I’m not one to mix politics and sports. That’s the beauty of sports—its a release from everyday problems which often include politics.

Duke or Carolina, Boston or New York—sports debates can be fun unlike political battles which tend to get personal and heated. No doubt the mass of media has cranked up the volume in political debates where several outlets misplaced their objectivity long ago and have fueled the fire of the left and the right.

In sports there isn’t just a left or a right—we have north, south, east and west, not to mention more well rounded and often more enjoyable debates of  big issues. Issues where we can find much more common ground. For example, many of us agree there should be a college playoff, the NCAA is out of its mind, Dwight Howard is a petulant child and the designated hitter is absurd. OK you may not bite on the DH, but I hope you get my point. This edition of the Naborhood touches on a few polarizing opinions for sure—just remember I may not agree with a differing view but I certainly respect it—-I hope you can do the same.

GAY ATHLETES:  Wizards Center Jason Collins did what many before him were scared to do—he came out to the sporting world and proclaimed he was gay. I am hardly surprised and I’m confident none of his teammates are either. Collins isn’t alone in the NBA and for any other major sport for that matter. Gay athletes are everywhere but due to the social structure we live in, you couldn’t blame them for keeping it a secret.

I have no problem with a Celtic being gay not to mention a Yankee, a Flyer or even a Nascar driver–which would make for an interesting presser down the road. I don’t care if a teacher is gay , my postman or even my next door neighbor. I don’t judge those different than me and I wish we lived in a world where this was the case but we don’t. Critics like ESPNs basketball analyst Chris Broussard said upon hearing Collins’ announcement on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, “I think it’s a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is…. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be … that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ.” Broussard has every right to his opinion and I have every right to disagree with it.

Its ironic that in the same year that Jackie Robinson’s story is released and reenforced on the big screen, just a few weeks later we get news of the first openly gay NBA player. This is different then Robinson though. I would like to think our country and our society has come a few steps in the last 66 years. Sure Collins will get idiots and twitter hacks calling him names from the stands and behind their lap tops but it will be nothing close to what Robinson faced. Robinson also had his critics from Day 1, Collins has been in the league for 12 years.

I remember when Clinton was in office and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” debate was in full swing for the military. Back then I asked my Dad what my grandfather, who served in WWII thought?  My father without hesitation said his dad didn’t think it was a big deal as he knew gays have been a part of the military for years. Its the same in sports, its just people either don’t talk about it or don’t think its that big a deal?

One day my daughters who are now 11 and 8 will be 21 and 18 and will ask me “Why did people make such a big deal when an athlete said he was gay?” I will look forward to that day—-unfortunately that day hasn’t come yet, hopefully we are getting closer .

END OF TEBOW TIME? : Did I say sports topics can’t be heated? I must have forgotten about one Timothy Tebow. Its amazing the passion, the anger, not to mention the fatal attraction ESPN has for this former Gator. The latest has Tebow leaving his second NFL home. No one should be shocked Tebow time has left the Jets, the only surprise was the fact that New York wanted him in the first place given Tebow played about as much in a Jet uniform as I did last fall.

To continue his NFL career, Tebow may have to be willing to play fullback or tight end. I haven’t given up on him as a QB but his case is surely unique. It must be frustrating for him to watch the likes of Matt Leinart, David Carr and Seneca Wallace carry around clipboards when he is picked apart and always has to defend his game and ponder his future.

Let’s face it unlike many backups–if Tebow is gonna play and play well– his team will have to change its whole offense. That’s why it worked in Denver and why it didn’t in New York. Its crazy to think a little over a year ago he won a playoff game and now may have to seriously think about refining his game in the CFL or heaven forbid the Arena league?? I never thought Tebow would be an elite NFL QB but still believe he can be a serviceable one, but its gonna take a special team to give him that chance.

DRAFT DAY LEFTOVERS: Very sad the Draft is over—love watching all the coverage each year but think its silly to offer up a grade. C’mon every team loves its draft class now and while the grades are being dished out by many outlets, I offer up my own for every team—how about a big fat Incomplete. Nobody knows how these guys will adjust to the next level, so its crazy to gauge it until at least three years down the road. So no grades but we do have a few winners and losers:


THE SEC: This year’s draft stated the obvious once again—the SEC reigns surpreme. According to my SEC insider Brent Beaird—no conference has ever dominated a draft like the SEC did this year as they represented an amazing 25% percent of the players. It gets better—the SEC saw 32 of the first 97 picks—that’s 33% of what the league considers the best talent available! It was so dominant that four schools (Alabama, LSU, Florida & Georgia) combined for 34 picks —MORE than any other single conference! Here is the conference breakdown:

SEC  (63)

ACC  (31)

PAC-12 (28)

BIG 12 (22)

BIG TEN (22)

EJ MANUEL: It was hardly the year of the Quarterback but if you were gonna pick one QB to have been picked up in round one many didn’t have the former Seminole. I really like EJ from the time I’ve spent around him—-he is mature beyond his years and brings a great skill set to the next level. I think he’s better than Christian Ponder who was picked even higher. The people I know at FSU say Manuel has to work on getting the ball out on time as well as his ball security but are optimistic he will succeed.

TYRANN MATHIEU: The “Honey Badger” couldn’t have asked for a better situation. The third round selection of the Cardinals was hoping to go higher but going to Arizona reunites him with college teammate and more importantly mentor Patrick Peterson. That is a plus but another positive is moving far far away from his hometown of New Orleans which was long overdue. The Cards are gonna give Mathieu a weekly drug test and won’t throw any guaranteed money his way—smart move, let’s home Mathieu plays it smart too, I’m pulling for him.

SAM BRADFORD: The Rams quarterback is still believed to have vast potential but after this draft has gathered plenty of help in meeting it. Bradford received the most dangerous offensive weapon in Tavon Austin who should more than open up a Rams offense which has been searching for weapons since the former Sooner  arrived in the huddle. Along with Austin, Bradford is enjoying an offseason where he has a new left tackle in Jake Long and arguably the best free agent Tight End in Jared Cook who comes over from Tennessee.


RUNNING BACKS: Its amazing to think about—this draft saw no running backs taken in the 1st round for the first time in 50 years. The first taken wasn’t Eddie Lacy who was the highest rated, no North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard was taken with the 37th pick. Many say running backs are no longer as important and I couldn’t disagree more. Covering the Saints the past 8 years, I know the high octane passing attack isn’t even close to being as effective when the running game is struggling. I will say its easier to get a good running back late and that has caused the slide but getting that marquee, difference making back to me still merits a 1st round selection.

JETS: They have certainly replaced the Raiders as the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL. Under Rex Ryan, not one Jets draft pick has reached Pro Bowl status and this draft is full of question marks. The Rams outsmart them to get Tavon Austin who would have been a huge help in an offense looking for playmakers. They say goodbye to its best player in Darrelle Revis and take a huge risk by drafting  Geno Smith albiet in the second round. It seems to be a franchise digging a deeper hole and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have the number one overall pick next season.

MEL KIPER JR: Not a good 2013 Draft for the Drafting Expert. First of all he cut his hair—Mel never do that again?! Secondly, he tried forecasting the most unpredictable draft in years. The results weren’t pretty making Meteorologists around the country rejoice that they weren’t the only guys and gals missing their targets. If that wasn’t enough, Kiper was mocked not only by the mock drafts but by his own company as Frank Caliendo delivered this masterpiece: http://www.sportsgrid.com/nfl/frank-caliendo-does-us-all-a-huge-favor-and-mocks-nfl-draft-gurudisagreement-enthusiast-mel-kiper-jr/

That was outstanding quite the opposite of Kiper’s weekend but we still love our Draft Expert.

Speaking of the draft and Tebow—my friends at Salorix.com did an interesting study on the effect of Twitter on all the big NFL topics of the past few days. Very interesting findings—check out their results:

Insights From NFL Report:
  • 918,777 Tweets are contributed by only 413,564 Tweeters, 73% of overall Tweeters have only Tweeted once
  • 83% of the Tweets have neutral sentiment followed by 11% positive and 6% negative sentiment
  • Three consecutive first-round picks from Alabama dominated the conversations among the college mentions on Twitter
  • Manti Te’o pick by San Diego Chargers generated good volumes
  • Patriots players selection is being appreciated well by Tweeters
  • Jerry Jones upsetting, Team and Player updates dominated the Tweets related to Cowboys
  • Miami and Buffalo picks surprised the Tweeters
  • Tavon Austin trade to Rams is the most talked about by Bills fans on Twitter
  • Eric Fisher being the first overall pick in 2013 NFL Draft by Kansas City Chiefs contributed to good Tweet Volumes

NOBODY ASKED ME BUT: I can’t get enough of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentaries and its latest Elway to Marino was not only outstanding but the perfect example of how the Draft process is perfectly flawed. The agent for both quarterbacks Marvin Demoff took meticulous notes and it paid off for a great profile on the process of the 1983 draft in which Elway went 1st and Marino slipped to the 27th overall pick. Amazing looking back at what is regarded as the best QB draft ever, Elway certainly lived up to the hype and it was interesting how Marino could and should have gone to his hometown Steelers where he would have replaced Terry Bradshaw right when he was injured. Other interesting tidbits, Jim Kelly hated all things Buffalo entering Draft Day and the Jets Ken O’Brien was 8-7 lifetime against Marino. I’d still have taken Dan the Man though….

EXTRA POINT: We leave you with one last draft day nugget. In the last 25 years, there have been 16 Heisman Trophy quarterbacks but only one of those has a playoff win? You guessed it Tebow.





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