Ten reasons why Spring Training beats Training Camp

RealClearSports.com compiles 10 reasons why baseball’s spring training beats football’s training camp.

Downtime
Normally, there is no down time during an NFL training camp, unless you count sitting in a large tub full of ice. Players are usually so exhausted that any and all free time they have is spent either eating or sleeping.

Baseball just simply isn’t as demanding as that, which allows them to work on some of the game’s finer points, like perfecting the “hot-foot,” determining exactly when to shove a towel full of shaving cream into a teammate’s face during a live TV interview, and everyone’s favorite, learning exactly how to place a bubble-gum bubble on your pitcher’s head.

Pressure
Imagine if an NFL wide receiver went all of camp without catching pass in any of the scrimmages or games. For a month in game-competition, every pass that came his way either sailed through his hands or bounced off his chest. To top it off, he was often running the wrong routes and missing blocks. The chances of him making it past cuts and onto the final 53-man roster would be slim to none.

Translate that to baseball, where the opening day starting lineups are usually already set before February even begins. A player could have an awful spring: terrible at-bats, poor fielding and too many strikeouts, but come April, he’s in the starting lineup (just ask Ichiro, who struggled last spring and started 0-for-21).

Practices
Seemingly as soon as a football practice begins, players are in full pads, flying around and running into each at full speed. This continues for hours at a time, in extreme summer heat, and often, twice-a-day.

Baseball practices, on the other hand, feature fielding fungos on perfectly manicured fields, hitting balls of a tee, first base running drills (seriously), covering first base on sacrifice bunt roughly 3000 times and doing whatever it is those Red Sox are doing in that picture – it seems highly likely that one could go through an entire practice without breaking a sweat.

Not RealClearSports.com’s best work. The three reasons listed above are supposed to be in favor of spring training, but I’d say every one of them favors training camp.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Ten prospects to keep an eye on at the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine

If you’ve been keeping tabs on the latest news surrounding the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine, which runs February 18-24, you already know that there are plenty of rumors to sink your teeth into.

Perhaps the two biggest rumors are that Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, who could go to the Detroit Lions with the first overall pick, will not workout at the combine. Instead, he’ll wait until his Pro Day in March to show off his passing skills, which might irk some teams with high draft selections in April. Why should a team drop millions of dollars in guaranteed money on a player that won’t even throw a single pass at the combine?

The thought process behind the decision is that since Stafford is already the most polished quarterback in the draft and should be the first signal caller taken off the board, why risk a bad performance at the combine? Instead, any team that wants to see him throw, can do so at his Pro Day in Athens, which no doubt makes for a more comfortable environment for Stafford.

Another combine story that has emerged is that Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree might not even be in Indianapolis this week as he feels that he has too much to lose by working out at the combine. That means teams that want to see him run the 40-yard dash will have to wait for his Pro Day in late March. Apparently Crabtree has been training with former Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson and maybe he doesn’t feel that he would be ready in time to run the forty at the combine.

With two of the bigger prospects not expected to workout this week, who should fans keep an eye on as the combine kicks off on Wednesday? Below are 10 names that are sure to cause a buzz this week in Indy. Some might dramatically improve their draft stock with a great workout, while others might doom their stock with a bad showing.

Aaron Curry1. Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
Curry is arguably the best defensive prospect in the draft, so that alone is reason to pay attention to how he performs at the combine. But an even better reason is that he could go No. 1 to the Lions, who are in massive need of defensive talent, especially at linebacker. Many pundits believe the Lions will take Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford with the first overall pick, but new head coach Jim Schwartz is a defensive guy (he was the Titans’ former D-coordinator) and Curry is versatile in that he can play either outside or inside in a 4-3 scheme. Linebackers are generally safer choices in the first round, which is even more reason to believe Detroit could go with Curry at No. 1.


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Top 10 College Sports Towns

Forbes.com ranked the top 10 best college football towns in America.

Michigan Stadium1. Ann Arbor, Mich.
University of Michigan
At a time when most quality of life news out of Michigan is focused on Detroit’s woes, there are a lot of things to like about Ann Arbor–even if the hometown Wolverines missed a bowl this season. A four-bedroom home runs just $303,750, while median salaries are $51,232, making this the 14th most affordable market on our list. Schools ranked eighth overall, and Ann Arbor has the fourth lowest crime rate of any college on our list.

2. Palo Alto, Calif.
Stanford University
Those who follow the Director’s Cup know Stanford always seems to finish at the top of the table, and last year was no exception. A family-size home costs big bucks, however–a cool $1.67 million, to be exact. Though with venture capital and technology firms around Stanford bringing in big money, the median earner in Palo Alto makes $119,046, the most of any college town on our list. Schools ranked first, and the crime rate was the second lowest. If it weren’t for the 42nd ranking in housing affordability, living on the Farm would have ranked first overall.

3. Madison, Wis.
University of Wisconsin
Both the state capital and a legendary party city, Madison is one of the Midwest’s best college towns. While on the courts and playing fields, the Badgers mustered an 18th ranking in the Director’s Cup, Madison performed stronger in our quality of life rankings: seventh in affordability ($264,950 for a four-bedroom home; $50,852 median income) and 13th in our score of crime rate and education quality.

4. State College, Pa.
Penn State University
While most people aren’t sure what exactly Penn State’s mascot, a Nittany Lion, is, the teams bearing that logo finished ninth in last year’s Director’s Cup. Home prices for a four-bedroom house are $307,500. Public schools rank second of the college towns measured (even though this is technically a borough), and State College had the lowest violent crime rate of college towns measured, according to FBI data.

5. Lexington, Ky.
University of Kentucky
If you like basketball and horse racing, there’s no better place in the world to live than Lexington, Ky. Besides the university’s hoops team and the tracks around the city, there is quality affordable housing to be found. A four-bedroom, 2,200-square-foot home costs just $234,500, while median earners make $45,622 a year.

I know Ohio State fans won’t like seeing Ann Arbor listed at number one, but let me say from personal experience that the atmosphere surrounding Michigan Stadium is unique. (Not to say the other college towns mentioned on this list aren’t, but there’s just a nostalgic feeling about Ann Arbor.)

I’m sure every town listed has something special about it. I always think about that one MasterCard commercial where the two friends travel to all of the MLB parks over the summer and how cool it would be to hit up a ton of sports towns throughout the course of a year.

Ten things to look forward to now that the Super Bowl is over

Click here for six observations on Super Bowl XLIII.

Lucifer himself might as well have created the Monday after Super Bowl Sunday.

Is that extreme? No.

The Monday after the Super Bowl signals the end of another NFL season and that means there is no football on the horizon unless you’re one of the 10 people that watches the Pro Bowl. There are seven months between now and the start of preseason games, which makes me sick to think about. If I could freeze myself for the next seven months and thaw just in time for the 2009 season, I would.

Is that extreme? No.

But fear not my football friends because even though there isn’t any football this Sunday, it doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to get excited about while looking ahead. Below are 10 things to look forward to now that the Super Bowl is over. (And so that you don’t have to freeze yourself for the next seven months.)

Before you read on, realize that I’m not going to copout and write about how free agency and the draft are things to look forward to. Of course they are, but let’s get more specific here, people.


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Top 10 Failed Super Bowl Ads

RealClearSports.com ranks the top 10 failed Super Bowl ads:

#3 Napster – 2005
Everyone remembers Napster when it was the cool, albeit illegal, way to download music. Few remember it’s failed attempt to be a legitimate entity (which surprisingly still exists).

#2 Sales Genie – 2007
Further proof that ads featuring Pandas with stereotypical (and offensive) Chinese accents don’t work.

#1 Silestone – 2005
Jim McMahon, Mike Ditka, William “Refrigerator” Perry and Dennis Rodman. What is this star-studded ad for? Countertops and baths, of course!

What always amazes me is that someone actually had to pitch these ideas and they were accepted. Someone actually had to say, “Yeah! That’s a great idea – let’s run with it!”

Not only that, but they had to say, “Yeah! That’s a great idea – let’s run with it! And spend millions of dollars on it…”

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