Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Gators are not National Champions... Yet

Being a Florida Gator fan is always tough. Even when they win it is a painful process as they have never really dominated the stronger opponents and always make the Florida faithful sweat it out game after game. Even the year the Gators won the National Championship, they had to rely on a series of events and they backed into the Championship. Regardless, we can say they won but there have always been skeptics; especially from any FSU fan you talk to.

After last nights close game against South Carolina, the local paper was filled with talk of going to the BCS title game. One columnist even said that all they have to do is win their last three games and they are in. Come on Florida Fans, let’s have a reality check. Two of the last three games are an away game at FSU and the SEC Championship vs. Arkansas (most likely). If we only look at FSU, you should know this is no gimmie. Their season is over, done, finished, and kaput. The only thing they are playing for at this point is one more win to become bowl eligible and to spoil any hopes Florida has at making it to the title game. I can promise you they are going to be out for a little Gator tail and just because they stink this year, does not mean they will not be up and ready to make the Gators come crashing down to Earth.

Then there is Arkansas. Have any of you seen them this year? They are unbelievable and every week they just get better. Their tailback McFadden is a yard chomping, defense leveling machine. This guy runs for more than 100 yards in a half and he simply cannot be stopped. They are going to wear down the Gator defense and end the game by running all over the Gators. Let’s not forget, they beat Auburn pretty easily and the Gators only loss was at the hands of Auburn.

Okay, so on any given day any SEC team can beat another, but I think the Gators have been fortunate this year. Granted, they have had the toughest schedule in the SEC, but that will probably play against them this year as they are going to be beaten and bruised by the end of the year. That’s what happened at Auburn. The Gators had just come off a string of tough SEC games, with the LSU game leading into Auburn; additionally Auburn had just lost at home the previous week to Arkansas and there was no way they were going to lose at home two weeks in a row.

Don’t misunderstand me; I hope the Gators win, and I hope they make it to the BSC Championship Game and win, but I am concerned that while they have shown toughness and some resourcefulness, there is no way they can compete with OSU or Michigan. As fans we should enjoy the year they have had and hope for the best in the SEC title game, but let’s face facts; they are playing on borrowed time and it is only a matter of time before the season comes crashing down around them. The South Carolina game may be the last game we can really celebrate this year. If that’s the case, it will still have been a great year and something to build on.

Go Gators.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

To All Islamic Extremists, Get a Reality Check

It is interesting to me to listen to these Islamic “extremists”, or whatever we are calling them this week, and hear them say they win if we pull out of Iraq. Well, news flash, we will have to pull out eventually and no, you did not or will not win. It is clear to me that even though we have made some mistakes, and the situation in Iraq is not ideal, I think we have proven the point that if you punch us, we will punch back and hard. For them to think we have no spine or stomach for conflict is a ridiculous assumption. They should spend some time reading about our history and what we will do to fight for our way of life.

Let’s just consider the Revolutionary War. While it started with a successful battle at Boston, the first year or two of this war was an embarrassment. The English started by beating us out New York in battle after battle. The mistakes by Washington and his men were numerous. The troops were plagued with disease, poor living conditions, desertion, poor training, and low self-esteem. They were outflanked, outnumbered, and overpowered in just about every engagement. The Continental Army was beaten from New York to the edge of our capital in Philadelphia and still we did not give up. Just when it looked like we were about to be overrun, Washington crossed the Delaware and caught the enemy with their pants down. The tide of the war turned and the rest is history.

Our history is filled with stories like these; of American’s making huge sacrifices in the face of danger, and always rising to the occasion. Don’t think for a moment that we are going to sit around and let you destroy us. You can be a thorn in our side for generations to come, but we will always be here and we will always fight back. To think you can win is a joke. We have you outnumbered, outgunned, and outsmarted. More than anything, we are free men and women fighting for our right to be free. Living under Islamic rule will never happen so you might as well move on to some other chump you can pick on because you will never win. Freedom will always survive.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Small Boat Bass Fishing

One of the most impressive things I have ever experienced was walking into the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh on the final day of the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic as over 10,000 screaming fans were all getting ready to cheer on their favorite professional angler. I was completely overwhelmed, and I remember wondering if I had somehow landed on a different planet. There was an entire world out there that was foreign to anything I had ever experienced. Who knew this many fans would get together in one place to celebrate bass fishing’s biggest event?

Prior to working for BASS, I had enjoyed a casual fishing existence. My very first bass was caught on a top water spinning lure my grandfather and I built on a lath when I was about 7. The smallmouth was only about a pound, but I will never forget sitting on the front of my grandfather’s canoe as I pulled him out of a small cove filled with lily pads. I have been trying to recreate that moment for the last 33 years.

My mother moved my sister and me from Ohio to Florida when I was about 10. Here I learned about largemouth bass and almost fainted when I saw a friend of mine pull in 8 pounds of fish into the canoe. Having spent the first part of my fishing "career" reeling in smallmouth bass, catching these behemoths was the start of a whole new adventure. For the next 8 years or so, I spent a lot of time in canoes exploring all the local lakes Orlando has to offer and learning to love the hunt for the next monster bass.

Admittedly, there were a number of years after high school where fishing was no longer a priority in my life, but I would often think about all of the times I spent fishing out of a canoe with my friends; especially the time I was able to spend with my grandfather. There is something about moving quietly through the water and getting back to areas other boats are unable to go, only to pull out a few quality bass. As an adult, I discovered there are even more freedoms as you can take a canoe into bodies of water big bass boats cannot access. In some cases, I have found myself in small lakes that have little to no traffic but plenty of bass.

Without a doubt, I have become a big fan of professional bass fishing. Getting to meet some of the anglers and being able to work at some of the BASS events have been a once in a lifetime experience. I even understand the appeal of having a bass boat; the speed and agility of these boats have helped elevate bass fishing to a new level for us weekend anglers, but give me a quiet lake, a canoe and a friend, and I will take that any day of the week.

Thanks Grandpa!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Will the Future be Filled with Terrorists?

With the recent terrorist plot to blow up the airplanes, Israel invading Lebanon, Iran being Iran, and the media insisting Iraq is on the brink of Civil War, it is difficult to think about the future. As I look over at my 17-month-old daughter, I wonder what it will look like for her. Right now, she is happy and easy to please; all I have to do to make her happy is pay attention to her and give her a belly-blast every once in a while. For her, life is good, but for the rest of us, we wonder what life will be like in 10 years.

If history is any indication, things will probably be okay. The world wars ended eventually and generations have moved on taking their old tensions with them. While it may seem the tensions between Western society and the Islamic Extremists is old news, the reality is the current problems have only really started to surface in the last 15 years or so. Unfortunately, Islam, in its strictest sense, is an unwavering religion that was not written to be able to handle modern society. While the rest of the world is shrinking and becoming more of a whole, Islamic societies are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the pressure of the outside world creeping into their way of life.

This is not to say our way is better than Islam, but it is simply a statement of fact; the Muslims who strictly follow the teachings of Islam find the influence of the rest of the world a challenge to deal with and so they fight it. Of course, there are plenty of Muslims here in the US and the rest of the world who get along with the rest of society just fine, but its these other groups we need to be aware of, and education, for both sides, is the solution to the problem.

Granted this is easy for me to say, and it is important that we do not sit back and let them attack us without responding, but it is something we should all work to do. Pick up a book on religion and learn a little more about Islam. At the very least, you might understand why they are doing it, even if you believe they are wrong.
Fortunately, I am an optimist and believe things will work out in the long run. When I look at my beautiful daughter and wonder about miracle of life, I have to believe humanity will win out and things will get better.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Turning 40

After reading Pat Ford’s ESPN article on Johnny Drennen, I started wondering about destiny and fate. For those of you who do not know, Mr. Drennen is the 19-year-old minor league ball player who took Roger Clemens’ pitch and blasted it over the right field wall. Click here to read Pat Ford’s excellent column.

I recently turned 40, and have discovered the accomplishments of those younger than I am make me raise my eyebrows in a mixture of jealousy, resentment, and admiration all at the same time. On the other hand, while it is heartwarming to think that a 43 year old Clemens can still pitch well in the big leagues, it also makes me wonder what I have done with my life.

When I was 32, I turned my life around significantly. I lost nearly 100 lbs, stopped smoking and ran a half-marathon. I was the picture of “you can do anything you set your mind to do”. Yet 8 years later, I find myself putting on weight, struggling to run 2 miles and wondering what happened to my life; Johnny Drennen helped add fuel to this feeling.

While the a common axiom, “you can do anything you set your mind to,” is true to a certain extent, there really are some things I will never be able to do and one of them is play professional baseball. It is also too late to join the military, become an astronaut, a professional athlete or going to the Olympics, (unless they make video games an Olympic event), as is going back to college and joining a Fraternity.

I imagine most people my age go through this process, and I can accept it as another phase of my life I need to battle through, learn from and then find some kind of happy ground on the other side of this process. Hopefully, I will be able to be happy with my choices when I look back at my life. In the meantime, however, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

For example, J.K. Rowling was 35 when the first Harry Potter book was published. Another author, Anne Perry was in her late 30’s for her first book. I have also recently learned that the average age of New York Times best selling authors between 1955 and 2004 was 50. Click here for the BBC article. There are also several acquaintances of mine that are older than I am and are in great shape and in good places in their life.

40 is not the end of my life, but neither is it the beginning. Would I really want to go back in time and re-live my life? Personally, I will take the person I am today over the person I was 20 years ago. Right now, I need to find a way to motivate myself and focus on what’s important in my life. I need to take my lifetime worth of experiences and make it work for me. I can’t stop the aging process, but I can find ways to make it a bit easier.

For now, all I can do is blow out the candles and move on. Let's hope I start moving in the right direction.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bonds: Steroids, Records and the Hall of Fame

I don't think there is a sports fan or casual observer out there who thinks it is okay for a player to take steroids. While I would agree, I would also argue that it is not fair to single out Bonds. First of all, let's look at the argument that after taking steroids in 1998, his stats took off. To start, we will look at the average stats before 1998 and compare them to rest of his career.

Prior to 1998 14550610414631910.2880.406
1998 on139432118140471070.3250.500

Just looking at these stats, it is easy to say that the steroids were the cause for the improved numbers. Bonds had fewer at bats, a higher batting average and more home runs from 1998 on than he did previously, but is that really what the numbers are telling us? Let's break the numbers down a little further.

1986 - 19901435209413823670.2630.356
1990 - 1995142484106150351050.3090.436
1996 - 2000144487117144401080.2940.434
2001 - 20051173379911743900.3370.527

To be sure, there is a jump in HR, AVE, and RBI from 1995 to 2000, but is it more significant than the jump from the first 5 years of his career to his second? His HR average improved by 50% in his second 5 years when he was not on steroids and only 15% during the 1996 - 2000 time period when he was supposed to be on steroids. Are these increases due to steroids or to Bonds just getting better?

It's tough to know, but the introduction of Jason Grimsley helps support the next argument; should we put an asterisk next to Bonds records? The obvious answer is no. To imagine that Bonds was the only one using steroids, or to think it was only limited to a select few individuals is naive. Grimsley proves that pitchers use performance enhancers as much as hitters, so why is it unfair that Bonds use steroids?

Here are the questions we need to ask ourselves. More players used or are using performance-enhancing drugs than we initially thought, so is it fair to single out one player? How can we tag one player with an asterisk, when we do not know how many others were using?

Unfortunately, we will never know how many of Bond's opponents were using steroids. If we did, perhaps we could feel comfortable giving him credit for the HRs he had off of those pitchers, but of course we will never know. The government is on a witch-hunt, and they are making Bonds the poster boy, but let the man have his stats. It is folly to think this type of behavior is going to stop. HGH is the next challenge, and who knows what will be created next in the labs of chemists and other scientist? Cloned body parts from former great players? Re-grown parts previously worn out by wear and tear? Who knows, but putting an asterisk next to Bond’s stats will do nothing to solve the problem.