All I Want for Christmas

The holidays are again upon us, and once again we here at The Cover Corner want to wish everyone a safe and joyus time.  We do, however, have a few things we would not mind seeing under the tree during this wonderful season:

1. Adrian Peterson rightfully getting the MVP Award – If anyone can break the “QB’s are the only guys who can be MVP” streak, it is the man chasing the all-time rushing record.  Peterson is on the cusp of the greatest season a running back has ever put together (not to mention the whole acl tear less than a year ago) and he has his team in position to potentially make the playoffs.  People seem to be forgetting that his QB is Christian Ponder and defenses are loading nine guys in the box to stop him – and he still rushes for 200 yards.  No player in the league is as valuable to his team, because quite simply, without AP the Vikes are in contention for the number one pick; with him they are a contender. 

2. The Return of DRose – As my brother, Just Ross, said today “I think Rose might just be my favorite player in the league”.  The NBA, despite being great this year, is really missing one of its marquee stars.  With Rose, Miami has genuine competition in the East (sure the Knicks are great but can they win a 7 game series with LeBron and Co playing 4 full quarters of basketball?) and that stretches the team and makes them better.  Everyone needs rivals to vanquish, even Miami. 

3. Chelsea sticks with a coach for a full season – The Blues sack managers about as regularly as Walmart or Starbucks turn over their staff so it seems like it might be benefical for the team to attempt to fully turn over control to someone and see what they can build (I am not stating for the record that person should be Rafa Benitez necessarily).  Chelsea is going through a weird, transitionary period in which they have a lot of vets and a lot of young players fighting for playing time.  Eventually there will be a changeover in players as Terry, Lampard and Cole make their way to richer pastures but until then, they need a system that can maximize the copious and very different talents of all the players involved, for better or for worse.




The NFL Game of the Year says “You’re Welcome”

On Sunday night one of the most epic games of this NFL season went down to the wire in truly remarkable fashion.  The San Fran 49ers managed to hold off a crazy charge by the New England Patriots to get a huge win that goes a long way towards sealing off their division and the number two seed.  For the Pats, they are no staring down a long road to the number two seed in the AFC. 

Many discussed this game in terms of a potential Super Bowl preview and rightly so: these are two of the best teams in football and if this is how the big game plays out I do not think anyone will be disappointed.  This game brought us so much:

– Unlike their undefeated year this will help keep the Pats on track.  After their huge win against the Texans, the Pats needed a reality check and now they have gotten it.  Now Bill can refocus them for the playoffs!  The rest of the AFC rejoices!

– Harbaugh made the right call putting Colin “Steve Young Jr.” Kaepernick who threw four great tds (including one to Randy Moss) and has been a generally exciting player.  One of the main reasons Colin is starting is because he has “it” and that has been very apparent.  He can make plays and he can win football games.  This is a guy who can lead you to a title.  And will…this year.

– The conditions led to a sloppy game full of turnovers AND a bizarre 20 minute review…followed by a review of the review.  All of this delay stemmed from a special teams “fumble” which was very, very strange. 

The Niners will win the Super Bowl, I am certain now, and I know this because we now have a QB who has “Tom Bradyied” the starter.  By this I refer of course to the situation in which Tom Brady scooped Drew Bledsoe’s job and went on to become one of the five best QB’s of All Time.  Will Kaepernick do the same?  Maybe, but he has taken Alex Smith’s job and earned holding on to it.  Smith was a good player, but Kaepernick is a guy who can be transcendant.  He is a guy who changes a franchise and leads them to great things.  Smith wins games – Kaepernick wins titles.  Consider the gauntlet thrown Pats, because if we are lucky enough to get a rematch in the Super Bowl we will all be pretty happy about it.  The Master taking on the Student. 

The Association – A Little Bit Melo

As the first quarter of the 2012 / 2013 NBA season zooms past, one story has dominated (aside from the Epic Failure of the Lakers and their coaching changes) and that is, without question the return of the New York Knicks to basketball relevancy. The key to the team has been their superstar, Carmelo Anthony – a man who has a huge upside, and just as large downside. How can we accurately access whether or not the Knicks are for real as a contender without taking a closer look at the two, warring sides of Melo.

The Pros:
– Melo is without doubt one of the ten best players in the league when he wants to be.
– He has proven (mostly in the Olympics) that he has the ability to coexist with high quality teammates for short periods of time and run a high octane, shoot the lights out offense.
– He can score at will and has no qualms about taking a big shot in a big moment.
– Loves the spotlight and is basically perfectly suited to the pressures of playing in New York; which he even admitted are present in an off season interview with Esquire Magazine. He has said he understands he is the player with the most pressure on him to succeed and win a title, something many observers felt had bypassed him and moved on to CP3 or Dwight Howard.
– Won an NCAA Title and does indeed know what it takes to win on some level.
– Dwight Howard usurped his title as the biggest idiot in the game and had a longer and even more protracted divorce from Orlando than Melo did from Denver.
– Could win it all if the Knicks keep it up.

The Cons:
– At some point he will revert to the “ISO Stat Ball” player we all know and love. This is of course when he cares about nothing aside from his own stats, especially at the expense of his own team.
– Has proven time and again that he is only out for himself (had to go to NYC, had to beat out Amare, could not coexist with Lin etc.)
– Is a ball stopper on an offense that is working because of ball movement.
– Never cared about playing defense and is really just a scorer who has little other all around skills.
– Was a brief “Double Ewing Theory” Candidate when the Nuggets suddenly became awesome without him and then the Knicks did the same with Linsanity (remember the “should the Knicks trade Melo for Dwight” question which seemed legit?)
– Has never won anything meaningful in the NBA.
– Even though Howard now looks like the bigger d-bag, Melo did have a long and drawn out “trade me to NYC or else” thing going for 7 months in which he killed a team in Denver that could have been legitimate contenders. Again, they were much, much better without him.
– Has won one playoff game in the past several years.

Which Melo will we see going forward – the Melo who knows what it takes / what it means to win, or the Melo who only wants to see his name in the lights with 40 points and a Knicks loss?

The Association – The Golden State Warriors?!

Warriors continue to roll!

Warriors continue to roll!

Ever since I was a young basketball fan a decade ago, I always sort of liked the Golden State Warriors. For some reason the team by the Bay always seemed to speak to me – especially in the years following the loss of the Vancouver Grizzlies. One of my favorite moments in Basketball was the Golden State Warriors, led by skinny Baron Davis, taking down the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs in one of the most startling upsets in NBA History.
Now the team is rolling for the first time in a decade and has defeated my beloved Miami Heat. How in the world are the (suddenly for real) Warriors capturing the affections of a basketball loving world? Here are some reasons:
1. They have a fantastic young core – In the past couple of years, the team has made some interesting and tough trades; they got rid of Monta Ellis and added injury prone Andrew Bogut (who has yet to contribute significantly this season) to help emerging (injury prone) star Steph Curry. They picked up the talented Klay Thompson and have a solid inside guy with David Lee. The team had to choose between Ellis and Curry and at this point in the season it seems they picked the right young player to build around. Steph Curry is having the best season of his career, and David Lee is amazingly shooting a frighteningly high percentage. Can they keep it up?
They have a great fan base and team history – The team has a genuine tradition of winning going all the way back to the 1970’s (led by the most hated NBA Player of All Time – Rick Barry) and after a very long absence from importance, the Warriors are back. It feels good to have them back, they are a proud franchise that have great fans and the NBA is all the better having their games matter.
They took down the Champs at the last second – The Warriors did not lead from the outset: they clawed and scrapped their way back into the game and Miami gave it away at the end. However, the Warriors just found a way to win and the Heat did not (admittedly, injuries are a factor). What team would attempt to win a game on a back door pass to a 2nd round rookie? The Warriors, that is who. Amazing.
They look like they have great team chemisty – Again, a second round rookie came through for them and everyone was super happy about it! Incredible.
Now, maybe we can talk about getting the banged up Heat back on track; or the incredible Knicks who are laying the smack down on the rest of the league. Melo = MVP?

My Life as a Chelsea Fan – Dec 8, 2012

Earlier this week, as Chelsea closed out their Champions League play for 2012 / 2013 under new manager Rafa Benitez it became increasingly clear exactly what kind of roller coaster the team is taking its fans on: a twisty, unending, gut clenching ride.

Fans have had to contend with a team desperately searching for its identity from the top down.  At one point, early in the Premier League season, Chelsea was having their best start in years, were playing ridiculously well and had apparently seamlessly integrated their wealth of new players such as Eden Hazard and Oscar.  The team was riding high at the top of the table and seemed virtually unstoppable.  It was not to last.

As hot as the Blues started, they cooled frighteningly fast – and rather dramatically.  Within six or seven games the team was staring down their worst opening to the season in the last ten years.  Suddenly the passing stopped, the team could not score and the players who had started strongly (Mata, Torres, Hazard) were suddenly non factors.  Within a couple of weeks they were dropping like a stone down the table, fired previous manager Roberto Di Matteo and hired Benitez.

Under Benitez it has been much of the same – the team struggling to get wins.  Until this week they had not gotten a win under their new manager.  Now they have two: the first came during a disappointing finish to their Champs League season.  The team needed to win and they needed Juventus to lose in order to sneak through to the round of 16 and defend their title.  For the first time in a month, they played incredibly well (albeit against subpar competition) and were able to pull out a huge victory.  Without most of their vets (Lampard, Terry) the team fired on all cylinders and netted six goals.  Moreover, their sullen striker Fernando Torres got a huge boost by scoring two strong goals and generally playing hard all game.  One player got them over the hump: after a pair of missed penalties, David Luiz ran up and smashed his penalty into the net to give Chelsea the lead.  There was absolutely no way this was not going in, even if the keeper had managed to get in front of it, the ball would have powered him into the net alongside the ball.  Luiz hammered that ball, and it was a statement shot, along the lines of Wake the F UP!  We need this! 

Ironically enough, Luiz may have accomplished his intended wake up call.

The team was out of the Champions League but they showed exactly what they could do with a little motivation (thanks David!) and a few breaks.  This is a team that has been in transition for a few seasons – a huge core of aging vets are slowly beginning to make way for young, hot talent like Hazard, (the somehow great mid-season pickup) Gary Cahill and Oscar.  Like any evolution it has not always gone smoothly but desperately needs to happen for the team to continue to be successful.

On Saturday, the team played away at Sunderland and managed to snag a huge win thanks to two goals from Torres and another from his running mate Juan Mata.  The most important players for Chelsea are a confident Torres and a strong Mata.  Torres has to keep himself up and has to score as much as he can.  He should be among the most feared strikers in the league and in the past week he has certainly looked (and played) the part.  As for Mata, everything runs through him when Chelsea is successful and they absolutely need to keep him in top form if they are going to regain the top spot in the table.

Currently the roller coaster season continues – and the team sits (rather amazingly) third in the table – but questions remain, among them: just when in the hell will this squad figure out who they are?  Is this a team that should be contending for the top spot in the league, or are they are team that should be battling for relegation?

Then of course, there is the inevitable return of some of the injured vets such as the aforementioned Lampard and of course Captain, leader, legend…odd man out?… John Terry.