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January 20, 2009

A Sunday to Remember

Just thought I would update on part of why it has been such a slow ski season for me so far. It seems that football occurs somewhere other than football cities in January. Normally my team, the Cardinals, are done around mid-October at 2-5 or thereabouts. At that point, I cannot give a season ticket away and end up agonizing about going to games and we spend most of the day talking about draft picks and training camp.

This makes two ski weekends that were absolutely ruined by home playoff games. =)

I haven't said anything on the site because I didn't want to jinx it and in part because it seemed like a side note to even make the playoffs that once we got in, we were playing with house money anyway, but it seems that the Cardinals are not done yet.

I have in my lifetime been to an NLDS Game 5 Diamondbacks-Cardinals in 2001, a Suns-Lakers Game 7, a Suns-Clippers Game 7, several Suns-Spurs or Suns-Mavericks playoff games, and an Atlanta-Cardinals game. But nothing compared to the electricity of Sunday's NFC Championship game.

It still hasn't sunk in all the way and that is the upside of two weeks to prepare. The entire world gets to talk about my team like they mean something to someone other than the 30,000 fans that would go to a Browns or Lions or Bengals game at Sun Devil Stadium and sit on the East Side in the Sun on a 110 degree September afternoon. Or drive to Flagstaff every year just to watch training camp.

So I am heading to Brian Head this weekend, then hosting about 20 people at my place the following weekend to hope that the Cardinals shock the world and win the whole damned thing.

Posted by Justin at 10:06 AM

September 18, 2008

ASU Official Rules for Tailgating

ASU publishes their official Tailgating rules:

  • Tailgating is allowed in all university parking lots and structures 3.5 hours before kick-off and up to one hour after the game ends.
  • Grilling may be done in open parking lots and on the roof of parking structures. No charcoal grills are allowed.
  • Alcoholic beverages are permitted, but are limited to beer and wine. Liquor is not permitted under Arizona law.
  • Glass containers are not prohibited, but ASU police encourage people to choose cans or plastic bottles instead.
  • People consuming alcohol must be the legal age of 21 or older, and are not allowed to bring any alcohol inside the stadium.
  • Groups providing/serving alcohol to more than 20 guests, such as an organized company function, must obtain an alcohol permit.
  • Drinking games and binge drinking are prohibited.
  • Other recreational games such as bean-bag toss, football, etc., are permitted as long as a competitive drinking aspect is not involved.

Competitive drinking games...

You gotta love when they have rules about competitive drinking games.

Posted by Justin at 06:03 PM

August 07, 2008

Football Season Underway

I am heading to the Cardinals-Saints game tonight and already made my annual trip to Flagstaff to watch training camp. Here is the lowdown on football in the household:

  • Jake is playing Pop Warner - 4 practices per week
  • Jarrett is playing Pop Warner - 5 practices per week
  • Games for both on Saturdays
  • Wickenburg games are on Friday nights and I will be at 8-10 of them
  • ASU plays 8 home games and I have season tickets
  • Cardinals play 10 home games and I have season tickets

Then there are the Suns starting after that and conflicting with ski season. I am booked.

Posted by Justin at 04:06 PM

May 05, 2008

End of SSOL Era in PHX

This article said it best about the PHX Suns and almost made me cry in doing it:

I made my friend Chris Connelly appear on this week's B.S. Report to discuss "critically acclaimed sports teams," following up on a discussion we had right after Game 2 of the Suns-Spurs series, when things were looking bleak for Phoenix and the end of Mike D'Antoni's reign seemed imminent.

"Well, that's OK that they didn't win the title," Connelly cheerfully said at the time. "At least they were critically acclaimed!"

From there, Connelly unleashed his theory of "critically acclaimed" sports teams (check the podcast for the full details) and how these Suns teams would be cheerfully remembered some day like we remember Coryell's Chargers and the Fab Five. In other words, it didn't really matter that they never won a championship, just like it didn't matter that "Pulp Fiction" didn't win an Oscar, "The Wire" never won an Emmy and "Arrested Development" bombed in the ratings. We would always remember them fondly and feel like they were more successful than they actually were.

And I was sitting there thinking, "Why didn't I think of that?"

You couldn't come up with a better two-word eulogy for the Seven Seconds or Less Era (or S.S.O.L. Era) in Phoenix: Critically acclaimed.

Maybe the Suns didn't win a championship, but we'll remember them 100 times more fondly than the brutally efficient and hopelessly bland Spurs, who taught everyone over the years that the regular season doesn't matter, transformed the NBA playoffs into a flopathon, revived the vile and fan-unfriendly Hack-A-Shaq strategy and did everything short of sending Bruce Bowen out on the court with a chainsaw and a taser. If the Spurs were the Team of the Decade, no wonder ratings dwindled until the league's big comeback this season. The real shame is that all the mugging, acting, eye-rolling, flopping, rule-bending and hysterical shrugging obscured what should have been remembered as a throwback sports team, a shrewdly assembled roster of well-coached guys who played beautifully together, didn't care about credit and revolved around the best power forward who ever played. Instead, we'll remember them as the team that turned the NBA playoffs into the World Cup. Congratulations, fellas.

And I sit here and wait for the new Arrested Development movie to come out and watch my re-runs fondly (including all of seasons 1 and 2 on my recent road trip to bury my grandfather). Four seasons of having season tickets, a game 7 against LA and the Clippers, two Western Conference Finals Appearances, and close to 250 wins...

And 53 episodes of AD.

I hope this is not the end of fun. I like basketball games that are decided 123-118.

Posted by Justin at 11:31 PM

January 21, 2008

MLK Weekend, NFC-AFC Championships, and No Skiing

It has been a while since I checked in. First, I was gone for three of the past four weekends and as cool as my wife is, I probably needed to chill for a bit. MLK weekend sucks just about anywhere because most resorts get swamped by folks heading up because the kids have days off. Plus there is football.

But all of these things take a backseat to family and personal life stuff. My grandfather is in the hospital and it has been a rather odd last couple of days.

Anyway, I am planning an epic trip starting the first week of February. Looking like two days at Jackson Hole, another day at Big Sky, a day at Alta, and back to Brian Head. Betting on 5-6 days of skiing at four resorts. Including Alta and Big Sky that are my favorite resorts. If things go as planned, this will make trips to Wolf Creek, Alta, Brian Head, Beaver Creek, Big Sky, and Jackson Hole by mid-February. I am already at 9 days and this will put me right at 15 days.

Posted by Justin at 11:27 AM | Comments (1)

December 28, 2007

Brian Head Snow Update

I skied yesterday and today at Brian Head with an entire condo full of friends and family. I mean mad house. We packed 9 people into the condo and it was overflowing. We are lucky we didn't get busted for all the noise we made during the first half of the ASU-Texas game which was in part some serious profanity aimed at Rudy Carpenter. You gotta get rid of the ball. Nah, probably more at the offensive line for missing blocks and the defensive ends and outside linebackers that kept losing contain. Unless you missed it, 52-34. But enough about the second whoopin' in three games by a national powerhouse...

We have two first time snowboarders with us and another two guys that have maybe five or six days on the slopes under them. Great news for all of them is that Flint and Cameron wear size 12 and 13 boots and it happens that I have two boards and boots that fit them. Carson fits into my size 12 Nordicas that my dad usually uses and is skiing my K2's and Atomics. We have been switching off during the day. That leaves only Tim that has to rent and he got a smoking deal at Georg's, which is an awesome place to rent gear. $22 per day. And the skis are nice Atomics that appear to be only a year or two old.

The snow the first day was sketchy at best. Windblown and icy. We tried out the new Interconnect and I have some issues. There are some serious flat spots, some even uphill, that you have to get through and there isn't enough vertical to build speed to get across them. My chest is sore from using my poles over and over. The worst is between Navajo and the new chair 1. We headed over to Bump and Grind, grabbed some lunch, and took a run or two in the PM. An entire day of maybe 8 runs. It was cold, but nothing compared to Thursday.

Yesterday redefined cold for me. Standing temp was zero with a 20 mph wind. Wind Chill approached 20 below. My nice Burton gloves (and while I am not a Jake Burton fan, their gloves and some of their other gear are so well designed that I gotta use them) that couldn't keep my hands warm, even with warmers in them. I called it a day when my fingers stopped hurting and went numb because given my blogging and job, having fingers is a real plus. I have a fat pair of polypro thermals that Outersports.com hooked me up with in April. They are the warmest thermals I have ever used and well worth the price. They run under $20 for the black heavy weight ones that I have and they are well worth the investment. Unfortunately, they are in Phoenix because I decided to bring them home and wash them last trip. Note to self, never wash ski gear... wait, that probably wasn't the moral to the story. Blame Tera... nope, still not the point. Perhaps I should be a little more careful about packing. At least I brought the towels back from the house. Upside was almost a foot of fresh, which kept me fighting the cold and taking runs.

Cameron and Flint were in ski school, but the line for lessons was so long that they missed the cutoff for the AM lessons and were stuck in the lodge for half the day. Jarrett spent his second straight day in ski school and Amelia, his instructor, was absolutely awesome. I am figuring early 20's and an SUU student, but I didn't ask. She got him two days in a row and had a class of two kids in Level 3. Note to readers, TIP YOUR SKI INSTRUCTORS WELL. $10 is decent. You are gonna drop that on lunch and it at least buys the instructor their lunch and gas for coming up to their $7 an hour job.

Speaking of instructors, Carson and Timmy got Justin as their personal instructor. Private lessons baby. Timmy is tearing it up. Carson is really starting to get it. A little bit of a struggle with his right hand turns and a little struggle to stay carving on steeper stuff. I took them down Wild Ride that has about a 100 foot vertical drop that is the steepest thing on the mountain (which is sad in and of itself). That didn't end so well for them, but I gotta take them places that are more difficult every once in a while. After they fell four or five times, they both ass slid down. I took a different approach. Since it was a powder day, I got a good start, and dove face first with skis up and front slid down. Powder conditions rock.

It brings back fond memories of when I was at that stage and Jake was about where Jarrett is now. It has been 5 solid years of 20+ days and I am finally completely bored of Brian Head. Don't get me wrong, on a powder day, I would ski a corn field with a rope tow made out of a pickup truck, but unless the snow is great, the only reason to go out is to coach friends and hang out.

So here is the summary--it was cold. 10" of fresh, but at the top, it is almost completely gone from the wind and icy as can be. I stayed away from Giant Steps because of the cold and wind, but Roulette was decent once you got past the top where there was minimal coverage. Navajo was great and this is the first real time I have skied over there. I did some postholing when I tried to ski through the trees and hit some flats. The Interconnect makes life easier when changing mountains, but if you snowboard and don't like stepping out and walking/kicking, the shuttle still runs between mountains and isn't a bad idea. Chair 1 was on wind hold for a while yesterday (and that may be a recurrent theme) so the Interconnect wasn't an option until around noon. The condo realistically sleeps 6-7, 9 is pushing it. All around, a day that is memorable only because of the cold, not because of the skiing.

Posted by Justin at 07:37 AM

December 02, 2007

Yesterday

Just in case you want to see the redheaded State Champion. Please note that these are crappy camera phone pics.

Far West Steelers - #77 Jake Blackburn - State Champions Jr. Peewee 2007

And here he is still in his game pants on the field at Sun Devil Stadium after ASU ends the Wildcat's season.

Jake after the 2007 ASU vs. U of A game - Sun Devil Stadium

Posted by Justin at 08:09 PM | Comments (1)

STATE CHAMPS

The Far West Steelers (11-0) faced the Gilbert Monsoon (11-0) at Chaparral High School yesterday. In 11 games, Gilbert had allowed ZERO POINTS. THAT IS ZERO. Generally, it is difficult to beat a team when you can't score. Two things ended yesterday--their string of shutouts and their string of victories. My oldest son Jake played offensive line for the Far West Steelers in the Jr. PeeWee (9-10-11) Pop Warner league in Phoenix. Never played a lick of defense all year. Then the kid that Jake shared time with on offense broke his arm midway through the first QTR. Jake played both ways the entire game after playing a total of maybe 10 defensive plays the entire season.

We played the entire first half on our end of the field and aside from a huge long run, we allowed them to dominate us. Our offense was only on the field for a total of 14 plays in the first half. But at the end of the first half, we were only down 16-7. But they had to kick to us.

The opening kickoff, we punched them in the mouth. 7-8 yard carries, one right after the next. Got the score back to 16-14. We onside kick every time. I was working the chains and guy on one end told the line judge, "You wanna see an onside kick worked to perfection--watch this." And like clockwork, we had the kick back and four plays later, we were up 21-16. That was great until they scored with 5 minutes left to go up 24-21 after we fumbled the ball away to them. They have the ball back and go for the dagger. Run a reverse pass and the kid fumbles the ball. We recover. And then go four and out. The game was over, but they need one first down. Third down and 4. We stop them and call out last time out. 1:13. Fourth down. Either they get a first down and win or we stop them and get the ball back with a minute left. Stoped a half a yard short and now we have the ball, down 3.

First play, we run off tackle for 7 yards. :50 left. The next play our QB throws a 45 yard bomb hits the kid in stride to take the lead back. As soon as he let it go, the game was over. Just a perfect pass. We intercept their desperation pass at the end in one of the best games I have ever watched. 27-24.

Sorry to give you the longwinded version of a Pop Warner story, but we spent the entire drive over and most of the last week talking about what it takes to be champions. Five times in the last two years, he has sat next to me and watched undefeated teams lose their first game in the playoffs. Wick and Blue Ridge this season. Wick, Seton, and Round Valley last season. I have been telling Jake all year that you win the game on the practice field. You win it by preparing. You win it by outhitting your opponent. By out executing them. And when it is 4th down and you need a yard or it is fourth down and you need a stop, you win it by taking it. Round Valley beat Wickenburg by taking the game from them on two 4th and 1's. SL finished off BR by MacArthur taking the game away on 7 yard out on 4th and 5 inside the 20.

Jake wasn't supposed to start and had a terrible game two weeks before. Never played Defense. And all of the sudden, there he is getting his number called and playing every down when his team needs it. And he did it on the practice field. By working hard all year. Hard work and preparation showed up. I was screaming with :25 left at Jake "WHAT PLAY YOU GONNA RUN? WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLAY?" Victory Formation. Take a knee. When that is the very last play that you run for the entire year, that is the best feeling in the world. Heck of a life lesson to learn at 10. And the kids on his team were just awesome.

And afterwards, he didn't even have time to change out of his undershirt and game pants before we went to ASU for the Devils game.

Posted by Justin at 09:29 AM

November 27, 2007

Pop Warner Update

The Far West Steelers are West Valley Champions of the Jr. PeeWee Division. Over 20 teams in the West, and Jake's team is atop them all. 11-0. Of the top 7 other teams in the West Valley, we have beaten 5 of them (the Crusaders twice) on the way to our West Valley title. We defeated the Grand Firecats last weekend in an incredible game for the West Title. They were 10-0 going into the game.

Here is how the playoffs are going to end. The undefeated Gilbert Monsoon will play the Steelers at 9:00 AM on Saturday at Chapparal High School for the Jr. PeeWee State Title.

Let me give you a little info about the Monsoon. 11-0. Scored 213 points in those 11 games. ALLOWED ZERO. 11 Shutouts. Not scored on this year during the regular season or the playoffs.

Jake has played hard all year and is surrounded by great kids and some excellent athletes. It has been fun watching these kids and this has been a special season. I will update on Saturday and it should be a great game.

Posted by Justin at 03:08 PM

November 21, 2007

Phil Jackson on the Laker's Defensive Woes (h/t Rob at Say Anything Blog)

This is just awesome:

NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA has spoken with the Los Angeles Lakers about a comment coach Phil Jackson made following Tuesday night's game in San Antonio.

The Spurs made 13 three-pointers in their 107-92 victory, and Jackson was asked if too much penetration was leading to open outside shooters.

"We call this a Brokeback Mountain game, because there's so much penetration and kickouts," Jackson said. "It was one of those games."

I am not sure that the Lakers were using the backdoor play before penetrating, but good comments from the Zen Master.

Hey, wait, let's check with Caroline at Eagle Valley Blog. Apparently there are some stories surfacing from the area that Kobe likes backdoor penetration himself.

Posted by Justin at 10:42 AM

November 15, 2007

Football Update

I am still struggling to come to grips with the premature end of Wickenburg's season. On the third play of the game our three year starter, Coach's son QB got hit in the ribs after he released a pass. He played through the entire first half in pain before going in at halftime with us leading 14-7. He could not put on his pads after the half. Could barely move. Within the first minute of the 3rd QTR, Round Valley had tied the score after a forced fumble caused by Round Valley's Evan Hamblin. A possession later on 3rd and 7 from the Wick 35 with the backup QB in, we ran "Gangster Pass". Wick is in Purple and Gold and as you can probably guess, the results were not good. Evan Hamblin for Round Valley forced the fumble that led to the tying score, caught both of their offensive TD passes, and caught this Wickenburg pass in the flats for the go-ahead score to the house to end our season in the state quarterfinals at 11-1.

Evan Hamblin's INT wins game for Round Valley

After this play, Drew Vaughan put his pads back on and played the next 16 minutes unable to come to the sideline between plays and barely able to hand the ball off and get from the huddle to the line. His last desperation throw with 45 seconds left was tipped, intercepted, and resulted in the final score of 28-14.

I was close to the team all year and spent every Friday night with them since the middle of August, working the sidelines, having dinner with the players and coaches, talking to other coaches, watching film. It was a great year. Any time you win 11 games, it is a great year.

The doctors sent Drew for x-rays immediately after the game when he was unable to stand up figuring they would diagnose bruised ribs. Nope, Ruptured spleen. Played an entire football game with a ruptured spleen. I was sitting with the coaching staff when word came that it was a spleen and he was going into surgery.

11 Wins. 11-1 for the Wranglers. After the Oregon loss, that is what ASU is shooting for against USC and Arizona. Jake still has a chance to go 12-0 and win a state title. But one of my teams is done--my Wranglers. Now I am left to root for Pinetop-Lakeside's Blue Ridge Yellowjackets (who happen to be my second favorite team for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is their three straight titles over Boys Ranch). They are two wins away from a 13-0 season and a title.

Season is winding down. Congratulations to the Round Valley Elks (who have the coolest home uniforms ever) and to the BR Yellowjackets, Show Low Cougars, and the Coolidge Bears. I am going to the Semifinals to watch the games this Friday, but it was so much nicer to have a horse in the race. Jake plays at 8:00 AM at Westview High against the Deer Valley Crusaders, a team we beat in the second game of the season 14-0, in the West Valley semifinals. ASU is two wins away from a BCS Bowl, probably the Rose Bowl. And the Cardinals are only a game back of the Seahawks for the NFC West. The Suns are 6-2, but it isn't basketball season just yet.

Posted by Justin at 12:08 PM | Comments (2)

October 28, 2007

What a Season

So for all my doom and gloom about my thumb, there is some good news:

  • Wickenburg extends their win streak to 10 with a regular season victory over South Ridge. Wick is 10-0. Vaughan as always grabs me after the game and starts asking me about powerpoints and playoff seeding. I couldn't get over it. That is 29-1 in the regular season under Norris Vaughan. Now comes the big test. Possible dates with Round Valley and eventually Coolidge.
  • Wickenburg (Majors) youth football (Jackson's team) extend their streak to 8, and are 8-0
  • Far West Steelers (Jr. Pee Wee) beat the number one team in the state, undefeated Deer Valley Air Express 38-30 in one of the best games I have ever witnessed at any level. That is an awful bold statement, but watching two evenly matched undefeated teams playing in the regular season finale was incredible. Air Express went up 16-6 and their coach started telling his players these "Mighty Mites can't play with us". (Mighty Mite being the division of 7-8 year olds below us) Me and about three other parents absolutely lost it and got all of our crowd fired up about it. If you know my "game voice" which is the volume level above both my inside voice and outside voice, it carries. I was absolutely screaming at their coaches "How bout them mighty mites. How you like how our mighty mite hit now." After we scored then forced a fumble and scored again to take the lead. I kept screaming the entire game. I felt like one of those horses ass parents that goes off, but I have never seen anything as classless as their coaches. Wouldn't even shake several of our kid's hands.
  • Oh, yeah. And after watching Jake's team go undefeated for the regular season and earn the number one seed in the playoffs, I took an evening trip to Sun Devil stadium. I changed out of my white A-Dub/Jake jersey and into my Gold Zach Miller jersey because it was homecoming. Gotta wear gold. (Jake's Pop Warner team wears Maroon and Gold too) ASU spotted Cal a 13-0 and a 20-7 lead. Here, we'll spot you 13... Now enjoy this smackdown. 31-20.

So here is the deal with ASU:

  • Finish 1-3 and go to the Sun Bowl in El Paso
  • Finish 2-2 and go to the Holiday Bowl in San Deigo
  • Finish 3-1 and Tempe smells like Roses. Grand Daddy of them all. New Years Day. Pasadena.
  • Finish 4-0 and bring the beads for Bourbon Street. It is a trip to the BCS Championship in No'leans.

Aside from the fact that I am probably missing ski season, at least Football season is gonna run a little late this year.

Posted by Justin at 02:03 PM

October 07, 2007

Baseball Utopia

I graduated in 1993, well before the Diamondbacks were even a thought in Arizona's mind. Being from the Mountain West, I adopted the Rockies as my favorite team. Love the purple unis. I have me a pinstriped Hampton jersey and a purple CO jersey that I have about worn out. Been to Coors field and watched RJ pitch against the Rocks in 2001 when the Dbacks went to the series, RJ won the Cy Young, and was Co-MVP of the Series.

But you gotta have an AL team to root for. And I despise, hate, loathe the Yankees. So naturally, you gotta choose sides and when Curt Schilling went to Bean Town, I liked the Red Sox even more. And now with Goodyear hosting the Indians for spring training among other things, I have an even stronger reason to like the Tribe.

So here is how things stand:

  • D-backs versus Rockies starting on October 11th--my birthday--for the NLCS.
  • Red Sox up 2-0 over the Angels. Cleveland up 2-0 over the Yankees.

It is baseball utopia. I get to wear purple for the next month regardless and so long as the Yankees lose to Cleveland, there is no way that things can turn out badly.

I was watching the Rockies game and for the post game celebration, me and my friend Travis Henry sparked up a fatty boom batty blunt. They don't call it Mile High for nothin'. At least the folks in Denver have something positive to look forward to. Walker is out. Henry is baked. Cutler is a piece of trash. Ratface got rid of Jake so that they could get to the next level (not the Superbowl that he claimed, but rather to the level of a consistently mediocre team that misses the playoffs).

Savor this Rockies series folks. The Broncos are reaping the Karma they deserve for trashing the bearded Sun Devil. Jake is smiling in Boise now and the Rat should be out of a job.

--Did I mention how much I hate Jay Cutler?

Posted by Justin at 12:16 AM

October 03, 2007

For Erich--Kurt and Brenda Warner Helping Soldiers Overseas

I just got off the phone with my good friend and skiing buddy Erich. Erich of the famous Wolf Creek trip that spawned two almost fistfights over Jerry Falwell and Walmart. Erich who refuses to watch or even read about professional American sports like football or baseball because that is what Bud Light drinking Red Staters enjoy, so he likes soccer. Been too long since we spoke. He had his Tyler Durden (Fight Club) moment a couple weeks ago, which I believe makes me Bob. Steroid induced man boobs and all.

So just to get his blood pumping, you have a hugely Evangelical Christian football player trying to help the military overseas by setting up equipment donations at Walmart.

Kurt Warner and his wife, Brenda, a former Marine, are teaming up with Packages from Home to gather new or gently used sports equipment to ship to soldiers serving overseas.

Donations can be made at Valley Wal-Mart stores now through Oct. 14. Donations can also be made at the Cardinals next home game, Oct. 14 against the Panthers.

Desired equipment includes Frisbees, baseball gloves, tennis rackets, golf clubs, in addition to balls from various sports (footballs, soccer balls, basketballs, volleyballs, etc.).

Monetary donations are also being accepted. They can be made through the Warners' First Things First Foundation (www.kurtwarner.org), or by checks payable to First Things First - Ball Drive at 3420 E. Shea Blvd, Ste. 200, Phoenix, 85028.

WALMART... CHRISTIANS... FOOTBALL... MILITARY...

Erich's head is having a Blue State Blue Screen right now. Buffer overflow at 0X00CF10.

Posted by Justin at 04:40 PM | Comments (1)

September 21, 2007

Jake Nominated for Pop Warner All-American Scholar Program and Receives 5th Grade Math Award

Details on the program here:

Each year, the most academically accomplished Pop Warner kids compete for Academic All-American status. This process begins at the association level and up through each of the eight Pop Warner regions to the national level. In 2004, approximately 380,000 kids participated in Pop Warner. As our numbers once again reached record levels, 276 First Team members, over 4,200 Second Team members and 900 Honorable Mention scholars were named as Academic All-Americans at the National Level for 2004-2005.

The PWLS All-American Program requires a minimum 96% grade point average to apply for All-American status. After the applications have been processed, Pop Warner determines National First Team All-Americans (35 football, 25 cheer per grade), National Second Team All-Americans and National Honorable Mention Scholars.

The criteria are as follows:

  • Currently be in 5th Grade or higher for the Pop Warner Season
  • Have a 96% Grade Point Average (GPA) from your previous school year's report card.
  • Have a Complete Full-Year's Report Card from your previous school year to prove eligibility

Wednesday, he received the 5th Grade Math Award for his school.

Straight A student. Loves football and skiing. Never swears, ever (I have no idea where this comes from because I am a Arizona Cardinals fan and he goes to games with me). Loves the Suns, Cards, and ASU.

The only negatives I can think of are that he beats the crap out of his brother and has an incredibly sarcastic sense of humor. And based on the way I have raised him, he gets both of those traits from me.

I am pretty proud of the Redhead.

Posted by Justin at 03:10 PM | Comments (1)

August 26, 2007

Goodfoulers - Take on NBA Ref Scandal

Worth watching for certain:

Posted by Justin at 01:08 AM

August 25, 2007

White Mountain Football

Hillarious. Alright, so I am a sports nut, a Wickenburg High graduate, and travel to all the road games. I love football and whether it is pro, college, high school, pop warner, or Madden '08, any football is good football.

Well, Arizona 3A football has been dominated by teams from the White Mountains in the east near Sunrise Park Resort. Teams like Blue Ridge, Snowflake, Show Low, Round Valley, Payson, and so on have won title after title in Arizona. Their fans have set up the "White Mountain Smack Board" for folks to go and talk football.

So I write under a pseudonym and go by Bill. I don't think people really got that it was a fake name. I am a prolific blogger in that I spend most of the day either writing at my site, posting at other sites, or working the bulletin board at WMF. And I happen to know a thing or two about football and several things about the history of 3A football in AZ. Well, gradually, people have realized who I am. Not by name, but I write there so much that people forget that my name is Justin Blackburn, I graduated in 1993, played Offensive and Defensive Line, Wrestled Varsity, and in my own right was a fairly outspoken and intelligent member of the community. Literally, I was sitting in the stands and people were asking my friend Clay if "Bill was here" because he had posted something about their kid or they wanted to meet him. Other people come up to me that I have known since I was a kid in school and they start calling me Bill. The coach thinks my name is Bill.

It is awesome. If someone said that Justin Blackburn was here, no one would know who that is, but you say Bill Lundbergh, and folks know. And that name is a fluke solely because of a misspelling mishap when I registered. It was supposed to be Lumberg, not Lundbergh after the boss in Office Space.

Posted by Justin at 01:59 PM

August 12, 2007

The Busy Time

The last two days marked the arrival of my Cardinals and ASU season tickets in the mail. Suns season is getting ready to start and I am trying to get a handle on my upcoming schedule:

  • Tuesday Nights - Jake's Pop Warner Practice
  • Thursday Nights - Jake's Pop Warner Practice
  • Friday Nights - Wickenburg Football
  • Saturday Days - Jake's Pop Warner Games
  • Saturday Nights (8 Home Games) - ASU Football
  • Sunday Days - Cardinals Football

And that is only until Halloween when Basketball season starts and the Suns get added to the mix.

I am finishing up a couple major projects right now including tiling the downstairs bathroom at the condo. I am bordering on overwhelmed. I have two active businesses, including this site. Plus I still have my day job.

So the net of this is that I am selling several sets of tickets to the Cardinals and Suns. I know that right now I will be selling opening week tickets to the Suns vs. Lakers and Suns vs. Cavaliers the first week of November. These will be $100 per ticket for the two tickets that are in Section 211 Row 7 and include a parking pass at the Collier Center. I am selling my Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh in Section 436 row 7 for $100-150 per ticket depending on the going rate. The nice thing is that the Suns and Cardinals offer a new site called Suns or Cardinals Ticket Exchange that allows the selling of tickets and immediate printing for the buyer as opposed to FedExing like StubHub and other sites (Craig's List, Ebay).

Suns and Cardinals have sold out for the season and last year, my Suns vs. Lakers tickets fetched over $100 each and were not for the season opener. I am going to be selling a decent amount of games, so if you are local or just are interested in attending a game, I can paypay and sell tickets. Lemme know what games you are interested in and we can discuss price.

Posted by Justin at 03:22 PM

May 15, 2007

What's All the Fuss Aboot?

I would strongly suggest that when people want to get physical with the best player in his respective sport, Steve Nash needs to drive about 15 miles west on the I-10 and turn north on Loop 101. Take the Glendale Ave. Exit and turn right into the new Westgate Center. Proceed directly to the Coaches office.

There happens to be another Canadian resident of Phoenix who can give some advice.

I guess since we are playing Hockey Rules with hip checks and all, why not let 'em drop the gloves? Knees to the nads. Hip Checks. Kicks to the legs. Grabbing guys and twisting ankles. This is not "Dirty", this is "Hockey". That is what Phoenix gets for relying on a Canadian as their superstar.

Ask the Great One how to handle these types of physical confrontations, eh. The Suns need Marty McSorley when Nash needs rescued from a fight.

Posted by Justin at 12:50 PM | Comments (1)

May 03, 2007

Suns Down Lakers in 5 (12)

I called in to Kevin Ray and Suns Talk last night and will repeat some of my comments after watching the Lakers' season end for the second year in a row at US Airways Center.

First, seven of the eight Suns Players had at least one assist. Second, all eight players scored at least seven points. As usual, Marion, Nash, Barbosa, and Amare did most of the damage, but the Suns got solid performances from the rest of the team. And it started early with Raja and Junior knocking down threes in the first minutes of the game. Third, the Lakers had just seven assists as a team. Sure, Kobe and Odom scored plenty of points, but that is a product of them taking tons of shots. The rest of the team may as well have not shown up.

Final note--the chants of "Kobe Sucks", "MVP", or "Beat LA" are getting pretty old. Actually, about as old as doing the wave.

Now, on to San Antonio on Sunday. Last night was nothing like game seven last year because there was no sense of urgency. Now, every game against the Spurs is critical, but most important is to win the first two at home.

Posted by Justin at 12:14 PM

April 25, 2007

Suns - Lakers (14)

Boredom. It reminded me of my oldest son fighting with my middle son. We knew who was going to win. Sure, it was fun for a while, but then it is no longer fun, it is just plain mean. Last night was just plain mean.

Poor Kobe. Getting booed constantly. Then when he turned his ankle, the crowd chanted "Kobe Sucks" in unison. 15 points. That damned Raja Bell shouldn't be able to stop Kobe, but there he was again, holding Kobe to 1-6 over the last three quarters of Game 2.

Listening to Phil Jackson's press conference after the game said it all. "Do you have an answer for LB?" Nope. "How do you stop their fast break?" No idea, they ran at will on us. "How do you beat the Suns?" Don't know that either.

I don't ever want to say it is over when the other team has the best player in the NBA. Now, the question becomes can the Lakers even win a game. I really don't think they can, regardless of how good Kobe is. The problem is their other 4 on the court with him. They may as well not even be there offensively. Kobe tried to get them involved last night, but the Lakers are at their best when Kobe scores 39, 45, 50 points and in Game 1 that was not enough. There is no chemistry. There is no team. There is Kobe and a bunch of role players--their roles being to feed Kobe the rock and rebound his misses. And when Kobe goes into his pouty, "I'm going to pretend to be a team player" mode, the Lakers are even worse. They get embarrassed. See Game 7 last year.

The number is 14. 2 Down, 14 to go. Jer said it best last night in an e-mail to me:

i have to say that one play pretty much showed what this team is all about; an open court breakaway by barbosa in which he forgoes the easy layup to let marion take the poster dunk. after hoisting that spiffy sixth man tropy before the sellout crowd, he scores 26 instead of 28. i dont think that kobe passes that ball off, instead he pulls a crazy dunk on his breakaway to cut the lead to 28 instead of 30. i think that you lay that one in kobe, we were not impressed. in a nutshell, a lakers dynasty came to an end when kobe and shaq could not contain their egos.

Kazaam. The Diesel. The Big Aristotle. Kwame Brown ain't Shaq and the Lakers are the Kobe show now. Kobe got what he wanted. The spotlight. Last night, the Lakers fans didn't even show up. Only one or two here or there. They knew it wasn't even worth coming to. Unfortunately for them, this is the last time we will see the Lakers this year in Phoenix.

Posted by Justin at 01:17 PM

April 23, 2007

Press Conferences and Team Play - Magic Number '15'

From my e-mail sent to Jeremy after the game:

Yesterday, Raja, Boris, and Junior went 4 for 16 from the field and 0 for 8 from three while playing 80 minutes. 10 points combined. As a team we went 6-23 from 3. But we had the inside game and Barbosa’s energy to get us through it. Last year’s team had LB, but he wasn’t near what he has been this year. He is a star and then some. And Amare was getting easy buckets down low and trips to the line over and over. Last year, we lose yesterday’s game, but this year, we play a horrible game and manage to be up 1-0. Best part—15 of 33, 39pts, 1—ONE ASSIST. His quote after the game:

“We didn’t execute like we did in the first half. As a consequence my touches became a lot harder because they could double and triple me. First half we did a good job picking off the ball, I was able to catch it and operate. Second half, we got away from it.”

Translation--It was my teammates’ fault because they didn’t do enough to pick for me and get me the ball, so I had to shoot over double and triple teams. I mean, I tried to get my teammates involved and gave them plenty of chances to pass the ball to me and let me shoot, but aside from passing me the ball, they didn’t work hard enough to get me open so I could shoot it. I mean come on, I had one assist, so I was trying to get them involved. I only shot 33 times.

Wow. I mean, this is solid stuff right there. Throw your teammates under the bus, don't blame yourself for missing shots or for continuing to shoot over double and triple teams.

Suns 1 - Lakers 0.

And even better:

Denver 1 - San Antonio 0
Golden State 1 - Dallas 0

One down, fifteen more.

Posted by Justin at 12:11 PM

April 19, 2007

Suns - Lakers Starts Sunday - Did You Hear, Kobe?

Kobe comes back to Phoenix on Sunday. He is listed as probable despite his continued ear problems.

Here, Kobe demonstrates that he could barely hear the young Colorado woman say "No means no" or "that chair doesn't look very comfortable". He apparently did hear that the hotel had a policy for famous guests of sneaking them into the property to avoid photographers. Unfortunately his hearing also led him to mistake the desk girl when she said, "You are welcome to use the back door."

Posted by Justin at 06:19 PM

April 18, 2007

Leinart in Danger of Violating the Pac-man Jones Rule

Because it is a slow news day in Phoenix:

Loop 101 speed-enforcement cameras snapped Leinart's 2006 Chevrolet three times within five days in March, and one of the city's other street cameras caught him once in June.

Neither Leinart, nor his representatives, could be reached for comment.
[...]
Leinart is scheduled to be arraigned on the March speeding citations next Wednesday, and again on April 30, in Scottsdale City Court.
[...]
Leinart, who made $9 million last year, could pay the fines and stay out of court. Or, if he claims he is not the driver, Leinart could ask for a hearing.

And just in case folks in Phoenix don't know who Matt Leinart is, they add this tidbit at the end of the story:

The former University of Southern California star led the Trojans to back-to-back national college football championships in 2003 and 2004; was the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner; the Rose Bowl Most Valuable Player in 2004; and the Orange Bowl MVP in 2005.

For the Cardinals last year, Leinart completed 214 of 377 passes for 2,547 yards and 11 touchdowns, and rushed for two more touchdowns, but was intercepted 12 times. The Cardinals won 4 and lost 8 during the dozen games that Leinart played.

Supreme Court upholds Partial Birth Abortion ban 5-4. VA Tech Student kills 32. Car bombs in Baghdad kill over 150 people.

Nah, we got a QB for the Cardinals that does 77 in a 65 twice in four days. I am glad that Carol Sowers of the Arizona Republic is assigned to the hard hitting news beat of the Scottsdale Traffic Court.

BTW, this reminds me that I have to pay a ticket myself because my driver's license is probably already suspended.

Posted by Justin at 12:36 PM

April 17, 2007

62

Tonight the Suns try for win 62 against the Clips. 62 would tie a franchise record set in 1992-93 and tied two years ago. 62 was good enough for the number one seed in 2004-2005 and also in 1992-93, but because of the Mav's great season, it is four games out of the best record.

Jake and I are going to see the game and start getting ready for the playoffs that begin this weekend. It is that time again and time for another run at a title.

Posted by Justin at 11:16 AM

April 12, 2007

Settling in for the Off Season

This weekend is the last ski weekend at Brian Head. I talked to Tera yesterday about making one last trip up, but this weekend won't work. Jarrett has a field trip to the zoo tomorrow, she has to work, Jake has AIMS testing to make sure No Child Gets Left Behind. All of the fun things that we put off for the last six months are catching up with us.

It was a great season. The skiing wasn't great and the snow didn't come down in nearly the amount we wanted (half the average annual snowfall for Brian Head), but this year was better than last and we made several trips that were very enjoyable. Jarrett got his first couple real days skiing in and Jake and Jack got at least 20 days (they don't mind light coverage and hard packed conditions because they don't have to pay to get p-tex work done or for waxes).

So now it is time for my offseason routine. Here is what I have going on:

  • New workout program at the local YMCA. Started a couple of weeks ago because I am fat and out of shape--well, I am in a shape, but round is the wrong shape.
  • Suns Post-season. This should keep me busy until June when they win a title.
  • Wickenburg football season. Wick is coming off back to back seasons when they went deep in the playoffs including a state title loss to Coolidge this last season. I am once again working the chains and spending my Friday nights watching football.
  • ASU Football. Dennis Erickson. Great returning talent. USC at home on Thanksgiving Day. Roses would be nice, but even the Sun or Holiday Bowl would be an upgrade.
  • Cardinals Football. Despite my better judgment and my bitterness over the last 20 years of underachieving (except for 1998), I renewed my season tickets.
  • The Annual Cards Training Camp Trip. Every year in August, we head to Flag for a day.
  • Maybe a Diamondbacks game or two. I am still upset over the loss of purple and teal in the unis.

Got some work projects to catch up on, some house projects, and am getting ready to open another business this coming spring. Lots on my plate, but it is always good stuff. The condo needs two things done still--the closet doors hung upstairs and the downstairs bathroom finished. Not a lot of work to do, so next season should be even more enjoyable. All the work is done, so there will be more time for skiing and relaxing.

All in all, I am looking forward to the summer and fall and cannot wait for the snow to start coming down again. I will keep updating and posting throughout the summer with more information related to my doings as well as skiing.

Posted by Justin at 10:28 AM | Comments (1)

April 02, 2007

Suns 126 - Mavs 104

The Phoenix Suns destroyed the Mavs defense yesterday at US Airways Center.

Sunday brought the sunny side. Phoenix set an NBA high and a US Airways Center record with 64.8 percent shooting in a 126-104 showpiece victory against the Dallas Mavericks.

The Suns rose up again and showed they can beat any team, knocking off the 61-12 Mavericks for the second time in the past 18 days. That ability to lift their games on demand comes in awfully handy when they play only the best in the postseason.

The Suns were unstoppable. The most impressive performance of the year, although the game failed to live up to the hype of being the leagues two best teams.

It is playoff time and the crowd came alive unlike most of the games this season. And I think it helped. The Suns have played like the games are meaningless the last month despite winning 15 of 20 games since the All-Star Break and the crowd has really followed suit.

As you can tell, ski season is winding down and the NBA playoffs are coming. As was the case last year, the site will probably have more and more basketball info since that is how I spend May and hopefully June this year.

Oh, yeah, and in case anyone wondered, that is what an MVP plays like. Dirk went 6 of 18 and scored 21, while Nash was brilliant. That is two straight matchups head to head where Nash has come out on top and shows why he deserves a third straight MVP.

Posted by Justin at 09:42 AM

March 14, 2007

Up Early Today

It is a little before 7:00 AM and I am showered and ready for the day. Honestly, I just can't wait for the day to be over. 6:00 PM is eleven hours away.

In case you live under a rock or hate the NBA, tonight is probably the biggest matchup of the year thus far. Dallas of the 17 game winning streak that ended on Monday faces the Suns who had their own 17 game winning streak. Both teams are 10-1 since the All Star Break.

If you were a reader last year, you know how things go. As temps start rising and the season winds down, I shift from ski mode to NBA playoff mode. It is about a month early, but this game has the feel of a playoff game and is a preview of what I hope is a measure of revenge in the Western Conference Finals this June. Not just that but it is 2 time MVP Steve Nash against his former team, best friend, and biggest competition for a 3peat.

If you have not watched the Suns play, it is high octane to say the least. It is basketball at light speed. The last two years, it kept me glued to my seat almost to the start of football season.

GO SUNS!

Posted by Justin at 07:59 AM

March 11, 2007

For Adam at Highly Obsessed - Vlad Radmanovic Snowboard

Adam over at Highly Obsessed posted an open letter to Vladomir Radmanovic, the Lakers player who was recently fined $500,000 for his snowboarding accident:

On Friday, you admitted that your recent shoulder injury wasn't a result of slipping on the ice after all; rather, it was due to a spill you took while learning to snowboard for the first time. First, I want to commend you on finally telling the truth. You panicked at first, causing you to lie about the nature of your injury, but common sense prevailed. Well done!

Vladdy (can I call you Vladdy?), you seem to be getting a lot of flack for snowboarding when you're in the middle of a five-year, $30 million contract that pretty much explicitly says, 'don't go snowboarding'. In fact, I believe the last words your coach told your team were "You guys take care of yourselves. This is a time when things can happen." But that is neither here nor there; I'm here to tell you to ignore the critics! By learning to snowboard, you have gained cred in a commnity that buddies like Kobe and Phil could only dream of. You are finally on your way to your true calling. It's time to ditch your basketball career and hit the slopes, buddy. And we in the snowboarding community are ready to welcome you with open arms.

Adam, we got one up on your letter. Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic has this little nugget on his blog about the recent Suns-Lakers game:

Did you catch a glimpse of the "Go Suns" snowboard near the Lakers bench on Sunday? It was not-so-subtle shot at Vladimir Radmanovic, who lied to his team about how he suffered a separated shoulder before acknowledging a snowboarding accident and being fined $500,000.

It was the work of Suns superfan Michael Levine, whose regular displays of affection for the Suns are well-known to those who sit near him. He also has created such props as Raja Bell and Tim Thomas masks, "Trix" cereal boxes, Tim Duncan pacifiers, Milwaukee Bucks hunting gear, Braille signs for the officials and the classic "I'll have the mango salsa" sign for Chris Kaman.

Levine said that the Lakers coaches, athletic trainer, Smush Parker and Ronny Turiaf all laughed at the snowboard Sunday. So did everyone else who got the gag. The Lakers and the snowboard sign will be back April 13. Will Radmanovic?

I am offering right now to buy Kobe a season ski pass at Aspen if it helps. I heard he just loves Colorado and three years ago spent a ton of time in the Aspen area. Matter of fact, the Lakers let him have time off so that he could travel back and forth. Not sure if it was for business or pleasure...

Posted by Justin at 04:00 PM

January 27, 2007

Thanksgiving

My first ski day was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It has been a little over two months since I put on the boots for the first time this year.

Why do I bring that up? Because since November 21, which was the Monday before that, the Phoenix Suns have lost exactly twice and one of those was after arriving from Denver an hour before tip-off of the Washington Wizards game. 32-2. And now the Suns hold the 10th longest win streak in the history of the NBA and the longest since the Lakers won 19 in 1999. They set the franchise make for consecutive wins with 16 last night.

This is my team. Been my team since KJ and Horny and Thunder Dan, when I was a kid in high school. Back when the Purple Palace replaced the Madhouse on McDowell. I remember how impossible it was to get a ticket to see the Suns once Chuck arrived and the run that they had my senior year during their last trip to the NBA finals. They are my team because I own season tickets and was there for the game 7 victories over the Lakers and Clips and for the second half collapses that killed us against Dallas and the Spurs the last two years in the Western Conference Finals. I watched us get eliminated on our home floor a step short of playing in the championships the last two years. This year is something special.

Posted by Justin at 09:27 AM

January 26, 2007

Enough Ranting, Let's Talk Some Suns

I forgot to mention that the Phoenix Suns are as hot as any team in the history of the NBA. 31-2 in their last 33 games. It is unfair.

I have tickets to the Spurs next week, but am hoping to go to the condo instead. I hate getting rid of them and my Utah tickets, but gotta do what I gotta do. I have only got a few days in this year due to snow conditions, so it is time to suck it up and start skiing hard packed and windblown conditions since the storms haven't been coming the way they should.

I am hoping that this year is like last where the big storms come a little late, but it is already getting late and nada.

Posted by Justin at 12:21 AM

January 18, 2007

It is Official--Goodyear New Home to Cleveland Indians

The Arizona Republic reports that the deal is doen:

City leaders and top brass from the Cleveland Indians celebrated finalizing details that finance a new spring training facility in Goodyear.

With the smell of hot dogs wafting through the air, the City Council unanimously approved on Wednesday an intergovernmental agreement with the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority that will pay for half of the $75 million spring training facility. City staff and developers have kicked into high gear to have the stadium ready for the first pitch by March 2009.

Larry Dolan, owner of the Cleveland Indians, and his son Paul, president of the team, flew to the Valley for the festivities. "This is a great, great day for the Cleveland Indians and the Dolan family," Paul Dolan said after presenting the City Council with a stack of Indian's T-shirts. "We very much look forward to a 20-year-plus relationship with the city of Goodyear."

Every time it comes on, I have to watch Major League. The plot revolves around how the owner wanted to move the team to Florida in a new stadium that they were going to build for her. The movie follows the team from their old spring training home in Tucson through the entire season and into the post season when they beat the Yankees. The players get wind of the plan to throw the season so that the Indians can move to Florida and decide to win it all just to spite her. The Indians are moving to my town in the new stadium that we built to lure them away from Florida.

We are an NL city and I am sitting right now wearing my grey and black pinstriped Diamondbacks Away Jersey. I pretty much hate every other team in the National League (except the Rockies because we were Rocks fans before the Diamondbacks game into existence), so I have adopted the Royals who moved to Surprise where we used to live and the Mariners who train in Peoria. My favorite jersey is my teal Mariners jersey. Now, I am an Indian fan. Chief Wahoo and all.

Posted by Justin at 02:27 PM

January 09, 2007

All That is Wrong with College Football

Gonna get off topic for a bit since Boise State got exactly ONE FIRST PLACE VOTE in the AP Poll and none in the ESPN/USA Today Poll despite finishing 13-0 and beating powerhouse Oklahoma. Boise State finished 5th in the AP and 6th in the ESPN/USA Today Poll.

Who won the National Championship? Utah... Wait, that is Utah's former coach who could not get a whiff of the title at Utah despite running the table, but is the best coach in the world despite losing a game. So called Mid Majors are little more than proving grounds for coaches to inflate their paychecks before heading to a BCS conference school. They have no chance to compete and as soon as they have a great year, their coach gets offers for several times more money at a powerhouse. For instance, Utah paid Meyer approximately $700,000 to coach there and take the Utes to the Fiesta Bowl in 2004, but Florida offered him over $2M per year for 7 years to come to Florida. How can Utah ever build a reputation and therefore get some National respect if they cannot afford to keep a great coach? This talks about BYU and Utah competing to hire Meyer's old DC as their head coach:

Monday and Tuesday, Utah turned its job search into a miniature Florida-style hiring effort, throwing money in hopes the lure of gold would land its man.

In a paper chase that began Friday, sources say Utah's first offer to Whittingham Sunday started at $500,000, a figure that clearly outdistanced a BYU offer first put on the table Friday. Utah then pushed that to $750,000 a year for five years by Tuesday afternoon, a figure unheard of in the Rockies for a first-year unproven head coach.

In contrast, according to the Coloradoan in Fort Collins, Colo., Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick has a base salary of $350,000 and total package of $500,000 per year. Estimates at the Air Force Academy put Fisher DeBerry's compensation package on par with Lubick.

A far cry from the $2M per year Florida paid. And expect a contract extension and several million dollars more. Why does Florida have so much more money? Because LSU and Florida played in BCS Bowls this year. The major conferences are guaranteed to divy up the pot of $140M ($14M per team for the 4 BCS Bowls and National Championship game) amongst themselves. Sure, they might have to take a Boise State or a Utah every couple of years, so they only divide up $126M instead of the whole pot. What did BYU get for winning their conference--a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl and $1.5M bucks. Boise State would have gone to the Liberty Bowl and gotten $2M had they not finished undefeated.

So how do you gain a national reputation as a "Mid Major"? You play major conference schools. Only problem is that they won't schedule you unless it is at their home. Boise State played Oregon State (the team that beat USC) at OSU and throttled them. 42-14, I believe. Yet USC loses two games and finishes above BSU. You think a team like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State, Florida, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Oklahoma, etc., wants to play Boise State? Maybe, and only if it is at home, certainly not on the Smurf Turf (their blue field). So every year, the knock on Boise State, Utah, Fresno State, etc., is that they don't play anyone. This allows the Major Conferences to keep them out of the BCS Bowls so that they cannot beat someone like Oklahoma, ensuring that an upstart cannot compete for a National Title or bring in enough money to keep their coaches like Urban Meyer, Dirk Koetter (Boise State), Dan Hawkins (Boise State), etc. Even Arizona State stole a Dennis Erickson from Idaho by throwing money at him.

I love underdogs. I love Gonzaga. I love Weber State beating North Carolina. I love Wichita State (but mostly for the name the Shockers and for the cool hand signal). I love a tournament of 64 teams and seeing a team like George Mason go to the Final Four. Boise State deserved more than they got. They deserved to play for a title. Going undefeated is difficult and should be rewarded. Instead, expect more of the same and if BSU goes undefeated next year, expect them to finish 5th again and their coach to get an offer of $3M per year to coach somewhere else.

Posted by Justin at 11:24 AM | Comments (1)

January 06, 2007

24" in 48 Hours at Brian Head... And I am in Phoenix

Brian Head finally got the big snow storm we have been waiting for to complete the base and keep me from spending all my hard earned money on p-tex. 24" in 48 hours and it is straight up bluebird today. It is supposed to snow Wednesday and Thursday of next week and I am planning to head up for the weekend with Jackson, Jake and my dad.

Last night I hit the Miami Heat vs. Phoenix Suns game and next week I have tickets to see the Lebrons on Thursday. The Suns just destroyed the heat minus DWade and Shaq. The high point of the night came with :02 seconds left and the Suns up 25. Pat Burke. 6'10" way back up center dropped the bomb from 3 as the game ended. The crowd went wild when he got up off of the bench with 4:00 left, but when he hit the three it went nuts.

The Phoenix Suns are scorching hot right now and have won 23 of their last 26 games. I have tickets to two games this week coming up, then don't have tickets again until Feb 21. I backloaded my season tickets by selling most of the games in Jan, Feb, and March. I didn't want to be stuck in Phoenix when Brian Head was having major powder days. Yeah, that worked out.

Posted by Justin at 12:28 PM | Comments (1)

January 01, 2007

Broncos Lose Finale, Darrent Williams

Some things put wins and losses in perspective including the death of Darrent Williams.

Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was killed in an early-morning shooting near the 1100 block of Speer Boulevard in downtown Denver Monday.

Police told the team the Fort Worth, Texas native, was shot in a drive-by shooting. Williams was in a Humvee limousine with several others, including Broncos wide receiver Javon Walker, when it was hit with several bullets fired from another vehicle shortly after 2 a.m. Monday morning. Williams was one of three people in the limousine who were shot. All three, including Williams, were taken to hospitals.

Walker and several other people in the limousine were not injured in the shooting.

Tragic. That is all that you can say about the death of a 24 year old man. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family, teammates and friends. Not a good way to end 2006 and start 2007.

Now on to the 2006 finale against the 49ers. The Denver Rocky Mountain News offers this on the Season Finale:

What the Broncos were, not that long ago, were near-champions, one game short of the Super Bowl, first-round bye, division-winning ladder climbers, a mere step from glory.

What the Broncos now are losers, consigned to the general pile of losers, that bunch of failures with nothing more to do than to philosophize, and worse off because they are in the middle of the pile, as far from the bottom as from the top.

"We thought we were going to pull it out," said quarterback Jay Cutler. "Too bad."

This is as it was fated to be once Shana- han shrugged off Jake Plummer, the veteran, the failure, daring to chance a rookie, finishing with Cutler, an uneven solution but promising a better horizon.

"This is a good springboard for me into next year," said Cutler, and that is all it was really ever going to be. Once that choice was made, it all became about something much further away than an extra Sunday in New England, which is where the Broncos would have gone.

This is fairly what the Broncos deserved, if they chose to reach for tomorrow while today was still fresh. This game was lost because the strong arm of Cutler dared him to throw off-balance and directly to the 49ers' antique cornerback Walt Harris, who returned the favor for a touchdown.

Well, of course you are. That is exactly how the Rams beat the Broncos to start this whole adventure. And how the Broncos beat the Chiefs and how, if Cutler had not thrown that brutal interception, they would have beaten San Francisco.

Just as well they did not. Just as well that this thing ends without any phony validation of Shanahan's late impulse to win with an apprentice.

It cannot be known how Plummer might have fared had he kept his job, but it is doubtful that it would have been worse. His brief relief of Cutler on Sunday is no proof but it does have a number.

Rebuilding. Odd to rebuild after coming within a game of the Super Bowl. And the rebuilding will in all probability begin without Jake Plummer on the roster. So far, in the Cutler Era, the Broncos are 2-3 and missed the playoffs despite starting 7-4 under Jake. Sometimes, you get what you deserve. The Broncos benched Jake despite him leading them to the playoffs in three straight years and being solidly the fifth team in the wildcard race. Cutler was supposed to get them over the AFC Championship game hump and into the Super Bowl. So far, his interception in the fourth quarter that was returned for a TD cost them the Playoffs.

Maybe things will get better under Cutler, but it is tough to top three straight playoff appearances and an AFC Championship game appearance in the three plus years under Plummer. Look for Jake to be a Texan next year. Maybe a Raider. If Jake plays for the Raiders, does he get A-dub to give up number 16, the number they both wore at ASU? That would be heaven and hell for me. First, two ASU QB's playing for the same team--heaven. However, the team is the hapless Raiders who I despise--hell.

In the four years since Jake Plummer left the Cardinals, the Cards finished with four, six, five and five wins. Total of 20 wins in four years. In the four season in Denver, Plummer won 10, 10, 14 (including the playoff win), and 7 (not counting the "Cutler Era). Total of 41 wins in four years. Plummer led the Broncos to the Playoffs all three years he was the starter. In the four years before Jake arrive, the Broncos won six, eleven, eight, and nine wins and made the playoffs one time.

Posted by Justin at 03:14 PM

December 06, 2006

Jeff Legwold's Rocky Mountain News Blog Answers My Question

Jeff Legwold at Rocky Mountain News has a Broncos Blog and answers reader's e-mails. Well, he answered mine this week. Here is my question:

Q: In terms of quarterbacks in Denver, the bar that Cutler has to (meet) should not be Hall of Famer John Elway, but rather the two guys who started in Denver since Elway or the two quarterbacks drafted this year before him. Brian Griese’s second season as a starter, he led the league in passing efficiency with a rating of 102, won 11 games, and led the team to the playoffs. In three seasons in Denver, Jake Plummer has led the team to three playoff appearances and an AFC Championship Game and had seasons of 10-6, 10-6, and 13-3. Griese won a national title, and Plummer led Arizona State to within two minutes of a national title. Vince Young and Matt Leinart contended for or won the Heisman, won national championships, and are both struggling this year. Consider that in four years in college, Cutler never led his team to a single winning season and he played at a very mediocre program where there were no expectations. Vandy does not prepare a quarterback for expectations in the NFL, especially Denver.

What is it that makes Jay Cutler a better quarterback than either of the last two in Denver (Griese, Plummer) or the two drafted in front of him this year (Young, Leinart) -- all four of whom have played in Rose Bowls, finished top three in the Heisman voting, and either won or came within a play of winning a national title? Is Cutler’s talent so great that he overcomes the lack of expectations and big-game experience in college and outperforms these players who came from winning programs where they stood out?

He had a great response:

Interesting thought on it all. In terms of Cutler as a prospect, having lived in Nashville for two of his seasons as a Vanderbilt starter and having seen most of his games either in person or on video, I think what he did at Vandy was something that weighed in his favor when compared to the others on the board. He consistently performed, with few, if any some years, pro prospects around him in the Commodores offense, and he did it in what most scouts believe is the elite conference in the nation, especially when you're talking about pass rushers across the board year after year.

One general manager told me before the draft, "The question is not how Cutler would do at USC, the question is how Matt Leinart would do at Vandy?'' Cutler was the Southeastern Conference's consensus Offensive Player of the Year at Vanderbilt, it simply is one of the most difficult things anyone has done in college football in recent years. Leinart was surrounded by NFL draft picks, including another Heisman winner and a second-round pick in the backfield alone. The tight end was a draft pick, several linemen were draft picks over his career.

Scouts weigh all of those things, too. Cutler also never missed a game despite the punishment he took throwing the ball. He even ran the option the first two years and in his final two years was blitzed plenty because the Commodores didn't often slow down opposing pass rushers with a consistent running game. So certainly he got credit for all of that. That said, plenty of scouts also questioned the fact he didn't have a winning record, though I don't know how he could have.

Two words--Tim Couch. Same SEC. Same top notch arm. Same type of underachieving program, Kentucky. But Couch was a much better prospect, so good in fact that he went number one overall.

Every single thing that Jeff Legwold said about Cutler is what was said about Couch. And the same question marks were there. But Cleveland ignored the question marks. The difference between Cleveland and the Broncos is that Cleveland was horrible and an expansion team. The Broncos were 13-3 last year and 7-4 when they handed the franchise to Cutler.

They still are struggling to overcome that move. It would be a shame to have the Broncos and this single move set the franchise back that far. That is the problem with Shanahan in Denver. He gets credit for being this great offensive genius and no one questions his moves. This is one that should be questioned. Here is the main reason why which I responded to the blog forum:

Cutler is the QB of the future, but why not wait another 5 games to decide if Jake is the QB of the Past or not and let the season play out? Ideally, Jake’s performance over the next 5 games would determine whether he remains in Denver or gets cut and help make the decision of who starts or if there is even a competition next year. It seems to me that Plummer is already out the door and while that is not the worst thing for him, Cutler, or the Broncos, it leaves the team with Cutler and Brad Van Pelt and no proven backup to turn to next season should Cutler struggle. Find me another proven veteran backup that has won 33 games the last three years and been to the playoffs all three. At very least it makes sense to find out what you are going to do with the backup position next year.

This decision to start Cutler now means that there is no training camp competition next year. That decision has been made for next year too and that will make it difficult to attract a proven veteran backup. Does it make sense to make this kind of a commitment to a rookie and to put so much risk on the franchise? If Denver fans want to run Jake out of town after going 10-6, 10-6, and 13-3, how will they handle a sub-.500 season?

Posted by Justin at 02:12 PM

December 04, 2006

Bronco's Update - Mastermind Throws Away Season on Rookie

In terms of Quarterbacks in Denver, the bar that Cutler has to exceed should not be Hall of Famer John Elway, but rather the two guys who started in Denver since Elway or the two QBs drafted this year before him. Let's talk being better than Jake or Brian Griese before we start talking Hall of Fame.

  • Brian Griese’s second season as a starter, he led the league in passing efficiency with a rating of 102, won 11 games, and led the team to the playoffs.
  • In three seasons in Denver, Jake has led the team to three playoff appearances and an AFC Championship Game and had seasons of 10-6, 10-6, and 13-3.
  • Griese won a national title at Michigan.
  • Plummer led ASU to within 2 minutes of a national title. Damn you David Boston...
  • Jake finished third in Heisman balloting his senior year at ASU.

These are two starters for Denver that have had proven success in both college and the NFL. Now, let's start comparing to the two QB's taken before him in this year's draft.

  • Vince Young finished in the top three for the Heisman.
  • Matt Leinart won the Heisman.
  • Both won National Championships.

Consider that in 4 years in College, Cutler never led his team to a single winning season and he played at a very mediocre program where there were no expectations. Vandy does not prepare a QB for NFL, especially Denver, expectations. And let's keep in mind that the passer ratings for both Leinart and Young are in the mid-60's. Ironically, that is exactly the passer rating that Cutler had tonight.

My pressing questions are as follows:

What is it that makes Jay Cutler a better QB than either the last two in Denver (Griese, Plummer) or the two drafted in front of him this year (Young, Leinart)—all four of whom have played in Rose Bowls, finished top three in the Heisman, and either won or came within a play of winning a National Title? Is Cutler’s talent so great that he overcomes the lack of expectations and big game experience in college and outperforms these players that came from winning programs where they stood out?

Cutler may be the next future Hall of Famer in Denver. But then again, how has Alex Smith or Aaron Rogers looked lately? How about Eli Manning the last few games? What about Big Ben's 20 picks this year? How about Akili Smith, Ryan Leif, Cade McNown, Joey Harrington, Drew Henson, and Dante Culpepper? All of these guys were first round draft picks (or in Henson's case would have been) that have failed to develop despite having as good of physical tools as Cutler. And most of these QB's played at big time programs and went to Rose Bowls or major college bowls. For every Tony Romo who has a glimmer of success early, there is an Andrew Walter.

The two most successful young QB's this season are Phillip Rivers and Carson Palmer. And what do they have in common? Lots of clipboard time as rookies. And both of these guys played under Norm Chow as their OC. Anyone know who is OC at Vandy? Cutler is not prepared for the NFL no matter how good his arm is. No QB is. Alex Smith wasn't. Vince Young and Matt Leinart are barely getting the job done. But the Mastermind things Cutler from Vandy is.

Well throw away this season and prepare for next season to look a lot like the one the Steelers are having right now. It is rebuilding time in Denver.

Posted by Justin at 04:13 AM

November 25, 2006

Wickenburg Ends Season One Play Away

Last year it was Wheeler taking a bootleg for 70 yards to demoralize Wickenburg, this year it was Wheeler stepping through an All-State Linebacker's sack and throwing a bomb on 4th and 19 to beat Wickenburg. Jeff Alder had Jesse Wheeler on 4th and 19 sacked, but credit Wheeler with being able to step through a sure sack and throw a prayer downfield to break the 14-14 tie.

I saw Jeff after the game and after the kids came out of the locker room following a painful loss. What a kid and what heart he has shown all year long for Wickenburg. Of all the players, he is probably my favorite. He leaves everything he has on the field every single game and inspires the best in his teammates. The last thing I said to him was how proud we all are of him and his hard work and that the team and he have done us proud. I told him that their hard work has paid off and it is an awesome trophy that they are bringing home tonight.

Coach Vaughan talked to us three weeks ago and said that the thing about football is that most times, the most talented team wins. Credit Wickenburg for even being close to Coolidge. Coolidge was incredible. Fast. Strong. At times overpowering. But Wickenburg showed great heart and character. The same that beat Blue Ridge and Seton. Coolidge was just a better team. Too much speed.

I loved the opportunity to work the sidelines with these kids and get to know them. Clay coached them when they were Freshmen. Every single kid out there for Wickenburg has shown class and character. They are good kids. After the game, they thanked us over and over as we congratulated them for supporting them and following the team. We don't deserve your thanks. You deserve ours. You were inspiring. My boys and baby brother have spent almost every Friday night watching you play and come home and talk about Scott or Drew or Jeff or Tyler or... I have watched the kids get better every week. And go 13-1. The one loss was in the last game, but is not what will be remembered. What we will remember is four months of watching great kids represent us with class and character and come within a broken busted bomb on 4th down of winning a state title.

It is a beautiful trophy. And over the years, I will be able to take my kids to the school and point to it and to the banner that will soon be hanging at the high school and remind them of that team. I know every single kid on that team gave it everything that they had and came up just short of winning a championship. I am just as proud of them as I would be if they won it all. I have never been more proud of a group of kids for representing my school, my home, and my community than these kids.

Posted by Justin at 12:39 AM

November 18, 2006

Thanksgiving Plans - Wickenburg versus Coolidge for the State Title

From the Wickenburg Sun:

After stumbling out of the gate and falling behind by 10 points early, Wickenburg High School's unbeaten and second-ranked (3A) football team settled down and eventually upset unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Seton Catholic Friday night in the state semifinals, 28-23.

The Wranglers, who now have the most victories in one season in the school's history with its current 13-0 record, will face defending state champion Coolidge in the 3A title game Friday (Nov. 24) at McClintock High School in Tempe (7 p.m. kickoff).

Ironically, the championship game will be a rematch of the last year's state semifinal contest between Wickenburg and Coolidge, which won 27-20 en route to its title.

And the team Wickenburg defeated Friday night was the only team to knock off the defending champs this season, 32-20, in the fifth week of the regular season. Coolidge advanced to its second consecutive championship game by defeating Winslow, 28-24, in the other semifinal contest Friday night at Mesa Community College.

The night looked bleak for the Wranglers in the first five minutes.

First, Seton took the opening kickoff 68 yards in nine plays to score the game's first touchdown with less than four minutes taken off the game clock. Then, Wickenburg fumble away the ball on its first possession ... and Seton eventually converted the mistake into a 35-yard field goal.

Before Wickenburg could even get one play in the books, it was behind 10-0.

It was 17-7 midway through the second quarter. Seton was rolling. Almost unstoppable. They scored on their first three possessions. But Wickenburg came back and cut the lead to 17-14 and held Seton on their last possession of the half. Wickenburg took the opening kick of the second half in for a TD, held Seton, and scored again. Had it not been for a touchdown with :02 on the clock in the 4th, Wick would have won 28-17.

We watched the second semi-finals game sitting next to Coach Vaughan, several other coaches, and Scott McKeever. These kids are class acts and every single one of them is polite, well mannered, and respectful. They work hard. They are dedicated. They are disciplined. They are well coached. And they just knocked off an undefeated and number one ranked team in the Semifinals.

I have been at all but two road games this year. I worked the chains at every home game. I know several of the kids and have watched them out work, out hustle, out hit, and out play every team they have faced including Blue Ridge (of their many championships) and Seton (the number one and unbeaten team).

This is Wickenburg's first trip to the finals since I was 3 years old. Almost 30 years since the last trip. So now, instead of spending Thanksgiving at my condo and taking the kids skiing, I have something more important and a reason to spend Thanksgiving with the Grandparents and in-laws, who live 200 yards apart in Wickenburg. This team represents our community well and with class. Our fans in the stands and the rest of us have an opportunity to represent our team by showing up and celebrating this great year and these great kids.

Posted by Justin at 04:33 PM

November 13, 2006

Wickenburg beats Blue Ridge 26-23... On to the Semi Finals

This is going to be a long post, so I am sticking most of it in the extended entry. Please check it out.

I graduated from Wickenburg High School in 1993 (well actually 1995 because I failed Senior AP English and Government and left with six weeks remaining my senior year to start college early) and my wife did in 1996. All of my wife's brothers and sisters and several cousins, uncles, etc. graduated from Wickenburg. I played on two teams that were ranked number one in the state at one point or another in football, but ultimately, in the last 30 years, Wickenburg has made less than a half dozen trips to the semifinals and no finals appearances since 1979. Last year, Wick lost a 27-20 game in the semis to the eventual state Champions that went down to the wire. A close game, but yet another season that ended without a title.

Pinetop-Lakeside is another town, about the same size as Wickenburg that is located in the White Mountains approximately 20 miles from Sunrise Park Ski Resort. Between 1987 and 2004, Lakeside Blue Ridge won the State 3A Football title in Arizona 10 times, including completing 8 perfect 13-0 undefeated seasons. Twice, Blue Ridge's only loss of the year was in the title game and they finished 12-1 in addition to their 10 championships. Add in that Blue Ridge has dominated Wickenburg four straight times in the last six years and you have the background on a game that represents an opportunity for a turning point for Wickenburg football. So the brackets came out and Wickenburg drew Blue Ridge (assuming both won their first round games) in the second round. The game was last Friday night.

I take my sons to the ballgames and keep them on the sidelines with me. I don't claim to be a great dad, and am pretty much a selfish SOB, but if my kids dig going to Suns Games, NFL and College Games, High School games, and skiing, I love to spend time with my kids. =) So it is just what we do. I have gotten to know several people online from various towns around the state via an online message board, so now with a horse in the race that has a chance to win, things have gotten pretty exciting. Just tons of anticipation of last weeks games as this may be the most talented and best group of teams Arizona 3A ball has seen in decades.

Wickenburg hired a new coach last year who so far has gone 23-2 in two years with the only two losses being a tight fought regional title game last year to Fountain Hills and last year's playoff game against Coolidge in the semifinals. I have gotten to know him a fair amount (and know many of the folks on his staff) and he is already becoming a part of the fabric of the town, which is what happens when you coach football and win ballgames. Plus his wife and family are phenomenol people and everything about them exudes class. His wife knows more about football than most high school coaches I have met and similar to her husband, has a stack of football stories to tell. I know some of the kids and grew up with several kid's parents, etc. Just small town living. I live over an hour away now in the Phoenix Suburbs, but drive to every home game and almost all away games.

For the last two weeks, I have been in football overload mode. Last Friday, we went to three high school games in one evening to catch two of the other semifinalist's games that we face for the title in the Final Four. Add in constantly talking about it and planning for games or working the chains or just preparing for game day and it has consumed me and several of my friends. Not to mention my Cardinals and ASU tickets.

But last Friday night may go down as the single best night of watching football I have ever had. Been to bowl games. Been to the Cardinals versus New Orleans and San Diego games when Arizona clinched the playoff berth against Dallas in 1998. Watched comeback wins by ASU and been to half a dozen Territorial Cup games. But a triple header of high school ball when you have a horse in it and when two games come down to the last play of the game... nothing is better. I have a major problem--my volume switch only has one volume and unfortunately that is the one from Cardinals, Suns, and ASU games and is probably a little louder than appropriate at a high school game. But it is good to get fired up. I thought I gave myself an aneurism yelling so loud the last 5 minutes of Friday's game though.

So it is Lakeside Blue Ridge and Wickenburg. Wickenburg has some horses this year, but BR is scrappy and they expect to be champions every single year. The game went back and forth with one team scoring, then the other. I won't describe it because I can't do it justice. Let me let the numbers do the talking for me.Here is the box score from the Wickenburg Sun:

Blue Ridge...0...3...0...20 -- 23
Wickenburg...0...7...6...13 -- 26

W - Wells 18 pass from Vaughan (Sievert kick) 9:25
BR - Bonilla 41 FB 0:00
W - T. Murphy 80 pass from Root (Kick wide)
BR - Parkinson 24 pass from Williams (Bonilla kick) 10:04
W - McKeever 79 pass from Vaughan (Sievert kick) 9:40
BR - Wise 35 pass from Williams (Bonilla kick) 2:38
W - McKeever 60 pass from Vaughan (Kick wide) 1:23
BR - Wise 5 pass from Williams (Kick blocked) :23

Wickenburg statistics:

Rushing - McKeever 19-107, Alder 14-55, Root 1-7, Vaughan 1 (-7).
Passing - Vaughan 7-10-203, Root 1-1-80.
Receiving - McKeever 2-139, T. Murphy 3-100, Wells 1-18, Alder 1-15, Root 1-11.

41 Yard Field Goals? Yep, had it. Long bombs? Had that too. Huge runs? Yep. Back and forth scoring... oh, yeah. Just look at that 4th Quarter. Score...Answer...Score...Answer. It was a masterpiece. Last score was with :23 left and the game didn't end until the onside kick was recovered.

And you know the best part. This was the early game. The late game was even better. Seton led 20-13 with six minutes left. Show Low marched down the field and scored but missed the PAT so they were down 20-19. They kicked off, stopped them, converted a 4th and 6 with a long pass to save the drive, took it all the way down to the one yard line. The game ended on a QB sneak that was stopped on the 1 INCH LINE AS TIME EXPIRED.

So this week it is Wickenburg and Seton, the top ranked teams in the state--both 12-0, get to battle it out to see who will face what will probably be last year's defending State Champion (and what I think is the best team in the state)--Coolidge. Coolidge won every game last year except a loss at home to LAKESIDE BLUE RIDGE and finished 13-1. They beat Wickenburg in the Semis and ended the Wrangler's season 27-20. This year they are 11-1 with their only loss coming to Seton.

Maybe this is boring stuff to folks not attached to it. I don't even live in Wickenburg anymore, but have been getting e-mails from old teammates to see who is going where before or after the games. Ran into some old friends and teammates on Friday and their kids who someday will play ball with my kids. Relationships in life matter. When you spend four straight months with the same guys every year for four straight years, they become an extended family. Wickenburg has never had a tradition that I can really remember. No champions. No older kids coming back and expecting perfection from the younger ones. No great coaching or great expectations. Last year, this year, and this trip to the semifinals is allowing us to reconnect and rebuild some traditions. And we are meeting folks ande talking to folks onlie from around the state looking to do the same. Our young kids throw the ball behind the bleachers during the games or on the field after it is over while former teammates and friends remember a snake at Gila Bend their senior year or the old stadium that got torn down when they built the new high school.

It is cheesy to say, but Coach Norris Vaughan is helping give Wickenburg an identity that it has been searching for since I was a kid. Folks show up and pack the stands and talk about football and expect to win and expect to beat the Blue Ridges of the world. And in our corner of a state filled with other small towns, it helps put our home with its four stop lights, two Circle K's, and 10,000 people back on the map. And give folks like me a reason to come back besides getting free food or babysitting at the in-law's place.

Posted by Justin at 12:14 PM

November 02, 2006

Wil from 120 Days Catches Suns Home Opener

Wil from 120 Days and I caught the Suns season opener last night. First, the Suns won. Good game. Lots of Offense. Amare looked good. And an exciting game to say the least.

So we meet at a Mexican place downtown and sit and BS for an hour before the game. The topics ran from baseball to basketball to the ski industry to Steamboat to other resorts to living in Steamboat for a year to IT and web stuff. So basically, Wil is a computer geek who happens to be a huge sports fan and on top of that devotes his life to riding. Yeah, I don't know anyone else that fits that profile... =)

It was good times and Wil is going to be back in PHX more this winter than last because of other committments, which means that I will probably do some travelling and riding with him this season. Got more lowdown on JP from Colorado Backcountry and the other guys in Colorado that I link to and read, but have not met yet. Tons of stories about last season and at the end of the day, I was pumped for both ski season and Suns season. I think the best part was we spent almost the entire game trying to one up each other on the most backhanded slap at Chris Kaman's hair for the Clippers.

When is the season going to get going full swing so that I can stop wasting time on work, family, socializing, sports, etc., and start wasting time on driving to and from resorts?

Posted by Justin at 12:07 PM

October 27, 2006

Busy Week in Sports Coming Up

Alright, so ski season is literally weeks away, but it ain't here yet. What is here is high school playoffs in Arizona, NBA Season, and a couple of huge games in College and the NFL for my favorite teams. Here is the lowdown on what I have going on:

  • Friday, Oct. 27 - Wickenburg at Sedona (driving up to see the game)
  • Saturday, Oct. 28 - ASU at Washington (watching on TV. This could be the difference between the podunk bowl and the craphole bowl for ASU.)
  • Sunday, Oct. 29 - Colts at Broncos (watching on TV. This could mark the beginning of the Cutler Era in Denver or could be the chance for Jake and the Broncos to finally break the curse of the Colts and solidify themselves at the team to beat in the AFC.)
  • Tuesday, Oct. 31 - Suns at Lakers (watching on TV. Opening of the season for the Suns. Rematch of last year's 7 game series. "Kobe Sucks" just in case you missed the chants in game 7.)
  • Wednesday, Nov. 1 - Clippers at Suns (opening night for the Suns and you know I will be there. Rematch of last year's series that went 7 with the Clips. Sam Cassell smiling as he brought the ball into the frontcourt and go whistled for an 8 second violation. Priceless moment there.)
  • Friday, Nov. 3 - Sahuarita at Wickenburg (3A Playoffs get started. Working the chains.)

But the big games come the next week:

  • Thursday, Nov. 9 - Dallas at Phoenix (Wouldn't miss this for the world. Last years opener against Dallas went to 2OT.)
  • Friday, Nov. 10 - Blue Ridge vs. Wickenburg at TBD site (Please let this be the year for Wick to beat these guys. Been waiting a decade for Wickenburg to actually have the team that can hang with the Jackets.)
  • Saturday, Nov. 11 - Wazzu at ASU (Hey, it is College Football and I have Season Tickets. And it is my Alma Mater. Otherwise, I would probably wash the car or something.)
  • Sunday, Nov. 12 - Dallas at Arizona, Pat Tillman Plaza to be Dedicated for Veterans Day (Dallas is always the biggest game in town for the Cards. Can the Cards take an early lead and find a way to lose this one creatively? I am predicting a fumble ala St. Louis, Chicago capped with a missed field goal in the comeback drive. Second favorite Cards moment was Larry Johnson's 80 yeard run to set up their go ahead score.)

I am in sports heaven. This will pass the time until ski season and Thanksgiving. I just can't justify missing these games to take a trip to ski a 20 inch base at Wolf Creek.

Update

  • Wickenburg 49 - Sedona 0
  • ASU 26 - Washington 23 (OT) (Great Game. ASU tried to implode, but found a way to pull it out.)
  • Indy 34 - Denver 31 (Another great game. Never give Manning time to beat you. It was over when Denver kicked off after they tied it.)

Posted by Justin at 11:36 AM | Comments (1)

September 26, 2006

ESPN Reports Dennis Green Changes His Mind

Dennis Green has changed his mind already:

Matt Leinart's time as a starting quarterback in the NFL will have to wait -- the Cardinals are sticking with Kurt Warner as their starter.

"Generally talking about the starting lineup is not something we do," coach Dennis Green said. "However, given the speculation that was out there we want to make it clear. We're disappointed after last week, but we still expect to be a playoff football team and we fully expect Kurt Warner to be the quarterback that leads us. That has not changed."

I think it makes more sense for Dennis Green to start Rudy Carpenter instead of Sam Keller anyway. Wait, which soap opera are we stuck in?

I am still disappointed about the way the Cardinals lost to the Rams. Now what remains to be seen is if they can rebound against the Falcons. It is just one loss and Denver suffered the same kind of loss to the Rams in Week 1, but looked like a totally different team this week against the Pats. But then again, Denver has a former MVP at Quarterback that has made two Super Bowl appear... wait, my bad. Denver has a former Cardinals Quarterback that we kicked to the curb. Both quarterbacks have started the year as bad as any veteran could. But my hope is that perseverance will pay off for the Cards and the Broncos by sticking with the veterans.

I am a Jake guy. I get crucified for it by my Cardinals buddies and several Broncos buddies have said I must have been sniffing glue. I am also a Kurt Warner guy. Both are proven vets. But Denver and Arizona have as talented of young backups as there are in the league. Tampa Bay would love to have a quarterback controversy instead of a ruptured spleen and nothing behind them. They actually tried out Shawn Kind (speaking of Cardinals rejects).

Posted by Justin at 05:23 PM

September 25, 2006

I Had a Dream About Football Last Night (Cards Lose 16-14)

Weird dream last night. The Cardinals managed to completely self destruct yesterday with Kurt Warner throwing three picks and having a game losing fumble.

My dream goes something like this:

Kurt Warner is asked about the fans booing him and says, "I don't give a Rat's Ass".

Dennis Green decides to start Matt Leinart at Quarterback today, only to change his mind 24 hours later. Kurt Warner transfers to Nebraska.

I was absolutely livid yesterday after the fumble and then the fair catch call. This season is playing like a bad soap opera at Quarterback in Phoenix. I thought I was going to burst a blood vessel. The Cardinals gave a game away and on top of it, the Sun Devils looked like a bad Pop Warner team on Saturday.

We were at the Cardinals vs. Broncos preseason game and I asked my cousin and Clay who would be starting first, Jay Cutler or Matt Leinart. Jake redeemed himself with a solid performance against the Pats, while Warner stunk the place up. Looks like Jake will remain the only quarterback to lead the Cardinals to the playoffs in the last 20 years that they have been in the valley.

Posted by Justin at 09:03 PM

September 22, 2006

Cleveland Rocks--Indians to Move to Goodyear, AZ

Charlie Sheen and Wesley Snipes were recently spotted in Goodyear, AZ--OK, my bad--Willie Mays Hayes and Wild Thing Rick Vaughn. Holy Bob Uecker...

The Cleveland Indians are coming back to Arizona.

The Major League Baseball team Thursday agreed to move its spring training home from Winter Haven, Fla., to Goodyear.

In a letter dated Sept. 21 to the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, the Indians confirmed the team's desire to head west.

"We enthusiastically support the application of the city of Goodyear to the Sports and Tourism Authority of Arizona as part of the process of bringing Cleveland Indians baseball and its fans to Arizona," states the letter, signed by Cleveland Indians President Paul Dolan. "We eagerly look forward to developing a long-term relationship with the city of Goodyear and the state of Arizona."

The Indians trained in Tucson until 1992 and had been considering relocating their spring training operations to the Orlando area.

Goodyear leaders and team representatives spent Thursday ironing out details that would commit the Indians to the southwest Valley, making it the Cactus League's 13th team.

The next step is to apply for public funding from the sports authority to help pay for the proposed $77.5 million facility near Estrella Parkway and Bullard Avenue.

This is less than three miles from my house. Bullard and Estrella Parkway actually run parallel to each other, so what they mean is on Yuma between Estrella and Bullard. Add this to the regional mall that is going in, and Goodyear will join Surprise as major West Valley cities with MLB Spring Training teams and funky sounding names. There is also talk that the Dodgers may make a similar move and set up shop in the same ballpark.

So I am riding on the plane to Oakland with a woman from NoCal who is relocating to Phoenix. I am usually an iPod up full blast and ignore the world guy on most planes, but we start talking before takeoff. Net is that she wants to know where to look for a new place in Phoenix and she works in downtown by the airport. Tempe is too collegy, Chandler and Ahwatukee are very nice, and were my first suggestions. Scottsdale is too expensive. Mesa and Queen Creek too far. Gotta have access to the I-10. She loves the outdoors and does not want to live in a concrete jungle or where there is a lot of crime. Wants places to ride her bike. Wants to do stuff like rowing, (so Tempe town lake makes sense) Wants great views and to not feel like she is in the middle of the city.

I recommended Estrella Mountain Ranch in Goodyear. I told her that I heard rumors about the Cleveland Indians and LA Dodgers moving to Goodyear. Plus the new Cards stadium. Plus the new Coyotes stadium. Plus the new mall. Plus the widening of the I-10. Goodyear is looking better all the time.

By the time we both looked up and stopped gabbing, they were telling us to put seat backs up and tray tables in the full upright and locked position. I hate advertising for my stinking city and sounding like the Chamber of Commerce. I gave her my URL for the site as we left and she talked to one of her friends who already lives in EMR and all but confirmed everything that I said. The place is awesome.

Posted by Justin at 04:18 PM

September 14, 2006

Parting Ways with History--Part II

Forgot to include that Gonzo patrolling Left is not all that is changing. So are the Diamondbacks themselves:

Like many of you, we were stunned to learn that the Diamondbacks are reportedly planning a change in uniform colors for next season, apparently dumping their purple, teal, copper and black scheme for one that will include something called "Sedona Red" and a "sand" hue.

Our initial thought was that it's all about money. Isn't that always the case in professional sports these days? If merchandise sales are lagging, a change in uniforms makes all that stuff in the closet obsolete.

It isn't unheard of in sports. And for some reason red seems to be the new color of choice, so finally the Cardinals are ahead of their time.
...
We suspect this is as much about cutting ties with the Colangelo era as it is anything, and that's too bad.

He brought this city its first world championship in a major sport, and when we think of that 2001 World Series the indelible images are going to be recorded in purple and teal.

But that's just us. So we wondered if Colangelo is seeing purple over all of this.

He took the high road, refusing to speculate on whether it has anything to do with severing past connections.

"In an era of sea change in sports, even the sanctity of the names of the stadiums and arenas doesn't last very long," Colangelo said. "I'm prone to purple and orange, always have been and always will be.

"But it's certainly the Diamondbacks prerogative to change colors, uniforms or whatever. It's a time of change in a lot of ways.

"I'm just going to hang on to all my purple stuff."

So are we, JC. So are we. Got my good luck purple Game 7 jersey from 2001. What a joke to change around the things that tie us back to 2001. What purpose does it serve to sever the ties from the brightest moment in Phoenix Sports history?

Posted by Justin at 06:18 PM

Parting Ways with History

Every good thing has to come to an end. It happens that the best thing that ever happened to Phoenix sports occurred five years ago. While the wounds of 1992-93 for the Suns were still fresh and painful, an expansion baseball team did what the Cardinals, Suns, and Coyotes could not--bring home a championship. Now, the last piece of the connection with that team is leaving. Gonzo follows JC, RJ, and Curt out the door. Let us hope that he gets more respect than Colangelo did.

Luis Gonzalez's tenure with the Diamondbacks will end after this season. Club officials informed the popular left fielder on Thursday they have no intention of bringing him back for a ninth season in 2007, The Republic has learned.

Gonzalez, 39, is in the final year of his contract and, after being told he is no longer in Arizona's plans, is set to become a free agent.
...
Starting with tonight's game, Gonzalez has seven home games remaining at Chase Field. The series with the Rockies runs through Sunday, and after a nine-game trip to San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Diamondbacks wrap up the 2006 season with a four-game home stand Sept. 28-Oct. 1 against the Padres.

Gonzalez, obtained in 1998 along with cash considerations from the Detroit Tigers for outfielder Karim Garcia, is the Diamondbacks' career leader in home runs (224), RBIs (772), runs scored (774), hits (1,325), doubles (308) and walks (667).

His bloop single off of New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera drove home the winning run as Arizona won the 2001 World Series.

But perhaps the best part of the article is this:

The Republic's advertising department fielded a request from Gonzalez's talent representatives at Gaylord Sports Management, inquiring about placing a large ad thanking Valley fans for their support through the years.

The ad is likely to run during the Diamondbacks' season-ending homestand Sept. 28-Oct. 1 vs. San Diego.

Thank us... thank us?!?! No, it a scrappy journeyman outfielder from Detroit that deserves the thanks. Choke up on the bat, stare down Mariano Rivera, and drop a shot over Jeter for us. I have the DVD and every time I watch that 2001 season or the 57 HR or the 100+ RBI's season in and season out, it is all the thanks that I need.

Gonzo gave our town a championship and turned the Airplane hanger downtown and the expansion team that wore purple and teal into the Champions of Major League Baseball. And went toe to toe with perhaps the best closer ever in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7 of the World Series to do it.

Thank you Gonzo. Not only for what you did on the field, but for being such a great man off of it.

Posted by Justin at 05:59 PM

August 25, 2006

Football Season Starts Tonight

I am a football addict. There is little doubt. Last year, my wife hears back from her brother who heard from her cousin who sat two sections over from me a high school game what a loud idiot I was. But come on, it was the State Semi-Finals and we were tied 20-20 with the number one team in the state. The first play from scrimmage after we tied the game in the fourth quarter, their quarterback reeled off a 75 yard run for six and we lost 27-20.

I work the chains part time at Wickenburg High School's ball games and tonight, I get to hold up the down marker and watch some football from the visitor's sideline at Wrangler Stadium. My son Jake has gotten to see people like Terrell Suggs, Todd Heap, John Beck, and Bobby Wade play high school football here in the Valley during his short life. While we never saw Zach Miller play, we have seen him play plenty at ASU. Tim Rattay played for one of our biggest rivals, Phoenix Christian.

I write way too much about pro and college sports to focus too much time on stuff other than skiing. But today, you get to hear aboutthe start of the season for the 3A's number 2 ranked Wickenburg Wranglers:

1. Coolidge. Carlo Hernandez, maybe the hottest young football coach in Arizona, had offers from other schools in the off-season, but he was committed to this senior class, which features fourth-year varsity starter Jesse Wheeler, one of the state's best passing and running threats at quarterback.

Add in 1,000-yard rusher T.J. White, an experienced defense, led by Josh Thornton, and there is no reason to believe the Bears won't continue their success after winning their final 10 games to cap off a state championship season in '05.

"If anything, we have good team speed," Hernandez said.

2. Wickenburg. The Wranglers pushed Coolidge in last year's semifinal, before losing 27-20, and return RB Scott McKeever, who ran for 1,200 yards, and West Region Defensive Player of the Year Jeff Alder, a senior linebacker.

3. Lakeside Blue Ridge: Once again, the Yellowjackets lack depth, but they have enough skill to contend for another title.

Let's kick the season off and hope that my travel plans for early November to ski have to work around state playoff and hopefully a state championship game. In 2001, Wickenburg made the state semifinals and lost to Show Low and prior to that, my Senior year in 1993 we made the state semis and lost to Morenci.

But Wickenburg has made major upgrades to the coaching staff and is a step away from a title.

Posted by Justin at 04:20 PM

August 08, 2006

Cardinals Kick Off New Stadium Saturday

It is fast approaching. Cardinals Season. I have a Matt Leinart Jersey and he might actually sign sometime before the season is over.

So Saturday, I am rolling with Clay and Jake and probably Clay's dad to Glendale to see the opening of the new Cardinals Stadium and check out the digs. On the 31st, I am going to see the Broncos with my cousin Zach.

I have my calender all synced up for Cardinals, ASU, and the Suns home games and am ready to roll for the upcoming season. Marked the Suns games I can afford to miss while skiing. Like some kind of master plan. Tera keeps track of doctors appts, while I keep track of ballgames and skiing.

Yeah, she pretty much hates me. I am trying to get her to go to a Cardinals game with me. She doesn't seem too thrilled, but she will jump on the bandwagon when she gets to see some wins from them.

Posted by Justin at 01:29 AM

July 31, 2006

T-Minus 14 Days to a New Era in Cardinals Football

A new interior viewing tool of the Cardinals Stadium is available online now.

It is less than two weeks away from the first game against the Steelers at the new Glendale Stadium. Training camp opened this weekend and it is time for some football.

The single largest problem for the Cardinals over the last decade has been the running game. In 1998, the Cardinals finished the season 10-7, including a playoff win at Dallas. That year, consequently, was the last year the Cardinals had a 1,000 yard rusher. This year promises to have one of the league's best offenses with two recievers that both had over 100 catches and 1400 yards last year and... I think the Cards picked up a running back too.

Wednesday, I am heading to Flag for my annual training camp trip and am eagerly awaiting the start of a new era in Arizona Cardinals football. And let's face it, it is time for a new era. The last one sucked. 18 years of pathetic losing. Turnover. Coaching changes. Armpit of the NFL according to Simeon Rice. But that is ending.

I haven't been this excited since the Cardinals in back to back years drafted two ASU players from the 1996 Rose Bowl team and made the playoffs. And this is the first time they have hosted a Monday Night Football game since 1999 against the 49ers when I watched my favorite player in history's career end on a wicked hit. Oh, yeah, and Lawrence Phillips. That year started with such hopes and ended in disappointment. Phoenix is due. Past Due.

Posted by Justin at 05:10 PM

June 20, 2006

Season Tickets

OK, so I have renewal notices and season ticket notices for all the sporting events that I have going for this fall and winter. Lets run down them:

  • Phoenix Suns
  • Arizona Cardinals
  • ASU Sun Devils
  • Season Passes at Brian Head

I have a pretty full plate coming up. Jeremy and I are already starting to plan the winter at Brian Head and hoping that the season starts early. He bought his Cardinals tickets from me and his season pass at Brian Head using student loan money. Kinda sad, but students have priorities too.

UPDATE-- Always close your html tags.

Posted by Justin at 07:11 PM | Comments (2)

June 04, 2006

Don't Look Now, but Phoenix has a Baseball Team

Alright, enough crying and sulking about the Suns coming so close to the Finals. The day after the season ended, it still feels like the Suns won it all in so many ways simply by getting this town excited about NBA basketball for the first time since Jason Kidd was beating his wife and Cliff Robinson was taking bong hits doing 100 mph down Shea.

Now it is time to focus on the other team that is playing right now in downtown Phoenix. The team that has the leading NL Cy Young candidate with a 2.01 ERA and 8-0 record. The team with the second best record in the NL. The team that has scored the second most runs in the NL. The team leading the NL West.

I almost forgot what it was like to have a winning baseball team in town. And for the last two months, so did Phoenix. This is a Suns town. This is a town that wants nothing more and will not feel whole until the Purple and Orange win it all. This is a town that JC built that started onto the sports scene in the madhouse on McDowell.

And now that the Suns are at the forefront in Phoenix's mind, the Diamondbacks don't want to be outdone. And they are playing like it. So let's enjoy the dog days of summer with America's pasttime and get ready for some NFL football with Leinart, Edge, Quan, Fitzgerald, Warner and the leagues best offense. Suddenly, this is a three sport town again. So place your bets on which of these three teams is the closest to a championship. I hear that there is a new sportsbook open at the Glendale Arena. Sorry, I wanted to include the Coyotes in this conversation somehow.

Posted by Justin at 09:18 PM

June 03, 2006

Eulogy for the 2005-06 Suns Season

It started similar to the way it ended. The Suns up 83-66 with 7:11 left in the 4th quarter and the Mavs on the ropes. Then the Mavs went on a huge run to end the game and sent it to double OT. The Suns started the season 3-4 and were without Amare. This was a lost season without Amare. A placeholder before the Suns had a chance to win it all next year with a healthy Amare.

It ended the same way. The Suns up 18 at one point only to let the Mavs dominate the second half. Bookends to a wonderful and exciting season and my first full season as a Season Ticket Holder.

A disappointing two wins away from a trip to the finals. But that is better than last year. And without Amare, Kurt Thomas, and a shell of what Raja Bell was. What a wonderful year. We stopped at the Arizona Center and celebrated the season. My brother and oldest son got to watch so many games with me. My brother became an NBA fan. This is our team.

The Mavs were a better team. There is little doubt. The Suns were undermanned and undersized. But they had the heart of champions. Raja coming out of the tunnel injured in game 4. Him hitting a three against the Clippers in Game 5. Timmy T hitting the three against the Lakers to save the season in game 6. Two blowout game 7's. Three of the best playoff series ever and I got to be there for all three. 11 home games. 20 playoff games. 10-10 in the playoffs. But a gritty 10 wins and a heartbreaking 10 losses. Just a rollercoaster of emotion. But almost two months after the season ended, you see the heart of the two time MVP and a bunch of scrappy role players who played way more than their roles.

Tip your hat to the Mavs for a 60 win season and a trip to the finals. And hope for next year that the Suns get their opportunity to feel the joy that the Mavs are feeling now.

Posted by Justin at 11:27 PM

Eulogy for the 2005-06 Suns Season

It started similar to the way it ended. The Suns up 83-66 with 7:11 left in the 4th quarter and the Mavs on the ropes. Then the Mavs went on a huge run to end the game and sent it to double OT. The Suns started the season 3-4 and were without Amare. This was a lost season without Amare. A placeholder before the Suns had a chance to win it all next year with a healthy Amare.

It ended the same way. The Suns up 18 at one point only to let the Mavs dominate the second half. Bookends to a wonderful and exciting season and my first full season as a Season Ticket Holder.

A disappointing two wins away from a trip to the finals. But that is better than last year. And without Amare, Kurt Thomas, and a shell of what Raja Bell was. What a wonderful year. We stopped at the Arizona Center and celebrated the season. My brother and oldest son got to watch so many games with me. My brother became an NBA fan. This is our team.

The Mavs were a better team. There is little doubt. The Suns were undermanned and undersized. But they had the heart of champions. Raja coming out of the tunnel injured in game 4. Him hitting a three against the Clippers in Game 5. Timmy T hitting the three against the Lakers to save the season in game 6. Two blowout game 7's. Three of the best playoff series ever and I got to be there for all three. 11 home games. 20 playoff games. 10-10 in the playoffs. But a gritty 10 wins and a heartbreaking 10 losses. Just a rollercoaster of emotion. But almost two months after the season ended, you see the heart of the two time MVP and a bunch of scrappy role players who played way more than their roles.

Tip your hat to the Mavs for a 60 win season and a trip to the finals. And hope for next year that the Suns get their opportunity to feel the joy that the Mavs are feeling now.

Posted by Justin at 11:27 PM

June 01, 2006

Down to Six--Two More Against Dallas

Tonight, Tera, Jake, Jeremy, and I are going to US Airways Center for a Season Ticket Holder's game 5 party at the Pavillion. The biggest game of the year was Game 5 against the Lakers, when the Suns blew them out and sent it to a Game 6. Wait, no, it was Game 6 when Tim Thomas hit the last second 3 to send it to overtime. Nah, it was Game 7 to decide if Kobe or Nash went on to play the Clippers. Or perhaps it was Game 5 against the Clips when Raja hit the miracle 3 to send the game into another OT. Or that Game 7.

The whole point is that the Suns have played in two seven game series and made big shot after big shot. Like the NCAA tournament, you have to be both lucky and good to win it all. You need a friendly bounce here, a miracle shot there, and six wins. In the NBA Playoffs, you need 16, but can lose 12 along the way.

It is a roller coaster and then some. Every loss stings worse and every win feels better the farther you advance. Now, the Suns are in territory that they have not been since Sir Charles, KJ, Marjerle, Oliver Miller, TC, Ced, and others were here and I was a senior in high school. My wife was a Freshman at the time. Couldn't even drive yet. The Suns are not only in the Western Conference Finals, but have already won two games. It is a best of three.

I was going through some of the old posters that I have from when my son Jake as probably 2 and we put up sports posters in his room. My two favorites--a Suns poster with KJ, Jason Kidd, Rex, and Wes Person; and a New Jersey Nets poster of Keith Van Horn. I kept them rolled up since we repainted Jake's room at the old house and got them out. I made sure to taunt Jake with the Van Horn poster. Every time I mention the similarity, he gets madder. Good times.

I have been scouring the Valley to find a metal bell for the games. I finally found one at a Gourmet Kitchen supply store in Arrowhead. Bought two of them. Raja just keeps answering the call. Big shots, suspensions, injuries. TNT issued a challenge that Suns fans are burnt out from the long playoff series. We are quiet. So now, we know the season and a trip to the finals comes down to one home game sandwiched between two in Dallas. I am doing my best to rest my voice.

Posted by Justin at 11:46 AM

May 31, 2006

It's Official--This Year's Suns Better than Last's

Last year, I was preparing for a Game 5 showdown with the Spurs knowing that the season was about to end on our court in Phoenix. One playoff win allowed the Suns to salvage some respect and not get swept out of the playoffs. Last night was the first Suns home Western Conference Finals win since 1993. And going into game 5 this year, it's a best of three series.

Last night Jeremy and I arrived our usual 30 minutes early to watch warm-ups. And as we watched the tunnel, Raja Bell was not in a suit. We kepted counting players and watching him take layups and shots, undeterred by his partially torn calf muscle. And then Jesse came out. A little trumpet to get the night started and some introductions for the Mavs. Dim the lights and bam, starting at 2 guard, Raja Bell.

Like I said, we sit next to the "Bell Tower" in section 211. We were all in disbelief. Mike D'Antoni said it best--to keep Raja out of game 4 he would have to shoot him. 30 minutes and 9 points later, the Suns showed what has gotten an undersized and outmanned team within 6 wins of a title--guts and heart. And Raja brings both of those every single night. Whether it is guarding Kobe or hitting a big 3 against the Clippers to save the season, you better bring more than an elbow or two to stop him.

So now here it is. An emotional roller coaster of a season in which Amare was lost before training camp, Joe Johnson and Q departed, an opening loss to the Mavs in double OT, losing streaks, winning streaks, Bryan Colangelo leaving, Amare's return, Kurt Thomas's fracture, Amare's departure for the rest of the season, two game 7's, 82 regular season games, and 18 playoff games later, this team stands 6 wins from a title.

And last night they responded knowing that their season was over if they lost. But hey, they did the same for three straight against the Lakers. They did the same in games 5 and 7 against the Clippers. As we were walking out last night, there was a new energy. A team going somewhere they had not been since 1993. A team that will not lose. There is something special about this Suns team. I don't know if last night was a "bloody sock" type moment yet, but seeing Raja and Kurt Thomas come back and the Suns look like the unstoppable force they were at times this year makes me believe. It is possible. It can be done. And to all the doubters that said this team could not win without Amare, that Nash is not the MVP, that this style cannot win in the playoffs--it is a best of 3 series. Two wins then four more. Something special is happening.

Posted by Justin at 09:34 AM

May 25, 2006

Suns Win Game 1, but May Lose Raja for Game 2

Toughness, both mental and physical, is what Raja has brought to the Suns this year. No knock on Q, who played exceptionally well last year in stretches until disappearing in the playoffs, but Raja was a huge upgrade. Especially at the defensive end.

So now the Suns face another big road game without their defensive stopper after a ginormous victory in Game 1 at Dallas. The Suns' bench did not help a lot and LB had an awful game, yet the regulars--Thomas, Marion, Nash, and Boris Diaw--came up big. But no one came up bigger than Boris shooting a ten foot fallaway jumper over a doubleteam with his team down 1 and .5 seconds left. His 34 points were a career high.

Nash and Marion had their usual double doubles and Nash hit several huge shots down the stretch when the Suns were down 9 with a little over 3 minutes to play. Marion still is not the same Matrix with his injured ankle, but his play on Dirk was exceptional.

I was planning to go on a Cruise to the Western Carribean over the week of June 11-18 with my wife and several friends. It also happens to be my wife and my 10th Wedding Anniversary. I love her and all, but we have an Anniversary every year, how often do the Suns have a chance to play in the NBA Finals?

The good news here is this--I have missed two post-season games so far this year, both game 5's. One involved Raja knocking Kobe to the floor and the other involved Raja knocking down a three to send it to Double OT. I hate watching on TV, but the ship better have me hooked up.

Posted by Justin at 10:46 AM

May 24, 2006

Let's Get the Western Conference Finals Started

Pick your plot line. Maybe it is Steve Nash and Raja Bell playing against their old team. Perhaps it is this year's Coach of the Year (The Little General) versus the Runner-up and last year's Coach of the Year (Mike D'Antoni). Maybe it is the Mavs versus the team that beat them in 6 last year. The Suns against the team that injured Joe Johnson and cost them a chance at the Finals. Or how about the two time MVP versus his best friend. But my favorite is the over the hill point guard who was gonna break down and not worth a long term deal versus the owner who let him go.

The MC for Suns games is Ced Ceballos, himself a former Sun and former Mav. It used to be when Michael Finley, Ced, and Nash played for the Mavs, they were our JV team. Not anymore.

But my absolute favorite part of the entire series is getting to see one of my favorite basketball players for an entire series. I know, he is injury prone. I know, he has played for more teams than I can keep track of. The guy that went number two overall in the draft behind Tim Duncan. Socks pulled up to the knees and all. Keith Van Horn.

Since I live in Utah, you have to swear an allegiance to one of two Utah teams. Either you like the Utes or the Cougars. Now, I know there are other teams, but generally, you can like other teams too, but at the end of the day, you better have a side in the Utah-BYU rivalry. Well, I have one up on that. I am FROM Wyoming. And there is nothing a Cowboy hates worse than BYU. So naturally, I root for the Utes. And KVH was such an awesome ballplayer in college. Fundamentals. Shooting touch. Leadership.

Then I had my gangly, awkward, tall, thin, red headed son. I will post pictures, but my son Jake looks like the before picture of Keith from grade school. We relentlessly give him crap every time we see the Mavs. I call him Keith. Ask him to pull the socks up. I think it is a compliment, but he just thinks I am mean. And I am.

So bring on the Mavs. Bring on Mark Cuban. Bring on Dirk. Bring on Jason Terry and a shot in the nads. Bring on Keith Van Horn. Finally a team not from LA.

Posted by Justin at 12:30 PM

May 23, 2006

Suns Back in Western Conference Finals

Without the hated Lakers, game 7 against the Clippers did not have the hype of the previous round. The Suns simply stepped on the court and dominated. Nash looked like an MVP. Matrix came up big. And all of it added up to a blowout.

Elton Brand is a star. But he is posting huge numbers against a Suns team with no interior defense. Sam Cassell is free to refer to Steve Nash as "the Rook", but he looked like the rookie tonight. The Suns looked two steps quicker than the Clippers. As if a day or two off cures all wounds.

Jeremy and I went to the game and missed the last 6 minutes of the Dallas-San Antonio game. We kept waiting for updates and they didn't come until mid-second quarter. And Dallas is waiting for us. Mark Cuban is waiting for another dose of humility after letting Nash go. Dirk gets to see his friend. And perhaps we can close Dallas out for the second straight year.

So on to the next round. The Suns are planning to beat the Dodgers in seven games next. Then perhaps the Kings. For that matter, the Suns would take on the Raiders and Rams if LA weren't such a hopeless town and had an NFL team. Just to hear the chants of "BEAT LA!" again. Two seven game series against LA. Two lopsided game seven victories. Two humiliating losses for my least favorite city.

Have a nice offseason. Say hi to Kobe.

Posted by Justin at 02:22 AM

May 20, 2006

Another Game 7

So there it is. Back and forth. Suns win games 1, 3, and 5. Clippers win the even ones. Now, a best of seven is down to a best of one. One game at US Airways decides who goes to the Western Conference Finals and whose season ends. Whether Sam Cassell or "the rook" continues marching towards a championship.

Gotta wear the Orange Jerseys and the Suns hat that my migraine during the last game 7 had me crying into. I spent most of the second half of game 7 against the Lakers with my head pounding and my brother had to drive me home. The noise. The screaming at the top of your lungs in rabid hatred of Kobe. The ringing in my ears of the "Bell Tower".

This time, LA has no Kobe. No one to hate. No one to taunt. No one for Raja's mom to offer to hug. This time, it is not the hated Lakers, but the doormat Clippers. There is no rivalry here. This series has been a constant struggle to retain interest in due to the elation of the Lakers series and the anticipation of getting either San Antonio (and a chance to beat the champs) or Dallas (and a chance to send Mark Cuban packing again and chant MVP at the man that gave Phoenix back a basketball team). Now, it is interesting. Now the Suns will play with the same desperation they had in games 5, 6, and 7 against the Lakers, knowing their backs are against the wall.

Jeremy and I will be heading to Game 7 again. Same routine. Arrive early. Eat some pizza at Pizanos at Arizona Center. Soak up the experience. Watch warmups. And then hope that the Suns take care of business.

The worst part is missing the Spurs and the Mavericks playing in game 7 right before. Who do you root for? I should not admit this publicly, but I am still a fan of Michael Finley. I hate U of A, but have always had a soft spot for Jason Terry. I love the "Big Fundamental". Enjoy watching the French and Germans go at it. Half of me wants to sit on the couch and do nothing but watch basketball Monday night. The other half isn't saying much and is saving his voice for now. I think I will take the latter.

Posted by Justin at 11:36 AM

Diamondbacks beat Braves 10-9

What a game last night between the Braves and D-backs. I caught it late, but got all the drama I needed in just the 8th and 9th. Braves take a 9-8 lead in the top of the 9th only to have Gonzo, Green, and Counsell come up with huge hits and plate two on Counsell's walk-off single with two outs.

After the game, Tera and I kicked back and watched "The Ringer" and hung out. The kids were in bed and Jeremy and Paul were down on Mill Ave. For a chaotic month long stretch, I have been going 100 miles per hour. It was nice to just chill last night.

Posted by Justin at 10:52 AM

May 17, 2006

Gotta Give Raja Two Pictures for that Shot

Ouch. Look at the Clippers bench watching Raja take the shot. Right in front of the bench.

Posted by Justin at 09:49 PM

The Bell Tower Rings in Games 5

Two weeks ago, which seems like eternity, the Suns were fighting for their lives down 3-1 against the Lakers. And the series turned when Raja Bell clothesline Kobe and sent a message to the league--we are not soft. We are not finesse. We can get Physical.

Last night Raja didn't have Kobe to knockdown, so he did the next best thing, KNOCKED DOWN THE BEST SHOT SINCE... Tim Thomas did it in Game 6 against the Lakers. Thomas had an open look. Raja shot over a defender who was draped all over him. From the Arizona Republic:

"I'm not one of those guys to ask for the ball or anything," Bell said. "But when (coach Mike D'Antoni) drew up the play, I was pretty excited."

Just like that, the Suns have a new go-to guy.

"He's made big shots before," D'Antoni said. "It just seemed like he was the one we should go to."

I have my cousin in town and decided that he and my brother could take my tickets in section 211. Section 210's front three rows are affectionately known as "The Bell Tower" because they all have bells for Raja. He has signed almost all of them and they even had Bell Tower t-shirts made up. So I was at home when with 3.6 seconds left and the Suns down by 3, the Suns called timeout. All I kept saying to my wife was "Get it Raja, Get it to Raja". The Suns did and Raja nailed the money shot to send the game to a second overtime.

The Clippers should not have even gone back on the court after Raja's shot. They were deflated. Defeated. Done. Over. Ballgame. Probably Series. Raja stuck a dagger in Sam Cassell. Elton Brand said it best:

For the Clippers, "That's the most disappointing game I've been a part of," Elton Brand said. "We had it."

Yep. LA now has a support group for you and Sam, Elton. "Hi, my name is Kobe, and I got my heart ripped out by Raja." Hi, Kobe.

Posted by Justin at 03:58 PM

May 13, 2006

Nash hits Money Shot to Take 2-1 Series Lead

Tonight was ugly for the Suns. Shoot less than 40% and shoot 26% from three, score only 94 points, and these things usually add up to a loss. But hey, they gave up 123 in game one and won. Why not win ugly? I sat at the condo and watched the Suns take care of some business tonight and the Matrix look like he took the Red Pill for once.

Nash had an awful night, but when it really counted, hit a fallaway jumper over a defender with 3.6 seconds left as the shot clock expired to take a 3 point lead. The story of the night was on the boards. The Suns led the rebounding battle most of the night and finished the game at -2. Slightly better than game two's -31. Game 5 is on Tuesday in Phoenix and I am hoping that after game four the Suns will be looking to close it out. This is a series the Suns should be trailing 3-0, but found gritty ways to win. The team is small, and that is an understatement, but showing some serious heart.

Posted by Justin at 12:25 AM

May 10, 2006

From ESPN - On Kobe

Kobe Bryant is a lot of things (and most I cannot say here or around the ears of my young children). This was one of my favorite moments from Game 7. This was mid 3rd Quarter when Kobe's team was down 25 and the crowd was chanting "KOBE SUCKS". Uh, check scoreboard dude. ESPN sums it up:

He's been trying so hard to be someone else -- or someone else's version of who he should be -- that he isn't really anybody. From the outside, his words seem hollow and his actions seem borrowed.

When he got clotheslined by Raja Bell, he couldn't simply go to the line and make his free throws. He had to perform a little dust-off on his jersey and a finger-wag to let everyone know the attack was mere lint on a great man's lapel. It was so obviously staged you could almost see the gears turning. OK, I have to do something here …

It's probably crazy to call Kobe's act sad, but it comes off that way. His abilities should be able to stand alone. He's a better pure scorer -- a shotmaker, if that's a word -- than Jordan ever was, and I'd make that case to anybody willing to listen.

The problem is, he's not satisfied with that. He keeps trying to summon the charisma and integrity he doesn't possess, and the result is a guy who can't get out of his own way. He keeps trying to transcend the sport, when he should be content to dominate it.

I would make the argument that Kobe is the best player in the NBA. That is easy to make. Maybe Lebron approaches that level, but Kobe plays D and can score on anyone. But he lacks charisma and it is apparent in the locker room and with his teammates on the floor. His entire act is contrived, as if his entire personality is dictated by an agent or a sponsor or is built around trying to be marketable. He wants to be a tough guy for his imagemakers this year. Check. Likeable guy next year. Check. He is posing for the camera and trying to sell something.

We could be watching greatness and a guy who scores 81. A guy that can make shot after shot over two and three defenders. And he is all those things. What he is not is an endearing personality or a guy that people root for. Maybe Lakers fans do, but most Lakers fans still love Shaq. If Kobe left, would they love Kobe? Phoenix fans still love Chuck despite him heading to Houston and his fued with Jerry Colangelo. Bulls fans love Michael, despite him heading to Washington.

Kobe cupping his ear was if to say, I cannot hear the entire world unless they are telling me how great I am. Tune out everyone. Tune out your teammates. Tune out Phil. Buy your way out of everything.

I want to marvel at the greatest player in the NBA, but his personality is such that no one but the Laker fans could stand this guy. Lebron is a guy I root for. Shaq. Tim Duncan. I love Tim Duncan, even as a Suns fan. He exudes class. Kobe exudes "fake". He is a made for TV Movie. He lived a charmed life, yet has nothing on the inside. There is no heart of a champion. There is no soul. He is completely empty.

Posted by Justin at 03:44 PM

Letdown Game Still Equals Victory

The Suns have won five straight games, counting Game 4 against the Lakers. And Monday nights Game 1 against the Clippers may have been the best offensive performance of the season, and certainly was the best of the post-season. After experiencing a Game 7 against the hated Lakers, how can you even compare Game 1 against the Clippers. This was a letdown game but a victory nonetheless. So that is the good news, here is the bad:

  • Elton Brand scored 40 and dominated inside
  • The Clippers shot 59%
  • Cassell and Maggette chipped in another 48 points
  • The Clippers scored 123 points
  • The Suns got in early foul trouble inside with Thomas and Matrix

If I told you the Clippers were going to do all of the above before the game, anyone in the right mind would call it a Suns loss. But it wasn't. The Suns had a 74 point second half.

There were some real positives on display. Leandro Barbosa is becoming a star. Nash was... well, Nash. On the night David Stern was on hand to present Nash with his second straight MVP Award, Nash was unbelievable. But it was another "average" performance for him. You take it for granted. Raja played well. Matrix got it going.

So on to Game 2. Both teams have to make adjustments. You cannot give up 123 every night. And the Clippers won't give up 130 every night either. Brand will not go 18 of 22 all series, but the Suns have to make sure he doesn't.

I called in to "Suns Talk" on KTAR 620 after the game. I made the following analogy:

Game 7 against the Lakers was like going to your best friend's bachelor party on your 21st birthday in Las Vegas. And for the first half of Game 1, it felt like going to work the Monday after. The crowd had a hangover. US Airways sounded like a regular season Clippers game, not a Second Round game.

But it was still a win. And a big win. And the Suns dictated the tempo. For the Clippers to win, they have to keep the Suns under 100. That is no small task. The depth of the Suns became apparent. When Brand took a break with 7:22 left, the Suns took control and went on a 9-2 run. It will take balanced scoring and some defense to end this series early. The last thing the Suns need right now is another long series.

Posted by Justin at 01:43 PM | Comments (1)

May 07, 2006

Mark Cuban Knows Talent When He Sees It

The Gift from Dallas that keeps on giving:

"Steve's a leader," Suns owner Robert Sarver said. "He's the face of our team, he's the face of the organization. He's a role model for a lot of people, including me, who look up to him for his ability to constantly motivate the people around him with positive encouragement, even in the face of adversity and when things aren't going well."

Add Steve Nash's Name to this list of players to win back to back MVP's:

  • Tim Duncan
  • Michael Jordan
  • Magic Johnson
  • Larry Bird
  • Moses Malone
  • Kareem-Abdul Jabbar
  • Wilt Chamberlain
  • Bill Russell
  • **Karl Malone and Bob Pettit also won two awards, but not consecutive
"I guess part of me just tries to find the comedy in it," Nash said with his usual self-effacing humor. "It's thrilling and it's comedic and it's unbelievable. I just feel extremely honored to be recognized. I just love playing and I love working at it, trying to get better and challenging myself. I'm really lucky to have a place to do that in my life. I've come a long way, and I've enjoyed it."

"I have to pinch myself," Nash said. "I can't believe that I'm standing here today. I couldn't believe it last year, and to do it again is even more difficult to understand -- but I'm not going to give it back."

That is some company to be in. That is being mentioned in the same breath as Ruth, Mays, Cobb, etc., in baseball. It does not sink in until you put it in historical perspective. And just like RJ winning four consecutive Cy Youngs, we may not appreciate the greatness we have witnessed until well after it is gone.

And to think that he could have been receiving this award after Kobe and the Lakers stole our heart last night and won Game 7. Imagine Kobe pumping his fist after hitting the game winning shot like in Game 4. Visualize his smugness.

Notice that Kobe is not on that list above. And that makes it that much better. Lebron might be soon though.

Posted by Justin at 03:48 PM | Comments (2)

May 06, 2006

A Game for the Ages

I could not sleep last night. I played high school football and wrestled in three state tournaments and remember preparing for a big game or to face a difficult opponent. And for the last two days, I was just jacked about Game 7. Butterflies, knowing how loud US Airways was going to be. Preparing. Favorite Jersey--check. Suns hat--check. Tickets--check.

We went down almost three hours early to soak in the experience. This was not a game to show up at tip time, but rather a Game 7 against one of the three teams that I despise with every fiber of my being: the Lakers, the Yankees, and the Dallas Cowboys. This was Kobe having a chance to rip my heart out and leave the other 12 games of playoff tickets unused in a drawer somewhere. Ironically, I ran into my high school quarterback at the game while we were wandering around an hour before tip time. Caught up, exchanged business cards.

And then it was here. Wil from 120 Days can tell you what it feels like to hear the National Anthem played on the trumpet. There is only one guy that does it at big games. I closed my eyes and could hear the crowd from those two games in 2001 against the St. Louis Cardinals that Schilling brought the illest stuff not involving a bloody sock. I remember the trumpet from Game 7 against the Yankees when JC said, "Forget some National Star, we have our own guy." Images of Tony Womack came rushing back.

Then to the game. And it was over before it even started. 16-6, Timeout Lakers. "What are we doing? What just happened?" Down by 17. Another timeout. 15 at halftime. And then Kobe was the Kobe of old. Shot after shot. Kobe and four guys to rebound. That was their offense. Kobe had ONE POINT in the Second Half.

I kept hoping the game would be like Game 7 of the World Series with the ball in Mariano Rivera's hands and we could beat the best player in the NBA (and Kobe is unbelievably good) like we beat the most dominant closer in post-season history. But the Lakers didn't even put up a fight. This was Game 6. This was Randy Johnson versus Pettitte. This was a blowout. And they didn't have a "next game" to shoot for.

But the moment of the game was one most people not there might have missed. The game was over and we had in the guys at the end of the Bench. The Lakers were done, but they wanted to show some fight. Maybe close the gap to a respectable margin. And Pat Burke hit a 30 foot 3 point shot followed by Eddie House hitting back to back shots to push the lead to 31.

It was humiliating. It was demoralizing. I can imagine Jack and all the stars in Hollywood shutting off their TV's in disgust, just like we did in Game 4. I had a migraine (and still do) from yelling at the top of my lungs. From the noise level in US Airways. From standing and flailing and screaming. My hands still sting from high-fives.

Posted by Justin at 11:16 PM | Comments (2)

May 05, 2006

Game 7 Tomorrow

The OLD KOBE returned. You know--the one that likes to drop 50 on folks. Here is your 50 Kobe. See you on Saturday and you are welcome to get 50 more.

This is the Kobe that has his manhood challenged. Whether by Shaq's presence or by Raja's hard foul, Kobe is not a team player. He has to take over because it proves he is a man.

While I have a tough time after 'Bron's shot over three Wizards on Wednesday saying this, but Kobe is the most unstoppable player on the planet. When having a theoretical discussion about how to defend Kobe successfully, my only response was "By challenging the credibility of the victim and making it about Race." The only ones that can defend Kobe are Defense Lawyers.

So now it comes down to the Octagon. Down to a winner take all Game 7 in Phoenix. And Timmy Thomas dropping the three with 6 seconds to go as Kwame Brown flew by to tie it was almost as good as the 21 points the Suns scored in the 5 minute overtime to put it away and bring the series back to Phoenix.

I am running to buy a dozen bells for Game 7 and passing them around my section. You wanna punk Raja? You want an octagon? Start training Kobe. We will be preparing for the Clippers while you get ready for the cage fight. Kobe has an advantage because he came much closer to being in a cage than Raja ever has. Raja and Leandro are the Kobe Defense team this time. Kobe will be the only victim of Game 7. Maybe he will buy his wife a $10M diamond ring. After the elbows, maybe he should offer Raja an out of court settlement for assault.

Posted by Justin at 11:10 AM

May 04, 2006

Raja Takes Day Off--Game 6 Tonight

I didn't even post about Game 5 yesterday, but trust me, I almost woke the neighborhood when Raja gave Kobe the MVP trophy seen above. The Eagle (Colorado) has landed.

I make no bold predictions about Game 6. Raja will be a huge loss. Not as big of a loss as Kurt Thomas. Certainly not as big of a loss as Amare. And the Suns have overcome all of these things before. And won 54 Games.

I am sitting here just hoping that my Game 7 Ticket does not end up in my unused ticket drawer for playoff tickets next to the 2005 NBA Finals tickets that the Spurs made useless.

You won't hear conspiracy theories about how the NBA wants Kobe for ratings or how Luke Walton was out of bounds when he tied Nash up and fouled him in Game 4. You won't hear how the NBA should not have suspended Raja. Simply that I don't want this series to end and if the Suns bring their best game which they have only done once in the Series, the Lakers do not stand a chance.

The key is simple. Score 100 points and get out and run. Kobe and the Lakers can do whatever they want, but the series comes down to whether the Suns can get the offense going. And get the Matrix going. And get open looks. And make the solid pass.

I Believe and BEAT LA!

Posted by Justin at 11:48 AM

April 30, 2006

And With The Tenth Pick in the 2006 NFL Draft

Quarterback, Southern California, Matt Leinart.

My lasting impression of Matt Leinart will always be him just getting lit up on a late hit by Dale Robinson in the ASU-USC game last year and ending up getting stitched up on the sideline. Taking a series off. And coming back and rallying SC for a win over ASU.

Mind you it is not a pleasant memory. It was heartbreak. But Leinart is tough. And a leader. And a great pick for the Cards. He gets to learn from Kurt Warner. He would have gone number one overall last year and instead slipped to number 10.

Oh, yeah. When he does take the reins from Kurt, he gets to hand the ball to Edge. And throw to Anquan and Fitzgerald. Talk about an offense.

Am I really excited about THE CARDINALS? Almost makes you forget the Suns are down 2-1 against the Lakers. Back to the game and praying that Nash and Co. can find a way to get their heads straight. Shawn Marion has decided to take three games off. Rarely have I seen him play worse. Missed dunks and layups. Missed easy 10 foot shots. Lacking defense. Getting posted up by Luke Walton. Time to turn it up.

Posted by Justin at 02:09 PM

April 27, 2006

I Stand Corrected

Yesterday I said the following:

And that is why I love the Suns. It is crisp passing. It is team work. It is chemistry. And it is a bunch of guys who are undersized outhussling and out working their opponents.

Tonight it was none of the above. The Suns dropped a game to the Lakers and now a best of 7 becomes a best of 5 with LA having home court.

The phrase is dance with who brung ya. Gotta remember what got you here and get back to it. The offense is stagnant. No bench play. The bench scored 4 points tonight. Marion had an awful shooting night and is laboring to get shots off over Odom. The team is reliant on 3's going down and Nash is having his passing lanes closed down.

Time to make adjustments and get at least one win in LA.

Posted by Justin at 02:35 AM

April 26, 2006

Heading to See the TWO TIME NBA MVP--Steve Nash

It is Unofficially Official that Steve Nash will repeat as NBA MVP.

Suns star Steve Nash will be named the NBA's Most Valuable Player for a second straight season, according to a league source familiar with the voting.

The announcement may not come for two weeks, like last season's May 8 ceremony. The votes have been tabulated in what was expected to be a close race with LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Chauncey Billups and Kobe Bryant.

US Airways Center will be rocking tonight as the Suns seek to take a 2-0 lead over the Lakers in the Best of Seven first round series.

Wil and I were having a fairly spirited debate over what is wrong with baseball at his new blog baseballtopia.com two weeks ago. While we agree that baseball is not the same game it was, not all of the changes have been bad. I love Interleague play for instance. Certainly the nature of sports is changing. Less team play. More money. Agents often times hold more sway than coaches. Endorsement money pays far more than what a player makes for going out onto the field, course, or court each day. And individual accomplishments such as Home Runs or Dunks trump team accomplishments--like say involving teammates or winning.

Tonight's game and this entire series between Phoenix and the Lakers is a test of a team sport and team game versus a "me" player and a "me" game. Kobe did his best to get Odom and his other teammates involved in game one. And the Lakers still lost. So now, expect Kobe jacking up 40+ shots this game.

This is about AI's rant "practice-we're talking about practice, not a game" and the Kobe's of the world that score 50 in a loss. This is about Ron Artest who got suspended to the detriment of the Kings last night or for the entire last season over the brawl.

Until last year, I was an NBA HATER (in caps) because the Suns had a roster consisting of another "me" player, Marbury. There was no chemistry. Guys were looking to get their 20 touches per game. And the entire team was competing with itself to get shots and touches as well as to pad their own stats and get a larger endorsement contract from a shoe company. Steve Nash is so fun to watch. This team makes an extra pass to an open shooter. They dish and make layups. They make their free throws.

My argument is simply that a lot of the blame for the landscape of pro sports today is that players no longer practice free throws or passing or bunting or defense. There is no more sliding hard into second to break up a double play because the short stop has the same agent as you or you play golf together in the off season. These wonderful games of finesse and pitching and defense and teamwork have become thugfests of hard fouls and brutality under the basket. Of power hitters who don't play defense and guys that cannot make a free throw in clutch time but can do windmill dunks.

And that is why I love the Suns. It is crisp passing. It is team work. It is chemistry. And it is a bunch of guys who are undersized outhussling and out working their opponents. Their slogan for last year was "Working Hard--Playing Harder". Who admires hard work these days?

Well apparently someone is noticing. Mike D'Antoni finished second in Coach of the Year balloting and Nash won another MVP. The award should be renamed to MVT--as in most valuable teammate as that is what Nash is. A team guy in a me sport.

Posted by Justin at 12:42 PM | Comments (1)

April 23, 2006

Suns-Lakers Game 1 Update

Game one belonged to the Suns as they beat LA and held Kobe to 7-21 shooting and took a 1-0 advantage in the first round series 107-102.

This was my brother Jeremy's first Suns playoff game despite going to several regular season games over the last few years. The atmosphere is completely different. Solid Orange. Rowdy. Loud. And despite the loss of Amare several weeks ago, hopeful.

The Suns have a much easier road this year than last and manage to avoid both the Mavs and the Spurs until the Western Conference Finals, assuming they can beat the lower half of the bracket. In a strange bit of quirkiness, the Clippers as the 6 seed play a Denver team that does not have home court advantage as a 3 seed. Memphis won the honor of facing Dallas in the first round despite being a 5 seed. So lose and finish 6th and you get home court. Win and finish 5th and you get the Mavs on the road who are almost 20 games better than Denver. Phoenix's half includes Denver, the LA Clippers, and the Lakers (who Phoenix has not lost to with Nash in the lineup since his Phoenix return).

Tim Thomas continues to be the best mid-season addition in the league and poured in 22 today and grabbed 15 boards. The Suns defense was smothering at times which was a pleasant surprise, despite several horrible foul calls. When Phoenix was called for their fourth personal barely 3 minutes into the 1st QTR, it set the tone. But a victory is a victory and this is number one of sixteen.

Posted by Justin at 07:17 PM

April 20, 2006

Suns-Lakers Starts the Playoffs

"I'm coming to play," Marion said of being in ABC's prime slot Sunday. "We're going to go out with one thing we're focusing on - that big-ass trophy at the end of the road."

Fifty-four wins. 54. No Amare. 54 wins. No Joe Johnson or Quentin Richardson. 54 Wins. Second seed in the Western Conference. Fourth best record in the league. Too small. No rebounding. Steve Nash's health. Too much roster turnover. Some 6'7" French guy that was not good enough to play in Atlanta is your starting Center.

It is hard to make an argument that a team that loses two top tier players that averaged 20 pts this year and almost 30 last year in Joe Johnson and Amare respectively, is better than a team that won 62 games and contended for the Western Conference Championship. Last year's team had six guys that played, maybe seven. This year's team is even more fun to watch and is deep and talented. Perhaps even better chemistry.

So to the doubters who said at the beginning of the year that Amare's loss would doom the Suns. They would be lucky to win 30 games. Nash did not deserve the MVP. Blah blah blah. 54 Wins. Five Four. And now it is on. National TV against the Lakers. The Flash of Kobe versus the Suns team game, great shooting, and the most unselfish team in the league. Enjoy the games on ABC starting Sunday. I will be enjoying Kobe scoring 50 in a loss in person. Let him score his 50. And the Suns will win by 20 as usual.

Posted by Justin at 11:03 AM

April 14, 2006

Gorilla Wins Police Officer $77,777.00 on Backwards Half Court Shot

The Suns Gorilla is one of the League's best Mascotts. When Robert Sarver came along and started dunking off a trampoline, rallying the Suns fans, and bowling himself into trash cans, some might say there was a little Gorilla in him.This is only part of the story of perhaps the best skit at a Suns game since the Gorilla in a 500 lb. Oliver Miller suit.

A Suns game turned into a stunning series of events for Peoria resident John Hoebee and his 8-year-old son, Trey.

First, at Friday night's Suns game, Hoebee, a Glendale police sergeant, was charmed when his son was chosen to give pregame high-fives to the players and sit on the Suns' bench during warm up.

That was thrilling, but it wasn't all.

"While we were waiting, a lady approached me to see if we wanted to shoot the half-court shot," said Hoebee, 40. "The lord blessed us that night."

Hoebee took a shot worth $77,777.77 from the half-court line.

He missed.

But Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver offered a second chance with the Gorilla flipping it over his head.

"We shoot that all the time together and he makes about 1 of 25," Sarver said.

This was the one.

So last night, the Gorilla is seen scrubbing Robert Sarver's house, doing his laundry, cleaning his pool and toilet, and working off the $77,777.00 he cost Sarver with his half court shot. That may have been the shot of the year in the NBA. Over the shoulder, backwards, halfcourt shot for $77k. I am sure Sarver could be seen doing his best Moses and Judah Ben Hur impression (and that was perfectly timed for Easter now wasn't it)--"Damned Dirty Ape!"

Posted by Justin at 11:24 AM

Of Baseball Purists and NBA Playoffs

Wil over at 120 Days is about as avid of a sports fan as you will ever find. But more than just sports, homeboy loves baseball. And since he is from Phoenix, he is a Diamondbacks fan. Let us not forget that before the Diamondbacks, he was also a season ticket holder to the Suns. Well, it is the offseason in Steamboat, and what is a sports fan to do? Start a summer blog about the boys of summer.

For several months this winter, when the snow was non-existent at Brian Head, Wil helped me fix my snow jones with reports from Steamboat. I am doing my best to reciprocate with reports from AWA and the BOB... wait, US Airways Center and Chase Field... and keep him up to date on the goings on back home. Check out baseballtopia. 120 Days was the first place I read during ski season and baseballtopia is now the first place I stop. BTW, Wil, I grabbed you an El Duque card at the last Diamondbacks game and set it aside for you. Wil is a huge El Duque fan. (Note about El Duque--As Dante Culpepper will soon find out, a "Boat Party" in Miami better have 150 Cubans riding on 20 inner tubes tied together.)

So contrast these two numbers--18,422 and 18745. These are the respective attendance numbers for the Suns versus Mavericks last night and next door for the Diamondbacks versus the Rockies. I got to Arizona Center to park almost an hour and a half early figuring traffic would be a mess and it would be hard to find parking for the Suns game that started at 7:30 when the Dbacks started at 6:30. Joke was on me.

Jake and I went and got some redemption for the Season opening loss to the Mavs at home in Double OT where the Suns blew a 17 point fourth quarter lead. The Suns shot 67% from three and played like a team with some fire and passion for both halves. This marks three straight halves that they have played like a contender against playoff teams. Gary Coleman was at the game to promote his new movie and looked hysterical next to Cedric Ceballos at 6'8". "Whatchoo talkin' bout Ced?"

Posted by Justin at 11:03 AM | Comments (1)

April 13, 2006

Baseball is Back--But in Phoenix, No One Noticed

Went to the game last night:

What if the Diamondbacks won a game and nobody came?

That pretty much happened Wednesday night when Arizona took advantage of some horrendous baserunning by the Colorado Rockies to pull out a 5-4 win in front of 18,644 sleepy fans - the smallest crowd in franchise history.

We literally sat on the rail over the bullpen. Watched Casey Daigle warm up and Jose Valverde bring the nastiness. But it appears nobody else was interested.

This is just plain sad.

Posted by Justin at 10:21 AM

April 12, 2006

Suns Find Some Grit in Second Half versus Suckramento

Last night was what we have been waiting for. The Suns went through the motions in the first half and let the Kings shoot 65%. Raja Bell led the charge in the second half that smothered the Kings at both the Offensive and Defensive end. The Suns scored 72 in the second half to the Kings 42.

Phoenix has locked up the number two overall seed in the West and the way things shake out, here are the matchups:

(1) San Antonio or Dallas
vs.
(8) LA or Sacramento

(4) San Antonio or Dallas
vs.
(5) LA Clippers

(3) Denver
vs.
(6) Memphis

(2) Phoenix
vs.
(7) Sacramento or LA Lakers

Nobody wants to be in the top half of the bracket and face Dallas or San Antonio. Phoenix and Denver are set at 2 and 3 and San Antonio and Dallas are set at 1 and 4, but which one is the 1 and which is the 4 is up in the air. The Suns and Mavs both have injury problems and both have been slumping as of late which clearly makes the defending champs the team to beat.

I received my playoff ticket package today in the mail and they are beautiful. I hate to use them to go to games because the tickets look so nice.

Posted by Justin at 01:48 PM

April 08, 2006

NBA Playoffs

I am going to try to take a couple trips up north this spring/summer to get in some more time on the slopes. But because I can't give up blogging close to daily until October/November and don't want to bore you all with a blog about taking the GMAT and sending transcripts to get into Business School, I am probably going to be posting more and more about some local sports stuff going on in Phoenix. Keep stopping by and there will be skiing posts mixed in with other Basketball, Baseball, and Football related posts.

Wil, I hope this makes you happy since you abandoned us desert dwellers and are missing out on the playoff run of the Suns.

BTW, Suns beat down the Lakers last night despite 51 by Kobe. I really hate Kobe, but man is he good. He has no shame and clearly no teammate better take a shot. 30 feet out, shoot it Kobe. Halfcourt? Shoot it. Conversely, I genuinely like Tim Duncan, despite the fact that the Spurs own the Suns and he is the biggest reason why. He is humble and charismatic and isn't a me first kind of guy who demands his 30 shots a game.

NBA playoffs start in two weeks. I LOVE THIS GAME. Go Suns.

Posted by Justin at 12:11 PM

March 24, 2006

The Return of Amare

Last night I took an old family friend and my former high school Spanish teacher with me to see Portland versus the Suns. But we were not there to see Portland or the Suns... simply to see one man--AMARE!

20 pts and 9 rebs later, Stat is back. He is not dominating and explosive like the last time I watched him explode for 40 against Tim Duncan and almost single-handedly win game 5, but certainly a top notch player in his prime again. His rhythm was off slightly and he mistimed a couple of rebounds, but it was electric.

Come to mention it, this may have been the most electric the atmosphere at US Airways has been since the back to back with Miami and San Antonio in January. Coach D'Antoni had Eddie House commit a foul in backcourt with 1:25 left in the 4th QTR so that he could pull Amare to a standing ovation of the 12,000 or so fans that were left in a blowout game.

It looks like I am waiting to start school at Southern Utah University until September, so I will be around when the Suns bring home their first Championship.

Posted by Justin at 10:41 AM | Comments (1)