The 2018 Sammy Awards – Part III

Greetings Manoverse, and welcome to the exciting conclusion of the 2018 Sammy Awards. If you haven’t already done so, please go back and check out parts 1 & 2, then we’ll meet back here.

 

 

 

All caught up?? Awesome. Please welcome back the host of our show, British comedian & talk show host Michael McIntyre!!

 

 

 

 

After some side-splitting comedy from our host it’s time to present our next award. It is a privilege for this show to reunite what ESPN never should have separated. For nearly two decades they made early morning weekday hours fun & informative for sports fans everywhere, and along the way they picked up five Sammys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award a year ago. They’re still on TV & radio, but the magic is gone, so it is wonderful to have them together again on our stage. Please welcome author, vociferous New York Jets fan, & the host of ESPN’s Get Up, Mike Greenberg, and former NFL defensive lineman & host of ESPN’s Golic & Wingo, Mike Golic!! And the nominees are:

 

 

Best Sports Story

 

The Tide Rolls Again

The 2017-18 Alabama Crimson Tide went 11-1 in the regular season and failed to even make it to the SEC title game…but it didn’t matter. The powers-that-be handed them a spot in the College Football Playoff anyway, and the Tide rolled to their 17th National Championship, their fifth in nine years with head coach Nick Saban at the helm.

 

Dr. Larry Nassar

Dr. Nassar was a physician at Michigan State University and for about 15 years served as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics. During that time he sexually abused over 200 young people, and after being sent to prison in 2017 for child pornography in 2018 he was convicted of sexual assault to minors, so he’ll be spending the rest of his life in jail and one can assume eternity in Hell.

 

Philly Wins The Super Bowl

The 2017-18 Philadelphia Eagles went 13-3 in the regular season, easily winning their division. They proceeded to cruise thru the playoffs and clash with the dastardly New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII (that’s 52 for all you non-Romans out there). What makes the story interesting is that starting quarterback Carson Wentz was lost to a torn ACL late in the season, so the Eagles ended their regular season and faced the playoffs with journeyman backup QB Nick Foles under center. Fortunately for Philly fans Foles was up to the task, and he even caught a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl.

 

The Olympics

There was a Winter Olympics in South Korea last February. Did anyone notice?? Does anyone remember a single solitary thing that happened?? I didn’t think so.

 

The Madness of a 16 Over a 1

Villanova beat Michigan to win the NCAA basketball tournament (aka March Madness), but that wasn’t the most interesting part of the event. Two other things stood out. Probably the most enduring image of the tournament is the 11th seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, with their Gryffindor-esque scarves & 98 year old nun Sister Jean cheering them on, making it to the Final Four. But before that history was made in the first round when the 16th seed UMBC Retrievers upset the #1 seed Virginia Cavaliers…the first time a 16 has ever beat a 1.

 

Tiger Woods

Once upon a time Tiger Woods was not only the best golfer in the world, he was probably the top athlete overall. Of course we all know that health problems & personal issues knocked him off that perch nearly ten years ago, and it’s been a long road back. At one time it was a foregone conclusion that Woods would surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships, but in the past several years most began to question whether he would ever win another major…or even a tournament. However, in 2018 Woods began to somewhat resemble his old self on the course, winning the Tour Championship in September, placing sixth at the British Open, & finishing as the runner up at the PGA Championship.

 

Ovechkin Wins The Cup

Alex Ovechkin has been considered one of the best hockey players in the world since debuting with the Washington Capitals more than a decade ago. However, his talent had not translated into post-season success, with the Caps being ousted early year after year. That all changed in 2018, as Ovechkin led his team to their first Stanley Cup.

 

The Warriors Beat Lebron…Again

The Golden State Warriors have faced the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals for four straight seasons. In 2015 & 2017 the Warriors won pretty easily. In 2016 Lebron James willed the Cavaliers to a Game 7 victory. What would happen in 2018?? Well…a sweep for Golden St. It wasn’t pretty, and really not that interesting.

 

France Wins The World Cup

Look, I realize that soccer is the most popular sport in the world. I know we Americans march to the beat of a different drummer. I have tried to develop an interest in soccer, but I just can’t do it. At any rate, Russia hosted the 2018 World Cup, and France defeated Croatia in the final. The United States failed to even qualify for the tournament, so any infinitesimal interest some of us might have had pretty much died before the event even began.

 

LA-Bron

After another crushing defeat in the NBA Finals it became clear that Lebron James wouldn’t be spending the last few years of his basketball career wasting away in Cleveland. The fact that he ever returned in the first place is a miracle because it is obvious that James’ relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert wasn’t great, and that Gilbert doesn’t really have the means or the alacrity to put together a championship caliber team. Thankfully James’ didn’t make the same mistakes he made back when he initially ditched the Cavs for the Miami Heat in 2010. There was no “Decision” on TV. Whether it is the glitz & glamor of Hollywood, the history of Showtime, Kareem, Magic, Kobe, et al, planning ahead for a future after basketball, or the allure of working with team President Magic Johnson, it came as no surprise when Lebron James joined the Los Angeles Lakers. After a shaky start the Lakers are in playoff contention, although they probably can’t be considered legit title contenders at the moment.

 

Urban Meyer

2018 was quite the roller coaster ride for Ohio State Buckeyes football coach Urban Meyer. He was suspended for the first three games of the season after mishandling domestic violence allegations against a former assistant coach. The team fared well without him and looked like solid playoff contenders, but an October loss to Purdue doomed the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes. Meyer announced that he’d retire following the team’s bowl game due to a cyst on his brain that he’s been battling for years. From what I understand the cyst is not life threatening and isn’t usually a big deal for those that have them, but Meyer’s situation seems to be a bit more than a minor annoyance. He ended his career (for now) with a big Rose Bowl victory, and since he’s only 54 years old who knows what the future may hold for him.

 

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…..

 

 

 

The Philadelphia Eagles. It’d be tempting to give Philly the award simply for beating the hated Patriots in the Super Bowl, but the fact that they did it with a backup quarterback (who was named Super Bowl MVP) and used a fun little trick play called The Philly Special to secure the victory just made the story even cooler. Can history repeat itself this year?? Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Before we hand out the final award of the evening it is our pleasure to welcome one of the most talented singers in the world. His wheelhouse is old jazz standards made popular by crooners like Frank Sinatra, Van Morrison, Dean Martin, & others, but he has produced some lovely original pop tunes and is a must listen during the Christmas season. To sing a medley of his hits & personal favorites please welcome Michael Bublè!!

 

 

Thank you Michael!! That was tremendous!!

 

 

To present our final award The Sammys are honored to welcome the oldest presenter in our brief history. At 96 years of age she is still making us laugh, as she has consistently done during a career that has spanned eight decades. She has starred in beloved television programs like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls, & Mama’s Family, made frequent appearances on game shows like Match Game, The $25,000 Pyramid, & Password, and is a reliably funny guest on talk shows for many years. It is a sincere honor to welcome Betty White to the Sammy Awards. And the nominees are:

 

 

 

Biggest News Story

 

North Korean Summit

Back in June President Trump traveled to Singapore to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It was the first ever summit between leaders of the two nations. The two men discussed Korean denuclearization and signed an agreement meant to lead to lasting peace between their countries.

 

Another Royal Wedding

In May Prince Harry, the younger son of Prince Charles & Princess Diana, married American actress Meghan Markle. I’ll give the Brits this much…they know how to make a spectacle out of just about anything.

 

Illegal Immigration, Border Security, & The Migrant Caravan

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”. So goes the poem that is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. It is true that the United States is a nation of immigrants. No one is disputing that. The issue is how & where such immigration takes place. There has to be a system. There have to be rules. There must be accountability. America is a melting pot, and when people come here we expect them to adhere to our laws, pay taxes, become productive members of society, and embrace our culture & way of life. You can’t just sneak in, live anonymously, & take take take take without contributing while breaking any rules you don’t feel like following. President Trump’s promise to build a “big beautiful wall” along the southern border was a cornerstone of his 2016 campaign, and now Democrats refuse to greenlight funding for the project. The majority of Americans are in favor of border security, but it sure seems like certain politicians in DC are putting their hatred of the President ahead of the will of the people, and for a very long time it has felt like those same bureaucrats have cared a lot more about folks from other countries…like the thousands in the “Migrant Caravan” that have been heading for the United States from Central America for several months…than they do about the Americans they allegedly represent.

 

Thai Cave Rescue

In June a team of teenage soccer players toured a cave in Thailand and became trapped when heavy rains flooded the cave, trapping the entire team inside. For more than two weeks the youngsters & their coach were in the cave while a massive rescue effort involving thousands of people took shape. The entire group was eventually rescued, although one diver…a former Thai Navy SEAL…died in the process.

 

Trump-Putin Meetings

Just a few weeks after his historic summit with Kim Jong-un President Trump went to Finland for a similar get-together with Russian President Vladimir Putin. I’m not sure what was accomplished except reigniting media accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

 

Justice Kavanaugh

When Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his intention to retire at the end of July speculation immediately began about his possible replacement. After President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals it appeared that there would be the typical political posturing but a confirmation was assumed. However, what followed captured the attention of our entire nation for weeks. 52 year old professor & psychologist Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward and accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school party almost four decades ago. Though her recollections are fuzzy, the story has more holes than Sonny Corleone on the causeway in The Godfather, & she appears to be about as credible as Milli Vanilli, the news media treated Blasey Ford like the star witness at a mafia trial. What should have been a slam dunk confirmation turned into an edge-of-your-seat drama, all based on specious allegations of what Kavanaugh may or may not have done when he was a kid forty years ago. I don’t believe for a second that Kavanaugh did anything to Dr. Minnie Mouse, but even if he made a pass at her or got a bit handsy, a) how come such allegations hadn’t become a thing as he was ascending the professional ladder, & b) should we really focus that much attention on something that a person did in high school?? At the end of the day the United States Senate decided that either they didn’t believe the accusations or that it didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of life. Whatever their thought process may have been Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed and now sits on The Supreme Court.

 

Parkland High School & Pittsburgh Synagogue Shootings

On Valentine’s Day a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, killing 17 students & staff members and injuring 17 others. The gunman was a 19 year old former student who had made numerous threats in the past, but everyone from local law enforcement to the FBI completely dropped the ball. In October a mass shooting occurred at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. 11 people were killed, 7 were injured, and the gunman was a 46 year old man who had posted anti-Semitic rants on social media.

 

Hurricanes Florence & Michael

Hurricane Florence was a Category 4 storm that hammered The Carolinas in September. Flooding was a bigger issue than high winds. 55 deaths occurred and the hurricane caused atleast $15 billion in damage. Hurricane Michael was a Category 4 storm that hit the Florida Panhandle in early October. More than 50 deaths resulted, and more than $4 billion in damage was reported in Florida & Georgia.

 

Mid-Term Elections

The 2018 mid-term elections saw the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives and Republicans retain their majority in the Senate. Overall, considering the relentless pummeling President Trump has taken from the leftist media & Hollywood elite since the day he took office it is somewhat surprising that the Republicans fared as well as they did. The next couple of years should be loads of fun.

 

California Wildfires

The 2018 wildfire season is the deadliest & most destructive wildfire season on record in California, with a total of 8527 fires burning an area of 1,893,913 acres. The fires caused more than $3.5 billion in damages and over 100 people died.

 

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…..

 

 

 

Justice Kavanaugh. I have said from Day 1 that the biggest reason I voted for Donald Trump was because I trusted him to make Supreme Court nominations more than Hillary Clinton. Nearly everything else a President does can be changed with the stroke of a pen by Congress or the next President, but the Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment that can shape our country for decades. There are oftentimes arguments & battles over nominees, but I don’t know if we’ve ever seen anything like what happened to Brett Kavanaugh. Only two people know what exactly happened at that party back in 1982…if anything happened at all. I didn’t find Christine Blasey Ford to be the least bit believable, and I am convinced that the whole debacle was a political hit job designed to destroy Trump’s nominee. However, IF something did happen to Ms. Ford and Kavanaugh was involved, then questions have to be asked. Why wasn’t this made public many years ago?? How had Kavanaugh gotten this far in his career if he is really such a scoundrel?? Should a middle-aged person be punished for being a creep when they were a teenager?? These are discussions worth having, because we need to decide acceptable parameters for destroying peoples’ lives. The Senate decided…for whatever reason…that, whether or not Brett Kavanaugh did something wrong forty years ago, he deserved an opportunity, based on his professional track record of success, to sit on the highest Court in the land, and now we prepare for the next skirmish.

 

 

 

 

 

evangelist Billy Graham…former President & First Lady George HW Bush & Barbara Bush…physicist Stephen Hawking…legendary sportscaster Keith Jackson… The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin…Hall of Fame pro wrestler Bruno Sammartino…comic book creator Stan Lee (Spider-Man, The X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man)…actress (Laverne & Shirley) and director (Big, Awakenings, A League of Their Own) Penny Marshall… TV chef Anthony Bourdain… retired NBA coaches Jack McKinney (LA Lakers, Indiana Pacers) & Tex Winter (Chicago Bulls) and players Hal Greer (Philadelphia 76ers), Jo Jo White (Boston Celtics), Clifford Rozier (Golden St. Warriors), & Lonnie Shelton (NY Knicks)…TV host Robin Leach (Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous)…retired NFL players Jim Taylor (Green Bay Packers), Bennie Cunningham (Pittsburgh Steelers), Tommy McDonald (Philadelphia Eagles), Dwight Clark (San Francisco 49ers), Wes Hopkins (Philadelphia Eagles), Gabe Rivera (Pittsburgh Steelers), Billy Cannon (Houston Oilers), Bill Fralic (Atlanta Falcons), & Ron Johnson (Pittsburgh Steelers)…former New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne…Pittsburgh, PA meteorologist Joe DeNardo & sportscaster Sam Nover….actors Burt Reynolds (Smokey & The Bandit, Hooper, The Longest Yard, The Cannonball Run), Jerry Van Dyke (Coach, My Mother the Car), John Mahoney (Frasier, Say Anything, Striking Distance), Harry Anderson (Night Court), Bill Daily (I Dream of Jeannie, The Bob Newhart Show), Donnelly Rhodes (Soap, Double Trouble), Louis Zorich (Mad About You), Frank Parker (Days of Our Lives), Mickey Jones (National Lampoon’s Vacation, Tin Cup, Home Improvement), David Ogden Stiers (MASH), Chuck McCann (mostly know for TV commercials), R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket), Verne Troyer (the Austin Powers series), Donald Moffett (The Right Stuff , The Bonfire of the Vanities, Trapped in Paradise), Herb Ellis (The Andy Griffith Show), Tab Hunter (Grease 2), Daniel Pilon (Dallas, Guiding Light), Robert Mandan (Soap, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Three’s a Crowd), Joseph Campanella (Days of Our Lives), & Ken Berry (Mayberry RFD, F-Troop, Mama’s Family) …authors Tom Wolfe (The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities), William Goldman  (The Princess Bride, screenwriter of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men), Harlan Ellison (Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever”), & Philip Roth (American Pastoral, Portnoy’s Complaint)…retired MLB umpire Doug Harvey…Hugh Wilson (creator of WKRP in Cincinnati)…infamous gangster Whitey Bulger…Weather Channel co-founder John Coleman…NFL player Edwin Jackson (Indianapolis Colts)…actresses Margot Kidder (Superman), Charlotte Rae (Diff’rent Strokes, Facts of Life), Peggie McCay (Days of Our Lives, The Andy Griffith Show), Connie Sawyer (When Harry Met Sally, Dumb & Dumber), Lari White (Cast Away), Nanette Fabray (One Day at a Time), Katherine MacGregor (Little House on the Prairie), Sondra Locke (The Outlaw Josey Wales, Sudden Impact)….former MLB general manager Kevin Towers (San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks)…cartoonist Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey, Hi & Lois)…retired pro golfers Bruce Lietzke & Hubert Green…musicians/singers Michael White (Thompson Twins), Vic Damone, Dean Webb (The Dillards aka The Darlings on The Andy Griffith Show), DJ Fontana, Vinnie Paul (Pantera), Daryle Singletary, Roy Clark (Hee Haw), Otis Rush, Matt “Guitar” Murphy (The Blues Brothers)…retired NFL coach Chuck Knox (Seattle Seahawks)…Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man)…former MLB players Willie McCovey San Francisco Giants), Ken Howell (LA Dodgers), Red Schoendienst (St. Louis Cardinals), Tony Bartirome (Pittsburgh Pirates), Tito Francona (Cleveland Indians), Bruce Kison (Pittsburgh Pirates), & Rusty Staub (NY Mets)…fashion designer Kate Spade…British distance runner Sir Roger Bannister (ran the first sub-4-minute mile)…disc jockey Adrian Cronauer (the inspiration for Good Morning Vietnam)…UNC Tar Heels basketball announcer Woody Durham…Pulitzer Prize winning political pundit Charles Krauthammer…professional sports franchise owners Tom Benson (New Orleans Saints & Pelicans), Paul Allen (Portland Trailblazers, Seattle Seahawks, also co-founder of Microsoft), Bob McNair (Houston Texans), Wayne Huizenga (Miami Dolphins, Florida Panthers, & Miami Marlins, also the founder of Blockbuster Video), & Alex Spanos (Los Angeles Chargers)… former U.S. Senator & Governor of Georgia Zell Miller and U.S. Senator & former Presidential candidate John McCain… television producers Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, Doogie Howser MD), John Conboy (Capitol, Guiding Light), & Paul Junger Witt (The Golden Girls, Soap, Benson, Empty Nest, Blossom)…retired pro wrestlers/managers Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, “Luscious” Johnny Valiant, The Dynamite Kid, Big Van Vader, Nikolai Volkoff, Paul Jones, Brickhouse Brown, Brian Christopher, Matt Cappotelli, Chris Champion, Jose Lothario, Larry “The Ax” Hennig, & Big Bully Busick…comedy club entrepreneur Mitzi Shore…Pulitzer Prize winning sportswriter Dave Anderson…talk radio host Art Bell…Oscar winning director Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Man on the Moon)…retired college football coaches Earle Bruce (Ohio St.) & Billy Brewer (Ole Miss) and basketball coach/AD CM Newton (Kentucky)…political commentator Ed Schultz…NFL coach Tony Sparano (Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins)…Tony Award winning playwright & screenwriter Neil Simon…former Marshall Thundering Herd QB Michael Payton…brewery executive William Coors (grandson of company founder Adolph Coors)…renowned sportswriter Paul Zimmerman (Sports Illustrated, The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football)… Audrey Geisel (widow of “Dr. Seuss” Theodore Geisel)…NASCAR Hall-of-Famer David Pearson… infamous brothel owner Dennis Hof (Las Vegas’ Bunny Ranch)… former WV Mountaineers assistant basketball coach Gary McPherson

Winning & Musing…Volume 2.18

Finally…Spring has sprung here in The Mountain State!! It’s been 80+ degrees the past couple of days, with plentiful sunshine. However, as happy as that makes me I must temper my enthusiasm since preliminary indications are that next week will begin with a “wintry mix”. I am exercising similar caution with the sports calendar because, while some things are pointed in the right direction it is far too early for a victory lap. Let’s discuss.

 

 

 

As per usual I haven’t paid all that much attention to the NBA season. Actually I’ve probably been even less invested than usual (if that’s possible) for reasons I have covered previously. However, that all changes with the start of the playoffs, which look like this in the Eastern Conference:

Toronto Raptors                    vs.     Washington Wizards

Boston Celtics              vs.     Milwaukee Bucks

Philadelphia 76ers      vs.     Miami Heat

Cleveland Cavaliers    vs.     Indiana Pacers

Ideally we would see either the Celtics or 76ers emerge to represent their conference in the NBA Finals. All eyes will be on a Raptors-Cavs second round series if/when it happens, and I must admit that, as patriotic as I tend to be (USA!! USA!!) I am more than sick of Lebron James. He is NOT better than Michael Jordan, and some of the things he has said off the court have revealed the kind of person he really is, which isn’t positive. When one lives by the sword one dies by the sword, and since the NBA has spent decades marketing individual personalities over teams they shouldn’t be surprised that many fans react negatively when some personalities are pompous, self-righteous, & tediously egotistical. Which brings me to the Western Conference:

Houston Rockets                  vs.     Minnesota Timberwolves

Golden State Warriors         vs.     San Antonio Spurs

Portland Trail Blazers           vs.     New Orleans Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder       vs.     Utah Jazz

I am beyond thrilled that the Warriors & Spurs play each other in Round 1, because that means that one of the world’s biggest blowhard coaches will be eliminated quickly (hopefully either Portland or New Orleans will take out the remaining trash in the second round). I’d be fine with the Rockets making it to the NBA Finals, although I think the Pelicans could be a sleeper. A Philly-N’awleans Finals would be fresh & intriguing, wouldn’t it??

 

 

Congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats for winning their second National Championship in the past three seasons. The 2018 edition of March Madness will mostly be remembered for the impressive run to The Final Four of the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, with their Gryffindor scarves and elderly nun Sister Jean, and for the history making 16th seed UMBC Retrievers’ huge upset of #1 Virginia, something that had never happened before. However, though there had been numerous teams atop the polls throughout the season and no dominant force emerged as a clear favorite to cut down the nets, hindsight is 20/20 and Villanova was always lurking near the top and seemed to be the most consistent program thru the season.

 

 

Sunday at The Masters was delightful fun as usual. Though Tiger Woods & my man Phil Mickelson made the cut and played on the weekend they were never legit factors, but luckily for fans & the folks at CBS guys like Rory McIlroy & Rickie Fowler were entertaining, and Jordan Spieth’s -8 final round of 64 was fantastic even if it came up a bit short. Initially I had no issue with winner Patrick Reed, but post-victory stories have emerged that paint him in a rather negative light. Apparently he hasn’t spoken to his own family for several years because they disapproved of his marriage. I’m not married, but I cannot imagine ever choosing a woman over my parents or sibling. From what I’ve read the family seems conciliatory and willing to resume a relationship with Reed, but he (and his wife) aren’t interested. That’s pretty sad in my humble opinion.

 

 

The NHL Playoffs are underway, but y’all know my tepid feelings about hockey. If my Pittsburgh Penguins make it thru the first couple of rounds perhaps I’ll become interested. Somebody keep me posted.

 

 

 

I know I know…pro wrestling isn’t a “real” sport. I get it, but indulge me. My neighbor & I watched last weekend’s WrestleMania 34 event, and it was an enjoyable evening. The “mainstream” media was all over former MMA champion Ronda Rousey’s participation now that she has officially segued into a career in the WWE, and I’ll give credit where it is due…Rousey looked good in the ring. She still needs a lot of work doing promos, and the powers-that-be should keep her as far away from interviews with outlets like ESPN as they possibly can since they’ve proven to be bizarrely detrimental, but inside those ropes she acquitted herself nicely on absolutely the biggest stage she has ever been on in her entire career. People like to make fun of “wrasslin’”, but there were 78k in the Superdome, and millions watching on PPV or the WWE Network. As popular as MMA might be it can’t match those numbers. I was happy that Rousey’s mixed tag didn’t get a main event spot (Lawrence Taylor once main evented a WrestleMania, which was a slap in the face to full time wrestlers) and was instead on the mid-card where it deserved to be. Overall it was a well-constructed show and a great way to spend a Sunday evening.

 

 

I’m not emotionally invested in baseball quite yet, but I’ll get there. I think it’s hilarious that games have already been cancelled because of snow. Several years ago I proposed a plan for a shorter baseball season…maybe it’s time to take such suggestions seriously.

 

 

I’d been watching…off & on…ESPN’s Golic & Wingo on weekday mornings the past few months, but lately have given a fair opportunity to the brand new Get Up, starring Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle, & Jalen Rose, to wow me. Neither show is horrible. Golic & Wingo is predictably chill, while Get Up isn’t as obnoxious as it had the potential to be. Having said that, both are like buying overpriced but watered down drinks at a bar. Greeny & Golic specifically aren’t nearly as entertaining as they were while together on Mike & Mike. Neither mix is necessarily bad now, but the new shows are lacking…something. I stated awhile back that the late night shows no longer interest me and I am more likely to turn my television off at 11:30pm now than watch any of the garbage spewed forth by Kimmel, Colbert, et al. And now I no longer turn on my TV first thing in the morning to check out what Greeny or Golic have to say about sports. It wasn’t broke, but ESPN decided to “fix it” anyway. Way to go morons.

The Sammy Claus Wish List 2016

tree02Greetings friends, and a very Merry Christmas. Welcome to our SEVENTH Wish List. I cannot believe that we’ve been carrying on this tradition for that long!! After an unavoidable hiatus a year ago due to medical issues it has filled my heart with immeasurable joy to be able not only to delight in what the holiday season has to offer in my small corner of the world, but also to once again write about related subjects here at The Manofesto. Since it’s been awhile let me remind you how this works. Being Sammy Claus is a mostly ceremonial position that I have bestowed upon myself. I wield no actual power to see that the entities mentioned here receive the suggested gifts. However, I’d like to believe that The Jolly Old Elf himself occasionally peruses this site and may take my submissions to heart. I try my best not to be petty or meanspirited, but let’s face it…there are a lot of folks out there on The Naughty List, and it seems to be overflowing this year. There is cause for optimism though, especially at Christmastime. After all, if a mean old malcontent like Ebenezer Scrooge can see the error of his ways or a mischievous creature like The Grinch can have his heart grow three sizes when he realizes the true meaning of Christmas then there is hope for anybody, right??

 

 

 

 

 

The Trump Administration

best of luck in making America great again…I am cautiously optimistictrumppence

 

 

Colin Kaepernick

a recording of The Star Spangled Banner on an endless loop

 

 

Kim Kardashian

a long vacation in Paris

 

 

The American Flag

more respect from the masses…not for the cloth itself, but what it stands forhonoring-veterans

 

 

The Chicago Cubs

another World Series title…in 2124

 

 

The United Kingdom

best wishes enjoying your newfound freedom from Europeunionjack

 

 

David S. Pumpkins

a feature filmpumpkins

 

 

The Clothes Pin Brigade

Medication. Seriously, if you have a clothes pin as your profile photo on social media you are mentally ill. And I thought The Ribbon People were obnoxious.

 

 

Joy Behar & Whoopi Goldberg

lobotomiesidiots2

 

 

Late Night TV

less politics, more class

 

 

The Supreme Court

a new justice that respects The Constitutionwethepeople

 

Martin Sheen

Expulsion from the self-righteous moral high ground. Seriously dude…you raised Charlie Sheen. If you think America is screwed up look in the damn mirror first.

 

 

The Cleveland Browns

atleast one win in 2017 & a boatload of players & picks for the #1 overall draft choice that should absolutely be tradedfactory

 

 

Hillary Rodham Clinton

shatterproof glass & a big lump of coal

 

 

Driverless Automobile Technology

success…I am intrigued

 

 

Hamilton

curtains

 

 

Samsung Phone Users

a fireproof suitsamsung

 

 

North Carolina

exponential population growthnorth-carolina-no-lines

 

 

Super Bowl LI

a better halftime show than its predecessor

 

 

Melania Trump

new speechwritersmelania

 

 

College Students

less safe spaces, coddling, & leftist indoctrination, more practical education that’ll prepare productive citizens to function in the real world

 

 

Barack & Michelle Obama

hope & changebye

 

 

Bruce Jenner

counseling

 

 

NJ Governor Chris Christie

lip balm & knee padscc3

 

 

Tiger Woods

a successful comeback…it’s time to forgive & move forward

 

 

 

 

Per established custom I shall end with the traditional quote from the Rankin-Bass animated classic Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town:

 

santajesus“Lots of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn’t Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn’t a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give…of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men.”

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.

The Return of March Madness!!

Loyal citizens of The Manoverse might know that your humble Potentate of Profundity isn’t a big fan of winter. As a matter of fact, as I write this I am suffering with my annual bout of bronchitis which I’d thought I might actually escape. Alas it arrived with just a few days left in the season. At any rate, I grab onto any bbindicator of brighter, warmer, happier days like Tiger Woods gravitates toward hot, blue-eyed blondes. I thought Groundhog Day provided some hope this year but I have learned that putting one’s faith in a rodent is about as wise as trusting Lindsay Lohan to show up to court on time. At any rate there really is no better or more reliable harbinger of springtime than the annual NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament, aka March Madness. The brackets have been released and the time has come for me to dive in head first with my picks. As usual I need to offer a few reminders about my methods:

    • I do not analyze, study, and stress out about my brackets. I print it out and fill it out on the fly. My picks are based on my knowledge as an average fan, a cursory listen to various talking heads, and on my vibes. My choices have no basis in scientific investigation of any facts or figures.
    • Will there be upsets?? Yes. But don’t go crazy. The first round has 32 games. Out of those there might be a half dozen upsets. The 5/12, 6/11, & 7/10 games are where to look for upsets. #1 seeds never…ever…lose in the first round, and #2 seeds very rarely lose. Atleast one #12 beats a #5 each year…I don’t know why. 8/9 games are pretty much dead even, so a #9 beating a #8 isn’t really that much of an upset.
    • After the first round it’s a free for all, although that 11, 12, 13, or 14 that got thru one game is unlikely to make it much further. Still though, there always seems to be atleast one. The trick is picking the right one.
    • I don’t pick play-in games (or as they now call them the “First Four”).
    • I am usually a sucker for the underdog, but in all honesty power conference teams will beat a small conference team the overwhelming majority of the time. I put major weight on being battle tested. A team that won 25 games during the regular season but did it against mostly weak competition is like blood in the water for a team from a power conference that might have won only 19 or 20 games and rode the bubble into the tournament.
    • I take into consideration where the games are taking place. If a team is playing close to home and has a bunch of fans in the stands that is important. But it’s not that important, so I consider it yet don’t nuts about it.

Although most everybody would probably agree that this has been a crazy & unpredictable year for college basketball and that should translate into a wide open tournament with lots of parity, the truth is that when I completed my brackets I saw a lot more chalk than I assumed I would. I am predicting 10 first round upsets, with four of those being a 9 seed over an 8, which of course isn’t really an upset. I only have one double digit seed making it to The Sweet 16, and my Final Four consists of one #1, two #2s, and a #4 seed. If my vibes are on the right path a lot of folks will be praising the tournament committee for just how accurately they put everything together considering the fickle randomness that has surrounded the entire season.

So without further ado let’s take at peek at each region:

 

 

East

1 Indiana               vs.       16 LIU or JMU

2 Miami, Fla.      vs        15 Pacific

3 Marquette        vs.       14 Davidson

4 Syracuse           vs.       13 Montana

5 UNLV                    vs.       12 California          

6 Butler                   vs.       11 Bucknell

7 Illinois                 vs.       10 Colorado

8 NC St.                     vs.       9 Temple

For some reason Bucknell is getting a lot of love from the “experts”. Now I do recall that they pulled a first round upset over Kansas a few years ago, but that’s all the more reason why the Butler Bulldogs won’t take them lightly and should get thesu win. Having said that, this is the region where I am predicting the most upsets. I have #9 Temple over #8 NC St. (not that big of a deal), #10 Colorado over #7 Illinois, #12 California over #5 UNLV, and the biggest shocker…#14 Davidson beating #3 Marquette. After that it’s all chalk, with Syracuse upending Miami to get to The Final Four.

 

West

1 Gonzaga               vs.       16 Southern

2 Ohio St.                vs.       15 Iona

3 New Mexico       vs.       14 Harvard

4 Kansas St.          vs.       13 Boise St. or LaSalle

5 Wisconsin          vs.       12 Mississippi         

6 Arizona                 vs.       11 Belmont

7 Notre Dame        vs.       10 Iowa St.

8 Pittsburgh           vs.       9 Wichita St.

The first round is unlikely to provide all that much drama, but business should pick up after that. I’ve seen a lot of talking heads predict that Pitt might give Gonzaga a run for their money in the 2nd round, but funnily enough I have the Panthers getting upset right off the bat by Wichita St. The 2nd round should see a osumatchup of #3 New Mexico vs. #6 Arizona, but whereas several of your pundit types seem to have developed a crush on New Mexico…going so far as to prop them as a potential Final Four team…I have the Wildcats getting the upset. In the regional final I have Ohio St. beating Gonzaga to make it to The Final Four.

 

South

1 Kansas                   vs.       16 Western Kentucky

2 Georgetown       vs.       15 Florida Gulf Coast

3 Florida                   vs.       14 Northwestern St.

4 Michigan              vs.       13 South Dakota St.

5 VCU                           vs.       12 Akron     

6 UCLA                       vs.       11 Minnesota

7 San Diego St.       vs.       10 Oklahoma

8 North Carolina   vs.       9 Villanova

This bracket doesn’t seem like all that much fun to me outside of the top heaviness of the four best seeds. However, at the bottom of the bracket I have predicted three mild upsets. #11 Minnesota over #6 UCLA would feel like more of a ballsy choice if everyone else wasn’t picking it as well. #10 Oklahoma over #7 San Diego St. is agtown result of my battle tested philosophy, although I suppose I am showing a lot less respect to the Mountain West Conference than most. #9 Villanova over #8 North Carolina would be a lot more of a marquee game if this was the late 80’s, but in my heart it’s still bigtime. The top four should all make it thru to the regional semis, with Georgetown pulling the mild upset over Kansas to reach The Final Four.

 

Midwest

1 Louisville              vs.       16 NC A&T

2 Duke                         vs.       15 Albany

3 Michigan St.       vs.       14 Valparaiso

4 St. Louis                 vs.       13 New Mexico St.

5 Oklahoma St.       vs.       12 Oregon  

6 Memphis                vs.       11 St. Mary’s

7 Creighton              vs.       10 Cincinnati

8 Colorado                 vs.       9 Missouri

Most “experts” are touting this as the toughest region, but I am only predicting a couple of upsets. I have #9 Missouri over #8 Colorado (again not a real upset), and #12 Oregon over #5 Oklahoma St. Everyone is in almost unanimous agreement LouisvilleBB2009_normalthat Oregon, which won the Pac 12 tournament, was grossly underseeded, and after the 1st round upset I have them pulling off another surprise over #4 St. Louis to reach the Sweet Sixteen. Other than that I have 3 of the top 4 seeds reaching the regional semis, with Louisville upending Michigan St. to reach The Final Four.

 

So my Final Four is Louisville, Ohio St., Georgetown, & Syracuse. There is definitely a Big East flavor to that group, ala 1985 when Georgetown, St. John’s, & Villanova all made it that far. Maybe I am a bit biased since I live in West Virginia and my Mountaineers competed in the Big East for many years, or maybe I’m just a little sentimental since the conference in its traditional form is being blown up. Whatever the case may be, this would be a fantastic Final Four. I picked Louisville to beat Ohio St. and Georgetown to defeat Syracuse. That means that the National Championship Game would pit the Louisville Cardinals versus the Georgetown Hoyas, and I think Louisville wins that battle and cuts down the nets in Atlanta, GA.

 

Winning & Musing…..Volume 5.12

Spring has sprung and we’ve got all kinds of sports goodies in the treat bag!!

 

 

 

I’m glad I was hesitant to jump back on the Tiger Woods bandwagon. His performance at The Masters proved that his head still isn’t right and might be an indication that the old Tiger may never fully re-emerge. Galatians 6:7-10 says “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

 

Congratulations…I guess…to NCAA basketball National Champions the Kentucky Wildcats. Since their coronation had been all but a foregone conclusion most of the season the result was a bit anticlimactic. I suppose no one can blame the folks in Lexington for playing by the rules and taking advantage of the whole one-and-done scenario, but I long for the days when kids had to stick around a few years before jumping to the NBA and there was a lot more parity in the college game.

 

Is anyone really shocked that now former Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino once again has proven himself to be a dirtbag?? Those who are the least bit surprised are naïve. Kudos to the folks in Fayetteville for getting rid of Petrino because he is a dirtbag instead of keeping him because he wins football games.

 

Speaking of dirtbags…

I know the sports media loves new Miami Marlins skipper Ozzie Guillen because he is colorful, quotable, entertaining, and controversial. I also know that the Marlins aren’t going to fire Guillen a week into the season. But how idiotic does the manager of a team in MIAMI have to be to say that he loves Fidel Castro?? It is mind boggling to ponder just how stupid that really is. And no matter how contrite Guillen tries to be there is simply no way that one can apologize their way out of a statement like that. He wasn’t misquoted and the declaration was not taken out of context. It’s a shame such a moronic turn of events overshadowed opening weekend and the christening of a brand new Marlins ballpark.

 

Most people would probably agree that the pro basketball lags far behind both the football & baseball in popularity (although still ahead of hockey), and though there are likely a lot of reasons for that I find one particularly disturbing. There are certainly superstar players in each sport, but it seems like only in the NBA can one or two players be of such importance that they dictate how a franchise operates. These elite players are put on such a pedestal that they actually hold the coach’s fate in their hands. We’ve seen two examples of this recently, with the NY Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony forcing coach Mike D’Antoni to resign and the still ongoing drama in Orlando where Dwight Howard seems intent on getting Magic coach Stan Van Gundy canned. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I thought the players were supposed to be subservient to the coach…not the other way around. I know it all comes down to money and the star player is making a whole heck of a lot more than the coach, who is viewed as easily expendable. And I also know that individual players being the main focus of the marketing machine rather than the team as a whole goes back atleast 30 years to the Larry Bird/Magic Johnson era. But I still find it regrettable that these spoiled millionaire crybabies wield such power, especially in cases like Anthony & Howard, who are way overrated in comparison to real legends like Michael Jordan, Dr. J, Bill Russell, and many more.

 

A genuine & hearty congratulations to new Masters champion Bubba Watson. I must admit that I was pulling for my man Phil Mickelson, but Watson seems like a sincerely decent Godly fellow and a good family man who has his priorities straight.

 

 

Winning & Musing…..Volume 4.12

On tap…a surprising amount of football talk for early spring, with a little Madness sprinkled into the mix.

 

 

I must admit that my money was on either Tennessee or the 49ers landing Peyton Manning. I didn’t think the Broncos had the hutzpah to pull the plug on Tebow, although when Broncos boss John Elway says about his now former starting quarterback that he’s the kind of guy he’d want to marry his daughter the team’s real feelings became obvious. Implicit in that seemingly very nice backhanded compliment is the idea that Tebow’s a great guy but a terrible QB (which has been my point for months!). San Francisco was so close to making it to The Super Bowl last season, and the idea of Manning throwing to the suddenly unretired Randy Moss and the newly signed Mario Manningham sounded solid. I am not sure what made Peyton shy away from such an intriguing prospect. Surely it had to be more than not wanting to be in the NFC competing against his little brother, right?? And then there are the Titans. It would have had a nice feeling of symmetry to see the former Volunteer great end his career back in the The Volunteer State. Who says you can’t go home?? In Denver Peyton Manning…who has always been the big man on campus wherever he has been…can never hope to escape the shadow of Elway. Maybe Peyton Manning’s ego really is that much in check and his self-esteem that solid. Or maybe we’ll have us some drama down the road. We shall see.

 

Congratulations to Hines Ward, not only for a stellar 14 year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but especially for doing the classy thing and retiring instead of tarnishing his image by squeezing out one final year riding the pine in another uniform. I understand that it is hard for a lot of these guys to walk away from a game they’ve been playing since grade school. No one wants to admit when they are getting older, slowing down, and can no longer do what used to come so easy just a few years ago. Ward’s legacy is secure, and though this ending is bittersweet, his courageous decision to do the right thing means it is more the latter than the former.

 

I am a little ambivalent about this whole New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. I suppose no one can argue that it is wrong, not to mention a little silly. You mean to tell me that a guy making a million dollars or more can be motivated to be just a little meaner & hit harder with a $10k challenge to take an opposing player out of the game?? That just doesn’t compute. It’s sad that this stupidity casts a shadow over what was a memorable & heartwarming run to a Super Bowl title for the Saints during the 2009-10 season, a championship that meant so much to the hurting city of New Orleans. I think this sort of thing has probably always gone on in professional football, and was likely more meaningful back in the days when players made the kind of paltry sum that still dictated that they find an offseason job. Under those circumstances the opportunity to make some extra scratch would atleast make some sense. The tyrannical reign of Commandant Fidel Goodell continues, under the politically correct auspices of making an inherently violent game “safer”, whatever that means. The punishment handed down to the Saints, especially the season long suspension of head coach Sean Payton, seems more about the commissioner making a statement of his own power & authority rather than punishing any legitimate wrongdoing.

 

ESPN’s Skip Bayless has done the impossible. He has made fellow blowhard Stephen A. Smith seem almost tolerable…maybe even likeable…in comparison. This makes me loathe Bayless even more.

 

Tiger Woods is back…maybe. It is probably a bit premature to rejoin the bandwagon, but atleast he has returned to the winner’s circle for the first time in nearly three years. I realize that may not be considered a good thing by a great many people, but I am the forgiving sort that tends to give people a second chance. Tiger has paid for his sins on many levels, probably more than any of us will ever truly know. His return to the top of the leaderboard is good for golf, which is good enough for me.

 

So…now we now have our Final Four, and as expected the pretenders that had their moment in the sun during the first couple of rounds have all fallen by the wayside and the cream has risen to the top. In this case that cream consists of Kentucky, Ohio St., Louisville, & Kansas. The 4th seeded Cardinals are the “Cinderella”, although I’d hardly call the 17th most successful program in NCAA basketball history with 2 national championships and 8 Final Fours an interloper.

 

Texas Rangers fans can apparently…if they so choose…shell out $26 for something called a Boomstick, which is a 2lb. hot dog with fixins’ that include shredded cheese, chili, sautéed onions and who knows what else. Good Lord.

 

I am not sure what to make of Tim Tebow’s trade to the NY Jets. The move raises more questions than it provides answers. From a football perspective, are the Jets a good fit?? I know there has been some restlessness with QB Mark Sanchez, but I just don’t think they are really ready to give up on him yet. No matter what his shortcomings may be, Sanchez is undeniably a better signal caller at this point. How comfortable will Tebow be with fiery, egomaniacal blowhard Rex Ryan as his coach?? There have been lots of reports this offseason about discord in the Jets locker room, and one wonders whether this trade was a PR move to improve that image, if Jets’ brass legitimately think Tebow will effectively bring about a culture change, or the problems will just multiply. In the media & cultural epicenter that is The Big Apple will Tebow-mania fade quietly into the background, or will it detonate larger than ever?? On the spiritual front, should one feel sorry for such an inherently decent fellow being dropped into the big city cesspool of debauchery, or is this just a bigger stage from which Tebow can spread The Good News to the masses?? If it is the latter, one cannot deny the Hand of Divine Providence in the midst of these snowballing events. I don’t know any answers, but I cannot deny that I am interested in seeing how things shake out.

 

 

Winning & Musing…..Volume 5.11

“I don’t know anything that builds the will to win better than competitive sports.”

–         President Richard M. Nixon

I love how “journalists” are all about The First Amendment right of free speech…until someone says something with which they disagree. It was alarming how many talking heads on ESPN and sports writers were rabidly bandying about what the punishment should be for Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison after he made some very…candid…statements in a recent magazine article. The big one that everyone seemed to be kvetching about was a “homosexual slur”. Whatever happened to “Sticks & stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me”?? I am not defending Harrison and I do think maybe someone should to pull him aside and politely tell him that he needs to keep some of his opinions to himself, but I will staunchly defend his right to express himself if he so chooses. If you don’t like what he has to say don’t read the damn article. How difficult is that??

So can we cool it now with the whole “Rory Mclroy is the new Tiger Woods” thing??

I would rather sit in a dark room & stare blankly into space than watch soccer, but I am as patriotic as anyone so it was disappointing to hear that our USA women choked in the World Cup final. Guess it’s back to the kitchen girls – just kidding ;-).

As of this writing the long national nightmare that has been the NFL lockout is almost over. Thank God.

Fellow sports fans, if you don’t get up at 6am every weekday to watch ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning you are missing out. The show is a fantastic mix of entertainment & information. It’s a lot more interesting than anything else that’s on at that time of the day.

I am not sure of the status of Nascar’s current television contracts, but I hope whenever it is time to renegotiate all the races land on one network. Bouncing from Fox to TNT to ESPN throughout the season is annoying. Each outlet has its own production quirks, different announcers, and just brings a different vibe to the races they broadcast. It’s kind of disconcerting to the viewer.

NBA center Yao Ming has announced his retirement and the full court press…pun not intended…is on to make him out to be a much more important and better player than he actually was. He played 7 seasons and averaged 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots per game. Not bad, but hardly legendary. In comparison, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar averaged 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game over the course of 20 seasons with 6 championship teams, and David Robinson averaged 21 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game in 14 seasons winning 2 championships in the process. And I’m not even bothering to look up stats for guys like Bill Russell, Hakeem Olajuwon, Wilt Chamberlain, and a host of other big men who I know did it better and longer than Ming. Ming’s biggest accomplishment was being a hero in his native China and opening up doors there for the NBA, which I am sure made a lot of people a lot of money. If the talking heads want to give him the credit for that I have no issue, but let’s not even attempt to put him in the conversation amongst the best of all time.

I am still not convinced that the 1st place Pittsburgh Pirates can bring home a division title or even land a wildcard spot. But even if they falter down the stretch and finish 3rd in the division 5-10 games out of the top spot it will still have been a successful season. No one expected this to happen this year. They are a year or two ahead of schedule and have given fans, at long last, something to look forward to.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 4.11

Who would have ever believed that in midsummer the Pittsburgh Pirates would be about the only thing I wouldn’t feel negatively about??

Tiger Woods is finished. Atleast that is my opinion. Oh sure, he’ll win a few more tournaments and maybe even a couple more majors. But those majors will be of the “feel good” “one last hurrah” variety, like Jack Nicklaus’ Masters victory in 1986 at the age of 46, long after most thought he was done as a competitive golfer. I don’t think Woods will surpass or even tie Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles. Not only is Tiger’s body beginning to betray him (as it does all of us eventually), but I just don’t think it’s reasonable to believe that he can ever regain the mental toughness and dominant intimidation factor that were key elements in his decade of supremacy.

Surely no NFL team will be desperate enough to sign RB Tiki Barber, who is 36 years old, has been out of the game for 5 years, and wasn’t exactly Mr. Popularity in the lockerroom. There are plenty of younger, fresher legs out there, especially for a backup role.

A melancholy farewell to Lorenzo Charles, a starting forward on the 1983 NC St. Wolfpack national champion basketball team. It was Charles who threw in the winning dunk allowing the Pack to pull off one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history over the Hakeem Olajuwon/Clyde Drexler Houston Cougars, known as Phi Slamma Jamma. Charles died recently when the bus he was driving crashed. One can imagine Coach Jim Valvano frantically running around The Pearly Gates ready to give Lorenzo Charles a big ol’ hug.

I am smart enough to realize that the NFL lockout is more complex than multimillionaires arguing with billionaires, but ultimately that is how most fans look at the whole thing. As of this moment there seems to be cautious optimism that a deal will be done within a couple weeks that will allow the season to begin on time and things to proceed as usual. I sincerely hope that is the case. Make it happen NFL…players, owners, Commandant Goodell…all of you.

Congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks, the new NBA Champions. I didn’t really have a dog in the fight, as I have never had a favorite NBA team. However, it gave me immense pleasure to see Lebron James choke like an illiterate redneck in a spelling bee. He and his buddies thought they could put together what amounted to an All-Star team and just waltz their way to a title, but the Mavericks proved that, no matter how much the NBA tries to market individual players, basketball is still a team sport. “King” James (King of what exactly??) was exposed as an overrated superstar who is a superior athlete but not a particularly great basketball player.

FYI…the Frank McCourt that is on the verge of losing ownership of the LA Dodgers is not the same Frank McCourt that was the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning memoir Angela’s Ashes. The author died in 2009.

It’s July and my Pittsburgh Pirates are in 3rd place and only 3 games out of the top spot in their division. I am not optimistic enough to think their position will improve or even stay as good as it is, but for the first time in much more than a decade I sense real progress with this team and see a glimmer of hope that a long term nucleus is in place and bright things may be on the horizon.

Maybe Terrell Owens makes a comeback, maybe he doesn’t. I couldn’t possibly care less. Owens’ “Look at Me!!” schtick and his penchant for being a locker room cancer, throwing teammates under the bus, and being a huge headache for coaches far exceeded his talent several years ago. I wouldn’t sign him to my team with a gun to my head. But agent Drew Rosenhaus is a complete moron if he thinks anyone with a brain is going to buy the PR campaign that a 37 year old wide receiver can fully recover from reconstructive knee surgery in less than 5 months. Rosenhaus is the kind of slicked back, smooth talking slimeball that gives agents a bad reputation. Even televangelists and hookers probably feel the need to take a shower after seeing Rosenhaus on TV.

Don’t you just love former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards?? He can give me a pep talk anytime he wants.

 

Jim Tressel and the Ohio State faithful should have asked West Virginia Mountaineer fans about prima donna QB Terrelle Pryor. A few years ago, when former Mountaineer coach Rich Fraudriguez made his ignominious exit from The Mountain State to what he thought were greener pastures at Michigan (he was wrong), rumor had it that the last thing he did was call a certain QB he had been trying to recruit in order to convince him to follow the blazing trail to Ann Arbor. Even as the Mountaineer faithful were spewing hate-filled venom at the turncoat native son there were whispers that steering Pryor away from our beautiful state may be a blessing in disguise. Even at that point in time the youngster had proven himself to be a selfish diva who had completely bought into his own hype. Now, a few years later, Terrelle Pryor has left the Buckeyes early, brought shame upon the program, and cost Coach Tressel his job. I don’t believe Tressel is blameless. I think he got caught up in the machine like so many do, where the pressure to win outweighs all common sense and consumes a person’s dignity, honor, and integrity. I also realize that the issue is systemic in Columbus (as it most likely is at more big time athletic programs than we realize) and that a lot of players over several years were violating rules. But right or wrong I put most of the burden concerning the current mess squarely on the shoulders of Terrelle Pryor. If there is any justice he will never have much of a pro career and 20 years from now he’ll be making $8/hr. unloading freight at Sam’s Club at 2am. I have no sympathy or patience for ghetto punks who think the world owes them something just because they can run fast or do cool things with an inflated rubber ball.

The Deadly Sins of Tiger, Lebron, & Big Ben

For those who may not be familiar with the concept of The Seven Deadly Sins…or maybe you just need a quick refresher…they are pride, wrath, greed, envy, sloth, lust, and gluttony. My understanding is that Catholicism categorizes sin into venial (minor) sin and capital (mortal) sin. Needless to say The Seven Deadly Sins would be considered the latter, more serious variety. I myself am Methodist and believe that sin is sin, that there is no differentiation. However, my purpose here is not to dive into a lively debate on theology, but rather to use The Seven Deadly Sins as a jumping off point to discuss some subject matter in the world of sports that I have been avoiding for a significant period of time. I feel like the time is finally right to address these issues. I said from the very beginning in my introduction to this website that I did not particularly care for the police blotter aspect of sports in 21st Century America, something I call The O.J. Effect. However, I also said that I would not hesitate to write about such topics when they arose.

Three names have dominated our sports pages, websites, and talk shows for the past several months. It is not totally out of the ordinary that they would be in the headlines on ESPN or sports talk radio, but unfortunately everyone has been talking not about their elite skill level or successful endeavors within their respective sports, but focusing on the tabloid fodder that their personal lives have become. Now I have never been one to put athletes on a pedestal. I respect their talent and enjoy watching the games, but even as a rabid fan I feel like I have always been able to keep sports in proper perspective and not succumb to silly hero-worship. But there is no denying that professional athletes are in the spotlight, that children look up to them, and that their public personas do carry a certain influence. That is what has made the fall from grace of these three men so disappointing. The three individuals I am speaking of are, of course, Tiger Woods, Lebron James, and Ben Roethlisberger. I do not know exactly why I have waited until now to express my opinions on the storms they have so publicly battled, but the time has now arrived to do just that.

Tiger Woods has long been considered the best golfer in the world, and it has been thought a foregone conclusion that someday he will break the great Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships. However, all of that began falling apart last November, as slowly but surely it began to be revealed that Tiger had cheated on his wife with over a dozen women. Obviously his number one vice is lust, with gluttony (because cheating on your wife with 14 women is undoubtedly excessive) not far behind. Why did he sleep with all those women?? Who knows really, but I assume there were several reasons, the foremost being simply that he could. He is rich, famous, and powerful. Women tend to throw themselves at such men. That’s just human nature. It was Tiger Woods’ responsibility to honor his marriage vows and be faithful to his wife. He chose to break those vows over and over and over again. Of course he will ultimately face judgment from the one true God, and that is something about which I cannot and will not make comment. But he is already paying for his lust in the here & now. His marriage is over. And while I am sure both he and his ex-wife will do their best to be good parents, there is no denying that their divorce will have a damaging effect on the children, especially someday when they are old enough to understand why Mom and Dad are no longer together. He has suffered professionally as well, having not come close to winning a tournament since returning from a brief hiatus. As an avid golf fan I always cheered for Tiger Woods. Though I almost always gravitate toward the underdog, for some reason I have enjoyed seeing Woods be the dominating force that he is, mowing down the competition without breaking a sweat. That is all over now. I am smart enough to know that many athletes are not great human beings and do a lot of things wrong, but golf is not a team sport, so the individual and his shortcomings are more exposed to the world. Tiger Woods is under a brighter spotlight than just about anyone else, so his fall from grace has been very public and quite sad. I know that there are many that were glad to see him return to the links and immediately began cheering for him to once again destroy any opponents standing between him and victory. But personally when I look at Tiger Woods now all I see is a man who couldn’t keep it in his pants, a man who cheated on his wife numerous times, and a man whose biggest regret is not that infidelity but the fact that he got caught.

Speaking of getting caught, let’s talk about Ben Roethlisberger, the starting quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is a tough one for me because I am a huge Steeler fan and have been for over 30 years. I am a team guy so I don’t really get into any one player over another, and on the rare occasion that I do develop a particular attachment it is usually to a lesser known, under the radar type whose contribution is really only appreciated by true fans who are paying attention and not the pretty boy media darlings. But Big Ben is the quarterback of my favorite team so of course I have always liked him. He has repeatedly shown poor judgment and a skosh of immaturity off the field, but on the field he has led the team to two Super Bowl victories in the past few years so it’s been all good. However, this past spring he was accused of raping a young lady in a bar in Georgia. It isn’t the first time he has been accused of sexual misconduct, and the situation was compounded by the seriousness of the charge. Also not helpful to Roethlisberger was that fact that this was a college bar and the alleged victim was an 18-year-old girl. He is a 27-year-old multimillionaire so of course folks are going to wonder why he’s hanging with the barely legal crowd. At first I was a Big Ben apologist. I figured that this was a greedy harlot with dollar signs in her eyes, seizing an opportunity to cash in by accusing one of the world’s most famous athletes…and a man who had been previously accused of nefarious actions by a woman…of one of the most heinous crimes in all of criminality. But as various sordid details began to emerge a different picture began to be drawn in my heart and mind. Very few people will ever know what really happened in that barroom lavatory and the authorities decided there was not enough solid evidence to pursue a conviction. However, I am a person who believes that where there is smoke there is fire. Did Ben Roethlisberger rape a woman?? Maybe, maybe not. But he is at the very least guilty of pride. He thought he could do whatever he wanted, have whoever and whatever he wanted, because he is famous, rich, and successful. He continues to pursue a life of debauchery long after most men have grown up and moved on. The fact that he purposely chose to engage in these activities at a place where the clientele is more apt to be impressionable and less inclined to have the wherewithal to stand up to him reeks of a sinister thought process that I cannot help but dislike immensely. I believe in freedom, and Big Ben can drink what he likes, go to whatever club he chooses, and spend his idle time in any way that tickles his fancy. But there is a line and it seems likely that he crossed it in some form or fashion. Will I continue to support my Steelers?? Sure. Will I cheer for Ben Roethlisberger?? Yes. But more than anything he will be in my prayers. He is a young man. Most of the mistakes he has made have been small ones that maturity should cure. The one huge mistake he was accused of is one that only he and his accuser know he either did or didn’t make. If he did commit that heinous act and was fortunate enough to get away with it I hope he learns from it, that he decides to embrace his many blessings and put away his childish ways and self-indulgent lifestyle.

And finally, self-indulgence seems like a good way to segue into a discussion of Lebron James. Basketball, specifically professional basketball, has always been far behind football and baseball in my own personal sports hierarchy. Unlike football, baseball, college basketball, and even hockey, Nascar, and golf, I have never had a particular rooting interest in the NBA. The league has long been one that markets individual stars at the expense of teams, so I grew up liking Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan while disliking tremendously, for no apparent reason, Larry Bird. Since the retirement of Jordan I haven’t really found anyone that really caught my attention. Lebron James had the potential to be that player, but not now. Has Lebron sexually assaulted anyone or committed adultery?? No, nothing that serious. But on some level, in a very odd way understandable only to die-hard sports fans, the crimes of Lebron James are worse. One can look at Tiger Woods and Ben Roethlisberger and say that their private lives are their own business and that fans have no right to judge…and they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. But the recent events surrounding “King” James have everything to do with his sport on the court. In leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and “taking his talents to South Beach” (aka the Miami Heat) he broke the hearts of an entire city and significantly altered the landscape of the entire league. Let me make one thing clear…Lebron James was a free agent and was completely within his rights to change teams and accept the best offer, both monetarily and in terms of the potential for success. The problem is not what he did, but how he did it. James is guilty of greed and envy. He was so greedy in his quest for championships and the need to “build his brand”, and he was so envious of what other players, like Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, and new teammate Dwayne Wade already had…rings on their finger…that he was willing to do anything to get a ring of his own, including stomping on the hearts of the fans in his hometown. I always liked Lebron. In a league full of semi-literate thugs he has always seemed even-tempered, well-mannered, and soft-spoken. But I am a firm believer in the fact that there is a way to handle your business and a way not to handle your business. You want to leave a job?? Fine…put in a two-week notice. You want to break up with your significant other?? Okay…but do it face to face and not with a letter, e-mail, or over the phone. Have your disagreements and arguments, but discuss your issues like an adult and if you are wrong apologize. I think Lebron James has known for months that he was leaving Cleveland. He wanted to go somewhere sexier, maximize his profit margin, and have the best opportunity to win a title. Everyone with a brain has always known that those things, while not impossible, are much more difficult to attain in Cleveland than in bigger cities like New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, Chicago, and Boston. I will always espouse the opinion that at the very least Lebron knew immediately after losing the last game of a playoff series to the Celtics that he was going elsewhere. The lasting image of that game for me is him walking down the tunnel toward the locker room, dejected, removing his Cavaliers jersey. No one can convince me that his mind was not made up at that very moment. Maybe he didn’t know exactly where he would land, but he knew he wasn’t returning to Cleveland. So why then did Lebron James engage the lapdog media in a months long dog & pony show in which he made team after team grovel and kiss his ass in an effort to get him to sign a contract?? Why were the Cleveland Cavaliers lead to believe that they had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning that battle royale?? Why did a decision that is usually made behind closed doors and then dutifully reported on ESPN or your local sportscast turn into an hour-long television special that was the height of self-aggrandizement?? It was ridiculous, a complete joke of colossal proportions. It says a lot that I will be cheering for Ben Roethlisberger this fall despite the crime he was accused of and the errant lifestyle he leads, that I may not cheer for Tiger Woods but that I will not actively cheer against him and may even crack a slight smile when he returns to form and wins his next major, but I will never…ever…ever cheer for the Miami Heat as long as Lebron James is on their roster and will actively and fervently hope that they lose each and every time they step on the court. And I’m not even a Cavaliers fan. Your mileage may vary.