What To Watch: Fri. 3/4 – Sun. 3/6

All times are Pacific.

Friday March 4th

NY Rangers at Washington Capitals – 4pm NHLN: One of the best scoring teams in the league (Caps) go against one of the best defensive teams in the league (Rangers).

LillardPortland Trail Blazers at Toronto Raptors – 4:30pm NBA League Pass: Portland is coming on strong led by Damian Lillard but Toronto on a Friday night is very tough place to play.

 

Saturday March 5th

Tottenham vs Arsenal – 4:45am NBCSN: Great rivalry and it means a lot to who plays European soccer next year.

Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund – 9am FX: Last minute addition by FOX. Now people can watch probably the best matchup of the Bundesliga this season. Oh, Bayern has stumbled as of late too.

Nashville Predators at Colorado Avalanche – 12pm NHL.TV: These two are in a battle for the two wild card slots in the Western Conference.

Anaheim Ducks at LA Kings – 1pm NHL.TV: These two are neck and neck in the Pacific division…oh and they hate each other.

Iowa State at Kansas – 1pm ESPN: Kansas already has the Big 12 sown up but this one is all about seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

UNC at Duke – 3pm ESPN: Heck the last one they played came down to the last shot. This one should too.

Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins – 4pm NHLN: These two could meet in the first round of the playoffs as it stands right now.

Louisville at Virginia – 5:30pm ESPN: The Cards aren’t going to the NCAA Tournament due to a self imposed suspension so they are looking to trip up UVA on their way to a high seed.

UFC 196 – 7pm PPV: Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz and Holly Holm vs Miesha Tate. Good fights made even better by the fact none of these people really like each other.

 

Atlanta Hawks at LA Clippers – 7:30pm NBA League Pass: Forget for a second that both these teams are very, very good and think about Steve Ballmer dunking.

 

Sunday March 6th

Kobalt 400 – 12:30pm FOX: NASCAR heads to Las Vegas which is always a fun race to watch.

Timbers MLS CupPortland Timbers vs Columbus Crew -1:30pm ESPN: First game of the year and it is a rematch of 2015 MLS Cup. You can only imagine how much the Crew want to return the favor to the Timbers. Expect them to come out hard and fast and try to snag an early goal.

Maryland at Indiana – 1:30pm CBS: Indiana has a share of the Big Ten title and look to wrap up the whole enchilada.

NY Islanders at NY Rangers – 2pm NHL.TV: These two are within striking distance of each other and a win here could have dramatic consequences come playoff time.

Sporting KC vs Seattle Sounders – 4pm FS1:  Two of the better teams in MLS over the last few years and both have gone through some serious player overhauls. We’ll see what happens.

LA Galaxy vs DC United – 7pm UNIMAS: The Galaxy have some big superstars like Keene, Gerrard and Cole. But DC United is has some outstanding talent as well.

St Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild – 5pm NBCSN: The Wild are fighting tooth and nail for a playoff spot and the Blues have struggled a little lately. They need to turn it around to keep their spot.

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What To Watch Thurs. 11/26 – Sun. 11/29

All times are Pacific.


Thursday November 26th

Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions – 9:30am FOX: Well, we’d like a better matchup but hey, it’s what we got.

Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys – 1:30pm CBS: The Cowboys have Tony Romo and Dez Bryant back so this could actually be a good game.

Texas Tech at Texas – 4:30pm FS1: Texas has to win out to be bowl eligible and that’s a big deal for a young team. Texas Tech is good but beatable.

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers – 5:30pm NBC: Awaken from the food coma in time to see if they Packers can win back-to-back games or if the Bears will finally put it together.

 

Friday November 27th

NY Rangers at Boston Bruins – 10am NBC: Ice, skates, rivals. Not a bad way to start Black Friday.

Keenan ReynoldsNavy at Houston – 9am ABC: Winner gets to represent the West in the American Atheletic Conference championship. Also get a chance to see the NCAA all time leader in touchdowns in Navy’s Keenan Reynolds.

Marshall at Western Kentucky – 9am FS1: Last year the final score was 67-66. Just sayin.

Washington State at Washington -12:30pm FOX: The Apple Cup is the most underrated rivalry in college football. Always a solid game.

Armstrong JRIowa at Nebraska – 12:30pm ABC: Nebraska is a lot better than there 5-6 record indicates. Iowa is undefeated and looking for a spot in the College Football Playoff. This rivalry will get a lot more heated after this game.

Chicago Blackhawks at Anaheim Ducks – 2pm NBCSN: Both teams are better than their record indicates and still a whole bunch of talent on the ice.

Baylor at TCU – 4:30pm ESPN: It doesn’t really matter what quarterback plays for Baylor but it does for TCU. Points a plenty in this one.

Miami Heat at NY Knicks – 4:30pm NBA.TV: The Kicks aren’t bad this season but the Heat may be a little bit better.

 

Saturday November 28th

Ohio State at Michigan – 9am ABC: Our first taste of Meyer vs Harbaugh. Add in Ohio State having to put a tough loss behind them and this should be one heck of a ball game.

Louisville at Kentucky – 9am SECN: Kentucky is one win away from bowl eligibility and their cross state rivals would love nothing more than to keep that from happening.

UCLA at USC – 12:30pm ABC/ESPN2: Battle of LA and for the Pac-12 South.

Penn State at Michigan State -12:30pm ESPN: Michigan State controls it’s own destiny when it comes to winning the Big 10 Eastern division.

Wisconsin at Minnesota – 12:30pm BTN: Dude, it’s the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe! It also gives us a chance to show this video from 2003.

Ole Miss at Mississippi State – 4:15pm ESPN2: The Egg Bowl and if Alabama loses, a chance for Ole Miss to grab the SEC West crown.

Notre Dame at Stanford -4:30pm FOX: Huge game for the Irish against a very, very good Stanford team.

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State – 5pm ABC: Bedlam is here. Winner probably has a legit shot at the College Football Playoff.

 

Sunday November 29th

NY Giants at Washington Redskins – 10am FOX: The winner controls first place in the NFC East.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Seattle Seahawks – 1:25pm CBS: Steelers have been able to keep it together and succeed despite a rash of injuries. The Seahawks looked like the Seahawks for once this season last week. Good luck hearing the play call Pittsburgh.

FC Dallas vs Portland Timbers – 2pm ESPN: 2nd leg and Dallas got an all important road goal in leg one. They did lose 3-1 however which should put the Timbers in the drivers seat.

103rd Grey Cup – 3pm ESPN2: Live from Winnipeg with Fall Out Boy as the halftime entertainment. Oh its the Edmonton Eskimos vs Ottawa RedBlacks.

NY Red Bulls vs Columbus Crew – 4:30pm FS1: The Crew won first the first leg 2-0. NYRB has it’s work cut out for them if they want to advance to MLS Cup.

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos – 5:30pm NBC: The best offense in football goes against the best defense. More or less. Broncos start Brock Osweiler for a second straight week.

Relying on the Dedicated Fan

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

MLS recently announced a new TV deal with ESPN, Fox and Univision. Besides the money (MLS is looking at $90 million a year give or take) the two major points of the deal are 1) the Sunday night block of games on ESPN & Fox and 2) the digital rights.

MLS TV Press Conference

MLS is now going to get a Sunday night block of games. One on ESPN at 5pm EST and then one on Fox Sports 1 at 7pm EST. This will finally provide some regularity to MLS’s schedule.

Now for the bad news.

MLS and the networks believe that this will increase viewership for MLS. But it is asking a lot of the viewer. It may not seem like a lot to ask a viewer to change the channel from one channel to another but why should the viewer do all the work?

This is not ground-breaking or abnormal. Viewers have been conditioned over the years to flip around for the games or shows they want to see. But it’s getting beyond the pale. The NFL makes viewers jump between five channels, the NBA four, and the NHL between three during the regular season and four during the playoffs. Let’s not forget the NCAA Tournament that has games on four channels or the UFC which makes users jump from an online channel to a cable channel to a pay-per-view channel in a matter of hours.

You get the feeling that you’ll watch the first half of a game on one channel and then have to click over to another to watch the second half.

The digital rights are going to go to ESPN. This apparently is still in the works because it’s still pretty vague in the media reports.

Right now MLS has THE best digital deal. You can get MLS Live for around $60 a season and watch any out of market/non national TV game on any device from your Apple TV to your phone.

Now ESPN is getting that.

That means that DirecTV customers, who cannot get certain content on ESPN3 or the Watch ESPN app, are in big trouble. That’s 20 million subscribers MLS is leaving in the dark. Add that to the brilliant TV deal the Columbus Crew cut this off season and less fans will be able to watch games.

While the TV deal is a windfall for MLS a good portion of fans have good reason to be sceptical. ESPN and FOX do not bat 1000 however they will hopefully kick the ball off at the scheduled time unlike NBC Sports.

 

What to Watch Sat. 3/29 – Sun. 3/30

Again, it’s March Madness. Enjoy it while you got it!

Saturday March 29th

Manchester City  vs Arsenal – 10:30am NBCSN: It’s a Saturday and you have two of the top teams in the Premier League on the pitch. Yep, it’s gonna be a good day.

Florida vs Dayton – 3pm TBS: Florida is a team to bet on to win the NCAA tournament but Dayton is this years Cinderella.

Detroit Red Wings @ Toronto Maple Leafs – 4pm NHLN: Four teams in the Eastern Conference are tied at 80 points. These are two of them. Let’s do it.

Wisconsin vs Arizona -6pm TBS: The top two seeds meet to see who gets to go to the Final Four.

Toronto FC @ Real Salt Lake – 6:30pm MLS Live: TFC is the story of this young MLS season. But RSL is still RSL and Rio Tinto is a very tough place to play. You’ll also see the two of the top mid fielders the US has to offer in TFC’s Michael Bradley and RSL’s Kyle Beckerman.

Columbus Crew @ Seattle Sounders – 7pm MLS Live: Columbus is one of the surprise teams in the league this year. But it’s tough to get three points in Seattle. Even if the Sounders are without the services of Clint Dempsey.

Anaheim Ducks @ Vancouver Canucks – 7pm NHL GameCenter: Vancouver is five points back of the final playoff spot in the West. Anaheim is in but they are still fighting for a better playoff seat.

Sunday March 30th

Liverpool vs Tottenham – 8am NBCSN: Tottenham is still in the mix for a spot in the Champions League next season. Liverpool is looking for the same thing but has 12 points on the Spurs. We’ll see what happens.

UCONN vs Michigan St – 11:20am CBS: Final Four is on the line.

Michigan vs Kentucky – 2pm CBS: Michigan gets another shot at the Final Four.

Chicago Blackhawks @ Pittsburgh Penguins – 4:30pm  NBCSN: Since the Chicago embarrassed the Pens outside at Solider Field the Blackhawks haven’t been as dominate. They are still a top team in the league but let’s be frank, the Pens want revenge.

 

 

 

The Stretch Run

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

There are about two months left in the MLS regular season. Some teams will make a playoff run while others will begin playing for next season. Some players will rise to the occastion while some coaches will lose their jobs. Either way there are some intriguing match ups and interesting storylines heading into the stretch run for Major League Soccer.

The MLS Stretch Run

Can PorterBall Make the Playoffs? 

Portland has been one of the more consistant teams in the league this season. First year head coach Caleb Porter has been able to get his players to buy into his system. The result, the first ever playoff berth within reach if they can finish the season strong.

That run starts this weekend when they travel to Seattle in what should be the biggest crowd to ever see an MLS match. Some 66,000 will pack into Century Link Field in Seattle on Sunday night for a game with massive playoff implications. They also face Western Conference leaders Real Salt Lake two more times, Seattle again, the LA Galaxy, Vancouver and Colorado. In other words, a playoff berth is going to be a battle.

RBNY Makes Another Run

Like Porter in Portland, first year head coach Mike Petke has the Red Bulls believing. The question for this franchise is can the overcome the playoff slump and finally win an MLS Cup?

Like Portland, it won’t be a smooth road. They travel to Houston twice in the final two months and have to make two trips to the West Coast before the season is out. They have all the tools, including some of the most consistent goalkeeping in franchise history thanks to Luis Robles.

Who Gets Fired? 

The biggest surprise disappointment this year has to be DC United. They sit at the bottom of the league table with only 13 points. They have talent but it just hasn’t come together this year and people are frustrated. No one more than head man Ben Olsen.

Olsen and Columbus Crew’s Robert Warzycha are the most noticable managers on the hot seat while disappointing results led to the mid season firings of Frank Yallop in San Jose and Chelis at Chivas USA.

Does Dempsey Make a Difference? 

Seattle is on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. They just signed America’s best player in Clint Dempsey but is that enough to get Seattle back into the playoffs?

Without Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins in the lineup, Dempsey and the Sounders were unable to get a point on the road against Houston. However, when all three are in the lineup, it could be one of the most potent offense in the league.

Dempsey can’t do it all himself. He needs help if the Sounders are to get back into the playoffs.

3 Peat?

Many consider the LA Galaxy to be the best team in the league…when they are at full strength. They are right now and if they can continue to be then they might just be the odds on favorites to walk away with their third MLS Cup.

Hang on soccer fans, this is about to get interesting.

NBC Sports Double Standard

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard
NBC Sports owns the rights to a few sports including the NHL and MLS. While they do an outstanding job with the NHL (especially during the Stanley Cup playoffs) the do a very poor job with the MLS.
This past weekend the MLS had three games starting at the 1pm Pacific Standard Time. Two were regional broadcasts and the third was on the NBC Sports Network. One game was Montreal at San Jose. That match kicked off at 1:07pm. The NBC Sports game, New York at Columbus, kicked off at 1:25pm. Both were regular season matches and yet one game kicked off nearly 20 minutes sooner.
If you’ve seen MLS coverage on NBC Sports you’ll notice that this is the norm. They talk. They call it a pre game show but the guide on DirecTV says otherwise. While NBC Sports does do some things fairly innovative (like having their color commentator, in this case Kyle Martino, announcing from the sidelines as opposed to the booth) it still doesn’t excuse the fact that it takes an MLS game on NBC Sports almost an extra 20 minutes to get the ball kicked off.
Contrast this to NBC Sports coverage of the NHL. During the Stanley Cup playoffs they have enlisted the help of all of NBC’s other properties so that they can broadcast each and every playoff game live. This means using NBC’s financial channel CNBC. They also start their games 10 minutes after the scheduled start time. That’s right, they drop the puck 10 minutes after coming on the air with the game.
Why the difference? Why does a nationally broadcast MLS game on NBC or NBC Sports Network take 15 more minutes longer to start as opposed to an NHL game on the same network? It falls under NBC Sports method of operation, talk.
NBCSports.com covers every sport. Their pages are titled PRO FOOTBALL TALK, PRO BASEBALL TALK, and PRO HOCKEY TALK, etc. Does that sound appealing to you? Talk? That may be the most uncreative categorization in the history of the web. It reflects how NBC Sports views itself. It’s not bout the sport for them, it’s about them and what they have to say. In other words, they love to hear themselves talk.
NBC TALK
Can NBC improve the MLS experience? Yes, kick the ball off. It’s that simple. You can still keep a short intro if you want but don’t make it longer than 10 minutes. Fans of the teams and the sport do not tune in to watch people yap and to admire a combo feature. They tune into to watch the game.

The Home Field Disadvantage

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

As we’ve covered before, travel can take it’s toll on a people. From airports to traffic to weather to timezone changes. It’s rough. Playing at home has it’s disadvantages too.

Some teams have a tremendous home field (or ice) advantage. The University of Miami football team once won 58 straight home games between 1985-1994. Cameron Indoor Arena on the campus of Duke University is an amazing atmosphere, Fenway Park in Boston is historic, JELD-WEN Field in Portland is unreal, the Bell Centre in Montreal can just make your jaw drop. But what happens when a road team comes to these great atmospheres? They’re excited too!

Face off on home ice.
Montreal vs Ottawa

It’s one thing for a road team to get up to play a game in Columbus, OH at Crew Stadium and another to get ready to play in front of the Timbers Army in Portland. Grant Wahl did a player survey before the start of the 2013 MLS season. Which were places had the best atmospheres in MLS? Seattle and Portland of course. Who had the worse? Dallas with Columbus coming in 3rd. With these atmospheres you can get a better than expected performance out of people because they are so energized by the atmosphere.

Playing at home also brings in the distractions. You’re home and people know where to find you vs being locked in and focused on the road where the bills and family are not out of sight and usually out of mind. Talk to fighters in the UFC. Usually when they fight in their hometown people come out of the woodwork looking for tickets and deals on hotel rooms. The road can allow people to focus in more on the game.

Home games overall are better than road games but make no mistake, they can have their drawbacks.

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Fatigue Makes Cowards of us All.

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

3 Eastern time zoned based MLS teams started out with back-to-back West Coast games to start the 2013 MLS Season. 2 of the teams stayed on the West Coast after their first game while 1 team made the trek back and forth. In total the teams went 3-2-1.

Impact Score

The Montreal Impact are in their second MLS season and on their second head coach, Marco Schällibaum. They were able to equal their road win total from last season by gaining victories at Seattle and at Portland. Arguably 2 of the toughest places to play at for a road team. The Columbus Crew were able to capture 1 win on their West Coast excursion and nearly drew with the Vancouver Whitecaps in their second match. Only the New York Red Bulls did worse, they let 2 victories slip away in matches at Portland and at San Jose.

Can you guess which team made the cross-country trip twice?

While Montreal and Columbus stayed out west New York chose to fly back to New York in between matches. In both cases the flights out west experienced delays (their first flight to San Jose was cancelled) and arrived later than expected for each match. In both matches they failed to close out the game by allowing both Portland and San Jose to score 2 goals each in the second half. The collapse in San Jose was almost unprecedented.

Did the travel have something to do with it? Probably. While everyone agrees that New York has one of the better clubs on paper in all of MLS they were unable to gain 3 points in either match. Montreal, complete with a new coach and the oldest average staring lineup in all of MLS (30 years old) were somehow able to gain a total of 6 points on their road trip. Was Montreal better rested and hence better prepared than New York? Probably. New York spent roughly 12 extra hours in the air traveling as opposed to Montreal and Columbus who only made the trip out west once.

Staying in the same time zone has proved beneficial in other sports as well. Over the last 2 seasons the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers have twice played back-to-back East Coast road games. Both times, after the first game they stayed in Youngstown, Ohio for the week before traveling to their next game. The result, 3 wins and 1 loss.

Cross-country travel takes a toll. It’s not just the 5 to 6 hour flight in coach but also the waiting at the airport. The getting to and from the airport and the stress of making sure that you brought the essentials. Combine these with a time change and it can wear you down. 2-time Super Bowl winning Head Coach Jimmy Johnson once said that ‘fatigue makes cowards of us all’. He’s right. Fatigue leads to cutting corners and mistakes. When you start doing that bad things start to happen that can, in the world of sports, lead to losses. Unnecessary travel can lead to fatigue and hence to losses.