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STERIODS: Contrasting the NFL & MLB

This time last year, Hank Steinbrenner came out and stated that he didn’t “like baseball being singled out” when it came to the attention by media and congress over the steroids issue.  He later commented, “Everybody that knows sports knows football is tailor-made for performance-enhancing drugs.  I don’t know how they managed to skate by.  It irritates me.  Don’t tell me it’s not more prevalent.  The number in football is at least twice as many.  Look at the speed and size of those players.”

In the wake of A-Rod’s admittance of steroid use between 2001 and 2003, I do think it’s interesting to contrast why there seems to be a double standard between performance enhancing drugs in baseball and football.

A-Rod Admits His Guilt

A-Rod Admits His Guilt

I do think it is amazing that guys like Shawne Merriman and Rodney Harrison–two prominent defensive players in the NFL–can test positive for steroids/HGH and no one truly seem to care.  Do football fans not care about the integrity of the game?  Do fans and maybe even the media enable these players because they want to see brutal collisions on the field?

I do think, though, that there are a few differences between baseball and football in regards to this issue.  Harrison, and to some degree, Shawne Merriman, admitted that they were wrong.  They were willing to accept their penalties.  That doesn’t make what they did okay, but these players and others did not break NFL policy and continue to lie about it time after time.  They didn’t play the “he said, she said” game.

That’s not to say that some of the players in the MLB should admit guilt if they aren’t guilty.  But, at least in the court of public opinion, they all certainly aren’t innocent.  Barry Bonds?  Palmeiro?  Clemens? Maguire?  Sosa?   There is this “hush, hush” mentality among these big name players, and yet damning evidence mounts against them that would appear to seriously cloud their credibility.  With A-Rod stating that he did indeed take performance-enhancing drugs–after a 2007 interview with Katie Couric where he flatly denied this claim–an entire era of baseball has an enormous blemish on it.

Another distinct difference between baseball and football in regards to steroids is the actual benefit.  It is known that steroids can give you a boost in strength, muscle, and speed.  HGH, a substance that Rodney Harrison was found to be taking this time last year, is widely believed to aid in the recovery of injury.  When Harrison apparently took the drug, he was attempting to recover much quicker from an injury than he otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.  Again, this doesn’t justify his actions.

Harrison Tested Positive

Harrison Tested Positive

But at the same time, we as fans cannot begin to fathom the wear and tear on one’s body that playing in the NFL induces.  There are former players that have a hard time going about their day due to massive injuries.  ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth, a former offensive lineman, has admitted to having at least twenty knee surgeries.  And some former players even suffer from dementia due to the brutal sport of football.

Another issue is the impact steroids has on the game of baseball and football.  Baseball is much less of a team sport than football.  Essentially, baseball is a pitcher versus a batter.  If the pitcher is taking steroids which in turn allows him to throw the ball with a bit more velocity, that is an advantage.  If the batter is utilizing steroids to allow him to hit the ball further, that could potentially turn a double play into a home-run.  That is, most certainly, an advantage.

These factors decide games.

Can games really be decided by steroids in football, though?  Does steroids help you read a defense better?  Does steroids allow you to make every single tackle on the field?  Does steroids give you the drive to study film, decipher signals, or enhance your vision to see the hole?

Football is a team sport.  If one person–or for that matter, a few players–are using steroids on the offensive or defensive side of the ball, I am not convinced that that is an advantage.  It may make you a bit stronger.  It may make you a bit faster.  But, unlike baseball, I don’t think those benefits can make you and your team better.  I’ve seen guys come into the NFL who are complete physical specimens (Former number 1 overall pick in 2000, DE Courtney Brown, springs to mind), and yet could barely crack the starting lineup.

Looks Like Tarzan, Plays Like Jane

Courtney Brown: Looks Like Tarzan, Plays Like Jane

Guys who are the strongest and fastest and yet their careers never take off due to injury, an inability to pick up the playbook, or a complete lack of heart.

Remember, you need the physical tools and talent in the NFL, but football is most certainly a mental game.  Akili Smith and Michael Vick could throw the ball out of the stadium and into oncoming traffic on the highway, yet they were both mediocre quarterbacks.

Smith Didnt Work Out for the Bengals

Smith Didn't Work Out for the Bengals

I am not saying that players cannot and do not benefit from steroids in the NFL.  In 2006, when Merriman was suspended four games for steroids, he still racked up 17 sacks in 12 games.  That is an incredible stat.  At the same time, in 2007, in just 15 games, Merriman still registered 12.5 sacks.  That is a very good total, still.  And while steroids may have contributed to Merriman being able to get around the corner and sack Peyton Manning a couple extra times, steroids absolutely cannot aid you if you bite on Manning’s play fake and he throws it over the top to Reggie Wayne for a touchdown.

Lastly, it cannot be forgotten that baseball is a numbers game.  Home runs, batting averages and bases stolen–it’s what baseball fans care about, from age 8 to 80.

Quick, name me how many yards Emmitt Smith gained in his career?  How many touchdowns did Jerry Rice retire with?  How many sacks did Reggie White have?  How many consecutive games has Brett Favre played?

Even the most die-hard NFL fan would be hard pressed to answer those questions.

Yes, baseball is about the numbers, and if a player is on steroids and has a chance to balloon his numbers into the stratosphere, that is something that the common baseball fan can’t stand.  No one wants someone to eclipse Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth without knowing they did it the old natural way.

February 9, 2009 Posted by | Features & Opinions, NFL | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pro Bowl is Merely a 2009 Campaign for Teams

With the Presidential election over, and the excitement of primaries, caucuses, and delegates far behind us, some people may be in withdrawl.  Whatever will you do without politicians verbally sparring with each other as they fight for the chance to be the next President of the United States?

2008 Campaign

2008 Campaign

There is, however, a solution.  Afterall, nobody really watches the NFL Pro Bowl.  Though it airs in beautiful Hawaii each year (though this year will be the last for the Aloha state), the actual game is boring.  Players obviously play not to get hurt, and the game itself is, truly, more meaningless than the last exhibition game in the pre-season.

With that said, there may be a few reasons to tune in.  Free agency is right around the corner, and many players playing in this game (Albert Haynesworth, TJ Houshmanzadeh, and more) will be free agents.

On ESPN’s NFL Live, Haynesworth was discussing his future.  He said he doesn’t know what the Titans will do, but that he’s open to seeing what other teams show a strong interest in him.  Haynesworth then picked up a Colts helmet, posed with it, and stated that he could see himself in Indianapolis.

Peyton Manning was soon interviewed and stated that the Pro Bowl really is like a campaign.  Players from a given team will court a soon to be free agent–hanging out with them in Hawaii, going out to eat, etc–and then when free agency rolls around, that player has signed with that team.

Look no further than when Terrell Owens wanted out in San Francisco.  In the Pro Bowl that year, he was getting quite friendly with Ray Lewis and Donovan McNabb.  That off-season, he was traded to Baltimore (temporarily) before landing in Philadelphia.

Oddly enough, Houshmanzadeh has already expressed a potential interest in playing in Philly, as well.

One has to wonder, if this kind of politicking does indeed work, is it any wonder why the awful teams never seem to get better?  Surely, it’s not all about camaraderie–money is the number one motivating factor.  But, if there aren’t a lot of Detroit Lions players at the Pro Bowl to openly campaign to a popular soon-to-be free agent, one would have to assume that he would be less likely to sign there.  Bad teams need all the more representatives present to showcase the organization in a good light.  Afterall, it doesn’t take much convincing to sign with the New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers.  If you’re the Kansas City Chiefs, however, one would probably want to hear from a few players on the team about why signing in Kansas City would be such a wise move.

Manning/Delhomme

Manning/Delhomme

And while it is ultimately about money, no player wants to be stuck in NFL Purgatory–also known as Oakland.

February 8, 2009 Posted by | Features & Opinions, NFL | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Real Steel

RAVENS STEELERS

I can't even jinx the Steelers on Sunday

With the Super Bowl right around the corner, there’s some rules to go by when your picking your winner. Many years I’ve cheered and bet on the underdog and I’ve lost more Super bowls than one can imagine. I rooted for Jim Kelly and the Bills every time in the early 90s. Talk about building your super bowl resume early in life. The only joy I had was a Steve Tasker caused fumble. I even remember 99’, learning the dirty bird and hoping for Hotlanta to burst. I’m still waiting for Jamal Anderson to show up…loss. I had a decent run with the Pats and predicting their victories but that’s no surprise. My lowest point was 2006, the Bears vs Colts. I was throwing out Empire Records quotes about Rex Manning day throughout pregame. I somehow chose to side with “Sexy Rexy” and found myself drinking heavily. The underdog card will not work this time around either. Here’s some simple rules to live by from yours truly.

Rule 1: Leave emotions out of it. If you’re simply betting against a team like the 90s Cowboys or the Peyton 06’ Colts just because you hate their mere existence then you’re bound for the floor.

Rule 2: When you’re siding with God and Kurt Warner, then you’ve let religion take over, DON’T. Warner has had a great year and playoffs but he’s going to be put on his back more often than Hayden Panettiere.

Rule 3: If you could place a second half bet on the team who didn’t receive the ball, hopefully in this case the Steelers, you should probably do it.

Rule 4: First team to score usually loses the game. I’m serious, I don’t care if Devin Hester returns the kickoff for a touchdown, there’s no way they’re winning this game. Damn YOU REX!

Rule 5: If you are a fan of one of the teams in the Superbowl then please just sit back, gorge on some food and beer and enjoy the game without any monetary involvement in it. Trust me on this one. You don’t want to end up getting so emotional over your teams loss that you actually forget about the bet you put in on them until the next time you check your account, or get a phone call from your bookie reminding you again of what happened that day causing you to send threatening letters to the referees of that game for missing the two blatant holding calls on that Tyree catch…..see what I mean.

My prediction, the Steelers are going to roll on Sunday. Even if the Cardinals run the Annexation of Puerto Rico 12 times against the Steelers, they would still lose by 10. So get your popcorn ready and pull out your terrible towels folks, let’s get ready for some football!

Let’s hope Bruce has no wardrobe malfunctions

RaginRondo

January 29, 2009 Posted by | NFL | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dear Brett Favre

Dear Brett Favre,

If you’ve been near a television in Mississippi, or have had the luxury of an Internet connection, I’m sure you’ve heard the news. Tony Dungy retired from being the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. And he did it quickly, smoothly, and with a ton of class.

Favre Teeters on Retirements Edge

Favre Teeters on Retirements Edge

Though you may sometimes be an erratic quarterback with a penchant for throwing passes to the guys wearing different jerseys, we still love you. You’ve been a great player to watch for almost two decades. You play hurt, you play without fear, and you certainly improve the play of your teammates.

But Brett, you are a heartbeat away from forty years old. And though there have been a few signal callers who have found relative success at middle age—Warren Moon and Vinny Testaverde come immediately to mind—2009 may just be the year to call it quits.

That’s not to say that you still don’t have talent. You probably throw the ball harder at 39 than most quarterbacks at 25. You still are reliable enough to play all sixteen games and you are a man who genuinely doesn’t play the game soley for money. I can’t help but appreciate that.

Whatever you do decide, Brett, please don’t drag it out. Please learn from Tony Dungy—make a commitment and stand behind it. I know the idea of walking away from the game is scary. I know football is all you’ve known since your Pop Warner days. I know that, aside from family, it’s probably your first love.

But Brett, I think I speak for most when I say that I cannot bear to have the networks cover the “will he, won’t he” retirement speculation that surrounds you every year at this time. If you love the NFL as much as I know you do, don’t subject its fans to your indecisive, libra-esque tendencies.

Please don’t retire, cry at your press conference, only to text message your former teammates that you still have “the itch.” Similar to a break-up with a girlfriend, as much as I still care for you, I can’t see you anymore. I need space, and to get over you, you need to step off the stage for a little while.

If the week 17 game against the Dolphins was indeed your swan song, you had a great career. You’re one of the best to ever play the game, and you will be remembered for generations to come. That’s more than most can say about their lives. With that said, nothing is forever—certainly not football. Please know this. If retirement is even creeping into your mind, it’s probably time to go. And just like a band-aid, you need to rip it off quickly. The sting will last for a short while, but in the end, we’ll all be better for it.

DO YOU WANT FAVRE TO RETIRE?

January 25, 2009 Posted by | Features & Opinions, General, NFL | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time to Change the Overtime Rule?

In the wake of the Colts/Chargers game–a game that went into overtime and was won by the Chargers’ Darren Sproles scampering into the endzone–many critics are suggesting that the rule (which states that the first team to score wins) should be changed.

Should Overtime Be Changed?

Should Overtime Be Changed?

While everyone would certainly have loved to see what the Colts could’ve done had they won the coin toss, the rule is fair.  Simply because a team wins the coin toss does not mean that the opposing defense will roll over and die.  If the opposing team wants to win, have the defense step up and make a play.  Remember, the Eagles and Bengals played all the way to the end of overtime without anyone scoring a point this season.

While the college rule is exciting, it’s almost too fair.  The ball is placed on the 25 yard line with a first and ten without the help of special teams.  The offense is almost guaranteed to score at least a fieldgoal.  If anything, it gives the offense too much of an advantage.

The mantra in this country is that soceity is going too soft.  Kids complain that they lost in a Championship game and feel sad, so parents petition the school to hand out “runner up” trophies.  Hell, they have even banned dodge ball and tag in some schools.  And we wonder why there’s a child obesity problem? 

Yet at the same token, we want our kids at the college level to have an “equal chance to score?”  We need to realize that the concept of overtime is implemented because both teams couldn’t seal the deal in four straight quarters.  Overtime should indeed be a “sudden death” approach–if you couldn’t win the game over the course of regulation, you have one last, limited chance to do so in overtime.  Regardless of whether or not it’s fair.

If the overtime rule was indeed altered, I wouldn’t mind seeing the NFL ban field goals.  While it’s perfectly acceptable to kick a field goal to win a game, I think if you eliminated the ability for a team to make this attempt, it would allow both the offenses and defenses to truly go toe to toe.  And more than likely, I would imagine that the team that wins the coin toss won’t immediately score on their first drive, thus allowing more of an opportunity for both opposing teams offenses to get a chance on the field.  It would also allow for a bit more of an exciting finish, without feeling as though the ball needs to be placed on an arbitrary yardline without the use of a kickoff.

January 9, 2009 Posted by | NFL | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why Are the Colts Perrenial Playoff Losers?

The Colts are king of the regular season.  They consistently win 10+ games every year.  Their coach has an even keeled demeanor and their team has some of the best collection of talent in the league.

Manning Contemplates his Playoff History

Manning Contemplates his Playoff History

With Saturday night’s loss to the 8-8 San Diego Chargers, however,  it must be asked…why do the Colts lose so much in the playoffs?

Here’s some playoff history of the Colts that dates back to 2000:

•Jan. 3, 2009 – AFC Wildcard – San Diego 23, Indianapolis 17

•Jan. 13, 2008 – AFC Divisional – San Diego 28, Indianapolis 24

•Feb. 4, 2007 – Super Bowl XLI – Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17

• Jan. 21, 2007 – AFC Championship – Indianapolis 38, New England 34

• Jan. 13, 2007 – AFC Divisional – Indianapolis 15, Baltimore 6

• Jan. 6, 2007 – AFC Wildcard – Indianapolis 23, Kansas City 8

• Jan. 15, 2006 – AFC Divisional – Pittsburgh 21, Indianapolis 18

• Jan. 16, 2005 – AFC Divisional – New England 20, Indianapolis 3

• Jan. 9, 2005 – AFC Wild Card – Indianapolis 49, Denver 24

• Jan. 18, 2004 – AFC Championship – New England 24, Indianapolis 14

• Jan. 11, 2004 – AFC Divisional – Indianapolis 38, Chiefs 31

• Jan. 4, 2004 – AFC Wild Card – Indianapolis 41, Denver 10

• Jan. 4, 2003 – AFC Wild Card – Jets 41, Indianapolis 0

• Dec. 30, 2001 – AFC Wild Card – Miami 23, Indianapolis 17 (OT)

• Jan. 16, 2000 – AFC Divisional – Tennessee 19, Indianapolis 16

As the record shows, over the past decade, the Colts have made the playoffs nine times.  In nine trips to the post season, they have won the Superbowl once, and went to the AFC Championship only twice.  They have lost in the wildcard round three times, while falling in the divisional round four times.  And in their AFC Championship win against the Patriots in early 2007, it must be noted that the Colts were down by 18 points.  One could argue that Manning and the Colts won that game just as much as the Patriots lost it.

So why is this the case?  No one really knows.  Some may want to blame Dungy, a laid back coach who often chooses (like last season) to rest his starters before the playoffs begin.  Compare that to what Giants coach Tom Coughlin did against the Patriots in week 17–where New York played as if the last game of the season was the Superbowl instead of a meaningless game for the Giants.  Does that have a genuine effect?  No one knows for certain.

Some want to blame Peyton Manning or the finesse offensive scheme.  Is Manning a poor playoff quarterback?  Are the Colts too much of a soft team during the regular season to compete with the tougher, more aggressive teams in the post season?

We’ll probably never know for certain.  But be sure to share your thoughts on why the Colts have so many problems in the playoffs.

January 6, 2009 Posted by | NFL | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Straight Cash’s Wild Card Weekend Picks

This NFL Wild Card weekend will have dirty birds, rookie QBs, MVPs, All-Days, Burners, Bolts and Colts. It also features all 4 home teams as underdogs — first time I’ve ever seen that. Let’s get to the picks. Short and sweet.

Dreaming of days with Martz and Faulk

Dreaming of days with Martz and Faulk

Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals, 4:30pm EST, NBC
Line/Total: ATL -2, o/u 51

The pick: Over 51

It’ll be a shootout in the desert. The Falcons will score points because the Cardinals are 0-6 against teams who were in the top 10 in rushing (the Falcons are ranked #2 behind the Giants). Then, after a steady diet of Mike Turner and Jerious Norwood, Matt Ryan will open up the field against Arizona’s 22nd ranked pass D. On the other side, Arizona will take to the air because they are dead last in rushing, and so we’ll see the Kurt Warner show against Atlanta’s very shaky secondary. This game may also get messy with the presence of John Abraham and his 16.5 sacks. Though a lot of things point to an Atlanta win, you cannot count out Captain Kurt at home. He will go down chucking the ball to his talented trio of receivers, and if he misses, well that’s just better field position for the dirty birds. One big stat: the over is 9-1 in Arizona’s last 10 home games.

Will Peyton take it lying down?

Will Peyton take it lying down?

Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers, 8:00pm EST, NBC
Line/Total: IND -1, o/u 50

The pick: IND -1

The Chargers may be on a roll with 4 wins in a row to close the season, but if you look closely they were against the doormat Chiefs, lowly Raiders, and self-destructing Broncos and Bucs teams. The Colts are riding a 9-win wave themselves with quality victories over the Steelers, Patriots and a 23-20 Week 12 win over the Chargers at Qualcomm. In this matchup of two premier QBs, I’ll take Indy’s 6th ranked pass D over the 31st ranked San Diego pass D (only the Seahawks were worse). It will be close throughout, but look for the Colts to slow this game down, and finish with a vintage Peyton Manning, long, drawn-out, antsy, multi-audible, drive.

Will Ed Reed touch the ball more than Ricky Williams?

Will Ed Reed touch the ball more than Ricky Williams?

Baltimore Orioles at Miami Dolphins, 1:00pm EST, CBS
Line/Total: BAL -3, o/u 38

The pick: BAL -3

Baltimore’s D will be too much for Pennington and Miami. In their 27-13 Week 7 win over the Dolphins, the Ravens stopped the vaunted Wildcat offense allowing only 71 rush yards and forcing a pick 6 courtesy of Terrell Suggs. Look for Baltimore to bring the same defensive gameplan and challenge Pennington to go deep (not his strength) where my pick for Defensive Player of the Year, Mr. Ed Reed (and his 9 INTs), will be waiting. All rookie QB Joe Flacco has to do is his best Kerry Collins imitation and take care of the ball and make simple, low risk plays, and leave the rest to Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, Suggs and company. The Dolphins’ and Pennington’s comeback story has been inspiring this year, but it ends this weekend.

A little help on "O" please

A little help on "O" please

Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings, 4:30pm EST, FOX
Line/Total: PHI -2, o/u 41

The pick: PHI -2

If the Eagles were facing any other NFC playoff team, I might think twice about picking them because of their inconsistency and much too frequent brain farts. But against the one-dimensional Vikes, it makes it easy for D-guru Jim Johnson to scheme up ways to stop Adrian Peterson and expose the Vikings passing game. Yes, Minnesota has the top-ranked rush defense, but Philadelphia isn’t too shabby at #5. The difference is that Philly has a very efficient McNabb, who’s making the right reads of late. Also, the Eagles 3rd ranked pass defense will feast on Minny’s 25th ranked pass offense. Nothing else here other than the Eagles secondary has been swarming, and if any bit of the intensity brought against Dallas shows up, it’ll be a long day for Tavaris Jackson. Hopefully, we don’t get any of this on the sidelines.

USC’s KO of Penn State started the year off right. Straight Cash record for 2009: 1-0

Good Luck everyone.

January 3, 2009 Posted by | General, NFL, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments