This is Why You Should Love Sports

3 May

I woke up this morning with 2 more reasons to love sports.

Last night, Jered Weaver of the Anaheim Angels did what most pitchers hope to do in a lifetime. Against the Minnesota Twins, Weaver threw a no-hitter and solidified his name among the Major League Baseball greats. Phil Humber of the Chicago White Sox threw a no-hitter just 2 weeks ago as well.

A few hour before, the New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals in a triple overtime playoff game. Regardless of the winner, this game was a playoff game for the ages. A true defensive game filled with all the pressure of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

These are the nights that sports fans live for.

The amazingness of a no-hitter in the MLB and the sweet victory and triumph of an NHL playoff win is a reminder that in today’s scandal filled world of sports, there is still the untouchable quality that makes sports what it really is today. While we are constantly faced with the harsh realities of a world in which bounty scandals, NCAA violations, and contract negotiations seem to take over, its the record breaking and hard work of the athletes that should be celebrated. The human interest stories about perseverance and determination is what really makes a sports fan love sports.

That being said, a true sports fan feels for the athletes and the teams. Ask any sports fan and they will tell you, with their team’s wins and losses, a fan really does feels the emotion.

Earlier in the afternoon, it was announced that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had signed a new free agent. Eric LeGrand, the defensive tackle from Rutgers University saw his dreams come true when he was signed to an NFL team. As a personal friend of mine, I am so proud and happy for Eric. Greg Schiano has illustrated another positive that can come out of the world of sports and for that I am grateful. Eric’s story is just beginning as he will no doubt continue to shock the world of sports with each passing day.

It can’t be denied that the sports world feels the great loss of someone like Junior Seau, a true superstar, model athlete, and NFL great. His death is one that the entire world of sports will feel and it just shows the harsh realities of the world we live in.

While there will always be down times of sadness and scandal in the world of sports, there will always be times of incredible highs and elation. As sports fans we should take notice of joy in moments like a professional league draft, the victories of the playoffs, and the triumphs of those who break records.

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Obsessed with the East Coast NHL Playoffs

2 May

If you’re looking for me between the hours of 7:30-10:30pm this week, you’ll find me on the edge of my couch with eyes glued to the tv. I’m completely hooked. I don’t know if its the excitement that surrounds the 4 eastern conference teams, the complete madness of how they’ve made it to this round,  or the extreme likability of each of the players but I do know that the current Eastern Conference playoffs have not disappointed. Perhaps its because they are all so close in vicinity to each other or because the possibilities of the next round match up is even crazier to think about. Either way, I’m obsessed.

The 4 teams in the Eastern Conference Semis – The New York Rangers, The New Jersey Devils, The Philadelphia Flyers, and The Washington Capitals are lighting up the east coast as we speak.

Let’s visit the Rangers-Capitals series first.

The New York Rangers (my personal favorite) beat the Ottawa Senators in a 7 game series that I almost thought was going to slip away. The Senators were fast and exposed the Rangers weaknesses but with the help of Boston College rookie, Chris Kreider they pulled out a win. Then you have the Washington Capitals who beat the highly regarded Boston Bruins in another 7 game series that was close throughout. The Caps are really peaking at the right time and it shows. In the last game the Caps showed why they cannot be counted out.

All playoffs come with stars but this series really has it all. Henrik Lundqvist, the do it all goalie who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and is single handedly one of the reasons the Rangers are in the playoffs. Chris Kreider, the lovable rookie who just turned 21 this week and continues to help the Rangers when he is most needed. Ryan Callahan, the captain who always seems to come through in the clutch. The Caps have Alex Ovechkin. While he hasn’t been as dominant as of late, he has the ability to heat up and really bring it.

Right now the series is tied 1-1 so its really anybody’s series to win.

Then just a few exits away on I-95 the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers are growing their rivalry with each game. They are also tied 1-1 and its anybody’s guess who will win this series. The Flyers were definitely the favorite going in because of the way they took out the Penguins in the first round but it doesn’t look like the Devils are backing down from a fight. After 2 periods of hockey last night the Devils looked like they had given up but whipped out 4 goals in the 3rd period to shock the Flyers. The Flyers looked like a team that lost their way in the last period of the game and for that I would be scared.

The Devils have their always reliable goalie in Martin Brodeur. Another rookie, 19 year old, Adam Larson is showing why he was a first round pick last year. The Flyers are doing it with their stars Claude Giroux and Danny Briere.

The winners of these series is anyone’s guess. I for one would love to see a NY/NJ or NY/Phila match-up. No more then 2 hours a part and probably the craziest and loudest fans anywhere.

As a person who really didn’t get into hockey until recently, this year’s playoffs have breathed new life into the world of NHL hockey. There is so much excitement that its contagious.

If the 1st four games of this week are any indication of what is to come in the rest of the series, then the east coast better be ready.

 

A little bit more about Kreider: http://nymag.com/daily/sports/2012/04/chris-kreiders-crazy-april.html

 

Charlotte Bobcats Making History for all the Wrong Reasons.

26 Apr

The 2012 Charlotte Bobcats are on the verge of having the worst winning percentage in NBA history. Their record stands at 7-58 for the season and tonight they try to avoid having the worst winning percentage ever when they face the New York Knicks. With a loss they would pass the 1972-1973 Philadelphia 76ers who currently stand at .110%.

Last night they faced the injury laden and controversial Orlando Magic and they still couldn’t win. The Magic went on a few huge runs, made some shots from behind the arc and the Bobcats were not able to get out a win. It sad to see a team lose so much and so badly but in the world of sports, this is sometimes a reality that many face. It’s good I’m not a coach, because I don’t even know what you would say to a team like this.

Now I don’t want to sit here and criticize the NBA but honestly, the Bobcats’ record just shows the lack of team that is present in the NBA right now. And this very “lack of team effort” is what so many criticize the NBA for on a regular basis. Don’t get me wrong, the NBA has some huge stars and incredible teams. But can you honestly sit here and tell me which team in the NBA is best without shouting out their stars? While stars are present in every sport, it is mostly the NBA that has these star powers who are constantly carrying their teams every night.

The Charlotte Bobcats do have some great star power but it has clearly not been enough. They are a fairly young team and it really just looks like they haven’t learned what playing like a team is about. I’m hoping that this season has been a big learning experience for them because I’m a huge Kemba Walker fan and I would like to see him do well. To quote Gerald Henderson last night, “Nobody in here is used to losing like we have lost this year, it just kind of humbles you and teaches you a lot about what it takes to be successful in this game. It also teaches you what it takes to have a good team in the NBA. It’s a learning process.” This team has a lot of young talent and maybe just maybe they will actually learn from this.

So here’s the thing, it really doesn’t make a difference to me if they win or lose tonight because I think the bigger issue is what this means for the NBA. When teams reach incredible lows like this there are tons of questions that go throughout the mind of fans. We have seen teams in the NFL, MLB, and NHL with tough losing records but none really stand out as much as the losing records that occur in the NBA.

The biggest issue here is the lack of team play in the NBA. I don’t want to sit here and continue to criticize the NBA because I do like sports and I enjoy the NBA playoffs. But the Bobcats really go to show the bigger issue here. Many people, don’t support the NBA because there is such a lack of team. Charlotte is just another example of the NBA’s problem. Lack of team play. Maybe their lack of success will force NBA players to look into the team effort. There are always going to be the star players, but maybe these stars will step up and raise the perception of their team and the overall NBA.

Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s game, the Bobcats have a staunch task ahead of them for next season. They have the best chance for the #1 pick in the draft and can therefore draft the #1 player entering the draft, Anthony Davis (Kentucky). The biggest question then is will Davis be able to help them play as a team? One thing Davis has is the understanding of team basketball that was played at Kentucky. However, his star power coupled with the already existing players of the Bobcats doesn’t necessarily mean they will be automatically good. They need to play as a team before they can be successful.

The NBA is currently about success and money, all sports are, but they are the prime example. The Miami Heat and LA Lakers are examples of successful teams who do so with their star power. Its specifically because of the lack of team present in the NBA, that I rooted for the Mavericks last year.

It is said, “there is no I in team,” an idea that the NBA sometimes fails to recognize. I don’t have an answer to this problem that the NBA faces but I just want it to be known that another sports fan thinks something needs to change. NBA, let the Bobcats be your wake-up call.

Thank You Pat Summitt

23 Apr

Thank you. Those are the first words that came to mind as soon as I found out Pat Summitt was stepping down as the Head Coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols last week.

Even though I usually root against the Lady Vols, I will forever be indebted to Pat Summitt and everything she has meant to college sports and specifically, women. The impact that Summitt has had on the world of women’s basketball will never go unnoticed. Even those who criticize women’s basketball know who Pat Summitt is and would never deny the impact that she has had on the sports world. And not only does Summitt own the record for the most victories in all of college basketball (Men and Women), no one is really that close to beating her either.

I have been lucky enough to see Summitt coach in person.  The sidelines of a Tennessee basketball game l will never be the same. The energy and prowess that she brings to the court will probably never be matched.

Pat Summitt built the Tennessee Volunteers Women’s Basketball team into one of the biggest powerhouses in sports. The legacy that she leaves behind is one filled with championship victories and successful student-athletes. But she is not done yet. Summitt will still be a presence on the Tennessee Lady Vols team as Head Coach Emeritus.

In a week where I have seen countless articles about the struggle of women in the sports world, Pat Summitt has been the model of just how far women have come.  She has elevated the sport of women’s basketball to what it is today and has also been integral in the elevation and status of women in the sports world. What Pat Summitt was able to accomplish during her 38 years at Tennessee, some people just hope for in their lifetime. She took the Tennessee Women’s Basketball team from a small gymnasium where they had to fight for practice time to a state of the art, basketball only practice facility. I had the opportunity to visit that basketball facility last year and let me tell you, its beyond amazing.

While the sports world has always been faced with scandals and violations, Summitt was never in that part of the spotlight.  Pat Summitt has reached all of her accomplishments without controversy. She hasn’t needed violations to get to where she is today and her legacy is richer because of that.

No matter what, Pat Summitt will always be a part of sports history.

After being diagnosed with the early stages of dementia and coaching an entire season through this diagnosis, it was time. As any fan could tell you, there were times when she just didn’t look the same on the sidelines. Alzheimer’s is a tough disease for many reasons but what saddens me the most, is the effect that dementia can have on a person’s memory. Pat Summitt has so much to remember and be proud of that its a shame she might not always remember her accomplishments, accolades, and experiences.

But let’s not think about what Pat Summitt might or might not be facing in the future, because based on the challenges and accomplishments she has had in the past, she won’t be backing down from this fight either. She will continue to be a spokesperson for Alzheimer’s and work with her fund, the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund. Summitt has meant so much to the world of sports and while she has stepped down from being head coach of the Lady Vols, I doubt that she is done making her impact.

So from one woman to another, thank you, Pat Summitt. Thank you for everything.

 

 

the one and done dilemma

18 Apr

last night, 5 student-athletes from the university of kentucky’s championship men’s basketball team declared for the 2012 nba draft. freshmen anthony davis, michael kidd-gilchrist and marquis teague, and sophomores terrence jones and doron lamb sat at the head table complete with their coach, john calipari and explained their intentions over a televised news conference. with their departures, kentucky loses 93.3% of their offense from this season.

let me just say, i don’t think anyone was too surprised by the announcement. the media present at the conference and espn3’s coverage could not have been better suited for a more deserving group of guys. they played a complete team game en route to the 2012 national championship victory over kansas.

but its not about the media or the hype its about the whole “one and done” situation. these 5 guys are projected to go in the top 30 picks of the nba draft (davis at #1 and kidd-gilchrist at #2) and have chosen to leave college after 1 year and pursue the nba.  the critics will talk about this for years. 5 students who are basically throwing away their opportunity at a college education to play basketball. but seriously, who wouldn’t jump at this amazing opportunity? this is the world we live in and i can’t really blame any of them for taking this opportunity.

as a fan of the game of basketball but also as a person who works in the world of academic support for college athletics, i have been struggling with my feelings and opinions on this very matter. i’m completely torn. this is a decision and a choice that is also present in many other intercollegiate sports that have a professional league. i’m a big believer in the “stay in school” mantra and therefore a big fan of the ncaa commercials that declare the importance of school and being a student-athlete (“just about all of us will go pro in something other than sports”). i don’t think anyone will ever deny the importance of a college degree.

however, i can’t help but be happy for the 5 guys from kentucky who have just declared for the draft. its not like they declared they would be going to the draft when they started school and its not like they spent the entire basketball season playing by themselves. yes, there are the people who argue that calipari is a “one and done” coach and that he just prepares his players for the nba. its not like this is the first time that any of his players have chosen to leave school after one year. but, this isn’t about calipari. its about these 5 guys. its about the way they have played as a team this whole year and brought a national championship to their school. its about their personal situations. and, its about their futures. ultimately, this is each one’s own choice.

if the nba did not allow people to enter the draft then this wouldn’t be a problem. but they do. so it is.

i can guarantee that this wasn’t such an easy decision for any of these guys to make. they have themselves, their families, and their futures to think about.

ok…so put yourself in one of their shoes. pretend you are michael kidd-gilchrist and you have this opportunity to probably be picked #2 in the nba draft and make all your dreams come true. what would you do?

see, its really not so easy.

NHL playoff madness

16 Apr

let me set the stage for you: the usual playoff beards are in effect, the fans are going crazy, and the fights are a plenty. it is playoff hockey season in the national hockey league and so far it has not disappointed. well, if you are a canucks or penguins fan then you might not agree completely.

so what’s going on? the playoffs are pure madness as far as the flyers/pens and canucks/kings fans might agree. the pittsburgh penguins most known for their star player sidney crosby have been favored to win it all. or at least to beat the philadelphia flyers. but they look like a team about to collapse and on the brink of being swept. to make matters worse, this game is such a huge rivalry that emotions are constantly flaring. however, the penguins do have the ability to come back and while they are down 3 games its always a possibility.

then you have the vancouver canucks and the los angeles kings. i don’t know if people are more surprised by this series or the flyers/pens right now but i do know that this is craziness. the highly favored president’s trophy winner, the canucks, are on the verge of being ousted by a team that has never taken a 3-0 in the series. if any team can come back from this, the canucks have that power. they can score a lot of points as we have seen this season so game 4 should be good.

the other playoff series are pretty reasonable, a few ties right now and a 2-1 lead by the predators. but none of these games are short of the drama. there have been 2 suspensions from the rangers/senators game that could provide costly in their current series. right now, it looks like there are a lot of teams that could grab the stanley cup but the question is, how easy will their road be? will there be more suspensions? who will emerge as the stars? the suspension of hagelin (ny rangers) and carkner (ottawa senators) just further proves that while the nhl will allow some of the drama, they are still serious about the punishments.

some critics might say that hockey is too violent and that the grown men and hockey players should not be fighting on the ice but really, that’s what everyone loves about it. what i like about hockey is that the excitement and passion from the fans translates to the ice and vice-versa. its not like the players don’t know what they’ve signed up for.  i went to my first professional hockey game last week and really felt the energy. everyone wants to get in on the game and the players exude the passion and excitement.

being that im a fan of sports, i love this madness. no one has really predicted that this was going to be the way the 2012 playoffs would pan out. from the looks of the 1st week of the playoffs, things will definitely get more interesting. not gonna lie, im more likely to watch these games now just to see the increased fan craziness and the ever present possibilities for more drama.

 

breaking the rules…

10 Apr

so many violations. so many scandals. and just another typical week in sports. its been a few weeks since we found out about the saints bounty scandal and only just a few days ago we find out about baylor university’s violations and impermissible recruitment of many of its star athletes.

to give a quick recap.

after careful investigation, the nfl found that the new orleans saints were in paying money and offering incentives to their players to knock players from other teams out of the games and injure them as well. obviously, no one really knows what went on but there is significant proof of these incentives and completely wrong acts. the nfl has since suspended the head coach, sean payton , for the entire season and suspended their general manager and one of the assistant coaches. not only were the bounty activities wrong, but people in the saints organization failed to report what they had seen and heard. many of the penalties could have been prevented had someone just said something but instead they let it go.

the baylor thing is a little more fresh. an athletic department that has had arguably their best athletic year in their college’s history is now being shown in another light. their violations have to do with the recruitment of their men’s and women’s basketball players. impermissible texts and visits have been found to have occurred by both coaching staffs. yes, both baylor’s men’s and women’s teams have been extremely successful this year. and the women’s team has the best player in the country, brittney griner. while the baylor athletic department has imposed some penalties on their own, the ncaa could offer further penalties. for now, we just sit and wait.

there is no question that what the saints and baylor athletic department did was wrong but the question is where do we go from here?

let me say first that these are completely separate issues. imposing harm on someone is very different from improper recruitment of athletes. yet, the coaches of both teams broke the rules. the saints could have in fact caused injuries to people and baylor might have unfairly won a championship. how is it fair for teams who break the rules to win and be successful while other teams can do it without breaking the rules? trust me, teams that don’t break the rules can win fair and square.

rules are basically what sports are based on. if there were no rules, then there could be no winners or losers. if there were no rules then we wouldn’t really have anything to measure our sports and our athletes with. so when will it stop? when will coaches, players, and fans realize that by breaking the rules they are damaging the perception of sports?

it’s not like these are the first rule violations that we have seen. the ncaa has come down hard on some of the sports and athletic programs that have broken rules (usc, ohio state, uconn etc.). i’d need a completely new post to discuss the ncaa and their varied penalties and punishments so i’ll stop here. but again, the ncaa, just like roger goodell, has the opportunity to set a precedent that will greatly affect the sports world.

im not going to tell you what i think the nfl and roger goodell or the ncaa should do because frankly, they have their own set of rules. the bigger issue here is why? why do people feel the need to break rules that are so fundamental to the world of sports?

i don’t know how we make people follow the rules but i do think that the more we talk about it and the more we bring these issues to the forefront, the less likely people will be to break the rules. it’ll be interesting to watch and see how this year’s saints team responds and what the ncaa chooses to do with the baylor athletic department over the next few weeks.