The sports world has given us a lot to talk about this week, and most of it has been pretty big headline stuff. 

The Astros, Red Sox and Mets got hit with pretty hefty penalties for their actions in the sign-stealing situation and the NFL playoffs have wound down to the Super Bowl. I will touch on all of those things, but first I want to talk about something local. 

All basketball fans know how much fun March Madness can be, and that might be even more of the case here in Illinois. 

The IHSA also has the title of “March Madness” for its own tournament through regionals to the state championship game. But the one thing that gets overlooked are conference/county tournaments. Sometimes bragging rights is the most important thing you can win in sports. 

So this week a lot of area small touwns and counties get a chance at bragging rights.

Fisher and Armstrong-Potomac boys and girls teams both started their respective tournaments on Saturday. If you go to the games you will notice the crowds are a little bigger, and it gives the players a chance to play in different arenas and gyms they would not normally get to play in. 

The HOIC/McClean county tournament is played mostly in Bloomington at the Shirk Center on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University.

The Vermillion County Tournament that is attended by Armstrong-Potomac is played at Palmer Arena in Danville. 

These games are so fun to watch, and I encourage anyone who can, take the opportunity to head to a conference/county tournament this week. 

MLB chaos 

A little more than a month ago I wrote about what I thought should happen to the Astros. I thought suspensions were needed, and they came last week. 

The Astros, Mets and Red Sox are all looking for new coaches this because of their former coaches’ actions in the Astros’ cheating scandal. 

Most people, including myself, thought the firings and fines were going to be the end of the story. 

Little did we know the story was just getting started. 

It came out on Wednesday that it is possible members of the 2017 Astros were wearing buzzers that would tell them what pitch was coming during the game. 

I am going to keep it simple. If that is true, and the Astros did that I think, this would be the biggest case of cheating in the history of the MLB. The two biggest previous scandals were Pete Rose gambling and the steroid area. 

 I think Pete Rose should be allowed in the Hall of Fame. What he did was gamble on his own team to win. Now I am not condoning the action, but I think his time has been served as far as what his punishment should have been. 

Betting on your team to win and cheating to the point to where you know what pitch is coming are completely different. 

And my point with the steroid era has two parts. 

The first part is, yes, using steroids is a huge advantage, but you still have to have a very high amount of baseball talent to make it that far in the pros. 

There are plenty of guys who are very strong but cannot hit a baseball at a high clip. I would argue it is a lot easier to hit when you know exactly what pitch is coming. Also when the steroid era happened, everyone was using steroids, so although it was illegal, the playing field was almost even because of the number of guys who were juicing. If this is in fact true then in my opinion anyone that they can prove used a buzzer has to be suspended at least a year. Hopefully there will be a clear answer within the next few weeks.

Super Bowl

This Super Bowl is going to be awesome. The Cheifs and 49ers have been right at the top all season and bring plenty of headlines all season. 

The world is going to get to see Patrick Mahomes on the biggest stage his sport has to offer and man will it be fun to watch. 

Mahomes is by far the most electric player in the league and he showed why on Sunday. The play he made right before half was just down right jaw dropping and I hope he brings that to the Super Bowl. 

On the other side San Francisco brings a whole different style. I slept on them all season due to that fact that they don’t have a super star on offense. Sure Garrapolo is very good but I was not sure he would be able to perform on the big stage. Well, he idn’t have to on Sunday. Garrapolo only threw eight passes the entire game but that was because the Packers could not stop the run. I was 100 percent wrong about how good the 49ers were and I can admit that. Also a cool little hidden story line is that Garrapolo gets a shot at the team he tore his ACL against last year. The 49ers season may have looked a lot different last year if he would not of gone out for the year in week three at Kansas City. 

As far a prediction for the game, I think Kansas City will win a very close game.

I know I just talked about how I have been sleeping on San Fransico and Garrapolo all year but I guess I will have to do it again. I think this game will come down to the very end and I have to give the edge to Mahomes. Either way it is nice to have Super Bowl where I can watch with out hating one or both of the teams playing.

You can contact Ryan Birch at or on Twitter @RyanBirchRP