Thursday, April 30, 2009

Off Day for Reds. Bengals Kids Get Ready.

The Reds enjoy the off-day then head to Pittsburgh searching for more success on the road. They are 7-3 on the road, just 4-7 at home. For the Reds to continue to have success, they need more consistency in the little things, especially defense. I think it's apparent they will not overwhelm anyone with their ability to score runs, so they are in no position to give away outs and give away runs. They also have to continue to get stellar starting pitching. That has been the big key in almost every single one of their 11 wins. 11-10 is a nice stat for a team still developing an identity. The youngsters seem to be latching onto the ways that make players successful. May will reveal plenty about this team. The Reds will meet the Cardinals and the Phillies at G.A.B.P. They also have a west coast road trip against the Padres and the Diamondbacks. We know how damaging west coast trips during May have been in the past. Heck, one of them did in the short managerial career of Tony Perez. Although he never should have been fired at that point in the season. That's another we can hang on Bowden.

It was great to see another kid come up form the minors and play his butt off. Adam Rosales gave the small crowd a couple of reason to stand and cheer. The way he sprinted around first base on his sacrifice fly, then kept sprinting back to the dugout was a joy to watch. That's one of the few standing ovations I've seen after a sac fly, and it was even more hilarious with Rosales in a full sprint to the dugout.
It was also great to see a nice catch by Jay Bruce out in a right field, and a great performance from Edinson Volquez. If you saw Volquez last Friday when he walked 7 batters, you knew he was close. His stuff was electric that night, he just kept missing the strike zone, mostly missing just low. He was unreal Wednesday night, so this guy may be hitting his stride. That would be a huge boost to the Reds chances to have another winning month.

The Bengals welcome in the rookies for their mini-camp this weekend. It's always fun to see the new guys on the field for their first NFL workouts. I can't wait to see Rey Maualuga. I'm not sure how many set plays they'll be running, but I want to see where he lines up. Strong or Middle backer. Same with first round pick Andre Smith, left or tight tackle? Wherever they are this weekend doesn't mean that's where they will stay. But it does mean this is where the coaching staff would like to see them play. If it goes well, they will latch onto that position and never let it go. But if I had a general manager that racks up bonuses in the 1 to 2 million dollar range, I would expect every player to fit my scheme perfectly. So the Bengals coaches should expect nothing less.

So the Cyclones are at it again? A 3-0 lead in the division finals and 1 win away from making the conference finals. I really didn't think they had the horses to make another run this season, but here they are. The best coaches are the big picture guys, and that's how Chuck Weber approaches thing. If you talk with him, you learn he always has the greater good of the season or the playoff series in mind. The Cyclones success under their young coach is no accident. Game 4 is Friday night in Elmira.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Andre The Giant...

Actually, he's not that big. I mean, big enough, but not Willie Anderson big. Willie was taller and although I didn't check, I'm sure Willie's feet are bigger. Willie was somewhere in the neighborhood of 19 EEE. You never know a guy after just one meeting, but Andre was a hit at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday. Polite, funny, affable, and seems to enjoy people. Now can he block in the NFL. He says yes. Here's a little sit down I had with Andre at PBS that aired on our "Sports Rock" show Sunday night.
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SPORTS ROCK

SUNDAY NIGHT

11:35 p.m.

WLWT-TV

Good Draft, Bad Draft? Did Bengals Mess It Up Late?

5th Round they take Kevin Huber,, Yaaaaaaaaayyyyyy!!!! 6th Round they take Bernard Scott,, Whaaaaaaat??? Why? Why mess up what appears to be a solid draft with a 6th round pick with more baggage than a Samsonite dealer. Once again, it's the Bengals. Raising eyebrows and opening doors to the same old questions. The Bengals organization should be working to put all of that behind them. They tell us they put stock in character. That's what they tell us, then they do something totally different. You do this for a 6th round pick? I like the other picks, love the fact they grabbed local punter Huber. I wish Scott well, but if there's one team that can't afford the luxury of drafting a running back with character issues in the 6th round, it's this one. They can't help themselves. Yes, he's loaded with talent, and all things being equal a steal in the 6th round. But the negatives outweigh the positives. By far. Not even close. Arrested 5 times. Are you kidding me? Five? Allegedly kicked off a high school team and a college team. Allegedly kicked off the Central Arkansas team for allegedly punching a coach. I don't need the word allegedly for this: The Bengals can't help themselves from bringing on the bad pub.
By the way, here's a link to Scott's personal web site. Not a lot there, but here you go...

http://www.bernardscottfootball.com/

And a New York Times article on Scott

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/29/sports/ncaafootball/29scott.html

Saturday, April 25, 2009

So Far, So Good For Bengals, But The Reds???

The Bengals still need to get a center. They must really be hoping at Paul Brown Stadium that they'll find one in the third round Sunday. Other than that, I can't complain about the Bengals first two picks on Saturday. Maualuga could turn out to be a huge second round steal. But honestly, that's one thing the Bengals do very well. They've had more than their share of steals in the second round. Boomer, Dillon, and yes, Chad, all come to mind.

I really wish the Reds would have found a way to fire a pitch at Derek Lowe in Saturday. I know I'm not supposed to say that, but let MLB come and find me. When Lowe hit Votto with a pitch with 2 outs in the first inning, you know that was a message leftover from Friday night. Friday night is when Yunel Escobar took exception to getting hit by a pitch from a very wild Edinson Volquez. After Lowe plunked Votto, both benches were warned. Once the game was out of hand, someone should have at least "buzzed the tower" of Lowe.

Friday, April 24, 2009

It Will Be Beanie Wells...

At least that is what I'm convincing myself. Why be disappointed? Why be mad? Why pound my fist and bellow "what in the name of Reinard are they doing?" So I'm taking the approach that the Bengals will select a position that doesn't appear to be a crying need. This way there will be no disappointment. I repeat it over and over: "With the 6th pick in the 2009 NFL draft, The Cincinnati Bengals select running back Chris Wells from The (their The, not mine) Ohio State University." This is no slam on the Beanster. If he's healthy, this kid has the size to be an excellent NFL back. Actually, I wouldn't mind having Beanie at all, IF, AND ONLY IF, I already had a solid offensive line. The Bengals claim to have one of those, but they don't. Last year Stacy Andrews and Eric Ghiacius were starters, but now they're gone. The Bengals not only need to replace them, they need to upgrade the positions. The last 3 times the Bengals took offensive linemen in the first or second rounds the results were good. Levi Jones was a first round pick and on his way to a nice, if not stellar, career before injuries slowed him down. Eric Steinbach is a stud at guard and All-Pro material, but the Bengals let him walk away to Cleveland. Andrew Whitworth came in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft and is a reliable starter at several positions.
But before Jones was drafted in 2002, the Bengals grabbed just 4 offensive lineman in the previous 5 drafts. None, zero, Nada in the top two rounds. That's not negligence, that's just plain dumb! You win up front and the Bengals actually have a history of drafting good offensive linemen in the early rounds. At least one good offensive lineman, maybe two if they're really lucky, will be available when the Bengals pick in the first round. So it's the perfect storm. The Bengals will draft Beanie Wells.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Is It Still Too Early To Believe?

Yes, it's way too early. But the direction of this team has many signs pointing upward. The starting pitching and most of the relief pitching is reason to believe. The new-found ability to come up with the right hit at the right time is reason to believe. Joey Votto is reason to believe. A charged up attitude with an infusion of youthful leadership in the every day lineup is reason to believe. But before it's all said and done, they may need that big bat in the cleanup spot to hang in for the long haul. Still, the road trip was impressive. The Reds just finished off the 10 game trip with a 7-3 record, marching through Milwaukee, Houston, and Chicago. All three are central division foes. The Reds won all 3 series, taking 2 out of 3 from the Brewers, 3 out of 4 from the Astros, and 2 out of 3 from the Cubs. I do believe that road trip was more impressive than anything I've seen out of this team in quite some time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More Reds Reasons To Hope...

The pitching held up again Wednesday night in Wrigley Field. That's no easy feat. Johnny Cueto was as good as ever, incredible, not enough can be said about his performance. But do not overlook the job being performed by the back end of the bullpen. It was Weathers in the 8th and Cordero in the 9th. Cordero picked up his 6th save in 6 opportunities this season, and his 100th save in the National League. Cordero is the 11th pitcher in Major League history to reach 100 saves in both the National and American Leagues. (117 in the A.L.)
More importantly is the way Cordero caps a devastating late inning parade of relief pitchers. Arthur Rhodes has not allowed a run yet this season, Weathers has been better than good, and Cordero has been a rock in the 9th. Too many times in the last several seasons the Reds have seen late inning leads get blown up by an inconsistent and young bullpen. That's no longer the case with these three veterans with late inning, high pressure experience.
I was on board with bringing Weathers back in the off season because of his leadership qualities and calming effect on younger guys. He's a been there-done that kind of guy. I really felt by the end of last season Cordero was a luxury the Reds could not afford. Teams with as many holes as the Reds appeared to have at the time don't need to spend $46 million over 4 years on a closer. But with the way the Reds are set up this year, Cordero could prove to be the hammer the Reds need to win games like the 3-0 affair Wednesday night against the Cubs. A very, very, expensive hammer, but a very, very useful one for a run-challenged team with good pitching.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Super Sports Saturday In Cincy

It figures I'm not off this Saturday. If I were off, I would have a full schedule anyway.

10 a.m.-Tee off,, just 9 holes,, but it's a nice day in April and i have a stinking putter that at some point needs to be heaved through the air like a helicopter. That should only take 9 holes.

1:10 p.m.-Reds and Braves at GABP. It's a Coca-Cola stadium now!!! Those little bottles in my socks will taste better.

4 p.m.-Head to a watering hole and watch the first round of NFL draft. Or at least watch through the 6th pick of first round. That should be enough to have me banging my head against the nearest wall.

7 p.m.-Walk into Nippert Stadium and watch the first half of the Bearcat Bowl. I can't wait to see the talent on this offense. Plus, no heavy-duty lines at the concession stands. (are they serving hops?)

8:10 p.m.-Make a beeline to the old beehive club, otherwise known as U.S. Bank arena. The Stingers are 30 years in the past now (how can that be?) but we have hockey on the river. The Cyclones are in the North Division finals against "my hearrrrrrrrt's on fie-ah...... for " Elmira.

We are lucky to have such great sports in a market that is no longer in the top 30 in population. We have Major League Baseball, the NFL, major NCAA sports, and a successful minor league hockey operation that offers $1 beer nights. People moan about the lack of championships and the lack of wins over the last 10-15 years, but every year we have something most cities our size don't have: HOPE! We're in the game, we have the Reds and the Bengals. Sometimes I get frustrated and want to cut the string, but I can't. I grew up with these teams. They happen to be in my fiber. They are in your fiber too. Grandma loves the Reds, Dad still wants the Bengals to kill the Steelers and Browns, and we all know people who went to U.C., Xavier, and Miami. So on a day like this coming Saturday I choose to celebrate what we have. Then later, on Saturday night, I might be ready to throw that putter again.


On another note...
The Bengals refusal to get rid of Chad Whateverhisnameisthesedays is ridiculous. I was on record last January as saying get rid of him and get rid of him now. Of course I was on record 5 years ago saying the same thing. Remember that little hissy fit meltdown at halftime of a playoff game THE BENGALS WERE WINNING? That was enough for me. But no, the Bengals sign him to a contract extension. Then they insinuate that he can't be traded because of the salary cap hit. Now who's fault is that Mike? Then I hear the arguments last year that "hey, if you trade Chad, you'll have a line of players wanting to walk out the door." Well, guess what? Let the babies walk. You don't win football games with babies. If Chad goes and then someone else wants out, get rid of them too! Then start drafting people who don't jump off the ship at the first sign of trouble. If you do draft someone like that, then cut ties at the first opportunity. The bottom line is this: Don't let one or two players hold your team hostage to prove a point. Mike Brown wants to prove that a deal is a deal, so therefore Chad must rot in Cincinnati. But the deal is not solely between Mike Brown and Chad Whateverhisnameisthesedays. Hey Mike, there is something called a team involved here. While Chad rots, 60 other players are forced to rot with him. Mike is killing a team and a franchise only to prove a point to one selfish player. Honestly, that player should have been out of here years ago. Way to go local NFL team, or Whateveritisyouclaimtobethesedays.

And yet another note...
I can't blame Chris Dickerson for a missed fly ball against the wall and under the basket in the swirling winds at Wrigley Field Tuesday night. Unfortunate, oh yes, very unfortunate. But that was the worst case scenario for a visiting outfielder in Wrigley. Too bad the guy who pulled the Bartman act down the left field line earlier in the game wasn't sitting right above the ball Dickerson lost.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Reds Win Again and Bengals Draft Talk.

First off, Sunday's win in Houston was a gift. But hey, the Reds are 6-5 so enjoy it while you can. The problem with the Reds is the problem many of us feared before the season: The inability to score. I'm fairly sure they will be hitting the ball better at some point, but will they consistently score enough runs? Right now they are 1 game above .500 in the standings while they are -11 in runs scored. That is a trend that will not continue. I remember the Diamondbacks stayed in the race last year or the year before while allowing more runs than they scored, but it's very, very rare that it happens. I like the Reds pitching and I think they are a better defensive club. I also think they're in the early stages of reconstructing this team. It may not happen this year, but they are on the right track. That is one declaration I feel confident making after just 11 games of the regular season.



Now for the Bengals draft. It's interesting every year, but this year will really test the Bengals commitment to be more physical and contend with the teams in the tough AFC North. The way I see it, they have to go with linemen, especially in the first round. The Bengals will likely get a shot at a somewhat enigmatic lineman with the 6th overall pick. By process of elimination, that lineman would be Andre Smith of Alabama. Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com was on our Sports Rock show Sunday night. He says every highly ranked player in this year's draft comes with a buyer-beware tag.


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We had another great time on the show Sunday Night. We hope Butch (Geoff) had fun as well and we appreciate his insight. We'll have post-draft talk next Sunday night at 11:35.



Saturday, April 18, 2009

Redlegs Steal A Win, And That's News...

What do you think of the new "pitching and defense first" Redlegs now? Pitching and defense kept the Reds in the game, and finally someone (Ramon Hernandez) came through with the big hit to win it. It's way too early for me to get this excited, but the Reds have not won games in this fashion in the past. In the last several years a ground ball would have been booted or a fly ball would have fell in that would have led to a big inning for the Astros. But the Reds were airtight in Houston Friday night. That's good to see from where I sit. It was also good to see an angry Dusty Baker yank Cueto in the 5th inning, although I felt like Johnny was squeezed by the umpire on one, if not two pitches in the bases loaded walk to Berkman. Now let's see what Harang can do Saturday night. The big man is looking for his third stellar outing in a row. A bounce back season by Harang would be huge for this team. It's too early to speculate on this too, but: Is it possible that an organization that has preached for years about "doing the little things right" just might be doing the little things right in 2009?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Oh No It's Oswalt...

Baseball is a game of strange, inexplicable statistics. Oswalt's 23-1 lifetime record against the Reds is one of those. In 2 starts this season Oswalt has allowed 9 runs in 13 innings. Oswalt is just 31 years old, so he should have plenty left. Of course his last win came last September against the Reds. The Astros always beat the Reds. Cincinnati was 3-12 against Houston in 2008 and stands a sorry 21-48 in the last 69 games against the Astros. Despite Oswalt's slow start to the season, digesting all of these numbers has me reaching for the maalox.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mack In, Reds Out In Bottom Of 9th

Barring an unforeseen catastrophe, Chris Mack will be the next head basketball coach at Xavier. With A.D. Mike Bobinski set to make the recommendation to the university president, the rest is a formality. The president and the board have to abide by Bobinski's pick, or the university will be looking for a new basketball coach and a new A.D. If they don't rubber-stamp the A.D.'s pick, then why have an A.D.? Bobinski is highly regarded inside and outside the Xavier community, and he's earned the sterling reputation. Mack has earned a shot at the Xavier job, and now he'll get it.

So the Reds are trying to finish off the Brewers in the bottom of the 9th inning of an exciting 1 run game. All of a sudden the game switches to the "Best Locker Room Outbursts" on FSN. NOT AGAIN!!! The same thing happened back in December in the waning seconds of regulation in U.C.'s overtime win in basketball against Eastern Kentucky. We missed a thrilling alley-oop dunk by Yancy Gates to send the game to overtime. We also missed the entire overtime. Back then they blamed some automated switching system. I don't know the particulars of how it happened this time, I just know it's aggravating. We all make mistakes in this business but I need to vent. First of all it should never happen, second of all it was a one run game in the bottom of the 9th, and thirdly we get the "Best Locker Room Outbursts"! That thing has aired more than reruns of M*A*S*H. If FSN wants a new, improved, fresh outburst to add to that show, videotape me the next time FSN switches away from the end of an exciting game!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Talking Mack, The Next Big Thing, and paging General George Patton

I'm all for Xavier promoting Chris Mack to the head coaching position. He's paid a lot of dues and has shown competence at each and every level. From calling in his team's own scores to the media while he was the head coach at Mt. Notre Dame High School, to winning tough recruiting battles to land the best talent in the Atlantic 10. I think he would be committed to staying. That doesn't mean he would never leave, but I think it would be tougher for him to leave that any other up and coming coach out there. You know how we locals are. Born here, stay here, love it here. I love seeing local guys make good coaching the local teams. Having a St. Xavier grad at Xavier and a La Salle grad at U.C. would be very cool But that's not a reason to hire Mack. You hire him because he is the best man for the job. Xavier A.D. Mike Bobinski would know better than I, but here's hoping Bobinski comes to that conclusion.

During the off season I sometimes referred to the Reds Joey Votto as "The Next Big Thing". I would get questions like: who calls him that? (me) Why do you call him that? (he's going to be a hitting star) But what about his defense? (He'll be fine, but when you can hit like this, you make a place for him)
Votto is a throwback, no-nonsense, wants to get dirty, wants to get better, and wants to win, kind of ballplayer. After the games, sometimes it's hard to get an interview with Joey because he's either in the weight room or the batting cage. I'm told Votto was approached to do a television commercial. He made sure it was early in the day because he might have a game to get ready to play. You have to love that. After he hit his 3 run homer today, a friend next to me in the stands said to drop the "next", Votto is already "The Big Thing".

With word of Leon Hall's DUI charge comes a harder look at the Tank Johnson signing. Since Tank had no legal issues in Dallas, it's assumed by most around Cincinnati the guy has gotten his act together. But I get nervous reading about some of his antics in the Big D. Hanging with Pacman Jones and loudly proclaiming his free agency status as he walked into the Cowboys locker room after a brutal season-ending loss to Philly. Then I read about his passion for the search for Marquis Cooper and the other missing boaters in the Gulf of Mexico. I can't base a judgment on that and I don't mind second chances. It seems to be working well with Cedric Benson. But no team can afford to stockpile guys with trouble in the past. If a couple of them step out of bounds again, then you have a real mess on your hands. The Bengals went down that exact road just a few years back and the franchise is still paying for it. Tank says there is no chance involved because his two trouble-free seasons in Dallas proves he's no longer a risk. I can sign off on this one, but it's the only chance I take in 2009. Besides, the Bengals haven't exactly been like General George Patton when it comes to keeping their tanks on track.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Miller won't be the last Xavier coach to leave

The good news for Xavier fans is that the program continues to grow in spite of losing coaches in 2001, 2004, and again in 2009. That is a sign of a strong program. When X fans get over the sting of Miller leaving hopefully they will understand what is happening with the Musketeers. There is support for Xavier from the top down, from the school president right on down through the administration, professors, advisers, and students. They all know how important basketball is to Xavier. That isn't the case at every university. This support ensures good things will continue to happen. The biggest problem for Xavier right now is a problem Xavier cannot control. Lack of membership in a power conference. 1990 was the last time a team from a so-called non-power conference won it all, UNLV in the Big West Conference. Yes, Xavier could win a title coming out of the A-10, but the odds are seriously stacked against it because the best players continue to go to the best conferences.
The only power conference containing basketball-only schools is the Big East. I still think down the road there is a chance the Big East splits, with the football schools going their own way. Should that happen, the Musketeers would have to be first on the list to get in. If that doesn't happen, schools like Xavier and Dayton need to think hard about doing something. They need to shed the bottom feeders of the A-10 and take Temple, St. Joseph's, maybe grab Butler, and find some solid basketball partners to put together a tough basketball conference. Easier said than done, but a powerful conference that breeds Final Four teams is crucial to keeping young coaches. Unless a Xavier lifer is hired, (Pete Gillen, maybe Chris Mack or another hometown guy) Xavier coaches will always look longingly at other situations. Yes, the money doesn't hurt, but neither does the chance to hang a big banner. Maybe two.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Why Not Opening Sunday?

To me it is a no-brainer. I guess that's why it popped into my head. Imagine the Reds having Opening Day on Sunday instead of Monday. There are several advantages to this. First, Cincinnati could get back to hosting the first game played in Major League Baseball every season. That's the way it was in the old days, when Cincinnati was honored by MLB as the birthplace of professional baseball. Then there is the fact most fans are already off work. No need to burn a vacation day. No parking issues with downtown workers on a weekday. I would say start the Findlay Market Parade at Noon, and get the game going around 2:30 or 3 p.m. That leaves the morning for church obligations, or tailgating, or both. The only downside affects school kids who won't have an excuse to skip out. But hey, we're adults, and that why we get to change things. So let's change Reds Opening Day to Sunday in the future.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hey Associated Press, It's Legal!!!

It's stunning some of the stuff that makes news these days. North Carolina guard Ty Lawson told reporters today at the Final Four that he won $250 playing craps last night at Detroit's Greektown Casino. I like craps at the casino so I'm happy for the kid and since he's 21 years old and of legal age, hey, great, it's a neat little note.
But according to the A.P. article, calls were made by the reporter to see if the other teams at the Final Four had players who visited the casinos or if they have team rules prohibiting them from gambling at casinos. The article quotes NCAA President Myles Brand saying that visiting the casino is a slippery slope, and the NCAA discourages that. Brand added that they don't try to regulate these things.
While Brand said all of this another one of his member institutions is slipping millions of dollars into the back pocket of another man being courted as a head coach. But that's another story for another day.
What the A.P. story failed to tell you is that Lawson actually thought about buying a lottery ticket, and then getting behind the wheel of an automobile and going for a ride, along with all of the other perfectly legal things he did with the rest of his free time. Something else the A.P. failed to mention that I was interested in: Lawson's system for winning craps.

Here's a link to the story via Sporting News:

http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn/viewtopic.php?t=534330

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Reds Ready To Come North, But...

Are they ready for the 2009 season? The pitching appears to be what its cracked up to be but the fielding could be a different story. 7 errors this spring for Edwin Encarnacion is disturbing. Any team that might find it tough to score runs can't afford to give any away.
I can't believe the Reds think Gary Sheffield could be a fit. Would he be happy in a part time role with no DH?

If John Calipari is preaching patience, he's preaching to himself. You don't get a deal like coach Cal received then expect time to get it right. What could be very interesting is year two. The recruits following Calipari to Lexington might be part of the one and done crowd. Meeks and probably Patterson would be moving on after next season too.
For all of the rules and regulations the NCAA has, it's something else that a school can shell out major bucks for a new coach and a ready-made recruiting class. I don't know how you police that, but it's the biggest loophole the NCAA will never close.

I like the way the Broncos cleaned up a mess in a hurry, even though the Broncos may be as much or more to blame than Jay Cutler. Maybe they don't believe in the guy, who knows. But getting two first round picks and Kyle Orton from the Bears is pretty solid. Orton started coming around last season and his numbers down the stretch were similar to Cutler's. It's nice to see some teams have this stuff figured out.

Rivers Rule

The new rule the NFL adopted limiting blindside blocks to the head or neck of a player seems to be partly in response to the hit that ended Keith Rivers' rookie season in 2008. Rivers was crushed by the Steelers Hines Ward, a blindside hit that left Rivers with a broken jaw. The play did not result in a penalty or fine for Ward. But that was then and this is now. Under the new rule, it almost assuredly would result in a penalty. Rivers is back and working with the Bengals as part of their off season program. He didn't really want to say a lot about the new rule, but had a funny line when he was told it might be known as the "Keith Rivers Rule".
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Less injuries and less broken jaws is a good thing. Whether it be football or everyday life.