All this time, the NFL has seemed so bullet-proof, but we’re seeing vulnerability in the armor. People aren’t watching as much, and they don’t like the way the product is being dispersed.
What plagues the professional game actually seems to aid college football. While we understand Saturday remains the best day to see the best games, we don’t feel like the occasional Thursday or Friday games are scheduled to do us dirty.
You want to play one of these games on the moon at 4 o’clock on a Tuesday, College Football fans will adjust. Just tell them when/where the tailgate is, and they’re cool.
Tell an NFL fan that Sunday Ticket is only offering a game that his antenna won’t in the late spot on Sunday, and they’re livid with London and Thursday Night Football. The presentation of the NFL game is too clean for fans to adapt to these random game-time windows.
College Football fans see Thursday, and now also Tuesday and Wednesday, as an opportunity to showcase a game that might be buried on ESPNU or some dreaded streaming option at noon on Saturday.
Western Michigan is the “Other” Team
Last Tuesday, the nation’s “other” unbeaten team had the undivided attention of the College Football diehards in Muncie. Maybe a 32-point win over Ball State isn’t that sexy on paper, but did you see what Corey Davis did?
Do you feel anything was flukey about Western Michigan’s 9-0 start? Maybe you understand the pecking order, and where the Mid-American Conference gets pecked. Maybe there’s an obligation to qualify the two road wins over the Big Ten by reminding everyone that Illinois was one of those wins. Maybe you wonder if the MAC juggernaut deserves to be on the field with a mid-major darling like Boise State.
Just for kicks, you could have watched games involving Oklahoma and Colorado last Thursday. Maybe something like that would have excited you more 25-30 years ago, but those games affect the outcome of the Big 12 and Pac-12, because the present is weird.
You love it, and it takes nothing away from Saturday afternoon or evening.
Election Threads and Football on the Diamond
This coming Tuesday, Eastern Michigan will continue a semi-annual MAC tradition of paying homage to democracy with Election Day uniforms, back in Muncie–for #MACtion. Speaking of everyone’s favorite non-defense-playing conference, you’ll be sure to see Cubs fans from DeKalb to Northern Ohio trolling Guaranteed Rate Field on Chicago’s south side this Wednesday.
It’s football at a baseball stadium. Yeah, Northwestern and Illinois got Wrigley on a Saturday, and GameDay went to Wrigleyville. This next chapter in the great Toledo-Northern Illinois saga might get Roy Philbott, Rocky Boiman, and an ESPN2 production crew to urban Illinois on a school night.
Does Anyone Get Pac-12 Network?
Thursday, we get Utah in the Valley of the Sun, for the FS1 weekend preview. It’s up to the Utes to prove that anyone other than Washington is worth a damn in that conference. This game isn’t being stolen from ABC at 3:30, but more likely from a channel you don’t get, even if you live in Phoenix or Salt Lake City.
NBC is Glad It’s You, Not Them
CBS gave you three games on Saturday, just as they would when they have London and the 1 PM/4 PM doubleheader on Sunday. They got Notre Dame because they have Navy rights. Notre Dame lost again; great moment for Navy. Is College Football worse off for the Irish’s 3-6 campaign?
I doubt CBS or Navy care. They’re going to care about records a lot more in December when they’re selling some lousy SEC East team’s upset potential against Alabama in Atlanta.
Speaking of the Tide, Jalen Hurts may have provided the only offensive spark for Alabama in a 10-0 win in Death Valley at night. There’s a joke to be told including Alabama’s quarterback’s last name and a breakfast food that looks like a zero, but I’m striking out.
The networks are hitting it out of the park though and in doing so, they’ve won us over with quantity over quality. More may mean too much on Sunday, but we love it on Saturday, Thursday, and sometimes Tuesday.
In reviewing what the Chicago Cubs have done this off-season, there has to be a lot of hope for fans of those ‘lovable’ Losers. They added John Lackey on a low-risk, short-term deal12 years/$32 million.. Ben Zobrist came aboard with a club-friendly 4 year, $56 million contract, and everyone’s2Except mine, apparently favorite defensive outfielder, Jason Heyward3I’m just assuming it’s his defense that garnered the $23 million he’ll earn on average for the next 8 seasons, unless he’s foolish enough to opt out of his deal. It certainly wasn’t his big bat, as he has garnered a total of 38 HRs in 1502 ABs over the last 3 seasons. He also has only put up 156 RBIs over that time frame, and his OPS for that stretch hovers around the .770 mark.. These additions, along with what they already had leftover from their NLCS run in 2015 puts them in prime position to end 108 years of suffering. Continue reading Congratulations to the Cubs→
I’m just assuming it’s his defense that garnered the $23 million he’ll earn on average for the next 8 seasons, unless he’s foolish enough to opt out of his deal. It certainly wasn’t his big bat, as he has garnered a total of 38 HRs in 1502 ABs over the last 3 seasons. He also has only put up 156 RBIs over that time frame, and his OPS for that stretch hovers around the .770 mark.
Major League Baseball’s off season has heated up this week during the winter meetings in Nashville. There have been multiple signings and a couple big trades with money changing hands like it’s a game of Monopoly. Despite all the moves and noise being made, it’s been nothing but crickets coming from the Kansas City Royals.
For the first time in a generation the Royals enter the off season as the World Champions. There is no discussion of how to build a winner or what one or two players do they need to get over the hump. The Royals won the World Series, and this off season seems to be all about celebrating the win and just hanging on to that moment as long as we can.
That time of celebrating appears to be coming to an end however as the harsh reality of a new season has begun to creep in thanks to off season moves. The first big loss came last night when Ben Zobrist signed a 4 year $56 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. In his short time with the Royals, Zobrist had become a fan favorite. He was a great player that was a major reason the Royals were able to win the WS and he seemed to genuinely enjoy Kansas City. Even his wife became a fan favorite for not having their baby until after the WS and then giving the baby girl the middle name of Royal. So there was hope that a love of the city would outweigh the pull of a big contract.
That hope was shattered when the Cubs were willing to give the 34 year old Zobrist a four year deal. I believe the Royals would have been happy to pay the $14 million price tag per year, but I think they only wanted to be locked into that for two years. They can’t risk paying an old declining player $14 million after two years when they are trying to resign young stars like Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.
Unfortunately for Royals fans, the heartbreak will not stop with Zobrist departure. Royals fans cover your eyes for this part, but Gordon is not resigning with Kansas City. Alex Gordon will be 32 years old in February and is expected to sign a five or six year deal for around $100 million or more. Not only can the Royals not afford a deal like that, I don’t believe they should do it even if they could. While I am a Gordon fan as much as the next guy, he’s really not worth that much to a team like the Royals. Gordon is the one of the best defensive left fielders in baseball and is good (not great) at the plate. The problem for the Royals is that he is good enough to carry the team. Gordon is a great complimentary player, when you have a top to bottom lineup the way the Royals had this year, he’s a beast at the backend. But if you pay Gordon that much money than more than likely you will be losing two or three of those young stars and it would then be up to Gordon to lead the team in the middle of the lineup. A career .270 hitter who averages 19 homeruns a season just isn’t going to be able to put up the kind of numbers on his own that it would take to sustain the loss of that young talent. This would be especially true for the last two or three years of his deal when his age will cause his production to drop.
If the Royals would like to increase their payroll to $200 million a year, then by all means let’s throw money at Gordon like crazy and then get to work signing Hosmer, Cain and Moustakas to long term deals. I don’t see the payroll going that way thought, which means while it will hurt and not be fun to see our favorites leave, we as fans need to understand that it is what is best for the team. So far in the 2016 MLB offseason the Royals have stuck to their plan that got them into back-to-back World Series. They have let the high priced older free agents walk. It was Billy Butler in 2015 and this year it was Zobrist and will be Gordon. But they have resigned veteran pitcher Chris Young who was a key to the rotation and bullpen last season. They have brought back former closer Joakim Soria to build up a bullpen after Ryan Madson signed with the Dodgers and Greg Holland will miss the entire season due to Tommy John surgery.
The rumor mill is still swirling around with news that the Royals are interested in acquiring a corner outfielder as well as a starting pitcher. Will these be big time names like Johnny Cueto or BJ Upton? No, they probably won’t be. As Royals fans that’ve seen what the Royals have done over the last couple years should that matter to us, no it shouldn’t! The Royals will likely never win the off season the way the White Sox did in 2015 or the Dodgers did in 2014. While that looks flashy and always seems like a great way to go and excites fans, it’s not the Royal way. The Royal way took a long time to work and many of us (myself included) were ready for a new way in 2014. I was wrong. The Royal way clearly works and we as Royals fans need to embrace that fact and think accordingly. They don’t give rings, have parades or raise banners for winning the off season. So while a team like the Cubs or Dodgers will get all the praise going into the 2016 season and fans will be talking smack about the Royals minor moves, I’ll just simply point to the new banner flying and simply say……scoreboard!
On Wednesday evening, we said good-bye to the 2015 Chicago Cubs, the latest we’ve ever bid the north-siders adieu in a calendar year, but that didn’t make things any easier for those who have suffered through elimination in ’84, ’89, ’98, ’03, ’07, and 2008. I felt bad for them, and then I made it about myself.
Poooooooooor Cub fans.
Poooooooooor Cleveland fans.
You know what though? It’s just a game, and while we love it, we shouldn’t lose sight of that fact. The players make a lot of money, and sports, in general, make money hand-over-fist. They do that because we pay to be entertained by the games. It’s a lot like the movies, except the joy and anguish we experience at the theater doesn’t stay with us for days, you know, the way the games do.
Back to the Future: Part II lied to us
You buying that? I sure as hell don’t subscribe. By now, I’m sure everyone is well aware that October 21, 2015 was the day the 1985 characters from the first installment of the Back to the Future franchise arrived 30 years into their future. I’m as aware as anyone, as I prepare to attend a theme party about 15 years in the making this Saturday. So, of course, we watched what Robert Zemeckis envisioned yesterday’s world would be like. We did so on digital media, a bonus of technology developed a few years back, from “Digital Copy” discs that accompanied our Blu-Ray box set of the trilogy.
The beginning of the movie is basically a series of jokes about what the next 30 years might have brought to the world, and how much of 1985 would be outdated by then. We didn’t quite make it to flying cars, dehydrated Pizza Hut, or Jaws 19, but we’re far beyond scenes in window screens, fax machines, and printed newspapers. And while, most Pepsi isn’t going to set you back $50, that Pepsi Perfect promises to fetch quite a bit more.
Today’s news was supposed to feature the beginning of the slamball playoffs, Queen Diana’s arrival in Washington DC, and the Cubs taking down a Miami baseball team to sweep the World Series. Well, Slamball is a real thing, the late Princess didn’t outlive her mother-in-law, and few months after Diana’s tragic death, not only was there a team in Miami, but they won it all. In fact, that Miami team has once the whole shebang twice, while the Cubs have a lot of years between them and their last World Championship in 1908.
The joke there was clearly about the contrasting viewpoints of people in the present tense of 2015 being intrigued by the Cubbies finally getting it done, to the point of congratulations somewhere in California, versus Marty’s amazement with the existence of a team in Miami. While Chicago wasn’t quite the 100-to-1 shot the movie said they were, they are a far cry from what they were when the 2014 season, and in a good way.
Instead of being pissed that it didn’t happen, fans should rejoice that they got to carry the storyline beyond the regular season and three rounds into the post-season. Remember, this was a third place team that sent the first and second place teams in their division to the golf course, while they got an honest crack at the Mets and were a step closer to the World Series than Pittsburgh or St. Louis.
Mark Grace was Taking Care of Business
We didn’t actually see the World Series in Hilldale, just the reporting of what happened in their fictional world. Twenty-five years ago, we actually put them on the field in Anaheim against the Angels. Mark Grace actually hit a home run that Jim Belushi broke out of prison to catch, and the most unreal thing about that premise was the Cubs playing the Angels in the Series. Down the road a few years, Gracie would hit a World Series bomb, in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, which his Diamondbacks would win in 7 games.
The Rookie of the Year bests the Mets
So, a kid breaks his arm, it heals, and the catches the eye of the Cubs brass when he throws a home run back at Wrigley. Preposterous? Perhaps, but no more unrealistic than the Cubs sweeping an American League team in Miami, right?
The Cubs rival in that flick was the Mets, and why? It’s because we were in the days before interleague play and there was no one exciting enough from the National League back then, so they went with New York’s JV squad. Of course, the kid loses the magic right before the big inning and manages to get it done anyhow. Kids movie send viewers home happy.
Actual Cubs make adults cry in their beer. We actually get to see Mr. Henry Rowengartner later in life, crying to his single high school friends about getting nothing more than head from Tara Reid. This is the adolescent sex-comedy equivalent to how Cleveland fans ultimately feel seeing the sorrow of Chicago fans.
We get it, the Cubs mean more to most of them than any other sport, if not thing, in the world. Still, I’m left to think about the last thirty years, which saw the Bears win a Super Bowl, the Bulls win six titles, and the Blackhawks take home three Stanley Cups, even if we disregard the White Sox winning the World Series in 2005.
At least we got the best of the sports movies.
A Major League Hit
I like a lot of sports movies, and I think there are a lot of good ones. Even the bad ones have their moments, but not the sequels to Major League. Remember The Titans, Hoosiers, Miracle, and BASEketball are among my favorites. Kevin Costner movies don’t do it for me, though Tin Cup has its moments. However, Major League is all the way there for with timeless adult humor and, of course, my Cleveland Indians.
There actually ended up being a lot of real life parallels from the 1989 flick. We ended up getting our speedy lead-off Willie Mays Hayes-type in Kenny Lofton, our beleaguered power-hitting outfielder in the form of Albert Joey Belle, and our ultimately unlikable third basemen in Jim Thome. Just imagine the graffiti clean-up on a Roger Dorn statue.
However, while the big screen gave the team that beat Miami, Jim Belushi, and Tara Reid’s sexually predatory high school boyfriend World Series wins, Cleveland still got shit on, with the sequel revealing that magic playoff clincher against the Yankees was followed up by an excruciating sweep at the hands of the White Sox. Screw you, Hollywood.
Your movies may lie to Cub fans, but you do a number in telling my hometown the truth. Cleveland can’t catch a break on either side of the camera.
How does one describe the indescribable? Isn’t that the goal of language, to make possible living vicariously through the stories of someone else? At the very least, language was invented to facilitate communication in ways that grunts, gestures and even pictures could not accomplish. The human race has done a remarkable job of creating millions of words that can be used in combination to describe a vast majority of possible experiences. But a small minority of experiences remains at large, uncaptured by language. They are truly beyond words.
So… why am I talking about this? I bring this up because I, and two friends, went to the Chicago Cubs playoff game at Wrigley Field on Monday. When I returned, everyone I knew asked me about the game.
“How was the game?” “What was it like?” “Tell me about it.” My answers were “umm,” “ughh, and “hmm.” I couldn’t come up with much else to say. I would simply pause, searching for a way to share the experience through words. I had no idea.
Finally, after taking a few days to wrap my mind around that night, I figured out my answer: You had to be there. That sounds like a cop out and a cliché. I know. I normally don’t care for that answer when coming from anyone else. As a writer, my work is to observe my surroundings and find a way to translate thoughts, feelings, and experiences into words and share those words with others. I normally don’t accept that particular non-answer. I say, “Well, I wasn’t there, so tell me what I missed.”
Now I know better. I had to experience firsthand a night like the one at Wrigley to learn that somethings cannot be described. Somethings cannot be understood unless you were there. That’s not a cop out or a non-answer. It’s the truth.
Now, many writers with a greater mastery of the craft than I possess (and there certainly are many) could compile a lovely array of words that sound convincing enough to make readers believe that they understand the experience by merely seeing words on a page. In reality, it’s a fool’s errand. Those wonderfully worded stories give secondhand viewers no better understanding of the experience than an athlete does by describing the feeling of his walk-off homerun in a post-game interview.
Have you noticed how all athletes pause for a moment before answering those sorts of questions? They search for an answer and realize it’s not there. Then they regurgitate the same vague, meaningless responses that we’ve all heard a thousand times.
Reporter: “How did it feel to hit that walk-off homer?”
Athlete: (Pause) “It was amazing.”
What does amazing even mean? Last week my friend described a burger with fried egg on it as amazing. Was the hitting the homerun comparable to eating the burger? Could the tastiest burger in the history of the world even come close to matching the feeling of feeling the atmosphere among 42,000 roaring fans all optimistically cheering for a playoff team that hasn’t won a World Series in over 100 years?
Words like amazing, incredible and awesome are perfectly suitable for slightly above average experiences occurring within our daily monotony. Yet all those words are meaningless in the context of a playoff game in front of a raucous home crowd because there simply is no word or combination of words that exist to describe what that moment is like. You had to be there or you just won’t know. You will never know until you are there.
I’m not trying to sound like a snob. Believe me, I’m far from it. Speaking from the experience of seeing game 3 in person vs. watching game 4 (a series clincher and objectively more exciting game) from a couch at home, I can safely say that they aren’t in same ballpark or even on the same planet. To say they were similar would be to say that The Dark Knight and the new Fantastic Four movie are comparable because they are both based on comic books. Umm… no. They are not the same. They are not comparable. And no one can even begin to understand what it is like to see The Dark Knight if they have only watched Fantastic Four.
Somethings cannot be described; you just have to see them for yourself. Anyone that has ever been to the Grand Canyon understands this. So if you appreciate sports (or giant canyons) you owe it to your life to take in these indescribable experiences firsthand. Afterwards when someone asks you what it was like, you’ll pause for a moment and realize that there is only one thing to say.
Lamar Odom is going to die. We sincerely hope it doesn’t happen today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or even in the next year. For Odom, there is a reality, and doesn’t that word really have some negative connotation to it? The reality is, that I hope he is able to survive from the time between now and whenever this publishes, but only for a life that doesn’t involve suffering.
Why do I care about the mortality of Lamar Odom? As former Arizona Cardinal Darnell Dockett so bluntly stated, he didn’t cross my mind before he was trending, so to speak. I don’t mourn for his situation with a Lakers or Heat flag on my car, and I’m not sympathetic to the character he was presented as to the masses on a show I didn’t watch. I know who he is, because of basketball, and I know how much he loved being a Laker, through the words of his ex-wife during a very brief glimpse of that show that I swear I didn’t watch. I’m sympathetic to his situation, because he is very obviously in the public eye, and it feels like he’s slowly dying in front of all of us.
I don’t feel that he deserves that. He deserves our compassion, but to suffer, with all of those toxins eating away at the very life he’s lived for the past 35 years, 11 months, and change; no one has earned that fate. Everyone in the media seems to be acting appropriately sensitive, walking on egg shells and citing his difficult background, while commending his wildly successful life and hoping for the best. We’re all human enough for that; we should be well wishing Odom for a prolonged life or a merciful death, though most of us don’t know the answers. While we brace ourselves for the inevitable assassination of his character from a few directions, and for various reasons, this is a time to be above the noise and just care.
In Major League Baseball
If you lack a dog in this fight, it’s been an awesome week of watching the field dwindle itself from 8 down to 4. If you had rooting interest in the Division Series, half of you are elated and half of you ain’t.
The Chicago Cubs were the first ones in the clubhouse, waiting to see what the rest of semi-final field would be. They had to win that winner-take-all game, which is always dangerous. It meant burning their best arm, leaving one Jake Arrieta available for just one start in the subsequent best-of-5 series. To survive that do-or-die game in Pittsburgh, it meant taking on baseball’s best regular season team and a long-time arch-rival in what’s been a very lopsided pairing for a very long time.
Give it to the Cubs, for not letting history get the best of them. They were able to bounce back after a poor showing in St. Louis in Game 1, a game that had you thinking the Cubs didn’t have the ammunition to survive the almighty Cardinals, beaten and battered as Mike Matheny’s squad may have been. Lo and behold, they kept hitting the ball out of the park, and when the Cardinals pecked away at a Chicago lead, the Cubs scratched back.
We’ll say good-bye to the Cardinals, and point out that they’re just another great National League team that managed to win at least 100 regular season games on a long list of triple-digit winning National League teams that have failed to win the World Series since the Mets won it all in ’86. The 2015 chapter of the Mets are a little different; they’re not supposed to be here. Blame the Washington Nationals for that, but maybe credit these young Metropolitans for being too dumb to know the stage is too big for them or that they’re not ready yet.
For a while, we’ve known the National League’s chapter of New York baseball was acquiring too much talent to be kept down for long. Remember when Matt Harvey was pretty much the chosen one there? Those days are long gone, with the flowing locks of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard making the Dark Knight (and the Yankees) an afterthought in Gotham. You’ve got Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright earning the headlines for Terry Collins’ team, but it was the efforts of the likes of Michael Conforto and Daniel Murphy that put them in the place they needed to be to host the Cubs on Saturday in Game 1 of the NLCS.
As for the Dodgers, the brilliance of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke for two games apiece wasn’t enough. Chase Utley taking out Ruben Tejada on a questionable double-play breaking slide wasn’t enough. Justin Turner’s .526 batting average wasn’t enough, nor was any other aspect of the roughly $310 million payroll enough to get three wins against these Mets in a best-of-five series. If you’re into math, they were paying about $77 million, per team that advance farther than them in the 2015 Playoffs.
It’s probably not the best of ideas to reduce a best-of-five that goes the distance down to a single inning of an elimination game, but that’s how we’re going to roll with the American League Division Series. The conversation of the day on Wednesday, at around 2:30 PM (Mountain Standard Time) was about whether or not the Astros could rebound from their 8th inning collapse, a few days prior, against the defending AL Champs at home. And maybe the Royals had something to do with that as well, but you had to hold the phone on making Game 5 of Astros-Royals into headline material. Down 6-2 in the eighth inning, on the road, six outs from elimination, the Royals put together one of those innings. They got some bounces and scored enough runs(5) to survive(a 7-6 victory), but needed another win to advance. That was Monday.
Before the Royals could do what they needed to do, back at home on Wednesday evening, there was the issue of settling the other half of the bracket with Game 5 in Toronto. Fast forward to the 7th inning of that one, game tied at 2, with Rougned Odor on 3rd base and Shin-Soo Choo at the plate. On a Russell Martin throw back to Blue Jays’ reliever Aaron Sanchez, the ball hits Choo’s bat and squirts toward the third baseman. Odor scores on the “throwing error”, and all hell breaks loose in Toronto. After a review, the Rangers lead 3-2 and they were 9 outs from another trip to the ALCS. Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus wasn’t prepared to help the cause.
It started with a routine ground ball to short, which he mishandled. Then, there was a double play ball, and well, the ball was thrown poorly by Mitch Moreland at first base, and Andrus couldn’t haul it in. Next batter, it’s a sacrifice bunt not executed well, where a good throw to third should eliminate the lead runner, but Andrus can’t handle it. Bases loaded.
Toronto tied the game on a ball that should be described as a Texas Leaguer, and could have invoked the Infield Fly Rule, floats beyond the reach of the Texas second baseman. It ends up being a fielder’s choice at 2nd base, but the tying run scores. Tie game, runners at first and third for Jose Bautista.
What he did was hit the ball, so far that metaphors would be ineffective for those that don’t know much about Canadian geography. It was a three-run job, giving the home team a 6-3 lead that would stick. After he hit it, he tossed his bat about eight feet in the air, and (we assume) it traveled for kilometers before it reached the ground, well after he’d run the bases.
Blue Jays win, and they’re back in the ALCS, for the first time since 1993. That was the year Joe Carter hit baseball’s second (and most recent) World Series clinching walk-off home run. In a lot of ways, regardless of what happens to the Blue Jays the rest of the way, this Bautista shot may have been a bigger deal.
1908, 1985, 1986, 1993. The last time the Cubs, Royals, Mets, and Blue Jays have won it all, respectively. We’re going to get someone new, while the Giants, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Yankees watch from the couch…and I that’s just fine by me.
Ohio State is going to stay #1 until they lose. It’s just the way it is. I look forward to them playing Penn State under the lights in Columbus, but I’m not looking forward to seeing them wearing all black, for the sake of wearing all black.
Texas A&M will host Alabama, and the Aggies have a legitimate shot to win that game and establish themselves as a legitimate player in the College Football Playoff talk, while Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines host in-state rival Michigan State with a good chance to finally allow some points and to likely get handed their second loss of the season.
Florida will travel to Baton Rouge for a night game with LSU on Saturday. They will be without their starting quarterback, while South Carolina hosts Vanderbilt and USC travels to Notre Dame, both without their head coaches. You might expect an 0-3 run from that group with those voids.
On Sunday, expect plenty of blood in the water, in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. Bruce Arians didn’t even take the Cardinals back home last week, after thumping Detroit; you can be sure he wants to get his pound of flesh from Mike Tomlin and company, after they kicked him to the curb a few years back. TJ Ward said he wanted to remain with the Browns (and presumably his best friend, Joe Haden) two year ago, but Cleveland wasn’t interested, so he’ll surely be interested in ringing some bells with his Broncos visiting the 2-3 Browns. Finally, they say snitches end up with stitches, so go ahead and find your own shitty air/inflation-related pun to describe what Tom Brady and the Patriots might do to the Colts on Sunday night.
In the National Hockey League
Call it a Stanley Cup Hangover, or call it the distraction of one of your top players being accused of sexual assault, but the Chicago Blackhawks have looked anything but Champions…so far.
It’s obviously early, but we haven’t seen an immediate impact from Mike Babcock joining the Maple Leafs or Connor McDavid joining the Oilers. Both will happen in due time.
The Arizona Coyotes are basically left for dead by anyone who knows anything about this game, but they’re off to a promising start under Dave Tippett in Glendale. Rookies Anthony DuClair and Max Domi look like they have something special budding in the desert, making major contributions to the ‘Yotes 3-1 start.
There may have been nine other teams eligible for this 2015 post-season, and some great stories behind those teams’ run to get here, but the Chicago Cubs are the story. With the Yankees out of the picture, the St. Louis Cardinals are the only ones left standing with nowhere near three decades, if not all of eternity, between now and their last World Championship. And look, those Cardinals are the next obstacle in the way of the Cubs’ destiny.
It’s a different attitude on the north side of Chicago, this time around. We’re not blessing dugouts, exorcising goats, or doing whatever’s been done in the past to fuel the hysteria that comes with a fan-base that’s gone their entire lives without seeing their beloved baseball team compete for, let alone win, a World Championship. Okay, I concede there’s less than a what I would consider a chunk of Cubbie fans that are old enough to remember the Cubs falling to Detroit in 7 games in 1945, but no one has actually been waiting 107 years for what might happen next.
Give it up for the Ricketts family, for putting the right people in charge of the baseball side, and then getting the hell out of the way until it’s time to open the checkbook. There are only two ways to be a bad owner in sports; one is to meddle, and the other is to be cheap, and this family has done no such thing. They went out and got Theo Epstein to run the show, who in turn, brought in Jed Hoyer to be the General Manager, and eventually Joe Maddon was enlisted to manage the games. This group has done their diligence in serving the fans, by not giving a damn what they think. The first order of business was slamming the door shut on the dream of making Ryne Sandberg the skipper. Sure, Dale Sveum and Rick Renteria never brought the Cubs anywhere near the promised land, but Ryno didn’t tear it up in his first go-around in the bigs, with the Phillies, either.
In addition to Sandberg not possessing the championship pedigree, if you think the fans were pissed he wasn’t considered, imagine the outrage when they had to fire him. The whole “we run the Cubs, not the fans” effect trickles down to the roster too. Cubs fans loved Tony Campana, and while this wasn’t exactly trading away Ernie Banks, Theo and Jed were able to ignore the groans heard when Campana was traded to Arizona for a couple of teenagers. Epstein wasn’t hired to dwell on the 103 years prior to his 2011 hire, but to make the next century of Cubs baseball great. He’s well on his way.
No matter how well you’re able to put the past away, if you have any rooting interest in the Cubs, and mine is tertiary, as I married into it, there’s always a little lack of confidence, if not paranoia, due to precedent. For many, the next hard groundball to first is still going through Leon Durham’s legs and the next 50/50 ball between the left fielder and the spectators represents a prelude to doom. Entering the snakepit that was a blacked-out PNC Park on Wednesday night, Maddon’s Cubs had to strike early and prevent the Pirates from reciprocating. Dexter Fowler and Kyle Schwarber answered the call early and often. They were loose and unintimidated by Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole, almost like someone forgot to tell them the Cubs hadn’t won a post-season game since 2003. Jake Arrieta took the ball, and despite not having his best stuff on the mound, he made sure Schwarber’s RBI single in the top of the first inning was enough. However, Schwarber put one in the Allegheny River and Fowler was a little more modest, instead going to the right-center field seats with his shot, to make the probably Cy Young Award winner comfortable with a 4-run lead. He was able to pitch out of several jams, thanks to several defensive gems behind him, but there is a sour note about Wednesday.
Aside from Schwarber and Fowler, not much offensive production from the Cubs. The probably Rookie of the Year, Kris Bryant looked so lost at the plate, you might have thought he missed the flight to Western Pennsylvania. You also have to take into account, the perils of playing that Wild Card game of the 1-game sort, you’ve exhausted your Ace and he won’t get two starts in the best-of-five division series. Those are bridges they’ll cross when they encounter them in the Gateway City, as they face that next obstacle in the Cardinals. The time to worry about that is today, but a nice little honeymoom was to be had all day Thursday. To paraphrase (What About) Bob(?) Wiley, Baby Steps towards a World Championship. It started in Pittsburgh, and may not have a happy ending for Bill Murray and the rest of Cubs Nation, but it’s a start.
And, in other news…
Texas Rangers fans would probably prefer it, if I stop listening to their big games on the radio while driving down I-8 towards San Diego. For the second time in four years, the previous time being Game 6 of the World Series, my ears were privy to an epic Rangers collapse while en route to California for a Browns game. The last time, it was David Freese of the Cardinals, down to his final strike, who prevented the Rangers from closing out their first-ever World Championship with a double off the wall. The Boys of Arlington would get a shot at redemption in Game 7, but would have no luck in the deciding game. On Saturday, they took a 10-6 lead into the 9th, as I pulled into a Yuma gas station to re-fuel and call my wife. By the time, I got back in the car, the Angels led 11-10, and the assumption I’d had minutes earlier, that the Rangers were going to clinch the American League West had disintegrated. Unlike in 2011, the Rangers were able to take care of business the next day, and all was well in North Texas.
No one knows anything in College Football, a truth that reveals itself to the masses watching each week. On paper, Ohio State should have been able to exercise The Karate Kid III clause, and just waited for a worthy a opponent to take their title from them, in Glendale on January 11th, but they have to play the games. It hasn’t been pretty; you could argue they’re getting everyone’s best shot, but you could probably make a better argument that they’re a lot more flat than the team that impressed us in January. Imagine if it was TCU, and not the Buckeyes, that got to take that magical ride through the inaugural College Football Playoff. Would Ohio State be able to maintain its #1 spot with their play in 2015? If Utah and Florida can hold serve, this point is rendered moot, but how little do we know about the Pac-12 and SEC, and how confusing can the entire College Football Playoff picture be entering the month of December?
Toledo could finish the season undefeated, and there’s a strong possibility that they won’t get the “Group of 5” bid to the Access Bowls, given Boise State’s history and a committee’s tendency to forgive September losses. Rockets fans have to be hoping the stock on the win at Arkansas rises throughout SEC play.
The Browns found a new way to lose in San Diego on Sunday, and I was on hand for the agony. Having watched Josh Lambo’s first attempt sail wide, when my celebration was interrupted by news of the laundry on the field, I assumed someone in a brown jersey ran into the Chargers kicker, but the call was off-sides. I didn’t see off-sides, but the guy in the striped shirt on the field had a better vantage point. I went on with my day in Southern California, overhearing plenty of same ol’ Browns conversations. It was like Tuesday or Wednesday that I was retroactively angry at the linesman on Bill Vinovich’s crew, who guessed wrong and cost Cleveland a chance to take the game in overtime. The Lions are in the same boat with the bad luck of letting an official decide a game. It’s really no wonder, none at all, why neither of these teams have played in a Super Bowl or won a title since 1967.
As a Browns fan, I’ve had faith in both Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer, but now that I’m seeing them play in other jerseys, I almost have to slap myself. Difference being, I liked the potential of Weeden, and soon as he put on the orange helmet, he showed he couldn’t play at a high level. Hoyer, on the other hand, won games for the Browns, giving people like me false hope and dismissing poor play as a slump or fluke. It took seeing that punt-looking interception he threw to former Brown Mike Adams on Thursday night, to convince me of his true colors.
Sunday’s New England-Dallas game will get a lot of the headlines, but I’m going to learn a lot more about the landscape of the NFL from Seahawks-Bengals and Rams-Packers on Sunday. I know the Seahawks and Packers are good, but I still need some convincing on 4-0 Cincinnati and the 2-2 Rams.
I’m offering up a lot of chalk with my Division Series predictions in baseball, but I’m looking forward to a Blue Jays-Royals ALCS, and I’m putting the Cubs and Mets in the NLCS. Regarding those National League teams, once they start winning, they don’t stop.
Basketball and hockey, we’ll get to you next week.
Tonight marks the beginning of the 2015 MLB playoffs and the fourth year of the Wild Card games. The postseason kicks off with the A.L. Wild Card game between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees. Last year’s postseason opener, Athletics vs. Royals, was arguably the best game of the playoffs, ending with a walk-off win for the Royals with two outs in the bottom of the 12th inning. This year’s N.L. Wild Card game, featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates (for the third year in a row) and the Chicago Cubs, will be played tomorrow night.
As game time approaches, teams are looking for any bit of data that can give them an edge. They are studying film and searching for any stat patterns of previous winners, hoping to find the sources of success.
After doing my own extensive research (somewhat extensive, I mean, only six MLB Wild Card games have ever been played), I found a few consistencies between the past victors. Granted, these stats may not lead to success this year because baseball is a nearly impossible game to predict, the sample size is still very small, the teams and players are different this year, and the evidence I used isn’t overwhelming, but I did the best that I could with what I have and if you remember from earlier in this sentence—baseball is a nearly impossible game to predict. Anyway, here are the keys to winning the MLB Wild Card games.
Score first – Teams that score first are 4-2. Now, I realize that this doesn’t exactly represent a large majority, so I’ll amend the key slightly: score early. The two winning teams that didn’t score first had taken a lead by inning 3 (Royals) and inning 4 (Cardinals). And to be fair, the Royals only didn’t score first because they were at home so they batted in the bottom of the 1st inning, at which point they scored.
Hold the lead after 5 innings – In the same vein as the first key, taking an early lead has been paramount to winning. In the vast history of the Wild Card game, teams are undefeated (6-0) when holding a lead at the end of the 5th inning. While the 2014 Royals proceeded to blow their lead before staging a late comeback, they were still ahead at the end of five.
Play better defense than your foe – Five of the six winning teams committed the same number or fewer errors than their opponents. The only exception was the Giants team of last season. As you may recall, they had a guy named Madison Bumgarner on the mound that day and he was pretty good in the postseason last year. More than capable of making up for his defense’s errors, he still pitched a complete game shutout.
Your starting pitcher needs to be solid, but not necessarily spectacular – Teams are 6-1 when their starting pitcher finishes with five or more innings pitched while allowing four or fewer runs. The one losing team was the Rangers. In their game, Yu Darvish gave up three runs over 6 1/3 innings but was out dueled in a 5-1 loss.
This should take some of the pressure off the starters of these games. Considering that teams are starting their number one guy, four runs over five innings really isn’t asking for much.
Run – Even if you aren’t a great base-stealing team, run at least once. Teams are 2-0 when they steal at least one base. The only other team to attempt a steal (albeit unsuccessful) was also victorious. So take chances. That steal of second may just set up a two out run-scoring hit that extends your team’s season.
Be clutch – Teams with more hits with runners in scoring position are 4-0. The postseason comes down to execution in pressure spots. The team with more timely hits will typically earn the win.
Put the ball in play – Teams with fewer strikeouts (batting) are 4-2. Make contact and anything can happen. One error can prove costly, but that won’t happen if batters are striking out. Listen to your Little League coach: choke up, shorten your swing, and make contact. Or…
Swing for the fences – Different strokes, right? Teams that hit more homeruns than their opponents are 3-1. If your team struggles to make consistent contact, be sure that every batter’s contact counts.
If you have a lefty, start him – Left-handed starting pitchers are 3-1. This is good news for the Astros and bad news for everyone else. Maybe the Cubs should think about starting Jon Lester instead of Jake Arrieta. Wait. Arrieta has only allowed four earned runs in the past 2+ months? Never mind.
The bullpen must flourish – Teams are just 1-4 when their bullpen allows more than 1 run. This is a tall order. No doubt. The responsibility falls on both the manager to find the appropriate matchups and the pitchers to come through when called upon.
Chances are that I will be correct about half these keys and incorrect about the others, just like with my game picks. Speaking of which, I’m going with the teams of the guys that should be the two Cy Young Award winners: Arrieta and Dallas Keuchel.
I’m back. At least I think I’m all the way back. I like to travel; check that, I love to travel, but there’s no question it takes a lot out of me, both physically and mentally.
Between Phoenix, Charlotte, and Cleveland, my phone spent a lot of time in Airplane Mode last week. As a means of making phone calls or doing any internetty things, the iPhone 6+ is basically a paperweight. Among those things, would be my preferred method of listening to music via streaming, but Google Play decided some songs are stored locally. I have no idea which ones, or what the criteria is for off-line listening, but it sure beats those non-SkyMall magazines. One of the songs that came up, De La Soul’s “Itzsoweeze”, reminded me why it’s on my playlist; it’s fun.
Now, what seems like a lifetime ago, I wrote a Pac-12 weekend recap called “Pac-Raps”, where each game would be tied into lyrics from some 90s rap tune. We’re going to do that again here, sans Pac-12 football.
Mos Def affiliation
This is the phat presentation
De La dedication
Common Sense collaborations
Peace to all of you Haitians
Check it out
Maybe I don’t have the star-power of Mos Def and Common collaborating with me on any More Than A Fan venture, a la the guests on “Stakes Is High” album, but I don’t mind thanking the likes of Kevin Noon, Joe Posnanski, Martin Rickman, Bruce Jacobs, Mark Asher, and countless others for speaking with me at one time or another, as I’ve ventured into this realm.
Of course, my De La dedication is all about the many scribes at More Than A Fan that do what they need to do to keep the lights on in these parts.
If money makes a man strange — we gots to rearrange
So what makes the world go round
If love is against the law — listen I don’t know
Gotta change how it’s goin down
We all know we can’t be consumed by greed, because that paper isn’t going to be there forever, but it’s about fame and glory, or whatever too. Think fame lasts forever? You must not get VH1.
In 2015, we probably think of one primary thing, when we wonder if love against the law, and the Supreme Court has dictated that it’s no longer a violation of law to go there. Instead, I think of defending your dedication to something like, say my beloved Cleveland Browns. I’m asked, why do you settle for such futility? My response is, I love them or I love nothing at all–NFL related, of course.
Fell in love with this fish who got caught in my mesh
But yo she burned my scene up like David Koresh
I guess a diamond ain’t nothing but a rock with a name
I guess love ain’t nuttin but emotion and game
It’s a lesson well learned so praise is well due
I’m sendin off from Big I, to Kenny Calhoun
I could go on and on about the Browns, and how I’m always so twisted emotionally over the reboot, while I can’t let go of my decades-old angst against the original version that planted their flag in Maryland, but what does that accomplish? I deal with the fact that, more regularly than not, they light up dumpsters like Waco in ’93, but I just flew home to see them win, so no grievances for the team that calls the shores of Lake Erie home, not at the moment.
Let’s take our focus down I-71, to a struggling Ohio State team that still holds the #1 spot in the presently meaningless rankings. When the Browns moved to Baltimore, my focus moved from Sunday to Saturday, and I gave a little more love to John Cooper’s Buckeyes, and they would typically break my heart, in the same style that their former professional counterpart to the Northeast did so often. In 1999, something looking like my first love returned to the scene, but I was still locked in on Saturdays, Na’il Diggs, and Steve Bellisari. Then, they discarded the label-makers that wrote out “COOP” on the headsets, and went with some guys with sleeveless sweaters from Youngstown to right the ship.
The rise of the Scarlet and Grey was fun, but it was not fulfilling on a personal level. Perhaps it would be different if there was a degree with “The Ohio State University” on top hanging on the wall, or even a class schedule or some type of receipt in some drawer, from that school somewhere. It was the same emptiness that I felt when celebrating the Diamondbacks 2001 World Series victory; I didn’t put in my due time with either.
No regrets or anything, just a lesson well-learned. On another note, I have no idea what a “Big I” is, but Kenny Calhoun was all about “The U”, and I don’t need Billy Corben to tell me that. Dove, aka David Jude Jolicoeur, was from Brooklyn with Haitian roots. I didn’t realize it until LeBron James joined the Heat, but Miami is treated as local by those from the West Indies and nearby areas, as regional as Boston is to Maine, I suppose.
And add a reservation for the resident crew And yo get your bowl cuz we cookin up stew See them Cubans don’t care what y’all _____s do Colombians ain’t never ran with your crew Why you acting all spicy and sheisty The only Italians you knew was icees, _____s price me
To those who only use social to associate with famous, or Twitter-famous, types, they really need to show some diversity in their conversations. I had someone from back east ask what was going on with the Arizona Coyotes and Glendale a few months back, offered my opinion, and someone stepped in to tell the person to trust only a local Fox Sports reporter has the right information. Talk about something that grinds my gears; my opinion was based off of that reporter’s reports, but someone had to play the role of white knight for a media-type.
I’m sure that reporter, and many others like him, don’t care whether or not they’re included in every conversation about the team they cover. These are close-minded individuals, who shun any idea that doesn’t come from their idols. Much like John Gotti likely never cared or knew who Jay-Z was, a journalist cares very little about how often they’re @’d.
Also, this song wouldn’t have made the cut for Pac-Raps for inclusion of the words blanked out, but you can figure out what those words are. I wish it were a word that would just disappear, but I’m not really welcome to the table where that discussion takes place. Whatever, it is what it is with that.
I’m keepin it clean, like a washing machine
And yo, get your locomotion run into full steam
I’m sending out a greeting to my man Daseem
I got a child so I gotsta get the green, right right
If you’re going to do something, do it right. Let’s not be so naive as to say that MLB did this for the fans; it’s all about the money here, but it coincidentally turned out to be a solid move to add a second wild-card team, expanding their post-season tournament to ten teams. Does one-third of the league belong in the post-season? It depends on who you ask, but it definitely worked for the eventual World Champion Giants a year ago.
One game, and it’s clean. I love the focus it puts on winning your division, in order to avoid a 1-game “do or die” scenario, and I like how many teams are playing meaningful games in late-September. Now, it’s not as clean as a washing machine if the Indians and Tigers have to play a game on October 5th, which may or may not equal the Tribe playing again on Tuesday to play-in to a play-in game, but there’s always a worst case scenario.
Itzsoweezee, it’s gettin hot this year
Itzsoweezee, it’s gettin hot
Summer ended this week, and I couldn’t be more welcoming to the Autumn months. For those that still care about baseball, you’re going to get both New York teams, the Cubs and Dodgers, and some small-market teams that you haven’t seen in the post-season in a while. Add football with its sea-legs beneath it, both on Saturday and Sunday (and sometimes Thursday), to serve as a prelude to Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Karl-Anthony Towns, and D’Angelo Russell beginning their pro careers, and October is a beautiful month on the sports landscape.
They make it to easy to enjoy sports.
I own the deeds to some acres in the West Indies
Where my pops is building residence to house my seed
Now here’s the lead, y’all niggas pray to hot rods and not God
While Versace play you niggas like Yahtzee
Crackin jokes like you Patzi
(When’s the last time you had Happy Days?)
Blazin up your herb to escape the maze, but the problem stays
This is what the track is about, right here. Be you. And that goes for sports fans, just the same. Don’t get caught up in buying jerseys and sneakers. Don’t spend your whole life on the phone or computer. Apple, Samsung, Nike; they’re all taking us for a ride, reducing us to little pink or blue plastic pieces in “The Game of Life”. You missed a Tweet, and didn’t get the breaking news until ten minutes after everyone else? So the hell what!
If you partake in the herb, that’s cool. What? I’m no cop. That isn’t the only escape though; for a lot us, it’s these games, and if they frustrate us, so what! Life can be one problem after another, and when our teams lose or win, we are going to have to wake up to those same problems the next day. We might as well enjoy the time in between.
Think big get it big is my motto
You can go and play your lotto, I’ll be singin like baby won’t you be mine
You’ll be pressin rewind, you can never see mine
Keep your eyes focused, you can’t touch this or quote this
Style is crazy bogus so you can’t try to approach this
Stomp you out like roaches, pullin on my coattail
Like some horses pullin coaches, WHOA your roller coasters
It’s hotter than the temperature that’s cookin in your toasters
While the heat’ll put you deep into hypnosis
All I have to say, is this is a great verse.
Live in the moment.
Know what you want on your highlight reel, and replay those moments in your mind.
Itsoweezee, Enola in the area
Itsoweezee, Timbo King’s in the area
Itsoweezee, Maseo’s in the area
Itsoweezee, ninety-six in your area
Itsoweezee, lawd lawd lawd!
Itsoweezee, lawd lawd lawd lawd
Itsoweezee, lawd lawd, for y’all peace
It all comes full circle. In sports (and My Cousin Vinny), it’s win some, lose some. The champs are all 0-0, once the calendar resets itself to begin the next season. The chumps take their high draft choices and start on equal ground with the team that won it all, but that win was last year’s news.
The time is now, and you can’t worry about last year, last week, and the people that were with you then. You see who stands by you now, and that’s your team.
Proper etiquette in baseball has long been a divisive issue. The traditionalist school of thought leans toward a lack of virtually all displays of emotion, no matter how benign their intent or subtle their presence. According to some, an extra second spent lingering in admiration of a homerun is grounds for a fastball to the ribs, and a passionate fist pump on the mound warrants a hostile confrontation.
It’s a gentleman’s game and if you don’t behave as such, they will threaten to throw things at you or beat you up. No excessive celebrations allowed; that sort of behavior isn’t tolerated. They are gentleman, after all.
I never understood this traditionalist school of thought, probably because I belong to a younger generation. We are far more lenient and willing to shrug off the displays some would deem excessive. Many from the younger crowd even praise extreme passion and visceral reactions after making a key play.
I’ve seen how old-school reactions normally play out. They end in pointless bench-clearing standoffs, or worse, brawls resulting in suspensions.
I’ve also seen how new-school reactions normally play out. Typically, nothing happens. Although, some moments become memorable when both parties just remember that it’s okay to instill a bit of levity into the game they love. Thus was the case earlier this week during an exchange between Pedro Strop and Brandon Phillips.
The playful back and forth between Strop and Phillips began on Tuesday. Strop was on the mound facing Phillips in the 8th inning as the Cubs were clinging to a 5-4 lead. Phillips was taking some particularly powerful hacks during the at bat. Strop responded with his own power in the form of a mid-90s fastball. Phillips swung and missed, ending the inning.
Strop pumped his fist emphatically as he bounced off the mound. Instead of reacting in a petty, egotistical manner commonly seen in baseball players, Phillips, a guy renowned for his jovial demeanor, simply grinned and flashed Strop a big thumbs up. There was not a hint of sarcasm. Phillips realized that Strop made a good pitch, so he genuinely paid him the proper respect. You bested me this time. Well done. It was refreshing to see such a classy and sportsmanlike response in this situation.
That gesture by Phillips was noteworthy enough, setting an example for how to diffuse tension rather than intensify it. What followed on Wednesday made for something really special.
Again Strop entered the game in the 8th inning of a close game. Again he squared off against Phillips. A few murmurs rumbled through the stadium from those who remembered yesterday’s encounter. Phillips’ grin was gone, replaced by a stone-like expression of focus.
This time Phillips won. He cracked a solid single then conspicuously flipped his bat and teasingly mimicked the Cubs mojo head rub as he hustled to first. Standing on the base, he peered over at Strop and smiled. Strop nodded at Phillips and offered a friendly point in his direction. Heading off the mound after the third out Strop and Phillips playfully exchanged backslaps and smiles on their way back to their dugouts.
A less humble man may have been angry with Phillips’ histrionics. But not Strop. He understood that there was no malice intended from Phillips, just as he meant none with his fist pump the day before. So he allowed Phillips to enjoy his win. To the victor goes the spoils. A little celebrating never hurt anyone. It was all in good fun.
The display of sportsmanship between these two emphatic yet affable competitors went a long way in showing us a great way (not necessarily the right way since I doubt only one correct way really exists) to handle harmless, mild celebrations after making a key play on the field. Everyone witnessed two grown men having a little extra fun on the diamond. That’s something people of all generations can appreciate.