Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Johnny Manziel Gets Headlines; The Monster, Jeremy Hill, Plays On

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has grabbed headlines for every step he has taken since winning the Heisman trophy eight months ago. From going to the NBA Finals, to becoming friends with the Drake, LeBron James, from being excused from the Manning Passing camp, to attending a fraternity party in Austin at the Aggies rival Texas, Manziel has had his fair share of air time over what seems like the longest college football offseason ever.

While none of these activities were against any NCAA rules, the most recent allegations to come against the redshirt sophomore have him in a real heap of  just for the agricultural school — cow patties.

Johnny Manziel
ESPN is reporting that Johnny Football took a $7,500 exchange for some autographed pictures. If this is true it does not bode well for A&M's title hopes, and due to the NCAA's amateurism rules, you have most likely seen Manziel play his last down of college football if the reports are true.

This story, because of the high-profiles involved  a team on the verge of a run at at a national championship and the current Heisman winner  is easy to sell to the masses, get ratings and viewership, but 366 miles away someone else was given another chance to play this season, after a crime, not some comparatively tenuous NCAA violation.

The news came in a blip across the bottom of your television screen, via a few tweets in your timeline, or perhaps you missed it. LSU's Jeremy Hill was reinstated for the season.

For the second time in his 22-year existence, the sophomore running back was arrested. The first coming in high school where Hill and a buddy committed despicable acts to a girl four years his junior.

Afterwards, LSU head coach Les Miles rewarded the four-star recruit with a scholarship.

This time the 6-foot-2, 235-pound monster attacked a defenseless man outside of a Baton Rouge bar as you can see in the video here. As wild as it may seem, his defense attorney  an LSU alum  convinced the judge  also an LSU alum  that Hill, who pleaded guilty to the charges, deserved probation, not time in prison.

Being what the Louisiana court system is, Hill found his way out of a prison sentence. Instead, he was sentenced to two years probation (of course traveling for LSU away games and playing in night games does not break probation), 50 hours of community service, pay $375 for the victims medical bills and write a letter of apology.
Les Miles

This time Miles awarded Hill with a welcome back to the football team.

Hill's football career, which made him a star in the state of Louisiana, will remain as it was. He was allowed back on the football team he rushed 755 yards and 12 touchdowns for. Why?  Most of all because he will help win football games.

Miles told the press on Monday if it was up to him, Hill would not be allowed but on the team, but Miles allowed the team to vote on it. And big surprise here, Hill's 18-22 year-old buddies let him come back on the team.

Johnny Football wanted some extra cash. For what, who knows? Was it worth the consequences that may arise from his actions? No, but if his allegations are true, Johnny Football's college career will presumably be over. I can't say how, as a 20-year-old, I would handle the limelight. I can't definitively say I would not fall into the same traps. I've never been offered more than about $10 bucks an hour for any skill I possess.

However, I do know what Hill did to a defenseless man outside a Baton Rouge bar in early July is deplorable. I do know that Miles dropped a couple of notches on my scale, a scale he was already low on for the way he has handled situations like this in the past.

Based on his previous handlings of simple battery situations, I should have known better. I should have known that winning football games and keeping the LSU fanbase  including the alums in a defunct court system  is more paramount than developing character, and that the Johnny Football drama is more signigicant to the media than allowing a monster back on campus where other potential victims may be living their lives.

Monday, April 15, 2013

When I Went to the Final Four...

For a longtime college basketball fan, a dream came true. I can remember watching the Final Four with my family when Arkansas was good, way, way back when. Last weekend I was afforded the opportunity to spend Saturday soaking in the sights and sounds of the Final Four in Atlanta.

After riding MARTA into town -- quite an experience when Atlanta hosts major events -- a couple friends and I walked around the Centennial Park where there was a stage featuring Zac Brown Band, Ludacris and others throughout the weekend. It did not take long to grow wary of the general public, who was there for the free concerts. I've seen concerts but never had I been to a Final Four. There was different end goal on my mind, and I was ready to get into the Georgia Dome as quickly as possible.
The most reasonably priced souvenir,
a mile away from the Georgia Dome 

We hung around the CNN Center before I got a call and left my group to meet up with my ticket holders, family friend Chris Peacock and his son. I walked up and down one of the 17 different Peachtree Streets of Atlanta before finding my way onto the roof of Max's Lager House. There I met a couple of different people who made the confusion of navigating Atlanta well worth the adventure.

First was Kevin Blackistone, former sports columnist at the Dallas Morning Star, journalism professor at the University of Maryland and panelist on ESPN's Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption. He's a star in the sports journalism world so I was immediately at a loss for words. Without hesitation and being that sports is his job, he asked me, "What are you doing down here? Who do you pull for?" (the sports' world pleasantry equivalent of "Hi. How are you?)

Answering with "I am a fan of basketball like everyone here, and my team is the Arkansas Razorbacks." He quickly responded with more knowledge of the 1994 National Championship run and 1995 National Championship game than I ever knew. Granted, it was his job to cover these teams back in the day, but how he could know so much about those squads to this day was astonishing. And to know that he could have that conversation with fans of other teams with ease is shocking. I know this because I saw him talk Elon basketball with guys one table over who recognized Blackistone from his ESPN appearances.

Also at the table was David Jackson, who writes for USA Today and has a blog, The Oval, where he follows President Barrack Obama and the happenings at the White House. He has covered the last five presidential elections and could out duel you in a game of "Name Dropping." I promise. Jackson, also a Northwestern graduate, went to the game with us .While there, I was able to have some lengthy discussions about writing and the journalism business with a veteran high up in the industry.

None of this even involved what I was anticipating most, the basketball games.

The benefit of going on Saturday of the Final Four is that you get to see both semifinal games. Of course I spent a fair amount of the games using binoculars looking for different sports writers, columnists, broadcasters and analysts. Nerd alert.

We got lucky. Both games came down to the final minutes, and on Monday as I watched the game I could claim to have seen both teams live (one of those things only I care about). This is where I could transition into how annoying Syracuse fans are, but I will stay away from that topic until the masses call for it. There's also a good story about my run-in with the Georgia Dome's Director of Concessions about a cup if you ever need a good laugh.

We could get into the details of the game but a quarter of the country watched them, and there were no broken legs. Instead, I will take a second to post some pictures and send out an enormous thank you to Chris and his son for letting me tag along. I got to see meet some people (coaches, writers, analysts)  and see some things I had only dreamed about since I can remember watching basketball.

Inside the CNN Center
CBS Sports setup outside at Centennial Park
Chris and his son
Postgame -- I had a hard time leaving.
I watched the championship game  with my official cup,
which might have come at the expense of someone's job. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Florida Gulf Coast is Officially Dunk City, USA

America's newest Cinderella is at it again, reminding our short memories what they do best.

This is Florida Gulf Coast's Brett Comer feeding Eric McKnight a pass to put the Eagles up by two over San Diego State for a potential trip to the Sweet 16. They defeated the No. 2-seeded Georgetown on Friday, and the 15th-seeded Eagles have showcased more of their arsenal of high-flying tricks.

Seriously. Watch it again, and try to explain how anyone can cock the ball back that far and still dunk it. Best college basketball play I've ever seen? I can't think of any better

This was even more impressive than Friday's alley-oop (below), which was assisted by Comer as well.

Not to be forgotten in this little gem is that it meant more because of the time during the game it happened and who it happened against. Both are absurd for a mid-major program to be pulling off in the biggest game of the programs' six-year career. Yeah... FGCU was founded in 1991. Every player on the team is older than the school.

If the Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul needs a back-up point guard to throw passes in Lob City, I know the name of a guard in Florida who might can fill the void.

(h/t Run the Floor)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Welcome Mr. Jackson. I Am For Reeeeaaaall.

The Falcon's Thomas Dimitroff did what great general managers for great teams do. He patiently waited for a difference-maker's asking price to go down to a more reasonable number, and Dimitroff, who learned from some of the best while in New England's front office, got a talented, bruising running back (see picture below) in Steven Jackson, thus improving an already stacked offense.

Jackson voided the final year of his six-year contract with the St. Louis Rams. He was scheduled to make $7 million dollars this season and cost the Rams $11 million against the hard salary cap. Since being drafte No. 24 over all in 2004, the three-time Pro Bowler was looking to go to a team in contention for a Super Bowl, something he hasn't experienced since arriving in St. Louis. In the teams' best seasons with Jackson they went 8-8. And while they did make the playoffs, they were no where near a threat to win the whole thing. Much like the new proposed Atlanta stadium deal, it was a win-win for both parties, or depending on how you look at it all threeSt. Louis, Jackson and Atlantaare winners.

The most worrisome aspect of Jackson joining the Falcons around Atlanta was taking on his salary. Could Dimitroff not pay too much for the veteren while being certain to shore up a sometimes porous defense a year ago and saving enough space for franchise quarterback Matt Ryan? In a word, yes. Dimitroff was able to get Jackson to agree to a three-year deal with only $4 million guaranteed ($7 million less than he would have received in St. Louis.
Jackson (left) does not lack toughness.
And to all of the Jackson detractors, the free agency period is not over and, there is still the draft where Dimitroff is sure to take a few defensive ends and linemen for both sides of the line.

Speaking of that defense, Jackson willthrough his offenseaid the Falcons weakest link out, too.  The Rams' all-time leading rushermore than Eric Dickerson no lessalso provides the sort of short-yardage situation specialist former Falcon Michael Turner couldn't the last two seasons.

Being able to help Atlanta's offense sustain drives with conversions on third, fourth-and-short will give the defense a chance to rest on the sideline. It also helps the defense by helping the Falcons put away games. Time and time again last season the Falcons would surrender two-possession leads in the second half because they did not have a power running back to help put games away. Give me Jackson three chances at two yards, and I'll take my chances. He trails only the Vikings Adrian Peterson in yards after contact over the past four seasons, at over 2,100.

The Falcons now boast two Oregon State alums in the backfield with the more versatile and quicker Jaquizz Rogers and Jackson, a 1,000 yard rusher for eight consecutive seasons, even though opposing defenses would put eight or nine men in the box to stop the two-time All-Pro back as a Ram.

Hall of Famers Emmit Smith (11), Curtis Martin (10) and Barry Sanders (10) are the only running backs with longer streaks. More than likely he won't get 1,000 yards this season, but he will bring a professionalism and work horse attitude that every locker room can't get enough of.

Jackson left the franchise once known as "Greatest Show on Turf," and Dimitroff acquired a beast of a man in the hopes of making the 2013 Falcons' offense something similar.
For those of you who do not understand the title (like my mother), it's a spin-off from Outkast'sboth Atlanta nativespopular single from 2009.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Businessman Blank and Atlanta's Deal A Win-Win

Arthur Blank is a businessman. His background that makes the Atlanta stadium a good thing.

The stadium deal caused a massive uproar around the city on radio and television airwaves and newspaper columns because it was originally proposed as a "publicly-funded" project. But the deal states he will pay $800 million of the $1 billion price tag out of his own pocket (Just imagine making that monetary promise to anyone or anything. $800 million...).

The other $200 million is coming from the state's hotel-motel tax, and estimates from Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed show that up to 85% of that revenue comes from outside of Georgia. And up to $150 million of that $200 million the city has promised will come back to the Atlanta economy when the Falcons host a Super Bowl, which has been promised by the NFL if they built a new stadium.

Blank owns this little company known as Home Depot which will presumably serve as the primary funding party. (Does this mean he can get discount prices on the building materials for the stadium, ths saving Atlanta money?) Blank's businessman past will make sure that the building is done right; being that he is funding 80% of it, I am sure it will be done at a much lower cost than if the state's taxes were footing the bill.

He is a businessman who also understands that building it now, not later, is important. Now is when the Falcons are experiencing unprecedented success as a franchise, with three consecutive playoff berths and coming up 10 yards short of this year's Super Bowl.

The often-accused-of-being-lazy Atlanta sports fan has come out to watch his or her Falcons as of late. And for outsiders who don't believe it, check ticket prices online and try to get one for reasonably close to face value. Sans Bobby Petrino-post-Michael-Vick-dog-fighting-days, Falcons fans have routinely filled up the Georgia Dome as well as any NFL fans, even before their present-day success (with the exception of Green Bay whose fanbase is absurd). Because of the city's newfound love for the Falconsand its history of not always being so faithfulBlank knew he must get the deal done while morale is as high as its ever been.

In addition to the money he is putting towards the stadium, Blank has promised $15 million to the development of the surrounding areas. For those of you unfamiliar with Atlanta, you don't want to be caught around Georgia Dome too late at night, which is the case with many stadiums across the United States. Along with the neighborhood development, jobs will be created during the construction.

Blank is showing Atlanta that he cares, not only his football team but for its home city.

Plenty of jokes have been made, myself included, about how impatient the city of Atlanta and its football organization was towards getting a new stadium. Nostalgia becomes a large part of the negativity towards the deal because the Georgia Dome serves as more than just an NFL stadium to this state (hosting state playoff games, the 2007 and 2013 Final Four, the SEC basketball and football championships and other various college football games).

But now is the time to move past that because that stadium is going up. If you don't like it then don't use a hotel in Atlanta the next few years and don't go to a game at the new place when it is finished. I'll go ahead and thank you if you don't go so I will have a ticket at lower cost.

The stadium is a good thing for what it will bring to the city. You have an owner who is investing in Atlanta because he wants to win in and for Atlanta. Few fans are so lucky.


Let me know what you think below in the comment section. Is this a good idea or not, and if so, what should the new stadium's name be? I know it shouldn't be "Home Depot Field."