Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas/New Year's Housekeeping

So here at the EB Sports Report, I've been silent due to other obligations and life situations. I'm still covering prep sports for the Daily Breeze and I'm still enjoying my work with one of the best sports blogs around. But I figure I'd make a few announcements for the rest of the year.

I plan on doing two more videos. One to wrap up USC's season and another for UCLA. The videos were few and far between this year but in my mind, they're also far better. I'll find a way to do more in 2014.

Also, if you followed me on Virgo Gumbo, you know I don't like doing end-of-the-year stuff until January. Only because something amazing can still happen between now and New Year's. So sometimes that first week of the year, I'll share those here.

Quick links. Only had one story this week but it was good. Visiting an old friend in Narbonne head coach Victoria Sanders as her girls squad defeated league rival Carson. Also you can check out my blog posts for the Daily Breeze right here at Pure Preps.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dallas' December Blues are Bigger than Tony Romo

It's almost cliche to blame Tony Romo for the Cowboys' woes in December. I've done my share of criticism. The best quarterback my team has had since Troy Aikman but he walks with self-inflicted bullet holes in shoes.

This year, though, we need to be honest. Romo has not been the only reason the Cowboys are treading water. Forget all those December stats on Tony Romo, these are some stats that matter.
And that was before Sunday's game. The Cowboys allowed 51 points to Denver, 49 points to New Orleans and 45 points vs. Chicago. Denver and Chicago failed to punt the whole game. They allowed 329 receiving yards to Calvin Johnson despite creating four Lions turnovers. Now they blew a 23-point halftime lead vs. Green Bay at home, who didn't punt in the second half.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Weekend Links

I've been a busy man this week so without adieu, I present the links to enjoy on a Friday.

Tonight I'll be at East LA College watching the LA City Section Division I championship between Crenshaw and Narbonne. Here's my preview (Daily Breeze)

To add to that story, here's a piece on Narbonne linebacker Uchenna Nwosu. Nwosu isn't just a USC commit, he's also a standout student (3.3/3.8 GPA) who didn't play football until his 10th grade season. (Daily Breeze)

I also covered several basketball games this week. Serra's swarming defense proved too much for Lawndale and the same happened with Bishop Montgomery against Windward. (Daily Breeze)

For my good folks at Bro Jackson, I had more takes on the Pac-12's wild coaching weekend as well as a preview on the title game between Arizona State and Stanford. Here's a hint, I'm not picking Stanford.

As a bonus, I also pass this piece by Bro Jackson managing editor Ramon Ramirez on prisoners in the Louisiana State Penitentiary finding hope and peace in rodeo. It's one of the best pieces I've read this year and a reminder that just because you're in jail, you're still a person craving hope.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

15 Years Gone: UCLA's Downward Spiral and Uptown Revival

It's funny how rivalry week shakes out. 2007, I was at the Coliseum where UCLA got spanked by USC and Karl Dorrell's press conference sounded like a funeral of a man who would be fired soon. This year, USC changes coaches after being spanked and Jim Mora re-ups with UCLA for a longer extension.

One thing is clear. As my friend Rahshaun Haylock of Fox Sports showed in that picture above, UCLA runs the city now. It's something I thought I'd never see after 1998 and this week marks the 15th anniversary of the game that changed UCLA's fortune. The collapse against Miami.

You might remember that year as the Bruins were the first team to debut at No. 1 in the BCS. The Bruins were in the middle of a 20-game winning streak. Cade McNown was poised to be invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony and two freshman named Deshaun Foster and Freddie Mitchell (before he got hurt that year) had me excited. I had the season poster as one of my book covers.

Did I mention the Bruins had an eight-game winning streak against USC? Foster went wild that game and I remember ABC calling it "Foster's Freeze". Everything was clicking and the Bruins seemed ready for their first national title game in my lifetime.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Steve Sarkisian to USC (Video + Extra Thoughts)

As you enjoy my video above discussing the USC hire of Steve Sarkisian, here's some more stats to consider that I hinted at.

FBS Rank in Total Defense since 2010: 65, 102, 35, 60
Conference Rank in Total Defense since 2010: 8, 11, 4, 5
Conference Rank in Total Offense since 2010: 8, 7, 10, 2

Sarkisian will be bringing defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox with him to USC so that's a good sign that the defense will continue to be solid. Plus, Sarkisian is not afraid to go after mobile quarterbacks which is something USC desperately needs if they want to stay relevant. All they need to do is look at how UCLA waxed them twice with Brett Hundley's arm and legs.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Why Ed Orgeron should be USC's next coach

(Sorry for the quiet here on the Report. As you may have seen from Twitter, the Daily Breeze is keeping me quite busy and I couldn't be happier. 5 stories in 5 days and more to come this week with high school playoffs. But I'm back and I'm making a bold statement to boot.)

Ed Orgeron leaving Oregon State on the shoulders of his players.
As reports come out that USC spoke to Jack Del Rio about being their permanent coach, my mind keeps going back to the images I saw leaving the volleyball match I covered Saturday night.

A sea of fans flooding the Coliseum. Interim coach Ed Orgeron hugging players and USC personnel. Colleagues of mine struggling to get through the crowd and just snapping pictures of a scene I have never seen at Troy.

That USC win over Stanford was perhaps the biggest game I've seen the Coliseum host since the 2008 Ohio State-USC game. It's easily the biggest win in who knows how long and considering where the Trojans were six weeks ago, it could rank up there with the biggest in school history.

Leading it all has been Orgeron, who came back to save and restore the program he helped build with Pete Carroll, the man who almost never lost in November. At this point, Coach O is the new "Mr. November" who's riding the promise and leading this Kill Bill revenge/redemption story I wrote about over at Bro Jackson.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Andrew Wiggins: Hype and Patience

The story of college basketball this year? A kid who has yet to play his first game. The latest in the line of freshmen blessed to have the spotlight on him and given all the praise. Andrew Wiggins. The Golden Child who makes his debut tonight for Kansas.

He's also set up to be the latest in the Hype Machine. You know that machine right? Where 24/7 media can amplify the noise and shape the conversation whether it's fair or not. Where legend transcends fact and facts become enhanced like plastic surgery. Where patience is sacrificed for the right now.

I knew about Wiggins last year but you know who I knew about more? Jabari Parker. In case you forgot, Parker was the SI cover boy about 18 months ago as the clear cut best basketball player in his class. He was the latest Chicago product following the line of greats like Derrick Rose, Nick Anderson, Ronnie Fields, Ben Wilson and others.

All a sudden, he became an afterthought due to him getting hurt his senior year. But to me, he's every bit as good as Wiggins. I've also spoken to colleagues who also say Julius Randle, the best freshman in Kentucky's new stable, is just as good as both too. And don't sleep on Arizona's Aaron Gordon either, who I've seen tear up Cali since he was a sophomore. Case in point, we have a very good freshman class where Wiggins is the star.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Nick Foles and The Weekend Links

So what to make of Nick Foles? Was yesterday's performance a sign of things to come or was it the 2013 edition of Matt Flynn. You remember him. The backup with the greatest passing day in Packers history who got heavily paid and has only started one game since.

Foles ran a spread offense in Arizona so Chip Kelly's offense is perfect for his talents. He's as good a fit as Michael Vick is and that's why you have capable backups. Keep the machine going. Yet Foles perhaps did that better than anybody in basically 3 quarters of work.

Long story short, this isn't a quarterback controversy yet. Although Vick is 33 and injury prone. Foles did what he was supposed to do so the question isn't if Vick has lost his job. It's can Foles be consistent if given the same opportunity again? Til we know that answer, I'll paraphrase Mack 10 - let's give him his props and that's where it stops.

On to the links of what I've done lately.

My 2nd feature for the Daily Breeze was on Carson High School's secondary sparking the team to a 4-game (now 5-game) winning streak.

And here's my game story from Friday on West Torrance winning behind their running game. (Daily Breeze)

Your weekly Pac-12 review is sprinkled with a dose of LCD Soundsystem and a pinch of 2 Live Crew (Bro Jackson)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Optimistic? These Are Your 2013-14 Lakers (NBA Preview)

You can try the best you can
If you try the best you can
The best you can is good enough.....

Well here we are. Another NBA season. As happy as I am for various reasons (Return of D-Rose, Miami’s 3-peat bid, Dwight Howard in H-Town - yes, I want to see him do well), I’m also staring dead at a Lakers team with the lowest expectations I’ve seen in 10 years.

Steve Nash is pushing 40. Pau Gasol is still at a high level but hurting. And of course, Kobe Bryant won’t be starting the season opener for the first time in ages. And this is what the starting lineup looks like tonight.

Yeah, this is what they are. A decent lineup that doesn't strike much fear. It’s a reminder that this team has to prove what they are. Not just to the doubters but to the fans who want to know what the Mad Doctor Mike D’Antoni will cook up. Year 2 of his tenure scares me because he’s still the coach and unless he magically decides to commit to defense, everything’s a tossup.

That’s why I feel like Radiohead’s Kid A. Coming to a new world that looks familiar but is radically different and unpredictable. Yet, I’m trying to stay optimistic with Thom Yorke’s sad, bleak voice encouraging me.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Weekend Wrapup (Links!)

A busy weekend for me leads to good writing. I might be having another feature coming up this week so stay tuned. That might take the edge off what was a rough weekend for my teams (UCLA got boatraced after 3 tight quarters, Dallas let Calvin Johnson go off and Matt Stafford win the game in the last minute).

Here's your brief links.

Recapping Week 9 in the Pac-12 over at Bro Jackson - let the countdown begin for Oregon vs. Stanford!

I covered Mira Costa High School's big win over Peninsula HS where they ruined homecoming and surprisingly passed the ball efficiently for a being a run-oriented team. As always, check those videos on the side, shot by yours truly. (Daily Breeze)

Tomorrow, I'll be posting my thoughts on the Lakers' season. My feelings are a little more optimistic - not in a Sounds of Blackness way, but more Radiohead. Trying to make the best of a bleak situation and I'm taking a glass half full approach without being ignorant of what's around or missing.

At the same time, I have some positives to look at. It won't be a lost season but it'll be close.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Wrap! (Weekend Links and Thinks)

Saw the Lakers' recent preseason game against Utah and I realized this team might actually be alright. For the first time in a while, they have youth and guys who can score on their own. If Steve Nash stays healthy, he might actually feel like he's in Phoenix again with Xavier Henry, Nick Young and Jordan Farmar splitting some backup duties with Steve Blake.
Alas, that tough opening schedule makes it also easy to realize it's going to be every bit a struggle as I thought. But I'm glad Kobe is taking his time because it's not how the season starts but how it ends.

The Grambling situation has been far too complicated for me to address here. As someone whose parents and sister went to HBCUs and personally had to overcome my anti-HBCU bias in college, I'm saddened by what the administration and the Louisiana government have done here and I'm glad the players took an eloquent stand for their rights and safety.

Check out the excellent Monday edition of His & Hers Podcast with Jemele Hill, Michael Smith and HBCU product Bomani Jones speaking on it all.

Tell me which sounds better? The Boston Red Sox saw their nine-game World Series streak ended or they lost their first game in 27 years? Which is more accurate when you add that Boston has only been in three World Series since 1986 and had completely different teams in 2004, 2007 and this year. You decide but as I always say, context is so critical and we as the media need to do better with numbers to make it sound cool AND accurate

That said, on to the links of what I've done this week.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Weekend Wrap (Pac-12 Roundup + More Links)

It was a busy sports weekend for me and while the Chargers and Cowboys handled their business, it wasn't pretty seeing my UCLA Bruins get punched in the mouth. At least USC lost to Notre Dame. Here's what I was up to.

Narbonne-San Pedro has become the most competitive high school football rivalry in the LA City Section since 2008. I covered their latest chapter, a 12-11 Narbonne win, and also contributed some postgame notes (Daily Breeze)

I also covered a lil JUCO football action at El Camino College. Tough loss for the Warriors but I ran into former Dorsey HS/USC standout Stafon Johnson, who was working with the running backs. (Daily Breeze)

My UCLA Report Card: With a nod to my tutoring roots, I graded UCLA as harsh as I possibly could because they deserved it. (UCLA 24/7)

Recapping the Pac-12 was a lot of fun this week and it just shows that there's Oregon/Stanford and everybody else. After the Top 5 teams, it's a mess. (Bro Jackson)

Also I threw in a little extra today on the first BCS poll coming out Sunday. The beginning of an American past time for the last time - hating the BCS before it goes away for the college football "playoff". (Bro Jackson)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Weekend Links!! (It's Friiiiday, Throw Your Neighborhood in the Air)

Some things for the road as we enjoy today. As usual, I'll be out on Friday Night Lights hanging at Narbonne vs. San Pedro. I've seen three absolute thrillers with both teams (twice in 08 - including the infamous tied City Final, once in 2009) so I'm excited except for the prospect of being cold out there.

Here's some last minute things to throw at you.

UCLA vs. Stanford. Biggest game for the Bruins all year and they have a much better chance of winning that I thought two weeks ago. I got your preview, breakdowns and predictions for how tomorrow will go.  (UCLA 24/7)

For the rest of the Pac-12 this weekend, visit Bro Jackson and see my preview. You might learn some things about why the conference is stronger than anybody not named the SEC.

I spread my wings a bit with the Daily Breeze this week. I covered my first water polo match and Thursday, I covered my 2nd cross country match. Check out those videos on the side cause those were shot by yours truly.

And if you missed that piece I wrote here on Steve Bartman and how we wrongfully label folks goat and chokers, here you go. Enjoy the weekend.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Steve Bartman, 10 Years Later (On "Goats" and "Chokes")

Apologies for the quiet over here. My other obligations have been keeping me busy but my mind is still racing with ideas to write about. This week has given me the chance to finally get something off my mind.

10 years ago Monday was the Steve Bartman game. Game 6 of the NLCS. I remembered it vividly because I was out on campus at school and came back to hearing folks go crazy in my dorm. Five outs from the World Series, the Cubs blew a lead and instantly all the blame went to one fan who interfered with Moises Alou.

The 2nd thing I remember is posting something on my AIM profile saying Cubs fans shouldn't blame Bartman because a bigger goat was Alex Gonzalez who promptly bobbled a routine ball that should've been a double play. Last I checked, no matter how if Bartman should've left it alone, Gonzalez' play was far more egregious. Plus, one play doesn't blow a 3-0 lead.

If anything, maybe it exposed me to how hardcore fan bases are firsthand instead of just reading about it. I always grew up a rational sports fan but seeing the irrationality of hate directed towards Bartman was terrible. Few people talked about how a Gold Glove caliber shortstop made a crucial mistake or how the Cubs lost Game 7 despite Kerry Wood on the mound or how Josh Beckett was nails in Game 5 (and in relief in Game 7) to save the Marlins from being eliminated.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rising to the NLCS (The Dodgers and Me)

The only thing standing between the Dodgers and the World Series is the St. Louis Cardinals. The team that’s as good postseason money as anybody with 3 straight NLCS appearances.

But for some reason, I’m pretty confident this Dodgers team’s magical ride won’t end. I feel like it’s 2008 all over again when this was the first trip in 20 years. I wasn’t confident about the 2009 NLCS because I felt like Philly already had our number. This year, I’m feeling much different.

It hit me when Juan Uribe hit that home run in Game 4. I was wearing my Kershaw replica jersey that I kept on from my tutoring gig and I jumped around my living room like I jumped during the two walk-off wins at Dodger Stadium I attended this year. Once again, the excitement around this team is like nothing I’ve seen since 2008.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Housekeeping Notes (Couple Links, Videos and More)

I've been neglecting to post some links in here on what I've done. So let me show you some of the good of what I've been up to as I'm surrounded by a wave of Blue Euphoria after the Dodgers found another way to win a close game.

I'm going to write a piece about memories of the 2009 LCS tomorrow but let me preview it by saying this. I wasn't confident the Dodgers were going to win that series. This time? I have a lot more faith.

My weekly Pac-12 Roundup/Power Poll - Stanford-Washington leads it off. (Bro Jackson)

My 1st time ever attending, much less covering a cross-country meet. It wasn't just 85 degrees but it was a dry heat at a dirt road course with a difficult hill to climb at one point during the race. Nevertheless, it's a great story where I took a lot of video but also inspired me to get back more consistent on running. (Daily Breeze)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Recapping UCLA/Utah and Week 6's Pac-12 Preview

Happy Friday everyone. Couple of quick links and then I'll let you enjoy your weekend. I got a couple of prep assignments this weekend so stay tuned on my Twitter for the links and what not.

1st link of the day: My report card for UCLA's narrow victory over Utah at UCLA 24/7. The Bruins exorcised a few demons having not won in their last two trips to Salt Lake City and their defense led the charge with six interceptions.

Hat-tip to Brett Hundley doing it all with a passing, rushing and receiving touchdown, as well as a punt. Also props to Myles Jack showing why he'll be a Freshman All-America team candidate with the game-saving INT and tipping a pass to lead to another. I rarely call linebackers ballhawks but he's turning into one.

Link 2 looks ahead to Saturday where I preview the remaining four Pac-12 games at Bro Jackson. The best games are in the evening with Arizona State/Notre Dame and Washington/Stanford. Part of me wants Washington to upset the Cardinal but since the Cardinal haven't lost at home since 2011, it might not happen but it'll be a good close game.

Also, it could be validation why I rank Stanford ahead of Oregon. If Stanford wins, they would've beaten one very good team in Washington and another in Washington Sate. Oregon hasn't gotten to the meat of their schedule yet.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Robert Griffin III, Derrick Rose and why Marketing Recovery is a Dangerous Setup

Reading Howard Bryant’s piece on Robert Griffin III and the negative effects of marketing his recovery, I thought about Derrick Rose and why RG3’s play is a strong reminder he did the right thing. And also the nature of our times where everything is marketable no matter if it’s sound or not.

Seeing RG3 struggle is exactly why I’m glad Derrick Rose took his time. People can crack jokes about who came back to play before he did but for once, I’m glad an athlete showed discipline and didn’t rush back due to pressure. RG3 has been described as not himself and held back due to that brace. As if his body wants to do something but his mind can’t yet.

We often forget that the toughest part of injury recovery is mental. It’s trusting your body to do what it used to before. It’s not letting the reactions to your performance (good or bad) affect your already recovering psyche. The Scriptures say that the body is willing but the flesh is weak and too often, we see that when the mind interferes with a well-built frame.

Marketing someone’s return to action is just that. A return to playing but it doesn’t guarantee a return to stardom. It’s all about coming back to work to do your job, not asking if mentally you’re ready to do it. Like most else, injury recovery is now available to the highest bidder to fit a narrative.

It’s a catchy slogan but what does it prove when RG3 and Washington is at 1-3? What does it prove when D-Rose caught unnecessary hell for daring to listen to his body and not team doctors? Is the goal to come back or come back when you’re mentally, as well as physically, ready.

Adrian Peterson didn’t have a flashy marketing campaign when he tore up his knee. Just like Rose and RG3, he went to work and busted his butt.  His quick success has spoiled microwave fans who expect others to return quickly without realizing AD was the exception, not the rule.

Derrick Rose gave in to the campaign but he was in control of it. He wouldn’t let his teammates, coaches, doctors, media or fans force him to do anything he wasn’t ready for.

RG3 gave in to the campaign but I never thought he was in control. He wanted to come back ASAP and it seems like he and the coaching staff were at too many odds leading up to season 1. Even though I feel Shanahan hung him out to dry in the playoffs, Bryant's point about someone's image being their worst enemy is turning out true here for now. 

Griffin has used the first four games to get back in the groove and while I can't blame him for wanting to be out there when it counts, it's clear the results are mixed. Yes he's currently 6th in passing yards but he's thrown for four interceptions and he hasn't looked confident running the ball. But yet, because of the marketing and bravado and football culture, he came back maybe sooner than he would admit to (and he even hinted as much in February)

Instead of marketing recovery, we should be encouraging patience. Unfortunately, I fear we’re going to see this play out again in a month when another superstar may recover too fast from injury. Kobe Bryant may be seeing a terrible Lakers team and feel the need to throw on the Superman cape but I’d rather him wait and do it when he’s fully ready and tested it.

Modern medicine has made recovery quicker but it doesn’t mean the mind is right. RG3 talked all the good game in the world but the proof is in the pudding. Derrick Rose was honest as well and by waiting three more months instead of rushing back for the 2013 playoffs, he bought himself more time to get mentally ready to play. If anything D-Rose set himself up to succeed later while RG3 was set up to face the wrath if he failed right away because of the machine behind him.

As a Cowboys fan, I hope RG3 gets right soon. Peterson’s 2nd half performance should be a reminder that the best lies ahead. But I hope we remember that recovery - no matter what some company tells us - is a process that can’t be sped up and it continues long after athletes are cleared to play.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Goodbye Lane Kiffin (And What Lies Ahead for USC)

Now that the dust has settled a bit on Lane Kiffin's departure, I'll pass along my thoughts from Bro Jackson on his firing. I've said plenty about him already this year so I'll just bring this point up.

People have mentioned how USC has suffered from scholarship reductions. While that has hurt depth issues, the bigger problem isn't how deep they are. It's how unprepared the current Trojans are. It's how USC has slowly lost its luster with recruits in the area. This is according to 24/7 Sports ranking kids out of California who committed to USC

2011: 5 Top 10, 3 more in Top 20, Antuan Woods at 25 (Marqise Lee's year)
2012: 6 Top 20, Jordan Simmons at 23
2013: 3 Top 10, plus current freshman phenom Justin Davis at 21. As a non-Cali bonus, they snagged the No. 1 QB in the country.
2014 class: 1 Top 20. ZERO Five star commits. Several four stars.

The numbers declined sharply. That's where USC's problem was. Local kids didn't want to go there anymore because the program was getting toxic and as much as losing the fans hurt, losing relevance among recruits hurt. Nobody wanted to play for Kiffin similar to how local basketball talent didn't want to play for Ben Howland at UCLA after a while.

So as I did my current video on where they go from here, that's where they have to start. Re-endear themselves to the public and to the kids. Lane Kiffin's damage can be easily reversed but it might not happen this year. It's like solving pollution - you can't get rid of it right away but every step helps.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Video Soul: Recapping UCLA and USC

Regretfully I took a week off from making my weekly videos. Unless I get sick or crazy busy, I'll try to be better with it. Anyways, here's my thoughts on UCLA and USC.

Late kudos to UCLA for fundraising to build a new football facility. It's long overdue and it finally shows that the school is committed to building up their football program to a level it demands. One more strike to show recruits they are committed to winning them over and Jim Mora that they want him to keep building something.

As for USC, I'm still trying to burn that second half out of my mind. It's fitting they're heading to the desert because just like Walter White, I feel like that's where their failures will catch up to them. Arizona State's got something to prove and I think Will Sutton and that defense will be licking their chops to see the mediocre Trojan offense.

For more of my Pac-12 reactions, check out my weekly roundup over at Bro Jackson

Monday, September 23, 2013

#APU: The Latest Movement vs. the NCAA

If you missed this, several football players at Georgia, Georgia Tech and Northwestern wrote APU on their gear. Not to be confused with Azusa Pacific University out here in California, it stands for All Players United – a sign of solidarity for athletes fighting against what they consider unfair treatment by the NCAA.

I’m glad this was a slow week for college football games because this is the real story of the weekend. For one of the first times, we’ve seen current, active athletes step up and make a statement against the NCAA on the field of play.

It’s a pretty huge deal because it’s a sign that the NCAA’s fake empire is under more attack from within. The life-blood of the NCAA is the athletes and if they start to speak up while currently students, then the dominoes are falling hard.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dodgers are NL West Champs (And Everybody's Celebrating)

I remember watching the Dodgers this spring and thinking this year was going to be terrible. But you want to know the moment when I first had hope they could turn it around? June 7 against the Braves when they were still meandering in last place.

I was there with my church during the humble beginnings of the Yasiel Puig era. Puig hit a game-tying home run while I was at the concession stands and despite leaving guys on base, the team won in extra innings for their first walkoff of the season. The season was still bleak but I had hope that Puig was going to be some kind of spark.

Fast forward three months later. The Dodgers clinched the division and they're celebrating in the Arizona Diamondbacks pool like kids. Don Mattingly held back tears talking about how great this team was and how resilient they were. Hanley Ramirez finally gets to taste the postseason and played like he wanted it going 4-4 with two home runs.

And in true Dodger fashion, AJ Ellis provided the surprising biggest blow with the go-ahead home run. I listened on the radio and could only smile.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday PM Links (The Week in Review)

Another week, another great load of writing to share. I'm proud every day of the work that I've done and even though I'm not able to post more here, I'm still happy to bless you with the fruits of my labor.

Without further adieu - the week that was in my writing world.

The Pac-12 Roundup. Looking back at this past weekend for the Pac-12 (Bro Jackson)

UCLA report card vs. Nebraska. Another dominant statement vs. a Top 25 team. (UCLA 24/7)

UCLA preview vs. Nebraska. Pretty close on my final score prediction (UCLA 24/7)

The Fall of Troy: The scene from USC's fallout vs Washington State. (Bro Jackson)

Usher vs. Justin Timberlake: A fun back and forth on the two biggest male pop stars of the century (Bro Jackson)

Serra vs. Notre Dame. A high school that was dull for 36 minutes but got wild all the way to the second overtime. Best regular season game I've seen in a while. (Daily Breeze)

Mary Star vs. St. Monica. Another close HS game with a game-winning touchdown in the final minute. A postgame video I did can be found here. (Daily Breeze)

Below is another interview I did at my two games. Serra HS standout Adoree Jackson - one of the top players in the country - caught the go-ahead TD to give Serra the lead. He also had an 80-yard touchdown to tie the game in regulation where he reminded me how incredibly fast he is.

This is the same school that produced NFL rookie Robert Woods and USC's Marqise Lee. I've covered them both and Jackson is definitely in that special category.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Oklahoma State Scandal - Why Should I Care?

Why should I care indeed? This story could be written about any school in the country. Just so happened Oklahoma State caught the glare for some reason.

In the post-Penn State era, these scandals seem almost ho-hum and very low on my radar. Paying players vs. a school covering up pedophilia. Abusing drugs vs. administrators turning a blind eye to child abuse when told about it. What really matters in the grand scheme? Low-level incidents or true institutional failure and criminal behavior.

Nothing will compare to Penn State obviously but my point is that guys taking money and having folks pass their classes is nothing new. Where's the shock in that? Where's the newsworthiness in reporting something that happens seemingly every year? Are reporters playing Catch a Criminal or are we actually trying to change a system in the process. 

It's like police officers catching weed sellers and low-level guys while the bigger empire just replaces them with other folks. I’m not shocked by these things anymore. It's all a byproduct of a crooked empire where winning is always prevalent and more money is at stake, coaches, AD’s and boosters will do whatever it takes to win.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

USC's Glorious Fall (In Words and Video)

I finished uploading this video right before work so apologies for the late post. But USC's loss to Washington State bears a double dose of my commentary so enjoy that short video on Lane Kiffin's failures and then read my in-depth thoughts over at Bro Jackson.

That game reminded me of watching UCLA and Notre Dame in 2007. One of the worst games I've ever seen where both teams could barely score points and UCLA couldn't get touchdowns despite being inside the 5-yard line twice. That was rock-bottom for UCLA under Karl Dorrell so now it's USC's time.

Seriously. They only scored seven points at home?? Three days later I'm still smirking and hopefully Lane Kiffin doing the right thing giving Cody Kessler the starting job will be a start. But who am I kidding. I'm just waiting for Arizona State to tear them a new one on September 28 to continue the Pac-12 shellacking the Cougars started.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday Afternoon Links (Recapping Evan's Week of Work)

Some housekeeping notes. I'll be posting a video with thoughts on USC followed by longer thoughts at Bro Jackson in a seperate post but I forgot to give you all the weekly link recap. For new readers, every week, I'll post all my links from my last week of work in one place so you can check them.

Oh and the Pac-12 roundup will be featured tomorrow along with the USC links. Til then, enjoy.....

On Brett Hundley's Heisman trophy chances as the season progresses (UCLA 24/7)

My videos on UCLA's Week 1 win and USC's Week 1 suspect performance (YouTube)

Peninsula HS coach Mike Christensen returns to the South Bay with shutout win (Daily Breeze)

Redondo girls volleyball loses season opener in five sets to Mater Dei (Daily Breeze)

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin deserves more credit for his handling of Johnny Manziel (EB Sports Report)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Respect the General (Why Kevin Sumlin Deserves More Credit Handling Johnny Manziel)

"I think it's important now, based on where he is, that his focus is to try to be our quarterback and a student-athlete. That's his biggest challenge right now. It's not his challenge to be here. That's me. Like I said before, this is college football; it's not pro football. That will be coming, but certainly, right now, we don't think that it's the right time."

After reading Kevin Sumlin's words on Johnny F. Manziel and why Manziel didn't address the media, I'm even more convinced that he's the right coach to handle him.

While everyone's over-analyzed and overreacted to Manziel's debut, I've chilled. As I've stated, I'm cool with him and his personality. Now I want to see how he plays, not discuss his character to death over every little thing.

(By the way, we need to stop associating character with on-field demeanor. Plenty of stoic athletes were terrible people and plenty of boisterous ones were fine citizens off it. The two don't always correlate and shouldn't, especially in football when you need a bit of crazy on the field.)

But I don't hear too many bring up a point I made in my Manziel piece. Sumlin is handling him with the right amount of freedom, restraint and protection. He's striking the perfect balance of letting Manziel be himself without stepping over whatever boundaries Sumlin has between the lines.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

College Football Wrap (Pac-12 Notes and Videos)

I have more thoughts over at UCLA 24/7 where I did my weekly notebook but safe to say there were a lot of positives to take from a great win. Looks like the Bruins are back where they left off and if that offensive line can force their will, expect to see Brett Hundley in the Heisman chatter.

There's no doubt in my mind who the more confident, best team is in Los Angeles right now. Now for a few Pac-12 notes.

As I wrote in my Bro Jackson piece, beware the underrated backfield of Keith Price/Bishop Sankey of Washington. They torched Boise State without All-American tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins so imagine what they'll do with him.

Nice to Oregon State crap the bed against Eastern Washington but props to QB Vernon Adams, who almost singlehandedly whipped the Beavers. Several of my colleagues remember him as a dual-threat QB out here at Mission Hills Alemany so I'm happy he got payback against a conference that didn't recruit him.

My biggest concern was seeing how De'Anthony Thomas would handle a bigger load, something he hasn't done since high school. Well Saturday, the Black Momba showed he could (18 carries) that he's improved running between the tackles and he can make the small runs as well as the explosive ones.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Links and New Announcements

Friday Night Lights is upon us once again (Photo by Evan Barnes 8/29/2013)
Just some housekeeping for you guys. I've gotten a little busier around these parts writing for other sites so while I may not be posting here as frequently, I decided that on Fridays, I'm gonna roll out all the links in one place so that you can see them.

First up, I started a new interim gig with UCLA 24/7 covering the football team so I'll be posting there about 2-3 times a week. 2nd, I'm also sharing my talents with the good folks at Bro Jackson helping them with Pac-12 football coverage as well as their wide variety of topics. My friend Shane is the publisher and I've been a fan of their writing for a while so I'm happy to join their stable of great writers.

Oh yeah, I'll still be on the scene for Friday Night Lights for the 7th fall in a row, my 4th with the Torrance Daily Breeze. So I'll be bringing you those prep football links on Monday (or Friday if I cover a Thursday game) as well as share some good news with you regarding them next week.

Without adieu, the links and images (after the jump.)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Toast to Allen Iverson in Retirement

I remember this cover like yesterday. The beginning of an era we'd never forget.
With Allen Iverson's retirement announcement, his NBA career should read like this. One of the most important players in NBA history. A cultural touchstone. A lethal scorer.

For better or worse, he impacted the game and left his mark that will be felt for years to come. He's a Hall of Famer that made you respect him regardless if you liked him. I say that from my own experience.

I'm of the generation that grew up on AI. He got drafted the year I started junior high in 1996. Many of my classmates in high school rocked corn rows and our best hoops player had a game similar to Iverson - a fearless, high scoring, volume shooter without the crazy hops or speed.

All that said, I couldn't identify with him like other peers. I was in awe of how fast he was and how he scored with ease but in those early jr. high/HS years, I didn't like how he embodied the street culture. Back then, I was Mr. Smart Guy raised to be everything but hood so I couldn't relate to that. I related more to Grant Hill and Kobe Bryant.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hail to the Prince (A Reminder Clayton Kershaw is from Planet Koufax)

Max Scherzer might be killing it in Detroit with his arm but right now, there's nobody I would take over Clayton Kershaw. What he did today with the Marlins was remarkable in being dominant without having his best stuff early.

Kershaw By the Numbers After Win No. 13

8 - the number of scoreless innings he threw today. The 7th time he's done that (8 IP, 0 runs) in 2013. It's also the number of RBI's he has this year. He helped his own cause singling home the first run of the game.

1.72 - His Major-league leading Earned Run Average for the season. The last time a NL pitcher had it that low? Greg Maddux in 1995 (1.63). The last time anybody was close? Pedro Martinez in 2000 (1.74)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Yasiel Puig: Let The Wild Horse Roam

My Tuesday was a bit overwhelming attending a funeral for a close mentor. So I didn't get to check out much sports news til around 4 p.m. and sure enough, I saw four words ring out. "YASIEL PUIG GETS BENCHED."

Naturally, I rolled my eyes but I wanted to see what folks were raising a ruckus over. Turns out Puig was late to the stadium and was punished. No big deal. You're late for work, you face consequences.

Of course, people made a big deal about him being out the night before. But had he been on time, nobody would say anything. So it's no surprised that Puig - who's never been a fan of the media - cussed the media out and wanted to only talk baseball.

As Will Leitch mentioned this year, sports fans (and some media) have a problem with accepting youthful mistakes. People think folks should mature as fast as they did, not realizing it's harder when cameras amplify your every move. We expect too much of teenagers and 20-somethings with prodigious talent to act like adults instead of realizing adulthood is a process not based on age or talent.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Alex Rodriguez and the Overkill of Hate

Alex Rodriguez has gotten so much crap dumped on him that you almost start to feel sorry for him. Most of it is by his own doing - his vanity, insecurity, lack of awareness, being so good that folks are naturally jealous. But since MLB announced he'd face a 211-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogeneis scandal, I realized that he's become a bigger villain than he should be.
Then you step back and realize who's making him a villain. The same powers that made Barry Bonds one a decade ago.

Major League Baseball has used him as a scapegoat for their sins. The other dozen players who got suspended? Who cares besides Ryan Braun's arrogance catching up to him. MLB wants to punish A-Rod like he's the worst cheater in baseball history because he's an easy target and they've gone out of their way to make him look worse than he may be.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Johnny Manziel and the NCAA's Crumbling Empire

How many of these and other signed memorabilia are floating around for crazy loot.
I’ve been quiet on this Johnny Manziel autograph story because I needed to gather my thoughts. Not about him, but on the NCAA and their current state.

If Manziel accepted money for those autographs, so be it. I don’t care either way. What I care about is why this is a crime when colleges use player autographs for promotions and such? When autograph seekers can take gear signed and get crazy money for it while the athletes get punished for pennies.

When AJ Green sells his own gear, he was suspended several games. When Terrelle Pryor and his teammates traded their trinkets for tattoos –  currency – and got forced into playing in the Sugar Bowl, they barely got sympathy. Pryor’s name was dragged through the mud during his eventual suspension and I barely heard folks share any sympathy for him.

But let the school make far more money off their jerseys and those programs? It’s for the good of the institution. That's same lie that Wal-Mart sells when they ask you to overlook their unfair labor practices to spend their money.

Likewise, the NCAA cares less about protecting their players (workers) and more about witch-hunts and their own pockets. Why else do you explain Jay Bilas’ brilliant takedown of that site where the NCAA sold player jerseys? And their apology means they know their time is coming soon.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How Bout These Dodgers?: Another Day, Another WOW

 "Another incredible moment in the Magic Castle" (Vin Scully after Adrian Gonzalez's walkoff hit)

So after another exciting win at Chavez Ravine, how can you not watch every single game with these Dodgers? How can you see the Dodgers down by any deficit and not wonder how, but when it's going to be overcome? How can you see this team and not think "They just might get to the World Series"

When Chris Capuano pitched a terrible five innings and allowed four runs, it felt like a bad prelude to a good ending. When Adrian Gonzalez and a fresh-off-the-DL Hanley Ramirez led a 6th inning rally to cut the lead to 4-2, I sat back nodding.

And when Andre Ethier dusted off his Captain Clutch cape and tied the game on a pinch-hit bomb in the 9th? My calmness was validated and it erupted into cheers! It felt like 2009 again seeing him step up and swing away like he knew the ball was gone.

But oh there's more!! How crazy is it that freaking Carlos Marmol, the relief pitcher, stepped up to bat in the 10th and sent a ball to the warning track. Yeah, it's been that kind of run where a pitcher getting a walkoff hit wouldn't be the craziest thing.

Then you have the 12th. The Wild Horse Yasiel Puig doing what he does best to set up the win.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Hyun-Jin Ryu: Rookie of the Year?

Quiet as kept, Hyun-Jin Ryu has injected himself into the National League Rookie of the Year debate. I know Yasiel Puig has gotten the lion's share of attention as a rookie but the Dodgers' other lefty pitching phenom deserves to get praise as well.

Ryu (11-3) shut down the Cardinals Thursday with another brilliant outing (7 IP, 5 Hits, 0 earned runs for his fourth straight win) as he pitched with no fear of one of the best teams in the majors. He came at St. Louis' hitters like a veteran and when I thought he was done after 6 innings, he went out and pitched the 7th to finish off his night and relieve the bullpen a bit.

Earlier this month, Don Mattingly tried to drum up support for Ryu as Rookie of the Year and I'm doing the same now. Let's spell out his case.

Tiger Woods: Major or Not, 2013 Is A Success

Phil Mickelson may have won a major but if you think Tiger Woods hasn't had a great 2013, you're crazy.
Tiger Woods shot a 1-under at the first round of the PGA championship today. He ended poorly with a double bogey on 18 and as usual, the question becomes if this is where he can finally end his 5-year drought of winning majors.

Maybe it's me but I'm still buzzing off that 61 he shot last Friday in the 2nd round of the WGC-Bridgestone, which he eventually won. I'm still in awe that even at a familiar course, he put in one of the best rounds of his career and sustained it the rest of the weekend.

Like I said earlier this year, it's hard for me to strictly judge Tiger on winning majors now. He's the No. 1 player in the world. He's won 5 tournaments this year and has 7 total Top-10 finishes. Yes, he set the bar high when he dominated the PGA Tour but why not lower it when you realized he's had to climb back up and regain that focus/adjust his skills as he's aged.

At 37, Tiger is still playing high level golf. He's going to break Sam Snead's record of 82 career wins by next year (Woods is at 79) and regardless if he wins another major, that record is pretty impressive too. Hopefully he can win the PGA Championship this weekend but if he finishes in the top-10, I'll accept it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pac-12 Football Preview: USC's Identity Crisis

To say USC’s 2012 season was a failure is being nice. Preseason No. 1 to unranked at season’s end due to a freefall I’ve never seen at the House of Troy. The fall was best symbolized by Matt Barkley ending his career with a shoulder injury at the hands of UCLA’s Anthony Barr.

Lane Kiffin deserved the lion’s share of the criticism for his arrogance and questionable playcalling. I called his coaching into question several times. and there’s no doubt that he’s on the hot seat this year.

With Barkley and Robert Woods in the NFL, the big question entering 2013 is who is USC now? The 2nd best team in Los Angeles? 3rd best in the Pac-12 South? Will they still rely on their passing game or finally trust their backfield?

They still have the country’s best wide receiver in Marqise Lee and a surefire NFL prospect in Morgan Breslin, who’s switching to linebacker after playing defensive end in 2012. They still have Silas Redd, who Kiffin said would be a more prominent factor in the offense. But they have a few kinks to work out so let's break down what they're working with.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Pac-12 Football Preview: UCLA's Encore

UCLA and USC will be opening up fall camps this week to get ready for the 2013 season. To get ready, I'm doing a two-part preview of both schools assessing strengths and weaknesses, key players to watch and my outlook this year. I'll also do a brief follow-up before the season kicks off on August 31. First up, UCLA.

UCLA's 2012 season was one to remember. It wasn't just the best season the school had since 2005, it was a renewed optimism that the program was headed in a positive direction and could stay there. What Jim Mora Jr. did last year was more than wins and losses as he created an identity and attitude that programs could build upon for years to come.

Last year, they finished 9-5 and won the Pac-12 South Division. For the first time since 1998, they had a better record than USC, who they defeated 38-28 for the first time since 2006. While they lost three straight to end the season, including twice to Stanford, there was reason to be optimistic about the road ahead.

Four Bruins were drafted, including first round selection Datone Jones and second rounder Johnathan Franklin, both to Green Bay. So what's next for Year 2 under Mora? Improvement and more of the same to get even better. High expectations as they were the media pick to win the Pac-12 South division.

"We're not where we want to be but we have a vision of where we want to be," Mora said at Pac-12 Media Day.