Monday, August 10, 2009

Fight night with the UFC

On Saturday night, I took in UFC 101, live on pay-per-view from the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.

Now, as a sports fan, I will admit I don’t know a whole lot about mixed martial arts. However, thanks to my friend Robert, owner of, we will get close to a blow by blow account, with this viewing brought to you unofficially by Miller Lite, because the host house had a ton of it on hand.

9:08 p.m. CDT: The first fight is ready to kick off between Kurt Pellegrino and Josh Neer. This fight is of local significance because Josh Neer, from Des Moines, Iowa, is being sponsored by (seen on his shirt). This could be the fight of the night, I’m told.

9:13 p.m.: Pellegrino takes Neer down with a near body slam, but the Des Moines native continues scrapping to get off his back. Neer also is already cut, only a minute into the fight. The “Let’s Go, Kurt” chant starts ringing from the near-New Jersey crowd.

9:15 p.m.: Pellegrino does a near pile driver on Neer, but Neer is still going strong. When did this dissolve into WWE?

9:16 p.m.: Neer tries a triangle when he can lock a leg over his opponent’s neck. Pellegrino slips out, however.

9:18 p.m.: Round one ends. Pellgrino has dominated for most of the round, remaining on top. Judges’ scoring coming soon.

9:19 p.m.: Round two begins. Neer tries a couple of punches, but misses. A boxing match breaks out in the city of Brotherly Love.

9:22 p.m.: The fight remains on the ground, with Pellgrino staying on top of Neer. Neer complained of a head butt a minute ago, but no go. Neer keeps looking up, but the “fight” drags on.

9:23 p.m.: Another triangle try by Neer, but no go again. Pellegrino goes for a mount, but then moves into a lock on Neer.

9:24 p.m.: Round two ends, and Neer is bloodier than ever. This hasn’t looked good for our midwestern guy, with the first two rounds likely going to Pellegrino.

9:26 p.m.: Neer is not being himself, says Robert, as he timidly approaches Pellegrino at the start of Round Three. Pellegrino promptly takes him down on the floor.

9:28 p.m.: Fans seem to be getting restless as the fight drags on on the ground, as it has all fight long. A minute and a half left, and Neer is going to need a miracle to win this one, or a knockout.

9:30 p.m.” Neer shows life for the first time all fight, and gets on top of Pellegrino for a second. The opportunity is wasted and Pellegrino has the carry against the fence as Neer pounds away as the round ends. “Neer is disgusted,” says commentator Joe Rogan. He should be.

9:32 p.m.: All judges score the fight 30-27 in favor of Pellegrino. Good riddance.

9:33 p.m.: The second fight features Ricardo Almeida and Kendall Grove.

9:36 p.m.: One thing with the MMA fighters you gotta admire is the ink work on them. Grove has the Virgin Mary on his back. Neer has his own name tattooed on his lower back.

9:38 p.m.: Former UFC light heavyweight champ Tito Ortiz is shown. He worked with Grove on the Ultimate Fighter reality show on Spike.

9:40 p.m.: Grove tries a muay thai move, throwing a knee at Almeida’s head. But they soon separate. Grove tries a kick, but Almeida catches the leg and takes him into the fence.

9:41 p.m.: Almeida grabs a leg, but can’t get a good grip to take him down.

9:42 p.m.: Grove takes Almeida to the floor, but soon finds himself on his back.

9:43 p.m.: Almeida throws a couple of knees to Grove’s ribs, but to no avail. He then slams him to the ground, but Grove’s still alive at the end of round one. Rogan says round should go to Almeida because of the takedowns. I would agree. It’s always more impressive, though, when you see a tall guy like Grove (he’s six feet six) go down.

9:44 p.m.: Current UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre is shown on the scoreboard screen, receiving a big cheer from the sold-out crowd.

9:45 p.m.: Almeida takes Grove to the ground 15 seconds. He’s going for the submission now.

9:46 p.m.: Grove turns it around, getting an arm bar and almost finishing Almeida off. He escapes and returns to pounding and wrestling Grove on the ground.

9:47 p.m.: Grove gets a body triangle around Almeida, starting to squeeze the air out of him. Almeida gets out but is definitely winded.

9:49 p.m.: Almeida goes for the mount, but misses as he continues pounding. Grove somehow manages to get up and now has both fighters standing on the fence, throwing a nice uppercut at Almeida’s chin.

9:50 p.m.: Almeida takes Grove to the ground, but Grove gets an elbow in as round two ends.

9:52 p.m.: Grove’s conditioning is starting to pay off. Almeida is dragging as Grove takes him to the ground. Grove does a hammer fist but gets up.

9:55 p.m.: Thirty seconds left and Grove is on the ground, but quickly gets up. He’s looking for the big finish. Almeida pushes him to the post, but Grove throws down a couple of elbows and punches to finish the fight off. Now waiting for the judges’ scoring. Almeida is looking like the favorite because he controlled much of the fight with several good takedowns.

9:57 p.m.: Almeida wins a unanimous decision 30-27. We thought Grove might have won the second round, but who’s to say?

9:58 p.m.: The third fight is Johny Hendricks and Amir Sadollah. Hendricks is a two-time NCAA wrestling champion and is currently undefeated in the UFC. Sadollah, a national muay thai champion, is dancing around a lot as he makes his way to the ring. Hope his conditioning is up to snuff, or he’s toast before he even gets there.

10:03 p.m.: Hendricks goes for the kill 32 seconds in as he gets in several good left uppercuts and starts pounding him on the floor. The ref steps in and ends it perhaps a little early, Rogan says. The ref says Sadollah couldn’t defend himself “intelligently” as the crowd boos (Sadollah is out of Brooklyn, N.Y.).

10:17 p.m.: Shane Nelson vs. Aaron Riley in the third fight of the night.

10:31 p.m.: The crowd starts cheering as Nelson is on top of Riley, but they’re not for them. Apparently a fight broke out in the crowd, getting everyone’s attention. Sadly, that might have been more exciting than the fight we’re watching now.

10:33 p.m.: Rogan says if Nelson wins the fight, he will “burn his headset and run naked through the crowd.” Riley is the favorite in his eyes.

10:35 p.m.: By unanimous decision 30-27, Aaron Riley is declared the winner. “No surprise,” says the commentator.

10:40 p.m. The first of the two main events of the night, Forrest Griffin versus current middleweight Anderson Silva in a non-title match at light heavyweight, coming up.

10:50 p.m.: The crowd is heavily Forrest Griffin, shouting, “Let’s go, Forrest.” Griffin goes for a couple of kicks, but misses. He’s known for landing the most leg kicks, Rogan says.

10:51 p.m.: Silva throws the right hand and knocks Griffin off balance. The American finds his way back to his feet quickly.

10:52 p.m.: Silva’s attack knocks Griffin to the ground off balance, but Griffin is back on his feet. Griffin counters with a couple of kicks. Silva works an uppercut, then keeps dropping his hands before taking Griffin to the ground.

10:53 p.m.: Silva stands back and offers to help Griffin up. He’s getting cocky very quickly here. Silva drops his hands and lets Griffin throw a couple of punches before taking Griffin out with a right jab to the cheek as he is backpedaling. The ref calls Griffin out at 3:20 of the first round and Griffin sprints for the locker room. Rogan calls this one of the “most embarrassing knockouts” he has ever seen.
(Editor's note: Sports is reporting that Griffin suffered a dislocated jaw as well as what is hopefully a temporary loss of hearing in one ear sometime during the fight, hence his quick exit after it was over.)

10:54 p.m,: Silva, up a weight class to light heavyweight, looked awesome tonight. Question of the night: Could Georges St. Pierre take on Anderson Silva? Discussion starts now as we wait for the other main event of B.J. Penn versus Kenny Florian.

10:59 p.m.: Start the movie pimping now, as the stars of the upcoming movie, “Gamer,” are interviewed.

11:09 p.m.: It’s time for the other main event: B.J. Penn versus Kenny Florian at 155 pounds.

11:17 p.m.: I noticed that the current champion B.J. Penn’s logo of “Penn State of Mind” has the same font as Penn State University. I’m waiting for the copyright infringement lawsuit to kick in sooner than later.

11:18 p.m.: Penn strikes first by catching the leg of Florian, and pins him against the fence. Penn throws an elbow as the fighters separate. The crowd shouts, “B.J.”

11:20 p.m.: Penn keeps Florian pinned against the fence, throwing several knees to Florian’s midsection. Florian scraps his way out and breaks free.

11:21 p.m.: Rogan is noticing Penn is looking tired already with about 45 seconds left in the first round and wonders if Penn’s new conditioning regime is working against him.

11:22 p.m.: Penn lands a good punch as the first round ends. Rogan says he is breathing heavily, but not too bad.

11:23 p.m.: The fighters size each other and they swap blows before Florian pins Penn against the fence. Florian throws a couple of left uppercuts to Penn’s face, but the champ is still going.

11:26 p.m.: Florian goes for a takedown, but Pen keeps fighting him off. It could be wearing Penn down, and could work in Florian’s favor in the later rounds.

11:27 p.m.: Penn lands a left hook, but Florian stands his ground. Florian counters with a couple of kicks to Penn’s left knee, trying to wear him down.

11:28 p.m.: The second round ends. Penn landed a couple of good punches, but Florian is still standing and looking fresh.

11:30 p.m.: The third round begins and this is where Penn must prove he is still the man, since he tends to wear down late in fights.

11:32 p.m.: Florian keeps Penn pinned against the fence, and Penn tries punching his way out. The fighters separate and return to full standing.

11:33 p.m.: The fighters are dancing in the middle of the ring before Florian goes for the tackle and pins Penn to the fence. Penn lands a good knee and right hand and breaks free, temporarily tying Florian up before he gets away.

11:34 p.m.: Florian keeps up his same strategy pinning Penn against the fence before the champ throws a couple of good punches to get away.

11:35 p.m. The third round ends as Florian tries to land a roundhouse kick. Penn looks like he took the third round with the last 30 seconds of punches he landed.

11:36 p.m.: Round four, and could it be desperation time for Florian? Florian attacks and almost gets caught with a Penn punch. The continued pinning of Penn against the fence might wear Penn down.

11:37 p.m.: Penn takes down Florian to the floor with a jiu-jitsu move. He keeps up the pressure with several short elbows to Florian’s head.

11:38 p.m.: Penn goes for the pass, with Florian keeping himself alive by grabbing Penn’s ankle. Penn lands more short elbows to Florian’s cheek, wearing him down.

11:39 p.m.: Penn is now going for the choke after landing several punches. He is starting to get the upper hand. So much for the conditioning concerns.

11:40 p.m.: Penn gets his chokehold set up, and Florian is out as he taps out. B.J. Penn wins and keeps his title!

11:41 p.m.: UFC chairman Dana White wraps the title belt around Penn’s waist as ring announcer Bruce Buffer announces the win.

11:42 p.m.: “This is my dream!” Penn says.

That’s all from Iowa City (via Philadelphia on pay-per-view). Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

National League All-Star Ballot

Yesterday, we looked at my picks for the American League All-Star team.

Now is the senior circuit's picks, at least how they should be:

First base: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
Prince Fielder of the Brewers puts up a pretty good fight with a .306 average and 20 home runs, as does the Rockies' Todd Helton with a .312 BA. But Pujols' .337 average and 30 home runs (as of July 2) are the closest we get to a gimme up on the National League side.

Second base: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
Solid choice (.301 BA, 17 HR) in a weak field.

Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
A bright spot for a team that has had its troubles.

Third base: David Wright, New York Mets
Ordinarily, the Cubs' Aramis Ramirez would have been the gimme pick here, especially with a .366 average. However, that came before he went on the disabled list on May 9, and he hasn't returned until this week. That leaves David Wright and his .340 average.

Catcher: Bengie Molina, San Francisco Giants
A tough pick in an extremely weak field. Molina's only batting .259, but his 10 home runs and 46 RBIs puts him in.

Outfielders: Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks; Carlos Lee, Houston Astros; Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
All three are hitting over .300. Lee has been killer for some time, and shines as a testament to a bad trade by the White Sox. Ibanez's .312 average and 22 HR and Upton's .309 BA and 14 HR put them in.

Copyright 2009 - Wait Til Next Century.

Monday, July 6, 2009

American League All-Star Ballot

Next week is the 2009 edition of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

Selections for both teams often are controversial because they are picked by the fans, leaving it more of a popularity contest rather than one based on the merits of the players.

With that, this is the ballot I submitted last week on the fan balloting on before voting closed at the end of the day Thursday, July 2. Today we will cover the American League, and tomorrow the National League.

First, the junior circuit:

First Base: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
This was somewhat of a tough call between Cabrera and the Red Sox's Kevin Youkilis. Both have comparable stats (Cabrera: .331 batting avrage with 16 home runs, Youkilis: .314 BA with 14 HR). It could be made even more complicated with Minnesota's Justin Morneau (.309 average with 19 HR) thrown in the mix.

In the end, I used the Most Valuable Player criteria. Could the Red Sox do as well without Youkilis? More than likely. The Tigers don't do as well without Cabrera.

Second base: Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays
This is based on overall skill and best stats. Hill has a .301 average with 19 home runs. The Yankees' Robinson Cano comes close (.300 average and 12 home runs).

Shortstop: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
We'll call him the sexy choice, because he has been consistently good (.309 BA, 9 HR this year) for several years. It was hard to ignore Tampa Bay's Jason Bartlett's .362 average, but the three-week stint on the disabled list kills his selection.

Third base: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
Purely statistically driven in a weak field. Longoria's .297 average and 16 home runs puts him over despite the Blue Jays' Scott Rolen's .333 average.

Catcher: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
No contest here. When you got a player hitting to close .400 (.392 as of July 2) like Mauer, he must be picked, no questions asked.

Outfielders: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners; Torii Hunter, Los Angeles Angels; Johnny Dye, Chicago White Sox
Ichiro and Torii Hunter were gimmes, but Dye was a tougher pick over the Yankees' Johnny Damon and the Orioles' Andruw Jones.

Tomorrow we will look

Copyright 2009 - Wait Til Next Century.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Running laps around the Web...

-- A Cubs fan in Buffalo Grove, Ill., has taken drastic measures to turn around the Cubs' season, vowing to eat only 500 calories a day until the Cubs either win five games in a row or end their season. It might be a long rest of the summer.

-- A detailed look at the frustrations of following this year's Cubs (Warning: Strong language).

-- A more positive look at the Cubs' season: They are only 2.5 games out of first after last night's 9-5 win over the Brewers, the same distance they were on May 8 when Aramis Ramirez went on the disabled list with a dislocated shoulder.

-- Sports Illustrated takes a look at Aplington-Parkersburg High football coach Ed Thomas, who was gunned down last week while supervising his team's off-season workouts.

-- A debate on how the Blackhawks have done in the free agent market so far, especially in light of signing Marian Hossa to a 12-year deal.

-- Former Bulls and now Pistons guard Ben Gordon takes some parting shots at his former club.

-- The Bears apparently have given up chasing troubled ex-Giants WR Plaxico Burress.

Copyright 2009 - Wait Til Next Century.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

U.S. soccer gain respect

The U.S. soccer team made a big splash last week when it snuck into the semifinals of the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa.

After losing 3-1 to Italy and 3-0 to Brazil, the U.S. looked dead in the water, and calls began coming in for the job of coach Bob Bradley. Going into its last game on June 21, the Americans would need a miracle to advance in that they had to beat Egypt by at least three goals and hope Brazil beat Italy by the same margin.

That miracle did, with the U.S.A. and Brazil both winning 3-0, and the Americans found their way into a semifinal match-up on June 25 with top-rated Spain, who were riding a 15-game winning streak and a 35-game unbeaten streak that dated back to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

The miracle happens again, as the U.S. stunned the Spaniards 2-0 on goals by Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey, prompting headlines in the Spanish media such as "The United States destroys the legend of Spain" in El Mundo.

The difference-maker, however, was goalkeeper Tim Howard. A star with Everton in the English Premier League, Howard stopped 29 shots and what seemed to be a constant possession of the ball by the Spanish to help lead the U.S. into its first ever final in a FIFA tournament against Brazil on Sunday.

Lightning almost struck again as Altidore and Landon Donovan struck during the first half, giving the Americans an unlikely 2-0 lead at halftime. Could it happen? Could the U.S. actually beat the world's best, even if it was a tournament that is somewhat lightly regarded because it was seen more as a warm-up for next year's World cup and a test to see whether South Africa could actually pull off a world-caliber tournament?

Alas, as one reader mentioned in an e-mail to ESPN's Bill Simmons, the barrage of bullets finally struck Tim Howard. Brazil scored its first goal of the game barely two minutes into the second half, deflating any momentum the Americans had. Another Brazilian goal by Luis Fabiano came at the 73rd minute, and the game-winner followers 11 minutes later, sealing the victory and Brazil's third Confederations Cup title.

What does this mean for U.S. soccer? Does this mean the Americans can finally compete on the world stage, like was thought after the 2002 World Cup when the U.S. advanced to the final eight? That elusive tournament title remains out of reach, but if anything, the Americans gained respect.

However, to keep that respect, Bob Bradley and company are going to have to figure out a way to keep possession of the ball a little longer. Brazil kept the ball for most of the game, launching 35 shots at the goal. Eventually, Howard is going to crack, and he finally did in the final. Most winning teams, no matter the sport, tend to hang on to the ball. F.C. Barcelona, for example, tends to have possession of the ball for anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of the time, and that had to have helped them win the UEFA Champions League, Spanish League and Spanish Copa del Rey titles this past year.

Simply put, you can't score without the ball, and you can't win unless you score. It doesn't get much simpler than that, and Bradley and company will have to figure out how to solve that problems if they expect to first qualify for next summer's World Cup back in South Africa, and advance far, even possibly, miracle of miracles, winning that elusive trophy and stunning the world once again.

Copyright 2009 - Wait Til Next Century.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cubs starting to show signs of life

About this time last week, we were all starting to wonder if the Cubs had any heart left in them.

Sure, one of their biggest hitters, 3B Aramis Ramirez, has been out since May 9 with a dislocated shoulder, and likely won't be back until after the All-Star break. The Cubs also have dealt with a series of nagging injuries to Milton Bradley, Carlos Zambrano and others.

Good teams battle through these obstacles, though. And after their 4-1 loss to the White Sox Wednesday at Wrigley Field despite an unexpected day off thanks to the rain on Tuesday, that listlessness continued, and many, including yours truly, were beginning to wonder if we should write off the rest of the season.

However, starting Thursday, the Cubs showed that we can be a little fickle at times.

The Cubs fell behind 5-0 to the White Sox going into the bottom of the eighth inning, and it was starting to look like more of the same. But Derrek Lee and Geovany Soto hit back-to-back home runs, and Alfonso Soriano hit in the game-winning run in the ninth inning to win, 6-5.

The next day, the Cubs welcomed the Cleveland Indians and former teammates Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa, both of whom got warm welcomes from the Wrigley faithful. The Tribe went up 7-0 in the fourth inning, and it was starting to look like the same old Cubs we had come to expect during the last six weeks. But they chipped away, and got four in the seventh inning and another in the eighth inning to cut it to 7-6. Wood gets the call to put the game away in the ninth, but Lee comes through, hitting his second home run of the game to tie things up. In the tenth, after Soriano walks, he shows off some of the speed we had been wondering about and stole second before scoring on a bad-hop single by Ryan Theriot for the Cubs' win, 8-7.

Saturday was more of the same for Wood, who came in the bottom of the 13th inning to try to seal a 5-4 win for the Indians. But he missed again, giving up a game-tying single to Andres Blanco before throwing a wild pitch that saw Blanco score the winning run, giving the Cubs a 6-5 win. Sunday was more decisive, with the Cubs winning 6-2, leaving the Cubs at 34-31 with a four-game winning streak and only 2.5 games behind St. Louis, who took over first place from the Brewers over the weekend by feasting on Kansas City pitching, including an 12-5 win Sunday.

The point behind this weekend wrap-up. With no sense of bias and homerism, the Cubs are definitely still in contention, and never were really out of it during this slump. Granted, they have had a lot of help from the Brewers, Cardinals and Reds not keeping up their winning ways all that much, but the Cubs are still in this thing.

Copyright 2009 - Wait Til Next Century.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Can Pedro help the Cubs?

The Cubs are reportedly one of two teams, along with the Tampa Bay Rays, who are pursuing former All-Star pitcher Pedro Martinez.

The 37-year-old Martinez, who has been a free agent after his tenure with the Mets ended after last year, has been working out in his native Dominican Republic. According to ESPN, he is hoping to sign with a team that has a chance to win the pennant.

Whether the Cubs should sign him is a mixed bag, with arguments strong on both sides:

Martinez, during 17 seasons in the majors, is 214-99 in stints with the Dodgers, Expos, Red Sox and most recently, the Mets.

But he is 37 years old.

He has shown signs of life during his most recent stint in New York, winning 15 games during his first season there in 2005. He also showed he might still be able to be a productive pitcher during this spring's World Baseball Classic, throwing six scoreless inning of one-hit in two appearances for the Dominican Republic team.

But those last four years in New York were plagued with injuries. Though he won 15 games in 2005, his innings dropped significantly the next three years, including only 32 innings that saw three wins in 2007 and five wins last year in 109 innings.

He could be a sign that the Cubs are still trying to win something this season despite being 31-31 and four games out of first place after yesterday's 6-5 win over the crosstown White Sox.

But he hasn't pitched in the majors during the entire year.

He has a World Series title under his belt, having helped the Red Sox win their first one since 1918 in 2004. Out of the current Cubs players, only Derrek Lee (2003 with Florida), Ted Lilly (2000 with the Yankees), Aaron Miles (2006 with St. Louis), and Alfonso Soriano (2000 with the Yankees) have been on World Series champion teams.

But starting pitching is actually one of the strengths of this Cubs team. Hitting and the bullpen are areas that should be addressed.

However, starting pitcher Rich Harden has been plagued with a bad back for the better part of the year, and you can never have too much starting pitching.

Will the Cubs actually go forward and sign Pedro Martinez? Not the best player available, but he couldn't hurt and might actually still have some gas left in the tank. He just might be the final piece that could help the Cubs turn this season around.

Copyright 2009 - Wait Til Next Century.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Did he earn the contract extension?

The term of Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard has been a point of contention and debate among Cyclone fans ever since he came to the job in 2005, when he took over for the departed Gene Smith.

When the Des Moines Register posted the story Monday that Pollard had signed a two-year contract extension, extending his deal with ISU to 2014, the first commenter on the story knew the heated debate was coming:

wdmguy1 wrote:
5... 4... 3... 2...
6/15/2009 10:28:40 AM

The very next poster said ISU fans should stop all donations to the Cyclone athletic department until Pollard was gone, saying the entire department has experienced nothing but losing since he arrived.

But has that been the case?

Well, since his arrival in the fall of 2005, ISU's fortunes have been less than stellar. The football team was coming off four bowl games in five years, the best stretch it had experienced since the 1970s. It was an improvement at that, since it had won two of those games, including the 2004 Independence Bowl over Miami of Ohio. Dan McCarney was becoming the best coach in ISU history.

However, after one more bowl game in 2005 (a 27-24 loss to Texas Christian in the Houston Bowl), the Cyclones slipped to 4-8 the following year, and McCarney, replaced by Auburn defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. Chizik was even worse, winning only five games in two years before he left to become the head coach back at Auburn, stunning everyone, including Pollard.

The basketball team came into the 2005-06 season ranked in the preseason top 25, coming a year in which it made the second round of the NCAA tournament and three starters returning. However, the Cyclones finished 16-14 overall and 6-10 in the Big 12, missing out on the NCAA Tournament and coach Wayne Morgan being relieved of his coaching duties.

Greg McDermott was brought in from in-state rival Northern Iowa, and things have not improved, as the Cyclones finished 15-16 (6-10 in Big 12 play) in 2006-07, 14-18 (4-12 in Big 12) in 2007-08, and last season, 15-17 (4-12 in Big 12).

There have been some bright spots, though, as the women's basketball team under Bill Fennelly made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament last year and the wrestling team still contending for the national title. That team, however, lost coach and legend Cael Sanderson over the season as he moved on to a better offer at Penn State.

Is there hope for the ISU athletic department? Paul Rhoades, a native of Ankeny, Iowa, is the new football coach, and could bring in a new attitude. All-Big 12 basketball player and AP honorable mention All-American Craig Brackins was convinced to stay for his senior season.

Plus, and this may have been the biggest reason for Pollard's retention, but the overall athletic program is starting to show signs it might even remotely compete with its bigger brethren in the Big 12 like Nebraska and Texas. Jack Trice Stadium is receiving a face lift, with a wider concourse introduced for this upcoming season and plans to enclose the south end zone with seats, increasing capacity. A new practice facility for the men's and women's basketball teams also is in the works.

So which is more important for an AD: wins or money to expand the facilities? Considering ISU has been operating on the smallest athletic budget in the Big 12 for some time, it may just be a matter of wait and see on whether Pollard has delivered on what he was hired to do.

However, if the teams, especially the football team and men's basketball team, don't begin to win sometime in the near future, Pollard may not make it to the end of the contract.

Copyright 2009 - Wait Til Next Century.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sammy Sosa juicing confirmed?

A New York Times article released Tuesday said that former Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa was among 104 baseball players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.

Citing lawyers with knowledge of the test results, the article claims Sosa, who helped reignite interest in baseball during 1998's pursuit of the single season home run record with Mark McGwire, tested for an unspecified drug. He joins McGwire, current home run champ Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez as current or recent stars who have been linked for PEDs.

Assuming this is true, the revelation does serious damage to Sosa in two ways. One, the possibility of his being inducted into the Hall of Fame is seriously diminished, despite his being sixth on the all-time home run list with 609 dingers. McGwire, who finished with 583 home runs, including a then-record 70 in 1998, has been rejected in each of the three years he has been on the ballot. It also puts Sosa in danger of being charged with perjury following his denial of using PEDs in a Congressional hearing in 2005.

What does the article mean? Sosa has been linked to PEDs for some time during the last several years, especially after the 2003 season in which he served a seven-game suspension for using a corked bat, yet helped the Cubs come within five outs of making it to their first World Series since 1945. Whether this report confirms those suspicions remains to be seen. The sad thing is nobody is really shocked by the report, ranging from players to former Cubs broadcaster and current White Sox announcer Steve Stone.

The biggest problem with this report is that it is anonymous. No one is cited on the record as saying that Sosa did indeed test positive for the drugs. While this has been used in previous newspaper reports to great effect (see Watergate, for example), it does have some problem because of the possibility that, like an poster on an Internet forum, any person can say anything about anybody or anything and still remain anonymous, regardless of whether they are telling the truth or not. In this case, it might be best until Sosa is formally charged or confirmed that he did indeed test positive.

Regardless, the report is another black mark on what was supposed to be the rejuvenation era of baseball following the 1994 strike that cancelled the World Series that year. It also will continue to cast suspicion and doubt on who really is using PEDs and who is actually clean and doing things the way they're supposed to.

Copyright 2009 - Wait Til Next Century.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Is the headache worth a good wide receiver?

One of two potential headache players could be headed to Chicago in the coming weeks.

The Bears, along with the Jets and Buccaneers, are reportedly the main teams interested in signing former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress. Burress, as you may recall, missed the last five games of the 2008 season after he shot himself in the leg while at a nightclub, leading to his eventually being released by the Giants on April 3. He now faces up to 3.5 years in prison on a weapons charge after the incident.

His stats are something to behold. While his 2008 season was basically a wash-out thanks to the gunshot, in 2007 he caught 70 passed for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns while helping lead the Giants to their upset Super Bowl win over the then-undefeated New England Patriots.

Right now, his attorney is trying to work out a deal that will at least keep Burress out of jail for the 2009 season, and possibly get the weapons charge reduced to the point where he only get probation. That includes Monday's news that the case was delayed until Sept. 23. There also is the possibility that Commissioner Roger Goodell could suspend Burress for all or part of the season for the incident.

If not Burress, then who does new QB Jay Cutler get to throw to? ESPN's Jeff Dickerson reports that while early reviews of the Bears' current receiving corp of Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Brandon Rideau and Johnny Knox have been good so far, they are at best unprovable and at worst not going to be good enough targets for Cutler.

One possibility could be former Jaguars' WR Matt Jones, who caught 65 passes for 761 yards last year. He was released by the Jaguars after he got busted for possession of cocaine, and likely will avoid suspension by the NFL higher-ups, according to the Chicago Sun-Times and ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

Like I mentioned on Friday, Chicago is a town known for embracing controversial and potentially troubled athletes.

Dennis Rodman, for example, spent three years in Chicago with the Bulls, from the 1995-96 to 1997-98 seasons. He was, shall we say, colorful and controversial, doing everything from kicking a cameraman during a game to wearing a wedding dress to promote his autobiography in 1996.

However, he was a beast on the boards, averaging more than 15 rebounds a game as he played a big role in helping the Bulls win NBA titles all three years he was in town.

The Bears aren't looking for any choirboys, though it would be nice to hear what your wide receiver is up to on the practice field rather than the courtroom or commissioner's office.

Could Burress or Jones be the answer? Jones has the potential, mainly because he is healthy and not nearly as distracted as Burress, who with delays, likely will have the prospect of prison time hanging over his head for the season and potentially making him largely ineffective. That is also assuming he remains healthy and that the 2007 season was not a fluke.

Copyright 2009 - Wait Til Next Century

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cubs vs. Sox - The real challenge

Tuesday marks the first game of the three games of the Crosstown Classic between the Cubs and White Sox at Wrigley Field.

Now there is the matter of which is the better team. We can't rely too much on the current records. The Cubs are 30-30 after avoiding a sweep in this past weekend's home series against the Twins, while the Sox have fallen on hard times taking two of three from the Brewers in Milwaukee . While the season's not quite over, both teams have a lot of catching up if they're going to still be playing in October.

That leaves the intangibles, or the other things that we have to look at to determine which is the better team.

With a nod to Uni Watch, we look first at the aesthetics of the teams.

Both sport the pinstripes at home, the Cubs since 1957, the Sox since the last few games of 1990 in their current form. The Cubs have largely kept the same main logo since the 1950s, while the Sox have undergone several changes in that same time period, though they have largely kept their current logo and colors since just before moving into the new Comiskey Park in 1991.

Both look sharp at the current time.

PICK: Draw

This is where it has the potential to get ugly in the fight between Cubs and Sox fans.

One of the main strikes against the Sox is they have a corporate-sponsored name for their ballpark, U.S. Cellular Field. Granted, the name was taken in part to help fund $68 million in improvements to the ballpark.

However, they wouldn't have had to fund those improvements if they had built the place the right way the first time. When it opened in 1991, the then-new Comiskey Park was a concrete, soulless place with an upper deck that stretched 29 rows up and was so steep that it winded my very healthy Marine father as he climbed to the 25th row. Yes, it brought the pinwheel, exploding scoreboard from the old park, but it lacked any character or comfort until the renovations, which chopped nine rows from the upper deck and put in black arches over the top to make it more cozy.

Wrigley Field, on the other hand, is considered a cathedral of everything that is good in baseball. Yes, it has had some structure problems that have caught up with a park open since 1914, and men's urinals are troughs. But it still retains the old charm with more day games than most teams, the manual scoreboard and the marquee in a place that with few exceptions (like lights installed in 1988, the last team to do so), is much like it was in the 1940s.

Plus, I've never heard the Cell mentioned as a destination like Wrigley Field, which is kept in a neighborhood rather than fenced off from the outside world like Sox Park is.

PICK: Cubs

Here the teams are similar in that they both have fiery men as their leaders.

Cubs managers Lou Pinella is one of the bigger managerial names in baseball, having managed and won in just about every place he has gone. He spent time with the Yankees, Reds (winning the World Series in 1990), Mariners (first division title in team history in 1995), Devil Rays (nobody could help them at the time) and now the Cubs, whom he has led to division crowns in 2007 and 2008. He also has retained the same passion, taking on umpires and players in the same fashion as ever.

Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen is one of the more popular players to ever play for the Southsiders, and he was an interesting pick when he took over after the 2003 season. He has kept himself in the limelight, constantly baiting opposing players and his own players to keep them on their toes. In his first managerial job, he has kept up a winner, leading the Sox to a World Series title in 2005, his second year on the job.

Experience vs. a world title? Tough call.

PICK: Draw

Both teams have been around for what seems to be forever, the Cubs born in 1876 with the start of the National League, and the Sox in 1901 with the American League. Both have had fairly sad histories, going decades between championships and only winning five titles between them in their histories.

The Sox, while colorful, have been fairly quiet in their history in the World Series, making it to only five title matches in their history (1906, 1917, 1919, 1959 and 2005). The Cubs have been to 10 in their time (1906, 1907, 1908, 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1945), with both teams being dominant early in the 1900s.

That's where the similarities end. The Sox likely would have four titles to their credit if not for the Black Sox scandal of 1919, but they have been to two World Series since World War II and won one in the last 30 years (2005). The Cubs, on the other hand, have not been to a World Series since 1945 (the year World War II ended) and not won one since 1908 (when Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States).

PICK: White Sox

Who wins this year? That is why they play the game on the field. However, if the Cubs' bats can finally wake up and the bullpen can finally get somebody, we'll have to give this round to the Northsiders.

Copyright 2009 - Wait Til Next Century

Friday, June 12, 2009

Was bringing in Bradley a mistake?

Was the Cubs bringing in Milton Bradley over the last season a mistake?

More and more, it is starting to seem that way. The way this season has gone for him, and by extension for the Cubs, it is becoming more and more obvious that hiring Bradley as the new right fielder was the wrong move.

He wasn't exactly an angel prior to this season, during stints with the Dodgers, Indians, Athletics, and last year, the Rangers. In fact, it was his 2008 campaign in Arlington, where he batted .321 with 22 home runs and 77 RBIs in 126 games, that encouraged Jim Hendry to give him $30 million to play right field much of the time.

But prior to that, he was known as being a hothead and injury-prone. In September 2007 with the Padres, he tore his ACL while arguing with an umpire. Last year with the Rangers, he went after a Royals TV announcer because he didn't like comments the broadcaster was making up about him.

But that could have been overlooked. Chicago is a very forgiving town when it comes to passionate and colorful players (see Dennis Rodman during the 1990s with the Bulls, and to a lesser degree, Carlos Zambrano now with the Cubs).

However, that is dependent on if the player is productive and helps the team win. Big Z, while not getting into fights with teammates (see Michael Barrett incident in June 2008) and destroying Gatorade coolers, is productive, including only giving up three hits in eight innings the other night in Houston (The Cubs lost, though, thanks to that shaky bullpen and no run support, again). Bradley has yet to produce, so far only batting .224 with five home runs in only 45 games.

Today's game against the Twins showed deficiencies in other areas. While he did manage to go 2 for 4 with two RBIs, he lost a fly ball in the sun, didn't catch a blooper that cost the Cubs a run, and made a base-running error.

The biggest gaffe, though, came in the eighth inning, when after catching a fly ball from Twins catcher Joe Mauer, tossed the ball into the right field bleachers despite the catch only making it two outs. He, of course, was booed lustily by the Cubbie faithful.

Do the Cubs cut their losses and let Bradley go, perhaps letting last year's big acquistion, Kosuke Fukudome, tend to right field?

If they're smart, Wrigley Field will be the latest one-year stop for Milton Bradley.

Copyright 2009 - Wait Til Next Century

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Da Notebook - June 11, 2009

-- The good news from Houston Wednesday night: Carlos Zambrano was his strong self, pitching eight innings and giving up only three hits and one run. The bad news: Outside of Geovany Soto's one-run home run in the second inning, the Cubs' bats go silent again as they lose to the Astros 2-1.
-- I've always said the Cubs sending Mark DeRosa to Cleveland during the off-season was a mistake. Considering the Cubs' lack of consistent hitting this year, it's proving to hang over the Northsiders in a bad way.
-- Current standings: 29-27, fourth place in NL Central, 2.5 games behind Milwaukee; fifth place in NL wild card, 1.5 games behind New York Mets.

White Sox
-- Pitcher John Danks had his best outing of the season Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Field, allowing only two runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings, but Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander keeps the Sox batters under control as the Tigers win, 2-1.
-- In the same game, Paul Konerko hurt his thumb again, meaning he likely will miss some games.
-- Current standings: 27-33, third place in AL Central, 6.5 games behind Detroit; seventh place in AL wild card, 7.5 games behind New York Yankees.

-- Thanks to trading for QB Jay Cutler, Athlon Sports is picking the Bears to win the NFC North. Considering the Packers and Vikings are not all that competitive, and we won't bother with the Lions, this isn't all that awe-inspiring.
-- Do the Bears have adequate backup QBs for Cutler?

Copyright 2009 - Wait Til Next Century

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Picking major leaguers of the future?

Yesterday was the first round of the 2009 edition of the Major League Baseball draft, and both the Cubs and White Sox went after long-term needs.

How effective the picks will be in the future is a little hard to predict since unlike football and basketball and to a lesser extent, hockey, baseball drafts tend to be more of the long-term investment variety.

First, the Cubs went with California outfielder Brett Jackson with the 31st pick of the draft. Only 20 years and a junior, he is the third position player taken by the Northsiders in the last four drafts. He also is a left-handed lead-off man who hit .326 with a .416 on-base percentage, .568 slugging percentage and 11 stolen bases in 14 attempts over 46 games during the last season. He also was ranked as the second-best overall athlete among college players by Baseball America.

The Sox also went with an outfield, selecting LSU OF Jared Mitchell with the 23rd pick in the first round. With Mitchell, who is only 20 years old, the Southsiders add speed and quickness, a hallmark of Ozzie Guillen's term as manager and something they will need as players like Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye get on in years and look to retirement.

Will either player help their new teams in the future? Only time will tell. As has been said before, the baseball draft does not often promise immediate results that football and basketball can.

Last year's number one for the Cubs, pitcher Andrew Cashner of Texas Christian University, is now pitching with the High-A Daytona Cubs in the Florida State League, though the Sox's top pick, Georgia OF Gordon Beckham, recently was called up to the big club as part of the team's "youth movement." The jury is still out on whether Beckham can handle big league pitching after only 59 games in the minors.

The status of the last few years' picks also prove hit or miss:

Cubs 2007: Cypress (Calif.) High 3B Josh Vitters, picked number three overall, is at Class A Peoria, but looking to possibly make a move up soon, says the Chicago Tribune.

White Sox 2007: P Aaron Poreda also was recently called up to the big club.

The previous years have been hit or miss. Cubs 2006 pick, OF Tyler Colvin, is at AA Tennessee, though likely to move up thanks to the Cubs' outfield troubles, while the Sox's 2004 pick, 3B Josh Fields, is sweating it out under Guillen's regime. Other Cubs top picks like P Kerry Woods (1995), P Mark Prior (2001) and OF Corey Patterson (1998), made some noise for a couple of years, but were ineffective after a short time and have since moved on.

With this year's class, we'll wait and see what happens.

Copyright 2009 - Wait Til Next Century

Da Notebook - June 10, 2009

We're back and it's time to get started again.


-- Ted Lilly provides the pitching and the big bat in leading the Cubs to a 7-1 win over the Astros in Houston Tuesday night. Coupled with losses by the Cardinals and Brewers, the Cubs are now in second place behind the Brewers and by a percentage point over the Cardinals and Reds.

-- Could the Cubs have their third baseman of the future in Josh Vitters? The Chicago Tribune thinks so, though the writer cautions against bringing somebody up so young too quick (he's 19 and playing at Class A Peoria right now).

White Sox
-- Paul Konerko hit a two-run double in the bottom of the ninth inning to force extra innings, but the White Sox ultimately fall to the Tigers, 7-6, Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field after a controversial call that said pinch runner Dewayne Wise was out at home plate trying to score the game-winning run.

-- The Jay Cutler saga continues for the Bears, as both coaching legend Mike Ditka and Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy question whether the Bears got what they bargained for in acquiring the Pro Bowl quarterback in February for Kyle Orton and draft picks. Ditka says Cutler still has to prove himself before being considered among the Bears' all-time greats, while Dungy said the Bears gave up a lot for a QB who has yet to prove himself great.

-- Former Bear Roland Harper gets probation and a year of house arrest in a case that he allegedly acted as a front man in a $1.5 million fraud involving a landscaping contract for Chicago public schools.

- Jarrett Payton, the son of the late, great Walter Payton, has signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

-- Former Bulls and Iowa State coach Tim Floyd resigned from his post as head basketball coach at USC Tuesday in the midst of a scandal that he allegedly provided money to associates of former player O.J. Mayo to get the phenom to sign with the Trojans.

-- Bulls guard Ben Gordon is not acting like a man planning to leave.

Copyright 2009 - Wait Til Next Century

Thursday, June 4, 2009

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