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The Grand Daddy (of Rowing) of Them All

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“Rowing is perhaps the toughest of sports,” wrote Daniel James Brown in his classic The Boys in the Boat.  “Once the race starts, there are no time-outs, no substitutions.  It calls upon on the limits of human endurance.”

Held on the penultimate full-weekend in October, the Head of the Charles is “the world’s largest two-day rowing event.”  No time-outs.  No substitutions.  It will be, as Brown captured, a grand test of endurance for more than 11,000 athletes worldwide participating in 55 different races.      

The course itself is known as much for its difficultly as its beauty.  Weeks Bridge is the specific example that makes the general point.  It was built for pedestrian traffic between Harvard Business School (HBS) and the main campus in Cambridge. The difficult turn is complicated further by heavy spectator noise.

This rigorous racecourse that is the Head of the Charles no doubt will make its impositions. It’s length is punitive. As Daniel Brown James wrote, difficulty is a given in rowing.  “It is a question of what you will do, and how well you will do it, while pain has her wanton way with you.”  It is one reason the Head of the Charles has been called the Super Bowl of Rowing. 

If you are in the Boston area, it is an obvious addition to the weekend list.  If you haven’t been to the race, it is worth considering for your sports bucket list in the years to come.

Powers Trigg

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Friday Night Lights (Dimming)?

The fall football landscape has been filled with noise this fall.  Everyone is talking about the Chargers and their stadium filled with fans of their opponents; and the Twittersphere has been filled with pictures of empty seats across the League.

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Beyond the stadium, the television landscape also is trending in the wrong direction.  According to Sports Media Watch, viewership declined year-over-year in 9 of the 13 televisions windows where games were played.

What are the causal factors?  The big flashpoint has been the National Anthem.  It has dominated the headlines.  Polling data (Remington Polling) had 64% saying that they do think “NFL players should stand and be respectful during the national anthem.”  25% said no.  11% were unsure. It may be a part of the story.

In addition to the anthem, ticket prices have continued to increase.  At the same time, the cost of technology and “skinny” cable bundles to deliver the games has plummeted.  In the competition between the stadium and the family room, the cost equation is trendy heavily toward stay-at-home options.  It too may be a piece of the equation.

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The biggest, systemic issue for the NFL as they look out beyond the current noise, however, may be declining youth participation.  The risk of traumatic brain injury has parents opting out of football participation by their kids.  The above graph perfectly tells the story and captures the trend.  If they don’t play, it is fair to ask what that will mean for their future attendance, viewership and even core knowledge of the game.

Football is still without equal among the Big Four professional sports.  The long term question, beyond the current noise, is will they maintain that position in the decades to come?

Powers Trigg

Posted in NFL, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

The Moose Is Loose

On Wednesday, September 20th, Mike Moustakas hit his 37th home run of 2017.  The “Moose” now holds the record for the most home runs in a single season by a Kansas City Royal.

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Moustakas is a free agent at the end of the regular season, along with a collection of the core players that were part of the 2015 World Series team.  He has had an incredible run and a number of Kansas City faithful will be sorry to see him bid adieu to the Royals.  His journey was an up and down one that demonstrated a level of grit and determination that is the hallmark of a player that has success at the MLB level.

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Congratulations, Moose.

Powers Trigg

 

 

Posted in MLB, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

The Final Slam: US Open 2017

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Flushing Meadows incapsulates the best things about tennis. The final tennis slam of the year may not have the whites of the All-England Club or the sun-dappled splendor of the clay at Roland Garros.  The U.S. Open is tennis with an American flavor: big, chaotic and brash. With the draws posted and the first round looming, here are three major storylines to focus on as New York becomes a playground for some of the greats of the game.

I. 20?

Will Federer make history? It is the question on the mind of every tennis fan.  Federer could make history in multiple ways with a victorious U.S. Open performance. A win would give him 20 Grand Slam Titles, cementing his legacy as the Greatest tennis player to ever walk the face of the earth. Nadal is the closest to Federer with 15. However, Nadal’s extremely demanding style of play and age (31) make it unlikely that Federer will be eclipsed. The attractiveness of twenty over nineteen notwithstanding, Federer would also have the most U.S. Open Titles in the modern era with six if he triumphs in New York.

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While Federer has played with aplomb throughout the year, this will not be a march to the title. A Third Round matchup with Verdasco could give him difficulties. And of course, Nadal looms in the semifinals.  They have played just about everywhere, but have not met at Flushing Meadows.  Even if Fed can navigate his side of the draw, one must wonder: what will the great, but aging champion have left in the tank if he reach the finals?

II. Where Did All the Stars Go?

Injury woes have plagued the tour. Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic battled in the finals last year. They both have withdrawn from this year’s Open due to injury. Joining them are Andy Murray (the two seed), Milos Ranoic, and Kei Nishikori. The incredible physical demands of top level tennis have come under immense scrutiny.  The hard court season is particularly demanding.  

Professional Tennis is a 12-month endeavor.  It has led to an injury epidemic that is unprecedented.  Will the ATP make changes?  What will the implications be for warm up tournaments like Cincinnati?  Does more need to be done to ensure that the best players are the major fields and, as possible, playing injury-free tennis.

III. After the Big Four…

Given the injury epidemic, this year’s tournament will be prime for young stars looking to make an impact. Names like Cincinnati, Sock, and Shapovalov will be tossed around as dark horses to watch as the second week begins.  The big name to watch may be: Zervev.  While it is hard to call a number 4 seed a dark horse, he certainly isn’t dominating the pre-tournament storylines.  He brings huge shots to the table. At 6’6, his serve can reach speeds of 135 mph.  His two-handed backhand is his best shot. If he continues to move well, there is no one the 20 year-old should fear in the draw.      

The magic of New York will be on full display this September. Let’s hope for a memorable U.S Open. And of course, for those of us that love Federer, that the great champion has the opportunity to lift the trophy one last time.

Powers Trigg

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Ben Hewitt: The Town That Food Saved

Ben Hewitt’s The Town That Food Saved chronicles the rise of the local foods community in Hardwick, Vermont.  Hewitt makes the compelling case that a collection of agri-preneurs helped “save” this small Northeastern town.

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The Hewitt narrative triggered some deeper thinking about the role that sports play in a community.  The commonalities are striking.  They often are core to a turnaround effort.  They drive economic impact.  Most importantly, they have a material cultural impact, often shaping and strengthening the psyche of a city.

Kansas City, and their multi-decade journey with the Chiefs, are a perfect Hewitt use case.  Consider the facts.

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The arrival of the Chiefs spurred an economic revival. In 1951, flooding destroyed the Kansas City Stockyards, a centerpiece of the city’s economic activities (the total flood caused nearly $935 million dollars in damage).  The City was in shambles.

In 1963, the arrival of the Chiefs signaled a return to prestige for a town that had lost its main source of revenue and its identity (hence Kansas City’s reputation for being a cowtown). Only 30 cities have NFL teams. Kansas City is one of them.  The presence of  an NFL team is a distinct differentiator from Kansas City’s regional neighbors with a major economic impact.

Kansas City has also benefited culturally from the Chiefs. The Chiefs helped build Kansas City’s image as an All-American town. Games were, and still are, family affairs. There is little emphasis on corporate boxes and the other maladies that have plagued organizations in big swing town from New York to Houston and Dallas to Los Angles. The incredible noise that Chiefs fans are able to project is ingrained in the culture. The Chiefs gave the city a purpose.

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Finally, the Chiefs have had a great impact on the community. Despite the large socioeconomic, ethnic and racial divide that shapes Kansas City, everybody loves the Chiefs. The City, it has been said, bleeds Red and Gold. We embrace players like Len Dawson and Eric Berry with equal vigor. Community is built at Arrowhead.

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The power of a sports team is often delegitimized by academics and non-sports journalists. If we are to borrow from the title from Hewitt’s book, however, the arrival of the Chiefs saved Kansas City in the same way that organic food is saving Hardwick, VT.  The Chiefs improved the economy, had immense cultural benefits, and helped the community unite. It is, in a phrase, what they call Arrowhead Pride.

Powers Trigg

Posted in Book Review, NFL, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sports Dead Zone?

Pundits in the traditional media, and on talk radio, love to debate the worst time of year to be a sports fan.  As the thermometer hits triple digits in the Midwest and on the West Coast, it is hard not to take a deeper look at the current window and ask the question: is July/August the top sports dead zone of the calendar year?

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Let’s consider the worst of the worst argument:

  1. The NBA is done and most hockey fans are left to wonder in the offseason about little else than parity and whether Golden State can be stopped in the 2017-2018 season.
  2. The NHL, likewise, is finished with the Penguins hoisting their Stanley Cup and various analysts asking who amongst the 31 teams can win next season.
  3. The teams in the English Premier League aren’t racking up points in the standings.  They are racking up revenues with a collection of international friendlies that offer little more than the chance to see your “favourite” icons.
  4. We are in the opening window the NFL season, but the preseason has never been more loathed by players or the season ticket holders forced to buy tickets as part of their seat packages.
  5. Finally, a level below the Big Four, Wimbledon has concluded and the British Open has a new owner of the Claret Jug.  For tennis fans, it is long wait until the end of August and the U.S. Open.

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Adam Shemesh, Ezra Troy and the lovers of baseball will invariably weigh in on behalf of baseball.  However, there is little to suggest that anything that happens in the month of August will prove decisive in the outcome of the World Series.  We all have our teams; are hoping they perform well after the trade deadline; also understand that the standings offer a decent view of who will thrive in the postseason.

Let’s hear your thoughts.  Is there a worse window in professional sports?

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What do you think?  I tend to argue that the post-Super Bowl season is the low point in the calendar.  However, the current window is less than perfect.  A compelling case can be made.

Powers Trigg

Posted in Featured Content Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sporting KC Owner Neal Patterson

Neal Patterson, businessman and long-time owner of the professional soccer franchise Sporting KC, passed away this last weekend.  He was 67.

On Tuesday night at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Mr. Patterson was recognized during the match against FC Dallas in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

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The Sporting KC leadership painted his name on the field, had orange and black armbands put on the SKC kit (the colors of his alma mater, the Oklahoma State Cowboys) and offered a moment of silence as the flags stood at half-staff.  Then, the rowdies in the Cauldron began to chant, “Thank You Neal Patterson.”  SKC would go on to deliver a 3-o victory in an extra-time thriller.

Neal Patterson reminds us that when a big vision meets execution great things happen in professional sports.  When I interviewed him once for a history project on Lamar Hunt, he remarked that Hunt “enjoyed the power of the big idea and managing the detail.”

Mr. Patterson also told me that “owning a professional sports team was never part of any long-term plan.”  After dinner with Hunt at the Capital Grille on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, he said to Mr. Illig, “We just had dinner with the most successful sports entrepreneur in the world. We should do this.”

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The decision by Mr. Patterson and Mr. Illig to buy Sporting KC not only kept professional soccer in Kansas City.  It spawned a top MLS team.  It helped Kansas City become the Soccer Capital of the U.S.

As the Cauldron chanted Tuesday night, “Thank You Neal Patterson.”

Powers Trigg

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Posted in Other, Soccer Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Going, Going, Gone: A Quick Look at the Home Run Derby

[The Midsummer Classic is a great midpoint to the summer.  It is a tradition that dates to 1933 and, in my opinion, is one of the best all-star formats in major professional sports (along with the MLS which, as many readers know, features the best players in North America against a top non-US team (for 2017, they will face Real Madrid).

The All-Star festivities kicks off on Monday night with the casual fan-favorite, the Home Run Derby.  The game itself will be played Tuesday night.  As readers get ready, MyESPNforKids Staff Writer Elliott Glass is here with a nice piece about the beloved long ball competition.] 

Baseball fans love the Home Run Derby.  On Monday, June 10, the 2017 Home Run Derby will be held in Miami at Marlins Stadium. The start time for this annual slugfest will be 8PM ET/7PM CT.  The participants in the Home Run Derby will be:

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  1. Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies
  3. Justin Bour, Miami Marlins
  4. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
  5. Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals
  6. Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
  7. Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins
  8. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

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Some baseball analysts say that after the Derby the players swing gets hurt.  This view is a result of the fact that many of the participants in the Home Derby have under-performed during the second half of the season.  With Miami and New York both having two players in the contest, their fans are hoping that it is not the case.

In looking at the eight player, it seems clear that three players have the best chance to win. First, you have Giancarlo Stanton, the hitting expert for the Marlins.  In addition, there is Aaron Judge, the biggest story for the Yankees during the first half of 2017.   Finally, there is late entrant and 3rd baseman for the red hot Kansas City Royals, Mike Moustakas.

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The Royals have not had a player in the Home Run Derby since 1991.  The player was: Danny “The Bull” Tartabull. He hit two home runs.  Cal Ripken, Jr, the future Hall of Famer and great author of books on baseball for kids (Junior All-Star Series), hit 12 home runs for top honors.  Will Moose do better than the Bull?

The Home Run Derby should be a lot of fun for kids and adults alike.  We would love to hear from readers about their pick for the top home run hitter on Monday night. My pick is Mike Moustakas.

Elliott Glass

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NBA DRAFT: Winners and Losers

[It can be easy to forget that there are actually 30 teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA).  Yes, it is true.  There are more than two teams. You can look it up.  They also haven’t given up on the idea that they can be competitive with the Warriors and the Cavs.  If they are going to make any kind of run at relevance, the Draft has to be an essential part of their approach.  Fortunately, Ezra and Roey give us a great look at the winners and losers as we begin to think aloud about what growing NBA parity might look like in the years ahead.]

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I. Winners:

Minnesota Timberwolves: The Wolves were able to find both a star and a player to mentor their young core, one of the best in the league, by giving up a relatively unremarkable package for Jimmy Butler, easily a top 15 player. He can help the Wolves by vastly improving their weakest point, defense, as well as giving the Wolves a big three (Butler, Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins) and improving on one of the best young rosters on the league. This move will immediately vault the T-Wolves into playoff contention and give them a shot to knock of the Warriors in the coming years as their many young assets continue to grow and mature.

Charlotte Hornets: While the Hornets made a kind of risky move by trading for Dwight Howard pre-draft, they got the biggest steal of the draft when projected top-seven pick Malik Monk fell to them at eleven, giving them one of the most athletic players in the draft to compliment their star point guard, Kemba Walker.

Los Angeles Lakers and Lavar Ball: Of course Lavar Ball and his basketball family stole the show at the draft with their flashy outfits, bold statements and Big Baller Brand merchandise. The Lakers drafted the first of the Ball sons, Lonzo, in a move to try to finish up their rebuilding process.  This move, ostensibly to get them their point guard of the future, comes in addition to the salary dump of Timofey Mozgov designed to open up enough cap room next summer to sign Paul George and another max free agent to finish their rebuilding process and bring back the Lakers glory days.

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Philadelphia 76’ers: Years of “trusting the process” looks like it finally paid off for this Philly organization. Markelle Fultz at number 1 represents the present for this team which could be good for a very long time. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Fultz look to start the Sixers dynasty to complete the process started by Sam Hinkie all those years ago.

Golden State Warriors: The Warriors entered the draft with no picks but when they saw Jordan Bell had fallen out of the first round and was available, they quickly made a deal with Chicago, sending 3.5 million in cash in exchange for the pick used to select Jordan Bell. Bell, a freakishly athletic player with enormous defensive upside, should find a spot on this already stacked team and contribute right away and attempt to help the Golden State dynasty reach their fourth consecutive finals appearance next season.

Sacramento Kings: Sacramento began their rebuild by trading away Demarcus Cousins this year. The Kings entered the draft hoping to add to their young core of Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley Stein with selections number five and ten in this year’s draft. At number five Sacramento took De’Aaron Fox, who has the potential to be a franchise PG and is being compared to John Wall. Sacramento then traded away the 10th pick for for the 15th and 20th selections, used to take ACC player of the year Justin Jackson and Harry Giles, respectively. Giles, the number one recruit out of high school, never really got a chance to show his skills as his college career was derailed by injuries (look up his high school mixtape and you will see what a steal Sacramento got at 20). If Giles can return to pre-injury form, the Kings may have found the dominant center who can play alongside Cauley-Stein and replace Demarcus Cousins.

II. Losers:

Bulls: The Bulls have been getting offers for Jimmy Butler since last year’s draft, but they finally felt this was the right package – a mediocre frequently injured shooting guard, a former lottery pick whose college talent hasn’t translated into talent in the NBA yet and the seventh overall pick, which was used on sharpshooting power forward, Lauri Menarken, who might have been the best thing they got from this terrible trade. Not only did they give up Jimmy Butler for this underwhelming package, but they also gave up their first round pick this year! Although this was the right move, the Bulls started off their rebuild in the completely wrong way by getting a terrible return for one of the league’s best players.

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Phil Jackson: Since he took over the Knicks four years ago, the Knicks have posted an 80-166 record. Leading up to the draft, there were rumors swirling that he would trade the one good player he has picked up since taking over this franchise – Kristaps Porzingis. Luckily, he didn’t pull the trigger on a trade, but he did pull the trigger on a questionable pick in the draft. With an explosive PG with major upside improbably still on the board (Dennis Smith Jr), Phil passed and instead took the more risky, selection and selected the 18 year old French phenom, point guard Frank Ntilikina . Phil, this may not be a terrible pick, but you are still running this franchise into the ground with your other awful drafts, terrible contracts and obsession with the triangle, and you are heading into Isaiah Thomas territory with your poor GM’ing. As a Knicks fan, I will be overjoyed when you leave.

Jarrett Allen and Aleksandar Vezenkov: Allen, drafted 22nd overall and Vezenkov, drafted 57th, will soon join the laughing stock of the NBA, the Brooklyn Nets. Being drafted to the NBA is a dream come true for these young players who have been working up to this their entire lives. But Allen and Vezenkov come out as losers as they are joining a team who is unlikely to compete for a while, thanks to the worst trade in NBA history, which is still affecting them five years later and will most likely affect them for the next five years as well.

Ezra Troy and Roey Herzfeld

Posted in Featured Content, NBA Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The QB

The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks

Football seems like the last thing that I should write about as the thermometer moves about 90 F.  At the same time, we are just 45 days removed from the end of the draft. Mandatory mini-camps have kicked off. If you’re not a baseball fan, you need something to do given that the NBA and NHL are now on offseason hiatus.

One of the clear narratives within the NFL at the moment is: the QB role is a determining position for any team hoping for a consistent presence in the postseason.  Recently, I had the chance to read Bruce Feldman book, The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks. With three quarterbacks taken in the first round this year, it is always interesting to consider what makes unheralded college quarterbacks stars (Tom Brady), and unheralded QBs that ended up being unprecedented busts (Ryan Leaf).

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I started reading this book with high expectations due to the entertaining subject matter.  The book exceeded my expectations. Feldman writes in a style that makes some of the issues seem innately complex, but at the same time, easily digestible for a causal football fan. He covers the marquee camps (Elite 11, Manning), the key players (two whole chapters dedicated to college Johnny Football), and the newest developments in the QB-world (brain typing, Axon sports video training).

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The NFL has never been more QB-centric at any time in its half century history.  Bruce Feldman and The QB: The Making of the Modern Quarterbacks is a great read for a football fan wanting to better understand the position and hungry for the gridiron in the heat of summer.   

Powers Trigg

Posted in Book Review, NFL Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tim Howard: The Keeper

Tim Howard: The Keeper

With soccer at its highest level of popularity in American history, it seems only fitting to review a great read about what the Brazilian great Pele called the beautiful game. Tim Howard has been a stalwart in goal his entire career.  Howard became well-known in American popular culture after his performance in the 2014 World Cup.  Most notably, his performance in the Round of 16 against Belgium was breathtaking. Howard finished the game with 15 saves, a World Cup record.  

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Howard’s autobiography is one terrific piece of work in a career that has been full of them. It is rare that we see such a heartfelt memoir from a professional athlete of Howard’s caliber.  One might put The Keeper in the same category as Agassi’s Open. Howard muses on his hardscrabble upbringing, his lifelong struggle with Tourette’s Syndrome and OCD, his decision to forgo college, and his illustrious professional career. Howard manages to show the reader the highs and lows of his career in a way that isn’t watered down. 

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A story about overcoming adversity and conquering all challenges will resonate with readers long after they have put the book down.  Diehard footie fan, or casual observer, you need to read this book.  It is the perfect page turner for the summer offseason.   

Powers Trigg

Posted in Book Review, Soccer Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Iconic Sportswriter Frank Deford Passes Away

He was, without a doubt, one of the true giants in the field of sports journalism.  Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Deford III passed away at his home in Florida this week.  The American sportswriter and novelist was 78.

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In chronicling his sad departure, his decades-long broadcasting soapbox National Public Radio called him a “longtime philosopher on sports.”  He was just that.

Deford was more than an iconic voice.  He was a prolific writer.  He joined the ranks of Sports Illustrated in 1962 and never looked back.  In addition to generating countless rows of copy for a collection of top national publications like SI, Deford also published more than 20 books including his recent Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter and The Old Ball Game chronicling the rise of modern baseball.  If you haven’t had a chance to read them, you should.

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Deford wasn’t afraid of a rhetorical fistfight on sports topics of the day and he often defended America’s obsession with sports.  He was unequivocal: “it deserves to have as much attention paid to it.”  It is, Deford rightly understood, an “important part of our human culture.”

For those of us that love to play, watch and debate every variant of sport at every level of play, Deford was in an elite fraternity of writers and commentators that helped us see the subtleties of the game and its larger cultural narrative alike.

Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Deford III “hung up his cleats for good” this week.  He will be missed.

Powers Trigg

Posted in Featured Content, Other Tagged with: , , , , ,

Readership Jumps (Again!)

MyESPNforkids.com is a commitment from a small group of students that love sports.   We hail from cities all across the country, giving us different teams that we champion.  We also follow certain games with more intensity than others.  We hope the result is a unique perspective on the sports that you love and the teams that you follow. 

Over the course of 2017, we have continued to set new record for readership.  Our page views are jumping higher that Jordan in his prime. Thank you for your loyalty to this site. 

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In the summer, we will be adding a new social media package that should lead to the next wave of growth.  Until then, we will be winning over readers the old-fashioned way: quality writing for kids generated by kids.    

The storylines are all sitting right there.  Baseball season is in full swing.  The NFL Draft is looming.  NHL playoffs bring exciting intrigue.  The NBA postseason is shifting into high gear.  Chelsea fans would let me have it if I didn’t mention the EPL.

It is a great time to be writing, reading and thinking about sports. Thank you for your support

MyESPNforkids staff

Posted in Other

NCAA: Final Four Cancelled!

In an amazing development, the NCAA has cancelled the Final Four tournament in Phoenix, Arizona.  

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Many theories are circulating on the Internet and social media surrounding the cancellation. Among widespread speculation, here are several theories that seem to carry the greatest level of credibility.

One, Jordan Bell may only be 6’9, but he has been an absolute force in the paint during Oregon’s run to the Final Four. Therefore, some are speculating that Roy Williams is afraid of Jordan Bell’s shot-blocking ability.  Bell has blocked 12 shots and committed only three fouls.  Interesting.

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Two, Xavier pulled off one of the greatest bracket busters of March Madness.  The Arizona Wildcats suffered a devastating 2-point loss to the Musketeers in the Sweet 16.  It is a continuation of a tough trend for Arizona Coach Sean Miller.  He has made it to 10 NCAA tournaments, but never navigated his way to the Final Four. He would have had a strong home state advantage in Phoenix.  Are we dealing with a wayward Wildcat fan?

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Three, there is widespread speculation that the beloved mascot for Gonzaga, Spike the Bulldog, had a tragic accident this weekend.  Apparently, he was attempting to jump through a Ring of Fire with this good friend and Phoenix Suns mascot, The Suns Gorilla.

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We will continue to keep MyESPNforkids readers update on this pivotal story in the hours ahead.  April 1 can be a busy day for reporting, but we will do our best to keep you apprised and ensure you aren’t fooled.

Elliott Glass

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March Madness: Coach Cal’s Cats Gone Wild

[Even our baseball expert Adam “Shem” Shemesh has caught the Madness!  You have to love the single-elimination craziness that is March.

Adam weighs in here with a piece on the Cats and their win in Memphis. My position on Calipari is well-established (and documented), consistent with the thinking of the great Robert Montgomery Knight.  Nonetheless, his win totals keep climbing.  Alas, there is no poetic justice in sports.  You can just ask the poor SI Kids reporter who set the Twitter-sphere on fire in the early AM hours.]

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Last night, the Kentucky Wildcats took on the UCLA Bruins in Memphis.  The game was heavily advertised and billed as a top Sweet 16 matchup.

For the first half, most of the headlines remained true. The two teams went at it exchanging lovetaps. Much-hyped Lonzo Ball sunk a three early and assisted on some nice passes, and Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox countered with 15 first half points. The role players also shone. T. J. Leaf was a strong presence inside for UCLA, and he led the team with 17 points on the night. On the other side of the ball, Malik Monk mixed in 7 first half tallies with a pair of steals and rebounds. Overall, the fast pace of play was refreshing, considering this writer was watching NBA basketball prior to turning on CBS for some college hoops. Kentucky led, 36-33, at the break.

In the second half, the Wildcats exploded, outscoring UCLA 50-42. Fox finished with an amazing 39 points, the highest total of any player this March. He did that while missing his only three point attempt, grinding for 13-20 shooting and making 13-15 free throws. UCLA, in their own right, had three double-digit scorers in Leaf (17), Lonzo Ball (10), Isaac Hamilton (13), and Bryce Alford (10). Some of those points came during the last five minutes or so, when Kentucky had built up a steady lead. With the 86-75 win, the Wildcats are moving on to yet another Elite Eight appearance under coach John Calipari’s reign.

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“Coach Cal” has popularized the term “one-and-done”, referring to Kentucky’s basketball program as a machine, annually pumping out NBA-ready talent. One of his one-and-done’s is Devin Booker, who was part of the magical run the Cats had during the 2014-15 season. While the Wildcats were playing on Friday night, Booker, now on the Phoenix Suns, etched his name in the record books by becoming just the sixth player in NBA history to score 70 points in a single game. He achieved the feat against the Boston Celtics, shooting 21/40 from the field, and nailing 25 free throws. When told the news after the game, Calipari exclaimed “He just showed up our whole team. We just had a great win, and everybody’s going to be talking about Devin Booker now.”

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Booker is just one of many NBA superstars that have gone through Lexington. Other notable names include Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins (Pelicans) and reigning NBA ROY Karl-Anthony Towns.

Calipari has turned the concept of one-and-done into an art form. Booker and the former Wildcats are reaping the benefits.

Adam Shemesh

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NCAAB: One Shining Moment

March Madness is the pinnacle of college sports. One only has took look at the annual March Madness video.  It offers the Why. Last-second heroics.  Stunning upsets.  Blinding emotion.  It is quintessential encapsulation of the iconic phrase,  “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”  

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College sports continue to thrive in this era of professionalism and commercialization. It does so because of the joy and passion in the game. We can all remember the greatest moments in NCAA tournament history. There was Christian Laettner’s turnaround.  Who can forget Lorenzo Charles’ dunk at the buzzer in the famed Survive and Advance season?  There was Steph Curry’s improbable tournament run with Davidson. And most recently, we had Kris Jenkins dragger three to win the championship for Villanova.

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People love March Madness because of the history. The tournament you know today really started in 1985, when the tournament expanded to 64 teams. This allowed mid-majors and other small schools to make the tournament consistently. March Madness today is known those high-powered mid-majors, but it wasn’t really until 1989 that it became a focal point. That year, #1 seed Georgetown played #16 Princeton in a back and forth game. At the game drew to a conclusion, Princeton was only down one, 49-50, and had a chance to take the last shot. It was blocked (many will tell you it was a foul), but the game nonetheless captivated America.  Games like these are why CBS signed an 8 year, 8.8 billion (yes, b) deal to exclusively cover the tournament.  

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The #1 seeds have been announced and there really were no surprises: Villanova, UNC, KU and Gonzaga. Villanova is looking to repeat as champions and are led by senior Josh Hart. North Carolina are a strong team, but after being trounced by Duke in the ACC tournament, they need to rebound (excuse the pun). Kansas are perennial under-performers in the tournament, but this talented team has a great chance to break the streak.  I said this evening that it may be KU’s year with a very favorable set of venues in the early rounds [first in Tulsa and then at the Sprint Center in Kansas City (or Allen Fieldhouse East as it is called given that it is just 42 miles from campus)]. Finally, Gonzaga are a strong team, but a weak schedule has led many to believe that they are overrated, similar to the strong Boise State football teams.

A number of players have a solid chance to make a major impact in the tournament.  Lonzo Ball is being touted as the consensus #1 draft pick. He has a silky jump shot coupled with fast-twitch athleticism. The combination makes him extremely hard for anyone to guard. While Greyson Allen has had a rollercoaster and disappointing year, look for him to step up in the tournament Finally, Frank Mason III has one more chance to deliver a championship to the KU faithful. You can expect fireworks for him.

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No matter how much we stress over our brackets, there will be an upset no one sees coming. The clock will strike midnight for a crowd favorite underdog. Tears will flow from Seniors as their last chance at immortality slips away. Diaper Dandies will shine. Prepare for the greatest annual event in American Sports. Prepare for Madness.   

Powers Trigg

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MLB: I Haven’t Seen You in a While

[Hopefully, everyone is enjoying Spring Break, getting ready for the college basketball madness of March and of course looking forward to Opening Day. No one has given it more quality thought than our man on the scene, Adam “Shem” Shemesh.  He is the Billy Beane of baseball writing.  

Adam gives us a third installment here featuring some players like Mike “Moose” Moustakas that are looking to affix the label, Comeback Kid, as they prepare for 2017 Opening Day.  We would love to hear your thoughts on anyone else that should be on this list, but is MIA (and has been MIA).]  

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Every year, countless MLBers go down to season-ending injuries. Here’s a list in case you may have forgotten any of these names.

AJ Pollock, Diamondbacks

2015 Stats: .315/20 HR/76 RBI/39SB

Diamondbacks fans were excited for an encore after Pollock burst onto the scene in 2015, swiping 39 bags with some power as well to earn his first All-Star game appearance and a Gold Glove Award for his defense in centerfield. Unfortunately, A. J. suffered a right elbow

fracture just days before opening day and was sidelined until late September, when he appeared in only 12 games.

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Mike Moustakas, Royals

2015 Stats: .284/22 HR/82 RBI

2015 was a great year for Moustakas. Along with being a World Series Champion, Mike made his first All-Star game and posted career highs in every major statistical category. He got off to a nice start in 2016 before colliding with Alex Gordon in early May, suffering a season-ending knee injury (Gordon missed about a month).

Michael Brantley, Indians

2015 Stats- .310/15 HR/84 RBI

Michael followed up his exceptional 2014 campaign (finished 2nd in MVP voting) by solidifying his status as an above-average outfielder with another good year in 2015. Going into 2016, he was considered the backbone of the Indians’ offense. On May 10, Brantley was pulled from a game due to soreness in his shoulder. This horrific injury sidelined Brantley for the entirety of the season, and he only began to start swinging the bat again in December. If the Indians pushed the Cubs to a 7-game series without Brantley, one can only imagine what they could have done if the star outfielder was healthy.

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David Wright and Matt Harvey, Mets

The Mets were undoubtedly hit the hardest by the injury bug in 2016, as all of their starters (except 41-year old Bartolo Colon) spent time on the disabled list. Wright has not played a full season since 2014. He played 38 games in 2015 and 37 in 2016. The New York captain is suffering from a serious injury called spinal stenosis, and it’s unlikely that Wright will be able to play at a high level ever again. As for Harvey, he enjoyed a great comeback campaign in 2015 after missing all of 2014. 2016 was a train wreck from the beginning for the Mets ace, and Harvey opted to undergo surgery to treat his thoracic outlet syndrome, an injury that affected his right shoulder.

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Greg Bird, Yankees

2015 Stats (46 games)- .261/11 HR/31 RBI

Bird was the first of the “new age” Yankees to hit the bigs after he was called up in late August of 2015. He got the fans chirping in the Bronx, but unfortunately, Greg Bird underwent shoulder surgery during spring training that sidelined him for all of 2016.  With Mark Teixeira firmly in the rearview mirror, the first base job is Bird’s to lose this season.

We are 24 days until MLB Opening Day.  It should be a thrill ride in both leagues.

Adam Shemesh

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MLB: Show Me the Money!

[The Reserve Clause.  It used to be that contracts in Major League Baseball (MLB) contained something called the Reserve Clause.  It meant that once a contract for a player expired, the team continued to control the rights to that player.  So, the only leverage that the player had was to refuse to play and “hold out.”  

Years of litigation in the U.S. court system, initially instigated by player Curt Flood, finally led to the Reserve Clause being eliminated and it in turn brought the rampant free agency that we see throughout baseball today.  

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Our baseball guru Adam “Shem” Shemesh weighs in here with a look at offseason free agency as a number of big name players signed big time contracts.  Interestingly, many players decided to stay with their current teams.]

This offseason, many high-profile free agents elected to remain with their previous clubs- some by choice, others because teams were afraid to waste a first round draft pick on them.  Let’s take a look at the short list that captured big headlines and big dollars:

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Jose Bautista: 1-year/$18,500,000

Bautista is now 35 years old, and after struggling through an injury-prone 2016 campaign, no team was willing to bite the bullet and give Jose a substantial multi-year contract. This contract includes a mutual option, which means both sides will work together next offseason to see if they would like to send Bautista back into the free agent abyss or keep him in the fold for another year.

Mark Trumbo: 3-year deal/$37,500,000

The last three MLB home run champs (Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis, Trumbo) played for the Orioles. Coming off a year in which he posted 47 home runs and 108 RBI, a nine-figure contract seemed possible for the 31-year-old Trumbo. But, he had to settle for this three-year offer at the end of January, returning to the friendly confines of Camden Yards.

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Aroldis Chapman: 5-year deal/$85,000,000

Rarely do you see a player traded by a team during the season return to that team the following season? Especially since the Cubs had won a World Series, it appeared as if Aroldis Chapman would stay in the Windy City. But, the Yankees convinced Chapman otherwise by signing him to a record-high contract for a reliever. New York recognized the necessity of having multiple relief aces after it saw what happened to Dellin Betances at the end of last year.

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Yoenis Cespedes: 3-year deal/$75,000,000

Last offseason, Cespedes did not sign with the Mets until the new year. In 2016, New York made it a priority to lock up their star slugger as soon as possible. The Mets did just that by giving Yoenis the most money per year out of any free agent this offseason. Since arriving in New York at the trade deadline in July 2015, Yoenis has slammed 48 home runs and 130 RBIs.

As the graph suggests, the trajectory of major league salaries has been almost straight up.  With television and content deals increasing the available dollars for possible payroll investment, this list of players certainly cashed in this offseason.  We will have to wait and see how it translate into their performance on the field.

Adam Shemesh

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John Feinstein: A Transformative Author

[Every kid that loves sports and reading has enjoyed the books of the great John Feinstein.  A number of years ago, I did a report on Coach Bobby Knight in lower school.  A Season on the Brink, a Feinstein classic, was a centerpiece source and remains one of the iconic books on The General of all-time.  Knight would later call the decision to participate in the reporting on A Season on the Brink to be one of the dumbest decisions he ever made.    

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One of our younger readers and writers, Mac Trigg, makes the case here that Feinstein is one of the top sports writers for young kids of all-time.  Along with Mike Lupica and Tim Green, there is a strong case to be made that no one has had a bigger impact on sports writing for kids in the last decade.]  

John Feinstein is one of the most prominent authors writing books about sports for kids today.  It can be argued that he is changing how kids view important topics with his writing.  This piece will explore several of my favorite Feinstein books.

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The first Feinstein classic is The DH.  It is one of my favorite books of all-time.  For starters, The DH is suspenseful. Each chapter has a cliff hanger ending that will have you quickly turning to the next page.  In addition, Gordon, Christine and Alex are all back from The Walk On and key to the plot.  Finally, Alex and Matt Gordon make major changes in their personalities.  Matt is not watching the competition for best pitcher from the sidelines.  He is competing and fighting for that distinction.  He also is competing to see if he can win over Christine.  This book proves that Feinstein can put together the kind of page-turning stories that kids want to read.      

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The second book is Vanishing Act. The Vanishing Act focuses on one of my favorite sports: tennis.  Interestingly, it was the first book by John Feinstein that I ever read, in part, because there are very few books written today on this great game. The book itself is riveting as it revolves around a kidnapping.  It also has great character development.  One reason may be that the protagonist is a writer just like Feinstein.   

The third and final book is The 6th Man.  Like all of Feinstein’s books, the character development was very good and includes many of the athletes that you enjoyed from The Walk On and The DH.   In addition, this book focused on another one of my favorite sports: basketball.  You have to love anything that revolves around the game that Dr. James Naismith invented back in 1891.  There is, however, some adult content in this book.  Some parents may not be comfortable with several of the topics raised and it may not be for every young reader.  Like the Walk On and The DH, this book is one that you will have trouble putting down.    

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In conclusion, John Feinstein is a great author that receives my highest level of recommendation.  You should check out his work at at top independent bookstores like Kansas City-based Rainy Day Books or at a location near you. 

Mac Trigg

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MLB: Getting Your Mind Ready for Baseball Season

[When we think of baseball, the insights and analysis of Adam “Shem” Shemesh come to mind.  He is, as we like to say here at myespnforkids.com, the best young writer covering the game.  This article is the first in a series of pieces on what he is thinking as the MLB warms up for what should be another great season of baseball.]  

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As we await the 68-team college basketball pile up that is March Madness, it’s time to turn our attention to a new baseball season. All across Florida and Arizona, big league teams are training for the long season ahead. Here are a few important things to note to get your brain back in baseball mode.

Familiar Faces in New Places

As with every offseason, many notable moves were made this winter, shaking up some teams while others loaded their farm systems.  Let’s take a look at some of the big offseason roster shuffles:

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1. Changing Sox

The Red Sox made the biggest splash of the offseason by acquiring lefty Chris Sale from the White Sox. Sale’s one of the best lefties in baseball and an annual Cy Young candidate, so trading for him hurt Boston’s farm system quite a bit. They parted ways with #1 overall prospect Yoan Moncada, and flamethrower Michael Kopech. This signified the start of a rebuild for the White Sox, while the Red Sox rotation now features Sale, 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, and fellow CY winner David Price.

2. Rumblings in the Capitol

The White Sox were not done after trading Sale. A few days later, they shipped off highly underrated centerfielder Adam Eaton, who led the MLB in outfield assists while finishing with a 6.2 WAR, to the Nationals. After failing to resign Mark Melancon and missing out on a chance to get Andrew McCutchen, Washington was desperate for a “playmaker” (as Lebron would say), so they paid a hefty price. The White Sox added former #1 overall prospect Lucas Giolito and righty reliever Reynaldo Lopez. Both have experienced abbreviated stints with Washington in the Major Leagues.

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3. Midwest Star Swap

The Cubs and Royals made one of the more balanced 1-for-1 deals that I can remember, as Chicago sent powerful outfielder Jorge Soler in exchange for Royals closer Wade Davis. After seeing Aroldis Chapman return to the Bronx, the Cubs recognized their need for a lockdown closer and immediately went out and got Davis from Kansas City. He was named an All-Star for a second straight season in 2016, converting 27 of 30 save opportunities on the year. As for Soler, he is still a work in progress. The active, powerful Soler saw limited action in 2016, hitting 12 home runs and batting .238 over 86 games.

30 teams.  162 games for each of them.  It gives us a 6-month run of 2,430 games.  And then, we head to the postseason. Play Ball.

Adam Shemesh

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A Knickerbocker Implosion: Dolan Out the Punishment

[We all love a bit of fisticuffs in the seats at an NBA (or any professional) game.  It is even better when it is the owner of the team and a former iconic player getting into it in the largest media market in the US. Let me take off my Oakley glasses and watching this one firsthand.  

Roey Herzfeld, one of our top beat writers on the East Coast, gives us his thinking in what is a timely look at the scuffle at MSG that Roey argues offers a bigger set of insights into what is wrong with this storied franchise.] 

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Last Wednesday night, the Knicks season reached a new low. Charles Oakley’s scuffle with the MSG security guards led to his arrest, followed by a ban on Oakley from attending games at MSG. In addition to that, the Knicks lost their fifth game out of six. Except for the very start of the season, this Knicks team has been a disaster. The Knicks are looking to make the playoffs for the first time in four years, but as of now they are the fourth worst team in a depleted Eastern Conference.

In addition, Phil Jackson’s constant Twitter feud with Carmelo Anthony is only adding to the drama and pressure for this Knicks squad. The front office, the players, the coaching, all seem to be lacking the cohesion of a playoff team. There’s one thing, however, that everyone can agree on: It’s bad. But who is really at fault?

Candidates: Jeff Hornacek, Carmelo Anthony, Phil Jackson, James Dolan

Jeff Hornacek

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When Jeff Hornacek was hired last spring, he was supposed to be the man who was going to change the losing culture of this knicks team. Hornacek nearly led a Phoenix Suns team led by non-superstar plays such as Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic to the playoffs, which led to high expectations. Unfortunately for this franchise, he has not been able to succeed like he did with Phoenix. His defense has been awful as the Knicks rank almost last in opposing points per game and is triangle offense is nothing special.

But is he really the man at fault? A Head Coach can only succeed as much as his players and organization allows for him. Phil Jackson’s max contract for Joakim Noah sure seems a lot worse than Hornacek’s below average coaching. Hornacek doesn’t seem like an elite coach but his post-game press conferences beg the front office and players for more effort and more changes. He is definitely not the man responsible for this terrible season so far.

Carmelo Anthony

Despite the non-stop drama about Phil Jackson, or trade rumors, or building through Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony comes out to play every night. You can
argue that his numbers are down or that he shoots too much, but there’s not a single person who can question his loyalty and desire to win for New York. You can see the expression on his face when they lose close games. “He wants it”. He wants to win badly.

Yet he will not abandon his city and keeps fighting every night. To me as a Knicks fan, this is extremely admirable. We’ve seen players who are begging to get out of New York, but here is Melo fighting through more drama than any player can imagine and putting up 20+ points every night. Argue that they need to trade him and get younger and build through Porzingis. Fine. But to blame him for this Knicks season where night in and night out he gives 100% not only offensively but also on the defensive side (even if he isn’t very good at it) is not fair. It might be time for Melo to go but he is not the man at fault here.

Phil Jackson

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Phil Jackson is arguably one of the best coaches in NBA history. His eleven head coaching rings rank second to none. What he did with those Bulls and Lakers team was absolutely incredible. His President skills for the Knicks have not gone the same way. When he first arrived, the “Zen Master” was set to take Melo to the promise land as he did for MJ and Kobe. What we’ve seen so far does not look so promising for the legacy of either. Not only are his acquisitions of players like Noah, turning out as failures,

Phil Jackson is having personal issues with Melo himself. The twitter war and the comments about Melo holding onto the ball too long are more common right now than knick wins. Phil is supposedly desperately trying to trade Melo ensuring that his first experiment as president of the Knicks has been a failure. So is Phil the man to blame for the Knicks struggles this year? Well Partly. Phil did draft Porzingis and also brought in Derrick Rose who is looking a lot closer to MVP Derrick Rose. His comments have been a problem, but his actual management of the Knicks has seen worse days i.e. Isiah Thomas.

So who is the man at fault? The answer is owner James Dolan.

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On Wednesday night, I saw it on TV and I finally understood why the Knicks are so bad. It all starts at the man at the top. James Dolan. To sum up how bad he’s been: In the 10 years Oakley played in NY, the Knicks won 70 playoff games. In the 17 years Dolan has owned the Knicks, they’ve won 9 playoff gms. James Dolan’s treatment of Charles Oakley Wednesday night was disrespectful and disgusting. The man gave everything to the Knicks organization and is thanked with a ban from returning to MSG.

James Dolan has been a failure as the Knicks owner and it starts with respecting players. In addition, James Dolan has failed to prohibit Phil Jackson from making critical Twitter comments about his best player, Melo. He has failed to make this team legitimate. Similar to what former Knick Jalen Rose said, what star would ever want to come to New York seeing how disrespectfully Melo and Oakley are being treated.

To me, that’s the problem and that’s why the Knicks are sitting on the outside of the playoffs looking in. It’s not a talent problem.  It’s a leadership problem and right now the leadership of the front office is the biggest issue the Knicks have.

Roey Herzfeld

 

Posted in NBA Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Super Bowl 51: One Central Question

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After several weeks of build up, it is finally here.  One game.  One global stage.  One key question.  Does the experience of the Belichick-Brady team prove determining against Matt Ryan and an amazing, diverse array of offensive weapons?  Can Belichick and Brady do it again?

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Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have been collaborating on the gridiron for seventeen years.  It is an almost unprecedented tenure in any professional sports.  Owner Bob Kraft said Thursday that he would love to see it continue for seasons to come.

Consequently, the early season suspension and Deflate-gate controversy seems to have faded in the lead up to the game.  As David Haugh said in the Chicago Tribune, it feels “odd but right to root for Brady.”  Brady certainly has received the lion’s share of the pre-Super Bowl coverage down in Houston.

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Matt Ryan, for his part, took a little bit of the spotlight back Saturday evening.  He was named the NFL MVP at the NFL Honors award show.  He also won the Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year, finishing off a stellar season (38 TDs, 7 INTs, 117.1 QB Rating) that has the Falcons headed to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1999.  Notably, Tom Brady finished second.

Brady, however, has finished first in the Big Game four times and will be playing his record seventh Super Bowl.  It is an amazing run that brings a level of experience that is massive intangible that is hard to quantify.  Vegas has the Patriots favored by three, betting the Belichick-Brady brain trust will find a way to win.

For those of us that simply love the game (and are still dealing with the disappointment of a tough divisional playoff loss to Pittsburgh), the aspiration is: a competitive, down-to-the-wire game.

We would love to hear your thoughts in the Comments Section as we prepare to watch Lamar Hunt’s Super Bowl commence on Sunday evening.

Powers Trigg

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Lamar Hunt’s Super Bowl

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Lamar Hunt is arguably the greatest sports entrepreneur of all-time. The late Hunt is the only person to be inducted as a member of the hall of fame in three different professional sports: football, soccer and tennis.  He was, as Michael MacCambridge framed in his Lamar Hunt: A Life in Sports, a gentle giant that “gave rise to the modern American sports landscape.”

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Among his storied accomplishments, Hunt is the originator of the term Super Bowl.  In the 1960s, one of the most beloved toys was called a Super Ball. It was the catalyst for the Super component of the naming convention.  Bowl obviously was, and still is, the term used to refer to games played at the end of the collegiate football season.  Super+Bowl=Super Bowl.

Hunt’s Chiefs would play in the first and the fourth contests against the NFC.  He would propose Super Bowl in a league meeting as preparations for the inaugural game were being made.  Several different names, it is said, were in the mix.  World Championship Game.  Championship Game.  NFL Finals.  In the end, NFL leaders would proceed with Hunt’s Super Bowl.

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Lamar Hunt was obsessed with the fan experience.  He was a proud Texan. And of course, Bud Adams and the old Oilers franchise held founding status in the AFL.  We have to assume, then, that Hunt would find much to love about this week down in Houston.  No doubt we will too.

This Sunday evening at 630PM, fans (and non-fans alike) will gather for what should be an epic match up between the Tom Brady-led Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.  It should be a Super Bowl.

Not bad, Mr Hunt.  Not bad at all.

Powers Trigg

Posted in NFL Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Baseball is in Mourning this Morning

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[This morning, we all mourned the passing of Yorando Ventura and Andy Matte. Our thoughts go out to their families, friends and teammates. Senior East Coast Correspondent Ezra Troy delivers for all of us with a touching article about both players. Powers Trigg, Editor-in-Chief]

This morning, I got the news that saddened the world in the way I get normal sports news – through an ESPN alert. I looked at my phone in disbelief when I saw that not only Andy Marte, a former major leaguer, had been killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic, but also that Yorando Ventura, the young flamethrower for the Royals, had also been killed in a (separate) car accident in the Dominican Republic.

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Ventura was signed by the Royals as an international free agent in 2008 and came to the majors as a September call up in 2013. He had emerged as a star and was known for his incredible playoff performance in the Royals 2014 World Series run, winning three games. In game six of the World Series, he pitched seven shutout innings to force a game seven (which the Royals won). At that game, on the side of his cap, he wore a patch that said “RIP O.T #18” and dedicated the game to his friend and fellow countryman, Oscar Taveras, who had been killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic just a few days prior.

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Marte played seven season in the majors and was on many teams, primarily the Cleveland Indians. He played a total of 308 games in the majors and was a third baseman. He played a season with Atlanta before he was bounced around in a few trades involving the Red Sox (never playing a game for them), before he landed in Cleveland and playing there for five years until 2010. He didn’t play Major League ball again until he played a few games with the Diamondbacks in 2014. He then played a season in Korea in 2015.

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Both of these players were exceptional people and the entire baseball community is mourning their deaths. Players on all different teams, including All-Stars Miguel Cabrera, Andrew McCutchen and former Royal Johnny Cueto have expressed their sadness and grief at the passing of these two amazing men.

Yorando Ventura was poised to be the next star pitcher in the major leagues and his touching tribute to his close friend, Oscar Taveras, really showed how great of a person he was. At myespnforkids.com, we are all deeply saddened by the tragic news and would like to say that we lost not only a great player, but a great person today with the passing of Yorando Ventura, as well as the passing of Andy Marte. RIP.

Ezra Troy

Posted in MLB, Other

NFL: Conference Playoff Clashes!

[This article was written and adapted from my school paper.  It should be an incredible weekend of football before we take a one-week break and prepare for the event that the late great Lamar Hunt helped bring to life and gave its name, The Super Bowl.]

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As the cold and wind descend on the lower 48 states, it harkens back to the words of the late John Facenda of NFL Films and what he liked to call the “frozen tundra” that was the earlier era, ice-filled fields where icons of the NFL played the game. And so, it seems only fitting that the NFL season comes to a thrilling conclusion in the weeks ahead. It is football weather (even if one of the two games is being played inside).

Last year, 112.2 million people tuned in to watch the Broncos beat the Panthers 24-10 on the weight of Von Miller’s brilliant MVP performance. With the conference championships approaching, it is ripe moment for a synopsis of each game, a look at the key storylines and a prediction on the outcome.  It is, in short, everything you need to know to sound like a pro.

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NFC Championship

The NFC championship pits the iconic Green Bay Packers against the comparatively upstart Atlanta Falcons. The Packers are one of the storied franchise in League history (with four Super Bowl victories, including the first Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs in 1967). They are led by future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers.  He has been at an MVP-caliber level this year.

He carried the team to a 10-6 regular season. In the Wild Card game, he delivered big with a breathtaking (and signature) Hail Mary. In the Divisional Playoff, he orchestrated two masterful drives in the last four minutes against top-seeded Dallas. The final one was capped by a game-winning Mason Crosby field goal as time expired.

The Falcons, for their part, also had a solid regular season. They finished 11-5. And like Green Bay, they also have a stellar QB, Matt Ryan. He is assisted on the offensive side of the ball by stand out wide receiver, Julio Jones. In addition to Ryan and Jones, you also have two great running backs: Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

Amazingly, the Falcons scored an average of 33.8 points per game this year. They defeated Seattle 36-20 in the Divisional Playoff, shutting down one of the NFL’s best quarterback Russell Wilson.

Prediction: You should look for this game to be a classic shootout. As the saying goes, “…may the best (quarterback) win.” In the end, Rodgers delivers again for a 45-31 win by the Packers.

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AFC Championship 

The AFC Championship features perennial threat and 4-time Super Bowl champion, the New England Patriots. They will match up against a high-powered Pittsburgh Steelers team that ended the 2016 regular season on a winning streak. The Patriots surprised many pundits early in the season by successfully navigating a 4-game Brady suspension. Instead of starting in a deep hole, they managed to play .500 ball at 2-2.

With Brady back in the saddle, the Patriots went on a tear. They ripped off four straight win and never looked back. Beyond the indomitable Brady, Martellus Bennett is a name to watch. Bennett has played a significant role this year due to an injured Rob Gronkowski. In the Divisional Playoff, the Patriots overcame a slow start against the Texans to end up trouncing them, 34-16.

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The Steelers are a team with a storied franchise history.  The Steelers have won the most Super Bowls of any team at six.  They rely on an astute and hard-hitting defense. However, in 2016, they also bring an offense with major playmakers. “Big Ben”Roethlisberger offers the experience that every Superbowl contender needs. Le’veon Bell and Antonio Brown are incredible playmakers with the ability to change a game with one play. The Steelers waltzed through Miami in the Wild Card round. They needed a favorable holding call and late heroics from Roethlisberger to narrowly escape with an 18-16 win in Kansas City.

Prediction: The Patriots defense will be tested by Bell and Brown, but I predict that the Patriots will come out with a series of halftime adjustments and run away with the game. It is an 28-17 victory for the Patriots in what should be a fun game to watch.

Playoff football is a spectacle like no other and a welcome reprieve from the brutal January weather. It is football weather. And in the words of NFL Films’ John Facenda, “It is Pro Football.  It starts with a whistle and ends with a gun.”  Game on.  

Powers Trigg

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NFL Divisional Playoffs: Down, Set, Hike!

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[This weekend is pivotal.  You must clear the calendar.  It is time for the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.  We have four great games, including a key match up at Kansas City’s iconic, noise-filled Arrowhead Stadium as two of the most storied franchises in professional football take to the field.  

Ezra Troy not only weighs in on the Steelers-Chiefs game, but all of the contests filling the television calendar this weekend.  If you have weekend classes or homework, you need to get it finished, clear the decks and get ready for some great football.  You can start early with a great analysis of the keys to each game from Ezra.]     

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I. Seattle at Atlanta:

In the highly anticipated matchup between the league’s second-best offense and its fifth best defense, Richard Sherman and co. come into the Georgia dome to face MVP candidate Matt Ryan and his star receiver, Julio Jones. Coming off a big home win against the Lions, the Seahawks go into Atlanta having won three of their last four. The Falcons meanwhile, are coming off a surprise 11-5 campaign that gained them the two seed in the NFC. The question is wheather the Earl Thomas-less Seahawks defense can defeat the high powered offense of Atlanta.

Key Matchups:

  • Richard Sherman vs Julio Jones: This one is a no-brainer. Both players are easily top five at their positions, with Jones racking up over 1400 yards this season, including a 300-reciving yard performance vs the Panthers. Sherman on the other hand, has 13 passes defended and 4 interceptions. Sherman also has 2 interceptions in 11 games of playoff experience. Jones has only played in three playoff games, and while his first two games he didn’t play so well, he had 2 touchdowns and 182 receiving yards in his last playoff appearance, a 28-24 loss to the 49ers in 2012.
  • Seahawks D-Line vs Falcons O-line: The Seahawks have one of the best d-lines in the league, led by Cliff Avril and Michael Bennet, but the Falcons O-line is pretty good too. Ranked number four by pro-football focus, this line is one of the reasons for the Falcons great offensive success. If they can stop the Seahawks D-line, they can not only open up the passing game for Matty Ice, they can also open up the running game for star RB Davonte Freeman.
  • Falcon’s Front Seven vs Seahawks O-line and Thomas Rawls: Unlike the Falcons, the Seahawks line is cobbled together and is rated 30th in the league by pro football focus. Running back Thomas Rawls has had an up and down, injury plagued season (I should know, I drafted him in fantasy), but shone against the Lions on Saturday night with 161 yards and a touchdown. They need to repeat that performance against a poor Atlanta defense (ranked 25th), but one ranked in the middle of the pack in rushing yards allowed per game (104.5), in order to open up a passing game ranking tenth in the NFL in yards per game.

Conclusion: The game should be a good one, with a good offense and a good defense meeting on one side, but a bad defense and an average offense meeting on the other. I feel the Legion of Boom, despite missing Earl Thomas, shuts down the Falcons super offense and wins itself an invitation to the NFC Championship game.

Final Score: Seahawks 17, Falcons 10

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II. Houston at New England

Houston, after beating the 12-4 Raiders 27-14 on a strong defensive performance, especially by former number one overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. The Patriots host them with the leagues number eight defense and the number one offense led by MVP candidate Tom Brady. The Texans not only need to shut down Tom Brady, but they also need to have a great performance on offense by the likes of Brock Osweiler, Lamar Miller and Deandre Hopkins.

Key Matchups:

  • Malcolm Butler vs Deandre Hopkins: Hopkins had a very up and down season this year following an incredible 2015 campaign. Butler emerged as an undrafted rookie when he intercepted Russel Wilson at the one yard line to seal the Patriots victory in Super Bowl 49. Since then he has emerged as one of the league’s best ball hawking corners. He has 4 interceptions, including one against Ben Roethlisberger while covering Antonio Brown, the league’s best receiver. The question is wheather Hopkins can return to his 2015 form as one of the league’s best receivers, or whether he will play as he played often this year, mediocrely.
  • Texans Defense vs Tom Brady: The Texans Defense is coming off holding the Raiders offense with their vaunted o-line and star receivers to just 14 points with 3 interceptions and 3 sacks. The problem was the Raiders were starting a rookie in his first NFL game at quarterback and half of their offensive line hurt. Even though they are missing JJ Watt, they still have stars Kareem Jackson, Vince Wilfork and Jadeveon Clowney, among others. Brady has lit up defenses this year and even though he is missing his best target, Rob Gronkowski, he has passed for 28 touchdowns to only two interceptions and over 3500 yards despite playing only 12 games. Can the Texans do what most other defenses haven’t been able to do and shut down Tom Brady?
  • Brock Osweiler vs Brock Osweiler: Brock Osweiler was drafted by the Broncos to play backup quarterback to Peyton Manning. When Manning was injured last year, he played 8 games and led the Broncos to the playoffs. He signed a 17 million dollar contract in the offseason with the Texans to be their quarterback. He threw more touchdowns then interceptions and got benched in weeks 16 and 17. He started this week in the playoffs and played well. Will playoff Osweiler show up, or will benched Osweiler show up?

Conclusion: Can anybody really stop Tom Brady? He has destroyed much better defenses than the Texans and he will destroy them also. Osweiler has played poorly all season and will continue to do so against the stout Patriots defense. Brady throws for four touchdowns and 300 yards while Osweiler is picked off three times and the Patriots continue on the road to another Super Bowl berth.

Final Score: Patriots 31, Texans 7

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III. Steelers vs Chiefs

The number three Steelers, fresh off a convincing victory against the Dolphins, come to Arrowhead stadium to visit the Chiefs, who they beat earlier this year by a convincing score of 43-14. Since then, the Chiefs and their league leading point differential of +17 have gone 10-2 and stole the division from right under the Raiders nose. They need to slow the Steelers powerful offensive machine that put up 43 points against them and averaged 25 points per game this season.

Key matchups:

  • Chiefs Defense vs Steelers Big Three: The Steelers triplets, Roethlisberger, Brown and Bell are one of the best, if not the best, QB-RB-WR group in the league. Bell and Brown combined for over 2500 yards 19 touchdowns, while Roethlisberger passed for 3800 yards and 29 touchdowns. The Chiefs on the other hand, have generated 33 takeaways on defense this year, most in the league, but they give up the 25th most yards per game. Not only do they have to generate takeaways, but they also need to limit Bell and Brown and not let them combine for almost 300 yards and 4 touchdowns, like the Dolphins did last week.
  • Steelers Special Teams vs Tyreek Hill: Tyreek Hill, a rookie, exploded onto the scene with 12 total touchdowns, including three on special teams. While the Steelers defense needs to limit his explosiveness, it is imperative the Steelers special teams stops him, because special teams scores can be a tremendous momentum swing and swing the game the Chiefs way.
  • Travis Kelce vs Steelers Coverage: Along with Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs have another matchup nightmare, Travis Kelce. Too big to be covered by a corner and too fast for a linebacker, Kelce had over 1100 yards receiving on 85 receptions this season, good for over 13 yards per catch. The Steelers, not known for their secondary, do have some fine coverage linebackers and have allowed 956 yards receiving and six touchdowns to opposing tight ends, somewhere in the middle of the league.

Conclusion: The Big Three are just too much of a matchup nightmare and Kansas City’s offense just isn’t good enough and relies too much on great field position given to them by the takeaways of their defense (they rank 5th in  average starting field position on offense). The Steelers should pull this one out and move on to face the Patriots.

Final Score: Steelers 20, Chiefs 17

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IV.  Packers vs Cowboys

The Packers come into Dallas having won 7 straight on the back of MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers and his 4400 yards and 40 TD’s, but come into Dallas very banged up (most notably star receiver Jordy Nelson is injured). They played earlier in the year, with the Cowboys winning 30-16. The Cowboys are led by rookies Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot and the best offensive line in the NFL (three all pros). With two of the best offenses in the league coming into Dallas, this promises to be a shootout.

  • Cowboys Offensive Line and Ezekiel Elliot vs the Packers Front 7: Rookie running back and MVP candidate rushed for over 1600 yards and 15 touchdowns behind the Cowboys offensive line that is the best in the league. The Packers have allowed less than 100 rushing yards a game and are led by Clay Mathews, Julius Peppers, Nick Perry and Mike Daniels. When the two faced off in week 6, Elliot rushed for 157 yards. The game may very well may hinge on the performance of Elliot and wheather he can have a similar performance to what he did in Week 6.
  • Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley vs Packers Secondary:  When the two teams met in week six, Beasley had 58 yards and 2 touchdowns, but Bryant was injured. On the season, the two combined for over 1600 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Packers gave up 269 yards per game in the air on the season and many of their best corners are injured. The Packers need to contain the Cowboys receivers and not let the Cowboys get too many points on offense.
  • Aaron Rodgers and his Band of Receivers (minus Jordy Nelson) vs Cowboys Secondary: Aaron Rodgers is the hottest quarterback in the league and has put up together an MVP campaign. He is going to be missing his number one receiver, Jordy Nelson, due to injury, but that hasn’t stopped him before. Nelson was injured all of last year and Rodgers led the Packers to a playoff berth and a win, before losing to the number two seed Cardinals in OT by no fault of Rodgers. He threw two hail marys to tie the game and send it to overtime at the end of the fourth quarter to Jeff Janis, a no-name receiver. Rodgers has done it all and many times by making no-name receivers stars. He torched a very good Giants secondary for 362 yards and four touchdowns last week and goes into Dallas facing a very bad Cowboys secondary that is allowing 260 yards a game.

Conclusion: This game promises to be a shootout, and Aaron Rodgers will always win those, especially against a rookie quarterback ranked 12th at his position by pro football focus with no playoff experience. Rodgers is ranked fourth and has had 14 games of playoff experience with a QB rating of over 100 in these games. Unless the poor cowboys secondary can do something against the league’s hottest quarterback, Dallas will get outshot by the Packers and lose their 4th game of the year to end their season.

Final Score: Packers 35, Cowboys 24

Four great games.  I am sure not everyone agrees with my selections (including Powers).  Let’s hear your thinking in the Comment Section.

Ezra Troy

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NFL Playoffs: Let’s Play Some Cards

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[The great Adam “Shem” Shemesh gives us the definitive guide to NFL Wildcard Weekend. There are some solid games on paper including what could be a couple of epic match ups between the Lions and Seahawks and then also the Packers and Giants.  

Of course, a set of fans are eagerly awaiting these results as they look out to the divisional games next weekend.  The Chiefs got stomped by the Steelers early in the season, but may well play them if Pittsburgh can get past Matt Moore and the Dolphins.  Fish! Fish!  Fish!

You have to love playoff time in the NFL.  In the voice of NFL Films’ John Facenda, “They call it Pro Football.  It starts with a whistle and ends with a gun.”]

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Another four months of NFL football have come and gone.  Now, the playoffs are set to begin. Here is your guide to NFL Wildcard Weekend:

I. Saturday

A. Houston Texans @ Oakland Raiders (4:40 EST, ESPN). Out of any game this weekend, this contest will feel the most like a preseason game. This is because of the already infamous quarterback matchup featuring Brock Osweiler and Connor Cook. Osweiler was signed to a $72,000,000 contract this offseason, but was benched late in the year as Tom Savage road Houston to AFC South glory. Cook built up a nice career at Michigan State, but he has never made an NFL start. His services are needed following injuries to All-Pro QB Derek Carr and backup Matt McGloin.

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How the Texans Can Win:  I’ll admit it.  Their quarterback situation is dicey. Osweiler threw more picks (16) than TD’s (15), and that’s not exactly a winning formula. However, he does have a 1,000 yard rusher in Lamar Miller. The bright spot on this team is their defense. The Texans led all of football in yards allowed per game with 301.3- that’s just over three lengths of the football field. If the defense continues to play at a high level, Houston can sneak by the Raiders by using a run-based offense that capitalizes on good field position.

How the Raiders Can Win:  Oakland’s situation under center is even more worrisome. Connor Cook spent the majority of his NFL career taking third-string snaps, and now he’ll make his first NFL start under the bright lights of playoff football. Having played with the Spartans, Cook is no stranger to big games. Some of his most notable victories came in the 2014 Big 10 Championship where Cook was named MVP and the 2014 Rose Bowl vs. Stanford. The Raiders have plenty of offensive weapons for Cook including veteran Michael Crabtree and second-year Alabama receiver Amari Cooper. Like the Texans, Oakland also has a serviceable running back in the form of Latavius Murray. According to ProFootballFocus.com, the Raiders have the league’s sixth-best O-Line, and their pass blocking is second-best. As for the Raiders’ defense, they house an MVP-caliber player off the edge in Khalil Mack. Mack totaled 11 sacks this year, and he’s facing a Texans’ line that’s one of the worst in football.

THE PICK: Raiders 31, Texans 17

B. Detroit Lions @ Seattle Seahawks (8:15 PM ET, NBC).  Now, this one will feel more like a playoff game. Two veteran quarterbacks in Matt Stafford and Russell Wilson going at it in primetime. The Seahawks obviously have the most proven postseason record, but the Lions have built up a reputation as fourth quarter mastermind this year, winning eight games via the comeback.

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How the Seahawks Can Win:  After their gut-wrenching loss in Super Bowl 49, many believed Seattle’s dynasty was over. However, they’ve made it as far as the NFC Championship game in each of the past three seasons. While the Legion of Boom is not as formidable as it was in 2014, the Seahawks still boast some of the game’s top talent. Bobby Wagner led the league in tackles with upwards of 140, and Richard Sherman is still a top ten cornerback. On the offensive side of the ball, Russell Wilson has continued to blossom into a superstar. He passed for 4,219 yards and ran for 259. Tight end Jimmy Graham returned to being one of the best in the business in 2016. His 65 receptions, 923 yards, and 6 TDs all ranked in the top five of NFL tight ends. He is also a very good pass blocker and will be a formidable weapon in this game. I didn’t even mentioned that this game will be played in Seattle, where the ‘Hawks were undefeated (8-0) this year. My only concern for the Seahawks is their running game. Seattle tried to use a combo of Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael this year, but Marshawn Lynch’s absence was evident and sorely missed.

How the Lions Can Win:   When Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson were in their primes, Detroit made the playoffs just once, losing in the Wild Card round in a blowout versus the Saints. Now, Calvin’s out and Stafford isn’t getting any younger. The Lions posted an 0-5 record vs playoff teams this year, including an 0-3 stretch to close out the year against the Cowboys, Giants, and Packers. All hope is not lost, though. Those three games were not blowouts. The Giants’ potent offense was held to 17 points, the Cowboys didn’t take the lead until the third quarter, and the Packers game was decided by a touchdown. Detroit posted an NFL-record eight fourth-quarter comebacks this year, so they can never be counted out. Don’t be surprised if this game is closer than you think.

The PICK: Seahawks 34, Lions 23

II. Sunday

A. Dolphins @ Steelers (1:00, CBS).  On Sunday, the game quality really picks up a notch. We’ll see our first afternoon game tomorrow as the Steelers play host to the surprising Dolphins. Miami will be playing without starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill- Matt Moore gets the nod, more on him in just a bit.

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How the Dolphins Can Win:  In their first year under the direction of head coach Adam Gase (former O-Coordinator in Chicago), the Dolphins surprised many by going 10-6, finishing second in the AFC East to arguably the NFL’s best team, the Patriots. So what about Gase transformed the team so much? “I believe it’s about the players, not the scheme,” “Doing what’s best for the players, developing the players, developing the team,” says Gase. Rather than building around a certain scheme a la Chip Kelly, Gase is using the talent he has to create what’s best for the players. The result has been tremendous. Running back Jay Ajayi burst onto the scene with back to back 200 yard games in the middle of the year, one of which came against Pittsburgh in a 30-15 Miami triumph. Wideout Jarvis Landry finished with 593 yards after catch, good for fifth in the NFL. Tannehill also saw improvement (2,995 passing yards, 67.1 comp. pct.), but he won’t be taking snaps on Sunday. That honor will go to Matt Moore, who fit in quite nicely as he clinched a playoff spot for Miami. Moore has completed 55/87 passes, throwing 8 TD’s and posting a great 105.6 QB rating.

How the Steelers Can Win: Pittsburgh got off to a hot start, but they hit a big rough patch in the middle of the year. They were 4-5 following a loss to Dallas (one of the most exciting games of the regular season), and things weren’t looking so good. But, like another QB we’ll get to later, the Steelers “ran the table” to close the season at 11-5. That stretch included six non-playoff teams, but the 7-game streak still gives the Steelers tremendous momentum. As for their talent, it may be unequaled in football. Under center, Ben Roethlisberger is one of the best, and the Super Bowl-winning QB threw for 3,819 yards this year. Near Roethlisberger you’ll find maybe the deadliest running back in the game- Le’Veon Bell. Bell earned player of the month honors by posting 748 yards and averaging 5.2 yards on the ground to close the season. Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the NFL. He caught 106 passes, totaling 12 touchdowns and 411 yards after catch. That big three threat is Super Bowl caliber.

The PICK: Steelers 32, Dolphins 20

B. Giants @ Packers (4:40, FOX).  The final game of the weekend brings the most history. Manning and Rodgers. January and Lambeau. This one definitely has a playoff feel to it. It should be noted that the Packers beat the Giants 23-16 in Lambeau early in the year.

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How the Giants Can Win: While being severe underdogs in this one, the Giants have a few tricks up their sleeve. New York has beat the Packers in Lambeau each of the last two times they won a Super Bowl. The Giants’ defense is led by Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, and Defensive POY candidate Landon Collins. In their first year together, the unit has catapulted the Giants into one of the best defenses in the league, and if they always seem to be coming up with big plays, it’s because New York has allowed the second least points in the red zone. The one area that wasn’t concerning to last year’s 6-10 group was the offense. With former offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo taking over as head coach, expectations were sky-high for a group led by Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. However, the offense has been a major letdown. The Giants recorded just one 100+ yard game from a running back, and the offense never scored more than 28 points (averaging just 14.8 PPG).

How the Packers Can Win:  The Packers started off 4-6 this year, and talks of Aaron Rodgers’ demise were rapid. The (former) star QB admitted that his team needed to “run the table” if they wanted any chance of playing in the postseason. Since that point, he’s thrown 15 touchdowns to zero interceptions while rushing for 110 yards. It’s safe to say vintage Rodgers is back. He’s also armed with a healthy Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson this year, so nobody will have to worry about spelling Jared Abbrederis’ name (I had to search it up). Suddenly, Green Bay are the favorites and Rodgers is an MVP candidate. Normalcy has returned in Cheesehead Land.

The PICK: Packers 18 @ Giants 15 (as hard as this is coming from a Giants fan)

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It should be a great weekend of football as we kick off 2017. It is single elimination.  Every possession counts.  It all makes for must-see TV.  Happy Watching!    

Adam Shemesh

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2016 Postmortem: Can 2017 Possibly Come Close?

[As we reflect on our website over the course of 2016, one of the standout dimensions has been the work of Ezra Troy and also new correspondent Roey Herzfeld.  The DC duo has made a big impact with some really great writing.  I know all of our readers have enjoyed their stories and are looking forward to hearing their thoughts in the coming year.  Notably, Ezra’s great work also saw him adding the titles Chief East Coast Correspondent and Senior Editor to his duties here at myespnforkids.com during 2016.  Congratulations, Ezra.  

As we all thought about Adam’s piece on the top events of 2016, Ezra and Roey came up with some additions to the 2016 narrative.  You will love these lists.  Happy 2017!] 

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I.  Some Additional Key Sports Dates in 2016

  • Janurary 11: Alabama beats Clemson to win their first College Football Playoff Championship, we don’t need a playoff to stop Alabama from winning every year
  • January 31: John Scott gets voted into All-Star game despite not being in the league; proceeds to win MVP in a game he will never forget.
  • February 27: “Bang, Bang”, Curry sinks shot of the year as the Warriors sink the Thunder in the NBA regular season game of the year
  • April 5: U Conn wins the tournament for only the fourth year. Brianna Stewart’s magical college career finishes with 4/4 tournament wins.
  • April 15: Warriors complete 73 win season.  It is only too bad that they will be another footnote in history just like Marcus Paige.
  • April 15: Kobe finishes his career in a Kobe-esque performance – 22-50 with 60 points.
  • May 8: Steph breaks OT points record with 17 points in a playoff game vs Portland, that’s five less shots than John Starks took in game 7 of the 1994 NBA finals
  • May 9: Harper becomes the first player in 100 years to reach base 7 times without an AB
  • May 17: 76ers win lottery and Philly becomes first city to have all three major sports teams have the 1 or 2 overall draft pick, and yet all the Philly teams are still really bad.
  • May 28: Klay sets playoff record with 11 threes, sets up game 7 with the Thunder, leading to the Thundr blowing a 3-1 series lead.
  • May 28: Real Madrid win Champions League.
  • June 12: Sidney Crosby wins his second NHL Stanley Cup with Penguins, that’s two more than Ovechkin.
  • June 26: Chile defeats Argentina on penalty kicks in the Copa America final, with Messi completely airballing one – must be why he decided to dye his hair.
  • July 10: Portugal wins Euro Cup soccer despite Ronaldo being injured.
  • July: NBA players sign record free agent deals ($43 million per deal, $3.1 BILLION in total spending).
  • July 1: Mets pay Bobby Bonilla more than they paid Syndergaard and Reyes in the 2016 season.
  • July 4: KD and the superteam (gave Warriors three MVP’s), looks like the Warriors, and not KD’s mom, are the real MVP.
  • August: USA’s record performance overshadowed by swimmer being “held up” at gas station.

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  • September 8: Serena falls out of the number one ranking in women’s national ranking for the first time since February 18th, 2013 – a time even before Deflategate.
  • Aug 26: Tony Romo leaves preseason game with back injury setting up Dak Prescotts MVP worthy season (and I thought it was good for the Giants that Romo was injured).
  • September 30: Team Canada once again dominates hockey, sweeps World Cup over team Europe. Looks like Canada is to international hockey as USA is to international basketball.
  • September 25, October 16: OBJ fights a kicking net and later announces his marriage to it.
  • November 26: Ohio State benefits from miscall in overtime to win over Michigan in College Football’s game of the year (sorry OSU fans, he was short).
  • December 24th: Browns get their 1st win, move to 1-14. I guess even in a year of upsets and surprises as Adam’s piece did a great job describing (Leicester, Cavs and Cubs), the Browns still suck.

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II. People who Passed Away in 2016: 

Yogi Berra
Muhammed Ali
Jose Fernandez
Arnold Palmer
Craig Sager
Dennis Byrd
Buddy Ryan
Pat Summitt
Gordie Howe
Will Smith

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III.  Sports Legends that Retired in 2016:

Vin Scully
Peyton Manning
Tim Duncan
Kevin Garnett
Big Papi
Calvin Johnson
Marshawn Lynch
Kobe
A-Rod
Michael Phelps
Usain Bolt
Jared Allen
Justin Tuck
“Peanut” Tillman
Earl Thomas (nevermind)

It was, quite simply, an amazing 2016 year in sports.  Thanks for reading!

Ezra Troy and Roey Herzfeld

 

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2016: An Epic Year in Sports

[2016 was an incredible year –for better and for worse.  We cheered for the Cubs as they broke their 108-year Curse.  We bemoaned Kevin Durant as he said a fair weather goodbye to OKC.  

It was, like every year, what our top senior writer Adam Shemesh rightly calls “unforgettable.”  Adam weighs in here with 9 highlights from the year that was.  As for the 10th, let’s hear from you.  What did Adam miss?  Happy New Year!]

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2016 was an unforgettable year in the wide world of sports. By overcoming curses and tragedies, this year reminded us why we love sports. Here is my take on the nine defining sports moments in chronological order:

I. February 7: Superman Meets His Kryptonite

Broncos 24, Panthers 10.  Nothing could stop the Carolina Panthers. They dominated the regular season, losing only one game. Prior to the Super Bowl, they beat up the Seahawks, outscoring the NFC’s defending champs 31-0 in the first half en route to a 31-24 win. Naturally, Carolina was favored in the Super Bowl, headlined by MVP Cam Newton and a stellar defense. The defense was as advertised, holding Peyton Manning to a pedestrian performance in his final game. However, a few costly turnovers did the Panthers in, and they lost 24-10 (Writer’s Note: Anyone watching the game will assure you it was not as close as the score may suggest.). As the dream season came to a crashing halt, Von Miller, who forced two fumbles off Newton and returned one for a touchdown, was at the heart of the story.

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II. April 4: March Madness and the Shining Moment

Villanova 77, UNC 74.  2016’s edition of March Madness featured little in the form of the upsets. Villanova and North Carolina, two #1 seeds, met in the Finals. ‘Nova was seen as the clear underdog; they hadn’t won a title in 30 years. With the game tied at 74 and a few seconds left, Villanova’s Kris Jenkins nailed a three as the buzzer sounded. Philly fans rejoiced as Roy Williams and UNC walked off the court stunned in one of the best finishes in the history of March Madness.

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III. May 2, 2016: At 5,000 to 1, Leicester City wins the Premier League

Leicester City used to be a small, fairly unknown football club looking to gain a foothold in the Premier League (EPL). By the time they had reached the final, most of the world knew of the team’s improbable story.  They were 5,000 to 1 odds to win the Premier League championship before the season started. The same booking company who offered those odds gave Leicester the same chance as Elvis Presley being found alive (Elvis has been dead since 1977). With strong international fan support, Leicester pulled out a shocking win to cost bookkeepers in the U. K. an estimated 15,000,000 GBP. A movie about the team’s improbable run is in the works. If it hadn’t actually happened, it would be called impossible.

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IV. June 20:  On top of the World and the Backboard

Cavaliers 93, Warriors 89.  As sports fans, we were spoiled with some incredible Game  Seven heroics this year. Warriors-Cavs did not disappoint. For the first time all series, there was a close game. Cleveland pulled it out in the end behind LeBron James’ unhuman block on Andre Iguodala and Kyrie Irving’s dazzling three-pointer over the three-point King, Stephen Curry. It was a great series and watching James cry and kiss the floor after the win was one of my favorite moments of the year.

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V. August 15: Bolting to Cloud Nine

Usain Bolt wins the 100 meter, 200 meter, and 4×100 meter relay.  The world’s fastest man made that claim true in Rio this summer. The aptly named Usain Bolt won three more gold medals to up his count to nine. In the process, he shattered his own record by sprinting 100 meters in 9.58 seconds. He has catapulted his legend to world-class fame; everyone knows who Bolt is.

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VI. August 26: Colin Kaepernick Takes a Knee

Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the national anthem was one of the most controversial sports moments of 2016. Setting aside your political views, Kaepernick’s protest got everyone talking. Everyone had an opinion and even non-sports fans became aware of the former star QB’s bold act. Soon, he was joined by some of his NFL peers and athletes from other sports such as U. S. women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe.  The fact that the drama played out during a divisive U.S. election and came amid a significant decline in NFL television ratings only added to the noise on talk radio and Twitter alike.

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VII. October 13: A New Star is Born

Ottawa 5, Maple Leafs 4 (in OT).  When the Maple Leafs drafted Auston Matthews, he fell into the pool of ‘prodigy’ athletes. Only a few of these youngsters labeled with this term have succeeded. Even fewer have paid immediate dividends. Auston didn’t need words to justify the hype.  His performance spoke for itself. In his first NHL game, Matthews scored an amazing four goals. Matthews is the only player in NHL history to score four goals in his debut.  Hockey is known to be a Canadian sport, but the NHL has been dominated by US teams for the last few decades.  This incredible rookie debut gave hockey fans north of the border something to be happy about in 2016.

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VIII. September 26:  Great Tragedy, Great Happiness

Marlins 7, Mets 3.  On September 25, the sports world was struck with news so improbable that it was hard to process even as media outlets around the country confirmed that Jose Fernandez was dead. The Marlins’ star pitcher was only 25-years old, and enjoying an amazing year in his comeback from Tommy John surgery. The Marlins promptly cancelled their game that day vs. the Mets, and teams all across the country set aside an emotional moment of silence for the Cuban star. A day later, Miami went back on the field. Dee Gordon stepped up to the plate and took the first pitch from the right side of the batter’s box as an ode to his beloved friend, Fernandez. Gordon then switched back to his familiar lefty batting box and swatted his first home run of the season. Dee was sobbing as he ran around the bases, and the whole stadium was jolted with energy. It was another example of how sports is sometimes the best medicine in a time of sadness.

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IX. November 2: 108 to 0

Cubs 8, Indians 7 (10 innings).  “The greatest two words in sports: Game Seven.” This is a common cliché, but on November, 2, 2016 it rung true. The game was undoubtedly the greatest baseball contest of the century and one of the best Game Seven contests ever. The Cubs got out to an early 5-1 lead, but flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman allowed 4 runs in the 8th inning and the ballgame went to extra frames following a rain delay –because, of course, there would be a rain delay after 9 innings of the last game of the year. The Cubs struck for two in the 10th and they pulled out victory behind the arm of 21-year old Carl Edwards, Jr. with the winning run at the plate for Cleveland. The Cubs had finally done it, breaking a 108-year spell as only they could. It certainly wasn’t pretty, but anything works after that long a wait. Chicago threw the Cubs a massive homecoming, as 5,000,000 people attended. That’s the seventh largest gathering in human history.

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We can only hope that 2017 delivers the same number of compelling triumphs in the year ahead.  This list will only be complete with a 10th storyline.  Let’s hear your thoughts as we ring in the New Year.

Adam Shemesh

Posted in MLB, NBA, NFL, Other, Soccer Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Should College Football Embrace the Madness?

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March Madness is the pinnacle of sports. 68 teams. Underdogs.  Upsets. Yale beating Baylor. It is a single-elimination thriller that has become one of the greatest events in sports.  

As a result, many fans think it makes sense for college football to follow suit and expand the playoff system established in 2014.  As we watch some great football bowl games and the 4-team playoff kicks off, let’s explore the argument.    

The Proposition Argument: More Madness!

One of the greatest things about March Madness lies in the amount of non-power 5 and mid-major schools. If the playoff was expanded to 8 or 16 teams, we would see teams like Houston and Boise State have a shot of making the playoff almost every year.  The underdog narrative always is one of the most compelling storylines in sports.  

In addition, March Madness is a multi-billion dollar industry. In 2010, CBS payed $10.8 billion for rights to The Madness until 2024. For cash-strapped Division One schools, it makes sense to have more games, creating revenue to support non-profit-generating sports on college campus from field hockey to squash to tennis. The college athlete would be a clear winner.  

Finally, an expanded format would open up some great match-ups. A superb article was written on ESPN exploring what an 8-team playoff would look like: http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/18210508/what-there-was-8-team-college-football-playoff. Alabama vs OU. A rematch of Michigan vs. Ohio State. USC vs. Clemson. These games would be truly must-watch. 

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The Opposition Argument: Save the Idaho Potato Bowl!

Obviously, there would be challenges.

With a 16-team playoff, and to a lesser extent an 8-team playoff, you are de-legitimizing a number of long-established bowl games.  Like the NIT and its once relevant status within the ranks of college basketball, a 16-team playoff would mark the end of some (arguably many) mid-tier bowls.  

Furthermore, with a longer playoff, it is likely that the quality of play will be diminished. Football isn’t like basketball with regards to recovery time and performance.  You simply can’t play on two days rest without risk of injury.  The scheduling logistics and the length of the season that a safe approach would require is a non-trivial complication.  

Finally, the same argument around revenue extends to the current bowl structure. Every bowl has economics around it.  Corporate sponsors. Ticket sales.  TV revenue.  They all come together to create economic benefit for the schools that play.  And today, there are far more than 16 schools that are benefiting.

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In conclusion, there will continue to be chatter about playoff expansion.  And no matter the decision, there will be anger. We are talking about football fans.  While there are arguments on both sides of the debate, the 8-game playoff makes sense, striking the right balance between the competing interests surrounding fans and the non-New Year’s bowls. 

Let’s hear your thoughts on this polarizing topic. Is the 8-team playoff the right move?

Powers Trigg, Editor-in-Chief

Posted in NCAAF, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

MNF: Panthers v Skins

[I am still reeling from a disastrous Sunday loss by the Chiefs.  Arrowhead was a frozen tundra, and Kansas City squandered a consistent lead throughout the first three quarters to fall to defeat on a last-second field goal by former Chief Ryan Succop from 53 yards out.  In a word, it was devastating.  

The chance to turn my attention to the Monday Night game is a welcome distraction and we have a blockbuster this evening with the Redskins and the Panthers.  One of our top new writers, NYC-based Andrew Mazza, gives us his thoughts. The kid from Queens brings it here.  Welcome, Andrew.]

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Let’s take a look at what is likely to play out on Monday Night at FedEx Field in Washington, DC:

It is going to be a low-scoring game to start. Each team will have one turnover in the first half. Carolina will take the early lead in the first half. Cousins and his offense will step out of that locker room and throw for 200+ yards in the second half for a pair of touchdowns with another turnover in the second half. While the Panthers are in one of their late game drives, Cam will throw an untimely interception, or someone will fumble, and the Redskins will steal the game as they continue their push to the playoffs.

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Rationale:

The Carolina offense has struggled to start the first quarter strong this season, only averaging a 64.9 passer rating in the 1st quarter and a much better but still mediocre 83.8 passer rating in the second quarter. The Washington defense, however, has also struggled early on in games and that is why I think Carolina will have the lead coming into the half. Carolina has also thrown plenty of interceptions and lost many fumbles (8!) in the first half, so don’t be surprised if Washington gets a momentum changing turnover in the first half, which they have failed to do for the majority of the season of the season. Carolina has forced an incredible amount of fumbles (11) in the first half, and Washington is known for being poor at recovering their own fumbles (75% are lost) even though they rarely fumble in the 1st half (only 4).

Then, the second half will start off like many other halves for the Redskins, they will start with the ball and march down a field to at last put 7 on the board. Washington, especially Kirk Cousins, are known to finish games strong. Kirk Cousins has posted an 119.6 passer rating in the 3rd quarter and a 97.8 passer rating in the 4th quarter of games this season. I predict that Carolina’s defense will start to feel the pressure as Kirk starts to heat up. The Panthers aren’t used to being attacked vertically, and Desean Jackson has been on fire lately stretching the field on passes from Kirk Cousins. However, Carolina is great at getting the game-changing interceptions when opponents are in Panther territory, but not yet in the Redzone. This is not an area of struggle for Kirk. However, he has thrown the most interceptions in this part of the field. The two-minute drill for Redskins’ fans has been nerve-racking. In many games, it is up to the ‘Skins defense to finish the game; in New York and Philly, they ended the games on a turnover, however in Detroit, Stafford was able to pick apart the Redskins like a surgeon.

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In more than six Carolina games, the score was decided by 10 points or less. Suffice to say, this is going to be a very close and exciting back game.

Andrew Mazza

Posted in NFL, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

NCAAF: It’s Time to Go Bowling

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[The College football playoff system has taken a little bit of the luster from the bowl game tradition.  If you love the game of football and like to assess talent striving to play at the next level, however, you are still excited about these games. Period. Penn State v USC.  Of course, you are going to watch that game.    

Frankly, the threshold to watch college football is an appropriately low one and, as Roey details here, we have a collection of gems coming in the days ahead.  I hope you enjoy taking a break from school, watching some football and spending time with family and friends.]

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For college football fans, the most exciting part of the year has finally come: college bowl games.  This list will count down the top 5 non-playoff games which college football fans should be most excited to watch.  (Any games included in the college football playoff are not included, as those are obviously a must watch.)

5. Georgia Tech vs Kentucky

Kentucky made headlines in late November with their shocking win over Louisville.  Now they have everyone’s attention.  Can Kentucky add to this turnaround season or will Georgia Tech add to their strong finish, hoping to win their last four games.

4. Western Michigan vs Wisconsin

This game will be a crucial precedent to all non power-5 conference schools.  Western Michigan was one of the two teams this year to finish the season undefeated (the other school was Alabama).  The Broncos high powered offense led by All- American receiver Corey Davis should be fun to watch against Wisconsin’s super powered defense.

3. Stanford vs North Carolina

This one should be a shootout.  Stanford’s offense led by the explosive and versatile Christian Mccaffrey vs. expected top 5 draft pick Mitch Trubisky.  Trubisky 28 TD passes this year helped North Carolina to an 8-4 record.  This game should be fun and entertaining one to watch.

2. LSU vs Louisville

Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson vs. an always pesky LSU defense.  Jackson hasn’t seen a defense like this all year, so it should be interesting to see how he will respond. NFL Scouts will be watching. This will also be one of the last chances for Leonard Fournette to raise his draft stock.  Additionally, this matchup provides a huge chance for the ACC to make a statement win. It should be close.

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1. USC vs Penn State

The number 1 game to watch is USC vs Penn St.  It will be emotional, electrifying, and very exciting.  This game will feature a rematch of the 2009 Rose Bowl where the Trojans defeated the Nittany Lions 38-24.  Both teams are coming into the game without a loss since September and both defeated CFB playoff teams.

Their best wins were USC defeating Washington and Penn State defeating Ohio State.  Additionally, Penn St will have the opportunity to prove to the playoff committee that they were snubbed out of the fourth spot.  It will have the highest viewership of the non-playoff games and should offers some great football.  

Roey Herzfeld

Posted in NCAAF, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Best Books on Sports: The Blindside

The Blindside: The Evolution of the Game

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You probably have seen the movie. Everyone seems to have watched it. And while movies almost never are better than the book, I don’t subscribe to the notion that you can’t enjoy them both.  

The key, no matter the medium, is a great narrative.  In The Blindside, Michael Lewis takes an incredible story, and turns it into so much more. Lewis first looks at the emergence of the offensive Left Tackle becoming a high-paid position in the NFL starting with the famous game between the Redskins and the Giants where LT takes out Theismann.  From there, Lewis takes us through inner-city Memphis, the West Coast offense and the rise of the 5-star recruit.

The breadth of The Blindside narrative might run the risk of leaving the reader lost.  But in the able hands of the world-class Lewis there is no such concern.  Lewis uses the breathtaking story of Michial Oher to not simply hold together the overarching story, but keep the reader engrossed from start to finish.  Oher’s transcendent rise to glory will not only make you stand up and cheer, but also make you think.

Longtime readers of this site know my love for sports analytics, Moneyball and Michael Lewis.  I have written less frequently about The Blindside.  It deserves a look over the holiday break for anyone that either loved the movie or simply has a passion for the individual stories that make up the great game of football.

Powers Trigg

Posted in Book Review, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Walk On

The Walk On by John Feinstein 

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The Walk On is the first book in the Triple Threat Series by John Feinstein (Walk On, The Sixth Man and The DH).  It is a gripping book that merits 4.5 stars and should be considered a great gift for teenagers this Christmas season.  

The Walk On is about a Freshman, Alex Meyers, who moves to a new school. He does not have the same struggles as most kids due to a early friendship with a great guy named Jonas.  Jonas is also a Freshman and later in the book becomes a star receiver on the football team.

Alex also develops a friendship with Matt Gordon, the captain of the football team and son of the head coach. Alex is hoping to make the Varsity as the back up QB.  However, he is surprised when Jake Binley becomes second-string QB, beating Alex out for the spot. As the season progresses, Alex gets a chance to play following injuries to both Matt and Jake.  In the game, Alex throws for a game-winning touchdown with just one second left on the clock.

His shining moment quickly turns sour when he is accused of using performance-enhancing drugs (steroids).  The climax of the book surrounds these accusations.  Did Alex use steroids?  Is Alex being framed by someone else on the squad?  What will be the implications for the kids and coaches involved in this very serious set of issues?

As noted, this book is the first in the series giving you a potential Christmas gift for each of the next three years.  It is important to note that while this piece of fiction is compelling, it also has adult content.  In addition, it is also over 300 pages in total.  If you have someone that likes to read, loves sports and is between ages 10-15, then you should walk on over to the bookstore and buy The Walk On today.   

Mac Trigg

 

Posted in Book Review, NCAAF, NFL Tagged with: , , , , ,

Best Books on Sports: Ballpark Mysteries

Ballpark Mysteries by David A. Kelly 

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The Ballpark Mysteries is a fantastic series written by David A. Kelly.  Two young kids, Kate and Mike, are the main characters.  They solve exciting mysteries while teaching you a lot about baseball.  There are 13 books in the series with another one on the way (#13: Capital Catch will be released in March).  My favorite book is Super Special #1: World Series Curse.  I like it because it explores two important baseball curses: The Curse of the Bambino (Red Sox) and The Curse of the Billy Goat (Cubs).  If you like mysteries, excitement, baseball and are at a reading level for chapter books, you are the kind of person that should buy this series.  This series is superb and worthy of five stars!

Elliott Glass

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Posted in MLB, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Fourth and Long

Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football 

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College Football captures our hearts and minds. When we think about rivalry, we think Ohio State and Michigan.  In this superb book, John U. Bacon takes us deep into the game for a multi-faceted page turner.  Readers will get a rollicking look at a 2012 season filled with emotion. Bacon uses first-hand access to describe conquests and catastrophes alike at Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Northwestern. The author clearly loves Division One football and asks tough questions as he struggled to answer if it is still the same great game.  This book is more than a fun read. It is a thought provoking look “at the fight for the soul of college football.”

Powers Trigg

Posted in Book Review, NCAAF Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Our Boys

Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen

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Heart. Commitment. Character. That is what Roger Barta had always preached to his high school football teams in Smith Center, Kansas (pop. 1,610). Coach Barta always says that when you take care of the little things, winning takes care of itself. For four consecutive years, the Smith Center Redmen had not lost a game. Winning, it seemed, had taken care of itself. But a 5th year of loss-free football would bring challenges that the Redmen had never faced. Joe Drape follows the trials and tribulations of the Redmen as they pursue a “Perfect Season on the Plains”.

Powers Trigg

Posted in Book Review, NCAAF Tagged with: , , , ,

A-Disgrace? A-Rod and His Path Back to MLB Respect

[MyESPNforkids is lucky to have our own Peter Gammons: Adam “Shem” Shemesh.  When you contemplate the biggest names in baseball during our time as young fans, you have to think about Alex Rodriguez.  At the same time, the word steroids or even Biogenesis is amazingly top-of-mind for kids.  Say it ain’t so, Joe.

In this solid article, Adam not only gives us some great history on the improbable resurrection of A-Rod, he makes us think about what we as sports fans are willing to tolerate both in baseball and professional sports as a whole.  What does it say about us that we are willing to so quickly embrace someone that so readily broke the rules?]  

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In August of 2013, Alex Rodriguez was issued a 211-game suspension for involvement in the infamous Biogenesis scandal. He responded by suing the Yankees and their team physician along with a suit against Major League Baseball (MLB). Rodriguez became the face of everything wrong with baseball.  Bud Selig wanted nothing to do with him.

Never in his wildest dreams would Alex have imagined that around three years later, he’d be sitting front and center for Fox’s pregame coverage of the 2016 World Series. But that’s exactly what happened.

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After missing all of 2014, Rodriguez came back for Spring Training 2015 and Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman always said that Alex was by no means guaranteed the roster spot. Rodriguez responded by putting up vintage A-Rod numbers: 33 homers and 86 RBIs. This performance left many fans wondering why and how Rodriguez put together such a tremendous season at age 37. Some pointed to the absence of Derek Jeter.  Others opined that he just needed a little rest.  And of course, many people pointed to steroids.

That performance gained Rodriguez newfound respect among Yankee fans, and he was able to leave on his own terms in the middle of the 2016 season with a farewell sendoff out reminiscent of a Hollywood movie.

Rodriguez made his first appearance with FOX in their NLCS Pregame coverage last year. This year, he was a member of FOX’s ‘America’s Game of the Week’ pregame on Saturdays and their All-Star Game coverage, which included an awkward interview with ex-teammate Andrew Miller that aired around a month after Rodriguez retired. He then appeared in Fox’s ALCS and World Series coverage, offering poignant insights as he did so.

Somehow, someway, Alex Rodriguez has regained the respect of so many in so little time.

Adam Shemesh

Posted in MLB, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Gobble, Gobble: A Postmortem on Thanksgiving Football

[As you watched the games on Thanksgiving in Detroit, Dallas and Indianapolis, did you wonder how those three games stacked up against the NFL contests that have been played on holiday’s past?  Washington, D.C.-based Ezra Troy did.

His rumination led to this fun piece on the top five “big” events that have defined the NFL during their great Thanksgiving games.  As we look out to Christmas (which includes an incredibly important Chiefs-Broncos game at Arrowhead on Christmas night), here is some great writing on the holiday that just was as you head back to school.]

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  1. THE BUTT FUMBLE

In a failed season for the Jets, (they went 6-10 and failed to reach the playoffs) on November 22, 2012, they were 4-6 with a chance at the playoffs when they hosted the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving Day. After the first quarter, with the score tied 0-0, the Patriots scored following a Jets fumble. Then came the play that will be remembered for a long, long time. The butt fumble. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez ran into offensive lineman Brandon Moore and the fumble was returned for a touchdown. The Patriots scored three more touchdowns that quarter and ended up beating the Jets 49-19. This was the beginning of the end for Sanchez on the Jets, as he was benched a few games later and then left the Jets the following year.

  1. LT PUTS ON A SHOW FOR THANKSGIVING 1982

In 1982, there was a strike that cost the NFL 7 weeks of the season. The Giants came into the Thanksgiving game in Detroit 0-3 and looking to turn their season around. Unfortunately, their star linebacker Lawrence Taylor had been injured the game before against the Redskins. After being named the Defensive Player of the Year the previous year as a rookie, his performance in 1982 was somewhat lacking. For the first quarter he stayed on the sideline and came in early in the second quarter. At halftime, the Giants were down 6-0.; however, they came back in the third quarter and going into the fourth quarter, the score was tied at 6-6. The Lions drove deep into Giants territoey to set up a third and goal from the four. Taylor intercepted a pass intended for the Lions tight end and turned up field for a 97-yard pick six. The Giants won the game 13-7 and LT turned his season around with one of the greatest Thanksgiving performances in recent memory.

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  1. 1980 BEARS BEAT THE LIONS

In 1980, the Bears traveled to Detroit to face division rival Lions. With the Lions up 17-3, the Bears began one of the greatest comebacks in Thanksgiving history. After scoring a touchdown, the Bears forced a Lions punt and got the ball back at their own six yard line with three and a half minutes left to play. The Bears drove downfield for a game-tying score and forced overtime. The Bears chose to receive the kick in and Otis Wilson took it back for a touchdown to win the game for the Bears, as well as setting the record for shortest OT in a regular season game (since broken).

  1. THE LEON LETT GAME

In 1993, the Dolphins traveled to Dallas on Thanksgiving the field was covered in snow. Though everyone remembers this game for Leon Lett’s blunder, it wasn’t just that which made this game a classic. Firstly, Dan Marino didn’t even play, he was injured. Miami also came into that game 8-2, and after winning this game to move to 9-2, they lost all their remaining games to finish 9-7 and out of the playoffs. Meanwhile, Dallas didn’t lose a game the rest of the year and went on to be super bowl champs. At the end of the game, Dallas led 14-13, but the Dolphins were in field goal range with a few seconds left and attempted a game winning 41-yard field goal. After the kick was blocked, the game was all but over. Miami couldn’t touch the ball unless Dallas touched it first and nobody on Dallas would touch it because they all knew that rule. Not Leon Lett. Lett, who thought the ball was live, tried to jump on it as Miami players stood around. He touched the ball, making it became live, and the Dolphins recovered, giving their kicker a second chance with a 19-yard chip shot. The kicker converted and Miami shocked Dallas 16-14.

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  1. CLINT LONGLEY SAVES THE DAY

On Thanksgiving Day, 1974, Dallas played Washington. Down 16-3 in the third quarter, Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach was knocked out of the game and Dallas brought in backup Clint Longley. Longley then had the greatest game of his career, going 11-20 with two TD passes and leading Dallas to a 17-16 win. Two years later, Longley punched Roger Staubach and was immediately traded to San Diego, where he played one more year before retiring.

Ezra Troy

Posted in NFL Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NCAAF: Longhorns Give Tom a Cruise to Austin!

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The Charlie Strong era comes to a close.  And within one hour, a new era begins with Tom Herman as the new coach of the Texas Longhorns!

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According to various media reports, Herman will make between $5 and $6 million per year.  His deal is expected to run five years.

Herman arrives in Austin with a solid roster that has good young talent on both sides of the ball.  The 2016 recruiting class was ranked in the Top 10.  And at key skill positions, he has Shane Buechele at QB and (if decides to come back) D’Onta Foreman at RB.

The sky is the limit for Tom Herman and UT football as they look out to 2017.  Hook’em Horns!

Powers Trigg

Posted in NCAAF Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Houston, There Is No Problem: The Case for Tom Herman Staying Put

Before KU kicker Matthew Wyman made the 25-yard field goal that effectively ended Charlie Strong’s coaching tenure with the University of Texas (UT), there had already been heavy chatter that the Longhorns were pursuing the head coach of the University of Houston, Tom Herman. The Herman rumors caused a wave of burnt orange euphoria and, as a diehard UT fan, were music to my ears.

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At the same time, there is a case to be made that Herman should not make the jump to one of the top three Division One coaching jobs.  it can be argued, instead, that he should remain at the University of Houston.  

  • 1) Forget the Bidding War.  Money Is Apparently “No Object.”

On Monday, a top school official at Houston was publicly quoted as saying, “”I do not fear a bidding war for Tom.”  And even more bluntly, he went on to comment, ”We’re not going to lose him over money.”

In general, the taxpayer money shelled out to college coaches is absurd. The highest paid employee in the state of Florida is Jimbo Fisher, coach of Florida State.  He makes $5.15 million per year.  In addition, most coaches have buyout clauses built into their contracts. These clauses stipulate that if said coach is fired, he will receive a lump sum payment. For example, if (more likely when) Charlie Strong is fired, he will receive a $10 million dollar lump sum payment.  For some perspective, in-state tuition (including room and board) is $26k per student.

Herman has a chance to not only cash in, but also sign a very long term contract with a buyout clause.  It gives him the stability that anyone with a passion for coaching wants. Luckily for him, he doesn’t have to leave the place that has made him a shining star.  He can simply sign on the bottom line and stay put.

  • 2) How Does Being a Legend Sound?

This line of argument follows the path of thinking that Texas already has had a God-like coach: Daryl Royal. Houston has not. If Herman signs a long-term deal, and brings a national title to a non-power 5 conference team like Houston, it would be equivalent to Leicester City’s historic EPL title run. Even if Herman goes to Texas and has success, he will never surpass the man who has his name on the stadium.  You can just ask Mack Brown.     

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  • 3) If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It.

While an immensely talented team, Texas hasn’t been able to put it all together. On the other hand, Houston has emerged as a team that can play at the highest levels of the collegiate game.  Momentum matters –in everything from sports to politics to life.  Herman can use this leverage to recruit at top-dog levels and really go after 5-star talent. It is an increasingly feasible plan.

In the coming years, Houston could have a new state-of-the-art facility and join the Big XII.  It would bring added exposure and revenue.  More than that, it would establish and solidify the Herman as Houston icon narrative.  Gary Patterson at TCU offers an interesting parallel.     

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It is great to have options.  Tom Herman has them, likely from Texas and LSU.  However, he should think hard before he makes a jump from the place where he built an emerging national reputation.  As a UT fan, I would love to see him walking the sidelienes in Austin next fall.  An objective analysis, however, suggests there are solid arguments to be found on both sides of the coaching caroussel debate.

Powers Trigg

Posted in NCAAF Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NFL Jersey Rules: Here is the 101

The NFL has not been without controversy this year.  National Anthem Boycotts.  Concussion Protocol.  Declining TV Ratings.  Amid the journalist and social media noise, let me add another topic: fan jerseys.

In my family, there are a set of longstanding rules surrounding NFL jerseys on Game Day (the only day that they should be worn).  These principles are, at least in the mind of my father, ironclad.  They are timeworn, dating to the 1990s and the Marty Schottenheimer era.  They have been handed down to me during drives to our Sunday tailgate or walks to the stadium.

With the chance for a bit of rest and reflection this Thanksgiving week, I have found a window to put fingers to keyboard to share them with you.

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  • 1) No Jerseys from Former Players not in the Team Hall of Fame (and/or the actual Hall of Fame).  We all get caught up in the hype of the moment.  There is the special teams star that runs back punts and kickoffs for touchdowns.  There is the killer first round draft pick that is going to transform the franchise.  I understand the emotion.  But if you have a Manziel jersey in Cleveland, you know what needs to be on your Christmas wish list.  If you thought Brody Croyle was the QB of the future in Kansas City, here is a quick update: he isn’t on the 53-man roster.

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  • 2) No Jerseys from Teams Not Playing in the Game.  This one seems so self-evident and simple.  Does it even need to be a rule?  Why would some show up at Arrowhead for the Kansas City-Tampa Bay game on Sunday wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey? Unfortunately, I see it time and time again –an NFL jersey from a team not on the field of play.  The lone caveat here is that I not only will tolerate, but give high style points for the college jersey of a standout NFL player on the field. If you have a Derrick Johnson jersey from his days at Texas, you are delivering Super Fan class stuff.  Beyond that exception, I assume you know who is playing and it is reflected in your attire.
  • 3) Defense Beats Offense.  While Freaknomics and others in the behavioral economics space have proven that the cliche “defense wins championships” is not nearly as definitive as pundits believe, we aren’t talking about Xs and Os. We are talking about the message you are sending to other fans as you pound the seats trying to cause a false start.  If you are going to invest in a high-cost jersey, you buy defense.

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  • 4) No Away Jerseys.  Unless you are actually at an away game, you should never wear the away jersey.  How can Arrowhead be described as a “sea of red” if you are wearing white?  I will concede that this fact may be colored significantly by the fact the Chiefs’ kit for away games is very weak (particularly during the 1990s when it was white-on-white and my Dad created this rule).  Having said that, I am hard pressed to think of any of the 32 teams in the league with a superior away jersey.  You are watching games at home.  You wear the home jersey.

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  • 5) No Jerseys with Your Name on It.  I know that many NFL teams offer the chance for the custom jersey with your name on the back.  STMs (season ticket members), in Arrowhead parlance, seem to like this option.  As you navigate the stadium, you see this jersey profile growing like a vine in August.  However, unless you actually are a former member of the team, then you don’t put your name on the back.  Period.

The NFL remains the top sports league by revenue with over $13 billion.   A big part of that spending is the connection between fan and team captured most significantly by the jersey itself.  It is, as the 45th president-elect might say, a beautiful thing.

The real fan, however, has to play it smart.  Your style, as the saying goes, introduces you before you even speak.  And in NFL stadiums, the jersey is an ear-numbing, deafening shout.

Happy Thanksgiving (particularly for fans hosting in Detroit, Indianapolis and Dallas).

Powers Trigg

Posted in NFL, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let’s Spur Some Debate: How Would Golden State Do Against San Antonio in the David Robinson Era?

[The NBA season began on October 25th.  It seems amazing to think that a new season has commenced.   With Kevin Durant joining the already stacked Golden State Warriors, most pundits are assuming that Curry and Co are poised for a World Championship run.  

Their dominance has DC-based Ezra Troy thinking about how the team stacks up against some of the other great franchise of the modern NBA era. He has ANOTHER great piece here looking at a head-to-head comparison with the Spurs during the late 90s and early 2000s.]    

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The Spurs of the late 90’s and early 2000’s were a dynasty. They, along with the Lakers, made every single championship from 1999-2005. The Spurs best year was 2003, when they went 60-22. Lead by Tim Duncan averaging a double-double and Tony Parker, the Spurs cruised to a championship and won for the second time in four years and would later go on to win again two years later.

Given all of that, it is interesting to consider how the Spurs team of old would match up against the new darling of the NBA, Golden State.

PG:

Steph Curry vs. Tony Parker

Curry is having one of the greatest three year stretches by a point guard in history and has averaged 27 points and almost 7.5 assists per game over that span, leading Golden State to a title, two championship appearances and the greatest regular season record in NBA history. Parker, leading San Antonio to five championship appearances in his career, has averaged 16.5 points and six assists over the course of his career, but was still in his second year in 2003. Curry has a definite advantage over the Argentinian guard.

Advantage: Warriors

SG:

Klay Thompson vs. Manu Ginobili

Thompson, one of the league’s premier shooting guards and three point shooters, has paired up with Curry to create the famed “splash bros” and lead Golden State to its first championship in almost 40 years. Ginobili, a star shooting guard who teamed up with Parker and Tim Duncan to create “the big three” and lead San Antonio to five championships and create a dynasty. Ginobili was in his rookie year in ’03 and didn’t have much of a role, but has had a solid career since then. Ginobili has never been considered a superstar though and has never averaged 20 points a game in his career, like Thompson has already done twice in his career. He has never been considered a top twenty player (like Thompson) and has only been to two all-star games, like Thompson, while having a career almost three times as long.

Advantage: Warriors

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SF:

Kevin Durant vs. Bruce Bowen

Considered a top five player of our generation and a sure hall of famer, Durant moved to the Warriors in hopes of creating a “super-team”. He has won MVP, four scoring titles and a rookie of the year award. Bowen had a mediocre career and bounced around on four different teams. This one is obvious.

Advantage: Warriors

PF:

Draymond Green vs. Dennis Rodman

Green has had a couple of recent all-star seasons, but he doesn’t even hold a candle to Tim Duncan, one of the greatest PF’s of all time.

Advantage: Spurs

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C:

Zaza Pachulia vs David Robinson

Robinson and Pachulia are both players at the end of their careers. The difference is Pachulia is a pretty run of the mill player, as opposed to Robinson, a hall of fame center and ten time all-star who had led the Spurs to an NBA title in 1999.

Advantage: Spurs

Bench:

Andre Igoudala and Shaun Livingston vs. Steven Jackson and Malik Rose

Andre Igoudala could start for many NBA teams right now and Livingston is one of the best backup point guard’s in the game today. Jackson averaged 12 points off the bench while Rose chipped in 10.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

Advantage: Spurs

Prediction: Golden State in Seven

The Warriors have an advantage in the front court, while the Spurs have it in the backcourt and the bench. The key matchup is at the Small Forward position, where the Warriors have a clear advantage. That being said, Durant would absolutely dominate Bowen and lead Golden state to a seven game victory.

Ezra Troy

Posted in NBA, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

A Puzzling Pat: The Curious Trades of Bill Belichick

[I have had the chance to read a couple of great books on the enigmatic Bill Belichick, including The War Room and also the awesome The Education of a Coach by David Halberstam.  ESPN once called him the greatest enigma in sports.  Some of the best sports writers around have tried to crack the code.  

In this piece, Ezra and Roey pair together for an interesting look at some of the trades that have played a critical role in making the Pats one of the most consistently successful football teams of all-time.  We will leave it to the Comment Section to tell us if they have selected the right list and offered readers a window into the great Bill Belichick.] 

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The Patriots traded their star linebacker, Jamie Collins, to the Cleveland Browns for, wait for it… a third round pick. Why would they do this? He was to be a free agent after this year, which makes the trade even more puzzling considering they would have received a compensatory third round selection even if they hadn’t re-signed him. The answer is simple: Bill Belichick.

Belichick has a history of making what seemed to be questionable trades at the time, but ended up paying big dividends. We take a look back at some of these trades

I. Randy Moss

Number One: The Randy Moss Trades

In 2007, the Raiders traded WR Randy Moss to the Patriots for a fourth round pick.  In 2010, the Patriots traded Moss and a seventh round pick to the Vikings for a third round pick.  Moss, a former first round pick, had an off-year in 2006 with the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders then traded him to the Patriot for a fourth round pick. Over the next three years, Moss showed why he was a first rounder despite all of his off the field problems. 50 TDs, 75 yds/game and almost 4000 yards in just three years (including setting the all-time records for touchdown receptions in a year). Just three years later, they traded him and a seventh rounder for a third rounder in a typical Belichickian move – trading away vets who have had recent successful years, but after they are traded they don’t have much of a career. The same happened to Moss, who played just two more unsuccessful years in the league

II.  Wes Welker

Number Two: Reception Machine

In 2007, the Patriots acquired WR Wes Welker from the Dolphins for a second-round draft pick and a seventh-round draft pick.  The same year the Patriots traded for Moss, they traded for another receiver Wes Welker. At the time, the trade was questionable because Welker was putting up mediocre numbers; however, Belichick clearly recognized his potential and traded for him. Welker went on to finish first or second in receptions in 5 out of the next 6 years. Just like Moss, however, after leaving the Patriots, Welker didn’t have much of a career and retired soon after.

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III.  Drew Bledsoe

Number Three: Handing the Reigns to Brady for Good

In 2002, the Patriots traded QB Drew Bledsoe to the Bills for a first round pick.  After the Patriots shocking win in the 2001 Super Bowl, Belichick had a QB controversy at his hands; he had two great quarterbacks in Brady and Bledsoe. Belichick showed his trust in Brady and traded the veteran Bledsoe for a first round pick from the Bills. As we know now the trade was the right move, with Brady going on to win three more Super Bowls (and counting), whereas Bledsoe was out of the league by 2006.

IV.  Corey Dillon

Number Four: Turning Washups into Stars

In 2004, the Patriots acquired RB Corey Dillon from the Cincinnati Bengals for a fourth round draft selection.  Corey Dillon rushed for 541 yards in 2003 when he was nearly 30 years old. He seemed like a washed up running back. In 2004, the Patriots acquired Dillon for a fourth round pick. Dillon produced, rushing for a career high 1635 yards and was the starting running back in fourteen regular season games. Dillon rushed for almost 100 yards per game during the playoffs and was a key part of the Patriots’ Super Bowl run that year.

V. LeGarrette Blount

Number Five: Turning Washups into Stars, Part II

In 2013, the Patriots acquired RB LeGarrette Blount from Tampa Bay in exchange for RB Jeff Demps and a 2013 seventh round pick.  After an unsuccessful year following this trade, Blount was not re-signed by the Patriots and instead signed by the Steelers. The Stealers let him go midway through 2014 and the Patriots re-signed him. He was a key part of the Patriots super bowl run that year.After a solid 2015, Blount has exploded this year, and is currently ranked number five in rushing yards and leads the league in rushing touchdowns with nine.

VI.  Martellus Bennett

Number Six: A Security Blanket

In 2016, The Patriots acquired TE Martellus Bennett and a sixth-round draft pick from the Chicago Bears in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick.  In one of his more recent trades, Belichick acquired Martellus Bennett, a well needed security blanket for star tight end Rob Gronkowski, in exchange for a fourth round draft pick. Bennett has produced huge numbers this year and even leads the league in touchdowns for tight ends.

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VII.  Aqib Talib

Number Seven: Resurrection

In 2012, the Patriots acquired CB Aqib Talib and a seventh-round pick from Tampa Bay for a fourth round draft choice. Talib, after a solid start to his career, had an off year in 2011, so the Bucs traded him to the Patriots midway through 2012. Though Talib didn’t have a great year that year, he exploded the next year and was awarded a huge contract by Denver that offseason. He is now an integral part of the Broncos defense which won them a super bowl last year.

VIII.  Deion Branch

Number Eight: Star Receiver?

In 2006, the Patriots traded WR Deion Branch to the Seahawks in exchange for a first-round selection. In 2006, the Patriots got rid of a solid receiver in Deion Branch. The super bowl MVP just two years prior, Branch looked like one of the league’s up and coming receivers. The Patriots traded him for a first round pick to the Seahawks and he was never the star receiver he looked like he was going to become.

IX. Chandler Jones

Number Nine: Off the Field Issues

In 2016, the patriots acquired G Jonathan Cooper and a 2016 second-round draft pick from the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for DE/LB Chandler Jones.  Just last year, Belichick traded away a player who finished in the top 5 in sacks the year before. Jones was one of the leaders of Belichick’s stingy defense and the trade puzzled many. Belichick was able to overlook his skill and realized he would be detrimental to the team because of his off the field issues, so he traded him away. The Patriots defense hasn’t suffered though, ranking 3rd in points allowed per game (16.5) as opposed to 10th last year (19.7) .

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X. Logan Mankins

Number Ten: I Don’t Care How Many Pro Bowls You Made

In 2014, the New England Patriots G Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for tight end Tim Wright and a fourth-round draft pick.  Due to Mankins unwillingness to take a paycut, Belichick shipped him to Tampa for Tim Wright and a fourth rounder. While Wright never developed to his full potential in New England, Mankins was never the same and retired the following year after the trade. Mankins was a seven time pro bowler with New England, but Belichick’s genius led to a major money saver for the Patriots.

Ezra Troy and Roey Herzfeld

Posted in NFL, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

NBA Greats: Bulls v Warriors

[Everyone is chatting about the Cubs.  But as the NBA season kicks off, it is time to look back at the 1996 Bulls. How would the best team in NBA history perform against the much ballyhooed Golden State Warriors?  DC-based Ezra Troy gives a fun comparative analysis of the two teams with his prediction about who would win a conceptual head-to-head.]

The 1996 Bulls, widely considered the greatest NBA team of all time (they had the best regular season record at 72-10 until the Warriors went 73-9 last season) were in the midst of six NBA titles in eight seasons. Lead by Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, the Bulls stormed through the regular season and playoffs, beating the Seattle Supersonics (now OKC Thunder) in six games in the NBA finals to start a three year streak of NBA championships.

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PG: Steph Curry vs. Ron Harper

Harper a vet in his ninth year, started 80 games at PG for the Bulls, but it isn’t even a question. Stephen Curry is setting records and is having one of the best three season stretches for a basketball player in recent memory. Advantage: Warriors

SG: Klay Thompson vs. Michael Jordan

A high scoring threat is how to describe Thompson. One of the “splash bros”, he and Curry… wait MICHAEL JORDAN. The greatest basketball player ever. It isn’t even close: Advantage: Bulls

SF: Kevin Durant vs. Scottie Pippen

Another one of the greats of our generation, Durant decided to go to the Warriors and form a super-team. His resume includes an MVP, four scoring titles, a rookie of the year award and two Olympic gold Medals. Pippen is a seven time all-star and Hall of Famer, but his stats and chances for recognition were diminished by the fact he played second fiddle to MJ. I have to give KD a slight advantage here, but it is really close. Advantage: Warriors

PF: Dennis Rodman vs. Draymond Green

Rodman, after a successful run with the bad boy Pistons, landed on this Bulls team and was immediately a star, leading the league with almost 15 total rebounds and was a monster in the paint and on defense. He is in the Hall of Fame and averaged 7 points and 13 rebounds a game. Green, in his second full year last year, was a stat machine, averaging 1.5 blocks, 1.5 steals, 9.5 rebounds, 14 points and 7.5 assists per game last year. Still, by having teams worried about the splash brothers, Green’s stats are inflated and show him to be a much better player than he actually is. Advantage: Bulls

C: Zaza Pachulia vs Luc Longley

Both pretty run of the mill players, Pachulia and Longley both never made an all-star game, but Pachulia averages one more rebound per game over the course of his career and had a couple of decent seasons, while Longley never amounted to much. Advantage: Warriors

Bench: Andre Igoudala and Shaun Livingston vs. Steve Kerr and Toni Kukoc

Andre Igoudala could start for many NBA teams right now and Livingston is one of the best backup point guard’s in the game today. Kerr came off the bench and shot three’s (just like everyone on Golden State can do today), while Kukoc had a very solid career. Advantage: Warriors

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Prediction: Golden State in Seven

The addition of Durant, a top five NBA player to go along with another top fiver (Curry) and two more in  the top twenty (Green, Thompson), pushes Golden State over the hump. Though they lost much bench depth, this team is better than last year’s (who I think would have lost in seven) and can be considered better than the 1996 Bulls.

Ezra Troy

Posted in NBA Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Big Controversy in the Big D: Tony Romo or Dak Prescott?

[Here is another solid piece from Adam Shemesh, looking at the drama playing out in Jerry Land. Jones has a big stadium in a big state with a big appetite for football.  He also has a big QB controversy.  

Adam gives us a fresh, timely set of thoughts from past QB controversies.  We believe the past offers real insights into the future here at myespnforkids.com.  Adam ends the article asking for your input.  Let’s hear what you have to say!]

A little over a week before NFL kickoff, the Cowboys received some devastating news. To their dismay (and Internet pranksters’ delight), Tony Romo suffered a spinal fracture and was expected to miss a good chunk of the 2016-17 season.

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Fans of “America’s Team” grumbled and viewed this diagnosis as another season flushed down the toilet. Who was Romo’s replacement?  Enter Dak Prescott. After taking most of the second-team snaps during the preseason, the rookie out of Mississippi State made his NFL debut for Dallas to start the season. Dak- and the Cowboys- haven’t looked back.

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Prescott’s numbers are dazzling. He broke the record for most passes thrown without an INT to start a career (163) and has thrown for four touchdowns, while rushing for three. Most importantly, Dallas is 5-1, which puts them atop the NFC East. Presently, with Romo ready to get back on the field, the ‘Boys have opted to start Dak for their Week 8 contest against the Eagles. Given this tricky QB situation, I thought it would be a good time to look back at a few other QBs to lose their starting job thanks to an injury.

#3). Drew Brees and Philip Rivers (Chargers)

The Chargers had possession of Eli Manning, Drew Brees, and Philip Rivers at one point. Oh, what could have been for a franchise that is now searching for a new home. After two good seasons in San Diego that saw Drew make his first Pro Bowl appearance and lead the Chargers to a 20-11 record, the Chargers let Brees walk after the young QB injured his shoulder during the final week of the 2004-05 season. Rivers has done well in his own right, having made four Pro Bowls over his career. However, San Diego is mired in mediocrity, as they haven’t had more than nine wins in a season since the 2009-10 campaign. As for Brees, he was signed by the Saints in 2006 and took home the franchise’s first and only Super Bowl trophy in 2010, and continues to play at an extremely high level for New Orleans.

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#2). Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe (Patriots)

These two are perhaps the most memorable duo of the bunch. After a solid career in New England in which Bledsoe was named to three Pro Bowls and made one Super Bowl appearance, everything came to a crashing halt after Drew suffered a huge blow (literally) thanks to the Jets’ Mo Lewis in 2001. Tom Brady stepped in for him and proceeded to win the first of his four Super Bowl titles that season. Meanwhile, Bledsoe was shipped off to Buffalo the next year. Tom is arguably the greatest NFL player ever, and things could have turned out much differently for him had Bledsoe not been injured.

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#1). Joe Montana and Steve Young (49ers)

Having to choose between these two is a good problem to have. Hardly do you ever see two Hall of Fame quarterbacks on the same team. After Montana had etched his name into the record books by winning a then-record four Super Bowls in San Fran, he was replaced by Steve Young to start the 1991 campaign. Young went on to win his second Super Bowl in 1994, putting up 49 points in the Niners’ dominant win over the Chargers. Montana was traded to the Chiefs and finished his career respectably by posting a 17-8 record over his two seasons in Kansas City.

Do you agree with this list? What are some quarterback swaps you remember? Let us know in the comment section!

Adam Shemesh

Posted in NFL, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NFL: “So, You Are Saying There’s a Chance.”

[Donald Trump isn’t the only one worried about a free fall.   As Washington, DC-based Roey Herzfeld shares in his latest piece, fan in several NFL cities are also struggling to map a path to the postseason.  

As someone that was at a dreadful home loss to Denver in Week One, and an even more tragic loss to the Bears 17-18 in Week Four, I can tell you that I didn’t see anyway that the Chiefs could make the playoffs after Week 6.  They did.  And as Roey frames here, my beloved Chiefs are not alone.]  

For fans of the Jets, Dolphins, Chargers, 49ers, Bears and Panthers, the start of this NFL season has been disappointing to say the least. The high expectations of Panthers, Jets, and Chargers have been crushed and if not for a quick turnaround those teams will not be playing in the playoffs.

Fortunately for this group of teams there have been cases where teams that have started 1-4 made it into the playoffs. Let’s take a look at the six teams who have done it.

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1992 Chargers

This Charger team began their season with four straight losses before turning it around and winning their next four games. They eventually won the division and beat the Chiefs in the first round of the playoffs before being defeated by the Dolphins.

1993 Oilers

In the following year, the Houston Oilers began their season 1-4. Led by Hall of fame quarterback Warren Moon, the Oilers then went on to win their next 11 games before eventually falling to the Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

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2002 Jets

After heading into their bye week with a record of 1-4, Coach Herm Edwards managed to take his team to the “playoffs” by winning the division with a 9-7 record. The Jets blew out the colts 41-0 in the first round but fell to the Raiders in the Divisional Round.

2002 Titans

In the same year, the Titans dropped to 1-4 before winning 10 out of their next 11 games to win the division. The Titans defeated the Steelers in Overtime in the divisional round but like the Jets fell to that same Oakland Raiders team in the Conference Finals.

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2015 Chiefs

The most recent team to accomplish this feat was last year’s Chiefs. The Chiefs began their season 1-5 and then won their next ten games winning a wild card spot. The Chiefs were defeated by the Patriots in the Divisional Round.

Roey Herzfeld

Posted in NFL Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Bridge Dedication Brings Further Recognition to “Buck” O’Neill

As I have written in the past, the Negro Leagues are one of the great, and too frequently untold, stories of modern American History. The League didn’t just change baseball, but shaped the country itself.

The Negro Leagues had some wonderful stars from Rube Foster to Josh Gibson to Satchel Paige to Buck O’Neil. You can see them all at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City (which I have written about in the past http://myespnforkids.com/?p=525) including their moving Field of Legends.

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As Ken Burns’ wonderful film on baseball brought to life, Buck O’Neil was a standout first baseman and manager for the Kansas City Monarchs. He would go on to be a Major League (MLB) scout helping “discover” both Lou Brock and Ernie Banks.  O’Neil would later become the first black coach in the MLB. Then, late in life, Buck would spend his time as what former Senator Al Simpson rightly called an amazing ambassador for both the Negro Leagues and the NLB museum (NLBM) that he helped found. At every stage of life, he was quick with a story and smile.

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In 2006, a special 12-person committee was created to include Negro League baseball players and managers in Cooperstown. As author and sports columnist Joe Posnaski and others have written, Buck was considered a lock. Unfortunately, as word emerged from the deliberations, fans were disappointed to learn that he fell one vote shy.

Hundreds of people were gathered at the NLB museum for what they assumed would be a great celebration. It was not to be. However, as I learned in my research for National History Day last year, there was no bitterness or disappointment from Buck. As Kansas City businessman Jim Nutter recalled, he was all smiles and even consoling others. News accounts would recall Buck saying, “Shed no tears for Buck.” It was a true testament to the man.

On Thursday, the state of Missouri dedicated and renamed the Broadway Bridge that runs right into the heart of downtown Kansas City as the Buck O’Neil Bridge. The dedication was timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of his death.

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At the NLBM gathering where Buck learned he had not made the Hall, he said, “Just keep loving old Buck.” The FL native became one of Kansas City’s favorite sons. This latest tribute is another example of his powerful impact on the city and on the game of baseball. We just keep loving old Buck.

Powers Trigg

Posted in MLB Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

MLB: As October Arrives, Questions Loom

[Many purists hated (and perhaps still hate) the expanded number of playoff series and games. As a Royals fan, I can tell you that it was an absolute joy to follow the ups and downs of the postseason the last two years.  And so, October and postseason baseball are finally upon on us.  

As I have consistently noted on the site, NYC-based Adam Shemesh is one of the best junior writers on baseball today.  Some readers will recall my earlier article on the great Peter Gammons.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Adam follow in his footsteps.  Shemesh delivers once again here with three key questions that loom large in the postseason for each of the teams still lacing it up in October.]  

Let’s ask the big questions for each of the American League and National League teams that made it to the  2016 postseason:

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I. AMERICAN LEAGUE

A. Baltimore Orioles

1- How will the starting pitching perform?

The Orioles have been heralded for their vaunted offense all year, but you can’t slug your way to a World Series. Baltimore’s starting staff posted an ERA of 4.74 during the regular season, by far the worst of any playoff contender. They also tossed just one complete game all year and issued 336 walks (6th worst in MLB). While the O’s offense is the main attraction, their pitching will ultimately decide their fate.

2- Will overuse of the bullpen catch up to the O’s?

Because of their poor starting staff, Buck Showalter has been forced to heavily lean on Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, and Zach Britton- or ‘BOB’ as the trio of former starters is known in Baltimore. Brach has been leaned on the heaviest- his 78 IP put him at 8th most amongst relievers. And the wear showed, as Brad pitched to a bloated 5.06 ERA in August and allowed 4 runs over .1.  IP in his final outing of the season. While Britain has done just fine (.75 second half ERA), O’Day posted a 4.91 second-half ERA. If Baltimore’s starters only give them 5 innings in the playoffs, it will be tough to bridge the gap to Britton without any hiccups.

3- How will rough home crowds affect Baltimore’s players?

This might seem like a weird question, but it could come into play should the Orioles make it past the one game playoff with the Jays. This year, they drew just 26,000 fans per game, or 5th worst in the American League. Superstar center fielder Adam Jones called the scene “eerie” and even “pathetic”. If the Orioles are playing a playoff game and half the ballpark is empty that might start to get in the back of a player’s mind.

B. Toronto Blue Jays

1- Will the Jays be able to find momentum after stumbling into the playoffs?

For most of the year, Toronto were favorites to repeat in the AL east. They have great hitting and the best starting staff of any AL squad, at least on paper. However, they nearly missed the playoffs altogether thanks to a 11-16 September slide. While they are coming off a nice series win in Fenway, the Jays need a big win to get themselves going again.

2- How will the Jays’ complementary pieces fare on offense?

The Jays lineup is headed by a three-headed monster that’s the best in the game- Donaldson, Bautista, and Encarnacion. The trio combined for 101 homers and 295 RBI this season. However, things get a bit murky after there. The real key to the Blue Jays’ playoff hopes is how well players like Kevin Pillar, Russell Martin, and Michael Saunders (along with the oft-injured Troy Tulowitzki) will be able to contribute in October.

3- Will the Jays be able to keep their emotions in check should they reach an ALDS matchup with Texas?

Last year, Jose Bautista’s epic bat flip in game 5 of the ALDS capped of an incredible comeback for the Jays and ignited a feud with the Rangers that still hasn’t calmed down, a statement that is backed up by the fact that Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor punched Bautista earlier this year. Unlike in 2015, the Rangers are the top dog this time around with the Blue Jays being a WC team. Will Toronto be able to (literally) roll with the punches and stay focused against a Ranger team that’s out for revenge?

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C. Texas Rangers

#1- How will Texas manage its pitching staff in October?

The Rangers’ ace Cole Hamels was in the running for the AL CY Young as recently as a month ago. However, he finished the season by posting a horrendous 5.86 September ERA, allowing 6 or more runs twice. However, Cole has a wealth of playoff experience and the real question comes after his turn in the rotation. Yu Darvish is surely the Rangers’ #2 option, but how long of a leash will GM Jon Daniels allow manager Jeff Banister to give Darvish following his Tommy John surgery? After You, Banister will most likely call on lefty Martin Perez, who brings in a host of problems as well. His 5.87 road ERA ranks among the worst in the league.  After those three, the Rangers will be forced to put together a combo of Colby Lewis/ Derek Holland, two hurlers that missed significant time this year, in the 4th spot.

#2- How will Texas’ bullpen fare?

The Rangers’ pen posted the worst ERA of any playoff team at 4.40 and struck out the least amount of batters of any Open.  They’ve been through multiple closing changes this year- from Shawn Tolleson to Sam Dyson to the embattled former #1 overall pick Matt Bush. Everyone knows that you can’t win in October without a strong pen, and the Rangers may be in serious trouble after they refused to address their bullpen needs at the deadline in favor of acquiring more hitters.

#3- How will the Rangers be affected by last year’s shenanigans with the Jays?

Texas was up 2-0 in last year’s ALDS before imploding by losing the last three games of that series en route to a crushing defeat. This year, they are on a mission and I think this club will channel its fiery energy and use it for good as they try to finish what they started against last year’s Toronto squad.

D. Boston Red Sox

#1- Will David Price alleviate his playoff woes?

I have not singled out a player yet in this article, but David Price is worthy- albeit for all the wrong reasons. The Sox $200,000,000 man suffered an up-and-down season in 2016 and is now thrust back into the playoffs, a scene where he has been notoriously bad as a starter. Last year, Price allowed 5 runs on two separate occasions, including blowing a lead in the Royals’ game 6 clincher in the ALCS. If Price can pitch well this October, Sox fans will certainly forgive him for this year’s poor campaign.

#2- How will the Sox young superstars react to the big stage?

There are not many players left from the Sox 2013 World Series Championship squad. In fact, only four players remain from that roster (I’m including Clay Buchholz, who may not even crack the playoff squad). Since that year, Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez and Rick Porcello have burst onto the scene. While those guys are all stars, we’ve seen how the bright lights of October can humble even the best players (See: Price, David).

#3- Will Craig Kimbrel’s September struggles continue in October?

Craig Kimbrel has been excellent for the most part of 2016. However, he posted a 6 ERA and 0-3 record in September. He also holds a suspiciously high 3.38 ERA in save situations. As we noted before, you can’t go far in the playoffs without a good bullpen, and the Sox will need Kimbrel to turn the page on maybe his worst Major League month if they want to hoist the WS trophy again.

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E. Cleveland Indians

#1- How will the Indians makeshift rotation do in the playoffs?

Going into the year, the Indians had a very underrated starting corps led by Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.  After injuries to Carrasco and Salazar, all that remains is Kluber. After him is Trevor Bauer, a starter who has shown flashes of dominance in the past but posted a poor 4.26 ERA this year and has literally no postseason experience. After him is the up-and-down
Josh Tomlin and then Zach McAllister to round out a suddenly hittable rotation.

#2- How will Terry Francona manage a team with little to no playoff experience?

For most of the Indians squad, a 2013 WC game loss to the Rays is all they know about the postseason. Terry Francona is obviously a seasoned manager, but it may be hard to keep a bunch of 20-something’s focused in October.

#3- Who will close games for the Indians?

While this is not necessarily a vital question, I’d be interested to see how Francona manages his bullpen in the playoffs. Earlier in the year, he did not shy away from putting in prized acquisition Andrew Miller in as early as the 7th inning, but I wonder if Francona will use Miller as a full-time closer in the playoffs.

II. NATIONAL LEAGUE

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A. New York Mets

#1- Will the team figure out how to hit with runners in scoring position?

Just like there are no World Series winners with bad bullpens, there are also no World Series winners who can’t hit with men on base. This year, the Mets’ .225 RISP average put them at dead last in that category. They also finished last with runs scored with a man in scoring position and on-base percentage in that scenario. If they want to make another deep playoff run, the Mets’ will have to transform into more than just a one-dimensional team.

#2- Will the makeshift rotation be able to keep up the good work?

Going into the year, the Mets’ pitching staff composed of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard, and Bartolo Colon with Zach Wheeler set to make a return to the hill sometime in July. Since Opening Day, Harvey, Matz, and deGrom have been sidelined for the entire year and Syndergaard has dealt with bone spurs, leaving Colon as the only man who has not missed a start this year. After it was announced that Matz and deGrom would be missing the rest of the year in late August, the Mets called up starters Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo. The two rookie hurlers have combined for 15 starts and a sub-3 ERA over 108.2 innings.  However, these young Mets had the benefit of playing only sub-.500 teams in September and will now be forced to compete with the best of the best for the first time in their careers, bringing us to my final point on the Mets.

#3- Is this team ready to face playoff teams?

Over the final month of the season, the Mets’ played only one team above .500 (the Nationals). Outside of that series, New York only played the Braves, Phillies, Reds and Twins the rest of the way- those 4 teams are probably the worst baseball has to offer. As we know, any team that makes the postseason is extremely tough to beat. The Giants are coming off a sweep of the Dodgers, while the Mets haven’t played a good team in over a month.

B. San Francisco Giants

#1- Will Madison Bumgarner be able to turn the page on his second half struggles?

After Clayton Kershaw’s injury, MadBum looked like the clear CY Young favorite going into the All-Star Break. After the Midsummer Classic, he posted a very pedestrian 3.80 ERA to go along with 50 less strikeouts than he had in the first half. While I acknowledge that he is a totally different player in the postseason, you cannot totally ignore his most recent two months and a half.

#2- Is the bullpen capable of closing games?

You’ll hear many a Giant fan brag about their “even year” success. None of that would have happened without a sturdy bullpen.  In 2010, Brian Wilson wowed us with his amazing beard. In 2012, it was Sergio Romo’s turn. In 2014, Santiago Casilla shut the door on many crucial victories. This might seem like a silly question, but it is totally applicable to these Giants. They blew a remarkable 30 saves in 2016- that means a blown save once per week. Those 30 games could have gave the Giants an easy ride to NL West glory, but instead they’ve had to go the hard way. Santiago Casilla is certainly not the answer- his 9 blown saves were the most in the majors. Nor is deadline acquisition Will Smith- he ranks in the top 10 with 5 blown saves. It will be very hard for the Giants to navigate through the playoffs without a solidified closer role.

#3- Will Buster Posey return to being… Buster Posey?

Buster Posey was on his way to becoming an All-Time great- he already has three World Series rings, an MVP award, and three Silver Sluggers. However, Posey has hit a brick wall in 2016. In his 8th year in the bigs, the Georgia native posted season-lows in batting average (.288), homers (14), and OPS (.796- David Ortiz posted a 1.021 mark to lead the Majors in that category). While still maintaining his status as a solid receiver (three errors all season), Posey will need to rediscover his middle-of-the order bat or the Giants will be doomed.

C. Chicago Cubs

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#1- How will the Cubs handle playing meaningful baseball? 

After winning the WC game last year, Chicago held the top spot in the NL central for all but 7 days in 2016. It’s fair to say they’ve coasted throughout the entire season. While Joe Maddon is heralded as one of baseball’s brightest minds, it will be a tough task for him to motivate this Cubs team due to the fact that they have not played in anywhere near a playoff-type atmosphere this season. Additionally, Maddon and the Cubs will experience a long layoff (about a week). That week can help teams (See- ‘15 Royals) or hurt them (See- ‘15 Cardinals). While I’ll still give the Cubs a good chance to hoist the WS trophy, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

#2- Will the rotation perform as advertised?

The Cubs have been said to have the best playoff rotation- Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, John Lackey. Lackey and Lester have had a wealth of playoff experience, so I’m not worried about them. However, it’s a different story with Hendricks and Arrieta. Let’s start with Jake. After winning the 2015 NL CY Young, he has regressed mightily this year. Arrieta issued a whopping 78 free passes (46 last year), and his 3.10 ERA ranked a good run and a half higher than 2015’s 1.77 mark. Cubs fans may remember that after Arrieta tossed a shutout in the NL WC game, Jake surrendered 4 runs in his NLDS and NLCS starts last season, two games that the Cubs lost. As for Hendricks, he enjoyed his breakout year in 2016, posting a miniscule 2.13 ERA while quietly emerging as the Cubs’ regular season case. Like Arrieta, Hendricks faltered in last year’s playoffs- lasting no more than 4.2 innings over his two starts (One vs. STL, One vs. Mets).

#3- How will the Cubs handle Jason Heyward in October?

Baseball’s newest $200,000,000 position player recorded an awful .230 AVG and .309 OBP while only hitting 7 homers in 2016, by far his worst season statistically. However, both GM Theo Epstein and MANAGER Joe Maddon have lauded Heyward’s defensive prowess- he posted a career-high 28 defensive runs saved (A new stat started by Baseball Reference, consider it like WAR but fielding-exclusive).  However, can you really be playing a .230 hitter in the playoffs? I’ll be interested to see if the Cubbies have the guts to start Jorge Soler or Willson Contreras in right while only using Heyward as a late-inning defensive replacement.

D. Washington Nationals

#1- How will injuries to the team’s best players affect their playoff chances?

After not being hit hard by the injury bug all year, the Nationals superstars have gone down in droves during September. Daniel Murphy, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and backstop Wilson Ramos were all sidelined for significant amounts of time in September. Murphy just enjoyed his best year at the plate, falling just one point shy of winning the batting title. Harper has had a down year, but he can still make a valuable difference in the field and in the clubhouse. Strasburg didn’t lose his first game until July, but has now announced that it’s unlikely he will pitch in the playoffs, furthering the stereotype that he’s not a big-game pitcher. As for Ramos, he was arguably the best hitting catcher in the Majors in 2016 and held the pitching staff together. With no Strasburg, no Ramos and limited availability of Harper and Murphy, I don’t think a championship is in the cards for these Nats.

#2- How will the rotation be affected by the loss of Ramos?

A catcher will tell you that his number one priority on any given night is to be on the same page with the starting pitcher.  Over the course of 2016, Nats starters grew to be comfortable with Wilson Ramos behind the plate. All of a sudden, Ramos’ season-ending injury has forced backup catcher Jose Lobaton into a starting role- Lobaton caught only 39 games this year, or around 100 less than Ramos.

#3- Will Dusty Baker be able to avoid more bad playoff luck?

Dusty Baker has been the victim of unlucky breaks and bounces for around a decade now. Baker was at the helm in 2003, when Steve Bartman infamously reached over the stands and probably cost the Cubs a world series birth. A few years later, he was in the dugout as Roy Halladay threw just the second no-hitter in playoff history against Dusty’s Reds. Will Baker finally be able to receive a stroke of October luck or will it be more of the same for the loose, outgoing skipper?

E. Los Angeles Dodgers

#1- Will the Dodgers be able to avoid another early playoff exits?

After years of winning the division only to be knocked out in the playoffs, the Dodgers decided to get rid of Don Mattingly after the 2015 season. They hired the soft spoken Dave Roberts to take the helm. Under Roberts’ leadership, this short-handed Dodger team has somehow found its way to the NLDS yet again. Being a Yankee fan, I know of Roberts’ 2004 ALCS Heroics. Will his playoff experience allow for a deep October run?

#2- How will the Dodgers handle Clayton Kershaw?

Ever since signing their star ace to a $300,000,000 deal a few years ago, Dodgers management has coddled their prized possession.  This year, they eased him back from a mild back injury that ended up costing the Dodger ace over two months. It will be intriguing to see how the front office directs Roberts to manage Clayton in October, or if they will give him free reign to go for a championship.

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#3- Will Clayton Kershaw dispel of the myth that he can’t pitch in October?

Clayton Kershaw has a bad reputation in the playoffs. However, I looked up his postseason stats and realized that all of his postseason starts have been Kershaw-like save for a poor performance in the 2013 NLCS, when he allowed 7 runs to the Cardinals. In last year’s postseason, Kershaw shut down the Mets on the road in an elimination game, striking out 10 over 7 frames. With a few more good starts, he can buy himself a new playoff reputation.

Adam Shemesh

Posted in MLB Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NFL: Color Rush Match Ups

[MyESPNforkids regular Ezra Troy joins together with his DC-based friend Rami Sloan for a fun look at the top color rush match ups in the National Football League.]

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  • Dolphins vs. Bengals (Week Four) Dolphins – The all-out orange is straight-up stupendous. They were lucky to have great colors for color rush, and used it well. Bengals- At first look, I didn’t like it. Then I saw the black stripes. The dark orange helmets against the white jerseys and pants are very nice.
  • Broncos vs. Chargers (Week Six) Broncos – Similar to the Dolphins all out orange, the Broncos all out orange is great. Combined with the great Navy helmets, the Broncos have a great color rush uniform, not to mention the bringing back of their old helmets. Chargers – The horrible powder blue normally used by the Chargers is gone, replaced by a light navy. That, combined with the gold lightning streaks, is why the chargers have an amazing color rush uniform.
  • Raiders vs. Chiefs (Week Fourteen) Chiefs – The Bills’ red is cool. The Chiefs red is even cooler with the red helmets, giving them a complete color rush look. The red-on-red-on-red look on-field is going to be astonishing. Raiders – The Raiders is simple and sweet. Their signature silver on a white background gives a nice, classy look.
  • Rams vs. Seahawks (Week Fifteen) Seahawks: Considered a top color rush uniform by many, it is hard to disagree. The neon green has been an alternate jersey in the past, and this time, in a cleaner look combined with the same color pants make and awesome uniform combination. Rams: The yellow, much better than the Jags mustard, seamlessly combines with the navy to form a beautiful combination and make this one of the best color rush matchups of the season.

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  • Giants vs. Eagles (Week Sixteen) Giants- similar to the Raiders, the simple jerseys work again. Their red-blue outline on the white background gives them a clean and fresh look that will sparkle on the final Thursday Night Football of the year. Eagles- my Eagles have worn this jersey before, but it’s sick every time. Even though I think that all-midnight green jerseys would have been even cooler, this black-on-black jerseys are a dynamic duo that are timelessly stunning.

Rami Sloan and Ezra Troy

Posted in NFL, Other

Cooperstown Contemplations

[This one is genius. If you have ever wondered about what current MLB players will make it to Cooperstown, Ezra Troy weighs in here with a brilliant piece. An informed view has to start with a deep look at the history of the Hall. Troy delivers it and then goes on the line with his picks from the current crop of MLB greats.]

The Hall of Fame. The biggest honor for an MLB player is to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. On average, there are about 31 MLB players playing that will make the Hall of Fame. Every sixth year since the Hall of Fame was established (1946, 1956…), an average of 33 players playing make the Hall of Fame1, 2, 3. I included those players as well as 32 players who would make the Hall of Fame if 32 players playing today had to make the Hall4.

1946: Ted Lyons, Red Ruffing, Mel Ott, Bill Dickey, Hank Greenberg, Luke Appling, Billy Herman, Ernie Lombardi, Arky Vaughn, Joe Medwick, Bob feller, Joe Dimaggio, Johnny Mize, Bobby Doer, Joe Gordon, Lou Bordereu, Enos Slaughter, Ted Williams, Early Winn, Hal Newhouser, Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto, Bob Lemon, Stan Musial, Warren Spahn, Larry Doby, George Kell, Red Schoendienst, Ralph Kiner, Yogi Berra: 30

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1956: Bob Feller, Enos Slaughter, Ted Williams, Early Winn, Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto, Bob Lemon, Stan Musial, Warren Spahn, Larry Doby, George Kell, Red Schoendienst, Yogi Berra, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Nelly Fox, Roy Campenella, Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Whitey Ford, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, Hoyt Wilhelm, Ernie Banks, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, Sandy Koufax, Jim Bunning, Roberto Clemente, Brooks Robinson, Don Drysdale, Bill Mazeroski, Luis Apparicio, Frank Robinson: 35

1966: Yogi Berra, Robin Roberts, Whitey Ford, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, Hoyt Wilhelm, Ernie Banks, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, Jim Bunning, Roberto Clemente, Brooks Robinson, Don Drysdale, Bill Mazeroski, Luis Apparicio, Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Bob Gipson, Billy Williams, Willlie McCovey, Ron Santo, Juan Marichal, Lou Brock, Carl Yastrezemski, Willie Stargel, Gaylord Perry, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Phil Niekro, Catfish Hunter, Ferguson Jenkins, Jim Palmer, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton: 38

1976: Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Billy Williams, Willlie McCovey, Lou Brock, Carl Yastrezemski, Willie Stargel, Gaylord Perry, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Phil Niekro, Catfish Hunter, Ferguson Jenkins, Jim Palmer, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, Johnny Bench, Rod Carew, Tom Seaver, Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Carlton Fisk, Bert Blyleven, Mike Schmidt, Goose Gosage, George Brett, Dave Winfield, Jim Rice, Gary Carter, Robin Yount, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter: 34

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1986: Tony Perez, Phil Niekro, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, Tom Seaver, Reggie Jackson, Carlton Fisk, Bert Blyleven, Mike Schmidt, Goose Gosage, George Brett, Dave Winfield, Jim Rice, Gary Carter, Robin Yount, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter, Andre Dawson, Eddie Murray, Ozzie Smith, Paul Molitor, Ricky Henderson, Ryan Sandberg, Cal Ripken Jr, Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Kirby Pucket, Barry Larkin, Greg Maddux: 30

1996: Dennis Eckersley, Andre Dawson, Eddie Murray, Ozzie Smith, Paul Molitor, Ricky Henderson, Ryan Sandberg, Cal Ripken Jr, Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Barry Larkin, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio, Randy Johnsohn, John Smoltz, Ken Griffey Jr, Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza, Pedro Marinez, Jim Thome*, Jeff Bagwell*, Ivan Rodriguez*, Trevor Hoffman*, Chipper Jones*, Manny Ramirez*, Mariano Rivera*, Derek Jeter* Vladamir Gurrero*, Andruw Jones*: 31*

20062: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio, Randy Johnsohn, John Smoltz, Ken Griffey Jr, Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza, Pedro Marinez, Jim Thome*, Ivan Rodriguez*, Trevor Hoffman*, Manny Ramirez*, Chipper Jones*, Marino Rivera*, Derek Jeter* Vladamir Gurrero*, Andruw Jones*, Roy Halladay*, Cliff Lee*: 20*

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Current Players who will make the Hall of Fame4

  1. David Ortiz
  2. Albert Pujols
  3. Ichiro Suzuki
  4. Mike Trout
  5. Clayton Kershaw
  6. Adrian Beltre
  7. Robinson Cano
  8. Yadier Molina
  9. Buster Posey
  10. Bryce Harper
  11. Manny Machado
  12. Paul Goldschmidt
  13. Kris Bryant
  14. Mookie Betts
  15. Noah Syndergaard
  16. Chris Sale
  17. Madison Bumgardener
  18. Evan Longoria
  19. Felix Hernandez
  20. Giancarlo Stanton
  21. Miguel Cabrera
  22. Carlos Beltran
  23. Victor Martinez
  24. CC Sabathia
  25. Andrew Mccutchen
  26. Joe Mauer
  27. Mark Texiera
  28. Justin Verlander
  29. Adrian Gonzalez
  30. Dustin Pedroia
  31. Ryan Howard
  32. Matt Holliday

Ezra Troy

Posted in MLB Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NFL: Upside Surprise

[There is a new voice shaping the narrative at myespnforkids.com.  It’s Roey Herzfeld.  The Washington, DC-based Herzfeld has a passion for sports, a keen eye for the top storylines and weighs in with his second piece in as many a days on something that is on everyone’s mind.  What are the big early stories in the NFL?  If you are on his list, congratulations.  If you are still living with the uncertainty that often surrounds the early weeks of the NFL season (and certainly surrounds my 2-1 Chiefs facing a tough game Sunday at Pittsburgh), you can take solace in the fact that no one (maybe with the exception of the Jags and Browns) is out of it yet. Well done, Roey.]   

Fall football is in the air.  And as we await some important Week Four action, let’s pause at midweek and take a look at the five biggest surprises so far early in this NFL season.

  • 5. Broncos
    • Following their super bowl win, questions surrounded the quarterback position. The summer was filled with controversy and competition leaving Broncos fans wondering who would take over after Peyton Manning. Gary Kubiak named Trevor Siemian as his starter and Semian has not looked back. The Broncos are 3-0. We knew their defense was going to be good, but their offense has been surprisingly decent due to Trevor Siemian’s play at quarterback.

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  • 4. Vikings
    • Minnesota’s sharp defense has led them to a 3-0 start, defeating two very good teams in the Packers and the Panthers.  Many expected this from Minnesota…until Teddy Bridgewater, their quarterback of the future tore his ACL.  Questions surrounded Minnesota’s front office to see how they would respond. Rick Spielman responded with a head-scratching trade. Sam Bradford was headed to Minnesota for a first rounder. But now it’s Spielman who looks like the genius as the Vikings defense, along with Bradford, have carried Minnesota to a 3-0 start.
  • 3. Cardinals
    • Coming into the season the Cardinals were one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Now they are 1-2 and have lost to a Tom Brady-less Patriots and what was a winless Bills team that looked abysmal in their losses to the Jets and Ravens. Arizona’s unfortunate start is really a head scratcher. There’s not one issue that can be pinpointed, the Cardinals are just simply not executing.  On a side note, the Panthers are also off to 1-2 start, but it’s less surprising considering the quality of their losses, as they have lost to the Broncos and Vikings.
  • 2. Patriots
    • After the news of Tom Brady’s 4 game suspension came out, experts suggested that a Patriots 2-2 or 1-3 would be a successful start due to conditions of the team.  However, Bill Belichick, in some of his best coaching efforts of his career, has taken two young quarterbacks and has led this team to a 3-0 start. The most impressive part of this fast start is the teams they are beating. Arizona, Houston, and Miami. All teams who had big expectations for this year, which makes their start all the more impressive.

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  • 1. Eagles
    • The biggest surprise so far of the NFL season is the hot start of the Eagles. Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz are only the second rookie quarterback and rookie coach to start their careers at 3-0. The Eagles have been phenomenal allowing an average of 9 points a game. Carson Wentz is off to an unbelievable start with 5 TD’s no interceptions and a passer rating of 103.8! The Eagles unexpectedly look like one of the top teams so far and they have a shot at going far this year.

Roey Herzfeld

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In Memoriam: Jose Fernandez

This morning, I was sitting with my friend and he showed me his phone. It was an ESPN alert “Breaking.”  It said, “Marlins Pitcher Jose Fernandez has been killed in a boating accident”.

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No way! I thought. It must be a mistake, just like when reports were out that Mike Trout had been killed in a car accident, but he didn’t actually die. As the day went on, however, it became clear that this was no mistake. Jose Fernandez (1992-2016), along with two other people, had been killed when their boat crashed into rocks at around three in the morning.

I could not believe it (and still, as I am writing this article, am overcome with sadness, shock and disbelief). Fernandez, 24, had been one of the best pitchers in the game. He was a Cuban defect (it took him four tries), Rookie of the Year, recovered from Tommy John injury in 13 months and was in the race for Cy Young this year (16-8, 2.86, 253).  Now we learned that he had been killed.

The whole day, my ESPN app and Sports Center were flooded with Jose Fernandez stories. They told of his happiness, charisma and his never give up attitude. They told of his pitching mastery, how he was going to be a Hall of Famer and was all-time great. They told of his mother and grandmother, his two biggest supporters, that he left behind. They told me that the world missed out on an incredible hurler and, more importantly, an incredible person. We will miss you Jose Fernandez.

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I would like to dedicate this article in memory of Jose Fernandez, an all-world hurler and an even better person.

Ezra Troy

Posted in MLB, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

2016 World Series: Chicago vs. Cleveland

The tale of two cities. Cleveland and Chicago. With the baseball season coming to an end, the remarkable seasons of both the Cubs and the Indians led me to wonder which team is more destined to win it all this year. Of course, there are plenty of other teams in contention for the World Series, but none would mean more to its city than a Cubs or Indians victory.

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For most people, the answer seems obvious. The Cubs are more destined. This is finally the year the suffering ends and Theo Epstein’s genius takes Chicago to the promised land. Cubs fans have been waiting for awhile now. It’s been 108 years since the Cubs won it all, the longest active drought in the sports world. But this really seems like the year they will do it. After last seasons run came to a heartbreaking sweep courtesy of Daniel Murphy’s heroics, the Cubs have not missed a beat and have been the best team in baseball for the whole season. The Cubs are looking for their first 100 win season since 1935 and fans have many reasons to believe this is the year.

However, a Cleveland World Series win would be just as special. Prior to Lebron James’ heroic performance in this year’s NBA Finals, Cleveland sports hadn’t won a title in over 50 years. But in 2016 they broke that curse with a Cavaliers championship. Now the Indians are looking to add to the 2016 legacy and make it a year Cleveland will remember forever. The year not only Lebron took us to the promised land but a year where Terry Francona surprised the sports world with an Indians World Series.

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The Indians seem even more destined than the Cubs to win it. This is the year of Cleveland. 2016. And every night Jose Ramirez seems to be hitting a walk off pushing his team to the top spot in the division. The Indians are a miracle team and Cleveland would rejoice with another championship.

Roey Herzfeld

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Great Eight: Troy’s Top NFL Performers in Week Two

[Here are Ezra’s top performers in Week Two.  I am calling this list the “Great Eight.”  It is a QB-heavy catalog with some marquee running backs and wideouts rounding out the second half of his short list.  Every time you read his post, you think: thank God he is not in my Fantasy League.  Well done, Ezra.]

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  • Matt Ryan, QB, ATL: In a win over Oakland, Ryan threw for 396 yards and 3 TD’s on 34 of 48 passing
  • Ryan Tannehill, QB, MIA: In a loss to the Patriots, Tannehill threw for 389 yard and 2 TD’s on 32 of 45 passing.
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, NYJ: Fitzpatrick threw for 374 yards in a Thursday night win against the division rival Bills
  • Eli Manning, QB, NYG: In a win over the Saints Eli threw for 368 yards in his 40th career game with over 300 yards passing.

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  • Isiah Crowell, RB, CLE: In a loss to Baltimore, Crowell averaged over 7 yards a carry with 133 yards and a touchdown.
  • Matt Forte, RB, NYJ: In a win against the Bills, Forte had his 25th career game with over 100 yards to go with 3 TD’S
  • Stefon Diggs, WR, MIN: In a win against the division rival Packers Sunday night, Diggs went off, with 9 receptions, a touchdown and 182 yards.
  • Corey Coleman, WR, CLE: In his second career game, Coleman had 2 TD’s, 5 receptions and 104 yards.

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There were also some notable injuries, including seven RB’s that went down including Adrian Peterson (torn Meniscus, no timetable to return), Doug Martin (hamstring, three weeks), Arian Foster (groin, one-two weeks), Jonathan Stewart (leg, up to two weeks) and Danny Woodhead (Torn ACL, season).  And of course, the Pats are in a major pinch at the QB spot as backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo sprained his AC against the Dolphins.

It should make for an interesting Week Three.

Ezra Troy

 

Posted in NFL, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

NFL Look Back: Top Games of Week Two

[It was a tough week to be a Chiefs fan.  Len Dawson, the legendary Chiefs quarterback turned announcer, likes to say that two things kill football teams: turnovers and penalties.  The Chiefs had a bunch of both in an ugly loss to the Texans.  Ezra Troy gives his quick take on the Top Five games of the week, including the Chiefs making the list at number four.]

Let’s take a look back at the Top Five games of Week Two:

5. Rams 9, Seahawks 3

In the Rams return to Los Angeles, they faced a very tough opponent, one of the premiere NFC teams, the Seattle Seahawks. Improbably, the Rams led the Seahawks 9-3 in the fourth quarter behind Greg Zurelein’s 3 field goals. With the Seahawks driving, it looked like Russel Wilson would complete his second straight game-winning drive. After a five yard catch at the Rams 25 by Seattle running back Christine Michael, Rams safety Mark Barron forced a fumble that Alec Ogletree recovered and the Rams were able to hang on.

4. Texans 19, Chiefs 12

In a rematch of a playoff game last year, two of the top up and coming teams squared off. Led by Deandre Hopkins’ 113 receiving yards and a touchdown, the Texans were able to beat the Chiefs in a rematch of a game they lost in last year’s playoffs 30-0. Though the Chiefs were able to get 3 field goals to pull within seven in the fourth quarter, but the Texans were able to recover the Chiefs onside kick with less than a minute left to secure the win.

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3. Steelers 24, Bengals 16

In a rematch of last years most heated playoff game, the Steelers, led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s 259 yards and three touchdowns were able to pull out a victory. Though only down eight in the final minutes, the Bengals committed two turnovers and cost themselves a chance at overtime against their heated rival.

2. Cowboys 27, Redskins 23

Alfred Morris scored the go-ahead touchdown against his former team, giving the Cowboys just their second win without Tony Romo in the past 16 games (both against the Redskins). With the Redskins up 23-20 and at the Cowboys 6, Kirk Cousins threw an interception and it all went downhill from there as the Redskins fell to 0-2 on the season.

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1. Vikings 17, Packers 14

In a highly anticipated matchup between two division rivals the Teddy Bridgewater-less Vikings were able to pull out an upset victory thanks to incredible play by Sam Bradford and an interception by Cornerback Trae Waynes with under two minutes remaining. The Vikings defense also led the way, forcing two turnovers in the fourth quarter and sacking Aaron Rodgers five times.

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Ezra Troy

Posted in NFL Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Readership Growth Continues!

It is a great time of year for sports as the MLB pennant race heats up, the NFL kicks off and CFB ramps into high gear.  There are lots of storylines to cover.  We have had some solid new articles from writers Adam Shemesh and Ezra Troy.

It is incredibly gratifying, as we post new content on the website, that readers continue to seek out our site.  We have had over 2,000 new readers this year alone. While we don’t have location data on all of our readers, our top cities are New York, Chicago and Kansas City.  We also have seen impressive year-over-year growth from Washington, D.C., Maryland and Massachusetts.

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We look forward to continuing to write pieces this fall, even as we juggle the demands of the school year and fall sports.  We appreciate the support.  Ben Franklin once said, “Either do something worth writing about or write something worth reading.”  This website hopefully is a little bit of both.  Thank you for keeping us in mind as you seek knowledge and insight on the great games that we all love.

Powers Trigg and the myESPNforkids.com Team

 

Posted in Other

Ole Miss and a Small Winning Tide: A Look Back at Ole Miss and Alabama

[It was a great weekend of college football.  Unfortunately, it included a devastating loss for my Texas Longhorns to the California Golden Bears.  Among the other big games, Ole Miss and Bama was one of the better match ups.  Ole Miss fans are licking their wounds after a tragic 43-48 loss.  

As we wait for Saturday to arrive, Ezra gives a really interesting piece of history on the Alabama-Ole Miss rivalry.  Ole Miss fans, this one will give you some happy memories to get through the week.  You don’t have long to sulk as Georgia looms this weekend.]

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With its loss to Alabama, Ole Miss falls to 10-49-2 against the Crimson Tide (with Alabama forced to vacate or forfeit three other victories due to NCAA penalties). Let’s look at Mississippi’s ten wins against the Tide.

October 27, 1894 – Ole Miss 6, Alabama 0

In what was the first ever game between the two longtime rivals, defenses dominated in Jackson, Mississippi. The game’s only touchdown was scored on a run by back William Cook. Alabama won the next four games by a combined score of 80-10, followed by a 0-0 tie and then Ole Miss’s second win of the rivalry, 16 years later.

November 5, 1910 – Ole Miss 16, Alabama 0

In Greenville, Mississippi, Fran Shields, Alonzo Lee and Steve Mitchell all scored on touchdown runs to give Ole Miss a 2-4-1 record against Alabama. After this, Mississippi wouldn’t win again until 1968, losing 12 in a row (including seven straight shutouts with Alabama scoring at least 50 points in four of them), before finally managing a tie in 1933, followed by another five losses.

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October 5, 1968 – Ole Miss 10, Alabama 8

Led by Archie Manning, Ole Miss won its first game against ‘Bama in 58 years. A blocked punt recovered for a touchdown by Alabama was all the Crimson Tide could do to stave off its first shutout in nine years. After a famous loss in ’69 by one point in one of the first prime-time televised games by a major network (ABC), Ole Miss won again in 1970, once again led by Archie Manning.

October 3, 1970 – Ole Miss 48, Alabama 23

Led by Archie Manning’s three passing and two rushing touchdowns, Ole Miss won by its largest margin in the rivalry, winning their second game against Alabama in three years. Ole Miss dropped its next three against Alabama, then won again in 1976 in Jackson.

September 10, 1976 – Ole Miss 10, Alabama 7

In a 10-7 upset win, Ole Miss came out on top in this defensive battle, its third win against Alabama in its past 7 tries. Alabama’s potent offensive attack, led by future NFL Hall-of-Famer Ozzie Newsome, was limited to just 249 yards. After losing its next five against Alabama, Ole Miss finally won again, 12 years later, in its first away win in this rivalry.

October 8, 1988 – Ole Miss 22, Alabama 12

With Ole Miss coming in as 18-point underdogs on the day the Bear Bryant museum was being dedicated, the Rebs upset Alabama for its first win ever in Tuscaloosa. With just 26 minutes left in the game, Ole Miss was down 12-0. Two touchdowns by running back Shawn Sykes, followed by another by fullback Joe Mickles, and 26 minutes later, Ole Miss won its first game ever at Alabama. Losing its next 10, Ole Miss finally beat Alabama again, 13 years later, barely a month after the 9/11 attacks.

October 13, 2001 – Ole Miss 27, Alabama 24

Led by quarterback Eli Manning, son of alum Archie Manning (who led Ole Miss to 2 wins against Alabama more than 30 years prior), Ole Miss won its first game against Alabama in almost 15 years on a rainy day in Oxford, Mississippi. Down 24-14 going into the fourth quarter, the Rebels scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth, including the winning touchdown with less than a minute left, as Ole Miss snapped the Tide’s 10 game winning streak against them.

October 18, 2003 – Ole Miss 43, Alabama 28

Led again by senior Eli Manning, Ole Miss scored the first 24 points of the game and never looked back. Manning threw for 230 yards and three touchdowns to give the Ole Miss Mannings a 4-3 record against Alabama.  Ole Miss has a 6-46-2 record against Alabama without a Manning at quarterback.  Peyton, for his part, went to Tennessee, where he went 3-1 against Alabama.  Tide fans should be very concerned when the next generation of Manning boys — Cooper’s son Arch, and Peyton’s son Marshall Williams – reach college age.

October 4, 2014 – Ole Miss 23, Alabama 17

On the 45th anniversary of the first nationally televised college football game between Ole Miss and Alabama, Mississippi got its ninth win of the rivalry. Down 17-10 midway through the fourth quarter, quarterback Bo Wallace led the Rebels downfield for two touchdowns to complete the comeback and earn Mississippi’s ninth win of the rivalry.

September 19, 2015 – Ole Miss 43, Alabama 37

After a Laquan Treadwell touchdown catch with 10 min remaining gave Mississippi a 43-24 lead, Alabama fans began to leave the stadium. Two touchdowns and nine and a half minutes later, Alabama had the ball around midfield, down 43-37, but they could not score and Ole Miss won back-to-back games against Alabama for the first time ever, giving Alabama, the eventual national champion, its only loss on the season.

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Ezra Troy

Posted in NCAAF, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

NFL: Week Two Picks

[Ezra gives us one more installment of his thinking before the whistle sounds on NFL game day.  You will quickly see that he has my Chiefs as one of the top three games of the week.  We not only won our first playoff game against them last season since the Joe Montana era, we also won our regular season match up.  I am sure Houston is hungry for a victory and they looked good in Week One.  I like the Chiefs in a game that I agree with Ezra will be “a close one.”]  

Let’s take a deep look at three key match ups this weekend.  Then, I will give readers my full list of picks for Week Two.

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3. Sun @ 1:00 – Chiefs at Texans                                                Pick – Texans                                                                 

In a rematch of last year’s AFC wild card matchup (which the Chiefs won 30-0), the Texans and their new QB and RB, Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller, host one of the NFL’s top defenses and their quarterback, Alex Smith, who are coming off the biggest comeback in team history. This promises to be a close one, but ultimately, the Texans offense has too many weapons and their defense, led by three time Defensive Player of the year JJ Watt will be too much for the Chiefs to handle.

2.  Sun @ 8:30 – Packers at Vikings                                           Pick – Packers

Everyone loves division games, especially when they are on prime time and pit one of the league’s best offenses (the Packers), against one of the league’s best defenses (the Vikings). In a matchup between two playoff teams from last year, Aaron Rodgers and an offense without their starting QB (Teddy Bridgewater – lost for the season on a torn ACL) will be too much for the Vikings to handle. 

1. Sun @ 1:00 – Bengals at Steelers                                           Pick – Bengals

In a rematch of the most heated playoff game last year, two division rivals square off. This will be a shootout, as two of the league’s best offenses square off. In the end, the Steelers lack of a talented secondary will lead to their demise, as the Bengals take this heated rematch.

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My longer list looks as follows:

  • Sun @ 1:00 – 49ers at Panthers Pick – Panthers
  • Sun @ 1:00 – Cowboys at Redskins Pick – Redskins
  • Sun @ 1:00 – 49ers at Panthers Pick – Panthers
  • Sun @ 1:00 – Saints at Giants Pick – Giants
  • Sun @ 1:00 – Dolphins at Patriots Pick – Patriots
  • Sun @ 1:00 – Titans at Lions Pick – Lions
  • Sun @ 1:00 – Ravens at Browns Pick – Ravens
  • Sun @ 4:05 – Seahawks at Rams Pick – Seahawks 
  • Sun @ 4:05 – Buccaneers at Cardinals Pick – Cardinals
  • Sun @ 4:25 – Jaguars @ Chargers Pick – Jaguars
  • Sun @ 4:25 – Falcons @ Raiders Pick – Raiders
  • Sun @ 4:25 – Colts @ Broncos Pick – Broncos
  • Mon @ 8:30 Pick – Bears

Ezra Troy

Posted in NFL, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

A Hat Tip to the Major Sports Leagues for Getting 9/11 Right

There has been controversy in recent weeks surrounding the National Anthem prior to the start of NFL games.   It has dominated Talk Radio and Social Media alike.  As 9/11 approached, the NFL again “braced for possible widespread player demonstrations…at Sunday’s opening games.”

Unlike the websites that stoke the flames of controversy to drive website traffic, we don’t have a payroll to make.  We write for “the love of the game.”  It means that on a week that saw the 15th anniversary of 9/11, we didn’t need to take irate listener calls, promote a shouting match between two analysts or push out provocative hashtags on Twitter.

Because when you get past all of the manufactured noise over the last couple of weeks, the sports world did some great things last weekend to remember the fallen victims of 9/11.  Here are several favorites:

  • Football (Field) Size American Flag.  I loved the giant flag at Arrowhead.  For 9/11, it was held by first responders –the men and women that are the first-line of response.  It is America’s heartland and as Adkins sang in his debut album, “Every light in the house is on!”  It was the perfect start to a thrilling OT victory by the Chiefs.

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  • Bases at Multiple MLB Ballparks: It is fine to like the big tribute and, at the same time, also enjoy the smaller, subtle tribute.  The bases at several of the MLB ballparks carried physical recognition on 1st, 2nd and 3rd base with the designation “We Shall Not Forget.”  It was a nice touch particularly because many young people watching the games were not alive when the events of September 11th transpired.

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  • Cubs Hat with American Flag Patch:  Again, the small tribute can still have a big impact.  On that score, I loved the American flag patch on the MLB hats. And of course, as the PA announcer notes its presence, it brought deafening shouts of “USA!”
  • Mets: “Never Forget” Chalk Drawing.  New York City lost the most lives in the coordinated terror attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.  The heroism demonstrated by first responders was simply amazing.  This tribute was a nice one from a City that was majorly impacted and loves the Mets (a team that some will recall came up just short against the reigning World Champion Royals last fall).

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  • B-2 Flyover over Arrowhead.  Whiteman Air Force Base is home to the B-2 Stealth Bomber that was a core part of the nuclear triad.  The 509th Bomb Wing occupied the skies over Arrowhead Stadium with a flyover that is as good as anything you will see in so-called Flyover Country.

President Kennedy once said that a country not only distinguishes itself by the men it produces, but also by the men it remembers.  The men and women that were a part of the heroism of September 11th deserve our respect and our admiration. The writers here at myespnforkids.com tip our collective hats to professional sports leagues and teams that made the 15th anniversary a fitting tribute to those fallen heroes last weekend.  It will be recalled as one of the top 2016 moments in sports.

Powers Trigg

Posted in NFL, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

NFL: Top Week One Performers

[Here is the second in a series of pieces from the great Ezra Troy.  If you are playing Fantasy, you need to be reading his stuff. You also can be glad that he isn’t playing with you –and winning your league.]  

We looked at the top games from Week One.  Now, let’s survey the top performers:

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  • Drew Brees, QB, NO: Brees had 4 touchdowns and 424 yards passing with 28 completions in 42 attempts.
  • Andrew Luck, QB, IND: Luck had 4 touchdowns and 385 yards passing with 31 completions on 47 attempts.
  • A.J. Green, WR, CIN: Green had 12 receptions for 180 yards and a TD
  • Willie Snead, WR, NO: Snead had 9 receptions for 172 yards and a TD
  • Brandin Cooks, WR, NO: Cooks had 6 receptions for 143 yards and two TD’s
  • Antonio Brown, WR, PIT: Brown had 8 receptions for 126 yards and 2 TD’s
  • Deangelo Williams, RB, PIT: Williams had 143 yards and 2 TD’s on the ground
  • C.J. Anderson, RB, DEN: Anderson had 92 yards and a TD rushing while also having a touchdown and 47 yards through the air
  • Carlos Hyde, RB, SF: Hyde had 88 yards and two rushing touchdowns.

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It is an amazing list of athletes that left a meaningful mark on Week One.

Ezra Troy

Posted in NFL, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Are You Ready for Some Football? A Smart Look at Week One

[It was an amazing week of NFL games.  Ezra Troy gives us his take on the week that was, including five great games.  You will note that my beloved Chiefs made the list with a thrilling OT victory over division foe Chargers. Troy will be back this weekend with his take on the best games of Week Two and his across-the-board picks for Sunday.  As I am fond of saying this time of years,”It starts with a whistle and ends with a gun.”]

Week One was incredible.  Let’s start with a deep dive look at the five best games this last Sunday:

5. Seahawks 12, Dolphins 10

Ryan Tannehill threw a go-ahead touchdown to give the Dolphins a 10-6 lead in the fourth quarter with 4:08 remaining. Then Russell Wilson went to work. Playing on an injured ankle, Wilson found Doug Baldwin for a touchdown with 31 seconds left to give Seattle the comeback win. This was Wilson’s 19th career fourth quarter or overtime game winning drive.

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4. Giants 20, Cowboys 19

Eli Manning hit Victor Cruz with 6 minutes left for Cruz’s first touchdown in almost two years to give the Giants the lead. Then Dak Prescott found Terrance Williams with six seconds left, but Williams failed out get out of bounds to give Dan Bailey a shot at a game-winning 57-yard field goal. The Giants were able to get a win against the Cowboys in a season opener for the first time in nine tries.

3. Chiefs 33, Chargers 27

Down 17 in the fourth quarter, Alex Smith engineered the largest comeback in Chiefs history, tying the game at 27 with a Spencer Ware touchdown. In overtime, Alex Smith scored on a QB keeper with nine minutes remaining to cap off a 363 yard, two touchdown performance and a big divisional win.

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2. Broncos 21, Panthers 20

Many expected the defending champions, with their rookie quarterback Trevor Siemian, to get blown-out by the Panthers in this season-opener. Instead, Siemian passed for 178 yards and a TD in a Bronco victory. Cam Newton, the NFL’s reigning MVP, had a poor performance, going 18-33 with one touchdown and one interception. Bronco running back C.J. Anderson had 2 touchdowns on 92 yards rushing and 47 yards receiving. Graham Gano missed a late go-ahead field goal, letting the Broncos were able to win this Super Bowl 50 rematch.

1. Raiders 35, Saints 34

Drew Brees had over 400 yards passing for the 14th time in his career, tying Peyton Manning for the most such performances in a career. The Raiders overcame this and a 14 point deficit at halftime to tie the game at 27 in the fourth quarter. Brees marched right back down the field and found Willy Snead for his fourth passing touchdown of the game, giving the Saints a 34-27 lead. Then, with 47 seconds left, Derek Carr hit Seth Roberts to make it 34-33. Jack Del Rio eschewed an extra point and instead opted to go for two, which Carr converted to Michael Crabtree to win the game 35-34.

It was an exceptional week.  I will be back with a preview of Sunday and my thoughts on the winners and losers in Week Two.

Ezra Troy

Posted in NFL Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Will “Tebow-ing” Make It to a Ballpark Near You?

[Adam Shemesh, one of the best writers on the great game of baseball, weighs in with a pitch perfect piece on Tim Tebow and his foray into baseball.  September is a great month where we have both baseball at its highest point of regular season drama and football (both CFB and NFL) kicking off.  Adam gives us not just football and baseball, but even a little bit of b-ball too with a look at Michael Jordan’s unsuccessful efforts at a second bite at the professional sports apple.] 

Earlier this week, Tim Tebow held a tryout for Major League clubs as he attempts to comeback to a sport that he has not played since high school. While he probably cannot contribute to any MLB club, Tebow will certainly provide at least a boost in minor league ticket sales. In honor of Tebow’s attempt, we look back at Michael Jordan’s futile try to swing the stick.

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It is the fall of 1993. Michael Jordan is a young player, sporting #45, at the top of his sport. He has already won three NBA titles and has been named MVP three times. Shockingly, he calls it quits on October 3, citing a lack of interest in the game and his father’s death as reasons for stepping down from the game it seemed he was ready to take over.

In January of the next year, Michael decides that he will be playing baseball in ‘94. He insists that he is for real, not just a publicity stunt. Looking back at this infamous moment in his career, Jordan remembers, “All of a sudden I felt like a kid again.” Jerry Reinsdorf, who owned the Bulls and White Sox at the time, convinces Michael to come to the south side and gives him an invite to spring training.This is quite the courageous move by His Airness- remember, Jordan retired at the top of basketball and is now fighting for a roster spot with the Sox.

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Current big league stars are appalled. Randy Johnson snickers, “”I’d like to see how much air time he’d get on one of my inside pitches.” Michael feels very humbled and replies, “I’m really trying to learn this game.” Fans come out in droves for his contests in the Spring. Michael first reaches base in the 6th game of his career and is mobbed by teammates after scoring. Alas, he eats another piece of humble pie by being optioned to Double-A Birmingham following spring training.

Jordan’s baseball career was short-lived. After one year at Double-A, he went back to basketball- this time cementing his legacy as #23. While I’m not trying to take anything away from Jordan, this piece goes to show that being simply an athlete does not cut it in baseball. The next time anyone claims how easy baseball seems, let them know that the greatest athlete of the 80s couldn’t make it out of the minors.

Adam Shemesh

Posted in MLB, NCAAF, NFL, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Crisp Autumn Air, Smash-Mouth Football and Storied Rivalries

When former Ohio State Coach Jim Tressell spoke at his opening news conference, he said, “You will be proud of our young people in the classroom, in the community and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan.”  Setting aside an irony or two, Ohio State versus Michigan is a classic rivalry game.  A new coach understands it will define his career.

Rivalries always loom large on the schedule.  The stakes are high.  Passions run deep.  As Jimmy Connors once said about his battles with John McEnroe, “There are no hugs and kisses.” 

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With the fall sports schedules now set, everyone is looking to a date in November.  For Groton, the battle against St Mark’s falls on November 11th and will, at some level, define the season.  It will be the 127th time that the football teams have met, playing for the famous Raccoon Coat and overall pursuit of the Burnett-Peabody Bowl.      

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The durability of this rivalry that dates to 1889 begs a critical question, “What makes for a great rivalry?”

Rivalries that endure have three attributes. 

History.  History is the first criteria.  The longer a rivalry has been around, the better it is. Michigan versus Ohio State started in 1897.  Texas versus OU began in 1900. Williams versus Amherst commenced in 1884.  These games have an amazing history that spans generations.  Key moments are passed on and embellished. Traditions are established.  Like Gladwell said in Outliers, greatness takes practice.   

Parity.  There isn’t a rivalry between a hammer and a nail.”  No one likes the runaway, lopsided outcome.  There must be some modicum of parity.  Is Norte Dame versus Navy a great rivalry game (or a scheduling exercise to keep the Fighting Irish in perennial contention for the national championship)?  Fans have to feel that they have a chance to win in most years.   

Controversy.  We love the acts of sportsmanship like the stoic handshake of Roger Federer at Wimbledon. It is, however, controversy that is the fuel on which true rivalries thrive. The AP story on Florida versus LSU in 2007 tells the story:

“Quarterback Tim Tebow said Tuesday he received hundreds of threatening messages on his cell phone leading up to Florida’s game at top-ranked LSU.  They were the reason Tebow pretended to dial a cell phone after his first touchdown pass.  Tebow said [after the game that] many of the messages contained physical threats and most included foul language.”  It was an SEC rivalry at its best (or, depending on your perspective, worse).

In recent years, the famed Auburn oak trees were poisoned by Alabama fan. We saw the fire alarm escapades when the U.S. and Mexico squared off –with the fire alarms going off at 3 a.m, then again at 6 a.m.  And of course, everyone will recall the time when Harvard fans were inadvertently tricked into making a “We Suck” sign at the Yale-Harvard game.    

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Crisp autumn air.  Smash-mouth football.  Rivalry weekend.  It should be enough to convince even the skeptic that football is “more than just a game in which boys push each other back in forth for no reason.”  On November 11th, Groton will look to avenge a 22-19 loss to St. Mark’s in their storied 127th meeting. And just like like all football games, “It will start with a whistle, and end with a gun.”

Powers Trigg

Posted in NCAAF, Other, Soccer Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Troy Talks Fantasy Football

[Washington, DC-based Ezra Troy delivers again with a fantastic tour of the fantasy football landscape.  If you are busy with the start of school, Troy gives you the “cheat sheet” for Draft Day success.  NFL Films calls it the golden game and we are just a 20-yard out away from Week One play.  “It starts with a whistle and ends with a gun.”  Game on.]  

It is almost football season again; that means it’s also time for fantasy football!

As everyone knows, the most important thing in fantasy is drafting guys in later rounds that will play better than their ADP (average draft position). These players are known as sleepers. Some examples last year were Devonta Freeman and Allen Robinson. The question is who will it be this year?

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QB’S

Tom Brady – Brady’s ADP this year is 62nd, behind other quarterbacks Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, Russel Wilson, Andrew Luck, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. He is going that low only because he is missing the first four games of the season (suspension). He was the number two scoring quarterback last year with 335 points in all 16 games. That was behind only Cam Newton and his superhuman season. He has shown no signs of slowing down in his old age. Even though he is missing the first quarter of the season, you will have a top 3 fantasy quarterback for most of the season and in the time it really matters, the playoffs.

Teddy Bridgewater – Bridgewater is the number 26th QB going, at 170 overall. He is a young player with a lot of potential. He had over 3200 passing yards last season and some solid rushing numbers, but only had 187 points because he threw only 14 touchdowns. His real problem was his lack of a steady number one receiver, but rookie Laquan Treadwell, who some consider the top rookie wide receiver, is sure to fix that problem. Bridgewater will not only pass for more touchdowns, but his rushing numbers (3 tds, 200 yds.) should go up with defenses having to play the pass as well as the run and the new Vikings offensive line, led by top offseason offensive line free agent, Andre Smith.

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RB’S

Matt Jones – With the departure of Alfred Morris, second year running back Matt Jones is thrust into the role of the Redskins’ starting running back. With his ADP at 76.5, he is one of the latest starting running backs being drafted. Last year he had 84 fantasy points on only 144 carries. One of the main reasons for his high production was his great pass catching skills, averaging 16 yards a reception! While he may not be able to repeat this insane performance, he will get more receptions and carries with the departure of Alfred Morris. The one thing he needs is to get the fumbles under control (he had 4 on 144 carries). He is being drafted at a flex/RB2 slot, but if he plays a full season with similar play than he did last year, he could end up being a high end RB2.

WR’S

Jarvis Landry – “Juice” has an ADP of 43.8 and is the 19th receiver being taken – a low end WR2. He was the 14th best receiver last year with 154 points.  By contrast, last year Doug Baldwin, the seventh best receiver and the best not named Brown, Beckham, Hopkins, Jones, Marshall or Robinson, had only 30 points more, but only because he had 14 TD’s as compared to Landry’s four. With 5 more touchdowns, Jarvis would have been the eight best receiver last year, easily a WR1; now he is being drafted as a WR2/FLEX. He should be able to repeat or come close to his previous yardage, especially with the Dolphins having to pass more now that they don’t have a clear number one running back and Jarvis continuing to grow and strengthen his bond with Ryan Tanehill. Landry should also have more than 4 touchdowns, especially with a lack of much of a running game. Even if Landry only has a couple of touchdowns, he should finish the year a top 12 receiver a high end WR2/low end WR1, not the low end WR2/FLEX he is being drafted as.

Kevin White is like a rookie. Injured in training camp last year, he hasn’t played a snap in the NFL, but there was a reason he was picked 7 overall: He was a great college receiver. Granted, no one knows how he will do in the pros, but he should get a lot of targets, considering teams will probably double Alshon Jeffery and the Bears do not have much of a running game. If White is as good as he was made out to be, he should be a top 25 receiver, much higher than the number 38th receiver he is being drafted as.

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TE’S

Jimmy Graham – Graham was a top tight end just two years ago, but with a trade to Seattle and a terrible year that ended in injury last year, Graham is now being drafted at and ADP of 116. While he is still injured and may not be ready for week one, he was still a premiere tight end just two years ago. He will show how he is really a great player and should turn it around this year.

Ladarius Green – At 6-6, 240, Green is one of the biggest and most athletic tight ends in the NFL. He is finally out of Antonio Gates’ shadow in San Diego and is the starting TE for the Steelers and their high powered offense. While he may be the third or fourth option in Pittsburgh, he should get plenty of red zone targets — and consequently touchdowns — resulting in an uptick in scoring. He should finish the year as a top ten tight end and is a great sleeper pick at the TE position.

Ezra Troy

Posted in NFL Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Top Sports Moments of All-Time: Number One

The 2015 playoff run and World Series win by the Kansas City Royals was true magic.  It almost defies words.

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The Royals Magic was not confined to the World Series.  It started in the ALDS. The Royals were facing elimination, and were down 2-6 in the 8th inning. KC miraculously loaded the bases, and then proceeded to deliver run after run after run. It was truly a victory from the jaws of defeat.

Next, Kansas City faced the Blue Jays.  Toronto was fresh off a drama-filled series against the Rangers.  Again, it would go down to the wire. In Game 6, up 3-2 in the series, the Royals were leading by one run in the top of the 9th. However, the Blue Jays were rallying, and had runners on 2nd and 3rd.  The Royals kept their composure.  They clinched the pennant for the 2nd year in a row.

The World Series is the pinnacle for baseball fans everywhere and the Royals were returning for the second consecutive time.  As a devotee of Bill James and Sabermetrics, I am deep believer in the “true” data of the game.  But there is, as James himself notes, luck in everything.

In Game One, the Royals were down 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th.  It seemed as if all was lost.  Then, Alex “AG” Gordon went deep to dead center tying the game and sending it to extra innings. The Royals ultimately prevailed on an Eric Hosmer sac fly in the bottom of the 14th.

If we jump ahead to Game Four, with the Royals up 2-1 in the series, we witness the Kauffman Magic again. Familia comes in; Mets are up 3-2 in the top of the 8th; runners are on 1st and 2nd. Hosmer hits an easy blooper to 2nd.  It goes right under Murphy’s glove. But in truth, it is the next moment where the Magic happens. Instead of just staying at third, Zobrist keeps running and goes home. Cain goes  from 1st to 3rd as the go-ahead run.  Moose comes up, knocks one to 2nd base.  Murphy misses the diving catch.  Royals take the lead. Next, Salvy comes up, gets a single and the winning run scores.

Finally, there was Game 5 in New York. The series is 3-1 and the Mets are facing elimination. Matt Harvey pitches a gem. The Mets are up 2-0 in the top of the 9th and Royals fans are preparing for a Game Six.  Cain walks. Hosmer comes up to bat.  On the first pitch, Cain steals second.  Then, Hosmer goes the other way for a double and Cain scores.  Now, Perez is at the plate. He grounds to third. Wright throws to first. Hosmer runs home. The first baseman rushes the throw.  It veers off course.  Hosmer is safe.

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The victory by the Royals ended a three-decade long World Series drought dating to 1985. Nothing captured the euphoria better than the World Series parade as Kansas City reveled in truly magic moment.  It was, inarguably, the best sports moment of all-time.

Powers Trigg

Posted in MLB Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Top Sports Moments of All-Time: Number Two

The late John Facenda from NFL Films called pro football “a 2.5-hour carnival of color, sound and action.”  When it comes to the sounds of the game, no one does it quite like Kansas City.  As they say at Arrowhead Stadium, Decible Up.

What was the genesis of the Arrowhead Advantage?  Its origins can be traced back to at least 1990 when the Chiefs were playing the division rival Denver Broncos.  Fans were so loud that QB John Elway simply stopped playing.

Noise  courses through the veins of the Arrowhead faithful.  It comes almost as a birth right dating to the days of AFL and the fierce battles between the Raiders and the Chiefs.  And on that night in 1990, a national reputation was born.

As every sports fan knows, however, icons are inevitably challenged.  In recent years, new stadium construction called the question on whether Arrowhead remained the loudest open-air stadium in the NFL.

Seahawks fans, armed with a new state-of-the-art facility, coined the term the 12th Man replete with a scoreboard sign.  Postseason success aided their noisemaking.  And then, last December, Seahawks’ fans broke KC’s noise record by .1 of a Db.

Kansas City refused to quit.  On September 29, 2014, the Chiefs faced Tom Brady on Monday Night Football.  It was time to take back the record.  Chiefs fans did just that.

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142.2 Db.  Loud and Proud.  My ears may still be ringing –and it is my number two sports moment of all-time.  It just too bad that the late John Facenda wasn’t around to make an iconic call.  “A special game.  A unique game.  A rare game.”  And to paraphrase Facenda, “The fans that support it make it so.”

Powers Trigg

Posted in NFL

Top Sports Moments of All-Time: Number Three

We have looked at a game-winning kick in Division One football. We have reveled at the all-court mastery of tennis great Roger Federer. For my third greatest sports moment of all-time, we turn to a game that the world calls football (and Americans call soccer).

It is arguably the greatest goal in U.S. Soccer history.  Ghana and the U.S. were level at one apiece. It looked bleak for the Americans. I was, for my part, watching in the Power and Light District in downtown Kansas City. The crowd groaned as once again, Ghana “had scored the goal to break American hearts.” And then, this happened.

“It’s John Brooks.  It’s John Brooks for the Americans. Have they stolen it?”  Sporting Kansas City standout Graham Zusi played a perfect ball.  Brooks converted.  Perhaps more impressive than the sublime finish from Brooks was the reaction from the fans at downtown Kansas City’s Power and Light District.

The euphoria speaks for itself as U.S. soccer popularity continued (and continues) its ascent.

Powers Trigg

 

Posted in MLS, Soccer

The Devil is in the Details: A Deeper Look at the Angels Draft Picks

[Editor’s Note:  Our longtime readers know Adam Shemesh and his reputation as one of the best thinkers and writers on what is happening in the game of the baseball.  This piece speaks for itself.]  

In 2009, the Angels drafted Mike Trout, a senior from Millville, NJ with the 32nd overall pick. Little did they know that about 4 years later, he would establish his position as the best player in baseball.

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Their front office was all smiles and the subject of envy for many GMs. But, let’s zoom out a bit and look at the Angels’ first round draft picks from 2010-2014 (to measure the picks we will use WAR, which measures how many wins a player is worth. a

A war of 5 or above in one year is All-Star worthy, 10 and above is MVP worthy):

2010: Chevez Clark (Released),  Sam Bedroisan (0.4 WAR in 3 years)

2011: C. J. Cron (1.5 WAR in 2016)

2012: Forfeited 1st round pick to sign Albert Pujols to 10 year/$240 million (2 WAR per year since 2013)

2013: Forfeited 1st round pick to sign Josh Hamilton to 5 year/$125 million contract (3.3 career WAR as an Angel)

2014: Sean Newcomb- traded to Atlanta for Andrelton Simmons (2.2 WAR this year)

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As you can see, the Angels have done an atrocious job of drafting since they selected Trout in ’09. So bad, in fact, that they got the honor of having baseball’s worst farm system according to Baseball America. It’s not just that- the long term signings of C. J. Wilson, Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols are also to blame. Those three alone are making around $70,000,000 this year. And the fact that the Angels’ have a few of yesterday’s superstars on their team has blinded their higher-ups of the possibility and reward of trading Mike Trout. Trading Trout for a package of prospects and MLB-level talent would be like the Angels exchanging their one lottery ticket for a bundle of smart investments. While they did strike gold by drafting Trout, don’t let anyone tell you the Angels’ front office has done a good job since then.

Adam Shemesh

Posted in MLB, Other Tagged with: , , , ,

Big Man on Campus: Three QBs to Watch this Fall

In The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks, Bruce Feldman writes, “You don’t play quarterback. You are quarterback.”  The QB position, as Feldman rightly suggests in his masterful book, requires a leader.  The success of a young athlete in stepping into that role is determining for team performance.

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Given the criticality of the position, let’s look at three major QB storylines heading into the Division One college football season:

1) Josh Rosen: While the attention he has received lately has not been for his football, the youngster with much to learn has bags of talent. Rosen grew up in the world of USTA tournaments. However, Rosen decided that he wanted to chase his football dream. The rest is history. Amazingly, a kid with a 4.3 GPA, and big time skills (Ranked Number One QB in the country on Rivals), was not offered a scholarship by Stanford. Rosen, instead, elected attend UCLA.

Last season, Rosen made Freshman All-American. He has pro size (6’4), and a Johnny Manizel-attitude to go with it. He has may headlines for his antics. They include putting a hot tub in his UCLA dorm and then posting a picture of it on Twitter. If Rosen wants to win the Hesiman this year, he will need to keep his focus on his classes and his playbook, not his Twitter feed.

2) Shane Buechele: Everything is bigger in Texas. Sadly for Shane Buechele, it is includes big-time pressure to preform on the field. My beloved Longhorns have fallen on hard times. A range of factors are at play from the Mack Brown exit to new facility construction at ins-state rivals. Schools like TCU, Baylor, and Houston are now putting an old fashion whippin’ on the Burnt Orange. It will be up to the Lamar High School graduate to stop it.

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3) Trevor Knight: While you may know him as the boyfriend of Duck Dynasty star, Sadie Robinson, Trevor Knight has a genuine chance to be a major star this year at Texas A&M. Last season, Knight suffered a crushing blow, watching Baker Mayfield win his starting job (at Oklahoma), lead the Sooners to the college football playoff, and become a legit Heisman contender (ultimately finishing 4th). Now, at an A&M program that sorely needs solid QB play, Knight can be a star. While he may not have elite size, Knight has shown flashes of success with the Sooners. Will that translate to College Station? We are about to find out.

The anticipation is building for another another stellar CFB season.  Amid a number of talented teams that have a chance to compete for the national championship, Feldman’s writing rightly makes the case that the QB position looms as the critical swing variable.  It is worth keeping a close eye on these three prospects both for individual team success and early Hesiman balloting.

Powers Trigg

Posted in NCAAF, NFL, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

A Quack and a Growl: A Tribute to Mad Ducks and Bears

The credit belongs, said former President Teddy Roosevelt, to the man that is actually “in the arena.”  TR’s main point in his famous speech is a simple one: if you have never actually done something, then can you really critique and comment on its essential attributes?

George Plimpton, and his literary endeavors, embody this basic idea.  Plimpton is a true renaissance man.  He is always throwing himself into the moment.  Plimpton has done standup comedy at Caesars Palace.  He has played for two NFL teams.  He has tried his hand on the PGA Tour.  He is, in his own words, “a professional amateur.”

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The result of these explorations is a series of some of the greatest books on sports that have ever been written.  Paper Lion, of course, stands out as the most popular and visible example.  In my estimation, however, it is Plimpton’s Mad Ducks and Bears that is the greatest, most underrated sports books of all-time.    

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Originally, Plimpton thought that he was writing a book about offensive and defensive lineman. Then, the book evolved into a commentary covering things like champions who stay in the game too long and rookies that just can’t catch a break.  Plimpton’s gift is that he is exploring some of the pressing issues in sports at the same time that he has you laughing aloud. 

Some of the hijinks include staged golf tournaments gone wrong and incredible tales of rookie hazing. Without spoiling the book, it is classy humor that likely won’t make your Mom blush.  Plimpton’s wit is timeless — and covers all generations. Hilarious has no age.

In addition, Plimpton touches on serious issues, like violence in the game and stories of gruesome injuries.  He discusses knee-jerk treatment of players.  He describes the emotion of Game Day. These issues are all still relevant today.  Young readers also will enjoy hearing them discussed in the context of another era. 

This book is a must read for any fan of football, a TR apostle that champions the “strenuous life” or simply a lover of books on sports. I count myself as all three.  Mad Ducks and Bears offers important commentary on athletic issues of the day and humor that will appeal to readers of all ages. It is, in a phrase, a Plimptonian Classic.   

Powers Trigg

Posted in Book Review, NCAAF, NFL Tagged with: , , , , ,

Top Sports Moments of All-Time: Number Four

We turn from college football to the tennis court.  As long-time readers of the site know, I am fond of the graceful, poised play of the inestimable Roger Federer.  He is one of the great champions of the modern era.  It would be easy to focus on one of his seventeen major championships.  I have decided, instead, to frame up on one of the moments when he made it the final major stage, but failed to prevail.

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4. Roger Federer: Passing Shot at 2008 Wimbledon Final with a Match Point for Nadal

Wimbledon is a true classic.  The All-England Club.  Tennis Whites.  Strawberries and Cream.  In the modern era, it also has produced great champions.  Tilden.  Borg.  McEnroe.  Sampras.  Federer.    

Even the great champions can’t win them all.  Federer has won more than his fair share, but alas he came up short in 2008.  The 2008 final between Federer and Nadal was an all-time classic. With Fed facing a match point against a serving Nadal, Roger pulled a rabbit out of his hat.   

Pure Genius.  In contrast to the Tucker winning kick, this moment didn’t lead to eventual victory.  It showed, however, what made Federer such a great champion in so many majors.  He was calm, cool, collected.  It was the Federer that not only graced (and continues to grace) the All-England Club, but that has defined championship tennis for the last two decades. 

Powers Trigg

Posted in Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

My Top Five Sports Moments

Sports bring us joy.  They make us cry.  They inspire us.  Over the next several days, I will be posting my top sports moments of all-time.  It is impossible for team and geographic bias to not play some meaningful role in my selections.  They are, objectively, all great moments.  And with that litany of excuses, let me begin with #5  

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5. Justin Tucker: Game-Winning Kick at the Close of Texas vs Texas A&M 


After an attempt by Texas A&M Coach Mike Sherman to “ice” the greatest University of Texas kicker of all-time Justin Tucker, my number five moment was set.  As announcer Craig Way brilliantly said, “It is the final play of the rivalry...”  There is little doubt that the Longhorns versus A&M was one of the best rivalries in any sport. The fact that this was the last play of the rivalry made it even sweeter, as A&M moved to the SEC starting in the 2012 season.

Justin Tucker kept his cool in front of an intimidating, deafeningly loud Kyle Field crowd.  Here is the call from Way:

GOOD!  Well, it speaks for itself as the Texas Longhorns “break the hearts of the Aggies one last time.”  It was, in a phrase, a brilliant moment not just in college football, but in the world of sports.

I will be back tomorrow with my fourth top sports moment of all-time.  I know it will “pass” your test for greatness.

Powers Trigg

Posted in NCAAF, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Absurdity of Baseball

[Washington-DC based Ezra Troy gives us a great top 10 list as we move into the second half of the baseball season.  I know many of our readers love the data and analytics side of baseball.  You are probably figuring out that Ezra does too.

Many baseball purists say baseball is all the sports fan has in August.  Of course, some of us love soccer (and the warm up tennis tournaments for the US Open)!  And this year, we also will have the Olympics (assuming Brazil can get its act together and the athletes have somewhere to stay and compete)].     

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Here are ten crazy facts about the first half of the MLB season:

  1. At the All–Star break last season, New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy had hit 5 home runs FOR the Mets. This season, Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy has 5 homers AGAINST the Mets.
  2. Since May 31, when the Cubs had a 35-15 record (best in the MLB), they have gone 18-20, yet they still lead their division by 7 games.
  3. This year, Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon (1.3) has a higher WAR than Giancarlo Stanton (1.0) and Albert Pujols (0.2) combined. Colon also has a higher WAR than Andrew McCutchen (0.7).
  4. Mark Trumbo leads the MLB in Home Runs (28 in 86 games). That is more than he hit all of last season in 142 games (22).
  5. In April, Trevor Story hit 7 homers in his first 6 games, good for one home run every .85 games. Since then he has hit 14 home runs in 75 games, good for one home run every 5.35 games.
  6. The White Sox have turned THREE triple plays so far this year. The last team to turn three triple plays in an entire season was the Atlanta Braves in 1979.
  7. The Marlins (47-41) have their second best record at the all-star break ever. In 1997, they were 50-36 at the break and won the World Series.
  8. The Cubs have all 4 infielders starting in the all star game, just the second team ever to accomplish that feat. The first was the famed Big Red Machine of the 1970’s.
  9. In his final season, David Ortiz has 72 RBI at the all-star break, putting him on pace for 144, the most in the majors since Alex Rodriguez’s 156 in 2007 and the second highest total in his career. He had 148 in 2005, the season he turned thirty.
  10. If the Yankees finish the season with their current winning percentage (.500), it will be the first time since 1992 that they finished a season with a winning percentage at or under .500.

Ezra Troy

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Posted in MLB Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What is the Best 30 for 30?

[Editor’s Note:  We get another great story from Kansas City-based Mac Trigg looking at 30 for 30.  Every reader of this site loves this series.  You may disagree with his picks, but you surely agree that 30 for 30 is must-see television.]  

People love the series, 30 for 30.  It brings you into contact with former players, coaches, families and friends.  If you love sports, you love this series.  It raises the question: what is the top 30 for 30 of all-time?

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It is an almost impossible question.  Here is my top five list (in no rank order).  No doubt people will have different opinions and wonder why such gems as Believeland didn’t make my list.  The Comment Section is waiting for you to weigh in.

  • I Hate Christian Laetner: Even if younger kids have never really heard of Christian Laetner, you leave this show understanding why some people hate him more than a bad call by a referee in a crucial game. This show tells you the story of Laetner –a good athlete that many people loved to hate as he became the “face” of the successful Duke Blue Devils.  You will like learning about this Devil in the Blue Devils.  Coach K and Duke continue to be a team that brings strong and differing opinions.  You will get a strong appreciation for that in this episode.
  • The U: The U is a multi-episode look at the Miami Hurricanes.  It gives you a view of both the great Miami teams that dominated college football, but also some of the issues surround college football itself.    Illegal Recruiting.  Hush money.  The U has it all.  (Writer’s Note: This 30 for 30 is not appropriate for kids under the age of 10).
  • Four Days in October. If you have had the chance to go to Fenway Park, you know it is one of the greatest stadiums in baseball.  This 30 for 30 looks at the Curse of the Bambino –the tragic decision by the Red Sox to trade Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.  Then, it tells you about how the curse was finally broken during “four days in October.”  You don’t have to be a Red Sox fan to enjoy this great 30 for 30 as it brings their amazing run to life.
  • Best that Never Was. You will love this deep exploration of Oklahoma Sooner running back Marcus Dupree.  He was a standout in Mississippi.  He was heavily recruited by big programs like Texas, but ultimately made a last-minute decision for Oklahoma.  He would go on to play in USFL and then for a brief time in the NFL.  Even though Dupree was very good, injuries and bad decisions kept him from being a Hall of Fame running back.  Marcus was a good person, including helping his disabled brother.  He may not have been iconic like Jim Brown, but you will like him.
  • Pony Excess. This 30 for 30 is about the SMU football team. They were dominant in 1980s with running backs like Craig James and Eric Dickerson.  The alumni were very aggressive in getting the best players.  They would recruit girlfriends to attend SMU, give money and cars to players and also provide things to their families such as homes and cash.  You will not believe it.  Finally, the NCAA cracks down on them.  The investigation leads to the so-called Death Penalty which effectively killed college football at SMU for years to come.  In fact, you can argue it is still dead.

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It is hard to pick the “best” 30 for 30.  My family likes them all and we watch them whenever we can.  I could not rank them from one to five because they have different topics and cover different stories.  Can you really compare Lebron James to Tom Brady?  They are both great, but do different things in different sports.

I do know that you will like all five of these 30 for 30s.  Hopefully, readers will leave some comments about their favorites including some that aren’t on my list.  ESPN has an incredible series in 30 for 30.

Mac Trigg

Posted in MLB, NCAAF, NFL, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Federer: Game, Set, Match?

In the Wimbledon semifinals, the inestimable Roger Federer fell to Canadian Milos Raonic in an epic 5-set thriller. His age was evident, particularly as the match progressed.  It left his fans wondering if the best player ever to live was seeing his career come to a slow, but sure end.

For those Fed fans hoping for one last late-career run, they saw more than just a tough 5-set defeat.  Federer called the trainer two times during his match, leaving even more concerns about his knee.  It frames a tough, but inevitable question: does Federer have any gas left in the tank?

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In the Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2016/07/11/sketchbook-the-lasting-wimbledon-image-that-renders-roger-federer-a-greatly-relatable-figure/, Michael Cavna’s Sketchbook makes some excellent points.

Cavna writes, “Which is why the most indelible image from the Wimbledon championships just completed Sunday, for me (the author), is the lasting sight of perhaps the sport’s most graceful player ever doing something profoundly uncommon.” On a key point, in a huge match, Roger Federer fell to earth.

The piece goes on with this troubling comment.  “Just minutes earlier, Federer essentially surrendered the fourth set when he hit consecutive double-faults — something else that he never does. “Something went wrong,” Federer said, adding: ‘Unexplainable for me really, yeah.'”

These quotes sum up the Federer demise. So much of what Federer does can only be described as Golden ranging from his effortless serve to his beautiful forehand to his deft touch around the net to his patented (and much beloved by this writer) “Tweener.”

If you play the style that Fed does, you can’t let any doubt creep into your mind.  You must be cooly fearless.  Federer is, however, aging.  The great champion is starting to doubt. And that, my friends, is utterly tragic.

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Let’s hope that Federer can pull a rabbit out of his magical hat.  Let us hope, as he looks to New York and the U.S. Open, he can summon something akin to 1991 and Jimmy Connors.  It would be wrong think that Federer doesn’t have the same fire as the more brash Connors.  He does. It will, however, take every ounce of that quiet intensity to make a run at Flushing Meadows.

Powers Trigg

Posted in Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

YES! Readership Growth Continues

It is a phenomenal window in the “wide world of sports.”  NBA offseason activity has been feverish with the Durant departure for Golden State causing a major splash.  Wimbledon has been amazing with Federer and Venus Williams providing compelling narratives as we work through (a hopefully drier) second week at the storied All-England Club. And with the exception of the NL Central, almost every MLB divisions appear poised for a competitive second half.

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With a product this good, it is little wonder that myespnforkids.com continues to score record readership.  We eclipsed over 2000 viewers as of the end of June helped by some great writing by San Francisco-based Lucas Dodson (Durant!) and Washington, DC-based Ezra Troy.

The rest of summer is filled with marquee moments.  MLB All-Star Game.  Euro 2016 Finals.  England v Pakistan Test.  Summer Olympics.  Premier League Season Opening (mid-Aug).  NFL Regular Season.  Texas v Norte Dame.  US Open (in New York).

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It should be an incredible collection of months.  They will, in the words of Jim McKay, “have on one side the thrill of victory and, on the other, its inevitable companion the agony of defeat.”  It’s a wonderful and wide world of sports.  Thank you for reading.   

Powers Trigg

Posted in Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lovable Losers: Part Two

[Ezra Troy writes his second in a two-part series called, Lovable Losers.  This piece looks at two tragic lists: a) most losses in a row; and b) most wins only to come up short in pursuit of a championship.]    

Lovable Losers come in many forms.  Here are two more “lists” that no sports fan wants to see a hometown team join.

Most Games Lost in a Row

While these teams may have won titles since, they still hold the record for most games lost in a row for their sports.

NFL – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976–1977 – 26 games

Coming into the league as an expansion team in 1976 – 1977, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted many aging veterans in the expansion draft. The Bucs were plagued with injury woes on their way to having the NFL’s first “defeated” season (0-14). The one bright spot was the (injury plagued) rookie season of Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon. The next year, the team dropped their first twelve games before finally winning one, giving them the record of 26 straight losses that still stands today.

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NHL – Washington Capitals 1974–1975 and San Jose Sharks 1992–1993 – 17 games

The Capitals in their first season in the NHL set this record. 17 years later, in their second season in the league the San Jose Sharks tied the mark. This year, the Buffalo Sabres had a large losing streak, but snapped it at 14 before they could match the Capitals and Sharks record.

MLB – Philadelphia Phillies 1961 – 23 games

In 1961, the Phillies finished a league worst 47-107. Losing 23 straight games didn’t help. Enough said.

NBA – Philadelphia 76ers 2014-2015 through 2015-2016 – 26 straight games

The woefully bad 76ers have been bad for a while now, but they actually have the record for most consecutive losses. They ended the 2014-2015 with 23 straight losses, tying the record for most consecutive losses in NBA history. They then lost the first three games of the next season, setting the record for most consecutive losses by an NBA team in regular season history.

Best Winning Streaks without a Championship

As unfortunate as it is, in each of the four major sports a team has set or tied the record for most wins in the regular season, but couldn’t win the championship.

NFL – New England Patriots 2007-2008 – 16-0

Led by all time great seasons by Tom Brady and Randy Moss, the New England Patriots and their eight pro bowlers stormed through the season to have the second – ever undefeated season in NFL history. After easily winning their two playoff games they had a showdown with the New York Giants, who they had played in week 17. With the score 14-10, Eli Manning rolled out on fourth down and threw the ball up to David Tyree, who made the famous helmet catch – which ended up being the last catch of his NFL career. Shortly after, the Giants scored and won the game 17-14, breaking the Patriots’ undefeated season.

NHL – Detroit Red Wings 1995-1996 – 62–13-7

The Red Wings had the greatest regular season in NHL history with 62(!) wins, while having a goal differential of +144. The Red Wings were upset in the Western conference semifinals by the eventual champion Colorado Avalanche.

MLB – Chicago Cubs 1906 – 116-36 and Seattle Mariners 2001 – 116-46

The 1906 Chicago Cubs had a winning percentage of .763. In the only ever all Chicago World Series, the White Sox upset the Chicago Cubs and their famed infield of Tinkers to Evers to Chance. In 2001, the Mariners and their young star Ichiro Suzuki, who won MVP and Rookie of the Year, met the New York Yankees and Derek Jeter in the ALCS just a month after 9/11. The Yankees won the series 4-1 behind great pitching by Andy Petite, only to lose the World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Randy Johnson.

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NBA – Golden State Warriors 2015-2016 – 73-9

Lead by Steph Curry and his record smashing 402 three pointers made, the Warriors lost 9 games the whole regular season. Unfortunately for them, they also lost 9 in the playoffs. In the semifinals, they almost were upset by the Oklahoma City Thunder, before squeezing out a 4-3 victory. In the finals, they blew a 3-1 lead and then lost an all-time great game 7 to lose the series to LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Ezra Troy

Posted in MLB, NBA, NFL, Other Tagged with: , , , , ,

Brad Gilbert’s All-Court Broadcasting Game

We find ourselves in the grandest window of the major tennis season.  The All-England Club offers pageantry.  The Wimbledon Championship evokes passion.  The end result is a magical two-week smorgasbord of tennis without parallel in the sport.

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For those of us not lucky enough to make the trek across the pond, the coverage on ESPN is a lifeline.  While there are a number of familiar faces in the booth from longtime ESPN anchor Chris Fowler to former players like John McEnroe and Darrin Cahill, one announcer stands out.

Brad Gilbert is a former Pepperdine standout, a world-class tour player (consistently finishing in the top 20 in an era filled with greats of the game), a top coach and best-selling author. It is an “all-court” broadcasting game.

As one writer said about Gilbert, he says what everyone is thinking, but “is afraid to say.” In addition, Gilbert also brings nice versatility.  He is a commentator offering thinking for the serious tournament player.  He too is someone that is adding humor and cleverness that also makes ESPN’s coverage accessible to the weekend hack.

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Several years ago, I had the opportunity to get a deeper view of Gilbert when I read his book, Winning Ugly.  It is a great guide for young people looking to navigate the tournament tennis scene. He covers topics such as how to have success against certain player profiles (like the enigmatic “pusher” that replicates a backboard).   It is an essential read for the serious player.

Moreover, as I mentioned in my recent article entitled “Summer Reading: Tennis,” Gilbert also is singled out in Andre Agassi’s book Open.  He clearly was someone that had a huge impact on Agassi, helping him both rediscover his passion for tennis and win matches on the major stage.

When it comes to his role as commentator, it is hard to overstate the value of Gilbert’s time as a coach.  You get to hear many insights in the early rounds about what young players need to do to move to the upper echelon of the game.  Jack Sock, I hope you are listening (and working on the backend and second serve).

And so, as you eat your strawberries and cream and watch the telly, you might turn up the volume just a tad.  You will hear Brad Gilbert holding forth, with insights that are both valuable and disappointingly rare.  It will, I assure you, make the best two weeks in tennis even better.

Powers Trigg

Posted in Other Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Lovable Losers: Part One

[Washington, DC-based Ezra Troy offers the first of two articles on a topic that will be (devastatingly) dear to the hearts of anyone that resides in one of the cities on this list.  He alliteratively calls it, Lovable Losers.  The key thing, of course, is loving your team whether they are good or bad.  No one respects bandwagon fans.]    

With the Cavaliers winning the NBA championship, they broke the second longest active championship drought for a city with at least two pro sports teams. Now that Cleveland’s 51-year drought is over, what are the longest active championship droughts for cities with at least two cities?

Big League Cities with the Longest Droughts 

San Diego – 53 years

The California city has two teams, the Chargers and the Padres. The Chargers have been to the playoffs 18 times in the Super Bowl era, but have only made one Super Bowl! Meanwhile, the Padres have lost the two World Series they made, winning only one game in the process. To find the last time San Diego won a championship, one has to go back to one year before the Browns won Cleveland’s last championship before this year – 1963.

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Buffalo – 51 years

Since their founding in 1970, the Buffalo Sabres have made three Stanley Cups but lost them all. The other Buffalo team, the Bills, made four Super Bowls in a row… and lost them all! The last championship won by Buffalo was the Bill’s AFL titles in 1964 and 1965.

Milwaukee – 45 years

The last Milwaukee championship was the NBA championship in 1971, when the Bucks had Kareem Abdul – Jabar (then Lew Alcindor) and Oscar Robertson. Then the Bucks traded Kareem, and Milwaukee hasn’t won a major championship since. (The other Milwaukee team, the Brewers, have never won a World Series.)

Teams with the Longest Droughts

Even though these teams had other teams in their cities win championships, they have long title droughts themselves. (teams that have never won a championship are not included)

Chicago Cubs – 108 years

The quintessential example of a championship drought in sports is that of the Chicago Cubs. The last time the Cubs won the World Series, Google was 90 years away from being born, Theodore Roosevelt was finishing up as the 26th president of the US and the first Model T was being produced. In addition to not winning for 108 years, the Cubs haven’t even made the World Series since 1945. According to legend, they were cursed by a man wanting to bring his Billy Goat into a game of the 1945 World Series. They haven’t a world series  since. Things that have prevented them, most notably 2003 and the Steve Bartman game, have all been attributed to the Billy Goat curse.

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Arizona Cardinals – 69 years

The Cardinals are the league’s oldest franchise, founded in 1898. They only have won one title (and another disputed one) since their founding. The title came in 1947; they are still waiting for another. In the 69 years of waiting, they have won 8 playoff games, two last year and another three when they went to the Super Bowl in 2010.

Cleveland Indians – 68 years

Part of the long city championship drought just broken by the Cavaliers, the Indians are now the biggest loser in a city of losers. After beating the Braves in 1948, the Indians have only made the Fall Classic once since they brought home that first title. (But they lost to the Atlanta Braves in six games in 1995).

It is a tough list.  Unfortunately, there are multiple ways to look at poor performance and underperformance against expectations when it comes to professional sports.  I will touch a couple of more variants in my next installment of this series on Lovable Losers.

Ezra Troy

Posted in MLB, NBA, NFL, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Do the Warriors Need Even More Splash? Dodson Dissects the Roster, Details Offseason Plan

[This piece is the second of two articles from Golden State super fan Lucas Dodson. He explores the changes the team needs to consider, and make, to not only return to the NBA Finals, but to prevail in the postseason.  Lucas isn’t content to sit back and bemoan the outcome of Game Seven and the series with the Cavs.  He is putting his thoughts to paper on how to make GS one of the great franchises in league history.]  

Once the final buzzer sounded, the offseason started where the Warriors have a lot of thinking to do about the team. As I am not a member of the front office, I can’t tell you what they are going to do this offseason, but I will be taking you through what I would do if I were Joe Lacob, Peter Guber, Bob Meyers and all of the front office.

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Who To Let Go

  • RFA SF Harrison Barnes– Do I really need to elaborate on this? He was atrocious in the playoffs, and despite the Warriors saying they’ll likely match any offer for Barnes, it would be downright dumb to match a max-contract offer for a player that is decent at best. Look for the Lakers or Bucks to be possible destinations for him, as Luke Walton is coaching the Lakers next year and they are in need of a small forward. The Bucks are also a possible destination because of rising star Giannis Antetokounmpo starting to play point guard; Jabari Parker better suited to play power forward; and they will likely get rid of Greg Monroe.
  • RFA C Festus Ezeli– As much as I love Festus, they need to let him walk to LA.  I’ve talked to him a few times and he’s a great guy: smart, funny, everything you want in a player (as a person).  However, he has a terrible basketball IQ, along side with his terrible ability to catch the ball, and his inability to hit any shot that’s not a layup or dunk. Like I said before, the Lakers are also the best destination for Festus. During a period of 18 games that Luke Walton coached, where Andrew Bogut was injured, Ezeli played the best basketball of his life, and that could influence Walton to bring Ezeli to LA where they truly have no decent center.

Who To Keep

  • UFA PF/C Marresse Speights– Better known as “Mo Buckets” Speights provides fantastic scoring off the bench, with his superb shooting and passing ability (he played quarterback in high school) Mo was top 3 this year in points per 48 minutes out of big men. Speights also has the ability to stretch the floor for the Warriors, forcing the big man to play him on the perimeter, which leads to guards having the ability to drive to the basket without a shot blocker inside.
  • RFA PG/SG Ian Clark– Although Clark doesn’t play often, he made the most of his moments this year, and Clark played amazing when given the opportunity. Much like the aforementioned Mo Buckets, Clark is immediate scoring off the bench and he is the perfect cheerleader as he is an upbeat and fun guy.
  • UFA C Anderson Varejao– Energy. Varejao brings energy to any team he plays for with his hustle and finishing ability. Additionally, he is not a bad defender.
  • UFA SG Leandro Barbosa– Scoring.  He is a fantastic scorer, and is called the “Brazilian Blur” for a reason. Even though his is getting up there in age, Barbosa can still fly up and down the court like few can. Additionally, he is a great shooter and ball handler.
  • UFA SG/SF Brandon Rush– He proved valuable in Harrison Barnes’ absence earlier in the year.  He also is a reliable scorer off the bench.
  • RFA PF/C James-Michael McAdoo- I mean, why not. There is some potential there. He also can play well in spurts.

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Who They Need To Sign

  • C Joakim Noah– Noah is the center the Warriors truly need, and he would be a perfect fit for the team. Tough. Athletic. Hustle. Strong. Those are all qualities that the Warriors need in a center. He could also take under $10 million in order to play with the Warriors. Although his health is a factor, if you get Bismack Biyombo, we already saw what he can do in a starting role, and also, his health isn’t much worse than Andrew Boguts or Festus Ezelis.
  • C Bismack Biyombo or Al Jefferson– Two perfect backup centers. For Biyombo, he showed us what he can do during this years postseason when he got the opportunity to start for the Toronto Raptors, and he beasted and feasted, perfect center for the team, that is if they can afford him. For Al Jefferson, he is tough and strong just like Biyombo and Noah, good old-fashioned post-up scorer. The Warriors haven’t had a post up scorer since David Lee.

Who They Should Think About Signing

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  • SF/PF/SG Kevin Durant– Do I need to explain? Kevin Durant is f****** amazing.
  • C- Pau Gasol– Veteran with a lot of talent left. Pau Gasol would be a perfect fit for the Warriors, as he is a team-first player who is tough and a good rebounder, defender, and scorer. However, it’s a matter of whether he would take a pay cut to play with the Warriors. Who knows, could he take the veterans minimum to play with the Dubs and try to get his 3rd ring?
  • PF David West– He could ditch the Spurs and do the same thing he did with them, but with the Dubs, by taking the veterans minimum to try to get a ring. He was linked to Golden State as a possible destination last summer.
  • PF/C Dirk Nowitzki–  Although Dirk might seem like a good fit, he is very old at 38, and his best years are way behind. He did put up 18.3 points and 6.5 rebounds this season but he still has the ability to produce for the Warriors, however likely in a bench role. Also sources say that Warriors management is looking at Dirk this summer.

Players to Trade

  • C Andrew Bogut– This is really hard to say as I love Andrew Bogut, but that contract is just way too big. Getting over $10 million a year for someone who produces like Bogut is too much, also that would open up cap space for another free agent to join the team.

It could well be a busy season for the front office.  There is a growing fan expectation for excellence and a chance for this team to be one of the truly dominate collection of players in league history.

Lucas Dodson

Posted in NBA, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Golden State: Season of Sweetness With a Final Blow of Despair

[Editor’s Note:  This article is the first of a two-part series exploring the post-season journey of the Golden State Warriors from the perspective of one of their great fans.  Lucas Dodson bleeds blue and yellow.  Fortunately, as he contemplates a long offseason, he also loves the Giants. Following this article, Lucas gives us a second piece that looks at where Golden State needs to, and might, go in the offseason.  Thank you, Lucas, for a set of impassioned articles.] 

It is a warm June day.  I am waking up in a haze as the “unbeatable” Warriors flopped in the final minutes of a winner-take-all Game 7, which led to the Cavaliers bringing the city of Cleveland their first major sports championship since 1964 when the great Jim Brown brought his Browns a championship.

The 2015-16 NBA season was one led by the storylines brought by the Golden State Warriors. Fresh off of an NBA Championship, the Warriors started the season 24-0 shattering the previous record of the best start to an NBA season, a record that previously stood at 15-0. As the season progressed, the Dubs ended up with 3 NBA All-Stars, MVP Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson. The season concluded with the Warriors winning a record 73 games, breaking the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls previous record of 72 wins. Then, the rollercoaster ride playoffs came.

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In Game 1 of the first round, Steph Curry didn’t return after the first half with an apparent ankle injury. The Warriors had a 2-1 lead in the series going into Game 4, where Curry returned, and before the first half came to a close, Curry slipped on an apparent wet spot on the floor, spraining his MCL. Curry did not play for the rest of the series, a 4-1 defeat of the Houston Rockets. Next up were the young Portland Trailblazers, led by superstar point guard Damian Lillard, and fresh off of a 6 game series victory over the badly injured Los Angeles Clippers. Steph Curry was still sidelined with the MCL sprain, but the Warriors handled the first two games of the series to take a 2-0 lead. When Curry returned, the Warriors were once again up 2-1 in a Game 4. Curry was scheduled to play limited minutes off the bench, behind Shaun Livingston. But when Livingston was ejected after back to back technical fouls, Curry had to step up, and step up he did, as he scored 40 points, including a record 17 points in overtime, giving the Dubs a Game 4 victory, 132-125. Klay Thompson played out of his mind in Curry’s absence, scoring efficiently with a 58% true shooting percentage, one of the main highlights in a wild postseason. The Warriors won Game 5 125-121 and were on to the Western Conference Finals, to face Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were coming off beating the juggernaut San Antonio Spurs in 6 games.

In Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the Dubs held a double digit lead going into the half, but the Thunder stormed all the way back to take Game 1 in the hostile Oracle arena, 108-102. After winning Game 2 by a convincing 27 points, the Warriors traveled to Oklahoma City to play two pivotal games in Chesapeake Energy Arena, nicknamed “Loud City” for its raucous and deafening environment. The Warriors were slaughtered in Games 3 and 4 putting them in an insurmountable 3-1 hole. In Game 5 the Warriors handled the Thunder’s best effort, and won, cutting the series lead to 3-2. Game 6 came and Klay Thompson played maybe the best game of his career, with his first 40 point playoff game, leading the Warriors to a Game 6 victory, 108-101 sending the series back to Oracle all tied up at 3 a piece. In Game 7, despite being down by 13 in the second quarter, the Warriors stormed back, and won, 96-88, sending them to the NBA Finals to match up against the Cavaliers for a second straight year.

In Game 1 of the Finals, Curry and Klay Thompson couldn’t get it going, but Shaun Livingston had the best game of his career, scoring 20 points and giving the Warriors a 15 point victory. In Game 2, the Splash Brothers got their groove back, and the Warriors blew out the Cavs for a second straight game giving them a 2-0 series lead, sending the Bay Area into frenzy. In Game 3, the Cavs came out with their A-Game, obliterating the Dubs by 30 to cut the lead to 2-1. But in Game 4, after a shaky first half, the Warriors stayed in it and eventually came out on top, winning the game and taking a 3-1 series lead, and with a chance to close it out in Oracle. But after the game, the NBA reviewed a play involving LeBron James and Draymond Green where James steps over a grounded Green, and out of anger towards the disrespect thrown at him, Draymond slapped LeBron in his family jewels causing the NBA to give him a flagrant 1, which put him over the limit for flagrant points, suspending him one game, which was Game 5. In Game 5, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving scored 41 points each to steal a win from the Warriors in Oracle. In Game 6, with Draymond Green back, the Dubs found themselves down 31-11 after the conclusion of the first quarter the Warriors however, kept chipping into the lead but LeBron James was officially too much to handle, scoring 41 for the second straight game. Then it all came down to Game 7, the Warriors held a 49-42 lead after the second quarter but the Cavs came to play in the second half, eventually cutting it to a one point lead heading into the fourth quarter 76-75. In the fourth, no one could score until Kyrie Irving hit a 3 pointer with Steph Curry draped all over him, to give the Cavs a 3 point lead with 53.3 seconds remaining. Two possessions in a row where no one could get free for a shot led to the season concluding, and the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the 2016 NBA Finals, being the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, after the Warriors didn’t score for the last 5 or so minutes.

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Being a season ticket holder in the crowd for Game 7, I can’t put into words how devastating the loss felt to me.

Lucas Dodson

Posted in NBA, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Blooming Rose or No Rose Without a Thorn?

[Washington, DC-Based Ezra Troy makes the case that the Knicks were the big winner in the Derrick Rose Trade.  His argument is as solid as the Rose highlight reel.]

Sitting at the dentist yesterday, I got hectic texts from my friends. “Derrick Rose has just been traded to the Knicks.”

At first, I could scarcely believe it; I had heard some speculation, but that was it. All of the sudden, it hit me. What would the Knicks have to give up for a former MVP and number one overall pick?

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Just three years earlier, the Knicks gave up three quality players, a first round draft pick and two second rounders for another point guard, Andrea Bargnani. So what would the Knicks have to give up for a former MVP? Porzingis? Carmelo Anthony? First round picks?

The answer came to me one minute later in an ESPN alert. The Knicks got Derrick Rose, guard Justin Holiday and a 2017 second round pick. The Knicks gave up… Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant. Ok so what else. Nothing.

The Knicks gave up their starting center (a solid NBA center), a 34-year old point guard owed too much money and a first round pick from last year for a former MVP. This seems like the Bulls just giving up the oft-injured Rose, but the Knicks got a steal on the 27-year old former MVP. The one downside? Rose hasn’t played a full season since 2010-2011 when he won MVP.

The Knicks have relatively little to lose. Rose has one more year on the five-year extension he signed with the Bulls worth $21.3 million dollars this year. After this year, he will become a free agent. The salaries of Lopez, Grant and Calderon are worth $13.2, $1.6 and $7.4 million dollars, respectively, or 22.2 million dollars combined. Lopez has two more years after this one worth $13.7 and $14.3 million dollars. Grant who is on his rookie deal signed a four year deal worth $6.3 million with the last two years being team options and gets a qualifying offer of $3.7 million for 2019-2020. Calderon is owed one more year after this of $7.7 million dollars. Even though they are both owed almost the same thing next year, if Rose doesn’t work out, the Knicks are done with him after this year. The Bulls are tied into two more years of $14.4 million with Calderon, three more years of Lopez worth $41.2 million and three more of Grant worth $5.9 million with the last two years being club options (which the Bulls are most likely to pick up) and must give him a $3.7 million dollar qualifying offer for the fourth year.

The Knicks will be free to pursue free agent point guards Russel Westbrook, Steph Curry and Chris Paul next offseason with those three off the books and Rose becoming a free agent next year. The Bulls are tied into millions of dollars for the next three years, in addition to giving the Knicks the star point guard they haven’t had since Stephon Marbury (hopefully Rose plays better than he did in New York).

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Rose also gives New York an attractiveness in free agency – 3 core stars and $30 million dollars. Phil Jackson has told Rose that he will actively pursue Kevin Durant in free agency. A player like Durant or Dwight Howard could really push New York over the top and get them to the playoffs for the first time since 2012-2013.

Sorry Bulls fans, looks like the Knicks won this one.

Ezra Troy

Posted in NBA, Other Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Freedom’s Frontier Award: Thank You

Missouri became a state in 1821.  Then, after passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, the North and South flooded the territory that is now Kansas as the issue of whether it would enter the United States as a “free” or “slave” state was settled.  The violence that ensued led it to be called “Bleeding Kansas.”

Today, we think about the so-called Border War in more benign and often sports-related terms, particularly when the Jayhawks and the MU Tigers play.  It is a less frequent occurrence now that MU has joined the SEC, but still brings out strong emotions when squads from the two schools meet.   For perfect clarity, it’s not TX-OU level emotion, but passions still run pretty high when both teams are good. 

Freedom’s Frontier is an organization dedicated to making sure that the history surrounding the Kansas-Missouri border, beyond the playing field, is not forgotten.  Recently, they selected my work on the Negro Leagues as the middle school recipient of the Freedom’s Frontier Award.  It is a great honor.

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In my presentation entitled “An Exploration of the Negro Leagues”, I framed the idea that Kansas City should be seen a critical place in the forward march of civil rights.  Mr. Bob Kendrick, CEO of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, introduced me to this idea and a number of local historians such as Larry Lester reinforced it.  Within a 50-mile radius of Kansas City, three seminal events come to life. The Truman Library allows people to understand the importance of Truman’s decision to integrate the military.  At Monroe Elementary School, you can learn about the events that led to Brown versus Board of Education.  Finally, Jackie Robinson started his playing career with the Kansas City Monarchs.  The Monarchs were one of the original teams in the Negro Leagues with the founding meeting held at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City, Missouri.

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The Negro Leagues were a driving force for racial integration.  The games that they played not just in Kansas City, but in exhibition games in small towns in KS and MO, brought blacks and whites together.  As white Americans saw black athletes playing at the highest levels and enjoying a game that they also loved, it changed the course of baseball and the country.

It is exciting to be selected by Freedom’s Frontier for this award.  Many other individuals deserve the credit for this recognition, including my teacher and advisor Dan O’Connell.  I received $250 and will be donating this money to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum as a small gesture to help Mr. Kendrick and his team continue their important work.  As you travel this summer, please keep the museum in mind.  I also encourage you to look at the Freedom’s Frontier website if you are interested in learning more about this organization and the events that shaped the Kansas-Missouri border.    

Powers Trigg

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The Future of U.S Soccer: A Deeper Look at Three Rising Stars

It is truly the summer of soccer.

With Euro 2016 and the Copa America Centario consuming significant bandwidth on every sports fans calendar, it can be difficult to focus on the youth aspect of soccer.  We focus on the marquee names of now and today.  We forget the players of tomorrow.  Therefore, we felt it necessary to push the pause button for just a moment and take a look at three up-and-comers in U.S Soccer. These players have a chance to develop into what football fans everywhere would simply call “masterclass”.

  • Christian Pulisic is a 17-year old winger that has shined recently for Bourissia Dortmund in the Budsilgia and on the senior United States squad. A Pennsylvania native, “Puls” brings an interesting profile.  While being of a small build (5’8), he is very technically skilled. According to faceoffootball.com, “He is a modern game’s flamboyant number 10 player who loves to dribble and take players on. Pulisic likes to be given a free role in the team as he plays with a natural flair and is dangerous in the box.” He is being hailed as the future of U.S soccer. While we can’t prove anything definitely yet, he will look to play a major role in this Copa America and the coming World Cup in Russia. This writer had a chance to watch Christian in a friendly against Bolivia in recent weeks.  He is one to keep your eye on.

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  • Andrew Carleton is 15-year old, so many will chalk this up to hype. However, the youngster has tremendous game. An incredible midfielder with great technical ability, Carleton singed with Atlanta United on Thursday. He has a bright future.

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  • Ethan Horvath is the oldest player on this list, but perhaps the most unknown. YouTube is filled with highlight tapes that will leave you salivating at the potential for Horvath to shine at the international level. If your Mom isn’t regulate your summer screen time, it is worth 10 minutes to take a look at what has objectively to be a U.S. star with a real opportunity to shine at the next level.

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These three young men may have something special. However, one eternal question remains: can they do it on a rainy night in Stoke?  At the elite level of the game, everyone has talent.  Everyone has a high-level of training.  Everyone has watched the great players and assessed the game between good and great.  Do they have small intangibles, the willingness to work harder than anyone else, the good fortune of master coaching at opportune times in their maturation.  Time answers all questions in the world of sports.  I have a feeling this bright crop of up and comers won’t let us down.

Powers Trigg

Posted in MLS, Other

Summer Reading: Tennis

With Nadal a no-show for the French Open, the tournament held the risk of being a rather dual affair.  Instead, it offered a compelling story around Novak Djokovic and his amazing ascent (12 majors).  It also foisted Andy Murray onto the scene as a possible foil, as they both knock the clay off their tennis shoes and head to the pristine grass of the All-England Club at the end of June.

It is, of course, a great summer window for tennis.  It also is, however, a time when parents are clamoring for kids not just to practice their serves and watch the majors on the tele, but also do some summer reading. Fortunately, I have had a chance to read some great books on tennis in recent weeks and offer them for your consideration here: 

1.   Djokovic, Novak.  Serve to Win

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Djokovic’s book takes on an interesting format. The books starts with a snapshot of the Djokovic childhood, shaped by the war that forced him and other Serbs to practice under inhospitable conditions. Djokovic manages to somehow pivot to his pro game, and his quest to overcome his asthma. In the transition, he realizes that he is both gluten and lactose intolerant. He then gives readers tips on how to improve their own lifestyles including a day-by-day look at his dietary routine.

All in all, what could have been a very choppy, transition-filled book was shockingly well-written. It is a good read for tennis fans.  However, the casual or indifferent fan may want to consider something else.   

2.   Agassi, Andre.  Open: An Autobiography. 

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It is, in a phrase, an all-time classic. Agassi paints a startlingly cold picture of his upbringing by his Iranian father.  Mike Agassi, a classic tennis parent, subjected his kid to brutal practice sessions in the Las Vegas heat, ripped him to post-match shreds when he lost and shipped him away from his loving mother and supporting cast of friends to the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida.  We have covered this theme on the site extensively in articles such as The Tennis Parent, and Are Youth Athletics Too Competitive?  The end result was predictable: Agassi hated tennis.  From that rough beginning, the book then details how his trainer, Gil Reyes, and his coach, Brad Gilbert, helped him find a renewed love of the game.

Tennis fans and non-tennis fans alike will relate to Agassi.  It is a page-turner and comes with my highest recommendation.   

3.   Wertheim, Jon.  Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal and the Greatest Match Ever Played. 

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This was my favorite of the three books. Wertheim dives into the background, buildup, and underlying intensity that surrounded what he believes is “the greatest match ever played”. The author is not afraid to have an opinion or advance a provocative theory or two such as the notion that you must grow up poor to have the hunger to win tournaments. He talks about the personal lives of the players, and how they were lucky to not suffer under tennis parents. 

At its best, tennis is more than a game. This book, likewise, is about more than a tennis match. It’s about heart.  You will find it hard to put down.  

Wimbledon kicks off June 27th and runs through July 10th.  It should be a fantastic couple of weeks, as we eat our strawberries and cream and politely applaud the play across the pond (as we wish that we were sitting on an outside court or watching the big screen from Henman Hill).  Federer will be back trying to return to form after withdrawing from the French, breaking his streak of 65 consecutive appearances in the Grand Slams.  The 17-time major winner has been hampered by injures through 2016.  It would be wonderful to see a repeat final of Djokovic and Federer (7-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3). And of course, Scotsman Andy Murray will have strong UK support as he looks to enter the conversation around the current elites of the game. Will he rebound from the crushing loss to Djokovic at Roland Garros?

I hope to cover a range of tennis topics in the weeks ahead.  What are the pros and cons of a one-handed versus two-handed backhand?  What are the practical and psychological benefits of being a left-handed tennis player.?  And of course, what happened to the serve and volley at Wimbledon?  It should be a glorious two weeks, with a few intervening days for you to turn the pages of a couple of wonderful books. 

Powers Trigg

Posted in Book Review, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Top NFL Drafts of the Modern Era

[Editor’s Note: I want to welcome Washington, D.C.-based Ezra Troy as one of our new staff writer for myespnforkids.com.  With school closing out in the DC area, Ezra will be a growing presence on the site this summer.  He brings not only solid sports knowledge, he has a particular passion for baseball and analytics.  As this piece illustrates, Ezra is willing to dig in and do the research, not just foist opinions aimlessly like some sports variant of Donald Trump on Fox and Friends.  The research here speaks for itself.  Welcome, Ezra!] 

In honor of last month’s NFL Draft, here is a look back at the five greatest and most impactful draft classes (in chronological order) since the storied 1983 class (with the 1983 class also thrown in).

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1983

Hall of Famers – 7 

Pro Bowlers – 41

With Pro Bowlers and Hall of Famers from its number one pick (John Elway), to its second to last (Anthony Carter – 3-time Pro Bowler), this draft was stacked. With six quarterbacks selected in the first round (Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O’Brien and Dan Marino), this draft set the record for most quarterbacks taken in the first round. There were six Hall of Famers (Elway, Eric Dickerson, Bruce Mathews, Kelly, Marino and Darrell Green) selected in the first round as well. From a loaded first round to a Hall of Famer picked in the eighth round (Richard Dent), this draft set the balance of power in the NFL for years to come.

Hall of Famers: John Elway, Eric Dickerson, Bruce Matthews, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Darrell Green and Richard Dent

Notable undrafted players: Brian Sochia, Mark Tuinei and Bill Bates

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I. 1985:

Hall of Famers – 5

Pro Bowlers – 31

Just two years after the league – shaping draft of 1983, the draft of 1985 produced many impactful players. Bruce Smith (all – time NFL sack leader), Jerry Rice (Most career receiving yards and receiving touchdowns) and Andre Reed (ninth all time in career receptions and eleventh in receiving touchdowns) were all selections in this draft. With the picks of Smith and Reed (and Kelly in 1983) the Buffalo Bills shaped their franchise for their run of four straight super bowls in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. (The Bills also signed Scottie Norwood, the kicker who missed the super bowl winning field goal in 1990, as a undrafted free agent in this draft).

Hall of Famers: Bruce Smith, Chris Doleman, Jerry Rice, Andre Reed and Kevin Greene
Notable undrafted players: Scottie Norwood, Eugene Robinson and Greg Kragen

II. 1996

Hall of Famers – 2

Pro Bowlers – 34

Although only two players (so far) have made the Hall of Fame, there are certainly more to come. Jonathan Ogden and Marvin Harrison have already made the Hall of Fame, but Ray Lewis and Brian Dawkins are sure to follow. This draft ushered in the next generation of great wide receivers. Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn, Eddie Kennison, Eric Moulds, Bobby Engram, Terrell Owens, Muhsin Muhammad, Amani Toomer, Jermaine Lewis, Joe Horn and Harrison were all selected in this draft. The Ravens made the most of their two first round picks, selecting Ogden and Ray Lewis, two all time greats that would lead them on the way to a Super Bowl win over the Giants just four years later. Another important kicker, Adam Vinatieri, who would make two Super Bowl winning field goals, was also an undrafted free agent in this draft.

Hall of Famers: Jonathan Ogden and Marvin Harrison
Notable undrafted players: Adam Vinatieri, Casey Wiegmann and Larry Izzo

III. 2004

Hall of Famers – 0

Pro Bowlers – 31

Although this draft is known for the three star quarterbacks selected in the first round (Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers), this draft also produced some of the top defensive players to play the game this century. Sean Taylor, Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Jason Babin, Jared Allen, Deangelo Hall, Vince Wilfork, Bob Sanders, Shaun Phillips and Darnell Dockett were all selections in this draft. This draft also produced Larry Fitzgerald, Wes Welker (undrafted), Jason Peters (undrafted) and Steven Jackson. This draft had many stars on all sides of the ball, some of whom are still stars today, twelve years later.

Hall of Famers: none
Notable undrafted players: Wes Welker and Jason Peters

IV. 2007

Hall of Famers – 0

Pro Bowlers – 33

Although this draft is known for it’s number one overall bust, Jamarcus Russell, four of the top fifteen draft picks were or still are the best player at their position today. Calvin Johnson (number 2), Joe Thomas (number 3), Adrian Peterson (number 7), Darrelle Revis (number 14). Along with these four all – time greats, Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch, Joe Staley, Paul Posluszny and Greg Olsen were all selected in this draft. Half of the players picked in the first round made Pro Bowls and a few still star in the NFL today (with many retiring in the past two years).

Hall of Famers: none
Notable undrafted players: Eric Weems and Matt Overton

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V. 2011

Hall of Famers – 0

Pro Bowlers – 26

Think of a star in the NFL today. JJ Watt, Von Miller, Cam Newton, AJ Green, Patrick Peterson and Julio Jones. All these stars were picked in the first 11 picks of the 2011 NFL Draft. Along with these six, Tyron Smith, Aldon Smith and Marcell Dareus were picked in the top eleven and have all made Pro Bowls. The only two players in that top eleven who didn’t make a Pro Bowl: Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker. The list doesn’t stop there. Robert Quinn, Mike Pouncey, Muhammad Wilkerson, Ryan Kerrigan, Cameron Jordan and Mark Ingram were all also picked in the first round. But that’s not all. Players drafted after the first round include Andy Dalton (second round), Randall Cobb (second round), Justin Houston (third round), Demarco Murray (third round), Jurrell Casey (third round), Richard Sherman (fifth round) and Jason Kelce (sixth round). Chris Harris, one of the top corners in the league, was taken as an undrafted free agent. This draft produced many stars of this decade, many of whom will go on to break records and make the Hall of Fame.

Hall of Famers: none
Notable undrafted players: Chris Harris, and Dan Bailey

Ezra Troy

Posted in NFL, Other Tagged with: , , ,

To Bee or Not to Bee: Is the National Spelling Bee a Sport?

The fervor. The despondency. The joy. No, we are not talking about the final games of the NBA conference finals. We are talking, instead, about the Scripps 2016 National Spelling Bee.  I can already imagine the outrage from our readers. The Spelling Bee, they will rant in the Comment Section, is not a sport. It is the domain of eggheads that couldn’t throw a two-yard out pattern if they tried.  After throughly enjoying several hours of the contest (rooting for Sylvie Lamontagne), let me play the contrarian and make the affirmative case.

For starter, the National Spelling Bee gets major league broadcast coverage. The Spelling Bee has announcers, corporate sponsors, and a contract with the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN). Does that sound a bit like a sport to you?

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Furthermore, sports offer “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” When Sylvie Lamontagne nailed words like comitatus and ptyalism, you could feel the momentum as she seemingly soared towards a first place finish. However, when she misspelled the word ‘chaoborine’ (type of gnat, according to The National Spelling Bee’s Twitter page), the air went out of the room. It was like a double fault on match point or a crucial missed free throw as time is winding down in the close of the fourth quarter. It was very bit the thrill of victory and, sadly for Sylvie, the agony of defeat.

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Success on the playing field, you say, requires practice. The Spelling Bee is no less demanding. According to a Denver Post article, Sylvie “said she would spend hours studying on a computer program called Quizlet — sometimes testing herself for as long as 12 hours on a Saturday [while] obviously making exceptions for the times I have a lot of homework.”

What about celebration? While I hail from the quiet Bjorn Borg school of celebration where one let’s his game speak for him, there is no doubt that end zone dancing and other revelry are commonplace in modern sports. Yes, you guessed. The Dab was as frequently seen at the 2016 Spelling Bee as uniform changes by the Oregon football team.

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The Spelling Bee does have one fatal flaw. Fittingly, it also is a permutation found in major sports. As the great Frank Deford has written, “A tie has no place in sports. It is like not finding out the ‘who’ in whodunit.” It has been calculated that 30 percent of all soccer matches end in a draw. Likewise, the National Spelling Bee ended in a tie this year for the third consecutive year. It is a tragedy —in spelling and sports alike.

Simply put, the Spelling Bee is a competitive sport that is as demanding as anything one encounters on the playing field. ESPN made a brilliant decision to broadcast at it. Viewers that were lucky enough to tune in saw a NBA Playoff-quality treat.

Powers Trigg

Posted in Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sporting KC: Where the Fan Comes First

The Sporting KC ownership team is one of the best in Major League Soccer (MLS). The Sporting Club mission statement says it all, including phrases like “high performance” and “experiences” brought to life within “world-class facilities.”

Cliff Illig, Cerner Corporation co-founder, is the intellectual force behind what many believe is the best fan experience in any of the four major professional sports leagues.  When I told Cerner CEO Neal Patterson once how much I loved the SKC experience, he said, “It is all Cliff.”  Illlig’s son Michael drives the experience side and Alan Dietrich brings further operating expertise to the Illig sports fan algorithm. 

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Importantly, Patterson, Illig and the ownership group (Pat Curran, Robb Heineman, Greg Maday) leave the on-the-field personnel decisions to Peter Vermes.  He isn’t dealing with Jerry Jones.  Vermes has the vision, personnel calls and, ultimately, the on-field accountability.  When we think about the upward march of this franchise (including the 2013 MLS championship), a big piece of the credit goes to Vermes. 

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If you want to build a durable sports brand, you need a media strategy.  Sporting KC has one.  Every regular season game is shown live on 38 the Spot.  It includes pre-game and post-game shows.  In addition, WHB 810 AM broadcasts the games on the radio giving the team reach into Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma.  Finally, fans also can listen on Spanish radio on D 1340 AM, one of the reasons for SKC popularity with the soccer-loving Latino community.       

There have been some changes to the broadcast team in recent years.  While many people loved Callum Williams and Diego Gutierrez, they were given their walking papers at the end of the 2014 season.  You won’t hear Callum affixing obscure European countries to a player’s name or hometown commentary devoid of objectivity (Yes, Rex, I am taking a subtle shot at you).    

Now, it is Nate Bukaty, Andy Gruenebaum, Jake Yadrich and Kacie McDonnell.  Bukaty is the lead play-by-play announcer, a role he has held since the 2015 season.  Bukaty also is the co-host of the Boarder Patrol on 810AM.  He brings strong sports knowledge to the microphone.  

This reporter will have the chance for a behind-the-scenes look at this talented broadcast team as Sporting KC takes on Western Conference rival Real Salt Lake in a head-to-head that always carries a punch dating back to at least the 2013 MLS Final.  It is a key game for an SKC team that at the moment may not have a playoff spot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

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There is no doubt in my mind that all of the SKC diehards will be tuned in this evening.  Mr Illig, for his part, also will be watching, critiquing every fan experience detail just like iconic sports entrepreneur Lamar Hunt.  Welcome to the (5-star) Blue Hell, Real Salt Lake.    

Powers Trigg

Posted in MLS, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

The Tennis Parent

The tennis parent is a special breed.  What are his core attributes?  He brings a force-fed practice regiment; showcases a troubling amount of competitiveness; and delivers an irksome level of meddlesomeness during tournament play.  In a phrase, insane parentes.

Let’s begin with a look at the data.  According to a survey in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, 36% of coaches believe parents are a negative influence.  While there are a handful of positives (logistics, financial support), the negatives include too much focus on winning and hypercritical assessments of their kids.  It is an amazingly big percentage, generated from a sample size of very experienced coaches with a mean of 17.3 years of coaching experience.

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At the qualitative level, there are countless examples.  In Open: An Autobiography, Andre Agassi talks extensively about a almost tyrannical father and his incredibly rigorous training program.  Further, he frames his experience at the Bollettieri Tennis Camp, imposed by his father, as a prison camp.  Agassi is just one snapshot in an album of examples of the tennis parent pushing their son to the point of burnout or, in the case of Agassi, rebellion.

Some will argue, of course, that the overbearing parent is not endemic to tennis.  Marv Marinovich (Todd Marinovich) and Earl Woods (Tiger Woods) offer two examples from football and golf.  There is merit to this case.

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In addition, it is unfair to argue that the tennis parent is exclusively responsible for the dynamics within the game.  It is a bit of post hoc fallacy (A occurred, then B occurred; therefore A caused B).  Clearly, there are other contributors such as what I call the McEnroe Effect. Players now throw their rackets, scream after a double fault, and question line calls. In contrast, players that are muted on the court likely Edberg and Borg have become a dying breed.  Everyone wants to be Johnny Mac and when players like Nick Kyrgios flash their temper, we barely lift our head.

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In the end, however, the case to be made against the tennis parent is clear.  It may not be the lone issue, but it is an important one.  Their influence on the tournament scene is significant and to the downside.  And so, for all the tennis players suffering from an overbearing parent, good luck.  For all the overbearing tennis parents, good riddance.

Powers Trigg

Posted in Other Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

MyESPNforKids: Readership Skyrockets

This note is a short one to say: thank you.  A number of us write for this site because we have a deep love of sports and an interest in sharing our thinking with others that share that passion.  We aren’t on Twitter.  We aren’t putting hashtags and comments on top sports sites to boost traffic.  Of course, we also have to go to school which can be the enemy of putting fresh content up on the site every single day.

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Notwithstanding those limitations, I am very excited to share that our website traffic has more than doubled in the last two months.  It is almost exactly a 100% increase in that eight week window.  Thank you!  I installed an analytics package at the beginning of the year.  We are on a steady climb across all of the key metrics, including unique visitors, length of session and page views.

As school wraps up, we will do our best to cover some of the key events that are coming in the months ahead.  The NBA playoffs are heading toward an interesting conclusion as Curry and the Warriors look to lay the early foundations of a legacy.  There are some great divisional battles coming together as baseball inches toward the All-Star Break in July.  Soccer continues to offer multiple story lines here and across the pond.  We still have three major tennis tournaments as many fans continue to hope Roger Federer can add to his major total in 2016.

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In a 2016 filled with bombastic presidential politics and a cacophony of negative media stories on almost every conceivable topic, sports can be an oasis particularly as we watch and listen to them live.  We hope to bring a little bit of that narrative to life here at myespnforkids.com.  We are really flattered that so many more people are finding our site.  Thank you!

Powers Trigg

 

Posted in Other

Are Youth Athletics Too Competitive?

[Editor’s Note:  I want to welcome one of our new writers for this summer, Mac Trigg.  He brings a passion for basketball and also plays football, tennis (and a little bit of lacrosse).  Many of our readers play competitive and club sports.  The level of competition can be fierce.  The level of parental involvement (and coaching intensity) can be a little excessive.  This article looks at some of those topics and hopefully will bring some comments from readers.]    

Lately, a show called Friday Night Tykes has been getting some viewing time. The Netflix drama is based in football-crazy Texas.  The exact location is San Antonio, home of the Alamo and one of the most ferocious junior football leagues in the country.  It looks at junior football through the eyes of coaches, parents and, amazingly, 8-year old kids.

The show is an eye opener.  Here are a few examples.  Kids were vomiting at practice in 100-degree heat.  Coaches were yelling profanity at the top of their lungs (including hothead and former Marine “Coach Charles” for the Junior Broncos).  Parents were scared to death.  The episodes caused me to ask an important question: are youth athletics too competitive?

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There are a number of reason to believe that kids are being pushed in a direction that is too competitive.  First, when you play a sport year around, you have a higher chance of getting hurt from repetitive over-use of your body.  Second, the kids of parents who push them to play sports at a young age normally burn out.  They rarely make it to the professional ranks, leaving the sport in middle school or high school.  Finally, some kids in lower income brackets cannot afford these top-notch training programs. They can cost hundreds of dollars a season, above and beyond required uniforms and equipment.

On the other hand, some people believe that it is not overly competitive.  There are a set of argument to make this case.  You have to work hard to succeed in life.  Sports help you learn that lesson at an early age. In addition, competitive sports teach a person to deal with failure.  Life isn’t perfect.  You have to be able to deal with a loss.  Finally, it is better to learn that you are not always going to be the best player on the team at a young age.

Competitive sports are good for young kids to experience.  Friday Night Tykes is not the true reality for every sport.  Every sport is as different as the kids that play them.  If you have a kid with a passion for a sport, he or she should sign up for it and play.  If they want to move to the next level and play under the Friday Night Lights, you should consider it, but not force them to do it.  

Of course, it is probably fair to say that Coach Charles doesn’t share that view.  It would be great to hear what some of our readers think.  

Mac Trigg

Posted in NCAAF, NFL, Other Tagged with: , ,

Forget Bobbleheads. Think Monarchs Fedora.

Promotional nights are, for the most part, a B-team distraction.  If you love the game of baseball, you don’t head to the ballpark for a bobblehead (Writer’s Note: If you are under the age of ten, I am going to cut you some slack).

In a great piece by Money Magazine, the publication did a review of the top ten best giveaways for the 2016 season.  The stuff on the list ranged from a pet calendar (Padres) to a Star Wars baseball (Red Sox) to an ugly sweater hat (Angles).  If ever there was a list that made my basic argument more succinctly, it is this one.  As they say in Washington, D.C., I yield back the remainder of my time, Mr Speaker.

 

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There is, however, one promotion coming in the day ahead that I want to highlight.  On Sunday, May 15, the Royals will play the Braves.  The game will be an annual recognition event for the Negro Leagues.  As I have written on this site multiple times, the Negro Leagues didn’t just change baseball history, they changed American history.

As part of the day, players will wear Monarchs uniforms (Colorful uniforms and team names were one of a long list of innovations in the Negro Leagues that have shaped what we think of today as the modern MLB).  Furthermore, fans are being encouraged to “Dress to the Nines” wearing their Sunday best just as Negro Leagues fans did in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.  Finally, as an additional inducement, the first 10,000 attendees through the turnstiles will get a Monarchs fedora.

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Candidly, I don’t have what it takes to style this hat.   No doubt there are other readers, however, that do.  Mr Kendrick, I am thinking of you!

When I was researching the Negro Leagues over the course of the last year, a number of individuals were kind enough to speak with me about the importance of the league and key personalities such as Rube Foster, Satchel “Satch” Paige and, of course, Buck O’Neil.  It was a truly incredible set of conversations with top historians, a former U.S. senator and a set of nationally syndicated columnists.

One of the members of that last group was the columnist George Will, author of the brilliant Men at Work looking at the craft of baseball.  Here is a long version of one of his quotations from my exchange with him.  “The Negro Leagues nagged at America’s conscience by showcasing dazzling talent that was excluded.”  Will went on to say, in regards to his work on the National Advisory Board for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM), I got involved with the Museum because, happily, I was asked.”

For those of you headed to the ballpark, you are happily being asked to support this important tribute.  For those of you outside of Kansas City, I hope you will pause and appreciate this tribute.  Kansas City is the town where Jackie Robinson began his professional career and where the national museum to the Negro Leagues is located.  We are fortunate that the NLBM continues to showcase the importance of the league to the country.

Sports fans need to get their heads on straight.  It is not about the bobbleheads.  It is about the Fedora –a wonderful encapsulation of one of the so many things that made and make the Negro Leagues an essential part of American history.

Posted in MLB, Other Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NFL Draft: The Biggest Busts of of All-Time

[Editor’s Note: As long-time readers of the site know, Adam is one of the best junior writers on baseball.  He recently did an awesome National History Day on Babe Rush, laying out his impact on baseball and the country.  He weighs in here with some solid thinking on the NFL Draft.]  

On NFL draft eve, I count down the biggest draft busts ever.

You can sense that draft day is coming. Endless coverage on your favorite sports networks and equally endless draft mockups from “insiders.” Instead of trying to predict the future like they do, today I’ll look at the top 3 biggest NFL draft busts in history since the new millenium. (You’re welcome, Ryan Leaf.)

  • JaMarcus Russell (Raiders, 1st overall, 2007)
    What’s not to like? A solid quarterback coming out of a major school in LSU, fresh off a Sugar Bowl MVP award. Russell became the consensus #1 overall choice and the Raiders, in a possibly franchise-shifting move, drafted Russell first overall. Russell was chased out of football after just a few years as an at best average QB. Recently in a radio interview, Russell expressed his desire to play football by claiming that he would even come back and play for free. Adding injury to insult, the Raiders passed on likely NFL hall of famers Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson. Oh, what could have been.
  • Johnny Manziel (Browns, 22nd overall, 2014)
    I know, Johnny was only picked two drafts ago. After falling out of the first spot, he fell to the Browns, who traded up for #22. Don’t get me wrong, Manziel certainly wasn’t a darling at college, but teams like the Browns foolishly looked over that quality for his supposedly drool-worthy skill set. Manziel has had his moments in Cleveland and has shown flashes of maturity. However, he was recently indicted in a Texas jury following domestic abuse charges by his girlfriend. Oh, did I mention he’s not even on a team? Going from a potential first overall pick to being a free agent in just two years, yeah, that’s what I call a bust.

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  • Charles Rogers (Lions, 2nd overall, 2003)
    Rogers ran into some bad luck at first. He started his NFL career with two broken collarbones. Ouch. Then, he did himself in by repeatedly violating the league’s substance policy. The Texans’ Andre Johnson would have been a MUCH better choice. This one doesn’t hurt as bad as the Lions were able to draft Calvin Johnson, which more than made up for this gaffe. But imagine what Andre and Calvin could have done… The best WR duo ever?
    Now, for the three best picks since 2000.

If the above players were great busts, how should we think about some of the recent franchise-changing successes?

  • Phillip Rivers (Chargers, 2004)
    After the Ryan Leaf fiasco, Chargers fans were desperate for a franchise cornerstone at quarterback. While the Bolts technically didn’t select Rivers, they traded Eli Manning (who was unwilling to play for them) and a few picks for Rivers. While he hasn’t enjoyed nearly the success Eli has and has never won the Big One, Rivers keeps the chargers in contention year in and year out and has performed like the franchise leader the Chargers needed.
  • Eli Manning (Giants, 2003)
    Eli followed in a legacy of New York sports heroes by catapulting to stardom by beating the hated Patriots not once but twice as an underdog. He didn’t crumble under the Big Apple’s pressure, in fact it fueled him. Sure, he’s never been truly elite in the regular season, he has a special ability to do what it takes in January- almost the opposite of his brother.

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  • Aaron Rodgers, 24th overall 2005, Packers)
    We all know Rodgers is still one of the top five QBs in the NFL today. The fact that the Pack were able to pick him up at the end of the first round is incredible. Rodgers has won multiple NFL MVP’s and has one Super Bowl, even though he might get another before its all said and done. He rose to stardom and even drew comparisons to Green Bay hero Brett Favre. A 2-time MVP award winner and Super Bowl champ at pick 24? Yes, please!

It should be an exciting number of days as teams look to shape their rosters for the coming season.  I know everyone that reads this site will be watching.  We would love to hear your thoughts on your favorite teams and what you are hoping to see them accomplish in the draft.

Adam Shemesh

Posted in NFL, Other Tagged with: , , , ,

Shaping Baseball with Words

This piece is the first in a series of profiles on the top sportswriters and broadcasters of all-time.  Peter Gammons was one of the true greats. He changed how we read, watch and think about baseball. 

About thirty miles outside Boston, there is a school called Groton.  The core of the expansive campus features a prominent Circle designed by renowned landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmstead (New York’s Central Park).  The Circle is the physical and spiritual center of the school.  It was there, a half century ago, that a young Peter Gammons built the intellectual foundation that would distinguish him in the world of sports. 

However, if the Groton Circle was an early influence, it was a different shape –the diamond–that would make Gammons a Hall of Fame-recognized household name.

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Press accounts suggest Gammons became engrossed with sportswriting during his time at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He was a scribe for the Daily Tar Heel, developing the professional tool kit needed for a career in print journalism. 

Following graduation, Gammons moved to Boston and launched an extended career with the Boston Globe.  He worked in his early days alongside such icons as the great Bob Ryan [Ryan’s Scribe: My Life in Sports (2014) is a true gem in a genre that often disappoints on the downside].  According to several articles, Gammons began covering the Red Sox in 1971.

In addition to his work at the Globe and Sports Illustrated (where he covered hockey), Gammons was one of the first print reporters to embrace the emerging field of cable sports broadcasting.  In 1989, he joined the still fledgling ESPN.  It was the auspicious beginning of a 20-year run with the network.

Beyond writing copy, Gammons also published.  In 1986, Gammons wrote Beyond the Sixth Game.  It looked at the damaging impact of free agency on baseball through the lens of an evolving roster that Gammons knew and loved: the 1970s and 1980s Red Sox teams that include such marquee names as Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk and Wade Boggs. 

The broad strength of his writing would lead Gammons to be selected as National Sportswriter of the Year in 1989, 1990 and 1993.  His keen intellect, deep historical knowledge and in-depth exploration of the men that played America’s pastime had made Gammons one of the top sportswriters of his generation. 

In 2004, Gammons received the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  In offering the award, they noted many virtues including his work habits.  Gammons, they wrote, was “the first to arrive at the ballpark and the last to leave.” 

For all of his print success, however, it was his quick wit and seminal, on-camera insights on EPSN that lifted Gammons to national prominence.  Even in framing his love of print journalism, Gammons conceded that he was a “newspaper reporter that happened to make a living on television.”  ESPN increasingly paid the bills.    

Nonetheless, in 2009, Gammons decided to walk away from ESPN, seeking a break from the 24/7 demands of cable.  He joined the MLB Network and MLB.com.  He also launched GammonsDaily.com, his blog about key news and events in the world of sports. He continues to shape the baseball dialogue across these emerging channels. 

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It has been an amazing 50-year journey that started here in rural Massachusetts.  Just beyond Olmstead’s landscape design, you find the Groton Athletic Facilities.  As you enter the building, you see the school motto, Cui Servire Est Regnare, overhead.  As you move to your right, you enter the Athletic Hall of Fame.  A picture of the great Peter Gammons (as captured above) catches the eye.

In his life beyond the Circle, Gammons set the modern standard for learned writing on baseball.  He pioneered the analyst role that has become the standard for modern cable sports broadcasting.  Most importantly, he changed how we read, watch and think about the game of baseball.  

Powers Trigg

Posted in MLB, Other Tagged with: , , ,

Baseball is Back (With the Longest First Pitch in History)

As the late, great broadcasting legend Mel Allen liked to say, “How about that!” As the tulips bloom, convertible tops come down and the spring air hits us like a screaming line drive, baseball is back.  

In Kansas City, the Royals are still reveling from their fall triumph against the New York Mets and awaiting the voice of PA announcer Mike McCarthy from Platte Wood, Missouri as he introduces Kauffman Stadium to “Your Defending World Champion Royals.”  The Boys in Blue kick things off Sunday evening with a fun league first: the Mets and the Royals will be the first teams that battled in the previous World Series to play in the subsequent season opener.     

Amid the festivities leading up to the game, it was exciting to learn of another exciting first.  The Royals and the KC Urban Youth League gathered together 3,000 fans for the longest first pitch in baseball history. They called it, “Relay the Way.”  Donors could fund a spot in a winding, nine-mile line that advanced the ball to Kauffman Stadium.  

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The journey started at historic Union Station, just a stone’s throw from the National World War One Museum. It was the same location where the World Series parade culminated last year following Kansas City’s 5-game victory last fall.  

Then, the ball moved east past the iconic Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) where they are planning to build a set of four fields for a new Urban Academy.  Earlier in the week, we learned that the gregarious, beloved Salvador Perez donated $1 million to the project.  Pitcher Chris Young and team leader Alex Gordon also made donations.  The late Buck O’Neil had always imagined that a key part of the mission of the museum would be to engage with urban youth teaching them about both baseball and life.

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From there, the ball continued to progress its way toward Kauffman Stadium.  There are, for those planning an outing to The K in the coming weeks, improvements to be found there.  Rivals Sports Bar in the outfield has been improved.  The Frank White Lounge also offers several new suite opportunities for what the Royals clearly believe will be elevated business and out-of-town interest in the team.  Most notably, there are new additions to the Hall of Fame, including wrapping the front glass in the aerial shot of the above World Series celebration at Union Station.  According to press reports, the ceremonial ball contains a computer that will allow it to store messages.  Those messages will scroll in the Royals Hall of Fame area of the stadium once the ball crosses home plate.

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And so, a little bit of history has been made before a single cleat is set down on the turf at The K.  Many in Kansas City are hoping that the World Champion Royals will return to form and compete for post-season glory.  However, as the late Mel Allen often intoned, “And that one is gone.”  To borrow the phrase, the 2015 season is in the record books.  The phrases of the past year –1738, Moooose, Blue October–are history.  

Hope springs eternal.  The 2016 season has finally arrived.  For the Royals and every team in baseball, it’s time to play ball. 

Powers Trigg

Posted in MLB, Other Tagged with: , , , ,

March Madness: A Longhorn Stampede?

As Ronald Reagan famously framed his 1984 campaign, “It’s morning again in America.” No, we are not talking about American politics. We are talking about an end to the so-called Dead Zone.  It is the awful window between the Super Bowl and March Madness.  Mercifully, it has gone the way of the Cold War.  Let the madness begin.

As we approach a Thursday tipoff, every single team is operating with the same effective record absent a loss. Every team has the same chance to make it to Houston and the Final Four.  And so, like Marco Rubio framing his path to Cleveland, let me make the affirmative case for the long shot Texas Longhorns.   

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The narrative starts with a tough first round matchup: Texas vs. Northern Iowa. 

Texas has an RPI of 27 (RPI, or Rating Percentage Index, measures strength of schedule.  It is used by the Selection Committee to assess teams with different opponents.  A lower number is better).  Northern Iowa has an RPI of 73.  At the same time, the Longhorns have a 6-7 record against opponents in the Top 25. Northern Iowa, for their part, beat UNC, Iowa State and a strong Stephen F. Austin team.  It is what the iconic golfer Tom Watson calls “a firm handshake” for the Longhorns in Round One.   

Here is the case for Texas and a tournament-shaping win.  First, Northern Iowa play a quick tempo game and does so with little bench strength.  It is the subtle advantage here.  Second, the Oklahoma City venue makes this match up a de facto home game for UT.  Third, there is solid upperclassman presence in the Longhorn lineup.  This game comes down to the wire.  In the end, UT carries the day. 

In the Round of 32, we have a rivalry game.  Texas A &M will easily triumph over Green Bay.  Consequently, Texas will play the Aggies (or as my grandfather and namesake calls them, “The Shaggies”) in a battle with extra significance since A&M left the Big XII for the SEC. 

Setting aside the emotions, A&M is formidable.  Their RPI is 18. The Aggies are also 3-0 against Top 25 schools.  And most notably, the teams already have played each other.  The Aggies won 84-73 in November. 

However, Texas was still getting used to playing Shaka Smart’s fast-paced style.  Smart will have them playing, well, smart.  He will see the chance to send a big message to future Texas recruits that Austin in the destination for in-state talent in the years to come.  Texas wins.    

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In the Sweet Sixteen, the madness continues with a Red River Shootout with the much-heralded (and hyped) Oklahoma Sooners.  While the players on both teams will be told tritely to “take it one game at a time”, everyone of them discussed this possible match up on Sunday evening. 

The Sooners are led by Buddy Hield, the Bahamian shooting guard. He is the best player in Division I and his top play produced one of the great regular season games against the KU Jayhawks.  It will be a challenge to slow him down. The task will fall to a combination of Isaiah Taylor and Demarcus Holland.  It isn’t exactly a 1984 landslide election victory, but I still wouldn’t bet against them.  There is a famous idiom: if you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.  Hield is bound to have one off night.  He has it in the Sweet Sixteen and Texas prevails. 

In recent days, a number of pundits have said Oregon will win the West Region.  I am a contrarian at heart and have them losing to Duke in the Sweet Sixteen.  The tournament is about luck.  And like Texas in their game against A&M, Duke certainly will need some luck to get past Oregon.  My gut tells me that coaching matters.  And as John Feinstein captures brilliantly in his latest book The Legends Club, Coach K is a true genius. Duke beats Oregon.  

In the Elite Eight, Texas then plays the Blue Devils in Anaheim.  The pressure falls squarely on Duke.  Like the fans in Lawrence, the Cameron Crazies are an entitled bunch that expects Final Four appearance every year.  Despite the brilliance of Coach K, this one ends up feeling like a football match up early as the Blue Devils come out flat in the wake of their win against the Ducks.  It is a tight game, but the Longhorns triumph with tough defense down the stretch.       

If Texas can make it to NRG Stadium (home of the Texans), the rest as they say is upside.  There is a clear path to the city that bears Sam Houston’s name if Longhorn fans are willing to believe. Tipoff is Friday evening at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.  And if UT can do it, we all will be fondly recalling the closing words to Ronald Reagan’s Farewell Address, “Not bad.  Not bad at all.”

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A Morning with Bulldog Bob and the Team at 610 Sports

When Bob Fescoe was in elementary school, he began contemplating a career in sports broadcasting.  He loved the legendary John Madden (former coach of the Oakland Raiders turned CBS commentator and namesake to EA’s Madden video game).  If Fescoe couldn’t play professional sports, he would build a career talking about them.

Thirty years later, the New Jersey native dominates the local sports talk radio scene in Kansas City. Not only is 610 Sports crushing rival WHB 810 in the all-important ratings game, Fescoe is the established voice of station programming.    

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The 1999 graduate of KU has an acquired love for all of Kansas City’s teams.  As his official 610 Sports bio says, he also “brings his passions to the table with some bite.” In recent days, he was nice enough to let this reporter spend the morning watching him execute, and enjoy, his craft.     

Like all successful people, Fescoe does not operate alone.  He has a top-notch team.  He is joined on-air by Josh Klingler.  Klingler, or “Kling”, brings solid analysis and encyclopedia knowledge.  Kling also covers KU football (one has to assume he lost a bet) and a Jayhawk basketball team preparing for the Big XII tournament and perhaps a long run of madness in the month of March.  Finally, there is the gifted producer Steven Spector.  Spector loves the Duke Blue Devils and aspires to be in charge of a radio station one day as he continues to advance his budding career. 

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In addition to this talented triad, listeners also have the chance to hear from “insiders” bringing key insights on our top teams.  As we move toward Opening Day, it means the opportunity to listen to Josh Vernier, or “Vern”, as he pontificates about whether the Boys in Blue can recapture the magic that has captivated this city the last two seasons. 

On a given morning, the firm of Fescoe, Klingler and Spector manage a diverse array of topics.  They might chat about the best free agent signing of all-time by any Kansas City sports team.  Alternatively, they may head down the path of talking about current events such as new evidence in the O.J. Simpson murder case.  They can, and do, go myriad directions.  They never miss a beat.   

Beyond deep knowledge and solid opinions, another key differentiator is accessibility.  Fescoe and team take calls throughout the show.  They are on email throughout the day.  They leverage social media.  They are out in the community.  It is a 24-7 presence, grounded in a real love of Kansas City teams and for Kansas City fans

I owe a great debt of gratitude to all three of them for making my Career Day such a memorable one. Kansas City sports fan certainly are fortunate that Mr. Fescoe couldn’t consistently hit a curve ball or routinely sink the three.  The result is a great one: the chance to enjoy his insights every weekday morning.  Fescoe is the undisputed voice of local talk radio in a glorious era in Kansas City sports.

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Why Sports Matter

Some people think that sports are just sports.  They say it doesn’t really matter.  Games are, well, just games.  I have been thinking about this topic a lot lately as I have been researching Negro Leagues Baseball and its impact on America.        

The Negro Leagues recently turned 96, just four year away from an important centennial milestone.  On February 13, a brilliant pitcher and manager named Rube Foster gathered together the independent black baseball team owners at the Paseo YMCA and established the first organized black baseball league.  Again, the year was 1920.  It was a pivotal moment in U.S. history.  It mattered. 

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Many schools have organized sports.  They trumpet the value of exercise.  Mens Sana In Corpore  Sano.  A Sound Mind in a Sound Body.  While it is inarguably a good thing for kids to play sports and have a sound body, the impact of sports on the pursuit of a sound mind is not given enough focus.   

The late Jules Tygiel, a longtime professor at San Francisco State, was one of the people that legitimized the idea that sports were important and worth academic focus.  They were about more than just boxscores and eating popcorn at the ballpark.  Tygiel understood that they had a profound, transformative influence on society.  A lifelong Brooklyn Dodgers fan, he wrote several books on Jackie Robinson and his amazing impact on baseball and America.  He also penned a book called Pastime: Baseball as History that basically looks at the role of baseball in the evolution of the country.       

Sports instills key values.  They advance the idea of hard work.  No one can succeed on the playing field without the practice that excellence requires.  Second, they frame the idea of fairness and playing by the rules.  Tygiel talks about the fact that there is a moral dimension to baseball with phrase like “unearned runs” imparting a value statement.  Third, sports also give us a view of what it means to succeed and, equally, how to lose with grace (as we work ten times harder at the next practice to avoid that heartbreak in the future). 

In addition to core values, sports also bring us together as a community and as a country.  When the Kansas City Royals won the World Series, a flood of humanity poured out onto the streets of the city for the parade.  My school called a “snow day” in October giving students the day off.  People left work.  They literally abandoned their cars as traffic backed up.  They were ensconced in blue. They waited for hours for a just a glimpse. 

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Similar scenes catch our eyes every day.  English Premier League fans shout their guts out for their favorite team.  We watch as NFL fans throw their faces in front of the cameras or attempt to break a noise record at the stadium as they scream at the top of their lungs.  When you listen to presidential debates or read news articles about Washington, it is all about division and differences of opinion.  Sports brings cities together.

Beyond just values and togetherness, sports also have been a force for positive change to society.  History is replete with examples and they extend well beyond Jackie Robinson joining the Major Leagues.  There was the impact of the Harlem Globetrotters and their success against the all-white New York Celtics.  There is the ongoing influence of women’s soccer around the globe. There are recent additions to the Olympics to include disabled athletes.  These moments are important.  They drive change. 

If you love to read like I do, a number of recent books are wading into this idea that sports are more than just sports.  There is Nicholas Griffin’s Ping-Pong Diplomacy looking at the geopolitical impact of ping pong during the 1970s.  There also is a great book about soccer called How Soccer Explains the World.  Franklin Foer looks at the impact of the most popular game in the world (sorry, American football fans) and what it tells us about just about everything.  You will love both of these books.    

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We owe a great debt to teachers like Jules Tygiel, historians like Negro Leagues author Larry Lester and museum executives like Bob Kendrick that understand how significant sports are to society and help people understand and appreciate it.  Sports matter.       

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The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum: A National Treasure

As the Super Bowl festivities kick into full swing, I am thinking instead of the great Roger Hornsby.  He once famously said, “People ask me what I do in the winter when there is no baseball.  I will tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring.” 

There are a little less than two weeks until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.  In addition, February is Black History Month.  The idea originated with a historian named Carter Woodson who dedicated his career to the “the study of negro life.”  The convergence of Black History Month and the coming 2016 baseball season seems a fitting time for some counter-programming on the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.   

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The importance of Kansas City in the modern push for civil rights can not be overstated.   Within a 50-mile radius of Kansas City, three seminal events occurred.  You have the Truman Presidential Library where you can learn about Truman’s decision to integrate the military.  You have Monroe Elementary School that created Brown versus Board of Education.  You have the Kansas City Monarchs where the great Jackie Robinson began his pro career. 

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is one of the key pieces of that important triad.  I had the incredible honor to talk with Bob Kendrick, the CEO of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Mr. Kendrick makes a compelling case that Kansas City “should be seen as the epicenter of the civil rights movement.”  He is an amazing ambassador for the museum and its clear national role. I can’t thank him enough for his time (and am looking forward to some barbecue at Arthur Bryant’s just down the street from the museum).       

In the forward to the late Buck O’Neil’s autobiography I Was Right On Time, filmmaker Ken Burns echoes a core piece of Kendrick’s argument.  Specifically, Burns frames the idea that the Negro Leagues were a critical part of the 20th century push for civil rights.  Burns serves on the National Advisory Board of the museum along with other notables ranging from the estimable columnist George Will to former WY Senator Alan Simpson to retired General Colin Powell to a laundry list of former big leaguers.   

As for the museum  itself, the NLBM was founded in 1990.  Today, it houses the largest collection of Negro Leagues memorabilia in the world.  You will see the colorful jerseys and creative team names.  You will see a massive collection of autographed balls donated by a famous Canadian drummer from a band called Rush.  You will see an amazing space, called the Field of Legends, filled with statues of the great players such as Buck Leonard, Cool Papa Bell and Oscar Charleston. 

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The Museum is located in the historic 18th and Vine jazz district.  The cost to tour the museum is just $10.  After you complete the tour and walk through the Field of Legends, the gift shop is worth a stop.  You will love the merchandise and it gives you another chance to offer your support. 

Mr. Kendrick has important expansion plans being advanced, including the YMCA where the owners gathered to create the national negro leagues.  Could there be a better cause?  Satchel Page.  Josh Gibson.  Rube Foster.  These amazing athletes forever changed how baseball was played and the core of the country itself.  The museum, built by the hard work of the late Buck O’Neil and Bob Kendrick, brings that all to life.

The NLBM is, in a phrase, a national treasure.  Congress has placed its national designation on the NLBM.  February is a great month to visit, as we all prepare for what is going to be an incredible spring of baseball when we can finally watch what Hornsby called “the full nine.”     

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