SPORTS w/The Jock 10-7-11

by Tom Weppel
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
We’ve gotten to the quarter-pole in the NFL, with 25% of the season already done and completed. Seems as if it went by kinda fast.
There are obvious storylines garnering attention, with Buffalo (3-1) and Detroit (4-0) doing better than we all expected, while the Eagles (1-3) and Colts (0-4) are certainly not playing like we are used to seeing.
There is no question the Green Bay Packers (4-0) have shown us a strong, solid, dominant brand of football that will be hard to match this season. QB Aaron Rodgers and his mates have put out some great numbers. If they stay healthy, they will be tough to beat, without question.
This week the Packers go to Atlanta for a Sunday night matchup with the Falcons (2-2), a team that has slipped a few times so far. Green Bay comes in as a six-point favorite. We’ll see if they keep it up…
Then you have the upstart Detroit Lions, who NO ONE expected to be 4-0! This is a team who has simply shocked the entire League week after week. Last week was a perfect example, as they came back from a huge deficit put on by the Cowboys. Two INT’s for TD’s and couple of drives later, they were in the lead, and Dallas was feeling as though they were totally mistreated!
The Lions are now playing with the attitude of knowing they will win, whoever they face. Their style of play has finally received the proper amount of respect and attention. We shall see them showcased on Monday night, when they host the 2-2 Chicago Bears, a team that hasn’t shown much consistency at all in their play. The Lions are also a six-point favorite. I’m certain they will provide a rockin’ crowd, all ready to get into an exciting atmosphere and a fun performance by their Lions…
And while the spotlight has certainly shown on the 0-4 teams, including the Rams, Dolphins, Colts, and Vikings, there are seven 1-3 teams that are certainly feeling some heat and exposing their weaknesses, which we all know is NOT good! If the boys in Denver, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, and Arizona don’t pickup a ‘W’ in the next week, look for some changes…

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Six weeks ago, as the season was starting, the only discussion it seemed college football fans had involved the wildness and drama in trying to determine which team was going to be playing for and with what conference in the very near future! Screw what games were playing…it was all about where your favorite school was heading! It seemed leaving one conference for another was almost a certainty, geographic and financial barriers aside!
And now, after most of the dust settled, we have only one deal done (A&M to the SEC), with one school definitely wanting to make a switch (Missou). Otherwise, all the possibilities and movement that was being discussed has turned into just that…nothing but talk.
In the meantime, it seems as if we’ve seen three teams come out strong, establishing themselves as the dominant schools. SEC teams Alabama and LSU are certainly at the top, along with Big 12 team Oklahoma. All three will be very tough to beat this year, and that includes this week. OU goes into Texas to play the 4-0 Longhorns as a ten-point favorite, which is higher than we’re used to. LSU will host the banged-up Florida Gators, with the Tigers being a 14-point favorite. They should handle UF easily. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide will have a field day at home when they host the Vanderbilt Commodores.
In other games of note, Auburn travels to Arkansas to play the Razorbacks, Ohio St. goes to Nebraska, offering the ‘Huskers another shot at a Big 10 team, and the surprisingly upstart Kansas State Jayhawks (4-0) will host the 2-2 Missouri Tigers, interestingly as a three-point underdog!
So, we’ll see how things play out, and I’m sure there will be plenty of talk concerning the haves and the have nots.
And the conference chatter will fall off to the side…at least for a while.

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
After more than a week of Divisional series play, we’ve reached one of the more exciting times in baseball…when the ALCS and NLCS begin, all to determine who gets in the World Series.
For MLB, this is their time to shine on center stage, for all intents. But to be honest, the interest and popularity of these games depends solely on which teams are involved and still alive.
You think I’m joking? Here’s a perfect example…
What would happen if a Cinderella team made the playoffs, then lost in the Division series, and nobody cared?
Just ask the Tampa Bay Rays.
After coming through with one of the more impressive comebacks in the last few seasons, after being nine games off the wild card lead with a few weeks left, the Rays simply showed us they are a premiere team in oh so many ways! They seemed ready to do some damage in the playoffs, coming off the momentum they built off their dominant play in the latter part of the regular season.
And you would think that would allow for a decent amount of fans to emerge and, at the very least, provide the Rays with a couple of sellout crowds for their playoff games against the Texas Rangers.
But that was not the case.
Game 3 attendance on Monday was 32,828…with a number of empty seats available in the upper reaches of their dome home…The Trop! Game 4 attendance, played on Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m., was even worse, with only 28,299!
Now please…pardon me while I wail, complain, and whine a little…
What the hell! Seriously…only 28,000 show up for a MLB playoff game?!?! And this is not a minor league team, people! In many other Major League markets, there is no question a team would easily be selling out their home playoff games! Even the Marlins and Blue Jays, who pull paltry regular season crowds, could bring packed stadiums for their postseason contests!
If you watched the game, you saw the empty seats. Watching the game, it looks like ‘The Trop’, is nothing more than a cavernous warehouse to me. It certainly doesn’t give off the traditional setting of a Major League baseball game!
And that is sad.
Nonetheless, Tampa sports fans had plenty of time to snag seats for these games. They can be blamed for not supporting their team.
Maybe the rays can simply do a deal with the Cubs or Dodgers and trade their entire lineups! Wouldn’t that be special!

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