Ron Rivera the new Panthers coach

As a Chargers fan, I hate to see him go. But as a Panthers fan, I’m very pleased to see Ron Rivera become the team’s next head coach. He’s consistently impressed me over the years with the work he did with the Bears and later the Chargers. In San Diego, he inherited and kept a 3-4 defense (Rivera coached a 4-3 in Chicago and will again in Carolina) and then got it to #1 in the NFL at one point this season, demonstrating an intelligent and flexible approach to the game. Now, Rivera needs to go and get a good offensive coordinator and perhaps a quarterback.

Holy Philadelphia starting rotation, Batman

The hot stove is pouring smoke: Jayson Stark’s got an interesting breakdown of the new Phillies starting rotation after Cliff Lee signed late last night. On paper, this looks to be as dominant of a rotation as we’ll probably see this decade. I enjoyed Leo Mazzone’s take on how this rotation might fare in comparison to the 1993 Braves rotation of Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, and Avery. Only a couple more months before pitchers and catchers report…

South Carolina Gamecocks, 2010 Baseball National Champions

Congratulations to the South Carolina Gamecocks’ men’s baseball team on their national championship, clinched in thrilling fashion (12 innings) over UCLA, 2-1. This marks the first national championship for any program at USC, and South Carolina’s first positive exposure on the national stage since Bushido Japanese Restaurant in West Ashley was on Man vs. Food.

Happy Opening Day!

I’m glad baseball’s back — it’s always a welcome distraction from the rigors of day-to-day life and lets me use my brain in different ways. One thing I’m particularly excited about using more this year are the PitchFX graphs at Brooks Baseball, which will blow your mind if you like statistics — graphical plots of a pitcher’s release point, balls and strikes, vertical and horizontal movement, and velocity are all included. (For example, here’s a breakdown of Carlos Zambrano’s awful Opening Day against the Braves.) If you’re a baseball fan who likes the intricacies of the game, spend a few hours with the PitchFX graphs — they’re fun!

Super Bowl XLIII: Close, but no cigar

My Super Bowl prediction:

I think I take Arizona in a colossal upset, which means the Steelers will likely win because I haven’t given them a chance all postseason.

Boy, was I close. Super Bowl XLIII was a great one. And while the Cardinals were a Santonio Holmes tiptoe short of what would have ranked among the most shocking upsets in Super Bowl history, they gave the Steelers one hell of a ride, especially in the second half. Arizona has nothing to be ashamed about in their performance, and they definitely played as if they belonged there. But in the end, Pittsburgh carried the day. Was great to see Ben Roethlisberger play well in this SB this time — I bet he feels a lot better about this ring than he did his first one.

Congratulations to Mike Tomlin — the youngest coach to ever win a Super Bowl — and the Steelers. And now, on to baseball season!

Super Bowl Sunday

For the 43rd time, America is celebrating Super Bowl Sunday, an unofficial holiday of junk food, television marketing excess, the existence of Roman numerals, and football (or is it handegg?). And, for the 22nd time in my life, I have very little emotional investment in the game. Oh, sure, I’ve faked it before: I was rooting hard for the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, but that never worked out. The Super Bowl was first serious business in The Smith Household when Stan-The-Man Humphries sent the San Diego Super Chargers up against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX, during which Steve Young and Jerry Rice made history by turning an NFL team into meatwaffles for the first time. The other time, of course, is when the Carolina Panthers had their hearts broken by Adam Vinatieri and the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII, which was also a historic Super Bowl because no other game so far has had as many letters in its Roman numeral.

So today we get the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals. The Steelers are looking to start blinging out their other hand, while the Cardinals are benefiting from Kurt Warner’s innate ability to somehow will really bad franchises to victory. Of course, when I think of the Cardinals, I’m always reminded of Denny Green:

So who wins? The smart money says the Steelers, but the Cardinals have beaten the smart money three games in a row now. The stage has gotten bigger and the Cardinals have proven that the stage is not bigger than they are so far. Both teams are playing their best football right now, too — I suspect this game has the potential to be much better than most people expect. Prediction? I’m really on the fence here. I think I take Arizona in a colossal upset, which means the Steelers will likely win because I haven’t given them a chance all postseason. (One does have to wonder what the week off does to Arizona’s momentum, after all.) Enjoy the game, folks!

NFL Championship Sunday

Despite the untimely elimination of both the Carolina Panthers and San Diego (Super) Chargers from the playoffs last weekend, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about today’s conference championship matchups. For the NFC, we’ve got the Philadelphia Eagles traveling to Arizona to play — yes — the Arizona Cardinals. In the AFC, the Baltimore Ravens visit the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Ketchup Tundra. I’m going to attempt to analyze the games, but I have to tell you: almost nothing has gone to plan this postseason. (Except, of course, the whole “Chargers-don’t-have-a-chance-against-the-Steelers” meme.) Call this a shot in the dark. Continue reading NFL Championship Sunday