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Exploiting the BCS

The Pac-10 deserves credit for playing a legitimate non-conference schedule. In an era where the easiest way to make it to a BCS bowl game is to load up on patsies easier than high school girls with insecurity issues, the Pac-10 year after year schedules tough games that teams from other conferences wouldn’t even blink twice at.

Yes, these guys were on the same field as Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes. It wasn't pretty.

Yes, these guys were on the same field as Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes. It wasn't pretty.

Can you imagine if Florida started their season on the road against Boise State, a team that was playing for its season in week one? That would never happen in a million years. Instead, they schedule tune-up games against Charleston Southern and Troy – one FCS team, and one team that should be an FCS team – and in what shouldn’t be a shock to any of us, they combined to beat the living hell out them 118-9. To give you a better idea of how bad these teams are, the best athlete to come out of either one of these schools is Bobby Parnell, a pitcher for the Mets, who in his short and uninteresting career carries an ERA of 5.49. Impressive.

But maybe that’s the smart play. Ever since 2004 when the BCS took strength of schedule out of the equation, there has been no reason to play a team within sniffing distance of the top 25. At the end of the season, the only thing that matters to the voters is who has the smallest number in the loss column, given you play in one of the 6 BCS conferences, that is.

Since the Year of the Monkey (AKA 2004), the Big 10 has 9 BCS appearances, followed by the Big 12 and SEC with 8 apiece, and the Pac-10, Big East and ACC follow behind with 5 each.  Of those last three conferences, not one has earned more than a one bid in a single year.  The ACC and Big East aren’t deserving of more than one, but to think, the Pac-10 has not had an at-large BCS big since the 2002 season, when Washington State won the Pac-10, forcing USC into the Orange Bowl.

So why does the Pac-10 keep scheduling these difficult non-conference games? It’s like shooting yourself in the foot right before you run a marathon: you might be able to recover by the end of the race, but chances are the damage is too great and you’ll just lag into mediocrity (I don’t know why, but I’ve been making a myriad of marathon analogies lately).

There are a few arguments as to why scheduling more challenging opponents is beneficial. If you win, the voters might take it into consideration. It prepares you for rugged conference play. National TV exposure.  But I don’t think any of these arguments are worthwhile, and the stats back it up.

The Pac-10 has players just as talented as the SEC, Big 10 or Big 12, but they put themselves in a situation where they are destined to fail. They are the only conference with a complete round-robin schedule, thus, there is no chance that more than one team escaping conference play unscathed.   And they play difficult non-division games that are basically a lose-lose situation (if they win, they get barely any extra credit for it, and if they lose, they’re out of the BCS race).

The Pac-10 deserves, and for the most part, gets respect for these two things, but last time I checked, respect doesn’t equal BCS trophies. The SEC, Big 12 and Big 10 have found ways to exploit the system, putting the odds in their favor to get multiple teams into the BCS. Why hasn’t the Pac-10 figured it out?

How Will Oregon Respond to Adversity?

Please Masoli, don't just be a flash in the pan!

Please Masoli, don't just be a flash in the pan!

College football is the only sport where you can have a must-win game in just the second week of the season.  Well, that’s if you want any chance for a BCS bowl game, but that’s how it goes when there are 120 teams competing for eight spots. And unfortunately, the Ducks are stuck in that situation this weekend.

Oregon came into the season with substantial expectations, carrying the momentum from brilliant wins over Oregon State and Oklahoma State to finish the season. So dominant, were these wins, that national pundits were touting Jeremiah Masoli as a sleeper candidate for the Heisman, despite only throwing for 135 yards per game last season.

What I’m getting at, is that Oregon was banking on a player who basically only had two good games to be their leader this year. To be honest, I was not impressed with Masoli at all in 2008 until he blew up against the two OSU’s. I thought he tried to run the ball too much (east and west), made poor decisions (i.e. the Cal interception) and wasn’t the most accurate passer. There were definite flashes of excellence that foreshadowed his potential, like the touchdown pass to Chris Harper against Washington, and any one of the several times to bludgeoned a would-be tackler, but he lacked consistency.

Oregon fans were so eager and excited to buy into the Masoli kool-aid, that they subconsciously bit off more than they could chew for this season’s expectations.

So now where does that leave us for this season?

As horribly as the Ducks played against Boise State last Thursday, voters will look back at that game in November and see it as an 11 point loss to the #14 ranked team on the road. That really doesn’t sound so bad.

But before Oregon can think about having BCS aspirations again, Oregon has to take care of business at home against Purdue, and in a big way. Purdue is an ok team, nothing more, nothing less, but they carry the Big-10 brand with them to Autzen, and anytime you can beat a team from a BCS conference in non-conference play, it’s huge. So what the Ducks need to do is come out ready to play, and blast Purdue like this is biggest game of the season – because, well, it is.

After being so unprepared for Boise State, I think Chip Kelly can rally the troupes and move past the debacle that was last Thursday night.

Prediction: Oregon 38, Purdue 17

LaMichael James will go off in his first start at TB, rushing for over 100 yards and a pair of scores.

Masoli will improve, throwing for two scores and running in another, though I do expect him to give the ball away once or twice. He needs to be less careless with the ball.

NFL Power Rankings (continued)

With the NFL season starting tonight, I figured it might be a good idea to finish off my rankings before the season gets underway.

21 – Bills – Firing the offensive coordinator before the first game of the season usually isn’t a good sign. Figure in a three game suspension for Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch and the potential for a T.O. blow-up, things could get ugly in Buffalo (and Toronto).

Prediction: 7-9.

Wait a second, that's not Marshawn Lynch!

Wait a second, that's not Marshawn Lynch!

Fantasy player to watch – Lee Evans – Has been a number two WR trapped in a number one WR’s body. With the addition of T.O., the deep threat should see a lot more single coverage.

20 – Broncos – The Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos all can’t go 4-12. It would be a statistical phenomenon. That’s why, despite the awful Jay Cutler fiasco this off-season, I’m buying Belicheck-disciple Josh McDaniel to put together a high-flying offense in the Mile High city. A five-game stretch against Dallas, New England, San Diego, Baltimore and Pittsburgh could be their undoing.

Prediction: 7-9.

Fantasy player to watch – Knowshon Moreno – Every year there is a rookie RB who goes nuts. The former Georgia Bulldog couldn’t have landed in a better spot than Denver, where anybody can rush 1,000 yards.

19 – Texans – The Texans are the Tampa Bay Rays of the NFL. Loaded with athletes and top picks, but just can’t put it together. This year will be no different, as Brian Cushing won’t be able to stop the run all by himself.

Prediction: 7-9.

Fantasy player to watch – Matt Schaub – Has always put up great numbers when he’s been healthy, is this the year he finally stays on the field for 16 games?

18 – Redskins – Love the defense. Love the addition of Albert Haynesworth. Love Clinton Portis as a fantasy sleeper. Don’t love the division. Put them in the NFC West and they’re 10-6, but that could be said about a lot of teams.

Prediction: 8-8.

Fantasy player to watch – Clinton Portis – He’s one of those guys who drops in drafts because you know what you’re getting with him – even though it’s 1,500 yards and 10 TD’s a year.

17 – 49ers – Can’t justifiably have them any higher than this. Love what Singletary is doing in San Francisco, but at least until Crabtree signs, the offense is too one-dimensional.

Prediction: 8-8.

Fantasy player to watch – Josh Morgan –Showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie year. With a more stabilized situation at QB, Morgan will emerge as Hill’s favorite deep threat.

16 – Panthers – If you watched any of Jake Delhomme’s spectacularly bad, five INT performance in the playoffs last season, you can’t take Carolina seriously.  How far can the running game carry them?

Prediction: 8-8.

Fantasy player to watch – Jonathon Stewart – Have to give love to my former Ducks. J-stew was awesome last year in a limited role, look for a more equal timeshare with Williams this season.

15 – Packers – It all depends on how well the defense adjusts to the new 3-4 scheme; the offense will be there. If the Packers can contain the run, there’s a good chance playoff football will return to Lambeau field.

Prediction: 8-8.

Fantasy player to watch – Aaron Rodgers – I don’t know how many people realize he threw for over 4,000 yards and had a 28:13 TD/INT ratio. Pretty good for a first full season.

14 – Saints – Is there a more fun team to watch than the Saints? Drew Brees makes the NFL look like a video game. Unfortunately, so does their D. Maybe Malcom Jenkins is the answer.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch – Marques Colston – The favorite target of a quarterback who will throw for 4,500+ yards? Sign me up.

13 – Ravens – How will they handle the departures of Rex Ryan and Bart Scott on defense? Lewis, Suggs, Reed and Ngata still make up a pretty formidable nucleus. Joe Flacco needs to build on solid rookie campaign for the team to make the playoffs.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch – Ray Rice – The Ravens have always been a run-first team and it looks like Rice will get the majority of the workload. 75% of fantasy success is opportunity.

12 – Cardinals – Still the best team in the NFC West, but that isn’t saying much. Card fans must pray for Warner to stay healthy, because they won’t go anywhere without him.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch – Anquan Boldin – Gets overlooked because he plays next to the best WR in football, but any player who breaks his face and then grabs nine passes and two scores two weeks later is an absolute beast.

11 – Bears – Cutler is the first legit QB in the Windy City since Jim McMahon. Too bad Cutler’s best WR was a DB two years ago. Could be a frustrating year with expectations so high.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch – Greg Olsen – I have an uncanny obsession with Miami Tight Ends.

10 – Cowboys – Maybe getting rid of T.O. is just what Dallas needs to get back to the playoffs. Must hope Roy Williams can revert to his 2007 form with the Lions. Never a good thing, though, to be counting on former Lions.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch: Roy Williams – Severely underrated after difficult time adjusting following the trade.

9 – Giants – Loss of Plax makes Eli Manning a below-average quarterback. Concerns on defense and one-dimensional offense will keep the Giants from returning to the promise land this season.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch: Ahmad Bradshaw – The Giants will have to run to be successful this year; Bradshaw slides into the spot Derrick Ward had last year as lightning to Jacobs’ thunder.

8 – Falcons – I learned my lesson last year after doubting Matt Ryan. He is for real. Emergence of Roddy White and the Tony Gonzalez acquisition only make Ryan more dangerous.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch: Tony Gonzalez – Will be amped up now that he’s finally on a contender again. Amazing what a winning environment can do for a player.

7 – Eagles – Top 3 defense will miss the late Jim Johnson. With the workload Westbrook handles each year, you have to wonder when he will break down. But until then, the offense will have plenty of firepower.

Prediction: 10-6.

Fantasy player to watch: DeSean Jackson – McNabb will throw plenty, and Jackson has become his favorite target. Must rid stupid me-first attitude.

6 – Colts – Huge hole left by the sudden departure of Tony Dungy. Coach-on-the-field Peyton Manning will be more important than ever this season. O-line needs to step up big time.

Prediction: 10-6.

Fantasy player to watch: Anthony Gonzalez – Increased role in the offense and third year in the league will lead to a breakout season.

5 – Titans – It’s amazing what laying off the Tequila will do for you. If career fizzles out in the NFL, Lendale White will have one waiting for him in the weight loss industry.

Prediction: 10-6

Fantasy player to watch: Nate Washington – Quietly was very solid for the Steelers, now number one WR in Tennessee.

4 – Vikings – Despite my hatred for Brett Favre, the combination of AD (I’m on your side Oklahoma) and the defense make this team a sleeper Super Bowl contender.

Prediction: 11-5.

Fantasy player to watch: Bernard Berrian – Berrian is a deep threat. Favre loves to throw deep. With defenses needing to stack eight in the box, this is a match made in heaven.

3 – Chargers – Yes, I know what happened the last time the Chargers had this much hype, but with so much talent and their division so weak, they can go 10-6 without breaking a sweat. I think they do better.

Prediction: 12-4.

Fantasy player to watch: Vincent Jackson – With LT getting old and Rivers coming into his own, the Chargers have shifted their focus to the passing game.

2 – Steelers – Probably should be number one but my man crush on Tom Brady is too big.

Prediction: 13-3

Fantasy player to watch: Willie Parker – Has been so overrated that he is now underrated. Mendenhall will not steal his touches.

Yes, this is the best player in the NFL.

Yes, this is the best player in the NFL.

1 – Patriots – It’s almost unfair how veterans in their twilight years go to New England on the cheap. Oh and that Brady guy is back at full strength. I like their chances.

Prediction: 14-2.

Fantasy player to watch: Wes Welker – How do you not love a 5-8 white WR? With Brady back, you can count on 100 receptions.

NFL Power Rankings

Time for the Sports Dude to do some actual analysis. With the NFL season right around the corner, it’s time for everybody’s favorite: the Power Rankings. With pre-season hope still riding high for every team, except possibly the Raiders and the Bengals, one could make the case for any team to top the list, but this is just one simple blogger’s point of a view (albeit a knowledgeable, yet overly-confident college student).

chadAs always, there’s the chance these rankings could very well end up being completely meaningless, but I’m just going to disregard that because at least for right now, I’m 100% not wrong.

Along with my prediction for each team, you’ll get one fantasy player who will exceed expectations (completely free of charge!) How about them apples?

32 – Bengals – What do you get when you put together an already bad NFL team, a publicity stunt appearance on “Hard Knocks,” and a player who legally changed his name to a grammatically incorrect spelling of his jersey number in Spanish? Answer: an even worse NFL team. I pity Bengals fans this season.

Prediction: 3-13.

Fantasy player to watch: Cedric Benson – After never living up to expectations in Chicago, the former number four overall pick quietly had a nice run as the starter last year; could flourish in full-time gig.

31 – Lions – I like what Jim Schwartz brings to the Lions and I guarantee that they will win more games this year than they did last year, although I don’t think it will be by much. Matthew Stafford will be a good NFL quarterback, but not this year. Rookie quarterbacks are almost never successful, especially when they are thrown into bad situations.

Prediction: 3-13.

Fantasy player to watch: Brandon Pettigrew – With Calvin Johnson sure to draw double and triple teams, look for Stafford to use Pettigrew as his security blanket a lot this season.

30 – Rams – Marc Bulger has been awful the past two years, and that was when he had Torry Holt as a go-to receiver. Who is he going to throw to now, Randy McMichael?

Prediction: 4-12.

Fantasy player to watch: Steven Jackson – Is there a single player more important to his team’s offense than him this year? Jackson will get plenty of touches, health is the key.

29 – Browns – Will finally hand starting gig to Brady Quinn. Unfortunately, that means they will have to take their lumps as Quinn learns on the job. I do like what Mangini will bring to the defense, but it’ll take him more than one year to turn things around.

Prediction: 4-12.

Fantasy player to watch: Braylon Edwards – Let’s just say I was visibly angry when my buddy Alon grabbed him right one spot ahead of me in the draft. Could be a top-5 receiver this year at a 6th round value.

28 – Raiders – Until Al Davis goes away, the Raiders will continue dwell in mediocrity (or worse), but there are some exciting pieces to work with. Darren McFadden, Justin Fargess and Michael Bush form a legitimate three-headed monster of a backfield that will take pressure off of developing quarterback JaMarcus Russell, but until someone steps up to help All-Pro CB Nnamdi Asomugha, the sieve-like run defense will be their undoing.

Prediction: 5-11.

sp_raiders_bengals_f04Fantasy player to watch: Darren McFadden – As talented as Adrian Peterson, just needs the help in the trenches; could emerge as a fantasy stud this year. Keep an eye on Zach Miller as well.

27 – Chiefs – Not sold on Matt Cassel outside of New England. When you trade Randy Moss, Wes Welker and a top-5 O-line for Dwayne Bowe, Mark Bradley and the rotting corpse of Larry Johnson, you unquestionably take a step back. Heck, give me Moss and Welker and I could put up 3,000 yards.

Prediction: 5-11

Fantasy player to watch: Dwayne Bowe – A near lock for 1,000 yards and 6 touchdowns. Not sexy, but he will produce.

26 – Buccaneers – Let me get this straight, Byron Leftwich is the starting quarterback? Really? This is the same team that stockpiled like five quarterbacks two years ago. What happened?  Washed up quarterback, new offensive scheme and a defensive-minded head coach. Without even knowing the number, I’ll take the under on every single of their games this season.

Prediction: 6-10

Fantasy player to watch: Kellen Winslow Jr – Over 1,100 yards in 2007 and then crashed with the rest of the Browns in ’08. I feel a major comeback with the change of scenery this season.

25 – Jets – They have the same issue as the Lions: starting a rookie QB. Difference is, Mark Sanchez only had one full season under center in college. Is he talented? Yea, no doubt. Would Kellen Clemens be any better? Probably not. But remember, there have only been three quarterbacks to lead their team to at least seven wins in their rookie season: Dan Marino, Kerry Collins and Matt Ryan (as multiple readers have pointed out, Big Ben and Joe Flacco have done so as well, my mistake).

Prediction: 6-10

Fantasy player to watch: Defense/ST – Even though Pod Vader from the Fantasy Focus on ESPN isn’t a fan, I think defensive mastermind Rex Ryan will implement a run-first scheme that will keep the defense rested and off the field, and the scoring low.

24 – Seahawks – Quickly becoming a media darling in the putrid NFC West. I wish former-Oregon Duck Max Unger all the best, but I just don’t see it.

Prediction: 6-10

Fantasy player to watch: Matt Hasselbeck – With his receivers healthy again, I could see the gritty Hasselbeck re-emerge as a premier QB in the NFC.

23 – Jaguars – Unfortunately they play in the toughest division in football, and even more unfortunately, three of their first four games are against the AFC South. The other game? The NFC champions Arizona Cardinals. Quite possibly could start the year 0-4.

Prediction 6-10

Fatntasy player to watch: Torry Holt – Had 8 straight 1,000 yard season before the Rams fell apart last year. May be getting older, but the crafty veteran will be the favorite target of surprisingly effective David Garrard.

22 – Dolphins – They had a magical Cinderella season last year, but with the inevitable year-after curse and an off-season for teams to figure out the Wildcat, the Dolphins will come crashing back to earth. Of course, with Parcell’s running the ship, there’s always a chance Miami will jump the Bills and have a shot at the Wild Card come December.

Prediction: 7-9

Fantasy player to watch: Anthony Fasano – Fasano was a favorite red-zone target of Chad Pennington last season, totally seven touchdowns. Fasano should see an increased workload between the 20’s this year as well.

Come back tomorrow for teams 21 through 11.

If you have a disagreement with any of my rankings, please feel free to make your argument in the comments!

The Anti-man Crushes, People the Sports Dude Hates

First, let me say, I wasn’t going to write this blog until Tuesday, but for the sake of my girlfriend’s sanity and the future of our relationship, I needed to get out my snide comments and sarcastic witticisms before I do any more irreversible damage. Let’s just say she was not amused when I called her a “borderline midget” even though she is 5’2” and a whole one-third of a foot away from being a legal dwarf. I was clearly joking. Why she puts up with me, I have no clue. Let’s move on.

boston-sports-si-coversBrett Favre – According to ESPN, Brett Favre can do no wrong. He helps old ladies cross the street, adopts lost kittens from the pound, and if they had to venture a guess for who would find the cure for cancer, I’m pretty sure they would pick Brett Favre. Who cares if he’s only a mediocre NFL quarterback anymore? I mean, the man was just in a Super Bowl in 1997. Wait, that was 12 years ago, already? Somebody go get John Madden’s inhaler.

And then, of course, they would go on to force meaningless Brett Favre stories down our throats for the next week, making sure to get all their top analysts to line up and kiss Favre’s butt for 30 second clips. I can just picture Merrill Hoge, Ron Jaworski, Chris Mortenson and Trent Dilfer all sitting together in the make-up room, competing to see who has can squeeze the most superlatives into a 300-word speech. I set the over/under at 20, bet my life savings on the over, and then put my future children’s college education money on Jaws. It’s a stone cold lock.

Eli Manning – Continuing with overpaid, underperforming quarterbacks, I pose a simple question: where would Eli Manning be without his last name? A store manager at Sports Authority? The UFL? if he was lucky, a back-up quarterback in the NFL? Seriously, the dude was good college, but I never watched him and thought, “Man, this guy sure has what it takes to be a legit NFL quarterback.”

And then to force a trade so he could be in a major market? If that doesn’t scream douchebag, I don’t know what does. Anyone with an IQ over 75 could tell he would crumple under the pressure in New York. And I know there are some of you out there that will say, “how can he be overrated, he won a Super Bowl MVP.” It’s not that simple. First of all, he didn’t even play that well. 19 for 34 and a QB rating of 87.3 hardly screams MVP. Second, the pass that won him the award was complete luck and never should have left his hand. How he wasn’t sacked is beyond me. And if you re-did that jump ball match-up of Rodney Harrison and 18th-string wide receiver David Tyree 5 million times, do you see Tyree ever winning again? I don’t.

So let’s recap. He’s good in college, get’s drafted #1 overall because of the hope he will turn out to be half of what his brother is, sucks for four years, rides the best defensive line in the history of the NFL to a magical playoff run, receives the good fortune of the luckiest play in Super Bowl history, has his first decent season in his contract year but loses Plax and then instantly turns in four straight sub-200 yard games, dupes the Giants into one of the biggest (and worst) contracts in NFL history, and now will rely on Domenik Hixon and Hakeem Nicks as his top receivers this year. I am not bitter at all.

Steroids – The only thing I care less about than Brett Favre. The only players I would care about if they tested positive would be Jeter and Pujols, but until then, I’d rather watch highlights of the WNBA pre-season.

Boston fans – I used to like them, I really did. All the history, Fenway Park, Ted Williams, Larry Bird, Bill Russell. There was just something likeable about them. Maybe it was being able to empathize with a team who had encountered so much epically bad luck, or maybe it was how passionate Bostonians were about their sports no matter what happened year in and year out. But then 2004 hit and all hell broke loose. The curse was over, and Boston’s collective sports personality went from cynical to cocky after a routine Ruben Sierra ground out to Pokey Reese. There wasn’t even a need to play the Cardinals after that. The ensuing 4-game sweep was inevitable.

The one time lovable losers quickly forgot their storied past and took on a whole new identity, more annoying than those Guido, work out three hours a day, wear shirts one size too small, collar popping Mets fans from New Jersey. You could say the success got to their heads. The Patriots become the best team in the NFL, the Red Sox break the curse, and the Celtics are given the Big Three in an act of collusion between ESPN and David Stern. Hell, even the Bruins are a playoff team, Matt Ryan leads Boston College to a spectacular year, and Boston University has one of the greatest comebacks in the history of college hockey. The altogether success was mind-boggling.

But this is where it get’s annoying. That isn’t enough for them. Now they have to win every year. I came in contact with this first-hand this past year in the dorms at Oregon where I met Alon. We were talking baseball, one by one going through the Red Sox roster: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youkilis, Bay, Ortiz, Lowell, Drew, Beckett, (Mo) Lester, Wakefield, the bullpen, etc. ESPN, SI, everybody has them pegged as a playoff team and a legitimate World Series candidate, yet Alon complains to me, knowing I am an A’s fan, “I don’t really like our team this year. We need a better second lefty out of the pen.” Wow.

The San Francisco Giants – It’s already 1:30 and I have to wake up in 6 hours. Unless I want to go to work tomorrow with bags under my eyes bigger than the size of Greg Anderson’s prison cell, I am going to save this for an entirely new post. Goodnight.

The Sports Dude’s Man Crushes

i-love-you-man-segel-rudd-476x300-(2)Disclaimer – these are all completely heterosexual. I have a girlfriend.

Derek Jeter – Yeah, I know, he’s a Yankee. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s been my childhood idol ever since I picked up a baseball for the first time. There are multiple factors that make this aging first-ballot Hall-of-Famer a personal fave.

First of all, I am man enough to admit that he’s a pretty damn good lookin’ dude. He has that boy next door look, with his huge toothy smile, and clean cut appearance. Embarrassingly, I confess that I once took a picture of his hair with me to Great Clips, pointed to the 47-year old Asian women who only spoke broken English and said, “I want that.” Unfortunately, either she skipped the Derek Jeter Haircut Day in beauty school or she didn’t think I could pull it off, saying, “no, you no want that.” To this day, I believe the former.

Also, Derek Jeter is so good at baseball that he took a typical play, the middle infielder jump throw, and did it so well that now he is forever known as the “Jump Man.” How many other players have their own play? The Jose Cruz Jr. dropped fly ball? The Ruben Rivera base running spectacular? They don’t quite have the same ring to it. I don’t think there is a major league baseball player who has caused more unearned runs in little league games by having kids try to imitate his signature play.  Plus, the man has hooked up with 6 (possibly more) of the Maxim Top 100 list despite having the middle name Sanderson. That’s G.

Albert Pujols – Have you ever seen him swing a baseball bat? If yes, you need no further explanation. If no, drop whatever you are doing and YouTube him. And he’s even got a sense of humor.

Tom Brady – First of all, how can you not love his story? 6th round pick becomes best QB of his era. He was passed over by guys like Spergon Wynn out of football powerhouse Southwest Texas State, and Giovanni Carmazzi from Hofstra. Think the Browns and Niners regret those picks?

The San Mateo, Calif. native (my hometown, baby!!!) was even drafted out of Serra high school in the 18th round to play catcher for the Montreal Expos. That’s doubly impressive because he didn’t necessarily have a body that makes you go, “wow, what an athlete.” He gives short white guys like me hope, maybe not to dominate the NFL, but intramural football at Oregon certainly isn’t out of the question.

He is basically the Derek Jeter of the NFL. Golden boy who leads their team to multiple championships, has multi-million dollar endorsements, the hottest girlfriend in the world (sorry baby, Giselle is well, Giselle) and has led the Sports Dude to several fantasy football titles. He even held his own in a recent guest appearance on Entourage, looking like a Ralph Lauren model while simultaneously making fun of Johnny Drama. Impressive.

Paul Rudd – So what if he’s not a star athlete? If I could trade personalities with anyone, it would be him. The talented actor displays the perfect combination of witty quirkiness, boyish good looks, happy go lucky attitude, and shyness topped with a subtle yet strong sense of confidence. His resume is impeccable, starring in The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Anchorman, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I Love You, Man, while also adding a little extra bit of wonderful to seasons 6 through 8 of Friends, and displaying some impressive range in his performances of Nick Carraway in the Great Gatsby and the bad guy in the Halloween movie from 1995.

Once again, he gives me hope of becoming famous. One look at Mr. Rudd and all you see is an unassuming, mildly chubby, 5’9 pale white guy, but the more I watch him, the deeper my man crush grows. I think it’s because I can relate to him. And damn, can he dance – the sexuality was palpable.

Coming soon: The Anti-man Crushes, People the Sports Dude Hates.

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My Gift From France

So my dad just got home from spending two weeks in France with his girlfriend. He met her parents, went to the Eiffel Tower, toured castles, chilled on the beach, and you know, all the stuff that a couple would do in the summer in France.

While he was there, he specifically went out his way to find my brother a Samir Nasri French National Team kit. First of all, my brother has no real affinity for this Nasri fellow. He didn’t even know who he was until he watched me play with him on FIFA, but  nonetheless, he had to have it. My dad, thinking that Nasri was my pinhead brother’s favorite player, spent hours looking in every nook and cranny of Paris to find him this jersey. He even CC’d me on an e-mail saying he would buy a blank National Team jersey and have a professional print Nasri’s name on the back. Fantastic.

So my brother comes home and enthusiastically shows me his pretty awesome new shirt. Pretty cool. Then my brother says my dad got something for me too. I expected something, you know, maybe sports related. I mean, it’s not like I keep my sports obsession a secret. Yes, I do read Sports Illustrated under the covers with a flashlight, with the lights off, but he knows about it! OK, so what did he get me?

A shirt of the freakin’ Bayeux Tapestry. Expectations crushed. Oh well. Maybe I can wear it to a 70’s party this year at Oregon. The 1470’s. Thanks dad.

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UPDATE: So I met my dad for coffee tonight at Peet’s (free plug!) for the first time since he came back home from his trip. Of course, like any good friend of the Sports Dude, he came armed with gifts. Excited, I was giddy to find out what else he got me from France. Guess what the first thing he pulled out? Yes, another! Bayeux Tapestry t-shirt.

So in reality, the gift my brother passed on to me from dad was meant for him. Can’t really blame a 12 year old for not wanting a shirt of the Bayeux Tapestry, but to re-gift it to me? Not cool.

But here’s the funny part. My brother doesn’t know that my dad gave me another one. So guess what he’s getting for Christmas?

Mark one for the Sports Dude.

Broncos Repeatedly Try to Give Away Game, Ducks Want None of It; Inevitably Ends In Loss.

That was an absolutely pathetically awful, terrible, horrible, no good very bad game. There I said it. Wait, there’s more: ghastly, atrocious, hideous. Sorry I had to get it out of my system. Basically, there are not enough anti-superlatives in the dictionary to describe how poorly the Ducks played last night.

To sum up, it basically felt as if Legarrette Blount personally punched me in gut, continually, from about 7:15 to 10:30. I would have rather have been after game-punch recipient Byron Hout than a Duck fan at about 11:45 PM Mountain Daylight Time. Blount’s sucker punch made Carmello Anthony look like Muhammad Ali.

1_21_h450_20090904071622_320_240This game ranks on Bill Simmons’s “Levels of Losing” as a combination of Dead Man Walking and the Full-Fledged Butt Kicking, with a twist of ruined season tossed in. In a vacuum, this game is already extremely painful, but to figure in our high expectations, along with the necessity to stay undefeated in the BCS hunt, this game clocks in right behind a cracked femur or childbirth on the pain scale.

The Bronco’s kept trying to give the Ducks a chance to get back in the game, but Oregon never capitalized. And that’s not an exaggeration. They didn’t even have a single first down until the 7:07 mark third quarter!

Simmons says it perfectly, “Especially disheartening because you wave the white flag mentally, but there’s a tiny part of you still holding out hope for a miraculous momentum change. … So you’ve given up, but you’re still getting hurt, if that makes sense.”Boise State kept rolling out long drives, completely wearing out the Ducks already shaky D, but not getting anything to show for it, keeping the faintest glimmer of hope alive in the back of my mind.

Similarly to the Purdue game last year, the Broncos sucked the life out of the Ducks but kept the door open by keeping it a 3- score game. And for the Ducks, when they’re offense is clicking, that margin can be made up in a matter of minutes. Difference was,  in the second half last year, Oregon capitalized on turnovers and kept inching their way closer, until finally tying the game and taking over momentum in the final minutes. The Ducks gained no such momentum this year.

Once Oregon got the ball after forcing a turnover, you could just tell that they were thinking, “I wonder how long before we screw up and give it back.” Or maybe that’s just what I was thinking. Whatever the case, it sure didn’t take very long.

Before I cry myself to sleep, again, I’ll you find the parallels between the Full-Fledged Butt Kicking and the pathetic attempt the Ducks made to play football last night. Go for it Simmons: “Sometimes you can tell right away when it isn’t your team’s day. … And that’s the worst part, not just the epiphany but everything that follows — every botched play; every turnover; every instance where someone on your team quits; every “deer in the headlights” look; every time an announcer says, “They can’t get anything going”; every shot of the opponents celebrating; every time you look at the score and think to yourself, “Well, if we score here and force a turnover, maybe we’ll get some momentum,” but you know it’s not going to happen, because you’re already 30 points down. … You just want it to end, and it won’t end. … But you can’t look away. … It’s the sports fan’s equivalent to a three-hour torture session.”

And there goes the season.

What I Learned Working With the Great Shambhu N. Vineberg

0825a_27I came to Vineberg Communications as a complete novice looking for a basic summer internship in Public Relations. I was a good writer and I had just figured out in my freshman year at the University of Oregon that I wanted to work in sports pr. Problem was, no professional sports teams or agencies wanted to hire a freshman with no previous public relations experience. So I said, what the heck, I don’t know anything about technology, but I can learn it and pr is pr; this will put me ahead of the game for next year. All I was hoping for was to get some experience learning the basics of pr. But in reality, I’ve come away with so much more.

To put it succinctly, Shambhu is not your typical public relations professional. Not too many pr people spent their entire 20’s dedicating their entire life to a spiritual guru, or spend as much time playing guitar than pitching clients. But that’s just Shambhu being Shambhu. He has his own, yet incredibly successful, way for everything. Whether it comes to pitching companies, playing music, or conversing with his local Starbucks barista, Shambhu, well, to put it in a word, is eccentric. The things I’ve learned from him in just three shorts months, are possibly more than what I’ll get out of my entire old-school college pr education. For those of you who are aspiring public relation professionals, here are just a few of the invaluable things I learned this summer:

Anything is attainable. To accomplish anything, you have to believe it. If you’re playing shortstop and a ground ball comes bouncing your way, if you let the possibility of overthrowing the first baseman creep into your head, you’ve already failed. Believing in yourself is the first step to success. Once you know that you will succeed, all it takes is putting your plan into action. Exhibit A: back when Neil was studying under the guru, Sri Chinmoy, he wanted Neil to put on a world peace run to spread the guru’s message. Neil started with just a blank piece of paper, but with the motivation and desire to succeed, he ended up with a hugely successful international event with the backing of celebrities such as Carl Lewis and Clarence Clemens. No matter where you start, if you have the passion and perseverance to accomplish something, anything, then you will find a way to get it done.

Perspective. To be able to look at a product and find the best way to market it, you can’t just look at it one way. You need to understand the product from every person’s point of view. Why would C-level execs be interested? What about the trendy college students? Or middle management? There are so many people in this world that you need to be able to be aware of more than just yourself, so you can have as many people interested in your product as possible.

Perception. For people to be interested in a product, there has to be something about it that makes it stand out. Be it, sexiness, trendiness, uniqueness, easiness to use, the first, the best, something. People want to be associated with cool things. That’s why there’s such an obsession with celebrities in this country. Shambhu told a story where he was at a party and wasn’t really standing out. Eventually, he goes up to Angelina Jolie and has a 10 minutes conversation. Next thing he knows, people are all over him thinking he’s hot stuff just because he conversed with an A-list celebrity as an equal.

Relate to People. To get people to want to help you out, you need to be able to connect with them on a higher level. When you pitch a story to an editor, they get hundreds of e-mails everyday, everybody is selling them stories. If you can connect to them on a higher level, maybe ask them where they are from and keep the conversation light and interesting, they will feel your good vibes and be more interested in hearing out your story idea. Most people just try to cram stories down their throats, so when you take time out of your day to talk about something that isn’t necessarily beneficial to yourself and take an interest in who they are, you separate yourself from 95% of the competition.

And it’s not just about people you’re trying to do business with. The world is a very karmic place, so if you spread your good vibes and happiness to people you encounter a daily basis, it will come back and reward you later.

One of the things I admire most about Shambhu is his ability to make conversations with people and spread his warmth to visibly brighten their day. Case in point: at Starbucks the other day, the barista asked how he was doing. Instead of giving the ho-hum, “doin’ ok” response she was expecting, he bellowed an enthusiastic “lovin’ life!” which in turn, caused her to spontaneously break out a toothy grin, exposing the slight gap in her teeth as she giggled candidly, for what looked like the first time all day.

Work With Smart People. Not everybody has this luxury, but Shambhu has put himself in a position where he has the power to pick and choose every single client he works with, constantly turning down clients and blank checks because he doesn’t believe they have what it takes to succeed. If your name is associated with a company that failed, that failure will be associated with you forever and it puts a blemish on your record.

I’m sure there are thousands of other things I have learned hangin’ at Shambhu’s place this summer, but there isn’t enough bandwidth in space for me to fit it. He has pushed me to do things that I never would have done on my own, and helped me do them successfully. So far this summer, I have contributed to his company’s blog, written press releases, done research for his book, built connections and relationships for my future, pitched companies and much more. For not knowing what to expect when this internship started, I think it turned out about as well as I could have expected.