Saturday, February 29, 2020

Boxing Challenge

The boxing weekend is centered around DAZN and Frisco, Texas with an excellent card with various
stars spread throughout.

The main event will pit former three-division champion, Mikey Garcia, against former WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas.
Garcia, who suffered his first loss last year to IBF champion Errol Spence in what was considered an ill-advised attempt at welterweight glory, has decided to stay at 147 pounds rather than return to 140 pounds against young champions Jose Ramirez or Josh Taylor or drop to 135 pounds for what was once a dream fight against Vasyl Lomachenko.
Garcia has issues with his former promoter, Top Rank, and it is Top Rank that promotes all of the previously named fighters, so I guess I can understand why Garcia would try to stay at 147, but working with Matchroom, a company that has none of the top welterweights, makes little sense in the short run.
Vargas looked good in stopping the naturally smaller Humberto Soto and should gotten decisions in his two fights before that in draws against Thomas Dulorme and Adrian Broner, but skill-wise is a step below Garcia.
If Garcia can adjust to the weight, he is a cut above Vargas, but although Garcia is a deserved
favorite I have a feeling Vargas is sitting on a strong performance.

The undercard is loaded and as a result, four fights join the challenge.
Former pound for pound entrant Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez challenges for a title for the first time since his shocking knockout loss to Srisaket Sor Rungivisai in September 2017 as Gonzalez faces WBA junior bantamweight champion Kal Yafai.
Gonzalez has fought only twice since the Rungvisai loss against low-level competition, so what the Nicaraguan has left to offer is open to conjecture, while Yafai is a smooth boxer without a lot of pop
(four of his five title defenses lasted the distance), which plays to the side of Gonzalez.
It's all about "Chocolatito" here- If the time off has rejuvenated him, I think he's the better fighter, but Yafai is younger and has been more active so if there is permanent slippage, Yafai has the edge.

Julio Cesar Martinez attempts to continue a blazing hot run as he defends the WBC flyweight title for the first time against Jay Harris of Wales.
Martinez knocked out undefeated number one contender Andrew Selby, knocked out Charlie Edwards only to have the fight called a no contest when Martinez hit Edwards after knocking him down in a fight that would have won him the WBC title and won the title after Edwards vacated rather than face Martinez again by knockout over former champion Crisofer Rosales.
Martinez is one of the more exciting fighters in the game and is a coming star.
The undefeated Harris looked strong in stopping former Olympian Paddy Barnes in four rounds but is a decided underdog here.

Former WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker continues his comeback against Shawndell Winters.
Parker looks to be ready for another shot at a title or top contender and Winters has never faced a fighter of Parker's caliber in the past, so this appears to be a stay busy fight for Parker.

In what will be a WBA eliminator, junior middleweights Israil Madrimov takes on Charlie Navarro.
Madrimov has looked devastating in his four wins and has been compared to Gennady Golovkin and Vasyl Lomachenko.
That's pretty high company and Madrimov is almost universally touted as a fighter that potentially could be among the best in the game fairly quickly.
The 40-year-old Navarro isn't expected to offer very much resistance in what is a sanctioned squash match.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 33-30.

Welterweights. 12 Rds
Mikey Garcia vs Jessie Vargas
Both: Garcia Unanimous Decision

WBA Junior Bantamweight Title. 12 Rds
Kal Yafai vs Roman Gonzalez
R.L: Yafai Unanimous Decision
TRS: Gonzalez Unanimous Decision

WBC Flyweight Title. 12 Rds
Julio Cesar Martinez vs Jay Harris
R.L: Martinez KO 6
TRS: Martinez KO 3

Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Joseph Parker vs Shawndell Winters
R.L: Parker KO 3
TRS: Parker KO 4

Junior Middleweights. 10 Rds
Israil Madrimov vs Charlie Navarro
R.L:  Madrimov KO 5
TRS: Madrimov KO 3

Friday, February 28, 2020


The week in the XFL continues into week four and this is about the time that the TV ratings and attendance will prove the chances of the survival of the league.
The novelty has worn off, yet the playoffs aren't imminent either, so this is the time that interest in the league will float or sink.

Last Week: 3-1

Los Angeles over New York 29-17
St.Louis over Seattle 18-12
Houston over Dallas 23-20
D.C over Tampa Bay 22-16

Cleaning out the inbox

Apologies for missing a few days.
It's been a busy week with lots of things to do and work hasn't helped with some unexpected things at the road office, but things are slowing down a bit.

The inbox cleaning starts with a problem with something dirty-Water.
I know most Americans don't think about water problems often and if they do it's about other country's problems or maybe the issue in Flint, Michigan where the answer to saving some money was to ruin the water supply and make their citizens sick.
The situation is far worse than that and many of those affected are right here in America.
This piece from Time magazine through the Pulitzer Center is just shocking in what people in rural communities have to go through to get clean water and how people live in places that cannot have.
It's ridiculous that we have Americans in this country living in this manner and spare me the 'bootstrap" comments, please.
If anyone on the political spectrum had their entire access to clean water be so limited by the location in which they live, they'd be screaming about it as well.
It's not about left or right- it's about people in this country not having to live like third world residents.
It's sad, sickening and downright terrible.

I stumbled on this article from the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) from last year that celebrated the then 50-year-old anniversary of the shutting down of the American Falls portion of Niagara Falls.
In 1969, there was concern that the American Falls were endangered by rock erosion, so the Army Corps of Engineers built a temporary dam to divert the Niagara River to the Canadian side of the falls to inspect the rock face for potential problems.
Slate goes into more detail on the project, what it found, and what was done to shore things up a bit without major reconstruction.
I had known about the drying out of the Falls but had never read about it in detail before and found it quite interesting.

Charlie Sykes of The Bulwark writes this for Politico about the similarities of the upcoming Presidential election to that of the 1972 version with Richard Nixon steamrolling George McGovern.
There are parallels, especially should Bernie Sanders earn the Democratic nomination and they make me think of one "What if" question that I place in my top ten of Presidential questions- What would have happened had Edmund Muskie won the nomination instead of George McGovern to face Richard Nixon?
Nixon was a generally unpopular President that instead of facing an opponent that was more palatable to the mainstream, would face an extreme candidate with more limited appeal and won big.
That just might be the result of a Donald Trump-Bernie Sanders race.

In one of the better stories in sports, the Carolina Hurricanes were forced into using the emergency goalie in a recent game in Toronto and managed to win the game.
The emergency goalie is in place for a situation when both (or occasionally three) goalies would be unable to play and the ailing team would not be forced to play a skater out of position and with ill-fitting equipment.
42-year-old David Ayres, who is the Zamboni driver for the AHL Toronto Marlies and practice goalie for the Marlies and Maple Leafs, entered the game in the second period after starter James Reimer was injured in the first period and backup Petr Mrazek left in the second after a collision with a Toronto player.
Ayres entered the game with Carolina leading 3-1 and would make eight of ten saves as the Hurricanes notched a 6-3 win.
Ayres was named the star of the game in a very classy move, received five hundred dollars for his pay and was allowed to keep his game-used jersey after the victory.

And it wouldn't be the NHL if they didn't find a way to find something bad out of something good as the league will discuss potential changes to the emergency goalie rule at the general managers' meetings this week in Florida.
It never ceases to amaze me just how many times sports entities manage to screw up what should be what's good about sports.

Wrapping up with Stan Fischler, who writes of the impact of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" on the New Jersey Devils.
Three players from the 1980 gold medalists would play for the Devils- Mark Johnson, Jack O'Callahan, and Neal Broten, with Broten playing a key role with the 1994-95 Devils, who would be the first of the three Stanley Cup winners for the Devils.
Two various owners of the Colorado Rockies were enticed by the Miracle to bring hockey to New Jersey with the attendance-challenged Rockies a good selection to make the move to the Meadowlands.
Fischler looks at this part of the move as a portion of his weekly columns on the history of the franchise.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Devils deadline deals- Vatanen, Simmonds, Domingue move on

The New Jersey Devils were thought to have finished most of their dealings before the trade deadline but made three minor moves at the deadline day with players that will be free agents at the end of the season for the proverbial "something beats nothing" return for moving players to new locales'.

The Devils traded Wayne Simmonds to Buffalo for a fifth-round draft pick in 2021 that could become a fourth-rounder, should the Sabres rally and make the playoffs.
Simmonds scored six goals with sixteen assists for the Devils this season after signing with the team for this season but was unlikely to return to New Jersey for next year.
I get the Devils doing this one as even a fifth-rounder is something for a non-contender, but I don't understand Buffalo making this trade, who is still unlikely to make the playoffs and yet traded a draft pick for a player unlikely to re-sign.

New Jersey then sent backup goaltender Louis Domingue to Vancouver for goaltender Zane McIntyre.
Domingue played in sixteen games for the Devils after being obtained earlier this season from Tampa Bay for a seventh-round draft pick as the backup to Mackenzie Blackwood.
Domingue's record was 3-8-2 with a GAA of 4.03 and was unlikely to return next season with the Devils, but Vancouver was looking for a veteran backup after the recent injury to their starter Jacob Markstrom.
McIntyre will join AHL Binghamton and can also walk at the end of the season.
New Jersey will save a few hundred thousand for doing the Canucks a favor, but I would have hoped they might have gotten the seventh-rounder that they traded to Tampa Bay for that favor.

The biggest deal of the day was announced after the deadline had passed as the Devils traded Sami Vatanen to the Carolina Hurricanes in return for minor leaguers Janne Kuokkanen, Fredrick Claesson, and a fourth-rounder that can become a third-rounder, should Vatanen recover from his current injury to play an unnamed amount of games.
Vatanen scored five goals and eighteen assists in 47 games but missed chunks of time in each of the last two seasons and was somewhat of a disappointment after being obtained in the trade that sent fan favorite Adam Henrique to Anaheim.

The Devils don't have picks in the second or third rounds in the upcoming draft as they traded the second round to Nashville for P.K. Subban and the third to Las Vegas for Nikita Gusev, so I was hoping Vatanen could at least bring one or the other of those picks, but he'll have to get healthy to add that third-rounder.

The centerpiece of the deal is 21-year-old left-winger Janne Kuokkanen, who was the Hurricanes second-round pick from Finland in 2016.
Kuokkanen has played most of the last three years with AHL Charlotte but played eleven games with the Hurricanes in the previous two years without a point.
Kuokkanen scored twelve goals with thirty assists for the Checkers in 52 games, can play center or wing and is regarded as more of a playmaker than a scorer.
Kuokkanen has been mentioned as a player that was blocked by the Hurricanes depth rather than a fringe prospect, so perhaps the Devils did gain something out of the trade.

Defenseman Frederic Claesson has spent time in the NHL with Ottawa and the Rangers, playing 113 games over four seasons with four goals and sixteen assists during that tenure.
The 27-year-old Swede has spent the entire season with AHL Charlotte, scoring three goals with 16 assists in 47 games, but at 27 years of age, Claesson is considered a depth piece at best and is headed to New Jersey to replace Vatanen on the roster to finish the season for the Devils.

This isn't a poor return for Tom Fitzgerald and the Devils, as Fitzgerald navigates a rebuilding process while at the same time trying to stake his claim to the permanent general manager's position.
Janne Kuokkanen seems like a prospect that could help the team next season and should Sami Vatanen play enough to bump the fourth-rounder to the needed third, the trade looks even better.
The 2021 fifth-rounder for Wayne Simmonds isn't a ton, but it's something for a guy that wouldn't be around next season anyway, but I still can't figure out why New Jersey couldn't even get a seventh for Louis Domingue from a team in need as Vancouver currently is.

Still, looking at these deals in addition to the trades with the Islanders (Andy Greene) and Lightning (Blake Coleman), Fitzgerald and the Devils did pretty well on the overall, so I'm fairly pleased.
Now the Devils pretty much know what they have unless they make a move or two near draft day and the question becomes how will they use those assets to improve a disappointing team with a fan base that could be beginning to forget what winning hockey is like in New Jersey.

Ripped to Shreds! Defenders slammed in L.A 39-9

At the end of the first two weeks of the XFL season, the D.C. Defenders had a case for being the class of the league with the Houston Roughnecks as the only teams to win both of their games.

I agreed with that viewpoint, but I pointed out last week that we couldn't be sure as the Defenders would have to prove it on the road.
They didn't.
The previously winless Los Angeles Wildcats rolled over, up, and through the Defenders on their way to a 39-9 win in Los Angeles.
The only Defenders touchdown didn't occur until late in the fourth quarter on a 39 yard run by Nick Brossette.
Cardale Jones threw four interceptions and finished with only 103 yards passing with Nick Brossette finished with 75 yards on the ground to lead the Defenders.
D.C. drops to 2-1 overall and with St.Louis defeating New York earlier in the day, the two teams are now tied for first in the Eastern Division.

Defensive Deflections

1) If the stat sheet was the entire story, you might think this game was reasonably close.
However, there is more to games than only stats and the Defenders offense seemed very out of sync on offense from the start.
D.C. didn't cross mid-field until their final drive of the first half, threw three interceptions, lost a fumble, and punting three times before their only score of the half on a 32 yard Ty Rausa field goal.

2) And one week after I crowed about the Defenders defense as being the best in the league, they allowed 39 points to a winless team.
The defense didn't play well, but three of the six Wildcat touchdowns were with great field position off turnovers.
They weren't great, but the loss cannot be totally placed on them.

3) The first half "fumble" on the scoresheet may have noted as such, but it was really a stuffed punt when punter Hunter Niswander had no chance to get the punt into the air, took a hit from a Wildcat and turned the ball over at the four-yard line.
Zero blame for Niswander there, but plenty of blame to the blocking unit.

4) There was a brief moment when I felt that maybe the tide could be turning in this loss.
The Defenders kicked a field goal at the end of the first half and at 27-3, it was unlikely, but the Defenders took the kickoff and put together an impressive drive in moving into Los Angeles territory.
I was just starting to think "a quick TD here and a stop, who knows?"
Then Cardale Jones threw interception number three.

5) Cardale Jones didn't play very well.
Four interceptions already said that, but the entire passing game was out of sync.
Some of this goes with Jones, but I saw far too many passes hit the turf without a receiver in the area.
That's a lack of communication and can be spread around to many persons, but it looks worst on Jones.

6) I wonder how much the Anthony Johnson for Bradley Sylve trade affected the Defender offense?
It was just two weeks ago and who better than a defensive back that works against a quarterback every day to know their tendencies?
I wonder how much Sylve was able to prepare the Wildcats for what the Defenders were likely to do?

7) The Defenders ran for 200 yards in this game and lost by 30.
I don't have the statistics on how often that has happened in football, but I'd bet not very often.
Think about this- if a team rushes for 200 yards, they usually are eating clock, rolling up points, and often both.
That keeps the other team from having the ball as often and for as many possessions, so logically it should be difficult to win by 30 and allow 200 on the ground- Unless the losing team turns the ball over often and gives up touchdowns off short drives.
We have a winner.

8) Nick Brossette led the team in rushing (eight carries, 75 yards) with most of it in garbage time, but Brossette showed a lot of wiggle and he was the only Defender that showed inspired play in the fourth quarter.
If I'm Pep Hamilton, I'm rewarding Brossette with more playing time next Sunday in Tampa.

9) One week after smashing every New York Guardian quarterback in sight with sacks and hits, the Defenders didn't register a sack and rarely pressured Josh Johnson.
It's not fair to say the Defenders are overrated, but they looked awful in this loss.

10) The Defenders travel to Tampa to play the 0-3 Vipers and you would think that playing the only team that hasn't won a game yet would be an excellent chance to rebound from this loss.
However, Los Angeles hadn't won a game either and look at how that resulted for D.C.
Still, the Defenders should be favored and a win would put them at 3-1 and should New York lose next week,  the Defenders could have a two-game lead for a playoff spot with six to go.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Fury tames Wilder!

The fight for the WBC heavyweight championship appeared to be a 50-50 proposition entering the fight as Tyson Fury had won his first fight against Deontay Wilder on the scorecards of most, despite the official verdict of a draw, but Fury didn't look great in his last fight against Otto Wallin and Wilder had delivered a one-punch knockout of Luis Ortiz since their first fight.
Add to that, the memory of Wilder's knockdown of Fury in the final round of their initial bout and that made the betting line close, but it seemed like most of the media was leaning towards Wilder, with many tossing high compliments toward the champion such as "the hardest punching heavyweight ever".
I didn't see anyone select Wilder via decision and no one picked Fury by knockout, which appeared to be the least likely outcome.

Since this is boxing, the least likely outcome is exactly what happened as Fury battered Wilder throughout, knocked him down twice and after the second round pawed Wilder around such as a cat with an injured mouse before forcing Wilder's corner to throw in the towel in the seventh round.
The win likely moved Fury to the top of the division and gained him the WBC title, which was the only one of the four that was not taken from Wladimir Klitschko in Fury's first title win.

I'm not sure you could have designed a more impressive win for Fury, who won all but the second round (which I circled as a round that could have been given to either corner) on my scorecard by backing the bomber up, stuck him with power punches that damaged his ear with Fury's domination so total that the fight could have been stopped anytime after the fourth without a critical word.
While I gave Wilder the second round, the beginning of the end appeared to come with the final seconds winding down as Fury landed a strong right that rocked Wilder.
Wilder didn't hit the mat from that punch, but my guess is that punch caused the damage to Wilder's inner ear and he would never recover.
The only things that Fury did wrong were losing a point in the fifth (after dropping Wilder from a body shot) for hitting Wilder behind the head and lick the blood off Wilder in the sixth to surge Fury to the lead for sickest sports moment of the year.

Wilder has thirty days to activate his rematch clause and he's likely to take it, even if it is to the detriment of his chances to win.
Wilder would be better suited to a fight or two to prepare for the third fight, but the contract won't allow such a decision and from a financial standpoint, taking the rematch would be far more lucrative than several fights against low to mid-level contenders with the PBC, who lacks anyone to get excited about to fight Wilder.
Unless a 3rd Ortiz fight or the limited Adam Kownacki does something for you, which they certainly do not for me, Wilder would be trapped on the 'wrong side of the street' with Fury likely moving onto other money fights and it might take years for Wilder to get the third fight.
It's not a great spot to be in, but even if Wilder's chances in an immediate rematch aren't very bright, I think he almost has to take it.

As for Fury, he showed a new aspect to his game under new trainer SugarHill Steward and proved that his power could be better than expected, should he commit to digging in and popping power shots.
I say could, mainly because I've never been convinced of the quality of Deontay Wilder's chin.
Other than being badly hurt by Luis Ortiz in their first fight, Wilder had never faced a good puncher before and I couldn't ever shake his knockdown and survival against Harold Sconiers to take my suspicions away.

The fight everyone is now asking for is Fury against Anthony Joshua, who holds the other three titles, in an event that could rival the best of royal events pitting two Britons for the undisputed championship.
I'd favor Fury slightly against Joshua, but I certainly think Joshua would have a chance against Fury.
Joshua is a big puncher, although not quite to the standard of Wilder, and like Wilder also has questions about his chin after suffering his KO loss to Andy Ruiz.

Finally, who was the biggest winner other than Tyson Fury on this night?
It just might be Otto Wallin, who gave Fury all that he wanted in losing a decision last September as an unknown quantity and might have been a media misstep away from the upset after he gashed Fury gruesomely over the right eye from a left.
Fury's corner believed the cut came from a headbutt and ESPN notified his team that it was from a punch, which allowed them to tell Fury he would not be able to rely on the headbutt to win on the cards.
Wallin returns to the ring in March against faded former contender Lucas Browne and with a good performance against Browne with the success against Fury, Wallin could be in place for a big fight.

The undercard was as dreadful as I thought it would be and it's barely worth mentioning.
Former IBF heavyweight champion Charles Martin knocked out Gerald Washington with a 12 to 6 left in the sixth round to end a boring fight.
Washington barely beat the count, but referee Tony Weeks stopped the fight anyway.
I had Martin ahead 48-47 (3-2) in a fight that featured little more than slow-motion sparring.
The win may put Martin in a spot to eventually challenge Anthony Joshua in a rematch of their 2016 fight when Joshua snuffed out Martin in two rounds to win the IBF title.
I'm thrilled.

Emmanuel Navarette wasn't as sharp as usual. but dominated every round before stopped Jeo Santisima in the eleventh round to retain his WBO junior featherweight title.
A Navarette-M.J. Akhmadaliev fight would result in three titles being unified and would be one of the more exciting fights that can be made in boxing.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica picked up a point on me in scoring five points to my four.
The Charles Martin knockout was the difference as Ramon cut my lead in the season standings to 33-30.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Boxing Challenge

The boxing weekend is set in Las Vegas with the main event as good as boxing can put forth and an undercard that isn't good enough to be part of a good regular cable show surrounds it.

The main event puts WBC heavyweight champion, Deontay Wilder, in a rematch vs the "lineal" heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in a PBC vs Top Rank contest for arguably the top spot in the heavyweight division along with WBA/IBF/WBO champion Anthony Joshua.

Their first fight was interesting, if not exciting and I thought Fury deserved the decision rather than the official draw, but it wasn't a robbery.
Tyson Fury fights are usually interesting for reasons other than Tyson Fury's punches and Deontay Wilder is a devastating puncher, but not an overly active one, so this fight may not be filled with action, but to the end, the fight will have plenty of anticipation due to the possibility of Wilder landing that one shot to close the evening.

The rematch is more anticipated than the first match, mainly because of Wilder's final round knockdown that looked to have pulled a fight out of the loss column with a dramatic KO before Fury rose in what would become the boxing meme of the year.
Both fighters have reasons that you think could give them victory.
Fury has the unusual slick style for a fighter of his size and his skills are better than those of the sometimes limited Wilder, but Fury has never fought a rematch before and could it be possible for Wilder to figure out what Fury could do?
If that happens, Fury doesn't have the power to take out Wilder unless Wilder's jaw, which I've questioned since he barely avoided being knocked out by journeyman Harold Sconiers, is softer than he has shown in his most recent fights.
Wilder can knock out anyone that he hits but in his fights against Fury and Luis Ortiz, Wilder has become even more one-dimensional as he has become reluctant to do anything more than wait for the chance to throw that right hand.
Sooner or later, someone will survive the right and Wilder will be out of luck and that fighter could be Fury.
It's a difficult fight to call because there are compelling reasons to pick either fighter to win.

I wish I could say the same for the undercard because when you display garbage, people are likely to say it stinks.
With Top Rank and PBC each selecting a fight for the undercard, one could wish that two inter-promotional matches could spice the lineup a bit.
I'm not saying Spence-Crawford or Lomachenko-Davis, but decent fights could be made and instead, each company kept their match in-house with the battle apparently down to which crap smells worse.

The PBC fight is a pairing of mediocre heavyweights as Charles Martin faces Gerald Washington.
Martin, who has a strong case for the weakest heavyweight champion in history, has exactly one win over a top 30 fighter (his vacant title win over Vyacheslav Glazkov was via third-round TKO when Glazkov tore his ACL) and Washington, who has a few wins over top 30 fighters, but none against a top 15 level fighter, might be best remembered for fighting Deontay Wilder on even terms for four rounds before being stopped in the fifth, make a match that might have been tolerable for the opening bout, but lacking for a PPV.
The winner could move into consideration for a future IBF title shot ( Washington is ninth in their ranking and Martin is eleventh) which doesn't exactly send my heart racing for that possibility.
The fight could be entertaining with two fighters of the same level with less than sturdy chins, but it still shouldn't be on a card of this type.

Don't give Top Rank too much credit for their match either, although exciting WBO junior featherweight champion Emmanuel Navarrete is far more worthy of his spot than Martin or Washington.
Sadly, instead of facing a tough contender, Navarrete will face unknown Jeo Santisma.
Santisma has never fought outside the Philippines, nor against a familiar name in his twenty-one fight career and is a prohibitive underdog against Navarrete.
Unless Santisma has been a secret star and hidden away, and there have been fighters from the Philippines in the past that have burst on the scene with similar records, this appears to be a showcase fight for Navarrete.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 29-25

WBC Heavyweight Title 12 Rds
Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury
R.L: Fury Unanimous Decision
TRS: Fury Majority Decision

Heavyweights 12 Rds
Charles Martin vs Gerald Washington
R.L: Martin KO 5
TRS: Martin Unanimous Decision

WBO Junior Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
Emmanuel Navarrete vs Jeo Santisma
R.L: Navarrete KO 8
TRS: Navarrete KO 6


Week three of the XFL steams on with the D.C. Defenders leaving the Nation's Capital for the first time in their existence as the main game for the week.

Last Week; 3-1
Overall: 181-82

Houston over Tampa Bay 23-13
Dallas over Seattle 20-16
St.Louis over New York 18-9
D.C. over Los Angeles 24-15

Friday, February 21, 2020

Cleaning out the inbox

We start to clean the inbox with Benjamin Hill's article on the four stadiums that have been moved aside by new stadiums in their city and by teams that have moved away to new cities.
I've been to two of the four (Kannapolis, pictured to the left and Potomac/Woodbridge) with the other two being out of my area in states that I have never visited (Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana).
I've often said Kannapolis was the hottest ballpark that I have ever visited, but in Hill's article, he mentioned Woodbridge as the stadium that lacked shade, which I thought was interesting.
I haven't heard very much about the future of these facilities, although I'd bet that Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge will wind up as a host of high school, American Legion, etc. games as it is located in a facility that is surrounded by softball fields.

ESPN writes of the start of a fan revolt against the Buffalo Sabres, who are on their way to missing the playoffs for the ninth year in a row and their owners Terry and Kim Pegula, who also own the Buffalo Bills.
For all the talk about this place or that place is "Hockeytown USA", for my money- it would be Buffalo.
Even as the Sabres are in such a playoff drought, the team's attendance this year "dropped" to 90.8%, which shows the fan base is strong and interested despite the poor product (other than the phenomenal Jack Eichel) on the ice.
I remember "Hockey Towns" such as Detroit in the pre-Yzerman days being dragged down with poor teams and attendance and for all the hype over Pittsburgh, check their attendance out between Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby.
Fan protests make excellent soundbites and they give media plenty of chances to discuss franchise issues, but they make little change in the organization and other than showing that the fans are still passionate, they don't prove very much.
Buffalo does deserve better from the Sabres.

I've written before of my political standing as that of a centrist and I often read and listen to the site and podcast of The Bulwark, which is edited by centrist radio host Charlie Sykes of Wisconsin.
You'll be seeing links from Bulwark in the COTI and this is the first as Ed Condon takes on Major League Baseball and their recent rule changes.
I loved the title of "MLB is like a drug cartel trying to kill its customers" and it's a pretty accurate title to me when you take the panoramic view about the actions of MLB and its Gordon Gekko-like leader Rob Manfred.

The Bulwark also sent me this via the Chicago Tribune as the Tribune held its own taste tests of various hot sauces involving the more popular mainstream sauces.
I didn't agree with all of their results, most notably Tabasco being spicier than the others. but it is interesting in seeing how these stack up against the others from an unbiased observer.
While I love trying different sauces from smaller batch companies and have many in the house at all times, Frank's Red Hot and its Buffalo version are the house staples here of the sauces that are carried in most grocery stores.

I'm generally all for renewable energy, but this article from Bloomberg news does make you wonder about just what it takes to create renewable energies.
The difficulties in finding something to do with the worn-out blades from wind turbines, other than burying them in landfills, are more than unsustainable for the future of windmills.
The blades need to be cut into three pieces by a diamond-encrusted saw just to be able to then be transported on a semi-truck to travel to landfills, so these aren't exactly a treat to take care of.
It will be interesting to check back in a few years and see what type of business could have been created from the leftovers of these blades.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

John Beilein out in Cleveland

John Beilein is out of work for the remainder of the season as the veteran coach and the Cleveland Cavaliers have negotiated a settlement of his five-year contract that was signed only nine months ago.

The Cavaliers posted a crummy 14-40 record, which has placed Cleveland in last place in the Eastern Conference and above only Golden State in the league standings.
The 67-year-old Beilein entered the league with a reputation as a teacher and as an offensive innovator, yet never was able to settle into either role in his first job in professional basketball.
Beilein struggled in connecting with his younger players and surprisingly his veterans as well with a memorable mid-game blowup on one occasion with Tristan Thompson and having to apologize for misspeaking and calling his players "thugs" in a team meeting, where Beilein is said to have meant to say "slugs" instead.

Beilein started quickly with the Cavaliers winning four of his first nine games and playing with a hustling style that gave fans hope for the future, but the ball quickly rolled downhill from there as Beilein not only struggled with the players off the court with the more relaxed way of dealing with professionals rather than college players but on the court as well.
Beilein appeared to be bothered by the losses, which was surprising for a coach with a five-year contract with an organization that has no delusions about being anything other than involved in a rebuilding process and instead of continuing to play to his strengths as a coach that has used various strategies to attack offensively, Beilein drew into a shell and ran a more traditional NBA offense.
Running a system that wasn't different from the rest of the league played right into the hands of failure as Beilein's inexperience in professional basketball continued to put him behind the curve.

Beilein was also struggling with the career path of his son Patrick, who had been hired as the head coach at Niagara but never coached a game before being resigning for personal reasons and at 67, Beilein likely knew that he was wasting his final few years of coaching in a job that he was ill-suited for and made the decision to step away to not waste even more time.
Beilein will immediately become the most sought-after coach in college basketball in the next few weeks as schools replace disappointing coaches in the 'silly season' for college basketball and with Beilein's background (two NCAA Finals appearances and two more Elite Eight teams), Beilein will likely have himself back on the sidelines with a major conference program next season, should he choose to do so.

As for the Cavaliers, it's J.B. Bickerstaff in as the head coach for at least the rest of the season with a chance to keep the job, should he impress the front office.
The 40-year-old Bickerstaff, the son of long-time NBA coach and executive Bernie Bickerstaff, has coached parts of three seasons with Houston, where he finished 37-34 and led the Rockets to the playoffs in 2015-16 after replacing Kevin McHale, and Memphis, where he finished the 2017-18 season as an interim head coach before being hired for the full-time job for 2018-19 with the Grizzlies.
Memphis fired Bickerstaff after last season after a 33-49 record with another rebuilding team, which made him available to come to Cleveland as the top assistant to Beilein as he learned the league and to help his adjustment to the NBA.

Bickerstaff's main job will be to continue to try to develop his young players such as Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, and Kevin Porter Jr, integrate newly added Andre Drummond into the offense and organization and hopefully keep Kevin Love productive as a part of the team or raise his potential trade value.
In other words, do the best you can and hope for the best, which isn't about wins and losses for the remainder of this season.

Bickerstaff will be the fourth head coach for Cleveland in the less than two seasons since LeBron James left for Los Angeles and he has a mess to clean up with an overpaid veteran (Kevin Love) with a contract difficult to unload, a talented big man in a game that is moving away from dominant big men (Andre Drummond), and players that the team drafted/traded with hope to build around them, but their ceiling could be only to eventually be good players, but not franchise foundational types (Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr, Cedi Osman, and Larry Nance Jr). and a front office with Koby Altman that could be a better fit for whatever the Browns are doing this year and the consistently inconsistent commitment of Dan Gilbert to whatever plan seems to be a good idea for a few months,  Bickerstaff has his work cut out for him without a doubt.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Browns teardown begins

It seems like most of the pro franchises here are in rebuilding mode, the Giants, Cavaliers, Devils, and the home improvement warehouse of professional football-the Cleveland Browns.

As the pendulum continues to swing from new regime to new regime, just as John Dorsey removed the Brown/DePodesta/Berry players from the roster, Andrew Berry is beginning to sweep out the John Dorsey players as the Browns released four players today, three of them signed by John Dorsey before the 2019 season with the other signed by Dorsey before the 2018 season.

Cornerback T.J. Carrie, linebacker Adarius Taylor, guard Eric Kush, and tight end Demetrius Harris all were released Monday as the latest purge begins by Lake Erie, but I can understand these moves and I'm on board with most of them on pure performance.
The Browns will save money under the cap with these snips from the roster as almost thirteen million of cap space will be created for roster reinforcements with the possibilities ( and hope) that the cap space could be used more wisely.

The biggest loss on the field was cornerback T.J. Carrie, who is a good slot corner that isn't quite as good on the outside but can get a team by in a pinch there.
While I like Carrie as a player, I don't like what he would have been paid if Carrie had stayed on the roster- 8.15 million paid and by releasing him the Browns save 6.35 million on their cap.
If Carrie was making less money, I'd be a little more upset but I cannot see the Browns spending over eight million dollars on their 3rd or 4th best cornerback and the savings make sense to me.

The remaining three players can be easily replaced at cheaper prices.
Adarius Taylor was signed from Tampa Bay to threaten to start at linebacker, but was mainly a special teams player, albeit a very good one.
Still, the Browns save well north of two million under the cap for a player that otherwise made little impact.

Eric Kush was signed from the Bears to hopefully provide depth at guard, but after Austin Corbett bombed as the starter, Kush was shoved into the starting lineup with mediocre results.
With Wyatt Teller as a better and cheaper alternative, the over two million dollars that the Browns will be saving by releasing Kush make this release a smart one.

Demetrius Harris was a Dorsey player that dated back to Kansas City and as a blocking tight end was a fit.
Harris wasn't a bad player, but when David Njoku missed most of the season, Harris isn't the type of tight end that can play full-time and be effective as a receiver and waiver claim Ricky Seals-Jones (who I hope will be retained) passed him on the depth chart.
The Browns will be considering changes at tight end even with Njoku and Seals-Jones, but blocking types such as Harris are easily available and a replacement should be found well short of the almost two and a half million saved by letting Harris go.

Trust me, I'm more than ready to call out the new/old management team for their talent evaluation and judgment, but these make sense to me.
I would have liked to have seen T.J. Carrie stay with the Browns, but his cost was far beyond his worth at the price that he was being paid and I agree with the reasoning in allowing him to leave as well.
I'm sure that moves are coming to disagree with, so I'm not going soft!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Devils trade Blake Coleman to Tampa!

The New Jersey Devils fully committed to their rebuild in the middle of Sunday's game vs Columbus when interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald risked the wrath of the Devils fan base by trading arguably the most popular player on the squad to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The trade of center Blake Coleman has the pitchforks out in Newark partly because of the popularity of Coleman for his hustling play on both ends of the ice and his fan-friendly manner away from the game, but equally as much with the discontent with the franchise over a highly anticipated season that turned into a fire sale.

The immediate reaction aside, I can understand why the Devils felt the need to move Coleman now.
Coleman is 28 and in the middle of a career year with 21 goals and 10 assists, which followed his previous top year with 22 goals and 14 assists.
Add Coleman's grit, his ability to play on both the power play and penalty killing units with an extremely team-friendly contract (pro-rated 1.8 million for the rest of this year and only 1.8 million for 2020-21) and you can see why Blake Coleman could be looked at as a "Sell High" candidate.
Players with Coleman's playing style can wear out suddenly without notice, remember David Clarkson?
Clarkson scored 30 goals at age 27 and four years and 32 goals later was a broken player that was out of hockey and while Coleman doesn't show signs of a physical toll yet, the style that he plays does seem to make you believe that a similar career arc to that of Clarkson isn't beyond possibility.

The Devils added 6'4 left winger Nolan Foote in the trade and a first-round draft pick from Vancouver through Tampa Bay that the Devils will receive in the 2020 draft if the Canucks make the playoffs, but if Vancouver misses the post-season the Devils will obtain the Canucks top pick in the 2021 draft.
Foote was the first-round selection of Tampa Bay in the 2019 draft and is thought to be a top-scoring prospect.
Foote scored 36 goals for the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League in 2018-19 and spent this season playing for the Canadian National Team in the World Junior Championships, where he scored three goals in seven games.
Foote is the son of former Colorado defenseman Adam Foote, so the genetics are there to be a fine player and his stock has risen since being drafted last June with some NHL people rating him with an "elite" shot.

Essentially, the Devils received two number one picks for Blake Coleman in Nolan Foote and whoever is selected with the Vancouver pick in either 2020 or 2021.
Had you asked me before the season that the Devils would acquire two number one picks in a trade, I would have thought that it would be most of the return for Taylor Hall.
Had you asked me before the season, would I accept an offer of two first-rounders for Blake Coleman I would have raced to the window to grab that offer!
I know Coleman is a fan favorite, he's one of my favorites too, but Coleman is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2020-2021 season and it's never a guarantee that a player will stay with a team, no matter his popularity.
Everyone loves Blake Coleman and how he plays the game, but I think the Devils did very well in this trade when you look at the total picture and even though he'll be missed by the team and fans Tom Fitzgerald did the right thing.

If you want to say that Blake Coleman will be missed and the team right now will be worse for his departure- I'm right there with you.
But if you believe that the Devils didn't scoop up the proper value in return, you are on your own on that one.

Devils trade Greene,Coleman, overshadows win

I planned on spending a quiet Sunday watching the early XFL game and then flipping to the Devils home game against Columbus.

Tom Fitzgerald had different plans as the New Jersey Devils interim general manager swung two trades, one of which has the fan base howling for Fitzgerald's head before the game had even ended.

The game ended with a 4-3 Devils win in a shootout that went seven deep before Jesper Bratt's goal won the game for New Jersey and despite my plans to write about the game, the trades took center stage.

Before the game, the Devils announced that they had traded defenseman Andy Greene to the New York Islanders while stating that Blake Coleman was being kept out of the lineup for "precautionary measures", which immediately swept through the arena, social media and the Devils fan base that the very popular Coleman was on his way out of Newark as well.
Coleman would be traded to Tampa Bay in the middle of the game and because of the enormity of that trade, I'll be coming back later tonight to discuss that trade that brought prospect Nolan Foote and a future first-rounder from Vancouver (Tampa held that pick) that will either be in the 2020 draft (if the Canucks make the playoffs) or the 2021 version ( if the Canucks miss the postseason).

The Devils were expected to trade Andy Greene and it made plenty of sense at the deadline to see what they could receive for the veteran defenseman.
The 37-year-old team captain will be a free agent at the end of the season and with the team in a rebuilding mode after such high expectations, trading Greene seemed to be a formality with only the destination to be named.
The Devils did Greene a favor in keeping him as close as possible to his family in trading him to the Islanders and I think that reflects well on an organization in these situations.
Observers, no matter how much we look at the data and results, can sometimes forget that players are people too with commitments to their family that are shaken up with every transaction and when a team does right by a player, players hear and that can become a positive down the road when trying to retain a player or sign a new one as a free agent.

Greene scored two goals with nine assists in fifty-three games this season for New Jersey with a plus one on a losing team and the only defenseman on the team with a positive plus-minus.
Greene won't be asked to do as much for the Islanders as he will be used as a stay at home defenseman without the demands of being a captain and he'll have a pretty seamless transition to the Islanders since Lou Lamoriello has changed the Islanders into what the Devils used to be as far as culture and management style.

The Devils added a 2021 second-rounder and minor league defenseman, David Quenneville.
The second-rounder is a very nice return for a rental and returns the Devils to the second round in the 2021 draft since New Jersey lacks a second-rounder, having sent theirs to Las Vegas in the Nikita Gusev trade last summer.
David Quenneville is the younger brother of former Devils first-rounder John Quenneville and has split the season between AHL Bridgeport and ECHL Worchester with one goal and seven assists in thirty-two games between the two teams.
Quenneville was a seventh-round pick by the Islanders in the 2016 draft and is reported to be a strong skater, but at 5'8 and 190 pounds has questions about his ability to move forwards around the crease.
I wouldn't consider Quenneville a major part of the deal but as a flier and addition to the second-rounder, I have no problems seeing what he has to offer.

I'll be back later with some notes on the more controversial trade of the Sunday swaps and perhaps some news out of Cleveland as something appears to be brewing...

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Ryan Garcia dazzles!

The boxing challenge for this week saw four fights filled with interesting, if predictable results.

Friday night in Anaheim, California saw Ryan Garcia deliver an impressive first-round knockout of former world title challenger Francisco Fonseca.
Garcia blasted Fonseca with one counter left hook that sent Fonseca to the floor and when Fonseca's head thumped off the mat, the fight was immediately stopped.
Ryan Garcia has now stopped his two toughest opponents in the first round and is beginning to convert some non-believers.
Garcia will be tested in the future, but even the most fervent skeptic has to be impressed with his last two wins.

And that test might come in Ryan Garcia's next fight against former three-division champion Jorge Linares, who might have been the most impressive winner of the weekend had Garcia not been so explosive, as Linares stopped Carlos Morales in the fourth round.
Morales had lost a very competitive majority decision to Garcia last year, but was confounded by the attack of the always-smooth Linares, who dropped Morales in the third before completing the task in the fourth.
Garcia-Linares is a fight that I am excited about and could go either way.
I can see Linares and his elite skills baffling Garcia and teaching the young prospect a few tricks and winning, but I can also see that happening and the paper-mache' jaw of Linares (Linares has lost five times by stoppage) gives out for a Garcia win.
Garcia-Linares should be a good one.

And then there's PBC on Fox with another "Ahem" thrilling Caleb Plant domination of a no-hoper to defend his IBF super-middleweight title, this time with a tenth round knockout of mandatory contender Vincent Feigenbutz in Plant's hometown of Nashville.
Plant dominated the lumbering German, won every round on my card and was rarely hit in return.
Plant is very skilled and could be a handful for anyone at 168, but still has only one win over anyone in the top 25 and for his talk of wanting to "face anyone", hasn't seemed remotely interested in actually fighting them.

The co-main was nothing special until the final half-minute as welterweight Bryant Perrella built a huge lead on the scorecards until he was floored by a vicious uppercut by Abel Ramos.
Perrella barely rose and soon was sent to the canvas again, but a badly hurt Perrella got up by referee Jack Reiss called off the fight with one second to go in the fight.
Perrella was in very bad shape and usually, I wouldn't have had an issue with the stoppage as the fighter wasn't likely to stand up under more punishment.
However with one second to go, Ramos wasn't going to land any punches, Perrella was going to win the fight on the scorecards and it seemed a bit unfair to me.
I'm not buying the referee shouldn't hold that into account either, the ten-second thump on the mat is used for a reason, which is why I think it was a bad call.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and each scored five points on the week.
I lead the challenge 29-25.

Defenders outflank Guardians 27-0

Cardale Jones threw for nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns and the defense produced the best effort in the tiny history of the XFL as the D.C. Defenders defeated the New York Guardians 27-0 at Audi Field in Washington.

Jameer Thurman grabbed a Matt McGloin pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown to lead a defense that held New York to a mere 137 yards of offense.
Rashad Ross led the team in receiving yards with 95 on four catches with DeAndre Thompkins finished with 92 yards receiving and caught a Jones pass for a score.
Washington improved to 2-0 with the victory and the Defenders will face their first road game next Sunday in Los Angeles against the 0-1 Wildcats, who will host Dallas on Sunday.

Defensive Deflections

1)  I know it's corny to talk about the strength of a defense after two games of a brand new league, but the Defenders are going to be at the top of defenses in this league.
Holding a team to 137 yards is nothing to sneeze at in any league and the Defenders controlled this game entirely.

2) Jameer Thurman's pick-six was the second in as many games for D.C. and adding the punt block/recovery against Seattle to the total would give the Defenders three touchdowns in two weeks that didn't come from the offense.

3) The player that I discussed in last week's game that returned a pass for a touchdown against Seattle, cornerback Bradley Sylve, wasn't around for this win.
Why? Well, apparently whoever is running the Los Angeles Wildcats isn't going to be patient as after the Wildcats lost their opener to Houston, the team fired defensive coordinator and traded their defensive captain Anthony Johnson to the Defenders for Sylve.
It'll be interesting to see the Wildcats next Sunday night when the Defenders arrive in Los Angeles.

4) Cardale Jones continued his fine play with the command of the deep ball and unexpected touch on the short and intermediate passes.
Other than his one interception on a tipped pass that was thrown under pressure, Jones looked comfortable in and out of the pocket.
Jones is the main promotional point for the Defenders and if the XFL is going to succeed, the league will have to show that their quarterbacks will have the skills to play in the NFL and make the XFL a training ground for quarterbacks that need snaps for their development.
Cardale Jones is going to be an interesting test case in the NFL- are these games enough to earn his an NFL position and then will it be enough for him to have an opportunity to play and then succeed?

5) Entering the season, I thought the Defenders could have the best receiving corps in the league and after two games, I think that is the case.
Nine different players caught passes, six receivers/tight ends and three running backs with Rashad Ross and DeAndre Thompkins running from the outside and Eli Rogers from the slot dominating the Guardians pass defense.

6) Eli Rogers played Saturday and missed his mother's funeral to do so.
I do wonder sometimes how much importance we place on sports.
That's not a knock on Rogers and the difficult decision that he was forced to make, but in a regular job people receive time off for a family loss, yet in sports often players and coaches bull through.

7) I often wince at the television gimmicks that are used in new leagues to gain attention. but in this game, the broadcast actually gave the viewer something worth watching.
New York quarterback Matt McGloin, formerly of Penn State, was in the midst of a miserable game, but while wearing a microphone, McGloin loudly blamed his teammates for the offensive woes in the first half while talking to coach Kevin Gilbride.
As McGloin walked to the locker room at the half, reporter Dianna Russini asked McGloin what needed to be done to turn the tide in the second half.
McGloin's response was to throw the coaching staff under the bus as they "need to tear the entire game plan up and create a new one".
McGloin continued to struggle in the second half and the cameras caught McGloin's removal from the game with Gilbride.
If you thought the "seeing ghosts" comments by the Jets Sam Darnold against the Patriots last season were those of a player flustered, Matt McGloin would have been seen to be downright intoxicated.

8) I stated last week that I wasn't wild about the in-game interviews, but Defenders linebacker Scooby Wright delivered a succinct yet memorable interview.
Wright had made a hit on Guardians running back Darius Victor that resulted in a fumble and turnover after the recovery by the Defenders Rahim Moore.
Pretty straight to the point.

9)  The Defenders running game didn't overpower the Seattle Dragons in week one, but the ground game did finish with over one hundred yards as a team.
Donnell Pumphrey led with 52 yards rushing, but Pumphrey also caught five passes out of the backfield to give the Defenders a reliable checkdown option.

10) Pep Hamilton tried something that could prove helpful down the road but might make the rematch in New York interesting.
The Defenders scored a touchdown with under two minutes remaining on a Cardale Jones pass to Derrick Hayward and with a 20-0 lead throwing the ball could have been seen as borderline.
Hamilton then decided to go for the three-point conversion after the score.
The try was unsuccessful and the experience gained from the situation could be helpful, but if I am Kevin Gilbride and the Guardians I would remember that try in the next game.

11) It's been a fun two games for Defenders fans, but remember they have merely held serve with both wins at home.
The next two games are key road battles with 0-1 Los Angeles and 0-2 Tampa Bay in wait.
Split those two games and 3-1 puts the Defenders in nice shape, but win them both and they could be in tremendous shape for the playoffs.

Saturday, February 15, 2020


Close to two months (actually in two days) have now gone by since my mom passed away.
I knew all along that I wanted to write about her and the loss to me and my family, but I also didn't want to write anything too quickly.
First of all, there was just so much going on, time was tight and I didn't want to seem like I was making the piece about myself at a time when the focus should be on her life.
I also didn't want to add to the outside family dynamic with anything that I write because my goal is to be honest about my belief in who she was, not to glorify her but talk mostly about the good without ignoring the bad.
Today would have been her 71st birthday and I've been working on this for a while to be ready for today.

My mom wasn't always an easy person to figure out.
At times, she could be charming and a person that would do anything for you, which made her very vulnerable to people that could take advantage of her good nature.
She could also say terrible things to provoke you into responding to her anger.
Like her son, she was easily hurt and could hurt others easily, often without even realizing it or with malicious intent.

Mom was a person that loved her children and grandchildren with all of her heart and would do anything for them as well.
She also had problems relating to them as they reached their teenage years and adulthood, but that didn't mean she loved them any less.

Mom could be something of a paradox, she loved unconditionally, but often that love came with an amount of smothering and need that at times I needed to get away from and that would cause a new set of problems.
I almost think she loved me too much and that love caused more than a few problems with me through the years.
Those problems weren't all on her, I had more than my share of the blame too, and much of those might have been avoided if Mom would have understood that I needed to step away and if I would have been mature enough at the time to try to explain myself better rather than withdraw completely.
I'm not sure that she realized that one person's way of loving (or living) isn't always right for another
and different doesn't always mean right or wrong.

Mom threw herself into my childhood and she was the little league mom that today would have been all over the news, yelling at umpires and arguing with other coaches and fans.
But she was also the same person that took over a league that was threatened to be abandoned if no one would run it.
Not only did she run it, but she was also the force behind getting concession stands built that remains there to this day.
The facility that is currently at that site was built on the foundation started by my mom because she cared about kids.
Mom also volunteered at my elementary school when I attended as well as after I left home and her employer closed their doors, Mom volunteered at elementary schools with children that were struggling with learning how to read and she didn't take the easy schools either.
Mom would go to the worst schools in the county, work with those children, and would eventually substitute teach at elementary schools.
Mom also helped out at nursing homes and her last job was as a receptionist at a nursing home, which she was perfect for and that was the job that she loved most.
If her health wouldn't have declined so drastically over the last few years, I think she would still be working in that job.

Mom was almost always the parent involved in taking me to do things or anything I was involved in.
In 1978, I attended my first NBA game at the Capital Centre between the Bullets and the visiting Phoenix Suns (my favorite Western Conference team) and since I'm me, I'm rooting for the Suns, I started catching some comments from the fans around me.
Mom started telling them that I could root for who I wanted and by the end of the night, she had gum stuck to the back of her coat, but I rooted for who I wanted to.

Mom also took me to my first-ever wrestling card in Hagerstown when the WWF hit North Hagerstown High School with a five-match card.
I've written many times about rooting for the "Heel/Bad Guys" in my youth during the days when wrestling fans took things far more seriously than is done today, so of course, I was rooting almost alone for the bad guy- Superstar Billy Graham (sadly during his kung-fu period, not the innovative Superstar of years earlier) against the popular "Polish Power" Ivan Putski.
I was yelling and cheering for Graham and so Mom was rooting right along with me for the Superstar!
Mom wasn't known for her love of wrestling, so I asked her why she was rooting for Graham because he wasn't the good guy.
Apparently, Putski said something that was "foul-mouthed" and she wasn't rooting for him!
Graham lost by disqualification (of course) and we left the arena among cheering fans, but I've always remembered Mom on that night, rooting for the guy no one else was because I was rooting for him.

Mom always struggled with her health and for a long time, I assumed that she was a hypochondriac.
I still think that there was some support for that theory, but I began to believe that she felt pain differently than others and therefore caused many of her problems.
I'm sure readers will remember the sign at the doctor's office that will rate your pain threshold from 1 to 10 with the accompanying stick photos?
My dad and I used to tease her that her icon would have been about two sheets to the left of one!
I thought it strange at the time, but now I wonder how much her pain sensitivity shortened her life.
Mom constantly was looking for the magic bullet that was going to make her life better and from my childhood, I remember a parade of medications, operations, doctors, and about any medical gadget that you see sold on television as part of the relentless attempt to make her life better.

Few worked for more than a while, but what I blame most on Mom's decline was an undiagnosed problem with anesthetics.
Mom saw my grandmother's success with knee replacement and instantly wanted her knees worked on.
Mom worked a hard, physical job for most of her working life and I have no doubt that her knees and legs did hurt, but I also believe that search for the perfect fix came into play.
One of these surgeries was botched and she never really recovered from that as she slowly had issues with her feet becoming massive and her mobility decreased.
This is where pain tolerance comes in because in any rehab situation, there is pain involved as part of regaining strength in the operated area.
Mom couldn't/wouldn't tolerate the rehab exercises, therefore nothing improved, and continued to flow downhill.
By the end, she was essentially immobile and dependent on my dad and grandmother for the simplest movements.

Cherie and I took her out for Mother's Day last year to her favorite restaurant and it would take 15 minutes just to move her from the car to her seat, so she was frustrated with her not being as active as she once was.
Mom was the grandmother that loved to go to the park and romp around with her grandkids, so this frustrated her very much and caused her a great deal of anguish.
Over the final decade of her life, whether she realized this or not, she became less pushy and as she asked for less, it became easier for me to deliver more.
She still called, but the days of four and five phone calls a day were long past and she even began to realize that some things simply aren't going to work- no matter how much you wish, hope, and prod for those things to happen.
As a result, I don't recall the last problem that we had.
She was bothered about my children not coming around very often and never understood why even when I tried to explain ( and not necessarily agree) why so.
I almost always over the last decade visited once a week and she would always ask how they were, "Tell them to come to see me" and as I would leave she would almost always say "Tell my girls (Cherie and Rachel) and my boy (Ryan) that I love them.
I felt helpless then and equally so now, trapped in the middle and understanding some of how both sides felt, but I couldn't help but feel bad as she desperately wanted to see them.
After her passing, some controversy ensued, and even though I have no doubt that Mom said some of the things before she died that were attributed to her as she could say almost anything in sadness or anger, I also have no doubt that she didn't mean them.
I followed the wishes out of respect, but I truly believe that Mom didn't have that malice towards her family over the long term.
After all, if you don't want people around, you don't ask about them every week and pass along messages of love.

It's only been two months and I have regrets.
Regrets that I didn't step in and try harder to seal a bridge, try harder with mistakes I made when I was younger, and even though some of what she wished I was unable to give- then or now, that doesn't mean I don't feel bad about it.
So many times when I needed to be away for my well-being, she would tell me that you never know when the last time you'll talk to someone will be.
I understood the words, but the truth of those words didn't hit home until she was gone.
The last time I spoke to her was over the phone and she wasn't hearing well or remembering as well either, but during a fifteen-minute call, while my dad was out, she asked how I was and in hindsight, that's a little odd.
She would often ask what I was doing, but very seldom how I was doing.
I wonder why she asked that.
Is it possible without realizing it, she wanted to be sure I was OK?

I wrote above that my mom loved too much and with me, I think that is true.
My mom lost a daughter that would have been a year younger than I and even though I don't think she actually talked about that loss in-depth with me more than a time or two, she did tell me this many times through the years.
My sister was born (and buried) in Ohio and my mom lost her while she was in a strange town, without her parents, and without her sibling.
She did have me and she would tell me she felt "a special bond between us because she gave me all the love for two children" during a time when she felt alone.
I felt that closeness as well and she knew how much I cared.

I'm sure in some ways it will be easier as time goes by, but there are always first times without her that you deal with.
First Christmas and now the first birthday without her has passed.
Mother's Day will be hard I'm sure, but then it's downhill with only my parents' anniversary and Thanksgiving to note.
It won't be easy, but the memories will take away the pain as time goes by.

Happy Birthday, Mom and I love you.

I would like to take a minute to thank the people that have checked on me and walked me through these first few months of uncharted territory.

Thanks to my lovely wife, Cherie for her love, care, and tolerance of things from the outside that she should have never had to put with.

Thanks to my terrific children Ryan and Rachel and my daughter-in-law Courtney for the same reasons and for helping their dad out.

Thanks to Fred Landucci, Mike Oravec, and Denise Nicarry for being wonderful friends that are really more family to us at this point.
A day rarely goes by without one or more of these three checking on me and I appreciate everything.

I'd also like to thank my Aunt Becky, my cousin Missy and my unofficial Aunt Gayle for talking to me at various times during this period.
Becky helped get me through an event that could have been very painful and showed me caring and compassion during a time that I needed love and not anger.

Missy talked to me one night and allowed me to vent so much of the good and bad that was part of the aftermath of Mom's passing.

Gayle lost her mom shortly after my mom and yet one day when I was down, she happened to check on me, and knowing there are always others going through the same things helps you feel less alone.

If I missed anyone, I do apologize- I've been working on this all night and I wanted to finish before Mom's birthday was over.
Thanks to everyone for reading.


Week two of the XFL isn't any easier than picking week one.
The favorites on the Vegas line for the teams most likely to win the first XFL title both lost in week one in Dallas and Tampa Bay, proving my point that for the first few games of the year of any new league are very difficult to figure out,
Even so, I'm here to try anyway!

Last Week: 2-2
Overall: 178-81

D.C over New York 30-21
Tampa Bay over Seattle 19-15
Dallas over Los Angeles 20-12
Houston over St.Louis 23-19

Friday, February 14, 2020

Boxing Challenge

The weekend in boxing has been stronger, but two cards on two platforms with appetizers to set up a bigger fight and a world title event will be enough to keep the challenge rolling for a week when boxing receives Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury II and one of the worst undercards that possibly could be made for the following Saturday.

DAZN and Golden Boy step to the forefront first on Friday night from Anaheim, California with two lightweight fights that should they go as expected would set a pairing later in the year of the two winners.
Lightweight prospect and social media sensation Ryan Garcia will battle Francisco Fonseca in the main event as Garcia attempts to notch a second spectacular victory after his cyclonic one round crushing of Romero Duno in his last fight.
Fonseca has lost in both of his fights against world-class opponents in losing a decision to Tevin Farmer and being stopped in eight rounds by Gervonta Davis, so if Garcia is ready for a step forward in class he shouldn't have problems with Fonseca.

Should Garcia win, Golden Boy hopes to match him with former WBA lightweight champion Jorge Linares, should Linares notch a W over Carlos Morales.
Nothing is ever a given with Linares, who is as strong an offensive fighter as there is in the sport but doesn't always display the best chin or skin, with all five of his losses via stoppage so anyone has a chance against him as was shown last January when Linares was knocked down three times and out in the first round as a heavy favorite against Pablo Cesar Cano.
Morales went the ten round distance with Ryan Garcia, drew with Mercito Gesta in his last fight and has never been stopped, so Morales is durable enough to make Linares work.
However, these are two different levels of fighters and Linares should easily win unless someone else catches lightning in a bottle.

Saturday on Fox, PBC offers what appears to be a weak card from Nashville that would fit better on FS1 with their main event pitting IBF super middleweight champion Caleb Plant against Germany's Vincent Feigenbutz.
Plant might have the weakest resume' of any world champion with one victory of note, his title-winning effort last January against Jose Uzcategui, and that win doesn't look as strong as it did then after Uzcategui lost to journeyman Lionell Thompson after losing to Plant.
I suspected Plant's reign would be filled with Mister Softee's as I wrote in the recap of his Uzcategui win, but not even I suspected how bad his first opponent would be in Mike Lee, former Subway pitchman and owner of an even worse opponent file than Plant.
Plant did what you like to see champions do against overmatched and undeserving challengers and took Lee out in three rounds, but it was the type of sideshow that boxing didn't need and proved nothing for Plant.
Vincent Feigenbutz isn't going to prove anything either, but at least you cannot blame Plant or his team as the German challenger is the IBF mandatory somehow.
Feigenbutz hasn't fought anyone of note, but has 28 KOs in his 32 wins against that level of competition, so if he hits Plant who knows what could happen, but more than likely the question going into the fight will be this- does Plant win by decision or stoppage?
The question going out of the fight will be- When will Caleb Plant actually fight anyone that can fight back?

The other fight isn't a contender level fight, but an even and well-matched welterweight fight between Bryant Perrella and Abel Ramos.
Perrella is a solid fighter, but a level below world-class with losses in both of his attempts to move up in caliber as he owns losses to Luis Collazo and Yordenis Ugas.
The same can be said about Ramos, who lost both times that he tested tougher opposition in Jamal James and Ivan Baranchyk, so this might not be an important fight but it should be a very competitive one.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 24-20.

Lightweights. 10 Rds
Ryan Garcia vs Francisco Fonseca
R.L: Garcia Unanimous Decision
TRS: Garcia KO 7

Lightweights. 10 Rds
Jorge Linares vs Carlos Morales
Both: Linares Unanimous Decision

IBF Super Middleweight Title. 12 Rds
Caleb Plant vs Vincent Feigenbutz
R.L: Plant KO 8
TRS: Plant Unanimous Decision

Welterweights. 10 Rds
Bryant Perrella vs Abel Ramos
R.L: Perrella KO 6
TRS: Perrella Unanimous Decision

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Signing free agents in the warm Arizona sun

With pitchers and catchers reporting today in Arizona, both the Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants added to their outfield situation with players that would add pop to positions that need it for both teams.
Farhan Zaidi and the Giants added other players as the Giants continue to sign players first and ask questions later.

The Giants signed the flashier name as they returned fan-favorite Hunter Pence to San Francisco on a one year contract that could see Pence make 5.5 million dollars, should he reach all of his incentives.
San Francisco allowed Pence to leave last season and Pence hit 18 homers for the Texas Rangers in just under 300 at-bats.
Pence also hit .297 for Texas and won some Comeback of the Year awards last season, so Pence might have more in the tank than was thought when the Giants allowed him to leave.
Pence will platoon in left field with Alex Dickerson and play mostly against left-handed pitching.

San Francisco also re-signed Pablo Sandoval and continued to throw darts at the wall and hope to hit the board with various players.
Sandoval hit .268 with 14 homers for the Giants in his return to the Bay Area in 272 at-bats before his season ended with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.
The Giants signed Billy Hamilton in what I hope will be as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner should he make the team.
Hamilton stole 22 bases last year between the Royals and Braves but hit a combined .218 in
a career that hasn't seen Hamilton be more than an offensive liability.
San Francisco also added second baseman Yolmer Sanchez, who hit .252 with two homers for the White Sox but did win the Gold Glove so Sanchez should have a shot at making the club, as Wilmer Flores should after hitting .317 with nine homers in 89 games with Arizona.
San Francisco also signed former Phillie's first baseman Darin Ruf after Ruf spent the last three years playing in the Korean league.
Ruf might provide some power for the always power-needy Giants, but he'll strike out a ton doing that.

San Francisco has also added some interesting arms over the last month with one being handed a spot in the rotation after an awful season with Texas and Philadelphia as Drew Smyly finished 4-7 with an ERA over six in twenty-one starts.
Smyly allowed 32 homers in 114 innings and I'm really dubious of this signing, especially after Smyly missed 2017 and 2018 due to injury.
Tyson Ross was signed after a 1-5 season with Detroit that saw his season ERA finish over six and Jerry Blevins was added as a situational reliever after spending last season with Atlanta.
Nick Vincent split the season with the Phillies and Giants, was mediocre with the Giants before being released, but excellent with the Phillies in two months.
I suppose that stretch made Vincent attractive enough for a return at a minor league contract.
The most interesting addition to me was Jarlin Garcia, a one-time top prospect for the Marlins, who finished with an ERA around three in fifty-three appearances.
I'm not sure why the Marlins would waive Garcia, but he could be an excellent addition to the Giant bullpen.

And the Indians?
They did add Domingo Santana for a crowded outfield situation that could use power from someone other than Franmil Reyes and Cameron Rupp for a veteran catcher for Columbus in case of injury and that's about it for a team that cut its payroll for the season by twenty-five percent.
Santana hit 21 homers for Seattle last season and hit 30 for the Brewers in 2017, so Santana can provide some power, but he also struck out 164 times in 507 at-bats last season and with Reyes in tow, Cleveland has two of the top six strikeout leaders in the game.
Plus Santana is notorious for his awful defense and if the Indians start a game with Santana in left and Reyes in right, that will be the worst defensive outfield in the game no matter who the centerfielder is on that evening.
Still for one million dollars, if Santana hits twenty homers he'll be a bargain- just make sure that the Indians have a defensive caddy ready for those late innings.
Cameron Rupp will likely be the veteran presence in Columbus unless he has the type of spring that pushes Sandy Leon to AAA.
Rupp hit 30 homers for the Phillies between 2016 and 2017 but has spent the last two seasons in AAA for various teams.

That wraps up the recent additions as the training camps in Arizona open this week for pitchers and catchers with two wildly different management styles.
I'm not against what the Giants do in signing anyone with a pulse and seeing what they have left and you could argue that the more flyers that you take the higher chance that you find a contributor.
As for the Indians, well the lack of even a little spending is yet another red flag for a franchise that continues to spend like K-Mart in a Tiffany's world.