Hump day hot takes: Big Ten lays a big egg, NHL Winter Classic loses some luster & more

You thought you’d be rid of me for the New Year? You would be quite wrong. I don’t have any resolutions, but I do have some hot takes.

I’m back bitches, and ready to open 2017 on a strong foot. Call it a better one or just a different one, but I’m beginning the new year with attention to detail on my takes, distributing across the winter sports landscape as I look to not make an ass of myself. I’ll also take a look back at how I screwed up with some predictions from way back when, and investigate how it all went wrong. Catch up on what I said last time out before we dive into this escapade.

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1. The Big Ten laid a big old egg in some big old bowl games

This was a three-pronged attack, and three steaming piles laid by Big Ten teams in some major bowls over the past weekend. First, Michigan coughed up a game against Florida State at the Orange Bowl. Penn State choked away a win against USC with an epic fourth-quarter collapse (okay, fuck them) in the Rose Bowl and Ohio State shit their pants against Clemson in the National Semifinal. All in all, it was a bad week to be a college football fan from the midwest.

I was a staunch proponent of Ohio State being in the College Football playoff despite what my colleagues said. I thought they were the best team out of the trio. I view their loss as a representation of how average the Big Ten as a whole was and not a knock against Ohio State. The Buckeyes clearly had the hardest competition of the three teams – followed by Michigan and Penn State – and they were dismantled in pretty stunning fashion. So while those three teams beat each other up and wound up sending only one to the national tournament, Ohio State drew the short straw (I guess) and got shellacked by a superior Clemson squad.

As for Michigan and Penn State, there aren’t any excuses for what happened there. The Wolverines believed they deserved a shot in the playoff despite two losses and fell behind big and early to an underwhelming Seminoles squad. You can’t trail by that many scores against a team that had no shot in the CFP and come out smelling like roses.

And speaking of roses – see what I did there – nothing made me happier than watching Penn State fall apart against USC late in the fourth quarter. Sure the game took about a century to play, but the final frame was appointment TV. The Nittany Lions and their delusional fans were all but celebrating until that God-awful interception with less than a minute left on the clock. That’s a pass that had no business of being thrown and was rightfully intercepted. I’m by no means a USC supporter – see Carroll, Pete & Bush, Reggie – but I don’t want anything good to happen to Penn State for at least the next 10 years. So a crushing loss on national TV in a major bowl game seems appropriate.

But hey, at least Wisconsin beat Western Michigan, so they got that going for them.

Editor’s note: Someone tell Tim I beat him to the punch. Someone should also tell the Big 10 their weaknesses are showing. It’s still my favorite conference in college sports, but it was a rough New Year for the B1G.

2017 Scotiabank NHL Centennial Classic - Detroit Red Wings v Toronto Maple Leafs

2. The Centennial and Winter Classics were great, but let’s pump the brakes on outdoor hockey

Once again, I tackled this subject way back when. What was once a spectacle and a showcase for the NHL has become another game in the middle of the season. Sure, the pomp and circumstance around the Centennial and Winter Classic from New Years weekend as nice, but it didn’t really move the needle in the sporting world. And, the main reason is because outdoor hockey isn’t as appealing the more it’s shoved down our throats.

My main argument against so many outdoor games stems from it being too much of a good thing. When the NHL introduced the Winter Classic in 2008, it was perfect. Two teams, one game, playing in a blizzard. The NHL couldn’t have scripted it any better with Sidney Crosby scoring the winning goal in those conditions. But since the lockout, outdoor hockey has ramped up to another level, and not in the right way.

First, their was the Stadium Series, then there was the Heritage Classic (the original outdoor game that our neighbors to the North don’t get as often as they should), and now we had the Centennial Classic. I saw on the NBC broadcast that they were counting how many points Vladimir Tarasenko had in outdoor games compared to others. When this has grown from one a year to now measuring performances against others we’ve reached a tipping point. This is supposed to be special, and a way for the league to market itself differently than the other major sports in North America.

And instead, the Centennial Classic aired on New Years Day and was followed by the Winter Classic less than 24 hours later. What are we doing here? If you host two outdoor games on back-to-back days is there a difference outside of location? And then the news comes out that the NHL will stage three outdoor games next season regardless of their participation in the Winter Olympics – please God let them play. Why are we doing this? And don’t forget another outdoor game next month between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia!

Have a Winter Classic every year and rotate it, let’s not have Chicago play every goddamn year against a random opponent and bill it as a historic rivalry. Throw in the Heritage Classic once every two years so the seven teams from Canada get a chance to showcase the game as well. No more Stadium Series and let’s rotate it around. Then you’ll have something special, and expose the country to different locations hungry for hockey.

Editor’s note: There ain’t no party like a Gary Bettman party because a Gary Bettman party gets run into the ground. Seriously, is there anything the NHL can’t make us all sick of? For once, I agree with Tim. Let’s go back to one game a year, and never ever feature Chicago again no matter what.

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3. Tyrod Taylor and Lance Kendricks have every reason to be pissed by missing out on contract incentives

The NFL regular season came to a close this past weekend, and two players are sure as hell to be mad after losing major bonuses by minuscule amounts. One came because of a shitty ownership group and a coup against a terrible head coach. The other came because of some bad luck. Let’s investigate.

First, we have Tyrod Taylor. The Buffalo Bills QB was benched for the final game of the regular season after an average year. The Bills said that he was inactive due to his play. I call bullshit on that. You see, Taylor has a clause in his contract that he signed last offseason. In the event Taylor was hurt in Week 17 – he was already playing with a bum leg – and was unable to pass his physical this offseason due to said injury, he would be guaranteed over $30 million. That’s a hefty paycheck for a guy who is nothing above average, but that’s what was negotiated into his contract, so that’s how it goes. And instead, Buffalo benches him to keep him healthy enough for the physical and negate that large payment. Maybe they’re trying to save money since they have to pay Rex Ryan a bunch of money on his guaranteed contract now that his fat ass got fired. 

This is about as low-brow as it gets, and I would expect nothing less from the Bills. They either rooted for him to be healthy for a full season and pay him the money as their quarterback then reneged when they saw he wasn’t good, or hoped that he was injured early enough in the year where he could come back and take the physical. Either way, it’s a shitty proposition all the way around.

The second contract incentive deals with three feet. That’s all Los Angeles Rams tight end Lance Kendrick needed to collect a cool $250,000. Three feet, one yard, over the course of 16 regular season games and Kendrick could have deposited a check for a quarter million. Instead, he finished with 499 receiving yards on the season and goes home empty handed. After the disastrous year in LA football – there was more point scored in the Rose Bowl than the Rams scored all season in the City of Angels – Kendrick missed out by the smallest of margins. What a kick in the dick.

How he doesn’t know exactly how many yards he needed going into Week 17 and found a way to get over that hump is astounding. I have no blame for the agent or ownership on this one either. 500 is a nice round number and pretty attainable. You gotta know what you need to collect that check before stepping foot on that field.

Editor’s note: Talk about burying the lede. Is there any coach that buys into his teams as much as Rex Ryan does? First, he gets that absurd tattoo of his wife rocking a Sanchize jersey. Then, in Buffalo, he rolls out after getting fired still driving his Bills-branded pickup. Sexy Rexy is obviously destined for a TV gig, so maybe he paints his house the colors of the mothership next.

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4. Joey Bats is left up the creek without a paddle

Boy oh boy how the mighty have fallen. Jose Bautista, the bat-flipping, punch-taking outfielder/DH for the Toronto Blue Jays looked primed for a mega contract this MLB offseason at the start of the 2016 season. But a year riddled with injury a terrible batting average and piss-poor management by his agent have left Bautista on the outside looking in for a contract as we turn the calendar to 2017.

While Steve Phillips may not be the most reputable man in baseball, he does have insight into the game, and on Tuesday, he dropped quite a hammer on Bautista’s contract situation. The former GM and ESPN analyst suggested that Bautista might not sign a contract and play again until June since teams don’t want to meet his demands and/or give up a first round draft pick. Similar to former teammate Edwin Encarnacion, both sluggers asked for the 4-5 year, $20-million plus contracts headed into the offseason. Once Toronto’s offers were deemed not good enough, both tested the waters.

Encarnacion tucked his (parrot) tail between his legs and signed a deal with Cleveland, leaving Bautista on a list with not a lot of suitors. Sure, Toronto may be interested in resigning him, and the Phillies have been rumored to be interested, but that fact of the matter is, the best deal Bautista ever would have sniffed came from the Blue Jays at the beginning of the offseason.

Now, he’s looking at a short contract for less than anticipated money because the DH/aging power outfielder market has just about dried up. This man’s agent bet big, and he pulled a 16 against and an ace. Good luck with that one moving forward.

Editor’s note: Not the best offseason for slugging members of the Toronto Blue Jays. First Encarnacion cost himself a year and $20 million in guaranteed paychecks to sign with a team that didn’t seem to be his first choice, and now Bats finds himself up the creek.  Something tells me the sun may be setting on the Toronto Blue Jays, as the traditional AL East powers in the Red Sox and Yankees reload for their next respective runs.

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5. Boy oh boy was I wrong with my preseason NFL picks

Go ahead Brendan, yuck it up. When we recorded our NFL picks podcast back in September, I was all cocky with my trendy picks. I thought Carolina was going to be damn good again, the Saints would make a serious run, the Bengals would be the top seed in the AFC and the Cardinals would be the class of the NFC West.

Fuck, fuck, fuck and fuck. Not only was I wrong, but I also couldn’t have been more right. And damn Brendan, you were a lot better than I was in the prediction department. It takes a big man to admit that. I’m not saying I deserve praise, but I’m just pointing it out.

I bit on the Panthers because they carried me to a deep fantasy postseason run last year and completely neglected the fact that their defense was gutted in the offseason and Cam Newton was PRIMED for a setback this year. I also thought that with Rob Ryan out that the Saints would be in great shape to make a run in the playoffs. And despite Drew Brees throwing for over 5,000 yards, the Saints defense still blew and cost that team any sniff of the playoffs. Hell, Brendan was even right about the Buccaneers being pretty good.

The Cardinals – I drank the wrong Kool-Aid that day. Jesus that team was a dumpster fire, despite David Johnson being an absolute stud. How fedora-loving Bruce Arians worked his magic with that team and turned it into a steaming pile is pretty impressive.

But by far my worst prediction was the Bungles… I mean the Bengals. They had basically their entire team back. They seemed poised to learn about the brutal mistakes they made in the playoffs last year that cost them a win. Andy Dalton had AJ Green and some other strong weapons in a relatively week AFC North. And what happens? The defense continues to do dumb things, Dalton regresses, Green gets hurt, and Marvin Lewis gets to stick around for another year. How the hell that happens I don’t know, but they’re just recycling the poo once again.

So Brendan, take your victory lap. You beat me in fantasy this year and in NFL predictions. I’m not getting fooled by these suckbag teams again next fall.

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6. Camel of the Week: Timothy P. Culverhouse

Ah, finally.

Ever since I conceived this idea, I’ve been waiting for the perfect time to spotlight my podcast co-host and fellow blogger, Mr. Tim “Hot Takes” Culverhouse. I knew it had to be just right. I held off when the Red Sox fell in the first round, I said nothing when Brady’s suspension was related, I even held off (mostly) when I beat him in our fantasy football league.

But I will be silent no more.

Tim has many bad takes, and he listed a few above. But he left out perhaps the best/worst prediction: The Osweiler.

If you listened to our podcast around the opening of the NFL season, you know Tim thought the Houston Texans would be happy with their decision to sign Brock Osweiler away for Denver for a hefty chunk of guaranteed money.

Ha.

So yes, an honorable mention to the Texans, but Tim gets the shine here. Make sure to tune into this week’s podcast so you can fade Tim’s picks in the Wild Card round.

That’ll do it for me. I’m happy to report that I’ve continued my streak of New Year’s resolutions by not making any New Year’s resolutions. Many years going strong! I’ll be back next week with some more hot takes for your Wednesday reading enjoyment. Follow Tim on Twitter@culvey13 and Brendan @murraysporttalk for more.

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