Archive for August, 2009

Youngstown Phantoms Profiles: GM And Coach Bob Mainhardt

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Bob Mainhardt has been around the sport of hockey most of his life.  He now finds himself in Youngstown, Ohio, not exactly a hockey hotbed (yet).  Mainhardt likes his role with the Youngstown Phantoms leading into their inaugural season and thinks the valley will enjoy the level of hockey they will see played at The Covelli Centre this Fall.  I recently had a candid interview with Mainhardt in his second floor office at The Covelli Centre. 

Paneech:  Having covered the Mahoning Valley Thunder Arena Football Team, I noticed people were priced out of coming to games here.  There was $10 parking, $6 beer sales, and the team was not winning.  Has the Phantoms organization expressed fear in those three factors of playing at home and potentially not drawing decent-sized crowds?

Mainhardt: I think both the city and the management team here at The Covelli Centre have really taken strides to strengthen our relationship.  We are going to have more specials, we are aware of the current economy and know that these type of things can be too pricy.  I think you will see some modest adjustments that will help make coming to a home game more attractive for a family.  We also feel that we are going to have a winning team, I think that always helps.

Paneech:  Explain the difference of the level of hockey the Phantoms will play at compared to the level that last year’s area representative, the Steelhounds, competed at.

Mainhardt: This level [USHL] is drastically closer to the professional level.  The guys playing in this league are just bigger, stronger, faster, and better players.  What we had here before were the best guys that were not able to play in this league, and now we have essentially the greatest players in the world at this age level.

Paneech:  What are the chances of seeing someone who plays in the USHL move on to the NHL someday?

Mainhardt: It’s very likely.  It’s a double-edged sword for a coach, but that is our goal, to get players to the NHL.  We have Ryan Jasinsky, who is one of our forwards this year.  He is headed to Washington Capitals Camp, and they may very well sign him to a contract.  If he signs, we replace him and move forward, if not, then we will expect to have him back here.

Paneech:  Talk about Jordan Tibbett, a goalkeeper who played for the Steelhounds here last year.

Mainhardt:  Jordan has played in the USHL, he is a very highly touted goaltender and ran into problems with not performing the way he needed to.  We feel we have developed him to the point where he is ready to step back into the USHL and prove that he is an NHL-caliber goaltender.  Some people had given up on him, but we saw that he had all of the tools and just needed to mature a little bit.  We feel that he has done that.

Paneech: Tell me who the big playmakers on this team can be?

Mainhardt:   Well, we have a few.  Brian Dowd had great college numbers at Niagara.  He is very skilled, he is a Sidney Crosby-type of player.  Aside from that, we have some really good playmakers on the blue line.  We have some defensemen who can really generate some offense.  Alot of our defensemen are prototypical NHL defensemen that are big and mobile.  Two of our defensemen are over 6’6″, two are over 6’4″, and two that are over 6’3″, so we’ve got a big group that can move.

Paneech:  Talk to me about the offensive style we should expect to see the Phantoms play.  Will it be a press, will you dump and chase, or will it be dictated by the situation.

Mainhardt:  They say defense wins championships.  We are definitely an offensive-minded team.  We want to have control, but we want to put the other team in bad situations.  We will play a very uptempo offense and be very physical, that’s always been my style.  That’s how these players will get to the NHL, by hitting and generating offense. 

Paneech:  I want to give the readers a better idea of where the USHL ranks as compared to a major-league baseball farm system.  Can you make an analogy that people would be able to put into perspective?

Mainhardt: I guess if I had to draw a comparison to baseball I would call it Double-A.  The next step for many of these guys will either be college or the American Hockey League.  The elite of this league, however, will go directly to the NHL.  These players will get drafted, weigh their options, some will go to college for a year or two and get their education paid for.  In the NFL, there is nothing worse than seeing your favorite college player leave early and he ends up getting drafted in the 4th round by the worst team and doesn’t make it.  So these guys know now if they should go take a shot at the pros or go to college for a couple of years.  Another way to look at it is this, McDonald’s has a basketball game for the best players that sells out arenas every year.  If you took the best Freshmen out of college and it was hockey, that’s what you would have with this league.

Paneech:  Talk to me about your backround in hockey.

Mainhardt: I grew up in Detroit and played all of my youth hockey in Detroit.  From there, I played Junior-A in the North American League which is the league we [Steelhounds] used to be in.  I then moved up to the USHL and had the dreams of pro hockey but didn’t get drafted so I went the college route and wound up playing at Kent State University.  I then had a tough decision after a series of shoulder injuries and had to make a decision that every athlete hates to make [retirement], but had to make it much sooner than I would have anticipated.  I chose to carry out my education and later pursue a career in coaching.

Paneech:   Amateur hockey bores the casual fan because there are no fights.  On the converse, professional hockey draws fans because of fights.  What is the league policy on fighting?

Mainhardt: Again, our main goal is to develop players for the NHL.  The NHL has fights.  We do not, nor does the NHL anymore, have a true goon, someone who is here for just fighting.  What you will find is guys that are big and tough and know that in order to make it to the NHL, they not only have to score goals and be tough, but they must be able to fight as well.  At this level, you will see alot of fights where guys are genuinely angry with each other.  You might not have the quantity, you might not have seven fights that quite frankly are more show than they are go, but you will have those two or three that are good fights where guys are upset and want to prove their point.  We have some guys that the fans will identify really quick as guys that are not going to take anything too lightly out there.

Paneech:  With your time spent in Detroit, are you a Red Wings fan?

Mainhardt: I am a Red Wings fan by birth.  I will tell you that during the finals last year, I was very torn between Pittsburgh and Detroit.  At the end of the day, I was really pulling for Pittsburgh.  I really like what Mario Lemieux has done there and how the city has gotten around that team.  I know there are alot of Penguins fans in Mahoning and Trumbull County.  They [Pittsburgh] did everything right and there was nothing to dislike about that team.  If my Red Wings come in second, that’s fine.  They had a good showing, but it was Pittsburgh’s year. and I was happy that they won it.

Paneech: Talk to me about someone I despise, Don Cherry.

Mainhardt: Don has alot of great thoughts.  Unfortunately, he isn’t able to get that through to most people because he clouds it with so much BS.  I think he is good for the game, kind of like the rogue wrestling manager that interferes and hits the wrestler with a chair.  He is the guy that everyone can kind of like to hate.  Don is still a little too much smoke and mirrors.  Barry Melrose has become the American version and he is much more knowledgable and factual and someone I feel is a great ambassador of the game.  I feel those are the type of guys we need a little more of and a little less of the biased guys like Don Cherry.

One Word Answers

Favorite all-time NHL player?  Gordie Howe

Best Goaltender To Ever Play The Game?  Patrick Roy

Favorite Meal of The Day:  Lunch

Favorite Area Restaurant:  MVR Club

Second Favorite Sport:  Soccer and Baseball are very distant runner-ups.

Television:  UFC and Lost

Favorite Flavor At Handel’s:  Coffee Chocolate Chip

Perfect Day Off: Taking my three daughters to the zoo and then heading to Ikea and letting the kids free in the play area while my wife spends some money on something nice. 

Favorite Fruit: Strawberries

Favorite Vegetable: Peppers

Favorite Music: The Clash and Pearl Jam

Mainhardt stressed that his biggest wish is that the area gives this league and the Youngstown Phantoms a fair look and tries to get to some games.  I tend to agree that this developmental league will yield a good amount of talent into the NHL and am really looking forward to covering this season. 

Linked And Loaded – Weekend Edition

How sad is this photo to Indians fans?  Cliff Lee is gone but not forgotten.  He is tearing up the National League, much like CC Sabathia did when the Indians decided to play flea market last season.  Lee is 6-0 and his ERA is under 1.00.  I laugh at the Indians fans who told me a month or so ago that Lee was not as good as billed while in Cleveland.  With just over a month left in the regular season, he might end up with more wins than any American League starter, in less than half of the starts.

Here are some great stories from other sites:


Behind The Scenes At A Mahoning Valley Scrappers Game

Scrappers Scoreboard by you.

The field always looks great, the announcements that rip through the PA system are crisp, and why does the umpire always look toward the press box between innings and start waiving his arms?  They are, for the most part, the people you do not see when you attend a Mahoning Valley Scrappers game.  People notice the scoreboard and look to it when they want the information of the game, yet seldom realize the effort put into the finished product.

There are so many people, many multi-tasking, working behind the scenes at a Scrappers game, so I thought I would write a piece saluting them and telling you about their functions.   What I am about to present is a visual scrapbook I have compiled over the past few weeks.

Dave Smith, the GM, is kind of the ringleader.  He moves throughout the park during a game and usually comes into the press box to brag about the Phillies at some point.  He is a busy man and oversees what goes on at every home game.  You can check out a profile I did for him by clicking here.

Marc Means is the voice you hear on the radio or through the speakers at the game.  He is also on the sales and promotions teams and even helps pull the tarp on and off of the field during inclement weather.  You can read his profile by clicking here.

Everyone knows who Travis Fryman is.  Few people know how accomodating and accessible he has been all season.  After every game, he openly answers any questions the media throws his way.  I respected Fryman as a player.  As a manager, Fryman has been well received by the players who know that he ‘gets’ it.  My respect for Fryman has tripled because of who he really is – a family guy with strong ethics who really wants these players to improve in every way.  You can read Fryman’s profile piece by clicking here.

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Meet John Brown.  John is a polite guy with a big voice.  He is the PA announcer at Mahoning Valley Scrapper home games.  Brown has the routine down to a science and does a nice job projecting his voice to get a rise out of the crowd.  John also double checks the roster sheets before every game before they are distributed to media personnel.

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Meet Craig Antush.  Craig is an interesting guy because he has a couple of pretty unique tasks he performs at the home games.  His primary assignment is to keep the official book.  Sounds easy, huh?  Every questionable play is run back in his mind before he calls out whether it is scored as an error or a hit.  The media, the scoreboard operator, and the PA box all look toward Craig at the same time for the verdict.  In between every half inning, Craig has to call the Minor League Baseball people and give them the results for every at-bat and report substitutions.  In between innings, the umpires wait for Antush to signal that the information has been sent and that it is okay to start playing again.

Antush also throws batting practice for the Scrappers.  One of the most polite  guys you will ever meet, he also is a YSU Baseball Assistant Coach.  You have to respect a guy who doesn’t get worked up when there is pressure, and Craig is that guy.

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Meet Scott Hansen.  Scott is in his 8th year as scoreboard operator for the Scrappers.  He also keeps close tabs on what is going on as he has to post balls and strikes on the scoreboard.  Scott is usually the person in the press box who spots a pitcher warming up in the bullpen through his binoculars.  He tells everyone who is entering the game as a new pitcher before everyone else knows.  He also keeps the media room in check by knocking on the glass that seperates the two rooms to inform them how Craig Antush scores a questionable play.  Hansen is a pretzel afficianado and a guy who you can spend hours talking to about anything.


Meet Dan Stricko.  Dan is the head groundskeeper.  I have been to probably 100 or so Scrapper games since the team started playing in Niles in 1999.  I have never seen the field look as immaculate and manicured as it does this year.  Kudos to Mr. Stricko and his staff for working so hard to keep the Kentucky Bluegrass at Eastwood Field looking fresh every single game.  The grounds crew also scrambles after batting practice to get the batting cage put away, line the field, and hose the infield.


Meet the promotions staff.  These are the people who do something every half inning to keep people entertained.  I get a kick out of all the screaming when soap and pizza boxes go flying everywhere.  The things people wouldn’t do for a free T-shirt shot from an airgun.  In the above right picture, Karen Dobbs of Hubbard, Ohio recently played the  ‘Are You Smarter Than An Umpire’ game in which she was a winner.  Dancing, push-ups, bat races, the tickets or the box, and the dispersion of soap and pizza are a treat for the crowd to enjoy.

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Meet the vendors.  These guys and girls have my sympathy.  Carrying a metal crate filled with liquid in 80+ degree weather has got to be brutal.  They do it with a pleasant disposition though, I have yet to see a problem between a vendor and a fan at a game in all of my trips to Eastwood Field.  I also pity the vendor who has to sell foam fingers and mini-bats.  They get less action and usually seem somewhat demoralized by the fourth inning.

So there you have it, a salute to those who work hard so you can enjoy the games!  There are many others who also play roles and I apologize for not including every member of this fine organization for their continuous contributions.  People like the parking lot attendees, the ticket takers, the in-house video team, the sound effects team, the cooks, the merchandise associates, and the ushers. 

Congratulations to everyone for playing a key role in the success of baseball in the Mahoning Valley!


Youngstown State Football Profiles: Kevin Smith

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This weeks YSU Football Profile Player is Kevin Smith.  Smith knows pressure, he replaced Reggie Bush at Helix High School in California.  Coming off of a 2008 injury in which he was redshirted, Smith wants to prove he is the playmaker everyone thinks he can be.  He is one of only 12 seniors this season and believes in this years Penguins squad.

Paneech: How tough was it to try to fill the shoes of Reggie Bush at Helix High School?

Smith: It was an uphill battle.  When Reggie played, he packed the stands and then when I played it wasn’t as full (laughs).  It was fun though, it gave me something to work for.  It was alot to live up to, but it was also a welcome challenge.

Paneech:  Why were you redshirted for 2008, and describe what the injury was.

Smith: I got injured.  I pulled, slash, tore my hamstring.  It looked pretty ugly when you seen it.  I kept trying to come back but couldn’t, so the coaches chose to redshirt me, so here I am.

Paneech:  As one of only 12 seniors, how much of a leadership role have you taken on?

Smith: I definitely tried to step it up.  I’m usually a pretty quiet dude and normally don’t say too much but rather let my playing do the talking.  Coach told us [the seniors] to step it up so I am trying to rally the troops.

When asked if it could be a breakout year, Smith said, “Man, I hope so.  I have worked real hard and will not allow myself not to be the best that I can”.  The September 5 opener at Pitt is something that keeps Kevin awake at night, “It’s all I think about, I dream about that at night, I think we have got the team to do it”.  It will be an opportunity to play on a bigger stage, and Smith thinks he and his mates are going to be ready to surprise some people in Pittsburgh on September 5. 

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Part of communications as a major would be to speak or perform in front of large groups.  Smith is a communications major and is minoring in history at YSU.  Never wanting to hog the spotlight or be a distraction, if Smith has the kind of year on the field that he is capable of, he will surely have to deal with being pictured on the scoreboard with some prerecorded short dialogue (pictured).

Paneech: Who is your position coach and how do you like his style?

Smith: (laughing) Sam Eddy.  When I first got here, he was hard on me.  My JUCO (Junior College) coach was easy.  When I got here, Coach Eddy was rough, but then it got easier, I think he had to take some time to get to know me.  He’s just funny, I will watch late in the season when he starts falling asleep in meetings”.

Paneech:  How bad do you miss the beaches of California, or have you taken a new liking to the snow here in Youngstown?

Smith: You can never like this weather.  I think about that [California] all of the time.  I wanted to get home for a week before camp, and I’m thinking, man, I wanna go home so bad.  I don’t like snow.

Paneech:  Who is your favorite NFL team and player?

Smith:  All-time favorite player would probably be Barry Sanders.  My favorite team?  I gotta go with the hometown team, San Diego.  I love LT [LaDanian Tomlinson], I love so many different backs that bring something to the game.  Reggie Bush is up there, that’s my boy, but he needs to get back on the field, I ain’t gonna hype him up for no reason (laighing).

Paneech:  Talk with me about Michael Vick.

Smith:  Unless you know what it is like to do time in jail then you can’t judge.  As far as I know, two years in jail isn’t a joke.  He made a mistake, everyone makes mistake and nobody is perfect.  Presidents make mistakes, so why should he be treated any different.

Paneech:  What is it like to have a birthday (November 25th) that sometimes falls on Thanksgiving?

Smith:  I love it!  You sit down and get all this food and then on top of that you get presents.  I think that’s a better birthday than Christmas because your parents would try to play you like, okay, here are two presents, one is for your birthday, and one is for Christmas.  I get that early Christmas gift, and then I get Christmas gifts too. 

Paneech:  What other schools recruited you?

Smith:  The biggest school to recruit me was probably Utah.  There were alot of schools looking at me, some Big Sky, and alot of 1-AA schools.  I thought I was headed to Utah, but it was the same year that Urban Meyer left and went to Florida, and the man who recruited me also left, so that hurt my chances of playing there, so I decided on Junior College.

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One Word Answers

Favorite College Basketball Team?   North Carolina

Favorite Fruit?  Bananas

Favorite Vegetable? Carrots

After a loss, I feel…  Mad

After a big win, I feel…  Let’s party

Favorite MusicianMichael Jackson

Favorite Boxer:  Mike Tyson

Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream:  Chocolate

Kim Kardashian or Beyonce:  Beyonce

Favorite Play To Run:  Zone

Favorite Animal: Tiger

Favorite Holiday:  Thanksgiving

Other Than Myself, The Biggest Difference Maker On This Team Is…  Donald Jones


Kevin Smith is an asset to this team in more ways than one.  Not only is he providing leadership by doing rather than saying, but he knows his role and has put the team first.  He has a great personality and was very easy to speak with.  I have a feeling I will be speaking to him after he has a big game at some point in 2009, the question is not which one, but rather, how many.

Mahoning Valley Scrappers Profile: Kyle Smith

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Kyle Smith is enjoying his rookie season.  Drafted 14th by the Cleveland Indians in the 2009 MLB Draft, Smith has already been selected to the NYPL All-Star team.  As of this writing, he is sidelined with a shoulder injury but said he will be re-evaluated early next week and may be able to return to the field by seasons end.  The very best and worst a player could ask for in his first season, being named an all-star and being hurt for a few weeks.

 I caught up with Kyle to discuss the past, future, and present.  He provided some great answers to my questions.

Paneech: What is it like having a birthday on December 25?

Smith: It’s pretty cool.  Everyone always asks as a kid if you get screwed on presents, “Did you get one, did you get two?”, I was fortunate because I didn’t get the short end of the stick, I usually got two presents from everyone.  So it’s kind of a cool feeling to share my birthday with that holiday.

Paneech: Living and growing up in California, tell me the differences you have noticed between home and Youngstown, Ohio.

Smith: It’s really green here [Youngstown] is the first thing I noticed, like all of the trees you see when you are driving.  In California, where I live,  there are more buildings and skyscrapers, and alot more people.  There’s a little bit of a homey feeling here.  Everything is a little bit slower and relaxed.  When I was younger, I went to the beach alot.  My uncle played volleyball on the APV tour so we used to go watch him alot.  My school was actually five minutes from the beach, so I would go there quite a bit growing up.

Paneech: Explain your injury and how it happened.

Smith: It’s a seperated shoulder, I seperated my AC joint.  I got a ground ball, it took a funny hop, I went down to pick it up and I should have just ate it and not thrown it, but I threw and tripped and jammed it [shoulder], all my body weight landed on it.

Paneech: Do you watch alot of baseball and who do you root for?

Smith: Yeah, I do, in fact, I watch a ton of baseball.  I’m a huge Dodgers fan.  My favorite player is Andre Ethier.

Paneech: What do you do with the limited spare time that you have?

Smith: Basically, just try to relax and get off of my feet.  I like to go and hang out by the pool a couple of times a week.  I like to watch movies, I watch a ton of movies.  I’ll go see a movie or watch a movie at home.  My favorite movie of all-times is Fight Club.

Paneech: Have you gotten used to staying with a host family yet?

Smith: Yeah, when I was 12, I played in the Cal Ripken World Series and that was my first host family experience.  This is actually my third experience with a host family.  It’s an uneasy feeling everytime because you are unsure of what you will get, but I have been really fortunate with all of the host families I have had, they have all been outstanding.

Paneech: Who have you gotten to be good friends with on the team?

Smith: Pretty much everybody.  We’re all pretty close.  Lately I have been pretty close with Jason Smit because we are both hurt, but also with Kyle Bellows and Jason Kipnis.

Paneech: Explain the experience of learning under Travis Fryman.

Smith: You can’t ask for a better first-year coach, I have really been spoiled.  He’s a former middle infielder who moved over to third base and I have benefited from him.  He has been in our situation before, so he knows what we are going through as first year players.

Paneech: Why have you selected the number 2?

Smith: My other number was retired.  Number 3 was retired and Timmy [Palincsar] took number 7 and I wanted to keep a single digit, so I selected number 2 because my mom wore that number.

Paneech: How long until we see Kyle Smith back on the field?

Smith: I’m going to take some kind of a treatment that is supposed to help close off my AC joint and test it Saturday.  If that goes well, I should be on the field in the next couple of weeks.

Paneech: Have you taken a liking to any particular restaurants in the area?

Smith:  I like Applebee’s alot.  Although the other day I had my first trip ever to a Steak And Shake and really liked it, we don’t have Steak And Shake back home in California, and it was really good.

One Word Answers

Favorite College Football Team:  USC Trojans 

Favorite Band:  Journey

After A Loss I Feel…  Angry

After A Big Win I Feel… Glorified

Favorite Boxer:  Roy Jones

Best Uniforms In Any Sport: Home Dodgers uniforms 

WWE or TNA?  Ultimate Warrior

Favorite Pitch To Hit: Fastball

Favorite Animal:  Dog

Smith came off as comfortable with his situation.  I sensed a minor bit of sadness due to his injury, but with the year he was having, who wouldn’t be sad.  It was ironic that Kyle declared USC to be his favorite college football team on the Scrappers college football night promotion.  90% of the people wearing a college football shirt were advertising Ohio State.

Scrappers Use Big 3rd Inning To Pound Out 11-6 Win Over Batavia

IMG_3065 by you.

The Mahoning Valley Scrappers offense showed its potency against Batavia.  The Scrappers scored a season-high eight runs in the third inning and never looked back in defeating the Muckdogs.

Batavia struck first on a three-run blast from Kyle Conley.  They added another run in the second inning to push the lead to 4-0.  At this point in the game things may have seemed dismal with Jason Smit, Kyle Smith, and Kyle Bellows holding clipboards and nursing injuries.

The Scrappers batted around in the third inning.  Jordan Henry (pictured above) singled and stole second base.  Casey Frawley then walked and Jason Kipnis reached on an error to load the bases.  Greg Folgia was hit by a pitch scoring Henry.  Jesus Brito then walked to score Frawley.  Chun Chen struck out but the ball got to the backstop and Kipnis alertly scored from third.  Juan Aponte doubled to score Folgia and Brito and give the Scrappers a 5-4 lead.  Tim Palincsar doubled home two more and scored when Henry had his second hit of the inning, an RBI-double pushing the Scrapper lead to 8-4. 

In the fourth, Rafael Vera got in on the action as he doubled home Folgia and Brito, who both reached base via the free pass, extending the lead to 10-4.

The Muckdogs tried to fight back putting a couple of runs up in the fifth inning and cutting the Scrapper lead to 10-6.

Henry collected his fourth hit of the night, an RBI-single plating Vera who doubled, to pretty much seal the victory for Mahoning Valley.

Henry has been superb, as a leadoff man and as a center fielder, all season long for the Scrappers.  Henry said it felt good to put the eight runs up in the third inning, “It was great, just about everyone scored that inning.  It was good to be that consistent through the lineup.  It’s all part of the game, sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t”.

Manager Travis Fryman was pleased with the situational hitting his team provided, especially in the third inning.  “Our situational hitting has been better.  It’s still not on the level where I think it needs to be, but it has been better.  We did this the other day in Auburn where we had five hits with two outs, it is getting better”.

With the win, Mahoning Valley trimmed their magic number to clinch the division to six.  The magic number decreases by one with each Scrapper victory or second-place Williamsport Crosscutter loss.

The Scrappers finish the series with Batavia on Thursday, Buck Night.  On Friday, Mahoning Valley embarks on their final roadtrip of the season with stops in Jamestown and Williamsport.  It should be noted that Thursday, Friday, and Saturday games will not be broadcast on AM-1390, but can still be picked up on the internet transmission.  Marc Means, as always, will still be calling the games online.

2009 NFL Predictions

This is it, the year when Saints fans can take the paper bags off of their heads.  Yes, I predict New Orleans will get their first ever NFC Championship.  Years of futility and what “could have been” minus injuries, suspensions, and plenty of bad luck, can all be shelved with the year coming in the Big Easy.

Look at the weapons on offense.  Drew Brees spreads the ball around and seems real comfortable with what he has to work with.  Marques Colston is healthy, Lance Moore is a pleasant surprise, and Jeremy Shockey is simply on a mission.  Shockey worked as hard as anyone this offseason and feels he has much to prove.  Oh yeah, the Saints also have a lethal one-two punch at running back with Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush.  If their defense can play average to good, this offense should outscore anyone in their path.

I am predicting the Saints to face Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game.  Michael Vick will produce in some capacity and have the city that booed Santa Claus going nuts for him to be on the field more by the end of the regular season.  The much improved receiving core should prosper with the addition of Jeremy Maclin.  This kid is the real deal and I also predict that he will win NFC Rookie of The Year.  A solid defense, a sufficient running game, and a positive Donovan McNabb should prove to be too much in the toughest division in football.

I see the Saints getting by the Eagles in the NFC Championship game and advancing to the Super Bowl.

In the AFC, the more things change, the more they stay the same is my theme for Indianapolis.  Peyton Manning is the most consistent quarterback in the league and the Colts have beefed up the backfield.  This move will aid Manning in using effective play-action as the defense will again have to respect the run.  Bob Sanders is a maniac on defense and is all over the field in every game he participates in.

The only real threat this year in the AFC will be New England.  I know, the Steelers fans are whining already, but don’t expect Big Ben to be the same guy with his allegations and off-field distractions.  Everything, and I mean everything, fell perfectly into place last season.  If that happens this season, I am not sure it will be enough to get by New England or Indy.  Playing in the worst division in football will get the Steelers into the playoffs, but I see an early exit for Pittsburgh this season.

New England will thrive with the return of Tom Brady.  Watch Randy Moss have a huge year.  However, I predict that New England will lose to Indianapolis in the AFC Championship game in a nailbiter.

In February of 2010, I see Indianapolis and New Orleans battling for the big prize.  I am going to predict that New Orleans will win the highest-scoring Super Bowl ever played 41-35.

Other predictions for the year:

  • Atlanta will go 8-8 and be hit hard with a rash of injuries.
  • Cleveland will win 5 games.
  • Edgerrin James will have 1,000 yards rushing for Seattle.
  • San Francisco will make the playoffs.
  • The Rams will just miss making the playoffs.
  • Brett Favre will put up average numbers at best and will be the recipient of a cheap shot when the Vikings play at Green Bay.
  • Terrell Owens will get hurt by the time the snow falls in Orchard Park.
  • Carson Palmer will miss at least half of the season with nagging injuries.
  • Dallas’ new scoreboard will block 6 punts.

Well, those are my predictions for the season, sure to be heckled and ridiculed.  Feel free to comment on things you may agree or disagree with.

Pete Rose: 20 Years And Still Serving His Sentence

Twenty years ago, Pete Rose did what Major League Baseball wanted him to do, step up and take responsibility for his alleged gambling habit.  Rose, who has been cooperative since, followed orders and confessed his wrongdoing.  Still not in the Hall of Fame, and still jumping when being told to jump, I cannot figure out why he has not gotten his second chance yet.

Athletes have done so many things worse than Rose on the totem pole of ethics.  I am not here to rip on the other athletes, but rather convey the message that Rose is still being punished for much less.  Michael Vick, a name we are all sick of hearing, ran a dogfighting ring, did his time, and is suiting up for Philadelphia.  Vick was given a second chance that quick. 

Steroids in baseball have more to do with altering the course of a game moreso than a manager [Rose] betting on his team to win every night.  I understand that Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafel Palmeiro, A-Rod, and Big Papi will probably never see the Hall of Fame either.  However, they cheated.  How is betting on the team you are managing to win cheating?  It is unethical, but it is not cheating.

Donte Stallworth killed another human being because he was drunk.  He served some time (minimal), coughed up a small fortune, and you can bet he will be back on the field next year.  How can these guys literally get away with murder, and Rose still be punished 20 years later?  It makes no sense to me.

Rose is baseball’s all-time leader in hits.  If Bud Selig decides that enough-is-enough already, he would be making the right decision.  Selig seems to want to milk this and turn Rose’s funeral into his induction period.  Selig knows he belongs.

Rose played from 1963 until 1986.  Without him, there was no Big Red Machine, no Charlie Hustle, no advertisements that featured a baseball player so much.  Rose did so much more good for the game than the bad he is still being judged upon. 

There are common people who serve less than 20 years for murders.  To keep a star like Rose out of the limelight is dumb.  He is still charismatic,  loves the game, and hurt no one but himself.  Time is up, do the right thing and re-instate Pete Rose.

Linked And Loaded – The Weekend Edition

The guy in the picture is Joe Madden.  Kind of looks like Mr. Bunny Rabbit from Captain Kangaroo with those glasses.  Anyway, he is the most underappreciated manager in the bigs right now. Here are some stories from other great sites:


Why The Browns Should Sign Usain Bolt

The Cleveland Browns should pursue Jamaican track prodigy, Usain Bolt.  The obvious reason would be because he would clock a great 40-yard dash time at the combine.  Can you imagine getting this guy the ball in the open field?

Now, for the beef of my presentation.  He is no worse than what is already there.  He might even be better.  Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson like to overthrow receivers a few times each game.  Why not put Bolt in the slot and bring him across in motion.  He would be the first WR in NFL history to burn his man by losing him in motion.

Once the play starts, tell Brady or Derek to just heave it, let it fly, he will run under it.  Who knows if he will catch it or not.  Who cares, we already know that Braylon Edwards would probably drop it, so what would be the harm in taking that chance? 

Run a reverse and watch that OLB who sucks in for the play action swear profanity-laced tirades before Bolt even hits the corner.  He would not get touched on the play. 

Use him to promote Cleveland.  Who better than a native Jamaican to promote Bob Marley at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  How many people would show up at an Indians game if Usain Bolt were going to race Bernie Kosar while running backwards?  The possibilities are just endless.

I could see it now, the new ‘Killer-B’  Browns receiving core.  Braylon, Brian, and BoltDonte Stallworth would be included but when the idea was first dreamt up he took the title to a new level.  But the three ‘Killer-B’s’ !!  “More drops than a three-day tropical rainstorm!”  How ultra-promotable!