McKeon’s Guide To Golfing With Your Buddies

As February is slowly coming to a close in New England all I can think about is how much I want warm weather.  Don’t get me wrong, I love snow, Christmas, hockey season and the whole bit but, I want to drive with my windows down.  One true sign of summer for men is golf and softball (next week’s guide!).  Golf doesn’t get much respect from people who have never tried it before and frankly, I don’t think that’s fair.  Non-Tournament play needs to be done correctly in order to have a good time out on the links.  So, if you’ve never played before, take a listen and get involved and if you already play, this is a good refresher.  So grab a 30 pack and get ready for some laughs with friends!

PREGAME
Beer: It is completely necessary to pack a cooler for your golf bag with some loud mouth soup.  Golf is the only outdoor game where you can get more hydrated and gain skill through a cold foamy beverage.  If tequila can get you to talk to a group of good looking women then a 12 pack can certainly help your chances at a birdie on that 1-handicap dog leg par-5 on the back nine.  Calculate the average alcohol intake of you and your friends and make your pregame purchase based on this natural deduction.  Bringing enough beer is essential because the last thing you want to be doing is searching for the beer cart because your cooler is dry.  However, purchasing a beverage from the beer cart because the cart girl is cute, winked at you, or you “got a vibe from her” is never a problem.

Attire: Attire is always important.  Above all, you need to dress as normal as humanly possible while you’re out there.  Unless you already dress like an imbecile, leave the Greg Norman hat, the goofy pants and the loud shirt for your Halloween costume.  There’s other ways to have fun.

4-Some: Having the right number of guys in your group is a very underrated element to having a solid 19 holes of golf (yes, I said 19).  Having two carts of two is perfect.  There are far more opportunities for hilarity than one cart of golf or having a cart of two and a cart of one.  Plus with four, the 19th hole (clubhouse bar for you rookies) there are more rounds of beer and more laughs to be had.  I will get to people in and out of your 4-some in a bit.  Just assume for the time being that you have the best possible group available to you.

Wagers: Making a wager or two is always a good idea.  You can bet money, tokens to the 19th hole, your watch, or if you’re really trying to dig yourself out of previous bets, an unborn child will suffice.  You can play match-play, best score per cart, skins, long drive, long putts, chip ins, or bet on the group who’s on the green behind you while you wait to tee off on the next hole.  It’s ok to treat other groups on the course as if they were race horses.  When the pony guy on the green behind you sinks a 30 foot put you better tender your winning’s toward buying that gentleman a beer or two.  If you are going to be this wild on the wagers it’s best to bring a notebook so you can keep track of who owes who.

Old Golf Balls: Be sure to bring plenty of golf balls that you won’t mind sacrificing to nature the golf gods.  You never want to be the guy who shows up with three sleeves of Pro-V 1’s and ends up bumming balls off of people.  When most people are drinking during golf their game improves however, if too much alcohol is consumed their game will get sloppy.  There’s a fine line here.  In this case there will be plenty of duffs, slices, hooks, and curses to send the ball into the drink or deep into Ferngully.  Didn’t see the Ferngully reference coming did you?  When you are this low on golf balls grab as many as you can while you are in the woods so you can have more fuel for slicing into other portions of the hundred acre wood.  If you are having a decent day and are looking for your ball or someone else’s ball still be sure to pick up those strays and toss them to your friend who couldn’t hit the ball into water while standing on the poop deck of a boat.  It’s actually killing three birds with one stone.  Your friend doesn’t have to borrow any of your good balls/reserves, you look like a Saint for hooking him up and also it’s a fun and subtle way to insult your friend.

Blinders: If there are two things that you need to have a fun day with your buddies on the links it’s your metaphorical blinders and your short term memory.  You need to be prepared to be made fun of for something you just did (or didn’t do) and/or something that you did (or didn’t do) ten years ago.  This is what golf is all about.  Get the ball in the hole and bond with your friends by poking fun at them and most importantly, yourself.

DURING PLAY
Etiquette: (pronounced [,eti’ket]) is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group.  I found this on Wikipedia so there is a chance this is not true.  This is something that should never be over-looked.  You want to stay away from actions that could be deemed as humor at a UMass frat house.  Vulgar verbals among your group that can only be heard by your group are entirely acceptable.  As long as you leave it between your group, anything goes.  Just appear acceptable and cultured to those around you.  However, the “Dick-Out” rule that requires you to play your second shot with your pants at your ankles (not undergarments, this isn’t prison) applies if you fail to reach the Ladies Tee’s with your first shot from the Tee Box.  If there is a secluded area and no one but your group is around all bets are off, you MUST perform the Dick-Out.  Get your blinders (see above) ready if you have trouble making it past where the ladies swing the big stick.

A piece of etiquette that is always acceptable to use during non-match play rounds is the use of the Foot Wedge.  Listen, none of us are going to be on the pro tour any time soon and chances are we aren’t playing on a magnificent and well maintained golf course like Augusta National Golf Club where the Master’s is held every year.  So, chances are that there will be an exposed root or an area without grass in the middle of the fairway.  Get the opinion of your counterparts before using the Foot Wedge.  Unless your friends suck they will agree to the use of a Foot Wedge (which does not show up on your score card) and rely on you hitting a duffer to beat you rather than some bad luck on where the ball landed.  A Foot Wedge can also not be used to get out of a hazard (water, woods, sand, etc) without penalty.  However, it can be used to move away from a tree if it is directly in your swing plane but don’t get too liberal with this luxury.

Lastly, claiming you found your ball in the woods when you did not is a cardinal sin.  Secretly dropping a ball out of your pocket when no one is looking and exclaiming “found it!” does not make you a man.  Using a ball you are walking by and claiming it your own also makes you a horrible person.  Just be a man, sac up, and take the penalty stroke.  If all parties involved deem that your golf ball should be findable but the ranger or the group behind you is on top of you, it is ok to drop a ball where everyone thinks it may have landed and move on.  Don’t be the group that looks for a ball for 20 minutes and holds up everyone behind you.  At that point, you become “that group” and it is important to stay away from being labeled as such.

People To Avoid: 1. One of the guys you want to avoid is the guy who has a golf swing like Charles Barkley but wants to teach you everything he has learned from the Golf Channel.

“Want to learn a way to prevent a slice like that?”

“Sure I’d love to hear this because I’m pretty sure I am on pace for an 85 and you are looking at seeing a 110 when all is said and done.  Please, give me your insight that has improved your game so much!”

It is imperative that you avoid having this guy in your group at all costs.  Not only does this guy slow down your game, chances are is that he is also annoying.  Nothing is worse than a person bugging you all day who also sucks at golf.  If you are caught in the golf cart with this person all day, bring ear plugs…or more beer to tune him out.

2. The second guy you want to avoid is the serious guy.  The guy that thinks he is low 80’s material when in all actuality he is mid-90’s.  This is the guy that is cursing after every swing, yelling at friends with unnecessary anger for whispering while lining up a putt, or the guy that has never allowed use of the foot wedge.  This guy, in your group or not, can always be found out on the links and he is a man you do not want to associate with…mostly because he is a sucky person on the course.  He may be fun and friendly outside of the links but, avoid him at all costs.  You will learn A LOT about people when they have a golf club in their hand.  Steer clear of this goober.

3. The last guy you want to avoid is the ranger with nothing better to do.  This is either the ranger that wants to get someone in trouble because he’s old and bitter or the guy that constantly tells you stories about his heyday.  To avoid this guy, use your golf etiquette (see above) and or/pray to God the over-friendly ranger doesn’t find you.  That’s your only hope.  The over-friendly ranger isn’t an awful person but, you don’t want him ruining the fun on your man-date with you and your buddies.

POST GAME
“What Happens On The Course, Stays On The Course”:  I know this is cliché but it always rings true when implemented.  The golf course is a sanctuary when you are with your friends as it is just a downgraded version of Vegas.  It is extremely imperative that you leave anything said and done on the golf course.  Most of the things done on the course are irrelevant to anyone who was not there but, it’s the words that are spoken that could get people in trouble.  Respect the Man Code and do NOT disrespect this in any way shape or form.  If you do violate this you will not only be exiled from the golf group but there is a chance you lose your group of friends. It is also quite possible to have your man card confiscated if it is not already in the trousers pocket that your significant other wears in your relationship.

In conclusion, the above guidelines should be noted by both veterans and rookies alike.  Learn to leave the seriousness of life in the parking lot and have a good time with your buddies.  The golf course is a way to escape every day life, get some fresh air, and enjoy the friends you are with.  If at any point in time you have violated any of these guidelines please do yourself and the rest of the golfing community a favor and either quit or scroll back to the top and figure out where you need assistance.  If there is something not mentioned that you wish to question you may leave it in the comment section below.

Keep your head down and may your drawers stay above your ankles at all times out there this summer.

-Brick

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Baseballdamous Part 2

I know this is a day late, so for that I apologize… I get really lazy sometimes. I know you’re all dying to hear about what’s gonna happen in the National League this year. It’s pretty much gonna be the same as last year, maybe a few minor changes but I don’t expect a shift in powers. Let’s get this show on the road.

Let me begin with the best division in the National League the NL east. A division traditionally dominated by the Atlanta Braves. Times have changed though, my friends. That same domination now takes place in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. So here’s how the NL east is gonna break down this year.

1. Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies are a National League team trapped in an American League body. Their lineup 1 through 9 is one of the best in baseball. I’m in love with their infield. J rolls, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Greg Dobbs. Then they go and sign Placido Polanco to back up Chase Utley. In the outfield you got Raul Ibanez, Shane Victoriano, and Jason Werth. Those are all potential All Stars. Their starting rotation is without question the best in the National League. Cole Hamels looks to have a bounce back year. J.A. Happ is turning into one of the best young pitchers in the game. They have one other pitcher they just signed, what is his name. OH YEA ROY HALLADAY. He may be the best pitcher in the game. Look what he did pitching in the AL east. Now you put him in the National League… forget about it. All of these guys are capable of pitching deep into ballgames which helps the bullpen out immensely. The Phillies should run away with this division winning 92 to 96 games. I love the way they’re put together. Players to watch: Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley… I could go on all day.

2. New York Mets: I really don’t want to put the Mets in this position. I think the Braves and the Marlins can easily be here. I see the Mets fortune changing a little bit. They signed a very good hitter in Jason Bay. They have a very good line-up; there’s no questioning that. The pitching is suspect. The bullpen blew a lot of games last year; I think that’s gonna happen again. They play in a ball park that’s almost equal to the old Polo Grounds. Ok maybe not. But it’s still pretty big and not hitter friendly. I think this team can be good if they go out either before or at the trade deadline, and get a good starting pitcher to back up Johan Santana. If they do that, they have potential to win the wild card. Players to watch: David Wright, Jason Bay, Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran.

3. Atlanta Braves: I put the braves in front of the Marlins because I like their pitching. Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson are two quality Major League pitchers. Tommy Hanson is another young stud who actually put up better numbers than J.A. Happ last season. He looks like he’s their future number 1, and a potential 20 game winner. They got a lot of line-up questions. You know what to expect from Chipper Jones if he stays healthy. Brain McCann is a quality hitter. The big key for this line-up is Troy Glaus; if he can show us a glimpse of the old Troy, this team should do very well. Players to watch: Derek Lowe, Chipper jones, Troy Glaus, and Tommy Hanson.

4. Florida Marlins: This team needs pitching. They need a star pitcher in Florida. Problem is they don’t sell any tickets. I like their line-up anchored by Hanley Ramirez, but they need pitching. Without pitching you go nowhere. I just looked through their pitching staff and not one name caught my eye. Josh Johnson is really the only good pitcher they have. Players to watch: Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Josh Johnson.

5. Washington Nationals: Ummm let’s move on to the NL Central.

I see no change in the NL Central this year. The only change is that the Cubs should be a little better than last year. It should be a close race. So without further adieu…Your NL Central.

1. St. Louis Cardinals: Love the pitching, love the lineup, decent bullpen. Should be fun to watch the Cardinals play this year. I do hate one thing about their team however…..Julio Lugo. Other than that they’re very good. They got a two-headed monster of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Two above average pitchers. They also have Albert Puljos. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him before. He’s a pretty good hitter. He’s also underrated defensively. He makes any line-up better. I see the Cardinals winning 90 to 93 games. It helps when you get to play Cincinnati, Houston, and Pittsburg 19 times each. Players to watch: Albert Puljos, Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter, Skip Schumaker.

2. Chicago Cubs: The cubbies had an extremely disappointing season last year. They should play better this year.  This team is too good to only win 83 games. Alfonso Soriano needs to get healthy and get his swing back. Derek Lee needs to hit better, and Aramis Ramirez needs to step up into that MVP role. I like the addition of Xavier Nady, he should help them a lot. Zambrano is a quality major league pitcher. They need one more good starter. Ted Lilly just doesn’t do it for me. They also need to beef up the bullpen a little bit. If all these things happen, the Cubs win the division. That’s a pretty big “if” though. They can win anywhere from 85 to 90 games. Players to watch: Alfonso Soriano, Derek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Xavier Nady, and Carlos Zambrano.

3. Milwaukee Brewers: Outside of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, this team has no real fire power. You might get a little power from Greg Zaun but not much.  They don’t really have that workhorse pitcher that every starting rotation needs. This is just a very average baseball team; I think they’ll be lucky to win 80 games. Players to watch: Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder.

The rest of this division really isn’t worth talking about. You’ve got Houston, who I believe will be good down the road. Cincinnati who will probably never be good. Then Pittsburgh… How many of you actually remember Pittsburgh had a baseball team? Yea, didn’t think so.

Moving on to the National League West, where my favorite player resides, Emmanuel Ramirez. Love that guy. Don’t care what he does, what he’s done, the guy can flat-out hit. And he’s already causing some drama in LA. Gotta love it.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers. You can never have a Joe Torre coached team not be the favorite to win the division. I love the way this team is set up. Their starting pitching is very good. Clayton Kershaw is ready. He’s a good young pitcher and he’s ready to go out and prove that this year. Their line-up is above average and it’s all centered around Emmanuel. He makes that whole line-up better, and I think he’s ready to shut up his critics and have a big season. Another Manny like season. There’s power all throughout this line-up, and Andre Ethier might be the most clutch hitter in the game. This team has 95 wins written all over it. Players to watch: MANNY RAMIREZ, James Looney, Andre Ethier, Casey Blake, Blake Dewitt, Russell Martin, and Rafael Furcal.

2. San Fransisco Giants: Yea, I said it. The giants will finish second in this division. The pitching will finally carry them. The offense in recent years has been horrendous. They got a little better last year though, scoring more runs than past years. Tim Lincecum is ready to put this team on his back. They added Aubrey Huff who will give them the much-needed “Pop” that they need. They won 88 games last year; I think they can win a few more this year.

3. Colorado Rockies: This is a very good young baseball team. I don’t believe they’ll be as good as last year though. Todd Helton is getting old and is not able to carry this team. They have a very young starting rotation. They were a little inconsistent last year, and they should be better this year. They have an average bullpen. I love Houston Street as their closer; he can lock up a lot of victories for them. This was a 90 win team last year but I don’t think they’ll be able to repeat that. Players to watch: Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki, Brad Hawpe, Chris Iannetta.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks: They have a good young nucleus of players. They need 2 or 3 more years together. Brandon Webb is one of the best pitchers in the game, but he’s not enough for this team. They have a bunch of good young up and comers but they aren’t quite there yet. Players to watch: Brandon Webb, Stephan Drew, Justin Upton, Mark Reynolds, and Edwin Jackson.

5. San Diego Padres: Well, they just cut Ladainian Tomlinson. So that’s gonna hurt their running game. Oh wait my bad wrong sport…..see how much people care about the San Diego Padres?

So there it is: your break down of the National League. If you feel any differently please let me know. You’re gonna see the Phillies and Dodgers again in the NLCS whether you want to or not. The wild card is gonna come down to the Chicago Cubs and the San Francisco Giants. Look for that race to last till the final week of the season. Because the Mets will blow it again. The MVP award will go to Ryan Braun; he’s finally ready for it. And how can you not pick Roy Halladay as the Cy Young winner?

The NHL vs. Olympic Hockey; “Will the Empire Strike Back, or will we witness A New Hope?”

I want to believe that predictions need only be based on players and statistics. I want to believe I have a grasp on what it takes, on a conceptual basis, to predict who will win a hockey game. It is true, however, that this year’s hockey Olympic campaign has been lead by nothing more than luck and nothing less than heart. In my past predictions, I cannot make a confident plea of ignorance towards this fact, when talentless team logos paint my clothes and bedroom walls, and I cannot make this plea when I knowingly disregard statistics in my own analyses more often than not. That being said, there should be no “opinion” against the fact that heart was the driving force behind what it was that lead Slovakia over Sweden, Finland over the Czech’s, and most notably, Canada over Russia. Canada stood on the brink of elimination, to the only team that could have and should have defeated them. It wasn’t that Russia didn’t show up, and it wasn’t that Canada had something to prove. They simply just played to the very best of their abilities, and that best was absolutely dominant. I by no means, nor did anybody, underestimate what the Canadians could do this year. It was apparently on overestimation towards some of the stronger forces to emerge out of the preliminary rounds, and a misconception as to the level of their drive and dedication, that created such a slew of inaccurate predictions. On paper, Russia had their Dream Team. Federov and Ovechkin playing for one team, in the same era, complimented by a plethora of young talent. No one stepped it up. Canada had their Dream Team, and everyone stepped it up.

On the flip side, Team USA has talent, but nowhere near the game changers, all stars, or legends present on the above mentioned teams. Team USA however, had something I consciously neglected that they could acquire in such a short time, and I credit their ability to acquire it on Ron Wilson their coach, and Brian Burke their GM. What they found was chemistry. Hockey is all about chemistry, which may be one of the reasons people are so turned off by it. Chemistry in sports  is the ability for a team to gather everyone’s will to win, and everyone’s individual contributions towards that will, and create and carry one driving force, one heart and one single dedicated effort, to victory. I have been proven wrong, so far, throughout the playoffs and tournament, however I feel comfortable to say, that if Team USA makes it into the bronze medal game, to face either Slovakia or Canada, given this scenario, they will emerge victorious. If they are able to beat Finland, and make it into the gold medal game, and they meet Canada, I believe after three straight victories, Canada will not be bettered again, by a weaker and less intelligent American Team. If Slovakia pulls of a “miracle” spoiler, expect to see the gold medal hanging around the necks of the Americans. I don’t see Canada leaving without a medal, and I don’t see Team USA not beating Finland, however in the back of my mind somewhere, I still see a reality where Russia wins gold, and a force, unlike anything we’ll ever see before, disappoints the Canadian hopefuls. I guess what I am trying to say, is that with some many factors intangible to simple sight and analysis, in this Olympic hockey campaign, and within the next couple of days, anything goes.

This questioning of my own expectations and the unpredictable outcomes yet to be realized within these Olympic Games, have lead me back, inexplicably, to the Boston Bruins. I predicted earlier a 7th place finish within the Eastern Conference and predicted only recently, a first round playoff departure. I can not in my right mind, predict such a poor outcome. I want a Cup, and I want it for the sake of the Bruins followers, their diminishing following and for the National Hockey League. I want Chara to embrace the cup as Orr did, and I want Thomas to stick around, and finish his career as a Bruin, with heart and a desire to play for the Hub. If the NHL gets a finish like that of these Olympic Games this year, there is still a hope, and still a possibility of redemption. If the Bruins find themselves within the final 20 or so games to finish this season, I want them to do it under the pretenses of this same Olympic awareness. I want them to “create and carry one driving force, one heart and one single dedicated effort, to victory.”

Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, and the Beginning of What Will Come. . .

One of the saddest things to watch in sports is when a once unstoppable superstar is unable to play anymore.  This has happened to many athletes because of injury, in some rare cases because of problems with the law, but for the majority of players in all sports the inescapable touch of father time is what becomes their downfall. 

In the 2000-2001 NBA season Allen Iverson had his dream season.  The MVP award was added to his 1996 ROY award and he made the finals for the first, and sadly the only time in his career.  The 76ers made the finals strictly based on AI, the formidable Answer, and could not use luck against the upstart dynasty that was Shaq, Kobe, and the Lakers that year.  I used to find myself catching every nationally televised Philly game because that was the draw Allen Iverson was and to watch a player so small compared to all those he played against while dominating the game with his mid-range jumper was exciting.  Any given night he would hit the floor 10-15 times while break some poor defenders ankles, and make a play that you knew only he could make.  My generation (18-28 years of age for the sake of this article) is starting to witness what so many other generations have had to before us.  We are about to see, and without recognition have been witnessing, the players that we grew up watching, the players that made us fans of the games we cherish, the players that either made you hoot and holler or boo certain teams, we are seeing them get old.

Tracy McGrady was my favorite superstars for the better part of this decade.  Abnormally long arms, jumping ability, and a wet jumper made him yet another sight to watch, but that was all hidden by the fact of the McGrady Curse.  He could not get out of the first round of the playoffs.  A few times he would reach the deciding, do-or-die final game of a series and could never win the game.  The only team he played on that did so was the Rockets, and that year he did not even play because of injury.  Yes, injury.  For such a great basketball player that is what will come to define the career of such a gifted athlete. 

It is a hard reality to face when the sports you have known for so long start to change faces.  Even Kobe Bryant is getting old!  Although he chooses not to show it.  Running up in age is the most detrimental to a career when you are involved in basketball and football.  Two sports that really are defined in the skill positions as to how quick you are and your ability to be more athletic than the opposing player who is defending you.  Derek Jeter is 36.  Jeter had arguably his best statistical season LAST YEAR.  He hit .334 at this age…does not look like he is slowing down any time soon (the Yankees should be making an exception on his contract for one of the best Yankees, if not baseball players, ever.)  The only players you can truly say changed games in the NBA well passed their prime were MJ (SEE: The Real Superman) and to an even larger extent Kareem. 

The question is, what is the point of writing this down?  Obviously as the years pass people age, and get older.  There is nothing that can be done about it.  Ladainian Tomlinson had 9 productive season, 3 of which were record breaking, but do you really think he is about to just pack it up even though he has already hit the shelf life given to running backs at his age?  There in lies the problem…

It may be sad for us as sports fans to watch our favorite athletes deteriorate before our eyes, but the much sadder part about it is watching these athletes not realize what is happening to them, convincing themselves they can still perform at the levels they were at in their prime, and watching them struggle the way we are not used to seeing them.  No one should have let Muhammad Ali step into the ring with Larry Holmes, but no one around him could accept the fact that the greatest fighter they had ever seen, and possibly of all time, was done.  The signs were there in his slowed down hands and much worse in his slow speech, but accepting the reality that he was at the end of his career was too much to handle.  Now if you witnessed that fight live or you are like me and have watched the video of that fight, it is not something for the weak.  It almost brings you to tears, for some it does just that.

When we witness these events we have to remind ourselves of what these athletes once did for us.  We may judge them in their decisions to try to stay in the game because for some of them the sport is the only thing they know and love and do not want to let it go.  We should not judge a player such as Iverson.  Although he did not love practice, you cannot say he did not put his whole heart and soul into every play of every game.  Ladies and gentlemen, there are only so many Julio Franco’s in this world that we cannot expect that out of everyone we love to watch play the games.  Appreciation of athletes, just for being athletes, should be enough.  In the meantime I know that I will watch these last days of careers for the likes of Iverson, T-Mac, Andruw Jones, LT, and Westbrook to name a few, with compassion and appreciation for what they provided for me, fantasy or not and I refuse to even entertain the idea of a Dustin Pedroia, Pujols, LeBron, D-Wade, or even Tom Brady being in the twilight of their careers until that day eventually comes.

Welcome Home Boys!

Coming out of the All Star break, the Boston Celtics were facing their most difficult stretch of the season after playing less than .500 ball going into the break.  They were to journey out west and take on the Kings, Lakers, Blazers, and Nuggets.  The Celtics have never really played all that well out west so it made the start of the 2nd half of the season look just as putrid as they ended the first half.

The trade deadline came and went with no big noise truly being made from Danny Ainge.  He made his move just to make a move, sending fan favorite Eddie House, JR Giddens, and Bill Walker  for Nate Robinson and Carl Landry’s little brother.

When the dust settled, the Celtics were coming home after going 3-1 and picking up a couple games on the struggling LeBron’s.  After beating the Knicks last night in a game that featured zero offense, the Celtics find them 6 games out of the top spot in the East and 1 game behind Orlando for the 2nd seed.

What has truly been great was the deal Danny made that no one knew he could pull off.  Somehow he was able to acquire the 2007 versions of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.  There has been nothing better than seeing thr true Ray Allen with the sweetest shot in the game and to finally see Garnett sky for rebounds and be that defensive force that we all know and came to love.

What excites me most is that Boston has yet to hit its stride this season and that’s what the NBA is all about.  I look for them to finally come together at the right time, playoff time.  Pierce, Rondo, and Perk have been solid all season long. Ray and KG haven’t been themselves until just recently. Marquis Daniels is just starting to get back into shape after missing over 2 months of the season. Glen Davis has shown flashes of the brilliance he displayed during the playoffs last year and I expect him to be a solid contributor down the stretch.  Rasheed Wallace has pissed a lot of people off, none more than me.  His Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde act has worn thin with me. But I have faith that he knows that when he plays below the foul line he helps his team the most.

I do not know how the Nate Robinson experiment is going to work out.  I may have PTSD with late season point guard acquisitions. (See Cassel, Sam and Marbury, Stephon.) But as of right now, I am ever the optimist.  The team finally looks hungry again which has been refreshing to see.  Even more exciting is they have their swag back.  Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo are looking to dunk on people’s heads and Garnett and Perk are looking swat opposing shots into the third row.

Tomorrow night is a huge game for the Celtics.  They will be facing a struggling Cleveland Cavs team that no doubt hasn’t forgotten that these very Celtics came into their house for the first game of the year and beat them somewhat handily by 7.  Expect the Garden to be hopping with noise levels that will be beyond deafening.

Let’s go Celtics!

Baseballdamous Part 1

Spring training is here and opening day is a mere 40 days away.  It’s time to make some predictions on the upcoming season and breakdown the MLB.  Assuming your permission I would like to do that right now. I will go division by division predicting how the final standings will turn out giving a brief description of each team. This post will concentrate on the American League. So let’s get started…

I would like to start with the best division in baseball, the AL East.  Traditionally this division has been a two-headed monster, but with the emergence of the Tampa Bay Rays, that monster grew another head. Here is how I see the AL east breaking down:

1. New York Yankees : Yea, whatever, they’re defending champions.  Being the best team in baseball they have the strongest lineup, possibly ever.  Their pitching was great last year especially in the post season.  C.C Sabathia was worth every penny and that shouldn’t be any different going into this year.  I don’t see any team overtaking them in the AL East this year, so I see them winning anywhere from 92 to 96 games.  Players to watch: Everyone.  BLAH BLAH BLAH they still suck!

2. The Boston Red Sox: I put the Red Sox over the Rays for 2 reasons: pitching and defense. On paper the sox have the best rotation in baseball.  They have a strong defense as I explained in my last blog and their bullpen will probably be a little shaky this year since they don’t have any really strong middle relievers, but if they take a lead into the 8th inning it’s game over with Daniel Bard and  Jonathon Papelbon.  There are a lot of questions in the lineup for the Red Sox, most of them involving David Ortiz.  If he returns to form the Red Sox are just as good as the Yankees.  Their 1 through 4 hitters are still one of the best top 4 in the game but the back-end of the lineup isn’t as strong as we have seen in the past. I see the Red Sox finishing anywhere from 3 to 5 games behind the Yankees but winning the wildcard on the strength on their pitching.  They should win 90 to 95 games.  Players to watch: Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester, Daniel Bard, Jacoby Ellsbury, Victor Martinez, John Lackey, and Josh Beckett.

3. Tampa Bay Rays: A very, very good young baseball team.  However they are victims of their division.  You put this team in any other division in baseball, besides the NL east with the Phillies, and they win. The young players are now getting older gaining more experience.  I think they have a better lineup 1 through 9 than the Redsox do, but I’ve never been a huge fan of their starting rotation.  The bullpen was great in 2008, but that didn’t carry on into 2009.  I don’t see that bullpen having a repeat performance of 2008 this year.  They need to make young David Price their closer, and if they do that they might overtake the Sox.  The Rays can win anywhere from 80 to 90 games depending on they’re bullpen.  Players to watch: Even Longoria, Jason Bartlett, David Price, Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, James Sheilds.

4. Baltimore orioles: The Problem with the Orioles in recent years hasn’t been their offense.  I think their offense is great, filled with good young hitters. The problems have been inconsistent starting pitching combined with horrible bullpens. They will be able to score with the best teams in baseball, but won’t be able to stop them from scoring.  I don’t see the Orioles winning anymore than 60 games this year.  Players to watch: Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Brain Roberts Matt Weiters, and Jeremy Gunthrie.

5. Toronto Blue jays: The same thing I just said about the Orioles applies to the Blue Jays.  They just lost the ace of their staff Doc Halladay, so who do they depend on now?  Ricky Romero?  Good luck.  They have a decent lineup, but not as good as Baltimore’s.  Look for them to finish in the gutter of the AL East.  Players to watch: Aaron Hill, Lyle Overbay, Adam Lind.

Moving to the AL West where we will see a shift of power in this division.  The Angels had one of the worst off seasons in their history, while Seattle had one of their best. Let’s see what will happen out west….

Seattle Mariners: The Mariners made 2 EXTREMELY key additions this off season.  Signing Cliff Lee from the Phillies and stealing Chone Figgons away from the division rival Angels.  Now they have the strongest one-two punch in baseball with “King” Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee.  They also have the strong one-two punch in their lineup with Ichiro and Chone Figgons.  Add Jack Wilson, Ryan Garko, and Milton Bradley and that makes for a pretty good lineup. If their bullpen can hold up I see big things for this Seattle Team. They won 85 games last year I think you can add 5 to 6  more wins.  Players to watch: Ichiro, Chone Figgons, Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, Ryan Garko, Jack Wilson, Milton Bradley.

2. Anaheim Angels: I had to think this one through.  I almost put Texas ahead of them, but I like the pitching of Anaheim better.  They have a decent rotation, but lost their Ace.  It will be interesting to see who steps up in that role. They lost 3 keys players that were vital to their recent success with two of those players heading to division rivals; Vlad Guerrero to Texas and Chone Figgons to Seattle. They also lost Pitcher John Lackey to the Boston Red Sox.  Their bullpen isn’t scary like it has been in the past and they don’t have a table setter in their offense like they had in Figgons. This team will only win 75 to 82 games.  Players to watch: Tori Hunter, Kendry Morales, Erick Aybar, Scott Kazmir, and Howard Kendrick.

3. Texas Rangers: They have one of the most powerful lineups in the game, but they are always a starting pitcher away.  Rich Harden should do wonders for them this season, but i don’t think he’ll be enough. They’ll win a lot of games with their offense, but they’ll lose a lot of games with their starting pitching. They’ll lose even more games with their bullpen. I think they’ll hang around in the AL West but fade towards the end of the season like they did last year. Players to watch: Rich Harden, Josh Hamilton, Micheal Young, Nelson Cruise.

4. Oakland Athletics: THEY SUCK!  They have good young pitching wich they’ll end up trading away.  Their lineup is weak and this division is too good for them.  They’ll be lucky to win 50 games.  Players to watch: Jack Cust, Justin Duchscherer, Mark Ellis, Travis Buck

Next up the AL Central.  A good division not a great division that is always up for grabs unless you’re the Kansas city Royals.  Who will win this division?  Let’s find out…

1. Detroit Tigers: The Tigers had a Mets like collapse last year, but Jim Leyland won’t let that happen again.  Plus they’ve added a proven winner in Johnny Damon.  They have an above average lineup highlighted by one of the best young players in the game, Miguel Cabrera.  They have a good starting rotation headed by Justin Verlander, but Rick Porcello is close to taking his job.  Their bullpen is average and fell apart at the end of the season, but look for them to get better.  I see this team winning 90 games, however the last couple years they’ve been inconsistent and Magglio Ordonez needs to get back to form in order for that to happen.  It’s going to be another close race, but i think the Tigers will be able to handle it this year.  Players to watch: Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, and Johnny Damon.

2. Minnesota Twins. A wonderful late season surge last year helped them win the division. They have the best hitter in baseball in Joe Mauer who is backed up by Justin Mourneau which makes for a deadly combination.  The Rotation has a lot of questions.  Fransisco Liriano has to pitch well in order for this team to do something, but history tells us that will not happen, giving this team no real Ace to turn to and eat up innings.  That will tax their bullpen which isn’t that good to begin with.  Right now they only have 3 outfielders on their roster.  You can’t depend on 1 player, let alone 3 players to stay healthy for a whole Major League season.  This team will win about 80 games this year maybe a few more, maybe a few less.  Players to watch: Joe Mauer Justin Mourneau, Alexi Castilla, Dernard Span, and Orlando Hudson.

3. Chicago Whitesox: You could easily put this team ahead of the Twins or the Tigers in this division.  They have an excellent starting rotation.  Jake Peavy and Mark Buerle are two premier pitchers.  However we haven’t seen Peavy pitch enough in the American League.  He’s had success in the J.V National league, but this is a whole new ballgame to do for an entire season.  They also have a lot of line-up questions.  They don’t have a lot of fire power outside of Carlos Quentin.  Their Bullpen is decent and can win them some games.  I don’t think this team will score enough runs for them to be in the hunt.  However I could eat my words if Andruw Jones actually plays up to his potential.  They should win 75 games.  Players to watch: Jake Peavy, Mark Buerle, Carlos Quinton, Paul Konerko, and Juan Pierre.

4. Kansas City Royals: We all know what Cy Young winner Zack Grienke can do.  What can the rest of this team do. Probably nothing.  Brian Bannister can be good, I guess.  No player in their lineup really jumps out at me or strikes fear in any pitcher.  The only thing I can say about them is…they’re better than Cleveland.  They’ll be lucky to win 65 games again.  Players to watch: Zack Greinke, Jason Kendall, Rick Ankiel, and Alex Gordon.

5. Cleveland Indians: Grady Seizmore is the best centerfielder in the game.  That’s the only good news I have for Cleveland.  Other than that they’re pretty terrible.  Players to watch: Grady Seizmore,  Travis Hafner, Jake Westbrook, and Astrubal Cabrera.

So there is your breakdown of the American League. The ALCS this year will once again be The New York Yankees vs. The Boston Red Sox. Of course I’m going to pick the Red Sox to win that series even though they probably won’t. Your American League MVP will be Miguel Cabrera, and the Cy Young will be awarded to Jon Lester.  Any Questions? Look out for my breakdown of the national League tomorrow.

“What the hell happened?”: 2010 Winter Olympic Hockey ‘Playoff’ Predictions

The American’s are again underdogs, and again render a nation, the host nation at that, frozen. With the 5-3 victory yesterday over Canada, and with Sweden defeating Finland 3-0, Team U.S.A. gains the top seed going into the tournament style playoff rounds beginning on Tuesday. The anticipation to begin the Olympics was either Canada over Russia, or Russia over Canada, in what would have proven to be a star studded shootout of a gold medal game. This anticipation, however, has dwindled in the wake of a surprisingly weak Canadian offense.

The playoff picture, before the Quarterfinals, is as follows, and holds no place for explanation, though do not disregard what will be worth watching in these games: Switzerland will play Belarus, and the Swiss will win and advance into the Quarterfinals to face the U.S. The Swiss have been the only team to immerge from the five without an NHL majority, and they have done so without their Canadian killer, Martin Gerber. Jonah Hiller will remain strong, however give just enough to allow for an inevitable U.S. victory. The Americans, right now, are riding way too high to let Streit and his boys show them up, but anticipate a watchable match up none the less. Next, the Czech Republic will defeat Latvia and advance into the QF’s to face Finland. Latvia was and remains the weakest team in this tournament, and the Czech’s has something to prove, and will only get stronger. Finland proved last night to have a surprisingly weak offense, and though they can skate, and play a fairly solid, boring, team defense, they will not be able to score enough to emerge victorious. In any other Grouping, they would have finished third, rather than second, earning a bye. That being said, once Jagr gets his sight back, after Ovechkin’s “best player in the NHL” performance blindsided them, and with Elias and Havlat playing like leaders, rather than weathered veterans, around focused and smart youngsters like Plekanec and Krejci, I anticipate the Czech Republic coasting all the way to the Gold medal game. (I underestimated their utilization of Tomas Vokoun and I underestimated the play of their veterans, but will not overestimate their Gold medal chances.) To continue on, Slovakia will defeat Norway and advance on to play Sweden. This is no surprise, despite the “worthy of a watch” play by two virtual unknowns from Norway, Tore Vikingstad and Mats Aasen Zuccarello. I do not see Slovakia going any further, however, because as I predicted before and as it remains, Slovakia is without a big time goalie. Sweden will make quick work of the Slovak’s, as no offensive threat, (Hossa, Gaborik, Demitra) has stepped up to the plate as a leader.

Finally we arrive at the Canada versus Germany, pre-quarter final game. Canada will defeat Germany. Germany holds no threat to victory, and the only reason it will be worth watching is to see Canada in what may be their most dominant Olympic moment this year. Upon victory, Canada sees only Russia in their future, and we as fans see only disappointment. Let it be known throughout all of hockey fandom, that there was no prediction, written, spoken or imagined in which either Canada or Russia would go without a medal. This will in fact come true, on Wednesday, Feb 24th @ 7:30 EST. We have the Americans to blame for this. With that being said, the analysis of this epic, blue-ball fantasy of a game, is actually an easy one to make for me, seeing as it was my intention of having these two teams meet at least once. Russia has goaltending, and so does Canada. Russia has offense, speed and finesse, and so does Canada. Russia has defense, team defense, three-zone offense, and an unparalleled physical game rarely seen in International play, and Canada, does not. Physical play will be the deciding factor, and just as it is increasingly true that Ovechkin can match Crosby in every offensive category yet smoke him in every other facet to the game imperative to being a strong defensive as well as offensive force, it is true that Russia will disappoint the host nation in its early victory over Canada. Allow me to reiterate, I believe Canada has extremely hot nuts over the shear embarrassment of the all star offense, not being able to finish strong against either the Swiss or the U.S. I also feel like they will bust way to early, and Germany will take the brunt of most of this shame. Take Canada’s play in the final two minutes of last night’s game however, and multiply it by 30. Play that way in the entire game, and you cannot be touched, even by Russia. They have proven however, to be too cordial to one another, not physical by any stretch of the hockey imagination, and will get man handled by a Russian team which is out for blood. I can only envision the win against the Czech’s as a rivalry game for Russia, but if they are looking at the Playoff bracket the same way I am, they see the Czech’s coasting with ease into that Gold medal game. That being said, and for nearly the same exact reasons of strong offense and physical defense versus a simple minded pass and shoot game from Sweden, I see the Russian Federation’s easy advancement to face the Czech’s in the Gold Medal game.

The Bronze Medal Game. I have chewed my words enough over this American team however, let another fact be known through this “predication” and “opinionated analysis”; it is my strong, and consistent opinion that this particular collection of American hockey players remains TOO YOUNG and TOO SLOPPY (based on a predicted lack of chemistry) to continue on its quest filled with “miraculous” luck and false hope. Do not get me wrong, however, they have gone above and beyond anyone’s expectations, and Ryan Miller’s return from his slump, came just in time to take on what proved to be an extremely competitive Swiss lineup. I see our boys from the States, however, being taken out, and if by no fault of their own, by simply being outplayed by the Swedes.  I believe Sweden will defeat Slovakia by outplaying them defensively; however I see Sweden’s inability to shake things up physically as an imminent loss to Russia, however I do not see the far superior experience of consistent chemistry faltering in defeating the U.S. for the Bronze Medal. (…should have played Thomas…)

The Gold Medal game will be a rematch of yesterday’s most physical display; Russia vs. country rivals, The Czech Republic. The apples to apples matchup yields Russia victorious in four of what I consider six imperative categories. Russia has a more talented and proven defensive core, a better goaltender in Evgeni Nabakov and speed. I feel they will match in their special teams abilities and surprisingly, their physical play. I do not see the Czech’s backing down again, like they did yesterday. They have the tools to compete physically. The last category goes to the Czech Republic, and as a Boston fan, I see it day in and day out from David Krejci. The Czech’s will counter the Russian speed with patience. Look for this to be a factor on offense and in special teams, given they get enough power play time to set up and deliver. This comparison aside, I feel Russia will still prevail, and will win the gold on the backs of their youth, not their experience, nor born-in chemistry. I feel Ovechkin and Malkin have proven to be just as strong and dominant through Olympic play, and a Gold Medal should prove to be no surprise.

(Sunday, Feb. 28th, 3:15PM EST…Save the date…)