An Open Letter to Hockey

September 21, 2012

Dear Hockey,

I am not now, nor will I ever be, a huge fan of yours.  You are a niche sport with funky rules, odd traditions, and a miserable TV deal so its hard to watch a lot of games.  Most importantly, there are entirely too many Canadians involved.  That being said, I have been a casual Hurricanes fan ever since they moved to Raleigh and this as been an enjoyable experience.  Going to the games is fun and against all odds the team has actually succeeded.  The Stanley Cup run was one of the most exciting sporting events I can remember.  So while I am not a diehard by any means my life will be negatively effected if you become further marginalized and drift even further out of the mainstream sports consciousness. And this is exactly what will happen if you continue on with this ridiculous lockout.

I have no idea about the details of the the lockout, (because I don’t care enough to read about it) so I can’t really assign blame to either the players or the the owners.  But it really doesn’t matter.  I am going to be real honest with you Hockey.  People are sick and tired of your shit.  The missed season in 2005 was a big problem and people are not going to tolerate it again.  Both the players union and commissioner Gary Bettman need to face the facts.  The players need to not quibble over a small reduction in salary because frankly, they play fucking hockey.  They are only relevant in the city their team plays in, Canada and Minnesota.  That’s it.  Without a broader national appeal they should be thankful for what they get.  Same goes for Bettman.  He is completely incompetent but has a huge ego.  Its a bad combination.  He is using the lockout to try and prove his dick is as big as Roger Goodell or David Stern’s.  The problem is that it isn’t even close.  So help me out here Hockey.  Get over your collective delusion that America cares about you and get back to work.

This may sound harsh but you need to hear it.  I am very serious Hockey.  Another long work stoppage or god forbid a missed season will kill you.  Of course Canada, and whatever weird Northern states take you really seriously will still be there but another lost season and you will irrevocably lose all of the fringe markets, and more importantly the television revenue that comes with them.  The casual fan like me will be gone forever.  And the thing is it will hurt you more than it will hurt us.  There are plenty of other sports for the casual fan to enjoy, but there are not enough diehards to keep a 30 teem league afloat.  So for your sake Hockey, figure it out.

 

Sincerely,

Robert A. Weaver

 

(It is possible that my concern over the hockey season is due to the fact that I bought season tickets to the ‘Canes literally one day before the lockout was announced. SMH)

 

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Heisman Power Rankings

September 20, 2012

I know I promised weekly recaps of the Duke games but its not going to happen this week.  Duke played a 1-AA school and I got invited down to Clemson to experience a real tailgate and gameday atmosphere.  Clearly I went with option B.  Duke played well however and given Stanford’s big win over USC last weekend it’s possible that I overreacted to the ass-kicking they put on Duke two weeks ago.  Duke is a deeply flawed football team but since the ACC is essentially Triple-A we have a chance to cop six wins and finally see a bowl game.  (In case you were wondering, The SEC is the American League East, the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big 10 make up the rest of the major leagues, and the Big East is the Little League World Series.)

Anyways, I will be back in Durham this weekend for the big game against Memphis so the recaps will be back next week.  Today its time for the first RAW Thoughts Heisman Power Rankings.

 

5.  Matt Barkley USC QB

Barkley will not win the Heisman this year, and he certainly will not get the (entirely hypothetical) Raw Thoughts vote.  That being said he is one of the few contenders who has played even a half-decent schedule.  USC lost to the best team it has played but whatever.  At least they tried.  So until Oregon, West Virginia and a couple other schools play a team I’ve heard of this fifth spot in the power rankings is reserved for the guy who looks most like a Heisman trophy winner.  And that is most certainly Matt Barkley.

4.  Aaron Murray Georgia QB

I really hate having Murray on this list.  I don’t think he is that great but I really do not have a choice.  Murray checks all of the boxes on the Heisman Contender form.  He is a good looking white dude who plays quarterback for an undefeated SEC team and throws for a lot of yards.  This thing looks meant to be.  Fortunately, Murray’s intrusion into the Heisman Power Rankings is only going to be temporary.  Georgia looks good right now but I feel certain that they will lose at least one game they shouldn’t and then get pasted in the SEC championship game.  This is a safe bet since it happens literally every year.  Once the ‘Dawgs get to two or three losses people will shut up about Murray for Heisman.

3.  Braxton Miller Ohio State QB

If you haven’t seen this guy play yet you are really missing out.  Miller is crazy explosive and just embarrasses people in the open field.  More importantly he plays quarterback for Urban Meyer so you know he is going to put up huge numbers.  Also since Ohio State plays in the Big 10 they won’t have to play anybody really good until their annual ass-kicking at the hands of an SEC school in a BCS game.

2.  The Honey Badger LSU DB

I realize that The Honey Badger, or Tyrann Mathieu, as no one calls him, is indefinitely suspended from LSU this year and thus has been ruled out of Heisman contention by most pundits.  Well most pundits are dumb.  The Honey Badger takes what he wants.  How have people forgotten that after only three games.  Idiots.

If this guy wants the Heisman then he will fucking take it.  #neverforget

 

1.  Alex King Texas P

In the top spot this week (and all other weeks) is Texas Punter Alex King.  King currently leads the nation in punting average.  Unfortunately ESPN refuses to recognize this fact because since King has only punted four times he does not have enough attempts to qualify.  Now this is a clear case of statistical gerrymandering on the part of ESPN, but don’t let it take away from King’s accomplishments.  In fact I think his season is even more impressive given that he rarely punts.

Teams commonly avoid putting the ball in the hands of dangerous kick returners by kicking out of bounds or through the back of the end zone.  This is done out of fear of the returner.  For the first time ever this year teams are actually doing the reverse of that strategy.  King has been so dominant on the few chances when he has been allowed to punt that teams fear him and will do anything to keep Texas from punting.  They have intentionally allowed Texas to score just to keep King off the field.  This is the only possible explanation for Texas putting up more points on Ole Miss last week than any team since 1917.

By this unassailable logic Alex King is directly responsible for every point scored by Texas so far this year.  That gives him a massive 158 points for the year and clearly stakes his claim as the Heisman frontrunner.

 

 

Time for a Change

September 12, 2012

Saturday was the first time I have been really excited for a Duke football game in a long time, and the West Coast did all it could to ruin the experience for me.  First of all, due to the ridiculous time difference the game wasn’t even on till 10:30 PM.  I don’t really care that the left coast wants to go through life 3 hours behind the important parts of the country.  That is their business.  But when it starts affecting my life I have a real problem with it.  10:30 on a Saturday night is an absurd time to show a football game.  Figure it out.

Even worse than the start time was the television coverage of the game.  It was on the Pac-12 Network.  And not only that it was on some sort of regional “b” channel of the Pac-12 network.  As far as I could tell the only people in the country who got the game on a reasonably standard package were people in the Bay Area with Xfinity.  I don’t even know what Xfinity is.  I have the biggest sports package DirecTV has to offer so I figured I would be ok.  Nope.  Somehow demand for the Pac-12 Network is so low that DirecTV doesn’t carry it.  This is a pretty glaring indictment of the Pac-12 Network, the Pac-12, and the West Coast in general considering that the Al Jazeera Sports Network is on DirecTV.  When your football teams have less of a television footprint than an Al Jazeera enterprise it is probably time to go back to the drawing board.

You couldn’t even watch the game at a bar, because all sports bars have DirecTV so they can get the NFL package.  I eventually found a bar owned by an old Duke football player that had somehow gotten the game on one small, low-def TV.  Thanks Pac-12 Network.

 

As bad as my experience trying to find a place to watch the game was, the actual game was much worse.  Everything I have hated about Duke football for the past five years came out in one supremely ugly game.  The defense got overrun, we lost the turnover battle, and the special teams were a disaster.  But the absolute worst part of the game to me was the complete and utter inability to move the ball.  Stanford is a very good team and I never really believed we could win the game on the road.  But never in my worst nightmares did I see the offense falling apart like it did Saturday night.  Stanford’s defense deserves a lot of credit, but Duke should never finish a half with only 3 points.  Duke spent the entire game throwing 2 yard swing passes and 4 yard crossing patterns.  No surprisingly this was ineffective and the offense stagnated.

The blame for this fiasco has mostly fallen on Cutcliffe and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, and to some extent this is fair.  Duke had nothing to lose by opening up the playbook and getting kind of weird on offense.  The status quo certainly didn’t work.  It is not fair however to blame the coaches entirely.  The Duke offensive line was completely dominated by the Stanford defensive front.  They were unable to open up any running lanes and could not protect Renfree long enough for him to look downfield.  The poor blocking was at least as much to blame for the uninspired offense as the play calling.

The final culprit in Duke offensive meltdown was quarterback Sean Renfree.  He is a good quarterback, and his skill set matches what Cutcliffe wants to do.  Unfortunately he reacts horribly to pressure.  Most of this is due to a crushing lack of speed.  Renfree might be the least mobile QB I have ever seen play at a high level.  He moves like he just lost a staring contest with Medusa. (In fairness he was quicker before knee surgery a few years ago.) To make matter worse, he panics under pressure and tries to run.  You do not have to be fast to thrive against the blitz, (ask Peyton Manning) but you do have to remain calm and stay in the pocket.  Renfree gets happy feet and starts moving and the whole play breaks down.  This is a big problem for Duke and I only see one solution.  The Blue Devils can’t replace the O-line, but they can put in a new QB.  That’s right.  It’s Anthony Boone time.

In a vacuum Anthony Boone is not as good a QB as Renfree.  He has accuracy problems and can make bad decisions.  But he also is fast as shit and can make things happen with his feet.  He played part of the second half Saturday and led the Devils to their only touchdown of the night.  You can make the argument that this was garbage time, but Boone excelled in the UNC game last year once Renfree went down with an injury.  That UNC defense also overwhelmed the Duke offensive line but Boone’s athleticism allowed him to succeed where Renfree would have failed.  I feel bad for Renfree in this situation.  He is the quarterback Duke deserves but not the one it needs.  Right now Duke needs Anthony Boone.

 

We Are Back!

September 6, 2012

Duke football kicked off the season Saturday night with a dominating performance against Florida International University.  The final score was 46-26 and it wasn’t really even that close.  Duke looked so good that the prevailing mood among Duke students and fans is roughly this:

And for one night at least Duke Football was most certainly relevant again.  Duke absolutely crushed FIU in every aspect of the game.  Offensively, the Blue Devils looked utterly unstoppable.  Throughout the Cutcliffe era Duke has had a dangerous passing attack, but this year is different.  Duke is no longer relying on screens and swing passes and gimmicky plays.  In Sean Renfree and Connor Vernon Duke has two legitimately dangerous offensive players. (Vernon in particular looked great Saturday night.  He was wide open down field about 5 times.)  The running game also looked a lot better for the Devils and shockingly short-yardage QB Brandon Connette was a huge weapon as well.  Most importantly however, Duke managed to play decent defense, and win the special teams battle.  For the past 4-5 years the Blue Devils have had competent teams but have been unable to put all of the pieces together.  When the offense plays well the defense loses it or vice versa.  Saturday night was the most complete game I can ever remember the Blue Devils playing.

But the play of the team is not the only reason for optimism for the Duke football program.  In a shocking turn of events the crowd at Wallace Wade for the game was really good.  The student section was almost full and the stadium as a whole looked to be nearly sold out.  To the surprise of no one, FIU didn’t travel very well so the visitor’s side looked a little sparse but it was a great effort by the fans.  David Cutcliffe certainly noticed and praised the fans in a letter to the editor in the Duke student newspaper.  Sadly, this kind of turnout is rare at Duke, but hopefully Saturday night was a turning point.  The games are a hell of a lot more fun when the team wins.  The tailgate/gameday atmosphere was sorely lacking but you can’t have everything.

It is dangerous to draw too many conclusions from one game.  In such a small sample size random luck and quality of opponent could well be bigger factors in the outcome than anything Duke did. (FIU actually is a reasonable team however.  It may sound like a community college but they went to a bowl game the last two years.)  It is entirely possible that the Devil’s performance was an illusion and Stanford game this weekend will bring reality crashing down on Duke football.  And in some sense I am sure this is true.  Duke will almost definitely lose to Stanford and there is no way the crowd will be that good again this year, but this feels like a different Duke team.  They aren’t going to win every game but the Blue Devils have the look of a team that can compete against anyone and beat the bad teams on its schedule.  That may not sound like much but its a hell of an improvement over years past.  Plus we are only 5 wins from a bowl game baby.

 
Alex King Heisman Watch

As impressive as Duke was last weekend, King was even better.  He kicked off his Heisman campaign in style as Texas beat the hell out of Wyoming.  Texas only punted three times but King left the game with a stupid 53.3 yard average.  I am not a punting expert (is anyone?) but when your average is over half the field you are probably doing ok.  People seem to agree with me as King was named the College football punter of the week.  Sadly this performance has not yet lead to much Heisman buzz.  The brilliant minds over at SI.com only have QB’s and running backs in their early season Heisman Watch. Idiots.  It’s this kind of backward, regressive thinking that we need to battle if punters are going to get a fair shot at the Heisman.