Dec 23, 2009

Atlanta Braves deal Javier Vazquez

The Braves traded Javier Vazquez yesterday to the Yankees. I knew he was the number one guy to be traded after Atlanta re-signed Tim Hudson, but I have to say I was hoping as a fan that they were going to work out a deal to send Derek Lowe to the Angels instead. I think Vazquez will do fine in NY this time. Last time, he was there, he was their number 1 starter, and he couldn't handle the pressure, hopefully as their 3 or 4 starter, he'll be better off. He isn't going to put up the same numbers he did a year ago, but he will still get his 12-15 wins with an E.R.A. over 4.00.
For the Braves, getting Melky will be a decent addition to the outfield. With Nate McLouth in center, Matt Diaz (or minor league phenom Heyward) in right, and Melky out in left, they will have a great defensive outfield, and they are all decent enough hitters to help the Braves weak offense. I still would have preferred to see the Braves get a power outfielder in the move because that is the number one thing they are lacking, but they're still looking good.
With the 5 man rotation set to 1. Tim Hudson 2. Jair Jurrjens 3. Tommy Hanson (could easily be 1 or 2) 4. Derek Lowe 5. Kenshin Kawakami, they have quality starters 1 through 5, and with Billy Wagner closing out games, the Braves pitching is starting to look like the staff of the nineties.
Their infield is not the best defensively, but is still filled with quality ballplayers. Chipper Jones, if he can get back to his 2008 performance and forget about last year’s injuries and struggles, should be back at his best. Age is a factor for him, but we'll see if he can beat mother time. Yunel Escobar is one of the best young shortstops in baseball, and continues to improve. Martin Prado a year ago was a big surprise. His numbers came out of nowhere, and if he can repeat them in 2010, the Braves will be alright. On December 23rd, the Braves signed Troy Glaus to a one year deal to play first. He, like Jones, had an injury plagued year in 2009, and if he can bounce back, the $2 million salary will be worth it. Of course, having a top 3 catcher in Brian McCann--who will be coming back from a down year due to problems with his eyes--to anchor the infield all make for a trip back to the playoffs.

Merry Christmas everyone. Better to say it early than never say it all. The semester is now over, and I'm just waiting on my grades. Not so sure how I did, but I guess I will know tomorrow.

Dec 16, 2009

UConn star Slain at Homecoming Dance

An article I wrote a while back about the death of Jasper Howard. It is a little outdated now, but is still my favorite article so far.

UConn cornerback Jasper “Jazz” Howard had the game of his life October 17th at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. Jazz had 11 tackles and a crucial forced fumble deep in his own territory preventing Louisville from scoring in the third quarter. That stop helped Uconn win 38-25. Not even 12 hours later, Howard was dead. Howard, a 20 year old junior from Miami, Florida, was stabbed outside the student union in Storrs after a fire alarm was pulled at a University sponsored dance. A fight between 2 groups that included Uconn students, and non-students broke out at the dance. Brian Parker, a 19 year old sophomore from Sarasota, Florida, was also stabbed in the fight Parker and Howard were transported to Windham Community Memorial Hospital. Parker was treated and released, but Howard was airlifted to Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, where he was pronounced dead.
Howard’s mother and step father were flown to Connecticut following the death of their son. They met with Jazz’s teammates and gave them words of wisdom to help them through this ordeal. Howard’s step father, Henry Williams said in an video, “Play this season, and play your heart out for Jazz because he’ll be up their looking down and that’s going to satisfy him, that’ll make him happy.” Jasper Howard was an expecting father at the time of his death. UConn punter Desi Cullen said, “As Jazz looks down on us, I can promise him and his family, that son or daughter will have 105 uncles.”
On October 20, the Black Student Association asked everyone on campus to wear dark clothing to indicate that the University is united in mourning. The University also held a day of silence for the first murder at the university in 30 years.
Howard came to Uconn to get away from the street violence in Miami. Chris Chancellor, a former teammate at Edison High School in Miami, also left the dangerous streets to play football in a safer environment at Clemson University. Chancellor wore Howard’s No. 6 jersey number in Clemson’s game against Miami on October 24 in memorial to his fallen friend. In an video, Chancellor said when asked about the importance of wearing his former teammate’s jersey number, “The last game I played in Miami was with Jazz in a playoff game, now I’m going down to Miami to play my last game, so it’ll mean a whole lot to wear No. 6 down there.” This tragedy struck the entire football community, especially the teams in the Big East Conference where UConn plays. Before a game between Big East teams Pittsburgh and South Florida, both teams lined up and met at midfield to show solidarity to Jazz.
UConn’s first game since the murder was held in West Virginia. West Virginia students made a banner that was displayed outside the Uconn tunnel saying, “Today, we are all Huskies.” Before the game, both teams lined up to observe a moment of silence. West Virginia football coach Bill Stewart said, “It’s all about honoring Jasper Howard and honoring a fallen brother.” West Virginia joined UConn in wearing no. 6 stickers on their helmets to show support to the friends and family of Howard. After the emotional start to the game, West Virginia jumped out to an early lead with an opening kickoff return for a touchdown. Jordan Todman responded in the first quarter with a 5 yard touchdown run to make it a ballgame. It was a back and forth game all afternoon in Morgantown with 6 lead changes. With 3:50 remaining in the fourth quarter Cody Endres completed an 88 yard touchdown pass to Marcus Easley to take a 24-21 lead. But UConn couldn’t hold on. West Virginia got a 56 yard touchdown run out of their star running back, Noel Divine, to take the 28-24 lead. UConn rallied down the field and showed tremendous heart, but they couldn’t come back in the end. After the game, UConn coach Randy Edsall said, “Jazz was proud of their effort, not of how the game turned out, but of their effort” Coach Edsall should be looked at in higher regards after the effort it took to get his guys ready after this extraordinary challenge. UConn came into Morgantown with a 0-5 lifetime record against West Virginia. The last time Connecticut was in West Virginia, they lost by over 40 points, and now, putting all that aside, and include the death of their friend and teammate, although the scoreboard says otherwise, UConn won that day.
The UConn Division of Athletics has created 2 funds for anyone that may be interested in making donations in Jasper Howard’s name. The Jasper T. Howard Scholarship is a scholarship that will be given out annually to a student athlete who plays cornerback and embodies the leadership qualities that Howard showed. When making donation to this scholarship, make checks payable to UConn Foundation-UCADF with Jasper T. Howard Scholarship indicated in the memo line. The Jasper Howard fund will assist in funeral costs, travel expenses, and to support Howard’s unborn baby.
You can make donations to the following address:
Jasper T. Howard Scholarship
c/o UConn Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 150430
Hartford, CT 06115-0430
Jasper Howard Fund
c/o People's United Bank
2075 Hillside Rd.
Storrs, CT 06268
Johnny Hood, a 21 year old Hartford man was charged with interfering with an officer and breach of peace immediately after the fight. Parker identified Hood as one of the men involved in the fight. On October 27, police charged 3 men in connection to the murder of Howard. John William Lomax III, a 21 year old is charged with murder and conspiracy to commit assault. A 20 year old Bloomfield resident, Hakim Muhammad is charged with conspiracy to commit assault, and Jamal Todd is being charged for pulling the fire alarm.
Source: AP, Yahoo Sports and

Dec 11, 2009

Technology Hall Officially Opens

When you talk about the beautiful new 100,000 square foot addition to the Naugatuck Valley Community College campus, you have to talk about its past before anything else. Around 1999, an architectural firm was hired to study whether NVCC needed a new building. That firm recognized that the engineer technology program needed a new facility. From there, the option was to renovate Founder’s Hall or construct a new building. Once the decision was made to build the new complex, the next step was to decide where. There were three locations being discussed. One option was the parking lot by Ekstrom Hall, another option was parallel to the entrance of the fine arts wing, and the last was the eventual home of Tech Hall.
With the help of then Governor John Rowland, the general assembly approved $33 million to be used for the construction of Tech Hall. In the spring of 2004, the bond commission approved the finances, and the project was ready for vote. However, at the last minute, it was pulled from the agenda. This was done after doubts and questions arose about the company that made the lowest bid. The project sat for a year, and in 2005, discussions opened up once again. The State Department of Public Works went to architectural companies for bid. The architect that won the bid was Amenta/Emma Architects, P.C. out of Hartford. This time around, the bids went above the $33 million cap, but there was nothing NVCC could do because that is all that they were allotted. The college had to give up money that was originally put aside for furniture to pay the contractors. The money was again bonded in 2006, and the job was awarded to Lawrence Brunoli, Inc out of Farmington.
Before the work began, many shops and programs needed to be moved out of their temporary homes that stood where Tech Hall stands today. Ground breaking for the job was done in the spring of 2006. It was supposed to be a 22 month project which was scheduled to open in February 2008. In September 2008, 60% of the building was complete and opened for the fall semester.
In the spring of 2009, the building was ready for its 100% opening. NVCC had to borrow $5 million from the system office and other areas to furnish the building. Among the expenses in Tech Hall was $50,000 in new fitness equipment to update the exercise room. There are also 30 classrooms with smart technology featuring built in projectors, a video projector that makes objects stand out and new computers. Each of those classrooms cost an amazing $30,000. 400 personal computers were also purchased and spread out across the building for use by students and faculty. Tech Hall also features a state of art auto shop. The shop features 6 lifts and 4 classrooms that make taking auto courses at NVCC a lot easier for students considering the old shop was located on Thomaston Avenue.
A welding lab was also brought to NVCC as a response to a need. The welding program will be a 5 month certificate program. The hospitality department also has a new home in Tech Hall. It features an instructional kitchen with brand new equipment and a huge dining room. Tech Hall also features a viticulture area for wine making classes. Another new feature to Tech Hall is its beautiful new greenhouse laboratory. The one flaw that still exists in Tech Hall are issues with the heating and cooling system. 100,000 square feet was added on to the original boiler to heat Tech Hall and all the quirks haven’t been completely worked out yet. In the spring and summertime, the new eyesore that is the cooling tower built in front of the CORE building is also still getting all the kinks worked out. If those are the only problems with a new building, something is being done right.
On October 16, Governor Jodi Rell saved the best for last and had NVCC be the last college in Connecticut that she visited. Rell made the visit for the Technology Hall dedication ceremony. Joining Rell at the ceremony were various senators, representatives, students, faculty, other community college presidents and the mayor of Waterbury. Rell was extremely impressed with the building, as she said, “Today we get to literally celebrate the opening of another beautiful facility.” Rell also went on to say of the importance of Tech Hall, “It’s about new technology, it’s about getting into the 21st century, it’s about preparing our students for the future. Jobs, jobs, jobs, that’s what it’s all about.” At the event, Dr. Richard Gard, D.M.A., the associate professor of music chair in the department of the arts, premiered “Alma Mater,” a song he hopes will be the NVCC Alumni song. NVCC President Daisy Cocco De Filippis was excited to see so many familiar faces in the crowd, “we threw a party, and you showed up.” The ceremony, hosted by the Dean of Administration and Finance James Troup, featured many thanks to everyone that played a part in making Technology Hall come off the blueprints, and become a reality. Technology Hall is an incredible new addition to Naugatuck Valley Community College. All the extras in the building were worth every penny as they help take a proactive approach to learning.

Drug and Alcohol Awareness Day a Success

Drug and Alcohol Awareness Day was an event held at Naugatuck Valley Community College in October. The event was sponsored by the Behavioral and Social Sciences Division and the Recovery Society. The event featured booths representing various drugs including tobacco, cocaine, and heroin. At each booth were students from the Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counselor Program (DARC). This gave the DARC students firsthand experience into their future goal of becoming addiction counselors.
The event was meant to help the NVCC students learn about the dangers of drugs and the effects of drugs on their bodies, and effects on their families. Although the event was very serious, there were light hearted moments at some of the booths. The guests were able to appear in an incident simulation which laid out various scenarios about drinking and driving. The simulation featured outcomes of these events including financial loss, personal loss and criminal issues. Guests of the event also had the opportunity to put on Fatal Vision. Fatal Vision are goggles that re-enact being drunk. NVCC security guards would put the students through sobriety tests including walking a straight line.
During the event, I had the chance to meet Dr. Sandra Valente, the coordinator of the DARC program and advisor to The Recovery Society. You could see the excitement on her face throughout the whole day. After speaking with Dr. Valente, I could understand why she was so excited. This event was her baby. She envisioned putting on an event like this since she first became the program coordinator. While she hopes to put this event on at NVCC every year, she hopes to be able to bring this event on the road to high schools. A local YMCA has even stated they could do a similar event at some point for teen night.
Some goals Dr. Valente had for the event included the most obvious goal of all, to develop awareness of substance abuse issues in general. She also hoped to have students learn the effects of different drugs and the abuse on the body, family, community, and health, and to provide information about treatment and options for recovery. Another goal Dr. Valente had was to help students indentify if they had any abuse programs themselves. The way she went about this was having a booth set up at the entrance to the event where the only purpose was to provide confidential surveys that would indicate to the student whether or not they had a problem. This survey may have been an eye opener for some, and if so, they had the opportunity at the event to ask questions about whichever drugs they had a problem with.
I contacted several students who were working booths at the event to ask them about their experiences. Sophia Gomes “was shocked to see so many people because the event was about drugs and alcohol, and I assumed that people would have the mind set of ‘drugs are cool,’ but I was wrong.” Stormy Davis, a disabled veteran said that an event like this was something this school was in need of and should have, “maybe at least one every term.” Davis also said that being in the DARC program would hopefully lead him to his goal of working with homeless veterans. He mentioned that, “200,000 homeless vets are on the streets of our cities…soon the same is going to happen to those young men coming back from these latest wars.”
The DARC program is an incredible asset to NVCC. With only its second class graduating in the spring, the impact this program can have on the community has no limits. Gomes, who wants to work in detox, or as a high school social worker said, “I want to give back to the community…teens need support around that age.” Those are the same sentiments that can be felt across the board no matter who you ask. Students like Davis and Gomes are needed to help make sure our teenagers stay clean and out of harm’s way.
Students were encouraged to go to every booth for information on those drugs. Every booth they went to, they received a sticker, and with 8 stickers, they were able to get a lunch. Throughout the day 30 boxes of pizza were brought in to feed the students. Over 300 pieces of pizza later, the event went off without a hitch. The pizza incentive was a nice touch to this wonderfully put together event. In my time there, I witnessed a women looking to join the recovery society. Without this event, I don’t know if she would have found them.
Many thanks need to go out to the Public Safety staff that ran the drunk driving simulation continuously throughout the whole event. The maintenance crew and IT department also need to be commended for the work they did in helping make the first Drug and Alcohol Awareness Day at NVCC a huge success. Dr. Valente said, “I am very happy with the outcome of this event as it stemmed from the DARC program, and supported one of the visions that I have for the program as an agent for educating others about the problems and dangers associated with drug and alcohol use and addiction.”
For more information on the DARC program, or on how to join the recovery society, please contact Dr. Sandra Valente at

MMA: Where Pro Wrestling was 15 years Ago

In the article, I talked about Strikeforce needing to sign Dan Henderson...On December 5th, Henderson signed a 4 fight deal with the company...In another follow up, on December 11, it was announced that Bobby Lashley has also signed with Strikeforce, and will debut on January 30.

Growing up, like most boys my age, I fell in love with sports. Like most boys, the sports I really enjoyed were the “tough guy” sports. In particular, those sports were professional football and professional wrestling. I still remember the first pay per view I watched with my father. It was Summerslam 1992 from Wembley Stadium in London, England. I still remember all the matches that night and the attendance record set in that stadium still stands today in a country that loves its soccer. It was memories like that, watching matches like The Ultimate Warrior vs. Macho Man Randy Savage that led me to watch pro wrestling every week with my father. I wasn’t alone with the passion for pro wrestling. Most of my friends had the same feelings for the sport that I had. We each had our own favorites, and whenever they faced each other, it was like we were fighting in the rings ourselves.
Over 15 years later, pro wrestling is still relevant, but Mixed Martial Arts is the new “in” thing. Fights like Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Couture at UFC 91 are bringing in fans just like Warrior vs. Savage did. Fights featuring some of the top fighters in MMA like Anderson Silva and Fedor Emelianenko also draw more fans to the sport. Fedor’s most recent fight, his first ever fight in the United States in November vs. Brett Rogers drew 5.46 million viewers. That figure is an amazing total considering the fight aired on a Saturday night at 11pm.
MMA, in particular, the Ultimate Fighting Championship used to be known as legalized street fighting. Head butts, kicks to the groin, kicks to the face of a downed opponent are all acts that were legal and led to Senator John McCain to lead the fight to ban the UFC in the US. McCain called the UFC “human cockfighting,” and asked all governors to ban the company from competing in their states. This led to the UFC being dropped from television and their early slogan “There are no rules,” could no longer survive. McCain’s tactics led MMA fighting to be banned in 36 states. In 2002, on the brink of bankruptcy, Dana White, urged his good friends Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta to purchase the UFC for $2 million. The Fertitta’s purchase almost meant nothing when 2 years later; they were $34 million in debt due to fighter salaries. That was the case until 2005, when the UFC created its own reality show The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). In an effort to boost television ratings for the show, Spike TV decided to put the show directly following WWE Monday Night Raw. That was the smartest thing they could have done for TUF considering the demographic that watches Raw is the same demographic the UFC would be looking for. The series finale of TUF featured a Stephan Bonner vs. Forrest Griffin fight which single handedly launched UFC into super stardom. With its popularity, the UFC continues to air 2 seasons of the TUF franchise every year.
In 1995, the World Wrestling Federation (Now WWE) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) fought to bring professional wrestling into our homes each week. The battle between the 2 companies every week increased the popularity of the sport and made pro wrestling important in our society. By 1997, you couldn’t find a person on the street who hadn’t heard of Hulk Hogan, D-X, Stone Cold Steve Austin, or The Rock. You couldn’t walk down the street without seeing their t-shirts. The same could be said now about fighters like Chuck Liddell, Lesnar, and Silva. If you walk down the street today, instead of pro wrestling shirts, you’ll likely see Tapout, Affliction, and Strikeforce shirts.
The biggest difference between the UFC today, and WWE and WCW in the nineties is UFC President White doesn’t want his company to just be the top MMA organization in the world. He wants his organization to be more popular than the NFL, MLB and NBA. While that goal is great, the biggest problem that could hinder that goal is the lack of competition. In 2001, when WWE owner Vince McMahon bought WCW from Ted Turner, he ended any chance of pro wrestling elevating any further. The UFC unfortunately, not willing to learn from past experiences has started on the same path. In 2007, the Pride Fighting Championships, based out of Japan was bought by Zuffa, Inc., the parent company to the UFC. Since that time, many companies have come and gone after trying to take advantage of the new found popularity of the sport. CBS brought in EliteXC to try to capitalize on the ever growing popularity. That organization lasted only 3 televised events which had women fighters, and Kimbo Slice, the internet street fighting king, as their biggest draws. Strikeforce is another company trying to get into the MMA game. The company has been promoting kickboxing events since 1985 and in 2006, got into the MMA game. In November, they aired their first show on CBS featuring the US premiere of Fedor.
Strikeforce being able to sign Fedor away from the UFC is a step in the right direction when talking about competition between the 2 companies. Fedors presence in Strikeforce will not be enough to make them serious competitors to the UFC throne. However, free agents Dan Henderson and Bobby Lashley could make things interesting if they decided to join Strikeforce. In a way, White should hope that he can’t sign either of those fighters. Only then, when the UFC is seriously challenged, will White’s hope to become the top sports organization in the world have a chance to come true.
To some, Dana White is his own worst enemy. He is the first to discredit and bad mouth any fighter not signed by the UFC. He is the first to post video blogs bad mouthing other fighting companies, including boxing organizations. White is a brash talker, and says what he feels, when he feels it. I have no problems with that, but as the head of this multimillion dollar company, you need to tone that down to an extent, and make sure not to anger the people who might have helped you get there. What White doesn’t realize, is that the only way his company can truly become the top sports organization in the world, is to have their backs against the wall, and fight out of it.
Presently, the UFC has to be considered one of the top 4 in sports behind the NFL, MLB and NBA and ahead of the NHL. Without serious competition, that’s as high as they’ll get. Even though the UFC wants nothing to do with the WWE, they should look back on the path they took and understand that the WWE was never any better than when they were competing for their lives with WCW. Instead of bashing Fedor and Strikeforce, White should hope they do well. If they do well, that means business is great, and only at that time will the UFC be considered a real threat to the NFL.

What's Wrong with the NCAA?

I will be posting some of my published articles from The Tamarack newspaper at Naugatuck Valley Community College. Look for this and other articles each month.

On September 3, 2009, the college football season began. The 16th ranked Oregon, and 14th ranked Boise State played in front of a raucous crown in Boise, Idaho. Boise State, a perennial BCS buster every season, and Oregon, ready to battle USC for the Pac-10 title both needed the win to get their seasons going strong. The pre game hype was incredible and both teams were going at each other during interviews.
What happened once both teams stepped onto the blue FieldTurf was LeGarrette Blount, who was the key figure in smack talking before the game was shut down. Blount gained -5 yards rushing with no touchdowns, and Boise State won the game 19-8. After the game, Boise State DE Byron Hout ran up to Blount, patted him on the shoulder and said something to Blount. What Blount did next was criminal and should have been treated as such. Blount sucker punched Hout as his coach was trying to get him away from Blount. The next day, Blount was suspended indefinitely by the college. The senior RB’s collegiate career and possible NFL aspirations were put in jeopardy.
However, on October 1st, Blount had an apology printed in the Oregon Daily Emerald. After meeting certain undisclosed guidelines set forth by the college, Blount was reinstated to play again from November 14th on. In the two games since his reinstatement, Blount has suited up for both games, but has yet to play a snap in either game. The Oregon football team recovered well from the aftermath of the incident with huge victories over Utah, California, and UCLA in the early going. Ironically, it was only after the California win on September 26th, that all this talk of re-instatement came up again.
Could Oregon have planned this out from the beginning? Could they have continued to allow Blount to practice with the team despite the suspension just in case they were in position to win the Pac-10 title, get into a BCS bowl and receive all the money that comes from that? If this was the case, the NCAA should have been there from the beginning to say to Oregon, no, Blount can’t practice with the team. No you can’t just change your mind about the suspension. They should be taking control of the situation, and rule that Blount cannot play again for your team. My question is where has the NCAA been in this matter? In the time that has past since the incident, the NCAA was nowhere to be found with a punishment. Now with talk of re-instatement, the NCAA is still keeping quiet. That is not typical of the league. The NCAA is usually very quick to intervene and hand out punishments.
Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant was ruled ineligible to play by his college. The only reason Oklahoma State handed down the punishment themselves was they were expecting the NCAA to come in and hand that punishment down, plus more. Ok. State was expecting the NCAA to take away wins along with ineligibility ruling. What has caused this commotion with Bryant and the NCAA? Bryant sought out help from former NFL star Deion Sanders. He went to Sanders home during the summer for workouts, advice, and dinner. The NCAA decided to question Bryant about his meetings were Sanders, and Bryant lied and said no to being at Sanders home for dinner. The NCAA took this lie as Bryant covering up the relationship with Sanders. They assumed because of the lie that Sanders was some sort of middle man for sports agents which is against the rules in the NCAA. Bryant is a projected top 10 draft pick in next April’s NFL draft, and the battle to be his agent will be very cut-throat.
Bryant should have never lied to the NCAA, but in his own defense, he claimed to have lied because he thought just going to Sander’s home was a violation of rules. The fact that the NCAA questioned Bryant about this, and is jumping to conclusions is ridiculous. The fact that LeGarrette Blount will get to play again this year, and Bryant will not is a travesty. What Blount did was despicable, and Oregon allowing him to remain on the team is even worse. Oregon is supposed to be a leader in the Pac-10, but all they care about right now is revenue dollars. I’m not saying that Blount should never get a second chance. I’m on the Michael Vick side of the argument saying he should be allowed to play again after serving his debt to society. But one thing I wonder is, how can his teammates even trust him? Blount even went after them that night. All I am saying is the NCAA is supposed to be looking out for their student athletes and keep their best interests in mind at all times, but that’s just not something we see a lot of these days.