Monday, January 30, 2012

Unlike Tiger, Nadal had legit excuse

No coffee for Rafael Nadal or Tiger Woods.

Coffee is for closers!

At least my nephew Rafa had an excuse. The best tennis player on the planet, Novak Djokovic, was running him ragged in a 6-hour marathon that featured hundreds of amazing shots by both players. There was no shame at all in losing one of the best grand slam finals ever.

Tiger? The guy who built a reputation as the best closer since Michael Jordan gagged away the final round in Abu Dhabi and lost to some dude named Robert Rock. And I don't think it was because Rock is the best golfer on the planet.

Every time Eldrick has a good round or two, ESPNers and other fawning media types can't wait to declare, "Tiger's back!" By Tiger's own definition, however, the only tournaments that really matter are the majors ... so we shouldn't believe he's back until he wins one of those.

Given that he hasn't won a full-field tournament of any kind since well before Djokovic became the best tennis player on the planet, we might be waiting quite a while.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Today's High 5: GOP Debate Edition

5. I wouldn't vote for Rick Santorum because he and I have significant ideological differences. Still, I find it repulsive and despicable (two words favored by Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich) that a legitimate candidate who appeals to millions of voters and has strong convictions cannot compete because he lacks a gazillion-dollar "war chest."

For what it's worth (not much), I thought Santorum "won" Thursday's debate -- the last GOP debate for a while, thank Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, Joseph Smith and Richard Dawkins -- in part because he stood above the petty silliness of the Dueling Liars. His attempt to calm the rhetoric between Mitt and Newt and concentrate on issues was practically heroic (albeit failed).

Unfortunately for Santorum, he has absolutely no chance to emerge as the GOP nominee. Unlike his main rivals, he wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth and he doesn't have a Vegas Sugar Daddy pouring funds into his attack-ad account.

Instead of making our elections more "of the people," the Supreme Court made them even more about who has the most corporate financial backing.

Until a constitutional amendment that repeals the Citizens United decision and crafts fair campaign finance rules is enacted, things will only get worse and worse for regular folks who want to serve their country.

4. Romney claims that he doesn't make his own investments and that he has no input in the brutally negative ads his Super PACs have been running.

I'm pretty sure he'd be a lousy president, but I'm confident he'd be one heck of an Ostrich in Chief.

3. Ron Paul makes a lot of sense when he talks about the need to stop America's ruinous nation-building policies and to significantly reduce the national deficit.

However, he couldn't sound more out of touch every time he makes a reference to the way things were done in the olden days.

He needs to stop suggesting that we ignore the plight of poor people and let churches take care of them "like they used to." He needs to stop pretending that seniors "did just fine" before Medicare was enacted nearly 50 years ago; a huge percentage of them lived in abject poverty, unable to afford even basic care. He needs to realize that every time he starts a point by saying, "Back in 1962 ... " he reminds everybody how old he is.

Paul is a smart man and I'm guessing he was a fine doctor. But no matter how often he longs for simpler times, today's doctors aren't going to start making house calls again and they aren't going to accept chickens as payment.

We have a health-care crisis now, and longing for the good ol' days of leeches and castor oil won't solve anything.

2. Oh, Stephen Colbert ... please come back!

1. The Great Debater -- a.k.a. The Newtster -- is a myth.

Turning legitimate questions about his character into blame-the-media diatribes is not debating. It is bloviating. Such a tactic might be able to incite a frothing-at-the-mouth, intellectually suspect audience of tea partiers, but it hasn't worked when the crowds have been more civil and more diverse. And it certainly won't work in the general election, should Gingrich get that far.

He tried it again Thursday, but Wolf Blitzer, bless his heart, wouldn't let him. Gingrich was forced to deal with a difficult question, and he got his clock cleaned by Romney.

Romney easily out-pointed Gingrich in the two most recent debates, helping explain his renewed rise in the polls. And with Blitzer giving them more opportunities to talk Thursday, Santorum and Paul were more appealing and respectable than Newt.

Gingrich believes he could out-debate Barack Obama, but I doubt there's any way Newt would be viewed as anything but a bully and a blowhard by the independents who will decide the election.

Fortunately for the GOP, it's doubtful Newt will get that far. Republican leaders are coming out strong against him, and the public finds him mostly repugnant. His "likability" numbers are so low they'd lose a limbo contest to Muggsy Bogues.

This will be the ninth presidential election since I turned voting age, and I'm struggling to remember if there has been a more loathsome and revolting candidate for either party's nomination than Newt Gingrich.

Help me out here ... did Charles Manson, David Duke, Bobby Knight or Rosie O'Donnell ever run for president?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

GateHouse's 1 percent get rich at the expense of its 99 percent

GateHouse just laid off perhaps its most nationally renowned journalist, talented Springfield State Journal-Register editorial cartoonist Chris Britt.

As was the case when I was canned in 2009, Chris became a luxury the company decided not to afford.

I didn't know Chris well, but I long respected his work, which was syndicated and appeared in newspapers throughout the country. He is the latest in a series of quality journalists let go in GateHouse's hopeless attempt to make ends meet in a financially strapped industry. The gutting of newsrooms began shortly after GateHouse bought several Copley newspapers in the summer of 2007.

What really ticks me off isn't that David Copley sold us out by accepting an offer from a horribly run company that lacked the money to thrive after the deal. It isn't that GateHouse borrowed heavily to make its footprint larger, all but guaranteeing failure. It isn't even that, from Day 1, GateHouse let it be known that the bottom line would trump quality journalism.

No, what really ticks me off is that while GateHouse ruined hundreds of employees' lives -- supposedly in the name of fiscal austerity -- it has awarded millions upon millions of dollars in cash bonuses the last few years to the very executives who have run the operation into the ground.

In 2011, CEO Michael Reed was rewarded handsomely for firing employees and ruining the product: $750,000!

Four other executives received bonuses ranging from $80k to $275k.

It is more than morally bankrupt. It is criminal ... or at least it should be.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

From Motown, a princely sum

The Yankees weren't interested. Neither were the Red Sox or Phillies. They already had their big-money first basemen.

The Angels? Not unless they decided to trade Albert Pujols.

The Mets and Dodgers have financial woes that make our national debt look palatable.

Cubbies boss Tom Ricketts, still choking down the Alfonso Soriano mega-contract he inherited from the previous regime (and paying Cra-Z Zambrano nearly $18 million to not pitch in Chicago this season), had no appetite for another gargantuan deal.

The Rangers, Giants, White Sox and suddenly spend-a-riffic Marlins were all tapped out.

Yes, as consistently good as he has been, Prince Fielder entered free agency with few legitimate suitors.

And yet there he was Tuesday, celebrating the nine-year, $214 million contract he got from a Detroit team that seemed to have already cornered the market on first basemen who should be DHs.

One thing for sure:

When I make my big comeback, I'm hiring Scott Boras as my agent!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Misery has company: Williams & Cundiff

I don't feel sorry for Kyle Williams and Billy Cundiff. They are well-compensated professional athletes who are paid not to play football but to achieve at football. The Niners return man and Ravens kicker each had his team's potential for success in his hands (and feet) ... and each failed.

Still, I wouldn't wish the special kind of misery each is going through now on anybody. No human being should have to go through life being labeled a goat, a choker, a loser or worse. It's not as if both guys wanted to mess up.

In the end, I give a lot of credit to Williams and Cundiff, each of whom stood before a media throng and owned up to his failure, making no excuses, blaming no one else. That takes courage and class.

Here's hoping that Williams and Cundiff each get another shot at playoff glory ... and that each makes good next time.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Prediction: XLII rematch (sans David Tyree)

The home team is 7-1 in the NFL playoffs. Even the Broncos, who deserved a playoff berth as much as I deserve to be the next president (not that I wouldn't do at least as well as today's incumbent and candidates) won their home playoff game.

The one road victor? The New York Giants, who did pretty much whatever they wanted in Green Bay last week.

The Giants are this year's version of the 2010 Packers and 2005 Steelers. Oh, and the 2007 Giants. Those teams quite arguably weren't the best in the NFL in those seasons, but they got hot at the right time and rolled to win championships.

These Giants have the same QB as the 2007 Giants, but Eli Manning is so much better now. In addition, they have been running the ball well and putting immense pressure on the opposing quarterback.

49ers QB Alex Smith showed a lot in last week's win against the Saints, but can he excel two weeks in a row against a defense that will relentlessly pursue him?

I'm answering "No" to that question and going with the hot QB, the on-fire team and the only club to have won a road game this postseason.

Giants 24, Niners 19.

In the AFC, I have a weakness: I can't pick against Tom Brady.

That worked fine 10 years ago but it certainly hasn't been an automatic recipe for success in recent seasons.

Oh well, fool me six times, shame on me.

Patriots 34, Ravens 17.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Top 3 things I'll miss about Rick Perry now that he has high-tailed it back to Texas

1. He was funny, especially when he was trying to be serious. Interestingly, his predecessor as the governor of Texas had a similar talent.

2. Any member of any middle school debate team would soundly thrash him in any debate about any subject ... and we need to feel good about our schools.

3. He advocated ... um ... uh ... he was in favor of ... no, wait, it'll come to me ... he opposed ... uh ... you know ...

I can't. Sorry. Oops.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Is Romney one of us? Not very much!

A cold, calculating corporate raider, Mitt Romney has set himself apart from several GOP rivals by mostly avoiding goofy statements.

He is, however, often clueless and out of touch.

No comment illustrates that more than his assertion that the $347,000 he earned for speaking engagements from February 2010 to February 2011 was "not very much."

Romney wears jeans to try to pretend to be one of us, but is he so clueless that he doesn't realize it takes the average American 7 years to earn what he made in his spare time? Doesn't he realize that by calling $374,000 "not very much," he is alienating all the hard-working folks who live paycheck to paycheck?

Why would a regular person vote for somebody like that?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Today's High 5: Brady beats Tebow ... the Devil made him do it!

5. Remember how Tim Tebow passed for 316 yards (and averaged 31.6 yards per completion) in last week's upset of the Steelers, and his fellow ultra-believers quickly pointed out the religious significance of that total? You know, John 3:16 and all.

What a divine coincidence!

Well good news, kids: There were fun coincidences involving the performance of Tebow and his Broncos this weekend, too!

For example, Tebow passed for 136 yards. John 1:36 says: "And he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God!" That's all well and good, but there's a reason no sports teams are called the Lambs.

Denver lost 45-10 to the Patriots in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the final score indicated. That 35-point spread? Well, 3 + 5 = 8, and that's how many wives the Old Testament says David had. (Not sure what that has to do with football, but it's at least as meaningful a coincidence as the whole John 3:16 deal.)

Tom Brady had 6 touchdown passes. Touchdowns are worth 6 points. The lack of a Denver pass rush gave Brady 6 seconds in the pocket each time he went back to pass. 6-6-6! Obviously, Brady is the Devil's pawn!

I could go on, but that's enough biblical "coincidences" for one day, don't ya think?

4. This year's Giants remind me of last year's Packers. Good team getting better just when it matters most.

This year's Packers, meanwhile, remind me of, well, every other team that's been crowned far too early.

And to think, if the NFL ran things the way the NCAA does, the Packers would have been granted an automatic spot in the Super Bowl.

3. The Giants won despite getting royally hosed by the referee, who ignored overwhelming video evidence and refused to overturn a horrible no-fumble call.

Had that call been made correctly, the game probably would have been a rout.

2. It's only mid-January, but I'll be surprised if there is a more entertaining sporting event all year than the 49ers-Saints game.

1. I like Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, but they lost me when they wondered out loud if the two-week layoff had made Aaron Rodgers and the Packers rusty.


The Patriots, 49ers and Ravens also had two-week layoffs. They somehow managed to shake off the rust.

The Giants had something to do with Rodgers having a bad game. The fact that Green Bay receivers played as if they had anvils attached to their hands had something to do with Rodgers' poor performance, too.

Bottom line: The Giants outplayed the Packers in every phase. Give them credit. Don't give the Packers excuses.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Preparing for lots of time in my La-Z-Boy

Gotta go meet some friends and realized I haven't yet prognosticated this fun NFL weekend, so here's a quickie:

Saints at 49ers: I know the Saints never win on the road in the playoffs, but I just can't shake the feeling that it's gonna come down to which QB executes the best in the fourth quarter. And I'm taking Drew Brees over Alex Smith. Saints 27, Niners 20.

Broncos at Patriots: The Pats don't play defense very well, so here's another chance for You Know Who to prove himself again. If it becomes a shootout, though, gotta go with the other You Know Who -- the one with the supermodel wife and the three Super Bowl rings. Patriots 35, Broncos 19.

Texans at Ravens: I'm trying to figure out a way to pick a huge upset. And I can't do it. Ravens 34, Texans 13.

Giants at Packers: This has stunner written all over it. The Giants are playing very well on both sides of the ball -- maybe they are this year's version of last year's Packers? Meanwhile, the Packers have just been chillin' for weeks. I'm putting lots of faith in Aaron Rodgers and the home-field advantage. Packers 24, Giants 22.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Funnyman joins clowns in GOP field

I finally, finally, FINALLY have a GOP presidential candidate to support.

As the crowd likes to chant on The Colbert Report: "Ste-phen! Ste-phen! Ste-phen!"

I've gotten used to listening to the gibberish that comes out of these guys' mouths and thinking: "He can't be serious!" Now, at last, I can say that about one candidate and it'll be the baldest truth.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Romney: The Bain of Newt's Existence

It's pretty amazing to hear conservative rivals blasting Mitt Romney for being, well, a classic capitalist.

Because if there's one thing nobody should expect a conservative businessman t0 do, it's buying downtrodden companies, stripping them bare, reducing their workforce by 75 percent (or more) and then selling them at a profit.

If Romney wins the GOP nomination, Barack Obama won't even have to say anything to criticize Romney. All he'll have to do is roll tape of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry calling Romney a ruthless, heartless corporate raider.

I mean, if Newt says that about a fellow Republican ... what will people with actual hearts and souls think of the guy?

It's less amazing to hear how out of touch Romney was when it comes to health insurance. Does he really believe that if you don't like your insurance company you can just fire them?

Far more likely, your insurance fires you. Or jacks up your premium whenever it pleases. Or denies you coverage altogether because of your pre-existing medical condition.

No matter how often Romney dons denim and claims he has experienced financial angst, he'll never be able to relate with regular working stiffs.

Stiffs, maybe. But not regular working stiffs.

I can't for the life of me understand why any conservative Republican would choose Mitt Romney over Gingrich, Santorum or Perry. Nor do I understand why any right-leaning moderate would go for Romney over the far more likable and competent Jon Huntsman. And once we get to the general election, why would any left-leaning moderate vote for Romney over Obama?

Never have so many held their noses while choosing their candidate.

Monday, January 9, 2012

It's not the Hall of Very Good

It shouldn't be easy to get in the Baseball Hall of Fame, so I don't feel "sorry" for anybody who didn't make it. Two guys I voted for didn't get enough votes: Tim Raines and Jack Morris. They'll have more chances, though Morris only has two more years on the ballot.

Meanwhile, congrats to Barry Larkin, a heck of a shortstop in his day and, from all accounts, a decent guy.

The buzz is already starting about The Juicer Class of '13. Lots of interesting debates to come!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tebow to me (and millions of others): In your face!

Just as I predicted, there would be no stopping Tim Tebow!

Hey, give the dude credit. After a bad first quarter for him and the Broncos, he played the best long stretch of his short NFL career. Despite his many flaws, Tebow showed why playoffs are great in every sport (except Division I college football, where there aren't any):

Anything can and will happen.

Including my first couple of prognosticating screwups of 2012.

Another point hammered home: It's tough to win on the road in the NFL. All four home teams won ... and I was foolish enough to pick two road winners.

At least the Steelers made it close. The Falcons looked inept against the suddenly rolling G-Men. My buddy Mitch, a Giants fan since Lawrence Taylor was smoking crack from a high chair, is awfully giddy today!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

NFL playoff predictions: Steel Curtain will be doing lots of Tebowing

Can anybody beat the Packers in Green Bay? Of course. Even though a home playoff loss for the Pack would be surprising, it certainly wouldn't be unprecedented.

Just nine years ago, Atlanta -- a warm-weather, domed-stadium team -- went up to Green Bay and routed the Packers, who had gone 8-0 at home during the regular season.

So it would be silly to say a really good team like the Saints couldn't repeat such a feat this year.

But hey, I'm not quite ready to go there yet. Let's get Week 1 of the playoffs out of the way first ...


Gotta give credit to the Texans, who have had to use four QBs this season and who were missing their stud receiver for a good chunk of the campaign. Take THAT, all those (ahem, Bears) who love to use injuries as an excuse. Such sticktoitiveness deserves a nod in my predictions. Texans 20, Bengals 15.


The Lions are fun to watch. They're a cool story, too, overcoming their recent history of utter ineptitude to put together a nice season. The Saints are even more fun to watch, however. They're also at home, where they hardly ever lose. Saints 37, Lions 21.


It's hard to figure the Giants, who can look very good or very bad -- often in the same quarter of the same game. The Falcons also had a season full of fits and starts, so this is a toughie to predict. One would think being at home would be a huge edge for the Giants, but Atlanta's road record (4-4) is the same as the Giants' home record. Let's pick a mild upset, then: Falcons 23, Giants 17.


One of the quirks of NFL playoff scheduling is that a 12-4 team is forced to go on the road to face an 8-8 team that backed into the playoffs (because the 8-8 team won its division). A similar thing happened in the NFC last year, and the Seahawks stunned the Saints. Well, no such thing will happen this time. The Steelers won't lose a playoff game to the worst QB still standing. Steelers 27, Broncos 9.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Milton Bradley must not have been available

Yep, Cra-Z Zambrano is sure to settle down nicely under the calm guidance of Ozzie Guillen.

Gotta admit: It would be fun to be a columnist in Miami next baseball season.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Bears GM will be stuck with Lovie

So Jerry Angelo is gone, but the McCaskeys are too cheap to fire Lovie Smith, who still has two pricey years left on his contract.

When will these people -- and I'm not just talking about the McCaskeys, but all owners and GMs in pro sports -- learn not to give a contract extension to a non-championship coach who has time remaining on his previous contract?

You have to do that in big-time college sports because you have to keep the recruits from defecting. But in pro sports? What's the rush?

Were the Bears really afraid that some other team was going to sweep in and steal Lovie Smith away? (And Dick Jauron before that? And Dave Wannstedt before that?)

OK, so let's say the McCaskeys sign Matt Forte to a long-term deal and that Forte, Jay Cutler and the team's other key players stay healthy next season. And let's say the Bears somehow go 10-6, make the playoffs and maybe even win a postseason game.

If Jupiter aligns with Mars and all that good stuff happens, will the new GM and the McCaskeys seriously consider extending Lovie's contract again -- even though Lovie will have another year to go?

Only if they're foolish.

Which probably means there's at least a 50-50 chance.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Rating QBs ... from Tebow to Rodgers to Romo to Hanie

Nobody says "The check's in the mail" any more. For one thing, nobody under the age of 80 writes checks. And pretty much nobody mails anything other than junk.

Another saying that should go into permanent hiatus: "The quarterback gets too much credit when you win and too much blame when you lose."

QB is the single most important position in team sports. (You might say hockey goalie, but let's stick to sports that people actually watch.) A team with a great quarterback has a chance to excel and a team that lacks even a good quarterback has little chance at all. Of course, there have been a few exceptions over the years in the NFL. Very few.

The QB handles the football on every play, makes dozens upon dozens of critical in-game decisions and must execute every play properly -- be it a handoff, pitch or pass -- for an offense to function. When a close game comes down to crunch time, the ability and demeanor of the quarterback usually is the one deciding factor.

Fact is, the QB never can get too much credit or blame.

I still don't think Tim Tebow can be a winning QB in the NFL over time, but he deserves credit for the Broncos' surprising success during the eight-week stretch that put them in position to back into the playoffs. And Tebow deserves at least as much blame for the team's complete collapse during the final three weeks.

If he and his passionate-bordering-on-bonkers fans don't think such scrutiny is fair, Tebow should become a linebacker or tight end.

Which, by the way, would be better positions for him.

But enough about Tim Tebow for today. There are plenty of other QBs to talk about now that the regular season has ended:

TOM BRADY: It's hard to imagine choosing another quarterback if you have to win one game.

DREW BREES: Unless it's this guy, who is almost impossibly accurate. He and the Saints are too much fun to watch.

AARON RODGERS: Then again, maybe it's this guy, the shoo-in for league MVP. If there's a Mount Rushmore of today's ridiculously good quarterbacks, Rodgers, Brees and Brady are the equivalent of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.

PEYTON MANNING: The perfect example of the importance of having a great QB. But he isn't healthy, so right now Teddy Roosevelt would have to be ...

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I'm fairly sure he's a jerk, and he rarely looks pretty on the field. But he has won two Super Bowls and he's got a decent chance for a third. He plays tough, he plays hurt and he usually plays really well.

ELI MANNING: Were I a Giants fan, I'd love to hate this guy. For big chunks of every game, he plays ugly. But he absolutely carried the team this year and he has a knack for pulling games out at the end. In that way, he's similar to Tebow. Except Eli's actually a QB.

MARK SANCHEZ: By far, New Jersey's worst pro QB.

CAM NEWTON: A young Steve Young, but already as polished a passer as Young became well into his career. I actually looked forward to Panthers games every week just to watch this guy.

PHILIP RIVERS: Just good enough to be not quite great enough for a Chargers team that never has quite enough.

CARSON PALMER: Still waiting to see what all the hype is about.

MIKE VICK: The rest of the NFC is glad Vick and his Philly teammates didn't realize the lockout had ended until the season was 12 weeks old.

TONY ROMO: You know this guy is talented, but there's just something missing. He's sort of Eli Manning's opposite because he far too often finds a way to lose.

REX GROSSMAN: A very, very, very poor man's Romo.

KYLE ORTON: After coming off the scrap heap to lead the Chiefs to victory over the Packers, and then helping knock off Tebow in the season finale, Orton probably earned a very nice paycheck for himself next season. And speaking of guys who earned a big payday ...

MATT FLYNN: Aaron Who? Brett Who?

MATTHEW STAFFORD: Looks like he can be pretty special, at least as long as he can stay healthy -- and as long as Calvin Johnson is on the field with him.

MATT SCHAUB: A shame he got hurt just as the Texans were starting to get good.

ALEX SMITH: Finally came into his own in San Fran under Jim Harbaugh. I'm looking forward to seeing how he does under playoff pressure.

ANDY DALTON: Obviously skilled ... but will he be more than Carson Palmer?

SAM BRADFORD: Not enough information to know if he's a superstar in the making or an injury-prone bust in the making.

CHRISTIAN PONDER: A great big "We'll see."

JOE FLACCO: Eli Manning Lite.

JAY CUTLER: Another Romo-type who can make all the plays but often doesn't. Still, Chicago fans learned the hard way this year that there are a lot worse QBs than Cutler. Such as ...

CALEB HANIE: Sure, I'll have fries with that.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Tebow's amazing powers

Couldn't help but be impressed with the way Tim Tebow led the Broncos into the playoffs ... by willing the Chargers to victory over the Raiders!