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A lot of the talk out of the SEC and their dominance over the National Championship for college football mentions their streak of wins in that game. Ask my buddy Brett, who lives with an Auburn fan (that must be REAL bad right now) SEC fans are crazy. No doubt it’s been a heck of a run, and they’ve beaten some very good opponents that rode strong seasons to get there. But really, lets take a look back and see just what the SEC has done to these poor teams. If you look at it, other than a thumping of Oklahoma, the SEC really hasn’t been beating the best competition in the country. They’ve been the biggest beneficiary of the lack of a playoff, in part because they’d knock eachother off, and also because they don’t face the best of the best, even if they are playing a number 1 or 2 ranked team. lets go back these last 4 years and take a look.

2010 – Alabama v. Texas

Alabama rode a superb defense led by Rolando McClain, the stout Terrence Cody and a fine young corner in Javier Arenas as well as a Heisman season by Mark Ingram to the title game. nevermind that Ingram wasn’t the best player in the country but instead the best player on the best team, this game has a bit of a cloud over it. On the first drive of the game, for whatever reason Mack Brown called an option left with his hyper accurate golden-armed superboy Colt McCoy carrying it, and McCoy suffered a pinched nerve in his throwing shoulder on the hit. A freak accident that knocked the kid out of the game for good and put Garrett Gilbert in, people across the country were shocked at this turn of events. Gilbert was a blue chipper out of high school, just as the UT quarterback should be, but to throw him into the fire like this was to do a major disservice to how good this freshman could be. The Longhorns weren’t at full strength and yet they were still threatening late into the game, and had real chances to win it that, if it had been McCoy back there, they no doubt would have. Yes, injuries are a part of the game, but still, this puts a bit of a damper on the shine of the Coaches Trophy in Tuscaloosa.

2009 – Florida v. Oklahoma

There’s not much to say about this game- Tim Tebow is simply one of the greatest college football players to ever step on the field. Even with Sam Bradford at the helm, the swarming and strong Florida defense made it a hectic day to say the least for the Sooners. I’ll give this one to them, the Gators just beat Oklahoma. HOWEVER, the Sooners were neither the best nor the second best team that year. USC lost earlier in the season in a let-down game against Oregon State, and the Trojans had one of the best defenses not just that year, but in college football history. The Gators lucked out in that respect, plus the fact that the BCS had a hard-on for Tebow pretty much his entire career. The Trojans were in my eyes the best team in the country, despite that one loss. The Gators also had one loss, and if it hadn’t been for Tebow and the BCS computers artificially overrating the SEC a bit, USC would have come in and taken the trophy away. Yet another example of why a playoff is necessary. I know you can only play the teams you’re allowed to face, but nevertheless, Oklahoma got in because of a couple fluke losses, and if it had gone differently and USC had faced the Gators, I have no doubt Troy would have been victorious. Florida had Brandon Spikes leading their D, but USC had Ray Malaluga leading it, a better coaching mind in Pete Carroll, not to mention Taylor Mays and the rest of the linebacking corps in Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing. Just beastly if you ask me. A Rose Bowl was great, but the title should have been USC’s.

2007 and 2008 – Florida/LSU v. Ohio State

For the life of me I don’t understand how Ohio State got ranked so highly so much. Yes, they won a lot of games, undefeated in both these years, but the Big 10 just isn’t that good, I don’t get it. They routinely have trouble in inter-conference play, and Jim Tressell tightens up, Marty Schottenheimer style, in big games. I give little credit to Florida or LSU for these games, each a blowout and the Tigers got to play in the Superdome- it was basically a home game for them. There were definitely better teams out there than the Buckeyes both these years, if nothing else SC had some great teams, and Texas is rarely bad. But Ohio State was the lucky one in a year of upsets, riding other teams losses to victory. The luck ran out in January (compounded by playing a virtual LSU home game in New Orleans) and Tressell continued to blow it when it matters. He’s doing a great job of making that one title back in ’03 look like a fluke. There are times when you have to take a chance, but the Sweater Vest must not understand that inorder to receive great reward, there must be some risk. Woody Hayes retired (was fired, whatever) 30 years ago.

So what do we pull from all this? Obviously the SEC has had a good run these last few years, and this latest National Championship is, at least to me, on the level. Oregon is a great team, they score the hell out of the ball, and because the computers and pollsters hate the non-AQ teams, it’s the best we can get. Auburn is looking like the better team, but Chip Kelly works harder than Chizik. It’s not hard when your QB is bigger than the other team’s linebackers and faster than their corners. I still think TCU could give any of these teams a run for its money, but we’ll have to wait till next year. Plus, whatever happens, they’re still undefeated and beat a very hot Wisconsin team. But looking back, the SEC, while it has won against the teams it’s had to face, hasn’t faced the best team, just more often than not the luckiest team, or the recipient of an early-season slip up by a potential juggernaut. SEC fans will celebrate their wins and how dominant they are, but at least one school, situated in Compton of all places, and maybe some guys down in Austin, Texas, should have something to say. Wins are wins, but the wins the SEC has put together have not been the most convincing. Also, Ohio State is garbage, plain and simple, along with the rest of their terrible conference. Nebraska’s about to have a field day.

The offending ball

I bought a yoga ball the other day, to replace my chair with. I had heard they are good for posture, core strength, and kind of fun. So I got it, and I noticed on the box it was labeled “Burst Resistant” and I simultaneously thought “Awesome” and “Fooey”. Because I have the ability to think many things at the same time, which does get a little confusing.???

So when I got home and inflated it with the handy dandy little air pump that came in the box, I was overcome with the smell of the thing. I mean, it didn’t smell bad or anything, but just weird mix of rubber, mothballs, and something else. I suspect the makers package it with the gym smell pre-imbedded, so people who buy them for installation in a workout area aren’t wierded out by something that doesn’t smell terrible. In short, it’s a blast to sit on when doing anything, and I recommend it to anyone who sits at a desk for an extended period of time. I never knew that sitting down could be so exhausting. You can bounce on it, roll around, topple off it hilariously and giggle in a heap afterward. I’m not saying I did that, but I can vouch that it’s possible.

Then, while rummaging around my closet the other day, I spied the box the ball came in. The “Burst Resistant” labeling stood out at me again, and as I stared at the box, for about 10 minutes (I can neither confirm nor deny mind altering substances were in use) I took it as a challenge. “Alright, Bally Total Fitness 75 centimeter exercise ball,” I muttered, “we’ll see about this.” I threw a book at it, which bounced back onto my foot, which hurt. It was a big book.

One of my tools to destroy the ball

And from there I began to whale on the damn thing. When before I would absently bounce up and down when watching TV or writing or surfing the Internets, now I began to bounce as high as I could. I began to use it as a large soccer ball. Incidentally, it’s amazing how far the ball bounces, and how much destruction it can cause. In a short time I had broken a light, a small terra cotta warrior, three glasses, and nearly knocked my TV off the box it sits on like eight times. I’ve thrown it out the window a couple times, but all that happened there was I hit a bird on the bounce, which was kind of impressive. I’ve contemplated poking it with stuff, but that feels like cheating, right? I feel like only concussive force can be used in this “science” quest.  But the damn thing continues to not break. I am impressed with these Bally’s people. I must call their scientists, because this strangely scented polymer they’ve made the ball out of is seemingly invincible. Maybe a fat guy could help me.

I’ve tried rolling over sharp stuff, because that’s just incidental action when it comes to rolling around, but the thing is amazing in its resiliency. I even used it as a weapon against my little brother, but again its bounciness struck back at me, hitting me in the belly. Perhaps if I knew karate, I could chop it in half. But alas, I don’t have the time to spend years in the Orient learning from the Shaolin masters. I have a yoga ball to pop. I hit it with a hammer a couple times, but nothing. Really, I am at the end of my rope. I’ve been throwing playing cards at it the last couple hours in hopes paper cuts will wear away at it, but so far nothing. Maybe if we lived somewhere near trains, I could put it on a train track. But I have a sneaking suspicion it would just make the train derail, and I’d be back to square one. Maybe even square zero, because I’d have to deal with a derailed train.

If you have suggestions for me, email them to Together we can find success, and kick this stupid, core solidifying, good time creating, son of a bitch back to where it came from, or at least assert our dominance as human beings over it. I’ll not be stopped by this inanimate object. I’m better than that. Maybe I’ll try running it over with my car.

Today I read Michael Rosenberg’s Inside the NBA piece on about the meaninglessness of the NBA regular season. About halfway in, he says this:

Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls with Commissioner Stern, the short one (Getty)

“I love pro basketball. Really, I do. I not only love the game, which is viscerally thrilling, but I love the league. The NBA knows what it is: competition wrapped up as entertainment.”

I’m sure Mr. Rosenberg is a respected NBA journalist, and knows the game quite well. After all, the NBA is viscerally thrilling. Of the major sports it has the most consistent showcasing of human athleticism and the most consistent flow. Baseball has lulls and swells, football is standing around punctuated by crazy collisions of massive men, but the NBA is back and forth, steady, more about flows than instances. That’s why I watch it too. But the other part of that statement Rosenberg made, about the NBA being competition wrapped up as entertainment? I call bullshit.

There’s no denying NBA players try to win games. They really want to, and they get bigger contracts the more games they win and how they dominate said games. But the main problem with the NBA, as Rosenberg intimates in his article, is that the playoffs are decided, the top six teams in each conference at least, before the season-opening tip. For 82 games superstar athletes go through the motions, not really going all out unless it’s a “statement game”. The Lakers playing in Boston, or an elite team playing in New York, they go hard because it gives the team swagger to have these wins against old rivals or on big stages. When the Cavaliers play the Heat this year, rest assured it will be a battle, because there’s so much animosity between Cleveland and their former favorite son, LeBron. That’s one of the reasons to watch too, NBA players get wrapped up in the moment more than baseball players or football players do. If you get all emotional in baseball, you’ll play worse, won’t be focused. In the NFL emotion will let you hit harder, but you might Read Full Article →

Roy Halladay joylessly throwing ANOTHER strike (Getty)

Roy Halladay won 20 games this year. Roy Halladay has the inside track to the NL Cy Young Award. Roy Halladay is generally considered the best pitcher in baseball. Roy Halladay is going to the postseason for the first time in his career. Roy Halladay very well could win a championship this year. Roy Halladay is great, plain and simple. And one more thing.

Roy Halladay is boring.

It is astonishing to watch Doc Halladay at work. He is so good, so consistent, so old-school, you’d think his pitching days would be celebrated like they do in Seattle for their man. Felix Hernandez has Felix Day every day he pitches, and the fans adore him, flock to the stadium to see him throw. Halladay performs in front of sell-out crowds, but that has a lot to do with his team being the best in the Senior Circuit, no so much his drawing power. No, every time I watch Halladay work, he makes it seem like work. Other aces and award winners go to work, sure. CC Sabathia sweats gallons every time it’s his turn. Albert Pujols puts in time watching tape and in the cage, then empties his chamber every at-bat. But at least they make it fun to watch. In a game that is just that, a game, Roy Halladay seems to suck the fun out of the whole event. Read Full Article →

Mike Ehrmann / Getty

In 2006 he was untouchable. Twin Cy Youngs to go along with a golden arm and a name oozing with poetry. All this in the wilds ofMinnesota, just aching to show the world what he could do. Johan Santana was the best pitcher in baseball in 2006, and the most coveted potential free-agent to that point in the 21st century. With apologies to Roy Halladay, Santana was the man. A live fastball, good breaker, and that changeup that made major leaguers look lost at the plate. Santana in 2006 was destined for greatness with pundits saying his name along with the greats of Maddux, Gibson, or Grove. The one knock was that he couldn’t do it in the postseason, but most chalked that up to playing in the Homer Dome and lack of experience, playing on a mid-market window hunter like the Twins.

Meanwhile, in Flushing, Queens, Mets owner Jeff Wilpon was beginning to look desperate. Long have the New York Mets been the little brother, the also ran, below the fold. After a high-point in 2000 when they faced the cross-town Yankees in the World Series, the Mets had struggled to get over the hump. 2006 was just another typical year for them, with big signee Carlos Beltran taking an Adam Wainright curveball for the final strike of the NLCS. The Cardinals would go on to win the series against an outclassed Detroit Tigers team, which surely rankled Wilpon all the more. He tried everything the Yankees did in terms of spending money, but to no avail. Another disappointing 2007 season ended with the  Mets participating in one of the worst September collapses in baseball history, being up seven games on the Phillies as of September 12 and not making the postseason. Mets fans were apoplectic that the second-highest paid team in baseball could lose so epically to bottom-dwellers the Nationals and the Marlins. Wilpon had to act, in a big way, to get his team back to the playoffs the next year at the very least. Being neighbors with the Yankees surely hurt the Mets because of expectations, but there was nothing to be done about that. So Wilpon and GM Omar Minaya unleashed all they could, sending a glut of talented minor leaguers to Minnesota for Johan Santana, and signing him immediately to a 6-year, $137.5 million contract. The best pitcher in baseball was now the highest-paid in history, and in a marquee place where he could continue to record what would no doubt become a legendary career.

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