Sports Outside the Beltway

Weekly Miami Dolphins prediction

Miami plays the New York Giants this afternoon in London England. The Dolphins are coming off a humiliating loss to New England and injuries to Ronnie Brown, Renaldo Hill and Zach Thomas. The Giants and Dolphins have rarely met in the past, this only their sixth encounter ever.

Miami, London, Timbuktu. It don’t matter where the Dolphins play this year. The results won’t be affected. My prediction- New York 34, Miami 17


Yankees to make offer to Arod

And a very lucrative one at that.


First ever night-time Formula 1 race to be held in 2008

It will be raced in Singapore.

PARIS — The first night race in the 57-year history of Formula 1 Grand Prix racing is set to be held September 28 of next season on a street course in Singapore.

The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile’s World Motorsport Council gave its approval to the proposal Thursday, according to reports. According to a press release, “With two positive lighting tests under our belt, we are on track to delivering the first night race,” Colin Syn, deputy chairman of the event, said.

The race will be staged on a 5.067-kilometer circuit set up on the streets of the island city-state at the Southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. Organizers have a five-year deal to stage the event. The temporary circuit will use public roads around the Marina Bay area.

As long as no gay men have oral sex while drawing graffiti and criticizing local officials, the race should be a big success. On a serious note I predicted this race would be held at night-time

Note- Dear wife and I visited Singpore in 1998 for our 9th wedding anniversary.


Homecoming- Goaltender Tomas Vokoun returns to Nashville

The question is whether he will play against his former team tonight.

SUNRISE — When Nashville started the season with back-to-back wins while Tomas Vokoun struggled in Florida, there was talk the Panthers might have gotten the wrong goaltender from the Predators.

But time has proven the wisdom of acquiring the longtime No.’1 netminder, who will return tonight to the Sommet Center and the city in which he spent the previous eight seasons.

“When you spend so much time in one place, and then go back to play, there’s mixed feelings,” said Vokoun, who led Nashville to three straight playoff berths. “I don’t have any hard feelings, only good ones.”

Vokoun, who did voluminous charity work in Nashville, said he remains in touch with many of the hospital patients he befriended there.

Coach and General Manager Jacques Martin said he wouldn’t make a decision on whether Vokoun would play until after Friday’s game. If he does, it would be his first back-to-back appearances this season.

My take on the matter is that Martin should put Craig Anderson in goal tonight. Vokoun played last night in Florida. Tonight’s game is at Nashville. If the games were back to back at home, sure play Vokoun but it isn’t.

Martin can’t be sentimental here. Nashville fans will want to see Vokoun tonight, but the Panthers need a well rested goaltender. That is more important.


Another doomed horse racing track- Vernon Downs

Officials there want to end its racing season early.

VERNON, N.Y. (AP) – After struggling to open this year, a harness track in central New York wants to pull the plug on its racing season to save money.

Officials at Vernon Downs near Utica say they want to cancel the last four racing days of the year. The track’s owners want to close for the season after Saturday’s races. Vernon Downs had been scheduled to race on weekends until November 10th.

The track’s owners were hoping that legislation would be passed in the state Assembly earlier this week that would increase vendor license fees for video lottery at New York’s race tracks.

That would have given track operators a higher percentage of revenue from their video lottery terminals.

The state Senate approved a bill in June, but the Assembly postponed voting on Tuesday because of revenue concerns raised by horsemen’s groups across the state.

The decision to close early must be approved by the state’s Racing and Wagering Board.

My father took me to Vernon Downs once, it was in 1972. The track was 3/4 of a mile then, which is an unusual length for a standardbred venue. Most racing are done on 1/2 mile, 5/8 mile or mile tracks. Pompano Park here in Florida is 5/8ths of a mile around.

Sadly Vernon, like many horse tracks, can’t survive on horse racing alone. In this track’s case, other forms of gambling haven’t created adequate enough revenue to finance racing.(Note Vernon Downs financial difficulties go back many years) Having grown up around the sport of horse, I feel sad at what is happening. In honest truth, I don’t even follow the sport much any more. Take for instance, The Little Brown Jug which some call The Kentucky Derby for Standardbred Pacers, was raced last month. It went totally unnoticed by me.

Side note- The Little Brown Jug website contradicts itself. Saying that Strike Out in 1972 went 156.3 then both a Jug and I believe World Record for a 3-year-old on a half mile track at the time, but on another page saying a record set in 1965 stood till 1977.

I know about Strike Out’s record outing, for I was there. My father owned Fast Clip, the horse who came in second to Strike Out. Clip went 156.4 for the race.

Back to Vernon Downs. Rather than hoping for help from the state legislature, the owners of the track may want to re-evaluate whether horse racing should continue at the track. Another band aid is only putting off the inevitable.


Cowboys Sack Numbers Not Whole Story

When Wade Phillips was brought in as head coach, Dallas Cowboys fans thought all the investment in high draft picks on defensive linemen and linebackers would finally pay off in the form of massive quarterback sack totals. That hasn’t happened. DMN’s Albert Breer argues that this is misleading.

Seven games into Phillips’ tenure, the numbers fail to show a quantum leap. The Cowboys have 18 sacks, projecting to 41 for a season, which would be a modest improvement from last year’s total of 34. Dallas ranks 12th in sacks per pass play, another decent but not huge jump from last year’s finish of 19th in the category.

But to look at the numbers alone would be missing the point. The simple threat a Phillips defense presents, especially when armed with an elite edge rusher like DeMarcus Ware, has worked to handcuff offenses.

“I’m encouraged about our pass rush,” Phillips said. “We’re seeing more max-protect – it’s what we saw [coaching] in San Diego. They keep everybody in, and therefore you can cover better.”

Never was that more evident than last weekend against the Vikings, a game in which the Cowboys didn’t register a sack until the midway point of the fourth quarter, yet held quarterback Tarvaris Jackson to 72 yards passing and a 32 percent completion rate.

By an unofficial count, Phillips and defensive coordinator Brian Stewart sent just four rushers on 18 of Jackson’s 25 pass drops. They sent five men to pressure seven times, and never more than that. But, as Phillips said, that didn’t stop the Vikings from keeping tight ends and backs in to block. More often than not, six blockers were kept in to handle four rushers, and seven were there to block five. In some instances, Minnesota even had seven in protection blocking four, and that’s with a line starting two players who have nine Pro Bowl berths between them.

“When you get that situation, although you’d like to say the speed and the intensity of the pressure will get there … they’ve got a chance to block it,” Stewart said. “So what you want to do is play coverage. You can double guys and drop more guys, and you get coverage sacks, not just the blitz sacks.”

It becomes a blitz economy. In the situations in which Minnesota kept a back and a tight end in with the tackles, guards and center, only three receivers were releasing. In the cases where Dallas rushed four, seven dropped into coverage. Meaning in that circumstance, seven guys are covering three receivers.

So for a secondary that’s been besieged by injury – most prominently to starting corners Terence Newman and Anthony Henry – the pass rush’s impact has been a godsend. It’s meant less to put on Jacques Reeves and Nate Jones as they’ve inherited more extensive roles. “It helps them because they know where their help is; they might have inside help here or short help there,” Stewart said. “But they still have to know what they’re doing.”

The scary thing is that, as time passes in the new regime’s first season, the guys up front still can know what they’re doing better. That will allow more liberal play-calling.

It starts with Ware, who Stewart agreed has a similar impact as the Chargers’ Shawne Merriman in the way he stresses an offense, be it forcing a double team from a tight end, a chip from a back or a slide in protection. And now with Greg Ellis returning to full speed and Anthony Spencer having six starts under his belt, the coaches have three solid edge rushers at their disposal to go with a fleet of linemen capable of pressuring inside.

So perhaps, at this point, the real effect of the aggressive nature of Phillips’ defense has yet to be felt. “I think the coaches have confidence in us, from when they first got here, that we can get the job done,” defensive end Chris Canty said. “It’s just they’re kind of learning us a little more and we’re feeling situations out a little better in the game, and that’s what you’re starting to see.”

The problem with this analysis is that it hasn’t translated into strong performances against good teams. Yes, the D dominated the sorry Vikings and Buffalo Bills. But Tom Brady and the Patriots torched them for a ridiculous 38 points. Yes, the Pats are killing everybody right now. But the Cowboys have too much of the salary cap tied up in the defense to allow that to happen.


Dallas Cowboy Uniform Facts

The Dallas Cowboys home uniform has remained essentially the same for the past four decades and is widely considered one of the classic unis in American team sports. ESPN’s Paul Lukas reminds us, though, that there are all manner of little quirks to the look.

The Cowboys almost always wear basic white jerseys, their helmet design is timeless and classic, and their basic aesthetic approach is blissfully free of extraneous bells and whistles. All in all, they present a simple, straightforward look.

Or so it would appear to the untrained eye. But to the practiced uniform acolyte, the Cowboys’ attire is rife with idiosyncrasies. In fact, America’s Team wears what is arguably the quirkiest uniform set in all of professional sports, full of unexplained anomalies and team-specific protocols found nowhere else. Look back into their history, and you’ll find even more aberrations.

So come along as Uni Watch takes a tour of the Cowboys’ top-10 uni-related nuances, past and present — many of them annoying, a few of them admirable, but all worthy of closer inspection:


Look on the back of any Cowboys helmet, and you’ll see a little blue label at the base of the white stripe. You’ve probably noticed it countless times over the years without even thinking about it. That’s a Dymo Tape name label, which has been a Cowboys visual signature for years — all the way back to the mid-1960s, in fact.

Uniqueness Factor: High. Smartypants readers (you know who you are) may be aware that Dymo Tape has occasionally been used for helmet identification by other NFL teams, like the Browns in the late ’60s (plus it’s also been used extensively in baseball). But no other team has had the chutzpah or intestinal fortitude to use the little labels so obsessively, or for so long.

Annoyance Factor: Low. Uni Watch actually loves the little labels and grudgingly salutes the Dallas equipment staff for having the dedication to turn a dorky little detail into an indispensable component of the club’s visual identity. Just try to imagine a Cowboys helmet without the little blue strip — it’s unthinkable.


Ever notice that the lower collar area on most of Cowboys jerseys — just above the uniform number — usually looks a bit pinched or crimped? Look closer, and you’ll see there’s actually a little shoelace or string that’s tying down the jersey to the shoulder pads.

How do they do this? By sewing a butterfly-shaped fabric panel onto the sternum area of each jersey. The panel is equipped with an eyelet, which the player can use to tie down the jersey to his pads. Sometimes additional eyelets are added so the player has multiple tie-down options.

Uniqueness Factor: Very high. To Uni Watch’s knowledge, no other team utilizes this type of jersey modification. A few former Cowboys, however, have tried to duplicate it after moving on to other teams. Keyshawn Johnson, for example, used a primitive tie-down when he moved from the Cowboys to the Panthers, and Larry Allen has been going tied-down with the 49ers.

Annoyance Factor: Very high. The crimped collar looks totally bush. And even if a player opts not to use the tie-down, you’ve still got that extra fabric panel just sitting there in plain view. Plus, there’s something untoward about modifying a uniform like this — is it even legal? Roger Goodell, please investigate.


The Cowboys always wear silver pants, right? Right — sort of. The team actually has two different sets of silver pants in its wardrobe: one with a greenish-blue tone and royal blue piping, which is worn with the white jerseys, and a more conventional silver version with navy piping, which is worn with the club’s seldom-seen blue jerseys. No vaguely reasonable explanation for this has ever been proffered. Not only that, the Dallas helmet doesn’t match either of the pants’ hues, meaning the Cowboys actually use three shades of silver.

Uniqueness Factor: Very high. Some teams occasionally have trouble matching their helmet color to their jersey or pants, because fabric dyes work differently than plastic dyes. But the Cowboys don’t have one intended version of silver that accidentally turns out three different ways — they actually have three different silvers in their official color specs. No other NFL team has this kind of color confusion codified in its uniform design.

Annoyance Factor: Very high. Kindly pick one silver and stick with it for all applications, end of story.


The Cowboys’ chromatic inconsistencies go beyond silver. When they wear their white jerseys (i.e., about 90 percent of the time), their socks, pants striping and uni numbers are royal, but the blue on their helmets is navy, so the two blues clash.

Uniqueness Factor: Very high. Other NFL teams understand the simple concept that your colors should match.

Annoyance Factor: Huge. Are these people colorblind, or what?

Wearing dark jerseys at home has been an unofficial football tradition for generations, but the Cowboys opted to buck that trend during the franchise’s earliest days. It was GM Tex Schramm’s idea: He figured that if the team wore blue at home, every home game would look the same — blue jerseys versus white jerseys. By wearing white at home, the team would give its fans a chance to see an ever-shifting range of colors as a new team came into town each week. Since most other NFL teams chose to wear their colors at home, the Cowboys usually ended up wearing white on the road, as well.

Uniqueness Factor: Medium-high. Other teams have favored home whites over the years, most notably the Redskins, Dolphins and Browns. Plus, some warm-weather teams opt to wear white at home early in the season to avoid baking in the sun. But the Cowboys were the first to go this route, and they’ve stuck to it more single-mindedly than any other club.

Annoyance Factor: Low. Schramm’s original rationale was an admirably early example of uni-based marketing. And, let’s face it, the white jerseys look better than the blue ones. Which leads us to …


The Cowboys were the designated home team in Super Bowl V, which meant they had to wear blue (the rule since has been changed to allow the designated home team the choice of wearing white or colors). Dallas lost the game, and the legend of “the blue jersey curse” was born. In subsequent years, opposing teams periodically have worn white at home just to force Dallas to wear blue — most famously in the 1981 NFC championship game, when the Eagles wore white at Veterans Stadium and won, thereby cementing the blue jersey’s status as uni non grata.

Uniqueness Factor: High. While there are other NFL teams that prefer to stick with one jersey, no other team has developed such lore and superstition around one uni element.

Annoyance Factor: Low. Uniform-based rituals and mythologies are A-OK with Uni Watch.

Most teams’ white and dark jerseys are essentially mirror images of each other. There might be minor distinctions, but they pretty much have the same typography, the same striping and so on. But look at the Cowboys: The white jersey has block uni numbers, two plain stripes on each sleeve and no wordmark on the chest, while the blue jersey has outlined uni numbers, a thick, star-studded stripe on each sleeve and a “Cowboys” wordmark on the chest. It’s not just that these jerseys aren’t twins — they are barely second cousins.

Uniqueness Factor: Very high. No other NFL team has this type of disparity between its jerseys.

Annoyance Factor: Very high. Yo, people, look around at the rest of the league, see how it’s done and please get with the program.

In 1982, someone decided it wasn’t enough for the Cowboys to have uniform numbers on their chests, backs and shoulders. And so it came to pass that the Cowboys began wearing uni numbers on their hips — useful if you’re trying to identify a player who’s only partially shown in a photo, but pretty bogus-looking otherwise. The ‘Boys stuck with this format until 1989, when sanity, in the form of numberless pants, was restored.

Uniqueness Factor: Fairly high. Only two other NFL teams have gone this route — the 1984-87 Packers and the 1982-86 Colts.

Annoyance Factor: Massive. One of those “innovations” that nobody was clamoring for. A solution to a non-problem. Textbook case of failing Uni Watch’s standard “Is it good or is it stupid?” litmus test.

9. SPIRIT OF ’76

Not many people seem to remember this, but the Cowboys gave new meaning to “America’s Team” in 1976, when they changed one of their helmet stripes from blue to red, creating a patriotic effect for the nation’s bicentennial.

Uniqueness Factor: Very high. No other NFL team modified its uniform — much less introduced a new hue to its color scheme! — for the bicentennial.

Annoyance Factor: High. Truth be known, Uni Watch kinda likes this move, at least when viewed in a vacuum. But in the context of all the “America’s Team” nonsense, it’s just another example of the institutional hubris that makes it so easy — so necessary — to hate the Cowboys.


Little-known fact: During the Cowboys’ first four seasons, they wore a bizarre crossover-style collar, which created an odd wraparound effect that didn’t look so hot. Further details and lots of additional photos are available here.

Uniqueness Factor: Off the charts. As far as Uni Watch knows, there’s nothing else like this in NFL history.

Annoyance Factor: Negligible. While the collar looked awful, it was one of those obscure historical subtleties that are Uni Watch’s raison d’être.


When Tom Landry died in 2000, the Cowboys decided to memorialize him on their uniform. But instead of taking the boilerplate approach of wearing his initials on a helmet decal, they took his signature fedora and depicted it as a chest patch.

Uniqueness Factor: High. Uni Watch can’t think of another NFL team that’s used a simple graphic symbol as a remembrance.

Annoyance Factor: Exceedingly high. In fact, this is arguably the most annoying Dallas quirk of them all, because it’s so brilliant. How’s Uni Watch supposed to keep hating the Cowboys when they come up with something this cool?

I like quite a few of the things that Lukas hates. Most especially, I think having very different blue and white unis is fine. I’ve long thought, though, that having multiple shades of blue and silver looked strange, since the helmets and the pants clash. Why they do that, I couldn’t say. And the Dyno labels are rather high schoolish.

Hat tip: Robert Wilonsky


Parcells for Wade Change: So Far, So Good

The Dallas Cowboys took a 6-1 record into their bye week, their best start since 1995, their last Super Bowl season. They give much of the credit to their new head coach.

Wade Phillips Cowboys PhotoDallas Cowboys players are starting to admit what outsiders have suspected all along: Going from the tight grip of Bill Parcells to the soft hand of Wade Phillips was a refreshing change.

“I can’t say enough about what this coaching atmosphere has brought to this locker room,” receiver Terrell Owens said. “I think every guy can share a little bit about what these coaches mean to them.” So the 6-1 start is a reflection of their leadership? “There’s not any question,” Owens said.

Phillips is big on giving out game balls. Asked whether Phillips deserves one right now, T.O. gushed that “all the coaches need a game ball.” “I can’t say enough about Ray Sherman and the job that he’s done with us as receivers,” Owens said. “You know, just communication — that’s what it’s all about. Just the philosophy and Wade and him coming in and treating us as men is very much appreciated in this locker room.”

Across the locker room and from the other side of the ball, linebacker Greg Ellis echoed many of those sentiments. “The chemistry here is good,” Ellis said. “The way Wade has chosen to run this team right now, it’s working real well.”

Ellis also brought up communication, a word that players have used a lot since training camp, always in a positive way. The inference is that it was lacking under Parcells. Nope. It was practically outlawed, according to Ellis. “Some coaches like to create that barrier between coach and player and never have that line crossed,” Ellis said. “Some coaches say, ‘OK, we’re all in this boat together. We want to win. You win, coaches win, the whole organization wins.’ We’re now in that kind of system where the coaches and players are more willing to work with each other.”

Ellis brought up an example from the New England game. He noticed that Tom Brady was coming to the line of scrimmage, looking for Ellis and yelling out which side he was on, prompting linemen to shift their protection to his side. “Not only did I go up and tell our defensive coaches what they were doing, DeMarcus Ware told them, Bradie James told them,” Ellis said.

He made it clear that players aren’t telling coaches what they should do. They are just relaying information they’ve gathered on the field and making suggestions based on that. “There’s still that respect — he’s the coach, I’m the player — but it’s safe to say, ‘Coach, we can do this right here. This is open for me to do in the field,’” Ellis said. “It’s an open street. It’s a respected street, understand that, but it’s an open one.”

Phillips was asked Thursday how good of a job he thinks he’s done. “I don’t really evaluate myself,” he said. “I just try to get this team going forward and getting them to play as hard as they can play. The assistant coaches deserve an A-plus, I can tell you that.”

The big guy gets at least an A thus far. The defense isn’t as dominating or as consistent as one would expect given Phillips’ reputation and the amount of high draft picks spent on that side of the ball in recent years. Then again, Phillips wasn’t the one shopping for the groceries in those days.

Tony Romo
and the offense have really come alive. If they get some more discipline and stop making boneheaded penalties, the team should be in strong position for making a run in “the tournament.”


NFL Official calls Miami Dolphins one of the league’s greatest teams

Did this official watch even one Dolphin game this year?

Mark Waller, head of NFL international development, introduced Huizenga and Giants co-owners Jonathan and Steve Tisch as the owners of “two of our greatest teams.”

The Dolphins and Giants, Waller went on, are ”storied, well-run and great brands.” He said the Dolphins and Giants represent the best of the NFL’s grand history and values.

Let me hazard a guess, Waller works in marketing?

If you were talking Miami’s overall history, yes they have two Super Bowl wins and five appearances in that game. The last however was 22 years ago. The team has been poorly coached and run for at least a decade.

Weller is trying to hype Sunday’s game in London. You can put a dress on a pig, but the end result is still the same. The animal is still a pig.


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