by Julian Spivey
On Friday after he stormed to a multiple stroke lead at The Masters I went to social media to gripe that “Patrick Reed was going to ruin The Masters for me.” Now to be honest I likely would’ve said the same had any golfer taken a commanding lead. I hate to see dominance from anyone in a golf major because I want to see a half dozen or more guys have a shot on Sunday. But, there was a little more vitriol with Reed in the lead. He’s my least favorite golfer on the PGA Tour. I thought I was alone in that sentiment.
On Sunday, when Reed sank his Green Jacket clinching par on the 18th hole of Augusta the crowd reaction was weaker than it would’ve been if John Doe had won the Puerto Rico Open. It was basically a “meh.” Making the reaction even more surprising is the fact that Reed lived for a while in Augusta, Ga. and even led Augusta State University to two consecutive NCAA Division I championships in the early part of this decade. That didn’t matter to the gallery.
I wasn’t alone in my dislike of Reed. In fact, it appears he’s “the most hated man in golf.” After The Masters on Sunday evening I saw a bunch of articles pop up ranging from “Why you shouldn’t dislike Patrick Reed” to “Why do golf fans hate Patrick Reed?” to “Would golf fans like Patrick Reed if they knew him?” The most interesting piece I read was Alan Shipnuck’s piece for Golf.com about how Patrick Reed’s estranged parents watched their son win The Masters from their home just three miles away with mixed emotions.
Reed hasn’t spoken to his parents or younger sister since 2012 and his parents have never even met their granddaughter. They once attended the U.S. Open to follow his group in hopes of rebuilding their relationship and were escorted off the premises at the behest of Reed’s wife, Justine.
Of course, this is only one side of the story, but the piece just made me dislike Reed even more. Before I had disliked him for his use of a homophobic slur at a tournament in 2014, which I thought the PGA Tour should’ve suspended him for even though it was aimed at himself. I also grew to dislike Reed quite a bit during the 2014 Ryder Cup when his celebrating because he was playing well during the Europeans ass-stomping of the United States made him come off as an ass. I don’t believe in celebrating when you’re losing, especially losing badly.
There are evidently numerous reasons for others to dislike him from getting kicked off the University of Georgia golf team for multiple arrests, cheating allegations (which golf fans take very seriously) and abrasive cockiness (he once claimed he was a top 5 player in the world when he was far from it). Reed has also never done anything to seemingly make fans want to change their opinion of him. He seems to enjoy being disliked. He also seems to have zero report with his fellow professionals, almost always keeping to himself.
When reporters asked him after his Masters win on Sunday if it was “bittersweet not to be able to share the most triumphant moment of his life with his parents” Reed simply responded, “I’m just out here to play golf and try to win golf tournaments.”
He literally doesn’t seem to care about much else. That leaves the impression of a cold-hearted individual. One that even people who tend to like or find villains in sports interesting have trouble finding something redeeming in. That explains the “meh” response to him winning the biggest tournament in American golf. A career defining moment that would’ve had most golf crowds applauding with joy simply didn’t matter much to them. They say sports need villains. But, golf fans responded with emphatic quietness that they don’t need Patrick Reed.
by Julian Spivey
On Friday (March 16) we saw some major sports history and the biggest bracket buster in the history of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament when 16 seeded University of Maryland Baltimore County knocked off overall top seed Virginia in the first round of the tourney becoming the first 16-seed to ever do so in the tournament. It was great seeing something that had never been done in sports before – which doesn’t happen often these days. However, there have been quite a few upsets already in this tournament and it got me thinking that March Madness is the only time of year in any sport where people seemingly turn on the underdog. Many people don’t want to see Cinderellas find their slipper in the tournament because it busts their bracket and don’t we all want to be the one to win bragging rights and potentially money? I think most of us can probably agree that the Retrievers of UMBC over Virginia was quite worth it though because honestly that busted everybody’s bracket.
Tiger Woods Masters Favorite
Tiger Woods has been looking more and more like the Tiger of old lately. He finished second at the Valspar Championship last week and is playing well this weekend in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. His recovery from back surgery last year has been both remarkable and highly surprising and that has Vegas thinking he’s the favorite to win the Masters next month. Woods is considered an 8-1 favorite to win the Masters, something he hasn’t done since 2005 when he captured his fourth green jacket. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Woods in contention because I know he knows Augusta like the back of his hand but come on guys it’s way too soon to consider Woods the favorite of any golf tournament, let alone potentially the biggest in the world. Jordan Spieth, the 2015 winner, has 9-1 odds to win (tied with Dustin Johnson for second) and I believe he should be the favorite.
Cavaliers Title Chances
I’ve gotten to where I don’t like to see many prediction percentages for sports, especially in-game, because it takes a lot of the excitement and interest away from sports. You want to feel like each team has a shot. Sometimes these predictions also just seem flat out laughable. Recently I saw that the Basketball Power Index has given the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that has made the last three consecutive NBA Finals, a 0.01 percent chance at winning the NBA title. The BPI gives six other teams a higher chance at winning the championship (including the Philadelphia 76ers who have a worse record than the Cavs). I believe that counting out the Cavaliers, and honestly mostly LeBron James, is foolish and by the BPI saying they only have a miniscule chance at winning the title is doing that. I don’t believe the Cavaliers have a great shot at winning the championship – I’d be shocked if any team that isn’t either the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets wins it this year – but I do believe they should still be considered the favorite in the Eastern Conference despite being behind the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers in the standings.
Joe Thomas Retires
Sports hall of fames are places for the best of the best to be honored and have always been individual honors, but when Cleveland Browns All-Pro offensive lineman Joe Thomas announced his retirement this week after 11 seasons in the NFL the thing that instantly popped into my head was: “should a player essentially be penalized for playing on an all-time bad team?” If I had a vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame I’d likely have to eventually vote for Thomas as one of the greatest O-lineman to ever play the game, but many experts think he’s a first ballot lock. Keep in mind Terrell Owens, a top five all-time wide receiver, had to wait multiple years before he was voted in. I think it’s fair to at least consider the Browns all-time bad run of football when considering Thomas for the hall of fame. Thomas only had one winning season with the Browns, in his rookie year, and only won a measly 27 percent of the NFL games he played in. That has to be the worst winning percentage for any hall of fame type player ever and probably by a lot.
Jose Altuve's Contract Extension
If you’re a baseball fan, but don’t have a favorite player I suggest watching Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve very closely. The 2017 American League MVP is likely the most exciting player in today’s game and the Astros awarded his excellence with a five-year, $151 million contract extension on Friday (March 16). It’s nice to see one of the game’s top players finally get paid and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer and more hard-working player. ESPN’s Darren Rovell tweeted on Friday that Altuve, a Venezuelan native, attended an Astros tryout camp in Venezuela at 16, was told “don’t come back” because he was too short (he’s 5’6 if he can be trusted), came back anyway, was given a $15,000 deal, worked his way to the big leagues, almost instantly became a perennial all-star, led the Astros to winning their first ever World Series last year and won the MVP. He’s a great example for people to never give up on their dreams.
IndyCar Excitement to Simmer By Second Race
The beginning of the 2018 IndyCar Series season at St. Petersburg, Fla. last weekend (March 11) had many within the motorsports community talking and raving about the excitement of a potential “instant classic” that saw Canadian rookie Robert Wickens dominate and nearly win his debut until 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi got into and wrecked him on the final restart of the race. Sebastien Bourdais, who was lucky to survive a devastating wreck in Indy 500 practice last year, snuck by to win the opener. It had been a long time since I’ve seen this many people rave about the IndyCar Series, especially at a race other than the Indy 500, which is something the series could really use. But, will that excitement even be remembered by the time the series drops the green flag at its second race in Phoenix on April 7. There should never be a gap almost a month long in the schedule for any sport, especially between the first and second races of a season. IndyCar really needs to fix this seemingly annual scheduling issue.
by Julian Spivey
Flags flew at half-mast at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. last Sunday during the 60th running of the Daytona 500 just over a three-hour drive north of Parkland, Fla. where 17 students and faculty had been gunned down a few days before in one of the worst school shootings in American history. Parkland victims and survivors were in the prayers of those at the speedway all weekend during the prerace invocations.
Austin Dillon would go on to win the Daytona 500 that day. One of his sponsors is the National Rifle Association (NRA), which thankfully wasn’t on his car that day. Imagine how that would’ve looked. The reigning NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. is also occasionally sponsored by the NRA. The NRA also is set to sponsor the August race at Bristol Motor Speedway once again this season and has sponsored races at Texas Motor Speedway before.
The sport of NASCAR depends on sponsorship for survival maybe more than any other professional sport in the country, but they can be picky about what brands they allow to associate with the sport. Journeyman racer Carl Long found this out the tough way last season when NASCAR made the driver’s team remove decals for the company Veedverks from his No. 66 car. Veedverks is a hemp vape shop based in Colorado.
NASCAR takes issue with a legal (in Colorado) hemp vape shop but is OK with the NRA – a group that some people refer to as an American terrorist organization.
The same NRA that donated $10,000 to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s four-person varsity marksmanship team, in 2016. Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz was on that team and honed the very skills needed to perpetrate the tragedy at his school. The NRA that seemingly proves time and time again it cares more about the sale of firearms than people killed by AR-15s, which should be used for military purposes and nothing else.
NASCAR has never taken issue with the NRA as a race or team sponsor before, and the topic has come up before. In 2013, just months after 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook in Newton, Ct. the sport announced the NRA would sponsor a spring race at Texas Motor Speedway. NASCAR simply distanced itself from the decision with spokesman David Higdon saying, “Texas Motor Speedway ultimately secured this entitlement sponsor, not NASCAR.” After that season NASCAR instituted a new clause in its sanction agreements stating that it had to approve race sponsors, according to ESPN. Two years later the NRA was back as a race sponsor at Bristol, where it’ll serve as sponsor for a third consecutive year in August. NASCAR didn’t say no. This time they also didn’t comment. NASCAR team owner and NRA Second Vice President Richard Childress did, praising the sponsorship deal. He said: “So many fans are supporters of the NRA. They [NASCAR/Bristol Motor Speedway] made the right decision putting the NRA back in because so many of our fans are NRA members.”
There’s little doubt that many NASCAR fans are NRA supporters, but that doesn’t make it a right decision by the sport or a decision that looks good upon it. I’m sure a lot of NASCAR fans support marijuana, as well. I’m sure a lot of NASCAR fans are also supporters of Playboy magazine, which has been rejected as a sponsor multiple times for not being “representative of the image of NASCAR,” according to USA Today.
Pot and naked ladies aren’t good for the sport’s image, but high-powered machines of death are fine.
NASCAR should reconsider its relationship with the NRA, but it’d be highly surprising if they did. In the last few days many companies have felt the heat from people claiming they would no longer support them if they didn’t cut ties with the NRA. In response companies like Enterprise, Alamo, National and First National Bank of Omaha have already cut ties. Other companies like FedEx, LifeLock, Hertz and Norton Online are being pressured, as well. Nobody seems to be putting any pressure on NASCAR, probably because they view it to be a lost cause. Like I said, it probably would be. But, it’s still worth the fight. Who knows maybe NASCAR will decide to do something just because it’s the right thing to do? They lowered their flags and said they’re prayers in Daytona. But, as long as they’re taking the NRA’s money and giving them a sales boost by placing their companies on their cars, races and tracks they aren’t doing enough.
by Julian Spivey
The final lap of the 60th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 18 was likely the most controversial final lap of NASCAR’s biggest race since the very first Daytona 500 ended in a photo finish between Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp that took three days to declare Petty the winner. With about one mile remaining in Sunday’s Daytona 500 Aric Almirola led the race looking for his second career win and the biggest of his Cup Series career. Suddenly, Almirola was turned into the outside wall by the No. 3 Chevrolet of Austin Dillon, who completed the lap in first place to win his second career race.
Instantly folks were all over social media claiming that Dillon’s crash of Almirola on the final lap of the sport’s biggest race was one of the dirtiest thing they had ever seen in the history of the sport. Somewhat surprisingly though most drivers and NASCAR media who would chime in following the race disagree. They felt the move was either “do-or-die” on the final lap or that Almirola had caused the accident with a block that gave Dillon no other choice, but to drive through him or give up a chance at victory.
I thought the move was the dirtiest thing I’ve ever seen in almost two decades of watching NASCAR. I don’t believe the accident was any fault of Almirola’s (even though he didn’t put a bit of blame on Dillon in front of the cameras). Almirola did throw a block on Dillon on the final lap, but the block occurred multiple seconds before Dillon contacted Almirola. And, the first contact Dillon made on Almirola didn’t cause the wreck either. It’s the second contact he makes, which you can see from the side video replay (at 4:38 in video below), that turns Almirola into the wall and gives Dillon the lead he wouldn’t give back up. The replay looking toward the cars does look a little different, but it doesn’t change my opinion that Dillon dumped Almirola to win the race.
I’m a fan of hard racing and the “rubbing is racing” mentality. I approve of moves like the bump ‘n’ run that can push a car out of one’s way for a pass to win a race. If Dillon had contacted Almirola that caused a wreck as they got closer to the finish line it also would’ve been more OK, in my view. But, the way it happened leads me to believing the move to be dirty.
While most NASCAR media members don’t seem to take issue with anything that occurred on the final lap Sunday I agree with veteran NASCAR journalist Geoffrey Miller, who’s currently writing for himself, when he stated: “Austin Dillon won the Daytona 500 Sunday by wrecking Aric Almirola from the lead on the last lap. That sentence reads sour. But sour is the way it felt.” Miller would go on to write about how whether you feel Dillon was wrong depended on your perspective. It’s a perspective that’s interesting in that many fans, it looked like a majority yesterday, seem to view Dillon’s wreck of Almirola as dirty. Where as nearly all the drivers and media who approached the topic viewed it as “just one of them racing deals.”
If that’s just one of them racing deals than I’m not too sure I like where this sport is heading. But, then again, I haven’t really liked where the sport is heading for some time now. Many, including the recently retired Dale Earnhardt Jr., thought that the controversy and the story of Dillon winning the sport’s biggest race in the No. 3 car that Dale Earnhardt took to Victory Lane 20 years ago would be a huge boost to the sport, something it could really use right now among bleeding television ratings and arguably it’s three most popular drivers – Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Dale Jr. – retiring in consecutive seasons. NASCAR has become a young sport quickly, but it’ll ultimately be the on-track product and the sanctioning body leaving it be more than it has in the last two decades that decides whether NASCAR can boom again. We shall see if Sunday’s last lap boosts the sport next week, but I don’t see it happening because only drew a 5.1 overnight Nielsen rating, making it the least watched Daytona 500 of all-time. It’s hard to grow a sport that people have already tuned out.
by Julian Spivey
16. Clint Bowyer
This is a sign that the NASCAR playoffs probably have too many drivers. Clint Bowyer hasn’t won a race in five seasons and has kind of become a forgotten man, but Stewart-Hass Racing is a good team and surely that streak can’t continue forever.
15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. surprised many last season winning half of the sport’s restrictor plate races (one each at Talladega and Daytona). He’s never been a threat at any other track, but there’s always a chance he’ll get another plate win and qualify for his second straight playoffs.
14. William Byron
I should’ve learned my lesson picking rookies to make the playoffs last year when Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones made me 0-for-2. But, William Byron, who has dominating the Xfinity and Camping World series the last few years, is driving for Hendrick Motorsports and could have the greatest rookie season in quite some time.
13. Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch, the reigning Daytona 500 champion, is seemingly a lock to get a win almost every season. He doesn’t seem to run up front as much as he used to, but a win will get him in the playoffs.
12. Daniel Suarez
I thought Daniel Suarez would crack the playoffs as a rookie last year and get his first NASCAR Cup Series win. He didn’t. But, 2018 will be the year.
11. Erik Jones
See Daniel Suarez.
10. Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney won his first career Cup Series race last year racing for the Wood Brothers to qualify for the playoffs. Blaney moved over to a third Penske Racing team this year and his career should only get better from here. I’m thinking multiple wins for Blaney this year, if the addition of a third team doesn’t hurt Penske overall.
9. Chase Elliott
It’s frankly dumbfounding that Chase Elliott didn’t win a race in one of his first two seasons in the Cup Series and he’s been runner-up seven times, including five just last year. There’s no way he’s not going to break on through to the Victory Lane side this season.
8. Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin has won at least one race in all 12 of his NASCAR Cup Series seasons. He’s basically a lock to win a race and qualify for the playoffs every year.
7. Joey Logano
Joey Logano missing the playoffs in 2017 was the biggest shock in NASCAR last season, in my opinion. He won a race at Richmond but had something illegal on the car and the win didn’t qualify him for the playoffs. I’m sure he’ll visit Victory Lane multiple times this year.
6. Kyle Larson
Kyle Larson won a career-high four times in 2017 and arguably had the second-best season in the sport behind champion Martin Truex Jr. I’m not sure he’ll win that many times this year, but he should be a lock for at least one.
5. Brad Keselowski
Brad Keselowski only has one winless season in his career – his rookie season. He’s won at least one race in his last seven seasons. He’s a virtual lock to make the playoffs.
4. Kevin Harvick
Over the last five years or so Kevin Harvick has been the most consistent driver in the NASCAR Cup Series. He’s won a race in each of the last eight seasons. Harvick is also a lock to make the playoffs.
3. Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson is going for his record-breaking eighth NASCAR Cup Series championship. Johnson has incredibly won multiple races in all 16 of his NASCAR Cup Series season and is arguably the greatest driver in NASCAR history. He’s a playoff lock, but his history in the playoff segments hasn’t always been the greatest.
2. Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch has won a NASCAR Cup Series race in each of his 13 seasons and is seemingly a lock for the playoffs even in seasons in which he breaks both of his legs (he actually won the title that year). Busch is one of the few drivers in NASCAR that can almost seemingly win at will. He should thrive in the playoffs.
1. Martin Truex Jr.
You’d have to be pretty dumb, in my opinion, not to predict Martin Truex Jr. as the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series champion in 2018 for a second straight year. I never thought I’d say this even three years ago, but he, his crew chief Cole Pearn and his entire Furniture Row Motorsports Toyota team is clearly the team to beat in NASCAR today, especially when it comes the 1.5-mile tracks that populate the sport’s schedule.
by Julian Spivey
The 2018 Winter Olympics are underway from Pyeongchang, South Korea and I’m left with a feeling of indifference. And, as someone who tries to be an all-around sports fan I don’t like it.
I’m hoping that this year is the year I finally find at least one Winter Olympic sport or event that interests or entertains me. Over the years I’ve become quite the fan of the Summer Olympics. In 2016 when the games were in Brazil I tried to watch as much of the games as possible, including at least one event from every sport at the games and I was successful. I had a blast doing it. I believe I’m more of a fan now as a 30-year old adult of the Summer games than I was as a bright-eyed child seeing my first Olympic games (the ’96 Atlanta games) as an eight-year old.
But, there’s something about the actual sports and events at the Summer games that seem more interesting or fun to me. The games have sports that I watch on the regular throughout the year anyway like basketball and golf, which I was thrilled was added to the Olympics in 2016. And, unlike the Winter Olympics the Summer games are filled with team sports like soccer, field hockey, volleyball and rugby (also added in 2016) that have more intensity and back-and-forth entertainment value because you have groups of people from different countries going at it. There are also unique Summer team sports at the Olympics like water polo and handball, that I’d likely watch more than once every four years if an American sports network would carry the events (I’d truly like to see this). And, yes, the summer games have individual sports like tennis, table tennis and fencing, but those sports have athletes going against each other mano-a-mano, which adds to the excitement.
In many Winter Olympic events it’s simply an individual going out in the elements and trying to set a winning time. Many of the events don’t feature multiple athletes on the field of play at a time and to me that’s just not quite as interesting. Sure, you have some team sports like hockey, but Olympic hockey is less exciting this year than it has been in many years because the NHL (National Hockey League) didn’t take an Olympic break this year to allow the best hockey players in the world the chance to compete for gold. I don’t have as much interest in watching second-tier hockey players compete for the honor. That makes it feel like it’s less worthy.
There are sports I’m hopeful I’ll find more entertaining and exciting like speed skating, luge and the always seemingly popular curling (though I don’t know anyone who could tell you exactly what’s going on and I always forget as soon as the Olympics are over).
My take on the Winter Olympics has always been the admittedly ignorant “sports don’t belong on snow and ice.” But, I’m hoping this is the year I find something that I can love, even if it’s just for two weeks every four years – like certain Summer games events. When I have free time during the next two weeks I’m going to try to catch as many different events as I can. Hopefully something will pique my interest. Come on Winter games, I’m begging of you.
by Julian Spivey
There have been rags-to-riches stories before in the Super Bowl. Kurt Warner pretty much went from a grocery store bagger to Super Bowl MVP. Doug Williams (the first black QB in Super Bowl history) took over as Washington’s football team starting quarterback after Jay Schroeder was injured and routed the Denver Broncos with a record performance in Super Bowl XXII. So, it isn’t crazy that Nick Foles, a mostly career long backup, led the Philadelphia Eagles to their first ever Super Bowl victory on Sunday night (Feb. 4), but it was certainly surprising that he gave potentially the best offensive performance in the 52-year history of the big game.
Before the 2016 season Foles had considered giving up the game. He was the starting quarterback for the St. Louis Rams in 2015, but the season didn’t go well with him throwing more interceptions than touchdowns and having a 4-7 record in 11 games started. When the Rams, who were moving to Los Angeles, drafted Jared Goff first overall in the 2016 NFL Draft he requested and was granted his release. Right before the 2016 season Foles signed with the Kansas City Chiefs to backup Alex Smith and played for Andy Reid, who has coached him in Philadelphia. He started one game during the season and won it. After the season he signed with the Eagles, who he began his career and played with from 2012-2014, to backup Carson Wentz. It didn’t seem like Foles would play this season as Wentz was having arguably a MVP season leading the Eagles to the best record in the NFC before suffering a torn ACL in week 14. Suddenly the Eagles became Foles’ team and an underdog.
Foles won two of the three games he started at the end of the regular season before leading the team to a defeat of the reigning NFC champion Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs and a dominant 38-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game in which he completed 26 of 33 passes for 352 yards and three touchdown passes.
Getting the Eagles to the Super Bowl was one thing, but there he would have to face the dynastic New England Patriots looking to repeat as Super Bowl champions and for their record-tying sixth championship. Foles matched NFL MVP Tom Brady pass for pass throughout the entire game. He would finish the game with 373 passing yards, while completing 28 of 43 passes and throwing three touchdowns and an interception (that was honestly his receiver’s fault). But, the most amazing play of Foles’ Super Bowl was a touchdown reception on fourth-and-goal in the second quarter on a trick play in which he became the first quarterback in Super Bowl history to catch a touchdown pass. It’s a play that will no doubt go down in history as one of the greatest in Super Bowl and NFL history. Foles would lead the Eagles to a 41-33 victory in a true David over Goliath performance. He was named Super Bowl MVP.
After the game I got to wondering where Foles’ performance stacked up all-time among Super Bowl MVPs and it’s certainly a top 5 all-time performance. It’s right up there with Williams’ Super Bowl XXII performance, Joe Montana’s five touchdown performance in Super Bowl XXIV, Steve Young’s six touchdown (a Super Bowl record) effort in Super Bowl XXIX and Tom Brady’s amazing comeback last year in which he was down 28-3 in the second half and threw for over 400 yards. By the way, Brady threw for a new Super Bowl record 505 yards in a losing effort on Sunday. The fact that Foles could beat a 500-plus passing yard effort from Brady just adds to his MVP-winning performance.
Not bad for a guy who less than two years before considered hanging it up. If I were him right now I might have to consider it again, because even though he’s only 29 it’ll likely never get better for him than this. He might become a starting QB again somewhere (certainly not in Philadelphia), but more than likely it’ll be back to the backup slot.
Foles is a triumphant story of someone going from the bottom to the top. A story that truly makes sports worthwhile.
by Julian Spivey
I know you’re tired of the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. I know this because I’ve heard you say it and I’ve seen you write it about a thousand times since the Patriots won the AFC Championship game almost two weeks ago.
I understand people being tired of the Patriots going to their eighth Super Bowl in the last 17 years, with them having won five of the seven already played, including two of the last three. Americans don’t seem to like dynasties in sports (unless it’s apparently the ‘90s Chicago Bulls) and the Patriots of the last two decades have been the New York Yankees of much of baseball’s run.
But, at some point you have to stop hating on the Patriots for being great and, if not learn to enjoy watching them, at least respect the historic run of Tom Brady, who may be the greatest quarterback in NFL history, and Bill Belichick, who likely has become the greatest coach in NFL history.
Sometimes we don’t know the extent of the greatness we see in sports until it’s gone. And, I understand the Patriots have been great for so long that it feels like they’ll never be gone. But, Tom Brady (though possibly going to be the league’s MVP this season) is 40-years old and Belichick isn’t going to hang around forever (some even believe he might retire after this Super Bowl). I’m certainly not going to write them off after this season (that would be laughable, even though many did it after they won last year and look where they are now), but the odds are this will likely be their final run to the Super Bowl. I understand why some would cheer the end of their run, many sports fans clamor for new blood in championship games, though look how high the ratings typically are for “usual suspects” teams in any sport. But, please don’t be irritated by the Patriots in this year’s Super Bowl. Kick back and enjoy the entirety of the event that the majority of Americans, whether football fans or not tune in for. Enjoy the Snickers and Budweiser and Doritos commercials. Enjoy Justin Timberlake’s halftime show. Enjoy over indulging in chips and dip and those little weenies wrapped in crescent rolls. Enjoy Brady, Belichick and the Patriots too. It’s time to stop taking them for granted. Because greatness doesn’t last forever.
by Julian Spivey
Every year now when the Baseball Hall of Fame results are announced there is a backlash among fans that Barry Bonds hasn’t been inducted into the hall of fame. Some fans even go so far as to say the hall of fame is “meaningless” without Bonds being inducted.
It’s something that’s going to continue until Bonds either falls off the ballot after 10 years or until he’s finally voted in, which I believe will happen toward the end of his allotted tenure on the ballot. This year, in his sixth year on the ballot, Bonds received almost 54 percent of the vote, which is 21 percent below the 75 percent required for election.
I’ve never understood the uproar about Bonds not being inducted into the hall of fame. There isn’t an athlete in the history of sports who’s done more damage to his or her respective sport than Bonds. The only athletes that even come close are ones like Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez who followed in his performance enhancing drugs footsteps.
This is reason enough to keep Bonds out of the hall of fame, despite his bloated numbers and even though PEDs weren’t outlawed in baseball during his era. The Baseball Hall of Fame has an integrity clause in its rules that writers casting ballots are supposed to adhere to. The voting rules state: “voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
Many hate the integrity part of the voting rules because they claim the hall features a few bad guys from racists to criminals to what have you … and they’re right. The hall of fame does have members who were less than stellar people. But, those individuals didn’t harm the game of baseball. Bonds did. He ruined what I always considered to be the greatest record in all of sports – the home run record. For decades the sport had Hank Aaron, a shining beacon of everything the game is supposed to be, atop the mountain. Then Bonds came along with his drugs and destroyed it.
I have never been able to understand the mindset that people who believe Bonds should be in the hall of fame have. I don’t believe it’s something I’m ever going to understand. It’s a moral issue for me. He destroyed something so pure and so special. And, he has no qualms about it. There’s nothing honorable about how Bonds played the game. So, why should he have a plaque beside players like Aaron and Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson and Lou Gehrig?
by Julian Spivey
I’m obviously not a part of the BBWA (Baseball Writers Association of America) that has the opportunity to fill out a ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame. But, every year I like to fill out a mock ballot of which players I would vote for if I did have a real ballot. I don’t understand how there are members of the BBWA who aren’t filling out 10 spots on their ballot recently. There are so many worthy players on the ballot now that I had to leave some players that I think are worthy of the hall of my ballot. And, I’ll come right out and say if you’re looking for players like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens on my ballot I will never include players we know to have used performance enhancing drugs on my ballot.
Chipper Jones is without a doubt one of the 10 greatest third baseman to ever play the game. He might even be one of the five best to ever play the game. He should be a no-brainer for first ballot selection. The only thing that could keep him out is seemingly some writers leaving him off their ballots because they don’t like him as a person – and honestly writers admitting to such should lose their ballots. Jones finished his all-star career with a .303 batting average, 468 home runs and 1,623 RBI. He won the 1999 National League MVP, the 2008 National League batting title and was a member of the 1995 World Series champion Atlanta Braves.
Jim Thome is one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history and should also be a no-brainer first ballot hall of famer, but it doesn’t feel as if many believe him to be a no-brainer. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if he isn’t simply because he played in the steroid era and we’ve seen that affect players like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell before. Yes, Thome hit 612 home runs, eighth most in baseball history, but he’s never really been one of the suspicious names you hear about. I say if there isn’t reasonable evidence that he used PEDs it’s not right to punish him.
Vladimir Guerrero is one of the purest hitters I’ve ever seen play the game of baseball. There’s also never seemingly been any PED suspicion surrounding him. I don’t understand how he wasn’t a first ballot hall of famer last year and hopefully the BBWA rights its wrong this year and inducts him. The 2004 American League MVP was a nine-time All Star that finished his career with an incredibly .318 average (again, how was he not a first ballot guy?) with 449 homers and 1,496 RBI.
I’ve contended for years that Fred McGriff is the most screwed player from baseball’s steroid era. McGriff didn’t use PEDs, which makes his terrific offensive numbers not as impressive as the astronomical numbers of those who did. And, while the BBWA punished players (rightfully so) who did use PEDs they fail to consider that numbers like the ones McGriff compiled over his career (493 homers, 1,550 RBI, .284 average) would’ve gotten him into the hall of fame had he played in any other era. It’s clear McGriff is going to fall off the ballot and that’s a travesty. But, I have high homes that the veterans committee will one day elect him to Cooperstown.
The BBWA continues to show that they don’t believe designated hitters belong in the hall of fame and that’s wrong. I’m not a fan of the DH. I wish baseball had never allowed it and wish they would abolish it, but I’m not going to let my feelings toward the DH keep one of the best pure hitters of his era out of the hall of fame. I do believe Martinez is a borderline hall of famer, but he’ll appear on my ballot nonetheless. A .312 career average with two batting titles, 1,200-plus RBI and more than 2,000 career hits is enough for me. If Martinez ever makes the hall he’ll have to wait for a veteran’s committee.
Mike Mussina never won a Cy Young Award, given to a league’s best pitcher, and I believe it’s the one thing that’s keeping him out of the hall of fame thus far. I don’t believe that’s right. There’s only so many Cy Young and MVP awards to go around and Mussina pitched in the same league as Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez for his career. Mussina’s 270-153 career record and 3.68 ERA are good enough for me, not to forget he’s one of the best defensive players ever at his position with seven Gold Gloves.
The BBWA has always had something against closers. Trevor Hoffman retired with the most saves in baseball history and the primary job of a closer is to nail down saves. Arguably Mariano Rivera, who will obviously be a first ballot hall of famer when he’s eligible, was the only better player at the closer position in the history of baseball than Hoffman. Let him in.
Jeff Kent has more home runs than any second baseman in the history of Major League Baseball. He hit 377 in his career. Kent also had a very good .290 career batting average and almost 2,500 career hits. He also won the 2000 National League MVP and was a five-time all-star. For the second base position these seem like obvious hall of fame numbers. Yet, he’s never come close to being inducted in many years on the ballot. Why? The era he played in. People just don’t trust that he did it clean, especially because his career seemed to get off to a slow start and he didn’t really become the slugger he did until he teamed with notorious PED user Barry Bonds in San Francisco. But, I’m a fan of innocent until proven guilty and there just isn’t enough for me to keep Kent out of Cooperstown.
Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel
Here’s where my most controversial decisions come in. I’m not 100 percent sure that I believe Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel are hall of famers. They are two players that may fall more into the “very good” instead of “legendary” category. But, I don’t believe either should fall off the hall of fame ballot in their first year of eligibility, and I believe there’s a chance either one of them or both will. That’s why I would use a spot for them over say Curt Schilling who won’t fall off the ballot. Jones and Vizquel have some offensive numbers that say “yeah, put him in the hall,” but mostly they should be considered for the hall of fame because they are two of the greatest defensive players to ever play the game. Jones won 10 gold gloves in center field and is one of only six outfielders to win 10 or more Gold Gloves (the other five are either in the hall or will be). Vizquel won 11 gold gloves, which is second to only Ozzie Smith all-time among shortstops. Smith made the hall of fame essentially only on defense – so why not Vizquel?