Total Incompetence…Usually, you’re fired for that sort of thing.

Most faithful readers will remember my diatribe last year, naming Major League Baseball’s Bud Selig as the worst commissioner in the history of organized sports.

I’ve decided that’s not the case.

There is one that is worse, and he’s running a sport he has no business running. If the powers that be had the sense God gave an orangutan, they’d throw him out on his backside right away.

I’m talking, of course, about NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

First off, he’s just a coward, plain and simple. Most of you will remember the Chicago Blackhawks’ Nicklas Hjalmarsson’s hit on Buffalo Sabres star Jason Pominville that sent one of the NHL’s iron men to the sidelines with a concussion. Amidst the urging of one of the best goalies of this era, Ryan Miller, Bettman had the chance to send a message to NHL enforcers: we will not tolerate hits from behind and hits that can mean serious injury.

Instead, he took the coward’s way out and only suspended Hjalmarsson for two games. Granted, that did bring him back for the return match against the Sabres, but Buffalo knew they couldn’t do anything in retaliation, for fear of getting a longer suspension.

Now, many know me as a Buffalo fan, and might see this as kind of a “homer” view, but put yourself in the skates of the Buffalo Sabres for a moment. You just lost one of your best men to an injury that will most likely sideline him for at least a couple of weeks, and the skater that sidelined him is skating across the ice from you. How is that fair?

The answer: it isn’t.

Second, he’s mismanaged a league that he probably had no business running in the first place.

He’s had two labor disputes in 17 years. Combined, the other commissioners have as many as Bettman does over 36 years combined. (Bud Selig has one (1994), and David Stern has one (1998), as of the writing of this post.)   He just barely eked out a deal in 1994, which wiped out almost half the season. 

In both labor disputes, it seems (to me, at least) that the owners won. The fans certainly didn’t win; they had to deal with shortened seasons, and in the case of 2004, no season at all. The players seemingly had to concede on key things that may have cheated them out of rewards they might have received for their hard work.

In that same vein, let me pose a question for those readers that can remember: How many teams were stationed in Canada before Bettman came to power? The answer: eight (For those of you who couldn’t remember, they are Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Quebec, Ottawa, and Toronto). Next question: how many still exist, in the country where hockey was invented?  Six, as Quebec was moved to Colorado, and Winnipeg was moved to Phoenix.

Call me crazy, but where the Quebec move was pretty smart (the Avalanche have sold out every home game since 1995), the move to Phoenix falls flat on its face.

At least in Winnipeg, you have snow. Meanwhile, you have absolutely no interest in the Coyotes, save a couple thousand die-hard fans. At the same time, they’re hemorrhaging money. There was one logical bid that was given consideration, and that was by Jim Balsillie and Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes (who intended to do the smart thing and move the team to a place that actually has ice, Hamilton, Ontario). However, Bettman decided to do the exact opposite, and made a bid to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix.

Now, if there is interest to bring back both teams, why can’t Bettman go the route of former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and just resurrect the whole franchise with a clean slate? (For those of you who don’t know, that’s what Tagliabue did with the Cleveland Browns back in 1999.) There is obviously interest in that; why doesn’t he do it?

The answer: He wants to have a better hockey presence in the United States, in essence “Americanizing” the sports.

Well, then why not take it to places that make sense, such as Hartford, Connecticut (where he had a team once before, but unlike Phoenix, made no attempt to save it) or maybe (and this is a stretch) Alaska, where they actually have ice you can play on, and you don’t need to go hunting for it!

Now, that’s not to say that these teams don’t have their own problems. However, Bettman has made no attempt to save them. Yet, in a place where they have just barely enough room to hold a regulation rink, Bettman will fight tooth and nail to prevent it from going into Canada, where hockey is actually popular.

The third reason we should boot Bettman is because he completely has lost most of his television viewing audience. They had a great deal with ABC in 1998 which garnered the NHL hundreds of millions of dollars every season. However, when that fell through, they had to sign a deal with NBC, which paid the league nothing and at times only gives lackluster games. They had a chance to make a deal with ESPN, however, they found the offer ($600 million, despite mediocre ratings)  at the time too expensive. Now, most teams have a deal with another network (The Sabres, Rangers and Islanders can all be found on MSG, for example), but otherwise, to watch your team, especially out-of-state,  you have to either hope it’s a Game of the Week on NBC, or hope it’s being featured on the Outdoor Life Network, otherwise known as Versus.

Now,  30-odd teams fighting for two spots on NBC on Sundays is patently ridiculous. The fact that it starts in January is even more ridiculous. NBC could start it when the season starts to keep viewers through the games and right into the football games for a full day of sports. For a sports fan like me, that’s a full day of sports, and it makes for happy hockey fans all across the United States.

However, with Bettman’s lackluster bargaining and absolutely abysmal business decisions, he makes even more sports fans unhappy by basically making watching your favorite hockey team (unless you’re willing to crank out more money for cable) a crapshoot.

Now, I’m not saying that the TV networks aren’t partially to blame, but Bettman started it by pricing himself out of the market, with almost no improving ratings to speak of. $600 million is way too much to be asking for lackluster ratings. He should have kept the TV the way it was, and that’s what probably angered fans the most. If the NFL can keep viewing their games a random mess, why can’t the NHL?

To finish this post, I leave you with a fact. For being part of the proponent toward two lockouts/strikes, being a total coward when it comes to hard hits, and keeping most viewers in the dark when it comes to their favorite teams, Bettman got paid almost $4 million before the lockout, and is currently raking in just $7 million, with $5.5 million being his base salary.

I ask you a question: Would a boss that you work for pay that much for total incompetence?

Usually, you’re fired for that sort of thing.

Thanks to all our readers!

Editor’s note: Sorry this celebratory article is so late, but due to the schedule of my new job, I haven’t been able to get an article up for a little while. Let’s shoot for 10,000 now! -J.M.

As I’m sure most of the readers out there know, McMullen’s Musings has reached and surpassed the 5,000 hit mark!

Since the inception of the blog in March 2009, we’ve brought you the best (and worst) the sports world has to offer:

-From NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics,

-to a questionable punishment of a celebration in South Carolina,

-to a chronicle of Bud Selig’s destruction of Major League Baseball,

-to the disappointing end of a very promising college career for LeGarrette Blount.

5,000 hits…most blogs don’t even get to this point before shutting down. Some are lucky enough to make it this far, and those ones are the ones that have staying power. Without the 5,000+ of you that read this blog, this one would have gone the way of so many other promising blogs. That is why you all deserve a huge thank-you from me.

However, there is still a lot of stupidity going on in the sporting world. Bud Selig still intends to destroy his reputation further by not reversing Armando Galarraga’s one hitter (making it a no-hitter). The BCS still runs rampant, and athletes still don’t think they’re being paid enough.

As long as there are inflated egos in the world of sports, we will be there to pop them.

Thanks again to everybody who has read the blog over the past two years…we hope you will continue to be with us!

The next big goal is 10,000 hits…how soon will we hit that goal? It all depends on you, the reader!

Mark Sanchez was great for the Jets last year, but will he be better this year?

The NFL season is fast approaching, and as always, there are questions that need to be answered before the season starts. This year, there’s so many questions for both conferences, I decided to make them into my favorite kind of test: a true/false exam. We’ll continue (and conclude) with my questions (or rather, statements) for the AFC.

Fact or Fiction- Tim Tebow will replace Kyle Orton in Denver.

Fiction.

Not yet at least…

Over his career, Kyle Orton has been a mediocre quarterback at best, even when he was with the Chicago Bears. While he is the incumbent heading into training camp, the Broncos signed a whole mess of quarterbacks to make the competition exciting.

He needs to have a disastrous training camp to lose the position, and even then, he’s on thin ice. Any slip-up, and someone will replace him, but it won’t be Tim Tebow.

Brady Quinn will probably have the inside track on the second string. He has been relatively good, even though he played second fiddle in Cleveland for his first three seasons. If Orton falters, Quinn will be able to finally prove himself as the best quarterback in Denver.

Tebow needs to hold a clipboard for at least a year before he’ll even be in the running to start. He had a very good offensive line in Florida, and the one in Denver is rebuilding. He’ll have to learn to work under pressure before he can even be considered to start.

Fact or Fiction- Cleveland will contend for the AFC North title.

Fact.

Everybody in the AFC North is hurting, including the powerful Steelers.

The Steelers, for obvious reasons (see question 5), have a wide open quarterback battle for the first four games. Byron Leftwich will be taking over those duties for the time being. He was a pretty good quarterback at Marshall and in Jacksonville, but he hasn’t really played very much, except for mop-up duty in Steeler blowouts. That doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t be bad. However, recent history (aka Troy Polamalu) proves that when a star gets indisposed for a while, the Steelers seem to fall apart.

The Ravens are still relatively good, but they’re aging rapidly. Joe Flacco is youthful, but the rest of the team is getting to be over the hill. They did almost nothing (they did improve the defense in the draft) to serve youth here, and I really don’t like their chances to make it their way through the entire season.

The Bengals aren’t really contenders, with all of their off-the-field distractions. They are all over the place on both sides of the ball, and need at least another year before they’re contenders again. For all those reasons and more, it’s not a stretch to say that the Browns could make a run for the playoffs.

Fact or Fiction- The Jets will replace the Patriots as the best team in the AFC East.

Fact.

The main reason why I think the Jets supplant the Patriots is their youth.

They proved throughout the playoffs last year that they could run with the big dogs in the AFC. Their defense was one of the best in the NFL, and they only got better on both sides of the ball. With a little tweaking from their blitz-heavy package that got them to the AFC Championship, the Jets probably could be the best defense in the NFL.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez looked great as a rookie, despite the numbers, and he can only get better from there. Factor in a pretty soft schedule (five games this year against playoff teams), and the Meadowlands will be celebrating their first AFC East Championship since 2002.

However, don’t think it’ll be a cakewalk, Jets fans. Their rival, the Miami Dolphins, are getting strong as well. Their offense and defense are as strong (maybe slightly weaker) than the powerful Jets, and could give them a run for their money. However, with a much tougher schedule (seven playoff teams to the Jets’ five), I give the edge to the Jets. I think that the AFC East is the best division in the conference this year, so it’s not a stretch to think there will be three playoff teams from there. However, with the aging Patriots and the still-rebuilding Dolphins, I give the East to the Jets.

Fact or Fiction- The Tennessee Titans will return to the AFC elite this season.

Fiction.

They’ll be awfully close, though.

The Titans had an absolutely horrible start to their season last year, losing their first six games before finally gelling and winning eight out of their last 10.

However, their extremely slow start can only be attributed to one thing: injuries. The biggest one was to linebacker Keith Bulluck, which really slowed down the defense. Overall, the Titans had eight players (including a practice squad member) on injured reserve. If the Titans can stay healthy, they will have a shot at getting at least a winning record.

The playoffs are a little iffy, just because there are so many other good teams this year. But, if the Titans can just remain healthy, they certainly won’t be a cakewalk.

Fact or Fiction- The Steelers will be 0-4 when Ben Roethlisberger returns.

Fiction.

The Steelers were floored by the conduct of Ben Roethlisberger this offseason, and now have lost their leader for four games, due to a forced vacation by the NFL.

However, this is not necessarily problematic for Pittsburgh.

Their first four games (home against Atlanta and Tennessee, at Tampa Bay, and back home against Baltimore) are relatively pretty good games to schedule for a hurting team.

They still have a solid defense, bolstered by the return of Troy Polamalu and a defensive line that is still as dominant as they were when they won the Super Bowl five years ago.

They have a running game that can still dominate, even without Willie Parker (who left for greener pastures in Washington). The only thing on the offense that seems a little shaky is the quarterback position. Byron Leftwich has lost that starting edge he had in Jacksonville, but could still help the Steelers in this situation.

 With the soft schedule starting out, I think the Steelers will win three out of the four games without Big Ben, with their only possible loss coming to Baltimore.

 Fact or Fiction- The Raiders will not win more than four games.

Fact.

No matter how many people Al Davis drafts, it’s still not enough.

He could draft the entire USC football team, and they’d probably still wind up going 2-14.

They still need a whole mess of players, and they added to their troubles when they got rid of JaMarcus Russell. Now, they have no solid leader (they got Jason Campbell from the Redskins, but he’s mediocre at best), and their offense looks totally slapped together (with the exception of Darren McFadden, who is the only bright spot on their running game).

Their defense is nothing short of abysmal, with Richard Seymour being the only thing quarterbacks are afraid of.

The Raiders have to hope a couple of teams forfeit games, because that is the only way they are winning more games. At best, they have three games they can conceivably win, and two are against fellow bottom-feeder Kansas City.

Anything higher than that is California dreaming.

Fact or Fiction- The Bills return to respectability this year.

It’s a possibility, but I’m saying fiction for the time being.

The Bills did a great job shoring up their running game, drafting C.J. Spiller to back up Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson. Even with the loss of Terrell Owens, they still have a great receiving corps.

The only problem that plagues the Bills is a lack of leadership at the quarterback position. The Bills bounced back and forth between quarterbacks for most of the season, and that came back and bit them. If they want to contend for the AFC East championship, they need to get some solidarity at that position.

Their defense is very strong, with very good players at every level. If the Bills stay healthy on this side of the ball, they should be one of the best in the conference, if not the league.

However, as was said before (see question 3), they would have to contend with one of the strongest conferences in the AFC, if not the NFL. The Patriots, Dolphins and Jets (see questions 3 and 10) are all very strong teams this year. The Bills will need to establish themselves early to return to their glory days of the early ‘90s, and with three playoff teams early on, I really don’t see that happening.

Fact or Fiction- The AFC South will be a runaway for the Indianapolis Colts.

Fact.

Unfortunately, none of the teams in the AFC South are quite up to the level of the Colts.

 The Houston Texans are the only team that really comes close. They do have the talent to challenge the Colts, but unfortunately, talent will only take you so far. They usually falter around midseason, and recover too late to make the playoffs.

As said before, the Titans (see question 4), still need a little bit of work to make it back to the playoffs. They need to start by taking some of the pressure off their main running back, Chris Johnson. With a little bit more reliance on the passing game, the Titans could possibly challenge for the title. However, it won’t be this season.

The Jaguars are woeful in every sense of the word. Their offense is woeful, with Maurice Jones-Drew being the only bright spot there. Their defense is terrible, but they are getting better. However, in the “what have you done for me lately?” NFL, that isn’t going to win them the AFC South.

The Colts continue to be a really good team, and they won’t be challenged for their division’s playoff spot this year.

Fact or Fiction- With the loss of LaDanian Tomlinson, the Chargers will join the Chiefs and Raiders in the AFC West cellar.

Fact.

It’s not only because of LaDanian, though.

They also lost Antonio Cromartie to the Jets. That leaves Shawne Merriman to anchor the entire Charger defense, and he’ll be hard-pressed to carry that weight alone.

They did shore up their offense, picking up Ryan Mathews in the draft. However, he still needs a couple more years before he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the running game. They do have Darren Sproles, but he’s not exactly a full-time running back.

Factor in a relatively tough schedule (some mediocre teams, with a few playoff teams sprinkled here and there), and the Chargers might be hard-pressed to make it to .500 this year.

Fact or Fiction- There will be a new AFC team in the Super Bowl.

Fact.

That team will be…are you sitting down?

The New York Jets.

The pieces are all in place for a big run in the playoffs. They have a solid offense, bolstered by the signing of LaDanian Tomlinson. He’ll probably play second fiddle to Shonn Greene, but if he shows shades of his glory days in San Diego, the Jets will have no objection to making him the workhorse.

Their defense is absolutely solid, and with the signing of veteran lineman/linebacker Jason Taylor, they got even stronger. The veterans of both groups, especially the defense, have taken the younger players under their wing and given them the tools they need to be dominating.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the Jets took the Colts to the mat in the AFC Championship game. Had it not been for a couple of mistakes, they could have very well gone to Miami. There is no doubt that they have learned from their mistakes, and it will end in an AFC Championship this year.

There you have it…the biggest questions that needed answers in the AFC. Will the Jets be able to improve on their miracle run last year? Will the Steelers be able to survive without Big Ben? You’ll just have to watch the 2010 NFL season to find out!

Sam Bradford may have been the #1 pick, but can he help the Rams all by himself?

The NFL season is fast approaching, and as always, there are questions that need to be answered before the season starts. This year, there’s so many questions for both conferences, I decided to make them into my favorite kind of test: a true/false exam. We’ll start off with my questions (or rather, statements) for the NFC:

1. Fact or Fiction- Sam Bradford will help the Rams break out of the cellar.

Fiction. If this were any other team, I would say fact, but the Rams have way too many problems to be solved with just one draft. They have almost no offensive line to speak of, and any defense worth their salt will be embarrassed not to sack Bradford at least five times.

On top of that, they have almost no options in the running game, so they can’t exactly give Bradford a rest. They have Steven Jackson, but he can only go so far, too. They’ll need to make some more big changes before they can even think about getting back t0 .500. Unless they make a big-time trade for a big-time superstar, there’s no way they can even get third place in the NFC West (and maybe not even then, either).

2. Fact or Fiction- There will be a new NFC representative in the Super Bowl.

Fact. Now don’t get me wrong, the Saints are still a great team, but there are at least three other teams that can dethrone the World Champions: the Vikings, the Cowboys, and the Giants.

Now, the Giants are kind of the black sheep of this group, since their team fell apart mid-season, but their defense is really good. They also have some really good depth, drafting some really good rookies such as Jason Pierre-Paul and Phillip Dillard. It’s kind of a stretch, but if Eli Manning finally puts together a full season of good play, they might be able to come back and make their way into the Super Bowl.

The Vikings will definitely come to seek revenge for their overtime loss in the Superdome. If Brett Favre comes back (see the next question), they are solid at almost every position. They even got stronger by drafting running back Toby Gerhart from Stanford. If everybody stays healthy, the Vikings will definitely contend for the NFC Championship and even the Lombardi Trophy.

The Cowboys have become more solid in their receiving corps, drafting Dez Bryant out of Oklahoma State. The only thing keeping them out of the Super Bowl is their running game, which only consists of Felix Jones, Marion Barber, and Tashard Choice. If they make a trade for a Emmitt Smith-like player ( possibly Ronnie Brown from the Dolphins, which would take a lot that they might not be able to afford), they may be able to dethrone the Saints.

3. Fact or Fiction- Brett Favre will return to football.

 Fact, without question. Brett Favre will not stop until he has won another Super Bowl. He has the tools to do it, but would most likely need to recover quickly from ankle surgery. He is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, and one of the best players ever to strap on a helmet should be able to go out on top with a Super Bowl victory. With all of the protection he has around him to keep him on his feet and healthy, it should be almost a foregone conclusion that he will come back and lead the Vikings to one of the biggest seasons in their history.

4. Fact or Fiction- Aaron Rodgers will take Green Bay to an NFC North Championship. 

 Fiction. Most people are saying that Aaron Rodgers, who replaced Brett Favre in Green Bay, is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. However, one quarterback does not a Super Bowl-winning team make. The Packers need a little bit of work on the offensive line, so that Rodgers gets some protection. Otherwise, the Packers look pretty healthy on both their offense and defense. However, the Vikings (see previous question) are light years ahead of the NFC North. The Pack may be able to capture the Wild Card, but not the NFC North.

5. Fact or Fiction- Donovan McNabb will bring stability to the Redskins. 

Fact. The Redskins have had an absolutely terrible four years under quarterback Jason Campbell, but when they sent him off to Oakland, fans immediately had hope they would be able to get some stability at quarterback. They got exactly that when they got Donovan McNabb. They have most of the weapons to be a playoff contender, and with the possible addition of Brian Westbrook, the Redskins can only go up from their 4-12 record last year. If McNabb stays healthy, they should be able to contend with the Giants for the NFC East title.

6. Fact or Fiction- The Cardinals will take the NFC West race to the last day of the regular season.

 Fiction. The Cardinals really don’t have leadership at quarterback since Kurt Warner retired in the offseason. Matt Leinart really doesn’t have much starting experience, and past that, they don’t really have anything there. The only thing I like about the Cardinals is their receiving corps. They did pick up Joey Porter from the Dolphins, but he’s getting close to past his prime. This will definitely be a rebuilding year for the Cardinals, and I believe a new NFC West champion will be crowned this year (see question 10).

7. Fact or Fiction- The Saints will win the NFC South in a runaway. 

Fact. No one is even close to the Saints in the NFC South. The only one even close to them is the Falcons, who seem like the only other team in the division that has any stability at quarterback. Matt Ryan is good, but they did nothing to create a contingency plan, should he get injured.

The Panthers need at least a year to rebuild, but with Jimmy Clausen, their big draft pick, they should be able to contend in another two or three years.

And the Buccaneers…well, the less said about the Buccaneers, the better. They’re getting better, but need a lot of help. It’ll be a couple years before they contend for a playoff spot, much less the NFC South. So, the Saints will win the NFC South almost by default.

8. Fact or Fiction- The Lions will win more than five games. 

Fiction. Originally I would have said fact here, but then I took a second look at the Lions’ schedule.

To even get to five, the Lions would have to pull off some pretty amazing upsets. They have Green Bay in Week Four, which is already tough enough without it being a division game. Then, between Week Nine and Week 14, they have four games with teams that made the playoffs (New York Jets, Dallas, New England, and Green Bay).

Factor in two games with Chicago (which, depending on how good they are this year, could prove to be tough) and Minnesota (who will be tough this year), plus a tough matchup with Miami (in Week 16, where they might be gunning for a playoff spot, plus a date with the Giants, who will be looking to avenge their meltdown last year, the Lions will be lucky to make five games. Four games seems like a more accurate prediction, at least until they rebuild a little bit more.

9. Fact or Fiction- Michael Vick will start the season for the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Fact. There is no way Kevin Kolb starts this season for the Eagles. In three games this past season, Kolb only averaged an 88 quarterback rating, 148 yards passing, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Compare that to Michael Vick, who appeared in about ten more games, but was a bigger threat to scramble and still pass efficiently. When you also consider the fact that they also have two rookies at the position, if you were Andy Reid, you would probably go with the player that had more game experience. So, essentially, Vick wins this contest by default.

10. Fact or Fiction- The 49ers will be in the playoffs for the first time in a while.

Fact. You have to go way back to when Steve Young was quarterback, throwing to Terrell Owens to find the last time the 49ers made the playoffs. However, I like the 49ers’ chances to make it.

Overall, the Niners have to play five teams that made the playoffs last year: New Orleans (Week Two), Philadelphia (Week Four), Arizona (twice, Week 11 and 17), and San Diego (Week 15). Between that, they only play teams that didn’t place higher than second (Denver in Week Eight, and Atlanta in Week Four) and none of them finished higher than 9-7 (Atlanta was the best with just that record). Otherwise, the 49ers’ schedule is filled with insanely horrible teams.

Most likely, the 49ers will win the NFC West  and make the playoffs for the first time since the mid-‘90s.

So there you have it: what’s fact and what’s fiction in the National Football Conference. Join us again soon when we’ll take a look at the AFC!

In just 25 seconds, 39 years of sports history came crashing down.

A little after 7 in the morning on April 11, God couldn’t see His favorite team through the hole in the roof anymore.

After almost 40 years, Texas Stadium, which became synonymous with “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys, was finally demolished in front of more than 20,000 Cowboy fans and well-wishers (that’s not counting the tears that were shed by those fans, including owner Jerry Jones and his daughter and granddaughter). It was a mainstay in Texas culture for its entire life, playing host to not only Cowboy games, but also a professional soccer franchise (the NASL club Dallas Tornado), a college football team (Southern Methodist before their scandal), and even a Pro Bowl (1973, before the NFL moved the game to Hawaii).

The stadium also hosted religious crusades (a Billy Graham revival opened the stadium), TV shows (the namesake TV show, “Dallas) and even a movie, the Al Pacino flick “Any Given Sunday.”

What I will remember most about Texas Stadium, however, was the Thanksgiving games the Cowboys hosted every year. Cowboy fans would leave their dinner tables and families (or, quite possibly, have a Thanksgiving tailgate dinner) to pack Texas Stadium for a game that would become a mainstay of Thanksgiving. As a matter of fact, our family’s table was always strategically placed so that we would not miss a second of the game.  

Cowboy fans will always remember the great players that came through that stadium: Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin…the list goes on and on. Even as the Cowboys began to decline in victories, over 65,000 people still piled into the stadium to watch their beloved team.

Even if you weren’t a Dallas fan, there were still some memorable moments in that old stadium that you wouldn’t forget for anything in the world. Who could forget Terrell Owens, amid angry shots and catcalls by Cowboy fans, standing on the midfield star? Redskins receiver Santana Moss destroying the Cowboys as new Ring of Honor inductees Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin looked on at Washington’s first victory at the stadium? Donovan McNabb’s third-down conversion that brought the Eagles back from the brink? No matter where you go, someone probably has a story about the stadium.

However, as Willie Nelson once said, “They say that all good things must end.” Unfortunately, progress sometimes has a way of making the end come quicker. Even though there were only 20,000 people there to mourn the end of a great stadium and millions upon millions watching on webcams and YouTube videos all over the world, every single person who saw the demolition of Texas Stadium will carry with them the memories they had of the stadium. They can also be optimistic that in Cowboys Stadium, the new stadium in Arlington, they, along with the Cowboys, can (and in some cases, already have) make some new memories and tell their children and grandchildren  (and so on down the line) about all the good times they had there as well.

Rest in peace and in pieces, Texas Stadium.

Florida may have sneaked into the tournament, but did they win any awards?

Well, the field of 65 has been decided, and the pundits are already questioning the sanity of the selection committee. But in my opinion, the selection of this field cannot go away until we hand out some awards. Having said that, welcome to McMullen’s Musings’ first annual Selection Sunday Awards! On top of that, at the end, I’ll provide  my prediction for the championship game. So, without further ado, let’s hand out some awards!

The Miracle on Hardwood Award: This award goes to the #16 seed who could become the first one ever to defeat a #1 seed. To quote Al Michaels, “Do you believe in miracles?”

This award goes to: East Tennessee State (vs. Kentucky). They really didn’t do very well against ranked opponents this year, losing to Louisville and Tennessee. They were in this situation last year, playing Pitt hard for 36 minutes before finally losing by 10. If their defense can hold superstars John Wall and Demarcus Cousins from systematically picking them apart, they should be able to hold their own, if not pull off a miracle.

The Dentist’s Chair Award: This award goes to the #1 seed who has the toughest road to the Final Four. This doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t make it to the Final Four, but it won’t be easy to get there, like…well, like pulling teeth.

This award goes to: Kentucky. They’ll have to play tough teams all the way through. They’d most likely have to play a very underrated Texas team in the second round and a very good Temple team in the Sweet Sixteen. To top it all off, if they get through all that, they’d most likely have to play a New Mexico team that has flown under the radar all season. If they get to the Final Four (which, in my personal bracket, they don’t), it will be well-deserved.

Concorde Award: This award goes to the team with the easiest road to the Final Four. Like riding in the Concorde, it will be an easy, fast, and comfortable ride to where you’re going, in this case, the National Championship. Like most planes, it is possible to crash and burn, but in this case, it is highly unlikely.

This award goes to: Syracuse. The only team that could concievable give the Orange a hard time is their Elite Eight matchup, which could be, if we were playing chalk, Pittsburgh or Kansas State. Either one could give coach Jim Boeheim fits, but the Orange are dominant on both sides of the ball (although they haven’t shown it lately). If center Arinze Onuaku gets healthy before their first round game in Buffalo, the Orange should breeze through the East en route to the Final Four.

House of Cards award: This award goes to a high seed, deserved or not, that could be up for a big fall if the cards don’t fall their way. In a way, you might say that their hopes of making a Final Four is as flimsy as…well, as a house of cards.

This award goes to: #4 seed Purdue. The Boilermakers will be making a big mistake if they look past thirteenth-seeded Siena. The Saints are a very dangerous team that are better than their record shows. They have one of the best players that you’ve never heard of in Edwin Ubiles. With a starting five that averages almost 14 points per game, Purdue would behoove themselves not to look past the Loudonville (NY) Miracle.

One Shining Moment Award: This award is named after the theme song to the NCAA Tournament, played by Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, and now Jennifer Hudson (Why? If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!…But that’s another article). This award goes to the first-round game that I think will be the most exciting in the tournament, and therefore, defines the tournament, just like the song.

This award goes to: #4 Purdue vs. #13 Siena. This matchup pits two teams that like to grind it out and pull it out in the last few minutes, as they proved in their respective conference tournaments. They are two pretty good defensive teams, with the talent to make a relatively long tournament run (possibly getting through the first weekend). When it all goes down, I like the Saints to move on to the second round and establish themselves as a force to be reckined with.

George Mason Award: This award goes to a team (no matter what seed) that no one thinks will win the tournament, but has the talent to make a long tournament run. Just like the 2005-06 Patriots, if you look past this team, you will be sorry, and more important, making an early exit from the tournament.

This award goes to: #5 Temple. The Owls play in the same bracket as Dentist’s Chair winner Kentucky, and now you see the reasoning behind it. They have a good amount of talent, led by three-point bomber Juan Fernandez. They have a pretty effective defense, which should become even stronger later in the game, and lock down their opponents once they get desperate (and start shooting threes). If their defense locks down, they should make a big run in the tournament, possibly even make a run to the Elite Eight.

The Snake in the Grass Award: You might have seen this award from my predictions last year. This award goes to a team that snuck into the tournament, without much explanation or much of a resume. Like a snake in the grass, they’ve, for some reason, made their way into the tournament out of…nothing at all.

This award goes to: Florida. What was the selection committee drinking when they picked Florida over Mississippi State? They went 2-5 against ranked opponents, they lost to Mississippi State in the SEC tournament, and otherwise doesn’t have a single win against another quality opponent! Mississippi State made it into the finals and took Kentucky to overtime (!!!), but got snubbed (more on that later). There is absolutely no reason for Florida to be there, and they’ll most likely be beaten by 20 points against BYU. The committee should be ashamed, and committee head Dan Guerrero should be fired for this pick.

Biggest Snub: Mississippi State. Dan Guerrero could not have made a worse selection than keeping the Bulldogs out of the tournament. They didn’t do anything but go out there and win, but the selection committee apparently doesn’t like people who win. They obviously had the talent to get in, but didn’t, and Guerrero’s explanation for the whole thing was:

“The possibilities are intriguing when you think about regular-season champions getting into the field, in addition to postseason. That wouldn’t cheapen the regular season, it would make it more exciting. There’s an opportunity to evaluate all those kind of things and see what the impacts might be.” -from Yahoo Sports, in response to Dick Vitale’s complaint about the field.

Who says the Bulldogs wouldn’t give us an exciting NCAA tournament? They certainly gave us an exciting SEC final, taking Kentucky to overtime! To snub them is nothing short of deplorable, and Dan Guerrero should just retire in shame now.

Worst Seeding: #6 Marquette. The Golden Eagles had almost nothing in their non-conference schedule that should jump out at anyone, and their conference schedule shouldn’t impress anyone either. They barely squeaked out a win against Villanova, then got crushed (by 23!) by Georgetown, who is a #3 seed. This is not the resume for a #6 seed. At best, Marquette should be a #10 seed and a #13 seed at worst, because more than likely, they’ll be crushed by Washington in the first round. On top of that, eleven losses overall and seven losses in the Big East should not get you a ticket even to the NIT.

The award for Best Seed in the the Tournament goes to: #5 Temple. The Owls blew through a very strong Atlantic-10 (three ranked teams, including Richmond and Xavier), and finished the A-10 Tournament on a 10-game winning streak. They have a massive amount of talent, and sneaked up on a lot of analysts. The only thing against the Owls is their record against the Top 25 (1-2, with losses to Georgetown and Kansas, and a win against Villanova). However, that record is pretty deceiving, because they did keep Georgetown close before losing by one. Expect the Owls to make a huge run at the championship, even upsetting super-team Kentucky.

As an added bonus, I will give you my prediction for this year’s championship game:

Syracuse over Duke, 89-72. While Duke is obviously loaded with talent, Syracuse is equally loaded with talent. They have the defense to wear down the Blue Devils, and the scoring to pull away once Duke is tired. Syracuse pulls away in the second half, and celebrates a national championship, Orange-style.

There you have it…the first annual Selection Sunday Awards. Will the Orange come up with the trophy? Will Temple make a big run? Will a Cinderella win a glass slipper? You’ll just have to watch to find out!

If you like hockey, you sure aren't going to see it on the NBC stations.

Like hockey? You certainly won't see it on the NBC affiliates.

Normally, I enjoy watching the Olympics, no matter what season it is. I enjoy the thrill of watching the USA try to dominate other nations most people have never heard of. I also enjoy watching Joe Everyman from some small country (where, incidentally, he is the only athlete participating for his country) turn out to be a crazy good athlete and destroy everybody in a massive upset.

However, something has completely ruined my watching experience this time around: NBC’s coverage of the Games.

There are four big reasons why NBC has totally ruined my Olympic TV experiences:

Mismanaging Event Coverage: As most of you know, I am a big hockey fan. My excitement toward the Olympic hockey tournament was multiplied tenfold by the inclusion of Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller to the American team. When the Olympic coverage started two weeks ago, I was very excited to see Team USA dominate the early rounds. What did I get? I got figure skating, snowboarding and the luge. While two of those are problematic, but not necessarily bad, figure skating was the icing on the cake. All in all, through the first few days of the games, I got to see two games on NBC: the entire Russia/Slovakia game (which probably nobody outside of those two countries cared about) and five minutes of coverage when Team USA beat Canada; the rest of the games were covered on the USA network.

It’s embarrassing to take the sport that will bring the most eyes to your network and put it on a network that quite a few people can’t get without a satellite dish. Most people turn to the Olympics to watch the hockey tournament, among other things, and taking it off the network that will give it the most exposure is not only a bad business decision, but really, really bad for your ratings.

No Respect for the Dead: The death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was a very tragic incident that probably could have been avoided. Unfortunately, NBC made the grevious mistake of showing footage of the accident. That was totally uncalled for, and showed absolutely no respect for the family of the late luger. To me, it seemed like a cheap attempt at ratings by playing on the feelings of their viewers. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, and resulted in quite a large media backlash.

I really don’t watch luge all that much, but I do know that this incident rocked the sport right down to its foundation. It was a very insensitive move by NBC, and I would hope that there will be some punishment from the FCC, if not the IOC itself. It was insensitive, heartless, and had absolutely no place on TV or anywhere else. Even in a world of paparazzi and entertainment news out the wazoo, there should at least be some standard of integrity. It’s time to straighten up and fly right, before no one trusts the media at all.

Running Out of Time?: When NBC covered the Summer Olympics, it seemed like the coverage was endless. Granted, there are quite a few more events in the summer than in the winter, but that didn’t stop NBC from overanalyzing every single event until we actually begged for something else. What happened at the Winter Games? Four hours of event coverage and analysis at a time, and that was it. Then, you get four hours in the evening, which is usually dedicated to figure and speed skating, a slight bit of analysis, then you get the earlier events from 2 to 5 in the morning.

What’s wrong with this picture? You have an untold number of sportscasters, including gleaning some commentators from the news department, and not one of them can provide any further analysis? Even Cris Collinsworth, who looks so out of place, it’s not even funny? I would assume there has to be some sort of analysis that somebody can give to the subjects given. This is where NBC really drops the ball. I’m interested in what these people have to say about these athletes, but so little time is given to them that it only allows for the most basic of analyses.

Where’s the Sports?: Another branch of the NBC tree, Universal Sports, was created solely for…well, sports. Usually providing sports appropriate for the season (including lacrosse and polo every now and then), it’s actually a pretty good station, and one benefit of the mandated switch to digital TV. However, once the Olympics rolled around, what happened?

 Universal Sports was turned into the outlet where the commentators could overanalyze everything…nothing but 24-hour analysis, with a couple hours of random sports from a bygone era (usually originally aired a couple of months before the Olympics, and even including some Olympic Trials). Why couldn’t we have this channel show some of the hockey tournaments and other things (such as curling), being that it is a sports network? This is not a good use of NBC’s resources, and is a patently ridiculous way to push a virtually ignored (but not exactly bad) channel even further into the background.

NBC should be extremely ashamed with their coverage of this year’s Olympics, for these four reasons and many, many others. The Olympics, especially the Winter version, are a showcase for athletes that play sports that are widely ignored. However, NBC drove this showcase of athletic prowess right into the ground, not only for ratings (that were all right at best), and it stunk because of it. Memo to NBC: you need to go back to the drawing board before the Winter Olympics is the laughingstock of all sporting events.

The fate of these athletes’ livelihood may depend on it.