Friday, March 25, 2011

The Forgotten League - By Jeff Bailey

Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world, yet in America the sport is an afterthought. Soccer, or futbol as it is known throughout the rest of the world, is one of the true international sports. All over the world there are major and minor leagues which people cannot get enough of. Here in the United States there is Major League Soccer (MLS). The MLS kicked off its 15th season this past weekend, but the majority of America will have no idea. The MLS started its first season back in 1996 with 10 teams while this year the league has 18 teams, two of which are in Canada. The number of teams, players, and matches has increased in the last 15 years but America’s lack of involvement and love for the game has gone unchanged.

Youth soccer is the most popular sport for young children, and has been for 15-20 years. Somehow though, that popularity does not transfer to professional soccer like it does for baseball, basketball, and football. If you asked most Americans to name as many players as they can think of who play in the MLS, most will only come up with Landon Donavan and maybe one other. But if you ask them name soccer players in general, they will be able to rattle of a handful of European players, even if they are not soccer fans. The same thing goes with MLS teams. Most Americans can probably name off the LA Galaxy, DC United, and maybe one more team; but they could easily name off Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, AC Milan, etc from Europe.
Soccer is truly an international sport. Every four years soccer holds one of the best international sporting events, The World Cup. The only other international sporting event that is more popular and brings more people together is the Olympics. The World Cup is the only time Americans have any interest in soccer. Even then, the hardcore soccer fans call ‘foul’ because none of the World-Cup-only-fans are “real” fans. This is one of the major problems with American soccer. These hardcore fans should be happy that more people are getting involved with soccer.
Growing up in Columbus, Ohio my whole life we received one of the original 10 teams of the MLS. Even with Columbus being a very soccer friendly town, the support for the Columbus Crew is minimal. In 2008, the Crew won the MLS Cup yet their stadium, the first ever soccer specific stadium in the country, was only half full. This is a trend of most MLS teams from around the country. So why is the MLS so unpopular with Americans?
For starters, soccer is not “America’s sport”. America was very late in adopting professional soccer and because of that the US national team barely cracks the top 10 in world competitions. Since the US national team is lackluster compared to our European foes, Americans just turn the other shoulder when it comes to soccer. Americans don’t like soccer because we are not the best in the world at it, and the MLS does not have the best players in the world.

The United States has been blessed with sports leagues. The NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB are the Meccas of their respected sport. Players from all around the world want to make it to those leagues. The MLS is not like that because the best players and competition in the world is in Europe. Since the MLS does not involve the best players and the US National team hardly competes for championships, the MLS as a whole suffers because American’s want the best.

The future is looking brighter for MLS though. Over the past couple year’s attendance has been on the rise throughout all stadiums, and MLS teams are now starting to turn a profit each season. The rise in soccer interest has risen over the past decade, and the US National team has invested a lot of time, effort, and money into creating/finding the next big US soccer stars so they can compete for world championships. While I do agree European soccer is a lot more fun and enjoyable to watch, I still go to multiple Columbus Crew games a year just to support the team. We, as Americans, should be happy we have a great and building soccer league that will someday be on the same level as European leagues. If you’ve never been to an MLS game, I encourage you to go, not only to support US soccer, but to have a great time; you never know, you might be watching the world’s next Ronaldo or Beckham.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Christmas Is Here - March Madness Tips Today - By Dan Wines

From time to time, I have a habit of jotting down some sing-songy scribbles prior to sporting events.  The Blueprint's Jeff and Lotis can attest to that from our years of debating sports.  On the dawn of the greatest sporting event in the country, I got the itch to do it again.  I'm certainly no great poet, and I'll never pretend to be, but a little light hearted fun never hurt anyone.  Also, I recognize that we've already experienced "the first four," but you'll have to pardon my apathy as I still consider today to be the beginning of the event we call March Madness.  Enough babbling, on to the poem:

Christmas for many will come in December
For me Christmas involves the clutch shots I remember
It's Bryce Drew for Valpo, it's Webber's timeout
March Madness is what my Christmas is about

You see, every March new teams get their chance
To bring their A game and compete in the dance
From the opening tip to the end of the game
They'll hope that the bracket advances their name

Cameras will pan to the kids in the stands
Nervously nibbling fingernails off their hands
Jim Nantz and Gus Johnson, and a bevy of others
Narrate the scene as new stars are discovered

Cinderallas will don their best fitting shoes
Hoping Goliath will stumble and lose
As brackets are busted, and big names go asunder
College basketball fans will watch on in wonder

Be it Jimmer, or Duke, or that Buckeye named Diebler
It's the first to six wins who's the trophy receiver
They'll be proving the worth of the work that it took
And placing their names in the history books

Be it the Irish, the Heels, or the boys from Purdue
Or perhaps Cinderella finds her shiny shoe
I'll be watching intently, enjoying the games
As teams move ahead when their foes are each tamed

The passion they play with is seldom repeated
Their tears hit the floor when their team's been defeated
It's love of the game, it's cutting down nets
It's rabid investment due to office pool bets

It's buzzer beaters and blowouts, removing all doubts
It's frenetic action this time is about
It signals the passage from winter to spring
It's thunderous dunks, jumpers from the wing

When that one lucky team beats their final opponent
Their highlights will play to One Shining Moment
A season completed, and a trophy to hoist
Postgame speeches to give while their fans all rejoice

These are the reasons it's my favorite time
My gifts come in buckets, alley oops, and great dimes
Call me crazy for calling March Madness my Christmas
But these moments in spring will always top my wish list

Enjoy the games everybody!

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Keeping It Close To The Vest

It seems having a trick up your sleeve is made more difficult when your choice of clothing isn't equipped with any.  By now, you've likely heard the Jim Tressel story.  In April of last year, Tressel was made aware that (at the time) two of his players were receiving free ink in exchange for memorabilia from a drug dealing ex-con tattoo artist.  In December of last year, everyone else found out.  That's a problem.

Ohio State tried to get out in front of this one early Tuesday evening with self-imposed sanctions and a press conference that included what was deemed to be "public reprimand and apology."  I watched and saw that Ohio State's interpretation of reprimanding and apologizing differs from mine or Merriam Webster.  I did learn, like anyone else who saw the presser, that OSU suspended their coach for the first two games of the upcoming season and fined him $250,000.  In the months to come, I'm fairly certain that the NCAA will determine that the punishment is insufficient.  Just how much more is piled on in this scenario remains to be seen, and right now I don't care.

Here's what I do care about.  In this situation, Tressel is completely indefensible.  Several months prior to his players being suspended, Tressel was made aware of a situation that involved improper benefits, a drug dealer, and a federal investigation into that drug dealer.  His choice was to keep that information to himself.  In case you're unaware, every single college football program has legal counsel available to it.  Coaches and players alike are instructed that those resources are available to them specifically for instances like this.  Furthermore, when you're the biggest name at the biggest university in the country, confidentiality is something you just don't have to worry about.  As a college football fan, I'm extremely disappointed that Tressel insulted my intelligence enough to imply that the real reason he kept this completely to himself was out of concern for his players and not wanting to interfere with a federal investigation.

I suppose that seems like a sincere enough statement coming from a widely respected college football coach - until you actually think about it.  Tressel's press conference statements urge you to believe that he was at risk of interfering with a federal investigation by consulting with anyone else at the university.  So the drug dealing tattoo artist who was the subject of that investigation felt comfortable consulting with an attorney, and the very same attorney was comfortable exchanging emails with a college football coach about the investigation, but the wholesome football coach felt by protecting his own interests he would be at risk of interfering with the investigation?  Give me a break.  That is impossible for me to believe.

On top of that, by keeping this a secret, he has jeopardized all of the victories compiled during the 2010 season.  In doing so, by being concerned about the players, of which there were two at the time, he showed no concern for every other player on the roster that did thing the right way and busted their asses all season.  That, to me, is a pretty glaring contradiction.  This wasn't about the players.  It wasn't about respecting the investigative process.  It was about winning football games.

The fact of the matter is, Tressel tried to sweep this under the rug and failed miserably.  Only after his players were caught and subsequently suspended did he divulge this information to university officials.  Even if you accept this as a simple mistake, it's a mistake that may very well result in Ohio State having to vacate the wins from the 2010 season.  That decision will be made by the NCAA eventually.  Ultimately, though, it doesn't matter.  Regardless of the punishment, Tressel has sullied his name and opened himself up to criticism on a level he hasn't yet seen, and he deserves it.  This isn't the first time Tressel's name has been connected to controversy.  This is, however, the first time he hasn't been able to turn a blind eye to it and wriggle free.

Before I go, it's important to note that I've always respected Jim Tressel.  For the most part, I still do.  College football has plenty of flaws, and the coaches have made their way by turning a blind eye to improprieties for decades.  I still think there are few college coaches as good as Tressel.  In fact, I still think that he's a good guy who does care about his players.  While I'm not an Ohio State fan, I have always respected what Tressel has accomplished there.  Few recruit with the success he has, and despite being criticized for his conservative play-calling, his teams win more than 80 percent of their games, and he has a dominated the Big Ten since he made the drive from Youngstown to Columbus.

Ultimately, that's the reason I'm disappointed.  When dirtballs act like dirtballs, I shrug my shoulders because I expect it.  When the best at what they do fall off their pedestal like Tressel has here, it makes me wonder just how deeply rooted the problems in college football are.

A couple of things I keep hearing that need to be addressed.

- This whole thing never should've been a problem because the memorabilia belonged to the players.

This is wrong on a couple of levels.  First of all, it's a rule.  Making an argument against the rules in place is the equivalent of complaining about needing ten yards for a first down or only getting three points for a field goal.  Whether you like the rule or not, it is a well known rule that the players are apprised of prior to every season.  Schools have entire departments devoted to compliance, and it's naive to think that the players at Ohio State were unaware of the violations they were committing.  Furthermore, Terrelle Pryor admitted in his press conference at the Sugar Bowl, that he knew he was committing an infraction when he traded his goods for his tats.

Secondly, if you dislike this rule, you don't fully understand how slimy college football boosters can be.  If players were allowed to sell their memorabilia, which has no true set market, nothing would prevent a booster with deep pockets from paying exorbitant prices for any item the player owned and calling it memorabilia.  For example, if players were allowed to sell their items, what would prevent a wealthy booster from writing a player a $10,000 check for a pair of used shoes?  Without this rule, you'd see a loophole in college sports that would effectively allow college boosters to pay players.  Even if you think college players deserve to be paid (another terrible idea), this would be the wrong way to accomplish that because of the imbalance it would create.

- Cam Newton didn't even get a slap on the wrist, so the NCAA must be targeting Ohio State.

Utter nonsense.  The NCAA will always have the burden of proof.  At the end of the investigation into Newton, the NCAA didn't have any proof that he had solicited his services to Mississippi State and no transaction was ever made between the two parties.  No proof, no punishment.  Personally, I think Cam Newton is as dirty as they come.  I'm quite certain that the same kid who has said previously that his father is involved in every decision he makes knew damn well that his dad was trying to get paid.  I wouldn't be surprised if, like Reggie Bush, we find out in a couple of years that the reason Newton ended up at Auburn is because they paid better.  If and when that happens, you'd see Newton forfeit his Heisman and you'd see Auburn placed on probation.  However, in the limited time frame they had to work with, the NCAA didn't have proof of anything other than the fact that Cecil Newton is a bit of a douche.

This situation is entirely different from Newton's because everything that happened is documented.  The players were caught, and unless they find a surgeon who's willing to trade laserr removal for an autograph, they wear the proof on their arms.  Additionally, Tressel's emails are available online right now.  Bottom line, every part of this story can be proven.  Therein lies the difference, and drawing comparisons to the Newton situation in the SEC doesn't work; even for the most dyed in the wool Ohio State fans.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

MMA Judging Needs To Improve - By Lotis Butchko

It’s been almost one year since I interviewed Dan Hornbuckle, but I still can’t forget how great of a guy he is. Hornbuckle had a fight in Dallas last year for the semi-finals in the Bellator season three welterweight tournament.  Looking for a story, I happened to be watching television and saw him with a bolo tie. With my interest peaking, I searched for bios of him and loved what I found.

I e-mailed an editor in the United Kingdom about the story, it was approved and I went from there. I have to admit, the first time I talked to Dan I didn’t know what to think. He came across as cocky and a bit of a smart ass. But after I looked him up online and found some more interviews I knew he was perfect.

When he finally landed in town I went to his hotel in Arlington, Texas, and he greeted me at the door with his wife Melody, honestly, two of the best people I have had the pleasure of meeting. The first thing you notice about Dan is his swagger. It’s unbelievable. If ever a man lacked confidence, he could borrow it from Dan. He jokes about highlight reel knockouts and openly discusses his past growing up on and off the reservation as a poor child.

So Saturday night, when I finally got a chance to watch him fight for the first time since his win against Brad Blackburn I was excited. Excitement quickly turned to anger.

In this sport we have a tactic called stealing rounds, it’s cheap, pathetic, and very effective, and tonight that is exactly what happened. Forget the fact that I consider Dan a good friend. I also consider this sport a huge part of my life, and there is something very wrong in MMA. It’s called judging.

Just this week alone I have seen two fighters completely screwed over by the judges.  Thursday, Martin Kampmann, one of the UFC’s more underrated 170-pound fighters decisively beat Diego Sanchez. Sanchez looked like someone had stuck his face under an elephants paw but still somehow won the fights. For MMA fans like me this is a despicable section of the fight world. How embarrassing is it for us to have this in our sport? Imagine trying to tell your best friend how great football is and then the referees blowing the game for a team.

Sadly, this wasn’t Kampmann’s first rodeo. He actually beat Jake Shields a few months ago at UFC 121 and lost that decision too.

But for Hornbuckle this fight could cost him 100,000 dollars. Because, of the way Bellator’s tournament is set up, instead of fighting next month for 50,000, he gets to sit at home, watch the fights and wonder what if.

What if we had a decent judging system in this sport? What if this sport’s officiating and scoring weren’t ten years behind the athletes? What if he hadn’t left it in the judge’s hand? Because that’s what they always say right? Don’t leave it in the judge’s hand. Well I say, we should be able to feel confident about it when we do.

The Best Month For Sports - By Jeff Bailey

The great month of March is upon us and that means just one thing…madness. Word madness and March have become synonymous with each other. When any sport fan thinks of the month of March they immediately think of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament.

The NCAA basketball tournament has become more of a religion over the past years with millions of people, some who don’t even watch basketball, trying to create the perfect bracket. Almost every company around the country has some type of “office pool” with brackets, and the games instantly become water cooler talks. Looking over the past 20-30 years, some of the most infamous games, plays, and players have all come out of the tournament. What other sporting event can take a team from a school with no more than 3,000 students and instantly turn them into sporting celebrities, and take no name players and turn them into household names over night. Every year there is at least one Cinderella team that gets hot at the right time and makes an unseen run at a national title.

The tournament itself is an image of the American dream. If you make the tournament, no matter how big or how small the team is, if you’ve won 15 or 30 games, or if you are the #1 or #14 seed you have a shot at making history and winning a national championship. The tournament is the classic story of David vs. Goliath. Time and time again the little teams prove the David vs. Goliath story is true. Many sports analysts, and fans, agree that the NCAA tournament is the best postseason of any sport.
However, March is not just about the NCAA basketball tournament.

For all other basketball fans, the second half the NBA season is in full force with teams vying for playoff spots. On top of that, the top players are stepping up their games to win the MVP race. For hockey fans, the NHL season only has about 20 games left. Teams are fighting and putting their blood, sweat, and tears into making the playoffs and winning one of the most coveted trophies in all of sports; Lord Stanley’s Cup. The actual playoffs for the NBA and NHL might not be until April, but the playoff push is a lot more exciting to most fans.

This great month is just not about basketball and hockey, but can also be a month of madness for football, baseball, and soccer fans. Sure the college football bowl season is over, and the Super Bowl is in the past, but that does not mean football news stops. The month of March is just off the heels or college football’s biggest offseason news; National Signing Day. College fans are drooling over their newest recruits, and starting to bash other teams on their forums about how their team is going to go undefeated and win a national championship next year. Spring practices are still about a month or so away, but fans are already putting together their “ultimate” starting lineups.

NFL fans are in the middle of free agency and only weeks away from the NFL Draft. The NFL combine just happened, so fans are rethinking their teams’ needs and who they should draft. College players vault themselves from being unknowns to being first round picks with just running a 40 yard dash. This offseason has added another wrinkle in the NFL madness with the labor talks and the possibility of a season long lockout. With or without a lockout, the NFL will stay have their draft next month.

For baseball fans, spring training is just beginning and fans are finally getting to see their teams for this season. After all the trades in the offseason, fans are seeing their newly acquired players and are getting ready for nonstop baseball for the next 7-8 months. The dreams of winning it all are still alive at this point and with the season just weeks away. As for soccer, the MLS season is only two weeks away while the European leagues started just a few weeks ago.

March might come in as a lion and leave as a lamb in terms of weather, but in the sports world March comes in like a freight train and leaves with just as much power. The NCAA basketball tournament is the heart and soul of March, but almost every single sport has something going on in March. March is the greatest month of the year for sports, hands down. What other month has Cinderella stories, upsets, unknowns becoming household names, fresh starts to seasons, ends of seasons, and playoffs spots being won and lost? Only one word describes the month of March - madness.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wild Thing, You Make My Heart Sick

In our reality television, TMZ world, Charlie Sheen has gained more notoriety for being crazy than for any of his work in Hollywood. It's no surprise really, that the same people who've allowed Keeping Up With The Kardashians to have not one, but two spin-offs, would eat up Charlie Sheen's insanity with the voracity of a stoner given a plate of pizza rolls, but let's see this for what it is. Charlie Sheen is bat shit crazy.

The people who seem to think that Sheen is some edgy genius are stupid. If you're one of those people, you got it right, I'm calling you stupid. I watched his 20/20 interview in its entirety and I saw that his drug test came back negative. I also couldn't help but think that if this is Charlie Sheen sober, someone should have taken hedge clippers to his manhood long before he produced five children. He's very clearly incapable of taking care of himself, let alone his kids. The sad thing is, I'm not entirely sure that Denise Richards and Brooke Mueller give those children any better chance at a decent upbringing.

Charlie Sheen during his 20/20
People think it's funny that he laughs about his benders, claiming other prolific drugs users like Keith Richards have nothing on his penchant for almost killing himself. If you're one of those people, you probably think David Carradine just needed a longer belt.

This whole Two And A Half Men drama revolves around two men who have egos larger than the guns in Delonte West's guitar case, and neither of them are able to see the forest through the trees. There is no show without either one of them. As entertaining as Jon Cryer and the kid who used to be fat are, Charlie has always made that show work. Sure, Chuck Lorre's an ass. All you have to do is pause your TV long enough to read one of his post show title cards to realize it. That doesn't, however, exonerate Sheen's behavior.

Sheen's publicist resigned this week. In all likelihood he found better work selling sandals in Siberia. Sheen's spent a week talking about how great he is at everything. Now mind you, he did fail as a serious movie actor, and he's been married three times, but he's "bi-winning." I haven't heard much from him about how bad he feels for putting people out of work, either. The bodies he leaves in his wake don't matter right now. After all, he's got two very homely goddesses (read: out of work porn stars) by his side. Life is good.

Sheen was a childhood icon for
Cleveland Indians fans
Prior to this episode, I've always liked Sheen. He's made a grand living playing himself in movies and on television. Growing up a Cleveland Indians fan, Major League and Sheen were as much a part of my summers as fireflies, fishing, and swimming pools. These developments, however, make me sick.

I've heard some people say that they side with Sheen because Lorre gravy trained his way to TV's number one show and turned a blind eye to his erratic and dangerous behavior until his feelings got hurt. Keep in mind that sometimes it's perfectly acceptable not to take a side. If the Ravens play the Steelers, I root for a tie.

Screw the whole "at least he's honest" bit too. Charlie Sheen has been honest about the things that everyone already knows. Everything else is dismissed as stupid or unimportant.

Perhaps the majority of his 1.1 million twitter followers (at last count) are following him to see what crazy thing he says next. It's possible the Sheen defenders are the minority. Hell, I follow the guy, and I can't help but feel like I'm watching a train derail. 
I'm not writing this to let CBS and Chuck Lorre off the hook for the mess with Two And A Half Men by any means either. There's equal culpability for that show's demise. What's painfully obvious to me, however, is that this stopped being about that show long before Sheen got an hour long television interview.

This is what sobriety looks like?
Quite frankly, Sheen spoke like a cult leader in that interview. He invented phrases, gave his palatial mansion a name, and is developing a harem of women for his bedroom. I don't see how that is anything less than sickening to anyone. This isn't the sequel of Coco vs. NBC. This is the sad and complete deterioration of a man broadcast on live television.

Watching it all unfold, I can't help but feel that Sheen, in his current state, won't survive this calendar year. I hope I'm wrong, but people who've used drugs for their entire life don't just arbitrarily decide to blink and be done with it. People who go on week long drug vacations like Sheen's often take breaks from their behavior, creating the desire for such marathon escapades. Don't be dumb enough to think that every piss he takes from here forward will come up roses. It's a matter of time before he finds another hotel to redecorate with broken lamps and bloodied hookers. Until Sheen takes a step back from the cameras and realizes that all of his purchased attention is not love or freedom, but newspaper over the mess the dog left on the floor, he's one epic weekend from being part of a "stars we lost in 2011" slideshow.  I know the man loves attention, but that's one applause he needs to stop seeking.

I hope he wakes up from whatever this delusional tirade is and realizes that he's jeopardizing his career, his family, and his own life with his behavior.  I hope he can swallow his own pride and check his own ego long enough to get the help that he needs.  I also hope I win the lottery and the Browns win the Super Bowl.

Here are a couple of memorable quotes from Sheen's media parade:

Twitpic from Charlie Sheen's highly popular twitter feed.
“I closed my eyes and in a nanosecond I cured myself.”

“What’s not to love? Especially when you see how I party, it was epic. The run I was on made Sinatra, Flynn, Jagger, Richards and all of them look like droopy-eyed armless children.”

“I am on a drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen. It’s not available. If you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body.”

Just one question. Does that sound like someone who's "winning" to you?

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Here's A Guy You Root For - By Dan Wines

  His story's been documented and detailed.  ESPN's Tom Rinaldi broke out his favorite quiet voice for an inspirational piece about his determination and heart.  In May of 2009, emerging Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer called Ewing's Sarcoma.  In one sentence from one doctor, dreams of playing on Sundays moved to the distant back burner.  A somewhat charmed life became a public battle with a monster that ends lives, let alone careers.  Typically, by the time Ewing's is diagnosed, it has spread to other parts of the body.  As with any form of cancer, once it begins migrating, survival rates become bleak.  For Herzlich, the cancer was treatable, but his football future was cloudy.
  In the piece by ESPN, Herzlich was asked if he'd play football again.  Simply, but profoundly, Herzlich responded with a nod of the head, "Yes sir. I am."  Amazingly, despite having his strength and energy zapped by the chemo, Herzlich managed to continue working out.  He kept his weight up.  He remained the inspirational face of the BC football program.  He traded his face paint, uniform and pads for khaki pants, a golf shirt, and towel.  Continuing to lead his team out of the tunnel at Alumni Stadium, Herzlich prowled the sidelines with the same intensity he had between the hash marks.  Cancer pressed pause on his playing career, but it couldn't quite tackle his will.  On October 3rd of that same year, in front of the Boston College faithful, Herzlich updated his prognosis on live TV.  Nuumber 94 was cancer free. 

  His journey back reached it's summit on September 4th, 2010, when he led his teammates through the BC banner in a season opening victory over Weber State.  Again he looked like a short haired version of The Ultimate Warrior, and again he'd take the field for the Eagles' defense.  While his senior season didn't meet the statistical standards he set prior to his diagnosis when we he was named the 2008 ACC defensive player of the year, it did put an exclamation point on his comeback.  He had soundly defeated the toughest opponent he'll ever face.

  I bring this up now because this week is the annual dog and pony show the NFL has named the scouting combine.  Aspiring prospects are picked apart at every level.  Character concerns come to the forefront.  Some players surprise, others disappoint.  Money is made at the scouting combine for those who leave incredible numbers on someone's stopwatch.  Draft stocks rise and fall based on the battery of tests these kids go through.  In recent years, players like running back Chris Johnson, and tight end Vernon Davis have gone from virtual unknowns to hot prospects and first round picks.  This year, Mark Herzlich took the next step in leaving cancer in his rearview by participating in the combine.  While his 40 time didn't wow anyone, and his overall performance isn't likely to make him a day one draft pick, he did show his peers and the deicision makers representing his future employer that he is indeed back.

  His long term health will be a question come draft day, and some teams will certainly shy away from him after a poor showing in the 40 yard dash.  Herzlich's instincts are great, as his is size (6'4, 240), but there will be questions.  He'll have to battle to become a starter in the NFL.  Will he be a 4-3 defensive end, or a 3-4 outside linebacker?  Can he handle the workload of a 16 (or possibly 18) game NFL schedule?  The experts seem to think Herzlich is likely to be drafted somewhere between the 4th and 5th rounds, a far cry from the sure fire first rounder he was projected to be prior to his cancer battle.  Odds are, those experts are right.   While answers to those questions will come in due time, for the time being, only one stat really matters.   Mark Herzlich 1, Ewing's Sarcoma 0. 

  During that interview with Tom Rinaldi in 2009 Herzlich said, "When I picture beating cancer, and I picture my fight through all this, the end result is me running out of that tunnel."  When the current labor dispute is settled and the NFL season begins, regardless of which tunnel he runs out of and which jersey he dons, I will be rooting for Mark Herzlich.

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