Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Taking A Break

For the few of you that come to Quick Hits... often, first off, thank you. I truly appreciate anyone who takes a few minutes to check out what I have to say about things.

Unfortunately right now I'm not getting the kind of repsonse that I was hoping for when I started this blog. Because of that I'm going to put my blogging on hold for a few weeks while I come up with a better schedule and a better approach to the whole thing.

This blog is far from dead and I hope that once I toss my hat back in the ring that you guys (and gals) will come back and enjoy it even more.

Thanks again for your support and I'll be back soon, promise.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Under The Weather

Not sure if it's the changing of the seasons or what here in the Upper Midwest, but I am feeling quite terrible today.

Because of my current state I'm going to cancel Monday Musings this week and instead try and write several smaller pieces running down the top stroies of the last week or so.

In the meantime, be sure to vote in the poll and sign up to follow Quick Hits.... Thanks and come back soon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Monday Musings (The Tuesday Edition)

As promised, here is the Tuesday Edition of Monday Musings...

  • As predicted, USC thoroughly dominated an over-matched Ohio State squad who was without the services of Chris "Beanie" Wells. Of course, given the severity of the beating, it wouldn't have mattered if he had played. I suppose they might have found the end zone, once, but that's it.

    With the Pac-10 laying the biggest conference egg is years, the path seems completely clear for the trojans to run the table and play for the National Championship. Barring season-ending injuries to half the team, I don't believe there is a team in the country that could beat them.

  • The Red Sox finally caught the Tampa Bay Rays for the lead in the AL East on Monday and it's looking more and more like the young Rays will have to win the Wild Card race if they want to remain in the playoff picture.

    With the Twins and others fading however it seems like they will make the playoffs as long as they don't completely collapse down the stretch. A Wild Card berth would mean a meeting with the Angels in the Division Series, a team they hold a 6-3 record against in the regular season.

    Keep in mind that a Wild Card team has reached the World Series every year since 2002when (DAMMIT!!!) the Angels beat the Giants in seven games.

  • Also on Monday the Brewers, tied for the Wild Card lead in the NL, fired manager Ned Yost. Apparently this is something many Brewers fans saw coming and welcomed, to which I say, WTF!

    Is this what we've come to in the age of "what have you done for me lately" sports? Now I understand that the Brewers are in a bit of a slide and they may ultimately miss the playoffs entirely, but this is ridiculous. Here is a guy who helped turn around one of the worst franchises in sports in less than three years and for his efforts he gets fired with the finish line in sight.

    After the season I could see it as Yost has had a tough time getting his young team to turn the corner on their recent success. But the timing of this baffles me and I can think of more than a few teams who should be stumbling over themselves to get Yost into their dugouts.

  • The Ryder Cup starts on Friday without the world's best player, Tiger Woods. Some have intimated that this might be a good thing for the United States and that not being able to lean on Tiger will raise the level of play across the board.

    To that I say, whatever.

  • Watching the Minnesota Vikings this weekend was downright painful and I couldn't help but hearing "Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before" by the Smiths playing in my head. I won't spend much time on this as I plan on devoting an entire piece to what is wrong with the Vikes, but damn I'm glad I'm not a fan of this team.

    Frustrating doesn't even start to describe what took place in the Metrodome on Sunday as the Purple fell to 0-2, which amazingly is the worst two-game start for the Vikings since head coach Brad Childress took over.

  • Cal's head coach Jeff Tedford should be fully ashamed of his team's performance on Saturday after they lost to the University of Maryland. It was clear from the opening kickoff that the Golden Bears were just not prepared to play and that falls squarely on the shoulders of Tedford and his staff.

    Yes, they did travel across the country and played at 9 in the morning on the West Coast, but that doesn't excuse a loss to a team that just a week prior lost to Middle Tennessee State. The Bears are talented, but their youth and inexperience, combined with clearly shotty preparation, cost them big time.

  • Somehow the San Francisco 49ers pulled off a victory on the road in Seattle with J.T. O'Sullivan passing for 321 yards and no interceptions. I'm not willing to call O'Sullivan decent just yet, but he has been much better than I thought he'd ever be.

    Like Jon Kitna in Mike Martz's offense before him, O'Sullivan will probably put up quality numbers through sheer quantity of throws. However of all the QBs that Martz has had (Kitna, Marc Bulger, Kurt Warner) O'Sullivan is by far the least talented and the Niners should be shopping for a young QB come next off-season.

  • Keeping it in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Giants have managed to win 9 of their last 12 thanks in large part to the influx of young players who have infused the team with energy and timely hitting. Both of which have been lacking for the Giants for the better part of three seasons.

    The most impressive of the bunch has been C/1B/3B Pablo Sandoval who has done nothing but hit since he was called up in mid-August. Playing three positions and currently residing in the heart of the order, the 22-year-old Sandoval is hitting .336 with 3 HRs and 15 RBIs in 29 games.

    Chances are that the Giants will struggle again next season, but with so much quality pitching in the big leagues now and in the minor leagues, the future would appear bright for Giants fans everywhere.

  • Last week I mentioned the breakout debut of Philadelphia Eagles' rookie wide receiver and former Cal standout DeSean Jackson. I also let it be known that I think the Niners made a big mistake by not picking him and instead passing over him twice in the 2008 NFL Draft.

    Last night on Monday Night Football Jackson was staring his first professional touchdown square in the face when he proved why his nickname, "MeSean", is totally warranted when he dropped the ball at the one yard line in a rush to start his ridiculous touchdown dance.

    This wouldn't be so bad if this were the first time Jackson had placed himself above the interests of the team, but how can we forget this moment from Jackson's senior year of high school in the U.S. Army All-American game:

  • Aaron Rodgers is a stud, that's all there is to it. Packers fans rejoice.

Monday, September 15, 2008

We'll Be Right Back...

Monday Musings will not be seen in its regularly scheduled time, but be sure to check back tomorrow (Tues. 9/16) for a full recap of all the sports from the past week. And if you don't I'll be forced to sick Rey "Cinco Ocho" Maualuga on you. You don't want that.

Thank you and goodnight.

P.S. Be sure to sign up as a friend of Quick Hits From The Sidelines by clicking on the "follow this blog" link on the right. Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday Musings

I'm back and right on schedule this time with another installment of Monday Musings. Lots to get to, so on with the show...

  • So you want to be an professional football player huh? After the carnage that took place on Sunday I think baseball might see a resurgence in popularity across the country.

    Some of the NFL's best players, including Patriots' QB Tom Brady and Titans' QB Vince Young, suffered injuries in week one. Some, like Young, were able to escape with injuries that will only sideline them for a few weeks. Others, like Brady, are now done for the season.

    It's the unfortunate reality of a sport where the athletes are so big, so strong, so fast that major injuries are going to occur. This weekend should serve as a reminder to all those who think football players are just being greedy when they hold out for more guaranteed money, that in fact they are only doing what is truly in their best interests.

    Few other professions involve the type of sudden, career-ending dangers that football does. It's true that they are getting paid to play a game and in the grand scheme of things they shouldn't be making more than doctors and teachers. However the players should not be held responsible for the market that has been set for them by the owners and by this country's seemingly unquenchable thirst for the game itself.

    If it weren't for how popular the NFL and the other major sports in this country are there wouldn't be billion dollar stadiums and television contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In my opinion the players have as much right to a piece of that pie as anyone, and while it seems silly that athletes (or any entertainers for that matter) can make as much money as they do, for football players in particular the ultra-high risk level involved justifies their quest for that one big contract.

  • Serena Williams climbed back to the top of the tennis world on Sunday night with a straight set victory over Jelena Jankovic in the final of the U.S. Open. She did so without dropping a set and the win punctuated why she might be the best female tennis player ever.

    The victory was her ninth Grand Slam title and third U.S. Open and vaulted her into the No. 1 spot in the world rankings. But it was the physical dominance that she showed over her opponents (including sister Venus along the way) that has fans recalling Serena's cat-suit days when no one was even close to being in her class on the court.

    Focus and determination is the name of her game now, and coupled with her devastating power and shot making ability I simply cannot see another player out there right now who can beat her when she plays her best.

    At 23 and in great shape, Serena still has several more years to cement her place in history alongside the greatest the game has ever seen. She served notice last night that she is truly back and there is little that can stand in her way.

  • How about the East Carolina Purple Pirates? All they've done so far in two weeks of play is knock off, not one, but two top-25 opponents in Virginia Tech and West Virginia. The wins earned them a spot in the latest polls, all the way up at No. 14 in the AP poll. The first time they've been ranked in nine years.

    I was so impressed by the way they handled themselves against the Mountaineers Saturday, on both sides of the ball, bottling up Heisman candidate Pat White and controlling the ball with a bruising running game and timely passing attack.

    Head coach Skip Holtz (son of Lou) has done a masterful job preparing his kids to play with a chip on their shoulder and not take things for granted which is more than half the battle when you're dealing with college kids.

    Having passed their two toughest tests it will be up to Holtz to keep them focused and prepared for what should be a fairly easy schedule from here on out. They still have to travel to Virginia and to UCF, but other than those two very winnable games the Pirates could sail (aarrgghhh, a pun matey) right into a berth in a BCS bowl game for the first time in school history.

  • As ECU was taking care of business, another team in purple on the other side of the country was busy getting screwed by the always-sketchy Pac-10 officials.

    If you missed it, the Washington Huskies and quarterback Jake Locker engineered a late-game comeback against No. 15 BYU as Locker scored on a 3-yard run with two seconds left on the clock that would have tied the game with the extra point.

    Locker however was flagged for excessive celebration after he tossed the ball over his head in joy before getting mobbed by his equally joyous teammates. He didn't taunt anyone, he didn't dance a jig, all he did was act like any excited kid would have and celebrated the big play with his team.

    The extra point try was pushed back and the subsequent attempt was blocked, preserving the 28-27 win for the Cougars. There's no way to say that Washington would have won the game or even made the extra point from the regular spot, but to have the officials take away their chance at a major upset was downright criminal.

    The official has tried to defend himself saying it was not a judgment call and by the iron-clad letter of the law they were required to throw the flag. But if that's not the biggest load of crap you've ever heard (outside of everything our current President says) something is wrong with you.

    Even the national coordinator for college football officiating, David Parry, said that all calls are judgment calls and even conceded that, "I think it's safe to say on emotional moments officials might become a little more lenient."

    Every week officials across the country swallow their whistles and let minor celebrations like the one from this game go. So why all of a sudden would an official at the end of a tension-filled, near-classic of a football game decide to penalize an excited kid for this?

    The worst part about it is that the loss may have helped to end the tenure of Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham who could have potentially saved his job with a win against a top-15 opponent. As bad as I feel for the Husky players, I feel equally bad for Willingham, who as always handled the disappointment with grace and class. Too bad the officials couldn't do the same.

  • Colombian superstar Camilo Villegas won his first tournament as a member of the PGA Tour this past weekend when he held off Jim Furyk and fellow rising star Anthony Kim in the BMW Championship. The win vaulted Villegas into second place in the season-ending FedEx Cup Playoff standings.

    As well as Villegas played and as talented as he is, I wouldn't get too excited about this victory in terms of his long-term ability to challenge the Tiger Woods' and Phil Mickelson's of the world.

    Yes he hits it a mile and yes he's very marketable, but I see too many inconsistencies in his game for me to call him the "next big thing". His putter is still too moody and as NBC analyst Johnny Miller pointed out, he still tends to get into a negative frame of mind too quickly.

    There's little doubt he'll win again because he has the talent to do so, but I don't see him winning majors in the foreseeable future. He could however be a formidable opponent for the United States in next year's President's Cup should he make the team.

    His all-or-nothing approach is perfect for the team format and he'd certainly bring an energy and excitement to the International team similar to what Sergio Garcia brings to the European team in the Ryder Cup.

  • Scottish star Andy Murray pulled off the biggest win of his career when he beat the top-ranked player in the world Rafael Nadal in four sets en route to his first ever Grand Slam final. Next up for Murray is a date with former No. 1 Roger Federer who Murray actually holds a 2-1 record against.

    You could tell Nadal was not quite himself after an exhausting season in which he won both the French Open and Wimbledon as he passed Federer as the best player in the world. Murray meanwhile stuck to his guns and used some unreal shot-making to wear down the Spanish superstar and is poised to win the first major for his country since 1936.

    He'll have to play even better to beat a re-focused Federer, but it's nice to see someone else toss their hat in the ring on the men's side of the sport which has sorely lacked in depth for several years.

    Soon after this was written, Federer quickly dispatched Murray in straight sets to claim his fifth straight U.S. Open title. Still, it was nice to see a player with as much promise as Murray has shown finally break through and reach a Grand Slam final.

  • I hope I didn't jinx them, but the Tampa Bay Rays are slowly but surely losing their grip on the AL East lead and have put themselves in a position to miss the playoffs altogether. Injuries and a shaky back end of the bullpen have been the culprits as the Rays have lost three straight heading into Tuesday and their lead in the division is down to a game and a half over the surging Red Sox.

    They should be getting rookie of the year candidate Evan Longoria back into their everyday lineup soon, which will help. But unless they can get back to doing what got them into this position, namely playing solid defense and shutting the door once they get a lead, they could very easily go from the feel-good story of the summer to also-rans in a hurry.

  • Speaking of teams on the decline, the Minnesota Twins are going to look back on this as a season of missed opportunities if they fail to make it to the post-season. They choked away yet another lead on Sunday, losing for the seventh time in their last ten games.

    The late game collapses from the Twins have been even more troubling as the AL Central leading White Sox have lost six of their last ten games.

    Unfortunately there is really nothing manager Ron Gardenhire can do in this situation has he has plenty of relievers to choose from with the expanded September rosters, they just haven't executed in the big moments.

    You could argue that early season overuse of guys like Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain has put a strain on the bullpen as a whole, but when All-Star closer Joe Nathan is blowing saves left and right it just comes down to execution more than anything.

    The normally sure-handed Twins defense has been lacking lately as well, contributing in no small way to several of the most recent losses. The Twins are currently tied for 21st in fielding percentage in the major leagues a year after finishing tied for 12th and costly errors have been a common thread for them all season.

    They finish the season with only nine more games at home where they are 47-25 and have to go back out on the road for ten straight games in-between where they are 31-40. Things are not looking good for everyone's favorite small-market club.

  • Kobe Bryant is going to have surgery on a broken pinkie finger that will keep him sidelined for approximately six weeks. The Lakers open their regular season on October 28th, which conveniently enough is right around the time Bryant will be back at full strength.

    You have to hand it to the guy for squeezing as much rest and relaxation time out of his Olympics-shortened off-season as possible. But something tells me he won't receive nearly as much scrutiny for this as he deserves.

    It's obvious he doesn't want to go through training camp or the pre-season, and for a player of Bryant's stature I can't say I blame him. But ask yourself, if this was say, Allen Iverson, wouldn't the media be all over him like a cheap suit for this?

    We're talking about practice here man, practice. What are we talking about? We're talking about practice, man, practice.

    A day after I wrote this Bryant decided to forego the surgery on his finger because he claims the recovery process is too long and would affect his ability to lead the Lakers to a championship.

    This of course sets him up to look like a tough, do-anything-for-the-team kind of guy and will surely help his image, which to this point has been that of a selfish gunner. Nice work Kobe!

  • Former University of California wide receiver DeSean Jackson caught six balls for 106 yards and added a 60-yard punt return in his first game as a pro for the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Good thing the 49ers passed on that guy, twice. No way they could use a productive, talented wideout like that who just happens to be from California and played his college ball 25 minutes (without traffic) from Candlestick Park. What on Earth could offensive guru Mike Martz possibly do with a guy like that?

    Oh by the way, the Niners leading receiver on Sunday in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals was running back Frank Gore who caught four passes for 55 yards, followed closely by tight end Vernon Davis.

  • On a happier note, I got a brand new 40" LCD TV this weekend and it's gorgeous.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

It's About Time

Just a quick update on an item mentioned in yesterday's Monday Musings post.

Cal head football coach Jeff Tedofrd has announced that sophomore quarterback Kevin Riley is still the starter and that there will be no more rotation involving senior Nate Longshore.

This couldn't have happened soon enough as Longshore has consistently been unable to step up in the crucial moments for the Golden Bears while making critical mistakes every step of the way. His two interception performance on Saturday vs. Michigan State was clearly all Tedford could stand and now the job is Riley's alone.

In five games dating back to last season (2 starts) Riley is a combined 53-for-80 (66%) for 765 yards with seven touchdowns and only one interception. He's also rushed for two touchdowns.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Monday Musings (The Tuesday Edition)

Welcome to a special Tuesday Edition of Monday Musings thanks to the Labor Day holiday. I won't bore you with my golfing exploits over the weekend, so on with the show...

  • The college football season started with a bang and picked up right where last season left off with upsets a plenty.

    Three top-25 teams lost to unranked opponents (Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh), another was beaten badly by a lower ranked team (Clemson) and Michigan found a way to lose their second-straight home opener.

    This is why I love college football, because for those five teams it will be virtually impossible for them to win a national championship. Every game counts equally and there is no room for slow starts.

    Oh, and they're OK too.

  • Tennessee head coach Phil Fullmer may never set foot in the state of California again. At least he won’t if he’s smart.

  • Cliff Lee became the major league’s first 20-game winner after he tossed a complete game shutout against the AL Central leading White Sox.

    Lee now has credit for 20 of Cleveland’s 66 wins, which is remarkable. What’s even more impressive is that in seven of his wins the Indians have scored four runs or fewer and he picked up no-decisions in four games in which he gave up two runs or less.

    He hasn’t lost since July 6th and has won six straight decisions giving up eight earned runs and seven walks in 47.2 inning pitched. Dominant doesn’t quite describe what Lee has done this season and he should be a lock to win the AL Cy Young Award.

  • There are reports that the Bengals’ wide receiver formally known as Chad Johnson has legally changed his name to Chad Ocho Cinco. This might be at the same time the dumbest and greatest attempt to market ones self in the history of sports.

    One thing is for certain, if the NFL allows him to put Ocho Cinco on the back of his jersey (and I can’t see how they can stop him now), his will be the most purchased jersey in the league and it won’t be close.

  • Ricky Williams got a one-year contract extension with the Miami Dolphins. I have him on 1,400 yards and 8 touchdowns, no joke.

  • The San Francisco Giants have lost six of their last seven games and Barry Zito got lit up by the Reds on Friday. Order has officially been restored to major league baseball.

  • The Knicks traded for Patrick Ewing Jr. apparently hoping to distract fans from the awfulness that is the New York Knicks. Honestly, it will be pretty cool to see Ewing emblazoned on the back of a Knicks jersey once again, but they still suck. A lot.

  • Tiger Woods and his wife Elin are reportedly expecting their second child sometime this winter. This of course brings into question the story about him injuring his knee while running. You the man Tiger!

  • Brazilian superstar Robinho signed with Manchester City, favorite club of Oasis front man Noel Gallagher (new album in stores Oct. 6, yay!). This after powerhouse Chelsea thought it had the inside track on the 24-year-old.

    I’m sure no one reading this will care, but anytime a talent like Robinho switches clubs it’s worth mentioning in my book. Thus ends the soccer portion of the program.

  • Vijay Singh won his second straight tournament by demolishing the field at the Deutsche Bank Championship, firing a final round 63 on his way to all but securing the $10 million bonus that goes to the winner of the FedEx Cup.

    At 45, Singh looks as fit as ever and even his often-balky putter seems to be behaving for him.

    I am supremely impressed by Singh who looks like he could play until he’s 55 without losing a step. He still hits it a mile and has the experience and moxy to do some serious damage in the majors next year.

  • Olympic gold medalists Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh lost for the first time in 112 matches when they were beaten by the American team of Elaine Youngs and Nicole Branagh.

    The loss came just over a year after their last defeat, which was also at the hands of Youngs and Branagh.

    Say what you want about beach volleyball being a fringe sport, but you have to be impressed by the total dominance May and Walsh have shown over the last year.

  • Cal beat Michigan State 38-31 on Saturday in spite of senior quarterback Nate Longshore’s two crucial interceptions in limited duty.

    I have no idea why Cal head coach Jeff Tedford continues to run him out there, but here’s hoping Longshore’s terrible effort on Saturday will further tighten sophomore Kevin Riley’s grip on the starting job and decrease the amount of playing time Tedford gives his senior QB.

  • Lastly, the LPGA is trying to pass a rule that requires its members to speak English or face suspension from the tour.

    While it’s true that a growing number of the best players in the world hail from non-English speaking countries, making it mandatory for them to learn the language or lose playing privileges is out of line.

    For a game that markets itself as a global competition the LPGA has clearly over-played its hand in this instance. They could never get this kind of rule passed on the men’s tour, and they are foolish to think they can do it for the women.

    The LPGA needs to be happy about the rise in their popularity as a tour and keep its greatest assets, its players, as happy as possible and this is no way to do it.