Sunday, December 25, 2011

Regional Bias

By Keith Antigiovanni

On Christmas Eve I was driving somewhere and put the radio on and the New York Jets- New York Giants football game was on. I am a fan of neither team and wasnt much interested in the game until I heard the announcer, Howard David in his east coast accent, commented about how important a specific call by the referee would be in the game and if he made a mistake it would be magnified because two New York teams were playing.

The game was also the only one televised locally.

My first thought was who cares if two New York teams are playing the guy needs to get the call right.Then he followed up his comment with the fact that this particular official worked in his words "an unimportant" game the previous week when the Tennessee Titans played the Indianapolis Colts.

I know that the Colts have been out of the playoff race all year but the Titans are competing for a playoff spot just like the Jets and Giants are at this time.

The ignorant comment made by David illustrates the "East Coast" bias in the media as if only the results of east coast teams are important as opposed to teams in Nashville, Tennessee or Indianapolis, Indiana. That would be fine if he was talking to an east coast audience but the game was broadcast nationally.

Obviously the east coast fans care about as much about Tennessee-Indianapolis as someone on the west coast cares about the Jets/Giants. Isnt the NFL, the National Football League? Not the east coast football league? If the NFL is serious about presenting itself a national sport then its about time they hired announcers who do their homework and know all the teams and not just the ones they cover locally or regional announcers will continue to show their bias and present the NFL as a less than national sport.

Friday, December 9, 2011

AFC/NFC South: Week 14

By Keith Antigiovanni

The NFC South leading New Orleans Saints (9-3) are away this week to play the Tennessee Titans, the second-place team in the AFC South.

The Saints are coming off an impressive 31-17 win over the Detroit Lions and are close to clinching the NFC South title and are trying to position themselves for a bye. The Titans must continue to win to stay in the AFC South and Wild Card race.

At first glance the Saints look to be favorite in this game but the Titans have found their dormant running game with Chris Johnson.

The AFC South leading Houston Texans (9-3) face the Cincinnati Bengals (7-5). The Houston-Cincinnati game is similiar to the New Orleans-Tennessee game. Houston is close to clinching their first AFC South title and postseason berth while the Bengals must win to stay in the AFC Wild Card competition.

The second-place NFC South team Atlanta Falcons (7-5) are in Charlotte to play the Carolina Panthers (4-8). The Falcons defeated the Panthers 31-17 in week 6 at the Georgiadome. Atlanta will have to stop rookie quarterback Cam Newton who has thrown for 3,297 yards in 12 games.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

College Football Week 14 Preview

By Keith Antigiovanni

This week will determine the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conference championships, bowl and BCS match-ups and the National Championship Game.

The #1 LSU Tigers (12-0) will face the #12 Georgia Bulldogs in the 20th annual SEC Championship game in Atlanta's Georgia Dome. If LSU wins, they will advance to New Orleans and play in the National Championship Game. If Georgia wins then who knows what the BCS computer will do but in either case the Alabama Crimson Tide has already earned a berth in the title game.

The #10 Oklahoma Sooners (9-2) are going up against the #3 Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-1) to decide the Big-12 championship which no longer has a championship game after the departure of Colorado and Nebraska. If the Sooners win it will be their eighth conference title in the Bob Stoops Era (12 years) but if OSU wins it will be their first conference title they shared the Big-8 in 1976.

The first PAC-12 and Big Ten championship games will be held this weekend. The #15 Wisconsin Badgers (10-2) and #13 Michigan State Spartans (10-2) will square-off at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The winner will earn the Big Ten BCS berth. In the PAC-12 the #9 Oregon Ducks (10-2) host the UCLA Bruins (6-6). The Bruins are in the title game because of USC's probationary status and were soundly defeated by the Trojans 50-0 the week before. The result was Bruin Head Coach Rick Neuheisel's firing on Monday.

The Bruins will have a chance to pull of a major upset and can knock Oregon out of a BCS Bowl game.

The ACC Championship Game will be held in Charlotte on saturday and will pit the #21 Clemson Tigers (9-3) versus the #5 Virginia Tech Hokies (10-1). Clemson was undefeated thru the first eight weeks but finished poorly. However the Tigers were able to clinch a division title for the second time in three years.

Virginia Tech will be making their fifth conference title game appearance and have won in three previous tries (2007, 2008, 2010). The Hokies have a chance at the National Championship game if they win and LSU loses but would have to win convincingly against Clemson.

The #6 Houston Cougars (12-0) also have a chance at a BCS Bowl if they can beat #24 Southern Mississippi (10-2) in the Conference USA Championship Game. The Cougars also appeared in the 2006 and 2009 Conference title games with a win in 2006 over Southern Miss.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

AFC South Thru Week 12

By Keith Antigiovanni

The Houston Texans (8-3) continue to lead the AFC South but are now starting their third string quarterback T.J. Yates after Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart's injuries have put them out for the 2011 regular season. The good news for the Texans is that their top WR Andre Johnson is back, they have an excellent run game with Arian Foster and Ben Tate and an improved defense thanks to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

The question is how well Yates can pick up the quarterback-friendly offense which will feature a run game but Yates will need to make plays as a QB as opposing defenses stack the box against the run and force the QB to make plays.

Texans' Head Coach Gary Kubiak has weathered the storm thus far and will have to keep his team focused as they inch their way to the franchises' first ever playoff appearance. Houston will face the 7-4 Atlanta Falcons at home this week.

The Tennessee Titans (6-5) are the Texans remaining opposition in the division at two games behind. Tennessee pulled out a dramatic 20-17 victory over Tampa Bay and will travel to Buffalo (5-6) to remain in contention for the division title and wild card.

Veteran quarterback Matt Hasselback has done a fine job for the Titans while running back Chris Johnson has had a slow start after holding out for most of the training camp and preseason.

The Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8) are undergoing a major overhaul with five games left in the season as nine-year Head Coach Jack Del Rio was fired on Tuesday followed by owner Wayne Weaver announcment of the sale of the Jaguars since the franchises' inception in 1995.

Assistant coach Mel Tucker was named Del Rio's interim replacement and has named rookie Blaine Gabbert to QB after he was pulled in the fourth quarter against the Texans the previous week.

The next five games will be a re-evaluation for the future of the franchise.

The Indianapolis Colts (0-11) are having their worst season since 1998, Peyton Manning's rookie season. For football fans it is impossible to understand how poorly the Colts have played in Peyton's absence.

Without question, Peyton Manning is one of the top quarterbacks of all-time, if not the best of all-time, but there is simply no excuse for a once dominant franchise to have dropped this far. Whether it is poor drafting, poor coaching or poor play it is inexcusable for this proud franchise to be winless.

The Colts were 115-45 in the 2000's (2000-2009) and 125-51 in the past 11 years with 7 AFC South titles, 3 AFC title game appearances, 2 AFC titles and 1 Super Bowl titles.

Indianapolis is in position to draft Andrew Luck for next year and with Peyton Manning's possible return this team needs to work much harder next year to get back to where they have been the past decade.

Mountain West Conference

By Keith Antigiovanni

The Mountain West Conference (MWC) will be consolidating with Conference USA next year but the present is will be decided after 12 weeks of play. The TCU Horned Frogs (9-2, 6-0) have clinched at least a tie for the conference title with one game remaining against UNLV (2-9, 1-5). TCU will move to the Big-12 after this year after winning its’ third straight MWC title.

Boise State Broncos (10-1, 5-1) will also be moving on to the Big East Conference after this season with only one year in the MWC. Boise State will face New Mexico (1-10, 1-5) in their MWC swan song.

Wyoming (7-4, 4-2), San Diego State (7-4, 4-3) and Air Force (7-4, 3-4) are all bowl eligible. San Diego State is bowl eligible for a second straight year during the Brady Hoke to Rocky Long transition and is in talks with the Big East Conference.
Colorado State (3-8, 1-5), UNLV (2-9, 1-5) and New Mexico (1-10, 1-5) will be making changes with New Mexico already in the process when they hired former Notre Dame Coach Bob Davie the past week.

The Conference USA Teams are University of Alabama-Birmingham, East Carolina, Marshall, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, Rice, University of Texas-El Paso, Tulane and Tulsa. Fresno State, University of Nevada-Reno and Hawaii will be joining the MWC-Conference USA next year as well. Current Conference USA teams SMU, Houston and UCF have been invited to join the Big East in a continuation of a major college football realignment.

SEC Title Game Turns 20

By Keith Antigiovanni

The Rose Bowl is known as the “Grandaddy of them all” when it comes to college bowl games because it was the first post-season college bowl game played on New Years’ Day 1902 and since then there have been at least 30 bowl games under a variety of names.

 It should be only fitting that the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championship Game become the “Grandaddy of them all” for college conference championship games as the oldest and most prolific college conference championship game turns 20 this Saturday when the #1 LSU Tigers (12-0) face the Georgia Bulldogs (10-2). The SEC began a trend when the newly formed Big-12 created a championship game (1996-2010), followed by the WAC (1996-1998),MAC (1997- ), ACC (2005-), Conference USA (2005- ) and the Pac-12/ Big-10 with their first title games this weekend.

The first SEC Title game was played in 1992 and was a result of the SEC expanding to 12 teams and 2 divisions for the 1992-1993 season when Arkansas of the now defunct Southwestern Conference and South Carolina (formerly independent) joined the conference. The championship game was played on the first Saturday of December which had been the annual Army-Navy game and was a bit of an oddity because there had never been a championship game played at the Division 1 level.

It was played at Birmingham’s Legion Field and pitted the undefeated SEC West champion Gene Stallings’ Alabama Crimson Tide and SEC East champion Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators. Alabama won the game 28-24 and went on to a Sugar Bowl victory and a National championship.

Alabama and Florida would face each other five times in the 1990’s (1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1999) with Florida winning 3 and Alabama winning 2. The Crimson Tide and Gators would face each other again in 2008 and 2009.

The SEC gained more exposure in 1996 when they agreed to a TV deal with CBS which included a “game of the week” to highlight the conference which added more exposure to the SEC Title game and in 2001 CBS gained the rights to the game with Verne Lundquist and Todd Blackledge calling the game.

In 6 of the past 8 years the SEC Title game winner has become a de facto semifinal or qualifier to propel them into the BCS Title game. 2003 LSU (won BCS title game), 2006 Florida (won BCS title game), 2007 LSU (won BCS title game), 2008 Florida (won BCS title game), 2009 Alabama (won BCS title game), 2010 Auburn (won BCS title game).

Indianapolis Colts quarter back great Peyton Manning won an SEC Title game when he played for Tennessee in 1997 en route to the National Championship game against Nebraska. The following year Tennessee made it back and won again in 1998 with Tee Martin at QB on its’ way to a National championsip.

The BCS Title game is at stake again this year as the undefeated LSU Tigers must defeat Georgia in order to qualify for the National Championship and a possible re-match against #2 Alabama. LSU will be making its’ fifth appearance in the SEC Title game (2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2011) and trying to win its’ fourth (2001, 2003, 2007) while Georgia is in its’ fourth (2002, 2003, 2005, 2011) and trying to win its’ third (2002, 2005) LSU and Georgia have faced each other twice and split the series with LSU winning in 2003 34-13 and Georgia winning in 2005 34-14.

The two teams have also been two of the most dominant SEC teams since 2000. LSU has posted a regular season record of 111-29 which began with Nick Saban and continues under Les Miles and Georgia has posted a 104-36 under Jim Donnan for one year and the past 11 years under Mark Richt. LSU has won or tied for the SEC West 6 times (2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2011) and Georgia has won or tied for the SEC East 5 times (2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2011).

Since 1992 what began as an oddity on the first Saturday of December has become a college football tradition all other conferences have followed.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

TCU, Boise State Break Through the BCS Glass Ceiling

By Keith Antigiovanni

Since 1998 the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in college football has dictated which teams qualify for the BCS bowls and the BCS National Championship Game. Until a few years ago only teams from the BCS conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big 10, Pac-10, SEC and Notre Dame) that were either conference champs or at-large teams qualified.

Programs such as TCU and Boise State have dominated their non-BCS opponents in the past 14 seasons in the BCS era. TCU has achieved 13 of 14 winning seasons, posted a 125-35 record, won their conference 7 times, won 5 bowls and 1 BCS Bowl while Boise State has had 14 straight winning seasons, 127-15 record, 9 conference titles, 5 bowl wins and 2 BCS Bowl wins.

The knock on both non-BCS programs is that they pile up wins over non-BCS teams which is true but they also have proven to hold their own against BCS competition. Granted they may not deserve a chance in the BCS Title game but the format is confusing enough without a playoff. College football fans know that both teams could make noise in a playoff format the way underdog teams win games in the college basketball tournament. For example, an underdog Butler Bulldogs squad has been to two consecutive NCAA finals.

DEspite their relatively easy schedule both deserve a chance to compete with the "Big Boys" when TCU joins their old Southwest Conference foes in the Big 12 and Boise State joins the Big East. We'll see how both teams fare against better competition but the chance to compete in the BCS is a reward for two programs who have not only desired to win but have won and won consistently in the BCS era.

Friday, November 18, 2011

AFC/NFC South Thru week 10

By Keith Antigiovanni

The Houston Texans (7-3) are leading their division for the first time in the 10-year history of the franchise.Things were looking good after a 37-9 win over Tampa Bay until QB Matt Schaub injured his foot and will be out for the remainder of the regular season.

With Schaub out backup and former USC great Matt Leinart is going to get a second chance after coming into the NFL 6 years ago with much promise. Houston and Leinart will get an extra week to prepare for Jacksonville on November 27 with a much-needed bye week.

Houston will get WR Andre Johnson back and still has its strong run game lead by Arian Foster to take pressure off Leinart.

Meanwhile, Houston's former team, the Tennessee Titans (5-4) will have a chance to gain a half game in the standings when they travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons (5-4). The AFC South appears to be a two- team race and the Titans will be counting on the veteran leadership of QB Matt Hasselback to get them into the playoffs.

Jacksonville's Jaguars (3-6) will go to Cleveland and can also gain a half game with a win against the Browns to keep their playoff hopes alive. At this point the Jaguars are hoping QB Blaine Gabbert can continue to get playing experience and develop into a decent QB. Jacksonville will face Houston at home in a week.

The Indianapolis Colts (0-10) are also on a bye week after a disastrous season thus far without Peyton Manning. The Colts are in position to draft QB Andrew Luck but there is no excuse for this team playing as poor even without arguably the greatest QB ever.

The New Orleans (7-3) like their AFC South leading counterpart will have a bye this week after a big win in Atlanta. The Sains will face the New York Giants at home the following Monday night.

Atlanta Falcons (5-4) like their AFC South counterpart will have a chance to gain a half game when the Titans come to town. Falcons coach Mike Smith has had a tough week after a controversial decision at the end of the Saints game. Atlanta is 38-19 since Smith was hired so Falcons fans should give him the benefit of the doubt despite his foolish decision against New Orleans.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) appear to be fading and have the misfortune of having to travel to Green Bay to face the undefeated Packers (9-0). Tampa's struggling offense will have a tough time trying to keep up with the prolific Packers offense.

The Carolina Panthers (2-7) were playing in every game until a poor performance against Tennessee. They go to Detroit to face the struggling Lions (6-3). QB Cam Newton is going thru the rookie growing pains and must continue to progress which means winning games.

AFC South since 2010:
Houston      13-13
Tennessee   11-14
Jacksonville 11-14
Indianapolis 10-16

NFC South since 2010:
Atlanta         18-7
New Orleans18-8
Tampa bay   14-11
Carolina         4-21

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Houston Astros Forced to Move to AL

Houston Astros Move to American League

By Keith Antigiovanni

November 16, 2011 will be remembered in Houston, Texas as the day the Astros were moved from the National League to the American League. Houston will be placed into the American League West with in-state rivals Texas Rangers, Anaheim Angels, Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners.

Major League Baseball’s decision was brought on in order to balance the NL and AL at 15 teams each which had been out of balance since 1998 when the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays joined as expansion teams.

Houston’s move make sense in order to balance the two leagues but why the Astros? Why not the Milwaukee Brewers which had been in the AL until 1998? Houston was an original NL expansion team in 1962 along with the New York Mets. Granted, the Astros have never been a powerhouse but they have a half a century in the NL and have been one of the more consistently winning teams the past 30 years along with a World Series appearance in 2005.

The move clearly shows MLB’s bias against the city of Houston which is a big market but not a northeast or upper Midwest market which MLB tends to favor. There is no doubt that the New York, Boston and Philadelphia markets are more important to MLB despite Houston’s history and market size but what doesn’t make sense is how a small market like Milwaukee would get seniority over Houston.

Houston’s professional baseball history did not begin in 1962 it actually began in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s with the Houston Buffaloes of the South Texas League . The Buffs spent four years in the South Texas League until they joined the Texas League in 1907.

In 1920 Houston became the first modern affiliated “minor league team” when St. Louis Cardinals General Manager Branch Rickey bought the Buffaloes to create a pipeline of talent for the small market franchise where they can grow players “on the farm”. The result was 40 of 50 winning seasons, 12 pennants and 8 World Series titles between 1920 and 1970 for St. Louis as many of the Cardinal greats began their professional careers in Houston.

For almost 6 decades Houston became a dominant team by winning pennants 16 times between 1905 and 1956, qualified for 9 league finals, won 7 league playoff titles and 4 Dixie Series titles (1928, 1947, 1956 and 1957).

After the 1958 season Houston went into the AAA American Association to position themselves to join Branch Rickey’s proposed third major league, the Continental League in 1960. When MLB expanded in 1961 and 1962 the Continental League never came to fruition as the Astros became an expansion team in 1962.

After 106 years of professional baseball 50 of which were in the NL the Houston fans will begin their AL years in 2013 barring any last minute changes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Atlanta Falcons vs New Orleans Saints :A Tale of Two Franchises

By Keith Antigiovanni
The Atlanta Falcons (5-3) and New Orleans (6-3) resume their annual "Southern Football" rivalry this week at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Atlanta leads the overall series 44-39.
The Falcons are currently on a three-game win streak and can take the sole possession of first place in the NFC South with a win over the Saints. Atlanta must also keep winning to maintain a strong wild card position.
A win for the Saints will give them a much more firm grasp on the division going into their bye week.
In the past this game would have been ignored because of both team's lack of success but the creation of the NFC South 10 years ago, the arrival of strong Coach/QB combinations for both clubs and most of all both teams winning on the field is creating an interest in this game nationally.
What fans are just discovering is this rivalry has always existed and has always been competitive since both of the clubs joined the NFL as expansion teams in 1966 and 1967. They were also put in the NFC West in 1970 and have been division rivals since.
Because of the proximity between Atlanta and New Orleans as well as their similiar histories the two franchises fan base have often compared themselves to each other the way Carolina and Jacksonville have since 1995.
Atlanta had more early success in the 1970's and 1980's while New Orleans did not have a winning season until its' 21st year (1987) under Coach Jim Mora. Mora did help the Saints get respectability (93-74) in his 10.5 year run (1986-1996) when he helped lead them to 7 straight years of .500 or over but even he became worn out and quit halfway thru his 11th year (1996).
The Falcons appeared to be on the rise as an NFC power in the late 1990's when former Denver Broncos Head Coach returned to his home state of Georgia and helped lead Atlanta to its' first NFC Title Game and first Super Bowl in 1998 but the success was short lived and Reeves was dismissed during 2003.
Atlanta rebounded under new Head Coach Jim Mora Jr. and QB Michael Vick when they made the NFC title game again in 2004 thanks in part to a strong run game and Vick's unique talents but the Mora/Vick honeymoon was only three years after Mora's ugly departure (when he criticized Vick) from Atlanta after 2006 and Vick's dog abuse charges followed.
After a disastrous 2005 when the Hurricane Katrina tragedy hit New Orleans the Saints appeared to be on the move to San Antonio until a remarkable rebuilding effort by the state of Louisiana and its' people helped rebuild the city and keep the Saints in New Orleans.
Former Dallas Cowboy assistant Sean Payton became Head Coach of the Saints and signed former San Diego Charger Drew Brees to be his QB. The result over 5.5 years later is a 55-34 record 2 NFC Title Games, 1 NFC title and a Super Bowl win in 2009.
Not wanting to be outdone the Falcons appeared to be on the outs when Vick went to prison three years ago but former Jacksonville Jaguars assistant Mike Smith stepped in like Payton to the Falcons job and has brought stability and direction to the club in 2008.
He has helped lead the Falcons to three straight winning seasons (2008-2010), an overall record of 38-18, an NFC South title and is in the process of developing young Matt Ryan into a solid NFL QB.
The game between the Falcons and Saints is not only for first place in the division or state pride but is about which team has come the longest during some of the darkest years in both of the franchises' history.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

SEC Week 10

SEC Standings Thru week 10

By Keith Antigiovanni

The Alabama-LSU game on November 5 is an instant classic after LSU’s 9-6 win in Tuscaloosa to take the division lead in the West but the season is far from over for both teams. Alabama (8-1, 5-1) has a chance if they can win out. The Tigers must still face Arkansas in their traditional game after Thanksgiving. Arkansas is currently 4-1 in conference 8-1 overall.

If the division ends up in a three-way tie then the top ranked team will get to advance to Atlanta. That’s if Alabama and Arkansas can win out in the competitive SEC.

Meanwhile in the East Georgia is in first place (7-2, 5-1) and half game in front of South Carolina. Georgia faces Auburn (6-3, 4-2) this week. Although Auburn is almost out of the division race it would be a boost for them to make a New Years’ bowl game to help build on next year.

The Tigers will face Alabama in their annual “Iron Bowl” game on Thanksgiving and can be a factor the next few weeks. Florida (5-4, 3-4) is out of the east race but is also a factor next week when they face South Carolina (7-2, 5-2). If Florida wins they are bowl eligible and position themselves for a decent bowl although probably not a New Years’ bowl.

Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Mississippi State are all trying to become bowl eligible down the stretch.

Missouri was approved to join the SEC for the 2012 season to be the 14th team.

Texas’s 52-20 win over Texas Tech helped Texas become bowl eligible for the 13th time in 14 years since Brown was hired in 1998. Texas (6-2, 3-2) is coming off a poor year but appears to be back into Big-12 contention.

Brown’s first 12 years led to 12 straight winning seasons (1998-2009), 6 Big-12 South titles and 2 Big-12 titles along with 7 bowls, 3 of which are BCS. Brown is 121-32 in the regular season.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Southern divisions thru week 9

By Keith Antigiovanni

American Football Conferences' Southern division is currently lead by the Houston Texans (5-3). Houston is a half-game up on Houston's fomer team, the Tennessee Titans (4-3). Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) are in third place and the Indianapolis Colts (0-8) are in fourth place.

With the Colts having an off year without Peyton Manning the other clubs in the division have a chance at the playoffs. Houston has yet to win the division in it's 10 years of existence while the Tennessee has not won the division since 2008 and won in 2002/2003 when the Colts began their dominance. Jacksonville has also yet to win the South but had good years in 2005/2007.

Houston will face Cleveland at Reliant Stadium while Tennessee hosts Cincinnati at LP Coliseum. Jacksonville has a bye and Indianapolis will face Atlanta.

Houston's 41-7 victory over Tennessee a couple of weeks ago has to give them a psychological advantage but the teams will play again in Houston.

Meanwhile in the National Football Conferences' Southern division the New Orleans Saints (5-3) lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3) and Atlanta Falcons (4-3). Carolina is 2-6.

New Orleans is in the midst of its best run in playoff history under Coach Sean Peyton. Payton is 54-34 since 2006, has won 2 division titles, 2 NFC title games, 1 NFC title and a Super Bowl title but most of all he and QB Drew Brees have helped establish Saints football as a premier franchise.

Since Peyton's arrival their biggest challenger has been the Falcons who have had 3 straight winning seasons Coach Mike Smith's arrival in 2008. Smith and QB Matt Ryan also came into the franchise at the same time and have done a fine job but yet to match the success of Payton/Brees.

NO will host Tampa Bay at the Superdome in a re-match while Atlanta faces the Indianapolis.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

SEC standings thru week 9

By Keith Antigiovanni

If you can get past the hype this week over the Alabama-LSU then you will see how it can be a potentially great game when the two southern powerhouses meet in Tuscaloosa this saturday.

Both come in at 8-0 overall, 5-0 in the SEC play. This game will not only decide the SEC West title, SEC title and potentially the National title but its Alabama's Nick Saban facing his former team, the LSU Tigers. The team he built 11 years when he arrived in Baton Rouge. His LSU teams were dominant during his five years until he left for the pros in 2005.

He was replaced by Les Miles who had a tough act to follow but Miles has continued the winning formula in the Bayou State since 2005 with 6 straight winning seasons, 2 SEC West titles, 1 SEC title, 2 BCS bowl wins and a National title in 2007.

Meanwhile Saban spent 2005-2006 in the NFL with no real success he came back to college and the SEC in 2007 when he took over the troubled Alabama program. In 2007 he struggled to a 6-6 record, then broke thru in 2008 with a SEC West title and 12-1. In 2009 he followed it up with an undefeated National title season at 14-0 then a failed back to back bid in 2010 at 10-3.

The Tide were still in position for a second straight BCS appearance until they were defeated by LSU the past season at Baton Rouge and essentially eliminated from the Conference race.

Meanwhile, Arkansas (7-1, 3-1) faces the SEC East leader South Carolina Gamecocks (7-1, 5-1). Arkansas has an outside chance at the SEC Title game if they win out and LSU beats Alabama because the Arkansas will face LSU after Thanksgiving.

Defending champion Auburn is (6-3, 4-2) positioning themselves for a New Years' Day bowl if they can win out.

The Georgia Bulldogs have won 6 straight after a rare win over Florida and have a chance at the SEC East title if they win out and South Carolina loses another conference game. Georgia has not won a SEC title since 2005 and a SEC East title since 2007 when they split with Tennessee.

Florida, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt are all in decent shape to make a bowl but not New Years'.

Monday, October 31, 2011

St. Louis dynasty

By Keith Antigiovanni

The St. Louis Cardinals location in the middle of the country does not get the endless media hype of a Boston or New York but St. Louis' 2011 World Series title is no surprise to true baseball fans.

If you ask most casual fans about the Cardinals they would not have much to say but when you look at the stats in the past 12 years the consistency of the redbirds under Manager Tony La Russa is very impressive.

What has La Russa accomplished in his 16 years in the Gateway City? Since he arrived in 1996 St Louis has achieved 13 of 16 winning years, won the NL Central 8 times, appeared in 7 NLCS, won 3 NL titles and 2 World Series titles.

Based on that you would think the Cardinals would get more hype but with the success of the Philadelphia Phillies the past 5 years they have become the most overhyped NL team because of the east coast location. Again St. Louis was pushed aside.

The Cardinals ended up facing the Phillies in the NLDS and winning in five games on Chris Carpenter's brilliant 1-0 shutout. 2006 was a similiar situation when they won the NL Central at 83-78, advanced to the NLCS and faced another overhyped east coast club, the New York Mets.

The result was another NLCS title for St. Louis as they went on to the World Series title that year.

The Cardinals success is also impressive when you consider that they have had a payroll of 100 million or under in 11 of 12 years since salaries began to go over 100 million.

Compared to the Yankees who have been over 100 million in 11 of 12 years and over 200 million in at least half of those years. The Yanks have had 12 winning years, 9 division titles, 6 ALCS, 4 AL titles and 2 World Series titles. Almost similiar to St. Louis even though they had twice the payroll.

St. Louis success goes beyond this current decade and goes back to the 1920's when Branch Rickey established the modern farm system. The result was 40 winning years, 12 pennants and 8 World Series titles between 1920 and 1970. They are the National version of the Yankees but with much less hype and payroll.

NFC/AFC South thru week 8

By Keith Antigiovanni

NFC South:
The New Orleans Saints (5-3) face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3) next week in the Superdome in a re-match and first place in the NFC South while the Atlanta Falcons (4-3) face the Indianapolis Colts (0-8). The Carolina Panthers (2-6) will get a bye week.

AFC South:
This division will be a two team race the rest of the way between the Houston Texans (5-3) and Tennessee Titans (4-3). Houston will face the Cleveland Browns (3-4) while Tennessee faces the Cincinnati Bengals (5-2). Jacksonville (2-6), after an impressive win over Baltimore going into the bye week and the perennial playoff contending club Colts is (0-8).

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Battle of Houston

By Keith Antigiovanni

The old Houston team (Oilers) now the Tennessee Titans faced the new Houston team (Texans) on sunday and the result was a 41-7 Texan win over the Titans in Nashville.

The win puts Houston a half-game up (4-3) over the second place Titans (3-3) as the AFC South has become a two-team race with the perennial power Indianapolis Colts (0-7) and Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) appear to be out of the division race.

The Texans came into the 2011 season as the favorite to win the after it appeared Colts quarterback Peyton Manning would miss playing time for the first time in his 14-year pro career. Houston began 3-1 and in typical Houston fashion dropped two straight games in disappointing fashion.

Texans HC Gary Kubiak came into this year on the hot seat and will continue to be on it until he can get his team to the playoffs which will most likely mean winning the AFC South title.

Meanwhile the Titans came into this year with a new HC Mike Munchak to replace longtime HC Jeff Fisher. Fisher had been the longest tenured coach in the NFL and in the half-century history of the Houston/Tennessee franchise but a parting ways was mutual after a falling out with owner Bud Adams. The Titans at one time were the Colts arch rival in the new division and won the AFC South in 2002, 2003 (tied), and 2008 while the Colts won the AFC South in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010.

With the Colts appearing to be down and out for the 2011 season the two Houston teams, old and new will battle each other the rest of the way for what appears to be the AFC South's only playoff team unless both teams can go on winning streaks.

2011:SEC Thru wk 8

By Keith Antigiovanni

The South Carolina Gamecocks and Georgia Bulldogs sit atop the SEC East at 4-1 in the conference while Florida (2-3), Vanderbilt (1-3), Kentucky (0-3) and Tennessee (0-4) trail.
South Carolina has already beaten Georgia and the Dawgs will have to win out and hope South Carolina drops another game.

Although Florida is almost out of the division race they can play spoiler when they play both South Carolina and Georgia next week in their annual game at Jacksonville.

The Georgia-Florida game is: must win for Georgia
chance to knock out Florida
chance to get the Florida monkey off Coach Mark Richt's back

Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Tennessee are also fighting to gain bowl berths as each teams scrambles to become bowl eligible with four or three overall wins each.

Meanwhile over in the SEC West Alabama (5-0) and LSU (5-0) are on a collision course when the meet on November 5 in Tuscaloosa. The game will not only result in the SEC West champ but could one of the teams that make the BCS as Nick Saban's current team faces his old team against the man who replaced him in Baton Rouge 6 years ago, Les Miles.

The winner of this game gets a two-game edge with the game up in the standings and tiebreaker in case of a tie.

Arkansas (2-1) could also sneak in to the SEC title game in Atlanta if LSU can beat Alabama. Then Arkansas will get a chance at the LSU Tigers after Thanksgiving and possibly create a three-way tie in the West. The Razorbacks will have to win out of course to create this possibility.

The defending SEC Champ Auburn Tigers (3-2) have fallen out of the race and will have to play spoiler the rest of the way in their annual "Iron Bowl" game vs Alabama after Thanksgiving.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State are both 0-4 and playing out the string.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2011 World Series

By Keith Antigiovanni

The Texas Rangers repeated as American League champions after winning the AL West for the second straight year. Texas has posted a third straight winning year under manager Ron Washington.

Their opponent are the Cardinals who are going to make their 18th World Series appearance after a challenging year that allowed them to win the Wild Card on the final day of the season.

Texas is a hungry team who wants to win its' first World Series title since they moved to DFW in 1972 while the Cardinals have won 10 World Series.

Texas has a proud professional baseball tradition that goes back to the early 1900's when the Dallas and Fort Worth teams dominated the Texas League between 1902 to 1958 until they became one team in 1960-1963 and 1965-1971 until the Rangers moved to Arlington four decades ago.

When you talk tradition the Cardinals have the NL's most prolific that stretches back to 1920 when General Manager Branch Rickey created the modern farm system when the Cardinals bought independent minor league teams to develop a talent base.

The farm system brought them 40 winning seasons, 12 pennants and 8 World Series titles between 1920 and 1970. The winning tradition continued into the 1980's under manager Whitey Herzog when his birds won 3 pennants and 1 World Series title.

After a mediocre early 1990's Tony La Russa was hired in 1996 and led the redbirds to the NL Central title, NLCS and 1 game away from the World Series.

The 2000's was an incredible era when the Cardinals posted the NL's best winning percentage, 9 winning seasons, 7 central titles, 5 NLCS, 2 NL titles and 1 World Series title.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


By Keith Antigiovanni
When CBS began covering College Football again in 1996 I was skeptical after the way they allowed FOX to take the NFC and neglected their own MLB coverage in 1993.

I recall watching College Football games on CBS on saturday afternoons in the 1980's when they had the games from 1982-1990 and always enjoyed their coverage which included a pre game show hosted by (who else?) Brent Musburger and then games which covered a mix of conferences (PAC-10, Big-10, SEC, Big-8, ACC, etc).

Their games and overall coverage was always upbeat and entertaining as compared to ABC's stoic coverage. but when the SEC on CBS came back I figured it would be gone after a few years however its' staying power has been impressive on an annual basis.

First, their pre game show with Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman is outstanding. Even though the constant moving graphics are annoying and unnecessary CBS has the right idea with Brando as the host and Tillman as the analyst. All you need for a pre game is two people and not the half dozen that CBS, NBC, ESPN all use.

Second, their announcers are experienced and manage to focus on the game. Venerable Verne Lundquist is in his 12th year as the play-by-play guy for CBS and is now a modern classic with his patented belly laugh and good natured on-air personality. I still remember when Verne was an announcer on CBS college football coverage in the mid 1980's and of course his time covering NFL games from 1984-1993 and 1998-1999 on CBS.

Verne's partner Gary Danielson is adequate and for a few years could grate on you but if you get past his nasally midwestern accent there is a quality football analyst there.

Overall the SEC on CBS coverage reminds me of the days of pre-free agency NFL when you had great teams and great teams played great teams. The 1990's we watched the Tennessee- Florida rivalry become one of the top in the sport thanks to Phillip Fulmer and Steve Spurrier, Peyton Manning, etc. Fulmer the humble, quiet Volunteer Coach was a stark contrast to the cocky, loud mouth Steve "Superior" as his he was sometimes referred to.

The tradition of the Alabama Crimson Tide was also evident throughout the 1990's with former Bear Bryant assistant Gene Stallings. Although the Tide struggled until Saban arrived four years ago the tradition appears to be back in Tuscaloosa in the 2010's.

Other characters are also back including Spurrier who has been at South Carolina since 2005. Former Georgia Coach Vince Dooley's son is all grown up now and coaching the rival Volunteers.

Today the NFL is interchangeable and overly commercial while college football continues to be steeped in tradition and can attract fans in much greater numbers. The NFL has become a vehicle for gambling, fantasy sport (gambling) and gossip for its' pre game shows.

The NFL is something a true fan of the sport will watch out of loyalty and habit while College Football is something a true fan will watch out of enjoyment.

While I cringe whenever I am forced to watch any NFL coverage I can only beam with pride and excitement when the SEC on CBS is on the air. My only hope is that they dont screw it up.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

SEC Thru Wk 5

By Keith Antigiovanni

After five weeks of play the SEC is in to conference play.

The SEC West standings are close with Alabama and LSU at 5-0 and Auburn and Arkansas 4-1
Alabama, LSU, Auburn are all at 2-0 while Arkansas is at 0-1 in conference play.

The SEC East standings are also close with Florida and South Carolina at 4-1, Tennessee and Vanderbilt at 3-1 and Georgia at 3-2. Florida, South Carolina and Georgia are all at 2-1 in conference play.

Alabama is coming off a 38-10 win over Florida in Gainesville in the SEC Game of the week.
This week the The Tide plays the Commodres (Vanderbilt) at home while Florida tries to rebound by going on the road to Baton Rouge to face LSU.

Tennessee plays Georgia in Knoxville as both teams try to remain in the SEC East playoff picture. The winner will be in good shape.

Auburn pulled out a tough 16-13 win over South Carolina in Columbia and goes on the road again to Fayetteville against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Arkansas is coming off a come from behind 42-38 win over future SEC rival A&M.

South Carolina is at home again against Kentucky.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Texas vs Tampa

By Keith Antigiovanni

The Texas Rangers and Tampa Rays are everything that is right with baseball and everything that is potentially right with baseball if the sport can get on the same economic page as the other professional sports in the 21st century.

Texas has now had three straight winning seasons, two AL West titles and are defending AL champions after making the World Series in 2010. What is surprising about the Rangers' success is that the previous owner, Tom Hicks, filed for bankruptcy just a couple of years ago but how quickly Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan rode in to Arlington to rescue the club and has given them the fiscal responsibility, leadership and baseball knowledge this team needed for so many years.

Texas fans will recall when Hicks signed former Mariner Alex Rodriguez to a ridiculous salary of over 200 million dollars in 2001. The experiment failed as the club could not afford to sign quality pitchers to help bolster its' roster and became a laughingstock for making such a move.

It was especially disappointing since Rangers' ownership under former President George W. Bush worked so hard to bring credibility to the franchise in the early 1990's by building a strong farm system and getting enough support to get the Ballpark at Arlington built in 1995. The result was Texas' best decade in franchise history (1990's): 7 winning seasons and 4 AL West titles and overall winning record of 807-747.

Nolan Ryan's efforts are an attempt to continue the work of the Bush ownership before Hicks overspending.

The Tampa Bay Rays on the other hand have had a less than stellar history. They began as an expansion franchise in 1998 but had to compete with the Yankees' A club in the same market. According to baseball rules when a minor league market becomes a major league market the affialted minor league team is forced to move to another market.

It happened in Kansas City and Baltimore in the mid 1950's, it happened in Los Angeles and San Francisco in 1958, it happened in Houston in 1962, in Atlanta in 1966, in San Diego, Montreal and Seattle in 1969, in Denver and Miami in 1993, in Phoenix in 1998 but not in Tampa. For some reason baseball rules didnt apply to the Yankees farm team as MLB looked the other way.

Because of this and the 10 straight sub .500 years the Rays had a very slow start. 2008 was their breakout year when they won the AL East, the ALDS and ACLS over Boston. They followed up AL title with a winning season in 2009 and another AL East title in 2010 before the Wild Card title this year.

Dallas-Fort Worth and Tampa have great "minor league" traditions which the typical baseball fan is not aware of and the "national" (east coast) media has no knowledge of.

Dallas and Fort Worth fielded winning teams between 1902 until 1958 when both moved out of the Texas League. The Fort Worth teams were a "dynasty" between 1919-1925 by winning 7 straight regular season titles and 5 of the first 6 Dixie Series which pitted the Texas League champions against the Southern Association champions. Dallas and Fort Worth dominated the Texas League between 1902 to 1958 by winning combined 25 regular season titles and 11 Dixie Series between 1920 and 1959.

Tampa's teams competed in the Florida State League between 1919 and the 1980's. Tampa won regular season titles in 1920, 1925, 1929, 1957, 1959, 1961 and 1976 and made 9 finals appearances (1920, 1925, 1929, 1957, 1959, 1961, 1976, 1982, 1984) and 3 league titles (1929, 1957, 1961).

Tampa played at Al Lopez Field in 1955 until 1988. Al Lopez was a Hall of Fame catcher in the Majors, Major League manager and Tampa native. The field put Tampa professional sports on the map as Tampa Stadium was built right next to it in 1967. Prior to Al Lopez Field Tampa teams played at Plant Field and Phillips Field.

After the Tampa Tarpons moved in 1988 the area was without a professional club until the Tampa Yankees moved there in 1994. The result is alot of Yankees fans in the Rays home market.

Friday, September 30, 2011

SEC Thru Wk 4

By Keith Antigiovanni

The SEC continues conference play this week in a primetime game between powerhouses Alabama and Florida. After an off year both teams appear to be back on top at 4-0. This game is a rematch of the 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2008, 2009 SEC title games. Coach Nick Saban has his Tide primed for another run at the National title while new Florida coach Will Muschamp is trying to prove himself.

The defending National champion Auburn (3-1) travels to South Carolina (4-0) to face the Gamecocks in a rematch of the SEC title game which Auburn won convincingly. This year Auburn is not the same team without Cam Newton and giving up alot more points.

Another undefeated team, LSU is at home against the Kentucky Wildcats. LSU went on the road and beat West Virginia.

Tennessee and Arkansas play out of conference teams. The Vols will face Buffalo at Neyland Stadium while the Razorbacks play the future SEC opponent Texas A&M Aggies at Cowboys Stadium. Ole Miss also faces an interconference opponent, Fresno State in Fresno.

Georgia is trying to rebound after a poor start and will face Mississippi State. The Dawgs travel to Starkville after a 27-12 win over Ole Miss last week. Mississippi State is hoping to get on track after two close SEC games.

Overall the SEC is 34-12.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks clinch!

By Keith Antigiovanni

Texas and Arizona both clinched the AL and NL West titles respectively. Texas came into this year with the expectations of winning the division after they won the AL West and AL title in 2010. The Rangers goal is to not only return to the World Series but win the title this year.

Arizona by contrast finished in fifth place last year under interim manager Kirk Gibson.
Gibson's leadership style along with General Manager Kevin Towers helped push the Diamondbacks into becoming a contender again after two uncompetitive years.

Arizona has played well in its' 14-year history with 8 winning seasons, 5 NL West titles, 2 nlds wins, 1 NL title and a World Series title. Baseball fans recall Gibson's incredible performance in the 1988 World Series when he hit the game winning homerun in game one. That win propelled Los Angeles to the title that year after being the underdog for the regular season, NLCS and World Series. Arizona is similiar to that 1988 Los Angeles team in that respect.

Texas is another club that has improved quickly under Owner Nolan Ryan after struggling throughout most of the 2000's. The Rangers have achieved three straight winning seasons for the first time in club history since 1977-1979 and won back to back AL West titles for the first time since 1998-1999.

Texas has not always had great teams in the 40 seasons since moving to the "Metroplex" but the franchise hopes to continue putting out winning teams consistently after posting 18 winning seasons and 6 AL West titles since they arrived in 1972.

They had incredible achievements in 2010 with the victories in the first two playoff series and hope to win it all in 2011.

Although neither club is a perennial baseball power tradition has to start somewhere and both clubs appear to have the foundation to become consistent winners.

1995 expansion bowl

By Keith Antigiovanni

1995 expansion bowl V will take place this sunday when the Jacksonville Jaguars travel to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers.

Jacksonville enters this game at 1-1 after a 17-10 opening day win over Tennessee and a blowout defeat against the New York Jets. Carolina is 0-2 after two close defeats against Arizona and Green Bay.

Its' been an unstable past few weeks for the Jaguars QB situation after 5-year starter David Garrard was waived before the end of preseason. Josh McCown became the starter and after a poor performance in week 2 has been benched in favor of rookie QB Blaine Gabbert.

Carolina's situation is a mirror image as they start rookie Cam Newton at QB. Newton is off to impressive start with 854 passing yards and 3 touchdowns but has made rookie mistakes which include four interceptions.

Coaches Jack Del Rio (Jacksonville) and Ron Rivera (Carolina) are content with allowing their young quarterbacks as starters. Carolina's situation is understandable since they arent expected to compete in the NFC South this year but with the Colts down the AFC South is not out of reach for a team like Jacksonville which almost won the South the previous year.

The two teams have faced each other four times with Jacksonville winning 3 of the 4 meetings.
1996 Jacksonville 24-14
1999 Jacksonville 22-20
2003 Carolina 24-23
2007 Jacksonville 37-6

Both teams have also had success over the past 16 years. Jacksonville is 134-124 overall with 2 AFC title game appearances (1996, 1999) while Carolina's overall record is not as impressive 119-139 but have made 3 NFC title games (1996, 2003, 2005) and an NFC title (2003).

Houston at New Orleans

By Keith Antigiovanni

The Houston Texans, favorites in the AFC South, travel to the Superdome to face the New Orleans Saints, favorites in the NFC South in a match-up of gulf coast teams.

Houston is off to a 2-0 start for the second straight year after a 34-7 victory over arch rival Indianapolis and a 23-13 win over Miami. New Orleans is 1-1 after an opening night setback against Green Bay and a 30-13 win over Chicago at home.

The Saints offense will be a test for the Texans improved defense after the New Orleans offense has averaged 34 points per game. Houston has given up an average of only 10 points per game although both opponents thus far have struggled on offense. The Houston offense is no slouch with an average of 28 points per game.

Both Head Coaches Gary Kubiak (Houston) and Sean Payton (New Orleans) took over their current jobs in 2006. Payton won his 50th regular season game the previous week against Chicago and is 50-32 since he arrived in the "Big Easy" while Kubiak has struggled to a 39-43 record.

Payton has already achieved unprecedented success for for the Saints franchise with 2 NFC title games (2006, 2009), NFC title (2009) and a Super Bowl title (2009) while Kubiak is trying to get Houston to its' first playoff year.

Monday, September 19, 2011

2011 NFL week 2

By Keith Antigiovanni

Dallas Cowboys rebounded and defated the 49ers 27-24 to even their record at 1-1. Quarterback Tony Romo came back into the game after halftime to help the Cowboys to the win.

The Miami Dolphins fell to the Houston Texans 23-13 to drop to 0-2.

Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay all rebounded after opening day defeats to win. Atlanta over Philadelphia 35-31, New Orleans 30-13 over Chicago and Tampa won 24-20 over Minnesota. Carolina's Cam Newton continues to impress after a 400-yard passing game against Green Bay but is now 0-2.

Meanwhile in the AFC South Houston is on another 2-0 start after defeating Miami 23-13, Tennessee is 1-1 after they defeated Baltimore 23-13 at home, Jacksonville was drubbed 29-3 against the Jets and the Indianapolis Colts continue to struggle at 0-2.

Arizona and San Diego are both 1-1 in the NFC West and AFC West respectively. Denver rebounded with a win over the Cincinnati and the Kansas City Chiefs are 0-2.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Playoffs: AAA

By Keith Antigiovanni

The first round of the AAA Playoffs have concluded as the final four teams remain: Columbus, Omaha, Lehigh Valley and Sacramento.

The Pacific Coast League will pit Omaha against Sacramento. Omaha is trying to win its' first league title since 1990 while Sacramento won the PCL title in 2007 and 2008. Omaha has an impressive tradition of winning going back to its' day in the Western League (1902-1954) and American Association (1955-1998).

Their teams have appeared in 11 previous league finals (1952, 1955, 1969, 1970, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1982, 1988, 1989, 1990) and won four titles (1969, 1970, 1978, 1990).Despite the success Omaha has yet to win a AAA title and seek their first PCL title since they joined in 1998.

The International League final (Governors' Cup) will be the Columbus Clippers against the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs. Columbus also has an incredible history in professional baseball going back to 1902 as charter members of the American Association before they joined the International League in 1955. Columbus won the American Association title 8 times (1933, 1934, 1937, 1941, 1943, 1944, 1948,1950) won 6 AAA World Series titles (1933, 1934, 1941, 1943, 1944, 1950).

The Clippers began in 1977 and have continued the great tradition appearing in 11 Governors' Cup 11 times (1979, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1986, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1997, 2010) and winning 8 of them (1979, 1980, 1981, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1996, 2010). In 2010 they won another AAA title when they defeated PCL champion Tacoma.

Columbus' opponent are the Wild Card team Lehigh Valley. Lehigh lost a close pennant race to Pawtucket then defeated them in the first round of the playoffs and hopes to win its' first title in its' fourth year of existence.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Atlanta- St. Louis

By Keith Antigiovanni

This weekend matches the NL team of the 1990's (Atlanta Braves) and the NL team of the 2000's (St Louis Cardinals) in a huge series that will most likely either decide the Wild Card or create a Wild Card race.

St Louis won the first game 4-3 over the Braves in extra innings to pull within 6.5 games of Atlanta in the Wild Card race but both have been consistent winners the past 15-20 years and traditionally play well down the stretch despite the teams being too far out in their respective division races. Thanks to the Wild Card they still have a chance.

This series evokes memories to baseball fans of the exciting 1996 National League Championship Series when the Atlanta Braves won 4-3 and returned to the World Series for the fourth time in the 1990's.

St Louis stormed to a 3-1 series lead in the 1996 NLCS under Tony LaRussa who was in his first year as their manager while the defending champion Atlanta Braves were trying to get back to the World Series to defend their title and were appearing in their fifth NLCS in the past six years.

When Atlanta was faced with elimination in game five Bobby Cox's team did not panic as the Braves won 14-0 behind pitcher John Smoltz to help get the series back to Atlanta's Fulton-County Stadium.

In game six Atlanta turned to another great pitcher, Greg Maddux. Maddux helped Atlanta to a 3-1 win and then Tom Glavine pitched Atlanta to the pennant in a convincing 15-0 win.

After 1996 both clubs would continue to win as Atlanta won 9 consecutive NL East titles (1997-2005), advanced to the 4 of the next 5 NLCS (1997, 1998, 1999, 2001) and made it back to the World Series in 1999.

St Louis continued to build a strong club after the 1996 NLCS and became the dominant NL team of the 2000's with 7 division titles (2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009), appeared in 5 NLCS (2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006), won 2 NL titles (2004, 2006) and the World Series title in 2006.

Atlanta also remained an NL power in the 2000's by posting the 2nd-best record next to St Louis.

Both clubs are winning again in the 2010's as Atlanta made the playoffs in 2010 as the Wild Card for the first time since 2005 and St Louis posted a winning record that year.

Now in 2011, both teams are competing for what is most likely the final playoff berth in the NL. Atlanta has a chance to shut the door this weekend and St Louis has a chance to keep the door open for the next two weeks.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Big-12 Standings After Week 1

By Keith Antigiovanni

The Big-12, after a stormy off season and with a stormy season approaching, is undefeated with all 10 teams winning.

Texas opened the season with a 34-9 victory over Rice as Coach Mack Brown tries to get his team on track while in-state rivals Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor also took care of business.

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were also winners over Tulsa and Louisiana-Lafayette respectively. Missouri had trouble with but won 17-6 over Miami (Ohio). Kansas beat McNeese State handily and Kansas State defeated Eastern Kentucky. Iowa State also won over Northern Iowa.

Just days before the season opener A&M tried to get out of the Big-12 for next year and join the SEC but now four teams: Texas, OU, Texas Tech and OSU said they will not stop A&M from going to the SEC however Baylor, Kansas, K-State, Missouri and Iowa State have filed a lawsuit to stop them because of the television contract with FOX.

Texas and OU are now flirting with the possibility of joining the Pac-12 along with Tech and OSU while the other five could join the Big East if the Big-12 Conference ends and of course A&M could go to the SEC. Stay tuned to your favorite college football soap opera, as the conference turns.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Triple A Playoffs Begin

By Keith Antigiovanni

The first round of the AAA Playoffs are set in both the Pacific Coast and International Leagues with the winners to face each other in the Triple A baseball championship in

The Round Rock Express (87-57) will face the Omaha Storm Chasers (79-63) in the American Conference playoffs. The Express are in the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and seek their first PCL title. The Express had previously won the Texas League title in 2000.

In the Pacific Conference the Reno Aces (77-67) face the Sacramento River Cats (88-56).

Meanwhile in the International League playoffs will feature the Southern division champion Durham Bulls (80-62) against the Western division championn Columbus Clippers (88-56). The two clubs are also the past two AAA winners.

Both clubs have been very successful over the years. The Clippers have made the league finals 11 times and won 8 IL titles overall since 1977 while the Bulls have been to the finals 6 times and won 3 IL titles since 1998.

The Pawtuckey Red Sox (81-61) will play division rival Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (80-64) for the right to go to the Governors's Cup (International League Finals).

Recent AAA winners are:
1998: New Orleans Zephyrs
1999: Vancouver Canadians
2000: Indianapolis Indians
2006: Tucson Sidewinders
2007: Sacramento River Cats
2008: Sacramento River Cats
2009: Durham Bulls
2010: Columbus Clippers

Monday, September 5, 2011

2011 SEC update week 1

By Keith Antigiovanni

After winning the past 5 BCS title games the Southeastern Conference is off to another great start after the conference went a collective 10-2. Only Georgia and Ole Miss kept the SEC from posting a perfect record.

Of all the teams, LSU's was the most impressive with a 40-27 victory over the runner-up Oregon Ducks in Arlington, Texas. Georgia's opponent was also tough even though they are not an official BCS team but the Boise State Broncos defeated the Dawgs 35-21.

The defending BCS champ Auburn came from behind against a scrappy Utah State team, Alabama won impressively over Kent State 48-7, Mississippi State has picked up where they had left off with a resounding 59-14 win over Memphis and Florida beat Florida Atlantic 41-3.

South Carolina and Kentucky also won on opening week over FBS opposition while Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Arkansas all won easily over FCS teams. The Volunteers beating Montana, the Razorbacks beat Missouri State and the Commodores over Elon.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Freshmen Year at College

By Keith Antigiovanni

Twenty years ago today (September 2, 1991) I was was a freshman at the University of San Diego. I still remember my parents helping me move into my dorm room at Maher Hall. Maher Hall was the freshmen men's dorm until it became co-ed recently.

Many things have changed in the world, the country, the state and the city since then. Our President was George Bush the elder. President Bush was serving the third year of his term while his Vice President was Dan Quayle from the overhyped potato spelling story.

California's Governor was former San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson. Wilson had just been elected Governor during the 1990 election and was sworn in on January 7th, 1991. Our Mayor was Maureen O'Connor, probably the last of San Diego's successful and respected mayors to date.

Our sports teams included the San Diego Chargers, San Diego Padres, San Diego Sockers, San Diego Gulls and of course SDSU, USD, UCSD. Pro Football Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk was a Sophomore at SDSU.

The Soviet Union was on the verge of extinction despite a coup by Communist hard-liners to take over the government the end of the Cold War was near and NAFTA was just a bad idea instead of a trade agreement.

I still remember the day before on sunday when the Dallas Cowboys coached by Jimmy Johnson and their young quarterback third-year player out of UCLA Troy Aikman defeated the Cleveland Browns 26-14 in Bill Belichick's Head Coaching debut with the Browns. The Cowboys would go on to an 11-5 record, make the playoffs for the first time since 1985 and enjoy their first taste of post-Tom Landry success that season en route to becoming a football dynasty and the "Team of the 1990's" with 3 Super Bowl championships (1992, 1993, 1995).

Speaking of football, it used to be so easy to follow it on sundays. CBS had the NFC games, NBC had the AFC games. CBS's top announcing team was Pat Summerall and the verbose John Madden while NBC had current Padres' annoucer Dick Enberg and Bill Walsh. Sunday night games became common the year before and were split by TNT and ESPN and of course Monday Night Football was on ABC (where it should be) with Frank Gifford, Al Michaels and Dan Dierdorf.

There was no internet, no fantasy reports, no scoring graphics during the game, just the game itself.

Major League Baseball was on CBS during saturday afternoons although not every saturday which made it hard to follow with Jack Buck (Joe's daddy) and John Madden's MLB counterpart, the equally verbose Tim McCarver.

That season is known as the rise to power for the Atlanta Braves in the 1990's and 2000s which began in the 1991 season as the Braves beat the Dodgers in the NL West, defeated the Pirates in the NLCS and played in what is one of the greatest World Series I've ever seen against the Minnesota Twins. I still remember trying to watch the game in my dorm room which only had 3 channels (KGTV, KFMB, KPBS) and couldnt believe I was watching two teams who had been in last place for the 1990 season playing each other in the 1991 World Series.

After a few weeks in my dorm room with a couple of friendly, laid back Orange County surfers we agreed that maybe I could find a better room since my roomates loved to stay up late and party (and I did not). A trade was worked out when I moved down the hall in exchange for a surfer to be named later. The new room was located near Father Mike McKay's room and the washing machine.

My new roomate was the exact opposite of the surfer guys who knew seem to know around at USD after only a few weeks. In fact the new roomie was so quiet that no one at Maher knew him or recognized him. An interesting note is that when I mentioned earlier about their not being an internet I may have been fibbing because my new roomie was always on the computer. One day I asked him why he's always working on the computer and he told me he was talking to people on there.

Of course my first reaction is that he was joking but he claimed his computer was hooked up to a moden which allowed him to talk to people. At the time I thought it was interesting but thought he might have been bored and like to make up stories.

As an avid TV viewer that first semester was very frustrating because of the limited channels but I remember trying to watch a new family program with this this fellow named Tim Allen who had his own show named "Tool Time". Because of the reception I had trouble trying to figure out what the show was about and thought it would never last. Of course it lasted until 1999 and the show was called "Home Improvement".

Incoming freshmen, in between you getting homesick, partying, studying, etc remember whats going on around you today as you begin your freshmen year at college because 20 years later (in 2031) you might be typing about what was it was like 20 years ago in the year 2011!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

2011 SEC Preview

By Keith Antigiovanni

The 2011 Southeastern Conference opens this weekend.

In 2010 the SEC West was the dominant division going 30-18 against the SEC East after the SEC East spent most of the 1990's and 2000's as dominating the series.

The defending SEC and BCS champion Auburn will not have an easy time repeating with powerhouses Alabama, Arkansas and LSU all in the West. Alabama finished 10-3 but blew a huge lead against Auburn in the "Iron Bowl" as Coach Nick Saban sets his sights on getting back to the BCS title game after winning the BCS title in 2009.

Arkansas had a surprising 10-3 season which helped them get to their first BCS Bowl. LSU also had another outstanding season going 11-2 after they won the Cotton Bowl. Mississippi State finished 9-4 and beat Michigan convincingly in a New Yeras' bowl game. Ole Miss went 4-8 and finished last in the SEC West.

Meanwhile the story was different in the traditionally competitive SEC East. The South Carolina Gamecocks finally broke thru and won their first SEC divison title but were annihilated by the Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers in the 19th annual SEC title game in Atlanta (56-17).

The three traditional SEC East powers (Georgia, Florida, Tennessee) also struggled despite winning every SEC East title since the conference split into two divisions in 1992. Georgia and Tennessee both had to win their final games to qualify for a bowl and both struggled in the low level bowls.

Meanwhile Florida had a tougher time than expected without Tim Tebow as they finished 8-5. The season ended on a positive note when they beat Penn State in their bowl game. Despite the bowl victory Coach Urban Meyer decided to step down after only 6 years at Florida.

Kentucky finished the regular season at 6-6 and dropped their bowl game as well and Vanderbilt had a terrible year at 2-10.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

2011 MLB Standings with 4 weeks to go

By Keith Antigiovanni

There is one month to go in the regular season and most of the pennant races are still competitive.

The defending American League champion Texas Rangers (76-59) are currently 3.5 games over the Anaheim Angels in the AL West after taking 2 of 3 in Arlington this past weekend.

The KC Royals are 17.5 games back in the AL Central but only trail the Minnesota Twins by a half game from fourth place.

The Rays are currently 9 games behind Boston in the AL East.

The surprising Arizona Diamondbacks are 5 games up in the NL West while the disappointing Rockies are 12 games back, along with the Dodgers and the Padres are 16 games out.

St louis (70-64) is 10.5 games back in the NL Central. The Houston Astros are 36 games back but continue to play hard as they try to win games.

The Atlanta Braves are second place in the NL East at 6.5 games but lead the Wild Card race by 9 games. The Marlins are 26.5 games back.

Houston Texans: Ready For the Next Step?

Today marks the 175th anniversary of the day Houston was founded. In 1960 Houston was awarded a franchise in the American Football League. The Oilers won the first two AFL titles (1960, 1961) but moved to Tennessee after the 1996 season. It appeared as if pro football in Houston was over until the NFL awarded Houston an expansion franchise on October 6, 1999.

The NFL's newest franchise, the Houston Texans, begin their 10th season in two weeks but have yet to make the playoffs.

It has been a frustrating nine years for Houston as an expansion team in their four years under Dom Capers went 18-46. The Texans drafted Fresno State quarterback David Carr in 2002. Carr struggled in his years at Houston due to a poor offensive line and the lack of talent around him.

Capers and Carr were out by 2006 and Texans owner Bob McNair brought in former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak to turn the franchise around. Kubiak's decision to pass on Reggie Bush and hometown UT quarterback Vince Young was criticized as he chose defensive end Mario Williams and traded for Atlanta Falcons' backup quarterback Matt Schaub.

After a rocky 6-10 season in 2006 Kubiak's team began to improve as the Texans posted their first non-losing season in 2007 going 8-8. The following year they finished 8-8 and in 2009 the franchise achieved its' first winning season at 9-7. In 2010 Houston defeated the Colts on opening day and appeared to be the year they would take the next step toward the playoffs but the disappointing season ended at 6-10.

Kubiak held on to his job in the offseason and former Dallas Cowboys' Head Coach Wade Phillips was hired as defensive coordinator.

Houston opens the season against the Colts at home.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

AAA Standings August 29

By Keith Antigiovanni

With just over one week to go in the regular season two of the four playoff appearances have been clinched while two others remain open.

Omaha (75-59) has a four game lead over Memphis in the PCL American North while the Round Rock Express (80-55) have clinched the PCL American South.

Reno (73-62) leads the PCL Pacific North by 7.5 games over Tacoma and has a magic number of two. The Sacramento Cats (80-55) have clinched the PCL Pacific South.

Two of the three divisions in the International League have yet to be won with Durham (76-57) leading the South by three games over Gwinnett (74-61) and Pawtucket (76-58) up by one game over Lehigh Valley (76-60) in the East. Columbus has already clinched the West.

The Wild Card standings have also not been clinched yet with Lehigh Valley up by only 1.5 games over Gwinnett as both teams chase division titles.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Colorado Rockies: Successors to the Denver Bears Tradition

By Keith Antigiovanni

When Denver, Colorado was granted an expansion franchise in the National League it was the result of a century's worth of success in Minor League baseball for the Mile High City.

The Denver Bears began in at the start of the 20th century as members of the Western League in 1900. The Bears did not disappoint their fans when they won the the Western League pennant that year.

Denver went on to win 2 more regular season titles (1912, 1952) and a Western League playoff title in 1952. After the 1954 season the Bears moved to the American Association became a perennial powerhouse in the 1950's, 1960's, 1970's, 1980's and early 1990's.

The franchise was so popular that the city of Denver built a stadium for them (Bears Stadium) in 1948. Bears Stadium went on to be re-named Mile High Stadium in the 1960's until it was torn down in the early 20th century.

Between 1956 and 1991 the Bears made the league finals 17 times and won the finals 7 times (1957, 1971, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1982 and 1991) and won the Triple A World Series in 1957 but on July 5, 1991 professional baseball would be changed forever in Denver when the Rocky Mountain area was granted an expansion franchise which would be named the Colorado Rockies.

The Rockies name was fit during the first two expansion cities when the club paid its' dues but the club would make the playoffs in 1995 as the NL Wild Card. They would also post winning seasons in 1996, 1997 and 2000 but would not make the playoffs.

The club struggled for the next 6 seasons until 2007 when the "Cinderalla" Rockies won the NL Wild Card, won the NLDS and NLCS to advance to the first World Series in franchise history.

2009 would be another playoff year as the Rockies won the NL Wild Card again. 2010 the team posted another winning season and were in playoff contention until the final two weeks.

Can the Rockies become a dominant team the way the Bears dominated the Western League/American Association? Its hard to say because the success of the MLB is dependent on payroll for the most part. There are some exceptions but teams cant win consisently without a high payroll or even a medium payroll.

In 2011 the Rockies are struggling again and appear to be thinking about 2012 after a disappointing season in 2011. If you are a Rockies fan then stay tuned. This team may have another "Cinderalla" season next year.

Monday, August 22, 2011

AAA Standings on August 22

By Keith Antigiovanni

There are only three weeks left in the regular season with some pennant races almost over and others still very much competitive.

Omaha has a 5 game lead over Memphis in the PCL American North with a magic number of 11 while Round Rock has a 12 game lead over Alburquerque in the South with a magic number of 4.

Reno leads Tacoma by 7.5 games in the PCL Pacific North with a magic number of 9 while Sacramento continues to lead Las Vegas in the South by 13 games.

Meanwhile in the International League, Pawtucket and Lehigh Valley are in a tie for the International League North while in the South Durham has a 6 game lead over second-place Gwinnett and a magic number of 11. Columbus has a more comfortable lead in the West by 12 games over Louisville and Indianapolis.

Monday, August 15, 2011

AAA Standings August 15

By Keith Antigiovanni

There is just under a month left in the 2011 regular season. The four division leaders in the Pacific Coast League are: Omaha, Durham, Reno and Sacramento.

Omaha (66-55) leads the PCL American North and is 4 full games up on Memphis while Round Rock (77-50) leads Albuerque by 10 games in the PCL American South.

Reno (67-54) leads the PCL Pacific North by 5.5 games over Tacoma and Sacramento has a "comfortable" 9 game lead over second place Las Vegas.

Meanwhile in the International League: Pawtucket is in first place (69-52) but only by half game over Lehigh Valley in the North. The South is also close with Durham 1.5 games in front of Gwinnet. The West is almost secured for Columbus with a 12.5 game lead over Indianapolis.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Resurgent Rattlers of Arizona

By Keith Antigiovanni

Arizona's return to the Arena Bowl on friday marks not only the culmination of a great season but the return by one of the sports' truly great franchises.

The Rattlers began as an expansion team in 1992 and were led by former Dallas Cowboys' and ASU quarterback Danny White. White's coaching ability helped forge a 69-33 records in the 1990's (1992-1999) which included 7 straight playoff years, 4 division titles, 6 semi-final appearances, 2 Arena Bowls and 2 championships (1994, 1997).

The 1994 team finished 8-4 and second in the West but went on to upset Orlando 36-31 with Arena Football great Shedrick Bonner behind center. Three years later Bonner was hurt and would not play in the Arena Bowl XI but White's team came thru again with backup Donnie Davis leading the Rattlers to a second league championship over Kurt Warner's Iowa Barnstormers.

The 2000's would be also be a successful decade for Arizona but also very frustrating. The Rattlers began the decade (2000-2004) with an overall record of 52-22, 5 straight trips to the playoffs and 3 consecutive Arena Bowl appearances which ended in defeats.

After the third in 2004, Coach Danny White was relieved of his duties and went on to coach another expansion team, the Utah Blaze in 2006. Meanwhile the Rattlers experienced their first sub .500 year in 2005 since their expansion season of 1992. 2006, 2007, 2008 were not good years either as the team posted a combined 20-28 record although the team made the playoffs in 2008 but exited early.

The Arena Football League went on hiatus in 2009 but realigned and returned in 2010. Arizona also returned and went 10-6 to make the playoffs for the 14th time in franchise history but had another early playoff exit.

In 2011 under Coach Kevin Guy the Rattlers had the best regular season recordin the league at 16-2, won its' first divisiontitle, semi-final appearance, and conference title for the first time since 2004. After 19 years of play Arizona has posted an overall record of 174-100 (.635).

Today Arizona seeks its' third Arena Bowl championship and first since 1997 in its' sixth apperance.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

2011 MLB standings with 2 months to go

By Keith Antigiovanni

The defending AL champion Texas Rangers continue to lead the AL West with a 66-51 record and are 1.5 games in front of the Anaheim Angels. Texas is trying to get back to the playoffs so they can return to the World Series and show that last year was not a fluke.

The KC Royals are last place in the AL Central thanks to the lowest payroll in the Majors (36 million).

The Tampa Rays are also struggling in third place in the AL East thanks to the big payroll Red Sox and Yankees. Until baseball gets a salary cap this situation will continue.

Atlanta has played very well thus far in the NL East despite being 8.5 games but the encouraging news is they lead the Wild Card and own a 5-4 lead over the Phillies this year despite having half their payroll. The Braves hope to continue to win, get into the playoffs and will match up well with anyone they face.

St Louis after a four game sweep over the weekend needs to win 2 of 3 in their current series to stay within striking distance of first place in the NL Central. The Astros are in last place with 28 games out but gained a bunch of prospects after they traded two of their everyday starters.

Arizona has also made progress the past few weeks and sit only 1/2 game back of first place while the Rockies, Dodgers and Padres have all faded from the playoff race in the NL West/

Sunday, July 24, 2011

2011 Arena Football Playoffs

By Keith Antigiovanni

The 2011 Arena Football regular season is complete after 19 weeks as eight teams will compete for the honor of becoming Arena Bowl champions.

The marquee Western conference game will feature the top seeded Arizona Rattlers against the defending Arena Bowl champ Spokane. Since 2010 Spokane dominated the series (5-1) including a first round playoff game in 2010 until Arizona's win in week 16 a few weeks ago. The Rattlers were a dynasty in the 1990's and 2000's when they made 5 Arena Bowls and won 2 under former coach Danny White. White is now the GM and Kevin Guy is now Arizona's coach.

Dallas Vigilantes and Chicago Rush will face each other in the second Western playoff game. The Vigilantes have bounced back from a poor 2010 season and have picked up where the Dallas Desperados (2002-2008) had left off as a perennial playoff team while the Rush look to return to the Arena Bowl for the first time since they won it in 2006 (Arena Bowl XX). These teams were division rivals this year and this game will add to the rivalry.

Jacksonville is again the number one seed in the East after they won the South with a 14-4 record but they hope not to repeat the disappointment of 2010 when they went 12-4, won the South and lost in the first round. Their opponent will be division rival Orlando. Orlando was also a dynasty in the 1990's and 2000's with 7 Arena Bowl appearances and 2 Arena Bowl titles.
Jacksonville has put together a record of 26-6 since the Arena League returned two years ago but will they become the new Dallas Desperados or will they get over the playoff hump?

Cleveland enters the playoffs as a division champion for the first time in club history since 1997 but that was three cities ago. They will play another Southern team, the Georgia Force. The Force re-joined the league after a two year hiatus. The Force came close to a title in 2005 when they were defeated by John Elway's Colorado Crush and then were upset in the conference title game in 2007 after being heavy favorites to return to the Arena Bowl.

Friday, July 22, 2011

2011 MLB Standings thru July 21

By Keith Antigiovanni

Texas went on a 12-game win streak to take a commanding lead in the AL West with the Anaheim Angels at 3 games back after winning two of the three games between the two teams.

The KC Royals continue to struggle with their small payroll at 40-58 and last place.

The Tampa Rays hold third place in the AL East at 52-45 after dropping 2 of 3 to both the Yankees and Red Sox at home in pivotal series. The Rays will have to play much better the remainder of the season to overtake at least one of the big market clubs.

Arizona has cooled off somewhat after a hot streak before the All Star Break but maintains second place in the NL West at 4 ganes back. The Colorado Rockies now find themselves 10 games back after a split series with Atlanta while the Padres sweep over the Marlins puts them in fourth place now over the Dodgers who reside in last place.

St Louis is one game back in the NL Central at 51-47 and must take at least 2 of 3 this weekend from the Pirates to get into a tie for first. Houston is at 33-65 but won 2 of 3 from the Nationals this week and hopes to build on that success.

Atlanta is in 2nd place in the NL East which also puts them 1st in the Wild Card standings. The Braves are only 4 games out but know as long as they continue to win they can put pressure on the Phillies and continue to get a Wild Card spot.

Florida is in last place at 47-52 but has won 15 of 26 games since Veteran Jack McKeon took over as manager. McKeon is most likely a transitional manager who will put the Marlins on the right path before another manager comes in for next year. Whatever progress he can make this year will hope to build towards next year.

Monday, July 11, 2011

All Star Break Standings

By Keith Antigiovanni

The defending AL champion Texas Rangers continue to lead the AL West in their attempt to return to the postseason this year. The Anaheim Angels trail the Rangers by one game after an inconsistent first three months of the season. Both Texas and the Anaheim are anxious to return to the playoffs. Texas wants to prove they were not a fluke in 2010 and get a second chance at a World Series title while Anaheim wants to prove 2010 was a fluke for them when they missed the playoffs.

The small market KC Royals are in last place in the AL Central at 37-54 and appear to be going nowhere. The once proud Royals have had not a winning season since 2003 and not win a division title since 1985.

Another small market franchise, the Tampa Bay Rays are holding strong in the AL East at 49-41 but are also financially disadvantaged and will have to go 51-21 after the break to get to 100 wins which is not a guarantee to make the playoffs out of the division.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are still 3 games back but continue to play hard under manager Kirk Gibson. The Colorado Rockies are treading water in third place but could still make 2007 like playoff run. The Dodgers are now in fourth place (41-51) after a sweep of the Padres (40-52). Both teams continue to struggle in the front office.

St Louis is tied for lead in the NL Central was able to get Pujols back as the team won its' recent two games before the All Star break. Meanwhile the Houston Astros are also going thru an ownership transition and are 19 games back in the NL Central. The Astros have been a solidly winning franchise in the 1980's, 1990's and 2000's but are having their worst season since they were an expansion club in the 1960's.

The Atlanta Braves (54-38) are in second place in the NL East but are in good shape and if they continue to win will be in good shape for a Wild Card berth. The Braves dropped 2 of 3 to the Phillies just before the break but have gone 5-4 against them and have no fear of their overhyped rival.

The Florida Marlins were the second place team in the NL East until a collapse in June and now reside in last place but have played better of late and are at 43-48. The Marlins won the 1997 and 2003 World Series championships but Marlins' fans were not expecting a third championship this year as veteran manager Jack McKeon tries to right the ship for the remainder of the year.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

July 7, 2011

By Keith Antigiovanni

The Arkansas Razorbacks enjoyed their best season since joining the SEC in 1992 from the old Southwest Conference (SWC).
Arkansas made it to a BCS game (New Orleans) for the first time and almost pulled off the win against Ohio State.

Since Coach Bobby Petrino was hired after the 2007 season the program has improved steadily going from 5-7 in 2008 to 7-5 in 2009 with a bowl win to 10-2 in 2010 and a BCS appearance. The Razorbacks have also beaten arch-rival LSU the past two seasons one of which propelled them into the Sugar Bowl this past year.

Will Arkansas be able to challenge for a SEC West title or will finally win the SEC title?
The 'backs have come close over the years with division titles in 1995, 1998, 2002 and 2006. Three of those years they managed to advance to the SEC title game (1995, 2002, 2006) but came up short each time.

Overall, the Razorbacks have posted a 79-51 regular season record since 2000 and have won two bowl games (2003, 2009) but in the competitive SEC moderate success is not good enough to compete for the conference title every year.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

2011 SEC Preview

By Keith Antigiovanni

The Alabama Crimson Tide are coming off a 9-3 regular season in 2010 and a bowl win.
Alabama had a tough schedule last year and finally ran out of momentum in their 3 losses.
The game that was the most frustrating was the game after Thanksgiving against Auburn where Alabama had a huge first half lead only to blow the game in the second half.

Because of that game Alabama was kept out of a BCS game.

Alabama is 84-48 since 2000 and won the SEC West twice (2008,2009) and SEC title (2009) since Nick Saban arrived before the 2007 season.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

AAA Standings On July 4th weekend

By Keith Antigiovanni

There is no change in the division leaders of the Pacific Coast League which include:
Omaha (46-37) Royals
Round Rock (48-34) Rangers
Reno (49-33) dbacks
Sacramento (50-32) A's

The International League leaders are:
Lehigh Valley (49-34) Phillies
Gwinnett now leads the South (46-37) Braves
The Clippers have the best record of either league (57-27) Indians

Saturday, July 2, 2011

MLB Standings on July 4 Weekend

By Keith Antigiovanni

With one week to go before the All Star Break, MLB's official midway point, all 6 divisions remain competitive.

The Arizona Diamondbacks trail in the NL West by 3 games while the Colorado Rockies are 6.5 games back in third place. The struggling Dodgers and Padres continue their struggles with ownership problems and payroll issues respectively.

The defending American League champion Texas Rangers continue to lead the AL West by 2 games over the Anaheim Angels. Both the Rangers and Angels have had their struggles but are playing better now.

St Louis is back on track after a tough two week stretch in June when they were struggling and Albert Pujols getting injured against the Royals. St Louis is back in first place alone in the NL Central and is currently riding a four game winning streak.

Meanwhile the Houston Astros continue to struggle in the NL Central at 16 games out but is hoping to use the 2011 season to rebuild.

The KC Royals began the year with some success but have fallen to last place in the AL Central. This is not a surprise considering they have the lowest payroll (36 million) in the Majors.

The Atlanta Braves are also riding a current 4-game winning streak as they chase the Philles in the NL East. Atlanta has the third best record in baseball (48-35) but knows that they must continue to win in order to make the playoffs.

The Florida Marlins like the Royals have also fallen to last place in their division. The Marlins are another "small market" team which has trouble competing because of its' low payroll

Monday, June 27, 2011

The New Hawaii Five-0

By Keith Antigiovanni

CBS' new Hawaii Five-O premiered on September 20, 2010 over 40 years after the original Hawaii 5-0 premiered on September 20, 1968.

I was curious to see how well the producers would keep the show in its' original format and was surprised that they had most of the details correct. To make a quantifable comparison I would give a point for every detail that was similiar to the original series.

First the remake gets four points for getting the name of the characters correct (McGarrett, Williams, Chin Ho and Kono). Another three points for getting the same sex (McGarrett, Williams and Chin Ho) and another three for the same race as the original characters (McGarrett, Williams and Chin Ho). McGarrett's original Black Sedan is missing (-1 point) but he still drives a vehicle (1 pt) and they have the same office as in the original, Iolani Palace (1 point).

Another point for having the character of the Governor, a (-1) point for casting a female (Jean Smart) but two more points for 1) givine the governor the same name (Jameson) as the original and another for making sure 5-0 reports directly to the Governor.

They did not receive a point for the sex and race of the Kono character since the original Kono was a Hawaiin male while the current Kono is an Asian female. Although I would like to give a bonus point because the female Kono is quite beautiful but she does not bring the humor and physicality that the original Kono (played by Hawaiin character actor Zulu) brought to his role.

The actors who play Steve McGarrett and Danny Williams have the right look (McGarrett- tall, dark haired, Williams-short, blonde-haired) but the personalities appear to have been switched.

The original McGarrett was played by the unforgettable Jack Lord whose presence could dominate every scene. The new McGarrett played by Alex O'Loughlin does not have the fiery personality of Jack Lord nor his domineering presence but does have the handsome features.

Another feature that is lacking from O'Loughlin is his lack of polish as the chief of Hawaii's State Police. How can one forget Jack Lord in his black and blue suits, clean cut appearance and perfect hair? O'Loughlin comes across as quite ordinary with his casual wardrobe, Don Johnson-like stubble and short cropped non-descript hairstyle.

Enough about McGarrett. The actor that has been most impressive after the first season is James Caan's son Scott Caan who plays Danny Williams. Caan brings an impressive swagger to his role which is reminiscient of the late Jack Lord in contrast to O'Loughlin's quiet performance.

Unfortunately Caan is also lacking the polish of his predecessor James MacArthur with his stubble, and hybrid-casual/formal appearance.

Another mistake is the chemistry between the two stars. In the original TV series McGarrett and Williams were very much like Batman and Robin without the "camp". McGarrett was older and served as Danny's mentor while MacArthur's Danny had a strong enough personality to challenge Lord's McGarrett when necessary.

In the 1968 series Danny would never think about antagonizing McGarrett because A) he had too much respect for him and B) he had a fear of his superior and knew when not to push.

The 2010 version is completely off in this respect. Danny comes across as a rude, boorish East Coast transplant who hates Hawaii and will openly taunt his boss while McGarrett seems to be timid and lost for words most of the time during their frequent exchanges. The dialogue is more suited to a Starsky and Hutch or Car 54 remake than Hawaii 5-0.

The new Chin Ho Kelly played by Daniel Dae Kim is interesting since the writers gave him a backstory from an original 5-0 series episode when Chin was accused of taking bribes to support his huge family. Chin was eventually cleared by McGarrett and the boys. Kim's Chin is considered a pariah by the HPD (Honolulu Police Department) for taking bribes except in this case it is unclear whether he had actually taken the bribes or not.

As previously written the new Kono (Grace Park) looks nothing like Zulu. She is a beautiful young Asian female who looks a modern day Charlie's Angel. The two actors are so different that it is impossible to compare but the producers get a negative for not casting a Hawaiin male in the role.

Next is the opening theme. Again the producers get a point for getting the right theme and the right images to match the theme. Both are updated versions of the original but neither create the excitement or beauty of the original series.

If you are the producer and you have a new version of an old hit TV show why wouldnt you use what was great about the original series like the iconic theme but this is nothing new for Hollywood.

The camera work also needs improvement. It has the 1990s-2000s shaky camera technique which is distracting to watch. It would be nice if these TV shows could set the camera down and keept it steady long enough to follow a scene but this is just part of bad trend since the early 1990's.

Overall the new Hawaii 5-0 is marginal which by Hollywoods' current pathetic standard of TV make it very impressive. Given the amount of Police shows on TV and their long runs the past 20 years the new Hawaii 5-0 should be on for the next 10 years.

Book em' Danno