Previewing Super Bowl Week: Five Storylines

Categories: Game Time, Sports

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So now begins the diffusing of Deflate-Gate
The shelf life for any thought-to-be-salacious NFL storyline sort of evolves as follows:

1. Story gets broken by one of Adam Schefter (ESPN), Jay Glazer (FOX), Chris Mortensen (ESPN, correct 32.5 percent of the time), or Ian Rapoport (NFL Network) and tweeted out.

(1a. Whoever doesn't break the story tweets as if they did and covers themselves by including the words "sources say" in his tweet.)

2. Sports radio and SportsCenter obsess over the story for the next two or three days, both becoming a huge brick and mortar version of a can of lighter fluid.

3. Fatigue sets in, and the topic evolves from "[fill in name of scandal]-Gate" to how sick we all are of discussing "[fill in name of scandal]-Gate".

4. Saturday Night Live and South Park race to see who can clown the scandal first.

And that's where we were this weekend on Deflate-Gate, when Bill Belichick called his press conference Saturday to show off his science newfound knowledge, and presumably SNL had to scramble to rewrite its script. Here's how it went:

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NFL Pro Bowl And WWE Royal Rumble Live In A Parallel Universe Sunday Night

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DuckPuppy via Flickr
It's been a while since we football fans have been able to dial into some totally mindless television viewing on a Sunday night. Since before the start of football season, to be exact (although there are plenty of people out there who categorize Sunday Night Football as "mindless").

We've spent the last twenty or so Sundays obsessing over an entire day of football and a Sunday night game on NBC. Next Sunday, we will be dissecting the most important game of the entire year in any sport (and the pressure of the balls used in said game!).

So last night was a night of escapism, where we could just unwind watching events where the consequences weren't all that sports-important. And amazingly, the two marquee events Sunday night, WWE's Royal Rumble and the NFL's Pro Bowl, delivered in tandem in shockingly parallel ways.

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The Owls Are Tired Of Rebuilding, They Want To Win Now

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The Owls are tired of rebuilding and want to win now
There's a new attitude about Rice sports. It started with the baseball team several years ago. And it's spreading with the football team. It's no longer enough to be competitive. It's no longer enough to get the moral victory. No more of the perpetual rebuilding process. Rice sports teams are now expected to win games. Even the men's basketball team.

Mike Rhoades doesn't want to hear about rebuilding plans. The new basketball coach of the Owls expects his team to win, and he expects his team to win now. The team's undersized, and it's undermanned. The guys aren't as talented as many of the players on opposing teams, and they're not quite skilled enough to play the type of game that Rhoades eventually hopes the Owls can play -- an uptempo, pressing game -- but he's not willing to listen to excuses.

The Owls are 6-12 on the season (3-4 in conference play) and lost to Louisiana Tech by a 58-45 score on Saturday night. It was an ugly, sloppy game. Neither team shot better than 45-percent. The Owls hit only 32.6-percent of its shots for the night (an ugly 5-of-19 from behind the three point line). Toss in 18 Rice turnovers and seven missed free throws, and there was almost zero chance the Owls would the game. Louisiana Tech is 15-5 on the season (6-1 in conference) is one of the best teams in Conference USA, so Rice hanging in and staying close could be seen as a victory. But that's not how Rhoades looks at it. His team was sloppy and being close just isn't good enough.

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Gary Kubiak Is Getting the Band Back Together, Hires Bill Kollar Away From the Texans

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Kubiak's gettin' the old gang back together in Denver.
When Gary Kubiak accepted the offer from the Baltimore Ravens to be their offensive coordinator for the 2014 season (and possibly beyond), in the back of his mind, I'm sure one of the key reasons was to rebuild his coaching image that was left at the bottom of a football well at the end of the Texans' 2-14 finish in 2013.

Kubiak wanted to remind people that, once upon a time, he could cobble together a pretty nice offense, and with the right pieces, he was pretty good at dialing up some football plays that would go for many yards and lots of points.

And guess what? Mission accomplished!


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Five WWE Title Matches That Were Bigger Travesties Than Deflate-Gate

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Ring the damn bell!!
Well, now we know. Or we can guess, at least. Despite vehement denials from both to the contrary, it seems to be generally assumed by most of the sorts watching public that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were both fully aware of, if not the impetus for, the deflation of the Patriots' game balls before the AFC Title Game last Sunday.

Belichick was his usual dismissive, stone cold, poker face as he let the questions bounce off of him like tennis balls against the garage. Brady was considerably more nervous and far less comfortable lying to everyone about breaking the rules. Regardless, the two of them are the biggest teacher/student villain pairing right now since Emperor Palpatine ordered Anakin to murder all those children in Revenge of the Sith.

But honestly, specific to Sunday, what was really accomplished by deflating footballs that wouldn't have otherwise been accomplished within the rules? The Patriots won the game 45-7 over the Colts, and outscored Indy in the second half 28-0, when the balls were presumably re-inflated to regulation pressure.

Belichick and Brady may need more than just a few pounds of relieved air pressure to defeat the Seahawks. If I may, I'd like to point them to our friends in old school WWE (nee WWF) for a few ideas, and a few game changing cheating escapades that were far worse than Deflate-Gate....

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Super Bowl Bye Week: This Weekend's Best Bets

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Pro Bowl, Royal Rumble and Miss Universe? Sunday night is officially gonna be nuts.
In radio, when we randomly want to tell you about something coming up on the show later that day or later that week, we will interject with the phrase "programming note" and then convey the message to you.

So consider this paragraph the written version of a "programming note" -- I will be in Phoenix for the Super Bowl all next week doing my radio show from Radio Row, which each year is a cavalcade of really big-name guests, most of whom are NOT there merely for the fun of it. EVERYBODY is pimping something on Radio Row.

My point is that I hope to be able to provide insight and answers to questions being right there in Phoenix that I otherwise would not be able to back here in Houston, like "Is Pete Carroll's hair that fabulous in person?" and "How does Bill Belichick smell?" So there's something to look forward to.

In the meantime, even with no football this weekend, we should keep our betting muscles honed, just to stay ready for Super Bowl weekend if nothing else. So let's look at the board and see what there is to wager on this Sunday...

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Dear CBS, Can You Please Dump Jim Nantz And Phil Simms Already?

Categories: Football, Sports
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Dear CBS, please, no more Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on NFL broadcasts.
Early in the first quarter of Sunday's thrashing of the Colts by the Patriots, Tom Brady hit Julian Edelman for a short pass on the left sideline. Edelman was just short of the first down, and a discussion started between the CBS TV crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms as to whether there should be a replay challenge of the spot.

This started as an empty, meaningless discussion, as are most discussions involving Nantz and Simms, though it quickly devolved into incomprehensible nonsense as Simms kept talking and talking about the spot of the ball, the dangers of a review and the meaninglessness of the challenge. There was no challenge, the Patriots got a first down on the next play, then scored on the next play after that. As usual, Nantz and Simms added no insight into the touchdown or any play of the drive. There was just a lot of clich├ęd nonsense interrupted just enough for Simms to make an idiot of himself even quicker in the game than usual.

Nantz and Simms are the number one NFL broadcast team for CBS. Theoretically, that means that this team should be among the four best NFL broadcast crews. But the reality is that they're far and away from even being the best tandem on CBS. The fact that CBS still trots them out every Thursday night and Sunday speaks even more about CBS's contempt for its audience than the fact that the network thought 2 Broke Girls was a good idea.

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Bill Belichick Speaks on Deflate-Gate: "I Had No Knowledge Whatsoever"

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Bill Belichick pushed all his chips into the middle of the table on Thursday morning.
The standards for punishments established around the sports world over the past several years appear to be very clear. There is a distinct pecking order when it comes to most transgressions -- breaking the rules is bad, but lying about breaking the rules is worse.

We saw it with the Reggie Bush situation at USC a few years back when he lied about illegal benefits that he and his family received. We saw it with Bruce Pearl when he ran afoul of NCAA recruiting rules and lied about it, resulting in his termination by the University of Tennessee.

Granted, both of those were collegiate situations, but I think sports society has generally accepted this new standard. Contrition and acceptance "GREATER THAN" trying to fib your way through wrongdoing.

If indeed that is the case with the NFL as well, that lying and getting caught is worse than the crime itself, then Bill Belichick pushed all his chips into the middle of the table on Thursday morning, denying any knowledge of the noticeable deflation of the Patriots' footballs (11 of their 12 game balls were deflated by two pounds of pressure before the game) in the AFC Title Game on Sunday.

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New England Patriots Deflate-Gate Spawns Cialis Parody Commercial (w/ VIDEO)

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Deflate-gate finally gets some comedy...
They say that comedy equals tragedy plus time, and while events like the New England Patriots' opting to (allegedly) deflate footballs before the AFC Championship Game hardly qualify as actual tragedy, people do take their football, and in turn this topic, quite seriously.

So we go through the normal stages as we process the latest Belichick-ian scandal. We first heard rumor that the Pats may have deflated the footballs, and we were incredulous. Then we got confirmation Tuesday night that the balls indeed did have less air at kickoff, and we were angry.

Then all of the conjecture about what may happen to the Patriots and how Belichick might be punished began to bubble up, and we became analytical. But now enough time has passed (yes, 48 hours is plenty of time to process this), and we are officially into the "comedy is acceptable" zone.

Thank God!

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Houston Rockets Valued By Forbes At Over 1.2 Billion Dollars

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In 2015, there is at least one immutable certainty in the sports business world -- if you're an NBA owner, business is good.

Less than four years ago, as the NBA was going through a summer of lockout and months of arduous negotiations hammering out a new collective bargaining agreement, the song from the NBA owners was one of financial strife, with claims that a third of the teams in the league (at least) were losing money, in large part because of a system of signing and paying players that led to owners being unable to protect themselves from their worst enemy -- themselves.

Despite a salary cap system that kept the salaries of the most marketable players capped at relatively reasonable levels, many owners more than ate up whatever benefit they were getting from muted superstar salaries by overspending on mid-level, highly replaceable, oftentimes journeyman players.

A new CBA didn't completely eradicate bad decisions, but it certainly minimized their impact, and a system which saw the players' percentage of basketball-related income reduced (from 57 percent to 50 percent) was the first in a series of events that have led to a boom period in franchise values.

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