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Breaking down the NFC East

June 11, 2014

There's no division in the NFL with more intrigue than the NFC East. Every time an intra-division game occurs, it's a rivalry game. Cowboys-Eagles? Check. Cowboys-Redskins? Check. Cowboys-Giants? Check. Redskins-Giants? Yep. Giants-Eagles? You better believe it. Redskins-Eagles? Now more than ever.

What should fans expect out of the NFC East this season? The usual -- drama, desperation and entertainment.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett will undoubtedly coach with an edge of desperation this season. If the Cowboys fail to make the playoffs, there's almost no chance that Jerry Jones will bring Garrett back to coach the Cowboys in 2015. Garrett is already fighting an uphill battle, as stalwart linebacker Sean Lee is already out for the season -- not to mention the fact that quarterback Tony Romo underwent his second major back surgery in as many years just months ago.

On the surface, the Cowboys look like a 6 or 7 win team -- which will mark them irrelevant by November. That leaves the Giants, Redskins and Eagles -- and all three teams could easily win the division.

Last year's defending NFC East champions, the Eagles, had an interesting offseason to say the least. Philadelphia released DeSean Jackson, coming off a career year, due to character concerns. On the surface, losing Jackson seems like it's a major blow to the Eagles' offense. If we've learned anything after watching Chip Kelly orchestrate Oregon's offense and then Philadelphia's last year, it's one thing -- don't doubt Kelly's ability to guide his offense and put plenty of points on the board.

Jeremy Maclin will be a year removed from an ACL injury, and will help fill Jackson's void. The Eagles traded for running back and jack of all trades Darren Sproles, who will be another exciting weapon for Nick Foles. Expect the Eagles to score and score plenty. Philadelphia's defense should be improved as well, after the team signed Malcolm Jenkins and drafted linebacker Marcus Smith.

Philadelphia isn't a shoe-in to win the NFC East -- and really, aside from the Patriots and Broncos, is anybody a lock to make the playoffs this season?

The Redskins should improve substantially from a lackluster 2013 season. Mike Shanahan is out as head coach and Jay Gruden is in -- which will only help Robert Griffin III blossom as a quarterback. The Redskins signed DeSean Jackson and RG3 will be another year removed from his major knee injry, but Washington did little to help its defense in the offseason.

Washington lost London Fletcher through free agency, but did add Tracy Porter and Jason Hatcher. The fact that Washington didn't have a first round pick after finishing 3-13 hurt the team's ability to address its defensive woes. Had Washington had its pick, the Redskins could have drafted Khalil Mack, but alas, the Redskins now pay the price for acquiring the rights to the pick used on RG3.

Expect the Redskins to be a fringe contender, but not a serious threat to the Eagles in 2014.

That brings us to Big Blue. The Giants missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season in 2013, and finished under .500 for the first time since 2004 -- when Kurt Warner was the starting quarterback.

New York's offseason was busy. The Giants lost wide receiver Hakeem Nicks through free agency, as well as Aaron Ross, Da'Rell Scott, Justin Tuck, David Diehl and many other familiar Giants. New York wasted little time replacing many of its players, signing Robert Ayers, Mario Manningham, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Trindon Holliday and others. The Giants used their first-round draft pick on wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., giving Eli Manning another weapon on offense.

The Giants are still a flawed team -- like almost every team in the league. But the 2014 Giants should be much, much better than the 2013 Giants, and the addition of Rodgers-Cromartie could be enough to propel New York's defense back to respectability.

Look for the Giants to contend this season -- and don't be at all surprised if Big Blue ends up winning the NFC East.

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George Strait rode off into the sunset of all sunsets this weekend. A record of approximately 105,000 concert-goers attended Strait's concert at AT&T Stadium in Dallas to watch the final show of Strait's last tour -- marking the last time the country superstar will ever perform a concert of his own.

The number is almost mind-numbingly high. 105,000 people inside AT&T Stadium for a concert -- but it wasn't just Strait there -- Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Sheryl Crow, Martina McBride, Jason Aldean, Bubba Strait, Vince Gill and Faith Hill all joined Strait at various times throughout his 41-song setlist, which concluded aptly with, "The Cowboy Rides Away."

There's no doubting that Strait is an absolute superstar in the music industry, but he's never been known for having record-breaking attendance numbers in terms of touring. Despite his illustrious career, Strait never managed to crack the top 20 on the highest-grossing tours of all-time -- yet he managed to draw over 100,000 for his final concert.

What if music's biggest touring superstars called it quits -- and declared in advance that it the tour was going to be that band or artist's final tour?

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Are you on Lorde's 'Team'?

June 6, 2014

Lorde North American 2014 Tour Dates

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2014 Belmont Prediction

June 5, 2014

California Chrome has been all the rage this last month -- and rightfully so. The Thoroughbred won the 2014 Kentucky Derby with ease, before winning the 2014 Preakness Stakes. On June 7, Chrome will race, attempting to become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win horse racing's elusive Triple Crown.

Since Affirmed won the Triple Crown, 12 horses have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, but failed to win the Belmont. I'll Have Another was the most recent horse to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness (2012), but did not run in the Belmont because of tendonitis. Prior to him, Big Brown was the last horse to attempt to win the Triple Crown, but lost to Da' Tara in the Belmont. Amazingly, Da' Tara had 38-1 odds prior to the race, and pulled off one of the biggest upsets in horse racing history.

No horse has as poor odds as Da' Tara did -- Matterhorn and Matsuzak are the biggest longshots at 30-1 entering Saturday's race. California Chrome, however, is by far the odds-on favorite, with an opening line of 3-5.

Recent history suggests that California Chrome will fail -- after all, 12 horses have tried to win the Triple Crown since 1978, and each one has failed to win the Belmont. Chrome, however, does share one thing in common with a legendary race horse. Secretariat, who won the Triple Crown in 1973, shared the same post positions as California Chrome in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

At the Belmont, Secretariat broke from the No. 2 gate.

At the Belmont on Saturday, California Chrome will break from the No. 2 gate.

Coincidence? Probably. The entire notion of fate is questionable at best and if fate does exist, I can't imagine it's wasting much time on horses.

At 1 and 1/2 miles, the Belmont is the longest of the three Triple Crown races. The Kentucky Derby is 1 and 1/4 miles, while the Preakness is the shortest of the three, at 1 and 3/16 miles. As the longest of the three, the Belmont truly is the test of champions, as it tests a horse's endurance as well as its speed.

Will California Chrome win the Triple Crown? While Chrome dominated the Kentucky Derby, Ride On Curlin, who opens with 12-1 odds at the Belmont, gave Chrome a run for his money at the Preakness -- but finished over a length behind Chrome. It's quite possible that the extra distance will take its toll on Chrome -- as it does many other horses.

Even though California Chrome is easily the odds-on favorite, and easily who everybody wants to see win -- I just don't think he will. The Belmont is the most gruelling of the Triple Crown races -- and horse racing fans will be reminded of that Saturday on Long Island.

Belmont Straight Trifecta Prediction:

  1. Commanding Curve (15-1)
  2. Wicked Strong (6-1)
  3. California Chrome (3-5)

     

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Events On Sale This Week: 5/8/14

Here's a list of the hottest events with dates going on sale this week. For tickets to these and more events, head over to Ticket Liquidator.

Concerts

Event

Date

Cities

Bonnaroo Thursday, 6/12/14 Manchester, TN
Brad Paisley Friday, 6/6/14 Kingston, ON; Lethbridge, AB; Prince George, BC; Abbotsford, BC
Crosby, Stills, and Nash Friday, 6/6/14 Birmingham, AL; Las Vegas, NV
Demi Lovato Friday, 6/6/14 Montreal, QC; Hamilton, ON; Saskatoon, SK; Edmonton, AB; Calgary, AB; Denver, CO; Everett, WA; Manchester, NH; Uncasville, CT; Pittsburgh, PA; Hershey, PA; Albany, NY; Newark, NJ; Baltimore, MD; Raleigh, NC; Miami, FL; Orlando, FL; Louisville, KY; Kansas City, MO; New Orleans, LA; Tulsa, OK; San Antonio, TX; Moline, IL; Chicago, IL; San Diego, CA
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You Should Root for Miami

June 4, 2014

For the second straight year, the Miami Heat will take on the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. This year's NBA Finals marks the fourth straight season the Heat are representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, as LeBron James and the Heat attempt to win their third straight NBA title.

The Spurs are no stranger to the NBA Finals, either. The 2014 NBA Finals marks the sixth time since 1999 that San Antonio will compete for the NBA title.

Most of the world outside of Miami will likely root for the Spurs -- and why wouldn't they? The Spurs are perceived as a classy organization that develops stars rather than buying them through free agency, like the Heat did with LeBron James, Chris Bosh and the Super Friends in Miami.

It's not even the fact that the Super Friends were formed years ago, it's how. LeBron ripped the heart out of the city of Cleveland on television when he announced to the world that he was "taking his talents to South Beach."

LeBron's made-for-television decision was indefensible -- but it's been a long time since then. Like most sports fans with a soul, I hated LeBron. Watching the Heat lose to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals in 2011 was unbelievably satisfying. Not only did LeBron lose in the finals (again), but the Heat lost to the Mavericks, who had never won an NBA title before.

Fast forward three years, and I find myself rooting for LeBron. Did I lose my soul? Possibly.

But maybe not.

LeBron is by far the best player in the league, and will go down as an all-time great. He's already won two titles and has led his team to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances, so the choking argument will never hold weight -- even if he loses another three.

As good as he is, I ultimately don't particularly care if he wins or loses. I want to see LeBron win in 2014 -- and then I want to see him opt out of his contract with Miami, which he can do after this season. The Heat aren't getting any younger with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and it would likely serve LeBron well to go out on top with a threepeat.

Where could LeBron go?

Well, he could go back to Cleveland, and help right the wrong he did four years ago. The Cavaliers won the draft lottery for the third time in four years, and are poised to take off. If the Cavs can somehow add LeBron back to the mix with the No. 1 overall pick this year, they'll instantly become one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference.

Will it happen? Doubtful if the Heat lose -- I can't imagine LeBron would want to leave Miami on a sour note. But if the Heat win? Well, what's left to prove in Miami? Not much -- and he can cement his legacy as one of the two best, if not the best, player of all-time if he returns to Cleveland and wins another championship or two.

No matter who you root for, these are the best two teams in the league -- and they have been for the last two seasons. Last year's series was highly entertaining, and it should be more of the same this year.

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Stanley Cup Final Prediction

June 3, 2014

The 2013-14 NHL season began back in October, and as the calendar flips to June, we're left with just two teams vying for the Stanley Cup -- the Los Angeles Kings, making their second Stanley Cup Final appearance in three years, and the New York Rangers, making their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1994.

In one sense this is the biggest Stanley Cup Final possible, since New York and Los Angeles are the two most populated cities in the United States -- and the two biggest media markets. Perhaps a Stanley Cup Final between the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens would be deemed slightly bigger in the hockey world because of all the Canadian hockey fans -- but let's not sell red, white and blue hockey fans short, either.

With New York and Los Angeles, there's no underdog to root for. You're either going to root for the Kings to win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons, or you're going to root for New York -- which, unless you're from New York, can be tough to do, since New York fans are typically showered with success (see: Yankees, Giants).

Allegiances aside, this should be an excellent series. In Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist, this series boasts two of the best goalies in the entire NHL. Goals could be hard to come by -- even if the Kings are averaging nearly 3.5 goals-per-game in the playoffs thus far.

The Rangers are quite united emotionally, which could boost their play as a whole, as Martin St. Louis' mother recently passed. Dominic Moore, who scored the game-winning goal in Game 6, sending the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final, lost his wife nearly 18 months ago.

Still, emotion alone isn't enough to win a series. The Rangers had difficulty scoring against Montreal's third-string goalie in the Eastern Conference Finals, and will have an even tougher time against Los Angeles' Quick.

The Kings have home ice, and they're the better team. Look for the Kings to win in six games.

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The calendars turned to June on Sunday (where is 2014 going?), and started off on an entertaining note -- hopefully a precursor to the entire month. The Los Angeles Kings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime, in a thrilling Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. The Kings were down 2-0 early, 3-2 in the second period and 4-3 late in the third period, but rallied each time.

With the win, the Kings advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three seasons, and will take on the New York Rangers. It's the first Stanley Cup Final trip for the Rangers since 1994, and undoubtedly, Madison Square Garden will be rocking when the series shifts back to New York for Games 3 and 4.

The Stanley Cup Final will mark the first time since 1981 when the Dodgers and Yankees met in the World Series that Los Angeles and New York meet in a final of any of the four major sports.

NBA fans are treated to a rematch of last year's NBA Finals, as the Miami Heat take on the San Antonio Spurs. Last year, the Heat came back in improbable fashion in Game 6, and went on to win Game 7 and the franchise's second straight NBA title. The result could be a bit different this year, as the Spurs own home court advantage this year -- whereas the Heat held it last season.

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Firefly Boasts Excellent Lineup

May 29, 2014

Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza are synonymous with American music festivals -- but there's an East Coast festival that is quickly gaining in prestige and popularity. The Firefly Music Festival held in Dover, Delaware, is becoming one of the most popular and interesting festivals in the country, despite 2014 being just the third year of its existence.

With 95 bands performing in 2014, it's easy to see why the four-day festival has turned into the music festival to see on the East coast. You've certainly heard of the headliners this year -- the Arctic Monkeys and Foo Fighters will both take the main stage on Friday (June 20), before Third Eye Blind, Imagine Dragons, and Outkast take the main stage on Saturday (June 21). Weezer, the Lumineers and Jack Johnson will perform on Firefly's main stage the end the festival on Sunday, June 22.

This year, the Firefly Music Festival boasts seven stages. The Firefly Main Stage, the Backyard, the Lawn, the Porch, the Forest, the Coffee house, and the Big Break Stage.

While you've certainly heard of all the headliners, many excellent, lesser-known bands will take the other stages at Firefly this year. Portugal. The Man are scheduled to play Friday (June 20), as are Kongos and Airborne Toxic Event -- among many others. After the Foo Fighters finish their main set, Girl Talk will perform on the Backyard Stage -- which will certainly be a fun after-party for those in attendance.

The lineup gets even better on Saturday (June 21), when Cage the Elephant, Grouplove, the Kaiser Chiefs, Tegan and Sara and the Sleigh Bells are all scheduled to perform.

Sunday's lineup features two of my favorite new(ish) artists as well. Phantogram will perform on the Backyard Stage, while Broken Bells are scheduled to perform on the Lawn Stage. Admittedly, I first got into the Broken Bells after I heard that Danger Mouse, Broken Bells' drummer, was producing U2's thirteenth album -- which still hasn't come out yet. I immersed myself with everything Danger Mouse had done in the past to try to guess what U2's new album would sound like, and the net result was becoming a huge fan of the Broken Bells.

With a lineup this good, it's no surprise that Firefly has quickly become one of the biggest music festivals in the country in just three years. If you have the opportunity to get out to Delaware this June, you should absolutely stop by for at least one of the four nights -- you certainly won't regret it. Fans can buy a four-day pass, or buy tickets to individual days.

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You've almost certainly heard of 50 Cent. If you haven't and you're under the age of 45, then it's safe to assume that you've lived in a bubble for the last decade.

The rapper-turned-actor, and Queens native, had the privilege of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Tuesday night's Mets-Pirates game at Citi Field. Unfortunately, 50 Cent looked more like 4 Rubles throwing out the first pitch -- in what probably qualifies as the worst first pitch of all-time.

There have been some fairly awful first pitches in recent memory. Remember Carly Rae Jepsen's attempt last year at the Tropicana Dome before a Tampa Bay Rays game? She somehow managed to bounce the ball off an idle camera a good 15 feet away from home plate -- I'm not sure she could do that again if she tried.

What about Carl Lewis a few years back at Safeco Field before a Mariners game? For as bad as Lewis was, he at least managed to throw, or roll, the ball toward the plate.

Even Mariah Carey in high heels managed to at least throw the ball to the catcher -- albeit on four hops -- before a Japanese game years ago.

50 Cent though? His pitch is far worse than Jepsen, Lewis or Carey's.

You can give Carly Rae a bit of a break -- she's a Canadian pop singer who likely never had any exposure to baseball. She also scores bonus points for somehow managing to hit the camera and at least having the ball bounce back toward home plate.

Lewis? Yeah, his was bad. But at least it reached the catcher and went toward home plate. The same goes for Mariah Carey -- and you can give her a bit of a break as well, wearing the highest of high heels.

50 Cent? There's no redemption to be found there. He just airmails the ball toward the on-deck circle, even after taking a full windup -- giving the appearance that he actually knows what he's doing.

Or maybe he does know what he's doing, and just wanted to have the worst first pitch of all-time, just to get the Internet talking about him days before his fifth album comes out.

Oh. That makes sense.

Still, being worse than Carly Rae Jepsen at throwing a baseball just isn't worth the publicity.

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