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Old 09-09-2002, 06:49 PM   #1
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Default Sports Central Newsletter - #85 - Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

The Sports Central Newsletter
September 8th, 2002 - Issue #85

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|-- IN THIS ISSUE... --|

- Words From the Editor
- The O-Files (NEW!)
- Reader's Showcase (Sports Rant)
- What's new at Sports Central?
- Feature Article: Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!
- Marquee Matchup (NFL, MLB)



Hello folks,

Do we ever have a full plate of material for you in this issue. We bid adieu to Ross Lancaster's Lancaster Report and welcome The O-Files, a general purpose sports editorial column by Sports Central's Brad Oremland. Brad will also be gracing you with his weekly NFL power rankings on the site each Tuesday.

In this issue's Feature Article, Mike Round says it's time to put the MLB strike thoughts behind us and welcome another exciting season of NFL action!

Until next time,

- Marc James
mailto:[email protected]


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|-- THE O-FILES--|

"The Legacy of an Athlete"
By Brad Oremland

In 1967, Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title for refusing military service. The entire U.S. Summer Olympic team boycotted the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Now imagine Tiger Woods skipping the Masters at Augusta National for women's rights.

For those who live underground -- or, I guess, just don't follow golf -- the National Council of Women's Organizations has been putting pressure on Augusta to allow women as members. That pressure has not been directly applied to Woods, but it has been suggested from some quarters that he has a duty to aid their cause however he can. After all, he is not only the best golfer in the world, but also himself a member of historically oppressed groups.

Well, I don't think Tiger has any such duty, but I would like to see him show some concern for something other than a putt to save par. If Tiger boycotted Augusta National -- just skipped the Masters -- imagine the uproar. Holding a major without Tiger would be a little like making the Yankees ineligible for the World Series. Some people would slam Tiger. Maybe nothing would come of it. But imagine if he skipped it again the next year. I can't help thinking that something would change. The PGA would be furious -- mostly at Tiger, I imagine -- but also at Augusta. Interest (and TV ratings) would plummet. And Augusta would surely become the poor man's major. Who cares about the one where the second-best player wins? Heck, maybe other golfers would follow Tiger's lead. Phil Mickelson's got a mom, too.

Augusta has no obligation to admit women. It's a private club. Heck, they have no obligation to admit anyone but Ku Klux Klan members if they so desire (they don't). But really, the day I side with an Old Boys Club over an organization whose goal is protecting the rights of half our population, give me a good one upside the head.

Perhaps the strangest aspects of this whole thing are the people fanning the fire: Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson and NCOW chairwoman Martha Burk. Burk and the members of her organization have chosen to focus on a private club -- albeit one with immense public exposure -- while very real and far more serious issues in the women's rights movement remain. Johnson, meanwhile, has cancelled the club's sponsorship deals rather than let it appear that the NCOW won a victory if any of them withdrew support. The folks who run Augusta aren't being principled; they're being childish.

Some people would criticize Tiger Woods harshly for skipping the Masters. The same thing happened to Ali, but his legacy is greater today for the stand he took then. And Tiger should pick his fights. Vietnam was much bigger than Augusta National is. The right of women to join one private club isn't a big deal in the big scheme of things.

But let's see Tiger take a stand on something. Ali was one of the most influential athletes in the world in 1967. The same can be said of Tiger today. And while he has no obligation to take a stand for anything, it sure would be nice to get some evidence that he cares about anything outside of himself. Take a stand. Women's rights, if that's something you feel strongly about. War, the environment, anything. It can be anything you care about, Tiger. You're already destined to have your name in the record books. Put it in the history books, too.

Discuss: https://www.sports-central.org/commu...&threadid=4741



Each issue, the Reader's Showcase features either challenging sports trivia or sports rant entries from readers on a rotating basis. For the Sports Trivia questions, we will randomly choose trivia questions ranging from baseball to hockey to golf. As for the Sports Rant, you, the readers, have the opportunity write-in with your opinions and thoughts and have your thoughts published in front of thousands of interested eyes.

In this issue, we're featuring another opinionated sports rant. Want to voice your opinion with thousands of eager fans? Let us know! mailto:[email protected]?subject=Readers_Showcase


"Who Should Be AL MVP?"

"soxfan9" writes:

"I've got to vote for Tejada. He means more to his team than the other two. That is, if Jason "If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em" Giambi wasn't there, then the Yanks would still be winning. If Alfonso "NY Paid Double What the Indians Were Offering" Soriano wasn't there, the Yanks would still be winning. Tejada is simply more important to his club."


Who do you think is most deserving of the MVP? Voice your opinion in the link above or e-mail us: mailto:[email protected]?subject=Readers_Showcase


[ Last Issue ]

Last issue, we asked: "What do Phil Simms, Sid Luckman, and George Landa have in common?" The correct answer was all threw 7 TD passes in a single game. Congratulations to Russell Hewitt who answered correctly. Good luck to everyone next issue!



Revisiting the new articles for the week of 09/02/02 - 09/08/02:


COLUMN: Bulls and Bears - Week 1
By Komments.com Staff

As a part of our affiliation with Kellogg's Komments, Sports Central will be running a weekly fantasy football column titled Bulls and Bears, breaking down the fantasy football sleepers and dozers for each week. In its second year running on the site, find out who will lead you to fantasy glory in this week's Bulls and Bears.



MLB: Bonds: Still the best
By Eric Maus

Even at age 38, Barry Bonds is still the best player in Major League Baseball today. It's not Alex Rodriguez, despite what these "baseball experts" will try and tell you. SC's Eric Maus puts Bonds and A-Rod head-to-head and explains why the older Bonds still holds the upperhand in today's game and perhaps ever.



NHL: Theodore's contract: Moderation in excessiveness?
By Josie Lemieux

The Montreal Canadiens could not make the suspense last longer. It was a stressful summer for the organization and the fans. Now that Jose Theodore has signed a contract worth over $16 million dollars, Theodore will join a group of highly-paid stars who must deliver the merchandise, pressure in bonus. Are they worth the price?



NFL: Turnpike to the Super Bowl
By Luke Busovsky

Along Pennsylvania interstate 76, mountains and rolling hills dominate the landscape. On your journey between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, you will find a lot of country music stations on your radio dial, some rock-and-roll, and lots and lots of sports talk shows. What's on everybody's lips this preseason? More than ever, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles.



GENERAL: Fantasy Fever: Where's the Tylenol?
By Ryan Noonan

Major League Baseball used to be a favorite past time. Unfortunately, it seems like much of America has come down with a disabilitating illness that can take away from the pureness of the game. And as much as SC's Ryan Noonan hates to admit, even he has come down with a bad case of Fantasy Fever.



TENNIS: The U.S. Open final four
By Michael Cecilio

The final four of the U.S. Open women's event is finally set. Not surprisingly, we are down to the Williams sisters who seem to be accruing their dominance of the field with each progressive match and each progressive tournament. SC's Michael Cecilio takes a look into the last women standing at the 2002 U.S. Open.



COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Sex, football, and algebra?
By David Shaw

Three topics that rarely intertwine will do so in this highly-competitive, highly-unpredictable year in college football. SC's David Shaw takes a look at the jealous lovers, tempting seductresses, and the math equation that make up the world of college football.



NFL: NFC preseason power rankings
By Brad Oremland

The preseason is over, and it's time to take a look at the regular season. SC's Brad Oremland profiles the NFC and ranks the teams from 1-16. His AFC rankings were posted earlier this week.



COLUMN: Amico Report: Major NBA disgrace
By Sam Amico

The United States lost its undefeated record in international play and failed to even earn a medal. A lot of people who love the NBA have been waiting for games like these. They've been waiting for the athletic American pros to get spanked by a fundamentally-sound bunch of fun-loving foreigners -- simply because they feel U.S. players have no concept of how the game is meant to be played. More talk in the latest Amico Report.



MLB: Late season is streak city
By Jon Collins

With the strike threat over and fans slowly backing down on their threats to never again watch America's Pastime, baseball may have a new contender. The Oakland A's have won 19 straight and hometown rival San Francisco Giants lost their seven-game winning streak, says SC's Jon Collins.



MLB: Baseball stays, but this fan's gone
By Mason Williams

Baseball avoided the strike, but the opinion of SC's Mason Williams is he wished it would have gone away. The emotional roller coaster of being a baseball fan has taken its toll on this fan's spirit and it's time to ramble on.



NFL: Five things to watch in the NFL
By Craig Hardesty

Who cares about a baseball strike, anyway? The NFL is back in season, and diehard football fans couldn't be happier. This year's season has some interesting twists to keep an eye on, as SC's Craig Hardesty details in his latest article.



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"Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!"

To many sports fans, the opening of the NFL season is the pinnacle of the sporting year. This year, on top of the usual new draft picks, new head coaches, new uniforms, and revamped rosters, we've got realigned divisions, John Madden on a Monday night, and a new team in Houston. After a summer of baseball strife, the nation, myself included, is ready for some football.


By Mike Round

Anyone who knows me is aware of my criticisms of the NFL. I don't care if no one agrees with me, I'm sticking to my belief that the NFL is conning the fans and is the sporting equivalent of the emperors new clothes. Still, even an old cynic like me looks forward to opening day. I'm even looking forward to the reappearance of Terry Bradshaw and his bunch of Muppets on Fox's NFL Sunday. My God, it must have been a long offseason.

Football is the sporting king -- at least in the United States -- and will be for the foreseeable future. It may not have baseball's sense of tradition or history, nor does it have baseball's sheer depth of talent, but it has a compact, high-energy season, stylized violence, unpredictability, and cheerleaders. Everything a growing man with too much testosterone needs.

It's the fashion to look for Cinderella stories in football after the past three seasons where the unheralded Rams, Ravens, and Patriots have gone from mediocrity to Super Bowl glory. Mediocrity to slightly better than mediocrity to the cynics, as the Ravens and Patriots were little more than workmanlike, functional teams that finished top of a pretty dire heap. But you wanted parity and in today's NFL you've got it. Forget the Cinderella stories from now on, though, as realignment has consigned the fifth-place schedule to the garbage can. It will be a lot tougher for another Patriots or Rams to emerge from the scrapheap.

A by-line in last week's paper summed up the modern NFL. Greg Biekert, the Raiders linebacker who was lauded last season for his stellar play, was told he had to accept a paycut from $2.5 million a year to $1 million -- or be released. He had three years left on his (meaningless) contract. He opted, reluctantly, for release.

Those of us, me included, who don't make a million a year, might say he's lucky to earn such a sum. But he signed a contract in good faith and played his heart out for a team he loved. The team reneged on the deal because NFL contracts aren't guaranteed, they needed the cap room and had a rookie who could play his position for a lot less money. Biekert, a blue-collar player that wouldn't have looked out of place in a leather helmet back in the Stone Age of football, deserved better than such crass treatment.

The St. Louis Rams start the season as everyone's tip to win it all. Again. They face a test from a resurgent 49ers in the NFC West, but will easily make the playoffs. As will the Bucs in the South, the Eagles in the East, and the Packers in the North. The Bears and 49ers look better than the rest of the bunch for the wildcard spots, making the six playoff teams exactly the same as last year in the NFC. Dallas and New Orleans may be best placed to challenge the Bears and 49ers.

Over in the AFC, things look more complicated. The East sees a three-way fight between the Jets, Dolphins, and Patriots. If Vinny stays healthy, this may be the Jets' year. If he doesn't, then they won't even make the cut. The North is a Pittsburgh walkover and the South should see a good battle between the Titans and the Colts. The West is a muddle, with aging Oakland battling Kansas City and Denver for the division.

Assuming Bill Callahan can hold together a fractious and elderly locker room, Oakland may have just enough in the West. The Jets, Colts, and Steelers complete the divisional winners and the wildcard is any two from Tennessee, Miami, New England, and Denver. No one really stands out in the AFC and any of Green Bay, St Louis, Tampa Bay, and Philadelphia are good enough to beat the AFC's representative in San Diego next January.

This season is the acid test for Mike Martz's Rams team. He may be an offensive genius, but Martz has twice failed to take a strong team all the way. Another failure and the tag "The Buffalo Bills of the New Millennium" could be awarded. With weapons like Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and Torry Holt, the Rams will put points on the board. But without talisman linebacker London Fletcher, another cap victim, can they stop their opponents scoring more? At least Martz has recognized Dre Bly's talents and made him a starting corner. Just two years late, Mike, but you got there in the end.

Without a hint of bias, I see the Green Bay Packers stopping the Rams in the NFC Championship game. Brett Favre has talked openly of retiring to his beloved Mississippi and is fired up for what could be a last hurrah before Canton awaits. Antonio Freeman and LeRoy Butler may be gone, but Terry Glenn and Darren Sharper might be an improvement. If they can clinch homefield advantage, it will be tough for the Rams to go to frozen Wisconsin in January and win.

With rosters so thin these days as teams cut veterans to save the cap space, picking winners in the NFL depends solely on the lottery of injuries. Take away Warner or Faulk and the Rams are done. Likewise, the Packers without Favre. Injuries withstanding, I take the Packers to beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XXXVII.


Mike welcomes your feedback on his column: mailto:[email protected]?subject=Feature_Article



--> National Football League

By Brad Oremland

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) vs. New England Patriots (0-0)
Monday, Sep. 9, 9 PM EST; Gillette Stadium; Foxborough, Massachusetts; TV: ABC

This rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game could also be an early look at this year's AFC Championship Game, since both teams had productive offseasons. The buzz in Pittsburgh is about multi-dimensional rookie WR Antwaan Randle El, but the biggest coup was probably keeping together most of a defense that allowed only 13.3 points and less than 300 yards per game last season. The defending Super Bowl champion Patriots also re-signed their best players and picked up a trio of tight ends to augment their offense. The game will be played in the Patriots' new home, Gillette Stadium.

Monday night will also feature the regular season debut of the John Madden/Al Michaels MNF team. But don't expect to hear too many BOOMs going Jerome Bettis' way. After suffering an injury late last season, Bettis was ineffective in the playoffs and didn't look much better in limited action this preseason. Backup Amos Zereoue, on the other hand, has demonstrated starter-type ability, and should see the ball a few times on Monday night even if Bettis runs well.

The Patriots are also unsettled -- if that term can be applied to this monument of team chemistry -- at running back. Last year, Antowain Smith carried the load after two years of injuries and limited action in Buffalo. But Smith reportedly was a little out of shape in camp, and the club tried to pick up former Falcons RB Jamal Anderson, but the deal was terminated after Anderson allegedly failed a conditioning run. That leaves change-of-pace back Kevin Faulk and the disappointing J.R. Redmond if Smith can't perform.

The Steelers still boast the best defense in the league, and the offense is marginally better than New England's, but the Patriots retain a huge advantage on special teams. After effectively losing last year's Championship Game on special teams (and Kordell Stewart turnovers), the Steelers have put heavy emphasis on their special team play, but they still can't match the Patriots, who may have the best in the league. Troy Brown is a fine returner, and Adam Vinatieri may be the best clutch kicker in the NFL. Give this one to the Patriots on home field advantage.

[ Game Breakdown ]

Offense - Steelers
Defense - Steelers
Coaching - Patriots
Spec. Teams - Patriots
Intangibles - Patriots

Prediction: Patriots 20, Steelers 17


--> Major League Baseball

By Mike Round

Oakland A's at Anaheim Angels (Monday-Thursday)

The Angels continue their chase of the A's with a crucial four-game home stand at Edison Field beginning Monday night. The Angels have been a surprise contender in the tough AL West, emerging above Seattle as the main challenger to Oakland. If they are going to stay on pace with Oakland, this series will be key.

Monday night's series opener sees Oakland's Tim Hudson (12-9, 3.21 ERA) up against Anaheim's Kevin Appier (14-9, 3.66 ERA). Appier has had a remarkable season after moving to the West Coast from the Mets, showing no sign of aging. He's won his last five starts. He pitched a four-hitter in eight innings against Oakland on July 23rd for a tough 2-1 loss.

Hudson has won five of his last seven starts and is part of the best pitching rotation in the AL. Hudson took the loss on July 24th in Anaheim, scattering eight hits and five earned runs over seven innings.

Despite the publicity over the A's pitching, the Angels actually matchup pretty well with their rivals on the mound. Opponents' batting averages and team ERA's are virtually identical. The Angels batting is much stronger, owning the best batting average in the AL (.284).
This is going to be a classic confrontation, with divisional and wildcard implications. If Anaheim is to make the postseason, they will need to at least share the series.

[ Game Breakdown ]

Pitching - Push
Bullpen - Oakland
Hitting - Anaheim
Defense - Anaheim

Anaheim has the tools to make a dent in the A's divisional lead.

Prediction: Angels take three of the four games, starting with a 3-2 win on Monday night.


Got a game you want previewed? Send us your feedback:
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(Thanks for reading! Next issue set to come out on 09/22/02.)


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