Author Archives: Chris Kalra

The President That Never Could

It was a mysterious phenomenon slowly becoming buried in conspiracy cries and stale reruns.

Neither the fans, or the players, or even the president of the United States, could quite understand it.

533 straight losses.

To the 2008 Detroit Lions, who lost 16 straight games: Quit your whining.

To the Charlotte Bobcats, who lost 23 straight games to end the 2011-12 season: It could be worse… 

Up until last Wednesday, Teddy had lost all 533 President’s Races.

What Can’t George Washington Do?

For those who haven’t heard, the President’s Race, featured at every Washington Nationals home game in the fourth inning, is a race between four famous presidents – George “George” Washington, Thomas “Tom” Jefferson, Abraham “Abe” Jefferson, and Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt – dressed in 10-ft foam costumes.

Cheesy? Probably.

Entertaining to drunk baseball fans? You bet.

But the promotional event slowly evolved into one that drew almost as much interest as the Nationals’ baseball home games themselves.

All the Presidents, except Teddy, were winning.

At first, Teddy’s losses were blamed on his lack of speed, or inability to balance himself inside the heavy, unevenly distributed costume.

Then Teddy started losing, even when it seemed like wins were so close he could literally touch the finish line tape.

In a race on June 28, 2008, Teddy was primed for victory when Orioles mascot, “The Bird”, stepped in in the waning moments to tackle him short of the finish line and his first win.

On June 4, 2012, in a SportsNation special “President’s Race”, Teddy built a sizeable lead over the other Presidents, but stopped short of the finish line to celebrate. In the middle of the celebration, George rode by on a van, clubbed Teddy with a baseball bat, and rolled into another victory.

Teddy who used a motor scooter on July 26, 2009 to finish in first place, was disqualified in that race for gaining an advantage.

Meanwhile the losses for Teddy, typical and bizarre alike, were mounting.

Teddy’s Brilliance…Denied

Like Teddy, the Nationals, the “Clippers” of baseball, kept losing. Going back to their Montreal Expos days, the Washington Nationals hadn’t made the playoffs since 1933.

2012 though proved to be different. An upstart Nationals team won 98 games, the division and the best record in baseball.

Like the Nationals, Teddy too turned it around. On the last day of the 2012 regular season, Teddy won his first race. The Phillies Mascot, “Phillie Phanatic”, tackled the other three presidents, as Teddy secured his first victory to the standing ovation of the crowd.

Also, the next Nationals hitter after Teddy won hit a home run.

But did Teddy’s losing streak end then?

Was it a symbolic feat of the Nationals’ turnaround as a franchise? The start of something new?

Was it the sign of something greater to come?

That “greater” though will need to come right now as the Nationals face a 2-1 deficit to the Cardinals, and elimination tomorrow.

Like Teddy, who’s now 1-533, the Nationals are heading in the right direction, even if loss 534 is just around the corner.

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NFL Week Four: Hits and Misses

Miss: New York Jets Offense

Mark Sanchez, formerly known as “Sanchize”, was supposed to save the franchise. In his first two seasons, he was the “it” guy, and now he’s the fall guy. The Wildcat offense has been even worse than Sanchez, who is struggling to even complete 50% of his passes. Sanchez threw for just 103 yards with an INT and a fumble. Meanwhile, the run game has fallen far from its 2009/2010 dominance. With no end in sight for the Jets offensive struggles, Rex Ryan’s dream of a Super Bowl run has slowly become a nightmare only four games in. That nightmare is only just beginning, as the 2-2 Jets face the 4-0 Texans and the 2-2 Patriots within the next three weeks.

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Can the Falcons go undefeated?? Too soon? Too lofty? It’s hard to doubt Matty Ice the way he’s playing right now

Hit: Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan seems to redefine the word “WOW” every week. Down one with 1:09 remaining and no timeouts, the Falcons started at their own one. That wasn’t an issue for “Matty Ice”. From his own end zone, Ryan held firm in the pocket and launched a deep ball for Roddy White, who made the spectacular grab down the field. After a few more accurate throws by Ryan, Matt Bryant kicked the game winning field goal. Just like that, Ryan’s team is 4-0 and he has solidified his position as the game’s best QB right now. 

Miss: Buffalo Bills Defense 

That much-improved defense of the Bills has fallen far short of expectations. On Sunday the Patriots scored 52 points on the Bills, including 35 straight second half points. This Bills defense is the same defense that gave up 48 points to the Jets in week one. In the offseason, the Bills, a small market team, signed defensive end Mario Williams to a $100 million+ contract. That investment has looked like a bust so far, as Williams, a former No. 1 overall pick, has only 1.5 sacks so far.

Hit: Arizona Cardinals

It didn’t look pretty, but it looked like a win for the Arizona Cardinals. Against Miami, they were outgained 480-297 in total yards and trailed 13-0 at halftime. Late turnovers by QB Ryan Tannehill, who threw for 431 yards, one short of the rookie record, did the Dolphins in. Under pressure, Tannehill threw an INT on the Dolphins first possession in OT to set up a game-winning field goal. The Cardinals have now won 9 of their last 11, and are 4-0 on the season.

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Just How Bad Did Roger Goodell and The NFL Screw Up?

Finally the NFL did what was right.

Finally Commissioner Roger Goodell practiced what he preached.

And finally, the real referees will return to their jobs.

It took a national televised debacle, one the likes the NFL has never seen before, to end the stalemate between the NFL and the league’s referees.

That now infamous play has changed this NFL season forever.

The Packers are 1-2, tied for last in the NFC North instead of being 2-1 and tied for first place. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are 2-1 and in position to make a run at the postseason.

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One referee signaled touchdown while the other referee signaled timeout, which usually happens after an interception.

For the NFL and Goodell, it can’t get any worse. Their refusal to budge and send competent referees to the job has altered the seasons of the both of these teams, and the entire playoffs. Now the league has to hope that both the Packers and the Seahawks miss the playoffs by more than one game so that playoff spots, playoff seedings and home field advantages aren’t impacted. If not, then the whole season has been tainted and compromised by referee mishaps.

While that stain on the season has a chance to fade, the stain on Roger Goodell’s legacy is permanent.

Goodell, commissioner since 2006, built his reputation on protecting the integrity of the league and making player safety a cornerstone of rule changes. He delivered heavy punishments to players like Adam “Pacman” Jones and the Michael Vick for disgracing the game. He instilled rules that banned late hits on the quarterback, head-to-head hits and the hitting a player up high.

However Goodell’s decision to allow heavily outmatched replacement officials to referee NFL games went against both of those principles.

By not putting the highest quality of officials on the field, Goodell disgraced the reputation of the game and allowed the failures of those officials to make the league a laughing matter on television networks nationwide.

The replacement referees weren’t even from the highest level of college. Rather they from non-BCS conferences in Division 1, lower college divisions, junior colleges and high school.

Aside their overuse of pass interference penalties though, the replacement referees penalties called relatively the same amount of penalties as the actual referees did up until this point in 2011.

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Hines Ward has some competition for league’s dirtiest offensive player…

Instead, the problem was their inability to control the game. From numerous after-the-play cheap shots to unnecessary player scrums, control was far from the norm.

Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III told the media that St. Louis Rams defenders hit him several times after the play ended. Video evidence confirmed his remarks.

In week two, Golden Tate delivered a vicious hit on a defenseless player while his quarterback broke the pocket to run the ball. Tate, who wasn’t flagged, should have been called for block-in-the-back. A week later, Tate pushed a defenseless Green Bay defender on the final play on Monday Night’s game.

In all these situations, player safety remained second to Goodell and the league’s dispute with the regular referees. Luckily no player was seriously injured.

The replacement referees put the NFL players’ safety in danger, and Goodell and the league allowed that to happen.

This weekend the regular referees will take over but the damage has been done.

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Top Storylines from Week 4 of College Football

1) Florida State Is Back

Wind back the clock to the 1990’s. The Seminoles were the decade’s most dominant team – four national title game appearances, two championships, and consistent ten win seasons. What followed though was a decade plus of mediocrity. But on Saturday night, Florida State has finally started to reemerge into the national spotlight. On Saturday night in primetime, the No. 4 Seminoles crushed the then-No. 10 Clemson, validating their status as of the nation’s premier teams. Redshirt senior QB E.J. Manuel showed he’s capable of leading his team on the big stage. Florida State’s remaining schedule looks relatively easy aside from a showdown with No. 11 Florida. With all the hype on Alabama and Oregon, the Seminoles might be the dark horse team that wins it all.

2) Notre Dame Is For Real

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Will Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o be the first defensive player to win the Heisman since 1997 when Michigan CB Charles Woodson won the award?

On Saturday, the Fighting Irish accomplished what they hadn’t done in a decade – start a season 4-0. Usually, a program known for it’s star quarterbacks, Notre Dame has won games behind its physical, hard-hitting defense. In total, then-No. 18 Michigan and then-No. 10 Michigan State scored nine points. If Notre Dame and its defense can continue their success, linebacker Manti Te’o should get serious Heisman consideration. Notre Dame has turned their early season quarterback controversy into a devastating two-quarterback system that has worked to perfection. Everett Golson has gained valuable experience while Tommy Rees has delivered late when his team has needed him.

3) Collin Klein Has Joined The Heisman Race

Kansas State senior quarterback Collin Klein vaulted himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion when he engineered a 24-19 upset rout of the then-No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners at home. In the weekend’s biggest upset, Klein passed for 149 yards and ran for 79 yards. It’s not an outrageous stat line, or even a stellar stat line, but it is a winning stat line in one of college football’s toughest environments. On the season, Klein has 10 total touchdowns and is his team’s catalyst on offense. Kansas State (4-0) will go as far as Klein can take them, and if they can run the table, he just might win the Heisman.

4) What Is Happening To Matt Barkley?

USC QB Matt Barkley was once the Heisman frontrunner, but fallen far from that throne. Last week’s 2 INTs, 0 TD in a loss to Stanford was supposed to be an anomaly until the senior followed up with another bummer this week. In USC’s unimpressive 27-9 win against California, Barkley threw for just 192 yards and 2 INTs to go along with 2 TDs. With two future first round picks at wide receiver, Barkley’s performance has been nothing short of downright atrocious. Also, his inability to throw an accurate deep ball has been another question mark. Barkley may not just be losing the faith of Heisman believers, but also of NFL scouts.

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AL MVP: Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera

The AL MVP race is suiting up to be sports’ tightest MVP race this year. It is a two-man race between the Angels’ Mike Trout and the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera.

Mike Trout, the 21-year-old rookie phenom, has been a key figure in the Angels’ turnaround. Before calling up Trout, the Angels were a disappointing 6-14. Since Trout’s arrival, the team is 75-54, a winning percentage good enough for the first wild card in the AL.

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Only two rookies have won the MVP award: Ichiro (2001), and Fred Lynn (1975). Will Trout join this elite class?

Trout is batting .327, second in the American league, with 27 HR and 77 RBI. Aside from being one of the game’s best hitters, he has game-changing speed and gold-glove defense in Center Field.

Trout has an AL-leading 46 steals, while only having been caught four times. Also, 63% of the time, he has taken the extra base on a hit. (advancing two bases on a hit, three bases on a double) That track-like speed has propelled Trout to the top of the runs scored category in the AL with 118, 18 ahead of the next closest player even though he missed the first 20 games of the season.

Defensively, Trout has been no stranger to Baseball Tonight’s Web Gems or SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays. He has taken away a league-leading four home runs this year.

Perhaps the most telling statistic of Trout’s case is his WAR (Wins Above Replacement), which calculates the total number of wins that any player adds to his team over the course of a season. Trout is the AL-leader in WAR with 10.3, while the next-closest player only has 6.6.

On the other side of the AL MVP argument is baseball’s best hitter this season, Miguel Cabrera.

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Hard to believe the Marlins traded Cabrera to the Tigers in 2007 because they didn’t want to pay him. Dear Miami: He’s worth it.

Cabrera is making a strong push for baseball’s first Triple Crown since 1967. He leads the AL in hitting (.333), RBIs (130) and is second in HR with 41, one behind league-leader Josh Hamiliton.

The Triple Crown is leading the league in batting average, HR, and RBIs in the same season and is one of baseball’s great statistical achievements. Because of more teams, more players and a higher development of those players, a Triple Crown in this age could be baseball’s greatest statistical achievement in one season ever.

If Cabrera does accomplish the rare feat, it will hard to deny him the hardware in a sport where statistics have the final say.

His other statistics are also MVP-worthy: first in slugging (.612), second in hits (189) and runs scored (100) and third in WAR (6.3).

While both candidates’ teams are in the playoff hunt, neither team would be in the playoffs if the regular season ended today. The Angels are 3.5 games back of the Oakland A’s for the second wild card spot. Meanwhile, the Tigers are 2 games behind the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central.

Whosever team makes the playoffs will probably win the MVP award. If neither the Angels nor the Tigers make the playoffs, this could be an MVP race that comes down to a handful of votes.

Regardless, either candidate is fully deserving of the award.

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The Chase For Perfection Goes Awry

USC had perfection in the making – an undefeated season, the Heisman-winning quarterback, and a possible BCS national title. Then those dreams of perfection stumbled, and crashed, as the No. 2 Trojans did in a 21-14 loss to No. 21 Stanford

The team with all the hopes and aspirations, driven even higher by coming off their two-year bowl ban, looked flat in defeat.

With 11:19 left in the second quarter, running back Silas Reed scored a touchdown on a one-yard run to give USC a 14-7 lead.

From there though, the Trojans played as if they were on cruise control. The precision and focus USC relied on earlier seemed to evaporate. At the center of it all was quarterback Matt Barkley.

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“Guys wait, just listen. I’m telling you, I’m not all hype!”

Barkley missed easy short throws and failed to break the pocket early enough at times.

When the big moment did arise, he didn’t deliver. With the Cardinal riding the momentum after just having tied the score at 14-14, Barkley engineered the Trojans to a measly three-and-out on their next possession.

Stanford then scored another touchdown to take the lead, and the game, 21-14. The Trojans had one last possession to right the ship, but costly penalties and the inability to protect Matt Barkley did them in.

Maybe the most baffling part was what USC tight end Randall Telfer alluded to afterwards, when he said the Trojans were “not as mentally prepared as we should have been.”

Stanford, ranked and coming off three consecutive wins over USC, gave them no indication that this game was going to be a cakewalk.

If there were distractions, Coach Lane Kiffin’s antics were at the forefront of them.

Kiffin, who has a strict policy that bans media members from reporting injuries that occur at practice, felt a local reporter, Scott Wolf of the LA Daily News, had broken those rules when he reported of an injury to a Trojans kicker earlier in the week. Consequently, Kiffin banned him from two weeks of practice and the next home game. Wolf though received the news from outside sources, not from practice, and USC officials wisely overturned those punishments. Still the whole incident became a widespread fiasco.

Stanford has won four out the last five with USC, beginning in 2007 when the Cardinal, a 41-point underdog, shocked the No. 2 Trojans 24-23 in the Coliseum.

Another distraction may have been all the attention on one of the most heralded Heisman campaigns ever by USC for Matt Barkley.

Barkley though looked far from that Heisman-frontrunner on Saturday night.

With two future NFL first round wideouts at his disposal, the senior led the offense to an underachieving 14 points while throwing two interceptions and no touchdowns.

Luckily for USC the loss doesn’t eliminate them from the national championship picture even though they are now ranked No. 13 in the AP Top 25.

Many of the teams ranked ahead of the Trojans are undefeated, but will play each other, including No. 1 Alabama/No. 2 LSU, No. 4 Florida State/No. 10 Clemson, and No. 6 Oklahoma/No. 12 Texas.

USC meanwhile will play No. 3 Oregon, No. 11 Notre Dame, No. 19 UCLA, No. 22 Arizona and a possible rematch with Oregon/Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game. The Trojans, with a strong schedule coupled with an early loss, rather than a late loss, could climb back into the top two if they win out.

If the Trojans can make that climb, Matt Barkley should return to the Heisman spotlight.

It may not be perfection for USC, but it can still be confetti.

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Notre Dame Moves to the ACC

On Wednesday, the ACC popped the question.

Surprisingly, Notre Dame responded with a “yes.”

It’s like that marriage, or at least in this case, engagement, that no one expected.

When the news spreads, people can’t seem to wrap their heads around it – Really she picked him? Why would she settle for that?

Well she, being Notre Dame football, was once the nation’s darling. The gorgeous woman with all eyes glued on her, but with eyes seemingly for no one else. Independent, but far from alone.

But people, and programs, change.

So Notre Dame has officially decided to move from the Big East to the ACC in all sports, except football where the school remains an independent. The Irish will play five games against ACC opponents annually, which almost half of their schedule.

Notre Dame, once an elite program, seems to have fallen into mediocrity but still remains one of college footballs most marketable programs.

Yes Notre Dame football didn’t join the ACC, but college football’s landmark independent school has finally become tied to a conference, which is a huge step in that direction.

The move though seems like the best one for Notre Dame.

The Irish switched conferences while maintaining their independent status and their lucrative television deal with NBC. Leaving the Big East was also a smart move, because as college football moves toward bigger “super” conferences, the deteriorating Big East seems to the odd man out.

But why the ACC and not the Big Ten?

It’s because Notre Dame is intent on promoting their brand. Since they are already located in Big Ten country, playing along the coast will give the program a bigger opportunity to spread their brand and consequently, attract more recruits from that region.

The Atlantic Coast Conference itself was another winner in this deal.

With an upcoming playoff and the end of the BCS, Notre Dame football, one of college football’s premier programs, may soon be forced to join a conference and would, in that situation, join the ACC.

That possibility, along with playing Notre Dame five times annually, will allow the ACC to renegotiate its television deals for more money. Thus, each conference member will now receive even more money each year.

Also the likelihood that Notre Dame would leave the ACC seems close to none, as the conference raised its exit fee from $20 million to a ridiculous $50 million.

But if there are “winners”, then there have to be “losers”. In this case, the Big East conference was a definite loser.

Had the Big East conference been able to recruit Notre Dame’s football program, it would have received a significant jolt in generating revenue, signing lucrative television deals, and garnering national attention.

The loss of possibly adding Notre Dame football, and the loss of Notre Dame altogether, deal another blow to the reeling conference. In the last year alone, Syracuse, Pittsburg and West Virginia have all left the Big East. It remains to be seen how long the Big East will continue to be a premier conference, assuming it still is.

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