Saturday, September 28, 2013

Confidence, Week 5

I really don't even know what to say about this. In a year of some really bad beats and backdoor covers going against us, last week - I was just wrong. No complaints, just admission. We are 2-6 on the year.

But we move on. Through adversity comes triumph, I say.

I'm going back to keeping it close to the vest - and not reaching. This is what we know:

The Picks:

LSU +3

Hell, I would just take them straight up. (And I might.) But this has all the makings of disappointment for the Dawgs. Georgia has been tested mightily to this point of the season, and they have responded well, despite the loss to Clemson. However, (and every team is different) LSU's recent history of playing well on the road is something that factors in for me. This is a field goal game, and usually the home field will sway a few points towards the host. LSU is just so consistent on offense and always great defensively - I think that wipes away any home field advantage. LSU wins a close one, straight up. (But take the points.)

Bama -14

Buy the half point. There's been all this scare talk all week, but who is broadcasting the game? Oh - ESPN. They've got to sell eyeballs, folks. Telling you Bama is going to win by 3 touchdowns, doesn't bring in the casual viewer.

Unless Ole Miss' defenders all tacked on 40 pounds since last year, they are going to get pushed around. Could be the week that the Bama offensive line gets things straight. They've yet to truly dominate the line of scrimmage battle - and it's week 5. About time they got that figured out, and I think that this is the week that they do. Ole Miss keeps this close for awhile, but Bama pulls away to win by more than two scores.

Go get it.

Twitter: @harry_long

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Valley is Wide

Facebook is amazing. The amount of communication that is possible, how quickly information can spread... And it can display just how wide a range of friends that a person can have. 

At least they are both providing good lessons. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

APU? Student Athletes Need A Champion - They Need John Denver.

Interesting weekend for college football. Not because there were very many good games – there were only a few, but up crept something new - college football athletes finally took a stand. Or at least a little bit of one.

Hello, uh, Vad Lee? Paul Johnson
wants to talk to you...
Sporting headbands, wristbands, and other miscellaneous gear with the acronym "APU" - standing for "All Players United" - players used the platform of their bodies to display their position. While it comes off initially as a little Jim McMahon-ish, it's the first level of solidarity or at least public solidarity that we've seen presented by active players who support being paid for their efforts.

A couple of things here. First, was this successful? It at least made the ticker on Saturday, and I'm sure it will get some run on the talk shows in the next week. If attention was the goal, so far, so good - but unfortunately for the players, they don't control the next 48 hours of the media cycle. Who does? The TV networks and their business partner - the NCAA. Very interesting to see how much play this will actually get. If ESPN or FOX run away from this story or let it slide - I suspect pressure from the outside. (Don't be shocked if that happens - they are all compromised.)

So - did they get attention? Yeah, but we'll see if they get any help with keeping it there.

Second, where do the coaches fall on all this? Were the coaches of players who took part in this aware?

Well, looks like Paul Johnson wasn't...
“No, I wasn’t aware of it,” he said. “I can assure you that now that I am aware of it, we will talk to (players) about it.”
That doesn't sound too positive for Vad Lee and crew.

An aside (sort of) – what should the coaches' positions be on something like this? Should they be in favor of it, or do they see it as a distraction to their own immediate desire, which is to win?

It is an interesting dilemma for a coach – you want to show solidarity and support for your players after all, they're the ones out there providing the labor that's getting you millions of dollars. You don't want that "he doesn't care about us, he just uses us" emotion in the locker room.

But is it a distraction for your team with so many coaches giving that lip-service about maintaining focus each week, but if their kids are worried about putting their APU wristbands, do they see that as a threat on their attention?

The coach doesn't want to come off as if this is something that isn't important, but they were also much rather their players focus on playing the game and winning. Not sure how I would handle this if I was the coach.

At least the NCAA acknowledged it Saturday. From the NCAA on Saturday:
As a higher education association, the NCAA supports open and civil debate regarding all aspects of college athletics. Student-athletes across all 23 sports provide an important voice in discussions as NCAA members offer academic and athletic opportunities to help the more than 450,000 student-athletes achieve their full potential.
The organizing group, the NCPA (National College Players Association) says that they will continue. But if Paul Johnson's stance is any indication - there might be some difficulties with that.

I've been sitting on an idea for a while now, and I guess now is a good time as any to throw it out. Before this past weekend, the players never had a specific platform where they could make an impactful statement. The "APU" demonstration has brought upon a limited amount of attention to this point, but is that effective for them? It embarrasses the NCAA, but the NCAA is already embarrassed on a fairly consistent basis of late – and they don't seem to care.

So what platform is there where you find all of college football and all of college football media in the same spot?

A lot of other people have thrown out the idea of players sitting out games and refusing to play. I think that's bogus. No way you get all those kids to lay down at the same time. Too much of a risk, too many people involved. They wouldn't sit out the national title game, because I don't think any athlete or group of athletes would ever want to risk that opportunity.

But there is one place where a student-athlete gets the platform to say whatever they want... the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

All the cameras are on - coaches, players, media (and the creme de la creme of sports and news media, at that) are all in attendance. Listening to what that one person has to say. This is where it can become a news story that forces action.

Because, in the end, that's what their goal should be. Raising awareness is great. But can you raise awareness to the point where you FORCE a real reaction? That's tough. You need the right platform...

And the right person.

That's what really complicate matters. If Johnny Manziel was to repeat this year with the Heisman Trophy, the opportunity would be wasted. Johnny Football telling the world how tough it is to be a college athlete and it's not fair that everyone else makes money from his and his fellow athletes' efforts? He'd be laughed out of the room. It'd just be another rehash of court side seats and pictures with LeBron. Tough? Johnny Football doesn't have it tough.

Manziel's just too polarizing, and a lot of people already think he's getting paid anyway. Worse for college athletes, the moment would of passed them by.

Story time... Back in the 80s, Tipper Gore and a bunch of the other United States Senators' wives all got together because they were in a hissy fit about the band 2 Live Crew. They thought their lyrics were disgusting and should be censored. In fact they wanted all inappropriate music to be censored.

You may remember watching the Behind the Music on VH1, where they kept on calling people in to the Senate hearings. Dee Snyder from Twisted Sister. Frank Zappa. These "demonic" artists or getting chastised by all of these Senators and their wives for music that they found inappropriate.

Snyder, with big hair and makeup, came across poorly as a crazy rock star. Zappa was just unfortunately the smartest person in the room, and no one realized it. Tipper and her group, the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) were going to win this battle.

Tipper & Co. then brought in their ace in the hole - John Denver. Clean cut guy, plays music the whole family can listen to. Surely he'd support the PMRC's cause in censoring the outrageous lyrics of Twisted Sister, 2 Live Crew, W.A.S.P., and others... right?
(I am) strongly opposed to censorship of any kind in our society or anywhere else in the world.
It was Denver's testimony in the hearing that was the most impactful - because people didn't expect to hear that from him. It carried real weight.

Everybody needs a little John Denver in their lives.
Especially college athletes.
In order to force a real reaction from the NCAA, the athletes need a John Denver to 1) win the Heisman and 2) take the opportunity of that platform to bring their agenda to the forefront. The Heisman isn't the Emmy's - they won't play you off if you are making a political statement or are taking too long.

That moment, that stage is theirs.

So who is John Denver for college athletes? They need to be respected as an individual, as a leader, and come from an environment where a statement like this wouldn't outwardly appear to be self-motivated or in their own best interests. Someone that has the personality and presence to command the attention of a room like that.

I browse through the odds for Heisman, and a few names jump out at me. Teddy Bridgewater, by all accounts, is an outstanding person with great character. Mariota? A lot of Nike influence in Oregon could cloud his impact - I also know very little about his leadership presence. Jameis Winston? Probably too young - would need someone who's been around the college block for awhile.

Which leaves me with something that feels a little strange...

Could AJ be the voice to push for real change?
Could AJ McCarron be the one to provide the tipping point that will change college football forever?

If he wins the Heisman, and chooses to take that opportunity, he just might be.

Heisman Trophy winner, three-time national champion (assumption), from one of the most accomplished college football programs in the country?

That'd get the NCAA's attention. And if they didn't react to that, they'd have to fold up shop.

I'm on Twitter. I have lots of thoughts that aren't near as long as this one. @harry_long

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Confidence Shaken, Not Stirred - Week 4

Yeah, it hasn't been pretty.

2-4 on the season so far with THREE horrendous bad beats. Three right plays, just super bad luck. One way to look at it is that I'm 5-1 in picking the way it should of gone, but 0-3 when it comes to luck. The games we've won were no problem and went as scripted. Three of the games we lost? A bunch of bullshit, I say.

Damn Johnny Football.

Anyway, the season continues regardless of luck, and we've got to continue to be smart. Stay with what we know.

Here's what we know:

USC -6'

I'm well aware that I dog-cuss Lane Kiffin on what feels like a weekly basis. He's got better talent than the teams he plays against and is managing to screw all that up. This week, he plays against a good Utah State team - but it's only a one score spread, and it's time the talent got it right.

Florida -15'

Oh yeah, Tennessee is still terrible, and Florida's been getting their ears chewed by Will Muschamp for two weeks for giving away a win to Miami. Florida comes out angry (you may want to look at the first half bet - I am) and puts their boot on the Volunteer throat. This one is easy.

Go get it.

I'm on Twitter, and I'll be very active today. Give it a run. @harry_long

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Look, Ma! I'm On TV!

Yep, I got interviewed for the Johnny Pinata story, and here is the proof.

I'm on Twitter. @harry_long

Confidence, Week 3

Just got done with a TV hit in Sacramento to talk Johnny Pinata (yep, I had a hand in that). You can check it out somewhere on the Good Day Sacramento site.

But you don't care about me (but why don't you??)... you care about picks.

We are a paltry 2-2 on the year. I haven't gone 0-fer in a long, long time, so I'm very disappointed in how last week played out. I will state again that the Florida play was the correct play, you just can't anticipate them throwing the ball up going in from the 20 over and over again. Ridiculous, and a bad beat.

This week. Yep, Game of the Millenium. At least for this week. But isn't it kind of odd that the Game of the ALL TIME is like a 9 point spread? That's because of storylines. Don't let your money get distracted by storylines. It needs to be focused. I've got it at 8', and you should, too.


The other game? Let's go to the Plains. Points a'plenty. Malzahn and Mullen are going to try and out offense each other, and 52 points ain't enough.


0-2 last week? Pssssh. Let's flip that back right.

I'm on Twitter. And you should be, too. @harry_long

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Confidence, Week 2

2-0 last week (3-0 if you count Thursday night - but we'll keep it to the official Saturday picks), and we're happy about that. So, let's take it and roll.

I will actually be escorting Big Head Todd & the Monsters around Birmingham today, and my goal is to get them to a place with TVs. Hopefully they'll take me up on it. If you're in the area, and haven't gotten tickets yet - pick up a pair here.

On to the picks:

Florida -3

All the Miami hype is media driven. While the Hurricanes are on the mend as a program, they don't play well consistently for me to think they can go against a Florida team that may not be "great-great", but they are pretty damn good all the time. And I'm confident enough in that to give Florida a better than a field goal advantage.

Lance Taylor and I are in the midst of a texting-fight about this game as I write this. He likes Miami. "Better coach and best player..." he says. I was 2-0 last weekend. LT was not.

USC -15'

USC really let me down in an off-board play last week, as Hawaii stole a last minute backdoor cover over a freshman defensive back for a long TD. I like Lane Kiffin in running up scores on Pac-12 opponents whenever he can. And Washington State isn't very good, and they just got done with a close game all the way over at Auburn last week, and now they are in southern California. Lots of travel, and they are playing a team with a lot more athletes who are a lot better. Do the math - it makes out to more than 16 points.

If I can get a few picks out of Big Head Todd, I'll tweet them out. Good luck.

Twitter: @harry_long