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Archive for February, 2008

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

First of all, when it comes to baseball I am a Braves fan and have been since the day I was born. But a few years ago I thought I might pick an American League team to pull for. I set up a few qualifying factors, primarily that they must be a team that was not currently a good team at that time. That way if either of the three ever start winning I can say I was there when times were rough, see? I am not the type of guy who’ll jump on a BoSox bandwagon just because they decided finally to compete with the Yankquees at their own game. (But if I had to pick between the two, obviously I’d pick the Sox).I printed out a list of all AL teams, crossed out the winningest teams on the list, and then just began crossing them off until I had three left: Detroit, Seattle, and Tampa Bay. Detroit because it’s old school cool, and the other two just because I liked their logos and team names/colors and such. 

D-Rays LogoSo: The Tigers. I like the team, the history, the classic look of their uniforms, but…I’m just not a Motor City kind of guy, I guess. Seattle is a cooler city, but I don’t know if it’s a baseball city. It seems too preppy to be a baseball city. Too rainy. Too damn far away, too. Tampa is a lot closer to me (Alabama) and I like the Tampa/St. Pete area, I like(d) the logo, the team colors, and, ultimately I decided my AL team should be in the Eastern Division, just like my NL team…so I chose Tampa. (Disclaimer: In Braves vs. D-Rays matchups, I’m for the Braves. Against all other teams, I’m for the D-Rays). And so far, it’s looked like the team was going to just suck forever. In fact, when I was looking for a favorite AL team, I pretty much liked everything about Tampa except the stadium, which is absolutely the worst in all of baseball, and the fact that they’re in the same division as the Yanks and Sox. Let’s face it, there’s not been much to be supportive of, and I’m not going to travel to St. Pete for a baseball game that is played in that stadium. It’s out of the question.

But now, fast-forwarding to 2008, all of a sudden the winds are changing. The things I liked about the team are changing. The things I didn’t like are also changing. And I’m kind of at a point in my support of the team (which so far equals one ball cap. I also keep up with how much they’re losing. That’s about as much involvement as I can stand) that I want them to win. I was excited when they hired Piniella. I was hoping he could do something with them, but the simple fact is they’ve got to get more, better players for any manager to be able to do anything with them. So what’s changing for ’08?

  1. New Unis: Meh. The new ones are as good as the old ones.
  2. New Logo: Meh. The new one is as good as the old one.
  3. New Name: the Devil Rays are, sadly, no more. Enter the Rays. Frankly, I liked the Devil Rays name, a lot more than the Rays. But that’s really the only change that’s finding me cold.
  4. New stadium plans: Now this is where it really gets exciting. The Rays are planning on building a new stadium, possibly to open 2012. With a modern, attractive new stadium, the Rays might just entice me to make a few trips down to see them.

Rays new stadiium

So, things are looking up in St. Pete. Now if the team can just start winning a few games here and there. Let’s see if we can catch lightning in a bottle.

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We lost our chance to see history tonight. Damn. Not that I was pulling for the Pats for any other reason. In fact, if history had not been in the making, I would have been fully on board with the underdog, so, having no emotional attachment to either team, I’m tickled the Giants won. Still, it would have been nice to see history made, with the added bonus of seeing the collapse of all the hopes and dreams of the overly boastful and utterly insufferable 1972 Miami Dolphins (excluding a few). 

Little Eli has come into his own. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it was perfect when it needed to be. It’s going to be fun watching him play, to see if he becomes the Next Great Quarterback. At the beginning of the game there was an interesting moment when Eli ran past Brady and patted him on the back, smiling boyishly, with an expression of genuine good will. Brady responded with a severe glance and a slow nod. And then the kid won the game.

Brady is still one of the greatest of all time, but this game went a long way in showing exactly what makes a great quarterback. If the O-line could have kept the Giants D off Brady, the end result might have been different. It might have been the same for other great quarterbacks who never won the Super Bowl: Kelly, Marino, Fouts…When it counted, the Giants O-line did what it had to do to let Manning operate. That was the difference in the game.

Belichick is likely the most classless individual to ever coach in a Super Bowl. Leaving the field with a second left when it was obviously done…it’s easy to say that he got what he deserved: a big, fat, Giant “L.” From that perspective alone it is pleasing to see the Giants win. I never saw anything negative from any of the G-men’s players or coaches. No, the only bad performance was from Bill the boss. Glad he got taken to the woodshed, I am.

The most disturbing thing of all to me was in imagining the roster of the ’72 Dolphins cheering when the Patriots lost. Talk about classless. The story would be a lot different if, in their recent interviews, at least one of them could have stepped up and said something positive about the Patriots’ potential accomplishment. But no, all they could do these past weeks was talk about their own accomplishments, and defend their manifest right to occupy the highest pillar of football accomplishment alone. Well, you got your wish, Dolphins, the Pats lost. Now if only you’d been a bit more diplomatic I might still have some respect for you. As it is, I have lost respect for you and your accomplishment. Congrats.

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Mercury Morris just stated (whined) in an interview on ESPNEWS that the Patriots are “Really close to equaling what we did in 1972,” meaning accomplishing an undefeated season in the NFL. But actually, Mr. Morris, if the Patriots win tonight they will effectively surpass what you did in 1972. This is exactly why I hope the Patriots do win tonight; because I really want the ’72 undefeated Dolphins team-especially Coach Don Shula–to shut up already. Right now they’re whining that winning 19 consecutive games in the NFL is no more difficult than winning 17 consecutive games. An absolutely preposterous statement which simply proves their snobbish elitism.

Morris even goes so far as to point out that “He knows what it means to be undefeated, but you don’t.” He’s speaking to the interviewer, of course, but you get the feeling that he’s talking to all of us, the entire nation, and telling us all that he is better than we are. All the Patriots are on the cusp of doing, according to him, is learning what it means to have a 1.000% winning percentage.  

I know one thing–the best way to galvanize this nation of fans against you is to keep mouthing off about how great you are, or in this case, were. If the Patriots do finish undefeated, and humbly accept their trophy and thank the fans, then they will quickly be given the key to the number one spot in history of the NFL and the ’72 Dolphins team will be subjected to the royal back seat. They won’t even have an argument any more, because this nation of fans will give them their assignment. Sure, they can still pop their champagne corks every year in celebration of themselves, but the fans will pop their corks in honor of someone else. Quite possibly the New England Patriots. In reality, the ’72 Dolphins have never really been embraced as one of the greatest teams of all time, despite being undefeated. They’ve even been called “a team without superstars.” Yes, they did manage to win 17 straight games, but they didn’t win 19, and get ready boys, because if the Patriots win tonight, you’re going to hear that for the rest of your lives.

But I’ll make one accede one point: if the Patriots lose tonight, there’ll still only be one undefeated team in NFL history, and the Dolphins will still be able to pop their corks every year as the only ones to accomplish the feat. But if the Pats win, move over Miami, because you will have been bested.

It’s a good thing it’s the Dolphins who are doing all this complaining (whining). Being in South Florida they won’t have to go very far to find an equally disgruntled group of elderly folks. Then they can all combine forces and grumble about whatever unfairness they like. 

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Checking the ESPN program lineup for this afternoon and evening, I see:

1:00 – 2:30 PBA bowling
2:30 – 3:30 Bullriding
3:30 – 9:00 Figure Skating
At 9:00 there’s a 30 min SportsCenter, likely only 30 minutes because they still can’t talk about the Superbowl.
And then, at 9:30, NFL Primetime, the first opportunity for ESPN–the “World Sports Leader“–to discuss the Superbowl.

You can always tell when it’s Superbowl Sunday because there’s six straight hours of figure skating on ESPN.

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Paul Finebaum: “I think it’s a biblical thing. Twenty-five years of glory (the number of years Bryant was at Alabama) followed by 25 five years of plagues.”

Allen Barra (in the book “The Last Coach“): “Which means a new golden age should be dawning for the Crimson Tide around 2007.”

This is a great article. I wish I’d written it. Paul Finebaum is the author, and one of the several key points it covers includes one in which he states, quite correctly, that Alabama fans don’t live in the past quite as much as people accuse them (us) of.

I don’t think Alabama fans so much live in the past, as others accuse them of. They simply remember a time when excellence was required and essential. You didn’t hear the excuses and the alibis during Bryant’s times. You heard people talk about expectations of winning it all — not settling for second place. 

I’ve pointed that out before. We love the Bear, but we also love our program. We’re not looking for another Bear Bryant. It would be ridiculous to try: Bear Bryant was a figurehead, an icon, a genuinely Great Man. A lot of people would scoff right now, reading this, believing that such a statement was written by an Alabama fan of Coach Bryant because he was the Alabama coach. But those who do didn’t know Paul Bryant. They didn’t have the opportunity to stand in his presence and feel humbled just because he looked at you. And it’s nothing I can explain here. Paul Bear Bryant will never be duplicated, and we, as Alabama fans, don’t even want him to be. What we’re looking for is another great coach to add to the Alabama dynasty, a tradition that includes a lot of folks not named Bryant: Thomas, Wade, Stallings. These are the University of Alabama’s Four Horsemen, they’ve combined to give Alabama 12 National Championships, and now it’s time to add #13. Welcome to the fold, Nick Saban.

What if Gene Stallings had been hired to follow Bryant instead of Ray Perkins? What if Bobby Bowden had been hired instead of Bill Curry? What if Howard Schnellenberger had emerged from the pack at various times? What if Alabama had hired Frank Beamer instead of Mike DuBose, or an available and willing Steve Spurrier after Shula’s second season? What if Alabama had not been arrogant and played ball with the NCAA in 1995, and what if it had stood firm in the Albert Means case instead of rolling over?

 And there you have it. 25 years of frustration summed up in one series of questions. If any one of those questions had been answered in the past 25 years there might have been a very different story told today. But you can’t subvert destiny, right? The good news is that if Alabama was destined for 25 years of plague, that prophesy was fulfilled last year. Which means we are now on the threshold of a new era: welcome to the advent of Nick Saban.

Finally, the article ends with a comment that’s similar to one I made above, but coming from a Tennessee man it might carry more weight.

On the 25th anniversary of Bryant’s death, Alabama’s program is solid, legitimately looking forward for the first time in a long time.

Is Nick Saban the next Bear Bryant?

Not a chance.

He’s a very good coach, but neither Saban nor anyone else can compare. There was only one Bear Bryant. And that statement rings as true today as it did 25 years ago.

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