On the same day that Evander Holyfield went broke, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. announced his retirement. He’ll be back. Sadly, maybe they both will.
I say this not based on any inside information. I say this based on 30 years spent around prize fighters. They all leave. They nearly all come back, as long as someone will have them.
One of the few exceptions was Marvelous Marvin Hagler, who left the sport and the country after not being awarded a victory over Sugar Ray Leonard on a night when he felt he deserved one. Hagler was, in many ways, the rare exception. He was truly his own man. Perhaps Mayweather will be too, but that’s not likely because at 31 he may be burned out with boxing but he is retiring, as he admitted himself when he made the announcement Friday night, “…knowing I still have my God-given abilities to succeed and future multi-million dollar paydays ahead, including one right around the corner. But there comes a time when money doesn’t matter. I just can’t do it anymore. I have found a peace with my decision that I have not felt in a long time.’’
How, you ask, can a young athlete at the very top of both his game and his sport just walk away like this with a potential $20 million or more on the table to fight again? For the long term he probably can’t but for the moment it seems likely that Mayweather left because, just as he said and just as his sad face and wet eyes have confirmed so many times in public, “…after many sleepless nights and intense soul-searching I realized I could no longer base my decision (to continue fighting) on anything but my own personal happiness, which I no longer could find.’’
Looking from the outside it may be difficult to fathom what Mayweather is talking about. He has fame, fortune (as he feels obsessed with telling everyone) and anything money can buy. What he doesn’t have, never had it seems, is peace of mind. To find that, he must flee his art, which is what prize fighting is to him.
For all his flamboyance and fame, for all his talent and style, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has always seemed like a sad child in need of a hug. To be so clearly the best in the world at what you do and still be so obsessed with screaming, “Look at me! Look at me!’’ spoke loudly of a child long neglected by the people who should have known better. Frankly, if you had his family you’d feel the same way.
And now here he was, facing a three-ring circus the likes of which even the Mayweather clan had never seen before if he went through with a much-discussed Sept. 20 rematch with Oscar De La Hoya. Staring back at him from the opposite corner and from every HBO 24/7 Countdown show and lingering on the edge of every interview he would have to do would be the snarling, unforgiving face of his father, Floyd Sr., the man who had chosen to accept money to sell out his own son and train De La Hoya in the sly art of how to beat him up.
It seems unlikely that the younger Mayweather actually believes there are secrets about him only his father knows but who can say? Probably not even the son. That is not the point any way.
The point is what kind of father would agree to such a thing? The kind you walk away from, which is what the son just did.
Certainly De La Hoya believed the father had the key to beating his son somewhere in his twisted mind. It is why he turned away from Freddie Roach, the veteran trainer who prepared him so well for the first fight with Mayweather that he nearly won it and might have actually done so if he’d stuck with Roach’s plan. It is why he re-hired Mayweather’s father, feeling he knew weaknesses no one else would for he was the man who created what had become a fierce fistic machine.
Imagine the thought of it though. Think of the utter crassness of the idea that you would accept money to prepare another man to professionally assault your son. Think what that says about you but more than that think what it says to your son.
This decision was not an easy one for me to make as boxing is all I’ve done since I was a child,’’ Mayweather wrote in a prepared statement he sent out to the media. “However, these past few years have been extremely difficult for me to find the desire and joy to continue in the sport.
“I have said numerous times and after several fights over the past two years that I might not fight again. At the same time, I loved competing and winning and also wanted to continue my career for the fans, knowing they were there for me and enjoyed watching me fight.’’
Yet neither a brilliant career in full bloom, or an unbeaten record of 39-0 or his status as the universally recognized pound-for-pound best fighter on earth were enough to convince Floyd Mayweather, Jr. to put himself in what would surely have become a demeaning daily debate with a man he has been forced to accept is his biological father but a father by no other measuring stick.
The pain that must cause, the sadness that has forced him to endure, has sucked much of the joy out of boxing for a kid who once seemed to love the sport so. He probably still does love it deep down, which is why he will be back in a year or two or a month or two or maybe even a decade or two if he’s like George Foreman.
What is sure is one day Floyd Mayweather, Jr. will be back. What is sad is that he ever had to leave. And what is damn near criminal is what his father was willing to do for money.
Not even a boy tough enough to win world titles in five different weight classes could stomach the thought of that.
Tags: Fight Predictions & Analysis · Boxing
By Ron Borges
After nearly four months of speculation about the videotaping practices of the New England Patriots, former team videographer Matt Walsh came to New York Tuesday and told NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell what he already knew.
Goodell said the eight tapes Walsh supplied him and his more than three hours spent answering questions from Goodell convinced him what he believed last September remains the case. The Patriots cheated but not in Super Bowl XXXVI, which was a possibility neither Goodell nor anyone who loves pro football wanted to believe could be true.
Sporting events, unlike politics and big business, are supposed to be on the up and up. Those of us who pay them any attention do so in part because we believe it’s the one place in society where the playing field really is level. It’s a place where the best man or woman wins and so does the best team most of the time (although not in this year’s Super Bowl). So when allegations like those made in the Boston Herald last February that claimed the Patriots had taped a walkthrough before their first Super Bowl victory over the St. Louis Rams were particularly alarming.
Much more so, frankly, than their proven penchant for re-interpreting a very clear ban on filming opposing coaches’ offensive and defensive signals, although in my opinion that was bad enough because it so clearly violated both the letter and the spirit of the ban on such actions. Goodell reiterated after meeting with Walsh in his office in Manhattan that the Patriots were not only guilty of doing that for all of Bill Belichick’s tenure in New England but that they were also guilty of prevaricating when caught.
Following his meeting with Walsh, Goodell met with the media at the Intercontinental Hotel and told them Walsh had told him the Patriots knew the taping of signals was wrong, which contradicts Belichick’s head scratching contention that he’d misinterpreted the rules and believed he wasn’t breaking them as long as he didn’t use the footage during the game in which it as collected.
Surprisingly, Goodell was clear about his thoughts on that when he said, “It was very clearly known, at least by Matt — he believed and stated — that he had to be careful that no one discovered what he was doing. He was cautious about when and how. There were certain places where he didn’t get access, because (opposing teams) weren’t going to let another camera up there.
“They were well aware of the fact that this was something that shouldn’t be done…I think I’m pretty well on the record that I didn’t accept Bill Belichick’s explanation for what happened, and I still don’t to this day.”
Having said that, the larger issue, which the Patriots have always denied, was proven false when Walsh declared to Goodell that he’d never videotaped the Rams’ walkthrough the day before Super Bowl XXXVI and had no knowledge of the existence of such a tape. Had he stopped there it would have been a sweeping victory for the NFL but this story never quite seems to end the way you’d like it to.
As Goodell was getting into his limo for the drive back to his office he remembered a small detail he thought it best for the league to get out before Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, with whom Walsh was scheduled to meet later in the day in Washington, did. He sent back league attorney Gregg Levy to inform the media of what they did not know, which was that Walsh was not only at the Rams’ walkthrough in Patriot gear but later talked to former New England wide receiver coach Brian Daboll about what he saw.
“Walsh was asked during the interview today whether after the walkthrough, anyone asked him about what he had seen,’’ Levy said. “He said, ‘Yes.’ He saw Brian Daboll, who I understand was an assistant coach for the Patriots…and Daboll asked him what he saw. Walsh said two things – one, he had seen Marshall Faulk in a formation to receive a kickoff or a punt, and he had been asked about offensive formations, particularly about the use of the right end.
“My understanding is that it not consistent with what we had learned prior to the interview, during the course of the investigation. At this point, it’s uncorroborated, but it is something the league is going to look into.’’
Why? If the Rams were stupid enough to let a Patriots employee wearing Patriots gear walk around their sidelines during a practice, even a walkthrough, then that’s their problem. No wonder Martz never won a Super Bowl despite having arguably the best offense in football at his disposal for several years after they did win it with Dick Vermeil as head coach and Martz as offensive coordinator.
Any chance Vermeil would have allowed Walsh to walk along the sidelines in Patriot gear while his team was practicing the day before the Super Bowl? Not unless there was no breath left in his body.
If Walsh’s story is true, and there’s no reason to believe otherwise, the league should be investigating whether or not Mike Martz is insane rather than whether or not Walsh did what anybody else working for an opponent would have done in that circumstance – which was tell his team what he saw.
These guys ban media members from everything but stretching for fear secrets will leak out. They send security people into hotel rooms that might overlook a foreign practice field. Then they allow an employee of their opponent to walk the sidelines during a walkthrough the day before the biggest game of the year? Not only does that confirm for me the Patriots’ elaborate taping practices were not widespread, it establishes for me that some of these guys running a football team couldn’t run out for lunch.
Goodell was questioned on his opinion of how wide-spread videotape espionage like the Patriots’ operation was around the league. This was an interesting question because it has been widely argued among Patriot fans that “everybody’s doing it.’’ Not in Goodell’s opinion.
“I think it’s very limited in its practice,’’ Goodell said flatly.
Gladly it was apparently so limited it was non-existent the day before Super Bowl XXXVI.
Let us hope we can now all get back to the real games. The ones we grew up loving. The reason we watch and care, which are the games played not in video rooms and in back offices late at night by the likes of the mysterious Ernie Adams but the ones between the white lines.
The only ones, thankfully, that still count.
Tags: Rants & Raves · Football
Only weeks after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell voiced his growing displeasure at the length of time it was taking to come to an agreement with Spygate whistle blower Matt Walsh, a deal was finally reached this week and on May 13 Walsh will at last tell Goodell what he knows, or thinks he knows, about how the Patriots have done their business during the creation of the first pro football dynasty of the new Millennium.
The Patriots issued a prepared statement that they were “pleased’’ Walsh was finally coming forward. There is no truth to the rumor it was written by Pinocchio but it was like saying they’d pleased to get an audit letter from the IRS so they could straighten out a misconception or two about their finances.
As for Goodell, he’s about as “pleased’’ that Walsh is stirring up this unsavory mess once again as he was having to lift a No. 1 draft pick from a team owned by not only one of his benefactors during his battle to win the job from retiring Paul Tagliabue but also one of the men who sits on the committee that decides his compensation package.
But there is no getting around this now, neither by the Patriots, the NFL or Walsh, who has hinted about the dark deeds he claims to have knowledge of during his employment in New England’s video and personnel departments without having yet made a single public charge.
Goodell would like nothing better than to be able to come out of that meeting saying, “Nothing new here, folks’’ and moving on but unless that is truly the case he will not find that as easy as he found it destroying the original videos confiscated from the Patriots’ film archives of opposing team’s defensive signals.
He made that clear when he told a collection of sports editors from around the country that if Walsh indeed had a tape of the St. Louis Rams walk-through practice the day before Super Bowl XXXVI someone’s head would roll and it would not be his or Walsh’s.
That statement surprised some but he said it (though he’s praying he won’t have to back it up) because he knows he will be closely watched by Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter as well as by many NFL teams who have something less than charitable feelings toward the Patriots in general and head coach Bill Belichick in particular.
Walsh is already schedule to fly to Washington and meet with Specter and his investigators after he meets with Goodell in New York so any thought of a cover-up, if one is necessary, is all but impossible now.
But what may prove to be more important than it originally appeared was a passing reference to “alleged audio taping’’ Walsh may have done of his one-time boss, Patriots’ personnel guru Scott Pioli. Oddly, it was Pioli himself who first made knowledge of these taped phone conversations public when he went on the offensive with the Boston Globe a month or so ago, claiming Walsh was fired for illegally and surreptitiously tape recording one or more of his conversations.
Beyond the fact it’s illegal in Massachusetts to tape a conversation without the prior agreement of both sides, not much has been made of this yet but the fact the indemnification agreement specifically spoke to that issue and seemed to offer protection to Walsh from the Patriots or the league going after him for doing so (which by the way probably doesn’t protect him from the state going after him) it makes you wonder what might have been said that shouldn’t have been said.
The botched manner in which Pioli and the Patriots tried to pressure Deion Branch into firing his agent as a requirement for signing a new deal is the reason New England had to agree to trade him to Seattle because had they not they would have lost in arbitration and also been subject to forced depositions that could have been embarrassing to them and at least one of Branch’s teammates. If that’s any example of how Pioli does his business who knows what Walsh might have on tape?
None of that has anything to do with illegal video taping of the kind alleged in the Boston Herald on the eve of last February’s Super Bowl however, when the paper reported a source claiming the Patriots had illegally taped a final walk through practice of the St. Louis Rams the day before Super Bowl XXXVI. Some NFL observers believe such a tape exists and Walsh shot it. The Patriots have tried to cover themselves in all ways, saying it was never shot and then saying, well, if it was we had nothing to do with it. So which was it? It never existed or Walsh did it but we never asked him to?
Those are two of many questions Walsh will hopefully finally shed some light on. Whether any of this becomes public will be up to Goodell, Walsh, Specter and the truth, although the latter is too often the least important of the factors that go into such matters.
Case in point: Goodell and the NFL claimed to be outraged that a snippet of the video of Jets’ defensive coaches’ hand signals ended up in the hands of FOX-TV’s Jay Glazer. Later we find out all the tapes were destroyed in Foxborough and never even brought back to the commissioner’s office by two of Goodell’s henchmen.
If so, then who could have leaked the tape to Fox? It would seem difficult to conclude it was anyone but the people claiming to be outraged. If you find this difficult to believe, remember Pres. Bush pounding the podium about how he was going to find out who leaked the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame to the media. Who’d it turn out to be? His own vice-president’s hand maiden, Scooter Libby.
So it goes in any high stakes business. The truth gets perverted and twisted beyond recognition. Whatever the truth is in this case that could certainly happen once again but Roger Goodell no longer has certain options formally available to him.
First, there’s no destroying the evidence this time per the agreement with Walsh, whose attorney gets to keep copies of some of the items Walsh will provide and access to the rest.
Second, everyone is watching now and many people with a very skeptical eye toward the way Goodell does his business.
Third, unless Matt Walsh is a suicidal maniac he at least believes he has something more damning about the Patriots’ past practices than what has already come out. If he does, nothing will keep the lid on that bottle for long.
Hopefully, regardless of how it ends, this is the final stage of what has been a sad circumstance in which players and an organization that has achieved so much have been left tainted by their own actions and the innuendo of a former employee.
By Ron Borges
The Patriots, like half the teams in the top portion of Saturday’s first round of the NFL draft, would like to do one thing when their name is called. They’d like to not answer. And not make a pick.
New England may be one team that can do it.
Selecting seventh, the Patriots have possible trade partners in New Orleans and Carolina and could even try to bluff the Ravens into thinking they’ll take Matt Ryan ahead of them when Baltimore is desperately in need of a quarterback and get something done there. But the Saints and Panthers scenarios are the most likely and each hinges to a great extent on whether Sedrick Ellis or one of the three top defensive end prospects are still around when New England selects.
If they are, the Saints would love to make a move up for Ellis even though they’d rather have Glenn Dorsey. If for some reason Dorsey slides all the way to New England (which I doubt) they will surely make a deal because as good a player as he is he doesn’t fit the requirements of the 3-4 front down lineman Bill Belichick demands but he will command a hefty price for New Orleans, who desperately wants the local product from LSU.
The Panthers need a defensive end they think can get to the passer. Their top three at the position, according to someone in the organization, are Chris Long, Vernon Gholston and Derrick Harvey. If one of them is still standing when New England selects the Saints will be tempted to make a call and the Patriots will surely listen because they believe the value picks will be gone if you’re selecting at No. 7 by then…with one exception..
In the end though, I think New England does what it usually does early in the draft – which is stand its ground and make a pick as long as Ellis is on the board. With offensive tackle Jake Long going to Miami, Dorsey to the Rams, Chris Long to the Falcons, running back Darren McFadden to Oakland and offensive tackle Brandon Albert to the Chiefs (who might also negotiate a deal with the Saints to allow New Orleans to get up and grab Ellis ahead of New England if they can), that puts the hated Jets on the clock and they would sorely have loved to select McFadden but in this scenario he’s gone so they opt for one of two players – quarterback Matt Ryan if head coach Eric Mangini and GM Mike Tannenbaum believe they’re on safe ground or Gholston, about whom there is a split opinion, if they’re not.
One scout I talked with this week called Gholston “the most overrated guy in the first round.’’ Others say he could be a star. Such divergent opinion is what makes the draft interesting and also difficult and dangerous for the guys overpaid to make those determinations.
With Dewayne Robertson having been traded away the jets could also use Ellis but the word is their debate is over Ryan to come up with a quarterback for the not-to-distant future, Gholston or USC linebacker Keith Rivers, who is a very solid guy and a very solid pick according to all reports.
Let’s give the Jets Ryan however to put the Patriots on the clock. In this scenario Sedrick Ellis is still available and the Saints are surely calling. Harvey and Gholston are also still available, which is why the Panthers aren’t. So do they deal out to move back to No. 10 and pick up a later additional pick if possible and maybe someone like Rivers, w ho in the end may be better than everyone taken ahead of him, or do they hold firm?
The bet here is they hold and take defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. He becomes insurance down the road if Vince Wilfork becomes a contractual problem or eats himself out of the league and he offers some insurance in case Richard Seymour’s knee doesn’t fully respond to treatment.
On a team that needs help at inside linebacker, outside linebacker, cornerback and offensive tackle it might seem an odd choice but a solid front is the key to the Patriots’ 3-4 success and adding Sedrick Ellis makes them stronger in the most critical area – up front. Most importantly, he’s the best value left.
Unless, of course, when all is said and done linebacker Keith Rivers, bear in the weight room and solid citizen, ends up proving USC did the right thing when they let him wear the same number once sported by Junior Seau and Willie McGinest.
Tags: Game Predictions & Analysis · Football
By Ron Borges
Anybody still scratching their head as to why New England Patriots former assistant videographer/personnel department gofer Matt Walsh has been so insistent on receiving air-tight protection from being sued by his former employer before coming forward with whatever he knows or doesn’t know about Bill Belichick’s mastery of the surreptitious uses of film and audio in the NFL need only read Monday’s Boston Herald to clear up the confusion.
In the Herald’s business section is a story about how one of the richest organizations in professional sports is suing a former ticket holder for $54,000, the difference between what a lower court awarded it after Boston Finance Committee member Paul Minihane tried to get out of the 10-year-contract he signed in 2002 for two premium seats at Gillette Stadium.
According to the story, Minihan put down $7,500, one tenth of the $75,000 10-year cost, to buy two premium seats at $3,750 each per season. With them came priviledged parking spaces, the right to purchase Super Bowl tickets and year-round access to Gillette’s function rooms as well as other perks.
According to the Patriots, after one season Minihan stopped paying and they now are trying to collect the full amount, even though the tickets could be re-sold to the next name on what they have long claimed to be a waiting list of over 50,000 people. A lower court ruled that Minihan owed them $6,000 and allowed the Patriots to keep his $7,500 deposit, meaning they would have been paid for two seasons plus have received a $6000 vig for their trouble.
This did not satisfy them however so they are appealing to the state Supreme Judicial Court in a case that will be argued today. Minihan argued and a Superior Court judge agreed that the Patriots were not damaged to the tune of $75,000 and should just take the $13,500 award and sell Minihan’s tickets to someone else. With the size of their waiting list that would seem to have been far easier and cheaper than dragging this poor sap through the court of appeals trying to argue a technicality of contract law.
But, as Matt Walsh knows, the field is not the only place where the Patriots play hardball. This is the same team that charges $50 for a baby being carried into the stadium in one of those front loading baby sacks, the only professional team in Boston to charge for a child under three. Airlines, you might know, will never be confused with philanthropists but they too don’t charge for infants unless they occupy a seat either.
If the management of the Patriots is willing to drag an disgruntled former customer in front of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court over $54,000 which they could have easily gotten back from the next name on the list (assuming all that talk of a list is true) while also getting over two years of payments from Minihan for one season of tickets what would they be willing to try and do to a whistle blower threatening to hurt their reputation for real?
Matt Walsh doesn’t know but he doesn’t want to take a chance to find out. Paul Minihan probably fully understands why.
By Ron Borges
Give credit to Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick. They stood up for themselves this week in Florida and also stood up for the good of the game that has made them both famous.
When the Patriots’ owner and his head coach rose at the annual NFL owners’ meetings in Palm Beach, FL. and apologized to their peers for their roles in creating an embarrassing situation for the league with Cameragate they did the right thing. Regardless of whether or not they believe they have been unfairly treated by the media or the league, they put their game, which is also America’s game, ahead of themselves.
Belichick continued to insist he didn’t know the gun was loaded, still claiming he misinterpreted the rule in question even though a memo from NFL Vice-President Ray Anderson in 2006 couldn’t have been misinterpreted by a moron, which the HC of the NEP is not, because it was written in a way as to provide coaches no wiggle room on the subject of filming opposing team’s signals from the sidelines. But that is a small thing. The larger issue is that he did what had to be done, which was acknowledge his role in an incident that not only embarrassed his owner, his players and his game, but also put their legacy, and his own, in jeopardy.
Belichick may still feel he needs to pick this nit because he feels he wasn’t doing anything that hadn’t been done before but the larger fact is he rose in a room full of his peers, as did Kraft, and told them he made a mistake, which could not have been easy. He told them he should have checked with Anderson about the rule and if he had he would not have done what he did. So be it.
Kraft, who had nothing to do with this except to own the train when the wreck happened, gave an impassioned speech by all accounts about his love for the game and the importance of maintaining its integrity. More importantly, he expressed his own remorse and embarrassment over his team’s actions in illegally filming the New York Jets’ defensive signals last September and assured nothing like that would happen again.
Their words so moved the other coaches and owners present that one of their chief rivals, Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jimmy Irsay, said, “You can’t keep punishing someone over and over. To me they showed class. It was unsolicited and certainly heartfelt.’’
It was also the right thing to do, as was their strong insistence the past few days that no one from their organization ever ordered filming of the St. Louis Rams’ Super Bowl XXXVI walkthrough practice the day before the game or watched it if such a tape exists.
Kraft was adamant that former videographer Matt Walsh was never asked to sign a confidentiality agreement after he was fired and that he should come forward with whatever information he thinks he has about past practices by the Patriots. Clearly Kraft believes there is nothing new in whatever Walsh might say or possess and he forcefully made that clear. Right or wrong, good for him.
Belichick did the same, reiterating at the annual breakfast with the media on Tuesday morning what he told the Globe’s Mike Reiss a month ago, which was that he never ordered such a taping to occur nor did he ever watch tape of an opponents practice in his 34 years as a coach. You can’t get much more definitive than that. If something else comes out to contradict him, Belichick left himself only marginal wiggle room.
Now the ball is in the court of Walsh, who Commissioner Roger Goodell’s attorneys continue to negotiate with over an agreement that would allow him to tell what he knows while not opening himself up to legal risk.
Many have criticized the length of time this has taken and argued that if Walsh had any more damaging information it would have appeared by now. Kraft made that case emphatically this week and perhaps he’s right.
Then again, the history of what befalls whistleblowers in America is a sordid one. Most end up broke and broken, their reputations and their finances in tatters. That Walsh and his attorney, Michael Levy, are seeking to avoid that fate is hardly duplicitous. It’s smart business.
Yet one can also understand Goodell’s peevishness over the pace of these negotiations. As he stated Tuesday, “At some point I will run out of patience.’’ This is both fair and true but so too are Walsh’s concerns if he in fact has anything of real import to add to the situation.
League laywer Jeff Pash followed Goodell’s comments by saying in a more conciliatory way, “We’re having a good dialogue. We’re making progress. Walsh feels he’s in uncharted waters and wants to feel comfortable when he comes forward.’’
Protecting himself from liability is one thing, waiting until he feels “comfortable’’ is quite another because in a situation like this Matt Walsh is never going to feel comfortable. He has challenged the character of the most successful team in the most successful sports league in America, hinting that he has some deep, dark secret to tell.
Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick obviously believe otherwise, as they made clear this week, but they also showed an understanding that what had already happened was bad enough. It required they do a difficult thing and they did it in front of their peers. They apologized for the embarrassment the entire incident caused the NFL. For that they deserve much credit.
As for Matt Walsh, it’s time for him to do a difficult thing as well – apologize for popping off in the first place and end this matter for good or come forward and tell what he knows.
By Ron Borges
After a predictable start, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament went berserk, which is why they call it March Madness, isn’t it? Whether the “madness’’ relates to so many incredibly close games and the annual string of upsets or to the ire of people tearing up their brackets from coast to coast is debatable but either way it creates perhaps the most exciting three weekends in college sports.
Why the idiots who run NCAA Division 1 football haven’t yet figured out what a similar set of showdowns would do for the college game is beyond the capability of anyone but a CPA to understand because, let’s face it, it’s always about the money so they must figure they’re making more at the Meineke-FritoLay-UPS Potato Bowl game than they’;d get from a potential national championship series.
Yet that’s impossible to believe when one thinks of the hysteria a college “Super Bowl’’ game would engender, not to mention the sponsorship money for a month’s worth of bowls leading up to it. That is, by the way, a large part of what fuels the hysteria engendered by the Road to the Final Four, as those endless ads prove at every time out.
The more interesting point is that road turned bumpy by the weekend with Davidson overcoming a 17-point deficit to send highly-regarded Georgetown packing on a weekend that also saw Drake and Marquette beaten in overtime and Duke, Vanderbilt, U.S.C. and UConn upset as well. What that has wrought on my bracket is not a Sweet Sixteen but a Tremulous Ten. Only problem there is that left me with only one team standing in the Midwest Regional. Fortunately that team is Kansas, so let’s save some time and put them in my Elite Eight and then take a look around at what else is left.
My bracket came up perfect in the East with North Carolina vs. Washington State and Tennessee vs. Louisville and in the South I hit on three quarters of the bracket with Memphis, Stanford and Texas all still alive.
The West was a 50 per cent survival rate but only barely as UCLA dodged a bullet against Texas A&M while Xavier had an easier road to the Sweet 16 and now a showdown with Bob Huggins’ West Virginia team. Had I gone with my gut instinct, which was to take the Mountaineers over Duke, things would be much better bracketwise but, alas, I blinked and so did the Blue Devils. So it goes.
So here are my 10 remaining teams in the Sweet 16 as well as which ones move on to the Elite Eight and then, finally, on to the Final Four two weekend’s hence in San Antonio, the town that did in Daniel Boone, Sam Houston and more than a few other American heroes at the Alamo.
DEAD MEN (VILLANOVA BUT I HAD VANDY)
DEADMEN (WISCONSIN WHEN I HAD USC)
DEAD MEN (DAVIDISON WHEN I HAD GEORGETOWN)
The upside of this situation is it takes it a no brainer to pick Kansas to reach the Final Four since I have no other horse in the race.
DEAD MEN (I went for Pitt’s tough defense and they were slapped around by Michigan State, which isn’t all that much of an upset. More of a difference of opinion.)
DEAD MEN (I tipped Drake but they couldn’t even get out of the first round against this year’s pending Cinderfellas, the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky. Go Jim McDaniels!).
DEAD MEN (This is the one that hurts as the urge was there to take West Virginia over Duke but the resolve was not. One pays dearly for being faint of heart this time of year).
So who gets to the Elite Eight?
NORTH CAROLINA AND TENNESSEE, which makes for a marvelous Regional final showdown between two teams that have already butted heads. The near loss to Butler was the kind of warning shot the Volunteers needed to avoid being run out of the building by Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals. North Carolina is facing a tough team in fourth-seeded Washington State (how about that 1,2,3,4 seeds in the East survive the first weekend?) but not tough enough to send the Tar Heels back to Tobacco Road.
KANSAS AND DAVIDSON - : Thus ends a near-Cinderfella run to the Final Four for a Davidson team powered by one kid, Stephen Curry, who had 70 points in his first two tournament games with 52 of them coming in the second half. That’s clutch shooting from the son of former NBA jump shooter Dell Curry. He may shoot the lights out again but he won’t shoot Kansas out of the tournament.
MEMPHIS AND TEXAS – This was another well-seeded bracket with the 1, 2, 3 and 5 teams surviving to the final regional weekend. Memphis and Texas (1 and 2) should be a tremendous showdown and a great test for John Calipari’s team in the Regional final. Memphis makes me nervous in two areas – any time they’re on defense and nearly any time they’re at the foul line. Worse, they have to get by a tough Michigan State team first that beat in Pitt a team that plays a style similar to Memphis State’s approach to the game. Texas is also in tough against Stanford and the Lopez twins but their size, speed and the fact they’re playing a lot closer to home in Houston makes me think the Trees will wither.
UCLA AND XAVIER – Since I don’t have Western Kentucky or West Virginia still alive there’s no other direction to take. Both UCLA and Xavier are reasonable expectations for the Elite Eight. This is especially true of UCLA because of the way it plays defense, which is the end of the floor that seldom fails you and is easier to maintain.
So then what?
MEMPHIS VS. UCLA
KANSAS VS. NORTH CAROLINA.
That’s an incredible four No. 1 seeds surviving all the way from the start of the tournament to the semi-final round. Could Texas, Stanford, Michigan State, West Virginia, Tennessee or Louisville change all that? Yes. Will they? Nobody really knows, which is why it’s March madness to get involved in making these selections in the first place.
Then again, it’s fun too which is what we sometimes forget sports is supposed to be even when it’s also a multi-million dollar business like the Road to the Final Four.
By Ron Borges
With interest in boxing again on the rise everywhere but in the heavyweight division and in the pages of dying newspapers around the country, we will begin a new monthly rating of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.
The mythical pound-for-pound championship has long been seen as a noteworthy debate, because it allows fight fans to argue based on ability and not merely the luck of genetic makeup. Bigger is not necessarily better in boxing, although there’s no featherweight on earth who could stand in there for long against even a limited heavyweight like Samuel Peter. So, yes, size does matter in boxing.
But size does not mean you’re the best performer, as the 10 guys below have made clear. Send along your top 10 if you’d like and let the debating begin.
- Floyd Mayweather (39-0, 25 KO) – Mayweather may not be the most exciting fighter in the world but he is its most skilled. Presently a reigning welterweight champion, Mayweather is at the moment in the wrestling business but he’ll get back to his real job in September when he squares off with Oscar De La Hoya in a rematch. The first fight was a close one. The second will be as well and if De La Hoya can be convinced to work the entire fight with his jab, it could be Mayweather’s undoing. Until that happens, he’s the best.
- Manny Pacquiao (45-3-2, 34 KO) – Pac-Man just won a hotly disputed split decision over Juan Manuel Marquez in a rematch of their 2004 draw so there’s not much to pick between them. Having said that, Pacquiao has heavier hands, is younger, dropped Marquez in both fights and is the most dangerous little big man in boxing.
- Joe Calzaghe (44-0, 32 KO) – The undisputed super middleweight champion moves up to 175 to challenge old warrior Bernard Hopkins next month in what will be his American coming out party or a nightmare. A craft southpaw, Calzaghe is not a big puncher but he wears you down with his consistency and his punch rate. Hopkins is in for a busier night than he’s used to.
- Juan Manuel Marquez (48-3-1, 35 KO) – Although he wasn’t given the close decision I felt he earned over Pacquiao (114-113 despite being knocked down once), Marquez remains at the top of the list of top fighters. His technical proficiency and his ability to always be in control of himself even under duress are amazing to watch.
- Miguel Cotto (31-0, 25 KO) – This is the big punching welterweight champion we’d all love to see Mayweather square off with. Perfect stylistic contrast between smooth boxer and fearsome though flawed puncher. Cotto gets hit too much but not yet by anyone who could stand up to what he throws back, which is what makes him intriguing. He’s also much improved defensively over two years ago.
- Chris John (41-0-1, 22 KO) – Boxing’s best kept secret. The WBA super featherweight champion needs to step out of the shadows and stop fighting all his matches in Asia, where few not devoted to YouTube ever see him. He out pointed Marquez a few years ago, which is saying much. Doesn’t bring the heat like Pacquiao or Marquez but the guy can BOX.
- Israel Vasquez (42-4, 32 KO) – Like Cotto, Vasquez is a flawed warrior, which is the kind we like best. He can fight on the inside, has awesome power for a super featherweight and couldn’t care less if he needs a blood transfusion. He comes to fight and he stays all night.
- Kelly Pavlik (32-0, 29 KO) – The Great White Hope showed in his rematch with Jermain Taylor that he’s more than just a puncher. He’s better defensively than people thought, has a great jab as well as concussive power and the ability to finish what he starts once he has you in trouble. He also gets hit, however, so that only adds to the drama when he’s in the ring because it’s not like he’s never been down before. It’s what he does after he gets up that makes him a fan favorite.
- Oscar De La Hoya (38-5, 30 KO) – De La Hoya has lost three of is last five fights in large part because in recent years he’s been a part-time fighter and full-time business man. He’s now the sport’s biggest and best promoter, owns a soccer team, is starting a bank and is both a real estate and media powerhouse. Yet the fact is his losses to Mayweather and Mosley were split decisions that could have gone either way and at least one, if not both, should have. He can still box when his mind is on that job and not writing his autobiography (out in June), signing a real estate development deal or distracted by some other part of his life. When he gets behind the jab and stays there, he can still beat down anybody from 147 to 154.
- Rafael Marquez (37-4, 33 KO) – Twice victimized by Vasquez, Juan Manuel’s little brother is still one of the top fighters in the world. The two of them are perfectly suited to pound on each other in ways that leave fight fans breathless. Frankly, who besides Vasquez could stand in with him? The list, if it exists at all, is a short one.
Tags: Fight Predictions & Analysis · Boxing
By Ron Borges
Sportswriters and fans never cease to amaze me. Troy Brown’s visit to the New York Jets last week reminded me of that once again.
Apparently based on nothing but air, some media folks in these parts assumed that, as one person put it, Brown “would not ever consider teams that would be slated to play the Patriots this season.’’ What was that based on?
A week later Troy Brown had run a down and out to Long Island to meet with the Jets, a logical choice actually based on his knowledge of Eric Mangini and many of his assistant coaches and the team’s proximity to his home in Massachusetts. Obviously, Brown would rather finish his career in New England but if he has been told to look elsewhere, as has been widely reported, why would he exclude anyone?
More to the point, why should he?
Loyalty anywhere but in professional sports is a two-way street. Brown has played admirably and courageously for 15 years in New England. He has done everything and anything he was asked and been well paid to do it. Fair deal. Loyalty had nothing to do with it.
But was it really necessary for Bill Belichick to leave him in street clothes for what may well have been the final two games of his career in New England? If Belichick had any thought that he would not bring Brown back in 2008 – and since he thinks of everything months ahead of everyone else on the planet except for the proper use of a video camera one has to assume he at least had an inkling of what was coming for Troy Brown. So would it really have been too much to ask to dress the guy for the Super Bowl?
Spare me the nonsensical “doing what’s best for the team’’ jive. There is nothing Troy Brown would do on a football field, or in the locker room or on the practice field, which would not be good for his team. Anyone who tries to argue otherwise is an idiot in all capital letters.
Belichick has the right to make whatever personnel decisions he wants but after not being allowed to dress for what likely was to be his final game as a Patriot just why should Brown then exclude any potential future employer? Out of past kindnesses? What past kindnesses?
Having not spoken with Brown for a while I have no idea if he will end up with the Jets, or Bill Parcells’ Miami Dolphins (who could surely use his character and locker room presence as well as his still evident, though slipping, abilities) or elsewhere or back in Foxborough or out of football all together. If he’s not going to play for the Patriots the Jets certainly would seem a smart choice because it’s a short train ride or car ride from home and he knows well what they are trying to do offensively.
Seeing Brown in Jets’ colors would be stomach curdling for Patriots’ fans and understandably so except for one thing – his team not only has told him it has no use for him but chose to deny him one last chance to wear their uniform in the biggest game of the year. If you think that’s sentimental, it’s because it is. So what? It’s not like one is advocating benching Randy Moss (not that it would have mattered the way he disappeared in the playoffs) in favor of Troy Brown. What we’re talking about is letting the guy stand with his teammates for one more National Anthem in the nation’s biggest football game of the year.
The message from all this should be clear to fans, media types and players alike. It’s the same message that has been coming out of Foxborough for over seven years now and it’s simple to understand: You want to find loyalty buy a dog or a dictionary because that’s the only place you’re going to find it these parts.
All sides of the sporting equation should understand this by now, which only makes reports speculating that a long-time fan favorite like Brown would not consider playing for one of his former employer’s rivals is absurd and nonsensical. Any athlete unwilling to explore all his options in this day and age will soon find himself out of them.
And out of the league.
Tags: Game Predictions & Analysis · Football