In this week’s Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Brandon Gould, challenges Sports Editor Alex Wolfe, Correspondent Josh Fidler and Correspondent Johnny Sisto to answer questions about the primetime matchup of week one in the NFL, how the sports community should prevent fan violence and whether the Diamondbacks can hold their own in the NL playoffs this year.
1.The NFL is finally back in action with the regular season commencing this upcoming weekend. What is the marquee match-up of week one?
AW: As much as my fanhood makes me want to say Rams vs. Eagles (which is a good matchup in its own right), I have to say the Jets and the Cowboys. For one, it’s a good matchup between two very good teams, but more significant is the date that it is being played and the city outside of which it takes place. We’re talking a game between New York and Dallas on the 10th anniversary of one of the worst — but also one of the most unifying — moments in U.S. history. Yes, the game is the Sunday night game on 9/11, between New York’s team and “America’s Team.” It’s going to be a good football game, it’s going to be called by the best broadcast team in Michaels and Collinsworth and just the day itself is going to be touching. Can’t get a more marquee matchup than that.
JF: I think that the biggest matchup of week one is Pittsburgh at Baltimore. Not only is this a game between two possible playoff teams, it is also a game between two fierce and bitter AFC North rivals. There is bad blood between these two teams, and they don’t even pretend to hide it. This is also a game between two of the top defenses in the league. To add to the game, one only has to think back to last year when the Steelers knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs at Heinz field. The game is in Baltimore and the Ravens fans will be in a frenzy, which Ray Lewis and his defense will only feed off of. This is what the NFL is about — division rivals facing off in a game that could already have playoff implications.
JS: When the NFL created this season’s schedule, they must have known that they wanted to start it off with a bang. On Sept. 8 (the first night of regular-season football), the Super Bowl champions from last year are going up against the Super Bowl champions from the year before. The Green Bay Packers versus the New Orleans Saints is week one’s marquee matchup for several reasons. First, both teams are led by Pro Bowl quarterbacks in Aaron Rogers and Drew Brees. The media and the fans will no doubt be interested to see who puts up the bigger numbers. Secondly, both teams have a lot to prove this season, because despite the potential of these teams, neither were able to win their division last season.
BG: Alex gets 3 for pointing out that the Jets-Cowboys match-up carries meaning on and off the field. Josh gets 2 because any time that the Steelers and Ravens meet it is must-see TV. Johnny gets 1 because his answer was the most predictable.
2. There has been some extreme fan violence in the last few months, from the assault on Brian Stow to the shootings after the San Fransisco 49ers-Oakland Raiders preseason match up. What actions need to be taken to avoid future events of this nature?
AW: It’s tough to say, especially in the Dodgers’ case, what could be done, because these incidents are taking place in the parking lots where security officers don’t usually patrol. For the Dodgers, it’s going to be hard to hire anyone else, because their owner is broke as hell. For other teams with the funds to do so, I think it would be a good idea to hire security officers to patrol the parking lots. In addition, since I can only assume most of these incidents are caused by drunken hubris, I think if it goes much further they should begin using breathalyzers at the concession stands to stop fans from getting too drunk. All in all, I think that owners should have the sense to instate some of these policies themselves, but if they don’t and there is one more horrific incident, the leagues should mandate it.
JF: It has to start with the fans. Some are taking the game way too seriously. They live and die with every win or loss. Everybody loves the game of football, but it is just a game. But since fans most likely will not stop the violence, there are some things that can be done. One is to increase security around the stadium and at the parking lots. Another thing that could be done is to try to eliminate alcohol at tailgates and/or limit alcohol sold during the game. The root of a lot of violence in sports can be traced to alcohol consumption, and with less alcohol, some of that violence could possibly be stopped.
JS: Increasing security both inside and outside of stadiums will help with the problem. Fights are breaking out not only in the stands, but also in stadium bathrooms and parking lots. However, one of the main aggravators for most of these fan fights has been alcohol. Teams may consider discontinuing beer sales in the upper levels of their stadium. The New York Yankees instituted this policy ten years ago. Sports teams with fights breaking out could consider a move such as this.
BG: Josh gets 3 for stating that the fans need to start taking some responsibility. Johnny gets 2 for suggesting the discontinuation of alcohol in some sections. Alex gets 1 because although a breathalyzer would be useful, it doesn’t seem very feasible.
3. The Arizona Diamondbacks currently own the top spot in the National League West and have shocked many experts who considered the San Fransisco Giants the team to beat in that division. If the Diamondbacks do indeed finish the season as the West’s best team, do they stand a chance against the other division leaders?
AW: Honestly, I don’t think they’re good enough to beat any of the other three teams likely to make the playoffs (the Phillies, Braves and Brewers). Let’s face it, the first round
of the postseason is all about pitching, and that’s something that the D-backs don’t match up well against the other teams with (especially Philly, whom they would probably be matched with in the first round). Their pitching has been good, but even their best pitcher, Ian Kennedy, has no postseason experience. Meanwhile, they’re going to be matched up with either Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt of the Phillies or Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens of the Braves. Neither of those matches up well with the Diamondbacks, even if Justin Upton continues putting the offense on his back. They would maybe win one game in the first round, but that’s about where I set their ceiling.
JF: The Diamondbacks do stand a chance of beating any of the other division leaders and even the Braves. The D-backs’ head-to-head schedule against each of these teams is at or around .500. They have a good rotation highlighted by 18-game-winner Ian Kennedy. They also have a solid bullpen, and closer J.J. Putz has recaptured the stuff he had back when he was a dominant closer in Seattle. The Diamondbacks also have Justin Upton, a possible MVP candidate in the middle of that lineup. Finally, I would say they have a chance because it is the playoffs — any one team can get hot and go on a run. They had to, to make the playoffs. To say that one team stands no chance to win would be foolish. I was a victim of that foolishness when I thought the Giants had no chance against the Rangers.
JS: Yes, they definitely have a chance at succeeding in the postseason. The Diamondbacks’ starting pitching staff, led by Ian Kennedy, has been impressive this regular season. In addition to that, their offensive production has been better than in past years. The Diamondbacks are currently ranked eighth in home runs and ninth in runs scored. It’s no fluke that they’re leading their division. Although I wouldn’t say they are as good of a team as the other National League division leaders, when the postseason comes around, all bets are off the table.
BG: Alex gets 3 for bringing up the fact that the D-backs’ pitching just won’t be able to match up against the rotations of the other potential playoff teams. Johnny gets 2 for backing the D-backs and using their overall offensive production this season as a reason why. Josh gets 1 because regular season head-to-head records aren’t always the best barometer to judge a team’s chances in the postseason.