Battle of the Network Stars

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Published on : July 2, 2017

 

Welcome to the new Battle of the Network Stars. For those who don’t know, this is a revival of the vintage series from ABC Sports dating back 1976. The show ran until 1988 and normally had two episodes a year. It was hosted by the great Howard Cosell and featured a three way battle from the stars of ABC, NBC and CBS. This was the original Dancing with the Stars.

 

And because TV won’t let anything die, this sports reality vehicle is back! This time with special guest coach and NFL great, DeMarcus Ware. Plus former UFC champ, Ronda Rousey. With Mike Green and Joe Tessitore doing the commentary. This version of the show has dropped the network teams and instead grouped the contestants by the types of roles they have played. Crews like: TV cops, TV lawyers, TV politicians, TV doctors, primetime soap stars, TV mom and dads, TV kids, and etc. Each airing of the 10 episode run will pit two crews against each other in a gauntlet of events. There are even some folks who are returning for their second round of Battle of the Network Stars. Talk about a throwback.

 

AJ MICHALKA, TRACEY GOLD, DAVE COULIER, BRONSON PINCHOT, DEMARCUS WARE, TOM ARNOLD
                                                                               Team TV Sitcoms

 

The events are just like back in the day. We still get to enjoy track, swimming, kayaking, basketball, soccer, tennis, the famous dunk tank, archery, golf, obstacle course and the the tug of war. It’s like some crazy decathlon for non-athletes. Half the fun is seeing who fails what. But then an endearing thing happens, you see one of the stars overcome in a situation you thought they had no chance in. It’s totally uplifting. And it gives you a little hope that maybe, just maybe, we can all find some inner strength someday.

 

I’m most looking forward to seeing team sci-fi which is Lou Ferrigno, Vinnie Jones, Charisma Carpenter, Kevin Sorbo and Jill Wagner. Team TV lifeguards also looks intriguing. The roster includes David Chokachi, Brande Roderick, Parker Stevenson, Nicole Eggert and Gena Lee Nolin. Rescue me. ABC is all in on this the retro game show thing. Beyond Battle, they also brought back The Gong Show while still enjoying Family FeudJeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. That’s a lot of old shit for one network. I’ve got a new idea for you ABC, how about show where celebs do my laundry. It could be called White Wash.

 

CORBIN BLEU, JOEY LAWRENCE, NOLAN GOULD, LISA WHELCHEL, KIM FIELDS, RONDA ROUSEY

 

Let’s all just be happy that there are finally some sports to watch. The dark days are over. Battle of the Network Stars is on Thursdays this summer on ABC.

 

TV time.

 

 


The Sports Oscars

Written by :
Published on : March 30, 2017

 

 

Award season has come and gone. And in honor of the recent 89th Academy Awards, ScoreBoredSports would like to present the 1st annual Sports Oscars. Just what America needs, another award show! Press your tux and fill your flask because it’s time to walk the red carpet and hand out some gold statues to the year’s best sports performances. And to all the winners, don’t forget to thank your agent and your mom. Now, let’s get this show on the road. The first category is:

 

Best Supporting Actor

Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors. After Kevin Durant came to town, Dray’s role on the team shifted. He no longer was needed to score the ball but instead had to become the defensive leader and do all the small things that help win games. No better example than back in February, when Green had the most unconventional of Triple Doubles. With only 4 points, he also tallied 12 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals (along with 5 blocks).

 

Makeup

Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. This was a tough one but Bryce’s under-eye black takes the cake. It’s kind of looks like Harper is the 5th member of Kiss mixed with a little Hawk and Animal from the Legion of Doom (WWF/WWE). I think more pros should follow the face paint lead. It’s a great way to show off some personality and it just washes off when you’re done.

 

Washington Nationals v St Louis Cardinals - Game Two

 

Best Editing

The New England Patriots. These guys always seem to make the perfect roster moves They add players you think are only okay and then they preform insanely well and they cut talent you think is irreplaceable only to see them underperform with their new team. Perfect example: Lions cut ties with LB Kyle Van Noy after him not working out in Detroit. They trade him to New England. Cut to Van Noy flying around being one of the difference makers for the Pats, in the Super Bowl.

 

Best Original Screenplay

Jaromir Jagr of the Florida Panthers. The dude is 45-years-old and writing his own story where only he knows the ending. The man has 763 career goals, that’s good for third all-time behind Howe and Gretzky. Jagr has more points over the age of 40 than even Howe. So he is the best older hockey player we have ever seen. He loves to play and has no plans of stopping. I hope this story has a few more chapters.

 

Costume Design

The University of Michigan Men’s Basketball team. On their way to D.C. for the Big Ten tournament, their plane was forced to abort takeoff and then roughly skid off the runway. The Wolverines barely made it to the game but their luggage with their uniforms were still stuck on the plane. U of M channeled their inner Tim Gunn and had to ‘make it work’ because they rocked their practice jerseys, looked dope and won the game.

 

 

Documentary Feature

This is the only award that both SBS and the real Oscars agree on. We both have O.J.: Made in America as the winner for best doc. It’s superbly well-made and very captivating. You should check it out. And it’s not just for sports or murder fans. It fun for the whole family.

 

Best Score

Lionel Messi of Barcelona. Messi is a wizard with the ball in space but he is just as lethal when it comes to free kicks. This zinger comes from a stretch of 3 games where Messi had a free kick goal in each. That’s just insane. Click HERE to watch the clip and be amazed.

 

Best Actress

Serena Williams. Her huge win at the Australian Open gives her 39 total titles (singles, doubles, mixed doubles) in tennis. If this category is about incredible individual effort, than I can think of no one more accomplished than Serena. She is a joy to watch and has elevated the entire sport of tennis. Not just the women’s game. Serena Williams is a champion.

 

 

Best Director

Joe Maddon, skipper of the Chicago Cubs has to win this one. His arrival seemed liked the real turning point for this franchise. From his first weeks in Wrigley, it seemed liked things were different. Maddon directed the Cubs to their first World Series win in a jabillion years and for that he wins the award.

 

Best Picture

Maybe my Michigan bias is showing but the image is truly stunning and it was a huge moment/game for two teams hunting the NFL playoffs. I really wanted to be cool and just say “presented without comment” but that’s totally a comment. And I’m way better than that.

 

 

That’s going to do it for the first ever sports Oscars. List your favorite player or performance in the comments below. Not bad for our first award show. At least we never called the wrong winner.

 

Glitz.

 

 


Biggest scumbag moments in sports history

Written by :
Published on : March 7, 2017

 

 

Sports has plenty of villains. You can’t really blame them because sports tells a story and any good story has an antagonist. A lot of times these hero and villains tags are a result of rivalries. Most people worship Jordan, but as a lifelong Pistons fan, I can’t stand the guy. I may not like him but I don’t doubt his abilities as an athlete and his dedication to playing the game and he played the game the right way. That can’t be said for all of the athletes that might wear the tag of villain. Some of them are real scumbags. They do things that sully their reputations and the game as a whole. Here are some of the biggest scumbag moments in sports history.

 

Mike Tyson takes a bite

 

This will forever be engrained in my mind as the one time my family bought a pay-per-view boxing match. Thanks to Mike Tyson, we never did it again. It was a rematch between Tyson and Evander Holyfield. Holyfield had won the first match in an upset and Tyson was looking to exact some revenge. What unfolded was a complete joke. Tyson got worked pretty good in the first two rounds and by round three, the pressure was beginning to get to him. 40 seconds into the round, Holyfield got Tyson in a clinch and Tyson went on to show the world just how mentally unhinged he was at that point in his life. He bit off a large chunk of Holyfield’s right ear, which began to bleed. After determining that he could continue the fight, Holyfield had his left ear bitten by Tyson. They finished the round but the fight was stopped after that and Tyson was disqualified. “Iron” Mike went on to get kicked out of boxing for a year and was fined $3 million. He probably should have just taken that knockout like a man, but at least he has since apologized to and befriended Evander Holyfield.

 

Luis Suarez does his best Tyson impression

 

Another biting incident. What is it with these guys? Actually Uruguayan footballer, Luis Suarez, is something of a serial offender when it comes to biting his opponents. He has had three separate incidents of biting including one in the World Cup that landed him a four-month ban. The biting always happens during moments of frustration or bad play and he claims that it is some sort of release valve. I claim that he is a dip shit. To see someone with that much talent, on that big of a stage venting his frustrations like that is embarrassing. Just like Tyson, he has proven that he is weak willed and working out some issues. How about you close your vampire mouth and help your team win the game, not get yourself ejected.

 

Tonya Harding is scared she will lose

 The face of guilt.

 

Crazy things happen when people are competing in competitive contact sports. Tempers flare and mistakes can be made. Just ask Suarez and Tyson. But how diabolical do you have to be to try to take your opponent out of the game before the contest has even begun? That’s exactly what Tonya Harding did in 1994 when she, along with her ex-husband, arranged to have Nancy Kerrigan assaulted and unable to compete against her. Harding wanted to be the top skater and instead she got banned from US Figure Skating for life. She avoided a jail sentence by pleading to a lesser charge but four other people served time for their roles in the assault on Kerrigan. The injuries to Kerrigan’s leg kept her out of the National Championships but she recovered in time to be selected to the Olympic team that year along with Harding. Kerrigan went on to win silver and Harding came in 8th place. She ruined her career through her cowardice and still lost to Kerrigan.

 

The Black Sox

 

This is perhaps the scummiest thing to ever happen in all of the history of organized sports. Baseball is sacred in America, the national pastime. So the idea of rigging the World Series seems unholy and wrong, but in 1919 that’s exactly what happened. The Chicago White Sox faced the Cincinnati Reds, who would win the series in eight games (this was one of four years in baseball history that the World Series was nine games). Noted gangster, Arnold Rothstein, was involved in the plot for the Sox to throw the series and eight players on the team were banned from baseball for either helping throw games or having knowledge of the fix. The plot was born out of discontent with ownership but it went on to sully the sport, the players and the team that was known thereafter as the Black Sox.

 

If you ever have kids you should tell them about all of these people when you teach them what sportsmanship is all about. Make sure they know that this is not how you want conduct yourself. With any luck they will listen to you. These incidents are bad but do you have any other scumbag moments that you love to hate? Leave them in the comments section below.

 

 


SBS’ 500th Post: An Ode to the Number 500 in Sports

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Published on : October 22, 2016

 

 

For ScoreBoredSports 500th post, we honor the number 500 and see its mark on the world of sports. 500 is a mountain to climb for things like wins, goals, yards in a game but many of the greats have those milestone in their rear-view. Let’s dig through sports history books and see where the famous number presents itself.

 

Indy 500

The first thing that comes to mind. I’ll include Daytona and all other major 500 lap Sprint Cup races in this section. Racing wasn’t always on my sports radar but with age, I’ve come to appreciate the talent needed to drive a car over 200 mph for hundreds of laps. My old car can’t even go over 45 mph. NASCAR speed is almost shocking but it’s the control that’s truly impressive.

 

The term “.500”

In reference to a team’s winning percentage. Often in the context of over or under .500. AKA are you a winning or losing team. This metric is used in many pro games. It is the gold standard for coaches where W’s mean keeping a job. Over .500? Things are probably going pretty good.

 

500 yards passing in a game

 

Only 16 NFL QBs have pulled this off. From older names like Norm Van Brocklin to modern gun slingers like Matthew Stafford. As football goes more and more pass heavy, this club will stop being so exclusive. Then we’ll start talking about 600 yards passing in one game.

 

500 home run club

Babe Ruth was the first to hit 500 dingers and 26 others have matched the feat. Albert Pujols is the only active member of the 500 club. He sits at 591. Barry Bonds’ 762 home runs seems like an insane hill to climb for anyone.

 

The game “500”

You know the rules. Your one friend plays dealer and tosses a ball and calls out a point value. The rest of the players fight to catch the ball. You earn points with each catch. Hit 500 and you earn the right to be the dealer. Perfect game for when you didn’t really have the numbers for full teams of something else.

 

500 goals in NHL

 

Only 44 hockey players have this honor. Most of them Canadians. 500 is a huge mark but for reference, the all time leader in goals is Wayne Gretzky and he has 894. Gordie Howe is second on that list with 801. Suddenly, 500 doesn’t seem that wild.

 

500 wins

Coaches in almost every sport have broken this barrier. Often it is a college coach who stays at one program for two decades plus. There are too many to name but most of the greats you can think of are here. Just no NFL guys because of the much shorter schedule in terms of overall games.

 

500 goals in soccer

27 futbol gods have netted 500 or more GOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!! Scoring machines Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the only active players with over 500 goals. Who knows how many more these two will score before it’s all over.

 

 

Happy 500 everyone. To all the athletes with the insane records, we tip our caps to you. And to all the SBS family and all the loyal Bored-Agains, here is to the next 500 posts.

 

Half thousand.

 

 


We Need More Sports Movies Starring Women

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Published on : October 1, 2016

 

It’s no mystery that SBS loves sports movies. We have done lists of the best ones, covered some of our favs in detail and make callbacks to the best lines and moments in many articles. At this point, these films have become part of the larger culture, an integral part of the modern sports landscape. Which brings me to my point, we need more sports movies featuring women. We have an embarrassingly low amount of them and that needs to change.

 

Boys grow up with a plethora of male athletes in many different sports to act as their role models. Plus all the fictional ones in movies, video games and television. Young women have way less in this department which is tragic because growing minds need movies to show them they can do anything. Cinema is the telling of a hero’s story. It may sound silly but where else does a kid learn that they can overcome any obstacle and win it all with just hard work and determination? Of course from the parents but that message needs to be echoed in the world for it to truly stick.

 

bend-it-like-beckham

 

Sports movies show us a narrative of the underdog and reveals the viewer’s own potential. It is incredibly powerful. Not just for athletes, for everyone. Understanding all that, you can see my call for action. After a little research I found these films. All starring women, set in sports.

 

A League of their Own (1992)

The Next Karate Kid (1994)

Eddie (1996)

Girlfight (2000)

Bring it On (2000)

Bend it like Beckham (2002)

Blue Crush (2002)

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Against the Ropes (2004)

Ice Princess (2005)

Whip It (2009)

 

I’m sure I’m missing some but still, that’s not a lot. Part of the criteria is that these all had to be theatrically released. No made for TV garbage. Also no dance movies were considered. But cheerleading counts. This is because cheer is deeply rooted in the American sport experience and if I included dance flicks then most of the list would be dance movies and that’s not what this is about. And some of these had sequels but we are talking original sports stories.

 

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

 

Shout outs to Wimbledon (2004) and Little Giants (1994) for having strong female roles but the main characters are still men. She’s the Man (2006) is a female lead and has soccer in the background but the sports angle isn’t really strong enough. Amanda Bynes does disguise herself to play on the men’s team which is fun but it’s more of a romantic comedy than anything else. I half considered adding The Hunger Games (2012) but, you know, not a real sport. Still good though.

 

It’s a sad state of affairs when studios make multiple sports pictures about men pretending to be women so they can compete (Lady Bugs, Juwanna Man) but no one wants to make any real stories of female athleticism. And while I’m on my soapbox, let’s get some more diversity on screen. It can’t all be white people. I watch sports. I know.

 

So I challenge Hollywood and all the executives, male and female, make more sports movies starring women. We must have these stories for our kids so they get to see heroics can come from all walks of life. Everyone is an underdog and sports teaches us that it’s okay. We can overcome.

 

Play like a girl.

 

 


Guardians of the Galaxy Play Sports

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Published on : September 19, 2016

 

The Guardians of the Galaxy started as a comic book but was not super well known. So the movie felt like it came out of nowhere and then just blew everyone away. I’d dare say it’s the best Marvel movie to date. The film is a mega-blockbuster because it’s super funny, well paced, and features a wicked soundtrack. The movie is just fun when so many superhero tales are so boringly serious.

 

The Guardians are fierce warriors. Some might call them space pirates. But pirate is a dirty word and we know Star Lord and team are good guys. They are not necessarily sports people but when they fight I can’t help but view them like a pro scout. And I see potential. Let’s breakdown the Guardians roster and see which sport would be the best landing place for each hero.

 

Groot

Groot

 

The living tree. Originally acted as muscle for Rocket Raccoon back in their bounty hunter days. Groot is tall, strong and resilient. For those reasons, he would be best suited to play center for an NBA team. Groot can take a lot of damage in the paint and keep going. His limbs can grow and stretch as needed and that will be straight unfair in basketball. Expect Groot to snag every rebound and be able to dunk from super far away, all without jumping.

 

Groot could be the next big foreign (alien?) star to storm the league. Think Yao Ming but taller and with better roots. His limited vocabularly will make press conferences tough but maybe he just needs to find the right team. Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs come to mind. Groot is the new Tim Duncan and speaks even less than Pop.

 

Rocket Raccoon

Rocket Raccoon

 

The genius engineer. Unfortunately, no pro game lets you carry a plasma weapon but Rocket is more than just a triggerman. You may underestimate him by his size and foul mouth but his ability to make split second calculations make his opportunities in sports almost endless. I almost want to say he could play QB in a no-huddle style offense but I think MLB shortstop is a better fit.

 

Rocket has the speed and instincts to read the action and track the ball for some insane catches. His superior brain power will aid him in making the right throws to the right places. And we all know the dude has a cannon. Think Manny Machado but faster and stronger. At the plate, Rocket will be more of an opportunistic hitter like Ichiro than a pure power cleanup guy. But make no mistake, you hang a meatball over the plate and he’ll turn your pitch into a souvenir from someone in the nosebleeds.

 

Drax

drax

 

The destroyer. If he could skate, then hockey would be perfect but I don’t think even Gretzky could teach him to glide. That leaves the obvious, football. Drax is an NFL middle linebacker. He could play any spot along the D line but having him as a free runner from the linebacker level would be devastating.

 

His play style would be similar to a Von Miller or a Clay Mathews. If those guys did steroids, in space and were completely mental. The biggest obstacle for Drax in the NFL would be himself. Pre-snap penalties. Roughing the passer. The fines and suspensions could really pile up if he isn’t careful. But let’s be honest, it’s probably a success if he doesn’t rip anyone’s arm off. The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly interested.

 

Gamora

Gamora

 

The assassin. Gamora is an expert in hand-to-hand combat and has the precision of a neurosurgeon. This mastery of coordination will play perfectly in the world of soccer. The green goddess would make a stellar attacking midfielder in the spirit of Zinedine Zidane. She has the endurance to cover the entire pitch and the speed and athletic prowess to win possession over any opponent.

 

Gamora would be instantly famous for her Messi-like passing ability but it’s her skill in the air that would make her legendary. Simply unguardable on set pieces. A corner or free kick is a guaranteed goal with her roving the field. Like Drax, the only limitation to Gamora’s futbol success is Gamora. If she gets bored with winning, we could see her leave soccer for UFC or something even wilder.

 

Star-Lord AKA Peter Quill

Starlord

 

The unlikely hero. Quill is charming and quick witted but tougher than his attitude suggests. He is the leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy so a team sport seem like a good bet. That may be true but he would really shine as a NASCAR driver. He’s already a great pilot and he has the one thing all good drivers need: confidence. Hell, confidence might be his super power.

 

Star-Lord drives with no fear and would be Sprint Cup champ in no time. His racing persona is strange mix of Dale Earnhardt and Ricky Bobby with a little Michael Jordan for good measure. Quill would shatter any and all records. And this is without Rocket’s help under the hood. Plus he’d do it with a smile and a snarky comment.

 

Each member of the Guardians is fast and strong. They all have skills that cross many athletic disciplines but the key is to find the best fit. Do you have a better idea of what sports these superheroes should play? Let us know in the comments.

 

Intergalactic planetary.

 

 


Good vs. Evil: World Football’s Beautiful Struggle

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Published on : August 30, 2016

 

 

For the undecided, uninitiated fan, world football can seem like an overwhelming array of options. The biggest teams on the planet have distinct histories, often colliding with world politics. Did you know that SS Lazio, in Rome, was Mussolini’s team? That Real Madrid was Francisco Franco’s team?

 

The point I’m trying to make here is that good and evil really do exist on the football field. Nowadays, that doesn’t always mean that a dictator is your squad’s key supporter; aspects of the game itself, like style of play, also inform whether a team is playing good football or evil football.

 

To understand this dichotomy, let’s start with defining “good” football. Morally just football is, for lack of a better way to put it, beautiful. Think the Tika-taka of Barcelona, Spain’s national team 2008-12, and, most importantly, the Total Football of Ajax and that Dutch national team of the 70’s under Rinus Michels. In addition to Johan Cruyff and Michels, perhaps the most iconic evangelist of beautiful football was former Argentinian World Cup-winning national coach Cesar Luis Menotti, known as “El Flaco” (“The Skinny One,” or as I like to translate, “The Thin Man”).

 

menotti

 

Menotti was as much coach as political philosopher. The iconic image is of Menotti with a cigarette in hand, expounding on the core values of football and politics, and the intertwined nature of the two: 

“There’s a right-wing football and a left-wing football. Right-wing football wants to suggest that life is struggle. It demands sacrifices. We have to become of steel and win by any method … obey and function, that’s what those with power want from the players.”

The present-day inheritor of the progressive world football mantle is Pep Guardiola, the progenitor of Barcelona’s Tika-Taka revolution and current Manchester City Coach. Considered one of the finest minds in coaching, Guardiola has won the Champions League, the Bundesliga and Spanish championships, and defined a generation of fluid, attacking football. With Lionel Messi, arguably the game’s greatest-ever player, flanked by some of the greatest-ever passers in Xavi and Andres Iniesta, Barcelona under Guardiola played some of the most beautiful and controlled football the globe has ever seen.

 

 

On the other end of the spectrum is fascist football. This distinguishes itself from teams who were or are actually supported by fascists. Fascist football is a style that priorities the win by any means necessary. Often referred to as anti-football, goals come at the highest premium in favor of drilled, staunch defending. The figurehead for anti-football is legendary manager Helenio Herrera, another Argentinian who believed, with a fervor similar to El Flaco, in the primacy of the team. Herrera, however, coached the legendary Inter Milan teams (as well as Barca, later) using a now-outdated Catenaccio (meaning “chain”) formation that featured a sweeper and four defenders, relying on a rapid counter-attack.

 

Here, too, the modern game has a clear inheritor: Jose Mourinho. Jose’s track record might be viewed as the greatest of all time: Championships in four different leagues (a feat matched only by three other managers) and European championships with three different clubs. Yet the means by which Jose has achieved this inviolate brilliance has been, quite literally, an evocation of Herrera’s methodically controlled, anti-football spirit. Mourinho’s by-any-means tactics, oft-uninspiring one-goal wins, and psychological subterfuge aimed at players, staff, fans, and media alike, indicate that, unlike Herrera, Mourinho’s heart beats darkly, pumping venom through the veins of his system.

 

 

Far be it from me to over-analyze the political heart of a soccer coach, but here I go anyway: Jose Mourinho’s family has historical ties to the Fascist Estado Novo regime in Portugal. Mourinho’s political views “are believed to be strongly right wing,” and his mother was taken in by an uncle who was “a sardine cannery boss who grew rich under the far-right regime of dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, [Jose’s mother] grew up in a mansion surrounded by servants and political intrigue.” Is it possible his desire to crush the very essence of human spirit stems from these hinted-at fascist leanings? Okay, perhaps that’s a bit much, but I bet if you asked Eva Carneiro she’d have a thing or two to say about Jose’s leadership style.

 

For those in search of meaning amid the tumult of club football season, just take a look at the pitch and see what’s going on. Are players making runs, crafting multilayered attacks, keeping possession, and trying to do cool stuff? Or are they just slowing the game down and booting it, spring-loading a harried counterattack, parking the bus behind the ball otherwise, and waiting for the other team to make a mistake?

 

Each of these strategies can win games, leagues, and championships. But in the words of El Flaco:

“I want to win the match. But I don’t give in to tactical reasoning as the only way to win, rather I believe that efficacy is not divorced from beauty.”

 

O jogo bonito, as they say.

 

 


Track Marks: A high school Track and Field memoir

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Published on : August 25, 2016

 

 

The 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro were a blast and it got me thinking about my old glory days as a high school track star. Well, maybe star is a bit of a reach but I was on the varsity team for all four years of high school and in that time I competed in every single event of both track and field. I won medals, broke a school record and even went to the state championship but I’m not here to brag, I’m here to take a trip down memory lane and look back at a sport that used to be a big part of my life.

 

Growing up, soccer was my sport of choice. I loved it. I played indoor during the winter and went to camps in the summer, all in an effort to make varsity some day and get on the pitch with the big kids. Unfortunately, I was an average soccer player. No real natural talent but sound fundamentals and better conditioning made me effective. I knew I had to stay in shape to get any playing time so I started running track in the spring of freshman year. It should be known that the soccer coach was also the track coach, so running track was a good way to earn brownie points.

 

 

That first year, coach didn’t really know where to put me so I tried lots of different events. Our team only had one real hurdler so I started training in the 110m and the 300m hurdles until I fell enough times that it was clear that this wasn’t my thing. Next, I did the long distance events. The mile and two mile runs, but I really didn’t like those. I got bored and would lose focus. Next came the sprints. I was much too slow out of the blocks for the 100m or the 200m dashes but in the 400m, I had enough time to catch up to the quicker kids and let my endurance win me a few races. I finally found my home.

 

Now, if you don’t know, the 400m is the worst. It’s technically a sprint but it’s a full lap of the track. That’s a quarter mile. Sprint. It’s brutal. After every serious contest I had in the 400m, I would throw up. It almost always happened. My body was in such shock. I’d post a solid time then wander behind some bushes or puke on the infield. I’d aim for the end zones if the football field lines were still painted. Touchdown.

 

The 400m was my jam, but you can be in up to four events at a single track meet so I had to fill the rest of my dance card. Naturally, I also competed in the 4x400m relay. Leaving my coach two spots to throw me wherever he saw fit.

 

High-Jump rig

 

Now is as good of a time as any to explain that I went to a really small school. Class D, Division 4. It was a strange place that is somehow both half hippy art school and half college prep. It’s a non-religious, private K-12 located in the northern suburbs of Detroit. Most of the schools we played against were rich christian private schools. So there were times at track meets where the competition was very light in certain events and that’s where coach would put me.

 

This strategy found me in long jump, shot put, discus, and even high jump. I’m just glad we didn’t have pole vault or else I’m sure they would have made me try that too. But this little tricked worked. I’d place in the event and earn a few extra points to help the team win the meet. The season would end with the league meet where we square off against all the other schools in our area. This was our big race of the year. After that, the few stand out runners would continue on to regionals and maybe even states in individual events. We never had enough qualifying athletes make to make run at a state championship for the school.

 

long jump

 

I stuck with track sophomore and junior years. I got better and faster. Hit the weight room and really saw progress in all my events. We’d go to tournaments after a long bus rides and I’d come home with a few medals. I never won like that in anything else. It was pretty great feeling. End of junior year, we had a nasty 4x400m relay team that rolled into the league meet and took first by a wide margin. Our time earned us a place in regionals where we kept it rolling and qualified for the state championship.

 

The state meet is on a weekend, like most big track and field events. The reason is because it takes forever and they need to start early. I’m talking like 8-10 hours long. It was also kind of far away so our team had to drive out the night before and stay in a hotel. Like a real NBA star. Friday night we went out for steaks and Saturday morning we rolled to the meet blasting Eye of the Tiger. We warmed up. We felt good. No nerves. Our relay team had clean hand offs and we all posted our best personal times but we didn’t even place.

 

baton handoff

 

I wasn’t mad, neither were my teammates or the coach. We all ran the fastest we have ever had and performed well as a crew but we came up short of being best in the state. Hell, I never thought I’d get that far. How could we be mad? Later we found out that we broke our school’s record for the 4x400m relay which was a perfect end to that chapter.

 

My senior year, I was named captain of the team and we were all looking forward to keeping our league championship streak alive. As the season and school year came to an end, my enthusiasm for track was waning. I decided to tell my coach that after the league meet, I didn’t want to pursue the individual events at the later tournaments. They were all on weekends in far off places and I wanted to go to graduation parties and find a girl that would let me get to second base. My coach unfortunately did not understand. He told me if I wanted to quit that I should do it now. I countered and explained that the league meet was important to me because that was the team’s big day but he couldn’t hear it. He asked for my uniform and told me to leave. I guess he wanted to wear those short shorts of mine in private.

 

The next day, coach told the team that I quit. They ended up losing the league meet too. First time in six years. It was maybe an ugly breakup but I dug my time in track and field. It treated me well. I was more successful in that sport than anything else. It used to bum me out that track was the thing I was good at when I loved so many other sports more but I’ve moved on from that. Now, I’m just grateful that I went out and gave it my all with my friends by my side.

 

Spikes.

 

 


What’s the Devil’s Favorite Sport?

Written by :
Published on : July 23, 2016

 

 

We already figured out the good side of the this story with Jesus and what he would play, so it seems only right to dive deep into the fiery rings of the inferno and have a conversation with the Prince of Darkness himself. This is the Devil’s time to shine. I feel like we talk about the accuser all the time but never ask him what he really likes. Is he a boxers or briefs kind of guy? Probably whichever lets his tail breathe. Whatever. Time to go to hell. Don’t worry, it’s just for a visit, plus it’s all about sports!

 

Football

The fallen angel loves football. Both the NFL and NCAA versions are rife with scandal and criminal activity. Everything from drugs to rape to murder all with a strong dose of lying to wash it down. And let’s not forget that any solid hit could ruin your brain forever. Oh and you can gamble on it. Where do you think Vegas gets their odds from?

 

UFC

 

A natural fit right? Wrong. The dark lord actually thinks two trained fighters in a ring, octagon or any polygon is too controlled of an experiment. Sure, he’ll watch if his friends are into it. But he’s not going to shell out for a pay-per-view unless others are chipping in. Also, he’s super squeamish about blood. Go figure.

 

Basketball

The ruler of demons is a diehard Knicks fan. Brutal right? He loves Carmelo Anthony. Was pumped about the Joakim Noah addition but puzzled by additions of Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose. How are they all going to share the ball? Spoiler alert, the big guy told me Melo leaves next year and joins LeBron on the Memphis Grizzlies.

 

Soccer

Jesus’ favorite. Not Satans. Too slow and not enough action. Not a fair assessment but you tell him you disagree. The deceiver was quick to note how many futbol pros had sold their souls for skill with the ball. The list is long and includes most of Europe’s top talent. I won’t reveal any names but most of your guesses are probably right.

 

Hockey

satan hockey

 

Too cold. Though, the serpent does like the fighting here. It’s raw, impulsive and generally allowed. Despite the physical nature, it’s the high-speed game play that puts him off. Honestly, I think the defiler’s eyesight is a little rusty and he has a hard time tracking the puck. He is pretty old. I only say this because he said he wished they would bring back that blue dot they used to have on the puck for tv broadcasts.

 

Golf

The evil one is super into golf. He digs the exclusivity, the cool clothes and the gorgeous greens. Oddly enough, he never uses a caddie or a golf cart and always carries his own clubs. He says he does his best thinking on the course. Like back in 1935 while putting for eagle, he came up for the idea of parking tickets.

 

Baseball

Leviathan has always loved baseball. There is hitting, crotch grabbing, spitting, racism, steroids, Pete Rose, plus grown men throwing tantrums at umpires. I asked the king of liars what his favorite team is and he said it was a tie between the kids from Sandlot and the Chicago Cubs. He continued on to say that the Cubbies won’t win the World Series until something about a blood oath and some sort of goat sacrifice. I’m a little foggy on the details. But it’s all in this SUPER creepy book he gave me. Let me know if anyone wants to borrow it.

 

Fantasy

In this Aug. 30, 2010 photograph, Brian Sherman, left, uses his laptop to record moves in his team's fantasy football draft, at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Cincinnati. Some restaurant chains around the country have launched promotional drives to score with dedicated players of the growing pastime. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

 

Lucifer plays fantasy everything. I hear he has a league for fantasy newscasters. It’s apparently wild. He really loves fantasy football. His team has won the championship 3 times over the last 16 years. So I’d say he’s on a hot streak. Word is, the son of the morning is drafting Cam Newton with the first overall pick. Not the worst move I’ve ever heard.

 

CrossFit

Beelzebub is obsessed with crossfit. This is hands down his favorite sport. I know this because he brought it up more than a few times. But, to be fair, he is totally ripped. Shredded. Like John Cena but made of granite. I literally bounced a quarter of his ass into a beer (which I made him drink), that’s how insane his body is. Later, I argued that crossfit isn’t really a true sport. Then he benched pressed me 3,000 times and ran around the building before doing what I assume was 10,000 squats. I escaped out the window.

 

So the Antichrist loves crossfit. No one would have ever guessed The Devil Wears Affliction. I think that teaches a valuable lesson. Go talk to people, ask them what they like. Their answers might just change you forever.

 

Feel the burn.

 

 


The Conflicted Radical’s Guide to Euro 2016 or How I Learned to Just Stop Worrying and Love Les Bleus

Written by :
Published on : July 10, 2016

 

 

Just in time for France’s showdown against Portugal in the Euro 2016 Final, a white red who grew up wanting to be black explains why he’ll be cheering for Les Bleus. SBS presents the first installment in what will be a semi-regular series of rants on the always controversial intersection of sports and politics:

Dispatches from Left Field aka The Vanguard is in the Bleachers

7/10/2016

The Conflicted Radical’s Guide to Euro 2016 or How I Learned to Just Stop Worrying and Love Les Bleus

For a left-wing trade unionist brought up on Public Enemy and stories of family members marching against racism, war and corrupt governments both near and far, “watching the game” has never just been “watching the game.” Whether it was my old man screaming out “fascists” at pretty much any opposing team that he didn’t like or the way mom – an itinerant fan at best who still figures prominently in this origin story — would make sure to point out which country used to be colonized by who and therefore where our family’s loyalties should properly lie, sports in our house was always connected to the outside world, and always to politics. You couldn’t even relax during commercials because every time a Coors Light ad would come on my dad would treat all in attendance to another from-the-sofa history lesson about the “motherfuckers who fought to keep out the union.”

 

So how did an angsty young white-boy, reared in an anti-establishment home – the kind of teenager that sulked down to the wood-paneled basement, angry at the world, to listen to militant hip-hop and watch “SportsCenter” — how did that kid become an unabashed flag-waving supporter of the land of wine and cheese?  How did he – I – become a supporter of one of the most barbaric colonial powers in the history of the planet? Well the answer is simple; like the great Sigmund Freud, I blame my mother.

 

 

And speaking of my mom, if anyone could have a historical chip on their shoulder against Les Francais, it could actually be her, the child of an immigrant woman whose Russian and Polish background were enough to get her French government papers declaring her as good as “stateless.” Spoiler alert: moms was actually born in France, but to a refugee single mother in a post-war Paris where those from lands to the East were treated with the same type of scorn that so many Arabs and West Africans suffer regularly there today. Childhood poverty, an immigrant mother who worked a string of low-wage jobs in a country that would never totally accept her – that might be enough to raise a daughter none too happy to sing the French national anthem and pledge allegiance to her birthplace. Good thing there was no French equivalent of Public Enemy at the time.

 

But there are two sides to every croissant… and my mother grew to love life in Paris and the many opportunities it gave her. Not the least of those benefits being a world-class education accessed completely free of charge (even for the child of an immigrant – didja’ hear that America?). So as she came of age in the land of liberté, égalité, and fraternité my mom excelled in her studies, made friends, and ran home from school for bits of bread and chocolate like all the other good little boys and girls. At the same time, years of class room interrogations about her last name and background and her own mother’s continued servitude in the homes of the Parisian One Percent also laid the foundation for my mom to become something of a hybrid enfant terrible. From protesting the French occupation of Algeria to standing toe-to-toe with striking French workers in May of ’68, my mom’s evolving relationship with her country was and still is a complicated one.

 

But when the legendary French Footballer Zinedine Zidane — the one they call “Zizou” — led a super -talented multi-cultural squad to greatness in the World Cup finals in 1998 and then again at the Euros in 2000, mom and the rest of our family stood and cheered. We celebrated the team’s brilliance on the pitch. We celebrated the great chemistry between “Zizou,” the graceful midfield playmaker, and Henry, the dynamic striker. And we celebrated the greatness of working class Frenchmen born to immigrant parents in rough places like Marseille and the banlieues of Paris (Zizou and Henry respectively) who overcame obstacles to become the best in the world. And it definitely wasn’t lost on any of us that those immigrant parents came from former French colonies. Mom didn’t have to point it out that time – we knew Zizou’s family hailed from Berber country in Algeria and Henry’s from the Antilles. That made donning the Coq Sportif all the more righteous and yet subversive at the same time.

 

 

But before we get all bleary-eyed and pour ourselves another Lillet let us remember that for all the promise that Zizou and Henry and company portended for the direction of a new post-colonial multi-cultural France, there have been more than a few troubling reminders that all is not well in Gaule. The violent uprisings in the banlieux in 2005, the rising popularity of Far Right Nationalist Front politicians like Marine Le Pen (“How you say…Le Trump?”), and even the recent controversy around the French Football Federation’s refusal to include embattled star player Kareem Benzema on this year’s side are all signs of a country that has struggled to live up to its revolutionary ideals.

 

The Benzema case, especially, has given pause to legions of French football supporters, this one included. A publically gracious figure who continues to proclaim both his innocence and love of La France – tweeting things like “once a bleu always a bleu” –  he has become a flashpoint for a volatile national conversation on immigration, Islam, and the conduct of celebrity athletes. The accusation that he was involved in the attempted blackmailing of a fellow teammate by a group of French Arabs is certainly disturbing but almost more unsettling is the idea that he hasn’t even been proven guilty and yet a significant part of the French population has already made up their minds based on not much more than his North African heritage. A National Front official related to Marine Le Pen even went so far as to say that if Benzema didn’t like being left off the squad then he could go play for Algeria; never mind that the man was born and raised in France.

 

 

So for a kid who was spoon-fed anti-racism and anti-colonialism since he was wearing environmentally friendly, biodegradable diapers, rooting for Les Bleus, in a weird way, became a kind of catharsis. A way to make peace with complicated histories. A way to celebrate the struggles of immigrants who came to the West to give themselves and their children a second chance at a better life; as cleaning ladies, or as teachers, or as star half-backs wearing a nation’s colors on their chest.

 

This year’s showing in the Euros again leaves the French at the doorstep of history. As they face down another former colonial empire in Portugal in today’s final, I know my family and I will all be rooting for Les Bleus. Not because we think France is perfect or the best, and not because we aren’t totally disgusted by the wave of anti-Muslim sentiment there – because we are. And not because I’ve sold out my political principles based on a “bourgeois notion of nostalgia,” as some of my more hardened comrades tell me while they break my balls for the one-thousandth time. No, when my family shouts “Allez Les Bleus,” it’s because we’re hoping that the beautiful game, played by a beautiful group of immigrants and the sons of immigrants – Like Dimitri Payet, Patrice Evra, Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, Moussa Sissoko – might just be able to elevate us all to somewhere better than we are right now.

 

Plus mom likes it when I say nice things about France and a wise man once told me that there never stop being perks for kissing up to your mother.

 

 


Euro Cup 2016 Final Preview

Written by :
Published on : July 9, 2016

 

 

This Sunday July 10th, 2016 is the UEFA Euro Cup final. Host nation, France, will square off against Portugal for the title of best in Europe. Below is everything you need to know about both teams as we get ready for an epic showdown. So get your jersey, your red wine, your scarf and your other bottle of red wine because this is a crash course on the Euro Cup finals. But before we get to the head-to-head matchup, let’s take a quick look at how each squad advanced to the finals.

 

France

 

France cruised through the group stages with two wins and a draw. Then they dismantled Iceland 5-2 with goals coming from Giroud (twice), Pogba, Payet and Griezmann. But was set to face Germany in the semi-finals, a team they haven’t beaten in a major tournament since 1958. But the game was being played in Marseille and the French are undefeated playing at home in big tournaments.

 

Les Bleus beat the German team 2-0 off the foot of French superstar, Antoine Griezmann. First, Griezmann scored on a penalty kick in extra time right before the break. This was one of the lone bright spots for France as Germany dominated possession the whole first half. But a handball in the box set up the PK and Antoine did the rest. Not resting on their laurels, France pushed in the second and Griezmann found the back of the net again, directing a rebound for a clever goal that iced the match.

 

Portugal

 

Portugal struggled in the group stage and tied all three of their matches. Many, including futbol-god, Cristiano Ronaldo, didn’t seem to think they had much of a chance moving forward. But a gutsy 1-0 win over Croatia sent the Portuguese to the semis where they would face a solid Polish team, lead by goal scoring machine, Robert Lewandowski.

 

Lewandowski opened the game with a goal in the second minute. The second fastest goal in Euro history. It seemed that the Pols were on the march. But in classic form, Portugal tied it up with a goal from Renato Sanches. In the closing minutes, Ronaldo had a perfect chance to end it but kicked it right to the keeper. Both sides battled to the 90th minute and into extra time. Still tied, the game went to penalties where they won 5-3.

 

How they stack up

ronoldo and greizmann

 

Forwards: Griezmann and Ronaldo both wear number 7 and are both team’s key to winning. One of these guys can single-handedly change the outcome. Griezmann has more goals in Euro Cup so far but I begrudgingly award Advantage Portugal.

 

Defense: France’s backline looked solid all tournament. The likes of Patrice Evra, Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny help keep shape and limit chances. The same cannot always be said by the Portuguese side. Advantage France.


Best Hair: 
Both Giroud and Greizmann rock the hipster shaved sides do with the pride of a bad club DJ but once again Cristiano swoops in with his perfect features to steal the category. Too bad this isn’t “best wines,” cause France owns that. Advantage Portugal. 

 

Midfielders: Portugal has tried a few starting lineups, with most of the shakeups being in the midfield. João Mário has started every game with different combos of Danilo, Andre Gomes, and João Moutinho. While France’s Blaise Matuidi, Dimitri Payet and Paul Pogba continue to build chemistry in their six starts. Advantage France.

 

Goalkeeping: France’s Hugo Lloris vs. Portugal’s Rui Patrício. Lloris has given up 1 fewer goal through six games of Euro Cup and played great against Germany. Patrício has had less defensive help so maybe the stats aren’t telling. He did come up big in the PK’s versus Poland. Let’s call this one a Tie.

 

Prediction

 

France has the deeper team and more talent overall but CR7 makes his own luck. If the French defense can stay strong like they did against Germany then it should be a party at the Eiffel Tower on Sunday. France 3 – Portugal 1.

 

Allez Les Bleus!

 

 


USMNT still has a long way to go

Written by :
Published on : June 23, 2016

 

 

Soccer is slowly becoming more and more popular here in the U.S. I just hope that what we all witnessed in the Copa America Centenario Semi-Final doesn’t turn too many new fans of the USMNT off from the game. Us Americans are pretty accustomed to the U.S. Men’s National Team underperforming on the big stages of international soccer, but the team has been much more interesting in recent years, and as a result more people have gotten into the sport.

 

In fact 8.1 million people here in the United States tuned in to watch our boys play against the #1 ranked team in the world, Argentina. You know, the team that also has the world’s best player, Lionel Messi. I knew before the game that we would have our hands full, but I had a sliver of hope that we could make the game interesting.

 

That hope began to fade quickly and substantially when Argentina’s Ezequiel Lavezzi scored in the 4th minute of play. When Messi scored on a free kick in the 32nd minute, I began to get very discouraged. I knew that there was very little chance of Argentina giving up that lead. But I still watched, hoping that we could put together something resembling competent and controlled soccer and at least lose in a respectable manner. Before the game, a 3-1 loss was something I told myself I wouldn’t be too upset about. That didn’t happen either. When it was all said and done, we lost 4-0. Brutal.

 

 Messi is almost impossible to stop when you’re playing your best. The USMNT didn’t stand a chance.

 

The USMNT advanced to the Copa America Semi-Final for only the second time ever, and that’s something to be proud of. But one thing is very clear after watching our team play against one of the best teams in the world, the USMNT still has far to go before they are to be considered legit world contenders.

 

It was painfully obvious that Argentina was in a league far above the Americans. Argentina plays a beautiful passing game that kept the U.S. chasing the ball for almost the entire 90 minutes. And when the U.S. did get possession, more often than not they made errant passes that quickly turned the ball over. With no shots on goal and very few chances overall, it was at times painful to watch. This is something that I’ve seen for a while now, and if it weren’t for the grit and determination of some of the U.S. players, I’m afraid we would lose like we did on Tuesday much more often.

 

We just don’t pass the ball well and miss people in space constantly. When compared to the best teams in the world, we look like amateurs. I appreciate everything that guys like Michael Bradley have done to help U.S. Soccer progress, but I am also looking forward to the next generation of players and hoping that they can pass the ball better than most of these guys.

 

 John Brooks had his hands full but played great in this tournament. We beed more guys like him.

 

That’s not to say that I wish to see everyone on the team get replaced right now. Clint Dempsey is still a very important member of the team, as evidenced by his four goals in the Copa America. And I wish we could clone John Brooks and have four of him on our back line, because he was a big reason that we made it as far as we did in this tournament. There’s other bright young stars like Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin and the baby face 17 year old, Christian Pulisic, who should all give U.S. soccer fans a ton of hope for the future. But until these young guns fully take over the team, there will be more heartache when we face the great squads.

 

I don’t like every move that Jurgen Klinsmann has made since taking over the national team, but unlike some, I do believe he has progressed soccer in the United States of America. He will be the one who leads the team in to the World Cup in Russia in two years, and we have to get behind him for at least that long. We need to hope that over the next two years, he continues to develop the young, rising stars of the USMNT so that we can show the world, and some of the newer fans stateside, that we are a team worth taking seriously.

 

We’ve made progress, but we still have a long way to go before we can play with the big boys.

 

 


By any means necessary: Cuba and the love of sports

Written by :
Published on : May 11, 2016

 

 

For many Americans, the island nation of Cuba is a great unknown. A former playground 90 miles from Key West that, since the Castro-led revolution in 1959, and the missile crisis and trade embargo in 1962, has been shrouded in mystery. It’s a shame that two countries that have a long history together, have been so cut off from each other for so long, despite the close proximity. The situation harkens back to the wall that used to divide Berlin between east and west, or the no man’s land that currently cuts the Korean peninsula in half along the 38th parallel.

 

For me, Cuba has always been something that only lived in my heart and soul. My grandmother made the decision to depart the communist dictatorship in 1968 in order to give my mother, who was 8 years old at the time, a chance at a better life and an opportunity to determine her own destiny. Though the circumstances of the departure were tragic, my family always maintained a fondness for their homeland. They loved where they were from, despite a government and system that they could not abide, and they instilled that same love in me for a place I have never been.

 

 

That is until a month ago, when I travelled to Cuba with my family. It was the realization of a lifelong dream, and setting foot on Cuban soil immediately made me feel as though I had completed one chapter and begun another. It is an enchanting place, with beautiful landscape and architecture, and a diverse people who enjoy and appreciate what they have, maintaining a zest for life in the face of hardship. They could teach a lot to their northern neighbors. I felt at home and got discover my past by filling in the blanks on things that had only been passed down to me by word of mouth.

 

I finally had the opportunity to see for myself, draw my own conclusions and observe the place that had been so far away while being so much a part of who I am, and while I was there I noticed a few things. For one, I saw that there is a reason that the country’s unofficial motto is “No es fácil,” which translates to “It’s not easy.” That’s because life in Cuba is not always easy for its citizens. While the loosening of the government’s grip on the economy and the Cuban citizens’ ability to own property and operate businesses has helped improve the living situation, there are still many things we take for granted that they do without on the island.

 

The somewhat decently stocked grocery store that is located in the touristy section of La Habana was lacking in many things we expect to see (e.g., liquid milk, aspirin), and the stores for the citizens themselves are much worse. We also had a chance to experience a day long water outage in our beautiful Airbnb apartment, that otherwise accommodated the family nicely. The hope is that things will continue to improve but Cubans have learned the hard way that life can change drastically in an instant. Yet, while faced with hardships that many in the States can not imagine, the Cuban people love life and enjoy everyday of it. They manage to make the most of what they have, as evidenced by the innovative ways that they improvise in order to fix those classic cars without the necessary parts (or fix everything for that matter).

 

 

Another thing I noticed is the Cuban love for sports. And you can bet that anywhere you go there will someone watching, talking about, or playing sports. We always knew that baseball was big in Cuba, and my original plan was to go to one of the finals games for the Cuban National Series, but after the Habana Industriales were swept out of the playoffs by the Ciego de Ávila Tigres the day before I arrived, the logistics of traveling to view a game became much more difficult. So instead I watched the games on tv and decided to observe the general culture of sports on the island. And it’s obvious the the Cuban love for sports is so deep rooted that no hardship can come between the people and their beloved pastimes.

 

In the center of Habana there aren’t many large parks with baseball diamonds or soccer fields, so more often than not, you see children playing their favorite games right in the streets, or if they’re lucky, in an abandoned lot or parking lot. The two most popular things on the island are baseball, obviously, and soccer. Anywhere you go you see kids playing, I mean everywhere. Walking down the narrow colonial streets of Habana Vieja, I often had to sidestep impromptu baseball games and be careful that I didn’t get hit as I went on my way. A second of carelessness could result in a soccer ball to the face, so you constantly had to be on guard in case you became an unintended participant in the fun.

 

Most of these kids are lacking in proper equipment but that doesn’t stop them. Very few times did I see an actual baseball glove, and almost as scarce were baseball bats. Often these games were played using barehands and whatever stick could pass for a bat. Cuban ingenuity knows no bounds and I even saw balls that I’m not quite sure what they were made out of. The same went for soccer, which if I had to guess is being played just as much as baseball among the youth of the island. There’s a reason soccer is so popular around the world, and it’s that you need much less equipment than almost any other sport in order to make a true soccer match. All you need is the ball and some makeshift pylons to draw the boundaries of the net. And that’s how I saw the game being played all over the island.

 

 

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that Cuba is only filled with athletes who are forced to play in the streets due to a lack of proper facilities and equipment. On the contrary, Cuba has a decent state-run sports industry for a nation of its size. I already mentioned the baseball league, which has been a breading ground for many future MLB all stars. And while never having participated in an Olympic Winter Games, the country had been competing in the Summer games since 1894. Cuba has accumulated 209 medals overall and 72 gold medals. That’s good for 18th overall in the world, despite being the 78th most populous nation. Most of those have been in boxing (34) and I just know that American trainers and promoters are licking their chops as they await access to a new crop of Cuban boxers. As they should be.

 

The country of Cuba is one that is full of pride, determination and talent. Much like the music and food, sports flow through the blood of the island. There’s nothing that can stop the people in that country from loving, playing and enjoying whatever sport they like. As Cuba begins to rejoin the international community in a total sense, we should get used to the idea of seeing more and more professional Cuban athletes thrive on the world stage. Who knows, maybe I witnessed the next “El Duque” or Yoenis Cespedes right there in the streets of Habana and didn’t even know it.

 

 


An ode to the Moms that make sports possible

Written by :
Published on : May 8, 2016

 

 

Today is Mother’s Day and in honor of all the moms out there, we thought we would say a few kind words about the most important people in the world of sports or the world as a whole, for that matter.

 

Let’s be honest. None of us would be here if it wasn’t for our mother. It’s just a biological fact. But that’s not what today is all about. Today is about all the things that our moms do after bringing us into this world. From nursing, to diapers, to helping with homework, our moms are always there. They selflessly sacrifice their personal lives in order to make better ones for us.

 

This applies to all facets of life, including our beloved sports. Many of us would not have been able to play if not for our moms. Sure, for some people dads are just as important when it comes to sports but today isn’t father’s day, so let keep our focus on the mamas. Here are just a few ways that moms make sports a reality.

 

Soccer moms

It’s true that moms are more than mere chauffeurs when it comes to their impact, but the fact of the matter is that in order to play sports you need to physically show up. That’s where the masses of soccer moms and their mini-van chariots come in. The soccer moms (or football moms, baseball moms, hockey moms, etc) are what make the world of youth sports go ’round. They spend hours behind the wheel driving their children and their children’s teammates to games, meets and matches.

 

 

They also spend tireless hours organizing and planning in order to make sure that all of the obligations for their children and their teams are met. Whether it’s setting up fundraisers for team equipment or preparing post-game snacks for this week’s matchup, moms are indispensable. If you little leaguers are reading this right now, go and give your mom a hug and say thank you!

 

Your biggest cheerleader

When I was child playing soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey and football (yes, I played them all at one point or another) there was always one constant at my games. And that was my mom out there in the stands cheering me on as loud as she could. Sure, as a kid sometimes you can be embarrassed by your parents always being around but as I look back on those times I realize that there’s something special about it. It makes me feel good to know that my mom was always there and always had my back. Even if I sucked at the sport I was playing.

 

Hockey-Mom

 

Moms are our biggest supporters and are always there with some words of encouragement, whether you need them or not. That’s because our moms care and they genuinely want to see us succeed. There many people in our lives who care about our wellbeing and progression as people for purely unselfish reasons, but that’s just what moms do. They are there shouting, screaming and rooting us on from kick off until the final whistle. And for that, we say thank you.

 

Doctor, teacher, mentor

Moms do it all. They help us clean the cuts and ice the bruises that are inevitable, and they help teach us lessons in good sportsmanship. There really isn’t anything that they can’t do, or wouldn’t do for their children. They impart the wisdom they have gained through the years onto us, their kids. And they withhold judgement when we make mistakes. It’s their love and support that helps us to be the best we can be, both on the field and off.

 

 

They are team doctor, trainer and coach all wrapped up in one and none of us would be who we are today if not for their care, advice and influence. So go find your mom and wish her a Happy Mother’s Day, give her a giant hug, buy her some flowers and a card, and appreciate everything she’s done. Because she did it for you.

 

Love you, Mom!

 

 


Power Kings: Leceister Wins It All

Written by :
Published on : May 3, 2016

 

 

By now you’ve read the numbers, the plaudits, the hyperbole and celebration of it all. All deserved, scraped and fought for, Leceister City won the Barclays Premier League without actually playing on Monday. It was the heated cross-town rivalry between Tottenham Hotspurs and Chelsea Oligarchs that determined the champions’ fate. Chelsea roared back to tie Tottenham and hamstring the Spurs’ last hopes of keeping up with the Fearless Foxes.

 

This year’s Leceister FC was a panacea for international football. They were such a force of luck, energy, positivity, and consistency, that everything seemed to be written. They were pulled together through excellent scouting, redemptive second-chances, and hard work. There were no big-money transfers — N’Golo Kante cost less than £10 million, chump change in a league ruled by oil money.

 

NGolo-Kante

 

Even when Jamie Vardy revealed that he isn’t the greatest dude, then scored in eleven straight games, the narrative remained relentless. Although Vardy popped in the most goals, the beating heart of the team’s attack was Riyad Mahrez, whose timeliness, touch, and sense of space created as many goals. Unsurprising that he was named the player of the year in the Premier League.

 

The team had spine. The triad of N’Golo Kante, footballing golem Robert Huth, and team captain Wes Morgan all combined as a formidable shield for 2nd-generation starting Premier League goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. Kante prowled the field with speed and ferocity like a Strong Safety, never putting a wrong foot or mis-timing a tackle. Huth and Morgan were mobile pillars, dominant in the air and just fast enough to survive. Austrian Bundesliga castoff, Christian Fuchs, was a learned presence on the flank and provided reliable crossing service.

 

There’s also the luck. Leceister used the fewest players of any team this season, 23. Once famed for being such a restless manager they called him “The Tinkerman,” Claudio Ranieri barely changed his lineup all year. He barely had to, sustaining few injuries throughout the year. This, more than anything, is the most un-repeatable aspect of Leceister’s title.

 

Vardy

 

Though if you saw him, Ranieri’s kindly visage might make you wonder what he was doing not feeding ducks bread at a pond, he played luck’s harp expertly. He retained the assistant coaching staff so the players wouldn’t hate him. He made Jamie Vardy not shoot in practice, so as to have more time to be racist in private. This worked out in heavenly fashion, as everyone was essentially healthy for the entire year, they all loved and fought for each other, and they turned out to be champions.

 

The solution might not be billions, or a “special” manager, or galactic star power. Sometimes it’s more about the lightning and how you catch it.

 

 


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