Australian Rules Football is Perfect for an American Audience

As the popularity of soccer is soaring in America following the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Americans are increasingly opening up to sports other than the “Big 4”. Although soccer, by far the world’s most popular sport, is finally finding an American audience, several complaints about the game remain. Americans still seem to find soccer somewhat boring due to its low scoring, and apparent lack of toughness. In America, where we have basketball scores in the hundreds, and football hits that end players’ careers, some find soccer too “European” and foreign. It is for these reasons that another import sport, Australian rules football, could potentially overtake soccer in America if marketed correctly.

Australian rules football is an extremely fast paced game that would be best described to American sports fans as a mixture between basketball, soccer and American football. The game has existed in its modern form since the 1850s, longer than soccer or baseball. A match consists of four 20 minute quarters, with stoppage time added to the end of each quarter, and is played on a large oval shaped field with four goal posts on each end of the ground. If the ball is kicked through the center posts, a goal worth six points is scored, and if it passes through the outer two posts, a behind worth one point is scored. Players are allowed to kick or tap the ball with a closed fist or open hand to teammates, but cannot pass the ball. Players are allowed to run with the ball, but must dribble it at least once every 50 feet.

Aussie rules is easy to pick up, as positions are fluid, and players roam the entire field, unlike soccer, where attacks by defenders are rare. The game moves fast, and because there are no goalkeepers, goals are abundant, with scores often approaching and broaching the hundred point threshold. Aussie rules also is extremely physical, with bone jarring hits a common sight welcomed by fans and coaches alike. There is constant movement with little stoppage between plays. The game requires great endurance, athleticism and unique skill sets such as good hands and solid footwork. The skills often transfer over to American football, as players such as Darren Bennett and Sav Rocca have carved out successful NFL punting careers following their AFL retirements.

Although to date, Australian rules football has been largely confined to the island continent where it was conceived, it has begun to spread internationally. ESPN airs several matches live on Saturday nights, and also shows matches on their broadcasting website, ESPN360.com. There is also a professional American league, the USAFL, and many college clubs.

As Americans open up to new sports, and with the ability to expand coverage thanks to the internet and satellite television, Australian rules football is sure to receive a bump in popularity in America. And when it does, you can say that you heard about it here first.

YouTube clip: Big Bumps of the AFL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BOzQwj4fSE

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Call Me a Pessimist…

But here’s why each team in the NFL WON’T win the Super Bowl this year.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills: There are NCAA teams that could beat the Bills. They don’t have a QB and their defense couldn’t stop offenses if they knew what play was coming. At least they have decent running back depth. Too bad their offensive line can’t block for them.

Miami Dolphins: Even with the addition of Brandon Marshall, the Dolphins still don’t have a proven passing game. Chad Henne is the guy who helmed the Michigan Wolverines against Appalachian State.

New England Patriots: Age is beginning to catch up with Patriots.Tom Brady didn’t look quite the same after a knee injury. Laurence Maroney just might be the worst starting running back in the league.They aren’t allowed to film other team’s plays anymore.

New York Jets: The Jets are the trendy preseason pick. That’s never a good sign. They cut their starting running back and replaced him with a way over the hill LaDainian Tomlinson. Mark Sanchez led the conference in interceptions last year. Who knows if Rex Ryan will be the same when he’s hungry.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco no longer has any excuses to not produce at a high level. The Ravens defense qualifies for the AARP.

Cincinnati Bengals: Since when have the Bengals been known to repeat a successful performance? Can Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco’s egos fit in the same room until February? Can Carson Palmer stay healthy?

Cleveland Browns: Why won’t the Browns win the Super Bowl? Is that a serious question?

Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashard Mendenhall is a decent but not great running back. Ben Roethlisberger will spend the toughest part of the Steelers’ schedule on the bench for “indiscretions”. Their defense is no longer good enough to carry them.

AFC South

Houston Texans: They were below average in pass coverage last year and lost their best corner. You have to do better than 8-8 to win the Super Bowl.

Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning is a great player but he’s not known for postseason heroics. Their defense is also pretty terrible.

Jacksonville Jaguars: When people are talking more about the chances your team will move to London than how they will do this year, you’re probably not headed for a very successful season.

Tennessee Titans: Because you have to have something resembling a passing game to win in the playoffs. And a running back coming off a 350 carry season generally sees a drop in production.

AFC West
Denver Broncos: In the past two offseasons, the Broncos have: fired their best coach ever, traded their best quarterback since John Elway, traded a wide receiver coming off a third consecutive 100 catch 1000 yard season, and drafted a quarterback best known for loving Jesus.

Kansas City Chiefs: There’s always a chance the Chiefs could win it this year. There’s always a chance that Shakira will divorce her husband for me, as well.

Oakland Raiders: If you need me to tell you why the Raiders won’t win the Super Bowl, you’re beyond help.

San Diego Chargers: I’ll take teams known for choking in the playoffs for 500, Alex.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: This is the Cowboys year, seriously! (We were just kidding in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009)

New York Giants: The Giants have a decent team. But you don’t win Super Bowls with decent teams, you win it with great ones.

Philadelphia Eagles: Who knows, the Eagles could finally win it this year. Donovan McNabb is bound to win it even- what’s that? They traded him? To a division rival? And they’re going to start a completely unproven player in his place? What the…

Washington Redskins: Because if Donovan McNabb gets hurt (and you know it’s going to happen at some point with that offensive line) their quarterback is Rex Grossman.

NFC North

Chicago Bears: Jay Cutler doesn’t always throw interceptions, but when he does, he prefers to throw them in the red zone.

Detroit Lions: The Lions won’t win the Super Bowl this year because pigs still can’t fly.

Green Bay Packers: Who knows how great of a quarterback Aaron Rodgers could be if his offensive line gave him time to throw the ball.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings may make the Super Bowl, but they won’t win it. It’s karma for Brett Favre.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons: If the Falcons’ defense steps up and improves this year they have a chance at making the playoffs. That’s a long way from winning the Super Bowl.

Carolina Panthers: They have a great running game, and… absolutely no passing game to speak of. This team will miss Julius Peppers more than you think.

New Orleans Saints: I’ll believe the days of the Aints are over when I see it.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This team’s offense has more power outages than Enron.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals will have to choose between Derek Anderson and Matt Leinart as their quarterback. Is there a neither option?

St. Louis Rams: lol

San Francisco 49ers: Their quarterback is Alex Smith, and if you think a team from the NFC West will win the Super Bowl, I’ve got some lovely riverside property in Brooklyn to sell you.

Seattle Seahawks: Now that all of his players are getting paid instead of just the best ones, will Pete Carroll be able to have the same success?

 

5 NBA rookies to keep an eye on in 2010-11

1. Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers- that’s right, the #1 overall pick in the 2009 draft is the top rookie in the 2010 season. After missing the 2009-10 season with a knee injury, the 21 year old will make his professional debut this year, and will be considered a rookie. At 6’10” and 250 lbs, the power forward will provide an immediate improvement to Los Angeles’ other team’s frontcourt. Griffin is an elite rebounder who averaged 15.8 per game during his sophomore season at Oklahoma. Griffin also displayed above average passing skills, with the ability to kick the ball out to open shooters on the perimeter. But the most exciting part about Griffin is his ability to run the floor at his size. On a team that features Baron Davis and Eric Gordon, Griffin will certainly fit right in, and give the Clippers one of the most exciting offensive attacks in the league this year. And although he didn’t play at all last year, Griffin got the unique opportunity to adjust and adapt to the grueling NBA schedule. Expect Griffin to get plenty of touches, and look for him to help the Clippers make a turn around and potentially contend for the last playoff spot in the West.
2. John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards- generally the top pick in the NBA draft is the top pick for rookie of the year, but due to the situation with Griffin, Wall might not be the favorite. That said, this young man is an electrifying basketball player. Wall is faster with the ball than most players are without. Usually when a young player goes at such high speeds, you worry about turnovers and poor decisions, but Wall has demonstrated an ability to maintain control. Wall will immediately be one of the elite finishers above the rim in the NBA, but the reason why he is below Griffin in these rankings is his shaky jump shot. That said, the only real issue with his shot is how flat it is, which can be easily fixed with repetition and practice, something the coaching staff will certainly give him. With the talent void on this roster, expect the Wizards to put him in position to make plenty of plays, and he should be a player to keep an eye on.
3. Greg Monroe, F/C, Detroit Pistons- last year, the Pistons departed from their defensive mindset that earned them six straight trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, and the result was a forgettable season that netted them the seventh overall pick. With that pick, they took this extremely talented center from Georgetown. Watching Monroe, at times you might think his unorthodox jump shot and somewhat clumsy style would result in frustrating turnovers and generally poor play, but Monroe has made it work. The 6’11” Monroe has a versatile offensive arsenal, with the ability to play back to the basket, or face up and shoot over less athletic big men. The most impressive thing about Monroe is his advanced passing and ballhandling skills, which at his size draws comparisons to Lamar Odom. The Pistons are deep in the middle of a rebuilding project, and with very little other talent in the frontcourt, Monroe should be a top option on offense.
4. DeMarcus Cousins, F/C, Sacramento Kings- Cousins goes from a young and promising Kentucky Wildcats team to a young and promising team in Sacramento. He will be paired with another one of John Calipari’s one and doners in 2010 Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans. At 7 feet, Cousins’ athletic ability is nothing short of amazing. Cousins’ outstanding footwork in the post will mean that his game will translate well to the professional ranks. Cousins will get a chance to learn from veteran defensive standout Samuel Dalembert, although there will be little for him to learn about crashing the boards. Cousins and Evans should form an extremely potent inside-outside combination, and watch out for a dangerous fast break in California’s capitol this year.
5. Xavier Henry, G/F, Memphis Grizzlies- Henry is one of the more intriguing selections of the NBA draft. Memphis already has a young rising star at shooting guard in OJ Mayo, and a franchise player they recently gave a max contract to at small forward in Rudy Gay. So why they would select Henry left many puzzled. Henry’s playing time might not be as consistent as the players listed before him, but his game may be more suited to the NBA than any other rookie guard besides Wall. Henry is a lights out shooter, and when he plays with focus, can be a shutdown defender. In addition, Henry’s likely spot on the bench could be exactly what he needs to develop as an NBA player. Despite his natural talent, Henry struggled for long stretches at Kansas, and with the attention focused elsewhere in Memphis, he has the perfect opportunity to focus on improving his game.

Potential vs. Production: The NFL Scouting Combine

In recent years, the NFL Scouting Combine has become one of the biggest offseason events outside of the draft itself, with live coverage on NFL Network, and extensive analysis on ESPN. College players from BCS conferences, powerhouse Division 1-AA schools and Division III afterthoughts alike come together to showcase their athletic ability for scouts from all 32 teams. Teams look for 40 yard dash speedsters, bench press studs and broad jump surprises. Inevitably, every year a player wows everyone with a standout performance, jumping their stock from mid-round pick to can’t miss first rounder.

But is this really the best way to evaluate draft prospects? After all, athleticism is only one aspect of the game. A wide receiver may be able to run a 4.2 40, but not be able to catch the ball or run a route (Darrius Heyward-Bey, I’m looking at you). A quarterback may be able to fire a ball 70 yards, but that doesn’t mean he can throw it on target from 15 yards (cough, JaWalrus Russell, cough). A defensive end may put up 35 bench reps and still have no clue how to get to the quarterback (Vernon Gholston was unavailable for a comment).

Even the position specific drills intended to get some sense of on-field abilities have shown to be unreliable. There is a difference between being able to hit a receiver without pads or a defense and being able to hit a receiver in stride in a game.

Modern players also spend hours upon hours prepping for the combine. And why not? If a mediocre college player can bump their stock just by putting in a few months training to improve a few athleticism tests, why waste your time on more difficult things like learning how to read NFL defenses?

So why do football’s greatest minds appear to put so much stock into an apparently worthless exercise? The answer comes down to a single word, one that elicits different responses from all sports fans: potential. The combine allows executives to justify their seemingly questionable picks by slapping the label of potential stars onto their newest players. Yeah, he’s going to sit on the bench and not contribute for a few years, but he could potentially be great in a few years! Just look at his bench press!

But if the draft combine isn’t the best way to evaluate players before you invest millions in them, what is? Simple: executives have increasingly moved beyond watching film. That’s right: the best way to tell if a player has talent is to watch him play football! What a revelation, huh?

Scouts will tell you how undersized, unathletic players can dominate against college competition but won’t be able to handle the NFL.They’ll tell you how players are bigger, better and stronger. But what they fail to realize is that there is no test for the most important intangible in football: heart. You can’t use a stopwatch to measure it.It’s only visible in game tapes. Players like Elvis Dumervil, Drew Brees and T.J. Houshmandzadeh lack prototypical NFL size and/or athleticism, but they make up for it with their work ethic and desire to be the best players on the field. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is something you just can’t put a number on.

Brett Favre takes nap, ESPN to run special

According to sources, Vikings’ 40 year old QB Brett Favre took a 30 minute nap today following his press conference to announce his return to professional football. In commemoration of this momentous event, ESPN announced they will run an hourlong special later tonight. Join Stuart Scott, Linda Cohn and Mike Golic for this program that you surely won’t want to miss!

The special will feature a look back on some of the famous naps from Favre’s career, including his infamous 45 minute snooze following his Super Bowl XXXI victory, and his 15 minute siesta after his first retirement. There will also be analysis from some of Favre’s former teammates about how his naps compare to the all-time greats. Is Favre’s 10 minute power nap during the halftime of the 2010 NFC Championship Game a better performance than Troy Aikman’s 8 minute doze before the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXX? Ed Werder will bring you the real story!
All proceeds from the advertising for this special will go to the Boys and Girls Club of America.

What’s the real story behind agents in college football?

Everywhere you turn in the college football world this offseason, it seems like you’re hearing about agents more than ever. It started in June, when the NCAA handed down an unprecedented punishment to USC for violations involving Reggie Bush and an agent in 2005. Next came allegations that North Carolina tackle Marvin Austin and South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders (among others) had attended a pool party in Miami, Florida which was funded by agents. Then came the rants from Alabama coach Nick Saban and LSU coach Les Miles about how agents are everything that is wrong with college football today. And of course, to top it all off, in typical fashion, Bob Ley and Outside the Lines followed suit with a overly dramatic fluff piece that was replayed on every ESPN show at least 15 times.

But the real question is: why is this such a big story all of a sudden? Is it because agents have suddenly seized upon these poor, innocent college student-athletes? This would seem to be the case, if it weren’t for the fact that agents have been in contact with college athletes for decades (see: Cris Carter in 1987).
So what’s the real story? Well, it may start on the infamous blue turf of Boise State’s Bronco Stadium, or under the big blue sky at Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium. As midmajors such the Broncos and Utes have become consistent football powerhouses, the “issue” of college athletes has similarly rose.
That’s right- agents and college athletes are simply a cover for college football’s biggest problem: it’s lack of a postseason. Whoever is directing the marketing department at the NCAA should get a promotion. The 2009 college football season presented a huge problem for the NCAA and its’ BCS system. Two non-BCS schools (Boise State and Texas Christian University) finished undefeated, presenting a major dilemma. The masses of college football fans wanted (rightfully) a shot for them to earn a national championship. But this would disturb the longstanding system of BCS domination. So, the NCAA stuck them into another BCS Bowl, and decided to put the issue off until the offseason.
At first, they tried conference realignment. But when this failed to divert the media and fan’s attention from the lack of a playoff, the NCAA knew they needed to try something else. So, the USC investigation, long on the backburner due to its relatively minuscule importance, became the number one topic at the NCAA offices. It was as if an epidemic had been born overnight. Because it had.
Don’t get me wrong, agents should not be having contact with amateur athletes. Although it ultimately isn’t as morally wrong as the media has made it out to be, it is still illegal, and the agents know they are jeopardizing these athletes’ futures. But the issue of agents is one that can be put aside until we solve the real problem with the NCAA.

United States World Cup Preview

The United States national soccer team enters the 2010 FIFA World Cup as a longshot to win, but with plenty of support from the home fans. The team is currently ranked 14th in the world, and has a somewhat favorable draw in Group C. Although the team will open up this weekend with a tough game against the Three Lions of England, Algeria (ranked 30th) and Slovenia (25th) give the US squad a great chance of advancing to the second round.

England also has several issues. Superstar David Beckham, who suffered a torn Achilles Tendon, will not play in his fourth World Cup. Beckham’s absence will not only be felt on the field, where he is an outstanding player, but off it, where he is one of England’s most veteran players and a leader. In addition, Theo Walcott, a member of the 2006 World Cup squad, was left off the team. The 21 year old will miss a valuable chance to gain experience as he will likely be a future mainstay of the Three Lions.
The United States also boasts one of its strongest squads of all time. Everton’s star goaltender, Tim Howard, will man the goal for the USA. Howard is a long time veteran of the English Premier League, and has seen many of the players in the Cup before. This invaluable experience will surely give the Americans an edge. In addition, young stars such as Edson Buddle and Jozy Altidore give the US speed, as well as excellent goal scoring ability.
Although the USA is a longshot to win the entire tournament, with a good draw (Slovenia and Algeria are both even longer shots to win, and England is in somewhat of disarray), they have a very good chance to advance to the second round or even the quarterfinals. So tune in this Saturday and watch as the USA takes its shot at history.