Monday, March 30, 2009

San Diego State better served by being in NIT?

We all know that when one door slams in your face, maybe the next open door will turn out to be much better than it appears.

Take the San Diego State basketball team, for instance.

Two weeks ago, who would’ve thought that being in the NIT would be better for the Aztecs than making the NCAA Tournament?

Not I.

But as it turns out, the NIT has been much more than a consolation prize.

Don’t you think that making the NIT Final Four serves SDSU better than a first-round loss in the NCAAs would have?

(Sure, you could make the argument that the Aztecs would have won a game in the NCAAs. But that would have been a first.)

Take what coach Steve Fisher told the media before the Aztecs departed for the NIT Final Four in New York with more than a grain of salt.

“I’ll be the first to say that if we made the NCAA Tournament, we might still be playing. I really thought we could win at least two games and make the Sweet 16. I wouldn't have been at all surprised. But it's a thrill to get to New York and Madison Square Garden. We're better served to be where we are now than had we lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. We'll get more mileage out of this.”

That they will.

If the Aztecs win the NIT, it will be the school’s first national title since the 1973 men’s volleyball team.

That, alone, makes the NIT more than worthwhile.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is NFL thinking about fans, or itself?

Is the NFL really, truly thinking of its fans?

Or is it just thinking of desperate measures for desperate times?

The suggestion that league owners may add one or two regular season games to each team’s schedule within three years is a great idea for NFL sports enthusiasts.

After all, as Commissioner Roger Goodell says of meaningless exhibition games: “A key point is the fans also recognize players they want to see are not in those preseason games. That's why they are not attractive. They want to see those players play.”

Funny, that after all these years, the NFL would think in such terms. Remember, it didn’t think twice about ripping off fans with four exhibition games per team (six exhibitions as little as 30 years ago) until the economy went south.

Do you know any season-ticket holders? I know two families with season tickets to the San Diego Chargers, and neither is renewing its seats in 2009 with a long list of reasons that start with the poor state of our economy.

There’s one other item for owners to consider: If players play more games that matter, they are going to want more money.

And with a possible lockout already looming after two more seasons, adding games (without adding to individual salaries) will not go over well with players.

For years, the NFL has continued with its high, haughty ways; getting away with murder on the fans while times were good. Now that times are bad, the NFL is feeling the pinch like everyone else.

It’s sad that so many families are hurting in America; but believe me, these NFL fat cats won’t be hurting no matter what transpires.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

San Diego Padres: Pitching staff is a mess!

Imagine this: Opening Day is less than two weeks away, and the San Diego Padres still have five openings on their pitching staff.

That’s not good news, especially if you are a San Diego sports enthusiast.

There are seven spots filled on the staff … with even some of those being less than what you would expect at this level.

For starters, Jake Peavy and Chris Young are solid. After them are presumably (No. 3) Cha Seung Baek and (No. 4) Kevin Correia, both of whom would be long relievers at best on most teams.

And it gets even worse in the bullpen.

Heath Bell will be a closer for the first time.

Cla Meredith, who was sent to the minors for a time in 2008 for being ineffective, will be one of the two main set-up men.

The other – Duaner Sanchez – was already cut by the New York Mets this year and hasn’t been the same since suffering a serious shoulder injury in a 2006 taxi cab accident.

After those seven, the final five spots are up for grabs. Even General Manager Kevin Towers says the Padres will be looking for pitchers cut by other teams.

So there you have it: The best the Padres can do is hope for people on the scrap heap elsewhere to suddenly become successful Padres in 2009.

Put it this way. If you are the opposition, you have to like your chances unless Peavy or Young pitch at least eight innings vs. you!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Arizona's Russ Pennell; College basketball's new Steve Fisher?

Is head coach Russ Pennell of the Arizona Wildcats the new Steve Fisher of college basketball?

For sports enthusiasts who don’t remember, Fisher was named “interim” head coach at Michigan 20 years ago just before the NCAA Tournament.

Wolverines coach Bill Frieder had decided to take the job at Arizona State after the season, so Michigan athletic director Bo Schembechler responded by saying he wanted a “Michigan man” to coach Michigan. (Ironically, Frieder was an alumnus of Michigan; Fisher was not.)

We know that improbable situation ended with Fisher winning his first six games as a head coach in leading the Wolverines to the national championship.

Now we have Pennell as the “interim” head coach at Arizona, replacing Lute Olson last October when Olson retired due to health issues.

All Pennell has done is lead the Wildcats to a nearly impossible spot in the Sweet 16; especially considering that a multitude of people believed San Diego State (Fisher’s current team), Saint Mary’s or someone else deserved to be in the NCAAs instead of Arizona.

Despite being in the Sweet 16, Pennell is not even going to be considered for the permanent job … why not?

He was an assistant coach at Arizona State from 1998-2006, as well as an assistant at the University of Mississippi for six seasons (1992-98).

He began his coaching career at Oklahoma State University from 1990-92. The Cowboys advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 in both of Pennell's seasons in Stillwater.

The past two seasons, Pennell was a radio analyst for Arizona. And that’s not a bad background, considering that opposing coaches are more likely to spill their secrets to a radio analyst than a current coach.

All things considered, Pennell should at least be considered for the permanent job at Arizona.

After all, he may become the next Steve Fisher!

Friday, March 20, 2009

World Baseball Classic: Do American sports enthusiasts care?

Do American sports enthusiasts really care about the World Baseball Classic?

We’ll find out Sunday when the USA meets Japan in the semifinals at Dodger Stadium.

It certainly seemed like Americans cared when their team rallied from two runs down to defeat Puerto Rico, 6-5, and advance to the semifinals. Yes, the crowd in Miami went wild.

But before that, apathy seemed to be the word of the day.

USA pitcher Heath Bell, among others, expressed bewilderment that the USA fans were outnumbered the first time they played Puerto Rico in the US city of Miami. (It appeared that way in the second game; but American fans rallied when their team did.)

During the first round in Canada, USA fans were obviously in a minority vs. the Canadians. Yet that doesn’t explain why Venezuela appeared to have as many (or more) fans than America when the teams met in Toronto.

Don’t be surprised if the Japanese have many more supporters than the Americans when they meet in LA.

After all, the WBC is a much bigger deal to them than USA backers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sports enthusiasts: Being nice has its rewards

Being kind and thoughtful has its advantages.

Just take the relationship between San Diego State University and the University of San Diego, for example.

Thanks to the generosity of USD, an SDSU sports enthusiast will now be able to watch the Aztecs play a “home” game in the second round of the NIT on Friday night at USD’s Jenny Craig Pavilion.

Two years ago, USD was in a similar bind. The Toreros were hosting a four-team regional in the NCAA Baseball Tournament but couldn’t play at home because they do not have lights.

USD thus turned to SDSU, which allowed the Toreros to play their “home” games at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

Lesson learned: Never expect a favor to be returned when you do a favor.

However, if you do someone a favor, you have a much greater chance of them returning the niceness.

Monday, March 16, 2009

NCAA Basketball: Make regular season matter

Don’t blame all of the injustices in the NCAA Tournament on the NCAA selection committee.

Much of the unfairness centers on the way teams are determined.

Why, after playing an entire season, should a conference’s automatic bid all come down to a 3- to-5-day tournament?

Shouldn’t a 4-month season have precedence over a tournament that lasts 3 to 4 days?

Certainly, teams such as Mississippi State and USC are only in because they won conference tournaments. But should those 4-day events matter more than a 4-month season?


That’s why teams such as San Diego State and Saint Mary’s this season – along with countless others over the years – have unfairly been left out of the tournament.

Oh, sure, one of those two teams could make a name for itself by winning the NIT. But that’s hardly a consolation for being snubbed by the NCAA Tournament.

There is one very valid criticism of college sports overall: Why does the Big Ten always get such high rankings in the postseason?

Seven Big Ten teams are in the NCAAs. Watch them fall on their collective faces – just like Big Ten teams traditionally do in the football postseason.

Until the regular season matters more than a tournament, there will continue to be injustices in the NCAA.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pro athletes don't have right to abuse women

What is it with professional athletes who think they have the right to use and abuse women?

Take former NFL player Travis Henry, who has nine children by nine different women but refuses to pay child support.

Or what about Brian Giles of the San Diego Padres, who apparently thinks it’s OK to smack women as if they were a baseball coming in at 98 mph?

Henry’s case is a head-spinner.

Here is a guy whose career ended early due to a drug suspension, federal charges of cocaine trafficking and court date after court date related to his refusal to pay child support.

And yet, he contends that spending $250,000 on jewelry for himself “ain't a lot.” (As long as he doesn’t pay attention to his kids and spends on himself, evidently he thinks it’s all cool.)

OK, so Henry is now engaged, but he and his fiancee aren't planning on having any children. (Did he plan to have the other nine?)

Then there’s Giles. We already knew about the 2006 incident in Arizona where he pushed his girlfriend to the ground coming out of a nightclub.

Now we discover his ex-wife stated in 2004 that the Padres outfielder and his former girlfriend, Cheri Olvera, had “several physical altercations” in front of the Gileses' children. The ex-wife further claims Giles “struck Cheri with his forearm while they were at the McDonald's drive-thru (in 2004).”

The saddest part of this all? Fans will cheer for these guys as long as they produce on the field … no matter how rotten they are off the field.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

North Dakota State Bison: Cut those nets!

We’ve already found the “feel good/Cinderella” story for the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Say hello to the North Dakota State Bison!

On the extremely popular television show Extreme Home Makeover, they have coined a phrase “move that bus!”

At North Dakota State, make it “cut those nets!”

From Fargo to Hillsboro, from Mayville to Hatton to Finley to points beyond, the fine folks of North Dakota are celebrating today.

And why not?

By beating Oakland for the Summit League championship, North Dakota State is going to the “Big Dance” in its first year as an NCAA Division I school.

History lesson: Nobody has done as much since Long Beach State in 1970.

(Btw, if you ever visit Mayville, check out Paulas Steak House. Great place!)

Just so you know going into the NCAAs, the Bison are led by Ben Woodside. He averaged 23 points on the year, including a 60-point game against Stephen F. Austin in triple overtime.

Woodside is one of five seniors who redshirted earlier in their careers as the Bison started to transition from Division II to I. They were targeting this season, hoping to take one good shot at an NCAA tournament bid.

Nice timing!

Some so-called experts are already saying North Dakota State could be a No. 13 seed. Reminder: No. 13 seeds split their four games with No. 4 seeds last year.

If ever there was a team to cheer for, it’s the North Dakota State Bison.

Monday, March 9, 2009

LaDainian Tomlinson: Marching toward New Orleans Saints?

Our best guess is that LaDainian Tomlinson’s days in San Diego are numbered.

Make that numbered, as in “zero.”

It seems like the trend around the NFL this offseason is for big-name, older players to go elsewhere rather than take pay cuts from their current club.

In Tomlinson’s case, he certainly has somewhere to go: Namely New Orleans.

During the time that Tomlinson and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees played together in San Diego, the two Texans became best of friends.

Tomlinson made it no secret that he was very disappointed when the Chargers put Brees out to pasture after the 2005 season and allowed him to go to the Saints.

In addition, Tomlinson has also made it clear (if you read between the lines) that he was much more comfortable playing for Marty Schottenheimer than Norv Turner with the Chargers.

When it all adds up, Tomlinson probably has only a couple more productive years left in the NFL.

He’d make a great tandem in New Orleans with Reggie Bush; and the two could certainly help the Saints make a Super Bowl run.

So when it’s all said and done, do not be surprised if Tomlinson and Brees are reunited in New Orleans.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Peavy shouldn't pitch in World Baseball Classic

Pardon me for being conservative, but I don’t like the idea of Jake Peavy being the starting pitcher for the USA this weekend in its first World Baseball Classic game.

Sorry, but the San Diego Padres’ ace does not have the kind of make-up to pitch in this event … as was proven three years ago.

He’s going to go too fast, too soon for someone who hasn’t even been in spring training for three weeks (just as he did in 2006.)

And, as you remember, Peavy had his worst recent season with the Padres in 2006.


Because of a shoulder injury presumably brought on by the World Baseball Classic that never completely healed three years ago.

Perhaps Padres teammate Chris Young says it best about the risks. He’s not going to pitch in spring training, go at a world-class level in the WBC, then go back to spring training.

Some pitchers have the make-up to do this; others don’t. (Peavy is among those in the “can’t do it” category.)

And the Padres really need him to have an injury-free/good season more than ever.

After all, if he’s not healthy and/or pitching well at midseason, their chances of trading Peavy and his contract will be nil.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Give Padres credit for reducing prices

If your team is bad and the economy is worse, what do you do?

If you’re the San Diego Padres, you lower prices on about 25 percent of your tickets and offer special concessions packages.

Give the team credit for at least trying while entering a season where another last-place finish looks inevitable.

Did you not hear that the Padres are offering a … 5 for $5 Value Meal that includes a hot dog, regular soda, peanuts, popcorn and a cookie for $5? (Fans can substitute a 16-ounce beer for the soda and pay $10.)

This offer is good for each of the Padres’ 81 home dates, including opening day.The team also has revised and improved its Coca-Cola Value Weekend. Fans can get an Upper Reserved ticket, hot dog and a Coke for just $12 at any Friday, Saturday and Sunday home game.

As for everyday tickets, the price decrease affects nearly 8,300 seats on both the Field and Upper levels. The Field Box Advanced price is reduced by $10 (now $40) per ticket in selected sections, the Field Reserved Advanced price goes down by $10 (now $30), while the Upper Box Reserved Advance price is reduced by $5 (now $23). All other seats are frozen at 2008 prices.

Let’s just hope that on the field, the Padres don’t become “reduced” in 2009 to another horrible season.

Monday, March 2, 2009

AFC West is gaining on Chargers

Famous baseball player Satchel Paige was known for saying: “Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you.”

In the case of the Chargers, that “something” might be the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos.

Did you see where the Chiefs added quarterback Matt Cassel from the New England Patriots over the weekend?

Or how about the Broncos adding safeties Brian Dawkins from Philadelphia and Renaldo Hill from Miami?

The Chiefs were a quarterback away from having a decent team. Now they have him.
(And if not for two unlucky breaks, they would have swept the Chargers last season.)

The Broncos were a few defensive players away from rising to the next level. It appears they are getting what they need, too.

The Chargers?

Thus far, it appears General Manager A.J. Smith is content to sit on what he has.

Perhaps it’s time for Smith to look back, because a couple of somebodies are gaining on his team.