Thursday, January 31, 2013

THE GREAT AMERICAN BALLPARK: The Name Says It All

One of the coolest ballparks in the MLB

The Cincinnati Reds were awarded the 2015 All-Star Game last week.  So we asked our sports panel If they have ever been to the Great American Ballpark; what did they think of that stadium?  If not, would they ever consider going there to see their favorite team play against the Reds?  Here is what they said.


"Yes, I would go just to check out the stadium. If I went to see the Seattle Mariners, I might be able to lay-down in the seats due to vacancy"--Johnny J
"Chicks dig the long ball: see Todd Frazier in 2012 hit a home run by throwing his bat at a pitch."--Dan P
"If Pathological Hate covers my expenses, I'll drink at any ballpark."--Donny R
"No. The only thing great in OHIO left for South Beach years ago."--C. McLain

In response to Donny, "nice try."  

And from what I hear, Ohio can be a pretty boring place and I really didn't take advantage of checking out the tourist sites in Cincinnati, but the ballpark is simply majestic.  I absolutely loved it when I went there in 2009 when the Chicago Cubs were finishing up their series against the Reds.  Driving there was another story.

See, it's about a 5 hour drive from Chicago to Cincinnati.  Even worse, one must drive through I-65 through Indiana.  If anybody out there wants to see a total wasteland, go ahead and drive through I-65 in Indiana.  Simply depressing.  There were more stalled, abandoned cars on the side of the road than houses adjacent to the freeway.  

One would think that once you get to Indianapolis, things would get better in terms of city views and signs of life--it's not.  Indianapolis, when driving right through its heart, is just as depressing as I-65.  There are all of these small to medium, old, rustic, buildings that can be spotted from the freeway.  It was like going back in time 30 years--no, it was more like being in a set of a movie where the setting takes place in the 1970s.  And then--BOOM!  The enormously, gigantic Lucas Oil Stadium appears on the horizon.  It just simply, in a comical way, overwhelms and blankets the rest of the city.  It truly is a magnificent sight to see, but it's funny that when driving on the highway, the "House that Peyton Built" becomes the default largest artificial structure in town.  

In terms of the scenic view, things get better once you get closer to Ohio as rolling hills and deciduous woodlands fill the surrounding landscape on I-74/I-465.  I love road trips, but the idea of driving back to Cincinnati kind of makes me cringe, simply because one would have to drive through Indiana.  Nevertheless, the destination is a major reward in itself.

Cubs vs Reds; June 7, 2009--"The Rubber Match"
Located nearby Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals, and adjacent to the Ohio River, the ballpark is simply an architectural beauty.  Yes, it has a theme park feel to it, but that's ok. The aesthetics more than make up for it. 

It feels like a theme park because the day I went, there were these video game trucks that were set up just outside the ballpark.  Technically, there's this area by the Ohio River where its still part of the ballpark, but it's outside the view of the field.  There's a food court, the video game trucks for the kids who were bored by the game, and for an extra fee, you can pay an admission fee to check out the Reds Hall of Fame

Portions of the center field stands is shaped like a riverboat and I believe that structure doubles up as an exclusive restaurant to certain ticketholders.  In right field, there's an area where fans can go to cool off.  About 30-40 fans can fit underneath the "cooling area" as cool, mists of water sprinkle down on people standing underneath the water apparatus.  

You cannot walk around the entire concourse of the park as certain areas are only accessible for fans designated at those seats.  However, you're never too far from a view of the city.  We were sitting in the centerfield bleachers and as I was getting hot dogs and beer, I could get a great view of the Ohio River: I can even see Kentucky from my vantage point.

That's the other thing I didn't realize: Cincinnati is kind of "redneck-y" due to its location on the Ohio-Kentucky border.  As a minority citizen, when I hear people scream out "yee-haw!" I kind of start to panic.  But we were not once harassed by any of the locals and they proved to be friendly.  Then again, I would say 30-40% of Cubs' fans made up the attendance figures on that day so we were well represented.  

Overall, I definitely wouldn't mind going back to Cincinnati to catch a Cubs/White Sox game.  I hate the idea of driving back through Indiana, but The Great American Ballpark lived up to its reputation.

Cubs won 6-3 as Alfonso Soriano the game-winning homerun.
The Cubs would add two more insurance runs before
closing out the Reds. 
All pictures courtesy of Ed Mancia. 

For more on the Reds, click here

For more on MLB, click here.



Wednesday, January 30, 2013

SACRAMENTO KINGS: A Fan's Perspective: Part I

The only way to watch a Sacramento Kings' game is with a few of these.
(photo courtesy of Josh Chiaratti)


Josh C

After seeing a RealGM feature on Team Roster Composition where the Detroit Pistons tallied 11 players acquired via the NBA DRAFT, disgruntled Sacramento Kings’ fan, Josh C. unleashed yet another, passionate rant on his favorite NBA team.  This is him attempting to keep his emotions in check and sharing why being a Kings’ fan was frustrating enough before the team was sold to a group out of Seattle--Ed


The Detroit Pistons have 11 players on their roster that were acquired via the draft.  Well, I’m here to tell you that it doesn't matter how many draftees you have.  It matters how many difference makers you acquire.  In the right NBA market, all it takes is drafting one difference maker and that difference maker (along with a strong organization and a bit of luck) can bring in the difference making free agents needed to compete for a title.  So even though the Pistons have drafted 11 players that are good enough to remain on their roster, none of them could be considered difference makers.  Only three players were lottery picks:
  • Andre Drummond
  • Brandon Knight
  • Greg Monroe

The Pistons have some nice players and they have developed solid players; none of those players will be taking the Pistons to the next level any time soon.  Detroit is in a sort of NBA Purgatory: mediocre enough to not get a high pick in the NBA DRAFT, but still bad enough to not be playoff contenders.  So a team can rack up as many 1st round picks as they want, but mid-lottery picks aren't going to get you over the hump. 

Why am I so confident about my statements about the Pistons?  Let’s just say I speak from experience.  20 or so years of watching losing season after losing season and watching most of those teams be good enough to be nothing more than an ordinary squad, but not terrible enough to get a high, lottery pick--that kind of experience.  I’m talking about the Sacramento Kings.

How does one start to strategically vent his 20, or so, years of frustration into writing.  Well, let’s look at the roster:
  • 7 Players selected via the Draft
  • 1 Player acquired via Draft Rights’ Trade
  • 3 Acquired via trade
  • 3 Signed Free Agents

It should be noted that the Kings would have more players “Acquired via Draft” if it wasn’t for the fact that the team’s front office basically “sold” away 2nd round picks for practically nothing.  Also, those drafted players are—you guessed it—not difference makers.  Yes, there are 5 lottery picks:
  • DeMarcus Cousins
  • Tyreke Evans
  • Thomas Robinson
  • Jason Thompson
  • Jimmer Fredette

But all of those players have proven to not be key, cornerstone, anchored, franchise players that every good title contender needs.  Yes, Cousins might be that guy, but his volatility and immaturity downgrades him in the grand scheme of things.  Would you want your franchise to build their title hopes around Cousins?  Heck, even the Pistons aren’t interested in Cousins!  So we have some up-and-coming talent, but they’re not players who will put any team, let alone the Kings, over the hump.  They’re not difference makers.

It’s bad enough that our collection of drafted players are not good enough, but then GM Geoff Petrie decides that it would be a splendid idea to lock in mediocre veterans to go along with incompetent draftees.  This creates a less flexible, more expensive, subpar, pedestrian, and uninspired team. 

I’m talking about players like Marcus Thornton. Thornton was basically, at best, a Sixth Man, spark plug off the bench.  He finished the 2011 season strong.  And then the Kings do the unthinkable and sign him to a 4 year, $33 million contract.  Really--$33 million for Marcus “freakin” Thornton?

Then there was Chuck Hayes.  The Kings had offered him a four year contract. A long-term deal for Hayes?  That’s inexplicable!  However, the Kings were saved because Hayes failed a physical due to heart problems.  So the Kings saved themselves from a $21.3 million salary cap nightmare.  All is good!  WRONG!!!  After further evaluations, Hayes is cleared to play and not only do the Kings offer him the same four years as originally intended, but they offer him more money!  What is going on here?

But the final blow to the head comes in the shape of John Salmons: a player the Kings were all too thrilled to be rid of the first time around, somehow makes his way back to the team (more on that later). 

And these are just a handful of trades and free agent signings that have plagued the Maloofs and the Kings in the last seven years or so (The Kings are one of two teams since 2005-06 to not make the NBA playoffs—Ed).  But it wasn't always like this.  At one point under the Maloofs, the Kings were good at developing talent, fighting the Los Angeles Lakers for titles, hiring great leadership that signed and traded for amazing talent.  

So what happened?





Tuesday, January 29, 2013

PRO BOWL: To Keep or Not to Keep?

Will the sun set on the Pro Bowl next year?  It will be up to Commissioner Goodell to decide....
(photo courtesy of Josh Chiaratti)


                                       

Johnny J

The Pro Bowl is the "All-Star" game of the NFL. It's there to showcase the best players of the league. But what happens when its not taken seriously? The NFL loses money, fans stop caring, and the Commissioner gets mad.  Roger Goodell noted earlier that "the league must address the quality of the game," and he even mentioned he would consider eliminating the exhibition event if improvements aren't made. "I really didn't think that was the kind of football we should be demonstrating for our fans," said the Commissioner who was referring to past efforts in the Pro Bowl.

The players responded this year, with greater determination not to disappoint the fans or the Commissioner. In an all-out effort, the NFC blew out the AFC, 62-35. It actually was worth watching this year. Players like Peyton Manning  headlined the rally of getting the players to play hard and calling the last 2 years of the Pro Bowl unacceptable.  "Peyton said some things and guys took it personal," said Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, who finished with 13 yards on 5 carries and a fumble.  J.J. Watt after getting his finger cut after a play, went to the sidelines, and during an interview, as the cameras got a good look of his bloodied finger, and lightheartedly barbed, "Hey, Commish!  We're playing hard."  Even Goodell announced yesterday that the players' play in the Pro Bowl improved greatly this year compared to years past.
Hawaii.  Very likely that NFL Pro Bowlers wake up to this
sight every morning.
(photo courtesy of Josh Chiaratti)

For example, first-year Pro Bowler and Minnesota Vikings' tight-end, Kyle Rudolph, who was named MVP after catching 5 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown.  Rudolph not only made a statement with his game, but also pleaded with the Commish to "keep [the Pro Bowl] here and keep it here for a long time." Rudolph, was not initially voted into the Pro Bowl. He made it after Tony Gonzalez decided not to attend because of injury. In the end Rudolph definitely showed why he deserved to be there: he was Eli Manning's and Drew Brees' top receiver and walked out the stadium with the MVP.

As a fan, the Pro Bowl was just known as a trip to Hawaii and an extra paycheck. I understand that no one wants to get hurt in a game that doesn't mean anything. Some players are still probably still upset about not being in the Super Bowl and so the effort was just not there. Especially if you're a player who has been known as a Pro Bowler throughout your career, but for someone who is new to Hawaii, you're just soaking it all in.

But Going back to Gonzalez, not being there, I feel like if you were healthy enough to play in your last game, then you're healthy enough to play in this game. If I paid for tickets to go to the Pro Bowl, I would like to see players that I voted for playing. The fans deserve that much.  I didn't pay for someone to be called upon because my favorite players were too busy--err, hurt--to come.  Players like: 

  • Aaron Rodgers 
  • Calvin Johnson
  • Matt Ryan
  • Clay Matthews


They all could have played because they all played in their last games. They may have tweaked something during the game, but they played. So if you play for your team, then you should play for the fans. This is something the Commissioner needs to address as well.

Hawaii.  You can't get these views in Miami.
(photo courtesy of Josh Chiaratti)
In 2010 the NFL moved the Pro Bowl in front of the Super Bowl, in an effort to get fans to watch. They threw more money toward the winning team and that didn't work: $60,000 to the winner and $45,000 to the loser before, now $50,000 to $25,000 split to the winner and loser, respectively. They even moved the Pro Bowl to Miami for one year and nobody cared.

Finally, the Commissioner said he would cancel the All Star event if players didn't play hard and that may have gotten the players' attention. Proving that being a Pro Bowler still means something; it means you're an elite member of this game, at least for the season your number is summoned upon by the fans and coaches. It also means you're responsible in providing your services for the overall good of the game and most especially for the fans.  Even if the game is just an exhibition event--just come out and exhibit your skills!

More NFL is available here. 

         

KOBE, MJ, and TWITTER: A Weird Mix

Outside of the United Center where Michael Jordan is permanently
dunking over people.
(photo courtesy of Ed Mancia)




Felipe M

We asked our sports' panel about live tweeting.  Here are their thoughts.

Kobe Bryant was live-tweeting his 81-point performance which was re-aired last week on NBA TV. Which sports’ figure, past or present, would you like to see live tweet their paramount, career event?

Here’s what the panel wrote:

  • “Keeping it current, I would love to have Raul Ibanez live tweet his game tying HR & Walk-off HR against the Baltimore Orioles in the 2012 ALDS.”—C. McLain
  • Marshawn Lynch—Beast Mode” against the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs.”—Dan P
  • Araon Rodgers’ 2010 Super Bowl run.”—Johnny J
  • “I would love to have seen Michael Jordan live tweeting about the D.C. Wizards at MSG vs the New York Knicks on March 9 2003. A 39 year-old Jordan scored 39 points in 43 minutes of action.  The Wiz were battling for a playoff spot in Jordan's final year. He out-played the combined effort of everyone in that game.  I watched this game while it was happening on NBC, MJ wanted to win the game so bad, but Latrell Spreewell & the Knicks ended up winning.  The most impressive effort I have watched during a basketball game.”—Donny R

Very interesting choices and Dan's choice is one of the funniest videos out there.  Is it racist?  That's for Daniel Tosh to decide.  

I had a hard time coming up with one event I would have liked to have seen be live-tweeted.  So I will share five instead:

  • Michael Jordan playing with the flu at Utah in the NBA Finals.
  • Kerry Wood’s 20 strikeout game.
  • Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis playing a game of chess… or at least live-tweeting the last game they will every play against each other. 
  • Patrick Kane live-tweeting the game-winning goal to clinch the Stanley Cup Championship for the Chicago Blackhawks.  Also, live-tweeting how he celebrated afterwards would be just as, if not more, interesting.
  • And staying in the NHL, the greatest hockey game I have ever watched was on March 26, 1997 between the Colorado Avalanche and the Detroit Red Wings.  Not a fan of the goonery, but one can’t deny the raw emotion and the venom that was spewed throughout this hockey game.  Just figuring out who would be best qualified to do a live-tweet is proving to be difficult.  Do we go with the captains, Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman? Or do we ask guys like Kris Draper  and/or Darren McCarty to give us their take while countering with Claude Lemieux for the Avalanche?  How about the goalies, Patrick Roy and Mike Vernon who most likely had the best, on-ice view of the whole scene before they got involved with the fighting?  What about the coaches?  So many potential candidates.   

Speaking of Kobe, the Los Angeles Lakers, fan or hater question: how happy/mad are you about their season so far?

The Lakers are so bad, that even "die-hard" superfan,
Jack Nicholson is leaving games early and getting
ready for baseball.
(Source: Mike McCann, Field of Fotos)
No one has gotten more glee out of the Lakers’ struggles this season than me.  I’m a Laker-hater and thinking about them literally makes my blood boil.  Yes, Kobe Bryant has back-to-back games of 14 assists, but with all that talent, it is an absolute joke that they’re not living up to the hype.  With that being said, let’s see what everybody else thinks of the Lake Show this season.

“I’m mad!  I wanted to see some competitiveness in the playoffs. It won't be as intense if Kobe's not in it.”—Johnny J
I think these playoffs will be more competitive than ever.  It is almost near unpredictable to forecast what will happen tomorrow in the NBA, let alone what will happen in the playoffs.  One thing is for sure, however, and that is that come playoff time, the stakes are raised a bit higher and the games get more intense.  Besides, there’s plenty of storylines in the NBA outside of Kobe and the Lakers.  The playoffs will be fine.

  • “They were purple and bold, but now about to fold--in 2013.”-- Dan P
  • “Hater and happy because, like in actual chemistry, when you mix elements that don’t sit well with each other, the whole experiment explodes.”-- C. McLain
  • “If I cared any less, it'd still be too much.”-- Donny R

So the panel was harsh on the Lakers and rightfully so.  It was reported by David Schuster on WSCR THE SCORE 670AM that Kobe was still sitting an hour-and-a-half after the game against the Chicago Bulls by his locker stall, just pondering and trying to figure out what to do with the Lakers.  We give it up to Kobe: he’s a true professional, he cares about winning, and he tries every game.  

But knowing his past as a spoiled, child-like, NBA player, all of these recent struggles couldn't have happened to a more qualified person. 

So it’s safe to say that PATHOLOGICAL HATE will continue to hate on Kobe and the Lakers.

How do we fix the Lakers besides making Kobe Bryant the team's de facto point guard? Dan Plotsky has the answers.  Read Part I and Part II

NBA stuff is available here

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Monday, January 28, 2013

SUPER BOWL CAN'T COME QUICK ENOUGH: Deaths, Bounties, and Soft Play

From a noted champion, I just want the Super Bowl
to begin all ready!


Felipe M

We asked our panel to weigh-in on the rough week the NFL experienced last week.


Sean Payton has been reinstated by the NFL.  Did Roger Goodell make his point to the rest of the NFL as far as bounties go?

Never a dull moment in the NFL as it appeared another ho-hum week that led its way to the annual Pro Bowl turned ugly.  First, Payton was once again, allowed to join the New Orleans Saints and immediately went to work at the Senior Bowl where he could be seen scouting the fresh talent and rubbing elbows with all of the coaches and front office personnel, sharing notes and thoughts on players and perhaps chronicled the events of his life in the past year or so during his suspension.  That wasn't so bad.  That’s actually a good thing to see a coach do his job.

It got worse when it was announced that Junior Seau’s family would sue the NFL after posthumous tests showed that the former player was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). 

Concurrently, a new study last week showed chronic brain damage among living, retired NFL players.  The players' brains seemed to "deteriorate" faster than a human being who did not participate in football.  

Then NFL hitman, Bernard Pollard stated that not only will the NFL die out in about 30 years, but he expects there to be a death of a player on the field. The player who is getting a reputation for being the Patriot Killer, also stated that fellow players are getting tired of being fined for hits and tackles that have become illegal in today’s NFL.  Many fans and pundits are all ready viewing a world where America’s most talented athletes will think twice about the prospects of playing football for a living and participate in other, safer sports.

Finally, putting on the final blow on the NFL this week, President Barack Obama also made a statement about not having his hypothetical son play the sport and would like the league to “reduce some of the violence.”

So what was the subject about again?  Oh yeah: so did Goodell make his point about the bounties?  Our panel doesn't think so:

  • “No he did not.  Payton should have been kicked out of Football along with Greg Williams.”—Johnny J (A bit extreme, but definitely would have gotten every head coach’s attention to the matter—Ed).
  • “Goodell wasted his/our time.  Bounties are nothing new and are here to stay. They simply got caught.”—Dan P (Remember, every old, crusty, former player came out of the cornfields to tell the whole world how they use to set up bounties all of the time back in the medieval days of the NFL and that Goodell was just making the game too soft.  And then those same players continued to go after the NFL vicariously through their lawyers—Ed).
  • “No, because just like the NCAA, all Roger Goodell does is punish problems instead of getting at the core issue of the violations.  Rather than creating a fair shake for everyone (i.e. alter the extreme violent nature of the game), Goodell wants to look as if he cares about the players safety.  Similar to any two-bit, prison warden who follows the old prison mantra--"rule, not rehabilitate.”—Donny R

These are some harsh, critical words for the NFL’s commissioner.  But to his credit “some” progress, could be said, was made with these unprecedented punishments handed to the Saints’ organization.  There has to be some optimism that some of the dark, ugly habits of professional players and their equally disgusting coaches’ behaviors were somewhat eradicated.  It’s hard to believe that most of the locker rooms will revert back to implementing a bounty system after they saw what happened to the Saints. 

Or it could be argued that a lot of locker rooms will lay low for a while and come back with modifications and even more subtlety than before.  I believe, however, that C. McLain sums it up best:

“I’d put money on it that Goodell definitely did make his point.”

Special emphasis on the word, money.

MEMORABLE SPORTS' BROADCAST CALLS

The living legend: the great Vin Scully on the jumbotron (Source: Mike McCann's Field of Fotos)

Felipe M

This past week, ESPN paid homage to the “Sunshine Showdown,” a boxing event that pitted two all-time greats in Joe Frazier and George Foreman 40 years ago.  More importantly, this is where the iconic Howard Cosell’s signature call (well, one of many signature calls) of “Down goes Frazier!” was born.  Even though Cosell would be known for that call, it is worth mentioning that he was fantastic throughout the fight, giving us memorable quips such as:
  • “I think [Foreman] hurt Joe Frazier. I think Joe is hurt.” (moments before the first knockdown)
  • “AND FOREMAN IS AS POISED AS CAN BE!” (after the first knockdown).
  • “Frazier is DAZED! HE is getting hit AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN!”
  • “FRAZIER IS DOWN AGAIN and he may be—NO! HE IS RISING! HE IS DAZED! HE DOESN’T KNOW WHERE HE IS!”
  • “DOWN AGAIN! NO SAVING BY THE BELL!”
  • “HE IS DOWN! HE IS DOWN FOR THE FOURTH TIME IN THE FIGHT!”
  • “IT IS TARGET PRACTICE FOR GEORGE FOREMAN! IT IS TARGET PRACTICE!”

Bleacher Report did a pretty good countdown of memorable sports’ calls.  So I asked our sports panel to share what their favorite broadcast call of all time is.

“’The Music City Miracle’: Titans pull off a win against the Buffalo Bills in a Wildcard game thanks to a trick play on special teams.”—Johnny J.

Signature Call: Mike Keith and Pat Ryan were calling the game for the Tennessee Titans and Johnny acknowledges Keith’s call of “There are no flags on the field” and “Tennessee has pulled a miracle” as the calls that make the play memorable, but Ryan commenting “He’s got something,” as Kevin Dyson runs it back down the sideline towards the end zone makes this a prime example of two broadcasters with great chemistry calling an exciting play. 

Dan Plotsky chose Al Michaels’ call on the 1980 USA Hockey Team’s upset of the hated, rival Soviet Union as not only his favorite broadcast call, but also “the second most important moment in American [sports outside of] Jesse Owens in Germany 1936.”

(How about Jackie Robinson breaking the color-barrier?--Ed)

Signature Call: “Do you believe in miracles? YES!”

C. McLain picked Johnny Most’s Havlicek Stole the Ball” call of Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals.

Donny Rodriguez shares this little anecdote with us:

“My memorable call was the Ron Santo and Pat Hughes radio call from the Brant Brown dropped fly ball in Milwaukee that almost cost the Chicago Cubs a shot at the 1998 wildcard.  I was in the nurse’s office after school hours, waiting for my parents to pick me up after ralphing in the bathroom and the nurse had the radio on.  When Santo screamed like a whipped dog, "Oh No!" the nurse said to me, no lie, “Well, you won't be the only one throwing up today."
Ron Santo lived his life a die-hard Cubs' fan;
He died as a long-life Cubs' fan.
Currently residing in Cooperstown.
(photo courtesy of Ed Mancia)
I too remember how devastated I was when Brown dropped the ball, but I did not panic like most Cubs’ fans.  A lot of people called the local sports radio shows and were ready to call off the season, commit suicide, or pull off other melodramatic stunts when Brown dropped the ball.  But I remembered, as a 15 year-old kid, trying to figure out why so many people were frantic about this one game.  As far as I was concerned, the Cubs still had a good chance of making the playoffs.  What I didn't expect was that they would have to play a one-game playoff for that playoff spot, but regardless. 

But fans, everywhere, were quick to point out the goofy Cubs’ history about being cursed and how good, winning seasons can’t be enjoyed because the Cubs will find a way to “Cub it up” in the end.  I, on the other hand, thought it was a new age and era in 1998 and it was time to distance ourselves from the bad history and make our own history.  It is an ethos I carry to this day as a Cubs’ fan, but, admittedly, I sometimes wonder about this team and their string of bad luck.  2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, etc…

I have a few of my own to share.

June 2, 1992, Harry Caray was calling an extra-inning game between the Cubs and the San Diego PadresRyne Sandberg is at second; Andre Dawson is at first; Mark Grace is at the plate.  This is how the rest of the game went:

“There goes a double! CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN!”

Typical Harry, making every game seem like it was the World Series.  Grace drove the ball down the right field line scoring Sandberg from 2nd base.  Even though Harry is known for his “Way back, way back…it might be…it could be… IT IS!” homerun calls, any ball that he saw go down the 1st or 3rd base lines or hit the wall in the gaps, was an automatic “double” for him.  Even though Grace gets credit for a single, as far as Harry was concerned, any ball hit down the lines, should be an easy double. 

The Chicago White Sox play-by-play announcer, Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, is notorious for his array of catchphrases
“He gone!”
“Mercy!”
“Duck snort”
“There’s a can of corn”
“Sacks packed with Sox”
“You gotta be bleepin’ me!”
“Dag gummit”
“Stretch…stretch…he looks up…you can put it on the bbbooooooaaaarrrrdddddd…YES!!!”
“This game is OVAH!”

But ultimately, my favorite broadcast calls of all time involve Vin Scully.  Might just be the greatest broadcaster of all time.  I envy Los Angeles for having this treasure right in their own backyard.  Game 6 of the 1986 World Series call of Mookie Wilson’s dribbler down the first base line, which eventually goes right through Bill Buckner’s legs, still brings me chills:

“Behind the BAG! IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER!”

Nevertheless, one of the greatest moments in MLB history involves two, outstanding, nationally aired broadcast calls.  Game 1 of the 1988 World Series where Kirk Gibson hits a homerun off Dennis Eckersley provided us with two legendary broadcasters giving us two of the greatest calls of all time.  One from Scully and the other one from Jack Buck:

  • “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!”
  • “UNBELIEVABLE…I don’t believe what I just saw! I DON’T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW!”
Feel free to share your favorite sports’ calls in the comments’ section below.

Friday, January 25, 2013

NASHVILLE PREDATORS: Here and Now


Felipe M

This week, I asked our staff here at PATHOLOGICAL HATE to share their thoughts on the Nashville Predators.  The Preds’ inaugural season was back in 1998 and I can still remember many traditional pundits and hockey fans scratching their heads in shared perplexity wondering what Commissioner Gary Bettman was possibly thinking in awarding the city of Nashville an NHL franchise. 

Nevertheless, despite a slew of problems, including, but not limited to, the following: 
  • Not making their first playoff appearance until their 7th season .
  • Ownership fraud. 
  • A threat to move to Canadian city, Hamilton, Ontario. 
  • Unimpressive attendance figures (though, it’s worth mentioning that they have one of the smaller arenas in the NHL) 

The Preds still have one of the more stable NHL franchises with a current streak of three consecutive playoff appearances, three consecutive years of improving attendance figures (in terms of capacity percentage%), and most astonishing of all, they have only known one General Manager in David Poile and only one head coach in Barry Trotz.

Despite all of their long-running and recent success, Nashville is still perceived as a low-grade hockey franchise with a fan base that does not understand the sport and are more fair-weathered fans than die-hard fans.  The current stereotype about the fans needing to learn the rules and culture of hockey are still prevalent today as they were back in 1998.  Just look at our panel’s responses.  The question was, “What are your thoughts on the city of Nashville as a legitimate “hockey town?”  Obviously, the connotation of “hockey town” was meant to be taken loosely and in relative terms:

  • “Wait. You did say H-O-C-K-E-Y town right? Just checking.”—C. McLain
  • “Well, between the Predators and the Tennessee Titans, I guess they have to clap for someone. Hockey will never survive in Tennessee.”—Johnny J
  •  “Great small market, but [the term] hockey town [should be preserved] for Original Six teams.”—D. Plotsky.


Plotsky’s sentiment is more alarming, especially for a sports’ entity like the NHL who has been trying to open up to new, non-traditional markets in a rapid manner since 1967.  By that logic, no other city in North America can ever, fully embrace an NHL franchise outside of Montreal, Toronto, Boston, or Detroit to name a few.  

Also, Nashville is stereotyped as another Southern city full of “rednecks” who will always remain loyal to Southern culture and will remain skeptical and xenophobic to foreign concepts, such as hockey.  As Donny Rodriguez explains:

Nashville Hockey: The NHL loves passing over cold-weathered cities such as Milwaukee, Indianapolis, and Providence for more densely populated areas that have more disposable income and love to casually partake in fringe sporting events.  New cities are good for the sport, but only if the team stays in the city and two decades from now that city starts producing hockey players.  The common Southerner would probably embrace hockey more if there were some "good 'ole boys" with American names swapping fabric of sweaters, like they do swapping paint in those race cars.”

However, the fact of the matter is, when the Predators are winning, the fans come out to support.  That’s true with any other city in any other sport.  I can still remember a time when the Chicago Blackhawks were a young, cheap team run by “Dollar Bill” Wirtz and constantly struggled to bring the fans into the United Center. After the Hawks became Stanley Cup contenders, suddenly, they were the hottest and toughest ticket in town as the Blackhawks have led the league in capacity percentage% in the last 4 seasons when they became Cup contenders.
 
How was their attendance when they weren’t winning? In 2007-08, the Blackhawks finished in 10th place in the Western Conference, finished 19th in total home attendance, and that big arena they call home?  82% capacity percentage%! That placed them in 28th PLACE IN THE NHL!!! As most of you will know, the Chicago Blackhawks are an “Original Six” team.

The fans of Nashville have proved to be as loyal as any in the NHL.  They don’t sell out like the Blackhawks have in the past 4 seasons, but in relative terms, they will support a winner.  And a winning franchise is the Predators.  We’ve mentioned the recent string of playoff appearances, but the biggest surprise is that they still have employed their original GM and head coach!  That’s not just a rarity in the NHL, where historic franchises like the Toronto Maple Leafs go through head coaches and front office personnel like The Black Dahlia Murder goes through drummers, but in sports in general where management positions are constantly on fire (giving new meaning to the idiom “hot seat”).  How Poile and Trotz have kept their jobs, even through the losing seasons, is simply amazing.  And if this stable franchise wasn’t stable enough as it is now, they have locked up one of the better goaltenders in the NHL, Pekka Rinne, to a long-term deal.  Their first draft pick ever, David Legwand, is still on the team!

And as I watched the Predators fight off the St. Louis Blues in Overtime, Rinne stopped a barrage of scoring opportunities as the period was coming to an end.  Play was stopped for a face-off and the Nashville faithful stood up and gave Rinne a long, standing ovation as they appreciated his and his team’s effort.  The Preds lost the game in the Shootout, but give credit to the mostly, “Southern, redneck, no-nothing-about-hockey" fans: they knew a great effort when they saw it.  They have themselves a top-notch franchise and they know that as well.  

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