Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sports Saturday: 10/21/11

Auto racing - This first part is, of course, going to be about Dan Wheldon, the IndyCar driver who was killed in a crash last Sunday.

I've been a racing fan for, let's call it, 17 years. (1994 is about when I really started paying attention.) So I've seen a lot of drivers get killed, tragically, in all kinds of motorsports. But this one was different, in that I think the circumstances could have, and should have, been avoided.

In general, racing is dangerous, and "these things happen". Using perhaps the most well-known driver death as an example (in the United States, anyway - Ayrton Senna is more well-known in other parts of the world), Dale Earnhardt's crash in the 2001 Daytona 500 looked surprisingly ordinary for a fatal accident. It was easy for me to chalk it up to "a racing accident" and "bad luck" that he hit the wall at the angle he did. (Thankfully, those in charge did not simply see it as "bad luck" and successfully and substantially improved driver safety over the next decade.)

Then, there's the Dan Wheldon accident. Yes, this is the beauty of hindsight, but I think the circumstances of the crash were unnecessarily dangerous: 34 cars running in one large pack, 3-wide, at over 225 mph (or whatever it was) with no room for error. I think I said earlier in the season when IndyCar started doing double-file restarts that they were trying to be too much like NASCAR. Problem is, IndyCar is not NASCAR, where everybody has a roll cage and slight contact doesn't always result in a big crash, even at high speed. Unless they can figure out a way to separate these large packs of cars, IndyCars should never again race on high-banked 1.5 mile ovals like Las Vegas and Texas.

I wasn't watching the race, but I did watch the last hour or so of coverage, including the live announcement and the subsequent 5-lap silent tribute. It was an absolutely heart-wrenching hour of television that I may never forget. And that's another thing that separates this from other sports tragedies. Even in racing, these things usually aren't carried live on television. (Many fatal racing accidents occur in practice.) Thank goodness there isn't live video of the Lokomotiv plane crash, for instance. Maybe this is a reason September 11th is such a vivid memory for so many: these things are much harder to stomach with live video.

But life must go on, and NASCAR is racing at perhaps its most dangerous track this weekend. Perfect timing, eh? I wonder if this race will be a little tamer than the typical Talladega race. (Ha. No chance.) NASCAR Sprint Cup at Talladega: Sun 2:00p, ESPN


This is turning into a tough season for the Jacksonville Jaguars. But thanks to the much improved defense (Paul Posluszny, baby!), I still think they have the potential to win just about any game they play. Blaine Gabbert is improving, although he still throws more incompletions than completions. And in a weak AFC South where the best team is only 3-2, I suppose it's still possible they could win the division. Unlikely, but not impossible. (Sports Club Stats gives them a 10.6% chance.) Jack Del Rio will perhaps, once again, do just enough to keep his job. That's how it seems it's gone the last few years, anyway. If the Jaguars finish 7-9 after starting 1-5 (unlikely, but not impossible), does Del Rio still get the axe? (For the record, I hope so.) Baltimore at Jacksonville: Mon 8:30p, ESPN

The Jaguars don't play until Monday, so what will I watch on Sunday instead? I would normally watch Buffalo, but they're off this week (of course). Instead, I'll probably choose between these three games:
Houston at Tennessee: Sun 1:00p, DirecTV 706 - The battle for the AFC South division lead!
Washington at Carolina: Sun 1:00p, WRAZ 50 - The Panthers still stink, but Cam Newton is fun to watch.
Seattle at Cleveland: Sun 1:00p, DirecTV 710 - Amber is likely to hang out in the room a little longer if I put the Browns on. (She doesn't care enough to watch the game from start to finish, but if she's in the room anyway, it might grab her attention...briefly.)

There is one early game I will definitely NOT be watching. I'm really getting tired of the overhyped Jets. Booooo! San Diego at NY Jets: Sun 1:00p, WRAL 5

There is one new starting quarterback I'm very interested in seeing this Sunday. Not the Raiders' new starting quarterback (Carson Palmer), and certainly not the Broncos' new starting quarterback (whom shall remain nameless). I'm talking about Christian Ponder. Skol, Vikings! Green Bay at Minnesota: Sun 4:15p, WRAZ 50

Finally...I really hope the Indianapolis Colts do NOT end up with the worst record in the league. I have waited over a decade for Peyton Manning to go away. The last thing I want is for another highly touted quarterback (Andrew Luck) to step in immediately after Manning leaves. I don't care who ends up drafting Luck...just as long as it's not the Colts. Anyone but the Colts! Surely, you are going to win some games this season, right? Indianapolis at New Orleans: Sun 8:20p, NBC


The Carolina Hurricanes (as of Friday afternoon, before the St. Louis) game are doing great. Three straight wins, including two over the defending Cup champions! I think the free agents that the Hurricanes brought in this offseason are actually helping the team, as opposed to in 2009-10 when they brought in a bunch of old guys.

I especially like defenseman Bryan Allen, who they traded for last season. The trade: Allen to the Hurricanes, Sergei Samsonov to the Panthers. (I'll tell you, the Panthers make the DUMBEST trades.) I do not own any Hurricanes jerseys, but I am seriously considering buying a Bryan Allen #5 jersey. It's a "jersey foul" to put your own name on a jersey, but not if someone who has the same last name as you is actually on the team! (Perhaps I should also get a Russell Allen #50 Jaguars jersey while I can, if such a thing exists.)

Carolina plays the Winnipeg Jets tonight. I really really want to like Winnipeg, but I watched their home opener a couple of weeks ago, and I was really turned off by all of the subtle Atlanta-bashing that the CBC announcers were doing. I've been to Winnipeg and I like the city, but...I don't know. The Atlanta deal hits a little too close to home to really be able to embrace the Jets. Carolina at Winnipeg: 7:00p, Fox Sports Carolinas

Finally...I learned this week that DirecTV and FOX are in a contract dispute that could result in DirecTV dropping (among other channels) Fox Sports Carolinas on November 1st, which would mean no more Hurricanes games. (No more Formula One on SPEED, either.) This would be far worse than losing Versus for a few months, but there is a lot more at stake here than there was with the Versus deal, which increases the chances of an 11:59 PM agreement, or at least a resolution within a week or two after the fact. In theory. And if not, maybe I can talk the customer service reps into giving me NHL Center Ice for free so that I can at least watch the other 29 teams.

(NHL Network games: Sat 4:00p - MIN/VAN; Sat 7:00p - DET/WSH.)

College football (In case you haven't figured it out by now, I did not adhere to the usual 30 minute limit.)

The thing I don't like about preseason polls is that even if Florida State runs the table, beats Miami (FL) and Florida, and finishes 9-3, the season will still be viewed as a disappointment because of the preseason expectations. And that's dumb. Still a lot of football to be played. Maryland at Florida State: Sat 3:30p, ABC

Weak schedule, sure, Penn State is 6-1, which is awesome. They're just like the Jaguars (bad offense, good defense), except they're actually winning their games. Penn State at Northwestern: Sat 7:00p, BTN

North Carolina at Clemson - Sat 12:00p, ESPN: When will Clemson lose their first game? Will they lose? Sure, they beat FSU, but I hope they run the table.
Cincinnati at South Florida - Sat 12:00p, MASN: USF is 4-0 out of conference and 0-2 in conference. They do this every year. Despite all the success they have had out-of-conference, they have never finished better than 4-3 in the Big East. They're like the opposite of Wake Forest, as I will explain now...
Wake Forest at Duke - Sat 12:30p, ACC Network (WRAL): I don't like Wake Forest. Why? Because every year (well, not every year), Wake Forest loses to a bad team or two in non-conference (see Syracuse this year), and then makes the ACC look bad by beating its better teams. They never made the ACC look worse than when they won the conference, and then lost in the Orange Bowl in unspectacular fashion to...who was it? Iowa? Louisville? Whatever. (Side note: despite living in North Carolina, I know exactly ZERO people who attended Wake Forest.)
Auburn at LSU - Sat 3:30p, CBS: I think I said this last year, but the SEC is too top-heavy for its own good this year. When do Alabama and LSU play? (In two weeks.)
Wisconsin at Michigan State - Sat 8:00p, ESPN: Wisconsin and Clemson may not make the BCS Championship game even if they go undefeated, which - just like the BCS itself - stinks.


James Allen said...

The Dolphins will get Luck(y).

Spartangoogle said...

Now Wisconsin won't get to gripe about being undefeated and not making the BCS championship.