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Great story on the history of the Madden video game franchise

22 Apr

Could this be the next Madden cover? All Brownies' fans hope so.

Click here to read this sweet ESPN: Outside The Lines recap by Patrick Hruby on the history of how EA Sports’ Madden franchise rose to prominence in the sports & gaming world.

 
 

Gamers launch class action lawsuit against EA for its exclusive license on Madden & NCAA games, allege the license led to overcharging

8 Apr

Electronic Arts is being sued for its exclusive license on Madden, NCAA & Arena Football League games from the past several years (presumably starting with Madden ’06 & NCAA ’06). 

If you purchased certain Electronic Arts brand football video games between January 1, 2005 to the present you may be eligible to join the lawsuit!

Thanks to Peyton Hillis & online voters, we will actually get to see a Browns player grace the Madden cover in 2012. Amazing. I was starting to think the only way that would happen is if EA Sports was so desperate for new ideas it started using kickers (Phil Dawson) or longsnappers (Ryan Pontbriand) as the face of its NFL game.

EA will probably defeat the claim against it b/c antitrust cases often force the plaintiff to put on quite an impressive amount of evidence proving the game developer truly closed competition in the market.  This civil suit standard is technically called a preponderance of the evidence (51%), which sounds relatively easy but is usually not the case in the land of antitrust litigation (this regards competition & fairness in the marketplace). 

While most gamers obviously wish other vendors like 2K Sports & Midway could make NFL games to compete with EA, it’s not like EA runs the entire videogame universe & is going Tony Soprano, telling all other game developers they’d better not think about making a football game or there’s going to be trouble.  In fact, those Blitz: The League pro football games came out, & no one is stopping another game developer from following in Midway’s footsteps and making its own unlicensed game using retired NFL players or players not part of the NFLPA (NFL Players Association). 

Midway featured former all-pro linebackers Lawrence Taylor & Bill Romanowski’s likenesses/voices as “Quintin Sands” & “Bruno Battaglia” in its Blitz games with fictional teams to overcome EA Sports’ exclusive license with the NFL.  I’m sure few people think those types of games are anywhere near as good to play as the Madden games, & I’d agree with that.  Still, those games got released & the first Blitz game obviously did some business or else Midway would’ve have bothered to make a sequel.  This may make proving competition was closed a tough sell, but more power to ’em! 

The great thing about this lawsuit is that it may make EA & the NFL think twice about pursuing another exclusivity license when the current one expires in 2012 (assuming it’s not renewed beforehand or extended further by a season-long NFL lockout in real life).  Lawsuits are bad press, & paying legal fees to defend yourself gets old fast.  Plus, most gamers hate this exclusive arrangement, so it’s a black eye for EA & the NFL.

Imagine if the NFL just lets the deal with EA run out, how great would that be?  This would finally mean diversity in the marketplace again, taking us back to the glory days of 2004!  Who remembers the joy of having your choice of:
1) arguably one of the best editions of Madden ever – Madden 2005, &
2) NFL 2K5.

Madden ’05 debuted the hit stick, & still let athletic QBs run & throw the ball accurately 70 yards down the field.  This wasn’t an extremely realistic passing attack, but was a blast to play.  That “big play” offensive model came off the heels of the Michael Vick-friendly Madden ’04 title.  Some Madden enthusiasts, including myself, still regard Madden ’04 as the most fun copy of Madden ever.

On the flip side in 2004 you had NFL 2k5, which had the fantastically low $19.99 MSRP & featured a relatively authentic ESPN broadcast presentation for the time.  Some people even thought this was a better game than the Madden edition that year.  I wouldn’t go that far, but who cares?  The point is Madden had some legit competition back then, & all was right with the world.

What does this mean for 2012 & beyond?  Video games are logically better when developers know another game has the chance to beat them in a competitive genre if each developer doesn’t bring its A game. 

So do we really need a class action lawsuit to get a better football video game?  It’s pretty clear that having multiple NFL videogames released each year would be the real victory for gamers, and we don’t necessarily need a judgment & court order to do that if the NFL takes action. 

All the NFL would have to do is decide exclusive licenses are too much of a hassle & make sure it can get more money collectively from all the football game developers than it could make from EA alone.  Once that happens, diversity in the marketplace returns, and it’s a touchdown dance for the consumer.

As for this lawsuit, EA will probably win b/c other football titles do exist.  Even if EA loses, most class-action plaintiffs will probably only get like 75 cents or a free download of “NFL Labor Dispute 2014” or whatever new idea EA rolls out in a demo the year this case is resolved.  “Labor Dispute 2014” could be like the ill-fated “Head Coach” EA series, where you attend meetings, run an office, fill out paperwork, manage a schedule…basically an awful, boring football RPG every 14-year old Madden fan will put down in favor of finishing his homework.

Whether EA wins or loses, the lawyers are probably still getting paid…so we can all look forward to that.

Here’s the details from the web page link that was emailed to members of the class action:

GEOFFREY PECOVER and ANDREW OWENS v. ELECTRONIC ARTS INC.
U.S. District Court (N.D. Cal. – Oakland Div.)
Case No. 08-cv-02820 CW

 

If You Purchased Certain Electronic Arts Brand Football Video Games
Between January 1, 2005 to the Present
You May Be a Class Member.

 

 

Membership as a class member in the Electronic Arts Litigation is the result of a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, Oakland Division (Case No. 08-cv-02820 CW).

What Is This Class Action About?

The class action lawsuit alleges violations of California’s antitrust and consumer protection laws in connection with the sale of certain football video games. Plaintiffs, purchasers of Electronic Arts’ football video games, claim that Defendant Electronic Arts entered into a series of exclusive licenses with the National Football League (NFL), National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA), National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), and Arena Football League (AFL), which Plaintiffs claim foreclosed competition in an alleged football video game market. Plaintiffs allege that this series of exclusive licenses caused customers who purchased certain football video games to be overcharged. 
Defendant Electronic Arts has denied any liability and all allegations of misconduct. The Court has not decided whether the Defendants did anything wrong, and this Notice is not an expression of any opinion by the Court about the merits of any of the claims or defenses asserted by any party to this litigation.

Who Are Class Members?

The Class includes all persons who, during the period January 1, 2005 to the present, purchased the Madden NFL, NCAA Football, or Arena Football League brand video games published by Electronic Arts with a release date of January 1, 2005 to the present. Excluded from the class are purchasers of software for mobile devices, persons purchasing directly from Electronic Arts, persons purchasing used copies of the relevant football video games, and Electronic Arts’ employees, officers, directors, legal representatives, and wholly or partly owned subsidiaries or affiliated companies.

What Should I Do? (Getting Further Information)

If you believe that you may be a class member (see above “Who Are Class Members”), you should get more detailed information about the class action and its potential effect on you and your rights. Further information can be obtained by going to the following website: http://www.easportslitigation.com. Additional information about the lawsuit may be obtained from Plaintiffs’ Counsel website at http://www.hbsslaw.com, or by calling Plaintiffs’ Counsel at 1-206-623-7292.

To Remain a Class Member

If you are a class member and you do nothing, you will be bound by the court’s rulings in the lawsuit, including any final Settlement or Judgment.

To Exclude Yourself from the Class(Deadline to Request Exclusion: June 25, 2011)

If you are a class member and you want to exclude yourself from the class and keep your right to sue Defendant, you must take further action before June 25, 2011. By that date, you must request exclusion in writing to this address:

Electronic Arts Litigation Exclusion
P.O. Box 8090
San Rafael CA 94912-8090

Or submit a request for exclusion electronically at the following website: www.easportslitigation.com

For further information about excluding yourself from the class go to the following website:
www.easportslitigation.com

Please do not telephone or address inquiries to the Court.
April 6, 2011. By Order of the U.S. District Court (N.D. Cal. – Oakland Div.).

Your football fix for early April: Breaking down the zone blitz

5 Apr

Chris at SmartFootball.com did a nice job of analyzing Dick LeBeau’s zone blitz scheme, with plenty of pictures and some video to boot.  He also breaks down how Dom Capers implements the zone blitz for your education & enjoyment.

I’ve interviewed LeBeau & attended a Capers’ presser – both are defensive genuises who are a lot of fun to learn from.  It’s no surprise these seasoned NFL vets were the last 2 defensive coordinators standing at season’s end, facing off in the 2011 Super Bowl.

Chess Match: These defensive masterminds leave most Xs & Os vets in the dust.

Click here to read the article.

Blue chip recruit Stanley McClover says he received money & sex at OSU, then even more money from Auburn

31 Mar

O-H…

Ut-oh!

Jim Tressel spent over an hour yesterday apologizing for disappointing OSU alumni & fans after being suspended for witholding emails from the NCAA & his own athletic office in Columbus.  The emails detailed star QB Terrelle Pryor’s involvement with a tattoo parlor dealer who was at the center of an FBI probe last April. 

Tressel kept the emails private until after the 2010 regular season was over, leaving OSU to try to buy off the NCAA by imposing 5-game suspensions on Tressel, Pryor, & 4 other players who violated NCAA rules. 

Tressel’s university-imposed suspension started at 2 games, then OSU upped it to 5.  It’s unclear whether the NCAA will make OSU increase its offer.

Luckily for OSU & Auburn, no real-life equivalent to Ed O'Neill's suspicious sports writer character in Blue Chips existed on campus back in 2003 to document any of McClover's allegations, so his claims have yet to be substantiated. Still, McClover's story would make one heck of a solid sports flick!

What is certain is that Tressel may have to schedule another press conference to address a completely different matter involving players under his watch & a recruit back in 2003.

In a story straight out of the movie “Blue Chips,” ex-Auburn DE Stanley McClover claims he was offered booster money & sex during a 2003 recruiting trip to OSU hosted by Buckeye star WR/CB Chris Gamble, who has played CB for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers since 2004.

McClover took up the offers, but then chose Auburn after asking the Tigers for “a lot” of money & allegedly getting it delivered in a backpack.

Wow. 

All we’re missing is Nick Nolte, a Lexus like Shaq’s character received in the movie, & a tractor delivered to McClover’s father & we’re all set for a “Blue Chips” sequel!

From South Florida.com, with Steve Gorten of the Sun Sentinel reporting:

McClover told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Jan. 12, 2003 that he had orally committed to Ohio State after an official visit. According to the SportsbyBrooks transcript, McClover’s decision had to do with more than a gut feeling. McClover told Andrea Kremer in the interview that during his official interview to OSU, he received money handskakes from alumni of about $1000.

“They send girls my way. I partied,” McClover reportedly told Kremer. “When I got there, I met up with a couple guys from the team. We went to a party and they asked me to pick any girl I wanted.”

Kremer asked McClover if they offered sexual services. “Yes,” he answered.

Did you take them, she asked. “Yes,” he said again.

Here’s Gorten’s full story:

FORT LAUDERDALE – Former Dillard High defensive end Stanley McClover, who reportedly admitted to accepting improper benefits from Auburn and Ohio State during recruiting, didn’t appear to have Auburn on his radar until very late in his recruitment.

McClover’s allegations were made in an interview with HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumble earlier this year. That interview, part of an overall story on corruption in college sports, is to air tonight at 10 p.m. Three other Auburn players allege NCAA violations by Auburn and other schools. The news was first reported by the website SportsbyBrooks.com. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel received an advance copy of the show.

McClover told the Sun-Sentinel on Jan. 12, 2003 that he had orally committed to Ohio State after an official visit. In the HBO interview, it seemed McClover’s decision might have been more than a gut feeling. McClover told Andrea Kremer that during his official visit to OSU, he received money handskakes from alumni of about $1,000.

“They send girls my way. I partied,” McClover told Kremer. “When I got there, I met up with a couple guys from the team. We went to a party and they asked me to pick any girl I wanted.”

Kremer asked McClover if they offered sexual services. “Yes,” he answered.

Did you take them, she asked. “Yes,” he said again.

McClover committed to Ohio State right after that weekend. He told the Sun-Sentinel at that time that former Dillard player Chris Gamble, now with the Carolina Panthers, was his host for his official visit at OSU. The Buckeyes’ 2002 roster featured two other players from South Florida – receiver Santonio Holmes (Glades Central) and guard Bryce Bishop (Miami Killian).

When he orally committed to Ohio State, McClover told the Sun-Sentinel that the University of Miami had been his second choice and that he would not be taking a visit to UM or Florida later that month. McClover did not mention Auburn as one of the schools he was strongly considering.

McClover told the Sun-Sentinel in January 2003 that the outcome of the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, in which Ohio State beat Miami in a controversial ending for the 2002 national championship, “had a lot of effect on my decision.” In explaining why he chose Ohio State, he noted:

“I always had Ohio State as one of my top choices – you can recognize a good team – but I found some more respect for them when I saw how they played against Miami. It was, like, ‘Maybe these boys are for real.’ Instead of just being good, they’re great. And they’re bringing back the same guys next year, so we have a chance to repeat it.”

That changed 17 days later when he told the Sun-Sentinel that there was a 50 percent chance he’d sign with Auburn

“I’m still committed (to OSU), but I’m torn between Ohio State and Auburn,” McClover said on Jan. 29. “I’m going to end up making that decision on signing day with those two scholarships in front of me. I’m just going to go with my gut feeling when I wake up.”

McClover ultimately signed with Auburn.

McClover told Kremer in the HBO interview that he asked Auburn for “a lot” of money and he received that, delivered in a bookbag. The exact amount was unknown.

Kremer asked McClover what he thought when he opened the bookbag.

“I almost passed out,” McClover told Kremer. “I literally almost passed out I couldn’t believe it was true. I felt like I owed them.”

“You felt obligated to them [Auburn],” Kremer asked McClover.

“I felt totally obligated,” McClover responded.

“Because of the money?” she followed up.

“Yeah.”

McClover told the Sun-Sentinel at the time that he had started to sway from Ohio State and consider Auburn because it was closer to home and had shown interest in him since his freshman year.

“I guess we get caught up in the hype at one moment,” McClover told the Sun-Sentinel of his commitment to the Buckeyes. “Everything is going good, you go ahead and commit. Then when the smoke clears you think, ‘Dang I might have rushed it.”

sgorten@tribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @sgorten

//

Cavs send LeBron back to South Beach with a Heat loss, 102-90

30 Mar

For Cavs fans, beating LeBron’s Miami Heat just made this season a whole lot better. 

It’s like if Buckeye fans had to suffer through a 1-11 OSU football season…if that 1 win came against Michigan.

LBJ got the cold shoulder from Cavs players, fans & gameday workers, then left his old city with a loss. Take your talents back to South Beach LeBron.

The Cavs led by 23 (a fitting # given LBJ’s old uni in C-town), gave it all back, & still punked the Heat when Miami desperately needed a win to keep pace with Boston.  Right now Miami is stuck in the 3rd spot, headed on a crash course with the surging Philadelphia 76ers, a team no one is too excited about playing right now. 

Unless Miami somehow runs down the Bulls for the top spot in the East, they’ll be forced to face either the 76ers or the Knicks in the 1st round, yikes.  Either one is capable of pushing the Heat to 6 or 7 games, which is the last thing the Heat needs before a potentially brutal 2nd-round matchup with Boston (where the Celtics will likely have home court advantage).

ESPN.com has more from the AP:

CLEVELAND — As he left the arena, Cavaliers coach Byron Scott smiled and accepted fist bumps and congratulations from security guards lining the hallway.

“Coach,” one of them said, “we’re going to talk about this one all summer.”

And probably for many more.

Cleveland got the win it wanted most.

Take that, LeBron.

Despite blowing a 23-point lead, the Cavs battled back to beat the Miami Heat 102-90 on Tuesday night, getting a small dose of satisfaction against James, the franchise’s biggest star who was making his second homecoming visit to Cleveland since bolting last summer.

J.J. Hickson scored 21, Anthony Parker scored 20 and unsung center Ryan Hollins threw around his weight for the Cavs, who were embarrassed by the Heat 118-90 on Dec. 2 — a night when Cleveland fans unleashed pent-up hatred on James, the native son who scorned them.

This time, it was James who left the floor beaten. He finished with 27 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds and had to endure another night of constant booing from fans who once cherished his every move but now view him as a bitter enemy for betraying them.

James took the loss in stride, giving the Cavs credit they deserved.

“Anytime we play anybody, we know we’re going to get the best out of them,” James said. “They came out and played extremely well. It was a good win for them.”

It was more than that for Cleveland.

James’ departure was a crippling blow to a city that hasn’t celebrated a championship since 1964, and a region desperate for something positive to happen.

For at least one night, Cleveland rocked again.

“This was for the fans and for their support,” Cavs guard Daniel Gibson said. “They’ve stayed behind us and this was a way of saying thank you.”

In the closing seconds, the sellout crowd of 20,562 cut loose at a victory even the most loyal Clevelander couldn’t have imagined. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who accused James of quitting in last year’s playoffs after the two-time MVP announced he was joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in a poorly conceived TV special, high-fived anyone within reach.

Gilbert also posted on Twitter, “Not in our garage!!” a reference to James’ difficulty passing through security at Quicken Loans Arena earlier Tuesday.

On the floor afterward, Parker, whose last 3-pointer with 2:47 left capped a 12-0 run and put the Heat away, addressed Cavs fans.

“You guys deserve it,” he said as the fans erupted.

Later, Parker said the Cavs were out to fix what went wrong on Dec. 2.

“The first time we played them here, we were embarrassed and they took a little from us,” he said. “This is the night that we wanted to get that back, for us, but more for the fans. That was great getting it back for them.”

The Cavaliers were a different team — literally — from the one that laid down against the Heat here in December. Injuries and trades have reduced Cleveland’s roster to a shell of the one James played with and helped win 60 games last season.

The Heat rallied from a 71-48 deficit, tying it at 83-all on Mike Bibby‘s seventh 3-pointer with 7:03 left. But Miami, which wasted a chance to move into second place in the Eastern Conference standings, went scoreless for 4:24, allowing the Cavs to get just their 15th win — and most lopsided this season.

Wade added 24 for the Heat, who had their winning streak stopped at five.

Cleveland shot a season-high 56 percent from the field, a number that made coach Erik Spoelstra’s skin crawl.

“The majority of time in this league you get what you deserve and we got exactly what we deserved,” Spoelstra said. “They played harder than us. They came out with much more desperation and sense of urgency. This pattern started two games ago, and we’re a little confused what our identity is.”

Baron Davis made his first start since coming to Cleveland in a trade, and the veteran scored 10 points and provided floor leadership. The Cavs also got a big lift from Hollins, who had 13 points, three blocks and played physically — something none of Cleveland’s players did in December.

Hollins stopped one of Wade’s drives with an elbow, exchanged words with Miami’s guard and knocked James’ headband off under the basket.

“I feel like if they’re more concerned about me, then that’s a good thing for our team,” Hollins said. “That’s the way I wanted to play tonight.”

There wasn’t the same venom and hatred that shrouded James’ first visit four months ago. The crowd was energetic but not as outwardly angry toward James, who was booed every time he touched the ball. Security was extremely high, but there were no reported incidents.

The teams took turns going on extended runs in a wild, back-and-forth third quarter.

Cleveland scored 18 straight and opened a 71-48 lead, sending their fans into a frenzy and putting the Heat in a deep hole. But Miami was a long way from done as Wade hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored 10 points in a 19-1 spurt that pulled the Heat within 72-67 on James’ jumper.

Christian Eyenga‘s 3-pointer with 2 seconds left put the Cavs ahead 75-67. James flung a 3-pointer from a few steps beyond halfcourt to end the quarter, a shot that was initially ruled no good but changed after the officials reviewed TV replays between periods and determined there was a clock malfunction.

After the game, the NBA released a statement saying the shot actually should not have counted, but it was too late to change the score.

James arrived at the arena that was his pro basketball home for seven seasons at 5:12 p.m. Wearing headphones and a shirt with the inscription: “Long Live The King,” James went through security and waved to a few guards before ducking into the visitor’s locker room for the second time.

James wasn’t sure what he would be facing, but he was confident things would not be nearly as hostile as his previous visit.

“I expect the worst,” he said. “But worse than last time, Dec. 2? No.”

He got something else he didn’t expect. 

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Scottie Pippen calls early ’90s Detroit Pistons’ teams classless & unathletic

16 Mar

Pip didn’t mind taking some swipes at Detroit’s “Bad Boys” from 2 decades ago, calling the Pistons a “classless” organization & team.  The Pistons eliminated the Bulls 3 years in a row (’88, ’89 & ’90 playoffs).  It took the Bulls a while to break through DET coach Chuck Daly’s “Jordan Rules” defense against CHI – good thing Pippen isn’t still fired up about it.

Thankfully for Pippen the Bulls swept the Pistons in the ’91 Eastern Conference Finals, so he wasn’t called upon to make any game-winning shots (it was a different story 3 years later against the Knicks, where Toni Kukoc bailed him out). 

Also, everyone forgets that while most of the Pistons did walk off the court with 8 seconds left in 1991’s Game 4, Joe Dumars, John Salley & Vinnie Johnson did stay behind to shake the Bulls’ hands.

Pippen still calls the Bad Boy Pistons classless for leaving their bench...ironically Pippen has been called classless for staying on his in crunchtime against NY in the '94 Bulls-Knicks Game 3.

Here’s the report by Steve Schrader of the Detroit Free Press:

It was supposed to be a joyous celebration in Chicago over the weekend, the 20th anniversary of the Bulls dethroning the Pistons, but Scottie Pippen went all Bobby Hurley on the Bad Boys.

“The Pistons were a nasty team,” Pippen told the Chicago Sun-Times. “… They’d go out of their way to be mean and try to hurt you. And because we had better athletes, coach Chuck Daly just let them play the way they had to play to win.

“Bill Laimbeer was no real athlete. The same for Rick Mahorn and Joe Dumars and James Edwards. We were faster, quicker, more competitive and smarter.”

It’s enough to give you a migraine. But Michael Jordan’s caddie wasn’t finished.

“It was gratifying to see the Pistons walk off the court before that last game ended,” Pippen said. “We didn’t expect anything less because they were a classless organization and everybody saw they were a classless team.

“I didn’t care to shake their hands anyway.”

NFL labor dispute: Union claims NFL’s offer ‘a front’; NFL fires back

14 Mar

Apparently the NFL & its owners don’t realize how replaceable pro football is.  Any Browns’ fans who followed the team prior to its move to Baltimore after the 1995 season remembers life without the NFL.  Sure, there were games on TV, but they didn’t include any teams you really cared about, so after awhile you just stopped watching.  Browns’ teams since haven’t been a whole lot of fun to watch either for the most part, but at least we have a team to follow. 

The days when Sunday was about getting homework, business work, or chores around the house done don’t seem that long ago.  The first few weeks you would remember that football was on, but be a little sad you didn’t have a team to cheer for that day.  Incredibly, within a matter of weeks, new hobbies, ambitions, and interests sprang up.

And now, all those options are better.  There are more sports, more TV stations, most everything offered in high definition too.  We’ve got games to play on the Internet, and on our cell phones for that matter.  There’s MMA, competitive eating, amazing online gaming, and movies in 3-D…all things that practically didn’t exist back when the Browns left in 1995.

Yeah, we're not too excited about the work stoppage either. Attention owners & players: The average fan does not like to watch millionaires bicker about how to get even more millions.

Want a more current example?  It wasn’t that long ago the NHL had a big labor dispute, and the sport is still trying to recover.  Their games used to be played on ESPN, now you have to hunt around to find them on Versus.  ESPN replaced the NHL games with college & NBA basketball, & seemingly upped its reporting for the latter two while diminishing its NHL coverage.  Hockey would love to be relevant, but people are so used to life without it on a major channel several nights a week that it’s hard to be a factor anymore.

So now NFL owners apparently want a “safer” league where players play more games.  The more games you play, the more chances for a concussion.  This does not sound like a plan to make the game safer.

We all know the owners want a bigger slice of the pie, b/c they’re taking all the financial risk.  Nevermind the players are taking all the health risk.  Adrian Peterson runs “all day” now, but in 15 years he may struggle to walk into a room.  Worse, once he gets there, he might forget what he went in the room for in the first place.

Hopefully at some point the NFL administration, its owners & players will come to a new labor agreement & we’ll have a normal draft, training camp period, and regular season.  If they don’t, they’ll likely be shocked at how quickly everybody just moves onto something else. 

After all, some of us have better things to do than spend 3+ hours watching 4-5 minutes of live game action (when you add up the few seconds each play takes – the rest is mostly just talking heads & commercials).

I happen to be watching some great NBA basketball right now & enjoying it.  NFL what??

Here’s a nice story on the NFL labor dispute from ESPN.com: 

WASHINGTON — Had enough of the he-said, he-said rancor between the NFL and players? Don’t expect it to go away anytime soon.

The outcome of the league’s first work stoppage since 1987 could be decided in court; the first hearing on the players’ request for an injunction to block the owners’ lockout was scheduled for April 6. In the meantime, there probably will be more of the same as Monday, when Kevin Mawae — president of the NFL Players Association, the now-dissolved union — accused the league of spreading “complete falsehoods and complete lies.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, on the same conference call as Mawae, said the owners’ final offer Friday “was all a front.”

“I think it was all a show, with no real intent to get a deal done, other than just to say they made a proposal — that was no different than anything else that they proposed over the last couple years, couple months, couple weeks,” said Brees, a named plaintiff in the players’ antitrust lawsuit against the league.

Brees and Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday, also a member of the players’ executive committee, complained that the players were not given enough time to assess and ask questions about the proposal owners made Friday morning.

“It just seems odd you would wait until Friday to put out a 20-point proposal, when each point has a number of different details in it,” Saturday said.

The NFL’s lead labor negotiator, Jeff Pash, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that Friday’s proposal contained various new provisions. He said owners offered a 10-year deal.

“I was frankly surprised that the [owners’ labor] committee supported an offer as forthcoming as that was,” Pash said.

He also said the league would have been willing to agree to a third extension to the collective bargaining agreement, which originally was due to expire at the end of March 3, before two delays. But another extension, he said, “wasn’t really discussed in a serious way, because it was perfectly obvious they weren’t interested.”

By the end of Friday, talks broke off, the union announced it no longer would represent players, Brees and others filed suit, and the owners imposed a lockout at midnight.

“If they were saying they were not going to negotiate, under any circumstance, after 4 p.m. on Friday, don’t you think you have to ask yourself: Who was it who was in Washington putting on a show?” Pash said.

“We answered all the questions they had at the time, and we never put a deadline on it. We’re not the ones who were filing a lawsuit at 5 o’clock,” Pash said.

For all the things the owners and players disagree on, the two main sticking points are clear: how much money owners would get up front before dividing the rest of $9 billion in annual revenues with players, and the union’s demand for full financial disclosure.

“If we’re going to talk about ‘trust,’ maybe you should ask the owners if they trust each other to see each others’ books,” Mawae said. “I think that’s a greater issue than the players trusting the owners.”

Under the old CBA, owners received more than $1 billion to cover certain operating expenses, before other money was split with players. When negotiations began on a new deal, the owners sought an additional $1 billion off the top. Both sides acknowledge there was movement in that area.

But as the NFLPA’s lead spokesman, George Atallah, put it Monday: “The perception is that we were really, really close. The reality is we really, really weren’t.”

Because the NFLPA says it no longer is a union, but rather a trade association — a distinction the NFL calls a “sham” — Atallah said any decision to return to negotiations would be up to the lawyers representing the players, rather than NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. Asked whether there would be talks before the April 6 hearing, Atallah replied: “As of now, no.”

An NFLPA source seconded that notion to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Monday afternoon. The source expects a ruling on the players’ injunction request within a week of the hearing.

“No chance whatsoever,” the source said when asked if a settlement was possible. “There is no union anymore so it is impossible for collective bargaining to occur and there will be no settlement or even the discussion of it before this injunction is ruled on.”

The league, meanwhile, would prefer to return to the negotiating table. Starting Feb. 18, the sides met 16 times at federal mediator’s office.

“We would get back together with them tomorrow if they wanted to. We’re not the ones who walked out. We’re not the ones who renounced our status. We’re not the ones who filed litigation,” Pash said. “So we would get back together with them tomorrow. And if they have questions about our proposal, we’d answer them. If they have alternatives they want us to consider, we’d consider them.”

Mawae said that if the NFL contends the union walked away from mediation, “that’s a fabrication and a lie. We sat in that room … Tuesday and Wednesday of last week for 16 hours. … We met face-to-face a total of 30 minutes.”

For Love and Honor? Wins and greed appear to trump honesty and integrity for Tressel and Ohio State football

10 Mar

Here’s a great opinion piece by Detroit News’ Bob Wojnowski on how OSU’s 2-game suspension is a slap on the wrist:

We know Tressel won't be on the field against Akron & Toledo, but the Buckeyes should be able to roll out of bed & beat those MAC teams with a bartender from Columbus' Park Street Cantina playing HC.

Ohio State’s punishment for Jim Tressel is a joke

It’s comical and fake and borderline insulting. Jim Tressel did about the worst job imaginable trying to explain his program’s ugliest misdeed, quasi-apologizing for whatever it was he did, or didn’t do, or should have done.

Ohio State football is reeling, and Tressel will need all the Teflon he can pack inside his sweater vest. The NCAA needs to keep looking and keep hammering, and keep asking why it was misled and duped about the involvement of five players in a memorabilia-for-tattoos setup.

The Buckeyes’ 2010 season must be thrown under immediate scrutiny for the use of ineligible players, with all the victories possibly wiped out. Tressel has earned multiple layers of Teflon in 10 years with Ohio State. Winning does that, and beating Michigan does that.

But if you think Ohio State is untouchable, you probably thought Michigan was untouchable. Whatever you think of the seriousness of the NCAA violations under Rich Rodriguez, Michigan owned up to it.

The difference here is the coach’s standing. Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee practically giggled when he said Tressel wouldn’t be fired, and even joked he hoped the coach wouldn’t dismiss the president.

I half-expected during his rambling comments Tuesday night for Tressel to do one of those fake coughs and mutter under his breath, “Nine, cough-cough, and one.” That’s his record against Michigan, which is why he can lie and get away with it. Well, he didn’t totally get away with it, suspended two games and fined $250,000. Those two games are against Akron and Toledo, which is ridiculous.

At the very least, Tressel should be suspended for the same five games as five of the players — Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, Solomon Thomas — involved in Tattoo-gate. This is Buckeyes buffoonery at its finest, and after years of watching the Ohio State beat up on Michigan, it’s fascinating to watch the behemoth’s lips quiver.

Coach does nothing

Rivalries are great, and hey, maybe the Wolverines are partly culpable for Tressel’s arrogance because their failures added to his stature. But there also are signs the Buckeyes are willing to pay a higher cost to stay on top, as they again dance around eligibility issues with players.

Tressel is a tremendous coach, 106-22 in Columbus, including a national title with the troubled Maurice Clarett. But what he tried to pull here is deplorable, misleading the NCAA and lying to his bosses, then pretending it was all about protecting a couple of players in the midst of a confidential federal drug investigation.

Tressel probably would have kept deceiving if the school didn’t discover e-mails from the attorney who first alerted him players were exchanging memorabilia for cash and tattoos.

The tattoo parlor owner, Eddie Rife, apparently was a target of the federal investigation, and upon learning this in April, Tressel did what any deeply concerned, father-figure coach would do:He did nothing. He reported it to nobody because he said he didn’t know who to report it to.

He kept practicing the players, then used them all season, until the story finally came out in December. Even then, Ohio State made darn sure the players were eligible to beat Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, with the backing of Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. You think Delany feels duped today?

In the e-mails released by school officials, the confidentiality request wasn’t made by the lawyer until the second one, two weeks after the first. And Tressel’s response decidedly was tepid. That makes it even more laughable when he talks about keeping quiet because he was “scared.”

Scared of drug guys? Or scared of going into the Buckeyes 2010 season without Pryor and other stars?

“Thanks for your help … keep me posted as to what I need to do if anything,” Tressel wrote back to the unnamed lawyer.

History of violations

Even if Tressel legitimately was confused and truly thought he was protecting his players, and even though it violated his contract by not reporting an NCAA violation to his superiors, how does he justify lying in December? Tressel said he knew nothing about it until then, although the e-mails confirmed he knew in April.

An uncovered cover-up always makes it worse. I know Tressel has an image of a conservative, honorable man, but ask yourself this: Does an accomplished head coach, at the age of 58, suddenly develop an affinity for deception?

Considering the Buckeyes reportedly have 375 self-admitted (mostly minor) violations the past 10 years, and previous stars Clarett and Troy Smith were suspended for various offenses, it’s hard to believe this is Tressel’s first ride on the Double-Speak Deception Carousel. In fact, he has NCAA violations going to his days as the coach at Youngstown State.

Tressel said he was sincerely saddened by the whole affair, but you wonder if he’s sincerely sorry. Saddened he got caught, I’m sure, and sorry the strength of the Teflon Tress Vest is finally being tested.

Miami Heat Lose 5th Straight Game: Time to Panic (or Rejoice)?

9 Mar

The Miami Heat have recently embraced Charlie Sheen's definition of winning; in other words, they've been losing...a lot.

 

In the aftermath of the Miami Heat’s fifth straight loss, this time to a Portland Trail Blazers team that displayed more composure and better execution from start to finish of last night’s contest, the panic level of many Heat fans appears to have risen to extreme levels.  After all, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade combined to score 69 points between them last night while each played more than 40 minutes in the game.  Collectively as a team, the Heat shot better than 50% from the field.  And they faced a team that they had beaten on the road earlier this season (albeit in an OT game, one of the few this season in which James attempted and actually made clutch shots in the 4th quarter and OT).  And they still lost.  But this panic reeks of short-term thinking and undermines what the Heat have accomplished up to this point in the season.  Remember, Miami rattled off 21 wins in 22 games from December through January, and while many of those wins came against mediocre to sub .500 teams, the streak did include victories against the Lakers and Trail Blazers, with the only loss coming in a tight game against the Mavericks.  This 5 game losing streak is not some sort of anomaly that never occurs to elite NBA teams; with the exception of San Antonio, all of the league’s elite teams have suffered similar rough patches this season:

Celtics:  2 stretches of close to .500 ball, with records of 6-5 and 8-6 from December – February.

Mavs:    1-7 stretch in January that included losses to the Pacers and Pistons

Bulls:    Started the season 9-8, and had a 5-4 stretch that saw them lose to the Bobcats twice

Lakers: 2 separate 3 game losing streaks, as well as a 4 game losing streak to close out November

Even after this current 5 game losing streak, which has the potential to stretch to as much as 8 or 9 with upcoming home games against the Lakers, Grizzlies, Spurs, and Thunder, the Heat still rank quite well in many statistical categories that are proven to be effective predictors of playoff success:

Category Value NBA Rank
Pts Scored 101.5 9th
Pts Against 95.0 6th
Pts Diff. 6.5 4th
Reb Diff. 1.8 6th
FG % 47.6 T-2nd
FG% Against 43.1 2nd

 

The statistics don’t lie.  Of course, anybody could choose to cherry pick stats and select some that paint a bleak picture of the Heat’s future, whether it’s their near NBA worst assist percentage, mediocre free-throw shooting percentage, or NBA worst shooting percentage when attempting game tying or winning shots late in the fourth quarter.  But take a look again at those above stats: the Heat are still an elite offensive and defensive team; despite lacking an adequate center and having a power forward who oftentimes plays softer than Charmin toilet paper sprinkled with angels’ tears and wrapped in a cloud, they more than hold their own in the paint when it comes to rebounding and blocking shots (9th).

You can blame a whole host of things on this recent five game slide: LeBron and D-Wade choking late in games; Chris Bosh appearing scared to even be on the floor in the fourth quarter; Mike Miller shooting more inaccurately than Stevie Wonder on a pheasant hunt; Joel Anthony delivering passes directly to fans in the floor seats (check out the highlights); and coach Erik Spoelstra seeming confused on what plays to run in crunch time.  However, there’s still time for the Heat to correct these problems, and they’ll have the luxury of doing so with a very easy schedule after the OKC Thunder leave town.  The Heat could easily close the season 14-4 or 13-5, giving them 56-57 wins that would be plenty good enough to lock up the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  LeBron, D-Wade, Mike Miller, and yes, even Chris Bosh, have good track records when it comes to delivering in the clutch.  Their woeful end of game shooting will not continue.  Their defense, which is already at an elite level, should continue to be strong.   And don’t forget the pending return of Udonis Haslem, who has been a key contributor to the Heat on both ends of the floor that brings a level of physical and mental toughness they’ll desperately need in the playoffs.  Sure, the King’s quest for a ring isn’t looking too rosy at the moment, but there’s still plenty of time for his team to get on the right track and make a serious run at an NBA title.  Whether you enjoy rooting for the Heat or against them, one thing is certain: the final chapter of their 2010-2011 season is far from being written.

Sights from The Arnold Classic in Columbus, OH this past weekend featuring Ray Lewis & Jay Cutler

7 Mar

The 2011 Arnold Classic was filled with its usual bevy of fitness babes & bodybuilders, plus a few A-listers & top-flight athletes.  This year’s headliners included “The Governator” Arnold himself, Ray Lewis, Tony Gonzalez, Carmen Electra, Franco Harris & Kurt Angle. 

While it consistently rained just about all of Friday & Saturday outdoors, indoors the climate was wildly different from 1 day to the next.  Friday afternoon had the lightest amount of foot traffic I’ve ever seen at The Arnolds – it was a relative piece of cake to get where I needed & make my way around almost all of the main aisles in under a few hours. 

Saturday was a horse of a different color – purely wall to wall visitors, at times making it almost impossible to get where you needed to go in a timely fashion.  In fact, it was the most crowded I had EVER seen the EXPO (& that’s saying something).  Despite the packed environment on Saturday, Day 2 of The Arnolds was worth experiencing as well due to surprise photo ops in the EXPO hall with Franco & Kurt, who had otherwise only been available at the adjacent Hyatt hotel on Friday afternoon. 

Take a look below to get a slice of the action!

The Arnold Classic is about the only place not titled "The Rhinestone Cowboy" where a guy looking like this can have girls looking like that who are all too happy to wrap their arms around him for a photo.

 

The main competetion stage at the EXPO featured bodybuilding's elite coming out to their theme music (the "Gladiator" movie score was popular) along with 2 silver screens showing their highlights. That will get your adrenaline pumping!

 

Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis had crowds waiting over 75 minutes for a photo op with him. Thanks to his supplement sponsor, Twinlab, fans came away with a free picture in protective plastic plus some free samples/gear. Even if you hate the Ravens, it was tough not to respect Lewis, the off-field gentleman.

 

Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler had fans lining up for hours at his Muscletech command center, & appeared totally engaged & thrilled to meet every one of them! This is a Jay Cutler whose toughness cannot be questioned.

 

This is a fitness expo, not a car show...still, I didn't see any guys complaining about the presence at this booth.

 

BSN had quite the outpost for the 2011 Arnolds, but didn't seem to be giving away quite as many free samples. If you wanted their super-durable bag to haul your supplement loot in this year, you had to buy something from their kiosk to get it.

Here's some man candy for the ladies just to keep things fair - this guy looked familiar, perhaps he's in the Bowflex ads or hawks TotalGyms with Chuck Norris.

 

Bodybuilding legend Dexter Jackson had his usual table set up near BSN's headquarters.Here's some man candy for the ladies to keep things fair - I think this guy does the Bowflex ads or hawks TotalGyms with Chuck Norris - he definitely looked familiar from TV but I couldn't place him.