For the past few weeks I’d been feeling really upbeat & blessed. Springtime. Sunshine. Birds chirping. Occasional use of the AC. But at the moment it is raining here in Appalachia and has been for a few days. There’s a November-esque chill in the air. I’ve had to wear a coat again and get the comforter out of the closet. I’m sniffling, sneezing, & taking antibiotics. I hate feeling this way. I hate this weather, especially since IT’S MAY!!!! Thankfully the sports calendar remains robust, and those hours of relaxation & delight ease the burden. Let’s unwind and have some fun.
NBA Playoffs Drinking Game: Do a shot or chug a beer (drinker’s choice) every time one of the announcers says “pick & roll”. You might pass out by halftime or possibly need to go to the ER to have your stomach pumped. Either way you probably won’t be around for the end of the game.
A few thoughts about the recent NFL Draft:
*I’m a traditionalist, so I wasn’t too sure about the NFL’s decision to move the draft away from New York to an outdoor venue in Philadelphia, but WOW…what a great idea it turned out to be!! The passionate fans in Philly showed up in droves…about 100k each of the three days…and really infused a ton of energy into the event. Kudos to those fans, and a tip of the cap to whomever decided to try something new after the draft had essentially been in the same comfort zone for a couple of decades.
*Speaking of stepping outside one’s comfort zone, I finally transitioned to the NFL Network as the home base for my draft coverage instead of ESPN, and it was a great choice. I found the talking heads on NFL Network to be much more focused & knowledgeable than their counterparts. Mike Mayock especially is multiple levels above ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. Whoever is running the NFL Network obviously knows what butters their bread and understands the kind of reporting fans truly desire. Perhaps they should ponder creating an all-sports network that actually concentrates on sports. Wouldn’t that be a novel idea??
*I’d give my Steelers a B+ on their 2017 draft. I love the first round choice of linebacker TJ Watt. If he’s anywhere near as talented as his brother JJ he’ll be an all-pro for the next dozen years, which would be nice. The Steelers did address concerns about the secondary with 3rd & 5th round picks of guys I’ve never heard of. I’d like to have faith in the braintrust in Pittsburgh, but my preference would have been to prioritize the position with potential starters rather than players that’ll probably need a couple of years to develop. I know a lot of Steeler fans are excited about second round choice JuJu Smith-Schuster, a wide receiver from USC, but I have an irrational disdain for people with hyphenated surnames, so I can’t seem to get psyched about the pick. I’m not knowledgeable enough to expertly criticize the choice of a long snapper in the sixth round, but it seems like a wasted pick to me. I really like 3rd round running back James Conner (even though he played for Pitt) and 4th round quarterback Josh Dobbs out of Tennessee. Conner should become an immediate contributor as a backup to Leveon Bell, and Dobbs can learn for a year or two or three from Ben Roethlisberger. Whether Dobbs settles in as a career backup, becomes a worthy successor to Big Ben someday, or is a complete bust, the pick itself is solid and could end up being much more.
*I’m really surprised that the New England Patriots didn’t trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a QB needy team. If I were Garoppolo I’d want out not only for an opportunity to start somewhere, but because it’s a bad idea to be the guy who replaces The Guy. When Tom Brady FINALLY retires the person replacing him will be faced with two options. Failure would further inflate (ha!) perception of Brady as “the greatest quarterback EVER!!” and pretty much stop the replacement’s career in its tracks. Conversely, if the Patriot train keeps on rolling even after Brady leaves then it would diminish his legacy while inflating (I just can’t help myself) the status of head coach Bill Belichick. Either way it’s an odd position to be in for Garoppolo.
*In my mock draft I opined that none of the available quarterbacks were first round worthy, yet three of them were taken. The Chicago Bears traded away two 3rd round picks & a 4th rounder to move up ONE spot for North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky. Seems a bit much to me, especially for such an unproven player. Kansas City traded a 3rd round pick and next year’s 1st rounder to move up for Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes. I like Mahomes better than Trubisky, especially since he’ll be able to sit for a couple of years and learn from Alex Smith, but it still struck me as an expensive trade. The Houston Texans traded away next year’s first round choice to go up & grab Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, and I think it might actually be looked upon as a wise transaction in a few years. Watson will probably be the rookie quarterback pressed into starting the quickest, but he also has the best team surrounding him. If Watson fulfills the potential I think he has the Texans could win a Lombardi Trophy in the not too distant future.
A melancholy Happy Trails to The Sports Reporters, which has been cancelled by ESPN after almost three decades on the air. Admittedly I was not a faithful viewer of the show because it was usually on while I was on the way to church, and for some reason I never recorded it like I’ve done so much stuff since the DVR became a thing. However, I always enjoyed the program when circumstances allowed me to catch it. Debate shows about sports are a dime a dozen now, but I assume The Sports Reporters was one of the prototypes, if not the founding father of the format. Unlike many of the current shows on the air, Reporters was a more tranquil & erudite conversation. Though I am sure most of the “journalists” that appeared over the years were your typical leftists, sociopolitical issues or “progressive” bias never seemed to be a part of Reporters’ DNA. The focus…as it should be…was on sports. The discussions were thoughtful and intelligent, not reactionary. Perhaps the emphasis on sports and lack of brash & colorful personalities is what led to the cancellation, which makes it even sadder. Google “misplaced priorities” and you’ll probably get directions to Bristol, CT.
Unlike many folks I am not all that broken up about the impending retirement of Dale Earnhardt Jr. I wish him well in his new marriage and future endeavors, which I assume will eventually include being a NASCAR team owner. However, let’s be honest…Dale Jr.’s popularity has never been about Dale Jr. It’s about his name. It’s about his legacy. It’s about the tragic death of his father. Many cheered for the elder Earnhardt, so they transferred that loyalty to his son. But when Dale Jr. sold out that heritage to join a super stable at Hendrick Motorsports that included Jeff Gordon & Jimmy Johnson it felt…atleast to me…like Larry Bird leaving the Celtics to join Magic Johnson’s Lakers, or Peyton Manning spending his last few years in the NFL with the New England Patriots as Tom Brady’s backup. It left a proverbial bad taste in my mouth, and became the first of multiple factors that eventually led to me putting my NASCAR fandom on the backburner. Your mileage may vary, and that’s okay, but I’m just being honest.
Speaking of ESPN…..
Of all the talking heads that The Mothership recently canned, I must give a shout out to a special few. Baseball reporter Jayson Stark called in weekly to Mike & Mike, regularly stumping Greeny & Golic with difficult trivia questions. It was a fun & informative segment and I’ll miss it. Ed Werder added low-key gravitas to NFL coverage, while Andy Katz did the same for discussions about college basketball. I guess neither one is colorful or loud enough for ESPN now. NFL analyst Trent Dilfer & MLB analyst Doug Glanville are former players that got jobs in sports media, which of course isn’t unusual. Unfortunately it seems like they also were a little too cerebral in the eyes of whatever moron is making these decisions at ESPN. Anchors Jade McCarthy & Sara Walsh are both lovely ladies, but they’re both now unemployed. I first encountered Jay Crawford when he hosted Cold Pizza, which eventually morphed into First Take. He seems like a cool guy, but made the misstep of thinking that anchoring Sportscenter was the Holy Grail, which it no longer is. He should’ve stayed on First Take. Former Florida State quarterback & college football analyst Danny Kanell strikes me as kind of a tool, which makes his ouster rather odd since it seems like that’s what the network embraces now. Anchor John Buccigross had been around for a couple of decades and embodied the second generation of glib sarcasm popularized back in the Dan Patrick/Keith Olbermann days. Bucci seems like a good dude and I hope he lands a gig somewhere. The most popular target of fans upset by this bloodletting in Bristol has been Stephen A. Smith, as in “I can’t believe (insert fired person’s name here) is gone but Stephen A. still has a job!!”. That reaction was so vociferous & so ubiquitous that Smith actually felt compelled to speak up and defend his credentials. While he certainly isn’t my favorite personality I don’t necessarily take issue with Stephen A.’s continued employment. However, he does exemplify what ESPN is about now…ratings brought by outspoken personalities who aren’t afraid to let their sociopolitical agenda bleed into sports debate. It’s a bold strategy Cotton…let’s see if it pays off for them.