Thursday, March 31, 2011

Although the MLB season has begun, there are still a number of teams awaiting their first game of the year. Included in that group are the Chicago Cubs. Very few of given the Cubs a chance of success, pointing to pass late season collapses, a lack of talent or the bad luck which continues to follow the team around. But I have reason to believe this may be the year the Cubs finally win game in the post-season.

Mike Quade is someone very few have heard of. We've tried the "all-star" managers over the past decade. Quade is most likely on the last stop of a unheralded career, but he has done a good job of keeping expectations low. He can be referred as a "players-coach" which doesn't translate into post season participation, but he has their ear and respect.

Carlos Zambrano is not starting the season as the #1 starter. Big "Z" will pitch following Ryan Dempster in the rotation. I've said that Z is a pitcher, but not the guy who is dependable enough to go out and "stop the bleeding" when a win is needed. Zambrano can now concentrate on pitching and leave the role of leader of the staff to Dempster.

Aramis Ramirez is in a contract year. He has been hurt, but came on late in the 2010 season when Quade took over the team. Quade can fuel Ramirez and his run to produce like he hasn't done since coming to the Cubs.

The National League Central won't be a tough division. The Phillies and Braves are the creme de la crem of the east, while the Giants will be defending their World Series title in the West. The Central doesn't have one strong team, but I can't picture the Brewers being able to sustain success in a 162 game schedule. And I don't have much faith in the job Dusty Baker will do wtih the Reds.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Down to Four

The field of 68 is down to four. It includes a team in the First Four, a returning finalist and teams that weren't seeded any higher than 3. No number number twos....and on this Monday the talk with the national media is if this has been the best tournament, or the worst.

The last four teams earned their spots on the court, playing the hand they were dealt. The two lower seeds defeated a #1 on their way to Houston, as did a #4 seed. At this time of the year these four teams are playing their best basketball, but are they the best four teams in America?

Virginia Commonwealth and Butler earned their way to be one of the final four teams. Are they the best in the country? Perhaps, but does America want to see either of these two teams play either Kentucky or Connecticut? American loves the underdog and the success they achieve. But when Monday's Championship game comes around will college basketball fans be watching the best two teams slug it out for the title, or instead will they be watching to see if the upset can happen?

College football's BCS has its flaws. One can argue if the two teams who battle for the title are the two teams that have earned that spot. This past year Oregon played Auburn while undefeated TCU finished their season with a victory over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Auburn wins the title giving us two teams with zero losses. There was interest if TCU could defeat the Ducks or Tigers, but fans wanted to see Oregon and Auburn. In a one game match-up TCU could beat any of the teams from the major conferences, as has Butler and Virginia Commonwealth have done in the NCAA tournament.

As the weekend championship approaches, will we be watching the best teams in America? Or the ones that have gotten hot at the end of the year. March Madness is the most exciting three weeks of sports throughout the year, but there are flaws with its system as there are flaws with the BCS.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

2011 Season Begins

After capturing the 2010 Insight Bowl, the Iowa Football team began a new season as they opened spring drills inside the Iowa Football Indoor Facility. As always the Iowa Video Staff was capturing every move high above the field.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Today was Iowa's Pro Day, an event like many other schools hold throughout February and March - football players showing off their skills for NFL scouts from all 32 teams.They are tested in every way performing such drills as the 40 yd dash, three cone, and 20 yard shuttle as well as others. Many of the players try to improve their time over what they had done during the combine in Indianapolis, but this day is more important for those who weren't provided an invite in Indianapolis. This is their one chance to show the scouts they are capable of playing at the next level.

And many of the athletes who have this as their one shot to show off their skills, are preparing themselves for the opportunity to sign a free agent contract with a team, once they do not get drafted. The Hawkeyes have had good success with the those who aren't drafted, going to a team that may best suit their style. However with this year's Collective Bargaining Agreement still unresolved, and the "look" of the draft changing - the signing of free agents may not happen. In the past the Hawkeyes have had good success with walk-ons, and continuing today the scouts searched for that next diamond in the rough.

The troubles surrounding the Collective Bargaining Agreement go much deeper than having this year's rookie class not being able to wear the jacket on the NFL Draft Stage. Once the draft is over, the rush to sign free agents will not occur with the player lock out, causing players to sit and wait for their next destination. Those who are drafted will also sit and wait to begin participation with the new teams.

Teams are ready for management to put an end to the argument, with those who are playing on a regular can sit back and see what happens. There is still much work to be put into, but fans of the football teams are looking for a little from these walk ons which have been very success to most team's success.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

2nd Round Match-up of Florida State and Texas A&M
Is "March Madness" better observed from the comfort of your couch or in person at the site of the game? CBS and the Turner Family has made it easier for the fan at home to keep up with each game going on. For the first time this year every game is available live for those who receive CBS, TNT, TBS and Tru TV on their television, or online via CBS' March Madness on Demand. Now fans don't have to wait for their local CBS affiliate to switch to a game that is going down to the wire creating that "one shining moment." But in-arena experience is something you can't feel at home.

Whether you attend the women's or men's tournament, the experience of seeing a different fan base and their traditions is truly unique. An early exposure to this came in the early 90s when Carver Hawkeye Arena hosted a women's regional final between Connecticut and Tennessee. In the world of women's basketball Connecticut and Tennessee are women's basketball. Sitting amid the orange-clad fans I was filled with the sounds of Rocky Top. These fans travel far and wide with Pat Summit and her team. The same can be said of Connecticut as I found out less than ten years later in their home town of Storrs. The Iowa women's team played a first and second round on the campus of the Huskies. And during the Hawkeye game, which preceded UConn's, the filled to capacity crowd stood up in unison as Diana Turasi and her Huskie teammates made the walk to the locker room in preparation. Speaking with the locals afterwards, they had already made their plans for the regional site of Milwaukee, as advancing from their home court was a fore gone conclusion.

Last week my son and I had the opportunity to witness Notre Dame play Akron as well as Texas A&M take on Florida State in men's second round action at the United Center. Three of those four teams are known more for their play on the gridiron than that of a basketball court. But the traditions are the same, but to a lesser number. Notre Dame's fightin' leprechaun presided over the court leading their fans in one of the more recognizable fight songs, the "Notre Dame Victory March." This was followed by the Florida State Seminole chant that has all of their fans waving their arm in unison from their shoulder to the court. Not to be outdone the Texas A&M band played as their fans swayed back and forth to the Aggie War Hymn. In this 19,000 seat arena, the impact was lesser than if any of these took place at home in their football stadiums, but it was my first experience with any of these, something I wouldn't have had sitting at home.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

NFL Network at the NFL Combine

The NFL Combine has always been noteworthy, but the attention that surrounds it has never been greater, and much of that is in due to the NFL Network's constant live coverage. Who would think that watching college kids run the 40 yd dash in nothing but tights would garner such an audience, but for those football fans who are looking for anything to get them from the Super Bowl to the draft can't get enough of this yearly event.

And the set up for the network is more than just a couple of cameras. Along with the multiple lenses focusing on the network talent, there are many cameras sharing the field with that of the NFL Video Directors trying to get every move, stumble, drill and catch among all of the participants over five days. The set up should be detailed as it becomes the network's studio for close to a week. Located on the lower level of Lucas Oil Stadium, the stage overlooks the playing field and platforms, monitors, white boards as well as lights constantly focus on Rich Eisen and his former football analysts.

Lucas Oil Stadium

Beginning with this upcoming season, the Big Ten Conference will stage their own championship game in Indianapolis. It will be their first and it is a result of the added 12th team with Nebraska. During the recent Big Ten Video Meetings, the coordinators were allowed to take a tour of Indy's newest facility that also hosts the NFL's Colts.
 There are many unknowns for the conference as they get into the championship game business. Indianapolis has been a great host for the Big Ten as the city has hosted the conference's basketball tournaments for both the men and women. And not only has Indianapolis been the host for its conference tournaments, but it has also had the opportunity to host the NCAA basketball championships.

While the conference is still working on many of the details, one of the teams will use the host Colts locker room. It is among the nicest in the NFL, and is only used for the season home games by the team. The other locker room is just as nice, but not as flashy giving teams more than ample space to dress and meet. The Colts locker room has a separate team meeting room adjacent to its locker room, an addition not found in many current stadiums. (And no, we did not find out which locker belonged to Peyton, Dallas or Angerer).

Space is not an issue in Lucas Oil Stadium. This is the home team's training room, and is the size of many day to day training facilities. The advantage of utilizing the Colts game day facility is the proximity to the playing field. Built in mind with a 12 minute half time, it was important to give the Colts as much time as possible during the break.
Set up for the NFL combine, this convention area located underneath the end zone bleachers is used as a staging area for concerts as well as meeting space adjacent to the Indy Convention Center. When Lucas Oil is transformed into an arena for concerts, this area houses the artist's tour bus providing quick access to the stage.
This is one of two booths where the Hawkeye Radio Network will broadcast the game from. This is the visiting radio booth, which sits adjacent to the visiting coaches booth and video platform. There is no level higher in Lucas Oil and it is on this level that also is the home to the print media.

Although there are no night games in the Big Ten after October 31st, the championship game may appear on the Fox Network in prime time. Also slated for Fox on Championship Saturday are the Conference USA and Pac 12 title games.