Seven Things To Do Without the NFL

Missing from the news that the National Football League is planning for a shortened season is the utter lack of outrage emanating from the general public.

I get that football is king, but this is no monarchy. You won’t lose your head for speaking out against this game, yet, so many fans and media act walk on eggshells.

I blame ESPN.

If this were the National Hockey League, SportsCenter would be running daily NHL Deathwatch 2011 updates,  but since the league acts more like a PR firm for the NFL, we won’t see any real questions being posed any time soon. The station understands how much money they stand to lose if there is no football in 2011. (How’s that for journalistic integrity?) The closer we get to the beginning of training camp, the closer we get to football getting pushed back or canceled.

In light of this, I give you seven things you can do this fall if there is no football on television.

7. Follow the English Premier League. You want passion? Done. You want fanaticism? Here you go. Unparalleled history? Mark it down. If  you get Fox Soccer Channel, they air games most Saturdays and Sundays. The best part is the games only last two hours, so you can watch early and get on with your day. (Did I mention there are ties? I love ties.)

6. Read a book. Here are some suggestions: “The Bad Guys Won”, “Boys Will Be Boys”, and “Columbine”, just to name a few.

5. Prepare your lawn for winter. You can pay somebody to aerate your lawn, but with all of the free time you have, go out and rent an aerator and do it yourself.

4. Start reading DC Comics again. In late August, DC Comics will re-boot their entire universe, going to back to #1 issues for all of their titles. This is an ideal time to get back on that train if you’ve been meaning to.

3. Do that thing you’ve been meaning to do. We all have something that we’ve always wanted to do, whether it’s write a book or clean out the closet. Take the time you would spend watching football to start a project. You’ll be amazed how great you feel when you make a dent in it.

2. Save money. Now that there might be no football, you don’t have to worry about saving up for your fantasy league’s $500 entry fee, nor do you have to fret over having enough money to go to the bar with your boys on Monday nights. May I suggest starting an emergency fund?

1. Just live, man! A lot of people who devote entire Sundays to football, gorging themselves on the game like Homer Simpson at an all-you-can-eat buffet, cannot be bothered to pry themselves away from the TV until the Sunday night game is over. To that I ask, “Why?” What is so compelling about the game that forces you to block 17 Sundays per year? And don’t give me the answer that “it’s football!” That isn’t good enough. Take this free time to go out and explore the world. (And, re-connect with your Football Widow wife.)

I know there are probably more things you can if there is no football this fall. Leave those suggestions in the comments.

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Would it make more sense for the Detroit Red Wings to stay in West?

I am probably one of the biggest proponents for putting the Detroit Red Wings in the Eastern Conference, but with the Nashville Predators emerging as a logical choice, I’m starting to come around to the idea that the Wings would be better off in the West.

Now that Winnipeg officially has their hockey back, here are three reasons why a stay in the West might make sense for the Red Wings.

1. Taking over for the Atlanta Thrashers in the Southeast Division would be seamless. It makes a lot more sense to move Nashville to that division than it does re-arranging a handful of teams to accomodate the Wings. From a geographical standpoint, this seems like a no-brainer.

2. The Wings have established rivalries. It was fun watching the San Jose Sharks lose this past playoff season, but I can’t say it would have as much impact if the Wings were in the East. The rivalry with the Sharks has intensified since that disastrous result in 1994. In a weird way, it almost seems right when these teams face each other in the playoffs. Of course, don’t forget about the Chicago Blackhawks, either.

3. Travel schedule updates could soothe frustrations. One logical way to calm down the individuals who say (correctly, I might add) that the Wings are penalized when they travel west is to add an extra day between travel in a playoff series if a team has to go at least two time zones away. For instance, if San Jose plays game two in Detroit on a Monday, game three wouldn’t be played until Thursday to allow for rest. It pushes the length of the series back, but it allows both teams to recover.

Obviously, if the NHL decides the Wings will be the team that moves to the East for the 2012/2013 season, I’m not going to complain. That would mean more battles with the Torontos and Montreals of the league, and less with Phoenix and Anaheim.

But if they’re forced to stay, it won’t be the worst thing ever. After all, we have histories with some of these teams, and as we’ve seen in the past, that can certainly add to the allure of certain match-ups.

What do we do now? Just wait and see.

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Ding Dong, the Twins are Dead!

With 54 games under their belt, I think know is an ideal time to declare the Minnesota Twins dead. At 20 games under .500, as Michael Rosenberg states in today’s column, they would have to go 64-44 the rest of the way just to finish .500.

I’m not going to say with 100 percent certainty that they can’t go on a tear, or that the rest of the division won’t go into some sort of mysterious funk that allows the Twins to get back in the race (that stuff always seems to happen to them). But as a Tigers fan that has had to endure the pesky Twins and their late-season performances for the past nine years, I really think we can count them out in 2011.

In today’s standings, they find themselves 16.5 games behind the Cleveland Indians — again: 16.5 — and 12 games out of the Wild Card.

Even if they were to make up four games per month (or, one game per week) the rest of the way, they would still fall short of winning the division. (The Indians seem like an easier team to overtake than the Red Sox or Rays.)

In short, I’m having a hard time finding a legitimate reason that shows me how they can come back, save for the fact that they are the Minnesota Twins.

Maybe, that is reason enough.

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Why the Tigers should pursue Albert Pujols

A friend of mine thinks the Detroit Tigers will wait to add another bat until they see what they have, hinting that the trade deadline is a likely time frame when the team will get serious about a trade.

I disagree. I think we know what we have, and it isn’t pretty.

The bottom third of last night’s lineup consisted of Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn and Danny Worth.

Combined, those three are batting .248, and that’s with Worth’s inflated .333 batting average. I suspect it will come down the more at-bats he gets.

Obviously, if the Tigers are going to contend, they need to beef up the lineup, and one name that keeps coming up is Mets third baseman, David Wright.

If he’s healthy, this is a solid addition. One that I would support. But if he’s not healthy, the Tigers take a huge risk.

So why not at least try to make a trade for a guy who would be about as far from a risk as possible?

I’m talking about Albert Pujols.

— beat —

Now, before you laugh me off, hear me out. There are a few factors that, I believe, play in our favor.

1. Pujols is a free agent. This is the #1 reason why this is not totally outside the realm of possibility. The Cardinals would, I think, at least be open to listening to an offer.

2. The Cardinals are doing just fine without him. Pujols is in the lineup, but he’s having a sub-par season. Meanwhile, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday are a legitimate one-two punch.

3. The Tigers have arms at their disposal. Say what you will about the minor league system, but the Tigers have legitimate prospects at the minor and major league levels. Any deal would likely include some combo of Jacob Turner or Andy Oliver, Rick Porcello and Charlie Furbush. That still leaves us with Turner or Oliver, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer as our rotation of the future. Not terrible.

Sure. He also plays first base, but if you can field a lineup with Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, you can find a place for them, right?

I haven’t heard anybody mention this as a possibility, so I wanted to throw it out there.

What say you?

*Image borrowed from SD Dirk’s Flickr page.

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Welcome back, Winnipeg.

In an era where arenas and stadiums have essentially priced out the middle class from sitting close to the action, it’s nice to see a team entering a market where a true raucous environment is virtually guaranteed.

I’m talking about, of course, the NHL returning to Winnipeg, the city and fans that invented the “White Out.”

While I am surprised that the NHL basically admits failure by allowing the purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers by True North, nothing bad can come of this move, unless season ticket sales are awful and the team is put into dire straights, but I can’t see that happening.

At its minimum best, rivalries with Calgary and Edmonton are reborn, and a once-proud fan base is restored.

As a fan of the game, it’s hard to watch teams like Carolina and Florida play in half-empty arenas because you know the game would be so much more compelling north of the border.

Let’s hope that this move back to the birthplace of this great game becomes a trend, and the league can parlay it into a renewal of interest.

Image borrowed from haven’t the slightest’s Flickr page.

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The San Jose Sharks losing is good for the NHL.

In what I am calling a sure sign of God’s existence, the San Jose Sharks were rightfully bounced from the 2011 NHL Playoffs last night in what I can only determine was divine intervention.

If you couldn’t stay up for overtime and missed Kevin Bieksa’s fluky game winner, here it is:

It’s fun to see the Sharks come out on the losing again for a number of reasons, not the least of which is Joe Thornton won’t be raising the Cup anytime soon.

But the Sharks losing actually helps the league.

Here are three reasons why:

1. The Sharks story continues — The longer the Sharks go Cup-less, the more their storyline builds. It will only help the game if they can identify a team and a fan base that has had to endure years of suffering.

2. The Wings/Sharks rivalry continues — Rivalries tend to lose their edge when one of the teams finally gets over the hump. That’s why the longer the Sharks fail, the more intense the rivalry becomes. These teams have met in the playoffs five times in the Sharks’ 14 playoff appearances, including three out of the last five years. If the Wings stay in the West, we can expect this trend to continue. The Wings take pride in holding them down; the Sharks realize the Wings are a major obstacle. Everybody wins. (Except the loser, of course.)

3. The Cup might return to Canada – Hockey purists don’t want to see the Stanley Cup paraded around in downtown San Jose, even though San Jose is a legitimate hockey market. At this point, the Vancouver Canucks have to be the odds-on favorite to win the championship. If they do, the Cup will return to Canada for the first time since 1993.

These thoughts immediately popped into my head. How else could this help the league?

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The NHL’s Move Back to Canada Can Reinvigorate the League

In light of the rumors that the Atlanta Thrashers move to Winnipeg is imminent, I’ve been thinking about how this move could (or, should?) reinvigorate a league that mortgaged its tradition at the expense of gaining a handful of fans in the South. If there’s anything that the failed experiment in Atlanta tells us, it’s that hockey has a hard time gaining a foothold in warm weather markets. (I’m also surprised Gary Bettman would admit it failed by allowing for a move back to Winnipeg, but that’s for another time.)

Below are six ways the league can pick itself back up. Some are feasible. Some are not. But this is my blog, so I can write what I want.

1. Embrace their Niche – The NHL needs to understand they are a niche sport. Then they need to embrace that thinking. They will never rival the popularity of the NFL or MLB, so why try? There is a reason why the NFL would never place a football team in Winnipeg or Calgary, and the CFL is not that reason. They need to market themselves to the rabid fan base in hockey cities (i.e. Edmonton, Calgary, etc.) This sport will never catch on in warm weather climates.

2. Bring Back Tradition – Once upon a time, the NHL had original division names, like Smythe and Patrick. When expansion teams were introduced, the league watered down the divisions by renaming them according to geographical alignment. When they did this, they neutered the league’s personality.

3. Reinstate Ties – You can count me among the dozens of fans who appreciated a good tie, every now and again. Rather than leave the arena disappointed, I viewed the tie as another chapter in the two teams’ rivalry; a loose end that could be tied up the next time they faced. I know the league wanted to eliminate ties to satisfy the fans who paid good money for tickets, but a tie was a potential outcome. If you were worried about seeing a draw, maybe you shouldn’t be going to the game, anyway.

4. Go Back to Your Roots – There used to be rabid fanbases in Hartford and Quebec. Now, in Colorado and Carolina, they’re mediocre, at best. If there was a way to move these teams back to their original locations, I would endorse it.

5. Bring Back the Home-and-Home – Remember when teams regularly played home-and-home series? I have vague memories of watching the Red Wings and the Leafs on consecutive nights, back when the two rivals played in the same division. Those were good times. If there was a tie the previous night, it usually meant unfinished business the next. Nothing wrong with that. Which reminds me…

6. Move the Red Wings Back to the East – The Wings should be in the East, back with their original rivals. I would let the West build up their rivalries while the East beats each other up. Then the Stanley Cup finals would bring together teams from the true West and East.

Those are my suggestions, but I’m sure there are more out there.

What did I miss?

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