The 2020 Sammy Awards – Part I

Awards Season has arrived!!

Greetings Manoverse, and welcome to the 2020 Sammy Awards!! It is with no small amount of trepidation that we take a look back at a year that most would likely just as soon forget, but after taking a hiatus from these awards in 2019 the decision has been made to press on. We’ll do the best we can to do our little tongue-in-cheek review of all the ups & downs of the past twelve months with as much positivity & mirth as possible, while also treating certain subjects with the respect & gravitas they deserve.

 

This actually seems like the perfect time to bring back The Sammys. After all, it’s a fake awards show, so there is no social distancing or masks required, although if you feel it necessary to get tested for Covid-19 when we are done that is your decision. This year’s show would obviously be broadcast on Zoom and perhaps Facebook Live, although those damn “fact” checkers might be a problem (thanks to that affluent douchebag Zuckerberg). At any rate, as always, we consider The Sammy Awards to be much cooler that The Oscars or The Grammys, and much more relevant than anything presented on MTV.  We originally invited the lovely Hilaria Baldwin (wife of actor Alec Baldwin) to be our host, but unfortunately she is quarantining after contact tracing determined she may have been exposed to The Coronavirus (or, as she is calling it, The “Spanish” Flu). Fortunately we found a last minute replacement (actually a major upgrade), and it is a huge honor to welcome an Academy Award nominated actor and star of legendary films like Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, & Scrooged. Please give a warm welcome to Bill Murray!!

 

After an amusing opening monologue from our esteemed host it is time to present our first award. To do that we are thrilled to welcome back not only a former NFL lineman & Hall-of-Fame broadcaster, but the winner of multiple Sammy Awards who recently departed ESPN (he’s a white male so he no longer aligns with their wokeness) after two decades of awesomeness. Eat a donut in honor of Mike Golic Sr!! And the nominees are:

 

 

The Thrill of Victory Award

 

Las Vegas Raiders

I’m not sure on field expectations were all that high for the Raiders coming off a 7-9 record in 2019, their third losing season in a row. However, everyone associated with the team and the entire fanbase had to be psyched about a change of scenery to Sin City. Then Covid-19 happened, so instead of playing in front of 65,000 screaming fans at the brand spanking new Allegiant Stadium the Raiders got to play in an empty or nearly empty venue (the rules seemingly differed for each team and changed weekly). But while that is sad there is hope for the future. The Raiders finished 8-8, nearly making the playoffs. America’s Playground will bounce back, and there are strong reasons to believe their new hometown football team will be part of the recovery.

 

LSU’s National Championship

It seems like a lifetime ago, but the Bayou Bengals beat Clemson on January 13, 2020 to claim their fourth National Championship in football. Unfortunately they were unable to follow-up on that success this season and finished with a 5-5 record.

 

Kansas City Wins Super Bowl

QB Patrick Mahomes was the 10th choice in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, meaning nine teams passed on him. In just his third season Mahomes made those nine teams look totally foolish when he led the Chiefs to a win over the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl to claim their first Lombardi Trophy in a half century.

 

Dodgers Win World Series

The Sickness negatively affected sports in a multitude of ways in 2020, and one result was a truncated 60 game MLB regular season. To be honest I was facing my own challenges last summer and paid very little attention to baseball, but the Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays in a World Series that no hardcore fan outside of Los Angeles will ever remember with much reverence or respect. Congrats I guess.

 

Brady’s Move

Regardless of what the talking heads say I will never recognize Tom Brady as the GOAT, but I was thankful to see him leave the hated New England Patriots after two decades and six Super Bowl victories. His move to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave us the opportunity to find out who was more responsible for the Pats’ success…Brady or head coach Bill Belichick. The result?? New England missed the playoffs for only the second time since 2000 (the first was 2008 when Brady went down with a torn ACL in the opener and missed the rest of the season), while Tampa finished 11-5 and will be making their first playoff appearance since 2007. I have to admit I am somewhat surprised how it all shook out.

 

Lebron Gets Another Ring

The NBA had their season interrupted by The Sickness and had to play the entirety of their playoffs in a “bubble” in Orlando, FL. At the end of the day the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat to win their 17th title. Lebron James is now 36 years old and has played in the NBA nearly half his life, winning four rings in the process. He may not be the greatest player on the planet anymore, but he’s still better that 95% of the league.

 

Tyson’s Comeback

Mike Tyson last fought professionally in 2005, losing to a guy no one had ever heard of. It was an ignoble ending to the legendary career of The Baddest Man on the Planet. Flash ahead to November 2020 when Tyson fought an 8 round exhibition against former Olympian Roy Jones Jr. The bout was scored a draw, but the sad part is that it took place at L.A.’s Staples Center in front of no fans. Under normal circumstances one can reasonably assume a raucous packed house would have made the event truly special, but it wasn’t to be. At 54 years of age it is unlikely that Tyson will receive many more opportunities, but it would be great to see him go out with a big crowd in attendance.

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…..

 

The Kansas City Chiefs. 2020 was a pretty tough year for sports. Events were cancelled. Players & coaches tested positive for the virus and had to miss games. Seasons were abbreviated. Stadiums were empty. Fortunately KC won their championship before all of that was an issue. And it probably isn’t the last time they’ll be competing in the Super Bowl. The Chiefs look like they could be a team to be reckoned with for many years to come.

 

We feel like 2020 was such a traumatic experience that some cathartic laughter might be a good idea. To help us do that it is a pleasure to welcome back God’s Comic Brad Stine!!

 

 

After Brad Stine has tickled our funny bone with his unique brand of clean comedy it is time to present our next award. To do that it is a pleasure to welcome one of America’s funniest character actors. He has had roles in a variety of television shows, including Hearts Afire (a 90’s sitcom starring John Ritter & Markie Post), Reba, and Boston Legal, but his fame rose to new heights during the pandemic by way of hilarious & heartwarming viral videos, providing us all a chuckle when we really needed it. Please show some love for Leslie Jordan!! And the nominees are:

 

 

Favorite Viral Videos

 

Tipsy Bartender

Skyy John is an actor/bartender from The Bahamas. Apparently he has been doing Tipsy Bartender videos for several years but I am a little late to the party. The videos themselves are pretty short, but they are the perfect blend of informative & entertaining. I knew I was going to like Skyy when he made his affection for blue curacao (an orange liqueur) evident because Blue Hawaiians were one of my favorite drinks back in college.

 

Family Feud

Nothing is more of an indicator of the shifting winds of entertainment than Family Feud. How so?? Well, while I am rarely inclined to sit down & watch an entire half hour episode I’m more than happy to watch brief videos highlighting a particularly amusing question or a totally stupid answer that elicits a hilarious response from host Steve Harvey. I’m old enough to remember original host Richard Dawson kissing every female contestant on the lips…something that would be considered weird & inappropriate by modern standards. Instead, Harvey’s charm & comedic chops make the program entertaining, especially in small bites.

  

BatDad

Back in 2013 Blake Wilson purchased a Batman mask from a Target in Florida and began posting Vines of himself interacting with his wife & children while wearing the mask and talking in the low pitched throatiness popularized by Christian Bale’s version of The Caped Crusader in the Dark Knight movies. Seven years later Vine no longer exists and BatDad is divorced from his seemingly unamused wife Jen, but the videos are still going strong.

 

The Holderness Family

Penn & Kim Holderness used to be talking heads on TV news programs, but soon after posting some videos on YouTube in 2013 they became a lot more famous. Their videos consist of parody songs and other comedy bits poking fun at slice-of-life Americana like Hallmark Christmas movies & of course dealing with quarantine. They are quite talented & funny, and their two children seem to enjoy being part of the show.

 

The Williams Sisters on Instagram

Kimberly Williams-Paisley & her sister Ashley Williams are both actresses. These days they mostly star in television movies, but Kimberly’s very first acting gig was in 1991’s Father of the Bride (one of my favorite movies of all time), while I still remember Ashley from the sitcom Good Morning Miami that only lasted one season almost twenty years ago. During the pandemic they have been going live on Instagram once a week, and it’s just a conversation between two sisters. They cover a wide array of subjects, laughing hysterically the entire time. Ashley especially has an infectious laugh. I have come to appreciate simplicity, and the charm of two sisters just having fun talking to each other and letting us eavesdrop is undeniable.

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…..

 

Tipsy Bartender. I don’t even drink anymore. I sowed my wild oats in college, but now, more than two decades later, you are much more likely to see me drinking skim milk or iced tea than liquor, and my favorite kind of beer is root beer. Mixology has always intrigued me though, so I enjoy watching various concoctions being created even if I know darn well I’ll never drink it myself. It’s kind of like my affection for The Food Network despite the fact that my own culinary efforts rarely go beyond throwing something in the microwave or cooking spaghetti then tossing a jar of sauce over it. If you enjoy an occasional adult beverage these videos are fascinating and a lot of fun.

 

 

Our next award is a very special honor being given to a person who has been an influence in my life for thirty years. To make the presentation we are pleased to welcome two young ladies who have likely looked to our honoree as an inspiration in their own careers as political pundits and will carry on his legacy for many years to come. Please give a warm welcome to Candace Owens & Tomi Lahren!!

 

 

The Duffer-Herrell Lifetime Achievement Award

 

Rush Limbaugh

 

When I was in college my best friend Greg gave me a book entitled The Way Things Ought to Be. I had heard a little bit about Rush Limbaugh, but I thought he was a shock jock that I’d not find entertaining at all. I was wrong. I read Rush’s book and it was a revelation. He made so much sense, opening my eyes to ideas I’d never known I always believed. Over the next two decades I was an avid listener of his daily talk show, and really enjoyed the TV show he hosted all too briefly in the early 90’s. I am well aware that many people don’t like Rush at all, but I think a lot of those folks are misinformed. Though he has mellowed in recent years I readily admit that back in the day he could be quite abrasive, oftentimes intentionally offensive, and definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. However, I believe his reputation for being outrageous has always been overblown. More than once I have encountered people who claim they hated Rush but hadn’t actually listened to his program…something I’ve always found to be intellectually dishonest. You might not agree with his political beliefs, but Rush is hardly Satan’s evil minion. To be honest I think he was ahead of his time. People weren’t quite ready for his brutal honesty, refusal to kowtow to opposing ideas, and faux bravado three decades ago, but now everybody is copying his shtick and turning the volume to 11. Rush was a major player in the conservative movement of the mid-1990’s, and the Clinton years when Slick Willie was the perfect adversary for Rush to play off of were definitely the golden age of his reign over talk radio. I haven’t listened to his show all that much the past several years because I am not as into politics as I used to be. I no longer have the stomach for intense debate with people who will never try to see my point of view no matter how conciliatory I am toward them. The ballyhooed mean-spiritedness assigned to Rush pales in comparison to how divisive and malicious people can be these days. He’s kind of like the classic horror movies from the 1930’s…sure they are horror films, but they aren’t nearly as gory & violent as modern horror films. In that same way Rush’s alleged malevolence almost seems quaint when compared to what is presented every day & night on the cable news channels. At any rate, I spent countless hours thru the years learning from Rush, being entertained by him, and awakening to the indoctrination pervasive in so many powerful entities that shape & dictate our lives. Sadly Rush Limbaugh’s time in the public arena is coming to a close. He is battling lung cancer and has already lived longer than expected. I am sure there are people who will celebrate his demise, but I am not one of them. If you are I will say a prayer for you. To Rush all I can say is godspeed and thank you for everything you have meant in my life.

 

 

This feels like a good place to pause, but please stay tuned for Part 2 of The Sammy Awards…coming soon!!

 

Winning & Musing…Volume 4.18

So after taking the entire month of June off from publishing anything here (an unplanned hiatus but refreshing nonetheless) I’m back…locked, loaded, & ready to rock n’ roll. The truth is that I have still been writing, but it has mostly been prep work for a project soon to be unleashed upon the masses…stay tuned. In addition to doing the necessary homework for that task, working for Da Man, & living my normal mundane yet blessed life I have…as always…been keeping up with all the sports news, and now I have a few thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My man Phil Mickelson recently found himself in a bit of hot water after losing his cool during the third round of golf’s U.S. Open. A clearly frustrated Mickelson incurred a two stroke penalty on the 13th hole after hitting a ball that was still moving. If Mickelson hadn’t ran to catch up with the ball and hit it back toward the hole it was going to roll off the green and possibly add several more shots to his already dismal score. He made things worse afterward, declaring that he took the peculiar course of action on purpose figuring that the penalty would be better than what was going to occur otherwise. The talking heads & sports media made a big deal out of the situation, as if Phil had committed a grievous sin. A few of his fellow players even suggested that he should have been disqualified from the tournament. First of all, I don’t buy for a second that what he did was a calculated risk. I don’t think there was any thought put into it at all. He was having a bad tournament and went nuts for a minute, then tried to cover by saying it was a conscious decision. In my mind that weak attempt at revisionist history is worse than the act itself. It made Phil Mickelson look like an idiot. Secondly, to those that said that he should have been disqualified, all I can do is shake my head in bemused derision. I realize that golf is a “gentlemen’s game” with a strict & quirky code of ethics, but the man was so far down the leaderboard that nothing he did was going to make any kind of significant difference. The two stroke penalty was an appropriate penance…anything else would have been egregious. There seemed to be some hand wringing about the possibility that this single error in judgment could somehow tarnish Mickelson’s legacy, which I think would be a real shame. The man has won five Majors, including three Masters. He has been one of the best golfers in the world for over two decades and by most accounts is a decent guy. He had a dreadful tournament and a brief moment of madness. Haven’t we all suffered the occasional bad day??

 

 

 

Former ESPN and current FS1 talking head Skip Bayless tends to talk out of both sides of his mouth and says a lot of wacky things with which I disagree. However, Skip has always referred to former All-Pro wide receiver Terrell “TO” Owens as Team Obliterator, and I wholeheartedly occur. Sure TO never ended up in jail, used drugs, or smacked his woman around, but he was a cancer that sowed seeds of discord everywhere he went in the NFL. And now his diva attitude & behavior is following him all the way to Canton, OH. Well…kind of. After the Pro Football Hall of Fame made Owens wait a few years before finally voting him into their exclusive club a few months ago the perpetually disgruntled malcontent found a way to ruin what should have been his shining moment by announcing that he will not attend the ceremony in Canton this August but will instead hold his own ceremony at UT-Chattanooga, his alma mater. No one knows exactly why Owens has made this asinine decision, one that he’ll inevitably regret someday. I realize that it is thought to be cool & hip to march to the beat of a different drum, be rebellious, fight the system, blaze a unique trail, & be a non-conformist, and I agree that there is a time in one’s life when that is a neat option if it can be pulled off. However, Terrell Owens is a 44 year old man that, despite all the upheaval & controversy he was in the midst of during 16 seasons in the NFL, has achieved the highest honor reserved for a football player, one that only the best of the best get to enjoy. It is beyond pathetic that instead of finally acting like an adult and humbly accepting the accolade the right way Terrell Owens is taking one last opportunity to be a self-absorbed, petulant, childish, disrespectful, defiant assclown.

 

 

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t give kudos to trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith for leading Justify to The Triple Crown. Justify is the 13th Triple Crown winner in history. Baffert has won fifteen Triple Crown races (5 Kentucky Derbies, 7 Preakness Stakes, & 3 Belmont Stakes) and previously led American Pharoah to the Triple Crown just three years ago. Smith has won two Kentucky Derbies, two Preaknesses, & three Belmonts. A Triple Crown is a rare & exceptional achievement in sports, but sadly I feel like what used to be “the sport of kings” nowadays gets lost in the shuffle while we indulge arrogant punks whose athletic prowess earns them hundreds of millions of dollars playing football, basketball, & baseball. I’m sure there are a lot of reasons why horse racing isn’t as popular now as it was a century ago, but it’s nice to see it back in the spotlight occasionally.

 

 

 

A few NBA thoughts:

  • I didn’t watch hardly any of the NBA or NHL Finals. Neither series turned out the way I’d hoped, so I really have nothing to add to the discourse.
  • A few years ago when Lebron James was preparing to jump ship from the aging Miami Heat I became convinced that he’d be joining the Los Angeles Lakers. Instead he pleasantly surprised me and many others by returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He led Cleveland to multiple appearances in the Finals and won a championship, but eventually it became obvious that the Cavs weren’t on the same level as the Golden St. Warriors and had no opportunity to change that. And so now…better late than never…LBJ is finally a Laker. But, while it is undoubtedly a positive development for Los Angeles, I feel like it is a lateral move for James. Perhaps his relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was so bad that he just wanted out. I don’t know. Maybe he is looking beyond basketball and feels like L.A. is a better environment for his future plans. That makes a lot of sense. However, from a pure basketball perspective it doesn’t seem to put him in any better position than he has been in, and it’s probably worse. I just don’t see his new teammates as being an improvement over his old ones, and now he’ll have to contend with the Houston Rockets and the Warriors just to make it out of the Western Conference.
  • Lebron may have been expecting Paul George to join him in Los Angeles, but that’s not going to happen. George stunned just about everyone by re-signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder. I suppose a four year contract worth $137 million is difficult to turn down, but I really don’t understand why he would pass up an opportunity to go to the Lakers and almost certainly win a title with James.
  • The lone remaining wildcard in the NBA is disgruntled Spurs star Kawhi Leonard. I’m not a fan of San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, a self-righteous blowhard who really should focus on his job instead of pontificating on issues way above his pay grade. However, I don’t think Leonard has handled his situation all that well either. No one in this little drama comes off looking particularly good. Maybe Leonard will end up helping Lebron James win a championship with the Lakers. He could possibly play a significant part of an 18th title reign for the Boston Celtics. The Thunder might figure out a way to bring him aboard and make Oklahoma City a legit powerhouse. Perhaps Leonard could be the final piece of The Process for the Philadelphia 76ers. Who knows??
  • Speaking of the Celtics, a few years ago I offered some thoughts on the hiring of head coach Brad Stevens, opining that there was a “possibility that Stevens will fail spectacularly and end up back in college”, but predicting that “it is just as possible that Stevens will be a solid NBA head coach that leads the Celtics back to the top of the ladder someday”. I also opined that Boston “ended up with the better end of the bargain in the trade that sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, & Jason Terry (all 35 years of age or older) to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for three 1st round draft picks in the next five years”. Those three first round picks have turned into up n’ comers Jaylen Brown & Jayson Tatum, and helped Boston trade for Kyrie Irving. Now that Cleveland will be an afterthought again the Eastern Conference looks like it could come down to the Sixers & Celtics for the next few seasons, so the possibility of Stephens leading his team to a championship looks good…if they can figure out a way to beat Golden State.

 

 

 

Not only is pro wrestling promoter Vince McMahon bringing back the XFL (which flamed out after one tumultuous season in 2001) in a couple of years, but next spring will see the launch of the Alliance of American Football. I am a huge football fan, and really believe that now more than ever, with so many media outlets available to air the product, spring football is a viable idea. However, something struck me one night as I was channel surfing. I ran across a Canadian Football League game on ESPN and began to ponder. I’ve always rather enjoyed the CFL. There are some differences in the rules between Canadian football and the NFL, but nothing too crazy. Several successful NFL players have started out in the CFL in the past, including Warren Moon, Joe Theismann, Doug Flutie, Rocket Ismail, & Jeff Garcia. The CFL has been around for about sixty years, but their league consists of only nine teams that play 18 regular season games. There were nine other teams that are now defunct, with the majority of those being United States based franchises that only played for a season or two in a mid-1990’s attempt at expansion. So my question is this…why are two other spring football leagues on the horizon?? Wouldn’t it be smarter for McMahon and whoever the powers-that-be are behind the AAF to invest in the CFL and help turn it into the powerhouse league that it could be?? That mid-90’s expansion failed partly because the American teams were located in places like Baltimore, Vegas, Birmingham, & San Antonio. Wouldn’t it be smarter for the CFL to target northern U.S. cities like Portland OR, Boise ID, Rochester NY, Providence RI, & Tacoma WA?? Even Anchorage, AK could be considered. A CFL with 16 teams that plays 14 regular season games and has the power, influence, & financial backing of Vince McMahon makes infinitely more sense than three separate spring football leagues.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 2.16

Greetings sports fans. It hasn’t been a particularly warm spring just yet, atleast here in the hills of West Virginia, but the sports calendar has been full so there are lots of little nuggets to ponder. Let’s do that.

 

 

 

 

 

kobeI was never a big Kobe Bryant fan. He always seemed like kind of an arrogant punk to me, and his…adventure…in Colorado several years ago did nothing to endure him to the masses. Talk of him being on the same level as Michael Jordan is ridiculously laughable and he is barely even one of the Top 10 best Los Angeles Lakers of all time (he’s behind Magic, Kareem, West, Chamberlain, Shaq, Elgin Baylor, Worthy, “Hot Rod” Hundley, & Mikan in my book). Having said all of that, it is a rarity to see a guy play 20 years of any professional sport, and for him to have played his entire career with one team is remarkable. I am a sucker for good farewell stories, so it was with rapt attention I watched Bryant’s final game. Yes it was a meaningless contest, especially for a Lakers team that hasn’t even been close to the playoff hunt this season, but watching 37 year old Kobe summon up a wellspring of energy that he hasn’t displayed in probably 5 years and hang 60 points…SIXTY points…on the Utah Jazz was great TV and left a positive final impression. Well played sir…well played indeed.

 

 

 

Congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats for winning the 2016 NCAA basketball national championship. The tournament overallVillanova Basketball didn’t seem to have as much theatrical impact as usual, but the title game, in which ‘Nova defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels, featured two fantastic three point shots in the final five seconds and more than made up for the abundance of chalk and tedious blowouts.

 

 

 

mlbWay too early impressions of the MLB season…

  • The Chicago Cubs look as formidable as the pundits predicted. Maybe Back to the Future II was only a year off with its “prediction”.
  • The Baltimore Orioles are going to be tough as well.
  • As of this writing the Minnesota Twins are 2-9 and the Atlanta Braves are 1-9. The success of the 90’s seems to be in the rear view mirror for both clubs.
  • My Pittsburgh Pirates were expected to take a step back this season after making the playoffs the last couple of years and so far that seems to be the case. I hope their ownership & front office knows what they are doing, but I can’t say my confidence is high.
  • Wouldn’t a Cubs-White Sox World Series be fun?? I’m not going out on a limb to predict it…I’m just suggesting it looks like a possibility.

 

 

 

The NBA Playoffs have begun and the first round matchups look like this:

 

East

Cleveland Cavaliers            vs.       Detroit Pistons

Toronto Raptors                 vs.       Indiana Pacers

Miami Heat                          vs.       Charlotte Hornets

Atlanta Hawks                     vs.       Boston Celtics

nba

West

Golden State Warriors      vs.       Houston Rockets

San Antonio Spurs                         vs.       Memphis Grizzlies

Oklahoma City Thunder   vs.       Dallas Mavericks

Los Angeles Clippers          vs.       Portland Trail Blazers

 

Everyone is expecting the Eastern Conference to come down to Cleveland and Toronto, with the Cavaliers easily walking into their first Finals appearance since 2007. I think it’s possible that the Miami Heat might sneak into the conference finals over the Raptors, but other than that I expect no surprises. In the Western Conference it would be a huge disappointment for the Golden State Warriors…the defending NBA Champions who just set a new regular season wins record with 73 victories…to not get back to the Finals. However, don’t be surprised to see the venerable San Antonio Spurs give them a battle. The Western Conference finals might end up being more entertaining than the NBA Finals.

 

 

 

nhlThe NHL Playoffs are underway as well, but hockey really isn’t my thing. I’ll watch the Pittsburgh Penguins here & there, but beyond that I really don’t care.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 5.13

Today we go off the beaten path just a bit, with golf, the NBA, and a marathon. And I honestly wish I was addressing the sports aspect of the latter, but as you can probably guess that’s not the case.

 

 

 

The whole Tiger Woods controversy at The Masters was fascinating. First of all, I have no issue with him being assessed a two shot penalty versus being outright disqualified. New rules were put in place a few years ago for these exact kinds of circumstances. I’m not sure who is more obnoxious…golf purists or baseball purists. Anyone who was calling for Tiger Woods to DQ himself is an idiot. Secondly, tigerI’m not sure why a rules official wasn’t on hand to direct the situation on the course. Part of the blame there has to go to Tiger himself, as he should have ask for guidance rather than being cocky and assuming he knew the proper protocol. I have an issue as well with the fact that officials did review the incident while Tiger was still on the course and said everything was kosher only to reverse themselves after he’d signed his scorecard and left the premises. That is squarely on them…not him. And let’s talk about why they reversed their initial decision. The reversal was based on two things: a interview in which Woods inadvertently & unknowingly “told on himself” after the round, and a phone call in which a television viewer ratted Tiger out. In the future anyone in serious contention at The Masters or any other golf tournament should absolutely refuse all interviews based on what happened here lest they say something to incriminate themselves. And how exactly does one simply pick up the phone and call the Augusta National Golf Club in the midst of the sport’s premier event?? Is the number in the yellow pages?? I think some regrettable precedents were set at the 2013 Masters that may someday come back to haunt the PGA.

 

 

nbaOkay NBA…now is your time to shine. Citizens of the Manoverse know that I don’t pay close attention to pro basketball until the playoffs begin, and that occurs this weekend. In the east the matchups look like this:

 

           

            1 Miami Heat           vs.       8 Milwaukee Bucks

            2 New York Knicks vs.       7 Boston Celtics

            3 Indiana Pacers     vs.       6 Atlanta Hawks

            4 Brooklyn Nets      vs.       5 Chicago Bulls

There’s no way Milwaukee beats Miami. I’ll be surprised if that series isn’t an easy sweep for the Heat. I’d like to think Boston can give the Knicks a good run but I think they’re just too old. I don’t think Indiana will have much of a problem beating Atlanta. The 4/5 series might stand a good chance of going seven games, but even if Derrick Rose doesn’t return to the court I think the Bulls will win. Ultimately I think it’ll come down to a Heat-Pacers conference finals, with Miami winning in 5 games.

 

The west looks like this:

 

            1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs.     8 Houston Rockets

            2 San Antonio Spurs          vs.       7 Los Angeles Lakers

            3 Denver Nuggets            vs.       6 Golden State Warriors

            4 Los Angeles Clippers      vs.       5 Memphis Grizzlies

The west feels like it’ll be infinitely more entertaining & unpredictable than the east. I could see all of these series going 6 or 7 games. The Lakers seem to be a popular pick to pull an upset, but that ain’t happening without Kobe Bryant and he’s out with an injury. At the end of the day I gotta go straight chalk in the first round. I think it all boils down to a Spurs-Clippers conference finals, with San Antonio pulling it out in 7 games.

That means an NBA Finals pitting the Miami Heat vs. the San Antonio Spurs, and as much as I would love to see Tim Duncan ride off into the sunset with another ring after defeating the despicable Heat I just can’t go there. It looks like another ring for that assclown Lebron James and his posse. My apologies to the fine citizens of Cleveland, OH.

 

 

To call the bombing at the annual Boston Marathon regrettable would be a huge understatement. As a lifelong sports fanatic I find it appalling when any such event is marred by tragedy. Sports are supposed to be an escape. They are supposed to be fun. Sure there is a lot of money on the line for everyone involved in any sport (especially the professional leagues for the big three…football, baseball, & basketball), and certainly there are fans who take things a Boston-Marathon-bombing-screenshotbit too seriously and are far more emotionally invested than might be healthy, but at the end of the day I think most people understand the difference between whatever the sports story du jour may be and “real” life. When that line is blurred, as it has been with this bombing in Boston, I as a fan feel violated on multiple levels. We don’t yet know if this act of terror was perpetrated by a group like Al Qaeda or a lone individual with some serious psychological issues, and it has yet to be determined if it was done as a political or religious statement or simply because the person(s) were angry about a less significant yet more personal issue, but I am sure the wheels of justice will eventually provide answers. However, after all is said & done the damage is irreversible. Three people (including a small child) are dead. Nearly 200 people were injured, some catastrophically so. Their lives will never be the same. The Boston Marathon will never be the same. And we seem to have segued into an age in 21st century New America where we can no longer gather in large groups and enjoy something as innocent & pleasurable as a sporting event without having to take precautions, consider possible consequences, and ponder potentially negative outcomes that we never would have fathomed just a decade or two ago, which is a damn shame.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 4.13

Today we bid a fond farewell to the football season and touch on a couple of other subjects.

 

 

Congratulations…I suppose…to the Baltimore Ravens, who just won one of the more memorable Super Bowls in recent memory. It wasn’t the result I would have preferred for a variety of reasons, but atleast it was an entertaining & competitive game. The 49ers have to be kicking themselves for not really showing up until after the blackout. I’m not sure what happened but I’d be willing to bet it won’t happen again if they are fortunate enough to get back to the Super Bowl. But of course ravens_preview_flattherein lies the rub. History tells us that the chances of either of these teams being as successful as they were this season next year are slim. The Ravens have a built in excuse. Not only are they losing their emotional leader Ray Lewis to retirement, but as with every other Super Bowl Champion they will become victims of their own success by losing several players who’ll seize the moment and cash in with big money contracts from other teams. Conversely the 49ers are young & shouldn’t see much turnover, plus they should be super motivated to prove that first half was just a fluke. But I’d still hesitate to bet on them making it back next season.

 

The extracurriculars surrounding the Super Bowl were predictablybr underwhelming. There wasn’t a single commercial that really burnt itself into my memory. Beyonce’s halftime show was okay I guess. I am in the minority by having the opinion that using the kiddie choir from Sandy Hook Elementary to help Jennifer Hudson sing America the Beautiful was shameless pandering.

 

warren-sapp-1668ddd46de92f78I’m still in a little bit of shock that Warren Sapp was voted intobus the Pro Football Hall of Fame ahead of Jerome Bettis & Michael Strahan. Maybe I am missing something, but to me Sapp was just another loudmouthed thug from “The U”, i.e. the Miami Hurricanes, but unlike other Miami thugs like Ray Lewis & Michael Irvin didn’t seem to have all that much of a noteworthy career. I guess the Hall of Fame voters disagree with that assessment.

 

I don’t usually pay much attention to the NBA until the playoffs begin, but the much talked about issues surrounding the LA Lakers have been difficult to ignore and highlight why I have come to dislike that team immensely. Back in the 80’s heyday of Showtime I really liked Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and their lakersteammates, but the 21st century version of the Lakers just aren’t likeable at all. It all started with Shaquille O’Neal several years ago. Shaq was and still is an illiterate assclown. I have no idea how mushmouths like he & football talking head Shannon Sharpe get TV gigs. Surely these shows can find more articulate talent. Anyway, then of course we have Kobe Bryant, who was one of the first guys to jump directly from high school to the NBA back when that was allowed. Kobe is very talented, but he’s also selfish & arrogant. Then this year the Lakers brought in Dwight Howard, who is 27 going on 12. I am simply sick & tired of hearing about all the conflict & struggle going on with the Lakers. Grow up & shut up.

 

Oh…speaking of the NBA…..

Please please please stop with the debate about who is the greatest basketball player jordanever – Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, or LeBron James. This is the kind of silly crap that ESPN pontificates about when there is nothing else going on in the world of sports, but to me there’s absolutely no question. Jordan is undoubtedly the greatest player to ever grace a basketball court. Kobe & LeBron are great players and have had some success, but any argument that tries to equate them with Jordan is simply manufactured, embellished poppycock.

 

I only pay slightly more attention to college basketball than I do the NBA at this bbpoint in the year. March Madness is awesome but in the 3 or 4 months prior I primarily focus on my Marshall Thundering Herd & WV Mountaineers. However, I must say that this season has been rather interesting. Every time a team reaches #1 they get upset. There doesn’t seem to be one dominant team or even a few dominant teams. That should make for a wide open NCAA Tournament with lots of twists & turns. Sounds good to me.

 

It is rare that I find myself in the position of saying anything positive about anyone associated with the evil empire known as the New England Patriots, but in the case of Rob Gronkowski I have to make an exception. I have been amused by all the old, curmudgeonly, fuddy duddy talking heads getting their knickers in a snit because Rob Gronkowski, Jerrell Freemanof Gronkowski’s partying caught on tape. This is a young 20-something who is rich, famous, (I assume) good looking, & popular. The world is his oyster. Why are a bunch of stuffed shirts so agitated by the guy dancing (badly) with his shirt off and acting like a goofball?? Yes the Patriots pay him a lot of money. Yes his wrist is currently in a cast. Yes he was most likely intoxicated both times he has been filmed partying like it’s 1999. But the last time I checked this was a free country and employees still have the right to engage in whatever legal activities they choose when they are “off duty”, which for professional athletes is the offseason. These out of touch sports “journalists” make it sound like Gronk was caught snorting lines of coke off the naked, dead carcass of Whitney Houston. Chill the hell out people!!

 

Winning & Musing…..Volume 7.12

Okay NBA…NOW you have my attention. As we celebrate Memorial Day summer has unofficially begun, which means baseball, basketball playoffs, and 1100 glorious miles of cars going in a circle really really fast.

 

 

Back in January of 2008 I was amongst the plethora of WV Mountaineer fans simultaneously celebrating an improbable Fiesta Bowl victory over the mighty Oklahoma Sooners while also heaping curses upon recently departed coach Rich Fraudriguez. Since Rich Fraud took several of members of his staff to Michigan with him (and just look how well that turned out) the job of leading the team into the lion’s den on that memorable January night had fallen to career assistant coach Bill Stewart. Basking in the afterglow of a huge win, the powers-that-be in Morgantown handed Stewart the full time gig the very next day without conducting any sort of thorough search process. Almost immediately there were those that pegged the hiring as a mistake, but most…including myself…turned a deaf ear to such criticism. However, slowly but surely the chorus grew and even I eventually turned on Coach Stew. Despite the fact that he won 9 games for three straight seasons, it just didn’t seem good enough, especially for a team that had been on the cusp of playing for a national championship before Fraudriguez, in what would prove to be his last game on the Mountaineers’ sideline, screwed the pooch against a lowly 4-7 Pitt team. Over those three seasons there were inexplicable losses to what we fans perceived as inferior opponents like South Florida, Cincinnati, Syracuse, and Connecticut. The team seemed to lack an edge, to not have the killer instinct that great teams possess. And so change was demanded and by 2011 Stew was forced to resign. His greatest strengths as a person were seen as being tremendous weakness for a coach. You see, Stewart was a true blue gentleman, a kind soul…the dreaded “nice guy”. Bill Stewart died last week. He dropped dead on the golf course of a heart attack. He was 59 years old. He left behind a wife and a son in high school. He didn’t seem to be overweight. To my knowledge he didn’t engage in vices like smoking, drinking, or drugs. Who knows why these things happen?? What I am pretty sure I do know is that Stew is now walking the golden streets of Heaven in continuous praise of his Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. Those of us still here will continue to cheer for our team and enjoy each & every victory, but we will do so knowing that no coach can ever duplicate Stew’s unique personality and genuinely benevolent spirit. We have realized…too late…what a tremendous gift he was. Coach Stewart’s motto was “Leave No Doubt”, a mantra to which he lived up. Bill Stewart left no doubt about the kind of person he was, what his priorities were, and his love for his family, his team, his school, & his state. Maybe he wasn’t the best college football coach in the universe, and I’d be willing to bet he understood his place on the totem pole. At the same time, he was seemingly comfortable, confident, and happy with whom he was as a person. We should all be so fortunate. Godspeed Coach Stew, and thanks for being such a shining example.

 

Kudos to Scotsman Dario Franchitti for winning his 3rd Indianapolis 500. I’m tempted to be envious of a man who not only has drank the milk at the ol’ Brickyard three times but also gets to see the quite fetching Ashley Judd naked whenever he wants. But then I realize that he actually has to live with Judd and hear her ramble on & on & on like a lunatic and suddenly I feel better about my own life.

 

What is the deal with Detroit Lions DL Nick Fairley?? He was a monster at Auburn, and could form one of the most imposing lines in football alongside Ndamukong Suh, but he has now been arrested two times in two months. The first time Fairley was speeding & smoking pot. The second time he was speeding, got a DUI, and ignored the cops & wouldn’t stop. This is the kind of stupidity that ends careers prematurely, because no matter how talented you are there’s always another gifted athlete just around the corner, so at some point a team will cut a player loose after he embarrasses them too much and refuses to be a mature adult.

 

For a very brief period of time I was truly convinced that the Indiana Pacers were going to pull off the impossible, that they were going to oust the hated Miami Heat and The Whore of Akron Lebron James in the 2nd round of the NBA playoffs. The Pacers were up 2-1, Heat star Dwayne Wade was playing more like Dwayne Wayne (alert!! – obscure 80’s TV reference), and the impact of Miami’s Chris Bosh being felled by injury was greater than anyone had imagined. For a couple of days the talking heads seemed unanimously swayed that a cold front was about to end the Heat. Unfortunately for Indiana Wade woke up from his Jimmy Carter-esque malaise and all the sudden…for maybe the first time ever in the playoffs…Lebron James seemed to realize “Hey…I’m Lebron Freakin’ James!!”. So now it is on to the Eastern Conference finals, where I have to rely on the geriatric Boston Celtics to take out the garbage. Let’s just say I’m not holding my breath.

 

Just in case you were wondering…

My Pittsburgh Pirates are in 3rd place, 4 games out of the division lead. Not bad for a team that ranks near the bottom in every single hitting statistic. I think the front office has concentrated so much on pitching for the last several years that the system has failed to develop anyone with any kind of pop in their bat outside of Andrew McCutcheon. If they could somehow get ahold of a couple of guys able to hit .300-ish and drive the ball out of the park on a regular basis the Pirates might actually begin to resemble a legitimate team.

 

More kudos, this time to Kasey Kahne, for winning the annual Coca-Cola 600. As usual I was rooting for my man Tony Stewart, but he just never got it going.

 

One basketball team that is no longer actively participating in this year’s playoffs is the Los Angeles Lakers. There is much debate about what kinds of changes need to be made to get one of the NBA’s most celebrated franchises back on top. Please allow me to pontificate. First of all, Mike Brown ain’t gonna cut it as a head coach. He failed in Cleveland, and now he’s proven his mediocrity in L.A. Secondly, I don’t care how solid of a player he is, I’d get rid of Ron Artest in a heartbeat. He’s been trouble everywhere he’s landed. Dennis Rodman was an eccentric weirdo…Artest is nothing but a wacked out ghetto thug. And yes, I absolutely refuse to refer to him by the asinine name which he prefers. Next I’d jettison both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum while both still have trade value (especially the 24 year old Bynum). From what I’ve seen Gasol oftentimes doesn’t play full throttle and can’t be counted on to be the force that a 7-footer really should be. Bynum simply has shown an unwillingness to grow up, plus most of the time he makes Gasol look like a workhorse in comparison. I’d go out and grab now former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy (unless one could coax Phil Jackson out of retirement), then use Gasol & Bynum to add pieces that’d complement an aging Kobe Bryant. Of course I expect the Lakers will do absolutely none of that.

 

I’ve grown sort of weary of the whole football/concussion debate. After the unfortunate suicide of former all world linebacker Junior Seau this issue once again became a hot topic, especially after retired QB Kurt Warner said that he might not want his children to play football knowing what we all know now about the injury risks. Predictably tough, crusty, old school players of all ages attacked Warner for insulting the game that had changed his life, providing him a plethora of opportunities and presumably a certain level of financial comfort after he had once been a stockboy at a grocery store in Iowa making minimum wage. As with most things, I have tried to understand both sides of the debate and cannot understand why folks seem unwilling to meet in the middle on this one. On one hand I think it is wonderful that technology & medical science allow us to have a much better understanding of head injuries, and certainly an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. However, football is an inherently dangerous & violent sport. Players understand that and are well aware of the risk. I do not want to see the game watered down by typical PC “good intentions”. As for folks like Warner, I have no problem with him espousing his opinion and raising his children the way he sees fit. After all, it’s still a free country…for now.

 

 

Winning & Musing…..Volume 2.12

 

It’s the Super Bowl Edition!!!!

 

 

My Super Bowl XLVI (that’s 46 for those of you in McDowell County WV) prediction…

NY Giants  –  31                  New England Patriots  –  30

Giants’ RB Ahmad Bradshaw will be the MVP. The commercials will suck. Kelly Clarkson will not screw up the anthem like Christina Aguilera did last year. I will not watch that old ho Madonna’s halftime show. NBC will find a way to have Tim Tebow be a part of the pre-game coverage.

 

I just can’t get caught up in all the manufactured hoopla surrounding National Signing Day or anything involving college recruiting. How many 5 star athletes have gone to a big time school only to never be heard from again?? Conversely, how many completely overlooked players have gone on to win national championships, all kinds of awards, and play at a high level in the pros?? I am completely against putting any 18 year old kid on a pedestal and making them a superstar before they’ve accomplished anything significant.

 

At first glance the hiring of (now former) Rutgers coach Greg Schiano to be the head man for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seems odd & out of left field. But it’s just as possible that it will turn out to be an inspired choice. The other options for Tampa were retreads like former Packers and Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman or Brad Childress, who was a total failure as coach of the Minnesota Vikings. Personally I’m a fan of giving a fresh face the opportunity. Worst case scenario?? Schiano is a bust who goes back to the ranks of college coaching three years from now and the Bucs have to go thru the same process again. However, I think there just might be a chance that this marriage works out quite nicely.

 

Conversely…

Good call by Florida International coach Mario Cristobal NOT to bolt The Sunshine State for Rutgers as Schiano’s replacement. At best it would have been a lateral move, and actually I think it would have been a step down. Just sit tight Coach Cristobal…you’re shot at a big time opportunity will come.

 

Speaking of head coaches…

I’m willing to bet that most Lakers fans would agree with me when I say that the hiring of head coach Mike Brown looks like it may have been a mistake.

 

I mentioned earlier that I will not be watching Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime performance. She has just never frosted my cupcake, even when she was young & hot. Anyway, I am a solutions oriented kind of guy, so I would like to suggest some ideas for future Super Bowl halftime shows:

                Van Halen

                Journey

                George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic

                Genesis

                Toby Keith

                Billy Joel

                Lynyrd Skynyrd

                Bon Jovi

                Garth Brooks

                Metallica

                Duran Duran

                Carrie Underwood

                White Stripes

                Guns n’ Roses

You’re welcome.

 

Age, financial issues, and various other concerns really do seem to be converging in Pittsburgh. I hope I’m wrong, but it seems more than possible that the Steelers may be entering one of those down cycles that can cripple a franchise for 3-5 years.

 

I will admit that I have been rather disdainful of NY Giants QB Eli Manning in the past. He just kind of seemed like a nerdy little milquetoast riding the coattails of his famous family. But he has won me over. Is he in the same league as his more famous & more talented older brother Peyton?? I can’t go quite that far just yet. However, he has finally cemented his spot as one of the elite signal callers in the NFL and taken his rightful place alongside fellow 2004 1st Round picks Ben Roethlisberger, Phillip Rivers, Larry Fitzgerald, Vince Wilfork, and Steven Jackson as examples of “getting it right” (as opposed to ’04 top picks like Robert Gallery, JP Losman, Roy Williams, and Chris Perry…yikes).