Tag Archives: football

The Roger Goodell, Ray Rice & NFL Mess and How to Fix It:

Roger Goodell NFL Ray Rice

In the Mount Rushmore of evil sports entities, you will find 4 sports organizations; FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), the IOC (International Olympic Committee), the college sports titan NCAA, and the NFL.

For years the NFL has enjoyed cult status, always overcoming controversy due to fans loyalty to the sport.  Apple had nothing on the NFL.  Let’s look at just the short term history of the NFL and why Roger Goodell and the NFL needs to be taken to task by sponsors and fans.

The NFL is a Non-Profit; no Taxes.

I listened to Ann Killion during an interview on the radio the other day.  Ann is a local sports writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.  I like Ann a lot and I think she’s really good.  She said something though that bothered me.  She sheepishly said the NFL doesn’t pay taxes or they are exempt from it or something.  To this day it still blows me a away how many fans and sports writers still don’t know the status of the NFL.

Isn’t that important to know so you can understand some peoples outrage?  Yes, the NFL is a non-profit organization that is exempt from taxes.  On average they make 9-14 billion dollars a year.  They do not have to talk about their profits because they are not a public company and the only way most find out about their profits is that the Green Bay Packers are a public company.  People take the profits that are given to the Packers and times it by 32 to get the total.

The NFL ONLY reacts to Public Outcry & Loss of Corporate Sponsorship:

The NBA did the same thing with the Los Angeles Clippers ownership saga.  It didn’t matter that Donald Sterling had decades of racial remarks and slurs.  It didn’t matter that he was sued by the Department of Justice for housing discrimination and then had to pay the biggest housing discrimination fine in U.S. history.  What did him in?  It was a gold digging groupie who caught him on a cell phone during a jealous rant.

It would be funny to be honest if it wasn’t such a serious topic.  To watch the NFL now kissing the butt of the public as well as their sponsors makes a person laugh, or shake their head.  Now players that the NFL never dealt with like Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers (who severely beat his ex while putting a rifle to her head threatening to kill her) are now being suspended.

TMZ of all people made people realize that the NFL lied about not having the video and now Roger Goodell says they may have had it, but he didn’t see it.

That would be fine but people should also remember Roger Goodell’s words when he suspended Saints coach Sean Payton.  The Saints defense had put bounties out on opposing players.  Roger Goodell said that even though coach Payton didn’t know about the bounties, he was supposed to be in charge and should know everything that was going on in the organization.  He cited the year long suspension was a lack of organizational control.  It’s funny how Roger Goodell now wants a pass on his lack of control.  The Ray Rice case was the biggest story in the NFL in a long time so for him to say he did not see the video is shady at best.

The NFL’s treatment of Fan’s, Referee’s, Cheerleaders:

I always love to see the prices of the superbowl.  Parking this year was $150 per car!!!  Thanks NFL!!  That is comical.  What’s worse is that fans pay it just to be at the event.  If Roger Goodell told me that I was going to have to pay $150 to park, I’d slap him in the back of the head and say “hell to the no!”.  Many families have been out priced and can no longer afford to go to games.  It’s pure greed by the NFL.

Unfortunately though, some fan’s treatment of players, cheerleaders and referee’s mimic the NFL’s to be honest.  When a player is underpaid and wants to renegotiate a contract, fans lose their minds saying, “the player signed it so they need to honor it”.  Well that would be great, but 90% of contracts in the NFL are NOT honored by the owners or the teams!  When a player is cut or made to renegotiate their contracts or be let go, I’ve never once heard a fan say, “they signed the contract, and the owners now need to honor it!”.  Fans will turn on millionaires, but give passes to billionaires.

The NFL’s treatment of cheerleaders is ridiculous.  Teams make an average of 1 to 1.5 million a year off of the efforts of the cheerleaders.  Most NFL cheerleaders do not make minimum wage!  Many fans act like NFL cheerleaders are just airhead groupies but surprisingly many are much smarter than that.  Many are college students, looking for advanced degrees, and some are even mom’s!  Some are becoming doctors and one Eagles cheerleader is an officer in the National Guard.  They are made to go to fundraisers and PR events for free, and some get paid only when the season ends.  Many say they love going to children’s hospitals and do outreaches but the lack of pay makes it difficult.  The courts agreed.  The Oakland Raiders cheerleaders just won a 1.5 million dollar lawsuit due to their lack of pay and poor treatment.

The NFL and the owners said during the last referee’s strike that they could not afford to pay the ref’s full time.  Many of the NFL ref’s have secondary jobs such as selling insurance.  You can’t afford to pay them a six figure salary and train them year round so that there won’t be so many bad calls every year?  Even when the game is hurt by not having full time ref’s, the integrity of the game takes a back seat to NFL profits.

How the NFL has Handled Their Past Controversies:

The NFL congressional hearings on the investigation of how the NFL handled concussions is what changed my mind about the NFL.  I actually watched them so during that time no, I wasn’t a fun date.

Study after study was brought to the NFL from highly respected researchers showing the damage that prolonged concussions can have on the brain.  All the NFL did was say, “we don’t agree with those findings”.  The NFL brought out their own findings and they were contradicting, incomplete, and puzzling at best.

The NFL was ready to leave the hearings but Representative Maxine Waters finally had enough of their arrogant display.  She stated that if the NFL didn’t choose to act, that maybe the Anti Trust status that protected them wasn’t warranted.  She also stated that the issue may need to be criminally investigated.  Just like now, Roger Goodell and the NFL turned into Eddie Haskell and “saw the light”.  The NFL then accepted the findings and the head physician for the NFL, Dr. Ira Casson was paid off and took the sword for the NFL and resigned.  The NFL put their palms on their heads and claimed of being naive and unknowing and promised to implement concussion controls.

All of this domestic violence should have been dealt with over 10 years ago.  They had a problem with domestic violence but the worst case of all happened in 1999.  Rae Caruth was a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers.  He was casually hooking up with different women but he ended up getting Cherica Adams pregnant.  He wanted her to abort the baby but she wouldn’t.  While 8 months pregnant, Caruth was driving in front of her.  He stopped his car and 2 people that he hired pulled up beside her and shot into the car several times.  Before she passed out she called 911 and told the operator what happened.  Adams died, but an emergency c-section saved the child.  Caruth was amazingly given bail and told if one of the people died, he’d have to turn himself in.  Of course he fled.  He was finally caught and has been in prison ever since.  He is getting out in 2018.

I remember specifically because ESPN covered it some but eventually it went away quick.  It was bad publicity and they wanted it to just go away.  The NFL rarely if ever talked about the case.  HBO Real Sports did a story on him.

Isn’t a hit on a woman enough to get some sort of a statement and/or guidelines in regards to violence to women?

Two years ago Kansas City Chiefs Javon Belcher, shot his 22 year old girlfriend 9 times at their house.  When Belcher’s mom ran into the room he kissed his girlfriend on the head and told his mom he was sorry.  He then went to the Chiefs facility and shot himself in the head in front of Chiefs officials.  Again, nothing was done by the NFL to address this problem.  The only thing to come out of it was the controversy of Bob Costas anti gun stance.

There have been countless arrests for assaults and instances of domestic violence in the NFL but the answers are always the same.  “Don’t look at the NFL; this is a societal problem.  Domestic violence happens everywhere but people just look at the NFL because it makes the press.  Mom, Billy did the same thing……”  Alright I added the last one, but do you see how stupid those arguments are?  Give the NFL a pass because it’s also seen in society or other people do worse things?  It’s unacceptable.

Why is the NFL getting away with it?:

First of all when a beer company like Budweiser is threatening to pull some sponsorship because you lack character and morals, then you know you have issues.  What has partially saved the NFL is the shallow nature of the social media society we live in.  Sometimes it’s hard to get people to read more than 3 lines in an email, so expecting people to do research or read articles is naive at best.  We live in a shallow society that we want our stories in 2-3 minute intervals, and we want it in high definition video.  People can do horrendous things but it seems that it doesn’t count unless it’s on Youtube.

Let’s also be real.  Morals and character in the U.S. are very lacking.  Statistics show 50% of married people are cheating on their spouses; white collar crime is almost a part of our U.S. business structure.  Americans also make excuses for the behavior of groups, products, celebrities and athletes that they like.  When Justin Beiber had photos of him in strip clubs, his fans said they were photoshopped because he was too good a person to do those things.  Cults are a weird thing and the NFL for some has cult status.

Another thing that has saved the NFL is society does NOT protect or respect women.  All over the world the atrocities women go through is criminal and tragic.  Rape in the U.S. has one of the lowest conviction rates of any felony.  Women are usually murdered by men they’ve had past or present relationships with.  When football players; especially college players; get arrested for rape or sexual crimes, the first thing fans do is say the woman is a slut and there isn’t enough evidence.  Why?; Because in a sick way they just care about their team and that they win, and they don’t care about right or wrong.  And even if the woman is a slut; you can’t rape them.

What Needs to Be Done:   

Roger Goodell needs to resign.  He has enough money to retire for 3 lifetimes.  Using his own words, “he lacked organizational control”.

Upon entering the NFL, there needs to be ongoing meetings by teams and the NFL about conduct and consequences.  I know they meet with them now but it’s not nearly enough and it isn’t working.  If someone is having issues in a relationship, they need to get into counseling.  Every team should have a counseling team and should be hooked up to 24 hour on call telephone support.  Some do this already, some don’t.

Former broke NFL players who have tons of kids with several women need to be paid to come and talk to the players.  They need to see what will happen if they act irresponsibly.  People forget these players are still very young and some aren’t very educated (thank you NCAA).  Some also haven’t had good parental guidance so I would also do sex education classes to teach them about STD’s, groupies, and being trapped by having kids.  What is being done now isn’t enough and every stone needs to be turned.  Education is key.

If a player is arrested for felony domestic violence, you are suspended WITH pay immediately until the facts come out.  You cannot participate with the team in any way and you cannot go to the media or social media and speak for the team.  If you are found guilty of a felony, you are out of the league for 2 years.  If it’s a misdemeanor you are out one year.  This can be tweaked in the future to be more severe but I think it’s a good start.

Many times the people that are abused are financially stuck in the relationship.  If the player is found guilty, the team and the NFL MUST pay $100k/year in damages for 4 years.  This will allow the abused to not have to stay in the relationship and to either get an education or further their education or to get a trade.

Some will disagree, but you are taking entities that make billions per year and they need to be made accountable.  The NFL likes to talk about “organizational control” well then be in control of your organization during good and bad times.  If employees do damage, companies have to pay for it.  The NFL should show just how serious their stance is on domestic violence by putting their money where their mouth is.  If money is at stake; even only $100k; greedy owners and the NFL will take notice.  It’s called accountability.

Personally I think the same punishment should be done for assaults but let’s take it a step at a time.  Obviously these things are not written in stone but I think this is a good foundation to work on.

What Does it All Mean?:

Fans and sponsors have power.  The NFL’s manic reaction to the negative publicity shows the good of social media.  If sponsors don’t react, then they need to be boycotted.  If you as a fan don’t want to root for certain teams or players because of their off the field actions, then make your voice be heard by not giving them your money.

I don’t watch the NFL with the passion that I used to.  I am still going to watch the NFL but as I have for years, I don’t look up to players or celebrities.  I love the game and I used to go to many games but now I rarely go.  I’m talking with my dollars.  I appreciate their talents on the field but many have skeletons in their closet that are pretty deep.

My hopes are that people continue to wake up to the NFL and Roger Goodell.  Their past is so dirty that it would make Ebenezer Scrooge and Monte Burns of the Simpsons cringe.  It’s unacceptable and the only way they will change is if they are made to.  For them, it’s still all about the Benjamin’s.

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“Week 2 Preview: Houston Texans @ Oakland Raiders”

week 2 nfl texans at raiders

Week 2 Preview Houston Texans (1-0) @ Oakland Raiders (0-1)

Sunday, September 14, 1:25 PM on CBS; O.co Coliseum, Oakland, California

(betting line as of now: Raiders +3)

My Raiders betting Record:  1-0 (Raiders +5 ½ last week)

Prediction: Raiders 20 Texans 17

Bet:  Raiders +3

Houston had a nice defensive effort against Washington last week and dominated them at home with a 17-6 win.  They did lose Jadeveon Clowney for up to 6 weeks with an injury.

The Raiders was dominated at times giving up over 200 yards rushing to the NY Jets.  They only had 84 yards of total offense going into the fourth quarter.  The Jets defensive scheme was to take away the run and they did that.  The Raiders did not open up their offense and it limited what they could do.

The Raiders will win if:

The Raiders have to open up their offense and throw downfield.  They also have to re-establish the tight end in their offense.  The Jets often had 7 to 8 people up front but the Raiders did not adjust.  If the Raiders can throw downfield, this will open up the line of scrimmage and allow them to run the ball, thus taking the pressure off of Derek Carr.

The Raiders linebacker position will be thin this weekend with various injuries.  Miles Burris played well and so did Sio Moore.

The key defensively will be if Oakland can control the line of scrimmage.  Giving up 200 yards on the ground to a Geno Smith lead offense isn’t exactly stellar defense.  Even with them playing so much, there is no excuse for that against New York.  If they can stop the run, journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will eventually make a mistake.

The Texans will win if:

The Texans will win if they can run the ball.  They can’t win games where Fitzpatrick is throwing 50 times.  They have to establish the running game and control the line of scrimmage.  This will take the pressure off of Ryan from having to make lots of big plays.

On defense they must do what the Jets did; dare the Raiders to throw deep and take away the run running game.  This will allow their DL to pin back their ears and rush Carr at will on passing downs.  If they make the Raiders offense predictable, this will be a long day in Oakland.

Conclusion:

This should be a close, low scoring game.  The Raiders are already in a must win situation.  They have the most difficult schedule in the NFL and this is about as easy as games get for them.  They have to open it up and win this game.  If they use the same game plan as last week, they will lose.

Look for Carr to hit some balls downfield early and for them to get the crowd going.  This game can go either way but I would be shocked if the Raiders don’t open it up.  The Raiders have to take what the defense gives them.

Final Score:  Raiders 20     Texans 17

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ NY Jets; Week 1: Sept. 7th, 2014

2013-raiders-jets-story

 

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ NY Jets; Week 1:

NY Jets  19 (1-0)

Oakland Raiders  14 (0-1)

 

Offense:

Rex Ryan did exactly what most teams did last year against the Raiders.  They put 7-8 men in the block, took away the run, and dared them to throw downfield.  The Raiders game plan was almost exactly what Rex Ryan would have wanted.

Derek Carr had a predictable first week.  He struggled against the rush and has a lot to learn but he kept his poise and made some nice throws.  Apologists will put all the blame on OC Greg Olsen; which some is warranted; but Carr is in a learning process and it will take time.

The Raiders game plan was awful though.  Bubble screens and quick flare passes are exactly what the Jets were hoping to see.  Many times in the first half, the Jets put a defensive back on the line and had 7-8 guys in the box.  With so many people near the line of scrimmage, there is no way that you can be expected to run so those saying the run game wasn’t there don’t get that it was taken away.

During a rare time when the Jets didn’t blitz, Carr hit WR James Jones on a great catch from 30 yards out.  The Raiders could have used a lot more of those downfield passes mixed with some slants and TE passes over the middle.  The running game had no chance against this defense but the lack of being able to pass did nothing to open things up.

 

GRADE:  D+

The Raiders had 84 total yards of offense going into the 4th quarter.  Against a Jets defense that might have near the least feared corners in the NFL, is just terrible.  The Raiders game plan was awful.  The Jets copied the same game plan that everyone else did last year; make the Raiders throw down field.  The Raiders have to open things up and use the tight end to keep the safeties and linebackers honest.

 

Defense: 

On the good side Sio Moore played a good game.  He was active and ended up with 13 tackles.  Another player who quietly did well too was another linebacker Miles Burris who added 13 of his own.  Khalil Mack still has a ways to go but he played fairly well.  He did get lost on a couple of runs and missed twice on Geno Smith runs.

The DB’s are going to struggle at times but they held their own against the pass today.  Geno Smith isn’t Johnny Unitas but it still was a nice effort. Timeless safety Charles Woodsen made a great interception early in the game.

The defensive line was awful at times.  Other than Justin Tuck, no one was consistent.  Lamarr Woodley and Pat Sims were invisible at times and Anthony Smith was up and down.  The Raiders had little to no pass rush unless they blitzed which was hard to watch.  The Jets don’t have a good offense so the Raiders need to play much better.

The Raiders run defense was absolutely awful.  They gave up 202 yards including a long 71 yard run to seal the win for the Jets.

The Raiders in the past could not rush the passer with only 4 rushing, and they could not stop the run.  So far it’s the same pattern as in the past and that leads to losses.

 

Grade C-

The Raiders were on the field for so long because of the anemic offense but you still don’t give up 200 yards against the run in the NFL.  The defensive line looked terrible at times.

 

Coaching: 

When you start a rookie quarterback you keep things vanilla; I get that; but you could not have called worse plays if Rex Ryan was calling them for the Raiders.

It was a terrible game plan against the Jets who took away the run having so many defenders at the line of scrimmage.  You have to adjust at half time and throw long on the outside or throw slants.  You can even try to get the tight end over the middle more.  You just don’t try to run and throw quick outs and bubble screens.

On defense the problems were more physical than mental.  The 4 man pass rush of the Raiders could not get to the quarterback or stop the run.

No one on the Jets is scary on offense and the Raiders didn’t do as well as they had hoped.  The DL and LB’s did not keep their lanes allowing Geno Smith to run more than they should including 2 long runs for first downs.

I wasn’t a Dennis Allen or Greg Olson fan last year and I feel the same way this year.

Grade D+

The penalties were limited so that was a positive but the game plans and the in game adjustments just aren’t there.

 

Special Teams: 

Sebastian Janikowski didn’t get a field goal attempt.  Marquette King had a good day punting including a 61 yarder and Latavius Murray did an adequate job returning kicks.  The Raiders coverage teams didn’t play overly well with Saalim Hakeem taking 2 kickoffs for 65 yards, and Jalen Saunders taking 2 punts for 15 yards.  Special teams didn’t have a huge role in this game.

 

GRADE:  C+

Nothing really epic to report here other than there were no attempts for Janikowski.

 

Overall:

The Raider fans had high hopes on opening day and this one hurt.  With all of the money spent on signings you’d thought the defense would play better.  The lack of a pass rush especially in the first half was glaring.  The defense was on the field a lot but there is still no excuse for giving up over 400 yards total offense and 202 yards on the ground to the NY Jets.  What will happen when the Raiders play a really good offense like Denver, San Diego, the 49ers or Seattle?

Derek Carr did as well as I thought he would do being a rookie quarterback.  I don’t know if starting a rookie QB against a Rex Ryan defense was overly wise, but Carr has the mentality and the talent to excel.  He had some good moments and some bad ones and you just have to be patient.  The Raiders have to throw deep & use slants and the tight end more to keep defenses honest.

Maybe I’m missing something but I was shocked at the poor offensive game plan and the lack of adjustments.  That’s not acceptable at the NFL level.  Teams now know if you fill the box with defenders and don’t allow the Raiders to run, they can’t and/or won’t throw downfield.  They have to open things up.

The Raiders played hard and they limited the penalties which is a good thing to see.  I like the Raiders linebackers a lot and I think they need to be a part of the pass rush more often.  Burris, Moore and Mack are doing well.

I predicted a 20-17 win by the Jets and they won 19-14.  The spread was 5 ½ when I saw it and like some on ESPN said, the odds makers loved the last touchdown by the Raiders.

 

Grade:  C-

     If this were the Broncos or Seattle it would be a better grade.  To give up 202 yards to the Jets on the ground and only have 84 total offensive yards to the Jets defense going into the 4th quarter is just not good.  The Raiders had some bright spots but these are the types of games that they have to win if they want to get to .500 again.  Right now their Linebackers and safeties have to carry their defense, and offensive coordinator Greg Olson has to open up the play book and throw downfield.  Their schedule is brutal so these winnable games are very important.

 

Next Opponent:  v.s. Houston Texans (1-0; last game, win @ home against the Washington Redskins 17-6)

 

Outlook:

Next weeks game with the Texans in Oakland is a flat out must win.  The Raiders are in the easy (if you can call it that) part of their schedule.   I think the Raiders have to go 4-3 in their first 7 games if they are going to get to .500.

In their last 9 they play at Seattle, San Francisco, Denver twice, and tough conference games with San Diego and Kansas City.  They also play at Cleveland in late October.  Every week is going to be a challenge and hopefully they will open things up next week.

Oakland Raiders Preview for 2014-15 NFL Season

BlackHoleFans

Oakland Raiders 2014-15 Season Preview

Last years prediction: 4-12

Last years record: 4-12

Overview:

Last year saw the last of the salary cap purging by GM Reggie McKenzie.  The mess that was created from years of overspending for average talent had ended.  What was left was a team with a lot of heart but little depth or talent.  Even playing the 3rd easiest schedule in the NFL, the Raiders could only get 4 wins.

There is hope in Oakland though with a solid draft.  Derek Carr has played well and shows a lot of potential and I love guard Gabe Jackson.  He will be a solid guard for years to come.  I was one of the very few that still isn’t sold on Khalil Mack.  So many predicting greatness for him never saw him play.  So far in pre season his reviews are mixed.  I’m hopeful that he evolves into the special player the Raiders need.

Unfortunately just like in the last 10 years, I’ve been pretty right on about the Raiders.  I’ve predicted their seasons within 1 game each year.  I’ve also been right on a lot about their draft picks including Jamarcus Russell, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and all of the fast DB’s that can’t guard anyone.  (DJ Hayden will soon add to that mix.)  I’m still in shock over not drafting Star Lotulelei. 

Quarterback

There are too few great QB’s anymore in the NFL.  Even with the ridiculous new rules the last 3 years that make breathing next to a WR a penalty, the quarterback play in the NFL is at times just bad.  I don’t blame Reggie McKenzie for the Flynn and Schaub experiments; he took chances and they just didn’t work out; but Matt Schaub in my mind isn’t a starter anymore.  He’s never had a great arm but he’s now lost arm strength.  Watching him throw an out pattern is as nerve wracking as parents watching their kid walk for the first time.

I like Derek Carr.  He’s got a good arm and is accurate on the run.  Like his brother David, he sometimes looks uncomfortable in the pocket and can lack accuracy from there at times.  He has to learn how to handle a rush better.  I think the Raiders made a solid pick.  Another coachable player with a good attitude.  Look for Carr to start very soon if not immediately.  Matt McGloin is a solid NFL backup with a lot of heart.

Grade:  C+ 

Carr will start sooner than later and with any rookie QB there will be growing pains.  He’ll look great at times and really bad at others.  The Raiders have a brutal schedule so look for the manic ups and downs on social media from Raider fans this year.

 

Running back

Maurice Jones-Drew was a great signing.  Many experts said he was done and he took it very personally.  He’s lost a lot of weight and is in the best shape of his life.  Look for a really good year from MJD.  Darren McFadden is a really good running back when healthy, and limiting his touches will help keep him healthy.

Last year the Raiders just couldn’t throw downfield and it hurt the running game.  Teams would almost dare the Raiders to pass and the running backs could find rushing yards hard to find.  Latavius Murray is finally healthy and is a solid backup that will have his moments.  Marcel Reese is only 28 and is a stud at full back and needs to be utilized more in the offense.

        Grade:  B+ 

Jones-Drew and McFadden are a solid 1-2 punch with Murray adding to the mix.  I still want to see more Marcel Reese.

 

Wide receiver

The Raiders have some nice WR this year, but the problem is they really don’t have a #1 WR.  If your QB is Tom Brady you can get away with that.  The Raiders don’t have Tom Brady.  James Jones was signed from Green Bay and he’s a solid player.  Rod Streater is a nice number 3 option but he still will drop an easy pass or two.  Denarius Moore is a good #3.  Look for Andre Holmes and Brice Butler to have their moments.  Greg Little is an enigma and looks like a rookie playing in a hall of fame WR body.  He may be the odd man out.

        Grade:  C +  

The Raiders just don’t have that #1 talent or big deep threat that they need.  Next year they have to get one.

 

Tight end

The Raiders need more production from their tight ends.  Mychal Rivera was a pleasant surprise but getting only 38 catches out of your best tight end isn’t enough.  David Ausberry will back him up.

          Grade:  C – 

Rivera would be a nice safety valve for when the Raiders QB needs a clutch catch.  Greg Olson needs to utilize the tight end more in his offense.

 

Offensive line

The offensive line just got better with the addition of rookie Gabe Jackson.  He’s as solid a player as you get and he should be a staple at Guard.  Menelik Watson has struggled at times and he will be a backup with Khalif Barnes taking over for him at tackle.  The Raiders seem to do well in the running game but they have a lot of problems protecting the quarterback.

        Grade:  C+

The Raiders offensive line has to step up if Carr is going to be effective.  I’m sure they will roll out Carr at times to protect him and give him time. 

 

Defensive line

The Raiders defensive line was abysmal at times last year.  Teams found out if you double team Lamarr Houston, the Raiders really didn’t have much after that.  To make problems worse, instead of drafting DT Star Lotulelei who fell into their lap, they draft DJ Hayden. Another DB with a great 40 time who played on a team in a bad conference with a bad defense that once gave up 70 points.  Star helped transform Carolina’s defense and they now are an elite defensive team. 

Justin Tuck looks to still have gas in the tank and I look for him to have a good year.  Lamarr Woodley comes from the Steelers and his best football may be behind him but the Raiders are hoping a change of scenery is what he needed.  Pat Sims and Antonio Smith have got to step up their games.  Khalil Mack will also play at end sometimes.

        Grade:  C+

I said it then, not drafting Lotulelei was a HUGE mistake.  With Tuck and Woodley, the hopes are that they will now have a consistent outside pass rush.

 

Linebacker

This group has to live up to their potential.  Sio Moore is starting to come into his own.  Nick Roach has had a horrible pre season; especially in the Green Bay game; so hopefully he’ll be back in form for the regular season.  Khalil Mack struggled mightily in his first two games but he had a nice game against Green Bay.  He still has more of a ways to go than the Raiders would like to admit.  I like the depth at LB as well.  Hopefully this will be a position of strength for the Raiders.

 

Grade:  B-

I really like the potential of this group but as the great Woody Hayes said, potential means you ain’t no damn good yet.  For now they are the strength of the defense but their time is now.  The defensive front 7 makes or breaks your defense.

 

Secondary

The secondary struggled last year and has really struggled in pre season.  For that matter the Raiders starting defense has really struggled.  Starting offenses have found the going good against the Raiders starters.  Charles Woodsen has come out a couple of times saying that they have to get better.  The Raiders could do worse than Woodsen and Tyvon Branch at safety but the cornerback position looks wide open.  DJ Hayden can’t stay healthy and even when he is he was burned a lot last year and looked overwhelmed.  He also was not very good against the run.  Carlos Rogers was let go by the 49ers who felt his best football was behind him.  The Raiders pass rush better be in great form this year.

 

        Grade:  C-

There are more questions than answers for the Raiders secondary.  This group needs a lot of work and there isn’t much depth as well.

 

Special teams:

Sebastian Janikowski will be solid at kicker, and Marquette King shined as a punter last year. The Return game will be upgraded with Denarius Moore or TJ Carrie looking to return punts, and Latavius Murray and Kory Sheets being looked at for kick returns.

        Grade:  B

The Raiders should have a solid group on special teams.

 

Coaching Staff:

Dennis Allen needs results now.  A lack of talent has hurt him but many of the Raiders issues that have plagued them have not changed.  What bothers me about Allen though is that EVERY time he’s asked a question his answer is,” I’m not worried”.  When a man says I’m not worried so many times, that means one thing; he’s worried!  I just don’t see how Allen is back next year.  The Raiders still have issues with dumb penalties as well.  He just doesn’t look like he is in control out there at times.  It remains to be seen if Greg Olson is the answer at OC but Jason Tarver at defensive coordinator seems to be on the right track.  The Raiders lack of talent showed up more as the season wore on though.  Bob Saunders did a good job with the LB’s as linebacker coach.

        Grade:  C

I’m not sold on Greg Olson or Dennis Allen and the more time goes by I just don’t think Dennis Allen is the answer.  Dreams sometimes do come true and if the 49ers don’t win the Superbowl and Jim Harbaugh moves on, he sure would look good in a silver and black shirt.

 

Prediction:

The Raiders are now 53-123 in their last 176 games.  That is the worst stretch of football in the history of the sport; and that includes the decades before the NFL.  Benjamin Harrison was president when pro football started so that’s a long time.  As one Raider fan said on a local sports talk show, the time for positive energy and rah rah’s are over.  It’s time to win on the field.

In reality though there are few fan bases in sports that are as much fun and who are as passionate as Raider fans.  There is definitely a split in the fan base though.  Old school fans remember a magical time when the Raiders were the most winning team in SPORTS; not just the NFL.  Their standards are high and their patience is thin. In a 4 year stretch during the glory days, the Raiders were 47-9! 

When a team loses for so long though, a losing atmosphere comes and people grasp for straws to see anything positive.  No one likes constant negativity but some only want to hear the positive and bristle at any negative talk thinking that they are a better fan than others for doing so.  It reminds me of people that are vegans constantly telling everyone they are vegan acting like they are better than other eaters.  The problem is that isn’t reality, and people like that magnify the negative they hear.

I can’t write as a fan; I write as a writer and I have to tell the truth, good or bad.  Jack Nicholson said in the movie a Few Good Men, “you cant handle the truth”.  Unfortunately some can’t.  Even with so much losing, the Raiders have made some good moves in the right direction though.  Life in the NFL isn’t all gumdrops and puppy dogs.  It’s about winning.

Reggie McKenzie had an impossible job, and I like what he’s done with it.  He’s made some mistakes along the way but he seems like a good fit.  McKenzie is trying to get the standards back to a high level and bring about responsibility to this losing franchise.  The salary cap killed the Raiders so there was much work to do and he got it done.  If the Raiders had last years schedule, I could see a .500 season.  Unfortunately they have the #3 hardest schedule and that is too much to overcome.

I see the Raiders winning 6-7 games this year.  I see Derek Carr being the starter and even through growing pains, he gives hope for the future of the Raiders.  I don’t see Dennis Allen back after this year but I’m hopeful that Reggie McKenzie lasts.  There will be some good days in Oakland this year.  The Raiders are a year away from realistically talking playoffs.  They still need a #1 WR and a nip and tuck here and there on defense and offense before they get to the next level.

 

Predicted Record:

Last years’ prediction 4-12; actual record 4-12

2013-14 prediction: 6-10

There will be better days ahead for the Raiders.  They still are looking for a stadium, and aren’t in a hurry to pay for it themselves, so that will continue to be a mess.  Hopefully by next year, on and off the field the Raiders will get stability and bring back a winner to the great fans of the Raiders.

 

 

 

“Potion of Motion” amazing & easy alcoholic & non-alcoholic punch

potion of motion

Potion of Motion” 

My love for champagne is of legend and this is a great and tasty drink that is amazing for parties.  I still love it straight but this is a great summer drink for home parties or barbecues!

Ingredients:

-Drinkable bottle or bottles of brut champagne depending on how many people are drinking.

-for one part of the juices you can use cherry, pomegranate, cranberry, guava, mango, orange, grapefruit, or any other juice that you’d like.

-large can of pineapple juice

-tall glasses filled with ice

-sliced fruit of your choice

Directions:

Put as much ice as you’d like in a tall glass.  (per your taste) Add 1 to 1/2 ounces of pineapple juice. Then add 1 to 1 1/2 ounces of your favorite (or exotic) fruit juice (look above).  Fill the rest of the glass with champagne.  Enjoy!!

Tips:

-Add exotic fruit juices for a unique and great flavor.

-put all of the juices and sliced fruit on a side table.  Put the chilled juices and champagne on ice next to it and let your guests serve themselves.

-Use sparkling water instead of champagne for the kids.  Don’t leave them out of the fun!

Awesome!!

Colombia & Soccer Rises Above Violence, Pain, & the loss of Andres Escobar For Redemption.

andres escobar

 

“Life doesn’t end here”.  

Andres Escobar, Colombia footballer

It still hurts today.

When you say the name Andres Escobar to a longtime soccer fan, immediately the smile will come off of their faces and a sadness will be seen.  The pain is still there for the memory of the murder of Colombian soccer star Andres Escobar even 20 years later.

In the 1994 World Cup held in the U.S., there was one team that everyone wanted to see and that was Colombia.  They were like rock stars with the likes of Carlos Valderrama, Carlos Rincon, Andres Escobar and so many others.  From the famous scorpion kick from their goalie, to the fun and amazing way they played, Colombia was definitely the team to watch.  Defensive star Andres Escobar at the age of 26 was ready to sign a large contract after the World Cup with famous Italian team AC Milan.  His dream of marrying his Fiance Pamela Cascardo and living in Italy to play soccer was coming true.

In an amazing 26 international game stretch before the World Cup, Colombia lost ONLY one game.  In the World Cup qualifying matches they gave up an unreal, 2 goals.  They were on fire dominating the World Soccer scene.

To qualify for the World Cup in 1993, they needed to tie Argentina.  Instead they gave what I believe is the worst loss for Argentina in Argentina, 5-0.  What was amazing is video shows as a sign of respect, the Buenos Aires fans giving rounds of applause to the Colombians after the game.  It placed Colombia for the first time on the world stage of soccer.  Pele and many others announced that Colombia would win the World Cup in the U.S.  The country Colombia partied like rock stars and their passion was amazing.  For once they would shed the reputation of being a violent and out of control country, and gain the respect they wanted.

At that time the rise to prominence for Colombian soccer was linked mainly to one thing; drug cartel money.  Colombia had never been a world power.  The three biggest drug Cartels, owned teams in the Colombian soccer league.  Soccer was the perfect way to launder money that they had gained illegally.  With that money they now could afford the great fields and players that were needed to make them a world class power in soccer.  One of the drug Cartel leaders was Pablo Escobar.  He was so powerful and rich that Forbes Magazine had him as one of the richest men on earth.

A house is only as good as it’s foundation and when you have a foundation built on drug money, only pain and violence will follow.  That’s what happened to Colombian soccer.  Colombia was a mess in general with more murders being committed per capita there, than anywhere else in the world.  Public officials and politicians were bought off, and like many players said, you couldn’t trust anyone.

Pablo Escobar ran for office to avoid extradition to the U.S. for his drug running; and he won!  He and the other cartel leaders used Soccer to launder the money by lying about players salaries and bonuses and also about gate receipts and ticket sales.  Pablo Escobar did a lot for the poor, building housing and soccer fields and helping out the little guy. He also had public officials murdered and after one match where he didn’t like a referees call, he had the soccer referee gunned down in a parking lot after a game.  Much like Al Capone did in Chicago, it created a love for him like a modern Robin Hood to cover up for the violence and pain that he created.  Eventually though Escobar was killed and even a few of his family members were slaughtered; in front of their wives and kids in some cases; right before the World Cup would start.  After he was killed Colombia was in a violent chaos.  No more order in the underworld.

The stress on the Colombian players was now overwhelming.  Andres Escobars’ great friend and teammate Chonto Herrera was told the day before their World Cup match that his brother was murdered.  They began to worry about their own families safety.  Some players began saying they now had to win or wonder what would happen back home.  Andres shy smile was now gone.  In an interview he said he finds peace by trying to read at least a little bit from the Bible every day.  He found comfort in having a picture of his late mother and his fiance Pamela Cascardo in his Bible.

Andres was unlike any 26 year old you’d ever know.  While many were party animals, his faith was a foundation in his life.  He also loved his country and the poor.  His family talked about him going to stores and buying toys and driving through the city giving them away in poor neighborhoods.  Even before he signed a big contract, he set up scholarships for poor and needy kids.  His father was a banker and he set up foundations to help the needy.  His whole family had hearts of gold and his heart was no different.  He was handsome, kind, humble and felt for those in need.  Everyone loved him.

In the first game of the World Cup the joy was out of the faces of the players of Colombia.  In a stunning match, Romania beat Colombia 3-1.  The World was shocked.  Their next game was against the U.S. who they had never lost to and who had never been a world power in soccer.  Unfortunately the violence at home was getting worse and so was the stress of playing.  Also there were rumors that the Colombian cartels had lost millions in bets that were placed for Colombia to beat Romania and many were not happy.  There were rumors abound and you could see the fear and the pain in the players faces.

Against the Americans the impossible happened.  On a simple cross by John Harkes of the U.S., Andres tried to stop the ball and he accidentally kicked it into his own goal.  It was a dreaded moment that I will never forget.  I told my friends right then and there, they are going to kill him.  My friend said it’s just a soccer game and I was dumb to think that.  Even when I was a kid I loved history and cultures and I just knew growing up what some cultures could and would do.  A chill goes up my spine right now even writing this.  I still feel the pain of that moment.  I see Andres face on the field knowing what he had done and the possible ramifications.  One of his teammates commented that you could see the fear and the pain in Andres eyes after that moment.  In irony, Andres sister said that the second Andres did the mistake, her 8 year old son became upset and said that they are going to kill Andres.  She said that people loved Andres and that he would be safe.  Young people know more than what adults think.

Andres own goal made it U.S. 1 Colombia 0.  Another goal followed and after a late goal by Colombia the U.S. had stunned the world and beaten them 2-1.  Colombia beat the Swiss 2-0 in their third game but with Romania beating the U.S., it meant Colombia would go home.

There are conflicting reports but there was supposed to be a trip with Andres and his family where they would visit parts of the U.S. Andres didn’t go and he came home.  Friends and teammates say that he was crushed by his mistake but he answered all of the media’s questions.  In time the people of Medellin; his home city; were very supportive and caring.  He began to feel better.

On one night Andres was asked to go to a club.  Many of his teammates begged him not to go but he said he didn’t want to hide and that he would be alright.  In a club in Medillin, the Gallon brothers; notorious Colombian cartel members; began to mock Andres relentlessly. This upset Andres greatly saying he just made a mistake and he was sorry for it.  After a heated argument Andres left the club.  In a chilling video in the parking lot, Andres was gunned down by cartel bodyguard Humberto Castro Munoz with a .38 caliber gun.  His friends saw the shooting and rushed Andres to the hospital where he died 45 minutes later.  Andres girlfriend said that the murderer was laughing and yelling goooooooooaaaaaal when he shot Andres.  The World Cup was still going on and the soccer world was angered and outraged.  Colombia was in turmoil.

Andres death was too much for the country to take.  The grief now was unconsolable.  One famous Colombian writer said, “for the first time in my life, I’m ashamed to be Colombian”.  The country gave bodyguards to players with some having up to 40-50 of them to protect them and their families.  One players child was kidnapped.  The entire country was in pain and hope was hard to find.

The soccer team would never be the same.  Many retired or just played abroad.  Most vowing that they would never play for Colombia ever again for what happened to them and Andres.  It was rumored that after days in jail, the Gallon brothers paid off the courts with 3 million dollars in cash and were set free.  Murderer Humberto Munoz was the fall person and he did only 11 years of his 40 year sentence.  He was let out for being a model prisoner.  Andres Fiance and family were outraged.

Colombian soccer began to fall off the map.  For years it struggled.  Fans stopped coming; the pain was too great.  In 2010 at the owners meeting for the Colombian soccer federation, 14 of the 18 teams were now near bankruptcy.

Fast forward to the last 4 years where there has been a form of redemption.  The Colombian soccer team is now back at the World cup.  With a talented squad, they are now trying to prove again that their reputation for being a violent country based on drug money is wrong.  Their past haunts them.  I have some Colombian friends and they are a very kind and passionate people with great pride.  They long for people and other countries not to judge them and to get to know them.  They are also honest about their past and hopeful for their future.

A statue of Andres is now at a park named after him where soccer fields are.  Andres always dreamed of having soccer fields all over for every kid to enjoy.

Andres’ last written words were published in newspapers everywhere.  They were, “life doesn’t end here”.

Even with the loss of his physical life, Andres is still touching people today.  I hope through his memory, along with the soccer fields and parks made in his honor, that more people will support Colombia’s attempt at becoming the peaceful nation that Andres dreamed of.  I know that for millions of soccer fans in Colombia and all over the world, no one will ever forget the great Andres Escobar.

 

 

Who at the World Cup 2014 Can Stop Spain’s Record Winning Streak in International Soccer;

 

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La Roja es el rey del mundo de fútbol.

Spain is the king of the soccer world.

With Spain’s epic record setting championship run in the past 8 years, there is definitely no love lost between them and the rest of the soccer world.

They are setting records with every win. In Euro Cup history, no team had ever won back to back championships until Spain did it in 2008 and 2012. Spain then won their first World Cup in history in 2010 and now have an unprecedented 3 straight major world championships.   They are now kings of the soccer world.

The World cup is so hard to win because the best of the best are there. This year there are many teams waiting to dethrone Spain.

Who are the favorites?:

Spain has an artistic style that is controversial. The Tika-Taka style of soccer; or short controlled passing game; is amazing. It takes great skill to do it in the way that Spain does, and it’s also very successful. Some fans and critics though say that it is a boring style and opposite of exciting teams such as Brasil and Argentina. Say what you will, more than a few are now saying the Spanish team is the greatest team in soccer history and their success backs it up.

No European team has ever won a World Cup in South America. That is great news for host Brasil. Brasil may be the most balanced of all the teams. Add an artistic flair and amazing home crowds, and the Brasil national team is a big favorite to win it all.

Germany is always a contender.   One of the great soccer traditions in history, Germany is always talented and this year is no different.   Marcos Reus though has been ruled out for the World Cup with torn ankle ligaments and they are going to be hard pressed to find someone to replace him. Germany though is deep and talented and will go far in the World Cup.

Argentina is a popular favorite of fans due to the hopes of Lionel Messi finally shining during the World Cup, but in reality they are loaded with talent. Their attacking style is fun to watch and many fans are excited about their chances.   Messi is 26 years old. That is the same age that Maradona was when Argentina won the World Cup in 1986.

These teams have a chance to shine at the World Cup:

Portugal is not as talented as they were in 2010 when they had their famous loss in the World Cup but they will be a factor. When Cristiano Ronaldo elected to kick the last free kick, he famously didn’t even get a chance for his own glory because the game was lost by then, bringing a lot of embarrassment. His selfish moment fuels him to want to win a World Cup badly, so Portugal is a wild card.

Italy is one of those teams that can look awful one minute and look like world beaters the next. Mario Balotelli can control a soccer match when he’s on, and when he’s not, Italy can lose to anyone. After their second match we should know which Balotelli and Italy team will show up.

These are wild card teams that have lots of questions but may surprise.

The Netherlands are a dangerous side.   They don’t have a well rounded team, and they are lacking somewhat on defense, but any team with attackers like Robin Van Persie and Argen Robben is a factor. They can control games with their attacking style and any team that plays them will have to be good on defense to win. I like watching this team but they have a tough draw in their group with Chile and Spain.

Belgium and France are also interesting teams but they don’t play well in every game. Belgium can look good one minute and be terrible the next. Any team with Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany is a threat. Belgium is a sexy pick by many and it will be all or nothing for them.

Uruguay now has a healthy Luis Suarez and their attack is as good as anybodies when they are clicking. They are not a well rounded team though and they will have to play better in the midfield.

Finally one of the countries that I always pull for is back. The sad memories of Andres’ Escobar’s murder and the extreme stresses that plagued the soccer team of Colombia during the 1994 World Cup in the United States still haunts people today. It’s good to see this team doing well.

Colombia plays a fun and exciting style that says one thing; attack. They are now back to being a scoring team with James Rodriguez and Jackson Martinez looking to make a name for themselves on the world stage.

One thing to watch for in the World Cup is the referees. Some of the calls borderline on ridiculous and match fixing has been a huge problem with FIFA and the soccer world in the recent past. FIFA is as dirty an organization as there is, rivaling the International Olympic Committee and the NFL in their corruption and greed. Some have called FIFA the mafia without guns. The hope every year is that the referees and penalty kicks will not play a big role in these games.

All of the great soccer talent now is in one place. Who will step up to greatness and who will disappoint; it’s always the question at each World Cup. There are a lot of fun early matches, so from beginning to end it will be interesting to see who comes through to the round of 16 and beyond.