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Old 12-29-2002, 10:19 PM   #1
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Default Sports Central Newsletter - #93 - Sports: Love it or Hate it...

The Sports Central Newsletter
December 29th, 2002 - Issue #93

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

- Words From the Editor
- The O-Files: "Much Ado About Deion"
- Reader's Showcase (Sports Joke)
- What's new at Sports Central?
- Feature Article: "Sports: Hate it and Love it at the Same Time"
- Marquee Matchups (NFL, NBA, NHL)



Hello folks,

Welcome to the final issue of 2002! We're back from a week-long vacation and ready to create bigger and better things in 2003, in which we will celebrate five years of existence!

The goal this week is to launch a snazzy new design for our message boards, now with over 1,200 members and 75,000 posts strong! Right now, we're testing the new design and hope to launch it by New Year's. In the meantime, check it out to chat about the forthcoming NFL playoffs and NCAA bowls: http://www.sportscentralboards.com.

Speaking of that, here's to a happy New Year's to all of you. See you in 2003!

Until next time,

- Marc James
mailto:[email protected]


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|-- THE O-FILES--|

"Much Ado About Deion"

By Brad Oremland

"Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more. Men were deceivers ever;
One foot on sea, and one on shore, to one thing constant never.
So sigh not so, but let them go and be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe into hey nonny nonny."
-- William Shakespeare, "Much Ado About Nothing"

The NFL's regular season will close this weekend. A record number of teams in the AFC are alive for a playoff berth, the MVP race is more cluttered than it's been in years, and more history has been made this season than perhaps ever before. But the biggest stories in the league last week were the Bill Parcells controversy and the speculation about Deion Sanders unretiring.

Sanders became a free agent following the 1999 season, but only one team was really interested in him: the Washington Redskins. Sanders had been the best cornerback in the league several years before, but his game had noticeably declined, and unlike many veterans, he didn't compensate for physical deterioration with superior game smarts and toughness.

After signing a ridiculously lucrative contract with Washington, Sanders promptly had the worst season of his career. He retired late the next summer, before beginning the second season of his seven-year contract, but well after the draft or the busiest period of free agency.

Two years later, one of the best teams in the NFL, the Oakland Raiders, has found itself with an injury-depleted secondary, and apparently contacted Sanders about joining them for their Super Bowl run. Luckily for the Raiders, Deion didn't clear waivers and won't be joining them this season.

In 2000, Sanders was a mediocre cover corner, a lackluster tackler, and an average punt returner. Now, after two years of paying more attention to suits than suiting up, his skills have almost certainly declined even further. Why did the Raiders want a crappy player with an attitude problem? So Raiders fans, sigh not so, but let them go and be you blithe and bonny, Converting all your sounds of woe into hey nonny nonny. In other words, don't take this too hard.

Parcells is more interesting. When Jerry Jones -- perhaps the NFL's most visible owner -- met privately with Parcells -- probably the most coveted coach alive -- it sent waves throughout the league. It's a measure of the awe surrounding Parcells that this is still one of the league's biggest stories more than a week later, and with the playoffs about to begin. I'm part of the group that thinks Jones and Parcells would be an awful match. But unlike most people in that group, I think Parcells is more to blame than Jones.

Most football fans believe there will be no more dynasties in the NFL, barring a drastic and unforeseen change in league policies. The most common reason given is player movement triggered by salary constraints. Perhaps just as important, though, is coach movement, and no one is guiltier than Parcells. He retired after his second Super Bowl with the Giants, citing health concerns. But in 1993, he returned to coaching with the misguided notion that the only way to be successful was by resurrecting bad teams and then moving on. After four years with the Patriots, he left for New York immediately following a Super Bowl appearance. He stayed with the Jets for three years, once leading them to the AFC Championship Game, and then retired again.

Parcells was so eager to start over in 1996 that his plans to move on were well-known even before the Super Bowl was played. With this in mind, I submit to you that Parcells may be more guilty for the lack of dynasties in the NFL than any other single man.

The old dynasties were all associated with a coach. Vince Lombardi's Packers and Don Shula's Dolphins. George Halas and Paul Brown before them, and Chuck Noll and Tom Landry in the ''70s. Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs, Mike Ditka, and Parcells in the '80s. Even Jimmy Johnson and Mike Holmgren in the early '90s.

Now who is there? Mike Shanahan, maybe, but the Broncos are only 33-30 in the last four years. Bill Cowher might qualify if his Steelers had ever won a Super Bowl, but they're 0-1 under his guidance. Parcells could have made the Patriots -- or the Jets -- a dynasty. But both times he declined, opting instead to rebuild a loser.

Parcells may be the best rebuilder in NFL history, but he seems to have an aversion to doing the same thing for more than four years. He can't even stand to be a broadcaster for more than a couple years at a time.

The reason Parcells would be such a bad fit for Dallas -- aside from any confrontations between himself and Jones, although they do seem likely -- is that a dynasty is precisely what Jones wants. The Cowboys are used to dynasties. They were the NFC's best team in the 1970s, and in the early '90s -- the time Jones wants to recapture -- they won four Super Bowls in five years and clearly established themselves as the team of the decade.

I don't doubt that Parcells, whose coaching I have the utmost respect for, could make Dallas a contender. But I don't believe there is even a remote possibility that he will build a dynasty there. As William Shakespeare wrote, "Men were deceivers ever; One foot on sea, and one on shore, to one thing constant never." Surely, he had Parcells in mind.


Brad welcomes your feedback on his column: mailto:[email protected]?subject=O-Files




We'd love to hear your sports joke, proper credit will be given: mailto:[email protected]?subject=Readers_Showcase

A Green Bay Packers fan in a bar leans over to the guy next to him and says, "Wanna hear a joke about Minnesota Vikings fans?"

The guy next to him replies, "Well, before you tell that joke you should know something. I'm 6' tall and 220 pounds and I'm a Viking fan. The guy sitting next to me is 6'2" tall, 240 pounds and he's a Viking fan, and the guy sitting next to him is 6'5", 280 pounds and he's a Viking fan, too. Now, do you still wanna tell that joke?"

The Packer fan says, "Nah, not if I'm gonna have to explain it three times."

Credit: Ohyesuare (98sportsjokes.com)


[ Next Issue ]

Have something on your mind? Send us your sports thoughts and we might publish them in a future issue: mailto:[email protected]?subject=Readers_Showcase



Revisiting the new articles for the period of 12/16/02 - 12/29/02:


COLUMN: Amico Report: Holiday hoops
By Sam Amico

After hearing that Robert Johnson had been awarded Charlotte's expansion team, columnist Sam Amico's initial reaction was, "Say what? Robert who? Over Larry Bird?" But after giving it a lot of thought, he realized that Johnson was the best possible owner for Charlotte's new team. More expansion talk in the Amico Report.



COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Caron's next stop: Cincinnati?
By Piet Van Leer

Ken Dorsey was decidedly unhappy with the results, finishing fifth, third in quarterbacks in Heisman voting. But SC's Piet Van Leer thinks that's pretty good, considering his numbers were not better than either the winner or runner-up, Brad Banks.



NHL: When one man has to be sacrificed
By Josie Lemieux

Avs coach Bob Hartley lost his job 18 months after he won the Stanley Cup. It was not the first time an NHL coach has been fired and it won't be the last. Changes are made quickly and and we let it go. However, what are the real consequences for a fired NHL coach? A lot more to it than just a lost job.



COLUMN: Calling The Shots: And the award goes to...
By Ryan Noonan

"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" is as much a part of holiday tradition as opening presents or watching drunk Uncle Larry hit on your mom. For writers, it's also a time to start handing out awards. SC's Ryan Noonan combines two of his favorite Christmas traditions into one happy ceremony.



NBA: What's the point?
By Richard Levine

Who are the best point guards of the last 10 years? John Stockton? Gary Payton? Jason Kidd? How about Derek Fisher or B.J. Armstrong? These guys are the ones who have helped lead their team to victory and bring home the hardware, which is what matters, says SC's Richard Levine.



COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Breaking down the bowls
By Sean Pullins

This college football season has produced its share of memories. With the bowl season upon us, it's time to examine the many bowl game matchups. SC's Sean Pullins examines the matchups and tries to do his best Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder impersonation.



NFL: Week 15 power rankings
By Brad Oremland

The season is almost over, and most teams seem to have settled into place. There were still a few big movers, though, including the rising Dolphins and sinking Falcons. There's also a new team at the top, and it's all in this week's Power Rankings, with analysis from SC's Brad Oremland.



NFL: Observations of the Patriots
By David Martin

Living in Boston means watching more Patriots games than a fairweather Pats fan would prefer. Being a fairweather fan permits a slightly more objective view of the hometown team. It probably also allows a higher view of some of the AFC's other playoff contenders. These are some observations of state of the defending champs.



COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Return to glory at Chapel Hill?
By Eric Williams

Was last year really just a dream? Or was that really the University of North Carolina men's basketball team finishing the season with only eight wins? What in the name of Dean Smith happened in Chapel Hill last year? And, more importantly, what can be done to make sure that last year doesn't happen again?



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"Sports: Hate it and Love it at the Same Time"

I can never decide whether I love or hate sports. It has the ability to reduce you to tears of happiness and tears of rage, often within minutes of each other. Does the good compensate for the sheer awfulness that permeates the sporting world? At the moment, I'd say yes, but if I have to endure another Bill Parcells "I'll never coach again" press conference, ask me again.


By Mike Round

Sometimes. sports sucks. There are so many things in sports that make you want to throw it all in and take up knitting. How about Allen Iverson's smug, thug face smirking as his "celebrity" status in Philly gets him off another charge? Or Roger Clemens, due to make at least $10 million next year even if he sits at home eating pork rinds by the truckload. This man is so bereft of decent human characteristics that I was sure President Bush had him tagged as part of the "Axis of Evil" next to Iraq and North Korea.

Player salaries, filthy rich owners with shoe-size IQs, pointless regular seasons, mind-numbingly dull announcers brown-nosing to every player they happen across, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, ticket prices, boxing, and Bill Parcells and his never-ending retirement all test the average sports fan's patience to the limit. Then, just as you're about to give up ESPN and try out the home improvement channels, along comes a moment that makes you realize it's all worthwhile and sports has the ability to enhance a life.

I'm on one of my trips back to England at present, which means Mom's cooking, enormous weight gain, rain and football, or soccer to Americans. England, despite the lack of success of its national team, is football crazed. All other sports pale into insignificance next to the God of Football.

My Dad is no different to 90% of British men. He's football mad, despite being a more than adequate cricket player in his younger days. He played semi-professionally as a fast bowler, which, in cricket, is the baseball equivalent of being a starting pitcher with a 95 mph plus fastball, and was a football referee. Then, in his mid-'30s, he was taken ill and eventually diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. From then on, sports existed purely from his armchair.

His football team is West Bromwich Albion, one of the three big football teams in the huge Birmingham and surrounding conurbation. The people who live within a couple of miles of the city center tend to be fans of Birmingham City, a blue collar, no-nonsense team with a perennial hooligan problem, a working-class fan base and nothing in the trophy cabinet. The suburbanites with the money to live in the safe and clean gated communities favor Aston Villa, historically a successful club with a huge stadium and plenty of money. West Bromwich, or The Baggies as they are known, tend to attract those who yearn for stylish, skillful, pretty football that is easy on the eye, but rarely results in trophies. Amalgamate, the attendance of the three teams, all of who play within a three-mile radius, and you have well over 100,000 fans for home games.

West Bromwich Albion may have achieved little in their 130 years-plus of existence, yet they do have one huge claim to fame. They are the English football equivalent of the Brooklyn Dodgers, in as much as they introduced black footballers to English football.

There had been the odd black player in English football prior to the mid-'70s. Clyde Best had played a few games for West Ham in the early-'70s and Leeds United had a black player in the 1960s. But suddenly, Ron Atkinson, the then-manager of West Bromwich Albion, introduced three black players in his mid-'70s in his lineup and sent shockwaves through the conservative football establishment.

The players, Brendan Batson, Cyrille Regis, and Laurie Cunningham, weren't bit-part players, either. They were the star men in a cavalier, happy-go-lucky Albion team that transformed the football landscape for black footballers. All of a sudden black players were fashionable and every team wanted them. A provincial, small potato team had broken the color bar. Regis and Cunningham went on to play for England and pave the way for today's English black stars like Sol Campbell, Emile Heskey, and Ashley Cole.

Not that the fans of that era welcomed the "Three Degrees," as Regis, Cunningham, and Batson came to be known. Opposing fans would pelt them, and other black players, with bananas for years after. Each time a black player touched the ball, he would be greeted with a chorus of monkey noise imitations, a shameful response that seems to belong to a different world.

My Dad was a regular in the '50s and '60s at Albion home games, along with almost 50,000 other fans. Since his illness, he hasn't seen a game live. So this year, instead of buying him something expensive yet useless, I took him back to the home of West Bromwich Albion Football Club, The Hawthorns, to see his team play the English champions, Arsenal. I got him a home jersey to wear and a video of the Ron Atkinson team to allow him an occasional nostalgic trip back to the days when he could live his life without having to take dozens of pills just to stop shaking.

As we made our way to the stadium from our car last Thursday, painstakingly slowly in the persistent drizzle and biting cold, my Dad pointed out some of the landmarks he remembered from his last visit in 1978. The Woodman Pub, where he'd have a pre-match pint with friends; the Rainbow Stand, were he sat if he'd had a good week at work and earned a bonus, and the Brummie Road End, were he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with 15,000 others if money was short. He remembered the friends, most of which have since passed on, with whom he shared the highs and lows of football and The Baggies.

As we stood in line waiting to enter the stadium, he mumbled something unintelligible to me, which is a common trait for a man afflicted by a debilitating illness like Parkinson's. I leaned forward to try to hear what he was saying. He was thanking me for the whole day and gently sobbing at the same time. That's why sports is worth enduring the bad stuff. It brings back memories and enhances even the worst of lives. That's why we love it.


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


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--> National Football League

By Brad Oremland

San Francisco 49ers (10-5) vs. St. Louis Rams (6-9)
Monday, Dec. 30, 9 PM ET; Edward Jones Dome; St. Louis, MO; TV: ABC

Two slumping teams face off in the 2002 season's Monday Night finale. The Rams have dropped four of their last five, with the only win a two-point victory over Arizona. The 49ers have lost their last three against winning teams and haven't won by more than seven points since October, when they dropped the Cardinals (now 5-10) to 4-2 with a 10-point victory at home.

On the face of it, the Rams are totally outclassed in this matchup. Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger are both injured, so Scott Covington will start at quarterback. Marshall Faulk will play, but he's not 100%. In short, their last impressive game was a win over San Diego in Week 10, they're banged up, and their only incentive to win is pride.

Fortunately for the Rams, San Francisco has problems of its own. If the Bucs (11-4) beat Chicago (4-11) on Sunday, the 49ers will be locked into the NFC's fourth seed in the playoffs, regardless of whether or not they beat St. Louis. Furthermore, the 49ers are expected to rest many of their starters in preparation for the playoffs, especially since several key players are less than 100%.

It's always difficult to predict games like this, but I think the Rams are physically and mentally unprepared to win a game, so I'll take the Niners.

[ Game Breakdown ]

Offense -- 49ers
Defense -- 49ers
Spec. Teams -- 49ers
Coaching -- 49ers
Intangibles -- Even

Prediction: 49ers 20, Rams 16


--> National Basketball Association

By Mike Round

Philadelphia 76ers (18-10) vs. Phoenix Suns (18-11)
Thursday, Jan. 2, 10 PM EST; America West Arena; Phoenix, AZ; TV: TNT

The streaky 76ers head West for a five-game trip that includes a mouth-watering matchup with the surprising Suns.

As of Saturday, the Suns have won eight of their last nine games, including a December 13th 99-91 victory over the 76ers on the road. The 76ers are either good or bad -- eight wins in a row were followed by five defeats, then three wins before a Dec. 21 defeat to the Hawks. This road trip will go a long way to establishing whether the 76ers are capable of catching the Nets in the Atlantic.

The 76ers have had a week off following a poor effort in Atlanta. Allen Iverson was limited to 13 points on a 6-of-28 shooting day, claiming it was "the worst game I've ever played." Iverson will need to be at his best if the 76ers are to see off a strong Phoenix team led by Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway. Marbury completely outmuscled Iverson in Philly on Dec. 13, with 28 points and 10 assists. Iverson went 7-of-24 shooting and became embroiled in a personal battle with the bigger Marbury, who was taken just three spots later than A.I. in the 1996 draft.

The injury to Shawn Marion could have a serious affect on the outcome of this rematch. Marion scored 25 points and snagged 15 rebounds in the first encounter, but his status is uncertain after an injury in the victory over the Clippers on Friday.

There isn't much to separate these teams statistically and this game could be a nail-biter that actually means something in the fairly tepid NBA regular season schedule. Having won in Philly, the Suns will be buoyant. Iverson will be primed for revenge. I'll be tuned in excitedly following a trip to a basketball-free country for the holidays. Enjoy it.

[ Breakdown ]

Offense -- Even
Defense -- Suns
Coaching -- 76ers
Intangibles -- Suns

Prediction: Suns 101, 76ers 92


--> National Hockey League

By Lee Manchur

Minnesota Wild (19-11-7-1) vs. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (15-11-6-3)
Tuesday, December 31, 6 PM EST; XCEL Energy Center, Minneapolis, MN; TV: KMSP9 (Minnesota)

Much like last season, the Minnesota Wild burst out of the gates to start the season, at one point leading their division. Since then, however, the Wild have cooled down, going 5-4-1-0 in their last 10 games.

The Mighty Ducks, however, are on a much different pace. While every one counted them out at the start of the season, the Ducks pretty much played like their Pee Wee counterparts in the early stages of the famed Disney movie that brought them to the NHL. However, the Ducks have been finding their wings lately, and are gelling as a team to become a force to contend with.

The Ducks are 6-4-0-0 in their last 10 games while adding half of their season's 15 wins in December alone. Much of this success is due to their goaltender's play, Jean-Sebastian Giguere, who was named the Player of the Week for the week commencing December 8. His streak has included 3 shutouts in a row (4 in total) and allowing just 14 pucks to the back of his net in December.

This game should be a great Western Conference matchup featuring the NHL's league leader in goal-scoring, Wild winger Marion Gaborik. The Wild base their game around a typical coach Jacques Lemair strategy -- very strong defense. This game will go to whoever has the better goaltender. The Wilds' Manny Fernandez will need to get his game back on track after an up-and-down December in order to out-duel Giguere on the opposite end of the ice.

[ Game Breakdown ]

Offense -- Wild
Defense -- Draw
Goaltending -- Mighty Ducks
Power Play -- Mighty Ducks
Penalty Kill -- Draw
Coaching -- Wild
Intangibles -- Wild

Prediction: Mighty Ducks 2, Wild 1


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(Thanks for reading! Next issue set to come out on 01/12/03.)

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