Installment #2: Fish Food Mail Bag

T.J. Houshmanzadeh to Seattle made for the best signing for the wrong team.

T.J. Houshmanzadeh to Seattle made for the best signing for the wrong team.

Are the Cowboys a better team without T.O.? -Wendy, Guymon, OK

Unquestionably. With T.O., the Dallas locker room vibe seemed to grab more attention than that of its play on the field. The media could have just reported using something similar to the US Homeland Security Terrorist Alert Level graph, often pointing at red for “severe.” I couldn’t even imagine going to work like that everyday.

Just like it ends with T.O. in Big D, it now all starts with the quarterback, and Tony Romo will get his chance to prove that he hasn’t excelled at his position because of the prima donna wide receiver. Heading into 2009 will be Romo’s third full season as a starter. He has an above average offensive line to work with, an explosive running back tandem in Marion Barber and Felix Jones, capable wide receivers, and the best tight-end in football in Jason Witten. The Cowboys have all the elements of a balanced offense with a quarterback who has the playmaking capability, like Ben Roethlisberger, to put them over the top.

While I do believe Terrell Owens has at least one more Pro Bowl type of a season left in him, we probably won’t get to see it because he’s playing in Buffalo.

In the 2008-9 season, Terrell Owens turned out to be as unpredictable as Al-Qaeda.

Like Al-Qaeda, you never know what T.O. is scheming.

You haven’t mentioned anything about the World Baseball Classic. Give it some love! -Grandma, Bridgeport, CT

Your boy, AL MVP Dustin Pedroia, got hurt during the WBC, Grandma. How do you like them apples? Just kidding. I couldn’t help myself. I love you.

With Ken Griffey Jr. signing perhaps his last contract in returning to the Mariners, I’m reminded of Willie Mays to the Mets, Franco Harris to the Seahawks, Johnny Unitas to the Chargers, or even Patrick Ewing to the Sonics. Why should Mariner fans still be optimistic of a return to the playoffs? -Dick, Mercer Island, WA

Okay Mariner fans, here is your mission statement for the 2009 season: What do we have to lose?

Junior instantly and effortlessly injects zest back to baseball in the Northwest. Mariner fans haven’t been this excited about the start of the season since, well, this time a year ago. But of course, this time around, the cause of the buzz-which is a fresh one at that-can be attributed to a completely different source. Ken Griffey Jr. is the guy who not only saved baseball in the Emerald City, but he built the best ball park nobody has ever been to in Safeco Field. If nothing else, take a youngster to a game and tell them that they are watching one of the most gifted, “all-natural” baseball players the game has ever seen.

Assuming he can stay healthy at the DH spot, Griffey can be much more valuable to the Mariners than people are giving him credit for. He can give Seattle 500-600 quality-non-Richie Sexson at bats-and that should constitute 10 more wins easy.

What was the best and worst moves made in the NFL this offseason? -Hector, Belen, NM

Amazingly, the worst move wasn’t Washington paying Albert Haynesworth 40 million dollars guaranteed. The worst move was Philadelphia not guaranteeing a single cent to a premier wide receiver for its premier quarterback, Donovan McNabb. We’ve been down this road before. How difficult is it to do the math for Andy Reid and Philly’s front office? A quarterback is only as good as his wide receivers. I just don’t understand this team’s philosophy behind the identity of its offense.

T.J. Houshmanzadeh is certainly not a household name, and because he signed with Seattle, he never will be. But Houshmanzadeh has made a career out of getting open, catching passes, and moving the chains with consistency. Old school, but effective, nonetheless. And while he may be getting paid like an explosive threat, more than the Eagles were willing to part with, any premier quarterback in the NFL would take a savvy, 90+ catch guy in his huddle.

Is it just me or are the Phoenix Suns on T.V. way too often? -Courtnie, Laramie, WY

This question alone inspired this mail bag installment. To answer your question: YES! In fact, there have been a few weeks where the Suns would accrue more time on the national stage than that of a week’s worth of Everybody Loves Raymond reruns.

I understand that Grant Hill, Shaq, and Steve Nash are NBA ambassadors/market friendly, but the brand of basketball in which the Suns play is as predictable as the actual giant star itself setting in the west. I’m just not going to invest 2-3 hours of my time watching a team that I not only know will not make the playoffs, but won’t win the game!

Five years from now, Schilling will be joining The Bloody Sock in the HOF.

Five years from now, Schilling will be joining The Bloody Sock in the HOF.

Is Curt Schilling going to be enshrined in Cooperstown one day? -Madison, Melbourne, FL

Yes. You have to begin by answering yourself this question: Can you write a story about the history of baseball and not include Curt Schilling? Not only is Schilling a baseball legend, but perhaps more significantly, he’s going to forever be recognized as a sports hero in the city of Boston. That’s a group that includes: Russell, Bird, Auerbach, Orr, Brady, Belichek, Yaz, Ted Williams, someone who I’m forgetting, and Schilling.

If you want to argue that his body of work has not compiled enough key numbers, fine. But I don’t think compiling stats is as important for a pitcher as it is an everyday player. When you hear his name, like Sandy Koufax (who only had about 6 great seasons), you think of a guy you want to give the ball to in game 7 of the World Series. You think of a guy who, in his prime, was one of the best at what he did. Slam the gavel right there.

To me, Curt Schilling’s legacy exemplifies the essence of what a Hall of Famer should be. Just break it down: Hall—Of—FAME.

That’s not Curt Schilling?

I want to take my family to Spring Training for our vacation next year. Should I set my sights on Florida or Arizona? -Alan, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Gators or rattlesnakes. The Atlantic Ocean or a pool. Palm trees or Cactus trees. The Yankees or the Cubbies. Mickey Mouse or…Vegas is five hours away.

I’ve never been to spring training in Arizona, but most fans and media alike are in favor of the desert. Sure, Arizona offers better golf courses, nicer/newer baseball venues that are within a reasonable distance from each other, and far better shopping for the ladies.

But there’s one important aspect of the Spring Training culture in Florida that you can’t put a price on: character. There’s just something exotic or surreal about seeing guys working and who are worth twice as much as the rickety stadiums and shotty facilities of which they occupy. Hopefully, for 2010, the town of Vero Beach will make a deal with a team to take over the old grounds of Dodgertown, where the boundary between fan and athlete is about as limited as it gets in professional sport.

Then there’s the Atlanta Braves, who play in Disney World. That’s baseball (at night) + Magic Kingdom in one day. It doesn’t get much better than that for my Spring Training money.

If you have no problem driving an hour here or there, Florida, not Arizona, is the place your family will never forget you vacationed, I promise you.

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The Breakfast Bracket Buster

colin1

Thanks for giving me a great excuse to call in sick today, Colin.

Fish Food Appetizer of the Month Via Chef Cowherd

Great Northwest native and ESPN Radio personality Colin Cowherd recently spoke of the man’s obsession for filling out brackets of any kind. Then he dropped the unexpected, poignant LOL bomb: “You could match the best cereals on the market in a bracket, and men would love to fill that out.”

And he’s absolutely right.

But it would be awfully difficult to pick a champion of cereals, let alone a Final Four. And how would you go about seeding the whole thing? Wheaties, the self-proclaimed, “Breakfast of Champions” would be a lock for a No. 1 seed, but if you had to pick only four of your favorite cereals to eat, would you go with the whole grain crunch? No. You’re an overweight American. You can’t tell me that Froot Loops or Cocoa Puffs wasn’t one of the first of boxed breakfast delicacies that popped in your mind.

So without further adieu, I give you Fish Food’s Cereal Final Four:

Froot Loops: I’m convinced that God put Tucans on this planet for no other reason than to look cool and pedal cereal, so Froot Loops earns the mascot props. But Froot Loops takes a backseat to no other cereal in terms of diversity: the assortment of colors, back of box entertainment (crosswords are usually at a respectable 8th grade level), and is as enjoyable with milk as it is dry.

tucan

Frosted Flakes: Again, two thumbs up for the mascot alone. Tony The Tiger not only wears stripes and a bandana around his neck, but comes with a simple, yet effective catch phrase: “They’re Grrrrreat!” Speculate all you want with the use of performance enhancing drugs (he balanced a tray of a complete breakfast while wake-boarding in one commercial), but spokesman Tony T. is to cereal like Hulk Hogan was to pro wrestling. Oh yeah, the Frosted Flakes taste never disappoints.

Cocoa Puffs: Don’t even bring your mascot to the dance. Please. You ever heard the term, “Don’t go shopping hungry”?            At what point did the marketing executive at Cocoa Puffs realize, “We wasted time and money designing and writing commercials around a Do-Do Bird?” I mean, we’re talking chocolate flavored Kix that turn your cereal into Nestle’s Quik…And for no extra charge! This cereal is every big kid’s guilty pleasure at breakfast time. I can’t even look at it when I walk down the cereal isle-hungry or not. And if its on sale? What diet? Cocoa Puffs just sell itself.

Captain Crunch: Just the name of the cereal alone gets immediate consideration for this cereal mainstay. Any variation (Peanut Butter, Berries, or regular) will do. Crunch Berries aren’t my favorite, but enchanting nonetheless. Some cereal fans might blow the whistle with this pick, because Captain Crunch will scratch (your gums) and claw his way to the national semifinals. While they may not look pretty getting to this point, you just have to respect the Captain. Eighty-seven years old and 14 hours sober, Captain Crunch himself doubles as a wily navigator/head coach, as well as admirable ambassador of the cereal industry. He is the Dean Smith of mascots.

I expect an outcry over Lucky Charms. But how could you pick the Gonzaga (marshmallow soft) of cereals to get to the Final Four? Cocoa Puffs plays on both ends of the court.

I expect an outcry over Lucky Charms. But how could you pick the Gonzaga (marshmallow soft) of cereals to get to the Final Four? Cocoa Puffs plays on both ends of the court.

The rest of the field of 32

Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cookie Crisp, Rice Krispies Treats, Kix, Corn Pops, Wheaties, Life, Life Cinnamon, Golden Grahams, Lucky Charms, Grape Nuts, Honey Comb, Raisin Bran, Cracklin’ Oat Bran, Flutie Flakes, Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Pebbles, Cocoa Krispies, Alpha Bits, Mr. T, Super Golden Crisp (w/Sugar Bear), Smacks (w/Dig ‘Em Frog), Trix, Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Corn Flakes, Count Chocula, Apple Jacks

Fish Food Mail Bag Installment #1: March Madness Preview

One could never predict another George Mason to break through; but its not crazy to like Wake, Gonzaga, Xavier, or Memphis' national semifinal chances.

One could never predict another George Mason to break through; but its not crazy to like Wake, Gonzaga, Xavier, or Memphis' national semifinal chances.

I want to thank everyone who contributed, and for the 98th time, no, I have no idea whether or not President Obama’s economic stimulus plan will work. The best advice I can give you is to watch MSNBC’s Hardball With Chris Matthews one week,  Fox News’s Sean Hannity the next, add a dash of HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher if you can, then come up with your own conclusion.

It is March after all; time to start talking about all the Madness!

Who do you think will become a better pro: Stephen Curry or Tyler Hansbrough?

-Rick, Huntsville, AL

Stephen Curry, without even blinking. Have you ever just thought for one minute how difficult it is just to get a quality shot OFF in the NBA? It took Nate Robinson, what, four seasons to figure out what a good shot is. I think the only thing Curry lacks is a strong, 82 game NBA body frame. But he can make up for that with his shooting, quickness, and play-making abilities. If rookie Mario Chalmers can start in the NBA, then I can only imagine what Curry’s future has in store. Don’t be fooled by Davidson’s lack of success with Curry’s offensive struggles down the stretch. Remember, he is still playing for Davidson. Put him around four other NBA players and you may have a potential All-Star at point guard.

Hansbrough has become the Tim Tebow of college basketball. Like the Heisman trophy winner, he “stayed” in school an extra year, and love him or hate him, everyone appreciates his overachieving efforts and sportsmanship on the field of play. Unfortunately, integrity and grit doesn’t translate to being drafted at the next level. For the main reason I love Curry’s chances, I tend to dismiss Hansbrough’s NBA fate: I can’t see him getting a shot off in the NBA. When he has his back to the basket, he doesn’t display any moves. How could you play a post man in the NBA without one move? AndPsycho-T is one of my favorite players ever, however, I just don’t see a position for him in the NBA. If he had an excellent outside shot, then I could see him getting time as a swing man. I originally fantasized Hansbrough as the next Charles Barkley: An undersized power forward who is unafraid of using his body as a shield for banging on both ends with the trees. But I just don’t see the explosiveness factor in Hansbrough that made Barkley a star in Philadelphia.

I hope I’m wrong on Hansbrough, but like Randy Jackson says on American Idol: “I’m just keeping it real, dawg.”

What did we learn about this year’s Duke team? Is there Final Four potential?

-Heavy D, Dunn, NC

Having grown up with great admiration for Grant Hill and Christian Laettner, I usually drink the Dukie Gatorade this time of year and pencil them in for at least a Sweet 16 birth. With that said, I’m not going to award Duke any more than two wins for The Dance this year-no matter what. We learned this about Coach K’s 2008-09 bunch: 1.) They simply cannot make a defensive stop when they need it.

Modern day Duke teams can make threes and defend the perimeter. On Sunday, Tyler Hansbrough made more threes against the Blue Devils (2) than his previous CAREER TOTAL (1). And forget about defending the key, because Duke has no quality bigs to help Singler, who is relied upon heavily enough on the offensive end.

2.) The Dukies have no ball-handling play-makers, which puts added pressure on Singler, Scheyer, and Henderson to score one-on-one in the half court. You can get away with that in the tournament, however, that leaves little margin for error. Further meaning, I don’t think Duke can overcome one of their three main scorers having an off-night (or fall into foul trouble) for five straight games in order for Duke to be successful. The sky-walking Henderson, who is their X-factor, needs to be out in open space in order to shine and throw down momentum-swinging dunks. While Sigler and Scheyer scored, Henderson struggled against North Carolina in the season finale, and Duke lost.

Greg Paulus is a descent bench player; he’s just not the answer at the point. Duke will run out of resources and/or gas before they cut any nets down.

Which team and player has surprised you the most this college basketball season?

-Trish, Sunnyside, WA

That’s a great question, Trish. One that has taken me all day to figure out, but I have to pick two teams here. For the answer, look no further than the NCAA Championship Game of a year ago. Who would have thought Kansas and Memphis, after combining to lose a busload of NBA talent, would be in the top ten in March 2009?

It just goes to show you that Memphis head coach John Calipari will have to win the national title before he and the Tigers consistently get the type of accolades they deserve. Who cares if they play in Conference USA? I sure don’t. There is no such thing as a night off in any conference in college basketball anymore, and the level of success the Tigers have been able to play with this decade is phenomenal. They play every single night with a target on their backs-and win. You gotta respect that.

Love him or hate him, Calipari deserves coach of the year honors in '09.

"Those guys would give up a kidney before they put us at No. 1 in the country," as Memphis Head Coach John Calipari was recently quoted in Sports Illustrated.

Blake Griffin, believe it or not, has surprised me the most this season. For a sophomore, this guy is an absolute man-child. Tyler Hansbrough is the reigning Naismith Player of the Year, yet in his senior season, he is the “Poor Man’s” Blake Griffin. Griffin has the size and explosiveness that Hansbrough probably lacks in order to become successful at the next level.

The biggest surprise of all this college basketball season has probably yet to come. Even more surprising than if Jim Calhoun were to give back a million dollars to the State of Connecticut once the season has finished, could be the team who actually cuts down the nets.

Remember the last season in which a Cinderella ran the table in March? It was in 2006, when the Final Four saw a three-headed monster of Cinderella’s in George Mason, LSU, and Florida, respectively. Throughout that regular season, and much like our current top 25, it seemed as if like standing in the No. 1 spot in the polls meant you had to deal with burning rocks at your feet.

As many 1st team All-American-worthy college basketball players as there are this season, in contrast, there aren’t many Goliathan teams for the David’s to deal with. North Carolina and Pitt can’t shoot threes, Duke doesn’t have the right kind of playmakers, UConn lives and dies by Hasheem Thabeet, Oklahoma hasn’t been the same since Griffin’s concussion, and nobody is expecting much from the Pac-10 this year. I’m not setting my predictions in stone just yet, but I think its likely the Wake Forest’s, Xavier’s, or Gonzaga’s of the world have a chance to break through to the Final Four for the first or second time in either school’s history.