A Blizzard in Super Bowl XLVIII Would Be a Big Win for Football

What were you doing when you were seven years old? Video games? Cartoons? Playing outside with your neighborhood contemporaries?

I loved video games, probably a little too much. But every year, New Jersey treated us to its seemingly annual blizzard. Homework got pushed back a day or two, and everyone knew how they would substitute their school day.

Football.

Football was a run-of-the-mill option on regular days. Throw it in the rotation with basketball, tennis racket baseball, skateboarding, man hunt.

But when it snowed, everyone reported to the Common Ground.

It’s like playing football on a Tempurpedic Mattress. Every catch was a diving attempt, the trusty double-reverse hail mary was out of the arsenal because no one could hold onto the ball, and you actually considered punting.

Snow adds that extra dimension – to any sport. It has given us some of the best games of all time:

Snowplow game, Dolphins/Patriots, December 12, 1982 (wiki)

Conditions were so poor for this game, work release inmates were asked to plow the 10, 20, etc. yard markers for officials. Inmate and Patriots fan Mark Henderson decides to clear the spot from where the Patriots kicked the eventual game-winning field goal. The fourth-quarter score accounted for the only points of the sloppy contest.

2008 Winter Classic, Penguins/Sabres, January 1st, 2008 (wiki)

During blizzard-like conditions, the puck wouldn’t slide and players looked like they were first learning how to skate. The Penguins won in a shootout.

Yankees 1996 Home Opener, Royals/Yankees, April 9, 1996 (box score)
A mundane 7-3 Yankees win became a Yankees Classic when snow fell for much of the mid-April day. The Royals committed four errors in Derek Jeter’s first Home Opener.

Snow adds an extra dimension. The playing field becomes level. That’s why I enjoy watching the pro-bowl. I don’t care it’s not “real football.” It’s entertaining. It’s different.

The main premise of this post is the excitement of the potentially unexpected and never seen is desirable enough to push aside the potential damage of the weather’s byproduct implications.

The opposition argument is certainly sound – how can you let an unpredictable force play a crucial role in perhaps sports’ biggest annual game? If you’re a fan of an elite team, I understand. But for the other 93% of fans who won’t be represented, I think a blizzard would be fun to see.

As a 2013 Giants fan, I won’t have to worry about that 7%.

Jason Kidd is the most important player on the Knicks

He’s going to play 20 minutes a game. He’s slow. He’s old.

Entering his 19th season, Jason Kidd has never averaged more than 20 points per game. The Knicks backup point guard has averaged 10 assists per game in only three seasons, and never more than 11.

His lifetime three-point percentage sits under 35%.

And he’s the most important player on the New York Knicks.

Lost in translation three paragraphs up is Kidd’s longevity – 19 seasons in any job conveys you’re doing something right. The NBA’s #3 all-time leader in triple doubles, Kidd’s wisdom, pass first mentality, leadership, and desire to teach will turn the mediocre Knicks into eastern conference champion contenders.

Before Jeremy Lin signed with the Rockets but after Kidd joined the Knicks, Kidd said this:

“To have a chance to mentor a very good player in Jeremy — be able to share my secrets or what I’ve learned in my 18 years — for him hopefully to take it to another level, it’s something I look forward to doing,” Kidd said. Here’s the article.

I can be the best professor east of the Mississippi, but if I don’t want to teach students, then I’m just as valuable as your sixth grade substitute English teacher.

Even though Lin is no longer in New York, Kidd showed his itch to teach. In his twilight years, Kidd wants to leave his mark on the game.

What better team to fix?

Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, while both seething with talent, don’t work well together. Based on conjecture and watching Knicks basketball, their games do not mesh, they lack chemistry, and both want to be “the guy.”

A veteran like Kidd won’t hesitate to tell Stoudemire or Anthony what they’re doing wrong, and they’ll listen due to Kidd’s résumé.

Last year, Baron Davis and Jared Jeffries were the only Knicks with more NBA experience than Melo. Jeffries is a careeer-long defensive specialist and Davis failed to convince me he played for more than the money.

On the court, who was there to tell Melo to shut up?

On paper, last year’s Knicks translated into a team better than a 36-30 record and first-round exit. I felt their #1 problem was a lack of fluidity and chemistry.

But this year, and even as you read this as the Knicks prepare for Philly tonight, Kidd is revamping mindsets and relationships. As point guard and player/coach, Anthony and Stoudemire will have no choice but to play Kidd’s game, one that is 19 years wise and emphasizes passing and locating the open man.

Starting with Allen Iverson around 1999, we fell in love with the score-first point guard. The theory is now in its 14th (or so) straight year of failure. Here are the point guards (including career ppg) that have won championships the last decade:

Dwyane Wade ……………………………………………………………………………….. 25.2 ppg Jason Kidd …………………………………………………………………………………….. 13.0 ppg
Derek Fisher …………………………………………………………………………………… 8.6 ppg
Rajon Rondo ………………………………………………………………………………….. 10.8 ppg
Tony Parker ………………………………………………………………………………….. 16.8 ppg Chauncey Billups ………………………………………………………………….,……….. 15.5 ppg

Here are ones that haven’t:
Carmelo Anthony (They experimented with him at PG last year) ……….. 24.7 ppg
Allen Iverson…………………………………………………………………………………. 26.7 ppg
Chris Paul …………………………………………………………………………………….. 18.8 ppg
Stephon Marbury ………………………………………………………………………….. 19.3 ppg
Tracy McGrady ……………………………………………………………………………… 19.6 ppg

With Kidd’s decision making not diluted with the hotts for 40-point games, he understands a winning team requires an unselfish, pass-first mentality.

That’s why the Knicks won with Jeremy Lin. Ironically, Lin was putting up 25-30 point games, but his passing glued the Knicks into a cohesive unit, not five stations at one carnival.

With veterans Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby, and Rasheed Wallace here to side with “Jason Kidd basketball,” maybe Anthony and Stoudemire will get the hefty serving of humble pie they desperately needed last year.

Assuming half the team doesn’t retire to Florida before the end of the season, the Knicks’ leadership, talent, deep bench, and confidence will engineer the most wins of any Knicks team since their 57-25 season in 1996-97.

Flopping is Good for the NBA

Dwyane Wade’s superhuman right arm mauls Chris Paul to the floor. What strength!

When I was good at basketball way back in middle school I remember my opponent charging down the lane. I was ready for the contact and when he reached me, I flopped. He stopped in time, but the trailing ref gave me the call.

You know the feeling when you tease your little sibling and they retaliate, but they get in trouble, not you?

— Or for the less fortunate, remember the feeling your older sibling got when it was vice-versa?

I felt I deserved the reward because I outsmarted the referee.

Starting this season, the NBA is looking to issue fines or other penalties for “flopping.” In layman’s terms, if I force you to fall over, okay, but don’t pretend the Hulk threw you from the three-point line to the elbow.

I get it, but I’m not a fan of these penalties. Flopping is part of the game.
(Here’s my favorite flop of all time. Skip to :20)

If 5-5, 135 lb. Earl Boykins is charging into the lane, and there’s 6-11, 240 lb. Dwight Howard ready to take the charge, is it flopping if Howard falls over to get the call? Boykins could hit Howard at 10 miles an hour and he may not budge.

**I was curious about this, so my inner nerd did the math: Essentially, if an equal-weight human barreled into Howard at just under six mph, he would probably fall, but you get the point.

Where’s the line drawn?

Howard will want to “flop” to convey the contact denotes a foul, but when should he get fined for doing so?

I think the league is going to have a lot on their plate if this rule is added to the game. Professional players who have sold fouls their whole life now need to change a deeply embedded basketball mindset, forcing them to think, not react.

I would be mad if I’m Dwyane Wade. Flopping is an art, and he’s good at it.

I feel this should be Wade’s stance on flopping: “I’m going to flop. If I get the call, great, if not, then my defender has extra room to work with.”

Why not tell the refs to swallow their whistle more often?

Watch a mid-90s contest between the Bulls and Miami Heat, or Knicks and Pacers. There was much more contact and what I think was a better game.

Granted, with the violence byproduct and today’s emphasis on safety, we won’t see that style of basketball anytime soon. But watch Scottie Pippen and Charles Oakley fight for rebounds and tell me you’re not entertained. I digress.

If the NBA implements penalties, I would hope all flops be reviewed following the game, similar to how the NFL treats illegal hits. I don’t think a majority of fans want a flop to count as a technical foul.

I can’t officially make the argument “These new rules are bad for the NBA” because the flopping rules are still being tweaked, but if the NBA implements a flop-free game, it will cause more problems than it solves.

Kobe Bryant’s Class Gives Kevin Durant Scoring Title

In 1941, Boston Red Sox’ Ted Williams went into the final day of baseball’s regular season batting exactly .400. While he could’ve sat out – Boston was 17 games back of the first place Yankees, Williams understood batting .400 wouldn’t mean as much if put himself before the team. Williams went a combined 6-8 in the doubleheader (Game 1 Game 2) – on his way to the .406 batting average we haven’t seen since.

According to this story on ESPN.com, Bryant will sit out in the final game of the season against the Sacramento Kings tonight, forfeiting a chance to take home his third career scoring title. He needed 38 points to beat out Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, who played their final game of the regular season last night.

Kobe had the chance to smack ESPN in the face tonight. By scoring 38, he makes an argument he’s the best player in the NBA, not the seventh best according to a preseason rank on NBA on ESPN. Remember, this comes in the same season he had to adjust to a coach not named Phil Jackson and a Scottie Pippen not named Derek Fisher. He has not let his basketball stardom fog his vision of another NBA title – basketball’s ultimate measuring stick.

In today’s story with ESPNLosAngeles, Kobe said, “It’s not a challenge for me to score 38 points, you know? … We know I can go out and score 38 points. The most important thing is sending the right message to the group which is putting a championship above all else. That means rest. That means letting other guys play. That means us getting ready for Sunday (for the playoff opener).”

Yeah…Kobe is exactly right. We do know he can go out and score 38 at whim. He’s the only player in the league that can say that without a backlash of pseudo-news and debate on Twitter. Let me know in the comments if you disagree. LeBron could say it and be truthful, but we love hating LeBron too much to let a comment like that slide.

While Kobe could use father time to school the younger Durant, he didn’t. He showed class. He conveyed he’s not bigger than the game. It was refreshing, and I think it reminded basketball fans how special Kobe is.

When we look back on Kobe’s career, there will be an unofficial asterisk next to Kobe’s amount of scoring titles. In a sports era where asterisks are associated with negativity, this asterisk will reiterate how special Kobe was.

“Yes son, Kobe only won three scoring titles way back when, but he could have had a fourth if he decided to play in the final game of that 2012 season.”

Remember when Jose Reyes voluntarily sat out of last season’s finale to ensure his batting title? Yes he won, but sports fans partner his batting title with, “Yes, but he sat out the last day of the season to ensure he would win,” communicating he put himself before the team.

Rest up Kobe. A third scoring title doesn’t look as impressive as a sixth championship.

Can New York City Own All Four Championships in 2012?

Probably not, but they have a solid chance to own 75% of them.

No United States city has won a championship in all four major sports in even the same decade. Granted, this is a tough task because only 12 cities house all four major sports. Can you name them?

– Oakland in the 1970s – the Raiders, Athletics, and Warriors won championships but the Golden Seals did not.
– Los Angeles in the 1980s – the Raiders, Dodgers, and Lakers won championships but the Kings did not.
– New York in the 1990s – the Rangers, Yankees, and Giants won championships but the Knicks did not.
– Boston in the 2000s – the Patriots, Red Sox, and Celtics won championships but the Bruins did not.

Boston nearly owned all four championships in a 365 day period from 2007-08. The Red Sox won in October 2007 and the Celtics in June 2008, but the Patriots were denied a perfect season by the New York Giants and the Bruins lost in the first round of the 2008 playoffs. Boston did walk away with a hockey championship in ’08 however – Boston College won the National Championship.

The New York Giants won 2012’s Super Bowl after dropping to 7-7 following a horrid loss to the Washington Redskins. Las Vegas odds said the Giants were 100:1 to win the Super Bowl after that loss according to my father. The Knicks are currently 25:1, but more on them later.

The Yankees always have a chance – just like Boston, Philly, or any team coached by Mike Scioscia, I’ll put the Yankees’ odds at 8:1. I strongly believe the Yankees will be one of the final eight playoff teams, so from there it’s anybody’s call.

Let’s say the Yankees stay healthy, click, and get a little bit of luck. They certainly can win the World Series.

The New York Rangers shocked the hockey world this season and established themselves as the best team in the east, arguably in the NHL. Vegas odds has them at 11:2.

8:1 x 11:2 = 44:1 odds (2.3%) New York owns at least three championships in 2012, which includes the Super Bowl Champion Giants.

The Knicks have been New York’s weakest link for the last ten years, but this year they almost have a chance to win it all. Unlike football, basketball is a seven game series and is arguably the most predictable of the four major sports. For the record, I don’t see them beating Chicago or Miami, but remember – the eighth seeded Knicks beat the first-seeded Heat in the first round in 1999. Advantage ’99 Knicks though because they beat the Heat in a then-best of five series.

Passing and playing aggressive defense has given me this slim glimmer of hope with a lot of luck the Knicks can go for a title. Mike Woodson coaches a winning system that emphasizes rebounding and defense rather than D’Antoni’s double shot of offense.

Carmelo Anthony needs to score and Amar’e Stoudemire needs to buy in to Mike Woodson’s system.

Carmelo vs. Durant in game six at The Garden? Nah probably not, but if the Rangers play like they have all year and the Yankees find a way to take home #28 in November, New York will breed a surplus of haters by the Mayan Apocalypse.

…the more the merrier.

Andrew Bynum is Not a Winner

The Lakers are a better team without Andrew Bynum. Their career 1-8 three-point shooting center has a lot of growing up to do.

With 16 seconds left on the shot clock in Tuesday’s game against the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum launched a three pointer from the top of the key. He missed by a mile and was benched about a minute later. (I think he would’ve been benched even if he made the shot.)

But making the blatantly poor decision did not bother me as much as his attitude following it. Listen to Bynum’s body language in Tuesday’s post-game interview:

Subjectively, he sounds nonchalant and conveys a care-free persona.

Objectively, Bynum’s response at the 1:06 mark troubles me. “Why did you shoot the three?”

“I made one last night and wanted to take another one.”

“I” wanted to take another one, so “I” did. Bynum indirectly admitted he is a selfish player at times (at best). Bynum knows he belongs nowhere near that three point line, yet consciously chucked it up anyway.

It shows immaturity and an individualistic mindset. It shows Andrew Bynum’s attitude is detrimental to the Lakers’ locker room. Unfortunately, I believe his decision to shoot the three was a way of saying, “Yanno coach…I really don’t care what you think.”

**In my opinion, the Kobe and the Lakers are fed up with head coach Mike Brown. In his defense, replacing arguably the greatest coach in basketball history plus inheriting a veteran franchise is not an easy task.

Still, Brown will catch a lot of heat. Bynum’s interview begs the question, “Coach, do you have control of the locker room (let alone Andrew Bynum)?” Mike D’Antoni didn’t.

Do Bynum’s seven-foot frame and above average basketball skills eclipse the negative baggage his attitude elicits? Yes, the Lakers won two championships with him, but as he gains seniority, will Bynum’s pro/con baggage tilt in the opposite direction? I think within a year or two it will. What is his “negative attitude ceiling?” It doesn’t help he can’t stay healthy.

The Lakers’ biggest win would have been to trade Bynum in a package deal for Orlando’s Dwight Howard, but that’s a rant for another day.

“Intangibles” is the most underrated stat in sports. We drown ourselves in numbers, but give me a stat for locker room presence. Does this individual catalyze or retard the team’s progress?

It’s the one stat the sports world is missing, but at least now I know where Bynum ranges in the category.

The Yankees Should Go Completely Unconventional

Welcome back Andy. New York loves you, and I would love to see you win with us…but you put us in a tough spot. We already have enough quality starters to fill a five-man rotation. Simply put, your presence makes things very difficult.

However, your signing opens the door to an unconventional strategy no American baseball team has used before:

Use a six-man rotation.

Here is a list of the Yankees’ potential starters listed by, in my opinion, likeliness to make the rotation. Let me know if you disagree:

CC Sabathia
Ivan Nova
Michael Pineda
Hiroki Kuroda
Andy Pettitte
Phil Hughes
Freddy Garcia

Traditionally, Major League clubs use five starting pitchers, meaning two of the aforementioned will be relegated to long-reliever (most team’s first pitcher cut) or the minor leagues.

Here’s why a six-man rotation would benefit the Yankees:

1) Extra Rest

With such emphasis on pitch count and pitcher conditioning, you give all starters an extra day off, thus decreasing the chance of injury. You can argue the extra day off leads to an increased chance of stiffness and muscle tears, but pitchers can always add an extra throw day to their workout.

2) Playoffs

You have more options when assembling a potential playoff rotation. The extra man also increases competition between hurlers, which may be what the Yankees need to put them over the hump come late in the season.

Also, Joe Girardi can certainly feel better about using a starter on three-days rest in the postseason because of the decreased innings pitched in the regular season. Again, this would conflict with pitchers’ routines, and going from six-days rest to three-days rest is a lot to ask. However, I still feel the greater positive lies in a six-man rotation. Professional pitchers can adjust.

3) Pitcher Confidence

You don’t have to relegate (most likely) Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia to long reliever roles, assuming they even make the team. A six-man rotation would avoid another hit to Phil Hughes’ dwindling confidence, who I believe would be the final starter in a six-man army.

This concept is not uncharted territory for the Bombers – the Yankees experimented with a six-man rotation toward the end of last year. A six-man rotation is the Japanese standard, so the Yankees can use those teams as a model. Potential starter Hiroki Kuroda pitched in Japan from 1997-2007. I couldn’t find validation online, but if the Hiroshima Toyo Carp used six starters during those years, it would bring Kuroda back to his roots.

Here’s where Yankees pitchers stand with two weeks left in spring training:

CC Sabathia – Ace of the staff, huge contract. He has a spot.

Ivan Nova – His 16-4 record was the best among Yankees pitchers in 2011. Is he the Yankees’ next ace? Until he shows he’s not… three left.

Michael Pineda – You can argue the Yankees can play the seniority card and have Pineda start in the minors, but that wouldn’t go over well with the fan base. Assuming he doesn’t blow up in the last weeks of spring training, he’ll have a spot in the rotation.

Hiroki Kuroda – I’m wondering if the Yankees are wishing they hadn’t signed Kuroda now that Pettitte is returning. Personally, I wasn’t crazy over the signing to begin with. He’ll be 37, he’s coming to the offensively-driven American League, and gave up 24 home runs last year – only eight to LCF or RCF according to Baseball-Reference. Important because Yankee Stadium is more concave than Dodger Stadium (Yankee Stadium vs. Dodger Stadium), and plays even smaller than its dimensions indicate. I still think he’ll make the rotation.

Andy Pettitte – He’ll make the rotation. The Yankees would not sign their good friend to embarrass him with a trip to the minors. He may start there to get his confidence and strength back, but he’ll be in the rotation by May 1st.

Phil Hughes – Hughes has been a bit of a bust since his highly anticipated debut April 2007. He’s shown flares of greatness, but has been hurt often, and has yet proven he can be more than a fourth or fifth starter. If Hughes doesn’t make the rotation, the Yankees may put him back in the bullpen, a role he thrived in 2009. Hey Diamondbacks, how about Phil Hughes for Ian Kennedy, straight up?

Freddy Garcia – Garcia seems to hold the shortest stick. He’s old, has no sentimental value to the organization, and was nothing short of ghastly down the stretch. He re-signed in December to a one-year deal, but the Yankees won’t be afraid to eat the contract if need be. I see Garcia as an long reliever/emergency starter come opening day no matter which way you form the rotation.

Dear Mr. Girardi,

I have no problem with a six-man rotation. I’m old, and along with Kuroda and Sabathia, extra rest would certainly help. I’m not crazy about something that goes against my career routine, but I’ll get over it. I know I’ll make the team, but it’ll be nice knowing I’m not destroying Phil Hughes’ confidence by doing so.

Thanks for taking me back. I’m sorry for throwing a total monkey wrench into your system.

Your former teammate and current fifth starter,
Andy Pettitte