One more meaningless week of preseason football, and the NFL is back, folks! This week was a tease as many of the starters went well into the third quarters of their games. Elsewhere around the world of sports a 13-year old makes the Sports Illustrated cover, buckets of ice continue to douse our star athletes and baseball’s pennant races are prepping for an exciting home stretch. Sit back and get comfy, as Wayniac Nation takes you around the week of sports.
A few days ago, Wayniac Nation brought you the Inaugural WN Fantasy Football Report answering 5 Burning Questions for the 2014 Fantasy Season. Today, we will break it down further and bring you our picks for the MVP, some breakout stars, some busts and some rookies you may want to gamble on. First, you need to meet the Wayniac Nation Fantasy Experts.
Nomi the Greek is a member of The Thread and commissioner of The Brookhaven Fantasy Football League (BFFL) that I joined last season. He is a die hard Atlanta Falcons fan and knows the NFL up and down. Sperry is a member of both The Thread and the BFFL as well, although he will be taking a one year hiatus in his pursuit of law schools and a career. Damn higher learning, see where it gets you? Still, one year removed from being champion of the BFFL, Sperry has agreed to chip in on some fantasy advice. You probably remember Saucy T as Wayniac Nation’s NFL Draft expert and his first annual Mason’s Mock Draft. He is also the commissioner of his own league, THE LEAGUE (which Nomi the Greek is currently reigning champion of), and member of the BFFL. Benny Smalls is reigning champion of my 17-year league, The Nitro League. He defeated me last season as I went for back-to-back championships. Anyone who wins the coveted Nitro Trophy is worth listening to for some sound advice. Wayniac Nation’s golf expert, Mike Dunton, is also a member of The Nitro League. His name is on the trophy as well, and would have been even more if I hadn’t beaten him for my first championship back in 2005. Fee is the Commissioner of The Nitro League. He hasn’t won a championship since 1999, however, his team strung together one of the longest playoff appearance streaks in our league history. His Swami Squad has the distinct honor of running into the hottest team every post season. JD is my team mate in fantasy baseball. He also joined our Old School Football League three years ago and was in the championship game a mere one year later. Mike Cochran is the single greatest fantasy sport mind I know. I am in two of his baseball leagues and The Old School Football League with him for 11 years. He easily has close to 20 combined championships over that time. He will be the first to tell you that I would have at least three more championships in fantasy sports if it weren’t for him. He has knocked me out in the semi-finals or finals in three of the last four years. Ted Reed is not in any leagues with me, but has worked with me for the last three years and we talk fantasy football every day… even during baseball season. He is the reigning champion of his league and his 2014 draft is underway. Cavadi #2 is my brother Jonathan. We teamed several years ago to form the powerhouse Gumbel-2-Gumbel but that was the only year we have ever played together.
Now, that we are all acquainted, let’s get to it:
Nomi the Greek (reigning THE LEAGUE champion)
Fantasy MVP: Peyton Manning. If he has a season where he puts up 75% of last years stats, he is a fantasy stud.
Fantasy ROY: I like Teddy Bridgewater a lot….. if he plays. I’ll go with Jordan Matthews. He has the size and speed to be an elite receiver in the NFL. Chip Kelly’s offensive system is also going to help Jordan.
Rookie: Odell Beckham, Jr. is my guy here. He has all the tools and talents to be great. He has one problem though. He doesn’t seem to want to play through any pain and Tom Coughlin, historically, doesn’t seem to care much for players who can’t tough out small injuries.
Veteran: Eric Decker. Geno Smith is not Peyton Manning. Do I need to continue?
First non-running back taken: Calvin Johnson in a PPR league. He is Matt Stafford’s favorite weapon in a very pass happy offense.
Sperry (the doesn’t even play fantasy fantasy expert)
MVP: Jamaal Charles. His ceiling will get even higher this season when Aaron Murray takes over at QB in week 6.
Rookie of the Year: I think Brandin Cooks and Drew Brees are going to get on the same page and thrash some coverages. You know what? Scrap that. SAMMY WATKINS! Having the most talent and being, virtually, the only option I say he explodes in Buffalo and makes EJ look like a Pro Bowler (not really).
Biggest Bust: I love Beast Mode, but something isn’t sitting right with me about him this year. It might be the hold out. It might be the gifted young RB nipping at his heels. Whatever it is I would not take Marshawn as high as you would have to.
Best Comeback: I am going with Jay Cutler. I have bet on him in the past and he has let me down, but I think this just might be the year that he puts it all together.
Breakthrough: I want to be different here, but I just can’t see anyone having a bigger breakout year than Montee Ball. With light boxes all year Ball will be able to imitate Knowshon’s success from last season.
First Non-RB: Megatron. Megatron. Megatron. If it is not Calvin Johnson, then I would want to be in whatever league that is seeing as how you could probably get Jimmy Graham in round two.
Sleeper: Ladarius Green isn’t a name that most of your buddies will know offhand, but it should be. 6 feet 6 inches of 4.5 running goodness coming off the line for Phillip Rivers to play long ball catch with. He could very well be Jimmy Graham before he was Jimmy Graham.
Saucy T (fantasy legend and Wayniac Nation NFL Draft expert)
Fantasy MVP: Calvin Johnson. Megatron played the last month or two of last season injured and playing through it still managed to be a top 3 fantasy receiver.
Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Carlos Hyde. I don’t love this rookie classes for fantasy purposes, but if I had to pick one I would take my chances with the most talented RB in this class who’s playing behind a RB past his prime on one of the most run heavy teams.
Biggest Bust: Arian Foster. Sorry Wayne, but I don’t know that he can stay healthy and if the Texans are 1-4, what reason does he have to play through it?
Breakout Candidate: Michael Floyd. Larry Fitzgerald is still a great receiver, but if you look at their numbers after the bye week last year, Floyd started to become Arizona’s number one.
Sleeper: Travis Kelce. Kelce is a Gronk-lite playing in Andy Reid‘s pass happy system on a team who’s RB was their leading pass catcher last year. I expect Kelce to challenge Charles for that honor this year.
I think Megatron is first non QB to go. I’d say pick 7 in standard, pick 5 in PPR
Bounceback: Roddy White. Maybe it’s the homer in me, but I could see Roddy having a 90 catch, 1200 yard bounce back.
Benny Smalls (reigning Nitro champ)
Fantasy MVP: Adrian Peterson – All Day has been consistently atop the rankings for the past few years.
ROY: Brandin Cooks – speed, catching ability and a dangerous weapon throwing to him.
Biggest bust: Le’Veon Bell – he’ll still be productive, but Blount will pull from his numbers.
Best comeback candidate: RGIII – weapons to throw to, no knee brace & options in the backfield…lets not forget how scary good he was prior to his injury.
Breakthrough candidate: Monte Ball – the backfield is all his and Manning takes pressure off any RB as D’s will have a hard time stacking the box against him.
First non RB taken and when: Unless folks draft with their hearts, the smart pick here is Calvin Johnson at 5 – guaranteed production. Taking a qb seems risky, can’t waste this on a Eddie Lacy, only other option would be Jimmy Graham at 5.
Biggest sleeper: Since I rarely discuss any fantasy anything with folks in my league I am hesitant to answer this question more than the others…HOWEVER, in an effort to support The Wayniac’s Fantasy Edition…I will go with Kai Forbath!
Mike Dunton (my 17-year arch rival in Nitro)
Fantasy MVP: Petyon Manning. This could be Peyton’s last ride in Denver and it’s Super Bowl or bust for these Broncs.
Rookie of the Year: Sound like a homer here but I’m going with Eric Ebron. This guy is on a team of offensive weapons and he may become Matthew Stafford‘s second favorite target.
Biggest Bust: Cam Newton. He will be taken way too early in drafts, he has no WR’s and this ankle thing bothers me.
Best Comeback: Roddy White or Julio Jones are great candidates but that Atlanta offensive line scares me. So with that being said, I’m going with Jay Cutler. He has weapon upon weapon and a healthy Jay Cutler could put up numbers similar to Aaron and Drew.
First Non RB Taken: Our league is known to be non traditional. Don’t be surprised if the first non RB taken happens at #2 when Swami Squad picks. Back to back Jimmy Graham years? I would not put it past them.
Fee (The Commish of Nitro, playoff regular)
Fantasy MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Fantasy ROY: Sammy Watkins
Biggest Bust: Cam Newton
Best Comeback: Roddy White
First Non-RB taken: Peyton Manning – 1st round
Biggest Sleeper: Lamar Miller
JD (my fantasy baseball team mate and fantasy football guru)
Cochran (the greatest living fantasy sports player alive)
MVP: Aaron Rodgers or Jamaal Charles depending on scoring (4 points vs. 6 points QB touchdowns)
ROY: Mike Evans, but Blake Bortles if he gets the job
Biggest Bust: Reggie Bush
Best Comeback: Julio Jones
Biggest Breakthrough: Ben Tate or Montee Ball. Tate may be crazy good this year.
First Non-RB Taken: Megatron at sixth pick
Sleeper: Toby Gerhart
Ted Reed (Reigning champ of Braxton’s Shoulder League)
MVP: Peyton Manning
ROY: Bishop Sankey
Biggest Bust: Steven Jackson (again!)
Best Comeback: Julio Jones
Biggest Breakthrough: Josh McCown
First Non-RB Taken: Peyton Manning anywhere between 4th and 7th
Sleeper: Eric Ebron
Jonathan (My brother and only guy I know in a 14-team keeper league)
Fantasy MVP: Peyton Manning (and nfl MVP)
Fantasy ROY: Carlos Hyde
Biggest Bust: Arian Foster if you get him Round 1 or 2, Victor Cruz if Round 3
Best Comeback: Julio Jones
Breakthrough: Dennis Pitta
First non-RB: Peyton at 6 in a Standard scoring league, but Megatron at 4 in a PPR
Sleeper: Kyle Rudolph – all Norv Turner does is make 1,000+ yard TEs (Cooley, Gates, Cameron)
And last but not least, The Wayniac:
Fantasy MVP: Peyton Manning. Ball may turn out better than Knowshon Moreno and Emmanuel Sanders could be better than Eric Decker.
Fantasy ROY: Johnny Manziel. Oh come on, people, you know I think this guy is a bum. I really like Mike Evans down in Tampa.
Biggest Bust: Colin Kaepernick. No way this guy remains a Top Ten QB for much longer.
Best Comeback: Percy Harvin. If he stays healthy he is one of the most dynamic players on the field.
Breakthrough: I’m going homer here. I don’t care if it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, DeAndre Hopkins is going to make a huge jump this season. He had a pretty good rookie campaign playing catch with three different QBs and no steady offensive personnel.
First Non-RB Taken: I honestly think Peyton should go number one overall, but I don’t think the Fantasy world is ready for that. I’m going with Megatron.
Sleeper: Gerhart. He’s the only real guy in Jacksonville, and Maurice Jones-Drew led the league in rushing for a terrible Jaguars team a few years back.
It’s that time boys and girls. Fantasy Football drafts have started across the nation. So today marks the first of Wayniac Nation’s Fantasy Football Reports. Each week, we will bring you insights, good starts, better sits and a smorgasbord of information to help you look like a fantasy football genius.
I know what you’re asking yourself. There are millions of fantasy football resources out there, why listen to The Wayniac? It’s justified. What makes me any better than any other fantasy expert? Let’s take a look at the ol’ resume and perhaps I can convince you that out of all the fantasy geeks out there, I am one of the biggest.
I am entering the 17th year in my Nitro League. That’s right, folks, 17 years with essentially the same original owners in a 10-team league. This league is so old it started back when you had to tally scores by hand. We don’t really have bad teams as it is ultra-competitive and has always been more about the trophy and bragging rights than the money. I have been to the last two back-to-back championship games and if I didn’t run into Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson and the Junior Mafia, I would have two wins in a row. I have been in my other league, The Old School Football League, for 10 years. It is a 12-team league that has had essentially the same owners for the bulk of its existence as well. Over the past three seasons, no team has more regular season wins or points than my Fightin’ Blue Hose. Unfortunately, although I have finished in the money all three of those years, I have no rings to show for it as a major injury has derailed me seemingly every Week 15 in the semi-finals. It is your typical scoring league and in the history of the league only four times has a team broken the 200 point barrier. Three of those times were the Fightin’ Blue Hose. Last year I joined a third league run by Nomi the Greek and has every member of The Thread in it. The Englishman is the reigning champ in his first year ever of fantasy football.
Am I bragging a little bit? Sure, but I also want you to know that I do have an idea about how this fantasy thing works. I also bring you insight to how to succeed in a 10-team league as well as a deeper 12-team league. My panel of Wayniac Nation Fantasy Experts that I have put together is an All Star selection of people who I have run in fantasy circles with for nearly the last two decades.
Later this week, we will bring you insight to key players and busts to look out for, but first let me take a selfie.
No, seriously, folks, before we get into player breakdowns, we need to first answer THE TOP FIVE BURNING QUESTIONS COMING INTO THE 2014 FANTASY FOOTBALL SEASON.
5. When will the first non-running back come off the board?
This is an entirely new fantasy football era and the conversion from running back heavy teams to dominating through the air is complete. That being said, AP, Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles will be the first four off the board (in no particular order). I personally don’t see a running back worth taking after the Big Four until the second round. Wide receivers, especially in PPR (point per reception for those not savvy) formats are way more valuable in the right system, and the way quarterbacks amass forty to fifty point Sundays makes a few first round worthy.
4. Can Peyton Manning come close to last year’s production?
Of course not. Peyton Manning set records last season and had the single greatest season for a quarterback in fantasy and NFL history. It’s a lot like watching Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. You knew no matter what, you were watching the best he had to offer and nothing would ever again match that. Now, I’m not suggesting Peyton Manning numbers are going to fall off the way Keanu Reeve’s acting abilities have (Johnny Mnemonic, anyone?), but you do have to tame your expectations. While the Broncos lost Eric Decker when he unforgivably signed his career away to the New York Haven’t Had a Legitimate QB in a Decade Jets, they brought in an even better Emmanuel Sanders so the offense won’t miss a beat. They did also bulk up their defense with big names like Aqib Talib and DeMarcus Ware. That means more ball control and less shootouts for Manning. While his numbers will be down to human level, he is still the best QB fantasy has to offer and may even be in consideration for the fifth overall pick. Plus, he’s already a better actor than Keanu Reeves.
3. Who do you consider at running back once the big four are off the board?
I have already said that after McCoy, Charles, Forte and All Day AP are gone, I really feel this is the season that running backs get put on the back burner. But if you insist on being a traditionalist (also known as The Guy Who Finishes Last) and feel you must pick an RB in the first round then there is only one choice. As much as I love Marshawn Lynch and his Beast Mode, I don’t feel he is first round worthy this year. That is based on his past. He held out a few days for a bigger contract and made it open that he considered retirement. When he wanted out of Buffalo, he played like he didn’t care, and with Seattle’s deep arsenal of RBs, we may easily see that down season from Lynch. So if you must take an RB, you go with Eddie Lacy. The guy is a total beast and will have a full season with Aaron Rodgers for the first time in his career. This is a kid with potential for a 2,000 total yard season in that offense, however, I don’t think that season is 2014.
2. Where is the best place to look for top fantasy advice?
Wayniac Nation, of course. Seriously though, the simple answer is your notes. If you are reading this blog, you are most likely competitive enough that you are beyond the casual twenty dollar “for fun” fantasy league. If you aren’t already, you need to become your own fantasy expert. The best thing to do for starters is to grab a few friends and do some mock drafts on (I can’t believe I am saying anything positive about these shlubs) ESPN. Secondly, do some research on ADP (that’s the average draft pick of a specific player for you newbies). A lot of leagues will have a draft lottery weeks before the draft. Once you know your spot, you can begin researching what players are most commonly going in that location. You can also do your own mock drafts from that slot and practice, practice, practice until you have the team you want. Lastly, and this comes from my own old school mentality, take notes. Make a list of your Top 20 at each position and cross them off as you go. Colin Kaepernick is in everybody’s Top 5 quarterbacks, but this guy would never start on my team. So, my list is going to be very different from other “experts”. So should yours. Nothing sucks more than when you are unprepared and the guy right before you takes the player you had queued. If you are properly prepared with your own notes, you don’t need to spend your minute thirty googling “fantasy advice”!
1. Ok, so who is the first overall pick?
This is a tough question. My Hongbits team in The Nitro League has the first overall pick, so this is something I have been contemplating for some time. All of the big four (again: Charles, Forte, McCoy and AP) are complete studs, yet they all also come with injury risk. All four play for very questionable offenses. Charles’ Kansas City Chiefs are notorious for having a terrible season when following a strong one. While everyone sees Chicago as a legitimate contender this season with a high octane offense, one must remember that Jay Cutler is still at the helms. Was Chip Kelley’s offense for real or was it a flash in the pan like the Wildcat that defenses can now prepare for? And who the heck is going to be the quarterback in Minnesota, Matt Cassell?
That being said, I think there are two ways to go with this pick. If you want the home run hitter, the guy that is capable of getting you 50 points in a game by himself, you go with Charles. He is lightening quick and is a lock for 50 receptions, but can be relied on for over 60 like last season. But if you want to play it safe, the answer is simple. No running back has been more consistent with less talent around him than All Day Adrian Peterson. His lowest touchdown total over the past five seasons is ELEVEN. Last year, despite missing two games and abysmal quarterback play, he still ran for over 1,200 yards. He is not your PPR dream back, but if Teddy Bridgewater takes over, you can be sure there will be a ton of dump offs and last year’s change of pace back, Toby Gerhart, is gone to Jacksonville.
So which direction will I go with my first round pick? I’ll let you stew over it, so be sure to check in weekly for up to date Fantasy Football advice this NFL season!
Do you know what 440 is, sports fans? It is roughly the amount of hours left until the Green Packers and defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks kick off the NFL season. I almost did the calculations in minutes because that’s just how boring this week in sports was. But, as always, we here at Wayniac Nation always find the lighter side in sports to bring you all that you need to know about the week that was.
Over the past few weeks there has been an elephant in the room over your three captains selections. My name has been tossed around like Tara Reid. Should you or should you not pick me for this year’s Ryder Cup team? Will my back hold up? Does my career record speak for itself? I have a simple answer to these questions: No. I will allow you a moment to soak in that answer, and then I will give you my reasons.
As much as I would be honored to represent the Ryder Cup for the seventh time in my career, I just don’t feel that my presence on this year’s squad will be what’s best for the good ol’ USA. I am beyond a distraction to the rest of the boys, let alone the European side. In the spirit of the competition, I need to be as far away from Scotland as possible. Maybe Lindsey and I will take a much needed vacation where she can rehab her knee in a bikini and I can rest the back while she is in a bikini. If I am on the squad, the entire week will be focused on me: my back, my game and my mental state. We should be focusing on the competition and spirit of this bi-annual event. If I stay away, I will be but a blip on the radar compared to matchups, strategies and Ian Poulter’s hot putter.
You are well aware that the US hasn’t won in Europe since 1993. Have you watched my play the last few weeks? Instead of fist pumping after long distance putts, I’m back grabbing like a 75-year old grandma after dancing Gangnam Style! Tom, you know as well as anyone that I would love to help you shock the world, but now is not the time for me to do that. The doctors tell me that the surgery that repaired the pinched nerve seems to be fine. Apparently doctor’s have a different definition for fine than the rest of us who use Webster’s Dictionary.
Let’s face it. Right now the US has a strong team going into this Ryder Cup without me. Rickie is playing out of his mind and his inevitable matchup with Rory on Sunday is something I will enjoy watching while I lay poolside getting a couples’ massage while Lindsey is in a bikini. You have your veteran leadership with Jim and Phil and strong team golf players in Matt, Zach and Bubba. And let’s not forget that all important, don’t care, youthful enthusiasm with Patrick, Jordan and Jimmy Walker. It’s Dy-no-miiiite! That is a strong nine that presents some interesting matchups and possible player combinations. Now I know what you are thinking. Who are my three captains picks? Well thats why the PGA has placed it’s confidence in you and I support them. I would go with Ryan Moore, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson in those spots. All three of them offer value to this team and will be guys who will enjoy the moment and play up to the stage that is the Ryder Cup. If I learned one thing this past weekend it’s that I am not bigger than the game. Watching that back nine at the PGA Championship with the record viewership proved that to me. I wasn’t there and yet people still tuned in and were excited about the game. Maybe that’s my legacy, I opened the door for this next wave of young golfers.
I truly appreciate your loyalty over these past few months and especially today but I think it’s time I face reality. If I have any chance of winning one more major, let alone four, I need to fully recover, refocus and rethink my game. I call it the 3 “Rs” and it’s my new buddhist philosophy. Lindsey calls it my new addiction, but I think she is happy I have not gone back to my old one.
(Be sure to follow Wayniac Nation’s golf expert Mike Dunton on Twitter! @dartbus1521)
We really need the NFL and college football to start their real seasons. It has been another pretty drab week in the sports world, but there is always a few things that keep us interested. This week, while I usually like to keep this light hearted and a bit tongue and cheek, we need to start with tragedy.
Well, folks, I have finally made the jump to a full fledged soccer fan. This past weekend, Nomi the Greek and I took a little road trip to Charlotte, North Carolina for the Guinness International Champions Cup. The match, which pitted AC Milan versus Liverpool, was a star studded bout that ended in a two to nil victory for the boys from England. I was extremely spoiled as I got to see not one, but two whole goals scored! Based on my past attempts in converting to a soccer fan, this seems like a rarity.
Our adventure goes back to the World Cup final. While enjoying the game at our World Cup headquarters, Old Blinde Dog in Atlanta, where friends of Wayniac Nation Nomi the Greek, Jaybird and Kid Robot bartend, my fiance won two tickets to the match. While my fiance, a former standout soccer player herself, enjoys the game very much, she knew Nomi the Greek is a huge Liverpool fan and insisted the two of us take the tickets. Did I pick a winner or what?
We took the four hour drive from Atlanta to Charlotte and got to Bank of America Stadium right around game time. It was my first time visiting the Queen City as it’s affectionately called and it really had a fun looking downtown area. The town was overflowing with soccer fans. When it comes to soccer in America, I am still somewhat a cynic. No matter how grand the World Cup ratings were, that is a once-every-four-year phenomenon. To say I was very surprised by the amount of people flooding the streets in the Liverpool red and AC Milan red and black kit would be an understatement. Nomi the Greek who is a huge soccer fan concurred, which surprised me even more. I figured he would take the “See, dude, I told you soccer was for real,” approach, but he too was amazed by the outpouring of love for futbol.
Our section on the ticket was 342. Based on endless trips to stadiums across the country, Nomi the Greek and I both thought we were in the upper level. As we ascended the ramp amongst the drunken soccer brood, we stopped in confusion when we approached the 300 level. The sign read Silver Club Level. There was no way we won free tickets to this game AND were going to get to sit in sick seats, was there?
Why, yes, yes there was. We had a great view and after an endearing singing of You’ll Never Walk Alone (Liverpool’s theme song for those of you not in the know… how these buffoons chose a Gerry and the Pacemakers tune over a Beatles song is beyond me but that is their business) the ball was in play. Less than twenty minutes into play, Liverpool led a ferocious attack on AC Milan’s net, booting one off of the post and then one off the goalie before Joe Allen put the rebound in the net. The crowd went bananas, Liverpool had one of those group hugs that futbol clubs do after scoring and I was pumped. I was certain that I was in for a high scoring affair unlike any other. Alas, I would wait approximately 68 minutes for the next goal to occur.
Is that why soccer finds itself such a hard time being accepted stateside? The tempo? It can’t be that because if you have ever been to a baseball game in Atlanta in mid-August when the temperatures are always hot and the Braves are always cold it feels like the game last for days. Is it the lack of finality? Of the Big Four American sports, hockey is the least favorite. Like soccer, it is the only sport that has a healthy amount of ties throughout the season. We like resolution. We want answers, we want to know who is the better team. Think about how angry you are when two NFL teams play to a tie. It’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen, right?
Being at a soccer match is a world of difference. The fans are totally energized and it felt like ninety of the quickest minutes I have ever lived. I’ve often felt that when I am watching soccer matches on TV that it takes an eternity to get through, especially when I have no rooting interest in either team. But actually watching this match in person with two teams I had nothing invested in was a blast. I was actually yearning for another half of futbol, but Liverpool had to get down to Miami to get whooped by Manchester United in the Championship Match.
While driving back to Atlanta, Charlotte’s streets were a mob scene. Nomi the Greek was creeping along at maybe two miles per hour. We were sitting in the middle of some road, dead stopped in traffic when all of a sudden AC Milan’s coaching staff started getting off of the bus two cars in front of us. Tired of the jam, they started walking towards the Omni Hotel. Shortly after, the players started walking. “If Balotelli gets off that bus, you are getting out of this car and getting an autograph,” Nomi the Greek commanded. Sure enough, a few players later, there he was. I felt like I was looking at the Shaquille O’Neal of soccer. He was a huge hulking specimen with an electric blonde mohawk. The rap against Balotelli is that he is extremely over rated, which I can understand, but watching him play live and in person, I see it otherwise. Balotelli is about to turn 24 years old. He is a kid who is sought after by every significant futbol club in the world. Like many youngsters who had too much too soon, he seemed to get cocky. I can tell you straight up after watching him in Charlotte that this kid can do what ever he wants with a soccer ball. He can dribble in and out of defenders, send a perfectly placed pass anywhere he chooses and fire on goal seemingly at will. But the effort was clearly not there 100 percent of the time. He often looked bored on the field. Maybe he is one of those Carmelo Anthony-esque players who look like they are just cruising along because the game comes so easily to them, but I think he takes plays off. I can also tell you he is not the most personable of people, but hey, at least he signed an autograph for me!
Overall it was an amazing experience, especially for a sports blogger who has just recently began to explore the unchartered territory of soccer fandom. Perhaps I will finally take in that first WNBA game in hopes that the experience is the same, although I highly doubt that day will come. Thanks for a great evening Charlotte!