Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kobe is Killing the Lakers

By Travis Stahl

I'm 40 years old.  I don't like it but I've accepted it.  Really ... what can I do about it?  Nothing so I have to move on.  There are just some things I can't do now that I'm 40.  I'm not going out and playing pick-up basketball.  I don't think I will be doing any body building.  Entering a swimsuit pageant is probably out of the question so I just have to move on with life.  It's time for Kobe Bryant to wake up and realize the same thing.  The Los Angeles Lakers can't move forward until Kobe rides into the sunset.

Kobe has been very reluctant to accept that in this late stage of his career he should step aside and let another star come to town and be the team's top option.  Instead Kobe still thinks he has another title run in his tired legs with a team full of players thrown together.  It's not happening.  Even if Kobe wasn't Old Kobe this team isn't winning anything with Carlos Boozer and Julius Randle as the two best options other than Bryant.  It's over.

The Lakers have traditionally been a team that is good about transitioning from one star to the next.  Kareem let Magic take over when it was time.  Then the team shipped Shaquille O'Neal out of town so Kobe could lead the way.  If Kobe isn't going to do it on his own the Lakers need to come to their senses.  I understand the team being loyal to a guy who has spent his whole career in purple and gold.  But at this point Kobe is setting this team back four or five years with his refusal to part with his power or his strangle hold on the team's salary cap.

LA tried to sign every free agent on the market this summer but Carmelo Anthoney, LeBron James and anyone else worth his salt didn't want to come to town and play with Kobe.  Bryant has failed to realize he can't win a title anymore as the No. 1 option, he needs help but won't accept it.  Kobe has one more year on his contract so next summer the team could legitimately say good bye.  The problem is are no free agents worth spending money on next summer, this team missed out on the bonanza of this year's talent.

I have grown to respect Kobe for what he has done in the league.  I've never been a fan but the guy is a stone-cold killer who wants to win at all costs.  At this point though that is what is making this whole thing embarrassing.  Kobe, like other athletes, is failing to see the writing on the wall.  It's time to retire and let the Lakers move forward.  This team couldn't make the playoffs last year and they won't again this year.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Greatest NFL Players to Never Win a Ring

By Travis Stahl

In case you are a deaf mute you probably heard that Peyton Manning set the all-time record in the NFL for most touchdown passes.  Along with that, we had to endure listening to the critics crow that Manning hasn't won enough Super Bowl rings to be considered the greatest quarterback of all-time.  Manning has one Super Bowl title which is more than most players can say.  Oddly enough, as the record was being set, loyal reader Rob Schuman began a discussion about great players in the NFL who have never won a ring.  Rob and I began to compile a list and this is who we feel are the greatest NFL players at their respective positions who have never won a title.

Quarterback - Dan Marino
Running Backs - Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas (Eric Dickerson gets an honorable mention)
Wide Receivers - Andre Reed and Larry Fitzgerald
Tight End - Tony Gonzalez
Offensive Tackles - Anthony Munoz and Bruce Matthews
Guards - John Hannah and Will Shields
Center - Dermontti Dawson

Defensive Ends - Bruce Smith and Deacon Jones
Defensive Tackles - Cortez Kennedy and Merlin Olsen
Linebackers - Dick Butkus, Sam Mills and Derrick Thomas
Corner Backs - Champ Baily and Eric Allen
Safeties - Steve Atwater and Paul Krause

Obviously there are players that was have missed on this list.  That just shows you how many great players have never won a title.  This list should also serve as a reminder to fans appreciate guys like Manning and Drew Brees who should be praised for the rings they have won, not the ones they have missed out on.  Winning a Super Bowl is tough and it should never be the only measure of a players true greatness.

Monday, October 20, 2014

O'Dell Leads Eagles to Win

By Travis Stahl

When teams are preparing a game plan they can put together a plan to try to stop a specific player.  Usually teams will try to slow down the opposing teams quarterback, or a stud running back or an electrifying receiver.  It is impossible for teams to plan for the player who contributes in multiple areas to lead his team to a win.  For Columbia City it was Drew O'Dell that Norwell couldn't plan for as the Eagles earned a 35-34 win in overtime.

O'Dell is this week's T and T Athletic Supporters Player of the Game for his all-around great play against the Knights.  Offensively O'Dell caught three balls for 38 yards, ran the ball twice for 18 yards and returned a kick off for 27 yards.  Defensively O'Dell was a huge force for the Eagles.  He led the team with six tackles, recovered a Norwell fumble and then returned that fumble 55 yards for a Columbia City touchdown.

Columbia City also got three touchdowns from Braden Myer who had 150 yards rushing.  Eagles quarterback also rushed for good yardage with 106 on the ground with another 63 yards passing.  Bronson Ball added six tackles and Ashten Barnes got five tackles on the night.

The win was the first for Columbia City in Northeast Hoosier Conference play and brings the Eagles record to 3-6.  Columbia City will now travel to Fort Wayne South Side for sectional play Friday night at 7 p.m.

Friday, October 17, 2014

CC Runners to Race at Regional

By Travis Stahl

So do you have big plans for tomorrow morning?  It's supposed to rain so I'm guessing there aren't too many people that will wake up on their own and drive to Ligonier to run 3.1 miles.  But that's what the Columbia City Lady Eagles cross country team will be doing.  Tomorrow morning is the regional cross country event at West Noble High School and the Lady Eagles under the guidance of head coach Bob Fahl will be trying to advance.

Fahl has been coaching the cross country teams at Columbia City for as long as anybody can remember and doing a fabulous job.  As much as Fahl enjoys winning he enjoys working with the kids he coaches even more and he has a great group of runners this year.  This year's group of harriers includes Bailie Brown, Isabelle Hunter, Karina Rubrake, Whitney Shelton, Samina Qureshi, Alissa Jagger, Hannah Wappes, Natalie Johnson and Lauren Keller.  Plus, Columbia City's Andrew McFarland will be running in the boys race.

Sometimes us outside observers look at cross country and think all it's just running.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  Runners in cross country meets have to know when to push the pace a little faster and when to pull back.  They must know who to run with and avoid being kicked.  Runners have to study the track and know where they can make up ground if they need to and where they can pull away.  Running cross country is about being a smart runner and not just about being a fast runner.

Cross country is a grueling sport and if there is any coach who has his kids ready it is Fahl.  T and T Athletic Supporters would like to wish all the runners good luck at regional.  Here is hoping you run your best race of the year and continue the team success you have all worked so hard for and deserve.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

CC-Norwell Preview

By Travis Stahl

The Game: Columbia City travels to Norwell at 7 p.m.

Last Season: Norwell defeated Columbia City 35-21

Next week: Columbia City is at Fort Wayne South Side

About the Game: One of the most balanced rivalries in the Northeast Hoosier Conference is Columbia City against Norwell.  The two teams began playing each other in 1989.  The Knights hold a 16-9 advantage in the win column but the two teams always battle each other tough each season.  The two teams appear to be very even again this year as Columbia City comes in at 2-6 and the Knights are 3-5.  Columbia City comes in after a narrow overtime loss to Carroll while Norwell was beaten last week by Homestead.

Keys to Victory: Can Columbia City keep up the pace?  Last week was prove that when the Eagles offense is clicking on all cylinders there isn't a team in the NHC that can stop them.  Quarterback Trevor Bolt was connecting with Drew O'Dell and Dayne Asplund and Braden Myer was running over people.  The Eagles need to carry that offensive momentum into Ossian against a Norwell defense that just surrendered 48 points to Homestead.  Can the Columbia City defense keep Norwell out of the end zone?  In the last three games the Eagles have given up 41, 49 and 42 points.  The CC defense needs to start flying around the ball again and force some turnovers.  Last week the team got an interception from Davin Lawrence and a sack from Kolten Wood.  The Eagles might need more than that this week.

The Outcome: This is a very winnable game for Columbia City.  The Eagles have to take care of the ball on offense and really be fast and physical on defense.  If that happens Columbia City should be able to head in to sectional next week with another win.  The way CC is playing right now Norwell is going to have a hard time stopping the Eagles offense.  The win this week though will be decided by the defense.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Winston Needs to Be Taken Off the Field

By Travis Stahl

I was in South Bend today and had to stop in the Wal Mart.  There was Notre Dame merchandise everywhere.  I got a little bit nauseated but I powered through it.  Seeing all the Irish gear got me thinking about the upcoming game Saturday between No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 2 Florida State.  Standing there in the Wal Mart I had a moment of clarity when I realized the Seminoles are going to play cheater quarterback Jameis Winston and it dawned on me that I'm not OK with that.

In case you missed the latest misstep in the Winston saga the reigning Heisman Trophy winner is now being investigated for being paid to sign several items of memorabilia.  That my friends is against NCAA rules.  Yet Florida State is standing by their man and saying he will still play this weekend against Notre Dame.  We shouldn't be surprised by this decision, the Seminoles are in the business of winning football games.  But Winston needs to sit and I'll explain why.

In the messed up world of college football we see all the time where it is determined a player or coach violated NCAA rules and the team is forced to vacate wins.  That's all find and dandy except it does nothing to make it up to the teams that lost those games on the field.  So when Winston is on the field this weekend and he leads Florida State to a win over Notre Dame that will eliminate the Irish from national title contention.  Two years from now when all these wins by the 'Noles are wiped off the books that doesn't reinstate Notre Dame's title hopes, those are gone forever.

The SEC catches a lot of flack for letting stuff slide by but when Georgia running back Todd Gurly was accused of signing memorabilia for money the school suspended him on the spot.  There was no NCAA investigation it was the school that did the moral thing and put Gurly on the bench.  The school realized it would be unfair to the opponents on the field to play a guy they knew was going to be deemed ineligible.  In the past, nobody has ever accused Florida State of being overly ethical so I guess we shouldn't expect them to be now.

For the integrity of college football Winston needs to be taken off the field.  The whole point of instituting the playoff system was so that a national champion would be crowned on the field.  That can't happen if Winston is out there eliminating programs that would have otherwise had a chance.  Even if you don't like Notre Dame, every time Winston leads Florida State to another victory some team is getting hosed over.  The Seminoles are going to be in the playoff at the end of the year which means some other school is going to be left out.  That is the very definition of unfair.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Is Dallas the Best Team in the NFL Right Now?

By Travis Stahl

There has always been a pretty simple rule to winning in the NFL.  To be successful a team must be able to run the ball effectively and prevent the other team from running the ball.  That philosophy may not be as true today as it was 20 years ago since so many teams throw the ball 50 times per game.  But if you look at the teams that have won Super Bowls recently they have done so with a physical running attack and a stout defense not by being the best passing team in the league.  Based on that are we willing to say that right now the Dallas Cowboys are the best team in the NFL?

I know what you're thinking, it's the Cowboys.  Surely they will find a way to Tony Romo this whole thing up.  That has been their MO for the duration of the Romo era; start fast and then fade in November and December to miss the playoffs.  As a Cowboys fan, I understand the skepticism and believe me it is in the forefront of my mind.  But hear me out, I think this Dallas team is different.  With each passing victory we are forced more and more to really look at this Cowboys team and start to accept that maybe this team has finally figured it out.

Dallas is winning right because they can run the ball better than anyone else in the NFL.  A big part of that is running back Demarco Murray is healthy and running like a man possessed.  Typically, Murray gets hurt every season and that is when Dallas starts to fade.  But the Cowboys aren't running the ball so well because of Murray it is because of the offensive line.  With three recent first-round draft picks in Tyrone Smith, Travis Fredrick and Zach Martin Dallas is mauling opposing defenses.  Even if Murray goes down the team still has Joe Randle and Lance Dunbar who are both capable or racking up big yardage behind what appears to be the best offensive line in football.

No team wins a Super Bowl by being one dimensional on offense so teams will eventually commit more of their defensive efforts to stopping the run.  I get the impression Dallas is OK with this.  If defenses start putting eight men in the box Romo has the weapons in the passing game to make them pay.  Again ... I know this has not worked well in the past as Romo has committed big turnovers in crucial situations.  This goes back to the offensive line though.  A good portion of those Romo errors in the clutch were due to an abundance of pressure from opposing defenses.  The Dallas line is so good right now that Romo isn't getting touched when he drops back which gives him plenty of time to find Dez Bryant or Terrance Williams.

It remains to be seen if Dallas can uphold the second part of the winning formula we talked about above, playing stout defense.  The Cowboys defense has been much better this season.  Of course by default they couldn't possibly be any worse than they were last year.  Moving Rod Merinelli to defensive coordinator has made a huge difference as he is much more aggressive in his attack on opposing offenses.  The biggest surprise about the team's defense though has been linebacker Rolando McClain.  The retired, un-retired, retired, un-retired linebacker has played like the best defensive player in the league so far and came up big again last week in the Dallas win in Seattle.

We don't know if Dallas can keep this up or not, that part will have to play out as the season progresses.  But they have the right players in place to be successful and they have fully committed to the running game which they have failed to do in the past.  Realistically all the Cowboys have to do at this point is win five of their final 10 games and they should make the postseason.  They way the team is playing right now, I'm not sure too many teams would want to face Dallas in the playoffs.