The Redskins are Freakin' Awesome at Calling Elections

This coming Tuesday, Americans will go to the polls to decide one of the most hotly contested presidential races in history. After eight years, George W. Bush will move out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and either John McCain or Barack Obama will back up the Mayflowers.

Now, most of you know from my ASU blog, Pitchfork Nation, that I'm on record as voting for Ric Flair. So, despite my minor in political science from THE Arizona State Univesrity, and the inane amount of CNN that I've been glued to since last February, I'm not the authority to be running to to predict who will win on Tuesday.

Who is, then? Wolf Blitzer? Keith Olbermann? America's Sweetheart Bill O'Reilly?

Nope. Over the years, it's apparently been guys like Joe Theismann, Mark Rypien, Art Monk, John Riggins and Clinton Portis.

You see, over 17 of the past 18 elections, the Washington Redskins have had a knack for showing us who's going to win. The 1936 election in which Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, defeated Republican candidate Alf Landon (who sounds like more of a furniture salesman than a politician) started a trend that for almost 70 years was frighteningly accurate.

Why is this significant? The Redskins, then a franchise based in Boston, beat the Chicago Cardinals (what a surprise! Our Cardinals, losing a game!) 13-10. Several days later, the incumbent Democrat, FDR, won an easy re-election.

In every election between 1936 and 2000, if the Redskins won their last game before a Presidential election, the incumbent stayed in office. Naturally, if the 'Skins lost, the challenger from the opposite party was headed to the White House. It ended in 2004, when Washington lost to Green Bay (and presumably securing a victory for John Kerry) but the Republicans stayed in office.

It's a Monday night affair for the 'Skins this year as they take on Pittsburgh. If all goes according to overwhelming plan, we'll know who the winner on Tuesday is by about 8:00 PM on Monday night.

Here's a record of the remarkable streak the Redskins put together in election years (blue means the Redskins Rule worked, red means it did not):

1936: Democrat incumbent, Redskins defeat Cardinals 13-10, Democrat reelected
1940: Democrat incumbent, Redskins defeat Pittsburgh 37-10, Democrat reelected
Democrat incumbent, Redskins defeat Cleveland 14-10, Democrat reelected
1948: Democrat incumbent, Redskins defeat Boston 59-21, Democrat reelected
1952: Democrat incumbent, Pittsburgh defeats Redskins 24-23, Republican elected
1956: Republican incumbent, Redskins defeat Cleveland 20-9, Republican reelected
1960: Republican incumbent, Cleveland defeats Redskins 31-10, Democrat elected
1964: Democrat incumbent, Redskins defeat Chicago 27-20, Democrat reelected
1968: Democrat incumbent, NY Giants defeat Redskins 13-10, Republican elected
1972: Republican incumbent, Redskins defeat Dallas 24-20, Republican reelected
1976: Republican incumbent, Dallas defeats Redskins 20-7, Democrat elected
1980: Democrat incumbent, Minnesota defeats Redskins 39-14, Republican elected
1984: Republican incumbent, Redskins defeat Atlanta 27-14, Republican reeelected
1988: Republican incumbent, Redskins defeat New Orleans 27-24, Republican elected
1992: Republican incumbent, NY Giants defeat Redskins 24-7, Democrat elected
1996: Democrat incumbent, Redskins defeat Indianapolis 31-16, Democrat reelected
2000: Democrat incumbent, Tennessee defeats Redskins 27-21, Republican elected
Republican incumbent, Green Bay defeats Redskins 28-14, Republican reelected

So, obviously, it's all up to the 'Skins on Monday night. A win means we'll be seeing some John McCain for the next four years, but a loss to the Steelers means it's four years of Ba-racking and rolling.

It's Getting Worse in Omsk

Last I checked, the Soviet Union and it's backwards, defiant and bizarre ways all collapsed in 1991.

Guess not.

A few weeks ago, I brought you analysis on the tragic death of New York Rangers prospect Alexei Cherapanov. The 19-year-old died during a game while playing for Avangard Omsk in the KHL.

There was a lot of criticism from around the world targeted toward the league and Russian authorities for their underwhelming response to the medical emergency, where Cherapanov collapsed and stopped breathing during the 3rd period of a game.

Now, instead of accepting responsibility and trying to find a solution to the problem, Russian authorities are dodging blame. A spokesman for the Russian army says that Alexei was illegally playing for Omsk.


According to Col. Vladimir Karpenko (no relation), Cherapanov should have been serving his mandatory military service rather than playing pro hockey.

"It's been a common practice for the sport club Avangard for many years to send its young boys to serve in the Railway Troops. Naturally, they never stayed in the barracks, they were always training at the sport facilities to get ready for competitions."
Sounds a lot like the special treatment that players for the USSR got during the old days under the Hammer and Sickle flag.
What I'm thinking, though, is wouldn't Cherapanov have suffered from chronic ischemia while serving for the Railway Troops anyway? And isn't it a possibility that any sort of physical activity, such as...I don't know...playing hockey...would have triggered his condition?
None of this makes any sense.

Not buying the Work in Progress

Hope you all like the new layout. I figured it'd make things a little easier to read, because it gives me a ton more flexibility to write...well...pretty much as much as I want.

End plug about the blog. Now onto the meat.

Last night, a lot of what we heard floating from the bowels of the US Airways Center related to the 2008-09 Suns being a work in progress.

I don't buy this for a second.

A work in progress doesn't do into the most hostile territory in Suns history and gut out a win, regardless of Manu Ginobili being out and the Spurs "not caring" until February. It doesn't work like that.

A team with a potential problem of maintaining momentum is what we may have seen last night as the Suns got rolled by the NOOCH (My pet name for the Hornets, a harkening back to the old days when they split games between N'Awlins and Oklahoma City) 108-95 in a game that really wasn't as close as the 13-point margin of defeat may suggest.

The Hornets own the Suns. Period. If the Suns were to face NOOCH in the playoffs in a seven-game series, Chris Paul and the guys in teal might win in three. The Hornets never trailed last night, outshot the Suns all night, turned over the ball at almost half the rate as Phoenix and outstole them to the tune of 10-2.

I'm forgiving of the idea that the team might still be getting used to Terry Porter's style of coachign and the style of play he has introduced. I'm attentive to the fact that this, god forbid, was only the SECOND GAME of the regular season and, according to my Microsoft Outlook calendar, there are 80 more to go.

I'm not buying into the "work in progress" tag. The nucleus of Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire are still intact. The roster as it is, save Matt Barnes (who is an atrocious shooter, officially, and shouldn't be starting), Goran Dragic and Robin Lopez, is the same that gelled down the stretch, went into the playoffs and spent all of training camp together.

This isn't a work in progress. The Suns got beaten by a better team last night, and it might be something we have to get used to in the Western Conference this season.

Some quick other thoughts...
-In 12 minutes of action, I think I liked what I saw out of Goran Dragic, but he needs to get over the jitters. He's just a bit hesitant with his ball movement, and it's going to cost him in the NBA, where the game moves much faster than it does overseas. One thing is for certain though: this kid can pass.

-James Posey signing with NOOCH might end up being the most important, yet nonheralded, free agent pickup of the past offseason if the Hornets end up making the deep run in the playoffs that many expect. He brought New Orleans instant energy off the bench and showed dagger-like accuracy with his three point shooting.

-Did I mention that Matt Barnes shouldn't be this team's starter at the 3? Maybe I didn't. Matt Barnes should not be this team's starter at the 3! As a life-long Warriors fan, I know of Matty's exploits; he doesn't realize that he shot just 29% from beyond the arc last year. Despite that, he continues to launch ridiculous shots from all over the court.


Coyotes Operating Deep in the Red

It's no secret that the Phoenix Coyotes have struggled at the gate in the 4+ seasons since moving to Jobing.com Arena.

Despite the enthusiasm around this year's young and talented squad and the late season surge that almost put the Desert Dogs in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, the team apparently is still in financial dire straits.

A Forbes Magazine report lists the Coyotes as the NHL's least valuable team. According to the article, which is released once per year for every league in the United States, the Coyotes are worth $142 million, $8 million behind the New York Islanders, who came in 29th.

"The plans to expand the NHL to the southwest and ignite economic growth in Glendale, Arizona by meshing a new multi-purpose arena with 6.5 million square feet of new real estate development has been a catastrophe. Under the leadership of Steven Ellman, Jerry Moyes and Wayne Gretzky, the Coyotes have been a dysfunctional and under-capitalized hockey franchise that Gretzky, the team boss, has been unable to get a grip on. Westgate City, in part tied to the success of people showing up for hockey games, has been a bust. As a result of their consistent losses on and off the ice the Coyotes have struggled to draw fans to Jobing.com Arena since the building opened in December 2003. If it were not for the huge fee the team would have to pay as stipulated by their lease if they were to move, it would make sense for the Coyotes to bolt Phoenix." -Forbes

The Islanders, strikingly, are in a much worse off position in terms of hockey operations than the Coyotes; the Isles are clearly in a rebuilding phase, have a roster stocked with NHL also-rans, raw talents and aging vets and play in a dilapidated Nassau Coliseum. That's a 180-degree difference from the 'Yotes, who play in what I think is one of the best buildings in the league, have talent across the board and stand a real chance at making the playoffs in the next season or two.

The Coyotes are also second to last in the NHL in operating income; the team operates in the red to the tune of -$9.7 million. That's 2nd to last in the league, only ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes.

If you're curious, the league's most valuable team, not surprisingly, is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite their recent struggles (the team hasn't made the postseason for three consecutive seasons, a franchise first), the team is, for comparisons sake, simply the New York Yankees of Canada. The top four teams on the list, Toronto, the Rangers, Montreal and Detroit, are four of the NHL's Original Six.

Despite all of this, Forbes says that 2007-08 was the NHL's most successful (financially) in the 10 year history of the survey.

Check out the rest of the report here, which also includes links to their reports on football, basketball, baseball and soccer.

Bizarre and Magnificent Game 5 ends Bizarre and Magnificent 2008

We'd never seen anything like it before. It almost reminded me of Super Bowl XLI, which was the first one ever played in a driving rainstorm. Tuesday night was the first time a World Series game had been suspended due to rain.

It was a microcosm for just how wacky the 2008 MLB season was.

It was a season where...

-A long dormant baseball town (on the national stage, at least) who hadn't seen success since 1982 awakened and passionately supported the Milwaukee Brewers through their first playoff appearance in 26 seasons

-A shrine of baseball closed in the Bronx and ironically, for the first time in 13 years, didn't host a postseason game

-One of baseball's most dominant pitchers got traded and, somehow, became even more dominant after the trade, as CC Sabathia commanded Cy Young talk in the NL after only pitching it for half a season

-The Chicago White Sox, stocked full of veteran leadership, needed two wins in two single-game playoffs after the end of the regular season just to fend off a pesky, young and robust Minnesota Twins squad

-The Florida Marlins continued their final-day-of-the-season dominance of the New York Mets, once again knocking the Amazin's out of the playoffs in game 162

-The LA Dodgers made quite possibly the most prominent trade in their history and actually saw it pan out, as Man-Ram donned #99 and led Los Angeles to their first NLCS since 1988

-A team in Motown with so much expectation and so much hype start 0-7 and finish dead last in the AL Central in a harkening back to...well...four seasons ago

-A team in Cleveland who stumbled just as badly after being a handful of outs away from the World Series in 2007, yet still trotted out baseball's most dominant pitcher every five days

-The Chicago Cubs bucking every trend in history, grabbing 97 wins and their first...well...I guess somethings actually never change

-The Tampa Bay Rays, baseball's version of Larry, Moe and Curly since 1998, proved to all of us that patience is a virtue, that a guy with Hanson Brothers-style glasses CAN manage a baseball team and that even the most futile of teams can do something special. The best part about it is that this nucleus is going to be in St. Pete and be young for a very long time, making their run in 2008 less than a fluke.

-A city that went 100 pro sports seasons between titles finally got theirs, and just to prove that the odds were against them, they had to do it in 27 degree weather. The Phillies, despite their recent regular season success, World Series victory still felt unlikely. They weren't the team that made the big deadline deal to get over the hump, they weren't the team with the curse and the "a few wins too early" signs, they weren't the team with the Nation behind them and they certainly weren't the media darlings from Tampa. They were simply the best team in baseball come October, and they proved it in five terrific baseball games.

It was everything we wanted in a baseball season and more, and it leaves this writer hungry for more in 2009.


Around the NHL is back!

It's back!

Because I know that all of you missed it SO much.

Most of you know that hockey is the sport I actually know best. I fake it pretty well with the other ones, right? Hah! I do know about those as well.

I just know substantially more about the NHL. And since Dr. Kemp doesn't lump hockey into his new Professional Sports That Count organization...it's up to me to fill in that void.

Either way, Around the NHL is coming back this Friday. I'll be joined by Adam Proteau of The Hockey News.


The Debacle in Tucson

I really don't think this coaching situation at the University of Arizona could have been handled any worse.

Looking back at my reporting career, I was at what will go down as Lute Olson's last basketball game. It was a 69-50 loss to Oregon in the first round of the 2007 Pac-10 Tournament in Los Angeles.

In that game, to my recollection, Lute made several questionable coaching moves (I'm almost apt to chaclk that up to how much he hated the tournament), looked like a shadow of his fiery self strolling in front of the Wildcats bench and, most notably, had significant trouble stringing together thoughts during his post game press conference.

It then came as no surprise to me that a few months later, he announced that he was taking a medical leave of absence. That's then this whole bizarre saga began, and while it "ended" last Thursday with Jim Livengood's 2-minute-57-second press conference, this saga isn't even close to being over.

With the announcement today by his doctor that Olson suffered a mild stroke at some point in the past year, this bizarre story just takes another strange turn.

The situation, in my mind, could not have been handled any worse by the UA administration. From the initial announcement of the leave, to the silence about the situation on both ends throughout said leave of absence, to the rumors of Lute's divorce, to the turbulent Kevin O'Neill run and right through Thursday's announcement, was all botched.

I'm all for respecting Lute's privacy, and frankly the privacy of anyone going through any sort of personal situation, but when you've got such a public figure who is so beloved by the Tucson area and is hailed as a hero by many in the profession, people are going to want to know at least a small shred of what's going on.

This story is not going away anytime soon...it will take on different shapes and forms as it develops, but it's certainly far from over.


The ESPNU Trifecta

It's back again. Three more less-than-stellar matchups on The U to keep you entertained during commercial breaks of other games!

It's ACC-heavy for your first two of the Trifecta, and the third one...well...at least it's not Duke.

Game 1, 9:00 AM: Wake Forest at Miami
Oh boy. We already went through why we don't like Miami here on BTS last week when they went to (and stomped on) the Blue Devils. This week, we get to see them play Wake Forest, who was a trendy pick to go to the ACC title game before Maryland took them out to the woodshed and shut them out.

Game 2, 12:30 PM: Virginia at #18 Georgia Tech
Slightly easier to swallow seeing as that it includes a top-25 team and Virginia is apparently a little better than we all expected. However, if you like any shred of a passing game, then forget this one. Georgia Tech has settled into their Triple Option offense and I couldn't even tell you who the Cavaliers starter is without looking it up. It used to be Peter Lalich, but then he got kicked out of school, and no, not for losing 52-7 to USC.

Game 3, 4:00 PM: Middle Tennessee State at Mississippi State
This one has no bearing on anything. Period. Unless you like watching teams get Croomed! MTSU isn't even a factor in the Sun Belt (the Sun Belt! The Sun Belt with THIS team!) Mississippi State was a nice story last season and they did upset Vanderbilt at home a few weeks ago, but it doesn't make this game any more palatable.

My World Series Prediction

I GUESS I should make a World Series prediction here.

First off, I'm thrilled that the Rays won the series...and that's not just because I'm a jaded Yankees fan who thinks all ill that falls on the Red Sox is awesome. I'm not thrilled for the Rays "fans" who have waited through a whopping 9 losing seasons to see their team's success.

I'm happy for Tampa Bay because their players play the game right, the franchise grew and cultivated their own home-grown talent while adding veteran leadership only where necessary.

On the other hand, the Phillies have found the pinnacle of their return to the top of the National League. It's been a long 25 years since the city of Philadelphia has seen a team win a major professional sports title (apologies to the Philadelphia Soul) and this is definitely their best chance to get that title in that era.

So, who's going to win it?

Sorry, Philly. It's going to be the Rays, and it's going to be because of their pitching.

I can't say I was baffled by Charlie Manuel's rotation for the Fall Classic but I still don't think that it matches up well with the Rays lineup. Tonight, its Scott Kazmir against Cole Hamels, and it's probably going to be the Phillies best chance to get a win at Tropicana Field. I don't give Brett Myers much of a chance to leave The Trop with a win in game 2, especially because he'll be going against James Shields, and with Shields sporting a miniscule sub-2.00 ERA at home, Myers will have to keep the Rays off the board.

With 45-year-old Jamie Moyer going against Matt Garza, who has been lights out this postseason, in game 3, I feel like at worst, the Rays will be leading the series 2-1 after Saturday's game. Game 4 is a toss up to me at this point (Sonnanstine vs. Blanton).

These young hurlers in Tampa have proven that the pressure of postseason baseball has done nothing to phase them. Unless they engage in a complete collapse in this series, I feel like they'll be the ones leading the Rays to their first world title.


Week 7 Pigskin Podcast!

In addition to getting it on iTunes and at thefan1060.com, I'm making the Pigskin Podcast available to you on my blog too.

In this week's show...

-An early preview of this Sunday's Cards/Panthers match-up
-A breakdown of why the 49ers fired Mike Nolan
-Will the Colts miss the playoffs?
-And as always, the plays of the week!

Domination AND Perfection

Click on the image above to blow it up, and what you'll see is pretty self-explanatory.

With all the incredibly knowledgeable sports personalities on this station, sometimes we need to keep them in check.

And that's exactly what I, the assistant program director of this here radio station, and Angel, our program director, did during Week 7 of The Fan AM 1060's Fan Pick'em.

As you'll see, both of us went 11-3. And not only did we completely clean up (Manuch tied us at 11-3 as well, but this is all about me here)...Angel and I both predicted that last night's Broncos/Patriots debacle would put up 48 points.

Take that!

More importantly, the huge week vaulted me into a tie with Kevin McCabe, who went a paltry...pfft...10-4. Weak.


As we all know, it's my sole mission this season to finish ahead of McCabe in the standings, and I'm one step closer to that goal!

By the way...little known fact...tried Googling the McCabe name this morning in the Image Search, and a photo of the REAL K-Mac doesn't come up for 9 PAGES! Before our midday host's mug even pops up, you get images of a Kevin McCabe who runs the Sheffield United soccer club, a Kevin McCabe who is the Deputy Chief of Police in Albuquerque, NM, self-professed "dumbass" Charles Barkley and Hope Solo.

Ed. Note: The only purpose of that last paragraph was to sneak a picture of Hope Solo into this blog.)


Thats Why I...Love...This...Town

It takes a LOT to ruin a song by Bon Jovi for me.

A LOT. And the TBS coverage of the MLB playoffs, no matter how good it has been, has almost ruined I Love This Town, regardless of whether or not JBJ is the master of all he surveys.

Regardless, I do love San Jose/Santa Clara, CA, the town where I grew up, and I'm headed back there this weekend. Tomorrow night, to be exact.

That building in the picture is HP Pavilion. I grew up there. Well, not literally. My parents provided me with an actual home, but I spent enough time going to San Jose Sharks games there during my youth that the barn has basically become an ad hoc second home.

Regardless, I haven't been there for a hockey game in two long years. And I'll be making my reappearance for this Saturday's Sharks/Flyers game.

This entire backstory is basically my message to you, loyal reader, that my posts might be few and far between between Thursday and Sunday nights. I'll be back in full form on Monday the 20th. Maybe I'll even post some pictures of my foray back to the Shark Tank.

And if you just can't get enough of I Love This Town, here it is:
I Love This Town - Bon Jovi

Or, if you'd rather have it sung to you by a group of baseball legends (oh, and Ernie Johnson), here you go.


Pigskin Podcast - Week 6

Every Tuesday morning, you can listen to the Pigskin Podcast, hosted by CAS producer Bryan Gibberman and myself, over on the main site for our station, thefan1060.com.

Figured it'd make sense to throw it up here as well. Click the little green play button to listen. Enjoy!

Rangers Star Prospect Dies During Game

The death of anybody, especially a 19-year-old kid, is stunning, tragic and terrible news.

It's especially worse when it was totally preventable by the most basic of medical care.

Enter the story of Alexei Cheraponov, the 19-year-old budding hockey superstar.

I'm sure you've seen the story. Cheraponov died on Monday while playing a game with Avangard Omsk, a team in the new Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. Plenty of controversy surrounded the KHL this past offseason, whether it be the lack of a formal transfer agreement between the NHL and IIHF, the Alex Radulov incident and so forth.

However, now it's got another, and much more serious, controversy.

Apparently, there was no defibrilator at the arena outside Moscow. There wasn't even an ambulance there. It took several critical minutes to get appropriate medical personnel to the rink, then about 20 minutes after that to get him to a Moscow hospital. There wasn't even a defbrilator in the ambulance that carried Cherepanov to the hospital.

"There are elements of negligence here," says Pavel Krasheninnikov, a member of the supervisory board of the Russian Hockey Federation.

I think that gets the blue ribbon for "understatement of 2008."

It is an absolute travesty that this rink did not have ANY appropriate medical equipment. We've seen two instances since the lockout where a player in the NHL suffered a devestating illness or injury during a game (Johan Franzen went into cardiac arrest on the bench and Richard Zednik's skate to the throat), but on both occasions, lives were saved because appropriate medical personnel and lifesaving equipment were stationed at the rink.

It's now an industry standard. Every arena and stadium in the NFL, NHL, NBA, NCAA and MLB are fully equipped for a rare instance like this. 99% of the time, it's thankfully not necessary.

The Russians need to take a serious look at what they're doing here.

Posted below is amateur video of Cherepanov passing out on the bench and being carried off. There's nothing really graphic about it but if you can't handle intense moments like this, I'd advise to not watch.

If you do, and you recognize the player wearing #68 standing up at the front of the bench...yes, that's Jaromir Jagr. The former NHL mega-star was talking to Cheraponov on the bench when he passed out.

Pacman Fever

The Pacman name may have been left in the dust this season, but the image and persona obviously never was.

It all came to a head...again...this morning as NFL commish Roger Goodell announced that he's suspending the Cowboys corner indefinitely...which means he'll at least miss four games.

This, of course, comes after Jones missed all of 2007 due to repeated violations of the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy.

Enough is enough now. It's obvious to me that Jones doesn't grasp the idea or is mature enough to handle the responsibilities of being a professional football player. Knowing Goodell's track record, this will probably be the end.

I'm not going to be surprised when Jones is suspended for another year...two years...or even kicked out of the NFL entirely.

This all of course spawns from an incident at a Dallas hotel last Wednesday in which he reportedly scuffled with his personal babysitter bodyguard guy who followed Pacman around to make sure he didn’t screw up. They fought, trashed a bathroom and left without paying their bar tab...leading to this bizarre and cryptic police report.

If Roger Goodell wants to continue to set his precedent as the toughest sheriff in sports, he'll consider an ultra-long term penalty after his temporary four-gamer expires on November.

In a related story, the Dallas Cowboys will be starting three of their cheerleaders in the absense of Pacman, Tony Romo and Mat McBriar.


Quit Bagging the NHL Playoffs

I'm getting excited about this Phoenix Coyotes team. I went to opening night and witnessed a team that, for the first time in years, could skate, pass and hit like a top flight NHL team.

If their two opening week wins over Columbus and Anaheim are any indication of what we're going to see through the other 80 games this season, then the Desert Dogs really do have a legit chance of making a run at the postseason. Going into the season, I believed that the Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks were going to be the two teams that would be scrapping for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

However, once again, the cynics and critics are out in force when it comes to the NHL and the amount of teams it lets into the postseason. I've heard it too many times in my 18 years of watching, playing and covering hockey: "How can you miss the playoffs in the NHL...more than half the teams make it!"

This is a load of crap.

The last I checked, people will make that remark and then go on to claim, this time correctly, that the Stanley Cup Playoffs is the most grueling and gutty postseason tournament in professional sports. And the last I checked, and I'm not trying to hate on other sports here, but the NBA also throws the top eight in each conference into the playoffs as well.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic wrote a really good column after the 'Yotes 3-1 win over the Blue Jackets about his optimism about the direction of this team, but then took what I perceived to be the jab:

"The struggles of the Coyotes are well documented. Their forays into the free-agent market have been futile fishing expeditions. They haven't made the playoffs since 2002, in a league where 16 of 30 teams qualify for the postseason."

Take a look at the 2007-08 seasons in the NBA and NHL. In the NBA, Toronto, Philadelphia and Atlanta all made the playoffs with .500 or below records, with the Hawks having the worst record amongst playoff qualifiers in the history of the NBA. Washington, just above Toronto at 41-41, was in 5th with a record only two games over .500.

In the NHL last season, Carolina, Buffalo, Florida, Toronto, Edmonton, Chicago, Vancouver and Phoenix all missed the playoffs with records over .500. Most of those teams (save Toronto) were in a legit race for the final spots going into the latter half of March.

So before you go and devalue a team in the NHL because they don't make the playoffs in a "league where 16 of 30 teams qualify," take a look at the precedent set last season and how competitive the league has become.

The Weekly ESPNU Trifecta

I'm a huge college football junkie. If there's one sport that I follow as close as hockey, it has to be NCAA football.

As many of you probably do as well, I make sure to keep a close eye on the TV listings as they come out. I'm always interested in seeing what games ESPN, CBS and ABC are picking up so I can plan my Saturday around what I'm watching.

However, possibly my favorite thing to check out is the schedule of the weekly ESPN U tripleheader. It's almost comical how the four-letter network can find three of the most irrelevant games to throw on The U every day.

So, on that note, every week on this blog, I'll bring you what I call the ESPNU Trifecta.

Game 1, 9:00 AM
Connecticut at Rutgers - I'm all about Donald Brown. He's probably the best running back in the Big East and he's a ton of fun to watch. Outside of that, I see no appeal to this match-up. Rutgers was the flavor of 2006 but is 1-5 this season and a total also-ran now. UConn is on their 2nd string quarterback and seems to be fading fast.

Game 2, 12:30 PM
Miami at Duke - Miami has made strides over the past season and a half under Randy Shannon, but they're coming off the win over FSU in what's now a nationally irrelevant rivalry and barely squeaking by in-state rival(?) Central Florida. Do I really have to make a case against Duke here? Their roster reads more like the capitals of former Soviet Republics rather than football players. Pop quiz: Is 'Oghobaase' the name of a Blue Devils defensive tackle or the capital of Azerbaijan?

Game 3, 4:00 PM
Arkansas at Kentucky - OK, OK...Arkansas is coming off of a pretty nice upset win on the road over Auburn. But last I checked, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones are gone and no one this side of Jerry Jones is watching them outside of Little Rock. As for Kentucky, if you thought last year was building on anything, forget it. Lexington has always been and will continue to be a basketball town.