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London, NFL Town?

Posted on October 31st, 2010 by TheSportsVirus

Admittedly, when I hear someone mention BIG BEN I usually think they are talking about  Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. But, this week I’m in London for the 49ers/Broncos game for CBS. And, I’ve seen a lot of impressive sights, none better than Big Ben the clock. I know it’s just a clock tower, but it is striking and imposing. I loved hearing the bell ring at the top of the hour. And, it was interesting to find out that the clock name is open to discussion. It’s a reference to either Sir Benjamin Hall, the Commissioner of Works when the bell was hung in 1859, or to Ben Caunt, a prize-fighter who was particularly popular at the time. Kind of like a quarterback controversy I guess. But, here in London I’ve tried to put my sports thoughts on hold a bit (can’t totally do that with the World Series going on–you can watch it here thank goodness). You know what I mean though. Just a few hours on the streets where I can concentrate on the history and culture of a country I have never visited. I saw Buckingham Palace, the Jewel Tower and the Houses of Parliament. Saw guards on horses in front of the Treasury. Walked along the Victoria Embankment and viewed the London Eye. Eating fish and chips was a nice local treat. And I was intrigued by the statue of Oliver Cromwell, which has a controversial history. I found out that Irish MPs objected to the building of the statue because of Cromwell’s ruthless reputation during his conquest of Ireland. English MPs were in agreement, on the grounds that Cromwell had orchestrated the trial and execution of Charles I. In the end, Prime Minister Lord Roseberry funded the statue himself. Kind of like a stadium being funded privately rather than publicly. Well, not quite the same. There I go again with a sports reference. Actually, that’s the point I want to make about my experience here. As much as I thought I was getting away from sports, and American culture, it was surrounding me. McDonalds and Burger King are ubiquitous. Hot Dogs are readily available. Everywhere I turned it seemed like someone was wearing a Frank Gore jersey. I understand that of course there are plenty of tourists here for the game, but suddenly I didn’t want to see them. I’m in Europe. Isn’t it supposed to be completely different? Would it be good for the NFL to someday expand to London? I think it would be cool, but the travel would be a killer. Something to think about though.

Some of the information for this blog was researched from Frommer’s 24 Great Walks in London.

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On The Eve Of The 2010 World Series

Posted on October 27th, 2010 by TheSportsVirus

What’s better, the night before Christmas or the night before the World Series? You have to admit, if your team is lucky enough to reach the Fall Classic, there is a parallel considering the great anticipation that exists in late October and late December. For a couple of days after winning the LCS, you bask in the glow of winning a pennant. You are just glad your team made it to the Series. But, most baseball fans realize that if you get there you might as well win it. And on the eve of the 2010 World Series, two teams have a chance to make history in a unique way. For the Texas Rangers, it’s their first trip to the Classic. The Giants have been here three times before, but have never won a title since they moved to San Francisco in 1958. The SportsVirus Joe Castellano and TheDoctor Michael Duca discuss the 2010 World Series, with a special focus on a Giants team that they watched closely all season long. Who gets the early Christmas present? Texas or San Francisco? Can’t wait to find out.

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ALSO AVAILABLE ON ITUNES: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/thesportsvirus/id382724152

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NLCS Random Thoughts

Posted on October 22nd, 2010 by TheSportsVirus

You have to wonder if a couple of  mental mistakes by the Giants in Game 5 will cost them the series. First of all, Pablo Sandoval has to be able to cover third base on the Roy Halladay sacrifice bunt. While Fox and ESPN focused a lot on whether the bunt was fair or foul, I was waiting for someone to mention the fact that Sandoval really goofed. Finally, Aaron Boone on Baseball Tonight talked about what I was thinking. Panda has to get back to the bag on that play. Right away he had to know he wouldn’t have a play on a ball bunted right at the plate. He should have immediately gone back to third base to cover. He was too late and it cost the Giants an easy double play. Instead, the Phillies went on to score three runs.

And Cody Ross. Yes, he’s been the hitting hero for San Francisco so far. But, it is absolutely inexcusable to get throw out at third base with the third out. He tagged up on a fly ball to right by Sandoval and Jayson Werth gunned him down. You have to know the situation. There is no reason to try to get to third with two outs unless you know you are going to make it standing up.  Toss in the fact that we all know that Werth has a great arm and you have a really stupid move on your hands. There is aggressive baseball and there is just plain dumb. That’s a baserunning lesson that should have been learned in A Ball.

Other thoughts:

Ryan Madson looks like the best reliever on either team. How about him striking out the side in order in the 8th?

The Giants have more players going in and out of the doghouse than any team in recent memory. From AndresTorres getting benched for slumping to being back in good graces, to Mike Fontenot getting some starts at 3B only to go back to a pinch hitting role, Bruce Bochy has us guessing every day with his lineup. He has to worry about whether Juan Uribe’s wrist injury will allow him to swing the bat well enough to start game 6. And, he suddenly doesn’t have an 8th inning reliever he can trust.

The crowd at AT&T Park looked great. After 5 years covering the Giants as much as possible for Sirius/XM, I wish I could be there to experience this run through the post season. Unfortunately, Major League Baseball decided to only provide credentials for the LCS and World Series to the big web sites, not us.

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Indoor Vs. Outdoor Sporting Events

Posted on October 10th, 2010 by TheSportsVirus

Photo By Andy Lopusnak

As I sit here at Lucas Oil Stadium preparing to do stats for CBS Sports on the Colts game against the Chiefs I am marveling at the sheer size of this building. At that’s exactly what it is, a building.  Along with the 63,000 fans I am as comfortable as can be because the retractable roof is closed and the air conditioning is on.  It’s supposed to be an in the 80′s today in Indianapolis, uncharacteristic weather at this time of year in the midwest. And, I have to admit that I’d rather not be sweating or chasing around my paperwork when the wind blows as I might be doing in an open air stadium right now. But, part of me longs for the days of outdoor football so matter what the weather is. It’s great to be comfortable, but I always feel like the elements are an interesting part of sports. I love to see how athletes perform in the elements. How does the wind effect the the kicker? Can a team throw the ball when driving into the wind or rain? How many fumbles will we see in wet weather? There’s nothing like a snow game! It all goes away when an outdoor game turns into an indoor game. In the last three days I’ve been fortunate enough to experience a great atmosphere at a playoff baseball game in San Francisco between the Braves and Giants and now a sold out NFL game with two top teams. The Giants fans at AT&T park waved their orange pom poms and roared throughout a tight extra inning game on a Friday night. The Colts fans are clad in their blue jerseys, most with the number 18 and the name Manning on the back. It’s a great day for football and it will probably be much louder here with the retractable roof closed. But, I do wish we were outside in the fresh air. The folks in the 142 suites here could still close the windows and have their AC. I’ll take the elements anytime. And the pom poms are ok except the video board doesn’t need to prompt the fans to wave them. Artificial enthusiasm? Artificial turf? Air conditioning? Not my idea of a real sporting event.

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A View From the Sidelines

Posted on October 6th, 2010 by Sr. SportsVirus

What’s wrong with the San Francisco Forty Niners? After winning all four preseason games, the niners are 0-4 after failing to win Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 16-14. The close score is misleading; Atlanta dominated play for most of the game and the Niners once again self-destructed at the end. The Niners led 14-13 with less than two minutes to play in the game, but Atlanta was driving the ball down field and appeared headed into field goal range. But then Atlanta’s Matt Ryan threw an interception to the Niner’s Nate Clements who ran the ball inside the Atlanta 15-yard line near the sideline. The Niner’s could get their first victory of the season, right. Wrong! Falcon receiver Roddy White knocked the ball loose and Atlanta recovered the ball near the 10-yard line. One might fault Clements for not simply stepping out of bounds at the 10, but White made a great play to force the fumble. Still, with less than a minute to go and Atlanta needing to go about 55 yards to get within field goal range, the Niners still had a chance to win the game, right. Wrong again! Matt Ryan showed his skills as an NFL passer by driving his team into field goal range with pinpoint accurate passes to receivers near the sidelines, enabling them to stop the clock and keep the drive alive. In the end, Matt Bryant’s field goal won the game as time expired. This was reminiscent of the Bill Walsh offense that the Niners ran so effectively during their glory days.

What’s wrong with the Forty Niners is that first and foremost they need a new quarterback. In this game, Alex Smith looked good on the Niner’s first drive, but then fell back to the mediocre performance Niner fans have too often seen from him this year and in past years. He threw two interceptions, overthrew receivers, and made poor decisions, like intentionally grounding the ball while being sacked. This last move drew a penalty that took San Francisco out of field goal range, which would have given them a five point lead with under two minutes to play. He also has trouble spotting open receivers. With excellent receivers like Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, the Niner passing game should be much better than it is.

What’s wrong with the Forty Niners is that they also need a better offensive scheme. Apparently, the coaches have not viewed films of Forty Niner games from the 1980s where the offense used a balanced attack of running and passing plays to move the ball down the field.
Frankly, the current offensive scheme is boring; three consecutive runs up the middle doesn’t do it. It would be refreshing to see a few creative plays like end sweeps, double reverses and a “flea flicker” or two thrown in. While Frank Gore is an outstanding back, it’s hard to understand why other backs like Michael Westbrook are not utilized.

What’s wrong with the Forty Niners is that the coaching staff does not see what everyone else sees. They better wake up soon or Jed York will be showing them the door.

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