post

Vegas is Making History, and it Sucks

The Las Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL’s newest team is continuing to rewrite history in their inaugural season by accomplishing what very few professional expansion teams have ever accomplished. To some, they have been the darlings of the NHL. There is a lot to applaud in terms of their roster construction and team building, considering the Knights are made up of cast-offs from the rest of the league. For that, it is an incredible, inspirational story that is a “30 for 30” waiting to happen.

I don’t mean to sound negative, and I am sure some people will initially perceive my message that way. But if I’m going to be honest and look at the big picture, specifically from a fan perspective, is this actually a good thing? I’m saying no. I am not trying to rain on the parade of Las Vegas “fans”, those who have enjoyed following the story, or are praying for their 500-1 Stanley Cup bet to cash that they placed for the helluva it.

The Golden Knights punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup on Sunday afternoon, becoming the second NHL expansion team to do so and have a shot at becoming the first to hoist the Cup.

Let’s first address the obvious from a fan experience. If you adopted the Golden Knights as your favorite NHL team, due to geographical reasons, where do you go from here? If they win it their first year, every successive season that doesn’t end with a championship parade down the Vegas strip will be considered a major letdown.

Naturally, the question will be “Are these fans that didn’t have a hockey team prior to 2017 going to be really upset?” Probably not. It’s Vegas, there’s plenty to do and more importantly, plenty to distract yourself from a temporary disappointment of the local sports team. So why is this story actually kind of a bummer? Well, it’s a bummer for the other fans. I’m talking about the fans who have been die-hard fans and have been waiting for their team to finally win it for multiple decades if they have even seen it ever happen.

Let’s be real, its a slap in the face to a lot of fans. And I’m not casting any blame to the Las Vegas organization or any of their fans. They’re not going to try less so they don’t piss off the long-suffering teams and their fans. They did what they were supposed to do and good for them. But for the die-hard fans of teams that haven’t won in over 30 years like the Toronto Maple Leafs (1967), Philadelphia Flyers (1975) or New York Islanders (1983) or teams that have been around for at least 40 years and have never won like the St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals, Vancouver Canucks, or Buffalo Sabres, watching this HAS TO suck.

When I watch a championship series or game in a major sport and do not have a dog in the fight, I have a very simple rule to help determine my rooting interest: Which fanbase has been starved longer? It’s why I was all aboard Boston Red Sox bandwagon in 2004 and the Chicago Cubs in 2016. I love seeing good, loyal fanbases finally get rewarded with what the most cynical of fans believed would never happen: a championship celebration.

If you ask a Cubs or Red Sox fan how much more satisfying that win was after years of suffering, they’d all tell you it only made the championship that much sweeter. After watching my beloved Philadelphia Eagles FINALLY win a Super Bowl this past February, I can confidently say that all the years of disappointment and heartbreak made the victory that much more exciting.

Just like in other areas of life, most people would agree that success is appreciated so much more following struggles and failures. On the other hand, most would probably agree that instant success or gratification before any struggles is not nearly as satisfying and sometimes it can even be harmful in the long-run due to heightened, unrealistic expectations.

It makes me cringe when new sports franchises win right away. It took the Arizona Diamondbacks three seasons to win a World Series and the Florida Marlins won two within their first ten years of existence. I am sure those championships were fun to watch, live through and experience. But there is no way it can match the feeling of a championship after years of hardship or coming up short.

Now the Las Vegas Golden Knights are the next candidate to fall in this company. If you’re a new fan, I hope you enjoy it. But as crazy as this advice may sound, cherish it because you never know when they’ll be back.

 

Source Credits:

https://www.reviewjournal.com/

https://www.onlinegambling.com/

http://www.boston.com/

post

Platform vs. Distraction: The Latest American Sports Rivalry

Last Sunday Night, the NFL season concluded with a Super Bowl that is instantly being considered one of the best in the fifty-one-year history of pro football’s championship game. Much of the reason is due to the New England Patriots’ record-breaking 25-point comeback en route to a 34-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. It was an instant classic and safely has a spot amongst the most entertaining football games in recent memory.

Fortunately for sports fans, we have had the pleasure of witnessing a great collection of season finishes over the past twelve months. It started with Villanova hitting a buzzer beater to defeat North Carolina in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game, followed up by an exhilarating NBA Finals when the Cleveland Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 deficit to top the 73-win Golden State Warriors.

The NBA Finals were not the only championship series to feature a 3-1 comeback, as the Chicago Cubs completed an identical rally against the Cleveland Indians to win their first World Series since 1908. A few months later in January, we witnessed the rare championship game rematch in college football when the Clemson Tigers topped the Alabama Crimson Tide 35-31.

The aforementioned championship games have not only provided viewers with impeccable entertainment, they’ve provided a temporary getaway from events that have contributed to what many people have considered being a tumultuous year. Most sports fans reacted to these games with the sentiment of “That’s why we love sports”, or   “It’s games like that which make me a sports fan.” It’s unscripted drama that many viewers tune in for the same reason they do for their favorite television show: To be entertained and experience a temporary escape from reality.

Fans have watched, cheered and cried while being enthralled with captivating and unforgettable games that despite the news of the day, week or month, allowed for us to escape for a few hours at a time. It is impossible to ignore the current political climate in America, and its impact on everyday life. Even the most disinterested and apathetic citizen has been affected in one way or another. It started with multiple tragic shootings and acts of violence involving police officers. Each tragedy has reignited heated debates on controversial issues such as gun control, police brutality and race relations.

The NFL Season kicked off with San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. According to Kaepernick, the intention behind the action was to make a statement about police violence. The actions inspired strong and spirited debate regarding the merits of his protest. There were clearly two sides: Those who viewed his kneeling as disrespectful and those who supported his message.

In future weeks, more football players replicated Kaepernick in support of his protest against police brutality. Naturally, this led to more conversation among the public on the issue. Regardless of what side of the argument you are on, the key here is that the actions of a professional athlete got the American people talking about an issue that is very far removed from sports.

In addition to the issue at hand, it has raised a much bigger question: What is the 2017 role of sports? Is it a distraction from the real world or is a platform for those athletes in the spotlight to spread awareness on issues much bigger than the games they play?

If you asked most people, I am extremely confident we are just as split on this question as we are on matters like political parties or gun control. A considerable amount of the population will tell you that they turn to sports as an escape from the world and its problems.The other camp will say that athletes should take advantage of their platform and to be an advocate for causes that are important to them.

Michael Jordan drew a lot of criticism throughout his career for not expressing his political ideologies or even acting as a proponent of racial equality. His response to this criticism was always simple and diplomatic, in that he never wanted to alienate anyone who would potentially buy his shoes.

Following an extremely divisive presidential election, more professional athletes, coaches, and commentators have felt compelled to voice their opinion. Much like the result of Colin Kaepernick’s protests, the reactions have been very mixed and we are very much at a crossroad of determining the largest purpose of sports and those on the big stage.

It is a longstanding tradition for teams winning a championship to visit the White House and meet the President of the United States.  As of week following the game, six members of the New England Patriots have made it known that they do not plan to make the trip, citing their opposition to Donald Trump.    

It’s not a secret that several Americans oppose Donald Trump. Yet not all Americans have the platform that professional athletes do. Naturally, athletes’ opinions are going to be heard by more people. Most athletes are conscious of it and use it as an opportunity to express their feelings on matters much bigger than sports. The Patriots players took to Twitter to explain their motives behind boycotting a visit to the White House.

To say the reaction has been split would be an understatement. Those who support the message are cheering on the athletes for taking a stand while another section of the population is giving the “Stick to sports” response. The “Stick to sports” has become an increasingly more common reaction to those in the sports world who have utilized their platform to make political statements.

These are clearly the fans that want sports to be a distraction or recess from the real world. Feeling that way is completely understandable. But going back to Muhammad Ali refusing to fight in the Vietnam War in 1967, several athletes have utilized their platform for a variety of reasons non-sports related. In 2017, that trend does not appear to be slowing down at all.

While most people turn to sports for the distraction, they’ll have to come to grips with knowing that the days of sports being completely removed from society and its problems are long gone. In the tug of war between “Platform vs Distraction”, platform has pulled ahead in 2017.

Photo Credit: http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2016/06/06/4476202.htm

post

Sports New Year’s Resolutions for 2017

The end of each year brings the opportunity to come up with New Year’s Resolutions for achieving self-improvement in the following year. While it’s a usually an individual exercise that involves meaningful resolutions, that doesn’t absolve those in the sports world to make their own resolutions. With that said, I am happy to present the first annual Eye off the Ball’s version of Sports New Year’s Resolutions.

nfl-kick-off-537x350NFL – Embrace the offseason

It’s no mystery that the NFL is the king of the sports world. Despite the early-season dip in the TV ratings, the NFL is America’s most popular professional sport by a mile. As great of a product it is, the offseason is not the exciting spectacle that the media outlets want us to think it is. Events like the NFL Combine, Draft, Preseason and round-the clock training camp coverage severely lack entertainment value and fall well short of the hype that will draw crazed football fans in, that will do whatever it takes for a springtime football fix. Hey NFL – Get over yourself, your offseason is not that interesting. If you want fans to get excited about Week 1 Kickoff, do us a favor and take a break. How can you miss something if you never go away?

NBA – Figure out a solution to the tanking problemtanking

NBA teams have been heavily maligned for tanking, or losing intentionally to improve their draft position. Tanking has been going on ever since the NBA instituted a lottery system back in the 1980’s. Due to the lack of NBA-ready prospects entering the draft each season, there is a much larger disparity between the value of a top-three pick and a mid-first round pick in the NBA compared to any of the other professional sports. Because of this, NBA teams that do not have a clear path to contention result to tanking for what they hope will lead to drafting a franchise player, as opposed to perpetual mediocrity as a 40-win team that sneaks in the playoffs each season before getting swept by a team that has eyes on the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Tanking is not a problem because teams do it. It is a problem because the NBA is a flawed system that incentivizes teams without a core of players that can compete for a championship to do it. Whether it is changing the lottery system, draft process or even the eligibility requirements for players entering the draft, its a problem the league has to finally solve.

Philadelphia Eagles – Get some weapons for Carson Wentz9597916-carson-wentz-nfl-philadelphia-eagles-detroit-lions-842x560

The Eagles got in right in the 2016 NFL Draft, trading up and drafting Carson Wentz. If you ignore the misleading individual statistics and observe Wentz, it is clear that he has makings of becoming an elite NFL Quarterback. But he will not get there very easily by himself. The Eagles are currently devoid of explosive offensive weapons. They arguably have the worst receiving core in the NFL. If you want to maximize his talent and cash in on the luxury of having a great, franchise QB, it serves you right to surround him with better talent.

Major League Baseball – Keep up the momentum created by an unforgettable World Series

mlb-chicago-cubs

As mentioned in a previous post, the incredible World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians did wonders for the game of baseball. It is no secret that baseball has significantly declined in popularity over the past couple of decades. With that said, the World Series, especially Game 7 captivated the country, even the admitted non-baseball fans. It was a game that has me counting the days until Opening Day in December, a feeling that I have not had in a very long time. The sport has a lot of momentum going into 2017, and there is not a specific formula for keeping that going. Agreeing to a new CBA and avoiding a lockout was a great start. But baseball is in a great spot, and I think I speak for all baseball fans by hoping for another great season with exciting story lines in 2017.

Arizona Cardinals – Invest a high draft pick on a quarterbackarizona-cardinals-quarterback-carson-palmer

Carson Palmer has had a very good NFL career. But he is a shot fighter at this point in his career. His arm strength has almost completely fallen off, and it’s not going to magically come back at this stage of his career. Career backup, Drew Stanton currently occupies second string, is obviously not the future. The Cardinals did not select a QB in any of the last two seasons. There were 15 quarterbacks taken in last year’s draft, and 22 over the past two years. Of those 22, 10 have started an NFL game. It’s time for the Cardinals to invest a high draft pick in a quarterback.

Sacramento Kings – Trade DeMarcus Cousins before he leaves after next season

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 2: DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings handles the ball against DeAndre Jordan #6 of the Los Angeles Clippers during a game on November 2, 2014 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)The Kings are in NBA purgatory – not bad enough to draft a difference maker and not nearly good enough to be a title contender. Assuming Sacramento misses the postseason and even if they strike gold at the NBA Draft Lottery, the Philadelphia 76ers own the right to swap picks as part of a July 2015 trade. Point being that the Kings have little to be optimistic about, aside from having an elite player in DeMarcus Cousins. It is highly unlikely he re-signs with Sacramento after the 2017-2018 season. If he cares at all about competing for an NBA Championship, why would he? Sacramento should make it a priority over the next year to cash in on his value and find a trade with great return that springs a rebuild that hopefully propels the franchise into perennial contention.

Chip Kelly – Make some changes, or just accept you’re a college coach 

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 20: Head coach Chip Kelly of the San Francisco 49ers looks on from the sideline a preseason NFL game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 20, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Has anyone over the past few years in the NFL had a bigger rise and fall than Chip Kelly? He took over the Eagles in 2013 with an offense that initially took the NFL by storm. But as expected, the defenses adjusted. However the coach who was lauded for his brilliance and forward-thinking approach to football, never made a next move or adjustment once defensive coordinators figured out how to defend his offense. Chip Kelly may be brilliant, but he is also very stubborn. He also jettisoned talented offensive playmakers in Philadelphia with a mindset that every player was expendable. In the NFL, superior talent is not nearly as easy to acquire as it is as a head coach of a major college football program with a fun offense and cool looking uniforms. In addition to needing to evolve his offense, Chip Kelly will need to better appreciate elite NFL talent if he wants to make it long-term in the pros. Otherwise, he should return to college where he ultimately belongs.

PGA Tour- More Driveable Par 4’s (By Derek Hirsch)

p

You know who other than chicks ‘dig the long ball’? Everyone, that’s who. There is nothing like seeing a golf ball travel 320 plus yards and land softly on a tiny little green surrounded by hazards. The casual fan does not comprehend how much strategy goes into a round of golf, but short par 4’s draw the casual fan in with the excitement of the risk/reward decision from a player. Either you have a putt for eagle, or you are staring double bogey in the face, both consequences will move your position on the leaderboard. We need more holes on the PGA Tour that give the players the opportunity for a boom or bust play.

Andrew “Beef” Johnston – Play as many PGA Tour Events as possible. (By Derek Hirsch)

andrew-beef-johnston

Golf fans are yearning for a character like Beef. His look, personality and beard are all elements that will be eaten up by American fans. Did I mention he is from Jamaican descent? All Beef needs is more exposure in the USA combined with good play and then he will certainly become a house-hold name.

Tampa Bay Rays – Seriously explore a stadium move. (By Chris Himes)

trop4

The Tampa Bay Rays need to move their stadium closer to Central Tampa; most of their fans live in that area and it would be close to the other hometown team, the Buccaneers. Crossing the bridge is a hassle for a lot of people, and not many fans live in St Pete. Ideally, moving the stadium would lead to more revenue which would bring in more money for the team to progress and possibly win a championship. Most times a good player or coach goes away due to salaries and the Rays start back at square one; this would help them move in the right direction.

Cam Newton – Revamp wardrobe shenanigans. (By Chris Himes)

cam

Football teams need to invent themselves each year to succeed, and Cam Newton’s team is a prime example of why they didn’t succeed. Thinking outside of his game, Cam should switch up his wardrobe. I think he wears ridiculous clothes; others would disagree and say he has style. I propose that if he continues to wear outrageous clothes, he auction off his outfits for charity. Or he could start doing impersonations, like making fun of Russell Westbrook’s clothes, or Von Miller’s shoes. Although Von would get the final say…

College Basketball – Make players stay longer. (By Chris Himes)

hi-res-3fc9458b0b99a182a48e87b0d7673c8d_crop_north

The NCAA should make basketball players stay for an extra year. They made it mandatory to complete one year of college, or turn 19, in 2007, and should keep the trend going for at least one more grade level. The NBA has become top heavy (cough*East*cough) and the talent is not well spread out as a result. I believe having players stay in college longer will not only make them better professional players, but will also give them a better education in case basketball don’t work out for him. When and if this rule takes effect, all current players will be “grandfathered” in, and this will apply to incoming freshmen. Eventually it can be increased to Juniors (similar to football) if that seems to be the next best course.

rutgersThe Big Ten – Kick out Rutgers (By Chris Himes)

Let’s be brutally honest, Rutgers doesn’t belong in Big Ten football. They were recently invited and they look like a high school team trying to impress a junior college division. Additionally, they do nothing to improve the New York and New Jersey markets as those are basketball/hockey heavy and are settled on their professional football teams. They are 17-51 against Big Ten teams, and have two wins in the last three seasons (vs Michigan 2014; vs Indiana 2015). They lost every division game this year, including four shutouts. If they don’t improve next season, the Big Ten needs to reconsider this lousy excuse of a team.

NHL – Figure out a way to partner up with ESPN. (By Chris Himes)maxresdefault

Hockey is the least popular sport of the big four, mostly due to the lack of TV coverage. ESPN has monopolized the sports entertainment industry, and did not renew their NHL contract due to the 2004 lockout which has hurt the sport’s popularity and fan base. Hockey may be the most exciting of the four sports as they allow fighting, display constant action with minimal breaks during periods, and boast the toughest athletes in the US and Canada. I don’t blame the league for having hard feelings against the sports giant network, but they might want to bury the hatchet to get back in the thick of the sports world.

Photo Credits:

youtube.com/watch?v=2BuSLqUD65I

bleacherreport.com/articles/2667331-ranking-the-best-teams-in-college-basketball-if-players-had-to-stay-for-4-years

gossiponthis.com/2016/07/19/andrew-beef-johnston-pga-golf-tour-tj-miller-doppelganger-lookalike-bio-facts-info-wiki/

bensalloutblitz.com/?cat=751

www.hngn.com/articles/102011/20150618/arizona-cardinals-rumors-carson-palmer-being-replaced-by-jared-goff-in-2016-nfl-draft.htm

insidetheiggles.com/2016/10/13/check-carson-wentz-press-conference-tuesday/

ninerswire.usatoday.com/2016/09/11/have-defenses-caught-up-to-chip-kellys-up-tempo-offense/

wagesofwins.com/2013/10/31/are-we-really-still-talking-about-tanking/

ekalavyas.com/2015/01/16/realized-basketball-take-places-demarcus-boogie-cousins-part/

sportbet.com/news/mlb/2016-world-series-odds/

golfadvisor.com/articles/tpc-las-vegas-golf-15496.htm

gossiponthis.com/2016/07/19/andrew-beef-johnston-pga-golf-tour-tj-miller-doppelganger-lookalike-bio-facts-info-wiki/

ijsf.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/will-the-tampa-bay-rays-bad-attendance-make-them-consider-moving/

assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.2516073.1454342011!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_750/super-bowl-cams-pants-football.jpg

cdn.meme.am/cache/instances/folder987/64557987.jpg

happynewyear2017images.net/2016/06/best-happy-new-year-2017-resolutions.html

 

post

The Depressing Demise of Sports Hate

There are a lot of things about sports I miss. Most sports fans are nostalgic. We like to reminisce about a previous era when a sport was at it best, while complaining about what the modern version lacks. Some people miss when football was more physical, some miss when athletes were considered heroes instead of being constantly reminded of their personal imperfections, while others simply wish they could watch their idol suit up one more time.

What I miss the most might sound a little dark, maybe even a little twisted. It’s not something most fans think about on a regular basis. But the thing I miss above everything is “sports hate”. Some of you might be thinking, “What is sports hate? Why is that something you miss? Don’t we already have…sports hate?”

When I refer to “sports hate”, I am not talking about having athletes and coaches to hate, because there is no shortage of that. I am also not referring media trolls baiting fans into mean-spirited social media reactions with irrelevant “hot takes”. “Sports hate” refers to the simple concept of having an authentic loathing for your opponent, ideally a rival, while in the midst of competition. Don’t confuse this with developing a true, personal hatred for the people outside of the sport. This is strictly detesting your opponent during a game or playoff series, which ultimately drives athletes to play with extra emotion, effort and will to win.

Professional athletes are too friendly these days with one another. It’s disturbing, the site of football players hugging and laughing with each other after an intense, physical game against one another. After three hours of violent competition, it’s befuddling how opposing players can rapidly transition to embracing each other so happily in such a light-hearted way.

csghub8vmaaigsbOne of the most repulsive images of NFL Season up until now has nothing to do with patriotism or the national anthem. It was during the pregame of the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants in Week 1, when Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr. engaged in tickle fight and game of catch. This was one of the most nauseating and disgusting things I had ever witnessed in my life of watching sports.

The Cowboys and Giants are division rivals, about to begin the season against each other, and their respective star receivers are acting like summer camp roommates who share bunk beds. I have zero issue with players on opposing teams being friends off the field, but there is something very unsettling about opponents acting that chummy right before going against each other in a fierce battle on the field. You’d like to think the demeanor would be a lot more contentious.

“Sports hate” is the fuel for rivalries, which accounts heavily for what makes the entertainment value of sports so great. Think about it. The most hyped and generally most-watched sporting events are the rivalry games. Yankees and Red Sox is one of the most prominent rivalries in all of sports. Is there any love lost between the opposing players and fans? Absolutely not. Unfortunately, rivalries with this much juice are an endangered species.

Back in the 1970’s when Dick Vermeil took over as Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, he made the Dallas Cowboys into a rival to hate. Beating the Cowboys was viewed as a goal and a milestone. A lot of it was due to the Cowboys being a dominant force in the 70’s. But it helped create a rivalry, one that got the players juiced up for, and something that sports fans did not want to miss when the teams played each other.

Heated rivalry games are always more entertaining. But it cannot be fabricated. Sports are about emotion. The emotion of despising your opponent can make an athlete raise their game a little bit extra, ultimately making the contest that much more competitive and enjoyable for spectators.

Some of the best rivalries have produced classic games and the unforgettable moments in sports history. This is primarily attributed to great teams being led by franchise players, who were leaders of the team year after year. They were the faces of the franchise: Magic Johnson with the Lakers, Larry Bird with the Celtics and Michael Jordan with the Bulls. In more recent years we had Kobe Bryant with the Lakers and Tim Duncan with the Spurs. These guys were the “kings of their kingdom”, the first players to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy after leading their team to another NBA Championship.


lat-sp-rivalry-larry-bird-magic-johnson-20140118With Magic and Bird, both were all-time great players who were able to lead their respective teams to multiple championships, frequently against each other. From 1980 to 1989, either Magic’s Lakers or Bird’s Celtics appeared in the NBA Finals at the end of every single season, with the Lakers winning it all five times and the Celtics winning three. During this span, these teams faced each other four total times. The point being that the Lakers and Celtics made up the best rivalry in all of sports during the 1980s.

It was a rivalry fueled by hatred and contempt for one another, and a constant need to come out on top every time. Unlike the athletes of today who embrace each other jokingly with smiles and hugs, take vacations and hang out on a regular basis, fierce rivals like Bird and Magic wouldn’t be caught dead engaging in any of those activities with each other. That distance created the juice that is lacking from so many big sporting events these days.

In the case with Bryant and Duncan, it did not take very long in their NBA careers to win their first rings. Therefore, there was never a true desire to want to leave for another franchise with an easier path to a ring. But with Michael Jordan, it didn’t happen right away. Jordan was drafted in 1984, but it took him until 1991 before he won his first of six NBA championships. During Jordan’s ascent, along with the Bulls as a team, a rivalry with the Detroit Pistons was formed. The rivalry led to physical, gut-wrenching playoff series in the late 1980’s. This produced a hatred between the two teams, and ultimately made these games more entertaining as well.

The concept of sports hate comes to the forefront with the 2016-2017 NBA Season just getting underway. One of the most noteworthy stories of the offseason was the decision of Kevin Durant to leave Oklahoma City to sign with the Golden State Warriors. The moved spurred a lot of negative reaction, as it rightfully should.

First of all, it brings the problem of NBA “Super teams” to a head, a trend that is becoming more popular and is also ruining the sport. The NBA has been under the microscope due to its lack of competitive balance, and those teams that have taken the rebuild route by “tanking” have been much maligned. However, these “super teams” like the Warriors, a 73-win team who added the best available free agent in Kevin Durant, as well as the Miami Heat from 2010-2014 are deserve just as much blame for this league issue.

Naturally OKC fans are furious, as they watched their franchise player leave their team to join a conference foe. That would be enough to anger the fan base, but this was preceded by Golden State coming back from being down 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals to Oklahoma City. This was a hard-fought, emotional, seven-game series between two conference heavyweights.

maxresdefaultThere was a time in the past where this series would have ignited a new sports rivalry. In order for a rivalry to exist, it needs to be charged by the players identifying with their respective team and developing a hatred for their opponent. That feeling of hatred then drives the desire to defeat their opponent, resulting into a more competitive games and ultimately a playoff series that nobody wants to miss.

Despite Michael Jordan’s early career struggles to overcome the Pistons, the thought of abandoning the Bulls to join forces with the heated rival and powerhouse never entered his mind. Sadly, it is a mentality lacking from current athletes. The proof will on display tonight, as Kevin Durant will go against his former team. Since being drafted up until this past June, Durant was the king of Oklahoma City (despite being drafted as a Seattle Supersonic before the relocation). He was the face of the franchise, the one he had not yet been successful in leading to a championship. As close as he was, and as hard-fought as the Western Conference Finals was, he was able to easily abandon the Thunder and join what you would expect to be a new bitter rival.

It’s perplexing how Durant was able to ditch his former team of nine seasons, that he came within one game of bringing back to the NBA Finals, for the squad that squashed that pursuit. How is there not a desire to seek revenge, to want to come back with the mission of beating the Golden State Warriors. Sports hate used to drive this feeling, making sports the dramatic spectacle that it has become. But sadly, it is becoming a thing of the past, with no clear sign of it making a return.

Photo Credits:

www.slate.com/articles/business/rivalries/2013/08/sports_rivalries_the_economics_of_crosstown_hatred.html

articles.latimes.com/2014/jan/18/sports/la-sp-great-rivalries-in-sports-20140118

twitter.com/b1ackschefter/status/775078440970047488

www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjPFq_SOvmg

 

Starting A Streak

NFL Football…The TRUE American pastime returned to us in a time when we needed it most.

Pre-season games were a welcomed a change from the monotonous reporting of baseball and anything after the first five days of Olympic coverage.

Die-hard NFL fans didn’t give the preseason their utmost attention due to, well, it being pre-season. While many fantasy football junkies (like the Eye off the Ball team) tuned in to gain any extra insight for when the time came to draft their teams for the season.

Then on September 8th, as a nation, our patience was rewarded with a rematch of Super Bowl 50 to kickoff the 2016 season.

This small morsel of entertainment was nothing but a cock tease for a full Sunday lineup of NFL action, culminating with two Monday Night Football matchups. Little did we know that the final game of Week 1 would provide us with the best action of the whole slate.

The west coast showdown between two sub-par teams (49ers vs Rams) was a sloppy snooze fest.

But the best action occurred with 11:34 remaining in the 4th quarter as the Rams attempted a 3rd & 4 (they didn’t convert) when 16-year-old William Navarrette rushed onto the field with his shirt pulled over his head displaying his phone number (925-290-9745) as the world watched.

The stunt, a dare by his friends resulted in viral video of NFL announcer Kevin Harlan’s play-by-play of the event.

Due to his age, Navarrette wasn’t arrested, but he’s banned from Levi Stadium for one year, has to write an apology letter, and is required to take an online course.  Other punishments may come down the line after he appears in front of a judge, but it begs the question: How did he do it?

According to an interview with KRON4’s Phillipe Djegal:

In the fourth quarter, he told hid dad Herman he was going to the restroom.

But instead, walked down a level to section 123, where he already knew security wouldn’t check his ticket.

“I was looking everywhere, looking at the field, seeing which would be the best area, and I noticed there was a security guard not checking the tickets for this section, so I knew this was my spot,” Navarette said.

Simple, right?

Just wait for a lull in the game action, zero in on the security guards not paying attention, ditch your clothing and make your move?

Yes and no.

Maybe when you’re an amateur streaker, but according to the world’s most notorious streaker it takes more than just a 5 minute plan and the willingness to show off your 3 piece set.

As of 2013, Mark Roberts has streaked more than 500 sporting events ranging from Snooker, Rugby, Soccer, Golf, the Olympics, and Super Bowl 38.

When Roberts first started his career in streaking he started small, shedding his clothes during a Rugby match in Hong Kong, where the crowd saw his twig and berries not once, but TWICE within a 30-minute window.

After streaking through various Rugby matches in Asia, Roberts returned to his native UK and upped his game, eyeing a Liverpool vs Everton Soccer game. Within a few months of running nude during various Soccer matches, Roberts was banned for 12 months from entering any Soccer stadium in the UK.

Not to be discouraged, Roberts flipped the script and branched out to Tennis, Golf, and Horse Racing. His reputation and image soon became training material for police and security staff for sporting events around the world.

Disguises and meticulous planning had become a part of any event he hoped to attend, many times being turned away from even attempting to purchase tickets.

Eventually Mark Roberts set his sights on the biggest sporting event in the US…The Super Bowl. After a failed attempt at Super Bowl 37, Roberts had a whole year to plan for Super Bowl 38. A plan that included acquiring front row tickets on the 50 yard line, a referee’s uniform, an advertising agency sponsorship and counsel from a Texas lawyer.

Right before the start of the 2nd half, Roberts ripped off his Velcro outfit and sprinted towards center of the field where Panther’s kicker John Kasay was about to kickoff. He pranced around for almost a full minute before being blasted by Patriots LB Matt Chatham and captured by security.

All told, Roberts only paid $1000 in fines, however now that he has a police record in the US, he’ll need to reapply for a visa before he ventures across the pond again.

Speaking of fines, another streaker who’s been hit with the Levi Stadium ban & conduct course is notorious prankster and YouTube star, Vitaly Zdorovetskiy.

Vitaly's Official Ban

Vitaly’s Official Ban

Vitaly was issued his Levi Stadium ban after he was detained before his attempt of streaking Super Bowl 50. The Super Bowl would’ve been a small step up (at least domestically) in viewership compared his 2014 escapade of streaking shirtless during the World Cup finals match Germany vs Argentina. He got off easy, only spending an hour in jail and paying a $100 fine.

Vitaly’s most recent streaking adventure hit his wallet a bit harder with a $1200 fine and spent 15 hours in a Cleveland jail after running onto the court in Game 4 of the 2016 NBA Finals.

Don’t get it twisted though, while it may seem that only men have the gall to strip down or streak at sporting events, there’s a fair amount of women who’ve shown some skin to add some extra entertainment to the game.

While most women are 1 and done, Morganna Roberts AKA The Kissing Bandit, has run onto various fields of play ranging from MLB, Hockey and NBA games unofficially kissing over 50 athletes. Though Morganna never trotted onto a field nude, she didn’t leave much to the imagination in her appearances.

Supporting some serious chest-icles within her I-Cup bras, she first came into notoriety in August 1969 running on to the diamond to plant a kiss on Pete Rose.  Starting with Rose, from 1969 to 1990, Morganna has a list of “victims” that included Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken Jr. and Kareem Adbul-Jabar. Her antics lead to a promising career as an exotic dancer and eventually led to a centerfold spread for Playboy in 1983.

*If you’re looking for an in-depth look at Morganna’s activities, in 2014 ESPN films released an E:60 biopic documentary titled MORGANNA: The Kissing Bandit*

Maybe there’s a chance that William Navarrette’s run during that Monday night game can spark a promising career in the world of streaking. Whether it was a onetime spectacle or not, we can only hope to see more bold fans take it upon themselves to join the ranks of these exhibitionist heroes.

I know the world will be watching.

Credit and References:
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/09/13/brentwood-teen-who-ran-on-field-at-49ers-game-you-only-live-once/
http://kron4.com/2016/09/14/video-san-francisco-49ers-streaker-speaks/
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jan/30/id-been-paid-1m-how-to-streak-at-the-super-bowl
http://nesn.com/2014/01/former-patriot-matt-chatham-levels-streaker-during-super-bowl-xxxviii-video/
(http://viralselect.com/vitaly-streaks-the-50th-super-bowl/)
http://www.thesportster.com/entertainment/top-10-hottest-streakers-of-all-time/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morganna

post

Athletes & Anxiety: An Invisible Problem In Plain Sight

Photo: Mirror

Photo: Mirror

 

Johanna Konta collapsed last week at the U.S. Open yet still managed to beat opponent Tsvetana Pironkova and advance to the third round. Suffering from blurred vision, breathing issues, and an increased heart rate, Konta was tended to by medical personnel, took an approved medical time out, and resumed play, ultimately winning the match.

The intention of this article began as a shout out to an athlete who pushed their body to the limit and came out victorious. Many events demand players to give it their all and the U.S. Open is no exception. Konta deserves applause for her impressive mental strength overcoming her weakened physical state.

One quote caught my attention, however. Konta said, “I don’t know if anyone’s had a panic attack, but that’s basically what it feels like.”

Assuming that she’s experienced a panic attack firsthand, she compared her heat exhaustion to the symptoms of a severe anxiety attack. Heat-related injuries are a serious threat to tennis players, no questions asked. However, I’m curious what the response, both from officials and the public, would be if she collapsed due to the onset of a panic attack. Pironkova had no qualms in stating that her timeout was too long. Would a panic attack be treated as a serious health issue or relegated to a case of nerves?

Pressure, Pain, Paralysis   

When an injured athlete plays through their physical pain, win or lose, they‘re heralded as a champion. Two weeks ago, I praised Yohann Diniz for powering through his race walk at the Olympics despite collapsing. While it’s inspiring to watch any player ignore agony for the sake of the game (Gregory Campbell’s penalty kill in the 2013 NHL Eastern Conference Final is something I’ll never forget), those dealing with psychological afflictions are likely suffering in silence right before our eyes.

It’s amazing to think that a sore finger or turf toe can keep a player sidelined for days but a chronic mental illness such as an anxiety disorder can go unacknowledged, untreated, and underestimated for years.

It’s easy to generalize anxiety as ordinary stress or worry, which is akin to comparing a heart attack to heart burn or a broken bone to a bruise. Unfortunately, only the person experiencing the panic attack truly knows the extent of severity. The torment is as unique as the person experiencing it and comes with its own set of limitations.

Two anxiety triggers of golfer Bubba Watson’s are crowds and enclosed spaces, which must make teeing off a miserable experience he’s put through at least 72 times during a weekend of golf. Royce White has a substantial fear of flying and is very nervous in front of a crowd, two elements that are inescapable as a professional NBA player. Whereas an individual outside of the limelight may be afforded certain limits of control (calling in sick, limiting social activity), professional athletes aren’t as lucky.

When your job is to entertain thousands, if not millions, on a weekly basis, you can’t simply fade into the background and reemerge when the storm in your head calms. Imagine the inherent stress in a game winning free throw, a game tying field goal, or a tide-turning penalty shot. Now imagine your chest simultaneously attempting to collapse and explode while your mind is sent on a roller coaster ride that turns every illogical, impossible fear of yours into a horrific inevitably.

Oh, and if you miss this shot, you’ve failed the team, the fans, the sponsors.

The world.

No pressure.

Yet, somehow, despite the insufferable torture that comes, goes, and stays as long as it pleases, these individuals are able to keep the chaos in check. They keep their heads in the game; which headspace they’re in, however, we may never know.

Major League Awareness

Professional athletes are modern day superheroes. They bounce back from injury at seemingly superhuman speed and look none the worse for wear.  When a hockey player experiences a cardiac event on the bench and wants to get back in the game after being defibrillated, it’s hard to imagine that a case of the blues or excessive worrying could keep such a tough individual down.

If you’ve never faced anxiety attacks or another psychological ailment, it can be difficult to fully understand how a single illogical thought can quickly spiral into mental and physical anguish. In regards to mental health, professional athletes are just as susceptible to psychological issues as the general public. One study cites that as many as 25% of professional soccer players suffer symptoms of anxiety and depression. Despite their impressive salaries and seemingly perfect lifestyles, an anxiety disorder may make a pro athlete feel isolated and unhappy.

Fortunately, at least one sports entity isn’t letting these issues sit ignored on the bench. Anxiety awareness in the MLB has been significantly increasing over the last few years and is now considered a legitimate injury. This means that, instead of turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs or alcohol, players can be placed on the disabled list and receive much needed treatment.

Although we live vastly different lifestyles from the larger than life stars we see on TV, we must remember that mental health issues do not discriminate. The pressures of professional sports are significant enough without the struggle of having to keep anxiety sidelined. The salary and stardom may be the American Dream, but living with an anxiety disorder is a nightmare.

This week I want to tip my hat not only to Johanna Konta for her mental resilience against her moment of physical weakness, but also to the many athletes facing an endless stream of anxiety. We may be wholly unaware of their struggles, but we can at least acknowledge that this problem is just as present in the world of sports as it is in everyday society.

Anxiety is no joke. The pressures professional athletes encounter on a day to day basis are astronomical and are only compounded by an anxiety disorder. As we move towards the end of the MLB season and begin the first weeks of the NFL, NHL, and NBA, it’s important that we remember that those unstoppable athletes on screen are real people that face the same problems we do.

 

post

Don’t let Lochte Ruin your Memory of Rio

The 2016 Olympic Games now have been over for a little over a week.  Many people would say the event concluded on a down note.  Unfortunately, the ridiculous Ryan Lochte story left many spectators with a very negative memory of the Rio Games. Lochte deserves every bit of criticism, as his actions have demonstrated the stereotype of a spoiled and entitled American. Not much can be said to defend him or part the unavoidable dark cloud he has cast on the 2016 Olympic Games or even the sport of swimming. However, there were some pretty incredible and inspirational stories that are now getting overlooked, but should definitely not be forgotten. And you don’t have to leave the pool for these stories.

David Plummer breaks through

It takes an incredible amount of discipline, perseverance, commitment and sacrifice to make an Olympic team. That’s not an earth-shattering observation, but David Plummer’s path to Rio and Olympic performance was one of a kind. Plummer entered the 2016 Olympic Trials as a 30-year old who failed to qualify for the team in his previous two attempts. At the 2012 Trials, he missed a spot on the team by a measly 12 hundredths of a second, following a sixth place finish in 2008.

David Plummer came to this year’s trials, knowing it would be his last chance to qualify for the Olympics. He tied his hopes to one event, the 100-meter backstroke. Plummer prevailed this time around, finishing second and grabbing a spot on the US Olympic Swim Team. It was clear he was not satisfied by earning a spot on the team, considering he went on to earn the Bronze Medal in his lone event at the Olympic Games.

Most athletes, especially swimmers, have their best years between their late-teens and early twenties. Therefore, the odds of qualifying for the Olympics get slimmer with age. If you told me that an Olympic hopeful would go to the trials three times at the ages of 22, 26 and 30 and only qualify once, I’d put money on 22 and not think twice about it. But David Plummer, despite disappoint and heartbreak in 2008 and 2012 didn’t give up, despite the prospects of making the team as a first-time Olympian as a 30-year old looking very unlikely. If anything, it should teach us that despite failing to accomplish a goal when conditions may lend to it being the best chance to do so, that you’re never too old to chase a dream.

Simone Manuel makes history

Swimming has historically been a sport that has lacked diversity and minority participation. Cullen Jones had previously been the lone face of swimming for minorities in the United States. Jones failed to earn a spot on this year’s team, despite earning a pair of gold and silver medals in the previous two Olympic Games. Aside from Jones’ accomplishments in the pool, he has been a very significant figure and has never hid his passion for bringing more diversity to the sport. He has made a concerted effort to change the culture of competitive swimming by encouraging younger African Americans to become competitive swimmers.

Enter Simone Manuel, who was swimming in her very first Olympics at the age of 20. Manuel has been equally vocal and passionate about minority participation in competitive swimming. She made history by becoming the first African American woman to win a gold medal, by tying Penny Oleksiak in the 100-meter freestyle with a time of 52.70, an Olympic record.

It was a magical moment, and a very historic one. Very few people get to experience winning an Olympic gold medal. That alone is worthy of overwhelming emotion. But at that moment, Manuel knew that what she accomplished had unprecedented significance for competitive swimming.

Phelps with the unexpected encore

Michael Phelps could have retired after the 2012 Olympic Games in London as the most decorated Olympian of all time. He concluded the London Games with 18 gold medals with the plan to ride off into the sunset, retiring at the age of just 27. In April 2014, Michael Phelps announced he would come out of retirement and would target his fifth and final Olympic Games in 2016.

Two years after his retirement announcement and in September 2014, Phelps was arrested for his second DUI and was subsequently suspended from USA Swimming for a six month period, which prohibited him from swimming in the 2015 World Aquatics Championships. Phelps himself has admitted it to be the ultimate low point in his life, where he went as far as to contemplating suicide. At that point, it was not inconceivable to think his competitive swimming career was over and we would not have the enjoyment of watching him compete at the Olympics one more time.

All too often, very talented and accomplished athletes have their career cut short for “off-field” (or out-of-pool) reasons. Even if they continue to compete following an adversarial event, circumstances have their way of derailing the athlete’s focus, drive and commitment to their sport. However, the way in which Michael Phelps responded was dignifying. He wouldn’t let the 2014 arrest be the last event most people remembered about him. Phelps entered the 2016 Rio Olympics with a newfound determination to end his career on a high note and put the finishing touching’s on a legacy that another athlete has never match or is likely to ever match. He earned five gold medals in Rio, bringing his career total to an astounding 23.

Michael Phelps’s accomplishments as a competitive swimmer are beyond unbelievable and it’s unlikely that anyone will ever come close to paralleling his medals, performances and records. But it was his inspirational response to adversity and depression that made the conclusion to his career one of the best stories of the 2016 Olympic Games.

Photo Credits:

http://www.cbsnews.com

http://www.startribune.com

http://www.upworthy.com

http://hiphopxclusives.com

Squash Slighted By Olympic Committee Again; Supporters P*ssed

Squash snubbed by IOC once more.

Squash rejected by IOC for 2020 Olympic Games.

Marking the latest in a decade long rejection of Squash as an official Olympic sport, this week the International Olympic Committee announced the inclusion of five more events set to take the stage at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: Skateboarding, Karate, Surfing, Sports Climbing, Baseball and Softball. While thousands of now potential Olympic competitors around the world rejoice at the news, the continued exclusion of this particular event has just as many athletes calling foul.

The Entitled Vs The Ignored

The world isn’t too happy with the IOC’s latest decision. Whether they believe that Squash meets more of the official qualifications than, for instance, Skateboarding, or that the Committee is purposely snubbing certain sports in favor of others with more profitability, both fans and participants of the game are outraged at the decision. The top Squash players dream of seeing their sport in the Olympics, but despite their pleas, they are forced to stand by and watch representatives of the other chosen sports treat their Olympic invite like a scrimmage.

A prime example of this is illustrated in 2016’s inclusion of Golf as an Olympic event. In what should have been a monumental opportunity to see the best contemporary golfers compete for the gold, some of the most notable names in the game chose to stay home. At the time, the top three in golf’s world rankings (Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, and Jordan Spieth, respectfully) opted out of the event. One would imagine that the leaders of the sport would jump at the chance to make Olympic history.

Instead, a few of the players you’d expect to see at the top of the leaderboard did not have any interest in even watching coverage. Golf superstar Rory McIlroy chose to watch other sports that mattered. Jason Day admits that he only watched one hole. Although, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth pulled out over health concerns, Spieth now has regrets not competing. The players that did fly out to Rio put on a fantastic show, and the winners are well-deserving, but you have to admit that a few more high profile names would not have hurt.

Squash Isn’t the Only One with IOC Beef

Not all sports are created equal, but their organizations sure do deserve equal consideration during an Olympic bid. Unfortunately, even if they have a strong global presence, not everyone gets accepted. In fact, for the handful of sports that were included for the 2020 games, the IOC rejected twenty others (including Bowling, Chess, Korfball, Sumo, Tug of War, and Wushu). Squash may not be alone, but the companionship does little to mend the heartbreak.

As each Olympiad passes, the sports both included and excluded will be heavily debated. Squash may be sidelined for 2020, but there’s always the chance that it can usurp Golf, or another sport, in the future. Either way, the Olympics will forever be a prestigious event, but it isn’t the only game in town. For every casual spectator that flips through Olympic coverage every two years, there are dozens of diehard fans that passionately embrace these exciting sports year-round. Whether it be world championships or minor league games between local rivals, Squash and others ostracized from the Olympics will continue to keep the eyes of the world focused on their game. The IOC may be able to keep them out of the Games, but with the latest technology allowing all sports to substantially increase their global presence, perhaps it’s the Olympics, not squash, which is really missing out.

post

Blood, Sh*t & Tears: How One Race Walker Poignantly Embodied The Olympic Spirit

Photo courtesy Yahoo

Yohann Diniz competes in the 50km Race Walk at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Photo courtesy Yahoo Actualités

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For over two weeks, coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympics has dominated our television screens, news feeds, and conversations but among all of the triumphs, heartbreaks, and scandals, there’s one Huffington Post headline that immediately captured my attention:

“An Olympic Race Walker Pooped Himself, Started Bleeding And Still Placed 8th”

That’s a lot to digest so let’s break it down. First of all: what in the world is “race walking” and why is it an Olympic sport?

Pooped, Bled, Placed could be the tagline for at least a half dozen Olympic articles. Over the years, we’ve seen sickness overcome weight lifters, sprinters, wrestlers, and more. Considering the looming health concerns associated with this particular Olympiad, trending news detailing an athlete succumbing to illness during their event was almost a guarantee. But what surprised me wasn’t the mildly nauseating video of blood and feces dripping down the competitor’s leg; it was the event itself that sent me into shock: Olympic Race Walking.

A Slower Race To The Finish Line

Race Walking? I couldn’t believe it. How in the world did glorified speed walking make it onto the world’s stage? Grouped in with events like the high jump, decathlon, and steeplechase are the 20 and 50km race walks for men and a 20km for women. Zeus must be beside himself.

Though it evolved from the 1880’s competitive walking sport Pedestrianism, race walking didn’t become a men’s Olympic sport until 1904 and not until 1992 for women. The rules are predictably simple: walk fast without technically running. According to USA Track & Field, each walker “…maintain contact with the ground at all times and requires the leg to be straightened as the foot makes contact with the ground. It must remain straightened until the leg passes under the body.”

I had no idea race walking existed, let alone had strong enough global presence to make it an Olympic event for the last hundred years, especially when you consider that the ever-popular golf is just now making its return after a 112 year absence. While I’m sure there’s a rich history that my shallow investigation hasn’t uncovered, I was only interested in one person: Yohann Diniz, the French Olympian who took a crap, took a fall, and, through solid determination and courage, had us all taken aback.

From Gold to Brown Yet Still A Champion

Who is Yohann Diniz? A quick read of 140 characters might lead you to believe he’s some guy that pooped his pants power walking in the Olympics. What the headlines don’t tell us, however, is that this isn’t just some Average Joe that got runner’s diarrhea (which is no laughing matter). Dig a little deeper into his history and you’ll discover that not only is he a three time gold medal winner of the European Championships, he also set a new world record in 50km race walk back in 2014.

His Olympic history, however, has not been as impressive. In 2008 he did not finish and in 2012 was disqualified. It would be easy to dismiss this as another failed attempt. Early in the race he experienced diarrhea and eventually collapsed as he was leading at the 35km mark. End of story, right?

Photo courtesy Mirror

Photo courtesy Mirror Online

I cannot tell you who took home the bronze, silver, and gold but I can almost assure you that for years to come, people will remember Yohann Diniz’s victory at the 2016 Olympics. Yes, he experienced bowel issues, and yes, he did collapse and instantly lose any chance of winning the elusive medals, but he’s still a champion. Whereas other Olympians may have left the track in embarrassing defeat, Diniz did the unthinkable and continued on, finishing the race in 8th place which alone is a remarkable feat.

Diniz is a true Olympic champion because he showed strength in continuing on despite every reason to give up and go home. His courage to overcome embarrassment and proudly make it to the finish line is deserving of the highest respect. It takes true fortitude to push through failure and humiliation. With Hope Solo’s immaturity and lack of sportsmanship, and Ryan Lochte’s shameful misadventures bringing disgrace to the Olympian title, its competitors like Diniz that deserve our praise and admiration, not our mockery. He may not have won a medal, and he may never, but he left the 2016 Olympics with his pride and our respect stronger than ever. That alone makes him a true Olympic idol.

post

Summerslam 2016: Fake Fights, Real Pain

The highlights of WWE’s annual Summerslam were not what you would expect from a wrestling show. Sure, there was a Match of the Year Candidate between AJ Styles and John Cena. But, there was also a multitude of injuries that dared to sour WWE’s second biggest event of the year.

The Women’s championship match between Ric Flair’s daughter, Charlotte and the defending champ, Sasha Banks was extremely physical. Women’s wrestling is awfully dependent on these two to perform quality matches and they did just that. At one point during the slugfest, Banks found herself in a vulnerable position on top of the ropes in the corner of the ring. After what looked like a botched move by Charlotte, Banks hit the ropes on her way down to the canvas and landed awkwardly. She immediately grabbed her lower back in obvious, real pain. For the next few minutes, Banks was slightly off and moves weren’t being executed cleanly. She was able to rally and the ladies’ put on a hell of a match nonetheless, with Charlotte eventually winning.  WWE will be removing Banks from programming for the time being as a result. So much for it being fake.

Photo courtesy SBNation

Photo courtesy SBNation

A few matches later, there was another quality match between the cosplaying Finn Balor and Seth Rollins for the new WWE Universal Title. WWE cut away the cameras after Balor was thrown into the barricade. As they were doing so, you could see Balor quickly jamming his shoulder back into its socket.  What I thought was a brilliant fake injury to get some extra crowd backing as an underdog was just false hope. Balor actually won the match but now may miss up to six months with an injured shoulder. WWE now has to scramble to find a new champion for this hideous new belt.

In the final melee we saw UFC and WWE’s favorite corn-fed roid monster, Brock Lesnar take on Randy Orton. Both guys have been in the company for years and have never had a match on Pay-per-view which gave it a great build. Lesnar dominated the match as expected and had Orton grounded. Lesnar then repeatedly drilled his elbows into Orton’s skull causing massive bleeding. Orton received 12 staples to his forehead.

Photo courtesy wwe.com

Photo courtesy wwe.com

 

WWE is no stranger to blood, but the new PG era doesn’t see it too often. If you watched wrestling in the Attitude era days (who didn’t?) the ring would look like a shoeless John McClane had walked through it every show. The bloodshed in this match caused a lot of speculation afterward. I wasn’t sure how planned it was but then I saw an interesting report from Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer.


The ending of the Randy Orton vs. Brock Lesnar SummerSlam match, which went pretty much as planned, led to a verbal and somewhat physical confrontation between Lesnar and Chris Jericho last night.”

“Lesnar pushed Jericho with his fingers, and Jericho did what was described as the “Rousey-Tate” forehead press. One version [of the story] also had Jericho shoving Lesnar to the wall at one point.

They got tangled up against the wall and Lesnar told Jericho to punch him or kiss him. Paul “HHH” Levesque jumped in quickly and broke it up. It was heated enough that they went back at it at which time Vince McMahon broke it up. Jericho started yelling about Lesnar and McMahon told Jericho that it was all a work and to be professional.”


The ending was planned, but it’s crazy to think how far wrestlers will go to progress a story, not to mention disbelief that the other superstars can have. For the most part, those not involved in the match are aware of the end result. Jericho, who fought earlier in the night, was looking out for Orton and was under the impression that Lesnar went too far.

If a wrestler gets hurt in the process of a scripted story, it’s on to a whole new script for WWE to start from scratch with very little turnaround time.  The dramatic and sometimes soap operatic angles can be ridiculous, but given the elements one can understand why.

The primary takeaway from all of this is the dedication of wrestlers to battle through injury. The harm they endure in the ring can be paralleled to those that occur in professional sports. The value of wins and losses in WWE are fractional in comparison. WWE’s purpose is purely for entertainment, and to see people throw themselves in harm’s way is both impressive and mind-boggling.