Saturday, January 30, 2010

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue XLXVI

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

3rd Annual FDH Lounge Pantheon balloting Feb 17

By Rick Morris

The 3rd FDH Lounge Pantheon balloting will be held in conjunction with our February 17 episode of THE FDH LOUNGE on (usual Wednesday night broadcast time of 7-10 PM EST).

In July '08 and July '09 we inducted our first two classes into the FDH Lounge Pantheon, which celebrates the best of all time in a range of different categories. In keeping with the overall variety of the show, eight categories are dedicated to sports and eight are non-sports and also in keeping with tradition, our entire show on February 17 will be dedicated to unveiling the winners and breaking any ties on the air if necessary (several ties were broken during the first two Pantheon programs).

For last July's voting, we moved beyond our hand-picked members of The FDH Academy of Arts and Sciences to throw open voting among all friends of the FDH Lounge/ Facebook account. We will maintain this practice. All of our Facebook friends can return their ballots via Facebook email and for any interested parties who are not yet Facebook friends, send us a request. We can be easily found here: .

Here was the charter class of inductees, from our July 20, 2008 episode (with a full rundown of the show here):

Best President: Ronald Reagan
Best Country other than the US: Canada
Best Motion Picture: The Godfather
Best Thespian: Kevin Costner
Best Female Bombshell: Raquel Welch
Best Musical Performer/Group: Bon Jovi
Best TV Show: All In the Family
Best TV/Movie Cartoon Character: Bugs Bunny
Best Comic Book Character: Superman
Best Pro Wrestler: Ric Flair
Best Football Player: Jim Brown
Best Basketball Player: Michael Jordan
Best Race Car Driver (from any circuit): Richard Petty
Best Hockey Player: Wayne Gretzky
Best Baseball Pitcher: Nolan Ryan
Best Baseball Hitter: Babe Ruth

Here was our second class of inductees, from our July 22, 2009 episode (with a full rundown of the show here):

Best Pro Sports Coach/Manager: Paul Brown
Best Sporting Event: Super Bowl
Best Fantasy Sport: Football
Best Olympic Sport: Hockey
Best Sportscaster (Play-By-Play): Vin Scully
Best Sportscaster (Color Commentator): John Madden
Best Sports Movie: Bull Durham
Best Movie Villain: Joker (Heath Ledger version)
Best Pro Wrestling Manager: Bobby Heenan
Best Video Game (Non-Sports): Grand Theft Auto
Best Musical Guilty Pleasure: Phil Collins air drum solo to "In the Air Tonight"
Best Non-U.S. City: Toronto
Best U.S. City: New York City
Best Political Scandal: Watergate
Best Seinfeld Episode: The Soup Nazi
Best TV Commercial Character: Mr. Whipple

And here is the ballot for our third class of inductees. Again, we urge anybody and everybody to vote via Facebook if you are not among those who have already been privately sent a ballot by us. Join us on February 17 for what past history tells us will be one of our most fun programs of the year.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

FDH Lounge Show #89: January 27, 2010

By Rick Morris

Yet again we prove tonight on THE FDH LOUNGE (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EST on why the working motto is “nothing is off-topic.”

After The Opening Statements of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries and our look at This Week in The FDH Lounge, we welcome in our friend, the top talk show caller in New York, Ira (Lieberfarb) from Staten Island. He was at the Jets game on Sunday – he goes to every game every season, home and away, preseason, regular season and postseason – and he’ll be on for a post-mortem of this past week’s AFC Championship Game and what it means for the Jets going forward.

We wrap up the first hour with Jon Lane of MMA Junkie, who comes on to talk about the top headlines in the sport as we progress into 2010.

At the top of Hour Two, we’ve got a huge treat for you: New York Times TV reporter Bill Carter, author of The Late Shift, the amazing story (converted to an awesome HBO movie) about the last huge late-night battle, the one that settled the battle to replace Johnny Carson at the Tonight Show in 1992. Carter is the best-connected, most-read reporter covering the television networks today and his influence can be seen by the fact that he had the extraordinary defense of NBC Universal Chairman Jeff Zucker by NBC Universal Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol during the height of the Conan-Leno-NBC kerfluffle. How did this story come to pass? What lies ahead? What are the similarities and differences between now and 1991-92? We’ll talk about all of it.

Our football talk resumes with a look back at the NFC Championship Game and the implications going forward. Then, just before the end of Hour Two, THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER starts as the FDH Fantasy NASCAR mock draft gets underway in preparation for our release this weekend of FANTASY NASCAR DRAFTOLOGY 2010, our annual fantasy (and non-fantasy) guide to your year of stock car racing.

As usual, we wrap with THE GOON SQUAD and a look at the present NHL standings as well as more of our ramping-up coverage of the amazing forthcoming Olympic hockey tournament.As always, we urge you to watch the show live (or listen if you’re on dial-up), but if you can’t catch this as it’s happening, you can always catch the FDH archives 24-7 right here or catch us now on iTunes!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Championship Sunday picks & preview

By Rick Morris

In addition to posting my weekly picks, I will post those from other members of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries' Football Challenge Contest. In the regular season, we each posted our three strongest plays. Here are the standings to this point, including all games from the divisional round:

STEVE CIRVELLO: 29-30 overall, 3-1 last week
RICK MORRIS: 28-31 overall, 1-3 last week (also 9-8 on my 1,000-Star, Gold-Plated Lock of the Millennium for each week of the regular season)DAVE ADAMS: 27-32 overall, 1-3 last weekRYAN ISLEY: 26-32-1 overall, 3-1 last weekSEAN TRENCH: 21-35-2 overall, 1-3 last week

We will each pick every playoff game. Each of our picks will be listed, in addition to the FDH "consensus" pick based on who has the most votes in each game (the FDH consensus picks were 1-3 last week and 2-4 in the playoffs):

NY Jets +8 at Indianapolis
(The FDH NY Bureau) STEVE: NY Jets
RICK: Indianapolis
DAVE: Indianapolis
RYAN: Indianapolis
SEAN: Indianapolis
FDH CONSENSUS: Indianapolis, 4-1

Minnesota +3 ½ at New Orleans
STEVE: New Orleans
RICK: New Orleans
DAVE: New Orleans
RYAN: Minnesota
SEAN: New Orleans
FDH: CONSENSUS: New Orleans, 4-1

Additionally, here are my overall Championship Sunday observations, extended thoughts on each game and my predictions for the subsequent round:

^ Championship Sunday is frankly one of my favorite days of the year and I always have over my pals from my fantasy football league. I really love Super Sunday also, but this day is more for the hardcore fans and less for the posers looking to “network” with people at a business-oriented party, hit on nearby women or be concerned only with their “squares.” Having said that, as I expressed on our Facebook page last week, I’m pretty PO’d that the Jets ruined what could have been a dream doubleheader: Chargers/Colts and the one we did get in Vikings/Saints. Instead, we get football’s version of the neutral zone trap as the team who can’t rally from a deficit of more than a touchdown seeks to “muddy down” the skill level. Yummy!

^ There are still some interesting Super Bowl matchups left: Vikings/Jets (Brett Favre Bowl, historic futility vs. historic futility), Vikings/Colts (Favre vs. Peyton Manning), Saints/Colts (Drew Brees vs. Manning) and Saints/Jets (Jonathan Vilma Bowl). Of course, no matter who wins the NFC Championship Game, we as football news consumers come out the real losers by enduring two weeks of overkill storylines (Favre’s latest comeback if the Vikings win, the start of the 1,000th cycle of Katrina stories if the Saints win).

^ Conference championship games have rarely been contested in domes, but both of these games will be. Of these teams, the Vikings lost a heartbreaker on Championship Sunday in 1999 at the Triple H Metrodome, while the Colts got over on Bully Belichick and the boys three years ago.

Coaches love them some “us against the world,” and with the aforementioned desecration against the art of football that the Jets represent by making it to Championship Sunday, Rex Ryan didn’t have to hunt far to find material. Nobody except Jets fans (and also, let’s be honest, Colts fans) wanted the outcome we saw in SoCal last Sunday night. However, games like this prove the limits of such psychological manipulation. Shrieking “no respect” doesn’t provide a semblance of a certifiably viable passing game that can allow a team to play a well-rounded game. Darrelle Revis may well render Reggie Wayne the latest castaway on his island, but that just gives Peyton Manning many other chances to spread the rock. The Jets hold the edge in terms of the running game, but guess what? So did the Ravens last week and Indy ground out countless short-gaining carries just to add the necessary variety to the game plan. We saw then how the Colts deal with such one-dimensional teams. Late Sunday afternoon, when Ryan is begging Jim Caldwell (aka George Seifert 2K10) to put in the scrubs again, he won’t get his wish for a second time. Colts 23, Jets 6.

Vikings/Saints … now we’re talking! The contest that loomed as a dream matchup for ¾ of the season before both teams tanked down the stretch snapped back into place last week as both teams thumped tremenous opposition to make it this far. We know about the explosive capability of both offenses (even if Reggie Bush’s awesome running last week – particularly between the tackles – was quite the revelation, although entirely meriting the “let’s see him do it again” skepticism of FDH Senior Editor Jason Jones), but the respective performances on defense will seal this one either way. The Saints play a very opportunistic style contingent on key turnovers like we saw last week against Arizona; in a game like that, particularly at home (more about that in a minute), they will flat-out boatrace you. The Vikes key everything off of their latest version of the Purple People Eaters on the line with the otherworldly Williams “brothers” up front and Jared Allen up front. They can be beaten downfield, although you would never have known it from Jason Garrett’s cowardly and pathetic playcalling last week. But then again, Minnesota is going to have to outfox Sean Payton this week, and I just don’t see them doing it. Factor in the home dome, which Colin Cowherd rightfully notes is one of the most powerful in the league and more akin to a collegiate atmosphere, and a game that would be very difficult to predict on a neutral field appears to come into clearer focus. Saints 34, Vikings 24.

Saints 34, Colts 27

Sportsology: Requiem for a friend and mentor

Posted by Rick Morris

Most of the time we relish cross-posting great columns from our friends at Sportsology – not so this time because of the sad circumstances.

This past week, one of the co-authors of 100 RANGER GREATS, John Halligan, passed away. When Russ Cohen called to inform me about this, I asked if this was entirely unexpected, as I knew nothing of John’s health but knew he was of retirement age. I was told that it was, which makes this a much greater shock for his family and his many friends and admirers. Yet again, I felt something that FDH Senior Editor Jason Jones has spoken of so well – a sense of loss about somebody you did not get to meet, somebody whose path might well have crossed with yours in time and somebody who you really would have relished knowing on a personal and professional level.

The New York Times had an excellent tribute to John; here it is.

Longtime Rangers broadcaster Sam Rosen, who contributed to the Rangers book, delivered a stirring tribute that can be seen here.

And of course you had to know that Russ would find the right words for the circumstances. His column is a reprint from when John received one of his greatest professional awards in 2007 – with a short postscript – and it helps to capture him as I am sure he would love to be remembered, as a man who got to live his dream. RIP John.

Lester Patrick Would Be Proud
By Russ Cohen

The 40th Lester Patrick Award ceremony had four winners this year, former NHL star Brian Leetch, hockey broadcast legend Stan Fischler, hockey historian John Halligan and Team USA standout Cammi Granato; they were all being honored for their outstanding service to hockey in the United States.

John Halligan has worn many hats in his illustrious career. He worked for the New York Rangers and the National Hockey League for over 40 years. His story is truly unique because he has literally spent every moment of his life around the hockey rink. So when did he get his calling?

“I would say about 13 or 14, because I remember I was a student at Fordham Prep and I knew the subway system inside and out and I loved going down to the Garden on Wednesdays right after school and on Sundays from my home in New Jersey,” Halligan said. “I knew that I had fallen in love with the game at that point and those were the Rangers of the ‘50s, good teams but not great teams. Andy Bathgate, Dean Prentice, Camille Henry, Harry Howell, Gump Worsley, of course, and those were the teams that made me fall in love with hockey, so I’ve known that for 45 years.”

John wasn’t a season ticket holder and he bought the best seats that he could afford.

“The ones I bought were for $2.50 and they were in the mezzanine,” he said.

Were they the best seats in the house?

“No”, he laughed. “You couldn’t afford the best; they would have been another five bucks. But when we were really flushed with money it was $3.50 and we would sit in the end arena. Closer to the ice, but the mezzanine was the best seat in the house, really.”
When asked how many games he would take in every season, he quickly snapped back with, “Every one of them. Oh sure, there were 35 home games and a 70-game schedule. I was a nut. I was confirmed and that was it. I tried to go to every game.”

The reason he wasn’t a season ticket holder was the fact that he could buy all of tickets the day of the game except against Montreal. When the Habs were in town, he had to go down to the box office a little bit earlier.

“Chicago was the easiest,” said Halligan. “You could go in the third period and get a ticket.”

In his early days with the Rangers, he had the arduous task of trying to get the fans interested in a club that wasn’t drawing many fans.

“I graduated from Fordham in 1963 and in August of that year, two months after my graduation, I got a job at the Rangers as the assistant publicity director. It was a seasonal job, until I became publicity director which morphed into public relations director, in time.”

One of his hardest tasks was trying to put a positive PR spin when the Rangers made the playoffs, but had to forego a few of their home games because of a longstanding contract that MSG had with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.

“That was one of the toughest things you had to spin because there was no way around it; the circus was a two-month booking at that time, but the real spin over the regular season was put fannies in the seats,” he recalled fondly. “Sell tickets, because they were not selling out with the exception of the Canadiens games. The other five teams came in – this was the Original Six – simply were not selling out. You had to concentrate your efforts on getting into the paper and getting as much hard publicity. The job hadn’t morphed into public relations, and being nice to people at that point, but it was quickly coming to that point.”

If you are wondering where hockey ranked among the other major sports in New York City, his answer might surprise you.

“I have to be honest and say in those days hockey among the four major sports was fifth,” he smirked. “It was baseball, football, basketball, zero, then hockey.”

Since he has retired from the NHL, he has been working diligently on multiple book projects. He is always around the game, he is always watching the game, it’s in his blood.

During his speech he talked about how William Jennings got he and Emile Francis together and in about ten minutes they had come up with the idea for the award. The rest is history.


John was a friend, a mentor, a writing partner, and the nicest person I ever met. I feel very fortunate that I had a chance to work with him and be able to call him a friend.

John is survived by his wife Janet.

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue XLXV

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

FDH Lounge Show #88: January 20, 2010

By Rick Morris

The 88th edition of THE FDH LOUNGE (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EST on is just like every episode before it: a little something for anybody.

We will defer This Week in The FDH Lounge and The Opening Statements of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries until after our third interview of the show in the first half of Hour Two, because we’ve got some huge guests coming in right off the bat. We start with a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, a man who exemplifies the genre of “Philly Blue-Eyed Soul,” John Oates of THE one and only Hall and Oates. He’ll be here to talk about the duo’s legendary career, as well as his most recent chapter with the CD 1000 MILES OF LIFE.

In terms of subject matter, some whiplash may ensue as we transition from Mr. Oates to our next guest, former pro wrestler and now concussion awareness activist Christopher Nowinski. He’ll be here to talk about all facets of his very interesting career.

Our third guest is actually our newest FDH Lounge Dignitary, a fellow member of The 21st Century Media Alliance, Steve Kallas. As our go-to-guy at the intersection of sports, the law and ethics, he’s the perfect analyst to help us break down the woes around Mark McGwire and Gilbert Arenas. From there, we welcome back in our friend Simon Applebaum from the blog and webcast Tomorrow Will Be Televised (remember, he was featured in our recent eBook DISSECTING THE DECADES) for his keen insights on the present quagmire in late night television.

Hour Two winds down with The FDH Lounge Pigskin Report and our Championship Sunday preview before we begin Hour Three with THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER and our unveiling of the first three rounds worth of drivers on our NASCAR draft board in preparation for next week’s huge mock draft. Then, we continue our "fantasy football season in review" by looking at the “micro level,” position by position, with Senior Editor Cory J. Bonini. Last week, we took an overview of the major fantasy positions; this week, we focus on players who emerged in either a positive or negative sense during the 2009 season and we opine about which of them will continue in the same vein in 2010 and beyond.

We close as always with THE GOON SQUAD and a look at the present NHL standings as well as more of our ramping-up coverage of the amazing forthcoming Olympic hockey tournament.

As always, we urge you to watch the show live (or listen if you’re on dial-up), but if you can’t catch this as it’s happening, you can always catch the FDH archives 24-7 right here or catch us now on iTunes!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Book Review: Strike Three

By Rick Morris

As was the case with my recent review of LOVING MADLY, LOSING BADLY ... HOW ZIGGY SAVED MY LIFE, the outstanding memoir penned by second-generation Ziggy cartoonist Tom Wilson, I have to plead guilty in advance that I’d be hard-pressed to want to say anything bad about the new book STRIKE THREE!” – A PLAYER’S JOURNEY THROUGH THE INFAMOUS BASEBALL STRIKE OF 1994, available electronically right now through You see, the authors of the book are the player named in the title, Nikco Riesgo, and our good friend Russ Cohen of Sportsology.

Now, because Russ is one of the best friends of FDH that you will find anywhere, I would not bury this book under any circumstances. However, professional credibility would demand that I at least offer only faint praise if I did not believe that the book merited more than that.

Fortunately, I was spared that moral conundrum; I love this book.

Ironically, Russ is covering some ground here that overlaps at least in small part with a self-published book that FDH Dignitary Nathan Noy and I wrote back in 2001, STRANDED: A GUIDE TO LIFE WITHOUT MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL. At that time, we examined baseball’s labor situation on the verge of what was to become the next big labor stoppage (but turned out not to be at the last minute, thanks to players and owners reconsidering in light of 9/11). Immodestly, I believe that this qualifies me to uniquely assess the preparation and approach for this book. I find both to be outstanding.

The book has an interesting structure, weaving between Nikco’s story and the larger dynamic at play as baseball approached disaster. Right off the bat, we are reminded that the conventional wisdom about steroid-fueled home runs “saving” baseball in the aftermath of the strike in the late ‘90s was completely flawed. The foreword from Michael McDonald of Fox Sports Radio establishes that the damage was permanent for some; McDonald was a huge Expos fan and his love of the game was forever tainted by his favorite team being denied their chance to compete on the game’s grandest stage in the very year that their young talent was ripening and developing the squad into an unstoppable force. Russ also hits upon his lifelong love of baseball and how it represented a return to the mainstream of childhood life for him after early years of being physically handicapped. Many other perspectives of great interest are weaved in and out during the tome, including that of huge Expos fan and NHL goalie Martin Biron. He documents the sadness of seeing his favorite team wither away and, a decade after the strike, eventually end up in another city.

Inasmuch as I always love to learn about a subject from a fresh perspective, the most interesting part of the book for me was the part about the Montreal-Toronto dynamic prior to the strike. The two cities form a historic rivalry that permeates many facets of national life in Canada. With the Blue Jays having culminated their excellent run in consecutive World Series titles, in 1992 and 1993, the heat was on for the sport’s other team north of the border to step up huge. Montreal seemed just about ready to do just that, but their status astride the National League at the time of the strike marks them as one of the singularly sad “what-if” stories in the history of the game.

The other half of the book deals with Riesgo’s story leading up to the strike and the fateful decision he would make. He was a big-time prospect who was down on his luck by the spring of 1995.

Two bad breaks characterized the early part of his career: a story in the Philly press that twisted his words to portray him as cocky rather than confident-but-respectful – one that poisoned the well irretrievably for him in the clubhouse – and his victimization by Tom Foley in Montreal when the veteran crossed the line from hazing to full-on jerkdom the next year. These stories must be read to be believed in terms of how the cruelty of others can help derail a man’s dream.

As somebody who had been on both sides of the baseball divide – hot prospect and subsequently, a journeyman – he had a unique perspective on the responsibility of the player’s union to ballplayers at all levels of the game and he found it quite lacking by 1995. Minor league players were not valued at all, and actually, given the union’s obsession with avoiding any salary restrictions, they seemed to be most concerned with the richest stars least in need of protection. So while apologists for the player’s union wish to cast his story in the usual unsympathetic “scab” terms, his tale deserves anything but that label.

After the strike ended, he played many years in the independent leagues, where he could escape harsh judgments and find a welcome level of acceptance, and today he operates a baseball academy and helps keep the dream alive for other young players. The book also describes some positive, productive potential solutions to pressing and ever-ongoing financial issues in baseball.

To mix some metaphors, STRIKE THREE is actually a home run, a worthy purchase for any baseball fan you know as a new season looms. By examining the 1994-95 strike from both a macro and micro level, the authors succeed in delivering the best all-around perspective of the time that we have seen yet.

NCAA hoops conference play overview

By Rick Morris

With regular conference games now underway, the shape of the 2009-10 NCAA hoops season is emerging in great detail. The biggest story is unfolding in Lexington, Kentucky, and it is actually two huge stories in one: potentially the greatest player to emerge since Lebron James in John Wall and the effect that he and his talented returning teammates are having in terms of immediately restoring one of the game's most hallowed programs. They figure to clean up on a completely overmatched SEC conference, so much so that chatter is already underway about a potential wire-to-wire undefeated season, the first since Indiana's accomplishment 34 years ago. What a difference a year makes! Mississippi State and Vandy appear to be jockeying for "best of the rest" status.

In the other major conferences ...

^ Kansas almost seemed to be a consensus #1 pick at the start of the season, but as we have seen so far, it will take everything that they have to outdistance the conference's other year-in-and-year-out power, Texas.

^ Contrary to last year's dominance by North Carolina, the ACC should be very competitive at the top this year, with a renewed competitiveness between the Tar Heels and Blue Devils providing the headline material.

^ The Big East continues to outdistance all other conferences by a wide margin, with Syracuse and Pittsburgh defying preseason expectations to remain near the top of the heap. West Virginia and Villanova remain the best bets to come out on top, though.

^ Purdue is the team to beat in the Big 10, but Michigan State and Illinois are right behind them and as we have seen so far, Ohio State and Michigan remain at least dark horse candidates to come through the pack with the conference crown.

^ The Pac 10 is horrible, with a landscape littered by NIT flotsam-and-jetsam. Their recent goose-egg in the coaches' Top 25 poll probably won't be the last this year.

What would be the early picks right now for the Final Four? Call it Kansas over Texas in one national semifinal, Kentucky over West Virginia in the other one and Kentucky over Kansas in a tradition-laden battle for the ages in the national championship game.

The case against Mangini - and Browns fans

By Rick Morris

As a lifelong Cleveland sports fan, I have suffered through the largest drought in the history of major professional sports. Our last major championship was the NFL title of 1964, which happened well before I was a gleam in my parents' eyes (and years before they even married). If I hadn't become a Red Wings fan back in '87, I'd really be out of my mind by now!

[Before this discussion goes any further, save me your protestations, Cubs fans -- and I use them simply as the best representation of this dynamic. You had six Bulls' titles back in the '90s, some of them at the expense of my Cavs, I might add! Any other city with a single cursed franchise has titles in other major sports, so I don't want to hear any invalid comparisons.]

While it may seem incredible to some on the outside, I can legitimately say that there is one internal dynamic that makes the losing even worse: the insanity that it breeds in the fanbase that leads to events that merely prolong the losing.

We've seen that with the Browns ever since they returned in '99. A vocal minority of fans, many dealing from a racist point of view (with comments to talk shows constantly referring to "that white boy" and bemoaning the fact that the Browns did not draft Donovan McNabb or Ricky Williams -- conveniently leaving aside El Busto Grande Akili Smith, the top rival in most people's minds for the #1 draft spot that year), poisoned the water against Tim Couch almost immediately. That poor guy, who had thrived in a rhythm offense in college (and showed what he could do when given the chance to replicate that, as he did in an unbelievable Sunday night performance against the hated Squeelers back in '03), got put into a seven-step dropback O with no offensive line and no receivers who scared defenses. How dare he not succeed! Before you knew it, the clowns down at the stadium were cheering when he was carted off the field and making fun of him for being emotional about it when cameras were thrust into his face WHILE HE WAS STILL CONCUSSED, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! Butch Davis, one of the worst head coaches in NFL history, was able to gain two additional undeserved years at the helm by gutlessly throwing Couch under the bus and catering to blue-collar myopia with the singularly awful Kelly Holcomb.

[SIDE NOTE: I get accused of elitism when I downgrade the blue-collar mentality of the Cleveland fans. So be it, I guess, but critics are missing the point. When fans overhype every mediocre white guy who comes down the pike as "a winner who represents our blue-collar values," then my criticism is entirely deserved. When I stop hearing the likes of Tim Couch and Brady Quinn derisively referred to as "pretty boys" and they start being evaluated on their actual merits or demerits, then I will change my tune about these mindless jealous haters and not a moment before.]

All this background sets the stage for the latest tragic chapter in Browns history, the tenure of Eric Mangini.

Just over a year ago, the Cleveland fans acted as counterproductive and ungrateful as they ever have when they collectively called for the head of General Manager Phil Savage and got Randy Lerner to acquiesce in singularly cowardly fashion. Saddled with a coach who ran a country club (more about that in a minute) and one who was insubordinate in his habitual burial of team draft picks, Savage wasn't allowed the chance to hire his own head coach (as he really had not been back in '05 with one of Lerner's patented shotgun-marriages), but was shown the door because enough ignorant fans demanded it.

Savage's ultimate sin (other than having a team that could not live up to unrealistic expectations)? Telling off a stupid fan who sent him an email. Never mind that the fan was such an ignoramus that he completely confused the duties of a head coach and a general manager. Never mind that Savage was in the right with this jerk (even if he played into the hands of his enemies by firing off the missive). Let's get rid of the man who was laying the foundation for team success with several core players (i.e. Joe Thomas, Josh Cribbs, Eric Steinbach, Shaun Rogers, Jerome Harrison, Eric Wright, Dave Zastudil) because he gave some grief back to an idiot fan!

[It's worth mentioning at this point that the execrable fan site (not given the courtesy of a link because they do not in any way deserve it) jumped on the anti-Savage bandwagon at this point and soon began waving pom-poms for Mangini. Given the fact that Browns coverage on that site consists of nothing more than trolling and provoking real Browns fans who see through Mangini's gaga, I have long since come to the conclusion that the operator of the site is in fact a Steelers or Ravens fan who seeks to undermine our team by regurgitating the least educated pro-Mangini talking points imaginable. I give him credit for successfully imitating these sham Browns fans who are too simpleminded to know that they are part of the problem by supporting this clown as coach and also for artfully representing his real allies in the Steeler or Raven fanbases -- as everyone in Pittsburgh and Baltimore wants us to be saddled with this Oompa-Loompa for as long as possible. And while I'm passing out backhanded compliments, I congratulate him also for the awesome humor on the site, when all links supporting the official point of view point back to -- you guessed it! -- past columns on the very same site. Well played and most hilarious!]

On our FDH LOUNGE Internet TV show (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EST on, we had occasion to speak with a number of New York-based football journalists. To a man, they indicated that Mangini's complete lack of people skills were a severe detriment to his ability to carry out his job. Mangini wasted no time in backing up these observations by publicly snubbing Rogers, his star defensive tackle, and ordering the removal of a mural in the team headquarters celebrating the team's unmatched accomplishments. To a tyrant like Mangini, you see, nothing good ever happened before he came along! Of course, these valid observations made by people who actually DEALT WITH MANGINI ON A DAY-IN, DAY-OUT BASIS are dismissed by fans in Cleveland as evidence of a grand and heinous New York-based plot to see Mangini fail. Sadly, I am not making this up.

But simpleton fans were lapping it up like a cat with a bowl of milk. "He's laying down the law with these spoiled players!" Before, I touched on the poisonous anti-white racism of so many Browns "fans" against Couch. In fairness, it must be noted here that there is also widespread underlying anti-black racism among the fanbase. When you hear somebody say that "It's time somebody stood up to these ..." you will always make them uncomfortable by saying, "These WHAT? Say the word if you're going to say it, be intellectually honest." Sadly, Eric Mangini is a hero to many because he is seen as a racial avenger. There, I said it.

While the times did call for a tough coach to replace the feckless Romeo Crennel, even the biggest dictator today must have some people skills in order to survive. Belichick 2.0 wins in New England because he acquired at least that tiny modicum of an ability to relate to people. Tom Coughlin won a Super Bowl once he tempered his rough ways with a small amount of give-and-take. Fans can long for the days of Woody and Lombardi all they like, but they're not coming back and it is nothing but counterproductive to whine about how "it should still be like that."

Mangini went on to make numerous horrible mistakes along the way, from his draft reaches (starting with both valuable second-round picks) to waiting too long to dump Braylon Edwards once he had decided to go that route to making the wrong personnel choices only to be bailed out by injuries and necessity (i.e. Harrison's long-overdue opportunity to take snaps away from the corpse of Jamal Lewis). Of those flubs, the one at QB was perhaps the worst; Derek Anderson is a known commodity who will never be more than the (marginal-at-best) entity he is right now, whereas Brady Quinn still hasn't had a lot of opportunities for a third-year player. The emphasis should have been on answering the question definitively "What do we have in Brady Quinn?" rather than playing stupid games regarding contract bonuses based on playing time and surrendering to the aforementioned blue-collar obsessives who hate Quinn. As a result of this dithering, inexcusably, the jury is still out on Quinn.

Only in this climate would it have been possible for me to have been even the tiniest bit ambivalent about our team's win over the hated Steelers. Like everyone, I was tired of the years of relentless pummeling we suffered at their hands and their legions of frontrunner fans, of whom there are a sad countless many along America's North Coast. But I did have this horrid thought in the back of my mind that such a win could help save Mangini's job by rallying the morons who legitimately believe that "it's OK if we only win two games a year as long as they're against the Steelers." As I should have known by now, my worst fears came true when the team squeaked past the hapless Pittsburgh team in the midst of their worst losing streak in years, then capped off the "legendary late-season run" by getting past the miserable Chiefs and Raiders and an average Jacksonville team chilled to the bone in the Northern snow.

As they have so often, the stupid and counterproductive fans (who I have no choice but to believe represent a strong majority of sentiment, given the power they regularly have collectively shown over the past decade) made it clear to new team President Mike Holmgren that he would have a war on his hands if he ushered Dweeby Napoleon to the door. So while the entrance of Holmgren and new General Manager Tom Heckert (one of the very finest front office minds in the business) would otherwise be greeted rightfully with pure enthusiasm, it should be diminished by the unfinished business of house-cleaning that Holmgren unwisely deferred.

As a Browns fan, I am left to hope for the best under the circumstances and to ignore that nagging feeling that all is not well. But where has that ever landed me before?

The right shouldn't be scared of Limbaugh

By Rick Morris

I continue to be confounded at every turn at how every major (and minor, seemingly) figure on the right is so completely intimidated by Rush Limbaugh that they will never call him out, regardless of what he does. The complete silence about his asinine Haiti comments over the last week is the latest manifestation of this regrettable trend.

I have chronicled here for a long time about how Limbaugh and wannabe Sean Hannity work against the electoral prospects of principled candidates by offering nothing but party-line hack talking points every day on the air. Due to the influence they wield over the GOP communications apparatus, much of the campaign against Barack Obama ended up being bogged down in lowest-common-denominator slogans rather than substantive compare-and-contrast policy discussions -- ones that the Republicans could legitimately point back to, rather than reflexively defending the failed Bush presidency as Limbaugh and Hannity have slavishly done. Make no mistake, while the American people are waking up to the implications of electing an avowed leftist (errrrr, "progressive") such as Obama to the presidency, they don't have short memories. George W. Bush will never be fully exonerated in the eyes of the American people as a good president (nor would that be deserving, for reasons we previously outlined here), so the inability of the GOP to adopt a message that essentially says "Our bad for what happened before Obama, but as you can see, he's much worse and we have learned our lessons" that would go over like hotcakes with an American populace that only has one alternative at a time -- well, that just proves that Republicans are succeeding in spite of themselves right now.

And that's just indicative of the larger problem, which is that the right wing gives Limbaugh a pass for anything that he does, no matter how damaging it is to the movement that he claims to care so much about. What a nice racket this has ended up being for the leftists: direct enough vitriol towards any clown on the right and everyone will reflexively take up for him, no matter how much damage he does to the chances to implement positive public policy goals.

By now, we have seen the pattern time and time again: Limbaugh sticks his foot in his mouth (such as saying "I hope he fails" when Obama was elected and the smart thing would have been to lie low during the early days of the presidency or his stupid Haiti remarks), he gets attacked and everyone on the right reacts like robots in playing the "hey, he was misquoted/taken out of context" card.

But if this most recent putrid display doesn't cause people to reexamine the way that this man does business, then perhaps nothing ever will.

WHY, at a time when well over a hundred thousand people are ending up dead in the most horrifying of manners, would anybody use their public platform for anything other than a plea for people to live up to the Judeo-Christian principles that made this country great? I'm a big critic of the foreign aid sinkhole myself, but this is not the time for that -- and Rush Limbaugh knew that. He willingly trafficked in the blood of dead people to get himself some cheap attention and that is unforgivable.

I expect to get some disagreement from some of my friends on the right, but if that is the case, I'd like to have them explain to me EXACTLY what could have been positively gained by his remarks. If he wasn't using the crisis to get himself over in the usual fashion, then what on earth was he trying to do here?

Again, to tie back to an earlier point, there is nothing even remotely "conservative" about being a knee-jerk defender of this man, given his slavish devotion to all things George W. Squish. I only wish that more people would remember that, instead of quaking in fear that another Establishment organ like Red State (another unyielding Bush apologist) will call them faint-hearted.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

NHL power rankings for mid-January

By Rick Morris

Start-of-January rankings in parentheses.

1 San Jose (1)
2 Chicago (3)
3 New Jersey (2)
4 Washington (4)
5 Buffalo (6)
6 Pittsburgh (5)
7 Nashville (10)
8 Colorado (8)
9 Phoenix (7)
10 Calgary (9)
11 Vancouver (11)
12 Los Angeles (12)
13 Detroit (15)
14 Boston (13)
15 NY Rangers (18)
16 Minnesota (19)
17 Dallas (14)
18 Montreal (17)
19 Ottawa (16)
20 Philadelphia (21)
21 Anaheim (25)
22 NY Islanders (24)
23 St. Louis (23)
24 Atlanta (22)
25 Tampa Bay (20)
26 Florida (26)
27 Columbus (27)
28 Toronto (28)
29 Edmonton (29)
30 Carolina (30)

BIGGEST RISERS: Minnesota, Nashville and New York Rangers (3 spots)
BIGGEST FALLERS: Tampa Bay (5 spots), Anaheim (4 spots), Dallas and Ottawa (3 spots)

NBA power rankings for mid-January

By Rick Morris

Start-of-January rankings in parentheses.

1 Cleveland (1)
2 LA Lakers (2)
3 Boston (4)
4 Orlando (3)
5 Atlanta (5)
6 Dallas (6)
7 Denver (8)
8 San Antonio (9)
9 Portland (10)
10 Phoenix (7)
11 Utah (12)
12 Houston (11)
13 Oklahoma City (13)
14 New Orleans (17)
15 Miami (14)
16 Memphis (16)
17 Toronto (15)
18 Chicago (20)
19 Charlotte (21)
20 LA Clippers (18)
21 Milwaukee (22)
22 New York (23)
23 Sacramento (19)
24 Indiana (26)
25 Detroit (24)
26 Philadelphia (28)
27 Golden State (27)
28 Washington (25)
29 Minnesota (29)
30 New Jersey (30)

BIGGEST RISERS: New Orleans (3 spots)
BIGGEST FALLERS: Sacramento (4 spots), Phoenix and Washington (3 spots)

Sportsology: Viva La Dropkick Murphys

Posted by Rick Morris

Our good buddy Russ Cohen of Sportsology was fortunate enough to attend this year's Winter Classic, as he has for every outdoor NHL game since Edmonton in 2003. While there, he was able to take in a great performance by the Dropkick Murphys, thus inspiring this column.

Dropkick Murphys Are Just A Bunch of Regular Guys
By Russ Cohen

This band's music is heard at so many sporting events now that it made complete sense that the NHL had the Dropkick Murphys at the recent Winter Classic at Fenway Park. Growing up a Sawwks fan, Scruffy Wallace was doing most of the talking and the conversation centered around having tickets to great events.

“It’s all about the tickets, baby,” he said, smiling. “It’s all about the tickets. Whatever we’ve got to do to get in here.”

They had all-access credentials and yet they seemed it awe of the process. They write about sports topics and when push comes to shove, they are just some guys from Boston that have a rock band.

“The NHL was kind enough to give us an hour of ice time for a charity we are involved with, and you know, we were kind of one of the first groups to come out and skate. You forget yourself when you have the opportunity once in a while to get on the field like we do; you forget how amazing an experience it is.”

Well, these sports fans are gearing up for a tour, and here’s the 411!



DROPKICK MURPHYS have captured the intensity and camaraderie of their annual Boston hometown St. Patrick’s Day shows on LIVE ON LANSDOWNE, BOSTON MA, a CD and DVD set for release March 16, 2010 via the group’s own Born & Bred Records (ILG). LIVE ON LANSDOWNE features 20 fan favorites and was recorded at seven Boston shows in March 2009. It will be available in various formats: CD, double disc digipack with CD and HD DVD, as well as a double gatefold vinyl with bonus CD insert.

LIVE ON LANSDOWNE marks the critically-acclaimed group’s second live release recorded during their annual string of St. Patrick’s Day week gigs, following 2002’s Live On St. Patrick’s Day From Boston MA, which has sold over 250,000 copies worldwide. LIVE ON LANSDOWNE features an entirely different track listing from the previous release and a guest appearance by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones on DKM’s platinum-selling single “I’m Shipping Up To Boston.

This March, the MURPHYS--known for their complex distillation of classic punk rock, Celtic folk and American rock 'n roll--return to Boston’s House Of Blues for six always sold-out gigs St. Patrick’s Day week (March 12-17). Each year, the band--who’ve released 10 full-length CDs and sold over 3 million copies worldwide--break house records when these shows go on sale. The St. Patrick’s Day shows are the peak of DROPKICK MURPHYS’ touring calendar, and fans travel to Boston from around the world for a chance to become part of this unique experience. A very limited number of tickets are still available for the March 15 and 16 shows.

Leading up to the Boston gigs, DROPKICK MURPHYS--KEN CASEY (vocals, bass guitar), AL BARR (vocals), MATT KELLY (drums, backing vocals), JAMES LYNCH (guitar, backing vocals), TIM BRENNAN (guitar, accordion, piano, backing vocals), JEFF DaROSA (mandolin, accordion, banjo, bouzouki, tin whistle, acoustic guitar) and SCRUFFY WALLACE (bagpipes)--will tour Europe from January 22 through February 4 and kick off U.S. dates February 23 in Norfolk, VA. The group will return to the U.K. and Ireland for headlining shows from April 12-22. Support acts for the U.S. tour dates will be announced soon.

In other news, DROPKICK MURPHYS continue their tradition of supporting Boston sports teams. On New Year's Day, the band performed their hit, “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” before the NHL Winter Classic hockey game between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers ( This year, the annual outdoor hockey game and pre-game performances--nationally televised on NBC--were held at Boston's Fenway Park.

"We try to choose our sports stuff wisely because we have an undefeated record any time we've ever played at a game," singer/bassist KEN CASEY told AOL’s (12/29/09). In fact, every time the band plays at a game, the home team emerges victorious. So far, DKM has performed at four Bruins games, six Red Sox games and a Glasgow Celtic soccer game.

CASEY also drew on his love of hockey to organize a recent event benefitting his new charity The Claddagh Fund. The Claddagh Fund “Skate in the Park,” was held December 19, 2009 on the ice at Fenway Park and was followed by a reception at the House of Blues. The event raised over $50,000 for the fund. CASEY established The Claddagh Fund to support non-profits that champion the causes of children, veterans and those suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. The organization is committed to the three attributes symbolized in the Claddagh ring: friendship, love and loyalty.

"There's something about kind of being able to take matters into your own hands as opposed to always doing something for someone else's charity," CASEY told "It's a great way to maximize our fundraising capabilities with the band…we could really turn it into a legion of people doing stuff to raise money."

The full track Listing for LIVE ON LANSDOWNE, BOSTON MA is as follows:

Famous For Nothing
The State Of Massachusetts
Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya
Time To Go
Sunshine Highway
Flannigan’s Ball
Bastards On Parade
God Willing
Caught In A Jar
Captain Kelly’s Kitchen
Citizen C.I.A.
Fields Of Athenry
Your Spirit’s Alive
The Warrior’s Code
The Dirty Glass
Forever 2009
Worker’s Song
Kiss Me, I’m Sh*tfaced
I’m Shipping Up To Boston (featuring The Mighty Mighty Bosstones)

Catch DROPKICK MURPHYS on tour in the following cities:
Date City Venue
1/22 Madrid, Spain Sala Heineken
1/23 Barcelona, Spain Sala Razzmatazz 2
1/25 Milan, Italy Alcatraz
1/27 Munich, Germany Zenith
1/28 Paris, France Olympia
1/29 Antwerp, Belgium Lotto Arena
1/30 Offenbach, Germany Stadthalle
1/31 Amsterdam, Netherlands Heineken Music Hall
2/2 Berlin, Germany Arena
2/3 Hamburg, Germany Sporthalle
2/4 Dusseldorf, Germany Philipshalle
2/23 Norfolk, VA The Norva
2/24 Montclair, NJ Wellmont Theatre
2/25 Atlantic City, NJ House of Blues
2/27 Milwaukee, WI Bradley Center
*DKM performance will begin immediately after the Admirals (AHL) hockey game
2/28 Kansas City, MO Beaumont Club
3/1 Dallas, TX House of Blues
3/2 Houston, TX Warehouse Live
3/3 Austin, TX Stubb’s
3/5 Tampa, FL The Ritz
3/6 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Revolution Live
3/7 Orlando, FL House of Blues
3/8 Charlotte, NC The Fillmore
3/9 Washington, DC 9.30 Club
3/10 Wallingford, CT The Dome at Oakdale Theatre
3/12 Boston, MA House of Blues
3/13 Boston, MA House of Blues
3/14 Boston, MA House of Blues
3/15 Boston, MA House of Blues
3/16 Boston, MA House of Blues
3/17 Boston, MA House of Blues
4/12 Glasgow, Scotland Barrowland
4/13 Newcastle, UK O2 Academy
4/14 Leeds, UK O2 Academy
4/15 Manchester, UK Manchester Academy
4/16 Birmingham, UK O2 Academy
4/17 Nottingham, UK Rock City
4/18 Brixton, UK O2 Academy
4/20 Belfast, Northern Ireland St. George’s Market
4/21 Cork, Ireland Savoy Theatre
4/22 Dublin, Ireland Olympia Theatre
Press Assets:

Known for their complex distillation of classic punk rock, Celtic folk and American rock 'n roll, critically-acclaimed DROPKICK MURPHYS have released 10 full-length CDs and sold over 3 million copies worldwide. 2007’s The Meanest Of Times marked the band’s highest Billboard Top 200 chart debut ever (#20) and is their fastest selling record to date with over 300,000 copies sold worldwide. The Meanest Of Times was #40 on Rolling Stone's Top 50 Albums Of The Year and "The State Of Massachusetts" came in at #83 on their Top 100 Singles of the year. The group’s single "I'm Shipping Up To Boston”--from 2005’s The Warrior’s Code CD which has sold over 250,000 copies--was certified gold by the RIAA with sales of over 500,000 copies. “I’m Shipping Up To Boston,” a song with lyrics penned by Woody Guthrie, gained mainstream notoriety after being prominently featured in Martin Scorsese's film The Departed. It can be commonly heard at sporting events and on television as a theme song for many sports teams (even outside of Boston). The Boston Garden plays it at pivotal moments throughout Bruins and Celtics games and Red Sox pitcher Jonathan Papelbon uses it as his entrance music when he comes out of the bullpen. In keeping with his passion for his hometown teams, DKM bassist/vocalist KEN CASEY joined forces with film producer and baseball historian Peter Nash in 2008 to officially re-establish and re-open McGreevy’s 3rd Base Saloon--“America’s First Sports Bar and Baseball Museum”--in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.

Sportsology: Fire Minaya

Posted by Rick Morris

Our good pal Russ Cohen at Sportsology is really ticked off about the state of the New York Mets, the team he has followed all of his life. I can relate -- stay tuned for my rant on Eric Mangini! But that's another story for another time. Courtesy of our content-sharing arrangement under the auspices of The 21st Century Media Alliance, here's another edition of "Russ's Rants."

Russ's Rants - FIRE MINAYA!
By Russ Cohen

The Mets have been on this runaway roller coaster since last season and we have watched the Mets GM Omar Minaya, and his office literally decay in front of our eyes. It has now come to a head with the “Carlos Beltran” situation, which should have been just an operation, but now it has turned into a big story. Once again, the Mets, who already have a reputation for choking, now have a reputation for having a front office that's in total disarray.

It’s hard to take sides in the this latest saga but one thing that is unforgivable and that’s the amount of time that has passed until the team or Beltran or Scott Boras, or one of them, decided to get the procedure. If this was done weeks ago, he would have been able to start the season on schedule, but now he will miss at least a month of the season. Once again, Angel Pagan will be patrolling CitiField this season. No slight to him, he’s just not Beltran, and now before the season even begins the Mets are already falling out of the pennant race!

To be honest, this season’s expectations had been lowered a lot, by me and others, but now I’m not sure if I shot low enough. The team did sign Jason Bay, and they addressed the bullpen issue with some unknown pitchers, but they haven’t bolstered the starting rotation and the catching position is still a platoon situation at best. Who is to blame for that? Omar Minaya!

He’s been coasting now for two seasons and the Wilpons have either backed him with blind faith or they don’t want to pay him for doing nothing; either way, they are getting almost nothing in return, so it’s time to cut their losses.

The Mets have very little chemistry on this team. They have some great players, but their supporting cast is getting weaker and weaker and the idea that Carlos Delgado can come in and resume starting at first base is a joke at best. He needs to prove it a lot more than a stint in winter ball. Let’s see how he is in spring training before we cast off Daniel Murphy, who gave it his all in every game last year, and that’s a lot more than some of the other players on the team.

Minaya and his entire staff should be removed and if the Wilpons want to save an employee or two, fine, but if they stay status quo, the Tony Bernazard debacle will be small potatoes. More devastation will come and it won’t matter how much money the Mets have, because their fans will stop going to games and the franchise will be in decline once again. If they nip this in the bud and get a GM who can infuse a new no-nonsense winning attitude, then they can move forward.

Who has the worst job in baseball? The Mets’ manager, Jerry Manuel. With all of the injuries and on and off-the-field distractions, he hasn’t really had a chance to correct the team’s problems. My advice would be to let him go along with Minaya, it’s the humane thing to do, and bring back Bobby Valentine who took a less talented team to the World Series back in 2000.

NFL picks divisional playoff round

By Rick Morris

In addition to posting my weekly picks, I will post those from other members of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries' Football Challenge Contest. In the regular season, we each posted our three strongest plays. Here are the standings to this point, including all games from the wildcard round:

RICK MORRIS: 27-28 overall, 3-1 last week (also 9-8 on my 1,000-Star, Gold-Plated Lock of the Millennium for each week of the regular season)
DAVE ADAMS: 26-29 overall, 1-3 last week
STEVE CIRVELLO: 26-29 overall, 2-2 last week
RYAN ISLEY: 23-31-1 overall, 2-2 last week
SEAN TRENCH: 21-32-2 overall, 1-3 last week

We will each pick every playoff game. Each of our picks will be listed, in addition to the FDH "consensus" pick based on who has the most votes in each game (the FDH consensus picks were 1-3 last week):

Arizona +7 at New Orleans
RICK: Arizona
DAVE: Arizona
STEVE: New Orleans
RYAN: New Orleans
SEAN: Arizona
FDH CONSENSUS: Arizona, 4-1

Baltimore +6 ½ at Indianapolis
RICK: Indianapolis
DAVE: Indianapolis
STEVE: Baltimore
RYAN: Indianapolis
SEAN: Indianapolis
FDH CONSENSUS: Indianapolis, 4-1

Dallas +2 ½ at Minnesota
RICK: Dallas
DAVE: Dallas
STEVE: Minnesota
RYAN: Minnesota
SEAN: Dallas
FDH CONSENSUS: Dallas, 3-2

NY Jets +7 at San Diego
RICK: San Diego
DAVE: San Diego
(The FDH New York Bureau) STEVE: NY Jets
RYAN: San Diego
SEAN: San Diego
FDH CONSENSUS: San Diego, 4-1

Additionally, here are my extended thoughts on each game and my predictions for subsequent rounds:

It would have seemed impossible in September when the Cardinals were refusing to commit to Beanie Wells, but they actually have a better-established run game than New Orleans – due to the Saints having their own late-season commitment issues regarding establishing the run. Additionally, the matchup is not favorable for the Saints D, a unit predicated on big turnovers and one that struggles (as most teams do, in all fairness) against a balanced offense capable of establishing their will with either the run or the pass. Both passing games are similar in terms of having unbelievable quarterbacks capable of dishing the ball to multiple weapons. However, Arizona’s postseason experience is superior because their roster was immersed not merely in last week’s game but last year’s Super Bowl run; the Saints have had some turnover since their run to Championship Sunday in the ’06 season. And New Orleans will have to deal with an aggressive 3-4 defense for the first time since the shocker against Dallas when some pundits began to question whether that scheme had exposed their offense. These factors should negate a mighty home-field advantage in a tasty shootout game. Cardinals 41, Saints 38.

There are reasons not to like the Colts tonight that go beyond their willful surrender of full-throated momentum going into the playoffs. Minus all-world safety Bob Sanders, they certainly are vulnerable to Baltimore’s multi-headed hydra ground game. And their secondary is banged-up overall at the moment – but the Ravens are not exactly the team to exploit those maladies and that is where the Colts’ difficulties start to get put into perspective, because Baltimore also has a secondary that is not 100%. Look for Peyton Manning to make them pay the price by spreading it around. Hank Goldberg rightly notes how much teams with a decided rushing advantage prosper in playoff games like this. However, with the overall explosiveness of the Colts at home on the fast turf, it’s hard to see Baltimore being able to do more than stay relatively close unless “centerfielder” Ed Reed can make some game-changing interceptions. Colts 24, Ravens 16.

Sunday’s early game marks a renewal of a classic 1970s playoff rivalry, plus it rips the scab off of the bitterness in the Twin Cities, where they saw their beloved North Stars NHL franchise relocate to Dallas in the early ‘90s. Befitting the status as the only game this weekend where two of our pundits disagreed with the consensus and the one with the closest Vegas line, this contest stands as the one that most people would view as the most up for grabs. There is a really sweet “ultimate strength vs. ultimate strength” battle in the clash of the multi-back Dallas rushing attack against the Minnesota defensive line anchored by the Purple Williams People Eaters. Conversely, the Dallas front seven is also a good match for the incomparable Adrian Peterson, who has tailed off over the second half of the season. Either quarterback is capable of winning this game with spectacular plays or giving it away with bonehead interceptions. Can the raucous home crowd make up for Dallas’ complete advantage in terms of momentum? Perhaps they can, but they cannot make up for the loss of MLB EJ Henderson and the increased potential for Tony Romo to work the underneath areas with Jason Witten. In a game that appears so close on paper that a single hair could decide it either way, that might well be enough. Cowboys 27, Vikings 23.

Like the Ravens, the Jets face a team that is unstoppable at times, but vulnerable to being outgained on the ground. Even if they weren’t though, they would have no choice but to try to establish the Jones/Greene combo like they did last week in Cincinnati, because QB Mark Sanchez is not yet ready to have the training wheels removed in terms of playcalling. San Diego will spend large stretches going eight-in-the-box to try to force Sanchez to pass a great deal, as he did ironically right up the road at USC. The Jets know that they can’t come from behind to win a game like this and that it could easily snowball like some of the wildcard contests last week if that happens. On the other side of the ball, even with a fierce run defense and a secondary anchored by Darrelle Revis – perhaps the best in the game right now – New York will have a tough time contending with the raw size of the Charger passing game (at QB/WR1/WR2/TE). One team is just happy to be here and one team won’t be satisfied with anything less than a Super Bowl title. On Sunday night, it will be quite apparent which was which. Chargers 31, Jets 13.

Chargers 34, Colts 24
Cowboys 34, Cardinals 27

Cowboys 30, Chargers 23

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue XLXIV

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

FDH Lounge Show #87: January 13, 2010

By Rick Morris

Three years ago this week, The Great American Radio Show came to Internet TV. We have proved time and time again that the adage of "nothing is off-topic" is no mere exaggeration. Now, our 87th episode of THE FDH LOUNGE (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EST on proves it again.

After our look at This Week in The FDH Lounge and The Opening Statements of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries, we welcome in longtime New York (and onetime NBC) broadcaster Len Berman, author of the great book (with a companion CD) THE GREATEST MOMENTS IN SPORTS. From there, we take the occasion of our third anniversary to revisit one of our earlier Lounge shows with a Conspiracy Theory segment about the McGwire-Sosa home run chase of 1998. Dignitary Nate Noy shared his theory that Major League Baseball tampered with the special hologram balls used down the stretch for these hitters. We'll replay the 10-minute tape, then take another look with Nate in light of McGwire's "shocking" confession this week.

At the top of Hour Two, our roundtable panel to discuss the Baseball Hall of Fame voting convenes: ESPN Radio personality Ed Randall and Newsday reporter Ken Davidoff. Then, we debut our FDH Spotlight Website segment with a real doozy: This Is Why You're Fat.

After that, we start THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER a bit earlier than usual as we hold our annual fantasy tennis draft and then start our "fantasy football season in review" by looking at big developments, position by position, with Senior Editor Cory J. Bonini.

We close as always with THE GOON SQUAD and a look at the present NHL standings as well as a last look back at The Winter Classic and more of our ramping-up coverage of the amazing forthcoming Olympic hockey tournament.

As always, we urge you to watch the show live (or listen if you’re on dial-up), but if you can’t catch this as it’s happening, you can always catch the FDH archives 24-7 right here or catch us now on iTunes!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book Review: Loving Madly, Losing Badly

By Rick Morris

I've reviewed books previously and certainly will be doing so again. But I have never before referred to a book as one that will provide interesting information about an American institution, will strengthen your spiritual awareness, will provide reinforcement about your ability to deal with adversity in life and will produce some actual good merely through its purchase -- and I'll be surprised if I encounter such a read again. However, I can vouch for the first three criteria on an ongoing basis and for the fourth one if you hurry up and purchase it in the next week.

I speak of course of LOVING MADLY, LOSING BADLY ... HOW ZIGGY SAVED MY LIFE, the outstanding memoir penned by second-generation Ziggy cartoonist Tom Wilson. We at FDH were first exposed to this book late last summer when we received a copy of it prior to booking Tom as a guest on our all-subjects program THE FDH LOUNGE (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EST on Due to the fact that Tom lives (relatively) nearby in Cincinnati and travels occasionally to conduct business in our FDH and STN flagship city of Cleveland, we were actually able to have him in-studio. He made a subsequent return to the show on the night before Thanksgiving to promote the campaign I will refer to shortly. In the interest of full disclosure for this glowing review, I will admit that Tom certainly is in the "good friends of the show" category and if it would not be too presumptuous, I would simply refer to him as a friend, period. He's an amazing individual, as the book illustrates.

The book traces through Tom's life as he grows up in Cleveland as the son of the original Ziggy cartoonist, also named Tom Wilson. In early adulthood, he meets Susan, who would go on to become the best wife and mother he could have imagined. Then, in the 1980s, he assumes the franchise from his father when health issues dictated retirement.

Life with his wife and two young sons was pretty sweet until Susan developed breast cancer in the 1990s. She fought the disease bravely for years, but she passed away on November 18, 2000. This came as the biggest shock that Tom could have fathomed and he spent the next couple of years in a fog, just trying to be able to manage his own life and provide a stable foundation for his boys.

Eventually, after many twists and turns in the road to recovery, it emerged that the Ziggy character was actually key to adding perspective back to his life. The more he studied the innocent, indefatigable creature, the more he realized what he had to learn about the positivity in life. A character that he had drawn for nearly two decades and observed firsthand far longer than that proved to have lessons to teach him when he took the time to look beneath the surface. Along the way, throughout the course of the book, there are many interesting nuggets about the nuances of Ziggy and the creative process involved in drawing him over the years.

I referenced a spiritual angle as well, and while Tom does not beat you over the head with it in the book, it emerged to me as the single most jarring spectacle on those pages. Without giving too much away, during Tom's period of grief, Susan appeared to a friend of his with whom he was at odds, trying (successfully) to impart a useful and healing message. Susan appeared in her preadolescent state (complete with a mode of dress that she had at the time, as was captured in pictures), one in which this friend had never seen her before -- and therefore, could not be 100% certain that that was Susan, at least not until a shocked Tom provided confirmation upon hearing the story.

During the interview with Tom on our program, my line of questioning about this part was easily the most emotional one. It jumped out at me because my mom passed away from breast cancer a few short years after Susan did and because Susan, by all accounts, seemed so similar to my mom -- a great compliment to both of them. Additionally, our family had some spooky instances of appearances that were quite similar and my father asked our old parish priest about such instances and heard a few more examples rattled off to him. In other words, these things happen. Tom and I discussed how the non-believers of this world, who always act like the burden of proof is on the believers, have it exactly backwards. The multitudes of people who have experienced miracles of this sort need not prove anything; the burden is on the non-believers to rationalize away these miracles.

In the end, Tom learned a great deal about how to battle this most crippling form of adversity and he shares his lessons generously in this book. Most people, including myself, would not be strong enough to bare our souls in such a manner, but he clearly was committed to doing whatever was necessary to communicate what he learned to those who could benefit from it.

As for the final note I referenced about what the book will do -- contribute to tangible good -- this comes from the journey Tom has traveled in imparting the book's message. Along the way, he traveled to the LIVESTRONG headquarters in Austin, TX and was inspired by the work being done to hopefully save others from Susan's fate. Shortly thereafter, he instituted ZIGGY'S MILLION DOLLAR LIVESTRONG CHALLENGE. For two months, a period lasting through Susan's birthday on January 19, he is donating EVERY SINGLE PENNY of his author's cut from the book to the charity. This amounts to roughly $4.50 per copy sold. More information about the book, including how to make sure that your purchase counts towards the challenge, can be found here. Additionally, Tom Wilson's Twitter page, with constant updates on the challenge, can be found here.

Given that we all will face severe setbacks in terms of dealing with deaths of loved ones at various points in life, you will want to have this book for no other reason than the help it can give you. But purchasing a copy in the next week spreads the good around and hopefully can help impact the lives of others as well. If you have a couple of bucks lying around, there is no better use of them through the next week than Tom Wilson's great book.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

NFL picks wildcard round

By Rick Morris

In addition to posting my weekly picks, I will post those from other members of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries' Football Challenge Contest. In the regular season, we each posted our three strongest plays. Here are the standings to this point:

DAVE ADAMS: 25-26 overall, 2-1 last week
RICK MORRIS: 24-27 overall, 3-0 last week (also 9-8 on my 1,000-Star, Gold-Plated Lock of the Millennium for each week, 1-0 last week)
STEVE CIRVELLO: 24-27 overall, 1-2 last week
RYAN ISLEY: 21-29-1 overall, 0-3 last week
SEAN TRENCH: 20-29-2 overall, 2-1 last week

We will each pick every playoff game. Each of our picks will be listed, in addition to the FDH "consensus" pick based on who has the most votes in each game (interestingly, all five of us differed on at least one game):

NY Jets (+2 1/2) at Cincinnati
DAVE: Cincinnati
SEAN: Cincinnati

Philadelphia +3 1/2 at Dallas
DAVE: Dallas
RICK: Dallas
STEVE: Philadelphia
RYAN: Philadelphia
SEAN: Philadelphia
FDH CONSENSUS: Philadelphia, 3-2

Baltimore +3 1/2 at New England
DAVE: New England
RICK: New England
STEVE: Baltimore
RYAN: Baltimore
SEAN: New England
FDH CONSENSUS: New England, 3-2

Green Bay (-1) at Arizona
DAVE: Green Bay
RICK: Arizona
STEVE: Green Bay
RYAN: Green Bay
SEAN: Arizona
FDH CONSENSUS: Green Bay, 3-2

Additionally, here are my extended thoughts on each game and my predictions for subsequent rounds:

So much for the rematches inherently favoring the teams who didn’t have to go all-out last weekend. The Jets dominated the Bengals on both the offensive and defensive lines and considering that Cincinnati has recast itself as a power-running team, that has to be a strong concern – regardless of the number of players who sat out last week. Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez has a tall order in front of him with a road playoff game against a stout D, but the coaching staff seems to have shed at least some of their foolish hubris about turning him loose as they did more often around midseason. This is a great matchup for New York, because they can afford to stay in game management mode against the Bengals, a team highly unlikely to pull away minus the big turnovers that the aforementioned game management mode should prevent. Jets 22, Bengals 16.

“Now or never” is such a cliché, but if Tony Romo and Wade Phillips can’t take advantage of this moment to earn the team’s first postseason playoff win in 13 years, both will deservedly – irreversably – go down in history as big chokers. The fact is that they are playing as well as anyone right now after having reversed their awful December play of recent years. The Eagles just seem to have a ghastly pale look to them right now: a matchup against a team that has played them very well this year, youth in many key places (as Donovan McNabb, always looking for the excuse in advance, has pointed out so eloquently), a key injury at center and tough times in the linebacker core. This game answers the question once and for all about whether or not Dallas can ever be taken seriously as greater than the sum of their talented parts. Cowboys 27, Eagles 17.

Wes Welker is a huge loss for New England. Having Tom Brady come into this game at well less than 100% is a fairly significant loss also. But in a game featuring two teams who have posted some of the best defenses of the decade but who have seen better times on that side of the ball, it is Baltimore who will miss their dominating D more and that note will be the key difference. The secondary, fairly vulnerable during the season, is banged-up and the front seven seems unlikely to be in Brady’s face often enough during the course of the game. Ray Rice, as always, is a large X-factor and Joe Flacco proved last year that he is extremely unflappable in January for such a young QB. But while the Hoodie’s squad is not what it was a few years ago, it still has enough in the tank to scratch out a win at home. Patriots 23, Ravens 13.

Who is the Arizona of this postseason? It may well be none other than Arizona! If the Cards don’t successfully defend their NFC title, the irony will be that they are certainly better than they were a year ago, thanks to Beanie Wells replacing the corpse of Edgerrin James in the running game and a wonderful job by new defensive coordinator Bill Davis of installing a great blitz package – and tightening up the run defense considerably. They will be facing a well-balanced offense and a defense that is much-improved over a year ago. The Packers are a very hot team, and in that respect potentially poised for an underdog NFC playoff run ala Arizona last year, but their banged-up secondary is a target that is way too inviting for Kurt Warner. Notwithstanding the defenses being much better than they were 12 months ago, this is the game most ripe for a shootout because of not only the explosive offenses, but the balance (with an above-average run game for both teams) that should keep the defenses honest. Cardinals 34, Packers 27.

Colts 26, Jets 13
Chargers 34, Patriots 27
Cowboys 24, Vikings 16
Saints 38, Cardinals 34

Chargers 34, Colts 24
Cowboys 27, Saints 24

Cowboys 30, Chargers 23

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue XLXIII

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

BCS Title Game preview

By Rick Morris

Tonight's BCS Title Game, the first to be held as a stand-alone event at the Rose Bowl (the epic Texas/USC battle of '06 was actually the Rose Bowl game itself), pits two of the game's signature programs against one another. Shockingly, as much as Texas and Alabama have been front and center throughout much of the history of college football, their paths have rarely crossed -- until now. And owing largely to the Rose Bowl's heritage of Big 10/Pac 10 matchups, neither institution has much history in this building -- although Texas does have the aforementioned '06 win and another very entertaining victory over Michigan in the '05 Rose Bowl.

Along with Florida, Oklahoma (a huge disappointment largely due to the Sam Bradford injury) and USC (a huge disappointment, period), these squads have been on a short list of the most likely teams to be here from the very outset of the season. And since it seems like much longer than three years since Nick Saban has been at Alabama and restoring premium quality, this continues a trend throughout pretty much the decade of having teams in the game that are top contenders year in and year out.

Unsurprisingly, both 'Bama and the 'Horns are super-strong in the trenches, although Texas got pushed around way more than expected in the Big 12 Championship. Since the Tide relies on imposing their will physically to allow for the dominance of Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram on the ground (it's still hard to believe he's the first Heisman winner from Alabama!), as they did against Florida, this is not a good sign. Conversely, Alabama may be hard-pressed to keep up with the oft-frantic pace of the Texas offense as Colt McCoy, one of the best college QBs never to win the Heisman, directs a fast-break offense with brutal efficiency. While Texas is also good at grinding it out and Alabama is also good at executing the passing game, this contest will be yet another example of the winner being the one that successfully imposes their preferred style of play.

Befitting two teams in the elite of the college game, there are few weaknesses on either side. The biggest enemy for both during the course of the season actually seemed to be focus, as both endured stretches of underachievement while impatiently awaiting the games that would matter during the season. Alabama was certainly more battle-tested this year, as the Big 12 South, on a par with the SEC in '08, slipped drastically this year.

How does this one shake out in the end? Glancing at how Texas struggled against Nebraska in their most recent outing and how Alabama surmounted far tougher opposition repeatedly en route to Pasadena, the guess is that they control the ball and the clock enough to throw Texas off their game. Mark Ingram will make more history by ending the "Heisman jinx" in championship games and Nick Saban will become the first coach to win titles at two different schools since the dawning of the BCS. Alabama 23, Texas 17.

Oh, and a side note to Lisa Salters: just because you're not eye candy, it doesn't mean that you're necessarily substantive -- and you're not. Kindly try to keep your pompous questions to a minimum tonight and just try to do your job without trying to prove how smart you are. Thank you in advance.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

FDH Lounge Show #86: January 6, 2010

By Rick Morris

The first edition of THE FDH LOUNGE (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EST on in this new decade picks up right where we left off: covering more topics than any other show – ever.

After our look at This Week in The FDH Lounge and The Opening Statements of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries, we welcome in one of our most interesting guests yet: Anvil lead singer Steve “Lips” Kudlow, whose thrash metal band was chronicled in last year’s amazing documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil. The band’s comeback story takes its next big step forward the night after our program when Anvil kicks off its North American tour coincidentally in our headquarters city of Cleveland. We’ll break down the movie, the tour and what the 2010s have in store for this indefatigable band.

Next, in keeping with our focus on our recent eBook (It is: DISSECTING THE DECADES: THE FDH LOUNGE LOOKS BACK AND AHEAD AT THE FIRST 20 YEARS OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM. You can read the book's explanatory statement and Table of Contents here.), we will have an awesome roundtable on the state of the music business with a great panel. Indeed, we’ve got some great ones here:

^ Beau Hill, producer of million-selling 80's rock albums/recording artist
^ Kevin Elson, producer for Journey, Mr.Big, Lynard Skynard, Europe
^ Hab Haddad, Vice-President of New Media for HOR Entertainment Group

What are some of the noteworthy trends and progressions in the business? What great stories have these figures witnessed in their days in music? We’ll cover a wide array of subjects with them.

From there, we start THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER a bit earlier than usual as we prepare for our postseason fantasy football mock draft. You can check out our suggested league guidelines and our draft board here.

We end as usual with THE GOON SQUAD as our good pal Russ Cohen of Sportsology joins us for a look at the present NHL standings as well as The Winter Classic, which he attended as he always does. You can read his recap of the event here and we’ll talk to him about the past, present and future of hockey’s newest gem.

As always, we urge you to watch the show live (or listen if you’re on dial-up), but if you can’t catch this as it’s happening, you can always catch the FDH archives 24-7 right here or catch us now on iTunes!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

NFL picks Week Seventeen

By Rick Morris

In addition to posting my weekly picks, I will post those from other members of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries' Football Challenge Contest. Each week, we will single out our three strongest plays.

DAVE ADAMS (1-2 last week, 23-25 overall)
Tennessee -6 over Seattle
Chicago -3 over Detroit
San Francisco -8 over St. Louis

STEVE CIRVELLO (1-2 last week, 23-25 overall)
Baltimore -10 1/2 over Oakland
Pittsburgh -3 over Miami
Denver -10 over Kansas City

RYAN ISLEY (0-2-1 last week, 21-26-1 overall)
Jacksonville +1 over Cleveland
Philadelphia +3 over Dallas
Baltimore -10 1/2 over Oakland

(1-2 last week, 1-0 with my best pick, 21-27 overall, 8-8 on best picks)
Atlanta -1 1/2 over Tampa Bay (my 1,000-Star, Gold-Plated Lock of the Millennium for this week)
San Francisco -8 over St. Louis
Chicago -3 over Detroit

SEAN TRENCH (1-2 last week, 18-28-2 overall)
Philadelphia +3 over Dallas
Chicago -3 over Detroit
Kansas City +10 over Denver

My remaining picks (7-7-2 last week, 119-117-3 overall) -- SIDE NOTE: It is the mark of a very strange season when my record of picking every game - while certainly not stellar this year - is better than my record in terms of isolating my three best picks and even my best pick overall. Weird with a beard.

Indianapolis +8 over Buffalo
Carolina -7 over New Orleans
Jacksonville +1 over Cleveland
Philadelphia +3 over Dallas
Houston -7 over New England
Pittsburgh -3 over Miami
Minnesota -7 1/2 over NY Giants
NY Jets -9 1/2 over Cincinnati
Arizona -3 over Green Bay
Kansas City +10 over Denver
Baltimore -10 1/2 over Oakland
San Diego -3 over Washington
Tennessee -6 over Seattle

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue XLXII

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sportsology: Winter Classic recap

Posted by Rick Morris

Our good pal from The 21st Century Media Alliance, Sportsology's Russ Cohen, covered yesterday's NHL outdoor game -- as he has for every such game this decade. We put up some of his Tweets and his text messages to me as our New Year's Day Couch Potato Channel-Surfing Liveblog.

His column is reprinted below, but we urge you also to go check out his original column at Sportsology with pictures from the game and this feature at Card Corner Club with more pictures.

The Bruins Rally to Get a 2-1 OT Win at The Winter Classic

By Russ Cohen

Boston -- The Boston Bruins pulled off an exciting 2-1 overtime win today at Fenway Park in what was a picture-perfect day for the third installment of the Winter Classic!

The ice surface was fast to start the game. It seemed like it was the fastest of any of the outdoor games. At 39.6 degrees, it certainly felt like the warmest Winter Classic game as well. Bruins head coach Claude Julien was wearing a very stylish, throwback dress hat.

Fans in the stands never sat down for the first half of the first period. The best view in the house was high down the left field line. Flyers goalie Michael Leighton made a wonderful glove save in traffic which was the best in a scoreless first period. He stopped 24 in the game.

Flyers tough guy Scott Hartnell was hit in the back early in the second period by Bruins goalie Tim Thomas (stopped 24 shots). With that hit, the backstop took himself out of position and Flyers defenseman Danny Syvret was there to knock in the easy rebound. He was untouched and that goal was the first in Syvret’s NHL career. The sellout crowd of 38,112 had a mixed reaction for sure.

“Every player never forgets their first NHL goal.”

Flyers forward Claude Giroux had a nice breakaway that Thomas came out and stopped, literally blowing up the attempt without touching the puck in the second period, and when that came to an end, the Flyers had a 1-0 lead.

The Flyers had a power play in the third and Boston’s Steve Begin, who played in the Heritage Classic, almost got a shortie. It went past the Flyers goalie but it just rolled offline, missing the back of the net.

It seemed like the Flyers ran out of gas towards the end of the second period and near the end of the third. They put the Bruins on the power play, and when former Flyers forward Mark Recchi scored a late goal as part of a double slot to screen the Flyers goaltender, the score was tied and the game went into overtime.

A late penalty by Philadelphia gave the Bruins a power play to start off the overtime period and Boston’s Marco Sturm stuffed in the game-winning goal when the teams were at even strength. It was a 2-1 outcome, but the fans and the players were the real winners here. They had a chance to be a part of something special.

“You have to enjoy it,” said Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara. “There is two points on the line tomorrow, but I guess, you know, for most of us, it is probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

“We grew up skating outside all the time,” said Flyers defenseman Matt Carle. “It’s fun to get back out there….Snow makes the ice a little difficult….Our teams used to skate outside. It’s cheaper for the parents just to go to the outdoor rink...If it was colder than zero degrees, then practice would be canceled.”

Notes - - Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton and Daniel Carcillo had the first fight in Winter Classic history. Carcillo put his hands up with the devil horns, possibly sending his friends at home a message when he was inside the penalty box … Singer/Songwriter Daniel Powter had never performed the Canadian National Anthem at an event.

NHL power rankings for start of January

By Rick Morris

Mid-December rankings in parentheses.

1 San Jose (4)
2 New Jersey (2)
3 Chicago (5)
4 Washington (1)
5 Pittsburgh (3)
6 Buffalo (7)
7 Phoenix (10)
8 Colorado (8)
9 Calgary (9)
10 Nashville (11)
11 Vancouver (17)
12 Los Angeles (6)
13 Boston (13)
14 Dallas (18)
15 Detroit (12)
16 Ottawa (16)
17 Montreal (15)
18 NY Rangers (22)
19 Minnesota (26)
20 Tampa Bay (25)
21 Philadelphia (20)
22 Atlanta (14)
23 St. Louis (29)
24 NY Islanders (24)
25 Anaheim (27)
26 Florida (23)
27 Columbus (19)
28 Toronto (28)
29 Edmonton (21)
30 Carolina (30)

BIGGEST RISERS: Minnesota (7 spots), St. Louis and Vancouver (6 spots), Tampa Bay (5 spots), NY Rangers (4 spots), Phoenix and San Jose (3 spots)
BIGGEST FALLERS: Atlanta, Edmonton and Columbus (8 spots), Los Angeles (6 spots), Dallas (4 spots), Detroit, Florida and Washington (3 spots)