Five Things: Breaking the Silence

With the Royals set to break camp in a couple of days, the NFL Owners still in a shouting match with the players and the NCAA basketball tournament has shrunk to 4 teams, I'm ready to offer my takes on all matters.

1. Shutting the H*** Up! - I've made it very clear that I'm firmly on the Owners side in this labor dispute. The players in my view have no business asking their Billionaire landlords who control their financial future, a single financial spreadsheet.

Despite comments from Kansas City Chiefs (soon to be former) Linebacker Mike Vrabel and many other members of the NFLPA's Executive Committee, the players are willing to fight this out in court. They've reached across the boundaries of common sense by calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a liar for his eloquent and honest letter to the players two weeks ago.

At least he's trying to make an effort. That's more than the players can say about themselves.

On the flip side, DeMaurice Smith the NFLPA's Executive Director, is beginning to see the cracks within his union. When the NFLPA decertified a few weeks ago, one current NFL player told Warpaint Illustrated.com that he was never informed that indeed "Smiths War" was headed to court.

Now comes word from an NFL source who told us over the weekend, "there is growing sentiment among the rank and file that no matter what happens (DeMaurice) Smith may not be back as the Union head in 2012."

The source continued by saying, "there is strong sentiment that the next head of the NFLPA will be a former NFL player."

When I probed the source about Smith and his motives in taking this war to court, his opinion was that he felt that Smiths' political ambitions that are serving his own needs and not of the players he's suppose to represent.

Either way, this is the most critical week in this fight. The Owners began their annual meetings in Florida on Sunday and they're likely going to determine the best course of action ahead in dealing with the players.

And in fact, my source believes that bargaining could begin before next weeks court date in Minneapolis. If that's the case, then maybe the riveting lesson fans are learning about the business of the NFL that will bring them some piece of mind that a 2011 season is indeed on the horizon.

2. What's Ahead for the Chiefs? - It's been an interesting week of rumors. Though it's been very quiet we're beginning to hear talk again that the Kansas City Chiefs are leaning heavily towards making a strong run to obtain Arizona Cardinals Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

Fitz to KC rumors might heat up prior to the NFL Draft.
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Though Kansas City Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli is indeed high on Minnesota Vikings Sidney Rice, his price tag - even though it may be similar to Fitzgerald - that move might be too risky based solely on his injury issues.

There is no question that Fitzgerald is the better receiver. But to pry him away from the Cardinals, the Chiefs might have to give up their first round pick this April and a 2012 conditional pick.

Still judging on the talent available at the wide receiver position it's hard to imagine the Chiefs cringing to trade their top pick to acquire a player of the caliber of Fitzgerald.

However, adding Rice isn't a bad option either. The good news is from our sources both players are interested in coming to Kansas City. And that's a far cry from the sentiment that many NFL players have felt about the Chiefs in the past.

The culture is changing and despite the fact Kansas City will have a far more difficult schedule in 2011 than the one they played in 2010, they are still the defending AFC West Champions.

And that means something to both Fitzgerald and Rice.

3. Royals Surprise - I'm firmly in the Royals Corner this season. Though many are saying their going to lose some 100 games, I'm not buying it at all. In fact, I'm not buying at all. As of Sunday, the Royals had a respectable spring training record and were hitting the cover off the baseball.

Outfielder Alex Gordon has been tearing the cover off the baseball this spring.
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The core of their hitting lineup is in tact and the pitching, though too heavy on veterans at the moment, can have success if they can lower their spring four plus ERA to the high three range.

If that happens, there isn't any doubt that if the Royals can have a solid April and May, the chances of hitting the century mark in losses is slim to none. But how many wins can they garner in 2011? I'm not ready to answer that. Hey I need something to talk about in the coming months should there be no football in Spring and Summer.

Either way I hope that the city of Kansas City continues to support the Royals in a year that will transition this franchise into one of the most exciting eras in team history. With the riches in the minor leagues abundant and the likelihood more of them will be added come July when Royals General Manager Dayton Moore dumps the balance of his veteran core to other teams in the hunt for a playoff birth, it's a great time to completely jump on the bandwagon.

And if you're a diehard fan who isn't quite sure what to make of this years team, I suggest staying on board until the beginning stages of August. Because I don't really think we're going to know much about this team until then.

At that point some of the diaper dandies will be filtered in the rotation, the bullpen and on the diamond, that could serve as a jumping on point for a baseball fan base that is starving for another championship team.

The Royals won't be heading to the post season in 2011 or 2012 but they will be a mainstay come 2013 and beyond. And that will likely begin in earnest in August when the future stars get their chance to show what pain this franchise has been forced to deal with since Moore inherited the worst minor league system in the history of baseball.

Three years later that's all changed!

4. NCAA Tournament - I've been addicted to the coverage by CBS, TNT, TBS & TRU TV leading up to this weekends Final Four. The fact I don't have to give DirectTV anymore cash in the spring - saving that for my NFL Sunday Ticket - has been fun. The fact all games are in HD makes it even more exciting for me.

Major props to the NCAA for the addition of the TNT/TBS/Tru TV and the NBA analysts.
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However, it's been the new studio format led by former NBA players Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley that have added so much to the analysis of the tournament that had elevated CBS to the legendary status of ESPN's college basketball coverage.

I know ESPN shows us highlights all day long and there is no disputing that Dick Vitale, Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis, Jay Bilas are the best in the business, but as a fan of college basketball CBS and it's crew have the advantage of offering their takes throughout the day and evening's actions.

When the new gazillion-dollar was announced by the NCAA last year I was initially skeptic about giving the bulk of the rounds to anyone other than ESPN. However, the Turner Network Cable giant has managed to pull it off better than expected.

And I think as good as they've all been this year, next years March Madness might elevate the sport to new heights, especially if the NBA's labor dispute keeps so many talented (not quite ready for the NBA bench) young men in college where they belong.

5. Final Four - Now that we're down to the last four teams. There is no question I'm disheartened by the Kansas Jayhawks embarrassing Elite 8 loss to VCU. First Props to VCU who was a better team and deserved to win. They beat the Jayhawks fair and square. In the aftermath, there's been a lot of heat on Kansas Head Coach Bill Self. Shortly after the game some were calling for his ouster.

Self should take some criticism for Elite 8 loss.
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The Jayhawks lost this game because they couldn't shoot free throws or nail three-pointers. That's been an issue all season long. It's something that Self had little control over.

On Sunday Kansas simply didn't come to play. And that is on Self. There is no excuse for his team - with a trip to the Final Four at stake - that they didn't show more energy defensively in the first half.

They made a valiant effort in the second half but a trio of VCU three-pointers did them in over the last five minutes.

Ahead Kansas fans will likely say that this is the worst loss in the history of Jayhawk basketball. And I argue it's not. VCU has roared to the Final Four by beating five good teams. So let's not take anything away from them, because they deserved to win.

WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
Can Labor Peace truly exist between the Owners and the Players?


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