Monday, March 26, 2007

Goals, Goals, Goals... for the Red White and Blue!

The chanting, the cheering, and a whole lot of people speaking Spanish. So that’s what live soccer is all about. Yesterday was all about the world’s most popular game coming to Tampa. In a fun, friendly atmosphere beneath a clear blue sky the US Men’s National team defeated Ecuador’s national team 3-1 in an international friendly at Raymond James Stadium. It’s great that a “friendly” can involve several hard fouls, boo’s directed at the referee and a kick to the face.

Landon Donovan, the much beleaguered American star, was sensational on the pitch. The diminutive midfielder’s speed was too much for the Ecuadorian backfield as he slashed through their line almost at will. Donavan, wearing the captain’s armband for the first time under coach Bob Bradley, netted three goals, was denied on another and had a penalty kick taken away from him when the referee ruled (incorrectly) that he was taken down outside of the South Americans’ penalty area.

For the most part the fans that showed up were great. The early goal by the American squad energized the home side fans. While the 31,000 fans didn’t cheer with the game long passion of their English counterparts they didn’t do much to embarrass themselves as well. The only real blemish from a fan perspective was the guy behind us that kept imploring the rows in front to “sit down, SIT DOWN”. Umm fella; I hate to call you out in this very well read medium, but you’re at an international soccer game. You’re lucky people weren’t standing for the ENTIRE game.

That being said there was another annoying fan in front of us. I can’t say that he did anything particularly annoying – it was just the fact he was a Rutgers fan. Since Big Mike was wearing the blue of Seton Hall I thought there might be some Big East trouble in our section. Fortunately they were civil and all went well.

Speaking of blue I was quite impressed by the amount of Ecuadorian supporters that were in the Stadium. The blue and yellow jerseys numbered at least equal to the red, white and blue of the US supporters. For the fans that didn’t have any national gear (which wouldn’t be surprising since I checked three sports stores in the area on Saturday and none of them had any Team US shirts or hats for sale) they seemed to break out whatever soccer jersey they had in the closet. It was a veritable cornucopia of teams represented from Celtic to Manchester United with some Real Madrid’s and even a Tampa Bay Mutiny jersey or two.

Sam’s Army made its appearance with a large contingent in the north end of the stadium. While it wasn’t quite the sea of red that they hope full it was at least a sizable lake of red. They banged the drums and waved a large US flag. Donovan’s goals set them into a state of euphoria that I don’t think the Bucs have yet to inspire.

The game itself was entertaining. If there were any casual fans in the crowd then they should be swayed when it comes to how entertaining a soccer game can be. Big Mike was quite the prognosticator as pre-game he predicted a 3-2 US Victory. His happiness was tempered by the Rutgers Fan and the fact that he had to cave in and give the Glazer family $5.50 for a Coke.
Along with Donavon’s superb game his roommate Brian Ching played strong despite getting the boot in the face mentioned earlier. He only missed a few minutes before returning to the field with tissue jammed into what appeared at first to be a broken nose. Other impressive performances came from Oguchi Onyewu (you have no idea how bad I misspelled that before looking it up) and Michael Bradley, the coach’s son, who came on to start the second half.

One player that didn’t seem to impress on the field was Benny Feilhaber or as we called him “Number 5”. It wasn’t that he had a horrible game, but early on he struggled to match up against the bigger Ecuadorian forwards. Bad positioning led to him picking up a yellow card on rough takedown midway through the first half.

He played better as the game went on but I was surprised to see the papers today praising his play. The back line of the Americans struggled early, but as the game went on they seemed better organized. Jonathon Spector arrived late in the game and played strong. The young defenseman should enjoy a long and productive international career.

It was surprising to read today that many fans were quite dismissive of Landon’s performance in the game. The overwhelming opinion was one of, “nice game now do it when it counts”. It’s a bit unfair to blame all of the US struggles in World Cup play on his shoulders. The showing in Germany showed an overall bad strategy and performance by the entire US Soccer organization. While his performance in major competitions hasn’t been as scintillating as his performance in international friendlies such as this one he has become the most recognizable figure on the team.

With his performance under the bright Florida sun Donovan moved into a second place tie in international goals scored for the US. Also, lets not forget that alongside Donovan for his “disappointing” performances was everyone’s hero Claudio Reyna. The further removed Reyna’s playing days have become, the more mythical his stature.

My point is that this team, despite marketing efforts to the contrary, isn’t about one or two players. While Donovan scored the goals and garnered the headlines it was the play of Ching and the rest of the mid field that opened the field for the L.A. Galaxy star to bury his opportunities. Ching’s wonderful lead pass led allowed Donovan to use his speed on the breakaway goal. It was a sensational cross from DeMarcus Beasley minutes later that allowed Donovan to drill his third goal into the back of the net.

Isn’t it more American, more democratic to have a team of good players that play great together than to have one or two “superstars”? Bradley seems to understand that and allows the team to play that way. It would be a shame to alter what he’s built just to bring a big name coach in.

The bigger tests will come later in the year as the team plays games away from their comfort zones in the US. With CONCAF action right around the corner, they build on the success they’ve had since the dismal World Cup performance. I’m not asking that you buy tickets or paint your face for their upcoming games, but at least give them a chance. U.S. Soccer, give Tampa another chance as well. It would be nice to have them come into town more than once every twelve years.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Good ol Hockey Game

To me this column is a tad bit of a disappointment. I was hoping to regale you with proof of the vapidity that is the common TBA sports fan. How was I going to do that – by attending a Lightning game. So along with Big Mike I left work at 6.30 ish and was a few minutes late for the drop of the puck. It was a long hike up to Row R in section 307 – hey this site doesn’t exactly pay the bills so it’s the cheap seats for me.

One of the benefits of working for the No Limits Fun Factory is that I can usually score a ticket to a club level suite for most of the hockey games if I felt like it. While it has its perks (free beer) it is a bit of a drag as most people are too busy socializing to follow the game. So I really enjoy tickets in the cheap seats it allows me to bask in the glory of my fellow fans.

If only they weren’t so ignorant.

I had my trusty notepad and pen to record some great sayings. Early on it appeared I was going to be blessed with comedy gold. After we made it to our seats (one row from the roof) we sat in front of a couple good ol’ boys who were enjoying their beer. I have a feeling they may have had a few before the game.

Overheard comment #1 –

“I’ve seen Motley Crue & Scorpions” “Yeah, I’ve seen the Scorpions”

That exchange touched off a 5 minute conversation of which concerts the two of them had been to. Let’s just say they’ve seen a lot of hair in their days. Meanwhile Jason Ward scored to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.

Alas, they were kicked out of the seats by a family that may not have even known they were at a hockey game. They seemed to think the main goal of the night was to see how much food they could consume in 2 and ½ hours. They provided no entertainment.

Overheard comment #2 –


The majority of the crows filled the Ice Palace with sustained displeasure after Jason Ward committed a blatant penalty. It’s one thing to boo when the officials make an obvious mistake, but not when the Lightning player tackles the opposing player. If the team screws up take it like a real fan.

That’s all that came out of the game. I was kind of disappointed. No one screamed “Shoot the Puck!” at odd times although one guy screamed “SWITCH” at the top of his lungs. Ah pal, the hockey players can’t hear you from section 307 and I doubt they need your help to know when to change lines.

So since this post ended up being shorter than I had hoped we go to some back up material. Let’s get to know Nick Tarnasky with helps from the Ice Time (free program given out at Lightning Games).

The question is “What’s your favorite restaurant in the Tampa Bay area?”

Our favorite fourth liner answered, “The Cheesecake Factory”. What? A chain restaurant attached to a mall filled with sun burned tourists? Are you kidding me? No Berns, Side Berns (my favorite), Mise En Place, Charlie’s or even The Colombia? Arrrggghhhh. I understand that they are busy during the season, but get out and see the town a little bit, kid. You may be making the minimum, but you can afford to try some new places.

That’s all for now. I should have some more for you after Sunday’s big soccer match.

Bonus note –

Let me be the first to say it. Fire Tim Marcum. He’s done. He may be a legend in Tampa sports, but he’s lost his touch.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A collecting we will go....

So far you’ve read about my gambling problems and my distaste for the general fans of the TBA. Now it’s time for another one of my other vices – card collecting. That’s right I collect little cardboard pictures of my athletes and put them in boxes that clutter up my closet. It takes my money, space in my luxurious condo and it gets on my girlfriend’s nerves.

Why do I do it? I don’t know honestly. I used to tell everyone that I was investing in cards or that I planned to sell them on line. Part of that is true I guess, but the more I think about it the more I realize it’s just fun. It also satisfied my need to organize things. Right now it is perhaps the only thing in my life that’s organized, but that’s a story for another day.

I consider it a nice and somewhat less expensive habit than snorting cocaine, but the addictive nature of the habit is similar. At the present time I have a bout 70,000 cards which is a solid amount, but no where near Big Mike’s collection which is currently estimated at about 1,000,000. To say Big Mike has a little bit of clutter in his house is an understatement, but he is also moving the cards to buyers at a much faster rate than I am.

By the way I’m currently watching “The Island” on HBO and I’m wondering how it wasn’t turned into a video game. The first 30 minutes blows away anything you can do in Grand Theft Auto (well other than smack a hooker). Chase scenes, gun battles and stuff blowing up – what more could you want. Oh and it has Scarlett Johansson in it as well. Not too shabby. I wouldn’t buy it, but if it’s on it’s worth a watch if you’re flipping through the channels. Now back to the normal column.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well I have a quest this season, by season I mean baseball card collecting season. That quest, fair readers, is to chronicle my attempt to collect the entire 2007 Topps Series. It’s not an overly ambitious undertaking as there are several thousand collectors who do this on a yearly basis. What I want to do is see how much time and money it will take an average (that’s me!) collector to put a set together.

The journey started on Monday when I bought a box of 2007 Topps Series One from Target. Cost - $9.99

Here’s what I got:

Total base cards: 53 (out of 330)
Duplicates: 0
Inserts: 7
Best Card: JG46 – Josh Gibson HR History
Best Looking Card #222 – Scott Hatteberg
Devil Rays 1 (#244 Team Card)

Overall the set is pretty sharp looking. Topps went with an all black border this year. That’s usually a dicey decision as corners and edges can chip easily. Any type of defect devalues the card so there could be some disgruntled collectors out there that score a nice base card that they can’t get full value for because of a small bent corner. I’m not too worried about it as I am not a big time investor of cards.

The inserts in the first series are pretty varied with 27 different sets listed on the back of the box. The best odds are the “Generation Now” at one every 4 packs ( I scored two in the 10 packs that were in the box I bought). The longest odds are shared between two insert sets – “A-Rod Road to 500 Continuity Autograph” and Distinguished Service Cut Signature – at 1 for every ONE MILLION packs purchased. Or about the same odds of me having more than 5 readers.

The most intriguing insert set this year to me is the “Distinguished Service” which is running about 1 per 12 packs. Topps is paying homage to the major league baseball players that served in World War II. I did pick up one – Bob Feller. According to the back of the card he joined the Navy is 1942 and picked up 8 battle star citations during his service.

Since some of these insert sets have ridicules odds I’ll consider my set complete when I have all of the base cards. There are 330 in series one and probably another 330 in Series two which will be released later this summer. Series II is usually the better of the two halves because of its card selections. The later series will have more rookies and more of players in their new team’s uniforms.

In recent years Topps and other manufacturers have started airbrushing new updated uniforms on players. This year Aubrey Huff is an example of this latest trend. I have mixed feelings about it. While it’s nice to see a player in a current uniform retouching cards like this can lead down a questionable road. What’s next photoshopping in players who weren’t in on the action?

Consider that a lead in to the card in the set that is already gaining some notoriety. Mr. Derek Jeter himself. Topps took it upon themselves to release a Jeter card that has a few interesting additions. Featured among the cheering fans in the background is a waving George W Bush. In the dugout waiting his turn to hit is Yankee legend Mickey Mantle. I guess I should say DECEASED Yankee legend Mickey Mantle.

Topps is not correcting the card they are going to let it stand as is. So far trading activity has been strong as Beckett reports that cards are going for about $10-$25. This is the second “mistake” Topps has made in the last two years. Last year they lit the collecting world on fire with their Alex Gordon cards – a card that shouldn’t be included because of the licensing agreement with the players association – and this year with Jeter. Topps claims they are honest mistakes, I happen to think they have an excellent marketing department.

I won’t bother you with these posts all the time, just when I pick up some more cards. With the money I’m making at my day job I don’t see myself buying cards too often.

There will be a couple of more posts this week as I have tickets to the Lightning game tomorrow and the US Soccer match on Sunday. Good times are here!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

And heeeeeeeere comes Harrison!

I feel that I have left you, my loyal reader(s) down last week. Posting just once is no way to run a website. So in order to make it up to you I am posting this in simulcast. That’s right not only are you able to read it here at Tampa Wasteland, but if you are one of my original MySpace readers you are able to see it there as well. How exciting.

The reason for the lack of posts has been simple. I’ve had out of town guests. The early part of the week I was visited by my Aunt and Uncle from New York. Other than my parents and my sister they are the only family members that have ever seen my house. On Thursday Link came down for some basketball, gambling and Xbox hockey. It was like my senior year in college all over again! Actually he came down for some kind of job review, but he stayed for all the rest.

Because the wonderful TBA doesn’t have real casinos (Beware – the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is NOT a casino. It’s a glorified bingo parlor by the fairgrounds) we had to quench our gambling lust at historic Derby Lane. Derby Lane is a greyhound track about 20 minutes from my humble abode. You may have seen it on the big screen. In Oceans 11 (the George Clooney one not the Frank Sinatra one) Billy Ocean recruits Saul Bloom at a dog track – that’s Derby Lane.

After some early morning hockey on the X-box (Caps versus Pens) it’s off to Derby Lane we go. Link is a big fan of poker and I’m a big fan of donating my money to poker rooms so we started in the card room. The bulk of the action in the new and expanded poker room is low stakes $2.00 poker. Since it is low stakes people enjoy playing and raising and re-raising even if they have nothing in their hands. Considering I can only bet $2.00 at a time the money I lose at these tables is extraordinary.

We opt for a single flop tournament. The locals that play there are a little more educated (for the most part) and aren’t so casual with their chips since it’s a $45 fee to play in the tournament. I’ve now played in 4 tournaments and finished fourth, fifth and third. Of course only the top two spots pay out.

My only goal is not be the first out. I accomplished that goal. I was the second eliminated. A couple of bad calls and a pair of 10’s that didn’t hold up against a pair of queens and I was gone. Link was still battling at the same table so I decided to get some fresh air and watch the dogs race.

With $10 left in my pocket I figured I could bet on a few races. What follows in this post are the thoughts I jotted down on the back of my losing tickets between races. I present them as they were written:

Ticket One: $2.00 to win on the 7 in Race Number 9

This ticket is a loser. Of course if it wasn’t I wouldn’t be writing on it. I bet on the 7 to win because it’s St Patty’s Day and the bib (or is it vest?) that the 7 dog wears is a nice Irish green & white. It seemed as good a strategy as any. Alas, he finished fourth. The 4 dog wears green as well maybe I should bet a 4/7 quinella all day in honor of St Patrick.
At least it’s a beautiful day to lose money. Some call it gambling, I don’t. I call it donating. Maybe the next race I’ll find out the name of the dog I’m betting on. That might help.

Ticket Two: $2.00 to place one the 6 in Race Number 11

Another ticket. Another loser. I should have checked the names in that race. Shamrock Bootsy won. Are you fucking kidding me? On St Pat’s day? I’ve got Sol Hugo in this race. I’m all about someone named after the best “Lost” character. He’s a comfortable 7-1 with oops 5-1 with 8 minutes of betting to go.

Of course Shamrock Bootsey was wearing the green & white – damn I should be $14.60 to the good right now. At least I can work on my tan out here, no tan in the poker room. No luck in there either. Maybe I can claim my loses on my taxes next year. That would be sweet.

Ticket Three: $2.00 to place on the 5 in Race Number 12

Ahhh it was not to be with poor Hugo. If this was a game of picking the dog who finished 4th I would be 2 for 3. Although if I do win I would have nothing to write on. How tragic would that be?

Tough choice in this race. Two dogs are the offspring of the first great dog I ever bet on – Dominator. I went with the one on the outside. That should guarantee the one out of Post 4 (wearing green!) should win.

The good news is that there is only one race left after this so I will walk away with money in my pocket. Not a lot of money, but enough to buy a beer – it is St Patty’s day after all!

Ticket Four: $2.00 to place on the 8 in Race Number 13

Dang that was a close one. Oh no it wasn’t. Surprisingly enough the 7 won again. If I had stayed with my original strategy I would be 2 for 4 and betting with the track’s money. I didn’t so I’m not.

I feel good. The bet is In and Deano is singing about gambling on the Ipod. Actually he’s kind of comparing women to race horses – flattering? Who knows? So with the success of the 7 who am I betting on? The 3 of course. I am too smart for my own good. I guess that will wrap up this gambling blog handwritten. It’s the old fashioned kind of blog.

Follow Up

So of course the 7 won in the last race. After lunch and some hoops (Link almost had blacked out when his team, Pitt, blew a 19 point lead and had to go to overtime to beat VCU) we returned to Derby lane for the evening performance. In 5 races I bet on the 7 three times and won money back twice.

The moral of the story is simple. If you find yourself at a greyhound track on St Patrick’s Day please bet on the 7 dog.

Monday, March 12, 2007

'Bout Time National Hockey Media

Hey guess what. It’s time to write about a Tampa Bay team! It only took 2 weeks and 7 posts until I got around to actually writing about a local team. Trust me more articles on the Rays and the Lightning are upcoming. I may even throw in something about the Buccaneers….if it’s a particularly slow news cycle.

It seems that the national media is just now waking up to something that we’ve known in Tampa since about November of last year – Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St Louis are pretty good players. As teams across the league are finding out if you put them on the same line than they become a very dangerous line. Articles in the USA Today and on have recently sung the praises of the two prolific scorers. Gary Shelton a writer for the local fish rag, The St Pete Times, made mention of the duo “skating through the Hall of Fame”.

Now I’ve read his column a few times and am not sure what he meant by that comment (read it here: The column has spoken about Vincent and Martin being among the best scoring tandems since Mario Lemiuex and Jaromir Jagr wreaked havoc on the NHL during the early 90’s. It’s a good article, but after only 7/8ths of a season it’s a little early to be comparing them to some of the great line combinations of all time. Let’s give it a few years first.

For most of the year the titanic twosome, along with line mate Vinny Prospal, have taken the Southeast Division and the rest of the NHL by storm. The Lightning has scored 211 goals this season and 97 of those goals have come from Vinny, Vinny or Marty. That’s 46 % of the team’s goals from 3 players who have spent most of the season on the same line.

Granted with coach John Tortorella’s fondness for switching lines almost at random during games they haven’t scored all 97 goals together as one line, but it is still an astonishing percentage for 3 players to have. In the case of Lecavalier and St Louis it’s a case of getting your money’s worth. Two of the teams highest paid players and 2/3 of the fabled Big Three (Brad Richards is the Athos to Lecavalier and St. Louis’ Aramis and Porthos) the line mates lead the Lightning in scoring.

Whereas the national media is making it seem like this pairing has popped up overnight– they have actually been on the team together since the diminutive St Louis joined the Lightning in 2000-01 as a free agent. They are in their 6th season together as teammates. That is a lot of game and practice time together to learn each other’s tendencies.

While they played sporadically together during the first St Louis usually found himself on a line with Richards and Fredrick Modin. Lecavalier has played with a myriad of players throughout his career from the Sheldon Keefe’s of the world to the Dave Anderchuks. The off-season trade of the Swedish forward Modin to Columbus for Marc Denis forced Tortorella to tweak his lines heading into this season.

The coach had been hesitant to pair the two in the past due to their occasional lack of effort on the defensive effort. It took a resurgence in St Louis’ effort and the continued development of the mercurial Lecavalier as a defensive forward to gain their coach’s trust. Now Tortorella, one of the leagues strictest coaches, only has to worry about the two being too creative and too unselfish with the puck.

St Louis especially gets into ruts where he tries to set up his teammates rather than shooting the puck himself. Too be an elite scorer in the league there has to be a bit of me first attitude in the game. St Louis will pass up good shooting opportunities in the hopes of giving another player a great scoring chance. When he is on a goal scoring streak the former University of Vermont standout has a shoot first mentality. As the playoffs roll around the Lightning need St Louis to be a little less nice.

On the other hand Lecavalier, once dubbed the “Michael Jordan of hockey” tends to be a little too creative from time to time. He is always thinking on the ice and trying to make a move a defender hasn’t seen before. Much like Sid Crosby he has excellent vision on the ice and from time to time will try and make a difficult pass to a teammate just because it will catch the other team off guard.

Tortorella has done a great time of reading the two and when they start trying to shine too much on the ice he splits them up for anywhere from a shift or two or a few games. Once he sees that they are back in the proper mindset he puts them back together and the unleash the own brand of hockey fury upon the league.

As proof of his trust in the pair they are also on the top penalty killing line for the Lightning. While overall the team hasn’t done a great job of killing penalties (their 78.2% is good for 28th in the league) they are among one of the most dangerous penalty killing lines. In only 271 shorthanded chances the Lightning have scored 11 shorthanded goals. Nine of those goals belong to, you guessed it, Lecavalier and St Louis.

If they are able to succeed together in the playoffs (if the Lightning make it) is a big question mark. With their opponents working to shut them down the duo will need other lines to be effective. When the Lightning are at its best the other lines are creating pressure. If Nick Tarnasky, Andre Roy, Ruslan Fedatenko and Eric Perrin are creating scoring chances then the Lightning will go far. If everything falls on the MVP (as in Martin, Vincent and Prospal) line then it could be a short postseason.

The Bolts are playing their best hockey since their Stanley Cup run. For the first time since then they are also making the nation of hockey take notice.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Chris Simon is not a nice guy

Will he bleed? That’s all we care about. – Eric Cartman

Again I wasn’t going to write about Mr. Simon’s actions the other night against Ryan Hollwig. Simply because it’s going to be written about by everybody ad nausaeum. Everyone is outraged, hockey players are out of control, things need to changed, athletes are horrible people, think about the children – my God THE CHILDREN! Does that about sum it up?

If you didn’t see it then let me recap. Ryan Hollwig, skating for the Ranger, checks Chris Simon, currently of the New York Islanders, into the boards. A legal check from what the replays shows, but Simon’s head slammed up against the glass fairly hard. Mr. Simon a long time veteran took exception and as Hollwig skated back toward him Simon unleashed a hellish two handed semi-baseball swing that landed smack on the Ranger forward’s chin knocking him out cold.

The NHL has suspended Simon indefinitely. It looks like he will be out at least the rest of this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s suspended for all of next season. Gary Bettman wants violence out of the game. No fighting, no dirty shots, nothing like that.

In 2000 Marty McSorley was suspended 23 games for hitting Donald Brashear in the head with his stick. McSorley claims that he was trying to get Brashear’s attention by hitting him on the shoulder to goad him into a fight. The length of the suspension was more a direct result of the fact that Brashear landed awkwardly on the ice suffering a severe concussion.

That’s the most relevant incident to this one. You’ll see a lot of mention of the Todd Bertuzzi/Steve Moore confrontation in 2004 that led to Bertuzzi being out of the league for 17 months. I don’t see much a comparison between the two. Bertuzzi chased Moore down the ice and hit him in the back of the head. The cracked vertebrae Moore suffered was caused by Bertuzzi driving him into the ice and the rest of the players piling on.

There was no piling on. In fact one of the oddest images from the Simon Incident (as it sure to be known) is Hollwig lying alone on the ice while everyone else is pushing and shoving a good 10-20 feet away by the benches.

I’m not here to defend Simon, what he did was uncalled for and has no place in the game. It was, however, not a premeditated action. By the time Simon got back to his skates and looked up Hollwig was skating back his way. He didn’t hunt him down or attack him from behind.

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Simon is suspended for next season. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Simon retires during that suspension. He has played for 14 seasons, a long time for someone who’s made his living as an enforcer. It would be a sad end to what had been a rather uplifting story in the NHL.

Simon (who is Native American) had struggled with alcoholism throughout much of his life. He credits current Islanders coach Ted Nolan (also Native American) for turning his life around. Simon signed a one year contract to be reunited with his old coach and was playing fairly well (27 points in 67 games).

In the grand scheme of the game this isn’t a big deal. That’s right despite everything you hear over the next week nothing is going to change. Fighting isn’t going to be outlawed and players aren’t going to stop hitting each other.

Listen to some of the old timers talk about hockey back in the ol’ days. Or if you don’t know any ol’ timers look it up.

1926 Billy Coutu severed Eddie Shore’s ear in practice by body slamming him to the ice. In 1927 Coutu punched a ref during a brawl and was the first player suspended from the NHL.

1969 – Wayne Maki of the St Louis Blues fractured Boston’s Ted Green’s skull with his stick.

1988 – Dino Ciccarelli (former member of the Lightning – see this is related to Tampa Sports) spent a day in jail after attacking Luke Richardson (current Lightning member) with his stick

All of these incidents are as bad as the Simon Incident and hockey has gone on. So let everyone spew their venom and demand change. Something will happen next week and everyone will move on.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

I don't hate Ray Lewis...really I don't

So far it hasn’t been the greatest of fan weeks for me. The Lightning mailed in an effort against the Panthers and lost while the Thashers are putting together a nice winning streak. The Rays continue to blow leads in Spring Training. I forgot to record the Liverpool game against Barcelona today (the boys in red lost but advanced – I love soccer). Worst of all the Ravens are self destructing 7 months before opening day.

I’m not talking about losing Tony Pashos or Ovie Mughelli (6 years $18 Million are you serious? For a fullback?). I’m not even worried that they waived Jamal Lewis. I’m talking about losing Adalius Thomas. 16 games, 106 tackles, 11 sacks, 2 interceptions and a 57 yard rumble for a touchdown – those are his stats from just last year. The linebacker/ defensive end hybrid is just entering his football prime, and he’ll be doing it for the New England Patriots.

I am bummed out about it. It’s only March and I’m bummed out about the football season. I’m bummed about the fact that one of the best defenses in the league is falling about. I’m bummed that the team is trying to spin Jarrett Johnson is a possible replacement for Thomas. I’ve watched Adalius Thomas, I’ve cheered for Thomas, you Jarrett Johnson are no Adalius Thomas. I’m still bummed about the Liverpool thing.

Thomas has played 7 seasons for the Ravens and scored 5 touchdowns in 96 games 4 of them in the last two seasons. That’s only 3 less than Tampa Bay’s lead running back Carnell Williams in the same time frame. O.k. I had to do a little work to find a running back with comparable numbers, but hey – it’s my column.

The Ravens do a great job of scouting talent on the defensive side of the ball. They are currently doing a bad job of retaining the talent. Ed Hartwell is another young player that they failed to lock up. Hartwell has had injuries that plagued him during his stay with the Falcons, but when he was with the Ravens he was dominating. He collected 472 tackles in 64 games. I’m no math whiz but my calculator tells me that’s over 7 tackles a game. That doesn’t take into account the fact that 18 of those games he didn’t start in.

Why has Ozzie Newsome had trouble locking up some of these young linebackers? Well, probably because they knew they could score big in the free agent market (Hartwell $26.25 Million and Thomas is reported to be getting a $12 Million signing bonus and a “work out clause” where he gets $107,00 a year if he attends off-season workouts. ) Or it could be his loyalty to some of his older players. By older players I mean Ray Lewis.

Look, I am a huge Ray Lewis fan. I have defended him since his little run in with the law a few years back. You may have heard about it. I thought the NFL treated him like crap after he came back from his temporary incarceration. For two seasons you didn’t see Ray Lewis. No commercials, no promotions no nothing. He didn’t even get to go to Disney World after being named the Super Bowl MVP. If the Ravens hadn’t won the Super Bowl I don’t think they would have ever marketed him. Despite all the negative attention I wore my “52 R.LEWIS” jersey with pride to work every Friday.

Lewis is a hall of famer, first ballot, no doubt. The Lakeland Florida native played with an intensity unrivaled by most modern players. His face graced billboards in Baltimore. I have a bottle of his hot sauce in the Baltimore Sports Shrine – Largo Chapter. He is on his way of joining the holy trinity of Baltimore athletes – John Unitas, Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken, Jr.

Along the way he has been handsomely compensated. He’s also made it known when he’s unhappy with his contract. Type in “Ray Lewis” and “contract dispute” in Google and you get 17,000 hits. His last contract was one that was supposed to make him a Raven for life. He agreed to a 7 year $50 Million contract. Including his signing bonus a whopping 38 percent of that money was guaranteed. After the 2005’s disappointing season there were rumblings of Lewis wanting a new contract so that he could…..wait for it….be a Raven for life.

Perhaps it’s time Ray realizes that he is a step slower in the field. That he is more susceptible to injury as he gets older. While he may be the general on the field he is no longer the most dangerous weapon – please spare me the knife jokes. The most dangerous players are now Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and until a week ago Adalius Thomas.

The Ravens have stood by Lewis through his dark days and rewarded him for his efforts with millions of dollars. They have made him the centerpiece of the organization for 10 years. Maybe, it’s time he took a look at who he is as a player and what his role is on this team. Maybe it’s time he reworked his contract not to his advantage, but to the teams.

His legacy in Baltimore is cemented. While others outside the area may not like his brashness, his dancing or chest thumping they will have to admit he had a great run as a dominating linebacker for a long time. One of the sad truths is that football players, especially the great ones, rarely know when to quit. Picture Unitas in a Charger uniform or Joe Namath in a Rams uniform. Joe Montana, Tim Brown and Jerry Rice retired in uniforms far removed from the ones they wore in their glory days.

Imagine Steven Gerrard wearing something other than the Liverpool red. It would be that bad. Anyone? Anyone get that reference. Look it up on Wikipedia I’m not explaining it to you.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Whoops I screwed up

Thank you to all those who pointed out that C. Rinaldo didn't score against Liverpool it was John O'shea following up pretty boy's free kick. O.K. so no one mentioned it. Either my readers aren't soccer fans or no one is reading this... it can't be option 2 can it?

I'm sad now....

Jesus Saves.... and so does this guy...

I wasn’t going to post anything tonight, but then I watched a hockey game. It was the only hockey game on the T.V. and I felt kind of obligated to watch it because I am one of the 15 people that has the Vs. network. So I watched the Islanders of New York skate against the Rangers of New York. A shoot out decided the game for the Rangers 2-1, but it was a fantastic game.

I’m not saying that just because I want more people to watch hockey games. It was the type of game that can convert the casual fan. It had everything – plenty of offense despite the low score, hard hitting on both sides and truly sublime goaltending.

Rick Dipietro’s biggest claim to fame so far this season was when he signed a 15 year $67 million contract. Tonight he was simply the MAN. 56 saves, including one with the back of his head, he prevented the game from getting out of hand. Despite the loss the Islanders have to be happy with the way he played. It’s nice to know your goaltender is at the top of his game going into the playoff stretch.

A couple of other notes from the game:

With about 4 minutes left I informed the pork chop left on my plate that if the Rangers lost this game their season was over. Right now they are 2 points out with 2 games in hand and still in the race. I then ate the pork chop. It was good.

Jaromir Jagr isn’t the same player he was a few years ago. He’s well off the pace he set last year when he scored 123 points. He just doesn’t seem to have the extra gear that he used to have when he could dominate the game. He’s still good, but not an elite player.

Former Lightning members Paul Mara and Michael Nylander were on the ice. Mara played solid, but isn’t anywhere near the prospect he was once thought of. Nylander is still the same – pass first, shoot never. Even his one shot late in the game was half hearted at best.

Neither one of these teams scared me when it comes to matching up against the Lightning. They just don’t have the speed up front. Speed and pressure kills the Lightning and I didn’t see either one of these teams displaying that.

Mike Emerick is one of the best hockey announcers around. As my buddy Link has mentioned – Vs. is very strong on their hockey coverage. It’s just a shame that no one is watching.

In other new Jay Feaster was named the 2nd best GM in all of professional sports by Forbes Magazine. The only one Forbes thought was better than Feaster was Kevin McHale. I take these lists with a grain of salt, but it’s always nice to see the home teams ranked high. See here for the entire list:

Sunday, March 4, 2007

We can plant a house. we can build a tree....and play it on Wii

I love baseball. I like baseball video games. I like Nirvana. However, I do not like Nirvana in my video games. Last week I read something over at deadspin about Nirvana being featured in an upcoming video game. I said, huh, and moved on. After all I was at work and had customers on hold. The higher ups at The No Limits Fun Factory get mad when you leave customers on hold too long – even if it’s because you are surfing a non approved website.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago when I was typing away at home and hear a Nirvana song on the TV. I looked up in time to see a video Derek Jeter turn a double play as the unsuppressed rage of the late Kurt Cobain wailed on. The song was “Breed” and it was a commercial for 2K Sports new MLB 2K7 video game. When it was over I leaned back in dismay I realized another little piece of me had died.

I wasn’t the biggest Nirvana fan after all I didn’t cry or lock myself in my dorm room when Cobain died, but I liked their music. I understood what they meant to a generation of kids born into disco and reared on the music of the 80’s which included the original complete marketing package – The New Kids on the Block.

That’s right you kids under 30 – you weren’t the first have to live through groups of young, clean cut wholesome boys dancing in sync and making the young girls squeal. When the New Kids grew up the void was filled by grunge and at the fore front of grunge was Nirvana. While they didn’t invent the genre they are most identifiable with it. It was moody music for kids who felt lost. The Generation Y had nothing to believe in, no great causes or wars to protest. Then again as apathetic as the generation was (or is) who would have cared enough to protest anything.

When Cobain died I can’t say that I was surprised. I was disappointed that he would not be making any more music, but part of me was relieved. At least he went out before he sold out. Part of the appeal to them was the fact that there music didn’t sound like it was being sold to any particular demographic. If you were unhappy with your place in life you could listen to a band of kids from Washington who wore ratty sweaters and sang about misery with a raw voice.

Of course knowing now what I didn’t know then of course their music was directed at a certain demographic. Nothing is sacred to record executives and their specialty is knowing what to sell to who and when. They could tell the youth of America was feeling a tad disenfranchised and they found a band that they could use to make a lot of money with.

Leaping back to the present I don’t even know who to direct my anger at. Should it be at whoever allowed 2k Sports to license the song (Courtney Love I presume), 2k Sports marketing department for feeling the need to include this song at product driven at my demographic, or maybe at myself for believing that anything was sacred anymore.

Then again in a country where the Beatles are popping up in a H&R Block commercial and Johnny Cash is being used to sell blue jeans what should I expect. I guess there was just a small part of me that thought if there was one band that wouldn’t succumb to commercialization it would have been Nirvana.

From the rest of the tracks on the game it looks like 2k sports might be trying to add revenue by releasing an alternative hits soundtrack as well. Well known alt or indie bands such as Sublime, 311 The Pixes, Nerf Herder and Wolfmother also make the cut.

Maybe if Nirvana would have just been included on the soundtrack and not used during the commercial it wouldn’t have bothered me so much. Maybe I’m just getting old and need to stop whining about bands from the “good ol days”. Or maybe, just maybe some one can just leave those bands alone. After all I’m sure Moby still has some songs left that he hasn’t sold to someone yet.

Since that doesn’t really have anything to do with sports I guess I’ll drop a few quick hits on you.

- Scott Kazmir pitched Saturday for the Rays. He wasn’t impressive but at least his arm didn’t fall off. So that’s a positive in my book.

- Bad news Jon Gomes took a called third strike in his final at bat in the game. Good news - Jon Gomes hit two home runs in the game. The best news is that he hit them to right center field. When Gomes is driving the ball in that direction he is on. While Joe Maddon might be looking at Greg Norton as the opening day DH – don’t count Gomes out of that race.

- The Lightning were beaten whupped by the Panthers Saturday night. That’s good for them. It gives Torts something to yell at them about.

- Liverpool lost to Man U. The worst part was that pretty boy Cristiano Ronaldo scored the goal. I would have to say he is making a nice push for FIFA player of the year. He’s also my girlfriend’s favorite player – ‘cause he’ “pretty”.

Till next time.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

A Brave New World

As usual I am sliding into the blogsphere, blog-o-sphere, World Wide Blog or whatever you want to call it several years late. I've spend the last year or so randomly posting on myspace and since I've cracked the 500 reader barrier I figure it's time to post on a real blog site. Ok, so I got sick of my girlfriend making fun of me every time I logged onto myspace around her.

I don't have any goals with this site (other than to be on the 2010 list of most influential bloggers list) so I don't know how long this will last. This site be mostly about sports, especially on Tampa Bay professional teams, but might branch out to other areas as well.

This is a one man operation. A one man operation whose one man has sufficient spelling and grammar issues. So if you are one of the chosen few who reads this blog don't nitpick the details. The one man operation also has a full time job, you'll read about it from time to time. It's a great place to work... really... I'm not lying.

About the title of the blog - I love the Tampa Bay area so it's not a shot at the Gulf Bay Area. Yes it's alright to refer to it as the "Tampa Bay area" because even if you live in Tampa you hang out in St Pete and vice versa. I'm a St Pete guy - love the beaches and it's close to the No Limits Fun Factory. It's more of a shot at the fans and their mentality about sports.

Major professional sports in the Tampa area is a fairly new business. Of the big 3 (NFL- Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NHL - Tampa Bay Lightning, MLB - Tampa Bay Rays) the Buccaneers have been here the longest and that's only 30 years. While 30 years may seem like a long time in this instant information age just think about how long professional sports have been in cities like New York, Los Angeles and even good ol' Baltimore.

So even though the fans have gone though their share of misery in this area it's not like they have the generational losing aura like Cub fans or Red Sox fans before they became pompous assess. Losing is only one generation in this town. For as young of a sports town this is it has enjoyed success with a Super Bowl and Stanley Cup in the last 5 years. That breeds a bit of an impatience among local fans.

This area also has a huge transplant population that brings their old team loyalties with it. Even I your intrepid blogger is a Ravens fan and partial O's fan. Fan bigamy thrives in the TBA as evidenced by the crowds at Tropicana Field when the Yankees and Red Sox are in town. Winning cures some of that as you can tell by the diminished cheesehead appearances at Bucs games.

What bothers me the most, however, is the overall lack of knowledge displayed by the majority of fans in the area. For instance a few Lightning games I sat in the nosebleed seats and listened as fans whined for a penalty shot despite the fact that Brad Richards wasn't clear from the defense and got off a solid scoring opportunity two factors that by themself would negate a penalty shot. Among friends we usually refer to them as the "shoot the puck" crowd.

Speaking of friends you will hear the occasional mention of my close circle of friends including but not limited to Link - former Pittsburgh resident trapped in the 8th circle of hell known as South Carolina, Big Mike - local product who could rattle off Duke and Seton Hall's starting line ups from 1992 and Hamel - former co-worked at No Limits and roommate who is currently residing in Arizona.

To wrap up this will be a place of discussion primarily of the Devil Rays and Lightning. Nothing to fancy or scaldingly snarky as the deadspin and KSK kids. I doubt there will be much breaking news, but it should be semi interesting.

Hope you enjoy.