Finally, baseball season is starting to feel real. March is coming right up (especially by the time this is posted), and spring training is in full swing. The Cubs will continue to be awful, and will almost assuredly find themselves at the bottom of the NL Central now that the Astros have been banished to the American League.* Still, baseball is baseball.
*Have I mentioned how badly I’m dreading this new “conference play” format? Because I am. It makes me sick to think about.
And, you might have totally missed it, but this is a year for a World Baseball Classic. There certainly seems to be less buzz about this year’s tournament as there has been in years past. And maybe for good reason. Japan won the first two tournaments, and they aren’t even bothering to bring any MLB players this year. It seems like the game is still strong in the markets it has always been strong in, but it doesn’t seem to be building the game anywhere else.*
*There is maybe one exception to this. We’ll maybe get to it. We just have to see where the article takes us.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but Wabash does a freshman tutorial, which is essentially a class where the professor gets to pick any subject they’re interested in and students get a class that’s more light-hearted that kind of eases them into becoming college students. Mine was Baseball in America with Dr. Melissa Butler, and it was rocking. I would have loved that class even if it didn’t mean a free trip to Cincinnati to see the Reds play. My brother also took that class, and he might have been the last group to take that class, as Dr. Butler recently retired, and not every professor teaches a tutorial every year. I’m not sure how often that one was taught, but I think it was pretty regular, being so popular and all.
Anyway, for my final paper of that class, I wrote about the first World Baseball Classic which had been proposed to take place in either 2004 or 2005 before finally happening in 2006. I took the class in 2004, my brother took it in 2006. Coincidental, but interesting nonetheless. I wish I still had my paper, because I was really fired up about the idea. I had visions of this thing growing into a miniature World Cup or something. This, however, has not panned out.
Why is that? I think there’s a whole mess of reasons. First off, the timing is awful. Players are never at full potential during spring training, and this tournament ends up being an extended spring training. Players are protected like in spring training, too. There’s no selling out for your country the way there is for soccer. That helps give the whole thing an exhibition feel. There’s also the disappointing US showings in the tournament, which is a sorry reason for the thing to fail, but something that can’t be ignored. As you can see in Olympic viewership, America loves winning, so if we can’t win, especially at our game, we don’t care.
All those reasons might not add up to this one, though. I’m not sure there’s really a need for this tournament any more. Even back in 2004, it was a rarity for the best Japanese players to come over here. The exodus some sought after Hideo Nomo’s early success didn’t really materialize. When Ichiro Suzuki decided he had accomplished all he could in the Nippon League and decided to come over to the States, though, it felt more like a sea change. This was probably simultaneous a spur and a death knell for the the WBC. For one, the outrageous success of Ichiro showed that the top Japanese players were on par with the American and Caribbean players, which made the world talent pool seem more competitive* and a tournament more attractive. It also signaled to both Japanese players and MLB teams that the avenue across the Pacific was open, leading the best to play in MLB.
*Which was true.
With no more mystery about what was lurking to the East, it seemed pretty clear that the best players in the world do play in MLB. Therefore, establishing the best team in the world now does clearly rest with the World Series in a way that it never really did before. Sure, you can call yourself World Champions, but there were always so many players excluded for some reason or another. Post-Ichiro, that didn’t feel to be the case any more.
The argument for the WBC? Well, it pretty boils down to one country. The Netherlands. Yes, those plucky Dutch were the darlings of the tournament last year, twice beating the juggernaut that is the Dominican Republic in 2009’s tournament. If memory serves, that was a team with exactly zero major leaguers, though they had a couple minor league guys. It certainly got attention on this side of the Atlantic, I would imagine some attention was paid over there. It might have helped that Curacao has a strong baseball tradition. But I don’t remember there being many, if any, Caribbean players on that Dutch team. I would imagine Curacao (or the Dutch Antilles, anyway) would field their own team if they were interested, like Puerto Rico does. If that helps grow the game in Europe, then it is well worth it.
This going to be a bit of a tack-on, and probably deserves to be looked at more closely, but it has always fascinated me to see how baseball and cricket have occupied pretty distinct circles. Cricket typically is the sport of choice in areas that were formerly part of the British Empire (Jamaica, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, West Indies) while baseball seems to have stayed in the American sphere of influence (most of the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, Venezuela, Japan, Korea). One area of interest may be Australia. Cricket is certainly king there, as you might expect from their position in the British realm. But, baseball does have a footprint there, and there have been very good major league players come out of Australia.
As far as I’m aware, the same cannot be said of New Zealand, as they are just too focused on rugby to do much else.
If you weren’t too busy seeing the Hoosiers lose last night, you might have caught the Pacers getting some measure of revenge on Golden State. It was a good, exciting, up and down game, runs following runs. Danny Granger looked better, though still clearly not in “basketball shape.”* But if you’ve heard anything about this game, it probably wasn’t the score.
*I hate that term, but it’s the best I could come up with.
Yeah, there was a bit of a dust up last night, but I sure wouldn’t call it a brawl. I don’t want to pull the “I watched the Pacers-Pistons brawl, this was no Malice at the Palace” card, but, well, it’s the damn truth. I don’t think there was a single punch thrown, and honestly, not even very much shoving. The benches didn’t clear. Honestly, the whole thing likely would have been over in a bat of an eye if Steph Curry hadn’t decided it was his singular goal in life to restrain Roy Hibbert.*
*For the record, Steph Curry is 6’ 3” and 185 pounds. He would seem just slightly tall and skinny out in public, and he’s noticeably small on a professional (or collegiate, honestly) basketball court. Roy Hibbert is 7’ 2” and fairly cut at 280 pounds. Hibbert says he never even felt Curry. That’s easy to believe when you consider Hibbert has a foot and a hundred pounds on Curry. And how he easily threw Curry around.
This isn’t to say the Pacers are blameless, because they aren’t. Everybody came in with the intention of breaking up the fight, but all the bodies in the area just kept making things worse. As the action sagged towards the seats, I did briefly have the thought that this might turn ugly and the Pacers would have yet another promising season dashed by an ugly incident with fans.
Thankfully, the only thing that seems to have happened was a security guard fainted as the players got close to the seats. That’s something I don’t think the NBA will come down too hard on, if at all, and I think a certain somebody might have figured out they might need a new line of work.
What’s more interesting to me has to do with the officials. Or one official in particular. Violet Palmer. As you might notice, Violet is a female referee in a men’s game. She actually was the first (along with Dee Katner) female official in the NBA (1997) and the first to do a playoff game (2006, with the Pacers, coincidentally enough). As you can see by the dates, the NBA has had female officials for some time now, and I really don’t remember hearing any sort of flak over the idea. Though I was only eleven or twelve at the time, maybe I just missed it. Still, it’s something nobody bats an eye at. But I was thinking about it early in the game last night as George Hill talked a call over with Palmer.
If women can officiate NBA games without a problem, why haven’t we seen it in college ball? Maybe there are female referees working men’s NCAA games, but if there are, I’ve not seen them. And I watch a lot of college basketball. I’ve also never witnessed a female official for high school, either. I’m sure that has happened, but I never saw it in all my years of watching games and being involved with the team in high school. Maybe it just has something to do with where I live, but I never even remember having a female referee in our youth soccer league growing up or when I worked as a ref. We did have one female umpire in our little league, but I really don’t know how many games she worked. And when she did, she wouldn’t do behind the plate. I happen to know that because I worked with her for her first game, and I offered her the plate if she wanted it. I don’t know if it was because she wasn’t experienced with baseball pitching vs. softball pitching, or if she was intimidated. I didn’t ask her.*
*I was a little intimidated myself. She was finishing up high school as I was starting and I think was homecoming queen. Or at least a candidate.
I didn’t give it a thought during the brawl, but I did read on Sports Illustrated that apparently, after initially going in with gusto, Palmer later decided she had no role in the dust up. Which, honestly, was probably wise. As noted earlier, an honest-to-God NBA player had no hope of breaking up the fight. What hope did a woman who played point guard in college have? We’re not talking about Brittney Griner here. Jumping in the middle of that, for her, would be neither wise nor advisable.
I’m not sure how many female officials the NBA has on their roster right now, but does the threat of something like this happening with an all-female crew mean we’ll never see more than one female ref at a time? It’s hard to say. It’s not Joey Crawford or Dick Bavetta are going to do much good in a brawl, either. But I think it’s something for the league to think about. You don’t want something like last night to blow up into something like what happened in Detroit just because there wasn’t enough neutral muscle on the court to calm things down.
I just don’t know anything about college basketball this year. I know a lot of that is because Purdue has been far below even my meager expectations. But, really, Gonzaga is number two? Woof. What a down year for the NCAA.
Let’s just put aside that this IU team likely would not even be sniffing the top ten a few years ago. Does Gonzaga deserve to be number two in the country? In both polls, even? Well, surprisingly, I find it hard to argue. And this is in a season where there was probably even less buzz around Gonzaga than there has been in many years. And this is when they grace the top three. Surreal.
As of today, Gonzaga is 27-2, which is actually better than both Indiana and Duke, who both have three losses. Now, we all know that not all schedules are created equal in any college sport. There are just too many teams for that. And, clearly, the WCC is not the Big Ten, or even the ACC in a down year, as it seems to be this year. So, let’s delve just a little deeper here into who has played who.
Gonzaga’s two losses this year were an eleven-point home loss to then #13 Illinois and a road loss to then #13 Butler. You might remember that Butler game. Butler is a good team that didn’t quit playing, but you would be hard pressed to say Gonzaga didn’t choke that game. Especially how that final shot went down to clinch the 64-63 victory for Butler. A lazy inbound pass leading to a fast break as the clock expired. If not for that loss, Gonzaga is likely your number one team in the nation right now. Even so, Gonzaga finishes up their year against a very good 20-win team in BYU* and then hosting a not-as-good Portland team. If there’s a slip up there, it certainly would seem to be against BYU in Utah. Still, Gonzaga beat BYU by twenty in Washington, so you would think they will find a way to win. And they would be the favorite to win the WCC tournament, seeing as they are undefeated in conference play.
*I’m a little curious how they aren’t ranked with that record, but I don’t have time to really get into that right now.
But, that’s not really the question people will be asking. The better question will be, who have they beaten? Well, as I said, they beat the crap out of BYU, and they’re a pretty good team. Outside of that, their best wins are over Kansas St. (on a neutral floor, and currently ranked 13*) and on the road against then-22-now-15 Oklahoma St. Not exactly a barn-burner of a schedule, especially with a weak WCC schedule, but it wasn’t all cake walks. Again, if they could have held on against Butler, that would have been a nice boost to the resume. But, given how everybody else keeps losing, maybe it won’t sting too bad.
*Funny how many times 13 is coming up in this article.
How does it compare to IU and Duke’s schedules? Well, out of conference, Tom Crean schedule yet another cakewalk, something of a specialty of his dating back to Marquette. The only at-the-time ranked team the Hoosiers faced before conference play was North Carolina, and they clearly are not as advertised. Outside of that, their best games were a loss to Butler (in Indy) and an overtime win in Brooklyn against Georgetown. Both of those teams are now ranked, it should be noted. And, as alluded to earlier, you can get away with that more when you play in a conference like the Big Ten. Especially with the conference being consistently rated far above any others this year.
To me, the “travesty” here is Duke. They played the toughest out-of-conference schedule out of the three and came through unscathed. They had wins over (at the time) the number 2, 3, and 4 teams in the country in Louisville, Kentucky, and Ohio St. Granted, Kentucky turned out to be much like North Carolina, but it’s there. Duke’s three losses seem to make more sense and Indiana’s, too, coming against a ranked NC St. team and a much, much better than expected Miami team. Maryland was more of a surprise. Still, it’s by a matter of degrees.
So, yeah, all in all, I don’t really have a problem putting Gonzaga at number two. I personally would have put Duke at 1 or 2, Indiana at the other slot, and then Gonzaga, but It’s hard to feel too bad when you’re shuffling teams between the top four slots, seeing as they should all get number one seeds come March Madness.
Still, it’s just hard to get too worked up about any of it as a Purdue fan. I’m just hoping the NIT is interested in us. And if not, you can bet I’m going to get all worked up about the robbery in MSG against Villanova all over again.
Is this thing on?
Sorry for the lull in posting. There’s been a lot that’s happened over the last month. The new dog has taken up an awful lot of time, combined with a heavy workload for my paying job, along with the disappointment of not getting a job at Purdue I really honestly thought I’d landed, it’s just been a lot to take in while still writing about sports for free. Oh, and my father-in-law had a heart attack. That certainly didn’t help, either.
But, we’re back. And in the meantime, the Pacers have been absolutely rolling, beating people by thirty and forty points. Including a humiliation of the Knicks, who at the time were sitting in second in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers have since taken that spot over.
I mentioned it here earlier, but the Pacers also made their big deadline deal. Except, it wasn’t a deal, per se. Danny Granger played his first game this season on Saturday. He knocked down his first shot, but that was about it. Still, you could a lot worse your first trip out after that long of a layoff. He’s going to be just fine, and I’m betting he’ll be just the scoring boost analysts have been saying the Pacers need all year.
In a way, it’s unfortunate we haven’t heard more out of these analysts. That these Pacers are still under the radar is unfortunate. They’re better than that, and I do think that ESPN has largely ignored this team in favor of the more “glamourous” teams has hurt attendance. Because they had a chance to really go into the tank without Granger. But they didn’t. There’s a lot of fight on this team (not to mention talent) that will give teams trouble come playoff time.
One of the reasons this team didn’t fold up after the injury to Granger had to do with finding big time help in unlikely places. One of those players is Lance Stephenson. He has been hailed as a phenom almost out of the womb, and, honestly, I don’t really remember him at Cincinnati at all. He was a non-entity on the Pacers just last year, and I think the whole state outside of Larry Bird had decided he was another puffed up bust. But he sure had us fooled.
Another even unlikelier bright spot has been Orlando Johnson. I know I saw him in the tournament with UCSB, mostly because I really try to watch at least a piece of every game, and I’m sure I turned them on. But, I’ll be damned if I can really remember that UCSB team, and by extension, I have no memory of Johnson. That led me to decide to find out a little more about OJ.*
*What, can’t we call anybody that now?
Here’s what I’ve turned up on Johnson. He started off his college career at Loyola Marymount, of Kimble-Gathers* fame, where he averaged twelve points and almost five rebounds as a freshman. Not too shabby, especially when you consider that led the team in both categories.** While those aren’t bad numbers for a freshman, if that’s your statistical leader, it doesn’t say much about your team. I’m sure that had a lot to with LMU making a coaching change after Johnson’s freshman year, which also led to Johnson transferring out.
*If you can’t be bothered to click on the link and don’t know what I’m talking about, let me give you a brief summary that might whet your appetite. Hank Gathers, who just might have been the best player in the nation at the time, died on the court.
Johnson had to sit out the next year, per NCAA rules,* but it sure didn’t seem to slow him down. He suited up for the Gauchos and put up 18 points a game and almost six rebounds. He was named the Big West player of the year, as UCSB won their conference tournament and made their first NCAA appearance since 2002 and their fourth appearance all-time. Sure, they were beaten fairly soundly by Ohio St., but Johnson did manage to hang 20 on the Buckeyes.
*I’m not a fan of that rule, but that’s a story for another day.
The next year was more of the same. His points per game rose to 21, and he again led UCSB to a conference title and the privilege of being beating even more soundly by Florida. But, again, you can’t fault Johnson, has he put up 21 on the Gators. Johnson initially decided he was ready for the NBA after that, and I don’t think I can fault him for that, but he did eventually decide to stay at UCSB for his senior year. You can argue that was a misstep,* as the team went 18-10 and didn’t win any titles. I’m sure it’s not the way he wanted to go out, but he did leave as the school’s all-time leading scorer. UCSB might not be a basketball juggernaut, but if you leave any college program as the all-time leading scorer, you did something right.
*I’m not sure Johnson would, and I’m not sure I would. But, I could make that argument if I had to.
So, yeah, all in all, Johnson had a much better college pedigree than I realized before checking up on him. I certainly understand better now why the Pacers traded to get his rights from the Kings in the last draft for a little bit of cash. After spending four games in Fort Wayne in the D-League,* the Pacers came a-calling, mostly because of DJ Augustine’s initially inability to look anything like a point guard to start the season. Johnson seized his moments, though. I don’t think there’s any thought of him going back to Fort Wayne now, and I’m sure he’s going to find his way into the line up even with Granger back now and again.
*Where Johnson averaged 23 points a game.
And you know what? As impressive as all of this is, I’m sure basketball has always seemed much easier than his home life. You see, Orlando Johnson as seen pain for almost his entire life. Before he can even remember. His mother was murdered when he was just a year old. He was taken in by his grandmother, who died when he was 11. Oh, and five years before that, when Orlando was just 6? He was living with his grandmother and ten other relatives. The house caught fire and killed four of those “other relatives.” He was truly and utterly blessed to have a couple brothers who were in their 20s when Johnson’s grandma died. His brothers took him in and made sure he didn’t bounce around the memory hole that is foster care.
If you can’t root for the underdog story of a player coming from a small school and the D-League, then you should certainly be able to appreciate somebody beating the odds like that, especially when he had no control over those circumstances, unlike a lot of trouble athletes get themselves into. And if you still can’t warm your heart to that, it must be because it is dead.
I can't say I've heard any of this personally, but the talk on spots radio would seem to indicate that a majority, or at least very sizeable portion, of Pacer fans would rather see Danny Granger traded for another bench scorer rather than waiting for him to get back. And to that, all I can say is, are you watching the same games?
Seriously, have you forgotten how good Granger is? He was a very deserved All-Star a couple years ago, he's led this team through some pretty lean years into respectability, and if you haven't noticed, he has some serious swagger that this team needs. Sure, David West is one tough dude you don't want to mess with, but he does it in a cool way. Granger is more in your face about it. Red oni vs. blue oni. And, you know, putting Granger back in the starting line up is going to create match-up nightmares for other teams. Paul George is playing small forward right now, and obviously those guys are having little-to-no success guarding him. And he's typically doing just fine on the defensive end. You make smaller two guards take him on? He's more than got the speed to deal with that, and will just plain outsize anybody else trying to guard him. And if they want to try to put somebody bigger on George, then you've got a smaller guy trying to deal with Granger, and that's just not going to work.
Now, are things going to click right away? Probably not. There will be a little bit of up and down as Granger tries to figure out exactly where he is and reintegrating him back into the offense, just as there was a learning curve with life without Granger. But, I think it will be much easier to put Granger back in than to take him out. George has already become a star in his own right. Granger has a bit of an ego, but I don't think it's so big he won't take a slightly smaller role if it means the team wins more.
Now, one thing I don't think he would do, nor would it be advisable to do, is to move him to the bench. I have heard callers make that suggestion. The only time I think you do that is when he very first comes back just for him to get a feel. Almost like having a guy spend a week in AAA or something in baseball. Just make sure he is truly back from that injury with the second unit. When he's fully healthy, there is no choice but to move him into the starting unit. And, as good as he's been playing, the guy who just plain makes the most sense to move is Lance Stephenson.
That is not a knock against Lance. He has already looked a thousand percent better than I thought he ever would at the NBA level. He clearly has the ability to start in this league. I just think George Hill is better and a better fit for the first unit. Stephenson is still a little streaky and young, which by my reckoning makes him the perfect spark plug to stick on a second unit that does sometimes struggle to score. But, he will stretch the floor,* which in turn will open things up for Tyler Hansbrough and Ian Mahinmi inside. Those guys haven't played badly, but I think they will improve even more when teams have to respect the second unit's outside shot.
*Especially if Orlando Johnson can play at the two guard. He has turned out to be a real blessing out of nowhere. I'm sure UCSB don't think it's out of nowhere, but is to this part of the country. I just hope he can keep it up now that teams have film on him.
Back to Granger, though. The knock on the Pacers all year, at least until this recent burst of offense, is they couldn't score enough. Granger will give them the offense they need to be a serious championship contender if he comes back to anything resembling what he has been his whole career. There is just not another player available that will score like Granger can score and add to the team in the same way. It's just insane that so many people are in such a rush to let him go. Why? Because he led the team when there was precious little around him? Is that what tainted him so? Fans like that really need to appreciate that he really brought this franchise back to respectability. When the Pacers basically went dark on ESPN, it was Granger who was talked about in hushed tones around other NBA circles, like some book hidden in the dusty section of the library. Amazing to take in, if you could only find it.
This team has me even more excited by last year's team, even with the offensive struggles of Roy Hibbert. Granger is only going to add to that. Appreciate what you have, Pacer fans. Not everybody has to build their team and win championships by flauting their money at free agents and flashy trades. Sometimes, the draft works just fine. Let this one play out. If you still don't trust that Larry Bird knew what he was doing putting this team together, or that Donny Walsh has a pretty good grasp on basketball, maybe you need to reevaluate what you know about basketball.
It turned out to be as exciting a game as I expected, though it sure didn't look like it would be at first. I don't have a lot of thoughts about the game, but here are few things I've been mulling over.
First of all, if you don't think Joe Flacco is "elite" by now, you might want to double check your definition of elite. The dude has a Super Bowl ring, which is a hell of an accomplishment by itself, and has done it with an outrageous winning percentage and possibly the best playoff run in the history of quarterbacking. All in an era where quarterback play is the make or break of your team. On top of that, Joe Flacco throws further down the field more often than basically any quarterback since, oh, I dunno, the 70's or so. He's kind of a throwback to the era of Terry Bradshaw, except he makes it work in an era where teams many times throw around seventy percent of the time. That's impressive. And, I might remind you, that the Ravens defense has not been nearly so stifling as the early 2000's Baltimore defenses were.
Speaking of elite, it just seems insane to let Anquan Boldin go. I hit on that Friday,* but if you're going to have a guy who can throw deep, you probably want somebody who can go deep. And Boldin can go deep. And, maybe even more important, he has the strongest hands in football, which means he will come down with any ball he can get a grip on. Now, I understand I don't have the Raven's checkbook, but I think they ought to find a way to keep him.
*Though you didn't get to see it until yesterday.
If you have to let him walk, though, I think he ought to go back to Arizona. I don't know if he would ever consider that, I seem to remember him leaving somewhat bitter. But, it seems a lot of the personnel around Arizona has changed since he left, so maybe he would consider it. And, though it's just a hunch,* there's a chance the Cardinals could get good in a hurry. Their defense wasn't that bad last year. They just didn't have anything resembling an NFL quarterback. As discussed yesterday, they still have Larry Fitzgerald. You pair those guys again, and add Bruce Arians and Alex Smith? If I'm Arizona, I'm spending every last dime I have available to me to make this happen. If that wouldn't lead to a renaissance in the desert, I don't know what would.
*You think I have inside information? Ha!
But now, we get to lay football to rest for a little while. It's time for basketball and hockey to take over, and there is an embarrassment of riches tonight. At seven, the Pacers host the Hawks, who have given them fits over the past few years. At the same time, Purdue looks to bounce back after a tough week last week at Penn St., which should go a little better. And then, after that, the Blackhawks travel out to San Jose to take on the also two-loss Sharks. Though one of their losses was in regulation. Slackers.
This was written last Friday, but it totally slipped my mind to post it. So, you get to enjoy it now, in all it's flawed glory.
I know I haven’t posted much lately. Some of that was the demoralizing beating Purdue took the other day. The other part is getting a new puppy. I’ll post some pictures further down.
It’s Friday, though, and there’s only one game that really matters after tonight’s Pacers-Heat game.* That, of course, is the Super Bowl. There are an awful lot of storylines here, and I’m sure you’ve heard them all. I’m personally more excited about the little party we’re going to throw and the first time my folks will get to meet the new dog. But, this is a sports blog, so let’s try to focus on the sports.**
*I sure hope the Pacers win again. They beat the Heat surprisingly easy in their matchup this year.
**Let me assure you that was directed at myself, not you, dear reader.
I’ve been picking against the Ravens this entire playoff, and I don’t see why I should stop now. That said, I fully expect this to be a close game. Joe Flacco has always shown flashes of having top-shelf talent, but he’s always lacked top-shelf consistency. It seems he has figured that out in these playoffs. I’m sure a lot of that resurgence has to do with the rediscovery of Anquan Boldin. I think a lot of people forgot just how good he was in Arizona because Larry Fitzgerald was more well-spoken and more of a media darling. No doubt helped by having a sportswriter dad.* But, as good as Fitzgerald is, Boldin is just as good. I’m pretty sure he’s stronger, given the evidence throughout these playoffs. I’m sure every quarterback in the league would take Boldin in a heartbeat if given the chance.
*This is very clearly not to say that Fitzgerald isn’t a top-notch receiver. Talent-wise, he’s certainly in the top five, if not top three, in the league. It’s just that the Cardinals don’t have anything resembling a quarterback.
The Ravens defense has also reawakened to a degree, though I do wonder how much of that has to do with Ray Lewis. I just have a hard time buying into him as a real leader. I don’t typically go for guys with the whole “Look at me!” thing going on, and Lewis has raised that quality to a whole new level. Also, the whole being-involved-in-some-manner murder thing taints a lot of that. You would think somebody with that history would want to keep his head down a little bit. Clearly not Lewis. It’s a shame.
All of that said, I just think the 49ers are a better team. They have a higher ceiling, anyway. I would probably feel that way even with Alex Smith at quarterback. I’ve always been a Smith defender. I don’t think he’s ever gotten a real fair shake with the talent San Francisco put around him early in his career. When he was given some real weapons, you saw what happened last year and the start of this year. He is no doubt a high-level NFL quarterback. Problem is, as much as I like Smith, Colin Kaepernick is just one heck of an athlete. I would rate his arm just slightly below Smith’s, but his mobility if off the charts, RGIII good. If Kaepernick had gone to a bigger school, I think he would have been a top three draft pick. Instead, he went to Nevada, which landed him in round two. I’m sure a lot of teams feel silly passing on him right now. That mobility gives you a lot of flexibility on offense, which unfortunately just wasn’t available with Smith.
On the other side of the ball, with a couple exceptions, the 49er defense seems to be just as tough as the Ravens defense. They’ve been a bit banged up, too, but that hasn’t seemed to slow them down too much in the playoffs. So, because of basically the very slight edge in quarterback, I’m going to pick San Francisco here. But, I sure wouldn’t put many confidence points behind it. Let’s call the score, I dunno, 28-24.
All right, enough of that. On with the puppy pictures!