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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Tuffy Teaser 2016: Week 11

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.  Tuffy may be stubborn, but he is not actually a candidate for involuntary commitment.  In an attempt to shake off an extended losing streak, Tuffy has invited Snorty Pig to make this week's picks.

Despite his name, Snorty Pig is a dog.  A Boston Terrier, to be exact.  The same principles apply to this week's column, but instead of picking in favor of teams with cat mascots, Snorty Pig has picked a 3-team teaser that goes against the cat mascots.

Snorty Pig
Snorty Pig can smell the money
Tuffy's 2016 Tally:  $4
2016 Record:  3-4
Tuffy's Total Tally:  $27
All Time Record:  9-9

Saturday, November 12.  12:00 p.m. EST

Kentucky Wildcats         +20
Tennessee Volunteers     -8

The Tennessee Volunteers started off the season 5-0 with a couple wins over top teams before Texas A&M knocked off the Volunteers in double overtime.  Since then, the Volunteers have swooned a bit.  The Vols come into this game at 6-3.  Kentucky comes into the game with a respectable 5-4 record.  The Wildcats have hung close in most of their losses, but they have not played many teams as good as the Volunteers.  The Wildcats will likely cover this teased spread, too, but Snorty is picking Big Orange at home.

Saturday, November 12.  7:00 p.m. EST

LSU Tigers                        -1
Arkansas Razorbacks     +13

The LSU Tigers have to be the best 3-loss team in the nation, but road games in the SEC are always a challenge.  The only home blemish for Arkansas this year came at the hands of mighty Alabama.  LSU is not an offensive juggernaut.  The Tigers may very well control most of this game on most sides of the ball, but the Razorbacks will cover the teased 13-point spread on their home turf.

Saturday, November 12.  10:00 p.m. EST

Colorado Buffaloes     -11
Arizona Wildcats         +23

For many of you younger readers, the idea of Colorado having a good football team is nothing more than lore that old folks talk about along with stuff like rotary phones and being able to do math in your head.  But, the Buffs are back.  And Arizona?  Well, the Wildcats are terrible.  Arizona has lost six straight games including a 62-point loss to Washington State last weekend.  The Buffaloes will stampede into a Tucson win by two touchdowns.

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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Tuffy Teaser 2016: Week 9

After riding high at the start of the season, Tuffy's Teasers fell short in back to back weeks.  Tuffy took a couple weeks off to regroup and regain his confidence.  On National Cat Day, Tuffy returns to action with a teaser for Week 9.

In the early weeks, Tuffy relied heavily on a few familiar teams.  This week, Tuffy shakes things up by looking west for his picks.  And since variety is the spice of life, Tuffy takes three different types of cats in this week's teaser.

Vasyl Kovalenko
Russian kittens do not appreciate bad gambling advice

Tuffy's 2016 Tally:  $9
2016 Record:  3-3
Tuffy's Total Tally:  $32
All Time Record:  9-8

Saturday, October 29.  7:00 p.m. EST

Auburn Tigers          +.5
Mississippi Rebels     +11.5

The Auburn Tigers are coming off one of the most impressive offensive displays from any team all season.  Last week, the Tigers romped over a ranked Arkansas team by a score of 56-3.  Ole Miss is in the midst of a two-game slide that includes a loss to those same Razorbacks.  Comparative scores can be deceiving, and every road game in the SEC can be a test.  But, with the teased spread, all Auburn needs to do is win the game.  The Tigers' running game should make that happen.

Saturday, October 29.  10:45 p.m. EST

Washington State Cougars     -7
Oregon State Beavers               +21

After getting off to a rough start this season, the old pirate Mike Leach now has his Washington State Cougars playing some exciting football out in the PAC 12.  It's Halloween weekend, and Oregon State will be wearing orange and black at home.  But that should not scare the Cougars.  Washington State will put plenty of points on the board and cover a teased 7-point spread.

Saturday, October 29.  11:00 p.m. EST

Stanford Cardinal       +1.5
Arizona Wildcats     +10.5

To be clear, Arizona is not a good football team.  They have not beaten any good teams this season, but they did put a scare into a highly touted Washington Huskies earlier in the year.  Stanford is physically more gifted and better coached, but they do not have the offensive firepower to blow anyone out.  The Cardinal will get of Tucson with a win, but the Wildcats will cover this teased, double-digit spread.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Anniversary Flashback: Season of Saturdays

Banshee Sports was never intended to be a substitute for Oprah's Book Club.  But, the written word can be an inspiring thing.  Michael Weinreb's written word about college football inspired me as much as any book I've ever read.  Season of Saturdays eloquently captured what I deeply love about the game I care about most.

In October of 2014, Banshee Sports reviewed Michael Weinreb's masterpiece.

Book Review:  Season of Saturdays

The soul of Season of Saturdays is captured in the prologue when Weinreb writes:
I grew up with college football in my blood.  I am not so blinded as to fail to recognize its inherent hypocrisies, and yet I still enjoy it more purely and completely than I enjoy almost anything in my life.  I don't want it to die.  I don't want it to fall victim to corruption and violence.  I don't want it to whither in a courtroom due to the failures of bureaucrats.  I want it to find a rational path beyond this point of crisis.  I want people to understand. 
What follows is my attempt to explain.

I read this paragraph many times, and tears came to my eyes each time that I did.  This was not the only paragraph in the book that had that affect on me.  Click here to continue reading.

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Tuffy Teaser 2016: Week 6

So, Tuffy got a little cocky last week.  Taunting the devil and whatnot.  As the Old Testament tells us, "Pride cometh before the fall."  Tuffy fell last weekend, but it should be noted that it was a one cat mascot defeating another cat mascot that broke up the Week 5 Teaser.  Tuffy considered taking a week off to kick his wounds, but then he remembered that his public is counting on him.

Vasyl Kovalenko
Cousin Vasyl took a bath on Tuffy's picks last week
Tuffy wanted to put Clemson into this week's teaser, but this week was too busy to do a Friday night game.  Instead, Tuffy goes heavy on the early Saturday games.

Tuffy's 2016 Tally:  $14
2016 Record:  3-2
Tuffy's Total Tally:  $37
All Time Record:  9-7

Saturday, October 8.  12:00 p.m.

Maryland Terapins                 +3
Penn State Nittany Lions     +9

With Maryland's arrival in the Big Ten, this game has quietly turned into a simmering rivalry.  The last time the Terps traveled to Penn State, they refused pregame handshakes.  Maryland came away with a in that day.  Penn State avenged that game with a victory at Maryland last year.  Both games were decided by a single point.  Maryland comes into this game with a 4-0 record and some gaudy statistics.  But, those stats came against weak competition.  Home field advantage is always a little limited for noon games, but it is homecoming in Happy Valley.  The Nittany Lions will win this game outright.  They will certainly cover a nine point spread.

Saturday, October 8.  12:30 p.m.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets       +12
Pittsburg Panthers                      Even

Both teams come into this conference game with 3-2 records.  By far, he best win between these two teams is Pitt's win over Penn State.  This game will likely be a close, defensive struggle.  Either team is probably a winner with this teased spread.  The Panthers' defense will make just enough big plays to give Pitt a win at home.

Saturday, October 8.  3:00 p.m.

Houston Cougars     -11
Navy Midshipmen    +23

Tuffy is a big supporter of the military.  It makes him uncomfortable to pick against any service academy, but the Houston has the makings of a truly special season underway.  This is an AAC conference game.  That means that Houston is familiar with Navy and their tricky triple option.  Houston has a potent offense and will put a lot of points on the board.  By the time the final gun sounds, the Cougars will have easily covered this teased spread.

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Tuffy Teaser 2016: Week 5

Tuffy is so hot right now the devil won't get near him for fear of getting burned.  Or perhaps the devil has just heard about Tuffy's penchant for biting.  The Tuffy Teaser hit for the third week in a row, and none of the games were close.

Tuffy Teaser
Cousin Vasyl is angry about Houston's Thursday night games.
But, casinos exist for a reason, so Tuffy and his followers are not resting in their laurels.  In fact, they are downright mad about the college football schedule.  For the second week in a row, the Houston Cougars played on a Thursday night.  And, for the second week in a row, the Cougars were a solid selection.  Sure, it is possible to place a wager on a Thursday evening, but it is darn hard to make a whole column worth of picks by then.  But, Tuffy is not a complainer.  He'll play the hand he is dealt and pick the games that are available.

Tuffy's 2016 Tally:  $19
2016 Record:  3-1
Tuffy's Total Tally:  $42
All Time Record:  9-6

Friday, September 30.  10:15 p.m. EST

Toledo Rockets     +10
BYU Cougars      +2

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  BYU has taken its lumps this year in terms of actual game results, but the Cougars are now 4-0 against the teased spread.  This week, the teased spread basically only requires BYU to win at home against the Rockets.  Toledo will be traveling across the country and climbing to high altitude for this night game in Provo.  BYU will win this game and keep their streak against the spread alive.

Saturday, October 1.  7:30 p.m. EST

Missouri Tigers     +19.5
LSU Tigers              -7.5

Tuffy selected this game against the advice of his advisors.  The advisors told Tuffy to take Pitt teased to -10 at home against Marshall.  But, Tuffy is a cat that values stability, and LSU has no stability at all.  LSU fired their head coach and offensive coordinator this week.  That will not help this offensively challenged team.  At least not in the short run.  Missouri may not be a great team, but they were able to keep within a 19-point spread against both West Virginia and Georgia.  The Missouri Tigers should be able to do the same even at a night game in Baton Rouge.

Saturday, October 1.  8:00 p.m. EST

Louisville Cardinals     +3
Clemson Tigers           +9

This is the marquee game of the weekend.  Louisville has come out of nowhere to steal the hearts and minds of college football fans.  Meanwhile, the narrative surrounding Clemson has been that the Tigers have underachieved so far this year.  But, Clemson is still undefeated, and this is still a night game in Death Valley.  Louisville might very well win this game, but Clemson will not lose by double digits.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Tuffy Teaser 2016: Week 4

Tuffy is feeling pretty proud of himself after hitting the Tuffy Teaser for the second week in a row.  Week 3 was fraught with peril due to the many non-conference mismatches on the schedule.  Week 4 has many more conference contests.  Those early match-ups present challenges of their own.  Tuffy was tempted to sit this week out, but he is a cat of action.  He is not a cat of cowardice.  Here are Tuffy's Week 4 recommendations.

Tuffy guards his winnings like a dragon guards his gold.
Tuffy's 2016 Tally:  $11
2016 Record:  2-1
Tuffy's Total Tally:  $34
All Time Record:  8-6

Saturday, September 24.  3:30 p.m. EST

BYU Cougars                           +13
West Virginia Mountaineers     -1

The BYU Cougars are the darling of this column.  In terms of real football, BYU has a losing record. But in terms of the Vegas lines, BYU is 3-0 against the spread.  Most likely West Virginia will win this game at home in Morgantown, but the BYU will keep it close.  For the third week in a row, the Cougars will cover the spread and lift Tuffy to a win.

Saturday, September 24.  3:30 p.m. EST

Pittsburgh Panthers         +13
North Carolina Tarheels     -1

Tuffy truly is a creature of habit.  This is the third week in a row that Pitt appears in the Tuffy Teaser.  Last week, Pitt lost the game on the gridiron, but they did their job by covering the spread.  Pitt has a great chance to upset UNC this weekend.  The Panthers have a rock solid chance to stay within two touchdowns of the Tarheels regardless of the location of the game.

Saturday, September 24.  6:00 p.m. EST

LSU Tigers           +2.5
Auburn Tigers     +9.5

This game is probably a winner with the teased spread regardless of which team you pick.  Both teams have tiger mascots, so Tuffy could have gone either way on this game.  The LSU Tigers do not have the offensive fire power to blowout any top flight opponent.  Auburn may not be the power they were a few years ago, but they are still a legit SEC program.  The Auburn Tigers will not lose by double-digit to a conference foe.

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Anniversary Flashback: Pulled Beef Barbecue

Delicious food is an integral part of the sports viewing experience.  Food was also an an integral part of Banshee Sports in the early days.  The pulled beef barbecue recipe that I posted in September of 2013  continues to be one of the most widely read posts on this site every month.

Check it out this weekend.  You will be glad you did.

Pulled Beef Barbecue

Football season is in full swing.  For a lot of us, this means cooking for a crowd.  This recipe is a crowd pleaser for tailgates and homegates.  And best of all, you can make it ahead of time so that you can concentrate on the game while your guests marvel at your culinary skills.  This takes a little time and planning, but you will never regret the effort.  Click to continue to the recipe.

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Chase is On

The Chase is on for the NASCAR championship.  When the engines fire at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, sixteen drivers will be vying for the championship as NASCAR begins its 10-week version of the playoffs.

It's time to take a look at the the Chase field and make a few predictions.

Tony Stewart victory lane
Tony Stewart's win at Sonoma gave him a Chase spot
Team Effort.  At the beginning of the year, Stewart-Haas Racing seemed to be in disarray, but Tony Stewart snagged a win at Sonoma to get himself a spot in the Chase in his final season.  Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch both put together solid season and easily made the Chase.  Only Danica Patrick failed to qualify from the SHR garage.

Getting three out of four cars into the Chase is solid work, but it is nothing compared to the top-to-bottom greatness Joe Gibbs Racing displayed throughout the regular season.  Although it is not a surprise, it is impressive that JGR got all four teams into the Chase.  Led by the top-seed Kyle Busch, all four Gibbs teams are in the top seven heading into the Chase, and all four teams have a legitimate chance to take home the title.

Young Guns.  Two rookies qualified for the 2016 Chase.  With the Hendrick infrastructure behind him, it is no surprise that Chase Elliott was able to qualify on points.  It is a surprise that Chris Buescher qualified for the Chase by winning at Pocono.  Driving for the single-car team of Front Row Motorsports, Buescher is truly the Cinderella of the field.  Austin Dillon got the iconic #3 Chevy into the Chase on points.  This will be the twenty-six year-old Dillon's first playoff experience.  Kyle Larson will also be making his Chase debut thanks to an emotional win at Michigan late in the year.

With the retirement of Jeff Gordon, the imminent departure of Tony Stewart and the injury to Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it is good for NASCAR to have fresh faces poised to carry the torch.  But their time has not come just yet.  Of all of these young guys, Kyle Larson is the most legitimate threat to make some noise in the Chase.  The other three drivers will have their work cut out for them just to get through the first cut at Dover.

Kyle Busch Homestead
All signs point to a repeat championship for Busch
Predictions.  It would certainly be a fun story to see Tony Stewart make a run at the championship in his final year.  Some love Smoke and some hate Smoke.  But most pay attention when he is running near the front.  Most fans would be happy to see Carl Edwards win his first championship.  With JGR power under the hood, Edwards does have a fighting chance.  Martin Truex, Jr. is a dark horse worth keeping an eye on.  Truex has proven this season that he can have success at a variety of tracks.

But, the 2016 Chase is going to be a two-man race between the top two seeds, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski.  Both men have proven they can win a championship in the Chase era, and both men have had great seasons thus far.  With the overall dominance of JGR and Toyota throughout the year, Busch has the edge and will take home the Sprint Cup championship for the second year in a row.

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Tuffy Teaser 2016: Week 3

It took Tuffy a week to get his college football senses tuned in, but Tuffy's film study from Week 1 paid off in Week 2.  Tuffy got back to his winning ways and got his account back in the black.  Week 3 could prove to be another tough test since there are many mismatched non-conference games on the schedule.  It's hard to predict if a team will keep their foot on the pedal enough to cover a four touchdown spread, so Tuffy stuck to contests between big-time programs.

Tuffy Teaser
Tuffy has his focus back
Tuffy's 2016 Tally:  $3
2016 Record:  1-1
Tuffy's Total Tally:  $26
All Time Record:  7-6

Saturday, September 17.  3:30 p.m. EST

Pittsburgh Panthers            +10
Oklahoma State Cowboys     +2

This line opened with Pittsburgh getting six points on the un-teased line.  The Vegas regulars apparently liked that line as much as Tuffy did.  By the time the weekend rolled around, Pitt was getting two less points.  Nonetheless, Tuffy is taking the Panthers.  Oklahoma State was the victim of terrible strategy, officiating errors and a miraculous hook-and-ladder in their loss at home last week.  But, the Cowboys should not have allowed the likes of Central Michigan to get that close in the first place.  Tuffy is not predicting an outright upset in Stillwater, but the Panthers will keep this close.

Saturday, September 17.  8:00 p.m. EST

Duke Blue Devils               +10
Northwestern Wildcats     +2

Northwestern flopped in the opening week of the season, but Tuffy is not a fickle feline.   One bad week does not scare him away forever.  Northwestern may not be a very good football team, but neither is Duke.  With this teased spread, all Northwestern needs to do is win the game.   The Wildcats should be able to accomplish that in a night game at home.

Saturday, September 17.  10:15 p.m. EST

UCLA Bruins      +2.5
BYU Cougars     +9.5

This pick feels like stealing.  BYU has covered the spread in both of the first two weeks.  Meanwhile, UCLA hasn't done anything in the first two weeks of the season to prove that they can beat the Cougars by double-digits in Provo.  Not only does UCLA have to deal with the elevation and the atmosphere of a night game, they also have to deal with the distractions of their quarterback calling for the workers of the world to unite.  The Cougars will win this game.  If they don't, they will certainly cover this teased spread.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Tuffy Teaser 2016: Week 2

The Tuffy Teaser got off to a rough start in 2016.  In fact, one might think Tuffy was "just teasing" with those picks (see what I did there?).  The Tuffy Teaser not only failed to hit, but actually went 0-3.  But, there is no use crying over spilled milk.  There is a new slate of games this weekend, and Tuffy has a new recommended teaser for Week 2.

funny cats
Tuffy's followers got taken to the cleaners in Week 1
For those of you who are in need of a refresher about the rules of the Tuffy Teaser, check out last week's column.  Just don't look too closely at the picks.  They might hurt your eyes.

Tuffy's 2016 Tally:  $5
2016 Record:  0-1
Tuffy's Total Tally:  $18
All Time Record:  6-6

Saturday, September 10.  12:00 p.m. EST

Penn State Nittany Lions     +11
Pittsburgh Panthers                 +1

The renewal of this rivalry is long overdue.  These teams haven't met since 2000.  Both programs looked very different in those days.  One thing that doesn't look different is the disdain these two fan bases feel for each other.  This is technically a home game for Pittsburgh, but based on the Panthers' recent attendance figures, Heinz Field is likely to sound a lot like Beaver Stadium West.  But, this game won't be decided by the fans.  The Panthers may very well be a program on the rise, but they are not 10 points better than their big brothers from State College.  Penn State's offense will be more dynamic than the vanilla version they showed in Week 1, and the Lion's defense will be able to keep the Panthers mostly under wraps.  I predict Penn State will win this game outright, but I certainly think the Nittany Lions will cover a teased 11-point spread.

Saturday, September 10.  7:30 p.m. EST

Arkansas State Red Wolves     +26
Auburn Tigers                         -14

Auburn started their season with a hard-fought 6-point loss to a highly regarded Clemson squad.  Meanwhile, Arkansas State opened their season by losing at home by three touchdowns to Toledo.  Auburn is not good enough to look past any opponent, but the Tigers are plenty good enough to beat the Red Wolves by more than 2 touchdowns on their home field.

Saturday, September 10.  7:30 p.m. EST

BYU Cougars     +9.5
Utah Utes             +2.5

This intrastate rivalry is known simply as the Holy War.  Yeah, that name might be a bit melodramatic, but this is a huge game every year for both schools.  Big games tend to stay close.  BYU is coming fresh off an upset win away from home against the Arizona Wildcats.  I expect the Cougars to repeat that performance on the road at Utah.  I certainly expect the Cougars to stay within a touchdown.

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Sunday, September 4, 2016

2016 NFL Preseason Preview

The NFL season is just hours away.  The preseason is over.  Fantasy football drafts are in the rear-view mirror.  It is time for the real NFL games to begin.  It is also time to make some predictions.

AFC East:  Tom Brady is suspended for the first four games of the year.  That means that the untested and unheralded Jimmy Garoppolo will play quarterback for the Patriots for the first quarter of the season.  If this was any other franchise, I would say that spells trouble.  But this is the New England Patriots we are talking about.  The AFC East is a weak division this year.  Bill Belichick will figure out a way to weather the storm.  By the time the season ends, the Patriots will not only win the division, but they will also be in the running for the top seed in the conference.  Division Winner: New England Patriots

AFC North:  Once again, the AFC North is a loaded division.  The only team that does not have a legitimate hope to win the division is the Cleveland Browns, and even the Browns have a flicker of optimism with the arrival of RG3 and a whole new coaching staff.  The Ravens had a disappointing season in 2015.  Baltimore's organization is too solid to be terrible twice in a row, but I do believe they will miss the playoffs again this year.  The Bengals will win double digit games again this season, but that will only be good enough for a wild card this year.  The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is deep enough to survive the early season suspension of running back Le'Veon Bell, and it is explosive enough to carry this team to a division championship.  Division Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers    Wild Card: Cincinnati Bengals

AFC South:  Despite failing to make the playoffs in 2015, Las Vegas still considers the Indianapolis Colts to be the favorite to win the division.  It is true that injuries to Luck contributed greatly to the Colts' struggles last season, but it is also true that the Colts did little in the offseason to address the offensive line that caused those injuries.  Meanwhile, all the other teams in the division improved significantly.  The two teams that improved the most are the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars.  The Texans are the reigning division champs, and will defend their title.  Despite losing a home game yet again this season to the NFL's devotion to London, the Jaguars will make their first playoff appearance since 2007.  Division Winner: Houston Texans    Wild Card: Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC West:  That AFC West is home to the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.  But those Broncos no longer have the legendary Peyton Manning at quarterback.  Instead, it will be Trevor Siemian at the helm for the defending champs.  There is no doubt that when it came to physical skills, the 2015 version of Peyton Manning was a shadow of his former self, but Manning's mental acuity and experience covered a lot of flaws in Denver's offensive line.  It is doubtful that the young Siemian or his rookie backup Paxton Lynch will be able to fill that same role.  That could lead to offensive disaster in Denver.  In contrast, Andy Reid and his Kansas City Chiefs will be steady and solid on both sides of the ball.  That will be good enough to win this division.  The rest of the division will cannibalize itself and allow only one team to the make the playoffs.  Division Winner: Kansas City Chiefs

NFC East:  According to the seers in the desert, no division in football is more of a toss-up than the NFC East.  Prior to Romo's injury, I was all set to put the Dallas Cowboys' helmet next to this prediction.  But then the injury did happened.  Dallas fans are very excited about rookie Dak Prescott's preseason performance, but the preseason is not the real season.  Defenses are vanilla in the preseason, and Prescott does not come from a college system where he was expected to read complex defensive schemes and direct a pro style offense.  However, the Cowboys are a run first team, and Romo should return at some point.  If they can hold things together to start the year, the Cowboys should be able to snag a wild card berth.  But, the division champions will once again hail from our nation's capital.  Kirk Cousins will have a wealth of weapons around him as he enters his first season as the unquestioned leader of the offense, and the addition of Josh Norman to the defense should eliminate some of the disasters in the secondary that plagued the team in 2015.  While they may not be a legit Super Bowl contender, the Redskins will have enough to win this mediocre division.  Division Winner: Washington Redskins     Wild Card: Dallas Cowboys

NFC North:  There is a little air of sadness around this division.  Not only did the Vikings lose Teddy Bridgewater to a devastating injury, but they made things worse by deciding to mortgage their future to replace Bridgewater with Sam Bradford.  Then there is also the abrupt retirement of Megatron from the Lions.  And the Bears are the Bears once again.  That leaves the Green Bay Packers as the lone bright spot in the division.  And the Packers are a very bright spot.  Not only do the Packers have a good team, they have an even better schedule.  In their cross-division games, the Pack get Dallas, Houston and Seattle at home.  The Packers will not only win this division, but they will have one of the best records in the conference.  Division Winner: Green Bay Packers

NFC South:  2015 was a magical season for the Carolina Panthers.  It is unrealistic to expect a repeat of a 15-1 season, but it is very realistic to expect the Panthers to repeat as division champs.  The Panthers will get to pounce on Trevor Siemian in his NFL debut to start the season in Denver. Then they will get to feast on the rest of a weak division.  The Saints and the Falcons cannot seem to figure out what they plan to do on defense, and the Buccaneers are still mired in an eternal rebuild.  All that opens the door for Panthers to challenge once again for the best record in the NFC.  Division Winner: Carolina Panthers

NFC West:  The NFC West has two excellent teams and two terrible teams.  In fact, the two best teams in the NFC might both be in this division.  Those teams are the Cardinals and the Seahawks.  Only one of those teams can win the division, but the other team will surely earn a wild card spot.  I have to make this pick in the preseason, so I have to give the edge to the Cardinals.  That being said, both the Seahawks and the Cardinals will be serious Super Bowl champion contenders.  Division Winner: Arizona Cardinals     Wild Card: Seattle Seahawks

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Friday, September 2, 2016

Tuffy Teaser 2016: Week 1

Football season is back.  So is the Tuffy Teaser.

Cats gambling
Tuffy the gambler
When I changed careers and started the law firm of Wetzel and Washburn, PLLC, I was free from the strictures of government employment and was able to explore the wild and wonderful world of sports gambling.  Wetzel and Washburn survived for a second year, and so has the Tuffy Teaser.

By way of refresher, the Tuffy Teaser is a weekly column.  Each week, I will recommend a three team college football teaser.  It involves a $5 wager with a six-point tease on the spread.  This year, the point spreads will be based on those published by Bovada.  The spreads below include the six-point tease.  In honor of my beloved cat Tuffy, the only games eligible for the Tuffy Teaser are games involving a team with a cat mascot.

Without further ado, here is the first Tuffy Teaser for 2016.

Saturday, September 3.  12:00 p.m. EST.

Western Michigan Broncos      +11
Northwestern Wildcats            +1

Big Ten teams can never take MAC teams for granted.  Especially early in the year.  But with this spread, all I am predicting is that Northwestern wins their home opener.  That is not too much to ask.

Saturday, September 3.  3:30 p.m. EST.

LSU Tigers                 -  5.5
Wisconsin Badgers     + 17.5

This game is being played at Lambeau Field.  Lambeau is in the state of Wisconsin, but it is not Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.  And, this game is being played in September and not November.  So, the game will be played on the balmy grasslands rather than the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.  LSU is simply a better team than Wisconsin, and they will win by a touchdown.

Saturday, September 3.  7:30 p.m. EST.

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles     + 12.5
Kentucky Wildcats                                 - 0.5

Like the Northwestern pick, this is not a strong vote of confidence for Kentucky.  Kentucky is a member of the vaunted SEC, and Kentucky is supposed to be a program headed in the right direction.  That means that beating Southern Miss on their home turf is imperative for Kentucky.  With the teased spread, that's all I'm asking of the Wildcats.  I think they will get it done.

Before I close out this first edition of the Tuffy Teaser for 2016, I wanted to say a few words in tribute to a furry friend who was a faithful contributor to this column.  Roger Kovalenko was Tuffy's beloved cousin.  Roger a wonderful cat who brought love and laughter to many.  Rest in peace.

Roger Kovalenko (2002-2016)

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Love Letter to Football

William Shakespeare told us, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."  I know this to be true because every August, my heart aches for the return of my one true love:  football.

coal region football
High school football in Pennsylvania
Sports fill the entire calendar year, and I care deeply about many of them.  I close my law firm for March Madness.  I build my household budget around boxing pay-per-view events.  I skip church for early NASCAR races.  I've held parties for the Open Championship.  And I have nearly lost friendships over the MLB playoffs.

I am passionate about all those sports, but nothing stirs my emotions quite like football.  I am girl.  I never played the sport.  I grew up in a family of basketball and baseball players.  And yet, it is football that I have elevated to an almost unhealthy position in my life.

What is it about the game of football that sets it apart from all other sports?

First, there is the combination of brute force and intellect.  Football is an incredibly physical sport. Yet, at the same time, football is arguably the most intellectually demanding sport in the world.  The folks who read this blog because of the recipes may scoff at this notion, but anyone who has ever tried to use the more advanced aspects of NCAA Football or Madden know that I am right.  It is not just the coaches who have to engage in this high speed chess.  The players also need to be intellectually active throughout the game.  Football players literally speak a different language in the huddle.  Then they speak it again as they line up and react to the alignments of their opponents.  No matter how freakish the athlete, without the strategy from the coaches and the communication between players, there is no success in football.

cold football fans
Dedicated football fans
Football also captures the concept of commitment to team over self more than other sport.  Coaches in all sports preach that players should dedicate themselves more to the name on the front of the jersey than the name on the back.  But, in football, there are no individual moments.  Quarterbacks may get most of the glory, but they get no success without the toils of five offensive lineman and five other skill players.  Then of course, there are the eleven other men who play defense and rarely touch the ball at all.

Perhaps more than anything else, I love football because it is an appropriate outlet for manly aggression and competition.  America is a nation that was born out of a violent rebellion and grew up prizing rugged individualism.  We live in a society that grows increasingly shy about drawing bright lines and the manly virtues.  Not so on Saturdays and Sundays in the fall.  Two teams take the field, and it is okay to choose sides.  And, football is one of the last remaining places in society where it is culturally acceptable to admire one man or a group of men for physically overpowering another.  Those are liberating feelings.

As the calendar flips towards September, I am thankful once again for the return of my beloved football.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Anniversary Flashback: College Sports Makeover

College sports are incredibly popular in our country.  Especially college football and men's basketball.  And yet, sports fans spend a significant amount of time thinking and talking about how the world would be a better place, if only the NCAA was structured differently.

In August of 2013, I took a stab at creating the perfect collegiate sports landscape.  In this article, I created the mythical College Athletic Organization (CAO).  Some of the statistics are dated.  And some of the conferences have had significant membership changes.  If I had it to do over again, I'd sub in the American Athletic Conference for every mention of the Mountain West Conference.

This piece was truly a labor of love.  If you do me the honor of reading it, I welcome your thoughts.  Please leave a comment.

College Sports Makeover

Maybe it's because I'm a girl, but the idea of college sports becoming nothing more than minor league level professional sports almost brings me to tears.  The reason collegiate athletics brings out unique passion in fan bases is because rooting for a college is not just about rooting for the players currently wearing the uniform.  It is about rooting for an image, for a larger institution and for the traditions of that institution.  Unlike most professional sports teams, there are very real cultural differences between the collegiate teams with which we align ourselves.  But, times have certainly changed since the NCAA was founded in 1906.  Some systemic changes are needed or the entire concept of student athletes may become a thing of the past.  I believe that collegiate athletics can change while still preserving the differences between schools that leads to all that we love about college sports.  Click to read more.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Book Review: The Greatest Boxing Stories Ever Told

boxing books
Greatest Boxing Stories Ever Told
Boxing, perhaps more than any other sport, is as much about its history and lore as it is about current fighters.  The Greatest Boxing Stories Ever Told is a collection of essays and stories that continue that tradition.  This book is an excellent read.

Edited by Jeff Silverman, The Greatest Boxing Stories Ever Told is a collection of thirty-six essays and stories about the sweet science.  Silverman includes pieces from many different eras written by very different authors.  Some stories are about fights.  Some are about fighters.  Some are true.  Some are fiction.  And, as with many aspects of boxing lure, some stories are probably a little bit of both.  In the introduction of the book, Silverman states, "Unlike its athletic brethren, boxing needs no translations as it moves from culture to culture across time and around the globe."  For this reason, non-boxing fans, even non-sports fans, will find something enlightening and inspiring in this book.

I am a relatively new boxing fan.  I first heard about this book on the Top Men Boxing podcast.  I purchased the book to learn more about the history of the sport.  That mission was accomplished.  I was introduced to the writing of venerable sports journalists such as Frank Deford and Robert M. Lipsyte.  I learned about Billy Conn's family life and Benny Paret's brutal death in the ring.  This book also includes fictional accounts from literary giants such as O. Henry and Jack London.

My favorite story in this book was the short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle titled, "The Croxley Master."  I grew up in the shadow of the coal mines of Norhteastern PA.  That story was written about a century before my birth and takes place in Whales, yet, it captured the sporting culture of where I grew up.  That story showed that no matter the era, sports is important to the people who sweat and bleed to feed their families.

In compiling such a varied array of essays and stories written by such a diverse group of writers, Jeff Silverman effectively communicates the timeless nature of boxing and of sports.  The Greatest Boxing Stories Ever Told is an excellent and pleasurable read for fans of boxing, fans of sport and fans of the human race.

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Anniversary Flashback: Arbitrary and Capricious Sports

dumb sports rules
Precision is required after arbitrary ball spotting.
If you turn on ESPN or AM radio, you will hear grown men and women discussing sports in the most serious terms.  They are discussing money and suspensions and drug use.  Even when they are discussing the actual games, you would sometimes think they were discussing military strategy.  Don't get me wrong.  I take sports seriously, too.  But if we all take a step back, we have to admit there are some really silly aspects to the sports we love so much.

In this post from 2014, Banshee Sports took a look at the arbitrary and capricious aspects of sports.  It's a humorous look at the ridiculous things that are life and death matters for sports fans.

This is actually the third most popular post in the history of Banshee Sports.

The Arbitrary and Capricious World of Sports

Sports are the ultimate meritocracy.  Color and creed do not matter.  Whoever runs the fastest, throws the farthest and performs in the clutch can win glory in the world of sports.  The underdog always has a chance.  David can beat Goliath if his aim is true.  And yet, some aspects of sports are incredibly arbitrary.

I'm not talking about luck here.  This list is not about bad hops at third base, golf balls landing in divots or gusts of wind pushing field goals wide of the uprights.  This list is restricted to situations where the very rules themselves create arbitrary and capricious results.  Click here to continue reading.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Serena Williams is Super Special

Serena Williams celebrate
Serena celebrates the 2015 Wimbledon title
Hot takes are all the rage in the information age.  But, there once was a time when the public would wait days and even weeks to hear and share thoughts on a sports topic.  I am old enough to remember those times.  So is Serena Williams.  So, despite the passing of a little time since she last made headlines, I want to pay homage to the greatest female athlete of all time.

Yes, I said it.  Serena Williams is the greatest female athlete of all time.  I know that is a bold statement.  Before I get deeper into this discussion, I want to say that I was not always a Serena fan.  I have praised her on this blog in the past, but as the older sister in my family, if I was cheering for a Williams sister, I was cheering for Venus.  But, over the past few years, the greatness of Serena has been undeniable.  And, perhaps more importantly, the sheer joy she exhibits on the court embodies what sports are supposed to be.

On July 9, 2016, at the ancient tennis age of 34, Serena Williams won the women's title at Wimbledon for the 7th time.  The victory gave Serena her 22nd career major victory.  That put Serena in a tie with the iconic Steffi Graf for the most Grand Slam victories of all time.  Tying that record in this era is truly astounding.  The field in women's tennis during Serena's career is far deeper than it was in Graf's day.  As if the singles championship was not enough work for one day, Serena returned to the court later in the afternoon to capture the doubles championship with her sister Venus.  This was the fourth time that Serena won both of those prestigious titles in the same day.

Although it is a Wimbledon victory that prompted this post, Serena Williams is by no means just a grass court specialist.  Serena has won on all surfaces.  In fact, she has captured the Serena Slam twice in her career.  The most amazing part of that is that those magical years were separated by more than a decade.

I realize that recency bias is a plague of the sports blogosphere, but this declaration of Serena's greatness has been over a decade in the making.  I am not going to defend this declaration by tearing down the accomplishments of others.  Instead, I just want to take a moment to recognize the greatness of Serena Williams before it is over.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

NASCAR Down the Stretch

NASCAR is headed into the home stretch towards the Chase for the Championship.  With the completion of today's road race at Sonoma, there are only 10 races left before the 16-driver field is set for the Chase.  It is time to take a look back at what has happened so far and what to expect as summer turns to fall.

Stewart wins Sonoma 2016
Stewart takes the lead at Sonoma (Crabill/Getty)
Predictions and Chalk.  I don't get a lot of chances to do this, so I'm gonna spend some time tooting my own horn to start this post.  Back when I wrote the NASCAR preview post, I predicted that all four Gibbs teams would make the Chase.  At this point in the season, all four would qualify.  In fact, everyone I mentioned as a strong contender this year would currently make the Chase.

To be fair, though, it's not too hard to make good predictions when there have been so few surprises.  Part of the excitement of the Chase format is that anyone who wins a race is almost assured a playoff position.  This means there is the potential for a surprise someone to jump into the championship picture.  Up to this point this year, the Chase field is made up of the big boys.  Up until today's race at the Sonoma road course, no one was qualified for the race by virtue of a win that would not have otherwise been qualified by points.

Tony Stewart's win at Sonoma was the first win of the year by a driver back deep in the points, but a Smoke win can hardly be considered a shocker.  After all, Stewart is a defending series champ and was only deep in the points because of missing the start of the season with a non-racing back injury.

Kyle Larson 2016
Kyle Larson needs a win in 2016
Looking Ahead.  With ten races left to go before the Chase starts, there are still plenty of chances for an outsider to sneak in and for a solid points guys to nail down a slot with win.  The remaining ten races include a variety of interesting tracks.  Among those ten races are the high banks of Daytona, the Brickyard, the Tricky Triangle at Pocono, Darlington, a re-paved and reconfigured Kentucky and the road course at Watkins Glen.

Among the guys currently on the outside of the Chase looking in who have a strong chance to win and get in are Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson, Greg Biffle and Paul Menard.  Daytona, in particular, presents an excellent chance for the Hendrick powered Kahne and the super speedway savvy Menard to notch a victory.  If any of those guys nab a win, it could make things very dicey for the likes of fan-favorite Dale, Jr. and sentimental favorite Ryan Blaney.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Anniversary Flashback: Baseball, Family and History

anthracite coal region
Baseball that beaned Johnny Pitts in 1898
The anniversary selection for June was the hardest decision of the year.  My two favorite posts that I've ever written were both in June.  Both involved the importance of family and roots in the sports world.  In June of 2012, I wrote a post called Loyalty, Tears and the Joy of Fandom.  In that post, written the night Dale, Jr. broke a four-year winless streak, I discussed the raw emotions that sports engender when they are part of your family's life.

But, after seeking the advice of a few close advisors, I chose a post from June of 2013 called Baseball, Family and History.  This post is a true story about my family in the coal region of Pennsylvania.

I am re-posting this in June in honor of my grandfather Bill "Lefty" Wetzel.

Baseball, Family and History

At a ball field carved out of the coal-filled mountains of Pennsylvania, Johnny Pitts stepped to the plate.  It was the summer of 1898 in Locustdale, PA ... a town that exists solely because of the anthracite veins that run beneath the ground.  Pitts was a small but wiry man.  He spent his weekdays toiling in the mines -- a job he started as a breaker boy at the age of eight.  It was a dark and dangerous existence.  But on this day, the world was bright.

In February, Johnny had married the love of his life, Stella Horbach.  And on this day, Johnny was playing the game that would grow to become America's pastime.  As Johnny Pitts dug in at the plate, his world was bright.  But, in an instant, it turned dark.  Click to read more.

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Monday, May 30, 2016


If you are a sports fan and you've never seen NASCAR race in person, you need to add a weekend at the racetrack to your sports to-do list.  I did not grow up a NASCAR fan.  It wasn't until my family started moving out of the Rust Belt and into the Bible Belt ... and specifically into the NASCAR industry ... that my attention shifted to NASCAR.  NASCAR takes a lot of criticism in the sports world.  Much of that criticism is warranted, but the live NASCAR experience is truly special in the sports world.

NASCAR pit pass
Pre-race grid at the Bristol XFinity Series race
Sights, Sounds and Smells.  Every live sporting event is a spectacle.  But, some events are more spectacular than others.  NASCAR takes spectacle to a whole new level.  Before the engines even fire, the cars lined up on pit road are visually dazzling.  So bright and so colorful.  With a pit pass that can be purchased by the general public, a spectator can wander amongst the cars as they are lined up on the grid pre-race and look their favorite drivers in the eye.  Then there is the sound.  You do not just hear a race.  You feel a race.  It is impossible to describe the feeling in your chest when the full field of 40 cars comes past your seat at full speed for the first time.  There is also a unique smell to a car race.  The odor of hot asphalt, rubber and exhaust make the fans feel like they are part of the action in a special way.

Eavesdropping.  In a sport where the stars are contained in cocoon-like cars, it may seem surprising to say that NASCAR provides a more intimate fan experience than any other sport.  Due to radio access fans can know the true personalities of their favorite drivers and team members in a way that is impossible in other sports.  With a rented scanner or Fanvision equipment, you can hear every single radio conversation from every single race team.  This is the equivalent of listening in to a huddle in football or meetings on the mound in baseball.

Hellmans pit crew
JRM's 88 pit crew pre-race at Richmond
Mid-Pack Action.  A lot of the drama in a car race involves cars that are fighting to stay on the lead lap or are battling to be the first car only one lap down.  This action is almost never shown on TV.  Live, you can watch those battles all race long.  And, as mentioned above, you can listen to the spotters guide the drivers through this traffic.  At almost every moment in a race, there are cars battling for position.  When you attend a race in person, you can focus on any part of the action you want at all times.

In this modern era of 60-inch HD TVs and surround sound, sustaining live attendance is a challenge for all sports.  NASCAR will always offer something at the track that simply cannot be duplicated at home.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Anniversary Flashback: Shrimp Fajitas

Mexican food
Shrimp fajitas and a gold margarita
The tagline for this website is "Sports.  Entertainment.  Food.  And more sports."  Cooking with Banshee posts appeared from time to time in the first year of this site, but in January of 2013, Banshee Sports put a new emphasis on the epicurean arts.  At that time, Banshee Sports committed to having a food recipe and a drink recipe posted every month.  We started a whole subpage with a link on the right side of the page.  We also had guest posts.

This Shrimp Fajita post from May of 2014 might not be the absolute best recipe to ever appear on this site, but it is one of the most photogenic dishes I've ever made.  This recipe also contains links to Banshee's terrific guac, salsa and margarita recipes.

Cooking with Banshee:  Shrimp Fajitas

Mexican food is one of the easiest and most delicious food genres to make at home.  This is a super simple fajita recipe based on a concept published at  I do the shrimp on the grill and the veggies on the stove, but you can do either ingredient on either cooking surface.

This recipe makes about ten servings.  Click here to continue reading.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Movie Review: Creed

Creed debuted in theaters in November, stirred up Oscar talk in February and was released to DVD in March.  Inexplicably, it took me until April to see the film.  With Creed, the seventh installment of the series, the Rocky franchise takes a leap forward while keeping a firm grip on the past.  It's a winning combination that will satisfy old fans and win over a new generation.

Creed begins in a California juvenile detention center where an orphan boy with a penchant for fist fights is given a second chance at life when he learns that he is the son of the legendary Apollo Creed and is adopted by Creed's widow.  As the plot unfolds, an adult Adonis, played by Michael B. Jordan, learns what it truly means to be a fighter and what it means to bear his famous father's last name.  Along the way, Adonis makes his way to Philadelphia where he convinces Rocky Balboa to come out of retirement to train him in the ring and in life.

Creed is a standalone movie, but it is a far richer experience for viewers who are familiar with the original films.  Despite this connection to the past, the franchise took a leap forward by injecting young and talented blood into the mix with writer-director Ryan Cooler and leading man Michael B. Jordan.  Acting alongside the young Jordan, an aging Sylvester Stallone delivered a performance worthy of his best supporting actor nomination.  But, at the end of the day, Creed is still a Rocky movie with all the melodrama and predictability that has characterized the franchise since Rocky III.

Creed is a perfect next step in the Rocky saga.  It is uplifting and entertaining and an all-around fun two hours of entertainment.

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