Surviving the Winter Without the NHL
Week 17 of the NFL season is the final one for 20 teams, many which are some of the top American markets in the National Hockey League. Those cities being Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago and New York just to name a few.
For some of us, we can stomach the NBA. Others like myself will take college hoops over the pros any day. If professional hockey is your fix to get through the cold, dead of winter, you're hurting now or will be very soon.
The NHL has already cancelled the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor and all games through January 14th. The two sides are scheduled to start talking again this week, hoping to find some light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
So your NFL team has closed up shop for the 2012 season. What now?
Well, have you considered these options?
First suggestion. Just because the pros aren't playing doesn't mean that hockey is nowhere to be found. Take in some college hockey games. If you have a junior league or minor league team nearby, make a trip out of it with your other hockey deprived friends.
If you live in the Pittsburgh area, maybe you were at Consol Energy Center for the Three Rivers Classic that featured local team Robert Morris taking down heavy favorite Miami (OH) in a 1-0 victory.
West Virginia is wild and wonderful, and Wheeling has a minor league club in the Nailers. Make a weekend to go gamble and then catch a hockey game. Don't blame me if you have a gambling problem. The helpline number is all over the casinos and their ads.
If all else fails, go to some high school hockey games. Unless you have a kid playing, you will come off as the weird person who hangs around the local ice rink. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
Second suggestion. Invest time into a hobby or television show. From mid-October to mid-June, hockey occupies our evening hours.
Hobbies like stamp collecting and model building are things of the past thanks to computers and video games. Best suggestion would be to take advantage of your franchise in NHL 13 if you're that desperate to fill your time. Take advantage of that time to stick with your New Years resolution. Spend more time at the gym, write that novel, and maybe get a head start on your taxes.
Or invest your time into a couple of TV shows you usually record or catch up with on Netflix. American Horror Story: Asylum has sucked me in. Following How I Met Your Mother has become a little easier with Monday evenings opened up. I need to start watching Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. They both have come highly recommended from friends and co-workers.
Third suggestion. Spend more time with your family. OK, now I lost all of you. You are all coming down from a family overdose from the holidays, I know that. But hey, take advantage of it. If you're a parent, your kids grow up pretty fast. Sure going to hockey games is a great bonding experience, but take the time to do some other things.
After reading suggestion number three, you have to be hoping that the owners and players come to an agreement soon. Just hang in there and find ways to invest your free time wisely until another lockout can possibly come to an end.
Are There Too Many Bowl Games?
Hope you're enjoying Capital One Bowl Week (or month, whatever). Chances are you might've caught the end of the New Mexico Bowl that actually had an exciting end last Saturday. On the smurf turf in Boise, the Aggies of Utah State wiped the floor with Toledo. The Poinsettia Bowl had BYU's defense taking down the San Diego State offense in Ron Burgandy's backyard. Tonight, red hot Ball State is getting owned by Central Florida in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl.
Let me stop right there. How many of these first four bowl games have you been able to get into and watch in their entirety? The answer is most likely one or zero. The ones who have watched one full game probably had a horse in the race.
I get the whole money aspect of bowl games. Put more green in the pockets of the universities and football conferences. But much like my feelings towards Thursday Night Football in the NFL, is it overkill for the FBS with these bowl games?
Many years ago, you had fewer bowl games and most of the major ones were played on New Years Day. The BBVA Compass Bowl and GoDaddy.com Bowl games were not played within 48 hours of the national championship game. 35 games is overkill. It's bad enough the names change due to corporate sponsorship. The Peach Bowl is now the Chik-Fil-A Bowl and the Gator Bowl has TaxSlayer.com in front of it. Waiting for the year when it's the ProFlowers.com Rose Bowl Game.
It has turned into 6-6 schools playing other 6-6 schools in front of half empty stadiums. ESPN is milking the bowl game cow by airing almost every game. If they could air the Cotton Bowl and Sun Bowl, they would.
We're not going to care about these bowl games until we're watching the ball drop, drunk on New Years Eve. The tradition of watching the Rose Bowl as your hangover cure is back after the "no play on Sunday" in 2011.
Don't get me wrong, there are some good games leading up to that first of January showcase. It's just too much at the end of the day. New Years Day features a lot of great games, including two BCS bowls. Of course, we are all anticipating that Pitt-Ole Miss Compass Bowl game right before Alabama takes on Notre Dame for the national championship, right?
Maybe I'm being a Scrooge when it comes to bowl games. Along with the overload of consumerism of Christmas at time, college football has jumped on that bandwagon as well. Maybe this will make sense in 2014 when there will be three game that truly matter.
By the way, here's your schedule of bowl game for the holidays.
A Soap Opera Develops in the Big East
The Big East conference has been the perfect example of a disaster film for over a year now. On Thursday, the story turned into a soap opera when Georgetown, St. Johns, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette and DePaul, all basketball only members in the conference, announced that they plan to leave.
One can only imagine that it would sound like this if it was playing out on afternoon television.
THE SEVEN SCHOOLS: "Big East, we can't take this anymore! You've changed!"
BIG EAST: "I know things haven't been the same over the past few months, but trust me, it will be alright."
THE SEVEN SCHOOLS: "No! No it won't. You're a fool. You are letting anyone join the conference. It's like you don't care about us anymore. Who is this San Diego State?"
BIG EAST: "Look, you know I care about you guys. You've been our rock in basketball for decades."
THE SEVEN SCHOOLS: "Then why did Syracuse and Pittsburgh leave you? And TCU, they lied and cheated on you with the Big XII. How could you let that happen? And explain why Louisville and Rutgers are leaving you?"
BIG EAST: "I was fooled by my evil twin, the ACC. Just because we couldn't make it work with them, doesn't mean we can't make it work with us.
THE SEVEN SCHOOLS: "Didn't work with Notre Dame."
BIG EAST: "Really? You had to bring them up?! It was hard to deal with the idea that their football team would never join. Besides, they were out of my league."
THE SEVEN SCHOOLS: "Now you're just making excuses! How can we believe you'll take care of us?"
BIG EAST: "Well, Connecticut is still here."
THE SEVEN SCHOOLS: "Connecticut has hated you since Pittsburgh and Syracuse said they were leaving! They've been trying to break up with you for months! But nobody else will take them!"
BIG EAST: "Please! I'm begging you! I need you now more than ever! I can't live off of UConn winning every Big East championship and spending money to fly San Diego State to New York for the tournament. They might not let us back into Madison Square Garden soon. We'll be playing in a high school gym in Brooklyn by 2016. Please don't go!
THE SEVEN SCHOOLS: "There's nothing you can do to change our minds. Goodbye Big East. If that will even be your real name in a few years."
Tune in next week for another heart stopping episode of "As the Conferences Change."
The 2012 Heisman candidates display the double-edged sword in college football.
In one corner, you have Johnny "Football" Manziel, a freshman quarterback from Texas A&M. In the other, Manti Te'o, senior linebacker from Notre Dame.
The words, "freshman" and "linebacker" are a few of the taboo words that don't go with the Heisman trophy. Both are worthy of the award, and come Saturday night in New York City, a freshman or a linebacker will win college football's most prestigious prize.
While these taboos reign in college football, why don't we take a look at the top two finalist, shall we?
Out of the gate, Manziel is the clear favorite. Everyone can tell you that the Heisman favors offensive players, mainly at the quarterback, running back and receiver position. Johnny football has the numbers that should make him a clear favorite, other than the bias against defensive players. 3,419 yards passing, 1,181 rushing yards, 43 touchdowns. Those numbers would make anyone with a vote put him at number one. His biggest game that put him on the map for Heisman was against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. If voters can get over the "he's a freshman" debate, he should win.
The Aggies were brand new to the SEC in 2012, and many might have predicted them to suffer the same fate as West Virginia did in their inaugural season in the Big XII.
In their first game against an SEC opponent, Texas A&M fell to Florida. Later in the season, they lost a one score game against LSU. It was the Alabama game that showed the conference that the Aggies could run with the big dogs. It was the also the beginning of Johnny Football. I think many can agree that Manziel has a nice resume for the Heisman. A date in the Cotton Bowl awaits him and his team. He might be bringing some hardware with him to Dallas.
The finalist with the odds stacked higher against him is Manti Te'o. Only one true defensive players has won the Heisman. Charles Woodson from Michigan won it back in 1997. Woodson helped his Heisman stock by returning kicks and playing receiver at times.
Te'o has had a season to remember. He is the most decorated Notre Dame player in the last 25 years. The passing of his gandmother and girlfriend on the same day back early in the season tested his faith and proved to be inspiration for him and his team. Having some of his best games when the Irish defeated Michigan State and Michigan. Te'o had a key interception against the Spartans and two off Denard Robinson. Seven interceptions, 101 total tackles. It's a shame that some don't consider defensive stats official. No wonder defensive players never win the Heisman.
The inspirational story is nice, but why should Te'o stand a chance against a great offensive talent like Manziel? Well, look at it this way. Notre Dame has not had a great defense in a long time. The Irish have invested in high scoring offense and a "hold them off" defense with their previous coaches, especially under Charlie Weis. Two goal-line stands and key interceptions have made Te'o one of the best players in the game, and have awaken the echoes of past defenses. As Dan Patrick stated on his radio show Monday when he unveiled his ballot, if Te'o wins the Heisman, it can be seen as an award for the entire defensive unit.
Te'o made his recruitment trip to Notre Dame back in 2008 when the Irish lost to lowly Syracuse in a stadium that still had snow in the stands after a snowstorm from earlier in the week. Both Manti and I were there. That's why I know about the snow in the bleachers. Even after that disaster, it was faith and other reasons that brought him to Notre Dame over Southern California. Fast forward to his senior year, he decides to stay one more season. Without him, the Irish might not be on their way to Miami for the national championship game.
An argument can be made for why one should be favored over another. Some have already voiced their opinion saying Manziel should win because it's hard for a defensive player like Te'o to win. Others are taking the underdog in Manti. Either way, an uncommon player will take the stage in Manhattan and join other greats in one of the most exclusive clubs in collegiate sports. For Manziel, it could be the first of a few. For Te'o, it's the chance to be a rare member of the club.
The Big East used to be a great conference for football. It was. At one time, schools like Miami, Virginia Tech and West Virginia used to play here. Over the past decade, the Big East Conference has been deteriorating when it comes to talented football programs and the number of members in general. In the next few years, the conference will be unrecognizable.
In a current era of realignment, the Big East could not afford major moves. When Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami (FL) announced their departure several years ago, it was a blow to the conference. They added Louisville, Cincinnati, Rutgers and South Florida. Those four schools have been vocal in the conference, and filled the void.
Last year, Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced that they were leaving for the ACC. Ouch! Really? The Orange was a charter member of the conference, and they're leaving? The Mountaineers found a way to jump from the sinking ship earlier, and joined the Big XII Conference. Notre Dame announced earlier this season that they were taking their athletic programs to the ACC, while football continues to stay independent, but is still playing five teams from the conference each season. Let's not forget too that TCU snubbed them and went to the Big XII, even after saying they would join the conference.
With the scramble to grab schools from Conference USA and schools out west, the Big East has slowly been killing itself. Rutgers and Louisville, who have been members for less than a decade, are moving to the Big Ten and ACC.
By the time everyone who is leaving is gone, the Big East is as competitive as the Conference USA. It will be a conference that cannot call itself the Big East and be taken seriously. It has gone as far west as California to bring in new schools.
San Diego State? Boise State? Talk about desperation. The conference knows that its BCS automatic bid is in danger of being revoked. The Louisville-Rutgers game on Thursday was an example of why it should be taken away starting in 2013.
The Cardinals and Scarlet Knights are both unranked, but Louisville, who won the unofficial Big East title game, will still play in a BCS bowl.
No. 17 Kent State and No. 21 Northern Illinois are playing in the Mid-American Conference championship game tonight. The winner has a chance to play in the Orange Bowl. A scenario that has a lot of people flipping out.
So nobody makes a big deal about the Big East champion getting that bid when they are playing at the same level as the two MAC teams playing tonight? Something is wrong here.
By 2014, the MAC will be a more competitive conference than the Big East. Give that bid to the MAC. MAC schools won four games against Big East schools this year, and the way things are going, they will win more in the future.
Many won't say it, but the MAC champion deserves the BCS bowl bid more than Louisville does this season. It would make everything easier on selection Sunday.