The 2017 Sammy Awards – Part 1

Before we get too far into a new year it is time once again to take one final look back at the year that was 2017. This is the seventh presentation of The Sammy Awards, the world’s wittiest fantasy awards show. I’d like to imagine that The Sammys would be streamed on Netflix or Hulu, and could be produced efficiently yet in a tasteful & entertaining manner…less bloated & pompous than some awards programs, but more respectful & sophisticated than others. It is intended to be a year in review, an honest appraisal of the previous twelve months…the fun & the tragedy, the heroic & the forgettable, the sublime & the ridiculous.

 

 

 

Our host this year is fresh off a gig co-hosting CNN’s New Year’s Eve coverage that was hotly debated on social media. He is also the host of Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live, so we’re pretty confident he can handle the Sammy Awards stage. Please give a warm welcome to Andy Cohen!!

 

 

After some humorous opening remarks from our host this year’s show begins with a musical performance. Because we’re not worried about being hip, cool, lit, or woke it is a huge honor to welcome to the stage…singing a medley of some of his biggest hits…rock music icon Billy Joel!!

 

Wow!! Thanks to The Piano Man…that was off the chain!!

 

To present our first award please give a polite golf clap to three time Masters Champion Phil Mickelson!!

And the nominees are:

 

 

Best Sports Story

 

Tar Heels Title

The conclusion of March Madness saw the North Carolina Tar Heels defeat the Gonzaga Bulldogs to win their sixth NCAA basketball national championship.

 

ESPN Downsizing

This past spring The Mothership in Bristol, CT did a massive personnel purge, ridding themselves of over 100 employees. Among the cuts were familiar faces like MLB reporter Jayson Stark, NFL reporters John Clayton & Ed Werder and analyst Trent Dilfer, college basketball analyst Len Elmore & reporter Andy Katz, college football analyst Danny Kanell, and Sportscenter anchors Jay Crawford & Jade McCarthy.

 

Patriots Win…Again

Ugh. The New England Patriots won their fifth Super Bowl in grand fashion. They completed the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history (25 points) and forced the game into the first overtime on its 50+ year history.

 

Penguins Repeat

The Pittsburgh Penguins won their second straight Stanley Cup (and their fifth since 1990) by defeating the Nashville Predators in six games.

 

Clemson Wins Playoff

The Clemson Tigers played in their second straight college football National Championship, both against the Alabama Crimson Tide. But this time they won the title with a very exciting last second touchdown pass from QB Deshaun Watson to WR Hunter Renfrow.

 

Indians Win Streak

They didn’t end up playing in the World Series, but back in August & September the Cleveland Indians had the attention of baseball fans everywhere when they won 22 straight games, a new American League record.

 

JJ Watt’s Philanthropy

After Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, TX in August Texans’ All-Pro defensive lineman JJ Watt began a fundraising effort to help the city. His initial goal was $200k. The final tally?? Over $37 million. The NFL has been given a lot of grief the past few years…with good reason. But Watt seems like one of the good guys. Well done sir. Kudos.

 

Warriors Win Another Title

The NBA bores me, but I usually watch the playoffs. Last summer the Golden State Warriors met the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third consecutive year in the NBA Finals. The Warriors were just too much for the Cavs and won the championship in five games.

 

Sergio Wins The Masters

Sergio Garcia has long been saddled with the moniker of “best golfer not to have won a major”. He ended that conversation in April when he defeated Justin Rose in a sudden death playoff at Augusta to finally get the monkey off his back.

 

Dale Jr.’s Retirement

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been NASCAR’s most popular driver since he first began racing in the late 1990’s, grabbing onto the impressive coattails of his famous father and holding on for dear life. He became a tepid substitute for his Dad after Dale Sr.’s tragic death at the 2001 Daytona 500, and soiled his legacy beyond repair in 2008 when he sold out and joined the evil empire of Hendrick Motorsports. Dale Jr. won two Daytona 500s and zero NASCAR Cup championships. In 2016 he missed a big chunk of the season with concussion issues, and last spring announced that he would be retiring after the 2017 season.

 

Astros Win World Series

The Houston Astros were a MLB expansion team in 1962. In 2013 they moved from the National League to the American League due to MLB realignment. They lost over 100 games for three consecutive seasons from 2011-13. But slowly they began to build a contender, and it all came together this autumn when the Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games. It was a great story, especially given the circumstances surrounding the city of Houston after Hurricane Harvey, however we shouldn’t overlook the fact that Houston, TX is the fourth largest city in the United States, so this wasn’t exactly a David vs. Goliath upset by small market little guys.

 

Mayweather-McGregor

My nephews love UFC/MMA…aka ultimate fighting or mixed martial arts. A lot of people do. UFC has grown exponentially in the past decade. But I just can’t get into it for whatever reason. At any rate, one of UFC’s champions & biggest stars is brash & outspoken Irishman Conor McGregor. In 2017 he decided he wanted to test himself in a boxing ring, and he challenged Floyd Mayweather Jr., who many consider the greatest boxer alive and who happens to be just as cocky as McGregor. The matchup was a marketing dream come true. Mayweather made over $100 million, while McGregor was paid in excess of $30 million. The sports media slobbered all over themselves for months. Fans paid $100 to watch the fight on PPV. But all along the talking heads admitted that they didn’t foresee a competitive fight and predicted a fairly easy Mayweather victory, which is pretty much what happened. Mayweather probably could have won in the first round, but he let McGregor hang around for ten rounds before winning with a TKO, thus giving fans the illusion that the fight was worth the money they’d spent and the hype surrounding it. I didn’t watch a) because I had absolutely no interest, and b) there is no way in hell I’d pay $100 for anything on PPV.

 

 

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

 

 

Mayweather-McGregor. It wasn’t my cup o’ tea, but I recognize that a lot of people watched it and the sports media did a nice job of hyping it up into an event, even though most understood that it probably wasn’t going to be that competitive. And then lo & behold it went ten rounds. Whether you believe that McGregor is really skilled enough to have legitimately kept up with Mayweather for that long or if you take the cynical view that Mayweather made a conscious business decision to allow the fight to last as long as it did doesn’t really matter. The fact is that everyone involved laughed all the way to the bank, and most fans probably don’t regret the time or money they spent. Everybody wins.

 

 

To present a very special award please welcome an Emmy nominated & Golden Globe winning comedian & actor, the star of television hits Home Improvement and Last Man Standing as well as films like Toy Story, Galaxy Quest, & The Santa Clause…Tim Allen!!

 

 

 

 

The Fred Berry Memorial Award for Excellence in Syndication

 

Frasier

For eleven seasons, from 1993 to 2004, Dr. Frasier Crane and his wacky family & work colleagues…effete brother Niles, blue collar father Martin, live-in aide Daphne Moon, flirtatious producer Roz Doyle, bombastic sports radio host Bulldog, oddball co-workers Gil & Noel, and a host of others…came into our living rooms. Frasier Crane had already been with us for a decade, originally appearing on Cheers. Though Frasier was technically a spinoff of Cheers the two shows are very different, albeit similarly well written & both very funny. It may seem blasphemous to some, but I must admit to loving Frasier even more than Cheers. Whereas Cheers took place in a bar, Frasier was about a family, and specifically about an educated, cultured man dealing with all manner of frustrating madness surrounding him. I always felt very connected to Frasier, so it has been a delight this past year to be able to watch a plethora of reruns, usually very late at night, on Hallmark. And they don’t just air one or two episodes. There is…I believe…a three hour block almost every night. I’m not always up that late (or early, depending on one’s perspective), but when I am awake and in a channel surfing mood it is always a pleasure to run across one of my favorite sitcoms of all time. The show has aged remarkably well, and I appreciate the skillfully scripted dialogue & talented cast even more now than I did two decades ago. I’ve reached a point in my life where I don’t feel compelled to check out every new TV show that pops up. Most of them don’t seem like my cup o’ tea anyway. Fortunately I am alive in an era when it is fairly easy to go back and enjoy programs of yesteryear that I know I enjoy. Kudos to Hallmark for introducing a whole new generation to the exquisite charm of Frasier, and a tip of the cap to all involved for creating a show that has stood the test of time.

 

 

We are amped to introduce our next presenter. He’s a former ten time World Heavyweight Champion, and upon his retirement from professional wrestling has starred in films like Be Cool, Get Smart, Baywatch, & numerous entries in the Fast & Furious franchise. Do you smell what he’s cookin’?? FINALLY…Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has come to The Sammy Awards!! And the nominees are:

 

 

 

The Twitter Award for Most Interesting Water Cooler Topic

 

Cracker Barrel Fires Brad’s Wife

Nanette Reid was an employee of 11 years at an Indiana Cracker Barrel before she was terminated. Nanette’s husband Brad wanted to know why his wife had been fired, so he made an inquiry on the restaurant’s corporate Facebook page…and things took off from there. #JusticeforBradsWife went viral and lives on.

 

The End of The Circus

After almost 150 years of entertaining the masses Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus put on its last show this past spring. The plethora of 21st century entertainment options as well as politically correct social justice warriors whining about animal abuse led to a decline in profitability and the eventual demise of the circus.

 

Fidget Spinner

I don’t know…it’s some sort of toy for nervous people. I suppose it’s a better option than drugs or homicide.

 

Great American Eclipse

On August 21, 2017 the United States enjoyed a total solar eclipse, the first visible in America since 1979. People gathered in large crowds and some traveled great distances just to see an event that lasted about as long as it takes to go to the bathroom while the ballgame is in a commercial break. I was kind of into it until I found out that viewing the eclipse required special sunglasses or otherwise one might go blind, and by the time I learned that helpful nugget every place was sold out of the glasses so it just became a hassle. However, as I watched the coverage on TV I kind of regretted my laziness. There is another eclipse coming in 2024, so if I’m still around I might make more of an effort.

 

Taking A Knee

NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick spearheaded a movement in 2016 by kneeling instead of standing respectfully during the playing of the national anthem before football games. Kaepernick said that he refused to honor the flag of a country that oppresses “people of color”. In other words he was upset about alleged police brutality toward black folks. When Kaepernick found himself unemployed in 2017 (what a shock) other players decided to take up the cause. This upset President Trump, who offered some very blunt opinions on the subject. That caused more players to kneel, so the situation had evolved from protesting perceived racism to a hissy fit by people who don’t like Trump. It became a huge PR nightmare for the NFL. On one hand the United States is built on a foundation of freedom and the ability to express opinions, but conversely these protests are viewed by many as pointless, disrespectful to law enforcement & the military, and a juvenile temper tantrum by millionaires who play a game for a living.

 

iPhone X

Apple’s latest & greatest iPhone…complete with creepy facial recognition technology…went on sale in November (just in time for Christmas!). I’m an iPhone user, but I just upgraded a year ago and the $1000 price point might have finally exceeded my maximum utility.

 

The Royal Engagement

Prince Harry, younger son of Prince Charles & the late deified & beatified Princess Diana, got engaged to a filthy American, an inconsequential & marginally attractive actress named Meghan Markle. Congratulations to the happy couple. I’m sure this will be a bigger story in 2018 as the wedding day approaches this May.

 

United Airlines

On April 9, 2017, police at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago forcibly removed passenger Dr. David Dao from a United flight after he refused to depart the airplane upon the demand of management. Dao screamed as officers pulled him out of his seat, and his face hit an armrest during the struggle. Officers then dragged him, apparently unconscious, by his arms on his back along the aircraft aisle past rows of onlooking passengers. Video & photos of the incident went viral. Apparently the man was one of four passengers selected to be removed from the flight to make room for airline employees needing to get to Louisville. The other three were obviously more…compliant. Dao eventually received a monetary settlement from United. This was not an isolated incident, as similar stories were reported a few other times in 2017.

 

Kathy Griffin’s Career Decapitation

I’ve never found comedian Kathy Griffin funny…at all. She’s not the first person who has built a career out of being obnoxious, and she won’t be the last. Griffin has ticked people off before: she was banned from appearing on The View and Jay Leno’s incarnation of The Tonight Show, got fired from E! after making an inappropriate joke about then 11 year old actress Dakota Fanning, blasphemed Jesus when accepting an Emmy Award, & was banned from performing at New York’s famed Apollo Theater after using profanity. I’m no expert, but being shunned by The View has to be career rock bottom given the loathsome environment that surrounds that show like a noxious gas. However, Kathy Griffin really stepped in it last spring when she posted a video of herself holding the decapitated head of President Trump. The backlash was a little surprising. Since Hollywood hates Trump one might assume that Griffin’s career would reach new heights in the wake of the video, but the commoners in flyover country still wield some influence. She lost marketing deals, was dropped from CNN’s New Year’s Eve show that she’d co-hosted with Anderson Cooper since 2007, and her upcoming comedy tour imploded. Griffin has used social media to cry & moan about how she’s been mistreated in the aftermath of the brouhaha, but the simple fact is that she went too far and it bit her in the tookas.

 

Unicorn Frappuccino

I’ve patronized Starbucks exactly once in my life. I’m not a frequent coffee drinker, and when I do drink a cup I just want a basic, no frills cup o’ joe with some creamer (no sugar). This past spring Starbucks introduced a new addition to their menu…a multicolored drink made with ice, milk, pink powder, sour blue powder, crème frappuccino syrup, mango syrup, and blue drizzle, which sounds absolutely horrifying.

 

O.J.’s Release

OJ Simpson’s arrest & trial for murdering his ex-wife & her waiter friend was one of the biggest stories of the 1990’s. As we all know The Juice was found not guilty and was allowed to resume his dogged pursuit of the real killer. But that life was too boring for OJ, and he was ticked off about having to sell a bunch of his stuff after losing a civil suit brought by the victims’ families, so in 2007 he was arrested after an ill-conceived & poorly executed robbery at a Vegas casino during which he tried to get back some of his sports memorabilia. The following year Simpson was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 33 years in prison. Most legal experts agree that almost anyone else would have been given little more than a proverbial slap on the wrist, especially since all three of the co-defendants pled down to lesser charges. Many opine that Simpson’s conviction & harsh sentence was a “make-up call” after he’d escaped punishment for the 1994 double murder. OJ Simpson served nine years, and this past summer was granted parole. He was released from prison in October.

 

Civil War Monuments

Politically correct whining about Civil War monuments…specifically those erected to honor Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee & Stonewall Jackson…isn’t a new discussion. The debate has heated up the past few years. But arguments reached a fever pitch in 2017 after tragic events saw one person killed and 19 injured at a rally in Charlottesville, VA organized to protest the removal of a General Lee statue. My personal opinion is that these monuments were erected for a reason, and in most cases they honor complex yet worthy individuals who lived during a tumultuous time in our nation’s history and were forced to make some very difficult decisions. Thru the prism of time we recognize their mistakes and understand their errors in judgement, but I don’t feel that it is proper to erase our history. None of this was an issue a hundred years ago, fifty years ago, or even ten years ago, but nowadays we are a country full of easily offended social justice warriors who get their jollies trying to destroy everything about the United States with which they disagree.

 

 

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

 

 

Taking A Knee. Most sports fans just want to chill out and enjoy watching the ballgame. They want to argue about which team is better, debate who the best quarterback or wide receiver is, and kvetch about dreadful officiating. They do not want divisive sociopolitical rhetoric ruining their fun, but that’s exactly what’s been happening. It’s the reason ESPN is bleeding money and a contributing factor to declining attendance & TV ratings. The fact is that Colin Kaepernick is a marginally talented quarterback who is no longer worth the baggage that accompanies him…baggage that he created. The fact is that, while there are bad cops out there because there is incompetence in any & all professions, the vast majority of police officers do a fantastic job and should be praised for the dangerous work they do protecting all of us. The fact is that, while there are people that are erroneously & tragically killed by police officers, the odds are that anyone…black, white, Hispanic, Oriental, Middle Eastern, & any other hue one can think of…anyone who finds themselves in the presence of a police officer with a weapon has most likely put themselves in that situation. That’s not to say that those people deserve to be murdered…not at all. But you’ll never drown if you don’t go in the water and you won’t get burnt of you steer clear of fire. So if you’re living life right, obeying the law, & not causing a ruckus there is very little chance that you’ll be shot by a cop. There are 32 NFL teams. With 53 Players on each roster that’s nearly 1700 players. Of those, nearly 900 are convicted felons, which is over half the league. So while I admire their skill & athleticism and enjoy watching them play, forgive me if I have very little regard for their opinions on more serious matters.

 

 

 

 

 

This feels like an appropriate place to pause. Please stay tuned for Part 2!!

Winning & Musing…..Volume 3.15

Don’t you just love the ebb & flow of sports?? It’s almost magical how the baseball season opened on the same day that the championship game wrapped up college basketball. Or how Nascar pops back into our lives just as we are starting to miss football. The Nascar folks are even nice enough to take the day off when they know that between The Final Four and Easter Sunday our weekend is jam packed. Okay okay…I am smart enough to realize that there are people who make lots of money to carefully coordinate the well-timed ebb & flow, but in my heart I still believe in magic. Anyway, today we have a good mix of things to contemplate, so let’s do that.

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to the 2015 NCAA basketball national champion Duke Blue Devils. I Duke_Blue_Devilshave no issue with them winning even though they certainly aren’t the kind of underdog that I typically cheer for. I thought the game itself as well as the tournament in general was poorly officiated, but that can’t be held up as the single reason Duke prevailed. Coach K seems like a genuinely decent dude, although I can’t go so far as to say he has eclipsed legendary UCLA coach John Wooden.

 

 

 

Baseball season is underway and I am mildly excited about that. It’s a long season so ppiratesone has to modulate enthusiasm throughout the next few months so that interest doesn’t wane during the dog days of summer. I expect my Pittsburgh Pirates to be in the midst of the pennant race again, although I do have some misgivings about their bullpen and whether or not that weakness will cost them a division title.

 

 

 

There’s been a lot of discussion during March Madness about what’s wrong with college basketball and what should be done to fix it. Most agree that the tournament is just dandy, but it’s the 3 or 4 months that precede it that has issues. One thing that is constantly mentioned is the 35 second shot clock and how it should be lowered to 24 seconds “just like the NBA”. Decreasing the shot clock is a valid debate, but what is with this compulsion to copy the NBA?? College & pro basketball are two similar yet basketballdifferent games and I think I prefer it that way. Contrary to popular opinion I find the collegiate game much more entertaining. It’s raw. It’s genuine. And yes, it’s got lumps, just like tasty homemade gravy, which has so much more flavor than the mass produced stuff one finds in a jar at the grocery store. College athletes are extremely talented, but there’s a wide range of skill and, at the end of the day, they are still a bunch of somewhat capricious & undeveloped 18-22 year old youngsters. There are highs. There are lows. There are flashes of dramatic, heroic triumph, and moments of inexplicable disappointment. Yes the NBA has that stuff too because the players are still human beings, but the game is undeniably more refined, less dramatic, more predictable, and too often as bland as store bought gravy. So revise & improve college basketball. Go for it. Nothing is perfect and tinkering can be fun. But be innovative. Be practical. Don’t focus on replicating the NBA. It’s lazy, redundant, & lacks imagination.

 

 

 

$100 for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight?? I don’t think so. I’m not really a boxing fan and won’t be brokenhearted if I miss it altogether, although I may look around and see boxing_2_lgif I can catch it for free. There are ways. I’m a huge pro wrestling fan and haven’t paid for a PPV in a few years. Technology is a good thing…most of the time.

 

 

 

wrestling-clip-art-PSS0166Speaking of pro wrestling, it has caused a rift in my relationship with ESPN talking head Colin Cowherd. I had been a fan of Cowherd’s daily radio show that is simulcast on ESPNU…until a few weeks ago. Colin’s buddy and fellow ESPN personality Bill Simmons is a fellow wrestling fan and had appeared on WWE Raw. Cowherd was reviewing Simmons’ performance on the show and had some rather demeaning & unprofessional comments about wrestling fans, saying that we all live in our parents’ basements and everyone who had attended that particular event outside of Simmons had probably been driven there and dropped off by their mother. And his comments weren’t said in a good-natured, joking manner. He was intentionally being an insulting jackass. I happened to have some free time that day so I tweeted #boycottCowherd and got much more of a response than expected. It was the most interaction I’ve ever had on Twitter. Some folks were supportive while some tried to match their hero Colin in the abuse department. Cowherd himself replied to me stating that his show had the best ratings on ESPNU, as if that is a noteworthy accomplishment when the truth is that better & more popular shows like Mike & Mike, Pardon the Interruption, & First Take air on ESPN or ESPN2. My God, even Dan Lebatard & his Papi are shown on ESPN2. Cowherd apparently doesn’t understand that his show airing on ESPNU indicates just how insignificant it is in the eyes of his bosses. At any rate, I’m not crazy enough to think that one man can take down an entire TV show or colincowherdthat my feelings matter to a self-important blowhard like Colin Cowherd, but I’ll damn sure never watch him again. I realize that professional wrestling isn’t everyone’s cup o’ tea. That’s fine. But to those of us who enjoy that sort of thing it is as valid a form of entertainment as anything else. There are any number of television shows…Game of Thrones, Scandal, The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey…that the masses love but I’m not interested in, yet I don’t go around bullying & verbally assaulting fans of those shows. The idea that all wrestling fans are a bunch of toothless hillbillies or socially inept psychos who are unemployed and live with their parents is a tired cliché that is no longer funny. Wrestling fans are male & female, black, white, & Hispanic, affluent & poor, young & old, urban & rural…just like the fan bases of any other kind of entertainment. Does Cowherd really think the backward recluses he trumpets as the typical wrestling fan could even afford to go to the shows, purchase the merchandise, or buy the pay-per-views?? Maybe someone should call EMS to bring the jaws of life to ESPN and extricated Colin Cowherd’s pea brain from his anal cavity before he suffocates and becomes an even bigger moron than he has already proven himself to be.

 

 

 

It’s still a little bit surprising to me that the Kentucky Wildcats didn’t make it to the national title game. I know I’m not the only one who felt like them winning it all was a foregone conclusion. But it seems like in the process of obliterating my WV Kentucky-BasketballMountaineers in the Sweet 16 the ‘Cats fired all their bullets and didn’t have much left in the tank. They barely got by Notre Dame in the Elite 8, and then finally were beaten in the Final Four by Wisconsin. Now I will grant you that the Badgers are an extremely talented team and had the added revenge factor (after UK beat them in last year’s Final Four) as motivation, but I sincerely believe that Kentucky would defeat Wisconsin in 9 out of 10 games. In a single elimination tournament though anything can happen (and no…I don’t think that format should change…for now).

 

 

 

The argument over trying to get NCAA basketball to mirror the NBA made me think of baseball’s designated hitter rule. Upon further ponderation I think I like things the way they are, with the American League having the DH and the National League not utilizing it. It makes each league unique, which is something we’ve begun to lose in the United States. We’re all about homogenization. I’m not as well traveled as I’d prefer, baseball drawingbut I know that every city & town in this country has a lot of the same stuff. The same restaurants. The same retail outlets. The same radio & TV stations that play the same music & shows day after day, week after week, year after year. Every mall has the same stores. Every movie theater is essentially the same. Every automaker makes the same kinds of vehicles that aren’t nearly as singular & cool as cars back in the 40’s & 50’s. This uniformity is comforting on some level, but it is also bland & uninspiring. Just like college basketball shouldn’t try so hard to emulate the NBA I hope the American & National Leagues will always remain similar yet distinctive.