Monday, August 31, 2009

Discussing the B.C. Place roof

Jason Davis of Match Fit USA and Zach Woosley of Ginge Talks The Footy were nice enough to have me on the Match Fit USA Podcast yesterday to discuss the Vancouver Whitecaps and the B.C. Place roof situation. Here's the link to the newly-uploaded podcast. Check it out!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My (non-existent) kingdom for a roof!

The latest news on the B.C. Place front, which Duane covered here, is rather depressing. As most know, the $365 million plan to replace the existing solid roof with a retractable one and renovate the interior of B.C. Place was an important part of the Whitecaps' successful bid to join Major League Soccer. However, Global BC (a local television channel)'s sources have told them that "the roof replacement may no longer be a key government priority and it may be forced to pull its funding in the current economic climate," meaning "the project could face some serious delays or be cancelled altogether". As the Globe and Mail story linked above shows, nothing's been officially decided yet, though.

It's understandable that the provincial government is looking for ways to cut costs. After all, they're facing a deficit that could reach as high as $4 billion this year, despite pre-election predictions in February that it would only be $495 million. They've already looked into cuts to health care, education and other services, and they've brought in an unpopular harmonized tax to pull in federal government funds to the tune of $1.6 billion. Given all that, maybe we shouldn't be surprised that they're looking at scrapping the B.C. Place renovations.

However, what's troubling is the two-faced stance the governing Liberals have taken on the issue. Back when the renovations were first announced, the Liberals were all over them, using them as political capital in an attempt to appeal to sports fans. At the official press conference announcing the Whitecaps' bid for MLS status, B.C. Liberals were again present in numbers showing their support; former Attorney-General Wally Oppal was one of the featured speakers, and Premier Gordon Campbell sent a video message of support. Moreover, the press package was filled with letters supporting the bid from Liberal MLAs.

Even worse was the stance the Liberals took this year. Just before the May election, news leaked that the opposition New Democratic Party was planning to cut funding for the B.C. Place retractable roof, replace it with a simpler fixed roof and redistribute the saved money into social programs. Of course, soccer and CFL fans were outraged, and their protests were heard. The NDP soon came out with a statement calling the whole thing "a Liberal lie" and maintaining that they'd always been at war with Eurasia in favour of a B.C. Place retractable roof. Few believed them, but it looked like the roof was safely out of the realm of politics and back into the realm of sports. Of course, the Liberals made great political capital out of that incident, so it's very disappointing that they're now going back on their word.

That wasn't the Liberals' only attempt to appeal to soccer fans, either. In May, just 10 days before the election, they announced provincial funding for an expensive new training facility for the Whitecaps. Coincidentally, that just happened to be in the battleground riding of Delta South, where the aforementioned attorney-general Wally Oppal was facing a stiff challenge from former Delta councillor Vicki Huntington, running as an Independent. It wasn't enough to sway the election, as Huntington won narrowly, but the timing and location did give the move substantial political overtones. As I wrote then (in the above piece), that didn't necessarily make it a bad thing, as the training facility will certainly prove beneficial for soccer in B.C. (unless it gets scrapped as well). It does show that the Liberals were quite happy to support the Whitecaps just a few months ago when there was an election coming up, though. It's disappointing to see them switch directions at a time when it's harder to call them to account for it.

What does it all mean? Well, I don't think it's doom and gloom for the Whitecaps just yet. For one thing, the roof hasn't definitely been cancelled yet. Moreover, there's a huge amount of support for MLS soccer in Vancouver, and that was already enough to sway one political party that was considering scrapping the roof project. The roof issue's been one of the chief subjects of political discussion in the Lower Mainland this past week, and there are plenty of people up in arms; the Liberals may see that and reconsider this ill-advised move. Also, regardless of politics, leaving B.C. Place as is isn't exactly an option. The current roof has plenty of issues and isn't a viable long-term solution. They could replace it with a fixed roof, as the NDP planned, but that might only save $125-150 million. Is it really worth antagonizing a massive base of soccer and football fans over what amounts to chump change when you consider government budgets?

For another thing, there are options for the Whitecaps even if this retractable roof plan falls through. They have played friendlies in B.C. Place before, and it can work as a soccer stadium. This also might finally clear the political roadblocks towards building their waterfront stadium. Personally, I'd prefer a renovated B.C. Place, as it would likely have more capacity; I don't want to see a situation where tons of fans can't check out the games thanks to a small stadium. The waterfront soccer-specific stadium would be better from a pure soccer standpoint, though, as it could likely be grass instead of turf. I doubt it could be built by 2011 even if the political opposition vanished overnight (not bloody likely), but it might be possible to get it done by 2012 or 2013. B.C. Place could work just fine for MLS for a couple of years, even without renovations.

As I discussed with Jason Davis and Ginge this morning on the Match Fit USA Podcast], I don't think MLS is going to pull the Vancouver franchise regardless of what happens. They already have a lot committed to Vancouver, and as I've written before, the Vancouver-Portland-Seattle rivalry will be huge for the league. Moreover, there aren't really that many good alternatives left; Vancouver and Portland were the strongest of the MLS bids, and the other cities have moved on with their lives for the moment. Montreal could still get in, and they'd certainly be a good addition, but at the moment, it looks like they'll be added anyway without taking anyone else's franchise.

Even without the renovations, the Whitecaps still have a tenable place to play and one that could work for MLS. Moreover, interest in Vancouver has been huge; MLS tickets have been snapped up as soon as they've become available, and interest in the current USL team has swelled as well. Despite currently sitting seventh in the USL-1 table, the Whitecaps recorded their ninth-straight sellout and their tenth of the season in the game I live-blogged last night. That tenth sellout tied a season record from 1987, their first year in Swangard Stadium. Seeing as they didn't reach that mark last year on their way to the USL-1 championship, I'd imagine that the increased ticket sales are proof that there's more interest in the team thanks to their upcoming MLS status. It's hard to envision MLS throwing away what looks like a fantastic soccer market with plenty of population, excellent demographics, strong support from local media and pre-existing rivalries with Montreal, Seattle and Portland.

Cancelling the roof renovations would still hurt both the Whitecaps and Lions, though. B.C. Place is showing its age at the moment. It's a decent facility for football, and a capable if unimpressive one for soccer. However, there are plenty of times when it could sorely use a retractable roof, especially during summer heat waves. That would make Lions' games a much better experience for fans, and it would create a great atmosphere for Whitecaps' games. As I've written before, the retractable roof plans are very impressive; they're based off of Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt, which is used regularly for Bundesliga matches and has also hosted World Cup and Confederations Cup games. Seeing that potentially scrapped in pursuit of a political agenda, by a government that promised the funding in the first place and has used their support of the Whitecaps for political capital time and time again, is incredibly disappointing. My message to the Liberals is simple: forget the politics, forget the cuts, keep your word for once and just build the bloody roof already.

[Cross-posted to The 24th Minute].

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Vancouver Whitecaps - Rochester Rhinos live blog

I'll be live-blogging this evening's USL match between the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Rochester Rhinos here and at The 24th Minute and Epic Footy. Coverage will be coming live from the Swangard Stadium press box. Kickoff is at 10 p.m. Eastern (7 p.m. Pacific): join me here then!

Live blogs, links and programming notes

Work unfortunately got in the way of writing here again, so I haven't been around for a while. That should hopefully change in the next little while, and the first item in the line is a live blog; I'll be live-blogging the Vancouver Whitecaps - Rochester Rhinos game tonight from the press box at Swangard, and then should have a post-game piece up tomorrow. Kickoff is at 10 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Pacific, so come join me here (or at The 24th Minute or Epic Footy] then! In other programming notes, the daily Link Trains will return Monday and I should hopefully have a few original pieces up here this week as well. Until then, here's some links to my stuff and the best of the Interwebs from the past week, as well as some music.

Video of the Day: Spirit of the West - Home for a Rest

A classic party song from a Vancouver band. Many people have probably heard this one in bars or clubs without any idea of who it's from, but the band's actually pretty good and quite well-known out here on the West Coast. I saw them play live at a New Year's Eve concert in Surrey a few years ago, and they put on a great show. Excellent music for your weekend.

My Links:

- A take on Vancouver trading for Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich [Canuck Puck].

- I explored if sharks should really be trading with orcas, threw in some music and added links in last night's Last Call post [The Rookies].

- My weekly Phoenix Pub column looked at the history, value, rules, teams and alumni of the CFL this week [The Phoenix Pub].

- Also on the CFL front, this week's edition of my weekly column, The Whole 110 Yards, featured the Blue Bombers' destruction of the Lions, a look back at the Las Vegas Posse and a take on Kerry "The Barber" Watkins [The Rookies].

- I was a guest on this week's episode (Episode 6) of The Phoenix Pubcast. We spent an hour discussing the CFL, its significance and how the various teams are doing this year. You can download the episode here [The Phoenix Pubcast].

- At my day job, I interviewed Vancouver Giants' general manager Scott Bonner about the team's training camp so far this year, their search for a more physical identity and the success of highly-touted prospects David Musil (projected as a possible top-five NHL draft pick in 2011) and Kevin Connauton (a NCAA star drafted by the Canucks in the third round last year) [The South Delta Leader].

- Not sports, but I got to write a couple of interesting news pieces this week as well. This one looked at if the Point Roberts-Tsawwassen border needs extra security in the wake of the Ryan Jenkins (the international fugitive found dead in Hope) incident, and this cover story looked at the potential expansion of beekeeping into residential zones.

The Best of the Intertubes:


- Great stuff from Brian on the Jays' season so far [Fallen Leafs].

- Joe Posnanski on why this year's Royals may be the worst ever [JoeBlog].

- Ian Hunter looks at North Van native Scott Richmond's performance this season. Richmond remains the only member of the Blue Jays I've interviewed, so I'm obviously rooting for him [Blue Jay Hunter].


- Samer has video and analysis of Alex Smith hitting Greg Ellis. That's right, a quarterback hit a defensive end. Trying to impress Mike Singletary? [Second-String Fullback].

- Looking at the best four years of the NFL's top running backs [Behind The Steel Curtain].

- Is Chad Henne the long-term solution for the Dolphins at QB? [The Phinsider].

- The University of Wisconsin is ending beer company sponsorships on their radio broadcasts in a fight against binge drinking. Yeah, that will work. [The Gally Blog].


- Analyzing the Raptors' off-season moves [Heels on Hardwood].

- Very interesting stuff from Kevin Arnovitz looking back at the debate around the construction of Madison Square Garden and the importance of architectural preservation [TrueHoop].

- Michael Jordan v. Kenny Rogers [Ball Don't Lie].


- James Mirtle's take on the Canucks' trade [From The Rink].

- Sean Zandberg looks at the new Canucks [Nucks Misconduct].

- Alex Tanguay may or may not be a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning [Puck Daddy].


- Jason Davis looks at the American company leading Russia's World Cup bid [Match Fit USA].

- Previewing Barcelona's season [Unprofessional Foul].

- Could Orlando regain a USL-1 franchise? [Soucie On Soccer].

Thanks as always for reading. Full Link Trains will return Monday. Remember to stop by tonight for the live blog!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Night Football: Lions - Blue Bombers live blog

Who's ready for some football! It's Friday night, it's the B.C. Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and it's a CFL live blog! I previewed the game a bit in my weekly CFL column at The Rookies; check that out, then come join in below!

The Link Train: Where the bell tolls for thee

Welcome to the final edition of The Link Train for this week. It will return Monday, so feel free to send me anything you come across this weekend, either in the comments or via Twitter, Facebook or e-mail. I'll also be live-blogging the B.C. Lions - Winnipeg Blue Bombers game here tonight at 7:30 p.m. Pacific (4:30 p.m. Eastern), so come join me then!

Video of the Day: Metallica - For Whom The Bell Tolls

This is a classic. It's tough to go wrong with a song based on my favourite Hemingway novel, and this one is a perfect combination of the best parts of metal; a thumping bass line, killer guitar riffs, a solid drum beat and a generally dark but meaningful overall feel. One of Metallica's best in my mind, and they've had a lot of good ones over the years.

My Links:

- A piece on Ryan Kesler, David Backes, the American Olympic hockey team and why you might not want to insult the wives of future teammates [Canuck Puck].

- My story on Jimmy Camazzolla, who's played in the BCJHL, the WHL, the AHL and the NHL, as well as leagues in Germany and Italy. He's the new coach of the Junior B Delta Ice Hawks [South Delta Leader].

The Best of the Intertubes:


- Jack Bedell breaks down tonight's CFL games [The Red Zone].

- B.C. Lions Den writer Vanya Tucherov weighs in on what it's like to follow the CFL from the States [].

- Richard Zussman previews the University of Saskatchewan Huskies [The CIS Blog].

- Steve Sheiner (who I interviewed earlier this month) has some good thoughts from Dolphins' training camp [Blog With A Porpoise].

- Brad Gagnon has an interesting piece on the new-look Buccaneers [Goal-Line Stand].

- Hustler of Culture looks at the Dallas Cowboys [Style Points].


- Jonah Keri makes the case for Joe Mauer, AL MVP, and looks at the NL MVP race [].

- Matt Clapp on how the Cubs should try Angel Guzman at closer [The Friendly Blogfines].

- Eyebleaf looks at the increasing success enjoyed by wealthy MLB teams [Sports and the City].

- Drew Fairservice on how poor the Blue Jays are defensively these days (partly thanks to the departure of the amazing Scott Rolen and the decent Alex Rios, which I panned here and here) [Ghostrunner on First].

- Ian Hunter takes another look at Brandon League vs. Jesse Carlson [Blue Jay Hunter].


- Steven Cohen has decided to end World Soccer Daily after a boycott campaign [Last Minute, Second Leg].

- A statement on the matter by the Liverpool Football Club New York, which led the boycott [Empire of the Kop].

- Landon Donovan to France? [Jason Davis, Match Fit USA]

- thefuseproject previews this weekend's MLS games [Avoiding The Drop].

- Duane Rollins looks back at Canada's failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup and what it all means [The 24th Minute].


- Erin Nicks weighs in on Dany Heatley's press conference and his demands for options, attention and pancakes. Made me think of this video [The Universal Cynic].

- Vance on the differing perceptions of this year's Sabres [Double-Edged Sabres].

- James Mirtle on the comments on character flying back and forth in the Coyotes/Balsillie case [From The Rink].


- Henry Abbott on the LeBron-Shaq dynamics in Cleveland [TrueHoop].

- Steve Nash: also good at Who Wants To Be A Millionaire [J.E. Skeets, Ball Don't Lie].

- John Stockton: Hall-of-Fame inductee, but still unrecognized [A Stern Warning].

Other Sports:

- Matt Clapp on why his blog's namesake isn't quitting tennis or becoming irrelevant any time soon [Sharapova's Thigh].

- Tiger Woods' real feelings about losing [The Gally Blog].

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Link Train: Where we go to a Sadie Hawkins dance

Still working on figuring out the best time for this feature. Any thoughts on when you'd like to see it? As always, let me know in the comments or via Twitter, Facebook or e-mail. Be sure to leave your submissions for upcoming editions as well!

Video Of The Day: Relient K - Sadie Hawkins Dance

I've always liked this song. For one thing, it's a nice anthem for us somewhat nerdy types. For another thing, it reminds you of the dangers of egotism; thinking you're a big deal usually is a prerequisite to a fall.

My Links:

- None of the stories I've written this week have been posted yet, but you can check out this video I did for The South Delta Leader on the opening of the new Canada Line transit system Monday:

The Best Of The Intertubes:


- The great Tom Benjamin fills Greg Wyshynski in on the five reasons he loves hockey. Benjamin's long been one of my favourite writers, so it's pretty cool to see why he likes the game [Puck Daddy].

- Benjamin also has a good look at the Red Wings' signing of Todd Bertuzzi [Canucks Corner].

- David Backes and Ryan Kesler playing together for Team USA? That might be a bit awkward after Kesler's comments about Backes' wife during last year's playoffs [Nucks Misconduct].

- Chemmy brings us a public service announcement on behalf of Leafs' defenceman Luke Schenn [Pension Plan Puppets].

- Claude Lemieux will join a cast of former NHLers and figure skaters on the CBC figure skating show Battle Of The Blades this fall. Think of it as Dancing With The Stars, but on ice. Will Kris Draper go all Tonya Harding on Lemieux? [James Mirtle, From The Rink].


- Joe Posnanski breaks down the real reason Brett Favre came back. It's not what you think; it's much, much worse! [JoeBlog]

- Minda Haas gets her hands on a Heisman Trophy. Could she be a darkhorse candidate this year? [Getting To First Base].

- lowercase breaks down the Mountain West Conference [The Phoenix Pub].

- It's not just the Raiders' coaches who fight. But who would have guessed the Bills would be next? [Los Angeles Times, via The AP's Dave Goldberg].


- Ian Hunter on the surprising humanity of Roy Halladay [The Blue Jay Hunter].

- Keith Law takes down the Jays' failure to sign three of their first four picks [Drunk Jays Fans].

- Aaron Fischman looks at the state of the Dodgers [Dodger Blue Blog].

- Will Carroll has some nice praise for Joe Posnanski's The Machine (which will be released to the general public on 09/09/09!). "If there's a better sports book this year, I haven't read it." Can't wait to buy this one. [Twitter]


- Chuck Knoblockhead examines the real reason behind the Rick Pitino restaurant affair, with the help of Bill James and "Babermetrics" [Style Points].

- Did Shaq steal his reality TV show plan from former Suns' teammate Steve Nash? [Fully Clips]

- A Kevin Garnett Chelsea jersey? Would have expected KG to show better taste than that. [Ball Don't Lie].

- Nat looks at the Raptors' acquisitions of Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems [Heels on Hardwood].


- Sam breaks down Manchester United's disappointing loss to Burnley [The Canadian Stretford End].

- Ginge looks at if World Soccer Daily host Steven Cohen is going after Antony Ananins, the man who organized the advertising boycott of Cohen's show [Ginge Talks The Footy].

- Looking at the MLS teams heading in to the playoffs [Avoiding The Drop].

Other Sports:

- Usain Bolt follows in JFK's footsteps [Chris Chase, Fourth-Place Medal].

That does it for today's edition of The Link Train. Send me your submissions for tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The (Delayed) Link Train: Where We're Highway Stars

Apologies for the delay in this Link Train post; I was planning to run it last night as per usual, but life got in the way and prevented me from finishing it until now. I should hopefully have another one ready at the normal time tonight, and perhaps even a piece of my own before then if all goes well. As always, leave links for upcoming editions in the comments, or send them to me via Twitter, Facebook or e-mail.

Video Of The Day: Deep Purple - Highway Star

One of the all-time great driving songs, this song also was one of the first real hits in the hard rock/heavy metal vein (along with Led Zeppelin's Communication Breakdown and Black Sabbath's Paranoid). It's the first track from Deep Purple's seminal 1972 album Machine Head, one of the most influential hard rock albums out there. Moreover, it shows off Jon Lord's incredible use of the Hammond organ. If anyone ever tells you the organ has no place in rock, make them listen to Deep Purple for a while.

My Links:

- My weekly CFL column, The Whole 110 Yards, is up over at The Rookies. I break down the past week's action, preview this coming week's games, and discuss the ultimate CFL road trip and the brief existence of the Sacramento Gold Miners [The Rookies].

The Best Of The Intertubes:


- Instead of a doctor, Marc Bulger is going to consult Kurt Warner on how to return from injury more quickly. Dr. James Andrews must have been too busy with Favre [Sportress of Blogitude].

- My Rookies colleague Skating Tomato previews the Buffalo Bills' season. They are the Buffalo Bills, so I predict moments of brilliance followed by eventual soul-crushing defeat [Style Points].

- A nice Steelers Daily Six Pack from Frank Mineo, featuring Isaac Redman's celebrations, Jeff Reed's pranks, Mike Wallace's Madden workout and more [Behind The Steel Curtain].

- Oh yeah, and some guy named Favre did something [Vikings Throne].


- Bob Elliott has a good take on the Jays drafting nine Canadians, but only signing one (he is Tony Fernandez's son, though, which is cool). [Canadian Baseball Network].

- Michael Harrison weighs in on the Jays' failure to sign three of their top four draft picks [Blue Jays Way].

- Jeff Blair on how not trading for Halladay may keep the Red Sox out of the playoffs. [The Globe and Mail].

- Eyebleaf makes the valuable point that it's nice to see the Jays going over slot on their later picks, even if they couldn't get it done at the top [Sports and the City]. Personally, I'd rather see them lock up the top picks and then sign as many of the rest as possible, though.

- Oh, and the justification by J.P. Ricciardi on why he finally decided to start going over slot years after he should have started? “I think because everyone else was doing it.". I love that our general manager uses high school popularity contest logic to make baseball decisions. [Shi Davidi, The Canadian Press, via The Globe and Mail].

- Speaking of Ricciardi, Cam Hutchinson of The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix has a nice bit on him in his most recent sports humour column. "A woman in Norwalk, Conn., who spent $2,000 to stage a dinner to honour herself as 'Nurse of the Year' has been charged with reckless endangerment and criminal impersonation for pretending to be a nurse. In sports lexicon, this is comparable to J.P. Ricciardi masquerading as a MLB general manager." I firmly endorse this sentiment.


- Adam reviews Fox Soccer Channel's Champions League coverage so far [Avoiding The Drop].

- Jason Davis reports that San Antonio might be interested in an MLS team again. [Match Fit USA]

- Andy Hutchins isn't impressed with Bill Simmons' recent foray into soccer writing. I liked Simmons' piece and thought he made some good points, but Hutchins brings up some interesting ones as well. [The Rookies]


- Washington Wizards' centre Brendan Haywood made some rather stupid homophobic comments about Stephon Marbury on Hardcore Sports Radio Monday. [Transcribed by Tas Melas, Sports Radio Interviews].

- Kelly Dwyer has an excellent takedown of Haywood's comments [Ball Don't Lie].

- A fantastic take on the matter by Kevin Arnovitz, who explains what it's like to be a gay sports journalist and invites Haywood to discuss the issue with him [TrueHoop].

- Sarah has an interesting post on the subject as well, exploring the comments on Dwyer's piece [Hornets Hype].

- In lighter NBA news, Lang Whitaker has a good review of the first episode of Shaq Vs., which saw The Big Diesel take on Big Ben (Ben Roethlisberger). Samer Ocho Cinco also looked at this over at The Rookies. [Slam Online].


Brandon Worley looks at the question of if Tom Hicks' financial troubles will affect the Stars [Defending Big D].

Greg Wyshynski takes a look at the Sharks stripping Patrick Marleau of the captaincy [Puck Daddy].

Vance wonders why the Islanders have three expensive goalies and not much else [Bangin Panger].

Yankee Canuck introduces us to Vancouver's new prospect, Michael Ward [Nucks Misconduct].

That does it for today's links. As mentioned above, I should have more tonight. Thanks for reading, and be sure to send me your tips and links!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Link Train: Fear Of The Dark

It's time for another instalment of The Link Train. As always, leave links for tomorrow night's segment in the comments or send them to me via e-mail or Twitter. All sports-related submissions are welcomed. Thanks for reading!

Video Of The Day: Iron Maiden - Fear of the Dark

I'm a huge Maiden fan, but this was a song that didn't really make much of an impression on me the first time I heard it on the eponymous album. It was cool, but it didn't particularly jump out at me. I then heard them play it live at Toronto's Air Canada Centre in October 2007 (still probably the best concert I've been to; you can check out some photos from it on my Facebook page and it became one of my favourites. This song is just epic live, particularly with a good crowd like the one at their headlining set at the 2001 Rock in Rio festival (which turned into an impressive live album) above; it sends chills down your spine to hear a crowd that large singing the intro in unison.

My Links:

- My weekly The Phoenix Pub column targeted the mental side of sports this week. I tried to explain why I'll always be more impressed by a Greg Maddux, a Wayne Gretzky, a Brian Bannister or a Y.E. Yang than a Nolan Ryan, a Usain Bolt or a Tiger Woods. It's not necessarily that their feats are any better or any easier, but the mental aspect makes them more relatable, in my mind.

The Best Of The Intertubes:


- Kevin Kaduk has some good thoughts (and a killer headline) on the much-anticipated signing of first-overall pick Stephen Strasburg [Big League Stew].

- Also on Strasburg, but funnier; Jon Bois of The Dugout examines what his plans for all that money involve. They include a fleet of aircraft carriers covered in pennies [FanHouse].

- Tyler Kepner has a great piece on the meeting of current Yankees' bullpen coach Mike Harkey and the Mariners' Ken Griffey Jr. during the ongoing Yanks-Mariners series, 22 years after the Mariners made the decision to draft Griffey over Harkey. He also goes into the opposition of then-owner George Argyros and how Griffey eventually became crucial to the construction of Safeco Field (and thus, the survival of the team in Seattle). Well worth a read [The New York Times].

- Ian Hunter has some good thoughts on Toronto relievers Brandon League and Jesse Carlson [Blue Jay Hunter].


- The story of Tom Cable allegedly punching assistant Randy Hanson, then being cheered on by his team with "Bumaye, Cable!" (a reference to the Ali-Foreman Rumble in the Jungle) would be completely unbelievable if we weren't talking about the Raiders [Gregg Rosenthal, Pro Football Talk].

- However, it may not be as ludicrous as first thought. ESPN is reporting that no punches were thrown, based on Cable's denial to Mark Schlereth and the description of the incident former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah obtained from a source. According to Jeremiah's source, Hanson spoke profanely to defensive coordinator John Marshall. Cable got upset and pushed Hanson's chair, and he fell and hit his jaw. That would fit with the facts and comments that have come out so far, and sounds much more reasonable than Cable slugging a guy. [ESPN, Twitter]

- Matty I breaks down the Dolphins' 12-9 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He has good things to say about former B.C. Lion Cameron Wake's pass-rush ability [The Phinsider].

- Jared Allen... on Twitter? [Sportress of Blogitude].


- Magnakai Haaskivi breaks down tomorrow's Champions League television schedule [Avoiding The Drop].

- Why Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov might not be the best choice for your fantasy footy team [Never Captain Nicky Butt].

- The always-excellent Chris Nee looks at Saturday's Toronto FC - D.C. United game and concludes that D.C. may be in trouble [Chris Pontius Blog].


- Sean Zandberg has the audio of general manager Mike Gillis' radio interview on The Team 1040 this afternoon. I listened to the interview over the airwaves on the drive home today, and it's pretty good. He had some interesting comments on new signing Sergei Shirokov (who I wrote about here), his desire to add another offensive defenceman and the progress of the Roberto Luongo contract negotiations [Nucks Misconduct].

- James Mirtle has the latest on the Thrashers' ownership mess. Yes, more NHL teams are running into major problems! By my count, the current list includes the Coyotes (fully embroiled in bankruptcy court), Predators (partly in bankruptcy court), Stars (broke owner thanks to the Liverpool mess), Lightning (broke owners who hate each other), Islanders (having massive trouble getting a new arena) and Thrashers. Any I'm missing? [From The Rink]

- David Rogers on how this summer has seen St. Louis improve dramatically while Central Division rivals Chicago have struggled [Frozen Notes].


- Kevin Arnovitz on three teams that might surprise people this year [TrueHoop].

- James Borbath breaks down the Roko Ukic-Amir Johnson trade [Dino Nation].

- Kelly Dwyer thinks said trade is "a steal of sorts" for Toronto [Ball Don't Lie].

- New Score Sports Federation colleague Nat brings you her top ten "DAYUM!" moments from last season [Heels on Hardwood].


- James Brown and First Derivative interview Robert Littal of Black Sports Online [The Phoenix Pub].

- Andy Hutchins on Usain Bolt's dominance [The Rookies].

- Joe Posnanski has a tremendous piece on Tiger and Yang [Joe Blog].

- Ailanthus Altissima somehow manages to continue to find interesting things to write about college sports despite the offseason. Most impressive. This week's subject: should players with criminal records be eligible for scholarships? [The Phoenix Pub].

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Link Train: Living in the limelight

This is a new daily feature I'm going to be running (and yes, I did steal the name). The plan is to post a music video and a list of the most interesting links from the various sports I tend to write about each night. There will be a partial focus on the teams I tend to write about, but there will also be plenty of room for stories from around different leagues and other sports. Submissions and comments are welcomed, either in the comments section of the previous night's post or via e-mail or Twitter. Enjoy!

Video Of The Day: To go with the efforts (led by Stephen of Stephen on Stuff) to make Rush a trending topic, here's Rush with Limelight.

My Links:

- A piece I wrote on Y.E. Yang's unexpected victory over Tiger Woods in the PGA Championship [The Rookies].

The Best Of The Intertubes:


- Duane Rollins weighs in on yesterday's Toronto FC win (which I live blogged here) [The 24th Minute].

- Jason Davis has some good thoughts on the similarities and differences between Freddy Adu and Charlie Davies [Match Fit USA].

- Adam Soucie takes a look at ESPN's EPL broadcast schedule [Soucie On Soccer].

- Sam on why he thinks Manchester United will repeat as English Premier League champions [The Canadian Stretford End].

- Adam (of Avoiding The Drop fame) has a two-part newbies' guide to soccer [The Phoenix Pub].


- An excellent back-and-forth between Eyebleaf and Joe Posnanski about Joe's article where he proposed calling bad contracts "Ricciardis". I'm obviously on Joe's side in this one, but regardless of who you agree with, it's tremendous to see that level of insightful discussion between a blogger and a mainstream writer [Sports And The City].

- Jonah Keri has a great piece on Carl Crawford's amazing year [Sports Illustrated, via Minda Haas at Getting To First Base].

- Should the Jays go after Jason Bay in the off-season? [Infield Fly]

- A report on former fourth-overall pick Adam Loewen, a high-school classmate of mine and former BCPBL star who's trying to work his way back to the majors as an everyday player [Mopup Duty]

- My favourite Yankees fan, Chad, breaks down why Mark Teixeira may not be a shoo-in for AL MVP just yet [Behind The Moat].

- Drew Fairservice on why it isn't wise to try and open hotel doors with Blue Jays' gift cards [Ghostrunner on First].

- Aaron Fischman takes us around the majors, karaoke-style [Dodger Blue Blog].


- Vanya Tucherov weighs in on the B.C. Lions' win over the Toronto Argonauts Friday (another game I live-blogged) [B.C. Lions Den]. I'll have more on the game and the rest of the week's CFL action in my The Whole 110 Yards column Tuesday at The Rookies.

- Rookies coworker Samer Ocho Cinco previews the NFC North. [Second String Fullback].

- Michael Bean previews what the Steelers' 53-man roster may look like [Behind The Steel Curtain].

- Clinton Portishead on who's a worse human being: Michael Vick or Dante Stallworth? [Style Points].

- Josh Zerkle on the NFL's rookie salary cap [With Leather].

- Donovan McNabb turns over a new leaf [Hugging Harold Reynolds].


- James Mirtle on the bankruptcy cases in Phoenix and Nashville [From The Rink].

- Greg Wyshynski's thoughts on Mark Messier's new gig with the Rangers [Puck Daddy].

- Sean Zandberg weighs in on why the Canucks may not have all that drastic of a need for a puck-moving defenceman [Nucks Misconduct]

- Tom Benjamin on how Bruce Dowbiggin took him out of context and unfairly blamed the blogosphere in the Patrick Kane saga [Canucks Corner].


- Rob Mahoney on why Dirk Nowitzki won't be playing for Germany at this summer's European Championships [The Two-Man Game, via Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop].

- David Berri on how the Rockets may be in better shape than many think [The Wages of Wins].

- Scott Lewis has the top ten highlight-reel plays from the Raptors last year [Jurassic Hoops].


- Jay Busbee has some good thoughts on Yang's win, and why it's likely the most significant upset in pro golf history [Devil Ball Golf].

- Adam Best on 30 different sports figures who could be aliens [Fan Addict].

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Toronto FC - D.C. United live blog

I'll be providing coverage of the Toronto FC - D.C. United match at 4 p.m. Eastern. It should be a good one, with plenty of playoff implications; D.C. are in fourth place in the East with 28 points from a 6-4-10 record, while Toronto are fifth with 27 points from a 7-7-6 record. Come join in the fun then!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Night Football: Lions - Argos live blog

Saturday may well be Hockey Night In Canada, but Friday's reserved for the CFL! There's an excellent matchup this week, with the B.C. Lions looking to keep their momentum from a win over Saskatchewan and the Toronto Argonauts hoping to avenge last week's shutout at the hands of the Montreal Alouettes. For a full preview, check out this piece over at; you can also check out my weekly CFL column over at The Rookies. There, I predicted a B.C. win, and I'm sticking to that; both teams may be 2-4, but B.C. was very impressive last week against a good Saskatchewan team, while Toronto played their worst game of the year against Montreal and couldn't record a single point. Join me in the live blog below to see if they can bounce back!

Links, tunes and live blogs

I'll be live-blogging the B.C. Lions - Toronto Argonauts game here and at Out of Left Field at 7:30 Eastern/4:30 Pacific. Until then, here's some links to the other stuff I've been writing and some of the best stories from around the web, as well as some tuneage to get you all pumped for the game.

My pieces:

- Here's the story of Canucks' prospect Sergei Shirokov and his quest to escape the KHL [Canuck Puck].

- Here's a link to the newest edition of The Whole 110 Yards, my weekly CFL column over at The Rookies.

- The Vancouver Olympics are now only six months away. I have a story on one local group's Olympic preparations in The South Delta Leader, where I'm working for the next few weeks.

- My weekly Phoenix Pub column took aim at the lack of proper standards and treatment around concussions in sports.

- As part of those aforementioned Olympic preparations, the Richmond-Vancouver-Vancouver Airport SkyTrain line is opening on Monday. It will see heavy use during the Olympics, especially transporting athletes, journalists and officials downtown from the airport. I have a story (and a video) talking to some local transit users about their thoughts on the line [The South Delta Leader].

Best of the Interwebs:

- Shakey gives us Landon Donovan's real backstory [Style Points].

- The Pirates Fan on the worst members of Steeler Nation [The Phoenix Pub].

- Weed Against Speed on an upcoming Toronto charity soccer game featuring members of Great Big Sea, Broken Social Scene, Weezer, Bedouin Soundclash and More [Sportress of Blogitude]

- Duane Rollins on Canadian international striker Simeon Jackson's potential Premiership move [The 24th Minute]

- Chilltown on why Tim Wakefield is The Most Interesting Knuckleballer In The World [The Rookies]

- A very painful injury to the Mariners' Adrian Beltre [Gunaxin]

- Adam Best on 30 sports figures who could be aliens [Fan Addict]

- Jason Davis on Landon Donovan apparently contracting swine flu before the U.S. national team's game against Mexico [Match Fit USA]

- Brian Wawryshyn on why football is, after all, just a game [B.C. Lions Den]

Here's a classic most appropriate for a game in Toronto. See you shortly for the live blog!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wanted: Better Blue Jays owners

One of the most interesting themes around the Blue Jays lately is the discussion of how their ownership has changed [Stephen Brunt, The Globe and Mail] since the death of Ted Rogers. Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed recently said the company remains committed to the Jays in a conference call, but talked of "bringing costs in line" [Jeff Blair, The Globe and Mail]. Those comments, as well as the recent trade of Alex Rios for nothing [Bob Elliott, Toronto Sun] and Scott Rolen for prospects, have led to speculation that Rogers may sell the team, as well as plenty of indignation over the team being run like a business.

However, that indignation is misplaced in my mind. There's nothing wrong with running a team like a business; after all, a business-driven approach led to Billy Beane's Moneyball strategy in Oakland. That exact approach is more difficult to execute these days, but the business principles behind it of finding undervalued assets, developing them and then selling them for more than their true value still hold true. In fact, they often apply across sports; see Mike Gillis' "Moneypuck" plan with the Vancouver Canucks.

The problem is that Rogers is currently approaching the problem from the wrong end. What they see is declining revenues. Perhaps the best example is the rapidly falling attendance) [Sports Business Daily]. The Toronto Star's Garth Woosley wrote that the Jays' average home attendance is the 25th-worst in baseball this year and that they're the worst draw in the majors on the road. Now, the Jays' attendance hasn't always been bad, even recently; Baseball Reference indicates that they were in the upper half of the AL for the last two years and eighth the year before that.

The apparent solution for Rogers? Bring their expenses in line with their revenues. Reduce payroll to a level that will allow them to make a profit despite diminished attendance. You have to think that's at least a factor [Drew Fairservice, Ghostrunner on First] in the deal that sent third baseman Scott Rolen to Cinncinnati, even if general manager J.P. Ricciardi pulled a song-and-dance about "personal reasons" [Robert MacLeod, The Globe and Mail] (where have we heard that one before?). Moreover, they'll actually only save around $5.25 million thanks to sending cash to the Reds in the deal, as Ian Hunter of Blue Jay Hunter reported on Twitter. Still, from a fire sale point of view, it's a start. The Rios trade is another logical step in that direction (Jeff Blair, The Globe and Mail), especially as it's being called "the largest salary dump in MLB history" [Buster Olney,]. The real revelation of their intent will come this winter, though, when they have to make decisions on again trying to trade Roy Halladay and other veteran players.

In my mind, though, cutting payroll to match revenues will only beget a vicious cycle. Toronto is not a market where most people go to view talented prospects or enjoy a day at the ballpark; Toronto fans tend to get behind winning teams or teams that have a buzz around them. The best example is the Toronto Argonauts; during their Grey Cup campaign in 2004, they drew a ton of interest, but they've struggled since then and are barely noticed in their home market these days. The Raptors are also a strong case in point; they attracted relatively little interest during the early years when they weren't all that good, but have been coming on strong in recent years with a couple of playoff runs. Last year's step back hurt them a bit. It's a similar story with Toronto FC; sure, they haven't acheived much on the field yet, but their fans have been incredibly restless considering how new they are to the league. Even in the first season, there were plenty ticked off that they weren't already in the playoffs, and that discontent has grown over time. That's motivated the team to add older veterans like Dwayne DeRosario in hopes of winning now.

NFL International vice-president Gord Smeaton gave me the perfect quote on this when I interviewed him for the Queen's Alumni Review last fall about the NFL and their games in Toronto. "Toronto isn't a sports city," he said. "It's an entertainment city." To me, that's a perfect way to describe it. Sure, there are plenty of diehard fans who will go to games whether their team is awesome or atrocious, but they're not the ones most important to the bottom line. The difference between making money and losing it are the fans who show up only when there's something to see, and those fans are a significant force in Toronto.

Now, the Leafs are largely an exception to this, as they get plenty of interest and support even when they're awful. Part of that's due to sheer demographics, though; there are so many diehard Leafs fans in the area that there's tremendous demand for tickets regardless of how they're playing. However, for many years they stuck to the "middle way" of doing enough to make the playoffs but not enough to win it all, never really taking time to rebuild; in my mind, that was at least partly due to business-driven fears of what would happen if they ever missed the playoffs. Seeing as MLSE's largest stakeholder is the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, there's a good reason one of the best Leafs' sites out there is called Pension Plan Puppets. Ironically, since then, the Leafs have taken several steps in the right direction, hiring general manager Brian Burke and going into full rebuilding mode. They're still getting great fan support, and they'll be good again in the future.

Unfortunately, the Jays under Ricciardi have adopted the Leafs' old business plan; do enough to keep fans coming, but never enough to contend. They never increased their payroll to a level where they could compete with the Yankees and Red Sox in the present, but they were just as unwilling to go into a rebuilding mode and try and compete with cheap prospects a few years down the road. The middle way is inoffensive, as the team's always good enough to offer false hope (see their hot start this year) despite their lack of accomplishments. Moreover, it gives some fans a smug sense of superiority; "Well, at least we're not as bad as the Orioles or the Pirates!" That is misplaced; those organizations may be worse at the moment, but they're attempting full-fledged rebuilds and could be very good down the road. Look at Tampa Bay's turnaround last year. Meanwhile, the Jays persist in the long journey towards mediocrity.

There is perhaps some hope, though. If the team is sold, new owners may be more willing to invest in building a solid franchise. Even if Rogers hangs on to them, they may not be as tight-fisted as many fear. Toronto Sports Media reported that Prime Time Sports host Bob McCown said last night that Ricciardi should be gone by the end of the year and the payroll next year would jump to $100-120 million. With the Jays' promising young pitchers, that might just be enough to contend. A contending team with a new general manager would likely restore the fans' faith and dramatically increase attendance and interest (as well as ratings on the Rogers broadcasts of Jays content on The Fan 590 and Sportsnet), paying for itself and more in the process. There is a risk, though; if that money isn't spent wisely (hello, Vernon Wells!), the team could be worse off than before, with a losing record, lacklustre attendance and a massive payroll. I can't see the cautious suits at Rogers making that kind of a gamble on their own, but interim president Paul Beeston might be able to convince them; after all, Beeston was there during the glory years and knows just how well the city will support a good baseball team. He also knows what it takes to build a winner. If this payroll increase is in fact the case, the Rios deal might actually make some sense, as it would give the Jays more room to maneuver [Dustin Parkes, Drunk Jays Fans]. Given Rogers' track record, I'll believe it when I see it, though.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

On The Ground: Frank Mineo on Dick LeBeau and the Steelers

I'm finally back from this weekend's softball tournament in Golden, B.C. It was a lot of fun, and our team won our division, placing fifth overall out of 16 teams in the process. Anyway, I should hopefully have some fresh content up tonight. Until then, here's the final part of my interview series for my unconventional thinking piece at The Good Point. Today's instalment features my full interview with Frank Mineo (drinkyourmilkshake) of the great Steelers' website, Behind The Steel Curtain. You can also check out my full interview with Minnesota Vikings blogger Brandon Peterson over at his excellent site, Vikings' Throne. Read on for Frank's thoughts on the Steelers, Dick LeBeau's defensive innovations, the zone blitz and the 3-4.

Andrew Bucholtz: Many have attributed much of Pittsburgh's success over the last couple of decades to Dick LeBeau's zone blitz scheme. How important do you think it has been to the Steelers?

Frank Mineo: Dick LeBeau's first season with the Pittsburgh Steelers was in 1992 which was also the year that Bill Cowher took over as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. With Mike Tomlin's decision to keep Dick LeBeau on staff, it has certainly kept a sense of continuity for the Steelers throughout the years. LeBeau’s knowledge and propensity for innovation took the Steelers defense within a few short years turned them into a dominant force and has kept the defense relevant and exceptional.

Even when LeBeau left the Steelers to become head coach of the Bengals, his schemes remained along with his coaching disciples and allowed the Steelers defense to remain one of the top units in the league. LeBeau is referred to as “Coach Dad” by his players and it’s clear that the respect they have for him is immense.

A.B.: Most innovations in the NFL seem to have a relatively short shelf life, but the zone blitz has remained effective for decades now. Why do you think this is?

F.M.: I think part of the reason why it has been able to sustain its relevance is because the zone blitz was less of an innovation and more of an improvement on the 3-4 defensive scheme that has been effective for many years. LeBeau designed the scheme to cut down on risks by disguising defenders to increase the efficiency of his blitzes without committing additional men and therefore creating pressure without exposing weaknesses. He has basically perfected the 3-4 defense, and perfection rarely goes out of style.

A.B.: There's been some discussion about the Steelers possibly utilizing a Wildcat formation at times this year with backup QB Dennis Dixon. What do you think of this idea? Can the Wildcat still work now that other teams are used to it, and do the Steelers have the personnel necessary for the scheme to succeed?.

F.M.: The Steelers started using something similar to the Wildcat around 1995 with Kordell Stewart, and they actually used a Wildcat formation in the Super Bowl (albeit with little success). I have no doubt that if Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians think the package will be effective, they will use the Wildcat or a similar variation.

Regarding Dennis Dixon, he will have to show he is capable of being the first backup to Ben Roethlisberger to gain a roster spot and be able to see the field on game days. In order to do so, he will have to have a very strong training camp and preseason to have any chance at winning the backup quarterback spot over veteran Charlie Batch. If Dixon does wind up as the second-string QB, I think the Steelers would be foolish to not develop a few packages to take advantage of Dixon’s athleticism.

I’m not sure if the Wildcat was a one year wonder or not, but Miami was really the only team in the NFL to use it consistently rather than just an occasional trick play. Some teams were able to expose weaknesses in the Wildcat offense near the end of the season, but with the Dolphins adding Pat White to the mix and brining back Ronnie Brown and the rest of the core group, I expect them to try and advance and improve on their success from last year. Only time will tell if the Wildcat and its spawns are here to stick around.

A.B.: The Steelers have also been famed for their 3-4 defence, which started as more of an unconventional idea. However, more and more teams seem to be switching to the 3-4 all the time. Will the Steelers' 3-4 still be effective when they have to compete with more teams for players that fit the system? Also, will opponents be able to handle the Steelers' 3-4 better from the experience of regularly playing other teams using a 3-4?

F.M.: I don’t think anyone can answer the first part of the question with any real certainty. The teams like the Ravens, Steelers, and Patriots have had their pick of the litter when it comes to finding the right players to fit their mold, partially because there were so few teams running the 3-4 scheme in the past. As more teams start to use the system, it is only natural to assume that teams will have a harder time finding the right players to continue their defensive dominance, but I do think there are a few caveats to that. Each team who use the 3-4 runs it with a little bit of a different style, and the personnel that each system requires is different from team to team. You also have to consider that the NFL is a copycat-type league and after a while a new system will come along and steal the buzz and excitement for the 3-4.

A.B.: How important do you think it is for NFL teams to try unconventional strategies, whether in player acquisition or in play design and selection?

F.M.: I don’t think teams need to rely on trick plays and cheap gimmicks to be successful, but it is extremely important to take risks and think outside the box. The Steelers are clearly a team who do that, and I think it would be foolish to ignore that as part of the reason for their sustained success over the years. As I brought up earlier, the Steelers used Wildcat type formations long before it was popular, go against the grain in terms of spending lots of money on high-priced free agents, and also trust their coaches like no other franchise over the past few decades. The teams who are successful run their teams how they want and stay away from following the trends of other teams.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Centre field

Well, I'm off for the weekend for a softball tournament, so things will be light around here for a little while. I should be back with fresh content Monday, and I've got plenty planned for next week, including my thoughts on the latest developments in the Phoenix Coyotes' case, a few thoughts on ESPN's Twitter policy, a post on how Rogers' approach to the Blue Jays is all wrong, more interviews from my The Good Point piece and much more. Until then, here's a couple links to other pieces I wrote this week that you may not have seen and a few things from around the web.

- The initial instalment of my new weekly CFL column, The Whole 110 Yards, over at The Rookies.

- My weekly The Phoenix Pub column focused on the success of the B.C. Premier Baseball League this week.

- A piece I wrote at Canuck Puck on the elevation Mike Gillis to president and general manager.

- James Mirtle has a good take on the Coyotes' mess [From The Rink].

- Why The Denver Post thinks JR Smith's associated with The Bloods [Style Points]

- Eyebleaf pays tribute to Jeremy Roenick [Sports and the City]

- Skating Tomato on why the Michael Crabtree saga shows the problems with the NFL's rookie contracts [The Rookies].

- Check out BC Lions Den for everything on tonight's Lions-Riders matchup.

Here's some music to get you in a baseball mood for the weekend. Play me off, John Fogerty!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

On The Ground: Steve Sheiner on the Dolphins and the Wildcat

In the next instalment in my extended interview series for this piece on innovation in the NFL for The Good Point, I present Steve Sheiner of the Miami Dolphins site Blog With A Porpoise. Steve is also a senior editor at, the network I run Canuck Puck for. He had a lot of interesting comments on the Dolphins, the Wildcat offence, former B.C. Lion Cameron Wake and innovation in the NFL in general. Read on for the full interview!

Andrew Bucholtz: The Dolphins obviously made a huge turnaround last year, going from the league's worst record to AFC East champions. How much of that success do you attribute to their implementation of the Wildcat offence?

Steve Sheiner: I certainly think that played a role in their success as they caught a lot of teams off-guard that were ill-prepared to defend against such an unfamiliar attack. But more realistically, the Dolphins had one of the cushiest schedules in 2008 and the loss of Tom Brady in the division certainly didn’t hurt matters either. But the Dolphins have the players to utilize the Wildcat effectively, and with the addition of QB/WR Pat White, you can expect to see plenty more where that came from in 2009.

A.B.: Many teams have since tried to copy the Wildcat, and several more are talking about using at least some form of it next season. Do you think other teams can be successful with it, or was it a unique coaching/personnel mix in Miami that resulted in the Dolphins' success?

S.S.: It’s become fairly common knowledge that the NFL is a copy-cat league. When something works, other teams will adopt it. But the right personnel is crucial in implementing any new offensive scheme, particularly the Wildcat. Ronnie Brown was exceptional spearheading it last season, and you can bet there will be other teams looking to add it to their arsenal in the coming year. It takes the right players to make it work and an offensive mind to creatively design a new mix of formations and plays.

A.B.: With the Wildcat, it seemed teams had a tough time adjusting to it at first. Will it still be effective for the Dolphins this year now that everyone has seen it, or will they have to come up with something else?

S.S.: You will still see the Dolphins run the Wildcat in 2009. What you won’t see is the same plays and formations that you saw last season. Defenses prepare for what they’ve seen before, and certainly for what they’ve been beaten by previously. As the old saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”. The Dolphins will have some new tricks up their sleeves this year and more often than not, the opposing defense won’t be ready for it.

A.B.: What will the acquisition of Pat White in the draft mean for the Dolphins' Wildcat formation? Also, is he a player that can only be effective in a system like the Wildcat, or can he be a regular quarterback in the future?

S.S.: To quote the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, "Pat White is the next level of the Wildcat. You take a guy who can throw the football like an NFL quarterback and who can also run the option. That means the safety is in the box and your cornerbacks are one-on-one with no deep help." That spells trouble for opposing defenses. Local media have already dubbed the attack "The WildPat" as they anticipate seeing plenty of the dynamic White spearheading the offense. White will create passing lanes with his quick feet and is accurate on the move. White will offer a number of different options as a quarterback, running back or slot receiver, and he’ll make defenders pick their poison.

At just 6’ tall and 206 lbs., White doesn’t have the prototypical size to be an NFL quarterback. We’ve seen other smaller QBs succeed, but it’s not easy when you can’t see over the offensive line in front of you. While he’s expected to compete with Chad Henne for the backup role behind Chad Pennington, most local reporters believe Henne is the heir apparent and White won’t see much opportunity for a long while at QB. But he did throw for 6,049 yards and run for 4,480 more while at West Virginia, setting the NCAA record for career rushing yards by a quarterback; so you never know.

A.B.: The Dolphins have made some other unconventional player moves this offseason, including signing CFL star Cameron Wake in the hopes of converting him from defensive end to outside linebacker. Do you think Wake will be successful in the NFL? If so, could this lead to more intensive scouting of the CFL by NFL teams?

S.S.: Presently, Wake is pretty low on the depth chart. He’ll be counted on more as a special teamer than for linebacker duties. He’s a reserve outside linebacker, basically the third-string nickel rusher. He’s primarily expected to be a key contributor on special teams this season and not much more. If he fails to impress there during training camp and the preseason, he might find it tough to retain a roster spot. But if he makes the team and continues to impress coaches, more teams will have their scouts keeping a closer eye on both the CFL and the new upstart league, the UFL.

A.B.: How important do you think it is for NFL teams to try unconventional strategies, whether in player acquisition or in play design and selection?

S.S.: In this era of the NFL, it’s vital for teams to constantly develop new and innovative ways to not only get the ball into the hands of their playmakers, but to catch opposing defenses off guard. The Wildcat did just that last year and you’ll see more of the same (though not quite the same) this year. The acquisition of Pat White is a perfect example of a team taking a player that fits their scheme. Receiver Percy Harvin is another example in Minnesota. Expect the Vikings to implement some Wildcat formations in their offensive game-plans this season, with our without Brett Favre at quarterback. Harvin is another dynamic playmaker that will allow Minnesota to get creative with their play-calling and find ways to get him the ball.