Monday, February 1, 2016

NHL power rankings for mid-January


By Rick Morris


NOTES: Rankings from start of season are in parentheses.


TOP TIER

1 Washington (3-1-1-1)

SECOND TIER

2 Chicago (6-6-5-2)

3 Dallas (2-2-2-3)

THIRD TIER

4 Florida (19-15-7-4)

5 Los Angeles (7-5-4-5)

6 St. Louis (4-8-6-6)

7 Tampa Bay (18-14-13-9)

8 Detroit (11-7-15-7)

9 New York Rangers (5-9-12-13)

10 Carolina (27-29-19-12)

11 San Jose (8-24-25-14)

12 Colorado (28-28-17-16)

13 New York Islanders (13-3-3-8)

14 Arizona (10-20-22-11)

15 Vancouver (20-25-26-15)

16 Boston (15-10-8-17)

17 Philadelphia (21-17-20-19)

18 New Jersey (16-16-10-20)

19 Anaheim (25-26-27-23)

20 Nashville (12-13-14-24)

21 Minnesota (17-11-9-10)

22 Pittsburgh (9-19-21-22)

23 Ottawa (14-12-16-21)

24 Montreal (1-4-11-18)

25 Winnipeg (23-23-24-25)

26 Calgary (29-21-18-26)

27 Buffalo (22-22-29-29)

28 Edmonton (30-18-28-28)

29 Columbus (24-30-30-30)

30 Toronto (26-27-23-27)


BIGGEST RISERS: Anaheim, Colorado, Nashville and New York Rangers (4 spots), San Jose (3 spots)


BIGGEST FALLERS: Minnesota (11 spots), Montreal (6 spots), New York Islanders (5 spots), Arizona and Toronto (3 spots)


RANKINGS BY DIVISION – 1 POINT PER RANKING SPOT FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL TEAM, DIVIDED BY THE NUMBER OF TEAMS, LOWEST SCORE IS BEST


1 CENTRAL 12.71

2 METROPOLITAN 14.88

3 PACIFIC 16.86

4 ATLANTIC 17.38

 

RANKINGS BY CONFERENCE

1 WEST 29.57

2 EAST 32.26

NBA power rankings for start of February


By Rick Morris


NOTES: Rankings from start of season are in parentheses.


TOP TIER

1 Golden State (1-1-1-1)

SECOND TIER

2 San Antonio (2-2-2-2)

THIRD TIER

3 Cleveland (3-3-3-3)

4 Oklahoma City (6-4-4-4)

FOURTH TIER

5 Toronto (8-9-8-6)

6 LA Clippers (13-8-6-5)

FIFTH TIER

7 Memphis (11-14-15-11)

8 Dallas (9-13-11-9)

9 Boston (15-10-13-15)

10 Miami (5-11-10-10)

11 Chicago (7-5-7-7)

12 Atlanta (12-16-5-8)

13 Indiana (4-6-12-12)

14 Detroit (19-15-14-14)

15 Houston (22-17-19-13)

16 Portland (21-19-20-20)

17 Charlotte (10-7-16-19)

18 Washington (23-22-17-16)

19 Utah (14-18-21-21)

20 New York (20-21-18-18)

21 Orlando (16-12-9-17)

22 Sacramento (25-25-22-22)

23 Milwaukee (26-26-24-23)

24 New Orleans (27-28-23-25)

25 Denver (24-23-25-24)

SIXTH TIER

26 Brooklyn (28-27-27-26)

27 Minnesota (18-24-26-27)

28 Phoenix (17-20-28-28)

SEVENTH TIER

29 LA Lakers (29-29-29-29)

30 Philadelphia (30-30-30-30)


BIGGEST RISERS: Boston (6 spots), Memphis and Portland (4 spots)


BIGGEST FALLERS: Atlanta, Chicago and Orlando (4 spots)


RANKINGS BY CONFERENCE – 1 POINT PER RANKING SPOT FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL TEAM, LOWEST SCORE IS BEST


1 EAST 232

2 WEST 233

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Super Bowl notes/oddities


By Rick Morris


^ This Super Bowl marks the first time that each team’s most recent appearance was a loss to one of the two teams from the previous year (Denver lost to Seattle in Super Bowl 48 and Carolina lost to New England in Super Bowl 38).


^ Likewise, there has never been a Super Bowl with a team, Denver, who qualified for the Super Bowl by beating the team, New England, who took out their opponent, Carolina, in their most recent Super Bowl.


^ Denver has tied New England and Pittsburgh with eight Super Bowl appearances out of the AFC.  Half of their appearances have now come in California Super Bowls, with them being 1-2 in the Golden State previously.  No team has played four Super Bowls in one state before; the closest teams to this mark are New England, 2-1 in Super Bowls contested in Louisiana and Dallas, 0-3 in Super Bowls contested in Florida.


^ The only previous Super Bowl on February 7 featured Peyton Manning’s first Super Bowl loss, 31-17 to New Orleans in Super Bowl 44 in 2010.


^ Denver’s doing something for the 8th time and something they’ve done before, returning to the Super Bowl after a year away.  Such teams are 3-4 and here’s the examples: Pittsburgh won 43, lost 45, New England won 36 and 38, St. Louis won 34, lost 36, Dallas won 28 and 30, Denver lost 22 and 24, Minnesota lost 9 and 11 and Baltimore won 3 and 5.  Even worse for the Broncos, is that they and the Vikings are the only teams ever to make it back two years later after a loss and both squads lost again.


^ Carolina has become the 5th team this decade to reach the Super Bowl after more than a decade away.  Results for such teams are mixed.  Denver lost Super Bowl 48, Baltimore beat San Francisco in Super Bowl 47 in a battle of two such teams and Green Bay beat Pittsburgh in Super Bowl 45, so the record is 2-2 in making that big return count.


^ 12 different teams have represented the NFC in Super Bowls held in the 21st century and only Carolina, Seattle, the New York Giants and the formerly St. Louis Rams have had repeat appearances.  Only seven have represented the AFC and out of those, only Oakland and Tennessee have not had repeat appearances.


^ We all remember that the NFC won 13 straight Super Bowls from the 1980s into the ‘90s and then the AFC took nine of the next 12.  The latest streak is that that NFC has won four of the last six.


^ Call it the curse of 15-1 or Better: the Panthers have become the 7th member of this club and the last four have failed to win the Super Bowl.  Of those teams, all but the 2007 Patriots were 15-1 in the regular season.  Super Bowl winners included the 1984 49ers (who played in the only other Super Bowl in the Bay Area) and the 1985 Bears.  The aforementioned Pats of course lost in the Super Bowl and the 1998 Vikings, the 2004 Steelers and 2011 Packers didn’t even make it there.  The Pack came up the shortest of all of these teams, falling in the divisional round.


^ Both #1 seeds are in the Super Bowl for the third consecutive year, an occurrence which is surprisingly rare.  Out of the first 47 Super Bowls, it only happened nine times.


^ The last Super Bowl to be played on the West Coast also featured an AFC West/NFC South battle; it was Super Bowl 37, the Chucky Bowl in San Diego, where Tampa Bay blew out Oakland, 48-21.


^ This Super Bowl has not only a battle of former #1 overall picks (Manning in 1998, Newton in 2011), but a battle of the top two picks from Newton’s draft, as Von Miller went #2.


^ With Manning going up against Russell Wilson two years ago and Wilson against Tom Brady last year, this Manning-Cam Newton clash marks the third consecutive one involving New School and Old School QBs.


^ Denver and Charlotte have no real sports history with each other in any sport.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Rand Paul for President


By Rick Morris


Fair warning: this is not a column targeted at the “incoherent rage army of social media.”  While anger and resentment at a broken system are justifiably at the forefront of today’s debate in both political parties, regrettably, very little energy has been expended putting forth viable answers to fix this country.  One candidate stands as the notable exception to this dynamic, providing what is desperately important in this moment in history.  The American people understand that they’re in a lot of trouble.  Unfortunately, they don’t seem to understand or care as much about how to fix these problems.


Our candidate is one of two who is proposing a radically different approach from the tired left-right dynamic that has run out of steam.  One of them, Donald Trump, appears on the surface to embody little other than the aforementioned incoherent rage that defines today’s conversation on Facebook and Twitter.  But in his deviations from standard GOP philosophy, he actually stands as the mirror image of Bernie Sanders (whose socialism is simply a softer form of communism, and, although mainstreamed by the Obama era, is not new in the Democratic Party, but rather the byproduct of the last half-century of their progression).  Trump’s love of the intersection of government and big business, his slobbering devotion to the un-American policy of eminent domain, the willingness to vilify minority groups that has earned him the respect of the Ku Klux Klan, his insistence that the sole reform needed by this gargantuan government is for him to be installed in the White House … these qualities are simply a softer form of fascism.  While our system of checks and balances leaves him unable if not unwilling to conduct a coup and to become an actual strongman, in terms of consolidating destructive power in the executive branch, he’d make Barack Obama look like the Washington Generals to his Harlem Globetrotters.  Our problems cannot be fixed by shady backroom deals.  If Trump were elected president, then the conviction-free John Boehner would surely have been his ideal speaker.


Our preferred candidate is not averse to dealing and negotiating (particularly in foreign affairs, which in the modern Republican Party sets him apart, which is in itself a sad commentary), but unlike Trump, his allegiance is to Constitutional fidelity at all times.  If you’ve been watching the debates, or any of his media appearances, you notice that he’s the only candidate on either side who forgoes pretense and speaks honestly and forthrightly about what’s wrong with the current state of affairs in our country and what we can do about it.  Unlike Ben Carson, a brilliant surgeon and wonderful man who has only mastered the political art of bumper-sticker-speak, our candidate has used his five years of experience in Washington to learn how to apply his own medical diagnostic skills to the ills of America.


Our candidate is Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.


The senator is an outstanding person – performing pro bono eye surgeries for the less fortunate in his spare time and agreeing to visually diagnose a woman during a commercial break in one of the debates (!) – and brilliant speaker in terms of what this country needs, but the case for him is also bolstered strongly by the complete lack of any other viable option in either major party.


^ Let’s start with the Democrats.  If you like the atmosphere of hostility towards traditional religion/values in this country, our incoherence in global affairs, the continuing explosion of the federal debt and the fake prosperity of a destructive Fed bubble brought to you by Barack Obama and Company, then you’ll love Hillary Clinton or (especially) Bernie Sanders.


^ In terms of Republicans who have been at most top-tier debates who have not yet been mentioned, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Marco Rubio are all engaged in a fearsome struggle to get past the others and become the Establishment’s Golden Boy, making possible a third George W. Bush term.  If that sounds like a good idea to you, then you’re unlikely to realize that you’re being insulted right here, because your reading comprehension could not possibly allow you to get this far into the column.


^ And then there’s Ted Cruz, the phony who’d like to siphon off liberty votes from Rand Paul, while keeping quiet about his support from DC’s premier warmonger, John Bolton.  While Donald Trump has rightly been castigated for advocating the cold-blooded murder of innocent relatives of terrorists, Cruz has sadly gone under the radar (largely) for his identical evil proposal: “carpet-bombing” in Syria and Iraq, which by definition means indiscriminately killing unthinkably large numbers of people.  His smarmy demeanor matches perfectly his record of saying and doing whatever is necessary to get ahead, not least of which his insistence that Republicans could have possibly forced Obama to sign the repeal of Obamacare in the fall of 2013.  That moment proved what a scary demagogue Cruz really is, because he’s a brilliant, highly-educated political professional who cynically knows that he’s spinning lies.  Likewise, while Carson’s reliance on bumper-sticker talk comes from being a political rookie, Cruz deploys the tactic as a deliberate means of appealing to those falling for his rap.  He has neither the consistency nor the character to serve as president.


Conversely, consistency and character are both among the major positive defining elements for Rand Paul.  His appreciation for liberty and every part of the Constitution came from his father Ron Paul, a principled member of Congress for many decades.  As such, it’s very sad that many of Ron’s supporters have been harsh about Rand’s attempt to carve out “Paul 2.0,” particularly since the sequel is actually much superior in terms of emphasizing foreign policy realism over isolationism and discarding the coziness with secession talk.  Ron Paul’s job was to be an inspirational figure, speaking about what should be done in an ideal world.  Rand Paul’s job is to draw upon that idealism to manage to get elected in the world that we inhabit and to actually shepherd the changes that we need through our unwieldy system.  There has been an unfortunate lack of understanding of the role that each man was meant to play, leading to ridiculous talk of Rand as a “sellout.”


Too many have also missed the point, intentionally or unintentionally, about Rand’s vigorous endorsement of Mitch McConnell in the 2014 Senate race in Kentucky.  For Rand, it was a rare chance for an anti-Establishment politician to put a major Establishment figure in his debt.  Revolutions are only created from the inside, and, unfortunately, too many Ron Paul purists have no clue about the strategy involved.  Make no mistake whatsoever: in a Rand Paul administration, Mitch McConnell would be put to work to get this vital reform agenda passed, even though much of it is anathema to The Turtle personally.  Elected Republicans are royalists, slavishly devoted to a president of their own party, no matter the policies, so Rand realizes that you have to make adult decisions about how you obtain the opportunity to change the world.  Supporters of his agenda should be thrilled about that.


And it’s an agenda that’s all too rare on the Republican side, sadly.  His tax plan is similar to some other campaigns, but his is a bit more growth-oriented.  He’s the biggest warrior by far on spending restraint.  He wants to audit both the Fed and the Pentagon, with the latter a true third rail in mainstream Republican politics.  As a doctor, he bows to no one in his defense of vulnerable unborn human life, but he’s also the only GOP candidate trying to broaden the party, both with libertarian leanings (using the 10th Amendment to let states tackle many thorny issues and calling for an end to the Federal War on Drugs) and outreach to minority communities (with calls for examination of police militarization and sentencing guidelines).  He’s pretty much the only Republican candidate who cares about civil liberties and the most effective means of corralling terrorists.  That’s one reason that he’s just about the only GOP candidate effectively targeting Millennials.


But it’s his foreign policy views that are the most striking in this race, largely because everyone else is trapped in the Dubya continuum (again, including Cruz, however much fake posturing he might do at Rubio’s expense).  Realism has been a dirty word in right-wing circles since statesman Brent Scowcroft was pretty much excommunicated from the Republican Party for forcefully opposing an invasion of Iraq in the summer of 2002.  By the way, Scowcroft was right about the magnitude of the disaster that we initiated with that awful war.  But being right means less than being inconvenient with Republican power brokers.


Trump, from his America-First perch, has created an overlap with Rand’s views and may have helped mainstream them in the GOP a bit, which would be the one positive service he’s rendered through his disgraceful campaign.  But the emphasis on negotiation over militarism, war as a true last resort, remains a tough sell and that’s the biggest reason that Rand owes it to his supporters to continue to dig in and fight.  There really is nobody else to hoist this vital banner on philosophical grounds.


That notion is no doubt clear to Rand Paul and it’s a bit of a burden to him, which is all the more endearing.  While he admits that there are some elements of the campaign, such as interacting with his supporters, which have been fulfilling and memorable, he also makes it clear that there are many other ways that he could be enjoying his time these days while being around his family more (plus, unlike Cruz and Rubio, he doesn’t use the campaign as an excuse to play hooky from his day job).  Simply put, as someone who would like to take his father’s ideals and apply practical implementation to help save our country, he’s in this race because he feels the responsibility to do so.  There are so few others of his stripe and capabilities in government at this very moment.  His close allies in Congress, youngsters Thomas Massie and Justin Amash, would be excellent candidates in the future, but there’s nobody who’s ready now except him.  In a day and age where we (usually rightly) castigate politicians for their bottomless and ruthless ambition, isn’t it refreshing to have a strongly-qualified candidate who’s in the race for all the right reasons?


And Rand Paul is right that the country needs him right now.  Again, largely owing to the “grievance culture” of social media, which is all about bashing the other side, there’s already too much talk about simply “finding a candidate who can win.”  There are two words that define the long sweep of history for political parties and they are, shockingly, often ignored by just about everyone.


Nominees matter.


The Republican Party was in similar “hunt for a winner” mode in the late 1990s, with the same circumstance of trying to prevent a third consecutive presidential loss.  The backroom boys settled on George W. Bush, greasing his way through the “invisible primary” before a single vote was cast.  Considering that the smoking wreckage of his administration singlehandedly elected Barack Obama at least once and, quite possibly twice, how does that decision look almost two decades later?


Similarly, the Establishment was bound and determined to get one of their own installed as nominee in 2012.  Mitt Romney was on both sides of every issue for the last 30 years, including “Tastes Great” and “Less Filling,” but somehow the Powers That Be decided that the voters would come around to his greasy, insincere persona “because they would have to do so.”  How’d that work out?


So whether it’s a failed president who can taint the reputation of the party long after he clears out of the White House or a failed nominee who blows a winnable election, getting the nominee right is far more important than worrying about who looks like a winner – because the right candidate actually is a winner.


Rand Paul is truly the candidate that the Democrats fear the most.  He stands with his Republican Party on the issues of principle that bind the vast majority of members, while questioning it in the areas where today’s issues demand a reexamination.  This willingness to be his own man, to transcend the tired left-right prism in areas that have rendered it obsolete, positions him to poach Democratic votes in many swing states and to create a following much like the “Reagan Democrats” of the 1980s.  Best of all, he can actually point to votes in Congress on issues like civil liberties, where he has partnered with Democrats who have defied their own party leadership to join him.  Make no mistake, a President Rand Paul would face unwavering opposition from the Democratic  leadership in both chambers of Congress, but (on some issues) he could create real working majorities by reaching those same Democrats who have been with him before.  Again, that’s exactly what Ronald Reagan accomplished in the 1980s.


Despite coming out of just about every debate with incredible online buzz about his performance, despite being the only candidate working to broaden the party beyond its tired boundaries and despite his incredible ground game in Iowa (more precinct chairmen than any other campaign and the only apparatus in place to channel the potentially large college vote on the Republican side), the media feeds the “he can’t win” narrative at every opportunity.  It’s a self-reinforcing loop, with his poll numbers clearly reflecting that those who may otherwise be open to his message are at the moment choosing “more viable” options.  But his Iowa organization has him poised to strongly “beat the pointspread,” likely in the strong double digits, which would prove that he has been deliberately poisoned in the court of public opinion by those who fear so strongly that he would win as a general election candidate.


2016 is truly a unique election in our nation’s history.  The overwhelming public anger is out of whack with today’s gas prices and general economic picture.  Instead, it’s the result of 14 years of this country being downtrodden.  From 9/11 to the Iraq War to the economic collapse of 2008 and its long aftermath, we really haven’t had a good day in this country since September 10, 2001.  That’s exactly why so many are susceptible to Donald Trump’s blather about “Making America Great Again.”  We do need to turn around this country and reverse our long, slow decline, including the flatness of our standard of living that goes back many decades.  But we won’t do it with the frothing, flaming rage of the Facebook shriekers.  It will only come with the thoughtful implementation of principled policies and a return to adherence to the Constitution.  In this vital election cycle, that development can only come from the election of one man, due both to his own immense strengths and the threats posed to the country by each of his major competitors.  That man is Senator Rand Paul and he needs to be the next President of the United States.

 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Lounge on YouTube: 2016 NASCAR fantasy mock draft and general season preview


By Rick Morris

Here is THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER, previewing the 2016 NASCAR season from a fantasy and non-fantasy perspective with FDH Motorsports Editor Mike Ptak.


       


       


       


       

Lounge on YouTube: Royal Rumble History – Part 5C - 2005


By Rick Morris

Here is Mini-Episode #679 of THE FDH LOUNGE, the 2005 chapter in our Royal Rumble Anthology with FDH Lounge Dignitary Kyle Ross.


       


       


        


       

Lounge on YouTube: Mini-Episode #678 – 2015-16 NFL Championship Sunday preview


By Rick Morris                                          

As we referenced previously, our pals at Sportsology are hooking us up for live segments that we’re doing with guests and remote FDH Lounge Dignitaries these days.  We’re happy to report that we’ve been able to produce many segments on our own, but we’re thrilled for the help on some of these with guests and the thanks all go to our great friend Russ Cohen.

Mini-Episode #678 features a preview of 2015-16 NFL Championship Sunday with FDH Lounge Dignitary and Vegas handicapping veteran Kyle Ross.


       


       


       


       

Lounge on YouTube: Making a Murderer review


By Rick Morris

Here is Mini-Episode #677 of The FDH Lounge, reviewing the Netflix series Making a Murderer with FDH Lounge Dignitary Anthony Petrone.


       


       


       


       

Lounge on YouTube: Royal Rumble History – Part 5B - 2004


By Rick Morris

Here is Mini-Episode #676 of THE FDH LOUNGE, the 2004 chapter in our Royal Rumble Anthology with FDH Lounge Dignitary Kyle Ross.


       


       


       


       

Lounge on YouTube: 2015 fantasy football season review


By Rick Morris                                          

As we referenced previously, our pals at Sportsology are hooking us up for live segments that we’re doing with guests and remote FDH Lounge Dignitaries these days.  We’re happy to report that we’ve been able to produce many segments on our own, but we’re thrilled for the help on some of these with guests and the thanks all go to our great friend Russ Cohen.

Mini-Episode #675 reviews the 2015 fantasy football season with Mike Harmon of Fox Sports and Swollen Dome.


       


       


       


       

Lounge on YouTube: Mini-Episode #674 – Pantheon 9 Non-Sports Part 2


By Rick Morris                                          

FDH Lounge Mini-Episode #674 continues The FDH Lounge Pantheon tradition, honoring the best of the best in all walks of life.  The categories in this segment include Best Pro Wrestling Act and Best Musical Act.


       


       


       


       

Lounge on YouTube: Mini-Episode #673 – 2015-16 NFL divisional round preview


By Rick Morris                                          

As we referenced previously, our pals at Sportsology are hooking us up for live segments that we’re doing with guests and remote FDH Lounge Dignitaries these days.  We’re happy to report that we’ve been able to produce many segments on our own, but we’re thrilled for the help on some of these with guests and the thanks all go to our great friend Russ Cohen.

Mini-Episode #673 features a preview of the 2015-16 NFL divisional round with FDH Lounge Dignitary and Vegas handicapping veteran Kyle Ross.