Jason Varitek to retire

It was announced on Monday, that Jason Varitek, the longest tenured member of the Red Sox, will be retiring on Thursday.

Varitek, who turns 40 in April, has been with the Red Sox since he was traded from Seattle in 1997.  He was offered a minor league contract and an invitation to the Red Sox training camp, but he has not been seen at the team’s training facility.  He has played all of his 1,546 major league games with Boston, and the 1,488 games at catcher is a club record.

Varitek joined a team that had not won a championship in almost eight decades, and was a pivotal part of two world series teams.  He was also named the team’first captain since Jim Rice.  Another moment that Boston fans will remember was in 2004 when Varitek shoved Alex Rodriguez, starting a bench clearing brawl.

Being a Yankee fan, I don’t like many players from Boston, but I will miss Varitek as he was a key figure in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.  His presence will be missed behind the plate and in the whole organization.

USC ready to make another run

After years of sub-par season, NCAA investigations and sanctions, USC football is ready to make another run at a national championship in 2012.

Five years ago, USC football was the face of college football, after defeating Illinois 49-17 in the Rose Bowl, their second consecutive Rose Bowl vicotory, and their fifth BCS bowl victory of the decade.  After another Rose Bowl victory the next year over Penn State, it was clear that this was the team of the decade.  However, the 2009 season, was disastrous, with a four loss year, and ending the Trojans’ streak of seven straight PAC-10 conference championships.  In that off-season, the darkest days fell upon USC.  In June, 2010, after a four year investigation, the NCAA imposed sanctions against the Trojans football program for a “lack of institutional control”, including a public reprimand and censure, a two-year postseason ban, a loss of 30 scholarships over three years,and vacation of all wins in which Reggie Bush participated as an ineligible player, including the 2005 Orange Bowl, in which the Trojans won the BCS National Championship.

Following the NCAA sanctions, BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock stated that a committee would decide whether to vacate USC’s 2004 BCS Championship, but the final decision would be delayed until after the NCAA had heard USC’s appeals against some of the sanctions. On July 20, 2010, incoming USC president Max Nikias stated that the school would remove jerseys and murals displayed in Bush’s honor from its facilities, and would return the school’s copy of Bush’s Heisman Trophy On September 14, Bush announced that he would forfeit the Heisman and return his copy of the trophy.

On May 26, 2011, NCAA upheld all findings and penalties against USC in their infractions case on former players Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo. The USC football team will not participate in the new Pac 12 Conference Championship game or a bowl game for the 2011–12 season. The BCS announced June 6, 2011, that it had stripped USC of the 2004 title, yet USC still retains the 2004 AP National Championship.

Two years of non postseason play have passed, and Trojans are ready.  They are ready to become what they were five years ago, and return to college football prominence.  Led by Senior quarterback Matt Barkley, a potential number one draft pick, the Trojans will be in the hunt for yet another long awaited national championship.

Why we hate Duke

While were in the midst of college basketball, a question entered my mind a few days ago.  Why do folks strongly dislike (OK,hate) the Blue Devils of Duke?

I’ll admit it, I’m among the haters.  I compare Duke to the Yankees , or the Cowboys, or even Notre Dame.  These teams have been the prolific winners through the decades.  They are always on national television, because most people will turn on their TV’s to boo them as well as cheer them.

I trace this hatred back to the 1991-1992 seasons of college basketball, where Duke did something that is very rare in college basketball, win back to back national championships.  How could you not hate that team? Their main player was a tall preppy jerk, the Justin Timberlake of basketball, Christian Lattner. The most despised college basketball player of all time. The player who hit the dramatic game winner against Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA Tournament.  In the same game, Lattner stepped on an opponents chest, and had no remorse about it afterwards.

But Duke basketball is about perception to its bashers, and the perception is that the Blue Devils get all the calls and breaks.  The perception is that they get all the calls, too.  That’s because of their saint of a basketball coach Mike Krzyzewskie, the 64 year old coach with the four national championships, and already a Hall of Famer.

Are all Duke players arrogant? No

Still, were back to perception.

Oh, and to hear ESPN announcer Dick Vitale boast about Dukes greatest fans on earth, is almost disgusting.  They are known as the Cameron Crayzies, because they camp out of Cameron Indoor Stadium to get the best seats.  Another example of the team we all love to hate.

Oh, and by the way, Dukes mascot carries a pitch fork.

What I miss most about the NFL

It’s clear, the NFL is not what it supposed to be.  The once old fashioned cheap shotting and breaking the rules kind of league, is now replaced with “Tebowing” and players doing salsa dancing in the endzone.

There are many things I miss about the NFL, such as good player nicknames.  Player nicknames today are basically saying a players first letter of their name, and part of their last name.  For example, I heard Aaron Rogers nickname is “A Rog.”  I miss old mean nicknames, like Dick “Night Train” Lane, or “Mean” Joe Greene.  Another thing I miss is good old fasioned stadiums.  I miss fields like Veterans Stadium, and Three Rivers Stadium.  Those old stadiums would intemidate teams.  I don’t think teams are scared when they see a field called EverBank Field.

However, the one thing I miss most about the NFL is the old fullbacks.  Players like Tom Rathman, Darryl “Moose” Johnston, which is another great nickname, and Mike Alstott, symbolized a once glorified position is the NFL.  Players with the huge necks, that you would give the ball to and they would take on a middle linebacker and just plow over them and score.  Or, they would lead block up the middle for a halfback.  The fullback position was the definiton of smash mouth football from the 60’s to the 90’s.  In fact, arguably the greatest football player in history, Jim Brown, was not a halfback like most people thought, he was a fullback.  Now a days, fullbacks are mainly used to block, and they are never given the ball on a carry.  The only player that I think can be a “real” fullback, is the Jets John Connor, who is nicknamed “The Terminator.”  Hopefully, he can carry on the tradition of this great position which made the National Football League America’s Game.

Led by Lebron James, the Miami Heat finally accomplished one their oddest hurdles of their strong season.  They finally beat the Milwaukee Bucks.  James, took control of the game in the third quarter, scoring 16 of his 35 points and gave Miami control.  The Bucks have already beaten Miami twice this year, one game being in which they were down by 18 in the first half.  However, they failed to sweep the Heat in a season series, something they haven’t done since the 1990-1991 campaign.  Dwayne Wade also had a tremendous game, scoring 22 points, playing only 22 minutes in the victory.  Although Wade tweaked his ankle in the first quarter, it didn’t bother him.  He did miss his first free throw in a week, but set a personal record with 27 consecutive made free throws.  The area where Miami really buried the Bucks is their 60 percent shooting from the three point line.  Tomorrow night, the Heat will travel to Indiana to take on the gritty Pacers.

End of Patriots dynasty?

Watching the super bowl on Sunday, one thing was clear, these are not your old Patriots.  This team  was not like Bill Belichick’s teams that had won three super bowls in the last decade.  The Patriots teams of old would not be dropping passes late in the fourth quarter, or allowing game winning drives.  It seems to be apparent that the Patriots dynasty is ending.  Ten years ago, New England had just won its first super bowl, upsetting the heavily favored St.Louis Rams, 20-17.  Over the next ten years, the Patriots became a dynasty, a team that you loved to hate, with its blue collared attitude and coach that dresses like a homeless person.  Players like Wes Welker, Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, and most especially Tom Brady, who all came to New England and under the guidance of Belichick became stars.  Belichick also revived many careers such as Rodney Harrison, Randy Moss,  and Done Stallworth.  However, the last three trips to the playoffs have ended the same, being upset and not achieving their goal to win a fourth championship.  Two shocking defeats at home to the Jets and Ravens, and most recently a super bowl defeat to the Giants, a team that upset the Patriots just four years ago in super bowl 42 and crushed New England’sndream of aperfect season.  With Brady getting older and slower, I think it might be safe to say that the  Patriots dynasty is coming to an end or maybe it’s already over.

Why the Giants will win the game

Six weeks ago, who would have thought the New York Giants would be in this position.  They weren’t even in the playoffs yet!  Who could have thought that the Giants would have a chance to win their second super bowl in the last four years.  However, since they beat the Jets in week 16, they have never looked back.  They beat the Cowboys to win the division, they crushed the Falcons at home allowing only two points, they upset the 15-1 Packers at Lambeau, just like they did four years ago, and then they prevailed in overtime against the 49ers to win the NFC Championship.  Its very similar to the playoff run they made in 2007.  In 2007, Eli Manning was only a fourth year player who was always being compared to his older brother.  Lets get one thing straight, Eli is no Peyton.  But, in the postseason, Peyton is no Eli.  Over the last three playoff games, Manning has almost been mistake free, throwing eight touchdowns and only one interception.  Another key factor has been their defense, powered by that big defensive line.  They held a high powered Falcons offense, led by pro bowl quarterback Matt Ryan, to zero points on offense.  Then they forced four turnovers by the Packers, an offense that seemed unstoppable for most of the season.  In the NFC Championship, they forced two turnovers by the 49ers that truly changed the game.  Now in the Super Bowl, having played the best football of their lives in the past six weeks, they have a chance to beat the Patriots and Tom Brady for a second time in four years.  If their defense holds, and Manning plays the way he’s been playing, the Giants will be raising another Lombardi trophy.