The Best Athlete of 2009 Debate – Peyton Manning, The Sportsman of 2009

December 30, 2009

Read the arguments from Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer about which athlete they believe was best in 2009.

All right fans of The Sports Debates, brace yourselves. Babe Ruthless is going rogue. I am not picking Derek Jeter as the greatest sportsman of 2009 (largely because an upstart rival publication that shall not be named already awarded him the title). But, have no fear, I am choosing someone almost as cool and equally deserving – Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

He is arguably the best quarterback of the 2009 NFL season, if not the entire decade… or maybe of all time. Since entering the NFL in 1998 he has started in 191 games, passed for 50,033 yards, and thrown for 366 touchdowns (no less than 26 TDs in any season). He has won a record three league MVP awards (tied with Brett Favre). Time and time again he has brought national attention to the Indianapolis Colts franchise, which without him would be as contemporarily relevant as, well, the Cleveland Browns. To list all of Manning’s accolades would take a while, so let me assure you that he is really, really good.

In 2009 Peyton Manning has been nothing less than spectacular, having thrown for 4,405 yards and 33 touchdowns, ranking him second in the NFL in both categories. He was declared the number one ranked player in the NFL by the Sporting News. Probably most astonishing, Manning has led the Indianapolis Colts to set an NFL record 23 consecutive regular season wins. On top of all this he accomplished these feats without his former head coach Tony Dungy or his usual go-to targets, Marvin Harrison and Anthony Gonzalez. This streak was brought to a close this past Sunday, but you can not blame Manning, who was benched early to keep him healthy for the playoffs, again proving just how much Manning serves as the lifeblood of his team.

You might be thinking, “Bu,t Babe Ruthless aren’t Drew Brees and Tom Brady having good years too? What makes Peyton Manning any more special?” The difference is his personality. Peyton Manning is an absolutely amazing athlete, entertainer, and philanthropist. It is like he was made from the DNA of Archie Manning, Will Ferrell, and Oprah.

Peyton Manning might just be as entertaining as he is athletically talented. Think about it. Manning has endorsement deals all over the place with companies like DirectTV, Mastercard, and Gatorade just to name a few… so he has to be doing something right. With that much exposure America would be getting sick of him if he was not entertaining. Manning is funny. For proof look no further than his appearance on Saturday Night Live. His United Way skit is still a hit on the Internet.

Peyton Manning is also an involved philanthropist. Just like his commercial exposure, Manning tends to be everywhere in the charity world as well. In 2009, his charitable organization, The Peyton’s Peyback Foundation, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help underprivileged kids in Indiana, Tennessee, and Louisiana. He is also an advocate of the American Red Cross. He currently serves, alongside his brother Eli, and others, on the Red Cross National Celebrity Cabinet. Similarly, the Manning brothers are still involved with Hurricane Katrina relief programs. Peyton Manning is not just another self-absorbed athlete, he is a real person who cares about others. This guy just keeps getting better.

Ultimately, Peyton Manning is a great all-around guy. He is the type of athlete role model you want your kids to be like (he just barely edged out Adam “Pacman” Jones and Plaxico Burress). He projects a funny, affable nature that makes him marketable and the subject of many platonic-man-crushes throughout the country. He also had a good 2009, and I see great things in his future. That is why he gets my vote for the best athlete of 2009.

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The Congress Involved in Sports Debate – Have You Thanked a Congressperson Today?

October 28, 2009

Read the debate intro and Loyal Homer’s argument that Congress should not be involved in sports-related issues.

Do you think that athletes deserve special treatment, just because they play a game? If Plaxico Burress was given a pass for carrying an unregistered firearm into an establishment that serves liquor – all because he plays wide receiver in the NFL – would that be okay? I know I would not think it is okay.

There is an ongoing outcry among the general public to make sure that athletes are treated just like everyone else. Ironically, though, many of those same people will argue that Congress should not get involved in sports because sports are “special.” There is a double-standard at work here, where on one hand we are saying that athletes and high-profile people are no different from you or me, then on the other hand we will cry foul at the first indication that something may threaten those sacred and revered sports organizations and players. Something must give!

Within each of our workplaces there are certain rules that must be followed and a hierarchy on how those rules are enforced. If, for example, a person decides to skip work for a day, that person’s boss has the authority to address the situation as they see fit. In an issue where the scope exceeds the capacity of the boss, however, it becomes the discretion of the CEO or company owner to address the issue. There will also be times where the responsibility of addressing an issue falls outside the internal hierarchy altogether. If, for example, someone assaults a co-worker, criminal implications result and the involvement of the judicial system is required. Even though the incident took place at work, a judge from OUTSIDE the company must intervene.

Sports organizations are no different than any other organization. As an example, think back to when Boston Bruins “enforcer” Marty McSorley struck Vancouver Canucks forward Donald Brashear in the head with his hockey stick. The degree of his attack far exceeded that which was deemed appropriate by the league, and instead became an incident of criminal assault with a weapon. As such, the Canadian courts (which held jurisdiction over the property where the assault took place) had the authority to intervene and exact their own influence by charging McSorley with a crime. Although the incident took place within the confines of the game, the situation was still criminal in nature, and therefore required criminal proceedings.

In much the same manner, Congress should be EXPECTED to intervene in a sports-related incident that falls within its circle of influence. As a governmental organization Congress is required to address any issues involving commerce, legislation, or foreign affairs. Guess what – sports organizations fall under the umbrella of commerce.

If there are concerns that the BCS may be a monopoly, the government is expected to get involved. Congress’ role is to ensure fair trade and commerce within the United States, REGARDLESS of the “type” of business in question. The anti-trust legislation does not specify that businesses are prohibited from participating in monopolizing practices UNLESS those businesses are related to sports. Sports in America are a $410 BILLION dollar industry. If the United States is truly a free-market economy, and any organization has the right to attempt to compete within a marketplace, then the government MUST exist to regulate an industry that contributes to generating that much revenue.

That is enough American Government 101 for today, though. The real issue at hand is why the public should WANT Congress to get involved in sports when appropriate.

Elected officials are considered appointed representatives of the constituency. Basically, they are supposed to make decisions on behalf of the public at-large. For example, if there is a need for a traffic light at an intersection, contact the local government representative. In much the same manner, if there is a public outcry regarding something on a national scale, notify the proper Senator or Congressman. Elected officials exist to act on the behalf of the citizens.

Why, then, does the public get so upset when the government actually attempts to act on their behalf?! I just do not get it. If the public feels that the BCS is a poorly implemented program that does not allow for “true” and fair competition in order to determine a national champion, and the government agrees and tries to investigate, that is a GOOD thing, right?! The government is listening to the concerns of its citizens and attempting to act upon them. It is an issue that falls within the scope of influence, the issue involves a business that generates billions of dollars, and the public wants to see the issue resolved. That is precisely why the government exists!

The next time Congress becomes involved in the affairs of a sports organization do not think of it as meddlesome interference – and do not think of it as a waste of time because the government should have more important items to focus on. If it is a topic that is truly important to us (and be honest, sports are a VITAL part of our daily lives), then it should be truly important to Congress. Besides, it is obvious that the sports organizations are not going to listen to the general public, so we sometimes need to call in the big guns to keep them all honest!

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate – Battle of the Undefeated

October 16, 2009

Read Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan’s arguments about which games they believe are the best of the upcoming weekend.

 It is looking like another terrific weekend of football for football fans. For me it is the perfect weekend because in addition to great pigskin action, I am actually going to be seeing some temperatures in the 40’s!!! Finally!!!! Yes, I know, many of you have already experienced that this Fall, but I have not! Nonetheless, I am certainly going to be spending some time in my recliner with the remote getting a serious workout. There are some big time matchups in college football as well as in the NFL. But no game looms larger than the battle at the Superdome in New Orleans as the undefeated New York Giants journey down to the Bayou to take on the undefeated New Orleans Saints.

The Giants and Saints both entered the season with questions marks on different sides of the ball.

The Giants, who struggled the latter part of last season without wide receiver Plaxico Burress, were looking for someone to step up at the receiver position. They had their eye on youngsters like Steve Smith (not the Steve Smith you are thinking about) and former Michigan Wolverine Mario Manningham.

Meanwhile, the Saints admittedly had a terrible defense last year. It quite possibly kept the team out of the playoffs since quarterback Drew Brees came just 15 yards short of breaking the NFL record for most passing yards in a season. Needless to say, the offense was in place. To head coach Sean Payton’s credit, he made a heavy push for well-respected defensive guru Gregg Williams. In fact, he gave up part of his salary to help close the deal.

I am not sure anyone expected the young Steve Smith to outplay the Pro Bowler Steve Smith (Carolina Panthers), but that is exactly what has happened, folks! Smith comes into this week’s game with 37 catches for 481 yards and four touchdowns. He has quickly become Eli Manning’s favorite target. Please raise your hand if you saw this coming so quickly… … … yeah, I do not see any hands!

The Saints offense started the season on fire, and while they have cooled down the past couple of games they are still ranked third in the league and have helped give the Saints well-earned league-wide buzz. But , it is the defense that has surpassed expectations creating 13 turnovers, including 10 interceptions. The Saints are only giving up 16.5 points per game, which is good enough for seventh in the league.

Add in the fact that the winner of this game gets a leg up on the other in terms of future playoff seeding and this game takes on added meaning. The Saints certainly do not want to be playing at the Meadowlands in January if at all possible!

One other interesting note about this game… it is Eli Manning’s first time playing at the Superdome. Remember that Eli’s father Archie is a beloved figure in the New Orleans area. I highly doubt that will stop the Saints fans from heckling Manning. What do you think?

This should be an excellent game – one that I hope you are able to watch!

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The NFL Training Camp Position Battle Debate – The New York Giants Will ‘Receive’ Scrutiny

July 31, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan’s argument that the Cleveland Browns quarterback battle is the best this NFL training camp season and Loyal Homer’s argument that the best is the Detroit Lions quarterback battle.

Position battles in training camp are always compelling for the sports geek’s of the world. Whose technique is the best? Who has the most upside? Who sucks in practice but is a gamer? We love these types of questions.

Nowhere in the NFL are these questions more compelling than in Albany, New York for the New York Giants training camp, most apparently at the wide receiver position.

Aging veteran wide receiver Amani Toomer is no longer with the team, and star receiver Plaxico Burress really shot himself in the foot (well, the leg to be more precise) by getting into legal trouble. That leaves a LOT of players battling for a premier position in the most popular professional league in the country, on one of the most popular teams, in the biggest town in sports.

The top contenders for the top wide out position on the Giants this training camp season are rookie Hakeem Nicks, Ramses Barden, break out candidates Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith, and the undersized but speedy Sinorice Moss.

We do not get into predictions here at The Sports Debates (For good reason – who could have predicted Loyal Homer would have stayed up late last night baking cookies? Not me.). Each of these receivers needs a spot and has a valuable role to play. If I’m the Giants coach, this is how I break down the players abilities and begin defining roles at the start of training camp.

Nicks is my starter at the number one receiver position. He’s a first round draft pick with enormous talent and upside. While not tall like a typical number one receiver, his 6-foot 1-inch frame holds a strong 215 pounds, and he showed the capacity in college to wrestle catches away from defenders. He will need to prove he can run effective routes and block to nail the position down. But, it is there for the taking, and Nicks, though unproven, has the most raw talent in the group.

My number two receiver at the opening of camp is Steve Smith. Smith failed to break out until very late last season, grabbing only one touchdown catch on 574 yards receiving. While not quite six feet tall, Smith has shown a willingness to go across the middle and run the tough routes that are sure to glean tough hits. His speed is a bonus on the wing, allowing the field to stretch and more room to open up for the effective running game and short outlet passes that the Giants offense has always run with success.

My number three receiver going into camp is Sinorice Moss. Moss is a speedster who can get behind the defense, opening up underneath routes for Smith and running back Brandon Jacobs.

The three-way combination of speed at the receiver position forces defense to play on their heels and opens up the underneath game for quarter Eli Manning because the field is stretched.

Hixon, who had the opportunity to break out last season when Burress went down with his self-inflicted issues, dropped big passes on key plays. Until Hixon proves he can handle the offense beyond the routine demands of the position, he is not ready for the limelight in New York. It’s best to use him in spots right now where he can be effective and give him the opportunity to prove his value, rather than be thrust into a star position before he has paid his dues and is ready.

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The 16-Year-Old Baseball Player Debate – Never Send a Boy to do a Man’s Job

June 25, 2009

Read the debate intro and Sports Geek’s opinion.

Before we talk about sports, let’s put this in context. Imagine a kid, age 16, who is told that he is really good at something and has great potential, and now wants to quit high school and try to “make it.” If he were trying to quit school and go to Hollywood and act, it would be considered a bad idea. If he were trying to quit school to become a musician, it would be a bad idea. He might have all the talent in the world, but people would advise him against it. So why should it be any different because he would be playing baseball instead of singing or acting?

“But Bleacher Fan,” I hear you say… “it’s not his parents or his music teacher telling him he’s great – these are professional baseball scouts that know what they are talking about.”

Scouts aren’t fortune tellers. They just try to spot potential talent, and that’s ALL Bryce Harper is – potential talent. Don’t forget, professional scouts also thought that Tito Nanni was going to be a good ballplayer in the Majors, having come right out of high school!

As a Major League General Manager, there is no way I’m drafting Harper or any other child athlete (‘phenom’ is such an unfair label to place on a child).

Consider the fact that Harper hasn’t matured mentally. I remember when I was 16-years-old. Dealing with the pressure of homework was enough stress for me. I couldn’t imagine having to bear the burden of maintaining performance because I was signed to a big-league contract.

I can also remember how hard it was to receive criticism for something as simple as when my socks didn’t match. That was devastating to me. So once again, I couldn’t imagine being placed under the microscope that professional athletes are. The criticism that he receives, both on AND off the field, could lead to serious emotional problems.

While they are not MLB players, consider the Olsen Twins, Britney Spears, Todd Bridges, the two Coreys, or Danny Bonaduce. All of these examples are kids who were given the responsibility (and income) of full-grown adults, and all of them were unable to handle the pressures that come with that responsibility.

Many grown men aren’t even mature enough to deal with the responsibilities and pressures of being a professional athlete. Consider what those pressures have done to guys like John Daly, Josh Hamilton, or Plaxico Burress. These are grown men who have acted like irresponsible children. Unfortunately, because they had the financial means to get into “real” trouble, their irresponsibility was compounded. Imagine putting the financial means that those guys have in the hands of a child.

Kellen Winslow, Jr. is another perfect example of the immaturity that professional athletes can demonstrate. He thought he was invincible and could do whatever he wanted, so he rode a stunt-bike and nearly ended his career before it even started. If Winslow, who was nearly ten years older than Harper is now, could be so foolish as to do something like that, what would a 16-year-old kid do?

To counter-balance all of those arguments, people will bring up LeBron James as a ‘look how good HE turned out’ example. Even LeBron James, though, finished high school, and he is only ONE example of how it could work right. Compared to all the examples that went poorly, I would consider him the exception, not the norm.

I’m not arguing that Bryce Harper will be a bust in professional baseball. My only concern is that he has barely begun to figure out for himself who he is, so how on earth could professional scouts have any idea what he will become? There is too much risk for both a team – and for Harper – to gamble on now. At any point, on any given day, if Bryce Harper chooses to make just one stupid mistake (which 16-year-old kids are apt to do) it could ruin his entire career, and cost the organization a great deal of money.

If he really IS as great as everyone expects him to be, then the extra couple of years experience under the spotlight would do him good, and he’ll still be available in a few years time… patience is a virtue. In the meantime, I’ll pass on the kid and go for the guy who’s actually proven himself against more talent than little Tommy Higginson, Dr. Higginson’s kid from Henderson who just figured out how to throw a curve ball last week.

The Problem Receiver Debate – Goody’s Can’t Solve All of the Headaches

June 22, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek’s opinions.

Lately, two of the biggest stories involving NFL wide receivers during off-season are the statuses of Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall and free agent Plaxico Burress.

Let’s recap shall we?

Marshall didn’t come into the league with as much fanfare as Burress. Marshall’s ability on the football field is also not as well-known to the casual fan as Burress’ is (fantasy football players aren’t casual fans); but, he has had an outstanding start to his career.

Drafted out of Central Florida in 2006 by the Denver Broncos, Marshall has quickly become one of the league’s best wide receivers. He has 226 catches for 2,899 yards in three years, including 206 catches for 2,580 the past two seasons. He’s been on my fantasy football team the past two years, and, obviously, he has been a big part of it.

That is all one the field. Very impressive! But off the field, he has some baggage, to say the least.

He was indirectly involved in the fatal shooting of Darrent Williams in 2007. He has been arrested numerous times for various alcohol related incidents and also domestic disturbances. He has also recently requested a trade.

Plaxico Burress came into the league with a lot more fanfare after an outstanding career at Michigan State. After being a solid player for five years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Burress went on to greener pastures with the New York Giants. His time in New York has been highlighted by a game-winning touchdown reception in Super Bowl XLII.

He, too, has some baggage. He held out from training camp due to being unhappy with his contract situation before the 2008 season. This ruffled some feathers with his former organization, the New York Giants. He was suspended for one game for violating team rules in 2008. This was the second time in his career he had been suspending for breaking team rules. He has been fined numerous times. And then, of course, there is the accidental shooting incident at a New York nightclub. This incident caused him to be suspended from the team for conduct detrimental to the team. He has since been released from the Giants and is trying to catch on with another team.

The question posed is which one of these talented players I would take. The answer is NEITHER.

Neither player is worth the major headaches that would be caused. As a loyal fan of my teams, I truly care about winning. But, I want chemistry in my clubhouse, and chemistry is not what you would have if either of these players is on a team. There are just too many distractions. The questions from the media would all be about Burress or Marshall… and that’s not what a TEAM needs.

Are they super talented? Absolutely! No one is questioning that. But I strongly believe Brandon Marshall and Plaxico Burress would bring more harm to my team than good!

Thanks but no thanks! But, feel free to give Al Davis a call!

The Problem Wide Receiver Debate – Brandon Marshall Is Great

June 22, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer’s opinions.

Here’s an NFL fun fact – the wide receiver position is full of self-assured prima donnas. (Thanks, Captain Obvious). Certainly not all receivers overinflate their self-worth and value to a football team, but many do. Generally, fans have a hard time getting behind these types of players. Their vocal nature and occasionally controversial attitudes do not seem to fit with the limited role they play on the team – running routes, catches passes, and blocking (though not all receivers have warmed up to that “concept”). While all of these things are true about receivers in general, they aren’t true about Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall, a real, emerging talent who doesn’t fit the prima donna mold.

First, he is a talented receiver. At the tender age of 25 he has already cemented his status as a #1 receiver on his team, and a top 10 receiver in the NFL. Marshall has only played two – TWO – full seasons of professional football, but already averages well over 1,100 yards per season in those two years and is a tall yet speedy deep-threat all passing oriented offenses covet. His two years as a starter have produced over 100 catches a season while racking up well over 80-yards per game. It’s even possible to argue that Marshall’s stats would have been even better if not for a terrible running game in Denver during the 2008 season. In other words, Marshall saw a lot of double teams he would not have normally lined up against if the opposing defense had to respect the run. Plus, the great thing about Marshall is his age. He is still three to four years away from reaching his prime, placing his value at an all time high.

Second, he’s not prima donna. Unlike former New York Giants Plaxico Burress (who, besides Terrell Owens, is the most problematic, prototypical prima donna receiver ever) Marshall has never been a problem in the locker room or with the media. His “reasons” for seeking a trade now (and earning his way into this debate) are shaky. In other words, no one in the world believes that Marshall is demanding a pay raise and lacks confidence in the Broncos medical staff. Marshall is simply in an advantageous situation that his agent is trying to make the most of.

Former Denver quarterback Jay Cutler managed to force his way out of town by expressing his extreme displeasure with the new coach and dramatically changed situation. In that state of organizational tumult, Brandon Marshall’s agent, Kennard McGuire, sees an opportunity. McGuire has a roster of clients that includes, among others, Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Shaun Rogers. Rogers is a player who voiced some concerns this off-season about whether the new coaching staff in Cleveland wanted him around, even threatening to seek a trade because he was snubbed at a cocktail party. The obvious conclusion here is that McGuire has a vested interest in creating a situation where he is able to circumvent free agency and team ownership rights. Why would an agent want to do this? To make more money and gain leverage on the league. My point is that it’s not at all fair to judge Marshall as a prima donna when he’s nothing more than a pawn in a highly complex game of chess.

If McGuire is able to pull this trade off and find a situation where a team is able to make the worthwhile sacrifice to bring in Marshall’s talent, they’ll be a contender – immediately and for years to come. Not only will they have a #1 receiving threat with his best years ahead of him (unlike Burress), they will be able to create a more wide-open and balanced offense, and they’ll also have a player who is not the prima donna the media has made him out to be. Win-win-win.


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