Is Jim Harbaugh sabatoging the 49ers for a little Luck in 2012?

A rather nefarious plot seems to be afoot when it comes to the Forty-Niners.  I believe…Jim Harbaugh is planning to tank the season in order to get the number one pick in 2012 so he can take Andrew Luck and potentially usher in a new era of winning in the Bay. 

Consider the following evidence:

1) After Harbaugh guides Stanford to one of their best records ever, he pushes out of the college ranks and into the NFL.  He manages to snag a team in the Stanford area that totally underachieved in the NFL’s weakest division.  Best case scenario for him?  Absolutely – except he appears to be running some sort of long con on the fan base by setting himself up for 2012.

2) Andrew Luck stays in college despite being the guaranteed number one pick in the 2011 draft.  This is fishy all the way and simply does not add up any way you look at it.  For one thing, the NFL appeared to be headed towards a lockout and the collective bargaining was going to change.  Rookie salaries and guaranteed money were almost certain to change.  Luck cost himself significant money by not coming out, in addition to risking injury and “previous number one droppage” (when the top pick in one year – Matt Leinart anyone? – stays in College and drops in the draft) in 2012.  Why would he stay at University unless he knew he was going to be reunited with his old Stanford coach…in San Fran?

3) Harbaugh does not go after any free agent QB’s and names Alex “Not an NFL QB” Smith his starting QB.  Why would he do this unless he planned on tanking the entire season?  Keep in mind San Fran is now being called the worst team in the league.  Last year at this time they were a good bet to win a terrible division and make the playoffs!  Harbaugh has done nothing other than making the team worse!  Their D line is terrible, they lost their linebacking core and despite having a pretty good recieving core (Crabtree, VD, Braylon Edwards) he names a starting QB who cannot possibly win games

So, to sum it all up: Jim Harbaugh took a potential playoff team and made them much, much worse.  The only explanation?  An agreement with Luck in 2012.  Thanks Jim, for throwing away the season…

…and making me really excited for our next franchise QB in 2012.

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The Bobby Baun Hall of Fame

A few years ago (okay, 47 years exactly),a man  a legend named Bobby Baun broke his leg in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings.  He was hit in the ankle with a shot, went off to the training room and was told the following: His leg was broken.   

Most athletes would have quietly accepted their diagnosis and returned to the bench in their street clothes – some NBA players…(cough, cough Andrew Bynum) would have enjoyed it – Baun took another route.  He asked for his leg to be frozen and then inexplicably returned to the game

Had the tale ended then and there, Mr. Baun would not be the namesake of the following Hall of Fame, however, the story was far from over.  Baun not only returned to the lineup, he went on to score the winning goal in overtime.   Yes, the man continued to play with a broken leg even when the game went to overtime.  Then he scored the game winner, with the series on the line for the Leafs. 

Baun was far from finished – he went on to play in Game 7 and help lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup.  The fellow in the picture on the right who shows no indication of the broken leg while he jubilantly celebrates with Lord Stanley is the Patron (Padrone and Godfather) of only the most dedicated and resiliant in sports history.  The Bobby Baun Hall of Fame honors those who fought through normally horrendus injuries or illness to play in the toughest of times.   

How does an athlete become eligable for The Bobby Baun Hall of Fame?  

1) The injury / illness must be significant Playing with a slight head cold does not count for anything here.  The injury must be serious enough that the player would normally sit out but instead choses to tough it out. 

2)  Only playoff time counts – An injury sustained during the regular season and played through is important, but in the playoffs there must truly be no such thing as an injury.  The stage on which the athlete played through the injury definitely plays a factor: if your team is being massacred in the first round and you play through a torn knee does not mean as much as triumphantly returning to a Stanley Cup Finals game with your team on the brink of elimination and scoring the winning goal in ot despite your broken freaking leg! 

3) The return to the Game / Series must have a positive impact on your team – If you should not have played and made the team worse, you will not get as high a place in the Bobby Baun HOF; conversely, if the team won and you were the reason, your rank will be much higher.  Ideally, the team should win the Championship led by the injured player.

4) Lifetime durability will be given a special section. 

5) Andrew Bynum / Wilt Chamberlain / Greg Oden / Alex Mogiliny need not apply.  Additionally, playing hungover does not equal playing with an injury.  Sorry 1990’s Cowboys.   

6) Superstars stepping up means more – Let’s face facts: if Michael Jordan plays with an injury and dominates, he will have a larger overall impact on his teammates then if Bill Wennington triumphantly returns from a torn clapping hand. 

7) A new class is eligable each year at the end of August.

Without further ado, some of the initial inductees to the Bobby Baun HOF:

Baun, Bobby – See above.

Jordan, Michael – Scoring 38 points in an NBA Finals Game was a frequent occurance for His Airness.  Scoring 38 points with a brutal flu and single-handedly leading his team to victory in Game 5 the 1997 NBA Finals was a once in a lifetime event.  Jordan was weak, feverish and collapsed in Scottie Pippen’s arms at the conclusion of his Epic Game.

Elway, John – We are slightly cheating here because we have no proof Elway was actually injured at any point in the Super Bowl…but he most certainly was.  When he stretched out and took a brutal hit to gain a crucial third down in the fourth quarter against Green Bay it showed just how much Elway wanted his first ring.  He definitely earned every inch of it and personified winning at all costs to an entire generation. 

Ripken Jr, Cal / Favre, Brett – Special mention goes to these two men who fought through all kinds of injuries (including, in Ripken’s case a freak broken nose at an All-Star photo shoot) and emotional trauma (the death of Favre’s father) to become the “Iron Men” of their respective sports. 

Howe, Gordie – Not Hockey’s Iron Man…but he should be.  “Mr. Hockey” excelled for nearly four decades in Pro Hockey (you read that right…4 decades) and played well into his 50’s (even making an All-Star Game in the WHL).  Tough as nails and one of the greatest hockey players ever, Gordie simply did not believe in either aging or injures.

Pierce, Paul – In Game One of the 2008 NBA Finals, Paul Pierce was carried off the court after a nasty collision.  The Lakers proceeded to have their way with the Celtics.  Pierce had never made it past round 2 in the playoffs until this point and he made the most of it.  His dramatic return led to a Celtics victory in the Game and completely shifted the entire series.  Rumors swirl about the actual degree of his injury but his impact on the game and series upon his return negates all speculation.

Yzerman, Steve – Stevie Wonder injured his knee early in the 2001/2002 Campaign and while this would have stopped most NHL’s cold, he had other priorities.  Chief among them was winning the Stanley Cup.  Playing on one leg for the entire season and playoffs, Yzerman was able to achieve his goal.  In the process he won the Conn Smyth trophy and essentially willed the Red Wings to victory. 

Koufax, Sandy – The 1965 World Series is one that has gone down in history due to the remarkable performance of Sandy Koufax.  His arm had been bothering him all season and by the World Series appeared to be in serious danger of falling off.  Despite the pain, Koufax dominated all season…then refused to pitch Game 1 of the Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.  (At this point you are wondering how he could possibly be eligable for the Bobby Baun HOF…but just you wait…)  Koufax pitched a complete game shutout in Game 5, leading the Dodgers to a 3-2 Series Lead…then returned to pitch Game 7 on two days rest – with his still injured arm.  All Sandy did in Game 7 was throw a three hit shutout to clinch the series.  Shockingly, he was voted MVP. 

Kesler, Ryan – Against the San Jose Sharks, Kesler “blew a tire” and was carted off while panicked Canucks fans went into near cardiac arrest.  Fortunately, not playing was definitely not in the cards and Kesler immediately returned to score the goal that sent Game 5 to OT.  He would play the entire 2011 Stanley Cup Finals on one leg. 

Rondo, Rajon – After a bad collision with Dwyane Wade, Rondo got up and his arm was pointing the wrong direction.  He left, then came back and proceeded to win Game 3 singlehandedly.  Unfortunately, the Miami Heat realized he could not play defense and torched him the rest of the series.  He makes the HOF for his immortal post-game comments; when asked how his arm was, Rondo responded “Still broke, hurts pretty bad, but I’ma keep playing”.

Bossy, Mike and the 1983 Islanders – The 80’s Islanders played through everything.  After defeating Wayne Gretzky’s Oilers in the 1983 Stanley Cup Finals, Gretzky and Kevin Lowe noted that no celebration came from the Isles locker room.  Instead, everyone was hurting and getting treatment.  Lowe commented “that is what it takes to win”. 

Exactly

Ladies and Gentlemen, your Inagural Class of Inductees for the Bobby Baun Hall of Fame. 

 

LeBron vs. Pantheon TV Scenes

The career of LeBron James has been one of the most interesting in NBA history – on one hand he is the most physically gifted player in the history of the game, and on the other he is a shrewd businessman who has yet to fully reach his potential.  Recently, I was thinking about my Pantheon TV scenes and decided one of the following:

A) My favorite all-time scenes can serve to illuminate key moments in LeBron’s career.

B) I really want to write about my favorite TV scenes. 

#1) Mad MenThe Carousel

Why: The Carousel is one of the most affecting and powerful scenes in Mad Men (a show which has several potential scenes that could have made the cut) and perfectly illustrations the feeling of nostalgia.  LeBron entered the league with a frightening amount of promise and immediately took us to a place few had ever seen before.  He was a combination of MJ / Bird and Magic and yet had a uniqueness that made him seen new.  At times he can bring us to an entirely new place and show us the future; at others he takes us back to the days of a glorified past.  The Carousel is all about what we have and how much we can gain or lose.  LeBron’s potential has yet to be fully tapped but despite his business-like exterior, he takes us to dizzying heights both fresh and familiar.

#2) Oz – The Death of Adebisi

Why: Oz has been criminally underrated and never been given the proper amount of credit for blazing a trail in television that allowed for shows like The Sopranos / The Wire / Breaking Bad.   The show routinely killed major characters and was incredibly dark and character driven (as one would expect about a show set in prison).  Yet, more than any other scene that I have witnessed in my life, the death of Adebisi has long been the gold standard for television.  It looms over all others for me to the point that years and years later it still remains the most vivid in my mind.  The way the scene was slowly came about over time and the death of a prominent character who had been built up over several seasons made it all the more shocking.  From the moment Adebisi entered the scene in Season One every action he took led to the his death in Season 4.  The brilliant Tom Fontana essentially put two of his main charactersinto a cell with a shank and only one of them coming out alive.  Gutsy, risky and innovative: and it paid off hugely.  The twist at the end is brutal and the death of the show’s  kingpin would loom large for the next two seasons of the show.  How does this possibly relate to LeBron?  This is pretty much what he did to Cleveland.  On National television…it was a brutal, unexpected twist that has set his career on an entirely new path.  Much like the transition OZ made after Adebisi’s death, LeBron continues his post-Cleveland transition. 

#3) The Shield – Overcome

Why: The second season montage that closed out the season for The Shield is a meditation on greed and the beginning of the end for Vic Mackey’s Strike Team.  The team just robbed an Armenian money train and the haunting image of them staring at their ill gotten gains as the full weight of what they have done hits them is one of the best shots ever.  The look of disgust on their faces as everything settles is a testament not only to the abilities of the actors, but also of the writers.  Sort of reminds me of LBJ / Chris Bosh and DWade hitting the stage and talking up their eight championships shortly after the Heat hit the free agent bonanza.  There is always a cost and consequence for each action and it was never better illustrated than on The Shield

#4) Californication – Season 3 Ending

Why:  The closure of every season is very important for television shows as they have to provide resolution to their current arcs while also setting up future ones in order to bring back viewers next season.  No show understood that balance better than Californication during its third season: this scene, completely soundless and set to the haunting “Rocket Man” plays out like the ending of a Greek tragedy.  It is painful, frustrating, destructive and emotionally devestating.  Remind you of anything?  The 2011 NBA Finals felt like this, just when you thought it could not get any worse, all the characters end up totally drowning under the crushing weight of their actions.  When I first saw this scene I ended up watching it four or five times consequtively, it is the perfect season ender and a pantheon worthy addition…sort of like the Miami Heat were supposed to be. 

Okay, so maybe I just wanted to write about my favorite TV scenes on a sports blog…

What are your thoughts, dear reader?  What scenes did I miss?  What else belongs in the pantheon?

The LeDream begins…

Welcome to the LeDream scenario for basketball and Miami Heat fans: LBJ is working on his post game with none other than Hakeem “the Dream”. 

For years and years the only real complaint about LeBron’s game has been his lack of a go-to low post move like that of Jordan or Kobe.  Essentially, he is all raw skill and talent at this point: working with Hakeem and learning the “dream shake” could change things a little bit. 

According to this article on SI.com, the LeDream of an unstoppable LeBron is about to begin.  For fellow Heat fans this is a LeDream Come True as LeBron states what every basketball fan has been waiting for him to say for nearly eight years: “Right now I’m focusing on being a better player, working on my game every single day.” 

As if that was not enough, he goes right ahead and continues: “Like I said, the Dallas Mavericks were a great team and they deserved to win that championship. And I’ll just use that as motivation coming into this season”

LeBron…working on his game…using the loss as motivation…wanting to win an Olympic Gold in 2012…it is almost more than I can take – in the best possible way.  I am overcome with joy that the greatest player of his generation (his, Kobe fans, not the past one) is finally becomming unstoppable.   Not only has he said all the right things, but you could pick a worse mentor in the low post game than Hakeem “perhaps the best center of his era” Olajuwon who won two titles with the Rockets.  Hakeem knows what it takes to win and his dream shake left the best of his time in the dust. 

If LeBron were able to suddenly learn how to play the low post game of basketball alongside instead of cruising on his riduculous skill set, the rest of the league (whenever they start playing) is pretty doomed.  Can you picture LeBron unleashing something like this Dream Shake in Game One and the rest of the NBA coming to a full stop with the frantic realization that there is no longer any way to stop him?

Good start LBJ, keep using the loss as fuel for next year. 

And keep working on the LeShake – can’t wait to see how the rest of the NBA tries in vain to stop the 2012 NBA Champs.

Bringing the Heat – The Old Look Eagles

The Eagles are the hands down winners of the NFL Free-Agency Frenzy; yet their team looks oddly familiar…

In 1991 Philly reporter Mark Bowden spent an entire season with the Eagles as they fought and scrambled for an NFL Title.  The team was one of the best the Eagles have ever fielded and the book remains one of the best written about the NFL and the lives of the players.  If you want to know what it feels like to play in the NFL then you should read this book. 

The team the Eagles have put together for the 2011 NFL season looks very similiar to their ’91 team.  Firstly the QB position is stocked with the most athletic and talented in the league (’91 Randall Cunningham / ’11 Mike Vick) and a capable backup (’91 Jim McMahon / ’11 Vince Young or…Brett Favre who makes a good “over the hill vet” comparison with McMahon) who can carry the team if necessary.  A quick aside on Vince Young – probably the best decision he has ever made.  Not only can he learn from a player who has been on top, lost it all and then regained it but he can learn how to evolve his skills from someone who has already been there.  If Vick goes down the Eagles offense will not have to change because they have a player with a similar skill set who can step in.  Is he a proven winner?  No.  Is he a head case?  Absolutely.  Can he run and throw with the best in league history?  I believe so.

Secondly, the defense is anchored by the best free-agent in football (’91 Reggie White, shortly before he was on his way out / ’11 Asmougha) and is one of the toughest units in Pro Ball (including getting Rodgers-Cromartie in exchange for the mostly unproven Kevin Kolb). 

Finally, the Eagles are gearing for a major run at the Super Bowl and their ability to completely blindside the other teams in their division has them as one of the favorites.  The Giants now appear to be a distant second or third in the division (probably third since the Cowboys are sort of a mess).  At the end of Bowden’s book, the Eagles fell short despite their best efforts (and Randall Cunningham proving to be among the biggest headcases in NFL history; could I have read this book before the ’98 Vikes exploded?)

Could we see a Super Bowl with a “Mean Green” battle in 2012 – Jets vs. Eagles?