Who am I?

I'm from Houston, a graduate of the University of Texas, a fan of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans. But this blog will be about the "greater sports", whatever that means.

Follow me on Twitter: @lhd_on_sports

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LHD_PotW (130) MLB (69) NFL (61) NCAA (41) NBA (35) NHL (26) NFL Playoffs (24)
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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sportsman of the Week Ending 7/27/2014

In what was supposed to be a wide-open Tour de France General Classification competition, this week's Sportsman made it look easy.  Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) was the first to make his mark on the Alps mountain stages, then punctuated an easy (7+ minute) victory by dominating the remaining competition in the Pyrenees.  One by one, main competitors either crashed out (Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Andrew Talansky) or couldn't keep up (Tejay Van Garderen, Alejandro Valverde, Richie Porte).  Not only that, he also finished fourth in the Time Trial, not his normal discipline.  Never looking stressed, he managed to win four stages throughout the tour (2, 10, 13, and 18), coasting ahead of French riders Jean-Christophe PĂ©raud  and Thibaut Pinot who finished second and third respectively.  Taming 2,200 miles over two mountain ranges and nearly lapping the competition, Vincenzo Nibali is the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sportsman of the Week Ending 7/20/2014

There may be an heir apparent to the likes of Palmer, Nicklaus, and Woods and he demonstrated his prowess this week at The Open Championship in England.  Briton Rory McIlroy once again showed all the tools that have many golf analysts thinking "how does this guy not win more?"  McIlroy displayed a consistent 66-66-68-71 (all under par) to register his third major (in three different events) before the age of 26.  McIlroy never seemed flustered, his higher score on Sunday was more a product of simply needing to register pars and the occasional birdie rather than attack.  And he won by two strokes. The Masters remains the one major he hasn't won (finished Top 10 this year).  He will be a top 3 favorite (if not the favorite) next year in Augusta.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Why "The Decision" was so wrong and so right for LeBron James

Looking back four summers, one of the most controversial free agent moves in any sport was executed by then Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James.  Stringing along several teams, he decided to make his Decision one of public record.  Being aired on ESPN for 30 minutes.  Despite promises to the contrary, the episode (literal and figurative) drug out for 25 minutes before he shamelessly surrounded himself with youngsters, then declared he was leaving his home state and the team that invested their number one pick in him, for a quick title fix in Miami, joining an already winning team and two superstar players.  It was a cop out.  I was fed up with the process, swore off the NBA, and realized that it can be a sham when players just decide who joins who to win, vs. loyalty to a hometown team.  Mind you, I'm neither from Cleveland or Miami or really a big NBA fan.

Now let's fast forward four years and analyze what has happened.  In the four seasons LeBron played for the Miami Heat, the team averaged 59 wins per season (if you assume 82 games and their winning percentage), won four Eastern Conference titles, and two NBA Championships.  They rendered the other 14 teams in the East as the Harlem Globetrotters do to the Washington Generals.  Mind you, those teams and the NBA collected all their revenue for playing in a fixed scenario.  Only strong teams from the Western Conference could split four NBA Finals, with all opponents coming from the Texas/Oklahoma corridor.

And now, in case you hadn't heard (because you're an alien), LeBron goes back to the Cleveland Cavaliers.  The announcement of "The Decision #2" was relagated to an essay.  Followed by a surprise deal for only two seasons.  With a verbal commitment that he is a Cavalier for life.  Should we believe him? Yes.  He played the system.  He and the Cavaliers benefited.  And here's why.

The Decision was an unequivocal failure (Credit: Getty)

1) The Cleveland Cavaliers were better off.
How can I say that!?!?  They went from averaging 64 wins in LeBron's last two seasons there, to 64 wins total the next three years!  One answer.  Draft picks.  LeBron quickly realized that finishing way out of the lottery he would never get a high draft pick sidekick to play beside.  So he had three choices.  Recruit a top free agent to Cleveland, join other stars somewhere else, or keep not winning titles.  He opted for #2.  Don't knock the recruit thing, Kobe recruited Shaq, Jordan recruited Rodman, Pierce recruited Allen and Garnett.  He just felt like he needed to go somewhere else.  Had he stayed on the Cavs, they would have been just good enough to NOT get any impact draftees.  But probably not that much better without a big free agent (or probably 2 or 3).  Meanwhile, after The Decision, the Cavaliers, mainly due to their ineptitude with LeBron, have added an unprecedented five picks within the Top 4 of the last four drafts.  That's five very young and talented players.  To go with James, who is still just 29.

With Kyrie Irving (L) and Tristan Thompson (R), the Cavaliers have reloaded


2) LeBron had to win a title sooner than later
Today's media and fandom put way too much emphasis on a title.  Is Dan Marino not a good QB b/c he didn't win one?  Is Jim Kelly no good because Scott Norwood couldn't make a field goal?  Is Tony Gwynn lousy because he never had any star players around him?  No, no, and no.  LeBron is the best player of this generation (debate ever) but somehow the media and fans still say he hasn't won enough titles.  They put up memes with MJ, Kobe, Magic, Bird and all their rings.  Those guys played with superstars.  LeBron's sidekick in Cleveland was Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao.  Seriously.  So if those are the rules, LeBron will play by them.  Add Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade (two All-Stars, but not mega superstars) and he dominates.  Two titles out of four is nothing to sneeze at.  That threesome was no more stacked than Bird/McHale/Parish, or Magic/Worthy/Kareem, or Jordan/Pippen/Rodman (or even Grant).  He realized "I have to win a title, and this is the way I can do it.  Now."  Well played.

The media says he has to win a title to be important. Okay. Now what?

So now LeBron finds himself on the team that drafted him, his hometown team, and positioned to win those titles "on his own" that he gets so much criticism for not doing.  Both sides needed a break and they're both better off for it.

The downside was the fans.  Cleveland fans felt stung by his departure.  Fans have loyalties to teams for their entire life, players until their next contract is up.  It didn't feel right.  LeBron had no ties to Miami.  It was cheap and they felt used.  Now it's Miami fans that are hurt.  He used the franchise like toilet paper.  Got his titles (and legacy) and ran.  Now they're stuck with a Chris Bosh (and maybe Dwyane Wade) led team that won't come close.  In today's NBA, you can't get by with only two superstars.  Because somewhere else, three guys are joining forces.

Fans may forgive, but may never forget (Reuters/Landov; AP)

The NBA also loses in all this.  Fans like to see great players play together, but the league needs thirty healthy franchises.  And they have about 4 that could win a title any given year, another 4 or 5 that might make a run.  And 21 who are just a joke.  Because they don't have any player like those aligning at the top.  Why even bother in Phoenix or Minnesota or Charlotte or New Orleans or Utah.  Unless superstars happen to converge on your city.  Just pay your dues and let the other big markets (LA, Miami, New York, Chicago) dominate.  At some point it won't be fun anymore.

LeBron James will go down as one of the Top 3 to 5 players in history.  Amongst the Jordans, Magics, Birds, maybe Kobes, and lots of big men.  He played his hand well.  He went down in chips after The Decision, but it was all worth it in the long run.  I went from cheering him to win in Cleveland, to hoping he'd lose in Miami.  But he has made good in coming back.  And doing it with a team full of guys who haven't won before.  He can now lead HIS team.  And we'll see if it results in more titles than in Miami



Sportsman of the Week Ending 7/13/2014

Third week in a row we go to the World Cup, but why not, it only comes every 4 years.  And there was one game that really mattered, the World Cup Final on Sunday.  After 110 minutes of (a relatively exciting) 0-0 stalemate (no really, there were lots of opportunities), Germany's Mario Gotze broke through with a beautiful goal. On the center pass, he settled with the chest, then pounded with the left foot.  Argentina goalkeep Sergio Romero had no chance.  And Super Mario was the hero of a nation who hadn't won a Cup in 24 years.  And our Sportsman of the Week!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sportsman of the Week Ending 7/6/2014

By my count, this is only the second time in blog history we've awarded the Sportsman of the Week in a losing effort.  But sometimes, when a player puts his team on his back and still comes up short, it's worthy.  The United States Men's National Team (#USMNT) put forth a valiant effort in the 2014 World Cup, but couldn't quite crack the Final 8.  But not for the effort of goalkeep Tim Howard.  Howard put forth 16 brilliant saves in a 2-1 loss to a persistent Belgian team.  The game was scoreless after the first 90 minutes, then the peppering was too much in extra time.  But the effort is definitely worthy of a nod from our Blog as Sportsman of the Week!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sportsman of the Week Ending 6/29/2014

World Cup fever has spread throughout, well, the World.  With so many teams and infrequent games, it's difficult to put one player in the spotlight, but I think we've found a deserving one.  The name on the back of his jersey resembles and American sports icon.  "James".  But that's just his first name, Rodriguez is his last name.  And the 22-year old Colombian has quickly become the superstar of the tournament.  Last week, he scored 3 goals in two games (with two assists) as Colombia has surged into the quarterfinals.  His two-goal performance against Uruguay (a 2-0 win mind you) included a "golazo", a spectacular control of a pass to his left foot and a rocket.  He's scored in every Colombian game so far.  James Rodriguez, you are the next great thing in soccer, and you are the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sportsman of the Week Ending 6/22/2014

Some are calling it the greatest pitched game of all time.  Clayton Kershaw just calls it a day at the office.  The Los Angeles Dodgers ace completely shut down the usually-good hitting Colorado Rockies in picking up his first career no-hitter.  On a franchise known for no-no's from legends like Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela, and Hideo Nomo (or even Josh Beckett earlier this year), Kershaw's outing is hard to top.  The only baserunner was due to an error.  He struck out 15 and got through the game with 107 pitches (79 strikes, 28 balls, that's one ball per batter faced).  He literally said "here it is...hit it." And they couldn't.  Clayton Kershaw is our Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sportsman of the Week Ending 6/15/2014

Unbelievable week for the NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs, and they were carried by a very unlikely star.  Kawhi Leonard come from nowhere to suddenly be the scoring leader for the Spurs.  Over Games 3 through 5 (all Spurs wins), he poured in 23.7 PPG, shooting 69%, including 54% from behind the arc.  He also tallied over 9 rebounds per game and was frequently matched with one LeBron James on the defensive end.  The 22-year-old outshined better known teammates like Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker to win the Final MVP.  Good enough for us to win the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sportsman of the Week Ending 6/8/2014

It's rare for our blog to reward a hockey skater for individual performance, but we think one is deserving this week.  The Los Angeles Kings are kicking butt and taking names in the Stanley Cup Finals against the New York Rangers and they have been led by RW Justin Williams.  Williams tallied one goal and four assists in Games 1 and 2, both razor thin Kings OT victories.  He was the first star in Game 1, second star in Game 2 with seven shots on goal over the pair of victories.  A worthy Sportsman of the Week for the team that just about secured Lord Stanley Cup for Tinseltown, Williams is the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

This is Sports...There are No Excuses

It seems like fans, media, and even players or coaches or owners need an "excuse" when their team loses in sports.  The human mind just can't rationalize that maybe, just maybe, the other team, player, coach (or even horse) just outperformed you.  It's becoming something you can set your watch by after the game...if your team loses, be prepared for excuses. And the media feeds it, asking leading questions like "how did the conditions of the field affect your performance..." or "do you think you should have left that pitcher in to face that key hitter?"  Here's a short list of easy scapegoats that needs to be dismissed.  This is sports...there are no excuses:

Excuse: We lost the game because we were outcoached
NBA coach Mike Brown seems to be blamed frequently when his star players don't perform
(Credit: Damian Strohmeyer/SI)

Said by: Every fan who ever saw his team lose a game
Rationale: We love our players, our players play great, we had better players, the only rational reason we lost is because the coach called the wrong plays, played the wrong players, didn't get the team "up" enough for the game, etc.
Barking up the wrong tree: Okay, it is true that coaches aren't perfect.  But unless you're a player-coach, it's ultimately the players that run the plays, perform or not, and should be responsible for being mentally prepared for the game.  It seems like every sport has gone from a six-year period of performance to see if a coach is good to about two years (maybe three).  You can win a championship one year (division, league, conference) then, if you fall short of expectation, be fired the next.  It's not like you forgot how to coach!

Excuse: The playing conditions weren't fair
You hate to see poor field conditions cause injuries, but both sides have to play on it
(Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Said by: Right now, every Miami Heat fan, also said by anybody who saw their team lose in bad weather or because they just didn't like the stadium/arena
Rationale: We had a good chance coming into the game, we thought we would win, but then it rained, or there was a delay, or the air conditioning broke down, they made us open the roof, or the lights went out, or a streaker ran on the field
Barking up the wrong tree: As has been said about Game 1 of the NBA finals, both teams had to play in the same conditions.  It goes for any facility issue.  A football field measures the same no matter where.  Basketball and hockey the same.  Baseball has different dimensions, but both teams have to play in the same conditions.  It's not like one team got 5 downs to get a first down and the other got 4 (except Colorado vs. Missouri).  Even if weather kicks up at the wrong time, it's not unfair.

Excuse: The referee/umpire screwed us
Replacement refs blew this call, but the Packers should have avoided it being so close
(Credit: FoxSports.com)

Said by: Pretty much every fan who has lost a game
Rationale: Did you SEE that call!?  IT was horrible! If we hadn't have had that call, the next five plays would have gone perfectly and we would have won.  Instead, we lost because of the refs!!
Barking up the wrong tree: You'd be hardpressed to find any referee actually have a bias against a team.  They are professionals and wouldn't be working for long.  Close calls go against both teams.  My daddy always told me, if you lose the game because of a referee call, you probably had other chances to win it.  And every fan of their team sees calls they want to see them.  That's why they are fans.  I've left many a game frustrated at a particular play call by a referee or ump.  Replay can correct some of these.  But otherwise, it's just part of the game, like a dropped pass, error in the field, or own goal in hockey.

Excuse: The rules or set up favors the other team
The Yankees have more money than other teams, because they have fans who pay a lot to see them play
(Credit: Amazon.com)
Said by: Most recently, Steve Coburn of Dumb Ass Partners, but also small market teams, teams that have to play back-to-back days while the other team has a bye, college football programs with lower revenue, etc.
Rationale: It's not fair that other horses/teams got to rest before this race.  It's not fair that the New York Yankees have a $300M payroll while my market can only spend $60M, it's not fair that LSU had a bye week before playing Alabama...
Barking up the wrong tree: The rules are set up and we play by them.  In the case of the 2014 Belmont Stakes, it's horse owners jobs to win races, not compete in races they don't want to.  If a horse thinks it can win the Belmont with extra rest, then it should rest the horse.  If the NBA team has to play back-to-back days, then maybe it should limit minutes.  Other teams will be in the same boat sometime.  It's not the Yankees fault they have a bigger budget than most if not all teams.  It's the way the finances of baseball are set up.  Thems the rules.  And we must play by them.

Excuse: Player X blew the game
As goes Peyton, so went the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII
(Credit: Indianapolis Star/Kevin C. Cox)

Said by: Any fan whose quarterback threw a key interception, or pitcher gave up the big hit, or player missed the big shot, or goalie gave up too many goals, etc.
Rationale: We didn't win based upon that one play.  He had one job to do and he didn't do it.  It's his fault that we lost
Barking up the wrong tree: This one is close to being right (players decide games, not fans or coaches or refs or playing conditions) BUT to think it's just one player and he must be blamed is a farce.  Thinking of team sports, of course, multiple players had chances to overcome but didn't.  And if it's an individual failure (let's just say, Bode Miller in Olympics past or a golfer who missed a key shot) then indeed, he or she blew the chance.  But that's sports,  They are not robots.  You can certainly say that the performance affected the game.  But give some credit to the other team or player who didn't blow it.  He or she won.

Excuse: Our star player was hurt
2009 Texas Longhorns National Title hopes took a bad turn with the McCoy injury
(Credit: Birmingham News/Butch Dill)

Said by: Recently said by Miami Heat fans (see above), Montreal Canadiens fans, 2009 Texas Longhorns football fans, all teams who suffer an injury (which is all teams)
Rationale: If we would have had our star player, it wouldn't have been close
Barking up the wrong tree:  This is sports.  Sports is physical.  Players get hurt.  Good teams have to overcome.  The rules of the game are the same, you go with who you have.  And if an injury befalls your star "next man up"

So next time you see your team lose and you grab for one of these excuses.  Take the higher road.  It's a game.  One team wins, one team loses.  There's always next game, next year, next sport.