Monday’s Seven Casual Contemplations

I know I have missed the last 3 weeks but considering that It is my goal to start your work week off right with random thoughts, ideas, rants and ramblings from the week that was in the world of sports, I felt I should get back on the horse. Unfortunately for those of us not still in elementary or high school, it’s Monday so let’s get to the contemplations. Exclusive to Painting the Black, here are your Monday Morning Casual Contemplations…

Help Me Become Canada’s Next Sportscaster!

Reminder or in case you did not know: I was selected as a top 24 finalist for theScore’s (a TV sports station in Canada) Gillette Drafted competition, which is the search for Canada’s next great sportscaster and I need your help. That’s right, your help.

Voting has become an integral part of the process and I need as much support as I can possibly get. Shameless self promotion is key and what I ask of my blog readers is to go to my voting page http://www.drafted.ca/finalists/chris-ross/ and vote every day. Tell your friends, family, coworkers, strangers, pets and just about anything that could possibly work a computer to vote as well.

Thank you for all your support in advance. It is unbelievable to know that I have the backing of so many people in the hope of achieving my dream job.

Jeremy Lin a Rocket?

Isn’t this Lin-teresting. Jeremy Lin might actually be going to Houston. That’s quite a shocker.

The contract is ridiculous but I think the Knicks will never hear the end of it if Jeremy Lin turns out to be a quality point guard in the NBA. Raymond Felton thrived in Mike D’Antoni’s offense without Carmelo Anthony. He has struggled ever since getting traded from the Knicks and who knows how he will perform in a brand new offense. Jason Kidd is 39.

You add in the business side of this equation and it seems like an odd decision (Stephen A. Smith would disagree) on the Knicks part to let Linsanity go in favour of Raymond Felton. Lin’s contract, while ridiculous, still offers immense upside. They struck oil in a Beverley Hillbillies manner with Jeremy Lin. However, would undoubtedly be problematic for them to bring back Lin now after the comments from ‘Melo and J.R. Smith. Even so, you would have thought they would have liked to see where Lin could take them because a Raymond Felton/J-Kidd combo isn’t taking them anywhere.

I for one am hoping they end up regretting it one day. I mean, come on, all Lin does is…Lin, am I right?

Beer Me

I will assume that you saw this video over the weekend of Steve Nash being handed a beer by a group of rather ecstatic fans while on the highway. No biggie, right. Of course, Steve Nash was smart enough to take a video of it and post it on twitter.

And this is why the world loves Steve Nash. He’s on that same kind of stardom level as Derek Jeter in the sense that he can do no wrong and I’m not just saying that because I happen to be Canadian. Nash has that star quality and likeability that enables him not only to be dearly loved by fans but also to get a pass on most anything he does that isn’t very role model-ish (i.e. cheating on his wife).

I see nothing wrong with him getting a pass on those types of things. He’s a character that everyone can like and you can never have enough of those. I mean, how many athletes would allow fans to deliver a beer from car-to-car on the highway?

Steve Nash would.

Olympics and Basketball

Blake Griffin went down with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Apparently, that means Mark Cuban was right. Owners don’t like their prized assets risking their futures for free. Playing simply for pride and being patriotic doesn’t fly with them. They want to restrict the Olympics to players who are 23 years and younger.

What else do they want to do? Put a leash around their player’s necks and tie them to a tree for the entire off-season?

If they’re not playing in the Olympics, they’re probably playing ball somewhere else (see: Kevin Durant at Rucker Park). Obviously, the intensity can’t match the level that they go through preparing for and playing in the Olympics, but they’ll be playing some form of basketball nonetheless. Injury is a risk anytime physically activity occurs.

The owners concerns are valid but they can’t stop player from doing everything athletically related in the off-season. Players are going to work out. They’re going to play. Kyrie Irving broke his hand at the Cavaliers summer-league practice facility over the weekend after he slapped a padded wall in frustration.

I guess I don’t like the idea of taking away these players ability to represent their country. Olympic gold is a big deal to these guys and I’m not just talking about the Americans.

I can’t imagine there’s a much better feeling than having an entire nation root for you. Doesn’t seem right to take that opportunity away from them.

Feel For Ya

Ever since I read “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton, I can’t help but feel sorry for the fringe MLB pitcher.

Mop-up situations are often reserved for pitchers that are too good for the minors but not good enough to be used in any sort of high leverage situation in the majors. It takes the most die-hard fan to care for the mop-up situation.

However, Jim Bouton’s book made me realize how much each and every outing matters for a MLB pitcher struggling to earn his keeps in the Bigs. 2 runs allowed in a 14-3 game may not concern 99% of the viewers but to that one pitcher who allowed the 2 runs, it could be the difference between grinding out a 5 hour bus ride to Tacoma or flying on a chartered jet to New York City.

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Chavez had one of those make or break outings on Saturday. He had been struggling lately and came into the ball game with an 11-4 lead. He left the game with the score 11-8. His line: 0.0 IP, 3 hits, 4 runs, 4 earned runs. His face had devastation written all over it.

I really do feel for the guy. What can you do though? Like so many others who get a cup of coffee in the Majors, Chavez was sent back to the minors. It’s the unfortunate reality of professional sports. Not everyone can have a happy ending.

Oh yeah, if you’re a sports fan and you haven’t read “Ball Four,” you better get on it. An absolute must read.

Easy Breesy

So Drew Brees got a lot of money. Don’t really know how the whole logistics of how his $40 million first year pay-day affects the Saints’ salary cap but I hear it’s not nearly as brutal as it sounds. An average of $20 million a year isn’t so bad either and it looks as though the two sides finally met somewhere in the middle in agreeing to this contract.

I still do have trouble comprehending why Drew Brees wouldn’t want to take a little less money for the greater good of his team but, hey, it’s easier to say that when I’m the person sitting in front of my laptop screen typing for free. So, who am I judge?

Of course, I will continue to judge anyways.

Oh Tiger, My Tiger

He missed the cut at the Greenbrier Classic a couple of weekends ago but he’s still got to be the favourite going into the British Open. His game is on the up and he is playing more and more like the best golfer in the world is supposed to.

A fair bet won’t be Tiger or the field at least until he wins another major. However, I like Eldrick’s chances this coming week at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.

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Monday’s Seven Casual Contemplations

It’s Monday, time to start your work day off right with some random thoughts, ideas, rants and ramblings from the past 7 days in the world of sports. However, it’s a holiday Monday up here in Canada. Happy Victoria Day everyone! Long live the Queen. Sucks to be American today, eh. Anyways, exclusive to Painting the Black, here are your Monday Morning Casual Contemplations.

Robot Umpires

Brett Lawrie’s childish, dim-witted, foolish or whatever you want to call it outburst against umpire Bill Miller on Tuesday really brought MLB umpires under the microscope. Lawrie was not wrong for being upset at Miller but his over the top reaction was wrong. His throwing of the helmet in his direction was just plain dumb.

Miller screwed up big time but that doesn’t mean robot umpires are the answer. I am not in favour of robot umpires. I’m not sure why because I am tired of human umpires and their, at times, seemingly limitless strike zone as I outlined in my Monday casual contemplations 3 weeks ago. Tennis has brought in video review but the line judges still exist. However, controversy is something that tennis has lost with the implementation of the challenge system. Controversy that made John McEnroe famous. The Brett Lawrie story was big news last week and brought a lot of press to Major League Baseball, which is always good for a league trying to compete with the more popular sports of the NFL and NBA.

Nonetheless, the inconsistent interpretations of a strike zone have always been and still are too much. Umpires are given too much leeway. It’s not part of the charm of baseball. The plate is there to determine what is inside and what is outside. There should be no varying interpretations of that.

If the MLB is willing to rein the umpires in and create a more consistent inside-outside zone that matches home plate then robot umpires are definitely not the answer.

Too Many Timeouts

Almost every time I watch a basketball game I think to myself the same thing – there are too many timeouts. The plethora of timeouts hurts the flow of the game. Teams do not need 6 timeouts a half. They don’t need a timeout to attempt to halt the momentum of an opposing team’s 10-0 run. Figure it out on the court. Baseball suffers from a similar issue with catchers constantly visiting the mound that slow the game down to a snail’s pace.

6 timeouts plus the TV timeouts is ridiculous. You cut that number in half and it would really help the game. It’s pretty much unbearable towards the finish of close 4th quarter games. I’ll tell my non-basketball watching brother there’s a minute left in the game. He knows that probably means 5 or 10. It doesn’t have to be that way though if they would reduce the number of timeouts. I guess the amount of commercial breaks is an issue but that is something I could care less about.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching basketball. However, fouls slow the pace of the game enough as it already is. I would love watching the game even more if there wasn’t this overabundance of timeouts.

Drew Brees Suck it Up

I know what Drew Brees has done for the Saints franchise. He won a Super Bowl. He’s the face of the Katrina rebuild. Thanks in large part to Drew Brees, the Saints gave the city of New Orleans something to root for after all was lost. As Brees argues, he outplayed his $60 million contract. That cannot be denied.

However, Drew Brees is the one being so difficult in his contract negotiation. Management shouldn’t be the side forced to get a deal done. People are saying that the front office needs to take care of Brees, particularly because of the unstable environment the Saints find themselves in. No, they don’t have to take care of him to the tune of his asking price of $23 million. Come on, they were the only ones who took care of him when no one else would.

Drew Brees is being selfish. This is so hard for me to say about the guy who was my desktop background for the better part of the last 2 years but it’s true. He was my favourite football player. From the man who is painted as the ultimate selfless competitor, it’s shocking that he is unable to be the bigger man to help his own franchise out. Hell, by Brees refusing the Saints (low-ball???) offer of $18 million, the Saints were unable to keep his all-pro left guard Carl Nicks. Forget helping your team out, help yourself out Drew.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning (when he was in Indy) chose to take less than their market value for the greater good of the franchise. What’s wrong with Drew Brees? Whether his motives be selfish or unselfish for taking a bit less money, Drew Brees should compromise with the Saints.

I’ll never forget this quote from Chipper Jones who never was among the 4 highest players in the MLB. Chipper said that “Nowadays, so many players play the game for the 1st and 15th [pay days], but I never have. Certainly, I want to be compensated fairly for what I do, but I wasn’t going to hold the organization over a barrel. And I never wanted to be a player who makes so much money that we can’t stay competitive on the field. That was my main concern.”

Drew Brees was lucky that the Saints were willing to take a chance on him in the first place. He says that he deserves more because he outplayed his contract. So $18 million a season isn’t fair for a guy living in a city where so many people are still feeling the devastating effects of Katrina?

You know what’s “extremely frustrating” Drew?

It’s you.

Dale Hunter’s Plans

Dale Hunter surprised most everyone this past week by stepping down as the coach of the Washington Capitals. After hearing of his decision to step down the first thought that came into my mind was that he planned it this way all along. Dale Hunter had no intentions of coming back to Washington. He said it was a difficult decision but he knew a while ago that he was going home to London.

That’s why he didn’t have to worry about the repercussions of benching Ovechkin and Semin. In his mind, he knew this was a one and done situation. He could coach the way he wanted and not have to answer to management, the fans or the media because after a few short months the stress would be over.

Will Rhymes

On Wednesday, Will Rhymes was innocently hit on the right arm with a pitch. Well, it seemed innocent. He went on to pass out at first base. Fortunately, he was okay and was back in the lineup Sunday. Since Rhymes was not seriously injured, the story has not gotten much press.

I feel though that this is exactly the incident that exhibits the dangers of throwing at people simply to uphold the baseball code. I wrote about the stupidity that surrounds old time baseball after the Cole Hamels fiasco. This wasn’t one of those upholding the baseball code moments and Rhymes was not hurt badly. But if someone can pass out from getting hit on the arm, what could happen if someone got hit on the head in the wrong place? The human body is a sturdy machine but freak accidents do happen. I said it before and I’ll say it again, let’s pray to God that it doesn’t take a death or fatal injury for the MLB to step up and be intent on creating a culture change in the game.

NBA Seeding

I don’t know why the NBA still doesn’t re-seed after each round. The March Madness style bracket is just more fuel to the fire of those who think the regular season is meaningless. We shouldn’t even be talking about the trouble the Miami Heat are having with the Indiana Pacers right now because they should be playing the 76ers. Top teams have to be rewarded for a good regular season. Boston rested its players and ended up with the 8 seed in the 2nd round.

Re-seed. It’s not very difficult.

American League Imbalance

The Toronto Blue Jays sit at 3rd in the American League East but only one team outside of their division has more wins than the Jays. Of course, that would be the Texas Rangers.

I giveth thou, the American League.

Bonus (Shameless?) Contemplation!

Hit me up on twitter and then maybe give me a follow @paintstheblack. If you like what you see around the blog, subscribe either through the email subscription in the right hand corner or with the RSS feed so you can have immediate access to the latest articles on Painting the Black. Just…awesome.

Don’t Forget About Us!

Can Drew Brees and the Saints overcome a season plagued by inconsistencies?

As far as sleeper teams can go the New Orleans Saints probably do not qualify as one heading into wildcard weekend. Their inconsistent play has left their obvious Super Bowl Contender pre-season status to be lifted by many people. Despite the drop off in their level of play this season, reaching the playoffs does not exactly qualify them in the hangover category either and fans should realize that this is a team that should not be overlooked.

In their final game of the season with the possibility of overtaking the Atlanta Falcons in the very competitive NFC South the Saints came out flat against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Even though the likelihood of Carolina Panthers beating the Falcons was slim to none with a division title on the line, the Saints still didn’t put forth a performance of a Super Bowl Contender.

The Buccaneers were better than the Saints in virtually every aspect of the game. Drew Brees threw an interception for the 12th consecutive game and saying that is very uncharacteristic of him may even be a bit of a stretch with the way he has played this season.

However, we should not fall asleep with regards to the Saints and their chances at making a legitimate run at the Super Bowl.

After weathering their initial Super Bowl “hangover” the Saints seemed to hit their stride if you want to look at wins and losses exclusively, but it was evident that these were not those same Saints that won the NFL world over with their magical run last season.

With that being said, the Saints have shown flashes of returning to their Super Bowl form as a team. At numerous points during the year there were times when many people, including myself, thought “hey, they’re back.”

The Saints have laid the foundation that is needed to win a Super Bowl as they have lost very few players from their Super Bowl winning team. Outside linebacker Scott Fujita is probably the most notable of the players who did not return to the team this season. The issue has been putting it all together on a weekly basis.

There is no reason why the Saints can’t get hot for a four game stretch much like the New York Giants did when they slipped into the playoffs a few years back and knocked off the undefeated New England Patriots.

Drew Brees is probably the biggest factor when it comes to the Saints success as any quarterback is to their respective team. His ability to make almost every throw imaginable has been such a large part of what has made the Saints a great team.

I mentioned above his 12 consecutive games with at least one pick which is a remarkable feat for a guy one year removed from breaking the record for the highest completion percentage in a single season. His individual consistency essentially symbolizes what the New Orleans Saints have been like as a team throughout the season.

Nevertheless, Brees is still one of the most accurate passers in the history of the game. He has proven that he can handle the pressure of the big game and if he can perform in the playoffs in a similar manner to the way he executed against the Steelers in Week 8 when he threw for over 300 yards in a 20-10 victory then there is no telling what this team can do.

Their offence still ranks in the top 10 in the league in points, total yards and passing yards. Even though the team ranks 27th in rushing yards the running game has gained some steam in the last few weeks behind undrafted rookie Chris Ivory and the return of both Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas to the lineup.

More importantly though, their defence has not experienced too much of a dropoff in level as they rank 11th in total points allowed and 6th in total yards allowed. Although their total amount of so-called “takeaways” has fallen off with only 25 compared to 39 forced turnovers last year should not be such a cause for concern. Even though better defences are able to force more turnovers the Saints did it at an alarming rate last season that it was most likely not going to be repeated again this year. In my eyes, the amount of turnovers a team “forces” generally has more to do with the mistakes of the opposition rather than the supreme ability of the defence making this a stat that should even out to a certain extent over time and I think that is precisely what is taking place this season.

Moreover, for the better part of the season the defence was not stellar last year and if the offence plays like it should be able to then there is no need for the Saints defence to be extraordinary. Making the plays they are supposed to make and coming up with a big play on occasion may once again be enough for New Orleans.

The playoffs are a whole other beast and to forget about the Saints at this point would just be plain stupid. In a season where the Super Bowl is up for grabs more than ever, with no team able to take a stranglehold of top dog in the NFL, the Saints are primed to make a run at Vince Lombardi.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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