgers’ fans could once again end up being disappointed. If the past two postseasons are are anything to go by, then expect the Don Mattingly managed $300 million circus of stars to end up laying several goose eggs at some stage of the postseason .

Zach Greinke may well be on his way to an NL Cy Young Award with the possible chance of pulling off the individual double of Cy Young and NL MVP Award , having also performed quite handily with the bat for the team. Yet , unless the Dodgers make an appearance in the World Series for the first time since 1988 and come away with the biggest prize of them all. Then this season like the seasons of 2013 and 2014 will have been all for absolutely nothing.

No one cares about wining a division or making the postseason when at the end of the day , you fail miserably to land the ultimate prize. The same is now being said concerning the San Diego Padres and the fact they too have failed miserably with their own lofty ambitions. I firmly believe both organizations are likely to make some major decisions once the regular and postseason has ended concerning the player personnel on their respective rosters.

Admirable performances on Tuesday night saw the Los Angeles Dodgers come away with a 5-0 victory over the Washington Nationals at Dodgers Ballpark , while the San Diego Padres swept aside the Cincinnati Reds with an impressive 11-6 win at PETCO Park in San Diego, California. Los Angeles will reacquaint themselves with the Nationals on Wednesday when Clayton Kershaw takes to the mound to face Jordan Zimmerman of the Nationals . Meanwhile, James Shields of the Padres will face off against Raisel Iglesias of the Reds in their evening clash.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is now struggling to stay in the Republican Presidential candidate race. As one seventeen aspirants for the nominee process , Perry has already become the “biggest loser” . With the recent news coming out, that his aides will now have to remain within his camp as unpaid volunteers , it points to the fact the former governor has been unable to raise the funds needed to mount a serious enough campaign , although he states he will remain in the race while seeking more donors to back his campaign.

My question for Perry and his supporters, if he cannot raise enough money to even mount his initial bid , then why would anyone feel he has the credentials to actually lead the country, much less deal with the ongoing economic quagmire the country still finds itself in and the very fact his policy platform is simply filled with a great deal of rhetoric , pragmatism and no real solution ? Such has and will remain the whole politic melange and idiocy of this whole rundown to the Presidential race for 2016. This might well be among the worst group of candidates from both parties that the electorate will have to decide from over the past three decades. Make of it what you will , but the more I have seen , the less I have liked the whole process thus far !

If losing almost $400 million over the past five years is meant to be representative of a real success in the NBA , then the Brooklyn Nets have stood head and shoulders above everyone else within the league during the time frame in question. I was once told by a buffoon , that the franchise could continue buy their way to success, because of the wealth of the Net’ billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov. I have always admired the fact that so many US born sports’ fans remain clueless and have the business acumen of a dried up piece of fecal matter. Prokhorov is now willing to offload his investment in the Brooklyn based franchise while retaining sole possession of the Barclays Center and its surrounding development. Given today’s exorbitant value of the NBA teams and the ludicrous sum of $2.1 billion paid by Steve Ballmer to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers . It does seem somewhat unimaginable any possible suitor for the Nets might have to pay in excess of $1.7 billion to be in with a chance of owning the franchise. Prokhorov will be looking to at least recoup his losses and come away with a sizable profit.

The Brooklyn Nets have not been to the NBA Finals in several years and their last appearance in the NBA Playoffs ended abysmally for the team under their former head coach Jason Kidd. This upcoming season Lionel Hollins and his coaching staff will reset the focus of the team after the departure of several players , of which the most notable was Deron Williams , perhaps the most overrated point guard now playing in the NBA . Why Billy King much less any other general manager now in the NBA would want to him the focal point and centerpiece of any team is not only asinine, but most certainly a mistake. Williams is now with the Dallas Mavericks where an aging Dirk Nowitzki still remains the best player on the roster and perhaps in Mavericks’ history,

In 2014 the Nets were uninspiring. while idiots were still under the misapprehension this team was capable of playing an exciting brand of basketball. Never let it said, that beyond misery loving company , flies will always congregate around the @sshole of a herd of elephants who are constantly taking a shit.

There was absolutely nothing exciting at all about the Brooklyn Nets , even with their almost $100 million payroll . If you are assembling a roster with the ambition of winning a title, then at least do so , by making sure there is someone there, who can be looked upon as the leader , but above all make sure that not only does everyone have a role to play. They also need to have to be all on the same page, reading from the same damn playbook. That was never the case with the Nets even when Jason Kidd took them to the NBA Playoffs, last, in 2013 and it certainly was not the case in 2014 , where they were so inept. Granted , the Eastern Conference will continue to remain the ugly chick at the prom even when you have players such as LeBron James , Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade are still seen as among the best players in the conference on teams barely worth watching .

Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez will likely become the focal point of the Brooklyn Nets behind a revamped team , still seeking to win their very first NBA title. Appearances in two finals of the 2000’s, 2002 and 2003 , left their long-suffering fans yearning more, but the intervening years have been less than pleasurable for the franchise, in spite of having one of the most spectacular venues in entire NBA.

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What do you believe the fans are likely to see this upcoming season in the NFL ? Also, do you believe the league’s handling of Tom Brady has been justified ? As baseball now enters what we deem to be its stretch run , which teams do you think are going to make a successful push towards obtaining a postseason berth? Finally , with NBA now refocusing their efforts on expanding their reach globally , is there still room for growth in North America or is the NBA hierarchy taking the right approach with their ongoing ambition to make the NBA brand more popular globally , than the NFL , NHL and MLB ? Your comments are more than welcomed , so by all means take time offer up your thoughts on the salients points raised within this article and anything else you believe pertinent to the subject matter.


Tophatal ..

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