Five far too early Superbowl 50 predictions

It all comes down to this. A fortnight from now a champion will be crowned. In what promises to be a scintillating outing fans will be treated to the first Superbowl between two #1 pick Quarterbacks and the first Superbowl where players drafted #1 and #2  in the same year have both taken the field. With the narratives forming, what better time is there to take a look at some far too early predictions?

Both Quarterbacks will throw an interception – Only once this decade have both teams thrown an interception in the Superbowl (last year). The good news is that the odds of it happening again seem to be low, the bad news for both fan bases is they have men susceptible to throwing an interception under centre. The bad news for Broncos fans is that Ted-Ginn-drops-wide-open-pass-from-Cam-Newton-e1442167857281Peyton Manning has thrown an interception in each of his Superbowl appearances (four in three games) and that is something that will be niggling at him over the next fortnight. Cam Newton has shown Panthers fans the excitement he demonstrated on his way to winning the Heisman. The further the Panthers have advanced, the more Newton has tried a little too hard. It’s not new information that Newton likes the deep ball, but his interception in the NFC Championship game is the perfect example of him putting a little too much on the ball, something the Broncos will try to goad him into in two weeks time.

The Broncos will run and run often – Throughout generations the best Manning teams have had the balance of a run/pass diet. For Peyton, who is going to be the oldest player to start in a Superbowl, it’s crucial that the weight of responsibility to move the chains is shared with Anderson and Hillman. The Broncos averaged 3.3 yards per carry in the AFC title game against the Patriots, out-rushing the defending champions by 55 yards on the day. The Panthers rushed for 152 yards, with Johnathan Stewart finishing with 83 yards, 16 less than the entire Broncos effort.

The Panthers are going to score and score often so it’s imperative the Broncos rush not only to gain traction but to keep the ball away from Newton and Co. for as long as possible.

The Broncos defensive efforts will falter – Breathtaking, dazzling, stunning, wondrous and splendid. They are just a few of the words that spring to mind when thinking about the defensive effort against the Patriots. Can they replicate that form two games in a row? Without a doubt. Will it be enough to get another ring for the Mile High City? The jury’s out. During the regular season Carolina ranked first in points per game, second in rushing yards per game, fourth in first downs and eleventh in total yards per game (averaging 15 yards more than the Broncos in the process).

There’s no arguing with the evidence – the Broncos have the means to stop a high-octane attack such as the Panthers. It might only consecutive series or a quarter but the Panthers will have their way with the Broncos. Stopping the attack and wrestling back momentum will decide who gets to life the Lombardi Trophy.

Ted Ginn Jr. is going to step up yet again – The Ohio State alumni is somewhat of an enigma. Now in his ninth year after being drafted by the Dolphins, Ginn Jr. has never lived up to the lofty expectations bestowed upon him as a one-time High School and College All-American. In Carolina he has found his sort of person, with his career high rushing and receiving averages a testament to the player he has become under Ron Rivera.

There will be no shortage of players telling the media this is the game that they were born to play. Ginn Jr. has always thought of himself as an elite level footballer and when he’s given his stage he will demonstrate why.

The halftime show will be at best, mediocre –  Not really a “far too early” prediction given that Coldplay were announced with Beyoncé and Bruno Mars last year. The halftime show is about hype and for all the commercial success in the world, that’s not something Coldplay are known for.

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The NL doesn’t need the Designated Hitter

Reports today suggest the National League are going to introduce the Designated Hitter rule from the beginning of the 2017 season . When it finally happens the National League will be worse off.

JonLesterHitting

Jon Lester’s quest for a hit captivated baseball fans.

It’s one of the most controversial rules in baseball. Should the pitcher hit, does it devalue the game, does the DH rule offer guys like David Ortiz a longer (and more successful) major league career than they would otherwise have?

There are many questions about the National League and their decision to have avoided the DH rule and it’s a decision that splits fans.

The pitcher hitting changes the game. Pitchers approach their starts differently, small ball is more important, managers are forced to manage the game on a deeper level and in extreme cases, Bartolo Colon does Bartolo Colon things.

At its core baseball is more a narrative than it is a game. Much like a good book, every chapter ebbs and flows and each small decision can lead to dire consequences or unbridled success.

To remove the designated hitter is to remove part of the theatre that makes baseball such a perfect metaphor for life – a series of decisions where the primary goal is to get ahead and stay there.

There’s the suggestion that allowing the pitcher to hit creates an easy out. If that’s the sole argument of someone who wants the DH they need to consider the following…

Clayton Kershaw’s Opening Day win in 2013 wouldn’t have been as good if he didn’t hit a solo Home Run to give his side the lead, the legend that is being built by Madison Bumgarner wouldn’t be the same if he was only as productive on one side of the ball. What about the 2007 World Series? Daisuke Matsuzaka got his first ever professional hit and drove in a run in a big spot. These moments are gone when the DH comes to the National League.

The above examples are blips on the radar, but that’s what makes them so special. If baseball had storybook endings every night the audience would be diminished. Fans love the unusual and baseball is the perfect laboratory for the insane.

On of the most underrated parts of the Designated Hitter rule comes into play years, if not decades before a pitcher ever sets foot inside the batters box as a professional. The possibility of being drafted by (or signing for) a National League organisation means that young pitchers are going to need to have their hitting somewhat honed in their formative years.

The lack of Designated Hitter shows the importance of balance, not only on the diamond but off it. You might not be able to be the greatest at everything but it’s vital to have a range of applicable skills.

It might seem peculiar but pitchers hitting adds purity to the game. To remove it changes not only the game, but the course of history.

2016 Williamstown Seagulls fixture analysis

The VFL draw has been released and the Williamstown Seagulls are looking for back-to-back premierships for the first time since 1958-59. What does the draw hold?

Round 1: RICHMOND (HOME) – The Seagulls have a relatively kind draw for the season opener, hosting the Tigers, a side they easily accounted for in 2015. A comfortable win should follow.index

Round 2: BOX HILL (HOME) – The premiership flag will unfurled against the side the Seagulls dominated to win their first flag in twelve years. Box Hill have the credentials of a top four side and this game will have some niggle.

Round 3: CASEY (AWAY) – A night game awaits the Seagulls on their first 2016 away trip. Casey will fancy themselves as a chance if they can regain the form that saw them sneak into the finals last season.

Round 4: PORT MELBOURNE (HOME) – The Mothers Day clash at Burbank will, as always, be a clash for the ages. Last Mothers Day the Seagulls fell a kick short and will be looking to turn the tables on their oldest rival.

Round 5: WERRIBEE (AWAY) – There’s a certain symmetry to the Seagulls traveling to Werribee the week after playing Port at home. The week after their stinging loss to Port, the Towners suffered the same result by the same margin against the Tigers. This result will be lingering in the memories of the visitors.

Round 6: NORTHERN BLUES (HOME) – The Blues gave the Seagulls a scare in the first week of 2015 but don’t expect to see that result repeated. The Seagulls will be far too strong for an undermanned Blues outfit.

Round 7: COLLINGWOOD (AWAY) – The most frustrating away fixture simply because it is being played at the Holden Centre rather than Victoria Park. The Pies will be as strong as ever in what could be a great contest.

Round 8:  STATE GAME – SANFL VS VFL – This would be a great afternoon at the Adelaide Oval. One thing is for sure, there will be Seagulls players pulling on the Big V.

Round 9: FOOTSCRAY (AWAY) – The Queen’s Birthday Eve clash will hopefully have better weather than the 2015 game. This game is also likely to be the only game featuring the Seagulls stunning yellow kit they wore as they won their second Foxtel Cup in 2014.

Round 10: FRANKSTON (HOME) – The Dolphins are going to be a better team in 2015. Are they going to be good enough to get a result against the Seagulls on the road? Probably not. A good percentage boosting opportunity heading into the bye.

Round 11: BYE

Round 12: GEELONG (HOME) – The Cats are the perfect opponent for the Seagulls to face coming out of the bye. A refreshed outfit should be too much for the Cats.

Round 13: NORTH BALLARAT (HOME) –This will be the first time North Ballarat have played at Burbank Oval since Round 14 2012. Burbank Oval is a difficult place to play at the best of times and the Roosters face a tough task to get the points.

Round 14: BOX HILL (AWAY) – This could be the toughest game of the season for the Seagulls. Box Hill are going to be a top four team and this game will go a long way to deciding the look of the ladder come finals.

Round 15: COBURG (HOME) – Coburg will be much improved from a 2015 campaign that saw them in the winners column on just seven occasion. A potential bogey game if approached with the wrong mindset.

Round 16: PORT MELBOURNE (AWAY) – The trip across the bridge generates a tense atmosphere at North Port Oval. The Borough will be in the mix for a finals place so this one could go either way.

Round 17: SANDRINGHAM (AWAY) – Seagulls fans and players alike will be hoping for less heart complications than were delivered in the 2015 Qualifying Final. It’s tough to see how the Zebras won’t be aiming for some payback from the above result.

Round 18: FOOTSCRAY (HOME) – In what shapes as their toughest month of the season the Seagulls are going to need to find a way past a very strong Footscray side. The Dogs got across the line last time these sides met at Burbank, with poor kicking plaguing the home side, who managed a limp 1.7 in the final term of that clash.

Round 19: ESSENDON (AWAY) – A trip to Windy Hill could be a threat. It’s likely that Essendon will be depleted all season, but much like the clash against Coburg, it’s all about mindset.

Round 20: NORTHERN BLUES (AWAY) – If everything goes to plan a top two spot will be wrapped up by the final game of the season for Williamstown, an honour that has eluded the side since the 2011 season. This is a must win game with their second bye of the season in round 21.

Round 21: BYE

 

Season prediction – There are no games for the Seagulls that are worse than 50-50 in 2015. Worst case scenario the Seagulls go 12-6, best case scenario 17-1. I think they’ll end up somewhere in the middle going 15-3 and securing the Minor Premiership.

A night at the BBL

On Saturday I attended my third ever Big Bash League game and the first game I’ve attended of BBL05, the Melbourne Derby at Etihad Stadium.

I was wrong about the BBL. I said it wouldn’t last five years. As a result I’m more than happy to put my hand up and be the one with egg on my face.185037-melbourne-renegades

Saturday night shaped to be a cracker of a clash – two teams who had the week before played in front of 80,000 fans, both sides desperate for a win to keep their finals hopes alive and a sold out Etihad Stadium. The atmosphere promised to be electric.

If the atmosphere at Etihad was electric on Saturday night I must have been in the wrong building. At best I thought the experience on Saturday night lacked respect for the sport.

Test Cricket is my cricket of choice, it always has been and it always will be. As a fan of the sport I was shocked to find that for the majority of the crowd the sport wasn’t the main drawcard.

Cheering when people threw a paper plane onto the field, doing the wave and hitting beach balls. That is a comprehensive list of things that got a louder cheer than any of the on-field action.

Perhaps I’m old and grumpy but I paid for a ticket to a sporting contest and not to a convention for people who are looking to irritate members of the general public.

Things such as knowing who won the toss and being able to have a conversation about the game with the person next to me clearly aren’t big selling points for the Melbourne Renegades as they decided to blast music at every opportunity, rather than allowing the crowd to get caught up in the action.

My tip? If you’re a cricket fan who wants to actually watch and enjoy the game the best place to do it is from the comfort of your own home.

If you don’t fight you lose

Chris Gayle is a lot of things – a talented athlete, a celebrity, outspoken and after his antics during the BBL broadcast on Monday night – a disgrace.

In case you missed it, Chris Gayle assumed that a interview being internationally broadcast was the right time to put the moves on Mel McLaughlin, who in true professional manner, kept on keeping on.Chris-Gayle_2588001

There’s an old analogy about the size of the fight in the dog being more important than the size of the dog in the fight. This morning the dog is society and it seems there is a clear dividing line between people seeing what Chris Gayle did being a bit of fun or for what it was – desperate and grotesque.

This is more than a media and celebrity issue, it’s a desperate reflection on a societal problem, a problem that shouldn’t exist in the 21st century.

The fact there is still an equality debate raging in the year 2016, be it equal pay, marriage or gender sports coverage on television is a sad indictment on how far we have left to go as a society.

If anything is going to change it is going to come down to people power. In the age of Social Media people are quick to anger about anything, why not get angry about something useful?

We all have the right to feel comfortable in our workplace and from outward appearance McLaughlin wasn’t afforded that right last night.

The debate over athletes as role models will continue to rage long after the dust settles on this issue. The fact of the matter is that there aren’t many people reading this who haven’t idolised an athlete for one reason or another.

The other side of the coin is how we treat athletes when they make mistakes – be it dropping a crucial catch or doing something as astronomically stupid as what Gayle achieved last night.

Gayle is going to release a statement. He’ll be sorry, he’ll be full of regret, he’ll have learned his lesson. Forgive me, but this is a record that athletes play far too often.

If that’s the case why was Gayle involved in a similar issue in the Caribbean Premier League last year? He thinks he’s invincible. It’s time to end the myth.

The solution is simple. Fine him, suspend him and ban him from speaking with the media for the rest of the season. If he wants to live by the sword then he should be prepared to die by it. It’s not unfair or harsh, it’s every action having a consequence, be it positive or negative.

Change occurs when the response to an issue is greater than it has been when similar issues have arisen in the past. For change to come from the actions of Chris Gayle, he must be hung out to dry.

Maybe, just maybe, this can go from being an international embarrassment to another step in the right direction for societal change.

 

Crystal ball – Five 2016 sporting predictions

It’s easy to look back at the end of the year and think about the predictions that should have been made in the world of sport. Here are five headlines you will see in 2016.

Foxes secure Champions League berth – Leicester City’s hot start to the season has shocked the most seasoned of football experts. What they have shown is that chemistry, not money is crucial to success. Jamie Vardy has 2016demonstrated why he might be the most important player in the league and his calmness under pressure will be crucial in the second half of the season. Leicester have never finished higher than eighth in the Premier League so the scene is set for them to rewrite history.

Warriors create history – Will they, won’t they? Will they, won’t they? They will. The 95-96 Bulls record will be no longer at the end of the season. The Warriors are 29-2 at the time of writing and the Bulls were 25-3 on the same date in 1996. When every player who is currently active in the NBA has retired Steph Curry is going to be the best of the lot and it is this dominance that is going to help lead the Warriors to single digit losses.

CUBS ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS – The last time the Cubs won the World Series the toaster hadn’t been invented, the Titanic was years from sinking and the Fitzroy Football Club were the powerhouse of the VFL. A lot has changed in 108 years (although I wouldn’t object to a return of the Roy Boys) but Cubs fans still wait. A better than expected 2015 saw the Cubs reach the NLCS before being swept by the Mets. The addition of John Lackey and Jason Heyward to a club who are a year more experienced makes them favourites for the N.L Central. The Royals showed in 2014 that playoff experience will help the second time around and for Cubs fans this means one thing – sweet sweet relief.

Awesome foursome – Saturday the first of October 2016 marks the day that the Hawthorn Football Club will become the greatest VFL/AFL team I’ve seen in my life. At the moment that is a mantle that belongs to Brisbane but a fourth straight flag to the men in Brown and Gold signifies a changing of the guard. Nobody has exploited Hawthorn and there isn’t an area of the game where they are noticeably lagging behind their opponents. They know when they need to win and they know how to force themselves into a winning position. No wonder they’re a happy team at Hawthorn.

Boomers win first Olympic medal –  It’s the same old story every four years for Australian basketball. The Boomers should win an Olympic medal, they lose a game they shouldn’t and fall into the wrong side of the draw. Three 4th place finishes (1988, 1996, 2000) later and it feels like the Boomers are ready. NBA champions, high draft picks and dominant domestic players will make up what is likely to be the most experienced team Australia have ever seen. The spotlight has shone on this playing group for the last decade in varying forms and they are going to use it to their advantage. A team that is likely to feature two number one draft picks is going to be in the conversation as the games enter their final weekend. More importantly one of the most frustrating streaks in Australian sport is about to be broken.