Monday, November 30, 2009

It’s Mel Kiper Time

Any hope of a Chicago Bears playoff appearance this season was dashed in the dome yesterday, as the Vikings rolled to a 36-10 victory over the struggling Bears. The 40-year old Brett Favre was simply brilliant, as the 3-time NFL MVP threw for 392 yards and 3 touchdowns on 32-48 passing. An unprecedented fourth MVP award for the ageless Favre is certainly within reach after 11 games.

No surprises in Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon, except perhaps the rather pedestrian 25 carries for 82 yards and touchdown for Adrian Peterson. The Vikings were able to move the ball up and down the field all day, with little resistance from the Bears pass rush. A pass heavy and balanced offensive scheme worked to perfection for Favre and the Vikings. Four Minnesota receivers hauled in a half dozen catches apiece, plus an additional five Favre passes caught by tight end Vinsanthe Shiancoe. The touchdown passes were evenly distributed as well, with a single TD thrown to Percy Harvin, Chester Taylor, and Shiancoe.

The Vikings were an astounding 12 of 18 on third down. Chicago forced just one turnover, and registered a lone sack in another ugly defensive showing. The Bears offense committed the same types of back-breaking errors that have plagued the team all season long. Jay Cutler threw a pair of costly interceptions, bringing his season total to 20. The shoddy Bears offense line surrendered four sacks on the day, and did nothing for the running game, which gained a measly 43 yards all afternoon.

After a scoreless first quarter, Minnesota got on the board with a 15 yard TD play from Favre to Percy Harvin. The Bears were able to answer a couple of minutes later on a Cutler to Johnny Knox TD play that covered 24 yards. That was about it for the Bears. By the time the halftime whistle blew, Chicago was staring at a 24-7 beat-down, officially closing the books on the 2009-10 season.

With five games remaining on the schedule, the Bears look to salvage some pride, as management begins to evaluate the performance of the current roster and coaching staff in preparation for the offseason and draft.

A Bears season that began with a new quarterback, and high hopes at 3-1, has quickly dissolved into one that will certainly bring major changes prior to kickoff in the Fall of 2010.

Chicago is now on the clock.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fantasy Basketball Week 5 News and Notes

Just as it looked as if Allen Iverson had launched his last ill-advised three-point shot, rumors begun to circulate that A.I. may spurn retirement for a return to Philly.

The Iverson retirement/unretirement news comes on the heels of the surgery that repaired the fractured jaw of starting Sixer point guard Lou Williams. A final curtain call may be in the cards for AI after all, as the Sixers suddenly are faced with life without Williams. It will be about two months that Williams will be sidelined, forcing Philly to turn to rookie Jrue Holiday as the stopgap. While Holidaycertainly has the potential to fill-in admirably for the injured Williams, the return of AI is definitely intriguing. It's too soon to tell how this will all unfold from a fantasy perspective, but both Holiday and Iverson are worth a roster spot if you have one available. AI was dropped in my league last week after word spread that he would hang 'em up. As of 3:41PM Eastern time on Saturday, he has not yet been claimed.

This week saw the return of Mike Dunleavy to the 6-8 Pacers, around the time that a Danny Granger sprained MCL scare surfaced. Luckily for Granger owners (myself included), the sprain kept him out of the lineup just one night. This injury to the offensive leader of the Pacers should be closely monitored however, as Granger could aggravate the injury and end up on the shelf for awhile. I'm not looking to move Danny just yet, but I remain concerned. As for Dunleavy, he'll carry decent value as long as Granger is healthy, and significantly more if Danny goes down for any length of time.

In Cleveland, Lebron James continues to fill up the stat sheet, as Shaquille O'Neal returned to the court after missing six straight games due to a bum shoulder. LBJ has been brilliant thus far, as expected, posting 29.44 points per game, 7.75 assists per game, and 6.81 rebounds per game. While Shaq was on the mend, J.J. Hickson did an outstanding job picking up the slack, and would be a great reserve for Shaquille owners that carry a deep bench.

On the West Coast, as Clippers fans continue to wait for the debut of top pick Blake Griffin, Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby fantasy owners could care less about the rookie power forward. Both Kaman and Camby are enjoying strong fantasy seasons in the absence of Griffin. The young Kaman is averaging over 20 points per game, to go with almost 9 rebounds and a block and a half per contest. The veteran Camby is predictably not doing much scoring, but is logging 30+ minutes, on the way to almost ten boards, three assists, two blocks, and over a steal per game.

Kaman's production won't suffer much when
Griffin joins the lineup, aside from perhaps his scoring. Camby on the other hand, is undoubtedly going to surrender a bunch of minutes to the rookie, leading to a drop-off in production across the board. The oft-injured Camby has been a beast on the boards so far this season, and is relatively healthy. There's only one thing to do with Marcus if you own him NOW!!!

Chris Paul remains sidelined, with no timetable for a return, so rookie Darren Collison has become a viable point guard, garnering enough floor time to consider grabbing off the wire. If CP3 experiences a setback, those that gambled on Collison could be rewarded handsomely. Paul's absence from the Hornets lineup has also seemed to open things up for once prolific scorer Peja Stojakovic. The Croatian veteran may be worthy of a flier if you are in need of points or three's.

See you next week.

Playing for Pride?

While the Bears are by no means mathematically eliminated from post-season play, a victory in the Metrodome will be a tall order, come Sunday afternoon.

The disappointing 2009-10 season continues in Minneapolis, as the 4-6 Bears face a 9-1 Vikings team that has been almost perfect all season long. Brett Favre has turned back the clock, and through the first ten games of the season looks like the NFL MVP.

The Bears on the other hand, are looking to recover from a three game losing streak and losses in five of their last six games. Inconsistency on both sides of the ball has plagued Chicago all year. The Bears have simply been unable to play fundamental football from week to week. The latest skid on the schedule has seen Chicago drop two of the past three games at home. The road has been unkind as well, as a 2-4 record away from Soldier Field would illustrate.

It would appear to be a monumental task for the struggling Bears to have any chance in the Metrodome, where the Vikes are unbeaten at 5-0. The Bears will have to play a near perfect game on Sunday, if they expect to even stay competitive with Minnesota for 60 minutes.

Adrian Peterson has been under the weather all week, so perhaps he will not be at 100% by kickoff. Maybe the Vikings will be looking past the mediocre Bears? If I had to guess, I’d say AP will be fine, and the Vikes will not only be focused, but determined to put a ton of points on the board against the rival Bears. Brett Favre and his new teammates know that this season is looking like a magical one, and will take nothing for granted from here on out.

There’s nothing happening on the Bears sideline that would suggest that this game will even be close. If there’s any team pride left, I suppose Chicago is competent enough to put up a fight, but pride and hard work may not be enough to overcome a far superior team. This one could be over by halftime.

Vikings 35 Bears 7

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Karl Mecklenburg Interview

The NFL and its players have changed quite a bit over the past couple of decades. One of the 1980’s and 1990’s finest defensive players was Denver Bronco Karl Mecklenburg. A six-time NFL Pro Bowl selection, and Denver Broncos “Ring of Fame” inductee, Karl exhibited a level of perseverance and dedication rarely found in the modern-day professional athlete.

Through a lifetime of desire and courage, Karl was able to overcome a number of obstacles, on his way to a prolific NFL career and successful motivational speaking business. We discussed his book, “Heart of a Student Athlete, All Pro Advice for Competitors and their Families”, as well as Karl’s playing days and the NFL of the New Millennium.

Karl Mecklenburg’s path to NFL greatness was truly a rocky one. Far from a “can’t miss” prospect, Karl got his start at tiny Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. An undersized defensive lineman at 6’4” and 235 pounds, Karl quickly exhibited his will to succeed, as he progressed to the point where he was confident enough to walk-on at the University of Minnesota. After sitting out a year to regain eligibility, Karl earned a full-scholarship to play for the Golden Gophers, the team that he rooted for while growing up in Edina, Minnesota.

In his junior year, Karl led the Big Ten in sacks and was later drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 12th round of the 1983 NFL Draft. As the 310th selection, Karl faced a much different transition than his future teammate John Elway, who was the prized first overall pick in that same draft. As Karl discusses in his new book, ““Heart of a Student Athlete, All Pro Advice for Competitors and their Families”, it would require the commitment to six core values to ultimately overcome his challenges which included the struggle with dyslexia.

Through “Teamwork”, “Courage”, “Honesty and Forgiveness”, “Dedication”, “Desire, and”Goal Setting”, Karl battled the odds (and much larger players) to achieve excellence at the highest level of sport. In his book, Karl speaks of the necessity of parents to support their children’s dream of excelling in athletics by empowering their youngsters to overcome problems independently. Karl told me that parents should “give their kids support to find their passion”.

According to Karl, one of the ways that aspiring athletes can develop into successful adults, both on and off the field, is through teamwork. Whether it’s through team sports or other endeavors such as school bands, children will learn invaluable group skills that will benefit them over the course of a lifetime. Karl has shared his teamwork philosophy with many of the top Fortune companies, including Coca-Cola.

In addition to his work as a motivational speaker, Karl is intimately involved with his Denver-based REACH foundation. REACH stands for “Rewarding Experiences for All Children”. The program is aimed at providing inner-city children with the educational support and resources that they would otherwise not receive. Karl’s desire to create such a foundation stems from the example set by both of his parents. Karl’s father, a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist, and his mother, were both very active in their community as Karl was growing up. Karl’s mom had the honor of serving as a Deputy Secretary of Health for the Reagan administration.

One of the programs that Karl has recently implemented for his REACH foundation is called “REACH for a Book”. The initiative encourages elementary school children to increase the time that they devote to reading books. Each child in the program that reads at least 100 minutes per week receives a “pizza certificate”. The top two readers from each participating school earn a trip to Denver’s Invesco Field, where a special event is held each year for those winning students.

When it comes to courage, Karl says, “Don’t be afraid of failing. Failing is a part of being successful”. As a twelve year NFL player, Karl saw many fellow athletes refuse gain the courage to pursue lofty goals for themselves, rather remain content with an invitation to Broncos training camp, only to be “fired” shortly thereafter. From the beginning Karl Mecklenburg maintained that “I want to be the greatest player to ever play the game”. Had Karl aspired to anything less, it would have been highly unlikely that he would have achieved as much as he did throughout his career.

Karl’s post-football determination has not changed. “My passion and my mission for my speaking business and my book is to inspire long-term positive change”, says Karl. When you are exhibiting that type of attitude for the first 34 years of your life, it becomes natural to continue to do so. Karl Mecklenburg will not settle for anything less.

In addition to talking about Karl’s book, we spoke about the NFL of Karl’s days, versus today’s league. When Karl was playing linebacker for the Denver Broncos, the prototypical NFL player was much different than it is today. When Karl was in the league, players with exceptional speed and quick footwork were valued over those that were larger and less mobile. The successful execution of offensive and defensive schemes of the eighties and nineties demanded an athlete with greater agility than what we see today.

The modern NFL player is much larger. Additionally, the rules have changed in a manner that benefits the offense. According to Karl, today’s offensive linemen are able to hold defenders much longer than they once were. Furthermore, safeties cannot hit the way guys like former Bronco teammates Dennis Smith and Steve Atwater used to. Karl spoke of players “self-policing” themselves, as opposed to the officials imposing penalties and fines. Other hard-hitting players of Karl’s era that were able to use their intimidation tactics to gain an edge on the field were 49er great Ronnie Lott and former Seahawk All-Pro Kenny Easley. There was no trash talking from wide receivers during Karl’s playing days, as defenders would levy heavy game-day “fines” on those that insisted on talking. Karl says that wide receivers were the quietest guys on the field back then.

Today’s NFL has clearly gone out of its way to protect the wide receiver, states Karl. Former NFL wide out Gene Washington is the current Director of Football Operations. Gene protects today’s wide receivers through rules that limit contact by defenders after the ball is snapped.

Although Karl retired from the league back in 1995, he remains in tune with the current NFL and the Broncos organization. I asked him to chime in on today’s Broncos, new Head Coach Josh McDaniels, and how the game has changed since he stepped away.

“I think he has a real good grasp on what’s important and what’s not important to the team”, says Mecklenburg of McDaniels. “They have already won more games than I thought they’d win all year” followed Karl.

Karl sees the 2009-10 Broncos as an example of a team that truly embraces the team concept. Rookie head coach Josh McDaniels brought in free agents that were not merely seeking a shiny new contract, rather players that were genuinely interested in reaching a common goal. When asked about the morale of this year’s group which reeled off six straight victories before dropping its last three, Karl said there’s “a bit of panic”. Since the first loss of the season in Baltimore, Karl believes that Bronco players are trying to do too much on the field independently, which is causing team performance to suffer. “I’ve seen the breakdown happening since they lost their first game.”

As far as a comparison of today’s players with those that played in Karl’s, as well as prior eras, Mr. Mecklenburg doesn’t think it’s even close. The modern day NFL has gone overboard to deliver a game that promotes offense over defense and protects the quarterback to an excess. Karl believes that the modern-day QB does not have to perform under the same level of duress as such courageous warriors like Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, and John Elway. Today’s signal-callers have too many escape routes, such as tossing the ball out of bounds to avoid contact.

When I asked Karl about one particular modern day football phenomenon, “Madden NFL”, he did have great praise for the two-decade old football video simulation game. “The Madden thing has probably done more for young people to get involved in and understand football concepts than anything else”. Karl sees the offensive and defensive plays featured in the extremely popular video game series as being quite accurate. “That Madden thing is amazing!”, proclaimed Karl.

Karl Mecklenburg has accomplished so very much in his life. Against the odds, he claimed his stake as one of the most successful linebackers of his time. Through “Teamwork”, “Courage”, “Honesty and Forgiveness”, “Dedication”, “Desire, and”Goal Setting”, Karl has achieved a lifetime of accolades and personal fulfillment….and he’s not done. Karl continues to travel the motivational speaker circuit, and may jump back into the “literary ring”, this time with a book devoted to corporate leadership training.

When I closed out our conversation by asking Karl what his greatest accomplishment has been to date, he didn’t surprise me. He told me that it’s clearly his family and his 26 year marriage to his wife Kathi. I suppose he was simply being “Honest”.

Karl Mecklenburg’s book, “Heart of a Student Athlete, All Pro Advice for Competitors and their Families” can be ordered by visiting:

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Clock is Ticking

Time is beginning to run out on the 2009-10 Chicago Bears. In a second consecutive night game, the Bears host the Philadelphia Eagles in Sunday evening affair. Chicago hopes they can take advantage of the absence of Eagles stud RB Brian Westbrook, and take down the 5-4 Eagles.

The Bears enter Sunday night’s contest having dropped four of its last five games. At 4-5, the Bears are in grave danger of falling out of Wild Card playoff contention. The Vikings are in charge of the NFC North at a sterling 8-1, and have all but locked up the division title.

For the struggling Bears to have a shot at knocking off the Eagles, the defense will need to play 60 minutes of shut-down football as they did in San Francisco last Thursday. The challenge this week is containing a much more potent offense than the Niner squad. Even with stud RB Brian Westbrook a post-concussion scratch, Philadelphia has enough play-makers to do some serious damage to a reeling Chicago defense. Donavan McNabb has one of the NFL’s brightest young stars in DeSean Jackson. The young wide-out has the ability to break the big play at any time. Filling in for Westbrook is rookie RB LeSean McCoy, who is a competent replacement. TE Brent Celek is another young emerging weapon at McNabb’s disposal.

The Bears offense, which was listless all night last week against the Niners, must find the gear that it was in when it scored 48 points against Detroit and 30 against Cleveland earlier this season. The challenge for Chicago this week, is putting up those kinds of numbers against a playoff-caliber team such as the Eagles. It will be a tall task.

If the Bears can somehow generate a few turnovers on defense, move the ball on offense, and protect the pigskin in the red zone, maybe they will have a chance to snatch this one.

I for one, think this is the beginning of the end.

Eagles 21 Bears 10

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Start em


Matt Hasselbeck: The Seahawks travel to the Twin Cites to face Favre and the Vikes in Week 11. As stout as the Vikings are against the run, they are just 23rd against the pass. Seattle will likely be forced to air it out all day, as Minnesota’s explosive offense will dictate the pace of the game. Win or lose, Hasselbeck will attempt a ton of passes, surpass 300 yards, and toss a couple of TD’s.

Marc Bulger: In a battle between past and present St. Louis franchises, the passing game should be on display for both sides. Kurt Warner is of course always a threat to put up big numbers, but Marc Bulger will be facing Arizona’s the 30th ranked pass defense in the dome. Bulger is finally healthy and as usual will have the presence of a reliable Steven Jackson to take the pressure off the receiving corps. Far from a stellar WR group, Bulger’s targets will nevertheless have ample opportunities to make plays against a porous Cardinals D. Bulger is a sneaky play this week at home.


Rashard Mendenhall: The Steelers try to rebound this Sunday at Kansas City, which bodes well for those fantasy owners that carry guys like Mendenhall. Pittsburgh is desperate to return to its winning ways, and the abysmal Chiefs defense should accommodate the defending Champs. Mendenhall has been a decent starter for Pittsburgh, and has showed flashes of brilliance as a fantasy force. This week’s date with a brutal Chiefs rushing defense should yield over 100 yards and a score for the young Steeler RB.

Ricky Williams: The season-ending injury to Ronnie Brown has opened the door for Ricky Williams. The former Longhorn and Heisman winner will have an opportunity to shine the rest of the way, beginning at Carolina on Thursday Night Football. The Panthers have been up and down this year, similar to Miami. While Carolina has been able to control the passing attack of its opponents, the Cats have surrendered an average of 128.1 yards per game. Ricky had been averaging about 65 yards per game sharing the load with Ronnie Brown. If form holds against a very weak Panthers run defense, Williams should have no problems cashing in on a big day.


Percy Harvin: Last week it was Sidney Rice who blew up with 201 receiving yards for the Vikings. True to form for the 2009-10 Minnesota Vikings, a new weekly hero should emerge on Sunday. Harvin is healthy and always a danger to produce a couple of game-breaking plays. Percy is due for one of those types of weeks. The Vikings onslaught continues.

Brandon Gibson: Although coach Spags has not yet committed to the rookie Gibson as a Week 11 starter, it makes sense that Brandon will again be the primary target of Marc Bulger. The Rams have nothing to play for but a glimpse of what the future might bring. Last week, the freshman wide-out hauled in seven catches for 93 yards. At home, against a poor Cardinals secondary, Gibson will likely put up comparable numbers, and possibly register his first career TD.


Brandon Pettigrew: Similar to the situation in St. Louis, the Lions are playing for the future. Pettigrew has begun to play a prominent role in Detroit’s young offensive scheme. Week 11 has the awful Browns visiting the Motor City. Look for B-Pet to record 60-80 yards and score against the calamity that is the Cleveland Browns.

Jason Witten: Through ten weeks, the Dallas TE has not been the fantasy lock that owners have gotten used to over the past few years. Tony Romo has found success spreading the wealth, which has left Witten owners short. Jason is just too talented; however, to be kept quiet all season. The All-Pro TE is seeking jus this second trio to the end zone, and will see it this week against the rival Skins.

Sit em


Joe Flacco: It’s not that the Ravens haven’t been winning ballgames this season. The formula for success, however, is once again rushing and defense. Flacco certainly has the ability to put up flashy numbers, but Baltimore seems to have settled back into its comfort zone, which reduces the QB to a game manager. Take a “pass” on Flacco until further notice.

Mark Sanchez: The rookie Jets QB will likely be heading into a buzz saw in New England on Sunday, as the Pats will be seeking revenge against Gang Green, not to mention redemption from last week’s defeat in Indy. As expected “The Sanchize” has been slow to develop, and should be facing another painful rookie lesson in Week 11.


Justin Forsett: Stepping in for the injured Julius Jones, Forsett delivered an outstanding performance against the Cardinals last week in Arizona. Justin will again be the featured back this week for Seattle, but facing the dominant Vikings run defense, in Minnesota, is simply too much to ask of the young Hawk.

Jason Snelling: In case you were considering another fine replacement starting RB in Week 11, think again. Snelling had a decent outing against Carolina last week, as he filled in for the injured stud Michael Turner. A trip to the Meadowlands will not yield the same result, however, as the Giants are unlikely to surrender much to the Atlanta ground game. If Turner remains out for Week 12’s game against the Bucs, a distinct possibility, then Snelling should be considered, but not against Big Blue on Sunday.


Roddy White: The Falcons leading receiver is not one that you’d normally consider benching. Unless of course he was banged up, and facing the NFL’s 2nd ranked pass defense, on the road, in a windy Giants Stadium. A difficult decision for fantasy owners, yes, but I have a hunch that Roddy and the entire Falcons offense is going to have a quiet afternoon in New Jersey.

Devin Hester: The Bears continue to struggle to find their identity. It’s unclear which team will show up on a weekly basis. At times, Jay Cutler and the offense have been able to move the ball, but more often than not, have victimized themselves by turning the ball over. Hester has been steady throughout this stretch, but against a defensively superior Eagles team looking to snap a two game skid, and remain in the NFC East hunt, Hester and Chicago will fall short Sunday Night.


Vernon Davis: The suddenly explosive Davis has surprised many by this break-out season. Not many fantasy owners could have expected the previously underachieving TE to bust out with seven TD’s through the first ten weeks of the season. Davis may continue to be a reliable starter for the rest of the year, but the Niners travel to Green Bay this week, and face one of the league’s best overall defenses. Following a lackluster performance at home against Chicago last Thursday night, Vernon will be hard-pressed to return to the elite TE category against the Packers.

Tony Scheffler: With the exception of a monster Week 6 against these same San Diego Chargers that he’ll face in Week 11, the Broncos TE has been ineffective. The absence of starting QB Kyle Orton will further diminish Scheffler of a repeat performance. Tony will occasionally turn in a sparkler, but he’s not nearly consistent enough to rely on each week.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Truth About Yankees Fans

What better time to talk about the New York Yankees fan base, than two weeks after the 27th World Series Championship in team history. Yes, the Bronx Bombers are the most successful franchise in the history of professional sports. Yankees “faithful” have been filling “The Stadium” to root on their heroes for decades…or have they?

It’s difficult to debate that when a team is winning, “they will come”. Since the mid-nineties, the Yankees have clearly given every reason for their fan base to make their way to the South Bronx to watch a Championship caliber team dispose of the “victim du jour”. There’s no question that this franchise that officially became the “New York Yankees” in 1913, has featured some of the game’s greatest players, on some of the greatest teams. Decades of dominance, beginning in the early 1920’s, with legendary players such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and later Joe DiMaggio, fueled the desire of baseball fans to rally around New York’s pinstriped players.

If one spends some time in New York City, or many other major US metropolitan areas for that matter, it quickly becomes apparent that the Yankees are not simply one of New York’s two baseball teams, and one of 30 Major League Baseball teams. The Bombers have become much more than a member of the American League East. The Yankees are “America’s Team”. The questions is…when did this happen?

The incredible success that the Yankees enjoyed in the 20’s through the early 60’s eventually faded, as the franchise began to experience the peaks and valleys that most other sports teams endure. As the 1990’s got under way, however, the Yankees seemed to separate themselves from the rest of the league in a number of ways.

Firstly, the Yankees began to dominate as they hadn’t done in decades. Furthermore, game-day attendance soared to record levels. Additionally, the team payroll began to increase at a rate that left the rest of the league well behind. The extraordinary success and popularity led to revenue opportunities that were, and remain, unmatched by any other team in Major League Baseball. The Yankees had gained the advantage of being able to significantly outspend the rest of the league for the services of premium free agents.

What is the point, you ask? I contend that with the exception of the “Jeter Generation”, which began in 1995, an overwhelming number of present-day Yankees fans coincidently hopped on the Yankee vessel in the mid-Nineties, contrary to what the vast majority of “die-hards” will admit.

A snapshot of New York City baseball attendance data will support this conclusion.

In 1985, the New York Yankees drew an average of 27,510 fans per game. The cross-town rival New York Mets drew an average of 34,094 fans per game. This trend continues as follows:

1986 Yankees 28,000 Mets 34,168 (Mets win World Series)

1987 Yankees 29,971 Mets 37,458

1988 Yankees 32,717 Mets 38,193

1989 Yankees 26,983 Mets 36,033

1990 Yankees 24,771 Mets 33,738

1991 Yankees 23,009 Mets 28,379

1992 Yankees 21,589 Mets 21,970

1993 Yankees 29,839 Mets 23,126

1994 Yankees 29,656 Mets 20,380

1995 Yankees 23,521 Mets 17,683

1996 Yankees 27,789 Mets 19,609 (Yankees win World Series)

The attendance data shows that between 1985 and 1992, Yankees “faithful” stayed away from the Bronx, in favor of the surging New York Mets. It wasn’t until 1993, the year following a 90-loss Mets season, when Yankees Stadium began to reclaim thousands of fans that had been lost during the successful run of the Mets.

Not for one moment would I pretend that an enormous number of “fans” that attended Shea from 1985-1992 bothered returning until the late 1990’s. We can all agree that success breeds attendance. The point is rather a questioning of the undying loyalty that is preached in New York and around the country from the vast majority of Yankees “fans”. Had the Yankee fan base truly been comprised of die-hards, the 1985-1992 attendance swoon would have never happened.

It will be interesting to see what happens to fan support during the next Yankees valley, although considering the current economic advantage the Yankees possess, it may be awhile.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Start em


Mark Sanchez: The fifth overall pick in this years draft is beginning to mature. Prior to the bye week, Sanchez had posted back-to-back strong outings at Oakland and against Miami respectively. He has really only had a couple of poor showings this season, and is looking at a home tilt with the Jaguars, a team that surrendered 21 points to the awful Chiefs last week. A healthy Jerricho Cotchery should help the passing game, as Sanchez will throw for 200-250 yard and a couple of TD’s.

Kurt Warner: The enigmatic Warner looks to follow up his road gem with another gaudy performance, this time at home against Seattle. Kurt fired five TD’s in Chicago last week, just a week after throwing five interceptions versus Carolina in Week 8. With Anquan Boldin returning to the lineup this week, there is no reason to expect anything less than a 300 plus yard, three TD day from Warner.


Frank Gore: The healthy Niner RB is beginning to heat up, and will likely continue to fill up the stat sheet, with the reeling Bears coming to town for a Thursday night matchup. Chicago is fresh off a humiliating home loss to Arizona, in game that saw Kurt Warner throw five TD passes. The Bears are looking like a team that may be in freefall, which bodes well for Gore and the Niners. A long flight on short rest spells disaster for the Bears thin defense. On a Nationally televised stage, Frank Gore will light it up. Over 200 yards from scrimmage isn’t out of the question for the versatile RB.

Ronnie Brown: Now that the Bucs have avoided the franchise’s third winless season, they can return to futility. The Bucs will return to the loss column, as the 30th ranked run defense will be no match for the Wildcat on Sunday. Brown should record a 100 plus yard day, with a few catches and a TD.


Sidney Rice: Brett Favre and the Vikings return to the filed after a Week 9 bye. At 7-1, Minnesota is rolling. The upcoming opponents for the Vikes are less than daunting foes. The next three weeks see the Lions, Seahawks, and Bears visiting Minneapolis. Fantasy owners with Viking players should be in for a windfall. Rice is just one of the receivers that will benefit from a light schedule. Percy Harvin will also post big numbers on Sunday. One hundred yards and a TD or two for Rice (and Harvin) is a near certainty.

Greg Jennings: The Packers are a team that must be itching like crazy to get back on the field. Two weeks ago, Favre’s Vikings bested the Pack at Lambeau. To add insult to injury, Green Bay was dumped last week by the previously-winless Bucs. Donald Driver has been the go-to guy this far for the Packers, but Jennings is a big play guy that has the ability to get it going at any time. Greg is due for a 100 yard afternoon, which he may see against a Dallas team that is coming off an emotional NFC East game last Sunday night.


Jeremy Shockey: After a couple of quiet weeks from the former Miami Hurricane and New York Giant, a trip to St. Louis and the lowly Rams should be enough to reignite the explosive Shockey. The New Orleans offense is as potent as it’s ever been. The Rams cannot stop any team in the NFL, much less the undefeated Saints. No “shocker” here…..Jeremy goes off on Sunday, with a bunch of catches and a return to the endzone.

Dustin Keller: The Jets are a strange team to figure out. Much of it I suppose has to do with the maturation process of QB Mark Sanchez. Nevertheless, the offense possesses a group of talented players, one of which is TE Dustin Keller. Prior to last week’s bye, Keller busted out against Miami, posting 8-76 and a TD. The woeful Jacksonville pass defense will have difficulty containing the Jets receiving corps all day. Keller will deliver a second straight impressive outing.

Sit em


David Garrard: After some early season success, Garrard has struggled mightily. He has not had a multiple TD pass game since Week 4 against the wretched Titans. The likelihood of David tossing more than a lone TD pass against the stingy Jets pass defense is low. Garrard continues to be a mediocre- at-best fantasy QB in 2009.

Matt Cassell: The post-Larry Johnson era Chiefs travel to Oakland to face the Raiders in what was once a fierce rivalry. Matt Cassel’s first year with Kansas City is probably not what he envisioned when he signed his lucrative free agent deal during the offseason. Matt has performed reasonably well, considering the limited talent he is surrounded with. While Cassel may be a decent fantasy starter at home, against a week pass defense, he is not a strong play I Oakland, versus a competent Raiders secondary.


Darren Sproles: Despite the rapid decline of LT, Sproles has yet to provide any level of consistency to the Chargers offense. The diminutive RB has the ability to make big plays, but cannot be relied on to shoulder the load; fantasy or otherwise. San Diego hosts the Eagles, who are stout against the run. Look elsewhere for a starting RB in Week 10.

Kevin Smith: Against one if the best run-stopping defenses in the NFL, there aren’t many RB’s that can manage a productive afternoon. Although Kevin Smith is an excellent back on a horrible team, his prospects of posting his second 100 plus rushing day of 2009-10 are bleak. The Metrodome is one of the most difficult places for to operate for a signal caller. Rookie Matthew Stafford will have “tons” of trouble with the Vikings front seven, making it for a long afternoon. I would pass on Kevin Smith this week, and perhaps even show Megatron the pine in Week 10.


Johnny Knox: The explosive rookie has shown signs of greatness thus far, but the Bears face a West Coast road game in a short week. Knox may someday be a great receiver, but nothing more than modest “returns” should be expected from the Bears freshman WR.

Dwayne Bowe: The departure of Tony Gonzalez, and the ineffective running game have not made life any easier for Dwayne Bowe of the 1-7 Chiefs. Bowe’s talent is unquestioned. Unfortunately for Dwayne, he’s the ONLY offensive threat that Kansas City has at the moment. Opponents are not going to allow Bowe to be the guy that beats them. In Week 10, the Chiefs head out to Oakland, where Bowe will be matched-up against Nmandi Asomugha all day. It’s a no-go on Bowe this week.


Marcedes Lewis: With the exception of Maurice Jones-Drew and at times Mike Sims-Walker, the Jaguars have had little else to offer in the way of productive fantasy players. Lewis had a couple of decent lines earlier this season, but he is not to be trusted unless you are out of other options.

Benjamin Watson: As potent as the Pats offense is, Tom Brady still spreads the ball around way to much for guys like Ben Watson to be a consistent factor. Unless your name is Brady, Randy Moss or Wes Welker, you are not a strong fantasy option for New England.

Mining for Respect

Following an embarrassing home thrashing by the Arizona Cardinals, the Bears head out West to face Mike Singletary’s 49ers in this year’s premiere of Thursday Night Football.

The short week and a long flight “Out of Dodge” is typically a recipe for disaster, but most Bear players probably want to get back on the filed as soon as possible, so they can wash away any memories of Week 9’s debacle.

Never mind the fact that Chicago will be facing a Niners team lead by Bear legend Mike Singletary. Chicago has bigger fish to fry, as they find themselves at 4-4, tied with Green Bay and three games behind the NFC North division leading Vikings. There will be very little margin for error from this week on.

The 3-5 49ers have their own struggles to worry about, having lost four straight games. The signing of rookie and early-season holdout Michael Crabtree, along with the switch back to former number one overall draft pick Alex Smith has dome little to turn the tide for San Francisco. The Niners are just two games behind the up-and-down Cardinals, so the season is far from washout for Singletary’s crew.

If the Bears are going to out the miserable Cardinal performance behind them, they will have to find a way to run the ball effectively on offense, and slow down the Niners on defense. Chicago’s rushing “attack” has been pitiful, and on the other side of the ball, both the run and pass defense has been nonexistent.

Perhaps the best offensive strategy coming into Week 10, is for Jay Cutler to come out firing, taking advantage of the leagues 24th ranked pass defense. If Cutler can put pressure on the Niners secondary, San Francisco’s 4th ranked run defense may have to back off a bit.

Chicago’s defensive challenges may be more difficult to overcome. With a recent rash of injuries to key players, such safeties Al Afalava and Kevin Payne, the already-porous Bears D will be forced to step it up of they expect to have any chance of preventing another aerial barrage.

As eager as the Bears might be to get back to work and prove the naysayers wrong, a West Coast road victory off a short week seems unlikely. The Chicago defense will probably not yield 41 points in Week 10, but the odds will be stacked against a return to the win column.

Niners 24 Bears 17

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Put Me In Coach…

I just put my 2 year old Jack to bed. As usual, we closed out the day with the two songs I’ve been singing to him since he was a baby. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, and the slightly less popular “Meet the Mets” are staples in my toddler’s winding down portion of the bedtime process.

Whether it’s at the ballpark, or cruising with the top down on a brisk afternoon, certain baseball songs send chills down our spines. There’s something special about music that celebrates our National Pastime. Many songs were written about the game itself, and others simply reference players of yesteryear. Some “sports anthems” have nothing to do with baseball, yet have become synonymous with baseball moments. I highly doubt that Freddy Mercury ever imagined that “We Are the Champions” would become the theme of Bronx, NY in late October.

As far as I’m concerned, the first spring day I hear John Fogerty’s “Centerfield”, baseball is officially underway. When the crack of the bat is sounded in that song, it’s as if Winter has magically turned to Spring. There are few tunes that capture the anticipation of the coming season as this Fogerty classic.

In addition to Fogerty’s salute to Mays, Cobb, and DiMaggio, many other tunes reach back to pay homage and celebrate baseball’s legendary players and personalities.

“Talkin’ Baseball” in its original “Willie, Mickey & "The Duke" format, as well as later adaptations, is pure baseball bliss. Here in the Southeast, Alabama’s 1993 “The Cheap Seats” is a fan favorite, capturing the essence of paparazzi-less baseball. Back in the 1980’s, legendary rockers Don Henley and Bruce Springsteen chimed in, recording “Boys of Summer” and “Glory Days” respectively. Even the great Bob Dylan got into the act, when he penned “Catfish”, a bluesy number about the late Jim “Catfish” Hunter.

Odes to loyal fan followings such as “Tessie”, most recently recorded by the Dropkick Murphy’s, became a fan favorite in Boston. The song was written as a dedication to the “Royal Rooters”, a Red Sox fan club in the early 20th century. “Tessie” was borrowed from the Broadway musical “The Silver Slipper”. The song was originally sung at Fenway, not only to encourage Red Sox players, but also to distract the opposing team. The first time I heard the song was while playing a Sony Playstation 2 video game, which featured the song on its baseball simulation game soundtrack. “Sweet Caroline”, which singer-songwriter Neil Diamond recently revealed was inspired by Caroline Kennedy, has been played at every Red Sox home game since 2003. The song was first played at Fenway Park in 1998, as a tribute to a Red Sox employee who had named her newborn Caroline.

Paul Simon wrote a pair of baseball-referenced songs, “Mrs. Robinson“ from the film “The Graduate”, and lesser known “Night Game”, off “Still Crazy After All These Years”. Just prior to the release of “Still Crazy…” in 1969, Simon threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the soon-to-be Miracle New York Mets.

As the 20th century drew to a close and the New Millennium began, a number of hard-driving crowd-pleasers were adopted by individual players as entrance themes. Trevor Hoffman would enter late-inning San Diego Padre games to the echoes of AC-DC’s “Hells Bells”. A pair of stoppers, Mariano Rivera and Billy Wagner chose Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as their personal musical introductions…..a topic that was hotly debated in New York City when Wagner pitched for the Mets.

(It was later determined that Wagner was a long-time Metallica fan, and had been using the song for about three years prior to Rivera’s use of the metal band’s hit single).

I still prefer Charlie Sheen trotting out from the bullpen to “Wild Thing” in the film “Major League”.

Monday, November 9, 2009


In a strikingly similar meltdown to that of two weeks ago in Cincinnati, the Bears were again pummeled, this time at home to the tune of 41-21.

The lifeless Bears were manhandled by Kurt Warner’s right-arm and the suddenly explosive running game of the Cardinals. Warner fired five touchdown passes on the day, four in the first half alone.

From the opening whistle, the Bears couldn’t get out of their own way. Following the fourth play of the game, defensive tackle Tommie Harris, was ejected, for delivering an unnecessary blow to the face of Cardinals guard Deuce Lutui. The incident was a sign of things to come for Chicago.

The Bears would later lose both cornerback Charles Tillman and safety Al Afalava to shoulder injuries, as Arizona launched its offensive onslaught.

By halftime, the Cardinals were already up 31-7, the Bears’ lone score coming on a Jay Cutler to Greg Olsen 33 yard pass play. Unfortunately, for Olsen, his career three TD performance would be clouded by a Bears defensive no-show.

The 369 yards and there TD’s thrown by Jay Cutler yesterday, were deceptive, as Chicago was in catch-up mode all day. Turnovers were not the culprit this time around, rather the shorthanded Bears defense’s inability to slow down the Arizona offensive attack.

A Kurt Warner led onslaught produced 27 first downs, 8-14 coming on third down. Warner was not picked off all day, throwing for 262 yards on 22 of 32 passes. It was vintage Kurt throughout.

Perhaps the most surprising statistic of the game, was the 182 yards that Cardinal RB’s were able to tally. Prior to yesterday’s game, the Arizona rushing “attack” was registering just 64.9 yards per game. Tim Hightower and rookie Beanie Wells combined for 149 yards on 28 carries to lead the ground game.

Life will not get any easier for the Bears in Week 10, as a short week has Chicago travelling out to San Francisco to tangle with Mike Singletary’s 3-5 49ers on Thursday. If the Bears do not find a way to heal quickly and scratch out a road win in the most difficult of circumstances, Bears faithful might as well pack it in.

By the way, the Cubs open up in Atlanta on April 5.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Building Momentum

Fresh off a convincing, albeit expected victory over the Browns, the Bears welcome Kurt Warner and the 4-3 Arizona Cardinals to Chicago this week. The Cards have shown the same types of up-and-down tendencies that the Bears have displayed through the first half of the 2009-10 NFL season.

Weather will not be a factor on Sunday, as the forecast calls for unseasonably mild temperatures in the 60’s. More good news for the visiting Cardinals is the health of explosive wideout Anquan Boldin, who has looked sharp in practice all week, and should be ready to roll on Sunday afternoon.

Perhaps the x-factor in this game, however, is the familiarity that Lovie Smith has with Kurt Warner’s game. Coach Smith was the defensive coordinator in St. Louis, when Warner ran the “Greatest Show on Turf”. If any coach knows Kurt’s tendencies, it would be Lovie, as he had the opportunity to lead a defense that practiced against Warner each week when they were both in St. Louis.

If the Bears offense expects to ride the resurgent Matt Forte to a second straight victory, it will have to get it done against a defense that yields less than 100 yards rushing per game. Of course Forte and the Bears offense line probably won’t be too concerned, as last week, the Panthers RB tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart torched the Cardinals for 270 yards on the ground.

On the defense side of the ball, the Bears should have no trouble handling the worst running game in the NFL. The combination of rookie Beanie Wells and goal line specialist Tim Hightower bring a measly 64.9 yards per game average into Week 9’s game. If the Cardinals have any chance to snag a road victory from the Bears, they will need a mistake-free performance from Kurt Warner.

The Bears were opportunistic last week against Cleveland and may have more game-changing chances this week, as Kurt Warner is heading into the game with a putrid 5 interception performance against Carolina still on his mind.

Expect a ball-control type effort from the Bears, building on last week’s strong performance from Matt Forte. The Cardinals remain dangerous, with one of the league’s most prolific receiving duos in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. The key to containing these two elite weapons on Sunday, is the ability of the Bears defense to prevent the Cards from establishing any semblance of a running attack. If the Bears defensive line can hold the Arizona rushing attack to short first and second down ground gains, the pressure will fall squarely on the aging shoulders of Kurt Warner. Should Warner be forced into a number of third and long situations, the Bears secondary will have plenty of help defending Arizona’s talented receiving corps.

Chicago may not abuse the Cardinals as badly they did the Browns last week, but the defending NFC Champions should return to the desert 4-4.

Bears 24 Cardinals 14

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Start em


Matt Hasselbeck: Coming off a strong Week 8 performance, Hasselbeck and the “Hawks welcome the Lions to Seattle this Sunday. Matt was quite efficient last week, as he threw 2 touchdowns for 249 yards and no interceptions. The “Twelfth Man” will only make life easier for the banged-up, but ready-to-go Hasselbeck. After folding to then-winless St. Louis at home last week, the 1-6 Lions can’t be thrilled with having to trek up to the state of Washington in Week 9. Look for Hasselbeck to cross the 300 yard threshold and add a trio of TD passes.

Alex Smith: The former number one overall pick pilots his third game as “new” starting QB of the Niners, in Week 9 in San Francisco. Smith has regained the starting gig, and should post his best statistical performance to date. Tennessee brings the NFL’s worst passing defense to town, along with their incredibly disappointing 1-6 record. This week will likely be Michael Crabtree’s coming out party, with a 100 plus yard day in store for the tardy rookie. Smith will tally over 200 yards passing and a pair of TD’s, one to the talented Texas Tech alum. Welcome to the NFL Mr. Crabtree….just 196 more TD’s to catch Jerry Rice.


Pierre Thomas: Thomas was able to get back on track last Monday Night, in a win against division rival Atlanta. The Carolina Panthers, another NFC South foe, come calling this week, hoping to be the team to hand the red-hot Saints their first defeat of the season. Pierre will be facing the NFL’s 24th ranked rushing defense in Carolina, so another strong performance is likely. The Panthers are tops in the league against the passing game, so the Saints will no doubt throw a healthy dose of Pierre Thomas at Carolina all day. Thomas will record his best rushing day of the season, and second 100 plus rushing effort of the year.

Ryan Grant: After a very disappointing defeat at the hands of Brett Favre and the Vikings, Grant and his Packers fly down to Tampa, hoping to rebound against the still-winless Bucs. Ryan’s totals have been decent this year, but he has yet to deliver that breakout game. The schedulers may have handed the Packers and Grant just what they need in Week 9….an opportunity to put Favre’s return behind them, and a tasty 30th ranked run defense to feast on all afternoon.


Mike Sims-Walker: Following a week where Walker recorded just two receptions, a bounce-back against the dreadful Chiefs seems obvious. MSW has been a bit of an enigma this season, but I am banking on the athletic young Jag to take advantage of a Kansas City team that has yielded an average of 252 yards passing per game. Jump back on the Sims-Walker train in Week 9.

Hakeem Nicks: Nicks had a hiccup in Week 8 in Philadelphia, but he and the Giants will be desperate to snap a three-game losing streak when they host the Chargers in Week 9. Hakeem is healthy, and beginning to flaunt his big-play ability. The up-and-down Chargers are looking at a cross-country trip against a hungry bunch, so Eli should have the San Diego defense on its heels all day. Nicks will get back into the endzone this week, as the Giants return to their winning ways.


Greg Olsen: Olsen and the Bears took care of Cleveland last week, and now move on to another home contest, this time against the inconsistent Cardinals. A trip to Chicago in November should be a tough task for Warner and the Cards. Olsen is still seeking that elusive 100 yard day, and could earn it on Sunday in Chicago. Cutler spreads it out amongst his stable of young WR’s, but there should be enough left for Olsen to gain 80-100 yards on 6-8 catches.

Fred Davis: The season-ending injury to Chris Cooley opened the door for second year USC product Fred Davis. The Skins are indeed a horrible team; however, they will likely be playing from behind all day, forcing Jason Campbell to go to the air often. Campbell and Davis connected for eight catches two weeks ago against Philadelphia, before heading into the Wee 8 bye. The Falcons have the ability to light up the scoreboard on offense, but when it comes to defending the passing attack, “The Birds” fall short. Davis is a sneaky option against the team that is next-to-last in the NFL in passing defense.

Sit em


Kyle Orton: For the second straight week, I recommend benching Kyle Orton. As expected, Orton was a non-factor in Baltimore last week, and shouldn’t be much more effective in Week 9 at home versus the Steelers. The Broncos may have been exposed a bit last week against the Ravens, which will give the Steel Curtain even more swagger than they normally bring. The Broncos running game is not a reliable as it once was, resulting in added pressure at the QB position. Kyle may surpass 200 yards this week, with a single TD pass, but no more than that.

Kurt Warner: A meeting in chilly Chicago in Week 9 does not bode well for Kurt Warner. The greybeard has some gas left in the tank, but will be hard pressed to work his magic this time. Chicago bounced back against Cleveland last week, and likely will not have to deal with Anquan Boldin, who should miss this one. Larry Fitzgerald will be smothered, making it difficult for Warner to get going. It looks like back-to-back clunkers for the two-time former NFL MVP and Super Bowl Champion.


Cedric Benson: The resurgent Benson and his Bengal mates return from a Week 8 bye, for a divisional tilt against the Baltimore Ravens. Benson has been stellar for Cincinnati this season, most recently in a grudge match with the team that drafted him in the first round, the Chicago Bears. As well as Cedric has played, he is going up against a stoked Raven D that is coming off a huge win against the previously undefeated Broncos. There aren’t many NFL backs that I would recommend starting against Baltimore. CB isn’t one of them.

Marion Barber: MBIII’s fantasy value has taken a huge hit this season. The combination of early-season injuries, and a shared workload with Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, has crushed Barber’s status as a fantasy stud. Marion did get into the endzone against Seattle last week, but he still only managed 53 yards on the ground and a lone reception for two yards. In a Monday night matchup with the Eagles in Philadelphia, Barber is not going to get much room to run. Dallas RB’s are not strong plays this week.


Brandon Marshall: Nobody doubts the ability of Brandon Marshall. He has proven that he has the skills to be an elite NFL receiver and fantasy beast. His off-the-field problems are well-documented, and so far in 2009, his on-the-filed performance has left much to be desired. A guy like Marshall is tough to sit, but the reeling Broncos travel to the Steel City in Week 9. If weather doesn’t play a factor, Polamalu and the Steelers D certainly will.

Dwayne Bowe: No matter how talented a receiver may be, if the players around him aren’t competent, his value will be limited. Such is the case with Dwayne Bowe, who finds himself in an ugly situation in Kansas City. The Chiefs are playing a miserable Jaguar team in Week 9, but the Larry Johnson-Chiefs will struggle to put points on the board against anyone. Free agent acquisition Matt Cassel has struggled mightily of late, which makes Bowe a risky play this week and weeks ahead.


Todd Heap: The former All-Pro has vanished. After scoring a TD in each of the first two weeks of the season, Heap has failed to find the endzone again, and surpassed 50 yards receiving just once since Week 2. The Ravens remain a defensive minded team. Unless he gets on a roll, and has a favorable matchup, Todd Heap will not be a viable fantasy starter this season.

Kellen Winslow: KW Jr. has delivered a couple of outstanding performances this season. The other five weeks’ lines have been mediocre at best. Do we really expect any consistency from the 2009-10 Bucs offense? The win may come for Tampa Bay (not this week against the Packers), but Winslow or any other Buc player should not be relied on as fantasy assets.