Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Mailbag

The recent birth of my first child, Lily, has gotten me thinking the important questions that fathers think: when can we start practice (age)? What sports should she play (or should I force her to play!)? Right-handed, left-handed, or ambidextrous? I did a little bit of google searching and found that of the top 10 highest paid female athletes, five play tennis, three play golf, one is a race car driver, and one is a figure skater. I want to go with tennis or golf, especially since I prefer her NOT to be a "go-daddy-girl". I'm not suggesting that I intend to exploit her, but hey, I love her, and I also love sports. I'll ease off the pressure when she gets a brother! - Big Daddy, Parts Unknown

First off, congratulations on the birth of your first child, that's awesome. Now, as far as her future in sports goes... I think when you start her depends on what's available to you guys. You can get kids involved in swimming lessons pretty early, some gymnastics programs start really young, and I know they make ice skates for little kids... Beyond that, unless you're in China or the former Soviet Union you can probably hold off on really pushing sports until they're in school. I mean by all means expose them to stuff when they're little; baseball glove, golf clubs, basketball, soccer ball, tennis racket, etc. But you're probably wasting your time trying to coach the intricacies of a 3-2 zone to a 4 year old.
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Anyhow, once they're in school I think you let get them into everything: t-ball, soccer, tennis lessons, swim team... Let them play and participate in as much as possible and figure out what they like to do and what they're good at. And most importantly, make sure she's having fun. You can live vicariously through her all you want, but she needs to be doing what she enjoys, and not just what you want her to enjoy.

As far as left-handed/right-handed goes, I think baseball's really the only sport that truly favors left-handers. So unless lefty relievers become all the rage in softball someday, I'd say go with whatever's natural. However, if she does end up leaning towards a sport like soccer or basketball, I'd say get her using that off-hand or off-foot early, because that'll pay big dividends down the road.

Ultimately, as long as you have her active and involved, you never know what doors will open up. One of my sisters played soccer all through high school, and then went on to become a Second-Team All American rugby player in college with two National Championships. True story.

Which sport/sports produce the BEST athletes? - Garrett M., Boston, MA

Hahah, oh good an easy one... I don't know that I can narrow this down to just one without opening myself up to a substantial amount of criticism, but I'll give you three that it would be worth having a debate on.

Basketball Players - Ok, so I ruled out baseball because of two words: David Wells. I ruled out hockey because just because you're amazing on skates doesn't mean you can do anything without them. Soccer players are tempting to put on here, but ultimately it's more a finesse game than a power game. I played 4 years of college soccer and never once lifted a weight. So it comes down to basketball and football. I'll grant that football requires a toughness that basketball doesn't, but when it comes down to pure athleticism, I give basketball the edge over football. A lot of that has to do with the emergence of the new-age tight end. Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham were all basically basketball washouts. Big, fast, strong, good hands, good footwork, great leapers... Nobody in football can cover these guys and they've changed the way the game is played. You've got these guys on the defensive side of the ball as well. Think Julius Peppers, formerly a basketball player at North Carolina. When you consider that there are bigger, faster, stronger players in the NBA who jump higher and are more athletically gifted than the guys who made it in the NFL (i.e. LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose etc.), I think you have to give the edge to basketball players.
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Water Polo Players - Treading water is not easy. Now add in treading water while fighting off other swimmers while running basketball plays in a pool without drowning.
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Wrestlers/Boxers/Ultimate Fighters - If you have never sparred with anybody for a 3 minute round, you have no idea how physically demanding these sports are.
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In the pros, when can a player enter the key during a free throw... I thought I knew the rule... - Garrett M., Boston, MA
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Ok, as far as I can tell here's the rule: "When a player attempts a free throw, none of the players lined up along the free throw lane may enter the lane until the ball leaves the shooter's hands. If a defensive player jumps into the lane early, the shooter receives another shot if his shot misses. An offensive player entering the lane too early nullifies the shot if it is made." So I don't know what we've got going on in the picture above. Those dudes are like halfway into the lane and the ball hasn't left the shooter's hands yet.

The Saints have yet to sign Drew Brees to a long term deal. What kind of numbers is it gonna take to make sure he doesn't test the free agency waters? - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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Bottom line? It sounds like it's going to take Peyton Manning-esque dollar figures to make this deal happen. From what I've heard, the two sides are about $5M apart with the Saints coming in at $18M/year with Brees looking to be in the ballpark of the $23M/year that Manning signed for. Now, throwing out the debate of whether or not ANY athlete deserves that kind of money, it's hard to justify not paying Brees. When you look at what he's done for the Saints franchise and the New Orleans community following Hurricane Katrina, and you see how his numbers stack up with his peers (his 28,394 passing yards since joining New Orleans in 2006 are the most in the NFL), how can you say he doesn't deserve to be among the highest paid players at his position? And now that the Saints were unable to reach a deal with Brees and were forced to franchise him they risk losing Marques Colston and Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks to free agency. Add in Bounty-Gate and the Saints are not having a very good offseason so far.

Klinsmann seems to pick a lot of guys that play in the Bundesliga. Is that just his personal preference because he himself is German? Or is that just where the majority of Americans are playing overseas? - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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I think it's a combination of things. Part of it is the fact that he's German, and because of that he has a lot of connections in Germany and I would imagine his scouting network over there is very extensive. As a result he's able to get detailed reports on these guys which he might not have access to for say Bryan Gerzicich over in Israel. But there's also a number of American field players (i.e. not just goalies) playing in Germany and playing very well: Timmy Chandler, Steve Cherundolo, Jermaine Jones, Terrence Boyd, Joe Gyau, Fabian Johnson, Danny Williams, Alfredo Morales... If you look around the other top European leagues we don't have an abundance of position players in any of them. Dempsey's the only superstar field player in the Premier League although Zak Whitbread and Tim Ream are worth mentioning, Bradley's the only name that comes to mind in Italy, there's no one in Spain, Altidore's the only one in the Netherlands and Charlie Davies is the biggest name in France. Then you start getting into your next tier of leagues (Scotland, Portugal, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, etc) where we have a little more of a presence. So while I'm sure Klinsmann's German heritage is part of it, as far as Europe's top leagues go, Germany is also where the bulk of our boys are.

We're entering the final stretch of the EPL season. Can Man U. catch Man City? - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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Yes, City is only 2 points clear with 11 games to go so the title is far from being decided. Let's take a closer look at both club's schedules the rest of the way though:

As long as things stay the way they are, the season could come down to that April 30th derby. United needs to keep winning though because if they fall any farther behind they're in real trouble.

Chelsea just fired their manager(shocker, I know). Who do you see them going after to replace him and can all this manager- swapping possibly be good for a team that's supposed to be competing for titles every year? - Cory L., Raceland, LA

The firing of Andre Villas-Boas means that Chelsea is looking at their 8th manager in 9 years. Russian owner Roman Abramovich has made it clear that the Champions League is his top priority and he wants someone who can deliver success immediately. As far as who that might be? It's hard to say. Abramovich's quick hook with his past managers can't make him an ideal guy to work for so it'll be interesting to see who's up for the challenge of both bringing Chelsea back to prominence and dealing with the erratic Russian. In the meantime assistant coach Roberto Di Matteo, a former Chelsea player and West Bromwich Albion manager, will take charge of the Blues until the end of the season.
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That concludes this week's mailbag. As always a special thanks to those of you who wrote in. Couldn't have done it without your questions. Got a question for the mailbag? Email us at 

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