Sports Figures I Hate – But Love to Watch.

There are just some people that, no matter what they do, will never be our “good-side”. In sports, sometimes we dislike people solely for the fact that they wear a certain uniform, or they left your favorite team.
Below is a list of individuals – and teams – who have made sports their careers. And I do not like them.
Most of them are very talented. Most are “winners”. Yet, there is something that blocks my ability to cheer for them. That does not mean I can’t appreciate their performances, on some level – might be a very cave-man like level – but I do not care if they win or lose.

So I have broken them into categories of how strongly I do or do not feel about them. After months of deep soul searching, weeks of research and film watching, I have come with a list of people (and teams) who will never take the time to come and find me.

They are too busy.

I watch because even though I hate them, they are so damn good.

Christian Rolando, Manchester United – Everything about Rolando is pretty. From his incredible foot-work, to his well tanned skin and nicely groomed eye brows and hair, the man is too good. But what drives your average soccer fan nuts his is selfish attitude and his constant diving – dive against Chelsea (30 seconds in). His diving ability could give him a chance at a gold in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Which is convenient since he plays in Manchester. He does however receive some of the hardest tackles I have seen, almost a pay-back sense. But he is so good. Last season was incredible. When he is “on”, there is no one like him – just watch. He scored 42 goals in all competitions last season and many were jaw-droppers.

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers – I love Kobe’s game, but I am just not a fan. Have you ever seen a man lick his lips more when they talk than Kobe? In this interview, the clip is 3:06, the actual interview is much less, Kobe licks his lips at least 10 times! Someone has an issue!! Get a hanky – yes I said hanky – or a box of Kleenex. Like Rolando, when Kobe is in the zone, and he wants to take a game over, there is very little you can do to stop him. But he came to the league with a huge chip on the shoulder and get not get it knock off until; he sent Shaq to Miami, Phil quit, and then the rape charge (which was dropped). The arrogance that he once hid behind has almost left, but on the court the self promoting is ridiculous and needs to stop. There is no questioning the talent and skill, and that is why I watch.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots – This 6th round gem found by the Patriots, has lead his team to the title of “Dynasty”. At every chance, the NFL has made the face of the league. He dates models and his recent injury had more media coverage than a REAL natural disaster. He can be very arrogant in interviews and his hair gets way too much press. Yet, he is so damn good. While not possessing the athletic skills of many QB’s that have gone before him, he has been the cornerstone for New England and has truly succeeded in their system. Now with an abundance of talent around him, it is even a better watch (when he is healthy). I think I hate him, because I would like to be him – don’t tell my wife – even if he is injured (he gets pampered by her – rough).

University of North Carolina Men’s Basketball Team – as a fan of the Duke Blue Devils, it is a obligation that you dislike UNC. But they are too damn good. They have as many National Championships as Duke, three, and their players typically become better NBA players. That said, Tyler Hansbrough will only be a better version of Mark Madsen in the league – Madsen is more famous for his dancing than anything he has done on the court. Your school colors are baby blue and white and WHAT THE HELL IS A TAR HEEL! I have a lot of respect for Roy Williams, he is a classy guy, even if he said s**t on live TV when asked about moving to UNC right after Kansas lost in the championship game (I am glad he said it).

I watch to see how well they play and then the crazy that follows.

Terrell Owen, Dallas Cowboys – Where to start? He will end his career with numbers that put in him an elite group of receivers and probably in the NFL Hall of Fame. But his outbursts could land him in group therapy. Owens is breathe taking and consistent on the field as he is inconsistent off the field. His out bursts range from an over-emotional, tear-filled rants in defense of his QB, to holding a work-out in his drive way for the media. He has also accused former teammates of being gay and quitters.

Randy Moss, New England Patriots – Having lived in Minnesota and North Dakota my whole life, I have been very close to the career of Moss. There has never been a receiver in the NFL like Moss. With his combination of size, speed and jumping ability he sets himself apart from the rest of the pack. And with that, early on in his stint with the Vikings he made most of his noise on the field. He was a great interview; honest, with a comforting southern accent, and a willingness to put himself out there. Then in 1996 he tested positive for marijuana and in 2002 came a certain incident with a traffic cop. There have also been on the fields issues; TD celebration in Green Bay and making contact with an official back 2000. Plus the obvious displays of taking snaps off and complaining of not get enough touches. His antics have declined in recent years, like TO, it seems that “winning” is the best medicine. Moss’ greatest feat as a football player – get his enormous afro in his helmet week after week. Do you think the Vikings had to get a bigger helmet?

Manny Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers – No player in sports has a phrase that describes his antics, except Ramirez; it’s just “Manny being Manny”. While he is a Hall of Fame hitter, he is a hall of fame defensive disaster. I cannot remember a player in recent history that was such a “double-edged sword” as Ramirez. His focus and dedication had been a big issue in his last months with Boston. Yet, he is one of only 24 players to hit 500 homeruns and the Red Soxs could not have won either of their Championships without him. But apparently the Manny “excuse” was wearing thin and was just a little too cliché’.

John Madden – John Madden has been a house-hold name for years. Lately, it has been for the massive success of the EA Sports Madden Football video game. He won a Championship as an NFL coach with Raiders in 1976 and has been in the broadcaster booth every since 1979. His commentary in the booth at times is ridicules and irrelevant, and his infatuations with Brett Favre and the “tele- strator” are infamous and creepy. But he is extremely popular. Recently, Frank Caliendo has made a living with his impression of Madden (and many others) on Fox and Direct TV. Does Madden get commission on that?

I watch to see the bad, not the good.

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees – The most expensive player in MLB history has not won a World Series. He has the talent and time to break Barry Bonds homerun record and he is a solid defensive player (and a better shortstop than Jeter). But in New York he has become something of a scape goat. A-Rod, at times, IS the best player in the game, worthy of his lofty salary. Lately, when the club has needed him in the playoffs, he is unable to get clutch hit. This season he was on Sportscenter more for his alleged relationship with Madonna then anything baseball related. Madonna – really?

The Raiders – There are really no words. It is a horrible organization. Their fans are way more interesting and entertaining than the team and they know more about football than anyone in the front office!

Anna Kournikova, Professional Tennis – the bad for her is that she has not won a single tournament. Another bad for her, any kind of relationship with Enrique Iglesias – he is horrible. But again, I don’t watch to see her win. I just watch – for this.

I just don’t like them, so I don’t watch them.

Carmelo Anthony
, Denver Nuggets – He thanked himself in his 2003 ESPY acceptance speech. REALLY! Can’t make that up.
The other Yankees and anyone with the last name Steinbrenner.
Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen, San Antonio Spurs – the whiner and the mugger.
Serena Williams, Professional Tennis – I have no reason, she just annoys me.
John Terry and Joe Cole, Chelsea and English National Team – For some unknown reason, I want to punch them in the face – and then run away very quickly – Terry scares me.
Curt Schilling, Boston Red SoxsSHHHHH – sometimes it’s OK not to talk.
Bill Belichick, New England Patriots – Wear something other than a firggin sweatshirt! YOU MAKE ENOUGH MONEY!

Kobe or LeBron? CP3 or Dwight? Which USA player is your franchise player?

From 8/14

Current MVP or the “Kid” almost guaranteed to win 3? The young talented point guard or the young talented center? Present or future?

With the almost “expansion like” feel of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s name contests and jersey submissions, it makes me wonder who is the perfect foundation to build a franchise upon.

So as the Redeem Team rolls through the Olympics and are on center stage of the basketball world, let’s look at Coach K’s crew to find that player, in no particular order.

D-Wade: He is always exceeding expectations, at every level. His run with the Heat to the championship is considered, by many, to be the single greatest playoff performance. He is athletic and smart. He knows his game and when he is “on”, there is little that most can do to stop him. He continues to expand his range on the court and off the court, Wade is as marketable as Kobe and LeBron. The two “issues” are his age and health. He is 3 years older (26) than LeBron and Paul and having battled so many injuries lately, you must wonder if he would be able to get back to his form of 2006 and maintain it. But if the Olympics are a preview, he is on his way.

Kobe: It is very easy to make the case for Kobe. He is a 3-time NBA Champ, MVP, scoring champ, first team all-everything member, and if last year was not a fluke, a real leader. But Kobe will turn 30 on Aug. 23rd. That is not to say he will not be able to carry a team in the short-term, but would need help in the long-term. And typically expansion teams are thin on help. Yet, Kobe has international appeal that few in the game have, so no matter what number he might switch to, people are going to buy the jersey.

LeBron: 23 years old, averages 27 and 7, and has proven very durable. LBJ may be the front runner. He gained “one-name” status straight-out of high school (probably while he was still in high school) and his face is everywhere; Nike, Coke, PowerAde and of course, Bubblicious. He ranks with Tiger as the most recognizable athlete in the US and is certain to sell-out stadiums. Loyalty may be LeBrons down fall. Can he play for team with out talking about future options? Will he see your team through the storm and lead them to the championship?

Dwight Howard: Best center in the league? No question. Only a healthy Yao can affect play like Howard can. With every ounce of muscle he puts on, combined with the vertical and “freak of nature” factor, Howard comes closer to that true ELITE Center Status last achieved by Shaq. His personality and charisma might even be more user-friendly than the Big – Aristotle. Howard, at time, takes control of games on both ends of the court. I believe he is a PG away from completely owning the league; he is not yet able to create on offense the whole game. Imagine Howard and Chris Paul on the same team. I just got chills.

Carmelo: As a NBA player, Melo underachieves. As an international player, he is great. Melo has put up great numbers in the past for the Nuggets and led some so-so teams to the playoffs. He is undoubtedly talented and knows how to score (24.4 pts. avg. for his career). But, going into his 6th NBA season, he is still one dimensional. His attitude and off-the-court problems would to be a huge issue with the new fan base. On-the-court, he is more Scottie Pippen than Michael Jordan. So Melo needs to prove that he can win without LeBron on his side. Remeber, the Bulls did not do too much without that Jordan guy.

Chris Paul: I am still not sure why he did not win MVP. Take him off the Hornets and the team does not make the playoffs. He makes his team better and is a true PG. He is able to see and make passes people thought were only possible by Kidd and Nash. He will become a better shooter than the former and is already a better athlete than both. What makes Paul even a more appealing franchise player is that he is great person (that’s what I have heard) and showed the class and compassion needed in New Orleans. And he is only 23.

Deron Williams: Taken before Chris Paul by a team that has the highest expectations of a point guard in the NBA. Williams broke out in the Playoffs of 2007 and continues to evolve. He is tough, strong, a good shooter and passer, and able to create for himself AND others. He also has the confidence and ability to lead a veteran team. Even though he is not yet a house hold name like some of the others on the team, I think that changes this year, he is still on this team for a reason.

Chris Bosh: He has the potential and talent, just like every other person in the top-5 picks of the 2003 draft NOT named Darco. He is tall (6’10”) and athletic. His careers averages of 19 pts and 9 rebounds are solid. He does not need to add greatly to the points, but needs fill-up the rest of the stat sheet. Having played only one year at Georgia Tech, he is only 24, and should be able to grow into a more dominant big man. Maybe running against Howard everyday for couple months will help.

Not an easy call or maybe it is. For me it comes down to two people; LeBron or Paul. Either way you are setting yourself up nicely for the beginning of your franchise.

Having to pick from this group would be a problem every GM wishes they had.

Chelsea, Ronaldinho, or Spain: Five Things to Watch in the 2008-09 Season

5. Americans in Europe
Even as the Americans exit the 2008 Olympics a little earlier then hoped and tie a decade low in FIFA rankings, there is hope for the future of American soccer. Young players have been given a chance to play in the hotbeds of top-level soccer.

Jozy Altidore is playing in Spain with Villarreal and Freddy Adu is on loan with AS Monaco in Ligue 1 in France. These two are not only two of the most talented Americans, they are also the most well known.
Their success this season will either open the door even more for Americans to make the move over seas or slam the door shut…maybe not completely.

4. The Reign of Spain
I am not sure I have been so excited to watch a team play as I was to see Spain play in the Euros (I did pick them prior to the start…I swear). Spain finally delivered what they have long had the talent to do.
In England, Fernando Torres gave Liverpool what they paid for in his 24 goals in his first season with the team. His Euro clinching goal was not too shabby either. David Villa and David Silva (and the majority of their forwards) have had serious looks from top tier teams in England and Italy, Xavi continues to show his class, and Cesc Fàbregas has cemented himself as the face of Arsenal.

Will the Spanish continue to extend their kingdom of stellar play throughout Europe? Or has the best already taken place? That national team was too deep not to affect the world even more!

3. Capello and England: Mission Possible?
Fabio Capello may not have known what he was getting into. He might not agree with every player that has previously taken the pitch for the English. The main objectives for Capello is to get back to previous glory quickly and build for the future with the younger players.

Who are the players he looks to to help solidify a country that has been a powerhouse? What do you do with players like Beckham and Michael Owen? Where is the young talent? I am glad he is making the decisions and not me!

2. Chelsea or Man U or Arsenal or Liverpool?
With all the moves some made and the lack of moves from others, the chase for silverware will be intriguing from the beginning with the big four. Don’t count out Tottenham either!

1. Ronaldinho and AC Milan
Everything about this transfer scares me. The risk or reward factor is VERY high. Teaming up with Brazil countrymen Kaká and Ronaldo could be the core of an unstoppable attack. But the potential for disaster is just as amazing as the potential for greatness (see last season at Barça).

Even so, I think Serie A is a great fit for him. His creativity and vision will allow Milan to again push to the top of the league with Inter, Roma, and Juventus.

ESPN Seeking English Premier League TV Rights. Do They Deserve Them?

On September 15th, there was an article on http://www.si.com/—click here to read it—about Fox Soccer Channel getting rated by Nielsen starting in October. The article quickly moved to ESPN trying to acquire the TV rights to the English Premier League.
Now the first part of that article is not that exciting. Yet the second part is something to talk and write about.

At first thought, ESPN and EPL seem like a match made in heaven. The most popular, and largest, sports network in the US and the most popular soccer league in the world in High Definition would be an amazing way to watch the beautiful game on a Saturday morning (the MLS looks great on ESPN2 HD, even if the play is so-so).

To be able to see Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, and Liverpool (and all the other stars of the league) play, would be a great tool to elevate the game to the masses in the US.

It might have the “flash in a pan” feel of David Beckham, but would most likely have a greater long-term effect. It would be the first time ESPN has added a solely international league to its regular schedule. They have showed the World Cup, the Ryder Cup in golf, and other World Championships, but never had an international league with only international teams. That alone is a great reason to sign the contract.

But I am not convinced that ESPN deserves it and FCS deserves to have it taken away. Here is a quick look at some of my issues.

1. FSC is Soccer ONLY! ESPN is not.
Let me first make this statement. This whole “issue” is void if ESPN comes out with an ESPN Soccer Channel.

Imagine, waking up Saturday morning. Sitting in your chair or favorite spot on the couch. Eating breakfast, showered or not. The remote in your hand and Manchester United playing on EPSN in HD.

It would be fantastic to see match-ups of the some of the best clubs in the world. It would be pure soccer bliss. Until college football comes on and then what happens on Sunday?  NFL preview shows. They start early and run until kick-off. We would miss out on matches. Now, maybe the EPL would rework the schedule to have less appealing games on Sunday and then not be televised. But, I watch those games for a reason. To see those unfamiliar faces, to see those players who will be bought by the big boys in the next transfer window and then play on Saturday. The EPL season is very long and could find more time filling the holes between football, basketball, and baseball. But that is not good enough.

ESPN is spread out in so many directions that you will never get the coverage you do with FSC, at least not in its current situation. An “ESPN Soccer” channel might evolve down the road. But as it stands right now EPSN has five major channels; ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN News, ESPN Classic, and now ESPN U.

At any moment you can have any sport on any network. ESPN U focuses on college athletics; ESPN Classic relives great games, players and events, new and older. ESPN News has continuous Sport Center type programming. So that leaves ESPN and ESPN2.

Depending on the time of year, soccer will be hard pressed to find time out side of the Saturday morning slot and occasional UEFA Champions League game on ESPN Classic. There will be converge, but not like that of FCS.

2. Knowing the Game.
I know this is going to come off extremely picky of the “sports leader”, but it is an example of a bigger issue that will be there from the beginning.

I have watched two very recent broadcast of Sportscenter and every time a soccer player was mentioned, the name was said wrong. Two of the biggest names in all of soccer, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, were pronounced wrong. Gerrard was turn into Steven “Jared” and Lampard was “Lamp-ard”. Even my wife, who knows very little of soccer, laughed. AND THOSE ARE THE EASY NAMES!

What will happen during the highlights of Arsenal versus Chelsea? What with players like; Manuel Almunia, Bacary Sagna, Samir Nasri, Emmanuel Adebayor, Cesc Fabregas, Petr Cech, Michael Essien, Florent Malouda, Franco Matias Di Santo and Didier Drogba?

Granted, in the games ESPN will have Tommy Smyth, Julie Foudy, and Allen Hopkins to keep the names and soccer termanolgy straight, but the Sportscenter folk are going to need to learn quickly.

If you are in a job interview and you mess up the company’s name, you probably are not going to be offered the job. ESPN needs to build a resume that shows interest and expertise in understanding soccer, not just showing a couple games and talking about Beckham.

They will use their experts in the beginning to cover the ignorance factor, but the whole network has to show it is as much about soccer as any other sport. ESPN has to show it wants the EPL, because the EPL is watching.

3. What will happen to FSC?
The EPL is only one league, but it is the biggest league with the easiest crossover to the US audience. But what does FSC do to fill the void? Maybe they will get some of the games not including the “Big Four” (maybe now five?). That will depend on the contract between ESPN and EPL.

Meaning FSC may not be able to show any games.

Typically on a weekend you can see four to five EPL matches, plus another three to four from Serie A in Italy, and then a couple from either Spain or Argentina. But the majority of non-match programming is about the English; Sky Sports broadcasts, match day preview and review shows, English fan broadcasts, and various other shows.

So much of their programming is based on the fans interest of players in the EPL and every aspect of those clubs. What then happens when you take those matches away?

While I love to watch them both, in my opinion Serie A and La Liga are nowhere near as popular in the US as EPL. So filling those games slots with matches from Italy and Spain probably won’t be a saving grace. But adding other top-tier soccer by way of the German League Bundesliga and French League Ligue1 could help bring new viewers and maybe, just maybe, retain some of the soccer die-hards.

While my interest in following soccer has been rather a new venture, I do have great respect for what FSC has been able to do in bring soccer of every sort to the masses. They know the game, the history, the rivalries, and most importantly they understand the importance of soccer in other countries.

ESPN has to show that it cares enough to be able to meet the needs of us soccer folk who wake-up Saturday to catch the early game and then watch Fox Football Fone-In to get the latest news and rumors.

ESPN has to learn to understand the energy, excitement, and passion of a game that has long been seen as a lesser sport to American football. As much as American football is culture in the US, soccer is even more so everywhere else in the world.

Good Luck ESPN. Do well by the fans and the sport we love.