Coaching…Is it Overrated?

September 26, 2016

Everybody remembers their coaches, especially the really good ones and that includes the questionable ones. The good coaches are ones that you usually liked as people and the bad ones yelled at you too much. I don’t want to go into what characteristics make a bad coach, I am sure the list is long for many. For me personally, I will always remember the strange coaches that felt inclined to play their kid ahead of others who were far more deserving and more talented.

The reason I am bringing up the coaching overrated argument is because we expect a lot of the coaches and they take way too much blame for losing or too much credit for winning. Coaching is important as a progressive path as athletes age and move up through the levels of their chosen sport. The coaches that are handling the youngsters in the early stages of their venture into organized sports are so influential. Many of these youth coaches don’t realize how much influence they have and can either enhance the experience or sour it for the kids. I am not talking about whether they bring juice boxes to dugout or sideline but how they teach and motivate them.  Nowadays, a lot of coaches have to do the yeoman work of being a child psychologist, adult therapist, equipment manager, fundraiser, umpire, referee, doctor and policeman. It is a challenge that sometimes takes a squad of parents and coaches to get the job done when it once took one or two adults. The youth sports today are taken more seriously and if the coach is not handling things perfectly, I am sure that they will hear it from many parents. I feel for those coaches that don’t deserve the criticism.

When the child climbs the ladder of sporting competition and the level of talent is more refined, the coaching needs changes to more of mentor and teacher. This is where the amount of good teaching coaches is needed more than ever. There is a shortage of quality coaching at the teen level of performance. The good coaches at this level can elevate a child’s performance and perhaps prepare them for the next level.

If a child is still playing organized sports into their late teens, then they have been taught well and groomed for the next level which is collegiate and professional. There is where coaching is less important and where the athlete needs to take a survivor mentality to keep rising up the ranks. Sure, good coaching is always needed but no one will care more if you succeed than yourself. There is no one to blame at this point and the motivation has to come from within.

At the highest level of coaching and managing this where the coaching of players is more of a game strategist and less about teaching. In some sports, such as professional basketball, the coach has minimal influence on players and their performance. Players are getting paid and if that doesn’t motivate them, they will probably join the rest of us in the day to day working stiff grind. Coaching at the professional level is a slippery slope. You are only as good as your talent and if you don’t win games soon, its signora. So professional coaching is about instilling a system and strategy to win and it can only be successful if the players can execute.

Is coaching overrated? It is overrated when coaches take the brunt of the blame for poor performance, unless there is a full-blown mutiny against them. When a team flat out rejects a coach, it is usually because he doesn’t handle the various personalities with sensitivity. Like I said earlier, having the gift of how to mold the mixed bag of personalities into a cohesive team unit will at least make you popular as a coach. If a coach can do that and win on field as well, then you have the recipe for being very successful. If it was easy, there wouldn’t be a shortage of youth coaches.  Every athlete has to at least try to coach once in their life. There are a lot of rewards, maybe not monetary but when you can step into shoes of all of the others who tried, you will think twice about throwing rotten tomatoes at the coach.

The Chicago Cubs, Trump and the Super Moon

November 23, 2016

 What’s with 2016? Odds makers and all you prediction types appear to be having a bad year. I am sure there were other times in history when the current events of the day were so erratic and whacked out that reading the daily newspaper was an exercise in futility. The things you once took for granted are now being flipped on their head and people are left scratching themselves. 2017 looks like more of the same so hold onto those tarot cards and tea leaves.

How do you explain Donald Trump? Was it because of the Super moon which won’t be seen again for another seventy-five years. Trump, love him or hate him did show everybody a new way of doing things. No matter how inflammatory he may have sounded, he figured out a secret that others scoffed at. So that brings us to the Chicago Cubs and the city of Cleveland who finally got a parade to celebrate and give their fans a good reason to have unbridled joy. After 109 years, the Cubbies finally found the right recipe of players that got them over the hump. It’s uncanny that all of the 108 years prior to their championship they didn’t have the right concoction of players, management and good fortune. As far as the Cleveland Cavaliers, it took an all-world effort by their two superstars, LeBron and Kyrie Irving to give their city a trophy to hang their head on. Okay maybe a mantle or trophy case would be a better place to put their one trophy on.

It doesn’t stop there; professional golf had three first time winners in their majors. Danny Willet won the Masters, Henrik Stenson won the Open Championship in Scotland and Jimmy Walker won the PGA Championship, not exactly household names unless you are golf junkie.  Professional women’s tennis gave us Angelique Kerber from Germany, who has been playing professionally since 2003 and finally broke through and won two major tourneys. She had to pass through the mountain called Serena Williams before she could achieve her victories.

In college men’s basketball who would have picked Villanova to win the whole enchilada. It’s been 30 years since they won the big one and they too had to slay some big schools to achieve the prize. Maybe not so unpredictable but still awesome in retrospect is Usain Bolts achievement of 3 gold medals at the Summer games. That’s nine gold medals, nine events spanning three Olympic Games, a superhuman effort and making him one of most revered athletes of all time.  There should also be a shout out to Peyton Manning, the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Somehow, he got through that season without being demolished by throwing fluttering passes to his receivers.

With all of this unpredictable winning going on maybe it’s not just coincidence. Maybe we are reaching new levels of enlightment in training and competing. Maybe it’s because money doesn’t always buy championships and now there is more money than ever in sports. In prior years a smart millionaire could put together a good team and they could compete for the championship. Now we have billionaires running teams and they will throw money at as many good players as they can.

Whatever the trend may be, sports fans will be seeing more and more of these types of unpredictable victors and winners. There are only a few dynasties left in sports so it’s more of an open field of competitors. Don’t be surprised if Henry Winklebaum wins the Master next year, he is 40 years old, never won anything but somehow plays like Tiger Woods for four days. How will he do it? He will train vigorously using a virtual reality training regimen and sleep in an environmental chamber.  It could happen, but don’t quite throw down a bet yet. Welcome to the new normal.

 

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Why Can’t I Just Watch the Game?

October 22, 2016

I recently went to an NFL game that left me somewhat surprised. Not surprised by the game outcome but more of the surroundings and ambience of the stadium. The stadium is only a few years old and appears to have state of the art functionality. The scoreboard is not really a scoreboard but huge television that is amazingly clear even during the daytime. The Wi-Fi is free and concessions are wide ranging in choice. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much improvement in stadium seating over the years, they are still hard on the rear end are crammed to together with little leg room that make carrying and balancing your beer and hot dog a circus act.  You still have to put your butt in someone’s face while you bust through the row of spectators in your row. Some things will never change but that is the least of my gripes at the shiny new and pricy stadium.

Can you imagine being in a football stadium that the only noise generated was the crowd and the public address announcer? Well, that a foregone area reserved now only for high school football.  Between every play and break of play it seemed the stadium was engulfed in bombastic blasts of music and sound effects.  It’s not just any music but short burst of heavy metal music. I don’t mind a “We Will Rock You” now and then because it was the really first song to be used worldwide. Now you will hear various tracks from ACDC and Gary Glitters, Rock N Roll part 2, Guns N Roses, Welcome to the Jungle and a list of other arena jams. At the game I was at, they just bypassed the music at times to unleash war drumming along with the PA announcer announcing it was third down. The main question here is, why do I need to be pumped up into a frenzy?  Everybody stands and I hate to get up every minute, especially when I have a plate of nachos.

Maybe there are those in the crowd who need to be pumped up with the ear shattering sonic sound bombs while the big screen tells us to make noise. The idea of making the other team lose their hearing rarely works except in places like the cavernous confines of the Seattle stadium.   I know everybody has to get excited to stand up and bellow out “Defense” but when you have to raise the decibels to damaging levels and if the defense doesn’t make a stand, then what?  We blew out some of the cilia in our ear canals for nothing. Sorry for the anatomy term, cilia are the small hairs in your ears that are part of our hearing system.

Maybe this is an age thing, perhaps. On the contrary, do we want our children exposed to the noise levels in these arenas and stadiums? Hearing loss is an accumulative condition that is spread over years of exposure. Sport venue noise is just one of many issues that today’s society present when it comes to hearing loss. A large portion of today’s youth use earphones that will show up as hearing loss in the future if not managed. I like my earphones as well but I try to keep them at lower levels so I can hear some outside noise as well. The last thing I want in this world to not hear my loved ones tell me how much they love me or not. Happy listening.

When Your Favorite Team Loses

October 17, 2016

When you see the opposing team storm the field after they won the big game it feels like someone either threw rubbing alcohol on an open wound or you just sit dumbfounded by the turn of events. I personally acknowledge the bitter taste of defeat, which then turns into anger and then it manifests into a dumb stupor. The next day, I try to blurt it out of my brain and focus on positive things like puppies and strawberry short cake. In reality, I try to ask myself why did spend so much damn time getting wrapped up in the lives of millionaires while I watch their games in my underwear eating a bowl of cereal. After much introspection, I realize I put up with the silliness of being a loyal fan because the team I follow is part of me.

As much as I don’t want to get emotionally sucked in the daily ups and downs of my favorite teams, I eventually come around and get concerned if things are not going so well. Hey!  They lost five games in a row, I better listen to sports talk radio and find out what the hell is going on.  The worst roller coaster rides are the NBA and MLB seasons because they drone on forever and there are mini seasons that happen within the big season. First, your team starts out, guns a blazing, winning and getting everybody excited, then about half way through the season they hit a road block and skid off the tracks. Players become injured and now the team has to trade a bundle of young prospects to get a player who might come in and save the day.  Sound familiar? That’s the MLB every year and the NBA is almost the same except they save most of their torture for the end at the playoffs. The NBA and the NHL have piled on four rounds of playoffs that they make you endure for three months.

As a loyal fan if you have lasted through the marathon season and managed to give a damn to the end, you now you get to bite your nails down to the nubs and watch the playoff rounds. If your team manages to move forward into another tier of the playoffs you get to change your life and normal behavior into the scheduled time of the games. You make arrangement for food choices and who you will watch the game with. If you fly solo and want to be left alone in your living room while you sweat it out, you get the luxury of talking to yourself. I have done this plenty of times and find it liberating to cuss, burp and yell in privacy. I personally like to be around a gathering of people during a big sporting event because it distracts you from having to watch every single minute of every single play.

If your team is fortunate to win the big game, you get to walk on cloud nine for a brief moment in time. You get to gloat and talk trash against all of the naysayers and best yet you get to buy clothing that said your team won the championship. If your team loses the championship game, you get mixed emotions. Those mixed emotions are cross between anger, sadness, despair and denial.  I go into denial that it never happened and try to act as if it was no big deal. But in reality, it hurts and you first want to blame those athletes and coaches who blew it and chocked and sometimes it’s the referees and umpires faults. This is all part of the deal when you become a loyal fan and if you are Chicago Cub fan then you have endured more abuse than normal. Maybe it’s their year but if it doesn’t happen, take time to decompress and watch another sport because spring training is only four months away.

 

Cajones…The Number One Badass Creditional

October 5, 2016

We all remember childhood bullies, the little psychopaths that tormented us and will ever have a place in our long-term memory. We also remember the one kid that stood up to that mutant, was that you? I myself have both cowered down and stood up. The times that we stood up are the times that have given us the most pride in ourselves and person we strive to be. Funny thing you didn’t feel so introspective at time when you stood your ground, you just knew that enough was enough. Cojones is the Spanish term for balls, yes but the term is trans gender when it is Americanized because women can have cojones when it comes to being brave and having some moral courage to take a risk.

When we are watching sports and you see a great play, you feel compelled to yell and hand out high fives. Then you see a play when an athlete really took a risk that elevated the team or their own performance to a higher level, that is cojones. If they fail while taking a risky chance, then we call that performer a fool to try. The line between success and failure is very thin and if you don’t succeed there are immediate consequences.

I was watching the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints on week 1 of NFL season and saw the coach of Raiders sporting a big set of cojones. His team just scored in the last seconds of the game to only trail by one point. The Raiders could have kicked an extra point to tie the game and send the game into overtime. Raider head coach Jack Del Rio decided to go for a two-point conversion to put their team ahead by one point with 30 seconds remaining. If it backfired, he loses the game and he is blamed for being reckless. Fortunately, his team succeeded and held on to win the game.  NFL games are high stake gambling affairs, are highly scrutinized by the fans and media that have the ultimate power to define your capabilities. Del Rio seemed calm and light hearted about the call and that is why I was so impressed.

In the days of big contracts, endorsements, hyper media scrutiny and social media, rarely do you see athletes and coaches sway too outside the norm. When they do stray into unconventional ways the backlash will follow tenfold if they are deemed a failure and made a careless decision.   I am a big fan of the “flea flicker” play in football when on a rare occasion you see once or twice a season.   It’s a shame that football is fairly predictable in its play calls that all of fans in recliners can figure out what play is coming next. Real cojones are not often displayed like kicking onside kicks when they normally just blast a kick off into the end zone. Every so often we see a trendsetter and individuals that think outside the box and get us fans excited to see a new way.

Cojones really means “not giving a damn about criticism”. Be the person with big cojones in your life. When you can get kicked a little, spat on, yelled at, lambasted but what doesn’t break you makes you a tough son of a gun. Think outside the box and will find how you are alone at times but when you are right on, the payday comes with higher rewards. I know this is just pop-psychology, but when you really think about it’s the only psychology that makes sense.

The Underachievers

September 22, 2016

 

Ah…the underachievers, the culprits who are making your team lose. The underachievers are scoundrels and need to be run out of town.  They are the ones that are usually overpaid and have become overweight and complacent in their actions. They have guaranteed contracts and will cruise until the last year of their contracts. The underachievers don’t care if they are underachieving and usually get hurt and will be unable to perform for long periods of time.  Unlike the overachievers, they are descending in their performance level and can very well find themselves cut loose. Sometimes they get cut loose while they are still owed millions.   Now we really hate them. Of course, this was a harsh assessment and most of it is from our outside biased opinions.

The underachievers are not to be lumped in with the choker. The choker is more of a short-term malfunction that involves bodily functions displacing themselves at the most inappropriate time.  The underachievement involves a select period of time when the performer can’t seem to reach the level of performance that their peers, fans and media have expected of them. The bodily function description is applicable, but the sickness is more of extended affliction which can be chronic in nature. On a serious note, the underachiever moniker is the stuff that self-help books have set out to rid ourselves of. I have read some of those books like a lot of you but luckily have never found myself in a seminar hugging everybody and denouncing my sad sack ways.

Now that we have thrashed all of those of don’t make the grade in their so-called area of expertise, lets breakdown why this underachieving is happening. There is an old description of for underachievers and it’s called the “Peter Principle”. The Peter principle is a concept in management theory formulated by Laurence Peter and published in 1969. The theory is that the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and “managers rise to the level of their incompetence.” Put that in a sports context and it rings true in many situations.  Some players just are not going to reach a certain level of performance because it is beyond their skill level.   They were given the job without a much thought for their ability and long-term chances to be successful.

Another aspect and reason for perceived underachieving are the hidden injuries. Every athlete’s deals with injuries and some will find themselves outright unable to perform. Then there are the situations where the injury is not debilitating enough to take the athlete off of the field and the player tries to perform as though they are healthy. There are many athletes who will not disclose their injury to the public and only a select few know what is ailing them. I can imagine that aching muscles and backs are hardly reported on a daily basis. NHL Hockey players are notorious for making vague references to injuries with the notion of not letting your opponent know what your weakness is.

Underachievement affects every damn human in the world. Call it what you will and give it select to describe a shortcoming in a performance. Unless someone is outright lazy and finds delight in not getting the job done then we probably don’t know the whole story. But as sports fans we hate excuses and just want our players to get the job done, all of the time and don’t whine about it. When fans are booing in the stands and are completely fed up with losing, the ugly finger pointing starts and players will be given dunce caps. You can rest assure that the players themselves are searching for answers. The answers don’t come easy and slumps and downturns are part of the game.  The players that are able figure it out are the ones that have longer and more successful careers. Next time I find myself underachieving, like not getting any chores done, is it laziness? Or my aching back? Am I not really qualified to mow the lawn? Some of those can apply but the good thing, 20,000 people are not booing me and I am not written up in the newspaper. The underachiever label is about as normal as anything in sports, like it or not but hopefully you are not a quitter. There is one worse thing than an underachiever and that is quitter. See my upcoming article on quitters, very riveting.

Sex Appeal at the Olympics

August 25, 2016

There, I got your attention with the one word that seems to stop most people in their tracks. Now that I opened the can of worms, (sorry worms …not sexy) lets discuss the subject.  Most of us living and breathing sports fans watched a portion of the Olympics with lots of young and amazing athletes performing on the world’s biggest stage. The athletic bodies where in full display for us to marvel at and only wish we had a set of abdominals and biceps to match.

Maybe it was only me, but I suspect that I was not alone in noticing the track and field runners seem to be wearing less than usual. As a man I am not so prudent to complain but I have to wonder why a track runner is competing in basically a swimsuit along with jewelry and lipstick.  Maybe these athletes that are dolled are presenting themselves to potential suiters when the Olympics are done. As for woman’s beach volleyball, the two-piece athletic gear is a bikini. I am not sure why they are playing in a bikini but maybe it is keeping the spirit of the beach intact.

Not to be lost in the shuffle are the all the men parading around in all their athletic glory.  My wife enjoyed the swimming and couldn’t help herself to remark about a swimmer’s physic. The usual comment after that was how that I should ramp up my workouts to incorporate more upper body weightlifting and perhaps some added core work. I can take those comments two ways, I can either be insulted and not understand why she can’t accept the way I look or I can think that she couldn’t take her hands off of me if I had a swimmer’s body. Honestly, I don’t swim much but enjoy the challenge she has presented to me.

I enjoy the Olympics, but I enjoy the Summer Olympics even more. There is a wider range of events and I feel that can relate to athletes because of the same sports that I once competed in. The summer Olympics seems to be more compelling and offers bigger stories and world records and milestones are constantly being set. Take for instance, the young man from South Africa, Wayde van Niekerk who won the 400m in track and field, he broke the world record.  He ran in the far outside lane and broke the world record with a time of 43.03, a record that stood for seventeen years.

Now what does Wayde van Niekerk have to do with sex appeal? Probably nothing but it goes to show you that the Olympics are no different than a Hollywood movie, give me drama, give me some conflict and give me some sex appeal. As pure as we want the Olympics to be, they are packaged and presented to us with the things that all of us humans desire. I personally don’t what all of the showing of skin to drift off in some weird tangent like women’s judo in two-piece outfits. There must be some restraint on this trend unless there are scientific studies that prove athletes perform better in less clothing. I am just not sure, I guess we will see in Tokyo in 2020 if anybody competes in clothes.

 



The Decathlon and Heptathlon -Still the Greatest Litmus Test for Athletes

August 19, 2016

The ten events that are required in the Olympic Decathlon which involve running, jumping and throwing are the only true litmus test to see who stands as the best overall athlete. The Heptathlon is the woman’s version which consists of seven track and field events. The last two weeks has showcased some amazing athletes that are certainly the best in their sport but how many of them can high jump over six feet? Or throw a shot put over fifty feet.  You know the answer. Some can do certain feats but not combine the skills to compete in the Decathlon and Heptathlon.  Of course, sometimes it takes least ten years or more of training and competing just to even sniff an Olympic medal.

There are athletes in professional sports that I have seen that could have been a decathlete. Take for instance LeBron James, probably the closest person in the NBA that could have been a decathlete. There a handful of NFL player that have the right combination of speed, strength and agility that fit the mold. As you see, the test is very select and only a small portion of the athletic gene pool could make it in the decathlon.

In the 1970’s, there was a television program called “Superstars” that was started by ABC sports. The program gathered great athletes from a variety of professional sports to compete in ten events. Of course, they were not all decathlon events except the hundred-yard dash. An athlete could compete up to seven events, but no athlete was permitted to compete in the sport of his or her discipline. Some of the events were weightlifting, bicycling, swimming, bowling, half mile and the obstacle course. The first athlete to win the show was pole vaulter Bog Seagram. I could understand why he won when you see what it takes to be a good pole vaulter. The program ran for almost twenty years and even spun off a British and European version. I believe the show should be revived and have a worldwide drawing to find a unique athlete.

Even though the Superstars were finding good cross functional athletes that had a multitude of skills, they were still limited. There is where the argument usually ends as far as the litmus test, best skilled athlete versus the best overall athlete which is more based on the core athletic abilities.  I personally am intrigued by the three multi events in the Olympics which include the Woman’s Heptathlon and the Pentathlon. The Pentathlon combines shooting, fencing, equestrian, swimming and cross country running. These types of events demand not only great physical training but also keen mental focus.

So, at the end of the Olympics you will see some athletes win a handful of medals, but the Decathlon, Pentathlon and Heptathlon don’t engage in this type of competition, it is one gold, one silver and one bronze. These events are done in one and two days which adds the endurance factor as the great equalizer. There will be only one overall winner and rest of the athletes will remain in obscurity but that is the life of this athlete. They were probably the kids in school who were into everything but never just settled into one thing. Their skill is versatility which is not always rewarded in society and the “jack of trades” moniker is sometimes scoffed at. I think it is highest skill a person can possess that can adapt to anything thrown their way. Salute to the decathletes, heptathletes and the pentathletes.

The winner of this year’s Men’s decathlon is Ashton Eaton, who tied the Olympic Decathlon scoring record and also won his second Olympic title. Eaton joins a list of great American decathletes in Olympic history.  The past American winners are: Jim Thorpe, Harold Osborn, Jim Bausch, Glenn Morris, Bob Mathias, Milt Campbell, Rafer Johnson, Bill Toomey, Bruce Jenner, Dan O’Brien, Bryan Clay and Ashton Eaton.

 

The Olympics, The US Team and Kazakhstan

August 11, 2016

 This Olympics seems a little different to me. Maybe it’s just because a four-year span creates a whole new storyline that seems fresh.   What I have seen so far is the dominance of swimming and gymnastics by the American teams which seems unparalleled. The usual competition from the Russians and the Chinese is not very strong which doesn’t diminish their efforts, but it shows just how powerful the US squads are performing. Certainly, the men’s basketball teams will conquer the world and track and field will have its share of medalist, but we might win kayaking too. We never win kayaking for crying out loud. I have been watching the Olympics since 1972 and have never seen the USA have so many great athletes all at once.  

Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympian of all time continues to push new boundaries that are fueled by the slightest bit of competition from others. Here’s is a man that has a gear that only a few athletes possess. He still has the desire to train constantly, for years on end, day after day. As I watched the 200m butterfly gold medal race, it was jaw dropping to see him lead the race from start to finish. Has there ever been an athlete to dominate a sport for so long? The list is short.

The woman’s gymnastics team is a storyline that few of us understand. Yes, they won the team competition but not only won it but was so better skilled and deep that was it never a question if they would win. By now everybody has the heard of Simone Biles the fire plug of a gymnast who is the reigning world champion. Along with Gabby Douglass, Madison Kocian and rest of the young ladies they appear to be so well trained and prepared it feels US woman’s gymnastic s has reached its pinnacle. After decades trying to catch up to the Russians and eastern bloc nations, they are now the ones that other countries will chase. It will be entertaining to see all of them compete in the individual events which will be another medal haul.

Another observation I have seen is how many parents and families have traveled to Brazil despite the warning of impending doom. It appears that every medal winner has their family in the stands rooting them on. I am a sentimental fool and love the crowd shot with the parents living on edge of their seat as their child performs. I just want the child to have their great Olympic moment, so the parents won’t have a coronary event on television.

I am ready for next week and the track and field events, my personal favorite. But I must admit I like watching most of the events, even rowing. I also find myself rooting for other countries because it wouldn’t be a competition if America won everything. I noticed that Kazakhstan won a medal in swimming. The guy that won that medal is now a national hero in that country, never having to pay for a drink the rest of his life. His name is Dmitriy Balandin, you will forget his name, but he will have a statue built in his honor.

This week has been great to watch not just because I love sports but also because a day without Trump and Hillary is a good day. Everybody needs a break from that over the top coverage and all of the attention on what one person said. Now if Michael Phelps declared he was running for president after the Olympics, he would probably win. The guy is unstoppable.

What if Steroids were Allowed in Sports

August 3, 2016

How many athletes would use them if they were allowed? Steroids will never be unbanned, but we already have seen what does happen when large groups of athletes use them. One doesn’t have to look very long ago to see the athletes from the Russian 2014 Winter Olympics team.   This well publicized and documented scheme of doping was orchestrated at the highest levels in their sporting hierarchy. They used sophisticated methods to mask their testing and achieved great success at the Games. I cannot wrap my mind around why they felt they would get away with this crime when most all others in the past have gone down in a blaze of glory. For those who decide to partake in the usage, it comes down risk and reward.

Steroids, growth hormone, blood doping and all of the other ways to enhance performance are not going to ever go away. The only way to slow it down is to make the punishment for getting caught harsh enough to deter. Lifetime bans on incrimination may be the last step to rid the majority of the cheating. Even then, there will be some fools that will take the risk, especially if it means a chance at a big paycheck. Most athletes know when they are going to get tested so they cycle their schemes around those test dates. Random testing catches a few but I really don’t think that it has deterred usage with results that most sports entities are looking for.

As far as a solution with a Libertarian bend would be to lift all bans on usage and doping and let the forces have their way. Does it sound like madness? Records and statistics would go away because guys would probably smack 90 home runs a year, unless the pitchers are so much better that less home runs are hit. The usage would shorten the lives of many of the users, all statistics would have an asterisk placed next to them and children would get their hands on them.  Bad idea, can’t happen, won’t happen.

Now we’re back to punishment as the only deterrent. Public shaming has been already be used as way of ridiculing the guilty but as you know, it has its limits. The professional sports leagues need to get tougher to combat the usage, but they find they get pushback from players unions. The middle ground may be to have mandates placed in contracts that if you get caught using then you will have your contract revoked matter what is guaranteed. Let’s face it, the reason people go down the enhancement path is because of big pay days and that they be reinstated after serving a suspension.

It will come down to the players agreeing to harsher punishments, not the owners. The owners like the results that enhanced players bring but they hate it more when those players get caught, it reflects on their brand and franchises to allow cheating. The battle still needs to be fought over the stricter rules and that will involve lot litigation and negotiating. In the end, the players should want a level playing field but somehow the change is coming slow. Because the process is slow, newer methods are being discovered and ways of cheating are evolving faster than the rule makers can keep up with.

The Olympics are almost here so don’t be surprised to hear more and more about cheaters taking the risk. It’s unfortunate we will have to question if a world record is set in track and field race or Russian victories and some of the most innocent appearing participants being skeptically examined.  The whole Olympic doping scheming goes back over 30 years and who knows how many world records were set with juiced athletes. I will just watch and enjoy the Games for what they are and never mind the suspicious activity, otherwise why have them at all.

 

Sports on the Radio is Still Free…Maybe

July 19, 2016

I just got my cable bill and noticed the ever-increasing charges for watching my local sporting teams. As the tickets of the live events increase and less people attend, fans are can turn to the television to catch almost every ballgame. This is where the cable and satellite providers get you. They have you hooked on their sports package and your wallet is what they want to keep getting into. Sure, it’s still cheaper than going to a game but when your overall bill climbs to $150 a month, you might have to take a hard look at what you are getting.

For instance, in my household, I have the satellite sports package and my overall bill is running $140 a month. My bill includes some movie channels but most important I have my local sports teams being viewed in High Definition. I have to do pay extra for the high definition viewing as well, once you see it you can never watch standard definition again. Some of the local sports teams play as much as fifty miles from my house and are not feasible for me to attend during the week.  I have the luxury of watching all games on the big screen, in a lazy boy chair with a cup holder.

Where is all of this leading to? Television contracts are driving up the revenue for pro sports which in turn means players are getting paid more. When players get paid more, cost for seats rise in price, television contracts rise, cable and satellite costs rise and the cycle keep repeating itself over and over. The days of getting a free game on your TV are almost extinct unless you have a nifty pair of rabbit ears (you know the antenna prongs you can set up in your house) or you have and antiquated aerial antenna on your rooftop. This eliminates 99% of sports fans who are ponying up the cable/dish ransom.

How do we get around paying the ransom? Well, you have a few choices which are not perfect but do offer some solace. The radio is still free last time I checked, unless you add in the gasoline in the car or the electricity or battery it takes to run one. You can go to a friend’s house and bribe him with beer and snacks to let you watch a game. You can go to a sports bar, order a coke and eat the free pretzels and hopefully not get thrown out. Hmmm, this is not as easy as I thought.  The only other way to watch a free game is to go to a store that has a big screen television and have them turn on a game for you while you sit on one of those comfy couches.

On a serious note, be prepared to keep digging deeper into your wallet to watch all sporting events unless you are prepared to watch only pickup basketball games at the park. When you think about, your property taxes are paying for the upkeep of that park and those are only going up too.  It comes down to how much you are willing to pay and how important it is to you.  I look at it as luxury to watch games in my big recliner and look at the 55” screen. It hasn’t reached the point for me to cancel the sports channel but there may come a time when I turn or my transistor radio and putter around in the garage like my dad did.  It was gratifying to him to have the ballgame on while he was multitasking. He was multi-tasking before the word was evented and all because he loved his sports.

On the Cusp of the Summer Olympics

July 6, 2016

 The Summer Olympics will be arriving soon into our living rooms projecting onto our big screen TV’s from the shores of Rio. I admit, I have heard more about the Zika virus, body parts floating onto the beach and Russian steroid abusers than about the events and the athletes. Brazil has got their hands full this year and hopefully those folks can pull it off. We all want to see great athletic endeavors along with Brazil’s reputation for partying and frivolity more than bug bites and potential terrorist sad sacks trying to impose their will.

The two-week spectacle has always had a special place in my heart since the years that Jim McKay was the MC for ABC Sports. If were not for the great broadcasting by the Wide World Sports and ABC team, I would of not even watch the Olympics. I was hooked when I watched my first Olympics in 1972, the Olympics that featured Mark Spitz and a hostage crisis. I was very young and impressionable and inspired by the heroics of the athletes but at the same type baffled by the hostage crisis. The ABC broadcast team handled the situation will great concern and compassion as the nation was glued to the TV to watch the compelling events unfold.

Most of the sporting events we know nothing about, so we count on the Olympics to inform and educate us. Who on earth knows anything about Greco Roman Wrestling? Unfortunately, we will not see most of these obscure events because we will get bombarded with swimming and gymnastics. I, for instance, enjoy the track and field portion because it is the most diversified of all of the sports. Track and Field offers a wide variety of events that will showcase athletes from a multitude of countries that actually have a chance of winning. In particular, I can’t get enough of pole vaulting and high jumping. In addition, the 100 meter and 200-meter races are about as time honored as it gets and Usain Bolt will be competing and running again like lightning.

 

It is easy for all of us to feel cynical about the Olympics as a commercialized event full of cheating, shmaltzy glamorization of athletes who get paid for their participation. Certainty it feels that way sometimes and it makes us long for the day when Bruce Jenner was on a Wheaties box and not People magazine.   On the contrary, I am glad we still have the Olympics as one of the few real global events that brings the world together as one for a fleeting moment. The terrorist and the haters may not like the big spectacle it but maybe they could find some joy in a little race or a weightlifting event. Better yet, maybe they can be inspired to see how far they can push themselves to excel in the world of sports which is the truth and essence of the Olympic spirit.

 

It's the Shoes, Gotta Be the Shoes

June 29, 2016

 Athletics and shoes have teamed up the last forty years to put their mark on fashion. Before that, shoes where considered just equipment and very little attention was given, even when Joe Willie Namath was donning a pair of white cleats in the AFL.  As a kid I never thought the Converse Chuck Taylors, Joe Lapchicks or PF Flyers were anything so special that I had to have them. In fact, I would wear any damn shoe that my parents could afford and sometimes I wore my older brother’s hand me down shoes.

Then something started happening in the early seventies in shoe world. I am not an historian, but I think Adidas and Puma shoes became more and more visible. When a neighbor kid began wearing the white Adidas with the three black stripes, I was smitten. But still, my parents couldn’t afford them so when the neighbor kid was done with his old Adidas, he gave them to me. I wore them until they basically fell apart and then I taped them together to squeeze out a little bit more life. Then I had to settle for the Kmart brand that had either two or four stripes, not the same status and everybody knew it.

It wasn’t really until Michael Jordan came around for the athletic shoe market to take off. There were others before Jordan’s influence, but they never had the impact that his branding has.   Jordan and Nike revolutionized how young people feel about shoes. It was no longer just a fashion piece but more about status and hipness. The rarer and more exclusive, the Jordan shoe, the more cultural value it had amongst the kids. Their parents had to shell out over a hundred dollars for a pair of basketball shoes that became unchartered territory for a “gym shoe.”

So, twenty-five years later we have reached the point of saturation for athletic shoe styles and brands and now has become just another commodity. Sure, it’s billion-dollar market but I don’t think we have seen a new revolution of shoes for a few years. I tend to believe the next wave with somehow incorporate smart technology much like a smart watch. You will be able to know the wear status and temperature of a shoe for optimum performance. Of course, you will know that your toenails are too long because the shoe will tell you so.

In the last decade athletic shoes are also being required to make statements about our beliefs and causes. I have seen many of pink shoes in a game supporting breast cancer awareness and numbers scrawled on them to support the passing of a fellow athlete. You also can get an athletic shoe in any color and style which make me longing for the days of Johnny Unitas black high-top cleats. As I age, I want fewer frills on my shoes because a $150 pair jogging shoes is not going to improve my performance. I own a pair of Stan Smith all white tennis shoes that were so hard to find that I had to wait weeks to get them on the internet. I guess simple shoes are not cool, but I think there comes a time when uncool is cool again. The day is coming.

 

Why We Watch Sports

June 21, 2016

Years of watching sports, good and bad and hours and hours invested into the pastime often leaves you wondering why I do this. Why am I not doing something more productive like cleaning out the garage? Sometimes you sit or often lying there in a relaxed state, taking in a golf tournament or a football game where your team in not playing and no emotional expulsion will take place.  The minute you see something that is truly an outstanding feat, your brain triggers your body to respond in rapture. The second your favorite team has an umpire or referee make a call against your squad, the blood and venom boil over and something not very pretty comes out of your mouth.

The weekly column will explore the depths of our little brains for the reasons we watch the athletes and sporting endeavors of the day. Week One, Column 1 is geared at hero worship.

Our sports heroes are not always the first ones we saw on TV or at the stadium, for me it was the older neighbor kids that were good basketball and baseball players. Our neighborhood was filled with families with kids, this being the era of the baby boomers. This was a time before video games and child abductions, so we played outside constantly without adult supervision.  When I was idolizing the bigger kids on the block, I also was really into wrestling and roller derby. These sports offered bigger than life action heroes that where fighting good against evil.

As I aged into teen years, I often gravitated to athletes that where not the biggest stars of the day. I found something in them that I discovered in myself even if I didn’t know it at the time.  I remember liking odd balls like Mark “The Bird” Fydrych”, Pistol Pete Maravich and Billy “White Shoes” Johnson.  They all had something unique about them that were nontraditional that I still find myself gravitating towards.

I sure you can see your own personality in the athletes and heroes you chose to follow in your formative years. If you liked Reggie Jackson, the slugger or Michael Jordan growing up then you probably like the best of the best in most things in life.  You demand excellence in yourself and others you deal with on a day to day to basis. Take a look, there is some validity to my simple little personality test.

Why do we as spectators and fans need our heroes? Most of the time it is because of the skill level of their performance that we admire but it is also because we see ourselves in them.  We admire not just their physical gifts, but it can be the way they handle themselves on the field of play.  Nowadays I find myself rooting for the older players who haven’t received all of the high accolades of others in their playing career. Okay, I am sucker for the underdog. On the contrary, the worst thing you can be called as a fan is a “band wagon fan”. You know the person that starts wearing the team jersey when they are in first place because everybody likes a winner. If are the fan of the team that just lost the championship, does that jersey get put away until they are winning again?

The most recent of sports heroes to transcend to the highest of highs to be placed on the mantel of immortals has to be the recent feats of LeBron James. Sometimes he has been the goat and heel but say no more about his efforts in the NBA finals. He willed his team to beat the once invincible Golden State Warriors and gave the city of Cleveland its first championship in professional sports in fifty-two years. Until he delivered on that promise, he made he was not going to hear the end of the criticism. Congrats to LeBron James, The Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland.

The Highland Games are Going Strong

May 19, 2016

I have always been curious to see what this is all about after years seeing advertisements for these Games. There was always a picture of a large bearded man heaving a big rock or throwing a Thor-like hammer. Locally, there is a version of the Highland Games even though we are six thousand miles away from the real highlands of Scotland. The internet has allowed the world to get a good look what at first glance appears to be an outdoor festival with a bunch of people performing ancient feats of strength. Yes, it is that and more.

The Highland Games celebrates Scottish and Celtic culture and especially that of the Scottish Highlands. Yes, you get a good dose of bagpipes and men wearing kilts which is part of it, but it centers on the competitions for the Scottish athletics along with piping, dancing and drumming.   Even though the events are based on centuries and centuries of Highland culture, the organized version of what we see today was started in the 1800’s. It is said to be influenced by a chap by the name of Baron Pierre de Coubertin who saw a display at the Paris Exhibition of 1889. He wanted to plan the event based on a revival of the Olympic Games. There will be debate on this by many but there is no denying where the games originated.

The Highland Games has become international with a season that usually runs from May through September. The most renown Highland Games event is the Cowel Highland Games held in Dunoon, Scotland. This event will attract an international crowd of 25,000 people. In the US, there are two events that will attract even more, those being held in Pleasanton, California which have as many as 50,000 spectators during Labor Day and the one at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina which sees more than 30,000 fans.

Of course, there is the great cultural aspect of the games, but I really think that most of the spectators are there to drink some good Scotch, what? of course I am kidding. When I go to my first games, I really want to see some good athletes perform acts of strength and listen to the bagpipes, something about the pipes that can bring a tear to my eye.

As far as the feats of strength here is a list of some the events:

The Scottish Hammer Throw – Similar to the traditional hammer throw but here the man or woman throw a metal ball that has a four-foot shaft connected to it. The feet stay in a fixed position as the athlete twirls it overhead then releases.

The Caber Toss – An athlete holds a long pine pole that is tapered and held end over end. With the thicker end on the bottom, the pole is tossed and flipped so the thinner end is on the ground and the thicker is on top. The goal is to get the pole to stand straight up in a twelve o’clock position.

Stone Put – This is similar to the shot put but here a real stone is used instead of a steel ball. There are two differing competitions with this event, one allows for any type of pre-throw motion and the other is a standing position. As long as the stone is heaved with only one hand with the stone cradled against the neck. These stones weigh various weights ranging from 20 to 26 pounds for men and 13 to 18 for women in the standing only event and 16-22 and 8 -12 in the open throwing event.

Sheaf toss – The athletes have to toss a 20-pound bag of straw with a pitch fork over a bar. Like pole vaulting, the bar is risen after successful attempts. The women use a ten-pound bag.

There other great events of strength throughout the festival which are just as medieval and entertaining as well. Even though most Highland Game festivals are open invitational, these events do create a statistical database for the athletes and competitors know who they are up against. There is also a World Championship event called the World Highland Games Championships held every year, since 1980.

There are hundreds of versions of the Highland Games held internationally because it has something for everybody to enjoy. I am looking forward to seeing my first games this summer because I think most of us can appreciate this type of time-honored celebration of culture and athletics.  Now where’s the Scotch booth?

 

 

Pass Me Those Garlic Fries

April 28, 2016

“You are what you eat”, the old saying that I am not sure what it means, if applied at a ball game then I am a hot dog. I am not sure what it implies but I do know that I enjoy hot dogs with sour kraut, mustard and onions about as much as a lobster dinner. I admit, I do have carnivorous tendencies, but have you ever had a tofu hot dog? When eating at sporting events, the majority of us forget about health choices and the actual benefit of the food we are ingesting into our bodies.  When I am at home, I am fairly sure I would never eat a bowl of tortilla chips covered in hot steaming orange cheese sauce and jalapeno peppers but a ball game I would devour it like a lion and their prey.

You can go to most sporting events and find multiple choices in sausages when years before it was hot dogs as the only choice for meat stuffed into membrane. The old-time favorites of peanuts and popcorn are still available but now you can indulge in nachos, garlic fries, pizza, a bowl with any kind of ethnic food lumped into it, sushi and yes even a salad. The smell waffles through the stadium and even the strongest of health-conscious fans break down and have something to munch on. I have seen people eating salad at a game which goes against my rules for behavior at a ballgame, no salad during any sporting event or hanging around manly men.

Yes, ballgame food is indulgent, not a healthy choice in most cases, costs an arm and leg and is distracting from the contest itself. But we like it, we want it and will throw down ten dollars for beer and six dollars for a sausage.  It is all about the experience of a live event that is best enjoyed while eating garlic fries. It is an extension of our living room with our big screen TV’s and our food. Why can’t we just watch the game without self-indulgence?  Is it because the game is not really an enjoyable experience without a hot dog and by eating a hot dog completes the whole event. Could be. I think that the hot dog and game are one in the same.  Without one you can’t have the other. We are trained early as fans by others that this is the way you act.

The food at sporting events has spawned many of spin off businesses. Take the chicken wing for instance.  The once disrespected part of the chicken has become the most important part. There are probably over a thousand chicken joints catering to the wing craze. You can bet artificial wings are on the way.  I can really see chickens in the future being genetically morphed or scientifically enhanced to have four wings to help alleviate wing shortages during the Super Bowl.   In addition, I saw garlic fries now being offered in the frozen food section of the supermarket. I not sure if I would ever buy these but it is good to know I can fulfill that craving without having to go to the ballgame.

So, the trend that is now a reality, you cannot bring a picnic basket into a game. You can still bring your bag in without some food items but you will probably be sitting next to a guy wolfing down a colossal dog and beer and you will look at that guy and either say, “That smuck spent twenty bucks on that meal” or “damn, I wish I had twenty bucks to spend on that.” Sadly, the costs of this stuff are so inflated that it keeps some families from attending more games. I have yet to see a kid menu at the game nor a senior citizens discount. I understand that the quadrupling of concession prices helps keep the team on the field, but I still need to know why the workers only a get a small wage and the washed-up pitcher gets twenty million dollars a year.  In my humble opinion, without the fans buying overpriced hot dogs the overpriced players wouldn’t be on the team.  Sometimes a hot dog is just a hot dog but sometimes a hot dog is a meal ticket.

Bowling the Lost Art

April 22, 2016

When I heard my neighborhood bowling alley was closing because the lease was getting too expensive, a wave of sadness came over me. You just can’t pack up a bowling alley and move it somewhere else and start over. It’s gone and slowly the era of bowling dies another death.  The great indoor and year-round sport loses to economics and a changing demographic that rather play a video game version. The older generation of leagues of bowlers has not brought the next generation of bowlers to the sport.

Let’s face the truth, bowling has never been considered a sexy sport. I don’t see a lot sexy people in the bowling alley more do I go there for that. It’s about honing your craft, competing, hanging with buddies, talking trash, fist pumping, drinking long necks and enjoying a sport that doesn’t require 1000 bucks in equipment. Even if you don’t have the equipment you can rent the alleys stuff at a reasonable rate. Bowling has always been ridiculed for the people that regularly play and has been mocked in movies like the Big Lebowski and Kingpin. I get it, the sport has a wide span of players and embraces anybody who decides to play. On contrary, you can go to any bowling alley on most weeknights and see a large variety of people in bowling leagues that ranges from CEO’s and doctors to manual laborers and barbers.

Bowling also gets a bad rap about the debate of is it’s a sport or more of a past time. Ridiculous.   The practice and hours spent by many of bowlers will tell how hard it is to develop consistent rolling motion. The beauty of the curve that can pick up a 7 -10 split cannot be accomplished without attention focused on precision and form.  The same can be said for golf but then golf never really gets the ridicule that bowlers hear. There is a bit of snobbery when it comes to golf versus bowling but then again, I don’t care for those who criticize something they themselves are only mediocre at.

The history of professional bowlers is long storied. A lot of us were introduced to professional bowling through the dulcet tones of Chris Shenkel on Wide World of Sports. He covered professional bowling for thirty five years as it became one of ABC’s signature sports on Saturday afternoon.

The bowling alley sprung up and languished from 1950’s to the 1970’s and were packed with serious bowlers, families and lonely people. Now the decline has been on the wall for past thirty years due to the high cost of space and labor. I have a feeling it will become a fringe sport with smaller alleys like a pool hall. Unfortunately, the cost to bowl will increase just because of the laws of economics with the reduction of open lanes. I am sure most of us that are sad about the passing of our beloved childhood establishment into something less cool like a drugstore.   The beauty of bowling is the fact that it is a sport for everybody and if you want to be really good at it, you can get paid.

I will always remember the time I brought a first date to go bowling because if she couldn’t show her fun side at the beginning then she wasn’t right for me. We didn’t go on a second date.    Life goes on and bowling will as well, no matter how many alleys get closed.

When Sports Coverage Becomes a Hollywood Tabloid Show

March 22, 2016

Twenty-four-hour news coverage of sports is great for all sport fans and employment for all of the thousands of folks who make it happen. But all of this microscopic coverage of the major sports has reached the point where it rivals the tabloid Hollywood television programs for real content.  It’s not only television but also sports talk radio which is becoming less about sports but more about airing juicy stories about athletes innocuous behavior or their latest contract negotiations.  I can only take so much listening to this babble before I have to turn it to the news station for a traffic report or public radio to learn about the depletion of the frog population of northern Vermont.

When I do listen in on the sports talk radio banter, I get more of a kick out of the passionate listeners who call in to voice their opinion about how bad Johnny Manziel is acting in public. Really?   To be put on the air to talk to a broadcaster about this irrelevant crapola?  I am trying to understand this behavior and what does it really have to do with sports. The programs that cater to this type of listener must work hard to find the kind of stories that will find listeners, (mostly men who have little to do) that are compelled to call in. Because I listen every so often, I must secretly like to hear this type of story and the throngs of men who have to voice their opinion from Deflategate to Bryce Harpers latest comment.

I like to watch my sports and sometimes listen to a game recap but send me off to bed when the discussion turns to table of ex jocks guy’s yucking it up about the game sporting expensive suits.   I truly get the economics of the sporting industry and the need to make it into an entertainment experience.  What I really like to see in sporting coverage is more emphasis on why the sports we watch are great, not tabloid style gossipy ramblings.

I find sports most interesting when I see athlete excelling in a masterful way. I am curious to know how they train what do they do separate themselves for their competition. I am curious about all sports besides just football, baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer. Have you ever wondered how a competition cliff diver practices or how a professional wrestler trains?   I know this isn’t mainstream stuff, but I find it a helluva lot more interesting then LeBron James contract situation.  The fans in Cleveland might disagree but then again, Cleveland is starving for a championship trophy of any kind. This is why I enjoy the Olympics because you get to see things you rarely see and the athletes that dedicate their lives for the event.

Next time you turn on the radio to the one of these sports programs that likes to dig up tabloid horse manure, call them up and chew them out about their programming. I know that controversy sells, but only because it is a reflection of everything that is bad in the world. Take the high road and go shoot some hoops at the gym instead, you will feel better.

 

Get Up…Get Movin

February 16, 2016

Football is over except rumblings about players acting badly. Hockey is done messing around with the first half of season, now it’s time for “old time hockey” and the drive to the Cup.  Baseball is heading down south where there is no snow on the field. March Madness isn’t quite mad at this point and the NBA is experiencing a history making team. The Olympics are gearing up for the summer and golf and tennis are just a blip on the radar. Big wave surfing is in full swing and alpine skiing is exciting to watch if you can find it on your television.

This is a good time of the year to not watch sports and get into the gym. It could be time to take some golf lessons or start jogging around the high school track. I personally dusted off my bicycle and almost rode a mile. The knees popped and the legs were a little wobbly, but it felt like progress. Its time to put the beer can down, get out of the recliner, gulp a protein shake and shoot some hoops.  Even if it’s raining or snowing outside, gear up, toughen up and run around the block like an Ironman. Take off the clothes hanging on the elliptical machine and crank out twenty minutes of sweat and pain.

You get a chance to reinvent yourself every winter before things warm up and you walk outside with shorts and a tank top on. Wouldn’t it be nice to walk outside sporting some new muscles, ones that look bigger and less wimpy? For me, I want to start lifting a little weight but even more important, I want to be able to touch my toes and feel more limber. They say having tight hamstrings results in back pain. Who hasn’t had back pain? Stretching is the least expensive of all exercise programs, unless you hire a coach to yell at you to hold your legs and keep your head down. I began stretching in bed. I discovered this little jewel of a trick after having an excruciating leg cramp in bed that felt like someone dug an ice pick into my calf. As you get older, getting a sports type injury in bed is as about as bad as it can get.

So today make it a day to challenge yourself with an activity that requires some sweat or at least some grunting. Shoveling snow doesn’t count but if you are in snow country, strap on some cross-country skis and trek on down the road and hopefully not fall down. I am going to go bike riding today and extend my journey to two miles. Who knows where this could lead, maybe I have to buy those shiny shorts and fancy shirts and get really serious.

 

The Super Bowl, Quarterbacks and Hot Wings

January 29, 2016

 

So, another year and your team are not in it. So, everyone must pick a side as they say but you are torn.  Okay maybe not torn as much as maybe you don’t really care as long as it is a good game.  For instance, last year, the game came down to the last plays so most of the watching world put down the hot wing for a minute to see the crescendo ending.   For those Seattle fans who took the brutal loss on the jaw, you got another year to recover and hopefully you find your way back.  Last year also had two teams that didn’t have the beloved player that everyone roots for to succeed.  Tom Brady and Richard Sherman are both polarizing characters that do not garnish a lot of love outside of their teams fan base  so the game was more about the matchup of two good teams.

This year has the two big stories of Peyton Manning’s possibly swan song of a career and Cam Newton’s first appearance in the big show. Both of these guys has their detractors but they are also the biggest stars of their teams.  Manning comes into this game on his last legs and is in a position where he doesn’t have to do all of the heavy lifting as in prior years. Denver’s defense is really good and must be at the ultimate best to stop the Cam Newton express. Newton and his boys have been solid all year and present a daunting task for Denver to overtake.

I am sure the betting in Vegas will be siding with Carolina but how much the spread will end up is yet to be determined.  As the game gets closer there will be some angst and nervousness about who to take.  The Carolina defense has been crushing and putting a lot of heat on the quarterbacks and this is the biggest dilemma for Manning.  We all saw the melt down when Denver played Seattle and I am sure he is very aware of having a good start.  He will have to pull every Omaha and every audible trick up his sleeve to get one by the Carolina boys.

As for Cam Newton and his rise as a superstar and MVP, he can validate the season and career and with a victory. Every quarterback that plays in the big game knows the status a victory brings to a career. Manning won one Super Bowl after a storied career but if Newton does not win this one, he will discover how hard and desperate it can be to get back on top.  Seattle made it twice in a row but will find it harder and harder to make it back with the same core squad. The change- over in personnel and parity in the NFL gives you a three window to make it with your current team make up. Newton has looked really good and will be a force to contend with but Denver who just survived the Tom Brady show will be up to the task.

I want Manning to win this one because he seems like he has done everything with class in his career. In a karma kind of way that should be rewarded. I didn’t root for him in his prior Super Bowl attempts when he was with Indy and when he was with Denver, he really let me down.  I had plunked down some money on a Super Bowl pool like most of football fans and was delighted to see the number 0 and 0 come up. I was thinking that I had a good chance to win a prize. First play of the game, you saw it, a safety against Denver and the 2 to nothing score sent me straight to the beer keg. That was one of worst Super Bowls ever played and Manning was on my special list of all things repulsive. I have now forgiven him and hope wins one for all of the old guys with sore necks and want one more chance at glory.